Monday, May 29, 2006

Sunny Montreal

So its official, summer has finally arrived in Canada. As luck would have it I was in Montreal to enjoy the first weekend of the sparkling sunshine. My family was in from New York for their memorial day weekend and I along with them and some friends of the family who live in Montreal made the most of the little time we had to revel dans la rue un Montreal. (I have to boast of the little, gramatically incorrect French that I pick up from here an there.)
Although it was my fifth or maybe the sixth trip to Montreal, but I had never been to the city in Summer before. My memories of montreal included snow covered streets, night clubs and indoor pubs, hotel hopping for work or for the academic competitions that my university sent me to or sometime even chilling out with some friends in some place covered. In my head, Montreal may well have been Pluto with some life form on it. I was however presently surprised to land up in a Montreal sans snow. Prior to heading over to my aunty's apartment I decided to stroll through the downtown and ended in a socialist protests against some folks being deported. But in true Montreal style the protest involved huge loud speakers playing euro techno beats like prodigy and chemical brothers, some protest. They should ask the mullahs in Pakistan what protests are all about !
I have always picked a certain vibe from all the major cities I have been to. Capitals have their own capital like laid back bureaucratic feeling. May that be Islamabad, Ottawa or Washington the feeling would be distinctly laid back. Similarly metropolis like New York, Chicago, Toronto and even Karachi have a buzz to them, theres a certain pace at which life is moving and its always a snoozers loosers situation there. However, maybe it was the weather, or the women, or both that made the summery Montreal exude a very sexy vibe. I recall an ad for Amerca Bavaria, a Brazilian Beer, in which the tag lines read something like in Brazil theres more to sweat than heat. The same may very well be true for Montreal.
All in all, I still feel that my earlier analogies of Montreal being to Canada what Lahore is to Pakistan may well be true. With sincerest of respect to my female friends in Karachi, the ladies of Lahore do out shine Karachi girls in the looks department (on an average, not everyone...I Repeat: ON AN AVERAGE :D ). Lahoris like to speak Punjabi more so than Urdu, much like Montrealers who prefer communicating in French. And Finally, every single time I have been to Lahore I have been thrilled to party there, much like in Montreal.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera with me so no pictures in particular at this time. However, I am planning another trip soon with my friends. I am curious to find wether there can be more to sweat than heat in Montreal. :D

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Pleasures of Disconnecting

One of the best things of living by oneself is the ability to take a step back from the day to day activities at ones own leisure. I took the opportunity of this past victoria day weekend to do just that. My buddy Ryan invited me to his cottage in Calabogie, some five hours northToronto, which may very well be a little quite corner of heaven.

Although it had been quite a while since my last trip to the Northern Areas of Pakistan but the smell of the pine in the air as well the quality of it reminded me of Kakul where I went to spend a few weeks of summer to meet my uncle who was at one point heading the millitary academy there. Living in the city, one does not realize what truly fresh air means. As stepped out of our ride at almost 2 at night I was welcomed by a chilly breeze which carried the aroma of pine woods and burning cedar wood which is commonly used as fire wood in the local homes. unlike city air that you can suck in for a bit before your lungs need to retract, the country just keep going in and the whole system responded as though it had come across a certain elixir like substance. There was a party in my lungs and the Calabogie air was undoubtedly the guest of the evening.

So being in such relaxing environment I realized the beauty of not having to respond to phone or emails or not worrying about the day at work or catching the right bus and other such rudimentary things that we become used to in the city. It was actually like disconnecting from the world which in this day in age is not a privilege but a need for all of us to do from time to time in order for us to maintain our sanity.

Although the weather could have afforded us a bit more of sun and a little less of rain, however we still managed to find ourselves the most peaceful of spots to enjoy an odd beverage or two while hoping to catch a fish or two. Wilderness was at complete harmony, for at some secluded spot the silence was harmonically broken the call of the loon or the noise of a blue heron gentally taking a dive from over our head into the lake looking for some fish. Speaking of Loons, I learnt from a local late one evening that they are one most loyal animal/bird alive. They always travel in pair and if their mate dies, they never find another companion. Thats a lot more than we can say for some people whose former mates are still alive :D

And so I used three days of a week to unwind from all the grime and stress that the city had pouring over in heaps. As we hit the dusty road back to the big city, both Ryan and I wished we could spend another day or so here. But what would be enough? Maybe small doses is the right prescription.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sad Day

So how many of you have heard about the Charter of Democracy that was signed by the biggest crooks my generation of Pakistanis has seen a.k.a Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto. I a sure we all grew up hearing about honesty among thieves, but never had I thought that I would witness this "honesty" being contracted on paper.

My reasons for not believing in democracy for a country like Pakistan at its present status are widely known amongst peers. I dont think that democracy and government can be bed fellows in Pakistan anytime soon, but it would be even worse to see these crooked politicians riding on the claim of "democracy" and winning parlimentary positions. What Musharaf has done over the last seven or so years would all go to waste, it would be undone, there would be new scandals new HONESTY tribunals that would investigate in charges of "corruption" against the outgoing government. There would be a vendetta like situation where tax payers money, whatever little there is, would be used in a gong show of shit flinging over some people who had the nerve to take the responsibility of the country on their shoulders in uncertain times.

I only shudder at the thought of seeing someone as inept as Nawaz Sharif during the whole 9/11 and War on Terror situation or someone like Benazir and her nation pimping husband trying to bring in investment in key areas of the country. What worries me most is the fate of the president Musharaf. We have all had our differences with the guy and as big an advocate I have been of the person, I have been absolutely critical of his handling of womens right especially in situation like those of Mukhtaran Mai or the Dr.Shazia incident that some feel was the final nail in the coffin for Balochis that has resulted in the current state of turmoil in the province. However, he has done so much more for the this country on his own in the last year that he deserves the respect of the entire nation. Unfortunately I have a bad gut feel about his exit from the affairs of our nation, if only politics in Pakistan were less feudal and vengeful then we may have anticipated that mavericks like Musharaf to get the recognition they deserve.

I have said it before and I will say it again, Pakistanis need to wake up and smell he coffee, one by one, town after town, city by city people have to start saying NO to all the nonsense and take things in their own hands to bring about the change that is a must to sustain our encounter with progress that has happened over the last few years.

Lets do it ! ;)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tunes of the Pak Sarzameen

When I was little the only time when I got really annoyed at my uncle was when he forgot my favorite mix tape on the dashboard of his car in the blistering Karachi summer. The sun, with its peak at the noon hour, took toll on the TDK-D90 (remember those) that a certain Shankar at Virgin on Tariq Road had put together for yours truly in a matter of hours. I was annoyed, it was the 90s, there was teen spirit on on that tape. What I didnt realize then was that there would be a time when I would be able to store tons of my favorite music on a small portion of a hard disk that maybe prone to electronic and mechanical failure. As much as I moaned the loss of documents and pictures when my Lappie crashed last year, the loss that had the deepest of impact was that of my music archive. Pakistani music and music videos as well some classic english stuff ranging from Floyd and Zepplin to Dylan and BB King all was lost.

I slowly recovered my English classics through some friends and some back up CDs, however most of my Pakistani music was gone for good. And after running into an unusual situation two saturday nights ago that involved arguing with a coffee shop operator over use of the bathroom while a drunk women got beaten up on the roadside, I realized the value of finer and prefered things in life and decided it was bloody well time to get that music together. So since the past two weeks I have slowly been recultivating my Pakistani music archive from various sources over the internet. Everything from Khan Sahab, Iqbal Bano and Nayara Noor to Noori, Aaroh, Overload and Meekal. While doing so, I was once again pleasantly surprised at the depth and the talent that exists in the Pakistani music.

The growth of our music industry bears testament to the fact that no matter how much a certain aspect of life suppressed, it only comes out more polished and flourished when it does come out. You cant keep a good thing for long. On one hand I was entranced by the qawalis and thumris and on the other I couldnt get enough of Nazia and Zhoaib's disco. One end of the play list had Vital Signs experimenting with all the boundaries that the early pop music industry had to face and on the other end Strings spread their wings out in the skys that the Signs had pioneered. May it Alamgir's attempt to adopt Latino style with Albela Rahi or Faakhir's spin on Flamenco, Junoon going Santana with Jazba-e-Junoon or Karvan going Zepplin with Gardish there is possibly no comparison to the level of diversity that exists in Pakistan, also keeping in mind the size of the country as well as the market that these people cater too. I dobt if our supposedly creative and cultured and definitely bigger and more populous neighbour could even stake such a claim.

At the same time, what I find slightly funny is the influence of RnB and Hip Hop on the music scene. DJs and Free-styling rap artists have started making appearances in music videos sometimes even dressed and decored like our 8-mile brothers from the hoods of Detroit or Up Town Niggas from ATL (A Town, Upside Down Yeah C'Mon!). Ebonics would soon be course offered in some Karachi schools that want to earn a few extra bucks. But jokes aside, it honestly is a reflection of a society that is assimilative of its influences. If only all those influences were positive!

Rest assured, I am really looking forward to making that summer trip to Karachi and shaking a leg with friends over Nazia and Zohaib singing Dosti, or some Abrar and Jawad bhangra song.