I told you, I’m going to load up Borderlands and find Mark Halsey.
Disclaimer: This is make-belief.
Allah ordained His Mercy,
With this month of Ramadan.
So plant your seeds in earnest
And cultivate your farm.
This poem is about boxing, I authored it nearly 6 years ago and consider it my best piece of penmanship (Alhamdulillah). There is a supplement to it, but I’ve never actually typed it up and that inevitably lead to me misplacing it. Oh well, enjoy..
As you entered the ring
With the fights you fought
And the bravado you brought haughtiness
In your pre-fight talk
But judgment was sought again
As you came to court it ends
You were meant to shine
You said, entertain with a thousand kinds
Of masterful yet mind-
Ful games to cause me to resign
Myself to defeat.
Only one thing shone for you that day:
Those stars circling your head,
From that trash talk you said,
And I baulked at your threats,
As you bleed some red
No nearer alive than dead
& for every drip that you bled
Was relief for me.
My fist to your face,
Pounding with pace,
With contempt, yet grace-
Fully pressing the place
That puts you disgracefully
To that canvas.
And all that talk that you fight with
You think that you might win
But the truth’s that the writing
Is on the wall!
So as I write with my pen
A script that forecasts your end
As the man in the middle,
Will count to ten.
Being a fast food junkie, I savour any fried meal. Chips instead of a baked potato, burgers instead of grilled steak, doughnuts instead of a fruit salad, all that and a high metabolism means that I haven’t see the after effects (yet). Add to that the fact that I’m Muslim, so if I eat meat it has to be meat that is slaughtered by virtue of Islamic ritual, I don’t touch pork and I don’t drink alcohol. Layman’s lesson over. I am also in full acknowledgment that had it not been for these dietary requirements that I’m delighted with, I would be going to McDonalds, Carls Jr. or Kentucky Fried Chicken instead of the local Turkish Kebab joint.
Fortunately for me, the meat in Egypt is halal, pork is officially unavailable (not clarified) across the country bar Sharm el Sheikh and alcohol is only available at a few vendors. All this means that I don’t have to read the label or ingredients while shoving a packet of jellied sweets into my mouth. Better still, it means that I can walk into a McDonalds and say, “Big Mac Please,” and follow it swiftly by devouring the burger before the employee can say, “I’m love it.” I dare not correct him; once I tried to purchase Baked Beans, the only progress I made when asking the attendant for a tin was for him to inadequately repeat the words, “Bakidi binz? bakidi binz?” I didn’t hang around to find out if he actually had any.
Returning to my fast food infatuation. Within a day at the apartment, I was already asking about the big chains, namely the Golden Arches and the Colonel and who could blame me, I was looking forward to this from the moment I purchased my ticket. To my displeasure no one was willing to show me how to get there, so I had to make do with a Chicken Shawarma: it was okay but it definitely wasn’t a big, fat, juicy burger. My ignorance was more a matter of anticipation rather than experience of Egyptian culinary delights. Impatience would eventually get the better of me so I scouted the building for a dining buddy.
There’s a thing you need to know about young Muslim guys, one of their favourite past times is eating. Put a drum stick in front of him and you’ll be lucky to see the bone come back, put a curry and you’ll be lucky to see the plate come back. Some tend to store it in the middle portion of their body, ready for hibernation, especially since they don’t get many chances to burn off the high grease content of the food they like to eat. Not that I would totally condemn a high fat, high cholesterol diet either.*
* NB. I wrote this in 2006-7: My 2012 self completely condemns (regrets) a high cholesterol, gut bulging, butt-hugging diet.
From my fifth floor apartment, I travelled in search of someone to join me eat, at 1am it’s generally hard to find anyone who would be willing to eat. Generally to consume food late on the day is considered unhealthy but I was living on London time a full two hours behind, which meant my body clock was at 11pm. Of course it’s still unhealthy but hey, fried chicken isn’t good for you either! Next door lived three young men; one eighteen from London, who tended to go walkabout around the town; the second, a nineteen year old from from Chicago and already married: he was perpetually on the phone to his wife so much so that the phone could have been surgically attached; the last guy was twenty-one and from sunny California. Narrowed down to one feasible choice I approached him to ask him about getting some food. For a second I thought I saw an are-you-crazy look, but I realised it was just his hostile demeanour that gave that impression. Up until that point, he hadn’t appeared to be the friendliest of characters and I had the distinct feeling that he didn’t want me there. Asking the question changed all that, he responded with a resounding “Hell Yeah!” in typical American style.
Perfect, now I had someone to get me some food, all I need to do was know what I wanted. Now between a Big Mac and Zinger Supreme, the amount of teasing your brain does is incredible and at the best of times I’m not very decisive. It was by astounding luck that Ahmed got fed up with me twiddling my thumbs and decided to order straight from the colonel. This was actually the start of a very good friendship; I didn’t sleep at night and Ahmed didn’t either so instead we ordered chicken every night. It worked for me, I got my fix.
Some time later, I moved to another apartment and our (my wife & I) delightful friend cooked us up a whole bucket of fried chicken. OOoooh my good God was it better than the fried chicken I had bought elsewhere, however seeing as Aziza is not accessible and the chicken outlets are, I satiate my whims by paying a small fortune for a tummy-ache instead. She can stay over again.
One thing is for sure though, eating KFC sure does make you feel sick, but I’m telling you it’s worth it every time.Not that I’m plugging that diet either. Obsession with fried chicken is not healthy on the mind, soul and body and endeavours that followed would have weakened the resolve of weaker men (I grunt). Generally the chicken took 6 hours to poison my stomach and the worst incident was when we had only one colonic irrigation facility available in our flat. We had a guest staying with us, it was 3am and they had decided it was a good time for a shower. ???!!
Apparently I was curled up on the floor crying in agony morphing wildly like an Autobot into various physical manifestations of pain; prostration, on all fours, rolling on the floor and leg-hip-limb-popping run in the hall, rather like a speed walker. For further elaboration please bear with me: Chinese Mandarin has 4 basic phonetic sounds, Michel Thomas’ (MT) method advocates signals to embellish each sound. The sounds are (1) Flatline, MT holds out his thumb quivering it a little; (2) Upward, pointing your index finger slowly upwards; (3) Dipping, lowering your voice and raising the tone, trough and peak, indicated by two split fingers mimicking the sound down then up and; (4) a sharp Down, represented by a sudden down motion of the index finger. In true MT method fashion, I effectively represented all four of these phonetic sounds with the word “Ooh” complete with finger motions four years prior to ever deciding to learn Mandarin or more miraculously, stumbling across Michel Thomas.
(1) Oooooh: (2) oOOh: (3) OooOOOH: (4) O!
In any case, my wife asked me post incident, “No more KFC?”
I responded, “Are you kidding?! I’m ordering again tomorrow!”
Incidentally, I returned to the city during the revolution in 2011 and visited the same KFC outlet: I got sick. I realised that it wasn’t the meat but the water that these guys wash the meat in, it smelt putrid.
I can’t believe I’ve written a page basically about fried chicken.
Of course, two large chains from the American fast food industry aren’t all that’s available here, but I followed this diet with unrelenting fervour. Initially, it seemed as though the variety of street food out here was exceptionally linear: If you want a burger, they’ll give you a fried chicken sandwich, if you want Quizno’s Sub, you get a fried chicken sandwich, if you want a shawarma or a shish tawook, you’ll inevitably get variations of fried chicken, in a sandwich.
I was told, as I’ll explain later, that the flavours are bland and that I may need to bring a few spices to add a little traditional Asian flavour to the food. I didn’t do it but if I were to try, it would be a far cry from the chicken tikka masala I ordered: it was fried chicken in a very watery sauce, neither gravy nor curry. I learnt my lesson swiftly, from then on I decided to stick to the Colonel. Besides that, it would take away from the experience of titillating your taste buds with foreign cuisine (this side of Cane Rat).
The regime continued for six weeks, which coincided with the time that my wife appeared on the scene. Look, I know much of the above seems incredibly obtuse, I became much more cultured after my first six weeks. There is a lot of fried food that graces the Arab palette and despite savouring those tastes obligingly Arab street food is incomparable to many of the home cooked dishes that we tasted. Bouri, Koshari, Kobeba and Kabsa. Did I mention the desserts? …
Being slightly obsessive compulsive isn’t fun. That means that living in Egypt isn’t very easy because I’m a bit of a clean freak.
The morning after I arrived in Egypt, I was able to get a proper look at the flat and since my schedule was not due to be set for a few days, the inspection was thorough. As I dragged myself out of bed and shifted around the cold apartment the first most notable thing I would notice was the carpet. The apartment was a social joint, so other students would walk in and out like a bar with a revolving door. There were many large gatherings and dining sessions that took place and since there was no dining table big enough, everyone sat on the floor, scoffed at each other while thrusting their food into their mouths.As a result of these dinner parties, remnants of food surplus to someone’s mouth would fall to the floor and strike an immediate relationship with the carpet. The intensity of these numerous relationships of food and carpet were so heated that they eventually stuck to each other, ‘til death do them part.
Walking on the old carpet sent a chill up my spine, I looked to investigate the unprovoked attack on the underside of my foot. The chill escalated to a spasm, ketchup-crust-coated chicken is meant to go in one of two places, mouth or bin. Before I had a chance to absorb the calamity, I saw scattered pieces of food within a four-foot vicinity. Aghast, I reluctantly began picking up the pieces of food off the floor, escalating to a full-scale sweep of the place. I wasn’t one to take any chances so I pulled out the vacuum cleaner; at that point Rehan, one of my flat mates walked in.
“Oh,” he said, “you’re cleaning.”The tone in his voice was one of astonishment but it didn’t distract me from the job at hand. For some bizarre reason, we both peered at the vacuum cleaner and seeing it in front of me he exclaimed, “uhm, that doesn’t work. We tried to fix it but we don’t know what’s wrong with it.” With that he walked off while I cursed at the useless contraption.
I didn’t believe him. Apparently I often hear the advice of other people but don’t actually listen, but it’s a grand claim made by most women about their partners, so ignore that. After a pause, it was obvious to me that the machine needed my expertise so the plug was thrust into the socket, sure enough it didn’t work beyond the low drone of a whirring motor. I scratched my head for a little while and set myself to task, upon opening the cover it revealed the dust bag. I touched it and it bellowed with particles of dirt to such an extent that had Aladdin’s Genie popped out and proclaimed something bizarre (dubbed mercurially by Robin Williams), I would not have been at all surprised. So I struck the dust before me fanning the thousand grains of filth away and in slightly more than a whisper of annoyance, I proclaimed my revelation, “The. Bag. Is. Full!”
Not only was it full, it had been so tightly packed that the dust was forcing its way into the motor. Being in a place of scarce resources, there were obviously no spare dust bags so the old bag was emptied into the bin and slotted back into the cleaner. It was as though I had reconditioned a car engine when I turned it on, bursting into life with its monotone hum. Rehan popped out of his room to see what the noise was, he smiled and said in his thick Manchester accent, “you fixed it then, what was wrong with it?”
Aware that he hadn’t heard my previous announcement, I informed him in way that can only be described as a matter-of-fact that the bag packed tighter than a tube of toothpaste wedged under the buttocks of a fatty. The edges of my lips motioned remnants of sarcasm, slanting to the left Katie Holmes-like, whilst my eyebrows raised and chin dipped simultaneously. The conversation was fleeting and with that we turned away from each other whilst I pound the vacuum to the floor, taking the dirt to task. When I had finished that portion of the house, I mimicked Droopy the bloodhound and hunted out something else to clean. You know what? That makes me Maaaad!
The hair-infested mop in the bathroom never helped in cleaning the place: Cousin It, of Addams Family fame was at the end of the stick, shedding hair at an uncontrollable rate. I have a given rule, it’s no different to applying the five second rule whereby, any piece of food that touches the floor for less than five seconds is still considered permissible to eat because it hasn’t had adequate time to absorb the nastiness off the floor. Anything more than that and it’s consigned to the bin.
Here’s another one: When you give something to someone it becomes theirs unless you retract your generous decision with three seconds, I recall my brother tormenting me with that one and his brand new PC.
“You can have it,” he says, referring to the new Intel 386 desktop, packed with groundbreaking features such as 5 ¼” and 3 ½” floppy drives, a 40mb hard drive. I’m salivating right now, phwoar!
I extend my fingers as each second passes, knowing what he’s going to do.
“One..” I say with supreme confidence.
“Two..” With a slight quiver and eyes looking towards my brother in earnest.
“No, it’s mine again.” He says.
What a wa**** (I don’t really mean that). I’d complain that the three seconds had already expired and now it was mine. I could be blue in the face and I’d even complain to my mum, distinctly aware that the only two people in the world that aren’t aware of the rule are my parents. It would still be futile complaining, but the attempt in seizing the computer from his grasp was necessary. Worse still, I’d be a sucker for the same trick a billion times. So, if for some strange reason you’re unaware of any such rule, you’d be asked, “what you don’t know the five second rule?”
Every living soul has these rules, the time frame may differ slightly and the specifics might differ, but they exist nonetheless. In England, a squatter can stay in a place for twenty years and finally claim the land as theirs, or something, you see how far this thing goes. It started off as a childish concept and was hosted by the world’s greatest diplomats. Yeah, so everyone knows the rule.
Digression is my nemesis and brevity is not my friend. Where was I? Ah, my given rule. My rule dictates that the most important and acceptable rooms in the house must be the Kitchen and Bathroom. Some may contest that this rule is universal but evidence suggests otherwise: It turns out that neither of these two particular rooms in the flat were anything reminiscent of clean. I couldn’t dwell on it and went on to clean both which came as a surprise to the tenants, as though cleaning was something alien and taboo. Everyone says that they can’t go for a number two in another man’s toilet, or there’s no loo like your own; that’s precisely the reason why it has to be clean. I decontaminated it with nuclear accuracy despite Cousin It spreading the hair everywhere, to overcome that I had to make a trip to the grocery store to purchased a new one: How do I say Mop head in Arabic? Like I said, I returned and cleaned up the now white tiled floor, which previously resembled a shag pile but the hair had disappeared now leaving it gleaming in the light.
The black tub was scrubbed to reveal its green enamel surface and it swooned over me compelling me to have a soak in the tub. Normally I would spare you the details of this particular cleanup operation, but I need to mention one thing: Have you ever seen the Chris Rock sketch about passing time at work, the one where he’s talking about cleaning shrimp? “Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape.” Well, bring it up on YouTube, because that’s how I felt. Once I had finished it all I gave in to the bath Siren and jumped into a tub of semi-cold water, in spite of that small glitch I felt relieved. Improvisation is important in this country, I learnt that because there was no plug in the hole so I bunged it with a plastic lid that had once belonged to a crystal box, it turned out to be very sturdy.
Cleaning up and hard work makes you incredibly hungry.
So this is from a series of wedding poems I put together. This one was for my Wife’s cousin in the USA, by this time I had been married 5 years. She’s a HUGE Harry Potter fan 🙂
Harry Potter obsessed
Was doused and dressed
In Cupid’s incessant
Pursuit of incandescence
Of these two –[break]-
Now I’m not trying to patronise,
More merely vocalise
My wealth of marital experience
-[break] 5 years, you know!
These macking talents of:
Navedkhan Javedkhan Pathan
Which is a rhyme on its own
Goaded Hermoine [break] under his spell
Though, it may be the other way as well.
He’s now become her ‘jaan’
So they can hang around
And then some…
What I mean is pinch his face
And mutually embrace…
Now this Indian-Pathan
Molotov cocktail of traditions
Has produced a couple of
Kudos & Congratulations!
So this is from a series of wedding poems I put together. This one was for my Wife’s brother, also in CA, USA.
Its that time of year
Wedding season is here!
And Tshaken, not stirred,
Is spreading the word
That all the girls had feared…
The most eligible bachelor
Has found himself a catch this year!
The lucky girl? Her name’s Ameera
Here’s your chance to come and meet-her.
So Brush down your suits
And bring out those heels
Polish those boots
Valet those wheels!
It’s a Spring Shaikh engagement Bash
Though without a-million plates to smash,
A guaranteed extravaganza,
From our favourite gun-toting bhangra dancer!!
It’s at Hong Fu Restaurant, Cupertino
Half way down Stevens Creek(o)!
April 24th at eleven thirty
Make sure you’re in there nice n’ early!
RSVP’s by April 10th
But in any case, you’re obliged to attend!