Decembers are always different.

Decembers are always different.

A yearning heart yearns for eleven dreary months for an epiphany, which never comes. For three hundred and thirty four days, life seems to be a battle between what needs to be done and what the heart wants; the former winning the case more often than not. But it is this persistent heart that never stops yearning, carrying over the dreams of one day into in another, depositing a little more as each day passes, and never striking off an item from the list. Why, because there never is time for dreams to come true. The circus goes on to for eleven months when finally, there is realization that it is already too late to make things happen. Why? Maybe because we learnt to divide our life and years, and this is the end of another one.

And December is different.

The heart lets go: not because it has lost faith, rather it’s the exact opposite. There is an invigorated dawn of hope, that a new chapter in life is about to begin. A new year that might see a dream or two coming true, and thus for this whole month, the heart vicariously relishes the feeling of accomplishment by merely hoping and planning for the new chapter. Diaries are written, promises are made and resolutions are drafted; all in celebration of a new chapter in life that is right at our doorstep.

But this is not the celebration of what December means to us; rather, this is what makes December what it is. The days are still as long as they have been and life is as ordinary as it has been; but nothing appears to be ordinary. The gloominess of the sky brings out a memory or two, the quiet of the night churns up a few dreams and the cold begins whispering all the mistakes we committed the entire year. We realize the time to make amends is long gone. The time to make amends for this year is long gone. The atonement is to come in another chapter of life, or if we the heart had its words, in another lifetime: the one that waits, beyond December.

Isn’t the finale always unique? The final hour of the day, last days of the week, closing week of the month; all of these awake in the heart a ray of hope that grows in magnitude with the measure of time. But all these instances or periods make it evident that we are always looking for hope. We are always yearning for a better tomorrow, and certainly a better version of ourselves. The finale of every measure of time just reminds us that tomorrow is another day, next week is a brand new one, and that next year, is a whole new life altogether.

I hope that it is a whole new life. For the sake of our hope, our promises and most importantly our dreams, let’s have faith that Decembers really are different.

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Here’s to time.

To a more conscious state of mind, I could address this problem of convolution. But then again, there has never been a better moment or a better state of mind to transform the apprehension into words. Now that I have deliberately lost sight of all that I thought was gold, which was only a cozy block of the safe zone, I can try to make out the smudged skyline on the horizon. And the horizon is such that I cannot differentiate the land from the sky. To me, all this seems like a Van Gogh piece, but then I realize what drove and inspired him was this very ‘muddled-ness’.

To this bygone year, I have lost my most prized possession – clarity. I can recall that at one moment of time I had to click a button to send an email, to strengthen what we call future prospects, but for the first time in my life, I stopped to think. Why? Do I even want this. And in that moment of indecision I found myself, my purpose and most of all, nothing. That moment became the most insignificant ever. So unimportant that only now while looking for important memories in my head, I stumbled upon it.

Maybe that is what makes it the most important moment of the year.

Every year I like to think I am a changed man. But every year I continue to be the same. I think this should change. I mean, I should change my desire to be a changed man, and therefore end up changing myself eventually. I should fail and succeed at the same time at this. Paradoxically, confusion is the only thing that is crystal clear at this moment of time.

Here’s to uncertainty.

Here’s to unreal dreams, discombobulated consciousness, endless hopes.

Here’s to monotony, here’s to change.

Here’s to the monotony of change.

Here’s to changing the monotony of change.

Here’s to another year that time leaves me behind with. Fare you well.

I finally realized what I want to be when I grow up. When I grow up, I want to be a child.

Wishing 2013, a more adventurous, more wishful new ME.

A heart that feels

Anna was compelled to think the worst. Despite all her efforts to smile, there was despair all about her and she could just not pull through it. Once or twice a day, she would force a happy thought into her mind but it would drown in the callous whispers of pain. It was like these whispers were voices of her own mind; but maybe she was inclined to think that way because they had been in her head since ever. These whispers had become a part of her though twice a year, every year, she would remember that these whispers once belonged to someone else.

But today was not one of those two days. She wondered if all this was a gift or a punishment, for she had always wondered how it suddenly became possible for people to move on from heartbreaks of monumental intensity. She thought it was painful to see humans forget grief and make merry so soon into their lives. Humans that sought and achieved numbness always disgusted her; it was numbness according to her. She never believed time was a healer, she believed people merely became accustomed to the pain and learnt to move on.

So she wished for another kind of heart. One that would never be numbed with time, but would grow more eager in remembrance. One that would own every voice of grief that sought it’s attention and not seek leave from it. One that would be tied to the past and not merely take leaps and bounds into the unseen future.

And then she had it.

She had owned the voices that once belonged to two of the most important entities of her life. Two of the heavenly stars that perished, yet not with stellar elegance. Theirs was a departure of agony and pain, and the void they left was akin to the wound from which clotted blood has been forcefully peeled off. Each moment felt like a reminder from the past, like her heart was breaking apart incessantly. The voices talked to her, whispered to her, day after night, writing and rewriting their memory over and over again.

Every year, twice, she would let the voices live on their own while she remembered how she let it all happen. And only on those two days every year, she would wish for another kind of heart.

A heart that would forget. A heart that time would heal.

 

 

 

 

Taking up typography

In the recent times, I have taken up typography as a means of creative expression. While writing this I almost feel I am repeating myself. Somehow, while doing photography, I realized I should take up painting and sketching which I did but I was never too good at, and then, the form of art I least imagined, typography.

I have become quite prolific in the sense that at least for now I do more typography pieces than pictures I take per week. It takes time for one to learn and develop the art but at least for the time being I enjoy doing it. It is also more interesting when I end up combining Photography and Typography, but there is also a thought that this can undermine either of the two. The thing with typography is that not many people realize the importance of it until they see a bad design, or bad typography. Therefore the appreciation is always sparse.

The three pieces of work below are all themed about design and typography itself. Also this might develop into a series of Red, White and Black.

In the end, creative professionals all around the world on Behance have been my foremost inspiration. The amount of creativity on Behance each day is nothing short of heart warming.

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Of Emails and Fonts

There are two elements to every piece of written communication; Content and Design.

Content, very obviously, is what you write: the subject matter, use of correct grammar and so on and so forth. But design, is not usually understood. For example, in the case of posters and visual (textual) communication of the sort, it is very easy to understand that the design would mean the layout, typeface selection etc, but in a simple business email, how in the world could design play an important role.

Normally, we would think formatting means Justifying the text, adjusting paragraph indents and tada we are done. But many of us miss out on one of the most important elements of ‘Email Design’ i.e. Selection of the correct Typeface of Font. Broadly speaking, to start off, there are two criteria for that:

1. Legibility

2. Suitability to the subject matter

Legibility:

Consider this, if you are writing something very important and you carelessly choose a very difficult to read font, how will you convince your reader to pay attention or to read it? Most of the times, the reader would think of you as careless, selfish, insensitive ******* or something of the sort for the mere reason that it took him/her thrice the time to read and understand your email than it should have.

 

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The above example makes it clear. Helvetica is a critically acclaimed modern day font that is thought to be excellent in terms of legibility and design and used especially for formal communications. Here, just by adjusting the spacing between characters you see how the fabulous typeface became illegible or very difficult to read (the first one is original). Moreover it is very important to realize which typefaces are for main text and which are for titling only. More often than not, native italic fonts like Segoe Script are very difficult to read in long pieces of communication and should be avoided. The purpose of italics can be achieved by using Faux Italics or as we normally do, by pressing the little ‘i’ on a normal font like Times New Roman, Calibri and Helvetica.

There are many more points in the science of legibility: Kerning, tracking, leading, font size, font selection, color etc, but it is also important to know that all these are also important considerations in design itself.

Suitability to Subject:

I will begin with an example.

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Blue Comic Sans. This is what I got in an email a few days ago from a person in the company I work at who is supposed to be an expert, and who has spent a good 20 years and is now based at our headquarters in a beautiful part of Europe. I thought this was supposed to be ignored, but since I was supposed to seek advice from him I could not get the image of a little girl learning to type out of my mind while reading the emails. And mind you, the emails were terribly long too, which generally I don’t mind. All this was aggravated when one fine email, where the respectable person was supposed to comment on what I had said did it in PINK Comic Sans. This killed it.

Every typeface has its inherent qualities that need to be kept in mind. It’s completely understandable that no one has got the time to think where rounded Bowls, and long Stems are required and where Serif is to be avoided and where fixed width fonts are to be used but that’s the exact reason why we have eyes. Yes. A simple look and it should tell you that No, Comic Sans should never be used in formal communication unless it’s your resignation letter and you never wish to return to the employer.

Hell I don’t understand what Comic Sans is to be used for anyways.

Therefore, take our five minutes, decide what font you should use, do a bit of formatting and definitely in the first look, you would get attention.

Also, this is like adjusting your tie knot. People would now understand the importance. :)

I miss writing.

I have taken up multiple mediums of expression. I do photography, I draw, sketch, color, paint, I try my hand on paper art, more DIY stuff, I do typography and so on and so forth. This is the most I have done in my life. But even while trying my hand on all this I have realized that I miss writing. I miss having the ability to hold a pen and play with ink as it formed letters on my orange colored diary or when my keyboard would plead for breaks as I typed furiously for my blog. There was something about writing that I just have never forgotten.

But why did I stop writing? Difficult question to answer and one that I have answered periodically, at different points in my life and the question still remains unanswered. Perhaps it doesn’t even have an answer. One reason which surely has to be one of the reasons is the lack of readership. Yes, I’ve said it. Lack of readership has contributed to my laziness and my procrastination towards writing. Its not that writing has become more difficult in terms of the resources I have. I remember blogging through my old Java enabled Nokia phone which allowed me only 3000 characters at a time, and I would blog in parts. Such was the desire to put it up on  my blog. Then when I had a better symbian phone, I remember struggling with a resistive touchscreen to type lengthy posts, and by the way, I was the most productive in terms of writing back then. So what do I have now?

I have 2 laptops which allows me to type easier than I ever thought, I have windows live writer which uploads what I write without me having to go on my blog, I have a smartphone with a dedicated WordPress application and built in wordprocessor, a tablet with the same application and a huge screen making it terribly easy to type and I don’t write.

It’s not that I don’t write at all. At work, I write emails and I am known to write some of the best written emails (and lengthy ones at times where the need arises). At times, I find it hard to stop when I am typing an email and I end up creating a full essay length email (which sometimes needs to be shortened). Also, people do read the emails because more often than not they have useful information which they might want or need or which might concern them. Therefore, I think that I have shifted from creative writing to corporate creative writing in recent times.

But that doesn’t stop me from missing my days of writing. I think of relighting my blog every now and then but then throw my thoughts to the hounds of procrastination who ensure that I never get another whiff of the poor thought again atleast for a day. Such is the life of a perpetual procrastinator, who completes his work on time because he is working for someone but when it comes to himself, he is the most ignorant, the laziest and the most inactive. I learnt a long time ago it was very important to befriend myself, and I did make good friends.

‘Myself’ gives me good company, almost invariably one of the best companies I usually get, but I don’t return the favor. I think it’s about time that I should.

Black and white in the rain

One of the most difficult questions that I present myself with time and again is whether to shoot in color or black and white. Recently, in the world of my mind I committed a crime by taking black and white shots in the rain. I mean who would do that? The only time everything is so green and pretty and I choose to go mono. But I have to say I was pleased with the results.

The lack of color often brings out the contrasting elements of the picture in their raw form, that you probably would have missed otherwise. Here are my spoils after a short drive in the rain.

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And this perhaps is one of my most favourite scenes.

Where angels dwell.

I remember telling myself to relax as I saw the beautiful Saif-ul-Maluk lake, North of the Naran Valley. I panicked because  there was so much to capture that it was like a nightmare to me. Yes. The exact opposite of what people assume it to be. Its so intensely beautiful that everywhere you click, every frame you capture is bound to turn out looking good. Taking good pictures there is almost a default act, but taking great pictures is a feat. I have seen a thousand images from and about this beautiful landmark but none prepared me for what lay there in actual. Just as I saw it, I decided I wanted to do the whole landscape in monochrome.

The question was, why? Then I remembered someone saying “If black and white photographs are always as good as Ansel Adams’, what’s the need for colour photography”

Therefore I set out on my journey to creating the following images. I don’t know how well they are appreciated, but I have a feeling they have already become really close to me. And if I have to choose a set of pictures to be known by, it is these. Alhamdulillah I am very proud of them. And I am glad I didn’t make these in color. I am, very very glad.

And yes, I plan to print these.

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Microsoft Excel excursion trip

For someone who has always sucked at sketching, being able to do photography is an extremely liberating experience. But that does not take away the fact that I can never sketch anything real. I can do abstract but being able to do abstract while not knowing about sketching is like telling someone you can do a wheelie when you can’t even balance on two wheels. Sigh. I do have my areas of understanding though.

Over the period of last few months, I have come to a pleasant realization that inspiration is extremely important for creativity. For an unconventional person, even more so. Besides opening my mind up to new horizons that I never knew existed, concept of art in my little brain changed. Through the digital world and my computer/smart phone and especially with courtesy to RSS feeds, I have discovered artists and genres that have filled me with immense inspiration. After all these years, now when I sit to contemplate a thought sweeps my mind that previously never did. Maybe I can do art (other than photography of course). All of a sudden, my prejudices against various forms of art have vanished. Also worth mentioning is that all this exposure to art and artists from around the globe has changed my perception regarding photography itself.

Anyhow, some time ago I started playing with Microsoft Excel. Actually since Excel has always been an important part of work, I thought it was important to find if it could be turned into any form of art. Turned out it could (though I’m not too good at it yet, I plan to improve). Below are some images created on Microsoft Excel (MS Paint used for a little cropping/flipping etc). Hope you enjoy, and do leave comments.

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And in the end how could I not attempt this?

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I don’t even know if this can be called art. Yet.

Into the Past – The Lahore Railway Station

I have written about Lahore and its personality. Perhaps, one of my most favourite buildings (for a lot of reasons) that depict Lahore’s very personality is the Lahore Railway Station. About a hundred years ago, this was the modern day mash up of form and function. Today, while the world around it has progressed a few decades, the railway station stands unchanged. Unchanged in a more negative connotation rather. Our love with apathy eliminated any chances of any efforts that could have been carried out. Today, although the building looks like a place right out of a book o Historical Architecture, but its aged for the worse in terms of function. While the world works to make Railway Stations more intelligent and convenient, this Victorian era building remains on its own. Its almost as if someone built the beautiful structure and forgot about it.

Today, Trains are no more considered the most reliable means of travel and certainly not the most convenient either. The track gauges are so ancient that they don’t make trains for them anymore. The absence of intelligence and system is evident from your first step into the building. If you want to find out what time is a certain train going to arrive, good luck with that.

Having said all that, all this has added more color to the situation. The Station is more human dependent. It’s like going in reverse. Places where computers and machines could function effortlessly are furnished with people, and lots of them. Places where simple alterations in structures could offer convenience are left ignored. Consequently, you feel as if you have travelled into the past. For me, that’s a reason good enough to visit the place again and again :) 

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A view of the platform number 4

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The Entrance

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Coolies – The famous porters in their identifiable orange shirts

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Getting on the train

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Getting off it

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The majestic building itself

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Life in motion

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Malik riaz and the anchors

Since I’ve gone apolitical, I’ve felt it’s unfair if I throw my two cents here and there about the political scenario/fiasco/disaster or whatever name it can be given. But Sherlock (the BBC tv series) has affected my feeble mind way too much. So while driving to my favourite camera market in Lahore I was actually brewing up a conspiracy theory. The urge to write it down became so great that I had to stop at a Subway restaurant and write this down! I’ll keep it short and stupid since my chicken tikka sandwich is waiting right in front of me.

So this who malik riaz and the anchors episode, I just saw it differently. Call it an epiphany. Yeah. Imagine this, the whole episode was planned by malik riaz and company.

To explain it further, let’s see the situation. Once the arsalan iftikhar issue has matured people behind or with malik riaz realise this is gonna get dirty for everyone. For the politicians for the judiciary and for riaz himself. The thing is that obviously a lot of people have had malik as their chaddi buddy so it was only a matter of time before further investigations would drag everybody in. To sum it up, all parties in the case realized this was something much more than anyone could ever chew. There had to be therefore a decoy, and a very believable one.

Now Mubashar lucman has always had a shady character and we know Mehr bukhari too. So there is no denying that they are what the leaked video showed. But why was the video leaked? And who leaked it? And how did they get away with leaking it? Surely its not as easy as we think.

The answer is, malik riaz and party decided, time to tame the wild animal they had freed in ignorance. Everyone knows he connections of riaz with Gillan, Sharifs and other politicians so it was important to mention them. Also riaz had nothing at stake, if only this would make him one of the lot rather than the only one. But what it did was two things. The planted show video cast into minds of everyone considerable doubt regarding the arsalan situation and it also cast doubt (deservedly) on the role of media. Excellent. Dair ayad durust ayad. And that’s why the mole got away so easily.

In the end, it opened many more doors and windows. Suddenly, politicians have the last laugh and malik riaz plays along like a true player. It’s a filthy game well played.

All the above is just a concoction that my mind brewed up. Ofcourse its not true. But if it is, well played Malik Riaz and company.

Bokehs and smartphones

“In photography, Bokeh is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image.”

This is how Wikipedia defines bokeh. A visit to Flickr would tell us the importance and popularity of this feature in the modern photographic world. Today an f/1.4 lens costs much much more than an f/1.8 lens and f/1.2 lenses are the stuff of dreams. The f-stops are generally depicting the shallowness of depth of field that a lense can produce and the shallower it is, the more appealing would be the bokeh caused. But this is not always true. Of course the positioning, framing, exposure, saturation and all the other blah-blahs are equally important. So we cannot assume that someone with an f/.8 lens will automatically capture the most visually appealing bokehs. Actually, like most other aspects of photography (and art in general) there are no principles as to what is good.

To me, anything that will be visually appealing to the beholder can be classified as a good picture. Similarly, I believe that it is not even important that something needs to have a focused foreground to have a visually appealing bokeh-ed background or vice versa. Some days, you capture bokehs, and just bokehs, just plain simple lights and you tend to agree with them more than your most complicated shots. Maybe the reason is their simplicity.

Having said all this, I use two lenses with my canon, f/1.8 and f/3.5-5. Given the correct technique (which includes distance from the subject, correct focus or lack of it, and correct exposure) it is very easy to get good bokehs as photographic results, but the real challenge came when I started Mobile-photography seriously as well. There are two problems. Since the lens and aperture for phone is really small, mobile phone cameras generally do not have good low light performance and also they are largely incapable of producing shallow depth of fields. So is there nothing we can do?

This is where I fell in love completely with smart phones. Whenever I found the phone camera lacking in photographic prowess, I stumbled upon one tool or another that would at least allow me to express my creative thought by removing the technical barrier. I can never compare my Samsung Galaxy S2 camera with my Canon DSLR: hell I shouldn’t even be mentioning them in the same sentence. But if properly used, the phone camera complements the DSLR. I cannot carry my DSLR everywhere, but I have my phone with me. I don’t have to miss a shot just because my camera is in a bag somewhere in the car or at my home. I have my phone. The trick is though to overcome the technical shortcomings of the mobile phone camera somehow. That is the biggest challenge and that is something that has brought me closer to my smart phone and also taught me a lot about photography. Suddenly, it’s a hundred times more important to seek good light, to find the correct composition, to tweak the exposure triangle and to hold the camera steady. Also, it has made me admire my Canon DSLR even more; it has made me realize what a beautifully evolved machine it is. I am in complete awe of it.

I am posting a few bokeh photos that I recently shared on instagram. These are taken from my phone. I hope you like and enjoy them. :)

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Of crows and men

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Lost in conversation, the one you are reading, have just read or are about to read

 

“I often wonder how bad is it to be a black ugly bird like I am. I am not like other birds. But that is okay, like they say, every bird has its own feathers. But how bad is it to be not human? That’s probably what I meant to say.

I mean look at them, everything they do seems so fluid, like it has been rehearsed a thousand times. Such eloquence, such dexterity, such perfection. I wish we could be like that too. Who doesn’t envy them? Even the swan does. She says she is nothing compared to the fair hearts of the maidens that live amongst humans. And the strange thing is that they too have so many colors of skin but there everyone is treated equally. I remember seeing a swan colored guy being buried with a brown colored one, you know just saying, not being racist. That is what you call equality.

Sometimes, such thoughts make my entire existence completely futile, at least in my mind. I really don’t have any consolation. What to do? aha. I know. Look at the weather. its cloudy with a breezy in June, and no one is noticing it? They are all walking their perfect walks to their offices, to sit in front of their computers or do whatever they have don’t for the entire month, and they will miss this. By the time they realize, the sun will be out again. At least we get to enjoy this. The beautiful weather, and a view from here. And that’s probably the only consolation we have right?”

“you fool there is something else, something much more spiritual, much more unworldly, something that is above everything that you said, something that should always be in your heart when you feel low. This my fellow crow, is your purpose. Your higher purpose.”

“O wise crow! What is it that we have and they don’t, that we can and they cannot?”

“Son, whenever you feel low, always tell yourself: I CAN SHIT ON THEM, AND THEY CAN’T DO SHIT ABOUT IT!” 

The Person that is Lahore – A view of the Badshahi Mosque

I have always expressed my love for Lahore as I would have for a lover. In fact, I also have accepted on various occasions that whenever I am out of city, I miss Lahore itself first and then the people in it. The reason, I don’t really know and probably this is one of the things I would not like to put into words. Maybe that is because I was born here, I have lived here all my life and have grown to understand the spirit of the city. The city itself is a living being, with a very simple personality.

 

The personality is that of a person who remembers and cherishes the past more than anything, and who likes connecting everything possible to the past. A casual drive around Lahore would reveal this trait of the City – Buildings with Victorian architecture converted for future use, and old post offices, courts, the Town Hall and what not. I guess, Lahore is someone who would use that old pair of shoes till he/she can and show it off rather than locking it up in a showcase. Of course, this attitude does have its downsides, but it’s proud of that. We are proud of that.

 

Lahore is an open hearted person. It has opened its beauty to everyone who has an eye for it, yet it has thought it was important to keep the city comfortable too, with a dash of modernity. We have the Government College with its Victorian architecture teaching Modern Physics. We have the beautiful OIC Obelisk and the great structure that the Town Hall is and we have the Software Technology park. Yet, somehow it seems everything was  there from the start, or it grew out of the ground like the trees planted on the sides of Canal Road. Nothing, I repeat, nothing seems artificial or out of place. Nothing modern or ancient or historical. This is probably how generous Lahore is. It has welcomed every new addition, painful or pleasing with an open heart. This is maybe the reason that it feels that the Kalma Flyover on Ferozepur Road was there all along. To a skeptic such as myself, this was a startling realization. The city, and its dwellers had embraced even that.

 

People who are not from Lahore might not feel the same way because its important to live with the City to know its true personality. But I would like to declare openly that Lahore is probably one of the most wholesome personalities that I have ever met. I think another One Hundred million or so people would agree.

 

 

The following pictures are a tribute to one of Lahore’s most famous landmarks and one of my most favourite locations for photography. Maybe, I have been successful in capturing a faction of Lahore’s personality that resides in the Badshahi (Royal) Mosque. Or maybe I will keep on trying :)

 

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