21 December, 2008

These pictures were taken from inside Robert Venturi's Frist Campus Center, just before I left for Harvard and Mount Holyoke College. Now I am back in snowy Princeton and am pretty much here and in New York for the break. I work (sort of) on my portfolio and other random things in my warm room in Forbes and of course at my desk in the Architecture building. It's quite strange how much I love my desk and how irresistibly I am drawn to it. At other times I educate myself by watching movies, Youtube, and CNN.

14 December, 2008

It's winter break... and I just realized I actually have this blog. I had forgotten all about it.

03 July, 2008

I will be writing about and putting up pictures from my summer project at http://summersketchbook.blogspot.com

26 June, 2008

"Time doesn't change things. Doing things changes things. Not doing things leaves things exactly as they were."

Dr. Gregory House

24 June, 2008

Read my mind

This song, like Mr Brightside, is not only powerful because it evokes a strong sense of transience, a sort of yearning, hopeful and resigned at the same time, existential... but also in how it's sung. The video seems to have nothing to do with the song, which of course, is really cool!

23 June, 2008

News from the Battlefield

The uncertainty of the visa process is unbearable. To remain positive I have to keep acting. I went to the France consulate in Karachi today. It was very different from the nightmares I had had of me trying to explain my plea, trembling and incoherent, to a harsh faceless entity.

The whole street was blocked off by police barriers. There was barbed wire on the boundary wall and a small but clearly distinguishable French flag. The guards outside were friendly. I asked to meet with someone and strategically handed them my Princeton ID and three letters to take inside: the email from Dr Caddeau at Princeton, Luis' letter (Luis Simon-Perez is a Princeton alum, a professor at the Sorbonne, and a very generous and friendly man), and Mrs Caseau's letter in french (also a Princeton alum). It worked. Later the guards congratulated me for getting permission to enter - many before me, including messengers from courier companies, had been denied entrance.

I was searched with a metal detector, asked to leave my bag outside, and led in through a very heavy metal door with an electronic lock and an intercom. And now I'm wondering if this might be considered unsafe to put on a blog, so I won't describe anything else I saw.

I could not meet today with the Consul General, Pierre Seillan, but at least they heard me out, advised me to send letters to some people in Islamabad, and said I might be able to meet M. Seillan tomorrow. So tomorrow I shall call and see.

There was a tall, young French security person, who looked like he could be a super hero in some children's movie. He was dressed in a smart, crisp uniform. Though I didn't really talk to him, his intent look, sincere tone, and friendly (but broken) English really made me feel welcome at the place.

Meanwhile I got email replies from Princeton officials - it seems a lot of people there know about this and are trying to brainstorm how they can help. I also found the address of Mrs Phoebe Beliard who I have been meaning to write to about this. I sent four A-4 sized envelopes marked URGENT through courier: to M. Seillan, to the ambassador, to Sylvia Fernandez, and to M. Brocard. I met with the director of the Alliance Francais. He was very friendly and empathetic, but told me he could not interfere in the process. He was very welcoming of the idea of exhibiting my work at my return to Karachi, at the AF.

A week to go till July 1st 2008.

22 June, 2008

Have you ever felt, when you listened to a song, that, though the words don't even make sense precisely, it captures exactly how you feel? And then have you kept listening to it again and again until it made you really, really, happy (or sad)?

21 June, 2008

Dear customer, your visa application is under process at the embassy....

When Uday didn't get his Pakistan visa in the winter of 2004, I wrote to the papers, to government officials, made phone calls to important people, friends, relatives - I think it's called pulling strings - and lo and behold, he got it just in time!

Now I am hanging in the air, with a prestigious award from Princeton (to fund an independent panting project in Paris and Delhi), with airline bookings and room reservations paid for, on the brink of departure, with no France visa. It's a small battle of its own kind. I wrote to Princeton. I wrote to all my French friends and professors. I searched Tigernet for French Princeton alumni and emailed them. Several people have written requests to expedite the visa process. I keep sending explanations and request letters to the embassy in Islamabad. I wrote to the editor of Dawn again. I keep calling to track my passport and every time I hear the same thing "Dear customer, your visa application is under process at the embassy...." My flight leaves on July 1st.

I have the worst kind of creative block and all I can think about is my non-existent visa. I jump to answer phone calls.
I am reading The Brothers Karamazov. We walked into a movie store and the guy there asked me what it was and was horrified when I said it was a novel. He said his parents have forbidden him to read novels because "you get lost in them." This guy watches Indian movies every day and fears he may get lost in a novel.
One day, walking into the Fitzrandolph Gate - according to legend you can only walk in through the gate and not back out, or else you put your graduation at risk - I told Andy about something that had been bothering me. It wasn't a great philosophical idea, just a more vivid realization of a great tragedy. There are so many people in this world who don't have the things we do, and that's sad, but the saddest thing is that we have those things and how can we be happy knowing that others don't. Does that make sense?

Several Months Later

Four excellent Princeton courses later, a semester serving with SVC later, several hundred pages read in Starbucks later, a few novels and architecture books later, tearful goodbyes and joyous reunions later, several thousand miles away, here I am back in Karachi. How can I now recount all that has happened. Can I even put it all down here and thus rob its of its intensity and worth? In recounting it to myself, I have to watch out not to fall into the habit of pondering endlessly over hurdles in life while forgetting the good things as soon as they are realized. Unfortunately if you are out there at all, reading this, I am afraid to tell you that in the last month when I had time for indolence, and hardly an internet connection, I started writing on my own, on the advice of a friend. I could have copy all that here, but I do not think this is the place for it. I should really delete this blog...

12 April, 2008

Hina My Sister

Hina Jawaid. Karachi Grammar School, Class of 2008.

Excerpt from my letter of recommendation:
In the summer of 2007, Hina was one of five people who initiated, organized and ran the annual summer camp at the SOS Village for Children (an orphanage) in Karachi. The camp served 160 children from the orphanage and 40 underprivileged deaf children from a local school. It involved arts-and-crafts activities, educational workshops, excursions to factories and museums, a carnival (organized by children in Hina’s group), a games night, a barbecue night and a closing ceremony with children’s performances. The camp was preceded by a process of selecting volunteers, where Hina interviewed and selected candidates. I was working with her at that time and witnessed remarkable integrity and meticulousness in her conduct. This was followed by a two-week volunteer training workshop and a crash course in sign language, and Hina was at the forefront of this venture too, getting to know volunteers, organizing various sessions and leading discussions and brainstorming sessions. At the camp itself, she led the 10- to 15-year-old boys’ group, which had about 30 children and 6 volunteers. At meetings, her input was direct and her constructive criticism was effective.

Hina has been volunteering at the camp for five years. During the school year, she teaches street children at a garage school on week-ends. She has helped to organize yearly benefit concerts with a local non-governmental organization. After the recent earthquake in Pakistan, she helped design a fundraiser campaign. She worked with a group on creating colorful wristbands that were sold for Rs. 100 and raised about Rs.100000 for relief items. Yet last summer I saw her serving an indispensable role at the camp. I learned then that she is excellent at conflict resolution, which makes her a good leader. I saw that she had the ability to empathize with her volunteers – I believe that being the third daughter in a family of seven has taught her to strive to excel, while preserving her thoughtfulness and concern for others. As a board member for the Student Volunteers Council at Princeton, I can see Hina as a great addition to the Princeton fabric.
In her final year at school, Hina is a co-editor of Karachi Grammar School’s yearbook/official magazine, the Grammarian. This role is followed by her position last year as the publication’s sub-editor for Art. The book is entirely created by students, from conception, to content, to layout, to artwork and cover design. Additionally the position requires the capability to maintain a delicate balance between making a fun yearbook and representing the school in an official way. Hina works closely with the school administration and the student body to achieve this equilibrium.

Hina is a creative artist. She goes beyond static representation and really paints the world as she “sees” it. In that bold act I see faith and determination, an undeterred desire to stand out and represent her own original ideas rather than letting the world dictate her work. This faith drove her to break from the norm in Pakistan and pursue Art and History at school, subjects she loves. I have often talked to her about her art and there is always a story, an emotion or a message involved. She designed the cover of the Grammarian 2007, created the backdrop for her class play last year and her work was also featured in the international art exhibition for peace in 2004 organized by Youth Initiative for Peace.

In fact, Hina is part of this global peace movement, and was closely involved in organizing the traveling art show in December 2004, which premiered in Karachi and then traveled to six cities in Pakistan and India. The art show was titled “Changing Mindsets” and had more than 600 pieces of artwork created by students and renowned artists from the sub-continent. In Karachi, the opening was preceded by a movie screening and reception, which Hina diligently organized.

25 January, 2008

New Beginnings

Exams just ended. I have applied to some summer programs and opportunities, one of which may provide funding for a travel painting portfolio and enable me to spend some part of the summer in Paris and Delhi. Angela, Diana and I have decided to join Terrace (eating-) Club... for now at least, because the deadline for applying is near. Then of course there is the application to become RCA., about which I will find out over intercession.

Intercession break will find me in Washington D.C on an SVC break trip where I will be working with 16 other Princetonians at YSOP. And then... the beginning of the new semester, with exciting courses and my new position as a board member of SVC, the largest student run organization on campus.

20 January, 2008

Revisiting Moulin Rouge

The show must go on!
Outside the dawn is breaking
On the stage that holds our final destiny.
The show must go on!
Inside my heart is breaking
But my smile stays on,
The show must go on...

What a perfectly romantic movie: as Oscar Wilde would have said, real life can only try to achieve the perfection of such art.

15 January, 2008

Angela Bardes

is best friend, confidante, accomplice at Princeton. She applied to be a Residential College Adviser and I wrote a recommendation for her:

I have known Angela since the first day of freshman year. We are good friends and I am writing this to highlight Angela’s qualities that will make her an ideal Residential College Adviser.

Angela has a great sense of humor. Cheerful and positive, she immediately wins people over and brightens up their day. Within moments she gets a conversation going with complete strangers, and has them laughing. This ability to form personal connections distinguishes her. At the same time she is very careful not to hurt or alienate anyone – she holds a genuine concern for her friends and acquaintances. This respect and appreciation makes her a good team player.

Angela is a good listener, and is kind and understanding, but also conscientious and direct. She will remember people’s names, their concerns, dreams, hopes and ambitions. She is that selfless Princeton student who takes the time out to talk at length with friends who need her. For instance, when her roommate faced health concerns in freshman year, Angela remained devoted and committed to see her through that rough time. Still Angela’s relationship with friends does not impede her good judgment; she is not someone who will be swayed by peer pressure. When it comes to alcohol she stands out as responsible and aware. In fact, late at night on the Prospect Avenue, she will be the one to remind people of boundaries they should not cross, and help them set right their priorities. In situations of conflict, she focuses on the concern at stake, without personally offending anyone. This makes her an ideal mediator in such a situation, or when it comes to seeing that university ideals are upheld by all.

Angela is great at managing time; I have never seen her staying up late to finish homework or to complete readings. Her awareness for university events, dates, deadlines, courses, professors, and resources is extraordinary. How to apply for a Creative Writing course, how to satisfy the ST requirement, how to get on the Daily Princetonian team, what the deadlines are… she has it all at her fingertips. Many times she has been the one to help me clarify my goals and make informed choices at Princeton. For instance when I was deciding whether or no to study abroad she was there to discuss the pros and cons in a very impartial way, and helped me make the right decision. As an RCA she would be a great resource to help focus and put things in perspective, when her advisees are bombarded with information about all the amazing things that Princeton has to offer.

Angela is open to diverse points of view and backgrounds. She makes a real effort to learn about other cultures, to support and attend events focused on marginalized groups, and to play her role in creating the brilliantly diverse community that Princeton is. Conversely she has long been the liaison between me and American norms and culture – ever there to tell me that “Sick!” is a complement and that the answer to “what’s up” is “what’s up.” [part missing] She is modest and caring; someone who I know would go out of her way to meet, and go beyond, all the expectations of her as an RCA!


I live and breathe here, but it seems my heart lies there. I miss the people, the scents, the noise, the life, the adventure, the buzz... of the city that Karachi is - I miss home.

01 January, 2008

Another hour, another day... we move into a new year.