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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

میں ایک باغی ہوں

میں ایک باغی ہوں!
آج معاشرے کے سامنے میں اقبالِ جرم کرنا چاھتی ہوں۔ میں ایک باغی ہوں۔ میں اس نظام سے بغاوت کا اعلان کرتی ہوں جہاں قدم قدم پہ ہمیں دوہری قدروں کا سامنا کرنا پڑتا ہے ۔میری بغاوت کے بہت سارے اسباب ہیں اور میں ایک وقت میں ایک ہی سبب پہ روشنی ڈال سکتی ہوں۔ آئیے آج میں آپ کو اپنے باغی ہونے کی پہلی وجہ بتائؤں۔۔چاہیں تو آپ بھی اس بغاوت میں میرے قدم سے قدم ملایئں ۔ چاہے مجھے قابلِ سزا قرار دیں۔
میرے باغی ہونے کے اسباب کو سمجھنے کے لئے آپ کو زندگی کے سٹیج کے چند مختلف مناظر کو دیکھنا ہوگا۔ آپ میرے ہم سفر رہیں اور میں آپ کو ماضی کے چند لمحوں کی سیر کراتی ہوں۔
پہلا منظر:
اسپتال کے بستر پہ ایک نازک سی عورت لیٹی ہے اور اس کے پہلو میں ایک گڑیا جیسی بچی۔ ماں کبھی ممتا بھری نظروں سے اپنی بیٹی کو دیکھتی ہے اور کبھی ملتجی نظروں سے اپنے شوہر اور ساس کو۔ ان کے چہروں کی مصنوعی مسکراہٹیں ان کی مایوس آرزوئوں کو چھپانے میں قطعی طور پہ ناکام ہیں۔ شوہر کو
بیٹے کی تمنا تھی اور ساس کو پوتے کی آرزو!

مبارکبادی دینے کے لئے آنے والے بھی اپنا کردار بھرپور طور پہ ادا کر رہے ہیں اور اس طرح اپنے خیالات کا اظہار کر رہے ہیں!بھئی مبارک ہو۔ فکر نہ کرو جس اللہ نے بیٹی دی ہے وہ بیٹا بھی ضرور دیگا!۔ ساس کے چہرے کی مسکراہٹ اور پھیکی پڑ جاتی ہے اور وہ چمک کر کہتی ہیں۔ بات تو سچی یہی ہےکہ پہلوٹھی کے بیٹے کی خوشی ہی کچھ اور ہوتی ہے۔ خیر ہم کوئی ااپنے للہ سے مایوس تھوڑی ہیں۔ آپ دیکھئیگا اگلی دفعہ بیٹا ہی ہوگا۔

نوعمر ماں کی آنکھوں میں نمی تیر جاتی ہے جس کو چھپانے کی کوشش کرتے ہوئے وہ بے بسی میں اپنی پھول جیسی گڑیا کی طرف متوجہ ہو جاتی ہے۔ ابھی تو وہ تخلیق کے کرب کو بھولی نہیں ہے اور موت کی دہلیز کو چھو کر واپس پلٹی ہے۔ ابھی سے اگلی دفعہ کی باتیں شروع ہو گئیں۔ صرف اس وجہ سے کے پیدا ہونے والا بچہ بیٹا نہیں بیٹی ہے۔ کوشش کے باوجود دو آنسو اس کی آنکھوں سے ڈھلک کر تکئے میں جذب ہو جاتے ہیں
میں بغاوت کرتی ہوں اس نظام اور سوچ سے جہاں بیٹی کو اللہ کی رحمت نہیں خوشیوں پہ اوس ڈالنے والی ہستی سمجھا جاتا ہے اور بیٹے کو مسرتوں کا پیامبر۔
دوسرا منظر
کئی سال گزر چکے ہیں اور وہ نو عمر ماں ایک ادھیڑ عمر کی عورت بن چکی ہے جس کو اللہ نے ایک اور بیٹی کے ساتھ دو بیٹوں سے بھی نوازا ہے۔ حیرت کی بات یہ ہے کہ اب اس کے سوچنے کا انداز یکسر بدل چکا ہے۔ آج کے منظر میں ہم دیکھینگے کے ماں کچن میں کھانابنا رہی ہے ۔بیٹی جو اب تقریبآ تیرہ چودہ سال کی ہے اس کے پاس آ کر کہتی ہے، “امی مجھے حساب اور انگریزی کی ٹیوشن لگوا دیں۔ امتحان سر پہ ہیں اور ان دونوں مضامین میں میرے نمبر بہت کم آ رہے ہیں”۔
ماں ھانڈی سے نظر اٹھائے بغیر لا پرواہ انداز سےکہتی ہے ” بیٹی جیسے بھی کوشش کر کے خود ہی امتحان کی تیاری کرو۔ تمہارے ابو دونوں بھائیوں کی ٹیوشن فیس ہی بڑی مشکل سے ادا کر رہے ہیں۔ وہ اس مزیز بوجھ کے متحمل نہیں ہو سکتے۔
بیٹی جھنجھلا ئے ہوئے لہجے میں کہتی ہے ” میری سمجھ میں نہیں آتا کہ ہر معاملے میں بھائیوں کو کیوں ہم پہ اتی فوقیت دی جاتی ہے۔ ان کی تعلیم اور کھانی پینے کو زیادہ اہمیت دی جاتی ہے! کل ہی ناشتے میں ایک انڈا تھا میں نے پوچھا تو آپ نے منع کر دیا اور بعد میں وہی انڈا دونوں بیٹوں کو آدھا آدھا کھلا دیا۔ کیا ہم آپ کی اولاد نہیں؟
ماں۔”بیٹی تم تو پرایا دھن ہو! آج ہمارے پاس کل سسرال چلی جائوگی۔جتنا تمہاری قسمت میں ہو لکھ پڑھ لو۔ لیکن ان بیٹوں کو تو میرے اور تمہارے ابو کے بڑھاپے کا سہارا بننا ہے۔ان پر خاص توجہ کیوے نہ دیں؟
آج بیٹی کی آنکھوں میں آنسو ہیں۔” امی اگر میں بیٹی ہوں تو اس میں میرا کیا قصور ہے؟
ماں کے چہرے پہ لمحہ بھر کو پشیمانی کا سایہ لرزتا ہے۔ پھر وہ بیٹی کو معصوم سوالوں سے بچنے کے کئے جلدی جلدی رات کی روٹی کا آٹا گوندھنے لگتی ہے۔
میں بغاوت کرتی ہوں اس نظام سے جس میں رزق کی فراہمی کا بھروسہ اللہ پر نہیں اولادِ نرینہ پہ کیا جاتا ہے ۔ بیٹوں کے مقابلے میں ہر معاملے میں بیٹیوں کی حق تلفی کی جاتی ہے۔ ان کو پرایا دھن اور بیٹوں کو قیمتی سرمایہ سمجھا جاتا ہے
تیسرا منظر
مزید چار پانچ سال گزر چکے ہیں۔ آج کے منظر میں ہم دیکھینگے کے کل احتجاج کرنے والی بیٹی اب جوان اور شادی کی عمر کو پہنچ گئی ہے۔ ڈرائینگ روم میں کچھ مہمان خواتین بیٹھی ہیں۔ بیٹی نظریں نیچی کئے ہوئے شرمائے ہوئے انداز میں چائے کی ٹرالی لے کر داخل ہوتی ہے اور ادب سے سلام کر کے ایک طرف بیٹھ جاتی ہے۔ ماں دل میں پریشان ہے کہ کئی دن کا بجٹ آج ٹرالی سجانے میں صرف ہو گیا لیکن خندہ پیشانی کے ساتھ مہمانوں کو پھل، کیک اور مٹھائی پیش کر رہی ہے، جبکہ ناشتہ کرتے ہوئے خواتین لڑکی کا بغور جائزہ لے رہی ہیں۔ آپس میں کچھ کھسرپسر بھی ہو رہی ہے۔ ٹرالی کے ساتھ پورا انصاف کرنے کے بعد وہ منھ پونچھتی ہوئی اٹھتی ہیں اور ماں کو مخاطب کر کےکہتی ہیں “بہن آپ لوگ ہمیں بہت پسند آئے،آپ کی بیٹی بھی خوش اخلاق اور سلیقہ مند لگتی ہے لیکن کیا کریں ہمارے بیٹے کو گوری دلہن چاھئیے اور آپ کی بیٹی سانولی ہے! آپ کا گھر بھی کچھ واجبی سا ہے، رشتہ والی نے تو آپ لوگوں کو خاصہ پیسے والا بتایا تھا! “
میں بغاوت کرتی ہوں اس نظام سے جس میں بیٹیوں کو چائے کی ٹرالی پہ گائے بکروں کی طرح پرکھا جاتا ہے۔جہاں اچھی لڑکیوں کا معیار ان کی تعلیم، سلیقہ اور اخلاق و آداب نہیں صرف اچھی شکل و صورت یا دولت ہے!
جہاں بیٹوں کے کئے چاند کا ٹکرا ڈھونڈھنے والیاں یہ بھول جاتی ہیں کہ ان کے گھر بھی ایک سانولی، یا موٹی یا چھوٹے قد کی بیٹی اچھے رشتے کے انتظار میں بیٹھی ہے
چوتھا منظر
مزید دو تین سال گزر چکے ہیں۔ بیٹی کا رشتہ آخر کار طے ہو چکا ہے۔ لیکن والدین پریشان ہیں۔ جہیز کی تیاری، مایوں مہندی کی تقریبات، باراتیوں کا کھانا، دولھا میاں اور ان کے عزیزوں کے لئے تحفے تحائف! ایک کمانے والا اور اجراجات کی نہ ختم ہونے والی فہرست! رات کا وقت ہے اور ماں باپ کمرے میں بیٹھے یہی باتیں کر رہے ہیں۔ ماں کئی چیزیں گنواتی ہے جو ابھی خریدنی باقی ہیں، ہال والے کو بھی پیشگی رقم دینی ہے۔ باپ بوجھل لہجے میں کہتا ہے،”آکر یہ جہیز کی لعنت کب ھمارے معاشرے سے ختم ہوگی؟ کیا یہ کافی نہیں کہ ھم اپنے جگر کا ٹکڑا ان لوگوں کو دے رہے ہیں؟ اور سسرال والوں کو اتنے تحفے دینے کی کیا ضرورت ہے؟ ہم نے تو ان سے اپنی حیثیت نہیں چھپائی تھی! پہلی بیٹی کی شادی پہ ہی اتنا مقروض ہو جائونگا تو دوسری کی شادی اور بیٹوں کی تعلیم کا کیا ہوگا؟ وہ یوں بول رہا ہے جیسے اپنے آپ سے ہی یہ سوالات پوچھ رہا ہو۔ ماں جواب میں کہتی ہے،” جیسے بھی ہو یہ سب کرنا تو پڑیگا ورنہ ہماری بیٹی کی سسرال میں کیا عزت ہوگی؟ اس کو طعنے نہ پڑینگے کے تمہارے اماں باوا نے جہیز میں دیا ہی کیا ہے؟
میں بغاوت کرتی ہوں اس نظام سے جس میں استطاعت نہ ہونے کے باوجود فضول رسم و رواج پہ مجبورآ پیسہ خرچ کیا جاتا ہے۔ جہاں بیٹی کی سسرال میں قدر و منزلت اس کے حسن سلوک، اعلی اخلاق، تعلیم اور سلیقے کے بجائے وہ ڈھیروں جہیز ہے جو وہ اپنے ساتھ لائی ہے،
آج میں نے معاشرے کے سامنے اپنی بغاوت کے اسباب پر روشنی ڈالی ہے۔ میں ایک باغی ہوں اور اس فرسودہ نظام کے خلاف بغاوت کا علم بلند کرتے ہوئے فخر محسوس کرتی ہوں۔ آپ چاہیں تو مجھے سزا دیں، چاہیں تو اس بغاوت میں میرا ساتھ دیں اور ہم چراغ سے چراغ جلانے کے مصداق ایک نئے دور کا آغاز کریں!

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

Lets agree to disagree but with due respect to each other!

Lets agree to disagree, but with due respect to each other!

In the times we are living in, discussions and arguments have mostly gone online. The debates which once were a part of the drawing-room culture have become an integral part of the electronic, print and social media. The options for people to comment online on news, blogs, posts and write-ups etc, have opened up new opportunities for the readers. There were times when after reading something of importance or interest in the newspaper or a magazine, I would discuss it with the people around me. We would talk about the issue, argue, agree or disagree, but never in a manner where the other person would feel that his opinion has been brushed aside, or he is being demeaned for his views. Maybe being polite in a face to face discussions was not only an important requirement of a debate it was considered an essential part of good upbringing, and no one wanted to seem rude or disrespectful to each other.

But the huge swing of technology and the easy access to it, has changed people’s attitudes and also the way they discuss issues these days! As a regular visitor to the blogs of reputable publications, I have noticed how ugly a discussion can become. It may be about politics, religion, a social issue or even a game! Most people with differing opinions mock, insult and in extreme cases verbally abuse those who have a different way of seeing things. This I-will-punch-you–in-the-face-if-you-dare-to- disagree-with-me approach is on the rise by the day.

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People make an argument an ego matter, and win they must, either by hook or by crook! Instead of making it a means to a better understanding of a controversial issue, and trying to see things from the other one’s point of view, they prefer to belittle or mock those who do not agree with their way of perceiving an issue. The use of profane words is on the rise and some people really think it is “cool” to use these words in their comments. The words which once no gentleman even dreamt of using in public, have become so common that even our children are using them! While reading comments I often come across words like absurd, shit, nonsense, unintelligent, ridiculous, repressive, trash (just to mention the softer ones) etc. Some call the other’s views silly, illogical and appalling! All barriers of civility are broken and we seem to forget that there are always two faces of a coin.  

It is perfectly okay to disagree, because it is our basic right to have our own opinion on different matters. But the point we often overlook is that each and every individual has a different view, which depends on his/her social and cultural background, religious beliefs and the moral values which run in a family! And education, though last mentioned, should be the on the top of this list.

Why is this new approach getting so common? What are we teaching our young generation? Have we becoming more egoistic by the day and feel it is our right to thrust down our opinion down our opponents’ throat, least caring that we may even choke them with our efforts? Why is our society becoming so brutally intolerant, with a total disregard for a difference in opinion? Where will this frame of mind lead us too? Why are all barriers of civility broken when we do not see eye to eye with someone?

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All these are disturbing questions that I ask myself! There is already too much hatred and dissent in our world. Instead of being judgmental, raising accusing fingers and resorting to mudslinging, let’s try to create a more tolerant world through discussions and trying to understand differing views. Or else, we should be prepared to hand down a legacy of hatred and contempt to our younger generation.

In Pakistan, the illiterate have no access to newspapers, magazines or the social media. The less affluent, even if they have a formal education, are too busy trying to make the ends meet to spare time reading and commenting on posts and write ups.  So only the educated middle and upper class are among those who take interest and can take out time to participate in these virtual discussions. Education brings with it tolerance; a respect for the views of someone who sees things from another angle or perspective. And keeping in mind the class who has an access to the social and print media, I think it should try to be more open-minded and flexible. Instead of making our comments sound like a slap on the face, we can make them polite and respectful. Mocking, insulting or ridiculing someone who does not see eye to eye with us, only proves that we are educated illiterates!

Let’s agree to disagree, but with due respect to each other’s opinion. Proving yourself right and the opponent wrong should not be important, a debate should be a means to hone the mind and bring a broader perspective to one’s outlook on controversial issues!

The Demise of the Doppatta!

A slightly edited version of this blog was published in The Express Tribune Blogs

 (Before starting to read this blog please keep in mind that this is not a religious sermon! At the moment, keeping aside my firm belief in the teachings of Islam, I am just writing this piece as a social and cultural responsibility).

Hawa mein urtaa jaaye mera laal dopatta malmal ka…one of my cherished childhood memories is about this old song! On some days when we could not think of some other game, I and my twin sisters would sneak Ammi’s doppattas (each of us rushing to grab the red one). We would sing this popular song of those days, dancing clumsily on our spacious terrace, as the doppattas (too long for our small frames) flew behind us in the air!

Dopattas were once considered an integral part of the dress code in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Long flowing scarves which covered the hair and bosom, were considered an important sign of femininity. Worn with a shalwar qameez, they also differentiated our women from those belonging to the Western andother cultures and were regarded as a cultural/religious symbol.

Sadly, over the decades, the influxes of foreign influence, plus a general misconception of women empowerment, have made our women let this beautiful piece of clothing fly away from their dresses. For good!

It is a common sight to see grown up girls and even women dressed in shirts (qameez) with shalwars/trousers/ cigarette pants whatever, with no sign of a doppatta. I personally feel that their dress looks incomplete, as if they have forgotten an important part of their suit at home! Because in my opinion, a doppatta carried properly adds grace, charm and beauty to a woman’s looks and is in no way a hindrance or hassle for her.

After being hesitant for years, when I finally decided to write on this sensitive issue, I felt that taking the views of young girls would be more appropriate. Because considering my age, anyone can easily accuse me of doling out unnecessary (aunty-like) advice which does not go with the requirements of the progressive times we are living in. Both of the girls who have given their opinion are daughters of my friends and highly educated professionals.

Quratulain Ahmed, an entrepreneur, (also the chief motivator behind this writing), speaks her mind in clear terms. Out spoken and liberal, she does not mince her words while giving her views. “Belonging to a conservative Urdu speaking family, I wasn’t even allowed to wear jeans to college since my mother disliked it. Shalwar Kameez was the only dress which I and my sisters could wear once we outgrew our teens and started developing our bosoms. Wearing a dupatta was a must for us. For four years, I went to a liberal arts college managing a duppatta with the art material etc I had to carry daily. But gone are those days and Dupattas are now considered out of fashion. As someone has put “less is more”, women have stopped wearing them.

Zehra Awan, who has recently completed her ACCA and works with a reputed accountancy firm says, “Before giving my views on the disappearance of doppattas from the female apparel these days, I would like to mention that I was also one of those young girls who had done away with this important part of the feminine dress in our culture. Somehow, I thought wearing it was a hassle and a hindrance to my movement, whether I was at work or in a social gathering. To be honest, one day I suddenly realized how inappropriate it was to go out without a doppatta! It didn’t take me long to realize that I felt much better when I wore a doppata with my dress as I felt safer from unnecessarily prying eyes and somehow  I was also more inclined to pray regularly.

 “Although I admit that wearing a dupatta has not made me more religious or a better person, nor has it clarified all the rights and wrongs in my mind, but one way in which it has changed me is through my womanly conscience and sense of security when I step out of my house.”

Qurat muses, “Western influences in our culture have crept in slowly over the decades and sadly it is now acceptable so see a Muslim doppatta-less woman in a sleeveless dress in public places, social gatherings and on the television. What I would like to put across is where are we headed next? Our media is portraying the Pakistani woman as modern in the dress not in the head! Doing away with an important part of your dress empowers you in no way! If a woman feels that not wearing a dupatta makes her look chic and fit better in the crowd then she is headed in the wrong direction. If this mind set continues, I fear that soon those who wear this graceful part of a dress will be termed as backward or conservative.”

          Says Zehra “I do not want to pass stereo type comments like how shameless is a girl moving in public without a doppatta, or how her parents have failed to instill our cultural values in her mind, or (worse of all) no decent man will ever marry her! A person’s character, family background or values are not for me (or anyone) to comment on so blatantly. I am not sharing my views to mock or ridicule any woman out there who does not wear a dupatta. You can be covered in a burqa and be a worse person than the girl next to you who is wearing tight fitting jeans and a sleeveless top. Your personality and character is yours (something between you and your Creator) and not something to be judged by your clothing.

Zehra continues to share her views “I want to confess that I find myself actually looking better, more graceful and lady-like when I wear a dupatta which I now feel is the true essential piece which completes a female outfit. Sometimes I wonder why I completely stopped wearing it in the first place. I find that there is no fashion that I fail to meet while wearing a dupatta, nor do I find myself less modern or open-minded while doing the same. On the contrary, I feel more secure when I move in public. How can I complain of a man staring at me in bazaars or on the roads if I have left my dress incomplete? A woman’s beauty is never in what she shows openly and to everyone; it is in what she keeps hidden from the world.”

I wonder how do I round up this piece of writing? I just want to convince women that discarding your doppatta is not a status symbol, nor does it prove that you are highly qualified, progressive and liberal. It is only a matter of confused conception of what is modern and chic. I would like to request to all those out there who have done away with their doppattas, whether it is due to peer pressure or a misguided desire of being called up-to-date or progressive, please promote your own culture instead of a foreign one.

Doppattas may not be ‘IN’ for some girls/women these days, but they are definitely not ‘OUT’ for others. This is the main reason all designers are still promoting three piece suits and have not yet compromised with the length or breadth of a doppatta. I firmly believe that dopattas are an inevitable part of our cultural dress code and will not be blown away with the wind, come what may!  

An Obituary printed in the London Times…..

(This is something too good not be shared! With the passing away of Common Sense, we all are living as a confused and direction less generation!)

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:-
– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm…
– Life isn’t always fair;
– And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death,
– by his parents, Truth and Trust,
– by his wife, Discretion,
– by his daughter, Responsibility,
– and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
– I Know My Rights
– I Want It Now
– Someone Else Is To Blame
– I’m A Victim
– Pay me for Doing Nothing

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.
If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

PRIME TIME…an old article published in Young World

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PRIME TIME!

         Mummy has been busy all the evening preparing a special dish for dinner. She has recently attended a friend’s party and got this recipe of a mouth-watering Italian dish from her hostess. Although she is feeling tired, she is looking forward to an excited response from her family, who she expects will praise her culinary art after enjoying the delicious dish.

          Dinner is laid out and everyone is called to the table. But what happens is disappointing for the mother who has toiled a good part of the evening preparing it! Daddy is busy on the computer and requests for his plate to be brought to him saying, “I have to reply urgently to an important e-mail and can not leave the computer. You never know when we will have a power breakdown”. The eldest son comes out of his room, and hurriedly piles the pasta and the gravy on his plate, pours the sauces and heads back to his room. Mummy protests, “Where are you going”? He replies, “Mummy I have to give a presentation in University tomorrow, and my friend has come to help me, so I will have dinner in my room”. The daughter is watching her favourite soap on the TV. “Mummy can I take my plate to the TV lounge”, she announces more than she seeks permission, and off she goes too from the dining table with her share of the meal. After the long and tiring preparation of the special dish, a frustrated Mummy is left on the table with her youngest one. She eyes him musing thoughtfully, “Maybe in a couple of years he too would find activities more interesting than the family get together at dinner”.

This is a normal scenario in nearly every household. Dinner time was once considered the most important time of the day, when the family got together each night. It was the time to rebond, relax, communicate and build a stronger and healthier relationship with each other, and the members actually looked forward to it, considering it the ‘prime time’ of the day. Jokes were cracked, memories were shared and favourite family anecdotes told and retold. Many times small problems were discussed and solved. Children learnt table manners from their elders. They also learnt to share responsibilities, as they helped out Mummy in laying the table and clearing it up. The elder ones took turns at washing or drying dishes. It was the time to care and share. But gradually all of us have become too busy in our personal activities to enjoy this family get together any more. We consider it a waste of time because we usually take a longer time at the table when we are having dinner together and we can hardly afford this extra time more than once or twice during the whole week.

The trend of running back to whatever we were doing before dinner was laid out, with our plates loaded with food, is a very unhealthy trend for family life. During the days we all have to follow our own routines. Daddy is busy with his job (or business) and the children have to attend their educational institutions, and most of them come home at different times. Mummy is busy in her daily household chores, and if she is a working mother, she has to manage her job as well. Having lunch at the same time is not possible. Every one of us takes his/her meal according to his/her own convenience.

Dinner is the time to be together, when, at the end of the day, all of us should suspend our personal activities and carve out an hour which is only meant for the family. While sharing a meal we are usually talking to each other, thus relaxing and building a better communication. The main advantage of having dinner together is that we all remain in touch, have knowledge of each other’s activities and problems, seek support and give out friendly advice to our family members. It gives us a chance to share our views on current issues and receive encouragement on our achievements. Dinner time is also the best time for making plans for up coming family events or for the weekends. It is also the time to share the events of the day, news and ideas and best of all, just to be together and enjoy each other’s company.  So, whether Mummy cooks something special for dinner, or it is just the good old Aloo Gosht for the main course, be sure to make dinner time the ‘Prime Time’ of the day.

 

 

 

 

EID UL AZHA… A YEARLY REMINDER

(This article was published in Young World today. But I feel that the grown ups need these lessons more than the children do!)

ONCE upon a time, long long ago, there lived an old man whose wife was also quite old. They did not have any children, but never gave up faith and kept praying to Allah for a child. It was quite late in life when their prayers were answered and they were blessed with a son. But the Almighty, who keeps on showering His bounties on us, can also take them back when He wishes to do so!

One day, the old man had a dream in which he was asked to sacrifice his young and most cherished son. As the saying goes, ‘Like father, like son!’, when he mentioned this dream to his son, the young lad was all willing to lay down his life to fulfil Allah’s command. But our most Merciful Creator was only testing the obedience of the old man — a test which he passed with flying colours! As he was about to sacrifice his beloved son, an angel arrived and replaced the little boy with a ram.

Friends, this is the true story of the prophet Hazrat Ibrahim A.S and his son Ismail A.S. Allah was so pleased with their obedience and willingness to sacrifice just to fulfil His command, that Allah has made it obligatory for all affluent Muslims to sacrifice animals in His name on the Eid-ul-Azha.

This second major Islamic festival is just round the corner. Soon we will see that the city has taken a festive mood, which both children and older ones will heartily enjoy. Children, especially boys, will be after their fathers, requesting them to take them to animal markets to purchase an animal of their choice. Those who will get their sacrificial animals earlier than their neighbouring friends will wear a triumphant look, as they will proudly display their prized possession for all to see!

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During these days, temporary tents are usually put up on roadsides and alleys, as most houses do not have enough space to keep the animals inside. Cows, goats, sheep and an occasional camel will be pampered with all kinds of fodder goodies. Stalls selling food for animals and all kinds of adornments (which the kids proudly call jewellery for their prized animals) will spring up in every nook and corner of the city.

Children will be seen comparing the size and rates of the animals with each other, and the question, “How much did yours cost?” is perhaps the most widely asked one these days. Those who would have bought expensive animals will have a proud look on their faces, while the others will appear a bit apologetic because theirs would be less expensive.

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Goat and cow races are common, and we hear happy shouts as children enjoy conducting them on a daily basis! But there are times when the goat, sheep or even cow, proves stronger than the child. A furore is then created as desperate children frantically try to control the runaway animal, and usually have to seek the help of an older passer-by!

The enjoyment continues until the Eid Day, but on the night before Eid, reality starts setting in! Everyone finally realises that their love affair with the sacrificial animal is about to be over! And when the butcher arrives, some of us move away from the place where the animals would be slaughtered. Some soft-hearted even break down in tears. But soon this depression is over as they have to help out in distributing and storing the meat. When mummy lays down the table with tempting dishes prepared with the sacrificial meat, they eat their favourite dishes to their heart’s delight.

But friends, is this all there is to Eid-ul-Azha? Amongst the merriment and enjoying don’t we forget the real message of this big day? This festival teaches us the lesson of obedience. It reminds us that we should bow to the Will of Allah, under all circumstances and without questioning! It also teaches us about sharing our bounties with people who are not as blessed as we are!

Every year at Eid-ul-Azha, I come across people who so sadly declare, “This is the only time of the year when we get to eat meat! With the rising cost of living, we can hardly afford three meals a day, so buying meat is totally beyond our means.”

Eid-ul-Azha comes each year to give us lessons of sacrifice, obedience, discipline and sharing our blessings. But I feel sad to say that over the years we have forgotten the true spirit of this great Muslim festival. Our superficial values have changed it into an occasion to show off our riches and enter into a race of who can buy the largest number of animals and the most expensive one. In addition to celebrating, enjoying and feasting this Eid, let’s vow this year to make this festival a reminder of its true essence!

 

 
 

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SWEET POISON!

It is sweet. It is tasty. It is inexpensive. And it is also highly addictive! Easily available in attractive looking packets, sweet supari (betel nut) and gutka (a mixture of betel nut, katha, lime or chuna, tobacco and food fragrances), are favourite mouth fresheners for a lot of children and adults.

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School children often offer the packets to each other in lieu of candy, but most of them do not know that these harmless looking sachets are very harmful for them and can play havoc with their oral and general health. Gutka is a more dangerous form, because to get its consumers hooked, it often contains traces of tobacco. The betel nut used is usually of very poor quality, sometimes infested with fungus and microscopic insects and unfit for human consumption. The greedy manufacturers add sweeteners and food colours to make this substandard supari attractive and palatable, totally disregarding the fact that these are additional health hazards for the consumers.

Although sweet supari and gutka are popular among all age groups and consumed by members of all social classes, the habit to use them as a perfect end to a snack or a meal, is usually cultivated during the school days. The intake usually begins with munching a pack or two a day. Gradually the quantity increases as children find themselves habituated to it. And then the craving sets in!

Some people find themselves totally helpless, as they cannot concentrate or feel comfortable until a pocketful of this sweet poison is buried in their cheeks or tucked under their tongue.

Smoking is still considered a complete no-no for children and as long as they can, parents take great care to make sure that their kids do not take up this habit. Cigarette manufacturers are bound by the government to print warning notes on their packs. But sadly, there is no such rule for sweet supari and gutka. Usually we see that parents are not so particular about restricting their children’s intake of these harmful substances, because neither the parents nor the children realise that these can be as dangerous as smoking. As there is a total lack of awareness of their harmful impact on health, the usage is ever increasing.

Dr Sadaf Ahmed says, “Sweetened supari contains a chemical substance called arecoline which causes inflammation of the gums. Initially, ulcers are formed in the mouth progressing to a disease called ‘oral submucous fibrosis’ or OSF (in easier terms ‘the inability to open the mouth fully’). This in turn leads to nutritional deficiencies because impaired jaw movement affects the diet intake of children, making them physically weak and more prone to infections. The teeth become more sensitive to spicy foods and the tongue and gums often give a burning sensation.”

Dr Ayesha Khan, also warns by painting a gloomy picture, “Direct and repeated contacts of the gums with supari cause them to recede which in turn loosen the teeth. Increase in mouth ulcers and rotting of the gums is also caused by betel nut chewing. In addition to oral submucous fibrosis (OSF), in extreme cases long-term usage can cause cancer of the mouth (including the lip, tongue and cheek) and throat, because betel nut or supari is a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).”

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According to the WHO, chewing supari leads to cancer of the mouth even if tobacco is not added to it. In countries where betel nut is consumed extensively, there is a much higher level of oral cancer.There is a dire need to initiate a drive against this sweet poison. To save our oral and general health, children you need to be aware of the harmful effects of these easily available packets of sweet supari and gutka. Newspapers and the electronic media can play a significant role by signalling out appropriate health messages, teaching the public what harm can be caused by sweet supari and gutka, and working for a ban on their sale to children.

Sadly, at present the situation is totally otherwise. Instead of discouraging the sale of these harmful sachets, we often see unrealistic ads of sweet supari on the television. Attractively arranged on a silver platter, a glamorous hostess is seen serving them with a flourish to her guests, or a macho man seems to drive his strength from them, fighting his opponents and making them flee after munching a packet. Children, who are easily influenced by these ads, are hoodwinked and attracted into buying them.

Dr Sadaf says, “During my internship, I have observed many school going children coming to the OPD with problems related to supari and gutka intake. Unfortunately, visits to the dentists in our country are not too frequent, so the initial symptoms of OSF are not so obvious. Usually, patients come in the third stage of the disease and then the treatment option is usually only surgical. These patients are advised not to continue chewing of supari (areca nut) and warned that the next stage is of oral cancer which has more severe treatment modalities. So the first step towards saving our children from this dangerous junk is to create awareness of the consequences of having sweet supari and gutka. They must also be taught the importance of regular dental checkups, a healthy diet and also to maintain a good oral hygiene.”

Dr Khan adds, “Apart from health problems, sweet supari and gutka have bad cosmetic effects as the food colours added to them cause discolouration of teeth. Being as addictive as nicotine and caffeine, they cause dependence and on discontinuation of usage uncomfortable withdrawal effects.”

Dr Anwar Alam of Internal Medicine at AbbasiShaheedHospital corroborates this. “The reason behind the surge in oral diseases in the past decade in the younger people is the rampant use of gutka and gutka became this popular because it was easily available everywhere and it was convenient to use.

Similarly, there is social stigma attached to tobacco smoking of women so they may not take up smoking that readily or even if they do take it up, they do not do it as openly as men do. However, gutka consumption is free of all the prejudices and inconveniences. It is as easy to carry as a small candy, it is not messy, it is fragrant, one does not need to go to a paanwala exclusively to buy it, it has no social stigma attached to it and hence can be consumed by teenage girls and adolescent boys. What most people do not know is that its health risks are just as injurious, if not more, as that of chewing or smoking tobacco.

According to a research, apart from the urban centers, gutka usage is as popular, if not more, in rural attachments to the city. The newly built 48 kilometers long road that connects Karachi to Mubarak Village is dotted with various small villages, inhabited by fishermen and their families. Every village has its own small shop and they may or may not stock basics such as milk or onions but almost every shop sell packaged and unpackaged gutka which is the perhaps the most popular item. Tahira Kaukab, program officer of a local NGO Indus Earth that works in the area stated that people in this area may go without food but will not forego their gutka addiction. She further added that the gutka sold in the coastal belts is often expired and they have found small insects and parasites in the gutka packets. 

So friends, Beware of this killer! And the greedy manufacturers who are marketing it at the cost of your health. A few moments of a sweet sensation in your mouth could cost you and your loved ones a life time trauma!

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!

          Rain has always held a special place in my life! It mesmerizes me, enchants and takes me way back down the memory lane. It reminds me of the happy and carefree childhood I spent in my parental home with my siblings.

          As it rained more than half of the year in East Pakistan (now Bangla Desh), rain was a part and parcel of our lives. The staircase to the upper floor of our cosy little house overlooked a long alley. After lunch, I and my siblings would sit one child on one stair and watch with delight as rain came lashing down on the pedestrians. Some had umbrellas, other used large sheets of polythene to protect themselves and a few were seen running for shelter if they possessed none of these.

                    After nights when the thunder kept rolling, the clouds clapping ominously and rain pouring down as if it would never come again, I remember calling school expectantly. “Is the school off today?” And the predictable answer came “Why do you think the school would be off today” I would be counter questioned. The voice sounded irritated as if tired of answering the same question repeatedly. “It has been raining so hard all night” I would try to argue although I myself could feel my voice grow weaker. “Do think rain makes any difference to life in this part of the world?” and the phone was banged angrily.

          Rain made literally no difference to normal activities as schools, offices and markets opened as usual and everyone seemed to be carrying on his/her work as usual. Heavy downpours recorded in inches, were a part and parcel of life and there were no traffic jams, electric failures, overflowing storm drains or stagnant water on the roads. All that could be seen were small puddles in which children loved to splash around, but with a well maintained drainage system, these too disappeared in no time.

          Apart from natural calamities like floods or cyclones which were a normal feature in that region, little or no news of suffering of the low income class was witnessed after the routine heavy rains.

          Rain meant enjoyment to me and my siblings. If the rainy day was a holiday, picnic baskets would be packed immediately and we would set out for an outing to any of the green spots in Dhaka. Otherwise, Beisan or Potato Parathas would be cooked, to be enjoyed with Ammi’s unmatchable sweet mango chutney and ripe mangoes in plastic buckets were set out in the open courtyard to be cooled by the falling rain.

          I distinctly remember the long drives with friends after a rainy day, dashing to the famous Ramna Park of Dhaka for Chatpatti (Chat) and Puchka (Pani Puri) and the treat finished off with a Meetha Paan at the renowned pan shop outside the Dhaka Stadium. Traffic moved a bit slow but there was no disruption to its flow!

          After I migrated to Karachi, I used to miss the rains as these were limited to a couple of months only. As clouds came in, I would look expectantly towards the sky and pray for them to burst into a downpour. Until I witnessed the other side of the coin, i.e how rains could play havoc with the lives of people! To my dismay, unlike my birth city Dhaka, rain always brought misery to the lives of the residents of Karachi, especially those who reside in low lying or slum areas. Every year after the monsoon rains hits, life seems to be paralyzed as the roads are turned into rivulets in no time.

          Although in the four decades plus that I have been living in Karachi, I have seen that rains always disrupt and paralyze life in the city, I feel that things are getting worse with each passing year.

          This year, the 3rd of August began as a usual day, but before nightfall tragic news from all parts of the city came pouring in, as fast as the torrential rains we witnessed during the day. In all the years I have been living in Karachi, this was perhaps the worst rainy day I had witnessed.

          Loss of 16 precious lives was reported and all the major roads were flooded heavily. Most of the city was plunged into darkness as power went off as soon as the rain started lashing the city. Some areas, (like mine) had to go without power for nearly 24 hours or more! Emergency was declared in the city and army had to be called in to drain the stagnant water. As usual, action was taken too late as the CM dismissed the Karachi Administrator, as well as the Director Municipal Services from their respective posts. But could these belated steps bring back the precious lives or heavy loss to property? the question hangs heavily in the air.

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          But the depressing part of all the sufferings is that we Karachiites could have been spared this gloom. Although there was a forecast of a monsoon more severe than is usual to Karachi, the City Government had simply taken no steps to prevent the dwellers of the mega city from the misery it had to face.  Storm water drains (which are getting narrower each year due to encroachments) were not cleared up in time, and as these are usually clogged with the garbage slum dwellers throw in them, they overflew in no time, spreading stinking water on major roads and alleys.

          The poor dwellers of the areas lining the storm water drains were the worst affected as their homes were totally inundated! After the heavy downpour, although I was dreading the bad news, I had no idea it would be worse than my imagination. The domestic helper who has been cleaning my house for years, came frantically banging the door as the bell was not ringing. Her eyes burning with tears she was trying hard to control, she said in a voice lined with despair. “Ammi kuch nahin bacha, sirf badan pe ye kapre hain!” (Ammi, nothing is left except the clothes that I am wearing). She had lost the entire ration she had got from different affluent people (remember it was Ramzan), as well as her meager belongings. “Shukar hai, Bachon ki jaan bach gayi”! (Thank God, the lives of my children were saved). She said in a resigned tone. Such depressing stories came pouring in from other quarters as night fell.

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          There was a forecast of more rain for the next two or three days but it seems nature was also moved by the misery the heavy downpour had caused! Although the weather remained cloudy for the next few days, fortunately we only witnessed drizzling after every few hours!

          There was a time when I looked up at the clouds expectantly, praying for the rains to come. But after decades of living in Karachi, I mutter a prayer when I see the ominous clouds coming in. Rain, Rain, Go Away! We are not prepared yet to enjoy you! The burst of clouds which meant enjoyment and relaxation in my childhood days causes pain, anxiety, sorrow and darkness in this city of lights!