strangers to each other

•June 26, 2010 • 26 Comments

azizi shekiba
(by afghan artist shekaiba azizi)

Roger Cohen, NY Times Op-Ed, ‘Feeling Bleu’, 24th June 2020:

When self-image and reality part company, when the differing worlds of a nation are strangers to each other, an explosion is always possible.

for the second time in a day, an op-ed columnist of the ny-times has read my mind and said something that is frighteningly reminscent of the sichyashun here (the sichyashun that we as a nation seem to be hurtling along with abandon into the abyss).
no wonder the gray lady is the consummate newspaper of record and repute.


•June 26, 2010 • 3 Comments

since everyone was using it to chat and ‘screen-suck’ office hours anyways, in an attempt at avant garde management that peter drucker would probably approve of, i have turned skype on its head and made its use mandatory in office. it is fast proving an excellent productivity tool. i can talk from the #2 down to the receptionist in a jiffy. meetings turn out to be more to the point. contact with provincial offices hundreds of kilometers and hours of drive away happen in real time. attendance is suddenly virtual. and the taglines serve the additional purpose of a barometer of the staff’s psychology today (too many grumbling taglines would call for a staff meeting with an inspirational talk as to why we are still at this, someone announcing they are waiting for good news could potentially mean s/he has just been interviewed for another job and a replacement should be in the works, romantic heartbreak taglines are outlawed.)

anyhow, here is an exchange on skype this morning with my executive assistant today (background: i was working very late last night from home and so woke up late this morning. and as usual in such occasions, first thing out of bed i checked the attendance and blasted a few tasks in between showering and getting dressed. a good part of my planning for work happens in those bouts of insomnia between 3-5 am and i have a handy notepad to jot these down as they come.)

– assistant: ok i will pass that on… by the way where are you now?
– me (because i am paranoid about such things): mercury. why?
– assistant: just wanted to know so that i could send you a vehicle?
– me: ok, tell ustaad atiq (my driver) to pack plenty of fuel. he will need it getting here.
– assistant (writes and scratches. pauses in concern and confusion. eventually writes:) ok. i will tell him that. is that the net cafe close to your home?
– me: no. it’s the closest planet to the sun. and i am on the exposed side of it.
– assistant: ok, in that case i will tell atiq to try a gravity assist slingshot maneuver in the vicinity of mars. should get him right down to your area.
– me (suddenly jumping up, no more amused by my own cleverness, the joke is on me): ok thanks. i’ll be waiting then.
– assistant (it’s her turn now to beat the metaphor to a mushy pulp beyond the layman’s recognition): ok. btw, re the 10.30 meeting today… the venue has been changed now to sigma the constellation orion.
(darn. probably means i am up for a ride to the farthest point in the city now.)

moral of the story: be careful who you try your jokes on. turns out she did her undergrad minor in astronomy.

tell me about it

•June 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Most people in government, I find, are there because they sincerely want to do good. But they’re also exhausted and frustrated much of the time. And at these moments they can’t help letting you know that things would be much better if only there weren’t so many morons all around.

op-ed columnist david brooks in the new york times, ‘the culture of exposure‘, 24th june, 2010

vespa scooter

•June 20, 2010 • 1 Comment


hello. help. my memory is failing me. who was it that i was talking to recently who admitted to possessing a vintage vespa scooter? it must have been no more than three or four days ago, but i have completely blocked the person out. all i can remember now are artistic and bohemian associations, and a vague sense that this person would be a fun companion for a journey across tibet. strange and frustrating. have i really become that forgetful? or, as is not too unusual, the lines between reality and dreamworld are getting all blurred up again?


also who stole my selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors?


‘i am not here to write. i am here to be mad.’ – robert walser


•June 17, 2010 • 3 Comments

a- where is a good discotek? (sic)

i- go find somewhere where they have lady gaga’s bad romance playing… i love it.. in all its glorious meaninglessness.. its so catchy


roma, roma-ma
gaga, ooh la la

دُرِ سُفته: پنجاه و یک

•June 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

ای گل تو دوش داغِ صبوحی کشیده ی
ما آن شقایقیم که با داغ زاده ایم



•June 16, 2010 • 1 Comment

i want to break something.

i want to throw a ripe watermelon off a 3 story building and watch the impact.

i want to throw ripe, blood-red pomogranates at a white wall with all the force in me arms.

i want to punch a punching bag and shoot at a goose feather pillow so that feathers fly all over the place.

i am so mad i am beyond myself.


and the thing of it is, no matter what i do, no matter how i distract myself -even if i go for a swim, or go around the world- the moment i return and sit here again, the whole nightmare will play itself out again.

and i am too much of a coward to pick up and leave it all. leave it all. just leave. wander into the heart of darkness and walk into wakhan with a rucksack and 750 afs in my pocket and good walking shoes. that is the only thing i will take in fact.

holding on

•June 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

i carry this one notebook with me with a plastic cover and yellowing pages. you can’t find that kind of notebook around anymore. it is the precursor to what in our early school days was called ‘kitabcha-e-sadwaraqa’; the 100-page notebook. i recall lamenting even then that one cannot find those old notebooks anymore. it is filled with exquisite drawings and sketches – mostly of nature and flowers – with a most impeccable shading. and all done with ballpoint pens and with utmost care. (i am sure one of those original good old ‘bic’ pens – which you cannot find around anymore either.) years ago, she once told me that she had other notebooks like that also filled with drawings and selected verse. i never found those. but this one notebook is a treasured piece of family heirloom now – and in contest between me and my youngest sister. we have, however, developed a good arrangement over who should have it when. who needs it most. a good understanding that if one of us goes into the other’s room looking for it, we know better than to ask or to want to grab on to it. the other of us must be needing it more. and so it goes. the older it gets, the more precious it seems to become. and with every page that fades, every corner that falls off because it is so old, the distance in time and space seems to grow. i am afraid of forgetting. of years washing away the memories. of new layers replacing the old ones. this is why i cling on however i can. a few weeks back i was in the kitchen fixing a snack and saw these old, sturdy pieces of silverware. the kind that you cannot find easily anymore. you could see they had been used well. i collected all of them and folded them in a clean napkin and put them away in my room. i came back down and saw a dish in which we used to keep the yogurt – at least that is how i remember it. i am not sure what function it served anymore. i picked this up and brought it to my room and put this away too. what for? i am not sure. it was impulsive and almost involuntary – and something in me longed to extend the lives of these ordinary household items, and thereby preserve my own memories for a bit longer. then i remembered another old bowl i used to dine out of when i was young. it had travelled with us all the way around our various moves. by some miracle, it was still around until a couple of years ago. but i could not find it any longer. and again that feeling of free fall, of distance and time stretching out in space and taking us apart overwhelmed me. there was this one granite and marble stone ashtray – remnant of another era -which i tucked away too. now i have a treasure trove of these tiny heirlooms that serve as my only links to her, my aide memoirs, my connections and roots. maybe i am being a pack-rat. maybe i am being overly sentimental. i am not sure. yet, i know i do not want to forget. i do not want to move on, move along -whatever you name it. it’s the mother’s day today and i remember her as someone who had an insatiable thirst for life, goodness, and happiness. that she did not get to witness some of the happier moments for which she of all people toiled so hard and long, is something i cannot yet fully wrap my head around. nowhere in the grand scheme of divine wisdom and heavenly justice have i found a way to -satisfactorily for myself- reconcile this grand dissonance. i am not sure if i ever will.

thoughts from the desert

•June 14, 2010 • 2 Comments

In literature and writing (and broadly in our cultures) we always associate the desert with deprivation, harshness, droughts and scarcity, and some sort of natural violence. A natural instance of violence. Violence and harshness manifest, incarnate. We use words such as ‘forbidding’ to describe the desert. It takes little to observe the lives of people who inhabit the desert and see that it is full of color, life, passion and good music. They sing well, they stitch well. They use color far better than you and I, just as they use sound and water and food better than you and I. This is because they understand the economy of it, and appreciate the beauty and preciousness of it. Going through the desert and its vastness and blankness, you come to notice the smaller things that populate this otherwise desolate and grey world. A blade of grass becomes more highlighted. A drip of water is more noticeable. Sounds stand out far better – as in the silver stream of a solo flute that travels for miles. And you see that desert is not blank and desolate and empty. It is bountiful and generous and giving. It is maternal almost. You just need to be prepared to see it, to ask. The desert has helped many a seeker find. And find both within and without. There is a rugged and depraved beauty to the desert. A certain passion in its seeming calm and vacuum. Given enough time, one can lose and find oneself anew in a desert. People in the desert lead simple lives full of meaning. They sing and dance well. They stitch and embroider well. They love with passion and abandon of the sort that comes with life only in the desert.


•June 10, 2010 • 1 Comment

Sending this from a moonlit night in the middle of the thar desert on a mobile phone. Hot wind blowing and foir once it is not unpleasant in the slightest. Tea annd good conversation flowing too. True desolate desert of the sort I have never been to
with all its romance and solitude.