From Fantasy To Reality (http://www.dawn.com/news/1283186)

In our part of the world, weddings are the most celebrated occasions, not only in the lives of the prospective bride and groom, but also the immediate family, the not-so-immediate family and the circle of friends.

The excitement starts when the boy gives a go-ahead to his parents to find a suitable girl for him. From then on mothers and sisters begin a frantic search, rejecting or approving girls over a tea-trolley. She is examined from head to toe, irrelevant / embarrassing questions are thrown at her and she can be rejected at the slightest pretext. If she passes the test, a formal proposal is sent to her parents. This in turn starts another frenzied activity. Heads are joined to make a decision and the boy’s looks, height, income, whether he owns a house or not etc are taken into consideration. As soon as the proposal is accepted and the time for the grand occasion is decided, the wedding fever sets in.

Selection of the bridal outfit, the matching jewellery to be ordered, sandals and handbag to go with the shaadi ka jora, are all matters of utmost importance. The best beauty studio is booked for the bridal make-over and the best possible venue is selected for the functions. Every minute detail has to be chalked out — from invitation cards, the bride and groom’s entry in the wedding hall, the decoration of the stage, the flowers, lightning, cake, the menu, token gifts for the guests, the list seems to be endless.

There are non-stop shopping sprees for clothes, shoes, furniture and crockery for the dowry and gifts for the bridegroom and the in-laws. These frenzied shopping trips leaves the bride and her family exhausted as the Big Day approaches.

The groom’s house is also buzzing with pre- wedding arrangements. Along with the dresses, jewellery and accessories for the bride the house needs to be renovated, re-painted and sometimes re-furnished. The couple’s room is given extra attention. The bride usually brings in new furniture but the carpet and curtains have to be changed. Bathrooms are re-designed to complement the new look of the room. Everything should be picture perfect when the bride arrives.

The fantasy which begins with the shopping, the pre-wedding merriments, friends’ gatherings, dholkis, mayoon and mehndi reaches its peak at the grand wedding and valima receptions.

But in all these feverish activities, the groom’s parents who were so choosy about the prospective wife of their son and the bride’s parents who were so particular to find out every detail about the person who had proposed for their daughter’s hand, completely forget to teach their offspring what marriage is really about.

Parents, who spend so much time, energy and, of course, money on their children’s weddings, don’t deem it important to guide them about the responsibilities which come with a married life and the facts regarding the rights and duties concerning their future spouse. Things which should be the foremost on the list of wedding preparations are totally ignored or given a back-seat. So, most couples enter into matrimony only thinking about their wedding and not marriage, totally confused about the demands of this new stage of life.

Both husband and wife have a different set of problems. The girl ties the nuptial knot thinking that life after marriage is one long honeymoon, where you live in grand houses, shop till you drop, eat out in expensive eateries on a regular basis and your spouse does nothing except pampering you, and even at home you are dressed in designer clothes and wear full makeup and expensive jewellery.

Once the post-wedding partying and enjoyments are over and the bride is expected to slip into the role of a wife and home-maker, reality starts to set in. Most girls fail to realise that they should leave behind the fantasy which was only temporary. The groom has lots of more important things at hand, other than complying with her moods and whims. She cannot expect him to leave a ‘I love you’ note when he is getting late to office, neither to bring her roses every day, and surely not on the days when he has had an extra tiring schedule or problems with his boss.

The groom has his own set of disappointments. As the bride slips into the role of a home-maker, she may also want to go back to her job. When he comes home, she may also be tired after a hard day’s work, so he cannot expect her to be dressed up as a doll, starry-eyed and swooning over him at the slightest pretext. And if she has been cooking or cleaning or dusting, she will not emit the fragrance of roses.

The bubble of fantasy may have all the colours of a rainbow, but bubbles are bound to burst. Instead of feeling disappointed or disillusioned, the couple could have coped better if their parents had guided them correctly. The early months of a marriage are usually the make or break ones. For dreamers, this journey can be a survival in an unhappy marriage and for the more extreme ones just begin and end with a big jolt. More sensible couples, after the initial disappointment, adapt quickly to the demands of a married life. But the truth is that this journey from fantasy to reality can change lives, for better or for worse.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 11th, 2016

 

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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Hypocrisy: The pretending game….A slightly edited version of an article published in The Review (Dawn In-Paper Magazine).

I was reading a book around mid-afternoon, a daily ritual I perform before my afternoon siesta, when my seven-year-old grandson came and announced, “Nafisa Auntie’s call for you Amma”. Oh no, I groaned inwardly! Always at draggers drawn with her daughter-in-law, my friend often calls with her (new) list of complaints. And I am forced to listen to her rants, although I am least interested, plus I do not have such a bad opinion of the poor girl! But I do not have the courage to give my views to my old friend, as I do not want to annoy her.

 

The book was getting interesting and I was in no mood to be disturbed, so I told the little one to tell Nafisa that Dadi is sleeping. “But you are not sleeping Amma!” Looking a bit confused, he reminded me innocently, “You always tell me that I should never tell a lie”. “Run away and do as you are told. I don’t need your sermon,” I scolded him. He left the room, but not before giving me a reproachful look. I returned to my book without having the slightest idea that I had given my little grandson his first lesson in hypocrisy.

 

How many of us go through similar experiences in our day-to-day life? Majority of us are hypocrites as we love to preach what we ourselves seldom practice, conveniently molding our rules and principles to suit our moods and whims (and sometimes convenience).

A hypocrite can be defined as a person who pretends to have virtues, principles or moral believes which he does not actually possess. He is also a person who feigns desirable attitude when in company, although this behaviour does not conform with his true personality. According to Bertrand Russell, “We have two kinds of morality side by side; one which we preach but do not practice and another which we practice but seldom preach.”

So, what is the real cause of hypocrisy? For me, the most important reason is the fear of disapproval of the people with whom I interact in my day-to-day life. I am scared that my true feelings may annoy or hurt them, or have a lower opinion of me than what I would like them to have! So, I take refuge under the cloak of hypocrisy. Also, as I am so obsessed with myself, I usually do not think that something is wrong if a nice person like me is doing it. At times, I lie so sincerely, I cease to perceive my deception, forgetting that I am not deceiving people but only myself. Although, according to Socrates, “The greatest way to live with honour in this world is to be what we pretend to be”.

Let me explain. I go to the wedding of an acquaintance’s daughter and after greeting and congratulating my hostess I exclaim, “Wow! Salma, you look so beautiful in this maroon dress. One would never guess you are the bride’s mother”. Salma blushes as she guides me to a seat and moves away. “What a terrible colour to wear, looks so loud for her age!” I whisper to a common friend sitting next to me. “But you were complimenting her for her dress just a moment ago.” She looks surprised. “Do you know she is the principal of my grand- daughter’s school? I can’t take the risk of annoying her,” I reply with a smug smile.

Umar Adil, a young businessman, believes, “Hypocrisy has become a second nature to most of us. In today’s world what matters to us the most is what other people think of us. Even our opinion about ourselves is based on those views. I am a real man living in a real world and trying to prove myself. Yes, naturally I am a hypocrite. What I say and preach is rarely based on what I practice and most of the time I do this to create a cool impression. The remedy to this issue is accomplishment. Once you prove yourself a successful person, you find your actions speak better than the hollow sermons you never tire of giving. I know I can get over my hypocrisy (i.e. if I want to do so), but the time is not ripe for it yet!”

Freelance writer and journalist Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam gives her views, “Hypocrisy, to me, is a form of lying. Unfortunately, we all end up indulging in it as there are contradictions in our personalities, our lifestyles and our beliefs. We often portray ourselves to be something that we are not. I think true liberation comes with being one’s true self under all circumstances. People who don’t accept us the way we are don’t deserve to be in our life.” When asked if she is a hypocrite, she replies with a smile, “This question actually teaches me to be less judgmental. Commenting on others’ actions should be avoided, as at times we may end up doing the same thing in similar circumstances”.

I know many people who can be called hypocrites, but I have never been able to muster enough courage to tell them so, as I myself am a hypocrite. There are times when I really feel ashamed of my hypocrisy and wonder what measures I can take to minimize it. Maybe this can be achieved by trying my best to always do and say what I believe to be right and not changing my values to justify my actions. On other self-righteous moments, I overcome my guilt by reminding myself that I am an honest hypocrite and unlike most people, have the courage to admit my weaknesses.

Society: Free for all

It is for you, for free! You receive it all the time, unsought, and more often than not, unwelcome and irritating! Anytime and anywhere, you just have to mention a problem! Advice will pour in from all quarters.

We love to meddle in everyone’s affairs, whether asked for or not, we think it is our birthright to dole out our valuable advice, even in areas we have little knowledge ourselves. Be it major issues like an illness, problems at your workplace, parenting, selecting the perfect spouse for your children, differences with the in-laws, or minor day to day issues like where to shop for what, which colour or style you should choose for your dresses, how to cook a perfect qorma or nihari or maid problems, we have something or other under our cap which we gleefully dole out to friends, family and even distant acquaintances.

Sometimes we casually mention a problem just to feel better after a bit of unwinding, but we are taken aback by the flurry of advice we are bombarded with. Minding other people’s business is the most popular hobby of the majority of people in our part of the world. Very few wait to give advice only when it is sought. People just love to flood you with their opinion about what course of action you should take in a given situation.

Sumeira, a young home maker says, “In the early years of my marriage I had problems with my in-laws. My husband was too attached to his parents to understand my point of view. I was young and inexperienced and at times, in frustration, I discussed my woes with my friends because I just needed a sympathetic ear and someone who could sympathise with me.

But now I have learnt to keep my troubles to myself, as the unwanted counsel I got was not only impractical but even sometimes got me into trouble. Over the years I have developed strong bonds with my in-laws. I thank God that I did not pay heed to the advices of my well meaning but immature friends”.

Sheema, a young mother, says, “Experience taught me never to talk about baby problems in company. When my first child was born, I just had to mention one and I was flooded with unlimited suggestions on how to feed, burp, bathe or even dress the baby. If the child was sick, senior mothers were quick to recommend the medicines they used for similar symptoms.

Elderly women offered home-made remedies and were actually annoyed if I did not follow their valuable advice”.

Rehan says sarcastically, “I wonder why people have to meddle in the personal affairs of everyone they can reach out to. If I am sick and under the treatment of an allopath, acquaintances will tell me to go to a hakim or a homeopath! The choice of school I made for my children was always wrong for some people who were quick to suggest better options. When my daughter chose red for her wedding dress, her friends insisted that that it was outdated and white was the ‘in’ colour for the bride those days. I mentioned to my friends that I was having problems with my boss? ‘Resign immediately’ was their prompt advice! ‘After all your self esteem is more important than a job!’ If, in the heat of the moment, I had been foolish enough to follow their advice I am sure I would have found myself jobless for the next six months”.

Anisa Zia, a friend, sums up the issue in a practical manner, “Many times I have been a victim of unsolicited advice and ended up listening intently only out of respect. Actually I think the purpose in most cases is not altogether bad because the eagerness to help us resolve our problem may be the only reason why people come up with unasked for advice. But making it a ritual is what one must abstain from. I think the ability to judge whether to give in or control the urge to add our two bits comes from practicing our listening skills rather than exercising our speaking ones”.

Unwanted advice may be in good faith but before giving out our qeemti mashwara, we should understand the fact that circumstances vary from case to case and decisions have to be made according to them. Thus no hard and fast rules can be set which everyone can blindly follow! So unless someone seeks our advice, and lets us know the pros and cons and the consequences of different choices or decisions, we should not give in to the temptation of giving it away!

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

Comment: The pampered generation By Yasmin Elahi . .http://archives.dawn.com/archives/69149

The other day my daughter-in-law requested me to get her a packet of diapers as I was going out to the store for some medicines. The gentleman at the store was busy with other customers and as I waited, I glanced around I was surprised to see so many brands of disposable diapers lined neatly on the shelves.

 

When I asked for the required brand my daughter in law uses the shopkeeper asked in a matter of fact tone “Basic or dry?”. I had not the faintest idea!  “Beg your pardon,” I said, feeling totally confused. “Madam, I mean which diapers do you want, basic or dry?” he repeated his question.  Feeling a bit foolish I mumbled something like I would be back later and quickly left the store.

 

This is an age of baby products. From diapers to toiletries to feeding bottles to baby foods to bed accessories there is no limit to the choices one has. We seem to shower our babies with luxuries, things unthinkable about a couple of decades ago. Designer clothes, branded shoes, expensive toiletries, electronic toys and ready to serve food are becoming an obsession with most mothers.

 

I wonder if any of the young mothers have even seen the glass feeders with nipples at both ends (except perhaps in some old Hindi movie) which were used before the advent of the unbreakable feeder. It was weird how the bottle always chose to come down crashing at the oddest hour of the night. After many sleepless nights trying to console the wailing baby, glancing endlessly at the wall clock which strangely just did not seem to move, and waiting for shops to reopen did I have the sense to keep an extra bottle handy. These days every baby has at least half a dozen feeders of various shapes and sizes to choose from.

 

The cloth nappies, which had to be washed daily, have become a nuisance for the modern mothers and disposable diapers are an easy solution for them. I remember the days when the maid chose to take off and come what may the nappies had to be washed and dried. On rainy days, I checked out constantly on how many dry nappies I was left with and sometimes had to use an iron to dry them. Disposable diapers were used only when I went out and considered a luxury for the baby (or me?). I remember feeling a pang of guilt every time I threw a diaper in the dustbin as if I was throwing good money away!

 

Talking about baby food, I toiled endlessly to cook, mash and blend fruits, khichri, suji and vegetables when my children started solid food. Now store counters are overloaded with endless varieties of ready to serve baby food and juices. Restaurants, specially the franchises, serve special meals for children (at hefty rates of course), and to lure parents they offer play areas for children to keep them relaxed while eating.

 

In the (should I dare to say) good old days, the ailing child was taken to the doctor in the neighbourhood, who prescribed mixtures with pills to be powdered for easy administration, and the child was hale and hearty in a day or two. A child specialist was consulted only when the problem got out of control. Now we find paediatrics divided into many branches and different doctors for different health problems the children have. (Come to think of it, has anybody noticed how the terminology related to kids has changed? The child specialist is now a paediatrician, a cot is called a crib, a pram is now a stroller and the ayah has been renamed a nanny!)

 

Gone are the days when grandmothers saved pieces of cloth to prepare clothes for their expected grandchildren. The economical home made Jhablas and caps are considered totally old fashioned now. Mothers prefer to buy ready-to-wear children`s clothes (prices depend on whether the product is `local` or `imported`). Home made `bedding` with washable covers is a thing of the past as babies are pampered with fashionably designed sleeping bags, wrapping sheets, comforters and carry cots (rates depending on the embroidery, trimmings and accessories chosen).

 

As for colours, now it is blue for boys and pink for girls and mothers-to-be are eager to find the sex of the yet-to-be-born baby to make the right preparations. Even for school going children, in buying clothes, joggers, school bags, water bottles and other accessories the modern mother is careful about the pink and blue factor. Bedroom furniture specially designed for children with cartoon figures or shaped like huge toys is every child`s (or parent`s) delight and the colour scheme speaks for itself whether the room is for a boy or a girl!

 

Raising happy and satisfied children has always been the primary concern for parents, but somehow modern mothers have mixed up this concern with loading their children with every possible luxury. I call this generation `The pampered generation`. Much ado about the kids. As the parents are putting in so much effort (and money!) for their comfort, we can definitely hope that when they are at the helm of affairs, the little ones of today would make this world a better place to live in. Considering my age, I do not expect to be around until then, so I can only wonder and hope!

Attitudes: Insensitive sympathies…http://dawn.com/2011/12/18/attitudes-insensitive-sympathies/

Death has different ways of striking and carrying away the people we love dearly. Sometimes it comes on tip toes from behind, taking us by surprise, hitting like a tsunami, destroying our peace of mind and happiness in just a moment and leaving us agonised and dazed by the intensity of the pain it creates. And on others, we watch in despair and anguish the ebbing away of the tide of life from a cherished person, hoping against hope that some miracle would stop it from striking.

When it comes to the passing away of our loved ones, the sorrow it causes has the power to sweep off the feet (though momentarily) even those of us who are emotionally strong. Only time can heal the heartache we experience. But this is also the time when we expect and need maximum emotional support from friends and family, and more often than not they move in quickly to help us in our hour of grief. Their care and reassurance is valuable for us, as they help us overcome the initial pain and learn to live with the sense of loss.

It is strange that in spite of their sympathy and eagerness to help, well meaning friends often say or do things which instead of helping us, only hurt or irritate us, forcing us to withdraw into our cocoon of pain.

Rehana, a university student, whose father passed away recently, says, “Everyone who came for condolences thought it was his/her duty (or right) to embrace me and shed a few (even artificial) tears. Maybe they considered it an important norm of attending the funeral. What most of them did not realise is that I felt more irritated than consoled by the big hug, as I am not comfortable to physical touch. People should understand that sometimes saying a few kind words or just holding hands in silence can be more comforting than hollow words or acts”.

Nazia, who lost her husband a couple of years back shares her experience, “When the time came for my husband’s funeral casket to be lifted, I wanted to have some time alone with him, paying my last homage to a very caring husband and reliving memories of the happy times we had spent together. But sadly I was denied this by the eagerness of friends and relatives who gathered to have the last glimpse of him; a large number of people squeezed into the small room, not realising that those were very sensitive moments which I did not want to share with everyone. The grief and suffocation caused me to faint and when I came to, my husband was gone forever.”

There are times in life when pain engulfs our heart in such a way that we do not want to let it go and we feel that our grief will remain as intense throughout our lives. Any attempt to divert it only increases the pain. Asma and Zohair share the memories of the death of their first born. Zohair says, “Our son caught pneumonia when he was only three months old. We were devastated when he succumbed to its complications. Most of our relatives tried to console us by saying that eventually we will have more children and our heartache would subside. I felt angry and hurt and more miserable than consoled by these comments”. Asma asks sadly, “How could people expect us to forget our first love? After all, every child holds a special place in his parents’ heart. Years have passed and we have been blessed with two more children but the memories of our first child keep clinging to my heart and I still feel that a part of me died with him”.

Another mistake people often make is asking the bereaved not to weep. What else should be expected from someone who has lost a near and dear one? Unshed tears leave deep scars on the soul, scars which never heal; tears are nature’s way of healing pain and it is better to let them flow. Slowly they will subside because no matter how great the pain, no one can cry for ever.

Saying things like “I understand your pain”, “I have been through this”, “You will get over it with the passage of time” or “When so and so died…” only increases the heartache, because every sorrow is unique in its nature and everyone reacts differently to pain and mourning. In their hour of bereavement, people usually like to believe that for them, life will never be the same again. This is the last homage they are paying to the departed person they loved dearly. By speaking less, listening more and letting the grieved person pour his/her heart out, friends and relatives who come for condolences can make the bereaved feel that they understand and share the anguish and sense of loss.

 

THE BRAND DIVIDE! http://dawn.com/2011/06/12/lifestyle-the-brand-divide/

          

Times have changed! So have our values! Today the amount of respect one gets in society is directly proportional to the price of the designer clothes one is wearing, the price and model of his/her cell phone and wrist watch, the brand of his/her shoes and in case of women the number of diamonds glittering on her fingers or ear lobes! We no more value people for their honesty, truthfulness, patriotism, academic qualifications or contribution towards the welfare of society. All these qualities have taken a back seat in the fast moving and materialistic world we are living in.

The brand mania has taken our society by the storm! We spent (or throw away) money without even a second thought on branded consumer goods like clothes, shoes, bags, watches or cell phones just to mention a few of them. Clever marketing tactics have hoodwinked us into believing that the more we spend, the better quality we will get, but this is not always true. I admit to the fact that to compete and succeed in the markets, branded goods usually maintain their quality. But this does not mean that cheaper alternatives of nearly the same quality are not available.

Only a few years ago, brand was a word usually used for a foreign made consumer good with an internationally recognized logo. Names like Levis, Wrangler, Nike, Rado, Reebok, Christine Dior, Yardley (to name only a few), were only within reach of the high income class. But now the scenario has changed completely. Local brands are storming the markets and fleecing people by charging exorbitant rates for their goods. Although their target consumers are the privileged class, but the not so privileged are also trapped by their advertising campaigns.

Until a decade back, most of us were content with buying lawn suits from our neighbouring markets as lawn was basically considered a summer comfort fabric. Some more budget conscious women preferred to wait till the end of the season sales, when they would buy and store their lawn suits for the next summers. Today the branded lawn suits have completely swept us off our feet and it is becoming sort of a status symbol to buy and wear these suits.

 The fashion designers, models and television celebrities are making the most of this mind set. They wake up one fine morning and announce their brand of lawn and start campaigning for it. The response they get depends upon their fame and popularity. Women rush to be the first to buy these exorbitant prized lawns as their exhibitions start. We see educated women throwing all norms of etiquette to the air as they push, shove and bustle against each other to be the first to reach the cherished material. And with a sense of great achievement they throw away hefty sums for a single suit! In their eagerness to win this rat race, they completely forget that only a small percentage of our population can afford this luxury. In a way, the brand mania is increasing the gap between the high and middle income classes, creating a sense of frustration and deprivation.

Amina, a homemaker says, “With my husband’s salary and the money I earn by giving tuitions at home, we can live a comfortable life. But I feel a sort of inferiority complex when I can not buy the designer dresses which every other women seems to be talking about. So, some months I give into impulse and get some branded stuff for myself. But I immediately start regretting this waste of money, as I have to cut down on the food expenses to make up for the gap created in my monthly budget thus compromising on my family’s health.

Nadia (name changed for the sake of privacy), a mother of four, laments, “When my two sons were young I used to get them jeans for around three to four hundred rupees. But now like their peers they demand branded jeans which cost anything from 2500 to 5000. How can a white collared family like ours afford such luxuries? Although at times I have to fulfill their demands, but more often than not I have to put my foot down and say a firm no! I fear that this may create an inferiority complex in them as most of their friends spend hefty sums on clothes,” she sighs.

I asked a student of Dow Institute of Medical Sciences, why he and his friends keep such expensive cell phones? He replied with a sheepish smile, “I can give you no particular reason for this mind set, it maybe peer pressure but expensive cell phones are a craze with our generation. We want the latest ones with unending options, most of which we seldom use (or need)! These too have to be changed at least twice a year or we will have to face the raised eyebrows of friends”.

Some people belonging to the middle income group are also seen eager to buy expensive branded goods. This may be due to the social pressure, or it may be a deep rooted sense of insecurity or inferiority complex. They may want to prove that they are not as hard pressed for funds as people take them to be! Whatever may be the reason for this sheer wastage of money, those of us who are not trapped into going for brands must learn not to feel under privileged, unfashionable or poor! All of us have the right to chose how and where we want to spend our hard earned money wisely!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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