Posts Tagged ‘life’

China & Wedding(s)

Second Reception in the East

Night Market. Ping Xiang — Nexus.

I am in China. Getting married a second time. To the same woman. I’ve known her for 4–5 years. Time flies. So far from what I know and what I’ve grown up with. I am strange land yet I feel oddly at home. Sure I am a curiosity for a foreign land with dark eyes and a darker skin tone. Sure I have more facial hair than anyone in the entire country. Sure people stare at me.

But people are warm, welcoming and curiously curious in this small town by the Vietnam border.

My parents and family couldn’t be here and I feel oddly alone. I don’t speak the language so I keep to myself. Trying to pick up on some words around the dinner table or context of the conversation. But they keep switching between Mandarin and Vietnamese. I give up till I hear something familiar.

Sophie’s parents were born and raised in Vietnam for the early part of their lives. Her dad’s side of the family still lives there. It’s a complex history but during the Chinese-Vietnamese war, a lot of the Chinese families from Vietnam moved to China. They were all settled by the Chinese government in a small village close by. Her parents worked at a factory and lived in government housing. That home is still there, for now. What was the village is now an industrial zone, littered with factories making pharmaceuticals to motorcycles.

The wedding customs are similar to a Pakistani wedding. The groom (me) is driven to the bride’s house in a caravan of cars decorated with flowers. Her cousins and neighbours are my groomsmen. They pick me up at the hotel at 8am and we start driving in formation. Its a quick ride and we’re too early, so we turn around and grab some breakfast. I stand out like a sore thumb, dressed in a suit with a big red flower but I am getting used to it. A middle-aged lady gives me the thumbs up. I imagine she’s telling me ‘You look good!”. I smile and return the favour.

As I make my way into the house after the firecrackers are all done, Sophie’s bridesmaid demand ‘lucky money’. Her cousin. Vivian, who speaks English is my interpreter as I try to figure out what is going on. I am nervous and I am not really good at hiding it, I am not sure what to expect.

The groomsmen point to my jacket pocket. I take out a package of red envolopes they handed me earlier. Vivian tells me that’s the lucky money and I should bribe the bridesmaids with it so they clear our way as I make my way up to Sophie’s room. My groomsmen really have my back.

There’s a tea ceremony upstairs after I find Sophie’s missing shoes. We serve tea to each family member. It signifies their blessing for our union and myself becoming part of the family. One at a time, a pair, starting with her mom and dad sit on the chairs in front of us and we serve them tea. Soph teaches me what to say, so I don’t mumble too much.

There’s a break before the evening reception. Sophie’s bridesmaid arrive at the hotel to help her change out of her red traditional Chinese dress and into a white western grown. I only have the one suit for the entire day, how many wardrobes can a man change into? I read and laze around till its time to get the show back on the road.

400 or so odd people start arriving at the banquet hall at a local hotel. We’re standing outside greeting each one. There’s a big LED screen at the back of the stage showing our wedding video & pictures from Toronto. I look different when I had a beard.

Sophie wrote a speech for me in Chinese, that I have been practicing for two days. It’s ping ying so I can pronounce the words correctly even though I don’t really know what each word means. I am nervous as Sophie’s dad hands me the mike after making a speech in Vietnamese.

I pull out the papers from my jacket and start. There’s a huge applause in the room, I stop and laugh nervously. Constantly stopping to whisper to my wife next to me “ am I saying this right?” — she nods. I go ahead and don’t stop till I reach the end, probably mutilating the language and missing all the stops and pauses. I hope enough of it makes sense. There’s another applause. I bow and hand over the mike to Sophie. She later tells me no one really understood anything I said, except for a word here and there, but they appreciated the effort. Sheesh. It must have been my desi accent.

Sophie changes into her desi dress. Sakun, our friend from Malaysia who we met in Montreal lent it to her. The dress traveled from Malaysia to Montreal to Toronto and now to Ping Xiang. We have hardly had the chance to eat but not now. We go around to each of the table, cheering the guests and drinking our beverage of choice (water in this case). Smile and laughter all around.

We took a trip to Sichuan. My culinary spirit land and home to Panda’s.

Chengdu is an odd city. Half modern, one leg still in its historical roots. The air smells of chilli’s and oil.

By far the noiset city I’ve been too, including Lahore and Karachi(which comes close). It probably has the most honks per capita. Between the sprawling condos and historical buildings and temples are the restaurants. Neither of us is local but we find a hot pot place that’s a local favorite. The wait in around 2 hours so we walk around the shopping district and neon lit designer shops. We grab some snacks. If you want to get a feel for the city, trying the local street food is a must. My Pakistani stomach isn’t bothered by the conditions in the kitchen. The food is heavy in chilli oil and I love it.

The hot pot is spicy enough to make me light headed. First experience ever. I am not ready for this culinary spiritual experience. The locals on the tables around us don’t seem bothered while I drink a whole pitcher of orange juice to stop myself from fainting. I thought I could handle spicy but this I am not ready for. It’s hard to stop though. I make my way through enough food without exploding.

Back in Ping Xiang, I am munching on sand worms at Sophie’s parents house. They taste and look like chips. Like you’d get from a bag, except for the sand you can taste from the beach they came from. Thousands of sand worms, caught by hand and cleaned. They’re worth their weight in gold. But I think about sustainability and the ecosystem. The unassuming sand worm that needed up in the bowl in front of me played a vital role in the ecosystem but now they’re but over farmed. As the supply diminishes the demand goes up. Somewhere on a village beach is a family that makes its living by catching, cleaning and selling these sand worms. But they’re only so many left.

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Although, when i said to my self, let me try and write something meaningfull, i had a few idea’s in my head. Mainly after a conversation with Wad, i thought i’d write something pertaining to it. In either case Wad, this is dedicated to you. And to you Dad, coz you told me. Write something. This maybe not be published in the TFT, but i am making a sincere effort. And you; Dad, never asked for more. No matter what i churn out of my Medula Oblangatas, this post is dedicated to the both of you.

21 guns-Green Day to fuel my creative juices.

He asked me if i was happy. Moving to another city, miles from my home, family, living in an apartment with a stranger. I said i am content. I guess the answer is not that simple.

If i track back on the other posts i have written, on this blog, I start by ranting on about how i dont have a career or a job or no direction blah blah. Now i have all of those things. I have a job at a very good company. I am getting paid enough to keep a good lifestyle, and i am living on my own. Independent to make my own desicions. All that one could ask for? Or is it? Is it right for me?

Yes. It is. When i ask myself, ‘what would I be doing back home’. The answer, inevitably is i would be either thinking about all those things mentioned above. Sitting in the window ledge, wondering, and slowly killing my air bags in the process. Then i would eat, lay infront of the tv. Or sit on the internet. Nothing productive. So yes compared to that, this is a much better deal . Specially now since i got a good place to live in, and that gives me a peace of mind. I have a decent, no wait, an excellent place to come back to after a long days work.

Ofcourse then, the exercise of this blog is not to let the corporate world drown out the tiny voice in my head. The voice that drives me to question social norms, status quo, in short, that gives me that individuality that i pride myself so much for. My ego. The stack of books on my bed are to keep me grounded. I am not comfortable with money or power. They corrupt people. They are the eccense of the consumerism that is killing out society and our minds. A slow creeping death. The irony. I am part of  the machine that is driving that culture. The catch. I wont let it get to me. I think it was in some Islamic reference that i heard, ‘Life is a constant struggle’. And so it is. No one said its going to be easy.

I stayed at PC and Avari, all expenses paid when i first arrived in The City by the Sea. My first reaction when i arrived at the hotel, PC, was utter discomfort and conflict. I cant do this, i told myself. I dont deserve it, I dont feel comfartable with people running around me, picking up after me. Its inhumane. Its below human dignity to be a servant to another man. But i realized after a couple of days, thats their job. They might not have chosen to have smiles pasted on their faces and fullfill every ridiciolous demand that the guest makes. But it’s their job. It fills their stomach, and their wives and childrens. In the end, all that we should/ even maybe are judged for is if we made an honest living. With our head held up high. Even though these poor bastards cant hold their head high. They do make an honest living. For the sake of their families they bear it all. All i can do is make it easier for them. Hence I humbly passed my time at both the hotels. Always being polite. Always greeting the staff with a pleasant smile. Always being grounded and not forgetting, this is not my place. It is only but passing. I was hazed and disoriented but i managed to keep my head straight. That has been how i have been brought up.

If Ali had been in my place, and he was talking to you, Wad, he would suggest Islam as a source of comfort for your troubled self. So would my sister, Gol. I would too for that matter. Although there is much lacking from me in that front myself. I am yet to get a prayer mat in my new room. I dont believe in traditional religion and rituals maybe. But i have a strong belief in God. It is an utterly personal thing for me. Not to be worn on your sleeve or displayed in your beard and piousness in wearing your shalwar above your ankles. It comes as all forms of respect and love must. From the core of your existence. It is very personal.

When i first got the call for the job, i remember sitting infront of the tv, watching, horrified, the news of a bomb blast in Peshawer. This was the second time some close had been so close in proximity to the destruction. Rabia’s windows and doors were shattered by the blast. Before this, Feryal’s parents were inside Marriot when it blew up. I asked my self, my country is drowning in blood, and i am going to go and work in a comfartable office, with people who live in a different country. Their worlds are not touched by such things. Mine has been. Or i choose to make it a point to register such things. I cannot live in a comfartable bubble and pretend my world ends where the rest begins. Politics is something every person must have a say in. It touches us all. But my justification, right or wrong, time will be a judge of it, was that at that stage, a fresh gaduate with no job experience, no money of his own. What can i do? I know, this is the question that we all must learn to answer to make a difference. I was writing those days. And i wrote a piece on the carnage of the current civil war that i saw myself at Malakand, ‘Damage Control’. I strongly believe in the written word, and its power to bring about change. But my part is not done yet.

What do all these seemingly random threads of thoughts come down to? I strongly believe i am made for things that are beyond working in an office, day in and day out. I strongly believe there must be more to life, then simply the nihilistic circle of making and consuming. We are, by God, or my evolution, in possesion of a brain. Rather a mind, the abstract concept of the slobby organ on top. The abstract which learns to say ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘Why’, ‘How’  ‘When’, and all those questions. We are after all the only animal to ask questions about our own origins and look into science and spirituality for answers. For me, i believe it is writing. The power of language to express complex human thought and emotion in a way that others perceive  it and comprehend it is just fascinating. Must’nt we all have a higher purpose? That is a void, that can be filled with religion or science or art or any other thing of your choosing. Or let your intellect sink into a ocean of numbness and debauchery untill the tiny voice in your head is silenced.  Stop waiting for someone to show you the way. Make your own path. Think of Chris Columbus, or Alexandar, or Amstrong and his team at NASA, or Watson and Crick, or closer to my own heart and home, Abdus Salaam. There are many battles out there waiting to be fought. Pick one and get on with it.

I have a strong temptation to send this to TFT now that is has crossed the thousand words mark.

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So after much worrying, and delibration and again a little bit of worrying, i have finally moved into my own apartment. My own in the every sense of the word. I co inhabit this place. Which draws a thick line right down the rent and other costs. Hence making living a little bit easier. Yes it seems i have stepped out of shell and into my own. Flown from the nest so to speak. First staying at hotels, on my own, sponsered by the company ofcourse. But me. Not piggy back with my dad on one of his trips, but me! It’s all in digestion.

About the place. Well its furnished. It has a view of the sea and the sprawling city that is karachi. And its clean and has a lot of potential to become one of those living spaces one admires on tv. That requires work and commitment. My flatmate and I have already decided to paint the walls and jazz up the place. Right now as i am writing this, there’s a constant beat of the trance that blaring from the speakers in the next room in my ears. Not my taste, but its not vulgar. There is worse music people listen to out there.

I think i need to reaccess my blogging and writing, seems like it’s come down to chronicling my time here. Well maybe its just that newness of all of this that leads to this feeling like another ‘Dear Diary’ sob story.

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Loose Ends

You lock it up. And keep it in a safe place.

Water under the bridge.

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When was the last time i wrote something here? A while back. A month maybe.

Used to blog alot back when i was working at that dumb job. See it was a pc, the internet and usually a cup of tea by my desk and a few hours to kill. The plan was, i blog like everyday, i dont loose my writing mojo.

Look how well that worked out!

The dark cloud, as Seema calls it has finally stopped hovering over my head. I got my TFT cheque and an interview at Bahria University for the position of lab engineer tomorrow. I passed the test, so the hopes are high.

Those bastards at P&G wont return my mails. Just want to know if i stand a chance of being hired.. eventually. It would solve my direction and what to do with life issue’s.

I have to learn mire about these tools on wordpress.


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