PRIME TIME…an old article published in Young World

Aside

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!

 

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only then the plight of or Homeland can change!

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

 

 

Relationships: Mending fences

Mummy looked up from her cup of tea and cast a worried look at Umair. He was not his cheerful self for the past few days and seemed to have lost his appetite. Lost in thought, he sat at the breakfast table nibbling at his French toast.

“What’s wrong son, you look so glum and depressed. Tell me if there is anything I can do for you,” mummy asked.

Umair looked up from his plate and burst into tears, “Mummy I had a fight with my best friend and I feel that I was too harsh on him. I don’t know how and when things will again be the same between us. I feel so guilty.”

Umair went on to tell his mother how Ali had borrowed his science journal to complete the work he had missed during his absence due to fever. While returning the journal, Ali apologised to his friend that accidentally he had spilled some ink on it.

As Umair was very particular about his books, he flew into a rage and picked up a quarrel with his friend, accusing him that he must have spoiled the journal on purpose and that Ali was jealous of his good grades.

“We are not on speaking terms for a week, but I want to be friends with Ali again. I realise that I was unfair and I don’t want to lose a true pal,” confessed Umair.

None of us can claim that we have never had any differences with people who hold an important place in our lives. We have quarrels with siblings, friends and classmates; sometimes on minor issues and sometimes on major ones. But it is not possible for most of us to stay away for a long time from the people we love dearly. Even if we stop talking to them and do not communicate in any other routine manner, i.e., text messaging or interacting on social forums like Facebook, Skype, we cannot keep them out of our thoughts. And a yearning to mend the fences keeps us restless and unhappy.

Some of us maybe too stubborn, making the difference a matter of our ego and waiting for the other party to make an advance to normalise the relationship. But more often than not, most of us are too soft-hearted to prolong a fight. We know that making up quickly after a quarrel brings in peace of mind and a sense of serenity as we realise that a relationship is too strong to be adversely affected by a petty difference.

How do you mend fences with a near and dear one after you have had a bitter argument, called each other names in a fit of anger or, worst still, brought up past and long settled issues? Instead of sulking, spending restless nights and worrying your parents by refusing to eat properly, try out the positive ways to make up with your near and dear ones. Although it may take a lot of courage, the best option is to admit that you were wrong. The easiest (and for some the most difficult) way is to go ahead and say ‘I am sorry’. These are the magic words which often and easily settle petty quarrels in a moment and you retrieve your cherished relationship.

There may be some of you who find it hard to apologise but still you want to show your regrets. There are many simple and warm gestures which can help you out in this difficult situation.

Write a note

If you can not directly say that you are sorry for losing your temper and picking up a fight, just send a handwritten card. You can make a simple card yourself or buy an easily available one. You can quietly slip it into your friend’s schoolbag or place it on his desk, and in the case of a sibling, keep it silently in his/her room.

Say it with flowers

To make up with a friend after a quarrel, you do not need to send an expensive bouquet. A single flower picked from your own garden and neatly tied with a piece of ribbon or a colourful string can prove to be a gesture which will salvage your friendship.

Send a gift

A gift is a caring way to tell a person that you want to be friends again. A friend’s or sibling’s favourite chocolate or any other small gift can do wonders to melt the ice between you and your cherished one. They would understand that you feel sorry but cannot muster enough courage to say so!

A positive gesture

Sometimes a warm smile, a hand extended for a shake or a hearty hug does the trick. The person you had differences with gets the message that you want to make up for your rudeness or insensitive behaviour.

Tempers usually cool down quicker than the speed with which they flare up.

At the end of the day, you come to realise that a relationship is more important than your ego and losing a close friend on a petty issue is much worse than losing our pride!

ENDEAR YOURSELVES!

Attitude: Endear yourself!

By Yasmin Elahi
April 3rd, 2010 

All of us want to be popular among our peers, relatives, teachers and all the people around us. But often we see that some children are more popular than others. Friends and relatives are attracted to them, teachers have a soft corner for them and peers respect them (however grudgingly). 

Have you ever tried to find out what qualities endear these children to everyone? It is their good manners, their etiquette or behaviour and consideration for the feelings of others which gives them this popularity. Here are some important ways to win the hearts of friends and relatives.

Always remember to say `Please` and `Thank you`. When you are asking for something, if you say please, even if it is a small favour, it appears that you are making a request rather than a demand. In the same way, when you receive a gift, when someone gives you a compliment or even when someone steps aside to let you pass, saying thanks is an important rule of good manners. It shows that you are grateful for the gift, compliment and consideration, and you appreciate the person who has given it to you. It also shows courtesy on your behalf. 

Never forget to say `Sorry`. Although some children may find saying `sorry` quite difficult, it is a basic aspect of good manners and a quality which will quickly endear you to everyone. If you have hurt someone (physically or emotionally), forgot to fulfil a promise, or misbehaved with an elder, `sorry` is the magic word which wipes out all ill feelings. 

When you are in a public place, it may be a doctor`s waiting room, a supermarket or a restaurant, show your respect for your elders by opening doors for them and offering them your seat if there is no place for them to sit. Most of us are too busy in our lives to pay attention to old people and we seem to forget that they often feel lonely. A kind word to them, enquiring about their health (or any other problem) and even listening to them attentively would brighten up their day and will go a far way in winning their hearts.

Never let a discussion turn into a quarrel. We all have different opinions on every matter and the rule to remember is that everyone has a right to his/her own opinion. Often we see an argument turn into a heated debate. Wait for your turn when you are having a discussion and do not try to raise your voice over others to get your point through. It is healthy to argue with friends and peers but the discussion should be polite and informative. Do not forget that difference in views is sometimes due to the diversity of race, traditions or religion. Show your respect to the other one`s views even if you do not agree with him/her.

An important rule of good manners is never to interrupt someone when he/she is speaking. A patient listener is more liked than an ardent speaker. Especially when someone older than you is talking to you, listen attentively and answer politely. Be courteous to your elders and treat them with respect. Even if you are irritated, never speak rudely to anyone. Remember that a smiling face is more popular than one with a frown.

Always be ready to help. You may be better at some subjects in school, so helping out your class fellows if they are having difficulties, would make you a well liked peer. Whenever it is possible, offer a helping hand to your elders. Carrying a load for someone in a supermarket, helping an old person to cross the road, or lending a helping hand to your mother in house hold chores, are gestures which show that you care and would definitely endear you to their hearts.

Be a good sport. Some children tend to turn nasty if they lose a game. Remember that there always has to be a winner and a loser in a game. If you win, do not boast or degrade your opponent. And if you lose, do not sulk; accept your defeat graciously and congratulate your opponent open heartedly. The time you spent enjoying the game should be more important than the fact that you won or lost it. 
Good manners, consideration for the people around us and proper etiquette of behaviour indicate a good upbringing and are a mark of a respectable social background. So mind your manners and happily watch the graph of your popularity rise!

The list of do’s and dont’s is never ending, but the above mentioned are only a few tips to guide you how to endear yourself to the people around you. Good luck!

 

IF I LOVE ALLAH….!

 

                I am in the middle of an important discussion, attending a wedding reception, watching an interesting talk show (or play) on the TV, enjoying a long drive or just hanging out with friends laughing and joking, when my cell starts to beeps!

                “We have started to recite Kalma (or Durood or Ayat e Kareema) 100,000 times. Please recite ten times and forward to all your contacts. Do not break the chain, as we must finish this today!”       My reply usually is, “This is not the proper way to recite a Wazeefa! We should recite with full concentration and fervour and also in a proper atmosphere”!

                   Every day I receive a number of forwarded text messages about Hadith of our Holy Prophet, Quranic Ayats or an incident from Islamic History! And in the end the sender has the cheek to write….. is msg ko itna phelaao jitna tum Allah ya Nabi SAW se mohabbat karte ho! (Spread this message as much as you love Allah and the Prophet PBUH.) Or it would taunt, “I know that 99% people will not forward this message, if you are a true Muslim, be among the 1% who will forward it! And this one is usually the most annoying, “Allah will ignore those people on the Day of Judgement, who ignore Him in this world!”

          What sort of emotional blackmailing is this? I feel irritated.

          In answer to most messages, I usually hit Delete or if it is from a close friend, I reply, “Sorry, I won’t forward this! Because I feel that this is no criteria to prove my love for Allah or the Prophet PBUH”. And if it is a Hadith or an incident from the history of Islam, I demand “Are you sure this is authentic, if so please let me know the source”.

          The huge strides in communication technology have changed our lives completely and deprived us to some extent of our privacy! Today we text more than we talk, use our cell phones (Whatssapp, VChat etc) and social medias like Face book and Twitters more than we interact with people, even if some of them live within our walking distance. But although this has made life easier (or should I say lazier) there are many irritants to these luxuries also. Unwanted messages at the wrong time, posts on Face book by contacts who keep on insisting (in the name of love for Allah) that I forward whatever they are sending in, always frustrate me!

          Why should I prove my love for Allah and His Prophet PBUH by forwarding messages about Quran and Hadith, which I am not even sure are reliable? Is this the criteria to prove that I am a good Muslim? In my opinion this is definitely not so!

          I ignore the call of the Muazzin when he is calling for Salaat, I do not help the needy, pay Zakaat or perform Hajj although I am filthy rich; I lie and cheat, disobey my parents, I am rude to the elderly and unkind to children, forget about a promise a few minutes after I have made it, but because I forward these (unauthentic) messages, I can safely presume that I have booked my place in Paradise!

          Sigh! If only the path to Jannah was only about hitting a forward key or sharing a post on Facebook! But alas, it is not!

          If I practice the teachings of Islam, fear Allah, follows the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, strictly try to adhere with the compulsory acts every Muslim has to practice, (i.e Eemaan, Namaaz, Roza, Zakaat and Hajj), try to understand what the message of the Holy Quran is and practice the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad PBUH, I think I have sent the message through louder and clearer!  

         

 

WHO IS TO BE BLAMED?

This is an edited version of an article published in The Financial Daily

 

WHO IS TO BLAME?

 

Independence Day is approaching yet another time. Yesterday I had a sudden idea and impulsive that I am, decided to implement it at once. Throughout the year, we are busy celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. Why not have an Independence day party? Happily I started to call close family members but I was a bit confused at the reaction of the young generation, who seemed to decline my invitation politely at one pretext or another.

I called Sohail, my nephew, on his cell many times and on not getting a response rang him at his office. “What’s wrong, Sohail? Why are you not attending to your cell? And no one is receiving the phone at home?” “Oh, Auntie, my cell has been snatched a third time and I simply can not afford to go on buying mobile phones for muggers.” Sohail’s tone was very cross. “Shazia has gone to her parents with the kids. We have no electricity and so no water for the last two days. How could she manage with the children with no water in this heat?”

Warily I told Sohail about the party. “Come on Auntieji, you must be joking! What is there to celebrate about anyway? Insecurity?  Power failures? Corruption? Suicide bombers blowing up innocent people whenever and wherever they want? Or the sky-rocketing cost of living which is making a respectable difficult day by day? What has Pakistan given us anyway? Please excuse me Auntie, I shall rather stay at home and catch up on my sleep”.

Sohail continued in an angry tone, “I simply see no logical reason left for celebrating the Independence Day. Though we have got a homeland but still we have no freedom. We have to free ourselves from the shackles of religious extremism, poverty, illiteracy, greed and corruption before calling ourselves a free nation and planning any celebrations. The struggle for independence is not over yet!”

 Sohail’s outburst helped me to understand why the people of his generation were not showing any interest in my party. They all belonged to a disenchanted and disappointed generation which had seen Pakistan going on the downwards slide, year by year! Although I tried my best to convince Sohail, his arguments were so strong and he seemed so agitated, I decided to talk to him later.

I was born in an age when the people who had strived, suffered and sacrificed for the sake of independence were all around, so I felt deeply disturbed at the frustration of our new generation. In those days Patriotism was the order of the day and our parents never tired of telling us true stories about the Pakistan movement. Precious lives were lost, ancestral homes and properties were left behind but no one considered this a price too heavy for Independence. I vividly remember my mother shedding tears when she talked about Mohammed Ali Jinnah or Liaqat Ali Khan! Love for Pakistan seemed to be in the blood and everyone seemed proud to call himself a Pakistani.

I can still remember how enthusiastically we celebrated 14th August at school. The principal hoisted the national flag and gave a short speech stressing on the importance of independence and love for one’s Homeland.  As we fervourly recited the National Anthem in a chorus, it was a proud moment and the fluttering green flag never ceased to bring tears to my eyes. Sweets were distributed among the children and all of us were as happy as if it was Eid.

Sohail’s questions brought a rush of guilt to my heart. What is the reason behind this change in emotions? Have we failed to transfer this love for Pakistan to our next generation? Did we take independence for granted and did not strive enough to pass on its importance to their young minds. Or is it our poor and inept education system which is to blame.

Today our young generation has but a fleeting knowledge of the hardships faced during the movement for Pakistan, something which they have learned in the dull and drab books on Pakistan Studies! These books also keep changing with the advent of every new ruler who want the syllabus to suit his whims, trying to write a new history after every few years.

Or should we blame the greedy and incapable politicians, who are too busy filling their pockets (which are already bursting at the seams), to care for the peace and prosperity of Pakistan?

Our country is rich enough in resources. But whose purpose does it serve to keep them untapped and underutilized? Job opportunities which can be created but are not, the rain water which can do wonders for our agricultural lands but instead floods and destroy standing crops, the beautiful valleys were no tourists dare to visit due to fear of the so called religious extremist, growing unemployment and a steep rise in the inflation level are only a few reasons of the causes leading to the frustration of our young generation. These and many other such thoughts kept troubling me as I lay awake in the darkness of the night.

The next morning I called Sohail again, “Whether you come or not, I am celebrating 14th August according to my plans. You asked me many questions yesterday. The only question I have to ask you is ‘What have “We” given to Pakistan’? Nobody from the Heavens will come to change our lot. It is our choice, either we sit in our drawing rooms, sipping tea and blaming each other for our failures, or firmly resolve to strive and sacrifice, step by step, for the prosperity of Pakistan”.

WHITHER, GOOD MANNERS?! MY ARTICLE IN YOUNG WORLD

Whither… Good Manners?

          (Before coming to my point today, I would like my young readers to know that I do not mean to offend or charge them. I have great faith in our young generation and consider them more enlightened and intelligent than ever before. Our children are the architects of a better tomorrow. But, just in good spirit, I would like to point out to some short comings which they and their parents are overlooking).  

We are living in an era where life is moving at a fast pace. The world has changed into a global village. Lots of things are changing around us.  Being a grandmother, I have observed five generations; two senior than me and two who came after me. I feel that a lot of our cultural and moral values are not keeping up with the fast paced life and without realizing it, we are simply leaving them behind. Norms and mannerisms, which were considered totally unacceptable a couple of decades ago, have stealthily crept into the behavior and attitude of our children.

Usually parents and other older people are quick to point accusing fingers at the children and state that this was not the way we behaved when we were young. We can not (and should not) blame children for this change. We must realize that they have been born and brought up in a world totally different from our own childhood days. Children of today are overloaded with information. They have access to the computer, the internet, e- mail, text message, I phone and the television churns out information round the clock. They have the world at their finger tips. Interaction with human beings is on the down slide as children are happier to spend time with these gadgets

          In the 1950s 0r 60s people usually lived in extended families, with three or more generations under a single roof. Children had a lot of time to interact with their grand parents and other senior family members. Like today, parents usually were pressed for time, but the grandparents played a great role in the character building of the little ones. Through stories, anecdotes and sharing the wisdom they had gained from their experiences, they instilled good values in the children. They were often the role models which the children idolized and followed with great zeal.

          A grandmother (who prefers to remain anonymous) shares her views “Back in the sixties, when I was a schoolgirl, there was a firm set of rules for children which we were taught (and expected) to follow firmly. There was long list of does and don’ts. Never talk back to your parents and elders, do not interrupt when a person older than you is speaking. During a discussion, although we were encouraged to give our views, we had always to wait for our turn to speak our mind. Not only the elderly family members, but older siblings were treated with respect and sometimes when the parents were not around, they easily slipped into the role of the caretaker and the person in charge.”

She adds, “When a Buzurg (an aged person), entered a room and there was no empty seat, we were taught to try to be the first to offer ours. We were expected to stop our chatting and laughter and change the topic to something interesting to the newcomer. Keeping our voice and tone soft, sitting in an upright position whenever our parents or elders were around, were all considered parts of good manners. But now more often than not, the children do not even notice you, they keep on doing whatever they were busy in, whether it is surfing on the internet, chatting with friends, listening to loud music, watching the TV or just lying down.”

          Where can we draw a line between appearing ‘Cool’ and being insolent? This is the question where I find our new generation a bit confused. It is good to stand out in the crowd, but the difference should be in a better performance in all fields of life, rather than being ill behaved and bad mannered.

The world has changed but the relationships remain the same. You may not live with your grand parents, but they deserve the same amount of love and respect that they did three or four decades back. At times they may sound ill informed or old fashioned, but this does not mean that you should ignore, or worse still, ridicule them. Inspite of all your knowledge, they are still wiser because of the experiences they have gained over the decades.

Parents often complain that their children feel offended when they are asked where they are going, with whom and when they will be back. The new generation find the “Ws” (who, why, when) very irritating. Shirmeen, a teenager says, “Whenever I plan to hang out with my friends, my parents act weirdly. I am bombarded with questions! Why don’t they trust me? Parents should have faith in their children.” Her mother on the contrary says, “With the insecure conditions in the city, I want to know where and with whom my daughter is going and when would she be back. I simply don’t understand why she gets mad when I ask her a couple of questions.”

Most children take the parental intervention as a big obstacle in their enjoyment, as they feel it is an invasion into their privacy. Instead of being irritated by your parents’ questions, you should realize their concern for your safety. Communication gaps always lead to misunderstandings. If you sit down with them and discuss politely why you feel annoyed by their queries, you will be able to explain your point of view, as well as understand what they want or expect from you in return.

A mother of three kids, Hina Nauman says “Manners of our children have changed drastically as we have confused “badtameezi” (misbehavior) with confidence. And parents to an extent are to be blamed for this attitude. They often ignore children’s wrong manners saying that they do not want them to lose their self-confidence. What they don’t realize is that to discipline your child doesn’t mean you are making him under confident. The standard of being cool today is to stand out in the crowd at the expense of hurting or belittling others, others could be the parents themselves, the older members of the family or friends. I often get shocked when people are actually happy when they see their kid answering back to elders, which is not confidence but plain insolence. We can wrap it the way we want to, but this is not right for the character building of children. We are looking at a confused value system all together.”

In the end I would like to quote my late mother who was a woman of great wisdom, “Your behavior, speech and body language is the mirror to your family”, she used to say, “Wherever you go and whoever you meet, people should realize that you come from a respectable background. And respectability is by no means related to wealth! The way you have been brought up, the values you learnt in your early childhood and the role models you follow, strongly affects your personality”.

So, my friends beware of all things which may appear ‘cool’ today! Tomorrow, even if you realize that they adversely affect your personality, you may be so much addicted to the bad behaviour that you may not be able to shake it off even if you want to do so!