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

BUNK THE JUNK!

 

BUNK THE JUNK!

          The doctor at the annual medical checkup at school was visibly displeased with Sohail. “Didn’t I tell you last time that you need to shed some weight? And here you come with three more kilos! What have you been eating all these months?” he peered over his glasses to give the obese thirteen year old a grim look. Sohail smiled nervously, “I try to be careful but somehow I can’t resist burgers, French fries, chips and carbonated drinks. I feel I have become hooked to junk food”, he admitted in a wistful tone. “If you want to maintain your health and avoid a number of ailments, you will have to bunk the junk”, the doctor replied in a firm tone. “I am giving you a list of foods which you must include in your diet and of those also which you will have to avoid. Hope to see you in a better shape next year”. He said sternly as he turned towards the next student.

          School and college going youngsters just love to eat junk food.  Turning up their noses to home cooked food which they regard old fashioned, they prefer to opt for this unhealthy trend in their diet. With fast food jaunts opening in every nook and corner of the city, junk food marketing campaigns attract the youngsters. We often note that the most commonly advertised commodities during the children’s hours on the television are for sweetened cereals, soft drinks, candy processed snacks and fast foods. Moreover, free home deliveries are adding to this fast food culture. Pizzas, burgers, rolls and carbonated drinks are just a telephone call away and the children make the most of this convenience. These are some of the reasons why they are getting addicted more and more to these unhealthy foods.

          Before using the term children should understand what really is junk food? It is a word first used in 1972 by Michael Jacobson, (director of Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA), for foods with little or no nutritional value. These foods are usually high in salt, sugar, saturated fats and loaded with empty calories. They offer little in terms of proteins, vitamins or minerals as they lack fruits, vegetables and dietary fiber. Having little or no health benefits, junk foods rob the children of the essential nutrients they need for growth and good health. Eating excessive amounts often leads to obesity and malnutrition. Common junk foods include salted snack foods (chips, crisps), candies and sweet desserts, fried fast foods and carbonated beverages. chocolates, chewing gum, most

 

 

Generally speaking, children have only a vague idea that the foods they love to eat are not very healthy and they should avoid deep fried foods, burgers, chips pizzas etc. Apart from the taste that most children love, they find them convenient and time saving too, i.e. you can eat a burger or chips when you are on the go or hanging about with friends, but not the traditional salan- roti or daal chawal, which are the base of home cooked foods. But next time when you go out with friends to grab a burger, or make a call for home- delivery of a pizza or rolls, keep these facts in mind. They will surely help you to improve your eating habits.

One teaspoon of sugar is extracted from a stalk of sugarcane one metre in length and a bottle of carbonated drink consists of ten teaspoons. A king sized Burger topped with cheese and eaten with French fries and an upsized drink provide the body with 1,800 calories! To burn these calories, you need to cycle for six hours at a speed of twenty miles per hour. Artificial ingredients contain an alarming variety of chemicals, for instance artificial strawberry flavor can contain about fifty chemicals and no strawberries at all!

To make your concept clear about the harmful effects of junk foods, some disadvantages are listed below.

Lack of energy: Junk foods do not provide us with the essential nutrients we need for growth and to carry on our day to day activities. This results in lack of energy, lethargy and general weakness and often children have to take nutrient supplements to take care of the deficiency being created in their body.

Poor concentration: After eating a junk meal rich in oil you feel drowsy and fail to concentrate on anything. Having such meals regularly makes fats accumulate in our circulatory system affecting the blood circulation. This in term results in depriving the brain of vital Oxygen and lack of nutrients and proteins can stale your grey (brain) cells temporarily.

Heart Diseases: Regular junk food intake is a major cause of heart diseases. Due to the extra intake of Fats, they are deposited in the arteries, which make the heart work harder to pump blood to the body. In the long run, the heart is fatigued by the extra work and also a deficit of Oxygen which leads to various heart diseases which are mostly not reversible.

High Cholesterol: Apart from forming plaque in arteries, which affects the blood flow, cholesterol also affects the liver where it is broken down. In the long term, junk foods diets can permanently damage the liver.

As we all crave for a change in our diet, occasional intake of junk food is permissible. Our body has enough stamina to take care of these undesirable ingredients. But be sure that you are not lured into addiction to these unhealthy foods. The meal cooked at home by Mummy is much more nutritious (and tasty as well). It is your own choice……Junk Food or Health!

 

Planning For Success!

ASAD was feeling proud as he showed his test copies to his parents. He had scored the highest marks in all the tests during the first monthly tests of the new academic session.

The teachers’ remarks were encouraging and he wore a confident look on his face, totally opposite to the crestfallen one when he had got his last annual report card. Being one of the best in his class in mathematics, his annual result was a big disappointment for him and his parents.

Asad was one of those students who are not deterred by failure. He was inspired by the famous quote of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Instead of losing confidence, he sat down to list the reasons why he had failed to achieve the grades which were so usual for him. He realised that his overconfidence had let him down as he had not worked hard enough for the mathematics exam.

After the paper, he had hurriedly submitted his answer copy, instead of rechecking it carefully. And most of his marks had been deducted because of careless mistakes. After carefully assessing the reasons for his poor performance, he resolved to make his failure the recipe for future success and this set him on the right path!

Often in our school life, we have to face such disappointments. These are the years when we are preparing ourselves for the future. A positive approach makes a drastic difference in what our personality and career will be once we finish education. The manner in which we react to failures and chalk out our future plans to overcome them, prove to be stepping stones which lead us to a successful practical life we have to enter after our student years are over.

Friends, failure does not mean that we cannot succeed at all. Often we have to accept failure as a challenge and make it a recipe for success.

Here are some tips which may help you to attain your goals and lead you to the road to success.

A positive approach

Instead of losing confidence and giving up if you cannot achieve the grades you had set your heart upon, try to ponder upon the reasons of your failure. Resolve to overcome these shortcomings. Hard work, patience and a positive frame of mind almost always lead to the road to success. There may be difficulties in the beginning but with endurance and dedication, they will ease out with time.

Practice for perfection

At times you may feel that you know everything that has been taught in class. Even then, do not stop revising. Soon you will realize that there are some fields in which you can improve your grades. Practice your math exercises daily. For other subjects, writing down answers to questions you think you have learnt, will make you identify and overcome the small mistakes that you make.

Seek help when needed

Never hesitate to seek help if you feel you require it. In school, if you do not understand a lesson your teacher is explaining; do not feel shy to speak out! If something is not clear to you, you must know that it is your right to request your teacher to clarify it again! And if some of you are slower than your peers in picking up a new lesson, you should not feel ashamed about it. Often teachers give extra time to such students after school or during recess, so that the rest of the class does not slow down. If the problem persists, you can discuss with your parents, your siblings or get a tutor to help you out.

Set a timetable

Always make a timetable in which you expect yourself to finish a certain lesson. This will keep you more organised in doing your homework and preparing for your tests. And be sure to follow the routine you have set for yourself.

But the rule is to plan practically and not to be too harsh on yourself. A timetable which you can follow steadily will always bring better results.

Aim high!

Set goals for yourself and keep on moving towards them with dedication and hard work. If at times you cannot attain a goal within the time you gave yourself to achieve it, do not be disheartened. Be realistic in your approach. Maybe you are pushing yourself too hard. Readjust your priorities and try to find out where and how you went wrong.

Long hours of study after school will slow you down after some days because we all need some time to relax! Once you are back from school, be sure to create a good balance between work, play and rest.

Friends, there are times in life when we come across new opportunities and options. Our attitude towards success and failure determines whether we will take these opportunities or cringe away from them. The fear of failing often hampers our journey on the road to success, and unless we realise that when we resolve firmly and plunge into something with determination, no amount of failures will keep us away from attaining our goal.

To achieve success, you have to keep in mind the prospect of failure. Even if you fail in the beginning, you will learn more about your strengths and talents, in this way be better prepared for the next challenge.

It is very important that you create a balance between overconfidence and doubts! Knowing your strong points and working on your weaknesses, plus a firm belief that you can overcome your shortcomings, will go a far way to lead you towards success in life!

In the end I would like to quote the American author, H. Stanley Judd when he so wisely says, “Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s okay to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing!”

Bonding Times!

The cherished months have finally arrived. It’s summer holiday again! It’s time to laze around and relax from the strict regime of school life, home-work, tests and, for some friends, the additional burden of tuitions too! But it is often seen that after the initial week or two, the excitement and charm of the vacation seems to wear off and we start complaining of boredom.

What should we do? This is the question which you all start asking your mothers and it makes them want to groan out aloud as they wonder how to keep their kids busy, happy and mostly out of their way!

Some lucky ones amongst you may go out of town (or country) to spend your vacation. There are also a lot of summer camps which offer a variety of activities, but in these times of insecurity and inflation, most parents do not find them affordable or convenient.

Friends, instead of getting on our parents’ nerves, we must find such means to keep ourselves busy that are not only fulfilling but also easy on our parents’ pockets!

This summer you can find a very fulfilling activity which will not only keep you busy, it will also provide a sense of immense emotional gratification. These are the months when we have lots of free time at our hands, and we can make this time precious by using it for bonding with relatives, old friends, books, nature and the environment around us!

Bonding with relatives

Often, in the busy school months we have hardly any time for our elderly relatives. Grandparents specially look forward to vacations as they know that you can visit them more often and also spend nights with them. The luxury of Grandma’s delicious pulao, her special cookies and the traditional kheer, which no one can make as perfect as her, are for yours to enjoy.

You can also help Grandpa with his gardening, in rearranging his bookshelf, or accompany him when he goes out for his daily walk or to the mosque. You can also help your grandparents to clean up their cupboards and room, a chore they do not have the energy to do without help. Maybe you will find something interesting like old photographs, grandma’s trinkets which she doesn’t use anymore or old coins and stamps Grandpa once collected as a hobby. They may allow you to keep these with you and they may one day turn to be a sort of souvenir from them.

There are also elderly family members, like your parents’ aunts and uncles or an ageing neighbor. A visit from you or a phone call can brighten up their day as deep down old people are usually lonely! You can indulge them by playing a game of ludo or chess, or reading out to them from their favorite book. The happy look you will see on their faces would make your free time worthwhile.

Bonding with old friends

Sometimes you lose track of close friends once they move out of your neighborhood or change school. In these leisure months it would be a wonderful idea to look them up and refresh your ties with them. You can email them to find out about their whereabouts or call common friends to trace them out. Meeting old friends is often a tonic for our mood and spirits, providing us with a deep sense of pleasure.

Bonding with your books

With the hectic routine of homework and class tests, most children usually like to spend their free hours relaxing in front of the television, texting or chatting with friends and browsing on the computer. Reading good books is no more a favorite pastime for most of you. But you must realize that books are your best companions and there is no better time to cultivate good reading habits than the long afternoons of your summer vacation.

To make your time more productive, look up some good classics, and be sure that every day you spend a couple of hours in reading. In this way you will learn a lot as reading not only broadens your insight, it also provides you knowledge beyond your textbooks — the most enjoyable pastime one can have!

Ask your parents or elder siblings to help you in the choice of books. You can visit old book shops or the Sunday markets where you can get good books at affordable prices. Create a chain by exchanging books with your friends. This way you will be able to read more while you spend less. Soon you will realize that reading is the most enjoyable pastime one can have.

Bonding with nature

Bird watching, going for walks and gardening are all means to bond with nature. Place small pots of water and baajra (millet) in your garden and you will be delighted to see the sparrows specking at the food and drink!

Bread pieces leftover from the breakfast table, a spoonful or two of cooked rice can also go into these pots and don’t be alarmed if crows also come in for the treat. After all they also help to clear up the environment and we can set out a morsel of food for them too.

Gardening is also a very fulfilling activity which will bring you closer to nature. You can set out small pots in your garden or balcony and nurture and water your personal plants. The tinge of delight at seeing your plant grow will make your time rewarding as well as give you a sense of fulfilment.

Bonding with the environment

This summer vacation set a goal for yourself to make your surroundings better. You can organize a cleanliness drive with the help of your neighborhood children. Clearing up your lane and going from door to door to ask people to help you by not throwing their trash on roads will create awareness and a better civic sense. You will also immense satisfaction of seeing your surroundings cleaner and more hygienic.

The list goes on and on. These are only some suggestions for your summer holidays, but I am sure that my little friends are intelligent enough to take their initiative from these activities and plan a number of positive ones themselves! Happy vacation!

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.

 

Opinion: Early start (http://dawn.com/2012/02/05/opinion-early-start/)

How do we decide what is the perfect age for a child to start school? With Montessoris and nursery schools mushrooming in every nook and corner of the city, parents are often confused on the issue.

At a party, I overheard a group of young mothers discussing (read boasting) about the academic achievements of their kids. “Ahmer is doing so well at school; he has been going for hardly a year but already tries to speak English (which is the ultimate aim of most parents!),” a young mother declared pompously. “May I know how old is Ahmer?” I

couldn’t help asking as she herself looked so young. “He will be three next month,” she announced proudly. “What a shame,” I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out, “Don’t you think he should have spent this year with you at home?” The arrogant mother gave me a disdainful look before turning back to her friends.

When asked the reason for opting to start their child’s schooling at a tender age, when he/she can barely talk, is not even potty trained or is uncomfortable when left alone with strangers, most mothers often say, “We want time for ourselves,” or “We want a few hours of peace when the little tyrant is not around!”

To attain these few hours of peace, they sacrifice their sleep (and that of their child), bathe and dress him, cajole him to take his breakfast and then sleepily drive him to school. To be picked back after three to four hours! Once back, the child has to be pampered, changed, fed and put to bed for a nap. Handling a cranky young child, who is exhausted
from the strain of going to school, is another hectic activity for the already tired mother.

If we calculate the time and energy enthusiastic mothers spend in all these efforts, we will find that instead of the so called ‘some hours of peace’ or ‘time for ourselves’, they actually lose the few hours they can devote to their personal activities.

Call me orthodox, but I am against sending children to school at such a young age. When my daughter-in-law, Saira, wanted to send my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson to pre nursery, my reaction was a firm no! And as I am very possessive about him, she complied although reluctantly. But she often complained laughingly that her son was considered a ‘Jahil’ among her friends who teased her for not sending him to school. “His grandmother knows better,” was the only weak argument she could produce. Now at six plus, he is attending a reputable school, is in the same grade as his peers and doing fairly well in his class.

Hina Nauman, a young mother, who herself teaches in one of the elite school in Karachi, says, “My personal experience was different with all my three children. With my first born, I was an over enthusiastic mother. Giving my child the best of everything was my prime aim. He was not even two months old when I eagerly set out to register my son in a reputable school! I remember being told at some schools that I was LATE!

“My eldest started school when he was 2.5, which I think is a good age for kids to start. My second born started school at 18 months which from experience I learnt was too early and a sheer waste of money. I had put undue pressure on the child, the effects of which I faced till he was in grade 1, as he seemed tired of the same ‘school routine’. My third child also started school at 2.5, but he fared better as exposure to elder siblings had made him more mature.”

Sheeza believes that for a stay at home mother, this is the time to enjoy your child and develop a lasting bond with him/her. “I enjoyed the years with my two children and as I taught them basics like alphabets, numbers, shapes, colours, parts of the body, etc, they did not lag behind when they started going to school.”

Hina’s suggestion is, “Don’t fall for the school scam, sadly like all other commercial ventures; the education sector (especially the private schools) is one big racket. Instead of sending your under age kids to school, indulge them by sharing activities like reading out to them, taking swimming classes, playing simple games, collecting flowers or
butterflies. In this way you will pay less, enjoy more and feel more bonded with your children.”

Being an old timer, I firmly believe that it is really unfair to the child to make him leave the safe haven of home and venture into the outside world before he is four. Young mothers usually do not agree. Saira still feels that her son started school a bit late, as her second born attended a pre nursery at age three. “There is a difference, however subtle in the approach of my two children,” she says wistfully. This may be what we call the generation gap!

 

LIFE! THE HATE MONGERS (http://archives.dawn.com/archives/69181#comment-)

The boss has a crush on his young, beautiful but married secretary. The girl is tactful enough to keep his advances at bay and still retain her job. Her colleagues have planned a surprise birthday party for the boss which the (unsuspecting) girl discusses at home with her mother-in-law.

On the fateful day the boss is astonished but delighted to receive a card and a big bouquet from her and calls to say thanks. The girl is devastated because she has sent neither of them, but her husband (who is sure to be at home at that particular time) does not believe her. So, a big row follows. The mother-in-law, who is listening to them argue bitterly, stays neutral but the smug look on her face has a lot to say!

The daughter-in-law is not to be deterred and plans a quick revenge. The next day she seems to misplace her wedding ring (a precious diamond one, of course). She hunts for it everywhere and looks visibly agitated. The (seemingly) loving mama-in-law is all sympathy for her as she helps in the search. In the evening the daughter-in-law opens her mother-in-law`s cupboard to get something for her and lets out a scream (of delight). The ring is right there, shining brightly and she turns towards the older lady in disbelief, her accusing look saying more than words.

One has only to put two and two together to guess how the ring reached there.

These are not true stories but scenes from one of the endless (and senseless) soap operas which the ever mushrooming television channels dish out day in and day out! We see people of every age addicted to them. They gleefully watch episode after episode of the plays even though the story moves at a snail`s pace. Why are people attracted to these soap operas? Some people say that these plays are an escape from the harsh realities of life while others argue that this is the best way they can spend their leisure hours, but very few of us realise what harm they are doing to our family values!

The family is the core of the human existence and its members are supposed to provide each other with love and security, to share each other`s happiness, problems and sorrows, and to tend to each other`s needs. The majority of the soap operas have a negative impact on these values. Most of the plays are set against an urban backdrop, about families belonging to the high social strata, where the ladies have nothing better to do than to don expensive dresses, heavy (and unnatural) makeup and jewellery and relax in luxuriously furnished lounges. They have to do no house work, no cooking, no washing or ironing and no looking after their kids. All they seem to do is to plot, scheme and hatch conspiracies against other family members! Back biting seems to be the order of the day as these ladies manipulate simple day-to-day events to their selfish motives. In the above mentioned examples, both the ladies go miles to demean other down, even though their hatred for each other is beautifully sugar coated.

The most important target in most soaps are the in-laws. Marriage is not only a bond between two individuals it is a new set of relationships between two families. This relationship is supposed to be based on mutual love, understanding and respect for each other, with every one realising the others` rights and working together towards a peaceful and loving family. The love for in-laws is not in the blood, as that for biological bonds; it has to be nurtured step by step, day by day after making many compromises and sacrifices.

On the contrary, most TV plays are teaching women to hate instead of love, to doubt instead of to trust, to avenge instead of to forgive and to humiliate instead of to respect. Women are portrayed not as home makers but as home breakers, all out to destroy the peace, tranquillity and happiness from a happy family life.

In the normal life, do we find women as cunning and ill meaning to each other as depicted in these plays? I don`t claim that relationship with in-laws is all bliss but the question is, “Is anyone perfect in this world?” We have to be perfect ourselves before expecting or demanding perfection from others.

The viewers of soap operas, especially young girls, are so taken by the charm and glamour of the characters that they lose the capability of distinguishing facts from fiction and have no idea what subtle change is undergoing in their approach towards family life. These hate-mongers on the idiot box are teaching us to hate, distrust and humiliate the people who should be the most near and dear to our hearts. Shouldn`t all of us stand up against this slow poison to the roots of our being before it is too late?

A TREASURE THAT CAN BE YOURS FOREVER!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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