There are few channels in the universe that dedicate themselves to handing over loud speakers to loud-mouthed twits.
My country has its share of timed segments propelled by right and left wing morons alike but the beauty of a timed segment is – you can switch it off for that period without having to swear off the entire channel.
However, since everything is on a grander scale in America, they have Fox News; complete with a twenty-four-seven display of general hysteria and freak-outitude (thank you Jon) by anchorpersons that could sensationalize the pants off any blitzering wolf at CNN.
OK, we get it!
OBL was a Muslim. All terrorists are Muslims (except the 94% that aren’t). The Quran surely must command O ye who believe! Kill Americans! Especially the white ones ‘cause like – there are so many of those! So, obviously Islam is the root of all evil.
Let’s freak out further, shall we?
Hitler was a Christian. (OMG! How’d that happen?!!)
Some say he was a self-loathing Jew so please take your pick and detest that religion accordingly. I never knew him personally so I’d go with the popular belief. And since we’re blaming religion for the deeds of its followers, Hitler being a Christian alone should suffice for hating Christianity and all its followers till Kingdom come. No need left for any other Holy Book to order thus.
After decades of victimizing the Jews, the Christian world suddenly remembers what Jesus had taught them. And they set off to help the poor people – not by turning the other cheek and accommodating them in their homes but by handing them a piece of land in a way that was bound to make it disputed territory. So now, aside from Hitler, Muslims hate the Jews too. And while the Jews and Muslims bomb each other, the Christians sleep cozily in their warm beds.
As if helping the Jews wasn’t enough, USA (now synonymous with the West/Christian World in the new world order) decides to help Afghanistan. They create Taliban, who fight off the Russians for the Americans. The Americans tell their people and the world of how they stopped an oppressor while Pakistanis are left to clean up the mess and aftermath of a war in the neighborhood. We take in thousands of refugees from a very war-torn Afghanistan. They give us heroin as gratitude while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (brought to you by Lawrence of Arabia and ilk) gives us, and the rest of the world, Wahhabism.
The Christian world again
sleeps cozily in their even warmer Arabian oil wells...I mean beds.
Then 9/11 happens; perhaps the first incident in ages that actually rocks the West as it is a direct attack on American soil. Approximately 3000 deaths and 6000 injuries dish out a mixed plate of emotions. The Americans go from being stunned to feeling cheated to livid to downright war-mode ballistic.
We, in Pakistan, get confused.
Some of us are truly devastated, deeply sad for the loss of lives but angrier about the crimes committed in the name of Islam. We’ve never heard the name al-Qaeda before. We don’t know who OBL is – perhaps an ex-CIA who felt wronged by the Agency regarding something we have absolutely nothing to do with – like Mir Aimal Kansi. But none of that helps us ignore the fact that this is massive. And is done in the name of Allah and must be set right. We want to help. But we are in minority.
The majority amongst us are those who have paid dearly for years first for the Divide of 1947, then 1971 and then for a war that the Americans claim to have won ages ago (remember Afghanistan v Russia?). They hear of the 9/11, the 7/7 and all other similar tragedies and feel sorry but cannot cry because they are busy nursing their own wounds and burying their own dead. Truth to tell, for them this is Frankenstein gone home. And when the Americans scream it’s the Muslims! They blink in surprise and say Oh no honey, it’s you. Your prodigal son’s just come home to you years after devouring us.
And then there are the Talibans and their sympathizers. They’re a minority on the other side of the spectrum but can make noise very effectively. They have their tools to harvest a fresh crop of militants every season: poverty, unemployment, lack of education, misfortune of the locals to never really have known peacetime so that the only way of life they know is war at most and gang mafias at least, the Islam-hating-Muslim-profiling West…take your pick, they got more.
Let’s add to this, the wafer thin knowledge base of the general American public regarding their Enemy #1 – the followers of Islam. I mean…seriously. This is humiliating. After more than a decade of obsessing over Islam this much must be evident, wouldn’t you say:
- Sharia Law is not synonymous with Taliban and/or al-Qaeda Law.
- Snatching a hijab off a Muslima’s head drives one clear message home: you are the non-Muslim equivalent of Taliban. They force women into hijabs, you force them out. See a pattern here? The ideology of force, coercion and overall lack of respect for human dignity sound familiar?
- If you decide to hate a country and/or believe a country should be wiped off the face of the planet, we’d expect you to know where it is on the planet.
- Pakistan is NOT in the Middle East (for the gazillionth time) so do not expect us to even listen to conversations beginning with If you understand Arabic… Now if you were to say Urdu, Hindi, Sanskrit or even Persian, many of us would rise to the occasion (God bless South Asia, Iqbal’s poetry and Bollywood).
- Iran and Afghanistan are not part of the Arab world. They have more in common with Alex the Great Greek Guy and Genghis Khan rather than Muhammad Bin Qasim (and no, for the love of Christ, this Muhammad is not The Prophet Muhammad).
- While every word falling out of an Arab’s mouth may sound like a Quranic verse, rest assured it is not. Therefore, if one is flinging insults at you, they’re less likely to be in the name of Allah and more in the name of O ye ignorant American.
- Lashing out at Muslims in general does not help fight against terrorism. The Quran burnings and Let’s Draw Muhammad days do not help either. This merely confirms that when the going gets tough, mass hysteria prevails regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, intelligence, age, economic status and address.
- Most of us immeegraannts do not drop by all willy-nilly to chow down the country’s GDP for free. We work very hard to build our lives here. We pay our taxes to build this country. And in case it still needs to be said, everyone knows about the Native Americans a.k.a. not the European colonists. So please, get over the them foreigners, us locals frenzy.
- Even we don’t understand why the Islamic radicals insist upon using underwear and kitchen utensils to terrorize public when clearly the NRA is exceedingly in favor of guns.
- A mop sink is no reason to cause alarm – seriously.
I wonder if the panels of mixed nuts at Fox News or the Right Wing rallies they cover are seriously as mentally challenged as the participants have me believe. They must’ve vowed to never make sense! But then I reprimand myself for being so unfair. It’s not their fault. It’s the way God made them
– petty and insecure.
It is a mindset. A mind set in paranoia.
The same mindset that ridicules American Muslims attending a community fundraiser also compels people to chant obscenities at an American marine’s funeral. Bigotry, thy weapon is fear
. It surpasses all boundaries. And like a friend of mine said, it is the same mindset that we first struggled against in our countries and then finally escaped from when there was no hope left for betterment.
I’ve read about a country thrown to hate and bloodshed (my father’s homeland). I’ve seen
a country devoured by hate and bloodshed (my homeland). I do not want to see the same happening to my children’s homeland. But hopes, dreams and wishes can only go so far if denied constructive action.
Peace be with us and within us.Related articles:Not All Terrorists Are MuslimsMuslim Radicalization StudyExclusive Interview With Noam Chomsky
There are radio channels that have made me want to wreck my own car while driving. Sirius XM The Blend
is one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great channel. Plays music without interruption twenty four seven and if you’re into pop and soft rock that can excite your senses into a stupor so you can go wreck your car while driving – you’re good. Just walk that line without humming to Bruno Mars’s Grenade
and such or the officer on site might wanna throw one at ya!
So why the waste of energy and time and – uhm – cars? Because I need a song for my book. I could use my old playlist
but the sequel is a new book or at least should be treated as one; it calls for a new spirit, new energy, hence, new songs aka songs that aren’t part of the old playlist.
My new find did well in introducing me to bands and singers that I’d heard my friends rave about but never tried myself. For instance, Maroon 5. No offence but the nasal quality of their vocals makes me want to gargle my chords out. Just for the record, I never forgave Axl Rose for it either. Who else could stand taller? And then after hearing Jon Bon Jovi “take a stand because we can!”
for the fifteenth time in two days (and I adore Jovi), I wanted to run someone over to demonstrate my
right to freedom of expression! But I didn’t because I can’t
So, not much luck there; apart from the occasional Adele. My quest then took me to a concert. I’d been listening to Shehzad Roy
since I was in school on account of him being one of the 2.5 stars in our then comatose music industry (him being the 0.5). I admit I’m not a fan but when you’re living oceans away from your native culture and as desperate for a playlist as I am – you buy a ticket to any fundraiser that promises musical entertainment. You gladly welcome a severely jet lagged singer from back home who looks nothing like the dolled up icon you see on TV but you think what the hey, he’ll sound better.
And he did. I realized he had a very nice voice and listened intently as he talked
(not sang) about his NGO Zindagi Trust
, ran 2-minute clips on the screen that was inconveniently blocked by a bejeweled column of a floral centerpiece at the VVIP table in front of us, and had his singing performance interrupted, sorry - refreshingly paused, by the rigorous hand-me-your-wallet fundraising tactics of the admin. Twice.
And moving on.
Mr. Roy’s melodic bass voice did inspire me seriously to donate. And I’m pretty sure I would’ve found a tune that inspired me to write too if only he’d sung enough.
Hence, several hours, a spicy dinner and four songs later all I could think of was I gotta go home and pay my babysitter. I scrambled out of there an hour before midnight while the singer was still warming up. Well, if nothing else I learnt how nobly he was dedicating his songs and life to his cause. I like that. Good boy Roy!
But then…I still need a song. And The Blend
is free and still plays to the hilt in my car. And here’s a slice of Roy for you –
So I’m back!!!
Fifteen days to be exact including the 24-hour travel time of revisiting the roots with a clean slate and taking notes of everything I came across. Yes, that includes the unpleasant experience at MEM at the hands of our painfully slow ticket counter person who made us miss our first scheduled flight.
Would you believe she couldn’t read our passports? My husband’s and mine that is as we still proudly hold up the Pakistani green, unlike our kids who were born in the USA. She took TWO HOURS just to flip through the few pages of the small booklet reading God knows what since all it really had were our names and visa stamps – all in English mind you! And when she finally got through her snail paced reading, she chugged out four boarding passes for the six of us and while she was in the midst of printing the fifth one, the flight was closed and we couldn’t board anymore.
At first I thought she must have some twisted reason for doing this since we were on an international itinerary and had to catch a connecting flight for Abu Dhabi from Chicago O’Hare, and now we were to miss that too. Surely she could understand how much her inefficiency had cost us! But when she couldn’t pronounce the word Abu Dhabi or the name of the international carrier that had partnered to fly the passengers of the airline that she worked for out of the States – I felt sorry for her incompetence and then that of her airline. It was a sad day to realize that American Airways was this short on trained personnel. Tsk, tsk!
We went back home with all six pieces of luggage and four disappointed kids, bought new tickets for the entire itinerary after a constant thirty hour chit chat with Etihad Airways (our international carrier); our travel agent out and dead for the weekend (Word of advice: never book tickets through an agent. Do it yourself because then if your trip is messed up like mine, the airline pays more attention!). Once set, and taking the advice of a loader at the airport I’d met the first time, we reached the airport four hours in advance. This time a different counter clerk could not only spell Abu Dhabi, she handed us our boarding passes in less than ten minutes!
Two days late, we were finally on our way.
From Memphis to Chicago to Abu Dhabi to Lahore to Multan. From one continent to another, taking one connecting to another, from North America to South Asia, a distance of approximately 10,000 miles covered in some 22 hours; flight changes, security checks and airport waiting time inclusive. This journey was more tiring than the one I’d had in 2003 or in 2011. Perhaps I’m getting too old to travel or more comfortable with my road trips that end after 7 hours, 14 at most if we’re headed to VA or FL, and are under our control.
It’s true the aircrafts have got way better than they were and so have the airports. I love O’Hare simply because it’s so roomy and Abu Dhabi International looks like a freakin' mall! But that hardly makes up for the stiff plane seats that I dared push back to my heart’s desire lest the person behind me bumped their head against their tiny TV screen or meal table. The flight crew was nice and pretty – few exceptions here and there of course but it all looks good when the lights are dimmed and they hand you mango juice in a foreign accent every time you ask for it. Plus I watched Argo, Dangerous Liaisons, Anna Karenina, Chasing Mavericks and Life of Pi on flight. Ben Affleck won. Hands down!
The first thing that hit me upon landing at Allama Iqbal International, Pakistan was nothing unusual to report. The airport was crowded, people not standing in clean files, too many officials hurdling over one desk looking at one piece of paper, littered floors and lazy sweepers strolling to and fro pushing trash around, outdoors the Spring was warmer than what I’d left off in Memphis, men staring, women chatting, porters asking us to pay them in dollars instead of rupees and the sudden fear of turbulent political scenario of the country creeping up my spine as I prayed for a safe trip ahead – it was all very routine. So I asked my kids if they found anything uncommon and unlike me, they were quick with their responses:
There’s Urdu everywhere!
Too hot! (I told them they should hold that for the summers here)
The dress is different!
I see ox carts on the road! And goats and cows and donkeys!
Where are the traffic lights? (There are none in Multan, their father’s hometown)
They drive on the wrong side of the road! (Right-hand drive there)
Look at the buses! And the rainbow trucks! What's a rickshaw?
The countryside is like Arkansas – only smaller and not as green and more mango trees and buffaloes!
What's a canal?
So many mosques!
Is this shrine seriously three hundred years old?
Uhm – Mommy – what kinda restroom is that?!! (Squat toilets. Google it!)
Gasp! I think I just saw a lizard on that wall!
I just smiled and took notes to keep handy for my next novel – the one that I plan on setting in Pakistan. For now all I’ll say is it’s so good to be back home from home. Jet lag and fatigue aside, it was good to revisit what I’d once been and share it with my kids :)
Today the world seems a little less bright. It’s been looking like so since last night when I read my friend’s Facebook post announcing a certain someone’s recent death.
He wasn’t my best pal or confidant; the one with whom I shared jokes or played tricks together on unsuspecting others. Neither was he anyone I had a daily interaction with of memorable magnitude. And yet he had a great impact on my life. He was the principal of my school. One Bishop Anthony Lobo (or Father as I remember him since he wasn’t a Bishop at that time) walking the halls in his straight robe, tall and sure footed, alert, demanding and imparting discipline, giving the morning sermon with a dose of humor and warning alike – telling us to not have eyes like a potato that could only see dirt.
I loved him.
In all my years at school, I perhaps spoke to him on no more than two occasions, as far as my memory serves me – once during literature class where he took upon himself to discuss Romeo & Juliet while our teacher excused herself to attend to some personal matter and once after the school’s annual Christmas concert, I was in the choir and he liked the way we all sang. Merry Christmas to you, he’d said.
I wish I could remember more times when he talked to us but it all seems a chapter from so long ago that my limited memory seems to be faded in those parts. Then, being Head of School, three schools to be exact, he went in between all the institutions he managed, not to mention the Church and its duties that kept him occupied. In my later years when I was a senior, Bishop Lobo had ceased to visit us altogether. He would only drop by for a few days and leave. What I remember of those days is that I always liked it when he was in the building.
It’s funny really why I’m mourning the death of someone I hardly can recall but a part of me misses him. It’s perhaps the realization of a sudden demise of good in one form. Like a chapter has been closed forever in my book of life and it will never be continued. I will never see him speak on TV anymore, never hear or read in the papers that he fought his way through the criticism and bureaucracy and opened yet another school or college, never again will his voice rise for educating women, condemning war and preaching tolerance.
Read books. He used to say. Read good books. Bad books should have a danger sign on them like they have on bottles of poison.
I shall miss you Father. Rest in peace and may the world be blessed with more men like you.
Never write a series.
And if you do, never write out the whole thing in the first draft. And if you do write out the whole thing as a first draft then do not break it up into parts to make a series. And if you do break it up in parts to make a series…buy yourself a big bottle, box, jar or pinch of something that keeps you calm.
I’m serious. Because when you’ve split the draft in two, polished the first half, dished it out as your glorious First Book to the world and gotten admiring reviews bordering on worship (and some bad ones obviously from critics with bad taste) and it’s time to fine-tune the second half to dish that out as your glorious Second Book in the series – you’ll kill yourself. And by you I mean me.
If I didn’t have kids, I would’ve allowed myself to smoke like a chimney (my previous experience of never smoking regardless) and I find myself frequently wondering that when God forbade alcohol, did He mean for writers too. I mean surely He understands the pressures of churning out good ideas and wording them so they strike a chord with the readers and everything...
Anyway, I had to soothe myself with chocolates.
Why all the drama? Because while polishing Book One of the Aoife & Demon fame, we changed it quite a bit so that now when I read the first draft of it – I weep. I was all happy that Book One was very nicely received. The readers said it was well-written and they enjoyed the characters, no cardboard heroines lusting after perfect heroes there blah blah blah – yes, all very nice until we sat down to work on Book Two and were suddenly faced with a host of issues.
The characters had evolved and comfortably settled into their skins, and those skins did not match the ones in the first draft. That called for a major redo of dialogue, scenarios and relationships.
The story had evolved and become more mature than how it was written in the first draft. That called for a change and rethinking of the various twists and turns, chapter splits and climaxes.
The new story opened up more avenues for our characters to venture into and we couldn’t let them not go there. Hence, we had to and still are working on adding lots of things that weren’t there before and deleting many things that were but no longer fell in sync with the new developments.
In all, Book Two calls for a complete rewrite. By the looks of it we have very little from the first draft that will find its way into the finished sequel. While the storyline remains unchanged, it seems the way the characters journey towards the end of the book will be significantly altered.
If we hadn’t written the whole book before, I wouldn’t have felt so cheated out of comfort. I thought it’ll be as easy as pie to just look at the second half of the first draft, polish the language, add a few descriptions here and there and be done! But when I read it, I realized the entire language, demeanor and opinions of the characters looked out of whack compared to what they had become now.
My cardboard Aoife was no longer cardboard in the published book. She was a strong headed, badass heroine who loved to speak her mind and constantly put Demon in his place. Demon, who had started off as someone right out of the second century, was cool and not primitive at all. Azure had a more defined role to play and Salaar had been given the importance he deserved but which was lacking in the first draft.
To give you a better sense of what I’m whining about, I’ll post two scenes here. One from the first draft and the other from the published book – my very own Before & After piece on my own book.
One man, in particular, refused to look away from me. Even through his mask I could feel his stare. My cheeks felt a little hot as he started to walk my way.
"Bonne soirée, Mon Cher," he said and kissed my hand.
Ooh French. Sexy. I smiled but something about that voice alerted me. I knew that voice. But I could be wrong…
"I’m sorry I don't understand French." I studied the eyes behind the mask and decided to play along for a bit.
"Peut-être, je pourrais vous enseigner. That means, perhaps I could teach you." he said very suavely.
"Oh yes, that would be really nice." I smiled and took a deep breath. "Would you teach me?"
"Oui. Laissez-nous danser et je vais vous montrer ce que d'autres choses que je peux faire." He said and translated before I could ask. “Yes, let us dance and I will show you what else I can do."
I took his beckoning arm and he drew me close with a pull. He put one of my hands on his shoulder and he held the other near his chest. Any other situation and I think I would have gulped out loud. He smelled divine. I'd forgotten where I was and what was around me.
We had only begun to sway a little when he let my hand go and started to walk towards the end of the room, turning only once to look at me to tell me to follow. I did. He pushed aside long drapes and entered a small balcony. As soon as I walked in behind him, he pushed me towards the wall, and kissed my neck. That sent shivers up my spine. I was so exultant, I couldn't even move. Suddenly, I felt his hand move up on my thigh. This was more than I had bargained for. I pushed him away.
"Why are you pushing me away? Isn't this what you came here for?" he said.
I was stunned. "What...what are you saying?"
"Why else would you lurk in dark corners with a stranger?" he said with a rude twinkle in his aqua eyes.
"Stranger? I knew it was you Dee," I said in a small voice.
"Then why not come here and let's get it over with,” he said, running a finger around my neckline. “Let's fulfill your fantasy."
“This is just so typical of you.” I jerked his hand away. "You are one obnoxious excuse of a man. I thought you were joking but no! You think women are disposable like candy. You were practically undressing me with your eyes!"
"Doll, I don't want to burst your bubble but there isn't much to undress." He said.
I yanked off his mask and was about to punch him straight in the face when the drapes parted and there stood Nivis. He looked more shocked than us as he looked from me to Demon.
The After: notice the difference…and not just in the font color ;)
I was looking around when I spotted a man leaning against a pillar in a corner. He wore black and the cool manner in which he just stood and stared at me completely gave him away in spite of his mask. I wondered how idiotic the Ducimus were to not notice him standing there in plain sight! I rolled my eyes and continued my search for a way out in the opposite direction.
And why hasn’t he left yet? I told him I wouldn’t go with him! Stubborn jerk!
If I wasn’t in such a foul mood I would’ve actually gone towards him but just then I needed to get away from everyone and anyone.
A nice young voice filled my ears, speaking French.
“What?” I blinked a few times to focus on some man’s hand on my arm. Where had he come from? I realized he was trying to help me up. Had I ran into him? Curse the Demon!
“Oh, I mean – are you okay?” The man, a Richesse soldier of course since they were the only men there, had the most amazing French accent ever possible!
“Yeah – yes!” I said gaining composure. “I’m fine.”
“Can I get you anything?”
“I just need to get some air.”
“Oui, la terrasse – I mean the terrace is that way – behind the curtains there.” He smiled and pointed in the direction where I’d seen Demon standing a few seconds ago. But he wasn’t there anymore. “Would you like me to accompany you?”
“Non, merci.” I smiled back at him and went in the direction he had pointed. And after being smiled at and stared at all the way there, I was able to get on deck without further drama.
“Bonsoir, me chere.”
I stifled a shriek before I recognized his voice. I turned to look at him and sighed – more with annoyance than relief.
"Why are you still here?” I frowned. “I thought I told you to leave.”
“And since when do I take orders from you?” He paused. “Oh wait,” he said adjusting his mask. “Do we know each other?”
I rolled my eyes and yanked his mask off. “Pardonnez-moi, Monsieur! But your eyes and voice give you away! What if somebody sees you?”
“Fichu!” He shrugged. “That means ‘damn’.”
“I know that! What I don't know is why are you wasting your time here? I’m not leaving. I’m staying here and helping the Ducimus with their plan.”
“Why?” He asked it calmly this time.
“I’ve told you why!” I felt vexed.
“Tell me again.”
I was exasperated! A storm of words bubbled up to my tongue but all I had the strength left to do was shake my head and look away. I wrapped my arms around myself and felt his stare melt my skin but I didn't look at him.
Stupid Demon! He could go to hell for all I cared. And it would really help if he stopped staring!
“She is right by the way,” he said.
“Who is?” Aoibheann? He decided to agree? I was suddenly all ears.
“That Nancy.” He smiled. “White really does make you look very angel –”
“Don’t!” I raised a finger. “Don’t ever say that word to me!”
“In that case the only alternate I have is what we call fesch in Akina.” He smirked.
“What does that mean?”
“Demon!” I felt a wave of a dozen seething sparks run up and down my entire body. “What the heck is a pornographic angel?”
“It’s a compliment!” He raised his hands.
“For a whore!” I snapped. “Which is perfect since that’s what you think of me!”
“Come on pumpkin, don’t be so moody with me.”
“I’m not moody!” My lid was off and lost altogether. “You know if you just, a tiny bit like me – no not like since that’s too huge a sensation for anyone with your idea of romanticism so if you have even a shadow of an iota of an emotion even in the vicinity of like – for me – could you please be civil with me just for tonight? Or is that really too much to ask?”
He smiled. “Okay,” he said and stepped closer. Then taking my hand, placed it on his shoulder and took me by the waist.
“Demon.” I glared at him. “This is exactly what I did not mean when I talked about you being civil to me just now!”
“Well, your appearance isn’t helping. And also!” He raised a finger to check my oncoming protest. “We dance.”
“I do not dance!” I frowned.
“You do on ice.”
“That’s not dancing. That’s skating. And that’s totally irrelevant and different. Are they playing tango? I don't know tango!”
“Then don't tango!” He chuckled. “Sway with me.”
“I don't sway!” To my dismay, I had begun to sound like a brat, even to me!
“Don’t fret now pumpkin, you already are.” He smoothly spun me around away from him then reeled me in. Then, he smiled.
I didn't object anymore. He continued to lead and I swayed with him as some very cheerful notes filled the air. There were drums and trumpets and it was a very soothing and peppy fusion of fast and mellow tango beats that did invite a nice dance. The terrace we were on must’ve been very close to where the orchestra played indoors as I could hear the music just as well as if I was on the dance floor.
Demon held me close. I looked up at him expecting to find either a mean or a sensual smile or expression but there was none of that there. Instead, there was a sincere look in his eyes and a playful smile on his lips. He spun me around, led me and dipped me and held me as the music flowed from inside the ballroom out to us. And I, for some uncanny reason, felt liberated. I wanted to spin round and round and round and never stop. As long as his strong arms held me I wouldn’t fall no matter how far I bent backward.
Somewhere in those moments, I found him.
I saw him as Aoibheann had shown him to me. I hugged that man – and the demon I loved. He would never know the tears I secretly hid in my eyes as I buried my face in his shoulder. He didn't push me away. He did not lock me in an amorous embrace or smell my hair or kiss me. He simply let me hear the soothing beats of his heart as we danced. He simply let me be.
And then, I gasped and stopped.
He stood there at the entrance to the terrace.
I suppose every story undergoes the same developmental process and that is very good for the health of a story. The only hard part is to get over the fact that the story needs to be rewritten…and that it’s going to take time and focus…again!
Wishing all my writer peers luck and strength be to you all :)
Egad! We’ve been tagged among books that put people to sleep!
Yes, we got our first bad review. Oh! The horror! THE HORROR!!!
The title therein made my ears prick like my cat used to do when he smelled danger. Next the hair on his tail would stand up as he would arch his body slowly and finally, hiss.
I don’t have a tail. But I was thinking of arching my body and hissing and all but the entire routine died unexpectedly within two seconds – right after the reviewer confessed she never finished the book.
Okay, I said to myself, perhaps there was a good reason for her to not be able to carry on. Maybe she says something I can learn from.
So I read on and a second later, the review was over and I was left – uhm – not knowing how to feel. The best I can say is I was confused because I thought I should be sad or furious or devastated or depressed; after all it was my first negative review!! But I wasn’t. I wasn’t happy of course – considering it wasn’t a happy review. I read it again thinking maybe I’d missed her point and perhaps another reading could make me feel something. Some anger or remorse or the will to strive and be better at my craft or something but – the review never gave me enough info about my book for me to feel anything that might’ve helped my craft in the future.
I would’ve felt angry had she said Demon was awful. Rage would’ve crowned my brow if she didn’t like the world of Realm or if she didn’t agree with my tone of voice or the names I’d picked or thought that my characters were lame and unreal and the storyline was trite and the setting awkward and boring. I would’ve been irked and depressed had she picked on the poetry in the book for being insipid. I would’ve felt determined to write better if she’d pointed out exactly why the writing style was bad and such but she mentioned none of the these things or anything else for that matter. And how could she? She never finished the book!
For all I know she probably never went past the acknowledgements page. For all I know she probably copied and pasted the same review for a number of items ranging from books to shoes to muffins. Don’t believe me? Read this:
This bakery completely lost me almost immediately
Great decor but the icing style drove me completely nuts and I couldn't even eat this cake. Normally I can make it through in support of the baker but this bakery was just bizarre. Trust me when I say I eat a lot of badly baked goods because I support new bakers, but this cake was pretty horrible.
O_O *blink blink*
I’m sure the baker, had he existed, would’ve found such a review just as helpful as I, the new author, did.
And for every writer who gets a review as limited and unhelpful as the one that I got, you have the right to think what I did: the reviewer never got past the title page – or at most – the acknowledgements because if they had, they would’ve had something more substantial than ‘worst book ever!’ to back their opinion of the book with.
Real and serious readers never abandon a book midway no matter how bad and terribly written. They read merely for the honor and experience of reading. Likewise, real and serious reviewers never give vague reviews. Their words mean something to them and they make sure that they mean something to others, specifically to the author of the book, as well. They make sure their opinion is understood and they take the item in question piece by piece to justify their judgment of it.
Hence, if you’ve ever got a review like this, DISREGARD IT. It’s the tag of a troll who isn't there to help you but always there to distract you.
Aoife & Demon has been fortunate enough to receive many good reviews where the reviewers haven’t simply stated ‘Oh! Lovely book!’ in contrast to our darling Miss Two Stars' ‘this book was pretty horrible’. But our reviewers have taken the time to define exactly why they loved it so much.
I am not averse to critical reviews but I am averse to stupid ones. I encourage my readers to tell me where I went wrong with the craft. How can it be made better? But that takes time and effort and honesty and yes…to write a serious critical review, one has to be serious enough to finish reading the book first no matter how horribly it’s written :)
Happy writing, reading and reviewing to all you serious and honest souls out there. Cheers my friends!
I wish I could say I’ve been listening to your show since forever and had a fond childhood memory to evidence that. But I don’t.
I set foot on the American soil for the first time in 2003 – fresh off the night flight via JFK – from Pakistan. I had no clue what NPR was back then. CNN and Fox – sure as hell I had my favorites in place there and by 2008 I also knew who I’d vote for as President (if I could vote). January 20, 2009 was an awesome day and not only because it was my birthday either.
I think it was late 2009 when I actually paid attention to the Diane Rehm Show. Susan Page was interviewing the young author Ali Eteraz regarding his book Children of Dust. The guy was of Pakistani descent and held obvious interest for me and it was a brilliant interview, too. Susan let the writer express himself in fearless ways as she queried him to explore his perspective. I enjoyed that except I was also very disappointed. Not with Susan or Ali or his book but the fact that that was all I ever heard coming out of Pakistan.
Bombs, al-Qaeda, suppression of women, religious fanaticism, warlords, political corruption – you name the evil and it will track itself back to my homeland. Very exhausting and annoying especially when I see a somewhat different land. Hence, I said to myself that day: if I ever wrote a book, I’ll send it to Diane and request her to read it; only to provide a little variety, a little deviation from the usual controversies surrounding the term Pakistan, and a little perspective on the other unexplored side of the picture.
October 2012, I co-authored and self-published a fantasy novel with a friend. It will not give you any details regarding how gory and suffocating life is for women in Pakistan neither will it talk about why we hate or love this religious ideology over that one nor will it seek to explore the complexities of Pak-American relationship. However, it will take you into the minds of two young Pakistani women who were born and bred there, went to school, learnt English and can write and speak it like they were born into that language, and were nurtured by their parents to think, explore and express. Good part is we aren’t a novelty where we come from. There’s an entire population that can appreciate our mindset.
So please, go ahead and read our book. You have nothing to lose but a bit of your time and who knows, if you actually like the book we might gain an important reader. We are only trying to break the mold here.
It’s perhaps not the perfect pitch letter ever written but it’s truthful. This is exactly how I feel.
I remember when I first thought of writing a novel (and this was way before I’d even met Shami), my mother dished out a few names to inspire me since they were of course the North Stars of my region. Write something like Arundhati Roy, she said. I haven’t read Roy and I don’t think I ever will – not my genre totally. So that ship sank before it could set sail. I did, however, brave Blasphemy by Tehmina Durrani. She is milder than Roy and her association with the Pakistani political scene had whetted my interest enough to try her. I wasn’t disappointed, and for a while I thought I should write something like her.
This was the 90’s when we had an immense need for our voices, the oppressed voices, to be heard. The world had to know what our ruling class subjected us to and etcetera and it felt so brave and right to talk about the issues that mattered, to paint a picture that wasn’t rosy so that truth would prevail. The world had to know about us.
And so the world did. And it went in overdrive – like a never ending run of the mill misery fest that would be dished out of my region for the universe to sneer at. And while all that was still true and needed to be heard, I felt my voice being ignored and crushed.
Durrani and writers like her tell the truth but it’s a sad truth. What about the happy truth? Their books don’t portray me or the woman in my world (or niche if you may call it but even so we do exist). Nor do they talk about men like my husband or my father or my grandfather who sent his daughter to college in a day and age when most girls couldn’t even get elementary education. Their books don’t talk about women like Shami who would pitch forks and stand a post guarding the houses of minorities in the face of an angry mob. And if you think she wouldn’t do it then you don’t know Shami. They don’t talk about Sharon who would rather die than give up her green passport simply owing to a funny gene in her body called patriotism. They don’t talk about Saima, who runs out of cuss words (very fluently in English but more flavorful in Urdu) to express how mad she is at the current situation in her country, or Humzy, who is devastated all the same but rarely expresses it and yet, come Monday morning and they are ready to take on the world with renewed energy to stand up and make their land a better place to live in. Nor do they have an Ambreen or Janil or Laila or Shah Bano reflected in their writings – independent, generous, supportive and always among the first ones to see the silver lining in every storm.
These are all educated, career oriented women. Some of them are married, some of them single, some of them scarred by men but some of them are treated like queens by the men in their lives. But they do not feature in the books I see being promoted as the face of Pakistan when I look at literature about us that has made it across geographical divides.
And that is all fine.
Durrani and writers like her are strong, commendable women (and men) who had the courage to say what ailed the land they loved. It is fine that the woman they talk of, the men they describe are not me or mine. Surely, I too have heard plenty ghastly stories of tyranny, murder, oppression happening to a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend – but I never knew them personally. Some would say I was lucky; I didn’t stay in Pakistan long enough. I wouldn’t argue with them. I am happy to be lucky. But the question of who shall tell my tale remains.
Someone needs to tell stories about our weddings, yes we still have them and they’re an event more colorful than the rainbow. There still are roadside bistros brewing morning coffee and breakfast, kiosks selling hot sandwiches and corncobs and maize beads roasted in scalding silt, and fancy restaurants boasting of exquisite local food and international cuisines (sometimes with a kick of our own flavor). We have malls, bazaars spilling out merchandise and packed with shoppers (mostly women) and we love fast food (Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and KFC to name a few), movies, music and kite flying.
Yes, there are problems – mammoth sized and here to stay for longer than we’d anticipated. I can almost see my father shaking his head at me and smiling his honey-you-are-so-naïve smile as a tribute to my optimism. But my mother wouldn’t. She’s the one who taught me to see things this way – to smile and strive and never give up and be who you are and tell the world about it too. And don’t hate because it’s toxic.
And so, I have a quest.
I shall write stories embedded in Pakistan but not so you can know exactly how filthy or devastated it is. But just so you know what romance we have going on amidst all the chaos. I did that in Aoife & Demon too. Remember Gustak? To quote a friend, ‘this reminds me of my village back home’. She too is from Pakistan. And if you need to read about the filth and chaos in gory detail – please refer to a documentary on National Geographic or stay tuned to our news channels. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
But I have a different quest. And I hope to remain true to it. And not hate because it’s toxic.
Here's a glimpse :)
January 20, 2013. I turn a year older.
I’m already past the big 3 0 mark so it’s not the fright of not being a twenties person anymore. No, it’s quite different from that. It’s something more like…I’d just gotten used to being NOT a twenties person, was getting comfy turning thirty and suddenly I’m forced to realize that hey! You know what…that’s not gonna stick around forever either.
My skin is collapsing at the very thought of my birthday this year and I’m not even one of the beauty conscious people I know (and I envy and admire them because they always know exactly how to stay ageless). I would eat right if I remembered. I would sleep right too if my mind wasn’t always working in overdrive thinking and sorting out all the various stories running in my head simultaneously – the ones I’m reading, the ones I plan to read, the ones I’m writing and the ones I plan to write – all in no particular order but still very damaging. Also…I have kids. And a husband. And they all need me and love me. Sometimes they need me more than they love me. Just saying.
Recently I read a book where the heroine is turning 30 and freaking out about a frown line in the middle of her forehead – she realizes this when her mother gives her Botox injections and her dad gets her a hair stylist appointment (to color away the grays) for her birthday. Poor soul. So lucky to not have her parents. BUT…not so lucky with frown lines though.
And it got me thinking. I looked at all the characters I’ve created in the previous years to grace the pages of my books and then there were those from other authors that I liked and they were usually nice looking. Pretty girls. Handsome boys. And it didn’t matter what their features were like or if they were necessarily built fine and tall and slim – the simple youth and health of their age was what made them glow.
My own Demon is out of this world (like…literally) and Aoife is a sight for sore eyes too and I’m happy that I made them look that way because that’s how they’ll always be. Beautiful forever to look at and of course, if you give them a good personality then you absolutely land a perfect combination that will remain eternal in print for as long as the book survives.
So the question is…do we writers live through our characters then? In body and in spirit?
When I turned 30 I decided I could now write about people who were in their early twenties…new adults as the fiction market classifies them. I looked at myself and felt like yeah…this is how it feels to be young and healthy and full of energy and promise and I filled the same colors in my characters. I had only started to get comfortable in that skin when it hit me: its already time to shed that shell and crawl into a new one. Like a crab! One shell wears out its life and then he has to find a new one. I feel our bodies do something similar when they age. But I’d just got perfect at defining life at 28! I’m not ready to move onto anything above 30 yet! How do I make it stop??!!
My guess: I don’t.
This is what they call experience. I am now officially experienced to write about an age that I have lived through. And that’s a very, very happy thought. Finally, I’m mature enough to write about something without any qualms about it, thinking: Oh…is this how it feels? Really? I now know how it feels to be 22 or 26 or 28 or even 30 because I’ve lived through it. I’m not nervous about its authenticity.
And on a more personal level, I’m pleasantly surprised at myself intellectually. Okay, I was freaked at first to be honest but I think this is good. I can appreciate poetry, music and analogies I never could before. I understand reactions and issues I never had the time or patience or permission from my brain to stop and pay attention to because I was too young. Now, I don’t have to miss out on all that goodness anymore.
So happy birthday to me. And as for my not so glowing skin…I’ll take my BFF’s advice: Go to a spa!!!! :D
I will and be the fine wine she always describes me to be. Thanks babe! Love ya ;)
I was in grade 7…or 8…hard to recall now. What I do remember is that it was my birthday when we came to school and heard the terrible news of two of our classmates being fatally engaged in a gun fight. You’d think what would eighth graders be doing with guns? They certainly weren’t playing with them, no. They had an argument and according to the story I heard – one just pulled out a gun at some point from a drawer where his parents kept it and pulled the trigger. Within a second he realized what he’d done and he fired the gun again – this time – killing himself.
That was my first serious exposure to what guns could do.
Guns were bad. They killed my friends.
We can go on arguing about the mental capacity of an 8th grader and the responsibility of parents who own guns but those kids ain’t ever coming back. And I can’t help think if there was no gun there that day those boys would still be alive.
My second encounter was during a high school exam. I was 17 at the time and my exam center was unfortunately in an area more prone to violence. Hence, while filling out answers on my sheet of paper, I could hear gunshots being fired right outside the Center walls. Interestingly, I wasn’t terrified this time. I knew the gunmen were political activists and firing at each other (as was predicted by the tension in the city) but they would not enter the Center – hopefully. I was safe as long as I didn’t get caught in the crossfire – and as long as that crossfire didn’t cross the Center boundaries. And so I went on writing, secretly praying for a ceasefire that did come about in an hour. My paper lasted for three hours so…yeah; there was peace for that time.
Again, it could be said that if only someone in the Center had guns they could’ve put a stop to that gun fight had some ruffians tried to get in but I beg to differ. The kind of ammunition we were dealing with in Pakistan then, we needed an army to fight off those blasting guns. And this was back in the 1990’s. The situation has only gone further, further south without hope of ever getting better. May I also say that we weren’t always this trigger-happy? Nope. It’s taken us decades of hoarding and romancing guns to bring about our doom.
Like Americans, we constitutionally believe in the people’s right to bear firearms. The Constitution of Pakistan respects that right. It’s an honorable culture in rural areas but a bit frowned upon in the cities. Yes, it’s an interesting divide – or was.
In my city, while I was growing up, the common, respectable, good family person never owned a gun.
We didn’t like guns. We didn’t talk guns. We didn’t need guns. We, the common city folk, had no business with guns because guns were weapons used by the police and the army to ensure peace, and by the bad guys to terrorize and disturb that peace. Carrying an unconcealed weapon invoked fear and considered a misdemeanor. Carrying a concealed one spelled untrustworthy. If someone walked into a store or restaurant or wherever we were, carrying a gun or was known to have weapons, we would not want to be in the same vicinity as him. I suppose this fear came from the psyche that guns in a civilian environment only meant one thing unless they were on the person of a law enforcer: corrupted power.
Corrupt political giants always kept well trained thugs ready to be unleashed on the opposition for a variety of reasons – yes, very warlord mentality. And so we were subjected to hearing gunshots more often than not. And then it was routine. I saw my country being armed bit by bit, party by party, and individual by individual; in the name of self-defense, in the name of constitutional rights, in the name of political and religious warfare and in the name of power.
And hearing those guns blast again and again and again desensitized us to the dangers and threats they posed.
More guns didn’t help my country. It hasn’t helped any country. Why should the US hope to be any different? Unless you’re Sparta breeding an army, I don’t see the rationale for everyone to arm themselves. And where does more guns end? Am I to carry arms while shopping for teddy bears with my kids at Toys R Us? Or at Kroger when all I really need is a bag of baby carrots or a carton of milk? And what happens when I’m not with my kids? Just to be safe, methinks I should train my nine year old in how to shoot…better yet…gift her a handgun instead of an iPod on her next birthday so she can pull a trigger when she thinks she’s in danger.
What happened in Denver, in Newtown, in Columbine, in Aurora and other places can happen anywhere. And there are always a million reasons to carry out a massacre – mental instability is just one.
This past September after the 9/11 anniversary, when I went to drop off my sons in daycare and my daughter for her kindergarten class in our small Muslim community school, I was told by the principal manning the main entrance to take the kids home. There would be no school today, he said. Why? Because someone had slashed our school flag the night of 9/11 and the school authorities had reason to believe it was done as an act of rage against the Muslim community. They sent us home till further notice, till they got a go-ahead from the precinct that it was safe for the kids to return to school.
Well, as unfortunate as that was, the thought of my kids being in as much danger as those at Sandy Hook never crossed my mind. Now, I can’t stop thinking about how possible that could be!
Call me paranoid. I’d call myself that only if Newtown hadn’t happened. But it did. I’d feel better if Islamophobia was a myth. But it isn't. You just have to tune into certain media gurus to learn how real it is. I wonder how many average real life Muslims they’ve known personally to believe the things they propose…but that’s a different topic entirely.
Then, we have some who blame the media for sensationalizing such killings and hence, creating more killers needing to go out with a bang and such. I’d agree with them – right after someone tells me the name of the news agency sensationalizing murders before and after the Cain and Abel incident. What? None? How odd. And he still committed the crime? Well, how very imaginatively evil of him.
M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village makes just that point and although it wasn’t a huge box office sweetheart, or so I heard, it seems relevant.
I also wonder how many military-style assault weapons that fired about 200-500 rounds a minute were available to the public to own at the time the second amendment was made part of the US constitution? I’m guessing the firearms that civilians were granted the right to bear then were not in any way comparable to our darling Bushmaster today. The rifle at that time probably was a single shot gun that required to be manually loaded every two minutes after it was fired. Now, two minutes is all the killer needs to carry out a full scale massacre.
I’m simply curious to know how far the advocates of more guns are willing to take their stance. How many guns does a person or a family need to feel or be safe? Three? Six? Forty-seven? How about every neighborhood having its own militia to fight away any intruders or any suspicious looking person? Put a twist on neighborhood night watch by shooting people at will. Wait…I think somebody already did.
I will not be exaggerating if I said this so reminds me of the ways of all such terroristic mindsets that have made this world a hell to live in. And no, not all are mentally challenged. They just have a lot of guns. And a lot of will to keep and use them.
More guns. More blood. And of course, God bless the children.
Okay I couldn't help it!
I couldn't help myself getting up and doing something trivial just so I can live up to the hype of 12/12/12 as the day I DID SOMETHING!! So here – I’ll blog today and quit being lazy about it – just for today.
I’m not a fan of ‘celebrating’ every date that I may not see in my lifetime again or the days that will never come back – which by the way is every passing day of your life if you think about it so – why bother? Living in the moment is more understanble and practical. The pressure to make a mark or celebrate or do something special makes me queasy.
Hence, this morning when I woke up and saw pictures and messages asking if I had anything special planned for 12/12/12 – I thought I’d die of disappointment in myself at first, then shame for feeling that so very disappointed, then anger for feeling shameful and then the whole idea of dying so many deaths seemed unattractive altogether, also impossible so I just rolled over and decided to sulk the day out – until I remembered my blog!
I’d post a very nonsensical account today, make absolute no sense and then revisit it every December 12 for the rest of my life just to remind myself that YES! I too DID SOMETHING ON 12/12/12!
Seriously, how desperate is that?
Also I started using Google chrome. Finally after years of it just sitting there glaring at me from the task pane every time I’d hit the blue e with the yellow scarf. Why? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy? I’m so much cooler and rainbow-y. Why must you choose that unreliable hung-over E!! I could almost hear my Chrome wail so I heeded and it’s nice. It corrects my spellings by underlining each wrong word in red, pretty much like MS Word does. I get a kick out of it going nuts over my Facebook comments :D
U r veeeeeeeeeeeeeraaaay naice!
Yeah, I just gave G-chrome a heart attack right there.
And I have a lunch date with my husband’s friends today (yeah it’s not as much fun as it sounds – he’ll be there too!). Then, I need to take a round of my own street and stuff my adorable postcards in all the mailboxes there. These postcards are special because they’re actually more like oversized business cards that talk about the book: Aoife and Demon. I just thought it would be nice to put one in each of the ten – fifteen houses, with holidays around the corner and who knows – I may get a sales boost! And while I’m at it I may actually get to meet my neighbors for the first time since I moved in this neighborhood ;)
Uhm…and the temperature is freezing. I hate it. I did have a goodnight’s sleep on my new orthopedic extra expensive bed though. And if anyone tells me what I’m feeling about sleeping well on it is psychotic, I will get upset! So don’t even try. For what it’s worth I have resumed my night reading ever since I bought this thing. I like to fluff up my pillows and lay back with a book in my hand and feel rested. It may have something to do with the fact that alongside the mattress I also allowed myself to buy an entire Echo bed ensemble from Bed, Bath & Beyond. Two standard shams, a queen sheet set, a comforter cover and two decorative pillows plus one large 20x20 inch toss pillow with embroidery, glitter and peacock colors from Pier 1 to tie in the entire look. I know it sounds frivolous but believe me, it feels so good!
A new bed needs a new bed ensemble. That’s the rule. Like every date needs a new dress. Especially, if you’re married. Every time my husband wants to take me out, I check my closet. If I have something I agree with, good. If I don’t, I go buy. And it doesn't have to be clothes necessarily. Once I didn't have the right shoes. Another time I was bored with the handbag I usually carried. It varies with whatever rocks your day.
And no consequential guilt trips please, I am very, very averse to those. I just shut and haul my good sense away at such times when I know I need to indulge or I’ll regret it later. And I do regret later, it’s not a myth. I have this adorable friend and we go out shopping at times to our favorite store and whenever I’m in doubt I look at her and she says to me, “Will you regret leaving it or will you regret buying it? Think about the later.” Solves all my problems right there!
And if you realize, this is actually very good advice since it can fit into any real life situation.
For instance, I regret looking at young people on the street and thinking Target Market or not Target Market. And I’m talking about target market for my books; lest you had other ideas floating around in that nice head of yours. But this is absolutely true and turning into a sore habit that I need to be rid of. This past November when the temperature were still a humane 60 to 70, I was stuck in my daughter’s after-school carpool line and I saw a group of teen-aged girls (16 years or so), about fifteen of them, sitting by the pond sketching and painting ducks and geese. My instant thought was – they should read my book.
I know. I’m shaking my head at me too. Their teacher noticed me staring at them and smiled and waved. The girls followed her gaze and did the same. I reciprocated and we shared a lovely moment in time of being nice to strangers.
They must’ve thought I was enjoying how freely they sat and looked happy and I was doing that, too. I really was fascinated by the brilliance and rawness of their artwork and the fact that they were still of that age when time stood still for you. You have the power to direct it, ignore it, use it and tease it. I was young once and I remembered it just then and that made me smile. But yes…I did drool over them for a bit, casting them as my potential target market for a good five minutes before they discovered me.
Oh well, we all have our moments and I seem to have quite a few of them everyday J Today is no different either. Which means that 12/12/12 is no different than any other day – it is just as brilliantly bright and crazily cold (as most winter days are) and it is 10:30 in the morning and I haven’t had my breakfast yet (as always) and I think I want a cup of tea to really start my 12/12/12 officially.
Take care people. And go and do something special to make this last repetitive date memorable for you!