Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beautiful things said unintentionally..

Often people don’t even know what a beautiful and heart rending thing they have said, that flies straight from their heart to strike a chord in another person.

Shama works as a maid at our place. In her twenties, she doesn’t know her exact age like most others who were born into poverty, and life has not given her much choice but to work for a living since she was much younger.

‘Were you ever naughty in your childhood?’ I asked her this evening.

‘I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything at all from my childhood!’ she exclaimed, and then laughed. ‘All I do remember is one thing, that I would always be playing.’

I can’t explain why this is so beautiful and sad to me at the same time.

I know there are problems, but I can’t help have fun.

Imagine this. And then hope it doesn’t happen to you, except for the good part.
You finally step out of a prison.Out in the open, you’ve still got your burdens, your problems, your past, yourself to deal with and you’re clueless as to what next.
But while you stand there, look. You have time. A clock does not signify the same commands anymore.
There’s a blue sky, as marvelous as ever, but it’s suddenly got the power to capture your attention in a way that makes you grateful.
Those birds soaring, brilliant sunlight cutting through the cold air, they make you feel alive, and think up thoughts that if you could just grasp, would pull a Forest Gump of their own.
You hope you’ll come to feeling fresh and alive again.

A step back from stress, a step out of it, is a wonderful thing. Most for the fact that you can, without excuse, examine yourself and where you have faltered or decayed, and where you must go from here to be that better person you want to be. And not knowing the road you stand on on a beautiful day, and beating down fear, it’s a great place and time to start, and it should help get you there. A great friend can be a great help as a push, a guide or inspiration.

A gift : To be willing to enjoy simple everyday things, big and small, and to appreciate anew when you rediscover.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Experimenting on my best friend's wedding

Above: the bride's hands on her mehndi, while she waited to go outside after signing her nikah
It was one of my best friend's wedding this past weekend. And a fun one at that. Armed with a determination to experiment with my brand new camera and get her some good giftable pics, I was right in the middle of it many times , but I didn't care, and the best thing was, my best friend would pose for me anytime, anyway, and let me be as crazy as I wanted to and do anything. I mean she's my friend for a reason, right?
Weddings are generally so staged and routine, look so much the same with the same kind of venue settings, that I appreciated anew the challenge to just get some different shots.
Now, since this was my first real time with a DSLR, I certainly didn't get the hang of it. And there is a lot of work to be done now...!

New blog on my shelf..!

I had come across this blog before, and the name caught my attention.. 'High heeled foot in the door' .

I like how it portrays an honest and witty account of the author trying to get her foot into the design industry. It's not much fun or guidance reading how mega successful people use their mega successes to launch yet another mega success.. Entrepreneur success stories are always a fun and fascinating and oft inspiring read for me, and this is somehow a firsthand current account of someone's journey. Okay, so for reasons related to her 'Martha Rules' posts, I found myself trying to take out time to read them on her blog today, and when you pick up a blog or book repeatedly to finish what you were reading, then it's up there on your shelf.. for as long as youre into it at least.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One hatched dream.

One happy development: I have taken steps closer to one of my dreams, by the Grace of God.
A photography class came my way, and I signed up :) I had already been scouting for a DSLR camera, and I got guidance there as well.
With an ordinary/point & shoot digital camera,here is my first assignment ..... Eggs.
Eggs, said my teacher; a photographer whose last name is synonymous with his studio established two generations ago, where legendary figures like the founder of the country Quaid-e-Azam came to get their portraits taken, eggs, he said, are the best subject to learn photography.I wasn't much surprised. My cousin, an artist, did her thesis with installations of hundreds of eggs....which totally deserves another feature, after her permission.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I admit, we are in the midst of war.

This serene picture is of a portion of Pakistan's best university, LUMS, but this week the campus is vacant for unnatural reasons and the people sitting around me discuss things that no civilian should have to worry about.
I finally admit that our nation is at war, when the war on terror has come to haunt the average Pakistani whose government acceded to the American government’s pressure to go after its own volatile tribesmen- and the fallout is here, as the average Pakistani is now a targeted enemy.

Educational institutions are closed across the country because the 'International Islamic University' was attacked last week in Islamabad, which one no one predicted.

Day after tomorrow, the students will be back. I wait for them, it is unnatural walking a vibrant and renowned university that is empty because of fear.

An ordinary day starts with having my car checked, despite my ID. I feel sorry for the security guards – they are the first under threat, and a serene campus duty is no longer friendly waves
at the gate.Checking our email now brings in security updates and tips - to guard against our cars, phones and selves being hijacked and used by terrorists, and evacuation plans. Lunch hour recently had the sound of sirens being tested as they were installed.
As I practice photography, sparks fly nearby as welders reinforce boundary walls with special measures.
I am a trained volunteer MFR (Medical First Respondent), and my team and I are to get together to practice for the aftermath of a terrorist attack, practice a triage situation - what to do in a mass emergency where there are many patients, where you determine which can be saved, which cannot and therefore you move on. I argued with my instructor the first time I heard this in class, nearly in tears.

This university is thought to be the institution under biggest threat, and one feels sorry for the administration trying to do everything it can to save the innocent lives that roam this campus, wanting only to learn, live and serve their country and provide for their families.

Yet it is strange.
Outside the weather is at its best and when I look out, appreciating the view of a pond and lush green lawns and beautiful sky, I can appreciate it and feel the serenity, even as I know that I am, along with others under threat at any time, but feeling secure in my prayer, and in the now.

Life is still lived, but there is an effort to be vigilant, and a nagging fear, and everyday discussions are influenced.

There is an effort to avoid public places, even stay alert as we walk on university campus, or walk anywhere - for any suspicious package, or person. Alert students have spotted bombs near their school's boundary wall elsewhere in the country, and a policeman riding in a bus noticed a passenger next to him feel unnaturally hard (turned out he was wearing a suicide jacket), and disaster has been averted.
But the fear has been planted in everyone’s mind. Where once the elite were safe, the cities were safe, all are equal for once in this country - in a very distressing way.
Prayer is the only answer. And efforts to establish peace.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Winding Summer

Summer is slowly winding. Where the shade is cool, but the sun is still too hot. I am sure there is a glorious time just before evening when the afternoon sun is warm as I like it, but I forget to experience it, or I cannot.. I am determined to get out of an office rut and live the life. Of sunshine, merriment, of waking,sleeping,eating and walking as I please, and all the time making a good living doing what I love, and making a positive difference in the lives of oh so many people. Insha Allah - God Willing.
I love to dream sometimes, and after a long absence of making up new dreams, I initially found it difficult to do so. Now I find how I have grown, how the dreams have mellowed and matured, and yet they are clearer still where they were daring.
There are clearer visions of places I want to be, somehow I am no longer into bungee jumping before I got a chance to try it out, somehow I do not want to own a zoo or a building full of persian cats, but I am now wanting to touch a redwood tree, travel the world, stand on a cliff and look down at a valley's treetops amidst the mist, and always, always be able to return 'home'.. to safety,warmth, loving family and friends, good food,good health and humour, good books, good fun and good decor.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yet to explore..

I have yet to explore Old Lahore , especially armed with a good camera. I have also yet to get a DSLR (Excellent camera, excellent price.. See my dilemma? But a nice kind of one). Any and all suggestions/advice welcome!

A friend emailed from abroad saying she would be coming in late October (to spend Winter in Lahore) and asking whether I'd be a partner to going around historical monuments in Lahore to take photographs! Am I interested? Yes!

Full of crowds,traffic and pollution, Old Lahore would require a certain determination and escorts to explore..
Here is just a reminder of what is still there, may not be for long... old architecture, hardly given a whim..

Picture:Ghomti Bazar courtesy flickr

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cuppycake recipe - tried!

I found these gorgeous cupcakes pictured above, via Design Sponge, and am I glad I tried out the recipe!
I'll admit, I came across the recipe while I was fasting yesterday, and had to make them the VERY SAME DAY.
The buttercream frosting is delicious, and not to be skipped (note to self: quit skimping-out-frosting-altogether-shortcuts) especially because I cant say I liked the taste of the cake on its own.. I dont know why but the word 'industrial' kept coming to mind when I tasted just the cake.
Strange how a word can sometimes come to mind for something unrelated.

However, with the frosting, the taste is lovely, and it is a recipe to be made over again...
I am reminded of how when I was in third or fourth grade, my class used to look forward to the chocolate cupcakes that my mom would send at the end of year parties or my birthday.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Of fruitful root and yellow flowering trees

Summer in Lahore brings the Amaltas trees, as they are locally called, into bloom. I love seeing these flowers, especially since few other petals are found in this scorching heat. And flowering trees, I just find beautiful.

There is a young one planted right outside my house, pleasing us with one branch of blooms this year, and everywhere I see the Amaltas, I notice them. I do not know much about them, but this has to be one of my favourite trees for summer in Lahore.
In recent years, the authorities had taken to planting imported palms along roads, and recieved much praise and criticism, but more criticism, for failing to think about what a tree in Lahore must do.

You see, there is a manual for trees in Lahore that populate the common roads..

If you are a tree considering whether Lahore is right for you, consider the following:

Have you been along the Mall Road, known the area before it belonged to a new country called Pakistan? Lahore is yours.

Are you a big tree, a tree with a big trunk to make you look like you have always been there, so that no one questions your presence?

Do you promise to give shade in the summer to all the poor who rest underneath, and to the cars that whizz by?

Would you like the sun should filter in softly through the late afternoon and evening light, and then in winter, preferably be bare and let the warm sun through so all may sit again underneath, and enjoy its warmth?

Do you agree to be dense and friendly, and shield the birds and squirrels from human eyes and predators while they hold little concerts and games everyday, and even build their nests amongst your arms?

Year after year, being suited to the climate, they must thrive in Lahore, having taken up a Lahori identity, calmly throwing in a little bit of quiet and green into the dust, noise and pollution.

The new sleek palms did not offer the shade, nor were they suited to the climate.

Each tree, each animal thrives in their climate.

Each human would happily thrive in a climate of their choosing, yet, many times I wonder at how we ourselves are the yield to our sowing, and whether we may in our delirium choose the best for ourselves then.
I cannot help feel it is sometimes God deciding which climate we are best suited to, and we may discover that after a storm we couldn't withstand to feel our backs nearly breaking, we are still standing, that though we wanted the sun, our roots are taking hold into winter's hard soil.

They praise the shrub and the species that thrives in unsuitable conditions.

They must not forget the human race that also struggles to take fruitful root where it is planted.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Decorated Public Transport

Mystical, eccentric, larger than life are the paintings covering every inch of metal on trucks,buses and oil tankers in Pakistan. I grew up without knowing that it was unusual in other parts of the world.
My personal favourite thing to do is look for quotes written on backs of rickshaws, and sometimes trucks, often hilarious but mostly with wisdom and bittersweet wit tinged with sadness, eye openers really.
Those merit a post of their own.
A look at mostly passenger buses, that when I was small, had very loud, VERY long musical notes for a horn, very crazy and hard to describe really, from whistles and bird-screams to the kind of sounds you would hear if you handed a bunch of six year olds at a birthday a variety of musical instruments.
I hardly ever in one, but when I did in Gujrat, I remember not being able to see properly out the windows because they were in dark colorful tints!

( Pictures courtesy various sources on the internet, mostly Peter Grant's photography.)

Dunes, Sky, Action

This is the kind of picture that can inspire a 'wow' for a moment.
The kind that makes you take note of the photographer.
The kind that makes you want to see something fresh and exhilirating yourself, and capture it.
This picture is by Chase Jarvis.

I love that the action puts still more emphasis on the beauty and majestic grace of the dunes and desert sky.
Soon after, I am sure, nature would have blown away the footprints of the dancer, and the sands shifted once more, unimpressed, unaffected.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lahoris in the Rain

Rain is unusual here.
So when it rains, people come out especially to watch. Just the rain. They will pull up chairs in their porch and sit, as my parents do, and their six month old grand daughter is brought out too. The wonder and solemn silence with which she sits in the lap and stares out at the clouded sky shows she is aware of its difference, aware of the glistening rain drops having their fall broken by outstretched leaves, parched from the scorching 42C sun that burns down every day and will probably do the same tomorrow. Monsoon season is a crazy season, brought to crazy people, from a humid, hot still spell it will very suddenly change to cool wind and rain, then just as suddenly go back to scorching sun.

It rains, so it is time for rainfood.
Menus are changed, quickly whipped up. Lahore loves it food deep fried, and now is the time to have hot oily food that you simply cannot want to eat in the heat otherwise. Every vendor knows it is the time for samosas and pakoras, every household knows it, and somewhere people will even make curry out of gramflour and drop in pakoras – and a university community will troop in to eat, facing the windows as they do. Tea is a common addiction, every couple of hours on the hottest days,but today it is cradled as if it were a rare treat.

It rains, and people leave their work to gather outside under a dripping veranda .
They will watch the ground, they will watch any one who is out in it. Lahoris will always look amused at umbrellas when they see one, despite legendary fierce sunshine and despite the crazy monsoon rain that comes down like a white unrelenting sheet, they still consider them as eccentric pieces depicting an unnecessary fuss.
And even if all there is opposite is a building, today they see and feel. People who otherwise succumb to the mundane without a thought, never changing their routine or adding something new, will somehow for an hour, for as long as it rains, wake up.
They will suddenly smell the earth, the rain, they will suddenly be grateful for every scent of steaming food and wet earth. They will suddenly be spontaneous, and they will suddenly feel, and take a walk in the rain, laugh with delight when they get soaked after a ‘necessary’ few steps to get from A to B,and then brandish their damp clothes like armour, or put out their hands gingerly and draw them back in to examine the rain-drop on their palm. They will suddenly see, and look at the silent trees around them that commanded attention but got none before, and beauty in leaves that are shades greener with the dust washed off of them. Yes, that is it. One of the most polluted cities will have its dust beaten down by heaven-sent crystals, and the skies, those purple-grey cloudy skies seem clear and beautiful.
Even the traditional red brick buildings of college buildings are beautiful to look at, for they turn a deep red when wet, and send out an earthy smell of bricks that remind you of things as you pass by.
They will even get all romantic and imagine new scents.

Yes there is a mess of mud and traffic, children swimming in roads flooded because the gutters do not work without a care of contamination, wild boys jumping into the muddy canal running through the city just so they can swim in the rain, but people generally love rain here.

Lahoris feel sorry for those who cannot enjoy rain, those who have come from climates where it rains all the time, they feel sorry for them having to miss out on the ‘seeing’ and pleasure that comes with rain and changes the feel of an everyday, changes moods, and they also feel sorry for them having to live with rain as an almost daily occurence.
For you see, much as Lahoris love their rain, they don’t want it everyday. And much as they love to complain about their sun, they would rather have it everyday.

Above Pic featured by Daily Times: Lahore: A green belt near the canal inundated with rain water.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Playing : Fantasy LUMS tree

Going towards..

A tree's fantasy DNA.

Surreal Ochre

The original pic.

I often like to take pictures and store them for when I want to play around in Adobe and see what they may become.
On a Friday afternoon, with some time to spare.. I wanted to see an ordinary picture of this tree I took in LUMS a little differently.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Photographed: Because I see you.

Location: The LUMS University Mosque.
Just returned from here after a Friday prayer break, on a hot afternoon, and was reminded of this picture I took some months ago. No one really notices these, but I liked the random yet chic composition of what I saw.
These little chairs are there for those who cannot kneel, and pray while sitting. My mother also prays while seated because of arthritis, but misses being able to kneel.
Last week, I did not pray with the congregation. But I still caught a special glimpse.
As every forehead touches the ground in humility and submission to God, it is a touching sight of unity, of people grouped shoulder to shoulder in neat rows, but all eyes are downcast, and they do not acknowledge what goes around them and they may not even be aware, as you stand watching people devote themselves in unison for a few minutes to submit to and connect with God.
The most magnificent sight of this is ofcourse, the millions of pilgrims at the Holy Kaabah in Makkah, nearly all in identical attire, and as an ocean of human beings goes down on one haunting call, rises, and then bows again,you cannot help but feel this is something special, and a magnificent show.
I can tell you that amongst the moving sea of millions, neat rows form spontaneously within minutes or seconds, and you fall into place to line your shoulders with the next, rich and poor from every country, presidents and peasants who have saved all their lives and come in old age, all must be equal here, and as the prayer starts, you can only hear the haunting recitation of the Muezzin, and your thoughts if you cannot silence them(but you must try), and other than children crying(because, well, who can explain to them?) there is, when the Muezzin is silent, a rustling hush over the crowd that is amazing because of the sheer magnitude and length for which it carries.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fave from Stylists: Raw and jewelled

Featuring: Beverly Hyde

The idea, the photography.. Oh, I like!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bomb explosions and beautiful homes

A little while ago, there was a sudden strange bang at the window. Instinctively, I associated it with another sound I had heard last year which had been bigger with much more force; when there had been a huge bomb blast on Mall Road, quite far away, a suicide bombing with a truck full of explosives that had blown away Intelligence headquarters.

That had been a far off thud, a feeling that somewhere had been a very very loud explosion,and then a feeling as if an invisible force had collided hard against the window, (I thought a football might have been kicked hard straight at my window) and then complete silence while the sun continued to shine in a bright blue sky. At that time I knew I had never heard something like it, and this was a similar sound though much less force.

I was worried again.
I opened the blinds, and everything seemed the same.

A colleague right near me did not notice busy with his photocopying, and as I stepped out and asked a few others near windows if they had heard or felt anything, ("Was there a bang at the window here?" to puzzled looks) I relaxed when they had not. I did not want to alarm them. Then twenty minutes later I heard that there has indeed been an explosion on Mall Road. It is far away, and my colleagues are amazed I felt it.

Guess what I am doing?
After an initial prayer and thankfulness for our safety, and a call home to ask my family to stay home for the day, I want to go straight back to checking out beautiful relaxing photos of beautiful homes as a slight head and ear ache comes on, just pyschological as the sound echoes in my mind.


I have asked myself this before.

Afterall there is a huge crisis in the country, - a war in the scenic northern areas of Pakistan as the army finally moves into areas terrorized by militants distorting Islam’s teachings, causing a huge wave of nearly 2 million people fleeing the crisis and in dire straits in the extreme heat and poor conditions.

One could feel slightly guilty over wanting to be immersed in and taking delight in beautiful interior and design pictures that reflect luxury.

But I realize what it is about loving to look through beautiful pictures of homes: Not just a love of aesthetics but dreams and desires reflected : Peace, security, happiness and comfort, and identity. Serene, entertaining mirrors to human life, if you will.

Home is, or is supposed to be, the ultimate haven, where we can just be. Be safe and free to be our selves especially.
And it’s okay to want that, and only natural in times like this.

Whatever the budget, location, style – any place is home that holds beautiful hearts at peace with themselves and one another – living and letting live.

I wish Pakistan and all the countries of the world would just become home then.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fave From Stylists

Featuring : Jenni Booth.
I was led to her work when reading an interview of Pia Jane Bijkerk. Pia started her career assisting this stylist, and credits her with what she learned, so naturally I wanted to see Jenni's work.
This is my favourite picture from her portfolio.
As far as the aesthetically inclined oxygen molecules in me go; this took my breath away. Just for a fraction of a second, while I forgot to worry about getting on that plane and demanding it take to me to the Maldives for my lunch hour. Elegant, fancy, oh so up my alley, that look!
I have a regular,old black trunk in my bedroom that I love to keep. Some people suggested I get it out of there. But I just like it.
But I may just polish the brass on it now. And drag it to Lahore Airport and ask to have my picture taken with my trunk, here, like that….

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sky, Dunes, Action

This is the kind of picture that can inspire feeling.
The one that makes you take note of the photographer.
The kind that makes you want to see something fresh and exhilirating yourself, and capture it. This picture is by Chase Jarvis.

I love that the action puts still more emphasis on the beauty and majestic grace of the dune and desert sky. Soon after, I am sure, nature would have blown away the footprints of the dancer, and the sands shifted once more, unimpressed, unaffected.