January 29, 2013

The Curious Case of the Peculiar Pakistani & The Super Simple Burger Bar

These days, there’s some electricity and excitement in the air as we slowly edge our way towards elections here in Pakistan. After a choking five years, there’s a collective chant for change across the country, and we finally have the chance to choose our change-maker. Actually, let me correct that, you have a chance to choose. I won’t be voting. Not because I’m lazy or lack the power of decision. The truth is I can’t vote…here.

See, I’m an American. Wait! Before you rise to clap and belt out the Star Spangled Banner in my honor, let me finish that thought.

I’m also a Pakistani. Wait! Before you pull out a gun and tell me I have the right to remain silent, please just let me finish.

What I really am is confused. Very confused.

It’s enough that I’ve never been sure what order those superlatives should be stated in. American-Pakistani, Pakistani-American? Frankly, both are a mouthful of awkward. But it’s seriously too much to bear that it actually matters.

Blame bogus Bush-isms (yeah, thanks for the “with us or against us” blabber, Dubya!) or put it on Pakistani politicians planting the seeds of prejudice, the point is, you either act like an American or play the part of a Pakistani. Trying to intertwine the two can leave you bordering on insanity and in some cases, can even be illegal (shout out to the dual-nationals holding public office in Pakistan!).

The thing is, I’m neither and I’m both.

January 10, 2013

Motherhood: The Truth About Cats & Blogs with Chicken Potpie & Buttermilk Biscuits

Making the decision to have a child–it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." - Elizabeth Stone 
One of the great ironies of motherhood is that the second you think you have a second; you're already a second too late. And that's exactly why I've been on hiatus for almost 2 weeks. 

When I sat down to type out my thoughts, my 9 month old was peacefully playing with his blocks in the background, with only the slightest hint of the sniffles. Six hours later, he was nursing a full-blown fever and a nasty cough. As the doctor put it, "something viral." Almost a week's worth of down days later and he was in the clear. And, I thought, so was I.

Not so. A new crisis was crawling around in my baby's hair.

A lice infestation!

What followed can only be described as a hose-down of the entire household. Several days of sterilization later, a semblance of sanity was restored, and I finally sat down to spill.

When I began writing for Hunger & Haw Hai, I had a very loose idea of what I wanted this blog to be; an ode to fabulous food and an outlet for my frivolous frustrations. So when someone asked me if I'd be talking about motherhood, I nodded enthusiastically. Too bad the excitement inside me felt more like a freak-out setting in.

What did I know about being a mother?

My inner voice, that annoying little troll that never shuts up, chuckled.

The thing is, like everyone else, I come from an endearingly dysfunctional family (seriously, is there any other kind?). Both my parents are strong-willed, stubborn firecrackers. Basically, they're me, just a couple of decades older. My siblings? We're a tight unit too. Sometimes, I feel like we're all just different shades of the same person.

Collectively, we laugh, we cry, we fight, we hug, we make up and more than anything else, there's plenty of love going around. In short, we're a whirlwind of hotheads, holding on to each other, for better or for worse. Just one thing though, a tornado like that doesn't give you much time to dissect the dynamics of parenthood.

So as terrifying as this may sound, the truth is, most of what I know about parenting is stuff I've learned off the internet. The rest? My cat and this blog.

Let's pause here so you can go ahead and gasp.

In my defense, both my mother and sister live out of town and really, I think Nano's been out of the game so long, it just isn't fair expecting her to remember what it was like raising her runts.

Besides, as awesome as it must be to get grounded guidance 24/7, I'm awful at taking advice.

And so, feeling incredibly insecure about my child-rearing repertoire, I delayed penning this post as long as possible.

During pregnancy, I rode the roller-coaster of uncontrollable emotions, ranging from "Yeah, work that belly, you beautiful, bulging blob," to "Wow, I'm too irresponsible to be responsible for another tiny soul," and of course, the hallowed hallmark of expecting women around the world "OMG! I'm fat, ugly, and my husband is definitely having an affair."

I'll be the first to admit that I had no real or rational basis for any of these far-flung feelings. Hormones don't really have a reputation for being reasonable or rational, right?

And finally, my little slice of sweetness arrived.

Fast forward three months and I had lost most of the baby weight. Fast forward three more and I had lost most of my mind.

January 7, 2013

The Charm of Cheating & Blood Orange Mousse

Remember I told you I went to college at the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement? Yeah, that school is the beautiful University of California, Berkeley. There are a couple of cold, hard facts you catch on to pretty quick when you come to Cal. 

For starters, it's where Smart, meets Smarter. Feelings of insecurity and inadequacy are expected side-effects of attending such an awesome institution. Also, anything out of the ordinary isn't just okay, it's encouraged. Most importantly though, you learn the difference between a good education and a great education; a good education cultivates casual curiosity, a great education imparts an unharnessed eagerness to explore your options.

I was the lucky recipient of the latter.

It's the only rational explanation for  how I went from expertly manipulating the masses to regularly writing for such a small, specialized segment.

Of course, back in B-school, when I was busy being bred for the boardroom, I never thought I'd end up typing out tales instead of tackling target markets, but to quote John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." God, I love him!

And life did indeed "happen", so here I am.

So what do marketeers and writers have in common? Simple. To succeed they need to be stellar story-tellers. In other words, they have to brilliant in the art of BS. This is how it works; we gauge your gullibility and scrounge up a story to sucker you in.

Case in point, I once convinced my brother that if he stuck his finger in his belly button, he'd be able to hear his own heartbeat. The poor boy sat there, serious, silent and still, for at least 5 minutes, hoping to hear the pump-a-thump of his heart, before I put an end to his pain and my perverse pleasure.

Granted, he's disgustingly easy to dupe, but you catch my drift.

To be fair, I'm not immune from idiocy either.

A long time ago, someone suckered me into believing there was a way to guarantee a great upcoming year; celebrate New Year's eve making merry in a way that mirrored how I'd like the next year to turn out. For example, ringing in the new year with waterworks was a bad idea, unless I wanted to experience random bouts of bawling over the next 12 months.

I took this sound sounding advice and honestly, this New Year's eve was the best I've had in about a decade.

What'd I do? I'll get to that in a second, but first let me tell you what I didn't do.