Blogs

Netflix & Binge Watching

During the pandemic we are all binging unapologetically. Minutes turn to episodes and episodes to season. Before you know it , you have binged 4-5 hours on Netflix. I am not sure I would call it a time well spent or a day wasted . But considering the current scenario, cannot be more grateful for the distraction.

Unfortunately, the excess screen time has taken a toll on my body. Headache and watery eyes to start with. It became so bad that I decided to give myself a break from the screen. Besides calls and whatsapp messages, No TV or phone. And it helped. Immediately.

After 2 -3 days my eyes seemed well rested and the perpetual headache was gone. Meanwhile, I took solace in my books and it was so refreshing. I missed reading. Have always been an avid reader but had been putting it in the back burner for quite some time. I guess it’s now time to reconnect with my books . My body has certainly made that clear. !

PS : Serves me right for being a hypocrite and hiding my daughter’s Ipad. Also Friends playing in the background does not count. It is like Kenny G for my soul…

For the love of Rain and Chai

While my friends are sweating buckets in Pakistan and Middle east, I cannot be more grateful for the weather in Nigeria. It is raining almost every day. Rain, cool winds and then a clear bright sky! And what I love the most, It doesn’t stay cloudy for long. So pretty much perfect weather.

Where I am coming from , it hardly rains . Summers are brutal and when it does somehow magically rains, we celebrate. And we celebrate the only we know how to celebrate. We eat . We instantly crave Pakoras (Fritters) and hot Chai. Rains and pakoras go together like salt and pepper in our local lingo. You say rain and I can bet within 2 mins someone will suggest pakoras.

Great weather is a blessing . It lifts and changes your mood. Like a big bear hug or a hot brownie with vanilla ice cream on the side. While we are in quarantine and feeling low, the weather is literally like a breath of fresh air. The rains here are expected to continue for the next two three months, so having deep fried pakoras might not be wise but a hot, strong cup of tea will definitely be my choice of poison.

Do you know that most DESI’s take their tea very seriously? Everyone likes it a specific way …I like mine strong, milk added towards the end and boiled some more , and then once the stove is switched off, cover the pot and let it sit for 3-4 mins for the flavours to really seep in. Making a perfect cup of tea can be a hit or miss. What is yours ?

Virtual Love and Birthdays

In the morning I wake up, and then I put on my makeup….

This is something which most of us haven’t been doing for a while. I miss dressing up and I for one don’t even dress up much to start with.

So on my birthday few days back, I did two things, stepped out of the COVID approved fashion attire aka Pjs, and then put on some lipstick. And it felt GOOD! The birthday girl also plucked her eyebrows to the best of her abilities. After all, you got to look nice on those video calls

It’s a tough time for the world. The constant stress of health and safety for yourself and loved ones, economical challenges and trying to stay level headed does take a toll.

It is the virtual love which has kept us all going. And we have to make an effort to reach out. Call your friends and family, reach out more than you normally do. It is so easy to slip into depression when you are home all day and have little to zero social interaction. You never know, your call may be the highlight of someone’s day.

The Desi Trollers

We as a nation have a lot of problems. Lack of education, poverty, inferiority complex (thank you colonialism), lack of understanding of religion and intolerance.

Now imagine, if people with these characteristics get their hands on a device and internet.

They become KEYBOARD JIHADIS.

Behind the safety of their screens , they think they are propagators and best ambassadors of their faith. Bullying , shaming and giving visuals of fire that await all the infidels consumes them and becomes their full day job.

So confident are these keyboard jihadist, that they can even tell by looking at your display picture whether some of us are headed for hell or not . I guess there is some scientific formula that involves variants like length of the shirt combined with subservience which can calculate where we stand with God.

Add Hijaab and Gol roti and Voila ! you have a direct entry to paradise. Please note that this formula only applies to women.

You must be wondering why I am linking religion to online trolling . All countries have them . No . Ours are a very special kind. Condescending and dipped with their so called understanding of religion . They shame you and appear righteous at the same. It requires a special skill. Not all of them have it. A normal troller will say ” U suck” , our desi troller would say you “You were raised badly , hell awaits you and no wonder you suck !

A week ago , there was a fatal crash of PK-8303. In this flight was a model named Zara Abid who passed away. And it was heart wrenching to see that some of them, didn’t even spare her. Her Insta page was flooded with hell filled sermons just because her lifestyle was not something they could digest.

One of the thing that worries me most is the intolerance in our country and how unacceptable it is to have a different view.

And this sometimes makes me a stranger to my own country.

PIA Crash – PK 8303

Sorry been MIA throughout Ramadan. Was zombie during the day and an owl by night. The past week has been extremely tragic with the PIA flight crashing in Karachi . The flight was hardly a minute away from the runway .

There are 2 survivors and remaining 97 passengers have all died. Just imagine , they were all travelling to reunite with their loved ones during COVID. It was a stressful flight as it is . But the thought of spending Eid with family together was worth the pain. While embarking on this flight, COVID must be one of their biggest worry. Must have taken all kind of precautions, prayed for everything to go well and the least expected thing happened.

Dying in a crash is a very painful death . We cannot even comprehend what they must have gone through in those last few minutes. Charred and unidentified bodies, missing remains, the families of the victims are tormented forever.

It turns out there were few people on this unfortunate flight who were friends with our friends. One of them is one of the survivors. He was seated towards the front exit, which saved his life. He says when the flight crashed, he blacked out. He landed on top of a car on his flight seat with his seat belt fastened. He was rushed to the hospital and was able to call home within an hour of the crash to tell his dad he had survived. He is home now and recovering from fractures.

There was another family who was returning with three kids. I have been told that at one time they were considering a road trip from Lahore to Karachi but then decided otherwise. The entire family passed away in the crash.

There is this video on Facebook which is going viral . A father lost his wife and 3 kids on this flight and he is begging the authorities to expedite DNA testing to identify bodies of his two children so they can rest with their mother. My heart just broke.

The father has just received a call from the authorities that they have identified the bodies of his two children. The father was so happy and jubilant and thanking everybody who supported him. This was literally heart shattering . I pray so hard to give this dad strength and to ease his pain. How can anyone sustain and survive so much pain?

My heart is getting heavy writing this. Why is life so difficult for some ? How can one even find a will to live after experiencing this kind of shock . One thing this pandemic has taught us how helpless we all are and how transient this life is. It is my faith which gives me hope and strength , otherwise I might have fallen into despair a long time back.

If you are reading this , please say a little prayer for the victims of the crash and their families. May they rest in peace.

COVID-19 Vocabulary

Corona has not only changed our lifestyle but also our vocabulary . The words which were never part of our daily life, are now used more frequently than eggs and bread . Once Coronageddon (Corona + Armageddon) is over, I hope we never hear these words in the same context again. So here It goes;

Quarantine VS Isolation

People are put in quarantine when they are not currently sick but have been or may have been exposed to a communicable disease. People who voluntarily quarantine out of caution , it is called self quarantine.

Isolation happens when a person is infected and is separated from people who are healthy.

Social Distancing

You already know that! Next.

Google Classroom

Fellow parents can relate to the challenges of remote learning and fiddling with different apps.

Respirators VS Ventilators

A respirator is a masklike device, usually of gauze, worn over the mouth, or nose and mouth, to prevent the inhalation of noxious substances or the like.

A ventilator is a machine that helps a patient breathe. This machine pumps oxygen into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide through a tube.

Flattening the curve

Flattening the curve means slowing the spread of the epidemic so that the peak number of people requiring care at a time is reduced, and the health care system is not overwhelmed.

Flattening the curve relies on mitigation techniques such as social distancing.

Pandemic vs Epidemic

A pandemic disease is an epidemic that has spread over a large area, that is, it’s prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world , where as an epidemic is restricted to a smaller region or community.

Furlough VS Layoff

Employees are not paid during furloughs for a certain time, but they do keep employment benefits, such as health insurance. Whereas, in layoffs, the employees are asked to leave their jobs permanently.

As we all know there is no cure yet besides prevention. Let’s all pray for a vaccine to be available soon as it is the only way our life can resume normally. And then the only curves I would like to flatten would be mine!

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.