The dream-catcher

I got myself three souvenirs from Philippines: a model Jeepney, a traditional earthen jar, and a dream-catcher.

The dream-catcher is a ring made of dry branches—decorated with colorful threads and five suspended strings, each carrying a few feathers. Once hung outside a door or a window, it stops bad dreams from entering the house.

It has stopped working.

The town cursed by Ranjha still burns

Some 40km south-west of Pakpattan, along the bank of River Satluj, lies an ancient old town called Qaboola. So ancient and important that it housed not one but many forts. Ruins of one still survive.

Adli was the Raja who used to rule over Qaboola, people say. The same one Waris Shah mentions at the end of his Heer, they add. At the end of the story, after Ranjha arrived in the town Heer was married off to in the disguise of a jogi, they managed to elope together. It was going to be a happy ending. But they were caught. They were caught and brought to the court of Raja Adli. The one who used to rule over Qaboola, as people say.

The Raja held a court and decided to hand over Heer to her relatives. Upon this injustice, Ranjha cursed that the town may burn down. And it happened. Raja had to ask for his forgiveness to save the town. Heer was allowed to go with Ranjha and the town was saved. (It’s another story how she was later going to be murdered.)

But the town of Qaboola still burns, the stones and pebbles in the streets still smolder, the fumes can be seem even in the rains, people of Qaboola say. The curse stays.

PK, a few observations

After reading all the dazzling public reviews and recommendations on Facebook and Twitter, I finally watched PK the other day. I think it’s alright. On the milder side really. Doesn’t directly confront the institution of religion itself.

Which brings me to another observation: Is PK partly getting the love from the educated Pakistani Muslim middle-class because it supports the increasingly popular wish among this demographic to return to the core of Islam — shunning all that they deem ‘later innovations’ (or Biddat)?

P.S. The love between a Pakistani boy and an Indian girl was cute, though with a bit of unrealistic drama at the end. Before you ask, yes, I would have equally liked it even if the boy were an Indian. Staunch supporter of cross-border love affairs here.

That’s Lahore for you

So my maasi and chacha, married to each other, went shopping the other day. On their way back, when passing by a street known for its samosa-wala, maasi jee insisted that they should have some.

The seller had finished the stock for the day and was just getting ready to close. Something that my excited maasi and tired chacha didn’t notice and just went inside to sit. After a while, upon realizing there were no samosas being made, they saw the shop-wala bringing two samosa-plates from outside. Putting down the plates on the table, he said he went to the next street to get samosas: “Main keha khoray baji da kinna dil karda hona.” (I couldn’t say no to you thinking the sister must really be craving for samosas.)

That’s Lahore for you.

Eid Milad un Nabi in Lahore

So my neighborhood celebrated Eid Milad un Nabi in a rather flamboyant fashion. Buildings were decorated with viah walian battian. Cakes were distributed. Large models of well known mosques were on display. There were a lot of banners. A lot more jhandian. And dhol. There were dhol performances.

But it was the kids who had most fun. In almost every gali, kids started the day with building little models of the Madina terrain. Parents were bugged for money. Stuff—shiny colorful stuff—was purchased. Toys, small or large, were brought out and put into the model. Camel, perfect. Pajero, yes. Snake, okay. Traffic lights, chalay gi. Masjid e Nabvi nahi mili tau Taj Mahal hi lay aaye!

It was cute.



Thank you, Jagdish

“My friends F and S are coming to Lahore from Dec 22 to Jan 4. It will give me so much happiness if you could meet them during those days. I will meet and get to know you more through them…”

Someone, who only knew me through the little stories I post on Facebook, sent this message from thousands of miles away. How can you say no to such a gesture? So I went to see F and S yesterday and found that they were initially equally bemused by her request. “You must meet this guy when in Lahore,” they were told such and some more. I was also a bit nervous about meeting a couple who didn’t know me. But we quickly hit it off and talked for hours. And it was still not enough.

Later last night, when I told her about having met her friends and asked why was she interested in meeting me through them, she said, “You writings, views are as transparent as your soul; and that is what I admire about you. Keep up being ‘you’.”

I am just touched by how people can feel a connection with you from far away.

Thank you, J.

Traveling by train after 20 years

Man, traveling on an economy class train is so much fun! The carriages and cabins are comfy and spacious. Naan pakoray, shezan coke, chai pani, nimko juice sab seat pe. You can walk, you can talk. You can actually have a conversation with fellow passengers. Face to face. Khulli dulli.

The trains that stops at many stations are even better. Some people leave, more people join. The journey continues. You don’t look at the watch or mobile phone as much. You look at the people. Inside the train and outside. Youth playing cricket. Children waving hands. It never gets boring.

That’s it. I am never traveling by Daewoo again.

A wedding is coming up

A wedding is coming up. No not mine. That would be foolish considering how great it has turned out for others.

Remember my lambardar chacha? Yeah, it’s his son. And daughter. Not one but two village weddings. Aik din baad doosri. Wah wah ronaq laggi rehni.

Despite the fact that the said chacha considers me a useless nephew who just travels aimlessly and is certainly going to express his disappointment in the general aversion to business among the boys in the family, especially me.

And despite having to see a phuphi who once “caught” me and an ex of mine on our way to Noor Jehan’s Tomb and who is probably going to ask: sahaail oh kudi da kih haal ae? thori moti si par sohni si. And the tale shall be told to everyone.

Looking forward to all the fun!

Folk treasures

While going through a collection of BaaraN Maaha, I just stumbled upon a beautiful Punjabi song where the girl gives 12 reasons why her man shouldn’t leave for pardes (for work) in any month of the year. It ends at her saying: baarañ maheene channa, rall mill khediye.

It’s a folk song—meant to be sung. I have only found the text in a collection. My searches for a sung version haven’t been fruitful so far. The lyrics are great though.

It’s times like these when I wish our modern-day singers would also look through the treasures we have in folk and classical poetry before they select (or worse, write themselves) what they are going to sing.

Urdu Bazaar, Lahore: The Underground Scene