Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Feature-An Artist's Hands

Asalamu Alaikum,

For the longest time I have wanted to have long delicate fingers, smooth unblemished hands. Maybe I read too many romance novels, but always the heroine's hands seem to be described with words like- "delicate", "elegant", "smooth", "porcelain", "fine boned", "tender", "exquisite", and "graceful". In my mind I have this picture of a hand with slender wrists, with long and graceful fingers, the kind I have always imagined artists and piano players to have.

When I look at my hands they don't look anything like the picture I see in my head. My wrist is not slender, my palms are square, and my fingers are on the short and stubby side. When I used to look at my hands I sometimes thought that they were "peasant hands", rough, square palmed, hard and more suited to working in a field all day than creating art.

I love to work with my hands, all the crafts that I do, the sewing, the knitting, everything is still art to me. Sometimes I am following a pattern(usually not though), but even then it is in a way still art. Similar to the way musicians play the notes written, crafters following patterns are just playing their own notes.

I am not sure when my opinion of my hands changed, but somewhere along the line it did. My hands may not have long slender fingers, but they still create things. I wrote a post once about my mental body image, and how it doesn't really match to what I see in the mirror. Not quite the same problem, as my hands haven't magically turned into the idealized image I have of an artist's hands, but my perception of my hands has changed.

Now when I look at my hands I see that they are still square, with stubby fingers, but also that they are strong, capable, beautiful- the hands of an artist.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two haiku for load shedding.

Asalam Alaikum,

Today during our morning load shedding time I was a bit bored and decide to write some haiku.

~~~How long is eternity?~~~
One point five hours seems
Eternal, but only one?
An instant of time.

~~~First Breeze~~~
No electric, wait-
Light ah-gae, fan’s cool breeze comes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sewing on a Deadline

Asalam Alaikum,

Tariq had to go to Abu Dhabi for work, and so his sisters and brother's wife asked for some new clothes as summer is here and they need something light. We went to the market and picked out two suits for each, and gave one of each to the tailor and I offered to sew one of each. Since he was leaving rather quickly I had a short deadline and completed three suits in 2.5 days. It is a personal best for me as it usually takes one day and a little bit to complete one suit.

So here they are-

Three suits

First suit, simple design with an A-line shape and piping on the neck, the center line of the sleeves and the outside leg of the trousers.

Close up of neck, the shirt has a printed design running down the center, and on both of the long sides of the dupatta.

Second suit, regular kameez(not A-line), with an open work design on each sleeve and two on the bottom of the front of the shirt, and a piping design at the neck.

Close up of open work of the neck and front of kameez.

Neck design, simple loops of piping.

Third suit- A-line kameez with beaded bow design on neck and each sleeve, the trousers have a contrasting band at the foot.

Close up of beaded design.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Feature-Dayks/Catering

Asalam Alaikum,

For many of our parties/functions(engagements, mehndis, Qur'an khanees) we have some dayks delivered. Usually they have biriyani/pulao, or a quorma, with your choice of meat or chicken. They also have sweet dishes like zarda(sweet, multi colored rice with all sorts raisins/coconut/little sweet colored bits), or kheer(rice pudding).

For size comparison- Saad at 18 months next to a dayk.

Tariq transfers biriyani to a serving dish.

About an hour before the party starts the dayk wala comes by the house with the back of his truck full of dayks for his deliveries. He drops off your pot(s), and then goes to finish his deliveries. The waiters take over during the party and transfer the food to the buffet line, they are always busy carrying hot trays of food back and forth!

During the month of Muharram here in Karachi(specifically the ninth and tenth) people often fast. Commonly in our area the dayk walas prepare large amounts of haleem(kind of like a savory porrige, made with grains, lentils, and meat), which people will buy to feed people who are fasting, or donate to masjids.
A line of dayks full of haleem prepared for Ashura(tenth day of Muharram

Further away, since they take up so much space they are not inside but prepared on the side of the road.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Summer Already?

Asalam Alaikum,

It is summer already. The first floor of our house stays relatively cooler in the early morning until just after noon because it gets less sun exposure. The second floor has a line of huge windows, all wide open to catch as much breezes as possible, and the stairwell that leads to the roof is open as well, with only a steel grill for security. With everything open, and it being so hot the second floor gets hot very quickly. So today when I walked from the first floor up the stairs to get something from my room, I was hit with a wall of hot dry air. It was just flattening, and it will only get hotter. Two days ago the BBC weather report said Karachi was going to have a temperature of 34 degrees C(for other USians, that's about 93 degrees F), and it is only mid March.

When we lived in Florida it got pretty hot, and it was always humid. The biggest difference was that we had uninterrupted electricity and AC in just about every building. Here many people don't have AC, (or maybe they have it only in one room), and the electricity is always kind of iffy with the load shedding. It tends to get worse in the summer when people use their AC more, and we get more "unscheduled" load shedding, and tripping.

The first summer we were here it was really bad, and there were a several weeks when we had electricity for only 3-4 hours a day and that was it. Last summer was not as bad, with only 5-6 hours of load shedding and most of the day the lights stayed on. InshAllah this summer will be like this past one and not like the first one.

I am waiting for Tariq to turn on the AC in our room, if I do it he might complain about the electric bill! I have a strong feeling he'll turn it on within two weeks at the latest, as he has had a bit of trouble sleeping well for three nights in a row.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Feature- Auto Rickshaws

Asalam Alaikum,

One of my favorite ways to get around in Karachi is rickshaws. The only time I get to ride in them though is when I go shopping with my sisters in law. Anytime I go out with Tariq it is always in a car/taxi or on the motorcycle.

A regular size rickshaw.

Peek-a-boo, Saad likes rickshaws too!

View from the back seat, steers with handlebars.

Outside the main market in our part of town the rickshaw drivers line up and wait for a fare.

I love rickshaws so much, when I saw these little toys in the market I just had to get them...for Saad.(Yeah for the baby, right! Babies make great excuses to buy things you are "too old for")

Zipping around in a rickshaw is really fun, the drivers usually go very fast and also turn sharply so it can be quite the adventure. The other day I posted about the truck art, rickshaws are also sometimes highly decorated, inside and out. Sometimes vinyl stickers or paint, sometimes bead hangings or colorful cloth. A couple of rickshaws we have rode in have strands of jasmine flowers hanging from the rear view mirror.

A couple little tips though if you have never been in a rickshaw- always negotiate the fare up front, if you don't then some drivers try to overcharge you by a lot. Also if you are pretty tall (Tariq is 5'10" and has trouble fitting comfortably in the regular rickshaws) then try to find a CNG rickshaw, they are a bit larger and so have more headroom.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Samp Wala-Snake Charmer

Asalam Alaikum,

This morning I heard the sound of a pipe being played outside, and since Tariq was sleeping and his dad was out for a walk, I was sure I was going to miss this one. Alhamdulillah my father in law came back just as the samp wala was walking past our door and my sister in law and I quickly asked him to stop him for us to see.

When my father in law asked about the snake, the wala said it was five years old and had the venom sacks had been removed. He didn't stay very long, just about five minutes. It was pretty cool to see the snake come up and sway around a bit. The samp wala had to tap it a little to get him to come up out of the basket. I don't know if it was sleeping or just annoyed at having to do this all the time. After he got the snake up and did his little performance my father in law gave him some money and then he put the snake back in and left.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Comment Policy

Asalam Alaikum,

I have been considering posting a comment policy for some time and I think now it has actually become necessary.

So, this is a personal blog. I use it mostly to show my crafting attempts, to practice writing, to keep family and friends updated on where we are and what we are up to. I post pictures of my son, and the places we visit, I post free patterns for knitting, crochet(not quite yet, but InshAllah this is coming soon), and sewing tutorials.

One thing that is sort of a mix of personal and not personal is that I want to show anyone who is interested, what life is like in Pakistan. Specifically from the point of view of a non Pakistani. Every time people look at the news headlines it seems that all that is shown of Pakistan is bombings, killings, terrorism, Taliban, corrupt politicians, and poverty. I want as many people as possible to see other parts of Pakistan, the beauty, the warmth and friendliness of the people, the daily routines that make up life for families like mine. I want people to see that life here, while occasionally difficult is not that much different than it is anywhere else in the world. The foods may be different, the clothes may be different, but people everywhere are the same. We all have families, friends, morals, values, and feelings.

Recently there have been several comments posted that range from merely rude to downright hateful. I do have comment moderation enabled, mostly to prevent spammers, but I have had to delete several rude posts. After the most recent(which I allowed, on the post immediately preceding this one), I just got a little fed up.

This is a personal blog, if you don't have anything nice to say please keep your comments to yourself. I do not mind opposing views, a little debate is always educational, but rude comments about how another person chooses to live their life?

From now on, any comments that are hateful(about me or anyone else), or bigoted, or just plain rude will not be posted.

Salam to all-

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Feature -Importance of Chai

Asalam Alaikum,

In America, generally people drink coffee rather than tea. I actually like tea better, though I do occasionally drink coffee.

Chai is very different drink than than the regular tea that is more common in America. In America I drank steeped tea with just sugar, whereas here the patti(tea leaves) are boiled with lots of milk and sugar. It is a little stronger than my normal method, but very tasty. Some people add different masaley(spices) to their chai, sometimes elichi(green cardamom) or loung(cloves), but that depends on each family and their preference.

Many people drink chai 3-4 times in a day. It is almost always served with breakfast, and then sometimes after lunch and dinner, and usually in the late afternoon/early evening around the time of maghrib(sunset prayer). If anyone is feeling unwell in our family chai is one of the first things everyone suggests.

Chai is often served to guests in Pakistani homes. People here are very hospitable. Usually when we visit someone's home, after all the greetings and a little chatting chai is served. Though it does depend on the time and the weather, if it is hot out then guests are usually served chilled juice.(like Rooh Afza, Tang or some soda)

Some people serve chai after the wedding dinner or the valima(reception) dinner. Many weddings that we have gone to in the cold season have served a simple "Kashmiri chai", which has some ground almonds and other things.

There are many little stalls with "chai waley"(tea sellers), mostly these are for men and women or families go to a more restaurant style place with a separate families section. There are also Chai waley in the market when we go, men who walk through the market with a large basket full of little cups, and a big thermos that has a pump dispenser on the top, this is mostly for the shop keepers so they don't have to leave their shop alone.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

He's selling what on his bicycle?

Asalam Alaikum,

Remember my post about walay? Since then I have taken some more pictures, while we hang out on the roof, of the door to door salesmen that frequent our neighborhood. It is always interesting to see who's coming down the street.

Who wants to guess whats inside?

This is a Qur'an wale. He has in this bundle on the front of his bicycle all sorts of different Qur'ans. He has the regular type of book that is what we normally read, and also the type that is separated into 30 little books called "sipara". The only time I ever see the second type is when people are having "Qur'an Khanees"(where a bunch of people gather to read Qur'an together and then eat food), and on bursees(death anniversaries when people get together to read Qur'an and then eat more food). It is pretty helpful, as each person can take one little book at a time and the gathering can very quickly complete a full Qur'an reading(or sometimes more than one). I do try to avoid going to bursees, as I am pretty sure it may be a bidah, and so to be on the safe side I just avoid them as much as possible. No one ever says anything about my non participation, and I kind of prefer it that way.

This Qur'an wale seems very dedicated. He comes down our street usually 3-4 times a week, and has been since we first came to Pakistan.