Monday, November 2, 2015

Salon Review : Raintree Spa

I saw the Chi Enviro deal at Raintree Spa and decided to go for it. It was 3 pm and I called them to ask if I could come the same day. They said yes provided that I make it by 4 pm max. I also asked if they had an all-women environment because I am a hijabi and the treatment required me to expose hair. To this also the woman on the call confirmed that there were no men around.

I left home at quarter to 4 and should have reached by 4 had it not been for my driver who didn't know what Forum is. And I didn't know that he didn't know. (I was tending to the baby and didn't notice where we were). Finally when I realized we were quite somewhere else and it was 4.20 by the time we reached there.

Upon this the owner said that they'll not be able to do it because the treatment takes at least 1.5 hours and the salon is booked for a party at 5.30. Fair enough.

However, as I sat in the spa waiting for the driver to return I saw:

I. The party was happening right then. There were around 5 women with at least 10 kids and the music was loud. As it should be in a party.

2. There were two men who were decorating the place the entire 30 mins that I was there.

I am really glad that I didn't reach on time. If I had, the process would have begun and I would have been in a really bad space with the chemicals in my hair and the men around. I would have had to wash it right then because I can't let a man see my hair.

Also, it was my time to relax while my hair was done. I had put the baby to sleep and had brought a girl with me to watch over as the baby slept. It took an effort to  make this happen. A party crowd in a cramped space wasn't my idea of relaxing and getting the hair done. And even though my baby sleeps heavily at that time of the day, I would've been totally stressed out if I was in the middle of the treatment and the music would have been on.

Needless to say, no going back even though the deal gives great value for money.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nueplex's Nonsense

I had always thought I would never publicly bash a brand or a business, especially if it is something that isn't critical.

Nueplex cinema has forced me to go against this resolution.

Sometime back I posted feedback on Nueplex's Facebook page. The post wasn't ignored - it was Deleted.

A little later I came across a blog post. The post AND the comments below echoed my experience. (

And that is when I concluded that Nueplex deserves some loud criticism. Here is what I had posted on the page:

Went to Nueplex yesterday to watch HTTYD 2 in 3D. The experience left a bad taste in the mouth.
For the first five minutes, the 3D effects didn't kick in, in spite of the glasses. My three family members felt the same, so I went to the concierge at the stairs. There I saw four others complaining loudly.

Explained the problem and handed over the glasses to the two concierges. But they were doing nothing to help. In fact one was arguing that the movie IS 3D because it is appearing "blur''.

I then went to the ticket counter and got a guy who looked concerned, to the hall. By then (15 minutes later), the 3D had started working.

I asked the concierge to give me the four glasses back. He gave me just one and said that he had given the rest 3 to my company sitting back at the top. I went all the way up to find that they never got their glasses.

I went all the way down again to ask for the three other glasses. The person asked me to go up and wait for them. 5 minutes later he came with just TWO glasses saying something that didn't make sense to us. So there I was sharing my 3D glasses with my husband HUH

10 minutes later when the person did not bring the fourth pair of 3D glasses, my husband went all the way down, faced an argument , and then got his pair.

All in all, the first 30 minutes of the movie experience went extremely disturbing. And it was purely because of the bad customer service.

The technical glitch lasted 10 minutes, the human glitch, 30 minutes.

Fickle Me

I am human
I am fickle.

In a moment,
I can burn my home,
Desert my dreams,
Scar my face.

On an impulse,
I can discard life,
Shed blood,
Question God.

In an instant,
I can unleash the madness
That has lingered within for eons
That has waited to rejoice in my destruction.

For I am human
And I am fickle.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pretty Young Thing?

You are a beauty with brains. The magnificence of your mind complements the wisdom of your words and the luster of your looks.

But THEY will love you for your pretty face - ONLY.

At first you dismiss the admiration as superficial and insist that you be heard instead instead of being scanned and seen. But that doesn't ever  happen.

Your dazzling smile, your flattering dresses, your flawless make up outdo your wit, humor and speech before the masses. You are attended well to by sales persons, given favors by people of power, photographed more and proposed by rich men.

With time you start enjoying the attention. In fact, you feed on it. It becomes part of your identity.

Your brain gets consumed by the high.

Two decades later your pretty face wrinkles. Your smile is flanked by laugh lines, your dresses no more flatter you and make up feels heavy. The crown of thick hair that earlier adorned your head turns gray.

You panic.

You pay a dozen visits to the best parlors, dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Botox stretches your skin tight, a lip filler makes your pout perky and a surgery rids growing eye bags. Five years later, you get a neck lift, an eye brow lift and a nose job to 'correct' what age did to you. And then...

You Realize ...

All these attempts reveal what you try to conceal. They scream out to the world that you lost your greatest asset - your youth, your looks, your charms -  your competitive edge. You can by no means compete with the new entrants in the market. You are obsolete, useless. You no more serve your purpose - pleasing the eyes. And then ...

You Reflect.

What happened? How did you end up here?

You realize you fed on what was so temporary, so artificial and something you had for no credit of your own. You had intellectual, moral, religious and other charms too. But somehow you ended up spending resources (time, money, etc) on appearance way out of proportion.

And there is a cost you pay in the end. And the cost is your life, your identity.

You were a beauty with brains. You were a beauty with morality. You were a beauty with religion.
Oh girl, your beauty was IN your brains, morality and religion.

Your beauty was not what the fashionistas dictated. Your beauty was not about how you had the perfect hour glass shape in the 70s and the 'twiggy' anorexic body in the 2000s. Your beauty was not about having permed hair in the 80s and sleek rebonded hair early in the second millennium. Beauty was not about changing your wardrobe four times a year with every coming season.

Your beauty was in your head, on your tongue and in your actions. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 Things I Miss about Karachi

It’s been over six months since I’ve been living outside my homeland i.e. Pakistan and I occasionally am asked, ‘Do you miss Karachi?’

At first I wonder what the person means by Karachi. These days the very word Karachi sketches an utterly grim picture in one’s mind – sacks filled with dead bodies, corpses hanging by bridges, labor starving because of frequent strikes, etc. But then giving my perception benefit of the doubt, I re-think the question.
Of course I miss Karachi, or more appropriately put, the things that make Karachi feel home! So what Are these things?

1.       People – This is an absolute no brainer but it has to be said. Home is where heart is. Heart is where love is. Love is where my beloveds are. And my beloveds include my mom, brothers, grandparents, aunts, cousins, nieces and friends – all of who happen to be in Karachi, so hell YES I miss Karachi because I miss them.
May Allah reward the creators of the internet and Skype and every medium of long distance communication. Skype is such a fantastic remedy to homesickness that I could write 10 blog posts in praise of it. Hearing your 20 months old niece sweetly chirp ‘Khalaaaa’ months after you left her in Karachi is sheer bliss.

Food  - Some of the people I love cook food I love. My nani’s pasandays and kabaabs, my mom’s dozen recipes, my aunt’s desserts and my super talented cousin brother’s sandwiches! (YES, boys make sandwiches too :P). Nothing can beat these. Plus, food from local eateries in Karachi such as Hanif Rajput’s biryani, Hot n Roll’s ahmaazzinggg rolls, Aga Juice’s falooda, PG (Karachi University)’s chaat, etc. are things whose very thought gets me drooling.

Interestingly, I’ve observed, the ingredients there are also so much better than those in Dubai veg, non-veg and everything in between. It’s probably got to do with the freshness factor.

Holidays – I absolutely condemn, detest and *add relevant synonyms* uncalled for holidays in Karachi due to strikes, unnecessary commemoration of the deaths/births/wedding anniversaries of figures of little insignificance and other ridiculous reasons. In recent months these city-shutdowns became as frequent as thrice a week resulting in severe economic loss of the city and the starvation of thousands of poor families.

However, I will honestly and guiltily admit that I miss the uncertainty of Karachi. Imagine going to bed late on a Sunday night, scrolling through text messages on your phone and finding out that Voldemort Avadacadavra-ed the bitterly hated Mr. Monday! Ah, nothing like it.

Weather – I am not a morning person but I do find mornings beautiful. And Fajr time in Karachi is just heavenly. Right half an hour before Fajr, the chirping of the birds, the especially cool breeze in the air and this specific fresh fragrance about the place is sheer bliss.

Also, no matter how hot and sweaty afternoons are, evenings in Karachi are almost always drastically cooler and breezy. This I miss, since I live in a city which is essentially a desert and live by the air conditioner which keeps my room constantly at 18 degrees centigrade.

Places – Of course, I also miss certain physical things and places in Karachi. First and absolutely the most missed place by me is my living room’s sofa. What would I not give to sit/lie/lounge on it while reading a book, having a meal at 3 am or simply pondering over the great mysteries of life! Other places include my grandparent’s home that had been my very own half of my time in Karachi, my neighborhood, IBA and a few others.

There are of course many other reasons that make Karachi miss-able but these reasons made it to the top of my list. Forgive me for not praising the city for reasons close to your heart because it is past four in the morning here and whatever I have managed to write with droopy eyelids is quite an achievement!

Friday, November 22, 2013

How Hijab Came to my Family

20 years back there was no female in my paternal or maternal family who covered her head with a scarf or dupatta. Not even my grandmother who wore sleeveless blouses in her youth. I can use this fact to elaborate on how ‘liberal’ my family is as well how ‘ignorant’ it was about the particular concept of hijab in Islam.

Interesting how something can be perceived by one man as liberty and the other as ignorance. Anyway, moving on…

How it Started – Back in 1998, my closest cousin, Kiran, moved to UK for her higher studies at the age of 18. When she came back to Pakistan, the family was inquisitive about the head scarf she wore everywhere she went on top of her jeans and tops. Her mom too, after a few months, followed suit. When questioned, they explained the importance of covering up satar in the light of the Quraan and ahadith. This was in 1999, when I was 10. And this is when I, my mom and my grandmother realized how wrong it was not to cover up.

For a few years we didn’t copy them, but we did respect their hijabs. A couple of years later, my mom started going to the market with her head covered. As a pre-teen, I watched and things started seeping in.

The Pushing – Even though I was indifferent to or perhaps even liked the hijab, I never thought  of adopting it. After all I was just 12. Also I was not to be pushed into it. Once, my granny asked me to put a dupatta on my head because we were to meet a religious person. I scrunched up my nose and refused. No one tells me what to do with my clothes. Though later I had to put it on with a sullen face.

But I was never pushed into anything luckily permanently. The only requirement set by my dad was ‘modest’ clothing i.e. wearing loose clothes. So until today most of my time at home got spent wearing loose tops and jeans/pjs/pants. They are way more modest than fitted kameezes with dupattas left behind on the iron stand.

2005 – At the end of grade 10, I came to terms with the practice and decided that I would cover my head in a consistent fashion. The scariest part was speculating my mom’s reaction who did not cover up at family gatherings and weddings. But mashaAllah, when she found out, she encouraged me and stood up for me. Very soon, I saw her covering up at events too, mashaAllah. And since, then the scarf/dupatta/chadar has never left my head even inside my house in the presence of na-mehrams.

2006 – I guess, this is the year when it happened. My grandmother stopped wearing saris, something she wore all her life as a primary dressing, and switched to wearing kameezes to ensure that her belly wasn’t showing.

2010 – My only paternal uncle’s daughter, Hana, started practicing hijab too. Born and brought up in London, she could’ve gone either ways. But I think it was the sort of community in East London and my uncle’s religious nature that contributed to her choice. Alhamdulillah, her two teenaged sisters too are gradually coming to hijab and her mom followed suit too.

This is also the year when I started wearing an abaya – something no cousin or aunt of mine carries, unfortunately.

2012 – Another khala’s two daughters, now 16 and 17, seeing me and my elder cousin, Kiran, have now started doing hijab too at family events.

A summary: I have a total of 12 female cousins, 6 hijabis and 6 non-hijabis. All non hijabis but one live in the West.

Interestingly in all cases, the daughters started taking the hijab first and their mothers followed suit soon.
The criticism – No matter what you do, you can never please everyone. There are relatives who support the hijab, there are the indifferent ones and of course there are the critics too. My mom’s 65 year old aunt, who’s a Ph.D and a professor at Karachi University commented on how my hijab was extreme. And I don’t blame the lady. After six decades of her life, watching girls dress up like fire crackers at weddings, she must have naturally felt put off by my loose pistachio colored abaya. Understandable. Even for relatives who support the headscarf, abaya is something that is taking time to get swallowed.

And the criticism goes equally for the young men in the family who have adopted religious values and sported beards. (Point: my family isn’t sexist :P)

In the end, what does matter is the growing tolerance towards the very concept of women complying with the Islamic hijab. With a little acceptance of the elders, who have already lived out most of their lives, the younger generation has a long way to go in terms of changing the socio-cultural landscape.