Friday, December 24, 2010

Conversations with HRH

HRH: The electricity goes all the time...tell Baba to fix it...
Me: He can't. That is a problem in all of Pakistan..
HRH: Can't we tell the owner of Pakistan to fix it?

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(Post-explaining why there is a load-shedding problem in Pakistan & the electricity going off for the second time in 3 hours)

HRH: So is it because of the President that the electricity keeps switching off?
Me: Kind of…yes
HRH: I want to smack the President.
Me: You and 170 million others.

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Faisal wearing a FCUK Tshirt -
HRH: Baba what does ur T-shirt say?
Faisal: ...nothing...
HRH: It says 'facuck'. Didn't u know that?

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Driving on airport road -
Me to Faisal: Watch out for the ditches
HRH: Ammi! Did I hear you say a bad word?
Me: No no..I said 'ditches'
HRH: Oh ok. I thought maybe something starting with 'B'

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Me: Today we will go to Quaid-e-Azam's mazar..that's where he is buried
HRH: What is buried?
Me: When you die you have to be buried..
HRH: He eats berries there?

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HRH: I won't use 'ass' like 'you are an ass' only like 'a donkey is an ass'.

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HRH: I love money
Me: You shouldn't love money..Why do you love it?
HRH: I can buy stuff
Me: Money can't buy you love
HRH: But it can buy toys

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While reading a notice from school -
HRH: "Fee bills have been sent..." What is 'fee'? Like in 'Fee-fi-fo-fum'?

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Examiety

Examiety - a temporary state of worry and nervousness occurring among parents and children age 5 and above, usually twice a year during the periods of November/December and May/June. Usually accompanied by feelings of apprehension, anxiety and panic. For parents it includes shouting questions about topics taught at school at random moments in order to quiz progeny, resulting in further stress, confusion and frustration.

Now that HRH is in Grade 1 and it is that time of year, I have finally experienced what I had observed and not entirely understood in other parents earlier. This year, HRH will be taking ‘exams’ for the first time in English, Urdu, Maths and Science. Last year he had end of year ‘assessments’ which still sounded less horror-inducing than ‘exams’.

In school HRH has been revising for the past month, he has also been told constantly that exams are a big deal. To such an extent that he would start feeling worried and start asking me to teach him something or the other that he was not sure about and which ‘might come in my exams!’ Since this is hardly healthy behavior, we have all been telling him at home that exams are not a big deal and not to worry about it. Thankfully some of this has started to sink in.

While HRH and I may not be suffering from examiety as badly as some others, there are still plenty of mothers in school who are overly concerned about how their offspring are progressing in comparison to others.

“Does HRH know how to spell the months of the year?” (Purpose of question - Trying to figure out where own child stands and whether it's okay to not know how to spell the months of the year)

“How many hours do you make HRH revise in a day?” (Purpose of question – To determine whether child will have to spend more time revising)

“Can he figure out the Math word problems or is he confused about those like my child?” (Purpose of question - Seeking reassurance)

Such queries further fuel feelings of insecurity and examiety among all concerned. I personally think there should be a gag order put in place during exam season. No parents should be allowed to speak to each other about exams, revision or how much a child does or does not know. Unfortunately these insecurities are then transferred to the child, who at age 5 or 6 is pretty confused already about what the big deal is. Now during meal times, children are asked mid-chew, to spell 'September', or are asked 'What is a 6 sided shape called?' while rubbing soap out of their eyes during bath-time, or are told to come over during their run around in the park and ambushed with 'What is 19 minus 7?'

While I may not be that bad (really I'm not), I do feel bad for these little kids who had better get used to all this. After all there is a long way to go for them. As for me, I feel like I'm going to school all over again, but without any of the fun.

Grade 1 December Exam Prep


Science revision - A note for me when HRH could not think of the last two of eight fruit names. Rather than come ask me, he decided to write the note and then go off to play till I came back to the room to check on him.



English revision - I hope he does not plan on leaving notes like these during the exam itself.



Words with 'th' - this, then, thin, thoocy...
Me: What is thoocy?
HRH: Thoocy means spitty.



HRH: I made interesting sentences.


"I hate rhyming words!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

HRH-isms II

HRH: What the heck...
Me: Stop saying that
HRH: I said 'heck' not 'hell'

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HRH: Don't hug Baba in front of me
Me: Why?
HRH: It feels sick to me.

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HRH: NanaAbu told me stories about prophets like Noah and Venus.
Khala: Venus?
HRH: Yes with the whale
Khala: Oh. Yunus.

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While getting tangled up in his jeans, HRH (muttering under breath): What the hell..
Me: Did you just say 'what the hell'? Do NOT say that
HRH: Ok I'll just say 'what the..' 

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HRH: Thank God there are 4 holidays. I am allergic to waking up early in the morning.

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HRH changing discs/songs constantly in the car -
Me: Leave the stereo alone
HRH: You can't say that to the DJ.

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Faisal to HRH: Come here M-I-S-T-E-R
HRH: You can also say M-R. It's a shortling of mister.

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HRH (while watching ARY Musik): Look! They spelled ''music" wrong!

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HRH: Will I have to go to school even when I'm 11?
Me: Yup. You have to go till you are 24
HRH: WHAAAT! 24??
Me: You know how many more years that is? 24 - 5 is?
HRH: 19 *shocked silence*

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HRH: I wish I was 7 years old.
Me: Why do you want to be 7?
HRH: Because then I would be a big boy.

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Me: Hurry up and eat!
HRH: Are you out of your patience?

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HRH: Dam...
*Me glaring at HRH*
HRH: I didn't say d-a-m-n. I was saying d-a-m. Like 'a dam'...you know the water one.

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HRH to Khala: What is 'saddi'?
Khala: Saddi means century
HRH: No that's not it..
Khala: Ok use it in a sentence
HRH: 'Mujhay saddi lag rahi hai'

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HRH: What is gown?
Me: It's a long dress that ladies wear
HRH: Hmmm. No like in 'I am going to my gown'?

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(HRH sulking after Faisal beat his score in 'Rat on a scooter')
Me to HRH: It's ok. You are better than him in some games. He's better in this one.
HRH: Don't say that in front of me.

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Me to HRH (playing cricket inside the house): Don't hit the ball so hard you will break something
HRH: I can't control my strength.

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Tried to convince HRH to shoo out lizard from bedroom -
HRH: No way. You do it.
Me: It's a boy's job.
HRH: Where did you get that from?

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HRH (at Gloria Jean's): What is 'whiffy enabled'?

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HRH (after watching Toy Story 3): Why don't big people play with toys?

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HRH with pencil and paper in hand (angry with me after an argument): I am going to draw you fat.

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Me (to HRH): For the last time SIT DOWN or else...
HRH: Are you threatening me?

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HRH (at lunch): I am so full! I am exploring!

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HRH: I want to be a conductor in an orchestra when I grow up..or a farmer so I can wash pigs and cows.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Of Blood and Beyond

There are so many of my relatives I can’t stand (and I can write this fearlessly and confidently knowing none of them will be reading this). Throughout my life there were all the mamas, chachas, tayas, phupis and khalas (blood and otherwise, including all the ones we love to adopt along the way) and their various offspring present at Eids, births, weddings, funerals and all the other life-changing events that happen in, well, life. As a child all I noticed were the same-age category ones that I got along with. These were the ones who were on the same wavelength as you. The ones you had built tents on the terrace with (even in mid-summer, which were perhaps not as lethal back then) and played cricket in the garden with (the boys were good enough to play in the house lawn rather than on the streets/nearby empty plots, being considerate enough to keep your gender in mind). They were also the ones you fought tooth and nail with one hour and the next were happy enough to watch Thunder Cats on NTM with. They were also the ones you would invent the most disgusting snacks to eat with while watch programs like 'V the Final Battle' and 'Tremors' for the umpteenth time (was that the only English movie STN ever played or what?). The aforementioned snacks included slices of cheese on toast melted in the microwave for 20 seconds and un-toasted bread with mayo and crisps squished inside (I already mentioned the snacks were gross didn't I?)

As you grow up, the childhood memories remain but there is an increasing awareness of politics on the adult level. While 'big people' (as HRH calls adults) did their best to not talk about or include their kids in their internal tussles, there was nevertheless the dawning of knowledge in the sense that 'Yes so and so should have done so and so' or 'XYZ should not have said that' and the consequential questioning of loyalties.

As in all families (unless perhaps you live in some Enid Blyton-esque familial setting, I’d say most of us are more Roald Dahl-esque), there were conflicts. Unwittingly or otherwise you formed opinions on who you liked and who you didn't on the basis of
1. Your own perceptions, i.e., you grew out of the childhood bubble you had been ensconced in
2. The tidbits you overheard from discussions around you

As I was growing up I always knew who I connected with and who I didn't. When I was in my teens I used to rant and rave about why I had to meet so and so when I didn’t like them and they weren't very nice frankly speaking. You would then get to hear the parental spiel about "blood is thicker than water" and "family is family at the end of the day" blah blah.

When the "I am going to marry Robbie Williams before I'm 22" thing didn't work out for me, and I was actually getting married (to someone so much better than RW I might add, {can you tell my hubby is one of the few readers I have?}), I wanted to have a small wedding. For me small meant a maximum of 70-80 people. My parents are averagely social. I have three younger sisters who are also normally social. Yet when it came down to making the guest list, there was suddenly a multitude of individuals who just HAD to be invited as they had ‘invited us on ABC, DEF, GHI occasions and if we didn’t call J,K and L then they would feel offended as we would be calling M,N,O,P after all (the gist is you run out of the alphabet and repeat it more times than the double alphabets in all Defence Housing Authority's blocks, in all cities combined). You get the idea. The small wedding didn't pan out.

The good thing was after marriage I could dump all the relatives I didn't think were worth keeping in touch with due to their lack of interest/concern/care (of course this was off-set with the wide range of relatives-in-law who I now had to meet. I still can't decide what's worse. And yes the relatives-in-law won't be reading this either. Hopefully.) 
6 years into my marriage, I still see the same cycle continue. While I may have got out of it somewhat, the balance my parents try to maintain with 'blood' relatives still annoys me. When it's someone who reciprocates your feelings it's all well and good. But when you try to maintain relations for the sake of maintaining them as they are "blood", it stops making sense to me.

At the same time, I am eternally grateful to my parents for having formed some super-strength relationships which started either with them or even their parents and have continued into my generation. These people have proved that being of the same blood is no criteria. In fact they have shown themselves to be far more loving, caring and reliable than the so-called blood relations. As time progresses, I have observed that more and more people now give increasing importance to the friends they know they can count on as opposed to the individuals they share genes with. Maybe we don't have the time and patience our ancestors had or maybe we have reached a point where we are beyond caring. Either way, life's too short to spend dealing with the pointless politics of extended families and individuals who just don't care.

If by some minuscule chance this is read by someone who might know they are being referred to negatively, there is the following disclaimer: "Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. For those who (blood or not) know they are held in high regard, respect and love; any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely intentional (you know who you are)."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Getting a Grasp on God II

HRH: Is the tooth fairy real?
Me: What do you think?
HRH: I don't think so
Me: So who do you think takes the tooth and leaves money for it?
HRH: I think it's Allah cos He's real

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HRH: Do you have God's number?
Me: No...
HRH: I wanted to ask Him or Her something..

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Me: See you were being rude to me so you walked into the door and hurt yourself
HRH: Who made me walk into it?
Me: Maybe Allah, as a punishment
HRH: Allah's a good guy isn't He? So it wasn't Him..I walked into it myself

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HRH: How does Allah send babies down? Can you show me a picture?

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Back to School Blues

The extra-long summer vacation is over. I still fail to understand why the Punjab government wanted to extend school summer holidays for an additional 2-3 weeks. Not that I'm complaining.

So now there is the usual setting 4 alarms for the morning to ensure you get out of bed at the right time (which is at an obscenely early hour), the dragging self and others out of cosy beds, while some family members either whine (me and 5 year old HRH) or snap fangs bared at each other (that would be all three of us - HRH, hubby and myself).

The previously relaxed routines for all concerned (yes the adults were still going to work but at least that still started at a later more civilized time), are suddenly fraught with tension as the day is strictly regimented for HRH's sake.

Typical school day routine:

6:10 AM - Alarm number 1 goes off. It is switched off lethargically and a low decibel 'HRH wake up baby' is called out. It goes unheard.

6:15 AM - Alarm number 2 goes off. It is also switched off and a slightly louder 'HRH get up now please' is emitted.

6:20 AM - Alarm 3 goes off. A definitely audible 'Get up now...please!' is sounded.

6:25 AM - Alarm 4 goes off. There are definite signs of movement as a very loud and stern warning is given, all signs of politeness gone. 'GET UP! NOW!'

Then begins the chaotic hour during which teeth are brushed, faces washed and HRH's breakfast shoved down his throat while he says 'I'm sooo sleepy' every 2 minutes (this despite having slept 10+ hours at night) while the parents who only manage to get about 5-6 hours grunt randomly at any questions or queries the other makes the mistake of asking.

7:30 AM - HRH and Faisal leave for school and work respectively. Lucky hubby gets to go to work half an hour earlier due to having to drop HRH off to school by 8 AM.

7:30 - 9:00 AM - The morning tornado like effects in all rooms are sorted out while getting ready for work

9:30 AM - The advantage of going to work at this time is that you are now wide awake having spent what seems like half the day already up, while childless individuals are still blearily rubbing eyes and having shots of caffeine to wake up.

1:00 PM - Leave to pick HRH up from school. Involves battling through traffic while swearing left, right and center at the loons on the roads (all swearing for the way to and from school must take place now as no 'bad words' must be said in HRH's presence as he will then proceed to tell you off).

1:30 PM - Reach school and find parking 5 miles from the gate. Trudge back huffing and puffing and wishing you had carried a bottle of water and maybe a snack for the trek.

1:30 - 2:00 PM- HRH insists on playing on the slides/swings/anything climbable in the playground

2:00 PM - Set off on the journey back to where car is parked with HRH saying 'I am so tired. Why is the car parked so far away?' (this coming from a child who spent half an hour whizzing around the playground showing no signs of 'tiredness').

2:30 PM - Reach home with bleeding cheeks due to clenching all 'bad words'

2:35 PM - Unceremoniously dump HRH into bathtub for a shower

2:45 PM - Place HRH at the table for lunch, which can last anywhere between 1 to 2 hours depending on how long he wishes to store bites in his mouth without chewing.

Post lunch comes homework time. Another joyful time of the day when either it will completed in no time at all or may take ages if there is whining, staring off into space and further declarations of tiredness, pencil rolling off the desk numerous times and a million unrelated-to-homework questions are asked such as 'When do bats sleep?' or 'Do you like Woody better or Buzz Lightyear?' or 'Can we become extinct like the dinosaurs?'

Then follows some leisure time for HRH during which there is some TV watching, playing etc

At 6:30 PM begins the stress about HRH's dinner and bedtime.

7:00 - 8:00 PM - Dinnertime for HRH consists of more of the lunchtime same-ness. Gazing blankly with unchewed bites sticking out of cheeks which have to be poked and prodded for masticating encouragement.

8:00 - 8:30 PM - Teeth are brushed, a bedtime story is read and HRH is put to bed.

8:30 PM - Parental sighs of exhaustion are heard, as you struggle not to fall asleep with HRH.

The rest of the night is spent watching TV or a movie or socializing with friends and somehow even if you tell yourself you will go to bed early today, you still don't get to bed by 12 or 1 at night.

And thus dawns another day.

HRH isn't the only one looking forward to the winter vacations.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Little Red Riding Hood - A Book Review

HRH got a summer reading list as part of his holiday homework. One of the books he was supposed to read was 'Little Red Riding Hood' from the Ladybird series. 

I had already told him the story many times before. We would both act out the parts of the wolf and Little Red Riding Hood (LRRH). My version (as passed down from my parents) included the wolf eating Grandma and then being axed to death by LRRH's woodcutter father. 

I had  also very cleverly (I thought) incorporated the never-talk-to-strangers concept in it. (While walking through the forest on her way to Grandma's, LRRH meets the wolf. The wolf asks LRRH where she's going and she foolishly tells him. This results in Grandma's death as the wolf rushes over to the poor old lady's house before LRRH gets there, giving him ample time to devour Grandma and dress up in her clothes and get in her bed.)

After HRH read the Ladybird version he looked distinctly disappointed. This version had no wolf eating grandmother bit. In fact grandmother's presence was simply non-existent. The wolf was in her bed when LRRH got there. Also missing was the wolf being hacked to death by LRRH's father when the animal attacked her (post the 'Grandma, grandma what big eyes/ears/nose/teeth you have' conversation).

Some may think it's a good idea to not scar children emotionally by introducing the disturbing concepts of murder, death and bloodshed.  I personally thought (as did HRH) that Ladybird's version was plain boring. 

As we know justice is rarely served in the real world (or at least in our part of the world). At least in fairytales then, the villain should get what he deserves.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I Don't Understand

In the morning I read about the President’s visit to France and the UK, the violence in Karachi, the floods all over Pakistan, and the suicide bombing in Peshawar where the commander of the Frontier Constabulary perished.

I went to dinner tonight at a friend’s place.

The menu was grilled prawns and red snapper, amongst other delicacies.

I came home afterwards in an air-conditioned car.

At a traffic light I saw a family of three on a bicycle.

At the next traffic light I saw a family of six on a motorcycle.

The entire way I heard Husn-e-Haqiqi on repeat.

I don’t understand what’s going on.

I don’t understand where Pakistan is going.

And I don’t understand what I am supposed to do.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ban This Baby or Ban Baby Ban II

With Facebook and hundreds of other sites still blocked, these are some of the things that should actually be banned in Pakistan:

1. Blockades 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after every Tom, Dick and Harry 'VIP' passes through. I know the plebs are there to be abused but if you want to live amongst us then at least have the decency to not detain us whenever you decide to leave/return to your home.

2. At least half the local 'news' channels starting with the ones who played a slideshow of Shoaib/Sania photographs with romantic Indian songs in the background. (Gee-Oh I wonder who this could be?)

3. Men peeing on road sides in full public view. I can't believe this is still so common (As much as paan-spits along any appropriately placed structure it seems. Appropriate for the paan-chewer of course.)

4. Entertainment taxes. 65%? Really? (Having to pay PKR 500 each to take HRH to watch 'Alvin and the Chipmunks 2' is a little painful)

5. The Pakistan cricket team for toying with our emotions (No I still haven't recovered from our T20 World Cup semi-final defeat. Sniff.)

6. Politicians who don't have degrees but then suddenly do but don't actually but are still elected. Also politicians who lie, steal, cheat...(this one is pointless isn't it?)

7. Everyone who has a holier-than-thou attitude (that would help with population control too) To quote something I really don't want to - "Jiyoo aur jeenay do"

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ban Baby Ban

As of now I cannot access Facebook or YouTube or Flickr. There are reports of Wikipedia, Google and even Blogspot perhaps being blocked in Pakistan. All instigated by a 'Draw Muhammad Day' group on Facebook.

Facebook: Shame on you. Despite the group being reported for inciting hate speech and racism you still did not block it (and from what I saw/read the one time I went to the page to report it, you'd have to be blind or not bothered to not have removed that page).

'Islamic group of lawyers' (who apparently raised the issue in the Lahore High Court): You did as expected.

Lahore High Court: You actually listened to the Islamic group of lawyers? Seriously? The Facebook block must be the quickest decision taken by you (Just wondering why you aren't that quick on rape/murder/robbery etc cases?)

As people on Twitter rant and rave (or in some cases pat themselves on the back with halo shining brightly overhead at a job well done, while naturally letting others who may not agree with the course of action taken know that there is something wrong with their level of religiousness or I quote what someone said to me 'maybe you need a refresh or restart on your emaan (faith)'), (yes I know that is an exceptionally long sentence but I'm ranting and raving here), I would like to know what exactly the LHC, the government and the PTA are aiming for? What are we hoping to achieve by shutting down all websites that have this objectionable material? Are we not ostriches with our heads stuck in the sand? Ignorance is bliss? Is it a case of 'See no evil, hear no evil'? But that does not mean it stops existing does it?

I would have thought there would be more intelligent ways of registering protest. Perhaps by urging Facebook users in Pakistan to report the group (Now we don't even know what's happening on it. Though I'm sure that group will appreciate the publicity we have provided them with). Or perhaps by contacting Facebook itself and telling them to do something about it. Or even by engaging with people on that group to explain what a Muslim's position is in this regard. Was it really necessary to cut ourselves off from the world?

So as farms and livestock die virtually (I may not like Farmville but I do feel for you Farmville inhabitants) and I shake my hand to subdue the itch to update my status or upload a picture of HRH, I would like to appeal to the LHC and the PTA to let us know what their thinking is behind this decision to so trigger-happily 'ban baby ban'!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tweeting Twits & My Twee Cents

4000+ tweets later, I have learned the following:

1. There are some very intelligent/interesting people on Twitter.

2. There are some morons on Twitter too.

3. You have access to celebrities like TV personalities, Hollywood/Bollywood actors, sporstmen/women, politicians etc who you would ordinarily not be able to address nor expect a response from

4. There are a lot of stalker/drooling fans of said TV personalities, Hollywood/Bollywood actors, sporstmen/women, politicians etc who think nothing of saying the silliest things in the hopes of said star replying to their 'I love you's' or 'Marry me's' 

5. Just because you exchange tweets with someone does not mean they will add you on Facebook

6. Some Tweeters will get offended and stop following you if you do not accept their Facebook friend request

7. Just because someone follows you and has replied to 2 of your directly tweeted questions does not mean he/she wants to meet/greet you in 'real' life. For all he/she knows you could be a serial killer/regular murderer/rapist or stalker.

8. There is a vast amount of information/news available to you according to your interests provided you follow the right people.

9. There is a lot of spam rubbish out there too.

10. You can get all the latest news from around the world from various sources. You can stop checking news websites for the latest happenings.

11. You will find 'profound' statements from sources such as pop stars, starlets, politicians and their cousins thrice removed (plus everything in between)

12. You can enjoy tweet-wars between rival politicians.

13. You might get stuck following people you wish you had never started following (if you are someone who doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings).

Bottom line: You will most likely be a stranger to whoever you start following or who starts following you i.e. I don't know you. I will not add you on Facebook. I will not give you my email address either. I also would not like to tell you HRH's name. So stop asking me.

I may do one or all of these things after I feel comfortable enough having established that you are not in fact a serial killer/regular murderer/rapist or stalker. But till then please don't ask.

I am prepared to lose a few of my 200+ followers after this (hoping they will be the ones I want to lose, otherwise there is always the Block option I guess).

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Science of Babysitting (or Acquiring It)

Pre-child Scenario:
Arrive when you feel like at any social event you are invited to.
Leave when you feel like.

Post-child Scenario:
“There’s a dinner/party/play/movie that we have/must go to.”
“When is it?”
“On XYZ day”
“Okay we can ask one of the khalas or the phupos?”
“Can’t he go for a night-spend?”
“Let’s see.”

The 'let’s see' usually last till the last minute. Till whoever the potential babysitter is can be bribed to come babysit (which usually means overnight babysitting).

“Can’t he stay with you?” or “Can’t you(babysitter) sleep over?”

When my son was born I thought my life was over. Being the (yes fine, overly) paranoid parent I always knew I would be, I would not want him left anywhere except with my parents or my sisters. I thought this was the end of my enjoying my life as I had known it. That turned out to be true. It was indeed the end of me enjoying my life as I knew it. But it was the start of enjoying my life in a different way.

This involved a lot of time and effort from trusted babysitters (who in the first couple of years of my son’s life I manipulated by bursting into tears and announcing melodramatically “My life is over! Boohoo! I can never do anything ever again! I can never go out anywhere again without him! I’ll have to wait till he’s 20 till I can do anything!” and more along those lines). I guess I was lucky that my family was so easily emotionally blackmailed.
Over the last 4.5 years I have realized there is a science to acquiring babysitting (obviously from trusted sources, who have in fact got lives of their own). The first rule for a parent looking for babysitting is: Be selfish. Forget what other people’s plans may be. Forget the fact that they may have to let down others and remind them that it is their beloved niece/nephew that requires their attention and care. (Try to play down your own ultimate enjoyment. Perhaps use phrases like “I really don’t want to go, but it’s just something we have to go to unfortunately.” or “I don’t know why XYZ (XYZ being your spouse) agreed to going, but it’s just something that we have to go to. Just for a little while?”

When the baby is younger and its far more painful to babysit him/her, you can expect far greater resistance. As the child grows, the babysitters will:
a) be more willing since child is less trouble
b) have been beaten into submission (from various guilt trips/knowing no matter what at the end they will have to babysit).

However in defense of parents everywhere who leave kids with babysitters, we do feel guilty. Honestly we do. We are well known as the KPKs (Khao-Piyoo-Khishkoo ie Eat-Drink-Leave). We are infamous for it in fact. If hosts want us to stay on till later, they will set dinner later, for they know we will leave immediately after.

We really do feel bad about forcing our child on you so we can go out and have fun (in a harassed way, while having an ear/eye open for a SOS call or SMS, which might make us rush home). We try to cram as much enjoyment as we can under pressure. We shove food down our throats in order to be back in time for the babysitter’s deadline.

To sum up:
1. If you need babysitting, beg, plead plaintively and ultimately bribe. Every babysitter has a price.
2. Once babysitting is acquired, be grateful. Babysitters’ egos need careful nurturing. Offer words of gratitude and a dessert (if babysitter has a sweet tooth). A little sugar goes a long way (especially in the form of a brownie/ice-cream or a Mississippi mud pie from Hot Spot, in the case of my sisters)
3. Once out, message once to ask how your offspring is. Do not expect this SMS to be answered, after all you have held babysitter to babysitting duty against her wishes.
4. Try to KPK as soon as possible. It is most advisable to be back home to relieve babysitter of duties in order to avail babysitting next time around.
5. Allow a decent time to pass before asking babysitter for next babysitting session. This may be just a day, but if you play your cards right, the babysitter will be back on duty as required.
6. At least once, come back earlier than the time you said you would be back. Babysitter will feel more kindly towards you.

Once these rules are followed, any parent will be guaranteed babysitting as and when required.
(You do need to have wonderful sisters to actually succeed…see? scoring points with sisters who will be reading this. Future babysitting guaranteed…or would have been had this last sentence not been written).

Monday, April 5, 2010

SM/SM - So Much Stalker Media?

SM/SM (Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik) looming nuptials has sparked a media frenzy in Pakistan. When the news was announced a few days ago, a tsunami style wave of attention crashed upon the couple. Some were happy (as witnessed in the form of dancing citizens outside Shoaib's house in Silakot), some were angry ('How dare he marry an Indian?' And vice versa 'How dare she marry a Pakistani?').

Most of us though were just bemused. Why was there such a hype about them? Yes he is an ex-cricket star and yes she is an ex-tennis star in their respective countries but the level of scrutiny and detail being broadcast about them and their wedding is a little sickening. Especially when we have far greater problems to deal with. One theory is that people are so sick of the sad state of affairs around us, that we have hungrily turned on anything that distracts us from the permanent depression.

While SM/SM have provided light relief as well in the form of jokes being exchanged over SMS and Twitter ('Pakistan no longer needs a tennis star, humain jahaiz mein mill gayi' & 'IPL rejected 11 Pakistanis, Sania rejected all of India'), I think I can safely say we have all had enough.

However, the exclusive dance practice video filmed through a crack in the door, the apparently current wife of Shoaib Malik and her hysterical interviews, the claims of a possible pregnancy, the telephone nikah (in this day and age? seriously?) validity, police involvement and Shoaib not being allowed to leave India now; all means that the media piranha feeding of this tale won't end anytime soon.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Marriage Worries - Age 4

Me (to HRH): Today is Nano and Nana-Abu's anniversary so we'll go over and wish them a Happy Anniversary later.

HRH:
What's anniversary?

Me: It's the day you get married, then every year you have an anniversary like you have a birthday.

HRH: When will I get married?

Me: Not any time soon...many years later

HRH: How many years?

Me: I don't know. Maybe when you are 26 or 27 years old?

HRH: That's so far away! Who will I marry?

Me: I don't know. You can see who ever you like at that time.

HRH (worried): I don't know any girls!

Me: Well you will know girls when you are older, so you can see then.

HRH: Can I marry you?

Me: No. You can't marry your Ammi.

HRH: What about my khalas? Can I marry one of them?

Me: No. You can't marry your Khalas either. You can find someone later. You don't have to worry about it right now.

HRH: What about Stephanie?

Me: Who is Stephanie?

HRH: She's from Lazy Town (a TV show on Playhouse Disney) *pause* I have a dream that I marry Stephanie.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Man Or Mouse?

What is the deal with married men playing the victim? Boohoo my wife is so horrible/I am trapped/I need to get away from her. That’s the sort of thing I am referring to. There are thousands of jokes about the wife or the wife's mother being the bad guy (whereas at least in this part of the world at least we know which mother-in-law is apparently the bad guy).

So what exactly is this need to make your wife out to be a monster? Or insulting a guy who is messaging or calling his wife when she is not there? Or branding a man a pathetic loser for not succumbing to peer pressure and doing his own thing (which most probably involves doing something his wife wouldn't like?)

I have my own name for this phenomenon. It's the Trapped-Male syndrome. It is an off-shoot of the victim complex family and effects married men.

Scene: Socializing in civilized company where members of both genders are present
Married man # 1 (cue for escape): ‘Chal yaar bahar chaltay hain.’
There is a stampede of males trying to exit the room as quickly as possible. Apparently the reason for stepping outside is to smoke. However when the indoors is also a smoking zone the only difference between outside and inside would be the lack of estrogen outside. Are the women so un-intelligent that men need to get away for a while? These 'getaways' usually revolve around insulting each other and exchanging a few dirty jokes. As far as I'm concerned I would be happy to hear both (especially since half the time I wish I had a getaway opportunity too from all the talk to children, tailors and maids).

I really don't understand the wish all men have to escape whether it is to get half an hour alone in a two hour social gathering or a holiday with the 'boys'. Firstly you are not 'boys' any more. Being nearly 40 does not make you a 'boy'. Sorry to burst your bubble. Secondly do men really think they are the only ones who need a break? I'd think these men's wives who are running their houses, children and organizing their social lives deserve a lot more credit than they get. They certainly deserve a lot more credit than being lumped into the 'my wife is the bad guy' category.

The other day I attended a wedding with my husband. It was the marriage of the child of a golf buddy of his. As expected most of the men there were golfers, most of whom appear to have a stunted sense of humor, as there was one standard joke. After the initial exchange of pleasantries, the comments varied from ‘Please let him play golf on more days of the week? Pretty please?’ (As if I am my husband’s boss. Obviously husband has been portraying me as the bad guy who does not ‘allow’him to play as much as he would like to. Now if only he really were that obedient) or something along the lines of ‘So he tells you he’s coming to the golf course huh?’ wink wink nudge nudge. Yawn.

Almost all married men love to perpetuate the I-am-a-victim-save-me-from-the-bully-that-is-my-wife persona. Quite a few of them who are in stable, loving relationships also continue to do the same. They act like one of the 'boys' in public, despite being caring husbands with strong family values. These guys will be loud and obnoxious, but everyone knows it’s all just a facade to act macho when underneath they are just normal, sensitive guys. Awwwww.

There are also those men who are in fact actually pigs, who think their wives are simply for raising their children and doing as they are bid. ‘I am man. Oo oo oo’ (That was supposed to be more of a caveman sound rather than that of an ape. But either works.) Even this category of men pretend to act like victims which is a little amazing.
“My wife doesn’t let me do that.”
Seriously, who are you kidding?

So whether men beg, plead, bribe, cajole or bully their way into doing whatever it is they want to do (for they will indeed do whatever it is they want to), he is of course still victimized by his wife.

One way or another, I suppose you just can't take the boy out of the man.

30 - Dirty, Flirty or Just A Parent?

30 came.

30 + 1 day later = contemplation

Thinking about health, relationships and of course HRH (apologies to anyone who thinks HRH won't make an appearance in at least one of my blog posts for a change. Sorry, I can't help it).

I worry a lot. About how difficult it will be for me to lose weight if I need to (apparently your metabolism slows down post 30). About if something happens to me what will be the effects on my husband and child (Thank you horrible old lady who read my hand when I was 14 and told me sadly something awful would happen to me mid-life and then told me most un-convincingly that I would recover from whatever horrible thing it was. I still look at my left hand life line and wonder why it splits in halfway through).

Anyway. HRH makes me want to be around forever to help and support him where ever he may require some assistance, in whatever way. No one knows what's around the corner. I suppose the healthy thing is not to dwell on it either since you may forget to live out of fear. But when you do think about all the uncertainities in life, it's frankly quite terrifying,

Having come beyond the age where I think I am invincible, now there is the fear of mortality. Perhaps that wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for HRH.

HRH made me a wonderful birthday card (thanks to Faisal, who made him sit down and spell the 'hard' words for him). The card had a masterpiece of HRH and I in the garden outside our house. The inside said "I will give this card and and (there were two ands for some reason) present and lots of hugs and kisses to you because you are the best mum of the world. I love you a million, billion, trillion, google, double google." Needless to say I was quite teary-eyed.

Life is weird. I don't understand and far more eloquent people have tried to sum it up. All I can surmise is that it is short and unpredictable. When you are young ie before you have a child it's all fun and games. The feeling of invincibility and the world being your oyster and so on is a given. Post-kid, life is suddenly uncertain. You don't stop living but now you live for someone other than yourself. The feeling of invincibility is gone. Instead what's left is a hope and a prayer that you can live long enough to see your child grow up and be in a happy, settled place in the world.

P.S. 30. Shit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lawn Yawn

It’s that time of year again, when the weather changes and the sweaters and jackets start coming off. Along with all other Pakistanis, women too complain of how hot it has become, how this year’s summer temperatures are bound to be worse than before, how the load-shedding will be as frustrating/high-blood-pressure-inducing as always and so on. Pakistani women though (during the ranting and raving about summer, temperatures and power cuts) will have a little gleam in their eyes. There will be some salivating as they think of some of the names which will make the summer better for them.

Sonya Battla, V9, Gul Ahmed, Sobia Nazir, Sana Safinaz (Eeeeeeeee! Imagine women shrieking, arms raised as they salivate over what lovely lawn prints they will be able to lay their hands upon.) Days are counted down in all the major cities around Pakistan as lawn exhibitions come to town, causing traffic havoc in their wake.

Hordes of women descend upon the venue of said lawn exhibition. These venues can be recognized by the fact that they will be surrounded by cars of all sorts, with a driver in each one, with a murderous, boiling rage bubbling inside as they battle with other unfortunate men who must wait for ‘madam’ or ‘baji’. Madam/Baji in the meantime is inside the venue battling it out with other ladies in screeching and snatching at the lawn print of choice. Feet are trod on, little toes crushed, apologies are muttered (in a non-apologetic manner), elbows are dug into ribs (of others) and battle lines are drawn.

Sometimes when battle lines are crossed then all thoughts of age or self-respect go out of the door. I refer here to a pitched battle that took place at a certain lawn exhibition in Lahore, where rumor has it, two ladies had a disagreement and there was a punch-up. The two then proceeded to slap, kick and pull each other’s hair. While this is a hilarious story to tell, I feel rather puzzled about the object of the conflict. A lawn suit? One which has no special quality other than being ‘designed’ by the lawn designer of the year? One which is not exclusive in any way at all? One which has been bought by hundreds of others and will be bought by hundreds more? One which is bound to be worn by at least two other women when you go to work or out shopping or to pick your kids up from school? And if not worn on the same day then definitely worn some time during the week by a few others at least? You seriously want to fight over THAT?

I am not entirely sure why there is this craze for lawn prints. Obviously I am missing some important point about something which a lot of others do understand since each year there is a mushrooming of a few new lawn print designers. I am assuming they must do well, since they seem to appear the next year again, with another batch of designer-mushrooms.

Lawn print prices rise every year and still a manic state of consumerism is achieved. Ladies rush from lawn exhibition venue to home, for suits to be soaked and impatiently wait for them to dry, before rushing off to deliver them at the tailor. If you make the mistake of not going to check out the latest prints immediately, at least do not make the mistake of wearing last year’s lawn print in public. For you will be looked down upon if not outrightly sneered at.

The stacking up of pile after pile of the latest lawn print from every ‘designer’s’ collection is continuing unabated at the moment. With a towering heap of lawn suits precariously balanced, the appetite for lawn is quenched (at least until next weekend’s lawn exhibition anyway).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

About Turn

This article may not make a lot of sense. You have been warned. It is an emotional (perhaps nonsensical) piece inspired by my son, as well as by a poem of Khalil Gibran's that my sister shared with me earlier today. The poem entitled “Children” actually gave me goosebumps and is a must-share (I should add this is probably the first thing I have read by him. I know, I am ignorant).

Children by Khalil Gibran

“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, 'Speak to us of Children.'
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Every day my son, HRH, asks me one question which leaves me speechless. Today, on the way back home after a long day of various activities after school, I thought he felt feverish and asked him how he was feeling. I also said, “I hope you haven't got a fever..”

HRH said to me 'Why don't you pray to Allah that I don't have a fever'

Agreeing that this was a good idea I said aloud 'Allah please don't let my son fall sick.'

HRH asked me, “What did Allah say?”

I replied that he had not said anything in reply.

HRH said to me “Why doesn't Allah answer back when we talk to him?”

I told my son that Allah does not reply in the way humans talk to each other.

HRH said to me, very matter-of-fact-ly, “Why? Is he rude?”

I tried to explain no that's not how Allah communicates. Neither to his (nor my) satisfaction.

My son is four and a half. Today while looking at him I was amazed to see how he was a tiny actual (starting from a cell) part of me not so long ago. It amazes me that he is now a proper human being. Yes, I know he was one 4.5 years ago, but now I realize he is his own separate human being. With his own thoughts and his own feelings and his own way of expressing himself.

HRH has been sleeping in his own bed, in his own room for the last six months or so. Each night I have to lie with him till he falls asleep and every night he has a routine he goes through.

“Ammi, are the windows and doors closed?”

“Yes.”

“Can any cats or dogs come in my room?”

“No.”

“Are there any alligators here?”

“No, there are not.” (Exasperation setting in.)

“What about bugs? Are there any mosquitoes or flies?”

“No.” (Needless to say we have a religious Mortein-spray routine going on a few hours before bedtime along with a Mortein socket-plug-in device on all night. And no I am not a Mortein ad but seriously it seems to work for us.)

“Ammi.”

“Yes?”

“My quilt looks like a dinosaur.”

“So take it off.”

Silence

“Ammi?”

“Yes?”

“Now the quilt looks like a Brontosaurus. Can you flatten it?”

After flattening his quilt and asking him with clenched teeth if he is comfortable now, he announces, “I am scared.”

That's when I get him to start reciting whatever prayers/surahs he knows.

When we are done, HRH seems secure enough to stop talking and fall asleep.

Tonight, my husband and I were going out for dinner and had his aunt over to babysit. I had told him before he went to bed that she would be babysitting and we would be back soon. He asked me if he could sleep in our bed and we could shift him to his room when we came back. I agreed. When he was about to sleep, I asked him to say his surahs/prayers.

He said to me “I don't need to say them today.”

Asked why, he said “Because today I am sleeping in your bed.”

The sense of confidence and security he gave just by sleeping somewhere where he felt safer was overwhelming. I still made him say his prayers. He went to sleep without our usual conversation of cats, dogs, crocodiles and so on.

I stared at him when he was asleep. It amazed me that this 4.5 year old had come out of me not so long ago (ok I lie, it feels like a LONG time ago). But that he was still so much a part of me that I still cannot tolerate any sort of pain he feels, whether emotional or physical. When he is sick, I feel like I'm the one who can't function. When it's emotional pain, I feel frustrated that I can't fix it for him.

Maybe all those (infamous) desi mothers-in-law are just the same, who just can't tolerate the thought of their son being unhappy (seriously though, come on, your son's 25/30/45 years old...let go already!....Perhaps easier said than done?)

I think of all the parents I know and know of, who have lost sons and daughters of various ages. There is the 18 year old who died in a car accident. There is a 30 year old, who died a month before his wedding. There is the 24 year old, with a 4 year old child, who died of cancer. There are numerous other cases.

I have met some of these parents who have dealt with such tragedies. From meeting them, I know this.
You never get over it.
Yes, you go on with your life.
Yes, you breathe, you eat, you sleep, you meet people, you smile, you laugh.
You act like you are alive and you behave the way (apparently) normal people behave.
But underneath all the mundane things you do, the truth is a major part of you has died.

Children are strange things. You give birth to them. You tolerate their night time bawling for months on end (the unlucky ones perhaps years on end). You do the proper-child-raising readings. The toilet trainings, the disciplining, the educating and so on. You may or may not forget the pain and torture of it all (considering the number of people who have more than one kid, I'm assuming a lot people have more short-term memories than I do), but at the end of the day that child is the most important thing in your life. Whatever decisions have to be made, are made around him or her. Suddenly you don't matter. Neither do your needs or desires. What now matters is what the bawler wants, and you are happy to give it to him or her(ok, not necessarily 'happy' but feel is more important than what you want anyway.)

Kids change your life. In ways you never knew they would. Or always assumed “I'M not going to be like that.” I was like that anyway. I was the obsessive paranoid parent I never thought I would be. I assumed I would go back to work 3 months after HRH was born, and I couldn't. I thought I would do all my socializing and traveling just like I had done before him, but I couldn't.

I look at HRH and my heart aches. For all that he is going to go through while growing up. Which is what we all go through in order to 'grow up'. I also know I am going to have to let him fight his own battles (I bought him a punching bag with little gloves for that very reason to practice for the battles right now). I am also going to let him make his own decisions. Right now these only go as far as 'I don't want to wear this shirt. I want to wear those shoes' etc.

It's hard for parents to let go. It's especially unfair since they are the ones who get the least amount of credit from their offspring, when they deserve the most. (That is until the offspring have offspring, which is when said-offspring become suddenly thankful.)

I think I should just end on a heartfelt 'thank you' to my parents. And a hope that I can make my son feel as secure, safe and loved as they have made me feel through out my life and still make me feel today.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Angry Young Man

My sisters and I are very fond of using the phrase ‘angry young man’. Considering neither of us is a ‘man’ let alone a young one, the phrase simply describes someone who is angry for no apparent reason. You could say someone who is a rebel without a cause.

In our case, or since I can only speak authentically for myself, it means becoming uncharacteristically angry or annoyed about something which if you really think about it, you shouldn't bother much about. A lot of things anger me. It angers me when I think HRH is being too thick learning something which I know should be easy for him. It angers me to have to drive with maniacs on roads who make being in their vicinity a hazard to my life.

Amongst other things that anger me are (in no particular order):

* Having to wait for some bloody VIP to pass by as and when he feels fit. After all your time (and the hundreds of others being held up) is obviously not as important as theirs. (Not even if you are a woman who ends up giving birth in a rickshaw because the President will be passing through sometime in the next three hours)

* Being pushed aside by a man armed to the brim, at your son’s school gate and told to wait while some VIP’s son/grandson/third cousin twice removed is dropped off at the same school with his escort of 10 armed bodyguards (I guess they start the inculcation of holding up others at a young age)

* Having some person pass judgment on something you say or do with no prior knowledge of the background and simply on their own pompous-ness

* Watching morons on TV channels all day spouting their theories on life and religion, which leave you spluttering in indignation

* Meeting people who are nothing but hot air. One pin prick and there would be nothing left (except for a deflated prick)

* Rude salesmen/waiters. You are not doing us a favor by answering our queries. That is your job.

* Idiots who think they know it all, when in reality they do not. Really. Nothing. At. All.

* People who are always on the lookout for sympathy. Look everyone has tough times. Deal with it.

* Having to be polite to rude/pompous data-entry and interview personnel at NADRA and passport offices. No I have not changed my name after marriage. No I do not think there is anything wrong with me. And no, I would not like a lecture on how wrong that is, thank you. Just stamp the damn paper and get on with it.

* Men who stare in market places or on motorcycles/cars next to you at traffic lights. What I wouldn’t give to kick them where it would hurt. A lot.

* Politicians and all their bullshit.

* Having to hear a bomb blast go off (Heard twice now and hope I won’t have to hear any more. Though I probably shouldn’t hold my breath).

* Having to watch the news and see dead and maimed people in places where I or others I know frequent.

* Having to watch the blood and tears of countless others who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

* Having to be paranoid about the places you go to and hurrying through errands to get home as soon as possible. You still go to all these places (after all life doesn’t end..at least till your time is up), while glancing over your shoulder on multiple occasions wondering who and what looks suspicious.

* Having to stop at checkpoints and wondering what if someone decide to blow themselves up right now.

* Wondering how to protect your kid from the bombs/blasts/bad guys (So far so good as far as bomb blasts go. He does know the ‘bad guys’ are the ‘Taliban’ and they have beards. He also thinks the 6-8 commandos outside his school/on the rooftop can keep him safe. I hope so too.)

* Trying to figure out if the nightmare your kid woke up from screaming in terror was just a 4 year old’s bad dream or because of subconsciously absorbing what you and everyone around him talks about, discusses and watches on TV.

* Seeing no end in sight to all the madness going on in my country.

As disillusioned as I may sound, I have not given up hope. Everyday, I along with all other Pakistanis hope and pray that we may find our way out of this quagmire.

Till then, I think I will remain an ‘angry young man’.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NOYB

We seem to have more issues with everyone else’s life than we do our own. Whether it involves someone we know, or don’t know, or know remotely, or wish we knew, or glad we don’t, or somewhere in between all these (it would make a very complicated Venn diagram); we want to talk and gossip and dissect whatever we know, have heard or can speculate on.

I think this is a major waste of brain power. Especially where this ability is already severely lacking in some people. You already only have a few brain cells, yet you want to waste it on other people’s lives. How about dealing with your own first? Also do you think those you want to inspect so closely really care enough about you or your life?

The main point of this rant is the prescribed life cycle of Pakistani females which primarily involves getting married and procreating. The involvement of opinion of female in question is actually not required at all. It is actually everyone else's perception of her and what she ought to be doing which is most important. Said female may be very happy doing whatever she is in fact doing. Whether it is studying, working or even just simply enjoying whatever point she is in her life. But oh no, she obviously does not know what she needs.

Age 18 - 21 (for a single female)
“So are you still single?”
“So beta what do you do?” inquisitive questions from Aunty jees with ‘marriageable’ age sons, or Aunties who will do their best to hook you up with ‘marriageable’ age males whether you like it or not.


Age 21 - 25 (if female is still not married)

“Are you still single beta?”
“Abhi tak shaadi nahi hui…” said sadly by Aunty jees who may or may not know female in question but are of course entitled to believe that it must indeed be a sad and horrible existence to be leading without a man featuring in it.


Age 21 - 25 (if female is married without offspring)
“Bacha kab ho ga?”
“Bacha jab ho ga na…" *dreamy expression* (Probably since they have forgotten what actually happens to new parents when a kid is born). All knowing Aunty jees know what’s best for a woman and her uterus. (Said to all 21 - 25 aged females they know; which is probably countless. Thus adding to the already explosive population growth. What’s one more right?)


Age 25 - 30 (if female has one child)
“So when’s the next one coming along?” *wink* *nudge*
Oh gee I don’t know really. Wanna keep track of period cycles?

Barely a year (if you’re lucky), after child number one is born, everyone is hungry for child number two. After all no family is complete with just one child. If your first is a girl, then you must have a boy to make the family ‘complete’ and vice versa. Not entirely sure how this works but maybe they have a magical way of deciding what the gender of the next potential child will be.


Age 30 (if still with only one child)
*Sad expression* “There must be some problem.” (Whispered). After all what woman in her right mind would only want to have one child? After all what more is there to life than to produce offspring? And look after them forever and ever until you are dead or close to it?


Age 21 - 30 (if still single)

Well you don’t want to hear what’s being said. You are a waste of space. You are a non-entity until attached to a male.

What I want to know is this; why does everyone from your closest family (who you might allow to question/nag/inquire about your lifestyle/choices) to the remotest stranger who you meet once every two years want to know why you are either not married or have only one child or only have two children (“teen tu honay chahiyay na”).

Why?

Do you not have enough going on in your own lives? Do you want to forget about your own miserable existence by transferring that misery onto other people who may not be miserable in the first place? Or perhaps you want to see people suffer as you have suffered by being forced into making choices that you didn’t want to make either?


Maybe I am happy with where I am. Maybe I am not. Maybe I want more. Maybe I don’t. But either way, its really got nothing to do with you, or with what you think, or with where you think my life should be, or what schedule I ought to be working on.

I have 4 words for these people. NOYB.

None of Your Business.

Feel free to add an F in between the Y and the B if you like.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day 1 of Unemployment aka Twiddling Thumbs

6:45 AM - Woke HRH and Faisal up

7:30 AM - Actually got out of bed (thanks Faisal for doing the HRH teeth brushing/breakfast stuff as always)

7:35 AM - Made HRH sit on the pot with his reading material ("Be Quiet, Pooh!")

7:36 AM - Made HRH's school lunch while having him yell letters of the hard words at me which he couldn't read. Yelled back what the word was.

7:45 AM - Dressed HRH for school

8:00 AM - HRH and Faisal left for school and work respectively

8:01 AM - Bijli chali gayi

8 - 9 AM - Twiddled thumbs and looked at watch 34 times

9:01 AM - Bijli aa gayi

9:05 - 9:25 AM -
Burned 200 calories on the treadmill (yes I walked slowly)

9:30 - 10 AM -
Updated CV/Sent out a few mails/Read BBC News online

10:01 AM - Bijli chali gayi

10:15 AM - Bath

10:35 AM - Looked at watch and thought 'Oh my God. Why is time going by so slowly??'

10:35 - 11 AM - Skimmed through newspaper

11:01 AM - Bijli aa gayi

11:02 AM - 12 PM -
Wasted time on Facebook/Twitter/random internet surfing

12:01 PM - Bijli chali gayi.

Still 45 minutes to go before I leave to pick HRH up from school.

Sigh.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

All Good Things Come To An End

My American employers informed us today that they were shutting down the entire Lahore office where I am based.

HRH asked me as per usual, on the way back from his school after I had picked him up "Ammi how was your day?"

Me: Well not so great. My office is being shut down.

HRH: yayyy! (with obvious happiness)

Me: Huh? No no, not yay. I am feeling sad.

HRH: But why? I would be really happy if my school was being shut down.

Me: No you wouldn't. Anyway I'm really sad.

HRH: But you always like having a holiday, don't you?

Me: Yes, but only when I have to go to work.

HRH: (looking confused)

----

A few hours later -

Me: HRH give me a hug

HRH:
Why?

Me: Because I'm feeling sad.

HRH: Why?

Me: Because my office has closed.

HRH: I really wish my school would shut down.

---

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Playground Politics

Generally if you go to any preschool when parents are there to pick their kids up, you will be able to make many observations. You will notice the children playing in the sandpit and on the play-gym, parents pleading with kids trying to get them to leave, while others try different tactics with their offspring, such as bribery or threats.

“Betay chalo abb, dair ho rahi hai!,” says a mother wearily.

“Ok bye I'm leaving. You can stay in school if you want.” This threat will work on a younger child usually.

“If you don't stop crying right now, I'm going to..(threat hissed in ear of child to avoid any judgmental looks from nearby parents/teachers).” This may result in a louder howl or an instant silence with a shocked expression on the face of child.

Apart from child-parent conflicts, you will also notice conflicts of various levels taking place amongst children. There will be a little girl taking on someone larger than her over possession of a ball, a boy pleading for a turn with another on a tricycle, two kids making a sandcastle which one decides he would rather destroy than build. These kinds of disagreements either result in tears or fisticuffs (which eventually end in tears).

If you look even more closely you will notice contests of another kind going on as well. These are far more civilized in the sense there is no physical contact or any blatant threats involved. But once the gloves are off, eyes slit, claws appear and fangs protrude (not literally of course) but it might as well be that way. These are the 'conversations' playground moms have amongst themselves, while waiting for their kids to tire themselves out a little more or agree to going home (which ever comes first).

Usually the emergence of these 'monsthers' takes place when their style of parenting or their child's intelligence or any perceived insult related to either of the above takes place. For example if you start eavesdropping on the conversation of a group of mothers sitting around, you will notice that usually they are about the same topics. These include moaning about how their child spends ages here and doesn't want to go home, how the child is doing academically, discussing which park you take your kid to after school in the evenings and so on. If you venture into the territory of which elementary school you plan on sending your child to, maternal blood pressures start rising immediately. Almost everyone wants desperately for their preschool-going son to get into the (so-called) 'best' boys school in town (for which preparation begins at age 3 for an entrance exam that takes place at age 5.5 – 6). Any mention of said school's entrance exam results in anxieties and sensitivities increasing to the point where you would think it was the mother who was going to be taking the exam.

“I have started sending my son for some extra tuition in the evenings,” says one such mother (about her 4 year old son).

“I'm going to start sending mine soon too,” says another, not to be out done.

“My son doesn't need to go for tuition. He knows everything,” says a third, silencing the others.

Please imagine growls emitting from throats, as unbeknown to the kids, preschoolers moms battle for glory.

“So will XY be applying for 'TheBestestSchoolInTown'?”

“Yes of course. XY will go there,” says mom with the kind of determination seen on the face of an athlete going for the gold, or a gladiator about to face tigers in a fight to the finish.

Apart from the friction caused by discussions of future educational institutions to be attended by their progeny, mothers also manage to feel insulted where no insult is meant. The other day I was having a conversation with a couple of other moms about which milk we give our kids. One said she gave her kids fresh milk. I said "Oh I've heard that's good but I feel paranoid about germs." She asked me what I gave my son, when I told her, she retorted, “Well I have not heard good things about that. The amount of preservatives they must put in, it can't be any good.” In order to appease her (as I honestly had not meant to look down on her or anything), I said, “You're right. It's just that I guess I'm a little paranoid.” She still looked annoyed though. I was quite amused by this outburst on her part.

Then there was the mother who wanted to know in all seriousness if my child could write within the red lines of his English notebook. When I said yes mostly he did manage, she got a look of panic on her face and whispered, “But my son can't usually....” I felt really bad and wished I had lied rather than have her walk away muttering under her breath with a manic look in her eyes.

My son started school at the age of 2 and when Playgroup ended for him, a report was sent home which had a general good/satisfactory rating for things like 'motor skills', 'hand/eye coordination' (which were signified by smileys) etc. Later in the evening a particularly competitive lady called to ask 'So how was HRH's report?' For a few seconds I didn't have any idea what she was talking about. I asked her “What report?” She replied impatiently, “The school report card.” I was amazed she wanted to compare 2 year olds 'report cards'. I wasn't sure what to say, “Oh it was alright. There were 8 happy smileys and 2 satisfactory smileys?” or maybe I should have announced proudly “It was awesome! All happy smileys!”

HRH is 4 years old at the moment. With battle cries resounding from every corner of the school playground already, I dread the level of competition that is to come. For me that is.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Class – The Lack Thereof


“Money makes the world go round.”

“It's all about the money.”

“Money money money, must be funny, in a rich man's world.” - ABBA


So much has been said, written and sung about money. We all know the importance of money. After all we all have to work for it (well most of us anyway). What I don't understand is how those who have it want to flaunt it. When I was growing up money was something no one talked about. We knew there were kids who's parents were 'loaded' and then there were those who weren't that well off. But no one talked about it. No one showed off about it. No one flaunted what they had bought and where they went and what they ate and where they stayed on holiday and so on.

Nowadays however it seems a lot of people's sense of self-worth comes from exactly what they are worth. (Some go to the extent of letting you know vaguely in whatever way they can about how many zeros you can assume there bank balance has. Or balances as the case probably is. Just a ball park figure you understand?) Well I don't understand. I don't want to know what you own, where you shop, what you bought or where your kids go to school. What I do want to know is if you have some worthwhile, intelligent conversation to make. If you have some slight amount of general knowledge and if you can look beyond the end of your nose.

I love meeting 'rich' people. With the exception of a few (I actually counted them on fewer than the fingers on one hand), they all give me a great sense of superiority (though that is clearly not their intention mostly). One lovely lady who I met for the first (and last) time ever, was telling me about her husband's place in the world and how her kids go to the 'best' school in town. She paused for a nano-second to ask where my son went. When I told her she said, without missing a beat, 'That's a good school for the middle class'. One could give her the benefit of the doubt and say perhaps she was uncouth and did not know what to say in civilized society. Perhaps like Eliza Doolittle yelling 'Move your bloomin' arse!' at the Royal Ascot. Or perhaps for the more cynically minded (or the first-hand witness) that was supposed to be a put down. Needless to say I was a little rude to the lady, ended my conversation and moved on.

This is what the so-called upper class (read 'Got money. Lots of it and won't let you forget it') is like - without any class what so ever. There are the pompous gentlemen who either sit around living off what their fathers worked for, or may even have worked for it themselves but pretend they have been well off forever (the nouveau riche). Even worse are the spouses of said gentlemen. These are the ones who spend the day preening themselves, while knowing nothing of the world or anything apart from their clothes, shoes, bags, jewelers, tailors, drivers, maids, cooks...well you see where I am going with this. These are the ones who live off the accomplishments of their fathers and after marriage, their husbands and think that they are 'the shit' (which they are, not in the way they think, but more literally).

Keeping up with the Jones' is another aspect of our society which wears my patience thin. So someone bought a new car, a new phone, went on holiday somewhere. Let's all jump on the bandwagon shall we? Can anyone say 'Baa'? As a very small example, when HRH (my son) started school, when ever it was a child's birthday usually parents of the child would bring in a cake and goody bags for the class and have an in-school party. When the school year began, the goody bags were the usual small-scale affairs that they usually are, that is, a small plastic bag with the usually assortment of sweets, toffees, pencils, erasers etc.

As the school year progressed though there was a rise in the level of each goody bag and its contents. By the end of the year some child's parents had replaced the goody bag entirely, with a big box (price PKR 300/- as printed at the bottom of the box), stuffed with imported chocolates, expensive toys and so forth – for each child in a class of twenty. Needless to say many 3 year olds were rather excited. A few of the mothers I spoke to were not. There was grumbling of how they would have to do the same, how it wasn't right and how they would have to compete with this.

The school took notice and a letter was sent out saying please refrain from sending such elaborate giveaways and from then on goody bags were inspected by school staff to ensure they did not contain anything expensive. So the next goody bag to arrive had reverted back to the initial usual standard. HRH on inspecting it in the car and casting it's contents aside, said to me, “Where's the rest of it?” I said there was no more and how great this was; to which he replied, “This is boring.” Is this the kind of competitive-ness we want our kids to emulate? I certainly don't. But I hear this is what kids nowadays talk about in school; which car you got dropped off/picked up in, where you vacation in the summer and where you buy your designer clothes from.

Class is not about how much you own or plan to purchase. It's about showing some. This 'showing class' is more or less equivalent to 'not showing off' (which includes refraining from setting your Facebook status to a poll on which car you should buy next, an Aston Martin or a Maserati). If you've got it, DON'T flaunt it. It's a) not nice to show off; b) others won't like you better just because you drive a fancy car and c) grow up. Do not take Jerry Maguire's line 'Show me the money!' literally. This category of people makes me feel bad for all that education gone to waste. Usually they go to great schools and colleges and have traveled the world over (no I don't mean just London) and yet have acquired none of the culture that even a laboratory petri dish possesses. They still don't know how to converse or conduct themselves in civilized society. However, since they do still socialize with others either people have a better tolerance level than I do, or must have a better way of hiding their disgust.

I think all I'm trying to say is, get over yourselves people. Life's too short. Live the life you want to. But it's always a good thing to try and broaden your horizons. And don't think you are superior to anyone due to your zeros.

Show some class.

“I don't care too much for money, money cant buy me love.” - The Beatles

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Age is just a number

I turn 30 next month. Thirty. The big 3-oh. (3-uh-oh?)

I can truthfully say that I started freaking out a little about this a few months ago. For along with the 'I'm getting oldddd..waill' (think Rachel from the Friends episode where she turns thirty), I have also been introspecting, for the first time really on the approach of a birthday.

When you are a kid, you look forward to adding another number to your age, as well as to the cake and the presents you are going to get. HRH for example asks me every few days when he will turn 5 and how many days are left to his birthday.

From age 13-18 you can't wait to get older so you can 'do your own thing' and not be suffocated by your un-cool parents.

From age 18-22 it's all about enjoying where you are at that point in your life, which is basically having a good time with your friends in college (and of course the studying..yeah who am I kidding?)

There is a slight realization that your teens are over when you hit 20. But then the 20s are cool and hip (think Friends in their first few seasons). The world is still your oyster.

Going through your twenties is really when you grow up and turn into the person you are probably going to be. Habits that are formed stay with you and personalities more or less solidify. People start working, some have jobs, some launch careers; some get married, some don't; some have kids, some don't. During this decade you also realize your parents actually did know what they were talking and trying to teach you about. (You still only truly appreciate all they have done for you when you have your own child though.)

As I approach the runway of 30, I can look back and see how I've grown up. No I did not become the archaeologist or the first female soldier of Pakistan that I wanted to be at the age of 10; nor did I become the lawyer or the journalist that was my dream at age 18.

What I did do was enjoy university, work at great organizations and find out what I really enjoyed doing, learned what things I truly loved and found fulfilling, married a wonderful man, gave birth to a child who does not cease to amaze me every single day, discovered how important every single person in my family is and how there is a well of love and support if you are lucky enough to have had strong, loving and meaningful relationships with family and friends. I have also learned that dreams change with time.

At 30 I may feel I'm almost halfway through, and I better get on with whatever it is that I want to do and get done. So this decade is it.

...But 30 is still young right?

After all age is just a number.


"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." - Douglas Adams

Friday, January 22, 2010

HRH-isms

"Quaid-e-Azam and Mickey Mouse are both our friends." - after drawing a Mickey Mouse stamp and sticking a Quaid-e-Azam stamp next to it


"It's a paani-thook-er. (water-spitter)" - when showing us something resembling a water sprinkler built with his blocks


"Please Allah, don't let it squish my pee thing." - when trying to pee at a toilet where the seat kept falling back down


"Hey! Is it Christmas Eve?" - after seeing snow falling while video chatting with his khala in London in January


"Knock knock!"
Who's there?
"Boo!"
Boo who?
"Boo-ger!"
(Also pot/pot who?/pot-ty! & vom/vom who?/vom-it!)


"When u need to pee fast u say 'zoor ki pee ayi hai'!" - when he needed to go to the bathroom desperately


"Please don't argue with me. I have told you one hundred times I don't want to eat anything." - on repeatedly being asked to eat something


"Where's your hair?" - asking a bald man who we had just met five minutes previously


"There's no one here to save you now! Buhaha!" - said to his Khala whom he had in a stronghold, when no one was around (there actually was an evil laugh too)



"It's a good thing we are at home. You can go to the bathroom and wash your mouth out with soap." - on hearing me say a 'bad word'