Surprise trip to Muzzafarabad

The drive to Muzafarabad was great. There is a rough patch yet to be completed, but mostly in good shape. On the way we saw lovely views,  driving along the Jehlum River. Water falls, streams and pine trees, the bushes along the winding roads, bursting with pink flowers, daisies, and lovely wild flowers. Crisp clean air – Especially, with air conditioner working inside the van! 😉

Muzaffarabad’s sad past:

The name of Muzaffarabad brings with it memories of the earthquake on  October 8th 2005, at 8.30 am there was a horrific earthquake with 7.8 richter scale. The city of Muzaffarabad was completely destroyed. So, what we see today is a completely new city.

Every family in this region has been affected by loss of family members and property. The entire world starting with Turkish Government, came to help in every way they could. C 1302 arrived from different countries, and experts and equipment came from USA and teams of volunteers from all parts of the country, went over to help.

It just shows, we are one humanity. We do care!

(I wish we would stay that way, normally too.)

Why do we have to have an earthquake to shake us into the best version of ourselves?

The adorable and funny group:

Though arranged through Mr. Zahid at ASG, Nigar Nazar was the main protagonist. Almost all group members were her relatives and friends. Her being a cartoonist of Gogi fame, her husband Nazar Abbas’s cousin Shahnaz being a doctor and writer of humeros poems. Then Nigar’s son Nomair an animation cartoonist. So, you can imagine the ‘entertainment’ and remarks at all locations and levels. Yes, it was bound to be fun.

When my friend Naila couldn’t go along, so I asked her daughter Sahar, and she agreed. So, it was great for me to have her with me, also to share my room with. I really love my friend’s daughters too. They all are amazing, and Sahar and I managed to get to know each other better. May I say it was a great honor and pleasure?

Tourist accommodation:

 

Of course, staying at Pearl Continental with its spectacular building and services, would have been great. But, we found staying at the Continental Hotel, quite near PC, was good too. Frankly, a tourist needs clean and comfortable living arrangements, within a comfortable budget.   The food was delicious and they happily added local delicacies.

The décor could do better, but it was fine.

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2598128650220411/2598118866888056/?type=3&theater

Spectacular views:

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2598128650220411/2598118970221379/?type=3&theater

Red fort:

The four hundred years old history of this region was a real surprise for me. Mughal King Akber had camped here once, and decided to develop it further. Then there was Mr. Muzaffar, who lived, built and fought for this land. The past is interesting.  Yes, if I belonged to this region I’d certainly fight for it. It is so beautiful. Its people are basically peaceful people battling the challenges of cold winters on a regular basis.

They have become experts in preserving their culture of warm clothing, embroideries, and amazing food. The best cooks belong to this region. (Abdul Rahim, who was with me for twenty years, and passed away this March, also belonged to a nearby village.) His cooking was out of this world.

 

Pir Chinasi:

The highest point in this area 9500 feet – equal to Nathiagali is truly beautiful with spectacular views at Pir Chinasi. The old airplane Fokker used to fly at this height. So you know how it looked. In fact, my first flight as a college girl in Lahore, was in a Fokker, from Rawalpindi to Lahore. The best thing about it was that it had much larger windows than the present ones in planes these days. So, I loved it. I believe, I’ve even seen a landing from the cockpit while landing in Lahore airport. (Of course I did. In fact, both pilots had wanted to do it, while only one can – so finally seniority prevailed. They even demonstrated to me how it can be done in fog, by putting a paper over the windscreen…. But they removed it near touch down!)

Back to my trip!

 

We are in Pir Chinasi, I’m not on that plane! So here we are after going on that winding road, where several passengers felt giddy. Thank goodness I’m fine. I really loved the spectacular views.

I just looked at some videos of Pir Chinasi trips and realized that it has improved a lot. Also, our guide was saying that there was no ‘shrine’ here, six years ago. (He has been a tour guide for many years!) However, Wikipedia says, there was a Pir named Pir Sayed Hussain Shah Bukhari

https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g1137975-d10159598-i296168690-Pir_Chinasi-Muzaffarabad_Azad_Kashmir.html

 

Here is my daughter Nadiya Najib’s blog post on her trip there:

https://twitter.com/nadiyanajibkhan/status/934016761866997760

You can visit her website here: see her trip to Muzaffarabad.

 

Hydro-electric power plant:

The Korean Government built this Hydro Electric power plant here. It looks great. I’ve heard this region is not only self-sufficient in electricity, but has enough to provide rest of the country also. Usual red-tape is the hindrance. This is what I heard being said by a few people there.

 

Local foods:


The cooking of Abdul Rahim which we have enjoyed for last twenty years or so, is enough evidence. In fact, most good cooks in Pakistan belong to Kashmir. Mr. Zahid told me that the expenses on any other element for a wedding in the home isn’t as much as the amount spent on food. Almost the total concentration is on the food. No doubt their food is wholesome, nourishing and delicious. What’s more, it isn’t hot or full of chilies. It is mild and tasty. So, we got to have three dishes:

Gushtaba which was made in two ways, I loved the one cooked in yogurt. Then there were Kashmiri Bakarkhani which was like a paratha, but I hear the preparation of it begins a night earlier, it is had at breakfast. Yes, delicious. Then there is the spinach, which is  cut and friend almost directly. Even the Maash ki daal was among the tastiest I’ve ever had.

Entertaining poetry by Shahnaz:

 

The food was taken with a ‘tarka’ of humeros\us poetry by Shahnaz which really entertained us. I’m always intrigued by how the poets remember every verse so well! It was truly hilarious. Especially the one on the process of saying prayers, when everything distracts us. Somehow its recording got messed up. L

Then there was the one on ‘Green card ka ishq’, and ‘After getting the Green Card!’ (then you start missing your country all over again)… So many different topics, highly entertaining.

The fun part of traveling:

Let me sum it up like this:

  • Meeting people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.
  • Seeing places you never saw before. Realizing how big this earth is, all full of people, cultures, mindsets, and what not. Surprise surprise!
  • Realizing how well you can live without all those ‘necessities’ back home!
  • Finding pleasant surprises of handicrafts, dresses, styles of people who are different from you.
  • Having the time to have those in-depth talks which never happen at home as you rush around.
  • You love the break. My mother said, ‘I loved the break too!’ My daughter and she had a ball, breaking all my rules of having meals at the table! – (I didn’t ask the staff, I’m sure they also must have enjoyed themselves.) So, we all need the break.
  • Yes, it was definitely worth it.

Must do more of it and stay more blessed. 🙂

Eid greetings to all!

 

Eid Mubarak Everyone!

I’m sure your Eid was as wonderful as your Ramzan. As I write, it is Sunday night. Ramzan is over, and so is the last day of Eid holidays. You all are nicely tucked into your beds, ready to start a ‘normal’ week tomorrow.

So, who reads a blog post about a brisk round up of Eid and Ramzan?

We must be grateful for an awesome Ramzan. Spending the next eleven months of the year, fully devoted to our physical, financial, intellectual, social and emotional well-being… so one month was necessary to be devoted to our spiritual selves.

It is this spiritually enlightened self which will actually last us through  both our life times.

Come to think of it, within this month, we are polishing ourselves:

  1. Spiritual:  grooming our spiritual selves,

  2. Physical: Intermittent fasting is what it is all about, done properly, you can feel the difference!

  3. Social: the iftar gatherings, are nice, but don’t over do it. It is better to send trays of goodies in your neighborhood, and give food for the poor.

  4. Emotional:  you feel so much better when you give to the poor with your own hands, and meet them. This is true inner strengthening. – You actually feel happy for no obvious reason!

  5. Intellectual: You get plenty of time for studying in detail), and financial growth. Yes, giving zakat  actually, increases one’s wealth!Mine certainly did increase, ever since I started giving it.

A Ramzan, I’d never seen before….

  • Free food being served for iftari on islands between roads and highways in Islamabad.
  • Every mosque gave a sumptuous iftari every day of the blessed month.Rations were distributed among the poor families.
  • You all’s help, made it possible to help two families to prepare to marry off their daughters. I’m sure you remember, we married off two girls earlier here. Yes, we were able to get them clothes, kitchen ware of dinner sets, tea-sets, pots and pans etc. We were able to give an amount so the family could give a nice meal  to the wedding guests.
  • With your help (Rimsha, Hafza, Ijlal, Jawad, and Shagufta Zafar,) over one hundred children of CSS school received gifts of clothes, (and sweets courtesy Inam Illahi) for Eid. They were also given the time of their lives with magic shows, cotton candy, balloons and popcorns, with Myra’s team.
  • At the same time, My friend in Canada and her husband (who wish to remain anonymous,) along with my mother, and daughter were instrumental in providing a hearty meal for each child and family of the hundred children and staff of CSS school for underprivileged children.
  • Your help (My Mother, Mrs. Sarfaraz) made it easier to give more things to the elderly in Old People’s Home at Bint e Fatima.
  • Allah made the fasting easier somehow. One didn’t feel thirsty or hungry at all.
  • Everyone was able to read more of Holy Quran with translations.

Iftar parties:

Personally, I avoid iftar parties like the plague. While loving sending out and receiving trays full of goodies at home, I prefer my own home iftari.

However, going out to be with ones’ loved one’s is always a pleasure.

Missing our loved ones on Eid 🙁

A day before Eid, Waliya and I visited the army graveyard, in Rawalpindi. Yes, it was sad, but also felt good to see that so many others were there too. Later, I shared my daughter’s stories on my Instagram account also, as it said exactly what I felt too. I’m sure you too must be feeling the same way about your loved ones.

Alhamdolillah, a nice Eid day:

Inviting one’s dear family and friends on Eid day is the best way to make one feel better. So, we had Haroon, Uzma and Daniyal for lunch, along with Ayesha, her mother and children.

We had new clothes to wear too, and I happily wore the one sent by Aliya Janjua. 🙂

The tradition of ‘Eidie’ was carried out in a humerus way. It is a sweet way to do it!

Stay blessed and keep smiling! 🙂

Miracles of this Ramzan 2019

Assalam o Alaikum to you all!  We  are half way through Ramzan, the month of fasting for Muslims. Here in Islamabad it is from around 3.30 am till 7.07 pm. So it is 15.5 hours. I know it is up to eighteen hours in other parts of the world, like in Seattle. Surprisingly, It has been going really well, and full of beautiful miracles. Let me share some of these with you:  (others are in the pipe-line!)

1.     The water and accident incident:

Just look at this little incident that happened with me….

Last Saturday, I was going for art class to Rahi Studio. It was for  a landscape project. So, when I was about to leave home, I thought I’d take a magnolia flower bud for Hajra Apa. I broke one off the tree, and got my usual water bottle and put it in. At the gallery,  I took the flower out of the bottle, and went in to give it to Apa.

It was a joy to work on the painting, where my friend Salma gave me this canvas to work on. After the class, at the crossing near our home, I suddenly decided to go to my tailor to give  our Eid clothes . Afterwards,  as I was driving on the main Margalla road, enjoying the sight of scenic mountains; I saw a home delivery motorbike of a company ahead of me. Suddenly, I saw it getting out of control, and he toppled over.  The man fell on the roadside and then fell over the side, tumbling downwards on the slope beyond. I stopped my car a little ahead. I watched several bikers  stop and help the man get back to the roadside, next to his up-righted bike.

He sat  looking dazed. I took the water bottle, and offered him, he was fasting but gratefully accepted the water to splash it on his face.  He looked visibly improved, he returned the bottle to me.  I walked back to my car.

While driving back home, I went over the chain of events that brought me here at this moment. How it is God who makes us  do  things at certain times, to help His individuals.  This is why it is important to do what our heart tells us to do, because we know Who lives in our hearts, but we have yet to know, why He  prompts us!

Who knows, how many times He has helped us in this way. Then we wonder how the right person was there to help us when we needed it most!

Believe me, I’ve been a recipient so many times.

2.     Preparing trousseau for daughters of under-privileged persons:

Do, you remember how the wedding of two girls took place here, in Northern area, last month? We managed to get them lovely suits, cash for food and lots of things for home. All, thanks to the donations from you all, and specially from Aalia Janjua from California,  and  from my anonymous donors in Canada. There were  clothes from Uzma, Okasha and my mother and I also pitched in. May Allah help you all, for going out of your way for these people.

Since the wedding took place earlier than I expected, we ended up with extra donations. So, now I was ready to do the same for two more marriages! I drove off  around 10.30 pm and did shopping for them in my favorite shop in G-9 Markaz . Usually, I hate shopping, but this kind of shopping, I love. 🙂

So I got so excited when I was able to get quite a lot more  stuff within the same amount. All through meticulous planning alternatives with the salesman, Mudassar.  ( Yes, the one who gave Rs.1000 donation, last time.

He said:

‘People go for Umra spending so much, if they did such things it would change someone’s life. He said, God knows, if that Umra gets accepted by Allah, but such acts of making life easier for the underprivileged persons would definitely please Allah.’ So, he really helped me a lot, and I got two tea sets, one water-set, along with the dinner set of seventy-four pieces and three cooking pots’ set. Lots of knick knacks like kitchen knives, cooking and frying spoons, salt and pepper containers, and even lemon squeezers!

Meanwhile, Shazia Rizwan and her friends had collected some beautiful clothes, and cash for this wedding. Bisma also added some beautiful suits and shirts.

So, I’m all set for another wedding now. In fact, I was able to hand over to one mother who was very happy with the help.

Please note, it is not dowry, it is just a few things that any mother would love to give her daughter while seeing her off to start her new home. It is a privilege and honor for me, to be of help in this.

It may be noted, that I’ve never given any dowry to my own daughters who got married. Nothing was ever demanded either from the wonderful families. My daughters, Alhamdolillah, never faced any issues from their in-laws due to it. My daughters and I’m truly blessed. However, I love to help underprivileged persons, as they have serious issues, and I’m sure these things would be of great help for them.

3.     Distribution of Rations and food:

Every home in Pakistan, I’m sure provides rations for their staff and under-privileged persons living in their community during Ramzan. If nothing else, they will donate an amount which contributes towards food for poor in mosques. So, as I displayed a typical ‘pack’ to my followers on Instagram, several living abroad asked me to do the needful for them here. So, my staff would go and get the set and I’d look out for deserving families to give these rations to. Wives of drug addicts, widows, and individuals going through rough times, especially those who didn’t ask, but we could see they needed it. So that felt good.

4.      Clothes for CSS school children for Eid:

 

As you know, last Ramzan we managed to get Eid gifts for the CSS school children, you can read about them here.

This time Usman mentioned that it would be good to get clothes for them instead. I kept quiet. Clothes are a hassle, as the size and fit can be a big issue. ‘So, how will we do it?’ I wondered.  ( Just didn’t have the heart to say ‘no’ to Usman.) He is doing an impossible task of running a school for 170 underprivileged children.  So, I asked Asif my web expert, to please make a poster to share this idea with my friends and  followers.

Suddenly, I get this message on Instagram from a girl named Rimsha ….

‘I was thinking of getting clothes for CSS school children.’ My heart skipped a beat. ‘I’m a student of forth year in Arid University, Rawalpindi.’ I was thrilled. By now, she and her friends have gathered forty-seven dresses.

Then I got a call from  Shagufta Zafar,

‘Shireen, I’ve contacted a factory in Lahore, and I’ll be able to get about fifty clothes.’ Wow.

Then Andaleeb sent me  ten lovely clothes, all packed up. Ayesha gave me around fifteen.

Our target is achieved in half the time!!!!

As the target got achieved, I get this message from Inam Illahi – a new member of the Shireen’s Studio Group, ‘I’m sending sweets for the children at your address.’ So, hopefully, we shall have sweets in each parcel now, thanks to Inam!

5.     Food for the children:

My friend from Canada asked me to help with the wedding and food for CSS children.  (I’ve been asked by my Canadian donors to withhold their names.) Insha Allah we shall have the ‘deg’ ready for these children.  It is good to give them boxes with food so the whole family can share the food at home with them. These shall be given with the suits for Eid.

Can you feel that happy feeling creeping into your heart? This is how Usman has been giving food to his students earlier on:

6.     You make miracles happen:

So, now I know why Pakistan is the happiest country in this region. (This definitely includes all you Pakistanis who are living abroad and have your hearts still hanging in here.) It also includes all those who aren’t Pakistanis, still have a heart of gold eager to help those who needed their help.

I just love your  beautiful souls for having the will to help underprivileged children, and families. Wherever you are, find someone to help. I’m telling you, it is the easiest way to feeling great!

Yes, you are right. Lots more is cooking…. you’ll be updated soon. 😉

The card that accompanied the gifts of clothes for CSS school children from Andaleeb:

Naturally, I feel happy. Even though we can’t stop the rape, killings and horrible incidents happening around us. We can at least do our little bits to gladden a few hearts here and there.

Sometimes, that is enough.:)

 

Singaporean Rice – a favorite dish

 

This is my daughter Waliya’s favorite dish. She is a connoisseur of food. So, when I’m feeling very loving towards my child, I like to make this for her. Once, we were going through a tough period in our lives, I decided to make this for Waliya, as a surprise. So, when I went to pick her from Hunarkada, she was hungry and said, ‘what’s cooking?’ I kept quiet. That made her curious. So the moment we got home she asked Abdul Rahim, who had opened the gate for us. He responded with a straight face, ‘daal!’ (You never had to explain anything to him. He always knew how to respond to what!)
Waliya has always been smart, she dashed into the kitchen and saw her favorite dish had been cooked. She screamed with joy! – Yes, we are rather expressive. 
So, this dish is self-sufficient, you don’t make anything with it. When you cook it you will realize, there are so many ingredients, that it is enough. So, you serve it on a platter. But if you want to be different, then you can serve part of it separately.
Prologue:
I first saw this recipe on Chef Zakir Naik’s television program in 2009. I sat and diligently wrote as he spoke, and then the electricity went off! – right before the end. I was devastated, as I was really liking it. My cousin Shahnaz Api came over the next day, and I mentioned the ‘great tragedy’ that happened, and she said, ‘I have it.’ She said it was their favorite too. So, I got the rest from her. Then I found his recipe book with my mother. I realized, that he had given some good tips in his show which weren’t in the book. So, I’ve combined it. Also, I’ve made my own crispy top.

The recipe of Singaporean Rice:

(Serves four to five  persons)

Ingredients:

Rice: 2 cups
Boneless chicken: 200 grams. (Cut in ½ inch pieces)
Maggie Noodles: 3 – 4 packets.
Capsicum: 1
Carrot: 1
Onion: 1
Cabbage: ½
Ginger garlic: 1 table spoon.
Garlic: 4 to 6 cloves.
Green chillies: 4 or 5
Cumin seeds: 1 teaspoon.
Salt: to taste:
Oil: as required.
Oyster sauce: 1 table spoon.
Worcester sauce: 1 teaspoon.
Black pepper: 1 teaspoon.
While pepper: ½ teaspoon.
Tomato ketchup: 1 cup
Corn flour: 1 tablespoon.
Mayonaise: 4 table spoons.
Chilli garlic sauce: 4 table spoons.
Turmeric: ½ teaspoon
Zeera: 1 teaspoon.
Oil: 2 table spoons.

Method:

1. Boil the rice in water which has 1 teaspoon zeera in it, and 1 teaspoon salt, and set aside.
2. Heat about 2 to 3 tablespoons oil in a wok or karahi, add ginger-garlic paste, cook till golden brown and add chicken. Cook the chicken in uncovered pan till golden. Then cover and simmer for a few minutes till tender.
3. While chicken is simmering, prepare vegetables by cutting carrots, capsicums in thin long slices, onions in 1 inch cubes, (separate the leaves), put cabbage at the end. Add these vegetables to the chicken.
4. Just stir fry chicken, then add: salt, white pepper, black pepper, oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce.
5. Add tomato sauce at the end, and cover. Take off flame.
6. Boil the noodles in microwave with lessor water than instructed. Add the masala’s with it also. Then let it stay in microwave till water gets fully absorbed. Make sure the noodles aren’t overdone. They must be firm. If there is water in it, strain it.
7. Deep fry noodles, in small batches, and keep aside on paper to drain.
8. Thinly cut the garlic cloves, sideways and cut green chilies also lengthwise, then fry these in very little oil in a pan, till golden. Remove and keep aside.
9. Mix chili garlic and mayonnaise, and keep aside in a bowl.
10. Now, take the serving dish, lay out half the rice, then a layer of chicken and vegetables, then another layer of rice, (not fully covering the chicken and vegetables.) Dab with the mixture of chili-garlic sauce and mayonnaise, and then sprinkle the fried garlic and green chilies here and there. Then cover with the fried noodles, and garnish with green chilies, tomatoes or carrots.
Enjoy watching your family and guests lap it all up! 😉
Stay blessed, lovely ones. 🙂

 

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.

This Mother’s Day 2019

Hi, Everyone! Yesterday was mother’s day, and yesterday, I completed a milestone in my Instagram account – yes, the coveted 10 k followers! It happened so rapidly and suddenly. But what was more momentous was something that I shared in my stories, it was a message on mothers’ day for all mothers. Surprisingly, it had very good responses.

My message on mother’s day:

“Take care of your child yourself – do not leave this mothering to your mother, or mother-in-law and definitely not to your maid.”

This picture, taken with Nataliya was in Austria, when my husband and I traveled through Europe, seeing ten countries in twenty days, with my one year old daughter. We went by train, ferry, and buses all over the places. It was so much fun. So, I do walk my talk. my dear!

I’d like to add here…

Do not have children, if you do not have time for them. Don’t. Do not fall into that trap of people telling you to have children. As a principal and teacher, I’ve known a few mothers, who really didn’t like their kids; and constantly found them bothersome.

So, do yourself and them a favor!

Only have a child if you really want one.

 

Full time home makers:

It is not about leaving a job. I’ve seen full time home makers, who leave their children to the maids while they cook and clean and watch Indian films. They go shopping, leaving the children behind with maids.  I’ve even known some who left their small daughters with batmen to carry while they were busy.

I’m telling you mothering is no joke. So, if you are giving up a job to take care of your children, then please do take care of your children.

So, when you are home, you can’t afford much help. So you do almost all the housework yourself. This gives less time for mothering. Specially, you cook the food yourself, as my mother did. My father loved his food, and my mother made sure he got everything exactly as he wanted it.

In my husband’s case, I found out, he only wanted food within two minutes of his entering the home. He wasn’t interested in food. That was something that was hard for me to understand. He wanted it quick so he could change and go off to his squash courts or tennis courts. So, I learnt that very early in my married life. In the beginning  I cooked all the food myself – at least for first ten years or so – but then I started freelancing and working. My  mother-in-law instilled in me that you have to train your staff to take care of the kitchen too. Then I got a proper cook, whenever I could. That is how Abdul Rahim started working at my place, part time. He was the Head cook at the PAF officer’s mess. He literally moonlighted to work at my home in his spare time. He was a brilliant cook, so we had the best kind of food at our home. He became like a family member. Even then, I also cooked special dishes for my husband and children.

Whatever the case, while I swept the floors when my maid didn’t come, or did other household chores, my main focus was my children. As soon as they grew up, they had to help me take care of household chores too.

So, actually, I started teaching because of them, and because I got those teaching offers way too often! I realized, that my love for my own children took me to love my students as well. It was a job that I truly loved. I’d be working with other’s children while my children went to school. – Most of the time I’d end up in the same school!

So you are a career woman:

Then try to go for jobs where they have the day care in the premises. That is better as they have qualified people there, you can watch your children on your phone, and you can peep in and be with them in between. That is also good. Perhaps I would have gone for it, if it was there in those days. But I have my doubts also. I cannot bear anyone else touching my child with their unclean (nose-picking, and foot massaging) hands.

So, I didn’t take a job after my marriage for eight years. Even later on,  I gave up my jobs several times for the sake of my children, even teenagers.

I truly enjoyed being my with children. Believe me, after marriage with my MSc degree in Home Economics, I had job offers in college nearby. But even then, I preferred to be at home to get my bearings as a fresh homemaker.

If you already have a career and want to pursue it:

Then stop reading this blog post. Or, as I’d say, ‘take a break!’ It is too frustrating taking care of both a career and a baby. It can only succeed if one of them is not too pressurizing.

Keep things in perspective – this is your life:

Somehow, in your twenties and thirties, you seem to believe that ‘this is all there is!’ I don’t blame you – media is responsible for it. Even I felt so.  Actually, that is all nonsense! You have your whole life to do all that you want to do.

There is a time to do certain things at certain times of your life. So it is important to know, ‘what is the most important thing for me to do at this time of my life.’

Only you can answer this one.

Look at your life span:

I mean, just look at it. My father passed away at 92 years old recently, my mother is 85 years. Even now she is mothering, and giving me support and is company to me. So a mother’s job is never done. Look here at the full length of your life:

 

_____10_________20________30________40_________50________60_________70________80________90_________100 years.

This is your life expectancy,  (- or it will be, by the time you reach there!) So, the years you take care of your baby are so few, compared to the rest of your life. Can you see? I mean you take a break of about six to seven years to complete your family and then go back to your career. Take this time as a break. Just enjoy your children, and bring them up the way you want. All I’m saying is that you keep your child with you for the first four to five years.

Remember, a job is a job:

You are ready to put your child in peril for a job where you can be ‘downsized’ in a second. Where the moment you mention leaving, your replacement will be there in a minute! You are leaving the main part of your day with your child,  jeopardizing your role as a mother – a role which will be there – even after your death. All this for a role in a job which can be taken away at any time!

We both are aware of the job situation these days.

Upgrade yourself during this break:

I’ve always been member of a library when my children were small, also I’d indulge in books more than clothes. So, I’d keep myself abreast of the latest information in my field. You are so lucky, you can do it so easily now. Just use the YouTube and Google to stay well informed about your field of interest. Insha Allah when you return to your job, you will be far ahead of your friends there! (During the drudgery of work-life, you seldom get the time to upgrade yourself.)

Do, take mini-courses whenever you can along with attending workshops. You can easily do online courses too.

How to deal with your finances:

Yes, I was thinking of writing this in another blog post. – But why not here?

Okay, here are some ways:

  1. Know that your Child doesn’t need expensive things: Know that it isn’t for your child that you need to spend the money. It is just to please the ‘others’. Your child is very happy being with you. All those branded items are to impress the ‘others’.
  2. Staff: So, you do not need so much staff. You do the work better and quicker by yourself.
  3. Gifts: You can do crafts at home, like take up painting to give gifts to friends etc. (You can imagine how many paintings I did for my kids to take for their friends’ birthdays!) Even as wedding gifts.) Having more time on your hands you can make use of bargains.
  4. Clothes: You don’t need as many clothes, as most of these are for work place.
  5. Saving on Petrol: You save on commuting cost, all those daily trips to and from the office cost a lot.
  6. Grow your own vegetables: If you have green fingers, this is a good way to grow salads and vegetables in flower pots inside and outside your home.
  7. Do savings and better planning: Invariably, at a job you spend far more, for your colleagues, their birthdays, and the parties in the offices, for which you pool up. You do all that even when you don’t want to.
  8. Let your husband support you: As he was designed to do.  There is a strong belief that a man must not get too used to being supported by your income. It invariably has a negative effect on his natural psyche. So, it is good that way too.  Just avoid being too demanding, please.

Best book to help you through:

Another good way is to start your own business at home. The book Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson, tells you how. So, you can keep an eye on your children, and run your own business too. This is one of the best options. You can find her interview on YouTube here:

Many examples in our own set up:

Happily, I found several young mothers who reached out, telling me about their experiences. It is important to be proud of yourself. You are doing the greatest thing on earth. Getting paid is never an issue.

Tamania of Urdu Mom is one. Here has her YouTube Channel.  She is a great example of what I’ve done all my life. To enjoy what you are doing while being there for your children in their most vulnerable years of life. She has many different videos one of them is here also.

Going back to your career, as your children start their schooling:

This is an interesting one, as you need to find a job where the timings suit your children. Yes, that is how I got into the teaching business. See if you can find a job other than teaching which has timings to suit your children’s school timings! Well, a good one could be that you go to offices, and collect work and then work at home later on when your children are asleep. That was my freelance work with Dawn and other magazines and dailies. Then I painted, and held exhibitions when possible. That too could be done taking my children with me.

Being there for your child:

Honestly, what could be a better time than now for all that you dreamt of? You can text, have skype chats with your children, keep cameras in your home and what not. But it is dangerous to leave your child at home alone with a maid. It is not safe. Your maid is also born in these times, she knows exactly where to do her dirty work, away from the camera. So, don’t be too confident.

I’ve known of maids who wouldn’t let the child touch her toys, so she won’t have to put them back! So she would make the child sit with her and watch all those awful movies and programs on television which you wouldn’t let your child watch!

So, from that point of view a day care is better, but one in which you can step in and take a look always.

Best is a work which is welcoming to children. As an administrator I’d always encourage people to bring their children in, if needed.

I’m so happy to see at the CSS school, that the maid and chawkidar have their small children with them in school. They take care of them while they work. You see, they will work better if they are not worried about their children. You should do the same. We, as administrators in such institutions need to be more caring too.

Phew!!! What with everyone asking me how I brought up my children, so I wrote that one here. Now, they want to know more, so that is why I’ve written this one.

Let me put it in this way, keep your children with you, as much as possible.

You will be blessed my Reader, knowing you did your best. Then leave it all to Allah.

Note: Some photographs from my personal albums, and the rest taken from my Nataliya’s photography page on Facebook.

 

 

 

Dealing with hateful ‘things to do’.

No matter what we do in life, we still have to swallow some bitter pills. So, this blog post is about how to do it as smoothly, quickly and efficiently as possible. So, what is the ‘bitter pill’? It is anything that you HATE to do! No matter how much you hate it, you still have to do it, because it is important.

So, what do you do? When the bitter pill is in the mouth, we make a big noise, and say how awful it is tasting. Actually, in this way we are only prolonging the bad taste!  Instead, we should quickly take that sip and swallow it down! ASAP.

Exactly!. We leave it, avoid it and take even longer to do it!

Why not attack it, and get it over and done with as soon as possible?

My strategies:

  1. Music: put on music while you do the work, it removes the drudgery from it. (The music should be having an active beat. I love Mahmut Orhan here.
  2. Reward or motivate: plan to gift yourself with something, you wouldn’t normally get. (AFTER IT IS DONE.) Make a plan with friends, so they too push you to finish it first.
  3. Visualize: create beautiful visions of how it would be when it is done; For instance, when there is repair work getting done in the house, you keep visualizing how it will look when it is done. When it is visa application, keep visualizing your trip.
  4. Renaming: I hate the bills that arrive in the house. So, now I call them ‘khushkhabri’ meaning ‘good news’. So, we all have a good laugh while receiving bills. After all, you are one of the lucky ones on this planet with electricity and gas in your house, so naturally, you get to use it, and get bills to pay. These days, I’ve got horrific amount of forms to fill for my mother. I’ve got a phobia of it. So, why not rename these forms, and call them ‘Relief 1 pension,’ ‘then Relief 2, and so on. (Yes, I’m writing this blog post for myself!)
  5. Realizing what you are doing: Catch yourself as you are running away from the work. When I’m inviting friends over, or planning a trip somewhere, actually, I’m running away. I’ve just realized, that I’ll do anything rather than to face these ugly forms to fill. I HATE them.
  6. Break it into do-able parts: Yes, make small goals. Take baby-steps to the main achievement. How’s that? So, make very small goals for the day, then I’ll feel more thrilled for having done it.
  7. Check working habits: Also, the work isn’t getting done because I’m doing it at a time when I’m also checking the phone or answering calls (phone is a deadly work crasher). Close everything which is distracting to get a ‘flow’ in the work. Also, tell staff to guard your time. Do not make appointments with people or programs around your work.
  8. Check work timings: All my life, I wrote at night. It has been my favorite time. Frankly the output is far better at night. So, anyhow, do try to find the best time to do the work which ‘works’ for you! Long ago, I interviewed Hugh Catchpole, and he said, ‘I check the student’s copies at 4.00 am. So I start my day getting this work out of the way.’ He was a great educationist, and 89 years old when I interviewed him. The English teacher worked at Abbottabad Public School.

Believe me, I’m sharing my own problem with you. I’m sure you have it too. I’ve just realized, I love doing things for others, because it also diverts me from my own (hateful) work. But then, I have to get back to my work too. Anyhow, I return with spirits raised and feeling so exuberant. Just need to focus and get it over and done with!

While going about the work, do stop to smell the amazing magnolias blooming these days.   Notice the jacaranda  trees in their full glory, near your area . These give us an idea how focused nature is. No matter how many storms happen, how much rain, they still bloom. In the same way, our work must get done, no matter what! Then we can sit back and enjoy watching it all happen. 🙂

Hey, I’d love you to share your tricks with me. It may help me. This blog post is already helping me. Thank you my amazing reader. Stay blessed.

 

 

 

 

The happiness formula 

Are you feeling unhappy?

Are you in session with a psychiatrist but find it hard coping with the days in-between?

Well, I have a homespun ‘therapy’ for all types of sadness and sicknesses.

It happens because we all want happiness. All we have to know is that we have it inside of us. It comes to us when we share it with someone else. Yes, when we give it out to someone else, by sharing their burdens and lessoning it in any way we can.

Just go out and do something for someone in trouble.

That’s all.

Go out and find something good to do for another’s life.  Help in lessening the burdens on the lives of those who don’t have a voice. They silently suffer their misfortunes.  You will find plenty of means for your own repair there. You will soon find out that there are a lot more broken up people out there. So stop weeping and wailing!

Here is my happiness theory:

As you get deeper into the process of helping others,  your own problems start melting into nothingness. You, yourself feel blessed. I mean, how? It happens because you realize how lucky you are.

And…

Because of the prayers that come out in their hearts for you. The kind of prayers that Allah responds to! Believe me, when I responded to Sidra, I was knee deep into some work which was becoming down-right ‘impossible’ for me to accomplish. I was literally buried in several never-ending projects.

In the middle of it, I respond to this plea for help. I thought,’ as if I’m free and have no responsibilities!’ yet, I ran around for the two girls, and the wedding has already taken place. Miraculously, my mind became suddenly clear, and I found my work is also falling into place.

Their prayers?

They are working!

I agreed to help Sidra in marrying off two girls in Muzaffarabad area. They are daughters of a paralyzed woman who lost her husband and two sons in the earthquake of 2005. What touched me was the message that asked for clothes for the girls, even if they aren’t new, but are in good shape. So, my mum and I went to our cupboards, (yes, I wheeled her to her cupboard in her wheelchair,) we managed to dig out a few shirts and a suit. So, I wrote a hurried note on my Facebook page asking for any clothes.

There was no response for a few hours. I too, was busy in my own life. I had done all I could for the moment.

Soon I got messages. One student of mine,   contacted me whom I had taught interior designing and mentored in Finishing School.  She wanted to send me ten beautiful suits and accessories from Karachi. I received them the next day at 12.30 pm. I got so excited. Then, three suits arrived on my door step from Uzma. I loved the suits. So, between Sidra and myself and our friends, we had gathered about 24 suits by now – twelve suits for each bride. Sidra was busy getting the clothes altered to fit the girls, as they are very skinny. Also, she got shalwars and doputtas  for those shirts which didn’t have them.

I have a weakness, the moment I find out about an under-privileged girl getting married, I love to get her a dinner set. When I mentioned this to Sidra she said, well, why not a degcha set, as that would be more useful.  They had already received fruit sets, glasses etc. I was wondering which one to get, When Aaliya Janjua from California, USA, messaged me. She offered me a nice amount of dollars. The first thought I got was that now I could get a dinner set and pots and pans both for the girls! I got so excited that early next morning,  I dashed off to the market and got these from my  favorite shop in G-9 Markaz. Literally, the shopping was all done within an hour. Even the salesman there donated Rs. 1000 for this set. God bless him! 🙂 He said it made him feel happy to know that affluent families also give their time and efforts towards making underprivileged persons happy.

That night I was struck by how it had happened. How a humble desire to help an unknown person, ended with an amazing venture.  All within 30 hours. We ended up even having cash for the food to be offered for the wedding ceremony. As I write, the wedding ceremony would be on now.

Here you can see the two brides and their mother at the mehndi.

 

May Allah bring happiness to those girls. Ameen. I felt deeply happy.

It is important to realize that if you are feeling sad, or melancholy, just help in mending someone else’s broken heart … and your heart will automatically get mended. Because, you see, happiness is contagious. It is so contagious, that the magnolia tree in my lawn has started blooming as it has never bloomed in all these years! 🙂

So, in the end, thanks to all your donations, not only clothes but gifts for the bride and groom’s new home  were arranged, and food for the barat also!

There is a beautiful book called The Transformative Power of Crisis, written by Robert M. Alter with Jane Alter – a husband and wife duo who have written this amazing book – I read it many years ago. But that is more about how while going through a crisis you need to be mindful and make sure you use that crisis to improve your reaction. You need to transform yourself through the pain you experience.

When Imran Khan’s mother died from cancer; he found a way to deal with the pain of watching your loved one die,  of this deadly disease. He transformed that pain into making the Shawkat Khanum Cancer Hospitals for others.

Abdus Sattar Eidhi did the same. When his mother passed away and he realized there wasn’t a decent place where a poor person can go to, he built one of the worlds’ greatest civil services: the Edhi centers.

So it is up to you how you deal with your pain. Whether you use it to transform yourself and others or not. You have two alternatives, either you use that pain to hurt others with your fixed mindset, or you use it to feel the pain of others going through that pain? Yes, the growth mindset, as discussed in the book review of Mindset here.

So, whatever happens to you, forget it. Just go out and help others.  In this process your own sadness will miraculously vanish. In fact, you will realize your own so called sadness was ‘peanuts’!

Stay happily blessed my Reader!

Note: Of course, I shared it all on my stories on my Instagram. So, I’m sharing some of these here too! Photographs of event (bride, mother and food)  taken by Sidra who went all the way to attend the function. Photographs of Magnolia tree and indoor flowers by author. Photographs of Shawkat Khanum hospital and Edhi from internet, with thanks.

 

 

Living within glass walls.

It is about the glass walls that we are living in.

No, you don’t realize that you are living in it, but you are. We all are actually living within compartments made of these glass walls. Occasionally, we share the compartment with others.

Mostly, we live separately.

Actually, no one knows about it. Only you and I do.

Glass walls of prejudice, hatred, and misunderstandings. We just cannot understand anyone living in the other compartments. In some cases, we ourselves were living in some of those. But through time,  or circumstances, we shifted unknowingly. Now, it is about ‘them’ and ‘us’!  Childhood, teenage, adulthood. We kept shifting. Now, we cannot understand other children, teenagers, or adults or even anyone who is more than a few years older or younger than ourselves. In fact, many times not even those who are of our age, but just don’t think like us! Hmmmph.

The problem is we cannot understand anything about the other ones. Just don’t.

So, we look at the ones living around us in their compartments of glass;  professionals, non-professionals, city-dwellers, villagers,  third-world country people, developed world country people, ‘whites’, ‘colored’, Asians, Europeans, Far Easterns, Americans  and what not!

We all live within glass walls. Sometimes we move in between them without knowing it. Sometimes we have them between ourselves and our fellow humans.

 

It can easily be your own family members.

So, the big problem is that no matter how much we try, we cannot ‘understand’ them. Not at all. The differences have grown so much. So, in spite of watching many on a daily (and even hourly basis), we still do not understand them.

How can we understand each other?

What is it that can penetrate these steel invisible walls of glass?

Only one thing can!

That one thing is:

Love.

The same love that Iqbal and Rumi have been raving about. When you love, the walls fall down magically. Suddenly, we can feel the ‘loved one’s ‘ pain, sorrow, and difficulties.

Love does conquer all.

Those who are loved, and have love for others, they are the blessed ones. They are the ones who have no glass walls around them, because their love for others has simply penetrated through these walls. Now, they can understand all.

It isn’t logical but it is true.

With their love they feel, and can let others feel too. That love which is so powerful that it wins over all hurdles, and ‘compartments.’

Love.

Love for the creations of the Creator.

Stay blessed, my  Reader.

PS:  Hey, I love it when one of you comes over to me and talks to me, telling me she or he reads my blog posts. We really need to connect. Thank you so much Faqeha (not sure of your spellings) for reaching out the other day. Love you. Take care of yourselves, you are special and very precious.

The upholstery project

Hello Everyone! You gave me such a wonderful response to my previous blog post on how I revamped my parents’ room here.  I was flooded with questions about it afterwards. Yes, I get most on my Facebook and Instagram accounts where I share the blog posts also, as well as on WhatsApp with various groups.

So,  as you might have guessed, I’ve regularly changed the upholstery of my furniture after every few years. It is more economical than getting new furniture, and it brings in a fresh new look to the home.

My friend Ayesha said that it also removes any unpleasant or difficult  vibes and memories that each furniture item might have gathered during its’ use. Also, it is clean and plain hygienic too. Just removing that old cloth to replace it with new one along with the foam etc, does help to refresh it all. It is literally as good as new now.

Actually, my philosophy is to buy a reasonable cloth so I can keep changing it often. Mostly people buy such expensive and exclusive materials that they last so long and you have to live with it for years and years! I love to refresh and make changes within every few years, depending on my economic status. In this process, I get to give benefits to the workers too. – Usually giving them food while they are at my place, and obviously they get an opportunity to make money too.

You can see what a back breaking job it is. Please do be kind to them.

This is how it looked previously! It was around twenty five years ago, I also needed a change.

Your questions:

  1. Where is the shop?

Well, I go to Gul Khan fabrics. (This is why I love blogging so much, I can take names of places and brands! Previously I’ve been to Curtain Museum and to Khan fabrics also.)

You can go to any shop in your city or town. Go to one which is reasonable and has a large enough variety too. Once I was lucky to go to one which was closing down, so I got excellent bargains there. Also, watch out for sales there. So, if you do such things often, you can pick up materials as you go. Remember to save up left-over cloth and materials like foam, after each session. These will come handy later on. If nothing else these make good cushions. I’ve done this work in Karachi, Sargodha, Islamabad and Peshawar. This is his Facebook page. Do not get upset by the designs shown there, you can make your own stuff more graceful and decent.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Business-Service/Gul-Fabrics-640718076064900/

  1. Where did you get the upholstery men?

Originally, he was recommended by the shop where I went for the fabric. When they came to my house, and I spoke to them, I found out that one of them had worked with someone I knew very well. She had a furniture shop and I knew this man had worked there. So, there was this old connection. Ever since, I’ve only called him up and he sends the guys. His name is Murtaza and his phone number is: 03005105729

  1. How much did it cost?

The cost depends on the cloth, the making charges which is the ‘labor’ and the materials needed.

  1. How much do they charge per seat?

It is Rs.1200 to Rs.1500, depending on the design.

 

How to go about this upholstery project:

(This is how it looked previously!)

  1. Keep gathering as many items as possible: With experience,  I’ve found out that they don’t like to do small projects. So, I won’t call them if there is just one sofa set to be done up. They won’t come. When it is a big enough project, then they will come happily. So, I just keep making a list of all different items around the house that could do with the change. It makes sense, as it will save your time and money too.  So, in my case this time, it was:
    1. My mother’s Victorian sofa set of 3 +2 + 1.
    2. Then I got the hospital bed done up for her, (which I had got for my father, earlier. We found it is very handy to raise an elderly person to a sitting position in bed to give them water or food. So, I got the  bed head and foot board fully upholstered with cloth left over from the sofa set.
    3. Bed head of master bedroom.
    4. Window seat of living room.
    5. Single-seater of another sofa set. (The other 2+ 1 seaters were fine, so I didn’t do those.)
    6. Turned a center long table into an ottoman.
    7. Then did up the red 6 – seater which my mother brought with me, into a yellow one!

So, this was a sizable amount of work for them to come to the house for. It was feasible for them and for me.

  1. Meeting with upholstery man first: So, before starting the project, you have a meeting with the man in-charge, in my case he is Murtaza. During the meeting I showed him what I want. The shared vision will enable you to make an accurate estimate of costs. So when I show him the pieces that need to be upholstered, he will tell me how much cloth I need to get for each furniture item. Remember to ask him according to 1 ½ yard width cloth and also for double width ones (specially for curtains if you are wanting. – ooops! That is the next project. Shhhh! You see when you go to the fabric shop, it pays to get curtain material too, to save you an extra trip, even if you aren’t getting it stitched yet!)

So, during the meeting I made a note of:

  1. Number of items to be upholstered.
  2. Making Materials needed for all the items such as foam and Samadbond etc. He said nails will be on-the-house.
  3. Cost of labor for each item.
  4. Time: How much time this project would take. Remember it can be slightly more or less, but it will give you a fair idea.
  5. His availability: The person will inform you of his or his worker’s availability.
  6. Make the approximate estimate: A graph or table, with specifics for each situation. So, you get a clear over-all picture of your situation. Now, you make a rough estimate of how much the project will cost. The more detailed your planning the better will be your estimate.
  7. Decide and Clarify with him now: So, be clear now, if you still want to go about it. If you are not sure about certain things, tell him. Be very candid with him. (Don’t you want him to be the same with you?)
  8. Check out designs on Pinsterest: Do, your research and get as clear as you can about what you want. You can even check out my Pintrest account, and find the number of sofa sets I looked at. It helps to clarify your mind. I just wanted a fresh look, and my purpose was to brighten up the room. Remember not to get carried away.
  1. Trip to fabric shop and getting the fabric: So, actually, it was Murtaza who referred me to this shop. When I went I found it really good. My mother had gone with me, so we got the stuff. I saved her quite some money by changing the design a bit, the more expensive material went on the cushions and rest of sofa set had the self-colored material. We came back happy, and then I called Murtaza to send his men.
  2. Have shared vision with your workers: So, he came with the workers and took the advance for the materials. He had already checked to see how many sofas would need new foam and how many could use the old ones. I had showed him the cloth I had from previous sessions. So, they knew how and when to use my previous stuff first.
  3. Save wherever you can: Yet, I give them food daily. Once they said, my domestic help didn’t give them tea, I asked them to get it from nearby shop, as my helper had too much to do. (I was busy with other projects as usual.) So, they understood. Make sure your own domestic help also isn’t too over burdened. A little consideration for one’s staff is important.

Important note:

Yesterday, I had a very sensitive talk with Murtaza while we were making final calculations for the payment. Afterwards he told me that he really likes to work with me, and his workers can work peacefully with me. He used the word ‘sakoon’.

He said, ‘you never haggle with me on prices, and I myself give you concessions wherever I can. He said, the inflation has grown so much, naturally, it is hard for everyone to manage. He said, when people try to haggle and say, ‘my friends got this work done for lessor! And try to pay less during final payments.’ It is very upsetting. He said, it is tough work, and look at the prices everywhere, so if our prices are raised why do people haggle so much? He said, the other thing is that you never come to criticize the work of the workers. You support us and then trust us. That makes us give you our best. We like to help you too. He told me how one of the workers had save me around Rs.3000/- of materials by tediously joining up old foam pieces here and there, to help me save money. So, this he said one only does when one is personally interested in doing for the client.

 

So, here is how I help them to give their best:

  1. Trust the persons involved.
  2. Watch, but do not interfere. (I’m sure you have had nosy and interfering bosses at your own workplace, you know exactly how it feels! Why do it to your workers here? )
  3. Do not haggle on prices unnecessarily. It is better to get more reasonable materials, and pay the workers well.
  4. While giving them food, give them whatever you are having. If it is something special, why not share with them? Do it for God’s sake, for God’s sake!

The fact is that buying some gorgeous suits for yourself, means you do it for yourself. Also, you wear it once or so many times. The rest of the time it is hanging in the cupboard. When you upholster your furnishings you get the pleasure of looking at it on a daily basis. It gives a beautiful back ground for your whole family. Let them feel happy being in a home that is well cared for and well maintained.

Be happy and make your family members happy too. Stay blessed! 😉