P.S. Wife came up with the pun at the top
Did you just punch me?
Don’t you know I have been numb for long?
How can something that is already dead ever die?
Here is a solution
Take that carving knife and gut me alive
And spray the walls with my blood
Does that quench your thirst?
Is revenge as sweet as it is made out to be?
But you are not after revenge, are you?
You just want to see me suffer
Don’t you know I already am?
The noose you have tied around my neck
Is not tighter than the stranglehold of your demands
Don’t you know for every ounce of pain you feel,
I suffer twice as much?
That your lack of trust is worse
Than any humiliation you can throw at me?
They say that the phoenix rose from its ashes
Burn me then!
Burn me and burn my memories
The good and the bad
Burn my flesh
Burn my soul
Burn that bond that cannot be severed
Burn the world
Burn the society
Burn the castles and let everyone suffer
Perhaps after then
When the screaming stops
And there is nothing but ashes
We will rise again
This was not that Venice. This rain-soaked city was devoid of its flashy countenance. This seemingly sombre version had empty streets. The only colours visible were the dull yellow cast by the streetlamps, shimmering on the waters of the canals, interspersed with the pitch black of a moonless night. The crowds hadn’t bothered to venture out in the cold which left the shopkeepers no other choice than to call it a day. The narrow alleys and the innumerable foot bridges sprayed across the city wore a deserted look as if someone had just died. It seemed like we were the only two souls alive on the face of this earth. All around us was a cloud of melancholy as if to represent the mood of the weather and the inhabitants of the city.
All the things that bothered us about that night felt like blessings now. The cold and damp that kept the crowds at bay made us feel like we were the only ones in the Floating City. We could do anything without anyone bothering us. The lights that danced around us on the water and were reflected on the wet streets didn’t seem any less beautiful than the stars that shimmer on a clear night. The dark cloudy night provided the perfect canvas to paint our dreams — the dreams of a lifelong contentment felt for the first time that night. The city had transformed itself to fit our mould. It wasn’t the Venice of the movies or the tales. It was our Venice. It was the Venice we will carry with us for years to come.
With a smile on my face I led her to our lodgings wondering excitedly what the future holds for us.
NOTE TO WIFE: If you are reading this, then Happy Valentine’s Day.
A few months ago I got married to a wonderful woman. Our wedding was a beautiful affair. While there were a number of incidents of note – some funny and some otherwise – there is one incident I would like to share with you all, especially to would-be grooms so that you might avoid the pitfalls I couldn’t avoid.
To properly set up the anecdote, I have to narrate from the start of the Nikah. It began with the sherwani. I am someone who is more comfortable in a pair of t-shirt and jeans than kurta-pyjama. Whether it’s the lack of a hulking physique or my awkward gait, I have never been able to carry any traditional wear with panache. However, this was my wedding. Sherwani was essential. After much drama, I bought a sherwani that fitted me to some degree.
Just before the nikah, my friends helped me put on the sherwani. That was an ordeal in itself. But that’s a story for another time. For the time being, let me tell you that keeping a track of the dupatta while balancing the safaa on the head was taxing. Don’t even get me started on those weird pointy shoes, or the socks that curiously look like the pouches used to store apples in fruit markets. Despite my struggles, a glance at the mirror suggested I appeared decent enough. The thought of maintaining that appearance for the rest of the evening made me nervous though. Fortunately, by the grace of the almighty, the actual nikah part went quite smoothly. Once the “qubool hais” were over, I started to relax, and the knot that was in my stomach for so long went away.
However, with the going away of the knot came the coming of the hunger. All right, that was a terrible sentence. But not as terrible as the hunger pangs I had when everyone was congratulating me. I could not help but fantasise had I been a guest at my wedding, I would have been helping myself to second or third helpings by now. After all, what are weddings for if not food? Well, they are also about two people getting married and starting a new life together, but food is what brings people together, right? Thankfully, I was brought out of my dreadful musings by my brother-in-law who announced food was ready. I could have hugged him, but that would have crumpled my sherwani, which in turn, would have needed readjustment leading to a repeat of the whole sherwani hoopla. As it was, I avoided doing all that and simply followed him to the dining area.
Aah, my senses were greeted with the smell of kebab and nihari, biryani and pulao, and the sight of people having their fill and smelling their satisfied burps. I immediately dived in and didn’t object even when the waiters were serving dishes I didn’t recognise. After several rounds of seekh kebab, it was time for dessert. And there they were — the top prizes among desserts — gulab jamuns. I intentionally did not count the number of gulab jamuns I had. By the time I had finished, my stomach had expanded so much that my sherwani fitted perfectly.
I got up from the dining table and walked back to the reception area to meet my friends. Before I reached them though, my brother-in-law told me that I was being sought upstairs. I was to meet my new bride and have a photo session. I followed him again and saw my wife for the first time. The joy of the precious moment was short-lived. As soon as I entered the enclosure where the bride was sitting, a mob of women surrounded me clicking photos and temporarily blinding me with the flashes. As it turned out, all these women were my wife’s aunts, cousins, and a whole bunch of other relatives.
As curious as it is, almost every wedding has its own sets of customs and rituals. Who comes up with these variations, I wouldn’t presume to know. As the tradition goes in my in-laws’ place, the womenfolk of the household offer their salaam to the new groom and present him with gifts. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? That’s because I didn’t tell you the full story. The catch is that every woman who comes up to the groom for the salaami, offers the groom a gulab jamun before handing over the gift. While normally this would have been a deliciously attractive prospect, I was alerted to the contrary by my stomach with a slight wail saying, “Dude, you just ate like fifteen of them. Even a pig dressed in a sherwani would have looked more decent than you.” I was like, “I bet they will just feed me a couple as part of the tradition. It’s cool. I will be fine.”
How wrong was I? Woman after woman came to greet me and fed me a sweet till I lost count. Of course, I can’t blame them. They must have thought like any other respectable groom, I might have shied away from the dining area without eating much. They didn’t know I tend to put away all my self respect in my back pocket when it’s time to eat. So the gulab jamuns kept arriving. Have you ever experienced a level of sweetness that is borderline bitter? The smile on my face that was a genuine expression of happiness till now turned into a creepy grimace as I kept trying to imagine the different sections of the human tongue that deal with tastes other than sweetness. Looking back, I seriously question that particular science lesson.
The ordeal was not over with that ritual. Before long, I got the opportunity to sit next to my wife without anyone else around. I cannot stress the importance of that occasion. I was now a married man, and I was about to have my first conversation with my wife. These are things you remember for years to come. My wife was too shy to say anything. After a few excruciatingly awkward moments of silence, I thought of a topic to initiate the conversation. Before I could properly articulate the words, both of us got shocked by a loud rumbling sound. There was no denying it. My stomach had rumbled. If it wasn’t my wife sitting next to me, I would have exclaimed, “What in the world woman? Can’t you control what you eat? Holy moly!” However, it was my wife, and I couldn’t bear myself to shift the blame. After all, she also knew the amount of ghee and oil floating inside me was going to concoct an evil plan sooner or later. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It turned out that my stomach had taken that adage too much to its heart.
As I conclude my anecdote, I would like to offer one simple piece of advice to would-be grooms. Fellas, don’t stuff yourself on your wedding day. Thank me later.
Hey everyone, I hope you are all doing great. I know I have been out of touch for a while. I just had a few things going on that kept me distracted. Thanks a lot to those of you who visited, commented and emailed me in my absence. You all are too polite. For some reason I was expecting a “good riddance” email. So as a return for all your good thoughts, here is a post that I had written a couple of months back while collaborating with that hijabi from down under. Oh in case you don’t know her, please click on the link and check her blog. Aaliyah writes about all sorts of humorous situations (and some serious ones too) she gets into while living as an NRI in Australia. Trust me you won’t regret visiting her blog.
(P.S. Her blog also has the other part of this post)
(P.P.S. It was another cool blogger Mahaah who had asked the two of us to collaborate. So, with credit where it’s due, many thanks to her too.)
It has been a long day. You’ve busted your hind working on that lame project no one cares about. Three days have passed since you last slept properly. The only thought occupying your mind is to just go home and lie on your bed. Gathering your things, you start walking back. You ignore the guy who spat at your feet at the bus stop. There is not even an iota of strength left in you for arguments. Reaching home, you just drop your things on the floor; absent-mindedly shower without bothering to think anything philosophical; and just drop dead on your bed.
However, things do not go according to the plan. That’s because sometimes nature conspires against you to not let you taste the sweet release of sleep. Here is a list of things that can keep you awake.
The Lone Ranger
You are almost asleep and about to revisit your favourite dream of spending that vacation on the beach in Maldives while Katrina Kaif feeds you cherries. However, something starts to bother you. For some reason, Katrina has started singing. But her voice is weird. It sounds as if she is not singing, but making a buzzing sound. Suddenly, she pricks your cheek with a needle. Ouch! And you wake up.
Surprise! Surprise! No Katrina, no Maldives, and no vacation. It’s that foul mutant mosquito that wakes up every night as soon as you turn off the lights and starts buzzing somewhere around your ear. You try to kill it in the dark by swatting, but only end up slapping yourself in the process. As soon as you turn on the lights, it disappears.
It doesn’t bite you a lot, but keeps buzzing around one of your ears. If you cover yourself with a blanket and keep some space around your nose for breathing, the vile thing enters your nostril or worse your mouth.
The Prickly Demon
However, you manage to kill the bastard, after much effort (which included throwing off your blanket, upending your mattress, and shining torchlight in your shoes to find the Satan). You sigh in relief, and bask in the glory of revenge before turning off the lights again.
What you don’t realise immediately is that before dying the princess of darkness managed to land one bite on your back at the precise blind spot that you cannot reach however hard you try? Soon the itching starts. So you try really hard to scratch and end up twisting or dislocating your arm. Realising the futility of your actions, you get up and start rubbing your back against the bedside post like a cow. Still it doesn’t work. In desperation, you begin to wonder if that insanely stereotypical (and offensive) joke about the Sardars is true. You know the one where if they had an itch on their scalp, they would just scratch their palm and place the hand on their turban. In spite of yourself, you scratch the bedspread and lie down hoping against hope.
The Gas Tank
Watching your continuous struggles, Allah ta’ala takes pity on you and the itching stops. You start to relax, but after all that commotion, your mind doesn’t want to go back to hibernation so easily. It starts conjuring random images in your mind. You discard most of them as your conscious brain knows how much you want to sleep. Nevertheless, there are some images you cannot avoid, especially those that are really vivid. And before you know, your senses start reliving some of the terrible moments of your life.
One of the prime ones includes that time when you got a call from your boss telling you, “Ershad, there is a VIP coming over for a visit. Show him the control room and give him an overview of the various units.”
You reply, “Okay, cool,” and prepare yourself mentally for the speech. You check your unruly hair in the bathroom mirror and attempt to flatten those angry strands that seem to defy gravity on all occasions with some water.
The VIP and the entourage arrive in front of the control room. You greet them, and request them to kindly take off their shoes due to the dust protection required for sensitive instrumentation and computer servers, before inviting them inside. In an effort to impress the guests you start slipping in sophisticated technical words that even you don’t understand, secretly hoping none of them is an engineer who can question you back and make you look like an idiot. Everything starts going according to the plan when suddenly you inhale something that can only be compared to death. You realise one of the guests has not washed his socks in his lifetime. What’s worse, you don’t know which one it is who is the culprit (Is it the VIP himself?). The stench is so intense that you simply want to retch and throw up. But of course, you can’t. You keep smiling that creepy smile you had pasted ever since you met them, and keep thinking, “OMG! OMG! OMG! Kill me! Kill me now!”
Soon the nice people leave, but the stench never leaves you. It haunts you in your dreams like it is doing right now. It never lets you sleep in peace.
The Impropriety Danger
If you think that is the worse vision your mind can develop, you couldn’t be far from the truth. After much effort, you finally manage to fall asleep. That’s when your brain starts conjuring up nightmares. Nightmares that are worse than being chased, worse than falling off cliffs, and worse than death itself.
In your dream, you think back of that time when you were travelling on a city bus, and you saw that girl standing at the bus stop. She was wearing a tight pair of jeans, and her back was facing towards you. From that view, she seemed incredibly hot. As you join the other passengers in ogling her, she reaches to her…ahem…derriere, and adjusts her wedgie. And all of you go, “Eww.”
But that’s not the end of it. Your dream transports you to the future. This is the future where you are married to that girl. Both of you are at a family reunion kind of thing where she is talking to the older folks of your family.
“Yes, uncle, I am very well. Ershad takes good care of me.” ….*adjusts her wedgie*
“Abba, do you need milk in your tea?” ….. *adjusts her wedgie*
“Amma, I think I added too much salt in the curry.” ….. *adjusts her wedgie*
Oh the ignominy! The shame! Kaise muh dikhaunga?
You pick up the spade and start digging your own grave when the spade slips out of your hand and hits you on the head. That’s when you realise it was all a dream and you only hit the headboard while thrashing around in your bed. Nevertheless, you are awake, again, and the whole process starts again.
The sun is still hiding behind the concrete structures. Its rays sneak past the straight corners and filter through the faded curtains. The gentle brightening of the room is enough to rouse him out of his stupor. He opens his eyes, and for some reason, he can’t see anything. The foul smell of unwashed clothes also fills his nostrils. He cannot feel the bump under his head, which is his pillow, either. A couple of moments of intense rumination brings home the revelation that his dirty, sweaty vest had somehow escaped from the bottom of his pillow, where he had placed it strategically to dry it from isothermal compression, so as to reduce his expenditure of detergent.
As soon as the word detergent comes into his mind, he sits up straight. The thought of using more than one spoon of detergent in one month always gave him cold sweats. It had been only twenty days since he last washed his undergarments, and for them to start smelling so foul so soon was infuriating. During these moments, life seemed unfair to him. Why did bad things happen to good people?
To distract himself, he goes up to the sink to brush. He opens the cap of the toothpaste tube and licks the bit sticking to the underside of the cap. That should be enough to keep him fresh and minty for the whole day. After brushing, he thinks about something to pick him up. One thought immediately brightens up his day: eating out.
He changes into his best clothes and rushes down the stairs. Unlocking his bicycle, he adjusts the rear brake pedal to a more accessible position. Bicycles actually do not have brake pedals. However, a couple of years ago his brake lever broke off from its position due to excessive rusting. Subsequently, he tied it up to the frame near the front wheel and used it as a pedal. He was proud of this little bit of innovation.
Pedalling hard, he reaches his destination within a few minutes. It’s a local eatery. He loves visiting this place. They always make him feel special. At Rs 25, he could order a meal which included rice, sambhar, dal, and a couple of sabzis. The portions were large. However, that was not the best thing. The best thing was that it was an as much as you can eat restaurant. He only had to pay once. After satiating his hunger with three more helpings, he slowly rides back to his apartment.
As the evening arrives, he breaks the loaf of bread he had bought a couple of days back. He pours himself a glass of water, and wonders why people drink tea or coffee. Water does everything that the other beverages do. It refreshes the body, hydrates it, and helps wash the food down the oesophagus. Reclining back in his chair, he considers why people laugh at him, ridicule him, and call him a miser. He never thought of himself as a miser. He was just ahead of the curve. He was economically efficient.
P.S. No misers were hurt while writing this.
Two streets run in parallel
Yet staying apart
Two creations extend forever
Heavens reaching down
Yet remain distant
Two lives breathe in unison
Souls mingling deep
Yet never unite
Do parallel streets ever cross?
Does the horizon ever materialise?
Do star-crossed lovers ever unite?
They do not and they cannot
For they are asymptotes
Curves that never meet
Till infinity and beyond
But has anyone seen infinity?