Girls, Financial Planning is crucial

This subject is very close to my heart.  So, when a follower on Instagram Yumna Sardar  asked me to write on finance, I was thrilled. Dil ki baat kardi jenab!

How I realized my plight:

When I was hit on the head with it!

Actually, all my life, my husband asked me to take interest in his files etc. I’d say, ‘you are there for it!’ (Meaning, ‘why should I bother my pretty little head with it?’ He was more fit than me, and had a great head for numbers. Yes, he remembered every imaginable number  – including number plates of cars under him in his unit! So, I knew I was in competent hands.)

–  So, when he suddenly, died of cancer, I had Rs.1000 only, and literally a thousand bills! That’s how I was hit on the head with it.

  1. Meanwhile, at that time, I was enrolled in my MBA… When I failed twice in my Financial Accounting paper, (finally passing in my third attempt, thanks to Irfan Ahmed, my class fellow.) While I was among the toppers in other subjects, in this subject I failed. So, I’m really talking from experience.
  2.  I was at zero point. My real life was a financial mess too.
  3. I faced the horrific challenges that only total lack of money can bring. Especially at a time, when you need it the most. For instance, husband dying of cancer, and house construction needing finishing touches, and money ‘locked’ by out-laws, and court cases, as cherry on the top! (So, don’t think, ‘how does she know?’ Believe me, I know! )

Law of the Worlds:

  1. Very early on, I learnt, that you get exploited by others, when they know you lack funds.
  2. You get marginalized by society, people downplay  your efforts in all fields.
  3. People believe they can take what is yours, because you can’t defend yourself, or your things.

So, how did I survive?

  1. My faith in Allah never wavered. I was sure He had chosen me for better times, this was the ‘exercise’ part of it. So, I remained firm. I was able to smile, and laugh – something my Waliya taught me –  I knew I was in the Best Hands, anyways. (Yes, I cried in private while praying to Him.)
  2. The moment the ground started slipping from under my feet, I looked up at Him. I made a pact with Him, I’ll ask no one for help except Him. So, He did.
  3. You must be wondering why my parents didn’t help. My dad was going through a financial crisis of his own, that’s why.
  4. Also, I was too proud to ask anyone for help. I believe, that after eighteen years of age, we have to manage for ourselves. Our parents have already done enough for us.
  5. My family, close friends and total strangers, were like His angels in plain clothing. They helped me from sources I could never have imagined. Total strangers came out of the blue helping me in ways, I’d never thought possible.

Learn Finances properly:

  1. My travel bags have been heavy due to books: My trips to USA had me reading about finances. (I was already realizing how weak I was.) So when the crisis hit me, I was able to make sound decisions at the right times.  I used to laugh at myself for choosing these books when I hadn’t a penny. But I went ahead, because my heart felt like it. Only Allah knew how much I needed this information.
  2. Grab and read all about finance, anything you can digest : Read: Suzie Ormans’ books, as many as you can get your hands on. Specially her latest ones. One of her best is Women and Money. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, is amazing, and you need to read it several times to digest it fully.  Napolean Hill’s Grow Rich with peace of mind, is the sum total of this millionaires’ life lessons on money. (It is pretty much the Islamic methodology of it, i.e. to not gain it through exploitation of others, or through games of chance, to use it to serve people, and get it through serving people too.)
  3. Watch videos on YouTube about these books, if reading is a strain, watch videos on the subject. Study Financial Accounting and other such subjects, and see how you can apply the principles in your own life.
  4. Listen to podcasts on the subject. (You can get Suzie Orman’s also!) I’ve watched amazing weekly programs on television in USA of this brilliant expert, who can help you at all levels. She says, that you need to spend an hour daily in sorting out your finances.
  5. Attend workshops on finance, even if you can’t understand much, one day you will.
  6. Pinpoint your own bad habits: You must know why you got where you are, by taking full responsibility.
  7. Learn from your tough times. If you don’t do it, and sit comfortable by blaming others and society, then you will never learn, or improve.

My Principles of Finance:

So, Napolean Hill became a millionaire three times in his life. His block buster book Think and Grow Rich made many millionaires too. However, when he found many of them unhappy on their death beds, without family or friends, lonely.  He realized that acquiring money is worthless, without peace of mind. That is when in his nineties, he wrote the book Grow Rich with Peace of Mind, with over seventy years of experience with money.

Halal and honestly gained money:

No compromise on that. None. You know when a thing is haram, when it is acquired by lying and cheating others, or when you are taking what does not belong to you. So, keep it legal and honestly earned. Never compromise on principles. Never.

Interest free money:

You can say what you like, I’ve faced the worst financial crisis but never went back to interest based banking. I don’t regret it.  I used to keep interest based banking, when I didn’t understand the verses in Quran about it. Afterwards I said my ‘toba’.  All subsequent accounts  opened have been current, at all levels. In fact recently, I went and closed the ‘savings account’ too. Call me stupid, but this is something between me and my God. He has clearly said, that usury is haram, while profit is halal. Even while living abroad or in other countries, you have the option of having a current account.

Success stories:

Shabnam (name changed for privacy)  had been gifted with a National Saving Center saving account benefit of a sizable sum by her parents. However, not believing in interest based investments; she moved the cash out and bought a small plot from it. Her investment has already doubled in value within four years.  Now, she was informed, that this National Savings and Behbood isn’t haram, however, her intent was to keep her investment as halal  and interest-free as possible.

I know another case in USA where a person named Saad, didn’t buy a property due to the heavy mortgages involved. He lived in rented apartments. When the famous financial crisis occurred, he was among the few who weren’t affected.

Why not interest?

  • I’ve watched my parents suffer when they took a loan from the bank of Rs. 300,000/- and that compounded into Rs.15,00,000/- When my father didn’t have sufficient money to build his house in Lahore. I know the prices they paid for it, and the ones’ I’ve paid for it. It isn’t fair to exploit people who are in a weak financial position. But then, it is your own choice whether to take it or not.
  • A person working in London, in a call center providing loans has informed me of how much exploitation is done of persons who are already facing financial crisis.

How to survive financially:

Earn your money :

 

Yes, do a job, from home, or in an office. Have a lifestyle in which you are busy serving others (through your work), staying busy, and having that extra cash to save too. If your pay isn’t that good, have an extra source of income, or keep committees. Control your family and your own spending habits.

Save your money:

Do not waste it, but save it: You need to save first, and then spend the rest of the month on the rest of the money after savings. When you save it, keep it out of your own reach also. Like many people join committees – which is an excellent way to save – and then reinvest it in something else, like shares, or even property. When you get the amount, use it wisely, you haven’t saved all year, and sacrificed to splash it wrongly, ending up again at zero point.

Lead a debt-free life:

Make a pact with yourself to never get into debt. If you have to, then return asap. Make it your priority to return immediately. This applies to whether you borrow from friends, relatives or from a bank. Just leave all else, and return asap.

Enjoy your money:

In fact it is the money which you have used, which is yours. The rest may never be yours anyway. But let’s say, get what you can’t get normally from your extra  earnings. In my case, it was gifts, books, travel, and outings with family and friends. Also, I loved getting things to beautify the home, like plants, carpets, curtains or lamps.

Fight for equal financial rights for girls:

  1. Disparity in pay scales: Realize the fact that today, women do not receive the same pays as men in any department for the same work.
  2. Property ownership: This is mostly avoided, or totally ignored.
  3. Inheritance laws are distorted: The fact is that the larger share for males is solely for the added responsibility on them for caring of females in their family, for life; which means to provide food, clothing, education and shelter to the women in the family, specially widows, divorcees and orphans. This aspect is completely ignored by most men today, which is extremely un-Islamic, while the part of usurping her property is followed diligently.
  4. The point to note here is, that if Shariya Law is important, which it is, then it must be followed in totality. All the rest of the  Shariya laws also must be followed first; Especially, cutting of hands for thieves (and corrupt persons – which is theft of the worst kind), capital punishment for murderers, kidnappers and rapists, and lashes for adulterers. Till all that isn’t implemented also, the inheritance law must be done with ijtehad and the portions should be equal for all. This is suggested, because women have to fend for themselves in today’s world. Almost no man is taking care of the women in his family, as per Islamic responsibility.  A bill needs to be passed for this immediately till the rest of the shariya laws aren’t implemented too.   The present scenario is totally unfair to women, in letter and in spirit of Islam. The present interpretation has weakened women financially. In original Islamic times, Muslim women were the strongest.
  5. Remember, when you will entrust your rights and control to others, you are bound to suffer. That is what you are doing girls, so wake up.

Invest your savings:

Knowing the state of affairs in present world, and especially in Pakistan, women need to be even more aware of the importance of taking control of their financial planning. Here is where you’ll get tips from Suzie Orman and Robert (of Rich Dad, Poor Dad fame) about how to invest it. Best is to invest in property and live on rents. So, your main investment is safe and you are living on the above stuff.

Charity percentage:

So, give a percentage, that makes it easier to calculate. Give zakat first, and then sadqa too, as and when required, preferably 10 % and least 2.5 %. I’ve heard, that Jews, give 10 % , no wonder they are so rich!

My message to girls:

  1. You have to prove to your man, that you are capable of handling finances.
  2. Show your competence in other matters of the household.
  3. Know your rights and your duties.
  4. Speak up when your brothers are trying to swindle you out of your share of inherited property.
  5. If you aren’t good at Financial Planning, get better. Do indulge in committees and savings.

Message for men:

  1. Help your women understand the fundamentals of finances.
  2. Trust your wife, mother or sisters in financial planning. Let them participate with the workings. Let them do some of your work too. It will lighten your burden too. This will give them a better idea.
  3. Be transparent about your financial investments. So they know where they stand.
  4. Know that whatever Allah has ordained for them, they will have anyway. Isn’t it better if it comes to them with your name to it?
  5. Be just and fair with your wife, sister and mother, and family members, specially while dealing with inherited property. To keep your property joint with your wife.

So, tell me were these points useful for you? Yes, you knew most of them anyways, but didn’t realize how important they are, for our own well being. Also, you can support your husband achieve your mutual financial goals. Just as he can support you with your goals. Do you have any planning ideas? Do share with me in your comments.

If you follow the above points, you will stay blessed in so many ways. 🙂

Note: All photos provided by author, except last one by Waliya Najib Khan, and one provided by Nadiya Najib.

 

Reboot yourself by re-upholstering.

Salaams to all. This one is more about getting yourself back to normal after a difficult spell in life. It maybe a personal tragedy, or just a terribly busy spell in life. When you come back to your own life, you find that almost everything has changed.

Nothing is as it used to be.

So, how to find your own self?

Well,  I use the terminology of ‘rebooting yourself.’

You know what ‘reboot’ or ‘restart’ means?

Definition – What does Reboot mean?

Reboot is the process of closing and starting a computer or its operating system from the initial boot loading sequence. This process reloads the operating system files and is used to fix many common computer problems, such as slow processing or freezing.

So, back to my topic, to reboot myself, I have a theory that really works for me…. Let me show you. I love to do an activity which will keep me physically and mentally involved. Best one is painting, or writing for me, but another is driving, or just plain upholstering my furniture items around the house. 

Anecdote:

Yesterday, I had someone over, saying he loved his mother so much;  when she left the world last year, he felt so lost. He wants to gather himself and his life, but is finding it too hard. The loneliness is too much. He misses her a lot, as wherever he looks he finds her memories.  So, you know what I suggested? That he should offer his sisters any of the furniture items they want.  After all, they have sentimental connection with these, and would be happy to have most of these.  He, too could keep some for himself. This would create space for him to start a fresh life for himself. Keeping the home the same way, only makes him feel worse, as the main person isn’t there, and everything reminds him of her.

‘Re-upholstering your furniture can change all that!’ I told him.

A big smile dawned on his face. He was pleasantly surprised.

I told him,

‘it changes the dynamics of your home.’

He loved my idea.  Then it struck him, ‘it will cost some money!’

I said ‘yes, much better than paying your psychiatrist and for the medications!’

He laughed out loud.

Re-upholstery as a means of rebooting yourself:

Actually this is what I’ve done. I’ve done up my mother’s room, and given it a completely new look. She willingly contributed to the change, and I went and did the needful, it was a lovely drive to the shop with her, to get the materials. A mind-boggling time in the shop planning and calculating… and finally returning with the materials, feeling happy. (The trick is in not investing in too expensive a cloth, or you will be stuck with it forever.) In case you like a very expensive material, then use it sparingly. In my mother’s case of  her Victorian sofa set’s case, I used it for the cushions only, the rest was in a lovely shade of pink to brighten her room up a bit.  I know the color scheme is ‘colorful’, but it was needed to keep her cheered up. (Blue and gray was too close to the original feeling and colors!) I had looked up some interesting versions of modern ways to upholster these old-fashioned styles in sofas.

Of course, I have my own upholstery man who willingly comes over. So, he came and the work has begun.

Now, this is how it looks, it has changed the look of the room completely. I even did up my dad’s hospital bed, with upholstered bed head and foot board, to give it a lovely look. Now, my mother can use it  and she can be easily raised to help her up to a sitting position. So, this would be ideal for her breakfast in bed.

Other rebooting systems:

I’m telling you painting is even better. It is the best. But very few people understand.

‘My friend is paying around Rs.2,00, 000/- per month, going to a rehabilitation center, for some therapeutic treatment which includes coloring, and ranting one’s heart out.’ Said my student Izma. Then  she added, ‘I wish she had just come to your art classes!’

Yes, she could feel it too. Painting is one of the most therapeutic things. Well, so is knitting, embroidery and stitching. Well, it is anything that involves your mind and body in so much action that there is no time to feel morbid.

Depending on the time you have, and the money at your disposal, I can suggest these therapeutic activities which can help you reboot:

  1. A trip to the nursery, and fill your home with huge indoor plants. (Time: one to two hours.)
  2. Buy yourself a huge bouquet of flowers. (Time: 5, 10 to 15 minutes.)
  3. Yes, get clothes if you want, but they don’t give me that big a thrill. In the case of newly upholstered furniture, you can enjoy for several years. (Time: takes around a week to ten days.)
  4. Well, you can reset the furniture settings in your home. That also gives a fresh look. (Time: one to two hours, and months of pleasure. No cost at all!)
  5. Cook a nice dish,  serve it with a nice candle lit dinner or lunch. Use your best cutlery and crockery. (Who could be more valuable than yourself?)  This process can take  a couple of hours.)
  6. Go out for a long drive till you find a stream, seaside, river or pond. Put your feet in the water, and laugh out loud. Okay, you can look out glumly at the horizon from there – if that makes you happier. (Time: 4 -6 hours. Return with lovely pictures and videos to fill you with lovely memories. You can share on Instagram too.)
  7. What about those funny cat films on YouTube? (Yes, 20 minutes to one hour.)

I believe in doing something that needs you to be to be fully active physically and mentally too.

Nadiya Najib’s blog post on Time Management:

Well, I love the article Nadiya Najib wrote on time management. You know it is a pet subject of mine. My girls have witnessed these things in their home, and tried their own ways of doing it. You will find it here.

I’m telling you, when you manage your time properly in which you manage not only your own time but also take care of your loved ones, then you will be a far happier person.

It is a good way to reboot and get back to your ‘normal’ self!

So, when life deals you a jolt, you have to have things lined up so you can get back to normal. Here, your schedules are all ready and waiting for you.

Note: Take as many breaks as you can. You are still in ‘repair’ mode.

Look at how nature ‘reboots’ and reupholsters itself every spring! Stay blessed. 🙂

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. 🙂 

Let’s make our 2019 Annual plan.

I did this painting last year, really want to do more work this year. 

Hi Everyone! I really hope you all had a wonderful year. Alhamdolillah, I’m sure you achieved alot. Mine was awesome too. (It wasn’t exactly as I had planned, I’d like to say, it was even better!) So, how was yours?

 Especially, I want to wish you this season’s greetings. So, before we get busy with all the fun of ending this year, and beginning the new one, let us do an important exercise.

 Let us plan out next year now.  

Why make the Annual plan now?

 This exercise won’t take more than fifteen  minutes.  If not, then even five minutes are enough for you to brain storm now and decide what you want to achieve next year.  Sit down and write the stuff you wanted to do, but couldn’t achieve this year. In fact, it can be the first point! 

So, when the year begins you are clear where you are going!

A quick round up of 2018:

Time to sit down and reflect.

First the 2018 Successes:  

Well, I’ve made a list of all the things that made me feel very happy this year. How many points did you make? (Be smart, write the sad ones in such a way that they may look like successes too!) For instance, my mother fell in February, and that really shook me. So, I just noted that when she fell, how wonderfully she recovered, in spite of it. See? So, it is more of a success in dealing with a crisis, than a setback.

Be kind to yourself during this process.

Of course, be your own trumpeter and wallow in all the successes this year, which were planned or unplanned. Yipppeeee! Keep it short and sweet. 5 to 10 points are enough. (- As you can imagine, mine went up to a hundred! (Do I exaggerate sometimes?) Well, if it makes you happy do it. But remember, we are preparing our next years’ plan! Stay focussssed!

  • The super best part was when my Waliya got engaged, and my third son-in-law to be got welcomed into our family. Alhamdolillah!
  • Then, the time Nadiya spent three weeks with us, before leaving for Canada. (I went to Lahore to see her off too.) Alhamdolillah, Haaris and Nadiya are well settled in Halifax now.
  •  The best parts were the gifts that my friends Sabahat, Shabnam, Shagufta, Ayesha and Fatima helped me in giving the CSS school.  ( it is a school for under privileged children) We did it for Eid-ul-Fitr. I even had an online donor Dr. Maira who paid for the teachers’ clothes. I realized how generous you all are. Also, there was Sana, from Australia who paid up for education of a student in Mashal. Nataliya and Bilal decided to pay for tuition of my domestic help and manager, Hasnain. I was also now able to pay for education of two students, one in Mashal and one in CSS school. It is a great way to give sadqa or charity. 
  • Then the tree plantation of 200 trees that we did with Shabnam Riaz of Arts and Literature group. It was awesome.
  • Yes, my friend Shagufta reminded me of the Rain water conservation project that I did too. The blog post on it is here.
  • The Screenwriter 101’ course, and now the Directors 101 course which I’m doing. (Learning is very important)
  • Workshops, art classes and meet-ups of writers at my Shireen’s Studio. (Teaching and sharing knowledge is very important too!)
  • The wonderful stay of my tenants, and the leaving of one, who is also in Halifax, and joined Canadian Airlines. The arrival of some wonderful personalities now. Finally, getting rid of one horrid tenant. MayAllah give them hidayat! Yes, I should have written one blog post on them! Grrrrrrr! Some people can be obnoxious, but why should I bother my pretty little head writing on them! (See?  How smartly I put it in successes?) 😉

Year 2018 Failures:

  • I wasn’t able to publish my second book, Allama Iqbals’ Message from the East,  this year.  Even though the work has begun, I’ve done more than half the work. I was unable to achieve the goal, due to several factors including my immediate family, and lack of finances. So, I had to postpone my goal. 🙁
  • Should have done more paintings this year, though I made quite a few. that was because I was unable to attend the art classes at Hajra Mansoor and Mansoor Rahi’s gallery. 
Choose your path carefully next time. 

 Forgiving others and oneself is important.

I don’t know why we expect perfection from ourselves? It is okay to not be able to do everything! Kutch nahi hota, jo hota hai, achay kay liye hota hai. (Whatever happens, happens for a good reason.) I really believe that one.

Best thing is we are alive and kicking right now.

Your turn:

  1. Just roundup year 2018 with its’ successes and failures’ round up, along with lessons learnt. (Keeping it short, sweet and to the point!) Remember to forgive yourself for all the shortcomings. 

Special thank you to my readers:

You know? I can feel that you all pray for me. My family and I wouldn’t be very far but for your prayers for us. In the same way, I also pray for you all’s well being too. I wouldn’t be here now, if it wasn’t for that! So we are here for each other. Thank you so much!

Your plan is actually the choices you plan to make!

We are ready now to prepare for the coming year:

2019 Annual plan:

Why can’t we make an Annual Plan for ourselves, just like every institution? If you are a working person, you know how detailed it is. That is why they get so much done.

How many of us do it for our personal lives too?

As the quote from Quran says: Allah will  help those who are ready to change themselves to get something done!

I love this quotation:

Work as if you were to live a hundred years, pray as if you were to die tomorrow.

 You can’t work unless you have a work plan!  If your plan is ready, the majority of the work will get done. Especially, plan the financial aspects of it. As you know,we did the weekly plan here, and the monthly plan here. Now, our annual plan can be in the same pattern.

Goals of the 2019:

As you did for the monthly plan, just make a random list of what you want to achieve in 2019 :

Sr. no. Goal/ project Time required
1. Physical:
Financial:
Social/emotional:
Intellectual:
Spiritual:  
 
2.    
3.    
4.    
5.    
6.    
7.    
8.    
9.    
10.    

Like semester system in institutions, let’s keep it in four batches of three months each:

Annual plan of 2019

Sr. No. Months: Remarks.  
     
  Jan:    
  Feb:    
  Mar:    
     
  Apr:    
  May:    
  Jun:    
     
  July:    
  Aug:    
  Sept:    
     
  Oct:    
  Nov:    
  Dec:    
       

Ever thought of making a five or ten year plan?

The other day, I heard Bill Gates saying that people do not realize the value of the ten year plan;  People do not realize how powerful it can be. So, we are going to go for it too.

As usual, we are doing everything in reverse order. Chronologically, one would sit and plan out one’s lifetime goals. Then put them into the ten year plan, then the five year, then the annual one, and then the monthly and weekly ones. – If you know what I mean! Those of you with small children, would be able to do it noting the ages of your kids at that time too!) It is fun.

I’ve done five year plans. It is even more fun, when you look back on it later on.

Stay blessed my Readers. I’ve grown very attached to you all. You rock! 🙂

The joy of driving in Pakistan or anywhere else!


My driving back ground:

Start your drive with a well adjusted rear view mirror.

Driving  is a thrill for me. It makes me feel as if I’m having my ‘me time.’ I love being the boss with the steering wheel in my hands! my first car was bought (yes, a Suzuki Mehran of course) from my first savings. (What else can you expect from a teacher and writer?) My husband felt it wasn’t needed as I used to drive our car, while he drove the official car.

My experience of driving all over Pakistan, has been for over thirty five years, by now. So,  I’m qualified to write this post. I’ve driven in most cities, in most conditions, (that includes with small children too,) so I’ve gone through villages, highways, busy roads, and good roads. (Also through storms and  floods!) 

My husband taught me how to drive the manual gear car while we were still ‘engaged’, (that is the best time to learn!) Afterwards, I’ve driven the automatic car for many years. Now, suddenly, I felt like driving the manual gear car again. So, that’s what I’ve got these days.)

My father was an excellent driver and so was my husband. Watching them, it was natural for me to love it too.

Here are my rules for driving:


I’ve wanted to be a good driver always. Getting compliments from my father and others means a lot to me. I believe, it is quite an art. 

Before you start regular driving:

You see, it is important to be confident, and that can only be if you have done your ‘home work’. The ability to concentrate on the driving can only take place if one is in a good state of mind. So do be clear about the following points:

Have a driving license.

Pay the tax on time.

Have a good mechanic on call.

Learn how to change a tire.

Also learn how to check the oil, and if it needs changing.

When you like to drive, you take the responsibilities too; so be prepared to get car serviced and the oil-change done by yourself. Do write the mileage to know about the next time. Do not let them tinker with the original mileage of the car.

I’ve got the repairs done myself whenever possible. (I’ve been spoiled hollow by my garage mechanics and engineers. Daniyal owner of a garage, and an auto engineer, takes my car, does it up, and drops it home.) I’ve written about his garage here, though now he has opened another one next to it.

As far as I’m concerned a good deck is a must. I can’t move without good music!

The rules I follow while driving

  • Read the ‘safar ki dua’ or prayer of travel before starting.
  • Check all the mirrors, and put on the seat belts. Make sure the passengers are properly strapped also, otherwise, refuse to move. You know, their safety is your responsibility.
  • Specially, keep children at the back in a seat, properly strapped. (I followed this, even when it wasn’t compulsory in Pakistan. Why not follow rules of safety? I mean it is stupid!)
  • After that, put on the music.
  • Singing in the car is highly encouraged. 😉
  • No tension talk.
  • No problem-talk either. Relax! Enjoy the drive.
  • Enjoy the view. (Stop looking at the gutters and garbage, look up at the sky, trees – and traffic of course.)
  • I do give way, to those who deserve it. Even to those who don’t. You may be right. – But no need to be ‘dead right!’
  • Always follow all traffic and safety rules.

Use of mobile phone & google map:

  1. It is best to have a system in the car where the phone call can be used on the screen. Have any hands free system. However, whenever you ‘answer’ a call, do tell the person that you are driving, so you keep it short.
  2. However, in the case of any important phone use, do stop your car on the side, and take the call if it can’t be avoided. Otherwise DO NOT USE THE PHONE. Nothing is more important than yours and others’ lives.
  3. No filming or photographs while driving. I have to confess it is very tempting. (I even got a shout from my daughter Nadiya for doing so!) She was right, so I’m never doing it again. No one has the right to put other’s lives in danger, or one’s own. 
  4. Use a mobile stand: If you want to make videos while driving or use the google map then it is best to get a ‘mobile phone stand’ attached to your car’s dashboard, so you can easily do it.

Acts of kindness while driving:  

  •  In case of a bad traffic jam, get out and help untangle traffic jams, instead of sitting and cursing the government!
    • Yes, give a lift, to people carrying heavy packages. Especially old women or men. (I often watched my father do this.) Once, I gave a lift to a man who was obviously in great trouble during a bad storm.
    • Offer to give a lift to people who are obviously in need. (Yet do remember it can be a fraud too!)Listen to your gut feelings.
    • I also give sadqa, to a beggar if it is genuine. Otherwise, try to keep sweets or water or something to eat instead.
    • Give way to a person stuck in middle of road trying to find a way out. (- But do not stop suddenly, of course.)
    • Happily offer to pick or drop friends. 

In case of accident:

Many people don’t drive because they are afraid of having an accident. Well, you can be in one, even if you aren’t driving! So, what will be, will be. But, if you do have an accident, follow these rules. Then get back to driving as soon as possible. Otherwise, you will never get out of this fear of driving again. Remember, setbacks are only opportunities to learn. Nothing else. Here were go:

  •  Generally speaking, you won’t have a problem. Many bystanders will be eager to help. You will find people going out of their way to help you. Occasionally, you will find a nasty creep. Then be prepared to handle such guys too. 
  • Be cool and try to handle it yourself. Call 15 police in all situations.
    • Just drive off, if it is a small brush. Standing and arguing is pointless. After all, it is only your car that is damaged. It can be done up. There are people who do this on purpose to make you stop, then try to kidnap you or steal your car. So, it is best to drive off if you can.
    • If someone else is hurt, take the person to a nearby chemist shop where they usually have first aid facilities. If more serious, do take to hospital.  
    • When the other car is damaged: Give number of your mechanic and offer to pay for any damages to your mechanic. (I’ve done it, it works.)
    • If the person is misbehaving, be quiet. Once a guy took my car keys. So I went up to his car and took his, then came back and locked myself into my car to wait for the police to come. Yes, call the police at once. (Even if it was your fault.) Tell the police if you are to blame, but don’t take any nonsense from anyone. The crowd can be helpful. 
    • Call your husband/brother/ or friend when situation is getting out of hand.


Car repairs and maintenance:

  • In the case when my car got damaged, I had the car repaired myself. Later on in the evening, I’d confess to my husband what had happened, then explain that all the repair work is already done, or in the process. He’d raise his eyebrows, in surprise. 
    • A time came when my mechanic was tried out by hubby dear, and he even liked him. (I had got to know of him through my friend Naila’s driver!)
    • By now, I just sit in the back seat enjoying a cup of tea and reading while the work is getting done.  Of course, I dress very appropriately, and am respectful. I find them very courteous. I also make sure to sit in crowded areas, not in some room inside. The bad weather is no issue. It really doesn’t matter. 

So, driving is no big deal. Just be prepared to follow all security rules, and to rough it out when needed, and enjoy the drive! 🙂 

Note: I’m sharing some pictures from my recent drive to the mountains. Last sunday, I suddenly felt like going for a drive,  so I picked up my friend Naila, and we went to have a cup of tea on the expressway, near  Murree. It was lovely. We came back fully rejuvenated. 🙂 

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.”

Four Secrets of Success

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– I love it when a deep point is simplified!

The other day, I saw this video of a sermon by Tariq Jamil. It has the secrets of success in both worlds. It is based on the sayings of Holy prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It gave me the answer to the secret of success of my parent’s lives. They’ve never been into religious rituals. So, I’ve always wondered what it was. Listening to this sermon by Maulana Tariq Jameel made me realize the true secret of success in their lives.

Continue reading “Four Secrets of Success”

How to Make Life Exciting.

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Almost every person I meet, he tells me he wants to do something special in his life. Something that will make him feel more satisfied and fulfilled. Believing in his talent, he finds its hard to pursue one’s interests due to lack of time. Often I’m asked, how I do it. There is nothing special, except having a few tricks to stay refreshed even when one is extremely tired. To find ways to do what one really likes, in spite of being busy. The trick lies in finding ways to get fresh and remove feelings of fatigue.

I mean, just look at Allama Iqbal, he  had two wives, children and a full time law practice. Yet, he came out with the greatest poetry and thoughts of his times. How did he do it? By making space for it, along with providing for his family through his profession. This blog post is all about how to make space for your passion in your life.

You do it – because your happiness depends on it- that’s why! 

You see, life is going to be crazy anyway. Do you think your life is less difficult for not doing all the ‘extra’ things that talented people do? Even if your life is nice, stable, routine but then there is this element of ‘missing’ excitement in it. You find yourself saying ‘I wish’ very often. So, I’d suggest you develope a life with more granting of your own ‘wishes’ (too).

One just needs to make an effort.

Plan better, and get going! Once you are on the road, you will feel better. As they say ‘himmat to karni parti hai.’ You cannot get anything without making the extra effort or cherry on the top!

So, if you are in a hurry, I will share my secrets first, and go on with my blog post for those who have more time to read.

Here are tips for all ‘normal’ activities:

Quickly go over the important responsibilities in your life, to make space for your passions in life.

  • Stop doing your work, ten minutes earlier. This will conserve your energy and give you more time in the end.
  • Try to ‘end’ your ‘work day’ by 5.00 pm every day. (if it is not completed, drop it.)
  • Make an effort to do something wonderful afterwards, at least once or twice a week.

 Refresh your self like this:

These will help you to keep going for it!

  1. Break: Take a ten-minute break and relax completely. (Mentally and physically.)
  2. Prayer: Best is to do wuzzu and say prayers – nothing so refreshing. While praying ask Allah to make things easy for you. (According to the Chinese acupuncture method, you touch points during wuzzu which will relax your nerves.)
  3. Shower: A quick hot or cold shower can do wonders. Unconsciously, you are giving a massage to your whole body like this, extremely refreshing.
  4. Make up and change of clothes: fresh clothes and make-up do wonders to your spirits.
  5. Perfume: you’ve heard of aroma therapy, it really works.
  6. Meditate: do it as you drive, or while lying down, or after prayers.
  7. Visualize a place: you can visualize being in a place that you love, (for me walking in a running stream in my bare feet is the best.) Specially visualize yourself doing what you are going to do now. Imagine how wonderful you will feel while doing it.
  8. Drink tea, coffee or lemonade: Any one of these can get you back on the road!
  9. Fifteen to twenty minutes: is all you need to get refreshed.
  10. Power naps: This can be ten to twenty minutes. One hour is the best. It will make you completely rejuvenated.

On Septemeber 25th evening, I was literally on the point of collapse, by 4.45 pm. I knew I had to wrap up the endless work of the day.  Then pick a friend and drive off to Rawalpindi for an event. A headache was coming on, and I could feel my neck’s left side muscles feeling strained. (Later on Ive found out it was due to high blood pressure – income tax returns does that!) So, I tried to get out of the event, (for a change.) The trip meant at least a three to four hour sojourn.

I rang up  Mrs. Gen. Saeed uz Zafar, who had invited me.

‘I’m so sorry, but I’m really not feeling well.’

‘It’s fine, you can come slightly late, but it will be worth it’ she said!

So, I refreshed myself by a few of the things mentioned above, and drove off. I have a theory, ‘once you have decided, then don’t think about it.’ That’s what Iqbal says:

 

 

Naila and my drive to Rawalpindi Garrison Mess: 

The moment Naila sat in the car, she said, ‘put that off! It will distract you while driving.’ I looked at my innocent DVD player in the dash board. I wanted to ask:  ‘Why do you think I bought this car???’- Yes for this dashing dashboard of course! –  So, I put off the screen, but kept the music going… telling her ‘I can’t drive without music.’ Which is so true.

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I took this pic while the lecture was on. My apologies to my friends sitting next to me! 😉

Naila and her family have just returned from attending a wedding in UK, so it was interesting conversation. She told me she had visited Daphne du Mauriers’ Jamaica Inn location in Cornwall. She even saw the desk where she sat and wrote. It is an actual Inn, in Cornwall, UK. I’ve literally grown up reading her books. Though I’ve loved Rebecca a lot but my favorites were Jamaica Inn and Scapegoat.

This is the conversation  we had as I drove on the signal-free highway. Then through the heavy traffic of Rawalpindi to Garrison Officer’s Mess. We got there, after parking the car literally in the ground near it, as the parking was full. (It used to be the cricket ground.  In 1980 I saw Imran Khan fielding near the pavilion. My friend Samia Khan and I were sitting in the VIP enclosure next to it. For the first time I had seen Imran Khan from close (about thirty feet away – and yes, he did look like a Greek god, like people had said. He did beat up the Kiwis the next day with his six sixes.) No wonder all the girls were so crazy about him!

The walk to the Garrison Mess became my evening walk. The building is charming and well kept as ever.  As I looked at the people playing tennis in the courts on my left, I remembered how  I had played tennis here too. (The coach was very impressed by me.) He didn’t know that I’m only doing it to reduce my weight, after the birth of Nataliya. Though she was only six pounds, I had gained a lot of weight. So much so, that my father-in-law joked with me saying, ‘khoda pahar, nikla chooha!’ It is a popular proverb meaning that we had to dig up a mountain to get a mouse! Don’t worry, I did get my weight back to normal.

Event by OAKS on Claiming Spaces from the Whirlwinds:

We entered the Fine Dining hall, which is more spruced up every time I see it, and the program was on.   Shama Apa came over to receive us. OAKS, Rawalpindi chapter had organized the event. They are a group of ladies who studied in Kinnaird College, Lahore. This event was based on three extraordinary women writers: Ismat Chughtai, Hijab Imtiaz Ali Taj and Quratulain Hyder.

It was a spell binding event. Touching upon the history of Muslim Women Writers of Sub-Continent of Indo-Pakistan, the speaker Salman Asif was fluent in Persian, English and Urdu. His accent and vocabulary in all languages was a treat to listen!  The presentation included many writers and it opened ones’ eyes to a world which was so modern and progressive! The women were of course mostly belonging to the elite and upper class, one was a pilot too! Some were queens and princesses during the Mughal era, which included the famous Queen Mumtaz for whom the Taj Mahal was built. Among the later ones Hijab Imtiaz Ali Taj, Ismat Chughtai and the famous author of Aag ka Darya: Quratulain Haider. The time span was between the sixteenth century till the late nineties;  the  hour passed in minutes, as we were in a trance. I’d love to invite him over to speak to our writer’s groups in Islamabad.

It isn’t possible to write about the lecture which was so amazingly done. Nor the inspiring women writers. How well versed they were in more than one language, one of them was even a pilot! Their skills in writing were matched by the lifestyles they had which were more modern and progressive than most of us today. I was so glad I went.

It is moments like these which make life so worth it. What I loved was Shama Apas’ tradition of gifting the speaker with a baby-tree of Silver Oak tree in a flowerpot. The group of ladies meet every month or so and call themselves the Silver Oaks.

Making space for passions in my life: 

In the same way, I’m so happy somehow I’ve managed to hold art classes at my Studio for select persons. Really enchanted with my student’s work.

Meanwhile, my daughter Nataliya came from Seattle. So, that was a lovely and busy spell. She also held a very engaging and well-designed workshop.  We all learnt a lot from her style of work and the way she managed the workshop. Of course, Waliya and I helped  her too.

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/2168838996482714/

 

Through it all, I’ve read out the Holy Quran to my mother daily. In fact that is how we start our day, along with a cup of tea.

Screen writing Course by Mian Adnan Ahmad: 

These days I’m attending a  Screen Writing course in The Hive.  I’m just loving these. I’m so glad I went for it. By now I’m used to people asking me, ‘Why?’ and my response is: ‘why not?’

Why am I doing this course? So I can make films for the upcoming books in my pipeline. To make is easier to communicate ways to better our lives in this world. How we can be more productive and useful to each other.

When you put it into hours, days and weeks, it is very do-able.

So, why not start doing what you love to do? You are the captain of your ship. Go ahead and pamper yourself. (Remember, we do it without compromising the needs of our family members!)

We only get one life – lets have an amazing one.  No regrets, Baby!

I’m so happy my daughters also manage to get their passions fitted into their lives, just like their father did.  Here you see Waliya at work. Nadiya is a wonderful blogger and organizing expert too.

Note: Most photos and videos are mine, except the ones of Nataliya’s workshop which are courtesy Waliya Najib Khan. The picture of mountains and lake is by Nataliya (I think, or me!) Also, group photos of event in Rawalpindi, provided by Mrs. Saeed uz Zafar. The pictures of Daphne du Mauriur from Google search. Hope it is okay with them. i’m extremely grateful for these.