Sunday, 29 December 2013

Nostalgia

The other day, I happened to travel along the majestic Lahore canal after a long time. The excursion brought back many fond memories of my childhood.

My paternal home is located in the proximity of the canal. During my academic life, I used to make trips to and fro along the canal every day. Be it my school, central market regions or my grandma’s home, we had to take the canal. The canal meant home.

Originally, the canal was part of the major populated regions of Lahore. Built during the Mughal era, the 60 km long canal runs through what was once the east side of the city. However, with the swift expansion of the city due to the rampantly growing population, the canal has been pushed further to a side. Now, though I am still living in the same city, I hardly get to visit the canal side of Lahore.

Historically, waterways have been convenient for defining transport routes and civilization abodes. Consequently, many locations have been named in connection with or geographically related to the canal. A two-way road runs along the length of the linear watercourse. The drive along the serenely flowing water banked with tall green trees creates a scenic sight. 

Over the years, the roadway lining the canal was made hurdle-free by constructing underpasses to account for unobstructed traffic flow for vehicles other than trucks and buses. The restriction for trucks and buses was automatically set in place by the height of underpasses.

There were days when the canal was brim full and there were days when the canal was dry. The latter happened when there were efforts to clean the canal, and get rid of the deposits that the water brought and carried along its extensive course.

Every spring season, there used to be a display of beautiful vibrant floats in the canal. These ornate ethnic exhibits were prepared by various art institutes to decorate Lahore and celebrate the festive spirits of Jashan-e-Baharan (Spring Festival).

During the long bright summers of Lahore, young boys were seen swimming in the canal waters to get relief from the scorching heat. However, this unpaid swimming facility caused gruesome accidents several times. Lately, the government has built green fences bordering the canal for safety reasons.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Ramazan 2013

Another Ramazan season has ended. When the revered month begins, it seems like it would go on a long way. But as it approaches its last week, it feels as if the days of rehmat (blessing) are quickly slipping away.

Ramazan is the holiest month of the Islamic Calendar - the month of blessings. It is the month when it is assumed that the Satan is sealed. It is the month of purity and peace. Yet, ironies commonly surface. The title of this article itself is ironic as 2013 and Ramazan do not fall on the same calendar even.

It takes a while to get into the Ramazan routine. Besides the intensified praying habits to earn more rewards for the later life, one has to cope with the alternating hunger and thirst situations. The latter is worsened by the uncompromising weather scenario especially true of Lahore and other scorching heat regions.

With the onset of Ramazan, people witness drastic price hikes in basic consumer goods. On several occasions, it has been reported that basic food items are hoarded by shopkeepers in anticipation of high consumer demand in the month of fasting to reflect as food shortages in the market. Consequently the sellers make lucrative profits while the buyers strive to meet their needs.

Dramatically, this year the financial year switch coincided with the Ramazan season leading to scary budget revelations in parallel to the dreaded Ramazan-related price hikes. Elevated taxes on various consumer goods left many frantic and frenzied.

On the contrary, Ramazan draws generosity from several segments of society. Many manufacturing corporations and service industries try to entice potential consumers by extending gracious acts such as discounted prices or attractive product deals to mark their respect for Ramazan. There were even discounted flower bouquet deals to honour Ramazan.

The holy month calls for simplicity and moderation as recommended by Islam. However, the Ramazan season commonly observed in Pakistan makes the usual simple living even more complex. Keeping track of the alternating aftaris and sehristhere is unnecessary attention awarded to fried eateries and fancy foods instead of exhibiting moderation.

On another note, it is amusing to see that several fasting Muslims expect to be graced with a margin of error in their daily work routines: “I am fasting, so don’t expect me to work 100%”. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to believe that the average human body cannot perform at its utmost in the midst of lethargy and tiredness aggravated by dehydration and low glucose levels.

Further, though Ramazan should apparently help in controlling anger by teaching patience, the messed up sleep schedules and digestive tracts at times aggravate confusion and mount frustration.

Ramazan seals with moon sighting and announcement of the Eid festivity. Eid is there to rejoice the humble prayers and acts of kindness embraced in Ramazan. The auspicious occasion invites families and friends to get together and exchange greetings with warmth and zeal.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Book Excerpts: The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Sharing some words from a beautiful book, The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak:

Sufi Dervaish Elif Shafak The Forty Rules of Love
"Even God recognized the need for someone like me in His holy scheme when He appointed Azrael the Archangel of Death to terminate lives. In this way human beings feared, cursed, and hated the angel while His hands remained clean and His name unblemished. It wasn’t fair to the angel. But then again, this world was not known for its justice, was it?"

> Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value.

> Friday is the best day of the week to beg, except when it is Ramadan, in which case the whole month is quite lucrative. The last day of Ramadan is by far the best time to make money. That is when even the hopeless penny-pinchers race to give alms, keen to compensate for all their sins, past and present. Once a year, people don’t turn away from beggars. To the contrary, they specifically look for one, the more miserable the better. So profound is their need to show off how generous and charitable they are, not only do they race to give us alms, but for that single day they almost love us.


> Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?

> Some people feed on the miseries of others and they don’t like it when there is one less miserable person on the face of the earth.

> “You dervishes are as crazy as rats in a pantry. Especially you wandering types. All day long you fast and pray and walk under the scorching sun. No wonder you start hallucinating - your brain is fried!” I smiled. He could be right. They say there is a thin line between losing yourself in God and losing your mind.

> "What is the point of roaming the world when it’s the same misery everywhere? Trust me. There is nothing new out there. I have customers from the farthest corners of the world. After a few drinks, I hear the same stories from them all. Men are the same everywhere. Same food, same water, same old crap.”

> “Don’t judge the way other people connect to God. To each his own way and his own prayer. God does not take us at our word. He looks deep into our hearts. It is not the ceremonies or rituals that make a difference, but whether our hearts are sufficiently pure or not.”

> “God created suffering so that joy might appear through its opposite. Things become manifest through opposites. Since God has no opposite, He remains hidden."

> "Whatever happens, do not forget, nothing God has created is in vain, whether wrath or forbearance, honesty or guile."


> “Everybody has a name. God has countless names. Of those, only ninety-nine are known to us. If God has so many names, how can a human being who is the very reflection of Him go around without a name?”

> "We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No two hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespect in differences and imposing your thoughts on others is tantamount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.”


> "One does not become a believer overnight. He thinks he is a believer; then something happens in his life and he becomes an unbeliever; after that, he becomes a believer again, and then an unbeliever again, and so on. Until we reach a certain stage, we constantly waver. This is the only way forward. At each new step, we come closer to the Truth.”


> "When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine bibber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is our hearts that make the difference, not our outer appearances. Sufis do not judge other people on how they look or who they are. When a Sufi stares at someone, he keeps both eyes closed and instead opens a third eye - the eye that sees the inner realm.”



Internet Sources:
http://www.ebooksbeus.com/uploads/6/3/0/8/6308108/the_forty_rules_of_love_-_elif_shafak.pdf
http://www.scribd.com/doc/148408035/Forty-Rules-of-Love-a-Novel-of-Rumi

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Proteins: The Building Blocks of Life

Ever wondered what the largest and heaviest land mammal on earth feeds on? Well, amazingly, the largest and heaviest land mammal on earth is vegetarian!
Protein rich foods building blocks of life

Many amongst us believe that for size and strength consuming animal protein is a must. Hence, people commonly stress on consuming meat and dairy products for protein enrichment. However, the mighty elephant is big and strong without any animal protein intake even.

Proteins are the building blocks of life. They are necessary for cell growth and repair as they form major structural components of cells and tissues. Additionally, they contribute largely towards the proper functioning of the human body by working as hormones, enzymes, antibodies, transport entities, movement aides, virus attackers, gene controllers, oxygen carriers, and so on. In fact, after water, proteins are the second most demanded nutrient by the body.

In essence, proteins are made of chains of amino acids. Amino acids contain nitrogen in addition to carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The latter elements constitute carbohydrates and fats with different chemical formulae combinations. Twenty amino acids are required for healthy functioning of the human body. While most of these building blocks can be astonishingly synthesised within the body, some of the essential amino acids need to be acquired from external food resources.


The need for essential amino acids can be fulfilled from both vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources. Though foods such as milk and meat are high in protein-content, it has been reported that several vegetables have sufficient proteins to comfortably satisfy the recommended levels of protein intake required by the body to supply the desired amino acids.


Amazingly as well, people often take up high-protein diets to discard the excess weight baggage from their bodies. As they shift their attention from consuming carbohydrates and fats towards incorporating more proteins in their daily diet plans, the excessive focus on proteins helps in building muscle tissue and reducing the undesired layers of fat. In this way, proteins also adequately meet the body's energy requirements, and simultaneously take care of the maintenance of cells and tissues and proper functioning of important bodily processes.


References:
"Living Raw, Living Well". Published on January 23, 2013. Accessed on July 18, 2013 from <http://news.goraw.com/2013/01/the-truth-about-protein/>
Fred Kummerow, "Protein: Building Blocks of the Body". Published on October 4, 2011. Accessed on July 18, 2013 from <http://www.westonaprice.org/vegetarianism-and-plant-foods/protein-building-blocks-of-the-body>

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Superstitions Unveiled

Tuesday days of the weekMy grandmother's weird hunches about associating certain things as peculiar is fascinating. She feels spooky with red colour. She once asked me to wrap myself around to conceal the red colouration of my clothes. I thought her fancy superstition was a one timer. However, in the next encounter, she asked my husband to avoid being prominent in public with the red T-shirt as she felt bad vibes in relation to the same. Likewise, Tuesdays are a dreaded affair for her. She would try to avoid undertaking any venture on a Tuesday.

Numbers are a worrisome story as well. 13 is the typically dreaded number. If someone is travelling on a Tuesday or a 13th, she would insist to change the travel plans. If the two coincide, it would be the height of intimidation. Gladly, the fears associated with the Western 'Friday the 13th concept' are mitigated by the contrary Islamic religious element that reveres Friday. Consequently, Fridays are treated to be more safe and less scary. In fact new dresses, new perfumes and new ventures are usually inaugurated on Fridays.

I also tend to be superstitious at times. Breaking of a glass gives me the creeps. Spooky stories of a mysterious crack in a mirror makes me feel eerie. In the past, odd numbers - particularly the number 13 - played their enigmatic effect. While changing the volume of the television remote, I used to scuff along the number chain to get even results and safely miss 13. Ironically, now odd numbers including 13 have become a fancy preference in some odd ways. Likewise, 7 feels to be lucky. I keep drawing 7 from mathematical operations on the various digit combinations that I keep coming across.


So superstitions seem to be weird beliefs that one tends to develop along with time. They may change and turn topsy turvy or strengthen on their own accord.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Causes of Terrorism in Pakistan

Terrorism in Pakistan
Once a peaceful and safe country, Pakistan has sadly become an intimidating land of disasters. Last week, a terrible blast explosion occurred in Lahore's popular and traditional Food Street in Anarkali that cost 3 precious lives and left several seriously injured. In another incident about a month ago, 8 foreign tourists were shot dead in the northern areas of Pakistan.

The terrifying terrorism stream in Pakistan can be attributed to certain reasons. These include explosive population growth, poverty, unemployment, Islamic religious schools, and a lack of vocational training institutes in the country. Let me explain how.

Population keeps on increasing year by year. Being a developing country with a large proportion of people living below the poverty line, the availability of basic resources is limited and insufficient to meet the needs of the existing population even. The situation becomes more precarious when human numbers keep on adding unchecked. In the midst of Islamic religious arguments, people do not allow for the use of family planning techniques. Many also believe that children are the poor man's only assets. Further, several families wish to have sons disregarding daughters for being burdensome.

A consequence of the rampant population growth is an increase in poverty. Poverty makes it challenging to acquire even the basic resources that are needed to sustain life. This is coupled with unemployment which aggravates the inability to support a family. Here, frustration and depression set in. These keep on escalating till they are eventually released through anger. Enraged with the sheer helplessness of not being able to support their families, people envy the privileged populace who are merrily enjoying their lives. Consequently, some of them decide to create havoc through terrorism to disallow fellow humans from being happy, taking a heavy toll on humanity.

Under the banner of Islam, people who cannot afford to feed their children often send them off to madrassahs (Islamic religious schools). Some people also send their children to madrassahs for religious enlightenment. However, some of these religious schools impart dangerous education about an austere and rigid form of Islam. Students may be brainwashed and convinced to believe false beliefs such as the killing of non-believers is justified in Islam. Some may provoke their students to engage in Jihad (Holy War) with a twisted explanation of the same. Madrassahs are often funded by people who hope to contribute towards a good cause but in fact are sponsoring terrorists.


Lack of vocational training institutes in Pakistan is also indirectly breeding terrorists. A hefty proportion of youth of the country is sitting idle. Under the dreary shadows of poverty and unemployment coupled with the absence of useful skills imparted by vocational training institutes, idle young minds are susceptible to engage in terrorist activities. The government should be prompted to seriously focus on establishing vocational training institutes all across Pakistan to put an end to terrorist facilitation platforms, and promote healthy distractions that would keep the youth occupied in constructive activities that would in turn help the economy.


Wish for a peaceful, safe and strong Pakistan.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The Rationality of National Divisions

Pakistan India Partition Division Nations
In 1947, Pakistan was allegedly created on the basis of the two-nation theory. The theory explicitly stated that the foremost distinguishing factor to determine national identity is religion.

Disregarding any commonalities between the Hindus and the Muslims of the Indian subcontinentthe two-nation theory implied that the two distinct religious entities of united India represented two separate nations.

With this ideology in place, it was declared that the Hindu and Muslim communities could no longer co-exist harmoniously in combined-India. This led to the division of united India into fragments with subsequently agreed Muslim-majority areas forming a new nation-state: Pakistan.

Pakistanis have been allured by lands that are different and better than their parent country. Many of them wish to settle in developed countries around the world. Consequently, over the decades, we have seen several Pakistanis immigrate to other countries for better lives and better prospects.

By doing so, they voluntarily choose to live with people of different religions and co-exist with different cultures and traditions. That puzzles me. If these Indian Muslims fought for an independent country on the basis of religion, then why do they now consciously choose to co-exist with people of other religions?

We teach young Pakistani children that Pakistan was created on the basis of the two-nation theory to proudly justify the formation of an independent and secure homeland for the Indian Muslims. However, today we find Pakistanis inhabiting places all over the world. Does that suggest that Pakistan was founded on the wrong principles?

Another sad but true reality is the enormity of disparate religious belief sets that are found in Pakistan today. A multitude of different religious groups hold strictly different views under the umbrella of one Islamic faith. If religion is the foremost distinguishing factor for national identity, does that justify the formation of several small nations to account for each of the different religious belief sets that exist within Pakistan?

Moreover, now when Pakistan's provincial representations - the Balochis, the Pakhtuns and the Sindhis - demand recognition and respect for their distinct identities in contrast to the dominating Punjabi provincial forces, isn't it incumbent upon us to grant them their due rights and divide Pakistan as we adamantly stood for the partition of India in the past?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Committee Culture in Pakistan

The other day, I learned about the committee culture prevalent in the esteemed elite circles of Pakistan.

Serving as a social participation forum, the elitist committee platform enables people to connect with the higher-ups of society to enhance their prestige and promote their status through the public relations network.


The traditional concept of committee culture has long been associated with the savings schema. This has been preferably desired by people from the middle class and lower class strata of society to force-save money for themselves and their families.


The committee works like this. Every member of the committee puts aside a certain amount with the committee fund every month. At the end of the month, one committee member is entitled to receive the whole fund amount that has been collected from all participants during one month. After everyone has received the aggregate sum once, the cycle is put on repeat mode.


This way, each committee member saves money easily by keeping it aside from his/her expenditure reserves. People prefer to save and avail the accumulated fund money. This substantial amount can be used for major expenditures or investments that may have otherwise seemed difficult to achieve.


Some committee forums also serve as a social interaction and reunion platform for gossip exchange and culinary cuisine sharing. Nowadays, the committee culture has elevated to serve as a recognition forum through ostentatious displays among the status-conscious members of society.


It is astonishing to note that the amount for committee entries has escalated from a mere few thousands to some lacs and even crores amidst the top circles of Pakistan's society. The huge aggregate amount from such committee funds allows people to make hefty purchases and investments such as buying jewellery, purchasing cars, hosting wedding functions, and so on.


Like elitist club memberships, committee memberships are winning popularity for their prestige and pomp as well as lucrative benefits. This is a good savings means that does not face tax issues, and serves as a legitimate means of saving money in a hassle-free way. Further, some people even sell off their committee money at twice or thrice the rate to the ones who are more desperate to acquire large sums of quick money immediately.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Wheelchair Ramps: A Dire Need

Wheelchairs disabled people Pakistan ramps
Disabled people exist in Pakistan the same way they exist in other countries around the world. Yet, disabled people are more 'visible' in other parts of the world as compared to Pakistan. People who are unfortunately bound by immobility in this country have no option but to stay 'hidden' and home-bound since they are not facilitated to access venues of social participation.

It is sad to see that there are no ramp provisions or facilitations for people in Pakistan who might be benefited by riding wheelchairs. In places like England, they have planned cities with the conscious awareness of laying down footpaths next to roads with ramps linking the two. Even their bus systems are designed such that people with wheelchairs can get on and off a bus quite easily.


On the contrary, in Pakistan, amazingly, there are no ramps for wheelchairs catered by most schools, restaurants, grocery stores, bookshops, mosques, pharmacies, shopping malls, movie theatres, public transport facilities, post offices, and so on, with only a handful of respect-worthy exceptions such as airports, a few universities, and perhaps some elitist socialising clubs. In the absence of ramps, where would the disabled people go?


Every social venue has some stairs to mark its entrance zone, thanks to the threats posed by the unreliable drainage system of the country. The stairs appear to be a challenging climb for a person who yearns to go past the obstacle but is bound by reasons helplessly and unconditionally attributed by nature. However, forced immobility does not imply that one is no more eligible to receive societal blessings.

On the Election Day this year, I visited a polling station in Lahore that had a decent flight of steps. It was awe-inspiring to see some enthusiastic patriotic senior citizens ascend the stairs with immense difficulty but determination to vote. Simultaneously, it was sorrowful to observe that even the Election Commission of Pakistan had not taken any steps to make the polling stations conveniently accessible for persons with disabilities, as a result of which many willing participants were unable to cast their votes.

Everywhere around the world, public and private institutions should undertake the social responsibility to incorporate permanent or makeshift ramp provisions in their facilities that could facilitate people with disabilities to participate in social activities.

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Power of Dress Code

Men's suiting power of dress codeA uniformed traffic policeman looks daunting in his duty clothes. One tries to consciously stay heedful of traffic rules and regulations in his proximity. However, when the same person is in ordinary clothes when off-duty, he poses no threat to the common man. That is the power of dress code.

For years, we had seen our driver wear shalwar kameez, Pakistan's traditional dress. One fine day, he switched to wearing jeans and shirt. The drastic change from rural to urban wear made him look so oddly different, and literally created recognition issues for many. That is the power of dress code.


As Islam dawned upon a friend of mine, she gradually kept on adding clothing materials to fully conceal herself. Now, with everything dreadfully hidden behind a complete black veil, we precisely see none of her. Taken aback by her overwhelming all-black attire, I have to consciously remind myself that this is the same person who has been a close friend all along the years. That is the power of dress code.


When I saw Deepika Padukone appear in a character-tailored traditional outlook in her first Hindi Indian movie, I got an impression that was totally altered by the images portrayed by her future acting performances. That is the power of dress code.


In a formal setting, when my dad meets a stranger who is dressed in a shalwar kameez instead of the more 'proper' shirt and trousers, he hastily assumes a few things about the individual's personality from the laid-back attire. That is the power of dress code.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Vitamin D Deficient Pakistanis

sun sunlight Vitamin D deficiency Pakistan
In recent years, there has been much talk about Vitamin D deficiency in this part of the world. This comes as a surprise in view of the ample amount of sunshine that is rampantly available across Pakistan. The duration and intensity of sun rays received by this country stand unmatched to several countries around the world.

Moreover, even the flimsy sheer piece of clothing material that we wear does not seem to be a visibly strong barrier to stop sun rays from triggering Vitamin D production in the body.

While discussing the Vitamin D deficiency parameter, a relative explained that the human body needs to receive sunlight on the shoulders and upper arms for Vitamin D synthesis and subsequent calcium absorption.

I found this amusing. I quickly related this to the profusion of sleeveless ready-to-wear clothing that floods the markets in Pakistan. Maybe the Vitamin D deficiency and sleeveless popularity are related in some odd undisclosed way.

The sleeveless trend has been there since a couple of years now. Some shopkeepers give the option of selling unattached sleeves with the dress for the purchaser to attach as per convenience and liking.

Of late, the availability of sleeveless varieties in the local markets is astoundingly growing popular in contrast to the Islamic nature of the social stream of the country. It is amazing that while on one side people are going for the wholly concealing dresses such as abayas and head scarves, a notable size of people demand clothes less the sleeves.

Perhaps with the increasing number of Vitamin D deficient cases, sleeveless and backless clothes would gradually build a legitimate human rights case to save the Pakistani populace from the impeding dangers of Vitamin D deficiency. Who knows!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Travelogue: Up the Hills of New Murree

Patriata New Murree visitors enjoying the chairlift ride
Thrilling roller coasters and exciting amusement rides have always enthralled me. Around this time last year, I convinced my husband to drive us to the hills of New Murree for a chairlift ride in Patriata.

Due to their convenient accessibility and affordability, the Murree Hills are a popular choice for recreation in Pakistan. People travel northbound towards hilly terrains seeking a respite from the scorching summer heat in the plain lands.

About an hour's drive from Islamabad, Patriata is approached by a road that winds along the hills for some 7 km after a U-turn from the Murree motorway shortly before ascending the Murree hill.

A crude bazaar leads to New Murree's Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP) resort and a vast car park. This tourist recreation spot is commendably well-built and neatly maintained.


As we climbed our way through the small souvenir stalls that displayed handicrafts and shawls, we could spot a dense queue inside a red enclosure. We purchased our tickets and got water bottles before heading towards the end of the line.


My expectations about the prevalent rush were a drastic underestimate. To our sheer surprise, the line of people ascended way up the hill. There were literally more than five hundred people in that ever-growing queue.


Little boys were selling Fresh-Up bubble gum and chilled drinks to the weary tourists. We got roasted maize seeds from a boy who had placed them in small paper bags worth ten rupees each. In the evidently long wait, it was a good marketing strategy to persistently keep trying different selling tactics.


Then an hour later, as our line descended along a few trees, we took small cherry berries wrapped in a green leaf cone worth the same price tag. I couldn't help admiring the meritorious innovative selling techniques employed by these young businessmen.


Finally, we made it to the red-sheltered queue compartment that ceased to accommodate unaccounted entries in the line. Soon after, it was our turn to board the chairlift.


The rejoicing ride was worth the wait. It was long and serene in the clean cool air with a mesmerising view of the picturesque natural green beauty around us.


Mindful of the advancing evening, we declined the option to venture for the cable car journey, and made our way back for another invigorating chairlift adventure to take us back to the starting point.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Workplace Culture Re-Defined: Flexible Working Hours

time clock flexible working hours coffee mug office
Flexible working hours are the demand of the day. Graduates right out from university venture to find a workplace that operates by rules that match their requirements. They have heard long crucifying tales about companies having stern policies that haunt employees by taking a toll on performance evaluation bonuses, avenues for promotion, and job security.

In the university days, these students chose class sessions that suited their late night routines and slumber patterns. As their carefree-mode sweeps into the professional arena, to mitigate potential grievances threatened by mounting punctuality concerns, the foremost little no-rule they prefer is to have flexible working hours.

Following the traditional 9-to-5 work routine, most offices commence at 9 am. Some of them have a time relaxation varying from fifteen minutes to half an hour after which an employee is marked as being 'late'. This punctuality dimension is usually reflected in the employee's performance appraisal. Consequently, people rush to make it through nasty traffic jams, and desperately wait for the elevator to take them to the desired floor so they can hit the thumb impression machine to announce their time-conscious attendance.

Observing strict punctuality makes good, logical sense in a customer-dealing office space - such as a bank or mobile phone shop or a hospital - where work activities involve direct one-to-one dealing with customers. Here, the declared work timings are directly related to the work output henceforth generated. However, if the workplace does not involve directly dealing with customers, the organisation might have room to adjust rules in such a way that preserve discipline and enhance employee work efficiency without enacting the compulsory 9 am-reporting schedule.

Here flexibility in work timings can come into play. Flexible working hours re-define the workplace culture by making workplaces output-oriented and not akin to employment styles that place the highest value on the employee's punctual arrivals instead of work efficiency and quality outputs. Surely every workplace calls for discipline, and should in one way or another indicate that it values punctuality and regular attendance. Otherwise, without having the desired personnel there, communication between employees would be haphazardly possible.

To check for this, I admire the flexible approach in work timings adopted by a friend's organisation. Every day at 11 am, the company under discussion holds a scrum meeting which is mandatory for all employees to attend. It does not matter if an employee comes to office at 8:10 am or 10:55 am if he is rest assured present for the scrum meeting and spends a minimum of 8 useful man-hours at work every day. Besides ensuring attendance and discipline, this provides a platform to assemble all and concisely share their daily work progress. The forum also allows the team to brainstorm ideas and discuss any issues faced.


Re-defining workplace culture through intelligently incorporating flexible working hours is a model that should be carefully promoted to target efficiency, well-being and success.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Pakistani Dramas: Humsafar


Humsafar all cast Mahira Fawad Atiqa Hina Naveen
I have not been much into Pakistani plays since the emergence of private channels in the television industry as most of their dramas took off with a repellent stance, mimicking the strategy and get-up of the not-much-liked Indian soap operas.

However, last month, I downloaded and watched the much admired Pakistani drama serial, Humsafar. I had not seen it with the world. I had just heard and liked its title song by Quratulain Baloch, and hadn't even seen a glimpse of the play when it was aired on TV. But I downloaded it for a later time to see what all the hype had been about after all.

I was not in the least disappointed. I must say the drama was brilliantly done. The climax was stunningly brutal, shaking me to the core. The awe-inspiring story line was captivating till the very end.

All acting performances were exceptional and flawless. I really liked Atiqa Odho and Hina Khawaja Bayat. The latter's reaction when she found her daughter was dead was very real and very well acted. Mahira Khan looked fabulous throughout. The simple sweet role suited her innocent looks just fine. The groomed Fawad Khan lead his part superbly and did a fantastic job in portraying the varying faces of his messed up life. Naveen Waqar performed her nasty character pretty well, delivering her jealousies with fineness and superiority. The entire mix of characters couldn't have been better.

The drama demonstrated great understanding and affection building up between the husband and wife, who were forcibly tied in marriage due to unforeseen circumstances. The serene relation tumultuously twisted into silent fights with an explosion of unuttered words. Finally, the husband's susceptible trust fell prey to the false appearances feigned to escalate his mistrust in his loyal companion. The flailing husband was predominantly unreasonable in not granting his wife a single chance to appear before him with her version of the earth-shattering story. It is sad but true that trivial misunderstandings and communication gaps can create havoc in the lives of even those who love each other to the extreme - a reality well depicted by the play.

On the whole, it was a good show. Of course, it had a few elements that were uncalled for or exaggerated. But then a drama has to be dramatic after all.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Lawn Clothes: A Temperature Scale for Pakistani Women

Lawn Clothes for Pakistani Women Temperature Scale
We visited my father's chachi (aunt) in Islamabad a few months back. Amidst random conversations, she commented, "People start wearing lawn clothes much earlier in Lahore."

My husband was keen to notice how the light-weight clothing material, lawn has become analogous to the temperature scale for the women of Pakistan.


Lahore witnessed a brief extreme of chillness in the last ten days of 2012 and the first ten days of 2013. Soon after, people switched over to wearing light clothes to cope with the heat that suddenly inundated the air.


I remember my dadi jan (grandmother) commenced wearing lawn clothes from May 1. Those were the times when there was not that much heat in this part of the earth. Back then, people cherished the spring season and wore an assortment of cotton and grip clothes. Nowadays, when people feel drastic weather changes, they convert to wearing lawn clothing even as early as February.


My husband mocks women and their need for different clothing materials all the year round. He claims that women have dragged themselves into this complex situation of getting different materials for each season. He adds that men have coats, hoods, etc. for cold weather. As the temperature declines, they simply increase the layers of clothing they wear.


There was an era when elegant embroideries snatched the market. There was quality and pride in fine varieties. However, of late, there is an increasing hype over the competition between various lawn varieties shrouding the market. Who would have fathomed that a material as feeble and unimpressive as lawn could grow so famous to rock the top charts in market demand.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Dictionary: A Dependable Companion

Dictionary Lexicon Magnifying glass
The dictionary is an amazing treasure-house of words. It reveals the wonders and beauty of a vast language by connecting people to an affluence of new words and ideas. Browsing the rich resource can be light-hearted fun as it brings one in contact with realms of succinct knowledge that can have truly empowering consequences.

The importance and usefulness of a dictionary is strategic. My grandfather used to advise us that whenever we pick up a dictionary, we should make it a habit to see the two adjacent words above and below the searched element. That way, we would get to know the meaning and usage of two other words as well.


In addition, whenever a person comes across a new word, one should look up its meaning. The next time that word appears, one should make sure to know what the word means. It is also beneficial to use new words in sentences that highlight the word's meaning, aiding memory retention. Incorporating such practices as regular habits can, in fact, be self-rewarding.


It is always useful to keep a dictionary close at hand. Nowadays, life has become easy indeed with the internet and the mobile phone granting quick access to various dictionaries. As we read newspapers and articles, it is always handy and gratifying to have immediate access to a dictionary to look up a word or phrase that we are uncertain about.


Similarly, as we type away and feel the need for stronger vocabulary or grammatical correction, we can input our queries into the search engine and generate spontaneous results. Often, it is appreciated if one uses a rich clout of words profusely but appropriately in writing. The dictionary and it's counterpart, the thesaurus, are pretty helpful in this domain, guiding the writer how to express ideas coherently and explicitly.


Even after preparing for vocabulary assessment tests such as the SAT and GRE, there is an abundance of words in the English language that I do not know. Every brief while, I come across words that are new for my eyes. In addition, several words with peculiar spellings appear before me that I would not have otherwise considered to mean anything meaningful. Besides enriching my word database, knowledge supplements of the kind enormously help me in fond word games such as Boggle and Scrabble as well.

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Shrewd Middle Class

The other day, I received an SMS that listed some generalisations about Pakistan's middle class. A few of them I have reproduced below:
>> "When the shampoo bottle seems to be over, I pour some water in it, shake it, and use it for another bath."
>> "A toothpaste isn't over for me until I've entirely flattened it out and started rolling it up from the back."
>> "Our home has fine bone china crockery which is used only when guests visit."
Such is the attitude of the conscientious Pakistani middle class that tries to wisely spend its resources.

The middle class consists of educated workers' families who rightly know how difficult it is to earn each rupee. As a consequence, they profoundly value resources, and try to spend their hard-earned money prudently. Some of them envision to spend according to a plan approximation for what they want in the future. Others live spontaneously but have the sapience to wisely utilize available resources.


In contrast, some people belonging to the lower or underprivileged class are surprisingly more spendthrift in nature. Due to lesser education and awareness, they are not cognizant of the reality that they should be shrewd in their spending and make the best use of already scarce resources. Hence, in comparison to the middle class sagacity, they are often found carelessly wasting invaluable possessions.

They would rather leave the water running unnecessarily. They would not care about neatly cleaning food remnants from cooking pans. They would casually peel and cut onions wasting away several useful layers. Gas burners in use would be set on full speed irrespective of need. They would get 2 yards of lace to adorn clothing where 1.5 yards would decently suffice. In a nutshell, they do not have the spend-it-wisely approach. Saving would be a far off stance indeed.


There is no doubt that the distressed poor of Pakistan often live hand to mouth. Yet, through such 'ostentatious' displays, they exhibit a sad sight. Life appreciates intelligent choices and decisions. If one gets into the habit of recklessly squandering things, then there is no end to it. We should be conscious about wisely using our resources and not wasting them. We should value things and respect the effort put in to acquire every little thing that matters.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Proposal Extravaganza

The trauma of going through multiple proposals to arrange a marriage is intense. Families continually meet different faces and styles till they eventually encounter success.


Typically, a middleman coordinates the initial meet up. The two parties awkwardly sit in the same setting. They introduce themselves, and then look for common subjects to toss around.

In the midst of general conversations, they try to dig out common connections. If it makes through the first stage, avenues are set up for further interaction.

Among these, an interview is scheduled with the boy. He is drilled with specific questions targeting his academics and career plans. The girl's father wants to determine how financially stable and settled the person is to take care of his daughter.

The girl's parents are naturally protective about their daughter. They meticulously scrutinize information about the potential suitor and his family, carefully amassing all possible details.

On the other hand, the girl is asked generic questions. A bit about her education, a bit about how she enjoys spending her time. If she works somewhere, that adds to the list of topics for discussion.

The family usually assesses a girl for her looks and socialising traits. In addition, her personal interests in cooking, reading, shopping, travelling, etc. may be probed.

When the prospective family leaves, a post-interaction meeting is called to gather everyone's feedback. All positives and negatives are listed. Tendencies for compatibility between the girl and the boy and the families are judged.

Generally, assessments are made on the basis of physical appearance, personality, family background, habits, tastes, expectations, attitudes, lifestyle, inclination for assimilation, financial standing, and so on and so forth.

Then the final verdict is passed: to proceed with the proposal or not. If things feel good and comfortable, it calls for celebration! Else, one chapter closes and another is initiated.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Bollywood Bulletin: Yeh Jawaani Hey Deewani

Yeh Jawaani Deewani Hey movieI had waited long for the Indian movie, "Yeh Jawaani Hey Deewani". I wanted to see it in cinema but as fate would have it, that wasn't conveniently possible. So I downloaded it on my computer and watched it at home.

I liked the movie for its leading cast couple - my favourite and most adored actors in Bollywood. It was nice to see Deepika in this new identity though not many would have liked her here given her character's simplicity and innocence after her rocking appearances in recent movies like Cocktail and Race 2. My orange shirt girl! And as always, Ranbir Kapoor was too good. He comes across decently in all the roles assigned to him and never disappoints.


I really liked the songs. They were different and upfront. Madhuri looked fabulous and happy in her Ghaghra performance. The Dilli wali girlfriend song lyrics made me love it. Badtameez dil was a fine new piece with a new idea. Balam pichkari was colourful and enlivening.


Sadly, however, the movie did not meet the elevated expectations that I had attached to it. Though a nice, light watch with a cute star cast, it is not one of those movies that I would be wanting to see soon again. Neither did the story capture me by awe, nor I was spellbound by any particular parts of the movie. Very typical and very slow-moving.


The songs are no doubt a major appeal and have my strong vote. I give them full marks. But disappointingly, I felt as if they had been haphazardly placed here and there. I had the same feeling in Karan Johar's last production, "Student of the Year". So the two movies had one thing in common: songs forcibly fixed in a lacklustre story.


I am amazed at Karan Johar's recent productions. I wonder what happened to his good luck charm. Kajol was there in the Disco Deewane song in "Student of the Year" but she did not make an appearance in this one.


Karan Johar used to have better movies. Surely most of his movies have been about glamour and pomp but at least the popular ones had a dramatic, flowing story that smoothly connected segments along the storyline with ease and perfection and did not awkwardly fix bits and pieces here and there.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Results: A Make-or-Break Situation

Examinations have always been a testing ordeal. Receiving results has not been an easy task either. Be they school grades, SAT scores, or medical reports, dealing with results has always been a heart-throbbing affair.

examinations Some academic and professional appraisals are reported several weeks after the exams. By that time, memory of the actual act has either jumbled up or faded away. The ambivalent expectations indicate that the result can be anything on the merit scale: good or bad, pass or fail.

On the contrary, some computer-based assessment tests of the modern times mercilessly display the scores as soon as one hits the 'Submit' button. I find that to be ruthless. The poor test-taker is already struggling to cope with the austerity of the examination ambiance when on top of all things he is scandalised with the promptly displayed test results.


Several educational institutions have devised intricate information technology systems for better management of student evaluation records. All results are transcribed onto the system which organises each student's academic assessments into easy-to-read data sets. As a student cautiously logs on to the network to access his mark sheet, time critically slips away bringing the onlooker closer to crucial make-or-break moments. Eyes hover over the computer screen anxiously hoping for presentable results to unveil.


No matter how the examinations had proceeded in the real-time exam scenario, prayers are earnestly pleaded to avoid awkward predicaments and embarrassing situations. Some people believe that prayers and luck can alter the nature of results. That is why people often wish good luck and prayers to the ones who are undertaking a new challenge as they have faith that the well wishes would twist and turn the fate of things for the better. Similarly, some people choose to increasingly engage in charity and other acts of kindness anticipating reciprocal generosity from nature in return.


In addition to academic and professional assessments, indispensable medical tests conducted for critical investigations of the human body are of crucial importance. Systematic medical examination is initiated on the basis of signs and symptoms experienced by a patient. Consequently, medical tests are prescribed to meticulously investigate the underlying cause of concern. These may include blood tests, Computed Tomography (CT) scans, biopsy tests, ultrasound examinations, and more. Receiving the results of such tests is a formidable task as they might reveal distressing realities and indicate whether or not one lies in the 'safe zone'.



Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Pain of Pain Killers

Pain Killers
I do not like Panadol. I don’t like medicines on the whole but I surely and truly do not like Panadol.

Everyone says either take two Panadols or none. I already don’t like the single huge chalky tablet that arduously makes it down my throat column. Taking two is self-evasive!


We were on our way to a far-off island for our vacation trip when I started complaining of tiredness and lethargy. The symptoms began to set in too much and too frequently without any evident reasons besides nominal travel exhaustion.


So my husband made me swallow Panadols in pairs every few hours to set me right, hoping to proceed comfortably with our travel itinerary. Who could have guessed that I was suffering from Hepatitis A - a surprise revealed by my yellowing eyes a few days later.


The Panadols had been cruel to my already swollen and afflicted abdominal organs. Nevertheless, time, rest and plenty of water gradually healed my agony in some weeks.


The whole long trying ordeal made one thing painstakingly clear: Panadol and the liver are strictly at odds with each other in case of hepatic diseases. In such peculiar scenarios, if the two interact, nothing but disaster can be expected to ensue.


Recently, I learned another golden principle. Some formulations of pain killers are not recommended for a person who has a fractured bone.


It has been commonly observed that the composition of several pain killers interferes with the bone-healing process. Consequently, intervention of such medication slows down the natural remedial action actuated by the human body, thereby decelerating the normal recovery cycle.


Painkillers can be painful indeed.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Mobile Blessing

Mobile Phones
The mobile phone is a miraculous wonder. It brings together worlds miles asunder. The gadget is one of the most useful inventions of modern times. Besides its regular phone facilities, its additional features have been technically elevated to provide functions that might have been unthinkable to expect from one device.

Providing global connectivity, this amazing technological creation links people through social media platforms within seconds, and enables them to communicate with one another by using applications like Facebook, Skype, Viber, Facetime, and Whatsapp. Its camera apparatus tries to capture moments in photographs and video clips that can be subsequently shared with the internet world without delay.

The friendly gadget serves as a torch to read and light the way. This comes handy in frequent spells of power shut downs. It also acts as a compass and a map to guide physical movements. Simultaneously, its own location coordinates can be tracked by the orbiting satellites or terrestrial cell sites that is it connected with.

The device becomes an alarm to give wakeup calls, and a calendar to aid memory that stalls. These efficiency enhancers allow room for people to get better organised. However, these check-lists and reminders also increase dependency on such aids and reduce reasons for people to improve their own memory skills.

The mobile phone spreads a safety net by keeping its users approachable for all. On the contrary, this same trait can become a nuisance if it starts to disrupt one's privacy, undesirably intruding one's personal space and independence.

A warehouse for music, news, books and games, the mobile phone provides easy access to entertainment. It instantly reports news from around the world. Further, interactive games serve as exciting learning experiences especially for young minds who are allured by colourful, animated interfaces.

Over time, the acquisition of mobile phones and mobile phone services has become more convenient and affordable. The ever-growing network of mobile subscribers is a true representation of the popularity of the mobile phone and its cherished blessings.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Chinese Whispers

Chinese Whispers
Back at school, we used to play Chinese Whispers. Starting from one corner of the classroom, a phrase was whispered into the ear of the adjacent student. This was transmitted in the same way to the next student sitting in close proximity. The chain thus generated continued passing on the phrase from neighbour to neighbour horizontally and vertically across the spread of rows and columns. 

The final recipient of the whisper would utter the phrase out loud. The class would be amused and overwhelmed at the revelation. The original combination of words and its eventually evolved version are usually poles apart. Along the ear-mouth transmission line, the phrase is likely to experience a series of contorted distortions. Consequently, a new combination of words is generated which is typically nothing like the original.

In English language, the phrase Chinese Whispers is used to denote 'inaccurately transmitted gossip' as might be guessed from the game described above. As a person narrates a story to another person, and that other person tells the story to a third party, and the chain progressively passes the story among several other people, the inaccuracies incurred at each step of the transmission line transform the story.

A crudely comparable comical scene is sometimes created in interactions with a person who is hard of hearing. With time and age, organs of the human body start to deteriorate affecting their functionality. Likewise, the hearing machinery can also get impaired causing loss of hearing. Information reaching the ear lobes might be interpreted to mean something very different. Though one should be considerate of such physical ailments experienced by others, the conversations thus generated can be quite entertaining.

Monday, 17 June 2013

The Milk Game

Pure Milk
In my childhood days, I did not like the taste and smell of milk. Yet, my mother used to force it upon me every day before I left for school. So I tried to camouflage its difficult taste by appending ingredients such as sugar, cocoa powder or Milo, and gulped it down my throat column in one go.

Then, in later years, I realised the worth of milk. I got concerned about fulfilling the calcium requirements for my bones and teeth. Self-motivated, I coerced myself to drink milk in its original form without any additives. Gradually, its unpleasantness subsided and I began to drink the liquid with ease if not pleasure.


Over the years, consciousness about the constitution and quality of various food products has increased. Researchers keep conducting studies to assess the benefits and adverse affects of popularly consumed food products. Among these, a celebrated question that has risen is: Which milk should one drink? In deciding their comfort zone, people usually choose between common beliefs, research indications, taste, convenience, and affordability.


Some people believe in consuming fresh milk delivered by the gawala (local milkman) that needs to be thoroughly boiled before consumption. Some people prefer packaged milk products such as MilkPak, Nesvita, Olpers, Good Milk, Dairy Queen, Prema, Dairy Pure, Dairy Omung, Gourmet Milk, Anhaar, Nido, Millac, Adams, and Skimz. Then there are also the tea-whitening milk types which are just tea-whiteners and not in essence nourishing milk. Examples of these include Haleeb, Tarang, and Everyday.


For me, Milkpak serves as my usual taste buddy. Nesvita follows with its good taste and added attraction of low fat constituency. The latter is, however, compromised by its higher price tag. These days, I am following a recommendation for Nido and that too only Holland-made Nido. Nido has a typical taste that one needs to get used to. Lately, I tried Olpers which has a passable taste. I have also tried Anhaar and Prema which seemed okay too.


Prema emerged as a packaged milk that requires refrigeration and expires within a few days. It became well-liked soon, though its short-spanned life and litre packing makes it a bit of a challenge to swiftly purchase and consume. However, some claim that the shorter the shelf-life, the closer a substitute the milk would be for pure unadulterated milk fetched directly from dairy sources. Anhaar, a recent entrant, lasts a few more days than Prema, and is being popularly tried as well. It would be more convenient if these milk types are also made available in smaller quantities for easier consumption.


The milk industry in Pakistan is thriving with its several players actively competing against each other by engaging in dynamic advertising to allure customers. Though the constituents of various milk products might be a question mark, consumption patterns vary with consumer appeal. With the one percent increase in sales tax - from 16 to 17 percent - announced in the national budget last week, all consumer products including milk will bear the brunt of increased prices. Since milk is a regularly consumed product, it makes a great difference in the buyers' purchasing power. As always, the milk game goes on.