Manners Matter!

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Fareed walks into the lounge where his dad is absent-mindedly flicking through the TV channels.

“I want the remote,” he says as he holds out his hand.

Dad looks at him thoughtfully for a moment and says, “Wouldn’t it sound better if you say, ‘Dad, may I have the remote please?’” Dad’s tone is more of a reprimand than an advice.

Fareed gives his father an embarrassed look and says, “Sorry dad, I will be careful in the future. Now please may I have the remote?”

Times have changed! So have the values about a lot of aspects of behaviour. In this fast paced world we are living in, most of us are in such a hurry that we have no time to meet the demands of good manners. An attitude which was totally unacceptable a generation back, is not even given a second thought by youngsters today.

My dear friends, I definitely do not want to imply that your generation is ill-mannered or discourteous. Actually, there is a very thin line between appearing ‘cool’ and being insolent. I feel that your concepts are a bit confused. The manners or behaviour you consider as old fashioned, are true for all times and all people, young or old.

On more than one occasion you must have heard from your parents, “Would you please mind your manners!” Maybe this is one sentence which, though short, is common to all parents all over the world — and perhaps very irritating for all children!

Often, unintentionally we make some lapses in our behaviour without meaning to be impolite or rude, but a timely correction from parents and elders goes a long way in laying the foundation of good manners.

A beautiful quote says “A parent can give a child no greater gift than beautiful manners.”

Let us discuss some basic principles of good manners. I am sure most of you follow these rules, but a reminder now and then helps in refreshing one’s behaviour. I assure you that practicing these simple guidelines will go a long way in guiding you towards a successful life.

First impression is not the last impression

It is often said that “The first impression is the last impression”. People usually agree with this saying, but I have a different view. Suppose in a party you meet a person for the first time. You are impressed by his looks and dressing, and want to be friends with him. But when he starts talking in a loud tone, boasts about his education or wealth or is rude to someone, you are bound to change your opinion at once.

Always behave in a dignified manner when you are in company. Never try to show off or impress others. When you are gentle, kind and polite, your actions will speak louder than your words.

To put it in a few words, “A man’s manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait” said Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous German literary figure.

Politeness is the foundation of good manners

Showing respect to the feelings of people around you, valuing their opinion and trying to be helpful, are all the qualities of a polite person. When an older person enters the room, stand up to greet him/her and offer your seat if there is no place to sit.

Hold the door for the person behind you when you enter an elevator/room. In a supermarket, if you see an elderly person or a young mother with kids, struggling with his/her heavy trolley, offer to help by pulling their trolley for them. In a queue, never push or try to move up in the line.

Keep a smiling face and a cheerful disposition when you are in company. Always be quick to give a compliment where it is deserved. Your kind words can make someone’s day.

Use the magic words often

‘Please’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Sorry’ are the magic words which are sparingly used by people with good manners. Some children think it is not cool to use these words nowadays, but I assure you that using them often will help you throughout your life.

If you get a gift, do not take it for granted. When you say thanks or write a thank you note, you give the message that you appreciate the gesture and thoughtfulness of the person who has given you the gift.

Suppose you push someone by mistake in the school line or at a park. Instead of just walking away, don’t you think the shoved person will feel better if you say sorry? Try to put yourself in the other individual’s shoes and think what you would expect in such a situation.

When you ask for a favour, always begin your sentence with ‘please’. Even if you want a sibling to get a glass of water for you, don’t forget to use this magic word. Your words sound more like a request than an order, when you say please before asking for something.

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Respect and love your parents and elders

Respect and love for our elders is an essential part of good manners. Never talk back to your parents, grandparents or teachers and listen politely when they are speaking.

Our parents are our best guides and mentors. At every stage of life, they endeavour to bring out the best in us. This may mean reprimands, scolding and punishments too, if we behave in an improper way. Often children feel resentful and sulky when they are scolded, but as they grow up and have to face the world on their own, they realise that their parents’ advise was for their own good.

Be thankful to your parents for their tireless efforts for your well-being and always be quick to lend a helping hand whenever you can. Try to the best of your abilities to make them proud of your appropriate behaviour, both at home and when you are in company.

Grandparents usually love you unconditionally and think that giving their advice or views on matters related to you are their right. Don’t be impolite if you have a different idea about something. At times you may not follow their advice or instructions, but never forget that they are much senior to you, both in age and experience. Even if your opinion is different from theirs’, don’t challenge them in company. You can discuss the issue later on and explain your point of view on the matter.

Teachers play an important role in our lives and lay the foundations of our future. Always be respectful to them and value the hard work they put in to your education.

Be kind to younger ones

A very important component of good manners is to be loving and kind towards your siblings, friends and cousins. Help them when they need your assistance and try to settle disputes amicably. Children are often confused when the word respect is used for those younger than them, but every human being deserves respect. Remember that all of us, young or old, have an ego, which is hurt by rude or unkind words and behaviour.

Your younger siblings often idealise you and feel proud in following in your footsteps. Be a good example for them and pass on the good values you have learnt from your parents, without being harsh. Often, a loving advice goes deeper than an inconsiderate reprimand.

The way you talk is a mirror to your manners

The way you speak in company is a reflection of your upbringing and background. Keep your tone polite and courteous and make eye contact when someone is speaking to you. Always make the person you are conversing with, feel that you respect him. Never interrupt when a discussion is going on and if you have to say something, always use “Excuse me please” before starting to talk.

While talking to someone, try to stick to topics which are of common interest. Don’t keep bragging about yourself, your achievements or your family, as these are not a mark of good manners. Holding your temper when someone is rude to you proves that your manners are much better than the offender’s.

The right way to argue

Disagreements are a test for our manners and upbringing. Respect for the opinion of the participants in the argument proves that you know proper etiquettes.

Never raise your voice to prove your point, because this would in no way support your opinion. Nor make it a matter of your self-esteem and move away from arguments if you cannot win. Remember that participating in debates/discussions is a way to widen your concepts on different issues and also increase your knowledge.

Table manners are important

Very little importance is given to table manners these days. My parents had very strict rules for me and my siblings. Here I shall relate a few of them:

• Never complain about food, even if it is not your favourite.

• Never bring a book, toy or other unrelated things (there were no cell phones in my childhood) to the dining table!

• Wait for the elders to start before you fill your plate.

• Don’t try to grab the best portion.

• Stay on the table until everyone has finished eating.

• Always make light conversation while eating.

• If something serious has to be discussed it can wait, till after lunch/dinner time.

I feel that writing about good manners is like trying to fit an ocean in a cocoon. I could go on and on but have to stop somewhere!

I would like to sum up with a saying of Hazrat Ali R.A, the fourth caliph of Islam “Good manners are your beauty.”

Published in Dawn, Young World, October 27th, 2018

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Let’s Paint Pakistan Green https://www.dawn.com/news/1428668

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

There is a fable about an old man who was planting a tree by a roadside. A passerby stopped to watch and asked in an inquisitive tone, “Why are you planting this tree, when you won’t live to enjoy its shade?”

The old man replied with a smile, “I am not planting it for myself, but for the generations to come.”

Martin Luther, a German theologist, once said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Friends, every day we read about global warming and climatic changes and how disastrous it is for the human race and all living things on our planet. In simple words, climate change refers to the changes in Earth’s climate, especially the gradual increase in temperature. Out of many reasons for this rise in average temperatures, a major one is the high level of carbon dioxide and other dangerous gases in the atmosphere. This in turn is due to the diminishing forest cover around the world, a negative effect of the rapid industrialization taking place all over the world.

You all must have learned in your science classes how trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air, for the process of photosynthesis, a cycle nature has devised for them to create their own food. In return, they give out oxygen and moisture, which are essential for our survival. As forests are decreasing, this natural process to keep a balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has become badly disturbed. The importance of increasing the green cover and forests, is one of the most important steps suggested by experts.

You may not be aware that Pakistan is one of the worst affected countries from climatic changes. Rising temperatures, severe droughts, flooding due to heavy rains and melting glaciers are some of the problems we are facing. Here we will not discuss the reasons, but our small input to fight this grave problem.

Friends, we all can put in efforts, big or small, to make a difference and fight this enemy which is not knocking at our door, but has already entered our precious motherland. Although the international standard for forest cover for a country is 12 percent, a World Bank study shows that Pakistan has only 3.3 percent of forest area.

Let’s make a vow that from now on, we shall paint Pakistan green! As I have mentioned above, deforestation is a major cause for the rising temperatures in our homeland. Ruthless felling of trees by the timber mafia for their selfish gains, for fuel by the poor people who do not have alternate source of energy and an indifferent policy by the government, have reduced our forest cover and greenery to a disastrous level. Instead of lamenting on our national loss, let us decide to take our destiny in our own hands and strive for what contribution we can make to control the situation.

Friends, here are a few suggestions for a greener Pakistan.

Start a green drive

You may be surprised at my suggestion, thinking that this is something for older people to do. But if you think deeply, you will realise that you can work according to your age. Your plantation drive can start from your homes, your family and your neighbourhood, and you can work on it according to your age.

You can start by planting small plants in pots, and trees in the open areas in your homes. Those of you who live in apartments or small houses, can reserve a corner of your house or a part of your balcony where you can keep small pots of plants of your choice.

Spread awareness among your family and neighbourhood and request them to join your plantation drive. You can offer to volunteer to help in planting, watering and taking care of the green areas on weekends for those who do not have a lot of helping hands and find it hard to take care of their plants and trees.

One tree for every child

Recently I was deeply impressed by a story I read about a prospering village. This village adopted ‘A tree for a child’ policy on a self-help basis. With every child born, a new fruit tree was planted and handed over to the child when he/she was old enough to look after it.

Although this was fiction, if we think seriously this measure could make our country green in a few years. Whenever a baby is born in your family, ask the parents to plant a tree dedicated to him/her. Trees can also be planted for older children and they will feel proud as they see their saplings grow with them, out beating them in height in no time.

Plant according to your age

The younger ones among you can look after small pots, after requesting your parents or elder siblings to plant seeds or saplings for you. Make sure that the plants get enough sunshine and water them regularly according to their requirement. But be careful not to over water your seeds, as it will destroy them.

The older ones among you can go for bigger plants, shrubs, creepers or trees, whichever you like more. Ask around, consult your science teachers or search the internet for the vegetation best suited for your area. Your mum will be delighted if you grow vegetables or herbs in big pots or open areas in your homes.

Plant according to your region

Pakistan is a country with diverse physical features. We have highlands, mountains, plains, valleys, deserts and a long sea shore. Find out which plants and trees are the best to grow in the climate of your region and the best months of the year to plant them.

Choosing wisely will save you from disappointment if the plants you sow wither away quickly.

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Plant in open spaces, roadsides, parks and public places

We often see open areas which are devoid of any greenery. With the permission of an authorised person, you can work in a group in such places in your neighbourhood and plant suitable trees. Take turns to water these plants and look out for any pests or other problems.

You can consult an older person to help you out in solving your problems if using pesticides or adding manure is required. You will feel proud when these trees grow and create a green cover for the previously barren area.

Save your seeds

Friends, we all enjoy fruits at our homes. Make it a point to save the seeds of these fruits. Dry them in shady place for a few days and then you can replant them in a more open space so that they can flourish into a large tree. If you do not have enough space, give them to your acquaintances who live in bigger homes.

In the same way, some vegetables can also be grown. Tomatoes, lady finger and spinach are some of the vegetables which you can easily grow at home.

Create a green fund in every home

My young friends, you will need money for buying seeds and plants to paint Pakistan green! Create a common fund in each home.

You can request your parents and grandparents to donate to your ‘green fund’ and also save some amount each month from your pocket money. We all love to go out and enjoy on weekends. For the love of trees, I would suggest that for at least one weekend every month, you all skip this outing and add to your fund instead.

At the end of each month, if you have money left in your green fund, plant some more or give the amount to those who cannot spare money to create a green corner in their homes.

Follow the instructions in parks and green areas

I feel sad to write these lines, but as a nation, we love to break rules. Often clear instructions in bold words are written at important points in parks which read, ‘Do not walk on the grass’, or ‘Do not pluck flowers’, but people ignore these instructions with impunity.

Do not follow the example of those who break rules, but create awareness among your peers that protecting and taking care of greenery (and following rules) is not only our duty, but it is also for our own good.

Cut down on paper usage

I hope you all know that the paper we write on, the paper plates and cups we use during outings and the tissue papers we throw away after using once, are all made from wood. Use your exercise books carefully, utilising them as much as you possibly can. Cut down on items of onetime use and avail recycling measures wherever possible.

Although these steps are simple, they may be time consuming. But staying out in the open will also be beneficial for your health. In the long run, adopting these measures will create a big difference, a difference for a better tomorrow.

Best wishes for a greener and better Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 25th, 2018

Vacation with a difference!

Children of all ages are happy these days. Exams are over, results have been announced and hopefully all of you have passed with flying colours. After appearing for your final exams in the sweltering summer heat and the hard work you all put in throughout your academic year, you all deserve respite from the tedious school regime the annual summer vacation provides.

Friends, just like you, your parents also look forward with anticipation towards these relaxing months. For mums, vacation means no pulling out sleepy children from their beds to get them ready in time for school, no pressing uniforms daily (and sometimes washing them too) and no packing lunch boxes and filling water bottles. In the evenings also, they have more time for themselves, as they do not have to help the children in finishing their homework and assignments, as well as making sure that they have dinner on time and do not stay up late

For dads also these months are a respite from dropping grumpy children at their respective schools, helping them out in subjects they find difficult and catering to their endless requirements for school projects.

Friends, have you ever noticed how quickly the charm of the much-awaited months wears off for your parents? Hardly a fortnight into the holidays and you find your mothers at their wits’ end, complaining about the extra workload they have to bear. With no strict routine to follow, you all get lazier than usual and create a mess in every corner of your home. Late breakfasts have to be served and in these hot summer days, that is an extra burden on your poor mother.

Fathers are also vexed as they find the house noisy late into the nights and have to settle the arguments between siblings on nearly a daily basis. The television remote, which was theirs’ solely to flip through their favourite channels late into the night, is often nowhere to be found. It also has to be shared with the kids, who want to watch programmes of their choice (even if daddy misses the news or his favourite ‘talk show’).

This frustration is definitely not one-sided. A couple of weeks into the vacation and children feel frustrated and complain that their parents are getting irritable and they are being scolded unnecessarily. Friends, what you fail to realise is that your parents are not on vacation like you! They have to carry on their normal life with their day to day responsibilities, both at home and at work.

In the intense heat of these summer months, parents are simply drained out of energy. The change in your routine proves to be an extra stress for them. With all the free time you have at hand, you unintentionally create problems for your parents, which you can easily resolve with only a little consideration for them.

This year, let’s join heads to think of some simple steps to make this vacation as enjoyable and relaxing for your parents as they are for you. Here are some tips which will keep you happy and your parents stress-free during these holidays.

Set a mutually acceptable time-table

The most common complain mothers have during holidays is that the children stay up late and then get up late in the mornings, sometimes even around noon. For them, this means serving late breakfast and making beds high past noon, as well as clearing up the mess you created during the wee hours of the nights you stayed up.

Sleeping an hour or two later than your school days routine may be acceptable to your parents, but if you stay up the whole night you are not being fair to them.

As soon as holidays begin, discuss with your mum a mutually acceptable time for getting up. Help mummy with breakfast and opt for a simple breakfast you can manage yourself instead of vexing your mums with demands for an intricate meal. Fruits, a bowl of cereal, bread slices with butter, jam or your favourite spread with a glass of milk can be a simple menu for your breakfast which you can have without any help.

Be helpful

Vacation gives you more leisure hours than your usual routine. You have every right to enjoy this free time according to your wish, but try to be considerate to your parents too. Helping mum in her daily chores, clearing up your room, setting and clearing the table at mealtimes, are small gestures from you which will make your mum more than thankful.

You can polish daddy’s shoes, help in washing the car or just give him a good foot massage when he comes home from a tiring and hot day at work.

Help your parents in the yearly summer cleaning. Assist your mum in clearing extra clothes which you won’t wear anymore from your wardrobe, clear your drawers, study table and shoes/toys racks of the things you can easily give away. Your dad may need your help to sort out and file important documents, bills etc, a task, which he never finds time to do.

Your efforts will make your parents happy and also de-clutter your home. The best benefit will go to the needy persons who will find your extra stuff a luxury they cannot afford.

Do not be rowdy

Children usually stay up late and tend to be noisy when left on their own. When you are choosing activities for your late night sprints, chose those which will not cause disturbance for your parents.

During the hours you stay up, if you are watching your favourite show on television, be careful to keep the volume down. If you are playing a board game, such as ‘Ludo’, ‘Carrom’ or ‘Monopoly’, make sure that you are not making a lot of noise. It’s natural for siblings to argue and sometimes quarrel, but try to settle your differences amicably instead of running to mum and dad on trivial issues.

If your parents do not sleep soundly at night, they will not be fresh to start their daily chores. Remember that their day will start on the usual hour, and they will already be stressed out when you wake up. This will bring on scolding sessions, which neither you nor your parents will enjoy. So instead of sulking around on the reprimands you get on a routine basis, try to understand the reasons of your parents’ moodiness and quick temper.

Do things together

Vacation should bring enjoyment for your parents too. After all, they toil around the year to make your academic year a success. There can be many activities which you can enjoy with your parents as well as make your vacation creative.

Hunt for DIY’s (do it yourself) projects on the internet. Choose the ones which are cost-effective and in which you can use some things already at home. Involve mum and dad in these projects, they will really enjoy this activity and you will also end up finishing it better.

When I was a schoolgirl, summer vacation was the time when Ammi used to teach me and my sisters new stitches of hand embroidery, an activity which we thoroughly enjoyed. Learning to stitch on missing buttons and simple mending steps will make you feel more co-operative towards your mum.

Your dad can teach you cycling and if you are lucky enough to have a garden, you can learn gardening tips from him. Mum would really love it if you help her in planting herbs and flowers in small pots. Paint the pots in bright colours, place them on your entrance and help her in watering them as per their requirement.

After dinner is over, you can play a game of Scrabble, Ludo or any other board games your parents enjoy. Picnics, a visit to the zoo or an evening at the beach or a park, are some activities which you can enjoy with your parents. They will feel refreshed and relaxed after the outing as we all need a change from our day to day routine.

Surprise your parents with a day-off!

Friends have you ever thought of giving a complete day off to your parents? Plan a Sunday in which you serve them a simple breakfast in bed, make your own beds and clear up the house for them. You can give your mother a respite from the kitchen and assure her that you will be happy enough to finish the left-over food in the refrigerator.

You can insist that they go on an outing on their own. If you can manage to stay back with your siblings at home (and your parents are comfortable with it), you can do so. Otherwise, plan to spend the day with your grandparents, while your parents have a full day to spend the way they like, indulging in an outing or activity they enjoy, something which will be a luxury for them.

Friends, life is not as easy for your parents as you think it is. They have to fight on many fronts to keep you happy, safe and comfortable. This summer holidays, in addition to your own activities, give them time to relax and rejuvenate to face the tough routine of the year ahead. Let this vacation be different, so that mum and dad look forward to the next vacation too!

Published in Dawn, Young World, July 7th, 2018

 

 

A Simple Guide to Popularity

All of us want to be popular among our family, peers and teachers, but very few of us know the simple tips which make us better-liked than others. We usually look up with admiration to people who are more popular than us and sometimes even envy them.

It may interest you to know that we only have to follow some simple rules to gain popularity. Read and follow this simple guide to popularity and gain admiration within your social circle in no time.

Share and care

Generally, people who have a high graph of popularity are quick to share their blessings with their acquaintances. Whether it is a book, a gadget or a meal, they like to share their belongings with people around them and even happily give these things away, whether as a gift or a loan.

meal, they like to share their belongings with people around them and even happily give these things away, whether as a gift or a loan.

Popular people also love to share their joys and sorrows with friends and family. They are sympathetic when they find their friends in a problem and always try to be first to congratulate others in their moments of joy. They are quick to show people in their circle that they are an important part of their lives.

Caring for people around us endears us to their hearts. A kind word, a sincere advice and a helping hand in difficult times, and sometimes even a gesture as simple as offering to carry someone’s load, are small acts which have far-reaching effects.

Try to visit the aged in your family, especially when they are not well or at least call them from time to time. These small acts will make a special place for you in their hearts.

Always remember that a soft voice, which expresses a logical view, is more effective than a loud one. Soft-spoken people are usually popular as everyone feels more comfortable in talking to them.

Politeness always pays

Being polite is the easiest way to win over someone. It may be holding the door for the person who enters a room or car, offering your seat to an elderly person who cannot find a place in a bus or standing up when someone older than you enters the room. These are endearing gestures, which people do not forget easily.

Always try to be the first to greet friends when you meet them. Take interest in their activities and ask simple questions to show that you give importance to them. Listen politely and never interrupt someone when they are speaking. Always wait for your turn when you are in a discussion.

Remember, ‘Thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘sorry’ are magic words which are a mark of politeness and good upbringing. Using these words habitually will add to your popularity.

Be a good listener

Most of us seem to be in love with our own voice. Instead of listening attentively to what our friends or peers have to say, we like to speak non-stop without caring whether people around us are interested in what we are talking about or not!

Most of the times, it is better to take interest in what people around us are discussing. When we listen with interest, we are bound to gain knowledge and learn to perceive things with an angle different from ours. When friends are talking about their problems, only if we listen attentively, we will understand their troubles better and be able to give out a word of advice where needed.

While discussing a current issue or a hot topic, we usually get over excited and raise our voices to try to drown out those around us. Always remember that a soft voice, which expresses a logical view, is more effective than a loud one. Soft-spoken people are usually popular as everyone feels more comfortable in talking to them.

Light the world with a smile

Have you ever wondered why you take an instant liking to a new teacher if she enters the classroom with a smile on her face? Often we have to go to a party or wedding where we know very few people. On entering the venue, as we look around for a seat, we are instinctively drawn to a person with a smiling demeanour. We are more comfortable with a doctor who wears a smile on his face.

Remember that a smile has a magnetic and endearing power. It is also highly infectious and has the power to cheer up people around us. Learn to smile even if you don’t feel like doing so. All of us have problems, but wearing a sulking look will not solve them in anyway. People who have a smiling face are definitely more popular than those who habitually wear a frown.

Be helpful

Helping out people around us is a very endearing habit. You may help a classmate in subjects he/she finds difficult, help your mum by sharing her workload, take care of your younger siblings or run an errand for your grandparents or an elderly neighbour.

You may be better than your parents or grandparents at computers, tabs or cellphones. Never complain if they ask for your help repeatedly. Consideration for others with a quick helping hand is a simple quality which makes one popular.

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Kindness is cool

Speak lovingly with your younger siblings and cousins, and be kind to them. Take interest in their activities in order to show how much you care for them.

Never be harsh or rude to your maid, driver or any other person employed by your parents. Listen with sympathy if at times they discuss their problems with

you. Help them out whenever you possibly can.

Give away your extra toys, clothes and books to the needy people around you. They will be more than grateful for your compassion. Remember that kindness always pays back positively.

Personal grooming is paramount

At first thought you may feel that this tip is not related to popularity. But in my opinion, a person looking fresh and neatly dressed is always better liked than those who do not care about their personal hygiene. We usually shun people who smell of perspiration, have a foul breath or are generally untidy.

Keep your nails trimmed neatly and hair properly brushed. Shower daily, brush your teeth twice a day and be sure to use a deodorant when going out. You do not have to spend a lot on these things; only adopting healthy habits will make you well-groomed and attractive to others.

Try out these simple and easy tips to be better liked in your circle. I am sure you will find your graph of popularity rise in no time.

Published in Dawn, Young World, October 7th, 2017

Bounties Unbounded

https://www.dawn.com/news/1408510

What comes to your mind when you think of Ramazan? Some of you associate this month of fasting with lips parched with thirst and a stomach growling for want of food. Others do not find fasting as difficult and look forward to the mouth-watering pakoras, samosas, fruit chaats and other goodies mummy prepares so lovingly in Ramazan.

Only the more compassionate among us will feel a surging sense of sympathy for the less privileged around us, and how hunger for them is not an option but a part of daily life!

The holy month of Ramazan brings with it countless blessings for us. As you all know, fasting is the third pillar of Islam. Much is written and said about the spiritual blessings of this sacred month and how most of us come out of this month a better and more considerate person.

There can be no two opinions about the spiritual gains of this month, but before I write about them, I would like my friends to know about some additional benefits as well.

Physical benefits of fasting

While we all consider fasting a religious obligation, only a few of us have an idea about the physical benefits we derive from it. Fasting is a healthy practice, but only if properly implemented. It promotes elimination of toxins from the body, making the internal organs healthier.

When we are fasting, the digestive organs get proper time to rest instead of being constantly at work when we go about eating all day. The enzymes, which are required to break down the food we consume, get more concentrated as they do not have to work on the junk food most of us habitually munch on. This leads to better absorption of the nutrients in the food we eat at iftar.

Some experts assert that fasting promotes resolution of inflammatory diseases and allergies. It reduces production of insulin and the pancreas has to work less. Another benefit of fasting is that it tends to bring down blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

Fasting also helps to reduce excessive body weight. The first response of the body to fasting is the breakdown of glucose. When the store of glucose is exhausted, ketosis begins. This is the breakdown of fats stored in our body to release energy. And this in turn brings down our body weight.

It has been observed that fasting reduces craving for processed foods. It promotes the desire for natural foods, especially water and fruits. Fruits increase the body’s store of essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and E are good antioxidants, which help to boost our immune system.

Fasting promotes healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle. Although we all love the fried snacks which are usually a part of our iftar meals, we should be particular about not overeating them. Try your best to avoid too rich and oily food items and opt for natural food and a lot of liquids instead. By sticking to a balanced diet in Ramazan, we can derive the maximum physical benefits from fasting.

Moral benefits

The holy month of Ramazan comes as a blessing for us, as it enhances our moral values. We learn to be more compassionate towards the needy people around us who often go hungry. They may be fasting too, but hardly have enough food for sehr and iftar. By giving away as much alms as we can (or when our parents do so), we learn to care and share with others in need.

We also feel empathy for the fasting helpers in our home and try our best not to burden them with unnecessary workload. Out of compassion for them, we perform many personal chores ourselves, (something we do not habitually do) to make their fast easier for them.

Try to nurture these feelings of sympathy even after Ramazan, so that we are a better and more considerate person throughout the year.

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

Economic benefits

If you observe closely, you will find how people with financial needs look forward to Ramazan and the economical assistance it brings for them. People usually give away a major part of their zakat in this month. As you all know zakat, the fourth pillar of Islam, is a fixed percentage of our wealth, which is obligatory for all affluent Muslims to distribute among the poor on a yearly basis.

During this blessed month, even the underprivileged manage to have wholesome meals as many people give away provisions for the whole month. They happily buy new clothes, shoes and other items of necessity from the money they receive from their well-off Muslim brethren, luxuries which they cannot afford otherwise. Debts are cleared, entrepreneurs set up small businesses and hard-up parents usually plan weddings of their children from these donations and alms. NGOs doing complimentary social work also depend heavily on the funds they receive during Ramazan.

Social benefits

Ramazan is the perfect time to strengthen ties with our family. In the fast-paced lives we all lead, during the normal months, we seldom have meals together or do so in a rush.

Ramazan is the month when all gather at the iftar table before the call for the Maghrib prayers. We talk more to each other, share our day to day activities, while parents and grandparents will have some quick word of advice or stories of their own to share.

Boys are usually particular about praying with the congregation during Ramazan. They also go to the mosque with their fathers for Taraweeh prayers. This helps them to be better acquainted with the neighbours and make new friends. Some mosques have arrangements for ladies also.

Sending trays of iftar snacks to neighbours is something most of us practice. This promotes a feeling of goodwill and often becomes the reason to strike a new friendship.

Iftar parties also help us to connect with relatives and friends. This strengthens our social ties with them.

Spiritual benefits Last (but by no means the least), are the unending spiritual benefits of this sacred month.

The Holy Quran says:

“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness” (2:183).

Fasting is not only abstaining from food and drink, it also teaches us to keep away from all bad deeds. We shun quarrels, unnecessary talking, telling lies and learn to exercise self-restraint in all walks of life.

Fasting inculcates in us a natural desire to perform good deeds. We feel closer to our creator and often take out time to ponder on the message of the Holy Quran as we recite it more during Ramazan. Fasting is a blessing in disguise for those of us who are irregular in your daily prayers. As the holy month starts, resolve that we will pray five times daily even when it is over.

The blessings of Ramazan are innumerable and I have tried my best to emphasise on those which my young friends can comprehend easily. In the end, I would like to quote two Hadiths about this month, so that you can understand the unbounded bounties of Ramazan.

“Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving ten times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High Says, ‘Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.’ For the fasting person, there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk.” [Imam Bukhari]

In another Hadith, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) says, “Ramazan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted.” [Imam Tabarani]

A very happy and blessed Ramazan to all of you with prayers that Allah accepts our fasts, forgives our sins, guides us to the right path and brings all of us closer to Him, not only in this month but always! Ameen.

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 19th, 2018

The Cousin Connection

(https://www.dawn.com/news/1321263)

Cousins are to life what colours are to a black and white sketch on a canvas. Just like lively colours make a painting a joy to the eyes, cousins add enjoyment and pleasure to our lives.

They are always an integral part of our extended family. Whether we connect with them day to day, or we meet them after a number of years and whether we live in the same city or continents apart, we share with them a bond which defies age, distance and time.

The best thing about cousins is that you never disconnect with them. Discussions come naturally even if you have met after weeks, months or even years. You pick up a conversation as if you had only talked a little while ago. You talk spontaneously about common interests, your recent activities or important news about the family without any awkward moments.

A relationship with no match

Sometimes cousins are like siblings, sometimes like friends and most of the times, they are someone in between these two. And yes, they can be strong competitors and in extreme cases foes too! But most important of all, they share common ancestry and history. Whatever the status of our bond with them may be, they are an inevitable part of our lives, adding all the flavours of spice to it and making it more enjoyable.


Celebrating the unique bond shared by cousins


Cousins may be not as important a part of our lives as siblings are, but the knowledge that we can connect with them as much as and whenever we want to, brings them closer to us. We can freely discuss our problems with them (without the fear of being reported to an elder) as they will always lend a sympathetic ear and are ready with some good advice.

With a sibling you do not have a choice. Accept them as they are your only option. We live day in and day out with them, sharing strong ties of love, care and sacrifice. But at times it can be a bumpy relationship where you are fast friends one moment and fierce foes the very next. Although instinctively we are always ready to help and defend siblings against all odds, we also fight and argue on petty issues.

With cousins the scenario is totally different. Your likes, interests and preferences match with some of them and you may not look eye to eye with others. This strongly defines how close you are to them or the bond of friendship you share with them. This factor also strongly affects the amount of time or activities you share with them.


Cherish your cousins, they will be one of the sincerest friends you can ever have and the bond with them wouldn’t get weak with time and distance


You can always be yourself and feel comfortable when cousins are around, because you never feel the need to impress them with your looks, dressings or thoughts.

The relationship with cousins keeps changing with time and age, and can be strange in many ways. We grow up together playing weird games, getting in and out of trouble due to our silly mistakes and antics, sharing and fiercely guarding secrets, and loving each other with all our good and bad traits.

But we have differences as well! We can be arch rivals as we strive to compete with them in all walks of life, ranging from getting more importance from elders to performing better at studies or to be more popular among our peers.

Cousins of all ages

The age factor also strongly affects the kind of relationship you have with a cousin. You turn to the older ones for help when you are stuck in a problem, pamper and cuddle the younger ones and build a lifetime bond of friendship with those who match your age group.

Joys of sharing and caring

Cousins are witnesses to our achievements and failures. Always quick to encourage and reassure, they will celebrate with you in happy moments and lend a shoulder to cry on in sad ones. With them you share common family tragedies and take pride in the accomplishments of members.

No family gathering is complete without cousins. Whenever you are invited by an uncle or aunt, you instantly ask if so and so (one of your favourite cousins) is coming. It may be playing in-door or outdoor games, laughing till your stomach aches at something amusing you witnessed or just doing small talk, cousins always make attending a family gathering worth your time.

At weddings or larger gatherings, you find it very natural to sit in a group, sharing a common table, where you can crack jokes, share interesting experiences from your common past, pass remarks on other guests or just share what you have been doing recently.

When we are growing up, we take cousins for granted. Playing pranks at each other, sharing family jokes and laughing at them till tears roll out of our eyes, planning and enjoying get-togethers and overnight stays at our grandparents, enjoying grandma’s cooking and grandpa’s stories of his youth, we spend quality time together which at that stage of life seems to be endless.

And time flies by …

Like all good things, this memorable phase of life flies by with the passage of time. As years slip by and we enter adulthood, the childhood memories of the time we spent with cousins are often the most cherished ones in our treasure box of memories.

I belong to a large family and often share with my grandchildren interesting episodes from my childhood days. We were a big (and mischievous) lot and fell into different groups according to our ages. And each group looked up to the senior ones with respect and awe, as we considered them more experienced, learned and wiser than us. Whenever I had a quarrel with a cousin, I remember turning to our eldest cousin for arbitration, and her word was the final one as there was no question of an argument!

Family jokes, incidents which I would not like to share with everyone, the time I spent with cousins at our grandparents’ place, or the vacations which we enjoyed together, are all important pearls in my chest of memories. At the twilight of life, I often look back on those moments and cherish them fondly.

Marion C. Garretty so beautifully summed up the relationship between cousins, “A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost”.

So cherish your cousins, they will be one of the sincerest friends you can ever have and the bond with them wouldn’t get weak with time and distance.

What are you waiting for? Call them and text them the moment you put this magazine down, go and meet them this weekend and make memories that will light up your life when you all are living separate and busy lives.

Published in Dawn, Young World March 18th, 2017

Edhi: the man, the legacy

For the last few days I have been struggling for words. So much has been written about Abdul Sattar Edhi, the enormity of his mission, his endless struggle to alleviate the sufferings of the downtrodden, the sick and the neglected segments of our society.

Words simply fail me, what do you write about a legend, an institution? Where do I begin and where should I end? But perhaps I am wrong in my quest for words, because there can be no adjectives fit enough to describe the extent of the work Edhi started and kept on doing until his health failed him.

How can I pay a tribute to the man who unflinchingly bathed and enshrouded burnt and decomposed corpses, neither the acrid smell of burnt flesh nor the sickening stench of rotting bodies stopping him from his dedicated work?

started and kept on doing until his health failed him.

How can I pay a tribute to the man who unflinchingly bathed and enshrouded burnt and decomposed corpses, neither the acrid smell of burnt flesh nor the sickening stench of rotting bodies stopping him from his dedicated work?

I cannot find words fit enough to describe a man of Edhi’s stature. But the writer in me is restless and wants to try, although nothing I can write could be worthy enough for him. I also want my young readers to know more about Edhi and his mission.

Beginning from the scratch, Edhi Sahab created a charitable empire and his foundation is Pakistan’s largest welfare organisation, filling in the gap which the state should have covered. But the remarkable fact about our national hero is that he never gave up his simple lifestyle till his very end. Although he got millions of rupees in donations, he was content with only two sets of clothes of coarse cotton and he was never uncomfortable in meeting dignitaries and high officials in these clothes.

The two room apartment above the office of Edhi Foundation in Kharadar was his humble home for decades. He felt no shame in calling himself poor when he would get millions in donations. His ego was not hurt when he begged on the streets for charity.

We all should pay due respect to Edhi Sahab’s mother who instilled in him the habit of helping the needy since his early childhood. She would give him two paisa daily and make sure that he gave away one paisa in charity. In 1947 when the family moved to Pakistan, Edhi idealised the newly formed country to be a Muslim welfare state. But his dreams were shattered as he helplessly watched his paralysed and mentally disabled mother die, with no support from the state for the struggling family.

The passion of serving the downtrodden ran in Edhi’s blood like a fire which kept him restless and unable to concentrate on anything else. In 1951, full of idealism and hope, he stood on the streets of Karachi and asked for donations to buy an ambulance and a small space to set up a dispensary to aid the poor. He managed to collect enough funds to buy an old Hillman van and an eight feet dispensary. He spent hours washing and polishing the battered vehicle before proudly painting ‘Poor Man’s Van’ on both sides. The van became his prized possession as he drove round the city helping people to get quick medical assistance.

Edhi’s efforts were only the beginning of a new era of social services in Pakistan. What started off as a small dispensary in Mithadar, transformed into the country’s largest charitable organisation, comprising mobile dispensaries, ambulances, orphanages, shelter homes, animal hostel, maternity homes, old homes, morgues and graveyards.

Edhi began with a single van, and died with a fleet of ambulances, helicopters, orphanages and an army of volunteers dedicated to saving life. Today, there are 335 centres with 1,800 ambulances in the country, and thousands dependent on him for their free food, water, medicines and shelter. His centres are abroad too, in the US, Canada, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Middle East.

Edhi Foundation owns the largest fleet of ambulances in the world. With the network spread out in every part of Pakistan, whether there is a bomb blast, a terrorist attack, a fire or an earthquake, these white coloured ambulances reach out to the needy in just minutes.

Edhi devoted sixty years of his life helping the poorest of the poor. Bathing the mentally retarded, feeding the children at his orphanages, spending time with the abandoned people in his Old Homes, Edhi never had time for himself or his family.

He had nerves of steel but a heart of gold. Spending sleepless nights reaching out to those in need, he worked tirelessly for the under privileged. His frail figure bent by the workload he carried happily, his aging face never lost its humble smile. When he was exhausted after bathing hundreds of dead bodies after a calamity, natural or man instigated, his attitude never showed a sign of strain. When his health did not allow him to be physically active anymore, he would sit in a wheelchair with a box, asking for donations from people passing by. And even a humble donation was appreciated with a smile from the great man.

Edhi’s wife Bilquis was always at his side in his social work. Together they created Pakistan’s biggest adoption network, where abandoned babies are given up for adoption. But the couple made tireless efforts to ensure that the children were handed over to deserving couples, who could give them a comfortable and respectable life.

For Edhi, humanity was above everything. His philosophy was ‘love human beings, serve the humanity’. He beleived that to be a good Muslim we should pay importance to Huqul Ibaad. His services were beyond any consideration of cast or creed, religion or race. His passion to serve humanity inspired many more likeminded organisations to come forward for charity work, but Edhi Foundation surpasses their work by miles.

Edhi Sahab got nearly 250 awards in his lifetime, both national and international, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for public service (1986) and the Nishan-e-Imtiaz (1989) the most prominent of them. He was twice nominated for the Noble Peace prize, which sadly he has yet to receive. But for Edhi, his greatest award was the happy smile of the children at his orphanages who called him ‘Nana’ and flocked around him lovingly when he made his usual rounds. For a man of his stature and the kind of legacy he has left, there needs to be an award established in Edhi’s name for those who perform outstanding humanitarian acts.

Edhi is around no more, the father of the fatherless, the man who shunned publicity, who lived the simplest of life till his very end, who proved that if there is a will, we do not need huge budgets to help the needy and destitute. Edhi preferred to die in Pakistan than go abroad for treatment. He had willed that his organs be donated after his death. Although poor health rendered most of his organs not suitable for transplant, even in death he made final act of charity. Immediately after he expired, his eyes gave vision to two blind people.

People like Edhi never die, they just move on to a world better than the one we are living in. He continues to live among us, in our hearts, in the old homes he created, in the orphanages where he was a father figure for the thousands of orphans. He is everywhere, all over Pakistan, in the vast network of ambulance service he created singlehandedly, the centres for the disabled and the destitute, the rehabilitant homes for drug addicts.

Pakistan is mourning Edhi Sahab and the sense of loss is beyond words. Friends, the only tribute which is fit enough for him is to try to keep his legacy alive and put in our best efforts to continue the great work he began. Even a simple act of charity or kindness everyday will help us to keep his memories and mission alive.

Published in Dawn, Young World, July 16th, 2016

THE MULTI TASKING WIZARD!

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 7th, 2015

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

It’s 6 a.m. and mum sleepily reaches for the alarm to snooze it for a couple of minutes. But the baby is quicker than her and gives out a loud wail.

“He must be hungry,” she thinks, still half asleep, as she heads for the kitchen to fill the milk bottle. On returning she thinks about snatching a few more minutes of sleep but realizes it’s almost time to make the breakfast and pack the lunch of the school-going kids. To get rid of the grogginess, she splashes some cold water on her face.

Running between the children’s bedroom and the kitchen, she manages to shove them towards the entrance door as the school van toots its horn.

“There are still two hours before the maid arrives,” she tells herself with satisfaction as she heads towards her bed to catch up on her sleep. But the baby is crying again as he doesn’t want to sleep anymore. His diaper needs to be changed too!

With a sigh, mum lifts him from his cot and shelves her plan of lying down again.

At 10 a.m., the milk on the stove is just about to start boiling. The phone and the door bell ring at the same time. The baby is wailing for no particular reason (maybe just for attention). She lowers the flame of the stove to the minimum, attends to the door bell, letting the maid in and scooping the baby in her arms, she picks up the phone. It’s her mum (or a neighbour, friend

or sibling) on the line and she quickly finishes a little chat and hangs up as so much still needs to be done.

Come afternoon and there is more to deal with. The older ones are back from school. The eldest is in a bad mood because she has not got good marks in algebra.

“I told you mum that I have a test, but you went away to the party at Salma aunty’s place,” she complains.

Mum sighs … and with a quiet smile declares, “It was important as she was celebrating the recovery of your uncle after a major surgery.


But the teenager doesn’t appear convinced. The school-going son has his own story to tell. He is brimming with excitement as he has been selected for the school cricket team. He wants mum to listen as well as watch, when he shows her his actions in the trials, ball by ball, and feels annoyed when she nods absent-mindedly while putting the lunch on the dining table for the hungry kids.

Evenings are as hectic as ever. The teenager wants to be driven to her friend’s place for combined studies. The second school-going child needs help for his science test. The baby is wailing again, maybe just for attention this time.

Dinner has to be prepared, the table has to be set and the uniforms need to be pressed. And for mothers who drive, there is sure to be something needed urgently which they have to get from the nearby store!

She also has to attend to daddy when he comes from office, he needs some refreshment and also time to talk about his day. There may be discussions regarding family matters, an upcoming event or the children’s progress in school.

Dinner is served quickly as the kids are sleepy and need to go to bed so that they wake up fresh in the morning. After tucking them in bed, mum wearily puts off the lights and heads towards the kitchen to clear up after dinner.

Working mothers have a tighter schedule as they have to divide their time between their home, children and job. Even when they are at their job, they are thinking about their children and home, and how they will manage to cater to their requirements once back from work.

If a baby is left at a day-care centre or with an elderly grandparent, she worries for the welfare and calls many times to make sure everything is fine.

Even, at times, if mum pinches out a short time to relax during the day, goes out to visit her parents, a friend or goes for shopping, her mind is occupied in thinking about her children and still scheduling her chores when she gets home.

Friends, these are only some of the physical activities of your mother. Mentally and emotionally, she is as active! She worries for you, plans for you and is always concerned about your welfare. If you hurt yourself, while bandaging bruised knees or elbows, she may be scolding you for your carelessness, but if you watch carefully, you will find a mist in her eyes as she feels your pain. She stays up at nights when you are ill and all her activities are planned taking your needs into account first. And nothing can match her silent tears and prayers when you are in any sort of trouble.

Children have you ever thought of how you can repay for all that your mother has done for you? Most kids think that by celebrating Mothers’ Day, serving her breakfast in bed, or giving her a surprise gift or her favourite flowers is enough to repay for all her efforts. But this is a very misguided notion. We celebrate Mothers’ Day to pay due homage to our mothers, but nothing we can do or say can be enough for her selfless services.

I do not suggest that you should not celebrate Mothers’ Day, because your mum will surely feel pampered and happy if you shower her with your love on that day celebrated annually. My point is, nothing you can do can be enough to repay your mother’s love, selfless devotion and the way she toils for you without complaint seven days a week, 12 months a year, and, of course, throughout her life. She never asks for or even expects a leave and enjoys her taxing job with all her heart and soul. A mother is a multitasking wizard, who performs day after day with no complaints of weariness or boredom.

You should make sure to always reciprocate your mother’s unconditional love, try to meet her expectations and help her out in every way you can. Always cherish her, make her comfortable and do your best to make her proud of you. Only in this way you can, to some extent, repay your mother for all her efforts!

Living within a budget

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Dear friends, most of you are too young or inexperienced to be aware of some harsh realities of life. Maybe you have no knowledge of the difficulties your parents must be facing. In the times of the ever rising inflation we are living in, it is becoming harder and harder for most people to make both ends meet.

Running a home comfortably, ensuring that the requirements of all family members are fulfilled to their satisfaction, providing quality education to their children and striving to save some amount for the rainy day, is becoming a daunting task for your parents.

Has it ever occurred to you that there are many different ways in which you can help your parents out to handle the expenses better. Here are some tips which could serve as tension releasers for your parents and help them to manage their budget in a better manner.

could serve as tension releasers for your parents and help them to manage their budget in a better manner.

Be realistic in your demands

Often children pester their parents with unnecessary demands, asking for things which they can easily do without. There is no need to change the school bag every year, get a new dress for an upcoming wedding or buy a gadget a friend had recently got.

Eating out is often expensive and you can refrain from pressuring your parents to take you out for dinner every weekend. A few hours spent in a park or by the seaside (with some homemade snacks) can be more relaxing and entertaining.

Most children ask for or do things out of peer pressure. You don’t have to do what others are doing or have what others have. You shouldn’t follow the crowd or the fad, follow your family’s instructions and be mindful of their priorities.

Learn to understand your parents’ financial situation and limitations and do not ask for things which may prove to be an extra burden on their budget.

Differentiate between needs and wants

Often we cannot draw a clear line between what we want and what we really need. You may want a new pair of jeans or joggers, but you may not actually need them. You may be asking your parents for a new rug or wall hanging for your room, but if you think rationally, the old one is good enough!

These are things that we ‘want’ but we don’t really ‘need’. So if we don’t have these things, it really will not make a difference to who we are as a person, but getting them can mean that parents have to spend the money that could have been spent on a household need or saved for the future for us.

Cutting down on your wants will go a long way in releasing the pressure on the family budget. Never buy anything in a hurry. When the urge to get something new hits you, take some time to think. And ask yourself these questions before insisting on getting something new: “Do I really need this”, “Can I do without it” or “Is there an alternate already at home”.

Shop wisely

When you do need to buy something, especially if it is expensive, spend some time in searching for it in different shops and you are sure to find cheaper options for the things you need. Some shopping centres, specially the fashionable malls, are more expensive and you can get the same things from other markets at much cheaper rates. Don’t feel shy to ask around, and always try to get a good deal for the things you need to buy.

There are also factory outlets of different products and brands, where some products and designs are sold at discounted rates. There are also wholesale markets of most things where you can buy things at wholesale rates, that are much lower than the retail prices of the same products.

All of us like to use branded stuff, but often we can get nearly the same quality in other brands in much cheaper rates. And if you really want to buy expensive brands, wait for their sales when you can get your required things at a reduced price. If you plan your shopping well in advance, you can always get the things you need at cheaper rates.

Be both penny and pound wise!

Only because a burger/pizza jaunt or a famous garment outlet is offering a “buy one get one free” deal, you needn’t rush to it. The shops are charging enough from the sale of one to give the other free to customers. Remember that you have to pay for one and even that can be an extra burden for the family budget.

Soft drinks slash their prices many times a year, this doesn’t mean that you must have them on the table all the time when the prices are down! These deals and advertisments misguide us into thinking that we are saving money when buying something, while actually you are being lured into spending unnecessarily!

Also remember that home-cooked food, plus homemade lemonade is always a better, healthier and cheaper option. The same rule applies for school lunch. Snacks made by mummy are always much better, healthier and cheaper than what you can buy at the school canteen.

Help out wherever you can

Be sure to switch off the lights and fans, when you are leaving the room. Keeping the television on the stand-by mode is unnecessary and it increases the electric bill.

If you help out a younger sibling in subjects he/she is weak in, your parents will not need to acquire extra help for them. This will be supportive as they will not have to pay expensive tuition fees which are always an extra load on the budget.

If you press your own clothes, make your beds in the morning, polish your shoes, assist mummy in laying and clearing up the table, you can help her in cutting down on the household help she employs. These small tips will prove to be both financial and physical relief for your parents.

Learn to save

Learning the habit to save money early on in life will go a long way in helping you in the later years. Small amounts you save from your pocket money, or the cash gifts you get on your birthdays and Eid, or even the loose change you throw about carelessly, can build up into a considerable amount. You can use this money to get things you may need without burdening your parents.

Be happy with little

The key to a happy life is contentment. Once you learn to be satisfied with the best your parents can afford, you and your parents will both feel happier and satisfied. Competing for material things with your friends or classmates will only enter you into a rat race which has no ending. And the end result of this race is frustration and problems for your parents and later on for yourself when you grow up and start earning.

Be grateful for what your parents can provide instead of grumbling about what they can’t! Leading a simple lifestyle and curtailing your wants will make you happier. Remember, every advertisement is just a ploy to make us spend our hard-earned money on something we don’t really need. Even the latest and most expensive thing and gadget can only give you pleasure, not happiness.

Over the years when you look back at your childhood days, you will be surprised at how these simple tips made life easier, happier and more relaxed, both for you and your parents!

Published in Dawn, Young World, March 19th, 2015

Tackling the Exams

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

January is usually a tough month for most children. They are back to school after the winter vacation and their minds are still occupied by the memories of the festive wedding season and visits from relatives who live abroad. It is hard to get over the holiday mood and be serious about studies as each one has an exciting experience to share.

Come February and the examinations schedule and the syllabus for preparing for the final exams are handed down. Those of you who are regular in studies the whole year round will be in a relaxed mood and looking forward to moving on to the next class. But those who are still trying to get back their focus on studies must be in a confused state of mind. How and from where should the preparations be started? This question is giving them the jitters as there is a lot to do in a limited time period.

Friends, those of you who are feeling nervous as the exams are approaching, must think over where you have gone wrong. You should try to find out why (unlike you) some of your peers are totally relaxed. They are the ones who have been steady in their studies all round the academic years. The grades of the students who have a non-serious approach to their studies in the early months of a new class usually suffer the most. They have to work harder than the more regular students, but still find it difficult to make up for the time lost carelessly.

Today, let us discuss some important tips which you should follow to make the most of the time left before your annual exams. Hopefully, these guidelines will prove to be a key to success, not only in your final tests, but most of the challenges you face in life.

Perseverance

A very important element of success is persistence in performance. This year you are frantically preparing for the upcoming exams during sleepless nights and exhausting days, but make a resolve that you will be more prompt and regular in the future. Setting aside a few hours each week for some extra studies, will keep you well-prepared and relaxed when the time for the annual exams arrives.

Optimism

A positive mindset is the most important key to success. Instead of sulking and spending the precious time left in the exams in bouts of nervousness, convince yourself that you can still do it! A firm belief in yourself, setting a realistic goal and planning the best way to achieve it, will help you to attain success.

Proper planning

Now that you have a clear picture of the days left to your exams and the syllabus you have to cover, plan your studies in a systematic way. Divide your time according to the time you feel you should give to each subject. Chalk out a day-to-day routine and follow it strictly, so that you can make your preparations in a systematic manner. But be sure that your plans are practical and can be followed with a little extra effort.

Hard work

Success and hard work go hand in hand! You cannot just sit back and wish that you get good grades without concentrating on your studies with dedication. Do not waste time on activities like watching television, playing video games, sharing useless text messages or hanging out with friends. Remind yourself each day that every moment is precious and all recreational activities can wait till the exams are over.

Remember, “Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted.”

Teamwork

Friends, some students can study better when they are in a group. Some of you may be good at mathematics, while others find languages easier. When they join heads in combined studies, students in a group can identify, discuss and overcome their problems. As time is running out on you, don’t hesitate in asking for assistance or make it an ego matter. But keep in mind that group study can only be fruitful when you utilise the hours with full devotion and do not waste time in chatting and cracking jokes.

Create a balance

With the regular school classes on, you have to cope with your day-to-day routine as well as prepare for the upcoming finals. Be sure that you do not lag behind in school. Divide your time wisely between school, homework and studying for the exams.

Healthy habits

A healthy lifestyle is a great component of success. Sleep well, eat healthy and drink a lot of water. Make sure that you do not over work yourself. A healthy body nurtures a healthy mind! You can only over strain yourself for a few days, but you will have to face the ill effects afterwards. Lack of proper sleep will diminish your learning skills and if you do not eat/drink properly, your concentration will be effected.

Take breaks

Instead of studying in long stretches, take short breaks when you feel exhausted. All of us need different activities to refresh ourselves. You can have a snack, go out for a brisk walk or exercise for a while so that you may feel better. Taking short naps also improves your learning skills.

Friends, you all must have heard the popular saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Instead of regretting that you wasted so much time and wasting more time in this process, get to work with fervour. There is still time to amend the loss but you must resolve to follow a better strategy from now onwards!

A quote from Carl Bard says it all, “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending!”

I wish all my young friends the best of luck.

Published in Dawn, Young World, February 27th, 2015