Thursday, March 31, 2011

ICC at the ICC: Research Run Amuck

I'm not competitive, I hardly play sports, and I never watch them. If something big is happening and it's right in my path, then I may jump on the bandwagon, but only temporarily, and only because it's in my path. This happened during the Canada/US Olympic hockey game last year (it was blasted in my living room), and for the World Cup last summer (I kept tripping over crowds huddling outside bars while trying to enjoy my trip to Montreal). Last night, Pakistan played India in the ICC, which is like the World Cup but for cricket, which I gathered was big because the India/Pak rivalry is like the Canada/US rivalry.

It was great timing for me because as part of my research for my novel, I needed to watch people watching cricket (because God knows I don't). I've seen crazy hockey/soccer/football fans, but cricket had to be different. I wanted to capture the cricket-y things the fans said, how they acted, who the players were, etc. And I had access to a banquet hall full of cricket fans and the biggest tournament of the cricket world at my service. Perfect.

It seemed less perfect when I dragged myself out of bed to be at the ICC (India Community Center) by 8 am this morning. I really wanted to just sleep, but I knew this was too good a chance to pass up and it was for the novel, Phi, show your dedication, etc. Plus a quick Facebook check, with all my Indian/Paki friends all over the world adding their input, put me in a festive mood.

Upon walking into the darkened ICC banquet room that boasted two large screens, I realized two big problems:

1. I was not Indian.
2. I did not know the first thing about cricket.

A friend from my Bollywood workout class saw me and gave me a crash course on ...something I don't remember. As he did, a man overhearing us gave me the strangest look (I think my friend had been explaining what an over was).

I had my good old notepad (you Karachiites remember it), and was in full research mode. Grabbing a cup of the complimentary chai, I found a seat.

As I sat down (at the back of the room, behind all the people with India flags draped on their shoulders and the India flag colours glued to their hats/coats), something came over me. I was engrossed.

Basically, the last two out of the total eight hours the game lasted were riveting. They would play one over and then have these awesome ads for . ("Living abroad? You can have your very own Gujju/Punjabi/Tamil bride only on Gujju/Punjabi/, followed by a fawning newlywed couple, the bride still donning her wedding mehndi, saying, "' I can't believe I found you here in this country!'").

In the two hours I watched (the last two of the eight, EIGHT, that the game lasted), here's all I learned about cricket:

1. If the wicket gets knocked down by the Indian bowler, the Indian fans will scream and run around but it doesn't mean the game's over and you can go home. There are more overs to come.

2. If a Pakistani batter hits the ball really well, that's not necessarily a good thing because like in baseball, the sailing ball can be caught and that batter is out. If that batter is a guy named Afridi that means he's the captain, the one everyone was pinning their hopes on and that's extra bad.

3. There's a thing called a power play (like in hockey), and the Pakistanis could have used it today but didn't. The commentators did NOT approve of this move. Nor did I. I don't know what a power play is, but I was with the commentators.

4. At the end of the match, "Chak De India" was blared at the ICC, and people danced, waved their flags, took pictures with their friends. I stood eventually, and even as my foot tapped to the catchy beat of "Chak De India", and visions of Shah Rukh Khan, star of the movie by the same name, in his clean front chinos and modern-shodern new haircut leading the underdog girls hockey team flashed through my mind, I was really sad.

I looked at my notepad. I hadn't made many notes. I had been so caught up in the game, I hadn't been a good novel researcher.

Today, I was simply a Pakistani, rooting for my home and native land.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Balcony Now

Only pic I got from the balcony of church; corner of gate on left, corner of school building up on right. Students saw me from their classroom, actually, and got too excited. The teacher in me felt guilty for being distracting.

Morning light in the passage. Shadow of the jaali through which I was called for dinner.

On this visit to Karachi (which, for the record, ended several weeks ago now, despite the Karachi-themed blogs that continue here), Nani Nana weren't there and I wasn't eight. Yet the balcony provided unending entertainment.

On my first morning, awoken by the crows and jet lag, I sat on the balcony at 6:30 am. The crows that woke me from my sleep were even louder out here, and they competed with the equally loud eagles for the highest tree branches. Mama Two came out soon after. He was an early riser (though I never again joined him at this particular time after the jet lag ended).

Mama Two had a voice like a Parsi James Earl Jones and he always spoke slowly, unhurriedly, the way he lived his life. He surveyed the garden below, the church compound in front of us. He pointed out the mango trees, the coconut palms, the "sing fali" trees (whose translation of sing peanuts trees I still don't get). In the summers, he said, parrots sat on its branches.

At around seven, a sweeper cleaned the church compound with what was essentially a bunch of twigs wrapped together, making sharp grating sounds that mingled with the crows' cries in the trees above.

Around seven-fifteen, the first school children entered the compound in their neatly pressed uniforms and their perfectly parted hair and their freshly shined shoes, and they nodded to the diligent chawkidar who guarded the heavy black metal gate. These were the kids who, when the school bell rang, would take their seats in the front rows of the classrooms, pulling out their supplies and tapping the perfectly pointy nibs of the pencils they had sharpened the previous night all before the teacher had finished her morning Nescafe. Trickles of little children holding their parents' hands came in soon after, heading behind the church where I assumed the primary classes were located.

The building right in front of me, half blocking the church itself, was the school building, its ground floor the canteen. The canteenwala rolled up the metal grate of the small shop, revealing row upon row of neatly stacked goodies on the walls beyond. He pulled out a newspaper. This was the one place, the one moment in his day, that allowed him solace away from it all: his wife, perhaps his mother who lived with them, his own children and the students he catered to all day from his little cave of a shop. Spreading his newspaper on the counter, he leaned over in anticipation. And just like that, the first of the students lined up in front of him, pointing to candy, chips, water. Resignedly, he served them, trying to get back to his paper between customer but never succeeding.

A rowdy game of cricket was now in full swing. Peering through the trees, I saw that the bat was a clipboard, and the ball looked like a pair of rolled up socks, though Mama Two told me later it was a large rubber (eraser, people, it means eraser).

Calls of "O-o-o-ut" and "I-i-i-n" erupted across the compound and boys flocked to the wall behind the batter, shouting, "Here's the wicket, here, no, here", their hands whacking the wall violently at various contesting heights. The smallest boys stood back, tentative fielders for now, envisioning the day they themselves would be the cursing-spitting batsmen and bowlers.

On Tuesday evening, the church held an English service, which from my perch  on the balcony, allowed me front row seats into Karachi's non-Parsi world. Between services, young women in brightly coloured shalwar kameezes that sparkled like disco balls walked nonchalantly (actually, very chalantly, but that was the game they played) between the church and the grotto. A group of young men walked in the other direction, sporting brightly coloured t-shirts with upturned collars complimented by large wraparound sunglasses, hair spiked to the skies with industrial strength gel. And subtly, ever so subtly, the men's  heads turned to follow the passing by ladies, whose heads turned away just in time. Neither group made it to their intended destination of church or grotto.

Aunties hugged aunties, grandmas hugged grandmas, and children ran circles among the adults. Suited men shook hands and shalwar-kameezed men put their arms around each other with solid back pats.

When church was in session, and this was the only downside to living beside St. Anthony's, the Singing Pastor took the mic. This man spoke passionately and sang even more passionately. He fancied himself a very good singer, one imagined, for why else would his mic be turned up so high that one of him was louder than a hundred members of his congregation? Unless he was trying to emulate (or compete with) the Muslim imams, whose prayers echoed across entire city blocks.

At night, the balcony was cool, cooler than it had been all day, and I leaned over the railing to look at the stars. The  church compound was quiet again, save for the creaking gate through which the diligent chawkidar let in stragglers who had missed the afternoon's festivities but still wanted to make it into God's good books.

I stood where Nana used to sit with his glass of Scotch, dressed ever-immaculately in a cream short-sleeved collared shirt and khaki slacks, his ubiquitous post-work evening-on-the-balcony wear. I imagined him leaning forward offering an eight-year-old me his drink. I looked to where my uncles would have walked onto the balcony, surrounding their father to discuss the day's events or the upcoming cricket match, and in the rooms behind me Nani, my mum, my aunts would be supervising the dinner Chatra prepared in the kitchen, bringing it out to the large dining table where we would all gather to eat. Eight-year-old me was off playing Hide-and-Seek with the other kids by now, soon to be called in for dinner through the jaali in the passage that faced the rest of our compound.

Thirty-two year old me blinked hard. I thought of Nani and Nana in Canada, where they now lived with Mum and Aunt One, of Uncle One in the US, where I myself am now, of Uncles Two and Three here in Karachi. So many years, so many miles and yet standing on this balcony, I could see us all gathering here, enjoying the cooling air before going in to eat together.

Aunt Two called me for dinner, and I went in, wiping the corners of my eyes, and closing the balcony door behind me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Balcony Then

On Nani Nana's balcony, the minutia of my life occurred. In the afternoons during summer holidays, when I was left to run rampant in my grandparents' house, I sat with Sarla, Nani's servant, teaching her English. Sometimes I donned a paper thin dupatta draped chastely over my head like I saw Benazir do on TV, clasped my hands together, and gave impassioned political speeches to the mango trees that lined the wall between Mehrabad and the church next door.

In the evenings, Nana and my mamas often congregated on the balcony with scotch and soda/water/ice in hand. I was expected to skedaddle, this now being an official no-children zone, and I did, right after I stuck my index finger into Nana's proffered glass of the gleaming amber liquid that made my mouth curdle. But doing this age-old ritual allowed for that fleeting, private look that passed between  Nana and I, the twinkle in his brown eyes that was meant just for me, just for that second, before his attention turned back to his sons/wife/daughters/ayah, whoever was next in the constant procession that the balcony hosted each evening.

Right before bed, when the stars pierced the luminescent sky, the night air seeping through our thin nighties, cooling our arms for the only time all day in those stifling summer months, Nani and I sat on the balcony. Sometimes she told me stories about my mother when she was young, sometimes stories that had morals, about the vain crow or the persistent tortoise, sometimes stories that were plain silly, like the one about Gangli, the not-so-bright girl who, when asked to help her mother, just couldn't figure out the logistics of transportation (no, Gangli, you mustn't juggle those eggs all the way home, silly; no, Gangli, though eggs are best transported in your pocket, the same rule does not apply when bringing home a rabbit, etc).

This was the very spot, she often said, that I used to sit with you when you were a baby and couldn't sleep, rocking you till you fell asleep. Can you imagine, she would ask in awe, that you were just this big, and she would rest her palms, facing each other, in the middle of her knees. Under ten, I was already over five feet tall and we would both look at the space between her hands with wonder.

Sometimes she insisted on removing najar (evil eye) by circling an egg over my head seven times and throwing it over the balcony railing (I spent the entire summer of 1988 removing najar rom myself, not out of vanity but out of awe that I could throw an egg over the railing with such abandon and then be rewarded with an approving look from Nani). Sometimes we just sat together in the silence. On Christmas Eve, we listened to Midnight Mass that was blared on a loud speaker next door.

A few times, I visited the church with Mum. The cool marbled interior of St Anthony's along with its high ceilings provided two things Karachi did not impart easily: cool air and space. Mum didn't like me mucking with other religions' rituals; why she put me in a convent school where every Sunday, I watched with jealousy as all my classmates had the little round cracker placed gingerly on their tongues by the man in gleaming white robes (which, for the record, I never did because gods-and mothers-are omnipresent), I'll never know. So after she was a safe distance ahead, I dipped my finger into the marble bowl and touched it to my forehead. After all, when Zoroastrians visit the agyari, they touch the ashes of the sacred fire left out by priests to their foreheads so really, I wasn't totally breaking the rules. In fact, I was covering my bases, making Zarathushtra and Jesus proud, I told myself as I scurried over to Mum.

Afterwards, we went to the shrine across the compound. This was my favourite part of the church because the air around the shrine smelled so sweet. Not like food, not like perfume or incense, just its own particular sweetness. Mother Mary stood in the center, in her traditional white and blue outfit, her hand pointing upwards, her face looking down. She was always freshly garlanded and several objects encircled the rocky grotto in which she stood. What made the air smell so sweet I never found out, the air didn't smell that way anywhere else in Karachi. I sniffed heavily, filling my lungs desperately, memorizing the scent that I knew within seconds would dissipate, till Mum put a gentle hand on my shoulder, a silent plea to stop breathing like a fighting bull. The smell was gone anyhow.

Back on the balcony later that day, munching sev gathia or sipping too-sweet rose-flavoured surbut, feet clanging against the metal chair, I looked out at the church, imagining its spacious interior, recalling the sweet shrine air. I couldn't see the shrine from the balcony, but I knew it was there on the other side of the wall. When Nana and the mamas came out to claim their space, I skedaddled. My turn on the balcony was over. For now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

By George, I Think I've Got It

I fancied myself quite the little Pakistani in Karachi, wearing the right clothes, speaking the language so well (my own personal opinion, not necessarily shared by others), going to the happening places (once again, my own opinion, definitely not shared by others, especially the ones suckered into taking me to places they never in their worst nightmares imagined going). But the one thing I just couldn't wrap my head around was the money. Not the physical money, the rupee, whose pretty colours made me feel like I was once again in my other home, Canada, instead of the confusing US where I peer into my purse like a granny at all that green. No, it was the spending of the money, or the lack thereof, that just killed me.

It began the very day I arrived. I had been fighting the jeg lag fiercely and had almost made it through the day without crashing, and to help me on the last leg, Cuz #1's wife, who we are calling Bhabi if I recall my own writing correctly, took me to the mall. This was not one of the fascinating, bustling bazaars I got addicted to but a westernized, quiet, clean place with elevators and elevator music. So in about 40 minutes, right on schedule, I got my usual mall-induced headache. Bhabi could see me waning and suggested a drink. At the Mickey D's, she cut ahead of me in line and asked what I wanted. Don't worry, we'll share, she said. Liar. She bought me the drink, wouldn't let me pay and it turned out, she wasn't even thirsty.

A couple of days later, at KPI, Bhabi told me there were bhakras and batasas for sale, did I want some? Since I dream of bhakras and batasas back home, I readily agreed to buy some. Only I didn't. She did. We literally had a fist fight at the canteen, with all the staff watching us. And Bhabi is strong (probably due to the fortifying powers of bhakras and batasas). She won, and as she plonked packets of goodies into my hands, she cackled triumphantly.

These shenanigans continued all over town. I was following my taste buds down memory lane those first few days, buying all the yummy treats from my childhood, suterfeni/budhi na baal (Old Lady's Hair is the translation on that one, sweet strings of white sugar coated flour that melt in your mouth and make you marvel at how good life is), badam ka halwa, corn on the cob, corn off the cob coated with chili, pears coated with chili, sev, puris. Bhabi and Aunt 1 wouldn't let me touch my wallet. These things for the most part were relatively cheap, so I tried to be okay with it, but there were some very expensive dinners involved, even by western standards. I fought with Cuz and Bhabi all the way home but they just said, shut up. Literally, that's what they said to me, their guest. Shut up, Phi.

Aunt 1 asked me everyday what I wanted for lunch, dinner, breakfast the next day.Anything's fine, whatever's easy, I'd say. But everyday for three weeks, it was all about me and I gave my approval before anything was cooked. The food was delicious, hot off the stove, and most importantly, not too spicy (which I knew was a sacrifice for the rest of the family).

Getting ready for a birthday party, I asked Uncle 1 how much I should give the birthday girl. He opened his wallet and gave me the right amount. No, no, I said, I was asking, I have money. He looked at me blankly.

At the Itwar Bazaar, Cuz 2 was looking at fountain pens and as we all know, every writer needs a good fountain pen. I chose one (okay, two) and same thing: Cuz 2 said, I'll get it, put your money away, I'll get us a better deal. When we got home and I asked what awesome deal he'd struck with the pen guy, Cuz 2 said, pens? What pens? Oh, those. I don't remember. And he smiled the very one Bhabi had smiled.

I met my hubby's extended family, who were also my interview subjects, and they served me fresh from the bakery cake (two different mouth-watering types), sandwiches, and drinks. So I was harassing them with my questions and they were serving me fresh baked goods. Go figure. As I was leaving, and I'm not making this up, I was presented with a gold bracelet. It was beautiful with an Art Deco like pattern and it fit perfectly. What the heck was this for? Because you're family and you're visiting us for the first time. I was floored.

I met a new friend who was actually an old childhood friend of my hubby's. She took me out for coffee twice and I thought, great, second time, I can treat. Apparently I hadn't read the rule book: thou shalt be treated to things as long as thou art in Pakistan. But I'm Pakistani too, I said. She just laughed.

I sat Cuz and Bhabi down and told them how horrible I was feeling. It did not go well:

Them: This is how it is here, Phi. Don't worry.
Me: It can't be. Why should you pay for my dinner?
Them: Because you're our guest.
Me: a) I'm your cousin, b) I invited myself here, and c) I'm here for three weeks. You can't pay for my dinners for three weeks. I'm keeping an itemized list here and eventually you'll have to-
Them: Shut up, Phi.

Tonight, weeks after my return to California, as I watched George ka Pakistan, a reality show (Pakistan's first according to Wikipedia) where a 6 foot tall Brit goes to Karachi and tries to become a Pakistani within three months (committing many of the same errors that this almost-6-foot Canadian made there), I finally got proof. Proof that I was wrong.

On this episode, George had to take the bus to Saddar. After walking for about forty minutes and figuring out that there are in fact no bus stops in Karachi, that four people standing together on the road makes a bus stop (he's quick, that George, quicker than me), he asked a local for help (at least my Urdu is better than his, so there). It turned out they were both going to Saddar and the local agreed to let George tag along.

Once on the bus, after being told that no, the conductor didn't have Turret's, he was merely announcing the bus route to the outside world (See, he's saying Saddarsaddarsaddar, the local said very patiently), it came time to pay. And the local pulled out his wallet, waving, no, swatting, at George's hand, which also held a wallet. I said, what? George said, what? The local said nothing as he pulled out his colourful money. 

On George's red, sweaty face, I recognized the same feeling of utter discomfort my own must have had time and time again. That feeling of "But you're already doing so much for me, how can you pay for me? And my bus fare? That's so random and just not done". But the local would have none of it. He just waved his hand like all my family had at me.

Because there, it is done. It just is.

By George, I think I get it.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Bhoomi was my childhood ayah's daughter. She held up one hand with all her fingers extended when you asked her how old she was. She was tall for her age, though the red velvet dress she always wore hung loose on her tiny frame. A thin gold necklace and matching studs stood out on her dark skin. Everyday, I asked, kem che, and her head jerked to the side, just once, responding that she was fine, thank you. Her lips pursed, but didn't form a smile. Every morning for about three hours, while her mother, Chatra, cleaned the house, Bhoomi sat on the balcony and looked out towards St. Anthony's School next door. She watched the children hustle into classes, swarm the canteen at recess, and make their way slowly home at mid-day. In the quiet hours in between, she sat thinking, I felt, about the world and how she would one day take her place in it.

I asked her if she went to school and it lit up her face, though she still did not smile. Any day now, she said, as soon as her mother went to talk to them, and she jerked her head once towards the school.

Returning from some errands one afternoon, I saw through the window Bhoomi's head above the plants that lined my aunt's balcony. I went out and after the requisite head jerk that she was fine, thank you, I remained squatting beside the plastic garden chair. Students' voices floated out of the white school building as they chanted after their teachers. A handful of girls walked across the school yard. I asked Bhoomi if her sister, who attended that school, was among them. She jerked her head, no.

I sat on the ground, slipping off my sandals and enjoying the feel of the cool cement. We watched the girls make a lazy circle of the yard and I asked why they weren't in class. Head jerk; Bhoomi did not approve. Did she have friends who went to this school? She sat forward. She had two friends at this school and they also lived in her compound. She lived behind this building, just over there. Her hand snaked through the air mapping out the way. Dia was her best friend. They played chhum-chhum together. Like this, she said,  slapping her palms against mine, this way and that, up and down. I showed her my variation of the game. She nodded her head sagely. Yes, there were many ways of playing chhum-chhum.

Her voice was soft, raspy. She had a hint of a lisp that made her upper lip curl and her tongue flash out to meet it. Her Gujarati was different than mine and I had to strain to keep up. Her older sister, she continued, had a friend too, in their building only. Her brother and his friends all played cricket all the time. Her mother always shouted at him to do his homework first. Her dad used to shout at her mother a lot. Gaali after gaali he shouted at her, swearing at the top of his lungs.

He used to shout at us all, she said. One day, he burned my foot,the bottom of it, here. He used a fire. After that my mother left him. Her voice remained the same as when she described chhum-chhum. Now, she said, it's just the four of us and life is good again. Her head jerked once and as she slid back into the plastic chair, she smiled.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bollywood Blues: Sheila Ki Jawani

Everyone may not love Bollywood but everyone knows of it. Even those of you who are rolling your eyes at the mention of the B-word know, at the very least, the painful rendition of Jai Ho by the Pussy Cat Dolls that you can name drop at parties when BTown comes up.

I listen to Bollywood music occassionally (only when I'm breathing, as King Khan said to Aish in Devdas) but, like with my BTown movie selection, I am selective with the music. The latest hit song, Sheila ki Jawani, is everything I hate about Hindi film music: the insertion of cheesy English lyrics among the Hindi, the gratuitous chest thrusts to make up for the lead actress's inability to dance, the  the lack of Shah Rukh Khan, the presence of Akshay Kumar. Yet this song is persistent. It pervaded my entire Karachi trip and continues to infest my California life.

Instance One: Every morning at breakfast, Uncle 2 blasted Bollywood videos as he passed me a steaming cup of lemongrass tea. Sheila was always played.

Instance Two: At the beach picnic, two Dad-aged men sang the song's chorus while dealing out cards in the hut. They got as far as the first line: "Sheila, Sheila ki Jawani"...then one asked the other, "What's the next line?" but neither knew. I wish I'd had the guts to tell them what it was, "I'm too sexy for you". They probably would have sung it.

Instances Three: Cuz 1's bro-in-law held Nephew in his arms and sang him this song in a perfect falsetto.

Instance Four: Nephew began singing the song, his two-year-old version sounding more like "Shee-a, Shee-a...wa-wee..."

Instance Five: I dreamed I was Sheila ki Jawani and was doing the dance that, in my waking hours, throws out my back.

Instance Six: Back in California for less than 48 hours, I found myself doing lunges and squats to the song during my ICC Bollywood workout. Everyone smiled and sang along as they squatted lower and lower.

Even me. I guess there really ain't nobody like Sheila.

But that's another quality of Bollywood (and all overplayed pop music worldwide): eventually, it wins.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to use a GPS in Karachi

"Phi, see that Ice Berg sign?" Cuz no 1's wife (let's call her Bhabi, since she called me that to all the vendors she bartered with on my behalf). "That's where you need to tell the driver to take you tomorrow to pick up your sari blouses. Say, Ice Berg ke saamne (across from Ice Berg). She pointed at the blue billboard. "The tailor is across the street, see? We're all back at work, you're on your own tomorrow. Got it?"

"Ice Berg," I scrawled into my trusty notebook.

"And see that sign saying Pak Jewelers? Turn into the next gulley after that sign and after the first intersection, that's where you pick up your saris, okay?"

"Pak Jewelers, next gulley," I wrote, glancing at the gulley lined with fabric, hair accessories, chaatwalas, shoewallas and teawalas. "Got it."

At dinner that night, Bhabi even showed me where the agyari (where Zoroastrians pray) was, and I added it to my list, just like via points on my Garmin GPS back home.

The next day, I ventured into Saddar/Bori Bazaar with my notebook-cum-GPS. Uncle no 3's driver, a good friend of mine by this point as he'd been driving me around for three weeks, was told to go to the petticoat shop, but pulled up in front of the agyari. "Reroute, reroute". I only knew how to navigate to the agyari from via point number two, the  Pak Jewelers gulley. I stared at gulley before me: fabric, hair accessories, looked exactly the same as all the others.

While rerouting, I decided to go ahead and pray (and make notes on the agyari for the book, but also pray...). I lit a diva in the showcase beside the water well in the back. As a child, standing on my tiptoes and peering into its depths was a highlight of the agyari visit, till Mum or Dad shooed us away for being sacreligious. Inside the building, I put in some rupees into the donation box, pushing the money down with a ruler, another childhood thrill. I sat in the cool of main hall and watched the Atash Behram crackle in its chamber. And who should be sitting beside me at the agyari but uncle no 3's mother in law.

Back outside, Uncle's M-I-L's driver, who recalled me from my childhood, was rerouting Uncle's own driver on how to get to the Pak Jewelers sign. Just like that,  I was "arriving at destination, on right". Backtracked from the Pak Jeweler's sign  and found "Perfect Match" sari petticoat wallas shop, situated perfectly after the intersection. Piece of cake.

We set off to the next via point, the blouse tailor, and again, 'wrong turn, rerouting' was needed. Driver didn't know where Ice Berg was.

He rolled down the window and asked, "Hello, A-is Buh-rugh kidhar hai?" to several passers by but no one knew.

I tried helping out by pronouncing the name correctly, but, as I was later told with that amused 'you're such a foreigner' headshake, this only confused the locals even more. A quick call to Bhabi didn't solve the problem like it usually did, since she had decided to focus on her job that day.

Think, think, think...

"Hi, Cuz 1? Can you get Aunty's number for me, the one who knows the sari blouse tailor? I can't find the Ice Berg sign...wait."

Like a, well, Ice Berg out of the blue, the sign appeared which meant, yes, there was the tailor across the street.

"When possible, make U-turn", said my inner GPS. Aray bhai, in Karachi, when is a u-turn not possible?

The driver was jubilant. "I knew it was in this direction, I just knew it." His eyes danced in the rear-view mirror.

As I "arrived at final destination, on right", my head bobbed side to side along with his in sweet victory.