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Showing posts from November, 2012

Puzzle Project V: Bagels and Cream Cheese

November 20
Karim is the quietest server/cook I have ever seen. He works at one of my favorite cafés in Karachi. It is a small, quiet place on the second floor, brightly lit because of all the yellow lights and the kaleidoscopic mural on one wall. It is the only place in the city (that I have frequented), which has that casual ‘anyone can come to this place and hang out’ appeal to it. I know a lot of places strive for the ambience that attracts readers, writers, students that need a place to study, or students that need to get away from studying and watch an episode of House on their laptop, but not many achieve it.
I love the place because it has books to pick up and browse, the most battered Scrabbles board ever, a guitar that almost every new comer will pick up and dream for two seconds about how cool they would be if they could actually play, and bagels and cream cheese. And iced tea. And a tiny balcony that has a fan so even on the hottest day you can sit out and stare at the nico…

Puzzle Project IV: Rising Higher

November 13
Azhar was one of those boys in college who I never remembered seeing till I went on a college ice climbing trip with him. After that I saw him around campus all the time. One of the first conversations I had with him was in a large tent full of several college students who were sitting huddled close together for survival.
Okay, so that is stretching it, but within acceptable means of stretching. It was terribly cold and we were not able to make a bonfire that night. The temperature was below freezing. It was cold enough to sit back to back with a stranger just for body warmth and then make awkward small talk.
So, I don’t remember exactly what we talked about…cities and ethnicities, music and pop culture… Azhar was not quite in tune with the music I remember growing up to (Junaid Jamhed, Junoon, really? Vital Signs? Nothing?). He was always the one – him and that very smiley Austrian exchange student – several yards ahead of the rest of the group on all the treks and walks. I…

Puzzle Project III: Cultivating a Love for Birds

November 7
Mrs. K came back for her country. She spent more than 20 years in England, studying English Literature at Oxford, but she came back, back to a city of imperfection. I never really asked her why, but I bet it was because she missed it.
The curriculum was less than challenging but she was brilliant, smart, and knowledgeable, and very encouraging. She would stand in the drafty room with its wooden chairs, colorless walls and write sparsely in eloquent cursive. Her writing matched her mellow voice perfectly, and she would talk about the greatest novels in the world, the flawed characters in stories and ask us to think and capture our thoughts in words. No wonder I liked her. I like most of my English Lit. teachers, and not to brag and all, but they all loved me.
Mrs. K was tall, thin, and birdlike, and of course she wore glasses. What self-respecting English professor doesn’t wear glasses? If she had ever met J.K. Rowling, she would have made it into the Harry Potter series. Defi…

Puzzle Project II: For the Sake of Security

November 3
Atta Muhammad was always a sight for sore eyes. If Santa Claus was a Pakthun man, he would look just like Atta Muhammad, big, somewhat round, friendly, with a bushy beard and twinkly eyes, and a face that I have to describe as jovial. There aren’t many times I use that word, but this is one of those moments.
He was (probably still is) a private guard, employed by around six houses on my street for the sake of security. I wonder how secure we really are, considering guards like Atta Muhammad are hired by private companies, underpaid, and seldom given any training. In fact, in many cases they are not even allowed to use the guns they carry, casually slung over their shoulders, or when sitting down, laid across their laps. Families like mine pay about Rs12,000 to the company and the guard gets barely Rs4,000. He sends more than half to his family who still lives in their small village in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Atta Muhammad has a wife, and two teenage sons he will talk about if pr…