Category Archives: Glorious mundanity

And we all went to heaven in a little rowboat

Carefree at the fake beach in Emeryville
Carefree at the fake beach in Emeryville, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

and i wonder if everything i do
i do instead
of something i want to do more
the question fills my head
i know that there’s no grand plan here
this is just the way it goes
and when everything else seems unclear
i guess at least i know

i do it for the joy it brings…
- Joyful Girl (Ani DiFranco)


Last Friday through Sunday, I did the following (in no particular order):

1. Made new friends to love

2. Tried to calmly answer some rude man’s antagonistic question wherein he asked me for “statistics regarding Muslim women who are subjugated” while I was innocuously standing in line to order a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of french fries. One of the new friends asked me later, “Do you get that a lot?”

3. Went to Baker Beach with the new friends, and walked in the waves and the sand

4. Realized that one end of Baker Beach has nudists – and not just any end, but the end closest to the most gorgeous views of the Golden Gate bridge, dammit!

5. Remembered that this is the year I was supposed to learn how to swim. (There are still a few months left to summer! I can do it!)

6. Moderated the opening plenary at a conference in San Francisco, and realized how much I missed the work I used to do (although not the workplace itself)

7. Magically, did not trip in my high heels at said conference

8. Unleashed The Yasmine vocabulary (“Stalking, stabbing, & crack”) on a few unsuspecting conference-goers

9. Referenced biking-related videos in conversation, and made folks laugh: 123

10. Took photos of San Francisco’s gorgeous St. Ignatius Church. Then, my camera battery suddenly died on me, and I decided it was a sign to sit down and meditate and converse with God for a bit

Arches (ii)

Saint Ignatius Church - San Francisco


11. Scraped a few layers of skin off the sides of my thumbs, and now I can’t bend them enough to text-message properly. This is blasphemy.

12. Listened to the rockstar T tease me about my lack of timeliness in replying to emails, and laughed when he added, “If I had sent a text message, you probably would have replied immediately!”

13. Explained approximately 4,975,332 times how I do the headwrap

14. Realized while looking in the mirror that I inadvertently give the wrong answer when asked about the length of my hair. It’s not almost to my elbows; it’s actually just past my shoulders.

15. Watched one of my new friends shuffle through the CDs in my car and pronounce them quite an eclectic mix

16. Had gelato in Berkeley with My Favorite & Most Rockstarish Married Couple ever, Ayesha and Faraz (okay, actually, they totally tie with Baji and TP), and discovered my new favorite flavor: Lemon Creme. And my other new favorite flavor: Milk & Honey. (“Look, Ayesha!” I crowed. “We can get a free preview of heaven!”) The latter flavor is in honor of the upcoming San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

17. Reunited with several friends; one of them, much to my amusement, acted as “my one-man cheering squad” whenever I walked into a room – “Yaz-MEEEEEEEN!” – which totally made me feel like a rockstar. (I have a feeling we need to work on his pronunciation, though.)

18. Took photos at a tiny beach I randomly stumbled upon in Emeryville:

Slanted shards

Stabbing weapons at the beach!


19. Also unleashed my fake Desi [South Asian] accent on unsuspecting non-Desi folks who weren’t sure quite what hit ‘em – and who then asked me to explain the intricacies of Desi accents and give a few examples (which I did later in the afternoon when one man mentioned he’d be flying back out of the Bay that evening for work, and I queried, “Vat is dis vork of vich you esspeak?! Ve are ROCKSTARS!”, resulting in much laughter from the rest of the group)

20. Smiled when a friend slung his arm across my shoulders and said to me, “I am so glad that you’re here.”

21. Highfived a rabbi

I cannot wait to call you and tell you that I landed somewhere

Melody, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to blog – or, at least, how to write in general. This is a sad state of affairs. And if that’s not bad enough, Adnan has gone and deleted all RSS feeds from his GoogleReader.

“But how you vill follow veblogs now?!” I exclaimed [mentally, it came out in a Desi accent]. “Back to the pre-googlereader days of opening a page and hoping the blogger has updated?”

“You guys rarely update anyway!” came the rejoinder. Can’t argue with that one. Besides, maybe Adnan’s right in attempting to simplify his blog-reading habits through un-following feeds. After all, I just spent an entire afternoon+evening whittling down my GoogleReader unread-posts count from 1,000+ to 689. Also, I’ve just realized I subscribe to 263 feeds. This is slightly ridiculous. Just slightly.

Anyway, in lieu of a real post, I present to you my latest “fake update” (highfive to Ayan!), a recently rediscovered .txt file on my harddrive. I’m not sure anymore what the context was behind half of these, but it’s all bullet points (from the last few months) that were meant to be GMail or facebook status messages, I think, and were used as such in many cases.

Lists and bullet points! We haven’t done those in a while.

Onward, then.


“The precise location of my camera is undetermined.” – original z-lo flava

crackfiendserene: Don’t come to California unless you know how to SPELL! Because CALIFORNIA is a BIG WORD, I know. (What kinda Desi are you? I need spelling-bee champs!)

ich bin zurueck

“Art always tastes better when it’s brought to you live!” – Pacific Art Collective

“And what is there to life besides highfives and kickass gelato?” – Z (again)

“Just gotta stab your way to success.” – Anjum

I am out of chapstick, and have now resorted to applying lipgloss as part of my bedtime ritual. As Somayya would say, “Dubyoo tee EFF!”

“Are you updating your address book? You are more of a (a) nerd and (b) uncle than I am.” – Z

Goroo ba means Daika jay ga/”We will see”

Hey, Jude

Holy hell, there are eyelash enhancement techniques now! Whaaaat?!

“Hijabis should come with an instruction manual or something.” – A in Toronto

We must let go of the life we have planned,
so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
- Joseph Campbell

“Nobody stabs my bus!” – Enchanted

“Apply the quadratic equation to your life.” – Conversation with the halaqafools

Favorite words today:
1. Doppelgaenger
2. Zeitgeist

It’s settled. I need to have CUPCAKES at my wedding.

Duaiyaan ne thyaareh shuruuh ho gaey

“I don’t know what ‘melodramatic’ means… but you’ll be removed.” – Enchanted, again

My eating habits are best described as,
“Yes, please.”

I lowve Juno, because she’s OBSESSED with blue slurpees. Why did you all fail to tell me that THIS was the one reason why I should watch the filum?!

“Have your stabbing pen ready. You’re gonna hide it in the headwrap, right?” – Z

I am not aloof. I am aloo, without an F. [Epiphany resulting from a conversation with a smart friend, who came up with that statement. Aloo=potatoes, the single food item, in any form, with which I am highly obsessed.]

“It would be lovely if what we loved to do also made enough money for us.
It would be lovelier if we knew what we loved to do.” – N bhaiyya


Somayya: “Yazzo, you get addicted to things too easily. I don’t think you should ever try drugs.”
“What about crack?”
“You won’t really get addicted to crack. Now, HEROIN, on the other hand…!”

“Super salad?” [This will never get old.]

I want a vespa the color of tangerines. [Like maybe this one that Hashim pointed me towards.]

“I love when you stay people need to be stabbed. I can just hear you saying, ‘I will cut youuuuu.’ ” – Dina

I keep dreaming I’m taking photos.

“Yes, I think I read that on wikipedia once.”

“You go, cracker! The daily waffles make it work.” – A, trying to wheedle me into being productive.

I wear glasses. My eyes are great.

Dishoom! Ka-pow! Zabardast!

Who the hell pays $4 for a salad with no tomatoes? – @ Library cafe
Holy hell, who pays over $7 for a salad!? – @ Hipster cafe
Shit, I just did. And it’s a Mediterranean one with tomatoes and avocado and capers and olives and pepperoncini and artichoke and cucumbers. And it comes with bread and butter.

In love with crinkly-eyed smiles. Bas.

Everything I ever took for granted, I want to see it through

Street parking
Street parking, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

One of my favorite cafes has a slightly fancy-schmancy name. I am generally anti-fancyschmancyness, but some things must be forgiven in favor of redeeming qualities like, well, food. And the internet. Let us not forget the internetS.

I discovered the place one morning in early January, after I had hand-written a letter to Maddie on green paper. There is yummy food here, and free wifi and late hours and a multitude of power outlets, amenities lacking at big-name places like Starbucks and Borders.

My only complaint is that it’s too damn cold in here. Under my purple nailpolish, my fingernails are blue, I am sure of it.

My first morning here, fascinated by the colors and textures, I knelt on the sidewalk outside the cafe and took several photos of the numbers and letters etched into the concrete. Later, Somayya would remark dryly, “I’m so glad you can now remember where you parked, Yazzo.” Usually, though, I park in the public garage over half a mile away, and meander through the streets, smiling to myself at the sights.

Every morning, walking down the street, I pass a woman playing the piano in the window of a music store, her back to the passersby.

A man in a waiter’s white apron dashes out of the Persian rug store and over to the French restaurant half a block down, arriving, not in the least bit out of breath, to take the lunch order of a smiling woman seated in the outdoor patio.

Once, I walked all the way down to the cafe, then doubled back to sit for a few minutes on a bench in the sunshine and read a few pages of The Alchemist, sent to me as a gift from a friend in Toronto. I finished it sometime in February, I think. It’s May now, and I feel I need to re-read it again. Perhaps it will provide me some clarity and a sense of purpose; I am lacking in both these days.

At the cafe, I try to decide between the dozen flavors of Italian soda. Decision-making has never been one of my strong suits, much less food-related decision-making. In case you didn’t know yet, I am nothing if not the most indecisive food-decision-maker in the world. I have proclaimed this on facebook. Therefore, it is true.

“It’s a crazy world, isn’t it?” laughs the guy at the counter as I stare at the options, completely baffled.

“It really is.” I smile back. “Especially when it comes to food.”

In the end, I decide on a chocolate-covered macaroon and cherry-flavored Italian soda, then make my way over to a table against the back window, where I fold a few post-it notes and place them under the errant table-leg, in order to steady the wobbly table. I can’t help but think MacGyver would have been so proud.

Two teenagers the next table over are collaborating on a powerpoint presentation. The current slide reads, “How Can Stoichiometry Be Used?” I remember all those college chemistry classes I took; the only enjoyable parts were the stoichiometry conversions and the math involved in calculating acid-base titrations.

The woman at table in front of mine is using the same distractions I am: GMail, GoogleReader, and news websites. I’ve also got flickr, so that complicates matters.

There is a little boy sitting closeby; he has a loud, high-pitched voice. As I return to my table with the Italian soda, his voice escalates in volume if not clarity, and, out of the corner of my eye, I notice him looking over and gesturing excitedly. I turn my head just in time to catch his mother replying back in a calm voice; our eyes meet, and she explains, “He was saying how your eyeglasses and mine are almost the same.”

“Oh, yeah!” I realize. Red and black frames; my favorite color combination. I look at the boy. “Quite spiffy, aren’t they?” He nods back gravely.

My iTunes is now playing Beth Orton’s Central Reservation, the Ben Watt remix. Nearly five years later, I still remember reading a post about that song on a weblog I used to follow regularly at the time. I specifically remember the bit about her driving over the Bay Bridge while listening to the song, and because is it still one of my favorite posts anyone has ever written about music, I had to go hunt through Sarah Hatter’s archives to find it just now. Is that highly stalkerish? And is it scary and/or ridiculous that I still remember that post five years later? I’d even used a line from the song as a post-title during those heady last days of my fourth (but not final) year of undergrad, the glorious June when everything seemed to finally click and I realized the beauty of work and studies and conversations that I enjoyed and felt inspired by.

I log out of GMail and flickr, close the BBC and NPR and tumblr websites. I tell myself I need to stop with the self-destructive distractions, remind myself of how, just a few months ago, the feeling in my heart towards deadlines and everything else I had to do was a succinct, “Oh, fuck it”; how I kept putting off working on that fellowship application until, one morning, inexplicably in the middle of washing my hands at the sink, I found myself stringing together phrases and sentences in my mind, felt the mental excitement of formulating paragraphs for my statement; how that moment made realize with surprise and a re-discovered sense of urgency, This IS what I want to do and I couldn’t dry my hands and get back to my laptop fast enough.

I need to have that feeling, that moment back, so I can re-motivate myself. That This is what I want to do insistence that will see me through whatever the hell I’ve started. Meanwhile, someone in the UK found my weblog through a Google search for “lack of direction in life,” which makes me sigh, and smile with wry self-recognition, too, because if that’s not me as well, then I don’t know what is. But I’ve gotten myself to this spot, this situation, this temporary parking meter of sorts, and now – if you’ll forgive the horrible analogy – it’s a matter of making sure I’ve got enough pocket change to get through the limited time I have, the days or months I’ve allotted myself, this temporary reprieve – already overextended – I’ve been granted from the “real world.” Time is not on my side here. It never is, and if I’m honest, that’s my own fault; I’ve no one to blame but myself.

The clock on the wall says it’s time to go, Sam Cooke sings through my headphones. Walking out of the cafe that night, I see two men greeting one another exuberantly with that quintessentially male half-hug-and-slap-on-the-back. “How’ve you been, man?” one asks the other, except he says it so quickly, as if in a rush to sidestep the small talk and get down to more exciting things, that it instead sounds more like, “Hey been?” I like this, and I think I will steal it.

Scent of lime

I want a vespa the color of tangerines
I want a vespa the color of tangerines, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

Missed you much, Blogistan. Going through my Drafts folder now, and finishing up old, half-written posts I had never got around to publishing. Here’s one from last month; excuse the slightly disjointed nature of it. More are coming. I promise.


13 April 2008

We returned from sunny San Diego yesterday, only to find more than enough warmth in the Bay Area as well. I’ve been waking up these last couple of weeks to the scent of orange blossoms pouring through my open bedroom windows (from the tree in the courtyard outside my room), and I’d be hard-pressed to name a scent I love more than that of citrus. Lotions, perfumes, candles, leaves, even furniture polish and air freshener – always citrus.

It’s quiet without my mother puttering around the house. For now, I prefer it this way. She gets to spend a few weeks with family in the motherland, and I will have extra time to focus on, and actually do, the multitude of things I need to get done – or so I tell myself. I think back to the tense discussions – and silences – that preceded her departure. My father arguing that a country with now-regular suicide bombings and militant attacks was no place for her to be. My mother pointing out that her brother was sick, perhaps dying, even, and asking her to come.

“Do you understand how poor they are?” said my father. “They don’t need you there. They need money; that would be far more helpful to them right now.”

And my mother, sticking her ground for once, replying sharply, “Maybe if you had brothers or sisters, you would know what it’s like to want to be with them when they are so ill.” I can’t even conceive of how painful it must be, to lose one’s mother, brother, and sister, all within the span of just a few years. She wasn’t in Pakistan when her sister died, and regrets it still, I know.

And so, the battle raged for weeks – the daddy-o stubbornly declaring he was looking out for the ummy’s health and safety. The ummy being fierce about her intention to go one minute, then meekly backing down the next. And I, angry at having to be the inadvertent go-between for two people who just couldn’t seem to communicate properly, but mainly angry at my father for always professing to use arguments of logic and practicality yet failing to understand that some things are beyond logic.

“She hasn’t been back in six years; at least let her go and spend a proper amount of time with her family.”

“What are you, her lawyer?” the daddy-o tossed at me one day.

Yes,” I said. “Since you don’t seem to think she can make independent decisions, I’m going to keep arguing for her.”

“Why do you always make me out to be the bad guy?”

If it had been my parents or my siblings, I would have gone in a heartbeat. I told him so. Why couldn’t he see that? Of all people, he was the one who taught me that family comes before everything, that whenever something happens concerning my family – whether happiness or sorrow – I’m supposed to drop everything else and GO.

He and I were not on speaking terms for much of the last few weeks. He thought I was being impertinent and illogical, not properly thinking through the logistics and safety of ummy’s visit to the motherland. I thought he would being his usual “My way or the highway” damn stubborn self. “Fucking ridiculous,” I raged to the sister and Somayya. Meanwhile, the ummy teetered between hope and despair for weeks, wondering if she would make it to Pakistan, and even if she did, would her brother still be alive?

Even after her passport photos were taken and the application submitted for renewal, even after the new passport was sent back via express delivery and arrived on our front porch less than two weeks later, there was no guarantee she was actually going until the daddy-o sent me a casual, concise email saying her roundtrip flight (he insisted it had to be roundtrip, not open-ended; this was another thing we fought about) was booked, and could I drive down to Fremont to pick up the tickets sometime that week?

I was more than happy to.

And I was happy for her when she finally left from SFO a few days ago. “Thay un sharaab dewun ne, tha thu akkhi, ‘Nay!’ ” called out the brother in Hindko. And if they give you alcohol, just say NO! It was his advice on how to respond to solicitous flight attendants. It was also the last thing she heard before walking away, and the timing was impeccable; he managed to turn her tears to laughter.

So, the ummy is finally gone. And the tension, too, is gone from the house. The daddy-o is outside in the yard right now, probably humming Pukhto songs as he fixes the sprinkler system.
Continue reading

I’m so tired, I’m so tired/I wish I was the moon tonight

Orange you glad the sunshine waited for you?
Sunshine-y orange, to cheer me up on rainy days like today, by yaznotjaz

Sometimes when I am bored or tired or stressed, I hit “compose” on a new email window and type nonsense. Like this one at work today:

This is one example of the ways in which we can collaborate on projects based around shared issues and common concerns. There are a multitude of ways in which we can work together to further the scope of such efforts across the Bay Area. This decreases significant misunderstandings and combines our emerging efforts with existing ones, so as not to ‘reinvent the wheel.’ What is wonderful to witness is the emergence of a new movement that finalizes the —

What the hell that means, I have absolutely no idea. It’s not supposed to make sense. It’s a complete free-flow thing, so get off me.

Today was a typical Monday – the kind of day that makes you disgusted that the week has only just begun, with no end in sight. I’m still trying to catch up on the hundreds of work-related emails that piled up while I was off on vacation, gallivanting around in the cold [more photos to add, and I will write about the trip, too, I promise], so I rescheduled this morning’s meeting to tomorrow instead, and breathed a sigh of relief. And then I remembered a conference call I have on Wednesday. I don’t understand why we can’t just conduct business through text-messaging, dammit. Is that really too much to ask?

These days are all about drama and stress, but it shall all be over by early January. Or, at least, that’s the way it plays out in my head. For some reason, Desi music cheers me up, so I was good to go after a lunch break spent listening to Kawan, Ali Zafar’s Sajania, Do Anjaane Ajnabi [from the Vivah soundtrack], and this one, which I know only as Track05. Anyone familiar with who that is? [I'm the only person I know who is so "Ehh, vatewer" about YouTube; I rarely ever click over to the website when people share links with me, and I can't believe I just spent so much time looking up all those songs for you all. Geez freakin' louise, yaars.]

Speaking of lunch, I bought a sandwich from the deli at the grocery store (and two jars of gelatin-free marshmallow cream! and cinnamon rolls with frosting!) and then, after waiting in line for an interminable amount of time while impatiently shuffling my feet, I realized that I had already paid for my items. I’m losing it, yaars. LOSING IT.

I came back to the office to find a package from someone I had met at a conference in Chicago, back in October. He sent me dark roast Ugandan coffee, organic and fair trade – “Not Just a Cup, But a Just Cup” – from the Thanksgiving Coffee Company. They are rockstars, and you should buy coffee from them. I love the wonderfully-written, conversational bio of the CEO, Paul Katzeff, here [you have to keep clicking through; there are several pages]. The coffee they sent me is called Mirembe Kawomera:

Mirembe Kawomera (mir´em bay cow o mare´a) means “delicious peace” in the Ugandan language Luganda. It is the name of a Ugandan cooperative of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian coffee farmers.

You can read more about the coffee cooperative on their own website, where Paul also shares the story of how the Thanksgiving Coffee Company agreed to become the buyer/roaster for Mirembe Kawomera:

I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I was the recipient of this call because 40 coffee roasters heard this story and declined to purchase before tasting samples. They were focusing on the product so they missed the story. For me the story was inspiring at minimum. People of faith finding hope through coffee. Choosing cooperation in a world torn up by intolerance. I said, “OK, I’ll buy it.” “How many sacks do you want?” she asked. I could hear in her voice her plea, her compassion, her fear, her innocence, and her dedication, all born from what was much much more than the experience of the starry-eyed girl I had assumed she was when I first picked up the phone.
On the plane I remember thinking how 40 coffee roasters had to miss the significance of what these people had done and were doing in order for Thanksgiving Coffee to get this opportunity to support what in our time could become one of the greatest stories ever told – and through the selling of the coffee, to strengthen and build a cooperative that could become a shining light of beauty for all to see and be inspired by.

On July 12, 2005 the coffee arrived in the US after six weeks “on the water.” An arrival sample was sent to us. We “cupped it” and it is good, real good, and it fills my heart with hope.

Did I mention you should support this effort? Buy some coffee, rockstars.


Update: I asked a friend, who knows his Desi songs, about the Track05 referenced above. Because he likes to push his luck in not getting fired from work, he downloaded the song right then and there, and checked it out for me. Verdict: “It’s a remix of Channa Ve, sung by Kunal Ganjawala, but originally a Pakistani song.” So, there you have it. Get yer own YouTube links!