Going back home will never be the same…

Originally written for: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/going-back-home-will-never-be-the-same-1.1267375

My head is bent low over my phone, and I am totally absorbed as my fingers nimbly tap the screen with a definite sense of purpose. I look busy; indeed it would be easy to (mistakenly) think that I am in fact the CEO of a large corporation. Of course I am faking it. There’s no one I am chatting to, and absolutely no one that I am emailing at this time of the evening. Yet, what else can I do to inconspicuously merge with the decor at this woebegone party where I feel about as comfortable as a ballet dancer on a football pitch? Thank God for internet and for smartphones!

Soon enough though, a long lost cousin wanders up to my chair, the chair that I have carefully chosen which is to the extreme left of the hall, hidden behind a large table. My attempts at blending with the decor do not appear to be working particularly well and I pretend to be delighted as we catch up. I steal an anxious glance at my phone but remain resolutely polite. She finally walks away and I breathe out.

So you’ve probably guessed that I’m not quite the party animal, to put it mildly. When we go home for the holidays, I find that there are parties to attend left, right and centre. Everyone who was single is getting married, those that got married last year are going to have a baby, and those that aren’t celebrating something decide to throw a party for no particular reason except sheer boredom. That means yours truly must attend parties, armed with the right gifts, and smile till the cheeks hurt and know just what to say to the million relatives and acquaintances omnipresent in such places.

I am usually squirming in discomfort at social gatherings, but the fact that they eat up valuable vacation time when I go back home annoys me. My main reason for travelling to Karachi is to meet my dad, my sister and her family, and my inlaws too. I do sometimes go on shopping excursions as well (persuaded by said sister), but the fact that I truly and sincerely hate shopping hardly helps. This time, as I get ready for a short trip back home, I am hoping to spend some quality time with the family.

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Bringing back memories

There is of course another thing about my hometown that attracts me.

The house. The big old rambling house that I grew up in, the place that has always felt like home, for as far back as I can remember. Each room reminds me of countless anecdotes and stories growing up and the old mosaic floors and the big desktop computer look as though they belong to another era. Yet no place in the world could be as cozy as this unique haven of security. But this time, by a strange twist of fate, I won’t be visiting the house.

My father, now being the only occupant of the once full house decided to sell it. He now lives in a much smaller, but far more manageable house and I can no longer walk into ‘my room’ and feel 16 again. One thing about the house was that you could practically feel mum everywhere — the curtains, the furniture, the kitchen, even the crockery would remind one incessantly of mum. It feels as though a great chunk of bittersweet memories have gone away with the house.

I wonder if the new place will feel anything like home. It has been a few months since the house has been sold off, yet whenever I dream about mum, or about the family, I invariably find myself in the old house. It is weird because the place doesn’t even belong to us anymore. Between the parties and family time, I wonder if I’ll have time to just drive over to the old place and gaze at the huge, ancient tamarind tree that hides the facade of the structure. I hope the people who live there now realise what a special place it is.

PS: For more on the house, and for its photos, click here: https://mehmudahrehman.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/d8-i-miss-you/

Flowers in Dubai

Hey All!

I hope life’s been treating you well. The Dubai Miracle Garden opened recently to visitors. It is a pretty amazing place and has more flowers than I have ever seen in one place! My pics don’t really do justice, but I hope you like them all the same.

-Mehmudah

Lots of people... lots of flowers

Lots of people… lots of flowers

 

 

Ask dusk approached, I thought I'd try and get a silhouette

Ask dusk approached, I thought I’d try and get a silhouette

 

 

I liked this one though. Simple things are often the best.

I liked this one though. Simple things are often the best.

 

 

With a point and shoot and bad light, this wasn't a particularly easy pic to take. It's not as good as I would have liked but it's a start :)

With a point and shoot and bad light, this wasn’t a particularly easy pic to take. It’s not as good as I would have liked but it’s a start :)

 

 

There were lots of flowered things.. a clock, a car, a house (this one) and many other things made of flowers. I was in a bad mood that day and feeling sick too. Plus it was nearly twilight so my camera suffered.

There were lots of flowered things.. a clock, a car, a house (this one) and many other things made of flowers. I was in a bad mood that day and feeling sick too. Plus it was nearly twilight and we left quickly… so not many pics…

 

I realize I am being apologetic about my pictures lol! I love this photo :)

I realize I am being apologetic about my pictures lol! I love this photo :)

 

 

I don't really like this one (various reasons) but I'm uploading it to show you the amount of flowers...

I don’t really like this one (various reasons) but I’m uploading it to show you the amount of flowers.

 

 

The park was nicely structured..

The park was nicely structured.

 

 

Sea of flowers... good weather too :)

Sea of flowers… good weather too :)

For more information: http://www.dubaimiraclegarden.com

At Khorfakkan, UAE

Khorfakkan has a gorgeous beach and the boat ride’s lovely too.  I hope you like the photos!

Where the mountains meet the sea

Where the mountains meet the sea

The island at Khorfakkan

The island at Khorfakkan

So lovely when the water touches my toes...

So lovely when the water touches my toes…

I added a bit of drama to the sky...

I added a bit of drama to the sky…

Yes, I edited this a bit...

At the beach

The metro and my thoughts

Hey All!

Apologies for the unannounced hiatus. I’ve been busy with exams. Just a quick one to share iPhone photos of the metro (Instagrammed, yeah!)

Hope you like them.

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Oh by the way, were you wondering why I called this post “The metro and my thoughts”? Because public transport is a great place for getting your thoughts together. And if the ride is long, it’s great for clearing out your email inbox too. Trust me on this one, lol.

Flames

At the moment, anywhere you look you find flame trees in full bloom. It’s a beautiful sight. Below are some pics of the same. :)

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Bursting into a riot of colour!

New beginnings

New beginnings

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When bloom and bud live peacefully together.

Patch of blue sky

Patch of blue sky

A wall of orange.

A wall of orange.

 

Oatmeal Cookies. You devil.

They’re yummy, they’re healthy (well, kinda), they take as little as 10 minutes to prepare, and the kids love them! And they’re perfect for school snack boxes and they will be ‘allowed’ (don’t ask, my kids can’t take anything remotely resembling junk food)! So why don’t I make them more often?

Crumbly, melt in the mouth, aromatic...

Crumbly, melt in the mouth, aromatic…

Top 5 reasons why I don’t bake oatmeal cookies more often.

1. Time. Who has the time? Between school runs, homework sessions where I basically pull at my hair, and studies (my own), can I actually find time to do (unnecessary) recreational baking? Yeah, maybe once in a while. But I’d much rather get dinner ready, know what I mean?

2. I end up eating a few… not a great idea! When you have a jar of fresh, warm, home-baked cookies on the premises, it gets just that bit harder to resist.

3. Lazy? When I finally get some time, I don’t want to go in the kitchen. I could read, write or simply play with the girls.

4. I don’t have any more cinnamon powder. Ha! Yeah, this is easily rectifiable, but until I grind some cinnamon (I’m not crazy about the store-bought variety) I have a perfect excuse! :)

5. I have to study! Currently I am doing the following:

S- Sleeping

T- Talking

U- Unlimited texting

D- Daydreaming

Y- Yawning.

I gotta get the act together. Right after I finish this blog post. Er.

cookies2

PS: My point and shoot canon with a big lens (Powershot sx30is, the very baby which has taken all pics on this blog) is not great with indoor light. I’d love a Canon EOS DSLR for such days. Someday… :)

PPS: If you want to bake them, this recipe is nice, but I don’t follow it exactly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4_X2qwLpqk

Dubai: the lesser known side

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building, and seen the pics in the Burj Series on my blog.

And you saw the architecture at Souk Madinat Jumeirah as well.

Heck, I even brought you the beaches!

It’s now time to see some greenery! Enjoy! :)

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Yes, some of these are edited and stuff, but a photographer is an artist. It’s a mixture of composition, perspective and feeling. Hope you liked the photos. Do let me know what you think.

-Mehmudah

UAE children need more outdoor play

This was originally written for Gulf News “The Views”

http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/uae-children-need-more-outdoor-play-1.1162568

(Image by Gulf News)

The small park near my house is filled with children, laughing, playing and running around. It is a beautiful sight — there’s a game of hide-and-seek going on in the play area, children are taking turns on the push swing and some others are finding their way up the challenging climbing frames. Adults supervise and encourage their young ones and as I observe them, I see a small child run to his mother to show a freshly acquired bruise. The mother offers a little kiss and some sympathy and the child runs away once more with the wind rushing through his hair. A steady breeze is blowing and the sky is filled with clouds. The weather is pleasant and the playground is bustling with activity. But as the sweltering summer months approach, one wonders if the children will still get as much of a chance to play outdoors. Research suggests that children in the UAE do not get adequate outdoor play time.

A first-of-its-kind research in the UAE, the Fun City Children’s Play Index (carried out by Landmark Leisure) is based on a survey conducted between July and September 2012. The data was collected from 400 mothers from different nationalities with children in the age group of 2-12 years residing in different emirates of the UAE. It was determined that on an average week day, children in the UAE spend less than an hour engaging in outdoor activity. This time increases to 1.5 hours during the weekend. Close to a quarter (26 per cent) of the children in the UAE spend an average of three hours a day on an activity involving interaction with technology: TV, video games, internet games. One in five (20 per cent) children spends more than four hours on an average watching TV each day.

Along with the conventional toys, every child has at least one Xbox, PS3 or some hand-held video game in their toy box, thus increasing the need to spend more time indoors. The study also shows 58 per cent of children spend their time playing indoor games as compared to 29 per cent who spend their play time outdoors, while 12 per cent also engage in learning or playing an outdoor sport.

Child development experts believe that for the desired physical development, a child must engage in outdoor play for at least one hour a day. Furthermore, experts suggest that the outdoors are the ideal place for children to be themselves, to explore, to experiment, to move and make the most of the opportunities offered in a less-restricted manner. Chances for developing social skills with peers are also ample, as is space, for running around, cycling, roller-blading and for simply breathing in fresh air.

Dr Stuart Brown, founder and president of the National Institute for Play in the US and the author of Play, How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul”, writes that there is a direct connection between play deficiencies and some frightening public health and social trends: Tragic statistics for obesity, (a growing problem in the UAE), 4.5 million children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an increase in childhood depression and classroom behavioural problems involving violence and an inability to interact well with peers. Physical activity is known to lessen the symptoms of mild attention deficit disorder and is associated with much lower incidences of childhood obesity. Active kids are also more facile intellectually and perform better academically in the long term.

Dr Sandra Willis, co-owner and director of Inspire Children’s Nursery in Dubai believes that weather conditions in the UAE are not the main reason behind the lower index of outdoor play and that the weather is not as harsh as it is made out to be. “We are lucky to have eight months of suitable weather, providing children ample opportunities of outdoor play,” she says. She does, however, feel that one of the main reasons why children do not get enough chances to play outdoors is lack of community parks and spaces. Besides, she feels that an expat community is forever fluid and social relationships amongst children can sometimes suffer because of that. As parents and educators, we need to foster and encourage outdoor play, she says.

Asma Maladwala, co-owner and founder at the same nursery, believes that the best way to help children get more time outdoors is for the parents to join them, encourage them and play with them. “Go to the beach with your children, splash around and make a sand castle,” she says. Maladwala also speaks about how a child and parent playing together can bond in a beautiful way. She explains: “A child playing outside may not necessarily convey his or her fears and feelings, yet the parents can understand their child so much better by just playing with them.”

She certainly has a point. For, with a place that offers so much sunshine, we are definitely in a better position to help our children explore the outdoors, rather than, say, someone living in a place where it is bitterly cold, dark and gloomy 24 hours a day!

What this blog means to me…

Reflections ... about the blog

Reflections … about the blog

 

This blog knows me better than most people do. If WordPress were a person, it would know yours`truly very well — the person I try my best to keep shrouded from the prying eyes of the world.

There have been times when I have written blog posts teary-eyed, times when I have been intensely involved with producing ‘the right picture’, days when I write it all out, only to save it (and later delete) in the drafts section. Days when I feel like the blog embodies everything that matters to me, days when I feel like it’s all been a failure.

This blog shared the moments of unbearable pain and unbelievable ecstasy, knew of the thoughts that occupied my mind as I couldn’t sleep. And you know one of the reasons why this blog is so important to me? Because of YOU.

Yeah, you. You who read the blog, liked it, shared it, appreciated it. You guys, who came from 147 countries in the world and made it all seem worthwhile. So thanks, from the bottom of my heart. 2012 has been better stats-wise than the last, but hopefully the blog and I can grow together some more. In Shaa Allah.

Oh and lastly… Some things that happened in the recent past have made me very aware of what I write up here. Have some of you (older followers) noticed that I no longer pour my heart out here as I used to? Perhaps the personality that this site had in the early days, when every hit had me reeling with excitement (lol!) is no longer there. I hope to inject that personality back somehow… yet I have now learnt, it probably isn’t the best idea to open up so much without a pseudonym; it can make one very vulnerable.

Wishing you all the best for 2013,

 

Mehmudah