Workout Summary

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bashir Does India!

For Bashir, the average Pakistani fan, the last decade and a half has been a tough one; a journey on a bed of thorns with a glimpse of a rose every now and then, hardly enough. Bashir blames the decline of the sport predominantly on the overall situation the country finds itself in – politically, economically, and just about any –ally one can deem to think of. Since the 1999 WC Final loss to Australia, there have been innumerable incidents, the details of which Bashir hates to indulge in like a true patriot, to put off the staunchest and most steadfast of fans. But If you’re like Bashir who has stuck by his team where the players are as often proclaimed legendary as thought of as complete nincompoops with as much surety as Amir getting Sharma out every time they face-off, and all of this within a span of a fly batting its wings and Bashir letting out an insignificant post-Iftar fart – take a bow and feel proud, it’s a privileged state to be in. The one key factor that keeps Bashir intact is Pakistan’s team statistical dominance over arch-rivals India, and the fact that our players have always found themselves cooler and more dashing than our cousins from across the border. But this emotion too had started to wane and has been teetering on the brink of being completely vanquished. Until now!

Bashir remembers when Pakistan lost to India at Bengaluru in 1996. The feeling of dread as the wickets tumbled, after Anwar and Sohail had given his team the best of chances to chase down the total, is still fresh. It hurts. Bashir also remembers the 2003 WC bout against India when his team’s star studded line-up succumbed to the weirdest of all defeats. It hurts. And how can Bashir not remember the “The Scoop”. It hurts and burns. All in all, there’s a lot of hurt Bashir remembers that had started to emerge more often than not like a pinching, itching haemorrhoid courtesy India’s precipitous rise in World Cricket. Until now!

Bashir is a cricketer himself; a name to fear among the galli mohalla tape-ball fraternity. Favourite shot: jharhoo, favourite ball: anywhere. But now Bashir has gone overseas and has had the fortune of playing the real shit – cricket with a cock-ball, as it’s known back home, or hard-ball for the bores. To his delightful pleasure, the jharhoo still works as effectively as it did in tape-ball cricket. The only difference is the height he has to bring the jharhoo in fruition at – a Younis-esque annoying sweep to a swash-buckling Lara-esque flick off the hip to a dashing Ponting-esque pull; just revisions of basically the same shot – the jharhoo. But the trips to the cricket grounds on match days had been becoming a bit of an annoyance with Indians prevalent in opposing teams and ones never to shy away from throwing a jibe every now and then on how suffering Pakistan’s performance has been of late. Until now! 

Bashir suddenly finds himself in the all-so-familiar scenario of looking at his Indian compatriots, inwardly sniggering and sympathetically agreeing with them as they lament India’s performance at the CT2017 Final. Even though this win comes after quite a bit of time, Bashir has a feeling that scores have been settled, nerves have been calmed, the old dread has been kindled in Indian hearts, dominance recommenced and the Indians taught the lesson to never ever write Pakistan off. The only issue is that the Indian team is nowhere to be seen. India still hides behind political alibis and categorically refuses to play Pakistan; home or at neutral venues. Bashir knows this for a fact that if cricketing ties were to be resumed, it’d only be a matter of time (a series or two tops) until Pakistan would confirm its utter dominance over India once again. Bashir reached the conclusion a while ago that no matter how strong the Indian team becomes, mental fortitude will always upstage skill in all encounters. Not having played a full series against them since India’s 2007 tour to Pakistan, and practically no bilateral series whatsoever in front of large crowds since, the Boys in Green have suffered in confidence and lost the panache that had come to be associated as closely with Pakistanis as the colour green. But now, after years of being written-off and ridiculed, Bashir knows that everything seems to be garnering a semblance of normalcy; Pakistani bowlers are best in the world, and Indian batters are best in the world…just not for Pakistanis.

Prior to the Final the Indian media, ex-players and general public were so confident that it’d give Ali a stomach ache. The difference being that the latter actually delivered on his promises. Funnily enough most times the Indians have gone down the path of being pompous (Amir is an ordinary bowler), mouthing off grandiose claims (aanay do), and making vows as if Helen of Troy was actually Bhagmati of Hyderabad who’d eloped with our Bashir, fate has served them a much deserving dose of humble chai that is obviously much too difficult to gobble down. In spite of this natural phenomenon they continue to indulge in this vile practice. Bashir is as confused as the rest of us Pakistanis - 'insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." The post-defeat backlash of the Indians is what classic comedy is made of, and they seem to be so good at churning out this stuff that even Fox News would bow down to their greatness, Pratchett would steal notes from their script, Vonnegut would do a Sylar on their producers. 

Bashir’s advice to India is simple: Quit. Just hang your bats ‘n balls.

If even after attempting to sabotage Pakistan cricket at every available opportunity, Pakistanis not only make it to the Final but also thrash the bejesus out of the richest, most passionate and, as claimed by a lot of gurus, without a doubt the best team in the world, then there’s no point whatsoever for India to take part in global competitions. This defeat is not just a defeat. India hasn’t been just outplayed by the better team. They've been decimated like they used to be at the hands of Imran, Wasim, Waqar, Anwar, Inzi, Yousuf - ugh, it's a never-ending list. The fear of Indian Cricket Board and their nonsensical political stance has been exposed. And it has surfaced when it mattered the most, and at a time when they least expected it themselves. Rest assured this win was not due to Pakistanis being unpredictable; the tag of being unpredictable is irrelevant in matches against India. As Bashir said earlier – it’s the psychological strength that ensures wins in these encounters, skill to a large degree takes a seat and watches the show. Bashir can sense that the mental hold India was just starting to relish over Pakistan may have just been broken. But of course, it’d be difficult to tell courtesy India not willing to play against his team outside global tournaments – don’t get Bashir started on the hypocrisy of that. Keep calm, Bashir, they’ll succumb eventually. And when they do, it shall be Amir steam-rolling them as ordinarily as Sharma plays him, Hasan Ali busy in his generator celebratory acts, Fakhar top-edging quickies and slog-sweeping spinners like nobody’s business and that too with a smile on his face, Azhar making sure he keeps Pakistan’s tag of unpredictability intact, and Sarfaraz doing what he does best – lead fearlessly. 

Tonight Bashir is a happy Pakistani and is generous enough to offer it back to his dear cousins a curse that’s been dogging him since the 2015 World Cup – “Mauka Mauka”, no…”Thoka Thoka”. Toodles :). 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Mask

7:53am, Monday, 27th March, 1995

I've been on his trail for over an hour. His movements don't have a pattern, erratic to say the least. He suspects something amiss. Onset of paranoia? Only plausible explanation to the bizarre demeanor that's on display here. Is he under some sort of "influence"? The instructions are quite idiot proof; Zedoic is to be administered to the proletariat only. For some undisclosed reasons, it affects us Slicks differently. The last case in 1985 and might I remind you how well that ended? Why I always end up with these absolutely crazy jobs? It's hardly my fault that I'm semi-proficient at whatever's assigned to me - you gotta keep the cache as brusque as "Professionally" possible. Where is this guy heading? He's just turned into Foyer Lane, a no through road. Did fate hand him his Death Certificate just then? How the mighty fall. I should've known, with all the time I've invested in the Precognition Training for Professionals course, how promising today is. Last time I was in the field with my personal favorite, the Capacitive Gun, I completed my mission objective promptly. time to put an end to this. Almost at the mouth of the alleyway; he should be nearing the end of the Lane right about now sadly realizing the folly of his decision. So elating the feeling of the gun. It emanates a certain warmth, a buzz resonating with my being at a very intimate and elemental level. Soon it'll be over. I must do this right. Oh, how convenient of you to afford that skeptical glance at me, as if the Corporation's scrutinizing gaze wasn't enough. A wry smile, eh - best you can do? Well, thanks for the vote of confidence? I've hit a dead end. That's not right. Did I miss something? I can feel wrath...and hate, potent enough to make me wince as it gouging at my aura. So close. Hot breath at the nape of my neck as paralysis is starting to take me. I can't see. Everything's blurry. Wait,,'s green, the color of her eyes. Wait, it's saying something. Listen. "Lighten up, Ash,", says a mask to my face, "You know what it is, yea? Mouth, please."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Room

9:33pm, Friday, 10th February, 1995

It's been a long time coming. I've spent enough days idling over the possible repercussions to what I have to do, ample hours wasted already in procrastination of the job I don't want to but must undertake - I must not lose control. They say there's a fine line between virtuous and immoral. Is there, really? Is it expected of us to quietly take everything on face value and just nod along to popular sentiments and colloquialisms? What one may deem perfectly moral might be the anti-thesis of another's principles. Wasn't killing or committing horrendous acts of violence such as Seppuku a part of the cultural norm in the not so ancient Japan? How about that lone Hindu widow quietly accepting her fate or coerced into the act of Sati? If anything, these acts were considered honorable. Oh please, save the holier than thou patronizing glaring look for someone worth of falling prey to the weir machinations of your imbecilic judgmental...I need to stop. I digress. Again. This needs to stop. I must not lose control. Need focus. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Review: Flower for Algernon

Flowers for AlgernonFlowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How does one review a book wrought with such intense and wide range of emotion? It's not very often that a book has caused me to tear up or dragged me into a hole I've found difficult to come out of with sleep being the only remedy for a decent rejuvenation. Being human, I'll get over this as well and not let the material I've read over the past week and a half affect me much, however, the mere thought of the book will always make me sad at some level. Personally, this has been the toughest book I've ever read in terms of nature of the plot and the manner Daniel Keyes has written it in.

My heart mourns for Charlie Gordon and his maltreatment at the hands of his mother boils my blood. Mental retardation is still widely misunderstood and primarily rejected in the lower echelons of almost every social structure globally. Management of such ailments generally induces high costs hence the obvious renunciation. This book is a peek into the ugly truth that governs lives of millions of mentally handicapped persons across the globe. I wholeheartedly agree with the notion Keyes has produced in his magnum opus. This subject deserves a lot of recognition and discussion in order to trigger a change in popular opinion and the general disposition people possess towards everything and anything mental.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone suffering from depression or with a weak resolve; this book will take some will power to stomach. 

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Review: End of the Past

End of the Past

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nadeem Farooq Paracha or NFP, as he's commonly known, is a Pakistani cultural critic and satirist who has become an important voice in the current milieu of critics sprouting up left, right and centre. Apart from the fact that he's been at it for more than two decades, his past has morphed him into a force all the more important for as demarcated a society as ours with opinions of all kinds being thrown around like monkeys flinging feces. One may not be a big fan of NFP's pompous style of prose but nobody can disagree with the power his pen possesses in delivering seemingly benign opinions with the utmost ease and immense lucidity, and how it affects the reader on at least some level.

"End of the Past" is NFP's first published book which has come at a time (seemingly Pakistan has been riding on knife’s edge since conception making everyday a bloody critical point in her history) when the denizens of Pakistan have lost all semblance of identity. What direction did Jinnah want Pakistan to take – a secular state bordering on modernism and liberalism or an Islamic Republic as it was deemed out to be soon after Jinnah’s passing? Or simply, what exactly is “Jinnah’s Pakistan” that we’ve heard every politician from Bhutto and Zia to Sharif and Musharraf use incessantly to drive their campaigns? I think NFP makes a decent attempt at reaching the roots of the issue and presents a potential solution albeit idealistic in the last chapter of the book.

NFP’s take on the subject of manipulation of religion in Pakistan and the role it’s played in the evolution of the political thought in the country’s evolution is especially insightful. He’s from that generation which faced the brunt of Zia’s oppression and the religious upheaval courtesy the influx of US Dollars and Saudi Riyals. But even prior to Zia, appeasing the religious authorities or using them for their own benefit had forever been every Pakistani politician’s key to success e.g. Bhutto did so by officially declaring the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan non-Muslim, and not to forget the conglomeration of 9 parties to form the right-wing PNA solely to fight against the socialist agenda of PPP in the 1977 elections. He delves into a lot of detail explaining the origin of various student unions and the role they played in the political evolution of Pakistan from the 50’s into the 70’s and 80’s. Anyone who wants to become a bit more politically aware with the Pakistani scenario should give it a read.

My favourite chapter of the book is, “Sound/Vision Deafness/Blindness”. This is what NFP has really been known for – the uncanny ability to decipher the complex cultural ambiance of Pakistan and present it in the most hilariously readable and lucid manner. He covers the entertainment business, Lollywood, music and theatre, and how it’s evolved with the tumultuous political happenings of the country. And obviously an NFP book would’ve been incomplete without his astute take on Cricket and how politics have changed the outlook of the Pakistani team over the years. Although reading Osman Samiuddin’s, “The Unquiet Ones”, would be a lot more helpful for the academic, NFP’s satirical discourse on the subject shouldn’t be missed!

The last chapter of the book took me by complete surprise. For the first time I’ve read NFP talking about his religious beliefs and what, according to him, the Muslims and Pakistanis need to do in order to progress. Overall, the book is a fun read and presents a load of information on the political scenario of Pakistan. The references NFP gives are really interesting and I’ve jotted down quite a few titles for future reads. Authors like Ayesha Jalal and K. K. Aziz need to be read by every Pakistani in order garner a deeper understanding of the machinations of Pakistani society. Furthermore, anyone possessing deep apathy for NFP should read it as well, as the book provides an a lot more intimate viewpoint of the much debated journalist we’ve come to love and hate.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird (To Kill a Mockingbird #1)To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Considering this book was published in 1960 and that too written by a female author, I'm surprised it actually saw print. The themes covered in the book are extremely important and are as vital to be discussed today as they were at that time.

The book is about one Atticus Finch, a practicing lawyer in a small town in the state of Alabama, and is told in the first person narrative of his daughter, Scout.

One aspect I immediately picked up on when I started reading the book was how Atticus's children addressed him by his first name instead of using the more traditional and widely accepted title, 'Dad'. Although personally I would never go so far as to address my father by his first name, this does touch on one really important idea for me. Pakistan is a country which is practically slave to culture and tradition. Every person whose older is addressed with "respect" which is generally conveyed to the recipient via a title e.g. Bhai (brother) and Baji (sister). In my opinion, the minute such a title is attached to someone whose only older in age and not necessarily in experience and mental capacity, much of the young'un's opinion is discredited and would most likely be looked at through skepticism and, in some cases, ridicule. Once individuals are past a certain age, all immediate relationships should be on a first name basis with the discourses and general banter carried out as equals. Atticus is the perfect father who gives his children the importance they deserve and hence both kids never shy away from voicing their opinions throughout the book. Obviously, there's a fine line between utter disrespect emanating from hubris and being vocal enough with enough humility.

The major theme that the book expertly negotiates is the inherent relativity of right and wrong. This sentiment is reflected in the title as well and the quote, "Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird", explains it all the more. Bob Ewell is one such character that epitomizes this statement. The circumstances he's killed in and the subsequent reaction of Atticus in bringing Jem Finch (his son) to task since he suspects his hand in the death of Bob, and how Heck Tate, the Sheriff, asks Atticus to simply lay off and to let it go because Bob Ewell's death is actually service to the society. The conversation between Tate and Atticus is wrought with ideas which one would be able to uncover the more they read and discuss it. Absorbing the whole book and what it stands for is quite difficult after just a single read. It is a piece of literature that should be read at all phases of life.

Atticus's message in the book is simple and yet one of the most difficult to adhere to, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." This one statement encompasses almost everything that is wrong with a society like Pakistan today. And a similar stream of intolerance seems to seeping back into the Western societies that have tried so hard to rid themselves of it albeit a farcical underlying rhetoric which has been all the more validated by the likes of Donald Trump. It is high time we look at ourselves and strive to make this world a better and a more tolerant place to live in for our progeny. A child is incapable of hating however they do learn. Be the Atticus in their lives and expound sound and forbearing advice to them so they can return the favor by becoming the seeds of change.

This book can be read casually or part of study. I would recommend to everyone to definitely give this book a shot; rest assured they'll take away their own version of it which undoubtedly would be positive in complexion.

Training Diaries: Melbourne Marathon 2017 - Training Week 1: Day 6


Date: 07/01/2017
Weight: 85.2kgs
Run Type: Race - Portsea Twilight Run - 8kms
Track Type: Off-road/Road
Temperature: 33C
Shoes: Hoka One One Bondi 4
Device: Garmin Fenix 3

Details of the run are given below.

I signed up for this race last minute and was shit scared due to my current fitness levels. Nevertheless, I took the plunge and have come out of it alive! For starters, I was taken by surprise to find out on the day of the race that the Portsea track would be a trail run, not a road run as I'm used to. That got the anxiety levels spiking but oh well, had to go through with it no matter what. The weather was extremely warm all day but thankfully the heat was subsiding by the time I reached the start line at around 6:40PM with the temperature at around 33C (92F). The run was scheduled to begin at 7:00PM. 

There's something about being at the start line of a race. Obviously, with my current fitness (and future as well) I'll only be competing against myself rather than other participants. On August 13th, 2016, I participated in my first ever official race - City2Surf Sydney. That's a 14km track which I was able to finish in a semi-decent 1hr 23m. Needless to say I was stoked and still am really proud of that achievement considering just under a year earlier I was bedridden and going for an ACL reconstruction surgery. Anyway, the adrenaline rush that one gets and feeds off of other participants at the start line is a really unique experience. Every runner is seemingly nervous with smiles going around aplenty depicting encouragement and uncertainty. It's a great moment experience. 

The race commenced with the siren going off. First 1.4km were quite standard with the limbs loosening up, breathing becoming steadier and the nerves settling down. From there onward it was a constant uphill and downhill with the former doing a lot more damage naturally. We reached the halfway mark at 3.5km and started back to roughly where we'd started. The return was a lot harder as the uphill really became steep and my pace reduced significantly from a lousy 6:30m/km to a lousier 7:10m/km. The rest of the 2.5km, before we detoured towards the finish line via trail, was one of the toughest distances I've ever run. 90% of running this stretch was mental work and just coercing and begging the muscles to go on - one step at a time - while beggingly applying the age old adage, 'you conquer the mountain, the mountain doesn't conquer you' which at the time seemed a lot of bullshit than anything else. Thankfully there were water stations along the way so I kept myself well hydrated which was a good idea due to the heat. I generally avoid drinking water on runs less than 15km surviving on gels primarily for anything over 12km. At the 6km mark, we detoured and went onto a trail which was again a new experience for me. It was an absolutely lovely run from thereon. I never expected myself to enjoy the trail so much hence the reason why I'm planning to run the Melbourne Trail Series for this year. However, that depends entirely on how well I train this year. 

The best part about the run was Ahmed running the last 200m with me, absolutely hilarious; he's turning out to be a pretty toughie. Once I'd reached the finish line, I loaded up on a couple of energy bars, drank plenty of water and did my stretches. 

Right now the body is feeling great with a little bit of soreness in the thighs. I'm planning to go for a 7km run today so that'll bring out any niggles that I might be carrying. Overall, I feel great and am really motivated to carry on with the training regime. Hopefully, I'll reach a point where I can take the plunge into doing a full marathon!

Until next time :)