Emotion: The winning curve! By Yasmin Elahi | From InpaperMagzine | 24th October, 2010

The little boy’s smile was as infectious as the flu. Squeezed in the narrow bus seat which I shared with his mother, he gave me a bright smile every time our eyes met. And his smile was as full of life as could be! In spite of my bad mood, I could not help smiling right back at him.

It was one of those days which begin on a wrong note. I had invited some guests for dinner, and also had an appointment with my dentist. To my dismay, the maid failed to turn up. Hurriedly finishing the extra work, I stepped into the kitchen to prepare dinner. But to my disappointment, I found myself short of a number of ingredients for the dishes I had planned to serve. After making a list of the things I had to get from the superstore on my way back from the dentist I started out.
The buses were all overcrowded and after a long wait in the hot sun, I was able to board one of them. So, I was not in a particularly good mood but the child’s innocent smile somehow did wonders for my spirits. On reaching my destination, I tenderly patted his cheek, “You made my day!” I told him as I got up from my seat. Not understanding what I meant, he gave me another of his lively smiles.

A smile is the most positive emotion we possess. All of us have our share of bad days, days when nothing seems to be going right. We cannot control what is happening around us but we can control our reactions to these circumstances. A smile eases many a difficult situations. They say that it takes seventeen muscles to smile and forty-three to frown. So, why waste that extra energy on a negative emotion which would do us no good. In fact, it only helps to worsen the situation. Instead of feeling blue and giving in to depression, isn’t it better to face the circumstances with a cheerful demeanour?

Reminiscing on the powers of a happy smile, I continued my day in a much better frame of mind. Getting over with the dentist, I reached the supermarket and quickly loaded my trolley with the grocery I needed. The line at the billing counter was moving at a snail’s pace, as the lady at the counter was very slow. I waited impatiently in the queue for my turn, my mind full of the undone chores I had left behind at home.

The woman behind me seemed equally restless. Shuffling on her feet, she bumped her trolley into me. Irritated, I turned around and was about to say something rude, a frown of displeasure on my face. But I bit my tongue just in time. My anger disappeared as the middle-aged woman smiled apologetically and said sorry. Strangely the smiling face of the little boy in the bus came to my mind. Almost grudgingly, I found myself smiling back at her and nodding my head as if to acknowledge her apology.

A smile is a curve which is the shortest distance between two persons. It is a language which is not spoken anywhere but still understood all over the world. It costs nothing but gives away much. A balm for a weary soul, a ray of sunshine for those who are surrounded by the dark shadows of depression, a smile is a message of cheerfulness for the gloomy. It is a magic potion which can heal many woes and soothe many troubles. Sometimes when we cannot express ourselves properly and we grope for words, a smile comes in to save the situation.

We may not have the teeth fit for a toothpaste ad, or be as good looking as all of us would love to be, but a smile is the cheapest and most readily available option which beautifies the most ordinary looks. It does to our face what the best beautician in town and the most expensive cosmetics cannot do.

According to Dale Carnegie, “A smile costs nothing but creates much. It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever”.
So, the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation, try to keep your smile intact. Things may work out better and the winning curve on your lips could set a lot of things straight.

MAKE WAY, PLEASE! My old article in The Review (Dawn in page magazine)

The wailing sirens of the ambulance always render me uneasy. I glance restlessly out of the window of my car wishing that I had the Alladin’s Genie and could remove all obstacles from the ambulance’s path. “Make way please, for Heaven’s sake, make way!” an inner voice inside me cries out as I make a silent prayer, “Please God, whoever is in this ambulance, take care of him (or her) and let him reach the hospital (or home) before it is too late!

I was not so sensitive to ambulances until a few years ago. Although I felt a curiosity about the person in it and his predicament, the death of my father changed my attitude permanently. Strangely, my experience of the ambulance is not of hope but of despair, a journey not towards life but towards death!

Daddy was suffering from ulcerative colitis since the last couple of decades and finally, one day, after extensive bleeding, he was rushed to the hospital. His doctor was kind but practical, “There is nothing much that can be done any more, so it would be better if you take your father home and make him as comfortable as possible”. That was my first experience of an ambulance. Realizing the hopelessness of his situation (and to save him from undue pain), we brought back our dying Daddy home.

After coming home he slipped into a daze like condition, the tide of life ebbing away from him slowly and silently, while I and my siblings waited in anguish for the end. Then we made a great blunder! In a last ditch attempt to save Daddy’s life, we took him to another hospital, another doctor who advised a battery of tests (which we foolishly thought would help him in someway).     Daddy’s frail body just couldn’t bear this pain and on the very next day, he lay on the hospital bed, a dying man, and all of us watching him helplessly. His blood pressure and heartbeat were sinking and breathing was laborious, but his deep eyes were still full of life as he gazed accusingly at me and my brother. “Why did you do this to me? Didn’t I always tell you that I don’t want to die in a hospital?” the silent question in his eyes tormented us as we stood beside his bed ridden with guilt.

 The doctor who came in to check Daddy declared in a voice devoid of any emotions, “A few minutes, maybe an hour”.  With this heart breaking news he left the room. How could our loving Daddy (the father who had urged, coaxed and bullied us all his life to bring out the best from us) be left to die in such cold hands, the question seemed to torture each one of us as we prayed silently.

Suddenly and miraculously, Daddy’s blood pressure and heart beat started to revive and his breathing eased. My eyes met over my brother’s over the hospital bed and he nodded silently. The decision had been made! We were taking Daddy home to fulfill his wish, to let him die peacefully at home and in his bed.

I will never be able to forget the painful journey back from the hospital. We had no idea whether Daddy would make it or not but we had to try! We owed this to our father. I kept on feeling his heart beat and breathing, wincing at every bump on the road, pleading in my heart to every vehicle on the road to move aside and praying silently, “ Please Allah, spare him some more time, please don’t let him die in this ambulance”.

My brave and strong willed father successfully made the journey home and died the next day, peacefully in his bed, as he had always wished!

Sometimes we have to go through similar circumstances before we understand what other people feel. Without meaning ill, we are simply in such a hurry to reach our destination that we do not stop or make way for an ambulance to pass by speedily. Reaching a meeting on time, being punctual to the dentist and making sure our children are not late for school is definitely important but it is not important when a human life is at stake!

We should be sure to make way for an ambulance because the person within it is not going on a joy ride! He may have had a heart attack, a brain or heart stroke, or may be a victim of a major road accident causing extensive blood loss (or any other medical emergency). Each and every moment maybe precious, either pulling him towards life or pushing him towards death!

Often, we hear stories about people who died simply because they could not reach the hospital on time, or those who were just a few minutes late causing irreparable brain damage and surviving in a vegetative state. In my opinion these saved lives are worse than the lives lost!

I plead to everyone who is on the road to slow down, to make way whenever they hear the wail of the ambulance. A few moments sometimes make a world of difference for the person in it, (whether it is a journey towards life or towards death), and also for those who love him dearly! Please make sure to make way before the wail of the ambulance turns into the wails of an anguished mother, a bereaved wife or shattered children. Today the person in the ambulance may be a stranger to us but tomorrow it could be me, it could be you, or it could be someone very near and dear to our hearts!



THE MODERN CINDERELLA (an old article in The Review.. Dawn)

The news of Rubina’s divorce was sad, but I knew my college friend too well to be surprised. She was a day dreamer and never tired of talking about her ideal, whom she was going to find somewhere and some day (and perhaps somehow), tie the nuptial knot and live happily with, ever after. After university was over, she turned down many good proposals because the man demanding her hand did not match her ideal. But after her parents had had enough of her idealistic views, they decided to put their foot down.

Rubina reluctantly had to succumb to their pressure and consent to the proposal of Sajid. He was an average looking man, who lived in an average house and had an average income. But Rubina’s parents felt he had a bright future as he was well qualified and very hard working. Rubina just couldn’t compromise with her marriage and the loss of her ideal, holding a grudge in her inner heart against Sajid, for proposing and marrying her. All his efforts to please her and lead a normal married life went in vain. The sad end was inevitable!

As children all of us have heard the tale of Cinderella. We have read it out to our children when we became mothers and some of us may have told it to their grandchildren. The tale holds a universal charm and no one can resist falling in love with Cinderella, the beautiful but oppressed girl, who was abused and maltreated by her stepmother and scorned by her step sisters.

Unhappy because she had been left behind, while her stepsisters happily proceeded to the ball (where the Prince was about to chose his bride), Cinderella was helped by her fairy god-mother. Her rags were transformed into a beautiful gown, a pumpkin into a carriage and rats into horses. She went to the ball looking and feeling like a princess and immediately won the heart of the Prince. Whenever we read the fairy tale we sympathize with her and feel happy and relieved when in the end of the story she has the final laugh.

The modern Cinderella is just the opposite of the legendary Cinderella. The temperament of the simple girl, who lost her glass slipper in her hurry to reach home before the fairy god-mother’s charm expired, is nowhere to be found now. Instead of the Prince Charming, who combed the city in search of the beautiful young owner of the lost slipper, and who he had decided to marry, our modern Cinderella has taken just the opposite role!

The ideal sherwani has taken the place of the delicate slipper and the modern lass is in quest of her Prince Charming who will fit into it. Her requirements are unrealistic and sometimes bizarre! She is in search of a tall, broad, dashing young man who has charming manners, an income exceeding the six digit number, lives in a sprawling mansion and drives the latest model of aToyotaor Honda Accord (or better still a BMW). When she finds the Prince Charming who fits into her imaginary sherwani, she ties the knot with him hoping to live happily ever after.

There are times when the modern Cinderella tires or is disheartened because her search is not successful. Sometimes she has to give in to family pressure and is forced to soften her stance, let go of some of the qualities of her ideal Prince and settle for a bit less. Although the ideal sherwani does not fit the Prince properly, she chooses to look away. But in her inner heart she holds a deep grudge against life (and her spouse), and this sense of disappointment prevents her from enjoying the pleasures life gives her. Often her marriage (which she considers a compromise) is not as successful as Cinderella once dreamt about and in her frustration she ends it on the pettiest of pretext (one of the reasons why we see a rising ratio of broken or unsuccessful marriage in our society).

What our modern Cinderella fails to realize is that no one is perfect in this World and the Prince Charming she is searching for,  only exists in fairy tales. But since life is not a fairy tale there is nothing like an “ideal” or “they lived happily ever after”! Though we are free to dream, we should realize that all our dreams can not come true. Many compromises have to be made in a married life and many flaws of a spouse have to be overlooked. A successful life is not one in which we get whatever we desire or dream of, but one in which we make the most of all that which life gives us!

The key to a content and happy marriage is to make the most of our Prince-not-so-Charming’s best traits and adjusting to his short comings and realizing the fact that in his turn he is also doing the same!  

Dil to har baat pe rone ke bahaane maange! (For my friends who can not read Urdu)

Hum to hanste hain faqat chahne waalon ke lye
Dil tou har baat pe rone ke bahaane maange

Talkhiy e zeest se ghabraye to ae dil hum ne
Meethi neendon se kuch khwaab suhaane maange

Hathkari pesh ki maange jo kabhee bhee gehne
Qaid rakhne ko bhee sayyad bahaane maange

Log bhule hain tera qissa tou hairaan kyun hai?
Nit naye roz ye dunya to fasaane maange

Dard se yun hua maanus ke gaane ke lye
Dil mera roz naye ghum ke taraane maange

Dil e betaab ko milta hi nahin mehfil mein qaraar
Dur weeraanon mein mujh se ye thikaane maange

Gar wo mil jayein kahin dar hai ke machal jaye na dil
Kin ghumon ka hisaab unse na jaane maange

Roz dete hain naye is ko khilone phir bhee
Dil wo ziddi hai ke bachpan ke zamaane maange!

Confessions of a Grandmother!

The perfect day to reblog this one… dedicated to my Grand daughter Sadia… on her Birthday

Yasmin Elahi

REFLECTIONS: Confessions Of A Grandmother

Yasmin Elahi writes on the joys of becoming a grandparent

There are some sentiments in life too great to be described in words. We search for them but find them too weak to express our feelings. Holding your first child in your arms, or for that matter just knowing that he or she is on the way, is one of those sentiments.

When my eldest daughter was born, I thought that no happiness I shall ever witness in life would be greater than this one, but oh, how wrong I was! Pure ecstasy was still in store for me and I learnt this when my first granddaughter was born.

To this day I cannot analyse my feelings when I first saw her. It was joy to the limit of agony, awe, a strange sense of nostalgia for the time which had flown away so quickly…

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It defies age! It defies time! It defies distances! This is what your relationship with an elder sister is about! When you are young, all day long you quarrel and argue with her over petty matters, you are not on speaking terms the whole day, but as night falls, you snuggle close to her in bed. In the darkness a hand reaches out to you and the next moment you are in each others arms, giggling at the absurdity of your fights.
Your first childhood memories other than those of your parents are the loving face of your sister. She is quick to lend a helping hand whenever you need it, hugging you when you fall and bruise your knees, encouraging you when you are depressed because you did not do well at that Maths test and briskly hiding from Mummy’s eyes the silk dress you tore at the wedding. She is a friend, a mentor and your blind supporter.
But when it comes to please Mom and Dad she is your fierce competitor as well! She will try her best to outclass you. Whether it is clearing up the bedroom you share with her, offer a helping hand to Mummy in the kitchen or polishing Daddy’s shoes, she will strive hard to outdo you on all fronts, just to win a better place in your parent’s eyes.
At home she might bully you and boss you around, making you do the little chores you are too lazy (or hate) to do. But once you step outside the security of home, she becomes your fierce supporter, sheltering you against all harm, shielding you in the small quarrels you pick up with your peers. One moment a friend, the other a foe, this love you- hate you relationship continues till you grow up.
Time flies! Before you know it, the day when she will move out of the parental home arrives. She might be going to another city for higher studies or to join a new job or maybe she is getting married and shifting to her new home. The news of her leaving home open up new vistas in your mind! Thank God, you will have the room for your own and no one to share the wardrobe with. No more taking and obeying orders, with threats that the case would be taken to the Supreme Court (Mummy and Daddy), if you do not oblige. The positive points keep on popping into your head and you can not wait for the day when she would be gone.
But alas! The day she moves out you start missing her badly. All the fights are forgotten and you only remember her love and support. Days grow longer without her and at night you feel lonely and hug her pillow, just because her sweet smell is still lingering in it. You miss her loving touch, the laughter and senseless chatting you shared with her.
An elder sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. To the outside world you may grow old, but not to an elder sister. She is the only one who doesn’t get bored if you talk about your childhood memories and shared events. With her, you live outside the touch of time. Even after you yourself have become a Granny, she will pamper you like a child when you meet her after years, scold you for being careless about your health; cook your favourite dish for you and make you eat it until you feel like throwing up.
A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life. She knows you and your childhood secrets. She shares with you family jokes and feuds; family joys and sorrows. Even after you have grown up, it’s hard to be responsible, adult and sensible all the time. But with a sister you can always behave as you like, because only she understands the child deep inside you who refuses to grow up! How good it is to have a sister whose heart is as young as your own! An older sister is Allah’s special gift, a friend and defender – a listener, a counsellor and a sharer of delights. And sorrows too!

دل تو ہر بات پہ رونے کے بہانے مانگے

ہم تو ہنستے ہیں فقط چاہنے والوں ک لئے
دل تو ہر بات پہ رونے کے بہانے مانگے

تلخیٴ زیست سے گھبرا ئے تو اے دل ہم نے
میٹھی نیندوں سے تھےکچھ خواب سہانے مانگے

ہتھکڑی پیش کی مانگے جو کبھی بھی گہنے
قید رکھنے کو بھی صیاد بہانگے مانگے

لوگ بھولے ہیں تیرا قصہ تو حیراں کیوں ہے
نت نئے روز یہ دنیا تو فسانے مانگے

درد سےیوں ہوا مانوس کہ گانے کے لئے
دل مرا روز نئے غم کے ترانے مانگے

دل۔بیتاب کو ملتا نہیں محفل میں قرار
دور ویرانوں میں مجھ سے یہ ٹھکانے مانگے

گر وہ مل جائیں کہیں ڈر ہے کہ مچل جائے نہ دل
کن غموں کا یہ حساب ان سے نہ جانے مانگے

روز دیتے ہیں نئے اس کو کھلونے پھر بھی
دل وہ ضدی ہے کہ بچپن کے زمانے مانگے

LIFE! THE HATE MONGERS (http://archives.dawn.com/archives/69181#comment-)

The boss has a crush on his young, beautiful but married secretary. The girl is tactful enough to keep his advances at bay and still retain her job. Her colleagues have planned a surprise birthday party for the boss which the (unsuspecting) girl discusses at home with her mother-in-law.

On the fateful day the boss is astonished but delighted to receive a card and a big bouquet from her and calls to say thanks. The girl is devastated because she has sent neither of them, but her husband (who is sure to be at home at that particular time) does not believe her. So, a big row follows. The mother-in-law, who is listening to them argue bitterly, stays neutral but the smug look on her face has a lot to say!

The daughter-in-law is not to be deterred and plans a quick revenge. The next day she seems to misplace her wedding ring (a precious diamond one, of course). She hunts for it everywhere and looks visibly agitated. The (seemingly) loving mama-in-law is all sympathy for her as she helps in the search. In the evening the daughter-in-law opens her mother-in-law`s cupboard to get something for her and lets out a scream (of delight). The ring is right there, shining brightly and she turns towards the older lady in disbelief, her accusing look saying more than words.

One has only to put two and two together to guess how the ring reached there.

These are not true stories but scenes from one of the endless (and senseless) soap operas which the ever mushrooming television channels dish out day in and day out! We see people of every age addicted to them. They gleefully watch episode after episode of the plays even though the story moves at a snail`s pace. Why are people attracted to these soap operas? Some people say that these plays are an escape from the harsh realities of life while others argue that this is the best way they can spend their leisure hours, but very few of us realise what harm they are doing to our family values!

The family is the core of the human existence and its members are supposed to provide each other with love and security, to share each other`s happiness, problems and sorrows, and to tend to each other`s needs. The majority of the soap operas have a negative impact on these values. Most of the plays are set against an urban backdrop, about families belonging to the high social strata, where the ladies have nothing better to do than to don expensive dresses, heavy (and unnatural) makeup and jewellery and relax in luxuriously furnished lounges. They have to do no house work, no cooking, no washing or ironing and no looking after their kids. All they seem to do is to plot, scheme and hatch conspiracies against other family members! Back biting seems to be the order of the day as these ladies manipulate simple day-to-day events to their selfish motives. In the above mentioned examples, both the ladies go miles to demean other down, even though their hatred for each other is beautifully sugar coated.

The most important target in most soaps are the in-laws. Marriage is not only a bond between two individuals it is a new set of relationships between two families. This relationship is supposed to be based on mutual love, understanding and respect for each other, with every one realising the others` rights and working together towards a peaceful and loving family. The love for in-laws is not in the blood, as that for biological bonds; it has to be nurtured step by step, day by day after making many compromises and sacrifices.

On the contrary, most TV plays are teaching women to hate instead of love, to doubt instead of to trust, to avenge instead of to forgive and to humiliate instead of to respect. Women are portrayed not as home makers but as home breakers, all out to destroy the peace, tranquillity and happiness from a happy family life.

In the normal life, do we find women as cunning and ill meaning to each other as depicted in these plays? I don`t claim that relationship with in-laws is all bliss but the question is, “Is anyone perfect in this world?” We have to be perfect ourselves before expecting or demanding perfection from others.

The viewers of soap operas, especially young girls, are so taken by the charm and glamour of the characters that they lose the capability of distinguishing facts from fiction and have no idea what subtle change is undergoing in their approach towards family life. These hate-mongers on the idiot box are teaching us to hate, distrust and humiliate the people who should be the most near and dear to our hearts. Shouldn`t all of us stand up against this slow poison to the roots of our being before it is too late?


Like every other mother I simply loved the hold I had on my son’s life, the absolute veto power with which I ruled over his little world. In doing so I felt like a queen, but ALAS! Eventually the day came when my throne was toppled and the one to do so was no one else than my son himself! Wait! You shall better understand my predicament when I share with you the events which led to this collapse of my rule.

Twelve years back…My six year old is sitting at the breakfast table fidgeting with his cereal and fruit. “Come on Son, hurry up! You are getting late for school”, I call out in an impatient voice as I run around the house trying to manage my morning chores. “Mama, I do not want to eat this cereal, I hate it. Why can’t I have ice cream for breakfast”, he asks in his tiny voice. I feel irritated because this is a dialogue we have everyday, “You know very well that you can not have ice cream in the morning, come on finish up the cereal and your banana as well”. “But why should I when I don’t like it”? He tries to argue. How to convince a six year old about the importance of a healthy breakfast? I have neither the time nor the patience to do this, so I simply say, “Because I said so”. My son looks at me with tearful eyes and spoons his cereal half heartedly.

Four years later….. I am clearing up after lunch looking forward to my much deserved afternoon nap when I see my ten year old coming out stealthily from his room. He is trying to hide his ball and bat behind his thin framework!

“Where do you think you are going at this hour of the day?” I ask him in an annoyed tone. “Mama, all the boys are playing cricket in the lane, I am going out to play”, he says in a cautious tone trying to look confident. “No, you are not!” I snap back, “This is the time for your nap! You are not attentive in the evening while doing your home-work if you do not sleep in the afternoon”, I say in a firm tone. “But Mama, all the boys play everyday, why can’t I? Feeling too tired to prolong the argument, I simply say firmly, “Because I said so”. My son looks at me with reproachful eyes but I return his gaze steadily, his eyes falter and he turns back slowly to his room dragging his bat behind him.

Four years later…. We have to go for a dinner party and are getting late. I call out to my fourteen year old who is lazily flipping channels on the television, “Son, Please hurry up! Your clothes are pressed and I am going to change, we have to set out in exactly ten minutes”, I say as I turn towards my room. He gets up from the couch and on seeing his shirt and trousers call out from behind “Oh no, Mama! Again these formal clothes! You know very well how I dislike them. I want to wear jeans and my black t-shirt, they look so cool”. “For Heaven’s sake! You know very well that you can not wear jeans to a dinner party, so many people I know are invited there and you have to dress properly”, I feel exasperated because this a routine clash between me and him. But the argument is not over yet. He says, “Mama, I don’t understand why you are so particular about my clothes, all the boys of my age dress according to their mood! Why do I have wear these clothes when I don’t like them?” As I know it would be hard to convince him, I say in a final tone “Because I said so”. My son stares at me with rebellious eyes but this time it is me who has to look away. He picks up his clothes and as I turn to my room, I hear him slam his bedroom door behind him. “Head strong he is getting, isn’t he? I will have to talk to him” I think to myself as I hurry to my room.

Four years later….I am in the kitchen giving the final touches to the dinner. My eighteen year old enters and calls out “Mama, I am going out with friends”. “But dinner is ready” I protest without turning my back. “One of the boys is giving us a birthday treat so I will have dinner outside” he replies in a careless tone. Before I reply he says, “And please do not call after every half an hour”. I turn sharply towards him and ask, “Why do you think I should not call you when you are away?” This time my son answers in a firm voice “Because I said so !”. I nearly drop the lid of the pan in surprise and am about to give an angry retort when I notice the mischievous twinkle in his eyes and the naughty look on his face.

My little one (no more!) comes awkwardly towards me and putting his arms around me says, “Mama, I love you so, but why don’t you understand that I am no longer a child, my friends laugh at me when you call so many times, I promise you I won’t be late”. He kisses my forehead and walks out of the kitchen. My absolute rule over my son’s life is over! It’s the end of an era. I realize with nostalgia as I watch his turned back but strangely, instead of feeling resentment at being dethroned,I feel a mist in my eyes as a strange sense of pride rushes to my heart.