aap ki awaaz sunlengey, aap k geeton mein hum

There was a time in Karachi when restaurants used to play Pakistani music. I could have sworn it was Pizza Hut, but I have no recollection of when it first opened in Pakistan. I just remember being a small child at a restaurant and that riff from ‘Mera Pyar’ striking me as something unique, perhaps my first experience of hey-this-feels-amazing-to-listen-to, I am happy, is this what music does?

I’ve been blessed to be a part of that generation of Pakistani music fans who can’t recall that time in the music scene when there was no Aamir Zaki. My entire existence has been punctuated with Zaki moments in my life long quest for music. My love and understanding of Pakistani music begins with Mera Pyar and some Vital Signs songs. When I finally learned who he is, Aamir, Aamir Zaki; it felt like an important discovery. Like the first time they tell you about Allama Iqbal in school. There was always someone in the family who wouldn’t fail to mention that one time they saw him at the market near our house in PECHS. I would stare, wide-eyed, imagining seeing him at the market in my head.

Cut to, early noughties. That brief period I lived outside Pakistan, but in its shortness it proved to be the most crucial part of my life. One day, I, a pre-teen at this point, discovered that music magazine Arshad Mahmud had started, during one of my trips to Karachi. I have no idea what it was called, I just remember Zaki was on the cover, and in it was a CD that had instrumentals by some of Pakistan’s best guitarists. ‘The Day She Left’ was on it and that song has stayed with me since. I took that magazine back with me to that other life of mine ten thousand miles away from Karachi. I didn’t have people I could call friends, but Zaki and Junoon were always around. The best part about coming home was finding that CD waiting for me in my disc-man and me skipping to ‘The Day She Left’. Everyday. That song taught me how to feel music in my heart, in my bones. And led me to discover his first solo album.

When I got a strat, I used to play his songs in my headphones and pretend I’m playing, hitting every wrong note. When I managed to figure out how to play something that sounded even remotely like Mera Pyar’s solo to me (I wasn’t even close), the inspiration felt like a ball of warmth in my body.

Because Aamir Zaki meant more than just a desi dude with a guitar, he was an experience.

I didn’t see him play live until 2009 and that was the first time we briefly met. Before that I had seen a number of people on stage before, but nothing ever felt like how his music made me feel. It welled me up, it baffled me: guitar maestro, guitar virtuoso, these terms aren’t enough to describe the intensity of what I felt for the music of Aamir Zaki every time I got to see him perform. If I could melt into a puddle, I would. There was never the question: how does he do it? It was always an exclamation that wow! He can do that! And he rocks my world while doing it like nobody else has before.

The best part about being back in Karachi was also being around others who were in as much awe of him as I was. Sitting in school talking about him with my best friend for whom he was a mentor, finding his collaborations on the internet, a rare music video once in a blue moon on music channels. Meeting other musicians that had the privilege of learning from him, playing with him, that Zaki effect flowed through us.

We were the fans that saw him, a legend walk among us, and he was really, really nice to us. Boy did that smile make the surroundings blur. If you ever told him how much you appreciate his music, he would in turn humbly thank you profusely which would make you feel shy, embarrassed, that I, a mortal being, is being spoken to by Zaki in such a manner. Kya yaar, Aamir bhai.

The last time I saw him perform live was as exciting as the first, at the I Am Karachi Music Festival 2015. But this time it was Aamir Zaki, the Aamir Zaki set. Not something-and-someone featuring Aamir Zaki. And while many great musicians played that night, Zaki’s set reminded me once more of the love for music he instilled in so many of us when we had no idea music could feel so beautiful. He was the last man standing from the era of Pakistani music when most gave up, or went for the next best financial option that real music couldn’t always promise.

He was god sent, to remind us always that loving something wholeheartedly, and following it through, can be more rewarding on the inside than anything in this world. In my imagination, nothing would be more befitting right now than every Pakistani musician who’s life was changed by this man throwing the best live gig Pakistan has ever seen, for all those times Zaki couldn’t. Play for him, he did so much for us in ways we didn’t even realize until he passed away.

But we knew he was struggling. Everyone knew to some extent, people mentioned an anecdote here and there, and that’s all people do, could we have done more is another story.

Why does it happen? That when you grow up seeing someone as a hero, in your mind their struggles become something you’re just certain they will overcome. How can they not right? They often can’t though, but their image in our minds is forever of that of a hero. Invincible. Aamir Zaki, Pakistan’s guitar whiz, an infinite spirit.


aapki awaaz sunlengay, aapkay geeton mein hum, hamesha.

zaki

Pakistan?

In Pakistan, things come in waves; they’re cyclical. Mango season, wedding season, bomb blast season.

When you’re sitting  by the window of a pizza shop, looking out at the pristine surroundings in a foreign land, reading on your phone about a blast in Pakistan at a place that made your come to life feels like the ground beneath is swallowing you. It’s a tough punch in the heart when you look at your reflection in the glass and all you see through yourself are the lights and buildings across. Pakistan? Pakistan. Pakistan. The ticker runs through your head and you can imagine the sound of local news channels breaking the news as you walk on cobble-stoned paths miles and miles away.

Thinking about Pakistan right now is reminiscent of the time when you were introduced to the concept of dozakh, hell. Loved ones being dragged to their demise repeatedly like one supposedly does in hell.

The attack on the shrine in Sehwan today was an attack on the heart that pumps through Sindh. Sindh, that part of the country where Sufi culture runs through its veins. This was the eighth blast in Pakistan this week as the stench of death breezes over the country right now. Even then, memories of the time you were there last bring visions of smiling faces all around. Pure happiness, music, devotion, love, life.

How are we to ever come out of this? By constant blame and weight put on factors that can’t affect problems in the country when they are so deep-rooted; they become you. ISIS? Taliban? No, you. This. is. you.

I am so sorry Pakistan. We love you so much. Hoping this love somehow runs through you like soothing wind.

Nobody tells you

Nobody tells you about the pain accompanied with success, but they will always tell you the meaning of success and how it’s an integral part of your life. There’s just no room for failure, which is why you don’t tell them how much it hurts to fail, to accept disappointment and rejection. They will tell you how great it is to achieve everything they tell you to achieve, but they will never tell you how empty it will make you feel.

Nobody tells you that a part of you dies when you try to come to terms with loss and death. That it rips out a part of you when you see one of the people you love the most wrapped in white shroud – dead, just lying there dead. When they say “I’m sorry for your loss” they don’t tell you that your brain will vividly remember this image. That ten years down the line you will forget how they smell, the sound of their voice, their laughter – but that image of them lying there dead will be etched in the walls of your brain.

Nobody tells you that even when you think you’re an adult, some aspects of your childhood stay with you forever and while you may accept that, you may love that about yourself, others will use precisely that to bring you down in your path. Nobody tells you that when you’re an adult, the kind of behaviour by other people that broke your heart in high school is multiplied two-fold and hurts a lot more. That guy who broke your heart by rejecting you after you left him a note in his locker; you will meet another version of him when you’re an adult, you will imagine being in a relationship until you’re told that’s not what he wants – immediately followed by him getting married, leaving you to feel like men don’t think of you as someone they’d want to marry, just someone to have fun with while you’re still fun. And then you think about sixth-grade-you and go buy more stickers. What they do tell you is ‘true love’ is for everyone and it’s the most selfless thing in the world, but they don’t tell you how terribly selfish people often are when it comes to love because at the end of the day it’s just you trying to give yourself what you want, be it not spending the night alone or just good ol’ narcissism when he makes you feel pretty.

Nobody tells you that the lover you give your whole life to and vice versa, will one day tell you they’re leaving. What they do tell you is that love transcends and that you can work anything out if you try. They don’t tell you that no matter how hard you try some people don’t agree with working on it more. They do tell you though that you perhaps dodged a bullet, that you’re better off, that you will come out of this stronger. But then again, they don’t tell you how ever fibre of your being will ache and your stomach will react every single time you see them with their new lover. They tell you butterflies in your stomach are so cute; aww! you’re in love. Nobody tells you that the green-eyed-monster will one day find it’s way to your stomach too and make you sick to the core every time you see them smile with that person the same way you used to make them smile.

Nobody tells you life is miserable but they do tell you, every chance they get, how to live it and somewhere in the middle when you’ve lost all control you aimlessly walk through.

 

 

For the love of hair

I don’t usually write about hairstyling experiences because honestly, I’ve had some of the weirdest. They range from a stylist telling me she won’t give me a pixie cut because it is ‘haraam’ to disasters like paying 3k for a cut that looked like it hadn’t been cut at all.

Today, I decided to go to Mizka’s Studio  for a cut and dye and I am in awe of that girl.

It’s so inspiring to see such a young girl’s passion for what she loves. When I was her age I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life and what I did want, I didn’t have the guts to go for it.. so really, hats off to her for starting young and honing her craft.

Mahnoor Mizka  is h0nestly friendly and professional in how she deals with you. In a city like Karachi, it’s impossible to find a hairstylist who actually gives you their undivided attention and advises you on your hair based on what you want. I was fed-up of always getting advice like “nahi aap yeh na karain, aap yeh karlain” and not feeling content later.

In my past experiences, I’ve always dealt with hairstylists that just advised me on what would be easy and less time-consuming for them. Mizka does hair (and make-up) on an appointment-only basis and it was a refreshing change from going to salons that give you an appointment with a bunch of other people. I’m normally a lazy and chilled out person and I like an environment where I don’t feel rushed by the hairstylist and that’s how I felt at Mizka’s Studio. Despite being so young and inexperienced compared to most of these famous hairstylists around Karachi, I found her to be more professional than most when it comes to the way she cut my hair. It was obvious that she grasped what she learned from her experiences at L’Oreal Academy and others and put it to good use.

I had shoulder-length hair and went for another bob (a-line this time) and it is perfection. I know I sound like I’m fan-girling over her but this girl has some serious skills. I also went for a dye and I usually don’t dye my hair too much because I love having black hair, so I like going for colours that look nice with black, and not colours that have been done to death. I’m personally not into shades of caramels and blondes. I like funky hair – plain and simple. Before this I had red highlights and this time I went for…pink which is unlike me since I barely own  anything pink and it’s never been my colour but for some reason I’ve always loved pink hair. It’s been a while since I did something dramatic to my hair and for me it’s a form of therapy lol.

Mahnoor worked really hard on my hair since it’s black and she had to spend extra time on it to give it the kind of pink that really pops. I loved her patience.  You know a person is truly passionate about their work when they don’t mind getting hair dye all over their palms. She used gloves, but at some point when she was perfecting the colour she slathered dye on my streaks with her bare hands so casually like it was no problem at all that she would have to spend the rest of the day with pink palms and nails!

All in all, I’d suggest Mizka to everyone I know because it’s obvious she loves what she does and she deserves to excel in this. So go be her client and help her excel 🙂

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It looks a little red here because of the lighting

 

Lahore on my mind

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When I think about Lahore, I think about love, i think about people full of life, compassion, friendship. A stunning city full of wondrous beauty, rich culture and history. Of that lady with a beautiful smile selling handmade toys outside Lahore Fort. Lahore is one of the few cities in the world I associate with happiness and heartwarming love.

They say we as a nation have become accustomed to such attacks, that we are desensitized and tomorrow, as more victims succumb to their injuries life in Pakistan will go on according to routine. It will. When it used to happen frequently in Karachi it became a part of our lives. But the attack today in Lahore feels like dirty hands strangling a dove. Something pure and lovely marred by total hate.

I don’t have too many childhood memories that I still remember, just snippets. But my very first visit to Wagah Border as a child is one of my most vivid memories. Ever since I was a child, something about Lahore just feels like home. I cried today as much as I could after a really long time. The children…the children…the children – this thought is tumbling around in my brain like a mantra. What are we doing? Or are we doing anything at all? can we?

I see my future in this country despite hearing from everybody that I should just leave. That there’s nothing for people like me here. But I still see myself here no matter where I go. It hurts terribly, not only to see how helpless this country has become but the extent of how easy it has become to ruthlessly kill our children – not only when it comes to security but the mind as well, the minds of these killers, the ones who stormed Army Public School and filled the bodies of children with bullets, the attacker today who blew himself up next to children playing in the park. The pain of losing a child is unimaginable and as this country slips into deeper darkness we are slowly losing our children, one major attack at a time.

But what do I do? What do I do except have this urge to grab our leaders by the shoulders and nudge them and scream until I go mad and ask them to save our children? Don’t let me add more cons to my list of pros and cons of having children of my own in the future. Give me something for me to give them in this very country, raise them in this country without crippling fear.

There are countless theories, arguments of where we went wrong, how we went wrong, why we went wrong, why we will keep going down that road. These are discussions that need to be had, fair enough. But what comes next? What about the part where all of this stops? A new beginning of sorts? When does that happen for Pakistan?

Planet earth, this is a cry for help.

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Lahore 2013 – Photo by Zahra Salahuddin

“How long must we sing this song?”

 

 

 

The Memories, the Scents

10/21/2014
12:18 AM

my ball of life is stuck at a difficult curve, so naturally I’ve been thinking about them good ol’ times. All these songs represent a time in my life which felt difficult back then but now I cant help but feel how wonderful that time was. So simple, carefree, fun. Back when things excited me..enough to physically make me jump up and down. These songs remind me of a nice time for Pakistani music. The mid-2000 when rock was on its way of becoming a lifestyle here. When almost every guy in Karachi had grungy hair.
All these songs, these memories I can’t let go of, the smells I associate them with.
The concert tickets, the musician crushes, the backstage blushes, the OH-MY-GOD-I-LOVE-THAT-PART moments.
I’ve officially become one of those people who cant let go of the past, and how can I?
here, listen to how great life used to be..

http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/The+Memories+The+Scents/101771039