Ramadan and the Nostalgia it brings…

The holy month of Ramadan is here. I pray this month is just not about fasting but also learning to be a better Muslim. I have so much to learn and yet get distracted by things that do not even matter!!

I worry that I am not setting the right example for my child. Sure, she sees me fasting and praying , but is it enough ? As a parent, it is such a big responsibility to pass on the right values and I feel kids learn most by observing . Seeing is believing.

I have grown up in a liberal enviroment yet with strong religious values. Ramadan was celebrated in a big way. Not big in terms of number of dishes on the table but spiritually. For instance, there was always someone dedicated to whom my mom sent an Iftar tray to . During the last 10 days of Ramadan , I would see both my parents silently praying and reading Quran in different corners of the house all night until Fajar and the regular things like charity and so on.

Now looking back , what I miss the most is when we all gathered near the TV at the time of Iftar dua and break fast together. My brother bringing samosas or something equally mouth watering on the way back from his office. The comfort of food, the banter and love for each other. What I wouldn’t give to have those times back. To have my parents healthier and younger.

This is the biggest ordeal of growing up. To see our loved ones age . No matter where you are and how comfortable you maybe, but seeing your loved ones getting older or sick and leaving for eternal abode takes a piece of you. I yearn to be a child again when I didn’t have to face this reality. Losing my dad , my mamoo( Uncle) and Khala (Aunt) in a year’s time , I feel a deep sense of loss each time I think about them, especially when I fly back home. I know it will never be the same again. But life goes on and you learn to cope with grief.

Now that I am a grown up, have my own family, it is my responsibility to make Ramadan as memorable as my parents did for me . Pass on the same values. And it is not easy. I pray that I have the strength and determination to make most of this blessed month and I carry it’s essence for the rest of the year . Ramadan Mubarak to all of you !

The Rise of the Cooks . Quarantine Cooking

COVID -19 has turned the kitchen in many households into a very busy station . With time in your hands and inability to eat outside, it seems lot of people have taken cooking enthusiastically. And looking at all the food pictures on my fb feed, It seems I am perpetually hungry . For the sake of my physical and mental well being, I Need. To. Social. Distance from these upcoming chefs.

So far, I have defined three categories of chefs and each category has a different motive;

1) You cook because you have to. You need a home cooked meal for yourself and family. One pot dishes and shortcuts are always appreciated.

2) You cook because you love cooking. And it gives you inner joy to feed people around you. You are always on a hunt for new recipes and like to challenge your self creatively.

3) You are a Foodie. You cook because your cravings have reached a level that you just cannot control . You either make it or die craving . It is something that you cannot access it easily.

I belong to category 1 and 3. Being an expat in Nigeria and not having access to most of my favorite dishes even before COVID 19 , I reluctantly started making them . For eg; after not having a decent nan (flat bread) for 7-8 months , you do what is necessary and take the batter in your hand. As much as I love the comfort and health aspect of home cooked food, I miss popping into a bakery and grabbing some of my favorite things. I simply miss the ease of having what ever I want , when ever I want. 😦

I don’t think kitchen will ever be my Zen place but the foodie in me and inaccessibility to my favorite food will make me reluctantly learn everything .

What is your story ?

Picky Eater….Is it Karma?

My mom leaves no stone unturned to remind me how much trouble I gave her in feeding me. Which I do not completely agree with. Yes, I may have some clear preferences about my food choices but still there were a lot of options that I gladly used to have. She just needed to be more proactive and creative.

So here I am, decades later complaining about my picky almost 9 year old daughter .It seems Karma is doing it’s rounds and that too with compound interest. I don’t think I even hold a candle in front of her.

My daughter has had Haleem almost daily for 4 years. I am seriously not kidding . Those who do not know what Haleem is, it is slow cooked meat and lentil stew which takes around 4 hours to make. Don’t panic. I used to make it weekly and not daily :).

So anything fried , crunchy or sweet , she is attracted like moth to fire. But otherwise, its been a tedious task including new dishes to her palate. Today I gathered some courage and told her she should at least include an apple in her daily diet. So after a lot of protest and negotiations with her dad, the agreement was made to have the apple at 5:00 clock.

E at 5 :00 pm : Mama , don’t cut , just bring it as it is.

Me at 5:30 : You have hardly taken two bites! Told you to have in slices instead.

E at 5:40: Okay mama , give it to me in slices.

Me at 6 :00: Lets go for a walk.

E: I can’t . I have to finish my apple.

Fortunately when I came back from the walk , that plate had magically disappeared. But E was extremely upset that she could not go for a walk because she had to finish that apple. The next 15 -20 mins were not very pleasant to say the least and involved lot of tears and accusations.

So its almost dinner time now . Since she isn’t a fan of seafood, I jokingly told E that we are having fish burgers for dinner.

E: I wish I was allergic to fish.

I think tomorrow I should serve apple at 3:00 clock instead ? lol

Remote Learning #CoronaDiaries

So the remote learning at my end officially begins. So husband is on an conference call in one room and daughter is having hers in the other . I am feeling extremely left out.

Post Corona , there will be a new normal . And work from home concept will snowball into so many new things, in education and businesses alike. There are some companies who have earlier encouraged employees to work from home but hopefully more employers would join the work from home wagon. Maybe later people don’t have to turn in 5 days a week and the concept of 9-5 becomes obsolete. Who knows! With change, the most challenging part is the resistance to change. Under the current circumstances, no one really had a choice not to adapt to technology and after few weeks working like this , people are getting somewhat comfortable with the set up. So later, if we have a combination of office and work from home , it would be a welcome change. It may not apply to all fields but environmentally, it will benefit everyone .

Life of a mother of one is so much easier than those with more . It is simple math. If I had 3 or more, I truly would be pulling my hair right now. My friend is going crazy with her 3 kids. Their schedules, their assignments and so on. So if you have 3 or more kids remote learning , good luck !

In the past two days I have downloaded about 5-6 new apps of google. The speed at which I am downloading apps for remote learning, I should have over 25 apps by end of the week. But the good thing is , it is REALLY working. There is google Class room , hangout meet, zoom and other google platform apps. So once you have your gmail Id, you are all sorted . My daughter looks forward to hear from her teacher and reluctantly does the assignments later. Under the given circumstances, it is great what we can do thanks to technology.

Remote learning is not completely new to me . I actually got acquainted with it like a month back. We have kept a Quran Teacher for my daughter and it is working out brilliantly. This was my first experience with an online teacher and I am not turning back with this one. Would definitely recommend going online on this front. No stranger in the house. Flexibility to switch times and even if you travel, you don’t miss your lesson!

The other day, I asked my daughter how she is finding the idea of home learning. She said she was loving it as she could get hot food 24/7 . She usually likes going to school, but she seems to be enjoying the novelty of having hot waffles while doing her assignments. Don’t really blame her there . Though I think by the end of the month, she may feel differently.

On a separate note , I strongly feel remote learning has so much potential. It is cheap and has reach . Your teacher could be sitting in Antarctica and you can still learn. We should consider using this model in villages and for those who cannot afford to send their children to school . This can extend to other fields as well such as healthcare. We just need to learn how to use the technology effectively.

Adapting to #COVID19 Lifestyle

Recently I was watching the movie 7 years in Tibet and I heard the following quote and it struck a chord. It goes like;

So applying that concept in the current situation, these are the changes which has certainly helped me adapt and retain some sanity. Here it goes;

  1. Living each day at a time . I think it will take 2-3 months until we have some control of the situation but let’s not think too much. Focus on today . It helps if you are short sighted for once.
  2. Stepping out of your Pjs. It helps. Take a shower and change into decent clothes. You may want to skip on your contouring but it does help to look and feel good.
  3. Social Media distancing. Avoid reading TOO much COVID19 related news. Memes are fine though to lighten the mood .
  4. Put music to lighten up the mood.
  5. Video chat with your loved ones.
  6. Add some physical exercise to your routine. If you can manage a walk great, else work out at home. I am trying my hands on skipping.
  7. Netflix or binge watch on YouTube .

While I was making this list, I realized most of them are internet dependant . So lets all pray the internet keeps supporting us meanwhile.

Hang In There #CoronaDiaries

So Corona reaches Africa. Who would had thought a pandemic would bring the whole world come together. Rich or poor, this virus has spared no one and we all are battling a common invisible enemy.

In Nigeria, the official lockdown starts in few days but we have been social distancing for some time. Today , I managed to go for a walk within the compound that we live in . And IT.FELT.GOOD. I think this routine might keep me going until things get better.

I am getting overwhelmed by the Corona messages on whatsap and facebook. So I am zoning them out and later skim through most of the messages. I just cannot talk about the looming threat on us 24/7. Lets just take it one day at a time. It’s not like we have any other choice , do we ?

Lets try Social media distancing for a while . Read and watch less depressing things. We have to keep our morale up for our family .

Stay safe.

Home away from home #CoronaDiaries

Karachi is going under lockdown. This is a much needed step and I wish it was taken atleast a week back. Our people despite the media outrage and government pleas are not understanding the gravity of the situation.

While I am stuck in another continent, experiencing the initial panic of Corona , I am worried about my family back home . My mom, in-laws , uncles and aunts who are in a very vulnerable age bracket. My heads screams at the stupidity of our nation who have been brazenly socializing in spite all the warnings, and then feeling helpless about the state of healthcare of our nation . How are we going to overcome it ? May Allah has mercy on us . That’s all I can say right now.

The worrying thing being stuck in Nigeria is what If I get it ? The health care here too is very fragile and being in an unknown land, the thought of getting treated here seems like being sent off to jail.

I am trying to trick my mind and think positive but I just needed to express how I am feeling right now. I guess I should watch some Friends and life will be good again . It always does.

Staying Positive #CoronaDiaries

Amidst all the panic which has engulfed the entire world, hundred articles and thousand memes later , one is forced to take a deep breath and reflect. For me, at this point , all I can feel is gratitude.

I am indeed blessed to be able to stay home , work from home and have the luxury to stock up for weeks to come . This indeed in a privilege denied to many. Daily wage workers or people with limited resources have different struggles to which we cannot even relate .

Looking how businesses and economies have taken a hit just in a matter of weeks, forces you to think how unpredictable life can be. The saying, from rich to pauper or money comes and money goes cannot be more true. So hopefully this calamity will teach us more humility and generosity towards those in need and also how important it is to save for the rainy days.

At the end of the day, too much Corona related news does take a toll on you . So I would sincerely suggest social media distancing . Its good to be aware but no need to check and talk about it every hour. Binge on your favorite show , listen to songs , meditate or read instead. Keeping a positive mindset is important for you and your family . Make your life easy , this is not the time to be Martha Steward or super mom with 30 mins screen limit. Routine is important but keeping everyone happy indoors is more important right now.

So the silver lining to this is that I have a wonderful excuse to not go to the gym but I have absolutely no excuse left to avoid sorting those drawers which I have been procrastinating for 2 years!

#Stay Positive

Small World – Nigerian Expats give back

To be born in a rich family is a privilege. Similarly, being born in a rich country is no different. However, one thing is constant regardless what your circumstances may be, the love for your mother and your motherland.

When people go to the foreign countries for better opportunities, it is easy to judge and believe you forgot your home country or love it any less. Trust me, no matter where you are , the love doesn’t go away. You get happy when your country prospers, sad when a tragedy strikes, frustrated when you see hopelessness and ecstatic when you win in any international sport. One experiences these extreme emotions only when there is a deep connection.

Small world is an annual charity event hosted by expats in Lagos. There are over 30 countries participating. The proceeds of this event go to charity. I had an opportunity to experience this event and was amazed by the patriotism of all the people there. Small World gives opportunity to expats to represent their countries , their culture and most importantly showcase their cuisine. There are live performances , music, overall a lively carnival which stretches all evening till around midnight.

Sampling food of countless countries and drinks is a sweet deal especially when it is for a good cause. So once you have bought the ticket to this event, everything inside is free which includes your food , drinks and entertainment. I can proudly say I tasted brownies of at least 3 countries 🙂 and they all tasted great . My personal favourite was an Israeli Chocolate dough like ball.

What really amazed me, is how my friends representing Pakistan worked tirelessly to put our best foot forward. They spent money , time, sweat and utter dedication to represent Pakistan in the best possible light. They prepared food for 100’s of people, decorations that they started preparing weeks in advance and organized everything from A-Z. Their generosity and hard work is commendable to say the least. And this goes for all the other nationalities as well. They were all proud ambassadors of their countries.

Small world (Established since 1996) is a great initiative to bring people together . It reminds us that we are all global citizens and how wonderful diversity can be. So if you are in town around this time next year, do come and show your support. You will not be disappointed.

Don’t Judge a Samosa by its Cover

Cravings and expat life goes hand in hand. We all have grown up with a certain style of food and flavors that we like and associate our memories with . Wherever we go , we try to find places that hits closest to home. So please don’t hate me if my taste buds don’t agree to your version of it.

We visited a desi restaurant this weekend and was quite happy to see samosa on the menu. Indian samosas have peas in it which I don’t like but being greedy, I had even made peace with that. After all beggars cannot be choosers!

So the samosa finally comes. It is hot and crispy from the outside and accompanied with a coriander chutney. Sigh, It is so instragram worthy!! So I am officially salivating inspite of the green peas which I am expecting inside.

So the big moment comes, I dip my crunchy samosa in the green chutney and take a bite. I taste potato and something else …. It is sweet… it is mushy…it is a RAISIN! I dropped the samosa like a hot potato. (Pun intended). Taking another bite was unimaginable. Almost like a betrayal to all the samosas I have ever eaten.

What I experienced then, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. So next time you are causally snacking on a samosa or just grabbing it from a random bakery , please don’t take them for granted. It is a blessing denied to many.