Opinion: Early start (http://dawn.com/2012/02/05/opinion-early-start/)

How do we decide what is the perfect age for a child to start school? With Montessoris and nursery schools mushrooming in every nook and corner of the city, parents are often confused on the issue.

At a party, I overheard a group of young mothers discussing (read boasting) about the academic achievements of their kids. “Ahmer is doing so well at school; he has been going for hardly a year but already tries to speak English (which is the ultimate aim of most parents!),” a young mother declared pompously. “May I know how old is Ahmer?” I

couldn’t help asking as she herself looked so young. “He will be three next month,” she announced proudly. “What a shame,” I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out, “Don’t you think he should have spent this year with you at home?” The arrogant mother gave me a disdainful look before turning back to her friends.

When asked the reason for opting to start their child’s schooling at a tender age, when he/she can barely talk, is not even potty trained or is uncomfortable when left alone with strangers, most mothers often say, “We want time for ourselves,” or “We want a few hours of peace when the little tyrant is not around!”

To attain these few hours of peace, they sacrifice their sleep (and that of their child), bathe and dress him, cajole him to take his breakfast and then sleepily drive him to school. To be picked back after three to four hours! Once back, the child has to be pampered, changed, fed and put to bed for a nap. Handling a cranky young child, who is exhausted
from the strain of going to school, is another hectic activity for the already tired mother.

If we calculate the time and energy enthusiastic mothers spend in all these efforts, we will find that instead of the so called ‘some hours of peace’ or ‘time for ourselves’, they actually lose the few hours they can devote to their personal activities.

Call me orthodox, but I am against sending children to school at such a young age. When my daughter-in-law, Saira, wanted to send my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson to pre nursery, my reaction was a firm no! And as I am very possessive about him, she complied although reluctantly. But she often complained laughingly that her son was considered a ‘Jahil’ among her friends who teased her for not sending him to school. “His grandmother knows better,” was the only weak argument she could produce. Now at six plus, he is attending a reputable school, is in the same grade as his peers and doing fairly well in his class.

Hina Nauman, a young mother, who herself teaches in one of the elite school in Karachi, says, “My personal experience was different with all my three children. With my first born, I was an over enthusiastic mother. Giving my child the best of everything was my prime aim. He was not even two months old when I eagerly set out to register my son in a reputable school! I remember being told at some schools that I was LATE!

“My eldest started school when he was 2.5, which I think is a good age for kids to start. My second born started school at 18 months which from experience I learnt was too early and a sheer waste of money. I had put undue pressure on the child, the effects of which I faced till he was in grade 1, as he seemed tired of the same ‘school routine’. My third child also started school at 2.5, but he fared better as exposure to elder siblings had made him more mature.”

Sheeza believes that for a stay at home mother, this is the time to enjoy your child and develop a lasting bond with him/her. “I enjoyed the years with my two children and as I taught them basics like alphabets, numbers, shapes, colours, parts of the body, etc, they did not lag behind when they started going to school.”

Hina’s suggestion is, “Don’t fall for the school scam, sadly like all other commercial ventures; the education sector (especially the private schools) is one big racket. Instead of sending your under age kids to school, indulge them by sharing activities like reading out to them, taking swimming classes, playing simple games, collecting flowers or
butterflies. In this way you will pay less, enjoy more and feel more bonded with your children.”

Being an old timer, I firmly believe that it is really unfair to the child to make him leave the safe haven of home and venture into the outside world before he is four. Young mothers usually do not agree. Saira still feels that her son started school a bit late, as her second born attended a pre nursery at age three. “There is a difference, however subtle in the approach of my two children,” she says wistfully. This may be what we call the generation gap!


Happy Ramazan: The message of Ramazan……http://dawn.com/2012/07/21/happy-ramazan-the-message-of-ramazan/

We have been blessed with the month of Ramazan again. This is the time of the year to re-learn lessons, to stop and think, and to act for a better life and a better future! Ramazan is not about refraining to eat and drink from dawn to dusk, neither is it only about preparing and shopping for Eid, something we all spend a major part of the month in doing. The message of this month goes much deeper! If we think a bit profoundly, we will find that this is a month to change ourselves for the better, to improve in all aspects of life.

We all know Pakistan was created on August 14, 1947, but maybe most of us do not know that this day coincided with the 27th of Ramazan 1368 Hijri. If we truly realise the real lessons of this month, and apply it to our behaviour and attitude as citizens of Pakistan, we can make a drastic improvement in the future of our homeland. All of us have to play a role and change ourselves to contribute towards this goal.

Discipline, obedience, punctuality, compassion for those less blessed than us, sharing and caring and a sense of accountability are all feelings that we experience during Ramazan and which can go a long way in improving our lives as well as the situation in Pakistan.

My dear readers, you may be too young to realise the intensity of the dire state of affairs we as a nation are stuck in, but you are enlightened enough to know that all is not well in Pakistan. The newspaper and the electronic media give us disturbing news every day.

Your parents fear for your security when you go out. Illiteracy, crime, corruption and greed are gnawing at the roots of our beloved homeland. If we, as a nation, resolve to apply the true spirit of Ramazan to our conduct and outlook as a nation, a positive change in the situation is bound to come.

Ramazan teaches us the lesson of obedience. We know that we have to go without food and drink during a fast, but we can easily sneak a snack or a glass of water when no one is watching us. But none of us would even think of doing so because we all firmly believe that a Divine Eye is watching us! Why is it so that we take pleasure in breaking rules and
disobeying laws? Sneaking a flower or two and walking on the grass where it is clearly written “Do not walk on the grass or pluck flowers” give us a sense of adventure. Breaking traffic signals and over speeding on roads are not even considered a crime by most people. Pushing and shoving each other instead of making a queue at public places are all national habits with us. This frame of mind gives rise to a disregard for law at all levels. If we learn to obey and respect the law at a young age, a far reaching change will be seen very soon.

Ramazan is the month of punctuality. We start and break fasts according to fixed timings and not according to our mood or whim. But as a nation, we totally lack a sense of punctuality.

Students submit their work late, government officers generally do not care if they do not reach their offices in time; we seldom follow the timings when we attend a wedding or other
functions. And often I have found patients waiting and suffering in pain because doctors do not turn up at the exact time they have given to their patients.

Time is a commodity which we love to waste, although if we study the cases of developed nations we shall find that punctuality and valuing time is one of their foremost qualities. So, this Ramazan let us resolve that we shall value time and try to do everything according to a set routine.

When we give out Zakat in Ramazan, we come in contact with people less privileged than us. This creates in us a sense of compassion as well as a will to share our blessings with the needy people around us. Feeling the pangs of hunger as well as going thirsty makes us realise what poor people go through the year around. If we nurture these feelings and keep them
alive around the year, a large number of people around us will benefit.

Giving away clothes, toys, books and other personal possessions which you can comfortably do without, may bring joy and content to those who cannot afford to buy these things.

Frustrations and deprivations usually give rise to crime. The crime graph in our country can come down sharply if the rich change their attitude of amassing wealth by using unfair
means and depriving others of their share, but these qualities have to be learnt from a young age.

In the end, I will say that Ramazan gives us a general sense of piety, an urge to do good deeds and shun bad ones. Lying, cheating, selfishness, greed and backbiting are all qualities which are causing the deterioration in the conditions our country is facing. While fasting we have a natural urge to keep away from these ills. Why not resolve firmly to make this a
national habit? Even when Ramazan is over and we are not fasting. Truthfulness, honesty, patriotism and discipline can go a long way to guide Pakistan towards the road to

So, enjoy the delicacies Mummy cooks for Iftar and Sehar, but do not fail to lend her a helping hand wherever you can. Shop for your Eid preparations but do not forget those who are less privileged than you. But foremost of all, this Ramazan let’s resolve to make Pakistan a better place to live in. When we all join hands and make a firm resolution, things will improve Insha Allah. Because, as an optimist, I firmly believe that there is light even at the end of the darkest tunnel! A change (for the better) in our values and preferences is the need of the hour.


Courtesy: Etiquette of using the cellphone! By Yasmin Elahi | From InpaperMagzine |

Faisal is having dinner with his parents and siblings. Daddy is in a jolly mood today and telling the family about his childhood pranks and how their (then) strict grandpa punished him often for his naughtiness.

The children are enjoying the anecdotes and at the same time protesting aloud to grandpa for punishing their father so. It is hard for them to believe that their indulgent grandfather was once so stern with his only son!

Faisal’s cellphone begins to beep and he pulls out his phone from his jeans’ pocket. A friend has sent a joke. Losing interest in the table talk, he starts punching the keys to answer the text message of his close friend. Daddy looks at him with a displeased look, but Faisal is so engrossed in receiving and sending messages that he is not even aware of his father’s stare!

After 10 minutes he realises that he had been listening to a very interesting account of his father’s childhood. “Daddy what happened after grandpa caught you flying a kite from the terrace?” he asked with an innocent tone.

But Daddy’s mood has changed! “Faisal you should have enough manners to know that when you are listening to someone,
especially an elder, you should not be busy texting a message! I don’t feel like repeating what I have told everyone already.

And from now on, you will not bring your cellphone to the dinner table,” he says in a firm tone as he leaves the dining room!

Like every technological invention, the cellphone has its advantages and disadvantages! Although it has broken all barriers in communication, bringing the world to our fingertips, it has also made us a bit alien to our family. Most of the times we are so engrossed in our cellphones, text messaging friends or just forwarding interesting messages, playing games on it or calling friends, checking and replying to mails if we have a Wi-Fi phone, we often forget that there are some etiquettes for its usage, which we all should follow firmly.

If you are in company and your cellphone beeps, make sure to move away from the earshot of the people you are sitting with. Often I see people of all ages talking intently or laughing aloud while talking to someone on their mobile phones when there are in others’ company. This is often irritating to the people around them and a bit disturbing too. So, if you think it is important to receive a call, do not make it a nuisance or disturbance to other people. Distance yourself from the people around you and attend to the call.

Be careful when you are in a sober situation, i.e. if you are visiting someone in the hospital, sitting with elders who are having a serious conversation or are in the mosque for prayers. The silly songs set as dial tunes are really unpardonable. In my opinion, such unethical dial tunes should be totally banned. Bizarre ringing tones, such as the cry of a baby or someone laughing uncontrollably, could be very disturbing when you are in sober company. Make it a point to be sure to switch your
cell to a silent mode if you are in such places.

Your parents and elders are more important than your friends, so when you are conversing with them, don’t attend a friend’s call or SMS by cutting short the conversation. You can drop the call or excuse yourself for a moment and just inform your friend that you will call later if it is something urgent. You can ask him/her to send you a text message which you can check after a few moments.

Set limits for yourself! Time is very valuable as you have to work hard to reach your goals and carve out a brilliant future for yourselves. Schemes floated by the cellphone providers, i.e., free SMSs (or at a very nominal rate), nightly free packages, unlimited internet usage on the cellphone, are all offers that help their sales.

We are being used as pawns in the tough competition the companies are giving to each other. Don’t be lured and refuse to be misused! How can a student who has been up nearly all night enjoying the 12 midnight to 6am free talking package, perform well when he/she comes to school the following day!

You may be surprised to know this, but it is a fact that teenagers currently make up the majority of the world’s cellphone users! In these times of insecurity, parents have no other choice but to provide their children with cellphones, sometimes even before they reach the proper age, only to remain in touch with them and know where they are. So, rise to your
parents’ expectations and prove that you are enlightened enough not to use this gadget to your