Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |   Volume 6, Issue 20, Tuesday, May 17, 2011




Summer spirit: Grace in the body and peace on your mind

Summer started for me when I could smell the mango blossoms (mukul) which the southeast wind carried into my room. I knew the season for Kalboishakhi, heat and mangoes was back!

Those days, life was much simpler and global cuisine did not change my taste buds as much. Mangoes, litchies, jams, guavas and papayas on their own were fantastic treats.

Today, we have too many choices and recipes for certain “dishes” are complex. Possibly having a mango salad with ten other ingredients is much more appealing to some people than having just the fruit by itself. Here is where I have come back to my roots.

Today I live in Canada and my food choices are much better than in my earlier life after leaving Dhaka. I studied Health and Nutrition for two years and today I am focusing my energy in creating a healthy lifestyle for myself, my family and my clients.

It is back to basics with nutrition and no more using the ever so convenient excuse “busy life“. In life YOU come first. When you are healthy, nourished and energetic you can very easily succeed. “The purpose of the body is to be a good vehicle for the mind.”

Processed, packaged, dehydrated, deep fried and restaurant foods are a very minor part of my life. As a family we all take part in selecting and preparing our foods. Here are a few simple tips for you for the hot, humid and tiring, long summer days.

In the heat of the summer season make sure you are always “hydrated” so drink plenty of water. Tea and coffee are not substitutes for water they are on the contrary diuretic. Coconut water contains many minerals that will replenish the electrolytes in your body depleted by sweating. Whole foods, fruits and lightly stir fried vegetables will work wonders for your digestion. Turmeric and coriander are cooling spices and herbs, therefore utilising them in your diet will have a cooling effect on your mind and body. Use sesame seed oil or coconut oil [extra virgin preferred] for cooking and reduce salt intake in your meals. Excessive salt will hold on to water in your body. Eat three complete meals in a day with 7-8 cups of water, and eat all your fruits on their own.

A personal daily practice towards health will naturally plant the seeds of an energetic and strong body. It will remove resistance, protect you from diseases and help develop an even stronger mind.

By Nahid Ameen


Mother's Day at school


It was 11:10 am. The bell rang to announce the beginning of the fourth period in school. The English Language Teacher was absent and I had to take her class. I love teaching and was looking forward to the next forty minutes of quality time with the students of Class IV.

I entered the class; they greeted me happily and I felt welcome. The classroom was in order. There was sufficient light. Luckily it was bright and sunny outside. I have been through the lesson plan for the day. They had an assignment to complete at home. They were asked to write a composition on “My Mother.” As “Mother's Day” was shortly on the calendar, the teacher planned to correct their writings, have them re-written after correction and put them up on the bulletin board in their classroom before May 08.

I enjoyed reading their writings. Most of the compositions were similar. All of them wrote passionately. They wrote proudly of their mothers and were thrilled as they were introduced to each mother through the writings.

There were some expected spelling and grammatical errors. I patiently explained the mistake while reading each student's composition aloud. I simultaneously wrote down synonyms on the board for the adjectives they had used to describe their mothers' features, their characters and their activities. They were excited to note them down in their exercise copies. Now they had two or three alternative words to replace the easy ones they had used.

Half an hour had passed. I had ten minutes to wrap up. I asked them to rewrite the corrected composition in a single sheet at home so that they would look eligible as displays on the bulletin board.

One boy had written, “My mother is often very rude to me.” It wasn't grammatically incorrect but his innocent remark could offend the mother. I addressed him in particular but had a message for the whole class. A mother is never rude intentionally. She is simply strict. Her love is unconditional, and her mission all through her life's journey is to prepare you to be one of the fortunate ones who will be able to rise above hurtful circumstances and enjoy life to the fullest.

I left the room saying, “Love, respect and cherish your mothers every day!” I had to check the copies and return them to the students before 1:50pm. I had no time to waste.


Bonding beyond barriers

It was like some miracle. Like some dream come true. I longed for a vacation; a change from the quixotic existence of my mundane routine, going to and fro the workplace, with assignments thrown in, apart from the routine birthdays and unvaried “milads”.

My recent trip to Karachi to see a treasured friend's ailing older brother, Mohsin bhai, had drawn me to the city of my happy schooldays - with its unending sunshine and laughter as nostalgia always contains for many. However, I had to wait for my “Eid” bonus from last year, before I could scoot off and fly out for three days, like Wendy from Peter Pan.

Somehow, I had failed to inform my more-than-half-a-century-old chain of friends from school days of my going there, of my long time decision to go to the city of my origin.

My vital e-mail had not reached its recipient, Rehana, my friend of many decades. I had, through prayers I guess, miraculously landed at the right airport. Then, after some more shuffling and bungling, I somehow slid through the airport check points, of course with a lot of help from my old comrade-at-arms, Amineh Ispahani, who had boarded the plane with me on prior arrangement (Amineh also lives in Dhaka, along with me and my group of girl pals).

Having scrambled through Karachi airport, after some shivering and more imaginary thumbing of the “worry beads”, while in the aircraft and the airport, I was finally clinging around the neck of the friend whom I had come to visit.

It's not the first time that Rehana had provided me succour through the sixty-plus years of my rough and tumble existence. “Why do you send only cryptic messages,” my school friend from the convent years had said last time I went to Karachi, several years before. This had been on a less-than-a-week's break. On that break, I gave myself the assignment of writing about the city where I had spent three full decades, learning to be a serious writer of some consequence. My siblings too had grown up there with our education and our basic training of careers. We had studied at missionary schools and colleges. We had done our best to glean what we could then, before we parted ways. The two younger siblings had stayed on with our parents at Dhaka as they were still to complete their fledgling years.

In a way, the story of us brothers and sisters was like some “Tale of Two Cities” incidents that linked up in our lives in Karachi and Dhaka; with closely linked friends wherever we were. Thus, Mohsin Bhai, Rehana's elder bother, cared deeply about even my nephew in the US, and my eldest bother with whom he had studied medicine. So did the sisters and husbands of so many of my school and college as well as university friends.

The “mafia” group were closely linked together through our brothers and sisters. When I had visited last time, seven years ago, these sisters, brothers and husbands of my girl pals had enquired after my family, whom they cared for deeply, as only good friends can.

Some of these friends of mine, from school and college, had come to Dhaka before, in the recent past. They had tried to contact me at home, through the phone, and even at my work place but in vain. By then I was on my shuffle to get on with the two-story-a-day, crazy routine, as was required of me at my workplace where I wrote for a living

At Karachi, after an hour's waiting at a fast food diner, shivering in Karachi's winter, there I was laughing, giggling, carousing, and having the time of my life for three full days. “It'll be party, party, every day,” had foretold my Dhaka art teacher friend, Fariha Zeba, who was there in Karachi in her formative years, herself. “No, it can't be; not this time,” I'd replied shortly over the brief phone call.

There were more than three brief spells of parties or appointments with table-laden yummy meals and catching up with our incident packed, incredible years of laughter, fun, and tears.

All of us golden girls of the sixties -- had our measure of disappointments and deaths in our families and friend circles. We'd excelled in literally every year of our school and college lives. We had had “the best of years and the worst of times”. Yet, we were ready to sail on with the ebb and tide of “the journey of life”.

While in Karachi, staying at the 'Khayaban-e-Tanzeem' and the visit to Mohsin bhai's place in the older part of Karachi, at Firoze Shah Mehta Road, are things which I'll never forget.

That cream coloured house, with its colonial period carvings of wreathe on the pale wall outside; the art collection in the living room; the white and black mosaic tiles, and the artefacts in each nook and corner they had left an indelible mark on my mind. I felt like some “Rosalind and Celia” from Shakespeare's “As you like it.” Here, Samina Bhabi and her liveried cook served us meals to remember the rest of our days. Each of Rehana's meals, prepared by “Jeeves”, whom my friend had tutored and perfected over so many years, served us mouth-watering lunches and dinners, which were simply and incredibly perfect.

The holiday was one out of some impossible dream. At Tanvir's place, my old bosom buddies had gathered for half an hour, to have impossibly delicious snacks twice in a row to be kissed, cuddled and be loaded with presents galore. “The school mafia.” as Rahat, Rehana's husband put it, were photographed. We tried to recapture our half-a-century's break all in one breath in thirty brief minutes at Tanvir's. Was it possible? I guess the Maker had heard my impossible prayer.

The seven miles of Clifton's spanking new developments, the areas with the Mediterranean ambiance and inviting French names, old places which sold dry fruit and remembered me despite the passage of time, the inviting draper's and framer's place, the rug shops and other inviting places like the Mohatta Palace, with their usual stack of beautiful postcards were there, as before. Sure, there were vital changes. One couldn't be blind to them. But what a bonding beyond borders! How wonderful!

To be with the incorrigible “school mafia”. Memories of happier days will always linger.

By Fayza Haq


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