COOKING & THE MYTH ABOUT LOVING IT

End of May; end of school year; a bazillion grade level send-off activities that all teachers who ever taught my kids throughout the year can concoct, and one of my daughters brings home a recipe that she’s supposed to cook with Mom. Why? And as if that’s not enough, the god-awful paper sheet says ‘make it a fun experience’.

I’m ready to commit suicide. Also, they forgot to include 1 fire extinguisher in the ingredients.

I hate cooking. If I wasn’t brought up on good, healthful home cooked meals and ruined for life for wanting them, I wouldn’t cook. If I wasn’t married to a man who understood good food, I wouldn’t cook. If I didn’t have children whom we’d spoiled and nourished on healthy meals, I wouldn’t cook. Also, I’m educated – unfortunately – and I can read labels and ingredients and health blogs and magazines and oh yes, hubby is a doctor so – if we could consider fast food as food – I. Wouldn’t. Cook!

And then to have my kid with me whilst I cook? Oh sure! What are we cooking? Perfect Chaos with a hint of Hysterical Mother and a side of Don’t Freakin’ Touch That Sharp Thingy glazed with Step The Hell Away From That Stove? How about a tall glass of We’re Never Doing This Again topped with Gritted Teeth to go with it?

Besides, I’m not a fan of that trigger: make it an experience. Why? I don’t want to. What’s with the constant need to add a festive tag to everything we do?

I watch all these cookery shows – yes, I love those and I watch them on a full stomach lest I’m compelled (God forbid) to try any of the dishes they’re showing me how to make – and I listen to all those chefs sharing what an experience cooking was when they were young.

“I always saw Mom cooking something,” declares a celebrity chef proudly as she rinses out her celery, and goes on to elaborate how awesome the experience was.

I can relate to that partly. Mom cooked; always. Because if she didn’t cook, we didn’t eat. It was the same way in her house when Nana cooked; and back in Nana’s house when her mother cooked, and so the tradition had trickled down through generations and households and not just among us but all around us as this was the way of the East. Food from outside was not the norm but a sign of indulgence.

But cooking itself was never an experience as if that word is synonymous to something joyous and festive and fun. It was routine; something that had to be done – like eating or breathing or going to school. I mean of course Mom cooked because well…why wouldn’t she? That was part of her job as Mom. As is now part of mine – or my husband’s or my father’s and they have risen to that occasion countless times – lest a feminist pops a nerve here.

Point is – meals have to be cooked, not bought or ordered. You don’t have to like it; I don’t. And yes, you have to pass on the skill; I will – eventually. But I still don’t see myself making it an experience to cherish and blah. To me, it’s a prerequisite for staying healthy. It’s a prerequisite for good quality family time. It definitely feels awesome when my six year old smacks his lips and declares, “Mom is the best cooker ever!”

So yes, all the things that a home-cooked meal brings to the table with itself are, indeed, to be cherished and amazing and great to experience. But no, not the cutting, the chopping, the blending, the blazing heat of the burning stove, the strong simmering smells that fill my entire house and won’t go away, not the onions that make my eyes water, the meat that won’t thaw in time, not the ticking clock that mocks me more than it helps, and certainly not the dreaded daily question – what shall I cook today?

None of that is a fun experience. And none of that becomes any easier when I have a kid in my kitchen, holding a paper from school that says I have to cook with her and make it a fun experience. Then, I’d rather call up a restaurant and order a take-out.

Now, a clean kitchen – that’s fun 😉

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Image  —  Posted: June 10, 2014 in Horrors of Knowing a Writer
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Of Writers & Genres

I was recently tagged in an article that was more a compilation of quotes of some 25 renowned authors. Most of those quotes were dedicated to writing things that haunt us, scare us, upset us; are taboo that nobody wants to talk about. Shock everyone, create controversy and win.

I’m guessing depression sells tons.

Then, somebody left this message for me:

“… write a book on poor, homeless kids of XXX, or anywhere in the world, I am sure you will get a plenty of ‘stuff’ to write about. Use your talents to help the poor and the needy…”

That’s cute. And thanks but no thanks, though, I appreciate the confidence.

I don’t write books about things that scare or upset me. I can’t see why I should. I write about stuff that makes me happy because I believe people need to know that part too about the world I come from. And I believe that that is just as capable of enlightening the readers as the tales of terror and torment that are constantly dished out to portray real life.

Furthermore, if it still needs to be said, real life is made up of sad moments and happy moments, and just because I choose to write about the Happy, doesn’t mean it isn’t real or deep or worth reading about. You can say it’s incomplete, and I’ll say it is just as incomplete as the books dipped in the Sad.

Besides, what if I dedicated my earnings from my happy unreal romcoms to help the needy? Would that help? Or is money earned from romance tainted and can’t be given to charities?

I am amazed at the idea of dubbing one genre more worth one’s while than the other. The why are you wasting your talent by writing This and not That is a rude question. I’ve been asked this enough times to be sore from it.

My answer: because That is not my freakin’ genre.

Every book ever written has a genre, a category: romance, fantasy, humor, drama, horror, creative fiction, non-fiction; the list goes on. Sometimes, the writer chooses a genre but often times the genre chooses the writer. Fantasy chose me. I chose romance. And if you’re a reader who reads neither, steer clear.

Seriously, this is honest advice. I mean well.

Don’t expect Khaled Hosseini to pull off a Tolkien and vice versa because you definitely don’t want to go kite-flying with the Orcs or have them molest a child. Enid Blyton is not Stephen King and will not write Needful Things, and I certainly wouldn’t want to read to my kids about the creatures that might live up Stephen’s Faraway Tree. Sadat Hassan Manto’s idea of love is not what Sophie Kinsella writes about so let them both say what they best believe to be true.

You cannot compare. It is grapes and strawberries. Or grapes and raisins even.

You see, no sensible writer is ever wasting their talent. If I am good at what I write, and the readers determine that and by readers I mean the target market for which I write, then, my talent is not wasted.

If you didn’t enjoy a particular kind of book, and not because it was grammatically or literately atrocious, perhaps it wasn’t written for you. Maybe that book’s genre wasn’t your type. And that’s fine. For every kind of reader there is a writer and for every kind of writer, there is a reader.

It’s all about finding that perfect match.

Just don’t expect a writer to change her genre to suit your fancies. Don’t expect of Jane Austen what you liked about Alistair MacLean, and then demonize her for not doing it right. Shakespeare is nothing but pure genius and if you think otherwise because Hollywood does a better job with drama, your argument is invalid.

The idea is to read and appreciate every writer for what they write best. Now, that will be respectful.

All us writers can live with that 🙂

PS: this post first appeared here.

Image  —  Posted: April 9, 2014 in Horrors of Knowing a Writer
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72018239AJ003_Musharraf

In the newsroom:

Everyone everywhere is wondering why Pervez Musharraf, the ex-dictator of Pakistan is being tried and not the other 19,689 terrorists who have killed and are killing Pakistanis on a daily basis (while also giving interviews on TV), not the judges who endorsed his coup and not Nawaz Sharif and ilk, and Bhuttos and ilk who well, did everything in their power to ruin the country.

Honestly, are those people dumb? Seriously? Why ask a question with such an obvious answer!

Mushy, I mean Musharraf DRINKS!! Astaghfaar!! That alone is enough to make him an outstanding kaafir and that, ladies and gentlemen, makes him a traitor and he should be punished and – oh wait, *voice speaks in ear piece* update coming in – Imran Khan drinks too.

*Nervous laughter*

Ahem *clears throat* So what? I mean PUHLEEZ! He drinks in the memory of Osama Bin Laden, it’s different. That is allowed. And besides, I cannot bring in personal stuff about IK.

*cellphone with Bollywood ring tone ‘Character Dheela Hai” starts ringing. *Frantically turns it off*

This… his personal life is totally irrelevant, OKAY! Also, his followers (PTI cyber wing) won’t like it and will hack into my account and post pics of feces on my wall and call it a victory. Nothing pretty about that.

Ok then! Next: Bad Mushy…I mean MUSHARRAF wrote about his affairs in his book! Haww! The shame and…what’s that? IK had how many affairs? Nobody knows? Not even IK? Well, he did marry and settle down eventually, didn’t he?
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*stares, mortified*

So! Moving on – Mushy…dammit, I mean Musharraf operated on Lal Masjid!!! He cut it open and out flew burqa clad mullahs. Wait, what’s that? *voice speaks again in ear piece* There was only one? Really? Just one?

How so not dramatic. *pout*

Alright then, but the list of Musharraf’s crimes is never ending. He went and bombed Bugti for no good reason. Yes, being an anti-Pakistan warlord, landlord is no good reason. And it doesn’t stop there. He bombed the Sardar while he was in his lavish, cool, water-filled swimming pool in the heart of Baluchistan!! *makes sad face* What’s that? He was in a cave? They have pools in caves? Oh, he was in a cave, not a pool…because he was on the run and hiding there while Pak Army was searching for him!

Oh well, let’s get serious and talk about that fateful PIA flight on THAT night of October!!! Remember that one? Now, that is treason! That is violation of our air traffic laws and India’s airspace and Musharraf had no right telling the pilot where to land! Er…what’s that? That was Nawaz Sharif? It wasn’t Mushy who told the pilot to land in India? Are you sure? Dammit!

Okay then…ON OTHER NEWS! Yeh sher ka bacha hai!! Baday hokar PMN- L join keraga! Iskay paas peacocks bhi theen, lekin usko baagar billi khaa gayi. 21 policemen have been sent notices for letting this horrific, horrific crime happen.

So as you can see, CLEARLY, Musharraf IS a traitor! How can we forget (and we won’t let you either) NOV 2007 when he blatantly and oh-so-savagely removed the Chief Justice from his post!!! How dare he! The lawyers were up in arms and…What’s that? Peaceful protest? No arms? Oh okay…arms but like not armeD! As I was saying, HOW could he do that?!! What’s that again? He got references from the Supreme Court AGAINST the Chief Justice ?

*googles that for more detail*

But… but…but CJ was a NICE guy!!! He said Musharraf’s coup was justified and EXACTLY according to the constitution!!! Oh wait, I can’t say that. Because that’s something that cannot be named/said/ever in a zillion years because it takes all blame away from Musharraf and puts it on every other idiot.

I think I’ll go write about those peacocks now. And you people should just accept it! Musharraf is a TRAITOR, OK! Because I said so! Bas!

Note: I wrote this piece with Shamila Ghyas and needless to say, it was a riot!

Mommy Writes.

This blog post is so overdue. I should’ve written it the first time someone told me I need a writing corner to be a writer. Or asked me how am I a writer?

My humble two cents for that person – I don’t have a corner. I have kids. And I am a writer.

I’ve read enough posts and articles on how to be a successful writer to know that none of those will ever work for me because they aren’t written for me. None say oh hey, your kitchen counter is the best desk because it’s close to the goddamn stove! So now you can cook, clean, wash and write. Or did you know that listening to kids radio and watching kids TV even when kids aren’t around is an excellent solo brainstorming session? And of course, you may write every day. But there will always be more days when you can’t write and that’s okay too. For instance – here’s my story with writing a little romance:

I’m all pumped up and ready with my chai and sunlight in my window and my netbook’s working fabulously. The kids are fed and the house is spotless. It’s time to get Aoife and Demon all erotic. I’m thinking hard, picturing him making his move, the warmth of his hands and feel of lips and hearts throbbing and her swooning out of her mind, totally melting and letting go in his arms, his charisma overpowering her, finally she has his heart after much anguish. Finally, her wait is over. Finally, her struggle to make him realize is over!

My words start flowing on screen like a soothing river just when my ten year old sails in and demands to know, “Mommy! How come women had to struggle so much all through history even for basic human rights while men could do all they wanted?”

“Well, darling, because men…because our society…and men, it’s…oh, great.”

There goes my kiss. That ain’t ever gonna happen now. Because now I’m thinking let’s just kill the rascal and see if anyone misses him. No wonder people say I’m good with action and suck at romance.

There’s also this glorious notion put forth by super writers, Stephen King among them, that three months is enough to get your first draft done. No offence to King but his latest books actually seem to have been written in just three months (this one’s for you Shami). AND he is not a housewife.

So, scratch three months. Embrace twelve instead.

The idea is to not give up. Don’t be disheartened if you had to vacuum your car when you really had planned on exquisitely describing how elegant your protagonist’s bedroom is. Maybe you can describe her exquisite car instead.

Also, listen to your kids talking. Often times, they dish out such delicious dialogues, you can literally have your readers smacking their lips. My daughter gave me the term lemonade sky that I used in one of my books. My son asked me if fireflies were really tiny fire fairies. That led me to write about Shimmers…and Demon’s fire sprites.

So, happy housewife-ing and mommy-ing and writing. There’s no one else who can write the way you do so don’t ever stop 🙂

photo image from: http://myliteraryquest.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/first-ever-writer-mom-comic/

Image  —  Posted: March 27, 2014 in Horrors of Knowing a Writer
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Shameless in the Veil

In Taliban’s Pakistan, women will not be allowed to wear jeans but men will be entitled to wearing burqas as and when they please.

According to very terrified sources, men will be encouraged to keep a burqa handy by say, thrown over their shoulder/head/woman so that it’s always within reach in case of an emergency. In fact, every man under Taliban regime will be provided with a zambeel to store his Emergency Exit Burqa. The EEB’s can range from glossy to cotton and from body-hugging to billowing.

When inquired about possible emergencies that may require EEB’s, shunning law-enforcement authorities was number one on the list. When asked, won’t the Taliban themselves be the law-enforcers in their own regime…we were stoned.

Reporting from the grave here. Live at Night.

Image  —  Posted: February 13, 2014 in It angers me...
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JAB WE MET

And so Taliban Khan prances towards the entrance to the coveted Cave of Terror. Baad-az-Saat Salaam to the Asst. to the Asst. of Terror Master guarding the gates, and sufficient laanat malaamat on Yahod-o-Nasaar (with the exception of goldsmiths of Britain), he enters.

Meanwhile, Mullah Lal Masjid was spotted harassing his tailor (bazooka blaster on-call) with sticks and stones that would break his bones if he failed to deliver the Mullah’s latest order of a silk Shuttlecock in peacock colors and pure non-Ajami gold threadwork.

Ameer-e-Islami, after caging yet another rape victim along with her three witnesses, was seen spritzing his starched self adequately with khushbo and running out singing Aii Milan Ki Bela!!!

We here are standing by to see what more this circus of Talibans talking to Talibans Only has in store while an army general is due to be hanged in about – now. We request you to please be a true Pakistani and do nothing. Just watch. Do nothing. Be nobody.

(post by My Protest, cartoon by Sabir Nazir)

Image  —  Posted: February 2, 2014 in It angers me...
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I was virtually terrified of the term housewife till I was one myself.

Not my fault entirely. It’s just that the social labels we in the work force constantly attach to that crowd are quite fear-inflicting. But once I was one of them, I found a way of life that wasn’t just new, it was totally badass. So, here I am today cheering for the team.

We housewives are often boxed into creatures who know nothing of the world. All we ever talk about is the home and the kids and the cooking and cleaning and – well excuse me but doesn’t everybody only talk about what they know best?

I mean have you ever heard physicians converse socially? 95% of their gossip starts with the H of a HOSPITAL and ends with the L. And should you even try to divert the conversation by say, asking them about what they think about bending it like Beckham; they’ll look at you like you just asked them if they’ve ever done it on the dance floor. You might as well ask that for the fun of it for if you’re lucky and there are men in the group, you may have answers. Still no fun? Throw in gun control. Congratulations, you’ve just recreated a Congressional session in full swing at a table for eight at a Save Our Souls Benefit.

I’ve always thought men are so much easier to talk to anyway.

However, if you’re at an all-girls table, chances are you’ll be discussing birth control. Of course them rug-rats are such a speed bump in our career paths. The lesser, the better, you say. Right. I have four kids. You bring up that topic in my presence and you will cry. I can tell you all about that won’t work. That 1% chance of error on every box of everything ever invented? Yeah, that’s real. You don’t want babies? Be celibate or get your tubes tied.

I’m also entertained beyond sanity with stories of how tough work life is. You think your boss is harsh? Try working for mine – the baby, the toddler, the preteen. That two hour board meeting when you almost lost your oil-rigging client to sign for your tree-hugging project was not excruciating, nervewrecking or stressful. Try soothing a colicky baby at three in the morning. And no, you may not cuss at or sedate or talk logic to the baby.

Now, if you’re ever sitting across from a housewife like me, she probably hates talking about shopping the way you do. Oh no, I don’t mean talking about the shoes and bags and clothes and labels – just their price tags because chances are she barely ever knows what anything costs. Here’s why: if I like it, I buy it. Yeah, that rich guy I married spoils me rotten. Sue him.

And my favorite – do I work out? Yes, I do. I’m raising two boys. Even my vocal chords can kick your ass.

In my experience, a socially quiet housewife among a horde of loud working women is not silent because she has nothing important to say. It could be, she’s thinking of her own mother who was a working woman, who did all the house work too and never complained. And she’s sitting there quietly, listening to all your talk, smiling and probably thinking – what a bunch of crybabies!