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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.

I AM PAKISTAN!

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!




SKMTH: Awaiting Answers!

  • July 8, 2013
  • Blogs

I need your help in answering a few questions that always creep in my mind whenever I visit Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore:

1) Why do we not insist on parking the car in front of the hospital?
2) Why do we not argue when told that limited number of attendants are allowed along with a patient and food is not allowed?
3) Why do we not jump the queues?
4) Why do we not search for referrals to beat the appointments registers?
5) Why is the hospital including the toilets so spotlessly clean?
6) Why are the security guards not shouting to ensure they are being listened to?
7) Why do the nurses have a smile?
8) Why do the doctors explain and then perform procedures?
9) Why despite the overarching blanket of death; an ambience of positivity triumphs?
10) Why a large number of the patients are Pathans?
11) Why visiting Shaukat Khanum even under the most adverse circumstances leave you with an overwhelming feeling of national pride and achievement?
12) How are patients irrespective of their financial or social status treated equally?
13) How is merit maintained in processing of financial aid applications?
14) If merit and inclusion are practised effectively by Shaukat Khanum, then why not by other hospitals?
15) For Imran Khan the hospital was a dream, what inspired and has continued to inspire millions over decades to confer their confidence and cash on the hospital?
16) Why even when fingers have been raised, the confidence in integrity of the hospital financial management has remained generally untainted?
17) What will be Shaukat Khanum Hospital Peshawar contribution to improving social and economic landscape of KPK?
18) Do we not owe it to the catastrophes stuck KPK to rise above political differences by coming together for timely construction of Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital in Peshawar?
19) Is Shaukat Khanum Imran Khan’s most credible, most magnanimous gift to Pakistan? If so why- because it allows us to show discipline at times or because it gives an opportunity to be generous or because as a nation we need a beacon of hope that we can fondly boast about.

Await your answers!




Happy Father’s Day

Baba, I am scared, can you sleep in my room today please. 

Yes I will!

Baba, I saw a bad dream, cannot sleep, will you sleep in my room.

Yes I will my dear!

Baba, I cannot do this ride, too dangerous. I will fall.

You can do anything in the world! Just do it, I am here if anything goes wrong.

Baba, cannot understand the theorem, who made these no relevance to life theorems.

Let me help you, they are easy, you are so intelligent.

Baba, pray for my exams, if I do not do well mom will be upset.

You have my prayers, you always do well but love to fret.

Baba, am getting late for school. Driver is not here.

Come, I will drop you.

Baba, am getting late for meeting, where is the driver!

Do not worry, let me be your driver today.

Baba, can you tell the driver to come tonight at 1, have a flight at 330.

It is late, I will drop you.

But you cannot always be getting up in the middle of night to drop me. I travel the world on my own.

It is fine. If I do not drop you, will have your mother up the whole night.

Baba, this conference paper, just do not think will go down well, please pray.

Will do, my dear, can I have your itinerary please.

Mom has it, why do you need it? She worries, you are strong.

Just wanted to keep a track of you.

Why is mom not picking up the phone, wanted to tell her my flu is better.

Good to know that, I was so worried.

Baba, you worried, since when have you started worrying.

I am getting old, my dear.

Old and you, never. Come on, do not sound like mom.

Fathers in the eyes of daughters never get old. The man, who they fall in love with the moment they can hold their finger, remains their super man, ever young, ever handsome. No one can take his place. Important men in lives have to be like him.

Fathers cannot worry for that is for faint hearted mothers to do. Fathers cannot be anxious for they give daughters the self-confidence that enables them to achieve success. They are the pillar of support, strong and steady even though in acting strong, they may have many fears and concerns that if shared can shatter a daughter’s fantasy world that her father is the strongest of all.

When a father hugs a daughter, she knows she will be protected and cared for always. Even if she knows, she pretends not to know that with time, the hug gives more strength to the father than to her for the eyes under the influence of old age yearns for the sight of the beloved daughter and the hug is an assurance she will be there as strength fades of her Superman.

You will never be old! Happy Father’s Day Baba!




Kazakhstan

Unforgettable is the moment when I had looked down from my plane. All I could see for miles and miles….snow!

Memory recall took me back to my school and college days. Remembered were Leo Tolstoy novels. Out of the closet of early days memories, emerged stereotyped Russians….stern and strict. The snow reflected only hardness of the hearts of the people living in this snow inundated country.

As I stepped out of the plane. The airport challenged my already formed perceptions. As usual hard it is to accept that you are wrong. Tried to find reasons to prove my biases right but only found warm smiles and eager to help people.

Kazakhstan

 

 

Most of the times they did not understand what I was saying nor did I understand what they were saying. Kazakhstan has taught me words do not matter as long as sincerity to understand exists.

Kazakhstan in winter is snow wrapped but in summer as the snow melts emerges one of the most loveliest green country with white and blue mountains.

As I walked around enjoying this country, came across an old generation that has seen far too much to be conveyed in sign language but whatever they said and did, showed immense pride in past and future.

The young generation impressed me with its confidence, with its fascinating curiosity to discover its roots, yet relentless to make a dent in the universe. They unlike the old generation may not convey the same blind pride for their country for they in their pursuit to achieve national excellence do come across as skeptical but their skepticism is underpinned by a strong desire to make their country the best.

Women rule the business world of Kazakhstan. Confident, creative, smartly clever and caring, they are steering the economy and business to incredible growth.

Almaty is a blend of Old and New time. It is a city at peace with a mix of Old and New values, Russian constructed buildings symbolise an era gone but yet imprinting certain behaviours. The modern buildings symbolise resilience, a confidence to live harmoniously with the past yet determined to craft a more illustrious future.

Astana is different. A modern city with masterpieces of architecture. It is a loud statement about the ambitions for the future.

Kazakhstan has taught me people should influence opinions not literature or media. If I had never visited Kazakhstan, I would never have met one of the most hardworking, focused and driven people in the world.

Wish Kazakhstan a very great future!




I cannot vote

I cannot vote.

But why can you not?

I simply cannot convince myself to vote.

But if you do not vote, how can you curse or condemn or comment on the policies of
the rulers of tomorrow.

Well, you are going to vote for PTI?

Yes I am.

You believe Imran Khan stands for change.

Yes I do passionately definitely.

You hope tomorrow in power, he will make Pakistan a peaceful, progressive and
prosperous nation.

Yes I do even though there are challenges.

Of course there are challenges. This is not the Pakistan of eighties. Bomb blasts
may blast our TV screens every hour. They do not blast our souls for a second even.

You are right. Remember in our childhood when Ojhri Camp happened. For days and
weeks we mourned. We felt shattered, terribly saddened at the loss of lives.

Yes remember if there was news of robbery, we would be scared the whole night.

Oh yes, now robbers roam around now and we go on with our lives.

Remember in school when the price of Pepsi went up by 50p, mom was so angry with the
rulers.

Now she has got used to the price hike, does not complain.

You used to call the electricity grid if there was no electricity for 5 minute.

Now I live without electricity for hours on end. The grid uncle was so patient. If I
did not call sometime, he would call to inquire if all was fine. Now grid does not
pick my phone.

Those were the days. Remember when Benazir came to Pakistan.

Oh yes. The momentous reception. The thundering Bibi.

The dreams she invoked.

Remember her oath taking ceremony. She looked so determined to achieve prominence
for Pakistan.

Yes she was. You know I always voted for her.

Did you? So unlike me you have voted in elections.

Yes I have for she in my eyes was change.

She a feudal, a change!

Why do you believe Imran is the change.

What a stupid question is this? He promises justice for all, peace for all,
education and health for all. He would be Pakistan’s reliable representative at
international forums. An Oxford graduate, a born winner! What else……

Was Benazir not all this and in much favourable circumstances? Had she wanted, could
she have not changed this country years back.

But she could not have done it. People around her were not sincere to the country.

She was Benazir Bhutto: a woman of substance who had every chance to bring the
change you so passionately desire Imran Khan will bring.

She did not have the time.

She had it. She betrayed me. She betrayed you but I cannot betray her.

But she is no more. Why have grudge against her?

Why not have grudge against het? If Imran tomorrow deprives you of your hope, your
confidence in him, forgets his promises, aggravates national decay and chaos how
will you feel?

Betrayed!

Will you vote for him?

No not at all.

Will you vote for someone else?

Trust is like the soul, once gone is gone forever.

So you will not vote.

If Imran betrays my trust, do not think will ever be able to have trust in anyone
else. Will never vote.

Wish he lives up to your trust. Wish you never feel betrayed.

But why will you not vote for him.

I had trusted Bibi as much as you are trusting Imran. She betrayed me but I cannot
betray her.

I CANNOT VOTE!




Betrayal

Do not know why I continue trusting you. 

Fail to recall when was the last time that you have not betrayed me and shattered my trust.

Whenever I have a date with you, for hours you do not turn up. I sit there sipping numerous cups of coffee trying to remain calm but tears do drop and people do look at me wondering disaster and spreading pity. My pride in you gives me belief you will turn up. It gives me strength to face embarrassment and nasty looks. I want to curse and complain but simply cannot convince myself to do it.

I do not give up waiting for you for when I see you, all my suffering is forgotten.

My eyes light up. I have a sigh of relief.

I have become a laughing stock for friends and family who have encouraged me to look beyond you.

At times when I have, only an experience of bliss has awaited me. Guilt however has compelled me to return and apologise to you. In return you had promised to mend ways.

But alas! Your promises like you are false.

Even when you turn up, your performance is insulting. You are out to humiliate me. I feel dejected and frustrated. Feel like walking out on you but I cannot for you make sure that all doors of exit are locked. You make sure that whatever time I spend with you, my patience is tested and my resilience experimented.

So why do I still trust you. I am a fool. Hope against hope, despair against despair. I simply cannot forget you. I feel so helpless.

You are my first choice. How can I forget you? With you are associated joyous memories of moments unforgettable. You were not always like this but your changing fortunes have made you nasty.

You have become overburdened and exhausted, forced to comply with the wishes of your unfaithful friends. I know you want to be faithful and sincere but the cruel demands of time and your deteriorating health has taken a toll on you.

Deprived of glory and grace, no one to take care, you have become ugly and fat but for me you are still charming.

Today again I have listened to my heart and trusted you.

Today again you have betrayed my trust. Today again you have ruined my day.

For this betrayal I will not forgive you.

Perhaps PIA this is the last time I have trusted you.




One upon a time…….

One upon a time there was a girl. She spent her days playing endlessly with her cousins and siblings. Life was luxurious with comforts in abundance. Her male cousins and siblings would attend a school very far from home. Their absence would make her sad but they would be home in summer and winter making her extremely delighted. .

She played endlessly for fourteen years.

One day she found her elders gathered in a room engaged in a serious conversation. Her name was being mentioned repeatedly but she had been a disciplined girl of late. Why were they discussing her?

At the end of the day she was summoned to the room. They had decided she would study to become a medical doctor.

Doctor like the pretty lady doctor who visited her aunts and mother to give them a baby as a gift!

She was excited and bewildered. She wanted to be like the pretty doctor but why should she study?

Her brothers had to give up play to study. She was content spending her life playing hide and seek.

Her elder brother declared it was his wish to see one of his sisters setting a precedent for Muslim girls of the area to study and have careers.

So now she would have to abandon her plays and study seriously.

A male teacher would come to teach her but she had to maintain purdah.

With a curtain in between the teacher and herself, she started studying for Grade ten exams.

She missed her carefree life but she was determined to make her brother proud.

In almost eighteen months, she passed her Grade Ten exams.

Now she would have to take admission in a college. It would mean leaving her mother. Who would plait her hair? Who would cook delicious dishes for her?

It did not matter. The elders had to be pleased.

She left her home in Patiala to study at the Lahore College for Women. She got through to the medical college with flying colours. She was one of the four Muslim girls to be studying medicine at Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi.

She became a doctor and got her first job in Swat.

Her family was distressed. How will she as a single woman survive in Pathans dominated area?

Her brother declared his sister being a doctor will be respected in Swat.

She was and still is remembered by many in Swat for her passionate care of the sick.

Came 1947 and her family’s world transformed drastically.

Till they could reclaim their lost fortunes, their only hope was her house in Swat first and Nowshera later.

It was in Nowshera that she met the anchor of her life. A man who gave her his name, unflinching support in pursuing her dreams and together they shared six decades of exemplary companionship. Together they rejoiced the several successes of their four children, eleven grandchildren and eight great grand-children. Together they selflessly toiled hard for a better tomorrow of their people and their country.

She had many dreams. Her dreams though were seldom personal. She loved the village that embraced her whole heartedly as a daughter in law. She desired for the village to be religiously, educationally and socially enlightened. She aspired for education of girls and awareness of good health of women.

She wanted the people of province that sheltered her family in days of distress to be healthy. In creating a better world, she never urged for recognition.

It was only when she eventually left for a better world that stories of her generosity became well known.

She was my grandmother. A woman many will always remember as the ultimate symbol of perseverance, resilience, nobleness and compassion. Even when very ill, she always said by Grace of Allah I am fine. Sorrows were to be accepted with patient silence and joys with humble prayers of thankfulness.

Girls had to study and work for sitting at home would make them indulge in gossip. Husband was to be respected. Children were to be disciplined. Money to be spent sensibly on personal needs but others education and health care needs were to be generously fulfilled.

When I read of women of substance, of women advocating for equal rights, of women trying to change lives, I often think of a woman whose life is an example of how despite odds, lives and thinking can be changed by people who selflessly aim for the betterment of society and people without concern for recognition.

We definitely need more people like you Mummy today.

May Allah always bless you and the people that you loved tremendously!




Hold my child

Can you hold my child for a minute? The woman pleaded.  

I was as usual focussed on getting through the mass of people at the immigration counter. The man at the counter was painfully slow. I was calculating if any other lane was faster.

After waiting for a minute. The woman again asked for help. The urgency in her voice made me look towards her.

She had a baby,two bags and a handbag. Was she crazy travelling so heavy! These Pakistanis: always overburdened with spices and sweets.

She had disturbed my calculations of swiftness of lanes. I looked at her irritated. Her eyes were begging for help.

As I was about to stretch my arms to take the baby. My calculating mind triumphed over my irrational instincts.

What if the baby had a bomb? Why was the mother dumping the baby? Was she a suicide bomber? Had plenty of bags! Was it her baby? Was she running away from her husband taking the baby with her? If I help her I will be in deep trouble.

In a fraction of a second, the donkey came to remind me of dire consequences. The donkey appeared half dead. The donkey owner was screaming for help and mourning tremendously for the fading away of his livelihood. Impulsively I had helped him. Weeks later I found the same man and probably the same donkey replaying the same drama.

After the donkey, the rickshaw man came mocking me. At the traffic light, young driver of a rickshaw weeping tragically had caught my eyes. I noticed he was saying something to the effect of being penniless and having a mother or sister dying in the hospital. My heart was moved to financial compassion. Since then I have found the same rickshaw driver at many traffic lights. He has gone healthier, the story has remained the same.

Compassion is not for the people of this country who are fraudsters to the maximum! My mind warned.

The woman pleaded again. This time with tears in her eyes. My foolish heart gave in. Took the baby from her.

She smiled, bent down and took out some medicine syrup from the bag. Mixed the syrup in the milk in the bottle. Stuffed the syrup bottle in the handbag.

Took the baby from me. The baby was adorable. Immediately started feeding the baby. She did not even wait for the immigration to be done.

Then she looked at me. Probably had understood my dilemma. I felt guilty.

Thanked me immensely.

Then said:

You must have noticed the baby is very warm. Is suffering from very high fever. I had to travel to Dubai. My husband has had an accident. Would not have time to wait for bags, thus these few bags have all I need for now. Pray for my husband and baby. You are a kind woman.

She started weeping.

I was either too numb to respond or too focussed on getting through the lane.




Warm Car

Cold weather is gripping. 

It induces thoughts you want to brush aside.

Days are grey begging for thoughts to be analysed black and white.

As freezing wind hit my face I froze for a minute. Seemed completely helpless. I wanted to walk ahead but the strong wind would not let me.

I was helpless!

As helpless as the mother who has no food to feed her hungry children.

As helpless as the mother who has no money to get medicines for a fever inflicted child.

As helpless as the mother who dreams of a better life for her dear ones but has to send the dear ones to work as house helps.

Helplessness when pushed to extreme is fearless. Loss of fear empowers one with reckless strength, something which can be lethal.

As the freezing wind pushed me back, for few minutes I was defeated but I had important tasks to attend to. I could not be defeated. I had to push back and when the wind appeared determined to thwart my plans I became fearless. Not even the fear of injury or harm could deter me from pushing back and I pushed back hard fearless.

Still not as fearless as a mother who can see death threatening to take away her child and she having no means to prevent it. At that juncture she can beg, borrow, steal, kill. Do anything.

Will it be right?

No many would exclaim.

But is it right to spend millions on a wedding dress that is worn only for few hours?

Is it right to spend billions on a house that lasts only a life time and then may become a source of strife and discord among siblings?

Is it right to spend thousands on a hand bag or pair of shoes?

There is no right or wrong answer. Many would say yes, many would say no.

Many would say if they spend thousands on charity then they can spend millions on weddings.

Grey winter days beg for black and white answers which I have none.

I am part of a society that cannot even be moved by deaths in abundance shown on TV screens in their lounges. We have become immune to suffering.

Till we do not suffer ourselves others suffering do not move us.

As freezing wind pierces my mind and body, a resolution emerges of helping helpless mothers and starving children.

My phone rings. It is my friend telling me she is round the corner in a warm car ready to take me shopping. I rush to sit in the warm car super delighted to go shopping and eating in the Mall!

Regards,
Afra