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A Visit to Havana, Cuba: Day 2 Part 2: Funride in Vintage Cadillac and Impala

The first post for day 2 is heavy dose for those not interested in politics or history of Cuba, though that will remain my favourite Travelog on Havana.

We did have some fun trip too in the latter half of the day. Since we were to ride in luxury vintage cars, I chose to dress desi. Being a #DesiToTheCore, it couldn’t have been otherwise.

You can take a desi out of South Asia, but not her pride for desiness from her. It certainly doesn’t mean one doesn’t love and appreciate other cultures too.

All cultures are beautiful including ours. So I wore kurta with Sindhi embroidery, a Khussa from Jaipur and a Kasmiri embroidered sling bag.
Ismail remarked, “Shukr hai Ammi you didn’t choose a saree.”
Well he has no clue, that might happen one day too. 😃 We took a 3 hour Havana city ride in the Pink Cadillac ( as the driver called it). It was fun and loads of new experiences too.

We went to the favorite bars Earnest Hemingway visited, his famous fishing site, Earnest Hemingway, my favourite author, merits a separate blog, so won’t share those details here.
Fraternity Park which has a statue to Rabindranath Tagore:

Tagore Statue in Fraternity Park

John Lennon Park:
Sharing the bench and having a tete a tete with John Lennon.

I asked him, “How’s Fasih doing up there? Hope not just chasing 72k hooris only?”
He replied, “No. He is a good boy. Ever since he came, all he’s been advising people is dont drink too much.. Even if its free here, alcohol will destroy your liver.”
Me: “So what does he do most of the time.”
Lemnon: “Oh he hangs out mostly with his doctor friends, who too died of COVID and then there is this old bearded guy from Pakistan who he sits and chat with. I think they call him Edhi Sb.”
Me: “Thank you John. You are the best.” 

Fidel Castro liked John Lennon and Beatles music is popular in Cuba. Hence he sits in a bronze statue in a park. Some ardent fan of his has stolen his glasses though.

Sharing the bench with John Lennon. Poor fellow was lamenting the fanboys stole his glasses.

And the revolution Square:

We visited the Jesus statue across the bay. We also visited and saw the interior s of Hotel Nacional which was built in 1930 and has been preserved in the same state till now.

And finally a visit to the other side of the bay to meet the Jesus statue:

n this fun trip and for the love of luxury cars Fasih was badly missed. Sigh !


A Visit to Havana, Cuba: Day 1, Part 2: Cuban Music

Cuba’s second language is Spanish.
Yes. You read it right ! 😃

First language of Cubans is music.
They speak music, they walk music, they breath music, they live music. If you have any doubts, you need to visit Cuba.
Every few hundred meters, just as you find Tim Hortons in Canada, you will find music bands in Havana. Cuban music is influenced by European and African music mostly brought along by people from Spain as conquerors and West Africans as slaves. Am no technical expert on music so i quote from elsewhere:

The Caribbean island of Cuba has been influential in the development of multiple musical styles in the 19th and 20th centuries. The roots of most Cuban musical forms lie in the cabildos, a form of social club among African slaves brought to the island. Cabildos preserved African cultural traditions, even after the Emancipation in 1886 forced them to unite with the Roman Catholic church. At the same time, a religion called Santería was developing and had soon spread throughout Cuba, Haiti and other nearby islands. Santería influenced Cuba’s music, as percussion is an inherent part of the religion. Each orisha, or deity, is associated with colors, emotions, Roman Catholic saints and drum patterns called toques. By the 20th century, elements of Santería music had appeared in popular and folk forms. Cuban music has its principal roots in Spain and West Africa, but over time has been influenced by diverse genres from different countries. Most important among these are France, the United States, and Jamaica. Reciprocally, Cuban music has been immensely influenti
al in other countries, contributing not only to the development of jazz and salsa, but also to Argentinian tango, Ghanaian high-life, West African Afrobeat, and Spanish “nuevo flamenco”.
FOLK MUSIC: The nati
ves of Cuba were the Taíno, Arawak and Ciboney people, known for a style of music called areito. Large numbers of African slaves and European immigrants brought their own forms of music to the island. European dances and folk musics included zapateo, fandango, zampado, retambico and canción. Later, northern European forms like waltz, minuet, gavotte and mazurka appeared among urban whites.Fernando Ortíz, a Cuban folklorist, described Cuba’s musical innovations as arising from the interplay between African slaves settled on large sugar plantations and Spanish or Canary Islanders who grew tobacco on small farms. The African slaves and their descendants reconstructed large numbers of percussive instruments and corresponding rhythms, the most important instruments being the clave, the congas and batá drums. Chinese immigrants have contributed the cornetín chino (“Chinese cornet”), a Chinese wind instrument still played in the comparsas, or carnival groups, of Santiago of Cuba.”

Below are two beautiful videos I have recorded from live performance by an all girl band in the hotel we are staying. Its absolutely phenomenal.

Cha cha cha

A Visit to Havana, Cuba: Day #1 Part #1: First Impression !

A city and a country frozen in time.
It jaw-droppingly transports you back to times your weren’t even born…in the 1950s and at places to even 400 years back. And leaves you stunned and mesmerized at the same time.

What a marvelous kaleidoscope of colors Havana, Cuba is in every sense of the word- from people to places to music to artwork to landscapes, to cuisine.

My first impression is of two Havanas- one for the tourists and the other for the local Cubans. The tourist areas mainly in the City centre are pristine, chic and modern. The old colonial and baroque buildings that now house museums, and some hotels have been restored to their fullest glory.

In aesthetics and class they beat any North American city. The residential quarters which mostly have the influence of French and Spanish architecture even in their derelict state leave you awestruck. With their receding glamour they still stand tall with beauty and grace, as if patiently awaiting for good times to restore them to their old glory. Most of these old quarters of Havana have been declared a Heritage site by UNESCO, so are being slowly preserved and looked after. Thankfully.

What matches beautifully with these colonial architecture are the vintage cars from 50s and earlier. That was the time of prosperity in Cuba when these cars were imported in large numbers. Once embargoes pushed them against the walls, little or no new cars can be 9mported. There are Dodges, Cadillacs, Chryslers, Buick, Fords, Chevrolets, Volkswagen and even Ladas(from Russia) from yesteryears plying on the road. Lada mostly used as personal vehicle by above average locals, I am told, is a status symbol for their, and their spare parts are imported from Russia and Panama.

Like the tourist-local divide in buildings, the old luxury cars have also been either refurbished and repainted into bright neon colors to cater to the tourists, while the austere Ladas or Volkswagens remain in old form, and used by locals for personal use.

Damned are these embargoes by the US and the Western countries, that Cubans remains stuck in mid 20th C with economic challenges.
What these wretched imperialist bullies could not put an embargo on is the zest for life and happiness of ordinary Cubans.
No Cuban child has delayed their childhood, waiting to play with American brand of plastic toys ‘Made in China’. LOL. Their playfulness finds simple, yet creative ways to make the best of their childhood.
No Cuban youth have waited to for flashing brand new Lexus, Toyotas, Mercedes Benz or even Hyundais to impress their prospective girlfriends and take them ‘for a ride’- both in letter and in spirit. Their old, 1950 models Volkswagen or Ladas, are enough to do the job.
No Cuban lover has waited for good economic times to take his beloved for a date in Western chain of restaurants (LOL), nor has a single one of them waited for deeper pockets to propose to their girlfriend with a DeBeers Diamond ring or gift her with an exotic Herme’s Birkin or a Prada handbag.
No Cuban woman has waited for Chanel or MAC cosmetics to make themselves look pretty (LOL). They still manage to carry themselves gorgeously, with minimal resources. I personally found every single young Cuban woman very well groomed and stylish. ❤
No Cuban foodie has awaited franchises like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFCs LOL to load themselves with massive calories from comfort fast foods or colas. Their own cuisine is exotic and authentic enough to not miss these useless calorie bombs that we in rest of the world have got hooked on to happily.
The obesity in youngsters here is hardly visible(though am not sure of stats). Just second day here, and we have enjoyed their seafood especially Shrimp caserrole, local black bread, Cuban coffee, guarapo( sugarcane juice) and Cuban ice cream. Since we don’t eat Pork, our choices remain limited. Locally produced Bacardis flow in abundance almost every few hundred meters.

Cubans 🇨🇺 are welcoming and warm. I am sure it is far more than just because they are a tourist economy. Not one single request to take pictures or ask them questions was turned down. And for sure, they open their hearts if they come to know you are a Canadian. 🇨🇦 Couples walk hand in hand in the open streets, kiss more freely than Americans get free healthcare. 🤣🤣🤣

We walked into barber shop to click picture, made video of kids playing football, walked to a wine bar to watch live music. And we were received with smiles. Being pushed against the wall and isolated by the world does hurt ones self esteem. But they have learned to live with dignity despite all the isolation. Embargo has done zilch to the spirits of Cubans.
Bravo these people with a heart ❤ larger that the size of their enemy country United States of America.

Contrary to the ignorant advices we got from those who never visited Cubs, it is an extremely safe place with only minor crimes that may impact the tourists.

We roam in day light and in the dark, and feel no major risk. Yet being a super cautious person, Ismail is making sure we stay in safe limits and keeping a check on, “Ammi don’t give out too much information in your interaction with locals.” My boy he is.
Every moment here is beautiful, but Ismail and I often talk of how much Fasih would have enjoyed if he was with us too. May you be happy wherever you are, you are being badly missed Babloo.
Missing my Fatima, Abdullah and Rahma too.
This was just the first impression..

Lots more on Cuban history, revolution, cigars, their art, music, museums, Earnest Hemingway home, its exemplary healthcare, human stories, need to be explored and shared in days to come.

Moving Forward On Your Own: A Widow’s Path Towards Economic Empowerment & Life with Dignity

There was a long distance call today from an old neighbor.
She talked about how she had been with us in Makkah for 2 decade, how beautiful a house Fasih and I had created, Fasih’s high connections in Makkah, how we went for shopping sprees to Jeddah Malls, picnics to Arafat and Jeddah Corniche etc.

She made me so nostalgic for the good times and then switched to, “But Ilmana you haven’t changed at all.”
I asked her, “What do you mean? How should I have changed? I think I am a different person now.”
Her: “You always looked after yourself.”
Me: ” Kya??? So do you think ab different hona chahiye. Burehaal hona chahiye?”
Her: “Nahin. I know you were always very well groomed in your appearance, it hasnt changed now.”
Me: “You mean, it should have changed?”

Anyways I kept asking and she kept going circles. What she actually meant was that I don’t look like an old widow. But she was too polite to say that.

Even in my lowest moments, I am have never been shabby. Those who know me in real person know that and even tell me that. This is something probably I learned subconsciously from my mother who changed overnight after Papa’s death. She was a University Professor, a PhD, not retired when Papa passed away. She was economically empowered too. And at 80 she still is drawing a fat pension. But emotionally and psychologically she just broke down. That conservative concept of a “widow” in the Indian culture, which she has seen. All her friends, who subsequently became widows they turned the same. And it really hurt me to see her in that state.

There was a time in early stages of my grief, I hated to look into the mirror and dreaded the word ‘widow’ as so did my son. But it no more is. Yes honestly its no more. It only is a reminder that Fasih has transitioned from one world to another, and I am transitioning from one stage to another as a widow. I want to seriously break this stereotypical stigma associated with this word.

The above conversation and the the word ‘widow’ could have killed me inside, if I had not worked on understanding who I am now, and where should I be heading. And if not had taken grief counseling in early days.

On my arrival to Canada in early November, I paid a courtesy call to my psychologist, a beautiful Turkish-Canadian woman, in her late 40s who is also a widow, with a little girl of 7 recommended, me to read this book. “Moving Forward on Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widow by Kathleen Rehl.”
This book bases its narrative on the premise that a widow’s overarching need is to feel secure and safe about her financial needs. And that is what determines her self confidence. This is definitely an important aspect knowing that 80% of women who lose their spouses prematurely( especially in desilands) are left in financial doldrums- in the form of no career, no savings of their own, joint financial control by the spouse( mostly in desis), husband’s credit card debts, other debts and in our desilands, where majority of the family property is owned by husbands, and when divided according to Sharia, the widow gets only 8%, or in other desi cultures grabbed by the children.

The problems of men widowers who are already economically empowered are different. What goes missing in their lives are personal needs more than financial needs. Its not the same for women widows who lose breadwinner husbands. Their primary need is economic stability. Rest comes later.

Money may look an ugly topic of conversation in loss of human relationships, but this is the harsh truth. I have been fortunate to have not only had a robust career and a business jointly owned by my husband and I and personal assets. But I still need to ensure this remains to be looked after and grown.

Almost all other doctors that we know were lost, were breadwinners, and their families’ lives turned upside down overnight. Alhamdulillah that was not the case with us. But what hurts even more is that, when it was time from past few years, for Fasih and I to actually reap the benefits of our hard work- with kids all grown up, to travel the world and Pakistan frequently, Fasih ditched us. Fasih was such a young at heart man that I made travel plans, enforced them upon him, and he just followed, whether it was a drive to Key West, a trip to Khunjerab, roadtrip along the Nile in Egypt, or a gambling-trip to Las Vegas. No we did not gamble except Fasih put 20 USD and lost it all. I was grateful that he lost.

Sorry, I digressed as usual.

So as she summarized, the book has divided the life of a widow into 3 phases:
1. Grief Phase
2. Growth Phase
3. Grace Phase

1: Grief Phase: For those women who are not economically strong, they have a double loss- of a person and of finances. And hence is a very deeply saddening and a scary place to be, in their lives. Most are not sure where to begin. Those economically strong, start to manage their and family’s finances alone. My psychologist remarked, “Ilmana, you have done very well.”

A majority of it she said was possible because I have a purpose to pursue- ie to run the hospital that Fasih and I had invested all our life savings into.

2. Growth Phase: With will power and support from extended family, some widows generally begin to start thinking of what they can do to earn for their family and also learn how to secure husbands assets etc. Starting work/ business, thinking of investing in an insurance, other investments ( for kids ), and discovering new talents, beginning to look after your physical and mental health are part of this phase. My Psychologist thinks I have now entered in my growth phase- the cognitive functioning has normalized. Good News. LOL
“You are thinking OK again.” She smiles. 🙂 She was so pleased when I showed the silk stoles that have gone crazily popular.

She asked me, “Do you feel bad that you did this late and not in Fasih’s life?”
I told her, “Exactly my feeling. I did silk painting, but was too laid back and irregular.”
Her: “See. I thought so. No but this is not the case. This is how it was meant to be scientifically. Your normal brain was shut down in grief and as you began to recover, the right brain which is creative took over your left brain. And now they both will be slowly coming back, but right will always take the lead, because that is where you find more gratification.”
“So consider this as your growth phase. But beware, at times, two steps forward may lead to one step backwards too. The pathway of grief is not linear. And you will struggle with guilt in this phase for growing out of grief. But that is very normal too.”
Me: “OMG you know everything that’s going inside me.”
Her: “You are still doing much better and guilt is fine, just don’t let it overpower your growth. You will be here for sometime. I am not sure for how long. It all depends on your inner strength and will power. And this phase you will see your health get better too. You just need to make that a priority.”

3. Grace Phase: No many widows reach this phase where they are so economically successful that they regain confidence and think of a change in their lives. This stage is also called as ‘redesigning your life’ or repurposing it. Widows who get here see themselves as successful and happy.

My therapist told me, “if and when you reach here, You will see yourself first as a businesswoman, while earlier you saw yourself as a ‘wife’ first.”
Me: No, but I still think my kids and grand kid are the most important living pieces of my life. Business comes next.
Her: “My dear Ilmana, that is why you are now in a growth phase, not a grace phase. And don’t worry, seeing yourself as an empowered woman first will not make you less of a mother. Thats not how it works. I can predict this phase will see your silk stoles take a full fledged business form. Your right brain is working for it already. This phase will also see the results of your self care in the growth phase. This stage generally adds new business, new friendships, new financial planning, new relationships and charitable giving too.
Me: “What if I come across some major health issues 5-10 year down the road- some cancer, some chronic disease like diabetes or blood pressure?” She just shrugged her shoulder and did not have much to answer except that, “You keep trying your fitness as best as you can. Rest of course we cant control everything in our lives.”

Me: “What is we are hit with a car accident after all this?” 😃 “That is the fragility of life we cant predict or control. But lets keep doing what we can make a difference in.”

Me: “Haha I am just kidding. I know these stages dont make me immortal.”

I asked her, “Do all widows get to State 3?”

Her, “No. Most in fact don’t come out of grief, and they are those who are joined to the hip of their spouse. They remain economically dependent on others.. Some hang on the border of grief and growth. Some are happy with the growth phase. One thing is important, in order to reach the stage of Grace( which is the true widow empowerment) you need to be strong psychologically and financially independent. How many of our widowed mothers are that financially independent?”

It did totally make sense to me. Of course even for single women, married women, divorced women or widowed women, the path to a life of dignity is through economic independence. And when you have a loving supportive little family of kids behind you, who celebrates your independence, what could be more empowering.
And what was a courtesy call, ended up being a therapy session for over an hour.

😃 Will end with a quote I have loved and emulated all my life: “Keep moving forward, even one or two steps, in your own way. Those who live out their lives to the fullest, unperturbed by the noisy clamor around them, are the true winners.”— Daisaku Ikeda

Self reflection – on Birthday !

Here I am half a century and half a dozen years ancient.

Overall, Alhamdulillah to have lived a fulsome life all these years, indulging in multiple love-affairs simultaneously- with my people, with my work, with my creative hobbies, with my homes, with my cities and with this beautiful world at large. No regrets at all for anything that was in my control.

How did I reach here?

No, not just by stroke of luck. By no means.

It has been a hard labor of love, belief in self and making conscious choices to step out of comfort zones whenever possible.
Some of these major adventures out of comfort zones have been :

1. In 1990, decided to marry a Pakistani hunk, and crossed over, quitting easy mundane life in Delhi and breaking hearts of a few aspirants in India.

2. In 2009, decided to quit a lucrative job with National Guards Health Affairs in KSA to immigrate to Mississauga, Canada, only to provide better life options to my two children, starting from scratch and alone, as husband chose to stay behind. Not just that, it was amidst speculations from some idiots, “Bache tou bache, biwi bhi bhaag jaayegi”. LOL. But my man believed in me and stood by me. ❤

3. In 2017, decided to go grey, unabashedly, unapologetically, when everyone said, “You will look like your husband’s Amma if you go grey.” But I certainly did not. In fact, the amount of compliments I have received on my grey hair are only second to compliments on my unusual name Ilmana given to me by father.

4. In 2020, decided to move to Karachi after we lost Fasih, quitting yet another coveted position in United Way of Greater Toronto. And despite all its inherent challenges, and dissuasion from sincere well wishers, it has been a decision I am most proud of. Things are working well. Karachi is growing on me. Like-minded well wishers are being added to a growing friends list and offering help.

By and large thankful that Pakistan and vast majority of Pakistanis have been very kind.

It’s a great feeling to be a nomad between Delhi, Karachi and Mississauga. And a world citizen and a keen traveler. There is still a long bucket list to be checked, if life permits.

Thank you family and friends for the deluge of Birthday greetings virtually or in person. As always, I will respond to each individual greeting personally in days to come.
Love and massive respect to you all !

Gold Standard for Trust: The Two Beers and A Puppy Test

This is too interesting and insightful.. .

I am currently reading a book “Works Well With Others” on how to or not trust others. Trust is an important pillar in business and personal life success.
My Admin at Taj, had once lightly remarked, “Madam you trust people too fast and you are too generous. Not everyone is sincere here. Most people here are imposters.”
However I have my own belief in trusting others for specific requirements. Trusting someone I believe is somtime testing them too. And most people who are trusted, respond well to that trust bestowed upon them.
Ofcourse its trust for certain situations or issues like with a loan, with handing over some responsibility. It is not a blanket trust for everything. I AM NOT THAT STUPID.

But still in a city like Karachi where trust deficit is higher than the highest peak in the country, his comment kept me wondering if there was something reall wrong with me. Then one of our young female Consultants, who has become a good friend too, recommended me to read this above mentioned book.

Contrary to what I had thought would be a serous learning lesson on how to manage ones trust on others, it has turned out to be a very funny personal story of a guy who evolved from an immature to a seasoned person skilled in workplace success and as a social navigation coach.
Since in West a lot of business transactions happen in bars or in business parties over beer cans, he suggests a Test called The Two Beers and a Puppy Test.

However trivial or ridiculous the test may seem, it appears that this test has recieved rave reviews and is acknowledged as a gold standard on trust by many.

Probably not applicable personally, as I don’t drink beer, but can definitely relate to trusting or not trusting people with my Elmo.
Non-beer folks can apply this to Tim Hortons Coffee or smokers to Sheesha or even with fine dining together. No one wants to go dine in a chic restaurant with uninteresting people. 🙂
Those who don’t fancy dogs can apply to kittens or other pets.
Anju A Rajan you can relate to how Ismail needed to ensure if his kitties were safe at your place and spent a day earlier at your place. 🙂

The Two Beers and A Puppy Test

The combinations it gives of

  1. Yes/No (Fun to be with but not trustworthy)
  2. No/Yez( Not a great company, but reliable)
  3. No/No (All in all Toxic- avoid them at all cost)
  4. Yes/Yes (Your people)

IMHO this can be extended to all our social networks including colleagues, family and friends in general, excluding social media friends of course. 😀

The book by Ross McCammon is a pleasure read. Would recommend to all.
Anyone who has read this book already? Your views?

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:

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