Monday, March 23, 2015

Sweetness Incorporated : Pakistani Film Jalaibee

Sweetness Incorported : Paki Film Jalaibee

My definition of Jalaibee is a Pakistani dessert , which is super sweet, bright orange in color and enjoyed during Ramadan with samosas.
A new Pakistani movie has been released with the same name.The movie has been a blockbuster since it's release three days back. It is not a sweet love story like its name but an action thriller about two friends Billu (Danish Taimoor) and Bugga (Ali Safina) who get caught up in a debt with the local mafia called "The Unit". As they look for ways to pay the debt before The Unit comes to collect, they find out they are in deeper waters than they thought. At the same time another man Ali , along with his partner Jimmy wants revenge and has the intentions to kidnap and kill the Mafia lord known as The King.

The movie is high paced , colorful songs incorporated thriller relatively liked by the audience. Good to see the surge in Pakistan Film goers in recent years.......

Tis to Jalaibee and the rapidly growing Paki Film Industry ......keep going!!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Let's save BASANT


End of winter and beginning of spring is the time of celebration,time of tasting mithai and flying kites in Pakistan especially in the province of Punjab.This celebration is called "Basant"........"the festival of kites".

It was traditionally celebrated from the last week of febuary to mid-march.People dressed up in beautiful yellow outfits,enjoyed sumptuous mithais comprising "zarda" and "barfi" and flew brightly colored kites. People danced on the beat of popular songs and everyone tried their best to fly their kite higher than others.The smell of henna and the trickle of bangles laced the air.

The tradition of wearing yellow , dates back to the Aryan conquerors who used to dress up in yellow colored clothes which was believed to be the colour of "victory" and "joy"!

This festival started more than 300 years back when the Sufi poets and Mughal Emperors celebrated the start of spring by a "jashan"or celebration called "Jashan e Baharah"(celebration of spring).It is one of the most colorful festival in the world.

It was celebrated all over the sub continent but it was in the city of Lahore where it was celebrated with the greatest enthusiasm.Initially the festival was staged inside the old walled city of Lahore but later on it spread all over town.Streets were decked up in honor of the festival. Dance of kites glorified the sky and screams of " woh kata " could be heard all around.

It was few years back when people started to criticize Basant . The paichas (metallic thread) commonly used to fly kites became increasingly hazardous. Henceforth, the spring season was haunted with the news about repeated slitting of throats, people falling from rooftops, electrocution of people and power breakdowns.

The local government, instead of making strict regulations and laws to control kite-flying activities, found the easy way out and outrightly banned the festival in 2005.
accepts the fact that this particular festival caused casualties but Basant also provided several benefits, particularly for the tourism industry. It was regarded as an international festival as people would fly in from UK, Australia and North America to participate in the kite flying activity .Ambassadors of several countries including eagerly celebrated the festival. It was an occasion to prove that Pakistan is a peace-loving country. Pakistan also became famous for the export of kites and the intricate kite-shaped souvenirs.

Not only was it a source of entertainment but a source if income of many kite makers across the country who have been jobless since then.

The question rises why can't we continue with this centuries old celebration ?

Can't the government enforce security measures like creating " safe kite fly zones" , restrict the length of kite flying threads and replace the hazardous manjha ( thread) with some other improved version.

Strict regulations and laws to control kite-flying activities can still revamp this age old tradition. Let's raise our voices , let's save Basant.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The heavy burden on the shoulders of Sarfraz Ahmed

The heavy burden on the shoulders of Sarfaraz Ahmed

Pakistan vs South Africa game was the biggest milestone for the Pakistani Cricket team . Their defeat rejuvenated their confidence in the World Cup. That particular victory was able to cement back their respect in the hearts and minds of the millions of Paki Cricket fans .
It was Misbah"s superb captaincy and diligent batting which uprooted the Proteus defense .  But the man of the moment was Sarfraz Ahmed the young wicket keeper / batsmen who was sent early in the innings , he courageously faced all the South African bowlers , made 49 runs and provided Pakistan with a solid foundation which has not been provided so far by the opening batsmen as yet in the tournament .
It was Sarfraz "s first big match of the tournament . It is believed that he was not a favorite of the coach Waqar Younis that is why he was not given a chance as yet.

Well Sarfraz not only defied Mr Younis but also the many other pundits , when he scored a magnificent knock of 49 and took six catches behind the wickets . The entire Pakistani nation had to pinch themselves to believe that it is their own team and their own wicket keeper who can actually " catch catches". The initial matches of the tournament rightfully highlighted the "flimsy fielding " of the Pakistani cricket team .

Pakistan will face Ireland on Sunday March 15th , it is an important match. Team Green needs to win this game to seal a spot in the quarter finals . There will be immense pressure on the entire team and especially on Sarfraz Ahmed because since his outstanding performance last week he has been hailed as a Super Hero . He has been quite regally compared to "Sarfaraz" the Paki Muslim love interest of "Jaggu " in the hit Bollywood movie " PK "........Pakistani media has gone crazy showing the Clip of Jaggu saying "Sarfaraz dhoka nahi dey ga"
.......he really did not betray.

Mr Sarfraz Ahmed .......the heavy burden of the expectations of 18 million Pakistanis lies on your shoulders . You not only have to proof the management of the team wrong but also have to stand up for your cricket team and all your green fans all over the world .

We all pray that you once again defy the odds and  Team Green not only advance to quarter finals but also to semis then to the final on March 29 th at the MCG , Melbourne .

Point to Ponder : Sarfraz keep catching catches and making runs but the other 10 players you guys too need to work hard , it's your time to shine for your country . Pakistan Cricket Team needs more than one Sarfraz who will not " betray them ".......

Anyone listening out there .......I am sure they are !!!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ode to the Amazing Darzis ( Pakistani tailors)

ODE  to the AMAZING  " DARZI" ( tailors)

He is the most powerful person in the country even more than politicians.

You can find one in every block , every gali , every corner of the country.

He is that one person that all Pakistani women  love or hate from time to time.  He enjoys the perfect love / hate melodrama with them.

He is self proclaimed king of muti - tasking at the same time ; stitching clothes and telling a fake story e.g " no electricity", " workers gone " , " kiya karein"......

For all the ill-fitted Kameezes and oversized Shalwars and lingering delays , he has the one and only best excuse : " the fabric was not enough Baji jee".......

 The "  Dilemmas" courtesy to him haunt ladies for a long time and are a source of night mares for them.....

He is master of the art of  " Kapra Chori".....

The vibrant "designer dress industry" of the country will stumble and fall to the ground without him......really!

His business has never been affected by economic issues or inflation in the country has always been flourishing !

He wants to be addressed with respect like Master Sahab otherwise he will get angry........

He can go on vacation any time he wishes for any duration of time he wants to. You will see the closed shutters on his shop for many days while your mind will wonder about your clothes he has inside the shop ......

He is super smart , can copy any design from any magazine , any time ........

He is the most visited person in town
even more than some of your " not so favorite relatives", especially when you are coming from overseas or planning a trip abroad " he" is the first and last person to be visited ........

He is the first person to be visited , to be booked for stitching of clothes after the official engagement ceremony of the to be bride and groom ,even before caterers and Wedding hall......

Did you guess who is he ? He is the always busy , master crafts man MR DARZI ......

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Let's celebrate the regular , everyday Woman


She is a mother whose focus is only her child , she is a daughter who cares for her aging parents , she is a wife who shares her husband"s struggles , she is the aunt who plays with her nieces and nephews , she is the grandma who tells the best stories , she is the caring neighbor , she is the protective friend , she is the hard working business official , she is complex and compassionate , moody and hilarious , she can be a cook , a teacher and an advisor at the same time and can be the best at being it .......

HAPPY WOMEN "S DAY ........each and everyone of you is a piece of art !!!
Instead of celebrating the rich and famous ; why not we celebrate the " average woman " today .

The regular mom who gets up at 5:30 am to cook food , clean the house , pack lunch boxes for her kids before she leaves for a busy day of work.
The regular mother who is worried how to meet ends , how to pay bills , how to wipe her tears before showing her face to her kids .
The regular mom who fights the world for her sons and daughters, who gives up all her desires for her children.
The regular illiterate mom who clean other people "s houses , eat left overs just to send her kids to college.
The regular mom who walks miles every day in treacherous heat to bring clean water and food for her kids.

Let's celebrate the regular daughter who does two jobs and changes two buses every day to support her parents.
The regular daughter who always say yes to every thing said by her parents.

Let's celebrate the wife who supports her husband in sickness and in health , with or without money.
The regular wife who ignores all her husband "s wrong doings , she forgets the pain of infidelity just to keep the family together.
The regular wife who never complains to her husband about the nagging in-laws just so he does not get stressed out.

Let's celebrate the thousands of nameless and faceless nurses who take care of patients all over the world in exchange of very little money and respect.

Let's celebrate the many teachers who teach our children every day and protect them like their own.

Let's celebrate the poor women who sell flowers on street , who cooks delicious food for other people "s kids while her own kids can eat at least one meal a day.

Let's celebrate the woman who quietly helps the needy family member or quietly helps the neighbor who has to pay the rent.

It is for all those invisible celebrities who send money from overseas every month to support many distant relatives .

Let's celebrate the woman who work for 10 to 15 hours every day in corn fields and maize farms with their babies tied on their backs.

Let's celebrate the thousands of victims of abuse , neglect who have suffered a lot but still manage to stand up the next morning.

Look around and please honor the silent warriors , the dedicated care takers , the quite confidants today and every day........

Happy International Woman"s Day ......

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Congratulations Green Shirts and Green Supporters all over the world


Be careful all teams , World Cup Cricket 2015

Are the " cornered tigers waking up"??......
There is a difference between " an actual wicket keeper " and " a substitute wicket keeper "??

Mr Mauqa too bad you changed your mind way too quick .......

The " Mauqa " can be ours .......
Power of infinite prayers ......

Wow Sarfraz Ahmed .......excellent captaincy Misbah .......

Jeremy Coney, ex-New Zealand captain, on BBC Test Match Special

"I didn't think it was possible for Pakistan to defend a total like that but they picked up wickets and from nine overs on they held sway. At no stage, other than De Villiers, did the South Africa batsmen look comfortable at all. They bowled with real purpose. Once again, South Africa didn't cope with the pressure."

Best of Luck for next week
Ireland vs Pakistan

Inshallah we will win .....

Friday, March 6, 2015

Karachi the cheapest city in the world ......really?

Karachi the cheapest city in the world ......REALLY ?

A report featured on the BBC this week revealed that the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has recognised Karachi as the cheapest city in the world. It was awarded the same title last year by the EIU during its annual survey on the worldwide cost of living.

The survey took into account the cost of living in 133 cities worldwide using New York City as the base. A basket of more than 160 goods and services was compared, including utilities, clothing and food prices.

Bangalore, Caracas, Mumbai and Chennai are also among the five cheapest cities on the EIU list.

The five most expensive cities in the world remained unchanged this year, with Singapore topping the list. It was followed by Paris, Oslo, Zurich and Sydney.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Inflation Monitor showed that the year-on-year inflation rate in Karachi was 7.6% in January 2014 and consisted of 10.6% food inflation and 5.4% non-food inflation.

Karachi is my birthplace , my home away from home , I did some research , according to which :the price of meat ( goat )in Karachi 450 / kilo for goat .
One loaf of bread and one dozen of eggs for 350 rupees( combined total)
Rs 1,000 petrol will last you only two days in an air conditioned car.
Average dress for ladies cost between Rs 5,000 ; designer dress for Rs 18,000. One of a kind high end designer ladies dress Rs 35,000.
Pair of Bata sandals for men Rs 2200. Pack of ice cream for Rs 500.
Happy meal at Macdonald Rs 450.

Rent for a three bedroom apartment in an average neighborhood in the city is Rs 15,000 to Rs 20, 000.
Rent of a 3 bedroom apartment in a posh locality Rs 60,000 to Rs 85,000.
School fees for a good English medium school Rs 9,000 to Rs 14, 000 a month.
Average income of an educated , hardworking person with good experience in a 9 to 7 job is around Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000.
Average income of a private car driver is Rs 15,000.
Average government pension to it's retired employees is Rs 7 , 000 to Rs 15,000.

Joint family system is very common in Pakistan where mostly a person has to take care of himself , his wife , kids and parents. So approximately 7 members in a family. Only 35% of women work outside the house. So technically there is one earning member in family .

Do the Maths and figure out how Karachi can be the cheapest city in the world ??

How can the middle class and lower middle class survive ??

Maybe it is cheap for the corrupt politicians or maybe it is cheap for people with foreign currency who are there to visit but not , not at all cheap for the average middle class family living there is very hard for them to meet ends meet ironic !!

Personally I go to Karachi very frequently but when ever I go I find it more expensive then the last time

Am I right ??

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sound of Music : still faboulas at 50

Sound of Music : still faboulas at 50

It’s the film which taught kids around the world " how to sing ", it captivated an entire generation of movie goers and melted our hearts with the beautiful love story of a nun and a captain in the Austrian Navy. Fifty years ago, The Sound of Music - the movie based on a successful Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway musical ,premiered in New York on March 2nd 1965.

Sound of Music is one of my most favorite movies . It is still a delight to watch even after so many years .It is a movie which captivates the audience and makes everyone immediately fall in love with " all the favorite things "......the story-book Austrian scenery, the nuns’ chanting, charisma and stunning voice of a 29-year-old Julie Andrews, the motherless  Von  Trapp children , mesmerizing songs and the captivating romantic story against the back drop of war.

The film Sound of Music was filmed in Salzburg , Austria since then this beautiful city has become a famous tourist attraction.

It is based on the memoir of Maria  von Trapp, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers". The film is based on a true story and maybe that is the reason why it appeals to the people who watch it. It is the story of Maria who is sent as a nanny to look after the kids of Captain Von Trapp whose wife has died and whose seven kids are a challenge to handle . Maria not only takes care of them , tries to solve their problems , teaches them to sing and most importantly loves them like a friend . Every one is captivated by her caring nature , also the Captain who secretly falls in love with her.
He breaks off his engagement, and subsequently declare his love for Maria as did she ;  soon after, the two are married in an elaborate ceremony.
Many songs from the musical have become standards, such as "Edelweiss", "These are a few of my Favorite Things", "Do-Re-Mi", and the title song "The Sound of Music".

The Captain strongly opposed to Nazism, he tells his family they must leave Austria. As the von Trapp family attempts to leave during the night, they are stopped by Nazi guards . They lie to the guards, claiming they are performing in the Salzburg Festival. The family takes part in the contest and slip away during their final number, seeking shelter from the Nazi guards at the abbey cemetery. They are discovered hiding by Rolfe a former messenger boy who threatens to shoot the Captain. The Captain is able to persuade him to escape with them, but Rolfe calls for assistance. After the family escapes in a waiting car, the Nazis try to chase them but their cars fail to start, having been sabotaged by the nuns. In the final scene the Von Trapp family hikes over the Alps to get into Switzerland and to freedom .

The film, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, was released in 1965 . The Sound of Music earned 10 Oscar nominations, winning five - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound, Best Film Editing and Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment.
It displaced another classic "Gone with the Wind" as the highest-grossing film of all- time.

Lady Gaga performed at the Oscars last week ( in 2015) in a special 50th anniversary tribute to "The Sound of Music." Julie Andrews who is 79 years old now joined her on stage .

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Francis Underwood : Shrewdness at its extreme

FRANCIS UNDERWOOD : shrewdness at its height

Francis Underwood"s immaculate cunningness has turned the show House of Cards into a global phenomenon.

Francis Joseph "Frank" Underwood is a fictional character and the protagonist of the Netflix web television series "House of Cards".
The seasoned actor Kevin Spacey has played it wonderfully .
He is a variation of Francis Urquhart, the protagonist of the British novel and television series House of Cards, from which the American Netflix series is adapted. He is married to Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), who is quite his match with the same coldness and ruthlessness.
The show has been nominated for many Emmy and Kevin Spacey won for best actor in a tv series drama at the Golden Globes this year.

Underwood is from Gaffney, South Carolina. He graduated from The Sentinel, a fictionalized version of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and Harvard Law School.
He speaks in a Southern dialect. During season 1, he is the Democratic Majority Whip in the United States House of Representatives. In season 2, he is the newly appointed Vice President of the United States, before becoming President of the United States in the season finale.
He is the President of United States in the newly released season 3 of House of Cards.

Underwood is ruthless and effective,
he knows how to get his way through the political scene of Washington .
He is cold and corrupt and often comes across as a serious weirdo.The audience is mesmerized by Frank Underwood who has the talent to deceive other characters.
He stops at nothing, not even murder, to get what he wants. His manipulative nature reminds the audience of the Nazis.

It's not only the Americans but people all over the world are fascinated by shows which revolve around the working of American politics especially the commander in chief and his team . It was the last decade when another political drama " West Wing " captivated the audience . West Wing and House of cards are polar opposites in all aspects. President Bartlett of West Wing was a down to earth serious reformer who deeply cared for the people and for the office he held , there is apparently no comparison between him and President Underwood.

By comparing the NBC show The West Wing to Netflix's House of Cards helps us to understand how much our culture has changed or as a matter of fact deteriorated in the last ten years. Not only does House of Cards presents a social shift from genuine political idealism to pathetic low key cynicism.

I think " House of Cards" is popular now because it speaks to some kind of lurking anxiety we have about our political system.
You could read that and say maybe we’re longing for a Utopian vision of our foreign policy but I do think there is a sense that "House of Cards" is filling some kind of narrative need and actually kind of accessing something about how we see our political world. I also think that the public is also attracted to Frank Underwood "s character , they somewhat get entertained by his deceiving personality and wonder what type of new conniving technique he portray next.......

Underwood "s personality reminds me of a Desi feudal Godfather type man who has to have his way, always. He is fun to watch on tv but I hope the American public does not elect someone like him, ever to the highest office in the land.

After all according to President Underwood " Democracy is so underrated"...... — with Adil Akhtar.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Because she wore a headscarf

Because she wore a " HEADSCARF"

Samantha Elauf flew to Washington DC to the Supreme Court on Febuary 25 th 2015 for the hearing of her case against clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch. She was turned down for a sales staff position at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in 2008 because she was wearing a headscarf.

Samantha Elauf was 17 when she interviewed for a 'model' position at an Abercrombie Kids store in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2008.

She never voiced or showed her religious views or her need to wear a headscarf but the assistant store manager assumed she was a Muslim.

She impressed the assistant store manager, who then consulted another manager and explained that she thought Elauf wore the scarf for religious reasons ......the manager said the headscarf wasn't permitted even if it was worn because of Elauf's religion.

The headscarf, or hijab, conflicted with the company's Look Policy......

Elauf was furious she hired a lawyer and took her case to a federal court which ruled for the young woman, and she was awarded $20,000 in damages. But the U.S. appeals court in Denver threw out the verdict and decided Elauf had no case because she had failed to mention her religion or ask for an accommodation that would have allowed her to wear the head scarf.

After 7 long years of legal wrangling the case was taken to the highest court in the nation the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court justices who have favored legal protections for religious beliefs questioned a lawyer for Abercrombie & Fitch Wednesday over the clothier's refusal to hire a headscarf-wearing Muslim girl.

The hour-long oral argument exposed the retailer and its "look policy" for sales associates to harsh criticism from both liberal and conservative justices. They unanimously appeared to reject the statement that the girl was turned down for her black hijab, not her religion.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The long lost art of letter writing

The long lost art of letter writing
By Almas Akhtar
Feb 24 th 2015

 My definition of love is not just a bouquet of roses or expensive gifts my definition of love is time well spent with your loved ones , create memories , take photographs , write letters . Flowers and food goes bad after few days , gifts are out dated but written words always  stay with you in your hearts and in your memories forever and forever .
I have always expressed my views with my words , I believe my words are a source of affection , a source of appreciation and a source of knowledge for people around me. I also believe that written words will stay in this world till the end of time.
And yes my words , my written words will definitely out live me ......

Since I was a little girl I enjoyed writing tiny notes for my parents , teachers and friends . Well that was the 1980s when every house had only one off white colored , rotary phone . The world was a peaceful place unharmed by the buzzing of cell phones , beeping of text messages or untainted by the web of social media.

My father was an executive at a foreign firm he travelled a lot , he always sent me letters and post cards from the countries he visited and asked me to reply him regularly .
I think I was in grade 1 that I wrote my first letter to him with my mothers help with two sentences in my childish hand writing . My father still has that letter , he actually has my entire collection of letters . I think that started my interest in writing , especially in letter writing.
Our English teacher in school always emphasized on letter writing and essay writing . In grade 9 we studied the entire collection of Ghalib "s letters in our urdu class .

Growing up in Karachi we used to pass around hand written chits during a boring science in school .We actually received hand made birthday invitation cards from friends rather than the " e- vites " of today . After completing 10 th grade and before moving to college I wrote many thank you letters to all of my teachers.
As time passed and I moved to United States I still continued with letter writing to family back home especially to my grandfather. Telephone calls were expensive in those days and texting / emails were not invented . My grandfather was hard of hearing , the best way to connect with him was to send him a letter . He always replied to them till his death in 2005. I still have letters from him sometimes it was really hard to read them as his hands would shake badly while writing .
My kids do text me many times during the day but when they were little they always enjoyed scribbling few words on a piece of paper or drew a picture for me , I have saved those hand written notes and cute drawings.

I have quite a big collection of letters written by my parents , grandparents , siblings  cousins ,my kids and friends and the latest addition is the letter sent by my little niece early this year !

I remember reading the autobiographies of Benazir Bhutto and Elis Faiz , there most treasured memories were the hand written letters sent to them by their father and husband . I read experts from the diary of Anne Frank with my daughter when she was a little girl.
Anne Frank wrote the diary during the time she was hiding from the Nazis , it is addressed to the future generations.

I personally feel that there is a lot more  emotion involved in the process of actually writing something down on paper with a pen or a pencil.
 We live  in a time and place in this world when things are getting highly mechanized and the digital era has virtually taken over our lives.

I guess it's not only me but everyone cherishes the old faded photographs and hand written letters as their prized possessions.

When I look around I think I should not complain too much after all we live in the " FaceTime " and " Skype " world , we can see the person across the globe while we talk to them ......tis a to bright future and to golden memories of old times !!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Turkish Delight .......dessert of Sultans and Kings

TURKISH DELIGHT .........dessert of Sultans and Kings
An old Turkish saying is "eat sweetly and speak sweetly". Sweets have always been an important part of Turkish cuisine. The origin of Lokum -Turkish Delight- dates back to the time of the Ottoman Empire.

In the early part of 18th century, honey and grape nectar were the only sweetening agents available to Turkish confectioners. With the introduction of sugar in the late 18th century, a new era of sweet dishes were introduced all over the world and also in the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish people enjoy telling the tale behind the creation of turkish delight: In an attempt to impress his many wives, a famous Sultan ordered his chef to create a unique dessert for dinner . The chef blended sugar syrup, various flavourings, nuts and dried fruits then bound them together with mastic (gum Arabic). After several attempts, a most delectable sweet emerged from the royal kitchens. The Sultan was so delighted with these delicious little gems that he proclaimed the sweet maker the court's head chef .A plate of Turkish delight was served at daily feasts in the Ottoman court.

Turkish delight was unveiled to the west in the 19th century. During his travels to Istanbul, an unknown British traveler became very fond of the Turkish Sweets he purchased tons of "rahat lokoum" and he shipped them to Britain under the name "Turkish delight".

It is believed that Picasso enjoyed Turkish delight daily to improve his concentration while Napoleon and Winston Churchill could not resist pistachio filled Turkish delights.

Today, Turkish delight remains the sweet of choice in many Turkish people and is enjoyed by hundreds of travelers visiting the country every year.Traditionally offered as a treat at Christmas all over Europe . It gained world wide fame in the children" s book/ movie Narnia when the main character could not resist it .
Bazaars across Istanbul sell this local delicacy packed in beautiful boxes.