My mother is around no more!

             blog


One of the most precious memories from my early childhood is something which often brings a mist to my eyes and a sad smile on my face! But in those days my feelings were totally different; I felt a bit astonished and looked up at my father with a wee bit of amusement! Whenever he was sad, distressed, ill or stuck in any such difficult situation, he would declare with tears in his eyes, “With whom should I share my woes? Alas, my mother is around no more!”

          And I distinctly remember that my instant response to this statement was surprise! What need has a grown-up man like Daddy for a mother? I wondered silently! Moms are for kids like me, to look after us, tend to our needs, comfort us when we are sick, console us when we are frightened! Though I must admit I wasn’t old enough to think about all this as clearly as I am writing today, but thoughts like these fluttered across my little head as I disdainfully ignored Daddy’s misery and turned back to whatever I was doing!

          In all fairness to him, I must mention here that my father was not a weak man! With a strong will power, (and temper too) and a cheerful personality, he was a highly intelligent and wise man. Perhaps the master-mind of a huge family, his advice was sought and followed by even those older than him. And he also had a very strong relationship with my mother. They had a bond of deep love and understanding and always shared/ discussed their problems with each other.

          But tears always came easily to Daddy, something not considered proper for men in our part of the world. I realized later on in life, those tears were a sign of a sensitive heart rather than a weak personality!

          Sadly, it took me nearly a life time (or a good part of it) to understand why my Father always yearned for my Grandmother in his moments of distress! 

          After I was married, I had to move away from my family and settle in a new city, with an entirely new family. I was young and inexperienced and life did not turn out to be the fairy tale I had dreamt it to be! Problems which are usually a part of the early stage of a married life confused me.  Not knowing what to do in which situation and no one to turn to in an alien city, there used to be times when I simply wanted to run into the comforting and safe haven of Ammi’s arms. I yearned for her advice, her love and for the sense of security which we all feel when our mothers are around!

          It was in those days that I began to understand my father’s feelings and realize what he meant when he missed his mother in hard moments. No matter how old we get, we always want our mothers to be at our sides. Both in difficult times and in happy moments, I felt that life is not complete Ammi’s presence and loving support. For the first time in my life, I felt proud of my father’s deep love for his mother. My grandmother had died young, in fact before my parents got married, but even decades after her death, Daddy never ceased missing her.

          As life moved on, I settled down in the new environment and got busy with my children and family life. Meetings with my parents were often possible after years. I still missed Ammi, but finally I got used to not having her around whenever I needed her. Whenever stuck in adversities, I tried my best to hide my yearning for her presence.

          Unfortunately, married life was not smooth sailing for me. After fighting tooth and nail to overcome the problems which multiplied over the decades, I finally realized that the writing was on the wall. In those painful days, I found myself too tired to struggle anymore. And then the inevitable happened and my marriage ended in a divorce!

          I fail to describe the anguish and the deep sense of insecurity of those days. Nightmares! Fears lurking in the dark! Dazed with pain but too proud to show my grief, I shed silent tears when no one was around. I silently mourned the death of love and the security which I had once thought was an inevitable part of married life! Thinking that times couldn’t be any worse for me, I had the solace that soon Ammi will come over and I shall find peace after crying my heart out in her arms.

          Little did I know that the worst was still to come! Although the back count for Ammi’s arrival had begun, but she (or fate) had other plans! Going to bed one night, she passed away peacefully in her sleep!

          The tragic news of her sudden demise hit me like a bomb shell! As if hit under the belt, I felt stunned with pain, the tears just refusing to come! Totally shattered, I just sat in a state of disbelieve, staring blankly at people pouring in for condolences. “How could she do this to me?” I asked myself in anguish and somewhat anger. “Didn’t she know how badly I needed her?”

          And then, for the first time in my life, I fully realized what Daddy meant, and also my foolishness in not understanding his feelings! Mothers are needed for a life time! They do not only care for their kids when they are young, the solace of their presence is needed at all ages. They do not only bandage bruised knees, they soothe bruised souls too! Their arms not only shelter their young ones against the fear of darkness, they allay the fear of the unknown in grown up children too!

          And in those moments of excruciating pain, as I sat in a stony silence, I heard a voice muffled in tears declaring, “With whom should I share my woes? My mother is around no more!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nutrition: A Healthy Start (Article for Children…http://www.dawn.com/news/1081106/nutrition-a-healthy-start)

After he got a scolding from the Math teacher for making careless mistakes in a class test, Junaid asked his friend Raheel with admiration and a bit of envy. “How are you so attentive in the first period at school? Although I have a good night’s sleep, I still feel lazy and am unable to concentrate on the lesson! I was so well prepared for the test, but my mind just doesn’t seem to work in the mornings. It sounds strange but I feel better after the lunch break.”

“What do you have for breakfast?” Raheel asked.

“Who has time to eat so early in the morning? I would rather sleep 10 more minutes instead of wasting them on the dining table! My mother packs the breakfast for me and I have it during the lunch recess.”

“Now I know what your problem is! After a gap of eight to 10 hours since your last meal, your body is starved for energy and so you cannot concentrate on your lessons. Just make it your routine to wake up earlier and have a healthy breakfast before you come to school. In a few days you will know the difference!” Raheel tried to convince his friend.

Like Junaid, most of you school-going children want to skip breakfast, not realising that a healthy morning meal plays a vital role in your physical and mental development as well as your ability to learn. In the morning, there is roughly an interval of 10 to 12 hours since the last meal and the body craves for food. But because you are still feeling sleepy, or are in a haste to reach school in time, some of you overlook your body’s requirements and convince mum that taking a snack for the school recess is a good alternative to breakfast.

Usually mothers are very particular about their school-going children’s sleeping hours. They realise the importance of a good night’s sleep for better performance at school. But sometimes they can overlook the importance of a good and balanced diet, especially breakfast. Making sleepy and grumpy children eat their morning meal may be tiresome and time consuming, but if this healthy habit is developed from an early stage of life, children actually learn to enjoy their breakfast.

Friends, you are going through a stage of life when both your mind and body are growing. Doctors and nutritionists strongly recommend a wholesome meal in the morning. A few more minutes of sleep is not worth skipping your breakfast for, as you must realise that the time spent having breakfast is much more beneficial than the extra sleep.

Your energy level is low in the morning and your brain and body need to be recharged so that you are efficient at whatever you do during the day. You need a nutritious meal after you get up, so that you are more active and attentive at school. You must understand that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and what you eat in the morning greatly influences your performance the whole day ahead. According to the American Dietetic Association, children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom and on the playground, with better concentration, problem-solving skills and eye-hand coordination.

Many other studies have proven without doubt that children who have a wholesome meal in the morning perform better in their studies than their peers who skip breakfast. They are more attentive in class and can concentrate on the lessons in a better way. A cheerful disposition and good social behaviour is also linked to a healthy start of the day!

On the contrary children who come to school without eating a proper morning meal complain of laziness, lack of concentration and usually have an irritable disposition.

Some overweight adults and children have the wrong notion that they will lose their extra weight if they do not have breakfast. But they do not know that when our body is famished, we often tend to overeat when we take our next meal, or in between meals we munch on snacks like chips and cookies, which are high in calories (but of little nutritional value), and in this manner put on pounds instead of losing them.

The correct rule is to have a morning meal which will keep you healthy and not add to your obesity. Fresh fruits, cereals, boiled egg, bran bread and a glass of skimmed milk can be a perfect morning meal for a person who wants to lose weight. On the contrary, those of you who are underweight can have fried egg, whole wheat bread, butter, full cream milk, cheese and fruits.

Friends, ask your mother to suggest a breakfast menu which is rich in whole grains, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins. Before you go to bed, decide what you want for breakfast in the morning so that your mother can prepare it without any hassle. For her convenience, you can also make a weekly menu and put it up on the refrigerator or any other prominent place in the kitchen. You have a vast choice of healthy foods ranging from seasonal fruits, cereals, whole wheat bread, eggs, honey and milk or milk products i.e. cheese, yoghurt, butter, etc. The nutrients your body gets from these will keep you alert, attentive and agile in school.

Avoid rich foods like cakes, pastries or paratha, halwa puri, etc., as these foods are high in calories but of little nutrient value and will only make you feel lazy, sleepy and dull, instead of giving your body the nutrients it requires to grow. Canned fruits or juices are not healthy as they have added preservatives and food colours, so avoid these too.

Give yourself a healthy start every morning! Not only will you get all the nutrients required for your growing body, developing brain and a normal and balanced weight, you will find a remarkable improvement in your performance at studies and sports and it will also make you a cheerful person who is popular among all!

 

BUNK THE JUNK!

 

BUNK THE JUNK!

          The doctor at the annual medical checkup at school was visibly displeased with Sohail. “Didn’t I tell you last time that you need to shed some weight? And here you come with three more kilos! What have you been eating all these months?” he peered over his glasses to give the obese thirteen year old a grim look. Sohail smiled nervously, “I try to be careful but somehow I can’t resist burgers, French fries, chips and carbonated drinks. I feel I have become hooked to junk food”, he admitted in a wistful tone. “If you want to maintain your health and avoid a number of ailments, you will have to bunk the junk”, the doctor replied in a firm tone. “I am giving you a list of foods which you must include in your diet and of those also which you will have to avoid. Hope to see you in a better shape next year”. He said sternly as he turned towards the next student.

          School and college going youngsters just love to eat junk food.  Turning up their noses to home cooked food which they regard old fashioned, they prefer to opt for this unhealthy trend in their diet. With fast food jaunts opening in every nook and corner of the city, junk food marketing campaigns attract the youngsters. We often note that the most commonly advertised commodities during the children’s hours on the television are for sweetened cereals, soft drinks, candy processed snacks and fast foods. Moreover, free home deliveries are adding to this fast food culture. Pizzas, burgers, rolls and carbonated drinks are just a telephone call away and the children make the most of this convenience. These are some of the reasons why they are getting addicted more and more to these unhealthy foods.

          Before using the term children should understand what really is junk food? It is a word first used in 1972 by Michael Jacobson, (director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA), for foods with little or no nutritional value. These foods are usually high in salt, sugar, saturated fats and loaded with empty calories. They offer little in terms of proteins, vitamins or minerals as they lack fruits, vegetables and dietary fiber. Having little or no health benefits, junk foods rob the children of the essential nutrients they need for growth and good health. Eating excessive amounts often leads to obesity and malnutrition. Common junk foods include salted snack foods (chips, crisps), candies and sweet desserts, fried fast foods and carbonated beverages. chocolates, chewing gum, most

 

 

Generally speaking, children have only a vague idea that the foods they love to eat are not very healthy and they should avoid deep fried foods, burgers, chips pizzas etc. Apart from the taste that most children love, they find them convenient and time saving too, i.e. you can eat a burger or chips when you are on the go or hanging about with friends, but not the traditional salan- roti or daal chawal, which are the base of home cooked foods. But next time when you go out with friends to grab a burger, or make a call for home- delivery of a pizza or rolls, keep these facts in mind. They will surely help you to improve your eating habits.

One teaspoon of sugar is extracted from a stalk of sugarcane one metre in length and a bottle of carbonated drink consists of ten teaspoons. A king sized Burger topped with cheese and eaten with French fries and an upsized drink provide the body with 1,800 calories! To burn these calories, you need to cycle for six hours at a speed of twenty miles per hour. Artificial ingredients contain an alarming variety of chemicals, for instance artificial strawberry flavor can contain about fifty chemicals and no strawberries at all!

To make your concept clear about the harmful effects of junk foods, some disadvantages are listed below.

Lack of energy: Junk foods do not provide us with the essential nutrients we need for growth and to carry on our day to day activities. This results in lack of energy, lethargy and general weakness and often children have to take nutrient supplements to take care of the deficiency being created in their body.

Poor concentration: After eating a junk meal rich in oil you feel drowsy and fail to concentrate on anything. Having such meals regularly makes fats accumulate in our circulatory system affecting the blood circulation. This in term results in depriving the brain of vital Oxygen and lack of nutrients and proteins can stale your grey (brain) cells temporarily.

Heart Diseases: Regular junk food intake is a major cause of heart diseases. Due to the extra intake of Fats, they are deposited in the arteries, which make the heart work harder to pump blood to the body. In the long run, the heart is fatigued by the extra work and also a deficit of Oxygen which leads to various heart diseases which are mostly not reversible.

High Cholesterol: Apart from forming plaque in arteries, which affects the blood flow, cholesterol also affects the liver where it is broken down. In the long term, junk foods diets can permanently damage the liver.

As we all crave for a change in our diet, occasional intake of junk food is permissible. Our body has enough stamina to take care of these undesirable ingredients. But be sure that you are not lured into addiction to these unhealthy foods. The meal cooked at home by Mummy is much more nutritious (and tasty as well). It is your own choice……Junk Food or Health!

 

SWEET POISON!

It is sweet. It is tasty. It is inexpensive. And it is also highly addictive! Easily available in attractive looking packets, sweet supari (betel nut) and gutka (a mixture of betel nut, katha, lime or chuna, tobacco and food fragrances), are favourite mouth fresheners for a lot of children and adults.

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School children often offer the packets to each other in lieu of candy, but most of them do not know that these harmless looking sachets are very harmful for them and can play havoc with their oral and general health. Gutka is a more dangerous form, because to get its consumers hooked, it often contains traces of tobacco. The betel nut used is usually of very poor quality, sometimes infested with fungus and microscopic insects and unfit for human consumption. The greedy manufacturers add sweeteners and food colours to make this substandard supari attractive and palatable, totally disregarding the fact that these are additional health hazards for the consumers.

Although sweet supari and gutka are popular among all age groups and consumed by members of all social classes, the habit to use them as a perfect end to a snack or a meal, is usually cultivated during the school days. The intake usually begins with munching a pack or two a day. Gradually the quantity increases as children find themselves habituated to it. And then the craving sets in!

Some people find themselves totally helpless, as they cannot concentrate or feel comfortable until a pocketful of this sweet poison is buried in their cheeks or tucked under their tongue.

Smoking is still considered a complete no-no for children and as long as they can, parents take great care to make sure that their kids do not take up this habit. Cigarette manufacturers are bound by the government to print warning notes on their packs. But sadly, there is no such rule for sweet supari and gutka. Usually we see that parents are not so particular about restricting their children’s intake of these harmful substances, because neither the parents nor the children realise that these can be as dangerous as smoking. As there is a total lack of awareness of their harmful impact on health, the usage is ever increasing.

Dr Sadaf Ahmed says, “Sweetened supari contains a chemical substance called arecoline which causes inflammation of the gums. Initially, ulcers are formed in the mouth progressing to a disease called ‘oral submucous fibrosis’ or OSF (in easier terms ‘the inability to open the mouth fully’). This in turn leads to nutritional deficiencies because impaired jaw movement affects the diet intake of children, making them physically weak and more prone to infections. The teeth become more sensitive to spicy foods and the tongue and gums often give a burning sensation.”

Dr Ayesha Khan, also warns by painting a gloomy picture, “Direct and repeated contacts of the gums with supari cause them to recede which in turn loosen the teeth. Increase in mouth ulcers and rotting of the gums is also caused by betel nut chewing. In addition to oral submucous fibrosis (OSF), in extreme cases long-term usage can cause cancer of the mouth (including the lip, tongue and cheek) and throat, because betel nut or supari is a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).”

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According to the WHO, chewing supari leads to cancer of the mouth even if tobacco is not added to it. In countries where betel nut is consumed extensively, there is a much higher level of oral cancer.There is a dire need to initiate a drive against this sweet poison. To save our oral and general health, children you need to be aware of the harmful effects of these easily available packets of sweet supari and gutka. Newspapers and the electronic media can play a significant role by signalling out appropriate health messages, teaching the public what harm can be caused by sweet supari and gutka, and working for a ban on their sale to children.

Sadly, at present the situation is totally otherwise. Instead of discouraging the sale of these harmful sachets, we often see unrealistic ads of sweet supari on the television. Attractively arranged on a silver platter, a glamorous hostess is seen serving them with a flourish to her guests, or a macho man seems to drive his strength from them, fighting his opponents and making them flee after munching a packet. Children, who are easily influenced by these ads, are hoodwinked and attracted into buying them.

Dr Sadaf says, “During my internship, I have observed many school going children coming to the OPD with problems related to supari and gutka intake. Unfortunately, visits to the dentists in our country are not too frequent, so the initial symptoms of OSF are not so obvious. Usually, patients come in the third stage of the disease and then the treatment option is usually only surgical. These patients are advised not to continue chewing of supari (areca nut) and warned that the next stage is of oral cancer which has more severe treatment modalities. So the first step towards saving our children from this dangerous junk is to create awareness of the consequences of having sweet supari and gutka. They must also be taught the importance of regular dental checkups, a healthy diet and also to maintain a good oral hygiene.”

Dr Khan adds, “Apart from health problems, sweet supari and gutka have bad cosmetic effects as the food colours added to them cause discolouration of teeth. Being as addictive as nicotine and caffeine, they cause dependence and on discontinuation of usage uncomfortable withdrawal effects.”

Dr Anwar Alam of Internal Medicine at AbbasiShaheedHospital corroborates this. “The reason behind the surge in oral diseases in the past decade in the younger people is the rampant use of gutka and gutka became this popular because it was easily available everywhere and it was convenient to use.

Similarly, there is social stigma attached to tobacco smoking of women so they may not take up smoking that readily or even if they do take it up, they do not do it as openly as men do. However, gutka consumption is free of all the prejudices and inconveniences. It is as easy to carry as a small candy, it is not messy, it is fragrant, one does not need to go to a paanwala exclusively to buy it, it has no social stigma attached to it and hence can be consumed by teenage girls and adolescent boys. What most people do not know is that its health risks are just as injurious, if not more, as that of chewing or smoking tobacco.

According to a research, apart from the urban centers, gutka usage is as popular, if not more, in rural attachments to the city. The newly built 48 kilometers long road that connects Karachi to Mubarak Village is dotted with various small villages, inhabited by fishermen and their families. Every village has its own small shop and they may or may not stock basics such as milk or onions but almost every shop sell packaged and unpackaged gutka which is the perhaps the most popular item. Tahira Kaukab, program officer of a local NGO Indus Earth that works in the area stated that people in this area may go without food but will not forego their gutka addiction. She further added that the gutka sold in the coastal belts is often expired and they have found small insects and parasites in the gutka packets. 

So friends, Beware of this killer! And the greedy manufacturers who are marketing it at the cost of your health. A few moments of a sweet sensation in your mouth could cost you and your loved ones a life time trauma!

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!

          Rain has always held a special place in my life! It mesmerizes me, enchants and takes me way back down the memory lane. It reminds me of the happy and carefree childhood I spent in my parental home with my siblings.

          As it rained more than half of the year in East Pakistan (now Bangla Desh), rain was a part and parcel of our lives. The staircase to the upper floor of our cosy little house overlooked a long alley. After lunch, I and my siblings would sit one child on one stair and watch with delight as rain came lashing down on the pedestrians. Some had umbrellas, other used large sheets of polythene to protect themselves and a few were seen running for shelter if they possessed none of these.

                    After nights when the thunder kept rolling, the clouds clapping ominously and rain pouring down as if it would never come again, I remember calling school expectantly. “Is the school off today?” And the predictable answer came “Why do you think the school would be off today” I would be counter questioned. The voice sounded irritated as if tired of answering the same question repeatedly. “It has been raining so hard all night” I would try to argue although I myself could feel my voice grow weaker. “Do think rain makes any difference to life in this part of the world?” and the phone was banged angrily.

          Rain made literally no difference to normal activities as schools, offices and markets opened as usual and everyone seemed to be carrying on his/her work as usual. Heavy downpours recorded in inches, were a part and parcel of life and there were no traffic jams, electric failures, overflowing storm drains or stagnant water on the roads. All that could be seen were small puddles in which children loved to splash around, but with a well maintained drainage system, these too disappeared in no time.

          Apart from natural calamities like floods or cyclones which were a normal feature in that region, little or no news of suffering of the low income class was witnessed after the routine heavy rains.

          Rain meant enjoyment to me and my siblings. If the rainy day was a holiday, picnic baskets would be packed immediately and we would set out for an outing to any of the green spots in Dhaka. Otherwise, Beisan or Potato Parathas would be cooked, to be enjoyed with Ammi’s unmatchable sweet mango chutney and ripe mangoes in plastic buckets were set out in the open courtyard to be cooled by the falling rain.

          I distinctly remember the long drives with friends after a rainy day, dashing to the famous Ramna Park of Dhaka for Chatpatti (Chat) and Puchka (Pani Puri) and the treat finished off with a Meetha Paan at the renowned pan shop outside the Dhaka Stadium. Traffic moved a bit slow but there was no disruption to its flow!

          After I migrated to Karachi, I used to miss the rains as these were limited to a couple of months only. As clouds came in, I would look expectantly towards the sky and pray for them to burst into a downpour. Until I witnessed the other side of the coin, i.e how rains could play havoc with the lives of people! To my dismay, unlike my birth city Dhaka, rain always brought misery to the lives of the residents of Karachi, especially those who reside in low lying or slum areas. Every year after the monsoon rains hits, life seems to be paralyzed as the roads are turned into rivulets in no time.

          Although in the four decades plus that I have been living in Karachi, I have seen that rains always disrupt and paralyze life in the city, I feel that things are getting worse with each passing year.

          This year, the 3rd of August began as a usual day, but before nightfall tragic news from all parts of the city came pouring in, as fast as the torrential rains we witnessed during the day. In all the years I have been living in Karachi, this was perhaps the worst rainy day I had witnessed.

          Loss of 16 precious lives was reported and all the major roads were flooded heavily. Most of the city was plunged into darkness as power went off as soon as the rain started lashing the city. Some areas, (like mine) had to go without power for nearly 24 hours or more! Emergency was declared in the city and army had to be called in to drain the stagnant water. As usual, action was taken too late as the CM dismissed the Karachi Administrator, as well as the Director Municipal Services from their respective posts. But could these belated steps bring back the precious lives or heavy loss to property? the question hangs heavily in the air.

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          But the depressing part of all the sufferings is that we Karachiites could have been spared this gloom. Although there was a forecast of a monsoon more severe than is usual to Karachi, the City Government had simply taken no steps to prevent the dwellers of the mega city from the misery it had to face.  Storm water drains (which are getting narrower each year due to encroachments) were not cleared up in time, and as these are usually clogged with the garbage slum dwellers throw in them, they overflew in no time, spreading stinking water on major roads and alleys.

          The poor dwellers of the areas lining the storm water drains were the worst affected as their homes were totally inundated! After the heavy downpour, although I was dreading the bad news, I had no idea it would be worse than my imagination. The domestic helper who has been cleaning my house for years, came frantically banging the door as the bell was not ringing. Her eyes burning with tears she was trying hard to control, she said in a voice lined with despair. “Ammi kuch nahin bacha, sirf badan pe ye kapre hain!” (Ammi, nothing is left except the clothes that I am wearing). She had lost the entire ration she had got from different affluent people (remember it was Ramzan), as well as her meager belongings. “Shukar hai, Bachon ki jaan bach gayi”! (Thank God, the lives of my children were saved). She said in a resigned tone. Such depressing stories came pouring in from other quarters as night fell.

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          There was a forecast of more rain for the next two or three days but it seems nature was also moved by the misery the heavy downpour had caused! Although the weather remained cloudy for the next few days, fortunately we only witnessed drizzling after every few hours!

          There was a time when I looked up at the clouds expectantly, praying for the rains to come. But after decades of living in Karachi, I mutter a prayer when I see the ominous clouds coming in. Rain, Rain, Go Away! We are not prepared yet to enjoy you! The burst of clouds which meant enjoyment and relaxation in my childhood days causes pain, anxiety, sorrow and darkness in this city of lights!

 

Bonding Times!

The cherished months have finally arrived. It’s summer holiday again! It’s time to laze around and relax from the strict regime of school life, home-work, tests and, for some friends, the additional burden of tuitions too! But it is often seen that after the initial week or two, the excitement and charm of the vacation seems to wear off and we start complaining of boredom.

What should we do? This is the question which you all start asking your mothers and it makes them want to groan out aloud as they wonder how to keep their kids busy, happy and mostly out of their way!

Some lucky ones amongst you may go out of town (or country) to spend your vacation. There are also a lot of summer camps which offer a variety of activities, but in these times of insecurity and inflation, most parents do not find them affordable or convenient.

Friends, instead of getting on our parents’ nerves, we must find such means to keep ourselves busy that are not only fulfilling but also easy on our parents’ pockets!

This summer you can find a very fulfilling activity which will not only keep you busy, it will also provide a sense of immense emotional gratification. These are the months when we have lots of free time at our hands, and we can make this time precious by using it for bonding with relatives, old friends, books, nature and the environment around us!

Bonding with relatives

Often, in the busy school months we have hardly any time for our elderly relatives. Grandparents specially look forward to vacations as they know that you can visit them more often and also spend nights with them. The luxury of Grandma’s delicious pulao, her special cookies and the traditional kheer, which no one can make as perfect as her, are for yours to enjoy.

You can also help Grandpa with his gardening, in rearranging his bookshelf, or accompany him when he goes out for his daily walk or to the mosque. You can also help your grandparents to clean up their cupboards and room, a chore they do not have the energy to do without help. Maybe you will find something interesting like old photographs, grandma’s trinkets which she doesn’t use anymore or old coins and stamps Grandpa once collected as a hobby. They may allow you to keep these with you and they may one day turn to be a sort of souvenir from them.

There are also elderly family members, like your parents’ aunts and uncles or an ageing neighbor. A visit from you or a phone call can brighten up their day as deep down old people are usually lonely! You can indulge them by playing a game of ludo or chess, or reading out to them from their favorite book. The happy look you will see on their faces would make your free time worthwhile.

Bonding with old friends

Sometimes you lose track of close friends once they move out of your neighborhood or change school. In these leisure months it would be a wonderful idea to look them up and refresh your ties with them. You can email them to find out about their whereabouts or call common friends to trace them out. Meeting old friends is often a tonic for our mood and spirits, providing us with a deep sense of pleasure.

Bonding with your books

With the hectic routine of homework and class tests, most children usually like to spend their free hours relaxing in front of the television, texting or chatting with friends and browsing on the computer. Reading good books is no more a favorite pastime for most of you. But you must realize that books are your best companions and there is no better time to cultivate good reading habits than the long afternoons of your summer vacation.

To make your time more productive, look up some good classics, and be sure that every day you spend a couple of hours in reading. In this way you will learn a lot as reading not only broadens your insight, it also provides you knowledge beyond your textbooks — the most enjoyable pastime one can have!

Ask your parents or elder siblings to help you in the choice of books. You can visit old book shops or the Sunday markets where you can get good books at affordable prices. Create a chain by exchanging books with your friends. This way you will be able to read more while you spend less. Soon you will realize that reading is the most enjoyable pastime one can have.

Bonding with nature

Bird watching, going for walks and gardening are all means to bond with nature. Place small pots of water and baajra (millet) in your garden and you will be delighted to see the sparrows specking at the food and drink!

Bread pieces leftover from the breakfast table, a spoonful or two of cooked rice can also go into these pots and don’t be alarmed if crows also come in for the treat. After all they also help to clear up the environment and we can set out a morsel of food for them too.

Gardening is also a very fulfilling activity which will bring you closer to nature. You can set out small pots in your garden or balcony and nurture and water your personal plants. The tinge of delight at seeing your plant grow will make your time rewarding as well as give you a sense of fulfilment.

Bonding with the environment

This summer vacation set a goal for yourself to make your surroundings better. You can organize a cleanliness drive with the help of your neighborhood children. Clearing up your lane and going from door to door to ask people to help you by not throwing their trash on roads will create awareness and a better civic sense. You will also immense satisfaction of seeing your surroundings cleaner and more hygienic.

The list goes on and on. These are only some suggestions for your summer holidays, but I am sure that my little friends are intelligent enough to take their initiative from these activities and plan a number of positive ones themselves! Happy vacation!

 دنیا میں تیرے جیسا کوئی دوسرا نہیں ہے

Aside

My darling Grandaughter has finished school today with flying colors! She has made the family proud with Straight As Ma sha Allah… the best time to re blog the poem I wrote for her when she was a child!

Time flies!Its been nearly three years since I posted this blog with my poem.  My darling has made the family proud again! Alhumdulillah for the happy moments.

دنیا میں تیرے جیسا 
کوئی دوسرا نہیں ہے
مرے دل کو ہیں لبھاتی
ہر دم تری ادائیں
 
  ہنستی ہے جب بھی تو تو
  لگتا ہے مجھ کو ایسا
  جھونکے ہوا کے جیسے 
  کلیوں کو گدگائیں
 
  رونا بھی تیرا مجھ کو
  لگتا ہے اتنا پیارا
  شبنم کے قطرے جیسے 
  پھولوں کا منھ دھلائیں
 
ہے نیند میں بھی تیری
ایسی ادا نرالی
جنت کی حوریں جیسے 
لوری تجھے سنائیں
 
آنکھوں میں تیری گڑیا
ہے ایسی اک چمک سی
سورج کی کرنیں جیسے
پانی پہ جھلملائیں
 
ہو ماں کا سایہ سر پہ
پاپا رہیں سلامت
نانی تری خدا سے
ہر دم کرے دعائیں
 
پھولوں کے پالنے میں
گزرے یوں تیرا بچپن
پریوں کی رانی آ کر
جھولا تجھے جھلائیں
 
تو خوش رہے ہمیشہ
دکھ جھیلنے کو میں ہوں
لے لوں اے سعدیہ میں
ساری تری بلائیں
 

REVERSED ROLES!

 

In a softly lit room, a little girl sleepily reaches out for her father. Her eyes open wide when her outstretched arm can not feel him. Realizing that she is sleeping in a separate bed, she creeps out of it stealthily and tries to climb her father’s bed. But it is a bit too high for her. So, placing her head on Daddy’s pillow, she goes back to sleep in a standing position.

Daddy wakes up as he feels the familiar scent and soft touch of his little girl. He sweeps her up into his arms and as she snuggles close to him, both father and daughter go back to a peaceful sleep!

When Ammi decided that I was too old to sleep with Daddy, for months this was a ritual followed on a daily basis. She would tuck me in my little bed at night, but find me peacefully sleeping in Daddy’s arms in the morning.

Ammi told this tale often, with a (false) reproachful look still on her face. I and Daddy would laugh, although both of us felt a mist in our eyes!

As was the norm in 1940-50s in Indo Pakistan, Ammi was married at the tender age of sixteen and became a mother at seventeen! Twin daughters followed a year after her first born son, and I came only a year later. Weak and exhausted by the unending demands of motherhood, she had her hands too full with her two year old and the frail twins to look after me. And this is how I developed a special bond with Daddy. From the day I was born, he took me in his special care.  I was his pet, his little girl!

Ammi and I shared the mutual love normal to all mothers and children. But with Daddy it was something different, a feeling too great for words! My most cherished childhood memories mostly revolve around his devoted love and care. He happily carried out all the chores which mothers usually do. Helping me to get ready for school, wiping away my tears when I was afraid of the dark, bandaging my bruised knees when I fell, helping me in doing my homework, he was always there for me. As I grew older, he coaxed me, encouraged me and sometimes even bullied me to bring out the best in me. He was my mentor, who firmly holding on to my hand, taught me how to live in this World with a head held high and how to face adversities with a straight face.

Life moves ahead and times change! After my marriage in 1970, I had to move away from my birth city Dhaka (then East Pakistan) to Karachi (West Pakistan). I missed all the people I loved so dearly, my mother, my siblings, my huge family and childhood friends, but Daddy always remained on the top of the list.

Only a year later, Bangladesh emerged on the face of the World. East Pakistan was no more! This is no place to discuss the political reasons for this breakup, but I must declare that apart from a political tragedy, it also was the cause of deep heartbreak for a lot of people whose families were divided among the two countries. I was deeply saddened to find myself a foreigner in the city of my birth, where I had spent my childhood , my school and college life, the city where my loving parents still lived and the city which always remained home to me.

Years flew by and I was preoccupied in my new life, the demands of an extended family and challenges of motherhood taking up most of my time and thoughts. Those were the busiest years of my life as (like most mothers) my priority was my children’s well being and education. My life had its own set of problems which I tried to sort out as best as I could. Moreover, visits to Dhaka were not easy due to the ever rising cost of travelling and the hassles of the necessary documents.  As a result, meetings with my parents were often years apart.

And then tragedy struck like a tsunami! Ammi, who had been suffering from depression for years, suddenly died in her sleep. With a heart heavy with pain, I proceeded to Dhaka to meet my saddened father. But the brave man that he was, he tried to cope with life without the woman he had shared the prime years of his youth, middle age and fast approaching old age. But deep down, he was a broken man.      

Years passed and Daddy’s loneliness took its toll. An urgent call from my brother gave the heart breaking news that Daddy had a mild brain stroke and was not simply himself. With Ammi no more there to take care of him, I felt that this was the time when Daddy needed me the most. Completing the travel requirements as soon as possible, I took the first possible flight to Dhaka. When I look down memories lane, I can still feel the deep pain I experienced when I met him.

Daddy seemed like a shadow of the great and intelligent man he was, had lost a major part of his memory and was confused and disoriented most of the time. Like a lost child striving to find his way back home, he shuffled restlessly around his sprawling house. Gone was his booming voice and his strong temper which often made me and my siblings scurry to remote corners of our big house. And there was no more the sense of humour, the naughty glitter in his eyes when he teased me and my twin sisters, whom he loved dearly! The lengthy after dinner discussions which we used to have (on any and every topic in this world) had become a distant memory.

Every moment of those painful months I stayed with him, I tried to follow him like a shadow. Holding his hand when he walked around in faltering steps, helping him to eat as his trembling hands could no more balance a spoon properly, putting him to bed with a kiss on his forehead, coaxing him try to sleep and stop his unending rambling, and on extra bad days, helping him to bathe and change.

Strangely, in those days I felt more like a mother than a daughter. I often felt that I although I did not remember it, Daddy must have done the same for me when I was a child. And this was my time to try to repay (however partially) for the care and attention he had given me when I was a vulnerable little girl. Time had only reversed the roles!  

Although, I did not want to leave back my caring father, my personal responsibilities forced me to come back to Karachi. I and my siblings took turns to take care of Daddy and tried our best to make him as comfortable as we possibly could! And with the grace of Allah and our unending efforts, he slowly improved. But sadly, he could never be the same genius of a man he originally was!

Daddy has long left for his heavenly abode, but the memories of those days are still precious for me. Although I could not do even a fraction of what he had done for me, I can not thank Allah enough for those months and the time I spent caring for him!

Even today, if I could reach out to Daddy, I would like to tell him that only after he became as vulnerable as a child, did I truly realize what and how much he had done for me when I was growing up! I know that I could not do enough to thank or repay him for all he did for me, and all my life, I will remain grateful to him for his unending love and care!

           

 

 

Parenting: The sky is (not) the limit! (http://dawn.com/2012/10/14/parenting-the-sky-is-not-the-limit/)

Arif had been tense since the last two months. As the top debater of his school, he had won many medals. His other passion was cricket and the school team was not considered complete without him. However, his studies suffered because of these activities. Although his parents proudly displayed the trophies and medals he had won, they never hesitated to show their disappointment with his grades. Finally, he decided to leave the school cricket team and did not enrol for the interschool debate contest. He wanted to devote all his time to his studies and come up to his parents’ expectations. On the result day, his teacher praised him for the improvement he had shown and urged him to keep up the effort.

“I was very excited when I proudly handed over my report card to my parents. I had more than 70 per cent marks in all the subjects, but to my frustration, they were still not satisfied.
Mummy was expecting a position and Daddy compared my result with that of my cousin. I feel I can never come up to their expectations. How can I excel in every field of life?” he asks with a sigh.

We, as parents, are seldom satisfied with our children’s academic performance. We coax them, urge them, nudge them and push them to do more, to improve. For us the sky is the limit! But do we ever stop to think and ask ourselves whether we are being fair to our child? Are our expectations from him/her realistic or are we over burdening our children?

Most parents become defensive and argue that they want their child to perform well for the sake of his bright future. After all, he is the one who will benefit in his future life from the success. But is it not true that a child’s achievement is also directly linked to the parents’ prestige? Does it not satisfy our ego to boast in front of our friends and family about our child’s extraordinary performance?

Parents have the tremendous power to affect their child’s emotional health and attitude towards life. Our opinion of him plays a great role in the child’s self-esteem and what he feels and thinks about himself. But sometimes, in our eagerness to see them at the top, we unintentionally harm their confidence and sense of worth. Instead of making a child feel that life is a race, which he must win to feel loved and wanted, we should make him believe that he is loved for what he is, not for what he achieves!

Shaista, a mother of three children, says, “My second son is the most intelligent among my children. He gets good grades although he studies less than his siblings. Previously, I used to scold the others, setting him as their role model. But I felt their grades declined over the years. Then I realised my mistake. Each one of my children has a distinct personality and all of them cannot excel in every field. After my husband and I drew a line on what were our expectations from the less brilliant ones, we were able to help them better. And now I feel they are improving. My youngest is a great sportsman while the eldest has a very creative mind. Their talents were nurtured once they were given the opportunity.”

Parents must learn to create a proper balance between asking or expecting too much from a child and not asking enough of him. We must understand that our expectations may become a burden instead of a boost for our children.

This does not mean that we should not urge them to improve their grades. But there should be a difference between nudging and pushing a kid. Our children are like tender saplings which need a correct amount of water and sunlight to grow. We all know that an excess of these will do more harm than help. By creating a balance between what we want from him and what he can possibly achieve, we can gently lead a child towards a better performance.

The “you have done well, but you could have done better” attitude is frustrating for a child. It develops a sense of insecurity and decreases self esteem. In extreme cases, the continuous dissatisfaction of parents can make a child rebellious and often his performance suffer. Impatience, haste and comparison with other children can do more harm than good.

So, instead of declaring the sky as the limit, parents should never make the academic performance of their children a matter of personal pride. By trying to understand their strong points and helping them out in their weaknesses, we can boost our children’s self-esteem, so that they cater for themselves with more confidence in their abilities when they venture out into the world to start their lives on their own.

 

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!