Hajj memories

Actual unedited photos from Hajj 2018

As the last month of the lunar calendar Zil Hajj, the month of the pilgrimage approaches us, my mind travels back to the year 2018. That year that we still knew nothing about Covid, when the ‘old normal’ was the ‘normal’ and when crowds thronged the lands of Hejaz and worshippers from around the world gathered at Mecca and it’s adjoining sites to perform Hajj.

That year had been tumultuous for me, to say the least. Earlier that year I had been dangerously close to falling into depression – I remember seeking guidance and direction and I remember going down an unfortunate spiral of sadness. Then, out of the blue, and at the very last moment, unexpectedly, our Hajj requests got approved and I realized that I would be going for a pilgrimage. As the news sunk in and I began preparing cautiously for Hajj, hardly daring to believe it, I knew one thing. If it actually happened, it would be a dream come true.

I had embarked on that journey broken, disinterested in life, and having lost that spark that people have come to associate with me. But there is something inexplicable, something magical about taking that journey, that tells you are still good enough, that you still matter – that the world is still good enough to give it another go. It was through those 15 days that I learnt to believe in myself again, that I decided I was going to fight the odds as best as I could.

The closeness that one feels with the Almighty there is unparalleled, being in front of Allah’s house, witnessing what the Prophets before us witnessed and praying and walking in the same places that they had – is not an experience to be taken lightly. Allah’s greatness is evident as close to two million people united as one declare ‘Labbayk Allahumma Labbyak’ which means “Here I am Oh Allah” and perform the rituals of Hajj hoping for forgiveness and salvation.

It moves the hardest of hearts and the realization of how wrong one has been and that it is time to now put things right becomes as clear as day. Through those precious days and nights I began to realize the fact that at the end of the day, what really matters is my relationship with Allah, and that one day I would return to Him.

I gradually got my mojo back, and through that journey Allah blessed me to find some amazing people who are still very close to my heart. There is something about spending a night under the stars in your Ihram and being vulnerable and disheveled – you can’t not befriend the people who support you through this. There’s a certain unity – Allah unites the hearts as you spend those special Mina nights alongside each other in a camp and wake up for Fajr together.

It was one such night that for me, remains unforgettable. So as I lay in my sofa bed in the dark, with close to 40 women in the same tent lined up on the floor next to me I looked around the tent in the darkness and wondered, “What would death be like? How snug would the qabar (grave) be? Would it be dark?” The sofa bed was snug, a little too snug, it barely fit the dimensions of my body and turning on my side was a challenge. The AC in the tent felt a little too cold but of course I couldn’t tinker with it. I took a deep breath and decided to leave the tent.

They say that the holy cities never sleep and I am delighted to say that as I walked outside the tent with my pocket Quran there was the usual hustle and bustle of people which immediately made me comfortable. While it was certainly more quiet than it would typically be at day-time, I decided to prolong my walk (even though I wasn’t carrying my bag or my phone) and wandered outside the tents’ enclosure on to the streets of Mina.

There were no cars allowed there so it seemed like a nice safe place to walk, and while it was a bit quiet, you could see people and families walking back to their tents or in transit. Lost in my thoughts I began walking while trying to remember exactly where the entrance to our enclosure was. Every single enclosure looks the same – one must be really good at navigating oneself back to Point A, or one must have a Maps app, and one must remember the numbers. Remembering the numbers is essential!

Mina, the city of tents

As expected, I had none of the above and as I meandered across the streets of Mina at 2 am I thought I shouldn’t stray too far and decided to sit on the footpath. I leaned against the wall and pulled my pocket Quran and began reading softly to myself. In that one moment, I felt more fulfilled than I ever had – I just wished the night could go on forever. Alas, I had just been reciting a few minutes when a man walked up to me and handed me a bag of food. Being interrupted from my recitation I didn’t realize what he wanted and I looked closely at the plastic bag containing a foil container (presumably biryani) some bread and juice. I looked askance at him until I realized – he was offering me charity!

When a woman is sitting on a footpath at 2 am, all alone, in attire that is dusty and scruffy one might assume she is homeless or begging or both. I probably came across as a more dignified beggar – I wasn’t even actively begging – I was just reciting the Quran so God-fearing individuals would pay heed and cough up cash. This realization dawned on me at long last and I couldn’t help laughing. I refused the food ever so politely and got up rather self-consciously from the sidewalk and dusted my clothes and cleaned my shoes. It was an embarrassed laugh, but the incident had amused me greatly and certainly brought me out of my reverie. I decided to head home lest another Good Samaritan find me and offer alms!

This part I was dreading a little bit – I am known to use Google Maps for the most obvious locations. Thankfully after some trial and error I found my way back to our enclosure – nearly ended up at the wrong one but I was safely back in my bunk which started feeling a lot more comfortable as I drifted off into a restful sleep.

Finding the way back without any major mishap was lucky and I should probably have been more careful. A visual marker of some type is beneficial – that’s where the big garbage is – something like that. But because everything in Mina looks the same, visual markers are hard to come by. Few could one up my Dad who actually kept a CLOUD as his visual marker. Yes, I’m serious. When climbing the Mount of Mercy (Jabal e Rahmat) in the plain of Arafah my Dad ascended from ‘under the big weird-looking cloud’ and once at the summit, he wanted to descend from the big, weird looking cloud – which unfortunately, had deserted him! His story of how he got lost (and somehow found) is a far more interesting recount than mine, but that dear friends, is for another time.

As I sign off, I make sincere dua for the pilgrims performing Hajj this year that may they find peace, salvation, forgiveness and closeness to Allah in this blessed journey and may their pilgrimage be accepted. And those that desire to perform the pilgrimage, Allah makes ways and means for them to do so. And I pray that my Hajj, crazy as it was, with all its adventures, somehow got accepted too. Wassalam!

And I complain about my tent…

What makes laughter a great medicine

Originally written for: https://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-the-cuff/what-makes-laughter-a-great-medicine-1.80117323 25.06.21

I recently came across the book “The How of Happiness” in which the author Sonja Lyubomirsky presents scientific arguments and research on how to get and remain happier. A number of different studies quoted in the book show that our personal circumstances only account for about 10% of our happiness.

Yes, that means that the coveted job we’re after, that perfect partner or even winning the lottery would in essence make us only about 10% happier in the grand scheme of things. So where does happiness lie? According to Lyubomirsky 50% depends on our genes but that still leaves another 40% and that, she argues, depends on what we do and what we think. That aligns with my belief too — that happiness lies deep within and that our actions and thoughts make a huge difference in how happy we are. While she doesn’t give research on how humour helps with happiness, I personally feel laughter has a lot to do with how we feel.

I’m not sure how and when I began being known as the ‘class clown’ — but somehow the title has stuck and for a good few years now. I have a strong urge to break the monotony of lectures (or boring work meetings) and provide some kind of comic relief, much to the dismay of my professors/well-meaning colleagues, who by the end of the year have usually given up on me. They say what goes around comes around and sometimes, in my sessions as a trainer, I come across students that say and do the same (inappropriate) things that I would do as a student/trainee. In spite of myself I can’t help laughing and secretly applauding their guts.

It was quite early on in life that I realised that I loved laughing, and that I had an equally wonderful time making others laugh. I longed to be able to write material that gave people some kind of mirth, some kind of joy. I’ve been extremely lucky with mentors, editors and opportunities and over the years humour has become one of the genres I experiment with.

I always thought this part of me was just a silly side of me — unimportant — not really essential to who I was. It took the steam off from days that felt like pressure cookers but surely, it did not matter, or really make any kind of difference, right? The analytical, logical side, the hidden nerd that loved reading and studying, the woman of principle, the listener who wanted to be compassionate — that’s who I really was, right?

I’m starting to realise that the advice given to friends under a pile of self-deprecating jokes was particularly well received and I felt more like myself when I was laughing or trying to make others laugh. The literature that made people smile was read far more than the most serious, analytical piece I could write and the dark, satirical humour I wrote on my personal issues helped me perhaps a tad bit more than the sob-fests (which by the way I also write). Equally telling is how I would naturally gravitate towards a chuckle-inducing PG Wodehouse book than say, a serious war novel.

So, what’s the point of this whole piece? Let me just say that when life happens — being the comic is actually my relief. Yes, there are times when laughter just doesn’t cut it and sadness and tears are necessary for a complete human experience. When I hit rock bottom and I’m done processing the pain I’m feeling, the easiest way to get back up is to laugh once more.

As long as humour is in good taste and doesn’t violate the more important principles of empathy and compassion (towards self or others), for me it truly is a way out. When I’m able to crack a joke about a seemingly hopeless situation it isn’t just a silly, unimportant side of me. It’s that quintessential part of me that finds joy in the bleakest of moments and can (hopefully) spread it too.

That fateful cleanup

Originally written for: https://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-the-cuff/that-fateful-cleanup-1.77787339
Published 13.03.21

cupbord cleaning
Image credit: Shutterstock via Gulfnews.com

When I first read the following lines by Arthur Weasley (Ron’s Dad in Harry P, remember?) “Ah, yes, I collect plugs,” I was a teenager. I had smiled about it and thought “How cute.”

Molly Weasley’s husband is as different from mine as possible, but the boys have a shared love of plugs. In fact, mine has one-upped Weasley by a fair margin. He not only collects plugs, he collects wires (all colours, shapes and sizes) tools, voltmeters, solar panels, old car batteries, bulbs, inverters, electrical tape, nuts and bolts and everything in that zone that you can possibly imagine. I live in a workshop, or you could even call it a solar plant. We produce our own solar energy and someone in our family firmly believes that electrical wires add a great deal to aesthetics. Our storage areas are also packed with random power-packed devices that can blow, cut or weld, and that’s not all. We regularly receive innocuous looking packages from Amazon and even from China, because, guess what — we don’t have enough wires, bulbs and plugs.

Any empty drawer in our house seems to grow wires and it’s cronies — I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve opened a cupboard that wasn’t assigned to something in particular with the intention of keeping something in it and found that our never ending supply of plugs and co had overflowed and encroached upon that empty space too. I should add that the scientist in charge of these materials is a genius, a busy man, who couldn’t care less about how materials are kept. I mean if we can produce solar energy at home, surely, the mess shouldn’t matter right? Umm … Well, you know …

I used to be (notice the past tense?) a neat freak, someone who looked at jumbled up cables and felt nauseous. Not ideal, as you can imagine. There was this one time that I decided to ‘clean up’ one very important cupboard that belongs to my husband. Upon opening his treasure chest, I just stood staring at it for a few minutes and when I came to, I had a big garbage bag in my hand. This incident is not pretty. If you love wires, please look away.

I felt a warm sense of fulfilment and peace wash over me as I retrieved tired-looking wires, bulbs with broken filaments and tools that looked useless to me and tossed them. I found so much dirt and dust I thought I was cleaning up mini sand dunes, and lo and behold — after a full day of hard work, the cupboard looked clean. There were wires sitting nicely (UNJUMBLED!) on the shelves and devices and machinery without a speck of dust (Martha Stewart would be proud) and of course why would one need two screwdrivers of the same kind if one would suffice? Minimalists could write essays on how wonderfully I downsized his cupboard. I remained mum about this feat when I met him later that day but every time I passed by the cupboard I would give it a loving, secret look and open it up and smile while waving my arms as though to say “Here you go!” I think I might have chicken-danced at some point too.

A few days later …

“Who messed my cupboard?” he asks, while rummaging through his stuff.

“MESSED? Are you serious?” I respond incredulously, finally hoping to get due acknowledgement.

“DID SOMEONE THROW MY OLD TOOLBOX?” He says in a voice that gets ever more menacing.

“You mean helped you cleanse your mind and life of clutter as you embrace a more minimalistic life?” I say weakly.

I can’t tell you what happened next because I have feeling my editor will not allow swear words. The above happened many years ago, but its echoes have been far-reaching. We’ve spoken (read: argued) about my ‘cleaning’ many times — especially when something’s gone missing. As a result I now have selective vision that automatically blurs out the wires. Somewhere along the line, however, we learnt (nah, still learning) what compromise actually means and maybe the wires (and the man who works with them) — are cute after all!

Of a man called Listen

Originally written for https://gulfnews.com/opinion/of-a-man-called-listen-1.76800751

Published 30.1.21

Image Credit: Pexels

“Umm, Listen!” I say, and my voice rings across the grocery store. Ten people look at me and I recoil with embarrassment. I look at my shoes instead — the person I am trying to reach seems far from interested. He is busy exploring the car accessories aisle while I am dealing with a shopping trolley and a toddler who thinks that the fruit yoghurt in the cart should be eaten right now. Frustrated, I try again. “Can you hold the baby, please? Listen? LISTEEEENNNN?”

Listen (AKA the husband) walks gingerly towards me, annoyed at being pulled away from all things cars and picks up the baby while I clean her up. That was us, some 10 years ago. I belong to a very traditional family, deeply rooted in desi, Pakistani culture and in my family, none of the women call their husbands by name. In his absence, the husband is referred to simply as ‘Him’ and in his presence he is called either ‘Listen’ or ‘Munnay kay Abba’ (Dad of my child).

Both my parents called each other Listen. In addition my Dad had some very amusing nicknames for my Mom, including Peahen, which indicated that he was the peacock. So naturally, when I got married, I too decided that the husband was going to be called Listen. I ended up giving him numerous nicknames too, most of them the kind I wouldn’t use in public. So in parks, groceries and with our extended family, he was Listen, and I, the shy, Eastern wife.

My children called him Baba, and then unconsciously I began calling him Baba too. It was easier to use than Listen (random people in grocery stores wouldn’t answer) and it was more acceptable publicly than my nicknames for him. All went well until one day he turned to me and said “But I’m not YOUR Baba!” I thought the guy had a point. But by then I had gotten so used to calling him Baba that I thought a derivative of it would work fine. So, I decided to call my husband Bob. I tend to play with names (I think the readers get that by now) — so Bob quickly turned to Bob-Zilla and Bob-Zola.

Now I should tell you that my husband looks nothing like a typical Bob should so while this nickname stuck for a bit, it didn’t suit him at all, and the person who noticed it most was my dear Father-in-law who was visiting. “You named my son Bob?” he asked serious, incredulous, and amused, all at the same time. “Could you not choose a more appropriate name?” he asked. Out of respect for my wonderful in-laws I dropped the Bob — and just began calling my husband Zola. As I have mentioned above, the full version was Bob-Zola, but now due to circumstances, only the Zola part became useful.

My predicament with the name doesn’t end here. The Zola (as he was referred to in those days) refused to appreciate my depth and creativity with nicknames. “ZOLA? Like seriously?” he said. It was only after this that I gave up and used his actual name to refer to him. When that happened he looked at me askance and said, “Oh, so you now call me by name? I mean, there’s no warmth or personalisation there.” I had let go of the pretence of the shy Eastern wife and it was then and there I decided that I would use his name.

As we finish over a decade and a half by each other’s sides today, I’m recalling all the fun times, the crazy names and most importantly, the companionship that we’ve been blessed with. We’ve both failed miserably at times, but the standout feature has been the vulnerability and the resilience of our relationship.

One of my long standing issues has been perfectionism and I’ve learnt that more than anyone else I will make mistakes in relationships — but I’m still worthy and lovable. I’ve learnt to be self-accountable, not self-critical — knowing the difference between the two is essential. I’m working on developing the courage to dust myself off after every setback, know that I messed up and still say sorry and not hate the ground I walk upon. I have to say that the Zola, or Bob, or Him has been just — phenomenal.

Anxious men in the passenger seat

wife driving

Originally written for Gulf News “Off the Cuff” http://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-cuff/anxious-men-in-the-passenger-seat-1.1871220

There are certain things you remember about your childhood that were an integral part of growing up. For me, one such thing was that funny little tomato-red Daihatsu Charade that we once owned. The car was a 1985 model that Dad had purchased refurbished, which meant we became its owners some 10 years after it was born.

It made funny noises when you drove it (stick-shift) and the trunk closed with an earth-shattering jolt. Pulling the windows up and down was good exercise for the biceps and if you got lucky, the air conditioner would sometimes work. This strange object, however, came in handy when I wanted to learn to drive.

After a few lessons of the basics, I decided to take my parents out for a ride. Bad idea, I know. Dad was a bundle of nerves as I took the car outside the gate, and he covered his face with his hands. A car sped along in the opposite direction and he jumped. “Can’t you see that car?” he said frantically. “We are on the other side Papa, please relax,” I told him.

Mum murmured in agreement from the back seat. Dad ground his teeth. I tried to laugh valiantly but found this first ride with him distinctly confidence-draining as I tried to reassure him that everything would be fine.

We were driving along the main road happily and I could sense him relaxing just a tiny bit. It was almost as though he had resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t look up much and we would all make it home in one piece. I was pleased that he wasn’t quite as excited as before and things started to get a little more pleasant. We finally turned home and as everything had gone well without any trouble whatsoever, I decided this was my time to speak. “Well, I’m quite okay driving, aren’t I? Look at you guys, you don’t trust me at all!”

Dad almost looked sorry and he was about to say something, but I’ll never know what it was because at that precise moment I banged the rear of the car while reversing into our unopened front gate, which I had presumed was open. Typical. Dad felt vindicated and the “I told you so” lecture that followed was positively grating. Fast forward a few years and I drive every day, sometimes for long distances. It has become second nature. I would even say that I enjoy it (minus the traffic, of course) and ferrying the girls around town is part of my job description. Yet, my husband recoils with apprehension every time he sits with me in the passenger seat.

We are driving to the airport to drop him off. “Change lanes, we need to take the next exit,” he says. I roll my eyes. “Thanks, but I kind of know the way,” I respond coolly. He shrugs. When I finally do change lanes he shakes his head in despair and wonders how much to say because he is travelling after all and making up over the phone might prove a little tricky. He (wisely) restrains himself from speaking about the details of my lane-changing abilities, but I notice from the corner of my eye, he looks extremely stressed. I don’t know about you, but the men in my life generally hyperventilate when I’m driving.

I enjoy speeding every now and then (the engine roar is so satisfying) but sadly my husband doesn’t agree. “No wonder the fuel costs as much as it does and do you realise how unsafe this is?” he says pointedly as I let it rip. I slow down because we need to pick up something on the way and the only parking available near the grocery store is parallel. Herein lies my real test. I take a deep breath and try it — five times out of ten I manage to do it and at other times, the car just doesn’t seem to obey. Sadly, this time the car ends up jutting out at a strange angle and he smiles vindictively. “You bribed them to pass your driving test, didn’t you?” He breathes easy and I scowl. He picks up the grocery and then knocks at my window. “I’m driving,” he tells me.

The man who looked completely distraught moments ago is now happy and relaxed and shows the girls how we take off in an aeroplane by going full throttle and making the engine thunder. My eyebrows almost disappear into my hairline. It’s nostalgic. I remember that red Charade and Dad. I smile wryly. Until he learns to relax in the passenger seat, I really don’t mind being chauffeured around by my man, especially if there’s parallel parking around.


5 points on why ice-skating = mortification!

I am NEVER ice-skating again. Okay maybe I am. It was fun (despite my jelly legs) and I have a big ugly bruise on my knee to show for my efforts.


Image via source

Five things that happened, that you should know about.

1. DH (who skates fairly well) says bend your knee and give yourself a push. I bend my knee and push myself (and go WHAM on the ice on said knee). Cannot get up because the ice is too slippery. DH says get up already. I say I am applying ice to the knee. (I know, genius comment right?) Finally get up to concerned stares from random skaters.

2. My older one was also on the ice-rink for the first time and did FAR better than your’s truly. Younger one and me were neck and neck on who did worse.

3. If you didn’t excel at something as a kid chances are you will be pathetic at it when older. I was never good at any type of skating as a kid. (Roller-blading, skateboards, they were all beyond me when I was a kid).

4. I know how it feels to lie down straight on the ice. Yes, the next time I fell, I just lay down as though I was in bed. Then sat then got up gingerly and almost fell again.

5. It is possible to sweat profusely out of embarrassment and haplessness even if you are on a floor made exclusively of ice.

But I still think I’d give it another go if I had the chance. I would give it another shot after watching many YouTube videos and reading articles on ice-skating. And I would spin circles around DH with my perfect flair and balance. Mental images of myself gliding along the ice, looking at him patronizingly put a smile on my face.

(Wakes up from pleasant daydream).

Can you skate well? Are first ice-skating experiences always this bad? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Forgettable swimming lessons

Originally published in Gulf News ‘Off the Cuff’ on April the 23rd. Late upload on WordPress. My bad. 



Image for illustrative purposes only. Via: http://www.bourneoutdoorswimmingpool.org/


If I weren’t human, I would have liked to be a bird, because the idea of flying attracts me immensely. If the avian species would have refused to accept me in their ranks, I would have gladly been a fish. That’s because I love to swim. As a child, swimming was one of the few things I excelled at and so, when she seemed to ready to learn, I decided to teach my six-year-old daughter how to swim. (I know, I know, we all make mistakes).

I imagined we would have a lovely time in the water together, and I would be able to give my girls (ages six and three) some quality time and undivided attention, and most importantly be able to have some fun with them. It’s pretty ironic how things never turn out as we presume they will. When I mentioned I was going to give our daughter swimming lessons, the better half suggested we get a professional to teach her, since children sometimes learn better with people other than their parents. I rubbished the idea dismissively.

“Oh no! There’s no way I’m going to pay for those lessons when I can teach her myself!” I said. He shrugged as though to suggest he wasn’t quite convinced.

As we walked to the pool dressed in our costumes, with the older one wearing her shiny new goggles and swim-cap, and the younger one with the floats securely fastened, I felt like an accomplished and impressive parent.

Alas, the feeling lasted all of five minutes. After about 30 exasperating minutes of trying to get her to hold her breath, all three of us were hardly in the best of spirits. I decided to give it a break, swam some laps and watched the girls play in the water in the shallow side of the pool. Later in the day I heard her telling her father, “Baba, Mum told me stop breathing! Can you imagine that!” He bit back a chortle as I said, “It was just the first lesson!”

Sadly we fared worse in the second lesson as I, being the short-tempered person I am, lost my patience a little. “Mum, I’m not talking to you,” she said, as she gladly splashed in the water with her sister on the shallow side, and I swam a few laps by myself. During the third (and final) lesson, I decided to be all patience and kindness, and promised myself that I would not let anything get to me. I was glad to see we were finally making a little bit of progress!

Swallowing water

She agreed to put her head in the water and managed to count to ten, but drew a line when I suggested she kick her feet as well. I thought to myself “Well, at least we’re getting somewhere!” but she soon came to the surface sputtering and flaying her arms, and said, “I swallowed water!” I decided not to teach anymore and as though to add to my troubles, the younger one looked at me, beamed as though she had achieved something special and said, “Mummy, I peed in the pool!”

The lessons hadn’t at all gone as I had imagined and he had, for the umpteenth time, been right. As we paid up the next day to get her some swimming lessons, he laughed a laugh that sounded vaguely like “I told you so.”

A day later I watched (somewhat bewildered) as my daughter obliged willingly to every instruction the teacher gave and later the instructor gushed to me, “What a cooperative little girl you have. Such a delight to teach!”

I tried not to roll my eyes and smiled affably. I suppose there are other ways of giving the children ‘quality time’!


Salon calling

I have a bit of a history with beauty salons. I have super-sensitive skin which makes treatments such as waxing and threading pure torture. When I initially started frequenting salons, I wrote this:


This article here:


So anyway, as I was saying, I have tried out many different salons for hope of finding one that doesn’t hurt as much — the search continues. Meanwhile here is an account of the trip I made today (not the same salon as the article above obv.!)

Me: Hi, remember me?

Salon lady: Er? Umm.. I think so…

Me: Remember, I’m the one with the sensitive skin? The one who screams when you do upper lip or wax?

Beautician: Oh! Yes, yes I know now. How are you Madame? (She’s already giggling).

Me: Yeah thanks, good.

Beautician: Shall we get started?

Me: Uh, okay. *Nervous*

Treatment begins. She puts hot wax on my arm. I let out  a (well-behaved) yelp. She giggles.

Me: I’m sure there are very few clients like me? I mean no-one screams right?

She: Oh, some people find waxing quite difficult. We have a few like you.

Me: *breathing easier* Oh. Of course. I’m sure there are many who find it as hard as I do.

She: Two actually. You and this other woman.

Me: Oooowwww. That hurt!

She: *Giggle* It will soon be done Madame.

OH WHY why why do I put myself through torture treatments every few weeks? I tipped them well in the end though, I had to. It takes a lot to not get exasperated when someone jerks violently when you thread a single hair on their upper lip…

Super Mom (err.. not exactly)

supermom white 225 Super Mom

(Image credit: Google Images)


“Hello?” I snap into the phone, finally putting an end to its persistent ringing, as I simultaneously answer the door. A groggy two year old wails at the top of her voice, and in her agitated state, manages to knock the glass of milk on the carpet. I open the door wearily to find the internet guy I had been calling for ages. “Ma’am, I’m from Etisalat. I’m here to sort out your internet.”


I hear a faint voice from earpiece of the phone (over the crying). I lift the baby into my arms, tell the person on the line to please wait a second, and usher the internet guy inside. Next I divert my attention to the phone and find that the doctor’s office has finally called back and wants me to take down a number. “Please take down this number. The dentist will be available between 4pm and 8pm. An appointment – yes sure, Ma’am. Please wait a moment.” There is music at the other end of the line and I take the few precious seconds to smile at the baby and play with her, in the hope that her mood will improve (remember I’m still holding her). I pick the pen which is miraculously still in the pen-holder (the kids forget to replace it even after repeated reminders) but I can’t seem to find the yellow post-its and I scribble the number on my palm. Then I finally hear what I’ve been waiting for: “Ma’am, your appointment is fixed. Have a nice day and thank you for choosing our wonderful hospital.” Click.


The internet guy is working conscientiously at making my connection operational again and I hope he’ll get it working soon because there is some research I need to do. I put a rag over the milk and try not to get mad – that carpet had been spotless until the split milk. I make a half-hearted effort to wipe it off, because there is a strange smell emanating from the kitchen. Great.


I scrape the little one’s burnt breakfast (oatmeal porridge) gingerly from the saucepan, but soon realize that there is no point in doing so – it’s been scorched quite badly and I’ll have to prepare the porridge anew. As I pour the milk in a new pan (and realize I will have to go for groceries because we’re almost out of milk) I rub my eyes drowsily. I’ve been up since ages for sending the older one to school, this after I stayed up late last night working on the above-mentioned research. Welcome to a typical day in my life.


Obviously, I’m not quite so caught up every day, but there are days when I want to storm and rage at everyone. Days when getting out of bed my body feels like lead but I do it anyway. Days when nothing goes right – the food I make tastes insipid (or umm.. burns), the colours run on his favourite shirt in the washing machine, or the house looks like an earthquake affected zone, but I love being a part of the madness, and wouldn’t want to change it for anything.


There is something incredibly refreshing about the smell of a baby – and any mom will tell you that that has nothing to do with baby care products, but is in fact a special fragrance that you associate with your child. There is something mind-blowingly wonderful about the smile of a child who’s just woken up, a smile meant only, especially for you. There is something profoundly touching about the hug that you get from a bounding kid getting back from school, trying to condense the day’s events into one sentence, tripping over her words and her feet. The satisfaction that you feel when the milk is drunk and gooey khichri devoured (however unwillingly) makes you want to go on. I know no other way a woman can feel so wanted, so cherished and most importantly – loved. I’ll sign off now – I need to make a school run in a bit – but before that, a diaper needs changing – and oh, did I tell you I’m preparing fish for dinner?


Note: This was written a few months back, only just remembered it and decided to publish it.


Will you marry me?

He gazed at her face longingly, enamoured, infatuated. She looked ravishing in her pale pink ensemble that flowed into soft folds near her petite feet. Gracefully and with poise, she walked towards the stage, and the guests seemed bathed in the sparkle of her resplendence as they looked on, as though awe-struck.

He rued the time he had wasted in telling her how much he loved her. Tonight she was getting married, to that shady character who always seemed to hang around her house. But the marriage contract hadn’t been signed yet, he thought to himself, and took a deep breath. This was his last chance, and he would never forgive himself if he didn’t tell her he loved her.

He looked warily at the huge throng of people around her. Surely, she would be alone for a moment? He rehearsed the words in his mind — not that he needed to. He had envisioned that conversation a hundred times, and he waited, anxiously, for her to finally distance herself from all those people.

He realised his lips were suddenly parched, his throat completely dry. He had made his way to the stage, and finally — this was his moment, away from all those interfering, offending relatives. “Hello,” he said, looking straight into her eyes. She seemed glad to see him, and that encouraged him. He knelt down close to where she sat, close enough to get a whiff of her heavenly, enchanting perfume. He sniffed deeply. She always smelled wonderful.

He didn’t have a ring, but those details could be worked out later, he thought to himself. It was important to pop the question to her — after all, that strange fellow had gotten this far because he wasn’t afraid to tell her. She looked at him enquiringly — why on earth was he suddenly kneeling in front of her? He glanced behind him — the meddlesome relatives would be back on stage any minute. She was the bride after all. He cleared his throat. “I have to say something to you. It’s very important,” he deadpanned. She leant towards him.

He had to say it. He just had to. He couldn’t back out, not after he had gotten this far. She waited patiently for him to speak, her smile a little waned now. “Will you marry me?” he blurted out. Relief washed over him — he had revealed his feelings at last.

In slow motion

She smiled widely, and his heart skipped a beat. “You know what, I’m flattered. It’s not everyday that such a handsome young man proposes to you!” He breathed easier. So she was happy! Life suddenly seemed to go into slow motion. He watched the approaching crowd, fantasising that it would soon be him sitting beside her. Suddenly, her words brought him back to reality with a harsh, unpleasant bump. “But no sweetheart, I’m so sorry. I can’t,” she said simply. That moment was unfortunate for two reasons — the first was her answer and the second was that at that precise second, the music, which had so far been playing without a hitch, suddenly stopped. “But why? What’s wrong with me?” he said indignantly, stamping his foot on the ground. The people (who had now reached the stage) all heard him because of the silence created by the break in the music and began to laugh hysterically.

“Darling, age difference is definitely a factor,” she said stifling a laugh, as she picked him up and put him in her lap. Seven-year-old Farhan was mortified. “We can still be friends, right?” he said at last.

“Always, darling. You’re gorgeous.” And with that she kissed him, and he didn’t remove the lipstick mark from his cheek practically forever.

Note: The above is a true account and the people in the story are my cousins. The seven-year-old boy is now a teenager, who hasn’t proposed to anyone since.


First published here: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/will-you-marry-me-1.888793