You must be wondering if I’ve gone off my mind. ‘Why does she love living in a country like Pakistan?’. I’m saying this with a sound mind and body. This post will tell you why. It will illuminate what living here is all about. Yet, I’ll not keep a blind eye to the challenges of living here too. (Of course I know the challenges, I’ve personally faced many of them.)
At the same time I want you to understand why exactly I love being here, and would like to continue doing so, for as long as possible. It really breaks my heart to see how many of our youth are going abroad, and how many more are planning to go later.
Perhaps its their age, and stage in life. By the same token, I want to be here, because of my age and stage in life.
Whatever it is, I believe in appreciating what one has.
The fact is, that the youth of Pakistan only find a job or admission in any university abroad, based on their education received in Pakistan. Now, when it is time to give back, they are flying to greener pastures. Each to his own.
If you can’t stand it here, please do feel free to go and seek a better life.
Well, who am I to question you?
No one. But I want to see you happy. Content and thrilled with your life choices.
Life isn’t easy anywhere.
It all depends, on what you want in life.
I believe in a purposeful life. A life without a purpose is an empty life. Yes, that ‘machine’ life. No one wants that.
Yet, it is a hard decision. I have friends, whose sons have returned to Pakistan, trying to settle here. They are finding that difficult too.
Life is as you make it:
That’s my mother’s philosophy of life. She loves being in Pakistan. (Though she could have easily become an English citizen, as her name is still in their documents due to her British grandfather Fred Kilburn.) Frankly, she can’t be bothered. She is happy here in Pakistan. She specially loves the domestic help.
Right now she is happily spending her ripe 88th year. As she finds it difficult to walk, she has a maid who helps her to have a real hot bath every morning at 8.15 am sharp. Then she has a batman, (male helper) who brings her breakfast. After breakfast she settles into bed for a small nap of an hour or so. Daily, at 10.30 am she is taken on her wheelchair to the lounge where she has a cup of tea, while watching BBC on her smart television.
At 2.00 pm, after her lunch, her maid will come to settle her in bed, for her afternoon siesta. The batman helps to take her out of her wheelchair and settle her in bed; she will put on her Yanni music till she falls asleep. Cameras are fixed around the house, so I can keep an eye on her and my staff.
In the evening she comes to the lounge by 5.15 pm having her tea while watching her BBC news. Later, at 8.00 pm she retires to her bedroom after having her dinner at 7.00 pm. I usually spend my evenings with her. In the day time, I’m busy with my work and keep dashing in and out of the lounge.
My Life in Pakistan:
I guess, everyone has a different story, being in the forces, we are naturally very patriotic. Having lived in different cities of our country we know that people everywhere in Pakistan are kind, helpful, hardworking and friendly. We have also seen the rough side of life, where we have lost young army and air force officers and airmen in the line of duty. So I guess we value life more than usual.
Moving house, every couple of years, I’ve never stayed in one place for long; But still we have loved every bit of it. Frankly, there are good people everywhere. (I do agree, that goes for the whole world too!)
Many left the life in the forces too:
I’ll be candid. There was a time when even my husband wanted to leave our country. In the end he decided to stay as, the Air Vice Chief Alliuddin found out from me that I love this life, so he told my husband, ‘now I’m not going to let you go!’ He added, ‘All this time I was thinking that your wife was behind your efforts for resignations.’
So, we stayed and were happy to be here too.
My Dad would say to my husband that you’ve gone through the early rough period, now when the time has come to enjoy the fruits of your hard work, you want to leave. Stay and take what you deserve. He was pointing at the benefits that officers receive during the senior ranks, and the awards that are granted to exceptional officers. This is what happened, when he was awarded the prestigious Sitara-e-Imtiaz, just like my father was. You also get to earn the house and commuted pension that retiring officers are entitled to, at the end of their services.
Why do I love it here?
I can make a list of it:
Home sweet home:
Its home to me, and I love it. Its so familiar and I’m confident and at ease here. I can get up and drive anywhere, any time of day and night. Sometimes, I drive off to nearby Khaira Gali up in the mountains with friends, or off to Lahore to meet my college friends.
At home I love entertaining my friends by inviting them over for Lunch, tea or brunch. In pre-Covid 19 times, I’d hold events for my Studio and invite members for art classes, lectures, writer’s meet ups or spiritual gatherings.
I just love the food here. I’m telling you there is no food like Pakistani food. Try it. Let me name a few: Biriyani, murgh pulau, nihari, paye, haleem, aloo bhujia, matar keema, koftas, pakoras, samosas, chops, mutton pulau – just to name a few. The list of mouth-watering desserts is also amazing. Even Chinese food is more delicious in Pakistan!
Love the bright sunshine and climate; it has the heaven and hell of it all. Temperatures going up to 45 degrees Centigrate.
Fruit and veggies:
The fruit, veggies are to die for; mangoes, guavas, grapes, bananas, leechees, strawberries, papayas, apples and what not. I know you have it all too, but the taste, aroma and flavor is to die for.
The skilled and unskilled labor:
You can get workers who are skilled and hardworking. My plumber, electrician, painter, and the laborers here are very responsive and efficient.
Most of Dubai and Abu Dhabi has been built by Pakistani laborers. Four of them even gave their lives while building Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world – their names are on a plaque there along with others who lost their lives.
Anytime I call my plumber for any job, he will come over and do it. Once I wanted to buy a property and needed his input on its construction quality, electrical systems and plumbing. So, he went over and did a thorough check up to give me a list of pros and cons for the property from every point of view.
Usually, whenever, I have work to be done, I will first have a meeting with my painter Dastagir. Once every detail has been discussed, including the time, equipment and cost, he will get going with his team. I will see that he will be at my doorstep at 8.00 am sharp on the given date, with all the equipment needed, and he will finish the work in record time. (I pay project-wise and not on daily wages terms.) I find this method of payment suits us both. He will also help me save money if possible.
The upholstery man Murtaza will be there when he say he will come, make the analysis of how much cloth will be needed. He will also suggest some more trendy possibilities for my sofa sets, and suggest the best shop from where I can get the cloth. His workers will come on time and finish the work in record time. It is amazing.
He is also a skilled man for making new design of furniture. He made an ‘L’ shaped sofa for my lounge according to the dimensions of the room walls. Similarly, I designed a piece where an ‘L’ shaped sofa can easily become a guest bed when required. I had made drawings for it, and he followed it and did a great job of it. He also designed some interesting pieces for my daughter’s home, when she was getting married.
Water boring man:
When the water level of water goes down, its happened three times, and I had to get the water boring done. So, I got Ramzan for it, and he and his sons did the needful. I was happy with the job, and he got a proper automatic system done so I would have no problem for getting the water going to the roof top water tank, from 268 feet below ground level, and from ground level to the roof. Whenever there is a problem, he will respond to my call and do up the problem at hand.
Car mechanic and automobile engineer:
Well, when I started driving, I took pride in the fact that I’d maintain my car myself too. Even when my husband was alive. After he left our world, I’m glad that trait of mine helped me a lot. There was Muhammad the electrical expert who was even approved by my husband, when I took him along for the repair of his car. Then, there was Rashid near Safari Villas in Rawalpindi, who would make me sit inside his office while he did up my Suzuki and Alto. He was always there for me.
After that when we moved to E-11 Islamabad, I met Daniyal who is an automobile engineer and expert of Audi. He has his own workshop on way to D 12 area called DW Workshop. (In between he was also a Supervisor at Toyota Motors in Aab Para area of Islamabad. So he is highly qualified. So, if I have a problem, he will pick the car from my home, take it to his workshop, do it up and return it. He has done the same for my daughter Waliya.
During my husband’s lifetime, my laptop and computer were taken care of by him. He had his own ‘go to’ people. After him, it was a problem. But when I bought my previous Acer laptop from a shop in Blue Area in 2013, (recommended by my daughter Nadiya,) it just developed into a wonderful relationship.
Now, I just call up Irfan bhai the owner, and he will pick up my laptop from my home, and do it up and deliver it back all done up. (What more can I ask for?) It has been the same for my next laptop which my son-in-law Bilal got for me from Seattle. (The one I’m using now.) it is a Dell but a real fancy one, which a touch screen. Anyhow, so Irfan bhai deals with all its problems also.
Home visits of Doctor:
In this day and age, ever heard of a doctor making house calls? Well, Dr. Mehmood Ahmad does that for my parents, and even me, if I need it. He is a gem of a man, a very highly qualified gastroenterologist who also works as Medical Specialist in three renowned hospitals. Whenever I contact him, he spares the time to visit my parents at home.
Dr. Mehmood would say that you are taking care of your parents, (his parents are in Lahore, so he can’t do the same for them.) So, he always comes over whenever there is a crisis. He knows also that I would never call him for a petty issue. Otherwise, I visit him properly in hospital.
Communication with Oncologist
As you know from my blog posts here, when I got cancer I got immediate response from friend and doctors. My treatment began as soon as I needed it. The best part being that I have a direct contact with my doctor on WhatsApp. Can you imagine this in any other country? When I felt a lump in May 2021, I managed to get my mammogram and ultrasound done within the hour, and was diagnosed the same evening by 9.30 pm. I know for sure that in countries like UK and USA it takes months for you to simply get an appointment with a doctor. Even though they know that such symptoms need urgent attention as time cannot be lost.
Pakistani tailors are another breed in themselves. I’ve had mine in Islamabad since 1998. I have him to date. His stitching is so good that I’ve never tried on a dress made by him, as I’m sure that it will fit well. When he says he will give a dress on a certain date, it will be that. I guess this is why the fashion industry has boomed in Pakistan.
The UPS guy:
When my husband passed away, we were literally in darkness for months. Load shedding was a regular ritual in Pakistan in those days, so electricity would go off every couple of hours. Then we were in candlelight. We would be without electricity after every couple of hours, and we would be left in candle-light. Finally I found Farhan, in F-10 who works in Chaudhry Battery and UPS shop. Now, I’m at peace, because my one SOS call to him even at 11 pm at night gets him rushing to rescue me from my darkness.
With time I’ve developed a rapport with mainly one dealer who takes care of my property issues. He manages all my assets and is reliable.
Faisal is a very good framer of my paintings. I’ve had him since 1998 too, and it was same with whichever city I stayed in. I had a good framer for my paintings. Faisal, I’ve had for the longest time, he is good and has an eye for it.
Jamshaid the glass and aluminum guy:
in 2014, I was making a room for my daughter Nadiya who had come back to live with us. She was going through a hard time in life, and I wanted her to have a room of her own. An extra room in the basement was changed to become a studio apartment for her. I needed glass for my windows. On way back from my Sheikh Zayed Academy, all suited and booted, I walked into his shop.
I chose the glass for the window and he came to my home to put it up. Since that day in 2013, he has been a permanent person for most of my house issues of kitchen cabinets, windows, gauze doors, fiber glass awnings, and even my spiral staircase. You name it, he can do it. I’ve told him, he is hired for life for all my house issues!
My staff at home:
So I have a staff of five members; A cook who also takes care of my mother, and he manages the food drives which I do. Then there is my batman who also drives and manages the bridal project with me. He serves me breakfast in bed every morning. (If I want something different, I’ll text him in my WhatsApp group with staff.) They follow the work plan I have put up in the kitchen, or the instructions I give on our WhatsApp group. Both are courteous, and respectful and are full time batmen. I’m particular about giving them a break every afternoon from 2.00 to 5.00 pm and at night from 9.00 pm onwards.
Then the maid who comes three times a day, to take care of my mother. She will help bathe and change my mother and make her comfortable for bed every night at 8.00 pm. She comes in-between whenever we need her, as she lives nearby. Then there is the cleaning person who cleans the house daily for three hours. Of-course the gardener comes daily also for an hour or two to keep my garden and vegetable patch looking wonderful. They all work happily and follow any instructions that I give.
Mr. Qasim is owner of the company called Printo Graphics, it is a publishing and printing company. It is where I’ve printed my book Tulip of Sinai. Lately, I’ve been working with them on my soon-to-be-published Message from the East. Qasim, and the composer of my books, Saqib are the key men who help me to publish my books. I’m planning on publishing more books with their help too.
My food caterers:
Ghulam Hasan is the food catering person who makes a variety of delicious fried rice or pulau daily meal for my food drive. It is enough food for 75 to 80 persons. He will make it, put it in packets and distribute it for me. My staff member will just assist them and do the quality and distribution check and help.
As I sit here on way to Canada, I’ve given him the cash for the whole month right till a day or two after I return. He will be managing the food conscientiously. He will be sharing videos of the food and distribution daily.
Rawalpindi food distributers:
Recently, another person has come on board to help me distribute food in Rawalpindi. We have selected a hospital there to offer food distribution there, for people who go there. Again it is a meal, enough for 65 to almost 80 persons. He too shares a video with me of food cooked and its distribution daily.
Videographers for my YouTube channel:
Its been a year or two since I started my YouTube Channel by my name, Shireen Gheba Najib. (However, it had a gap as I fell ill within a couple of months of starting.) So, Rizwan and Irfan are the two who work with me. I’m quite satisfied with their professional work. Frankly, we are still learning as we are working on the interviews on podcast. I decide the date, day and location, and they respond promptly.
Now, here in Halifax, I met up with a class fellow named Aizaz. We had been together at the Scriptwriting workshops by Adnan, in 2018. So, we are now planning on doing a couple of projects here.
As you can see, I can go on and on.
These are the people who make my life comfortable and make me feel important enough to always be there for me, whenever I have a problem of any sort. One phone call is all that I need to make. They are there at my place at the mutually agreed time slot. By now I’ve got a very good rapport with all of them.
My dad often watched me while I was busy having meetings with them, and later he would praise me up for handling them and the situation very efficiently.
Whatever it is. It works.
(Note: I write this while I’m in mid air, between Pakistan and Canada. Using this thirteen hour flight to complete this post which I began in Pakistan. (By the way, I’m flying PIA – Great people to fly with. Nadira, the lady sitting next to me also loves these direct flights from Islamabad to Toronto, where we enjoy hearty meals and hospitality of Pakistan all the way.)
Just good management:
These days when people are found complaining about the very people I’m praising, you may find some tips useful; I choose to work with people who are recommended by my friends or acquaintances. Naturally I’ve had my share of creepy, crooked workers. But with time I’ve learnt to hold on to the good guys. Simple. So here are a few tips.
Treating each person with respect and regard takes one a long way. I have an excellent rapport with all of them.
- Write down everything:
They know I will write down everything at the planning stage, which will include their input. I’m candid, and expect the same from them. Also, I get their signature for every payment that I make.
- Meals on the house:
I make sure that they will get a meal during their time at my place, or at least a cup of tea with a snack. It may not be lavish but it would be good. In case there is no food in the house, I’ll send them for a meal at the nearby small restaurant.
- Gifts of suits:
Usually for Eid, I gift my workers with shalwar and kameez suits if possible, as a token of my appreciation.
- Pay them well:
Most of these workers charge higher than the normal lot. But their work is of best quality. At least the type that satisfies me. At the same time, they often offer me their suggestions which very often save a lot of my cash also!
What? Medical facilities? Well, yes.
As you know, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I chose to be treated in Pakistan, though I could have got it done in Seattle, USA. Now, I realize that it was one of the best decisions that I made. You can find out more about it in The ‘C’ word here and A dozen ways to deal with the ‘C’ word here. The biggest benefit is that the doctors respond promptly and in my case, I’ve been on phone contact directly with my doctor, throughout. Treatment also was good and in the end it is all in the Hands of God, anyway. Now, as I look back I realize, I did what was best for me.
Naturally, family is one’s greatest boost. Having my mother with me is my privilege and honor. At eighty eight years, she is the center of my home. The entire household moves according to her requirements and routine. I make sure that the staff follows her schedule, no matter what my routine may be. Her charm and wit keeps me upbeat. Having my youngest daughter living upstairs is another great boost for me. She is married and has her own life, but we manage to squeeze in some charming meet ups. My other two daughters living in Canada and USA, are another source of strength for me. At least once a year, they come over to spend a couple of months with me and that feels great.
Relatives living in Islamabad, are another source of joy and strength. My aunt Shahnaz Jafar who is an artist, keeps popping in to meet my mother. We enjoy a cup of tea or a meal exchanging ideas and anecdotes. Her son Hasan and his family often join us for a meal and it is great meeting the sweet family.
My eldest daughters’ in-laws Haroon Sharif and his wife Uzma, son Daniyal are people I meet on a weekly basis. In fact, a week isn’t complete without meeting them or an outing with them. Their cousin Sadia too has become a big friend of mine, and we often go for drives late in the evenings. Also she will accompany me to functions to which I get invited.
My friends in Islamabad and Lahore are gems who keep my spirits high and boosted. It is a joy to meet them. Naila, Farkhanda, Shabnam, Irum, Najam, Seema, Munazza, Uzma, Sadia and of course Nigar Nazar and many more, live in Islamabad. My G-9 friends and other friends of Air Force are my morale boosters like Huma, Zeni, Tahira, and Pinky.
Then I have wonderful friends in Lahore including Fairy, Fitrat, Riffat, Ayesha, Tanveer, Tabassum. Then there are relatives in Lahore too, like Rumi who is mother in law of my middle child, Nadiya. So, all of them combined make my life so wonderful.
Yes, I did get carried away. But this is unique to my country, so I wanted to share it with you all. This is one of the strongest reasons why I love my country so much, because it is made up of people like these who bring comfort and charm into our lives. We all are happily settled in our country enjoying and appreciating its charm and wholesome goodness. All this in spite of all that you hear on television, makes for a good life in Pakistan.
How could this blog post get completed without mentioning my mentors? Dr. Feroza Ahmad, Abbas Hussain and Mahjabeen are my mentors of life and career decisions. Hajra Mansoor and Mansoor Rahi are my mentors in the field of Art.
Stay blessed, my dear Reader.