Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mommy Moments

I was home-locked for a few weeks as I managed to fracture my foot over the Canadian thanksgiving long weekend. More on that later.
I decided to make the most of these days by de-cluttering the house. Every day started with a new project and I was so happy with the end results I could stare at my perfect closets for hours.
Ofcourse after all this effort I have become quite an organization-Nazi and on everyone's case to put things in their right place.
So yesterday my heart glowed with joy as my 24-month-old picked her boots and wanted to put them in the coat closet. I opened the door with much grandeur, only to see her toss them in recklessly (just like her dad may I add) #mommyfail

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Maths 101 for Parents

Some Equations only make sense when you become a parent:

Time  = (Chores)  + (Toddler) x 1000

Grocery - Toddler = Fun

Sugar in the afternoon = 1/ (baby bed time)

Toddlers's Energy Levels >> Parent's Patience Levels

Toddler's preferred time in the park --> infinity

Algebra used to be one of my favourite subjects (yes, I am a nerd). Should brush up my skills and try and create new equations!

So do you have an equation that relates your latest parenting dilemma?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Remembering Ejaz Bhai

Today was one of those days when you just wake up sad. July 11, 1999, was a tragic day for our entire family when we lost Dr. Ejaz Haider: a son, father, husband, brother, friend and mentor.

Ejaz Bhai was a lot of things to a lot of people. He was brilliant in his professional life,  compassionate in all his human interactions and a role-model for a lot of us. What do you call a person like him: Perfect. A likeable perfect.

I was still a gawky teenager when we lost him but the lessons I learnt from him still shape my behaviour. He was an amazing listener, with insightful guiding questions. He taught me the importance of role-models for younger people in the family. Whenever I take time to talk to the younger lot, ask them how they are doing, what they are reading, what recently inspired them, how they view the world it's only because I know Ejaz bhai would have done it if he was in the same room.

Our lives would all have been very different if he was still alive. Last year when we were talking about him on the same date (on email of course, everyone being so globally spread now) my father said that we should all continue to talk about Ejaz, so that he stays alive and we can pass on his personality to all the younger kids in the family who now only see his pictures on the wall. I agree. Maybe I should dig out baba's email and post it here.

So what was your favourite memory of Ejaz Bhai?

Life as in Islamabad (2007)

Published June 5, 2007

Background: This is an old piece published in 2007 when I was working and living (it up) in Islamabad. I had just returned home after a work-related conference in Orlando, Florida. Through this article I was trying to capture my average weekend in Islamabad. Things were quite exciting in the city in those days: Chicks with Sticks refers to the Jamia Hafsa gals trying to stir things upno one took them seriouslyand the city was expanding its road system to handle the thousands of cars thanks to easy car leasing. Islamabad was growing and expanding. I do feel slightly envious as I compare my weekends in 2007 in Islamabad to the ones in 2012 in Calgary but hey no complaints!

If you are wondering why I am posting old stuff: Magic of the Printed Word

Life as in Islamabad

As I returned to the Land of the Pure and Islamabad the Beautiful, things were pretty much the same as I had left them: roads were all dug up, the traffic police was smiling even in the heatmaking you wonder what they were high on and the chicks with sticks continued to stir things up. 

I had decided to wear a kamiz shalwar (traditional Pakistani dress) on the flight back from the US in a curiosity to observe how I would be treated traveling from half way around the world. While there wasn’t much difference in how I was looked at, talked to or the food I was served except for the one time I was called to explain to an elephant-sized sari-clad woman from Agra why her protruding elbows were an aisle traffic hazardI realized the benefits of traveling in your shalloos. The duppata(a shawl with the dress) can double as an extra pillow, blanket and towel. You can amuse the children of fellow passengers by pretending to be super girl while waiting at the terminal and in case the plane crashes and you land on a deserted island you can use it to call attention to yourself, and while you wait for help to arrive, have a picnic on your duppata spread. It also comes in handy to hide your face from people you don’t want to bump into at Dubai Airport and lastly you are definitely safe, incase there are any Jamia Hafsa Hotline enthusiasts at the airport. 

As I dealt with my jet lag with a daily dose of Panadol Night every Night, the week days passed with catching up on work and all the news I had missed: the rallies, the raids, the power outages and the lesbian marriages. 

On Saturday morning as I pondered over my predictable Saturday morning ritual of self indulgence: the ATM stops, shampoo, shoe etc shopping and the DVD stock-up, my guilt over the vicious circle of consumerism was brought to a sudden interruption as I faced the closed sign in front of my favorite salon for renovations.

Saturday mornings without an appointment is a situation you don't want to be in and the only places which will accept you are the Chinese parlors. As I made my way in through the jingling door, 12 pairs of eyes followed my every movement as I searched for who was in charge there. Yes, low cost measures ensure that there is no welcome desk. A wait time of half an hour easily translates into an hour and a half here, so I tried to make myself comfortable between two heavy pairs of aunty hips and analyzed the situation around me. 

There is a secret code of ethics governing the Beauty Parlor space: if you stare at anyone too long through the mirror you might be put on the spot and asked how the new hair color or cut looks. The skin is holy ground, you never tell someone they are too dark, too pale, too patchy or too fake. Ugliness does not exist. No mistake happens unless someone acknowledges it and the only reply to all questions is “fabulous”, that is unless it’s your own turn on the hot seat. So the clients comforted each other and worked as a big support group, while the Chinese attendants continued to work on them indifferently and chatting with each other in mandarin. Their collective laughter after five minutes sounded suspiciously like a joke on one of us.

When you live in a town as small and homely as Islamabad, small news have big consequences, I realized this as I found myself at McHorror trying to win a Shrek 3 character for my nephew from the Happy Meal Loot. Apparently my nephew was not the only five-year old who had heard the news. We had tough competition. There were only a few decent mini dragons to be had, since no self-respecting five year old wanted the ginger bread man with his squeaky voice. And that’s it! Those were the only two characters available! Even I felt emotionally enraged and joined in the loud protests of Inequality, Injustice and Tyranny before I realized that it was all the McHorror food in my system speaking up. So while we are debating why our McHorror is not as well stocked or why our kids do not get the same representation and distribution to the Shrek 3 characters say as a kid in say Montreal, how about adding salads to the McHorror menu for the adults who have to chaperone the kids for the weekly/daily visit to the playpen shrine. 

As we made our way back home, the streets were busy with anti-smoking campaign banners. The most interesting one being “are you dying for a smoke today”, which was being fixed in place by a 17 year old looking volunteer juggling a cigarette in his free hand.

Yes Islamabad was still the same: familiar, predictable, with its interesting twists and turns (mostly dug now for expanding the roads) but I was so glad to be home.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Be Smart Act Dumb

Published in The Friday Times, March 2007

(This is an old article i wrote five years back, when I was a high-flying corporate slave. My views might not have changed! If you need background on why I am posting old published stuff please read the earlier post: Magic of the Printed Word).

While the smart girls were busy fighting for their rights, and proving their worth, the smarter ones decided to act dumb. Yes, Smart is Over Smart and Dumb is the new Smart.

All their lives qualified, intelligent, sweet-looking young girls have had one adversary standing in their path to glory: the Damsel in Distress. While they have the best ideas: she gets all the credit, while they toil away at work till 10 at night: she arrives the next morning and gets all her work done by fluttering her eyelashes, while they scare away men by out-witting them: she has the best of the lot fighting for a chance to help her out.

So who is smart here and who is dumb? Is the Dumb Blonde species far more evolved than we had considered them? Is all that makeup camouflage for the smartest female on the block?

Armed with degrees from universities with intimidating names, career paths that are the envy of their male peers, and a ridiculously high IQ level, the smart female is a scary lunch partner. She already knows that there was a bomb blast in Timbaktoo two hrs ago, has an opinion on the documentary you saw last weekend, will give you honest professional insights on what was wrong with your presentation yesterday and already knows the punch line of your joke. Compare this with lunch conversation with a Dumb Blonde. She is attentive to every story you tell her, will ohhh and ahh at all the right moments, says “really, is that so?” in the cutest fashion and makes you feel like the smartest guy on the planet. Intoxicated with this confidence you are willing to take down the wall of Berlin at her beck and call, while she lazily files her already manicured nails.

So while the smart ones convene and laugh at the Dumb Blondes jokes, are the dumb ones actually having the last laugh? Do they have the intelligence to recreate the software architecture itself while they pretend and struggle attaching a file in their emails? Do they laugh silently as they watch the smart ones fall in their traps: demonstrate how to do things the right way and eventually end up volunteering to work on the weekend, while the Dumb Blondes enjoy their weekend at the spa?

With the effortless way their schemes work, I have reason to believe that the Dumb Blondes must have a secret society somewhere. It is secret because by the rules of the Dumb Blonde Game, they are not allowed to get along with each other in front of others. This makes people believe that one Dumb Blonde is the enemy of the other, whereas they share all the insights gathered with each other at their monthly meetings. How else is each Damsel in Distress so oblivious to her surroundings but completely equipped to forward her own self interest.

Once you decide to play the Dumb Blonde Damsel in Distress Game, life becomes an easy ride. It is best to start early. So in play school, the boy sitting next to you, will give you his own fries, while he munches on your dry sandwich. Your grade two friend will let you cheat on her assignment and get a lower grade because the teacher thinks the idea is not original. Your teacher will let you get off the hook because he seriously believes that your dog ate the fish which ate the homework. You will be the first one picked for all group projects and spend the rest of the semester sitting in the canteen and take the occasional coke to the ones actually working. The privileges do not end here: you will be the first one in your group of girl friends to get married (best of luck with that though!) and have the largest rock on your finger. While your “smarter” friends complain about the lack of decent men, you will enjoy coffee mornings while your kids are taken care of by the nanny, because your husband understands your fear that you will drop the baby. Your children will pamper you when they grow up because they want Mom to relax and take a cruise on the Mediterranean after a “stressful” life and you will happily play golf while your retired rich husband is lying in bed unable to move after his stroke.

So please line up and join the Dumb Blonde parade, being smart is not as smart as it used to be.

Magic of the Printed Word

I used to write a lot for the Friday Times and The News on Sunday, two weekly publications in Pakistan, a few years ago. Sunday newspaper reading was always a favourite activity in our house and it was difficult to get hold of your favourite section. We used to get The Muslim and Daily Jang, before Muslim was replaced by The News.

We were all encouraged to write for print from a very young age. I remember my father would ask us to read the editorial and send letters to the editor. This when we were all 8, 10, and 13.

Us siblings had quite a monopoly over the kids section in the Muslim. One weekend the same page had contributions from all three of us: An article by my sister, my poem and my brother's drawing. Most people used to think that this was a definite case of some nepotism (this being Islamabad- everyone is related to everyone else). My sister  got 100 articles published in the Muslim as a teenager and was recognized by the paper for her talent- we were all so proud of her. My parents would pull out the paper recognizing her, at the slightest interest by a random guest.

There is something about seeing your name and writing in print on actual paper (which smells amazing after all these years).  You can not edit, change or improve it. It's set in stone. I wish I could say for eternity. Most newspapers end up recycled or to cover the pot of rice for the final "steaming".

I had saved all my published articles in a folder. When I moved from Pakistan to Canada I just had three and a half suitcases to pack 28 years of my life (I had allowed my husband half a suitcase). I could not bring back that folder then, or for the next couple of trips. But I did as soon as I could.

I went through some of my old writings today with a queasy stomach. A conversation with a friend here in Calgary reminded me of one of the articles I had written on the same topic, so I took it out and read it again. It was like I had opened a time capsule. Each of the writings at different stages of my life showed such different shades: I was so fearless but naive. I felt like reaching out to my younger self and giving her a hug. I am glad I had this saved. No picture or video would have reminded me of the emotions I had felt in different stages of my life, as the writings did.

I will share some of them on this blog with a label "old publications". Maybe someday after many years I will read back this post and be reminded how I had felt after a long day working, managing home, dealing with life and successfully putting a toddler to bed.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Here I go!

So this blog has been in the works for a long time—in my head. I would think of themes, posts and stories while driving, cooking, showering or just lazing around. This needed to be done. To get a blog started. And now I have done it. If you are reading this, be warned that my thoughts are random and often conflicting. But I love writing. It makes me happy and content. I get some of my writing genes from my mom's side of the family (from my dad's side I get food genes but that's a blog for another day). Thank you for reading this very first post. I hope to keep writing and keep you entertained, amused or confused!