Delusions of grandeur

The first time we were going back to India after moving to the States, in the summer of ’97, my father declared that I was allowed one pair of jeans, one pair of sneakers and a shirt to travel in. My attire after landing in India was to be salwar kameezes, lenghas and long skirts. As a fifteen year old and a part of the 1.5 immigrant generation growing up in NYC, I cracked a few smart ass comments at my father’s dictate, but didn’t fight it too much. See, this wasn’t worth beating my already sore hands on the drums of teenagedom caught in the middle of the immigrant experience. I could mouth off to mom and dad, insist on my independence, rail against the stereotypes they attempted to impose on me and generally be an Indian version of the bratty American teen (where, really, my parents got off quite easy) all in the safety of my life in Queens. Being on Indian soil, however, wasn’t reality; it was vacation, where what happened in India, stayed in India. For a month or so while we visited family, I could play pretend and be the Sati Savitri type if that’s what my family wanted.

While in India, I never made an attempt to explain my life in NYC to my family members. Maybe it was sheer selfishness on my part of wanting to avoid the lectures on how I’m still Indian even though I live in America that came with opening up with my conservative family about my life in NYC. Staying general usually worked best: yes, school was good; yes, I still remember how to speak Kannada; yes, I do have Indian friends. I smiled a lot, I ate a lot, I wore what they wanted me to wear and I wrote in my journal a lot. I was polite, respectful and most of all, just plain quiet. We never discussed anything deep and certainly nothing related to sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.

My writing, however, has never been quiet. I will break my personality into pieces for the various different compartments of my life, but my writing is one place where I live, whole and complete with total honesty. It never concerned me in the past that when I get published (yes, I said it – when, dammit, when), as a creative non-fiction writer, I would be laying my life out for public consumption. With my immediate family, I began to hang the family’s dirty laundry out to dry starting at 16, so it would be nothing new to them. Everything else, I justified. My parents are so closeted about their lives that it’s not like their friends and acquaintances would recognize me as the child of someone they know. My extended family in India – well, I’ll just make sure the book never gets translated into Kannada and besides, how are one brown woman’s words ever going to travel across the ocean anyway? It’s tough enough getting published and being known locally.

What I hadn’t counted on was technology shortening the distance between my lived reality and the person I pretended to be to keep the peace with my extended family. Before, there were phone calls between NYC and India where surface words lay like sweet, sickly icing on top of a cake. Now, there are emails and Facebook updates between my life and my cousins’ in India. With the internet came Google and Facebook and off they ran, snatching my delusions that my writing and my life could be kept separate from my extended family in India.

While working with Noor to edit a short piece of mine for volume 7 of Papercuts, towards the end of the process, I realized I hadn’t changed one of the characters’ name. That realization broad-sided me as I realized I was telling quite an intimate tale that involved people other than myself. With Papercuts accessible online and subject to Google’s tentacles, there’s a possibility that my cousins in India would now have access to that part of me that I hid from them. (Sidenote: I’ve seen the re-designed website for Papercuts and it rocks. It’s shaped up to be quite a strong representation of the talent at Desi Writers Lounge. You all should be uber-excited!)

There was a brief moment where I considered breathing into a paper bag, but then the writer in me, the one who has always had the backbone, snarked, “Well, then you either better hope they never find it; hope that if they find it, they’ll understand; or if they read it and don’t understand, then you better get ready to deal with the fall out – because this story is getting told.” After another dirty look thrown at the hyperventilating pansy, the writer strode off to start penning the continuation of her story.

10 Things I Hate About This

No, I’m not going to start listing them down, I just really wanted to use that phrase. Ridiculously short story I have no plans on expounding, which makes mentioning it entirely unnecessary. Lovely!

Now that I’ve located what looks like a promising designer, the only drawback is that they’re located here…as in Pakistan here…as in, in my city Pakistan. Yes. After a rather saddening experience with an Indian developer (God bless the Indians, though; they’re not all bad, one bad seed notwithstanding! Tons of bad seeds in Pakistan, too!), I would much rather not deal with subcontinental developers. However, their ratings, client references and portfolio seems to speak for itself. And they have now graciously agreed to providing me with a mock up…which is basically a prototype of where they’ll take the design of the site, along with showcasing what they can do. Since I was deprived of this previously, and not wanting to take any risks this time around, taking the advice of my very knowledgeable sister, I am a little more optimistic. Of course, the development that I’ve planned and outlined in this blog is still scheduled. But first and foremost, is a face-lift.

Addressing quality related issues is another thing entirely, and which will hopefully be addressed and put to reasonable rest by our small “board” some time this weekend or next week. I don’t know whether it’s the editorial policy or the fact that a small set of members are the only set that post and re-post and thus, are the only ones available for e-zine polling. There are some marketing related issues and plans up my sleeve, which might unfold subject to agreement by the others. There are a lot of things to be decided, and specifically towards our new look, logo and design etc.

There is still the dream of making it to print, which might, ironically, be more quality oriented. The problem with being web-based is that though you’re able to reach a wider base, it becomes a tad problematic when you’re using it for quality assurance. Not everyone’s at the same level, which shows through in the forums, where the pieces are…”workshopped” according to one of our members. Although most of the hardcore stuff happens behind the scenes in the ‘editorial’ stages, which brings me to another question: are we not doing a good job of it? Should we be pushing our writers harder…or what, exactly? I realize that everyone ages at their own pace, and to that extent we should give them both time and space for growth, but this worries me. Because some how, in some way it’s setting us back.

A few posts back I mentioned how a complete stranger stated that my work represented on another website was far better than the content put on display in our ‘zine, which though flattering to me, was a disappointment. Everything seems the same. Are we not pushing creativity hard enough? Not focusing on pushing the envelope? After all, isn’t that part of what a workshop does for you? It pushes you to be your best. One piece or maybe two from members is good, and then they slip again. I need to know why.

I suppose the easiest thing to say is that writing isn’t the same for everyone, which is what I am constantly being told time and time again. It’s frustrating to hear the same thing from different people: not everyone’s like you, not everyone takes writing so seriously. It isn’t about taking it so seriously…it’s about actually using criticism to improve. It’s the want to get better, to progress, to push the envelope. That isn’t asking for much, is it?

Chivalry’s Dead

Although including the perspectives of a completely new member was a bold idea, I thought it might work. You have to understand where I was coming from, however–I thought there would be more talk about goings on in the literary world–I hardly expected a religious debate.

I think it’s key to understand the purpose this blog serves; as an introduction to the site itself. Sure, I’d love for our writers to eventually put up their thoughts and opinions on the goings on of the Pakistani cultural world, but that’s where it ends. Opinions and debates are what The Abstract Thinker on the forums, exists for. It’s exactly the sort of things the Podium will cater to, once it’s actually functional.

I’m having second thoughts about my developer. There are reasons, I think, why the cheap ones come cheap. They are profoundly unreliable. I was to receive updates today…and did I? Nope. In fact, it’s quite safe to say I received no communication of any kind.

In other news, our Orkut community has entirely changed. The description, the way the name’s been structured (DeSi Writers for whatever reason), the location (what was once Pakistan is now Mumbai, India. Pardon the yowls of disbelief!), the image (ours was always a cup of tea. Now it’s your typical pen and paper), the community owner (goodbye, Sana–it was great while it lasted). It’s a little sad to see your past go up like that, but then, as I stated so aptly on the community: that was our past, the site is our present and future. And obviously the new breed of desi writers on Orkut are now entirely disassociated from what we were three years ago. They’ll make their own history. Ours is still there, for those interested although most of our work has made the transition into our archives. I think it’s safe to say, since Sana is no longer the community’s owner, it’s no longer ours. It used to be, yes but it isn’t anymore.

Let’s observe a moment of silence for the death of a great community, and one if it were absent, we wouldn’t be here.

For those of you who live in Islamabad, know that Sharabeel’s latest is here: Be Careful Where Your Clothes are, and according to Obi, is a farce. So…I’ll probably see it, with both my sisters in tow. I have to say, I’m very partial towards plays casting people I actually know. I think I’ve just become a tad lazy though.

Polls continue to run in the forums until December 10 and if you’re thinking of submitting a new piece, know that the deadline for this quarter is December 1. So you have about a week for submissions, and about two for polling.

A request to our members and would-be’ers, please do vote. We’re all about democracy here, don’t you know?

Ready. Set. Kazam!

Yes, yes I’ve been MIA and for that I must profoundly apologize. Many things have happened in the interim, political instabilities not withstanding. I shall try, in my bumbling way, to keep politics for the most part, at least until our Podium’s set up, out of the picture.

For one, our memberbase is kicking and by kicking, I do mean kicking. A new member’s posted something about Sulman Rushdie, we’re having a little political debate about the current crisis in the country, the e-zine and regular forums are alive, new posts almost daily in One Day, Two Minutes and A Writer’s Journal. If you’re feeling hesitant about posting, now’s the time to start jumping into the center of things so to speak. All eyes, for once in a very long time, won’t be on you. We’ve got enough pieces to keep our hands full, so to speak.

Not to mention, if you’re posting, chances are you will be heard and someone or the other will step up to help you. The key here is that we’re all writers and we’re all learning, experimenting and in turn critiquing and hopefully, it doesn’t sound too much like criticism. The important thing to remember is that we’re all very different people and very opinionated and as a result, there will be clashes of ego.

When the new site unveils, changes will be made in the forums–topics will, in all likelihood, be switched and moved around–the “wheels”, “events” and “co-ordinations” threads will be removed in favor of The Podium and the vBulletin board respectively. We’ll also be getting a gallery, including one for the site as well as the forums, so there are changes planned ahead. We can cover events with pictures, limited to either public or members only viewing.

Yes, I think that’s about all for now.

Comments are as always, welcome.

Tales From Beyond.

Having recently seen fellow Desi Writer – Osman Khalid Butt (informally known as Obi)’s play – The Good Doctor, produced under his own theatrical production company – The Living Picture Productions; yesterday, I think I can safely say I am immensely proud of his accomplishments. It’s heartening to have seen a person’s transition from poet to writer to actor to full on playwright and director. Although there were a few things about the play that may not have sat too well with me, for instance the blaring sound which seems a permanent fixture in any play performed locally and especially at Islamabad Club; and the added fact that towards the end, each succeeding death seemed a little contrived and something of a plot device; some things like the sets (with the added touch of the family portraits) were beautiful. Down to the way the actors were dressed – very period-like – this play was the play of a perfectionist. Added to the fact that the boy in question, is just 21 years old. Kudos to you, Obi.

The reconstructive surgery is set to start on November 1st, and is something I am greatly looking forward to most especially since it’s been a long time in coming.

An added thing I’m looking at now, is how to raise awareness about our site and the work we do. A desi writer (mikko on the boards, Madiha to the world) pointed out that we can begin the work by hosting poetry readings under our banner, at a local coffee spot and intellectual hang-out (Civil Junction). It is an interesting idea, and something which we can definitely run with. Her idea was to start with the classics, but I can foresee something more interesting branching up and more along the lines of what I’d planned so many years ago. Having proper readings with real people bringing in their own work and reading it aloud. I don’t have everything planned – for instance, will we recruit these people to be part of the lounge and slowly begin to post – will it be a members-only event with invitations being extended to other people and eventually starting a cult of some sort? As can be seen, things have still to be woven together. But as an idea, it has tremendous potential.

Concluding, the desi writers as a collective seem to be moving forward and after all these years, it’s a marvelous step in the right direction. Here’s to more milestones, here’s to moving forward, here’s to being heard and being inspired.



A strange thing has occurred – anything with * works – but the second you hit, all hell breaks loose. Nothing opens. I kid you not, and I’m wondering whether Pakistan’s government has imposed the blogging ban all over again? Anyone knowing anything about this, feel free to email me and let me know. This is ridiculous, otherwise.

With great difficulty, I’ve landed here, into the posting of things.

(ETA: Nothing was wrong: blogspot was misbehaving and apparently, that’s usual. Tragic. Google’s definitely the new Microsoft).

Ramadhan’s started tonight, with our first fast tomorrow although it’s started for Muslims based in America, so if you’re a Muslim and you’re reading this blog, wherever you are in the world, Ramadhan Mubarik (“congratulations on the start of the holy month”, although it seems so small when it’s translated).

And now, I should come up with something really productive since I really have no idea when I’ll be able to login again (if this blogspot love/hate relationship stands to continue indefinitely).

The Addams Family recently wrapped up production, although I’m not sure what the response was. Since very few of my circle actually bothered to turn up, I’m thinking it might not have been all that great. But that’s only a prediction, not fact, so don’t quote me on this.

A steady stream of traffic has been coming our way, courtesy of this blog, so maybe this is turning out to be a good idea after all. However, one suggestion: you could drop a comment at either the blog or the site, regarding your thoughts and opinions on it. Who knows? We might implement one of your thoughtful suggestions. I think I should put up news about our site on the site too, from time to time. At least let people know what’s happening, for those who don’t frequent this blog as much.

Among the theatrical production houses, a common stream of thought seems to be propagating like fire: the development of Islamabad’s first theater for theatrical productions. It’s true: we do need one, it sure would compensate for the limited seating Islamabad Club (bless it) currently offers. The problem with plays here, is that the commercial/advertising partners seem intent on making as much money (read: sell as many tickets as humanely possible) for a given show, so the result is, if you don’t queue up early, you might have bought the same priced seat, but have to sit on a stair or worse, stand. My line has always been: stretch the shows out for longer if necessary, and sell only the amount of tickets as there are seats. What’s the point, if you’re getting no value for money in terms of comfort? It isn’t fair at all. You pay, you should get what you pay for. It is that simple, and corporations in other countries recognize this. Sophistication (like corruption), begins at the very top.

Besides, I feel we’ve had enough adaptations and we should be ready for a little creative maturity and start developing original works of art. How long are we going to stay within the shadow of Hollywood, and not step into our own limelight? But really, how much can we take living off the creativity of others, is the far bigger question. I mean, enough is enough already, no? Real, original productions with real, original messages and real, original humor. “Real, original” being the watchwords in the sentence, apparently.

A desi writer member and friend, feels that creating an original play takes a lot of courage, which is natural. Or is the indirect point she’s making that we don’t possess any truly courageous talents in the country? Could be, but I disagree. I believe we’ve got the talent in the right sectors, but no one knows it yet, and why may I ask? Why aren’t more people stepping forward? And I don’t mean the people who think they can write, but the ones that know they can and do a good job of it? Why aren’t the truly talented playwrights really getting out there, and showing something to the world? Sure, another desi writer and friend and now producer, director and playwright, Osman Khalid Butt, with his house The Living Picture Productions, is out there but he’s just one person in a multitude of so many. I run a writer’s website, I interact with these talented individuals on a daily basis. My question is simple: why aren’t more of them out there? Why not show some confidence and pride in your work? Strive to be different; don’t feed on existing material. Create your own.

Besides the writing of things, we need serious, strong, committed actors not students right out of school or college or worse, working in other fields. They always end up with musical toned, pretentious, one-dimensional portrayals of otherwise, very interesting characters. Theater should be pursued as a dedicated field in our country.

How else are we going to spread the word?

The only way is up, people. Let’s not slow ourselves down, here.


That’s the title of a story I’m hankering after. Note the word usage – “hankering” because I haven’t got anywhere yet – throws my last post into a tizzy, doesn’t it? I’ve got a nine hour work day, which comprises mostly of sitting before my laptop, doing market research and trends, and then writing about it. So at the end of the day, you’d much prefer not spending any more time with the widescreens of this world. Hypocritical, I know.

The problem isn’t with the idea – I’ve got it all nailed down – I’ve got the two leads and their lives all planned out…okay, mostly, not completely but still. And now of course, my time table’s changing after tomorrow – Friday, I’ll be reporting for work at 6.30 am. Yes, you read right. But we’re off at 2.30 pm so something needs to be said. No sleep after sehr, then eh? Worse things have happened. I’ll live.

But back to this elusive idea – the story appeals to me – it picks up on the emotional underbelly, which for anyone who has ever read my past stories, knows I love. It isn’t just the darkness that’s drawing (while simultaneously repelling) me closer each day, it’s the wealth of emotions I’ll be dealing with. And of course, the families and their protagonists are from backgrounds I understand and to a degree, can empathize with.

And after pushing away my trademark conversation dialog: dry, witty, sarcastic – I’m finding myself being drawn back. Though, let’s face it: I’m good at it. I like looking at life through unfocused lenses – it’s like looking at the world through the bottom of a glass – I like the skewed, distorted images transmitted back. That may be the reason the darkness of things so attracts me, because here’s a fact: it’s so much more fascinating to write about. How much can you write about happiness and birds chirping? The evil, dark side of our emotions are so much easier. No? Am I the only one seeing the complexities, here?

I suppose, to put it simplistically: the psychological and anthropological aspects of it are what really attract me.

I think we each have the capacity to commit something truly heinous, but the right blend of time, circumstance and the fortification of our relationships is what stops us. I also believe that the root of all evil, lies in society and the lack of understanding it affords to the lesser fortunate, and if we are to truly realize that in every walk of life, we should at least try to understand. The only way I can understand, or at least live through their lives (from my own perspective, of course – the writer’s perspective inevitably seeps in – or if it doesn’t, that’s just another thing I need to learn), is to write about it. Sure, it might not be something I know, but we often need to step out of our comfort zones to straighten the crookedness in our worlds, to get a broader experience and perspective.

Choose to be broadminded.

I’ve said time and again, that the perspective and changes my work affords me, are unparalleled and have forced me to alter my opinions and mind on things I observed with rigidity, to the surprise of family and friends. And yes, I can be torn sometimes between following what’s right and what’s expected, but that’s only human.

But I believe in justice, in finding the truth no matter how unfavorable or ungainly it might be and my journey often takes me to places (both personal and social) I wouldn’t be able to traverse otherwise. So I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, in the hopes that I will continue to find answers.

Maybe someday I’ll write those socio-religio-politico stories everyone thinks I’m in the midst of, but until then.

Now, all I need to do is move past this first line…

Lightning…thunder! LIGHTNING.

Writer’s block. You hear about it a lot, but the concept is a relatively new one, created like all new things by the American writers. Blocks weren’t considered or even accepted by the English speaking world at large, until the Americans came along and decided to compartmentalize the world’s woes. Don’t believe me? Do your research. I did. What can I say? I’m curious.

But I jest – it traces its earliest roots to the Romantics – it seems a little “artistic” to justify a lag in creativity by suggesting that the artist is so talented and immensely chock full of ideas, that when something’s wrong, it’s presumably because something has happened stemming that flow. Does it exist or is it just an excuse? I think it’s a bit of both, but I do believe with careful dedication and determination, you can push right through.

“Writer’s block? What writer’s block?” That kinda thing. I remember reading a quote somewhere about having to chase creativity with a club, instead of waiting for it to happen, which is a sound concept. You can’t expect lightening to strike twice, after all. Or you can subscribe to the Romantic notion, and imagine it does.

But what about Edison’s golden rule? Genius is 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration.

Although writing is part of the arts, in general, it does merit respect on its own. The wonderful thing about writers is that they’re able to see art in everyday life. What separates us from the rest of the world, after all? One of the major things we’re always asked is: where do you get your ideas from…I mean, that’s just it isn’t it? We don’t wait for them to come to us, because how does that separate us from the people who write occasionally or the office worker who sits on his report for the next big thing, because the idea hasn’t “come” to him yet?

I used to be among the lightning crowd, not realizing that writing, like its counterparts, requires discipline. Sit down each day and go after the idea, honing, refining, allowing it to bide its time, and you’ll never suffer a writer’s block. Your mind isn’t blocked – it’s a state of mind – if you want to think it, you’ll want to believe it, because isn’t it just so much easier to say you’re “suffering” from writer’s block instead of “I lack the drive to finish what I’ve started”?

And I find when I open my mind up to new and different ideas, they come with no hint of subsiding. As long as the wheels in your mind are turning, what else do you really need? And let’s face it: the mind never stops working. If you’re serious enough about your craft, you’ll chase the words down, and they won’t stop until you tell them to. Because writing is a lot about control – it’s part of the reason why writers feel like gods in their worlds – they’re in total control. What happens when you let it slide?

You get lazy, that’s what.

No idea what’s on the horizon next. As it is, I don’t feel this was written quite as well as my other posts. Oh well…long day. Lame argument, I know.