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Archive for October, 2021

Gulbakawli- Night Blooming Cereus on my Terrace

On the night of October 12, 2021, the giant cactus on our terrace garden had gorgeous giant white flowers blooming on each plant. I was in a hurry to attend a wedding, so quickly clicked them in few random clips.
Today I went to capture their beauty in daylight, I find that they have again folded themselves into buds. Not sure if they will unfurl and flaunt themselves again in the evening?
Missed enjoying their brief presence on our terrace. I was later told by gardening expert friends that they are called Cereus Night Bloom and they only bloom one night once a year. So I lamented why did I not stay back to enjoy these blooms on my terrace instead of going to a wedding event. We often don’t value what we have until its lost.

October 13, 2021

Happiness is…..
When the cactus flowers bloom once again.
No not the previous ones, these are new buds we had anticipated will open up. Here they are. Now I know their name too. Its ‘night blooming cereus’. Thankfully I wasn’t going anywhere tonight. So took the foot stool out, climbed on it, looked into each flower checking their beauty details and took pictures to my hearts content.

I invited friends over….Anyone in Karachi, who wants to witness, are most welcome to visit?
You will be served chai on the terrace along with cactus viewing. The weather is pleasant too.
I am just going to put my mattress next to Elmo on the terrace tonite. 😀

In the second bloom a friend mentioned that in Urdu this flower is called Gulbakawli and there is a fable based on a very fair girl, who was seen one night by a Prince before disappearing. The Prince went everywhere looking for her. So I prefer to name them Gulbakawli. On Oct 20, two more #Gulbakawli babies bloomed on our terrace today. This time they are at eye level so could take a selfie to give an idea of how big the flowers are.
This is beyond happiness….


NighBloomingCereus #Karachi


A Little Visitor on Our Terrace- A Monarch Butterfly

I came upstairs on the terrace, to play with Elmo after work, I saw him playing with some tiny leaf on the ground. He totally ignored me.

He would sniff it, tenderly touch with his front foot and then would jump with excitement, as if flirting with the leaf. Then suddenly I saw the leaf flap its wings.
I bent down to see it wasn’t any autumn leaf, but a Monarch butterfly. I wondered if it was dying or dead, I picked it up.
Elmo jumped on my hand as if protesting, how dare I come in between him and his butterfly.

It looked fine, and undamaged. So I brought it to my room and made it rest on my bedcover. The dainty butterfly is fine, moving its limbs and wings only when touched. Probably in shock and deeply traumatized. So its just sitting still where I put it. I had no clue how to help it. So I left it on my bed, and put some leaves and flowers around it.

A couple of hours later as I came back to my room, it seems to be more relaxed. And is flapping its wings in full span and is slowly walking around. But still not flying. This baby is going to sleep in my room tonight.

Lets hope how it improves overnight. And if all goes well, it will be released on the terrace in the morning. I have read that Monarchs have a life span of only a week.

Lets hope for the best.

At least this Monarch gave a beautiful opportunity to photo shoot it from very very close. The body is spotted, and seen that close up, it looks like wearing a polka dot jacket. The brown and rust wings with black and white borders appear as if it is wrapped in one of my silk scarves over its jacket.

What an incredible experience enjoying details of this small Titli Rani.

I the morning as I woke up and butterfly was still sitting where it was and flapping wings more often. I lightly lifted its box and placed it on a pot on the terrace.

An hour later, as I returned, it was gone.


A Lesson on Sportsmanship & against Mockery !

Sometimes lessons are learned from the most unexpected of places and moments.

As the opening match of T20 began with the two traditional rivals India and Pakistan, many Indians including their anchors and experts were heard making bullying, mocking taunts in general with even the Indian experts making tall claims. It seemed as if every soothsayer and psychic parrot had already seen India’s victory against Pakistan in the opening match of T-20 World Cup 2021. There were hundreds of thousands of remarks made, which are not worthy of mention here. They are everywhere on media and social media.
The most hurtful of the remarks I found was, “Pakistan should not bother to play and give India a walk over.”

Anyways, fast forward, with the incredible performance by Pakistan, the match turned all the tables and all the tall claims of experts sitting on that table came tumbling down like sandcastles. My daughter and son in law who stayed up late in Manila, including their toddler, to watch the match messaged, “Ammi this is UNBELEIVABLE.”

As the match ended, something even more unbelievable happened. The pictures below, which are now spread all over the social media and mainstream media changed the entire discourse. Lets go through the pictures first.

These picture speak a thousand words, on the art of losing with grace and winning with humility.

Virat Kohli’s facial expression, his body language and the overall aura feels like he lost like a winner.
Look at the calm, composed Babar Azam( even if his back in the first pic), and his expression in other photos, he has exalted himself to a position which is beyond one match victory.

It’s not that Virat Kohli must not have gone to his camp, and at home disappointed, that’s inevitable. But the composure with which he did not let the emotions spills all around him and cared to congratulate the winning players with benevolence, not merely as a ritual handshake in the moments when emotions run high, is commendable. Super commendable.

Hats off to Virat Kohli. And massive respect for Baber Azam.

A lesson that the masses in India need to learn is:

Do not ever mock at the capability of an underdog.
Do not ever brag aloud haughtily about being a topcat.
Karma will get you.

A message that Pakistanis need to remind themselves:

Lambi thi gham ki shaam, mager shaam hi tou thi.. And times are about to change.

Congratulations’#Pakistan. This was an incredible performance.
Commiseration #India. Your captain did win hearts this time.

“If Afridi was the pointed end of the spear, Babar Azam was the shield. Oozing class from the first ball he placed, Azam set the tone with a back-foot punch through cover that should be immortalised in bronze.” –The Guardian reporting on the match.

What makes me happy is to see Pakistani nation, who has been deprived and deliberately isolated in cricket due to geo-politics, genuinely happy and rejoicing in the virtual and the real world.
Happiness and success has come after a lot of humiliation for years, beginning with BCCI, IPL and then the canceled tours of New Zealand and England to Pakistan.
And the cricket fans of Pakistan deserve to cease the moment and celebrate, which they are doing.

Lastly, I think this picture should become a symbol of hope for Pakistan, and the youth should put up these posters in their rooms, the way my generation covered our rooms with the posters of Imran Khan, Sunil Gavasker etc. 😀

May Pakistani Cricket fans see no dark clouds of hateful politics of exclusion, hovering over their land anymore. May they prove their mettle with excellent performance and exceptional perseverance.

Life and Learnings after Losing Spouse

Last 15 and a half months have been an unprecedented period of our lives. Ofcourse 26 June 2020 came as blow of an iron rod over our heads, when Fasih, suddenly left us on a one way ticket to Heavens.
It took us( Fatima, Ismail and myself) through a dark tunnel with long periods of fear, despondency and unsurety of what is in store in our lives now.
All three of is reacted differently.
In times of social isolation, lockdown, I opened up and shared my sentiments and memories through my social media posts. It all began very organically without a plan.
Fatima was strongly supported by her sensitive husband and hence cried her heart out thousands of times over his shoulders.
Ismail just became mute. He stopped expressing himself, and just stayed on a 24×7 alert watching over me, making sure Ammi wasn’t going away like Papa. A typical boy who had grown up and apart , again became very close to me.
Nevertheless we all took grief sessions independently with clinical psychologists to come to terms with what had happened. In the 6 months that we spent crying, laughing and remembering Fasih together in Karachi, Rahma was our therapist.

After kids left, it has given me a good window of opportunity to learn to get used to my own company and to reflect on my life, on my own being, in my empty nest.

There have been some pearls wisdom that I have gained( wouldn’t call them lessons) through the first hand experience and these deeper reflections, which I have been jotting down over past few day, and share them here:

  1. Be open and unfiltered about your grief, as this is the only thing that will help one to come to terms with the loss. Internalizing emotions can only make this journey harder.
  2. Keep your immediate family close to you. They are all grieving in their own ways. Hug them tight and often and cherish their physical presence.
  3. Seek professional help if possible. There is no stigma in doing that. I did even have to take Prozac, an antidepressant for 6 weeks when counseling wasn’t working.
  4. Know that only you can rescue yourself out of this grief. No one else can. Professional help will only assist you.
  5. Do not pin undue hopes and expectations from other family members and friends. Whatever support they are giving or not giving is as per their capacity and capability. They too have serious challenges in their lives to deal with. Forgive if you have any bitterness from some.
  6. Do not forget those family and friends who have gone extra mile for you in this most difficult time. NEVER EVER FORGET THEM.
  7. Be mindful of your strengths and weaknesses as these are the only tools that will help you come back or pull you down respectively in grief.
  8. Since I lost my spouse, a companion, I consciously began to learn to get used to my own company. No kids, no sibling, no friend, no staff can fill that void. So it is important to turn your pitiable loneliness into a calm comfortable solitude.
  9. Do what you love, so life does not appear a burden. This is easier said than done, but luckily the work I do for an earning is what I dearly love too. So it has worked well.
  10. Hone the hobbies, which may have been kept on a back burner in the past due to other responsibilities. It is absolutely therapeutic eg my silk painting and my blog writing.
  11. Know that some genuine friends can be family too. I had never in my life traveled or spent vacations without a family. But when I did with a genuine friend, I realized this can be very fulfilling too.
  12. Come to terms with the fact that you can still live a life, enjoy a meal, bingewatch Netflix all by yourself.
  13. Do not become a burden on your children. They have their life to live. At times, I ask myself, did I sacrifice my happiness when my mother lost her spouse? So why should I become a liability on my kids. They are already very concerned and supportive. Why push them for more?
  14. You will get real happiness now only by showing compassion to others, who are in a difficult situation, sometimes more difficult than your own.
  15. Never ever compare your life with anyone else’s. All may look very happy unlike you. But everyone has a struggle, which could be different from our own, and maybe more grim than our own. Even if not, comparing will never bring you happiness.
  16. Last but not the least, if you are an empowered, economically independent person and remain so after the loss of your loved one(especially a spouse), be grateful, very very grateful, as for many, life turns upside down especially after the breadwinner goes.
  17. And ofcpurse, keep sending love to your loved one by thinking about them and talking about them. Nothing is more empowering than remembering the beautiful times spent with them with a twinkle in the eyes and a wide smile.

I have nothing but gratitude to all who read my some 40 plus blog posts in the past year, on my grief. Thank you for lending me your attention in this ocean of social media.

Will end with Susan Froybort’s powerful poem Worry’s Cure:

Tala’a Al Bardu Alaina… by Um Kulthum

It is a myth propagated by the ultraconservatives that music is haram in the faith.

Another myth propagated by the ignorant is that the songs in praise of Prophet Muhammad PBUH are sung as a biddat( innovative distortion) only in the South Asia and not in the Arab world. On the contrary, my favourite naats are in Arabic and they are called Nasheeds.

Having lived in Saudi Arabia, for nearly 2 decades, and travelled extensively in the Arab world from Egypt to Syria to the Gulf, the overload of beautiful music I have enjoyed is beyond the scope of this post.

Here I wish to share the FIRST EVER Arabic song in recorded history which was sung in 622 AD in Madina when Prophet PBUH entered the city, and he was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Ansars ( the residents of Madina). The singers lined up were women, who played Duff( a hand drum) and sang in his praise.

The lyrics say: Tala’a Al Badru Alaina…The white full moon has arisen….

The one shared below is the modern original version sung by none other than my favourite Arab singer, Um Kulthum, for the film The Message.
The video also gives an overview of how the welcome scene may have looked like 1400 years ago.

This is my utmost favourite, and the catchy music still gives goosebumps and serves as a reminder of the hundreds of trips to the tranquil city of Madina from Makkah in our 19 years stay there and numerous weddings we attended in the Arab world.

In a typical Arab wedding even today, the bride-groom are traditionally received in the wedding hall by women singing this very song.

طلع البدر علينا Oh the white moon has arisen over us
من ثنيات الوداع From the valley between hills
وجب الشكر علينا And we owe it to show our gratitude
ما دعى لله داعWhere the call is to Allah
أيها المبعوث فيناOh you who were raised among us
جئت بالأمر المطاعComing with a word to be revered
جئت شرفت المدينةYou have brought to this city nobility
مرحبا يا خير داعWelcome best caller to God’s way


Do listen to the song, the music and the powerful voice.
Does it feel as a beautiful piece of music as it feels to me?

Nankhatais with Almond Flour and Chunky Almonds

We were at Serena Shigar when Raja Adeel invited Humaira and us for Chai in the beautiful lawns by the stream at Shigar Fort. He had a box of nankhatais on the table. As we waited for chai, we kept chatting and munching on the NanKhatais.
Humaira informed me, “Ilmana these are famous Hafiz Nankhatais from Lahore made from desighee.”
Not a fan of desighee, but the desi biscuits with whole toasted amonds inside were irreristable.
When I realized, I had already gulped down 4 whole calorie loaded crispy biscuits. And the guilt of carbs indulgence set in, as usual.

To come to the point, ever since I had come back to Karachi I had thought of replicating these with non carb ingredients, as much as possible.

Of course Karachi is a city where you can find everything, just everything, including true love. Yes I found true love here almost 30 years ago. But this weekend, guess what, I even found raw almond flour( almond with skin) and hence decided to make Almond Flour Nankhatais. I couldn’t replace sugar, so used half quantity icing sugar.

The recipe is easy and with minimal basic ingredients: Almond flour, icing sugar, butter, chunky almonds, pinch of salt, pinch of baking powder and crushed cardamom seeds.
Just mixed them into a dough, rolled into small discs and baked in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes. Thats all.

The final Khatais are not as fancy as made out of refined flour, but they are delicious. I wish I could share the delectable aroma of the cookies fresh out of oven. Aah !

Pictures explain the steps of the making low carb almond Nankhatais.

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