one big leap for jamkind.

Most people may not know this about me, but I suffer from what M identified as Imposter Syndrome. I live in a subtle fear that one day I will be found out as only posing to be a designer and be exposed for all my technical ineptness and my play acting will come to a sorry end. Of course, in my heart I know that I really do know my stuff and I do it reasonably well,  in the last few years, truth be told, I have gotten sidetracked by this whole motherhood/life malarkey and let go of staying on trend. My concepts and words and ideas remain my strength but software wise, technical-edge wise, I am probably still freelancing somewhere in 2008.

But ten days ago, despite this and other time crunches, overcommitment fears and the fact that I feel I truly have come to appreciate a slower more kids oriented existence for now, I went ahead and signed on to do the launch design of a film in the making. While it is the usual ID design with thematic applications kind of stuff, what feels new and exciting is the fact that I have never done a film so it’s out of my comfort zone. I am excited about new learning, which I have to admit I only do when it is forced upon me currently (brain being too full of raising kids and doing the steady income work but that is another story).

So yes, I am excited. I feel suddenly, all brimmy with ideas. You know what they say, that it only takes one leap to make you go on leaping. And on a corny note, which I apologize for in advance, what better time than this leap year to start leaping around in?


Five years and 5 months. Two years and 9 months.

A post on the YM network on facebook, a mummy group I am a part of, reminded me of Zo and BB today. I don’t think of them that often anymore. Mind, heart and arms have been full and happy. But that post swept away all those days and layers and suddenly it happened just now and all the feeling were right there, demanding that I acknowledge them, much the way Zak does once he’s woken up and made eye contact.

Not much to say really, except you know, I wish you guys were here.


my funny kids

At the Karachi farmers market today.

Me: I need to find the limes.
Leila excitedly: they have them here?
Me: yes yes a lady had them. Help me look.

After two fruitless rounds and some lemonade and lassi later, we realize they were not there today so we decide to leave.

Leila: but we haven’t seen the lady with the lions yet!



While flipping through random TV yesterday with Nadi we saw “Next up: Mummy 3” flash on the screen.

Nadi: what’s that?
Me: Oh- a movie that was made ages ago.
Nadi: Must be a horror scary type.
Me: Not really. Waisay why do you say that?
Nadi: Wait is it about mummies like you or the bandage ones?
Me: Why?? What’s scarier?

Nadi in fits of giggles.


So this morning I tell Leila to let’s only try and talk in Urdu as a part of daily speaking practice. It’s going quite well but instead of the usual “mama” I am now Ammi.



While waiting for the family to get back from the mosque and graveyard after the burial yesterday, Leila got a little impatient.

“Mama, exactly how long does it take to give Dada to Allah mIan?”



Leila: Mama you know how you always say that if you share you should do it nicely?
Me: Yes
Leila: Well today I did not share at all but very nicely. Is that ok too?




We ran into two of Leila’s class boys after school today while picking up some groceries. While I chatted for a minute or two with the adults, the kids talked on their own.

Leila slightly upset in the car on the way back home: Mama the boys were being mean to me.
Me: Really? How? What did they say?
Leilas: Something REALLY mean.
Me: Tell me, what did they say?
Leila: I mean why would they even say that to someone?
Me: Baby, kya bola? Batao tau!
Leila: They said they KNOW my PASSWORD.


9 months later

Largely ignored in the wake of the third child, I have often thought of this blog as something I will get back to when I have time. I am not entirely sure that I am going to have time for luxurious amounts of back spacing and deleting kind of writings but I do want to continue putting down something- so I have something to look back to. Of course great swathes of life have already passed us by. But Zak is here and really, this little one deserves one post all to himself.

Every single time I see you after being away from you- whether its for 15 minutes of several hours, I am madly excited. I get swept away with how completely gorgeous that twinkle of happiness in your eye is. And it hits me like a force of wall, how completely lucky I am, and how utterly grateful I need to continue being.

You have favourites already. Your BFF is the bottle. Of any kind shape or size. you do not discriminate. You want it in your hands and you want it now. First thing we do when we wake up is scramble to hide out night time water bottles before you start leaping across the bed to grab at it. Your favourite book is Baby Loves to Rock and while we all know parts of it and can say it out at random moments to make you giggle, my favourite is when Lily sings it to you. You love peas, and avocado. And can have toast makkhan any time, just like your sister and mama. You are definitely a morning person and even the hint of an outing can make you start flapping your legs like a rider gearing up his horse.

While I have not had much experience in the tantrum department – both your siblings had minor episodes thankfully and outgrew them as fast, I sense you have it in you. I have sen you throw your head back dramatically on a number of occasions. Dramatic like you sister and stubborn like your brother. A treat, really. Can you hear me rolling me eyes here Zak?

Having you has been the best thing. You were born at the perfect time really. A week before school closed. There was this over riding sense of celebration in the air and it hasn’t dissipated. The summer that followed, having BV and Nanna all to ourselves for a few weeks for the best kind of bonding, snuggling to sleep with Bia, you have truly had the best of starts. Hope that kind of uncomplicated love and happiness follow you all your life.

Perhaps the biggest joy I get is when I see Nadi and Lily with you. Can a combination feel more right? In all my ruminations and dreams, this is not what I had imagined. Clearly His plans outshine all ours and I think what you being in our lives has done for the four of us, is something we will only realize long after the years have passed.

I love you.  Happy 9 months, my Zakookie with the beautiful head.



Jeevay Jeevay 2

What I finally ended up writing for Dada’s memorial event. 

“It is easy to put into words and on paper one’s achievements in life. There are a thousand different people who can do a hundred different things to help compile one’s life work. It is much much harder to put in words what someone means to you. As tributes and articles started pouring in almost two weeks ago, we have been overwhelmed. Overwhelmed at how much Jamiluddin Aali was. How much he did. How much he achieved. How much he believed in. What an important busy useful man he must have been, trying to change the world in his own inimitably poetic way. But to the 12 of us, his grandchildren, before any of that other stuff, he was just…Dada or Nanajaan or Al or Baloo the bear.

Ask any one of us and our earliest memory of him revolves around lounging in his chilled AC wala room on his bed, fiddling with Daddo’s paan daan, with his voice, that amazing, soulful, reverberating voice echoing from the bathroom, as he shaved, getting ready to go out. What he meant to each one of us 12 cannot be put into one speech. Or even one book. Each one of us was lucky to have our own special relationship with him. We have our own anecdotes and stories, our own shikway gillay and today, as I represent us all, I can only hope that we are doing him proud with the kind of people we are turning into.

While he loudly and publically rued the fact that our generation was not carrying on his legacy in Urdu shaeree, we knew that he was fiercely proud of each one of us. “Art can take many different shapes,” Maria would argue. “Whether it’s being able to argue a case or design something or teach, or perform an operation, the fact is that you have produced a generation of artists and adventurers.” He would smile then, because there was nothing he loved more than a good argument with us. We know that because we all got that from him. He took a deep and involved interest in all our doings, often turning these talks into veritable interrogations as he asked question after question to ensure we knew our own mind.

For someone of his generation he was remarkably young at heart, from showing up in jeans to Sara’s 16th birthday so he could fit in with the “modern” young crowd to wanting to stay up late watching movies with Binny. He was so excited when the first wedding amongst all ours happened, wanting to be involved in all the details, and then he fell ill, and Najla’s nikah happened in his room at the ICU. He loved all this “adventure” as he called it. It makes memories, he used to say. Always make memories.

Dada was the one who introduced us the art of keeping in touch. Every time he would go abroad to magical exotic far away lands, we would all receive postcards from him in his poets writing. And then he would come back armed with suitcases filled with gifts. He had a love for travelling, for the exploration, love that has manifested itself in Khaula’s travel photography and Koko scuba adventures. Each time one of them would start their stories, his eyes would shine with excitement, reliving his days through their passions.

He introduced us to the Coupe Sherezade, a fancy dessert of the 80s, he would drive us all to have at the Sheraton. Order whatever you want. Always try new things. More Dada wisdom. We would be holding our breath as he drove us across the city in first gear, only revving the engine more to the sound of us shouting “Let us goooooo”.

We were all so lucky to have had him for so long. We have all shared different stages of our lives with both him and Daddo, as more common one as children and then individual ones as adults. Baagi was the first, and he enjoyed 7 years of solo attention and love before the rest of us started arriving. He was the wise one, the one who Dada would rely on for medical opinions, theoretical discourse on the likes of Carl Sagan and an explanation of what exactly this internet thing was. A whole gaggle of girls followed after, a full club of 6 of us, completely different form each other and yet held together by the fact that we were all full blown feminists, giving Dada’s household a good taste of anarchy. As a round of boys came next, they were his babies. He was softer by then, having been through the whirlwind that was his granddaughters and as we scroll through the old photos, we see Dada emerge as yet another persona. The playful grandfather, hugging and kissing Alai, Umair and Mohib or giving piggy back rides to Ghazain and Saif. Our dynamics with him, though always evolving were really quite set. He knew which one of us was what and he never let anything else matter. Family first, he said. Always family first. No matter what.

When people ask me where I get my patriotism from, why we all seem to love Pakistan with all its flaws so effortlessly, I must blame him. He was such a believer. In the passage of time. In the power of love. In Pakistan. “Will things get better?” we would ask him. “It will get better and worse and then better again. It always does.” he would say. Indeed. Jeevay Jeevay was not only a song he wrote, it was dream, a wish and a reality. Ours may be the only family that actually sings it on birthdays as well.

They may have left us but they left us with so much to carry on. Little things that over the years became big traditions-Cake cutting for all birthdays, no matter how big or small. Naashtay ke paisay and Quran ke neechay se guzarna for anyone travelling. Lemon tarts. Celebrating and mourning together. We all see him and Daddo in ourselves all the time in all kinds of everyday things we do. It’s in the way Baagi can tell a story Nana jaan style, or how Binny effortlessly wears her saree. Alai’s expansive knowledge and interest in random facts, marching to his own beat. Ghazain and Saif’s behtereen adb aur lihaaz. Mohibs artistic and warm nature. How Najla and Maria will attempt to keep the waters calm when tempers flare, Umairs sense of duty, Khaula’s similarities to Dada’s own choices. Its in Kokos love to make everyone happy and Sara’s passion for writing. Everywhere we look, we see their habits, talents, their love, their quirks reflected in us all, alive and breathing, creating its own legacy forward.

Afiya, the eldest in the fourth generation, sends a message from Qatar saying, “11 years ago, my dearest Baray Dada gifted me a writing pen set, inscribed in his classic incomprehensible handwriting. It said “Mustaqbil tumhara hai”. I promise to uphold the legacy of my great grandfather, his passion and commitment towards the Urdu language by improving my own. So one day I can try to understand and appreciate his works.” As a great grandfather to 7, he was happy to inform us “naalaik” lot that they were much better than us and I think he would have been thrilled to hear this promise.
 As we draw this “mehfil” to a close, I cannot help but think how much Dada and Daddo would have enjoyed a gathering like this. They both loved attention and they loved being surrounded by people, especially family, something they were blessed enough to have had till literally the last moments of their life. May we all be ever so lucky and blessed. Thank you so much for being here. Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan. And Adaab.”

Jeevay Jeevay

Tomorrow in Islamabad, there is a memorial for Dada, the poet. What started out as a dua quickly spiralled into a proper proper event because of the number of people who wanted to be a part of it. “He is a public figure” Binny said. “You have to respect that.” Agreed.
Charged with the task of writing something more personal on behalf of the grankies, I finally sat down to pen the swirl of thoughts that have been in my head since he passed away almost 2 weeks ago.

Do I write in first person or we? How does one write for 12 people, encompassing all that he was to us individually? Where does one find the balance in that fine tug of war that everyuone has when they share grandparents? We have all been favourites, have had our own special anectdotes and irks and connects. How to do justice to the love and legacy?

Surprisingly it was easier than I imagined. But also far less. On a public podium time is less so one must be succinct. All emotions should be displayed efficiently, so even though I feel I did some kind of justice, I am still brimming with memories and words. So I opened this window, which has been lying unattended now for almost 8 months, my last entry being my big reveal from back in April. That reveal is now almost 7 months old and as yet unblogged about. But back to Dada, I had a lot more to say, all about me and him.

Early photographs tell me that the I was quite the lovely by virtue of being the first girl in the family, and that too from his son. Yes Dada could be quite archaic about things like that. I had HIS name. I was his son’s daughter and of course I was the first girl. Together Baagi B and I enjoyed quite the undivided love till Binny Najla cale along a couple of years later.
Though my real relationship with dada began circa 1991, there are many pleasant vague associations of times he came to stay with is in Abu Dhabi. I don’t remember too much clearly except that he always got the master bedroom and for the time he and Daddo were there, it felt festive. Once we moved back is when I think he really came to life for me.

In our family solar system (thank you for this analogy Baagi B)  Dada was the sun really and all planets revolve around it. we all knew that that was how it worked. Dada was all important and everything relating to him in that house at 35/s was priority. The silence in the afternoon when he was napping. The quietness around the study area when he was writing. The shaam ki chai. The programs on TV. The AC in his room that was always a sign of decadent luxury. All these details built him up as this important somewhat inaccessible man who was also our grandfather who also wrote Jeevay Pakistan. A mixed up series of feelings for a 15 year old.

And then the conversations started. He was excited by my A level Literature choice. What books are you doing? Which poets are you reading? And the all important question for 1993, what will you do with all this? For someone who was a penniless poet in love with a woman 6 years older than him, he really wanted some very clear answers from me then. I told him that and he had had a good laugh and told Daddo that I was “badtameez” (rude) just like her.

Two years later at the brink of joining Art School, he wanted to know why I left Literature. “I am not leaving it Dada- just changing its form. Its all connected,” I would insist. And he would just argue some more. I don’t think I will ever forget my family walking in and taking over the front row at my Convocation 4 years later, with Dada and Daddo sitting right up from with shiny eyes. I felt like a star. He told me he has never been prouder of anyone- that my Convocation was the best one he had ever seen. I am sure he said the same to everyone but that moment was mine.

A year into my careered life found me at his place, asking him for a loan to buy my first car. “I promise I will pay it back at Rs.10k a month” I said. “how much do you make?” he asked. “13K” I said proudly. “What car?” “A volkswagen” His eyes shone and he said, “Its a wonderful car- I had one too” Without another moments hesitation, he handed me the keys to his precious seedhay haath walee daraz and said take the cash. I paid him back at the promised rate, which he accepted without any expression till the day of my last payment, when he called and proudly told my mom. “This girl will go very far.” She never told me that till today, when I called her to ask what I should write in my tribute to her.

He always wanted to know about my projects, about my work. What I was reading and why I didn’t want to get married. I do, I would say, but only to the right person. He got that bit, having been the romantic soul himself. I loved his and daddos story, especially the bit that he fell in love with her handwriting first. The typographer in me always cheered a bit at that.

The night I brought k to meet the family, Dada was most amused. “This is not how we do things” he said in his pseduo scolding style, after which he proceeded to talk to k, asking him some questions about love and life. “Good man” he said, later, that being the only indication that all was indeed to his liking. I suspect he knew that even if it wasn’t I had inherited his spirit to do exactly what I wanted.

Dada was so used to having everyone do as he asked that when someone didn’t or argued a case or called him out on something, he was genuinely delighted. He would thrill in the argument, wanting to be proved otherwise just for the sake of it. You should be proud I am your grandfather, he would tell me and I would say I am, just as proud as you are to have me for a grand daughter.

I am missing you so much today. To be continued.

T minus 2


There is absolutely nothing to be said about holding back. It is an airless vacuum of a place where you not only have no sound but nothing to say out loud either. And when you finally do give into your feelings, and words, openly without blocks and barriers, it is like a whoosh of air rushing in, where previously you were sitting very very still.

Any close friend who may have noticed would have asked if I was not happy. After all, they have seen my happy and its quite the obvious. My excitement is palpable over whatsapp and mail even. It brimmeth over, as a bard may have said, so the last few months of not really living out loud have felt very halved in their existence.

I guess what I am saying is that don’t hold back. Even when it hurts, don’t hold back. Feel everything you want to feel even if it terrifies you because the not feeling, it not worth anything.

ode to those afternoons

Our weekday afternoons are usually such a flurry of activity. There is homework to be done and household tasks to be managed. My work happens in spurts in the middle as I take a call or send off an email. There is a kind of beat to that routine too. The action spurs us, makes us energetic. There is no scheduled napping during the week- there are lego projects and games, there is is going to the park or visiting Nanna or some sudden plan or errand run.

But today the blinds and curtains are drawn, plunging the room into a shady mellowness, the AC is whirring- a soft comforting sound- the kids are on that brink of being asleep and I am sitting in bed with them on my laptop,my book open next to me, the room a perfect chilled temperature to offset the shimmering heat outside, no longer a springy April but a starkly summery one. It is a hushed Friday afternoon post namaz. No jarring sounds. No sudden movements. Words like harmony and happiness come to mind. Reminds me of my childhood summertime-  the room on the far end at 35/S, Filza Apa’s room in Raziq mama’s house and Nanna’s room at Ayesha-Fatimas’s.

Growing up, this afternoon shaded hush was such a daily staple in our lives. I remember us all being asked to come into our respective rooms to play quietly while the grown ups napped or lay down before the “shaam ki chai” wthe point at which everyone emerged refreshed for the evening ahead. I don’t remember frenetic activity or other agendas. I don’t recall homework even or projects or anything other than plain simple effortless fun living. Maybe that is the magic of  being able to filter through and remember the feeling invoked as opposed to nitty gritty surrounding it. The magic of being young and surrounded by grown ups who believed in that magic too.

say- just a little bit longer.

You know what I miss? I miss talking long out loud. About things that matter and especially ones that don’t. I miss the length of the conversation sure but I miss the breadth and width some more. I miss your faces of us as the conversation got sillier and deeper and more honest at the same time. These things don’t happen too often any more because we are in the midst of grown up life. And while lovely in its own way, it simply doesn’t subscribe to the luxury of having those great swathes of time that simply drifted by while we talked and uncared for the world around us.