Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Newly-wed Bliss?

I don't pretend to be on expert on marital relationships but here's what I've learnt so far:

One thing I've realized early on in my marriage is the need to reaffirm my commitment to my husband... every day! The spiritual aspect to marriage is rather helpful in this regard. It's easy to be mean and selfish especially when one is feeling neglected or lonely, resentful or "used" but, at the end of the day if I can go to sleep with a clear conscience, it's well worth the effort. When situations become... *ahem* challenging and I'm yearning for home comforts, it helps to remember that God is always with me and ultimately, I am in control of my happiness... no one can change who I am and it's my choice to be happy or to be miserable.

As trivial as it may sound, dear husband and I come from completely different backgrounds... Case in point: I love Akon; Mr. F listens to :)
But, I'm not going to give up listening to Akon or expect him to listen to him for my sake... I like some me time, when I can be care-free, young Gaia and not be a married aunty.

It also helps to remember and praise the good qualities and ignore the annoying habits of the spouse... after all, he probably ignores a bunch of annoying habits that I have (like scraping his car every now and then and having my hair stuck in the carpet... gross, I know :-P)

Take care of your health. When you're working, traveling, doing the groceries and laundry and testing your emotional boundaries each day, it's easy to succumb to tummy aches and headaches and influenza... A strong immune system and a bit of energy and vitality can work wonders and help you get through the day.
(P.S. Mommy dearest is no longer there to cajole you into taking your medicine and bring you warm milk in bed...)

In an argument, hold your peace... Silence and a hurt look is often as effective as loud, angry words (sometimes, even more) and you'll have the added satisfaction of having kept your dignity. Discuss the issue when both people are more relaxed (preferably after a good dinner and some lovey dovey-ness).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Phone

My husband bought me the new Nokia E5... Most people would be thrilled, excitedly figuring out the new gadget, pressing buttons, clicking pictures with the 5Mp camera but not I. I left my phone in its original packaging for an entire week until Mr. F returned from Colombo, inserted the battery, charged the phone and gave me a phone tutorial. I now have a bugle alarm that goes off at 5:15am every morning (Fajr time), becoming progressively louder until I'm ready to throw something :-P.

My old phone was an 8-year old legacy from my father; a Motorola which we'd received free with our first Mobilink package. It was sturdy and simple... archaic but dependable even though I had to press down the buttons really hard to type a text message.

I guess new relationships are like that... as awful as it sounds, I sometimes find myself prioritizing my new family over my old. In some ways, my parents who raised me so lovingly have now taken a back seat and the new person in my life has taken over my world. I feel guilty and selfish but I hope I am inshalah able to make it up to them some day... maybe when my own kids will become the light of their lives in their old age?

The other day I was talking to another recently-married girl and she said something that struck a chord, "After marriage, you grow up in one night"... In many ways, I was more independent than a lot of other girls even before I got married but for the past year since returning to Pakistan, I'd gotten used to having my meals prepared by my mom, having my sister chatter about her day at school while I lazed around after coming home from work, having dad drop me off to work in the mornings and pick me up after work, having my brother get me chocolate brownies from Pie in the Sky just because I felt like eating something chocolatey....

Now, I make my own breakfast, do the groceries, get my own brownies and am often alone in the evenings when Mr. F has to stay late at work... sigh

Thursday, September 23, 2010


This is a picture of my mom before she got married holding my baby cousin. She was trying to make the baby jealous by kissing the teddy bear but cousin dear was too busy concentrating on the camera :)

I haven't done this in a while, so here goes:

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!

And thank you most of all for a wonderful, supportive, loving family...


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Whirlwind Weekend

On Friday evening, Mr. F and I left work at 5:30 pm to catch the 7 pm flight to Lahore... Luckily for us, there was minimal traffic after the attack on the politician, so we made it to the check-in counter in good time. Landed in Lahore at 8:45 pm, arrived at the family home at 9 and got ready in 20 minutes for Mr. F's friend's Mehndi (complete with heavy eye-makeup and bling jewelry!).

Next morning, I made kheer and zarda... my initiation into household duties. FYI, I don't even like zarda and my mom's never made it, so I wasn't quite sure what "good" zarda was supposed to taste like. Luckily, I'd practiced in advance and my jithanis helped me out, so both the dishes turned out ok (thank you google :-)).

On Sunday morning, Mr. F and I drove to Islamabad for his friend's afternoon Barat. We left at 9:00 am and drove non-stop on GT Road. GT Road or Grand Trunk Road is one of South Asia's oldest roads and connects all the major cities in India and Pakistan. It was built by Sher Shah Suri who designed it in a way that at no point during the drive was the sun directly in our eyes. I wonder what Mrs. Sher Shah Suri was like...

We drove through Gujranwala and passed by factories, fields and orchards... Gujranwala is a dirty little industrial town with an abundance of bananas and donkeys. The rice fields looked beautiful and orange trees were blossoming... lovely!

We reached the hotel at 2:00 pm only to learn that the groom was stuck at a toll gate! So Mr. F and I waited in the hotel lobby for 30 mins until the barat finally walked in. The wedding was segregated, so I sat by myself trying to look busy and then called a couple of friends to catch up... Sadly, none of them answered so I continued talking on the phone, having a pretend conversation :-( (yes, I know it sounds pathetic but that was my only resort in a roomful of aunties speaking a language I don't understand).

Next morning, I had my US visa interview. The officer asked me if I "was putting my education to good use" and that was it! She didn't look at any of my documents! Hopefully, inshalah I'll get it soon... Mr. F got me pizza from Rahat bakery and then we drove back to Lahore, this time on the National Highway listening to bollywood soundtracks :p. Later that evening, I boarded a flight to Karachi, Mr. F hopped on a plane to Colombo and so ended my eventful weekend...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


My boss is leaving... He'll be moving to ADNOC (Abu Dhabi) next week and I'll be the new section head (just kidding :p). Everyone looked wistful when he made the announcement... almost like a prisoner heading for freedom with the other inmates yearning for their chance to walk out :-p

I'm trying to get my act together and apply to graduate programs for next year. The problem is, I'm just *too* lazy... sigh... Plus, I don't want to risk my entire life savings on grad school and then be a penniless housewife dependent on the husband for pin-money...

I've also realized that people will never be happy. When I was single, everyone was on my case to get me married... Now that I'm married, everyone (except a select few) is concerned about my career and further education plans, not to mention babies and other big-people stuff.

Anyway, beware of conjunctivitis... it's going around and I'm seeing lots of people around me with sunglasses... wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap and don't rub your eyes too much.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Commencement Speech 2010

Editor's note: These remarks are from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos commencement speech to Princeton's Class of 2010, delivered on May 30, 2010.
As a kid, I spent my summers with my grandparents on their ranch in Texas. I helped fix windmills, vaccinate cattle, and do other chores. We also watched soap operas every afternoon, especially "Days of our Lives." My grandparents belonged to a Caravan Club, a group of Airstream trailer owners who travel together around the U.S. and Canada. And every few summers, we'd join the caravan. We'd hitch up the Airstream trailer to my grandfather's car, and off we'd go, in a line with 300 other Airstream adventurers. I loved and worshipped my grandparents and I really looked forward to these trips. On one particular trip, I was about 10 years old. I was rolling around in the big bench seat in the back of the car. My grandfather was driving. And my grandmother had the passenger seat. She smoked throughout these trips, and I hated the smell.
At that age, I'd take any excuse to make estimates and do minor arithmetic. I'd calculate our gas mileage -- figure out useless statistics on things like grocery spending. I'd been hearing an ad campaign about smoking. I can't remember the details, but basically the ad said, every puff of a cigarette takes some number of minutes off of your life: I think it might have been two minutes per puff. At any rate, I decided to do the math for my grandmother. I estimated the number of cigarettes per days, estimated the number of puffs per cigarette and so on. When I was satisfied that I'd come up with a reasonable number, I poked my head into the front of the car, tapped my grandmother on the shoulder, and proudly proclaimed, "At two minutes per puff, you've taken nine years off your life!"
I have a vivid memory of what happened, and it was not what I expected. I expected to be applauded for my cleverness and arithmetic skills. "Jeff, you're so smart. You had to have made some tricky estimates, figure out the number of minutes in a year and do some division." That's not what happened. Instead, my grandmother burst into tears. I sat in the backseat and did not know what to do. While my grandmother sat crying, my grandfather, who had been driving in silence, pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway. He got out of the car and came around and opened my door and waited for me to follow. Was I in trouble? My grandfather was a highly intelligent, quiet man. He had never said a harsh word to me, and maybe this was to be the first time? Or maybe he would ask that I get back in the car and apologize to my grandmother. I had no experience in this realm with my grandparents and no way to gauge what the consequences might be. We stopped beside the trailer.
My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, "Jeff, one day you'll understand that it's harder to be kind than clever."
What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy -- they're given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you're not careful, and if you do, it'll probably be to the detriment of your choices.
This is a group with many gifts. I'm sure one of your gifts is the gift of a smart and capable brain. I'm confident that's the case because admission is competitive and if there weren't some signs that you're clever, the dean of admission wouldn't have let you in.
Your smarts will come in handy because you will travel in a land of marvels. We humans -- plodding as we are -- will astonish ourselves. We'll invent ways to generate clean energy and a lot of it. Atom by atom, we'll assemble tiny machines that will enter cell walls and make repairs. This month comes the extraordinary but also inevitable news that we've synthesized life. In the coming years, we'll not only synthesize it, but we'll engineer it to specifications. I believe you'll even see us understand the human brain. Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Galileo, Newton -- all the curious from the ages would have wanted to be alive most of all right now. As a civilization, we will have so many gifts, just as you as individuals have so many individual gifts as you sit before me.
How will you use these gifts? And will you take pride in your gifts or pride in your choices?
I got the idea to start Amazon 16 years ago. I came across the fact that Web usage was growing at 2,300 percent per year. I'd never seen or heard of anything that grew that fast, and the idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles -- something that simply couldn't exist in the physical world -- was very exciting to me. I had just turned 30 years old, and I'd been married for a year. I told my wife MacKenzie that I wanted to quit my job and go do this crazy thing that probably wouldn't work since most startups don't, and I wasn't sure what would happen after that. MacKenzie (also a Princeton grad and sitting here in the second row) told me I should go for it. As a young boy, I'd been a garage inventor. I'd invented an automatic gate closer out of cement-filled tires, a solar cooker that didn't work very well out of an umbrella and tinfoil, baking-pan alarms to entrap my siblings. I'd always wanted to be an inventor, and she wanted me to follow my passion.
I was working at a financial firm in New York City with a bunch of very smart people, and I had a brilliant boss that I much admired. I went to my boss and told him I wanted to start a company selling books on the Internet. He took me on a long walk in Central Park, listened carefully to me, and finally said, "That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn't already have a good job." That logic made some sense to me, and he convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision. Seen in that light, it really was a difficult choice, but ultimately, I decided I had to give it a shot. I didn't think I'd regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all. After much consideration, I took the less safe path to follow my passion, and I'm proud of that choice.
Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life -- the life you author from scratch on your own -- begins.
How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?
Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
Will you bluff it out when you're wrong, or will you apologize?
Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
When it's tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
I will hazard a prediction. When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story. Thank you and good luck!

Since returning to Pakistan and particularly, to Karachi, my outlook on a lot of issues has changed. I realized I've become callous... not necessarily by choice but by circumstance. A few years ago, a picture could reduce me to tears and I wouldn't be able to sleep for days at a time... Over time, I've become inured to the suffering around me... It sounds awful, yes, but to maintain your sanity it's sometimes necessary to just shut your eyes and take a deep breath.

Last night on the way back from the airport, there was firing at Shahrae Faisal... I thought at first they were crackers until I saw people ducking by the roadside and cars speeding up to avoid being targeted... And then, I realized, it's normal, it's a part of life and it no longer bothers me... A person from, say, Copenhagen would probably be traumatized by the incident but Karachiites... we just accept it and move on. Once upon a time, I used to love this quote:

"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget." Arundhati Roy

Now I can't seem to relate to it any more :s

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lahori Eid

I spent my first Eid in Lahore... Mr. F was super excited and I guess the excitement was contagious :) We landed at 4:45pm but the bijli went and the conveyor belt stopped running so we had to wait a whole hour for our luggage to arrive!

By the time we got home, it was time for iftar so we sat down to break fast with the khandaan (Mashalah, Mr. F has 8 siblings... with wives and kids in tow it's quite a full house). When in Lahore, I'm Gaia chachi (chachi = father's younger brother's wife). As one of my nieces informed me, I'm still quite "new" coz I live in Karachi and we haven't really spent a lot of time together yet... I'll become purani (old) when Mr. F's younger brother gets married and his wife moves in :p.

I'm really not used to kids... when I was little and guests used to come over, I'd hide behind the door so I wouldn't have to meet them :S. My nieces and nephews are quite the opposite and scramble to sit in my lap and ask for hugs and kisses and candy... lol.

On Eid day, all the men dressed up in white boski shalwar kameez and went for namaz (Mr. F looked handsome :))... Meanwhile, I got dressed and went to say salam to mommy-in-law but I was told to go and change since I was looking too "simple". I went and put on lots of gold jewelry, 2 sets of bangles, red lipstick and my bling jora... Also straightened my hair and got a "puff"... I think I looked more Punjabi than Punjabis themselves... Mr. F was rather amused to see his usually somber wife looking like a heroine from some Punjabi movie... He said I needed to put on a few kilos to look the part :P

After a breakfast of murgh-cholay and sheer khorma, Mr. F took me a-visiting... I met quite a diverse selection of Lahoris... mostly though, the ladies talked about clothes and make-up and babies while aunties hastened to give me advice on how to manage the house and the husband. Now that I'm married, I get to sit at the married aunty table (when did that happen :0).

I had gelato at Cosa Nostra Pizzeria, fries at World Fashion Cafe, lunch at Hardees and dinner at Fujiyama (the one in Lahore is wayyyyy better than Karachi's Avari) and yes, I probably put on a couple of pounds :p

If I were to move to Lahore, I think I'd turn into a mem-sahib; eat all day and go to Uzma's and C'est la Vie on weekends... oh and pop mundas :p

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mr. F got me a desktop frame with a picture of himself for my cubicle :P. My boss is grinning from ear to ear (he thinks we should indulge in PDAs at work... heh).

I am now the office "bhabi" (ewwww, I know!). Although I should gracefully accept the fact, it does bother me that my identity is now derived from my husband's... I am now Mrs. F and no longer Ms. Gaia :-S

Inshallah it'll be our two-month anniversary today :) Problem is, I still don't feel married!! It's more like having a boyfriend/roommate... I asked Mr. F and he said it sounds cooler to say, I'm his girlfriend (as opposed to wife :p...)

Yesterday, I was indulging in a bout of nostalgia, remembering a time when the 6th of September was celebrated as a holiday and my brother and I would watch the parade on tv. Sadly, Pakistanis have precious little to celebrate these days...

This Eid, let us resolve
to send what we can
in the form of eidi to those
who are truly in need of it

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Stereo Love

Thursday, September 2, 2010


The Air Blue crash, floods, bomb blasts... Dear God, please grant us respite, I don't think we can take much more of this...


Jiss dhaj se koi maqtal main gaya woh shaan salamat rehti hai,
Yeh jaan to aani jaani hai iss jaan ki to koi baat naheen

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Waisay, it seems like everyone I know is getting married this year... 4 close friends, a very dear family friend and another colleague from work... I'll get to wear all my joras :)

Work's been crazy busy but our feasibility study is FINALLY FINISHED!! Hurrah! Stayed at work past midnight on the final day but of course, dear husband was right there with me so it was "perfectly alright"... The colleagues treat me with more respect now even though most of them are older than me.

Eid this year will inshallah be in Lahore... So, how do Lahoris celebrate Eid?

Random funny story from my last trip to Lahore:
Mr. F's family has a custom. When a new bride enters the husband's home for the first time, the husband is given a black pigeon and the wife get a white dove. Mr. F went first and released his pigeon. It fluttered, flapped its wings and flew up into a tree. Then, I released mine and it flew up into the same tree... I think it symbolizes wedded harmony or something along those lines but I'm not quite sure :S

Happy Birthday Mr. F :)

So, it was Mr. F's birthday last Saturday. At first I thought about throwing him a surprise birthday party but then, it's Ramadan and everyone's busy with Taraweeh, plus, I realized I don't really know Mr. F's friends all that well yet...

I gave him his presents at Sehri (a shirt, a sweater and our honeymoon photo album). I'm still not sure if he liked them since they didn't evince much of a reaction... (in my family, we get really, really excited over gifts). Later, we both went to work (on a weekend!). I left early to decorate our apartment with flowers. Mr. F walked in shortly before iftar and didn't even notice them!!!

His excuse: "Ali was blocking my view" hmph! (fyi, Ali is the guy who helps me with the cooking and he's 5'4 while Mr. F is around 6'2). Anyway, we had a mini-iftar at home, then I took Mr. F out for dinner (ok, so he drove us there but I paid :P). We went to Fujiyama for sushi (shudder..!.. but Mr. F enjoys it so :)). The wasabi went to my head but I managed to smile through it despite my watery eyes...

I wore the same dress I'd worn at our engagement coz I'm sentimental like that... Again, he didn't even notice!

Came back, ate birthday cake and watched The Ghost Writer (great movie!).