How my Mentors helped …

All of us go through times when we feel we are stuck in an ‘impossible’ situation. It feels like a dead-end in life. You need someone to talk to. Someone, who is not judgmental. Who will listen to you with empathy, and offer the best solution.

With time, I’ve gathered mentors in every field of my interest.

All my mentors are there for me with their timely advice and input; they have made me who I am today.

Abbas Husain – educationist and spiritual guide:

In 2005 I went to Karachi for a one month intensive course for teachers and administrators called the Master Teacher’s Course (MTC,) at Teacher’s Development Center.  It takes place around this time of the year in Karachi, at his Teacher’s Development Center (TDC) on Tariq Road. Here, I’d spend each and every spare minute hovering around my teacher’s office or his well-equipped library, to gain as much information and knowledge as possible.  You will know more about him here in a blog post I wrote on his birthday.

Once, I was an administrator at a well-known institution, and had a very difficult boss. I was so upset at her behavior towards me, she wouldn’t miss out a single opportunity to put me down. I rang up Abbas Husain, in answer to my question, ‘what should I do?’ he narrated this incident of Christ: ‘once Christ was standing with his disciples, and a group of men passed by, they were using abusive language at Christ. In answer he replied, ‘May God bless you!’ The disciples were shocked. They asked him why he didn’t say something equal to what they had hurled at him, or simply ask God to punish them. Christ answered, ‘they gave me what was in their pockets, and I gave back what was in my pocket!’ Meaning that one should continue doing whatever good that one does, even if others do horrid things to you. So, one shouldn’t change one’s own better acts by getting influenced by the bad acts of others.

Yes, that helped!

When I’ve been busy working on my first publication of Tulip of Sinai, I shared its’ manuscript with him. Being the highly knowledgeable person that he is, he pointed out some big points that I had overlooked while working on the book. His timely advice and deeper insight into Iqbals’ concepts, saved me a lot of trouble, and gave me a deeper perspective.

It is always a pleasure speaking to him, as he is in constant touch with the latest thinkers and books. His knowledge is all inclusive containing the Eastern as well as the Western writers of our present and previous times.

Naturally, I have great regard for him.

 

Dr. Feroza Ahmad, educationist:

There was a course being conducted at Preston University about Personal Enrichment and Professional Development, in 2003. I attended that two-week course which was being conducted by Dr. Feroza Ahmed. I became extremely attached to her, and stayed in touch ever since. In fact, whenever, such courses took place after that, she would invite me as a guest speaker for their final ceremony. She is one of those persons, whom I can never refuse, because I hold her in great regard. She helped me in many ways:

  • Suggested I do EMBA in evening classes, which I did in 2006 – 2007.
  • Then in 2011 she asked me rejoin the university to covert my EMBA degree to an MBA She told me that I could do it, by forwarding my previous credit hours to the next one.
  • I started my first semester of MBA, in October Next month, my husband fell ill. So, I asked her to let me leave my studies. But she advised me to ‘Take care of your husband, but do not leave your studies.’ She helped convert my evening classes to distant learning, so I could study at my own pace, and go for the exams, while taking care of my hospitalized husband.
  • She gave me constant attention and monitored my progress. Later on she told me, that she read my papers, to check how I had performed in my exams. She knew the stress I was going through. Happily, she was very pleased with my output.
  • She has constantly been praying for me, and sending love to my parents and specially my mother.

Mahjabeen, spiritual guide:

My friend Seema recommended Mahjabeen, when I needed to talk to someone who was the wisest in this region. I met her  in her home in Rawalpindi. Within minutes I could see she had a grip over my situation. She responded with solutions which were very basic and easy to understand. After that, we regularly spoke on the phone. No matter how distressed, she would have me laughing in minutes.  She is amazing. Here are some pearls of wisdom I’ve gathered from her:

  • The master jeweler (jauhari) knows where a precious stone will look the best. He knows best where it should be set. You are where you are in life, because the Master Jeweler has placed you there!
  • Which type of questions do you give to your favorite students? – The most challenging ones of course – knowing your student will be able to attempt it well. That’s how Allah is taking you, He obviously thinks you are a bright student, if He has given you the toughest question paper!
  • The world is an examination hall where each person has a different question paper.
  • No matter what happens in your life, do not stop doing those kind deeds that you have taken upon yourself.
  • When a loved one leaves this world, take a very small act which would please Allah, and do it for him on a daily basis for the rest of your life. Ask Allah to give its reward to your loved one. (When it is something big, it can’t be done daily, so it is best to choose something small and doable.)  Of course, go ahead and do the big deeds too, once in a while.
  • Do not stress about anything; ‘if it is written, it is bound to happen, so why worry now? If it isn’t written, it won’t happen, so why worry now?’

Abida Peer, spiritual guide:

She was in Islamabad, the wife of a senior diplomat from South Africa. I don’t know who recommended her to me, but I got an appointment and went to meet her. She taught me things which have helped me in my life onwards. These were easy ways of meditation.

  • Meditation of the word ‘Allah’, repeat this for five to twenty minutes. One can easily do it before sleeping, or while driving, or after prayers. You just have to focus and repeat the word slowly, preferably with eyes closed. (Of course, don’t close eyes, while driving!) Slowly, you feel every muscle in your body relaxing, and your mind becoming at peace.
  • Read La haula wala quwwata….. (there is no strength but the strength of Allah), hasbiAllah ho wa neimal waqeel…. (Allah is sufficient….), for ten to twenty minutes after at least one prayer per day. (If you can do it about fifty times, it is very strengthening.)

Seema Iftekhar – friend, Urdu literature and spiritual guide:

We became friends in 1992 as our houses were near to each other, living in PAF, Badaber, Peshawar. We just clicked. When I found out she is an expert in Urdu language and specially on Iqbal, I would go and learn his poetry’s meanings from her on an almost daily basis. Waliya was just a few months old, and Seema loved her. So our friendship grew, her children and my elder two girls also became great friends. She used to write for Urdu dailies then, and did a clothes business too. Later, she became a scholar in Islamic studies, so if I needed advice, I would often go to her. As a regular writer for Dawn’s Tuesday review, I’d often ask for her input on anything to do with Urdu literature or Iqbaliyat.

So, with her vision and input, I’ve felt great support from her.

Farida Shahid – friend, spiritual and business management guide:

She has been my friend since we did masters in Related Arts, from College of Home Economics. We are a part of the same group of friends. We have stood by each other through the thick and thin parts of our lives. Specially, when I’ve ever had any problem, they all get together to help me.  Each one of them Riffat, Ayesha, Fitrat, all give their inputs whenever needed. However, since Farida went on to study the Al-Huda course in Lahore at Abida Gurmani’s house, she has become more learned. Every Ramzan, her Daura-e-Quran, has gathered a special importance in Lahore. She also conducts lectures and classes in Al-Huda.  I’ve learnt a lot from her in my personal life as well as in making financial and asset management decisions. Having a back ground a very strong business background, she has the expert mindset of a manager:

  • For heart –related diseases to read the 57 Ayat of 10th
  • Relationships: Read 7th ayat of Surah Mumtahena.
  • Renting out property is very good decision, of course, one faces problems but these are manageable.
  • When your child has proposals, try not to make an issue of minor things like dates etc.
  • However, when you have to refuse a proposal, then do it in morning hours, after saying two naffals for them and your family.
  • In the case of Haq Meher, it should be reasonable yet sizable support for your daughter.

Hajra Mansoor and Mansoor Rahi – my art mentors:

Since childhood, I’ve wanted to be an artist. But when the time came for me to go to National College of Arts, Lahore, I wasn’t permitted to go, by my parents. That was a big setback in my life. Going to Home Economics College and then studying Related Arts in my masters, was only the next best thing to do. So, much later in life, when I got to know Hajra Mansoor and Mansoor Rahi – the two living legends in Pakistani art – it was a God-send for me. Their constant feedback and mentoring in my art work is like a balm for that deficiency that I’ve felt due to not going to NCA. My weekly classes with them to date, are a tonic for me.

Tips for having and keeping mentors:

  • Do meet them whenever possible, while respecting their time.
  • Express your admiration for them, and take appropriate gifts for them.
  • Pray for them, as having mentors in our lives is essential for our survival.
  • Do give them a call now and then, to let them know you are thinking of them. (Yes, Eid in round the corner, an excellent opportunity to call your mentors and wish them.)
  • Definitely, call them if you need their advice; ask for an appointment. Make notes if needed, as you don’t want to forget important information from their goldmine of experience. In cases when you can’t meet them, ask to call at an appropriate time, you can even make a Skype or phone call.

Have you got mentors? Do you stay in touch? Do share what you learnt from them, with me.

I’m sure you too must be blessed. 🙂

Note: Most of my mentors do not believe in being photographed. So, I’ve respected their wish, hence the flowers! (But they are like flowers in my life, and their fragrance keeps me as I am So, it isn’t far from the truth.) Pictures of Hajra Mansoor and Mansoor Rahi are taken by myself. Abbas Husain’s photograph is taken from internet.

Self-talk II

Somehow any place of worship always makes you think deeply. 

Recently, you’ve heard me talk a lot about self-talk. Previously, it was to help in healing, here. We both know, it isn’t only about healing. It is definitely much more.

Young artist  Raha with her sketch. 

Whether we think about it or not; We are definitely thinking. We know that ultimately, what we think is what we end up doing! It is going to affect how we react, to our situations and what we do with our lives.

So, isn’t it wiser to be aware of what we are thinking, to know where we are going?

A lot of our time,  we are thinking about things people say to us. In our country, everyone is telling us what we ‘should’ think. If we aren’t careful, we get bullied and pushed around. Then we end up feeling cornered. Much later, we realize, that had we thought the right thoughts at the right time; Perhaps we wouldn’t have taken certain steps which led us to so many gross problems.

Let me tell you about my friend Nazneen,  (of course this isn’t her real name!) So,when she got engaged, her fiancé suggested that they get a flat of their own. She said,

‘No, we mustn’t do it, your family will think that I’ve asked you to do this and separated you from your family, even before I’ve arrived!’ Anyhow, when she mentioned this to me, I said,

‘Let him go ahead with it, you know that it was his idea.’ But no, she felt it wouldn’t be right. She didn’t let him go ahead with it. I knew what a joint family looked like. So, she didn’t know what she was talking about. She got married, and went into joint-family. Let me tell you they were a good family – nothing wrong with them –  but the girl has to sacrifice her own life for them.

Fast forward twenty five years.

She tells  me, ‘Shireen, I wish I had listened to you then.  So this is how I spent my life:  

Apnee zindagi guzar dee,

…… kissi aur nay!

Prologue to her story: The couple did separate from rest of family, ultimately. Her fiancé had been right, she should have agreed with him. So much of their life’s sufferings could have been avoided.

So,  anyhow. Let me go on. I’ve done some research on Self-talk and this is what I’ve come up with:

Four types of thoughts:

  1. Catastrophizing:  This is the typical situation where you end up thinking of the worst thing that can happen. ‘What if I fail?’ ‘What if I face humiliation?’ ‘What if people find out?’  With such thoughts you only immobilize yourself before even beginning a project. Amplifying anxiety and depression in the process.

What to do: A good comeback is ‘so what?’ Also, know that ninety percent of things one is afraid of, don’t happen. If they do, what can you do anyway? Also, be confident,you will be able to manage things whatever happens.

  • Blaming: This is very common. Either one blames one’s self for things that were actually out of one’s control. Or, one blames others for what happened to you.  It is vital to control your thoughts, otherwise, you will hold yourself responsible for most of the problems in your life, even the ones for which you aren’t responsible. On the other hand, when you keep blaming others for what happens in your own life, then you are putting the responsibility on others too. So, you cannot do anything about it. So, then how can you make a change?

What to do: I would say, ‘just stop it!’ Blaming others means that you can’t do anything about it, nor will you. Blaming one’s self all the time, means that you are going to take responsibility for things you didn’t do either. So, just be balanced. Do what you can, and move on. Give one problem a time constraint, and then get on with your life!

  • Rehashing: This is when you keep replaying something awful that happened in the past. Everything that happens in the present somehow triggers an unpleasant memory in the past. So you’ve got to be mindful of it. This scenario is more so in cases of death in the family. You keep replaying the scene again and again. Whereas you need to replay the life of the person in your mind, and celebrate it.

What to do:    In other words, you are carrying a lot of ‘baggage’ with you. I’d say, ‘drop it, at once.’ Oooops! I better say this to myself also. A psychologist told me, that one good way to do it is to write it all down once and for all. Then tear it into pieces, and throw it into a river or sea. Other way is (what I do sometimes, if I think it would be of use to you, I publish it in my blog post!) In the case of a death, instead of talking about how the death happened, talk about the person’s life. 

  • Rehearsing: This is when you are planning something in the future, and keep thinking about it.Visualizing it again and again.

What to do:  So, till it happens, there is really no point in dwelling on it. During a painting exhibition of mine, Saeed Akhtar said to me, ‘An idea is nothing till you have executed it. So, do not talk about ideas.’ The same thing Zaheer Salam the country’s largest publications’ owner once said to me, ‘do not talk about an idea, till it is executed!’ So, I’ll just say, ‘stop it!

Other forms of self-talk:

Though the above four points might seem enough, but personally I feel that prayers have a lot to do with self-talk too. Sometimes, you talk to your God, like you talk to yourself. He is all the time a witness to that conversation going on inside, and you often talk to Him too. Since He is apparently silent, you often talk to Him directly too, and let yourself hear this conversation.

Prayers:

So, I think prayers are a beautiful form of self-talk. One can do it often. I’m sure you must have seen how He makes those things ‘happen’ and you have that eureka moment and look up, knowing who was behind it. Since He was the only One who knew about what you had wished for. Subhan Allah!

Planning:

Your step by step planning of any activity or event, or life situation is itself a methodical and logical way of dealing with issues or situations on your mind. This is very important and can be done in journals or your home management diary or personal file in your laptop – whatever you call it. This too is a type of self-talk.

Doing self-talk while looking into the far distance brings greater depth in one’s thinking process. So many things become clear, which weren’t so, earlier. 

Situations’ talk:

Just now I spoke to Hajra Mansoor. She has had an elbow fracture a while back. She was on her way home from hospital. When I heard this, I said, ‘I’ll talk later.’ She was fine, and in good mood. Ready to deal about any issue or situation at hand. I was just doing some work on her behalf. So, you see she is unperturbed, and not bothered by ‘small’ roadblocks that life puts on the way.

When Hajra Mansoor and Mansoor Rahi were to be chief guest at my book launch and painting exhibition; That day, there was a lot of disturbances on the city roads. Many roads were blocked, and some mullahs had threatened violence and what not. Neither I nor they were perturbed. We went ahead with our function. They calmly found a route to reach the AQS Gallery and came as chief guests.

This is the result of self-talk. When you say to yourself, ‘no matter what happens, I’m going to go ahead with my work.’ And you simply go ahead. You don’t mind that only half the people were able to attend the event. Fine!

Similarly, when my father passed away. I’ve made up my mind, not to grieve for too long. Instead of thinking of the death of my father, I’ve decided to think of his life! How he lived, and what I’ve learnt from it. To celebrate his living, and to give sadqa regularly. This is what I did when my husband passed away too.

Go ahead, do the effective and practical self-talk for yourself, and get yourself out of your situation.

Last important point in self-talk:

When there is a time of deep disturbance in your life, but you have decided to stay within it. Then self-talk will help you get through this also. Just make up your mind to not get damaged by it . Protect yourself from inside. Whatever someone says to you, tell yourself:

‘It is coming from them, I am not going to let it affect me. I will not react, as it is not worth the bother!’ Stay blessed and protect your self through self-talk.

Recently, there has been this killing of 49 Muslims in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. What kind of self-talk was that killer doing? So, you can see how powerful self-talk can be. It can save you and help you save other’s lives. Paradoxically, it can kill others, and will finally get himself killed too. 

This is the power of self-talk. So, it has to be curtailed, controlled and used positively. Most illnesses are the result of stress, which can be caused through negative self-talk. 

As Wasif Ali Wasif said: ‘problems are not caused by situations, but by what you think about those situations!’ (Mushkilat halaat ki wajah say nahi, bulkeh khayalat ki wajah say hoti hein!)

Epilogue: 

Had I not done self-talk, today, I’d be in my parents’ home. Now, I’m in my own home. I refused to listen to everyone else, when my husband died. I lived in our own house, even if it meant living here alone, with my young daughter. I faced court cases, lived in a freezing home without gas. I paid every price necessary or unnecessary, finally succeeding in being where I wanted to be. I was clear about following my heart, and doing what I believed in. Self-talk my dear!

Stay blessed and protected by positive use of self-talk. 🙂 

Women’s day 2019

 Hi Everyone! Life is passing so fast, suddenly you find most of it is over. (Naturally, no one knows their expiry date – it might be round the corner.)  So, we’ve got lots to do. Today on Women’s Day, (actually we know whole year is ours too, but just for the sake of talking, lets assume that today is ours) I want to include the men out there too. 

Men are very close to us women; Specially, because these men cherish women in the role of mother, sister, wife, friend or colleague. Without their support we can’t go far. Rest assured, we can have more rights, only with their help. We need to convince them about certain things that have been unfair for us. Once they realize it, they will happily support us.

Together we can go far.

 On Women’s Day today, let me share this with you:

  1. Maintain a Balance– in whatever you do. Stay in middle ground – don’t under play or over do things. (Being rather emotional, we tend to overdo things some times.)  
  2. Life is so funny: Enjoy the humor in every situation. 
  3. Don’t believe what you hear –check it out first.
  4. Dedicate yourself to acquiring knowledge and then sharing it:  Be responsible for the information you have. Constantly dedicate yourself to learning, and then to teaching all you’ve learnt. 
  5. Look out for injustice. Stand up against it. Fight for it. But realize when you have to accept defeat, (occasionally). There is still a long way to go. We only have one life.  And we are human too. All in good time. Watch how Islamic law is used against women instead of in favor of women as it was intended: Keep in mind the fact that in Pakistan no other Islamic intervention is followed by all, except those laws which bifurcate women’s properties. This is followed without taking responsibility for their life-time food, clothing and shelter – for which they get the share! Specially note Nikah namah rights.
  6. Watch your finances vigilantly: That is the key to your independence.
  7. Watch what people do:  rather than what they say – you learn more about them like this.  
  8. Do not waste time sorting out people – Allah is there to take care of that.
  9. Keep alive hotline with God, Allah and Maker – after all, in the end we all shall be meeting Him.
  10. Do charity work as much as possible – remember it starts with kindness, do help the men too.
  11. Sometimes it pays to be silent: When there is a choice to speak or not to speak, try to choose not speaking some times. (You won’t regret it!)
  12. Have faith in yourself, and Allah who made you.

We have come a long way.:)

Every successful woman has a successful man who supports her.

 It is only because we stuck out for each other. Let us not fight the men in our lives, without them we are nothing, just as without our support they are nothing.

It isn’t about them.

It is about us. Being together is the key.

Recently, when my father passed away, so many men and women came together to help us to stay on our feet. Their help means the world to us. We can only survive together.

As I heard Bano Qudsia say in an interview once, ‘our fight is against cruelty and injustice – not against men. Whether this is dealt out to men or women, we fight against it together.’

Happy Women’s Day!

Realization & writing journals.

‘It’s a quality of prophets to realize….’ said Dr. Muwaddat Rana, a leading Psychiatrist of Pakistan. 

Realization:

Realization is to look within ourselves, to ‘see’ our own shortcomings, and then to find ways to improve ourselves.

Simple!

Until we don’t realize where we went wrong, we can never remake ourselves, nor improve our future relationships.  You can say or do what you like, but it won’t work.

See how two Prophet’s felt it:

Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) case:

I’m sure you’ve heard of the woman who brought her child to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), saying, ‘she has too many sweets, please tell her to stop.’ He asked her to return next day. When she came, he told the child not to have sweets. Surprised, she asked ‘why he didn’t say the same yesterday?’ He said,

‘Till yesterday, I was having too many sweet eatables myself.’

How can one tell others to do something, which one doesn’t follow oneself?

This is realization.

It was Hazrat Younus, who prayed:

one of the most powerful prayers you can say. 

Realizations in relationships:

It is the most important thing in maintaining our relationship with anyone. To make sure nothing happens, and when it happens, to realize, and redeem. It is vital to restore the situation and relationship by making changes in one’s own behavior; you need to take steps to show what you are feeling. Your realization needs to be evident not only in words but by actions too.

Sometimes, a simple ‘sorry, I love you.’ Doesn’t work. More has to be done to redeem a relationship.

I know, among Christians, redemption takes on a strong connotation, but you know what I mean. I could use the word ‘restore’ also. But redemption is a little more than that. It is to make up for the wrong you did by doing that little extra bit too. That is what I feel and believe. Even Allah says if you are sorry for having done something wrong, as the person for forgiveness. (He won’t forgive till that person has forgiven either.) You can feed the poor, or fast for two months, too.

 You need to do something tangible to show you are really sorry, and to prove your realization.

Journaling or keeping a diary helps:

Journaling is an excellent tool to look at your own self and ‘see’ the connotations. It makes a difference.

Write about both happy and sad things while journaling:

I’ve kept a diary since I was thirteen years old. Believe me, it helps. So, all my life, I’ve done a lot of journaling. The only thing I now realize, I did wrong was, that I wrote ferociously when I was upset, unhappy or wronged. But hardly ever wrote, when I was ecstatic or happy. So, later on, if I read my diary, one felt as if there have been more unhappy times that happy ones    – which I know isn’t the case – so, while journaling, one’s got to keep balance.

Blaming others doesn’t help:

Blaming others and pointing out their mistakes and shortcomings, will never help you. Realize, where you went wrong. How your reactions could have made a difference. Being proactive earlier, can change consequences. I mean, next time, if you have realized,  you can preempt situations and save them before they get bad. Changing and improving your own behavior definitely will make a difference. That only comes after realization.

Otherwise,  you can go on making the same mistakes, and facing the same consequences all your life. If you don’t realize, it won’t happen.

Then you ask,

 ‘Why do such things happen to me?’

Bullet journaling;

Life is fast, time is short. You can do bullet journaling. I like it too. You can even try both – depending on your mood and time at hand – just write five points daily.  Great personalities including several US presidents, wrote a diary at night, going over the day. Seeing where they went wrong, and how they can improve matters next day.

Best thing about journaling;

Also, by writing, you can look at an issue from many angles. This is Edward De Bono’s concept of wearing the six hats. That is you look at an issue from six different points of view.

I’ve found just writing the pros and cons of something, or problem and solutions works pretty well too.

Some things, can’t be felt when someone else tells you. But you can realize it. When you look at your actions, ‘seeing’ how it happened. Then prepare a  step-by-step redemption plan.  You can say ‘I was wrong, and go up to the person say you are sorry. Not only that; Your behavior afterwards can show it, on a daily basis.

Worth the effort:

Believe me, if I find out that I’ve not spoken nicely to my cook or domestic help, I’ll go to him and ask him to forgive me for having hurt him. It isn’t easy cooking in such extreme temperatures. To come all the way, and then to get comments that hurt. So what, if there was too much salt in the food, one could have said the same thing in a nicer way too. Also, not in front of others. There are opportunities  for putting things right. So, asking for forgiveness needs to be done as quickly as possible.

Journaling is good for one’s EQ:

In today’s language you could say that a diary or journal is good for one’s EQ – your emotional quotient. There is so much talk about IQ. – When in fact one needs to have a high emotional quotient too. If you read the book Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, it stresses the importance of having an outlet for your emotions. A way to understand one’s self and to know why and how one feels the way one does.

In the book Working with Emotional Intelligence, the writer specially stresses how much people are affected by what they feel, rather than what they know. Most actions are fueled by anger, hatred, and feelings of revenge. – Whereas, it can be conquered by feelings of love and forgiveness.

The Amygdala:

Location of Amygdala. 

The amygdala in the brain is an important almond shaped part which controls our feelings. How important it is to nurture this, and how it affects our actions in our lives.  The feelings can be controlled by our own journaling and realizations.

How to do Journaling:

My diary. 
  1. Privacy: Your diary is yours. It is no fun if you can’t write what you feel, because you are afraid someone will read it. So, privacy is a matter of concern living in such an over populated country full of nosy people.  It shouldn’t be read by anyone. I can understand why one is afraid that one’s siblings will read it and then make fun of you. So, it is a mutual thing. You all respect each other’s right to privacy and guard each other’s right for it. Of course, you can use code words when you write delicate matters and no one will understand. Or you use diaries which can be locked. Yes, you can get them.  Or have a hidden file in your laptop. It is important to have your diary where you can express yourself. Mainly to write things frankly, and only then can you use it to realize where you have gone wrong in life. Then find out how to make it better. 
  2. Regularity: it doesn’t have to be a daily thing. But not an annual one either! So, usually one writes every few days.
  3. Make it a scrapbook:  If you take the trouble to put in your memorable things like pressed flowers, the ticket of a favorite show, or other personal things into it, along with photos and what not. It becomes even more interesting.
  4. Keep it easily accessible: It has to be near at hand, so you can write in it whenever you feel the need to. Best place is a lockable drawer in your bedside table. Orin your cupboard, or even in your bookshelf. Whatever, place you feel is good enough, and where it won’t be touched.
  5. You can have rituals with  special time & place: Sometimes having a scented candle burning while you write, or soft music feels great. Having a time, like first thing in the morning or last thing at night when it is your ‘me time’, then you are free to write. It can take five minutes or thirty minutes – as you like.
  6.  Agenda: Usually it is something that you can’t discuss with anyone else, you discuss with yourself here.
  7. Facing shortcomings:Do write what you want to improve about yourself and how you plan to go about it.
  8. Love yourself: As you do whatever you do, be kind to yourself, and loving too. Praise and acknowledge your journey.  

OMG you are still reading! Love you so much for reading all this way.

Stay blessed, lovely and handsome ones.  

Starting a writer’s meet-up.

Ammar Masood reading from his book, last year.  

Since last year, I’ve arranged several Writer’s Meet-ups, and I’ve attended many in the Arts and Literature Guild too. Whenever they take place, I feel so happy. So, in this blog post I’m going to share my experiences of attending these meet ups abroad and in Pakistan. I’ll show you how to start one of your own in your own city or town also.

Why hold writer’s meet ups?

One needs to be clear why you are doing it. Simply because writing is a lonely business (- if you can call it a business!) Meeting other writers with the same passion for literature makes you feel ‘normal’. You suddenly ‘fit in’ with the ‘crowd’. You all blend in with each other. You understand the problems of publications, editing, rewriting, printing, gathering material, research and the pain of rejections. You know, when someone talks about a ‘character’, ‘plot’ or other such issues.

Best of all, only another writer can truly appreciate how much goes into a piece of work.  They value it more, realizing where it comes from. They’ve walked down that alley of hard struggle trying to find that ‘right word’ or that ‘right sentence’ to express something.

So, listening to each other’s narratives or poetry, gives one great strength. It keeps you going when others are saying, ‘but why?’

My experiences with Writer’s Meet ups abroad:

Since 2008, when I started visiting Seattle, I attended a couple of Writer’s Meet-ups. I realized, you’ve got to find your own favorite one. In the case of the first one, I found out that I was the only ‘published’writer there. It naturally thrilled me. Yet I realized, it was not a place for me, as I couldn’t learn anything from that group. Also, they couldn’t learn from me, as my experience was that of Pakistan. (I had not yet published my book ‘My Life, My Stories,’ in USA, which is available on Amazon.)

So, it is good to attend Writer’s Meet-ups, provided they fit in with your own requirements.

I found the ‘right’ one in USA, two years ago in Renton. You will know more about it here. It gave me the confidence to start my own group. Bob is a very experienced writer himself, he gives full attention to everyone.  Most of all, he shares his experiences and gives important suggestions and advice to all the writers.

Writer’s Meet up group in Pakistan,

Welcoming the writers and poets at my last weeks’ meetup. 

I found that it needs to have these qualities:

Be clear whom you want:

  1. A group of mixed languages, since we have Urdu, Punjabi and English writers here. In our case, in Islamabad, we recently welcomed French and Norwegian also.
  2. It had to be a group of writers who have varying levels of experience: journalists, authors of novels, poets, prose and non-fiction.
  3. They had to be well grounded lot who is happy to listen to others too!
  4. Age and gender would be as varied as possible.

So, last January I held my first writers’ meet up, and I ‘covered’ it in this blog of mine.  Soon, I held a second one too, mentioned here. So, it will give you a picture of what it was like.

Around the same time,  I was interviewed last January by Shabnam Riaz who is the host of her PTV Classics Show, we really clicked. I found out she has her own Arts and Literature Guild. So, we became good friends, and both attend each other’s events, and activities.

Starting your own writer’s meet up:

Location and Time: Choose the time and place which is suitable to most folks. (Consult your friends.) Choose a popular restaurant, or an office room which is empty on the weekend. You can also have them in your own home or studio if convenient.

So, here is how to start your own writers’ meet up:

Announce: Two to three weeks in advance keep posting reminders,  in the papers, Facebook or Instagram. Do follow up those who express their interest.

Theme: Choose a theme or topic of main interest. It may be a writer, guest speaker, phase in writing, or something like that. My latest Writer’s Meet up was in honor of Matthew Vaughan, as you can see here.  It is okay to have no theme also.

Manage:  Always start on time, waiting only ten minutes at the most. Let the writers know that they have to be on time. At least respect the ones who have made the effort to come on time. Rather than to wait for those who had no respect. (Yes, yes, everyone has ‘problems’.) It is fine if someone joins in late, but do not make those persons wait, who made the effort to be on time.

Equal opportunity: Do give a time slot to each one who attends the event. No one should go back feeling as if he or she wasn’t given enough time. You will find a few speakers‘stealing the show’ however, as the host, you need to make sure others get a full chance also.

Participate fully:Make a point of enjoying the process yourself also. Keep the management simple,but efficient. Be comfortable, and that will make everyone feel that way too.If you are all tensed up, no one can enjoy it either.

Punctuality:  Make sure the program goes according to plan. Usually, one to two hour session is best. So, start with personal introduction by each individual. Then a round of reading of their own work by each writer or poet. Then a second round, if time allows.

Stay focused: Do make sure the conversation doesn’t go to food, politics, religion or criticizing anyone’s work.

Snacks: These aren’t necessary at all. It can be in any of the following ways:

In a restaurant, order something simple like pakoras or samosas for all. It is understood that everyone goes Dutch. If acceptable then everyone orders their own thing, and pays individually, (more common abroad.)

If you are hosting, please have no elaborate menus! It moves the focus to food rather than literature, which we don’t want. Having a one- dish is convenient too, if you are having the event at your home.

 Books, authors and poets: If you want to make it regular, keep it simple, and keep it regular. The WhatsApp group or an email group can be maintained with each member, to stay in touch. You can have one person who manages it, or you can do it yourself.

Our heritage of poets and writer’s meet ups:

You know, Pakistan television had many programs which brought together authors of the times. We saw Ashfaque Ahmed, Bano Qudsia, Qudratullah Shahab, Mumtaz Mufti, and many other great writers sitting together and listening to music or discussing a topic of interest.

So, Meet-ups have been a tradition in the different ages. Many times poets got together for Mushaira or Baitbaazi  (- where a poet recited a couplet or verse, and the next person began his verse with the last letter of the last word used!) It was a very popular activity,which had hours of interesting poetry.

One realizes, that the times before television and internet had its own forms of entertainment. Now, we have to relocate these activities in our new world of today, to fill up the void of direct human interaction missing in our lives due to media and internet intervention.

My dear Reader, if we find anything in our lives unsatisfactory – be proactive and do something about it! Stay blessed. 🙂 

Writer’s Meet-up and Matthew Vaughan.

The first time I met Matthew Vaughan was at the PANA meeting mentioned here. He was reading out from his upcoming book, Notes from the Sacred Land. It was charming,  based on his experiences in Pakistan. The article about his taxi ride was quite hilarious and so typical of life in Pakistan. Next I knew, he had published the book through Mr. Books.  (The publishers in UK had refused, believing that  a positive image of Pakistan, doesn’t sell.

(So, unmasking terrorism or women’s oppression in Pakistan is still the ‘good’ stuff!)

Continue reading “Writer’s Meet-up and Matthew Vaughan.”

Over three trimesters of life.


 Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Ever since Prime minister Mahatir became the head of state of Malasia, I’ve been pondering. I mean, he is ninety three years old, and is elected as prime minister for four years? Till the age of ninety seven? (He was born in 1925!) 

Here is a man who has completed three trimesters of life and now starting out as a prime minister?! He is on to his 90-plus years already – along with his wife. He isn’t existing , he is living it out! 

I’m wondering if it can be like the nine lives of a cat?  With each ‘life’ a decade?

All my life I’ve been reading books and taking support and guidance on many topics including ages and stages of one’s own and children’s ages. I noticed that there is  a lot of  guidance and support in early stages and adulthood. Later on, we are left on our own.

First trimester of life – 1 to 30 years:

One to ten years:

Each and every month and year has loads of books written on every stage of these ages.

Ten to twenty years:

Lots of books and videos would be around for how to care for teenagers, and their social, emotional and physical needs.

Twenty to thirty years:

This one is considered to be the peak of life, and has a great deal about becoming an adult. There are many books on how to take care of yourself, and your body. Your social, emotional life is also dealt with, and specially finding the right life partner. All data is freely available. All fiction, movies, and videos are full of this prime time of life.  (As if no other life is really worth having, or worth documenting!)

Second Trimester of life – 30 to 60 years

Mixed ages here!

Thirty to forty years:

Most of us dread turning thirty. As if it is the end of youth or something. Once over the tip of 29 into 30 years, one realizes it isn’t bad at all. The starting years of career, ending of education and specialization in fields of interest, and the growing family are all well documented in books. You still feel great. You feel physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually fine, actually, quite on top of the world!  (I discovered I could write in my early thirties.)

Forty to fifty years:

Bilal on the right turned forty, and has worked in Microsoft. Loves music, books and inventing. 

Suddenly, with a bang you are forty!That is quite shattering, but then, you again realize it isn’t bad at all. All that ‘propaganda’ wasn’t correct. Forties can be pretty cool too. You are beginning to get a bit of a paunch, but never mind! You’ve most probably found your life partner and are well adjusted in career and children who are well settled in schools. Life is really good. You are getting to middle and senior posts in your job scene. Yes, books are getting fewer now. More books are there about illnesses and ‘how to reduce’.

Fifty to sixty years:

Every decade of life you enter with apprehensions, as it is a ‘no-mans-land’ with few well known personalities to help you through them. Thanks to internet, now we know ages of most actors and we know Ellen, Opera Winfrey, Bushra Ansari, Saba Hameed, Humayun Saeed, ShahRukh, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and many others are in this range too. Look at them, they are amazing!

Mostly, one is at the peak of one’s career at this time of life!

Third trimester of life – 60 to 90 years.

Now, its beginning to get scary, isn’t it? All those folds cannot be hidden anymore. You realize, you’ve got to move those muscles or else! Either ‘move it, or lose it!’ So, stay active and do everything that you’ve always wanted to do now. 

Sixty to seventy years:

I’ve known of Kentucky chicken guy who began his first franchise at the age of sixty two years. I’ve known of a publisher beginning her business at sixty five. Also of an artist who began painting at this age, and continued till she was over a hundred. Sixty has been the ‘retirement’ age too. You turn senior too. If it gets you to the front of the queue, then its okay! Also, it means you can be your own boss now on. 

Seventy to eighty years:

Mansoor Rahi and myself the instructor at the studio. He is a living legend in the field of art today in Pakistan. 
Hajra Mansoor and myself in her art gallery and studio. 

My mentors Hajra and Mansoor Rahi are in this age group. Both are blooming with good health. They are living legends in the art scene of Pakistan, and live in Islamabad. They are living in their own home, running their own art business, travelling abroad and within the country. They regularly hold exhibitions and hold art classes twice a week. They have a daily routine of working on their art work from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily. I find them going for walks, drives, traveling, and leading an active successful life. Only last week they went over a thousand kilometers by train to Karachi, for an art exhibition with their students. 

Eighty to ninety years:

My mentor Shahida Azeem, a great philanthropist lived to eighty-eight years of age, working on her organization Mashal, for the under privileged children. I’ve written about her in this blog post. She walked independently right till the end. In fact, I could hardly keep up with her activities. All the time she was organizing private or Mashal functions and inviting me over. I’d often have to excuse myself from her programs. (So, she would send me my share of food, if it was a dinner at her place.) She was just lovely. 

There are no books to help one through these years, today. You are on your own.

Ninety years onwards to hundred!

My father literally walked out of the ICU last month. 

As I write this blog post, and reach this point in my writing, I want to share these current personalities:

  • We all know of Dr. Mahatir Mohammad (ninety-three years old,) the current prime minister of Malaysia, and his ninety-one year old wife.  He recently took office, so he is looking forward to taking care of his country for four years at least.
  • Then there is this 106 year old blogger in Sweden who lives alone and takes care of herself.
  • I know a Ninety-five year old lady who lives alone in F-10 Islamabad. She invited me to tea with her literary friends. Loved it. She has a staff who takes care of her, a driver who drives here around too. She moves around with the help of her walker.
  • My own father was driving around till age eighty-seven years, here in Islamabad.  
  • Ninety-eight years old yoga instructor:

Just remember, all these are persons who did what they wanted to do. They stayed involved with activities and kept their minds (and bodies) active in constructive ventures.

Now, get ready to make your new-year resolutions, keeping all this in mind. Plan out your life like the nine lives of a cat! Lots of love and best wishes to all of you, my amazing readers. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

Truth about Lies

The journey from lies to truth.

How do you feel when someone lies to you? How do you feel about that person? Yes, awful. You dislike that person!

Next question: how can you do your business like this? (Is it halal if your income is gained through lies?)

Why do we trust people abroad, more than Pakistanis? Why is online shopping in Pakistan today, nowhere near what it is in the rest of the world? Yes, because here people lie a lot. You cannot trust a person or nation that lies. So, lies and cheating go together, just as Truth and Trust do.

Continue reading “Truth about Lies”

My Work life balance

How I became an artist, educationist, and writer.

 

In this post I’m showing you how I did the ‘work-life balance’. My childhood was fully inclined towards art. My parents didn’t let me go to NCA for its ‘open’ environment, and my mother put me in College of Home Economics. I was the typical daughter who studied there, on the promise that I’ll go to NCA, after graduating. That didn’t materialize. I ended up with an MSc degree in Related Arts, and got married to a PAF aerospace engineer.

 

Do a job which you love:

As far as my husband was concerned, he left it to me to decide whether I wanted to work or not. So, I did a job when I was in a position to give it my best, and didn’t do it when my family commitments were more. I believe that when you do a job, and it should be what you love. Only then can your work can be good.  Also, one shouldn’t work when you are already under pressure when the children are too small, or any other reason. So, when my children became school going, I’d work only if I liked the job. Believe me, when you are going for that interview, it is not  only them sizing you up, it is you  sizing them up too! It has got to be a mutually beneficial situation, otherwise, it isn’t worth it.

Continue reading “My Work life balance”

Monthly Plans inspired by Iqbal.

How to achieve our monthly goals.

Somehow, I know that you have a talent, or an objective in life. If you do, then you have to give it time and space in your life too. On an important day like Iqbal day,  I am choosing to write on the subject of Monthly Plans. It is all about achievements. We can see the achievement scale of Iqbal and many others like him. It has to do with good self management skills.  Iqbal wasn’t a struggling poet who was down in the dumps. He was a member of the elite society because he chose to manage himself and his resources properly. Isn’t that what you would like to do too?

I’ve shared my thoughts with you about Iqbal here on how I got interested in his work, and why. Then I’ve written about Allama Iqbal’s  Tulip of Sinai, a book which I have illustrated and published here.

It is a fact that he stuck to his own creative work in spite of being a well- known lawyer like Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Iqbal planned his month in such a way that he instructed his manager (munshi) to tell him when he has got enough cases to cover  his monthly expenses. After that he took no more cases, and concentrated  on his poetry. This is how he planned his month. He did it with the objective in his mind.

Why can’t we do that?

Continue reading “Monthly Plans inspired by Iqbal.”