Friday, December 13, 2013

Pretty Young Thing?

You are a beauty with brains. The magnificence of your mind complements the wisdom of your words and the luster of your looks.

But THEY will love you for your pretty face - ONLY.

At first you dismiss the admiration as superficial and insist that you be heard instead instead of being scanned and seen. But that doesn't ever  happen.

Your dazzling smile, your flattering dresses, your flawless make up outdo your wit, humor and speech before the masses. You are attended well to by sales persons, given favors by people of power, photographed more and proposed by rich men.

With time you start enjoying the attention. In fact, you feed on it. It becomes part of your identity.

Your brain gets consumed by the high.

Two decades later your pretty face wrinkles. Your smile is flanked by laugh lines, your dresses no more flatter you and make up feels heavy. The crown of thick hair that earlier adorned your head turns gray.

You panic.

You pay a dozen visits to the best parlors, dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Botox stretches your skin tight, a lip filler makes your pout perky and a surgery rids growing eye bags. Five years later, you get a neck lift, an eye brow lift and a nose job to 'correct' what age did to you. And then...

You Realize ...

All these attempts reveal what you try to conceal. They scream out to the world that you lost your greatest asset - your youth, your looks, your charms -  your competitive edge. You can by no means compete with the new entrants in the market. You are obsolete, useless. You no more serve your purpose - pleasing the eyes. And then ...

You Reflect.

What happened? How did you end up here?

You realize you fed on what was so temporary, so artificial and something you had for no credit of your own. You had intellectual, moral, religious and other charms too. But somehow you ended up spending resources (time, money, etc) on appearance way out of proportion.

And there is a cost you pay in the end. And the cost is your life, your identity.

You were a beauty with brains. You were a beauty with morality. You were a beauty with religion.
Oh girl, your beauty was IN your brains, morality and religion.

Your beauty was not what the fashionistas dictated. Your beauty was not about how you had the perfect hour glass shape in the 70s and the 'twiggy' anorexic body in the 2000s. Your beauty was not about having permed hair in the 80s and sleek rebonded hair early in the second millennium. Beauty was not about changing your wardrobe four times a year with every coming season.

Your beauty was in your head, on your tongue and in your actions. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 Things I Miss about Karachi

It’s been over six months since I’ve been living outside my homeland i.e. Pakistan and I occasionally am asked, ‘Do you miss Karachi?’

At first I wonder what the person means by Karachi. These days the very word Karachi sketches an utterly grim picture in one’s mind – sacks filled with dead bodies, corpses hanging by bridges, labor starving because of frequent strikes, etc. But then giving my perception benefit of the doubt, I re-think the question.
Of course I miss Karachi, or more appropriately put, the things that make Karachi feel home! So what Are these things?

1.       People – This is an absolute no brainer but it has to be said. Home is where heart is. Heart is where love is. Love is where my beloveds are. And my beloveds include my mom, brothers, grandparents, aunts, cousins, nieces and friends – all of who happen to be in Karachi, so hell YES I miss Karachi because I miss them.
May Allah reward the creators of the internet and Skype and every medium of long distance communication. Skype is such a fantastic remedy to homesickness that I could write 10 blog posts in praise of it. Hearing your 20 months old niece sweetly chirp ‘Khalaaaa’ months after you left her in Karachi is sheer bliss.

Food  - Some of the people I love cook food I love. My nani’s pasandays and kabaabs, my mom’s dozen recipes, my aunt’s desserts and my super talented cousin brother’s sandwiches! (YES, boys make sandwiches too :P). Nothing can beat these. Plus, food from local eateries in Karachi such as Hanif Rajput’s biryani, Hot n Roll’s ahmaazzinggg rolls, Aga Juice’s falooda, PG (Karachi University)’s chaat, etc. are things whose very thought gets me drooling.

Interestingly, I’ve observed, the ingredients there are also so much better than those in Dubai veg, non-veg and everything in between. It’s probably got to do with the freshness factor.

Holidays – I absolutely condemn, detest and *add relevant synonyms* uncalled for holidays in Karachi due to strikes, unnecessary commemoration of the deaths/births/wedding anniversaries of figures of little insignificance and other ridiculous reasons. In recent months these city-shutdowns became as frequent as thrice a week resulting in severe economic loss of the city and the starvation of thousands of poor families.

However, I will honestly and guiltily admit that I miss the uncertainty of Karachi. Imagine going to bed late on a Sunday night, scrolling through text messages on your phone and finding out that Voldemort Avadacadavra-ed the bitterly hated Mr. Monday! Ah, nothing like it.

Weather – I am not a morning person but I do find mornings beautiful. And Fajr time in Karachi is just heavenly. Right half an hour before Fajr, the chirping of the birds, the especially cool breeze in the air and this specific fresh fragrance about the place is sheer bliss.

Also, no matter how hot and sweaty afternoons are, evenings in Karachi are almost always drastically cooler and breezy. This I miss, since I live in a city which is essentially a desert and live by the air conditioner which keeps my room constantly at 18 degrees centigrade.

Places – Of course, I also miss certain physical things and places in Karachi. First and absolutely the most missed place by me is my living room’s sofa. What would I not give to sit/lie/lounge on it while reading a book, having a meal at 3 am or simply pondering over the great mysteries of life! Other places include my grandparent’s home that had been my very own half of my time in Karachi, my neighborhood, IBA and a few others.

There are of course many other reasons that make Karachi miss-able but these reasons made it to the top of my list. Forgive me for not praising the city for reasons close to your heart because it is past four in the morning here and whatever I have managed to write with droopy eyelids is quite an achievement!

Friday, November 22, 2013

How Hijab Came to my Family

20 years back there was no female in my paternal or maternal family who covered her head with a scarf or dupatta. Not even my grandmother who wore sleeveless blouses in her youth. I can use this fact to elaborate on how ‘liberal’ my family is as well how ‘ignorant’ it was about the particular concept of hijab in Islam.

Interesting how something can be perceived by one man as liberty and the other as ignorance. Anyway, moving on…

How it Started – Back in 1998, my closest cousin, Kiran, moved to UK for her higher studies at the age of 18. When she came back to Pakistan, the family was inquisitive about the head scarf she wore everywhere she went on top of her jeans and tops. Her mom too, after a few months, followed suit. When questioned, they explained the importance of covering up satar in the light of the Quraan and ahadith. This was in 1999, when I was 10. And this is when I, my mom and my grandmother realized how wrong it was not to cover up.

For a few years we didn’t copy them, but we did respect their hijabs. A couple of years later, my mom started going to the market with her head covered. As a pre-teen, I watched and things started seeping in.

The Pushing – Even though I was indifferent to or perhaps even liked the hijab, I never thought  of adopting it. After all I was just 12. Also I was not to be pushed into it. Once, my granny asked me to put a dupatta on my head because we were to meet a religious person. I scrunched up my nose and refused. No one tells me what to do with my clothes. Though later I had to put it on with a sullen face.

But I was never pushed into anything luckily permanently. The only requirement set by my dad was ‘modest’ clothing i.e. wearing loose clothes. So until today most of my time at home got spent wearing loose tops and jeans/pjs/pants. They are way more modest than fitted kameezes with dupattas left behind on the iron stand.

2005 – At the end of grade 10, I came to terms with the practice and decided that I would cover my head in a consistent fashion. The scariest part was speculating my mom’s reaction who did not cover up at family gatherings and weddings. But mashaAllah, when she found out, she encouraged me and stood up for me. Very soon, I saw her covering up at events too, mashaAllah. And since, then the scarf/dupatta/chadar has never left my head even inside my house in the presence of na-mehrams.

2006 – I guess, this is the year when it happened. My grandmother stopped wearing saris, something she wore all her life as a primary dressing, and switched to wearing kameezes to ensure that her belly wasn’t showing.

2010 – My only paternal uncle’s daughter, Hana, started practicing hijab too. Born and brought up in London, she could’ve gone either ways. But I think it was the sort of community in East London and my uncle’s religious nature that contributed to her choice. Alhamdulillah, her two teenaged sisters too are gradually coming to hijab and her mom followed suit too.

This is also the year when I started wearing an abaya – something no cousin or aunt of mine carries, unfortunately.

2012 – Another khala’s two daughters, now 16 and 17, seeing me and my elder cousin, Kiran, have now started doing hijab too at family events.

A summary: I have a total of 12 female cousins, 6 hijabis and 6 non-hijabis. All non hijabis but one live in the West.

Interestingly in all cases, the daughters started taking the hijab first and their mothers followed suit soon.
The criticism – No matter what you do, you can never please everyone. There are relatives who support the hijab, there are the indifferent ones and of course there are the critics too. My mom’s 65 year old aunt, who’s a Ph.D and a professor at Karachi University commented on how my hijab was extreme. And I don’t blame the lady. After six decades of her life, watching girls dress up like fire crackers at weddings, she must have naturally felt put off by my loose pistachio colored abaya. Understandable. Even for relatives who support the headscarf, abaya is something that is taking time to get swallowed.

And the criticism goes equally for the young men in the family who have adopted religious values and sported beards. (Point: my family isn’t sexist :P)

In the end, what does matter is the growing tolerance towards the very concept of women complying with the Islamic hijab. With a little acceptance of the elders, who have already lived out most of their lives, the younger generation has a long way to go in terms of changing the socio-cultural landscape.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Soft Brown Earth

Alright, my last blog post said I'd be blogging about how ''A cheesecake made my day''. But even before I could revive my memory of cheesecakes and ecstasy, I happened to produce the random-est poem I have ever come up with - in five minutes. And here it is now, chilling on my blog.

Cheers ^_^

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Turn in Life - Turn in Blogging!

Okay. I have been so lazy with this blog that it is almost … lazy? :P Too lazy to even think of a synonym for lazy, hah!

I guess the lazy blogger syndrome comes from the fact that my lifestyle has taken a turn. And the things I have been blogging about such as religion, politics, life, etc. though still relevant, don’t occupy my head as much as they used to before. Thanks to things that take up most of my time these days – work, travelling and going out.

So why not blog about things that I am actually doing – a little bit of shopping, eating, going out, etc. The little delights of a very ordinary person, delights that make life good. Life in Dubai. Life of a single girl living alone in this city extraordinaire.

Next blog post: How a Cheesecake Made My Day.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Heart : A Peephole to Your Future

Ever dreamt a dream that was all about things you were going through? And the fears, joys, tension, hopes, etc. of your real life, all followed you in that dream?

Our dreams are like a mirror to our real life. They tell us what awaits us when we wake up.
Similarly, this world is a Dream too. And somehow it is a clear mirror of what awaits us when we will wake up on the Day of Judgement. So what is it exactly that indicates what awaits us on the Big day?

Our heart.

Here is what Allah has to say:

“It is He who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers that they would increase in faith along with their [present] faith. And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth, and ever is Allah Knowing and Wise.”

Surah Fath - (48:4)

The pious, the blessed ones, the ones loved by Allah are bestowed upon by golden gift of Faith. And the verse clearly says that those with Faith have hearts filled with tranquility. This tranquility further strengthens Faith.

SubhanAllah! Such are the hearts of those who will be among the successful ones on the Day of Judgement.

To get an idea of what awaits us in the future, let's ask : does my heart feel tranquil? Does it feel tranquil in sadness? Forget sadness, does it even flow with peace when I am doing the happiest of activities such as dining out, shopping or talking to a friend? Is the peace we feel even a shadow of the sort of peace that Allah bestows upon His loved ones?

The answer certainly determines what awaits us in the future.
The rest, I shall leave on the All-knowing and Wise who is also very Merciful.