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!

LOST COMPANIONS…an old article in The Review

They are one of my early childhood memories, my sincere friends who were always ready to help me, cheering me up when I was sad, giving me company when I was lonely and always eager to share their wisdom with me. I too loved my companions dearly and felt refreshed whenever I had a meeting with them! They were always there for me, never complaining if on some days I ignored them and spent more time with my family, toys, or the television.

          We remained together till my teen age years, when I was a school and college student and however busy I was with my studies, I somehow managed to sneak out some time for them. Sometimes this meant less sleeping hours, but my companions were so dear to me that I didn’t mind compromising my sleep for their sake.

          Life moved on! I stepped into a married life, had a home to run, children to look after and time became a precious commodity for me. Although I missed my childhood companions badly, gradually I lost contact with them. On some nights, as I lay in bed, tired to the bones and half asleep, their memories came drifting to my mind and feeling a rush of guilt for abandoning my faithful friends, I promised myself that someday I would make up for this lost time. But try as I would, I just couldn’t manage to carve out those extra hours for myself, time I needed to re-bond with my childhood pals.

          Time flies! Before I knew it the children had grown up and were no more dependant on me for all their requirements. They had their own activities and hobbies to pursue, their friends and studies to spend their time with. I had to realize that they needed space, time for themselves of which I could no more be an integral part. The years of hectic activities were finally over! Days grew longer and I had to find out means and ways to keep myself busy. Although at times I felt lonely and left out but had to put up with this new stage of life. The wisdom my childhood friends had given me helped me a lot to cope with this change, to make compromises without a word of complaint.

One day, just to kill time, I decided to clear up a cupboard which I had not opened for years. And I stumbled upon my old friends whom I had nearly forgotten in the hectic years gone by! Ah! My books, my best friends forever! It was a moment of mixed feelings. I felt a surge of delight although I could feel the tears pricking my eyes. I picked up my old friends lovingly and carefully wiped and dusted them, one by one. over the years, they had aged just like me! My hair had grown grey, their pages yellow and the lines under my eyes matched their worn-out look. But they were as eager as ever to give me company, to wipe out my loneliness and to impart me the wisdom and courage to move on with my life! And then did I realize their true value! Books are my blessed companion which on just a touch, pour out their hearts into my own and the love of books lasts through out a lifetime and is a joy forever! Since that fateful day, I have never had a moment of loneliness!





(It is the duty of parents and teachers to play an important role in cultivating the love of books in their children!… My article in Young World ….Dawn’s children Magazine on 12th June 2010)

       Summer vacations are just round the corner and children must be looking forward to them happily. Some of you will be lucky enough to get away from the sweltering heat and enjoy your holidays in the coolness of the Northern Areas. Some children will go to visit their extended family members i.e grandparents or uncles/aunts in their hometown (or better still villages). But the children who will stay back here in Karachi, will have to find ways to make their vacations enjoyable as well as productive.

        After the initial thrill of not having to follow the strict regime of school life wears out, (which hardly takes a fortnight!), children usually start complaining of boredom. Mothers are frenzied as their daily schedules have gone topsy turvy. The children like to stay up till late into the nights and don’t feel like getting up in the mornings. After they have adjusted to the late breakfasts and lunches, they still find their kids moody and bored.

        Frantically, mothers search for means to keep their children busy (and out of their way) as the unending question “ab kya karein?” (What to do now?)  seems to drive them half crazy. So children, why not give your Moms time to relax as well and plan a treasure hunt this vacation? This treasure will not only make your holidays enjoyable, they will enrich your knowledge and broaden your vision, as well as give you a better understanding of the diverse faces of life.

        Books are treasures which most children of today have not learnt to value properly. Addiction to the television, computer, video games and the cell phone keeps a majority of you busy most of your spare time. You have yet to discover the thrill of curling up in bed with an interesting book or magazine! But children, once you get into the habit of reading good books, you will realize what pleasure in life you have been missing up till now and find that you can not have enough of it.

        You can enjoy a book anytime as it is ready to give you company whenever you want. As famous writer Holbrook Jackson says “The time to read is anytime: no apparatus, no appointment of time or place, is necessary. It is the only art which can be practiced at any hour of the day or night, whenever the time or inclination comes, that is your time for reading; in joy or sorrow, health or illness.”

          Prepare for your Treasure hunt before time (beginning of the vacations). Ask your English teacher and librarian to provide you with a list of good books, suitable for your age.  Old classics by writers like Charles Dickens, The Bronte sisters, Lousia May Alcott, Lewis Caroll, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie should be a must on your list. All time favourites like A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Emma, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Little Woman, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, Alice in the Wonderland, The Swiss Family Robinson, What Katy did (Series), ‘And Then There Were None’, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Rebecca are some books you will love to read (and re-read).

          The list of amazing books is unending. Once you cultivate the love of reading you will find your thirst insatiable! A beautiful quote from Francois Mauriac, (winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1952) says, “Tell me what you read and I’ll tell who you are is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread”.

           A problem that children who want to read good books face, is their exorbitant prices and it is difficult for parents to buy books for them. To overcome this problem, you can create a Book Club with your class mates. Each child can buy one or two books every month according to his pocket money (or savings), and then you can exchange them with each other. If there are thirty children in your class, each member of the club would be able to read thirty books by buying only one. Another option is to get bargains from old book stalls. Sunday markets are a special jaunt for book lovers as there you can get good books at reasonable prices. Some book stalls even buy back their books at half price if, after reading them, you return them in a good condition. You can also use this opportunity and keep on exchanging new books for the old one.

       So children the treasure is within your reach. You have only to plan properly to explore and hunt for it! You will soon find that a good book is your best friend, always ready to entertain you, give you company and at a touch, it pours out its heart into yours.

      Start your treasure hunt before the vacations start! When the school re opens after the summer vacations, apart from the pleasure of reading you enjoyed, you will find yourself a better person. A great treasure will be at your disposal and you will be enriched with knowledge and wisdom, a wealth which will never diminish and nor can  be stolen or lost!

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!

How I became a writer

I can hardly call myself a writer in the true sense of the word! A readaholic since my childhood, I would gleefully read anything and everything I could get my hands upon! And my Nana often used to say fondly (and sometimes a bit angrily when I paid him less attention than my book or magazine)… is ke hath mein to phatte hue kaghaz pe bhee kuch likha hua aajaayeiga to parhne beth jaayeigi!!!

This love for reading was inculcated in me by my parents.. I remember that before I and my siblings had even learnt to read, they subscribed to a number of children’s magazines with strict orders to everyone around that no one would read them out to us! In those days, it seemed as if we had a treasure to which we ourselves would have to find the keys! So, I, my twin sisters (who are only a year older than me), our eldest brother (one year their senior) and the youngest of us ,my (one and a half years) younger brother struggled together to read the books and magazines we found around us, and with each others help, we learnt to read at an early age.

We siblings did not have a considerable age gap, so we shared our hobbies and games together with no communication gaps. The love for books and reading developed with our growing ages and we spent a considerable parts of our pocket moneys in buying new books.

Time flew and we moved on to our new lives and three of us moved out from our childhood city Dhaka.Life had its new challenges, surprises, joys, fears and pains for me, but the love for the printed word survived all the adversities! It was only by chance that I stumbled upon the writer dormant in me. After the death of Daddy (to whom I was deeply attached) I wanted to write something about the great person he was and  and I have to pay credit to some well wishers for their encouragement to start my career as a writer. My first article about my father appeared in Qaumi Gazzette, a magazine of the Shamsi community and Alhumdulillah was widely acclaimed. It was re printed in Shamsi Awaz, a magazine from Muradabad India. And from there, the journey began.
Although I was a bit nervous, and had no idea whether my articles would be approved, I started sending them to The Review (in-Page Magazine of Dawn). Confessions of a Grandmother was my first published article, slowly and steadily my writings kept on appearing in Dawn. Being a slow writer I take a lot of time on each piece, pouring out my heart on each sentence and re reading and writing many times before I am satisfied.
The big break through came when the National Book Foundation announced a writing competition and my son’s freind Faizan Usmani and my daughter-in-law Saira Owais( Both of them writers) urged me to participate). I agreed after a lot of convincing from them. And Alhumdulillah, my entry Follow the Light, which is based on true stories from the early history of Islam got the first prize! The next year I participated again and my second book Footsteps, which is compiled on the same pattern, bagged the 3rd prize.
Although I have been writing for more than four years now, but with no formal education about writing, I still feel that I have to learn a lot and still a far way to go!!

Hum chal to dye ae jazbaa e dil jaana hai kidhar maalum nahin

Aaghaaz e safar pe naazaan hain anjaam e safar maalum nahin!!!!