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Archive for January, 2012

Basant, a festival beyond beliefs

On 27th January, 2012 India celebrates Basant panchami.
In Pakistan, it is celebrated towards the end of February.  

Towards the end of January till early March, the golden harvest of wheat stand tall ready to be harvested sometime in early April.  And wheat is our staple crop.

At the same time in Januray February the yellow blooms of mustard ( better known as sarson) sway in the fields, as far as eyes can see. And mustard is a cash crop whose seeds are pressed to extract mustard oil.

To celebrate these awesome blooms as a reward for the fields ploughed and the seeds sown  in October, the farmers rejoice, sing, dance and make merry.

Some of them wear yellow turbans, and their women folk adorning yellow ‘odhnis’ come out to join in the celebrations. It is not hard to imagine that they must be celebrating the blooms, ever since they learnt to farm these crops dating back to centuries.

This is the basic root and the spirit of the tradition of Basant in parts of Indian subcontinent where these crops are grown.

Are wheat, or mustard crops Hindu, Muslim or Sikh?

Vasant in Sanskrit or  Basant in Urdu mean ‘spring’, which heralds the departure of winter and arrival of spring. It symbolizes the time of rejuvenation and arrival of happiness as flowers start to smile through their blossoms.

Yellow, the color of Basant, inspired by mustard blossoms, which matches the shade of sun rays, signifies life and radiance.

Do rays of sun or radiance of happiness differentiate between Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs ?

Kite flying , another component of basant, has it’s own interesting tale to tell.

“Kite flying also reveals how the tradition evolved over centuries and in a Ganga Jamuni way.
Kite flying was introduced to the Indian subcontinent by the Chinese traveller Heun Tsang in the 4th Century. Evolving for centuries, it s modification into its current form and popularisation as a sport was made possible by the Nawabs of Avadh. The kite flying during basant celebrations is believed to have been introduced by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the 18th century.”

Yet another evidence of centuries old and secular celebration of Basant come from poets, Kalidas and Amir Khusro, who have written about the celebrations of Basant in their own unique styles.

Kalidas in a poem Spring writes:
द्रुमाः सपुष्पाः सलिलं सपद्मं
स्त्रियः सकामाः पवनः सुगन्धिः ।
सुखाः प्रदोषा दिवसाश्च रम्याः
सर्वं प्रिये ! चारुतरं वसन्ते
Oh, dear, in Vasanta, Spring, trees are with flowers and waters are with lotuses, hence the breezes are agreeably fragrant with the fragrance of those flowers, thereby the eventides are comfortable and even the daytimes are pleasant with those fragrant breezes, thereby the women are with concupiscence, thus everything is highly pleasing…

AmirKhusro pens down:

Aaj basant manaalay suhaagun,
Aaj basant manaalay;
Anjan manjan kar piya mori,
Lambay neher lagaaye;
Tu kya sovay neend ki maasi,
So jaagay teray bhaag, suhaagun,
Aaj basant manalay…..;
Rejoice, my love, rejoice,
Its spring here, rejoice.
Bring out your lotions and toiletries,
And decorate your long hair.
Oh, you’re still enjoying your sleep, wake-up.
Even your destiny has woken up,
Its spring here, rejoice.

There is an Indian classical  music tune  called Raag Basant Bahaar.

Not to forget, basant in the subcontinent is also associated with a special sweet prepared specially for the occaision –the kesar halwa,
It is a suji ( semolina) halwa with a soft aroma and yellow shade from saffron and garnished with cashew nuts.

Neither the dessert, nor the poetry above nor the music below suggest if Basant is Hindu or Muslim or Sikh.

The same spirit is also replicated by this beautiful ghazal by Malika Pukhraj and Tahira Syed

Lo phir basant aayee…

P.S. Special thanks to Sandeep@stwta a twitter pal for the devnagiri  text of Kalidas poetry.


Maya Khan, this is not the way.

Maya Khan & SAMAA TV asked for a constructive  criticism. There it is…

Maya Khan did it in good faith. Her concern was the safety of girls,” said a friend over  telephone while discussing the much talked about show by anchor Maya Khan.

Well even if I presume  her intentions were ‘noble’, the method of hounding young couples under the eye of a camera was certainly not just inappropriate, but highly deplorable.  And now in a new video she talks about her ‘good intentions and the worries the parents have about girls who are lured into ‘wrong’ acts‘.

“Ab ager aap ye samajhte hain ke Maa Baap ye fikr na karein ke unki bachiyaan kahan hain to is barey mein main kyaa keh sakti hoon.”

There is no doubt that the issue of girl safety and  sexual harassment in relationships or dating  is a concern. It is still a concern in the West too.(

It is the duty of a society as a whole and of the parents to guide our growing teens about the ethics and risks involved in relationships. Our culture is at the cross roads of modernism and conservatism. Many of us have conveniently picked up that part of modern culture which suits our personal interests, but stay glued to the old conservative dogmas otherwise.

As a friendly mother of two university-going kids, I am quite aware of the mixed trends and risks that surround my new generation kids in Pakistan.

It is very normal for boys and girls to form clandestine relationships when parents are unduly strict. This leads to many girls ending up in a trap caught between the parents and the boy and if the boy is taking her for a ride, he uses her vulnerable position to his advantage, as seen in many cases reported and unreported in Pakistan.

I certainly do not think this holds true for the majority, but it does happen with quite a few. The girl is forced to comply to the demands of intimacy by the opportunistic male counterpart. In that situation,especially in places like Pakistan, where there is gender selective judgement of ‘character’,  she does not have many options. Seeking refuge with her parents and escaping the boy will eventually result in the same disastrous situation, in her head, and so she chooses the troubled path.

How do we deal with this? Do we go around with a broom stick microphone and witch hunt like Maya Khan? Certainly not.

In the west, these things along with sex education are taught to the students in middle school, while they are going through the most stressful times of their lives—puberty. Unfortunately in our society this is not done nor is it possible in the foreseeable future, thanks to our preconceived negative notions about this three letter word ‘sex’.

It is the duty of parents to play their part. They should open up their minds and place themselves in the shoes of their growing boys and girls. And to be understanding about the many complicated issues of the heart and mind.

What is needed is to empower our girls with the knowledge of how to save themselves from pressures of giving in to undue demands of a physical compromise, if they are not a willing partner to it. Boys also need to know that they cannot force upon their girlfriend any demand, be it as trivial as holding her hand, if she is not willing for it. The boy must be able to respect her ‘values’ in the relationship.

The girls should be given confidence, and taught how to stave off undue pressure or abuse of any sort in a girl-boy relationship. It is also important to reassure them that if they have made a mistake befriending someone who is abusive, they must come and confide into anyone who they trust-be it a sister, friend or even mother. I tell my kids, in such a case if you come and confide in me, “I may get angry or a lot angry, but perhaps it will save you from further unnecessary abuse.”

It is a myth that talking to your children openly about relationships will make them indulge more. Perhaps, if they know their parents understand them they will be more confident in taking responsible decisions. Once you have informed them, let them take their own decisions. Do not dictate to them.

I tell my kids, “If you take a decision which is wrong in my eyes, I may feel hurt, but it is ultimately you who will have to live with it. When you choose your decisions, you choose their consequences too. So be mindful and do what you think is right.” So far, so good.

Keywords to parents: Keep lines of communication with kids, educate them and then trust them while they make informed choices. Do not control their decision making.

Message to future Maya Khans: if you really wish these girls well, please call experts in the studio, and let them give tips to the parents, boys and girls about how to handle relationships. It will save you from a lot of running around in the park, unnecessarily.

Source: Tips based on resources on Sexual and other forms of abuse  in youths from:

This is a video from Canada, but talks of  the  disturbing trend and some tips for how to help them.

Amir Khusrau, the disciple

Listening to the stories and anectodes of Mehboob-e-Ilahi( Beloved of God) was a norm as kids. A Mamoo, an ardent follower of Sufism, who lived in Jaipur was the source. If he ever happened to pass by Delhi, visit to the ‘Dargah’ was a mandatory.  And when in Delhi, he had to visit his sister too i.e. my mother.

He brought meethi kheels (sugar coated puffballs) every time he came from Dargah, and was ever willing to  narrate to us the stories of love  between  Mehbub-e-Ilahi and his favourite disciple.

On the other hand I saw my not so religious father’s( who also hailed from a Maulvi family) love for Amir Khusrau’s Persian poetry, and a tall tower of audio cassettes he had piled up next to his music system.

Honestly for years until early teens I did not know who Mehboob-e-Ilahi  or that disciple were and where the Dargah was. We never visited. All I knew, Ammi went with Mamoojan a few times.

Once , when during a story time, Mamoojan was corrected by my father, about a Persian verse by Amir Khusro, did I realise that there was a correlation.

“Such a great poet had a Pir?” was my instant jerky reaction. Pirs in my mental dictionary had a negative meaning and image.

Equally instant was my father’s reaction: “ Hazrat Nizamuddin was a great scholar, it’s the people later who made him a Pir, and now have opened a whole business in his name.”

Mamoojan just gave a slight smile, and as always drowned again in his love for Mehboob-e-Ilahi, continued the story.

It was then to reinforce the great bond that existed between Hazrat Nizamuddin and Amir Khusrau, did he tell of these incidents, which now I can quote with the Persian verses he might have mentioned.

Just to make it clear, most of the stories have been passed on as word of mouth, and hence I call them anectodes.

Anectode 1:
When Hazrat Nizamuddin passed away Amir Khusrau was away, in some other city, attending to the orders of a King. As he learnt of the sad news he rushed back and went straight to the  fresh grave of his master.There  he rolled in the mud and tore off his clothes in agony. Then came these words:

Gori sove sej par
mukh per dale kes
Chal Khusro ghar aapne,
rain (not saanjh) bhaee chahu des.
The lovely maiden lies  finally on a wreath of flowers,
her tresses covering her face, 
O Khusro, turn back home now,
dusk has set in all over.”

Amir Khusrau was never the same after his Pir’s death. And it was only in six months that Amir Khusrau also passed away.

He was, as per the desire of the disciple and  Pir both, buried close by. This is now known as a “chabootra-e-yaar’ ( the pedestal of friend).

One can see this as a raised platform with red sandstone carved fence, around the grave.

The Pir also reciprocated his disciple’s love and affection, and is believed to have remarked: “If shariyat would allow me, I would want Khusrau and I to be buried in the same grave.”

His followers believe that Hz Nizamuddin instructed that “Those who visit my grave should  first pay respect at Khusrau’s .”

Anectode 2:
Amir Khusrau was away for a royal trip.  A disciple of Hz Nizamuddin came to him asking for some  souvenir from his Pir. Since the Pir had nothing to offer, he asked the disciple to take away his slippers.
Incidentally, on the way the disciple and Amir Khusrau’s paths crossed each other. And Khusrau remarked:

Shaikh mi aayad, Bu-e Shaikh mi aayad”.
(I smell my master, I smell my master).

On knowing that the man had in possession the slippers of his Pir, Khusrau gave away all his wealth that he had on him and bought back those slippers.

Anectode 3:
The two were sitting at the bank of river Yamuna in Delhi when Hz Nizamuddin (wearing a cap crooked way), saw some men taking a dip in the river with a reverence as a worship. He remarked:
Har qaum raast raahay, deenay wa qibla gaahay
(Every sect has a faith, a qibla which they turn to.)

Pat came the reply from Khusrau:
Men qibla raast kardam, ber terf-e kajkulaahay.
(I have straightened my qibla in the direction of this crooked cap)

Anectode 4:
It is the most interesting of all anectodes, and if true (I do not doubt, but these stories have been passed through word of mouth), then it is remarkable to have this quality of Persian and Brij Bhasha poetry from an eight year old.

It is said that Khusrau’s mother brought her eight year old son to the place where Hazrat Nizamuddin ( a renowned scholar and respectable man) resided.

Instead of entering the premises Khusrau sat outside and narrated:
Tu aan shahi ke ber aiwan-e qasrat
Kabutar gar nasheenad, baaz gardad
Ghareeb-e mustamand-e ber der aamed
Be-yaayad andaroon, ya baaz gardad
You are a king at the gate of whose palace,
even a pigeon becomes a hawk. 
A poor traveller has come to your gate, 
should he enter, or should he return?

And that Hazrat Nizamuddin who himself was 23 then, came out (some say he sent out  servants) and replied:
Be-yaayad andaroon mard-e haqeeqat
Ke ba ma yek nafas hamraaz gardad
Agar abla buvad aan mard-e naadan
Azaan raah-e ke aamad baaz gardad
Oh you the man of reality, come inside,
so you become for a while my confidant,
but if the one who enters is foolish ,
then he should return the way he came.

Hearing this Khusrau knew that he has come to the right place and hence entered into his guidance.

Having reread Khusrau, several times over since then, I have came across some of the records, which go further to say that- telling his mother of his excitement to have found the Pir, Khusrau composed these beautiful verses:
Aaj rung hai hey maa rung hai ri
Moray mehboob kay ghar rang hai ri
Sajan milaavra, sajan milaavra,
Sajan milaavra moray aangan ko
Aaj rung hai……..
Mohay pir paayo Nijamudin aulia
Nijamudin aulia mohay pir payoo
Des bades mein dhoondh phiree hoon
Toraa rung man bhayo ri……,
Jag ujiyaaro, jagat ujiyaaro,
Main to aiso rang aur nahin dekhi ray
Main to jab dekhun moray sung hai,
Aaj rung hai hey maan rung hai ri.
What a glow everywhere I see, Oh mother, what a glow;
I’ve found the beloved, yes I found him,
In my courtyard;
I have found my pir Nizamuddin Aulia.
I roamed around the entire world,
looking for an ideal beloved;
And finally this face has enchanted my heart.
The whole world has been opened for me,
Never seen a glow like this before.
Whenever I see now, he is with me,
Oh beloved, please dye me in yourself;
Dye me in the colour of the spring, beloved;
What a glow, Oh, what a glow.

In my ignorance, I bluntly asked Mamoojan,”What was so great in Hazrat Nizamuddin that even an accomplished man like Amir Khurau revered him so much?”

I remember Mamoojan reply, “He was a great pious man, a Wali. That is why he was called Mehboob-e-Ilahi ( the beloved of Allah)”.

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t entirely convinced then, but then years later, while getting into the colors of Amir Khusrau’s poetry, I did my own research.

I found that Hazrat Nizamuddin was a great scholar of Quran. He was truly  a very pious man, who prayed a lot and fasted each day of the week.

There were free meals ( langar) at his residence, each day, in which  Amir Khusrau actively took part.

He led a very simple, austere life, wore at times  torn clothes, and ate extremely simple food.

But what really convinced me of why Amir Khusrau revered him so much was this incident of  Hazrat Nizamuddin , which so speaks volumes of the greatness of this Pir of Amir Khusrau:

Once some of the staunchest of enemies of Hazrat Nizamuddin, threw thorn on the way he was to pass. He walked over them, bare feet, without any complaint. And with his sole bleeding, he prayed that every thorn that had pierced him become a red rose( like the color of his oozing blood) in the grave of the thrower.

Mehboob-e-Ilahi that he was, he is said to have remarked: “If a man places a thorn in your way, and you place a thorn in his way, soon there will be thorns everywhere.”

With all this in the background, now this poetry by Amir Khusrau sounds even more melodious…

Kabir, just be kind and tolerant !

Kabir leaves no examples to teach and stress to  human beings, in his own simple ways, the lessons of humility, tolerance and open mindedness.

In other verses, as in previous post, he gives examples from the living world, like animals,  or even from  trees, rivers and oceans.

In the verses mentioned below, he  picks  the most modest of examples, to highlight their good traits.  But realisng that they too have downsides, moves on to  gentler ones among them.  And ultimately makes us realise, it is only ‘the ONE’  truly devoid of flaws.

In a way, there is a subtle message here, that in one’s pursuit to be  better, there is always  room for further betterment, and despite all our efforts in the direction, it is only the ONE who is perfect.

Rorha hoi rahu baat ka, taji paakhand abhimaan.
Aisa je jana hoi rahe, taahi mile bhagwaan.

O dear, be as humble as the pebble on the path. Giving up all snobbery and ego. Only if you are humble can you realise Him.

Rorha bhaya to kya bhaya, panthi ko dukh deh.
Harijan aisa chahiye, jyoon  dharani ki kheh.

Kabir rethinks. What if you are a pebble,  as it too can get unkind  and hurt the feet of the fellow travellers on the path. So be like the soil on Earth, soft and gentle.

Kheh bhayi to kya bhaya, urhi-urhi laage ang.
Harijan aiasa chahiye, jyu paanee sabrang.

Again Kabir rethinks. What if you become soil? It flies with slight breeze and spoils others ( a little adversity may cause our evil nature to surface and cause harm to others). So just be like water – it is without color (without prejudice), but it can take whatever color easily ( be open minded).

Panee bhaya to kya bhaya, taataa-seeraa hoy.
Harijan aisa chahiye, Hari jaiasa hi hoy.

Once again Kabir rethinks. What if you are water? The water  gets furious with  heat and even becomes too cold with  indifference.
So just strive to be as Tolerant, Kind and and Merciful, always as your Lord.

Eating our way to good health

Talk of desi food and mouth waters, nose hallucinates of exotic smell of desi food-of Qorma, Bihari Kebabs, Parathas or ears ring with sizzling melody of jalebis, samosas, bhaturas being fried.
And eyes vision the ultilmate combo of : jalebi samosa and chai :

Indeed, our cuisine is the crowning glory of our culture. Curry dishes have acquired the status of national dish in Great Britain. Mughlai is a globally coveted cuisine..
I have hardly met any non-desi , who on mention of South Asian food, does not express a liking for Biryani.

The awesomeness of South Asian Cuisine :

More than just the exotic flavours and tastes, the spices that go into the food have been proven as time tested home remedies ( Grand Ma’s home remedies). The haldi(turmeric), aniseed(saunf), dal chini( cinnamon), ajwain( asafoetida), lalmirch( chilli powder) etc the commonly used spices, also serve as anti oxidants, antuflu, anti inflammatory or antiseptics.

Turmeric, a kind of curcumin, is known to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and hence it’s low prevalence in the subcontinent. A study found that those who ate curry once a month or more scored better on cognitive tests than those who ate curry rarely or never.

The king of fruits Mango, contains phenols which has a high antioxidant, anticancer capabilities along with being a rich source of Vit A, E, Selenium and Iron. (The diabetics should avoid it due to high sugar content.)

However, South Asian Cuisine has it’s down side too.

  • The main culprits being that most of the delicacies are calorie dense, and are cooked high amount of saturated or trans fats.
  • Our method of cooking like deep frying, the additions of baghars, tarkas are faulty. We tend to overcook our meals , which along with reheating depletes it of its nutrients.
  • The savory snacks, like the namkeens, namakparas, samosas etc. are generally fried and laden with high salt content. While the sweets are rich, prepared from fat and thick sugar syrup. Eg Gulab Jamun, jalebis, Carrot Halwa etc.
  • Our meals are large in serving portions .
  • Our desi restaurants and take away meals are known for their liberal use of ghee and oil, not only in curries but also on naans (breads).
  • Many of our households have a high intake of meats, avoiding vegetables. This leads to deficiency in certain nutrients like Folic Acid and excess of Homogentisic Acid which is a cause of Heart Attacks. The lack of fibre in the meats increases the risk of colon cancer too.
  • A study claims most meat eaters in Pakistan take red meat (mutton and beef) 68% times and the rest white meat ( chicken and fish) .( Ref 2) Red meat is known to raise the risk of Cardiovascular diseases and cancer and the risk of dying in next 10 years is raised. ( 2. Ref below)
  • The research found that a single meal of Indian curry in Britain has more fat than the recommendation for the entire day.

Example: Imagine a typical feast: Raita, Poppadam for a starter, a Lamb Qorma and two Butter Naans for main course, and a Gajar Halwa for dessert – is a meal with over 1800 calories! When the average calorie for a day are about 2500 for a man and 2000 for women.

A BAD NEWS is that along with the faulty diet, we South Asians have been endowed with vulnerable genetic makeup which makes up 5-6 times more vulnerable to heart disease, and other chronic diseases like DM and HT as compared to other races.
(Please read the above ^^ sentence once again, and understand it).
As a result of the genetic and lifestyle, there is a epidemic of Diabetes, and Heart diseases in SouthAsians. Hence there is a dire need to make changes in our diet habits to prevent early heart and chronic diseases.

(The topics of CV Diseases and DM, HT shall be dealt in detail in the separate blogs).

AUDIO ( in Hindi/Urdu): 

We cant change our ethnicity or our genes, but the GOOD NEWS is that with slight modifications in the cooking methods and choice of ingredients, we can change the quality of our food without much change in the taste. .And hence can substantially reduce the risk of above diseases.
Let’s give it a try, for the sake of our healths.

What should we do ?

Step ONE: We need to know what is our calorie requirement: Our age and activity level determines our caloric requirement which can be calculated from the chart.
Place the cursor on the weight and your activity level to check ur calorific requirement.
If you are over weight then place the curser on your target weight ( the weight you wish to have or need to reduce to). Consider the calories that is required for the weight you desire.

Knowledge of the caloric requirement can give an idea whether we are falling short, meeting or exceeding the requirements.

Step TWO: We must know what the various food groups are and how much of their proportions need to be taken for a healthy diet:

To make it easier, the pyramid has been altered into a shopping pyramid, which hints at the amount of foods we need to buy from the different groups of food.

However in order to make it more simple and visually more easy to understand what our proportions should be now a Portion Plate has been devised


Step THREE: You must spread your meals into 4-6 times per day. A good breakfast is a must. The lunch and Dinner should not be very heavy. In between the meals, take snacks like fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts etc.
This spreading out of meals over the day leads to maintained blood sugar levels and prevents in weight gain.

Step FOUR: While eating or later try to assess the calories you have taken in your plate. For this refer to the chart below the article. ( Unfortunately,very few of our recipes come with their calories and nutrient details).
Better still would be to make a list of all the foods as you eat and check the list at the end of the day. You will be surprised to see how much you ate, when you thought otherwise.

Step FIVE: Once in a week after a healthy eating all week, treat yourself to comfort desi food too… Nihari, Rasgullas, Kulfi aah !!!

For more details on Food Guide check this link :

Audio in Hindi/Urdu


Tips on what healthy changes can you make in our foods:
1. Replace red meat with more frequent white meat like chicken and fish. While taking red meat, prefer lean meat and trim the visible fat.

2. For those who do not afford meat, Dal chawal is an excellent source of Protien and the two eaten together supplement each others missing Amino acids.

3. Egg is also an excellent and cheap source of good quality protein. The notion that it is high in cholesterol is proven wrong by research.

4. If a recipe needs some oil/butter/ghee, use canola or olive oil in small quantity. Make a habit of brushing or spraying the oil in the pan instead of pouring. First heat the utensil, then add (preferably spray) oil. A heated pan spreads the oil better.

(PS see about Canola Oil on internet and decide about it’s efficacy through evidence. If unsure prefer CORN OIL  ).

5. Substitute baking, barbecue or grill for frying, if possible.

6. Avoid too many reheating of the food as it destroys the nutritive value of foods.

7. Add more of green vegetables, as salads along with the meat.

8. Wash the vegetables with water containing potassium permanganate to remove infections, fertilisers and pesticides. Then rinse them with clean water.

9. Do not overcook the vegetables, leave them crunchy. Overcooked mushy vegetables lose taste and nutrients.

10. Onion should be cut and kept for at least 15 minutes before serving as oxidation helps quercetin, an important phytochemical and antioxidant to get activated.

11. Use skim or low fat varieties of all dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream)

12. Salads, sandwiches, fresh fruits are best fast foods, instead of the conventional ones.

13. When you go to a restaurant, give instructions to add only very small quantities of oils for cooking.

14. Make a habit to check the labels on the foods bought from the Supermarkets. Don’t be carried away by the words ‘No Cholesterol’ on labels. Majority of vegetable products are cholesterol free. It is the fat content of the item which matters.

15. Avoid eating while watching TV. You eat a lot and you don’t know while watching TV.

16. Never use pots and pans made of lead or aluminum. Lead can lead to severe digestive disorders. Aluminum vessels can cause high levels of aluminum in the brain tissue that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Tips for Vegetarians:

Vegetarians should know that they need to be very careful about their food being balanced in different groups of food. Vegetarian diet is found to be low in proteins, calcium, vitamin B12, iron and zinc.

Vegetarian diet may lack proteins. Hence it is important to include beans, dals, nuts and dairy products for proteins. Dairy products like milk, yogurt are a high calcium source.

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin whose deficiency can cause permanent nerve damage. It is found d only in animals source. So vegetarian are not able to get this in their food. Hence in order to get enough Vit B12, they need to either eat Vit B12 fortified food, or supplements of Vit B12.

Food for thought:

Last but not the least, we South Asians follow an age old tradition of preparing multiple varieties dishes especially in festivals, weddings or during the month of Ramadan.
However if we limit the number of dishes, we not just cut the cost, the labour but also reduce unnecessary intake of calories. The cost saved could instead be given to the less fortunate amongst us who cannot afford a complete two meals a day.
It is important to realise the hunger and malnourishment all around us. Our culture, our faiths and above all humanity demands that we are empathetic towards them.
We must ensure that we do not cook excess that goes into the garbage. There is nothing wrong being a food lover, but only if we imagine that those deprived desire and dream of decent meals too. And we can certainly share a meal or two with them too.
Just think…
And yes, happy healthy eating.

Audio in Hindi/Urdu

1. Researchers TP Ng, PC Chiam, T Lee, HC Chua, L Lim, EH Kua published an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006 entitled “Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly.
3. conducted by “Which” magazine (Feb 2010) of Britain
4. In the study, a research team led by Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., from the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, looked at more than 500,000 people who were aged 50 to 71 when they enrolled in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health study).

Links for desi recipes:

P.S.: When writing any information, it is my utmost ‘responsibility ‘ to give only information which is scientifically researched and evidence-based through research. I do not give any personal opinions or grom my ‘gut’ feelings. Thanks. 🙂

P.S. Thanks in advance to Dr Babar Khan, Farhan Masoosd and Zawaf for the RTs.

Estimated approx. calories in desi foods:

Cucumber Raita , (1tbsp) 20
Tomato Sambal, (1tbsp) 20
Mango Chutney, (1tbsp) 60
Poppadom, (each) 65
Lime Pickle, (1tbsp) 70
Onion Bhaji, (each) 190
Potato Samosa, each) 260
Meat Samosa, e(ach 320

Main Dish: Calories
Vegetable Curry( 1plate) 280
Saag Aloo masala( 1plate)  334
Daal fry( 1plate)  350
Butter Chicken Masala ( 1plate) 450
Beef nihari( 1plate)  650
Lamb Rogan Josh ( 1plate) 589
Lamb Qeema ( 1plate) 562
Lamb Qorma Curry ( 1plate) 570
Naan Bread ( 1pc) 317
Chapatti ( 1pc) 80
Nan Butter ( 1pc) 325
Paratha (1pc)250
Puri (1pc)225
Rice plain boiled (1cup)80
White Bread (1slice)80

Barfi (single)230
Carrot Halwa (1 cup)570
Gulab Jamun ( 1 pc)250
Jalebi (1 average)459
Ras Mallai (1pc)250

You left us too soon, RIP Arfa Karim.

The most painful truth that I have ever had to face in my entire life: “Arfa Karim passed away”.

In a  composed manner, true to the dignity of being the father of Arifa, he said:

“She came to us for a very short time, but taught us a great deal.”

Battling with life for several weeks on a ventilator, and amidst millions of hands raised in prayer for her survival, Arifa Karim finally bid a good bye.

Initially it was a reaction of intense anger and pain as I had protested with God, calling it unfair.
I really don’t know what the wisdom of God behind this was. Is it that she was too good to be worthy of this messy world?  I am too moved to think rationally at this point of time.

Arfa Karim, becoming a youngest  Microsoft professional at 9, and did what I could not do till today, at 5 times her age.

She was an inspiration and a role model to the girls of Pakistan.

Not only was she the above mentioned, but also a wonderful, bubbly girl who had geat aspirations for herself as well as for her country.
I remember watching an interview of her years ago in which she said:

“Mera ye aim hai ke main jahan bhi jaoon, Parrh likh ker Pakistan aaon aur apne mulk ko serve karoun.”
(My aim is that wherever I go for studies, I shall return and serve my country Pakistan).

More so, she was an awesome poet,  an eloquent speaker, and was bestowed with a wonderful voice of a singer too.

At 9,  after she met Bill Gates she scribbled a poem on him:

Born in October 1955
Proggraming was his only aim of life

Started proggraming at the age of 13
In his work he was really very keen

Entered Harvard in 1973
Thought more than a child could think to be

In 1975 begun Microsoft
With children he’s very soft

At the end I would just like to say
I like Bill Gates in every way

Yes  another beautiful one, reflecting her compassion …

‘White Rose’

In the storm
Stands the white rose
tumultuous waves
of destruction abound her

Yet tall is the white rose
strong in the face
Of the sensed doom around her
And she does not bow down

Pure is the white rose
In the compost earth
growing eternal strength
in the nights that so hurt

I see not the white rose
She is so far away
But I long to protect her
But only the words can I say

So I send her my words
And my poets heart
To help her when
there is hope to see her through

Be Strong little flower
Your heart will guide true
And as long as you want
I will always talk to you

Ironically the last three stanzas resonate with how  all of us felt while she struggled with the ventilator…all we could send her were our words and wishes, standing far away…
Alas, we lost…
Why? I know not.
I can only offer her the ghazal and with the same pain, that Mirza Ghalib wrote when his son passed away:

Lazim tha ke dekho mera rasta koi din aur
Tanha gaye kyun ab raho tanha koi din aur

Mit jayega sar, ger tera patther na ghisega
Hoon der pe tere nasiya farsa koi din aur

Aaye ho kal aur aaj hi kete ho ke jaaoon
Mana ke hamesha nahin , acha koi din aur

Jaate hue kehte ho qayamat ko milenge
Kyaa khoob ! Qayamat ka hai goya koi din aur

Nadaan ho jo kehte ho kyun jeete hain Ghalib
Qismat main hai marne ki tamanna koi din aur.

RIP our darling, you left us miserably broken and tearful…

Arfa Karim ( 2 February 1995-14 January 2012).

As India is about to be Polio free, where does Pakistan stand ?

Today is auspicious, for India. Yes it is despite being  Friday the 13th.

Today India completed one full year of being Polio free.

It was on January 13, 2011 that the last child with Polio was diagnosed. After that all weekly tests from sewer samples, where polio is generally found, have been coming clear. No cases or samples have been reported positive since then.

WHO states “If the data comes clear over the next few weeks, then India, for the first time will show unshaded in the WHO polio maps.”

It is certainly a moment to rejoice for India, while  keeping it’s fingers crossed  for some more weeks and a lot  extra vigilant for the next few years.

And knowing that it is a country with huge population of 1.2 billion with population as culturally diverse as any diversity, this is indeed a matter of great pride. It is a moment that one does not get to witness in history very often. Last when India along with the whole world witnessed something similar  was in 1975 when Earth was declared Small Pox free.

“It’s not a miracle — it’s good science and an awful lot of elbow grease.” says Dr Bruce Aylward, the assistant director general of Polio, WHO.

Certainly being a huge bunch of a multi cultural, multilingual diaspora that India is, along with poverty, ignorance and myths against Polio vaccines it certain must have been a mammoth task to even dream and then realise that dream of a Polio-free India.

Poliomyelitis is a viral disease which attacks the nerve cells in the spinal cord which leads to the paralysis usually of a lower limb or leg. It cripples the children at a very young age. It is mostly spread by direct person to person contact, through the feco-oral route i.e. through phlegm, through the infected mucus or phlegm from nose, mouth or through infected feces. Once affected, however there is no treatment of the disease. Polio immunization through vaccine either as oral drops or injections is the only way to prevent it.

Why do I write all this?  Is it to show off my Indian connection?

No certainly not, but to let us Pakistanis know that  after today, or maybe in a few weeks more,  after India officially says quits, only three countries shall remain ‘Polio endemic’ -Afghanistan, Nigeria and our own Pakistan.

Yes it really hurts that what India has achieved for it’s 1.2 billion, Pakistan could not achieve for it’s 180 million. It hurts that Sudan could do it, Myanmar could do it, but Pakistan could not.

It hurts even more to know that 194 cases were reported in Pakistan in 2011. Two of them were just confirmed today one from KhyberPakhtunkhwa and another from Sindh, sadly.

Most of the areas affected are the conflict zones where there is rampant poverty, ignorance and ill health.

National Emergency Action Plan, 2011 for Polio Eradication was launched by the Federal Ministry of Health. (

The executive summary of the document said and I quote:“Poliovirus is continuing to cripple children in Pakistan because of the failure to reach all children with sufficient doses of vaccine. The reasons for this include inadequate Government oversight and ownership, access problems due to security particularly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational and planning challenges, and the failure to identify and i nclude all high risk underserved population groups.”

Next it states: “the President of Pakistan has directed the immediate development of an emergency action plan for polio eradication in Pakistan.”

And  that the Armed Forces have also been pretty active in some of the unreachable areas, by helping the government in making the vaccination of children with polio drops possible.

I hope all these efforts, both by the government and the armed forces, are able to trickle down till the last beneficiary and that a genuine change on ground is visible.

One can only wait to see if the claims that 2012 will show a decrease in the Polio cases in Pakistan.

The same report also mentions that along with India even Nigeria too has the potential to eradicate Polio in near future.

Further reading from the report shudders my soul: “This would leave Pakistan as the single largest threat to global polio eradication, and isolate the country in a world that wants to protect its citizens from the last remaining reservoir of wild poliovirus.”

After reading this, with a depressed mind within a dizzy head, I appeal to all the powerful and mighty in Pakistan to please rise above wrangling and infighting and please pay attention to the poor masses of Pakistan, who have been long ignored in this battle of egos.

Let all forces work with harmony so that not just Polio be eradicated, but power shortages and poverty be controlled, and let the people prevail.

Dr Ilmana Fasih
13 Jan 2012

Who the hell are we to empathize with the ordinary?

Shams Ul Anwar’s statement of ‘waiting to receive the body parts of my daughter’ moved me. It really moved everyone.

Rarely do I take more than  a few seconds to figure out what status to write, but this time I wrote and rewrote at least 5 times before posting on Twitter and Facebook :
“He isn’t just one. There are many more #ShamsUlAnwars in Baluchistan, Parachanar, Hazara and where not… in #Pakistan.”

I read it with a flicker of scepticism on facts in the story: “he saved a man from planting a bomb.” It occurred to me “Why did this not make news?”

Next I read “his two sons were kidnapped and one son was sent back in pieces with a recorded CD of the act.”

“How come it didn’t make it to the news?” I again questioned.
Then came the last rhetoric that it is Jan 11 and a few hours left to the deadline of Jan 12 for his daughter’s turning into pieces.
I thought again, “Why did he have to wait for the last hours?”

But I just blamed the devil in me for questioning it. And felt nauseated. Really nauseated

It was one of those rare occasions when one saw EVERY Pakistani status on facebook pouring out compassion.

Without naming them, from journalists, intellectuals, values upholding serious youngsters, all of  whom I hold in high esteem, to even the Paris Hilton-ish socialites and fun loving teenagers who generally post only songs and light hearted statuses were all visibly shaken. Those who generally seem oblivious to the calamities occurring anywhere on the globe, or not giving a second thought to the suffering flood victims right in their backyard, were all posting bank accounts.

So overzealous were the intentions to donate that Beena Sarwar and others had to issue an appeal to avoid payment into the direct account and lest it would escalate the demand from the perpetrators and make kidnap for ransom an attractive option for criminals. It was only through her elaborate status that an emotionally moved me, could rationalise that these could be the possibilities too.

The vague imageless impression of the girl lingered in my head through the sleep. First thing I did jumping out of bed was to start the laptop to check what happened.

The girl was recovered. There weren’t as many rejoicing statuses, but people moved on to their usual statuses. It simply signified they felt truly happy with the developments. When you are really happy deep inside, you generally don’t show it off as an outburst, and stay calmly contented.

And then in the middle of the day, as if another emotional bomb was dropped.

Twitter started to talk of the possibility of the story being fraudulent. At that moment I felt for a split of a second, “Was it really silly of me  to believe it?

But then I realised it was better to have believed and empathised rather than have blown it off as a fluke. What if it had turned out to be correct, or even half correct?  The guilt then would have been worse, and quite unforgiving.  As such I hate to reach a point of apathy when no pain of others  looks real.

Later then , while searching on the net I came across this blog post on LUBP. Instead of digging into what fraudulent culture and mindsets, from top to bottom, gave Shams Ul Anwar the audacity to make up such a story, the author punned at the compassion of the empathising ‘urban elites’ as ‘promoting their shallow philanthropic credentials’.

And then the author did have to take it out on Imran Khan too, for which he had the compulsive urge to mention a blog by name of one of the key members of the opposite camp for settling a score.

Agreed, that there is no denial of the ‘ignored authentic stories of the Baloch, Pashtun and Shia target killings by army and its Jihadi-sectarian proxies’.

But how does this wrong negate the empathy of  thousands for the story? How does the empathy for a horrifying story become ‘superficial’ ?

I fail to understand. Perhaps they are right.

Neither the Baloch nor the Shias of Parachanar and Hazara killings deserve empathy, nor did the story of Madina Anwar’s until proven fraudulent.

The only rant that really deserves merit is the ‘victimisation’ rant and ‘coup, coup’  wolf cry that the followers of the party whose agenda  LUBP pursues.

This is the only unfairness in the world that deserves all the outpouring and sympathy. After all they are the ‘Feudal and the ruling ‘elite’.

What the hell is empathy got to do with an ordinary Madina Anwar or the   ‘people’ who are killed whether in Hazara, in Parachanar, or Balochistan or even who die a million deaths each day in the flood affected areas of Sind or elsewhere in Pakistan, due to lack of basic necessities of life?

Yes, next time when they rant ‘coup , coup’ (whether true or false), despite their non compliance to the parliamentary resolutions or court orders, please all of you cry in pain.

The thin line of frustration tolerance

After reading the health blog “Living a healthy lifestyle’ a friend, who did not want to ask it in public, emailed, to inquire more about the mention of the phrase ‘frustration tolerance’. She mentioned of her son’s tendency to get frustrated very easily, then starts to get aggressive and blames others for everything.

This reminded me of a time, a week ago, when I was sitting with my son in the Hospital waiting hall, waiting for his turn to get the blood tests.

Apart from many who waited, there were two set of patient families there who merit a mention.

First one was a couple with a newborn baby, barely a month old and another a boy about 4 years of age The elder one was perhaps going through difficult days that kids usually experience on the arrival of a new baby. He was constantly tearful, and literally searching for reasons to throw tantrums.

Visibly very annoyed by his behaviour they forced him to sit on the stroller with the belt tied up.

Instead of helping, this made him worse and he struggled with all his might to undo the strap. He threw away all his toys and a juice bottle on the floor with a hard bang, one by one.

But parents, though visibly perturbed chose not to look at him.

I could not resist, and asked the mother, if I could talk to the baby.
The mother  tearfully  expressed her exhaustion and lack of sleep since the new baby’s arrival and that his tantrums have added more to her stress.

“He doesn’t seem to be accepting the baby.” She complained.

“But do you give him the much needed attention?” I asked.

She said she does, but not as much, as the new baby is too small to take care and that he is pretty big to warrant full attention.

“I cant carry him all the time. Whenever I feed the little one, he wants to climb up on me. Earlier he never wanted to be held at all.”

The second was an elderly couple, with the husband on a wheel chair, while the wife almost as frail, and old but pretty smart and active. She was walking along his automobile wheelchair almost like shadow, carrying his overcoat and muffler along with another bag hung on her wrinkled arms.

She chose a corner of the waiting hall, parked his wheel chair and she sat on a chair next to him.

In barely a couple of minutes, the husband muttered something, and she was up on her feet and hunted out a watter bottle from the bag hung over the wheelchair. She held his chin with one hand and the bottle with the other, as he drank. Her attention was elsewhere when the husband asked her to stop, but it took her a second more to stop.

The husband gave her a look with a visible frown on his forehead, but she returned a wide graceful smile while wiping the dripped water from his chin and shirt.

A few minutes later, and she needed to get up again, to pat him on the back, while he coughed.  A few more minutes, it was for a napkin which was right in the bag hung next to his armrest, but he wanted her to get it for him.

It was at least a dozen times in half an hour, that I saw her stand up and help him out. Out of those dozen times, at least half the time, the husband was annoyed for one reason of the other.

No doubt old age and ill health makes one irritable, but the wife was no less old.

All through the waiting time and even later on the way, I wondered at the two families, and their behaviours.

Perhaps both of them were at extreme ends of how we tend to extend helping hands to our loved ones.

If in order for them to learn, we take off all support and leave to learn all by themselves, they tend to feel defeated and angry like the child in the first case.

Or out of our limitless love and sympathy, we tend to pitch in our helping hand a bit too soon, so that they don’t get hurt. And as a result, expectations rise as the mind gets accustomed to getting help too soon, and any small amount of struggle generates frustration. This was the case in the second couple, in which the dedication and love of the wife had spoilt her ailing husband so much that any amount of her support was not enough, if she did not give an undivided attention to him.

How I wish someone could tell her that this spoon feeding to her ailing husband would make him feel less well than when she left some small actions (that were within his capability) for him to do himself.

The point is- it is very essential to strike a delicate balance and know the thin line between stepping in too soon, and standing afar watching a loved one collapse into a frustrated heap.

It is common sense that too much of frustration is harmful for one’s self esteem. But too little of frustration creates a learned helplessness, and the individual is left incapable to face any struggle with strength.

Hence, some amount of frustration is important, and becomes a learning experience that benefits a lifetime.

If we really care for our loved ones, be our children or spouses or others, we need to give them enough space to struggle, and then pitch in help only at the point where their self esteem is not hurt and the struggle has been enough make them resilient.

I emailed this whole write up to my friend to help her understand what was frustration tolerance with some links…for I certainly did not want to spoon feed her.

Call me an IndianPakistani

Published in ExpressTribue :
I recently wrote a blog post titled ‘An Indian who moved to Pakistan‘. The response I got – positive and negative – is much appreciated. It inspired me to write this piece about my dream of a world without borders and wars.

Before I begin, however, I want to make clear that I do not have any desire to undermine the sovereign and political borders between India and Pakistan or between any other countries. My dream is to erase the psychological borders that are etched in our minds in the shape of prejudices and hatred towards the other.

So I’ll get to the point: to all those people who expressed sympathy over my visa issues, please don’t feel sorry for me. I feel extremely privileged to have ties to two beautiful countries, Pakistan and India.

So what if I do not have an Indian passport?

I have 24 years of precious memories sealed in my heart as an Indian, memories that can never be erased. I am not Pakistani because of my passport alone, but because of the love and respect that I have received from numerous Pakistanis, who took no time to accept me as one of their own. I belong to both lands and a good 1.4 billion people are my fellow compatriots. How lucky am I?

I am as passionate about the happenings of the Lokpal bill as I do about the NRO debate. Last year, at the cricket World Cup, I got to support not one, but two teams. Whenever there is an India-Pakistan match, unlike the other billion and a half who dread a bad result, I rejoice. I feel like a winner when either of them wins.

I find absolute tranquillity in the Sufi poetry of Bulleh Shah, and at the same time, I am able to drown in the depths of Kabir Dohas. Moreover, I knew what Kareem’s nalli nihari in Delhi tasted like before it began its journey abroad and ended up as Sabri’s maghaz nihari in Karachi. In addition to this, I can put together an outfit comprising of a Kanjeevaram silk sari and a Sindhi mirror-embroidered bag. When I go out, I can flaunt both as my national handicrafts.

To those who ridiculed or criticised me, please shed the word ‘hate’ from your dictionaries and look beyond prejudice. Believe me, I am a witness to the reality that there are millions on both sides who want to live in peace with their neighbours.

We have seen first-hand how hatred leads to conflict, how conflict leads to instability, and how instability leads to massive defence expenditures. We have already wasted immeasurable revenue, which could very well have been used for the alleviation of poverty, hunger, and illiteracy – problems that exist in astronomical proportions on both sides of the border.

We share ancestors, history, geography, and the same problems. Why should we allow the problems of a few in power to affect us on a global scale? A prosperous India is in Pakistan’s best interest, and a prosperous Pakistan is in India’s best interests.

Why should a handful of bigots sabotage the road to peace we need to take to reach the goal of prosperity? We need to support and love each other – we do not have another way out.

Think about it.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

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