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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Beauty, Health & Parenting

I would love to be able to tell my ten-year-old daughter that looks don't matter but my mom taught me not to lie. The unfortunate truth is that we are all effected by looks. We all judge the book by it's cover whether we own up to it or not. The sad truth is that better looking people get better jobs, better pays and have more "friends" or rather more people interested in associating with them.

I am trying to keep a balance by not obsessing over my own looks. I don't wear make-up except occasionally. I don't wear heels because I like my feet. (Find it odd that most women shudder at ancient Chinese foot binding yet willingly totter around in high heels.) I don't fawn over pretty clothes but that being said I am as prone as most people these days with trying to "stay fit" by exercising regularly. Just the other day, I was complaining about how I can't seem to lose the extra inches from my tummy and my daughter asked why I needed to lose it. A question that had me flummoxed. According to my doctor, I am the perfect body weight for my age and body type so why do I obsess with my stomach?Of course, it's because I am as easily influenced by media images as everyone else. I am ashamed to admit that I would love to emerge out of the water at the beach sporting a body like Halle Berry and have my husband's eyes glaze over. But these are vulnerabilities I don't want my daughter to learn or watch me display. All I want her to learn is the importance of staying healthy and just as importantly, happy.

My son, on the other hand, couldn't care less about his own looks or anyone else's but even as I cheer for his attitude, my mother's heart worries that people might judge his wild, curly hair and his first-thing-I-could lay-my-hands-on style of dressing but than I have to remind myself not to curb my son's devil may care spirit. After all, isn't that precisely the attitude towards looks I wish we all had!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Books, Walks and Scribbles

This summer has been truly wonderful; filled with travel, camping and best of all long, lazy summer days with my kids.  We went for long walks in the ravine behind our house and I spent many hours reading. Here are some of the books I read this summer. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did though of all the books I read, my four favourites were The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,And the Mountains Echoed,In the Shadow of the Banyan and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan while Room was the most gripping as well as disturbing.

The Danger of a Single Story

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Long Enough

It's taken years for me to realize that only good memories are worth keeping

It's taken years for me to realize that I am responsible for controlling my sad thoughts

It's taken years for me to realize mean words fade away if you release them from your mind

It's taken years for me to realize that there is more love than hate; more joy than sadness and life though short has been long enough to give me time to realize this much.

Think Twice

Sunday afternoon, my family and I were walking to a restaurant in downtown Toronto,when a man on the street shouted out at us that "Maybe my people should also become terrorists like your people". My husband and 9 and 11 year-old kids, did not hear it but I was stunned by the absurdity of the comment and started laughing. My husband immediately wanted to know what I was laughing about.
Monday evening, I heard what happened at the Boston Marathon, I felt for the lives lost especially the 8-year-old child and for those who suffered terrible injuries. Runners who might have lost limbs. Men and women who worked to build their strength who will have to re-learn how to live.
I thought about other children around the world who lose their lives everyday either because of terrorism or as part of the " collateral damage" caused by  anti-terrorism. It doesn't matter where it happens whether it is Boston or Karachi or Baghdad; human life is precious irrespective of colour or religion. It is the innocent who suffer everywhere -the little kids, the bystanders trying to live their lives - the ones who are not out on a moral crusade trying to prove a point or right wrongs by blowing other people up.
I have always been naive. I have always had a hard time trying to understand human cruelty but I feel that most of this terrorism is a result of people on a campaign to do what they perceive to be the right thing whether it be Bush showing Saddam by bombing Iraqis to the dark ages or Osama Bin Ladin showing America by orchestrating the Twin Towers collapse.
Whatever the colour of your passport, whatever the colour of your skin, whatever your religion - think twice before trying to teach anyone else a lesson. Perhaps that moment when you are most convinced of your righteousness is the moment when you should be most fearful of doing the wrong thing. Wasn't it Mark Twain who remarked,"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." It is a simple idea after all, to try your best not to hurt anyone.


Both my grandmothers told stories of India. My Dadi of the village she grew up in and the places she lived in with my Dada who worked for the Survey of India. Her stories were of Allahbad, Ahmedabad, Chittagong, Calcutta. My Nani's stories were of Old Delhi with names like Matya Mahal, Chandni Chowk and vacations in Simla and boat houses on Dal Lake, Kashmir.

Their post-Partition stories were of places closer to home (Pakistan), places I knew but it was always the stories of India that captured my imagination. In their stories, India took on a character so diverse and mysterious that my mind raced to keep up. I would love to spend time travelling India to see all the places my grandmothers mentioned but I am sure the reality will not match my mental images. The era that my grandmothers talked of is long gone, and so are the ladies who weaved those stories for me. The places they spoke of seemed far away and magical because of the wistful timbre that my grandmothers' voices took on when speaking of them. Their stories were of a time when photographs were scarce though I now wish that they had had pictures to show me. Would we be better able to chronicle our time because of all this technology or perhaps because we can show pictures, we don't take the time to tell as many stories?

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Best Love Story

My Nana died of leukaemia in his early fifties. Often my Nani would turn framed photographs of him over to face the wall instead of us. I once asked why she did that and she responded that she missed him too much. She, herself had cancer and in the last stages when the pain was too much too bear and the doctors would not give her anything stronger for fear of killing her, she would call out to him, "Sabir Sahib, mujhay aa kar lay jayain. Yah log mujhay thang kartay hain."

My Nana and Nani's love story was always the best love story for me. I  loved to hear how Nana handed over his Harley Davidson to his older brother and bought a small two-person car so that he and Nani could drive around Hyderabad Daccan on their own minus the chaperoning eyes of his sister before they got married and all this in conservative pre-partition early 1940's India. I loved to hear of how he and Nani both planned on going to England to study medicine. He to be a doctor and she a nurse. The story always ended on a low note when Nani would recount how she turned down  the scholarship she received because her father who despite having himself  spent a number of years studying at Lincoln's Inn; asked her not to go, she obeyed. Each time, she recounted that I felt a surge inside me, a wish that she had defied her father and followed her dream.

Nana eventually joined the British India Army. Nana and Nani married in a hurried ceremony in 1947 with their world falling apart around them. With the creation of Pakistan, most of their family migrated to Pakistan under horrendous circumstances. Nana's parents were killed and his sister went missing while on a train to Pakistan. Nana and Nani spent the first year of their marriage in Hyderabad Deccan looking for Nana's sister because someone mentioned that they might have seen her there. They never found her and when they moved to Pakistan, Nana lost seniority in the Pakistan Army as a penalty for joining a year late.

Nani would always recount their years in the Army like fairy tale years with adventurous postings and interesting people. Now that I am older, I appreciate her zest for life and her love for her man because instead of enjoying their various postings, she could have moaned the hardship of the constant moves and the instability of their lives but to her it was all one big adventure with her love.

But the fairy tale years did not last for long, Nana was diagnosed with leukaemia and died when he was just fifty-one. Even that the two of them turned into an adventure. Nani had a beautiful colonial house up in Abbotabad (yes, the now infamous Abbotabad of Osama Bin Laden fame) perched on a mountain overlooking Abbot house (Abbotabad was named after the british guy who owned Abbot house) and the two of them would pack a picnic lunch with sandwiches and a thermos of tea and drive around their property in their volkwagon chasing the Sun to keep warm.

I often wish that Nana had lived longer so that Nani and him could have gone on that trip to Europe that he had promised her but aren't all the best love stories, tragedies?

My Nana was a strikingly handsome man and because he died before my birth, the only image I have of him are framed pictures in my mother's and my Nani's home. Forever young; forever handsome!

I am fast approaching forty now and find myself increasingly nostalgic for my Nani, her friends, her cooking, her home and the love she gave so many of us. I don't quite believe in an afterlife but for Nani I do hope that Nana and her are together. For some love stories, even an eternity together would not be long enough.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Celebratory firing

Opened up a Pakistani paper this morning and read about one dead and thirty injured due to celebratory firing. "Celebratory firing" - really? In a country where so many die needlessly everyday due to terrorism, negligence, poverty, drone attacks, and crime; do we really need to celebrate the birth of our nation like this? Why can we not celebrate by doing something constructive and positive rather than firing into the air? Disrupting the peace and posing a danger to ourselves and others- is this a measure of our love for our country?  How about next 14th August, everyone pick up garbage off the streets instead or plant or adopt a tree in the neighbourhood?

Makes me shudder to think that one day,  someone will open the paper to discover that we nuked ourselves in celebration!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Oh, deer!

This year has been our year for being outdoors. We have seen so many animals from deer and beavers in the ravine behind our place to humpback whales and pelicans further afield. There is something truly wondrous about being outdoors. A deep satisfaction,  a resounding contentment that being indoors just never brings about. Perhaps it's the child-like wonder at the immensity and beauty around us or the distance the outdoors provides from emails, phone calls and Facebook notifications. Perhaps, it's a blessing that my phone keeps crashing saving me from being connected while out there.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Fasting with Ali

Ali, our 11 year-old, decided that he wants to try fasting this year and so early this morning all four of us had sehri. I woke up at 3:30 to prepare the crepes Ali and Zara had asked for and the two paratas and fried eggs Nasir wanted. It felt strange to me, waking up before the other three to prepare sehri. When I fasted with my parents at home, it was always the house help that woke up earlier to prepare sehri for us. I remember I always wondered how they did it. Didn't they mind waking before us and then staying up after us to clear and clean up. Now I know, it's not that hard. A person does what a person has to do and I liked getting up earlier to prepare sehri for all of us. I enjoyed my bit of pampering them. :-) But that being said I have only done this once thus the novelty value, if I had to do it every night, resentment might start setting in.

Nasir has gone to work and it will be hard for him not to smoke. He has already declared today's fast is a one time event. Let's see how Ali does and if he wants to fast tomorrow.

I am not religious anymore so I'd be happy either way whether he continues to fast or calls it quits. I want the children to know a bit about the religion they were born to but I refuse to try and indoctrinate them on things I myself doubt. I am not sure if this is the right attitude. Perhaps we should be trying to give them a stronger sense of Islam and then allow them to decide whether they want to adopt it for themselves or not. The discussions in our home are agnostic in nature and that is the frame of thinking that our kids are exposed to. Nasir and I both believe in morality but agree that morality is independent of religion. I personally, would like the children to be good people; honest, caring and kind but do not feel that that necessitates religion. I suppose only time can tell whether we are making the right choices in bringing up our children and of course there is no way to ever be completely sure of what the best way is; it being impossible to travel down all roads to see where each choice leads.