...these silver lines, travel from my thoughts to yours, wavering, floating like spirits dancing...

Friday, November 30, 2012

The unsung heroes

Often in life, when we feel as if we are completely alone – we are in fact surrounded and protected by our guardian angels. They are the unsung heroes – ferocious in their protectiveness and loyal in their love. They are our friends – true and eternal. They are our inner voices – the ones who guide us, but whom we often choose to ignore. They fight with our inner demons – they calm us down after a storm, they placate us, bring us down to earth, reason with us and soothe our fears. They are our biggest supporters, our biggest fighters, our constant friends and companions.

When you realize the cunningness and ugliness of the world, and when you see someone who is the opposite of everything the world wants you to become; when you see their beauty and humanity, you know you never want to become anything – except like that person – they are your hope, a shining beacon of light, a respite from the darkness within and around you.

The unsung heroes may be unsung by the world, but you must remember them. They must remain alive and constant in your heart. Never forget that there is another way. Never do anything that does not involve passion. Never give up. Never stop believing in yourself. Never give up dreaming big. Never stop loving. Never stop living.

We are here on earth for a short period of time. Never should you lose hope. Remember the unsung heroes and keep their lessons alive in your heart and mind. You should make your stay on earth as pleasurable for others and for yourself as much as you possibly can. 

An odd wish list

It is said that people can be read by their faces-
If so, then you know
I’m loud and crazy and a little bit kind
My life’s been a journey – of travels and colours,
And photos and books and lots and lots of cartoons.

I wanted to be a relic hunter,
a poet, a writer, a swimmer, a teacher
the fastest horseback rider.

I wanted to be a lawyer, a fighter,
a singer, a dancer,
the world’s best baker.

I wanted to be a hairdresser,
a painter, a doctor,
a museum curator.

I wanted to be a slim figure-skater,
a librarian, a hunter,
the biggest stamp and coin collector.

I wanted to be a crime scene investigator,
a spy, an actor,
the most cold blooded vampire.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Perhaps we are too quick to judge. Too quick to judge people, situations, events, life in general. We make our own assumptions and draw our conclusions based on what we observe, what we learn and our experiences. That is not necessarily a bad thing, except that sometimes, our own judgement may turn out to be false. For we conclude and synthesize with limited perception into the reality of the situation. There are many layers upon layers of material that need to be studied in detail, if we are ever to reach the truth. And those layers have to be carefully peeled off to get to the crux of the matter. It is often not easy, and often tedious, and indeed, perhaps the reason why people tire of this process, and make judgement quickly, without going through the whole process mentioned before. That is an error we all make. That is both dangerous and detrimental to our learning and growing as human beings, as free thinking individuals living in a society with diversity, cultural richness, and history.

It makes me sad to think of so many people we might never meet in our life, or never fully understand or appreciate the ones we do, just because of our prejudices and poor judgement. The moments when we could've come across beautiful people and shared wonderful stories and made true connections with them. Truly enlightening moments that could've changed our lives, only if we had let ourselves the opportunity to go forward and grab them, and not be scared, but grasp that moment with both hands and hang on to it as if your life depended on it.

Imagine yourself sitting in a bus that is moving across at a steady pace to your destination, and you are sitting across people who are going to their own destinations. And for the briefest moment, you are sharing eachother's paths to your respective destinations. The people in the bus are just like you; travelers on a journey, who get hurt just like you, who live and breath just like you do, who believe and trust and have faith in things, just like you do, who have trouble sleeping at night because of the monsters inside their head, just like you do, who love and are special in their own way and who are waiting for a moment to brighten up their lives, just like you do... and in those few moments that you are in the bus with them, your journey is intertwined with them. Whatever happens to them, happens to you. Whatever they feel, you feel too. I find it pleasantly amusing how such complete strangers can be so like one another. And who knows, you might discover a great treasure in your shared journey.

Similarly, life is also like a bus journey, only we get to choose our fellow passengers. But the question is, do we give everyone the equal opportunity to be our companions. Or do we let our prejudice and poor judgement get in the way? Are we ready to embrace life with an open heart and an even more open mind? Take a leap of faith and grab fate's hands? Make your own destiny and shed any fear you might have? That kind of confidence is not easy to build and certainly takes a brave person to take that bold step and dance with eyes that are wide shut...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Isn't it enough that we set ourselves in tight little boxes, constraining our own selves, stopping us from moving forward, from growing, from thinking, from being, from simply existing, that we allow others to control us as well? How often do you allow yourself to be at the mercy of someone else's dictate, follow someone else's rules, be the shiny, new carbon copy of somebody else's idea of life, thrust on you? Isn't it pathetic that people allow themselves to be controlled this way by others?

What I find amazing, is that in this day and age, women are finding it absolutely a given fact, that they have to follow someone else's rules and principles. What's even more shocking is that they make no effort to change the way they live their lives, except by the dictates of someone else. This is not a sexist ramble mutilating the male sex, nor even a tirade on the miserable condition women set themselves in, but rather a personal insight into matters that strictly need to be addressed more seriously by everyone, the men and the women, equally.

What is completely warped about this whole situation is, that women don't understand what their freedom means. Their fear of, I don't know, standing up for themselves, maybe? lets them think that even thinking about such an idea would be taboo. But my question is, if a bird lived in constant fear of flying, would it ever learn to fly? Or would it ever feel the wonder of the open sky or feel the wind beneath its wings? The idea of protection and saving 'honour' in Pakistani society has become synonymous with male domination and I'm continually being forced to reinforce the idea of an innate need to control women within men. In a largely patriarchal society such as ours, matters are not helping, if anything, things are worsening. If so called, educated, bright minds can continue to treat their daughters, sisters, wives, etc. this way, it leaves little to the imagination how the rest would be faring.

I think people really need to wake up and smell the coffee, because it is not just about elders controlling their young, or the men protecting the 'honour' of their women, it is about basic human rights. If you're allowing yourself to become a puppet and let someone hold the strings, then it is your fault, entirely! and what's more, you don't know what you're missing. You're allowing yourself to fall into a habit, into an endless dark tunnel with no light at the end. And men need to stop worrying and being so controlling, and especially stop abusing the rights of others around them-the fundamental right of choosing for oneself what one wishes. Stop dreaming and start living!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On the nature of happiness...

For hundreds of years, man has questioned what has made him truly happy. Where does this happiness come from? Where does it lead to? How long does it last, if at all? And how often does it last? The quintessential nature of happiness has eluded and mystified man in all ages, of all times. And yet, it is for this very thing that man has been in pursuit of ever since he understood himself and the world around him.

While it may be true, that man often finds some level of happiness in something or the other, in whatever he does, whatever he achieves, obtains, enjoys, relishes and relives, a classification of happiness becomes necessary in order to better understand this mysterious thing called human happiness. For indeed, has human happiness evolved over time? Was the happiness that the early philosophers, such as Aristotle and Epicurious, talked about different from what the modern man conceives of as happiness? Or are the teachings and lessons advocated by Buddha and the early Sufis still being practiced and observed today? To answer this question, we need to find out what makes people happy.

While the answers may vary or coincide in some cases, it may be found that people do tend to find happiness in one way or another. Are they satisfied with their level of happiness or their life in general, that is another question. For once the happiness wears off, it changes into a kind of satisfaction, a contentment if you will, and often that changes into fear of losing that source of satisfaction or happiness. It is for this very reason that the early philosophers said: ‘that which is a source of happiness, becomes a source of unhappiness for you’. That unhappiness may be interlinked with a sense of fear of losing the source of that happiness, an insecurity, or anxiety giving birth to a whole other set of negative emotions, such as anger, jealousy, hatred, envy etc.

When we are talking about the classification of happiness into types, we may broadly divide them as such: that which people derive from objects, things, materials around them, even people and events and that which the early philosophers and Sufis called the true happiness, a state in which man is free from every want, every need. Man may grow attached to certain things, certain people, and this sense of attachment becomes a source of worry for him too; the danger of losing, the danger of harm, the danger of corruption of that which he holds dear. When man is not attached to anything in particular, he may find a kind of peacefulness or bliss which the early sages talked about.

To be happy in every state, in every kind of situation, may be the idealist utopian mantra of the new age, but why is it that people are finding it so hard to believe and achieve? Some people think it is because man has not reconciled himself with the present. He ties himself very strongly to the past or holds a lot of fear for the future, never living in the present. When in reality, he carries both with him at the same time, wherever he goes. For what is the past and what is future, if it is not in the mind? And if it is in the mind, then that means, man always carries his past and his future with him. But when man truly lives in the present, he realizes the beauty of the moment, he can realize his potential, be anything, become anything, be at peace with himself, and understand the nature of his happiness, which the early mystics and philosophers talked about; that which you seek, is inside you.

On that note, I leave you with a little Rumi.

Do not look back,
No one knows how the world ever began.
Do not fear the future, Nothing lasts forever.
If you dwell on the past or future,
You will miss the moment.

~ Rumi

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Like an arm draped over love's sweet bow
And thunder across vast plains promising of rain
Enchant me, sweep me away, take me away with you

Let me fly away with you over distant lands
And float like a lover's dream over mountains tall and proud
Enthrall me, surprise me, take me away with you

Light away the darkness and kiss your sorrow goodbye
And with magic in my heart and the twinkle in your eye
Enrapture me, beguile me, take me away with you

Look deep into love's eyes and know there is no tomorrow
And no place so distant that we shall not reach my love
Entrance me, bewitch me, take me away with you

Leap across, stumble in the dark, tread softly on your feet
And indeed love always finds its way in every way and every day
Entice me, delight me, take me away with you

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Small cities

Small cities
with your big people
and big hearts
how generous and quaint are your ways

I smile as I recall
those bygone days
in those chilly cities
where pine trees soar
in cloudy skies
giving off their sticky sweet scent
the fragrance I love so much

and that wonderful birdsong
that accompanies you wherever you go
in small cities
with big people
and big hearts

how delightful that waft of smoke
that rises from your houses
as meals are prepared over fires
after a long day's work
I catch a whiff and smile
in small cities
with big people
and big hearts

and how cheerful those early morning monkeys
that climb onto the aluminum roofs
hungry for a bite of fruit
from my hand
I shall miss and savour each memory
of those small cities
with big people
and big hearts

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Two poems

Run away home, little bird, run away home
with a tuft of grass tucked between your beak
run away home.

Fly away home, little bird, fly away home
I watched you as you sat perched on the railing
from the kitchen window
the sun blazing through the afternoon sky
fly away home, little one, fly away home

The clouds were aflame with the sun's fiery glow
as you hopped away with your treasure in your beak
no doubt in a hurry to fix your little nest before the air chills
so run away home, little bird, fly away home
ere the hour grows longer and the shadows disappear


Things fall apart and fall together again
like little pieces of blocks they fall away again
I watch as they float around me
little pieces of a puzzle that is my life
I sit and question the stars when all is quiet
and watch as the moon moves silently, darkly on its orbit

An unknown feeling, silently, so silently
it creeps up my whole being until I am bereft
of everything that I call mine
taking over the tiniest moment in the present
and stretching it on till forever

The darkest shadows call out from the silent night
deafening in their beauty and relentless in their power
They seem to know me, and I know them
their secret is hidden in the curve of the moon
and the light that shines darkly from it's pale face.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Worlds within a room

Every room has a story. Sights and sounds. Feel and taste. Colours and shapes. Smells and mysteries. Every room is a wonder in itself. Just waiting for you to explore it. The moment you hold the doorknob and turn it, you are preparing yourself to enter a new world. And the moment you push the open the door with your other hand, you are instantly transported into an adventure. From that moment to this moment. From there to  here. From then to now. From the past to the future. And that room becomes your world then. It is as if, every room before it never existed in the eye of your mind. You only see what you see, you only breathe what you breathe, and you only taste what you taste.

Perhaps there are windows in this room, or perhaps there are none. Perhaps there are books in bookshelves, or perhaps there are pictures and paintings. Perhaps you have been in this room before, or perhaps it is your first time. But whatever may be the case, you want to store this memory of this particular room in your mind, exactly as it is, so that you may be able to recall it later. You want to remember it the way you are experiencing it in this moment.

And in this moment anything can happen. You can ride the carpet in the room and imagine it is flying far, far above land and sea to a place where there is only music and love and peace. You can take on enchanted journeys with fairies and kings, dragons and beasts, to dark forests and grand castles, deserts that stretch on forever and seas that never end. You can be a pirate or a sailor, a warrior or a king, a magician or a peasant, a beggar or a dancer. You can dine on lavish, luxurious feasts in gold trays, or nibble at some bread from an earthen bowl. You can be young and lean and strong or you could be old and charming and wise. There is a world of possibility just waiting for you to grab at it and love life with the full force of your entire being, as everything in this world that ever existed deserves to be loved. Or you could just sit quietly, on the floor, with your legs folded, calm and peaceful and still as a mouse. You could close your eyes and dream away.

Years may pass. Seasons may come ago. The trees outside may grow taller. The paint may peel and fall off, the metal may rust, the wood may lose it's shine and lustre. And you could plan your whole life in this room. You can fall in love, go the moon and back, see the autumn leaves fall and watch as the flowers bloom to take their place in spring and look outside the window to see the sun shining eternally with it's golden glow. And at night when you brush your hair and stare at your reflection in the mirror in the dark, do not be surprised to find a stranger lurking in the depths of the shadows. They are your own. And you have been prepared for another day beginning tomorrow, where your only strength and comfort will be this room. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Impressionism - a movement as a result of different scientific discoveries

An essay by Bushra Azeem

Impressionism was a 19th century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s in spite of harsh opposition from the art community in France.  Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes; open composition; emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities; common, ordinary subject matter; the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience; and unusual visual angles. Impressionism also describes art created in this style, but outside of the late 19th century.

There is no doubt that the Impressionism movement grew and rose as a result of different scientific discoveries. It was a time when lots of discoveries and inventions were being made, while a lot had been already discovered.

In particular, the invention of the light and the camera gave rise to new and different techniques in art. Among the preceding art movements, Baroque art in particular, saw artists like Sir Peter Paul Reubens of Belgium and Rembrandt of Holland making use of both light and the camera-like compositions. Both artists were greatly impressed with these two discoveries and it helped to shape the art and paintings they created.
The discovery of the camera and light – being made of 7 different colours when passed through a prism was revolutionary for both science and art. The artists in the Impressionism movement formed the basis of the 20th century art and related movements – these movements in turn gave way to later movie making ad animation, caricatures and cartoons.

Naturally, an artist is influenced by the discoveries made in his/her time and it is reflective in their art. The major artists in the Impressionist movement were certainly no exception and in fact, gave rise to further scientific discoveries. These artists, namely Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Gustave Caillebotte and George Seurat (Pointillism) paved the way for modern art by combining the influence of the modern scientific discoveries at that time, with their artistic expressions.

It is important to note that the Impressionist art was moving and was largely focused on the artist’s impressions, quick glances, where details of the paintings were gradually withering away and strokes by the brush were becoming more popular, i.e. the dots, dabs and dashes.

George Seurat’s ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ was a masterwork which gave rise to Pointillism. In it, Seurat used a mixture of blue and yellow dots to give the impression of greens, instead of using solid colours. This entire painting was made by the application of dots whose colour combined in this way to make the eye perceive it as a mixture of the different colours. In replacement of solid colours, now a combination of different colours were used to make shades and hues.

This painting in particular gave rise to the modern colour theory and colour photography. Another noteworthy fact about the Impressionism movement is that it helped to formulate much of modern art, and video and animation as we know them today.

The Impressionism movement wasn’t entirely about the application of colour under the influence of scientific discoveries, as quite a lot of work was done for the artist’s own pleasure along with the commissioned work.
The term ‘Impressionism’ was coined during the movement’s tenure, unlike the other art movements. It was first used by a critic, Louis Leroy, who coined the term in a satiric review about Claude Monet’s work,’ Impression, Sunrise’. This review was published in the Parisian newspaper ‘Le Charivari’, in which Leroy stated: ‘this is not a painting, this is an impression’. And it was true in a way. It was Monet’s own personal impression of the rising sun. And the term, therefore, stuck and gave way to the movement. The artists exclaimed that yes, they were impressions, very personal expressions.

Claude Monet was an artist who closely observed the light and used to sit and watch as the shadows changed and the sun threw different shades on everything around him. Often, he used to change his canvas after every 20 to 3 minutes to observe and capture how the light changed and the shadows lengthened.

Of particular importance, are his:
  1. Haystack series
  2.  The Roven Cathedral series
  3.   Water lily  series

...as he painted all three series during different times of day and studied them closely. He was in a way, photographing these, although he was not imitating photography.
The water lily series, of the garden in which he often painted, made a lot of use of dabs and dashes. This was a period in Monet’s life, when he had retired to this house near the garden, spent a lot of time there and grew his favourite plants.

Edgar Degas, on the other hand is famous for his:
1.       Ballet series
2.       Keyhole series

Degas was an artist who was very inspired by the camera and he painted a lot of ballet scenes in his paintings. This new form of art, however, did not enjoy any patronage from the traditional ‘Royal Society of Arts’ – people were not ready to accept this new style and technique. However, Degas, had unknowingly, set the groundwork for modern camera composition and dramatic compositions in unlikely and unusual angles and scenes – such as the backstage of a ballet room, showing young dancers in preparation for the performance – not the performance itself. These dramatic composition, making use of the subjects seen in a new pose and angles, seen in a visual movement, and captured in a dramatic light, are arguable, just like modern film compositions or photography. His paintings seemed a lot like camera compositions – moments captured in a split second – as if the fleeting glance was all it took for him to capture the image in his brain and then paint it.

Moreover, the paintings in this series show a spontaneous movement in action, by ordinary subjects –such as the ballet dancers. This is important to note, because ballet paintings, before, were painted with a lot of grandeur and were shown in a glamorous light. But Degas, introduced the element of everyday reality, by showing ordinary scenes related to the ballet – the backstage etc. They had no approval from the Royal Society of Arts – unlike the other commissioned artists.

Degas combined two mediums together – pastels and paints to give the illusion of fabric. Since he was not committed to one technique only, he was open to experimenting with a mixture and combination of different mediums to get the desired results.

His painting ‘Jockeys before the start, with flag-pole’ in particular, has an asymmetrical composition and looks just like a photograph would if captured at that moment. The flag pole in the painting is towards the right side of the painting and so is the subject. It is important to note that Degas was not trying to imitate photography.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was an artist who believed in traditionalist art but had a natural inclination towards impressionist art; therefore he combined both beautifully. He often used subtraction in his paintings. In his painting ‘Le Moulin de la Gelette’ , Renoir combined the use of light and composition both. Lights and shadows can both be seen and the subjects are painted as if caught in a split second of action. He was also very fond of stripes and contemporary fashion for both women and men can be seen in his painting ‘La Roge’, which is a scene from the opera house.

The Impressionist artists formed the basis of the 20th century art and related movements – these movements in turn gave way to later movie making and animation, caricatures and cartoons. No other art movement, in my opinion, gave so much to the modern art or inspired in us to create more and expand and explore our human capabilities in expression and technique as the Impressionism movement.

The Impressionism movement both grew out of and rose as result of different scientific discoveries, such as light and camera, but also gave birth and set the groundwork for future scientific discoveries, such as colour printing, colour theory, camera and photography composition and the study of light. It was a symbiotic relationship; both needed the other in order to survive and could not exist without the other. Needless, to say, the Impressionism movement was a highly important movement that paved the way for modern art and helped to shape it into what it is today and how it is viewed and critiqued today.

The Impressionists ignited a revolution with an explosion of colour and movement. Their vibrant canvases confounded critics, defied conventions and sparked scandal. A century and a half later, they are among the most revered and influentional artists of all time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

''Recall those days
Look back on all those times
Think of the things we'll never do
There will never be a day when I won't think of you...

Flowers fade
The fruits of summer fade
They have their seasons, so do we
But please, promise me, that sometimes
you will think of me..''

- Think of Me, Phantom of the Opera

Monday, July 23, 2012

Some of my favourite things

The smell of vanilla lingering on my fingers. The first peeling of an orange in autumn. Or the bite of summer's first ripe, juicy mango. The smell of coffee in the morning. Or in the afternoon. Or at night. Cinnamon wafting with chocolate in the oven. Family photos. The wind scurrying through my hair. Winter's sun falling on my face. Friends. My pillow caressing my head, engulfing me in deep, peaceful sleep after a long, long, LONG day. The first bite of a chocolate. A warm, comforting hug and a kiss. Family. Listening to music on headphones while traveling in a bus. Long road trips. Cinnamon. Bob Marley. Slumber parties with my friends. Cats! and kittens! Cooking in the kitchen. Learning something new. Travelling. Reading. Snuggling in a warm bed with hot chocolate and a good book. Hot tea. Rain. Thunderstorms. The earth as it smells after a rain. Playing with my niece and nephew. My sisters. Photography. Winter. Christopher Pike. Long naps in the afternoon. Marbles. Going out with friends. Opening up the closet to take out clothes for the new season and realizing how much I missed wearing them, or forgotten some had even existed! Movies. Popcorn. Walking. Working. The smell of my hair after a shampoo. Dressing up. High heels. Long nights. Helping someone. Spongebob squarepants. Praying and meditation. Writing. Theatre. Nigella Lawson. Shelling peanuts on a cold, wet winter day. Vampires, vampire books and vampire films. Cluedo, the game. Origami. Playing with clay. Scribbling and doodling. Science! Chocolate fudge cake. Sweet strawberries. Tidying up my room. Memories. Pigging out on huge pizzas with friends or family. The smell of barbecue food. Nigel Slater. Cartoon films from my childhood. Doughnuts. Listening to the sound of rain. Quiet moments by myself. Perfumes. Laughing at a joke, or with someone. Trees. The idea of designing my own house someday, and from time to time thinking, as inspiration strikes, I would want that in my house, or I would like to have a wall painted this way, and hang that there, or put that there. Abida Parveen. A dream kitchen. Fresh fruit. French fries with cheese sauce on a cold, windy day. Cashew nuts. A  big, juicy steak. New clothes. Jewellery. The idea of what I would do if I had this and this much money. My college. Art. Meeting new people. Going to art galleries by my self. Archaeology. Bruce Springsteen. Love stories. Sea shells. Coming home after a tiring day to a house smelling of Mummy's biryani cooking. My books. The idea of a perfect bathroom with a bathtub to soak myself and indulge in, some day. Pasta. Colours. Stationary. Paints. Drawing with charcoal on a big sheet of paper. Chicken karahi. The smell of roses. Running my fingers through my hair, lying in bed. Sleeping. Packing for a vacation. Desi writers. The idea of going to Turkey, France, Italy, Egypt or Morocco some day and exploring the places and the local cuisine. Lasagna. Stringy cheese. Animals. 3D movies in cinema. Henna designs. Festivals. Nihari. Bulleh Shah. Books from my childhood. The smell of old books as I open them up, hold them near my face and close my eyes to let the fragrance sweep me away. Writing stories. Making up things in my head. Nat King Cole. A hot, juicy burger when I'm starving. Jazz music. Classical Indian and Pakistani music. Qatlamma with chilled coke. Pancakes, preferably with strawberries or blueberries and whipped cream and maple syrup. Anne Rice. Corn on the cob. Samosas. Parks. Old libraries. Oscar Wilde. Horror films. Mysticism. Chocolate melting on my fingers and in my mouth. Cinnamon rolls. Berry flavoured lip gloss. Getting ready for a party. Making hand made cards. Presents! A breakfast of paratha, aam ka achaar, spicy onion and chili omellete and chai. Wind chimes. Big warm sweaters. Cookies baking in the oven. My mother's hug! Monsoon rains. Sausages. Cold coffee. Nutella. Walnut brownies with ice-cream. Tutti Fruitti frozen yogurt. Marshmallows. Picnics in the outdoors in spring. Snuggling in the bed with the quilt and blankets raised up to my chin. Acting. Making films. History and Philosophy. Crunching into a fresh, juicy apple. Halwa poori. Crunchy sushi. Watching the sunset. Lemonade. Spicy noodles. A Song of Ice and Fire book series. Going out for sheesha with friends. Chocolate Molten Lava cake with ice-cream. Baby powder/lotion. Doing something stupid and then laughing about it later. Singing a song to myself. Coloured paper. Legends and myths.Cream cheese. Scrap-booking. Sidney Sheldon. Thick, soft, woolly scarves.

More will be added to this list soon... I'm sure of it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Red beans, sweet corn and couscous salad

Middle Eastern cuisine makes a lot of use of beans of different sorts with couscous. So, to give it a Middle Eastern twist, for dinner yesterday, I made a salad in two parts, if you can call it that, since it can go very well with rice, with chicken, as a side dish with any meal, or simply on it's own. Given the high protein value of beans and health benefits of couscous, I could say that this is a very healthy, filling meal and very enjoyable, especially with all the colours and variety of textures.

I wanted to make a salad with lots of fresh, crunchy vegetables, and use couscous to add another dimension to it. I used tomatoes, cucumber, fresh green coriander, mint leaves, lemon juice, sweet corn and of course the red kidney beans.

The beans should be given a good time to soak, preferably overnight, or a good solid couple of hours. Then they need to boiled at a high temperature in salted water. To this I added cream, milk, some bbq sauce and the sweet corn and half of the couscous.

The veggies were chopped up in small chunks, the coriander and mint added to them and squeezed on top with the lemon juice, followed by the remaining half of the couscous.

Now, here is what you can do, you can combine the two together, i.e. the veggies and the beans or you could pile them separately onto your plate. Either way, it's pretty good, and excellent on top of freshly toasted buttered bread.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


On a bed of roses
I sit drunk on honey
falling into a dream
of pink petals
and red forests
with a thousand diamonds
shining through a lake.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fusilli with spinach and couscous

Fusilli with spinach and couscous

I saw this recipe on tv, and added some variations of my own. A very easy one, and quite good for a summer lunch. I suppose it would be really good with some grilled chicken or some tuna, or even some white sauce, but there is no need to make a thick sauce for this recipe I think, since the fusilli seems quite delicious and refreshing without any sauce to weigh it down.

3 cups of fusilli pasta
1/2 kg spinach bundle
1 cup of couscous or breadcrumbs
2 cups chicken or beef stock*
1 egg
a couple of garlic cloves
1 tsp crushed nutmeg
dried basil
dried oregano
chili flakes
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for garnishing
extra virgin olive oil
vegetable oil for frying

*Omit if using bread crumbs instead of couscous, and use just a half cup of stock for making the sauce.

Boil the pasta as per the packet instructions in boiling, salted water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil to avoid clumping. Wash the spinach thoroughly to get rid of dirt. Cut the stalks from the spinach leaves and wash again, then drain away all the excess water. In a big pan, cook the spinach without any water just until a little tender, for about 2 minutes. Drain and cool in the fridge or freezer.

Heat two cups of water in a pan and dissolve ready made chicken stock or use fresh if you like. In a heat proof bowl, layer the couscous evenly. Then pour over1and a 1/2 cups of the hot chicken stock and cover for 20 minutes. Fluff it up with a fork and set aside.

After the spinach has cooled, blend it in the food processor. Add the couscous, salt and pepper, basil and oregano, and some of the crushed garlic and nutmeg. Finally add the egg and blitz well. Scrape out the mixture, and form cakes or balls and set in the fridge to cool. Meanwhile, heat some vegetable oil in a shallow frying pan and fry the spinach cakes on each side on medium heat for 2 minutes. Take them out on a kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.

Reduce the half cup of chicken stock that was left and add some extra virgin olive oil, chili flakes, the rest of the crushed garlic, basil, oregano and salt and pepper to make a sauce. Toss the pasta in the sauce and serve in bowls immediately with the spinach and couscous cakes. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.


This recipe made a good amount of leftovers, so for lunch yesterday, I made a white sauce with cheese for the fusilli pasta, and guess what? I guess I was wrong about the sauce weighing the pasta down, for it complimented it brilliantly! Browsing through the history and recipes for fusilli pasta, I came to know that it's broad, spirally shape was perfect for dunking in bucket loads of sauce or gravy. So, I made the white sauce and melt some cheddar cheese in it, seasoned it well with salt and white pepper and sprinkled generously with basil and oregano. Dunked the fusilli in the sauce to absorb some of the gorgeous flavours and chopped up some breakfast sausages and together with the spinach and couscous cakes, they made for a fabulous lunch, which I ate in hearty mouthfuls :) 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Breakfast sausages with herby tomatoes

A fairly easy breakfast recipe AND greatly satisfying, too, if I do say so myself. A quick foray into the fridge this morning (and my craving for something meaty and herby yet fresh), revealed some small breakfast sausages, ripe, red tomatoes and Italian bread. So, here it is, plain and simple but so delectable!

4 small breakfast sausages
1 medium tomato
2 slices of Italian bread
dried basil
a splash of balsamic vinegar
a splash of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the sausages in half lengthwise. This will give you 8 pieces of sausage, 4 for each individual bread slice. Chop up the tomato. Splash with the balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with dried basil. Add in salt and pepper. Mix the sausages and the tomato well with this dressing. I loved using my hands to coat the sausages in the fragrant dressing and seeing the tomatoes glisten and come alive with it! Next, toast the Italian bread, and put the sausages on top and then spoon in the tomatoes with the herby dressing. That's it! Chomp away!

I wish I had a little patience to take a few pictures, but I was too hungry to bother about taking any!

Can't wait to try more variations of this one :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Fear makes us do irrational things. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the known. Fear of objects around us. Fear  of people. And sometimes fear of ourselves. We sometimes do not know what we are capable of and we become afraid of own selves. 

If the only thing stopping us from reaching our full, true potential as living, breathing human beings, is our fear, then why don't we let it go? Because, the fact is, it is not that easy to let go of these fears. They take root in our minds, and rise out like a shooting plant, sheltering and taking over everything else. 

Therefore, we must not let this fear handicap us. If you're afraid of the dark, stay in a dark room until the fear leaves you, transform it into something else. You'll often find that when you let go of fear, it will be replaced by some logical transformation or understanding on your part. When we were children, and were afraid of the 'bogey man' hiding in the cupboard or under our beds, what did our parents tell us? That it was nothing, all our imagination, that there was no such thing as a 'bogey man', and they would take our hands and maybe show us the space in the cupboard or under the bed, from where our fears took birth, and tell us, that look, see, there's nothing there, there's nothing to be afraid of. They would no doubt comfort us, snuggle us back into bed, tell us a story, tuck a toy under our chins, kiss our foreheads or hug us to sleep and we would know everything would be alright in the morning, and that their comforting embraces would be waiting for us in the bright mornings the next day and they would smile and beam at us and all our fears would magically dissipate.

As adults, we might not have the luxury of our parents smiling away at the ghosts in our life; that responsibility becomes ours as soon as we earn the title of adults, like a lot of other things. But sometimes, the residual fear from our childhood remains and lingers on like indelible ink, mingling with our thoughts and our beliefs even as we grow up and mature and long into old age even. It is almost like a bad wound, that just wouldn't go away. But like all wounds, it cannot just magically disappear. You have to treat it and take care of it like all other wounds. Give it time, take your meds, that sort of thing. But since fear is all in the mind, you have to take care of your thoughts. 

You have to will it to transform. There is no other way to make it go away. Do not be afraid. That is the worst thing you can do to yourself. Do not let it take over and control you. Be confident, be happy, and be sure that you have the power inside of you. You are capable of great things and of loving and caring for other people and everything that exists in this world. Realize the miracle that your life is and treat yourself kindly. This is what I want to tell people. That is what I think people today need to understand, because they don't have enough belief in themselves, for their fear has taken over their power. Do not let that happen to you. Be brave and fight it. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Pasta in white sauce. Creamy mashed potatoes with brown gravy and caramelized onions. Garlic bread with butter, extra virgin olive oil and herbs.

After a long hiatus, I finally had the chance to cook something frivolous in the kitchen. This is my own recipe, and I basically just went ahead with my instincts and what my heart desired, and of course what the kitchen and fridge/cupboard lent :)

I'm a big fan of garlic, and since this is a twist of an Italian cuisine, so I left no holds barred when it came to crushing and using this wonderful ingredient, but to each his own, as I always say, so you may do with it/without it as you like.

Pasta in white sauce

About a cup and a half of pasta went into a pot of boiling salted water with a spoonful of oil, and left to cook, with occasional stirring, till the al dente stage. Rinsed with cold water and left to drain.

For the white sauce, first I took some fat chunky garlic cloves, crushed them with the help of a knife, peeled them and then finely crushed them with a mortar and pestle. I swear upon all things divine and heavenly, there never was a more wonderful sound than the one I got to hear... the satisfying, fresh, juicy crunch of the garlic as it went under the knife and then later as I peeled off its papery skin...

Then, I melt a spoonful of butter in little bit of oil, so as not to burn the butter, and added some flour and whisked it till combined. Then added milk into this mixture in little goes, whisking and combining well after each addition. About a cup and a half of milk went in there. Then I seasoned it with salt, white pepper, oregano and the crushed, chopped garlic. Cooked for about 10 minutes and removed from the flame.

Brown gravy

For the brown gravy, first I peeled and sliced two onions horizontally so to make beautiful little onion rings. Separated the rings from each other and rinsed them well with cold water and left to soak in some water for a little while. This takes some of the acidic, sharp taste out of the onions and helps them to turn all sweet and delicious in the end. Then in a frying pan, heat some oil, and on a high flame I fried the onion rings, turning them over every few seconds so as not to burn them and the way they slicked with the oil and turned all beautiful and shiny, it was a sight to see I swear. Patiently waited till the onions were soft and had turned whitish brown, then added some sugar to help with the caramelization process. Then, and here is the magic ingredient, some cinnamon powder, and it is this which, I think, gave such a depth to the slow cooking onions, it really makes it worth the extra effort. Fried them around for a bit and then a generous splash of  balsamic vinegar, for some extra zing and flavour. Finally, some barbecue sauce and water and this I left to reduce for a couple of minutes.

Mashed potatoes

The best mashed potatoes are made with adding milk instead of butter, plus you'd be cutting on at least some calories, so why not? I boiled three potatoes and peeled and chopped them and mashed them with a fork. Then added some milk and seasoned with salt and black pepper. You may herb or cheese it up if you like. And mix it well, and viola. Ready to be sent into mashed potato heaven.

Garlic bread

Quartered four slices of bread in triangles, mixed some butter, extra virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and spread this sparingly onto the triangles and put them in the oven to roast on both sides for a couple of minutes. The most delicious garlic bread you can make at home, guaranteed! Although, I've been itching to make some with cheese too... but this will do fine too :)

And that's it, then I just dished it up, nothing fancy, and even though this was what I really just put in together with what was at hand and following my own instincts, it was pure, satisfying, therapeutic (much needed) cooking,(and eating!) that was thoroughly enjoyable. And since this made for more than generous servings, it makes for great left overs the next day! :) Happy eating!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seek not a smile for a sorrow forever

Seek not a smile
For a sorrow forever.
Seek not the heart
Nor the darkness within.
Seek not the fragrance 
Of the wilted rose.
The night is long
Dawn will never come
Dawn will never come...

The sun has hid
The stars are dead
You seek that
But of which you know not
You know not...

I laugh at the night
It mocks me,
Cloaks me, shrouds me, hides me
Throws me into the fire.
Wherefore I emerge
Once again into the night,
Into the light,
Dancing, embracing, floating
Lost, found and then lost again.
So seek not the fragrance
Of the wilted rose
Seek not a smile
For a sorrow forever

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Crimson, the shade of love

Crimson, the shade of love
As smooth as stone,
And as silky as a thousand summer nights
The cold flame of love.
How it singes the weary heart
Hidden deep in the folds of rivers
How it ignites the old soul
Tearing it in a million pieces
Blown away
Dust by dust
Drop by drop
Second by second
Time stops
Darkness falls
And I stop breathing.
Hear me call out then
From under the earth
Or from the heavens above
I was there, I loved you then
As I love you now.
Oh, how crimson is the shade of love.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

'Waqt ki qaed mein zindagi hai magar 
Waqt ki qaed mein zindagi hai magar 
chand gharriyan yahi hain jo aazaad hain 
chand gharriyan yahi hain jo aazaad hain 
inko khho kar kaheen jaan-e-jaan 
umr bhar na tarastey raho 
Aaj jaane ki zid na karo 
Aaj jaane ki zid na karo 

Kitna masoom aur rangeen hai yeh sama 
husn aur ishq ki aaj meraj hai 
husn aur ishq ki aaj meraj hai 
kal ki kis ko khabar jaan-e-jaan 
rok lo aaj ki raat ko 
Aaj jaane ki zid na karo 
Yunhi pehlu mein bethey raho 
Yunhi pehlu mein bethey raho...'

   - Faiyaz Hashmi

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What a sweet, sweet poison flows in the veins. Like water rushing over mountainous rock, it follows a dangerous path from the heavens above to the dark caves below. As the water drips drop by drop in the cave's watery darkness, the poison fills me and intoxicates me beyond repair. I am rendered helpless, paralyzed, as your face swims into view and the heavens light up in your eyes. They burn twice, one in each orb. I burn with them too. Like the vines twisting themselves around old bark, giving new life, I too, twist and turn around you, dancing as dervishes have since the oldest time.

You do not know this dance, for it is mine alone. The red embers have been cloaked in the most delicate, fine black silk. The light from my lamp cast long shadows on your beautiful face. Your eyes glitter with the old fire once again. I take your hand and guide you through the darkness. Together we alight the silver light and emerge from the dark cave to this land of green beauty and glide through the fresh, pure air among pink and gold clouds. It's chilly but not cold and I close my eyes. When I open them again, I am alone once more.

It is late. My madness is an intoxicant for you. You cannot see me. But I see you. I smile at you and ask you, 'Guider mine, where have you been?'
You say, 'But I have been here, always, in your heart', and touch my heart saying this. I could have been touched by angel's wings. The light from your heart enters mine and collides into a million shooting stars exploding in all directions all at once. With a beatific smile I look at you with your eyes brimming with love, secrets and old history... our souls intertwine and become one with the universe. I am forever your beloved slave. You, my willing captive and helpless lover.

*Dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge*

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

'Hum anjuman mein sab ki taraf daikhte rahay
Apni tarha se koi akela nahin milla...'

- Mustafa Zaidi

Monday, March 12, 2012

One Love - Bob Marley

One Love! One Heart!
Let's get together and feel all right.
Hear the children cryin' (One Love!);
Hear the children cryin' (One Heart!),
Sayin': give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Sayin': let's get together and feel all right. Wo wo-wo wo-wo!

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One Love!);
There is one question I'd really love to ask (One Heart!):
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner,
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs?

One Love! What about the one heart? One Heart!
What about - ? Let's get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One Love!);
So shall it be in the end (One Heart!),
All right!
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Let's get together and feel all right.
One more thing!

Let's get together to fight this Holy Armagiddyon (One Love!),
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom (One Song!).
Have pity on those whose chances grows t'inner;
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation.

Sayin': One Love! What about the One Heart? (One Heart!)
What about the - ? Let's get together and feel all right.
I'm pleadin' to mankind! (One Love!);
Oh, Lord! (One Heart) Wo-ooh!

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Let's get together and feel all right.
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Let's get together and feel all right.

Bob Marley

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Place

Don't lose sight of all that's good
All that glitters may not be gold
But it may turn out to be silver instead.
Don't settle either, for that's not how it's played
But see with your mind and not your eyes.

Across valleys green and lush meadows
Find a place to clear the shadows
From the fog that confuses your thoughts
From the dark that empties the light
From the evil that is in all our hearts
From the despair that spreads in the night
From the doubt that makes us believe
From the moment you stepped in the door
From the storm that raged through your past
To the future knocking at your door
To the hand that will guide you forever
To the freedom of you being human
To the sunshine as it falls on your face
To the wind as it sweeps up your hair
To the pillow that will caress your head
To the sweet dream that awakes you in the day

Find a place that will comfort
That will not confine nor limit
Find a place that is true
That is free from all that is unholy
Find a place that swallows up the silence
Leaving only beauty behind in its wake

It is in that place where great things are born
and created and moulded and shaped again
It is in that place where great ideas are born
and truth finds a face in all us lying sinners.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Don't hold back on life. You never know what you may find behind that curtain of colours, those rainbow hues that illuminate life in a million different shades of light.

Don't hold back on life, for you will be tempted once it's over. 

Don't hold back on life...

This is not a diatribe about how beautiful life is and how you should make the most of it while it lasts, cause when it's over, it's over... there have been a billion other accounts like those. And besides, all that goes without saying. If you're not doing all that, then... unfortunately, you still haven't figured out the big picture, and maybe you never will, cause it's too late for you, or maybe you will and in a sudden moment of realization turn your life back around and take the reins.

But, as I said, this is not about all that. It's more than that. It's like, every moment you are alive, you are in contact with the whole universe... with everything around you. The present has much more meaning. And the past, as we live, as you read these words, as I type them across my screen, is losing its significance. It's the past. And the past is gone. The future, well that has potential. But it's uncertain you see. The present, however, has power. So you have the power to change the things you don't like. You have the power to take control over your life. You have the power to say yes. And you have the power to say no. And actually all of your life is a series of saying yes or no to different complex mechanisms going on in the universe. Now is here. Now is the present. Now is the time. Now has the power to change things. Now is the power. 

It's really amazing how when we're born, from the moment we start to breath and scream the air out of our lungs, we are constantly in an interaction with the universe, and everything around us comes to life. We are in fact, I think, giving life to the things around us, our environment and everything in it, by acknowledging them.Without us acknowledging their presence around us and without us interacting with them in real time and space, they would have no meaning; they would be dead. And I'm saying this for inanimate objects and things around us too. When we die, they really die too. 

So in a wisp of smoke, everything changes. When we grow up, and if we lose that child inside us who questioned everything and who looked at everything as if seeing it for the first time, our communication with the universe and everything around us changes. So it's like a cycle. You are born. You see. You react. You see again. You react differently. You keep on seeing, and maybe you react or maybe you don't. Then you die. And you stop reacting. Everything is quiet. 

Before you get out of bed each morning, think about that. And think how, if you want, you can react and interact differently with the universe. With yourself. Explore your limits. And see what the giant cosmos has in store for you. Think of life as a lucid dream you're having. Think of the little time you have. Think of how you can change and learn and be. 

And don't take life too seriously!

Don't hold back on life.