The family Eid

Eid will soon be here. So what are the plans?

Catching up on sleep. Yawning it away. Being dragged to relatives houses. Sitting in front of TV or laptop. Partying on road with friends. Eves teasing on Chand Raat?

Is that all or anything else?

Have you had your new clothes stitched? You must be very lucky. I still do not know my clothes fate but knowing my designer my dress would certainly arrive a few hours before Eid prayers – last year my Eid dress arrived 10 hours before Eid prayers but 5 of me could have fitted in that one dress! So had to do with an old one. I really did not need a dress this year but greed I reckon?

Thus out of guilt I gave away 5 of my best dresses to a few working girls … you may wonder why? There are working places where repeating a dress or not wearing the latest fashion dress can make you socially outcast but not everyone working there has the financial means to be fashion queens and still support their families. Tough- do you know any one who can do with your good clothes? What about helping them?

Have you got your bangels and your mehndi? Are you looking forward to sheer khurma? Boring outdated traditions – yes. I used to think they were till I had to celebrate my first Eid outside Pakistan.

I missed getting early in the morning before menfolk came back home from prayers, the fun of Chand Raat, the Eidee and my family.

Who needs family to celebrate Eid? Who wants to see the old aunts and uncles and grandparents – and answer their nasty questions about studies, relationships and careers. We know what we are doing and who are they to be advising us what to do? We cannot relate to their stories of childhood and their times. Just do not have the time for family dinners and gossip and talk and the petty family conflicts.

Do you run away from your family on Eid? Why?

What are your cherished Eid memories? Mine are watching a Lollywood movie with cousins in those good old days when PTV was the only channel. Going to my village and having desi coke with my cousins and opening the coke with my teeth as there was no can opener.

Hunting chickens with my cousins and then baking the chicken for lunch. Having ten Feasts with my parents, sister and brother the Eid day Walls came to Lahore. Having parathas made by my mom’s aunt who is no longer with us. Getting a crumpled note of Rs.100 as Eidee from her with the instructions that her husband should not know of it. Going to park with my grandfather and cousins. Getting sick from over eating the yummy things made by mom and aunts.

Do you also have such memories?

Memories are my treasures now as   my sister, brother and most of my cousins are no longer in Pakistan. I sometimes wish they could be here for Eid at least and I do envy those who celebrate Eid with their complete families.  Are you one of those? How lucky you are!

Enjoy Eid with your family!



Dr Afra Sajjad
Regional Head of Education MENASA


In the blistering hot months of July and August thousands of young men and women in South Asia come to know of the success or failure of their venture of being A PLUS students.  They, their parents – their teachers are famed or shamed.

The A PLUS students I have come across are opinionated, well aware, smart and knowledgeable. Their ambition is overwhelming and they are extremely competitive. They are outcome of an education system where the focus was to be NO.1 – to have the best grades. They have given the best part of their life in accumulating A PLUS grades – so that they and their parents are not shamed in front of their peers. So that they could go to the best colleges and universities which in turn are extremely competitive.

This competitiveness worries me. Tomorrow they are going to join the workforce where it is not always about being No. 1, where it is not always being competitive- workplace is about working together, about shared goads, shared expectations and shared success.

I have come across a large number of A PLUS students struggling at workplace despite their excellent work performance. Their struggle is due to their differences with their colleagues whom they find incompetent and their line managers whom they think are barriers to their career progression and undeserving of the position that they have. The fault usually is not with the colleagues or with the line managers – but with the A PLUS student who does not know how to be a good team player, who cannot reconcile to the fact that perfection is a myth not a reality, cannot accept diversity in work styles and thinking, does not like to be challenged, cannot be social to people who are not up to their standards and cannot bear to be told that they have problems. These A PLUS students change jobs endlessly and lead a miserable and at times disastrous life. There are fortunate ones who get mentors who can help them in their ordeals but then some of them even shun the mentors.

Getting an A PLUS is an achievement but making it a venture is our education system failing. An A PLUS student recently could not get a job at a prestigious firm as in the group discussion he did not let anyone talk. Another A PLUS student has been to 21 interviews but has not been selected. Academically he is a star. His interviewers however are not looking for an academic star – they are looking for someone who has a good academic background but has a life beyond academics, read newspapers, is social, can communicate, can listen, can negotiate, can dream, can be innovative – for whom the venture is not to be A PLUS individually but to be an asset of an A PLUS organization!


Why not you?

I am writing my dear beloved’s birthday card. I have run out of ink. The pen would not write. I get another pen. It would not write. I shake the pen but it refuses to write.

In frustration I ask what is your problem?

The pen replies replies I do not write lies?

What- I am not lying!

You are- you are writing your love for your perfect dear beloved is immense when it is not.

How can a pen make a judgement on my love for my dear beloved. My love is blind and that is it.

Should love be blind to imperfections that can be corrected?


Your dear beloved is not perfect. It needs to grow up. It needs to take responsibility.

I need not answer you but you do know that everyone in this world is against my dear beloved. Everyone only conspires to destroy my love.

By everyone you mean those who are crazy about your dear beloved like you.

Oh no silly pen! My dear beloved has external enemies. It is very resourceful. They want to take away the resources.

So resourceful that for 12 out of 24 hours its lovers like you have to complain about possible death due to hot weather. So resourceful that lovers like you curse the stoves which have no gas – at times.

This is the conspiracy I am talking of!

The thousands of children who cannot go to school- is that a conspiracy too?Thousands of people who die because hospitals are too far from them – who has conspired against them? Thousands who cannot have two square meals – external forces have taken away their food?

Pen, you do not know everything. My dear beloved has a great cancer hospital. Free treatment to many. Edhie-the one and only is my dear beloved’s lover.

Yes – your love is blessed to have them. Your love is fortunate to have you.

ME! But I am no Edhi or Imran Khan. I have many ambitions to achieve.

So your love is not immense.

Well I still live here at least when many have deserted. I pay my taxes not many do that. I abide by the law how many do that? I would vote if anyone was worth my vote. I do my bit- give charity. What else can I do? Oh yes just bought a flag, decoration plans in full swing.

Your dear beloved is cursed to have you as a lover.

Now you are being offensive.

Let me be offensive. Are you educated?

Yes Phd from a top university.

Can you influence minds?

I am my company’s prized negotiator.

Can you compel people to act on what you are saying?

On yes I am a great implementor of plans.

What is your plan for your dear beloved?

That is not for me to plan. Those who should plan – only plan to increase their wealth.

You have described yourself aptly.

I did not mean me.

To advance your career did you not use all your capabilities as a negotiator, planner, implementor, change leader to be where you are today- a rich influential executive.

Oh yes!

For your dear beloved can you not do this?

I cannot do it alone.

You have millions of people – someone has to be the first why not you?

The pen started writing.

Followers: guide me?

I have a confession to make. I am fixated with twitter. One of the first things I do in the morning is to go through my tweets. I do the same at lunch time or when I am stuck in the traffic or waiting at the airports. It is one of the last things I do before going to bed.

Why? I hardly have time to read the newspapers or watch news on TV. Twitter keeps me updated on what is happening around the world. I have a few interests but hardly any time to follow them actively. Twitter lets me passively follow my interests in sports, music, movies, history, current affairs, dramas and books.

It allows me to express my opinions and share information. Its word limit is a bit strict for a person who loves to write endlessly. I am however learning fast to be concise and relevant in expression of thoughts- courtesy twitter.

I love learning but hardly have time for workshops or reading hard copy books and reports. Twitter has introduced me to e-learning and e-reading.

There are certain people I would love to meet to be inspired by them but cannot. Twitter thankfully has let me be inspired virtually by these people.

I have made new friends who are called followers on twitter. I have approximately 175 followers- 95% of them I have never seen but they follow me.

Why – because maybe they think my tweets are informative. May be it shapes their opinions or discussions. Maybe they influence their actions. Maybe my tweets inspire them.

Today however I need inspiration. I am feeling powerless. I need my followers help.

So you follow me? Thus I am a leader? I can shape your minds and inspire you to actions.

Do I have any influence over you?  Am I accountable to you? What is this accountability? Do I have any responsibility towards you? Can I mislead you through my personal biases and prejudices? Can I misinform you through presentation of facts and figures that serve my biases and prejudices? Can I misguide you to commit actions that are contrary to national and public interests?  Do I have to follow any morals or ethics? Do I need to listen to you?

Can I lead you to anything I want you to do?

I need your help-please guide me.


Ramadan Mubarak

Ramdan is a time of introspection and reflection. Last night I sat thinking of some of the most cherished Ramdan moments. As a child I wanted to fast because all my cousins did. My mother maintained you will fast when you are 12 and after that no matter whether you are at home or away, you will always fast. Much irritated as I was at her stance, she was as usual right. There is a right time for everything. Recalling the family memories of Ramadan, I laughed at some of the memories. Then Ramadan in Dublin (6 of them) – my Irish friends out of respect for Ramadan would never eat or drink in front of me. I would get up in the middle of the night for Sehr and prayers-the Irish land lady would never complain even though I am sure I did disturb her. The Iftar at the mosque had its own charm. From the happy memories, I moved on to a mix of sweet bitter memories – the Ramadan of 2005 in Islamabad. I still remember how my sleep was disturbed by the non-stop shaking of the bed, the banging of utensils and cutlery that could not be stopped by the intervention of human hands- the realization that it was an earthquake, the desperation to find the key to the flat, then running out and the frantic call home only to find out that it was not an ordinary earthquake but one that had swept the entire Pakistan. The devastations that followed, the after-shocks that were traumatic but the overwhelming memories of how the entire nation came together to help the earthquake affected people turned the sorrowful tears in my eyes into tears of pride. Then I recalled the Ramadan of last year. The rains, the floods, large scale human suffering- I have started fearing the rain now. Even these very painful memories turned into one of pride when I recalled visiting reconstructed villages. The people over felt their quality of life has improved in the reconstructed villages. We as a nation did come together at the time of floods too. It is Ramadan again. Having my Sehr in the morning I thought of the thousands of people who might not have had anything to eat or drink at Sehr time. I have decided to spare some thoughts and some pennies for them- I know of many people who need them. Edhi Trust also arranges Sehr and Iftar for people who cannot afford any of these. There is an old people home in Lahore too and it deserves my attention. Shaukat Khanum is being constructed in Peshawar and it would make a huge difference to overcoming the economic, social and health facilities deprivation of the province. Gulab Devi Chest Hospital in Lahore provides free of cost treatments to Tuberculosis patients. There are many other causes and many people in need of my financial and moral help. Ramadan is a time to reflect on our relationships with Allah, ourselves, relatives, friends and the society we live in….if I do it honestly I will be playing my part in making this country the pride of all of us. Do you want to join me?