Saturday, 25 June 2016

My Regards to the sweet "Jin Baba" in Heaven, Sabri

I was 4 years old when I first met Sabri Sahab (Father of Amjad Sabri) - he used to visit my Nana's house for the occasional qawwali sessions that my nana and his clan enjoyed very much.

The most vivid memories I have of him are his peculiar hair-locks hanging down his shoulders, and the way he lauded "Allaaaah" in his heavy, majestic voice during the Qawali.

I still remember how my innocent first impression of him as a child struck a humurous chord between us - I had addressed him as "Jin Baba...!" to his face one day as he entered through the main door at my Nana's house in Rawalpindi. I hear that he took it in gentle spirit.

For years later my Nana laughed about it as he narrated this incident.

I had almost lost touch with this memory until I heard about Amjad Sabri's recent death. I have not been an avid qawali listener but I have heard Amjad Sabri live in concert and like most other people I was mesmerized by his power to offer a state of nirvana through his sufi vocal chords.

I had no real connection with Amjad Sabri apart from this childhood memory of his dad -  but I felt sad to the core when I heard about his death. As I go through the various photographs of him and his children for the first time, I look at him as a regular dad and a huge loss for his young family. No child deserves being separated from their parent, especially in such brutal manner.

The Sabri family were the carriers of the Qawali legacy in Pakistan - and no one did it better. It was as if they were appointed by God for this task only. But Amjad Sabri's son is a couple of decades too young to take on the family torch. The more important question is -will he ever be able to, after experiencing what just happened to his father. Will the terrified widow, and single mother not keep her children as far as possible from the family profession and media watch? We can't say.

Famous people have died in the past - even murdered, but there was definitely something about Amjad Sabri that his death was so deeply felt by the entire nation.

RIP Amjad Sabri. Please pay my regards to your Father. Please convey my apology for the inappropriate name I gave him in my childhood innocence.

The blood in our veins continues to whirl like a darvesh as we hear the signature "Tajdar-e-Haram".

Impromptu verses dedicated to the Sabri Father & Son:

"Tere chahne waley kitney they dunya mei, tu na kar uski fikr
Tu hai jis Rasool (SAW) ka aashiq - tu bus kar uska zikr
Shahdat ne teri khol deye wo sab darwazey jin per...
Salon se dastak de rahi thi teri awaaaz sham-o-seher"

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Why use Logic to Answer a child's "WHY"

As busy parents time is never on our side. More than often you're tempted to shoot down the "Whys", "Whats" and "Hows" in the shortest possible manner. The "Whys" are the hardest to deal with which is the why we parents try to either make up believable (read: fairy tale) stories or we simply shut them up with our favourite ones like "Because I said so"!

My 3 yr old has suddenly shifted to a lot of "WHYs" in her daily conversation with me. Last night she wanted some butter and bread. Her idea of it was that she does it ALL by herself end to end from spreading it to eating it. Well, obviously I wasn't going to hand over a knife to her so I told her that she can't spread it by herself. Upfront came the much expected "but WHY mama???" and I thought for a split second about the possible answers I could give her... "because you can't", "because you're a kid", "because we are late for bedtime?"  But I ended up using a more realistic and logical one instead. I told her "You can't use a knife because its too dangerous. Knives are sharp and they can hurt you" (yea I know it was a butter knife, but they have teeth too!) 

My daughter reflected "'s dangerous? hmm...." there was a silence of about 2 seconds and then she spoke up ecstatically: "Mama! Give me that plastic knife you got from the plane, that's not dangerous! It's not sharp!" The excitement in her eyes was to die for! She was so excited to have drawn the comparison and I was even more excited that she thought it through. So I gave her the harmless plastic knife; she not only applied butter neatly all by herself but also bit on every inch with accomplishment!

Moral of the story: By telling my daughter the logical reason behind not allowing her to use a knife, I discovered how intelligent a 3 yr old can be and how well they can reason back with you. This conversation lead her to believe that with reason she can win over people more powerful than her, and she gained the confidence of accomplishing something new! 
To top it all I just became a "Prouder Mom!"

Also found an interesting article on this topic that helps understand  WHY Kids ask "WHY". Check out this link:


Dear Hamza, 

You're a great actor and model. And it seems from your posts that with all that beauty you've got some brains too. 

But there are just a couple of things I would like to give you feedback on as a sincere audience to your social media activism: 

1. If acting is your #1 priority in life, then please don't over engage yourself with strong views and opinions about politicians and distant social issues (like those taking place in the US).  When an ordinary person makes an opinion, people read it and move on but when Hamza Ali Abbassi shouts on his FB status, people don't only judge him, they remember and they form a long lasting opinion about him. Doesn't help if you're looking to continue your acting career!

2. If becoming a politician or social activist is more important to you than your acting career - then please work on your social media communication. Please don't over express with long paragraphs as they make you seem out of control, over emotional, vulnerable and fanatic. People don't want to follow an unstable leader. Use few and impactful words. Better yet, take your activism on twitter. It will control you with its 150 characters limit :) 

3. Stop justifying yourself before your fans. Fans come in all shapes and sizes. Some are intellectual and others are dumb. Some will follow you blindly and others will criticize you for the heck of it. When you make an effort to over-justify every status you have put on a controversial issue, you seem guilty and you turn off your stronger, more intelligent fan base. 

You may take it or leave it, but it's advice worth pondering on ;) 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

"Golden Rules" from my Grandfather

The first time I heard my grandfather talk about Rule # 13 was when I was 10. He was talking to some guests at our place and emphasizing on the lack of professionalism people tend to have in work-places in Pakistan, especially when it comes to following up and reverting back on a job assigned. 

I think the seed was sowed then, which is why from the day that I started working, my email turn-around-time is about 2 mins. Even if I don't know the answer to what is asked of me, I still write back and let the person on the other end know that I have "heard" them and I will get back to them. 

It would be a great loss to the community if I don't pass on all of the 15 Golden Rules of a  successful Work-Place (which by the way very well apply at home too!), that I have inherited from my Grandfather. He himself is still known very well for his professionalism and discipline. 

So, taking it from the top: 

RULE #1 : If you open something, close it. 

RULE #2: If you unlock something, lock it. 

RULE # 3: If you break something, fix it.

RULE # 4: If you can't fix it, find somebody who can. 

RULE # 5: If you borrow it, return it.

RULE # 6: If you use it, take care of it. 

RULE # 7: If you make a mess, clean it up.     (My 3 yr old is already trained on this now) 

RULE # 8: If you move it, put it back.

RULE # 9: If it belongs to someone else and you want to use it, ask permission.

RULE # 10: If it doesn't concern you, mind your own business (Shout to All Pakistani Ladies!) 

RULE # 11: If a problem needs solving, don't fight it, solve it. 

RULE # 12: If you can improve something, do it 

RULE # 13: If asked to do something, always revert back in good time. It does not matter if the job has been "done" or "not done".  (My professional Mantra!) 

RULE #14: Don't leave unnecessary things around your work area.

RULE #15: Keep the atmosphere in the work area fresh. 

These rules were actually circulated at my grand fathers work place by him, when he was an engineer at the Attock Oil Company in Rawalpindi. 

These are universal best practices that were written perhaps 3 decades ago, but are as valid to any work place or home environment even today and for years to come. 

P.S : the comments in the brackets are the granddaughter's comments are not part of the original 15 commandments from the Grandfather. And yes, that is my grandfather from his recent book launch ceremony  :) 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Theme Birthdays Made Easy!

My daughter just turned three. About 4 weeks before her actual birth date I had already started thinking about how I would celebrate her 3rd. Her first 2 were perfectly themed and easily managed in a small family group but this time around I could sense that she would want to have some daycare buddies over. 

I am personally not a huge fan of princess-y stuff and princess (read: Frozen) birthday themes where every other party just competes in size, dress and lavishness. To me theme birthdays are important not because they make you seem in fashion, because they make fun memories and wonderful photograph albums and if they are actually based on what your child is 'into' at the time, then it makes them happy! 

So here are a few tips for those busy, practical moms who want to celebrate theme birthdays but not end up spending a fortune on them: 

1. Bumble Bee Theme 

This turns out to be a really cute theme. Here are some simple ideas for execution: 

i) Goody Bags: Get plain yellow bags and paste black paper stripes (or the reverse if  you find black bags)

ii) Table Setting: Use black and yellow crape paper as a table cloth. Alternatively a black or yellow piece of cloth would do. Try to keep the cloth under neath the cake in the opposite shade as the cake itself. 

iii) Get a themed cake done OR get a simple yellow cake and stick-out some honey bee accessories on it.

iv) Back Drop: Use black and yellow broad ribbons as drapes in the background

v) Balloons : Yellow and Black Balloons or Yellow Balloons Covered with Black Ribbon Stripes 

vi) Plates: Get plain yellow or black paper plates and stick a cut out of a print-out (easily available on the internet) of a bumble bee. Otherwise, strip the plates as well. Do the same for cups. 

2. Lady Bird Theme

Do almost the same as above just change color combo to Black and Red and the stripes to Polka dots. 

The same theme could also work as a "Minnie Mouse" theme if you throw in some Minnie mouse cut outs, 

You could cut out large circles from black chart paper and paste onto red paper plates to make Minnie Mouse ears sticking out of plates.

3. Twinkle Star Theme

1. Goody Bags: Using plain blue bags and Silvery paper cut out in star shape with glittery effect to embellish your bags.

2. Table Cloth: Dark Blue Coloured Cloth or Crape Paper. Sprinkle confetti stars or glitter 

3. Plates: Same method, stick some silver star cut outs on plain dark blue plates. (Tip: Use the Foil in your kitchen drawer if you can't find a good quality glazed silver paper). You can do the same for cups. 

4. Back Drop: Cut out some big and small stars and a moon , and hang them with strings in the back-drop

5. Props: If it's your daughter's birthday, she could end up holding a star magic wand easily found in toy stores. Star shaped clips would add to the cuteness. 

So the above are 3 really simple themes and maybe you can draw some more along the same format. What's great about these not so fashionable themes that your party will give a more home-made and DIY feel which is always more charming :) 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Does 'Font' Impact your Brand Perception?

This is something I've been thinking about even before I became a brand person. As a consumer I used to look at some brand names and find them fresh and to date, and while others looked dull. It wasn't their 'logo' itself, it was more the 'handwriting or font' style and the colours that they played with. Just like fashion dictates 'whats in, whats out' in colours every season, the branding industry too goes through style, colour and tone changes every years. When we were young, hard styled, official looking, formal fonts were in - it meant your brand was serious about their work, about their mission. Later in the early 2000s, as new and more casual online typography became prevalent and as our consumer/customer base and target audience eased out and relaxed a bit in their own personal style, they also started expecting brands serving them to emulate that style to resonate with the audience better. Which is perhaps why some the brand logos like Acer....underwent font and style changes to depict an entirely different image of themselves, an image that would be more appealing and fresh for the consumers.
For the same reason the font style of Vaseline' hasn't remained the same over the years, ven though it's been a brand that has had one of the strongest loyalties based on product performance alone, Vaseline has strengthened its bond with it audience by innovating their look, as the look and the eyes of their consumers evolved. 
So I've been wondering how FONT really impacts the perception consumers have of your brand. Last week I watched 'JOBS', the movie on the life of the revolutionary 'Steve Jobs'. I was surprised to see a scene enacted where they showed how Jobs immediately fired one of his most talented and able engineers because the guy said that 'font types' were not a need of the computer users. This particular engineer mocked at Jobs question 'So where do I change font'...his response to this was, 'This isn't really a pressing need'. This scene was set at the launch of the first Macintosh computer in 1984. Back then no one knew that soon enough in the late 90's font size and style would become such a sensitive issue of preference for both businesses and at-home users. I've worked with some of the big corporations and I have gone through the agony of actually ensuring each heading, sub-heading and text are of a certain size and style, as per the instructions of the higher management. All big companies have standard power point templates (with specific font style, font colour and font size) that reflect the culture of the organisation, work personality of the management and the persona of their brands. For example, pick up anything on Coke, an external communication or an internal document, it must have Red header and a red font in it. Pick up Dove and all documents would be a certain tone of Navy Blue. Somewhere in his head, Jobs predicted a behavior that was revealed 20 years later. This is the quality of a true innovator, who understand what the consumers need before the consumers themselves realize it. 
However back to our 'font in the lives of brands' discussion - I am a firm believer that font really does matter and not only does it make a particular brand stand apart from its peers but also communicates a certain feeling to its consumers. Moreover, I think sometimes font follows cultural development of the users i.e. as attitudes, behaviours, social norms change so do fonts - so that the brands stay upto speed with the psychic trends of their consumers. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Buy Now, Decide Later...

It's funny how shopper behaviour changes based on the shopping experience offerred by a retailer/producer. Although it seems it's always the retailers/producers trying to customize the experience to the shoppers' needs; but shopper experience and behaviour actually run in a spiral, one impacting the other turn by turn until the dynamics of the shopping industry are changed. During my time in North America, I was simply amused and flattered by the return policies. 'Buy Now, Decide Later' is the tempting offer by H&M where often the wait lines outside changing rooms are extremely long. 
Ikea flaunts its loving arms with 'It's OK to change your mind' policy of 90 days. Many clearance outlets including GAP factory outlet and Banana Republic Factory Outlet also give up to 90 days to return merchandise. 
I am the kind of shopper who hates changing or trying out new clothes in the change room, specially when it comes to pants! I'm always in a rush with my baby and especially lazy to try on clothes in winters when you're layered up too much or wearing those unfriendly boots that make it difficult to change over and over again so for me the generous return and exchange policies are simply a treat. But I often wonder if shoppers take advantage of this and if merchandisers end up wasting too many man-hours in just beeping down reverse sales. 

Well according to a research many shoppers DO take undue disadvantage of this. Overall retailers estimate that 4.6 percent of holiday returns are fraudulent. However I think most shoppers (including myself) are too lazy to go back for returns and exchanges and end up keeping what they had bought either for themselves or as a gift to someone else, which is why such a policy does not appear to harm H&M. And I do admit that such cozy policies can turn you into a bit of shopaholic!

On a recent trip to Pakistan I got jugs from a small crockery shop in Karachi and when I came home and poured water out of those jugs into glass, it seemed like they had a serious manufacturing issue! No matter how many different ways I tried it, with however less or more water I  tried it, the spillage was inevitable  So at the dinner table I conveniently announced that I was going to take the jugs back to the shop for an exchange or refund at which my brother-in-law quickly mocked at me saying 'This isn't Canada'..., where you can go exchange jugs or whatever else after having an unsatisfactory experience. I stood corrected and never ventured out to actually change the jugs. 

To my pleasant surprise though I've recently been noticing that at least the bigger retailers in Pakistan are showing some flexibility when it comes to exchanges; if not so much for refunds yet. For example Khaadi has a 30 day exchange policy but nothing can be refunded. However international retailers are better at this, e.g MotherCare (Pakistan) has a 14 day exchange or refund policy for most items. I believe as more and more international brands enter the Pakistani market with their generous shopper flattering policies, the more the top tier local brands would be forced to shed some love too - and the lower tiers should follow suit! 
And even where there's no clear policy it's always worth going back trying to return / exchange an item that you honestly consider a shopping mistake - sometimes you would be surprised how lenient that guy at the till can be! Happy shopping and hopefully lesser returning ;)