From Six to Sixty-Five!

SunriseI have only recently turned 65, and in reflective moments, feel a bit amused when I remember the times reaching sixties, or for that matter, even 40s or 50s seemed a far cry for me! I distinctly remember the day when a distant uncle tried to apply his newly learnt palmistry on reading what the lines on my little palms were predicting! Cupping my palm in his hands, he peered down at it intently for quite some time; then shaking his head sadly declared in a solemn voice, “Yasmin, your age line shows that you do not have a long life. I fear you may not be even able to cross thirty.” “How insensitive of him!” I often think now, but at age six, dying at thirty years seemed too far off to worry (or depress) me and I just wanted him to leave my hand so that I could go back to play with my elder twin sisters.

But my uncle’s prediction lingered in my subconscious until I had crossed forty and learnt to scoff at it. At every illness big or small, I would tell myself, “This is it. My end has come!”  But by the grace of The Almighty, at 65 I am still around and also not in a too bad shape. Life is still worth living and there is yet a lot to look forward to. To be honest, I do not feel old inspite of my years. Even now I am thrilled when it rains suddenly, enjoy the morning breeze, love the fragrance of flowers and still feel enchanted by the bright light of the full moon. Surprise gifts and a compliment on my writings (and yes, looks also) still bring a rush of adrelin! I love to go out and visits from friends and relatives and above all my daughter and grandchildren are always exciting.

As I look back on my life, I have a lot to reminiscence about. Having a secure childhood with very caring parents and loving siblings, the early years of my life form a valuable part of my chest of memories! Married at a rather young age, my prime years were the hectic ones when I was busy raising up my children. I am thankful that I had a life long enough to sit back and reflect on the past years, congratulate myself on the areas I feel I have been successful and admonish myself on where I have made mistakes, or could have done better. Life is always full of Ifs and Buts! But I am lucky that I have no regrets or resentments. Living in a joint family system with my married sons is a great blessing for me. With all my children happily settled in their lives and having families of their own, the focus of my attention has shifted from them to my grand children. I hope I live to see them achieving their goals and fulfilling their parents’ dreams!

I have had my share of adversities but with the passage of time and the wisdom only years can bring, I have realized that they come with the package of the roller coaster ride we all call Life! In the bumpy road of the years I have lived, I have learnt a lot of lessons, some sweet, some bitter! But I have refused to be disillusioned by these lessons. I have also had my share of successes and failures!  Successes have encouraged me to strive for even better results, while failures have taught me to struggle with more vigour. The perfectionist in me is never satisfied and I am always my own best critic!

At age 65, I have more to look back at, than to look forward to! Life is drawing to its natural end! But there is a wish list which keeps getting longer by the day! I want to note down these wishes and checkout on how many of these are shared by my readers!

I wish that I am never a burden for my children, physically or financially. Not hampered by diseases old age brings, I wish to remain active and self sufficient till the end comes.

I wish that my children pass on to my grandchildren the religious, social and cultural values I have tried to instill in them. I have always taught them “To live and Let Live.” I wish that my children and grandchildren cherish the legacy of love I have strived hard to pass on to them!  I wish (and pray) that they remain a closely knit family and always be out there for each other, in good times and God Forbid bad!

With my eldest granddaughter beginning her medical university this year, and the younger ones still to begin school, I wish that my grandchildren attain success both in their academic and personal lives. I have high dream for them and I wish to live long enough to see at least some of them fulfilled. 

 I wish that, when the time comes to go, I accept death serenely and am at peace with myself. I wish I die a content woman who does not want to cling on to life unnecessarily.  I just want to move on to another world, which I pray and fervently hope, would be better than this one!

I wish to die peacefully at home, in my bed and with my children around me. No heroics for me, no rushing to the hospital and unnecessary (and painful) medical procedures. I wish my children let go with acceptance that there is an end to every being in this world. I wish that they accept my loss with grace and with no prolonged mourning after I have left. By God’s mercy, I have lived a full life and always struggled to keep my children happy. In death also, I wish that they are not saddened!

I wish to be remembered with love, tenderness and respect! I wish that my memories bring a smile to the faces but also a faint mist to the eyes of my family members and friends! I wish that even when I am around no more, I continue to live in the hearts of those I love so dearly!

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE!

 

The young woman (a friend’s daughter) was fuming with anger! “Pakistan is not worth living anymore! I will migrate as soon as I possibly can.”

Her agitation was natural! Mugged by a scooter driving youth, she had lost cash, her ID card, credit card and cell phone. And as this was not the first time, the hassle she knew she had got herself into was more frustrating. As she knew from earlier experience that reporting at a police station was futile, she had to (again) set upon contacting the concerned people about her dilemma! Applying for a new NIC and credit card, getting her cell no. blocked until she got a new sim and trying to re-collect the numbers of her contacts was no easy job! And she knew that palms would have to be greased for redressing her genuine distress. And last but not the least, the cash she had lost was no small amount!

I couldn’t blame her as she was sharing the general dismal mood of discontent shared by the youth of our country! But like I always do in similar circumstances, I couldn’t stop myself from quipping back, “What percentage of our population can possibly migrate? Don’t you think that people living outside Pakistan have their own set of problems? And instead of planning to run away, we should firmly plant our feet on our soil and work hard to improve the conditions?”

Conditions in Pakistan are detoriating day by day, year by year! Caught in the clutches of greedy politicians, energy crisis, militancy, religious extremists (whom I refuse to call Muslims) blowing up themselves and innocent people in public places, the ever rising spiral of inflation, lawlessness, illiteracy, corruption and unemployment are only a few of the problems gnawing at the roots of our country.

Tall promises are made before every up-coming elections, pledges are made to solve all the problems in no time at all, but our leaders quickly forget about them and promptly busy themselves in amassing wealth in every possible and unethical manner, visiting foreign countries (with huge entourages), distributing ministries to appease their loyalists (competency being the least consideration), and stooping to any level to keep their rule intact. This is a quagmire we have been stuck in for decades now!

The brain drain from Pakistan towards the West has been continuing for the past two or more generations and is one of the reasons for the unfavorable conditions we are facing today. Qualified, young, talented, hardworking and honest people realize that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. A better paid job, much improved basic amenities, an atmosphere of general security and stability, bright prospects for their children’s future, more stable economic conditions and over all a more comfortable life style, attracts them so much that they opt for the greener pastures.

But as the saying goes “Everything comes with a price. Everything! Some things just cost more than the others.” The economic and living conditions may be much better in the greener pastures, but life is not all bliss in an alien land. Adapting to a foreign culture and still retaining one’s national identity is difficult for most people (and more so for their children) and safe guarding their religious and cultural values is an uphill task! Compromises have to be made, as leaving behind one’s roots, parents and childhood friends is always painful.

The most important negative factor is that these people are forced into raising a confused generation, which is neither Eastern nor Western, but a misfit in both cultures! Many a parents have to go through a nightmarish phase when they can no longer control their adolescents, who are attracted by the so called freedom of their native peers. Protecting their children from the culture of drug abuse, extra-marital sex and violence becomes a difficult task for them. The children who have been brought up in a totally alien culture, feel all these are normal part of life and often clash with their parents when the older generation tries to impose restrictions on them!

Sadly, inspite of these difficulties, most people who move out of Pakistan, think it is better to cope with these issues rather live in the difficult conditions back home. And so in their quest for greener pastures, they leave behind their culture, their values and a motherland which is bleeding to the core!

But I say again and again that to run away from problems is not a healthy way to solve them! We must not behave like ostriches who bury their necks in the sand! We have to face our troubles and overcome them, catch the bull by its horns and try to control it with all our might! Fighting the problems by finding out solutions and trying our best to implement them inspite of the odds is the only way things can improve!

Pakistan needs fresh blood more than it ever needed before! Dedicated, talented, hard working, honest and educated youth must come forward to control the helm of affairs! We need them in every field of action, bureaucracy, politics, military, judiciary, education and governance! Personal gains must be sacrificed for national causes! Our youth may be disenchanted and angry, but their angry outbursts show that they still care! And they know that all is not lost in Pakistan, as deep down they also feel that it is high time things should change for the better. I am not supporting or opposing any political party, but to prove my point I must remind people about the steep rise in the percentage of voters especially the young ones, when in the recent elections hope for a change was offered!

 There is always light at the end of the darkest tunnel. We must move forward, even if we are on our hands and feet, to reach that end! We have to start at the grassroots and corruption has to be eliminated at all levels. Awareness about striking the perfect balance between rights and duties can only be achieved through improving the literacy rate. Each and everyone has to put in his/her share. The effort may be small and seemingly insignificant but when a major change comes, every small endeavour will prove to help in making the difference!

Only then the plight of or Homeland can change!

I know and accept that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Life in the conditions prevailing in Pakistan is not easy! I fear for my children when they go out (and quickly recite a prayer for their safety), get panicked if one of them is late in coming home or  responding to a call on his/her cell phone, worry day in and day out how to stretch the household budget to make the ends meet, cry when I see the pictures of innocent children killed in terrorist attacks, rant and rave at the conditions in Pakistan when I read the newspaper or watch the news on the TV, but if given the choice of moving out, without even thinking for a moment, my answer would be “No thanks, the grass may appear greener on the other side, but inspite of the difficult conditions here, I still prefer my side of the fence!”

 

 

LIGHT THE TORCH! (MY MUSINGS ON THE EVE OF PAKISTAN DAY)

Gloom hangs heavy in the air as Pakistan is going through one of the worst phases of her short history! The most common emotions we are experiencing these days are of insecurity, anxiety, fear, frustration, disappointment and all other such negative feelings! Although elections are just round the corner but the common citizen does not seem to be interested in casting his vote! We have been hoodwinked so many times by the clever and greedy politicians that we have lost all hope that things will or can improve for the better! Tall promises made in the past (and which were never fulfilled) have made us doubt any new claims made by these same faces!

The media is crying its throat hoarse on the intensity (read hopelessness) of the situation. Day in and day out, we witness participants of TV talk shows spell doom. The hosts of these shows invite people at the helm of affairs, people who have influence as well as authority, to discuss on the various issues troubling our country. But these people do nothing except fighting like wild cats, slinging allegations at each other and behaving like a bunch of spoilt brats! No one is ready to come forward and take responsibility, the best that they do is comfortably placing their opponent responsible for the quagmire we are stuck in. Problems are discussed and defined, but no solutions are offered.

I am just a face in the crowd, an ordinary woman in a country of millions. But like every educated and dedicated Pakistani, I feel depressed by the state of affairs and often ponder on means and ways to come out of this situation. I strongly feel that every one with an iota of patriotism should do his/ her share. It may be a drop in the ocean, but with time, effort and dedication, eventually every drop will count! Because every contribution (however small it may seem at the moment), towards a better society, may make some difference tomorrow! According to Shahzad Roy, founder of the Zindagi Trust, “To go big, we must first start small. Alas there are no shortcuts!”

 I and my readers are lucky, in the sense that we had access to quality education. We went to good institutions and had sincere teachers who brought out our abilities as best as they could. We know what our rights as citizens of a state are, and what duties we hold in return. We are leading a relatively comfortable and respectable life and can only imagine the sufferings of the down trodden masses. The current state of affairs strongly demands that it is our turn to pay back to our Homeland and not take our good luck for granted. We must understand that holding discussions over a cup of coffee, comfortably seated in our drawing rooms will not change our lot. We have to do something urgently, nay, on a war footing, to save our country from total turmoil.

The crying need of the hour is to create awareness among the masses. People must learn to identify their rights as well as be aware of their duties! And this mind-set comes only with education. We in Pakistan have a very low literacy rate, although official figures paint a brighter picture of the situation, as they declare near half the population literate. But their criterion is indeed pathetic; as a person who can read and write his/ her name is called literate in Pakistan. We have a dismal education system, teaching a listless curriculum by teachers, majority of who lack any sense of dedication to the cause of “Education for All”. Some of Pakistan’s problems like the rise of the crime graph, unemployment, hatred, intolerance and poor health conditions due to poor hygiene, are created by the lack of education.

Successive governments have failed to work for raising literacy levels in Pakistan (134th position in the 180 countries of the world and 31st out of 35 Islamic countries). Our selfish and greedy politicians realize that mass literacy will give people dignity, self respect and the courage to fight against their oppressive policies. Because with education comes enlightenment and the will to fight tyranny!

In the past Punjab government did come up once with the slogan Parha Likha Punjab. (I beg to state that the name is suggestive in itself of the political motives behind it as Parha Likha Pakistan would have been a more patriotic slogan). But it was rolled back after millions of rupees were misspent. So whatever tall claims they may make, education has never been on the top in the priority lists of our governments.

Whoever is in power, in every budget only meager funds are allotted for education, while much bigger chunks are spent on the luxurious spending of the government high-ups. Although the outgoing government had announced that over 80% literacy would be reached by the year 2015, but with no note worthy efforts in this direction, this proved to be only a verbal claim. We can easily understand how sincere their claims were by the fact that approximately a paltry 2% of the budget was been allocated for the educational sector. (UNESCO has recommended increasing this to at least 4%). In which I call only a vote gaining tactic, a resolution to implement free secondary education was passed in the National Assembly a few months back, but every educated Pakistani felt that this was “Too little, Too late!

In the rural areas, the situation is worse. The influential landlords consider it against their interests that their Haris or their children get educated. They know that their uncrowned kingdoms will have to face a down fall once awareness is created amongst their domains. To keep their powerful tentacles firmly rooted, they discourage their Haris and threaten them with dire consequences if their children are sent to school. They forcefully have schools shut down, using them as their Autaqs, or worst still as their cattle pens. As most of our feudal landlords have a strong hold on the country’s political power, they can easily have their way. So majority of the population continue to live on as illiterates, in abject poverty and unaware of their basic rights to a minimal quality life.

          NGOs, philantropists and private trusts are working in the education sector and doing a lot to provide free or affordable education to the poor children. The parents are urged to pull their children out of child labor and sent to schools; something they are often reluctant to do, as the children help out their parents by bringing in additional income. But the problem is so enormous that these efforts can not be enough to tackle the situation and bring our country out of this culture of chaos, corruption and confusion. Each and every educated person in Pakistan should come forward to do his/ her share.

My slogan is “Each One, Teach One”. If each educated Pakistani vows to impart education to only one illiterate person, young or old, soon we will see winds of change blowing. By adopting just one person as our student, be it our maid, chowkidar or their child, the boy selling tidbits at traffic signals or the Chota at the motor mechanics or Pan shop, we have to coax and urge these people and take them under our folds. By sparing a couple of hours of our free time and making all out efforts to impart education from the basic level, we can change the destiny of at least one person, as our student will not just learn to read and write his/her name to be called a literate, rather would have the awareness and vision only education can create. Making only one person literate by the educated ones, will double the literacy rate of Pakistan in no time. And the only repayment we may ask from our student is to ask him to pass on his knowledge to someone else in his circle.

Being a firm optimist, I believe that there is light at the end of the darkest tunnel. Every educated Pakistani must come forward to light the torch of literacy and to make sure that this torch keeps on burning. It may take time, patience and endurance but in not- too- far- off days we shall see hands coming out of the darkness; hands which shall pick up this lightened torch of education and awareness and march ahead, spreading the light of literacy to each and every part of our country! In Sha Allah!

 

MAA KI DUA! (For my readers who can not read Urdu)

Maa ke daaman mein hoti hai wus’at bohat

Daal do meri jholi mein jo tum ko hain ghum

Chun loon palkon se raste mein kaante hain jo

Paas aane na doon mein tumhare ye ghum

 

Ji rahi hun mein sirf tumhare lye

Tum pareshan ho ye mujh ko gawara nahin

Tour laon mein taare jo ho bas mein mere

Kya karoon mere bachon ye mumkin nahin

 

Meri Jan ye is dunya ka dastoor hai

Jo bhee darta hai aur us ko daraati hai ye

Hans ke har dukh ka saamna tum karo

Ke jo bhee rota hai aur usko rulaati hai ye

 

Mein ne maana ke waqt ye hai mushkil bohat

Rakho himmat jawaan, aage barhte raho

Mushkilein saari aasaan ho jaayeingi

Tum duaaen meri sath le ke chalo

 

Naao aaj beech toofan ghir gayi hai tou kya

Na khuda hai Khuda mera rakho yaqeen

Ik din sahil pe pohncheigi kashti zurur

Apni maa ki duaaon pe rakho yaqeen

 

Daur ye sakht jo hai ye guzar jaayeiga

Chumeigi eik din manzil tumhare qadam

Ke hai dua maa ki jis ke bhee hamqadam

Uska Haami hai Allah, khud Us ki qasam!!

 

THE BEGINNING OF THE END?

 

I grumble, I protest, I rave, I rant and yes, I am not ashamed to admit that in weak and emotional moments I cry too! But in the depth of my heart there is a sad and sinking feeling that all this is in vain! I can not do anything to change the way things are going in my beloved Homeland. And then I realize that my pen is my only tool! At least I can give a path to my emotions, share with my readers my pain, my anger and my frustration at the non stop downslide in nearly every aspect of life in Pakistan! Being a stay at home mother and grandmother and also a senior citizen, my ageing body and mind hampers me from any active participation in the state of affairs; this is the only small contribution I can make. It may be a drop in the ocean, but deep down I firmly believe that eventually every such drop will bring about a tsunami of change!

Every new incident of terror, arson, cold blooded target killing, corruption and sheer negligence bring a flurry of troubling questions to my mind. Is this the price we and our coming generation pay for loving our country? Who are these people who have unleashed a reign of terror on the common (and patriotic) Pakistani? Why are the people who are supposed to trace them and give them exemplary punishment a total failure in their jobs (for which they are paid hefty amounts after fleecing the law abiding taxpayer)?  When will the situation change for the better and this hopeless situation end? When will our politicians end their race in corruption and greed and rise to the occasion and try to control things which are getting out of hand day by day? When will the sufferings of the man on the street abate?  How can the heartless people who are killing innocent and unarmed fellow countrymen dare to call themselves Muslims? Although I can find no answer to my questions, the intense pain, the deep anger and the sense of frustration abates a bit when I express my feelings of utter hopelessness!

I am no political analyst, nor a religious scholar, so like every common Pakistani I can only ask, nay, demand for solutions! Maybe someday, someone will come up with an answer to my queries but at the moment I, like all sensitive and patriotic Pakistanis seem to be groping in the dark! We are walking in a tunnel which seems to be endless, our souls so tired we feel like dropping down dead, but the vague hope that there is bound to be light at the end of this dark tunnel keep us dragging our bleeding feet on!

11th January..2013

I had started this blog a few days back, but the slow and lazy writer that I am, had left it unfinished. But the bomb blasts in Quetta have brought me back to my computer. Today is a black day in Pakistan’s history! And I am sad to say that we do not have days like these once in a while! The bomb blasts in Quetta which has left more than a hundred people dead and a lot more injured has opened a new set of questions in my mind. Who are these people who are targeting the Hazara Shias in Balochistan? Are we all not human beings, and then Muslims before we are Sunnis or Shias? When will the high-ups in Baluchistan wake up from their deep slumber to stop these killings? Are they a part of this conspiracy and deliberately turning a deaf ear and blind eyes to the ethnic cleansing of these innocent people? The list of questions goes on and on and I just grope in pain for answers!

13th January…2013

The relatives of the bomb blast victims have taken a seemingly strange step. As a protest for the killings of their dear ones, they have decided to hold a dharna(sit-in) at the site of the blasts, with the coffins of the deceased! They are demanding that the army take over the control of Quetta and the inefficient and corrupt government of CM Raisani sacked! The voice of their peaceful but painful protest is reaching out to every sensible and sensitive Pakistani, waves of protest are spreading country wide as sit ins are being held in many cities in all the four provinces of Pakistan!

The unburied coffins of the victims of the gruesome carnage in Quetta seem to ask more questions? What was our fault? Why are we being targeted so cruelly? Why have the security services and the government failed to give us protection?

As I try to go back to sleep after my Fajr prayers, my mind goes back to the people out there, braving the freezing temperatures and the agony and pain of sitting with their unburied dead! As I pull my blanket closer, my ageing body seems to shiver at these disturbing thoughts. I feel restless! And pushing my blanket aside, I try again to complete this blog.

 My heart goes out to you, the relatives of the innocent people killed in the Twin explosions. It must be breaking your hearts to sit out with the dead bodies of your loved ones, bravely facing the bitter cold and rain as well as the emotional trauma you are going through!

14th January ..2013

After the three days long painful sit in, a day of mourning which has brought most of the country to a standstill, the government finally has to give in! Although the prime Minister had reached Quetta earlier in the day, he did not seem to have the courage to go out to the protestors. Media coverages of him, sitting comfortably in the warmth of the heaters in the Governor House, holding talks with concerned people, while the young and old, men, women and children were shown shivering in the intense cold, only added insult to injury!

Finally late in the night, he went to offer his condolences to the bereaved, not looking very comfortable as he hummed and hawed during his speech, and had to be prompted again and again by the Information Minister Kaira. He finally announced that the demands of the protestors have been met. There would be Governor rule in Baluchistan, immediate compensation for those who have been killed (as if money could compensate for their lives) and free treatment for the injured.

And the rest is history!

Today there is only one question which keeps on tugging at my heart! Is this the beginning of the end?

I hope and pray this time the country wide protests, and the painful sacrifice of the mourners of not burying their dead unless their demands are met, do not go in vain and the moment of change we all have been waiting for has finally arrived! Maybe I will at last get an answer to the questions which make my heart bleed and keep me sleepless at nights! May be we have reached the end of the dark tunnel, even if we are on our hands and feet, but being the resilient nation we are, we are bound to bounce back!

Long live Pakistan!

 

          

Sharing my experiences of 2012 and hopes for 2013!

Aside

2012 is coming to a close! The months just seemed to fly away! Every passing years leave their marks on our lives as memories some pleasant some painful become a part of our past! Thankfully 2012 proved to be a memorable one, so many important events this year…some milestones in life! Yes, 2012 was a very important year for me.

Sunrise

The beginning of the year saw the hectic preparations of my youngest son’s marriage. On February 2nd his bride became the new and welcome member of my small family and I felt that the major responsibilities of my life were over. I pray that my children and grand children are always showered by special blessings from Allah.

Another major milestone of 2012 was the publishing of my first award winning book Follow the Light. Although it is taking time, but slowly and surely my book is getting appreciation. Based on true incidents from the history of Islam, my aim for compiling Follow the Light is to promote good values in children as well as familiarize them with the heroes of our great religion.

As I started working for the promotion of my first published book, I got a good breakthrough as one of the most reputed schools of Karachi invited me as a guest author several times to its different branches. These visits were truly delightful as I shared my writing experiences with the children. Eyes filled with wonder, sweet but a bit shy smiles and innocent questions just warmed my heart. I hope to keep up this inter action with school children in 2013 as well.

Another important happening of 2012 is the setting up of a personal website. But I can not take credit for this, as one of my readers did the whole thing for me. I call her My fairy with the Magic Wand! She has been a great help and has taught me a lot about how to improve my website. Blogging is something new for me and as I am a painfully slow writer, I can not boast of many followers and my site stats are still pathetic! But I am enjoying this new world a lot. Here, I am free to write anything I want and on any topic I care for! With no word restrictions or fear of rejection, I find my blog site a place where my imagination can fly freely! I also found a place where I can share my Urdu poetry with my readers. Sharing Ghazals and Nazms from my collection Ankahi Baaatein is giving me a great sense of satisfaction. And I am getting a fairly good response too.

A new addition to the family is another important event of 2012. On the 26th of May I was blessed with a new grandson. I love being a grandmother and my grandchildren are my constant source of sheer joy! Spending time with them is more valuable for me and I often neglect my writing as I am mostly engaged with them.

This year I have also completed the translation of Footsteps (my second award winning book). With very few articles in The Review and a bit more in the Young World (Dawn in page magazines), I feel I could have done more! But diversions like Facebook, Skype, Twitters took up a lot of my time. But as I write only for the pleasure of it, to be honest with my readers, I dont mind this slow performance. 

And now 2013 is about to start. A new year brings with it new hopes and new resolutions!

I hope to hold my newborn grandchild in my arms in the first trimester of the upcoming year, and the wait is slowly turning into deep excitement. My youngest will become a father! This is like a dream come true, because I had hardly expected to live this long!

My second book Footsteps and Roshan Raahein, the Urdu version of Follow the Light should also hit the bookstalls this year, In sha Allah (if Allah so wishes)! This is something I had never contemplated even in my wildest dreams, but a Divine Hand seems to help me and keep me going.

Another resolution for 2013 is compiling my third book, Lost Legacies. I dont know if this would materialize but I shall try my best! I also hope to pick up my writing speed as well as post more from my collection of Urdu poetry, Ankahi Baatein, on my blog site.

Every passing year has its pleasures, joys as well as pains and disappointments. But as the year draws to its end, I am content with what it doled out for me. Although I can not boast of much, but I have tried to the best of my limited abilities to achieve something and not just wasted my time in futile activities. Readers are requested to pray for me and wish me luck in the upcoming year!

Determination: She dared to dream!

This is a true story of a brave woman,  a determined person who set seemingly impossible goals for herself, goals she fiercely pursued until she reached them! Although Nasima is around no more, and I have lost all contacts with her children, deep down I am sure they must be leading a happy and successful life! For the sake of privacy, all names have been changed.

 

When I was newly married she was an inevitable part of my in-laws’ home. Neither a servant, nor a family member, Nasima  held a place somewhere in between. She helped out my mother-in-law in her house work and in return got a place to rest, meals for herself and her daughter, a sewing machine to work on and last but not least, access to the television which she loved to watch.

Fresh from college and timid by nature, I was young and inexperienced at that time. Her stern looks and serious demeanour made me fear her a little, but soon this fear gave way to fondness and admiration. I admired her for her ambitious plans for her children and the way she toiled to fulfil them.

A mother of two, a boy and a girl, Nasima was married to a man much older and divorced after a few years. Although uneducated, she was a woman of great determination and would not let her situation be a setback for her children. Dedicating her life to the education and bright future of her children, she had set her goals high and pursued her dreams fiercely.

Nasima’s brother provided her food and shelter and in return she kept house for him. Her’s was a tough life! Early in the morning, she dropped her daughter to school and go back home. After cooking, cleaning and doing the other daily chores, she would rush to school, drop her daughter at our place and then proceed to deliver lunch to her brother. In the afternoon she would be busy sewing clothes and then again whisk off her daughter for her Quran lessons. Her son joined his uncle after school, helping him out with his little shop and studying in between.

Evening was the best part of her day. Come 8pm and nothing could budge Nasima away from the TV lounge. Those were the days when classics like Khuda Ki Basti, Shehzori and Kiran Kahani kept us glued to the idiot box. But for me, the most irritating part of this hour were her constant comments on the plays.

My mother-in-law would scold her, “Nasima, listen quietly to what the poor thing is saying”. She would grimace at this scolding and keep quiet for only a few moments, and then off she would go again! Perhaps this was the only recreation she had and she wanted to make the most of it! Once the play was over, she would have a quick meal and bundle off her half asleep daughter to the bus stop to go back home.

Nasima was not a person to blame her circumstances; rather she had the courage to strive to change them. Having no financial cushion to fall back on, she stitched clothes to provide for her children’s school fees, books, uniforms, etc. Herself wearing hand-me-downs, she nursed her daughter’s ego by providing her new clothes, although they were always simple and modest.

Her daughter Gurya was a loving girl. Like all young girls she was charmed by a bride in the house! She would peep shyly in my room and ask if I needed her help, but I could never avail her offer because Nasima would scoop down on her like an eagle and say firmly: “Go and study, I shall help out Bibi”. She wanted her daughter to make the best of every spare moment she had. And Gurya was a good student, who worked hard to live up to the expectations and dreams of her mother.

Years passed and after finishing school with good grades, Gurya got admission in a college near her home. And Nasima’s daily visits stopped. But she would come often to bring good news about her children. Her son got a scholarship to the leading engineering college in Karachi and after finishing his education, a good job at the Steel Mill. Gurya got a teaching job after doing her B.Ed. and was doing well. Nasima’s hard work had paid off and her dreams had come true.

The unending work took its toll on Nasima’s health, however. Her asthma grew worse and one fateful day, a tearful Gurya called to inform us that her brave mother had died the previous night after a fatal attack of the disease.

People like Nasima never really die. She lives on in my heart, and whenever I find myself in a difficult situation, with something which seems impossible, I remind myself of that courageous woman.

Undeterred by life and its adversities, she taught me that it needs passion, dedication and hard work to reach a goal. We all have dreams and wishes but only a few of us realise that only hard work and dedication can make our dreams and wishes come true. Nasima defied the notion that poverty begets poverty and a maid’s children are fit only for menial work! She proved the popular saying, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”

Heart-to-heart: AN OPEN LETTER TO MY SON (http://archives.dawn.com/archives/7013

open

My dearest son,
I am sure you will be surprised on receiving this letter from me, as we live under the same roof, talk everyday and everything that I am writing now could have been said directly to you. But my dearest, I want you to know that often we talk without being able to truly communicate! There are so many things that I would like to tell you, discuss with you, advice you on but somehow whenever I try, the words simply don`t come out as strong as my feelings. So, I thought about writing to you.

You look very depressed these days, and I can sense frustration in your behaviour. You are no more my sweet tempered boy who was always bubbling with life, but tend to be irritable and get angry at the slightest pretext. Please read this letter carefully, and that too many times, and let my advice sink in. I know that your dreams have not been realized yet, your expectations of what your life will be after you finish your education, have not been fulfilled to your satisfaction. But I want to ask you, will anger and depression help you in any way? You know very well that life has never been smooth sailing for me, but I never gave in to self pity or frustration. Instead I tried to handle my problems turn by turn and I am fairly content with the results.

The problem with your generation is that you do not have patience. You want to step on the first rung of the ladder to success and want your second step to be on the top! I say “Give life your best efforts and be content with what life gives you in return”. You may not reach your goal, but you should have the satisfaction that you tried your best. Remember that life is not a trade… a business in which success means more output than input! What appears to be a loss in a trade can prove to be a gain in life. If you keep your attitude positive, experiences will end up giving you wisdom and failures a new resolution to try again, work harder and never to give up!

As you may have heard umpteen times, an optimist sees a glass of water half full, while a pessimist calls it half empty! The amount of water is the same; it is the difference of attitude that matters. You want to give up although you have just stepped onto the road of life. I don`t want to shelter you any more; rather I would like you to experience life as it comes your way. I know that you will face both success and failures but I want each experience, good or bad, to make you stronger! So please be positive, keep on with your efforts and with the help of Allah you will be amazed by the results, for things will surely change for the better.

I want you to behave like an educated person, not merely one who has degrees and has gone through college and university, but a person who dares to dream, has the ability to think and accept the challenges of life without a blink of the eye. Though striving for a decent living is part of a healthy life, don`t make it the sole reason of your qualifications. The least we can do to justify our education is to strive to change (for the better) the things around us. Sometimes small changes are not even noticed by us; but believe me, these small changes can bring about revolutionary ones! Invisible drops of water make up clouds, but when these clouds burst into rain, every single drop counts.

I do not want you be to be a part of the crowd; people who complain, criticize and grumble at life`s problems and conveniently place the responsibility of their woes on someone else`s shoulders. I want you to be among the few who have the vision and the burning desire to change things for the better, are ready to take responsibility; people who face life`s adversities bravely, accept its challenges and work hard to reach their goals.

Success may be evading you at the moment but do not lose hope. Because without hope there is no yearning, no desire for a better tomorrow! Without hope, life comes to a standstill! So, snap out of your depression and keep on moving ahead with your head held high. And remember, I and my prayers are always here for you. Love you my son,

Forever yours,
Ammi

GOOD MORNING SUNSHINE!

Aside

I have been through good times and I have been through bad times. I have seen the heights of ecstasy and I have faced deep anguish and despair. These are the two faces of life all of us experience at one stage or the other. The ratio in which we experience them may be different, but joys and sorrows, although opposite in nature, mostly walk hand in hand.

This is the bitter sweet beauty of life! We all enjoy and celebrate our moments of joy, but the quality of our lives depends entirely on how we tackle adversities. Firm faith that whatever (good or bad) happens, happens for a reason and an optimistic approach towards difficulties can help one sail through the rough seas of life.

Sehrish, a mother of three, was overwhelmed by grief after the sudden death of her husband. In the morning he dropped her off at her office, but in the evening when he didn’t come to pick her up as was his daily routine, she took a rickshaw and came home.
She was a bit surprised to see him peacefully sleeping in his bed.

She learnt that he had come home a couple of hours earlier than usual and had gone to bed as he was not feeling well. Sehrish tried to wake him up but when he simply did not respond, she called in a doctor who declared that he had died in his sleep as a result of a massive heart attack. She was devastated at the news.

As to how she overcame the trauma, she says, “The following months are still a hazy memory for me. Slipping into deep depression, I gave up my job, stopped taking care of myself and was so engulfed in self-pity that I didn’t even take proper care of my three kids, who suffered physically and emotionally, because of my negative attitude, until the day when their school teachers came for a visit.

“Trying not to sound too harsh, they complained about my kids’ untidy appearance, bad performance and sliding grades. ‘Why should your children suffer for something no one could control?’ they asked me. ‘Death has taken away their father and your depression has deprived them of their mother’s love, something they now need more to make up for their loss’. Their words brought me out of the stupor”.

Sehrish says that she vowed to pull herself back to normal life for the sake of her children. She has been fairly successful as she got herself a new job and started taking interest in her children, their studies and life in general.

People surrounded by difficulties often say that life is not a bed of roses, but being a great optimist I often ask them, “Whoever said that life is a bed of thorns?” I agree that life can be cruel, but it also is kind. So, instead of complaining about life’s adversities, about what we yearned to have but could not achieve in life, just for a change, we should stop and look around ourselves.

We will find people less blessed than us, people whose lives are much tougher than ours. For a positive approach towards life, the first step is to count our blessings and forget (or at least try to do so) our deprivations. In his famed classic, War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy beautifully writes, “Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy”.

Like most people I have also had my share of hardships. But I have my own way of coping with problems. When I can find no way out of despair, even if only for the time being, I try my best to keep myself busy during the day, not allowing myself time to be depressed. “Cool down”, I keep on reminding myself, “There has to be some way out! It may take time but the solution will come”.

The rising sun brings new hopes. I leave my bed and pull back the curtains. ‘Thank God for another day’, a voice inside me whispers. In spite of the tough times, I can still feel the coolness of the morning breeze on my face, see the butterfly fluttering on the flowers in my little garden and hear the birds happily chirping away.

I draw back the curtains further to allow the sunbeams come dancing down on my bed. ‘Good Morning Sunshine!’ I exclaim with a smile as I brace myself for a new day with a renewed hope that today things might change for the better. I love to remind myself of what American journalist and author Mignon Mc Laughlin said, “Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent!”

I SHALL BOUNCE BACK…. INSHA ALLAH!

I have been through this phase earlier, or to be more specific many times earlier! This hollow feeling….. as if I am living in a vacuum! Ideas evade me, and I find myself unable to focus on the ones that come and go through my head like fluttering butterflies. It has been weeks since I have written anything new. But this span of un-creativity also brings a sense of frustration and deprivation.

My all time favorite novelist Pearl. S Buck says “I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.” And this quote becomes my inspiration!

I feel that the days passing by are being wasted, that I should write something, anything! But as I scan my mind for ideas, I feel totally lost. There are times when they rush in so quickly I feel breathless, but there are spans when I can not come up with anything I feel would interest my readers.

Finally, an idea struck in today! Why not make this very feeling my new topic, because I feel every writer experiences these phases of hibernation in their writing careers. This reminds me that I do not have much of a career! A few published articles, a published book and a blog site can not make one a recognized writer. The basic requirement of being a good one is having a lot of readers, hits and followers on your blog site, and a book which sells like hot cakes. And I can boast of none of these!

Writing for me is not only a hobby, a means of spending my spare time in a positive manner; it also brings a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. I sometimes feel that a part of me grows older after every blog or article I write and a part of me dies! Yes, the pain of creating something new is definitely experienced every time, but I love to go through this agony again and again.  

I do not write for fame, neither for money, but to give a path to my inner feelings, frustrations and emotions. I do not want to share my woes with my readers because I abhor washing my linen in public. But I like to share experiences which may help them to recognize and face the harsh realities of life. Personal traumas, hopes, aspirations and yes sometimes even disappointments teach us a lot and I love to share these lessons with anyone who is interested. Positive thinking is my plus point and I want to spread this frame of mind to people around me.

So, my positive emotion for today is that I promise myself that I shall bounce back, comes out of this period of hibernation! Finally I have realized that writing has become my soul’s bread and butter. I can not survive without it. So, I will start writing something new. Very soon!  Insha Allah!