I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Thursday, December 25, 2008

...A Charity Appeal Of Sorts.

          One of the few things that Lahore used to lag behind Pindi was that you could find Wodehouses in Pindi. In my half a dozen trips to Lahore over the past three odd years,I'd searched every bookstore I'd gone to for Wodehouse. They either didn't stock him, or had only his school stories, or rarely, a novel that I already had. Pindi on the other hand, takes the cake because every old book shop has at least one Wodehouse. I'll grant that 98.5% of the time, they're the ones I already have, but still ....

          On this past week's Lahore trip however, the pattern changed. Not only did I find two new Wodehouses, but also a book I was looking for for a long while (Is two 'for's correct?), namely Richard Usbourne's "Wodehouse At Work To The End". This has stopped me from losing all faith in humanity, and has made me think up a plan. At last count, I have 53 Wodehouse books which leaves me (according to David Jasen's brilliant "P.G. Wodehouse,A Portrait of The Master") with 47 more before I break even.

          Judging from the time it took me to get to 53 ,plus factoring in the decreasing odds of finding one I don't already have, I figure it'll take me 15 odd years to get to a complete set. And even if I count the 25 odd ones I can find online,that's a bit too long a wait.Drastic measures are needed if I'm to get anywhere near my goal of reading all of Wodehouse, and I've thought of one that might go some way in helping me ...

          This is a Wodehouse appeal. I'll list all the Wodehouse books that I haven't got or I can't find online, and if anyone has any of these books, printed, as part of an omnibus, in e-book form or otherwise I'd be ultra-indebted if they could share it with me. A photocopy, an e-book, a book-in-the-mail which I'll solemnly promise to return, or an old fashioned sale (at an extra 10% commission), anywhichway it may be, it'll be immensely appreciated.

             Bill The Conqueror
             If I Were You
             Louder And Funnier
             Doctor Sally
             Mulliner Nights
             Young Men In Spats
             Nothing Serious
             The Old Reliable
             Bring On The Girls
             Performing Flea
             French Leave
             America,I Like You
             Something Fishy
             A Few Quick Ones
             Service With A Smile
             Galahad At Blandings
             Plum Pie
             Do Butlers Burgle Banks?
             A Pelican At Blandings
             The Girl In Blue
             Pearls,Girls And Monty Bodkin
             Bachelors Anonymous
             The Uncollected Wodehouse
             Sunset At Blandings ........

            Here's to a successful experiment

Saturday, December 20, 2008

...In Memoriam

    There was only one place in Pindi worth spending time in, and now that's burned to the ground.
    There were at least a hundred odd shops and businesses in Gakkhar Plaza, and many people that I used to see on a monthly if not weekly basis, like the bloke who would sell us a new stage play every week and promise to find the old NTM/STN comedy shows if he had to dig Rainbow Centre Karachi inside out and who found out that I had a counterfeit 500 bucks note and told me to go spend it somewhere else before anyone found out.
     Cheap chinese shoes,occasionally a decent pair of denims and the Garden Grill on the top floor (which I'd been to only once) were all reasons to go to Gakkhar. But the one thing that made Pindi worth living in was on the 3rd floor and it was what they called "The largest DVD store in Asia". Sadaf CD was the centre of all my excursions and 3 or 4 days wouldn't pass without me taking a peek up there and leaving with a shopping bag full of (grossly overpriced) CDs or DVDs.I figure I've spent more than 60% of all my money in that one place.
     The screwed up internet (a result of some undersea cables being cut, so they tell me) prevents me from waxing too lyrical about the place.Suffice to say that without everything I've bought from that place over the last 4.5 years, I don't know where I'd be...
       I bought my first Dylan there. I bought my first Bergman there. First Kubrick. First Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Hell, first of almost everything...my entire education. I'll end by going to my DVD rack and writing down everything I bought from Sadaf and sparing a moment to thank my lucky stars that I got here 5 years ahead of the game.
     In no specific order,
                        Fantasia
                        Wild Strawberries
                        Smiles Of A Summer Night
                        The Bicycle Thief
                        Porridge (Season1)
                        Yes Minister,Yes Prime Minister
                        Red Dwarf
                        The Monty Python movies
                        Kind Hearts And Coronets,Passport To Pimlico
                        The Birth Of A Nation
                        Metropolis
                        Chori Chori
                        Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi
                        Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro
                        The Haunting
                        All Quiet On The Western Front
                        Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
                        The Adventures Of Robin Hood
                        Citizen Kane
                        All About Eve
                        Sunset Boulevard
                        Stagecoach
                        Judgement At Nuremberg
                        A Streetcar Named Desire
                        The Maltese Falcon
                        North By Northwest
                        Strangers On A Train
                        Spellbound
                        A Clockwork Orange
                        Easy Rider
                        Blow Up
                        The Producers
                        Dr. Strangelove
                        Woody Allen's Sleeper
                        Being There
                        The Big Lebowski
                        Ed Wood
                        I'm Not There
                        Masked And Anonymous
                        Walk The Line
                        The LastWaltz .....................

               I shudder to think what I'd be without any of these.
                May God grant those who died eternal rest, and those who lost their loved ones or suffered monetary losses, the composure to overcome their grief and their loss.

Friday, December 19, 2008

...Of The Best Neighbor I Ever Had

I don't know how,seeing as we didn't receive PBS in Pakistan,but one of my fondest memories as a child is watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood on the telly.Any redeeming quality that i may have today may well be due to a thousand factors, but a fair share fo the credit goes to Mr. Rogers.I remember actually crying when I heard of his death, and would give anything to get to watch all the 23 years worth of shows that Mr. Rogers made.

They say ,"Compared to Johnny Cash,every man knows he's a wuss." And they say about Mr. Rogers,"He made being a wuss cool." Was he a wuss,or can it be that the quote about Cash can apply to Little Ol' Fred Rogers too...

Take a look at this and decide.Only the second time that something I've found online has given me goosebumps. God bless youtube, and God bless Mr. Rogers for "liking me just the way I am"...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

...Of A Great Social Experiment

    The Last Waltz is playig on my iPod as I write,with Paul Butterfield wailing on the harp.Wow.

    Anyway,this post is not about the Last Waltz,although that's a great idea.This post is about my effort to get off my tush and get things done. With four days of  holidays left and a new phone expected later this evening (fingers crossed), I got an idea that I should've had ages ago.
 
    I think the fact that I'm socially awkward has been established.I make few friends, which is acceptable, but I keep in touch with none, which is not. The number of friends and acquaintances that I've lost contact with over the years is in the dozens. And all because of my laziness.Not answering phone calls, text messages, even letters (yes dear kids,I'm old enough to have sent and received letters) and avoiding contact wherever possible have left me with precious few close friends.
 
   And with me turning 22 in March next, that's not an enviable situation (Clapton.Wow !!!) So going against my nature ( and better judgement),I've decided to take steps.A plan has been formulated and let's see what happens if I carry it through. The salient feature include :

    1.Find all my phone contacts that I haven't contacted in the last three months and text 'em.Three months because that's the first thing that popped into my head, and text cuz I can't be bothered to call such a long list.

    2. Look up all my social networking "friends" and send em some sort of generic message to see if they respond.
  
    3. Try to meet everyone I know who lives in Pindi-Islamabad.

    4. Actually make an effort to track down all the "best friends" I've ever had,and there were about half a dozen of those.

          I wanted it to be a five point plan,but can't think of a fifth point. If anyone reads this( chuckle,right ) and can think up something else I can do, do let me know.Alright then......Thundercats Are Go !!!!

    Movies Of The Week,"This Is Spinal Tap","The Other Side Of The Mirror"
    Music Of The Week,"One Kind Favor",B.B. King
    Book Of The Week,"The Good War",Studs Terkel

Sunday, November 30, 2008

... Of Coccoons And Calloway

     Coccooning.
     It is one of the most primitive forms of survival,practiced by divers sub-genuses of the phylum Insecta.But see,there lies the problem.Humans, last I checked, do not belong to any sub-genus of the phylum Insecta.So I guess it must be one of those Darwinian sod-ups that cause species to share each other's habits.The poor Mantis found religion and I ended up spinning a (figurative) silk-and-saliva mantle around me to lie in a semi-vegetative state for three odd months.

   There's something worse than ennui.It's lethargy,I-don't-care-a-whoop,mental block and winter-madness combined.I call it cocooning and it's bleeding terrible.Now that my final year of Med school has started and the moments of leisure are few and far between,I ought to start appreciating them before they run out.And run out they will,come February next year.Run out forever I fear.But instead, a queer listless sod-all-ness has gripped me.

    As an aside....God Bless Rafi !!!

  It started with the blog.There's tons of things to write,tons of ways to write em and tons of time to write 'em in.But it doesn't seem worth the effort.There's hare-brained schemes to be hatched, hatched schemes to be incubated, but all I seem to be doing is collect blue jokes.In that department,I'm proud to say,I am now self-sufficient !!

  Although life is going on as smooth as it's ever gone,there's a clear scent of dry rot.It's insidious and it's bleedin' dangerous, but there it is.(If it wasn't for Rafi on iTunes as i type,I woulda left the blog as it is,shut down my PC and gone to sleep.So, blame him.) And as anyone wh's ever had to deal with dry rot knows,measures have to be taken or there'll be trouble.Well,it's about goshdarned time to take the goshdarned steps.There's a Mission Statement mapped out, a time-frame set and To-Do lists made.

  I've spent the weekend revisiting Betty Boop.Thank heavens for Youtube,the uninhibited Bette Davis-Marion Davies-Gracie Allen mash-up is viewable in all her trippy fabulousness.But this time,it wasn't Betty that had me sozzled,it was this . . .



   Originally derived from another song called  "The Unfortunate Rake",this traditional tune has been done by many,but this Louis Armstrong version had my hairs stand up on end.There's many theories about what this song is about,but my favorite ones are that it's a song about a gambler who goes to the St. James Infirmary to identify his dead sweetheart and then goes off to gamble again.Or that it's about a man who sees his girl dead of Syphillis and knows that he's next ...

   Either way,it's an incredible song, and Satch does it full justice.But take a look at this if you will ...


    That's Cab Calloway rotoscoped as Ko-Ko the Clown from the Betty Boop short "Snow White".For the uninitiated,rotoscoping is a form of animation where the movements of a person are traced-around from a live action film and then animated.The backgrounds, the kooky dance steps, the voice, you don't see that any more.

   From there to the two other shorts Cab Calloway did for Betty, to this ....



    If that isn't enough to snap one out of a coccoon,I don't know what is....

    Cheers !!

    Song Of The Week,"The St. James Infirmary Blues",Louis Armstrong,Cab Calloway,The White Stripes.
    Movie Of The Week,"M*A*S*H"
       
  

Sunday, November 2, 2008

...Of A Few Quick Ones

 This'll make do while I unclog my brain...

             1. They say Modern Bob is Better Than No Bob.They're wrong.Modern Bob is better than almost anyone else out there.

 2.Saigal appears promising.After a lifetime of giving him the miss,he's begun to creep into my brain one song at a time.

 3.If anyone's wondering why my hair's turning grey at such an alarming rate,let them spend the last two weeks in my shoes.

 4.Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee are the two people I'd like to meet in Hell.

 5.Today my voice is better than I've ever heard it before.It sounds like a cross between (dare i say it) Saleem Raza and that guy "What's-His-Name".

 6.Being home alone is always fun, but especially when it's clandestine.

 7. I know it's too good to last,but two days without load-shedding makes me harken back to the pre-stone-age days.

 8. I have to get it into my brain that this is my last year of blogging.

 9. Remember the good old days when the only viruses came in USBs and didn't send out Viagra ads ...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

...Of Erstwhile Homes

We move tomorrow.

I was born in 1987, (no, really) and that makes me what, 21 years old. In those 21 years, dad’s been posted to, let’s see…

Tabuk, Saudi Arabia,
Abbottabad,
Sialkot,
Islamabad,
Jhelum,
Sargodha,
Murree,
Rawalpindi,
Sargodha,
Jhelum,
Rawalpindi,
Abbottabad
And now, for the third time, Rawalpindi…..

Allowing for repeated postings, we have had to shift homes a dozen times in 21 years and now’s the 13th time (touch-wood). Calling it a hassle would be the understatement of the century. It’s really a credit to Mum that most of our stuff has escaped unscathed from all this moving about.. Now, the drill is being repeated again. Most of the stuff is in those ubiquitous little brown cardboard boxes, which will go into those rickety ol’ wooden crates, which will be wheeled up in those gleamin’ ol trucks and shaken, rattled and rolled to their new destination.

Practice makes perfect, and what usually took one week of frantic packing with at least half a dozen hired hands was done this time at a meandering pace with just two people working over two weeks. The whole shebang woulda been done and dusted two days ago had it not been for the 12 relatives who descended unannounced. That, of course meant hasty unpacking all the cutlery, crockery and at least three beds. How Mum kept the expletives in is beyond my imagination.

Anyhoo, the relatives are gone, all the stuff has been re-packed and all that remains to be sorted are two beds, a fewpieces of crockery….and my PC. This gets packed early tomorrow morning just in time to be loaded onto the waiting trucks.The two year sojourn ( one of my favorite words, along with gonorrhea) in Abbottabad has been a vital experience.

My grandfather died in Abbottabad, and I will be eternally grateful for the care he received at the hospital here. I lost my phone here (or it was stolen, depending on whom you believe), and bought this poor battered creature that’s been molested far more than what it deserved for it’s 13,000 Rs. price. I built most of my Dylan collection here, thanks to one of the best surprise gifts I’m ever likely to receive, namely the complete Dylan discography.

I’ve seen the price of a Pindi-Abbottabad coaster ticket go from 65 to 75 to 90 to 100 to 110 to 130 bucks in two years. The first real snowfall in ten years, the best homegrown peaches, apricots, almonds, and apples ever (In fact the ONLY homegrown peaches, apricots, almonds and apples), the delicious biting cold winters which my Mum hated, and the fact that even now, we only had 4 hours of power outages when Pindi had 7 have made Abbottabad one of my favorite places of residence. Add to this the fact that since I only came over for weekends, I didn’t do much socializing and hence no friendships to be painfully broken. Can’t say the same about my kid sister though…

Thursday, July 31, 2008

...Of Rafi And Family Curses

Its 28 years since Rafi died. It’s terribly shameful that I didn’t realize this till ‘round 7 pm this evening when I came back from jogging and there was a show about him on Geo. A pretty commendable show at that, comforting in the fact that even if the Indian film community, or at least certain members of it are deliberately trying to dilute his legacy, Pakistan hasn’t forgotten one of Lahore’s greatest sons. I don’t think I need to repeat how I feel about him, but to paraphrase; I think he was inarguably the greatest singer I’ve ever heard. And if I haven’t heard a greater singer, it’s not from want of trying.

The funny thing is that each day brings forth another gem that I hadn’t heard before. Take this, for example. A silly little song with Dev Anand as an Ice-Cream vendor, and a bunch of little kids (one of whom is in quite a state of undress) dancing around him. It is what was called a filler song, of little importance, but Rafi has sung it in his “special voice”. If anyone doesn’t know what his “special” voice is, here’s an example. I had bought a brilliant CD of old Pakistani songs from a roadside CD-wala in Pindi, which is pretty mind-blowing in it’s own right, but that’ll have to wait now. It’s Rafi for a whole week now, and nothing else.

…………………………………………………………………………..

The Lalis are an endemic clan, with Jhang and Sargodha their areas of greatest concentration. A storied tribe, with bloodlines linking them with Sultan Tipu, the Lion Of Mysore, as well as quite a few prominent Muslim saints. A few may have made Lahore their home, but the nucleus of the clan is the little town of Lalian, an hour’s journey from Sargodha on the Sargodha-Faisalabad road. Around a hundred odd years ago, their activities included bothering “peaceful” Sikhs and Hindus, having a go at Bhattis and Sipras, and during the World Wars, receiving the “Acknowledgement And Appreciation Of The Viceroy And His Britannic Majesty” for generous donations towards the Red Cross.

These traits have now been substituted with even more admirable ones like drug-trading, stealing canal-water and selling off huge tracts of land. But two things have remained with the Lalis form the days of Gaji Khan (Ghazi Khan, our oldest common ancestor) and those constitute the Lali Family Curse…..Obesity and Male Pattern Baldness!!

The main clan, the cadet branches, even the poor unfortunates who married into the Lali clan, all are inflicted by this curse. The baldness of course is the sole property of males, but the obesity is pretty equally distributed amongst both the sexes. In my case, the baldness stayed on one side and the obesity on the other side of the gender divide in case of my grandparents, but my uncles and aunts have been more equitably blessed with varying combinations of both.

So I’ve been aware ever since I was a tyke that one day I too would be struck down by any one, or God forbid, both of these afflictions. There was a faint glimmer of hope when my kid brother started losing hair like nobody’s business. A year later, the temples began receding, and now the poor sod is earnestly saving cash for a hair transplant. But though his hairline was betraying him, the waistline was above reproach. Sadly I resigned myself to the worse of the two curses (the curse of the two verses???), namely the potbelly.

I wasn’t too worried over hair-loss though, a benevolent Kismet (gimme another word for it if you can), and plenty of head-shaves in infancy had given me good hair, albeit with the consistency of obstinate barbed wire. I was beginning to believe that I would be like one of those lucky uncles of mine who went through life without a toupee to hide their shame. And thus I earnestly set out to achieve the second of the major family traits, and I’m pleased to report that a beer-belly is already developing and ‘tis but a few more weeks of hard work that keep me from a pot belly.

But the sense of security was a false one. Around the time my 4th year exam cycle started three and a half months ago, the unthinkable happened; I began to lose hair. And as it never rains but pours, began to lose ‘em aplenty. Now I’m a pretty strong hearted kid, and don’t get unduly alarmed by much (I think the snakebite and shotgun wound have something to do with that) , but I was darned well frightened. I consider combs to be unnecessary luxuries, and consider a few strokes of my fingers sufficient to make my hair presentable (the Oxford English Dictionary even has a pretty fruity name for people like me; “finger waver”). But now each “wave” of the fingers brought forth further follicular fatalities (hehehe).

I persevered as well as I could during my exams, losing many a precious hair in the process. Finally, as my exams ended, I faced a grim decision. Carry on in the same vein and be the proud owner of a shiny pate in a couple of years, or take the plunge. After a few days of hesitation, and much to my mum’s consternation, I took the ultimate step.

As of exactly 1200 hours today, I am officially a skinhead (no, not one of the neo Nazi, National Front, White Power twits) and I must admit, it feels ultra-groovy…

Now if only I could jog that waistline back to its senses……

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

...Of Summer Trip 2.0

Before I start, let me say that “Kahin Dil Pe Na Jadoo Kar Jaaye” by Masood Rana is my new favorite song.

As I sit here writing this, my four month long exam ordeal is over.It has been an inhumanly exhausting and nerve racking experience. From the early reports, I don’t appear to be in danger of flunking any of my subjects, which is more than good enough. Examinifitications not being the pleasantest of topics, I shan’t linger on them for too long. The highlights of the three week long finals were I think,

- The beer-belly that munching on endless Cheetos brought about, and I’m trying to get rid of now.
- The beard that appeared somewhere during my pre-Pre-Finals break and now appears to be a fixture, and my mum’s trying to get rid of now.
- Watching Kung Fu Panda and the new Aamir \Imran Khan thingy the same day and enjoying both immensely.
- Late night laptop borrowings to watch Chori Chori and Fantasia. Yes the Disney one, not the Idol one.

As George Harrison (my favorite Beatle, dontcha know) sang, “All Things Must Pass”, my exams have passed and I hope to heavens that I do too. My attention turns back to the start of my Pre-Finals holidays and the Annual Summer Trip.

Twenty-one days had seemed woefully short to prepare for the 4th Year finals, what with there being two extra subjects and the holidays being at least ten days shorter than the normal thirty we get.. So I wasn’t very eager when dad kept asking me if I could spare three or four days at the start of the holidays for the Annual Summer Trip. It appeared that ‘round 18 relatives (and quite a few of them were very round indeed) were gonna be joining us this time and that the trip would be a very elaborate affair, complete with production numbers and chorus lines. The only incentive for me was the new 8 megapixel camera and remembering how great the last trip had been.

Road-trip-mixtape-making is one of my favorite things to do,but as anyone who’se done it knows, time consuming. And with the trip starting the very next day from the end of my pre-finals, it seemed that Road-Trip-Music was in danger. God bless the Chinese !! For apart from their child restriction programs and state approved exercise regimens, they also make those delightful little cassette thingies that you can plug an ipod into and with a few whacks on it’s side, play in any decent car deck. The added advantage was that I could carry all my music with me. The disadvantage was that I forgot my wall charger back at the hostel and so could only use the darned pod in the car and not anywhere else. Aah well…

A picture’s worth a thousand words, as they say, so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking. All the following were taken by me with the 8 megapixel camera and I’m pretty proud of them if I might say so myself….

……As I write this, I’ve found out that Bob Dylan’s new album, “Tell Tale Signs- The Bootleg Series Volume 8” is coming out on the 7th of October…..

















A Bearded Chappie In White Trainers



A Bridge Over Troubled Waters


Mist Mountains




The Kunhaar




The Spider In The Mist



The Spider By Day

Saif-ul-Mulook

The Cold Stranger

The Three Brothers


The Three Sisters




Islands In The Stream



Songs Of The Week,The new Ahmed Rushdi\Saleem Raza CD.
Books Of The Week,"The Last Lion:Alone",William Manchester
Movie Of The Week,"The Bicycle Thieves"

Monday, July 28, 2008

....Of Jet Pilots

7/3/79



Dear Super Cool Jet Pilot.

Thanks for being here,you can fly me any day...



Pounded the streets of Oslo for 4 hours this afternoon (this idea that the cold in Norway is different from home is rubbish,it's just as damp and miserable).The Hotel is very nice and unbelievably warm.Off to the frozen wastes tomorrow - hope the sundecides to shine.Paid a visit to the Munch Museum & hope to visit the Park with all the nude sculptures on the return visit !!

Prices aren't too bad,so might not be broke when I get back.We're not exploring the night life of Oslo tonight- too shattered from walking (that's my excuse).Hope the cottage sorts itself out okay.See you soon,all my love (& more).

Fats XXXX

P.S XXXXXXX

........Found on an unsent postcard tucked in a secondhand copy of Kerouac's Dharma Bums..........

Sunday, May 4, 2008

...Of Many Things

Let's cut to the chase here.This post is going to be a good old fashioned rant,like the earlier ones.No fixed topics,no hyperlinks and no pre-planned paragraphs.It's one o'clock at night,the last night at home after a four day weekend.I've just had my midnight marauding trip to the fridge and I have a pitcher full of coke (cold for a change).There's Dire Straits on iTunes radio,the windows are open ,letting in the summer-mountain air through the screen and I know that Bijli won't go again tonight (touch wood...). Bliss is made of simple things,like Mike Knopfler fingerpicking the night away....

I have two half finished posts that will probably never see the light of the day.There's a Dylan post that was supposed to be my first in a series on him.And then there's one on the Goons and The Goon Show,which for the uninitiated is the greatest radio show of all time.(DVDs available to give away).I wouldn't call it laziness,probably a mental block that prevents me from finishing them,and with the study schedule in the near future,I don't think they'll get posted any time soon.

Now they're playing Paul McCartney by the way....

So,I just finished watching "What Women Want".(Yes,I like RomComms,you got a problem with that??).I had rented it for the night,and watching it again made for pretty good time-killing. It got me thinking too.Now I don't pretend that I'm ol' Melvyn or anything,but one of the things that I pride myself on is the fact that I can sense what someone is feeling.Or at least I think I do.

Van Halen's Playing.Thought you'd like to know...

Trust me,this reading-between-the-words,it's not such a lucky thing to have.Ever since I can remember,I've been able to sense whenever there's been...say any tension in the house.Whenever one of my folks is slightly,or more than slightly miffed,I can sense it in their tones of voice,their body language and their bearing that something's up.That's generally my signal to lie low and watch my siblings do something to touch off a spark that ignites the volatile atmosphere...while I smugly snicker.

"While I Smugly Snicker".Sounds like something George Harrison woulda written,dunnit ??

On the subject of earaches.I think I've discovered the root cause,and it's the darned ipod earphones.I had bad,bad pharyngitis and probably the quickest fever cycle in history( from 98 to 103 to 98 in 24 hours) and it'll be at least two weeks till I stop sounding like bally Tiny Tim when I sing.I'd thought that that was the cause of these ruddy earaches.But the fact that they keep shifting to whichever ear is undergoing ipodtrauma.Sad,because I'm not giving up these earthingies for anything.Will have to learn to live with the earaches I guess.

They just played Cliff Richard.Heaven seems intent on spoiling me,and I'd be the last person you'll hear complaining...

Movie Of The Week,"The Last Waltz"(because I have it on my ipod now)
Song Of The Week," Jhunjhlaye Hain,Lajaye Hain,Phir Muskuraye Hain",Begum Akhtar.
Book Of The Week,"Wodehouse,A Biography" by Frances Donaldson.(just finished it,capital capital book)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

...Of Men,Old And Old

(This is the second in a series of posts written in a single sitting to make up for lost time.)



-"In my heliotrope pyjamas with the old gold stripe..."

Read that line.Read it again and then tell me if it isn't the finest line you've ever read.Evelyn Waugh compared it to the best passages of Hamlet,Hilaire Belloc called it's writer "The best living writer in the English language".Plum wrote it.P.G. Wodehouse.



I sat down to write tonight after two horrid weeks of examinations.There had been divers things that needed writnhg,but, a) I didn't have time during the exams and b) they were tiny snippets of fleeting thoughts and afternoon-slumber-dreams that didn't warrant a full post.But the one thing they had in common was that they all were,how shall I put it....gentlemen advanced in years.



Old men.



This is a bit complicated.Most of the people I'm going to write about must have been young at some point in their lives (?),but my memory of them developed as old men.Take Plum,for example.Born in 1881,he must have been young till,shall we say 1921 (stretching it to breaking point),and I've got photographs to prove it.But the Plum I remember is ninety one years old.Living peacefully in Remsenberg,NY;working on his ninety-sixth novel.Aah well,that must be what Pavlov meant about conditioning.



What follows is a series of snippets about various men who have been profoundly close to my heart,and still are.Men I've grown up seeing,or discovered after they had passed away.Let me start with the youngest one first.



-Dildar Pervez Bhatti.I hope somebody still remembers him.I had a dream about him five days ago,during what might be termed as a power-nap.Strange,but not very out-of-the-ordinary,considering the fact that he was one of my childhood heroes.I was born a bit too late for his "Takra" days on PTV,(aah what stage shows they had on PTV in those days,sigh),but I was old enough to watch "Panjnad",and what a show that was.



Fronted by Bhatti,always in a blue Shalwar Kameez-dark waistcoat combo or something similar,looking half like a stock mad professor from a Hammer film,with his half bald-half Jewfro hair,this show was the tops.Considering it was considered part of the regional broadcast timeslot,the quality of the program and the guests that were on it were unbelievable.My favorite memory,also the funniest is of the time Munnoo Bhai was on the show.

I'm pretty sure it won't sound half as funny in English,but the exchange went something like this.

Dildar,"Tell me,what does your wife call you at home? Munnoo ??"
M.B,"Nope.She calls me.....dildaar !"

I don't have much to remember Bhatti by.There's a fourteen years old "Women's Own" magazine lying about my village home with Bhatti on the cover.

And then there's my crazy dreams...

......This series will continue intermittently,laziness permitting......

Saturday, April 19, 2008

....Of Splendour In The Grass

(This is the first in a series of blogs written in a single sitting,making up for lost time)





It's purely by chance that truely astounding things get discovered.I can name countless examples.Wodehouse,Dylan,that wonderful Tikka shop near the hostels,Spike Milligan;almost everything dropped right out of the blue.Well,technically Khattak Tikka House doesn't count,because I was darned hungry.But two weeks ago,something similar happened.Sordid,but beautiful.



Every time I have exams,the impish desire to quit studying and do something a bit more howshallisay,worthwhile,gets the best of me.It's always led me to trouble.Case in point,finishing the complete Sherlock Holmes a day before my Matriculation Physics paper,thus dishing any chance I may have had of getting respectable grades.It was exam time again,and I was playing hookey like nobody's business.



It was Saturday night,exams in four days,and I was odling around online.There wasn't anything special to do,so I wound up at a forum.It was a place where I'd go for rare old Bollywood songs,and the folks there had always obliged.I was just sluicing among the topics when I chanced upon "Mubarak Begum Needs Help".

"It's just another chain message,hoping for some poor sod to click and get his PC infected",I thought.Usually I don't go poking around such messages but I thought,what the heck.As it turned out,it wasn't a chain mail,but something completely different.


It was a piece about an old Indian playback singer,Mubarak Begum,who had fallen on hard times.It seems she had sung a handful of songs back in the fifties and early sixties but hadn't been exceedingly popular.These days,she was living in utter squalor in Mumbai.Her son was a taxicab driver,and his meagre earnings,along with the little bit that some old fan sent along once in a while,were all that she and her forty year old Alzhiemer's ridden daughter were living on.


Now I think I wrote a blog post on how I feel about faded celebrities,or faded artists shall we say.So I read the piece with the usual cynical pity.Having read on,I learned that the folks on the forum( now that's a good name for a band,Folks On The Forum.Or a radio show...) were trying to get some money collected for her.


At the end of the page,there was brief mention of her two or three better known songs.It turned out I had one of them,but it was incorrectly credited to Lata.Having nothing better to do,I googled one of her songs,put it on download and went off for my midnight snack (which is usually more of a midnight banquet).It being Abbottabad and the connection being Dial-Up,I had finished my sizeable meal by the time the song got downloaded.


It was almost 3 AM,the witching hour,when I wrapped the blanket tighter around me and played the song.It started with a scratchy,haunting flute piece with background violins.On came the voice,and off went my senses.Goosebumps all over my body,I didn't have time to hitch up my sagging jaw as waves upon waves of that sublime voice hit me.It was almost electric,the tingling I felt.And suddenly,the reality of it hit me.This voice,this honest-to-goshdarn voice was the one that was down among the wine and spirits.Normally emotions need a face to associate with,with me it varies.I had seen her picture in the piece bout her,but apart from the aforementioned pangs of helpless pity,nothing else came forth.


But now I had a voice to go with that face,those termite ridden walls and that invalid daughter of hers.My normally lazy mind started whirring,a quick mental calculation of the contents of my bank account and I was decided.A modest wire transfer and my conscience could rest,while my ears attuned themselves to "Kabhi Tanhaiyon Main Yun Hamari Yaad Aayegi"...


Song Of The Week,"Raag Bhimpalas",Ustad Bare Ghulam Ali Khan.
Books of The Week,"Robbins' Pathology",J.E Park's "Community And Public Health",Renu Jogi's "Basic Ophthalmology".Dhingra's "Ear,Nose And Throat".

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

...Of Extreme Ennui And It's Interesting Cosequences

I don't like spring.It depresses me.

I'd rather stay stuck in eternal,hazy,sleety winters than wait for the gradual arrival of bloody summer with all the rituals that go with it;the putting away of the sweaters,the gradual transition from quilt-to-blanket-to cotton sheet-to birthday suit and the fateful day you turn the fan on for the first time in six months.(That is,officially,the longest sentence I've ever written.)But most of all,spring gets me melancholy.Every passing day seems like a waste,an opportunity fleeting away.Every friend that leaves the hostels to become a day-scholar is like another one in my long list of acquaintances I can't be bothered about.

And with the added torment of Gen. Mushtaq's death and that terrible week that's gone by,I'm on the razor's edge.In such a state,you can't blame me if I whine a little,(something I'm not too fond of,I hope) and do stuff that goes against my normal nature.

Now I'm pretty much against chain mail,(not the jingly jangly kind as worn by Palin and the lot in Monty Python And The Holy Grail,the other kind)chain messages,chain anything for that matter.But in my bored ramblings I stumbled on something of the chainspecies that kinda got me interesting.Call me a shill who's sold out to the dark side,but I'm taking the plunge.Here it goes...

Rules:

1. Put your MP3 player on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write the name of the song no matter what.

Here goes !!!


1.IF SOMEONE SAYS “IS THIS OKAY?” YOU SAY?
Ans.The Sun's Gonna Shine Again....Ray Charles. (Like hell it is,brain-meltingly hot)

2.WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY ?
Ans.I Shall be Free....Bob Dylan (I'm A Poet/I know it/Hope I don't blow it..???)

3.WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
Ans.A sentimental mood.....Stan Getz (Do I now ???)

4.HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
Ans.Everything Is Broken....Bob Dylan (Cor bloody hell !!! How'd it know that ??)

5.WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF YOUR LIFE ?
Ans.Heartbreak Hotel....Elvis Presley (Knew it.Bloody knew it...Aah well.)

6.WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
Ans.Running Scared....Roy Orbison. (Hehehehe...pretty apt.)

7.WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
Ans.The Lady is ATramp.....Frank Sinatra. ( *Blushes*)

8.WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR PARENTS?
Ans.You're Gonna Quit Me.....bob Dylan. (What a horrid thought...)

9.WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
Ans.Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi.....Manna Dey/Lata. (I do,I swear I do.I'm a bloody disciple of this thing.)

10.WHAT IS 2+2?
Ans.Na Tha Kuch Tau Khudaa Tha....Jagjit Singh. (Again,pretty apt.)

11.WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Ans.Fly Me To The Moon.....Doris Day. (Aww shucks....*best friend edges away suspiciously*)

12.WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE ?
Ans.Na Aadmi Ka Koi Bharosa,Na Dosti Ka Koi Thikaana....Rafi. (Gulp !!)

13.WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
Ans.Mess Around....Ray Charles. (All hail Random Blog-Tagging game !!!)

14.WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
Ans.Hound Dog.....Elvis Presley. (Major major grin.....)

15.WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Ans.Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat....Lata. (So that's how it's gonna be,is it ? Aah well....)

16.WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
Ans.Seven Curses.....Bob Dylan. (Gosh I hope not !!)

17.WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Ans.If I Were Gay....Stephen Lynch. (..........)

18.WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
Ans.Ooby Dooby !!.....Roy Orbison. (Figures.They'll prolly do sinful dances too.)

19.WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
Ans.The Ballad of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest....Bob Dylan. (Don't go mistakin' paradise/For that house down the road.)

20.WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
Ans.Yeh Ab Aap Sochiye....Rafi/Asha. (Hahaha,that's right....you try and find out !)

21.WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
Ans.This Will Make You Laugh....Nat King Cole. (Damn right,they always manage to crack me up)

So,that's that.Turned out to be more fun than I thought it would,and that's 40 minutes elegantly wasted.I hope this,and the planned trip to Lahore on the 14th do something to cheer me up.As it stands,I'm in for a pretty drab birthday tomorrow....

P.S.Anyone who reads this is tagged and has to do the same...(Which actually means myself and a nut named Musab)


Song Of The Week,"Meri Dastaan-e-Hasrat,Zahida Parveen.
Movie of The Week,"Strangers On A Train".(1951)
Book Of The Week,"Selected Short Stories Of Franz Kafka.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

....Of Mourning

How do you mourn for someone ?
Someone you met barely once or twice,
But wished that you knew all your life.

How do you mourn when your senses have been shot ?
And your eyes,unaccustomed to tears,
Suddenly gush forth in silent agony.

How can you cry,when you know you can't ?
When your resolve is all that stands between;
A shattered friend and his tears.

How can you grieve for Father ?
For his children,your brothers and sisters,
With their eyes empty,yet o'erflowing.

How can you reconcile your mind ?
When you know there won't be any closure,
When your heart will never accept it.

How can you comfort a brother ?
Whose burden is much worse than yours,
And yet you can't imagine anything worse than what you feel.

How can you keep the nightmares away ?
When all you see is your own flesh and blood,
Irrecognizable in the fog of your fevered mind.

How can you banish the Black Dog ?
As it snarls,as it slinks,sinks down in your heart,
And you know that it's going to be a long spring.


In Loving Memory.....Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Baig,may he find eternal paradise.
May Allah grant Imran and all his family the strength to get through this horrendous time.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

....Of Munich '58

I have a knack for doing things in reverse.





Take Dylan, for example.I was a Dylan fan way before I had heard him sing.Way before that in fact.I had stumbled upon an article about him,gotten hooked and began to dug deep. I read up everything I could get my hands on,which wasn't very much I must admit.But it gave me an idea of what I was in for before I was floored by Like A Rolling Stone. I'm pretty sure that if I'd heard that brilliant nasal drone unawares,my experience would have been quite different.





I am a football freak,as any friend of mine would tell you.I support Manchester United..(the understatement of the century),have done so for at least ten years now.The first United match I saw was eight years ago.(He's loony,you say...and I don't blame you).





The same lopsided logic applies here.It wasn't the football United played that attracted me.Niether did the fact that they were the most successful and entertaining side in the world while I was growing up in the nineties.Or the fact that by the time I started following them religiously,they had won,or were on the verge of winning just about every trophy you could name.





The reason I fell in love with United was...Munich.





At the end of the Second World War,United were a struggling club ; almost bankrupt,their stadium badly bombed,without a full time manager.That's when they hit a rich vein of luck by signing a Scotsman, a former Manchester City and Liverpool player as manager.His name was Matt Busby.He inherited a football team in a very sad state,but he set about remedying it.The key word was Youth.Lads in school,or just out of school with a knack for playing fast,attacking,entertaining football.





A team was quickly built,and the work began.They won the FA cup in 1948,defeating a strong Blackpool side.Four years later,they were League champions.As the first great post-war team was maturing,the plan kicked into overdrive and the first batch of youngsters got signed.This batch was already proving to be outstanding,having won the FA Youth Cup an astonishing five times.Roger Byrne,Jackie Blanchflower,Bill Foulkes,Mark Jones,David Pegg,Liam Whelan,Eddie Colman and Duncan Edwards joined the first team,a product of the United youth and scouting program.





Something magical happened,this team of young lads turned into the leanest football machine in England.They won the League in 1956.And again in 1957.And they didn't just win it,they won it with style,with pace and attacking vigor that had never before been seen.They were not just a team anymore.,They were Matt Busby's little bounders.They were The Busby Babes !!





If ever they're playing in your town,


You must get to that football ground,


Take a look and you will see,


Football taught by Matt Busby.


Manchester,


Manchester United,


A bunch of bouncing Busby babes,


They deserve to be knighted.





So goes a famous terrace song,"Manchester Calypso"





But winning in England was just the beginning.There was a new adventure just beginning...Europe. England had long considered itself the home of football,and somewhat scorned upon the rest of the football playing world.The notion that since they had invented the game,they were by default the best team,was shattered when the Hungarians-The Mighty Magyars-,thrashed them at Wembley,England's home ground.English football had retreated into a Europhobic shell by the time the Babes arrived,but European club football was just starting.





The English Football Association-The FA-,myopically prohibited any English club from playing in Europe.But Matt Busby defied them and entered Manchester United in the european Cup.The Babes' first European game was at home to Belgian club Anderlecht.There was apprehension as to how the kids from England would faare against European opposition.But all those fears were allayed as the Babes licked Anderlecht 10-0.The adventure was on.





They reached the semi-final in their first attempt,ultimately losing to eventual winners Real Madrid in an entertaining encounter.But the stage was set,the torch had been lit and the Babes were ready for another try,confident that this time they could go all the way.1958 began on a positive note.Slow and steady,the Babes were advancing on three fronts.They were onthe way to reclaiming their third League title,were still in the FA cup,and had just won the first leg of the European Cup quarter final against Red Star Belgrade (Crevna Zvevda).





Full of anticipation,the team set out to Yugoslavia for the return leg of the match.On 6th February,1958,after a very intriguing game,they drew 3-3,thus ensuring a place in the semi final against AC Milan of Italy.The second Semi-Final in the second attempt.This time,there was a genuine hope that this team,whose average age was just 22,would go all the way.They flew back to England on a twin-propeller Elizabethan aircraft.With a blizzard raging,they had to stop at Munich to refuel.A quick refuel later,they were ready to take off.A first attempt failed,so did a second one.





There were thoughts about abandoning the trip for the day and heading back on the next,but the captain decided against it.The runway was covered with ice and slush,the wings were iced over.and there was heavy snowing when the plane set off for the third time.The plane set off,and just before the wheels left the tarmac,the plane skidded,slipped and crashed into a barrier.One of it's wings hit the side of a house and the plane caught fire.As survivors dragged themselves out of the burning wreckage,the greatest tragedy in english football had unfolded.

At 3.04 PM on 6th February 1958,23 people died,including eight of the Busby Babes-Geoff Bent,Roger Byrne,Eddie Colman,Mark Jones,David Pegg,Tommy Taylor and Billy Whelan.In addition,three club officials,Walter Crickmer,Tom Curry and Bert Whalley also perished,along with the plane staff and some journalists.The greatest football team in England was no more.





Duncan Edwards,Big Brilliant Dunc followed fifteen days later,after valiantly struggling for life,even saying that he was ready for the next match,two days before he passed away.Matt Busby,the manager,badly injured,struggled on.His injuries were so severe that he was twice given his Last Rites.



Back in England,the country was in shock.The whole of England,irrespective of club loyalties,was in mourning for the bunch of young lads who had set football ablaze with their own brand of football.The loss to Manchester United,and to British football was immense.Most of the Babes were playing for their national teams,and were a symbol of hope for the international tournaments to come.The crash not only deprived United of their greatest team,but also cost England the world cups of 1958 and 1962,which would have had entirely different outcomes if the likes of the great Duncan Edwards had played.

The story wasn't over yet,in a scene unimaginable today,United had to play their next competitive match just 13 days later.An immobile Matt Busby told assistant manager Jimmy Murphy,"Keep the flag flying,Jimmy".In barely two weeks,Murphy managed to string together a team that included survivors still recovering from the trauma,reserve team players and hastily bought replacements.This team astonishingly reached the final of the FA cup,before losing to Bolton 2-1 in an emotional final as Matt Busby,in crutches,watched from the sidelines.


Busby was the one who suffered the most.He head seen these kids grow up,and he considered himself responsible for the disaster by ignoring the FA's orders and playing in Europe.These feelings stayed with him for many years,while he rebuilt Manchester United from the ground up,just as he had done after the war.This resurgence was finally complete when,10 years after the crash,United beat Benfica from Portugal 4-1 at Wembley to finally lift the European Cup which they had set out for way back in 1957.Matt Busby was knighted that year for his services to football.This was the ultimate fruit of Busby's labours,it also served as his great catharsis....


That was the story that turned me into a United fan,and as I watched United win against Munich that night in 1999 in the greatest European final ever,my journey was complete.It would have been Sir Matt's 90'th birthday if he was alive,but it served as the greatest birthday gift nonetheless.

I am still a United fan;I miss classses to watch them play,skip marriages and functions,scream my head off when we score a goal(just ask my neighbours),and sulk for days when we lose.But Munich is still special.And every year,when the 6th of February comes nearer,I go through my collection of articles,videos and photos,and -call me asentimental sod if you will-get almost teary eyed.This year was the 50th anniversary of the crash.The club commemorated it splendidly,the fans did their part brilliantly,while I sit here typing my own silent remembrance.


Here's to the Babes.....The Flowers Of Manchester !!


Books Of The Month...Among The Thugs.Bill Buford.The Compulsive Spike Milligan.
Movies Of The Month...I'm Not There,Atonement,Sweeney Todd,There Will Be Blood.
Songs Of The Month....Bob Dylan And Wynton Marsalis,Jazz In New York City (Bootleg)