I SHALL LIVE ON!

A proud day for me today! My grandaughter has finished school with a grand result! May Allah bless her and all my grandchildren…today and always! Ameen

Yasmin Elahi

I SHALL LIVE ON!

          My three year old grand daughter came running into my arms, not taking the trouble to remove her unruly curls which streamed down to her sparkling eyes. My sister who had come from abroad after many years remarked laughingly, “Why! Your grand daughter is just like you. Just see how she tosses her head naughtily to remove her locks from her eyes as she peeps from behind them. I just hope she has not inherited your temper”, she said in a teasing tone. On any other occasion, I would not have tolerated such a remark and immediately picked up an argument with my sister, insisting that I was not as bad tempered as she was suggesting! But as she was comparing me to my grand daughter, which in itself was a big compliment for me, I chose to ignore her comments.

As a grandmother, I…

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A PEN FOR YOUR THOUGHTS..an old article in the Young World

Most of us think that writing an article is a very difficult task. I also had the same opinion, that is, until I decided to try my hand on it.

It is true that some people have a natural talent for writing. They can raise their pen on any given topic and express themselves beautifully, while others have to struggle with words to make their concepts clear. But creative writing is not as complex as we think it to be. We only need to have an idea about the required guidelines and keep on practicing, because we all know that practice makes a man perfect.

To create a good piece of writing, you must first choose your area of interest. You are bound to write better on topics which are appealing for you. Use a very catchy title, one which draws attention as well as gives the reader an idea about what you want to write about. You can also choose your title or heading after you have finished writing as it is only then that you will have an idea of what you have produced with your pen.

Organise your thoughts and pen down the facts you already know. For further information, check out on the internet, but be sure to surf more than one website. By browsing on different websites you will be able to find out which one has more authentic facts and figures.

If your school has a library or you have an access to one in your neighbourhood, you can also read books on the relevant topic and note down important information. To be a good writer, you must cultivate a reading habit. Reading a lot keeps you more informed, improves your vocabulary as well as gives you new ideas about writing.

Keep a pen and paper handy, even by your side when you go to bed. Ideas and notions often come in a flash in the most unexpected moments. Don’t rely on your memory, as these ideas may slip away as easily.

Sometimes we grope for subjects to write about, so when inspiration strikes, scribble it quickly in your notebook. You can also make a list of topics you want to write about and then keep working on them.

Give time to your idea. It is not always advisable to start writing as soon as you chose a topic. Think about it for a few days and keeping noting the supporting points which come to your mind. In this way you will not struggle to complete a piece after you have started it.

Reread an article many times before you send it to a publication. Often, we tend to overlook small spelling or grammar mistakes. Rearranging or adding a few words here and there may add to the value of your writing. According to Mark Twain, “The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you
begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say!”

Every article should be divided into three distinct parts. Start with a good introduction, so that the reader can understand what you are writing about. Remember that the first few sentences are very important. If your opening is interesting, the reader would like to continue, but if it is dull and drab, he would skip it and move on to some other story in the magazine.

The middle part of an article usually gives information and facts and figures about the topic you have chosen. The conclusion should be interesting as you logically wind up your article in a way that the reader can understand your point of view and relate to it.

Keep your word count under control and try to be precise! Repetition always tends to bore and sometimes even irritate, so try to get your point through in a crisp manner.

Keep your language simple. A short article written in simple language is more interesting than a long one in which you have used difficult language and uncommon words. Remember that no one likes to reach out for a dictionary while reading, because it breaks the tempo and pace of the topic.

Let your imagination go wild! Experiment by using different styles until you develop a distinct style which becomes your identity. There will be times when you feel stuck and are unable to finish a piece you have started. Instead of trying to force words and thinking hard, just do something that you find refreshing. Go for a walk, play your favourite game
or just relax for a while. More often than not, you will find fresh ideas rushing to your mind.

Use quotes by famous authors or relevant persons. They add to the value of a piece of writing.

You can start your writing career by contributing for your school magazine and then go on to the children’s magazines of most newspapers. Don’t be disheartened if your writings are rejected. You may not succeed in the beginning but hard work and perseverance eventually pays. A winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, short story writer Isaac Bashevis Singer says, “The waste basket is a writer’s best friend”.

A writer who chooses to remain anonymous, says, “The best compliment I have received is from a fan who said, Once I start reading your article, it is difficult for me to put it down before I reach the last word”.

This, in my opinion, is the best description yet for a good piece of writing.

Communication issues: Rules for a healthy argument

      (This article was published in the Young World, Dawn Inpage Magazine for children, but somehow I feel that grownups like me need this lesson more than children do. Making an argument an ego matter, we are often rude and try to belittle people who do not agree with us!)

          According to George Bernard Shaw “The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it”.

Arshad and Hammad are not on speaking terms for the last two weeks. Reason? They had entered into an argument on which player in the Pakistani Cricket team was responsible for the defeat in the semi- final of ICC World Cup. Each one was defending his favourite player and slinging allegations on the other’s favourite. Although they were close friends, the argument finally became an ego matter and resulted in a quarrel.

An argument can be defined as a difference of opinion among two persons (or groups), when each one tries his best to prove that his views are right and those of his opponent’s are wrong. Too often we see a healthy argument change into a heated debate, or worse still into an ugly fight. We can get into an argument on petty issues with friends, siblings, parents and sometimes even with complete strangers.

Although we do not like to lose once we have entered into an argument, we should realize and understand that every individual has a different opinion depending upon his/her age, education, social and moral values and family and religious background.  The ultimate goal of an argument should never be a contest to see who is the winner , it should be a means to let other see your point of view and trying to make them agree with you (or convince you if you are wrong). To make an argument a means for improved knowledge and a door to better communication there are some rules which should be followed strictly.

Questions like ‘Why?’ ‘How’ and ‘When’ not only make an argument informative, they may also correct some myths and wrong believes of your opponent. But before making any statement, be dead sure that you know your facts properly. Making a claim that is false would make your case weak and you will end up losing even though most of your views were correct.

Talk politely but firmly. To convince others during an argument and make them share your view, stress your points with full conviction. You should show that you are confident about what you are talking about. Keep your mind and voice under control and talk with dignity. Raising your voice over your opponents, insulting him, becoming aggressive and/or flying into a rage, only proves that you have a weak stand and are running out of rationale facts. A calm attitude and a normal voice level will go a far way to strengthen your argument.

          While discussing controversial issues it is better to let your opponent speak first. Listen carefully and let him state his views clearly. Never interrupt him before he is finished. In this way you will have a better understanding of the other person’s views and why his opinion differs from yours. When your turn comes to speak, you will be able to express yourself in a more convincing manner and have a better chance to get your point through.

          Never under estimate your opponent. Don’t think he/she is silly, obstinate or not as intelligent (or educated) as you are. Many arguments are won by showing respect to the views of the person with whom you have a difference of opinion. Never make it into an ego matter. The ultimate aim of an argument should never be belittling the person you have a difference of opinion with; it should always be a step towards better perception of a controversial issue. You must realize that it is not necessary that you are always the one who is right, so keep your mind open during an argument.

          Never, I repeat NEVER argue just for the sake of an argument. Some people just love to disagree with the people around them. They have the unpleasant habit of entering into arguments on every topic and with everyone they come across. They will differ with you in all matters and trap you into joining them in the controversy. But beware of these people! Don’t accept every invitation to enter into a discussion. First, search your mind to find out if you have any idea about the topic of disagreement; whether you can talk about it or not. At times it is better to keep quiet and listen, instead of uttering something foolish which you will regret later. An anonymous saying says, “People who know the least always argue the most”. Avoid being one of those people.

          The ultimate goal of an argument should never be a proof of who is cleverer or has better knowledge. It should not be considered as a contest in which winning is very important. Realizing the fact that each one of us has a right to his/her own opinion, we should let it be a means of communicating which each other and sharing our views and thoughts. Always remember that people are more important than views. You may lose a good friend by being obstinate or unrealistic.  After an argument, even if you have won it, you may be the real loser if in the end you find that you have lost a close friend!

 

BETWEEN THE LINES!

When out of the blue, a friend created a personal blog site for me, I felt thrilled! Ah! Finally I have got a place where I am free to write whatever and whenever I like! Finally I can share on my blog, my experiences, my joys and dreams, my pains, my fears and frustrations, my anger and disappointments! This was a place where I could boast about my achievements, a place I could consider my domain. No deadlines any more, no more frustration of rejected pieces! No more long and tiring waits for approved articles to be published! I could write on any topic I felt like writing about and just post it on my blog!

In the beginning I was flushed with ideas! My mind seemed to work overtime, not giving me respite even when I went to bed. But after the initial excitement abated, and I started to feel the toll of long working hours tapping at the keyboard of my computer in sleepless nights, the reality started to set in! I came to realize that I was mistaken in my excitement or to be more precise a bit carried away!

Over the months I have come to realize that freedom of speech comes with its own set of rules! I can definitely write whatever I want to, but this freedom also comes with a sense of responsibility. Although there is no one to censor my writings, there are definitely some considerations which eventually prove to become restrictions for my pen (read keyboard)!

Most of the times, small incidents spur our imagination and creativity. Writers are usually inspired by these incidents and feel the urge to catch those moments forever in their writings because emotions are often the major triggers which enable us to pen down something new. And interesting as well! Joys are easily shared but when it comes to an emotion which is negative, the problem arises!

Let me tell you how it goes. Being a newcomer to the world of blogging, my family, friends, acquaintances and people from my immediate circle make up the majority of my readers.  (With innumerable people taking to blogging and as I can not claim to fame yet, why would a stranger like to waste time on an unknown writer like me?) So, when I want to share something personal on my blog, pour my heart out in moments of anger, frustration, disappointment or anguish, what would be the reaction of the people who know me personally, becomes a sort of editor for my writings!

Often angry outbursts bring up issues ling settled, differences we had sorted out or else carefully brushed under the carpet (if we agree to disagree) pretending they simply did not exit. But tragically, when these issues resurface, they bring with them pain, frustration and a sense of deep anger! While going one of these phases, I want to get rid of the negative feelings through my writings, the channel which I have always found helpful. But strangely, my fingers do not tap the keyboard as fast as I would like them too. I feel restrained because I know deep down in my heart that expressing what I am feelings openly would only aggravate the situation.

While trying to relate a personal experience, I feel I am treading on wary grounds where every step is to be taken with utmost care! Because there are times, when someone who loves me dearly spurs these negative feelings by hurting me or making me angry. I know that he/she did not mean ill, nor was the harm intentional.   But if I am hurt I want to cry out and if I am disturbed I want to relieve myself! Writing for me is a way out, a way to express my feelings, bring out anything which is disturbing me or making me unhappy!

I feel restrained because I feel that being outspoken or blunt in expressing my emotions could hurt the feelings of people I care for! Or they may accuse me of washing my linen in public! Some issues are better left behind the curtain, some emotions are better off if they are not shared openly. This feeling causes the slowing down of my pen as I try to carefully sort out what I can and what I can not share with my readers!

I have finally learnt over the months that freedom of expression comes with its own norms. I may be free to write on my blog, but I must know where to draw a line between what I can and what I can not share with my readers!

So, often the only option I have left is to try to write between the lines! I firmly believe that the people who mean the world to me, who are close to my heart, who know me in and out and who care for me would easily read those unwritten words. It only needs a loving and sensitive heart to understand what should have been said but has remained unsaid!

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
disadvantage!

Beginning of a New Journey!

 

22nd April……It is four o’ clock in the morning! After tossing in my bed restlessly for hours, trying my best to go to sleep, I give up! Sleep is miles away from my eyes tonight.I finally get out of my bed and switch on my computer. Tomorrow is a big day for me, perhaps the beginning of a new phase of life.

I have often written in my articles, life keeps on springing surprises at me and over the years I have taught myself not to be stunned. But this is really a big one! Often when we are standing on the seashore, enjoying the beauty of the little waves coming in, there comes in a big one crashing down and we are swept a bit off our feet. I can not analyze my feelings tonight. Am I happy, excited or my ego has got a big boost? I scourge my mind and heart but find none of the above emotions. At last, I realize that finally, I am at peace with myself as well as I feel greatly honored!

When I couriered by prize winning book ‘Follow the Light’ (Published by Ferozsons),to Amtul Sajjad, regional librarian, BSS, I had not the faintest idea of what was in store for me. My basic aim was to set up stalls at the different branches of BSS, where I could put up my book for sale at discounted rates, to the school children as well hold reading sessions of some inspiring parts from it.I wanted more and more children to know about this book, read it and further spread the message I have tried my best to convey in it! But being invited as a guest speaker on the World Book and Copyright Day, is something I had not thought about in my wildest dream. Mrs. Fatima Rehman’s invitation was really a big surprise for me; because having no formal education in any form of journalism, I hardly consider myself a writer.

Being an ardent reader since my childhood, my passion for reading turned into writing as my daughter in law Saira Owais, and a friend Faizan Usmani, urged me to start writing. I was surprised, (but this time the wave was small!).  Me? I asked in astonishment! What and how can I write? I have no knowledge about writing. I told them seriously but somehow they did not give up on me, and finally they convinced me to raise my pen!

The first article I wrote was in Urdu and a daughter’s loving tribute to her father. I wrote an article about my late Daddy for our community magazine (Shamsi). And when I started to write, I got so carried away, I just couldn’t stop myself, resulting in a 2500 words article. The editor of the magazine Qaumi Gazzette said, “Cut down on the words”. I re wrote and this time ended with 2600 words! This is only an amusing start of my writing career which I would like to share with you, my little friends at BSS.

In those days, having no knowledge of Urdu composing, I hand wrote and rewrote the article many times, trying to improve it as I felt that whatever I wrote, I could not do justice to my Daddy, nor could I express my intense love for him! Some day, Insha Allah I shall compose that hand written article and share it with my little friends here!

I also want to tell you that in those days, I had a single computer at home, which I shared with my three sons, and except writing e-mails to my sisters abroad or chatting with them on Yahoo,I thought I had no other usage of a computer.

How wrong I was!

‘Confessions of a Grandmother’ was my first article published in the ‘The Review’ of Dawn magazines, which appeared in those days in a booklet form on Thursdays and was not merged in The Images on Sunday. Articles appeared from time to time as I kept on struggling as a writer, pouring my heart out on each and every word I wrote, happy when a piece was approved and disappointed when it was rejected! During bad patches, when one after the other article was turned down, I often became shaky and started to think about giving up, thinking that I was only wasting my time as well of the time of the editors of the publications they were being sent too! But somehow, the inborn fighter in me refused to give up!

How I compiled Follow the Light is also an experience worth sharing and I shall definitely do so one day in a separate (bashart e zindagi!) blog. The only thing I want to say today was that a ‘Divine Hand’ helped and guided me throughout, and my children, grandchildren and friends went all out to help me. With hardly any knowledge of how to use Microsoft Word and the way the electricity kept on playing hide and seek with me, it was an uphill task. But with the help of Allah and a deep determination, I compiled this book in nearly a fortnight. And today, I am thankful to Mrs.Fatima Rehman who has deeply honoured me by inviting me as a guest speaker to talk to the children at BSS Primary 4.

With still more than four hours to the time I have to reach the school, I feel happy and at peace with myself. My mission is to bring our young generation closer to Islam, make them understand what our great religion is really about, and I feel that it is moving in the right and satisfactory direction! And I can not thank Allah enough for this.

The Moazzin has already called for the Fajr prayers, so I must stop myself now, say my Namaaz and try to catch up on my sleep! 

Subhan Allah i Wabee Humdihee Subhan Allah i Azeem! 

11Am 23rd April. I am back from the BSS Primary4 after a delightful interaction with the sweet children and with a big, fragrant bouquet!The staff (from the Principal, the Co-ordinator, the Librarian, the teachers and even the peons) was very polite and I specially found Ms Fatima full of warmth and very co-operative! And she gave me many helpful tips as well.And,last but not the least, I can never forget the smiling faces,the eyes shining in wonder,as the children listened and their little minds tried to grasp and understand each and every word I spoke. Thanks again BSS Primary 4 for this great boost to my mission!

The Pied Piper of Today

COMMUNICATION: The Modern Pied Piper

Cellular companies are the modern Pied Piper. Our youth chase them blindly, dancing all night to the tunes of incoming calls or the beeps of the text messages, writes Yasmin Elahi

Who hasn’t read the fascinating story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin who played a musical pipe, luring hundreds of children to follow him out of town into a cave, never to be seen again?

The story holds true to this day, where the Pied Piper of Hamelin has been replaced by slogans floated by cellular companies of our age.Sab keh do, Tum hi to ho, baaton baaton mein, Feel free are some of the slogans adopted by these companies. The way consumers are attracted to them, especially young people, paints more or less the same picture and the use (read misuse) of the cell phone is becoming more and more common by the day.

With these companies offering new incentives and bargains with every passing minute to capture the market, the tele-density of mobile phones has reached 55.60 in the country (Pakistan Telecom Authority report) which means that more than half of our population has access to mobile phones with over 89 million subscribers. In the 2007-08 fiscal year alone, cellular phone companies added 22.36 million subscribers to their networks amid cutthroat competition.

In times like these, when a fulltime homemaker gets painfully exhausted by the end of the day with endless chores and responsibilities around the house, the working woman is too busy juggling her time between her home, family and social commitments to use her cell phone and the man of the house after being stuck in a mad traffic jam on his way back from work, prefers to be called a couch potato as he flips lazily the channels on TV, the young end up falling prey to these cellular companies. They cater to and target our only hope for a better future, and the rest is a Pied Piper tale, where text messaging and calling each other endlessly on the mobile phone without any rhyme or reason is relative to walking into the cave.

In their competition to win over the market, the mobile servers are cutting their rates to outplay each other.packages like these are common, “Five hundred messages for Rs50!”, “Unlimited messages for a month for a [paltry] Rs80!”, “Free extra time in lieu of the air time used!”, and the most outrageous: “Free calls and text messages from midnight to six in the morning!”

The cellular companies’ television commercials reflect the kind of customers they are targeting. Take the dancing damsel in a flowing ghaghra hopping about in the fields, for example, or the college students laughing and joking in the cafeteria behaving as if studies were the last thing on their minds, or the glamorised anorexic young models endorsing mobile phones, being idealised by young girls of today. Most sane people will seldom find these commercials realistic or even sensible.

It is irresponsibility on the part of parents who think they only have a role to play as long as their children are going to school and not beyond. It is during youth that we happen to be the most vulnerable and it is during youth that most parents these days give children more freedom than they can handle. This is how they get carried away.

Wasting time sending unnecessary text messages or calling each other keeps young people awake till the wee hours of the night, and then they are expected to be on time for their classes and perform well at their studies. The boy meet girl has become something of the past; the modern way for teenagers to flirt is boy text- messages girl or the other way round.

Cell phones are an incredibly ingenious invention if put to good use, for they have broken all barriers of communication. It is the abuse of the device, triggered by the greedy policies of cellular companies and the recklessness of parents and teachers, which is the trouble. In this day and age of insecurity and lack of law and order, parents feel more at ease when their youngsters carry a cell phone with them. But in an attempt to outclass each other, cellular companies are turning this device into a big nuisance and their dirty marketing strategies are playing with the very future of our youth.