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.

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So I have finally decided to start Using Reusable Bottles

If you are anything like me, I need caffeine to go through the day. And if you are as lazy as me, you would depend a lot on getting take away tea and coffee. However I have recently realised that this habit of mine is a huge burden on the environment. Apparently it takes hundreds of years for each plastic bottle to decompose, loading up landfills for years and years. Also each plastic bottle and disposable cup need a lot of energy  to produce. The production of these disposable bottles, cups and other cutlery also emits a lot of toxins in the environment.

I have recently bought a reusable cup for myself that I carry everyday while I get everything done. I get my coffee and tea on the go filled in that cup now. And trust me, most of the people at the coffee shops are happy to fill up my reusable cup. This is actually the easiest thing to change in our daily lives.

If you are looking for something similar too, do have a look at these options. These images will take you to Amazon where you can purchase these too. Happy shopping 🙂

Togather we might be able to help reduce our carbon footprint and save the environment for our future generations.

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)

What Women Want

6F94388E-BA02-4A28-B307-E527E38F05CBWhat Women Want
Yes that is the name of the popular Hollywood romantic comedy starring Mel Gibson, but it is also the eternal question that men, women, society as a whole needs an answer to. Each individual has a different answer (if they have one at all), as Gibson finds out by the end of the movie, there is no one thing that women want but most of all they want love and respect. Not to be treated as objects or rungs on the ladder to success. Although women are the focus of the movie it is true for everyone, even plants and animals.
Respect is a very simple yet very large word, it stands for a basic human right, it encompasses dignity and attitude and it simply means giving each living thing its due. It’s as basic as the right to live. An animal in the wild respects this balance in the world, examples of this can be found in the fact that wild animals rarely kill for fun or sport, only when the need for survival kicks in. When you respect life itself then you respect the fact that everyone has a place in this world, is connected to the world around them, and that the very niche they occupy is important and affects everyone and everything around them. If taught to respect we understand the true equality of mankind.
When we do not teach our children basic respect we are depriving them of following a law of nature, we are bringing up the creepy boys who prey on vulnerable women but feel their ‘honour’ is in line if their mothers/daughters/sisters/wives are being preyed upon. We are bringing up girls who think they can only climb the ladder of success if they use other people to stand up upon; we are bringing up individuals who do not spare a thought for those who are working for them, for animals and nature who are at their mercy.
It is true that most of us are taught to respect men only, especially those who have some power over us and then men also get the larger portion of respect when it comes to women’s rights as individuals. So let’s promise on this women’s day to respect one another, to respect humanity, to respect dignity, to respect nature, to respect life and most of all to respect those who give so much and demand so little. Let’s learn and then teach the next generation to respect women and respect life.

What are the skills a child SHOULD be learning in school

Why do we send our children off to school? So that we can see them evolving into beautiful and independent adults. And while academics are extremely important and necessary, it is not everything. And while schools are great for this, all of them share one flaw: They are depriving children of learning basic skills!

I mean it’s great that you’re getting educated, it does help put food on the table. But what about other necessities and skills which help children to survive in this world? Not only in their youth but also as adults. I’ll be talking about what skills a child SHOULD be learning in school.

For starters, and I think we all agree on this, children should be taught on how to be socially active and confident. Educators have failed miserably in this area. We often see children shying away from public speaking. And that’s fine, they are children after all! But it’s the school’s and parent’s job to encourage them forward socially. Many children all over the world are being bullied, but they don’t know how to cope with it because they are neither aware nor do they possess the courage and confidence to stand up to their bullies. This area of skill is in dire need of attention!

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Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, right? This is something which has been burned into our memory! Wouldn’t it be nice… to I don’t know learn about taxes, mortgages etc. in the same way that we were forced to learn about mitochondria? I mean, sure it’s nice, but it’s of no use to us, right?! It’s essential that the children are educated about these topics so that they understand the importance of it and hence, can function like good and responsible adults.

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Basic cooking! It’s imperative that children know the basic know-how about cooking. God forbid, they can be faced with unusual circumstances when they are alone, or their parents or babysitters can’t attend to them, they should at least know how to put together a simple meal for themselves. We wouldn’t want them to starve right?

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Another major skill children should be taught is to call the right authorities if something goes wrong. There should be enough sense instilled in them that they know what course of action to be taken in which situation. For example, alerting the fire department or calling the police depending on the situation. They should be taught how to act fast and their wits should be sharp!

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Other skills include tackling different situations, compassion, tolerance etc. It is of utmost importance that schools include activities in which a child not only excels at academics but is also given an excellent platform for learning new skills and applying them in daily life situations, in and out of schools! Naturally, we can’t give children a career to prepare for, but we can integrate skills in them which will help them adapt to different situations. They will certainly thank us for a long time to come!

Mental illnesses explained: Postpartum Depression

You’d think there’s nothing better than holding your newborn in your arms, than becoming a parent. In between the pleasure and joy of giving birth is a period of depression and anxiety in some mothers.

Postpartum depression is a term known to many but seldom understood. Our society brushes it under the carpet, labeling it as a mood swing. What we fail to realize is that postpartum depression is an actual illness and needs to be addressed the same way as any other mental illness does.
This spell of low moods, anxiety and depression can continue for months after giving birth and can worsen to a psychotic condition if neglected. While the root cause of it is still under scrutiny, you can’t deny its existence. Surprisingly, not only new mothers but also fathers might be affected.

Unfortunately in Pakistan where mental illness awareness is still in its infancy, the only solution to postpartum depression is thought of as getting closing to religion and reciting the Quran. It’s true these practices give a sense of peace and relaxation but they are not a viable treatment to a real mental disease.

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Identifying the condition isn’t black and white. You can’t run a lab test and find out whether it’s postpartum depression you’re suffering from.

There can be multiple manifestations of postpartum depression. Keeping a sharp eye out for the signs can help you reach a quick diagnosis. According to studies, around 15% women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Some of these women have a past history of depression while others might be experiencing depression for the first time after giving birth.
If you or your loved one has been showing a lack of interest in activities after giving birth, has brief crying spells, prefers to stay alone for most of the day or even neglects the needs of their newborn, then postpartum depression is highly likely.

Postpartum depression is treated by not only therapy but also pharmacological intervention. If you or a loved one is suffering from it, it’s high time you visit your psychiatrist and acknowledge your condition – it’s important for you and your newborn’s wellbeing.

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The sad saga of Nauman Ali Khan

Around 12 years ago, I went through a time when I was unsure of my emaan. I had questions in my mind which if articulated could be considered blasphemy. I felt guilt. I thought I’m a failure. And then I started to read the Quran and hadith books ony own trying to make sense of my being. With that came the process of listening and reading to various preachers from various sects. It seemed I was not satisfied with the interpretations of a lot of them (without intending to be disrespectful to any of them).

Then finally in 2012, I stumbled upon a lecture by Nauman Ali Khan and I just loved it. I kept listening to his lectures and soon realised that he is my favourite teacher/preacher. It’s easy to relate to him as well. He was brought up just like any of us without a religious background. His struggle that he went through in learning Arabic and Quran was inspirational. He knows what people living in non Muslim countries go through, how hard it is bring up kids in today’s era. He has this ability to make the wisdom in the text easy for us to understand. He is eloquent and speak the language that is easy for us to understand.

And thus, became my hero.

With that, I, like many other of his followers forgot that he is just a human too.

And to err is human.

So, over the weekend, I found out through a friend about the accusations that were hurled at him through someone called Omar Muzaffar who claimed to be Nauman Ali khan’s friend. Nauman Ali Khan disagrees here. Anyway, he accused khan for inappropriate behaviour with multiple women. I could not really understand what it exactly means coz that inappropriate behaviour can be anything from flirtation to rape. It also claimed that khan had confessed to several of these accusations. I read on with disbelief, my eyes were literally popping out.

On further reading, it became apparent that there was no sexual assault. That was a relief. But he was being accused of sending inappropriate pictures, messages, flirting and then bribing and threatening too! Some of them are not illegal but bribing and threatening definitely are.

Nauman Ali Khan himself has denied those allegations. He is saying that he only approached those ladies with the intent of marrying one of them with their and their family’s consent and his behaviour was never inappropriate. He only spoke with the intent of finding the right person for himself. Sounds harmless.

But now the problem is that I have read the leaked whatsapp chats. They could have easily been faked. But they might be true as well. Who knows?

One more thing that has come out of this whole scenario is that the victims have spoken up. It’s not easy to speak up about abuse. Be it by the husband, father, teacher or their boss.  Women are scared of speaking up because they are scared of being slut shamed.

I just think if nauman Ali Khan wants to prove his innocence and get back respect, he must prove in court that those pictures are photoshopped, those whatsapp messages are fake, he has never bribed anyone or threatened the team of imams on the case. He must file a case for defamation and prove it all in court. Defamation is a serious crime. But of course he will only do that if he is innocent. Otherwise we all know our society always blames women and forgives men for whatever they have done. I’m glad that he has asked for a ‘theatre free environment to investigate allegations against him.’ Let’s hope that he can clarify all the misconceptions and prove that he is innocent. I’m praying for that.

I’m very sad and disappointed but if it’s true it won’t be something new. Men in power have always abused it and women have always been the soft target. Interestingly, even if proven to be correct, most people will continue slut shaming the women rather than praising them for their bravery. It takes a lot to speak against crimes and injustice done against yourself and our society doesn’t make it any easier. Even now when we don’t even know who those women are, there are thousands of messages slut shaming them. I know it’s possible that they might not be victims and just be opportunists…..but what if it’s the other way round? They will not be given justice just because we thought that a celebrity might be victimised instead?

I have decided not to listen to his lectures for the time being… Till it all clears out. Not because I hate him or can’t stand his face anymore or don’t think he is not knowledgeable enough. I just feel I don’t respect him the way I did before. I’m not taking away all his contributions towards islam. His lectures have helped millions across the globe to come closer Islam, clear lots of their misconceptions. I’m not discouraging anyone else from listening to his lectures.

I’m neither in defence or prosecution. I don’t have any first hand knowledge but I want all this mess to be cleared up in an honourable way. Of course I don’t want to read all his messages or study his pictures if they are photoshopped or not. But I would want to know if nauman Ali Khan also abused his power or became a victim of mud slinging in a power struggle among preachers.