Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Karachi Kahani: Here We Go Again

Here we go ...
It was only last year (2016) when my plane landed in Karachi city and I enjoyed a month of foodings and family drama. There I was once again, for a shorter but more trying stay. I had packed that relaxant along just in case I needed it, after having given it up. Alhamdulillah (All praise for Allah) I didn't touch a single pill. Go self restraint! 
 [Photo from Google: Night time view of the Clifton, DHA areas - my hometowns]
DISCLAIMER: Karachi is called the City of Lights. It is one of the jewel cities of Pakistan and is inhabited by all kinds of ethnic groups from the country. It is bordered by the Arabian sea to its south. That is where I used to live - near the beach. My childhood was truly blessed. The biggest and nastiest challenges were mostly posed by the corrupt influences on systems (educational, business, and corporate).  The country as a whole struggles economically and is plagued by corrupt, self-serving politicians who do not let it rise to its true potential. So, while I rant and babble about the many troubles I face there, I am also in love with some forever beautiful memories.
To begin with ... 
When you move in to stay at a house that's been locked away (and not maintained) for a long time AND happens to be near the seaside --- you see damage. The plumbing was acting off and midway during a shower the water turned to glacier melt. I may be a Winter born but I am not fond of frostbite - particularly when my 'behind' is in question. And I take a long shower because I do my laundry in there as well. So I was screaming in sheer agony. Fortunately the handy dandy plumber was summoned and he remembered us basket cases and he fixed the damned water heater.  
Last year, Chai was a disaster. This year, Mom got the formula right and thanks to Olpers we were all very happy. I remember Olpers and there vibrant family ads on TV. 
I grew up here ... the memories are; both, precious and bitter. The place has so much hard work and emotions of my parents invested in each piece, each corner. 
Thanks to the flight timings of the Washington DC to Karachi via Dubai route, the jet lag was not so bad. I didn't slip into in a drugged state for a week before regaining my senses from the hangover.
It takes 4 hours for me to get to New York City in New York state from Maryland which is my state of residence. This is the same amount of time that it takes for you to get from one end of Karachi to the other.   

Karachi city was busy turning into a gianormous food carnival. This year we tried Ginsoy Extreme Chinese! Amazing! Chicken Dynamite (the awesomeness covered in yellow sauce on the right) has got to be the most amazing appetizer. Mongolian Chicken is on my kitchen to-do list. 
 Salt 'n Pepper Village used to be my most favorite themed diner. The theme is village of course, and the decor is adorable! The food is just delicious and the buffet has over 100 dishes. I found the same quality, the same fun, and the same entertainment. 

That hot chocolate froth is the post-rain street flood we had to drive through! The drainage system does not support super heavy rain and this happens! We enjoyed watching this again! I remember how school days used to become so difficult because of these.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Flying A380 (Emirates)

"Ma'am are you familiar with this aircraft, have you traveled in this before?" asked the Emirates crew member as he started an orientation session explaining the features of the plane and my seat's functionalities. I was, of course, beady eyed and an imaginary drool was hanging from my mouth because unlike the Boeing 777 that I have flown with Qatar Airways, this was pretty high tech! And beautiful!
Emirates introduced the king of its fleet - the Airbus A380 - a 525 passenger aircraft (largest in the world!) on our Washington DC to Karachi route last year (2016). There were 4 jet engines to this beast of an aircraft, and TWO passenger decks. That meant there was the Main Deck with the pilot's cockpit and the Economy Class. And then we were at the top where there's the First Class, Business Class, and the Bar lounge. I realized there were floors to the plane when one of the crew members came and gave me an orientation of the aircraft and the features of my seat.  
As Emirates described:
"Once on board the A380, passengers in premium class seating can relax in Emirates’ flat-bed seats and enjoy Emirates’ onboard lounge. First Class passengers can unwind in their very own Private Suite and prepare for their arrival in the Emirates A380 Shower Spa."
So, I was traveling in Business Class and enjoyed the sleeper seat and the on-board lounge. Emirates works super hard on making their planes beautiful inside. They gave the cabin a marbled, premium look. The privacy is amazing because the seats are compartmentalized and high walls surround them. So, when you get up you see a whole Business Class city and only people's heads.
Compared to Qatar Airways, the seat width is definitely smaller. They've given the extra space that could have been the seat to the side table and the mini beverage holder bin (left of the seat). That compartmentalizing wall (right side of the seat) retracts downwards, so if the neighbor is your buddy (sister in my case) you can always enjoy the flight together without a wall in your face.
That fancy shmancy grey pleated ladies kit greeted me on the 14 hour flight. I am a big fan of airline kits. I am still rejoicing Armani's Si that Qatar Airways gave me last year. Emirates treated me with a ......... This calls for a What's In My A380 Emirates Kit entry, what say you?
The bar lounge on board was the highlight. I am not a drinker, or a conversation-starter with a bartender, but it was a treat to taste the snacks and bite sized desserts each time I visited the toilet! Yes, this bar was just outside the lavatories. And there wasn't one bathroom goer that wasn't treating himself or herself to the goodies on display throughout the flight. Charming idea, no? I myself sampled some Baklawa while I waited for the toilet to get free.
Sara and I did a little photo session while we were up there. Trust me! The crew is all about photo sessions! The air hostess nudged the bartender to move so we could get pictures taken while posing behind the bar! That's the lounge seat Sara and I sat and posed in besides the bar counter. Folks sit here all flight long DRINKING and getting tipsy! 
On my return flight to DC I even chit chatted with a Malaysian lady (a Muslim, Hijabi) who was in line behind me. Her trip was sponsored by her company (some utility firm) in Malaysia and she was headed for business research to Georgia. She was on work visit visa and was worried about her fate upon landing in the US. We wished each other good luck. So, you can say I did start a conversation at a bar *LAUGHS*

Food was delicious! Over the course of two A380 flights DC-DUBAI-DUBAI-DC we enjoyed traditional Arabic Mezzeh, soups, hearty breakfasts, and scrumptious Indian meals. No rush with the details, I intend to write about all this awesomeness in this month's Food Journals.
ICE is their super awesome entertainment system. It has thousands of movies - NEW Bollywood and Hollwood and I immediately put my headphones on and started with Blake Lively's Shallows, followed by Tiger Shroff's Baaghi, and Suicide Squad! (Harley Quinn is love!) I started Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children and finished it after a month on my return flight. The BFG cartoon/animation/movie bored me and I didn't finish. On my return flight to DC I treated myself to Lights Out (horror) (Sara and I debated over watching it because we were going to be in a dark flight cabin overnight!), The Legend of Tarzan was my next watch (awesome!), and I concluded with Alice Through The Looking Glass which was a winner! Let's do a movies review entry some time later.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Panic Wagon After Effects

This is the first time in my life that I am bewildered, exhausted, emotionally numb, socially withdrawn, and psychologically distressed after a trip instead of being relaxed and content. The Karachi/Umrah Trip 2017 experience has been an emotional trauma, surely, and the post-traumatic period seems to be stretching out in a pretty stubborn, grand way. There is so much that needs my attention: a room makeover, wardrobe closet makeover, video blogging, new cookery, a self-esteem series I need to start writing (it’ll be converted to a book later inshaAllah), and weight loss goals of course. But I am trapped in a writer’s block, a lazy spell, a down-in-the-dumps feel, and a mental numbness that doesn’t seem to go away no matter how much sleep I get. 
I believe it is the after effect of the high panic life I have been living since October 2016 (when the trip prep took off in combination with the family’s birthday season) to February 3rd 2017 (that’s when I flew back from Karachi). In between I was rushed to meet various deadlines, make a ton of international travel arrangements (trust me Saudi Arabia is one tough country to travel to), complete a lot of paperwork, wrap up a ton of business issues because I was leaving for a month at the beginning of a new book year, and attend to the material and emotional needs of a very challenging group of people. The Panic Wagon created a very high power daily run and now that it has all stopped all of a sudden my mind and body are still spinning out of proportion. 
There is a chain of wrongs (disasters!) that happened through the course of this Panic Wagon (Oct 2016 - Feb 2017) and they will never be forgotten. It wouldn’t be exaggeration if I say that I have been in that dark pit with Lucifer. And now Lucifer (the Panic Wagon) holds my soul captive and I can’t feel anything. The only good thing about this situation is the thought of Sam Winchester’s less-than-perfect face! I digress --- here is the chain of disasters:
  • The car wasn't available all the time and I couldn't meet some of my girlfriends.
  • The water heater broke down and I showered with freezing glacier water!
  • I was told the weather was hot and I didn't pack for the chill that Karachi city had!
  • A lizard jumped at me in the shower (big time pathetic-ness!) I cried! Serious tears!
  • Long queues at offices for business related works.
  • Nasty experiences with ungrateful, manipulative people.
  • Mr President announced immigration restrictions. My family is all citizens but we were still anxious about coming back home and being bothered at the airport. 

I was keeping myself alive with my art journal, enjoying the short time my niece stayed with us and we hung out, and of course enjoying the personal spiritual moments during the Umrah trip to Saudi Arabia.  
Have you been on the Panic Wagon? How bad was it? How'd you survive?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Heartbreak City Bound

I AM IN A VERY DEPRESSED STATE OF MIND right now. I love traveling; particularly traveling by air, but everything feels very yellow when my heart is not with my destination. I am headed to Karachi - Heartbreak City I call it. The city and I share a love hate relationship. It has wronged me in so many ways - some unforgivable - and yet I keep going back. Sometimes, I don't want to - I have to.
 The gorgeous Butler's Cafe cappuccino I treated myself to
FRIENDS ARE ALWAYS WELCOMING and they have so many ideas for adventures. In the past few years hundreds of coffeehouses have sprouted up in Karachi and they know I have a thing for cappuccinos and lattes. They use these places and the charming photos to lure me into the trap! *smiles peevishly* I am pressed for time. The trip is pure business, and perhaps, a little dose of family drama. Each date is reserved and there are breathers in between which I will use to sneak away and meet girlfriends. 
THEN THERE ARE THE GHOSTS OF KARACHI who switch on ghost mode when I announce my arrival. There is a sharp contrast between their lives and mine - considering I am still rolling single. Desi women; perhaps it is all women, only tag along with others that belong their relative social club. Mommy clubs don't welcome me unless I bring my niece over, married or getting-married club would cause my ears to bleed because they wouldn't know when to shut up and ask about my life in general if not specific. 

I WAS NEVER A PERFECT FIT in the City of Heartbreak. My parents decided to put me into a strict disciplinarian school in the heart of the city with girls from all mixes of life. Their grand idea was to raise a kid who was humble and down to earth unlike the brats and spoiled rich kids attending fancy heavy priced schools around me. They thought those low-on-discipline school were responsible to create snobbish children who held their noses a bit too high up in the air. They did wrong. I realized I was not on the same page with the girls around me and they never accepted me and my lifestyle. They stopped asking me about my summer holidays and I stopped sharing after I realized speaking about Disneyland would make me a laughing stock. Either they wouldn't believe me and I would have to bring photos to show. Or, they wouldn't hear me out because that was not their idea of a vacation. I was bullied for carrying premium crayons, a Disney backpack, and watching Disney movies. I stopped talking because nobody wanted to listen, and lived as a misfit throughout my school life. There were one or two close friends who could relate and they lasted. But I always found myself telling them an edited version of my happiness because I feared the real version would just draw them apart. I switched to a different high school of my liking but the damage had been done. And the bully lot was always in the majority. There was an implied stereotype associated with girls of my type. I was always the 'Burger' or the 'Mummie Daddie' kid for being an obedient child who respected parental curfew, and for being the girl who was blessed by Allah SWT financially and intellectually. In college, my A grades did not fit right with the lot and I only made bitter, cut-throat competitive adversaries for friends. Teachers too would attempt to sabotage my grades because they engaged in favoring their pets or were too sadist about giving the worthy a high rank. Why didn't I transfer to one of the super duper rich kid schools? Because I was terrified of the horrors of superiority and pompousness there. Plus, my defense mechanism against bullies was broken down. Socially, I was not ready to hit the dance floor and did not win praise from the cool college lot. As I became religiously inclined, people just turned into ghosts.

THE COSTS OF BEING LOVELY, as a friend's wise mother said to me once, were so high. I tried extra hard to make friends and relationships and keep them. Nothing seemed to work. Gifts, favors (emotional and financial), a friendly ear, a helpful hand, car rides, standing up to them in tough time, moral support, motivation ... nothing I did could win me sincere friends. They say there could be a fault in our stars but I failed to understand.  
FAMILY (OR SOMETHING LIKE IT) used to be pure and full of sincere emotions when I was a child. Birthdays were celebrated with great love, festivals were full of sparklers and colors, and every occasion was so happy! I was loved, pampered, and treated like a princess. And the very same people somehow started changing. I fail to understand why they changed when I stayed the same? They moved on in their lives and somehow their emotions, their purity, and their passion towards family just got tampered. Family is said to be unconditional love and when that is adulterated - nothing is left.
And so, I leave with a heavy heart for the city of so much heartbreak. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bringin' In 2017

Google had these cute little guys waiting to break loose and bring in the new year. Okay, the first look made me think of my sister Sara --- but that's all cutsie round things. New Year's Eve is a special affair for me and Bestie. That's why I planned ahead.

Celebrations always start early for me because girlfriends start posting their NYE celebrations everywhere. 
Sanjay Gupta showed up with Dalai Lama. He was all the way across the world. 
Happy New Year should include happy mind. - Dalai Lama

Bestie reminded me I made pizza last year for New Year's Eve. 

Rabiyya shared this and OH EMM JEE this is so so so true!

Abbie's Drink of Choice Tonight: The Edgy Abbie

Favorite New Year's Eve Memory

 Read My Goals!!! HERE


"ayen nyc chaltay dhol lekar. .better than the ball drop!" - Qz