hello august

Summer had looked daunting. I have two hands and three kids and sadly only one brain. The endless hot summer days and even more endless conversation, almost constant activity and a nearly walking toddler, along with a mostly MIA husband (new job, high demands) meant I had to really manage my time to be able to keep working for June and most nights would have me asleep mid sentence, mouth open. Yes, very graceful I admit. No wonder he loves me so madly.

But today, summer is “officially” over, its overcast outside, cool August wind blowing and it feels like the perfect time to indulge in some kid-love, even more so since one is napping and the other two have gone back to school today. I was telling k just yesterday that parenting ought to be a condition, and if it was it would be a bit like bi polarity or schizophenia because most of the time, you are feeling two (usually extreme) sets of emotions at one time. Neither make sense, both are disorienting and honestly, I don;t think there is a cure. Just a way you have to learn to manage. And manage we did.

How is it that when you look back it all seems so fast? And when you look forward it all seems to crawl? Is our sense of nostalgia somehow more potent than our sense of anticipation? I am looking back to just the summer and already it has taken on a nice creamy Instagram filter (Gingham maybe, or Crema) and I am feeling all happysad at their lives now having taken off, to some measure without me. Mind you, it was something I wished for on an almost hourly basis when they were stuck to my face for 2 months. But like Dory, I too clearly suffer from short-term memory loss.


Someone once in a sweet tone but clearly making fun of me way asked me why I am so arty crafty where my kids and writing and posting about them in concerned. “Do you always have art stuff/ paper and pen ready?” she giggled, somewhat insinuating that there are far more important things in life to do. Which of course, there may well be. Although I didn’t answer at that point (nothing too convincing anyway), after that each time I design something for the kids, take an insta pic or write about something funny L said or something creative N made, I make oddly defensive arguments in my head. Something along the lines of it’s a curse of the trade or that this is what I was trained to do. Lame, yes but best to be prepared for the next time, don’t you think?

So as we got ready to walk down the stairs to school today, I grabbed a few pieces of chalk lying around because I suddenly decided I wanted to mark their first day with “something fun”. Kids are really daft aren’t they? They find oddball things so exciting. And suddenly there was all this chatter over what to write, colours, doodles. N didn’t want a heart but L did and Z just wanted to eat the chalk. I admit it creates chaos, I also admit I love that. As someone who doesn’t really subscribe to a parenting technique as such ( I hear they have proper names now for methods to follow- quite cool) I want to be remembered as someone fun to them. Someone who made the ordinary a tad bit lighter and brighter. And if we are smart about it, we get to make that choice everyday don’t we?

I have so many things I wanted to say to them today about the new year, new beginnings, kindness, doing their best – all well worn comfortable ciches, stuff they probably wouldn’t even take in in their hoppy excitement of new bags fun times and a whole day of friends. I know I don’t remember a single thing my mom may have said to me at this point. I just remember a feeling, a celebratory feeling in the shape of smiling morning tikyas or good music on the way to school and with my chalky message, I am hoping to pass some of that onto them. To a new year ahead.

(And as always when I think of school, a small prayer for those APS kids and their parents for whom this day is forever different and all other children everywhere who don’t have this opportunity- may this year bring you better, happier times)


when the cat stays at home

Six months ago yesterday, on November 30, after a series of some unfortunate events and people, K left his last job under not the most ideal of circumstances and not the way he would have liked.

It was literally on his birthday that the decision was expedited (yes timing was sucky), semi unexpected (you can always sense doom can’t you?) and then in equal parts both thrilling, a massive relief and scary. Thrilling because December was coming up, friends and family returning for the inter holidays and it meant he would be around (unless he got a new job immediately of course, but somehow at that point I wasn’t factoring that in). It was a massive relief because toxic environments are never any good, no matter how good you are at what you do. And scary because, well, three kids and only a part time working me and allll this upcoming time at home.

Now we aren’t the kind of couple who need their space too much and we are quite happy o toddle along with the kids doing our stuff together, and yes here I am talking about those brainless mall jaunts as well as the annoying grocery runs. He is fairly laid back and I am not so laid back but somehow we manage to make it all relatively painless for each other. Mostly. I hope. But here we were facing  yawning chasm of time- completely unplanned and also with no timeframe to the togetherness. It could be weeks or God forbid, years. What would we do with each other?

I could jazz it all up angsty wife style and talk in aggravated detail of the few days where we were literally on each other’s faces. Like wherever I turned he was there, and while when I am handing over the baby, it’s a great thing, when I want some alone time to work or spring clean (yes I spontaneously do that) or just lie and stare at the ceiling like a zombie, HE WAS THERE. Not really wanting anything, mind you but just around, standing or sitting or breathing. BEING THERE. Even being HELPFUL, sometimes. Most annoying and even more unrestful.

But mostly the last six months were quite fantastic and I wish it was part of adult and working life that you had to raise a baby together for the first year because it makes allll the difference to one’s sanity to have four hands. It isn’t only about the help (even though thats a huge part of it) it’s also about the time to have conversations when kids are in school, it’s about having him be a full time person in our lives, part of the muck of baths and lunch and lego emergencies and doll play and the chaos of that 4pm cabin fever, not one that is stuck at work and hearing about everything in past tense and coming home to clean and sleepy children.

I will not say that K didn’t worry. I think he would be inhuman to not, given we are all by products of a rather conventional culture where work is WORK. And mind you we got a lot of well meaning but mostly really daft advice on how he should take up ANYTHING that came his way. Even if it was a step down and even if it wasn’t anything he wanted to do. But I stood my ground. We were not going to settle. He would find and take up only what felt right. We were lucky. We had savings and freelance projects to see us through this “difficult” time. I use these beloved inverted commas here mainly because I feel like I am cheating when I focus on the apparent stress and tension being jobless has attached to it. Oh I admit very freely that panic can easily skirt at the edges of existence every day because if you let yourself go down the very steep path of what if, you can imagine alll sorts of scenarios. But I think I am a bit different that way. I know that things open up that we cannot even imagine if we are patient and right and kind and basically awesome. And I pretty much rail-roaded K into my way of thinking also. I believe and not just to say because I sound cool or calm, that what is our right, what we deserve is created by the kind of people we are, the kind of actions we perform on a daily basis.

Many things did come our way, some potential filled, others complete busts but on their own they would either fizzle out or fall through. We heard chatter on how he was over qualified, on how there are just no jobs for his position right now and all sorts of practical blah blah that people feel helps justify why something isn’t happening. My take was always it’s not happening because it isn’t meant to, yet. When it is, trust me, and I said this to him often enough to be labelled annoying, the opportunity will literally be created out of thin air and everything happen without us even trying. This has been the pattern I have most detected – to have faith in powers we cannot even begin to understand, and not give into the human induced panic that flutters into being when there is something we cannot control.

I really couldn’t bring myself to panic, given we were having a great time. The kids were thrilled after the initial shock of oh you’re still here and found it so easy to switch half their incessant need for chatter to him (oh yay). He was able to be a part of their lives in ways he had only heard of in fairytales before. I didn’t have a hard time thinking of it as a holiday sabbatical and yes, I know, it doesn’t happen to everyone.

So yes, it all played out at incredible speed in the last 10 days and he is back at work today, hopefully in a job he will love and thrive in, of course, but can we please have a moment of silence for all the times I was able to switch off in the last six months without worrying and another moment of silence for the extra 20 minutes of nap time I got very often. I will miss having them around. Err him, I mean of course.


Behind the scenes of a party.

Occupational hazard aside, I do love a well designed, thoughtfully detailed great vibey party. I love quirks and connections and I particularly get thrilled when things fall together randomly and seamlessly. My design is like that too. It comes in spurts from the gut but the end result makes me feel like it clicked. I have learnt to rely on that as well as despair of that, because the process has a life of its own. So while May 7 was the date decided more than a month in advance because of  important jet set VIPs and their travel plans, what I wanted was something that even I couldn’t envision in one go.

I wanted marquis letters and the round paper lamps that are such a trademark of the parties we throw, lots of streamers and yes, also colour (oh but wait, not too much). I wanted sparkle and movement and space and also fairy lights. I wanted a retro look mixed with all the stuff that makes Z, Z.

I picked up this book Baby loves to Rock by W. Kirwan at the first Sunday Book Collective for him and he was instantly hooked. We read it about 15 times a day. I loved the concept and I told A who was helping me plan the party that I wanted that to inspire the theme.

My weekend trip to Isloo a week before to spend A’s 40th birthday with her and attend her rooftop party had the 80s song list buzzing in my head and it was clear to me that Z’s party would also have music that would have us, the parents bopping. Way too many birthday parties are all about the kids now- this one, was going to be alll about us. So many people commented on the music later and how fun it was, not knowing that for a giveaway I had also burned CDs of the same playlist. Mixed tapes, remember those?

I had seen this idea on Pinterest of creating a collage wall of photographs from the baby’s first year which I gave my own spin to by hanging up pictures of Z with everyone who was invited to the party. I dug through the last year of iphone pics and whatsapp messages but was happy to know that everyone we invited had one with him!

Guest lists are such tricky things. I always want to do justice so it means that I put in a lot of thought. I want everyone to get along- near impossibility- and I also want to be able to have this moment of connect with everyone – another near impossibility. I can see why K thinks I overthink these occasions, but wouldn’t you?

The cake details, oh yes. Ordered just a week prior, it was a rainbow cake from Pane and Amore (introduced to me by the real part jam, M) made more apt by a fact that I learnt this week that a baby born after a loss is called a Rainbow baby. I didn’t know that. Z is actually my double rainbow <3. It had a little version of him, dressed up in his party shirt, holding his favourite bottle and book, wearing his signature Batman chappals. Created by the amazing M at Studio Cupcakes, who is my go to with all my last minute planning and mad ideas.

For once the food was not home made so I could enjoy the party music and friends and family. Gazebo, a personal favourite for all street food desi but hygienic, is where we got our live stands from, fresh bun kebabs, dossas and chaat. Perhaps it was off tangent from the Rock and Music zone we were in, but I promise you the taste more than made up for any thematic dissension.

Thankfully littlest jam made me a video of the event which totally does justice to the way I want to remember it. Dancey happy feely. Zak melted in shyness at the Happy birthday chorus and candle routine, just like we anticipated. We did it thrice just to enjoy it each time. I cannot tell you enough what that feeling is of being surrounded by all the people you have collected in the making of your life especially at a happy occasion.. People who love you and live around you and are part of your life. You can think and overthink the wisdom of big parties and expenses ( believe me I did) but the truth is THIS is what we invest in, this is what we live for- the getting together, the having occasions which are so wholesome, beautiful, perfect and real that they make everything else dim in comparison. So, to much more rocking in life. Happy birthday Z. You make the world so much brighter.





Do I feel my feelings?

#week5 #oprahblogchallenge

One of the questions that was part of this challenge was “Do I feel my feelings?” and my mind said what a stupid question and filed it away it for some unforeseeable future post. But then a friend’s husband had a heart attack (thank God he’s fine) and life moved into epiphanic state that Hussy and I had identified as “tragic clarity” some point during our college years, and this question poked its head around the corner and said hey you.

Feelings have to be felt, of course, in some measure pretty much all the time. But there is this sharp, startling, blindingly clear view you get of your life only post something-bad. It is as if all the cotton wool padding we tend to collect around us as we go from day to day suddenly foops away and you are left, shivering slightly, gasping gently for breath, as you see the vicious beauty of your truth.

Though I do not like the circumstances that may bring about these moments, these moments are quite stunning in how easy they make life, for at least a little bit afterwards. Choices can be made in seconds, priorities assembled in a blink and all things superficial unnecessary and toxic  shunned with effortless ease. You see, deep down we all know.
We all know the truth of what makes us, what breaks us, what we want and need and all that stuff we simply do do do, just because. And when life throws its curveball, you suddenly come to the decision that that which is not gold, not something that makes you happy or content, or slightly breathless and giddy, at least a majority of the time, is just not worth the beef.

A friend visiting from abroad recently would clutch her heart at the beggar kids who were cheerfully flinging fruit at each other and talk about the injustices of the world and how cold the people here have become. I laughed at how much fun they were having and she called me unfeeling. I live in Karachi in 2016 which means that feeling your feelings has to be managed well, otherwise you can end up in let’s say, not a good place. OF COURSE I feel for them and in my own way, I am revving for education of street children, contributing money/time/my skill set to create places where efforts are being made and opportunities created for more kids to study (may I plug in here that if anything, it is education that will change anything) but but BUT I cannot weep or hold my heart or go home and lie under a blanket FEELING all this every single day because well you know, my kids want food. Husband wants to know where his clean socks are and I, well I want to watch an episode of Greys in peace without feeling that iron load of guilt that all the feeling my feelings bring about.

Epiphanic moments of “tragic clarity” were put into life for a reason and they are brilliant, and someone like me needs them to be grateful, honest and better, but thank God they fade away, because really, life is too short to be spent in near shock of all that there is to feel for also. So yes, in words of the Queen, twisted for the sake of my art, keep calm but feel on.

The Cinderella Mantle

Post college, a group formed. Odd and bits of people, eventually sieved and shortlisted  into those who have seen you at your worst and stuck on anyways. For me, that group on whatsapp is called Khi love and thanks to the geographical distances that marriages, moves and thirties brought about, it’s pretty much pinging 24/7, as life unrolls on each of our ends and we keep up a stream of talk that can be quite the lifeline on certain days and simply a great read on others.

Recently with new babies having been introduced to the mix and work and elder kids lives having taken on new vistas, we are all juggling newer roles. One or two of us are in the coming up roses phase, where independence and time out is easier while others are at the phase where alone time (even in the bathroom) is a  precious commodity, not to be shared with anyone. So our conversation can be oddly dichotomic, one relaying details of a fun night out with friends while the other complains of the third load of laundry she just put in. A few oohs of delight and awws of support later, we get back to our business of life.

Recently, as A mentioned a long and amazing face massage she had for the third time in as many weeks, M mentioned how she felt like Cinderella. We had this hilarious discussion on how each of us have had this one time when we look at the others lives and think, wow when will we get there, and if we ever will, becuase though the years are short, the days sometimes feel very very long. For us, we are lucky, it becomes a healthy balance of gratitude and aspiration and perspective, with a sprinkling of jealousy which we get out of our systems by yelling “You BITCH” in allcaps.


The Cinderella mantle isn’t a permanent one, of course. Nothing ever is (also one of our mantras). It’s one we share.passing it on from city to city, depending on the life phase, enjoying the humility it brings, and living vicariously through videos and pphotographs of the step sisters enjoying the party they have earned. Sadly this weekend, Charlie and I are  left holding the Cinderella mantle, as the party goes to Dubai. She can be excused because she’s battling labyrinthitis demons of her own but my excuses were the ordinary, baby stuck to me type. So as I log in this morning and see the shiny-happy-we-are-free-and-the-kids-are-far away grins update post dancing and eating away somewhere fun, I actually laughed out loud at the stark difference. I was in my pyjamas and scraped back hair, feeding Zak, helping Lily draw something, while painting and scraping happens in the house while Nadi was getting ready for his Scouts expedition. I have never felt more in character with Cinderella missing the ball.

All I can at this point say is I am grateful for the humour that saves us from envying. I am happy to have friends who will tell you the back story of that shiny happy photo to make you laugh. And most of all I am excited for times ahead when the turn will come to fling the Cinderella cape onto one of their faces once again.

lovely vintagey illustration by Jeannie Harbour Peel did justice to my emotions here



How do I want to be remembered?

#week 4 #oprahblogchallenge

When Sabeen was murdered last year, it literally seemed as though everything around us dimmed a bit. I didn’t know her too well but this being Karachi and us being Karachites meant that we ran into each other and chatted at all the things we Karachiites do for the love of the city. Plays, festivals, protests, exhibitions and dharnas. I took part in an exhibition at her beloved T2F with Nadir and even at 6 years old, I could see he loved the vibe of the place. If Karachi was a person, she would be Sabeen, really.

When she died, an avalanche of eulogies followed, on facebook, twitter,  newspapers, and I, like many others, was swept away for weeks afterwards reading about all that she had done, thought and dreamt of in her short, amazing life. She was just about 40, a number that is shimmering on my horizon all too closely and she had done so much, changed so much, lived so damn much. She affected so many people, fought for so many causes. And after the admiration came the introspection. How do I want to be remembered?

I want to write I want to be remembered for my passionate causes, for the brilliance of my work, for service to my country, as an exceptional humanitarian – and other such grand notions, but the truth is, it all seems a bit lofty for the likes of me. So I will tone it down and bring it home to something more doable, for now at least. (you know, in case I am gone too soon)

I think mostly for me, I would want to be remembered as someone who brightened up the day. You know how there are some people who you run into and they say something, or do something or simply are something that just imperceptibly lifts the spirit, makes one smile and suddenly the day looks more upbeat? I want to be that person. I would want to be recalled as the person who somehow made things better, either with her work, her words or her thoughts. I want to be remembered for something I once said, or wrote or taught. Maybe it didn’t get international recognition and make me famous, but it stayed and haunted a person or two and perhaps changed something for someone.

I guess most of us assume we have time to put the plan into action. To start living the life where we see ourselves as the people we will one day love to be. Truth is, this is it. We have to live the life we want to be remembered for at this minute whether it means sitting in the park tracing and identifying cloud shapes with your kids or standing in front of a parliament somewhere fighting to change the world.

Do I say yes enough?

#week3 #oprahblogchallenge

I know someone who says no first. To everything. If you initiate a plan her first reaction will be no. If you ask for help, she will hmm and haw and hedge around before saying yes. Every bit of her body language says no even as her words say yes. I mentioned it laughingly, because, well she is nice and still someone I like and she admitted that saying yes made her feel like people will take her for granted and think she has nothing better to do.

I used to be the kind of person who, if I was interested and you were someone who mattered, was pretty much game to go for most things. Do you want to go for a drive? Yes. Are you upto watching a movie? Let’s go have coffee. Sure. Sure. Let’s meet soon. Definitely. Let’s take a trip together. Let’s launch a magazine. Let’s start a shop.  There is such abandon and freedom in being able to throw a yes out into the wind. It’s as if you have now handed the responsibility of having your yes come real to the universe itself and it must conspire to make that happen for you. YES YES YES. Let’s do it all.

So when I came across this question today, it kind of slid things around in my head a bit, as I realized the multitude of times I have recently not said yes.  And it made me wonder. Am I not surrounded by people who make me want to say yes enough anymore? Or are the things that I am being asked to do not inspiring me enough to want to say yes anymore? Why have I turned into a non yessy? What is holding me back? Am I too tired? Am I too old? Why am I feeling like I don’t say yes anymore? I can feel a mini panic attack about to set in as I have detailed visions of my life slipping away as I sit and say no to everything that comes my way.

That dramatic vision aside, it is true that there comes a phase in life that can only be described an inward. Suddenly all your energy, your power becomes reserved for yourself.
Which is where the no’s come in. You become greedy and selfish, wanting to hoard whatever vibes there are for you and yours. You close the circle. You want to not share. So you dance around the yes. And say maybe a whole lot more.

What is next?

#week2 #oprahblogchallenge

Defined by Wikipedia as  “superior force” or “chance occurrence, unavoidable accident“, it usually in the aftermath of  a force majeure, as they say in legal terminology, that the question of what next arises, as the debris and dust settles and people get a bearing of their new coordinates.
But I ask myself this question regularly. And answer it too. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that life with its routineness, mundanities ands blahs was better lived if one was always looking forward to something. I look forward to things with startling regularity, whether it’s as something as big as a baby coming into our lives or as small as a shared coffee cake time with someone I haven’t seen in a year. My theory remains that as long as you are looking ahead, you are not stuck. So in no particular order, here goes. Twenty things “coming up next” in my life. Cue fanfare and confetti.

Zak’s first birthday
Going back to Manti to get back into that shape I was so happy to be in
Uninterrupted sleep (a girl can dream can’t she?)
Starting my design/lifestyle blog (the one that will make me famous)
Starting my book (the one that will make me even more famous)
My CTS meeting on Thursday
Compiling the Names of Allah project I started for myself
That design venture I keep planning
The friends holiday
Aanoo’s birthday on Saturday
Organizing the party pantry
Figuring out artwork for the green wall
My own birthday
Catching up with two of my core people in person over food.
Sorting through the desk drawer
Hunting down the new Sunday Bazar
The mela next weekend
A spring trip to the beach
A stretch of me time (when I am actually awake and not tired)
Redesigning my card.


image used is by Keri Smith, an artist whose work I love.

Do you feel at home?

#week1 #oprahblogchallenge

Last week, K brought home lilies. Nadi invited 4 boys over after school and Lily drew all over her chair. I had been thinking a lot about home ever since I read this question- What does it mean to me and after the first lot of pseudo philosophical answers came that feeling. That feeling of things being exactly how you want them to be. Slightly messy, undeniably chaotic and all yours. At home.

Let’s be honest none of us ever really start our 20s imagining belonging mind and heart to little people. The world is our oyster and we have dreams of little apartments in big cities, chasing the dream. It’s a vision almost any well placed graduate is very much at home with, thanks to many TV shows and the internet. So to feel at home with what life throws your way can take getting used to.

While I would love to say that home for me constitutes those I love, I am not quite that sufic. As Madonna would claim ” I am living in a material world” I love things. Pretty things. Well designed things. I like surrounding myself with that which gives me happiness. A much of fonts, some colour, a particularly functional pointless piece. Some smells are home also, motia for one. Raat ki raani. The smell of cologne after k has left for work. Frying potatoes. The way the afternoon sunlight shafts in.

Our physical space has taken its time to grow and evolve but yes it all adds up- the flowers, the kids, the lived in slightly dishevelled comfort, people traipsing in and out, friends coming over, it’s all that mixed with that certain yet not completely defined aura of happiness that tells you that you are indeed at home with how it has all turned out.



The Oprah Question Challenge.

Judge me all you like but I love Oprah. Especially those episodes with the makeovers. I really have always believed a good change in hwo you look is drectly related to how you feel. So when O mag came out I would go hunt out the latest issue and spend a few hours going through it cover for cover. It was literally my feel good fix. Then of course the iPad came about and I subscribed there (but secretly still bought the issues that stood out- nothing like holding a magazine in your hands I say) 

Do you feel at home? This was the first question posed in the Feb 2015 edition of the O mag  in an article title “20 questions every woman must ask herself”. They weren’t the ordinary run of the mill questions either- about priority and happiness etc. They were the kind that make you pause because you aren’t exactly sure of the words, even if you are sure of the answer.

So in an effort to resuscitate the blog as well as given into the writing itch that has been niggling at me- I have decided to take this 20 question challenge up. You are welcome to join in if you want, with your words, photographs whatever you feel does justice to the question.

I will be putting up them as we go along, possibly one a week. Or maybe two. You can answer ones you like and skip some if you want. No pressure! Answer it on your blog, facebook, notepad wherever.  Just tag/link me to it so I can see it!

Kicking it off with the first question in the post above.