The Wonder Years

When we were young, carefree, without the restraints and constraints of the real world hanging on top of our heads. When we were free to roam and do as we pleased without a 9-5 or 6 or 7 routine hanging on top of our heads 5 days a week. When the biggest stress points were just exams in our life. When entertainment wasn’t mostly digital or technology based. When we could live with our heads up in the clouds. Those were great years. They were wonder years (yes the statement is a play on the old show which is also on some levels synonymous with the ideology of this post).

True the above outlined is pertinent only to the privileged class – somewhere along the lines of our SECs A to perhaps a little higher side C. So not getting into the division in fortunes over the more spread out SECs. That is better left for another blog post.

So coming back to the premise of this post.  The wonder years. How things can go from that to such a complicated pattern of dealing with different aspects of life and people and real life stresses is unbelievable. And it’s not just any one particular aspect of life. It is more or less in all areas. Work, personal life, professional life, future, operational day to day stuff, commuting for things, social, micro, macro. All. All of a sudden everything becomes pertinent to you which previously wasn’t. I mean let’s be honest, really honest with ourselves. How many of us truly cared about the GDP of the country or the IMF before we joined the ranks of salaried individuals or for some the family business. Or for that matter how much did our local residential body’s governing mechanisms and processes for xyz things matter to us. How many of us were interested in the economic policies that were taken up by the government? How many paid any attention to topics like circular debt? Very few I am sure.

It was a carefree time in our lives and we will always look back and cherish on them. I bet if I did a survey, some of the happiest memories would be of people either in their childhood or perhaps of their early parent-hood from their children’s birth to early growing up years.

But then again one must consider that the wonder years I am referring to were perhaps a better time overall in the context of the world. It was a more secure climate overall. Terrorism wasn’t as spread an evil as it is today. In the generation before me it was even better. I was talking to my aunt yesterday and we both agreed on this – even till my childhood I could at the very least take my bike and ride to my uncle’s place to play cricket with my cousins. During daytime and even at times during late evening. It was ok. And it’s not like I had a cellphone on me in those days. Nor did anyone else my age. Not that I recall. Not the case anymore by a long shot. It was even better for my parent’s generation. In retrospect their life was perhaps even more simpler and less complicated even though it did not have many of the technological conveniences that are present today.

I believe that will be an ongoing thought process for every generation to come. Maybe 50 years from now someone else will be writing a post along the same lines. And 50 years from that someone else.

All we can do is just look back upon our wonder years and reminisce. And smile at the memories.

Judgement

Humans have a tendency to pass judgement almost instantly on people, situations, events or circumstances without taking all factors into consideration. A person’s action at a point in time are judged without looking deeper into what led to the action or the circumstances behind the same. An event without understanding the external and internal factors revolving around it – this is of course barring all natural or very obvious events. A statement. A mindset. An act. Behavior. Different things but all resulting in a natural tendency for a person to pass judgement. Or an opinion. Without taking into consideration all things or all factors.

This is a tendency that at least I have come to realize lies within most people. Maybe not applicable to one person for all situations but that one person would have judged something or someone at some point without getting into the details. Labelled them also perhaps. And then the label itself serves to be the point of judgement for others. An example, mundane example, a restaurant experience for someone might have been bad resulting in a critical review being posted online. The review going viral and the restaurant in question gaining the label of a place having questionable service or product. While in actuality the case might have been a one off or a bad day. Or a new place going through teething issues.

But that was a mundane example. And one which might not hit home with people a lot. Let’s take another example. A person’s behavior.  People might be having a bad run of days. Or they might be going through a difficult patch in life. Or maybe they are just born that way. I am not saying that a person’s negative behavior is immediately required for us to think of a reason for them to be that way. Perhaps for some people that is not the case. That’s their personality as it has been molded since birth by the environment around them and their upbringing. For some it might have been some experiences which have changed them. For some it might not actually be who they are but a consequence of what they are perhaps going through at a certain point or period in life.

Everyone has their own set of problems or challenges that they are facing in life. Some deal with them with remarkable ease, strength and poise. Some fare on an average level and manage to survive out the other end. Others find it difficult perhaps. And this also can vary form point to point or situation to situation. Not necessarily written in stone as a trend for someone to be the same always. Some people buckle after having to go through something of the other again and again. Some buckle after facing something of absolute enormity for the first time in life after having a pretty protected and otherwise near perfect life. Some have a system to get through things. Some don’t. We are all humans after all and every person is different to every other person and hence has differing attributes and differing perspectives towards each experience. Things which on paper may be same are not necessarily be the same in actuality for people. Every experience, every relationship, every feeling is different just as every person and every human is different to others. There are commonalities here and there. But never entirely the same.

One person has not gone through experiences that you have not and similarly you have gone through experiences they have not. We shouldn’t judge people. We should always try to examine the entire information set that we possibly can and even then discount for the fact that we still don’t know everything. Live and let live. Don’t judge. Always keep an open heart and mind. Stay calm and approach things with calm. Stress kills (something I also really need to learn). Giving stress also is just as bad. One must always learn to stay positive. Especially towards people. It will help a long way in life.

As is a usual trend in my blog posts – I am not sure if this will make much sense to people. I hope it does.

My Mother

Afshan Mohajir

Born: 29th September, 1955

Died: 22nd May, 2014

Mothers – a child’s first and best friend for the rest of their lives. Irreplaceable confidants. Trusted advisors. Mentors, guidance councilors, motivators, guardians, protectors and I could go on and on. Mothers are a child’s best support system no matter how old either may be. Amma was all of the above. And beyond all of that she was amazing.

I had written a piece for my father when he passed away. It helped with dealing with his loss. I write again 4 years and 5 months later to help the same way to deal with the loss of my mother.

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Amma was first and foremost a loving person. She was strong willed. She was caring. Understanding and patient. She was as I said before – beyond amazing. I have no doubt in my mind that as was the case with my father, all the people who have called and wished to condole all did so from bottom of their hearts. I mean those who knew her. They all really did cherish their time with her. They all did love her. She was that sort. Both my parents were.

Over the last couple of days I have heard a lot of people remembering Amma in the best of ways. For all the time that they have spent with her. For all the fond and cherished memories that they have with her. After all once loved ones depart all we are left with are the memories. Memories that we want to treasure and hold on to forever. As our only connection with the departed.

Memories often end being more like a collection of stories. Stories from childhood, from being posted somewhere together, from a trip, from a holiday, from an event, from mundane and routine activities. Stories nonetheless. Memories of my mother and my father for me are also stories. For me they are a collection of all things that have happened in life that are all Amma or Abi.

If I could I would probably end up filling pages and pages of the different stories that I have in memories of Amma. Stories related to how she was always particular about our studies. Stories of how she always was proud of her husband and her sons. Stories of how she loved remembering her childhood days in Dhaka with her brothers and her parents and other relatives and friends. Stories of  what she was during her college days. Stories of how she used to make the most amazing marble cakes, muffins, sutriyan, badaam kay los (nawaiti mithai for those who are wondering what this is) etc. Stories of how she always wanted all of us to be at our best. Stories of how she would after a lot of negotiations agree to get a picture taken and then how we would have to end up taking several perfectly great shots of her and she would still end up saying ‘Meree pictures sahi nahi aatee – please mat liya karo’ before agreeing on one!

Like all grandparents she adored all her grandchildren. She loved them all to bits and pieces and found no greater joy then to see them and be able to play with them. She would beam with happiness when they were around. I am (my brothers are probably more than me) grateful that she got to see and enjoy her grandchildren. Thoroughly. In fact so much so it was easier to take her pictures with them and get her to like those pictures as well!

I still remember the day that Amma came back from London and surprised me with an iPad that she was fully and completely operating on her own. A happy surprise for me as the ‘mouse’ was her most irritating things about technology and lo and behold here she was using an iPad!

I remember how Amma used to love all her gardens in our army days and even after that as much as possible in Karachi. Gunjrawala was by far her proudest garden and Peshawer too.

I remember how Amma didn’t like the idea of Laika (our dog) but was the most concerned about its well being and care as well.

I remember how Amma would get teased about having all ferozis in her wardrobe (not true entirely but she had quite a few).

I remember how Amma enjoyed her serials (star parivar say lay kar hum tv kay sitaray tak). And how she would always happily corner me or Abbi or my siblings by saying ‘haan tou aap log bhee tou itna interest lay kar dekh rahain hain’. I remember how often I would walk in on Amma seriously discussing some issues on the phone, get concerned and then find out that a character from the play is being discussed! She would often do that with Amani. And a couple of my aunts as well.

I remember how Amma used to love playing chess. The matches she would have with Bhaijan. With me (although I always used to lose I loved playing with her). In the more recent months we started playing scrabble as well. Any time I would score a huge word Amma would say I cheated because I took too long and was trying out too many combinations and the same for her was strategizing (she was cute that way).

I remember how she would light up telling stories from her childhood especially in the company of her mother and siblings.

There are so many things that I remember from our life about Amma and Abbi that they can never end. And that is what I must keep now with myself. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that can ever fill the void of my parents. The memories however will help. They will always remain with me.

The last 4 years were really tough for my mother. First Abbi passed away, then Amani’s health and her passing. And in between all of this my divorce. It was not easy for her. And it pains me that one of those things was unnecessary and linked to me (not my fault perhaps but linked to me nonetheless). The 4-5 months prior to her diagnosis in January however were perhaps the best moments in the last 4 years. The family reunion in Singapore (all grand children, all her children) and then the family reunion in December in Karachi with all children and grand children and almost all nieces and nephews. She loved her family. She loved being around them.

From that family reunion in December till now seems like a nightmare that I am just not being able to get up from. I was there with you, as were my siblings and your siblings. But they would all agree that it all just doesn’t seem real. It hasn’t sunk in and it will take time to sink in. It is beyond understanding and belief of how it just suddenly happened and how fast it happened.

I love you Amma. I love you and I know how much I will miss you. You were my friend, you were my confidant, you were my metaphorical diary (more so in recent years). You were my advisor. You were my greatest support system. I have no words to explain how much of a void that has been created in me with your loss. I take peace in the fact that your pain came to an end. That your suffering did not last long. I know from as much as anyone could from the outside of what you were going through. And for that I am relieved that it is over. I am sad, heart broken that you are not with me anymore. But at peace that you have gone to Allah and that you will InshAllah get a peaceful abode on your journey to the highest points in Jannah. And that you are now with Abbi. Ameen

I said this when my father died and I say it again now. Children are the reflection of their parents. Ammi and Abbi may have passed on but they, their memory will continue to live through us. Through us they will continue to be reflected as the people they were. Amazing, loving, caring people. We cannot stop our loved ones from going. We all must go one day. We can however celebrate them, their life and their memory. 

Of Moral Corruption

I have been mulling over a few incidents that I have come across, heard about or seen in the news with regards to the degradation of the moral fabric of the social setup that we live in. This seems a little more on the forefront now as the incidents are becoming more frequent and glaring in our society and not just incidents of other countries. Ranging from domestic violence to abuse to adultery to murder. Of course the common reader will say that this has been there in Pakistan for a long time – the rural areas will testify to that. And some pockets of urban and semi urban areas. That holding true doesn’t make it any less disturbing. And all said and done it has increased and increased in a way which is making the moral fabric of the society more and more corrupt.

We already face terrorist attacks, target killings, sectarian violence, ethnic violence and religious intolerance. That much is evident in the following:

· We have lost almost 5000 people to terrorist attacks since 2008 pan Pakistan (source: http://tribune.com.pk/story/527016/pakistani-victims-war-on-terror-toll-put-at-49000/)

· Data collected through open sources suggested that some 2,674 people lost their lives in 1,108 incidents of violence across the country from January to April of this year(Source: Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), http://x.dawn.com/2013/05/05/2670-people-killed-in-pakistan-in-four-months/)

· In the last 18 months, 203 incidents of sectarian violence in Pakistan resulted in 1,800 casualties, including 717 deaths, of which 635 were Shia (source: US Commission on International Human Rights,http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C07%5C19%5Cstory_19-7-2013_pg12_1)

· There were at least 1,636 “honor killings” last year, said Pakistani rights group The Aurat Foundation (http://beta.dawn.com/news/777491/pakistani-women-turn-to-once-taboo-divorce-to-escape-abuse)

But these are all things we see and read in the news on a daily basis. So we are tuned into this statistic even if we don’t know it. Post 9/11 terrorism has increased. We have had spates of religious intolerance from time to time. Ethnic clashes are not new.

When husbands and wives start getting murdered by their better halves, or when a man (who is otherwise doing perfectly well in his life) murders his family of 4 and then commits suicide, when there seems to be a level of acceptance at it being ok for someone to break another home (cause of divorce) or even without any influence the number of homes that are broken.  (the rate of divorce has drastically increased in the last decade. In Islamabad alone the number of divorces increased from 208 in 2002 to 557 in 2011). I was note able to gather any statistics online for 2012 / 13 but I know I have heard a lot of cases personally from various sources.

There is an increase in the number of children going astray, leaving basic good values far behind. Recent cases of kids getting involved in shooting/murders of other kids as a result of some bust up (Shahrukh Jatoi, Shahzeb Khan, Hamza Jawad etc) are examples of this. Then there are other things as well – the wonderful parties where everything is magical because they all smoked up, did pot or that miracle drug called ecstasy. Then there are cases of some kids even running away from homes to be with the ‘loves of their lives’.

These are just a few examples and by no means generalize the society at large. But the fact is that these are all different problems pertaining to different people. And they are chewing at the moral fabric of our society. Just yesterday I heard about two cases, almost similar, where the husband was murdered by his wife and her lover.

Even when we talk about the above mentioned national level problems – ethnic violence, religious intolerance etc. The fact remains that as a nation we are seeming inclined towards immunity rather than action. The philosophy in general seems to be ‘Damn this is really bad shit happening. Ok time to go to work’. We are more or less in a state of accepting all that is wrong rather than standing up against it and demanding a change or some sort of action (this for the problems that are happening at national level more so then on an individual scale). The individual level issues demand prayer. And a close look at ourselves.

We are standing dangerously close to losing basic moral fabrics from our social structure and I for one feel very disturbed and at a certain level helpless at this state of affairs. Years from now if this path isn’t changed we will be asked by those future generations ‘What did you do when the decay started?’ and all we would be able to answer ‘We stood and watched as the devil celebrated every moral fibre’s breaking’

Of Silver Linings

I just the movie ‘Silver Linings Playbook’. It’s a good movie. I enjoyed watching it. The healing process of recovering from deep emotional scarring (triggered by a tragedy or a some other hugely negative event in one’s life) after receiving proper therapeutic treatment can be a painful process. I am not discussing the movie or the lives of the characters in the movie. It is just that the movie made me think about a topic that I have often thought about before and written about before as well.

We live in a highly complex and self complicated world. And by we I mean people like you and me: the guy who is writing this blog and the people who are reading it. We are in a highly competitive, cut throat corporate environment. Which is made more difficult because of the economic situations of many countries. Job markets are tough and slim. And unfortunately we have all been reinforced with the need to join the rat race. Our personal lives are also made a little challenging in these times. There is the social status and lifestyle to maintain (and not just the high society types – but like just normal). Relationships with our family, friends and significant others have become more challenging in the face of an extremely pacey and concrete world. We are a part of the 99 club (the story of getting 99 gold coins which is more than enough for you but because you want that elusive 1 more gold which will take you to a 100 gold coins hence you aren’t content). So we are constantly striving for that bit more. I think we complicate things for ourselves by thinking of what will make us happy in the future instead of coming to terms with what we have in the here and now. We need to first focus on making our present situation happy and then move on to making the future happy. If we remain unhappy with our present situation and try to make a happy future well that’s just the wrong sentiment to start out with. Also to add to that we have to let go of our past. Regardless of whether the past was good or bad or positive or negative, we have to let go of it because it was the past. Whatever it was is gone and part of history and will not do anything for the present situation and circumstances. Again the focus needs to be on the present, the here and now.

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We can’t always just keep looking in the clouds to find the silver linings in our situations. Sometimes you just have to take it into your own hands to create your own silver lining. You have to create the positives in your present life. The drive needs to come from within. The will to be happy in the present needs to come within. It can’t of course be forced upon you by someone else. And you can’t just wait for it to suddenly fall into your lap. Don’t wait for the feeling to come to you. Go grab that feeling in whatever direction you need to go to in order to do this.

Now I am not saying that there are sometimes situations in which we are at times helpless. Of course there can be certain instances in life which are out of your control. But that can’t be a permanent state. ‘This too shall pass’ is a good dictum to remember in such cases. But we don’t. We complicate things for ourselves and in the process probably complicate for our loved ones as well.

Therapy of any kind is not a bad thing for such out of our control circumstances. In the circumstances that the current world order is in than most average people could do with some sort of outlet. Or some sort of method by which they can reconcile on a personal and emotional level. Some find that reconciliation in venting out and what better source than to do it with a therapist who is going to be neutral and isn’t attached to your social circles. For some people its working out. Music. Writing. Sports. Aggressive sports (boxing, karate etc.) Therapy doesn’t have to narrowed down to laying on a long couch and having a shrink listening to you. That is one form of therapy. Therapy is anything that can help ease your mind and help you reconcile with yourself on a personal level. Reconciliation doesn’t necessarily mean coming to terms with life situations or accepting a decision or an event. Sometimes it is just about letting it get absorbed in your system. Letting it sink in, gently.