Minot Flood 2011

What was once a small river running through the middle of my town has turned into a lake. 

A lake that has inundated 4,000 homes. 1,000 of these homes are not repairable as water measures 6-10 feet on the main floor. 11,000 out of 40,000 people are displaced. 300 dogs are now living in the shelter. Water for consumption needs to be boiled. Water is to be rationed, and some homes that are dry, are exactly that...without water. 

For many, this is the first day of the rest of their lives. 

Although, I am one of the lucky ones, my heart hurts for my friends and family members who are wounded emotionally. As my niece said, "I wish I could just hug my house."

The Forgotten Language

This article has also been published on the Express Tribune website:

We Pakistanis have been brought up speaking our national language Urdu and also English. Instead of conversing in Urdu, most of us lapse into English whilst having everyday conversation. Even people who do not speak English very well try their best to say a sentence or two, considering it pertinent for their acceptance in the ‘cooler’ crowd. 

I wonder where the trend started, but unknowingly, unconsciously, somehow or the other we all get sucked into the trap. So the days go by in sheer ignorance. It was only until a college trip a few years back to Turkey that I realized the misgivings of our innocent jabber.

A group of students of the LUMS Cultural Society trip went to Istanbul, Turkey to mark the 100th Anniversary of the famous Sufi poet Rumi. One day we were exploring the city when we stopped at a café for lunch. The waiter took our orders, and continued to hover around our table during the meal. We barely noticed him until he came with the bill, and asked us where we were from.

Pakistan, we mutually answered. The waiter looked surprised, and then questioned whether we had been brought up in England. We answered in the negative, telling him how Pakistan was where we all had grown up and spent out lives. The waiter genuinely looked perplexed now. Finally he blurted out, ‘Then why don’t you speak in Pakistani language?’

The waiter went on to explain how Turkey, particularly Istanbul was a hot tourist location, luring millions of people of different nationalities from across the globe. However, when the Dutch would come visit, they would speak Dutch. When the French would come, they would speak French. When the Chinese would come visit, they would speak Chinese. Similarly everyone in Turkey spoke Turkish. He claimed he was very proud of his language and culture and failed to understand how someone would not speak the language of their country and choose instead foreign linguistics.
There were around 10 of us there, and we were all at a loss of an answer. We had never thought of it that way. It was just something that you took up because it was in the society. Even when people speak in Urdu, they tend to include a lot of English words in their sentences. Why is that? Is it because we are not proud of our national language? I am sure all of us are aware of how beautiful Urdu is, the poetry, grace and rhythm of our language is exceptional.

One excuse that springs to mind is the concept of ‘westernization’ due to the increased pace of globalization in todays world. Globalization is a factor, and yet the Japanese still speak Japanese, the Thai still speak Thai, the Greeks still speak Greek. China, a powerhouse on the global economic front, despite its many factories and western products production still speaks Chinese. In fact when the Chinese Olympics were held in 2008, the Chinese government actually had to ask its Chinese public to learn a few basic English words to help welcome the world.

I respect how these countries value their sense of identity, culture and language. I was deeply ashamed of what image I was unknowingly portraying of my country. I am very proud of Pakistan and Urdu, as I am sure you all are. No matter the problems, it is still our identity. I understand the irony of this article, since it is written in English. However, it is one way to reach those people who may unconsciously be making the same mistake as I was.

When living in the UK or traveling abroad, I make sure I use Urdu to converse with fellow Pakistanis. At home, I am also trying, though it is admittedly difficult since apparently there is a weird and honestly ‘sad’ association of how ‘cool’, well brought-up and educated a person is with the amount of English he or she speaks. I write this article because it is high time we break such ignorant patterns in our society. Urdu is a beautiful and graceful language and we owe our country the respect it deserves by speaking and portraying our true roots. Kiya khayal hai?


Poetry has been defined to be the language of God, such is its beauty. I have always found it to be fascinating, considering how it allows you to unleash your emotions and thoughts so powerfully yet gracefully. I have previously been a bit hesitant in sharing my poems, considering their personal nature and intensity. However, now it is about high time that I started sharing a few on my blog. I love to dance, and the poem below was written by me a few years back, with the intention to highlight my love for music and dance, which are both the languages of the soul.

Somewhere down the line, I forgot it all,
Somewhere down the line, I took the fall.
Somewhere down the line, I forgot to live,
Somewhere down the line, I stopped to get but increased to give.

And then I started to dance,
Lost in the hypnotic beat, caught in a trance.
Things I could not understand, mysteries I could not explain,
I danced to forget, to ease the pain.

My soul moved, my body swayed,
Pain cut through my heart like a sharp blade.
I closed my eyes and lived the song,
I could have danced all life long.

The music consoled, it tried to heal,
All the incredible pain I could feel.
I whirled around with the beat,
Lost, my body moved with my feet.
The music was kind, it soothed my soul,
It tried its best to play a healing role.
Holding out, it took my hand,
It made me soar, high above land.

I danced with the moon, I danced with the stars,
Which swirled around my head like a garland of flowers.
Slowly I began to smile,
The beat took over for a while.

No strength left, I succumbed to fate,
As the music lead me through heaven’s gate.
I talked to the angels, I asked them why,
They didn’t help when they saw me cry.

The angels smiled kindly yet I couldn’t hear their reply,
The music had taken me again off to fly.
We swim through the ocean of dreams,
So deep I could almost escape the painful screams.

Twist and turn, move and twist,
Lost, forgotten in the hazy mist.
I danced to forget, I danced to live,
To the universe myself to give.

The universe kindly let me in,
My lips curled slightly in a small grin.
The music, the dance, I adored.
Despite the pain still there, still uncured.

The music lured me, I continued to fall,
I gave my heart, my soul, I gave it my all.
It was my escape, this hypnotic trance,
Uninhibited, I confess I love to dance.


Miss Mannequin, as you may have gathered has little need for sleep. This is especially handy in a city that also never sleeps; for there is so much that must be seen and done.

New York City's vibrant energy, rapid pulse and constantly morphing retail landscape invite me to explore every neighbourhood, cool hunting out little tidbits of style for you, dear reader.

You may think I'm an uptown girl, but you'd be wrong to pigeonhole me so quickly. DownTown, remains for me the most rewarding part of Manhattan where boundaries are pushed ever outwards and streets appropriated one by one into the marvellous theatre that is New York. I would not even be offended to be labelled bridge and tunnel these days, for DUMBO, Williamsburg, Cobble Hill and many more "villages" quicken to pulse and please the eye as much as any polished area on Manhattan Island itself.

Billy Reid


Partners and Spade
Miss Mannequin took little hikes between coffee bar and teashop, soaking up new retail views and seeking out the unusual. I also saw a number of great exhibitions: Richard Serra drawings at the MET, Lynda Benglis's glitter encrusted shapes dripping from the Walls of the New Museum and Ren Koolhaus's Chronocaos exhibit in the Bowery, which turned vintage on it's head pondering the question, at what point does authenticity meet gentrification: one mans renovation is another mans preservation I guess!

All Saints
My brief trip revealed that MEATPACKER powers ever on, populating it's cobbled streets with store after store of upwardly mobile brands and concepts. Miss Mannequin applauded the windows at Anthropologie - a sensational tribute to cork! NOLITA continues to have the sweetest little boutiques, cute and girly, with cupcakes and flat whites on virtually every corner. NOHO is acquiring some great new spaces, mixed retail concepts and the stores with edgier labels (all this makes for fabulous and creative presentation). The BOWERY resonates with gritty energy, arty installations and long walks to secure small nuggets of edginess. The LOWER EAST SIDE never misses...defiantly exciting the senses with unique concept stores and newbie brands galore, whilst away off the island...WILLIAMSBURG's gentle low rise laid back hipster style enthrals and intrigues you all at once.

John Varvartos at CBGB's
Long may the edgier areas survive and prosper, each bringing unique flavour to the bland mainstream and genuinely creative thought to fashion, retail and in my case visual presentation....NEW YORK, I salute you.

Bedford Cheese Shop
McNally's Book Store

Uptown Girl

As if straight out an chapter of Sex and the City, Miss Mannequin is most at home sashaying up Madison Avenue in some frivolously delicious outfit, dangling a presumptuous handbag from one wrist whilst window shopping with the best of them. 
The opportunity therefore, to bring you an update from uptown was just too good to miss, I caught a cab over to the Metropolitan Museum and after viewing the McQueen Retrospective, meandered happily back down Madison Avenue towards Barneys. Weather perfect and footwear fine, I soon noted a curious parade of well-heeled women leading small dogs, all of whom appeared to be wearing shoes! Manolas for dogs? well not exactly: more like exquisite baby bootees in every style and colour under the sun. I later discovered a doggie spa...yes really (on Lafayette St), complete with tiny pooch being given a massage on a proper spa bed in the glass fronted sanctuary. The array of day beds and doggie couture was fascinating. See more at their website Urban Canis
The Urban Canis Doggie Spa
Poochie Posing Couch!
On the whole Madison I have to say was tame. It was everything I have come to expect from this area of New York...and nothing more. Luxurious, discreet and attentive service, invisibility of price tags (well, if you need to ask)! all concur to assure one that you have arrived. However arriving was exactly the problem...there were few customers that I could see in any of the stores. Interiors, presentation, windows...all tame. Pared back? or simply boring? I could not make up my mind. Barneys was it's usual lovely self. Again however, restrained rather than edgy...it left Miss Mannequin sadly uninspired. This said, I do have to comment that I wholly admire the standard of dressing at Ralph Lauren. Always perfectly presented, restrained chic, never deviating from the groomed formula.
Exquisite attention to detail at Ralph Lauren

Distinctive styling at Ralph Lauren Home
Trotting across to 5th Avenue, the crowd-swell picked up a little. A Plus-Star (as always), to the windows at Bergdorfs, showing the McQueen outfits that didn't quite make it to the MET retrospective. The beautiful Takishamaya store has now become Forever 21 (a bit like having Primark on Old Bond St really)! Remarkably busy, just slightly out of place. The Hollister storefront beguiled me: a flat screen facade of monitors channeling a live feed of surfers from Huntingdon beach. Hollister shopfront  The interiors echoed a pier at dusk, drawing the customer unknowingly into this total retail experience. Not the most exciting product...but top marks for first rate concept and presentation. On the whole 5th Avenue felt very conservative. The stores all seemed to have the same collection of merchandise, same colours, laid out in the same way. The windows still filled with gloss white Schlappi style figures, few realistic mannequins...and these were generally a lacklustre very obvious wig and boring make up. Bustforms mostly showing vintage finishes or clean calico covered. i wish i could tell you otherwise!  
Bergdorf Goodman windows - showing McQueen Archive on a floor covered in white roses dripping in wax
Shopping is all well and good, but I have to say the highlight of the day for Miss Mannequin was the Dawn raid on the MET, in order to be first in line on day three of Savage Beauty - The Alexander McQueen Retrospective. Stunning, emotional, overwhelming, simply gorgeous are all words that come to mind: truly this is a breathtaking exhibit. Six rooms of sartorial magnificence, each as glorious as the last. This man's work takes ones breath away at times...as indeed does the exhibit setting created here. My very good friends at proportion london created the bustforms for the tailoring room, darkly distressed, they presented the outfits well. Get on a plane and go see this show...for I am informed that it is very unlikely to travel to the UK. 
Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
View Curator Andrew Boulton walking and talking you through the collection at this link Savage Beauty Tour 
Further adventures tomorrow, when i'll tell you what happened when I explored downtown and joined the "bridge and tunnel" gang!

I'll take Manhattan!

It really was just too dull (after that wonderful wedding last month) to be sitting around Mannequin Towers moping about failing to catch the bouquet (that Chelsey has sharp elbows, I'll say)! My new beau METROpolitan man, sulked all the way home because Pippa didn't catch his eye at the reception: Well really, what did he expect, with half of Bougies in attendance!

To quell my boredom, I booked a flight to New York to do some retail research and bring you the latest news from the other side of the pond: and Who better qualified as commentator on all things shopping than I? (if only they would make it an Olympic sport, I'd be in with a gold medal chance next Summer)!

Lobby at The Ace Hotel
Staying mid-town, my common-room de jour
was the extremely fabulous Ace Hotel www.acehotel.com/newyork
On track (at 29th and Broadway) and on trend as the hottest room in Manhattan at present, the lobby was the epitome of cool, heaving with arty types blogging, skyping, coffeeing and generally checking each other out. This hub of urban connectivity has the best decorated rooms, 2 great restaurants, coffee shop supreme and two of the best new boutique concepts in NYC now (Project No.8 and Opening Ceremony). 


Graffiti walls at the beautifully decorated Ace Hotel

Upon arrival, I hit the ground running; spending four days strolling the streets, sauntering the sidwewalks and checking out...well the checkouts! So, here's my little take on Life in the Big Apple at present.

The most obvious trait Miss Mannequin noted straight off was the serious sting recession has left on the city. Empty shopfronts in previously busy areas alarmed and this I guess is further exacipated by the development of online retail. Conversely, I saw newer retail areas that were positively thriving: lower rents, creative retail concepts and plenty of trendy eateries all contributed. Much like London, the spread of must-see areas sprawls ever wider across Manhattan (and indeed out over the bridges) in a series of connected villages, each a piece of the retail action.

Madison Square Gardens

Interestingly, NYC has never struck me as being a laid back, stress free kind of place. this trip, I was struck by the bike lanes! Yes really...200 miles of them, in prep for a proposed public bike scheme which could start as early as Spring 2012. Secondly, divided off section of avenues, furnished with (alarmingly green) cafe tables and chairs caught my eye. People loved it...they socialised in the sunshine, chatting and laughing and not looking particularly eager to jump for the clock! Was this really clockwatching, time is money New York? This air of laid-backness was further enhanced by the sheer amount of urban art and plantings! Giant coloured metal roses appeared to blow along Park Avenue, a serene elongated head was parked centre of Madison Square Gardens, the Highline (a repurposed train track above the meatpacker district) buzzed with urban sunbathers and small children pic-nicing with their parents! Miss Mannequin was impressed.  

The HighLine - a whole new world above the Meatpacker District
Back in retail-land the stores were far from busy in the traditional old school shopping areas. Staff were uber-attentive and there was not an afternoon that passed where (almost in a synchronised action) wine and cupcakes where whipped out from under a counter at 3pm on the dot. I chanced upon five such parties in three days! I had the impression that an by 5pm the streets would be filled with tipsy women staggering home loaded with totally inappropriate purchases!

Tomorrow I shall give you the Uptown retail round-up and tell you about my trip to the MET (for the Alexander McQueen Retrospective).

until then good evening...or as i believe they say in New York, Hang Loose Dude!