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.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Different Nail Growth Rates in the Same Human Body

The other day, I was staring at my feet and wondering why my toe nails had not grown as much in a time period when I needed to cut my finger nails twice. So I hit the question on Google.

I found several explanations for this weird disparity. One is the location factor. Fingers being closer to the heart than toes make finger nails closer to the blood pumping source than toe nails. Blood transports oxygen and nutrients that directly contribute towards growth and repair of body cells. Hence, finger nails are physically located closer to the oxygen and nutrients propeller (heart) and more readily approached by their growth contributor (blood). Growth pattern differences follow accordingly. 

Another reasoning given for the difference in growth rates of finger nails and toe nails is the trauma debate. Usually, one's fingers experience more movement and activity than  the toes. In other words, we can say that fingers typically experience more 'mini-traumas' than their lower limb counterparts. Greater exercise of the fingers instigates more rapid blood circulation between the fingers and the heart, as compared to the blood circulation frequency between the heart and the toe nails. This highlights the subsequent difference in supply of oxygen and nutrients between the nails of the finger nails and the toe nails. Consequently, the growth rate of either nail set differs.

Another popular debate is that the finger nails on the dominant - or the more used hand - are likely to grow faster that finger nails on the other hand. This also follows from the blood circulation frequency reasoning. However, from personal experience, I do not recall witnessing much difference in growth between the finger nails of either of my two hands even though I use my right hand a lot more for most of my single-handed pursuits.

Yet another discussion that I came across presents that nails usually grow faster in warmer weather conditions as compared to nail growth in cooler environments. The reasoning given for this is that warmer fingers and toes would have blood vessels with enlarged vessel diameter due to expansion that would allow for more blood movement and corresponding nutrient exchange. I have not paid attention to notice such peculiar behaviour as of yet.

In light of these enlightening revelations, I would agree that most factors that affect blood circulation seem to influence the growth of nails. And of course, there could be some other parameters (such as genetics, age, medical conditions, etc.) that might also be responsible for different rates of nail growth in the same body.

Scot, "Why Nails on Your Fingers and Toes Grow at Different Rates". Published on January 24, 2013 <
Olivia Gardner, "Do fingernails grow faster than toenails?" Published on April 3, 2011 <>

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Privacy Perturbed

No PrivacyWith several members from each family living abroad missing out on weddings, birthdays and other colourful festivities back in their home towns, there come innocent requests of the lonely souls out there to share with them the merry happenings going around down here.

Desperate to help, such families strive to share across the miles the moments of joy as much as possible. They attempt to do so by capturing the moments in rampant camera clicks. The captured camera contents would later be translated onto social media for subsequent sharing. 

With the irrefutable excuse of sharing the pictures with the foreign moved Pakistani relations, the assigned photographer gets down to business. Some people are requested to arrange themselves in groups and pose for the camera. At other times, the amateur photographer clicks the camera device without giving former notice even.

Some among the audience are camera-friendly and enjoy being part of such carefree conduct. However, some of the captives are camera-shy and some are conscious about the outcome of the snapshots. Yet, no matter how finicky and particular the photographer would be about her own pictures, she wouldn't care as much about whether each individual - among the whole lot of people whom she pleadingly captured in her device - was satisfied with their appearance in the photographs.

Ultimately, these pictures are uploaded on social media, blatantly exposing them to zillions of eyes. The onlookers include all people who have access to the uploader's photographs: friends, friends of friends and sometimes strangers even. After all, not everyone bothers to carefully adjust privacy settings on these revealing media instruments contrary to what the case should be.

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Invention of Lying

The movie, "The Invention of Lying" brings to the forefront an amusing reality: how mundane the world can become if everyone starts speaking the truth and nothing but the truth.

Truth and Lies
The mind is an assortment of ideas. One would typically not reveal everything that is on one's mind. If the running commentary that the mind generates is spoken aloud in its raw form, it can turn out to be blatantly humiliating or infuriating. Such simple-mindedness is usually not rewarding.

The initial simplicity and truthfulness of the leading character in the movie depicts him as a lame loser. Then one day, he fabricates a lie in pursuit of a selfish gain. He is surprised at the success he earns spontaneously. That's when he realizes how much he can conquer with some intelligent twists of his words and gestures.

“A lie is a deliberate deviation from the truth.” Generally, one resorts to lying to secure selfish gains. Lies can also help in dodging punishment and humiliation. However, sometimes ‘good’ lies can be sweetly helpful. For instance, while the stark truth about the unattractiveness of a person can be demeaning for a person's self esteem, a few kind words can boost one's morale.

The movie depicts the common man to believe that after life, there will be no more than an 'eternity of nothingness'. Then it sprays hope amidst people enticing them to fetch for the reward at the end of this worldly life: the 'mansion' that people would get for their good deeds. People are fascinated with the notion that there is something more to life post-life. Then, it makes a reference to the 'Man in the Sky' who has a bigger plan for us all. In this way, the film also delicately touches upon what several religions across the world hold in variant versions. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Dying Friendships

Yesterday, I got a message from a friend after what appeared to be an eternity. We last talked when she was in Pakistan way over a year ago. She had plans to settle abroad with her family. After that, she disappeared for what seemed like forever.

Distances between friendsI was surprised to see her message. Yet, I was in no hurry to respond. Sadly, I somewhat lose respect for friends who cleanly disappear for ages and do not bother to get in touch with the people they call friends. I am sure they have their reasons, or lame excuses, or laziness as I would hastily interpret. But we need friends when we need them.

A few other dependable good close friends of mine have similarly gone bizarre at keeping in touch. I understand things can change and lives can become different, rearranging one's priorities. But it does not give the simple sweet excuse to go offline till one wishes, and then make a sudden reappearance to casually inquire what the other person has been up to. 

Treasuring the cheerful moments and smiles that we once shared, I wish them all happiness. But I choose not to be hurt by their disappearances any more.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Covering Heads or Not

Covering heads right or wrong islamA few years ago, I visited South Korea. Beautiful place. One of the locals got to know that I was from Pakistan. She asked if I was Muslim. I replied in the affirmative. To my astonishment, the question that followed was: “Then why aren't you covering your head?”

I was caught off guard. I didn't have a coherent answer because that was the way more than half of the Pakistani women I knew dressed up, and they still unwaveringly called themselves Muslims.

Covering up for the anomaly, an Indonesian girl in my group shared that not all Muslim ladies in her country covered their heads either. That spoke somewhat for the 'non-obligatory' nature of the head-covering obligation for Muslim women around the world. Ironic!

It is not too surprising to find that non-Muslims expect a strong correlation between Muslim women and the head-covering ritual. Surely, head covering for women is an obligatory practice in several Muslim countries across the world. However, in Pakistan, the case is slightly different. Not all Muslim women in Pakistan cover their heads in public.

It is pretty amazing to find how people can justify their being a Muslim when they do not austerely exercise the head-covering obligation for women in Islam. It is astounding to realize that people do not even understand what being a Muslim calls for. Amusingly, many in Pakistan think that being a Muslim only entails that one should believe in one God and observe the five pillars of Islamic faith.

How can one claim to be Muslim when one does not fulfill the minimum basic criteria for being a Muslim? What is a religion worth if it cannot be followed in full spirit? Why do we unabashedly debase Islam every so often? Moreover, why do we associate a country's name with a religious name tag? Why drag Islam into the socio-political schema of things? What is so Islamic about Pakistan to title the country, 'Islamic Republic of Pakistan' anyway?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Weather Predictions

Weather PredictionsWith miraculous developments in science and technology, life has become simpler and more predictable the weather way. All one needs is to get access to reliable weather reporting that would forecast the weather scenario for upcoming days and weeks.

Weather predictions have been facilitating life styles making living easier and more comfortable. As the global community is competing for time, money and energy, people are making use of weather forecasts to plan for future events and make the best use of already limited and depleting resources. Now one can better determine whether to carry an umbrella or a rain coat to work, or if one should keep up with a picnic plan, or whether or not one should make a hefty reservation for outdoor events such as a grand birthday bash or a wedding extravaganza.

Weather predictions can also aid in better planning and decision-making by providing guidance about what kind of clothing and equipment should be carried. Streamlining saves space and reduces the clumsiness of carrying unnecessary baggage. People can also avoid being caught up in bad weather by studying weather reports in advance. Snowy weather can block roadways and delay movement. Likewise, heavy rains, strong storms and crashing waves can become a nuisance for travellers. With weather predictions, one can plan and proceed towards safer zones.

Weather forecasting also helps several professionals in carrying out their activities. In agriculture, farmers can fine-tune their calculations for sowing and harvesting schedules with weather predictions. Further, encroaching rainless days can prepare farmers to take measures to counter possible drought conditions that might prevail. Precautions can be taken to avoid the damaging effects of expected floods caused by excessive rains or melting glaciers. Similarly, fishermen can utilize information about tides and wind speed to determine factors such as water level and direction of water movement to track fish.

In a nutshell, improving weather predictions are making life smoother and more convenient - though the world is paying its toll by nature's uncompromising stance in generating worsening weather conditions for all.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Age Factor

Marriage and AgesMy husband and I are one month apart. His birthday comes before mine. I once asked him, would you have married me had it been the other way round? Even if he did, would others have let him marry a girl technically elder in age than him?

Does age matter all that much? Some say age is just a number. Yet, nearly in all married couples around me, husbands are senior in age than their wives. The age difference typically reduces as the generation becomes more recent. Only once in a blue moon, I learn about a rare case in which the wife is older than her husband. Generally, it is not preferred that a boy should get married to a girl elder than him, at least in this part of the world.

One explanation could be that in this male-dominated society, the age seniority automatically translates into a power of superiority for the man who typically has more authority to be in-charge of the household. Another reason could be that boys are usually considered to be more immature in comparison to girls of the same age. Hence, the age difference might be a preference to bring both individuals at par to lead their married life.

The trend of a bride being younger than the groom becomes a concern when girls start getting disregarded in marriage proposals because of their ages. This happens when prospective girls fail to satisfy the age parameters required by the other party. The latter is typically looking for a younger match for their 'near perfect' son. This becomes a burden for girls and their parents alike. Moreover, prospects for girls who have surpassed the 'desired' age bracket grow limited in every respect. Sadly, this is how the Pakistani society has been fabricated.

It is amazing how a society that claims to staunchly follow the principles of Islamic faith can conveniently choose to ignore one of the foremost indications from the Prophet’s (Sm) life. Ironically, Prophet Muhammad’s (Sm) wife, Hazrat Khajida was quite senior in age than him when they got married. It has been reported that at the time of marriage, Hazrat Khajida was 40 and the Prophet (Sm) was 25 – or for sure less than 40.

This is the country of believers who claim to hold Prophet Muhammad (Sm) in the highest regard and who know Hazrat Khajida was his first wife and several years elder than him. Then why is there this general unwise concept that a groom should be older than his bride? And why is there a social stigma attached to women who have transcended the 'right' age, as if they are no more eligible to lead a peaceful happy married life?

Sunday, 9 June 2013


Swings and Happiness
I love swings. 

I was ecstatic when I saw a huge swing outside our hotel room window in Muzaffarabad. The swing was a sweet thrill in the slight chill of the vicinity. I enjoy the occasional swing rides that I earn during our routine walk expeditions in the moon-lit parks located in our neighbourhood in Lahore.

My fondness for swings has culminated in getting me a closer version of the same. An unfortunate accident has left me with one leg plastered in a heavy rock solid cast. To aid my movement, I have with me a pair of crutches. 

Dramatically, crutches are no less than swings. With either clamped beneath my armpit, I get to take swings and swings and swings. Just that they sometimes tend to throw me overboard if I hasten to miscalculate the landing coordinates!

Surely, all my love and lust for swings will now stand categorically served.

Friends - The Circle of Life

Friends complete my circle of life.
Friends are a blessing. One lives with them through the innocent days of childhood and youth. One gets to know them deeply without fabrication. One trusts them to understand where one is coming from. One can count on them in times of need and distress. One has faith in their wisdom and insight, and looks up to them for guidance and advice.

An aunt once asked me if I were a person with few friends or many. I shared the abundance I had earned over the years. She believed that having a few good friends was a more intelligent choice. Different perceptions and experiences I guess.

I have always loved making friends. Friends just happen around me. In tender days, I had been enthusiastic at remembering birthdays. Many admired that trait of mine. The ones I could relate to evolved to be great friends. 

I have it in me to keep in touch with people. Thanks to communication media, maintaining friendships has become quite convenient. The popular internet and mobile phone technology has enabled messages to be relayed across miles within seconds. Yet, not everyone has the temperament to make such simple efforts.

Then there came a time when I thought I had too many friends. I wanted to be fair to all my friends. I wanted to do justice to the time and energies I could award each friend. So I wished for no more. But destined friendships continued to sprout despite my plans. 

Today, I happen to be surrounded by a safety net of friends. The diverse circle I have built over the years makes me feel secure and happy. We treasure the rich smiling memories we have amassed over the years. I have always been proud of my friends. My friends complete my circle of life.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The World Seems so Different with an Injury

Sad Injury Rain
My husband got a nasty deep cut on his right arm. He lost profuse blood. It was hell scary. He got over twenty stitches to tie together the torn muscles and blood vessels. He was discharged from the hospital with a huge plaster around his arm. For a good many days, he couldn’t eat with the right hand. He couldn’t text or type easily. Driving was a big no.

As a precautionary measure, we kept the bedside table lamp on in the initial nights for light in case my husband chose to move around. I drifted into disturbed sleep to be shaken alert now and then with the auto alarm system buzzing inside me. Seeing the wrapped up arm was a ghastly sight.

A few months down the road, I got stuck in a long heavy leg plaster cast. I slipped from a staircase and broke my leg. It was amazing how simply the thick bone had twisted leading to a serious tibia spiral fracture. I got crutches and a wheelchair with a leg support extension to accommodate my altered figure.

Distances that I would have otherwise not had even thought about now seem long journeys. Each step needs to be calculated and carefully crossed. Unnecessary walking expeditions are avoided to reduce risks of adversely affecting the plastered leg.

Self-immobility makes inanimate objects placed beyond one's proximity unreachable. One wishes to earn Superman's powers to fetch things by exercising concentration gaze. Or more practically get hold of a long rod with a hook at its end to air-lift desired objects.

Shoe shopping has become a far-fetched dream. No need for new pairs of shoes for a while at least. They don't sell single shoes in this part of the world anyway. Sadly, a favourite pastime is bound to grow dormant. No wonder I have been buying shoes in my dreams lately.

After my husband's scary accident, I had realized how tricky an injury is in comparison to natural ailments. Sure illnesses are dreary and draining. But the terror attached to an injury and a forced physical abnormality is horrifying. The world seems so different with an injury.

The Ant

The Ant
I noticed a small ant on the floor. It was trying to drag a lump of sugar twice its size across a rough concrete pavement. For its minuscule structure, the path seemed to be a series of tumbling hills and mountains. 

As it struggled to move along frantically, it floundered several times and dropped the sugar lump now and then. But the resilient little thing stayed persistent in its efforts.

I could see where the ant was and where it had started. I could see the vast distances of nothingness around it. Apparently, there seemed to be no home anywhere near. I wondered where it intended to go and how it could cover the remote distance with the huge sugar rock on its back. Yet, the ant steadfastly kept on trying to deliver the food earnings to its home.

That might be how God sees us all as well. Though we cannot see the entire canvass, He knows our entire set-up. He knows where we started and where we are heading. We are the small ants in the enormous space that we cannot see all together. We meet ups and downs along the path of our lives. We see huge mountains of difficulty and dread them. We embark upon our journey through the rough tides of life. We stumble and fall but then gradually learn to muster the courage to stand up again.