An Extract from a Teacher’s Diary

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Margaret Fishback Powers said, “One hundred years from now on, it will not matter what kind of car you drove, what kind of house you lived in, how much you had in your bank account or what your clothes looked like, but the world may be a little better because you were important in the life of a child.“

Assess the worth of a person who plays a vital role in the lives of a number of children. Of course it’s none other than a teacher. Teachers are the role models who inspire us, guide us and lead us through the paths of life. Behind every success and failure of ours, there’s a mentor or a leader.
When I questioned myself why do I want to be a teacher despite multiple inhibitions about the profession, I found that it’s only because of the great teachers I had in my life. Whether it’s my junior class petite and polite instructors Maams Tabassum, Naheed and Aforze or secondary school exemplary educators Ms.Naseem, Safia, Mrs Siddiqui and Yahya, they remain a source of inspiration and enlightenment through the thick and thin of my life. They role model for their students, discover their potentials and polish their personalities in every way possible

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I luckily found great facilitators in college and university too. Ms Mehta’s style, Ms Shafqat’s charm. Ms Baig’s poise, Maam Gulzar’s concern and Ms Sahida’s radical thoughts opened new vistas to many of us and we blossomed into confident young ladies from perplexed teenagers.
I always wonder if I could ever be as valuable to my students as my teachers were. One who have the insight to make its scholars think, question and discover.While a good teacher is a blessing, an incompetent one can easily turn a student’s life into a hell. Students lose their belief in goodness of mankind when teachers exhibit attitude problems and prejudiced behavior.

Unfortunately, commercialization of education in Pakistan has reduced teachers into paid tutors dealing with clients rather than students. This transformation has changed most values about teacher-student relationship. Leaving exceptions, most private educational institutions are selling education at high rates. Teaching there is just a mean to produce labeled degree-holders that can acquire attractive jobs with handsome salaries only. Parents also seek for the result-oriented education that ensures fast-track secure career.

In such a demanding market-oriented environment, teachers are to drill numerous syllabus topics into students mind, assess them to achieve high grades and arrange extravagant activities to justify exorbitant education cost to its customers. The concept of truly devoted teachers with a genuine interest in students’ character building is thus extinct. The selfless dedication of instructors and unconditional devotion of students are long-lost. Reciprocally most teachers are losing their status and charisma at the cost of declining education standards despite better packages and increasing ventures at numerous educational institutions.

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I got a chance to teach at different levels; from high school to college and undergraduate to graduate and even post-graduate levels in different stages of my teaching career. On the basis of which I can say with all honesty that students from middle and lower social stratus still exhibit keen interest in their studies and genuine respect for their mentors.

However, my experiences with some of the City’s posh institutions were devastating. The affluent parents send away their spoil brats in these renowned educational institutions for a reputed degree. It’s, therefore, teachers foremost duty to please their customers anyway. I often wonder their casual mannerism. The never let a chance to demoralize their mentors. Be it a bad joke, suggestive remarks, howling sounds or arguments over assessment, they like to get an edge. However, very few show true intellect and interest in studies. Since students have a say at management level and teachers are hired,promoted and demoted on their feedback, most teachers grade them leniently to acquire students’ acknowledgement.

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It’s true that a teacher is a key factor in the class but s/he is not working in isolation. Students nowadays enjoy an equal status to make or frustrate a teacher. Teachers who teach social sciences, liberal arts, literature and languages often face tough time with their students since most of them consider these disciplines inferior to hardcore science and business subjects that can lead them to a standard degree and sound job.

Our educational institutions and society are equally responsible to reinforce the due status of teachers along with the essence of education. Appreciation for Art, Philosophy, Literature, Ethics and Religion and Social sciences must be developed, as these are the spirit of human existence and self-realization. We as a society need to understand that “Without respecting educators and education, we will remain backward and ignorant.”

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ARE WE READY TO SEND OUR CHILDREN BACK TO SCHOOLS?

images (1)Girls carry their school bags as they walk along a road while heading to their school after it reopened in PeshawarIt’s a do-or-die situation. But neither our government nor school management are capable enough to provide foolproof security to our children. So what’s the solution? How long we can keep our educational institutions closed? How far we can live under threat? These are pertinent questions that are to be raised, responded and resolved at every level

Extended Winter Vacations in Schools are about to end and children across Pakistan are ready to go back to school. After all fun-filled visits to family and friends, festivals and festivities; this is the time to resume studies in educational institutions. However, the dilemma each parent is confronting at the moment is ‘Are we Ready to send our children back to schools under the open threat of attacks from militants’? I am just wondering if we are…! When I posed the same question to the principal of my children’s school in these words, “What if there’s another attack and that would be our school?” She looked shocked and responded with utter disbelief. “God Forbid! acchi baat mau sai nikalai.” “But…!, I tried to explain however was quickly interrupted with a ready-made response, “We have taken all the required measures, you can go and check the notice board at the entrance. And if you are still keen, take a separate appointment to discuss the matter further. Baqi Allah is Great, Trust Him.”
On one side, mainstream media regularly feature activities of countless committees and statements of ministers and law enforcing agencies regarding the stringent security measures and foolproof initiatives claimed to be enforced. But are they trustworthy with their conflicting claims? The other day, I have seen the warning of Punjab Education minister Rana Mashood to the educational institutions that if they failed to follow the security instructions of the home department, they would be sealed till satisfactory arrangements.
On the other side, schools’ management resisted, saying that the authorities’ pressure to increase number of trained and armed security guards, installation of CCTV cameras, metal detectors or walkthrough gates, alarms and construction of boundary walls with barbed wires on them at their expense reflect the fact that the state is unable provide security to its educational institutions

The situation is not much different in other provinces including Sindh, KPK and Baluchistan where high ups from intelligence, police and provincial governments claimed to have a liaison with the management of schools, colleges and universities for essential security measures to avoid sequel of Army Public School Peshawar incident in any city. However, at the same time the Additional IG Karachi Ghulam Qadir Thebo accepted the fact that they don’t have sufficient staff to provide security to all schools in the city so private schools with heavy fee structure were instructed to take independent security measures on their own. The provincial governments obviously pass the buck to educational institutions by issuing redundant directives regarding distant parking, vigilance at entrance, exits and staff training. But who is responsible to ensure the monitoring and implementation of the directives is crucial to ask.
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Being parents we are totally puzzled and threatened. We don’t believe in all these hollow claims, responsibility-shifting gimmicks and publicity stunts. What we are increasingly concerned about are the security of our children, teachers and educational institutions. Not only that we also demand the fool-proof security of other public places including shopping malls, cinemas and religious places.
What I strongly believe is that rather than extending school’s winter vacations or blaming each other, we as a community, consisting of parents, teachers, students, staff and civil society need to join hands and do whatever we can as our responsibility to our community. The primary objective is to ensure efficient surveillance measures to prevent access of terrorists to our schools, colleges and universities. For that purpose installation of functional detectors, alarms, cameras and engagement of professionally trained security guards is indispensable. Schools, state and parents have to bear the cost mutually since it’s the matter of our children’s survival and security

Besides, effective Civil Defense crash programme should be introduced in all educational institutions and offices as mandatory training.
Civil Defense is an effective tool to combat militants and security threat that implies emergency operations and evacuations, preventive measures, recovery and response drills. Educational institutions must engage civil defense experts and volunteers to train their staff, teachers and senior students for any emergency situation or attack.
I might sound ambitious but there are incidents in the world and in even our own country where civilians effectively prevent deadly attacks and accidents through timely action and decisions. Considering the massive scale and severity of the situation, we have no option but to learn how to combat such attacks and how we can protect ourselves and people around us.

According to Sean Coughlan, the Education Correspondent of BBC News,
“Terror attacks on schools and colleges have risen to higher levels than at any point in more than 40 years world over.” Since 2004, there is a marked increase in such attacks as indicated by the global terrorism database and unfortunately Pakistan topped the list even prior to Peshawar attack in December, which, no doubt is the deadliest and one of its own kind. Thus it demands equally serious Defense measures.
What is crucial to understand is the fact that we cannot live under terror for good. In order to rear and prepare our children in the current environment, we have to take proactive measures. No politician, state, government, army, police or even educational institution can help and protect us unless we decide to help ourselves. This is high time we need to equip ourselves to protect our future and our children since it’s the matter of our survival.

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Suno Ab Bus Bhi Ker Do! Dedicated to the traumatized nation after Peshawar Massacre in Army Public School

By Erum Hafeez

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Suno ab bus bhi ker do
Lashain dikhana, dawai duhrana
Moorat banana, Rating barhana
Aansoo bahana, phir khilkhilana
Aur Bhool jana…
Ess Sanhai ko, hur hadsai ko
Yai Kethtai Janaa…
Maghrib ki saazish, Ghairon ki zulmat
Maazi kai jhootai qissai duhrana
Mukkai lehrana, narai lagana
Ess rauti sisakti…
Kuch neem jaan si, aur beaman si
Millat ko bakhsho, khalqat ko bakhsho
Sunno! ab bus bhi ker do…

Aasman ko tukna, Masiha ka rusta
Mazhab ka rona, muslak ka natak
Insaniyat kai jhootai bharam sub.
Khud-tarsi kai manzar dekhana
System ko gali, Leader ko tali
Tuhmat lagana, fatwai chalana
Mayoos rehna, Makrooz rehna
Jeena bhi yun kai, murna ho jaisai
Suna ab bus ker do
Khudarra bus bhi ker do!
Kai ab himmat nahi hai
Muhlat nahi hai…

Hai aakhrai moka jo samjho…!
yai silsila ab na thamai ga
yai zindagi hai, yaa murdani hai
Tum ko qasam hai ab uth bhi jao
Aik baarr keh do, aitbar ker lo
Apni zaban sai, apnai amal per
Apnai yaqeen sai, apnai watan per
Bawar kara do,sub ko bata do
Kai hum nai milkur ab bus hai kernee
Aur bus hai ker dee, aur bus hai kerlee.

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Expo Center, Ideas 2014 and the Plight of Karachiites

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Prime minister Nawaz Sharif inauguarated the Exhibition, IDEAS 2014 in Karachi


We were six faculty members in our coaster, all stuck in the traffic jam at the University road for more than three hours amidst the sea of vehicles before we finally reached our destination, too late and exhausted to teach our students and decided to reschedule all morning classes for the week. In fact we were not the only ones who suffered, there were hundreds and thousands of Karachiites including students, professionals, businessmen and commoners; all men and women, young and old, healthy and sick, residents and tourists; who were unable to reach their workplaces, educational institutions and businesses from Dec 1 to 4, thanks to IDEAS 2014, the 8th biennial International Defence Exhibition and Seminar held at the Karachi Expo Center under strict security and VIP protocol.

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Karachiites suffered from worst traffic jams on the weekdays throughout the first week of December due to IDEAs 2014 and blockage of University Road for fool-proof security

Being a resident of Karachi, I have no status to say anything against the high-profile international conference branded with the baffling catchphrase `Arms for Peace’, and attracted as many as 88 delegations of 47 countries from across the world. Considering the serious security concerns and the sensitivity of the exhibits, organizers expectedly blocked the main university road, stadium road and other adjacent routes with containers throughout the four weekdays for the smooth execution of the event.
But what I can voice about is the plight of Karachiites. I am just wondering if our authorities; traffic police, local government and IDEAs’ organizers ever realized and concerned about how they contributed to make our lives more miserable. For the entire week, studies in universities, schools and colleges were badly affected so much so that we had to arrange make-up classes and exams. People were unable to catch their flights, reach their appointments and hospitals, fulfill their commitments and do their businesses and work in routine due to worst traffic jam and closure of commercial areas opposite to expo center and nearby localities because of the VVIP movement related to the event.

Though the alternative routes were identified for public convenience in some newspapers and one could also witness an increasing presence of traffic police on the roads of Karachi, nothing worked to manage the nilofer of the City Traffic in peak hours. Public anguish and anxiety were no one’s concern, but if Ideas 2014 is aiming to project Pakistan as a powerful, progressive state to the outside world, we must equally ensure in-house peace and solidarity.

As commoners, we have no choice but to give a humble suggestion to the concerned authorities and organizers since we can’t sue them for the damage they made to our lives. May we request next time, when arranged IDEAS 2015, kindly consider the safe havens such as headquarters of armed forces. Or else shift the Expo Center to a relatively remote location outside the city in order to avoid another traffic jam during such exhibitions which do no good to Karachiite but aggravate their plight

NICH FIRST BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT UNIT — a project with a cause

They were seven in number, ranging from three to twelve years in age. Young, innocent, full of childhood dreams but weak and sick by the hands of a disease, the very name of which makes even adults shivered – Cancer.

It is the new Oncology ward, a part of the massive Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at the National Institute of Child Health (NICH), Karachi. Bright and warm, the entire wing is occupied with the energy of little angelic souls and dedicated staff.Its glossy aluminium doors and windows, stainless floors and vibrantly painted walls by some pensive Indus Valley students, that portray a child’s dream world in rainbow colours, make it apart from the rest of the hospital.

One can feel the sincerity and spirit with which such an exclusive project has been started by the Child Aid Association. It is an NGO which is working for the needy and sick children at NICH since 1979, providing them free medicines, blood donations, supplement food and costly life-saving equipment to the hospital.
Wholly funded by some philanthropic citizens, members of various associations and drug industry, the CAA has decided to establish the first Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Unit for children in the country in 1995.
Talking about the project, Prof. Nizamul Hasan, president of the CAA said “Our organization has sponsored many children for Bone Marrow Transplant abroad in the past. It costs around 60,000 dollars in the United States of America and 6 to 7 lacks in India. So we thought `why not introduce the treatment at home with less expenses and more convenience?’

It’s the combined effort of Dr. Khalid Zafar & his team and the generosity of the Karachiites that make the project a reality at the cost of 12 million rupees.
Around 2,220,000 rupees were spent at the construction of the wing and it was equipped with 3,767,000 rupees. “Ninety percent of the contribution comes from the benevolent individuals, the rest from the multinationals”, said Dr. Nizam proudly.

The Oncology ward was inaugurated in April 1999 with its first six-year-old patient, Zohaib, suffering from Leukaemia. Besides the unit is running a Day Care Unit since Dec. 1998 where children receive Chemotherapy and a follow-up section where they come for regular check ups after they discharge from the hospital because it is essential for them.

Cancer treatment is highly expensive but at NICH it is absolutely free as mostly the patients here can’t afford it. They come from everywhere, from Azad Kashmir, Turbat, Baluchistan interior Sindh and slums of Karachi.

Every one of them has its own sad story, its own pains and pathos.pathos. Rauf came here two weeks back with his baba from Azad Kashmi. He is suffering from Leukaemia. . His pale face, frail body and distressed eyes reflect the agony he has endured for more than two years. His eyes glittered at the mention of his home town, “I studied in a school and want to return home where my mother and friends are waiting for me. We can’t stay long in Karachi because baba has already spent all the money he brought and we have no relative here.”

Ameerzadi, a cute minor girl, is the only child of her parents. She was taken from Baluchistan for treatment of the long-rooted form of blood cancer, the village hakims were failed to diagnose.
Faizan and Arslan, both Karachiites, are suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, They are admitted here for a couple of months and are showing quick recovery.

In the ward, doctors mainly try to control the haematological disorders through medicines and injections. If required, oxygen and blood is also given to the patients, arranged by the NICH blood bank on charity and replacement basis.

The symptoms of the disease in children are complex. They can be anything from constant fever, severe pain in abdomen, vomiting and discharge of blood in vomit or motion. The earlier the disease is diagnosed, which requires a series of multiple tests, the stronger are the chances of recovery.
Currently, the Oncology ward at NICH is having eight beds and two isolated wards for severely ill patients. It is neat, airy and well equipped to meet any emergency situation. A TV set is also placed here to make the children hum and laugh amidst the pains and pills.

The attendants were all in gratitude of the hospital staff and generally seemed quite satisfied . “The doctors and nurses are very cooperative here. They treat our children with great concern.” says Shamim, mother of a patient.

Gul Muhammad told me in a voice overwhelmed with emotions, “They are the only hope for me after Allah. When I brought my son here, I thought he would die but they gave him a new life and didn’t charge me anything.”
In the day care, a dozen of patients were waiting for their turn for chemotherapy. Farrukh, sixth class student, is from RahimyarKhan. He visits the place thrice a weak for almost a month. He said, “I don’t like injection at all. It causes pain. But it’s a part of my ilaj . Doctors ensure me that I ‘will get rid of it very soon and then I can play cricket with my friends.”

Haris, aged 4, has gone through a surgery two months ago and her mother takes him for injection every week.
Chemotherapy is a long, painful treatment but the loving and friendly relation established by the doctors and nurses of the NICH with their little patients makes it less depressing for them
Currently, the major task of the CAA is to ensure the day-to-day smooth running of the unit that includes everything from staff salary, maintenance, supply of costly equipment, rare drugs, supplement food and availability of required treatment that costs around 30,000 to 60,000 rupees weekly, varies widely with the nature and stage of cancer. The treatment of cancer is long and expensive and so the drugs used to cure it. Only in the month of July, the CAA has distributed the medicines of 78,000 rupees in the cancer ward. The demand has almost doubled since its inception and is constantly increasing,

Approximately 80 to 85 percent cancer patients are curable and can lead to a normal, healthy life with right, timely diagnosis and proper treatment. Mortality rate in the case is low and mostly caused by heavy bleeding.

Dr. Asif Ali Khan, who has attached to the NICH Oncology dept. for six years, said “Shortage of drugs and manpower are the key problems we are facing with. There are three shifts and in each shift two doctors and two paramedics are on duty. But quite often we have to work after duty hours due to immense workload and insufficient staff strength. The hospital management is helpless as they have no hiring and firing authority and at the federal level, there is ban on recruitment in the government services for years.”

Now the management of the oncology department took an initiative by appointing new paramedics staff. They not only nurse the patients but also educate the attendants to get the best possible results.
The forthcoming challenge for the CAA is to acquire the equipment for BMT laboratory and commence the bone marrow transplant unit by the end of year 2,000.

Bone marrow transplantation is a treatment for several haematological disorders i.e. the deficiency or excess of red, white and other blood cells called platelets which are responsible for transporting oxygen, maintaining defence system and protecting human body from bleeding. It has offered thousands of people a healthy life who would otherwise die unnoticed.

In the bone marrow transplantation, bone marrow is obtained from the donor with the same tissue level as that of the recipient, or from the patient himself and is transferred to his bone marrow cavity. The results of the treatment are surprisingly encouraging for thalassemia, leukaemia, lymphoma and aplastic anaemia patients who would otherwise dependent on blood transfusion and have a distressed life.
A least 10 million rupees are needed for the specialised equipment and trained staff to initiate the prime bone marrow transplant unit for children in the country.

Apparently it seems impossible as at the moment NICH has nothing except four vacant BMT wards and a solitude laboratory. But Dr. Nizam is very hopeful that the same people will make this dream come true who did it before. “It was the public support that motivated us to set up such an infra-structure without any government aid and now we need the same people – young and old, students and industrialists, socialists and scientists – to come forward and join hands to make it functional. We need people who are willing to volunteer their time, energy or money for a cause that can give many a happy, healthy life, they really deserve.

Mentally Challenged People __Deserve pride not pity

KVTC-- turning disability into ability

KVTC– turning disability into ability

Are you mad. You must be getting crazy! Don’t be a nut!

We often condemn each other with such expressions. But have you ever met  any mentally retarded person in real life. I recently got a chance to visit Karachi Vocational Training Centre -– an institute for the rehabilitation and training of the mentally handicapped. Contrary to my assumption, I found them much more energetic and optimistic than many of us.

Farrukh Sultan is one of the students of KVTC who instantly attracted my attention due to his elegant manners and excellent English. Apart from his swollen throat, he seemed quite normal. The only son of his family, Farrukh was born with a mental disability. His childhood was spent in England. After returning to Pakistan, he joined the KVTC where he has leaned many skills including candle making, block printing and gardening. An excellent craftsman and singer, Farrukh works at Mr. Burger in the evening. His passion is sports especially swimming and he has a large circle of friends, including both boys and girls. Though, he is not complaining, he doesn’t seem to be happy with the native climate and attitude of people. He says. “Some of my customers have a major attitude problem. But I can handle them easily since I am trained to control my nerves.” Farrukh is aware of his mental disability. He believes that America is the better place for people like him and he wants to settle down there after marrying an American girl.

Sarwat Zaheer, with her shrunk frame and big face, smiled at me warmly. She can’t dress and comb herself due to her extremely short limbs. She wants to live an independent life and is working as an office secretary in KVTC as a paid employee. Belonging to a middle class family, Sarwat has passed six classes from Al-Shifa school. After that she had to quit her studies due to absence of any school for special children. According to Sarwat, she enjoys the time she spends at KVTC. She loves reading Naunehal, a children’s magazine, and sings when she is alone. She says, “Sometimes I feel depressed  and lonely. But I face no problems in interaction with normal people.”   

Zehra Hasan, a young friendly girl, loves to talk and socialize. Despite serious difficulty in speech, she conveyed that she is studying to become a doctor. Besides, she also helps her mother in her beauty parlour business and in household chores.“I do excellent facial. manicure and pedicure, Reading newspaper, listening to music and making friends are my pastime activities. And all the students and teachers in KVTC are my friends,” she added.

Naeem, a frail young boy in the centre, is running an ice cream parlour in Defence where he himself produces more than thirteen flavours and deals with a number of customers regularly.

Adil is working as a salesman in a handicrafts’ showroom in Sadar. He is a good athlete and has won a medal in the Special Olympics. But it is the melodious beat of his tabla that makes him popular among his friends.

Habiba, a shy and silent girl, is a refined artist and an excellent cook. Her  hand embroidery samples were exquisite.

These and many other mentally challenged people, who are trained and groomed at the Karachi Vocational Training Centre, have proved that special people can learn trades, hold jobs, earn livelihood and become useful members of the society.  Most of them were brought to the centre in a pathetic condition. They were extremely violent, pampered and alienated. But with special care, proper training and therapy, they have surprised even their own parents and families.

According to the World Health Organization report, more than three percent of the total world population suffers from mental retardation. This figure may be higher for Pakistan. Only in Karachi, there are more than 300,000 mentally handicapped people. Out of them only 12,00 to 15,00 are attending any training and development centre. The rest are left at the mercy of their fate and sometimes at faith healers (pirs, faqirs, and Mazars). The popular approach is that the mentally handicapped people are a curse or punishment for the family from the Almighty. Thus, they are treated as a liability, keeping isolated and forbidden as a mark of shame and disgust for their families.

This negative attitude and ignorance about mental health care inhibit the tapping of the potentials of the mentally challenged people and further aggravate their trauma.Highlighting the major causes of mental retardation in Pakistan, Dr Inam-ur-Rehman, a psychiatrist at the KVTC said that lack of proper ante-natal care, genetic counselling, misuse of medicines, diagnostic techniques and physical injury during pregnancy and multiple inter-family marriages are some of the common reasons of mental illnesses. He believes that most of them can be avoided with basic health education and facilities.

Karachi Vocational training Centre performs a peerless role in rehabilitation of the mentally handicapped in the country. Since its inception in 1991, ninety four of its students have been placed on various jobs. Two of them are now happily married and sixty five individuals, who can not adjust in the open market, are working in its Sheltered Workshop.

According to this programme, a variety of work is taken from different shops and factories on contract basis for KVTC students. They perform these jobs under the supervision of their teachers and are properly paid for their labour.

The centre has designed several training programmes for its students according to their individual needs, abilities and market requirements. Special focus is given to the physical capacities, psycho motor and interpersonal skills of the patients leading to their full-fledge participation in all phases of community life.

Besides, several exhibitions, fairs and activities are arranged to display and sale the students’ products in the public.  KVTC people have also participated in Special Olympics at national and international levels and won many medals.

Due to its limited capacity, currently ninety five students are enrolled in the centre. However, it is unable to cope up with the increasing training needs of the mentally handicapped population in Karachi. It is, thus, planning to extend its field of activity and needs active public support and funds.

We should join hands with these dedicated people and help them in any possible way, Remember! these special people do not need our hollow sympathies. They deserve affection, attention and assistance to become self-sustaining and useful members of the society.  They should be given an equal opportunity to learn and develop according to their abilities and live a happy life like anyone else. 

       

Because This is What Matters Most– My Entry in the shortstory competition at Karachi Literature Festival

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Uzma will quit her dream job today. A print of the resignation letter lies on the sleek surface of her grand office table, reminding her of all those valuable years of her life she dedicated to this place and now, when the time has come to reap the benefits of her hard work … she is leaving.

“Are you mad?” was the common reaction she received from her friends, colleagues and family members. “People dream of such career opportunities and you are quitting at the peak of your career! “ Her best friend remarked dejectedlyUzma is lucky to have an exceptionally considerate husband, Amir, who supported her throughout her career. It was because of his encouragement that she could continue working even after the birth of her two children. He was also extremely upset with her decision. “I don’t know what you want from life? It’s crazy to resign at this stage of your career.”

“I know but I have taken this decision after much consideration.” Uzma responded calmly. “Consideration! What consideration? You know how badly inflation is hitting us and if we want to maintain our lifestyle and give our children the best in life, we both need to work and contribute.”
“We can manage well with your salary, dear! And I am not giving up my career for good. I am just leaving this full-time job.” “Why now?” Amir demanded scornfully.

“Do you realize since we have been married, we have been so busy with our careers that we have missed out on our children? As a mother, I missed their childhood…the day they learned to sit on their own and stand on their feet, their first laugh, clap, the first word they uttered and the first line they drew.“ Uzma reflected thoughtfully.

Amir shrugged his shoulder, “You get over-sentimental. We neglected nothing, it’s normal. Every child goes through these growth phases and there is nothing unusual about it. Besides you have never been out of their life, just away for a few hours for the sake of their better future. And then it’s your decision.” He added.

“My Decision!” Uzma mumbled to herself. Images from her past flashed before her eyes. As a child, she was an ambitious but lonely little girl. For her, securing first position in each exam and winning every competition had always been the sole purpose of her life. And for that, she engrossed herself in textbooks. Her happiness relied on meeting the high expectations of her affectionate father, who wanted her to be the best, achieve the highest in every exam and refused to acknowledge failures at all.
Uzma is not a beauty like her mother. She is an average looking girl with ordinary features and thick glasses, inherited from her paternal side. This further motivated her to be a career woman. She aspired to be financially independent, secure and well-established to compensate for natures’ injustice.

Life was never easy for Uzma. She had to make an extra effort to succeed in life due to her reserved nature, ambitiousness and isolated lifestyle that made her socially unpopular and unattractive. Unable to fit in, she found an escape in books and focused single-mindedly on her studies and career, considering that’s her retreat.

From school to university, Uzma managed to secure distinctions while her eyesight gradually deteriorated with each new credential. She hardly found time to relax, enjoy and socialize. She often took solace in writing diary. Uzma always dreamt of taking a break from her mundane and mechanical life and engaged in meditation, social and other recreational activities. But her studies and career, and later responsibilities of married life never spared her to retreat.

She started her career well before her friends. However, her professional life was never remarkable. It’s perhaps her introvert nature, firm attitude and poor interpersonal skills that hampered her professional growth. Uzma found herself jumping from one job to the next in search of success. Finally she found her dream job in a leading firm and started prospering with attractive salary, accompanying with perks and benefits. She became the object of envy among her circle of friends and relatives. Several lost relations yearned to reconnect with her following her success.

And yet she finds herself sitting with her resignation in her hand, thinking whether she was doing a right thing.

So what was leading her to give up the job that had given her everything she had longed for since childhood? Was it a perpetual feeling of emptiness and sense of discontent that directed her to this unexpected decision? Or was it some new ambition that was diverting her from her path?

There was a possibility that Uzma might remain busy in chasing her dreams through the rest of her life. She might never take a chance to see where she was going and what she was losing in her rat race. However, one recent incident made her realize that she was running after a mirage… in the hope of fulfillment and peace which she never found in this route. She was so focused on her destination that she remained oblivious to the beauty of the journey she had gone through. Despite the fact that people around her thought she was blessed as she is having everything; an adorable family, enviable success, excellent academic record and promising career, she was unable to enjoy and appreciate her life.

Uzma hardly did anything without purpose. She never had the leisure to pursue any hobby, a pastime or to just relax. Nor did she believe in charity. So whenever she donated some money or time to charity work, it was always for a purpose; either for establishing contacts or meeting some professional requirements.
Charity begins at home but she never found time for that as well. The limited time she spent with her family and children was consumed in obligatory home management issues. She hardly played, relaxed or spent time with children. She was keenly concerned to provide them best lifestyle, education and luxuries and in result wanted them to excel in every aspect of their life.

It was an accident that changed Uzma’s perspective towards life drastically. Her daughter, Arooba was just four and she imitated her mother like any other child of her age. One day while Uzma was checking her children’s progress report , she noticed Arooba hang her tiny handbag on her little shoulder, slip into Uzma’s high heels, don a stole around her neck and was about to march towards the staircase adjacent to the lounge. Uzma called her, fearing she might trip on the high heels. “Arooba! Stop! Come back, take off those sandals.”

Without looking back, Arooba continued, imitating a tone Uzma knew well, “I’m getting late for a meeting, see you in the evening.”
“Where are you going darling, come back, let’s color the drawing.“ She panicked.
“Drawing? Which drawing? Don’t you know I’m getting late for the office?” she rushed and lost her balance.

Before Uzma could reach her, Arooba fell all the way down. She lay motionless at the bottom of the staircase, bleeding profoundly. Uzma couldn’t remember how she picked up her and managed to reach the nearby hospital while tears blurred her vision all the way. She saw nothing but Arooba’s pale face.
“You won’t go anywhere, Arooba, jan! Please open your eyes!” She kept repeating to her unconscious little daughter. Arooba was immediately taken to the ICU for possible head injuries. Ali and the rest of the family had reached the hospital as soon as they learnt about the accident. Arooba was still unconscious. Doctors diagnosed a fractured skull and were worried about her comatose state. They declared the next 24 hours crucial for the child and asked them to pray while they continued with their efforts.

Waiting outside the ICU, Uzma could not help but weep, thinking of all the precious moments she could have had with her little princess, had she not been so occupied with work. She rarely hugged and kissed her children, thinking such affection might spoil them. Her hectic schedule left her too tired to even have a meal with them, making her interactions with her children limited to inquiry about their studies, food and health before they went to bed.

Arooba, being the youngest one, often insisted on sleeping and eating with Uzma who always discouraged her, thinking it would be better for her to be independent as early as possible.
But now … she realized, she was wrong. “What would she do, if Arooba…!” Uzma could not bring herself to finish the thought.

Uzma just had one thought… all through this infinite time of her agony. If she were given a second chance with Arooba, she would correct the mistakes of her past, compensate for all the times she had been unjust to her loved ones and herself.

She wanted to start over a new life with her children. She wanted to play all their innocent games; the once she had missed as a child. She wanted to smell the fragrance of flowers and dance in the rain with her little angels. She earnestly prayed to God to give her a second chance…just this once.
And mercifully God heard her prayers. Arooba finally fluttered opened her big brown eyes and started to respond. Uzma made sure to stay at her side throughout her stay in the hospital and even after she came home. It took Arooba more than a month to make a full recovery.

But in that one month, Uzma discovered many things about herself, her home and children. She learnt that she had chosen to ignore the most beautiful and fulfilling part of her life. She realized that she felt more connected, more engaged with her being, through her children. Her son told her how badly he had missed her when she used to leave him at the daycare when he was younger to go to the office. Her daughter revealed that she never liked the food the nanny made and often skipped meals using one excuse or another.
She found that the servants she relied on often took advantage of her absence; misused her home and manhandled her children. She also realized that her relationship with her husband had lost the spark and had grown formal over the years. They hardly talked or shared anything anymore.

The incident changed Uzma’s life for good. She resigned from her dream job as soon as Arooba came home and preferred to stay with her children rather than resuming her office. She became less controlling of people and circumstances and learned to throw caution to the wind. And eventually, she started enjoying life, revived the spark in her relations and found pleasure in spending time at home with her family and friends. She preferred experiencing new things, meeting different people, traveling places and pursuing her passion for writing and reading. She gave up her strict routine, her aim to achieve one career goal after another and started following her heart.

In the course of one year, Uzma initiated working on her first book. She also established a small community school with like-minded friends for the less privileged children in her locality. Now Uzma has a bigger and better purpose in life. She is more content and more accomplished than ever. She learned that the work-life balance allows her to cherish the countless blessings of God. The biggest objective of her life is to groom her children and the children of her community into constructive, thankful and balanced human beings because this is what matters the most.

Eid-e-Milad-unnabi (PBUH)– past and present

images[9]naat-khawan-at-milad-un-nabi2[1]milad-decoration3[1]Eid-Milad-un-Nabi-HD-Wall-papers-2014-30[1]I want to talk about the good old childhood days when jashan-e-eid-e-milad-unnabi was celebrated with much spirit but less showiness. The days when we, as children, were excited to gather with the family members and sometimes with neighbours and friends in the lounge, drawing rooms or sitting rooms of anyone’s house on white sheets with pillows placed purposefully to pay homage to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), his family and the creator with full spirit and respect. The divine feeling that filled the atmosphere, the scented agarbatti’s fragrance and the home-made cuisine and sweets to treat the guests and distribute among the participants still fill my heart with nostalgia.
There was no concept of professional naat khawains in those golden days. In zanana (ladies) milad, girls and women of the house recited surrahs, naats mostly in chorus or sometimes solo and read zikr and riwayats at their best to pay tribute to our beloved Prophet (PBUH) while all attendants including little girls contributed humbly in chorus and durod-o-salam which also served as training institution for future naat khawains.gallery04[1]
In mardana (male) milad, same practice followed by the male members of the house. My mother’s grandfather belonged to Lucknow and he and his five sons with all grandsons, uncles and son-in-laws learnt and followed dada in reciting naats, chanting durud, salaam and presenting riwayat with all its spirit and style.
I miss those pious celebrations of Eid-e-Miladunnabi which used to continue throughout the month, at one house or the other in family, friends and in neighbourhood. It is not just out of nostalgia but also due to the fact that I find most modern day’s milads pompous, loud and spiritless. I miss the respect and the fervour with which we ourselves spread chandnis, put gao takiyas, placed our note books and diaries containing dozens of naats, hamds, zikr with milad-e-akbari and that precious new additions which we endeavored to find, practice and add-on our credit. I miss the aroma of those homemade treats, gulab pash, itir lagi cotton and flower buds and the twinkling of rosewater during salaam and I also miss that close bond and spiritual feeling that I sensed in those gatherings with my family members, friends and neighbours.
I fail to transfer same feelings to my children despite all the lighting, humdrum, firework, special programs and mahafil-e-naat arranged at massive level in the modern media-inflicted world. There might be more professional naat khawains, better sophisticated equipment, hi-ranged loud speakers and much money to arrange splendid milad or watch one on a TV channel or the other but it lacks the respect, zeal and closeness which I attained through the simple and spiritual gatherings of my childhood.