Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Brave Little Dog

Little Sally whined softly while Susan bought an ice cream from the ice cream seller. Sally, the little puppy did not like the look of the scruffy guy who was smiling shiftily at the children crowded around his cart. Her doggy senses were giving her bad vibes but the children chattered happily as they handed coins and notes to the ice cream seller.

Susan’s father had brought Sally as a present for her sixth birthday and the two adored each other and were always inseparable. The only time the two were apart was when Susan went to her kindergarten school. 

Sally would wait mournfully all morning with her silky head on her front paws till she would hear the horn of the school bus. Then she would tear down the street to welcome Susan home. All day long, Sally followed Susan like a faithful shadow. She even slept in a little basket in Susan’s room at night.

After buying their ice creams, the children went away in ones and twos. Susan also turned away, tugging at the wrapper with her little fingers.

“Hey, little girl, you forgot your change,” the ice cream seller called her back. “Come with me, I’ll get you the money from my van.”

Busy licking the ice cream, Susan followed the man to the back of the van. She looked up with fright when another man pulled her quickly inside the van. Before she could yell or react, the man had put a sack over her head and closed the doors of the van. The ice cream seller quickly got inside too and drove off.

Sally barked and yelped but the street was quiet and deserted. Sally started following the van as it sped away. On and on it went, past the dainty houses, the tiny shops, the green fields and the farm-houses. Sally’s little legs felt tired and heavy but she knew in her doggy heart that her mistress was in trouble.

Finally, the van stopped outside a ramshackle house. The two men dragged the frightened little girl inside where a shabby old woman was busy washing dishes.

“Here she is, ma,” said one of the men. “Take care of her while we send the ransom note to her rich daddy.”

Meanwhile, Sally tried to follow the men inside but found the door locked. Her keen nose picked up the smell of her beloved mistress. She turned away from the door and started running back all the way to Susan’s house.

Susan’s mother stood in the garden, looking extremely worried. She had asked all the children whether anyone had seen Susan but nobody had a clue. All that could be seen on the street was melted ice cream. She called Susan’s father who immediately informed the police. By the time, the policemen arrived, Susan’s parents were sick with worry.

Sally limped up to Susan’s father and tugged at his trousers. He was talking to the policeman and tried to shoo the little dog away and even kicked her once when she wouldn’t let go.

Susan’s mother picked up the little dog. “Do you know where she is?” she asked with tears in her eyes.

“Were the two of them together all afternoon?” asked the burly policeman “Oh yes, they are inseparable.”

Sally would not calm down. She barked and yelped and kept on running towards the door and then returned to tug at their clothes.

“I think she knows something. Come on little dog. Tell us where your mistress is,” the policeman patted Sally on her head and opened the door. Sally tore outside and barked excitedly.

Without wasting a moment, they all got into a couple of cars and followed Sally. Sally ran and ran once again past the houses, the market and the fields till they reached the farmhouse. She stopped near the fence and whined softly. The police then took control. They made Susan’s parents wait in the car while they approached the house from all sides. One of the constables kicked down the door and quickly nabbed the two men and their mother while they were still quarrelling over the ransom note.

As soon as the door went down, Sally rushed inside and made a beeline for one of the rooms where she could sense her mistress. A policeman unlocked the door and found Susan inside. The little girl was frightened, but unhurt. Her parents were extremely happy to have found her and hugged her and her brave little dog tightly.

When they reached home, the neighbours and their children had all gathered outside Susan’s home to welcome her back. The police chief looked at the young group and addressed them:

“Children, you must remember not to stay outside on the streets alone. When outside your home, you must stay together in a group and older children should see to it that younger ones go home safely. It is better that your parents or some other adult buys ice cream and toys from street vendors for you. Never accompany a stranger to his car or inside a house.

“I am sure you know that you should never to talk to strangers nor accept toys, gifts or any sweets from them. So from now on, will you all look out for each other?”

“Yes, we will!” the children replied in a loud chorus. I hope you all will too!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Socks are evil creatures.

Sometimes I think socks are evil things. 

In fact, I am quite convinced that they are sinister beings, whose only purpose in life is to make me miserable and spend precious time hunting them down.

Image credit:

Why is it that you take off a pair of socks, put them in washing-machine or tub to be washed and when you bring in the dry clothes, all you have is a bunch of mismatched socks.

I have a whole bag of mismatched socks whose twins I am unable to locate. I do not understand how and why this happen but I do have many theories regarding their behaviour.

One theory is, the socks simply do not get along well and one sock walks away from the clothesline leaving its twin behind.

Or maybe they take revenge from us for keeping them on our smelly feet all day long or squashing them in dirty shoes . When one disappears, you cannot wear the single sock and so they are both saved from a smelly day at work.

Or, maybe, the birds carry them away from my clothesline to make their nests prettier and more cozy. I really cannot think of any other reason for their disappearance.

Do your socks misbehave or disappear like the socks in my household?

Good speech!

One book that is often read in my home is titled “Good Character” published by Darussalam.

It contains short stories and anecdotes with moral lessons to inculcate good habits in children and the stories are something children can relate with. It deals mostly with character building, controlling anger, telling the truth etc.

Picture from my own camera

Last night, I read a story to my younger son who has a bit of a temper. I found the story very touching and wanted to share it here (summarized and written in my own words)

A young boy went into a forest instead of attending school. While he was passing through the trees, he sang songs and poems he had learned in school. From afar, he heard sounds as if someone was responding to him and calling to him.

The boy stood still and called out, ”Who are you?” and the voice said the same thing.

He then shouted, “Where are you?” and the voice said the same thing.

The boy thought another boy was teasing him and started shouting bad things at him. He called out bad words and every word was repeated back at him. In a fit of rage, he cut a tree branch, meaning to teach the other boy a lesson. He searched the forest but found no one and came back home tired and angry.

He told his mother about the incident and complained that another boy had been saying mean things to him in the forest. His mother told him that what he heard was actually an echo his own voice. If he had said good things, he would have heard good things only.

Real life can of course be different but I found the story rather profound. What do you think?

A great lesson!

I read this inspirational post on Facebook :

Once a group of 50 people were attending a seminar. Suddenly the speaker stopped and decided to do a group activity. He gave each person a balloon . Each one was asked to write his/her name on it using a marker pen. Then all the balloons were collected and put in another room.

Now these delegates were let in that room and asked to find the balloon which had their name written, within 5 minutes. Everyone was frantically searching for their name, colliding with each other, pushing around others and there was utter chaos.

At the end of 5 minutes no one could find their own balloon and there was chaos all around. Now each one was asked to randomly collect a balloon and give it to the person whose name was written on it. Within minutes everyone had their own balloon.

The speaker explained that this is exactly what is happening in our lives. Everyone is frantically looking for happiness all around, not knowing where it is.

Our happiness lies in the happiness of other people. Give them their happiness; you will get your own happiness. And this is the purpose of human life. 


I think this is a great lesson . In our everyday life if we help someone then we also benefit. Knowledge, skills and experiences grow when we collaborate rather than compete and there is less of rat race.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Big Fat Pakistani Wedding

A few weeks ago, I was invited to the wedding of an old college friend. I could not attend the wedding but went to my friend’s house at the earliest possible time to congratulate her mother on my friend’s marriage. As I was served tea, Aunty heaped gilded photo albums on my lap and proceeded to tell me all the nitty-gritty details of the auspicious occasion.

Very graciously, she invited me to a dinner that was to be hosted next weekend in honour of the bridal couple’s return from their honeymoon. As we talked some more, it became known to me that the coming feast was to be ninth function to be hosted by the bride’s parents for the groom’s family in a course of less than two months.

Ninth feast! I got a bit of a shock.  We all know that weddings nowadays take place over a period of 4-5 days but nine functions from one side were a bit too much for me to swallow.

“Well, the first dinner was for the date fixing event,” aunty was delighted to enlighten my ignorant, uncivilized soul.” All the elders of the two families were invited; you know cha-chas, mamoos, khalas etc. The guest list comprised some 60 people just from their side.”

“Couldn’t such things be done over the phone?” I ventured timidly knowing that the two samdhans were first cousins.

“No, no,” exclaimed the shocked aunty.” That is not how things are done nowadays.” She was clearly nettled by my outdated notions.

“Of course, I understand now. And the next function?” I asked in a placating tone.

“Well the next event was the Quran-e-pak khatam that I hosted for Ayesha. All the women from the two sides were invited and we gave such a wonderful lunch right here in these lawns,” she said nodding towards the spacious green garden visible from the drawing room window.

“Of course all the young girls later wanted to have a dholki so we arranged for a little music. It was such fun.  We had to arrange dinner later when their men folk arrived to take them home. It would not have seemed decent if they had returned without eating. Thank God the caterers co-operated. We had over 100 people in the house to feed.” Aunty seemed quite pleased with her impromptu banquet.

“And then one week before the wedding, we had a very grand function for mayoon. Ayesha’s mother-in-law brought such an expensive yellow outfit. It was a very costly affair as we decided to serve fried prawns and finger fish,” she added naming one of Lahore’s most elite wedding caterers as the food providers for that event. 

“And then of course, there was rasm-e- hina and then barat which was at Lahore’s finest 5 star hotel. Larkay walay would not settle for anything less. The groom has friends in high circles and it is important to create a good impression.”

While I was mentally trying to estimate the cost of just feeding the same guests over and over again, I was struck by a certain thought. “And weren’t any functions hosted by the groom’s side?”

“Well, of course, there was the Valima. What other function can they host?”
What indeed? I thought a little cattily. At least the Valima is still in vogue.
But the recital was not yet finished.

“And then there was the Muklawa. You know when Ayesha came over and her husband and his family came to take her back to their house. They demanded that everyone from their family must be invited and not just the immediate family. See how pretty she looked,” she added fondly, flipping open the photo albums.

“Of course, Eid-ul-adha was soon afterwards and we decided to host a grand dinner for the groom’s family. Such dinners strengthens the girl’s position among her in-laws. It was Ayesha’s first Eid after marriage, after all.”

And doesn’t her good character, sound education and excellent upbringing count for anything? Once again I could not help thinking.

“Your uncle had to sell his plot to meet the expenses of this wedding,” Aunty confided to me softly. “I hope they live happily together forever.”

By this time, it was not only the tea that was cold. I felt that my brain was numbed too. It is true that weddings in our culture are a reason to celebrate and enjoy with family and relatives. Indeed it is they who add all the colour and life to such important events in our life but at what cost nowadays?

Why is the entire burden on the bride’s side, I wonder? Are these rules and norms dictated by society or are they pitfalls made by our own hands? Why it is that simplicity is not something that one even wants to hear about as our daughters and sons embark upon the most important journey of their lives?

There was a time when our grandmothers carefully put away silk bundles and white georgette dupattas in steel trunk for their daughters’ dowries.  Our mother relied upon saving certificates and her gold jewellery to see us married. But now it seems that nothing less than 1-2 kanal plots would do to meet the wedding expenses of daughters in a way that would enable parents to hold their heads high in society.

As I took my leave, Aunty once again repeated her invitation. “Now don’t forget to come when Ayesha returns from her honeymoon. We were running out of ideas and venues so we are inviting everybody for high tea at…..” In a daze, I waved goodbye with the name of one of Lahore’s most expensive restaurants ringing in my ears.

Violence all around

We tend to associate television with entertainment and some fun time after a hard day’s work, but have we ever observed the effect that media has on our children nowadays? Bomb blasts, gun fights, street riots, public rage, strikes, murders…all day long news channels bring into our households depressing stories of bloodshed and violence all around us. 

While adults seem to have become immune to such horrifying reports, our children are becoming adversely affected and this is reflected in their speech and actions.

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It is an alarming fact that words and phrases related to violence are fast becoming part of our children’s vocabulary. For example, a friend who teaches in a school in Islamabad told me that while writing an essay about a shopping experience in a supermarket, few children wrote about customers being robbed at gun point while one child wrote about it being bombed. The worrying fact was that young children had given extremely graphic details of guns, bullets and dead bodies in their essays.

During a parent teacher meeting in my children’s school, parents were advised not to discuss load shedding, petrol prices and politics within their children’s hearing. The reason given was that it was promoting negativity, anger and abusive language among children who were absorbing their parents’ frustration with some of the adverse circumstances that have gripped our country in recent times.

While watching television, the lines of reality can often get blurred for young children. At this impressionable age, they cannot separate fiction from real events.  A number of studies have reported that watching media violence frightens young children, and that the effects of this may be long lasting. When children accept violence as part of life, they also accept it as a means of getting their own way. This attitude can have a very negative impact on their personality as they grow up.

As parents, we want our children to be shielded from the hard realities and tragic facts of life. At the same time, we want them to grow up into informed and educated adults. So how does one strike a balance?

Teach by example:

A wise person once said, “Whatever you want your children to be tomorrow, be that person today.” If grown-ups are frustrated, angry and negative all the time, we cannot expect our children to grow up into emotionally healthy and stable adults. 

Children learn by example and they are strongly influenced by the behavior, values, and attitudes of parents, teachers and other adults in their lives. Values of respect, honesty, and pride in the family heritage and our country can be important sources of strength for children, especially if they are confronted with negative images and tragic news stories on television.

Celebrate small things:

Teach your children to enjoy small things in life. Good marks in school, victory in a cricket match, a new friend, rainbow in the sky or small milestones accomplished by children are all reasons to smile. Once we learn to celebrate and be grateful for small things in life, it becomes easier to resist pessimism and overcome frustrations in face of adverse circumstances in life.

Manage your own frustrations:

Everything is expensive, there has been no electricity all day long, you had a tiff with your boss and there is a mountain of housework to be done…these everyday challenges can put one in a very bad mood and domestic quarrels can flare up easily. Parents who are always angry and always yelling are teaching their children to be angry and abusive too. Whether you attain your serenity from yoga, music, exercise or by sitting on a prayer rug, try to manage your anger and not vent your frustrations on your children.

Teach compassion and responsibility:

Children who like to help others and have a strong sense of responsibility are more likely to have a positive attitude towards life in general. They believe in making the world a better place for themselves and others. 

Discourage aggression in children:

Superman beating villains into a pulp or Ben 10 using special powers to defeat the alien forces…these cartoons and television programmes sow the seeds of aggression in children who feel might is right. As parents we must monitor the content our children watch on television. Try not to buy toy guns or toy military tanks for your children. If you find them smashing cars and shooting siblings in a mock battle, intervene at once and direct their energies towards some other games like riding a bike, reading books or playing cricket etc. 

Keep an eye on the company your children keep:

Make an effort to know the friends your children hang out with. Even if your child is innocent, he could get mixed up with bad company who might make use of his cell phone or computers for fishy reasons. Talk to your children about dangers of peer pressure and how they can overcome it without losing their friendships. 

Children absorb a lot from the environment they are brought up in. While things around us are far from perfect, by giving them a safe and happy home environment and teaching them to adopt a positive attitude, we can literally create a more positive world for them.

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...