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WHY I DEFEND ONLINE INTIMACY?

onlinefriends1.gifBack in 2004, I only used the internet to read some horrifying paranormal experiences, mythical/fantasy stories and to yahoo chat with my best friend Ismat. One day she introduced me to Facebook and I was hooked just after one visit. Like every desi teenage girl, I used a pseudo-name and put a headless photo on display but still I’d get dozens of friend requests from strangers. I was told by Ismat not to add any stranger or make any internet friendships so I won’t.

One day, I opened my Facebook and saw a friend request from someone named Peri Dove. Whoever this “Peri Dove” was asked me if she can add me to her secret group of friends. Excited to talk to another headless seemingly interesting FB user, I responded with a big yes.

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This is how I started talking to a stranger on internet. I was never weirded out enough to end our conversation. The transition in our conversation from talking about “FC” (our secret group) to creating inside jokes with each other was instant: One minute, I’d joke about a member of our group, and the next, she’d somehow link it to our personalities saying “the joke is on us bud”. I was thrilled to be talking to someone who was so funny and so odd at the same time.

Peri Dove was my first internet friend. She then introduced me to Hinu, HB, Omi and God knows how many people. I became friends with Hinu and HB and yeah the unmistakable irony here is that I met all of them IRL except for Peri herself.

81787-my-online-friendsWhat I want to share is that throughout my life I was told that online friendships are not real. But what I learned from my experience online is that they can be more successful than the “real life” friendships. Mainly because online friendships are all about what brings you together is common interests and passions, not proximity. Just because we can’t hang out and grab coffee every once in a while doesn’t mean we can’t become real friends.

When I first met my online friend, about five years ago, I felt weird. I was really nervous to meet them in person. But after years of friendships, meeting up and spending time, I realized that online friendships are no less important than those in real life. And after spending years on Facebook and twitter, I can no longer segment my online versus real life friends in my mind. My closest friend, to whom I have talked about everything, is my internet buddy and I have never even met her once in person (hey, Kiran).

Thanks to social media; Facebook, twitter and blogging that I got to interact with all of these amazing and beautiful people. My internet friends are one of the greatest blessings technology has bestowed upon my life – meeting people who walk parallel paths to my own.friends-web-ready
For quite some time I have been meaning to write on this subject. Although it lessens with every passing year, there’s still some taboo with making friends online. It can seem somehow scary. What if it turns into a catfish situation? Well, to be honest, sometimes it does. But this is reality in any relationship for the rest of your life, though, not just with online friends. I once made a mistake in judging a person and that so-called friendship fizzled out and ended badly. But in the grand scheme of things, when I consider all of the amazing, beautiful and genuine people I’ve met, it was more than worth that risk.

No biggie!

I have the most incredible friends; Peri, Hina, Panda, Malka-e-Jazbat, Toothpaste and Kiran. And they’re all because of the internet. Toothpaste, when he’s not writing emails for his father, is always there to listen to all my drama without asking me once about will it ever stop. Peri has self assigned her the task for my personal and professional growth. Kiran has been very patient with me (the way I treat my cats). Hina postponed her birthday celebrations (for her upcoming visit to Lahore) to celebrate it with me. They all have made a difference in my life. Especially Kiran and Peri have impacted my life in so many ways. It’s hard to imagine the person I would have become without them.

Still having some doubts? Hope this guy will help:

Online friendship is something I feel very passionate about, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the subject as well. Enjoyed the read? Leave me comments.

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WHAT’S IT LIKE HAVING AN ALPHA CAT

Alpha cats are natural leaders; they refuse to be led and they love and attempt to take charge of almost every situation. They like their food the way they like and when they want it. They let you touch them only on their terms. They demand attention and access and they tend to rebel when admonished. To sum up, “you don’t own an alpha cat – the alpha cat owns you.”

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“I dare you pet me!” Casper-The Alpha

We have had Casper since he was four weeks old. At the sixth week, I saw the first signs of Alpha tendencies. Since then, he has disrupted my sleep, locked himself in the bathroom, opened a child proof first-aid box, killed my laptop with a glass of coke, ruined my breakfast, made me buy him toys and even persuaded me to swap out my bedside table for a more secure and sturdy furniture item. He often behaved in ways I couldn’t understand until much later.

HOW TO SPOT AN ALPHA

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You can easily spot an alpha cat because an alpha is aggressive, moody and controlling. They claim a territory and will act if an interloper comes in. Unlike the defensive cat, alphas won’t back away from an aggressor. He’d rather fight and make the opponent flee.

If you own an alpha cat, he can give you a very tough time training him. Alpha cats hate to be controlled. If they’re unhappy with a situation, they meow loudly and maybe even growl at you and if you continue to annoy them, they might even bite you. Never try to pick up an alpha male who doesn’t like you to, there are chances he might scratch and claw you.

PETTING AN ALPHA CAT

If you get scratched by your cat when you’re in the middle of a petting session with him, you likely have an alpha and this is their way of telling you that they have had enough petting. They think that by doing so they’ve given you an obvious signals and if you continue petting him, they’ll likely scratch or bite you. When an alpha cat is done with the petting, he narrows his eyes, thumps his tail from side to side and gives your hand a sideways glance. This is a classic alpha cat move.

Alpha cats thrive on bullying and being in control and trust me when I tell you that domesticated cats will bully you. This behavior is evident in Casper who will jump onto my bed while I’m sleeping and will bite me to get me up to feed him. And most of the time he’s not even starving; he just wants to assert his dominance and get me to do his bidding when he wants.

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Because books make the best pillow

Casper will jump up on your lap and allow himself to be petted – but only for as long as he want. And when he’s had enough, he’ll narrow his eyes, glance sideways at the petting hand, and his tail will begin to switch from side to side. Yeah! that’s the time to let him go. Because he’s got better things to do like keeping a check on his weight or take care of the stalker cats or carry on with his routine harmless activities like swimming.

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She steps on it quite often. I guess I should too. Casper-the weight conscious cat.

Petting an alpha cat can be the toughest thing but a cat owner will agree that it’s still worth all the trouble. Because that’s not all there is to him. An alpha cat will bring the same intensity and commitment to the things you love about them. Alphas are perpetual motion; those bright brains and busy bodies need stimulation.  Give them enough interesting things to do, enough difficult tasks to accomplish, enough areas to investigate and explore, they will be the most happy and delightful companions you can ever have.

 

TRIP TO KASHMIR

With plenty of photos filling my SD card, it was the smallest feature that began to fascinate more as time went on. Nothing could be more pleasant than knowing that I can choose to go from the funny and noisy videos of Ruqaeya and Hussain to the peaceful scenery above and around the motel.
Throughout the month of July, Ayesha Mubasher (my stage-mom, best friend and colleague), Iqra Jami, Aneela Illyas, a couple colleagues of mine and I took full advantage of our days off from our work to explore parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir via a series of day trips. The rivers, waterfalls and valleys of Kashmir are a sight to behold with their jagged and impressive mountain peaks. Photographs did not do justice to the majestic beauty laid before our eyes.
We found Muzaffarabad to be a visual treat and a delight with a lot of fun just ready to be discovered. We reached there by almost mid-night, so we just crashed in our hotel rooms.

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Muzaffarabad-A view from the top.

As the road twisted and turned, it wasn’t long before we were greeted by those incredibly scenic mountains and waterfalls. What a stunning mountain range! We passed numerous places to dry camp, and as much as we wanted to stop and check out the possibilities, we were on a mission to get to our next stop.

To get to Sharda valley we had to drive along the Neelam river, which I was particularly curious about. We had to park our cars and cross a wooden bridge to get to our hotel. It was old and was shaking but it was strong enough to take us to our hotel safely. I’ll, however, never forget the way Iqra accompanied me. I had the misfortune of not being with Attia baji at that time but Iqra re-created the whole scene for me. Since we spent the whole day in car, travelling to reach this place, this was the best thing that happened.


Sharda, Neelam Valley is a popular destination with its challenging beauty, mesmerizing scenery and romantic weather. The beautifully colored wooden homes dot the landscape. The elegant mountains and trees blend beautifully in with the Neelam river. You can’t help falling in love with the abundance of heavenly beauty seen in all directions.

The mountains of Neelam Valley are imposing but can be challenging for hiking. Our time in Sharda was brief and we didn’t get a chance to hit the trails to really delve into the lay of land as much as we would’ve liked. So we just visited Sharda Devi’s temple and then left for Kel.

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I must share; we enjoyed the best cup of tea on our way at the best tea spot in the world. It was a local hotel located somewhere across the Neelum river near Kel.

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The best tea spot in the world.

I’m all about weather, atmosphere and scenery along with the company of my favorite people and the Kel’s cable car adventure hit the spot perfectly; beautiful place, lovely weather and endless fun – highly recommend. I could’ve sat there for hours admiring the view. The beauty of our surroundings had had me feeling somewhat nostalgic as memories of my hometown were conjured up. Then there are the memories of my school trip.

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It was raining and we were completely soaked to the bones and freezing so Iqra and I grabbed some snacks and a cup of tea and found a spot to sit. We initially sat in silence as we watched Kalsoom and the kids enjoying the ride. Although there are many aspects about that time that I miss, I somehow felt incredibly content and fortunate to be relaxing on that wooden bench admiring that view.

We were quite smitten with Sharda valley and the Neelam river. It is breathtakingly and mesmerizingly beautiful. Kashmir made our “return” list, which I’ll admit,seems to get longer the more we travel.

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I’m glad that me and my friends made it a priority to visit Kashmir. If there’s one place on planet earth I’d say is a “must see”, this would be it.

ME, MY CAT AND OUR GOOD NIGHT SLEEP

 

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Some people (like me) don’t want their pets to sleep with them on their beds and they struggle to stop it. Others want it badly but they can’t make it work. It’s one of the most complicated problems a cat owner has to deal with.

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But now that the weather is getting colder, it’s me, Mr. Casper and my comfy queen size bed. Even if it’s not winter, I know, we had to make this work because by ruining my breakfast, waking me up in the middle of night and making me play with him when I have to study for my exams is just Casper’s way of saying how much he loves me. Now, as Kiran says, how can I thwart him?

I was very much concerned about problems like allergies and sleep quality but Kiran told me that this was also a territory issue for Casper. Besides, it’s Casper and forbidding him will either not work out the way I want or it’ll result in some serious frustration and rejection which I just can’t afford. And according to Kiran’s rule book, hurting your pet’s feelings in any way is highly detrimental not only to your human-cat relationship but it may also cost you your friendship with the cat-woman.

We, therefore, have favored ways of arranging ourselves for sleep, and we can usually mesh these ways to “mutual agreement”. Unlike Kiran’s cats, Casper won’t take my word for what’s the best place for him to sleep. I tried to turn my bookcase’s headboard into Casper’s bed by putting a pillow and a small matrix but he didn’t feel very special with this arrangement.He made it clear that in the day time his favorite place is sofa and during night, he’d like to sleep on my pillow.

Casper is still learning that he can amuse and soothe himself. But he would still prefer that I’ve the same sleep cycle as he does. I tried to teach him “self soothing behaviors” and they just increased his confidence and autonomy.

It was next to impossible convincing Casper not to sleep on my bed. But the more I tried, the more he started taking it as a challenge. So, I just listened to Kiran and all I’ve to say is that it’s just that he prefer showing me his affection in this way.

MY BEAUTIFUL GRANDMOTHER

I lost my father at a very young age and since then I believed that death of a loved one is the most challenging thing a person can face. The sorrow breaks us down and the helplessness brings us to our knees. But watching my grandmother struggle through cancer, compound all those emotions. I wanted to help her, to ease her pain, to make her better but there was nothing I could do.

When I was a child, my mother and I lived in the center of the village. My grandmother’s home was a few yards away at the base of mountain. I didn’t have any friends and therefore I used to skip over to her place every once in a while. She was my first friend — my best friend.

Time passed, I grew up and I moved to the city for higher education. But whenever I went back to my hometown, I’ll go to her place and spend as much time with her as possible. I joined the medical school in the city and I got an internship and a job and life became busier than ever. I almost stopped visiting my hometown anymore.

I was in my university when my aunt called to inform me that grandma was diagnosed with stage three cancer. The news left me in shock and I didn’t know what to think or what to do. My aunt asked me to visit her and spend time with her but none of this made any sense to me. All I knew was that grandma was the healthiest person I ever met. How could this happen?

I called her doctors for any possibilities but they told me that there’s nothing more they can do, her cancer is too far advanced now. The news left me heartbroken. I didn’t want to believe it. She was not only good to herself but she was kind and generous to everyone she knew. How could she possibly be punished with this disease?

I wasn’t prepared for any of this to happen to her. I hoped against hope that she’ll recover because she has always been a strong and healthy woman. I video called my aunt to see my grandma and talk to her but upon seeing her I failed to even recognize her. The woman I knew was vivacious, bright, lively and happy and now I couldn’t even find a shadow of her former self. She was so weak and this cruel disease had already drained every bit of life out of her. She couldn’t even open her eyes.

She had a lot of heartbreak in her life. She lost her son a week before his wedding was announced. She lost her husband to early dementia and Alzheimer’s. She was still dealing with this loss when her second son died in an accident and after a month her third son died too. How much can life actually throw at one person especially someone as caring and kind as my grandma? She didn’t deserve to suffer like this in the end. She didn’t deserve cancer.

No one seemed to know how much time she had left, and seeing her in constant pain terrified me to no end. My grandmother was my idol, my hero and my inspiration. When I was a child, she used to bring me sweets and toys. She would always bring me extra sweets to share some with my classmates. She would tell me the stories of Ali and Hussain’s generosity and then she’d ask me to help the poor and needy. She always kept candies with her and whenever she’d show up in the town, all the kids would surround her for candies.

She inspired me in so many ways and she groomed me and taught me to be a good person and be kind to others and I wouldn’t be half the person I am if it wasn’t for her.

Seeing her like this was incredibly overwhelming and incapacitating and I know how horrible I may sound but I wished it to be over. I couldn’t see her like this. And my only comfort was the belief that she will soon be with her family again and she will be in a better place-a place she deserve to be.

After four months of suffering, she died. My aunt called me and the news left me paralyzed. I felt like everything in the world just stopped. I just wanted to shut down. My brother picked me up from hospital. He was sobbing but I wasn’t even able to bring myself to cry. I just sat in silence in the car on the way to village. Upon reaching my grandma’s place, I felt the worst gut-feeling. I could hear everyone cry and I wanted to run away from that place. My grandmother, with no shine in her eyes, was lying in bed cold and still. I said my goodbyes and left. It was the last day I ever saw her and it wasn’t the way I had hoped.

I’m struggling to cope with the fact that she won’t be here anymore. I’m writing this with tears streaming down my face. It hurts so much and I feel like I’m never going to get over this. I know it’s not my fault and I couldn’t have done anything to help her but I feel guilty and I wish I had spent more time with her when she was still well. I’m angry at life and I’m in pain and I have so many questions that have no answers. All I know is that my grandma deserved a much better life than the one that was handed to her.

World’s Quickest Chicken Pasta

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Ingredients

  • 500 gm pasta
  • 250 gm finely chopped boneless chicken
  • chopped garlic
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • cream
  • cooking oil

Directions

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain it.
  • Heat 2 tbs cooking oil, add chicken and fry.
  • After a min, add chopped garlic and cook.
  • Add cream, toss over and mix it well. Season with salt and black pepper.

That’s all. The world’s quickest creamy chicken pasta is ready. Try it and share photos with me.

6 THINGS I REALIZED AFTER LOSING MY PHONE

Like almost every single woman I know, I have lost count of all the times I’ve rummaged through my handbag panicking because of the thought that I had lost my phone. Usually, I ask someone around me to give me a call and it’s found but this time it was different. It happened last week and upon realizing that I have lost my phone I panicked like I haven’t panicked in a very long time. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember feeling so lost and out of sorts. As I walked out of the restaurant, I realized that my phone was not with me. It took me all of 5 minutes to notice it was missing but it was too late. I went back to check but someone had already taken it and decided to keep it.

A smartphone is no longer something we use; it’s is a part of who we are. It’s like a lifeline and losing my phone realized me that we (internet addicts) all are basically social cripples and our smart phones are our crutches, it’s our virtual home. Our smart phones carry within themselves the very essence of each one of us: contacts and messages of our friends, work and personal appointments, photographs, music, e-banking and home delivery apps for food. How can we ever live without it? And since my mom was taking he time getting me a new phone, I started to notice how my phone had already taken over my life. Here’s all what I realized:

1. The world will go on without me

Embarrassingly, my biggest concern during my clinical hours or any time that I have to spend without WiFi is that something important and huge will happen. My smart phone’s constant connection to the world gave me the luxury of watching big events unfold right before my eyes. I was able to react simultaneously with world events and watch Twitter meltdowns happen in real time. Losing my phone realized me that the world did go on without me and all the information was still around.

2. Time expands when I don’t have a smartphone

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I came to an embarrassing realization about how much time I’ve been wasting looking for the possibilities of engagement on my Facebook posts and Tweets. I kept feeling the involuntary itch to check my texts subside. Using the phone while studying or working may seem like smart multitasking but having all of that at my fingertips throughout the day actually has been distracting me from what is important and fulfilling. Losing my phone made me able to observe my thoughts, my surroundings and my thoughts about my surroundings. I’d been missing what was going on around me because I was too busy staring at my phone every min.

3. Less messages to contend with

When I couldn’t check my emails and messages constantly, I stopped half-replying to stuff. So fewer messages batted back to me, and by the time I got a new phone I had very few emails all around. It actually helped me streamline communication and I, now, address a thing head instead of getting myself engaged in negative and useless discussions.

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4. Don’t document everything

Once while out on a long drive, I saw a man carrying a cow on his bike and since then, I’ve been a firm believer in documenting everything. The first couple days without my phone left me worrying, what if I see something similar again? What if I cook something worth Instagramming? Do I have the self-restraint to post my check-ins and photos of Pizza on Facebook before I eat it? Can I enjoy going out with Ayesha Usman without taking photos with her and showing off on social networks? A very hard way I realized, it doesn’t really matter. This urge of documenting everything everywhere left me distracted during the moments I should just enjoy. Do I need to take a selfie every day? (P.S this is a rhetorical question.)

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5. I’m never not unreachable or lost

Being a 90’s kind I know, for sure, that there was a time when we found each other without mobile phones. And even now when people who really matter and are important can find a way to get in touch with you. I had this very uncomfortable feeling when I didn’t have the immediate access to my friends and colleagues, but it quickly abated as Ayesha Mubasher was knocking my door and Kiran Sadique was calling my landline the very next day and I realized that it wasn’t me who vanished, it was just my phone.

6. Real life communications are more meaningful

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The thing that I love most about the modern age is the quick access to people residing anywhere and not having to wait around for months or for years to have a long-distance conversation. My slowed-down week offline allowed me to live more deliberately and I reevaluated how to use internet (if only for a few days). Although I love to have my favorite people on call at any moment, I’ve started to see my friends as my extra limbs rather than actual people. Losing my phone left me with no other option but to wait until I get to a computer to send emails and long messages. And yes, I’ve learned that face to face communications more important and meaningful than chatting online while ignoring the ones who’re sitting right next to you.