Maintaining Relationships

“Love your relations” Said General Jilani to my father, then he added with a twinkle in his eyes, “ – but only from a distance!” General Jilani, was my father’s senior, when he joined the army. Later, he became the Governor of Punjab, however their closeness continued.  By the way, his home was always full of guests and relations. So, don’t take these remarks too seriously.

There is a lot of wisdom in this remark too. 😉 It just means, ‘be in contact, but give space to each other!’ So, that is what I’m talking about….

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Eid Preparations’ check list.


No matter how well organized you are, Eid comes as a bit of a surprise. As I write, Eid hasn’t been announced even at 11.00 pm Pakistan time, on June 14th,2018. So, obviously, Eid won’t be on fifteenth June here.

A couple of hours ago, as I was busy doing up the home for my last minute preparations for Eid. I thought why not share this experience with you? I just love doing up the home for Eid. Here is a checklist:

1. Clean house properly. I’m sure you have checked the house from inside out. Got every room properly cleaned. Specially the fans. Made the gardener prune the plants. Shifted the indoor and outdoor plants a little. Removed all burnt out leaves and got the place fully cleaned.

2. The clothes are all ready and hanging in the cupboards. You must have done them up two days ago. Yes, couldn’t get the right shoes, but there are so many in the cupboard, I’m sure at least one pair will do fine. Check out the accessories, handbag, perfumes etc.

3. Food is the main concern: So, the menu has to be good enough for snacks and a meal, if some guests decide to stay, because you can’t resist insisting! Haleem is a good one, as it goes for a snack as well as a meal. As far as proper lunch is concerned, I love Chinese food, as it is light. Hope you got it ready or can get home delivery.

Check out from the restaurant, if they do home delivery. Otherwise, a good old pizza is also good enough! Just be kind to yourself and avoid last minute cooking and being in a hot kitchen. Fresh fruits are the best, as these are healthy and wonderful. If there are lots of guests in house and more are expected, then something wholesome like biryani, karahi or haleem would be good. Please be practical. Please do not insist on people having the food if they don’t want to.

4. A touch of panache: Tea-candles, sparkly lights, and lots of plants and flowers everywhere, really make a festive look. If you don’t have enough fresh flowers, put some artificial flowers into the different arrangements. So, your one bouquet of flowers can go a long way, if you use it smartly.

5. Set your own mood first: I know you are a bit nervous, wondering if the food will be enough, if the house is looking okay or not, perhaps angry with your tailor for messing up your clothes a bit. No one will notice if you keep that blazing smile of yours full on. You were too busy with your job/activities/praying and taravia routine/ daura-e-Quran/ social work. Now, with Eid on one’s head, only one day to go you are wondering where to start. Set the mood of yourself and your home in order. It is time to relax and enjoy it all.

6. Visiting list: Do visit all those family members or friends who lost a family member during last few months. So, this is their first Eid. You can start your visiting session from their home. Also, if there is a person who is alone, because his or her children are abroad, or has some problem, you can invite the person over for lunch. In short, be kind to someone.

7. Gifts: Getting nice gifts for family members with cards is a very good gesture. No matter how much you can afford or be able to do for them, it is the thought that counts. Have nice games, and favorite dishes cooked so everyone feels loved and happy.

8. Sharing joys of Eid: I’m sure you gave new clothes to all your staff, and also to others in your community. Keep things within limits. Do not get pestered by bullying beggars and staff members. Remember, the ones who are silent, may be in greater need.

9. Be kind to your staff: If you are lucky enough to have them with you, plan in such a way, that they are not put through too much stress. Ease the systems in your home. Have self-help table arranged, so everyone just helps themselves. When you go visiting, let them have leave, so they too can go visiting. Lock up the house, put on your alarm system.

10. Texting and phoning loved ones and acquaintances: Try to call your close friends and relatives, if possible. Send a text if it is inevitable. Preparing a special text which you can share them with almost everyone is a good way to manage.

11. No phone: Please give more attention to your loved ones sitting next to you. Put that phone aside, and have eye contact while talking to your friends who have come all the way to meet you, rather than with your phone!

12. Have a blessed Eid: Do say the Eid prayers in the mosque or at home. Make it a special Eid, life is too short to be wasted, sleeping it out. Eid Mubarak!

Note: Photographs by author of house of Haroon and Uzma, and her own home.


Spiritual Awakening Session of Aitekaaf.

– Fasting and aitekaaf, even during the year- can help us in many ways.

This blog is all about how you can try out aitekaf even at home. The other point is that it is good to do it during Ramzan; However, it is possible to do it even during the rest of the year, and for short periods of time. Life in today’s world is so stressful that we need these little windows of spiritual strengthening. No matter which religion you belong to, it is good thing to meditate and try to detach from our lives and connect with our Maker.

Sorry everyone. Ramzan somehow brings out the zombie in you. Twenty eight days of fasting and feasting has taken its toll. Sleep being the biggest victim, you spend more time trying to sleep than actually sleeping. No matter what you do, you are always short on sleep. So, now, with 28th day of fasting sixteen hours a day, behind me, I’m feeling better in many ways. Even though, I’m quite lethargic. My fault this time was that I didn’t do any exercise. Previously, I’ve always walked the last half hour before iftari, but not this time.

I believe that in every religion there is this option of spiritual connection with one’s Maker. Do, try whatever way you can have within your own religion.

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Ramzan, CSS school and Art classes 2018

Activities of last ten days of Ramzan. 


During  last ten days of Ramzan, it seems both type of people put on another gear! The worldly types move towards the bazaars and shops and more iftar parties. The shopping areas, and roads are packed till late night. The spiritual types completely detach themselves, and go into ‘aitekaaf’. It is a self-proclaimed detachment from worldly life and  focussing on Allah. Spending time only on  prayer and meditation for last ten days of Ramzan till Eid. During that time, one goes into searching for one’s inner self.


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Joy of Charity Work


Somehow, you always receive more than you give!

This topic is so close to my heart, I don’t know where to start! I suppose charity begins with empathy. Yet there are so many beginnings to it.

Why give charity? It can be any of these reasons:

  1. To help others out of their dilemmas.
  2. To thank Allah for all that He has blessed you with.
  3. It is the best way to bring your own problems into perspective.
  4. It is the best anti-depressant, and diffuser of sadness. An instant mood booster.
  5. A financial booster. (I’ll explain in a while.)

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Take it easy!

A lot of the toughness in my life is caused by me!

 Seriously, I am my own worst enemy. So many of the things that are driving me crazy weren’t necessary in the first place! I mean I could have achieved my goal with just half the effort!

Why did I over-do it?

Was it worth it?

I learnt this lesson once, when I was in Kuwait and cooking a new dish for a dinner. It took me two days to make all the preparations for a dish with almonds and chicken. Then there was another dish I made called Mexican Chicken – which took just ten to fifteen minutes to cook. Believe me, no one noticed my ‘special’ dish, and everyone went for my Mexican Chicken asking me how I made it, as it looked tasty amazing!

Wow. I learnt my lesson there and then. Out went that recipe from my file, and the Mexican Chicken remained and ended up in my Recipe book, later on.

I guess, it was a simple formula of Physics I had learnt about efficiency: ‘Input is equal to output’. So, if the input is too much, and output isn’t that much, then chuck out the whole project. Be mindful of this, at all times. Your efforts have to be proportional to the output.

It is the same with most things.

But you see there are many aspects to a thing. You have to see if it is worth it or not. Sometimes, some long-drawn-out things are worth it. For instance, it took over twenty years to publish my latest book,- simply because it is important. So, no regrets.

So, the lesson is:

It better be worth it, or chuck it!  


Last year, when I met Fairy in Lahore, she mentioned this. Her mentor told her:

‘One should remain within one’s limitations.’ (The Urdu word is a beautiful one, istata’at.) So, this goes into all facets of one’s life. For instance, when we talk of relationships; most wives are upset with husbands, ‘look at all that I’ve done for you! I did this, I did that, I even went and did so many more things that weren’t my duty, but I still did it. “You didn’t appreciate any of it!” you say, angrily. Well, (wisely,) he keeps quiet.

But he could have said, ‘Sweety, did I ask you????’


No one asks us. We just go out of our way doing things for our loved ones and even the not-so-loved-ones at the workplace etc.. Then we get exhausted, lose temper, feel unappreciated and end up hating everyone.

So, I guess, the point is: do as much as is needed.

Then stop it.

That’s all.

No one asked you to do more, so don’t do it.


If you do, then do it for God’s sake, and don’t expect any ‘reward’ from the person. Allah says in Quran that you should never remind the person whom you have done favors for, about all that you did. Otherwise, it will all go to waste.

The more you think of it, you realize how this approach of overdoing things literally goes into EVERYTHING IN OUR LIVES.

Things, relationships, work and even fun!

So, while doing anything, keeping a sensible ‘limitation’ or ‘scope’ of the relationship/work/play at hand is essential.


For instance: one religious scholar said that only ‘farz’ prayers are needed. The rest we are saying on our own. With the result, other scholars have made praying so complicated that then people end up even leaving out the ‘farz’ prayers.

The price of doing all those extras is too high – this is what we have to realize – so, due to these extras the actual task gets left out.  Just look at it! Is it worth it?

The expenses  of marriages ceremonies are so much, that people keep delaying the function. Though it wouldn’t cost much, if one went for the essentials. My mentor Mahjabeen married off her son within forty days of the death of her own daughter’s death. The situation was such that the son had to go to USA for further studies, and she wanted him to get married and take his bride too with him. So, it was all done in a hurry. She held the Waleema ceremony in her home, it was lunch time. Due to shortage of space, she asked us to ‘eat and leave.’ When I took the salami to her, she asked me to hand it to the bride, without even looking at it. That was it. It was a simple function. No extras, just the essentials. In fact, she didn’t even let the girls’ side give food, she herself arranged the food. She believes the food is for the boys’ side to give to the guests, so it is a Waleema. She applies everything to herself first of all. This is why no one minded, in fact everyone admired her guts for holding a function exactly as she wanted to do, according to the beliefs she herself proclaims. She wholeheartedly invited us through word of mouth, and we happily went along. We felt happy that she had remembered us at this happy time in her life.


The point is: Keep the objective in mind.

(I have a feeling I’m writing this blog for myself more than for you.) Whatever I do, I get carried away. But let me tell you, it is fine to get carried away, if you are doing it as a big ‘thank You’ to the One Above for blessing us so much.

Then it is OK. But let me tell you, He too, only expects within our capabilities. Even He doesn’t demand more from us than what we are easily capable of doing.

So, why go overboard?

It will make life much more bearable all round, if you focus on the important stuff only:

  1. Do what is necessary – stick to the compulsory question first.
  2. Prioritize. That is from an importance, urgency, and value point of view. Start with the most important first, (many urgent things are not so important.)
  3. While doing each task, do the basics and go on to the next point. Instead of getting carried away with the first task and leaving out the others. Give time limitations to each task.
  4. Do keep aside those things to do, which are worth the effort. For instance, one’s writing and other such aspects of life, will stay in this world even after we are gone. So, they are worth it, and should be done as ‘sadqa-e-jariya.’ But then, keep a separate time-slot for creative work.
  5. Do anything extra for God’s sake. But remember, how much He will expect from you? Yes, only what is within your capabilities!

Stay blessed my wonderful Reader. Take it easy, and you will be blessed!

Note: All photographs provided by author. Nataliya has taken four of these photographs.




Best Cancer Prevention video


By the Indian nutritionist Luke Coutinho.

No matter how happy-go-lucky we all seem to be, on the back of our minds, is this horrid fear of cancer. All those who follow me, would know that my husband died of Cancer. So, naturally, this word has a deeper connotation for me. It is natural to ask ‘why?’ and how did it happen?’ What could have been done to prevent it? As a wife, I felt so GUILTY, feeling bad that surely, there must have been something I could have done to prevent it?

Didn’t I see it coming?

No! I didn’t.

On top of it, GBM IV is called a ‘time bomb’ and a ‘death sentence’. Nobody finds out before it is too late. (What a consolation to have to deal with!) But seriously, when I saw the ‘treatments’, I’m glad it wasn’t’ found out earlier!

It was one hell of a painful journey which I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies.

Watching this video last night did make me feel better. I can vouch for the fact that, what Luke is saying is 100% accurate.

I am a witness to it.

It also, makes me feel good that I did try to convince my husband to avoid these things, which I did observe him battling with….

So, anyone out there having these lifestyle tendencies, there is still time…

So, in a nutshell, this is what the video says:

6 Basic Commonalities observed in Cancer Patients.

  1. Constipation.
  2. Acidity.
  3. Sleeplessness at night. (No sleep.)
  4. Emotional Stress (Failure to manage stress)
  5. Sedentary lifestyle.
  6. Less water intake.

The greatest stress is made on the need to be forgiving, and as free of stress as possible.

So, all these things my husband had except the sedentary part. (Yes, the sedentary one did begin towards the last six to eight months.) He was basically a very active and health conscious-person. Only, towards the end, he started sleeping a lot, (which is one of the symptoms.)

Some said it happens due to being close to machines (he was an aero-space engineer, so loved machines), using too much mobile phones, being in a heated car, without opening windows, using mobile phone in-car, so on and so forth.

No one mentioned these points mentioned in this video.

When Asma Abbasi shared it with me on fb, I saw it and realized how much sense it made. I went on to watch more videos by this amazing nutritionist.

Wow. He is awesome.

It has given me so much comfort now, because for each one of these, I would try to help my husband in trying to avoid these aspects in his life, for instance, forgive and forget more, try to sleep more, have more water, be more relaxed in life and so on. Being a true husband, he would have an answer to each of the suggestions I made.

Had he known how dangerous these could be, I’m sure he would have given it a lot more consideration.

This is why I’m sharing this video here. So, that if anyone out there has these issues, please realize how dangerous these can be.

All of these points are do-able.

We also need to accept the fact that one day our time will be up. I pray that when it comes, I can go with grace and acceptance, as my husband went. However, this doesn’t mean that we do not try to have a good lifestyle which is healthy right till the end.

Be happy, forgive a lot, have a lot of water, and take a nice chill pill as you go about your life. As they say in Punjabi, ‘mitti pao!’ (And I’d like to add: ‘grow lots of flowers in it!’)

Note: All photographs provided by author and Nataliya Najib Khan. All landscapes of Mount Rainier near Seattle. 

#healthyliving, #cancerprevention, #cancercure, #fitness.

First Week of Ramzan

It is important to begin this month right!


So, with great hype and resolutions we started Ramzan. Weather has been amazing  in Islamabad, I’ve had days without fans even.  Yes, I know, it has touched forties in Karachi and other parts of the country. Anyhow, as usual, it is miraculously possible to keep the fast, and we actually manage pretty well.

33059432_1956783541021595_6346361393033248768_n (1)Then suddenly, you realize that you have to be careful. After the first thrill you realize it is not so easy either. Specially the sleep pattern is very disturbed.

Your charity resolutions need to be executed properly.  The most important thing is that you’ve got to start quickly with whatever you have planned. What happens is that ‘the early bird is already there!’

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Prayers and verses from Holy Quran.

Here is a sure shot way to face the trials of life successfully! At least this is how I faced them.  I’m sharing with you some of my special selections which gave me peace and courage during the worst times of my life.


These are verses from the Quran which have touched me deeply. I keep adding to these, as I read. The words have given me strength in the most difficult circumstances.

Note: The English translations are by Muhammad Farooq-e-Azam Malik (1997)  almost entirely. Kindly, forgive me if there are any unintended mistakes here. Just let me know, I’ll correct them.

Once I have read these words, I feel ready to face my day – with my Allah’s blessings.

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Friends are priceless!

How to have friends and keep them! 


Friends are some of the greatest treasures that we have. They play such a vital role in our lives. There are all types of friends in our lives. Some are very close, some are just acquaintances, the common factor is that you feel happy just being with them. They make a difference in the quality of our lives. They enhance and enrich us. Yes, having a true friend is priceless.


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