Category Archives: Where in the world is Hit?

Life & Times of an impulsive dreamer

467

467 2 moxApparently you weren’t downtown

You teased- gushing hot water at prodigious pressure, and then slowing to a drip when I was all soaped up- maybe you wanted me to reflect upon how lucky I was to have you

You were governed by a loco landlord- a 71 year old Spaniard who climbed ladders and did mid-air flamenco kicks to change position

The rent for your pleasures was kept, days late, in a leaky fridge

Your walls were paper-thin. My neighbours could hear the lyrics of songs I played, amongst other things…

Fire escapes were not your style- climb and leap across, kept me on my toes

My illegal roof party was probably one of the best days of my life

Looking back, roof cricket and footy were probably not wise

Guided by you I became a chef- a culinary artist, a cooker, cutter of veggies, adder of spices and scents, but alas not a washer of dishes

I also became a gymnast- leaping across the stairs and guiding the new couch through your voluptuousness, in a blizzard, is still one of the greatest things I’ve ever done

You crafted the most delightful memories for me and the ones I love

I’ll miss you. مع السلامة

Indiano? No Indiano!

Sophia B- SueWhen mentioning to my buddies that my last name resembles an Italian name, I used to get scoffed at. While reading Shantaram today, I came upon a curious cultural comparison that left me feeling somewhat vindicated.

“There is so much Italian in Indians, and so much Indian in Italians. They are both people of the Madonna – they demand a Goddess, even if the religion does not provide one. Every man in both countries is a singer when he is happy; and every woman is a dancer when she walks to the shop corner .For them food is music inside the body and music is food inside the heart. The language of India and the language Italy , they make every man a poet and make something beautiful from every banalite. These are nations where love –amore, pyaar- makes a cavalier of a Borsalino on a street corner, and makes a princess of a peasant girl , if only for the second that her eyes meet yours .”

I know, it’s not really related to my claim. No matter.

US Visa: What, me worry?

usflagprison1

Last Friday, I went to the US consulate in Toronto to renew my visa. It was quite a trip.

It’s cold. You walk to the gate rubbing your palms. A surly guard points to the cluster of people outside. You get into the line, the tension is palpable. These don’t look like people going in search of a career, an education, a vibrant vacation. These look like people afraid of screwing up. No smiles, no laughter, lest it be taken as a lack of respect for this hallowed ground. Paperwork is obsessively checked, last-minute tweaks, last-second prayers, and then we are filed in.

Security check. Bomb scare posters all over. Commands barked” “Purses out, coats off, keep moving!” People actually scurry, hoping to get through unscathed. A woman with a nail file is made to leave and return without the weapon. We move along.

cerberus2Paperwork inspected up ahead by two men. Neither’s American, but working @ the consulate has endowed them with the appropriate swagger and scowl. They go through my documents attesting to my birth my education my work my adventures my life and dolefully usher me through, as if they’ve somehow missed a trick.

I pick a number and wait. There’s two tiny TVs at the far end of the room, but screw weather updates, I’m in the middle of a live drama. The counters are manned by ordinary people with the extraordinary power to make or break a road trip, a dream job, college life. The visa applicants just stand and quiver, hoping their answers fit the grade. I see a Chinese man who’s got through the half-hour of checks and the hour of waiting for his number to be called, only to be told by the counter lady that he doesn’t speak adequate English and needs to come back with a translator. I hear the exasperated tones of an Arab man trying to exx-blain that being a pharmacist doesn’t make one a member of the ‘high-technology’ industry, and as such, doesn’t warrant extra documentation. Sorry, bro.

No ones at peace. The only happiness on display is the relieved  smiles of successful applicants. My number is called! My knees shaking and mouth arid, I feel like I’m being watched from all sides. It’s amazing how the right attitude can make an airy office room seem like a panopticon. My nervous smile is on even before I reach the counter and I inch forward, praying.

usa-visa

I’ve said it before, the US is an amazing place. And I know security is a pressing issue. Still, there’s no need for the macabre.

Thankfully, my visa was renewed for 10 years 🙂 But it shouldn’t have to be quite so harrowing.

Quixotic Creativity: Dubai’s icon

Dubai Tennis Burj

A blog I love recently talked about the concept of quixotic creativity, a kind of thinking that requires imagination, stubbornness and cojones in equal measure.

Quixotic creativity requires the idea to be big. Not the raising-eyebrow sort, but the kind that requires tearing it off altogether. It needs to be mad, in order to evoke a definite reaction. For Dubai, it needed to be the Burj-Al-Arab.

Dubai already had quite a reputation. It’s the fastest growing city on earth, has the swankiest hotels and the sleekest cars. But that, in the end, is simply money. What it didn’t have before the Burj was that signature element, that trademark visual that was quintessentially Dubai and could be identified instantly, globally.

The audacity. Not a mere five-star hotel, but a self-proclaimed seven. A restaurant with great white sharks in the aquarium. And so on… The return on investment for the project is rumoured to be a 100 years, but what’s important is that it gave Dubai its iconic visual.

Burj-Al-Arab

Then they took it one step further. They grabbed two tennis superstars, Agassi and Federer, and flew them over for a game. They also talked Tiger Woods into a little tee-off. All on the hotel’s helipad, the helipad.

tiger-woods-burj3tennis fed

Shock and awe.

Polyglot tot

murakami1

I’m at the airport cafe, sitting close to a family with a young daughter. This whippersnapper is being bombarded with phrases in Arabic, English, and French.Sensory inputs galore, which should lead to greater brain plasticity, increased mindfulness, and a rich resume for the UN.

Here’s to multilingual madness…may your tribe increase!

Rideshare Romp

There are many ways to get from Toronto—->Montreal. Rent-a-car, fly, train, Greyhound. They each have their perks & minuses. Though to be honest, the Greyhound decapitation has put me off it a little bit.

However, for the chance to forge new friendships and maybe even some memorable experiences, I recommend Rideshare (carpooling). It’s well calibrated for camaraderie. You’re in a confined space with others who share the same penchant for uncertainty and frugality. You’ve got hours to kill. Unlike with a bus/train/flight, there’s too few people to ignore and zone off with your iPod. And it’s convenient; there are usually pickup/dropoff points close to your origin/destination.

rideshare

Last spring break (Reading week for Canadians, usually in the dead of winter), my friends and I concocted a plan to hit Montreal. We arranged a rideshare with a Chinese man named ‘Anthony’. The plan was that we’d meet him at Timmy’s at 3pm, and we’d be off by 3:15, rolling into Montreal around 8:30pm.

We got to Timmy’s on the hour. Little did we know that the rendezvous didn’t just involve us. Turns out Anthony wasn’t going to Montreal and taking people along to help cover the cost of gas, this was actually his occupation. He was taking the four of us along with nine other travelers in a van! At this point our options were limited, so we squeezed into the van and hoped for the best. There was a buzz from all over the vehicle, as people wondered what we were in for.

We set off for what we thought was Montreal. Instead, we were taken to the Greyhound bus terminal where we spotted 2 other people waiting to be picked up. This was crazy, as we were already at capacity what with some large bodies and many winter jackets. We protested loudly, however Anthony replied totally deadpan “This is a 16-seater car. We are only 14 people. The car is designed for 16. I will take 16 people, no more, no less.”

Abuses were hurled at him left and right but Anthony remained calm. Two of my friends decided that they had had enough, and got off to try and rent a car. Intrigued by this man, I decided to endure the journey and persuaded the remaining friend to stick with me. The van left the bus terminal and head on to Montreal. Anthony had the gall to try and pick up another two passengers, but the mob showed signs of turning violent, so he had to concede.

His extraordinary behavior acted as an immediate icebreaker for the passengers in the van; we all had a common topic to discuss, and as we did, we found ourselves branching onto other discussions. The conversation went from Anthony to Montreal to movies to Anthony to university and much more. Some of us even exchanged numbers.

Anthony did grant us a couple of rest stops, but issued strict time limits on them. He himself did not eat or drink for the entire duration of the trip.

full-metal-jacket-6

Close to our ETA, which was 9:30 pm, we were still only a little over halfway, stuck on the freeway in heavy traffic.  We asked him to take an exit so that we could stop somewhere to use the restroom. He refused, saying that it would delay us too much, and instead pulled over on the side of the freeway, inviting us to get out and make our business quickly, with the weather at -18 degrees (C).. The audacity of the man was impressive. He did, however, present us all with pens as a thank-you, flamboyant styluses with his contact details inserted in with the refill.

When we finally arrived in Montreal, dazed and bone-weary, Anthony thanked us again and asked for money from those who hadn’t yet paid. Some people angrily refused and stormed off. He seemed perplexed, but did not react angrily. My friend and I were at a hotel some distance from the drop-off point, so we asked him if he could drive us. He obliged immediately and took us to the hotel at no extra charge. But not before stopping at his own house, taking 5 attempts to parallel park his van on a slope and changing cars. On the way to the hotel he told us about his life, and while saying farewell he gave us his personal e-mail in case we wanted to stay in touch.

You might think I’m a lunatic, recommending Rideshare after such a harrowing experience. But in truth, I’m grateful for it. The world has a lot of pretenders and ordinary people, but very few characters. Anthony was one of the most memorable people I’ve met-he was completely oblivious to all the abuse and went out about doing exactly what he wanted to. He was always polite, attempted to make jokes, and his behavior was so ridiculous that it helped his passengers bond.

I had a great time in Montreal. So many amazing memories were created during that trip, but whenever we get nostalgic the first story that pops out is our experience with Anthony. And yes, I still have that pen.

Karachi Vs. Lahore

Over the past few months, I’ve met a huge number of Pakistanis here in Toronto. Unlike the ones from back in Dubai, who become an interesting blend of Dubai’an-Paki, the ones here are unadulterated. As such, I’ve learnt more about the mindset and culture of urban Pakistanis in the last 5 months than I ever did in 18 years in DXB.

Overwhelmingly, the Pakistanis here are from the 2 biggest cities: Karachi- the most populous city and the center of commerce- and Lahore- the cultural capital of the country.

French Beach @ Khilahore

As in many countries with 2 cities at the forefront (Brazil: Sau Paulo-Rio, Spain: Barca-Madrid, US: NYC, LA), there is a passionate rivalry between Khi’ites & Lahoris; the debate ranges from cricket to cuisine to nightlife. What I found fascinating is the difference in the Urdu(de facto main language in both) slang between the two cities. Khi’ites have a narrower body of slang, they tend to use more English loanwords than Lahoris, while the latter have a strong Punjabi influence and take generous creative license with the Urdu language.  Thanks to lahoriii at Lahore Metblogs for some of these:

Khi                             Lahore                           Meaning in English

Tafri                                    Shugal                                  Fun, Chilling
Kuch Nahin Hota                 Koi Nahin                            No worries
Set hai                                 Fit hai                                  Sounds good
Girl/Guy                              Bandi/Banda                        Girl/Guy
Farigh                                 Wela                                     Idle, Got all the time in the world
Bharam                               N/A                                      Attitude
N/A                                   Cheeta                                   Someone brilliant, baller
N/A                                 Miss Karao                              Screw it, forget it
N/A                                 Chaa gaya/Yeh Cheez!            Awesome!/You rock
Dar gayee                        Pack ho gayee                         Got freaked out
Kuch Bhi                          Bongi                                       Bulls*&t
Bharambaaz                     N/A                                         Showoff
Lush push                      Chikni                                       Hot, sexy

Please feel free to suggest some more or fill in the blanks…