Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Post # 16 - Shoes matter!

Always check the shoes to assess what sort of conversation you might have with another Asian woman, whether she was the type who wanted to discuss the price of gold and baby clothes, or talk about travelling around India and how crap men were. It was one of Chila's secret tactics in social situations, and it never failed. 

(Life Isn't All HA HA HEE HEE - Meera Syal)

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Post # 15 - So, what do you do?

I hate this question. I’ve always hated this question. Its prequel is the question we’re asked during childhood and our teens - so what do you want to be when you grow up? I hated this question too. I realised, soon, that whatever I’ll say won’t be the right answer. No matter what I decide to become, everyone will have an opinion on it and growing up I found it very difficult to find support for pursuing a career in fashion photography and journalism.

Anyways let's fast forward to the present. Going to new places and meeting strangers makes me anxious because at some point, this question always comes up. Almost everyone expects you to state your profession and it can become a bit tricky when you don’t have one. 

I’ve had this problem time and again. I feel a knot in my stomach and my voice takes on a defensive note when I’m asked this question. Why? Because I know that my long winded answer will be judged by the other person. That if I say I’m a mother of twins who reads, writes and dabbles a bit in makeup and yoga, the other person will either a) have a glazed look in his/her eyes before I’ve even finished my sentence, b) smile and say nice meeting you before quickly moving onto the next person or c) immediately start talking to my actor husband about his latest project. 

In this day and age, we need labels. Why? Because everyone puts us in a box according to what we tell them about us. The labelling is done for future reference and if our label isn’t worthy enough, we are easily discarded. I’ve become more and more dependent on others now when I go to a new gathering. I use friends/hubby dear/family as a crutch with strangers because I know that if linked with them, I’ll be put in a box worthy of attention. Even writing this is making me sick. But it’s the truth - over the past few years I’ve really struggled with my self image and thus, self-worth. The real question is, who is responsible for it? Society’s limited standards or my own demons? 

Today, while sitting with a group of strangers at iftar, I faced the same question. I gave a confused reply but I did mention what I do ( work at Desi Writers’ Lounge) and write (even if it’s just blogging). Then the topic veered to my twins and of course, once the twins come in the conversation, they overshadow everything! The two women I was in conversation with were both accomplished working women and golfers. In fact, one of them had a son who was a very good golfer at the young age of 14. When I asked how he manages to balance school and golf, the older lady replied, quite forcefully, it’s all about passion. If you’re passionate about something, you will find a way.

And a lightbulb came on. It’s not important to have a designation but it’s important to have a passion in life and see it through. I can be anything I want to be but if I don’t have a passion for it, a drive to be the best at it and see it through, I’m just going to be a nobody. Even if I start working in an office and get a designation, if my heart isn’t in it I’ll not be excited to talk about it. If I’m passionate about writing, makeup and yoga and those are the things I want to be identified with, I need to work on them and own them. For by owning them will I excel in them and be proud to say them out loud. To complete strangers. To everyone.

So, what do I do? I write at I dabble in makeup and and am thinking of taking it up as a career soon and I work at Desi Writers’ Lounge, a stellar organization which promotes new writing from South Asia and the diaspora. I run their book club. Come and check us out every last Friday of the month at Liberty Books next to BBQ Tonite.

And if you’re among the a, b or c categories mentioned above, I’m not interested in talking to you anyways.

Image: Google

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Post # 14 - hania aamir's instagram post on acne made me so happy

Recently, the actress Hania Aamir posted pictures of herself with acne. It was brave of her. Actually, it was super brave of her and I applaud her for her courage. In this day and age of Instagram perfection, it’s not easy to show one’s flaws, especially if you’re in the entertainment industry. Acne can happen to anyone. It’s just that no one, especially on social media, wants to talk about it. Nobody wants to show it. All we ever see of influencers or celebrities are picture perfect, air brushed, photoshopped images with perfect skin and hair. And seeing such images everywhere when we aren’t perfect can really be debilitating. 

I grew up with acne. It started in my teenage years and continued into my early twenties. Whenever I complained to my mother/grandmother/friends/older cousins I was told that it’s hormonal change and there is nothing I can do about it. Wrong. I could have done something about it but this was the pre-Google/You Tube age (yes, I’m ancient!) and all I had access to was home remedies. 

One of these home remedies absolutely destroyed my skin. So I had a beloved Uncle who dabbled in homeopathic medicine and I begged him to give me something that would cure my acne. He told me of a home made concoction which included Stillman’s freckle cream, calamine lotion and something else. I was supposed to put it overnight and then wait for the magic to work. I did as I was told and in a couple of days I had the most horrific outbreak of acne on my forehead. Pimples covered every square inch of it. I was 20 or 21 and I had the worst possible acne ever. The worst. Seeing is believing. And I believe I have a picture of it too but I'm not sure that even after all these years, I'm brave enough to share it. 

The early twenties is a difficult time in one’s life. You’ve just stepped out of your protective teenage years and are trying to make sense of the world around you and your place in it. The last thing you need is a face full of acne, a drab wardrobe and frizzy hair. When I look back at that Farheen, I’m filled with so much love for her. Nobody really took my acne seriously. Not even the dermatologist. When I went back to Pindi for my summer holidays (my father was posted there during my first two years in uni) I was adamant to see a doctor. I went to this famous doctor at CMH who was supposedly the best dermatologist in town. When I went inside and told her my problem she, instead of being sympathetic and helpful, looked annoyed. I guess fixing patients with major skin ailments had made her take a very sorry view of acne. She prescribed me…wait for it…calamine lotion! I’ve also been prescribed steroids and birth control pills. I never tried any of them on my skin.

I suffered from low self-esteem during my teenage years and in my early twenties. It wasn’t that I was surrounded by perfect looking girls but let’s just say I knew my shortcomings. And acne was one of them. Frizzy hair can be tamed by a good blow-dry. Imperfect teeth can be hidden by keeping the mouth shut. But acne, there is no escape from it. It is there on your face like a stamp. Like a permanent ugly tattoo which you can’t do anything about. You can see the sympathy or at times, disgust in the eyes of others when they look at you. But what is the absolute worst is facing yourself in the mirror everyday. 

I no longer have terrible acne thanks to my wonderful dermatologist who I met when I was 27 years old. His treatment saved my skin and made me so happy. I still get jittery when I see a pimple rearing its ugly head. However, I’ve learned to live with the occasional breakouts and with the Korean skin care method that I’ve been doing since September last year, I’ve been pretty acne free. But posting pictures of myself with acne was and maybe is still a big no-no. And that is why I found Hania’s post so courageous. What also endeared her post to me was how relieved it must have made young girls who follow her on social media and might be suffering from the same problem. 

Acne happens to most of us. It’s not something which can’t be cured but it’s also not something which won’t disappear with time and the correct treatment. Having acne is alright. It doesn’t change who you are as a person. You have the right to dress up, apply make-up, go out and have fun even if your face has a few yellow pimples or is red and blotchy. Don’t let skin come in the way of life. Acne can be fixed. You can stop acne from coming back but you can’t stop time. Maybe I wasn’t the best I could be because just when I thought I was invincible, I’d see my reflection somewhere. But in all honesty, I didn’t let it come in the way of having fun. And I was lucky there weren’t smart phones at that time (yes, I am that ancient!) - it’s always so easy to dispose off physical photographs!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Post # 13 - Memories I

Often times memories pop up in my mind. These days I’m thinking a lot about the Ramzans I’ve spent. Especially when I moved to Karachi for IBA and we had such a lot of fun in Ramzan at Nano’s place. Everyone used to be there. Often we had Khala’s entire family over for Iftar. That was the time when Sherbano and I were on talking terms. I don’t know what  has happened there. But that is another story.

Nano used to drink her own special 'podina paani' (mint water). She didn’t have the ‘laal sherbat’ like the rest of us. The tea used to be made in this ginormous metal tea pot and I often had the duty of making and serving the tea. The dining room used to be full of laughter and loud talking and just plain good family cheer. I miss that so much. The house is so quiet now. It’s as if it, too, has aged. As if it knows that very soon it will not be a part of our lives. That when my grandparents leave us, the house will sever its bond with us too.

It’s the only house I’ve known since childhood. I was three or four years old when it was completed. Being in the army meant that we never had a permanent address. And whenever we had to fill a form or write down a permanent address, we used to write D-16/1, Block 17, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi. One day this address will cease to exist for me. It will belong to someone else. 

How does one say goodbye to a house? I’ve said goodbye to many houses over the course of my life so I should know but this house is full of so much love. Of so many memories. Of so many people. Unlike the other houses which we’ve lived in over the years, this particular house was built by my grandparents for their family. And it really hurts to think that one day, which I’m afraid will be very soon, this house will get erased from my life. And I’ll be left with just memories. 

What I regret the most is not recording enough of the house. I had plans of taking pictures of the house during different times of the day. Of the white spiral staircase or the light streaming in through the big entrance window into the hall downstairs. Or of the full length mirror in my grandparents’ room where my Nani and mother and aunt would drape their saris. Or of the dark green carpet in the lounge and the Chinese lanterns in the dining room. 

Even though the house may have changed in appearance and outlook, the address remains the same. My grandparents still live there and I’m still their baby. And no matter what happens to that house in the future, the address will forever remain etched in my heart. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Post # 12 - Ramzan, Ramadhan - the debate continues

The very first roza of 2019 was pretty uneventful for me as I was not fasting. Woke up at sehri with the worst possible sore throat. Even swallowing my saliva hurt so I decided to not fast and thus spent the entire day sipping hot water with honey and doing gargles. 

A few years back, maybe six, I woke up on the first day of Ramzan feeling really low. I felt useless. I wasn't working and what was worse, I wasn't writing at all (I hadn't become a part of DWL at that time). Let's just say I felt like shit as I stood in front of the cupboard, trying to decide whether to wear my diamond ring or not.

When I say diamond ring, please don't get carried away with thoughts of opulent diamonds set around a solitaire. Let's just leave it at a small diamond ring and continue with the story. I slipped on the ring and drove out to do some errands starting with a visit to the tailor. 

It was a little early in the day, maybe around 11ish. As I stood talking to my tailor about something, I saw a motorcycle stop in front of the shop and a bulky looking man got off. I didn't think much of it as there was a motor mechanic shop next door and obviously I assumed he was going there. But apparently, that wasn't where he was going. Entering the shop calmly, he showed us a gun and well, asked us for our valuables. 

I hadn't got much cash on me and though he tried to take my wallet, I refused to give it to him. I carried a rather ordinary mobile phone at that time which, of course, he took. My tailor gave him some cash. And then, he asked for my ring. I resisted first. I pretended it wasn't coming off but he waved the gun menacingly and there was nothing I could do. 

I still remember how my tailor and myself stood in shock for a little while. Not just at what had happened but how smoothly it all had happened. Even his workers sitting upstairs  hadn't realized there was drama unfolding downstairs. 

The funny thing is that just before going to my tailor's shop, I was thinking of making a stop over at a grocery store nearby. Had I done that, I'd have missed the mugger. But sometimes it's the little decisions we make that kind of intersect with the path of others and lead to certain consequences. 

Coincidentally, I went to the same tailor at the same shop yesterday, first of Ramzan. And yes, I haven't changed my tailor. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a good tailor in this day and age? You find one - you stick with him! Anyways, I mentioned the incident to him and he said, 'Even I was thinking about it today when I opened the shop.' 

Isn't it weird and funny how we share some moments of our life with people who aren't even very close to us? That was the first time both of us had got mugged and it's a memory we'll have forever. Not that my tailor gave me any discounts after sharing the trauma of being mugged. 

Do you have some sort of memory/incident associated with first of Ramzan? Or Ramadhan? Or whatever and however you refer to this month of fasting, feasting and everything else in between. Happy fasting! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Post # 11 - let's talk about london

Disclaimer: I love my kids. Very much. However, this blog post contains true and very tough details about travelling with toddlers. Also has some tips which might make parents of toddlers rethink their summer travel plans.

Where do I begin? Let's begin with hopeful starts. Even though our flight to Dubai was delayed by an hour which meant that a) the routine of the twins got messed up and b) we had very little transit time at Dubai airport, hubby dear and I were confident and positive that we'll get through it all smoothly. We also had help from a friend, Aziz Sohail, who sat with us through the delay at the lounge and let me tell you, friend or no friend, it's no fun to be with someone who has two unhappy toddlers. He also gave up his seat for us so Adnan and I could sit together because with twins, you need both parents on the spot. Team work is what gets you through. A big shout out to him for being there for us when we were showing signs of breaking down. 

Tip#1: Don't be shy in taking help whenever and wherever it's offered to you when travelling with toddlers. 

The thing about toddlers is that no matter how 'prepared' you are, you're never really prepared. I had bought harnesses for both Z and N and I was sure that with the twins attached to the harnesses, we'll navigate our way through the madness of the airport. But toddlers have a mind of their own and since they can't speak to show their displeasure, they use the rest of their body. As soon as we walked out of the plane at the Dubai airport, Z and N wanted to run and explore. So you can imagine how they reacted when we tried to put the harness around them. N went into a screaming fit and Z lay down on the floor and did the whole legs raised, arms thrashing, toddler tantrum routine.  And that too outside the corridor leading to the bathrooms. As hubby dear and myself tried to calm down the twins and stuff them into the airport prams, a sea of people was going around us, probably tut-tutting. 

Tip#2: Leave your ego and your self-esteem in a water tight container at home when travelling with toddlers.

Nobody wants to be around babies in an airplane. When I didn't have kids it was a huge disappointment to find my seat next to or even near one. But I used to swallow my pain and raise the volume of the film to maximum when the child started screaming. The people around us were quite nice and nobody complained when the twins occasionally cried (which came as a huge surprise for us after the tantrum at the airport). However, there was a British Witch sitting in front of us who didn't hide her displeasure and kept giving us looks. What did we do? Gave her looks too and in my case, cursed her with abandon in Urdu.

Tip#3: Don't bother about others in the airplane if you're with toddlers who aren't even raising much of a ruckus. You won't see those people again.

How do you spend a vacation in London when you have twins in tow? Well, you just make the best of it. Don't put places like museums and theatre shows in your places-to-go and things-to-do list. Just add parks to the list and make sure you tire them out enough so that they sleep in the pram. Because that's the only time they'll willingly be in the pram! Plan your activities around their nap or at least try. We've been to London twice in the past two years so it wasn't such a disappointment for us.

Tip#4: Don't go exploring new places with toddlers. 

It sounds like a catastrophic holiday but honestly, it wasn't all doom and gloom. Yes, it was tough managing Z and N everyday. In the middle of fevers, upset tummies and tantrums, we also managed to squeeze in laughter, smiles and many hugs. It was lovely going with them to places where I had gone while pregnant. But if I had the chance to take this same trip again would I take them along?


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Post # 10 - 3,650 days of married life

We are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary today. A decade of togetherness - of love, laughter, tears, immense joy, some sadness and lots of good times. What have I learnt from ten years of married life? 

 - Nothing is perfect in this world so don’t look for perfection in your marriage. Let it be a happy and safe space for you both. 

-  Accept your spouse as he/she is, not as you’ll like them to be. If you’re supportive of him/her, the changes will come automatically. Good changes, that is.

- Criticism is the death of a marriage. So is nagging. Avoid both like the plague. Trust me on this.

- Don’t compare your marriage or your spouse to others. Just don’t. Your bond is unique and special. Celebrate it. 

- Ego is a three letter word that creates such strong walls between husband and wife that sometimes it becomes impossible to break them. Avoid letting it come between you and him/her.

- Respect. You lose that for your spouse, your marriage is over. 

- Learn to let go. There are so many little things we get upset over and that blow up into big issues. Before you start screaming at your spouse for leaving the towel on the bathroom floor or of having makeup cover every inch of the dressing table, think of your own self. Do you not make mistakes too? Take a deep breath and move on. There are bigger battles to pick out there in the world. Don’t engage in war over petty matters at home. 

- Enjoy the little things. As time goes on and responsibilities pile up, the little things help to keep the bond strong and the relationship fresh. 

- Be grateful for being in a happy, strong, uncomplicated marriage. 

I leave you with my favourite quote on marriage from the film, Shall We Dance? 

“All these promises that we make and break, why is it do you think that people get married? Because, we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet..I mean what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage you’re promising to care about everything; the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things. All of it, all the time, everyday. You’re saying your life will not go un-noticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness”. 

Happy Anniversary to Us!