Wednesday, September 29, 2010


When I was twelve, I would tell people that when I grow up, I'm going to plant sunflowers all over Karachi. I thought of starting a campaign that would leave the streets clean and tree-lined, with flowers bursting out of every corner. I imagined I would do it, because I was sure of myself, sure that my plan would succeed. I imagined the idea would be embraced by all Karachiites, because who wouldn't want to look out their car windows and see the upturned faces of bright yellow flowers?
I dropped watermelon seeds into some dirt once, waiting for a plant to grow. It didn't. I put it down to my black thumbs, but looking back, it probably wasn't my thumbs, only my innocent desire to believe I had so much control over the unyielding patch of dry earth.
In Karachi, "sore eyes" takes on a whole new meaning. I feel as if my eyes are literally aching for a hint of beauty. I stare out my car window when I pass through Saddar and Old Clifton, trying to absorb the finer points of the architecture and old trees through the ugly structures surrounding them. Last time, I scanned the roads for a place, any place, where I could scatter a few seeds, in case I ever launch my plan of so many years ago. I couldn't find one that hadn't been trampled on by tar or cement.
The thought that there is no place for anything to grow makes me panic a little.
The thought that Karachi's soil has become hardened, hostile, disbelieving. An earth that questions why I would even want sunflowers.
I'm not someone who hungers for natural beauty or simply likes to see a lot of trees around. Trees would be lovely, but I would take anything at this point. I smiled a little when I saw that someone had installed pretty little lights along one road which happened to have electricity. Then I noticed all the lights were shaped like the Kaaba. There is nothing wrong with expressing your love for the Kaaba, but is a religious reminder the only reason anyone will do anything anymore? What happened to beauty for the sake of beauty, lights for the sake of lights?
Beauty might be low on the list of priorities for this city's residents, but I think a few flowers might do us all a lot of good.


On some days I write essays that I choose not to share with the world. This doesn't mean I'm not writing one every day, it just means I won't blog it. I'm going to keep numbering the ones on the blog in order though, cause I like the way it looks.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I can never recall what day it is, where I kept my cell phone or what I had for breakfast this morning, but I have a ridiculously good memory for irrelevant things that happened very long ago. Unfortunately, I wasn't bestowed with the gift of an incredible short-term memory, so I can't ever really pride myself on remembering things. I do, however, take the phrase "ringing a bell" to a whole new level. Bells go off in my head about five thousand times a day, as random smells and colours and comments remind me of something that happened when I was two or six or eleven.
It's usually instantaneous. I can never explain this to people who don't have a good sense of smell or an olfactory memory, but the smell of the air can take me back in a second to another day fifteen years ago which had the same smell. If there is a slight breeze which smells like traffic, chances are I will have a flashback to opening my car door in 1992. You can probably imagine how I spend most of my time having tiny little flashbacks. I've tried telling people I'm not spaced out or anything, I just keep remembering things. Nobody gets it. If you get it, please share it with me.
The other day, something literally rang a bell. The tiny ghungroos at the bottom of someone's window blinds moved and instead of the usual clear flashback, I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it reminded me of. I remembered something round, something silver, something to do with a spoon, something to do with my grandfather, a yellow toybox, a room with high ceilings. It took me longer than usual to piece together the irritatingly disconnected rememberings into a coherent aha moment. Someone gave me a real silver rattle when I was born, which lay around our house for a long time. It made the exact same sound as the tiny ghungroos on the blinds.
What amazing satisfaction it gave me to remember.
This means I don't really have an amazing memory. I just remember what I rehearse, and thanks to my sense of smell, I've rehearsed every stupid moment of my life because it corresponds with smelling something. Apparently, back when I had silver rattles, I paid more attention to sound than smell.
Since I'm a would-be historian and not a would-be psychologist, I have no idea what this says about the human brain, but it says plenty about the past. No wonder I'm obsessed with the past when I return to it (on a micro-level) so many times a day. It just takes me one step closer to my time-machine fantasy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Let me first say, I will obviously not manage my goal of one hundred essays in one hundred days, thanks to my ten-day hiatus from the blogosphere. In a hundred and ten days, maybe. But not a hundred. The disappointment of this was preventing me from jumping on my laptop and writing an essay yesterday, while I was still in my "what's the point if I don't get a hundred in a hundred" funk, but I got over it. I usually get over things pretty fast.
So...I'm back! And how I missed my daily exercise. Contrary to what you might believe, it was neither laziness nor lack of inspiration that kept me away from writing. Still, the break was good. It taught me a lot of things, one of them being that I need to write simply because mental notes They just don't. When beautiful ideas go floating past you in your sleep, there is absolutely no point in telling yourself you will wake up and record them, because by morning, all you'll remember is the missed opportunity.
I also learned that a break can provide enough time to think of all sorts of essay ideas that were missing before. Where ten days ago I was pestering everyone I knew for whatdoIwriteabout? tips, my brain is suddenly exploding with ideas. I don't think I'll be able to stop when my hundred days (or hundred and ten) are up. Every day that I skipped an essay, I felt anxious and unsettled, like I hadn't put on the right underwear or had forgotten to brush my teeth. I also felt guilty. There are stories demanding to be told in the world, and I haven't been telling them.
It's good to be back.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


When I go to watch a movie in Karachi, I am willing to overlook all the things that are common to the city. I don't complain about the electricity going in the middle of an interesting scene, the terrible print, the bad bhangra songs that blare in the intermission, the fact that there is a 20 minute intermission at all...none of it really bothers me. The only thing that seriously does is the ridiculous number of babies that people bring to watch movies that are rated R for language, sex and violence.

You might think it is cringeworthy to watch embarrassing scenes on TV with your parents or grandparents, but think again. There is nothing as cringeworthy as hearing someone on a big screen say "Suck my dick, asshole!" before slitting someone's throat, while parents and their toddlers happily share their popcorn. You might think I have no right to judge, but honestly, some people just shouldn't reproduce. I don't care if they can't afford maids or nannies and don't have anyone to babysit. The quality of the cinematic experience in Karachi isn't so amazing that you can't live without it until your kids are old enough to either understand the movie or stay home.

For a country that has adopted an extremely prudish attitude towards sex, some people seem remarkably cool with kids absorbing inappropriate sexual references with their baby food. Do you really want to shush your five year old when he asks "What does he mean he took off her clothes?" in a packed theatre? Can you really enjoy any film knowing that your 3-foot-high genius is going to tell all his friends what the F word is? Do you really want to spend 500 rupees on giving your children this educational experience?

My anxiety at the sheer amount of bad parenting and stupid life choices around me prevent me from really enjoying any movie. Yes, I am easily distracted. You try to passively pay attention to a screen when a week-old baby is wailing its lungs out because its parents have brought it to a war movie full of people's heads being blown off. You try and have fun on a night out when you wonder why someone doesn't realise that their nearly naked infant is probably howling because it's freezing in the theatre. It's like tolerating child abuse for an hour and a half straight.

Then people wonder why so many idiots make it through our educational system. Look at how they're being raised! I bet Zardari also enjoyed his little family night at the Bambino cinema. It obviously did wonders for his personal growth. This is where it all begins. Age 1.5, seated at the Seaview Cineplex, watching Cameron Diaz sexually proposition Tom Cruise before one of them is shot.

And you thought Uncle Sargam was a little creepy.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Being an adult sucks. I'm not one of those people who just wakes up one morning and panics at the realisation of responsibility. Contrary to what a lot of people might believe, I'm almost always responsible. I almost always have been, to a thoroughly boring extent. That's why I can't believe how difficult it is for me to adjust to the daily grind of a steady job and no school.

I've tried in vain to find something very wrong with my job. I've tried criticizing it from every angle in the one month I've been employed. I've overthought my general lack of excitement and happiness in the past few weeks. There is no good reason for it. I'm just bored. Adulthood is boring.

I terribly miss my own time. I had planned to do so many things once I have time. There are so many things to do. There are so many things to do before more responsibility sets in. Theoretically, I have more time now than I did in college, but I know now that being an "adult" isn't about doing what I want. It's about learning that I usually can't. That I usually won't be able to. That there really isn't any such thing as my own time.

I used to pack my day with so many things to do I barely had time to breathe and literally didn't have time to sleep or eat. I thrive on pressure. On productivity. What is it about sharing my life with others again that has slowed it down so much? Suddenly, I have gone from nonstop action to far too much waiting around. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting to learn patience, waiting to be able to do what I want. It terrifies me that a time like that might never come. I hate self-help books that tell you to seize the moment, the time is ripe, blah blah blah. It's not that easy, I want to scream. On what planet do people with work and loans and families and curfews suddenly take control of their own lives one fine day?

Is growing up about giving up? Is it about finding a place in what they call our collectivist society and falling into it? Is it about cutting back on what you want to do to accomodate everything else? Because it can't be. The past few years of my life can't have been an isolated bubble. I know I can do five thousand things a day, and not being able to drives me INSANE.

Wish me luck. I will either abandon adulthood or my sanity, because I'm not giving up.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Dear Punjab government and censorship authorities,
While we all know that the prosperous, peaceful times we live in must leave you all with plenty of free time on your hands, your latest act of stupidity belies that you might be a tad overpaid for sitting around debating nothing. Of all the inane things to do, you have decided to ban the one Hindu cartoon that airs in Pakistan. The one program in the plethora of absolute crap which we are forced to bear on our television screens, which was the easiest possible target for you. After all, with only a million or two Hindus around, you can easily avoid the tire burning brigade that you would ordinarily come up against.

I was a bit confused when I first heard that one program on TV is supposedly going to corrupt our children's pure Muslim morals, go against our Pakistani culture and encourage citizens to fraternize with the enemy. I suppose if I'm fair, you might have a point though. Watching an animated Ganesh or Hanuman dance across a screen for 30 minutes a week can in fact brainwash our impressionable youth into believing they should renounce Islam, cross the border, double-cross the ISI, sell their souls, etcetera. After all, we have already observed how Dora the Explorer has duped our kids into believing that they are Hispanic, and Sesame Street into forcing us all to think we are hairy muppets and should refer to ourselves in the third person. I suppose if you give a decent amount of thought to the topic, it can be inferred that Hindu cartoons will cause mass conversion to Hinduism. The fact that your faith in Islam or what you call your Pakistani culture is quite so delicate that it requires censorship to maintain is irrelevant, I suppose. To each his own, but at the rate you are going, oh holy ones, I'm afraid your souls might need more saving than the children who misguidedly watch animated shows about mythology.

I might have to put the (lack of) logic in the actual desire to censor aside for a minute though, since God knows censorship is awfully arbitrary these days and I have no control over what you choose to make your issue of the day. However, I am compelled to point out a slight problem with your definition of "Pakistani cultural heritage". I dislike mistakes; I think if you are going to make a point and defend it against all odds, you should at least do us the service of getting your facts right. You might have skipped eighth grade (chances are, with your fake degrees you probably did), but um-we didn't actually inherit our culture from an alien land. The lines that were drawn across the subcontinent in 1947 did not unfortunately erase about a millenia of heritage that we got from being-don't shoot me-Indian. I hate to break it to you, but some people across the border (the Hindu kind) actually speak the same language as us, not to mention other equally unfortunate similarities. A little deduction will lead you to the conclusion that we might share a little culture in common with Hindus. I hate to break it to you, but denying that Hinduism and its mythology plays a part in your pure Pakistani culture would require that you stop eating biryani. Immediately. It's not our cultural heritage. From now on, you might want to consider a ban on all food that doesn't originate from the holy land, because it doesn't fit too well into our culture and all.

I know that was hard for you to hear. I know you probably stopped mid-bite to consider the misery of giving up your God-given right to enjoy the best parts of your culture. I know you are reconsidering your obsession with being Arab (and therefore a better Muslim by your own definition). But please, don't let me distract you. You have to get back to business. I suggest that you start by banning a certain fake cleric whose show advises your children to kill Ahmaddis in the name of Islam but spare chipkalis in case they are really jinns in disguise. Then you might want to move to ban news shows which barge into the tents of flood survivors who observe purdah and terrify them into sharing their stories because misery sells. Maybe when you're done with all that, you can spare a glance for a Hindu cartoon. You know, the one that a few thousand Hindu kids who can afford TV like to watch so they feel like their cultural heritage isn't being ignored. While you're at it, feel free to eliminate TV shows with yourselves airing your moronic opinions, because I am afraid that being exposed to such content makes me think in expletives that are not becoming to a Pakistani Muslim at all.

Yours sincerely,

A still-Musalman who watches TV.

Friday, September 10, 2010


There are plenty of negative things people associate with living in Pakistan-security concerns, loadshedding, food poisoning. One item which really needs to be added to the list is uncertainty. Uncertainty dominates life in this city, if not the entire country. Our government loves to surprise us: we never know for sure if we will have electricity or not, if schools will be open or not, if buses will be running or not, if roads will be flooded or not, if tomorrow is Eid or not. I won’t digress by going into the macro-level uncertainties of whether the judiciary is independent or not and whether parliament is supreme or not, I’ll save that for another day. The last of my micro-level concerns (is it Eid or is it not) is my favourite one on the list.

Well, is it? I sometimes forget that we see the same moon in Pakistan as people in Saudi Arabia or America or Indonesia. You would think that each Muslim country is apportioned its very own special moon, with varying levels of brightness and visibility. Kind of like a lucky-draw system: who’s going to get the visible moon this year? Joke’s on you if you’re the one commissioned with an extra day of fasting, but your moon didn’t really cut it this time. Somehow, southern Pakistan is always the team with the no-show Eid moon every year, with our fairer-skinned brethren up north joyfully declaring it a day before everyone else, almost traditionally. Apparently, the north-south divide can’t even agree on the date anymore. Peshawar will continue to gallop ahead into Shawwal while Karachi will freeze its shami kebabs and kheer for an extra day.

It’s not the actual fact of it not being Eid which I’m classifying as irritating. If anything, the country’s failure to decide if it wants to celebrate Eid or Jummat-ul-Wida is just funny, and since we’re only 29 rozas in, one can’t really complain. The irritation lies in the perpetual what-if game this country plays with your head all the time. Can someone just offer us a tiny bit of certainty around here? Maybe not a macro level, but please, please, on a smaller level? Just figure out a way to decide if schools will be closed after bomb blasts or not. Start quantifying how terrible violence needs to be for the city to shut down. Maybe even be super-efficient and announce load-shedding schedules in the newspaper? How about ditching the Ruet-e-Hilal committee and following a country which has less controversy around celebration?

At the end of the day, it’s the little things which save (or compromise) your sanity. Larger problems can be dealt with on a crisis-basis, but the smaller ones whittle away at your patience and make you wish some things could just be set in stone, for once.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Living in Karachi, watching the news every day and trying not to spend too much time dwelling on the possibility of watching this city-or country-imploding is exhausting. Trying to quieten the noise in my head, sometimes I feel as if I might collapse along with this bleeding metropolis.

It makes me wonder how you break a city, a state. Does the world break cities the way it breaks men? Is it a violent tearing to shreds, or is it a slow erosion? Or is it all in my head? Perhaps it's just the buzz in my brain. It confuses me.

What is it about this city, this country, which leaves us so unhinged by its grief? A friend from another country asked me once why I want to go back home, why I don't try to make a difference to another country, another people. I told her the truth: because it's home. She didn't understand.

You can hear the dying pulse of this country, like a soundtrack from a bad hospital-based soap opera. You can put your finger on it and it feel it throb slowly, feel its heart struggling to keep pumping blood. You can wonder why you have such a visceral attachment to a set of borders you profess not to believe in. You can wonder why you believe it is important to live and die in a place just because you're told it's your own. You can wonder why people who leave continue to follow its politics obsessively and donate to it generously.

You can wonder.
But you can't get away.

Monday, September 6, 2010


It was Nano's house, but it wasn't really. I only thought it was. It's important that I thought it was, because I wasn't the only one-we all thought it was. My aunt was making us sleep on a gigantic psychedelic blanket. It was tacky and fuzzy and had Disney characters all over it and I thought it was odd that she gave a strange, high laugh and said almost manically, "How cheap!" even while she asked us to like it. She pointed out Mowgli, from Jungle Book. There were so many guests-all my parents friends, even though they didn't belong at Nano's house at all, and one carried around a baby and asked me about daycare practice. When the table was laid for dinner, there was a secret plate of biryani on a chair, just for me, just because I had asked for it. Suddenly, I remembered I needed to go to class and ran to the kitchen with my plate of food to hand it back to the cook. Everything in the kitchen was black and white, no colour at all after the insanely bright colours indoors, but I cheerfully foisted my plate on the grouchy cook and continued running. "Class" turned out to be geology class, and it was inside a salt mine. I had a long, long conversation with a science student who asked me about my research. I told her finding original sources for history papers is basically time travel. It was a while before I remembered, with a kind of longing, that my biryani was still waiting for me at home, that Nano's house was full of the people I loved. I ran again, this time through Mount Holyoke. Ran through the familiar campus, ran past the familiar buildings, ran smelling the familiar winter-smell. I stopped only to appreciate the familiarity and laugh at the sheer brilliance of running in the cold through a place that feels like a home. I wondered what it would be like to be a horse.

The inside of Nano's house was black and white, but I was in colour. I was real. The table was still laid, but abandoned. It's then that I realised everyone is dead. Everyone died before I was born. The people I loved only existed in time travel; they had lived and died and I had never known them but through my sources. The chairs were really graves. My brother's grave had his face on it and I almost died of shock. It said 1947-1955, and for some reason I thought, so he died only five years before me. I woke up, but I remained insane for the rest of the day.

Disclaimer: I had this dream in April. Please don't worry about my mental health.


I've been asked by a non-Pakistani to give American college students a reason to care about Pakistan. A reason to care. A reason to care? Can you give anyone a reason to care?

The fact that this is considered a legitimate question is disturbing. This is not to say that it is an irrelevant question: on the contrary, it is one that people around the world are asking so often we have become used to it. People need a reason to give a damn about Pakistan. Why Pakistan, they ask, when there is so much need in so many places around the world?

I admit this initially left me stumped.

Then it hit me that the reason I am stumped is not because there is no reason to care, but because apathy is not something that can be addressed through logic. I can make any number of political arguments as to why the average American should consider donating to the cause of flood relief, but this is not a political crisis (for once). It is not connected to the war on terror (for once). Therefore, it logically follows that neither of these things should play a role in one human's desire to help another.

I already said there was no point in logical arguments though. The only plausible reason I can give would-be philanthropists is this: if your parents had drowned, your home had collapsed and you were watching your child die a slow death because you have no money left to afford malaria treatment, you would hope to God someone would help. You would hope to God that someone wouldn't waste time asking why they should. You would hope that someone wouldn't think twice about giving your child a shot at life because your president is an asshole.

Did anyone ask why they should care about Haiti? Sri Lanka? Kashmir? Russia? None of these states have avoided either corruption or political instability. It seems there are only questions in response to this question. They are disbelieving questions. I can't believe the world has come to a point where humanitarian aid is considered on the basis of the strategic value a country has.

On a different, but important note, the argument about terrorist groups winning hearts and minds if the United States does not step in is overrated. I think it is extremely doubtful that if Mullah Omar inadvertently saved my life by donating a pack of biscuits when I am starving, I would join Al Qaeda. I think it is even more doubtful that flood survivors who are being forced to fast and pray by relief organisations will be inclined to become suicide bombers. I won't even try and make that case for Americans to care about the crisis in Pakistan. I don't think I ethically can. If winning the war on terror is the only reason you have for donating to a cause, please don't.

Which leaves me with nothing to say again. Need I try and say more? Your question is offensive and if you are asking me to give you an antidote for apathy, I'm afraid nobody has found one so far.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


I've been thinking about the last straw that broke the camel's back. I've been picturing it a lot. I wonder what my last straw is, what it will be. I wonder sometimes if I already broke my back, but forgot to notice. I know I've broken it a few times already and it feels like every year there are more occasions, more days, when I am left broken, exhausted.

Usually, if I wake up less than happy, it's a sign that the last straw is coming right at me like a flying cockroach. It makes me wonder how often we collapse, how often we need to collapse to retain our sanity. There is the kind of hurt that puts your teeth on edge, and then there is the kind of exhausted hurt that crumples you like a worn-out tear-stained pillowcase.

It makes you wonder if being adult requires a regular dose of anxiety.

We should all allow each other to breathe more often. Being adult (but not adult enough) feels like not breathing and exhaling once every ten days or so. It feels like balancing on a narrow curb like you used to when you were a child and suddenly remembering you're not a child anymore and you're just...balancing. On worse days, last-straw days, it feels like a dream in which you suffocate.

It's probably the only way to appreciate a good night's sleep I suppose.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I wondered today why I keep coming back to this blog, day after day, forcing myself to write an essay whether I'm in the mood or not, whether I'm exhausted from work or not, whether I have time or not, whether I have anything to write about or not. I've never had trouble with commitment, but god knows I've never been this diligent or dedicated to anything else before. The truth is, this project has come to mean much more to me than I had ever considered it would. Now that I'm finishing the first quarter of my goal, I already find myself wondering what my next project will be. What is it about one essay a day that keeps me awake writing even through a bout of gastroenteritis, a ridiculously long week at work and personal commitments that leave me busy till midnight?

It's true what the self-help books say about setting goals for yourself, but writing every day is less about keeping myself busy and more about proving to myself that I can do whatever it is I decide to do. When I fail to write, I fail myself, not because what I am writing is important, but because if I can't even manage to do what I love for one hundred days, how will I ever do anything else with any amount of dedication?

Writing-and writing publicly-forces me to be an even tougher critic than I am on an ordinary basis. I constantly put myself down over the content, style, length and frequency (I don't always do one a day, sometimes I skip days and make up with more than one on an extra-creative day) of my blog. It's a way for me to censure and congratulate myself in equal measure, to feel like I am doing something that matters, because I'm doing it without anyone asking me to. As much as I would like to believe some anonymous syndicate likes to privately follow my blog and will call me Day 100 to offer me a job, I know it won't happen. What will happen though, is that I will have proved to myself in one hundred ways that I can do something just because I can.

Friday, September 3, 2010


For the past forty minutes, I have unsuccessfully tried to write an essay about something other than how much I miss college, but I've failed. Clearly. Nobody should ever spend that ridiculous an amount of time to come up with a first paragraph, but since I have, I may as well write what I keep going back to. Otherwise, I'll just sit here and stalk my friends on Facebook and wish I was sitting on my bed surrounded by piles of clothes and semi-unpacked luggage, making plans for a reunion pizza dinner with them.

Let me first clarify that I don't actually want this. Actually, all I want is to find a place where I can have constant intellectual stimulation, beautiful surroundings, friends who live next door, a non-long distance relationship, family nearby and a real job. In other words, I want to be back in college without leaving either the people I love, or the financial security I am coming to love. I had already weighed all these pros and cons in my head about a million times before I left home for college and then again before I graduated. It would be wrong to say I didn't know how much I would miss it, because I knew exactly how much I would miss it. But oh, how I miss it. So much.

One thing I deliberately avoided thinking about before I left was that saying goodbye to Moho was a different kind of goodbye. It wasn't like saying goodbye to anyone or anything else, because I don't know if I'm ever going to see it again. I can hope to see it again, but if I do, I don't know when it will be. And when I go back, I don't know if it will mean anything to me anymore. I've never been so fiercely attached to any other place before and I've never knowingly left something I won't get back before. I know this is standard: people don't usually hope to go bounding back to college right after they graduate. I miss who the place let me become. I miss it because it was the first place that was just my own, with everything on my own terms. Perhaps I got used to being selfish, but it's a heady feeling to be used to. That's why, when we drove to Bradley Airport for the last time through the campus, I pretended I was going back, or I would have gone crazy with the private goodbyes to the only place where I have ever really been alone.

It's wrong to say alone, though. I was never alone and can hopefully count on never being alone. I hope one day, I am like a member of the class of 1940, who attended their seventieth reunion in all their ancient glory, all five of them who are still alive. I hope one day, I do see it again and it does still mean something to me. For now, I seriously need to grow up, but I do hate goodbyes. So much.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I am completely obsessed with lists. I love lists. I love making them, reading them, counting items on them, crossing things off them, putting little check marks against them. I know this makes me a hopeless dork. Every essay I write comes after an inner battle not to write in entirely list form. It's not my fault I think in bullet points, after all. Nobody believes me when I say that, but it's true. I think in headings, subheadings and bullet points under the subheadings. Putting things eloquently isn't a talent of mine, but at least putting things neatly is. Today, I decided to give up the battle. I've proven my resilence, I've shown the world I can try and be all creative and flowery paragraphy with 21 normal essays. It's time to break out the lists. Here is my Great List of Why I Love Lists.

1) You never forget what to buy at the grocery store. There's never any "oh shit I went to the supermarket and I didn't pick up shampoo". There is only the satisfaction of making a comprehensive shopping list and checking things off it. Not only does it save time, it also helps prevent the "I went to Target to buy scotch tape and came home with a throw rug" conversation which is so apt to come up at least several times in your college career.

2) It makes writing papers (or essays) ten times easier when you have a mental list of what to say. In the case of academic papers, it also makes it much easier to pad your work with bullshit, because it's evenly distributed across the list of relevant stuff. I've noticed non list-makers tend to write very pretty papers, but their bullshit distribution can be a little off-all the nonsense tends to be concentrated towards the end, when there is a struggle to meet the word count.

3) You can start your daily to-do list with things you already did, or that you know will get done anyway (breakfast? Print homework?) just because it makes you feel awesome when you cross them off. In other words, there's nothing like a (fake) list to start your day off right.

4) It's easy to keep track of pretty much everything in your life. I have made lists of places I want to see before I die, things I need to do this week, books I will never read (*cough* Twilight *cough), 90s trends that need to come back and ways I would change my face if I was a Metamorphmagus. In case I or anyone else ever need to refer to these things, I've got it covered. Think of me as your grandfather's gigantic filing cabinet with all sorts of useless crap in there, but very well-organised crap.

5) It makes you feel productive. I have to admit that there were days when I went to the library, thought very hard and produced a brilliant list of everything I need to study. I don't mean jotting down all my homework, I mean a truly epic list, with suggestions and charts and all sorts of embellishments. By the time I'm done with this list, I feel like I deserve a break. Who doesn't like that glow you get when you know you absolutely deserve the nap you are taking?

6) Lists can go on forever. I can occupy myself endlessly making lists of just about anything. There's no getting bored when you have a list-maker in your head. There's also no running out of writing material. If you ever get tired of constructing paragraphs but still have a point to make, a list just might save your day.


I don't think there is anything our nation loves more than a good conspiracy theory, except perhaps biryani and cricket. Of course, when conspiracy theories are discussed over biryani while watching cricket, you have the formula for happiness. I doubt any of us are completely immune to the temptation of believing that either Israel or India is behind everything wrong that happens to this country, but some of us are worse than others, and some conspiracy theories are more creative than others.

One of my current favourite theories is that the Indus flooded because India made it happen. Bund breaches and badly-built dams aside, the idea that the Indian state was doing some kind of incredible rain-dance imploring us to have exceptionally heavy monsoons is brilliant. Clearly, Indians' ability to make it rain at will has not helped them irrigate their own land or feed their own people, but it's just so typical of Hindus to be interested in nothing but our downfall. What's more, they are able to infiltrate the ranks of our hardworking NGOs and play a sneaky double-game in which they offer 20 million rupees in aid while conspiring to kill flood survivors. Since India possesses such great supernatural powers, perhaps we should ask them to target specific militants the Pakistan army is after. That way, it will only rain on the bad guys, and everyone will be happy.

It's not just Indians who are out to get us, though. The Israelis want us all dead too, but I suppose that goes without saying. As a nation of unified Muslims, we are the Palestinians' greatest resource in the intifada. Our material assistance is of no importance, because what the Israelis really want is to eliminate our support for Hamas. That's why they decided to go for the jugular and defame our cricket team. Cricket=happiness=good national morale=sense of brotherhood=concern for our Palestinian brothers=nuclear ally for Hamas. Trust Jews, who have done nothing but persecute us since the very birth of Islam, to engineer false allegations against our national heroes through the media that they obviously control. Because remember: every powerful media company is owned by Jews, and every Jew is an Israeli, and every Israeli is a Zionist, and all Zionists want Pakistan to suffer. There's a page out of Zaid Hamid's book if you lack the patience to sit through one of his lectures. That is really all you need to know to be a fan of the guy.

Then, of course, there was America to blame for everything. Unfortunately, we are one conspiracy theory down because their role in our misery is not only obvious and therefore uninteresting, they've already acknowledged it publicly and are giving tons of aid in guilt-money. However, we need to remember that aid is never just aid. How do we know it's not being filtered to CIA employees, who spend their entire lives trying to convince us all that Al Qaeda exists? Our aid money doesn't just go into Zardari's real estate investments, it also goes into the bank accounts of Americans who are being paid to get OBL lookalikes to make fake videos about how he is hiding in Pakistan, just so they can remain in our country on an extended vacation. Obviously.

Don't get carried away in your hatred of all non-Muslims just yet. It turns out that our religious compatriots are in on the conspiracy to destroy Pakistan too. I heard only today that it's not Pakistani Sunnis who are blowing up Shias. Pakistan is in fact the site of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iran is trying to convert all of us to Shias, while the Saudis are venting their anger at a Shia nation becoming a nuclear power. This is also evidenced through the sense of love and brotherhood that has existed between sects in Pakistan since the 90s, when Shia doctors and professionals were being targeted by Saudi agents.

Understanding and accepting this world view is vitally important for adding spice to otherwise boring discussions in which we would otherwise have to engage in the dull task of introspection. I strongly suggest that if you don't already know these theories and at least a few more inside out, you get with the program. Remember: while you fool yourself with your feel-good, lets-change-ourselves-and-be-a-better-nation ideas, the world is trying to blow us all up.