Mafia Wars

I woke up to my cellphone’s call for attention – the occasional ping of a social media website that sends a shiver of excitement down anyone’s spine each time it’s heard, only to often end up being an invite from a food group that they had forgotten to unlike.

With partly open eyes and a mind still clouded with the last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I clamored to find the phone from under my pillow – my hands reaching out as if a drowning man calling for help – frantic and all over the place.

“Fauzia Arif,” the notification read, “has completed 56 levels of Candy Crush. Post on her wall to congratulate her.”

“How difficult is it to have a life these days?” I questioned angrily before, logging in to Sims Freeplay to check if my Sim was well-hydrated after the hours of virtual gardening I had put it through.

Now that I was finally up and getting my daily installment off the newsfeed, I scrolled down to spot familiar faces doing things that I only wished I could.

Sofia “Princess” Mir, the first update read: Just got updated to an iPhone 5, thanks to my hubby to be <3.

This was my friend from school who I had lost touch over the years and what remained of her memory were just the ugly bits that still stung like an evil bee. The status, as if spiraling me back to that time had me wanting to reply, but I couldn’t just comment on her status. That would just prove that she had my attention, which she didn’t of course.

I decided to update a status of my own.

“How cute. People are just beginning to get an iPhone 5. Steve Jobs is dead, folks!” I wrote.

And just as I was thinking my passive aggressive rant was done with, a new notification checked my smile that hadn’t fully appeared on my sleepy face.

“Don’t compare yourself to me. I’m someone they couldn’t even dare to be.”

“Whoa! Who is comparing who? Wait, where is that picture of Ali with that goofy smile of his where everyone thinks he resembles a deer?” I thought immediately scanning my desktop for saved pictures from yesteryears.

I had posted of photo of Ali and I at our best. The caption read, hubby already. It was the only picture of him where he hadn’t lost those few extra strands of hair covering his forehead and when his smile was just a genuine show of good countenance and not a silent question of “What’s for dinner?”.

The photo even though misleading was gold. Contented, I thought this would shut her bitch fit up but here’s the thing about social media: You can never be too sure – about anything.

And sure enough, a new status update from Sophia had followed: “I pity my friend who ended up with someone who has such an ugly face.”

My head was now reeling. I felt betrayed, backstabbed, insulted – all at once. This person, who had more asterisks in her name than my computer password was actually having fun at the expense of me? Me? Who had always scored the highest, got the better job, gotten the guy and had real friends for a change.  Who does she think she was?

My mental blabbering was interrupted by another ping from my cell phone.

“What? Is she not even going to wait for her turn now?”

It was a notification from my high school’s principal who thought tagging both of us in a status would be akin to calling us in to the principal’s room. She had proceeded to give us an online scolding – caps lock and all and said something about how our failed attempts at trolling still gave her nightmares.

If our online spat with each other wasn’t embarrassing enough – well, it wasn’t quite embarrassing, I am known to be more challenging on Facebook, that tagged status took the cake.

I quietly switched my phone off, pretended the online me was going on a hiatus and proceeded to tend to my real life responsibilities – the first of which included me getting out of the bed.

(This was done as part of a creative writing course at SZABIST)




Into The Vile

It’s so bad, I can smell it!

From extra-long curly toe nails to phantom arms that originate from nowhere, everything that could possibly be disturbing manages to find a way in your newsfeed. You scroll down your Facebook page with a cup of coffee in hand, probably munching your breakfast snack and all of a sudden, a sight as hideous as Voldemort’s poo greets your gaze. What do you do? Scroll down as fast as you could? But it seriously cannot be fast enough. After all, you’re not done scanning the entire feed for weather, traffic and strike updates. For what good is using a social networking website in Karachi if it doesn’t give you the necessary information to start your day with? Err..

An influx of highly disturbing, vile, sometimes utterly gross and often, offensive images seem to have found a way to attract people enough to share them on their profiles for everyone in their list to see. If it’s not your Facebook people, then it’s some “insert-emotional-quote-here” page you had somehow liked for a friend that doesn’t think filtering images for quality is a good enough idea. From comic pages drawing almost real-looking poop to images of people with missing limbs (that seem to be funny to them, for some reason), there really is no knowing what type of content could come up next that you’d have to wash your eyeballs thoroughly for.

If it’s not the outright grotesque, then there are photos “commanding” you to like them or you’re likely to burn in hell. Seriously, isn’t waking up a Monday morning to get eyed angrily by your boss, only to be “surprised” by your favourite relatives while you’re on your way to head out hell enough? Apparently not.

Maybe imagining a world where people would rethink the kind of things they post online is actually day-dreaming, but do we really want to go down the road where everything we lay eyes on is a vomit-in-your-mouth kind of content? Clearly, the day isn’t far when you’d see surgeons uploading pictures of their patients when their stomachs are half cut up and consider it their contribution to the world of daily humour. Who am I kidding. I already have.

Mall’d Up

It has been a while since I ran into somebody I knew. As much as I want to say this, I can’t, for the many Dolmens and The Malls that have sprung up in our city have not only brought with themselves a fresh supply of I-will-have-to-sell-a-kidney-to-get-things-from-here brands but also a million opportunities for one to run into all sorts of people. Now avoiding Sunday Bazaar like the plague doesn’t cut it. Gone are the days when you could roam around window shopping with an iPod hanging by your neck (not in the way you just pictured) sporting last night’s slept-in PJs. The non-brushed ponytail look can suck it for not only are the likelihood of you running into someone you know increases disproportionally to how ancient you appear but even just lazing looking around shops and trying new shoes get you nasty stares from the shop-keepers.

“I may look homeless, but I do have a job, hello!” (Or probably the only reason I look homeless is because I have one.)

Since I refuse to mend my ways until I absolutely, completely have to, it was  just last night that I found myself going around the same shop in circles to run away from an estranged ex-employer only to end up running headlong into a friend’s bhaabhi (brother’s wife). For someone who doesn’t even know the names of their own extended relatives, stopping to exchange pleasantries with someone else’s is a moment that calls on you to undertake an intense episode of self-reflection.

And then, the cherry on top goes to the designer bag sporting thirteen year olds, texting away with their groupies and roaming around with cream dripping cupcakes making you feel like you are the only one figuring life out while others are busy living it.

When all is said and done, maybe one can bring themselves around to wearing iron-pressed clothes when they go out but getting yourself to laugh at the “a relative, school friend and ex walk into a mall” jokes is surely going to take a while.


Lipton’s Mega Disaster

Lipton’s Mega Disaster

Lipton’s Mega Daane – a mega disappointment

Imagine the wind blowing in your hair while you drive past the many shops and traffic lights in the city, only to come to a staggering halt in the face of mini-boards and bill-boards that hang around the cosmopolitan like a curtain. National Fruitily, the countless Iftar Deals, the “exclusive” eid exhibitions and Lipton – Mega Daane, Mega Taste. Your mind wants to snap shut but can’t. This has to be some kind of a prank. Is tea really being advertised owing to the strength of its Daane? Thoughts about oversized pimples come unbidden to mind. Daane. Ow.

Besides, whoever knows anything about tea beans? A quick internet search would tell you that even Google hasn’t heard of them. Even considering the fact that Pakistan has become the place where the impossible happens, talking about tea beans is taking things a bit too far.

Tea is an essential part of not just our routine but our lifestyle. It’s no longer just a beverage. You seek tea the moment you enter your work place, the moment you binge at a dinner (which happens often) and whenever you think you are going to lose it at someone.

While it’s true that the aforementioned has been used as a concept by a number of tea brands and Lipton itself has come out with really memorable ads (Remember, Chaye Chahiye?), a new ad campaign should have been a welcome change considering the enormous run that the old jingle has enjoyed. Unfortunately, the Mega Daane, Mega Taste has instead of engaging the local community established Liption as a brand that is aloof and distant from what the consumers want and understand.

If one really thinks all it takes to succeed in the ad world is a portrait of a woman enjoying a cup of tea and a tagline boasting about how mega your beans are, you really need better research or maybe just a new ad agency.

(M)ad Work

If it hadn’t been for the love of giving interviews, I wouldn’t have ended up here. Call it chance or providence, but here I am sitting at my very own desk at an ad agency – a field of work I have regarded with contempt, particularly in Pakistan since the number of ads that get churned out year after year are formulaic, if not cringe worthy.

If you are shaking your head in disbelief, you might want to check the wonders of work Meezan, Tarang, Telefun have come out with. There are only a few brands that make you stop and watch and not make you curse yourself for stopping and watching. Personally, Djuice has been that brand for me even though I used the product for barely over two years.

What is it about advertising? Some say it’s the clients, others blame it on the lack of resources. But all I hear is excuses, shmuses. But then how do I land here, you may ask? Well, for starters it all pretty much started of me wanting more. Isn’t that what ads at the end of the day make you want? More? More of the product in less of the price. More of a experience, of the supposedly attached lifestyle, of the cool image?

What started out as one of those million interviews I get accepted in and throw away, this sort of turned into a challenge. All of a sudden I felt like wanting to know how I would fare In the field I don’t really respect.

First day at work? The customary 30 min wait before someone finds time to show you around, 9 out of ten people are seen typing furiously on their typewriters, oh wait, laptops (MadMen overdose). Everyone is busy. Really busy. Phones are buzzing all over the place. Important people can be seen running around. An awkward while later, you find yourself sitting at a desk looking at the stationery in front of you.

There is no work yet. At least, not for you. You are the newbie. When something does eventually appear, it’s usually something others are too busy to care about but they try their best to offer it in a way you can’t refuse.

“Let’s see what you can do with it.”

And there you are, with a first set of instructions in your hand wondering how do you combine the terms “meat” and “independence” in five different ways.

“Can I take a bathroom break?” you question in your head. But really, that’s the only place you have been known to come up with ideas that truly work.

So are you trying to tell me that I have to come up with 5 taglines combining two impossible words this very instant, that too while sitting properly at my desk? No shower breaks?

It’s no piece of cake … Wait, excuses shmuses?