Staying Connected

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No matter where you choose to live, it is important to make time to be with your near and dear ones. It’s obvious why you left Pakistan (or whichever country you left) – for greener pastures abroad! Actually, you left your country for many reasons: Interfering ‘family network’, lack of punctuality, challenging job situations, flies, mosquitos, garbage heaps,  corruption, joblessness, class difference, witnessing poverty first hand, street children. Yes, I know, the list is endless.

But.

When you left, you found, that you had replaced these problems with other problems: So, instead of the class difference back home, you found a lot of racism in your adopted country. (Since when did a wheatish complexion turn ‘black’ or ‘brown’?) Receiving special treatment at airports sometimes, combined with extra questioning at immigration.  Many times you cannot ‘connect’ with the people, you feel so much loneliness. The big news is, there are crooks there too, and lots of office politics. So, you have to watch out.

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How to Keep Your Energy level High!

‘How do you get so much energy?’ I’m often asked. I’m nothing, I know people who are far more energetic. It is all a matter of focus, interest, and flow. It is a matter of knowing where you are going, and not letting other things/people get in one’s way.

In 1997, I had asked the same question from Dr. Farhat Hashmi. We were sitting in her office, in F-8/3. Her little son was moving around us. There was the sound of students outside, the hustle bustle of a typical Al-Huda Academy was on. I was interviewing her for my article in Dawn. I had spent a full day, at Al-Huda, with my friend Seema. I could see what a grueling time Dr. Farhat would be having managing it all. Yet, she looked serene and in control.

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Words, Deeds and Trees…

This blog post is almost a continuation of my last blog post Ijaz Ahmed Khan – comparing a good word with a good tree.. Thinking it would be too long for you all, I decided to break them up into two. So, here it is, I know I’m late by a few minutes, but you know how life is these days! Yes, a bit crazy. But, here I am!

Now you know why, I chose this location of B 17 for our saplings, because firstly, the saplings would be well taken care of, and specially it would be in memory of a person, whom I got too late to thank, in real life. So, please do say a prayer for Ijaz Khan, and do not ever take so long in going out of your way to thank those who went out of their way to make life easier for you!

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Is My Life Meaningful?

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What is life? Is it just this noise of the daily rushing around? Completing the ‘things to do’ list? Meeting deadlines, going from one rushy hour to the next? Always, counting to see if one can make ends meet, or get that little bit of extra too? Loving food, dresses, make up, handbags, car, house and still shopping for more? Putting it all on Facebook, Instagram or Tweeting it all over the world.

Is this life?

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Or is life something more?

What gives meaning to one’s life? What makes you feel that eureka moment, when you say,

‘yes, it is all worth it!’

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Imran Khan, our new Prime Minister

Here is a genuine man at last, wishing him all the success.

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He truly looked like a Greek god, back in 1980 when I saw him for the first time, in the cricket field, next to Rawalpindi Club. He stood nearby, while fielding. I could see him clearly, as my friend Samia and I were sitting right next to the Pavilion. He looked even more good-looking in real life. In those days, he used to get his muscles pulled, due to his game. It was an international match with the West Indies. The match was won, due to many sixes scored by him the next day.

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Election Day, 2018

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My voting experience today.

Under slept, tired and highly motivated, my daughter and I drove off to Rawalpindi to vote this morning.  I knew the drive would take an hour. Weather is hot and humid these days, so we wanted to be there much earlier. But I had to bathe and change my eighty-three-year-old mother, as the helper wasn’t coming today, due to her own voting.  In fact towards the end of the bathing session half-way through the changing, I had to call Waliya, as I found standing in that humid wash room difficult; she came to complete dressing her up.

My friends had called up last night, I hadn’t been able to sleep till past three thirty last night. Now, I wondered how I’d manage standing in the humidity for the voting process!

So, naturally it was 11.00 am by the time we reached the polling station. It was the same one, where we had gone last time. Elections and Life Dichotomies . The street was dirty and narrow as ever, but the air of elections in the air was great. People were patiently walking towards it and there was peace and determination in the air. Finding the place had been difficult, (you forget a place after five years!) We checked our phones, sent sms to 8300 and confirmed that our polling station was located in Ali Trust School, in Dhok Chaudhrian, D Block; NA 59, PP 13. It was  (Near Bahria Town, Safari Villas, next to the famous ‘car chowk.’)

The army personnel were at the entrance with their rifles and guns, making us feel very secure. The staff was welcoming and very accommodating. As I went to stand at the end of the ladies line, and wished the burqa-clad young girl before me, she showed me a chit and asked,

‘do you have it?’

I was blank.

She pointed towards the entrance saying ‘you’ll have to go out again and get it.’

Oops!

So, I collected Waliya who had gone to the car to place our mobile phones there, (we had to leave these in the car as it is against the law to keep it with you.) So, we walked over to the authorized place where there was a gentleman at a desk, who would find out details through his phone about our voting number to verify the code and CNIC number. All the details of my voting number and polling station allocation were verified here and we received our chits. This was done within a few minutes. Then we hurriedly we walked back. Naturally, now our place was taken up by at least fifteen other ladies!

I waved at the young girl who had told me about the chit. She waved back. Everyone was patiently standing in the open sunlit area of the school. It was the same place as last time. Now, it was quite presentable. All spruced up. Nicely painted, with verses of Iqbal painted over the off-white walls. Suddenly, someone came to ask about our voting number, she took us way ahead, towards another room.

Wow! That felt good.

Suddenly, we were standing in the shade of the veranda. The other ladies too were asked to move forward towards another room. So, now we were closer to the ‘destination’ or vote casting room. The heat was bad, but cold water was provided nearby. I had brought my bottle of lemonade which I’d sip every little while.  We all smiled at each other, and wondered how long it would take. We watched with amusement as a woman nearby lost her temper and was angry with those around her. It turned out, she had already voted, but hated being asked to leave. She was saying, ‘I’ll leave when I choose to leave!’ At least that is what I was told was the problem!

I was reminded of something Major Zafar had mentioned to me many years ago. When, I asked him, ‘What is your advice to a person going on Haj?’ He answered, ‘Be patient, forgive everyone and remember the objective.’ I realized this is the best advice while going for voting in Pakistan also!

We kept standing there for over an hour, almost without budging. I said, ‘Hey this is again a repeat of last time!’ But the men’s lines were so long and they were standing in the sun mostly. I had seen the line going way out of the station also. The army men were seen everywhere, with their ammunition.

Peace.

So, again I went over into the men’s section to speak to the man in charge. Again, the men courteously, moved aside to make room for me. His name was Anwar, so I went up to him. He said, ‘I have already made a change by accommodating ladies so they won’t stand in the sun. I cannot do more than this.’ I requested him to find some way to make the process as quick as possible. He promised to do whatever he can. He told me that 1700 women are registered at this polling station, so it won’t take very long. I agreed.

So, I went back. That girl in the burqa was in front of me again now, she offered to let me go before her, I said, ‘nothing doing! It must be so much hotter for you, so please do go ahead. Then I heard that  a lady had been there since 8,00 am and somehow she was standing behind me, so we asked her to go before us.

So, in this way, we all accommodated others.

There were one lady whose brother had died today, and another who had lost a child. Yet, they were here to vote! We all agreed to let these ladies go first. Meanwhile, Waliya got me some cold water so I could splash it over my face and arms, so I’d cool down and not faint.

Finally, our turns came. As we were going through the process, I could see my picture was also in their list as were those of others. The women conscientiously checked the CNIC numbers and tallied them with their own data. The mark was made on thumb and the finger prints placed in relevant places. I heard Waliya offer an elderly lady her place, as I walked behind the shielded place where I could actually cast my vote.

547479-image-1368264751-527-640x480There was one white paper and one green one, to be placed in one white box and one green box. It turned out we were voting for the National and Provincial Assemblies! This is what happens when you don’t follow the local news regularly.

Anyhow, soon we were out, and driving back on the almost empty highway. Feeling really pleased that we had done our bit at least.

So, here are some points for us voters:

  1. Next time go to the Election Commission office well in time, to get my polling station’s location changed to one nearer to my home.

Firstly, I want to applaud the management for holding very peaceful elections. The staff was excellent and very supportive and helpful. The process, could be quicker perhaps?

Here are some points for the management:

  1. The desk for that ‘chit’ with details could be placed within the premises of the polling station, so we could get it as we entered the gate.
  2. Computerization of the data of the voters, instead of being manual, so the work could get done quicker. The lady had to look through the data to find one’s number.
  3. The steps need to be done quicker. It did take much more than three minutes per person in the room. It should be done within a minute or so.
  4. More comfortable environment for the voters standing outside. For instance a shade or ‘shamiyana’ could have been put up for those men or women standing outside.
  5. Some personnel kept outside to take care of the cars, if possible?

Otherwise, I’d say, a big ‘hats off’ to the management of the Election commission who definitely did a great job today.

Now, I pray that the result is taken with grace and tolerance.

 Things are definitely improving.  We are blessed to have the voting process rolling in our country.

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Elections and Life Dichotomies .

37246852_2046666028700012_4540511821852835840_n.jpgIn this blog I quickly take you through the past weeks’ events right into the election fever. Now it is Wednesday 18th July, 2018 , late evening. As usual so much is going on, in the international world and within the country.  On top of it all that, there is one’s personal life. Many times we are happy and sad at the same time.

Yes, life’s dichotomies!

For instance, as I prayed anxiously every night for the safe rescue, of the group of thirteen who got stuck in Thailand’caves.  I forgot  the death and danger of the hundred plus people who died from freak storms nearby in Japan. This is what media does, in the Thai case, we knew more about the boys, so one felt more connected. Whereas in the Japan case, there wasn’t much information or details of the persons living there. Such tragedies are sad. One hardly was over joyed at the successful and miraculous rescue of the young Thai group, along with its coach; when one was shocked at the suicide attack which killed over one hundred in Mastoong, Baluchistan Pakistan. That was after a couple of blasts in KPK. So, this is the environment in which I am now.

In fact, we all live in it all the time.

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The Rain Water Conservation Project

Do, I have to emphasize why we need to conserve rain water? This is why:

To save rain water is to save lives. When the water goes splashing out of your house, it gets wasted by flooding the roads and gutters. Just think, if every house conserved all that rain water which falls on it, none will go flooding the roads, so nor will it get wasted, nor will it endanger lives. Saving rain water will have a great impact on the environment. You will have plenty of free extra water to wash those curtains and carpets and what not, later on!

As I wrote my blog on rain water conservation last week: Rain water control, tree plantation, elections and my life. I got very excited; I had already worked out how I’d be doing it at my house. The meeting with my plumber had already taken place. It was easy, as he worked on my house during construction. So, he went and noted the outlet pipe which would be used for conserving the rain water.

‘Why not close the other outlets on the roof?’ I asked him.

‘That would be very dangerous for the roof.’ He said.  The main sloping of the roof had been done having most of the water going in one direction. So, that is where we placed the blue drum container, over the ledge which, he assured me, can take the weight of it. We wanted to place the container below the roof level, yet above ground level, with an outlet leading it to a tap placed two feet above ground level. Now, this water can be used as we like; for watering our plants, washing the car, or whatever else etc.

So, here is this project, so you can do it too. For me the initial project cost Rs.20,000/- ($ 2000) with best materials. It is a simple and doable design. In the next phase I’ll do the same for the two terraces.

Steps to take:

  1. Analysis situation:
    • Know, how much rain you are expecting, choose size of container accordingly. Use the quality which is best. So, it is long lasting and won’t buckle up under the hot sun, and rain lashings and storms. The one with a thickest container wall material.
    • What will you use the water for? Choose a place closest to it. For instance if you want to do car washing and lawn water, then let it be near the front porch.
    • Have all options open to you first. Not a bad idea to ask more than one consultants. But the best one is to have a good plumber who knows his job well. Implementation has to be good.
    • If the water is clean: take it back into your water tank, (if you don’t use it as drinking water, of course!)
  2. Break the rain water project into phases:
    • Phase one: So, this which I’ve used is for lawn, plants, and pets’ water requirements, and to wash the side area of the house.
    • Phase two: will be upstairs terraces, one and two. So, these will need two smaller containers for each one, later on.
    • Phase three: Preparing a small dip in the lawn so all the water gets contained within.
  3. More water conservations options:
    • Connect all AC outlets of water pipes into containers. In Karachi, I’ve filled a tub with water to use to wash my children’s clothes. This water is clean and can be used for drinking, as well as for car and UPS batteries.
    • Connect wash basin outlet with WC, so it is used for flushing.
    • The kitchen sink water can be used for garden.
    • Be conscious of water wastage while showering, tooth brushing and face washing. Close the tap in between usage, every time.

Equipment: Container for water, PVC pipes, tap, drill etc. All these will be suggested by the plumber, and he can buy them for you.

Let’s talk money! So, how much would this project cost? Well, an advertisement I had found and shared on my page offered to do it all for Rs. 80,000/- Mine was completed within Rs.20,000/- He didn’t charge for consultation as he is my plumber for many years.

During construction of your house, do remember to slope the entire roof towards one direction nearest to the underground water tank.

Time: Three days!

First day: consultation, planning with measurements,

Second day: getting equipment.

Third day: Implementation of plan.

Note: the work of first two days can be done on same day, or the second and third day. But this is the most time, it would take.

That’s it!

Just imagine, if every house in the cities, holds the rain water within its premises, then how much flooding would take place?

Do take charge, and implement this plan. Rather than sit and blame others, and expecting the government to do something about it, do something yourself. It is our country, our city and our community which we have to save along with our own home!

Note: If you like, my team at Shireen’s Studio on Facebook can do it for you if you are in Islamabad; you can inbox on the page, or here. I know you are brilliant enough to do it yourself. So my dear one, do it and show me pictures of it, I’ll add it in my upcoming posts.

Special thought: We can  offer such projects for schools for the under -privileged children also. As we can see here, so much rain water gets wasted every time. If we do this for all buildings,  we can use it for the benefit of children and maintenance of the establishment also.

Its  just a matter of getting together and seeing  how else we can use this water and technique. As I write, last night there was so much rain that this water tank you see, got full. Now, I’m thinking I need another reservoir tank below it to conserve its’ over-flow also,  (see that broad water pipe? It flows out from here.) Suddenly, I’ve got a lot of water to use for my plants and different uses in and around the house!

Special note: All photographs have been taken by author.

 

 

Great Rules to live by!

I know, because I’ve tried them out for many decades.

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As a teenager, in Lahore, the word ‘ADVENTURE’ was painted on newspapers pasted on one side wall of my bedroom. An only child, I had a childhood filled with Enid Blyton books. I was raised with plenty of routine and discipline by my parents. As a grown up, while realizing routine is essential, I wanted excitements almost on a daily basis. I got plenty of it, married to my cousin, an aero-space engineer in Pakistan Air Force. So, I’ve painted, written books, and been an educationist in schools in different cities in Pakistan. A mother of three girls, and over twenty house-moves, gave me plenty to write about while freelancing in different cities. Of course, as a family we faced our share of setbacks too. But we’ve managed to get out of them too, just like you.

What are the strategies in life that help you stay in one piece most of the time?

In spite of lots of people saying ‘honestly, it is very difficult to be honest!’ In life, that is all that really helps. At least one can try. Here is how I’ve somehow managed so far:

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