Archive for August, 2007


Monsieur Rajeem is seated in the ominously large black leather chair. The tips of his crickly fingers form a caged dome and the corners of his mouth are upturned in anticipation, the expected joy hanging in dark glooping shadows in the crevices of his laughter lines. One eye hovers still over my fingers gently tapping the keyboard, and the other eye keenly observes my subject.

Your expensive little toys, Toobaa! Facilitating communication, are you? Whatever for? Saturated! Tell me the weight of words now? Haha! —Monsieur Rajeem

I take the subject and stand it up in the centre of the desk so as to observe it completely. Only 9.5mm thick, it trembles and begs to lay itself down, pointing at Monsieur Rajeem, so I’ve propped it up against the wall. The stork brought the subject in, my magic wand, at only 71grams. I decided to get to grips with it and see what it was really capable of, other than being an aspiration to size zero-ness. Monsieur Rajeem, you will poke yourself in the eye when you realise the good my wand can do.

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The Sony Ericsson W880i is an upgraded downgrade from my previous W800i in that it is a veh hot music phone with no radio! No. Radio. This means I have to go to greater lengths to get my dose of LBC’s giggle-fit inducing Iain Lee [97.3 FM]. Also, the camera has no flash, hence the phone can never morph into a torch and cannot flash SOS signals, either. Hmph.

However, my wand has impressed me greatly on several other counts. This is, of course, partly thanks to the 3 contract that I happily committed to. At just £20 per month I get a generous helping of 500 minutes, any network any time, with a sprinkling of 100 texts, on a toasty base of FREE for life Windows Live Messenger and Ebay.

Amongst other wonderful perks, there is also a little something called TrackID. Its ability to recognise music is not limited to chart music, or even just ‘English’ music. I tested it out. Its sampling time is quick. And it’s free, majaanan, muft. You just point your wand in the direction of the music and hit START. To my unprecedented elation, it successfully identified the following, listed in levels of deliberate obscurity:

  • 1) Raba-Raba by Cheb Khaled from the album Kenza. This is an Algerian masterpiece, previously known as Track 6 for a frustratingly long time. Blobby, take note.

  • 2) Duur by Strings. This is a reasonably old Pakistani classic.

  • 3) Supplication by Sami Yusuf from the album Al-Mu’allim. It even recognises anasheed*!

Harry II will be pulling and stretching his chewing gum between his fingers and his mouth, wondering if I can now identify the bits of uninterrupted soundtrack in Saira Khan’s Pakistan Adventure documentary. Yes. Yes, I can.

So what else can our wands do for us in time for Ramadan? Monsieur Rajeem, you may want to exercise that poking finger of yours. Courtesy of the generous Tigerlily Digital, we can digitally take Islam anywhere. It’s free to download a complete version of The Noble Qur’an in English, or chapters 90-114 with audio, The 99 Names of Allah or A Collection of Simple Duas directly to your mobile phones. OH! And also Ayat ul-Kursi with translation and audio. Click, Click, Click!

Oh. —Monsieur Rajeem

So get your wands stocked up with these dhikr** bursts in time for Ramadan, Noddies! Monsieur Rajeem will poke his own beady eye every time you do. And keep one anti-anti-Christ eye on this space. There are new bundles of joy on the way from Tigerlily, too.

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* Nashid pl. Anasheed, song; hymn, anthem.

** Dhikr, remembrance; invocation of God.

(Continued from here.)

Zainab had mentioned the possibility of a breakdown earlier and we had unknowingly Christened her ear prickling words by warning her against such hindersome prophecies. Hypo-gladtastic Sabera had been sedated with her requested dose of Stugeron, so any softly named disappointment was heavily subdued beneath the weight of the tablets on her tongue.

Your driver has managed, somehow/magically/as expectedly, to put the wrong fuel into the van. Luckily/miraculously/as a consolation, he hasn’t started the van, which would have made the problem much more difficult to deal with. We’ve called the van company and they say they’re coming out to deal with it. Remember, though, we ARE in the middle of nowhere. It could take some time.

We might have jeered, booed, hissed, thrown bits of rotten salad and rain-soggy clothes and straws at the front of the van. We might have- but I forget.

Imran did not make the unmeasured wait much easier by constantly propounding the worst case scenario and pointing at the hotel he teased we’d all have to stay in. Prepared for the worst and treated with laughter, we were relieved when the orange lights of the tow truck lit up the left side of the van.

We had two hours to wait. 16 muhajababes trekked with jellied legs from the petrol pump to the nearest shelter. Oh, but it is warm in here! Do let us join yew! The swishy restaurant turned our booted selves away: fully booked. We trudged off to the next only sanctuary on offer, ‘The Fox and Hen’. A public house. A pub.

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I left my bulky preconceptions at the door, expecting the pub to be full, as was the restaurant, leaving little space for extra thought to squash in, too. However, it was almost empty, it was odourless and the air was calm. Head Sister slipped into Queen Vic Data Recovery mode and ordered a ’round’ of hot chocolates and teas, which we sipped at, relishing the swirling warmth, and whiling away the next hour or so with sweetened educational chit-chat. There did occasion, during our stay, a few groups of curious lingering people who so justifiably observed us and our conversation.

A while and a round later, the golden call was received and we left. As we stepped outside into the cool night air, we saw, beneath the trees, bundles of people enjoying their drinks on the benches. One lad sat alone, shaking with droplets of laughter as Moslem nuns emerged, nattering away, from a pub.

We waited under the murky light of the petrol pump.

[21:30] A beer bellied man stood fuelling up his car and glancing over inquisitively at us. ALHAMDULILLAH! We screamed in unison, causing him to jump clean out of his senses, as we ran passed him towards our beloved van as it rolled up.

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We travelled for a while in the black abyss beneath the canopy of Welsh trees. The surreal silhouette of where I was and what was going on lapsed in and out of view and consciousness as I slipped in and out of sleep. An enchanting recitation played over the speakers as we sped through the night. The journey consisted of more of the earlier slapstick and banter, a recitation of Ayat ul-Kursi, and efforts to keep one another awake in order to keep the driver awake.

[00:00] We stopped off in Birmingham for a confused and drowsy order of food and ice cream. It was this chicken burger and those hot chocolates that had determined our course that night. Toobaa climbed out and, after checking for cars, employed a few star jumps. Sabera huddled up inside as her breath steamed from all the icy cold she was surrounded by. Afifa, patient as ever, was patient, despite the knowledge that she had to pack for a flight the next morning. Zainab relished the Cookies’n’Cream Haagen Daz with the end of a flexing plastic fork.

As promised, each girl was dropped off at her own home in the wee hours of the morning. [05:30] Toobaa was one of the last to be dropped home. She arrived home to Abu, who opened the door as she ran up the driveway. Only 1…2…3… 7.5 hours late. As soon as she had stepped out of the van, though, she had a strange feeling of displacement. She missed Team Fox and Hen. She missed the van. She missed the trek, which had turned out to be a whole lot bonding and travelling more than she had bargained for. As she crawled into her cool, dry bed and tried to ignore the rays of sunshine that were beginning to peer into her window to look at her truly broken in hiking boots, she realised she had fallen in love with the day.

She began to plan the next adventure as the land of nod lapped at her toes and submerged her into the tidiest of sleeps.

When the alarm intruded my forty-wink slumber at 02:00AM, little did I know that two mugs of hot chocolate in a Welsh pub and a chicken burger in Birmingham would delay my return to the land of nod till 26 hours later. Today was the day of the Snowdon Challenge. I would feel muscles that I never even knew existed. Huzzah!

[04:10] Three vans pulled up outside the Islamic Relief office on Blackhorse Lane. Our fates for the day ahead had already been alphabetically determined the night before and, as we were thus divided, we climbed into the vans that epitomised the meaning the journey would have for us all.

We departed late. Nevertheless, our journey was well entertained with Imran, the sleep deprived comedian who happened to be driving, constantly bickering with the Head Sister, and declaring apparently unorthodox views about everything and being rebutted with relentless contradictions about anything. Eventually there was an uproar of defence for the Head Sister from the back of the van and he was shocked with the realisation that everybody was actually awake. The girls pretended to be offended, irritated and exasperated at his experimental conclusions but were, in truth, grateful for the energy that was keeping them alert in the early hours of the morning.

We arrived late. The rain was coming down in endlessly helpless sheets and the guides at beautiful Snowdonia filtered out the people with incorrect gear and they sadly resigned themselves to the confines of the van again. Chris Onions, our guide, mentioned, as he munched away at all of our lunches, that this was the worst possible weather to be climbing Snowdon and they wouldn’t be going up had it not been for us. Flashback: Tonbridge bike ride.

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Our group was set for the Llanberis Path, despite desperately coloured pleas to do the tougher Miners Track, which would use the Llanberis Path to get back down anyway. But, like all good children, we set off on our 10 mile return trudge. Uphill, uphill, uphill! With the rain showering away at us we were wading up over loose slate and quartz, through the water rushing down at our feet. The ‘waterproof’ labels on our gear screamed and ran away back down the mountain as we continued to squelch up Snowdon, being smacked still by the wind. We were soaked to the bone.

We occasionally caught sight of the Llanberis train, choo-chooing its way repeatedly up and down the mountain carrying old people, young children and maybe even some cheaters.

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We kept moving, using points on the horizon as the next goal, and reached halfway house. The treasured golden rule: You are only as fast as your slowest team member, was soon blown clean off the mountain with the sharp winds and it was at the steaming halfway house that the group split into two. The fast group and the slow group. Ahem.

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UFOL’s [Unexplained Fits of Laughter] held us back at several junctions but Asma had a genius supply of Starburst which kept us on track. An ad was filmed, showing the bursting effect that the fruity chew was having on Toobaa. Each time a pastille hit her tongue there was a whoosh. This was demonstrated through the classic I’m-all-fizzy-run-run-run jig and a triple-knot increase in pace with occasionally close-to-the-edge-risky jogging.

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The higher we moved the denser the mist became. The tops of our heads scraped the floss of the white candy clouds that were so heavy with rain that they sank lower and lower towards us. The gradient steepened and the ground loosened. We could see no further any further. The rain evolved into tiny sharp needles as it pierced our cheeks and kept us looking at the ground. We could see nothing. The views? The summit sights? They were waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain. Any disappointment was absorbed by the sheer awe inspiring awe of being so high up, still being battered by soft water rain, and having zero visibility.

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On the way back down, gravity surprisingly continued to be as strong as it was on our way up. It pulled us down onto the front of our soft little toes and so we obeyed Chris and came down with our feet at 11 O’clock. For the digi-species who cannot tell the time this way, this meant our feet were at a slight anti-clockwise angle, approximately 10 degrees.

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The rain lightened up as we reduced height but we pretended not to notice because, everytime we did, it would find us again and remind us of its worst. When we did manage to escape its radar at momentary intervals, we pulled out our cameras to try and salvage some sights lower down. White specks of sheep, the layers of sky falling down the mountain, and the snail trail river at the bottom of the valley. The distant and haunting bleeps of specially delegated sheep didn’t do much to hurry us down from the beauty spots of Snowdon.

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As we neared the bottom, the ground was smooth, but steep as ever. Our poor toes protested against being squashed at the front so Afifa and I held hands and came down backwards. We watched ourselves go up in rewind and UFOL took hold of our lungs yet again. It was either the carefully placed zinc-oxide tape, the double layer of specially designed socks, the carrier bags, coming down backwards, the Peter Storm boots [squelching, mind you] or the diligent and skilful manner in which Toobaa used her feet that she broke the minimum blister record at a total of: NAUGHT. Heh. Triumph, indeed!

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[16:00] Dry clothes were declared the next best thing since the wheel. We got back to the van and changed from our slopping wet gear into our dry clothes and clambered back into the van, wide eyed and buzzing. Thinking that we would be home at a decent hour, we settled into the somewhat smoky warmth of the van, pondering our semi-blind adventure, as the drivers fuelled up all three vans.

Then there was an announcement. Zainab was hushed. She had predicted this.

To Be Continued…

The Snowdon Challenge was completed for Islamic Relief’s Action for Africa Appeal. Thank you to everyone who sponsored and supported me. Together, you and I, we raised just under £500, and the sponsors are still coming in. And that’s just me! There were at least 35 girls who raised money and did the challenge. We’ll find out soon what the grand total is!

For more information, go to http://www.irsnowdon.kk5.org/

Heroine n. a female hero.

Hero n. (pl. heroes) 1 a man who is admired for his brave or noble deeds. 2 the chief male character in a story, play, or poem.

Favourite relevant phrase: ‘Why are you trying to be a hero, give it here.’ And she would swiftly pull the heavy bags out of the soon to be throbbing hands and carry them as lightly as though she were not carrying them at all.

 

Dear Ms. Saira Khan,

I am semi writing to you about your recent documentary ‘Pakistan Adventure’, and ironically, my purpose in doing so is almost as muddled as was yours. I wish to praise your work, in the most sarcastic manner, and yet doing so would not detract from my genuine need to express lamentation for the opportunity it is clear you have wasted. And yet, I wish to thank you for inspiring me to make my own efforts to portray a true ‘Pakistan Adventure’.

I would like to paraphrase your entire adventure, or the essence of it as it has remained in my mind, as my honest impression of your work.

‘OK, I am going to pretend to be slightly surprised and very concerned. I’ve just been to visit ‘the most famous artist’ of Lahore, in a Red Light District. He is not of the sophisticated world renowned artists, but a cinema poster painter. His work is clearly page three vulgarity but I am going to pretend it is fascinating, deep and insightful and there is nothing better than this in Pakistan. I’m surprised to say I have not yet seen any women around here.

OK, I’ve just been to the Pakistani equivalent of a junky rave. They spin around incredibly fast so I assume they are dervishes, Sufis. I am in the roughest part of the city, let’s call it the heart of the city, and seem to be surrounded by substance abusers. I am the only woman here and if you watch the footage carefully, I am the only person sitting here swaying my head. This feels very similar to when I was trying to participate in mens’ wrestling! I’m surprised to say I have not yet seen any other women around.

OK, I’m in the Palace of Mirrors of the Badshahi Masjid. It is the most beautiful place I have seen in a long time. The tourists, over the years, have pulled and plucked the mirrors from the grand walls, yet I am breathless- it is still glorious. A place of serenity and majesty, this is the perfect opportunity to raise the conflict between Islam and Beauty. I notice the tour guide is mildly bemused by my observation. This must be the snigger of agreement.

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OK, I’m on a dirt track in the middle of nowhere! I’m about to purchase some jewellery from these mountain men who are so street-wise they speak English. Turn around boys, ooh-la-la, I have to get my money out! I’m concerned to say that I haven’t seen a single woman around here. I have also been receiving the most curious stares. I wonder if it’s because I’m a woman. It probably is. No, it definitely is. I ask my camera crew to make sure they get a shot of some of these peculiarities.’

I am pleased that you showed some of the unmatchable, beautiful countryside of Pakistan and didn’t spend a moment showing something like the shiny, buzzing metropolis of Lahore to contrast it with. If you had shown it, we would have spotted all the women and that would have caused a lot of editing problems for the rest of the documentary- so I understand.

In true summary, you travelled, a woman practically alone, not covered ‘head to toe’, approximately 5’000 miles through some of the most obscure parts of the country and completed your journey safely, unharmed, undisturbed and your footage unprotested. Heroic, certainly.

On this note, I have only two words to say:

Pakistan Zindabad.

Best Regards,

Toobaa.

For clips, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctwo/noise/?programme=saira_khan

In the forward bounding spirit of change, and upon the advice of our in-house research department, TooReFo, we have decided to uproot our newly built and barely worn in home at blog.com and trek over to wordpress.com. Toobaa will no longer be updated at http://toobaa.blog.com .

We will, unfortunately, be unable to take with us the shallow (physical depth only) pool of comments that we have joyously tinkered our toes in whilst relishing our stay at blog.com. However, all posts, till now, have been comfortably settled in at wordpress.com.

We thank you for accompanying us so far and hope you will continue to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Change, Please!

Agreed, the world is in a continuous state of flux. But it is the time of the season for marked change. It all started early that Thursday morning.

The Eastbound Central Line tube pulled up at Woodford: TERMINATING. The doors opened and revealed a tall young man slumped over his seat in an almost feotal position, in the deepest cloister of sleep. He smiled faintly and rubbed his chin against his shoulder as the man in the giant blue coat gently shook his bony shoulder, coaxing him like a child, ‘You have to wake up now, Sir.’ After a few sways back and forth his head shot up and he removed himself from the tube, and rested his sleepy head on his knuckles after sitting down at the nearest bench. Zzz. [09:45] I know this feeling, but do not care to divulge the details of overdosing on Stugeron and sleeping right through Milan, the only recollection being hazy views of Salima’s clogs checking to see if I’d woken up yet or not.

Then, whilst trekking through the streets of London with Clog girl, she quoted the punctual lady on the District Line, ‘This is Edgeware Road, where this train terminates. All change, please.’ [12:10]

Affi leaned over at lunch, the tinsel hanging loosely from her head, and muttered something about exhasperatingly wanting a change. [13:50]

 

Picture courtesy of Aussie’s hero, Banksy. 

Tapping his umbrella absent mindedly upon the ground, as though knocking for Gog and Magog, checking for cavities, Harry II looked upwards to the sky. ‘I’m pondering change,’ he mumbled, almost to himself, ‘change…’ [20:48]

Meanwhile, Blobby dilligently pottered away in his laboratory, delicately responding to pieces of glass which were strategically laid out about him in order to communicate to him the science of the eye. This was change, for when he would arrive home that day, he would be tired. Then he would prepare to do it again the next day. [09:00-17:00]

Zuzu’s life was changing, too. She held her lexicons close as she stepped out into the unevergreen weather, hoping to approach those of eloquence with meaning.

‘Everybody has a choice in the matter ~

~ A test for one is a test for them all.’

Zuzu was often heard singing whilst do-si-doing through the carriages of life. And yet, whenever she caught sight of a Punjabi Khusra or an Urdu Hijri approaching the window of her car, hands outstretched, or whenever they butched themselves into the centre of a crowd and clapped wide-eyed whilst bellowing their bagpipe lungs, Zuzu would scream the shrillest of piercing chilling screams and press herself against the opposite window of the car, or escape to some surreal corner where they no longer existed. The Dalian quality of partly justified genderlessness they embodied in large demonstrative figures and affronts surely petrified her delicately flowing stream of ideas of perfect existence. 

And yet, the Doctor had informed them, regarding such third gender individuals, that this was largely a genetic phenomenon. Society went on to confirm that the richer your background, the less likely these innate tendencies would be allowed or able to develop. As for the poor, disowned and ejected from their homes as young children, to whom else would the social mechanisms cause them to succumb to, to take refuge amongst, apart from those who had experienced the same rejection? And Zuzu’s irrational fear and incosiderate repulsion? All change, please.

 

Picture courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/okinreport/sets/72057594099926364/

Holy Fun

As I search absent mindedly downstairs for what I moslemarily* should know could be my last meal, a bowl of Quaker Oats with a drizzling of honey and a handful of blueberries, I clearly also haven’t planned for it to be. This is evident by the slow burning energy packed breakfast that it is. It’s atop the lonely dining table, aside the soon to be yesterday’s and then tomorrow’s daily paper. The spoon is set at 4 o’ clock. 

The chime of the clock on the mantlepiece is, as usual, dizzily out of sync with reality; but it does tell the right time. When time was constipated in the synapse of Sialkot on our trips to Pakistan, as we were under duress and trapped there under the anvil of otherwise forbidden boredom for extended periods of time, we would lay on the bed, afraid to move lest the heat would notice and slap us back down again, and we would make up Disney songs.

Yes, Disney songs. They are of a specific style, usually sung in the attempted voice of Aladdin, by us, mostly me, whilst Big Brother lay splitting his stitches. They would always go along the lines of ‘SomeDAY, I will find.. The place where I belooong.’ One really would had to have been there to appreciate the depths of desparation we had reached and the amount of joy and and the sheer scope of therapeutic possibility there was in inventing Disney songs.

But it raised the question of belonging that is usually raised like one would raise a flag if he were to land on the moon, without kicking up any dust of course, because that would imply fraudulence. There are 3.25 potential ‘homelands’ on the list; so where does ‘one’ belong? I see the attired people of each homeland, with variously eloquent tongues and I feel an immediate affinity to each in turn. Yet, whilst their smiles and words may kindly embrace, they do not see me as unforeign. My momentarily wise co-pilot once said, ‘Don’t say you don’t belong anywhere, say you belong everywhere.’ And I must say, indeed.

I’d say it is time to follow the example of how to have Holy Wholesome Fun, just like the MG’s**. Let the thick ball of time try to pass through the head of a needle while we slowly burn off these quaking oats in searing fits of laughter. Aaakhh thu!

* ‘moslemarily’, adv. as a Moslem, as an accepted religious principle.

** http://www.youtube.com/user/AbuGG