Because I will forget and I don’t want to.

Random conversation just now.
Nadi: Do you know you came out of Mama’s tummy?
Lily: NO I DIDN’T!!
Nadi: Yes you did. Ask mama.
Lily: Mama Nadir telling lies!!
Me: No it’s true you did. You grew in my tummy then the doctor took you out.
Lily (worriedly): But why did you eat me?

‪#‎becauseyouareyummy‬ ‪#‎nadilily‬ ‪#‎longsummerafternoons‬ ‪#‎summerhols‬

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Maleficent vs Lord Business playing out on my shoulder
(complete with sound effects) is just not conducive to any kind of concept and design work.

#workfromhomewhydontyou #summerhols #nadilily #play #freelancelove

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Way too early morning craft talk today.
Lily: mama will you make me a cutout with the strong glue?
Me: UHU?
Lily (confused and a tad but panicked): Mama it’s me Leila!!

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It was World Day parade today at her school and Leila was- wait for it- a “Pakistani”.
Some gems she has shared with us this week on being one are:
1. Pakistanis only eat chapati.
2. They wear red Kurtas.
3. Only boys are Pakistani. (so in the spirit of the parade, she was a boy today)
4. They talk in “sla-laikumm”
5. They sing the national anthem together when happy.
6. Pakistani’s cousins are from France

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Both kids have declared that it’s “cheating that the REAL heart looks nothing like the drawing heart” and that “it’s not even the right shade of red”.

#reality #nadilily #verylongafternoons #biologyfail

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Hey Leila- why do you want to be an astronaut when you grow up?
Because I want to.
Yes but why an astronaut?
How else will I see the stars Mama?

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true love, good vs evil and happily ever afters.

chelsea mitchellsThe sisters and I used to play a game. We “owned” things we liked. So if I was particularly fond of a cartoon or a film or a story, it belonged to me, which meant that any imaginative play that came out of that particular theme, was up to me to direct and run and I could get dibs on which character I wanted to be. The classification was based on a number of things- what appealed to us most, which story we most related to or sometimes simply even a favourite colour. So while growing up, in the princess love category, I was Sleeping Beauty (I cannot recall the reason why anymore), Middling was Snow White (for her gentle nature and affinity for animals) and Little Jam was Cinderella (evil stepsisters!) So I was excited to see what they have done to my Maleficent. Out of all the villainous beauties, she was definitely the one with the most presence and style and I was very curious to see how she had been “humanized”. I had heard a lot of mixed reviews on whether this was an appropriate movie for kids between 4 and 7 and after talking to a few people whose opinion I could trust, followed by a good sweep of the internet (while trying to dodge spoilers) I decided that I would take them and then remain vigilant throughout the movie in case I needed to distract them from some part. We loved it of course. I am blown away by how amazingly the idea of true love and evil and good is interwoven now to represent both powers, often in one character. It is so true to life now. There is no longer the simplicity of , black or white that we grew up with. More often than not, it is both that reside together, often in some locked battle to see what wins out. I can no longer answer the question that Lily asks, “Mama is she good or bad?” in simply one word. And for Nadi, who has long been fascinated by the villainous characters of all the stories he has encountered with the justification that they are simply “more interesting”, the idea of a good and bad battle raging within has unlocked a whole new level of questions and wonderings. With Nadi and Lily, the way I have done things is so different, so in depth in its analysis and infused with play that I am never quite certain what concept is being scrutinized at what point but I have learnt that I like them to be questioning. To be curious and chatty and asky. I like them to think that things are not and do not always have to be a way we previously knew them to be. That the idea of changing one’s mind or self is good> That a back story which explains things further makes us more human, better people and more able to “walk in other people’s shoes”, to quote a beloved Atticus. Perhaps it is soon to introduce that concept to them, I do wonder, given that I am making sense of it myself. But I can’t help loving how movies like Frozen and Maleficent have opened up the idea of true love, evil and good to further understanding, more introspection and more options, so we are able to redefine happily ever after and heroes and villains, allowing them a chance to be other than what they were always limited to being. amaleficent__marc_davis_by_alohaman636-d5i74t2

 

 

Maleficent was created by Marc F. Davis, who was one of the most wonderful animators of his time and one of Disney’s Nine Old Men for his knowledge and understanding of visual aesthetics, the famed core animators of Disney animated films. http://fyeahmarcdavis.tumblr.com/

“Not all those who wander are lost” J.R.R Tolkien

Roughly eight years ago, on what I assume was a Wednesday, I sent out an email to a bunch of people who loved to write and share asking them if they want to start a tradition called Wednesday Wanderings. I would send out a word every week and we would all write our thoughts on it. (In 2014, these are called prompts by the way). The list grew from an initial 7 people to about 30-35 people, all writing in, and enthusiastically waiting for the next word. It lasted exactly 50 weeks, 2 weeks short of a year and then having shared that time well with each other, we all went about our own ways, some continuing to write and others not so much.

Today by chance I ran across that folder on my Gmail and as I scrolled through that list of Wednesday Wanderers and some of their mails, conversations and writings, I felt very nostalgic for that young, idealistic band of merry bloggers who were out to change the world with their words. We saw through the blog ban, using the pkblogs proxy, feeling like mavericks defeating the system. These is an innocence, a power, a kind of unfettered hope in those mails that make us sound so carefree. We are enthusiastic and unreserved that it is endearing. I want to take that bunch of kids and high five them for their contagious excitement over such a simple idea, something they instantly connected on at that time.

We keep waiting for the big stuff in life to happen. Looking forward, peering into the cloudy future. Our paths right now sometimes seem meandering and twisty and we get the sense that we are wandering more than decisively moving in the One True Direction. You know the one that will end with the books we will write, the businesses we will conquer, the lives we will live …when it all falls into place. When. Then suddenly, maybe in your Gmail inbox, you get a glimpse into the life you have lived so far, that you are in the process of living and you will be hit by the force of the realization that the big stuff you are waiting for, you are smack dab in the middle of it, that its on right now and you are the one who is making it happen.

a trio of illustrators I am seriously crushing on

1. Aoki Tetsuo‘s monochromatic people prints are simple and stunning. They make me think of times when we are surrounded by people but feel quite alone.

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2. Gwenda Kaczor “whimsical yet moody” illustrations are gorgeous. I love details in work and since I find myself quite challenged in this free flowing feminine style, I am drawn to it even more. Her use of colour is soothing yet arresting. Her work always makes my day.

 

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3. When I came upon Moscow-born Eduard Erlikh‘s work, it was love at first sight. Having always been fascinated by the control some magicians exert over watercolour, I am awed by the level of seemingly effortless detail in his work. I want to BE these illustrations.

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#89daysofdesign

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We have been talking and thinking a lot lately about careers and jobs and opportunities. Call it a nearing 40 thing. What is it that I want to be doing? What is my calling? I like to use the word calling because it seems to serve a higher purpose than simply being someone who designs for a living. It hints at a life that is dedicated to making things more beautiful and by that virtue better. Design must  be a life. It should dictate how you are and who you are, what you buy and what you choose to see.  It must get into the nooks and crannies of your very being and take over the way you think , the way you dream, the way you hope. It must demand that you do everything with the intent to improve living. It should make  pretty, add fun and exude a joie de vivre for whatever is it that you are doing , thinking and surrounding yourself with.

Exactly 89 days ago, (and I know this because of this fun app I have called Days Since. I also know I have been married to k for 3,247 days and that the kids are 2,576 and 1,373 days old respectively!) I joined a fitness and wellness program with the promise to change the way I feel (and also look to some measure). It is a program designed to feel and live your best. It includes high intensity workouts, a wonderful (if chatty) support group of similarly goaled women and a plan to help you cut out the unnecessaries. And while the plan literally meant unnecessary unhealthy food, I realized that in the last year I had accumulated a lot of unnecessary negative energy, unwanted thoughts and feelings that moving froward, I did not want as part of my life. I wanted brilliance, positivity, creativity and design as part of my existence.

I have loved every minute of the last 89 days. Even the excruciating (yet oddly fulfilling) aches and pains. Having never been a workout person, I have fallen in love with pushing myself to a point when it shakes with the exertion of  pure physical exertion. I have loved feeling the difference in both how I look and feel, a duo that were simply not going together in the last few years. I either looked good or felt good and until there is a kind of relationship there, it isn’t going to last. Atleast not for me.  I have enjoyed putting my meals together, the life designer in me kicking in with full verve. I have loved designing my plan, bringing in my washi team, to put up do’sand don’ts on the kitchen wall. I have really truly responded to my calling here, been at my best designing this change in my life to get rid of the bad and replace it what works, looks and feels good.

The late great Massimo Vignelli said, “The life of a designer is a life of fight against the ugliness”. That ugliness can come in the shape of conflict around you, bad clients, comic sans, friends who aren’t there, family that doesn’t understand, systems that work and simply awful looking design and it is upto us to fight fight fight…till the world is better designed. Or atleast we are.

 

Starlit in Karachi.

“Aristotle taught that stars are made of a different matter than the four earthly elements— a quintessence— that also happens to be what the human psyche is made of. Which is why man’s spirit corresponds to the stars. Perhaps that’s not a very scientific view, but I do like the idea that there’s a little starlight in each of us.”
― Lisa KleypasLove in the Afternoon

a design so very me.

ImageOne of the more exciting things we dream of as design students is recognition. Not necessarily the you are famous in a hashtag kind of way but the kind that makes your style something people will be able to see and connect with you immediately. After all, that is how all great designers are born.

15 years later and when I hear that now familiar comment of something being “very me” my first (ok maybe second) thought to myself is “Am I stuck in a rut?” followed closely on its heels by “Does all my work look the same?” Ideally I would like to believe that it is the essence of my thoughts that seeps into the work I do- that somehow my work is representative of the designer persona I have cultivated over the last decade or so more than it is about my choice of colour and font.

But I admit that this cannot be entirely true. In some cases it is, of course, where your voice and the your design mesh in absolure harmony to create that perfect mix of you design- but that kind of designing here (or maybe anywhere?), at least commercially is limited.  Somewhere along the way, in the name of doing good, timely design and retaining that nice solid client, we do develop what is a called a default personal style, one that comes to us most easily, without too much research, prep or brainstorming. It is the safe zone, where a minimal amount of tweaking and input will result in what  can be called good piece of work. It may not be exciting to us or something that teeters wonderfully and dangerously on the edge of pioneering frontiers, but it works well. And sometimes, without it being a compromise or a bad thing, that has to be the happily ever after.

Recap: Suddenly Seven

I used to do these recaps fairly often back in the early days of parenthood, excitedly logging in gurgles and sounds and quirks and likes and oddball bits of information with much love and clearly more time. Reading back it makes me glad I did because the memory is an odd thing, and while some things come into sharp focus as the years go by, so many little fun things melt into a warm blurry mess. And since Nadi’s seventh birthday just passed, what better time to put down for posterity some of those things that I want to one day embarrass him with?

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Dear Nadooni,

Watching you with your friends is unreal. The relationships, the conversations, the self assured way you suddenly fall into a leader role, the nuttiness and especially the happy vibe you exude that draws your friends to you are all things I watch with fascination, especially since you were a shy little person not too long ago.

I love that you ask questions I have never even thought of, about things I haven’t noticed in detail.

We have had our battles, you and I, but we both know we are each other’s best champion, even in the middle of what you right now call a “daanto”. Isn’t that cool?

I know you love me but how you are with your dad is unreal. It’s like a force field of love and I can see it emanating from your eyes as you follow his every move to try and emulate his existence. From what he wears to a repeat of his phrases and his interests and habits. It is borderline creepy. Some days I get jealous. I have to admit. But mostly I am just mushy.

Everyday as soon as you come back from school, even before changing out of that filthy uniform, you must grab a paper from the printing tray, reach out for whatever pen is handy and start drawing. It is almost like the school day isn’t complete till your hands have sketched out something- expelled that leftover energy brought in from the playground. Once done is when you finally focus and get going on the usual routine.

You are quite impressed with the fact that post workouts my arms have become”tighter” and that I also sweat (like Abba, you said in starry eyed wonder) but then you grab my arm from underneath and tell me I need to work harder since it is still “quite squishy”.

When Lily says a longer, fancier word or sentence than what we are used to hearing, you will cock your eyebrow at me above her head with that barely contained grin you have and we will both share a moment of pride and excitement at how grown up and amazing she is.

You are a complete push over when it comes to her. From packing up her endless lines of animals to going to the other end of the house to fetch her Elsa’s shoes, you will grumble and huff but comply. You love annoying her as well. And when you think I am not looking, you will do something to bug her, which when I call you out upon, you will cheekily answer to with “But that’s what brothers are for!” I don’t quite know where you picked up that line but it makes me laugh.

You are a creature of habit where food is concerned. Just like me and your Nanna. You can have the same thing day and day out for years. Happily.

Your obsession with characters of a villainous nature is going strong. You find them interesting, studying their mannerisms and intentions to a point of exhaustion. Your villains of the hour right now are Hans who has reached delightful new lows in your eyes because he pretended to be good and Megamind whose dialogue “Remember, bad guys always lose” you have repeated ad nauseam to the point when both Lily and Leens are quoting is as a mantra.

One only needs to say the word “poop” for you to start giggling crazily. I don’t get it. I thought it was a boy thing till Lily and Leens also followed suit. Now I just think its mad.

I love watching you with Aanoo. It’s like your face physically morphs into this mushy looking, soft eyed pulp. You talk to her in this weird baby-like tone (which we all agree is quite scary but in a terribly endearing way) and she completely responds by always trying to touch your face. It’s oddly reminiscent of you with Lily when she was a baby. You are exactly the kind of big brother these 3 girls will use to their hearts content to get away with god-knows-what.

These days you (and Lily) love hearing stories of when me, Maii and Bia were small. You want details on what we did, where we lived and what our fights were about. I am really enjoying this as well, because it is jogging my memory on details I thought I had forgotten.

You can do all those daily little things on your own now. Eat your food. Take a bath. Style your hair. Tie your laces. Make your chocolate milk. Choose your clothes. And yet you still want me to be next to you every night just as you fall asleep. Thank God for that. It’s true what they say, that the days are so long but the years are so short. I love you so so very much my baby boy. Always be as you as you can be.

Love, Mama

 

 

On the lust list: Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro

I started writing when I was fairly young. Having grown up on the fodder of Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Anne of Avonlea and the likes of other such generation classics, I was mostly lost in words. To coin a well worn cliché, they were where everything was possible. Writing has always been a sort of magical place for me. I wrote in my  journals from the time I was 13 the original lot of which I destroyed once in a fit of panic at being “discovered” when I was 15. That led to a year or two of complete hiatus where writing was concerned. Perhaps it was a time of coming into my own, of beginning to realize that no one can judge my thoughts and feelings. I started again at 18.

Someone who I had known in a different capacity back then who had been the joy and pain of that writing rebirth first hand (and even been allowed to read those journals!), just a few months ago asked me if I am still writing and caught in the moment I uttered the blahest of all affirmative answers. Which is why when I saw this title appear on my Amazon check-this-out email, I couldn’t search for excerpts fast enough. And sure enough, Dani Shapiro in her new book (which totally shot to the top of the list of book I want now) had the penned down the words and thoughts I couldn’t summon that day when he asked if I was still writing.

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“Still writing?” I usually nod and smile, then quickly change the subject. But here is what I would like to put down my fork and say: Yes, yes, I am. I will write until the day I die, or until I am robbed of my capacity to reason. Even if my fingers were to clench and wither, even if I were to grow deaf or blind, even if I were unable to move a muscle in my body save for the blink of one eye, I would still write. Writing saved my life. Writing has been my window — flung wide open to this magnificent, chaotic existence — my way of interpreting everything within my grasp. Writing has extended that grasp by pushing me beyond comfort, beyond safety, past my self-perceived limits. It has softened my heart and hardened my intellect. It has been a privilege. It has whipped my ass. It has burned into me a valuable clarity. It has made me think about suffering, randomness, good will, luck, memory responsibility, and kindness, on a daily basis — whether I feel like it or not. It has insisted that I grow up. That I evolve. It has pushed me to get better, to be better. It is my disease and my cure. It has allowed me not only to withstand the losses in my life but to alter those losses — to chip away at my own bewilderment until I find the pattern in it. Once in a great while, I look up at the sky and think that, if my father were alive, maybe he would be proud of me. That if my mother were alive, I might have come up with the words to make her understand. That I am changing what I can. I am reaching a hand out to the dead and to the living and the not yet born. So yes. Yes. Still writing.”

(Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life)

 

image credit: thehabitofbeing

arrested at home.

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I had wrapped up my work commitments early and I was supposed to take the kids to Gymkhana with plans to meet up with friends for coffee later. K was going to his workout and we had planned to have fish for dinner while we caught up on 24. But then suddenly at 2pm Altaf Hussain was arrested in London, and everything in Karachi was uncertain.

Hundreds of whatsapp dings and a couple of hours later, after mad traffic, fuel crises and some shortcuts later, everyone whose back home routes I had been mapping was home.

A friend ranted on Facebook about how because of him being arrested in London, we were house arrested in Karachi.
How depressing it felt, how awful it was and yes for the most part I agreed with her, that to be told you cannot step out of your house, that you have to be forced to stay in is not a good feeling. But yesterday when the outside seems even more angsty, because of the thugs roaming around wanting to create an environment of tension, I was having a wonderful time being home. Amongst my people, in the middle of my things.  I tootled around the house looking to undertake some kind of improvement project immediately, to organize and control something, as an analogical attempt in life to get the power back. So yesterday, while my Karachi teetered on the brink of what is going to happen next, my kitchen cupboards got a thorough summer clean.