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.


Taking The Casual Vacancy Home

The Casual VacancyI picked up The Casual Vacancy with a world of wizards, duels and centaurs fresh in my mind but no sooner had I turned a few pages that I knew this wasn’t going to be anything about that, at least not apparently. It was almost as if someone had picked me up from my imaginary Thunderbolt and let me go to have me crashing back on the cold, hard Earth with a thud.  Despite the thud been audible, it didn’t hurt quite as much as one would think.

For one, even though The Casual Vacancy is like holding a Mirror of Erised in your hands (considering how J.K. Rowling had everyone convinced that Harry Potter would be the last we’d see of her writings), it’s also like finding exactly as you are in it, maybe even with a few additional dirty socks.

With no Alohomoras and Accios to enchant the deep and unsettling message that’s wrapped in the contents, it threads bare the society in which we live in, in its most crudest forms. Call it as dissimilar as you may to Potter, the real magic of J.K. Rowling lies actually in the strength of her words. Her ability to have you believe that wherever you are and whatever you behold, is real.

To all the naysayers, laid out below are a few excerpts from the book that, if not stop the shaking of your head, might make you want to pause for a minute and wonder.

  • “Stone dead,” said Howard, as though there were degrees of deadness, and the kind that Barry Fairbrother had contracted was pretty sordid.
  • People in Krystal’s mother circle died prematurely with such frequency that they might have been involved in some secret war of which the rest of the world knew nothing.
  • These familiar objects – his key fob, his phone, his worn old wallet – seemed like pieces of the dead man himself, they might have been his fingers, his lungs.
  • He wore his school clothes with the disdain of a convict.
  • “OK,” said Kay still standing, “If we can talk about this calmly.”  “Oh, fuck off,” said Terri dully.
  • He had clung to her, wanted her to stay for tea, cried when she left. It had been like having half your guts cut out of you and held hostage.
  • Shrunken in the arm chair, a strange hybrid of old lady and child with her missing teeth, Terri’s gaze was vacant and inconsolable.
  • Darkly clothed mourners moved, singly, in pairs and in groups, up and down the street, converging, like a stream of iron filings drawn to a magnet.
  • She had lost her temper at him in the third shop, because he had looked like a scarecrow in everything he had tried on, gawky and graceless, and she had thought angrily that he could have inflated the suit with a sense of fitness if he chose.
  • It was so good to be held. If only their relationship could be distilled into simple, wordless gesture of comfort. Why had humans ever learned to talk?
  • She glared at him, struggling to articulate it for his pedantic legal mind, which was like a fiddling pair of tweezers in the way it seized on poor choices of word, yet so often failed to grasp the bigger picture.
  • The power of the photographs of them together on her Facebook page had been blunted by his familiarity with them.
  • His visit had been so brief that when Mary, slightly shaky, poured away his coffee it was still hot.
  • You weren’t supposed to dislike your own child; you were supposed to like them no matter what, even if they were not what you wanted, even if they turned out to be the kind of person that you would have crossed the street to avoid had you not been related.
  • “Yeah,” said Fats. “Fucking and dying. That’s it, innit? Fucking and dying. That’s life.”

You Probably Can’t

It doesn’t take an IQ of a genius to know that killing a 14 year old is wrong. It doesn’t even take education or a belief in God. Humans don’t kill humans. Period.
Pakistan is not ruled by savages. Which is why 50 ulemas gave fatwas against the attempted killing. Which is why the locals of the concerned province want to distance themselves from the attack. Which is why the mainstream and the social media is abuzz with cries and pleas of all shapes and sizes. Which is why people are beginning to find an affinity for Malala.
Pakistan isn’t ruled by savages. It just doesn’t know what to do with the ones that it has. How do you reason with a person who doesn’t see the wrong in killing a 14 year old? You probably can’t.

500 Days Of Summer

PTCL is getting really good at what it does these days. With an internet speed of three movie downloads an hour, I am really inclined to think that I have it all barring YouTube. “You can’t have it all” says a song in (500) Days of Summer, a movie I watched last night and well, I tend to agree.

In fact, I agree with the film on more than one account, not because it made me happy or left me with gut-wrenching tears – the latter is reserved for all the films that come out of the Transformers franchise but because it kind of left on the “everything’s possible” note, pretty much like how things actually happen in real life.

Accidents happen and sometimes, even good things do but what you make of it, the person you decide to become post-incident determines how you go ahead living. The two extremes: happiness and tragedy in films and in real life are quite over-rated.

Most of your time is spent doing mundane, ordinary things that might impact you in some way but go unnoticed for it doesn’t make you jump with joy or leave you crying on your pillow. What about things that makes you awkward, imaginative, embarrassed, bored, creative, angry?

So busy are we in determining where our lives lie on the happiness scale that we often forget there are a myriad of other emotions to experience and to write/photograph/make films about.

The film that says “I’m not going to make you happy in the end but you still might end up smiling” is then definitely my kind of film and that’s why I totally recommend (500) Days of Summer.

The Final Word

Writers are funny people. As much as they’d like to think that most of their writings, well the good ones anyway, are a result of their persistence and long hours of their sitting near a table lamp with a pen and a paper, quite a number of times it doesn’t take as much. Sure, research lies at the backbone of any good written piece but the actual process of penning thoughts to parchment doesn’t take as much effort as writers or the readers would have themselves believe.

When I am about to start with a blog, I usually find myself at a loss with respect to a choice of topic or a certain stance on something I should feel strongly about. It’s only when my hands are resting expectantly on the keyboard that words start to form – out of nowhere. If anyone were to ask me about what it is that I’m going to glorify, criticise or neutralize in the piece that I’m writing, I would probably be found giving a clueless shrug. All it takes is to sit determined in front of a laptop screen (it’s perfect if you have had a bad day) and just let the words type themselves out, as if by magic.

A part of me would like to think my hands have a mind of their own. A mind that almost never feels like collaborating with the grey mass inside my head. A blessing, some would call it for what goes on in my head is quite the pile of shit. However, if I have given the impression that the writing that appears out of nowhere is only a good thing, I would like everyone to stand corrected.

While the decisions that I take after much contemplation and thinking are subject to change (A number of times actually for I’m but a typical Gemini), the writing that starts off on its own poses quite a challenge. It’s like the other mind is always looking for an opportunity to provoke, incite or to at least land me in trouble with the readers, the more conservative ones anyway.

Something that I would like to call “uncool” gets written down as “disaster in the name of high fasion”. An unpleasant event that I would (using my head) describe as a momentary lapse in my good fortune appears as a collection of three alphabets – FML. And as much as I would like to rephrase and to rewrite so that it appears less provocative, I just can’t. Once written, it appears to be the missing jigsaw piece that the puzzle was looking for, as if no other word could take its place. And I give in to my writing with my fingers crossed and the computer mouse hovering over the “publish” button, unsure as to the consequences that not reasoning with the other mind might bring.

Lately, writers online have called towards themselves a lot of unwanted attention for their choice of words. As the usage of print media continues to decline (Believe it or not, three of the magazines where I worked have gone from print to publishing online), more and more people are relying and “devouring” information and opinion that is available on the web. And while the information that appeared on the print has always assured the reader of a strong “proofreading” and “editorial” process that it goes through, the writing that appears on the internet isn’t always as rigorously checked, if at all.

Is that a good thing? For a person like me, who values opinions as much as information, it is. I am a writer – an artist. For me, everything comes to down to colours, shades (not Fifty Shades), opinions, notions, ideas. And while, I would never prefer reading something grossly incorrect, the writing that gets to me is the one that I can relate to (and, which is grammatically correct).

The writing, that has a mind of its own.


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.