Saturday, January 31, 2009

Graduate School... Definitely? Maybe?

I've been thinking about applying for grad school. A post-graduate degree would be helpful I guess, (notwithstanding the feel-good factor :D) but do I really need it? I know I don't want to do an MBA and I also know that I wouldn't want to be stuck in a PhD program slaving away in a lab or writing endless research papers for the next 5 years of my life. So the obvious choice would be going in for a Master's program, preferably in a non-technical field (I've had enough of rowing into Lake Carnegie twice a day to sample dirty water to last me a lifetime :P)

Most universities in the UK offer one-year Masters degrees; in the US and Canada it can take up to 2 years depending on what you study (technical subjects are usually 1-year programs, liberal arts subjects take longer). Since I haven't quite figured out what I want to do with my life (besides saving the world!), I need to pick something sensible to major in so I can keep my options open. Grad school will also mean:
1. A drain on my (limited) finances
2. Moving again (since the universities in AD aren't exactly the greatest)
3. Subsisting on less than 5 hours of sleep, black coffee and instant noodles
4. Wearing sweatshirts, jeans and flipflops (this, I'm happy about :))

Also, the parents have been hinting at the m-word, "Beta, get settled, then you can do whatever you like," except, in my case, I've basically had the freedom to do what I wanted since I left home at seventeen to seek my fortune (with mom and dad's complete support of course). A husband won't be quite as understanding as mom and dad... plus, I'll have to cook nihari :P

So, should I put my life on hold until I "get settled" or go ahead and apply?

Friday, January 30, 2009


I vividly remember my first day at Pton. Mom, dad, little bro and sis had all come to drop me off and my lovely cousin N had come down from Boston to help me settle in. It was a beautiful, halcyon summer day... clear blue sky, fluffy white clouds and the perfect amount of sunshine.
We walked around campus with the map... it seemed so big at the time and I remember being tired and grumpy and secretly a little scared. I'd wanted this for so long but now that the moment of reckoning had finally arrived I was terrified! I didn't want to be left alone in a new country in an environment that was completely different from home. Plus, I knew I was going to miss my family terribly...

That first evening ISAP held pre-orientation for international students at Alexander Beach. Now Alexander Beach isn't really a beach; it's a patch of grass in front of Richardson Hall and after searching in vain for signs that read "Alexander Beach" I finally asked someone where it was and got there in time for the barbecue. I sat between Keno and Arti- Keno is Nigerian but grew up in Kuwait (later, she became captain of the lacrosse team), Arti was from Bangalore (majored in Comp Sci. and now an investment banker in NYC). I also tasted my first veggie burger- almost gagged but manfully continued chewing and swallowing because I didn't want to appear impolite :P.

Our first icebreaker was "passing the orange". Someone came up with the brilliant idea of passing around an orange from one person to another without using their hands or feet. Everyone sat in a ring and the game began. A guy placed the orange in the crevice between the chin and collarbone and transferred the orange to the girl sitting next to him by. I don't know about others but I am not overly fond of passing an orange from neck to neck with a group of sweaty people I don't know very well especially when it involved members of the opposite sex :P So when it was close to my turn I pretended I had a phone call and moved to the corner to talk... sneaky me :P!

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The Djinn

M and I are walking back from lunch and we see a scrawny black cat washing itself under a bush... It stops and stares at us (yes, cats do stare). M is Palestinian and being somewhat superstitious, remarks,
"I think it's a Djinn."
Me: "Really, how can you tell?"
M: "It's black and it's looking at me"
Me: "Ummm, yes, but that doesn't mean anything."
M: "It does, it does!"
Me: "Ok ok.. what does it mean?"
M: "It means something bad might happen... Istaghfirullah."
Me: "Right."


A is a huge Egyptian 30-something-year old man at work. He's married with 3 adorable little girls but his wife and kids are in another country and he's here in AD for the next three years. I am at my desk minding my own business when A comes up to me and asks:

"Where's R? (another colleague)"
Me: "I don't know"
A: "WHY DON'T YOU LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU?" (in a loud and very aggressive tone)
Me: "....?!"
Me: struck dumb.

I've talked to this guy maybe twice since starting work and I've been raised in an environment where you don't gaze into random peoples' eyes... Just because I'm more friendly than the locals and smile at people doesn't mean you can take liberties with me!

Later, I thought of a good comeback but the moment was past.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Zardari's Op-ed

Our President's letter to the Washington Post. First he flirts with Palin, now he's begging for money. Let me go hang my head in shame. 

"President Obama understands that for Pakistan to defeat the extremists, it must be stable. For democracy to succeed, Pakistan must be economically viable. Assistance to Pakistan is not charity; rather, the creation of a politically stable and economically viable Pakistan is in the long-term, strategic interest of the United States.
The Obama administration should immediately encourage Congress to pass the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act. The multiyear, $1.5 billion annual commitment to social progress here would signal to our people that this is no longer a relationship of political convenience but, rather, of shared values and goals. "

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ibahd Uba

Jabal Hafeet


Mint Tea

Arab Dudes


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Day-trip to LUMS

I've been meaning to write about this for a while now... so finally, here goes!
I was back in Karachi for Ramadan and a little bored, so I decided to pay a visit to my brother at LUMS. The flight was short and sweet although the guy sitting next to me asked about my entire life history in the course of an hour and a half!

My brother's roomie from Multan was nice enough to pick me up at the airport and drive me to campus. Lahore is beautiful! Especially compared to Karachi, it's really clean and green and I love the red-brick architecture... the buffaloes near the airport added a bucolic touch :P

The campus itself is gorgeous... very well-maintained and probably one of its kind in Pakistan. The students seemed content... and I was impressed with the diversity; bearded fellows with baggy shalwars hanging out with the ultra-modern Defence crowd and girls in Hijab with their counterparts in skinny jeans, dangling earrings, high heels and lots of kohl. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were few exclusive cliques... people seemed happy to meet and mingle.

Academic Block

The library was well-stocked with books and periodicals (I always judge a university by its library!) and seemed like a popular place to make-out... I saw several couples fawning over one another and I felt like such an aunty... lol. Then I ran into a few friends from Karachi so they showed me around the girls dorms. When it's hot most people sleep in the common room (it's the only place with AC) so they line the floor with mattresses and get ready to snore. Also, guys are not allowed within a mile of the girls' dorms :)

After iftar at the masjid, I attended a talk by Sharmeen Obaid. She's doing some really interesting work on the Oral History Project interviewing old people about their memories of partition backed up with photos and documents.

The campus really came alive at night... (I guess no one goes to bed in Ramzan, post-taraweeh). People were playing volleyball and soccer, a guy was strumming his guitar and singing along and people huddled in groups smoking sheesha and having chai.

LUMS cats

For sehri we went to have omelettes at the "Super Store" with "aaloo-da-paratha" :) It suddenly hit me how much I'd missed out on by being away for college; having a solitary sehri and sometimes sleeping through it, having a hurried iftar and not really being able to do the extra prayers due to midterms and papers... Guess you can't have everything in life.

On the way to the airport we got caught in an andhi (a dusty wind storm) and the driver nearly lost the way but thankfully we made it in time for my flight.

Rose Garden at LUMS- The roses are timed to bloom around convocation in December

Friday, January 16, 2009

Culture and Commercialism

According to Wikipedia: "Ibn Batuta often experienced culture shock in regions he visited where local customs did not fit his straight-laced background. Among Turks and Mongols recently converted to Islam, he was astonished at the freedom that women had, and he felt that dress customs in the Maldives, and some sub-Saharan regions in Africa, were too revealing. He tended to be somewhat irritating to locals, and eventually to be sent on his way after a time from such regions, with gifts that seemed applicable to his social status." They forgot to mention he had over 300 wives from all the countries that he visited... :p

The Arab traveller and adventurer Ibn Battuta was a man of great vision and strong Islamic values. He set off to journey the world at the age of 20 and soon became acknowledged as a scholar and a man of great wisdom. Today Ibn Battuta Mall is the first shopping complex inspired by an individual’s life nearly six centuries after he embarked on his renowned journey.

Each region Ibn Battuta explored – Andalusia, Tunisia, Egypt, Persia, India and China – is reflected in the architecture and theme of the mall’s six courts. These courts strongly project the historical and cultural richness of this Arabian icon’s life, serving as inspiration to all those who visit.

The mall possesses a unique multi-cultural atmosphere and a real sense of ease, thanks to the concept of retail zoning, whereby the zones are divided into four sections: Family & Convenience; Major Department Stores; Up-Market Brands & Lifestyles; and Entertainment & Leisure. With the knowledge that customers enjoy shopping in thematic environments whilst doing errands, sampling culinary delights and relaxing in general, we hope our customers will enjoy an inspiring and extraordinary experience at Ibn Battuta Mall.

Personally, I thought it was slightly overrated but kudos to the architects for dreaming it up.

China Court


Cool gazebo-type structure


Still Persia

Ibn Batuta's Spice Cabinet?

Ibn Batuta's flying machine (a bit like Leonardo Da Vinci's)



Tunisian street... notice the lights and the painted sky (this is all indoors)


Balloon ride- a little wobbly

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Quality Street

So I'm procrastinating at work... fie on me :P One of my co-workers just passed around a box of Quality Street :) He passed his driving test on the first attempt which is no mean feat in the UAE and now he's getting a VW! In Dubai they fail you on purpose especially if you're brown... people prefer taking the test in Sharjah or Abu Dhabi. Another random car law: you can't buy a car older than five years! This is ostensibly to "promote" the auto industry in the UAE... what about the not-s0-rich people? I won't say poor because people are generally pretty well-off.. still.  

I love Quality Street! I just realized how much I missed it in the US (along with Mars bars, real Cadbury and Galaxy...). Ridiculous how they don't have Mars in America! A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play... cheesy, but it works!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Silicon Valley of Alternative Energy?

Masdar's in the New York Times!

and in the Economist!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Annie: Tomorrow

When I'm stuck with a day
That's gray, 
And lonely, 
I just stick out my chin 
And Grin, 
And Say, 

The sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on 
'Til tomorrow 
Come what may 
Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow! 
You're always
A day

Sound of Music: My Favorite Things

My Fair Lady: Wouldn't it be Loverly?

Grease: Summer Nights

Grease: You're the One that I Want

Dirty Dancing: Time of My Life

Phantom of the Opera: Phantom of the Opera

Wicked: Dancing Through Life

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Situation in Gaza- My 2 cents

People in Gaza are suffering; dying slow, painful deaths while the world watches in agonizing silence. Some 820 Gazans and 13 Israelis have reportedly died in 14 days of fighting. Do the numbers speak to you?

Blatantly violating international law, sovereignty and human rights, Israel continues its operation in Gaza despite calls for an immediate ceasefire. The US has always been quick to act in the name of "Peacemaking" (in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq). Why the sudden change in attitude?

I wonder too why the wealthy Arab states with strong militaries and sufficient clout in the international political arena (thanks to owning over 60% of the world's oil) have failed to act while Afghanistan (one of the poorest regions in the world) was among the first to protest this outrage and offer aid. It seems that our collective conscience has died... The current attitude is "don't know, don't care, I'll make a contribution to aid the victims and sleep soundly." Even the media seems to be pandering to this need for oblivion by focusing on the mundane...   

My alma mater responded with a blank wall... it says much about the current mindset of the so-called educated elite.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Some pictures from a recent trip to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque (thanks Mays!) in Abu Dhabi. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the third largest mosque in the world- truly spectacular and definitely worth a trip!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Success vs. Satisfaction: What's the Hurry Yo?!

Sometimes I feel like everyone's caught up in a rat race: Go to school---> get through college---> get a job---> get a better job? And somewhere along the way: Find a partner---> get married---> have babies---> send kids to school
And the cycle repeats itself. So, where exactly are we headed?

Here's an interesting read from Corporate Adventure.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Walking along the Corniche

Yesterday evening I went for a reaallllly long walk along the Corniche. From Salam Street all the way to Marina Mall. Abdel Karim (our driver who dropped me off) looked mighty surprised that the "shareef girl from Pakistan" was going for a walk by herself.

The weather was beautiful! Cool sea breeze and a slight mist... A group of teenagers was riding bikes... Sometimes, I wish I were that age again... no responsibilities, blind faith, naivety, optimism... growing up really isn't something to be chuffed about! Anyway, I walked on past the hotels and health clubs with traffic whizzing by until I finally reached the intersection. Waiting for the light to turn green it suddenly hit me how much I missed my mom... She still holds my hand when we're crossing the street back home, especially when we're in Tariq Road where the rickshaw-wallas and taxi drivers try to run you over. Miss you mom... and I know I don't say this often enough but I really love you and appreciate everything you've done for me.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Impossible Dreams (Laila Shawa)

Thank you God for the world so sweet,
Thank you God for the food we eat,
Thank you God for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.