The Best Gift To Give This Eid

Please note this is not a sponsored post.

While Eidi envelopes will never go out of fashion, gift baskets have become a trend over the years as well. Gift baskets are a blessing for a person like me who can take hours and hours to think of a gift and still not be happy with it.

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The best thing about gift baskets is that you can tailor your basket to the theme, person or type of event.

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This Eid you can give a customised Eid basket to your loved ones and there are so many reasons for it:

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  1. They are quick, easy and low cost.
  2. They can contain the kind of quality of products that fits your budget.
  3. They are fun to open.
  4. Can be personalised for the recipient so you always know that your gift will not go in waste.
  5. Usually include products that can be consumed easily and can have both edible and non edible items.

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The pictures have been graciously provided to us by Zara Hayat. She specialises in customised gift baskets for all occasions. I have personally used her services. She listens to the client, is quick with her response and her finished product is of high quality. She can be contacted via her Facebook page.

 

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What not to do when meeting relatives a d friends over this Eid ul Fitr

As we approach the end of Ramadan and still try to guess when exactly Eid is, let’s try and make this Eid beautiful not only for ourselves but also for others around us by knowing what not to say.

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None of us mean to say the wrong thing but sometimes we just do especially when we meet our extended family after several months. Sometimes we meet new faces as families expand, or even unexpected guests. Now that I am older, I also see myself sometimes passing the irritating comment, ‘Arey masha allah tum kitney Barry ho gaye.’ It happens to everyone. We often end up asking questions that seem entirely innocent to us but can hurt and/or irritate the other person emotionally.

In the list below I share some of the questions that are not as polite as we might think they are.

What not to ask people this Eid ul Fitr or any other party? 

  1. Do not ask anyone when they are getting married. People might be looking aggressively for an appropriate rishta and sometimes finding a suitable rishta is not easy. And no, it’s not suitable to tell them about certain single women who you think might be extremely lonely. There is no point in showing the grim side of not being married. Sometimes, they do not want to get married any time soon and they have other plans. At times it gets so infuriating that many young adults do not want to join their family during ‘House hopping’.
  2. Do not ask others when they might be having kids. Infertility issues, miscarriages or sometimes just not planning a child might be the reason for a couple not having a child. Other people reproductive health and decisions are none of your business. You don’t know who is dealing with infertility or grieving miscarriages or struggling with health issues. You don’t know who is having relationship issues or who might not be in a position to have their ‘next’ child straight away. You don’t know your seemingly innocent question might cause some people grief, pain or stress. This is one question you must stay away from.
  3. Do not comment on anyone’s weight. You can simply say, ‘It’s so good to see you.’ We will surely meet someone who might lost a bit too much weight or someone who has drastically gained a lot of weight. Weight is sometimes not just about being lazy or over indulgence. Whether you believe it or not, it’s not necessary at all to tell someone about how bad they look due to their weight. They probably do have mirrors at home and know exactly how they look. Their weight is their business. Some people are confident and secure in whatever their weight may be. Some people are struggling. So it’s best to avoid any conversation that revolves around weight.
  4. If you meet a young child, do not ask them who their favourite family member is or who they love most. Love is a huge word and it’s meaning can’t possibly be understood by a young child. Also do not force them to eat something. Nut/gluten allergies are more common than you might think so let the parents choose what they want their kids to eat.
  5. This one is also a basic etiquette that you must have when meeting a young child. Do not say, ‘hug/kiss me and I will give you a treat.’ Please do not invade a child’s private space. They are still learning about trust and do not tell the child that its alright to bribe for certain ‘favours’

So yea, that’s about it. Sometimes empathy is more important than anything else. And the best thing about it is that it doesn’t cost anything.

A Corridor into History

“Let’s get a new engine from Peshawar” and so begin a weekend of adventure. Our faithful red Joy with whom we had traveled the length and breadth of Pakistan had finally stopped in the middle of the road. Simply given up, died. But ours is not a family, not even a nation that gives up. We sought to rejuvenate our eleven year old bride and Peshawar was chosen due its centuries old bazaars which sell every conceivable thing under the sun, its close proximity to our home and of course a couple of friends and places that awaited our presence. It was spring; the weather helped us endure the non-air conditioned, slow journey as our baby was pulled behind the bigger car. Later that night a set of friends suggested a visit to the famous Karkhano Market, a hub of duty free imported nonsense at the gates of the Khyber agency but to make the visit more meaningful another set of friends recommended to extend the visit along a road as old as time and  a journey as ancient as man.

The next morning we piled into the bigger car as our bride was getting a new life in the Kabuli market and onward it was into the Khyber agency and then the Spin Ghar or Safed Koh mountains. Crossing the gate into the agency the road is modern but the bazaar on both sides is rustic and consists mostly of very small grocery stores and very large restaurants with cut up carcasses of lambs hanging outside, their boards showing the now cut up lambs gamboling shyly in vast green fields, ready to be fed to a multitude of meat lovers  in search of authentic Khyber and Shinwari cuisine. In the midst of this haphazard bazaar we crossed the famed Bab-e-Khyber a symbolic entrance to the ancient pass which is also illustrated on the ten rupee banknote. Immediately after it towards the north of the road we were confronted by the famous outpost of the Jamrud Fort whose foundation stone had been laid by the Sikh General Hari Singh Nalwa  in roughly 1836  in commemoration of the Sikh victory and subsequent takeover of Jamrud. A largish fort is now surrounded by fortress like houses on all sides. The population of Khyber still builds high walled houses although more recently constructed and filled with modern amenities.

Through the Plains of Jamrud the road starts to climb and curve around the mountains. The giddy ride was made even more amusing by the amount of modern shops including a pizza parlor with a free home delivery option. The Khyber agency was trying to keep abreast of world too. The valley started closing in on both sides and one could now imagine how armies of invaders all the way back to Darius had traversed through these very ancient walls of the prehistoric mountains. Alexander, Ghengis Khan, Mongol and Muslim rulers had all come down this path in lust of the jewel called India. Millions of caravans had measured its dusty roads as it has been an integral part of the eventful and imperative Silk Road and remained The road into subcontinent until the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the country’s subsequent downfall. Although it currently still is an important trade route as well as a NATO supply route.

The British had built a railway line on which until about a decade ago a steam engine would trudge tourists along its historical turns. However a recent takeover of the agency by armed insurgents has resulted in their blowing up of its sturdy tracks in some places. The government it seems is still busy with other things it considers more important than preserving a potent heritage and an important trade route. The interrupted track still snakes along the road as we move in the entrails of the Spin Ghar range, several tunnels stand with their gaping mouths, each has something written on its entrance, relics of their British builders.

We also pass a large bulbous Stupa on top of a hill to the north, guardian of the pass’s Buddhist past.  Shagai Fort then looms large on to our south, an extensive fortification overlooking the road. The pass then narrows down further, to as legend has it, so slim a path that two laden camels could not have passed one another, this point is called Ali Masjid. The road has now been widened but the steep walls of the mountains still rise ominously close over the road. The road now crawls in the belly of the valley as the Ali Masjid Mosque and Fort look down upon it. The strategic placement of the fort is clear, here was where (if they could be) the conquerors would have been defeated and many were while those whose names live on made it through. Local legend that the Prophet’s (PBUH) cousin Ali led a congregation at the location of the mosque; hence its name. The valley walls are decorated by the shields and the insignia of the valiant’s who have fought here over the past two centuries. Until now a slight river had been flowing along the road but now turns south and the cliffs are dotted here and there by green shrubs and spring wildflowers.

The narrow file then suddenly opens up into a flat plateau; this plate is the ancient city of Landi Kotal. On our way to the border we bypass the city and continue up the road until we see an fort like building atop a cliff overlooking the road. East of the border this is the highest point, this structure is Michni Post. We stop for a wondrous view of the pass as it opens into a large valley.  From the viewing room of the post we enjoy peshawari kehwa and drink in on the horizon, the still snow clad mountains around Kabul while below us the truck and trailer dotted road snakes into Afghanistan. Further west of the post on the mountain side we can see Charbagh Fort and Taimur Lung’s prison, the children shrink in horror as we are told of the steep passage in the prison fitted with blades on top of which enemies were asked to confess or fall in. We also find out the origins of the Khyber Rifles the formerly paramilitary force organized by the British which still maintains law and order in the pass and the agency. The Muzail, a type of rifle was the weapon of choice in the area and when the British thought it prudent to organize the locals into a force to be used in the Afghan wars they asked everyone with the rifle to register; hence the birth of the Khyber Rifles.

It was a treat to view the valley from the calm of the well maintained post and in the care of our very generous hosts. It is a clear day which adds much charm and depth to our view. After which we took a small sojourn on Afghan soil as we crossed the border and turned around. Next stop was the famed Khyber Rifles Mess back at Landi Kotal. We had to ask quite a few people until we finally made it to the mess. Passing several restaurants with ready to barbecue tikka’s wrapped in sheets of fat. It was lunchtime to be fair, hence the drool worthy observation. On entering the Mess gates we were greeted by lush green lawns, an oasis in the center of the dusty frontier town. Peacocks strutted around as long legged cranes sheltered from the sun in green groves. By the mess entrance we saw a huge centurion tree which had been put under ‘arrest’ by a drunk British Officer one night and remains to this day ‘under arrest’.

Inside the mess had an old world charm of dark wood paneling and starched white waiters with perfect manners. Decorated with hundreds of old pictures it required quite a few hours of study which we did not have at the time. We did however view the suite that had been occupied by HRH Diana Princess of Wales on her visit here in the early nineties. Lunch was typical mess fair (our taste buds were still tingling for the fatty lamb we had viewed outside) but the silverware, the crystal ware and the service was like eating in a royal palace; a pleasant experience that added to the old world feeling.

After that it was goodbye to Landi Kotal, not able to visit its famed railway station we had once enjoyed on a former trip, leaving something for next time we turned towards Jamrud and the waiting Karkhano market then towards the vibrant city of Peshawar. Until next time when we will come to sit by the abandoned railway tracks eating barbequed lamb and Shinwari Karai; the pass will remain haunting our memories time and again.

 

 

Neurological Disorder Vs Mental illness

If you’ve ever visited a hospital (and I mean really taken your time to explore it!), you’d know that the neurology ward is completely separate from the psychiatric one. They’re never adjacent; heck, they might not be in the same building even!
Two terms that are often used synonymously by many of us are psychiatric illnesses and neurological disorders. While it’s true that the crux of the two relates to the brain, they are in reality two entirely different set of disorders and diseases.
Psychiatric or mental disorders are a group of conditions that primarily affect the personality of the individual without solid diagnostic evidence. Neurologic disorders, on the other hand, often present as a physical pathology of the brain such as a tumor that can cause not only personality and psychiatric symptoms but also other related motor and sensory symptoms.
Studies have shown that psychiatric illnesses usually involve the frontal lobe of the brain as well the visual areas whereas in neurological disorders, the pathology is widespread and not limited to a specific region.
While the two conditions are easily confused and used interchangeably, recognizing what you might be suffering from is crucial for an effective recovery. Get in touch with your physician today if you experience any symptoms of a brain disorder whether psychiatric or neurological!

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Bollywood Inclination towards Headless Women Part-2

Marcia Belsky, who initiated the movement of Headless Women of Hollywood claims that headless projects are dehumanizing the images of female artists globally. She managed to find countless examples of such adverts of even top classic movies that are repeatedly objectifying a women image. Such posters depict only cleavages, legs or other body parts of women hence merely becoming an object for the male gaze.

This trend is now grasping the Bollywood with a full swing. Here we will discuss another example of a headless poster in Bollywood movies:

RAAZ:                       

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Raaz is not the first movie that comes to mind when we think about headless adverts of Bollywood. Such posters can be self-objectifying not only domestically but also internationally. If you bring a closer look at the poster of the Raaz movie, you will find that there was no need to scribble the name of the movie on artist’s back! Although we do agree that the movie is based on a mystery but that doesn’t mean to make women an eye-candy for merely marketing purposes.

JISM-2:

To your amusement, filmmaker Pooja Bhatt claims that India needs more adult movies with some bold storylines & controversial cuts but does that really means to highlight women as a sexual pleasure of men? Belsky encourages readers to bring more examples of such adverts on streamline merely for changing the mindsets of people towards women.  She also believes that if men are headless, nobody is there to objectify as it never seems sexual or mindless.

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Jism-2 is an erotic thriller film that didn’t need headless women for their advert but then again, it’s the best way to grasp public with such visuals. I bet a majority of the man would not have missed the movie, what a perfect tactic to bring more revenue for the movie while objectifying a women image by all means.

This series of posts will continue to highlight more such adverts to educate our readers. Stay tuned for the next post!

On Writing, and Writers Block

Sometimes it comes to me as flowing wind, not too fast, gentle but forceful, naturally, fluently pouring out of my fingers on to the keypad or into a paper. And sometimes it just stalls, behind a frosted glass window; I can glimpse it but not actually see it, it leaves me entranced and at the same time frustrated. Just like the frosted glass door in my high school. My class was upstairs and one day a few months after joining I exited the principal’s office (some mischievous errand I am sure) and about to climb the stairs when suddenly my eyes beheld a strange thing in the otherwise squalid and ugly building, a thing of absolute perfect beauty enhanced by the drab surroundings. It was a silver framed door of frosted glass, and since the sun shone extremely bright in the desert island city I lived in, it was lit up bright, a glimmering silver light filtered through giving the dusty innards of the building a cool luminosity. Outlined in the bright frame was a single branch of bougainvillea, dark green and bright red, at once visible and not clear. I stood transfixed staring at this improbable beauty, it was like a beautiful dream which overshadows your mind even after awakening, but you can never quite completely figure out what it exactly was and wonder about it for days. Its sweet aftertaste lingers on but clarity is forever eluded. I stood transfixed unable to digest what this was, was it a sign from up above that there is escape yet from this dreary world or was it just a distraction, was it a door into the occult; there I stood until the jarring sound of a banging door in the corridor brought me back to the drudgery of the world coming back to life around me. But a nagging doubt often came to me sitting in class, walking to the library, back home in bed what was that, why didn’t I touch the door or try and open it, was there even a real plant there outside, why couldn’t I see what was it exactly on the other side. That is often my situation, the frosted glass intrigues me but at the same time haunts me, I cannot manage to open the door. The worst times however are when a dark shadow falls across the door, no light shines through and I feel claustrophobic, walled into grey corridors lit up by lurid white tube lights, no fresh air comes through. So it is that I pray for all my friends who write, my the door always be there, may you be able to open it at the right time and may the light always shine through.

My Heart My Fellow Traveler

It has been so that life is a travel series, many times I found myself unsettling and settling again. Whether I was ever prepared for this or not, whether I was ever asked or given a choice in this matter; it is not relevant. Hence I once told my mother that since it has always been so and will probably be this way then we should consider this our fate. That suddenly one day, on some whim we will simply pull out our roots and move to new place and be expected to or will automatically re-root. But try as I might I forget that every time one pulls up ones roots a part of them remains in the soil.
If I count the places where parts of my soul remain, even I do not remember fully. A spring breeze, the whiff of night blooming jasmine, an azure blue sky, the shape of a certain building and sometimes even a grain of sand suddenly brings back a strong lucid memory pregnant with nostalgia and brimming with a connection yet unsevered. Arabian nights, Gothic towers, grand green hills, flat dusty plains, desert evenings, lakeshore walks, seaside barbecues; how much of it can I forget and how much of it will I carry inside me forever. Sometimes it overwhelms me and at others it soothes me, if I can carry a whole mountain range in my heart along with the Caspian sea, a crusaders castle, the Bosphorus bridge, the citadel of Allepo and the entire city of Karachi then surely I can make room for a little more.
‘We are leaving the life we know’, my husband found this silly,’ there are entire lives we don’t know about, doesn’t make them unlivable?’ I agree but the more times you put in your roots, the longer you allow them to grow, the harder it is to un-root, move away while the broken and buried limbs lay severed, in utmost pain. Slowly they fossilize and like a missing arm or leg one does learn to live without them. Then one day you remember having that very limb and the fossils awaken for a while, feel stifled and then readjust and fall into slumber. So for now I know that a clean cut is the best but it will take time for the cut to scar over and the skin to re-grow and the memories to fade.

My heart, my fellow traveler
It has been decreed once again
That you and I go into exile,
call out in streets
Roam from dwelling to dwelling
In the hope to find some clue
Leading us to a harbinger
Asking complete strangers
The way to our own home
In this land of strangers
For us to live from day to night
Trying to be understood
To this person then that
What that I should complain to you
The night of separation is best not talked about
It would have been of some comfort
Had the days been numbered
It would have been a comfort to die
Were we allowed to die only once
My heart, my fellow traveler
It has been decreed once again
Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Feebly translated by yours truly)