Saturday, April 30

Hair Stylee

Today I had my hair thinned. Ok, now not a fantastically exciting thing to be blogging about, but you're talking to a guy who has never (and I mean, never) had anything more complicated than a short back and sides (and even then with not too much difference between these and the top) so it is a bit of a milestone. Or put another way it's yet another notch on my pseudo mid life crisis belt.

Home Alone!

For the first time ever I've been left home, alone. Nine hours in and the house still hasn't burned down yet, although there is six and a half days left, so...

The main thing I'm worried about is boredom but bank holiday aside I'm sure the week will zoom past anyway. I also got a bit stuck finding something for lunch today but I handled.

The absence of my parents also means that a dinner I had planned for my friends tonight will be hosted totally by myself. I've been left with three pages of instruction but we all know how these things are and I'm sure that my improvisation skills will be tested.

So anyway, yes. Party over here! But not tomorrow night, 'cos I'll like have my kuri around, innit?

Thursday, April 28

I Have Straight(ish) Teeth Too

Seems like all one needs is straight teeth, money and a couple of blockbusters behind them to nab themselves a Katie. It's only been two months since she dumped her fiancé, and it seems that I've missed that particular window of opportunity. That's the last time I give a woman space after a break up.

It's times like these that I'm thankful for my friends - so far I've had two notes of condolence via Messenger and a few more otherwise. However despite her current and previous choices I do take issue at her being described as a whore, so please refrain from doing so. You know who you are.

There'll always be a place in my heart for you. Why do we always fall for the wrong people?


Sunday, April 24


After a year away, I played a bit of football this morning. I've not really played properly since my marathon training started way back in August '03 and that as well as my feeling of not being as fit as I should put me on guard.

Actually it turned out pretty well. A different pitch (no more astroturf) and a new group of people with mixed abilities (I was somewhere in the large middle) helped, but I managed to play for a good two hours with decent pace and without getting too tired. I will hurt tomorrow though and I didn't score any goals, but then I never did score much anyway. Ahem.

Regular participation will mean that I'll have to give up my running though, although Football is by far more fun if a bit more time consuming. Sometimes there just isn't enough time in the week...

Saturday, April 23

Shariah TV

I just watched two of a series of eight televised discussions involving an audience of young British Muslims asking a panel of three Islamic peers various questions regarding the Shariah.

Overall they were pretty sensible even if they were only able to scratch the surface of the issues, and they did choose to stick to common sense issues that shouldn't really need to be asked in the first place (and I'll suggest why this was in a while). Example questions include:

  1. Are we allowed to cryogenically freeze ourselves in the hope for a future cure to any ailment we may currently have?

  2. What does the Shariah say to the guys who decide to marry back home in order to find a younger and subservient wife?

  3. Would a women who has been forced to have an abortion be liable for it on the Day of Judgement?

  4. What would Islam say about us finding aliens on Mars?

I could see the panels trying (sometimes in vain) to explain the more abstract principles of Islam and how these can and should be applied to any general question rather than the quite specific (and sometimes clearly redundant) ones above. They failed in this, of course, and you could see the signs of exasperation (and sometimes sarcasm) as they gave up and gave concrete answers anyway just to move on to the next topic ("Aliens on Mars? No problem; we'd treat them like any isolated community and tell them about Islam, convert them, start building mosques there and establish an Islamic state". Superb).

It's actually something I've noticed in the unusually high number of debates I've been witnessing over the past few weeks. The people in panels are often super great - they know where they are and where they are going, and most importantly what they think. For me, it's the confused audience that lets the whole show down. Of course I realise the irony of such a statement and that I was as much a part of the audience as anyone else there. It reminds me of something a wise man[1] once said to me about individuals being intelligent while people carry on being stupid. But still I often wonder how much wasted potential there are in these things and how powerful they'd really be if used correctly.

I guess if the audience reflects the current fabric of British Muslims, then programmes like these will be necessary. Unfortunately that doesn't really console me.

Although the current series has ended, you can usually find Shariah TV on Channel Four at the insane time of midnight. Having said that, it's probably not something I will make too much effort in catching.

[1] Well ok, not quite. It was only Niall from Risk, although he is smart.

Friday, April 22

Book: The West and Islam: Western Liberal Democracy Versus the System of Shura, Mishal Fahm Al-Sulami

I mentioned that I had begun to read up on political theory - well this was one of the books I was talking about. Primarily it's a comparative study of democracy (as we in the west understand and practise it) and a possible Islamic equivalent as suggested by the Sudanese Al-Turabi. However since an agreed concrete definition of democracy (Islamic or otherwise) doesn't exist you should bear in mind that a lot of this, although academically sound, is subjective with respect to western practise and Al-Turabi himself.

Apart from the comparison itself, the book makes as an excellent introduction to the fundamentals[1] of democracy, breaking the concept down into basic components like sovereignty, decision making, the selective process and interest groups. For the purpose of comparison the author then attempts to break these down even further in order to find counterparts in Al-Turabi's system of Shura.

Al-Turabi himself created his system by either taking examples of the above components from the life of The Prophet and the first four caliphs, or if this was lacking, by establishing a legal version of that component within the framework of the Shariah. What Al-Sulami, the author, concludes is that the two systems of Al-Turabi's Shura and what is generally regarded as western liberal democracy are very similar; in fact only totally contradicting each other in the case of political parties (in the west) and trends (in Al-Turabi's Shura).

However, it should also be noted that Al-Turabi's system relies on a lot of Islamic principles and good will - for example it repeatedly assumes that losing political parties would compromise and follow the winners or that there would not be any argument or corruption. The book doesn't assure me that that would actually happen in practice; Al-Turabi in the book certainly doesn't convey how he would enforce such good will (if indeed it's possible to do such a thing).

Specifics aside, the book makes as both a good reference to democracy and it's components as well as an academic comparison with a possible Islamic solution. It is also easy to read cover to cover as an introduction to the topic. Highly recommended for those who wish to sample political theory - and even better for those who want to look into the subject of modern Islamic politics and governance in general.



Sunday, April 17

A Joke

Q: How many adult men does it take to build a mini trampoline for Idris?

A: Four. Taking an hour. Each resulting in chapped hands and caught fingers. And sweat. And stress. And a two year old who jumped on it, what, twice?

Looks so easy, right? I'm so pathetic for needing help with it right? Don't let the little girl fool you - it's a product of the DEVIL I tell you.

And I lied. There is no joke here.

Marathon Man

There are times I regret not having started a blog earlier. My experiences with graduation, Hajj and Bollywood Star, for example, are some things I would have loved to have put down on paper, but didn't. Instead I have to wait for a reason to bring them up.

Today is the 25th Flora London Marathon. As I type, the medium pace runners are crossing the finishing line as I also did this time last year. It's a very surreal experience and to be honest it's the training that lingers in my head rather than the day itself which was just a blur.

Despite the many appreciated pre- and post- race good lucks and congratulations, I think only a few people really know what my run had meant to me: those that met me at the finish line and witnessed the physical and emotional wreck I was when I had crossed it. There's only been a few times in my life that I've been close to tears and that was certainly one of them (but don't worry, I stepped up. Growl).

Although I've sworn never to run it again, the race did change me in a way which may draw me again to the event. It really is a life changing deal. I'm sure there would have been much more for me to say, had I written my thoughts down straight away, but the London Marathon of 2004 was definitely one of the best days of my life.

Which reminds me - I've got to call a guy I met on the day to reminisce...

My Teeth Hurt

A birthday cake, a spare chocolate cake and two boxes of KKs make for a very sweet Saturday evening. I can still taste the sugar this morning.

We've also been introduced to the tense world of Jenga. I'm still pretty shaken so I can't really talk about it much. But man.

Saturday, April 16

Film: The Interpreter Click for more info

Surprisingly weak acting from Kidman and Penn results in an overly long political thriller. However despite this a cracking 30 minutes towards the end made the rest bearable, as long as you accept quite large reach tying up the respective story arcs.

Friday, April 15

Yet Another Political Panel Discussion

This week's City Circle was different from the usual one man show. This time, they decided to host a panel discussion regarding the "Muslim" vote and how we should use it. More info here.

Since this was my second political debate this week, I couldn't help but draw comparisons between the two. Although today's begun with a few standard fare (and pretty redundant in my opinion) points about how we should use our votes etc, things soon became more interesting than the one on Sonia's show.

It seemed that the main conclusions drawn was how democracy in this country is, well, crap. We're told how we shouldn't be apathetic and stuff but a few of the panellists made strong arguments of how it's pointless to discuss who we should vote for, since they're all the same anyway. Criticisms of our current process were made (especially by Javaid and Siddiqui), explaining how the executive is pretty redundant and how if you wanted to drive change the best way to do so would be to learn Tennis and become the PM's gaming buddy.

Other conclusions: That trends are showing less support for Labour this time around from the Muslims. Also Manzoor made a very good point about how we shouldn't be thinking about Muslim Bloc Voting in the first place. Shere Khan, the MCB representative, said that we should vote despite it being a mess - and that we shouldn't stop there. Oh and that audiences, on the whole, are a bit of a shambles!

The debate itself was way too short, but we covered so much more than we did in the two hours on Wednesday. I guess that the two things were aimed at different peoples, but I definitely found myself nodding and listening more in this one.

So, is this a new direction for me? Have I suddenly become politically active? Apart from these debates, I'm currently reading up on political theory and seeing democracy from an abstract perspective rather than just the news and events that I did before. So yes perhaps I am, but it may just be election fever and so phase out after the big day. I guess we'll see.

Front Office

It's been a week now since I moved to the front office (although of that I took two half days off). I was, at first, reluctant to move but to be honest it's not been too bad so far.

For those who don't know, the "front office" is the place in a bank or other financial institution where, in short, the business lives. This may mean traders, but it does include other things too. This is as opposed to the "back office" (where the processes to enable FO to do their job goes on) and the middle office (which, as the name implies, sits in the middle).

So yes, it's a pretty scary concept since FO is generally the bread and butter of the business and so comes with the stress and pressure. Not only that but you have "important" people breathing down your neck making you, like, do work and stuff. Work becomes less project based and hours longer.

Or so I thought. So far I've been working as I had been in BO; my hours haven't changed much and I've still been going to the gym and stuff. I've even been able to blog a few times. This week has been unusual in that the death and radio show have broken up the week, but I'm not sure whether I'm taking the pee or not but I guess I'll wait till I get a first warning before I change my ways.

The move also means that I no longer sit next to Steve. It's a temporary move (allegedly) and I have a desk waiting for me for when I return, but it's still strange not having a gossip or joke randomly during the day. We've both often talked about what it would be like not to work next to each other (although it's only been a year neither of us can remember what it's like not working next to a mate), but the move shows that it's not that bad - phones and email help when I need the odd SQL help (which isn't actually that odd).

Still, I wander over a couple of times a day; and now that we have a House of the Dead machine I've got something else to go back for. And ultimately I can't wait till I go back.

Thursday, April 14

Link Of The Day

The good people running the B4U website have finally seen fit to giving Amandeep her own set of pages:

Personally I think she looks better on Uninvited, but it's ok - I still love her.


The silly cleaner threw out my refillable drinking bottle. I now have three cups of water (to last me the morning) and I so know that I'm gonna spill one of them. Yet another consequence of moving to the front office; I'll post more towards the end of the week.

Wednesday, April 13


xxx: hey man
xxx: have ya still got that ep of uninvitted
Shak: lol. no man
Shak: sorry. if its any consolation she didnt look too good in it
Shak: ok i lie. she looked superb.
xxx: nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
xxx: what was she wearing?
xxx: punk?
Shak: lol...
Shak: theres a new ep tonight if you want to come over and watch. 10pm
xxx: if we dont do something
xxx: which is very possible
xxx: then sure
xxx: ill come
Shak: tut tut. obviously youre not committed enough

As always, names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Shakil Shaikh: Political Commentator

I spent this morning as part of an invited audience taking part in one of three national debates being held by the BBC Asian Network radio station, specifically the Sonia Deol Show. It was regarding the upcoming UK General Election, and despite not being particularly politically motivated myself, I thought it would be nice to attend and see what was happening anyway.

And it wasn't that bad. The debate itself was pretty standard fare; that is the respective party candidates slagging each other off and not really discussing the issues. I didn't really participate much since the regular topics of immigration and the Iraq war are well trodden in my opinion and so I didn't really have much to add. I did get to ask my question towards the end though, regarding the reasons for the current level of apathy in the electorate, and was relatively satisfied with the answers I received.

Apart from the discussion itself, it was also nice meeting Sonia Deol and the crew which support her that until today I only knew by name. I've always known that the show wasn't just about Sonia herself, but it was still fascinating seeing the behind-the-scenes work and effort being put in to get the show on air as well as how close the team were. They made it look so easy and like so much fun, I can't believe it's as hard as it probably is.

So yes, an interesting morning overall and one I'm definitely glad I took part in. Till next time? Totally.

Sunday, April 10

A Death In The Family

Just heard about the death of my gran in Pakistan. Isn't really appropriate to play videogames so since that leaves the PC I thought I'd get a blog in instead. And please no, it's not meant to be therapeutic...

I've only known her in Pakistan although she had come to visit us here once many moons ago. The distance and frequency with which I saw her (every two to four years or so) probably made me not as close to her as I am, say, to my maternal grandparents, but I do keep fond and dear memories of her and for me a part of my Pakistan experience is now gone.

She's really the first in my family to die - after 26 and a bit years I've been lucky enough to not have to experience any other passing. I guess I've also been prepared for this particular event; for those of you that don't know, my Dadi has been both quite ill and old recently. But for a first taste of death I think I'm handling it ok. I'm more sombre than upset, and I feel for my dad and his siblings more than I do for myself.

I'm not too sure how I'm supposed to be feeling to be totally honest. Perhaps it hasn't sunk in yet, or perhaps this is how I personally handle death (which seems to be pretty understated compared to what I've seen in others). Perhaps each person involved will invoke a different response in me or perhaps it'll hit me on my next trip to Pakistan? The most probable answer is all of the above. I guess we'll see.

I ask God to make her passing an easy one and to grant her entry to the highest level of Heaven.

New Music

Chhod Do Aanchal - Bombay Knights

A bit of an old one that I never got around to getting till now. Cheap and cheerful and to be used for a quick smile fix.

Aaaja Sohniya - Ms Scandalous

Ms Scandalous's latest currently doing the rounds. Not that a strong track, but she's strangely fit so I don't care.

Hai Hai - Punjabi Hit Squad

Another older song but this time featuring the above Ms Scandalous. Says it's the "garage" version, so not only have I succumbed to bhangra, but that also.

Help me someone, please.

Saturday, April 9

Film: Saraha Click for more info

Gung ho action fare with a bonus environmental message chucked in for free. Penélope Cruz was great, Steve Zhan hilarious and Matthew McConaughey surprisingly makes a super hero.

All in all, the film was adequately executed with all the right ingredients, but ultimately falls short of the mark which makes a great film.

Worth watching if you have a spare couple of hours.


Friday, April 8

Radio Shak, Literally

I've been invited to be a part of an audience for an upcoming radio discussion regarding the looming election. Although their request smacks of desperation, it's very flattering (even more so seeing I'm not that politically inclined) and I should really jump at the chance. Still, it's another morning off work during a busy and possibly inappropriate time, so I'm not totally sure I'll be going. But I probably will.

Shak spouting his trash over the airwaves? Heaven help us...

My First Lecture

Sometime in the past month I had to give my first lecture to a teenager. For obvious reasons I can't really go into the details, so please don't ask and please be extra vigilant if you decide to comment.

Now naturally hyper-critical as I am, I actually found this whole thing quite difficult. I had it all in my head beforehand but you can never really rehearse things like these since you can't tell how the person being lectured to will react. And then there was the niggle that it wasn't actually my place to say anything (I'm too young for this!) Add to these things the fact that I might have been a bit nervous and not particularly articulate at the time and you end with what I thought was quite the ineffective attempt at disciplining.

Growing up, I always thought that my parents were the pinnacle of development and principles, as I'm sure most kids did about theirs. You don't realise until you have to take their roles and responsibility how human they are - that the whole thing was a learning experience for them too. Did they feel as ineffectual as I did? Looking back, the similarities are there. Ok, the age differences and relationships were different in the two cases, but the issues are the same.

I guess the lesson here is that parenting, growing up, and more generally, personal development is ongoing and since none of us would have done it before our first time, mistakes might be made. Heck, I can't ever see myself as being an effective parent. And that's ok - the human being has an amazing ability to adapt and step to the mark when it's demanded of it. And adapt it will; I'm sure that the ongoing challenges that my parents faced while raising my brother and me makes them different parents now than the ones they were when I was born.

And of course the mistakes may not be as bad as you think, and could even be the opposite. Maybe I was effective and the recipient of my first lecture will change, or at the very least consider the points I made. Either way I will be keeping a close eye on them, revisiting the whole thing if necessary and hopefully in a more effective way for both of us.

Heck, I could do with the practise.

Thursday, April 7

Just Making Sure...

A ring set with a precious stone on the finger next to the pinky on the left hand means "back off", right?

... Right?

Tuesday, April 5

Shak's Choice: Sarah Carter

I defy any fan of Smallville to disagree with me on this one:

Now I realise that I'm quite the simple lad, but I'm pretty certain that it isn't just the boots which Alisha, her character in Smallville, wears. I mean she's undoubtedly pretty, petite and, well, hot, but I reckon it's actually her mixture of innocence, mischievousness and murderous tendency that gets the blood flowing. After all, what's more sexy than a psychotic imbalance? Well apart from a psychotic imbalance while wearing boots, of course...

Like I mentioned on The Collective they should so make a box set full of the episodes in which she features. Hell, they should give her her own show. I would so watch that.

New Music

Rangeen - Ali Zafar

I've never really been into the ol' Vital Signs or Junoon, but this song caught my ear. Great stuff and really catchy - I think this is a new breed of Pak mainstream pop. A new export for Pakistan perhaps? Maybe, but whether that's a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.

I Feel Wanted

So I took the morning off to do some stuff, only to get in to work with email, MSN messages and forum postings asking if I was ok and where I had been etc.

And yes, I know it's a bit self-conscious and arrogant to mention this here, but I don't care. It's nice to be missed (although perhaps they all wanted to know if it was permanent... Hmm).

Oh and just to let you know: I won't be around Thursday morning either. But please, feel free to worry anyway...

Saturday, April 2

Film: The Ring Two Click for more info

Uninspiring and thus an ultimately disappointing sequel. Lacking the authenticity and creepiness that made the first a good watch, it seems that everyone involved with this film, from the director to the actors, sold out resulting in a more mainstream (read: bad) scary movie that doesn't even try to go much further than Horror In Cinema 101.

Skip this and watch the first instead.

Friday, April 1

Phone For Sale

It what is a complete turnaround, I've decided to get rid of my fabulous new D500. After using it for a week, the cracks have begun to show. Amongst other things:

  1. The fact that it displays the surname first in the phone book.
  2. A quite crappy GPRS implementation (but admittedly better than the rest bar Sony Ericsson's).
  3. A crap WAP browser.
  4. The inability to add newly received numbers to an existing contact.
  5. The killer: Not being able to set it to vibrate and ring at the same time. I mean wtf?
All trivial things and stuff I can live with if I wanted to. But that's the point - these are all things that shouldn't be a problem after so many generations of mobile phones. They could also all be fixed in firmware, but I doubt any will be due to the previously mentioned arrogance of these phone manufacturers.

So yes, I'm running back to SE with my tail between my legs. For all their flaws, none are as annoying as the one the Sammy has. The phone I'm waiting for is the K750i, and hopefully if I sell the D500 soon I'll have enough funds to buy it outright.

Still, I should be grateful that I have so few problems in my life that I need to screw about a phone. I guess that's some consolation, but I still think that the D500 is poo.

Book: China A Macro History, Ray Huang

Who woulda thought it would be so hard finding a decent book about Chinese History? I must have spent an hour in the SOAS library searching for one, and the best I could find was this.

The author himself warns the reader that this isn't really a conventional history book and would focus on causal issues rather than timelines and facts. Nonetheless, it did present to me what I wanted, that is the events and facts of the region in a good enough chronological order, although I did have to dig past the commentary to find it.

It was generally hard to read and pretty dry, and although I recognise that is in the nature of the genre, history has been more accessible (to me, anyway) in other books. Unless you're after what this book specifically provides (and it's a very good book if so), I'd advise you to look elsewhere.


New Music

Agar Tum Mil Jao - Zeher

It's not often that I get a new song after listening to it only once. This is an example, but unfortunately it doesn't sound as good on my playlist as it did on the radio. Still it should last for a few weeks at least.

A Random Bumping

I recently wrote how (I thought anyway) I don't really have a problem talking to strangers provided I have a context to work with. This isn't really due to shyness, but rather 'cos in London it's safer to assume people want to be left alone. Of course we're not all like that; for example I don't mind and have had random conversations with people on the train before (if you're wondering, they usually involve the book that I was reading, the current delay on The Tube or even another random passenger). So yes, if someone approaches me then I'll probably respond tenfold.

Take last night as a case in point. Oxford Street Station, and I'm late(r) than usual coming home since I've been to the gym. An Epping service is on its way and I'm waiting for it listening to my music. Enter stage left, pretty looking Asian girl. Now this is quite surprising since I usually wait at the front of the train and it's usually quieter up there. The girl was obviously lost. Or so I thought.

"Excuse me, will this train get me to Gants Hill?" she asks. I explain that it wouldn't and that she'd have to wait for the HVNP service after this one. In my typical give-more-information-than-is-required fashion I also suggested that she could take the next train and change at Leytonstone since sometimes destinations change. Tenious, I know, but in this case she took the suggestion on.

So I ended up having quite pleasant company on the way home yesterday. We chatted about the book I was reading (it turns out she had no interest in Chinese history) and various other things - there were a few almost-awkward-silences but we both made efforts to avoid them.

Almost too soon, we hit Leytonstone. For those who don't know, this is where the services and so our company would diverge. Or not, as I decided to travel up to Gants Hill with my new friend. It was, after all, only a five minute bus journey away from my home.

We must have spent another half hour or so chatting at our destination station. It was one of those timeless situations which would have gone on for much longer if practicalities didn't get in the way (and no, I don't mean ER). Of course I offered to walk her home; she declined but I have a feeling that it was more out of politeness than to avoid confrontation with Super Protective Big Brother Number 2. So, a good one and a half hours after meeting and the exchanging of contact details later, we parted company.

Thinking about it the morning after, y'know, when the excitement and sheen of meeting someone new has worn off, I think I thought she was nice. I mean really nice. She was yet more proof that interesting balanced people do exist. And I'm not entirely sure yet but I think I found her attractive. Maybe.

But waiting at the bus stop it hit me: She lives in Gants Hill. And as far as I could tell, she had been for a while. Thinking about it further, she didn't have to be reminded that she had to change at Leytonstone, she had a season Oystercard and didn't seem to have luggage or any other indication that she was just visiting. Confused? I certainly was.

Still, I'm seeing her on the weekend so I guess I'll have a chance to ask her about all this. I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation for the stuff in the above paragraph - I've just no idea what it is.