Anxious men in the passenger seat

wife driving

Originally written for Gulf News “Off the Cuff” http://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-cuff/anxious-men-in-the-passenger-seat-1.1871220

There are certain things you remember about your childhood that were an integral part of growing up. For me, one such thing was that funny little tomato-red Daihatsu Charade that we once owned. The car was a 1985 model that Dad had purchased refurbished, which meant we became its owners some 10 years after it was born.

It made funny noises when you drove it (stick-shift) and the trunk closed with an earth-shattering jolt. Pulling the windows up and down was good exercise for the biceps and if you got lucky, the air conditioner would sometimes work. This strange object, however, came in handy when I wanted to learn to drive.

After a few lessons of the basics, I decided to take my parents out for a ride. Bad idea, I know. Dad was a bundle of nerves as I took the car outside the gate, and he covered his face with his hands. A car sped along in the opposite direction and he jumped. “Can’t you see that car?” he said frantically. “We are on the other side Papa, please relax,” I told him.

Mum murmured in agreement from the back seat. Dad ground his teeth. I tried to laugh valiantly but found this first ride with him distinctly confidence-draining as I tried to reassure him that everything would be fine.

We were driving along the main road happily and I could sense him relaxing just a tiny bit. It was almost as though he had resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t look up much and we would all make it home in one piece. I was pleased that he wasn’t quite as excited as before and things started to get a little more pleasant. We finally turned home and as everything had gone well without any trouble whatsoever, I decided this was my time to speak. “Well, I’m quite okay driving, aren’t I? Look at you guys, you don’t trust me at all!”

Dad almost looked sorry and he was about to say something, but I’ll never know what it was because at that precise moment I banged the rear of the car while reversing into our unopened front gate, which I had presumed was open. Typical. Dad felt vindicated and the “I told you so” lecture that followed was positively grating. Fast forward a few years and I drive every day, sometimes for long distances. It has become second nature. I would even say that I enjoy it (minus the traffic, of course) and ferrying the girls around town is part of my job description. Yet, my husband recoils with apprehension every time he sits with me in the passenger seat.

We are driving to the airport to drop him off. “Change lanes, we need to take the next exit,” he says. I roll my eyes. “Thanks, but I kind of know the way,” I respond coolly. He shrugs. When I finally do change lanes he shakes his head in despair and wonders how much to say because he is travelling after all and making up over the phone might prove a little tricky. He (wisely) restrains himself from speaking about the details of my lane-changing abilities, but I notice from the corner of my eye, he looks extremely stressed. I don’t know about you, but the men in my life generally hyperventilate when I’m driving.

I enjoy speeding every now and then (the engine roar is so satisfying) but sadly my husband doesn’t agree. “No wonder the fuel costs as much as it does and do you realise how unsafe this is?” he says pointedly as I let it rip. I slow down because we need to pick up something on the way and the only parking available near the grocery store is parallel. Herein lies my real test. I take a deep breath and try it — five times out of ten I manage to do it and at other times, the car just doesn’t seem to obey. Sadly, this time the car ends up jutting out at a strange angle and he smiles vindictively. “You bribed them to pass your driving test, didn’t you?” He breathes easy and I scowl. He picks up the grocery and then knocks at my window. “I’m driving,” he tells me.

The man who looked completely distraught moments ago is now happy and relaxed and shows the girls how we take off in an aeroplane by going full throttle and making the engine thunder. My eyebrows almost disappear into my hairline. It’s nostalgic. I remember that red Charade and Dad. I smile wryly. Until he learns to relax in the passenger seat, I really don’t mind being chauffeured around by my man, especially if there’s parallel parking around.

 

Falling on my face and other hurdles: How I nearly missed the PSL final

psl

Photo courtesy of PSL Facebook Page

Originally written for Dawn Blogs, published February 25, 2016: http://www.dawn.com/news/1241842/falling-on-my-face-and-other-hurdles-how-i-nearly-missed-the-psl-final

If there’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do, it is to watch a cricket match live in the stadium — I’ve been a cricket buff for as long as I can remember and I follow the game closely.

The recently concluded Pakistan Super League had me excited and proud. For the sake of my cricket-starved country, I wanted the PSL to shine, to be amongst the best leagues in the world, to be the league all the international stars yearn to get into.

Even though my favourite Zalmi and Afridi were out of the tournament, I still liked the gutsy Moin Khan-esque Sarfaraz Ahmed and was hoping that Quetta would win.

So, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to go and watch the PSL final at Dubai International Stadium.

My sister and her family had flown in from New York especially to watch the match and had one extra VIP ticket — it was fate. After settling the kids down at home, I set off for Dubai Sports City at around 7:30pm.

The drive was fairly smooth and my best friend Google ensured that I was on the right track.

As the beautiful lit-up stadium came into view, I called my sister who was already inside and told her that I had arrived and would soon be joining them. Little did I know.

As I neared the exit for Dubai Sports City, the traffic came to a standstill. The queue was extremely long and many people resigned to just parking their cars in the sand on the right and walking to the stadium because the match had already started.

After being stuck, for around 20 minutes, I realised that even if I did cross the exit and get into the stadium area, finding a parking spot there would be near impossible.

So I swung the car to the right and entered the sandy area where thousands of cars were already parked.

I could see the stadium a little farther ahead of where I was. I took relief in the fact that if so many people had parked here, there was probably a way to walk to it too.

As I measured my options, I realised that I would either have to walk along the main road (easily a 35-40 minute walk) or find a shortcut to the stadium from the sandy parking area.

None of the options seemed exciting — the road did not have a sidewalk so it felt dangerous to walk alongside the heavy traffic, and the sandy area had no lights and looked pretty scary.

I took a deep breath and finally decided to follow a group of men nearby, who were also trying to find a shortcut to the cricket stadium.

Only a short while later, a big fence cut off our progress. But one of them inspected it carefully and found a spot where the fence was half bent and jumped over it easily. The others followed suit.

Realising there was no other way except jumping over, I, too, gathered my flowing chiffon top (green, of course) and decided to go for it. Shaking, both because of how challenging it seemed and because of my company that night, no one was more surprised than I when I made it to the other side.

Just as I went over, I heard one of the guys say that their tickets were at the East side.

Mine’s premium West, I thought to myself and felt faint: I had left my ticket in the car!

I made the jump again and this time I nearly ripped my jeans because a pointy bit of the fence got stuck in the side pocket. Now began the process of trying to find my car in the big sandy jumble of vehicles. I traced my steps back and to my utter horror, my car was nowhere to be found.

Alone in the dark and eerie parking lot, which was in the middle of nowhere, with scores of people who didn’t even look remotely friendly and with a car that was lost, I wondered if the cricket match was worth it at all.

I decided to drive back home — as soon as I found that dratted car.

Just then, coming out of the darkness, I saw a lady in a long white skirt leaning on the arm of a man. “Oh come on, Rano, walk a little faster. And I told you not to wear a skirt and heels!” he told her.

Rano looked as desperate as I felt. Then, just as suddenly, I spotted my car and I rushed over, grabbed the ticket and followed the couple.

“Err,” I began uncomfortably. I told them that my family was inside and that I had to get to the stadium, asking if I could walk with them.

The couple was sweet and happy to let me tag along. I gladly did so, relieved that I hadn’t already left.

When we arrived at the first fence, the man, Hassan helped Rano and then they both helped me. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, had I not forgotten my ticket, I would never have run into the helpful duo.

On the other side of the fence, things looked pretty grim. There was a humongous construction pit on the ground, and that was the reason a fence had been put up in the first place. I’m terribly scared of heights and here I had to walk on the narrow path by this huge pit.

Another fence! I swallowed the lump in my throat and ploughed on resolutely, not looking left or right. Rano landed on the other side of the second fence with some help from Hassan. Thanking God that I was wearing sneakers, I, too, crossed the hurdle, sweating and exhausted.

I wondered how much longer we would have to walk in the dark. It seemed as though the stadium was moving farther away from us, and for one long moment, I wondered if we were even going in the right direction. But Hassan was confident that all was well, and so, on we went.

Ten minutes later, the night air brought a welcome sound to my ears. We could hear the faraway noise of a national song, which I surmised to be ‘Dil Dil Pakistan’.

My heart leapt with joy — we were close.

The atmosphere in the stadium was electric.The atmosphere in the stadium was electric.

In front of us, not more than a ten-minute walk away was the entrance to the Dubai International Stadium. Quite a sight for sore eyes. But just then my phone rang (the family had been calling all this time and had called again to get an update on my progress).

In answering the phone, I missed a gutter along the road. It was covered thankfully, but the cover jutted out at a strange angle and wham! I fell flat on my face on the road.

Hassan and Rano helped a dishevelled me up and I let out a groan as my knee began to throb. Gladly I was okay except for minor scrapes. I walked along carefully now.

At last, we walked into the entrance and showed our tickets. We were seated in different places, so I thanked the lovely couple and found my family.

What I saw next just blew me away!

It was a real cricket match, just like on TV, only better and clearer. Ahmed Shehzad had just hit a four and the crowd had gone crazy.

People were wearing Quetta Gladiators and Islamabad United jerseys and screaming and signalling four, swaying from side to side.

If I had any doubts at the parking lot about the match being worth it, I had none now: the atmosphere was electric.

A young Quetta Gladiators fan.A young Quetta Gladiators fan.

The next three hours just flew past. I followed the game closely but the side I was supporting (Quetta) lost, thanks to Islamabad’s great batting.

The energy and the vibe of the crowd were infectious. I’ve heard of people having a passion for the game but this one I embodied in a way that I had never imagined.

Crazy as it was, my experience of watching my first match live was truly memorable and I would definitely go again.

When a mother of three, all alone at night, save for a strange couple, jumps over fences thrice to watch a league final, you know the PSL has made it.

 

At Khorfakkan, UAE

Khorfakkan has a gorgeous beach and the boat ride’s lovely too.  I hope you like the photos!

Where the mountains meet the sea

Where the mountains meet the sea

The island at Khorfakkan

The island at Khorfakkan

So lovely when the water touches my toes...

So lovely when the water touches my toes…

I added a bit of drama to the sky...

I added a bit of drama to the sky…

Yes, I edited this a bit...

At the beach

The metro and my thoughts

Hey All!

Apologies for the unannounced hiatus. I’ve been busy with exams. Just a quick one to share iPhone photos of the metro (Instagrammed, yeah!)

Hope you like them.

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Oh by the way, were you wondering why I called this post “The metro and my thoughts”? Because public transport is a great place for getting your thoughts together. And if the ride is long, it’s great for clearing out your email inbox too. Trust me on this one, lol.

Flames

At the moment, anywhere you look you find flame trees in full bloom. It’s a beautiful sight. Below are some pics of the same. 🙂

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Bursting into a riot of colour!

New beginnings

New beginnings

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When bloom and bud live peacefully together.

Patch of blue sky

Patch of blue sky

A wall of orange.

A wall of orange.

 

Dubai: the lesser known side

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building, and seen the pics in the Burj Series on my blog.

And you saw the architecture at Souk Madinat Jumeirah as well.

Heck, I even brought you the beaches!

It’s now time to see some greenery! Enjoy! 🙂

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Yes, some of these are edited and stuff, but a photographer is an artist. It’s a mixture of composition, perspective and feeling. Hope you liked the photos. Do let me know what you think.

-Mehmudah