Lost in Translation

As much as I like the movie, this post is not about the movie 'Lost in Translation'. It is about little things that we never thought we need to know and are not taught in ESL classes or for that matter in schools.

A friend needed a ride to the halal store and dear hubby decided to oblige. Once there my friend asked me which daal was supposed to be split yellow lentils. She needed to shop for a recipe of daal palak (spinach with lentils) she had seen online. So we browsed through the rack of lentils in all colors. Is it daal masoor without skin, the one that looks orange/peach but turns yellow on cooking or is it daal moong without skin, the one that is yellow both before and after cooking. I suggested daal channa based on my interest in cooking. She picked daal masoor and returned home happy to cook for a few friends from across the globe. The cooking went well and the spinach lentil dish worked out fine. She later sent me a link to the online recipe and upon checking it I found it referred to 'yellow split gram lentils'. Now what on earth is that.

Upon googling the unfamiliar phrase for daal I discovered that gram lentils refers to daal channa. However, that is not the point. The point that I am vaguely alluding to is how many things need active translation and interpretation when you leave home and find abode in a place where rice has an expiration date. I grew up with the idea that the older the rice you cook the better it is.

The idea is that when you translate garam masala and achar it is not the same thing. When you use fry or saute for 'bhoonanaa' it is not the same thing and when you cook daal from walmart it is no where near the truck driver daal maash that you find at little shacks lined up around GT road. It is just never the same thing.



Link exchange & Technoarti Fav

We blog and blog and then we sit back and wait for traffic. You write and the echoes of your words float in the cyber world. Is there any one out there?

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The best definition of culture I could ever find was 'collective lifestyle'. It encompasses everything from achaar and biryani to chehlum and valima. However, what this definition does not convey is dissent of those existing within a culture: those who live on the edges and refuse to endorse the norms and customs they find senseless. Shall we label them individualistic and automatically malign them with the stigma of outcasts or shall we be brave enough to at least attempt to make sense of the dissent voiced by these pariahs.

Dissent within cultures is a voice that maintains the fluidity and survival of the aforementioned. It is disagreement with the current and reinterpretation of the past that paves the path towards the future. A culture of stagnation is akin to a recipe for self destruction. It brings its own doom upon itself. Yet we do not see and we hold on tight to our stubborn dispositions. Resultantly, the disgruntled depart and the culture is deprived of the very agents of change that are essential to its smooth progression through time and space.

Change happens, nonetheless, whether resisted or accepted. Only that the harbingers of this change are persecuted like false prophets and victimized for their ability to foreshadow the future.


The distance between two people is the depth of the void between them when they stare face to face. It is the vacuum that is evaded better with silence than words. It is the unsaid norm that is dictated by neither yet commanded by both.

What really is the distance between here and there, now and then, you and me...


It is just a tie

You think you have heard the most ridiculous thing ever yet there is always something better out there. Seriously, there is no end to the absurdity of human thought. Correction: lack of thought. Turns out that someone at a notable mosque in the DC area asked the imam a rather 'let's say interesting' question and the imam responded to the faithful seeker's query in today's Friday sermon'

The Question: Is it halal to wear a tie in Islam (because it imitates the the attire of non-Muslims!)?

I am not even bothering with an answer.

P.S. This mosque/sermon is attended by professionals with at least a college degree.


Little acts

You grow up learning about virtue at home and school. There is religious teaching and plain simple social norm. Also, there is learning by seeing. You watch your parents conduct their lives and try to follow to in their steps. But somewhere along the way a lot of us forget the goodness.

Last night I witnessed a little act of goodness and I thought I should share it here. My apt. mate and I went out for coffee with Anne and Amy. Amy is a dear friend I have known for a while now and Anne is Amy's friend. I have met Anne a couple of times before. However, my apt. mate was meeting Anne for the first time. My apt. mate has met Amy before and they are acquainted. So anyway, we had a nice evening out walking and talking and then sipping away at our tea/coffee at this nearby place.

The little act that brings a smile to my face even the next morning is my apt. mate's insistence upon paying for us all. She paid for all four of us despite protest. She did not have to and she did not need to but she wanted to and she did. This is a small gesture of kindness coming from a big generous heart. Back home it might not have been a big deal but here it is - a BIG deal. And it is such a joy to witness such small acts in the chaotic world we live in today.

Not happy with my bank

I just found a charge that I do not recognize on my credit card statement and called them up to ask what is going on. They said I need to talk to my bank because the charge is for a payment reversal and thus I have been fined . So i call up my bank and they give me the most ridiculous reason one can think of. Yes, seriously they did. I filed a complaint of course but I am so not optimistic about that.

The banking system in this country escapes me. And it is not the only thing. the health system is the real winner. There is no way for me to make sense of it ever. So yeah I am not happy with my bank. So not happy with my bank .

And now that I am here ranting about the health care system. You should watch 'Sicko'. You really should. It is informative to the point of being alarming and almost depressing. So if the health care system here escapes you watch 'Sicko' it will be like catharsis.

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Defame Islam, get sued

OIC has devised a new strategy to deal with the ever growing Islamophobia prevalent in today's world. This might or might not work. Nonetheless, it is certainly a far more positive approach than taking to violence. Here is the link to an article discussing the aforementioned.
Defame Islam. Get Sued

Spitzer and the Islamabad Cat House

In the light of the Spitzer scandal and the Cat House revelation in Islamabad, I cannot help but venture my views on the oh-o-shunned and taboo issue of prostitution.

I believe prostitution serves a function in society. It does not come about in a vacuum. It is plain simple demand and supply. Cracking down on supply alone will not solve the issue. The root lies at the demand end. Will shutting down brothels lead people to refrain from sexual relations outside marriage? Certainly not. Will these people give up looking for what they seek altogether? No. Chances are they will look in other places and those options might turn out more disastrous. I remember reading a survey some time back about incest and rape incidents increasing with a cut down on prostitution. (I really wish I had a reference here and will try and look it up if possible).

Prostitution is a symptom not a cause of moral depravity. Eliminating the symptom will not kill the infection. Thus, the very idea of shutting down brothels or shunning prostitution is plain ludicrous to me. Those who have relations with call girls will not give up their lifestyles just by virtue of there being no call girls. And mind you, there will be call girls. Prostitution is fact that we conveniently shun and dismiss. It has been there throughout history and will outlive us all. You can trace as it as far back as you want and wherever you want to go on this planet.

The problem is not the prostitutes but those who turn to them. Curb the demand and supply will drop. The brothels will shut down automatically once the visitors stop visiting. Meanwhile, how about learning to deal with the problem with a different approach. You cannot stop people from going to brothels overnight but you can try and control some of the negative effects. Take STDs. How about setting up free health clinics near areas where prostitutes abound. How about ensuring that those catering to the needs of those indulging in prostitution are treated and kept from becoming the STD hubs of society. How about teaching safe sex practices to those who are frequented by members of 'our' society and trying to keep their patrons from bringing the 'fruit' of their encounters home to their partners.


Disappointment can never come about in a vacuum. Its roots dig in to our expectations. You cannot be disappointed without expectation. Things good or bad cannot disappoint you unless you were anticipating something otherwise. Thus, the basis of all disappointment is expectation. Shall we give up expecting then?

I doubt it is possible to give up expectation. It is synonymous to giving up hope. And hope is the essence of life. You cannot live without hoping. You cannot give up hope even when hope and reality drift as far apart as possible.

Hope is reason. Hope is direction. It is purpose and the path towards the destination. The path must never be abandoned. Whether you reach the destination or not is immaterial.

Oysters 101

My first rendezvous with oysters was spring break last year. And since then it has been a steady relationship. The first encounter came by virtue of the Louisiana Gumbo at New Orleans. I was coaxed in to trying it out by a friend of mine who lives on seafood. I must say it was not love at first sight (taste!).

Oysters have a taste that is hard to describe. They taste nothing like fish or shrimp. The texture is slippery and rubbery. And they are very soft. You have to try them out to know the taste. There really is describing it. So, like I said it was not love at first taste. The taste grows on you slowly and once you get hooked to it, there is no letting go. For me oysters came the way sushi did. I did not like the first bite but was slowly conditioned in to appreciation. Also, oysters are the new hip thing. They are a delicacy. And, while they might not be for everyone, everyone must try them once to know what they are missing out on.

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Dreams serve a greater purpose in being dreams than anything else. A dream is beautiful because it is a dream. Of course, I am talking about dreams that we see with our eyes wide open. And no this does not refer to daydreaming. Though, I think daydreaming also has a purpose. It gives us something to want and may be aspire towards. We can also daydream about thinks that we can only want and mere wishing for those things gives us a sense of satisfaction.

Dreams give us a reason, something to work towards. This something could be in the near future or in the distant tomorrow. Both ways it has become the potential for to take us to the future. Whatever that future may be or might hold for us.

My dream a few years ago was a graduate degree from the land of opportunity. A dream that worked hard for and a dream that meant more than many comforts and other dreams. Now I am close to achieving that dream. A graduate degree from a top notch school!

The closer the fulfillment of the dream gets the less important the dream becomes. That is the thing with dreams. They are more precious when they are just dreams than when they become reality. Reality is mundane and banal. Reality is just this breath and the next tied together by the ticking away of the clock.

The important thing however is to find new dreams. New dreams that can carry one through reality and dreams that add meaning to where we have come through the dreams we once dreamt and later fulfilled.

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Lahore blasts

Lahore is home, a place where I went to college, started work, got married and will be returning to soon. Lahore is where friends and family are. Lahore is where my past, present and future are. Lahore is where my dreams, hopes and ambition are.

And today Lahore is in distress. My city, my home, my land is in distress and we the loyal citizens of the city that hosted civilization for centuries are silent by passers. We the proud patrons of art and culture are witnesses to carnage. We the arrogant pious Muslims of the Islamic Republic of the 'not so pure' are in awe of our own doing.

How did we get here? When did all this get so close to home? Why did we sleep through turmoil and now stand numb in shock? What is it that can restore the peace and calm of the streets I once walked alone: without fear, without grief, without death, without tragedy, without noticing, without trying, without knowing that these streets are home and home needs guardians. When did citizens stop being custodians and when did custodians seal the fate of our brick ad mortar and in blood and flesh.



Expectations are our way of coping with the uncertainty of what the future might bring. We create them with all our hopes and insecurities and then we cling to them. We build them up like idols and then worship them night and day. Sometimes we become so obsessed with our expectations that we fail to see all that lies beyond them. We ignore the reality of the world around us and busy ourselves in feeding our often unrealistic expectations. They need not be more or less than reality. They need not be realistic at all. They are our back doors, our safe havens, our self created abodes and our own creations to escape from things that we cannot fathom.


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Yesterday we ate out at a Pakistani place in the DC area. The problem we ran in to was simple yet amusing. My Indonesian friend has been practicing basic urdu for a while so she likes being able to order food in urdu. This does not work quite well though when the only people you see working in a Pakistani food place happen to be Latinos.


National Identity

I have been working on a digital poster for my nationalism course. There is the endless search for images, audio/video clips and the appropriate text to fit a small space of no more than an A4 size sheet of paper. And then there is the search for an identity that I have constructed and deconstructed time and again. How do you outgrow or shed the conditioning of nationalism or even religion. I bring in religion because national identity in Pakistan is intertwined with religion. Why? Because we think the nation was created in the name of religion.

Correction: Pakistan was created to be a country for Muslims of India and not Islam. There is a difference: a difference we often fail to see, a difference that matters and a difference that makes all the difference sometimes.

I wonder why no history text book in the land of the pure ever quotes Jinnah's first address to the Constituent Assembly.

'You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.'

But then it really does not take a lot of wondering. Our national identity is socially constructed and we grow up conditioned in to it. Hence, we think ourselves nationals of a great nation and associate our blood and belonging with a piece of land: a piece of land no different from any other piece of land. We hold sacred our map, flag, 'founding fathers' and monuments. Never realizing that they are just symbols and people long dead and these symbols are no different than symbols held esteemed by people across the globe. We live our lives divided as nations: people who would rather be part of a great nation than being plain simple human beings.


Sleep cycle

So I skipped sleep for a day and stayed awake till 11 pm. Cooked, cleaned and did a hand full of things like laundry, bank trip and all. Bottom line, I survived the day. Problem: the sleep problem persists. Ideas anyone?

And now that I am on to general ranting, there is this microfinance paper I just HAVE to get off my back. Been working on it for a while now and there it is...still incomplete...have the framework in order...just need to finalize the case studies. And then the mind numbing task of putting it all together.

I should put my profession as 'paper writer'. Seriously, that is what I do: write papers. One after another. Just paper after paper. I need to stop writing papers. I need to just stop writing papers .

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Sleep cycle

My sleep cycle has been a mess for over two weeks now. I sleep after sunrise and wake up sometime in the evening to find out the day is almost over. What a waste? The problem is I just cannot go to sleep at night. I try going to bed early, make the mid night cut off point, toss and turn and then just spend the night wide awake.

How or why this happened is beyond me. What I do know though is that this is crazy. It is not as bad as it could be but still it needs to be fixed. I am lucky I do not have classes before 2 pm. So I manage to pull off my very erratic sleep routine.

This has to stop. Hence, today the plan is to not sleep i.e. I am going to skip sleep for a day and see if that helps. So here it is. I have been up since 3 pm yesterday and it is 10 am now. I will run a few errands, do laundry, cook, clean...whatever it takes to stay awake another ten hours and then finally dump myself on the mattress.



Silence is the absence of sound. We communicate through it when words fail us or when we are failed by our words. It fills the void between two people even when none of them speaks. However, silence becomes hollow and empty sometimes. It loses the ability to express when the only medium of communication is sound. When we talk to someone over the phone all we exchange is sound. Without sound the communication breaks down sometimes.

Imagine you are talking to someone and you go quiet. If the two of you are sharing physical space, the communication link is still functional. You can see each other, observe body language and communicate through facial expressions or gestures. A sigh, shrug or smile can add meaning to silence in person.

This meaning is lost over a telephonic conversation. Silence becomes stripped of its meaning when the communication channel is based on sound alone. Silence in such instances can lead to misunderstanding and overlooking the intent of the one who went quiet. Thus, demanding an explanation or a justification.

Oyster Joke

What does daddy oyster say to mommy oyster? Open up I want to see your pearl.
What does mommy oyster say to daddy oyster? It's a girl.
What does baby oyster say to daddy oyster? Give me a swirl.

Jokes aside oysters are delicious little mollusks packing low calorie proteins, minerals, vitamins and healthful omega-3 fatty acids. How do I know that? Because I like to know what I eat and how it effects me. Do you like to know about the foods you love? I hope you do because if you do not you can not only miss out on a lot but also put your health at risk.

Take oysters. When eaten undercooked, they can pose serious health risks. The risks are much worse for people with diabetes, liver disease and weak immune systems. If you have any of the above mentioned and consume raw oysters you can fall seriously ill and even die. Did you know that? I did not till I checked out the amazing new web resource by Gulf oysters. It is easy to use and holds a ton of useful information. I recommend you check it out now and relish the flavor of your favorite food without causing your health any harm.