Secrets of success of Shahida Azeem’s life.

The art of living well till the eighty – eighth year of your life.


When sad, I can’t sit still. I wrote on her in Shahida Azeem, my mentor and friend. Still I was sad, so I wrote about the sadness and how I tried to cope in  Dealing with sadness. So this time, I’ve written a list of things I’ve observed in Shahida Apa, which I believe are the secrets of her success . Mrs. Nasreen Haq Nawaz her family friend mentioned that Shahida Azeem has been like this even when she was thirty years younger!

After her passing away, I found out Shahida Apa was eighty eight years old. She walked straight and with grace and showed me how it is possible to live at this age. Here are a few photographs I took during one of my visits to her place. I wish I had taken some videos of hers too.

Whenever I’d mention her to anyone, the first question they’d ask me, ‘what is her age?’ I’d look blankly, surprised.

‘What has age got to do with her?’ I’d think.

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Walking is the best!


It’s my favorite form of exercise .


Ok, come with me for a walk today – only online. Otherwise, it is my ‘me time’. Always has been. This is my time for reflection, and the deflection of problems. Yes, I refuse to let my ‘me time’ be spoiled! This walking is the unwinding and re-energizing session of the day for me.


23622002_1743505092349442_761273883280085437_nSo, the typical question is ‘Walks kaisi chal rahi hein?’ (How are the walks going?) It really amuses me. But its true. Walks have to be on the move in one’s life. Yet somehow, when there is a break from routine, one’s walking routine is the first to be hit. Then it becomes really difficult to re-start the routine. So, let me say, from my own experience; ‘Never leave your exercise routine – no matter what happens!’ You can try to reduce the walks’ time or even inculcate it into your tough times. But do not leave your walk or exercise routine for long. 

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Panic Attack!



How to get yourself out of it.


It comes on you from nowhere, and suddenly engulfs you with fright and terror. You become at once frozen and yet you want to run out of the enclosed environment as soon as possible. Only that person can relate to it, who has been through it. It’s a very private experience. You desperately want to drink water and you need fresh air at once.


It can happen in a car, in a traffic jam, in a lift or in an overcrowded room. Your first instinct is to run for your life.


I had no idea that it is something that can happen, I thought I knew everything. In fact, one feels that such ‘psychological’ things only happen to weak minded individuals. No, certainly not to someone who is so strong-minded as myself. Well, I was very wrong. The first time it happened was in 2006, that was claustrophobia. But the Panic attack  happened to me in 2008.


Ever been sure of dying ‘right now’? That’s what a panic attack is. Suddenly you feel that there is not enough air to breath. Anyone who has been through it usually ‘knows’ it and is sympathetic. My mother hadn’t. So, she responded with “What nonsense, behave yourself!” Being in an overcrowded room or a large area with closed windows brings it on.

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My first trail 5 trek with friends

Walking on the trails in foothills of the mighty Himalayan mountain range. 

Who wouldn’t want to touch the foothills of the great Himalayan mountain range? Margalla Hills in Islamabad, are part of the foothills. So, almost everyone in Islamabad, has to go for a to trek in one of its trails, in the Margalla Hills. ‘Trail 3’ was the steep one which has been very popular for years. Some years ago, my husband and I had been on the Trail 7 which starts behind the Faisal Mosque. Lately, Trail 5 was introduced. This one is less steep, longer, and along the way joins with the trail 3 route also.

You get glimpses of small water falls, streams and pools along the way. The hike is tough if you want to go all the way to the top. Many chicken-hearted people, just stroll in the lower tracks and get back – just as we did!


As far as I know, the camp site has never been actually used – but that is just a conjecture. We Pakistanis are not the camping types usually. Plus it is uncomfortably close to the civilization. No proper bathroom there either, at the camp. However, a few good bathrooms are available near-by.

There is a ‘khokha’ or cabin offering tea and snacks at the car park. You will find the local staff around to watch over you, and even guards strolling around to see you have no problems.

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Caring for elderly parents and parents-in-law.


I have a mentor with a great sense of humor. She said “Why is it written in the Holy Quran, that you must take care of your parents without a single ‘uff’ from your side? – (He never said that for taking care of your children!) Because He knows, your parents will create situations which will make you want to exclaim!” And then she went into peals of laughter. It doesn’t mean the kids won’t be difficult. It means we don’t mind them being difficult. Then, why can’t we be more patient for our parents who have already shown their great love for us?


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World disability day


Each one of us has a responsibility towards them

A couple of years ago, I had a first-hand experience of what it means to be ‘disabled’.  I had fallen from two steps, in the school where I taught English.
The doctors said, that I need knee replacement operation within a week if possible. It was too big a shock for me, also my students’ final exams were round the corner, so I decided to postpone the operation till the summer vacations. I suffered a lot of pain at every step, and had to use a stick or wheelchair. I had to walk with a very strange gait. I still went for my trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi because everything had already been arranged and paid for.

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Miracle of Ramzan


– The month of fasting.

Everything is fine, about Ramzan. But the thought of staying without water for almost 17 hours is just too much. I’m one of those ‘water freaks’ who guzzles water all day long. If I go out, my bottle of water goes with me. I had panic attacks once, and what got me out of it was – yes, WATER.

“How am I going to fast?” is my greatest apprehension before every Ramzan.

Somehow, as the days approach, my resolve to fast gets strengthened. It’s a matter of fulfilling the body’s need for water, within the intervening time between ** Iftar and  *Sahar – which is around 7 to 8 hours. During this time, you make up your need for water and food of course. It is so simple. Two glasses  of water, at Iftari, two with sehri. Four in between. SIMPLE! Theory is fine. But the way, Allah makes it all possible is nothing short of a miracle.

I just tell myself “ DO NOT THINK about water.” A strange calm sets into my system, once it realizes that I’m dead serious about fasting. Out of nowhere, I gain the courage to go without water for all those hours. Let me bring you into some of my tricks. Prayers, sleep, reading Holy Quran, and let me confess watching all those yummy food cooking shows. One watches each part of it with great eagerness, resolving to make it tomorrow. Of course, we all know, ‘tomorrow never comes.’ Once all the necessary parts are done: Zakat and charity given, food distributed among the poor. Iftaris sent to neighbors.  There is still so much time left to do so many things. Such as, trying to figure out where my life is taking me? Where was I actually going?  – How to get out of quite a few of my weird habits. If I can do without water for so long, I’m sure I can stick to my resolve in other matters too.


I guess, the biggest thing one gets during Ramzan is confidence in one’s own self control. Then the next thing is empathy.  To learn first-hand, how a poor person feels when he is hungry, and he has to do all these daily chores too.

Recently, I had the option of spending Ramzan in the US or in Pakistan. Of course  I chose Pakistan.  – In spite of its load shedding, its heat, its power failures and what not. I love Ramzan in Pakistan.  Otherwise, the Middle East is good too, where it’s a month of festivities.

In Pakistan, the month long series of almost 24 hours of special Ramzan programs on television, the special comedy shows, the quiz programs and what not. Then the main focus is of course, the food. Usually, Sehri is just one type of favorite of each family member. Everyone is very vehement about what they want. Some say yogurt is important, some just have a bowl of porridge. I love paratha with aumlet or fried egg, and a cup of tea. Some cannot stand tea, some cannot live without tea. Some say you get more thirsty with tea, others say, no, after tea you don’t feel thirsty at all. Yes, as far as preferences go, sky is the limit. Iftar is the real time of feasting. My friend Ayesha once said “Why can’t everyone have exactly what they want?” All year round we have the typical food for lunch and dinner. This is one time in the year, when we all deserve to be pampered. Just give the family the sandwiches, pakoras, dahi bharas, fruit chat and juices that they want. After all being  over 16 hours  without water and food is tough enough.

The exchange of dishes between homes in the neighborhood is a lovely tradition. Out of the blue, a tray will arrive with goodies packed in.  Then either you keep their dishes, to be filled up with more goodies to be sent back the next day or week. Otherwise, one just exchanges their  snacks with one’s own, and fills their dishes with what one had just made for oneself. Somehow, in Pakistani dishes there is a lot of ‘barkat’ or it goes round very far. There will be enough for all. It is a month of so much loving and giving – that you love it!

There was a time in my life when I got into the ‘ Iftar Party’ scenario. Each person out doing the other in the matter of extravagance and goodies served at iftar parties.  Now, I’m clear about not indulging in these iftar parties . I think it is neither fair to the hostess, nor the staff working in their home. One must be kinder to the staff in this month. So, that’s not possible, when you are making them run around while breaking their fast.

Reading of Holy Quran with meaning has thankfully become very prevalent everywhere now. It is very good. “I just can’t complete the whole Quran in one Ramzan.” I lamented once to my favorite Islamiat teacher in College of Home Economics, Ms. Tamseela.  She listened with a smile, and said, “That’s okey, it would be even better if you started the Quran in one Ramzan and finished it in the next Ramzan.” It took me a while to realize what she was saying to me. That it would be even better to read the Holy book throughout the year. So, you benefit from its teachings, all year round. I wish she knew, that now, I’m humbly able to complete almost five to six Qurans in one year. My main focus is on the translations. The meaning is the most important aspect of it. Still every time, I’m touched deeply by the incidents which often tally with my life in today’s world. The prayers make sense to me in my life, and I read them with great feeling, as if I’m praying that prayer for myself. I am.

The stories of the prophets give me strength. Their steadiness in those times, gives me the single mindedness to stay on that same path if I possibly can. – Because in the end, it takes one where every human being wants to go.

Oh, I got so serious.

This is a month of inner peace and tranquility. May God bless each one of you, my dear Readers.

Have a blessed Ramzan.

–          Whether you are a Muslim or not, stay blessed.


*Sehri: is the feast one has in the early hours of the morning, around 2.30 am. One finishes eating at the call of prayer around 3.10 am. Then one cannot take a single extra sip or bite of food.

**  Iftari: is a time when  one breaks the fast, usually with a date  which is full of energy.



My exercise bicycle


My experience of the exercise bicycle.

“Uff! – this bicycle is constantly coming in my way.” I mentioned to Waliya. Now, it is getting on my nerves.  I’ve put it near my bed, writing desk, and chair. The idea is that I’ll use it on way to each of these. What a hope! Its weeks before I get on it even once!

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Knee jerk!



The story of my knee problem and how I’ve avoided the knee replacement operation so far….this might be of help to anyone with a knee problem.

Dubai trip 090 (2)

On way to the Desert Safari ride  April 2014. You won’t believe it, but I was in excruciating pain! – yet, I wasn’t ready to miss the fun.

Two days before my trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in April last year, I realized I could hardly walk! I decided to go anyway, and deal with it, on my return. After all, I’d been planning for it with my colleagues at Sheikh Zayed International Academy in Islamabad, for six months, and wouldn’t give it up for anything!

Just ten days before, I had a small fall in school while going up two steps. I was okey then, but a few days later,  I realized I couldn’t walk properly. I couldn’t believe what had happened. Anyhow, it took me a while to realize how serious the situation was. My mom who was living with me had a  spare walking stick, so I found out ways to walk in a wobbly way. It really scared me.

My daughter Nadiya got me an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in nearby Ali Clinic. After seeing my x-rays, Dr. Zimri advised me to get both my knees replaced. He said, “You can go to Dubai, but the operation is needed ASAP.”

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