Life lessons after nine years of marriage

Originally written for: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/life-lessons-after-nine-years-of-marriage-1.1294813

Life lessons, every step of the way

Life lessons, every step of the way

So it’s been nine years since we tied the knot. It seems like only yesterday I stumbled awkwardly towards the stage in impossibly high heels, struggling with the dress and wondering why you couldn’t get married in jeans. As a kid I had always told my family, “I will get married in jeans and a T-shirt!” Needless to say, things don’t always go according to plan, and if I were to say that the last nine years have been anything I could have imagined or planned out, I would be lying.

I will take this opportunity to reflect on some of the most valuable lessons that I hope to have absorbed over the past few years. It should be noted that this article is not in any way marriage advice, simply because the person writing it is still a work in progress and is in no way qualified to give it. It is in fact a mere contemplation of my own understanding of relationships.

Easily the most important lesson that comes to mind is: it’s not always about me. Once you get that abnormally large obstruction called ‘ego’ out of the way, you are open to admitting your own misgivings, learning and moving on. And when you look beyond yourself, you begin to understand the other person. It takes a lot of emotional depth to not judge a person who behaves badly. There are days when arguments spiral out of control, times when it appears that people are picking on you without a reason. On days like those, for a moment stop thinking about how unbearably wronged you feel. The other person might have had a disastrous day, try putting yourself in their place. And oh – if you learn to forgive, you’d save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress and probably a few white hairs too.

Living in the same space with another person requires a tremendous amount of adjustment. You both need your space, and the freedom to pursue your hobbies without the interference or involvement of your spouse. Adjustment also means putting up with your partners quirks – there comes a point when you stop complaining about your partner’s habits simply because you have realised the importance of having a harmonious household. You stop making those snide comments about the unmade bed not because you’ve stopped caring about it but mostly because you don’t want your children to see you bickering over little things. You let the little matter of him not putting the sugar bowl back slide, too. You’re not always quiet though – you’re just more choosy about when your open your mouth. You pick your battles. You can certainly make yourself heard when it really matters, and with good effect too!

If I were to take this discussion further and enter the realm of that inexplicable feeling called love, my input on that would be far too sarcastic and cynical to be palatable. Suffice it to say that in a relationship, what you give is what you get, and especially when you start out, invest in your bond in a positive way. By invest I mean learn to tolerate the other person, be decent, try to get along – and brownie points if you smile when you do that! 

Possibly the single greatest factor in making me positive when things have looked bleak is learning to be thankful for my blessings. It’s easy to overlook blessings such as eyesight and a warm bed, and it’s easy to forget that you are better off than millions of others. Life is full of ups and downs and when you hit rock bottom, remember that it could have been worse. That realisation gives you the strength to go on, and it helps you stop wallowing in that pit of ugly comfort called self-pity. Learning to be happy, staying happy and letting your contagious feeling of positivity spill over others is a win-win for everyone.

I’d like to conclude with the thought that it’s still early days and I am learning. With every day, I discover new reasons to be happy and hopeful and conversely, I stumble upon reasons to be the opposite.

The road ahead seems anything but simple and I fall frequently and embarrass myself with painful regularity. It’s nice to have a hand to lift you up when you do fall, and it’s nice to know that there is someone you can count on. Life, despite its overwhelming (scary?) sense of responsibility is infused with meaning and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Here’s to many more happy, meaningful, and satisfying years together.

Advertisements

Then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?

favours of your lord

I look up in wonder at the sky,

I want to connect and I want to say so much,

I want to say sorry and I want to give thanks,

Words fail me my Lord; I somehow go blank.

 

My own silliness and my own mistakes line up before me,

All too obvious in hindsight, ironically,

Incredulous, I know how You still didn’t let me fall,

Oh Allah, You listened even when I was unable to call.

 

I made promises, and I vowed to mend my ways,

I broke my word countless times, but to You is all praise,

You didn’t judge me – you dealt with mercy and with love,

A love so complete, so powerful, that I am unworthy of.

 

You bless me my Rabb, with every passing moment,

I while away this wonderful gift of life in thankless enjoyment,

A discomfort so deep nestles within my humiliated heart,

I’ve taken things for granted and I haven’t played my part.

 

But does it matter ya Allah, if I say sorry yet another time?

Is there a way to fully convey the ghastliness of my crimes?

Is there a way to turn back, when I know I’ve ventured too far out?

Allah I know You understand the profound embarrassment that I speak about.

 

But I talk to You this day with hope and with yearning,

Knowing that to the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful I am turning,

Who forgives, forgets, cleanses me, even when I’m wrong, so wrong,

Please hold me once more Ya Allah — to You I belong.

 

I’ve messed up time and again, and I’ve not amended myself,

Yet there’s no despair in Your mercy, You said so Yourself,

I need miracles, I need more chances, and I need Your helping hand,

Mercy that befits You my Lord, indeed You are grand!

 

Don’t let me down, don’t let me turn astray,

Why I am unable to bend and why is it that I cannot pray?

I call on You in humility, defeated, undone by my own madness,

Still holding on to the ultimate hope of Your greatness.

 

My Lord words fail me again everything seems inadequate,

But You comprehend what lies beneath my tears, unstoppable and adamant,

I’ll leave it at that, Wallahu Aleemum Bi Dhaat is Sudoor,

My heart, and all its dirt and blackness — awaits your dazzling Noor.

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

Still waiting to get a bite…

Originally published here: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/still-waiting-to-get-a-bite-1.1247838

IMG_5441

It was a lovely sight… you could actually see hundreds of fish!

Fish hate me. It’s either that or just the fact that I’m really, really bad at fishing. How else would you explain the fact that I was unable to catch a single fish in a place where the sea was so full of fish you could actually see them beneath the clear waters?

The recent Eid holiday saw better weather in the UAE than we’ve had in months, and that meant only one thing: explore the outdoors and leave the malls for another time! As we drove along the Sharjah corniche, we saw a multitude of people fishing. Rods were stuck into the sand, kept still for a bite as families enjoyed picnics and barbeques.

It seemed idyllic – catch your own dinner, grill it over the coals, and live it up! But we did not own any angling equipment and neither did we have any information on how to go about organizing our little fishing picnic.

IMG_5434

Crabs made a threesome

After some Googling and Youtubing, we became the proud owners of a brand new carbon fishing rod, complete with extra fishing lines, (so the whole family could fish together) plus hooks and sinkers – the whole lot to get us started! The guy who sold it to us was a fishing enthusiast whose latest fantasy was catching sharks. He talked us through the basics (I think he saw our enthusiasm coupled with complete lack of angling know-how) and had pity on us.

 The spot we chose was perfect for fishing. In the pristine, unspoilt waters of Dibba port, we could clearly see that the area was teeming with marine life. There were schools of fish visible to the naked eye, swimming over plants and rocks on the sea-bed. Around us local fishermen were catching lots of fish (their dinner I presume) without even breaking a sweat. If this wasn’t a great place to get started and boost our confidence, I don’t know what was.

The rod was cast, the hopes were up. Every little jerk of the line conjured up visions of a large fish that I would surely catch. The extra lines were also thrown into the water – with a little help from YouTube, we knew exactly how to set up the hook, line and sinker. Excitedly, we waited for a bite. And waited… and waited.

Dibba port

Dibba port

Around us people were catching fish after fish, indeed one fisherman actually had a plastic bag that was full of his catch for the day! And we were casting our lines again and again, hoping to get lucky. Smiles waned a little; the sun suddenly began feeling hot. Mental images of the big fish evaporated, I would now settle with a small fish (any of the little ones I could see in the water, would do – you can’t call me choosy) but every time there was tension in the rods it was invariably because some smart fish ate my bait and didn’t get caught in the hook, or because the sinker got stuck between the rock crevices.

After a long time, we decided we had had enough. The others around us also had enough, mostly because they had caught sufficient fish and sundown was approaching. As we were about to pack away, the unthinkable happened. My husband’s fishing line twitched. In spite of myself, I started getting excited. The kids began cheering — did we finally catch something? Or was it one those moments when the sinker gets stuck somewhere and your heart begins beating faster and you pull back your line – only to find your hook and sinker gone?

Check out the clearly visible marine life...

Check out the clearly visible marine life…

 Slowly, he pulled in the line. We held our collective breaths as a tiny fish, no larger than my finger had somehow entangled its fin in my husband’s hook. Photos of the catch were taken, celebrations followed as the little blue fish wriggled helplessly (and slimily) from the hook. It certainly did not look edible, and the local fishermen confirmed that. As we let it go back into the sea, I realised angling could be addictive, and it teaches you so much about life.

Sometimes all the planning in the world can’t beat plain good luck, and waiting patiently usually yields results. And the idea that spending time outdoors helps you bond as a family? I’ve fallen for it — hook, line and sinker!

(Photos and text by me)

Art of dealing with exam agony

Originally published in Gulf News “Off the Cuff” on 26th August 2013. Late upload… sorry guys

http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/art-of-dealing-with-exam-agony-1.1223937

Gladly, my exam papers wren't quite so blank !

Gladly, my exam papers wren’t quite so blank ! 🙂

There are some moments in life when you feel an overwhelming sense of relief. In particular, the relief felt after you finish your last exam is something special.

As I exited the examination hall after being done with my finals at last (smirking as I walked past the invigilators who had looked so intimidating only hours earlier) all I could think was: “I am a free human being again! It’s over!”

I relate the experience to the culmination of a long and demanding pregnancy, at the end of which the baby, which had hitherto been a happy and active resident of your ever-increasing belly, finally decides to make a move. It’s another matter that raising the child itself is another, even tougher exam, but I suppose you get the gist.

The weeks after the exam — when one is waiting for the results — are pure agony. Sometimes, the results are more distressing than the waiting period, whilst sometimes the grades one gets are a big relief.

AdTech Ad

For me, Maths was consistently a leading cause of pain (calculus, my teacher and the thick textbook were all beyond my comprehension), whilst subjects such as English language, literature and Urdu made my school life look somewhat respectable.

I was in awe of my more able peers who were completely disappointed with their results: “Can you believe I got 91 per cent in Maths? There’s no way I lost 9 per cent! There has to be a problem with this!”

Statements such as this would come from those scholarly souls who would have, in a most frenzied air, claimed right before the Economics exam that “I studied the Macro chapters only twice! I read all the others three times, hopefully we won’t get a question on macro!”

This statement, said to someone like myself, who had barely gone through the book not too long ago, over strong, black coffee, was hardly comforting.

I’m recounting all this because I recently went back to school after a long break, and took my teacher training exams, and attempted to do a Bachelors as well.

Weeks before the exams I was filled with a strange anxiety. The stress was so great that after every 30 minutes of studying I would require roughly 25 minutes of entertainment to compose myself and stave off a nervous breakdown. That Sigmund Freud’s notorious stages of infantile sexuality were punctuated with an episode of Friends was not merely coincidence, but a careful plan, which I am sad to admit, did not work particularly well.

I suppose I should pass, (hopefully!), but I am sure I could have done a better job if Chandler, Ross and Co hadn’t eaten into my limited time available for studying. I told my father about my unique studying plan after the papers and I found him chuckling with delight because apparently, I had carried on the family tradition. Pray what, Dad, is this family tradition? I asked.

It turns out that dad was to appear for his Chartered Accountancy finals. The past four years had been enjoyed thoroughly by a young man with an insatiable appetite for fun, who was busy discovering the vibrant city of London and beyond. Studying, predictably enough, was rather low in his list of priorities.

Right before the finals he enrolled for an exclusive crammer course during which students were directed to take classes for the subjects they were weak in. Looking into his syllabi, he realised he needed to revise every single subject.

To give himself some peace of mind at such a nerve-wracking juncture in life, he indulged himself by smoking heavily, reading a multitude of Agatha Christie mysteries and taking whatever classes he could. And finally when the crammer course was done, he decided he needed to “let the dust settle down” (Dad, was it the lessons or was it Agatha Christie?) and for three days straight, he watched movies!

Then he took his exams and surprising managed to clear the finals in his first attempt. He wasn’t the only one wide-eyed. On the day after the results, he received a letter from one of his professors. It read:

“Dear Mr Rehman,

In the list of candidates that have successfully passed the examination there appears to be a name very similar to yours. Could it possibly be you?”

Dad wrote back with a response that was characteristically tongue-in-cheek and somewhat audacious.

I’ll sign off with a little prayer that I will clear my exams too, content in the knowledge that my study habits are but a genetic hand-me-down, that will, hopefully not pass on to my girls!

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