Blogs (90)

Tools not Masters!

There is always the possibility of beauty where there is an unsealed human eye; of music where there is an unstopped human ear; and of inspiration where there is a receptive human spirit. (Charles Henry Parkhurst)

As I leisurely read a book on IPad sipping green tea in a busy cafe, my eyes caught glance of a graceful lady picking up a scone with her glove covered hand, putting it in a plate. Then opening the oven, placing the plate in the oven. Then turning around with a musical speed. Picking two bowls, placing jam and cream in each. Majestically positioning everything in a tray, carried it all with mystical grace.

I was transfixed …. my eyes followed her. Memories of an opera seen many years back came rushing.

Those were the days when I had wings. When my eyes had a shine emanating from a keen desire to appreciate everything and everyone around me.

When walking thorough a park, on the road, driving in the car, eating in a restaurant, shopping anywhere I would stop to chat with an adorable kid. Compliment the kid. Admire old couples for the years of patient sincere love. Fondly smile at young couples building dreams and lives. When out of analysis of body languages, I would weave stories to entertain family and friends. When my novel was in full swing.

Gone are those days. I have cut my wings. I have blinded my eyes. My novel suffers stagnation.

I have no stories, beauty of things and people around me have deserted me or maybe I have betrayed them. Conversations do not cross my paths.

But I have a few companions who keep me busy with sound and fury.

With them in my hands, the world is on my fingertips. If I lose them for a second, my world crashes. I still communicate with thousands but all I get back is noise! I do not lose way anymore,thus need not ask a human for a way. On long haul flights, I no longer feel urge to chat for I have numerous podcasts drumming in my ears.

But as I saw the Musical Scones Lady, my companions lost their irresistible hold over me.

And I regained my sight..well to the extent that I could see that there were people around me who had the same companions as me.

Namely smartphone and tablet but not as life-lines but as life-enhancers.

As tools not as masters.

They had them on their sides or in their bags thus could chat, could connect.

I looked at my companions with disdain. What have you done to me, why have you wrecked my life?

They whispered ….. we came in your life as tools not masters but you made us rulers of your life. You wrecked your life not us.

Why blame us! Go have a life… enjoy us some of the times and enjoy the beauty of interactions, smiles, innocence, nature most of the times. Use us to capture those moments or seek those moments for we are tools not masters!

Are you also thinking….tools not masters!


Was seeing the German movie Circles inspired by a true event. My tears did not stop for a minute.

The tragedy shown on screen was tears inducing, but more was the empathy I could have with the characters of the movie.

The onlookers! The one who are sentenced to a life term of remorse and repentance, unbearable than the one who was the victim.

Set against the happenings in Bosnia in the nineties, it is the story of people who looked by as a young man was killed as he tried to save the life of another young man. It is the story of a father who is at loss to understand what positive change did the killing of his son bring or was it in vain.

As he rightly says if you throw a stone in the water, even it creates circles. Does a good deed not create any circles?

For me, however it is the story of the friend of the victim and of the onlookers who stood watching a young man being killed.

Should they have done something? Could they have stopped the brutal killing of the young man? In their place what would I have done?

Exactly what they did!

Turned their faces away or looked on with disbelief, dismay and dejection. Doom too for they were being sentenced to a life at times unbearable than the few minutes\hours suffering of the victim. The victim leaves the world, they continue to live.

Each day is hell! Each day is a punishment. Living becomes an ordeal. You try to live, you try to immerse yourself in millions of wonders of the world but everytime you see your face in the mirror. You are the culprit. You keep on running away from yourself. To the world you maybe the bravest person. In your eyes you are a coward.

The onlookers in the movie were like many of us. As we continue to pursue individual brilliance, our senses have become immune to suffering. Lives lost in blasts and violence move us only for a minute. Maybe it moves us, it hurts us for more than a minute but we pretend as if nothing has happened.

To the world, we smile but the pain within does not let us genuinely smile. The tears of remorse that are shed in loneliness do not let nights pass by, making days loaded with exhaustion.

Yet we live apparently physically fit yet emotionally drained. We pray for the suffering to end, to have peace and tranquillity but in vain!

If you have time, watch Circles.

Career Development with Bootstrapping Your Career

Finding a job, finding a new job, career development, promotions – these are real life issues faced by most of us during our working career. There no formal and effective career counselling at any level in Pakistan as well as in other parts of South Asia, the need to some practice advice remains!

With this in mind, one of my best friends Hammad Siddiqui took initiative and wrote a wonderful book on this subject titled “Bootstrapping Your Career” – This is a transformational book indeed. Simple language, fascinating examples and hilarious illustrations are combined with thoughtful insights to the science of career development. Hammad has been blogging on the subject for quite some time and he volunteers in public speaking events on this subject. Recently, he started Career Discussions with small groups. Now that I call real community service, Kudos Hammad!

I was amazed to see some examples from ACCA community. The realization that those studying ACCA must also consider opportunities beyond just Accounting is now augmented. One must look at wider opportunities available in the job market, thinking ahead and thinking beyond helps!

Hammad Siddiqui book is a must read for anyone ambitious to have a career or take the career to dazzling heights.

It is an absolutely essential read for young men and women looking for their first real job. Employers these days have reservations about interviewees CVs, interview handling skills especially their emotional intelligence and having a well rounded multi dimensional conversation. Hammad very aptly and willingly like a sincere mentor has given guidance points that if understood could help anyone get through any rigorous recruitment process. Hammad is an inspirational social media advocate. One of those who very willingly share experiences and success factors. He had done the same in the book. In all, delightful exhilarating experience reading the book.

Counting days for the next one which should be your autobiography for you are a role model for the young wanting to do something for people of Pakistan. Good luck!

Book can be purchased online from here

What do you say?

Bumped into a man busy on mobile. Extremely agitated, asked for an apology. He looked at me, then hard at my mobile. Walked away.

Found him rude. Later as over a cup of green tea, celebrated Pakistan cricket team victory realised I was at fault!

I was so engrossed following the cricket match score on Twitter that was oblivious to the world. I had bumped into him, not him into me.

It happens all the time! People on mobiles bumping and maybe getting run over!

A few months back, was the victim of a man’s temper loss. I was telling family and friends back home how the man was refusing to settle in his seat on plane, making me agitated. On Whatsapp as I chatted, the man continued standing up, sitting down, hitting his head, saying something. I thought he was just creating a scene which he was not.

He was terrified that due to my never ending mobile usage, the plane would not take off!

I only came to know when he started shouting and screaming at me. I switched my mobile immediately.

Why did he not say it to me politely? He did but I was too busy announcing my adventures to the world.

Talking to the person next to me on the plane used to be my favourite thing to do on a plane when I was a student. I loved listening to stories. Would end up giving some advice too but now do not remember a time when I have even said hi to the person sitting next to me.

There are far too many avenues for being social, for giving advice. Facebook is one. Allows me to comment on any issue any of my FB friend is facing or like anything for example the friend having a bad day at work!

Within 140 characters, I can socially interact with anyone in the world on anything I want to. I can clap and slap the Pakistan cricket team, the never ending road work in Lahore and the never on time PIA. Maybe none of the victims of my clap and slap will read what I write, but my conscience sleeps peacefully for I am playing my role in changing behaviours and people.

At an airport, waiting for planes especially delayed, could become such a challenge especially if you had no one to talk to or no book to read. You would try to strike conversations or borrow books. Now airports are a blessing for they give you time to concentrate much more on your laptop enabling mails to be replied and reports to be finished. Games to be played and movies to be watched.

Airports are full of people who seldom talk to one another but engage intensively virtually!

Recall the time, when getting to the airport, the first task used to be finding a telephone booth to call mom to say all is well. Now mom knows the exact second the plane took off or landed. What to say of mom, the whole world of followers know.

As I see people around me including me cling to mobiles, find it hard to recall what did we cling to a few years back. Have we gained something or lost something!

I do not know but I do know that we are losing reflection time. We read loads, watch loads, communicate loads, play loads, listen to loads but still cherish a long walk or a yoga session to assimilate and reflect.

We have many sources to get advice, vent out our feelings and frustrations but why do we still cherish a talk over cup of coffee with a sincere friend. Why are Cafes in London or tea places in Lahore still full of people talking to one another.

Maybe we cling to the mobile because this is our communication and information pathway with a global world and we cling to a friend or a walk because we all like our private world too. Maybe we have grown to be global public citizens but cannot cut off the umbilical cord of privacy.

What do you say? Trying to get best of both worlds!

Committee party chat

She is an absolute menace.

Mine is a magician.

Mine is a social butterfly.

Mine loves to seduce.

Mine breaks homes.

Mine adds to my sins.

Why did we have to bring them into our lives?

I did not, my son did.

I did not, my mother in law imposed her on us.

Well I brought her to wreck my life myself. Since that day have not even had a momentarily relief.

Ever since her footsteps are all over my house, I cannot sleep due to the noise of her heels.

I have started cleaning my hairbrush hourly for she is on lookout for my hair. She does magic, you see.

I have a highly educated one but completely oblivious to status and style. She turns up at weddings in cotton suit and slippers.

Mine is exact opposite. For every event, a new designer dress and a new set of jewels.

Mine has to rush to Dubai every four weeks to buy her make up.

Mine has a way to win the heart through stomach. Courtesy these irritating cooking shows and packet spices, cooks such food that even my husband cannot stop raving about it.

Mine has her ways. Milk at bed time. Should I press your feet? Pretending to enjoy stories of youth gone by. Even my mother in law, who never had any love lost for me is madly in love with her. She is manipulating, is doing all this to deprive me of share in property.

Mine just does not get out of her room. Wonder what she does in her room?

I am sure plotting against you with family and friends.

I remember my time as a daughter in law.

So do we.

How obedient and respectful we were. Whatever the mother in law ordered, would be the last word. To make a place in the in-laws house and heart, forgot our own peace of mind.

Never did my mother in law like me. Always had a grudge against me.

So did ours.

I was so young. Had left my house and family, just wanted a bit of love and respect.

So did we.

But you see for my mother in law, sharing her son was very difficult. To date I think she thinks of me as a rival.

So do ours.

I could not have been as dear to her as her daughter, but a bit of consideration and appreciation would have made me happy.

You are right.

At times I think, is my daughter in law also  in a position similar to me…. maybe yes, maybe not but I just cannot like her.

For she is a daughter in law.

They are no longer made

They are no longer made.

I spent three years of my life listening to the above line almost every day.

Mrs Clarke, an extremely noble woman in whose house I lived as a paying guest in Dublin, used to utter this sentence to show her respect for people whose nobility and humility she missed.

Her words came back to me, discussing state of sports in Pakistan over lunch, with my father a couple of days back.

My father was instrumental in making me madly in love with cricket, hockey, tennis, squash and all kinds of sports.  At times to the dismay of my mother who would have loved my whole- hearted dedication to studies and books exclusively.

He needed a partner to share his sports joys and sorrows.

Our collective proud memories to date are Pakistan winning the cricket World Cup and Pakistan winning 1984 Olympics hockey title. Despite my preferred passion for cricket and Imran Khan, the hockey victory remains my childhood most proud moment.

The flag, the anthem, the green shirts….even today it brings tears.

Alas those memories are becoming painful.

Hockey faces extinction. Squash is extinct. Cricket lives on oxygen.

Soccer ……. never had a present or future.

Athletics……… not in my lifetime have I seen glories.

A country of 170 million people does not have any sports prospects. There is no future!

How is it possible?

At the lunch table as we discussed. My father recalled the days when there used to be nurturing of sports talent at school and college level.

We have schools, colleges and universities today. Why do we not have tournaments? We do have sports seats. Where do these sports seats holders sportsmen and sportswomen go?

Why do Beaconhouse, City School, Educationists, Grammar Schools not produce sportsmen or sports women? Why do government schools not have some programmes for nurturing sportsmen and sports women?

Why has this escaped the interest of our extremely creative CM Shahbaz Shariff?

We all know we have millions of frustrated youth. Unemployment is rampant. Can no one think of a plan to channelise capitalise youth talent into creating sports genius?

As we discussed,over lunch, solutions. My father had a solution.

The only man who can transform Pakistan sports scene is Imran Khan. I tell you he should leave politics and become the Chairman of the Pakistan Sports board. He has the vision and the commitment that others do not. His talk about domestic cricket was way to sustained cricket glory. He had the traits that Nur Khan had. …… unfortunately just like we now do not have sportsmen as classy and elegant as his generation, we do not have dedicated honest visionaries.

I disagree. Imran Khan need not leave politics but what he and others including politicians, educationists, corporates and sports lovers have to do is to think, plan and do something to revive sports in Pakistan.

We are joy starved nation. All we have had over the last many years, have been few sporting glories to keep us smiling in the face of depression and deprivation.

Imagine our pursuit for sporting happiness, we even dance at Pakistan defeating Zimbabwe!

Till we put our sports act together, many like me and my father will cling to the memories of sports legends, who to borrow from Mrs Clare are no longer made.

They must however be made, a handful in a country of millions maybe definitely!

So why bother!

Am sure you all would have met this person. 

He\she is never happy. Their mission is to spread misery around wherever they go. Whatever you do, even if you can bring stars and moon and sun from the sky. In their eyes, you are terribly useless.

People around them know they are difficult to please but many still hope and toil hard to achieve personal dream of the perpetual frown changing into a smile even if just for a second.

It does not happen. Day after day these people worsen making life of people around them hell.

If you happen to be cooking for such a person. At times salt in the food will not be to their taste. If spices and salt are perfect, food will either too hot or cold, food could be too little or too much. If everything is fine, they may say the plates are stained!

If such a person happen to be your boss or co-worker, your life but very importantly life of your family becomes devoid of any peace of mind. You go home ranting and cursing the person. You continually think how to win the heart and mind of the person. Your prayers are distracted. You watch a movie but plan for the pleasure of the person. Your life partner, your parents, your kids – all give ideas on how to soften the attitude of the person. Every evening they wait for a good news but there you are – stressed and on the edge.

It becomes an onerous life, but think for a minute what would be life without these nasty people. If life only had considerate, caring and compassionate people. Our life would be dull.

Work is not exciting or challenging because of the plans and tasks. Life is not interesting because of amicable family and friends.

It is fun due to people who leave no stone unturned to make us feel upset.   Imagine what a dull life would be without these people!

For a minute think!

Nothing to gossip about. Nothing to make fun of. Nothing to be worried about. Nothing to plan. Nothing to criticise.

It would be miserable.

Think of your old age. Amicable people will bring smiles but no stories to laugh at. No stories to make you feel good as to how despite odds, you survived. We need such people for stories to make our grand children laugh and make friends reunions a lively affair.

I used to get upset with nasty people. Now I feel sorry for them. Massive negativity must be consuming them not letting them enjoy their short life. They usually end up having heart problems and high blood pressure. Scheming and conspiring with the only aim to torment people or maybe humiliate or defame them. They must be suffering from insomnia. Just imagine how sadist they must have become.

What a life they must be leading?

Age has made me feel sympathy for them. Greying hair has made me wiser. I no longer worry about them or make my loved ones worry about me because of these happy. No longer I strive for their pleasure, for growing up they must have gone through some unpleasant experiences making then unpleasant forever. I cannot solve their problems.

When nasty people express displeasure, are rude I try to remain focussed on what can be done rather than what should be done. As they rant and rage, I try to pacify myself by saying that the person is not well. The person needs help. The person is not angry at me but angry with him\herself. I ask a lot of questions. Try to push them back too.

But to be honest you cannot win from them. So just keep on accumulating stories to laugh at in your old age. Have glasses of cold water and go for a walk post any encounter. Pray hard and talk to yourself. Do not reply to their emails instantly. Sleep on them. Feel sorry for these people.

But do not make your life a nightmare for then they would have succeeded.

And do you want them to succeed… definitely not.

So why bother!

I want to die

I want to die, tell me how? 

But why?

No one loves me!

No one, I have taken out time for you.

But you do it for others too.

Not exactly, but anyhow no one loves you. And who all are supposed to love you.

My mother at least.

And she definitely does not love you.

You are right! She does love my elder sister and brother.


Well! Simply because they have jobs where they earn millions.

And she needs those millions, does she?

Well in her old age she would. And they are smart!

You are smart too. You have great ideas.

But those ideas did not get me anywhere.

You did make it to an excellent university.

And I messed it by dropping out.


You  know what these traditional universities are not for me. Why bother going to a university, sitting through tortuous classes, taking those pen and paper exams. I can do all that sitting at home.


But my parents cannot forgive me for dropping out. They do not love me.

Have they stopped giving you food?

Food is my basic right. How can they deprive me of it?

Oh yes…

But they no longer love me.

What a lovely mobile phone.

Yes my father got it from Dubai…..the latest model….it rocks!

Of course.

But he does not love me. For I will never have a stable 9 to 5 job like him. You know why?

How would I?

Because that is out of fashion. Plus I want to be cool, not boring like him.

So you want to die….may I ask how?

That is what I want to discuss.


You have an idea for everything.

Not for suicide fortunately!

It is not a suicide. It is helping me. It is liberating me.

Helping you?

Not only me, my family too, my friends too…I am a liability for everyone.

No you are not. You are a bright talented person with fantastic ideas, only that you need help in putting them into action.

So help me with the idea of killing myself.

I……have no experience.

Even you do not want to help me. You are like the others.

Okay…calm down. How do you want to die?

Comfortably in the luxury of my home. I want a painless death.

Well…..deaths are not painless.

I have a sleeping tablet every second day.

You are only 20…..and you have sleeping tablets. Does your mother know of it?

That is none of your business. If I eat twenty of them, will I die?

I usually struggle to sleep if I ever have a sleeping tablet, so maybe if you have 20 you may not go to sleep for 20 years!! Why not jump into the sea?

I know swimming…will save myself.

Save yourself….but you want to die!

Well, you see I do want to die. That is all I want to do. Once I tried to kill myself by driving the car at a reckless speed. As the car was about to lose control, I panicked.  I cannot live without air-conditioner, the grave will not have one, will it?

Definitely it will not have one. You want to die because no one loves you. Your parents still let you live in their air-conditioned house, they still feed you, they still provide you with luxuries.

But they are always shouting at me.

Always ….. or at times….they want you to do something in life. If you want to do it your way, talk to them.  Killing yourself is killing them along with you. Your mobile is ringing. Who is it?

My mom….must be asking where am I and will I come for dinner. She gets worried.

If you kill yourself…maybe then I will have her sitting there on that sofa saying:

I want to die.

Loved in jubilation: hated in frustration!

Yes, I love you! I have always loved you.

You swept me off my feet in my early youth. So handsome! Did not know the meaning of ambition and passion, but on reflection those were the traits most impressive.

You made me feel liberated, around you the world was under my feet. I had the world conquered.

Those lush green fields, those bright long summer days at time marred with slightly irritating, at time much welcomed rain of Leeds, Manchester and London. You made my heart beat with anxiety for your ambition at times and at times made it filled with infinite joy. No one could have a beloved as dearest as you.

And then there was India. Do not recall the month or the date, all I recall is the euphoric feeling. Had thought that was the climax of our romance but I was wrong. We continued to add new dimensions to our romance in Middle East and Caribbean.

The climax however was Australia – in the disappeared sunlight, my knight in shinning armour engulfed my world with pleasures unparalleled.

The memory lingers; reflections force smiles inhibiting sealing the separation.

Why what we love foremost is not permanent? Why does a dear beloved have to betray? Was my love not pure or unconditional to retain your loyalty forever?

Your flirtations were ignored, your loss of ambition at times rationalised but what you did in London can neither be forgotten nor forgiven. I have become the taunt of the world. My life a haunting humiliation. The head in the air is now grounded.

I had lost my will to live post London but then in your usual unpredictable way you bounced back infrequently giving me some moments to smile and splash joy.

Moments are few and far between but my life is so entrenched in dismay and depression that I cling to the occasional opportunities of overwhelming delight. I definitely hate you intensely at times but hardly have anyone other than you to love.

You have lost your magic, you are unpredictable, passion may be there focus is not. Joy and sorrows are part of relationship. Am willing to stand by you in laughter and tears but unanswered questions about your honesty and integrity torment me but you are not alone.


My loved ones give me abundance of desperate tears. In love patience is an essential virtue. Maybe my patience has to be tested again and again. One day I will be rewarded. Eventually I will be a land of honestly honourable people.

Till then my beloved cricket team, you too are loved in jubilation and hated in frustration!

Ramadan Remembrance

So it is Ramadan – used to be Ramzan when I was a child! Do not know how it became Ramadan?  
Ramzan or Ramadan – the memories are many.

Do you remember your first roza? I do not. I remember the first roza of my sister though. My Grandmother made her Gulab Jamans and Jalabis which she did not do for me.

My childhood memories of Ramadan go back to me begging and urging Mom to let me fast for all my cousins and friends were doing so. My Mom stance was why fast if you are not required to do but for me fasting was a competition too which I was failing. What I never thought even for a second, in my continuous state of rage, that relapses of typhoid have left me frail. Fasting could have be lethal.

Mom would not have made me feel physically disadvantaged but was prepared to be the target of my fury and frustration. So typical of Moms!

As a teenager, fasting became an enjoyable habit. The family getting together at Sheri at the odd normally unthinkable hour. The occasional cliff-hanger Sheri where everyone’s alarm did not go off till someone got up at the last minute. The full house last Roza Sheri at my grandparents house…to think of this is the first Ramadan without anyone of them. They had a way of accommodating the likes of everyone at the dining table.
How time flies away. Many among us now fast in lands far away. Join us through skype at Sheri though to tell us tales of their diverse fasting hours and Sheri menu. Some fast on pasta, some on coke, some on self made quorma and parathas.  All carve for home cooked food and Moms!

As they narrate their Sheri stories, memories of my fasting for six years in Ireland come flashing. Those iftars with much missed friends at the mosque. How eating together from a tray was perfect etiquettes!  Those chaotic Sheris where not everyone was in a good mood and not everyone wanted to have the same thing. Those lonely Sheris too where there was much to contemplate over prayers and in terms of food, for cooking at normal hours is barely enjoyed, at those hours Coffee, Pastry and Pizza sufficed.

Hallmark of my fasting has been accelerating greed with Iftar time approaching. With siblings around, the greed would take shape of emotional blackmailing Mom to have a ten course Iftar after which the thought of food would be shunned till the next Iftar when the agony of yesterday was absolutely forgotten.

With wisdom inflicted by greying hair, has come restraint. Enhanced consideration for the thousands of people unable to have water and bread for Iftar makes the thought of ten course Iftar repulsive. Wasting food when many do not have even anything to fast on is a disliked idea.

Was in my childhood poverty not as rampant or awareness not as widespread or ignorance of childhood so intense that the thought of thousands without food in Ramzan never passed my mind?

I do remember Mom giving sugar, squash, dates etc. to people but those people did not look under nourished. They needed food and drinks but could have had something at home… or maybe not!

Maybe childhood induces fantasies and greying hair compels realism!

It is realism that is compelling sharing the joys of Iftar and Sheri by showing moderation in personal consumption and excessiveness in facilitating others nutrition.

May Allah help us in sharing blessings with others during Ramadan and forever!