Thursday, April 30, 2015

Website review: Persona Paper

We writers are a nomadic lot. Just like a desert dweller in search of a green oasis in the midst of the wilderness, we also go here and there, always searching for a perfect site where we can unleash our creative side and earn to our heart's content. 

Earning money online has become both a necessity and a powerful tool to supplement personal income for millions of people around the globe. One of the best ways to earn online is to join a website that allows its members to write short, informative or personal articles and split the revenues generated with the members. 

I have also been a member of many online sites. Some ended their business (, a few refused to open their doors for the residents of Pakistan ( and others had admins who turned out to be liars, thieves and rogues (CGP Gallery, Elite Visitors, Day2Day Tips) who ran away with people's hard earned money without a word.

Persona Paper:

One site that has stood the test of time is Persona  Paper. I became its member quite a while ago but have started contributing seriously from January 2015.

Before allowed to become a member, one has to write an introductory post which is subject to approval. This allows the admins to admit only those writers who can write in passable English. Hence the quality of articles here is quite good even if the content is light-hearted and trivial. I have not seen any plagiarist, article spinner or spammer on this site. 

The rate of earning is $3 per 1000 views and the minimum payout is currently $20.00. The income is collected in form of coins. Each unique view on a post gets the writer 2 coins.

Minimum post length is just 500 characters (not words)

The most unique thing about Persona Paper is that we get paid for the comments that we post on other people's posts. This gives us quite a control over the amount of money we can make. 

Recent changes

Recently, there have been quite a few changes. Views from members get counted no matter what their country of origin but public views (non-members) get counted only from United States, United Kingdom and Canada. 

As of right now, the site is not accepting any new members from India or the Philippines.

Signing Up:

If you want to be part of Persona Paper, please click on link below and become a member.

This is my referral link. If  you sign up using this link, and post at least 1 valid article, then I will be credited with 25 coins! :-)

If you are not ready to sign up as yet, then just visit the site and read my posts here to get the idea. 

My Posts on Persona Paper


Persona Paper is now shutting down and writers are no longer being paid for their posts. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Plastic bags

Plastic bags, plastic bags, they are everywhere.
We throw them, we burn them and they pollute the air.
From rivers and oceans, they come ashore.
They kill aquatic life and yet we ask for more.

Plastic bags, plastic bags, they are a disaster
Using them is destroying our environment a lot faster.
They clog the pipes and choke the drains.
They contain lead that damages our brains.

Plastic bags, plastic bags, oh what a mess has been made
Getting rid of them is a problem; they neither rot nor biodegrade
Choking our earth and causing many diseases
It is time that this madness ceases.

Plastic bags, plastic bags, what a source of pollution.
Let us stop for a moment and think of a solution
We have to stop spoiling our nature’s beauty.
Because saving the Earth is everyone’s duty.

(Written for my son's grade 2 science project)

Most people think that a plastic bag is just a small thing that cannot have a big impact. In many third world countries, use of plastic bags is one of the major reasons why sewage system gets blocked and stagnant water remains on streets and roads giving rise to diseases and sanitation problems. We need to lessen our use of plastic bags and use cloth bags while shopping.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Farmer Ted's Farm

Farmer Ted bought a new bull
And tied it in the shed.

A little mouse squeaked at it
And the bull saw red!

The bull bucked and roared
And frightened the dainty little ducks.

They fled down the road
And so collided the trucks.

The dogs barked, the donkeys brayed
The geese cackled, the horses neighed.

The noise alarmed the farmer’s wife
And she got up on a chair.

She clung to it for dear life
And screamed for hubby dear.

The chair tripped and fell over
And she broke her right arm.

Oh, what a terrible day it was
For Farmer Ted’s farm!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book review: The Citadel, by A.J. Cronin

I have just finished reading the book, “The Citadel” by A.J. Cronin. To say that the book was interesting or captivating would be a gross understatement.

It is the story of a young idealistic doctor, Doctor Andrew Manson, who starts his professional journey with only one intention...healing the sick and helping the unhealthy to get better.

However he soon finds out that being a doctor is much more than diagnosing diseases and handing out prescriptions. He has to contend with lazy medical officers, greedy committee members and stubborn people who thwart his every move to improve their condition.

He moves from the small Welsh mining village and finally reaches London where he is sucked into the glamorous world of deceit and avarice; where healing matters less than making money by pampering rich and old hypochondriac ladies, suggesting unnecessary medical treatments for spoiled brats of wealthy tycoons and referring cases to influential doctor friends who do the same for the portion of exorbitant fees charged by them.

Along the way, the protagonist marries a lovely school teacher who gradually becomes unhappy with the way he is seduced into the system he had initially abhorred. Finally, a very tragic and unnecessary death sends Dr Andrew Manson crashing back to earth. He sees the errors of his ways but not before he too has to pay a heavy price for his choices in life.

The best thing about the book is how the readers are made to feel Dr Andrew’s elation on bringing back a new born baby back to life during his early practice days and his utter horror on seeing a patient who depended on his sound medical judgment, lifeless and drenched in his own blood on the operating table during his fashionable London days. 

At times the book becomes too wordy but still it is an excellent book and though with lots of medical jargon, it is easily understood with never a dull moment.

Final Verdict: A book that must be read once in a lifetime. 

Author: A.J. Cronin
Language: English
Published: 1937

Splashing in Puddles

There was once a naughty little lad
His tricks and jokes drove people mad

When it rained, he’d jump in puddles
And splash water all over Mr. Cuddles.

More water over the neighbor’s cat
And all over Mr. Hodge’s tall hat.

Murky water all over his sister’s toy.
Oh, isn't he a naughty little boy?

He’d splash water over anyone who came near
Got them all wet but he just didn't care.

“I won’t play with you”, said his friend.
“You got me wet, your ways must mend.”

Little Tommy laughed and jumped from the wall
Into muddy puddles, some big, others small

A big shiny red truck speedily roared by
Making Tommy jump up with a loud cry

Its wheels churned up the puddle water
Over Tommy, it all spluttered and spattered

Drenched and cold, dirty and draggled
Poor Tommy went home, sad and straggled

Thursday, April 23, 2015

An ode to pizza

A pizza for breakfast, a pizza for lunch

A pizza for dinner, I would love to munch

Let it be round, let it be square 

If it’s a pizza, I really don’t care

Pizza with pepperoni, pizza with cheese

I’ll have another and more of these.

My pizza is hot, my pizza is yummy 

Hear that growl? That’s my tummy.

Thin crust or deep pan, vegetable or meat 

Roasted or grilled, melting in the heat

Olives and tomatoes, onions and bell pepper 

On Parmesan or ricotta, mozzarella or cheddar

Top it with cheese, herbs and spices 

I’ll eat it whole, no need for slices.

Crispy and zesty, tasty and crunchy 

All these have made me a big pizza junky

Take my burger, have my sandwich 

Stare if you want, beg if you wish.

Smell the aroma, just don’t come near. 

That’s my pizza and I’ll never share.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Purse

I looked and I searched, I moved my things around.
The keys did not materialize; They were nowhere to be found

“How shall we enter? The door is locked.
“We need a thief,” he gently mocked.

Tissues and cards, money and bills,
A paper and a pencil, a bottle of pills.

A packet of chips, a forgotten grocery list
A family photograph, a bracelet for my wrist.

A tiny sewing kit, some crayons and a band-aid
A receipt, lip-gloss and a bill that had not been paid.

Two lipsticks, some coins, a comb, a spray
Some toffees and Oreo cookies joined the fray.

As the pile grew, my husband looked inflamed.
“Goodness gracious!” he finally exclaimed.

“Is it a purse or do you carry a trunk?
How can you tolerate so much junk?”

“Just a few more things;” I barely mumbled.
I searched some more and more things tumbled.

My purse nearly empty, I felt no better
My fingers found something; it was a letter.

I opened it slowly; what joy it brought
Two sheets of love and a dreamy thought

Written by the man who stood by my side
Many years ago he had made me his bride.

The man who stood by my side!

“Didn’t I give the keys to you? I remembered with a shout.
He put his hands in the pocket and slowly pulled them out.

Tables turned, now he placated while I fumed
A stormy night ahead, he correctly assumed

“I’ll buy you a new purse with much more space”
He promised as I stood there with a grim, stony face.

He gathered my stuff and made a neat stack
Slowly he stood up and straightened his back.

“Just one question whose answer I lack.
Do you want a purse or would you like a sack?”

Laughter bubbled and everything was right
We went inside with a future bright.

My purse once more full of my cherished treasure
Priceless stuff, their value no one can measure.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book reviews: A Book of Brownies, by Enid Blyton

I am a big Enid Blyton fan and whenever I have a little time on my hands I always grab a book by her and escape into childhood.

A Book of Brownies is a classic example of Enid Blyton’s imagination and creativity as she tells the story of three very mischievous brownies named Hop, Jump and Skip who live in Crab Apple Cottage.

Due to their naughty behavior, they do not get invited to the party that is being hosted by the King of Fairyland in his grand castle. An old witch comes to their cottage and teaches them some magic tricks so that they can attend the party disguised as conjurers. Things go wrong as one of the magic tricks makes Princess Peronel disappear and they do not know the spell to get her back.

The angry King banishes the three brownies from Fairyland and forbids them to return until they have found their goodness. Their quest for their goodness takes them to exciting and dangerous places. First they are imprisoned by a bad wizard in the Cottage-Without-a-Door,

Then they meet the Red Goblin. They outwit him and rescue a mermaid who had been forced to work in his castle as a servant. Then they have a bad time in the Land of Giants and the Land of Clever People. They rescue a little girl and help her get back to the Land of Giggles.

Then they have an exciting adventure on the Green Railway and end up in prison in the Toadstool Town. They meet the dear old Saucepan Man who agrees to lead them to Witch land. Before he could do so, he is captured by the Dragon Bird who belongs to the Golden Dwarf. 

The three brownies risk their life and limb and save the Saucepan Man from being eaten. To their immense surprise, all their good deeds had been bottled up and they were able to find their goodness after all. They manage to find Princess Peronel but are captured by the evil witch.

In their last attempt to rescue the little princess, they give up their bottles of goodness to the witch who wants them for a powerful spell. Princess Peronel is safe but the brownies cannot enter the Fairy Land without their goodness. The book, ends on a happy note in typical Enid Blyton style. The King forgives them because of their heroic effort and the brownies get a resounding welcome from the fairy folk.

The language of the book is very simple and captivating and the characters are very endearing. There is never a dull moment and this ensures that the readers remain hooked to the book until the last page is turned.

Just look at the names of people and places, and you will understand why Enid Blyton is regarded as one of the most-loved and celebrated children's authors of all times.

Book review: The Kite Runner, by Khalid Hosseini

"The Kite Runner" by Khalid Hosseini spent over two years on the New York Times bestseller list, and has been published in 42 different languages.

The story is about two Afghan boys, Amir, who belongs to a rich and affluent family and his servant boy Hassan who belongs to the ethnic minority Hazara. The novel explores the relationship between these two boys and how Amir's cowardice and Hassan's devotion to his master help shape their destiny.

Amir's father is disappointed in his only son who shows no interest in soccer and buzkushi, two sports all Afghans are crazy about. Amir is also jealous of Hassan's innate courage and the special place Hassan holds in his Baba's heart. To win his father's approval, Amir vows to win a local kite flying tournament and asks for Hassan's help.

After their victory, Amir witnesses a brutal crime being inflicted upon Hassan. He chooses not to intervene so as to avoid getting hurt. This incident changes him forever. He makes repeated attempts to banish Hassan from his life in a bid to escape guilt but memories of Hassan's loyalty refuse to let go.

After 26 years of guilt and insomnia, Amir finally has a chance to redeem himself and save Hassan's son from a fate similar to that of his father.

This novel explores friendship, betrayal, guilt and love like no other work of fiction. It describes the rich traditions, the multi-ethnic culture and the beauty of a land that is in the process of being destroyed brutally.

It is a book that will make you misty eyed and bring a lump to your throat. Full of vivid images, honest emotions and brutal descriptions, Hosseini has made sure that his readers understand his love for his homeland and feel his pain to see its devastation.

At the same time, the book is laced with hope and optimism. "For you a thousand times over" is a beautiful refrain in the book to encompass loyalty and friendship and willingness to sacrifice all for its sake.

I did not find the two other books by Khalid Hosseini as inspiring as "The Kite Runner".  This is a book that should be read at least once in a lifetime. 

Final Verdict: A compelling book that is hard to put down.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Shoe-Shine...a short story about honesty

Gul Zeb was only twelve years old when his entire world shattered around him. A powerful earthquake left him and his seven year old sister homeless, destitute and orphaned. Their house was reduced to a pile of rubble and along with their ailing grandfather; the two siblings were taken to a relief camp. Kind strangers took care of them, clothed and fed them as the two children and thousands others struggled to come to terms with their loss and misery.

Time passed and Gul Zeb and Zuhra came to Islamabad with their grandfather. They were placed in a temporary relief center. It was run by Mr. Azmat Ali, a kind man who tried to comfort them and ease their sufferings. Gul Zeb was sent to school but he hated living on charity. His father had always emphasized on hard work and Gul Zeb wanted to work for a living.

Seeing the young boy’s determination, Mr. Azmat gave him some money. Gul Zeb bought shoe brushes, polishes and some other supplies. Everyday after school, Gul Zeb would put his things in a worn out satchel and carry them to the market nearby. He made a placard bearing the words “SHOE-SHINE” which he used to place on a make shift counter.

Men would stop at his work-top to have their shoes cleaned and polished. Back and forth, back and forth, his brush would sweep away all the dirt and grime and bring shine on dusty shoes. Gul Zeb worked hard and was always awarded some money for his efforts. His thin shoulders would sometimes ache with all the effort and beads of perspiration would shine on his brow but he was satisfied He would spend some of his hard earned money on food and medicines and gave the rest to his grandfather for safe keeping.

In the evening, he would pack up his bag and go back to the centre. At night, he would tell Zuhra about the bustling market with its glittering wares, the shiny cars and the well-heeled men and women who shopped and dined there. Zuhra would listen to these accounts with fascination and wonder. The trauma of losing home and parents had left her weak and silent, but her brother did his utmost to amuse her and keep her happy.

One afternoon, there was a light drizzle. Gul Zeb was sitting on the pavement with his tools ready when a big, sleek car stopped near him. From it emerged Mr. Hussain Agha, a wealthy business tycoon. Mr. Agha had some last minute shopping to do before attending an important function and he was in a great hurry.

As he stepped out of his car, his foot went into a puddle and muddied his shoes. Cursing slightly, he came over to Gul Zeb’s counter. “Hurry boy. I don’t have much time,” he ordered brusquely. Gul Zeb bent over his shoes and quickly polished them. Without glancing back, he dropped a fifty rupee note in Gul Zeb’s lap. Gul Zeb eyes widened. He decided to wrap up his work early and buy a small doll for Zuhra before heaDeeng heading home.

As he packed up his supplies, he noticed a fat, glossy rectangular object wedged under his work stool. Puzzled, he picked it up and realized that it was a wallet. He opened it gingerly and the thick wad of money inside made him gasp. He snapped it shut quickly. He looked around to see if someone was watching and then tossed it in his satchel amid the shoe cleaning rags.

He went home. His grandfather was surprised to see him so early. Gul Zeb mumbled an excuse to explain his early return. Later that night, when everyone was asleep, he opened the wallet again. He took out the money cautiously and the crisp notes crackled in his trembling hands. Gul Zeb had never seen so much money in his life. He was sure that the wallet belonged to the rich man who had tipped him Rs.50 for his shoe polish..

“I can keep the money and no one would ever know,’” he thought.” I will spend it on Baba and Zuhra little by little. I will take Baba to a good doctor who might be able to cure his cough and Zuhra can have new dolls and maybe we can buy new blankets. Winter is almost here…”

But his innate honesty would not let him rest “Is this right thing to do? This money is not mine to spend. What should I do?” His grandfather’s bout of cough snapped him out of his reverie. He quickly stuffed the money back in the wallet and put it under his threadbare pillow. It made an uncomfortable lump under his head but Gul Zeb did not mind. He was not going to let this money out of his sight!!

That night, sleep did not come easily to Gul Zeb. He tossed and turned in his bed but peace eluded him. After a long time, he fell into a troubled slumber and dreamt of his parents. His mother, who used to teach Quran to the local girls when alive, appeared to be in tears. “I did not raise you to be a thief, Gul Zeb,” she seemed to be saying. “You cannot take what does not belong to you.” Gul Zeb’s father appeared equally sad. “The money might last for sometime, my son,” he said.” But the guilt will last forever.”

Gul Zeb woke up with a start. He was sweating all over. How real did his dream seem. He felt as if his parents were in the  room with him, comforting him and urging him to do the right thing. As the sound of the fajr azaan rang outside, Gul Zeb opened the wallet once again. He fished out its contents but this time he did not look at the money. He found some cards and some receipts in the wallet but best of all he found a photograph of the wallet’s owner with his name and address.

Next day was Sunday and Gul Zeb woke up early. After a hurried breakfast, he snatched his satchel and bade a quick farewell to Zuhra and his grandfather. He had become familiar with the streets of Islamabad and found the address quite easily. He was rather daunted by the sight of the mansion and the two guards that stood in front of the gate.

One of the guards, thinking that he was a beggar tried to shoo him away but Gul Zeb stood his ground. “I have something of great importance to give to Mr. Agha,” he said. The guards were surprised at his audacity. One of them, a kindly old man that reminded Gul Zeb of his grandfather, told him to wait outside while he himself went in to get permission from Mr. Agha. Moments later he returned and took Gul Zeb inside.

Mr. Agha was having breakfast in his sprawling, green lawn. Gul Zeb approached him with a hammering heart. The opulence around him had unnerved him. He fished for the wallet from his satchel and handed it to Mr. Agha. Timidly, he explained how it got into his possession.

“Do you know what is inside this wallet?” he asked the trembling boy. .

“Yes, sir. I had opened it. But I did not take anything from it,” he added quickly.

Mr. Agha was dumbfounded. He was used to dealing with corrupt officials who wanted to be bribed, dishonest friends who cheated on business deals and committed tax frauds and avaricious greedy relatives for whom amassing wealth was a lifelong ambition. But this simple act of honesty left him amazed.

“Sit down, my boy and tell me about yourself,” he said kindly.

Gul Zeb plopped down on the comfortable lawn chair and told him about his circumstances. Mr. Agha was much moved. “What would you like as a reward?” he asked next. Gul Zeb hesitated. He was tempted to ask for money for Zuhra’s doll and his grandfather’s blanket but he felt awkward doing so.

Seeing his hesitation, Mr. Agha gently urged him to ask for anything he wished for. When Gul Zeb did so, Mr. Agha was overcome with emotions. He thought about his two teen-age sons, always demanding more and more money for luxuries and self indulgence.

He hugged Gul Zeb and told him to bring his grandfather and Zuhra to his house. He promised to give them accommodation in the servant’s quarters and take care of their education and other needs.

“And little Zuhra will have as many toys as she wants and your grandfather can have the warmest blanket money can buy, my son,” he said.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Adopt the Right Attitude

Ali and Ahmed were best friends. One day, the weather was very pleasant. The two friends decided to go to the park for some fun. When they reached the park, they found that it very crowded. Lots of people had come there to enjoy the good weather with their families. Many people had gathered outside the ticket booth at the main entrance of the park. 

 A young man kept asking the people to form a queue so that tickets could be issued quickly in a disciplined manner. Ahmed decided to help him but Ali was irritated. 

“What nuisance! It will take such a long time to get the tickets. I’ll push my way to the front,” he said. 

Ahmed stopped him. “Don’t be silly, Ali. Pushing and jostling will make matters worse. A fight might break out. If everyone makes a queue, things will proceed smoothly and people will get entry tickets quickly.” 

Ali grumbled but did not push matters. He stood in line and to his surprise, their turn came quite quickly and they were inside within minutes. When they reached the rides, they saw that there were long queues there too. 

Many children were hopping about excitedly with tickets clutched in their hands. Ali got impatient again. “I want to go up the Ferris wheel. Isn't it terrible that we have to stand here waiting for our turn while others are having fun?” 

Ahmed looked at his friend with exasperation. “Ali, how can we have fun if you complain and criticize everything? These children were here before us so it is their right to go up the Ferris wheel first. We can have ice-cream while we are waiting for our ride. Come on.” 

Ahmed dragged his friend towards the ice cream vendor. They bought some delicious cones and munched them while watching the ducks in a nearby pond. Soon it was their turn and they had tremendous fun. 

 While coming down from the Ferris wheel, Ali saw that that people were making a queue outside the Pirate’s Ship. He thought it would be fun to climb abroad. He leapt over the steel railing to get to the front of the queue. 

Unfortunately, he slipped and twisted his ankle very badly. Hearing his groans, some people helped him to the first aid booth. Their outing was completely spoiled. Ahmed felt sympathetic and angry towards his friend at the same time.

 “Ali, I am really sorry that you are in so much pain but it is your own impatience that caused you this harm. Do you know a wise man once said that it is your attitude towards life that determines your life’s attitude towards you? Having fun does not mean getting to front by pushing others out of the way. It comes from waiting patiently for your turn and enjoying the small things in life.”

“You are right, Ahmed. I feel so ashamed of myself. I was in a hurry to try everything but managed to enjoy nothing and got my foot twisted too. I am sorry I spoiled our outing.” 

“It is okay, Ali,” Ahmed said, making a funny face on the white plaster that covered Ali’s foot. 

“Now just get well quickly so that we can go out again together and have some fun.”

Say MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa Billah

After Alhamdulillah, the second phrase which I feel we should all start using frequently is MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa billah (Surah Kah...