The Veiled #Muslim Bogeygirl

Zainab Khawaja:

Phenomenal insight into what it means to choose to be a veiled Muslim woman. This article says everything and more that I was trying to say in this Tribune article.

Originally posted on Building a Common Future:

By: Ethar El-Katatney

Photo Credit: Time Magazine

There are around 800 people attending this forum. Let’s assume half are women. Out of those 400 women, less than half a dozen are veiled.

I understand that “we’re” very much a novelty here. And I understand that our presence here is extremely important to break the stereotypes, misconceptions, prejudices, etc etc And I am extremely grateful to the Anna Lindh Foundation for granting me the amazing opportunity of speaking at the inauguration ceremony, and again on a panel today.

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It’s Okay to be That Girl

The girl that wears a full face of makeup one day and nothing the next. The girl who will only dress well if she’s not tired, or too lazy, or doesn’t have to iron her outfit. The girl who watches TV shows that are so girly, so hipster, so lame. The girl who can curse like a sailor, and isn’t afraid to say what everyone else in the room is thinking – in fact, she doesn’t see the point in not saying it; things would be so much clearer if we could all just dispense with these mind games. It’s okay.

The girl who is so far from elegant and graceful that it’s a laugh out loud situation. The girl who always has more guy friends than girl friends. The girl who is well over the over-weight barrier and gleefully goes on existing (the horror!). The girl who can’t be bothered matching her socks, and the girl who painstakingly puts outfits together when she wants to impress. The girl who is neurotic-neurotic-neurotic – are you sure you double checked that the stove was off?! – and is really intense about things like worrying and seriousness and the very real Worst Possible Scenario That Has Every Chance of Coming True. It’s okay.

The girl that feels like she’s playing pretend when she laughs at his jokes that aren’t funny, when she smiles at the older women asking but not really asking about her dreams, when she says sorry when she’s not sorry. The girl that fights for feminism and women’s empowerment when she can’t figure out in her head how women would ever be able to be equal in this messed up world. The girl that un-apologetically demands that she be loved, that she be loved, that she be… at least treated well, at least not degraded, at the very least smiled at after a long day. It’s okay.

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The girl that says no, sorry, to the guy she knows she will never love, could never love, because she values honesty. The girl that feels bad about it after. The girl who feels like she has the worst luck because the hot guys never like her, just the social rejects that she isn’t into. The girl who doesn’t care about feminism or socially-constructed gender roles because she just wants a goddamn knight in shining armor and is that so freaking impossible to wish for? The girl that feels selfish but thinks why the hell shouldn’t she? This world is a hard place and she needs to look out for herself. This girl that vows every night to try to be better, as a person, as a sister, as a woman, as a wife. This girl that doesn’t think she can, but knows that she will try. It’s okay.

That girl who loves pink, and glitter and getting her nails done and her hair done and is tired of being thought of as a looker, not a thinker. The girl who smoked a joint when she felt pressured by the cool kids in high school. The girl who fell down the stairs in front of everyone and pretended to laugh with them, because she hoped they were laughing with her. The girl who wanted to be a boy because it was so much easier and no one ever asked her brothers to do the laundry. The girl who always came second in her class, and wasn’t very pretty either, so what use was she? The girl who was only ever good at one thing but couldn’t even manage to be the best in it. It’s okay.

The girl who was always insecure. The girl who wasn’t afraid to take risks. The girl who experimented with her personality. The girl who ate lunch alone because of her pink hair. The girl who skipped class because she couldn’t bare to face them. The girl they called Tootsie because of the rolls on her stomach. The girl they called Goddess, because of the curves of her body. It’s okay.

The girl who wrote because her heart was breaking. Who ugly-cried her guts out without caring who was watching. The girl who sat with her legs politely crossed making small talk because she couldn’t let the facade crack. The girl who worked two jobs to support her family and came home early, pretending she had plans so she wouldn’t have to go out with coworkers for coffee she couldn’t afford. The girl who never drank alcohol because she just didn’t want to, and why was that so hard for everyone to understand? The girl who prayed to a God she believed in even though she could never justify his existence. It’s okay.

That girl. Every girl.

It’s okay.

Who is Prince Charming?

We’ve all talked about it, whether it’s in hushed tones when our mothers aren’t listening, or maybe when you’ve just broken up with the last guy – we want Prince Charming. Whether or not we admit it, and even if we hide behind the whole “Of course you always have to compromise – especially as a woman. You’ll never find someone who is 100% perfect, and that’s not even what you need”, we all still want Prince Charming. 

Now, after we’ve politely made the socially-needed (as in, society demands it) admission that no one is perfect, we are willing to adjust with the man we have to spend our lives with, and that our parents know best when picking someone out for us for the long haul, can we get into the real conversation?

Who is Prince Charming? 

Disney says he is someone who will make your heart want to positively explode with the goodness and happiness that he brings, and have dashing good looks, a rippled-to-perfection abdomen (Disney never overtly brings this up, but all our resident Princes are suspiciously well-built.) and last but not least, a never-ending devotion to your happiness, (never mind his own) which may or may not demand intense sacrifice on his part.

Now who do I think Mr. Charming is? (Note: Everything stated below is the result of painstaking research on the matter, undertaken by myself, qualified as I am – being a woman and all – over the last 10-15 years [assuming the effects of Disney movies began to take their toll around the time I was 8] and based on interactions with numerous teenage girls [classfellows, friends – giggles] and super-serious coworkers from my adult life. The point of this note is for you to realize that all parts of the following laundry list are very, very accurate and you need to take them seriously.)

  1. Prince Charming respects me & views my mind as equal – that means whenever there’s a major decision to be made, he will involve me, and we will make it together. This does NOT mean that my preference will always be the final decision. It means we will both share our views, debate their virtues and faults (warning: this might get a bit messy) and then decide on a final course of action.
  2. Prince Charming knows there are certain things I hate doing, that I will do if absolutely necessary, but would much rather prefer that I don’t do them, and helps me achieve this. He knows I am willing to compromise, that I am not unreasonable, but Prince Charming does not demand unnecessary compromise from me.
  3. Prince Charming is ambitious – knows what he wants in life and works towards the goal, regardless of if it’s career advancement or to build a lake house.
  4. Prince Charming is kind. Kind when I’ve failed. Kind when I suck. Kind when I’m not. Kind when I’m irrational and stupid and mean. Because I will be. Because I am human.
  5. Prince Charming accepts his mistakes. This does NOT mean he accepts everything I think is his mistake. I can be wrong. He should argue his point. I should be a good enough person and partner to be able to accept that I am not in the right. But when he knows he is wrong, he should apologize, because sometimes I will need to hear that he’s sorry.
  6. Prince Charming knows what’s important to me – whether it’s my career as a fancy-smanshy business exec, or an active involvement in my community, or whether I’m blood-sweat-and-tears-ing my way to launching a successful start-up, or even if I’m at home, pursuing personal projects such as writing a book or painting – and respects those as worthy pursuits, not belittling or chiding me for pursuing them.
  7. Prince Charming doesn’t lord his job over me, if I don’t work. Especially if I stay home and take care of the kids (a choice which is entirely mine).
  8. Prince Charming may not remember a million anniversaries or birthdays or the first time we ate a samosa together, but he is there when I need him. I don’t mean this in the I’m having an emotional breakdown and WHY AREN’T YOU TEXTING ME BACK RIGHT NOW kind of way, but I mean in life. Real life. Not dramatic, immature, the world is a hell-hole and you’re my salvation life. He helps me pick up the dishes after we’ve had guests over, and will run to the market to get milk when we’re out because I am too tired to go. He will voice his opinion when he thinks I am making a mistake, and he will be there to help me through the aftermath of the bad decisions (leather sofas when you have a cat) I am bound to make at some point or the other. He will celebrate my successes (when I manage to exercise for more than 3 days in a row).
  9. Prince Charming tells me the truth. A lot of girls like flowery romance. And there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of cheesy goodness. But what really takes your Prince to the next level? When he tells it like it is. So that you know you have an honest opinion whenever you need it. So that you know you have a no-judgement helping hand whenever you need it. So you know that this is a partnership.
  10. Prince Charming has a compassionate face – a beautiful for me face. A face that I can grow to appreciate. A face that makes all the girls I don’t like really jealous because he’s gorgeous. (Don’t pretend you’ve never wished that.) A face that makes me think ooh la la, I got lucky. (Yes, I said it. Go ahead and be nasty and judgmental if you want.)

That’s all we really want, Disney, popular media, rishta aunties, and whoever else is out there.

(Disclaimer: This in no way is meant to be an exhaustive list or represent exclusively my views. This also in no way means that there can’t or shouldn’t be a Who is Princess Charming list. Maybe that’ll be my next blog post.)

Feel free to add anything to the list. The best thing about fairy tales is that sometimes, they come true. :)

So When Are You Getting Married?

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It’s been a while since I’ve brought the topic of marriage onto this blog. Some of you might remember my post about rishta aunties. I wrote that post three years ago, easily quipping about how twenty-somethings in Pakistan are always fretting about the all-seeing potential mothers-in-law hunting them down. Well, guess who’s a twenty-something know? (I think this is what they call karma.)

So what better way to deal with this than take it head on? Let’s talk marriage, ladies and gentlemen, specifically marriage for young women in the middle to upper middle class in urban Pakistan. First thing’s first – just about everyone has had a boyfriend. Oh, I’m sorry, do you not like to call him that? Even though you text non-stop from your secret phone? Even though you’re “best friends” who make eyes at each other across the quad? Let’s get real. Every girl who has gone to university has bound to have had one or two (mis)adventures of the heart. (And if she hasn’t, she’s a gem, aunties, snap her up for young Javaid now!)

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We’re all familiar with the horrors of formalized arranged marriages, where the girl often feels like a show pony, and the boy is presented as an investment portfolio more than a human. We know about the dreaded serving tea on a trolley ritual, and keeping your legs crossed and your eyes down. We know of how the term semi-arranged (we like each other but we got our parents’ approval) has become a thing now, and how parents have become more open to the idea of their children having love marriages. (I wonder how they would react to I’m in love but I don’t want to marry him.)

So what is it like? The actual marriage part? Supposing you find a fellow that puts up with you (bonus points if he actually appreciates you, ladies!) and start looking to shack up (ahem, I mean, begin your lives together) there’s several other obstacles you find yourself facing. These are some stories I’ve heard over the last three years.

Best Behavior – for how long?

Mom and Dad found a nice/decent/friendly/kind guy, I got to know him, and we are married/engaged/baat-pakki’ed now. He’s great, but we’re still learning our way around each other. Do I tell him about my ex-boyfriends? I am committed to him, but they were a central part of shaping my personality, and many of my views about the world. How long do I keep pretending they never existed?

His Parents Don’t Like Me

We’re perfect for each other. We’ve been happy together for such a long time, and have overcome difficulties together. We want to marry each other, but his parents don’t approve of me. Words that felt like praise my entire life are now reasons for my rejection – working woman, strong, capable, ambitious, good grades, career-oriented. I knew I had to marry his family, but what if they don’t want to marry me?

I Know I Have to Stop Working – for my Family

I have a career and I love it. I am from a wealthy family, and have no need to work. I am well educated and I want to use all those hard-earned degrees, but I know that when I get married, I have to balance my personal obligations with my professional ones. And I know I will have to give up my career – it’s the right thing to do.

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Women Can’t Have It All – “Having It All” Just Means Being a Bad Mother

Because I don’t cook for my kids, I’m a bad mom. Because I don’t make it to “pot luck luncheons”, I am a bad mother. I’m killing it in the boardroom, and providing for them just as much as my husband is, but because I am not doing my “womanly” duties, I am a bad mother. It doesn’t matter that I pay the cook and that I buy their school supplies. What matters is that I don’t attend the kitty parties the other mothers throw, and I carry a briefcase. My kids and happy, living fulfilled lives, and they know that their mother loves them and is always there for them – but society doesn’t.

I Make More Money Than He Does & This Is A Problem

I don’t care about him enough. I am not attentive enough. I am always busy with my work. That’s what I hear. The clothes aren’t freshly laundered and the tables are dusty – I am a bad wife. The funny thing is, I am also paying the rent.

This post has one simple purpose: to get us to think about the imposed social structure and societal norms we’ve built. Each of these stories has multiple perspectives. I’ve kept them short and simple, because I invite you to explore them in your minds. Think about your experiences, your friends, and your ideas. And if we can all accept one new idea today, I think that’s a smashing success.

Praying for Louboutins, Boyfriends & Inner Peace – A Journey

My life’s been full of awkward moments, and my journey with my faith has been a rollercoaster ride. I grew up a practicing young Muslimah, the apple of my parents’ eye, with all the adults nodding and smiling with approval at my headscarved young head. As I grew older, the restrictions that came with my religion started to feel like a burden, especially as I reached my teenage years. Don’t be friends with boys, and don’t stay out late. Don’t forget to pray five times a day no matter what else you’re doing, and don’t ever be disrespectful to your parents. (On that last bit, c’mon, what teenager isn’t disrespectful to their parents at some point or the other?) It started to just seem stifling, and like many in similar situations, I started to drift from the path of obedience I had followed till that point. Religion became something associated with my parents. They wanted me to follow it, and I didn’t want to follow what they were saying, because when you’re 15, let’s be frank: parents are just uncool. They are annoying and somehow always around when you don’t want them to be, and they think they can just run your life. (Fun fact: a few years later, I realized that they totally just could, and I was actually glad that they had strong-armed their way into everything I ever did – I’m looking at you, Mom.)

So from practicing young Muslimah, I entered Stage 2: ‘Reluctant Muslim’. This was the part where I secretly read Teen Vogue, and pretended not to have any friends that were boys, and constantly whined about how tortured I was because my parents just didn’t understand. At the same time, Mom dragged me to religious lectures, and I would make a big show of every time I prayed, to get them off my back.

Stage 3: ‘Self-Important Sinner’ kicked in towards the end of high school. Reluctant Muslim has a tendency to fade into: “Hi, I am Muslim, and you know it and I know it, but prayer and other things like that are my business and you have no right to judge me.” It became that thing that no one talked about – the elephant that everyone just refused to see. It wasn’t taboo to say you weren’t religious, and it was very easily sidestepped by “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” (I never really knew what people meant by that, to be honest.) It was okay to brazenly eat lunch during Ramadan when everyone else was fasting, and to openly date the love of your life (and subsequent loves of your life). Everyone understood why a girl might have a secret cellphone, and of course friends had to help each other sneak out and meet their boyfriends.

At one point, it even became very cool to declare yourself an atheist. It was just so easy to say that you didn’t believe in the God your entire society so openly recognized, the one your parents and relatives and literally everyone in this 99% Muslim population you were raised in acknowledged. Because if you don’t believe in God, you don’t have to deal with any real questions. Purpose of existence? Bah. Hell if you don’t pray? Bah. You’re a bad person if you treat others like crap? Not even relevant. The world is a scientific explosion thingy away from not existing and all of us are useless flecks of skin and muscle. Go with the flow, bro – and pass the weed, please.

Let me please clarify here that I respect everyone’s religious beliefs – if you identify with being a Muslim, an Athiest, or anything else that you choose to believe, I respect the decision as yours and have no intention of mocking it or implying anything negative towards your life choice. What I am describing is the way I saw things when I was younger, with a group of friends, colleagues, and students who hadn’t done their research, hadn’t deep-dived into their religious fad of choice for more than a few hours and were still in transition – not yet clear on who they were and who they wanted to be.

For those a little more faint of heart, agnosticism served as a popular option as well. This way you could believe in God, or some higher power like him (this proved very convenient), but not any formal structure of worshiping him/it/her.

I didn’t know what either word truly meant; beyond superficial definitions and a chance at relinquishing the bonds that held me back, I wasn’t really interested in what they meant, and years later, when speaking with a group of old friends, I learned that they hadn’t been either.

Then college happened, and like many undergrads, I seemed to have found my calling. I discovered what I felt passionate about, people I felt passionately about, and like every life-enthused young person, went through great emotional ups and downs. College was all about finding out who I was. Mom and dad loosened the reigns just enough to let me breathe, and I was all positivity and potential. So it seemed only natural when I found myself looking around for God when I hit a low point. Hello God, it’s me, Zainab. Remember? And I found him.

And then I lost him.

And then I needed him.

And then I wanted him.

And then I couldn’t find him.

And then I realized he had always been there.

In between all of this, I did my research. I went to classes. I interacted with people who believed and people who didn’t believe. And I learned the most important thing: believing is my choice. I can or I can choose not to, and no one else has anything to do with that. That in itself was incredibly freeing. I can pretend to be a believer so I don’t get judged and persecuted. I can pretend to be “liberal” and not believe, so I don’t get judged and persecuted. But the world will always be around, and some people somewhere will always judge and persecute. And the world will see what you want to show it. What you show and whether or not you truly believe – very separate things. This may seem like common sense, but it took me a fair bit of time to work it out.

And I realized that I do believe. I’m not a great Muslim by many standards. I still break a bunch of rules even when I am trying not to. I am not nearly as educated in religious knowledge as I wish I was and if we started a debate on philosophy and individualism and feminism and equality, chances are I would not be able to defend my religion. I’d probably find myself agreeing with you on some bits and feeling confused. But one thing I’ve never stopped feeling is that God’s around, just chilling while I figure my stuff out, and always ready to pitch in when I need him. My faith is by no means strong – it is a fragile, simple thing. I try to protect it, strengthen it, and let’s be honest  – sometimes I completely ignore it because I am focusing on my career. But it’s there. I am proud of it. I am happy about it. I would like my guardian angels to please stick around.

It gives me strength. It gives me hope. That’s what it is to me, at the end of the day. Because whether you’re praying to Allah, or Jesus, or another deity that you choose to worship, your faith is hope. Your faith is you willing to take a chance on something magical. It’s you willing to see what other people won’t. To work towards a goals other can’t or won’t envision. And all great people have faith in something or the other – themselves, science, the fact that their goals are possible. Nobody can definitively prove without a doubt that God exists. No one can prove that he doesn’t. I choose to believe in him. I choose to see faith. I choose to pray.

Call me brainwashed. Call me delusional. Call me inspired. Whatever. It’s my choice. I will always try to be good and kind to people around me and to never create any negative situations for anyone, or harm anyone. So this is my choice. And maybe this is just a random bout of religiosity and two months or two years or two weeks from now I will be a pretty substandard Muslim or I will have lost all faith or something else of that sort. But that will be part of my journey, part of my life and part of my personal development. I hope in the future I am happy with who I have become, and that I keep growing and seeking to be as awesome a person as I ever can be.

I choose to believe.

In myself.

In God.

In happiness.

In love.

In goodness.

In human potential.

Paki Yuppie: What It Means to be a Young Urban Professional in Pakistan

It means you wake up warm on cold winter mornings, and whine about how cold the bathroom tiles feel beneath your feet. It means your cook probably makes you breakfast, while you strategically shower at the time when you know hot water will be available. It means you dress to impress, whether that means twirling a scarf around your turtleneck, or flicking on some eyeliner. It means you probably own a pair of loafers. It means you spend your mornings in the office trying to wake yourself up, your days running around trying to complete your projects, your evenings breathing in relief through your cigarette, and your nights in bed with Downton Abbey, or Game of Thrones, or Star Plus dramas.

It means you vaguely discuss politics – broad terms, quick generalizations, general acceptance of failure – while you calculate sales figures, or browse Khaadi online. It means you are quick to joke about how Pakistan is a failure, and have no real concrete idea of how to fix it. It means you know you are privileged – everyone’s been telling you that your whole life. It means you are kind to those who aren’t whenever they knock at your car window at a red light. It means you love traditional clothing and food, speak of them fondly, but always as “traditional”.

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It means that you live with your parents, usually even if you’re married, and don’t pay rent. It means that you worry about how you didn’t buy any new clothes this season. It means you crib about rishta auntie culture, but you probably had an arranged marriage. It means you’re ambitious about something – you need to make something of yourself, otherwise what’s the point of you being so privileged, so educated, so well-groomed? It means maybe you went abroad to study and are now back in your home country, wishing you could have just stayed in London. If you’re lucky, it means when someone compliments you on your clothing you can reference some loving aunt from abroad who sends you Zara, or H&M, or Forever 21.

For many of us, it means we have a father or an uncle in the army, and someone or the other in the police, customs, foreign ministry. It means, of course they would never be corrupt, but they can help you out if you’re in some kind of big fix. It means we make promises that we don’t keep and then joke our way around them. It means we have “first world problems” that we joke about openly. It means the girls are always worried about gaining weight and the guys are always worried about their egos. It means we enjoy things like book launches, art exhibitions, qawwali nights and hand embroidery. It means we plan weddings months in advance, and often shy away from vibrant colors, favoring pale pinks, whites, reds for an “elegant look”.

It means we hesitate to take chances. It means we use words like dynamic and innovation. It means we casually reference the work trip to Thailand, and the summer our parents took us to Europe. It means we are upset over Shia killings, and attacks on schools, and donate money to cancer research, and participate in candlelight vigils, and talk of freedom of right and freedom of expression and freedom of belief and just a lot about freedom – all the time. And then we say, ‘but our culture…’, ‘but our religion…’, ‘but our families…’. It means we are fond of the disclaimer. Fond of not feeling too much, not saying too much, not meaning too much – or rather, not saying, feeling or meaning the wrong thing. It means sometimes we stand up for our values, but mostly, we’ve got other things to do. It means we’re not heartless, we’ve just got a lot on our plates.

It means we probably would leave the country if we could, but we’d probably come back in 10-15 years. It means we say we know “hardship” but we don’t know hunger. It means we are grateful, but we have probably never begged. It means we know of faith, but we struggle to feel it. It means we yearn with all our hearts for our country to get back on its feet, but we also yearn for 3G internet services. It means we spend money to go watch movies in cinemas and eat nachos, but nothing makes us happier than a bowl of well-cooked biryani in our dining rooms.

It means we have two sitting rooms – one for the guests and one for ourselves. It means we have multiple sets of china – some for the guests and some for ourselves. It means we have servants – staff, if you will – to wash our cars and cook our food and clean our houses, sometimes even to raise our children. It means we are kind to these servants, but get upset if they disrespect us.

It means we have egos. It means we are Pakistani. It means we are young. It means we are flawed and perfect in our own ways. It means we can evolve, we will evolve, we have evolved. It means we are you, you are us, we will always be the same and yet different. It means nothing, and it means everything. We are different, and we are the same. We are a colorful mosaic of insecurities and talent.

It means we are human.

[This post was written after a conversation with a Kazakh friend of mine, where we decided to write and tell each other what daily life was like in our respective countries, sharing things that aren’t traditionally on the news or in books.]

How I Learned the Gratitude Game in 2014

What’s wrong with my life?

Let’s see. I’m overweight – not enough to threaten my health, or so that I can’t find clothes my size at the department store, but enough to make me pull at the stomach of my shirt before I sit down, enough so that I would rather perch on the arm of a sofa than try to squeeze in with my friend, enough so that I spiral back and forth between self-doubt and self-confidence.

There’s also that pesky problem that concerns my parents – the way they just won’t let go. The fact that I’m an adult now barely seems to register with them, unless of course I need to do something I’d rather not. Then, all of a sudden, it’s a lesson and mandatory because I need to act my age.

If we’re really starting to make a list, then how could I forgot the best friend that suddenly pulled a Ephialtes (the guy who betrayed the Spartans) in my last year of university? And the guy that said he loved me but then also somehow loved that beautiful girl with a name more delicate and flowery than anything you can ring up at a Cath Kidston counter?

What’s my point here? Don’t we all have stories like this? True sorrows we save up in our hearts and only share when we feel a real connection with someone, small wounds we tend to while secretly “hearting” the emotional quotes with stars for backgrounds on Tumblr.

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Almost 18 months ago, I ran into a group of people on Facebook (I got lucky, because the group only temporarily became open to all those winning – no that’s not a typo – to join.) and started reading their stories. I was surprised how open they were about their lives, sharing their own stories and those of their families. And why did they do this? To find gratitude, and share what they could of it. The group had a single mandate – be as grateful as possible, for as many things as possible, as often as possible. I was surprised as I read through stories of children struggling in school, husbands helping with the yard work, office politics and more – these men and women of all ages struggled with real lives, real problems – nothing dramatized and difficult to relate to. These were lives just like mine. These were men and women who had chosen strength in the face of difficulty and gratefulness during times of ease.

I was skeptical at first, of how this could really help me. Would it make any difference for me to start posting in this group? Would this improve my life in any way?

Eighteen months of irregular posting (sometimes every day for a month, and sometimes not for 2 months) and I stand here a stronger woman. It wasn’t so much the act of logging into Facebook and posting on a daily basis. It was the effort to come up with something to be grateful for. Some days it was easy – thank you for my new job. Grateful for the sale at Mango – 50% off on sunnies – YAY!  And some days it sucked – what the hell was I supposed to be grateful for when it felt (insert dramatic music here) like God was taking everything from me? Whatever harsh lesson I was supposed to learn, I would think, I’ve learned it. Now can you just stop, God? 

But that effort – to claw out of the negativity – helped me rebuild myself after suffering heavy blows. The community responded beautifully. I made friends with women three times my age, and women from different cultures, races, lifestyles. Mothers, wives, daughters – the friends I made, I hold close to my heart now. I know their children’s names, and wish them luck during their trials. They’ve done the same for me. I hope to continue doing the same for them.

I guess it’s true what they say – you control how you feel about the world. You control how you react to things and how much something can hurt you. Developing a realistic but positive outlook is one of the healthiest changes I’ve made in 2014, a year that proved to be more of a roller coaster ride than I had originally bargained for. Through the highs, stating my gratitude helped me ground myself and realize the value of what I had, whether it was feeling pretty with my new makeup, making a new friend, or graduating with a great GPA. Through the lows, forcing gratitude taught me that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, even if the light is from a crappy 60-watt bulb that’s flickering madly.

Through these incredible women I’ve had the chance to connect with, I realized how it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you do – what matters is that we’re all human, and we all go through highs and lows. Conquering our lows? That’s where the game’s at.

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The Cycle of Desi Pasta

It’s not just food, it’s a way of life….literally.
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Remember that time when you visited an Italian restaurant that just opened new in town? Did you all of a sudden find yourself to be a ‘connoisseur’ of this very elegant dish, falling in love with every bite, endeavoring to get every bit of creaminess stuffed inside each pasta. The pasta itself cloaked in fresh tomato sauce, and perfectly balanced basil sauce. And that smell, that made you feel like Marco polo himself came to serve you this dish ..… *Sigh*

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Only did you know that this dish will make its warm place in the cabinets of every Desi’s kitchen. With 2 table spoons of Desi, one tea spoon of Chatkhara and a whole a lot of Awesomeness, it now has the pleasure to be altered in more ways than ever imagined,
For all the pasta lovers out there, you must have tried these dishes below.

THE MID-NIGHT SNACK

While you looked at the mirror all day long and complained about your recent weight gain, we all know none of that matters anymore when its past twelve. All you need to worry about right now is that if there is any of that left-over curry from dinner that you could use as sauce for your pasta. HEAVENLY! I mean, it’s okay because you promise you’ll start dieting from tomorrow… definitely

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THE MASTER-CHEF DISH

You add the first thing that you get your hands on in the collection of your kitchen’s “Masala Cabinet”. You’re really proud to apply things that you overheard on one of the episodes of Master Chef Australia, such as “A hint of acidity in the dish realy brings out the flavor”. To top it off, you’ve sprinked chat masala on top. When you plate up your dish you feel like you just won the Master chef competition 2014.

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THE ATTENTION SEEKING CHEF

So some of your friends are over for Dinner, and have they tried your Famous Penne Pasta? Yes, I know its amazing. You’re out of words? Well some would say its like bits of heaven in your mouth.

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THE BINGE EATER

Specially during Exam times. Everyone knows that the rate of you chewing food is directly propotional to the intake of knowledge, …… of course.

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THE DESERT JUNKIE

Now lets end this on a ‘Sweet note’, shall we?
A reticunni pasta salad with well cut combination of fruits and a topping of Mayonaisse. Something worth trying!

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What Nobody Tells You About Your First Job

Growing up is such a big deal. You’re graduating (hurray!), you’ve landed your first job (hurray!) and now you’re well on your way to joining that Eligible for Marriage list (hurray?) that rishta aunties are always updating.

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And while there will be plenty of people with celebratory smiles (and hopefully, cake) and words of praise, there are some facts you need to get straight before work life completely surprises you. This is a list of just some of the ones I’ve managed to figure out (thanks for the heads up, everyone in my life).

1. People at the office are not all the same age as you.

We’re used to environments where everyone around us is relatively the same age. School, internships, even extra curriculars – we are, essentially, always surrounded by our peers. When you start working though, there’s people from all walks of life and all age groups around you. That girl that looks 25 might just be 36 and married, with two babies. (Bravo for aging well!) That guy with the greying hair and darker skin may be from a small rural town, or of a different ethnicity, or even just a year older than you are. Remember to be mindful of this, especially if you grew up surrounded by people more or less like you. Not everyone has the same color, race, religious background, and financial status – of course you knew that, but it’s easy to let it slip so far back in your mind that you say something silly.

2. It’ll take a while before you can actually start calling it “the office”. 

You won’t just belong right away. Having a fancy title and getting a handsome starting salary doesn’t mean you’ve arrived. Being accepted in the workplace takes time and effort. Remember to represent yourself – as clearly as you can – don’t make promises you can’t keep, and just work hard. Everyone respects the ability to do your job well, and a friendly demeanor never hurt either. Respect those who have been there before you for that simple fact: they’ve been around longer than you have.

3. Prioritize: big presentation comes before seeing if the copy machine can scan your hand.

No, this is not the same as the lecture your parents give you about balancing friends and shopping with work and family time. This is about work – and how you need to make sure that out of all of your tasks for the day, the most pressed-for-time ones get done first. Often, we have a tendency to push big tasks towards the end of the day, doing smaller, easier things first. That’s fine if you know you’ll buckle down towards the big task at the end, but that’s a lot harder to do than say. So make sure the work that you’ll be evaluated on, that reflects directly on you, is done on time, and done well.

4. There is no monster under your office desk.

You will mess up. This will happen. Nobody will eat you. (Hopefully.) You may be chastised or even reprimanded, but don’t take it to heart. Learn from it and use it as a reminder to double check (perhaps before you email the wrong person, or when in a rush, put down the wrong statistic) yourself. Things happen and your job will go on – apologize when you’re wrong, and pick yourself up. This is only the start of your career, and you’re in this for the long run.

Source: www.ragan.com
Source: http://www.ragan.com

What did you learn at your first job?

Appreciating an Idea Whose Time Has Come

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I’m an unapologetic foodie and I take great pride in being born a Pakistani because everywhere I go in this country I can always find people to share my passion for food with. When it comes to food I crave variety, which is why trying new things and eating out are regular past times, the only obstacles being the inconvenience of going out at whim and the shrinking finances. So, if you take someone like me and introduce them to virtual festivals by foodpanda it is like an idea that couldn’t have come any sooner.

Credits: foodpanda Facebook
Credits: foodpanda Facebook

These festivals show that things have really moved forward in this digital age. Who would have thought that we’d be having online food festivals offering both good food and good prices? It’s actually an ingenious idea taking foodpanda’s competitive advantage even further. One significant aspect of this festival, and one of the reasons the food outlets have probably jumped at the idea, is that even if someone wasn’t thinking of ordering out, the big discounts worked as a huge motivation to participate, regardless. I don’t believe something like this has been done before in Pakistan. Food festivals had been generally well received when the idea came out a few years back, but naturally going to an actual food festival requires you to put in quite a lot of time and effort to get to the food compared to a participation  from home with your mobile or computer.

My Honest Opinion:

Digital is the way to go in most cases and it shouldn’t come as surprise if competitors looking at the potential of this idea  come up with festivals of their own to outdo these festivals foodpanda have managed to pull off. Like I mentioned above, it’s almost a win-win situation where the discounts have the ability to convince a huge part of your target audience. I as a university student, living in hostel, who hasn’t warmed up to the idea of ordering online, jumped at discovering these offers. These festivals, no doubt  provide companies with publicity and business however, it multiplies chances of customer retention and forming new customer base. Since this concept of food festivals is relatively new there is more we can anticipate in future. For example a burger festival or a desert festival etc.

My recommendation:

  • The only thing I would change would be increasing the emphasis on marketing these festivals. Announce the date for these festivals at least a week in advance and then create a social media campaign. This campaign would consist of content that would go viral getting more and more people interested not only in the campaign but in foodpanda itself sort of like a simultaneous PR campaign. In short, foodpanda can use these festivals to increase consumer numbers.
  • Another addition to these festivals could be short online quizzes and trivia leading up to the festival date offering winners free meals at the festival, this way there is even more building up of interest and hype for these festivals.
Credits: foodpanda Facebook
Credits: foodpanda Facebook

These festivals are a unique idea with a lot of potential. Observing the response and gaining more consumer insight can help foodpanda decide the kind of festivals it wants to conduct and how they can get maximum audience involvement for their benefit. It’s definitely a pretty good deal.