Saturday, November 15, 2008

Three cheers for me

I once wrote in by blog about the joys of doing something for the first time.

Well… there has been another first time to for me.


Ok, I admit that the pool isn’t huge, but it isn’t tiny either and I know for those of you who are enthusiastic swimmers this is no big achievement. Countless have managed a hundred lengths probably hundreds of time in their life. But like I mentioned in my old blog, it is not the event or the act itself which excites me so much. It is the fact that I managed to do it for the first time in my life. Next time I do it I will probably be as casual about it as the human fish swimming along side me in the pool who completes a century every single day.

But until then let me bask in the glory of self accomplishment

Monday, September 8, 2008

Bubble Trouble

Up till two months ago my son was a fairly regular visitor to the community pool managing a decent number of laps in an hour or so. If he ever swam too vigorously and became out of breath he would counter that problem by blowing bubbles under water: A technique to control breathing that was taught to him by his old swimming coach.
One day, after a few energetic lengths he decided to apply this technique before resuming his strokes. Not far from him, lounging in one of the shallow corners of the pool, a middle aged gentleman was resting with his back to the wall and arms spread eagle like on the support pipe running along the sides of the pool. As my son proceeded to release the air from his mouth he glanced sideways, towards the submerged lower half of the man and saw similar bubbles coming out of his ....... ahem ........ swimming trunks. Apparently the man was also getting rid of some air but very obviously from the wrong end.
Totally taken aback by this unseemly act and shocked at the man’s disrespect for propriety in a public place, my son did the only thing he could. He swam as hard as he could and ended up at the far side of the pool at a speed that may have matched Phelps’ performance at Beijing. For the next twenty minutes or so my son played the self invented game of “let’s put as much distance between myself and that infernal bubble machine”, by swimming to the other side of the pool every time he saw that man heading towards his end.
Well, to cut the long story short, that was the last time my boy visited the community pool. And since summer is coming to an end, it is hardly likely that he will go back there again this year. I am hoping that by next summer the memory of the bubble blowing rear end of that idiot would have faded enough for me to persuade him to resume his aquatic activities once again.
But honestly,
The things people do when they think no one is watching.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

11 June

They say that those whom God loves die young.

The only problem is that those who are usually loved by God are also loved by us.

Naveed was one such person.

It was impossible not to love him for those who knew him.
It has been five years to the date since he left us for heavenly abode. He is in a better place but that does not stop us missing him even today.
Life goes on regardless of who leaves and who stays back. The last five years bear evidence of that.

Bounded by our mortal limitations there is not much we can do for Naveed or any of those who have reached there final destination. What we can do however, is take a moment out of our busy schedules today and offer a little prayer to remember the man who meant so much to us.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A healthy doze of discipline

The family and I went to see a stage play couple of days ago. The play was ok, well rehearsed enough to be entertaining. Though personally I think the director’s heart to heart with the audience in the beginning and during curtain call was much more amusing than the show itself but still, I have no complaints. It was time well spent.
But that is not why I am mentioning it in my blog. Reason I am writing about it is because of something the management said and did.
The management had said that the doors will close at 8:30 sharp.
Late comers will not be admitted.
And to my surprise they did exactly that.
I know this “starting events on time" may be taken for granted in some places but in Pakistan very few have the guts to actually do it. So hats of to "Shah Sharabeel" and the “Bombay Dreams” team for meaning what they said.
I think it is about time we Pakistanis were given a few more of these much needed healthy dozes of discipline.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Happy Birthday

It was my daughter’s birthday on the 29th of March. She turned five that day.
It was a much anticipated event, especially for my little one.
Ever since the beginning of the year she had started asking about it.
“It is going to be in March dear”.
I kept telling her but that did not make things any clearer for a kid who only knows months by their names and has no idea about their duration.
With March came new batch of inquiries.
If March had arrived, why hadn’t her birthday?
“Because it is at the end of March, Sweet heart”
“How long till than?” Was the next inevitable question.
“About four weeks from now”
“Which day”?
I did some quick calculations (and also sneaked a peek at the calendar hanging on the wall) then replied confidently
Fortunately, days of the week, she does know and has a pretty good idea how long a week takes to go by. But that did not mean she was going to make my life easier by understanding immediately.
“This Saturday?”
“No no.” I said alarmed. If she is not corrected, I thought, a massive tantrum would erupt on the coming weekend when an expectant little lady discovers that she has pinned her hopes on the wrong day.
“Then when?” She asked with a pout.
“Er……. It will be on the next to next to next to next Saturday.”
So much for trying to make it clearer. I actually ended up confusing myself with my own reply.
One week later
“How long now?” she asked.
“Next to next to next Saturday”
Two weeks later
“This Saturday, mama?”
“No next to this one” said I.
Finally, third week into March, she lost her patience.
“You keep saying next next next every week. My birthday never comes.” Exhausted with waiting for ever, the poor thing wailed aloud.
“That is not fair darling. Each week there is one less next” (like a third rate reality show with weekly elimination).
But she was in no mood to pay attention to such wearisome details.
So I said the only thing that could cheer her up. The one thing she had been longing to hear all this time.
“Hey guess what. No more nexts. It’s going to be on this Saturday, your birthday is here.”
It turned out that she had two birthdays instead of one. Since Saturday was a school holiday, so we sent the cake and goody bags for her friends to school on Friday where she celebrated a bonus birthday party amidst all her classmates.
As for Saturday, we invited all the family and went out to a popular pizza joint for her birthday where we promptly got into a heated argument with the management because they had neither remembered to decorate the birthday area as per instructions nor kept our reserved seats vacant for us. Fortunately, we had arrived earlier than every body else so we managed to sort everything out before the guests arrived.
It was a fun event. At least I thought so. My baby later confessed that she had enjoyed her school party more then the one she had with the family.
So much for all the trouble we went to.
This just goes to show that it is irrelevant to children how much you have spent to make their day special. All they need is friendship and love to make them happy.
Although we could not invite any of her school friends to the evening party but there was no shortage of love. So all in all, she was not too disappointed.
Besides, the generous gifts form various uncles, aunts and cousins went a long way in making up for what ever was lacking.
In the end it turned out to be a beautiful day, made even more wonderful by the ecstatic expression on my child’s face.
Late at night, tired to the bone, but happy that the much awaited day was finally over, I was heading of to bed when my daughter’s voice reached my ears, completely shattering my peace of mind.
"Mama, when is my next birthday going to be ???????”

Friday, March 21, 2008

Woh Nabioon Main Rehmat Laqab Paney Wala

It is 12 Rabi ul Awal today, the birthday of the Holy prophet Hazrat Mohammad (S.A.W) .
Ever since leaving school, the only way I get to know about it being the 12th of Rabi ul Awal is through the national holiday declared on the day by the government or by looking at the road side buildings that are beautifully decorated with light especially for the occasion (though in times of severe power shortage I have serious doubts if that will happen tonight).

A horrible thought just crossed my mind. What if I lived in a non Muslim state where none of these things happened, would that mean that Eid e Milad un Nabi would come and go without my even being aware of it ???????

I most certainly hope not.

Back in my school days, Eid e Milad un Nabi used to be celebrated with fervor. There would be naat recitations and stories from prophet’s life recounted, but the best part would be the arrangements, which were totally different from arrangements for any other school function.
Firstly there would be chandinis (white sheets) covering the floor, with a few randomly placed Gow takias (round cushions) for leaning against (those came in real handy if the function took a little longer than anticipated to come to an end). Then there would be agar battis (essence sticks) placed in the centre. (There were so many creative things we would come up with in placing the agarbattis, like sticking the ends of sticks in bowls full of white flour to make it look like a bouquet. The only thing missing would be the blossoming flowers on the tips).
When the function commenced we would patrol the sides sprinkling rose water on the respected guests (who were mostly mothers of the students) sitting on the chandini covered floors. There would be self competitions to see how far we could fling the rose water from our hand held sprinklers so that it reached even the most centrally seated visitors.
And oh boy did we fling those droplets far and wide. Our swings would have put any grand slam tennis champion to shame.
But that is all in the past now, at least for me. Kids celebrated their function in school yesterday, a day earlier, so that they could enjoy the public holiday declared today.
Everything is the same as it is every year.
Then why the sudden nostalgia after all this time?
Actually it is not nostalgia; it is more of a remorse, triggered by a phone call my ten year old daughter got this morning. One of her friends invited her to a Mehfil e Milad celebration being held at her place.
It made me think.......
We celebrate so many events; Anniversaries, Birthdays, Get togethers e.t.c. why not Eid e Milad un Nabi?
Just because school is over, does not mean Eid Milad un Nabi celebrations have to be over with it.
I think for at least one day in a year we should not hesitate to show our love and appreciation for the man who has made our lives so meaningful.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Exploring Lahore

Recipe for a perfect Sunday

· Picnic basket full of delicacies
· Kids and rest of family in car
· Drive off to some place for a few carefree hours under the sun

My preference is usually some historic site while kids prefer wide open spaces where they can play. Thanks to the Mughals who made sprawling lawns an essential part of their architecture, finding “some place” that satisfies all parties is usually not a problem.
A couple of weeks ago the site of excursion was the Jahangir’s Tomb, the fourth king of the Mughal dynasty which ruled sub continent for over three hundred years.
The tomb was nothing more, nothing less than what I had expected. There have been some attempts to restore its crumbling facade but true to Pakistani standards all superficial and inadequate. Still it was better than most historic sites I had seen so far.
The only truly magnificent things over there were the trees in the surrounding gardens. Huge and towering they looked almost as old as the tomb itself. (Some of them were so wide at the base that it took a while going around them.)
Right next to Jahangir’ tomb is the tomb of Asif Khan, his brother in law. Although I don’t think Asif Khan earned this place of honor by being the brother of Jahangir’s favorite wife. It was probably because he was father of the next queen, the legendary Mumtaz Mahal, who’s last resting place is none other than the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra.
Asif Khan put his own life at risk attempting to put his son in law, Shah Jahan on the throne. It is ironic therefore that he is made to lie next to the very king he sided against in the battle for the throne.
Speaking of Asif Khan’s burial chamber, what once must have been a simple yet respectable looking grave of an influential minister is now in a deplorable condition.

“It looks as if someone has smeared cow dung on top of it”.
This was my son’s first reaction to it. A harsh remark but nonetheless one that described the tomb’s outlook perfectly.
Ok! so may be Asif Khan managed to get himself buried in prime location , right next to a powerful emperor, but he was no emperor himself and that fact is evident by just looking at his tomb. Even the relevant authorities seem to have neglected him. From the looks of it, his tomb has not been a subject of even those shallow attempts of restoration that the tombs of his brother in law and sister on either side of him have undergone in the past.
Ironically the worst of the lot is Nur Jehan‘s mausoleum.
The queen, who during her life was famous for her aesthetic sense and refined taste is made to lie in isolation in depressing surroundings.
What once must have been one large enclosure is now divided into two parts with a busy road and railway track in between, putting Jahangir and Asif Kahn’s tomb on one side and the Empress Nur Jehan (Jahangir’s consort) on the other. Hence the inseparable in life got separated after death because of commutation problems of a growing city.
The atmosphere of peace and serenity, that still surrounds the tombs of Jahangir and Asif Khan, is sorely missing around Nur Jehan’s grave. Due to the absence of an encircling boundary wall the tomb is exposed to the noise and sight of bustling traffic on three sides (not to mention a speeding locomotive that passes by it every few minutes or so) and a jungle of wires and poles (probably a power station) on the remianing side, it does not look like anyone’s last resting place at all, let alone a woman’s who was once the most powerful lady in the subcontinent.
The part kids liked best was when we descending into the tomb of the dead queen.

(Sigh …. What do you do when one of you child takes exactly after you. It is like all your annoying habits thrown right back at you. My ten year old daughter’s zest for discovery has her climbing atop every minaret and peeping behind every corner. Normally I would not be irritated but doing all this while dragging an energetic five year old along whose chief interest in life so far is being naughty, is not something I look forward to.)

The underground passage that once must have been well lighted and well ventilated is in pitch darkness now. The candles lighted by the guard only succeeded in making it eerie instead of any brighter. A couple of small air ventilators that diagonally traveled upwards till reaching ground level were the only visibly unblocked ones remaining now.
I had heard that Nur Jehan’s coffin used to hang from the ceiling. This fact was confirmed by the guard at her tomb. According to him, this was her punishment for opposing Shah Jehan’s ascesion to the throne.
As Nur Jehan lived a comfortable, though reclusive life during the reign of Shah Jehan, it seems improbable that he would contrive to torture her so after death.
The kids were disappointed. A trip to the dark underground burial chamber was obviously not fascinating enough with out the queen hanging in mid air.
Apparently at some point in history someone took pity on her, took her sarcophagus down and buried her underneath the very spot she used to hover above.
Now that she was no longer there, the notion of her ever having dangled from the ceiling at all seemed ridiculously unacceptable.
The mausoleum on the top shows two symbolic graves, one of the empress Nur Jehan and the other of her daughter Ladli Begum but the rectangular markings on ground ( in the actual burial chamber) show the outline of only one grave, that of Nur Jehan , where is, Ladli Begum buried then?
This was the query put to me by my ever inquisitive children.
Hmmm, good question.
“When Nur Jehan’s coffin hung from the ceiling, was Ladli Begum made to hang with her as well ?”
“Or were they put in the same coffin and hung together ?”
Wow, hold your horses you lot. I haven’t figured out the answer to the first question yet”, I said
A valid point nonetheless.
If the daughter is indeed buried alongside her mother, there is no visible evidence of it under the ground. It seems that Ladli Begum was not considered important enough for anyone to even mark a rectangular outline around her decayed earthly shell.
Nur Jehan’s mausoleum was the last place we visited that day. The sun had gone down by the time we got back home. It turned out to be quite and eventful day. Interesting and enjoyable. But it was not wandering around old mausoleums, descending into underground crypts or even that energetic game of football in princely gardens that made it either interesting or enjoyable.
It was the fact that we spent it all together
That is what I think really made our Sunday perfect.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Great Escape

How do you feel when you help build your first snow man or get into your first snow ball fight past the age of thirty?
You feel exactly the same as you would have felt if you were eight years old.

This is something I discovered only a couple of days ago when the family went to spend the weekend at a hill station.
To be honest it was not the snow ball fight or even the snow man that elated me. It was the thrill of doing something that I had never done before.
I seem to remember a commercial (though I can’t recall what was being promoted) that asked viewers,
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
I had always been dismayed to note that my last time was too long ago. So long ago that I could barely recall the when and what parts of it. Life had settled into a boring routine where you keep on repeating the same actions and activities day after day.
But this week end all that changed.

I did a number of things that I had never done before. Even if that was walking in freezing temperature at 1:00 AM in the morning, just to find out how magnificent the dark deserted road edged with a thick snowy border looked like under the stars.
Despite the bitter cold there was some magic present that kept me and my niece from returning to the warmth of our beds inside. (If the sentry, at the military check post that we passed by, thought of us as two demented females who had lost there minds to be out walking at that hour he was too polite to voice his opinion).

I had never realized before how mesmerizing and beautiful a patch of virgin snow could be, unblemished by human footprints the snow lay smooth and silken to look at. Only God could have sprinkled with such perfection.

Whether it was the absence of honking horns and traffic noise, the old architecture of the army house we stayed in or the fast pace of our lives which had suddenly decelerated for the weekend that made me feel as if I had gone back in time, I will never know . But I felt as if I was transported to a colonial period described in one of the epic novels that I am so fond of reading.
Well what ever it was, I had a great weekend and if I am not mistaken, so did the rest of the family.
I think there should be frequent first times in every ones life.