One year in

5 May

As I keep repeating, my blogging has taken a bit of a backseat. Not because I don’t want to write, heck, I’m desperate to write. But between my baby, now toddler and the house and my various extra-curricular interests, I rarely get to pen my thoughts.

But today is a special day. Four days ago, my L turned 1. The days just zoomed by, yet possessed a serenity. It feels like just yesterday I was struggling to hold my newborn and today she’s reaching up at me, cruising the sofa and yelling ‘Hi!’ at anyone within a 200 meter radius.

This year has been extremely unique in the grand timeline of my life. I quit work, became a full time mom, reached out to tons of moms to create a network, redecorated my home and joined activities I had never even heard of. If anything, I was a totally different person this year. My patience levels went up but my sleep quantity drastically decreased. The capacity of my heart expanded by leaps and bounds yet my brain is a bag of mush. But I learnt a lot along the way. And I thought I’d share this, because just like me, I’m sure there’s a lot of Type A moms struggling with their new identities and tiny bundles.

  1. You’ll have regrets but then you won’t. I was terrified of quitting my job. To me, it meant letting go of my individuality, my creativity and my identity. It was who I was. A working creative. Always late in office. Never a minute to rest. Stressed, driven and cranky. And then suddenly I was free. No office hours. No boss. Who was I? Was I just a mom now? I was lost. Adrift. But then as L started to acknowledge me, as she grew more demanding, I realised this is where I was needed most. This was my new mission. I wish I had the verve and the nerves to do it all, be a working mom, but somehow life didn’t give me that choice. And now, I think it’s best it didn’t. Because she needed me, and well, I needed her. To slow down. To share giggles. To have afternoons reading my favourite books and sharing them with her. I lost my old identity, but I’ve gained a whole new perspective.
  2. Creativity doesn’t just exist in offices. I used to be a creative in an ad agency. But what I didn’t realise is, how much creativity I would need to be a mom. You need to be creative to entertain a feisty toddler. You need to be creative with the way you manage your time (shower with her sitting in a high chair for example) or read while she naps in your arms. You need to be creative in finding ways to keep her quiet when you get lost in Al Ain and she’s strapped to a carseat and the GPS says you’re 45 minutes from home. You even need to be creative in making her stop screaming HI in a quiet doctors office. She will throw problems at you and you better have solutions fast, or out comes that impatient screech. At the end of the day, you need to be creative because you don’t want her to be a dull, TV watching kid. You need to be able to resort to the songs, the loud reading, the corny dancing, the strange mouth sounds and the impromptu games if you want there to be peace at home, in the car and especially in public.
  3. Sleep will remain elusive. Someone told me that once babies are 8 months, they sleep through the night. Well, I crossed that mark a good 4 months ago and I am still rudely woken up every 2 hours a night. I’ve tried the heavy meals before bedtime, the rocking to sleep, the co-sleeping, the crib sleeping, the late bedtime, the early one, the exhaustion routine, the peaceful dim light routine, everything. It seems she’s just a light sleeper. Which makes me a deprived one. But as the months pass you realise, ya you miss sleep, but it’s ok. These are the years you’ll miss when she’s too independent to want your cuddles. So, bring on the challenge. I can stay sleepless for another few months. I’ve lost sleep for far less worthier causes.
  4. She has been my greatest teacher. I’ve never been a stop-to-smell-the-roses kind of girl. I’d rather blaze through the day, achieving all that I can in the shortest amount of time. But with a baby you have no choice but to slow down. She works on her own schedule. She does what she pleases. And if you look closely, you see that you have so much to learn. The curiosity she possess is admirable. She observes things, tries to look them over completely. She can play with that tissue paper for what seems like ages. It’s forced me to slow down and focus on what matters.
  5. She’s made me a better person. Overnight, becoming someone’s example is daunting. I have so many flaws I can spend nights fretting over how I can hide them from her. But the point remains, the flaws remain. But I can try to improve. To change. So the person she sees is someone she can respect. Someone she can admire and maybe eventually, learn from.
  6. Relationships become exemplary instead of run-of-the-mill. I’ve started paying attention to the relationships I have with people. I need her to see that a husband is meant to respect the wife. That friendships are to be respected and held on to. That family is one of life’s greatest gifts. No more can you take them for granted. Because the importance you give to them is how she will perceive them.

As the year passed, I realised I had a long way to go. A lot to learn. I failed in various ways. I couldnt’ make her yummy organic Annabel Karmel meals every day. I didn’t make the bed everyday like I promised myself I would. I sometimes forget to read to her even though I promised I would. But I think I’m getting there. She’s a friendly, curious and very sociable little girl. I’d like to think a bit of it had to do with me.


3 Apr Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 11.06.19 PM


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In the wake of recent news, I feel compelled to write about my recent trip to Lahore. I was going to take my time, find a new angle to an old city and slowly sieve through pictures I took. But then tragedy stuck in the form of soulless monsters that took the life of children in a park. And every nerve in my body suddenly became charged with anger. How dare you? How dare you walk in strapped to explosives I wish would have blown you away in some ditch, and take the lives of 72 people and injuring 300 (the latest figures I read)? How dare you attack on a holy day such as Easter, shattering the peace of not only those in the vicinity but of the entire city, rather the entire country? And above all, how dare you murder children? But that monster dared and now Lahore is in the news for heart-wrenching reasons. 

But, precisely 8 days before this, I had spent a wonderful 10 days in the same city. I had roamed the streets with my sister and two infants, free of worry and fear. I had admired the greenery so carefully planted to give a beautiful facade to the old city. We had driven by the metro; a fantastic venture taken by the government and utilised wholly by the city’s residents. I walked from shop to shop in a crowded market area like Liberty, my only fear being that my baby would get hungry and our shopping trip would be cut short. Not for a second was it on my mind that an imbecile would taint this city just a week later.

However, we can only do what is in our power to do and I think, in the light of recent events, what better way to pay ode to a beautiful city but to rave about it’s many offerings? So, here goes.

Before I arrived in Lahore, I did my usual Googling of everything there is to do there. I found many historical sights but not much else. Of course, you know Lahore is home to the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort or Shahi Qila. But I discovered some other interesting sights I wanted to share. For me, the most memorable day was when we drove to Ganda Singh Wala, which borders India and is in the Kasur district of Punjab. Interesting, this was named after a Sikh man and it’s neighbouring town, the one in India, is named after a Muslim man. One can see the parade there, where our proud troops make a show of strength against the Indian troops who do the same. However, I can’t write much about that because we missed most of the ceremony. But, the experience was amazing nonetheless.


At the border. The barrier you see divides India-Pakistan.

It was a beautiful rainy day, we rushed to get there, 5 of us running, two of us holding giggling infants, trying to make it to the border. Once we got there, huffing and panting, I was struck to see how close we were to India. It was a bittersweet moment to take pictures by a barrier that shuts us away from each other and you can’t help but think, ‘they’re right there, we can shake hands, we can embrace, so why can’t we cross over?’  I enjoyed every minute of my time there because it’s always fascinating to see how close two countries are, and yet, in our case, how far. We then snapped pictures of our giant-like guards in their proud uniforms and admired the setting sun behind green fields. Hailing from Karachi, I was soaking every minute of how beautiful Pakistan can be.

Another highlight of my trip was the Wazir Khan Mosque, named after a governor from the Mughal times. Intricately adorned with fresco designs and beautiful tile work, it’s a peaceful place to rest and pray. Intermittently you’ll see birds flocking above, creating a frame around the already majestic mosque. The little ones crawled around the inner carpeted halls and there was a faint scent of rose all around. A friend had recommended, rather insisted, that I visit here and I’m glad I did.


The walkway to the mosque is tight and lined with hawkers selling various items from kitchenware to hair clips. But behind them are tiny streets, wooden shutters of different colors and a wealth of history. It was easy to imagine the Mughals walking these streets or their carriages rushing through as they make their way from inside the Delhi gate to the mosque.

A few nights before then we had been in the area again. We had dinner at Cooco’s Den, owned by the famous artist Iqbal Hussain. Built on many levels, it’s a beautifully quaint building that has narrow steps leading up to each floor. It’s been impressively maintained and the food was as good as Lahore boasts its food is; divine. It was lovely to sit, our feet being warmed by little heaters, the cold breeze making the hot food taste even better and the gentle music playing in the background. Around us was the Fort again; silent yet majestic.

Lahore is of course known for its food. And boy, did we eat. From Cosa Nostra, to Sweet Affairs, I ate it all. Desi foods, delicious burgers, amazing italian pizza and gelato and good ol’ fried chicken from Jalal Sons. Even had delicious ice cream from this man making cold coffee topped with soft cone style ice cream on a kiosk like stand parked in a popular market.


What truly struck me about Lahore and then subsequently saddened me about the tragedy was how open the houses were. Low walls, open gates, beautifully but houses lined the streets we drove on. This is how life should be. Not walls that are sky high yet don’t protect us. Or gates that are tightly shut, constantly manned by nervous guards. Anyhow, let’s move on before this becomes a how-disappointed-Karachi-makes-me-sometimes post.

A little gem my sister introduced to was ‘The Last Word’, a bookstore with an amazing selection of books apparently hand-picked by the owner. The vibe in the store was relaxed, with pillows strewn about and a table in the middle of the store where one could leisurely browse the collection. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the city.

Oh and one thing you must make time for is the Daachi (or was it daichi) ride. I’m talking blasting music, a 10 seater being pulled by a camel, up and down one of Lahore’s busy streets, at midnight. Oh and did I mentioned the 10-seater is heavily adorned with glittering lights, pompoms and basically every metallic coloured decoration you could fit on it? I guess the unique experiences is why they say ‘Lahore, Lahore Hai’ (said with a heavy Punjabi accent of course).


The Daachi ride!

I know most reading this might think that Lahore is a well known city, and maybe didn’t warrant a travelogue. But I loved it.  I loved the relaxed vibe, the scent of food cooking in the air and the freeness of all it’s residents. Above all, I pray that Lahore can hold on to that free spiritedness it possesses and not let this heinous attack change it’s nature. And I pray that Lahore, and in fact Pakistan, can rid itself of all those that wish to harm it. Because with all it’s history, culture and beauty, it’s definitely a city (and country) that deserves much better.

(Excuse the horrible quality of the pictures. Most were taken in a rush, from my phone.)


I won’t say sorry for you

4 Mar

Before baby L was born, I had a clear picture of how I would raise her. I had even envisioned how she would turn out. I was against using the word ‘no’ with her and I cringed inside when someone else took a stern tone with her. Usually, I chastised the disciplinarian. My picture was clear. My child would be free. Elders warned me that I had to set down some rules and I understood that. But for all intents and purposes I wanted L to be free of restraint and that ingrained fear so many of us are raised with. The fear of an adult, of authority, of a deity, of heaven and hell, of the unknown, of being labeled ‘bad’, of being a let-down and so on. It’s shocking how many of us functioning adults still live our lives carrying the burden of various degrees of fear. Of course, I was well aware that she wouldn’t be free her whole life. But my goal was always to let her spread her wings as far as she could to the best of my ability. Within my realm she will be a free spirit. That was my goal. Whether she was a shouter, an introvert, an overly friendly soul, a thinker; as long as she wasn’t hurting anyone, she could be whoever she wanted to be. The rules were set in my mind and I thought I was doing a good job. Until suddenly I found myself saying sorry. A lot.

Now for this to make sense, I need to divulge a little about myself. I say sorry. A lot. That’s because I carry a heavy burden on myself which hasn’t been put on me by anyone else. It’s all my own junk. And I say sorry for ridiculous things. Things that don’t warrant an apology but I fear hurting/inconveniencing/offending the person. If I can’t make it to an appointment because of valid reasons, or if someone holds the door open for a me a bit longer than usual as I push the stroller through, are some inane reasons I’ll be apologetic.

And then I started apologising for L. If she’s too talkative in a class, I make slightly embarrassed faces at the others. If her nose is runny, I rush to wipe it clean before someone calls me negligent or her messy. If she’s quiet and someone notices I rush to make excuses on her behalf. Or if she tries to be friendly, I first make sure everyone around her is comfortable with it. But I am wrong. Very wrong. She is who she is. She is not an extension of me. She is not because of me. So why am I holding her back? Asking her to be ‘gentle’ with other babies when she’s just a baby herself? Rushing to make sure she’s not making anyone uncomfortable when I should rejoice in the fact that she’s bubbly and talkative.

It stops here. I will not come in the way of her being an open, loving, curious personality. I will not stomp on her confidence to handle situations as she deems best. I will teach her not to hurt others. I will teach her to be considerate. I will teach her to respect knowledge but never fear authority. I will tell her that confidence is the key to finding peace. That empathy and kindness can go a long way. I will try to make her realise that her self-worth is something only she can create, nurture and protect. I will try my best to make her as good a person as I know she already is. But I will not say sorry. Never again.


Dubai diaries: Emirates Park Zoo

28 Feb

Recently, a couple of friends suggested we check out the zoo. My first reaction was skepticism. I hadn’t heard good things about zoos here so I wasn’t sure if the zoo was something I wanted to introduce to my 9 month old. But of course, my FOMO (fear of missing out) kicked in and on Friday we were on our way to Abu Dhabi, to Emirates Park Zoo. Located very close to Yas Island, the zoo is somewhat hidden in between residential homes and a few store compounds. Constructed with minarets and life size ceramic depictions of various animals which seem to be walking the walls surrounding it, the zoo is hard to miss, once you’re close enough of course.

We reached around 12 noon on a Friday and even though most of the parking lot was packed, it wasn’t crowded. Families were eagerly walking to the entrance, and the day was a beautiful 25 degrees. I encourage you to check it out between November to March. We belted little L into her stroller and we were off; eagerly bumping up and down on the cobbled road leading up to the zoo.

The ticket line was negligible and the price quite reasonable, and soon we were inside. The zoo is beautifully constructed, even though it’s small. Artificial grass lines the lanes flanked with cages and enclosures on both sides. One of the first enclosures we stopped upon was the giraffe, deer, wild boar and zebra one. It seemed big enough to accommodate the various animals and we saw them roaming freely, with the boars taking an extended nap. Kids could feed the deer through the metallic grill.

How many giraffes do you see?

How many giraffes do you see?

Right across was an extensive petting zoo ideal for kids old enough to feed the animals and get some face time with them. The goats and sheep were the most interesting! Hanging their heads over the fence, eager for a bite or a pet. I don’t know how much my 9 month old understood, but she was quite fascinated! My nephews, who are 4 plus years of age (friends’ kids) were definitely the right age to interact with the animals.

Petting zoo

Petting zoo


Little L and the camel

Little L and the camel

The most interesting was the big cats enclosure. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Emirates Park Zoo has quite a few of them. Cheetahs, lionesses among others. There were also a few elephants but if you want to get up close to them, you have to wait post 4 pm, because that’s when they say you can feed them. The cages were clean, even though a bit small (but then I feel this way about any zoo), with glass so one can get up close to the animals.

Tiger tiger burning bright

Tiger tiger burning bright


The boys face the tiger

The boys face the tiger (Photo credit HA)

The monkeys and baboons were quite animated and the habitat for reptiles was well maintained and easy to walk through.

Overheard on speakers was drumbeat music, reminiscent of that playing in the back of your mind at an African safari. There were also quite a few areas for possible shows which we missed since we left before the scheduled time of 4 pm. Also available were themed cafes and coffee shops, as well as a play area for kids.

Not a very big place, but this zoo was quite a pleasant surprise and an excellent way to spend a Friday morning or afternoon. I will definitely take little L back once she has a better understanding of what the furry thing was and why it was making her giggle. So if you’re up for a day with camels and monkeys and a black bear, do check out Emirates Park zoo.

(Their website seems to be down but they have an active Facebook page)

Making mom friends

8 Feb

Friendship as a concept has always interested me. Maybe it’s because since I was two, I’ve had best friends, and even though some of those have drifted away, I’m one of the lucky ones who held on to the closest ones. Our relationships evolved, we had our disagreements, we moved to different corners of the world, but they remained a part of my life. Even some of the friends I made through the years, in college, and after, are people I consider my lifeline, my sounding boards. But it would be untrue to say I didn’t spend nights worrying about and questioning the friendships I lost. Missing those who drifted away. It’s because like I said, friendship has always been on my priority list. But as life went on, friendships also evolved to be need based, situation based or locality based. I got married and obviously, a need a couple friends arose. We became expats and it was important to find a support group here. But the situation I was least prepared for was motherhood and it’s own need for a support system.

I was left in a lurch. Suddenly everyone around me was talking about how I needed mummy friends. And how important it was to have playdates with other babies. And how your friends, no matter how good-intentioned they may be, will never understand your constant preoccupation with poop and nap time. To say the least, it was a bit scary. How was I, a previously 100% committed professional, suddenly be expected to find mom friends? Where would I go?

So I began my hunt. I joined groups. I joined coffee mornings. I did the small talk. I watched my baby look at other babies with this look of awe on her little face. I did the walks, the lunches, the playdates, the endless conversations about weaning and night feeds. It was tiring. And made me feel like I was role-playing. Not being myself. But I kept on. Slowly, it got a bit easier. The small talk can sometimes, not always, evolve to a more meaningful conversation. And after attending many of these get-togethers, you find a few women that sort of understand what you are going through. The recognise your awkwardness and it forms a kinship. And then you take it from there.

It’s certainly not easy. To be in a different country, to raise a baby on your own, and then to find a network that is completely different from your previous one. You don’t need these new friends. I was certainly happy enough with my old friends, boring them with my little one’s daily antics. But it helps to have these friendships especially when you feel you wish you had someone around who just got it, you know?

I can’t say I’ve figured it out. Or even that I know what I’m doing. But all I know is, it works both ways. If you feel you can find the support you need in your family (which is where I usually find mine) or your existing network, then that’s what you need to hold on to. And if you feel you need a little something different then you can put yourself out there. It’s daunting and it’s tiresome. But it has it perks. Because sometimes, in one of these get-togethers, you find someone in the group, eagerly nodding, understanding exactly what you mean. And that feeling of being understood is precious, no matter where you find it.




1 Dec

You see them all around you. They’ve got perseverance in their eyes. They’ve got sure hands and strong arms. They’re carting a weight meant for two but they don’t bend, they don’t yield. They push through. They send you a small smile. Confuse it not for shame, it is beaming pride. The smile is to request empathy but never sympathy. The bag hangs off their arm. Overflowing yet essential. Out peeks a muslin cloth, maybe a tiny shoe. The ears of Raffy the giraffe flop forward and are deftly held back by her cat-like reflexes. She’ll never let the ball drop. That’s who she is. She is ever-alert. The hours she slept may be lacking but her eyes, bags rimmed, are focused. There are unknown stains on her clothes. There might even be a mismatch here or there. She’s pushing the wheels up and down cobbled streets, swiftly changing route to pave her way. She had resolve etched on her face even as she sings ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. She may bend to pick up her little world into her arms but she is unbendable as the world rest on her shoulders. She is struggling but she’s never a martyr. She is learning but there is much more to come her way. She is fierce. She is strong. She is unrelenting. She is mother. 

Book Review: The Morning After by F S Aijazuddin

1 Nov

This review was printed in the Express Tribune on November 1, 2015