Archive for the ‘Hang Out’ Category

OMG… Kuch Khaas.

There has been a constant debate over how the critically acclaimed city of the dead is actually living up to its name as far as performing arts (mainly music) are concerned. The overall security situation of the country amongst many numerable reasons contributed to this sad state of affairs. But as they say, all hope is not lost for 2010 saw KUCH KHAAS (A community space for discourse, learning, meaningful entertainment and participation in Islamabad) break into the scene. I recently caught up with the KUCH KHAAS program team to discuss their new venture called Open Mic Gig (OMG).

1) For starters, tell a little bit about the program team at KUCH KHAAS and what it actually does.

The Kuch Khaas Program Team has Program Managers, Assistant Program Managers, Interns and extended Kuch Khaas Family Members. There is a whole lot of collaboration between the team on how to execute various ideas into programs such as events or classes/workshops.

2) How much in your view has KUCH KHAAS affected the arts/music scene in the capital?

Islamabad happens to be a place where previously being self-taught was the norm for most artists and musicians. Kuch Khaas hopes to have instructors who now can impart their knowledge and skill to eager learners. These learners have a relationship with their Instructors and Kuch Khaas, which later becomes a source of confidence for them to show their talent in events such as OMG.

3) You people have various music courses going on, tell a little about them.

We have previously hosted classes and workshops by Singing Instructors, Natasha Ejaz and Ahmed Ali.

Our ongoing classes include:

“Singing Success” instructed by Shahbaz Zaidi which has been one of our longest running classes alongside “Guitar Lessons – Beginners and Intermediates” instructed by Syed Salman Haider Zaidi.

“Classical Vocal Training and Tabla Classes” by Ustaad Umeed Ali Khan, student of Barey Ghulam Ali Khan Sahab, while Ustaad Naimat Ali Khan Sahab accompanies him on tabla have been a great source of inspiration for all of us.

We also have “Percussion Training” with Asfendyar Ahmed. Rawal Shadab Ahmad is our instructor for “Basic Keyboard and Piano Lessons”.

A weekly facilitated drum circle conducted by Ammar Latif also takes place at Kuch Khaas, open to anyone who would like to participate and get together to make music, the purpose of this activity is solely recreational.

4) Do you think KUCH KHAAS caters to particular strata of society or is it inherently universal in its approach?

Kuch Khaas does not prescribe to a formulaic approach in building its community. We are here to mobilize not only the youth but also reaching out to adults in order for them to redefine their notions of everyday life in Islamabad. Kuch Khaas is an idea impacting society physically and theoretically.

5) When did you people decide to hold open mic nights and how has the response been thus far?

The Open Mic Night was to ensure a platform for local enthusiasts and musicians, a gathering that is intimate and casual enough for different genres to come together creating a diverse program for the audiences.

Kuch Khaas hoped to bring together acoustic playing singers, solo acts and local bands. To balance out the night we now ask for submissions a week before the event. These processes lead us to rename the Open Mic Night to Oh My Gig! Or OMG as Kuch Khaas manages the entire program. This does not in any way shape or form mean we dismiss or undermine some talent over the other.

The program each time leads to new realizations for the next OMG. As the Kuch Khaas Team we want to set out an example for local youth to come out and perform not because OMG is an official musical gig but a night to celebrate local talent.

6) A lot of noteworthy musicians have played at this venue; do you think it’s slowly becoming the GEN-Y Civil Junction?

Absolutely not, Kuch Khaas is not catering to solely musicians but multitalented individuals, who have potential and want to perform.

7) Are there any facilities/programs except the Open Mic Gig platform to facilitate budding musicians at KUCH KHAAS?

We now have started Karaoke Nights for those who might just want to sing out loud to their favorite tunes in a relaxed and informal environment. It is not about OMG the event but about the people who go through the experience with us.

8) Why did the chicken cross the road?

To go to Kuch Khaas.

9) Do you people plan on expanding further, if yes, then what avenues are you people looking to explore?

We have an extensive video library in the making of all our previous programs and events. We hope that having an archival process will enable Kuch Khaas to go a step further in delivering constructive dialog beyond its four walls.

10) Any final words of wisdom, messages, dedications or statements?

Kuch Khaas is now coming to a full circle with the completion of its first year in May. A place open to youth and adults alike, bringing forth opportunity and support for a more engaging Islamabad.

 

Photo credits: Zeeshan Jamal/Kuch Khaas

In the Fatima Jinnah Park

I went to the F-10 park Megazone last night for a bowling session with a colleague. It’s always good to have a little recreation when you’re stressed out and have things in your head which keep pinching you from time to time.

It wasn’t the first time I was going there, so I had a wee bit of experience in rolling that heavy ball down the alley, and hence was confident that I would be able to get a few spares or, if I were lucky, full strike outs. Although there were quite a lot of cars in the parking lot, relatively fewer people could be seen inside Megazone, which is surprising actually because I cannot imagine people having a fun time walking around in this humid weather in the park! But it wasn’t as cool as it should be in Megazone too, probably because of the fact that they’re not entirely running their systems on generators or other energy saving/generating devices.

But before me and my partner started our bowling session, I spent some time looking at a group of little children in sparkling white uniforms and belts of various colors around their waists running about in circles, kicking soft pads, and jumping through rings of fire! Oh yes, these were little karatekas training to become warriors, to get fit, or just to have a good time. All their movements were properly coordinated and they moved in synchrony on their instructors commands. What I loved most about the entire scene was the way they came running towards their instructor when they were called, bowed obediently all together and shouted “Osu”, and then got in the fighting ready stance with their feet shoulder width apart and their fist lowered in front of them. Seeing such discipline and coordination in little children whom one usually expects to NOT listen to whatever their elders have to say was very satisfying.

Here’s a picture of the kids standing in a line and kicking a soft pad which their instructor is holding. It’s obvious that I had to keep my distance to avoid getting hit by those powerful blows:

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After their kicking and punching and kata session was over, it was time for them to practice extra skills. First their instructors made them jump through a metallic ring with a mattress in front of it for them to safely land on. Then they put the ring on fire and made the kids jump through it! Here’s a picture of one of them preparing to jump through the firey ring. A bit blurry, but I guess you can see what’s going on:

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I talked to one of the junior instructors about what art they were teaching. He wasn’t familiar with most of the ‘technical’ karate terms I was talking about, so I asked him in plain Urdu. He told me that their head instructor was a 3rd Dan in Shotokan, a popular form of karate being taught in our country. Karate types like Shotokan stress on repetition, practice, and the importance of kata (a series of movements which are thought of as an encyclopedia of combat). A few older people were there practicing too, but the class was largely dominated by children.

For most people, martial arts are mostly about kicking and punching and maiming your opponent in a variety of clever ways. But above all, it is all about discipline, compassion, patience, balance, harmony, and peace. Teaching your children these important things can be the most valuable gift you can give to your child. So I would definitely encourage sending your children to a good martial arts school in the city. And I would love to see more of these sprouting up in the capital.

From my seat on KFC’s first floor

Well, here I am again in the Super market, wandering around aimlessly and filling my lungs with fresh Islamabadi air (mixed with popular brands of perfume, the stench of garbage cans, the smell of sweaty under arms, and the hormonal discharge of emotionally charged adolescents). Having brisk walked around the area for over an hour, I was beginning to feel hungry, and so I decided to go to the KFC outlet for my favorite snack of a chicken nuggets combo meal with an Arabian rice add-on. I hadn’t eaten something unhealthy in quite sometime, so I thought it would be nice if I could treat my taste buds to something Finger Lickin’ Good.

Since I’m a regular KFC customer and keep ordering those nuggets at my place whenever I feel like getting my arteries blocked with cholesterol, the delivery guy wandering around the counter recognized me and made sure that I got my order in time. And soon my hot star shaped nuggets came sliding down their delivery cabinet and were served in a disposable paper plate along with the unusually salty fries by their side. Since the lower floor was being renovated, I had to go to the first floor to have my meal.

What I have felt during my three year stay in Islamabad (my personal observation) is that people here like going to the KFC outlet more than McDonalds, whereas in Lahore McDonalds is far more popular than KFC as you’ll usually see every McDonalds outlet in Lahore spilling with people who are dying to sink their teeth in a juicy slab of chicken or beef meat (stop drooling, you’ll short circuit your keyboard). Accessibility maybe? With McDonalds far away in F-10 near that park thingy (Fatima Jinnah probably?), people would rather prefer going to the more accessible KFC in the Super, a market place where people are found anyway at any time (except for later in the night after 11, which I think is quite sad). I would personally rate the McDonalds Big Mac more chunkier and juicier than the KFC’s Zinger, the latter having tarnished my image of the much likened burger after I received it in a messy condition at my place. And for some reason I have this feeling that food served at the KFC is more unhealthier than that served at McDonalds.

No comparing McDonalds fries with KFC’s though! Nicely served, crisp and hot and appropriately salted, the McDonalds’ fry is the perfect sidekick to an equally good Big Mac burger, unlike the KFC fry which is a bit more oilier and inappropriately salted. The taste of the fry should be uniform; it should penetrate the flesh of the potato and be homogenous throughout the fry. Because if you chew on a piece of fry with a non-uniform taste, you would see that it is saltier on the outside, but not as salty on the inside, giving you an incomplete taste in the mouth. When you bite a fry, your brain expects the same lovely salty potato taste on the inside too, and when your tongue does not find it, the brain is disappointed. And that’s why McDonald’s fries are better than KFC’s… they just have a nice uniform taste in addition to the crispiness and freshness.

I guess we’ve dissected the fry a bit too much than was necessary.

The first floor of the KFC outlet seemed like a children’s area with balloons everywhere and lovely greeting cards self-made by children pasted to every window of the outlet. I found some of the cards very very touching. Here’s a window covered with cards the children made for their mothers, probably for mothers day:

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There’s all sorts of lovely things written on them. The kids have been very creative about expressing their love for their mother in these cards. There was stuff like: There is nothing more comfortable in this world than a mother’s lap.

But I find this quite strange. Not that the kids are expressing their love for their mothers, but that a multi-national fast food outlet that serves fried chicken with potato fries and a soft drink in a disposable glass has children’s emotions splattered all over their walls. Why is a fast food outlet stressing so much on a child’s love for this mother? Is it because they want to improve their sales by attracting more children? Is it because they are using the cover of Mother’s Day to get more customers? Is it because this outlet is in a way educating these children to respect KFC more, and by doing so are preparing them to be KFC addicts in the future? Or does KFC truly and honestly respects a child’s love for his or her mother and is proudly displaying it on their windows with these cards that the children made? Quite strange if you think of it.Image045

It didn’t take me much time to finish what I had in my plates, but what I usually look forward to eating at KFC is the Arabian Rice. I often find myself ordering two plates of Arabian Rice, one as an add-on which costs Rs. 40, and one separate, which costs me Rs. 75 I believe. It’s that combination of the rich chicken flavor with the capsicum, the peppercorn and the green chilli that makes this rice so irresistible. I tried making it at home but wasn’t very successful with it. The only difference was the absence of chicken; I had put chicken stock in it instead. But it did come near to the real thing.

Image046With plenty of time to waste I thought I should send up a few tweets through my cellphone. But then I wondered if there was a WiFi internet connection in the outlet. Quite a ridiculous thought, but when I scanned for wireless internet I found a LOT of them! And everytime I ran the scan I found new ones. The first one in the picture on the left gave me 100% signal strength, so that probably was the KFC’s connection. There was another one for the Chopsticks restaurant right next to the KFC outlet, and this too was an unsecured open connection. The others had either WPA or WEP encryption, so I couldn’t get through them. But I spent my time there comfortably tweeting through the KFC and the Chopsticks WiFi connection. So if anyone of you is on the move and is looking out for a good internet connection to post a blog, check e-mails or work, then just sit around the KFC area and you’ll get a good signal.

And after having my meal, I walked back home, made two glasses of nice salted lassi with a kulcha, and went to bed with the thought that by the time I wake up in the morning, my body would have had absorbed the proteins from the nuggets and patched up my muscle tissue with it, the fries would have provided the much needed carbohydrate, and the rice a truckload of calories to burn on another walk on a Saturday afternoon.

In and around Super

I usually take the van to go to the F-6 ‘Super’ Market, the place where I like to walk around for a couple of hours at night aimlessly, looking at people walking, talking, and shopping. Sometimes I choose my ‘victim’ from the crowd of walkers, and follow the unwary person around the market, observing what he (or she) is doing. But that happens sometimes, mind you, and calling me a public stalker would be an insult to a very interesting urban art form just like the more risky sport of parkour. I wonder how it would be like to be doing parkour in Islamabad though… jumping around garbage cans and lamp posts and those newly erected fancy bus stops. The city is crying out for some kind of urban sport to take over its streets, and the post-taliban era (if the army manages to beat the pulp out of those miscreants) would be the perfect time to encourage these activities, and other arts. But if we do turn into bearded buffoons and get our barbers shops and massage parlors closed in the near future, it still wouldn’t hurt to have some kind of urban sport to keep us entertained now would it? Or maybe they would accuse someone of flashing his ‘naala’ while jumping around garbage cans and cars in a parking area.

Best Price

So, when I reach the ‘Super’ market, I go to the supermarket called Best Price to replenish my supply of cereal and frozen goods, a majority of bachelors means of survival. This is one of those places where you can get all the stuff you need at a reasonable price. They do get unfriendly with their vegetables and fruits prices sometimes, but their buy-one-get-one free type offers are usually quite tempting. Plus their clever strategy of deploying pretty young women in-front of popular brands like Olper’s milk and the new Flora margarine usually fool gullible and easily persuaded men like yours truly into buying their product. And to top it off, they get your cellphone number too, leaving you wondering if the pretty young lady would call you later for a little tête-à-tête in the middle of the night, only to disappoint you later by having her ‘boss’ call you up for other so-called unbelievable offers of the same product.

Now this particular supermarket has an upper floor which has tons of plastic goods, crockery and utensils, bed sheets and other stuff. This was the first place where I came to shop for all my kitchen utensils when I first came to Islamabad, and I wasn’t disappointed. I did, however, want a nice little bowl for pouring in milk and food for cats which I was unable to find in this supermarket. Funny though that they’ve got a huge stock of dog and cat food but no stuff to put it all in! Their kitchen utensils section seems to be aptly stocked too, with items ranging from a variety of knives and forks to all sorts of cooking pots and pans.

To cut a long story short, it’s a good place to shop for everyday stuff.

The Walk

One of the activities I enjoy doing at Super, as mentioned above, is walking around for hours (well not actually ‘hours’ but half and quarter hours… lots of quarter hours!). The route I like to follow starts from the Servis outlet where the van drops me off. From there I walk towards that book and stationary store on the main road side which has rows of magazines outside up for sale, and an old tattered banner advertising the availability of the much coveted Brasstacks CD (which, in my opinion, is all a load of bull to get people’s attention). I cross the Levi’s store and turn right to get ‘inside’ the market. Here’s where I am welcomed by the fragrance of serrated edged potatoes made by a short squinty eyed Afghani, who is usually found surrounded by a few ladies wanting to replenish their energy with those chunks of carbohydrate after their endless rounds of shopping for women’s accessories.

My feet then lead me to the Illusions store, where I usually stop by to have a look around, check if the price of the new gaming consoles have reduced or not, and of course, to buy a DVD or two to watch on the weekend. Why do I like to buy DVD’s from Illusions and not from any small DVD outlet in the corner of the market? Well, I like to give my movie watching experience some more respect, and by not buying the DVD from a measly CD outlet somewhere next to a men’s underwear shop where a semi-naked man wearing a p-cap chewing a ciggie stub is sitting in front of his collection of CD’s wrapped in polythene, I am in a way making my experience more pleasurable.

I then walk out into the open and into the small sitting area with concrete (or was it wood?) benches on a nicely paved ground. You can see people sitting there, chatting, playing cards, smoking, making future plans, discussing issues, eating, etc. etc. It’s one of those places where a terrorist is most likely to strike if his objective was to discourage people from coming to the marketplace (oops!). If only they had a few low street lamps sort of lighting there… nice orange colored lights… they would have made the ‘sitting’ experience more pleasurable. And of course if the CDA wants to do that they should do so without making it look too showy and obvious. Just a few nice orange lights in the background to make the place more cosy…

From here I either go to Best Price to buy my stuff, or walk towards the pharmacies and then to the United Bakery near the KFC outlet to replenish my supply of bakery items. I love buying bakery items, even if most of them would not have the pleasure of dissolution in my gastric juices and would rot and turn green after lying for weeks unattended in the refrigerator. The items I usually pick off the shelves from this bakery are those stick thingies with sesame seeds on them,  and some nice garlic bread, although it is a bit too oily and not as good as the ones served as appetizers at Pappasallis. Somehow I feel that the United Bakery has lost its standard and doesn’t make the kind of stuff it used to before.

So here’s where it ends, and here’s where I stand for 10 minutes wondering if I should walk back home or take the cab. The cabbies here usually charge and exorbitant amount after seeing that you have tons of shopping bags in your hand and have no other choice but to hire a cab. But at least they’re not as crazy as the cabbies or rickshaw drivers in Lahore.

If anyone asked me where I would like to hangout in Islamabad for the weekend, I’d say that it would be the Super market (hint hint).

All U can eat! :P

Its the second time that I went to pizza hut this week. The first time I was financing my self and the second time it was a treat so couldn’t miss the opportunity! :P
Well anyway a lot of people turn out at pizzahut when they start their all U can eat deal in Ramadan. Don’t know why but a lot of people seem to think they can eat more than the usual( at least I managed to eat a large size pizza alone each time but I don’t think everyone can manage that). But since the time they have started this deal each time I have seen a decrease in the quality of the pizza meaning a bigger crust, lesser amounts of toppings and an ever lesser amounts of meat in the toppings. To counter this, although it was rear earlier but now I see a mountain of crust on each table each time I go there. Everyone eats the center with the toppings and leave the side portions of the pizza.Well I think pizza hut deserves this as the quality of their pizza significantly decreases!

On the other hand they don’t even serve the pizza at the aftar time! Probably at least 10 minutes must have passed when they brought out the first pizza at the F-10 branch and don’t know about now but it took about 30 minutes the last time I went there in the previous Ramadan. They keep on filling the glasses and you can take as much salad as you want so you fill up your tummies and thus eat lesser amounts of pizza! :P This is a conspiracy hatched high in the upper ranks of the pizza hut administration! :P And after all this even when you have made mountains of pizza hut crust they probably still earn quite a lot of profit! When ever I go there I try to neutralize that profit as much as possible, so go to pizza hut and eat all U can eat! :P

Image credits: Ifti

Lets Meet for Lunch – Jason’s Steak House

If you are one of those hungry business savvies looking out for appetizing lunch oppurtunities around you … then here’s one treat for you.

Fauzan (our ex-IMB author) forwarded me the details of JASON’s STEAK HOUSE at MARRIOTT, claiming that the results were recently with amazing and sumptuous (I wonder if the food manager of steak house is his friend ;-))


JSH is offering best steaks in town, with exquisite taste and innovative style (I wonder how exactly). Jason’s Steak House is the ultimate in steak craftsmanship.

To get a touch of prices … read on

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Intellectual Beings

Just last week, when the weather became finer and I was out to up in Margallas … Monkeys welcomed us and not one or two monkeys — there were families of them enjoying themselves and probably sun bathing too :>

On our way back, we stopped our car along the path (though unfortunately my cam’s batteries got exhausted after 2-3 pix) so I couldnt take many pix but the monkeys were so cute … and gosh their eyes were so beautiful too .. lolz … really look at the eyes of the ones here below.

And their were so many babies too … they were equally adorable … and while looking at them – I was thinking (loudly) that there’s a certain feel of intellectuality in them … even in their eyes … NO?? They were in playfull mood and were cashing their charms ;-) in form of corns, bananas and what not — oh yah everyone was shooting them too.

BTW, most of them were brown – only one monkey I saw was gray coloured.

I'm shoo cute
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Aaaja Meri Gaari may Bheth Jaa

sawari e Baad bahari

I swear I don’t know but while going up to Pir Sohawa, a wagon, rather a crowded wagon crossed us. And the song that came to my mind ever since (and whenever I see the pic) is one by some singer sung many many years back ….

Aaaja Meri gaari may bheth jaaa

Long drive jayyeien gay

Ful speed jayein gay

Kaheen rukein gay na hum …

Happy Ride Guys … BTW can you see the guy on top posing for the picture – even giving a smile — I was like Dhayaan say bhai, tasveer kay chakar may don’t drop off ….!

International Mountain Day


Yesterday, 11th December, was the International Mountain ay designated by UN … and I came to knew of it through 9 bajjay wala khabarnama … But people knew and most importantly … colleges and schools knew … Here’s a picture of Girl students of various schools and colleges taking part in hiking competition on Margalla Hills organised by the Alpine Club in connection with International Mountain Day … Bravo Charlies …!

Hiking ...!

Amazement at its Peak ..!

Wondering Why ...?

Wondering why this (sculpted) girl is sitting on the floor on a cold evening, a cute child seems to be lost in a reverie at the Lifestyles Expo 2007.

Via Dawn

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