The pastures of yore…

Into The Horizon… photo © Copyright by Benjamin Davies

Your face is your identity. Not your hair. Neither your beard. It’s your face that every human or AI would read and uniquely identify you, as you. Facial hair is beyond unique.

There is a recent worry and an on-going trend among males of my age, among friends and family to restore what was once defyingly dense, smooth and masculine hair on their heads. After all, age like most things is taking over and for some, age is a no-no, it’s almost the kind of thing they fear makes them irrelevant, absent.

If you’ve maintained some form of a image all your life, rather than an identity, when it comes to personal looks and lifestyle, you’re probably going to want to worry about loosing hair and going bald, or thereabouts going hairless. What a hairball of fuss about something that’s eventually going to want to bug you in other areas of your physique. Age is irreversible.

At times when I look at the mirror I see a completely different person. I look at my face and pose a few ‘hero’ shots, admiring an entirely new look, one that’s been achieved by years of, and at times painful, toil at my desk. Either work, stress, the cycle of life, or that its plain old aging, going grey with time, loosing hair, wrinkling and getting old is all welcome to me. I embrace the fact that I am 43, that people from Pakistan grey early, experience hair-loss early, quite earlier than I have, that is.

I’m about 55% bald. The map unfolding at the top of my globe is absurd. I’m wondering how to explain this without sharing a photograph that would make you feel grisly, so let me explain it geographically. While most of the landscape is thinner or has thinned at the top, there remains a rather noticeable patch close to the Southern West were you to look at it. It’s mildly dense, it’s alive and however much I wish it fades away to have me achieve 100% measured, even, baldness, it just stands out defiantly. This feels like a great opportunity to grow this faithful pasture long, lay it over the rest of my head and renew my looks. Like some people choose to. It’s amusing.

Facial mods aren’t really appreciable, for one because they’re painful, and two because, they’re either prohibited completely for Muslims or that they fall in the category of being allowed only when it’s absolutely necessary to comfort injury or some form of restoration that would be permitted in special cases.

In my personal opinion, having a hair transplant is a reflection of your self-esteem and how badly it’s hurt, or that it’s the dream of an image you created, long ago, that you’re hoping to restore or maintain. It’s a poor choice.

Some of my friends went bald in their late-teens, thanks to chemicals packaged in bottles and heavily marketed to make one want to believe they’ll live with great heads and shoulders, which by the way is true, they’re left with perfect heads and if not fit, yet drooping shoulders. There are forms of wigs involved too. GRIN!

Others lost hair a bit too early, as their moms and wives would put, or attribute the early onset of hair-loss to their family’s hereditary shenanigans. BIG-GRIN!

I’m only enjoying this because, come what may, fate has a way to get to you and it does. It’s got to me eventually and when my family see my pictures from a few years ago, they simply say aba looks so different (Aba as in dad when used by your child, or when used by your spouse, meaning her kid’s dad) is the most heard of comment. My mom has suggested garlic therapy, or was it onion juice? My sister suggested garlic oil. My uncle many years ago suggested going out more in the sun. A friend I met after some sixteen years, suggested to have a hair transplant like he just had. There’ve been all sorts of suggestions over the past few years and as unswerving I am, they’ve all been brushed aside.

The problem I have is this, you can’t get 100% hair dense and no where close to where you were before. You can achieve some success with a hair transplant, risk playing with your head, endure pain (some put this lightly, but I take it’s exceptionally painful), sleep sitting for three days to let stuff settle in, and look ten years younger, you’re still going to be the same ‘please use a humble expletive of your choice in this place’ person, under the hood.

“The same #$@&%*! under the hood.” That is.

Turkey is one of those destinations where you can get a cheap hair transplant (in the range of US$ 1,500, all bells and whistles paid) or you can have one done back home, if you’re on one of those get-back-home-for-fun trips.

Is it painful? Yes.
Is it going to restore your image? It might, a little.
Is it going to help your identity? Naah.
Is it going to last? Nope, like most things, ‘Your results may vary.’

The pastures of yore bear fruit no more.
A Decree raiseth them anew, by-and-by.

الله أكبر

You can block SMS spam in the UAE

Greetings! photo © Copyright by Tyler Lastovich

In my Steak of the economy post I spoke about how you can block SMS spam on your phone.

On iPhone, blocking SMS spam is a nightmare and having tried almost every trick in the bag, from wishing for Apple to allow a simple way to let us block these messages, to testing the few message filtering apps from the App Store (at the risk of every message being filtered by a third-party processor), I had given up hope of a day when I could block SMS spam easily on iPhone.

(On Android phones it’s a piece of cake. Grrr!).

The issue has always been with SMS spam that originates without a number, and almost all of it does. So a sender with an SENDER ID like BUYFROMUSPLEASE can’t be blocked on the iPhone. There’s no number, so we can’t add it to the address book, so it can’t be blocked using the Block this Caller option.

If you save the number based on the sender id text and then try, the same result. It’s not going to happen.

On the other hand, Apple’s Unknown Senders list in the Messages app has only worked for me just once. It filtered my mom’s message into that list, considering her some sort of a threat, aptly spotting that she had sent an iMessage from her iCloud address that was not saved in my address book. Spammer stopped.

This gives you a sense of how frustrating this is on the iPhone. I’m not hopeful if iOS 13 would be of any use either. Apple simply pays too less attention to some of these nuisances.

The way you CAN do this costs you a charge for an SMS, but you can get it working on both Etisalat and Du networks in the UAE. I have finally blocked tens of SMS spammers. Here’s what you need to do.

Note the name of the spammer, in our case BUYFROMUSPLEASE – if the name has upper and lower case letters – note them that way (though it should be case-insensitive, why risk it). Once you’ve got the right spelling, send an SMS to 7726 with the text ‘b BUYFROMUSPLEASE’ or the spelling variant. You should get a nice confirmation message from Etisalat and Du.

To unblock the sender, if you ever want to, send ‘u BUYFROMUSPLEASE’ to 7726.

If you need a list of your blocked senders, send ‘get’ to 7726.

The same number and process works on both networks and it works well. I only wonder whether the feature was right under my nose and I hadn’t spotted it all along.

Yay!! You can block SMS spam in the UAE!

Where’s my lucky number iOS 13?

If you’re wondering where iOS 13’s been all day, today being Thursday, September 19 release day, the new OS is still a couple of hours away. UAE release time being 9:00 PM. If you’re in other time zones, you can google ‘10 a.m. PT.’ The update should go live right around 10 a.m. PT.

And if your device isn’t supported, well, then… buy are new device! OUCH!

iOS 13 was released at 9:00 PM UAE Standard Time.

Update: Sep 20, 2019 – iOS 13 Dark Mode is fantastic. QuickPath the new swipe keyboard by Apple is fantastic. iOS 13 is polished and refined. There are some great features in this update:

https://www.apple.com/ae/ios/ios-13/

Netflix free

…but I haven’t finished Shameless photo © Copyright Clay Banks

My blog is read by my children. So this post will be written for the eyes of a child. Ones that are too precious for the nurturing of their minds and their souls.

If you’re intelligent, you’ve got the point already and can simply proceed to cancel your Netflix subscription. If you’re the ziddy (stubborn) type, reading anything won’t help. If you’re one of those who can’t reverse a decision you’ve made, or are too protective of your choices, you’re on the path of self-destruction. If you’re an early-adopter like me, read on.

I cancelled Netflix the first time on April 7, 2011. Twice thereafter, the last time, permanently.

Netflix like any ‘subscription’ is addictive. As children we saw our parents addicted to their VCRs – to ‘Hindi’ and some ‘English’ movies. The Sultanate of Oman was the best place to watch a movie as a kid. I’m talking about the 80s. There were no cinemas for families, so to say. The ones we had were no go places, families had way better moral values back then and little money to be extravagant. Movie-going was not your weekend treat, nor was it your weekend relaxant.

At home the VCR was the rage. If you don’t know what a VCR is, google it. VCRs were of two types, Betamax or VHS. The family that bought one, or would want to buy one, talked about or were talked into buying VHS over Betamax. You were either VHS or Betamax, that determined if you could share your ‘pirated’ cassette library with family and friends. That was VCRflix.

The greatest part the customs (department) played was this, they had an iron clad control on movies. As children we never got to see inappropriate material. If a movie had something questionable, it was edited out and released officially so every copy of whatever material was being consumed was clean. As the years went by, I recall large chunks of some movies edited-out (you’d come to know when suddenly the scene would skip to another scene). Largely due to cultural overdose (I write this mildly) or simply unacceptable behavior.

(My Rambo 1 and 2 video cassettes were confiscated, wiped-out with TV snow. Rambo 3 was allowed. I remember buying these on my way back from our Pakistan holiday. I was 12. BIG GRIN!).

So as children our parents and specially our moms had no qualms renting a movie they thought would be nice for their kids and just playing it. I can name a few, but then I don’t want kids to follow and watch these when they grow up (I have erred). At some levels, it was just amazing and it was the way things should have been. At least when ‘we’ could have made a point to keep them so, at our behest.

My family left Oman by the end of 1994. I had left earlier in the summer of 1993 (or so I recall). What happened next, was an absolute shame. Pakistan was a nightmare when it came to any form of regulation of inappropriate ‘entertainment.’ A complete lack of sense at how society could be nurtured for the future. There were and there are no protective measures in place to filter inappropriate media even today, and it’s an all-you-can-consume hell of sorts. I’m not talking about banning a few satellite channels here and there (whimsically). Those are petty things. Having lived back home, I had a sense that the world was free. Free to choose sin over sanity. Free to consume like an animal.

In the January of 1996 my Boeing 777 landed on the tarmac of Dubai International Airport. Okay, I got you there for a moment. HAHA! I’m not Al Waleed to own my own superjet (and for lack of want from having some of my friends butcher me, I resist adding ‘Not yet.’ But I really want to. Life’s all about dreaming dreams you can live one day. إن شاء الله). So it was an Emirates airlines 777 and boy those days Emirates was the Apple of our eyes. To a degree it still is. I digress, where was I?

Tune down what we experienced in Oman by about 95% and that’s how things have been here. I’m aware as media has become more direct (there’s no way to ‘edit-out’ Netflix or Youtube) and it has become harder to regulate (the modern world seems to keep ‘evolving’ their morals) so we can’t expect things to be like they were back when we were children (and in great hands). Technology is outsmarting us at every step, there are front-doors, there are back-doors and most of us families are simply not equipped to fight the onslaught of modern entertainment.

Don’t go to kuch nahee hota (nothing shall happen; said with absolute belief, yet with a scare deep down), bachey nahee dekh rahey (kids aren’t being shown this; loosely translated), kids area alag hai (the service has a kids area) or those kinds of absolutely unreasonable thoughts bachey bhee barey ho kar dekh lain gey (kids can also follow us and watch when they are grown up; loosely translated).

Netflix is bad for you. Haram at multiple levels. An invitation to Hell at many others.

I cancelled Netflix permanently on December 25, 2017 (after a few months of paid use) for one pure reason. I didn’t want my kids to have Netflix as a top of the mind goto addiction. While the subscription lasted we watched some very interesting shows and kids cartoons (which I love to watch by the way) but every time we’d cast one of those shows to our television, the Netflix brand, its presence in our home warned me – it was here to stay. And I foresaw darkness’s desire to consume us (okay, now let’s roll the cameras).

I was addicted to Netflix and when I chose to cancel, I had reached a point where my inner self would either give in to accepting what was ‘inappropriate’, or to bail out forever. I chose to bail out forever. I suffered withdrawal symptoms, thought I would go back later to catch up on some shows in summer or winter and it kept coming back at me like a beast. I had to fight it. Mid-way some shows.

Netflix offers unlimited Movies, TV shows and more for a ‘small’ monthly fee. It takes you 34,739 hours to watch everything (and its been growing and growing). If you ever use the free trial watch these shows first:

‘The Inappropriate’
‘Sultanate of I’
‘Boeing Nowhere’
‘Dying clean’

and my favorite:

‘Netflix Free’

Oh and by the way, they’re all directed by The World’s Greatest ‘Director’.

Me.

Once there was home…

Malam Jabba, Pakistan (I visited in 1992) photo © Copyright by Khadija Yousaf

Unlike most people who come to the UAE to make a living, some of us Pakistanis are the most unique, people like me who have been living outside of Pakistan for the past 43 odd years (some six or seven spent back home). That’s four decades and a lifetime of living away.

I’m sure it’s hard to imagine for most what that feels like. It’s unlike most Pakistanis who live here for some years, but there are thousands like me who have lived away from home, just far too long. When that happens, ‘where you belong’ becomes hard to understand for one’s self and even harder to explain to others.

There are some idiosyncrasies that keep you from wanting to go back. We came here way too long ago, decades ago. We have seen our country go through abnormal hell, hell that doesn’t want to seem to end. We are used to a largely ‘system-first’ (extravagant at times) lifestyle that works one particular way and it suffices our needs. We’ve fallen in love with an environment that promotes Islam and it’s culture and see it in practice in public and elsewhere. We’ve lived in a society where its leaders welcome diversity, promote love and tolerance. We’re spoilt, we’re hemmed in our ways and some of us like me, are at a point in time in our lives where ‘back home’ we’ll be utterly irrelevant. That’s a very few of me types.

الحَمْد لله

Back home has never been back home for too long and there are too many stories and experiences that keep me from wanting to go back.

The usual call from family and friends is to come see them, to enjoy, to eat without measure, to celebrate Eid, to see the country, to keep in touch with our roots, to let our children know where they come from and to know the place where if one day things went wrong, we may have to go and live. It’s a poor sell really.

Home is where the heart belongs and home is where in my opinion your basics are sorted out for you, where there’s basic governance, where you have basic infrastructure, basic functioning municipalities and basic amenities in cities, basic security, basic livability. Fresh air to breathe? Just basic, nothing fancy. I’m happy with basic.

UAE offers too much in terms of basic, it’s just too damn polished, exceptional to live. As for Karachi where I was born, it’s a mess right now, an utter mess that requires its own post, one that is harshly brewing up in my mind. Just hang in there it will come.

Suffice to say, back home Karachi is unlivable on many levels and it offers poor living conditions. It’s worse today than it was during the years I lived there, many many years ago. If you know anyone there who are still in their right mind, they’ll tell you.

I haven’t visited for eight years now. 10 years away from home? BIG GRIN – I see it as one of those things where you want to make it 10 and everyone goes ‘wow’ that’s a long time, ‘aya karo’ (hopeful way of asking someone to visit), one of those things you want as a badge in your collection.

Do I care not having visited? There were times I wanted to, yet most times something or the other kept me away. Something still does. May be I’m at that stage of my life when you just want to leave to never return, you’ve had enough. Somewhat like Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah when he left only to be called back by Allama Iqbal. The analogy doesn’t hold because unlike our Muhammad Ali Jinnah who had to head back to do what he eventually made happen, we have an excellent Prime Minister now in place, who’s trying to reset the entire nation. Besides that, who am I?

Once there was home, and then we left.

Steak of the economy

Delicious rare rib steak grilled perfectly photo © Copyright by TR Davis.

Being the topic that it is, asking someone how they are doing or how their business is doing gets you varying answers from ‘people are loosing jobs’ to the ‘economy is in tatters’ and a few ‘Alhumdolillahs’ here and there. What does anyone know about the economy anyway? We’re not economists.

The question often answered is not how they are doing, it’s how they were doing in the early 2000s or 2010s in Dubai versus how things are today some nineteen years later. Today UAE’s economy is gigantic, it’s more stable, it’s been growing and it’s up for takes. The only problem is, there’s been steady growth, modest changes and little tweaks here and there. There’s no oncoming boom for speculative markets or ideas. There’s no way you can become a multi-millionaire over night. There’s no returns like before. It’s still vibrant, livable, lovable, a fresh of breath air when compared to back home.

Wherever back home is.

If you’re a small business owner like me, you may want to, from time to time evaluate the actual course of the economy at a more natural level as compared to studying or trying to study macro-economic indicators, which to us poor souls mean too less at the micro level. So here are some micro-level indicators with my observations on how the UAE economy is actually doing:

Observe McDonald’s pricing. They’re unreasonable at the moment. McDonald’s have been promoting various price focused deals from 2018. Some of them were good from a price-point perspective.

My take: They’re cashing in on their loyal customers. They want you through their door rather than someone else’s. They’re shy of repricing their cash-cow products to lower prices. Bundling is the way they’re going at the moment.

Observe Billboards. One out of three advertises an ‘advertise here.’ Most adverts are for multi-billion dollar brands. Other advertisers are too few or advertise too little.

My take: Empty billboards tell a story. There aren’t many takers for that expensive ad space. There’s an air of caution. There’s not much to say at the moment.

Observe what the Hypermarkets are doing. Most are ‘hyperer’ today than ever. They’ve got an offer or two on great products in every major category that undercuts pricing of all other brands in that category.

My take: You can live way cheaper if you simply drove around the city and chose well. Most offers aren’t from unknown brands. There are excellent offers from some of the top brands in the market. You’ve got to know what you buy, at how much you have bought previously and how much they cost today. It’s excellent.

Observe how frequently top-brands are Bombarding you with SMS messages and what’s being said. There’s an onslaught of SMS messages right now. Some of them are silly.

My take: First you can block SMS spam, so do that. Second, ‘frequency’ is the question here. The desperation that you sense behind it. It’s the same old product or service, the frequency of messages makes you want to believe it’s time-bound. It’s not. Is it desperation? To some extent it is.

Observe car dealerships. Car prices are almost where they were last year, where they were the year before, where they’ve been for some years. Service centers have reasonable offers on service (at discounts), extended warranties and accessories. You can ‘buy today and pay next year’ or make your ‘summer dreams’ come true.

My take: Most people are buying the right cars today when compared to yesteryears. The right car would last you way too long, just way too long. So you’ve got great offers at your table if you’re in the market for a new car. Add to that, if you live in Dubai, you really don’t want to buy a new car. You can use the metro or hire Uber, it’s just that simple (and cheaper if you do it right). New utility car? Meh.

Observe big spenders. Public or private, they’re spending modestly. There’s a sense of planning, an ongoing effort to enable lower-costs and ‘keeping’ customers is more important today, than before.

My take: This is the best time to setup business in the UAE if you really, well like me, understand to some extent what’s going on. Some of our costs at home and business have been lower this year. If you track this kind of a thing, it’s fantastic. We’ve got lower bills, renewed products and services and an ease-down on fees. It’s easier and it’s attractive.

Observe your customers. Our customers haven’t shut-down. Some of them are experiencing slower than usual cash-flows and everyone does, every summer. All of them pleasantly renew our services at the same rates (we revise prices every three years). Some have ordered new accounts this summer. Some idea/concept based customers have cancelled some services or altogether gone out of business.

My take: The economy is holding up. There’s enough business out there. If your customers are experiencing a slow-down, adjust your costs, get rid of debt, focus on acquiring new customers and stay put. Have you wondered being in the UAE, you can sell to the world? Do that, just don’t give in, not yet.

Observe your vendors. Utility companies are at it to get their money. You’ve got 2-4 weeks to pay up, that’s it. Businesses are flexible with payments ever more than before. You can negotiate lower fees for services you buy at good readjustments. It’s a more welcome ‘today’.

My take: Your vendors may be willing to give you a one-time, one-off, just-this-year discount that can help. Even a modest discount of 10% is great. Just be truthful to them about your situation and remember, they’re facing the same issues you may face, so be humble. As for large businesses or vendors like Utility companies or Amazon Web Services or Google, you can still lower your costs.

Observe yourself. Are you consumed by the fear of having to pay VAT on every nominal transaction you make? Are you consumed by the fear of days when corporate tax will be a reality? Are you afraid that you may loose your job? Are you living a lifestyle that’s not in line with your income? Are you dreaming dreams of a time well gone away?

My take: If you’ve lived in the UAE for longer than you can remember, or would have to calculate (2019-1996=23 years) your economy has been good. There are ups and downs, there are times you love and times you want to forget, yet there is always time to rethink, rewind, recuperate, recover, readjust, replenish, rediscover, rebound, retrench, reinvigorate, refine, redo… reconquer.

The only question is, are you willing to bite at the steak of the economy?

Summer ends 23 September

Deserted Al Seef, Dubai Creek afternoon in June heat photo © Copyright by Khadeeja Yasser

As dawn breaks I’m scanning a few topics to write about. I’m trying to develop a habit of writing every morning and some ideas take precedence over others.

It’s quiet at the moment. I’ve set our pedestal fan to low speed. It’s not daringly hot at 6:24 a.m. to switch on air conditioning (which I usually prefer to use at a few scheduled times during the day) and darkness has faded away. The heavy curtains in our lounge make me feel that it’s still dark outside. It’s not anymore.

Living in the desert from when I was carried here (Oman) as a baby (the use of the word baby in reference to myself, makes me chuckle), some 43 years ago has had its toll on my mind. I simply hibernate or tend to follow a well thought out hibernation plan when summer arrives. Calling summer ‘summer’ in our desert (UAE), is an entire stretch of the term. It’s not just summer, it’s a long, long, tiring summer. It comes, it stays, stays some more and then tries to fade away.

Some years I’ve felt the coming of summer from mid-February. The year 2012 after Ghost Protocol was released (December 7, 2011) felt like one. I recall that February was hotter than usual and unusual dust-storms reigned. There was a dust-storm in February too! The timing of that dust-storm scene played by Tom Cruise couldn’t have been better (watch him run through the DIFC Gate Building in Dubai chased by a cinematic dust-storm). That year we had a lot of dust-storms, or that I may have noticed them a little more than usual.

Other years it can feel the heat’s having a late start with some refreshing rains in late March (2009 comes to mind) or anywhere between December and March. However by April, early or mid, it begins to heat up with tiny heatwaves of a few hot days followed by a few cooler ones, then hotter days and less-cooler ones, until we slowly forget what cooler days felt like, for the next five to six months. It depends on how you look at it and whether 40 degree Celsius days in September count as cooler days (which they are) compared to days that can be as hot as 48-49 degrees in some months (I must add, I haven’t seen these high temperatures this year, and I’m correct, the highest recorded temperature was 45 degrees Celsius in August).

If you google “when does summer end in uae” you’re told “Summer 2019 in Northern Hemisphere began on Friday, 21 June and ends on Monday, 23 September. All dates are in Gulf Standard Time.” That’s three months – three intensely hot and humid months of a very long summer that never seems to want to end.

Ironically, this year on June 21st we had an unexpected moosla dhar barish or cloudburst in Ajman (where I live) after Jumu’ah salat while we enjoyed a nice meal of biryani at lunch. June rarely sees any form of rain in these parts so it was an absolute pleasure and mercy. And that marked the official beginning of summer this year!

So when’s summer in the UAE? It’s from May to October with two fade-in and fade-out months of April and November. Those can be pleasant months when they want to be. We can expect rain at unexpected times during these months and when that happens it can be very heavy and local to some areas.

As for humidity, we had 100% humidity in Ajman yesterday and this makes the outdoors absolutely impossible to traverse. Unless of course you’re planning some natural form of sauna therapy which can be good for your body. Carry water if you want to try this.

As for me, I prefer hibernating in summer months. I rarely try to go out. When I have to go for tasks that I must carry out, I try to get back in as fast as I can. The UAE is designed to keep you cool when you’re indoors which is a blessing! If you buy the right car, you cool a little better driving. I absolutely want to go out by September but for the past few years, this month instead of August is crazy humid. So I’m indoors for now.

Summer ends Monday, 23 September, at least in ‘the half of Earth that is north of the Equator’. I’m willing to believe that.

The story of us.

Natural human tendency is to settle, to abide within a certain mental and social framework and to seek the constant – the unchanging, the stagnant, the lazy.

In an environment where the majority being led are busy fighting fires in their daily lives, or have lost hope to persecution, plunder and injustice,… leadership or the qualities of leadership amongst us die or lay silent. In such lands, the status-quo marches forward with a menacing non-defeating loud thud – a devilish giant, a maniacal system that reins loose and suppresses those that could have stood against it.

Such any system isn’t of its own, it’s the outcome of hate, of injustice, of race, of hunger, of suffering, of loss, of sacrifice, of greed, of falsehood, of ignorance, of arrogance, of dishonesty, of chance, of opportunity, of insanity, of shame and of vacuum.

This gives birth to insipid, unthinking, egoistic, manipulative, uneducated monsters who assume power, position and place in society as its leaders – the look-up-tos to whom society succumbs to for want of their daily bread or for menial favors that ought to be given rather than begged for. People are kept busy, too busy, to think, to educate, to access information, to improve, to better their lives or to simply live happily. The are forced to feed the never-ending cycle of disgust.

Amongst all this, the protagonist of our story, our savior, the leader to become, the one who will deliver us from our bondage, our hopelessness, our failure, is born.

As the protagonist is brought up, lives within, gathers name and honor in and amongst the suffering people – ‘his people’ – the cycle of injustice grows, reaches its peak, touches the weakest, poorest first, the affluent next, the heartless eventually, encompassing everyone as it feeds on every hope for justice, rears its head in absolute unrelenting command, only to bow to the devil’s desire to insult, injure and incinerate man.

Does the protagonist know his time has come? Probably not.

Life, circumstances, truth, compassion, empathy and revelation from Allah (God Almighty) have inspired men to stand for justice and rise above the desires of the self. In that vein we see great men who walked this earth in our little human history as protagonists of great stories.

We all love and so do I love and cherish many truths of the triumph of justice. Amongst the Prophets of Allah and other greats, here are a few real stories close to my heart:

The story of Moosa (alihassalam), Firaun and the Bani Israel.
The story of Muhammad (rasoolallah), Quraish and Islam.

The story of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, British Raj and the creation of Pakistan.
The story of Imran Khan, the Corrupt and the quest for Naya Pakistan.

The story of us.

Change the thinking at the top

Change the thinking at the top, and you automatically change the thinking at the bottom. Remember this: when you take over the leadership of a group, the persons in that group immediately begin to adjust themselves to the standards you set. This is most noticeable during the first few weeks. Their big concern is to clue you in, zero you in, find out what you expect of them. They watch every move you make. They think, how much rope will he give me? How does he want it done? What does it take to please him? What will he say if I do this or that? Once they know, they act accordingly.

The Magic of Thinking Big, David J. Schwartz, PhD, 1959

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has been saying this for longer than I can remember. I’m only worried about the group he leads. They’re only too clever.

Strong tea

Strong tea, photo © Copyright by Yasser Masood

There are days when I wake up thinking I want strong tea. It’s just a state of mind that lasts a few minutes and then I’m happy to have my usual tea.

I don’t run on tea like most Pakistanis claim they do, or actually do. I have tea once when I wake up and once early afternoon. Other times I just have lots and lots of water.

Tea is embedded in our DNA, it’s a natural taste we love and enjoy. We Pakistanis even make it more ways than most other cultures, so when it comes to tea, it’s personal and it’s serious. You don’t mess with someone’s tea-love.

The usual times people have tea in our culture have been once early morning and once early evening. That’s where I live and breathe when I crave for tea, it’s at those times. Else, it’s just not tea time and I move on.

Then there are self-presuming tea aficionados amongst us who think tea is an any-time drink and indulge in tea-love that’s simply silly and dangerous. If you fall in this group, you’re either dehydrated, sleep less or you’re addicted to sugar.

Tea for me is entirely optional and I have seldom craved it in Ramadan (the superb month of fasting and reconnecting to our maker). I do remember having a harder than usual time getting started early morning in Ramadan if I had taken a nap after Fajr and before work-time. That’s a slower than usual start because of a heavy sehri (suhoor) meal followed by a short nap. Tea at sehri wouldn’t have made it any better.

Strong tea is not “karak” tea which is widely available in the UAE. We’ve not named strong tea a name either. In our culture if tea is good we say “chai achee hai” which means tea’s good. This means tea is well brewed, the mix of milk is perfect and so is the amount of sugar in it. This also mandates that tea was brewed over a stove. There are various recipes and you can achieve great results when using teabags with an electric kettle or microwave too. Like anything, there could be a thousand ways to prepare tea.

The purist can disagree and I accept their argument as a defeat because at the bottom of my heart great tea is made over a stove and served in the traditional way using a tea pot and a tea cosy. Throw in some lovely tea cups and saucers and I’m going to want to have tea this way, every day, rather than any other godforsaken way.

Reality is, this isn’t my childhood and this isn’t when we used to visit my grandmother’s home Mubarak Manzil in Karachi where traditionally prepared tea would be served with all bells and whistles. I remember the feeling of seeing a tea cosy for the first time at one of my aunts’ homes – ah – that feeling of true amazement of wanting to uncover the tea pot, only to be told that I was too young to do it and that you would remove the tea cosy only when someone wanted some more tea.

Today, life’s an addiction and my greatest addiction is not tea, it’s computing. I need my day-start tea in less than five minutes, which until recently I was able to prepare in less than 120 seconds (all steps from start to finish) using a mug, a tea bag, a tea spoon of honey (rarely sugar), milk and boiling water from our electric kettle (or on some days using a microwave oven). Yes, it’s tea and it works well. It’s Tea-cup One.

Tea-cup Two is doubly optional and having this depends on two factors. How badly have I tired as I progress during my work day and whether I feel like having a cup of tea early evening. I take a little more time preparing this cup and usually do so before or after praying Asar. I have good quality time this time of the day, so tea at Asar is for pleasure. If I’m not in the mood or the early hours of the evening are waning, my system skips the need for tea. It’s that simple.

‘Tea is good for you’, ‘you must have tea’, ‘a good tea is a must’ are all cultural norms that you may or may not subscribe to – when we have nothing to do as a people, we choose to gather up and have tea, which truly is an amazing thing, at the right times.

So why do I crave for strong tea? It’s just a bug. It’s my wish to double the dose of tea in my tea cup, which for whence I remember I haven’t ever. I have at times, when making tea over a stove used little more tea powder than most would, just to turn the bitterness up a notch or two staying well within the boundaries of the recipe set by our family and friends (yes, friends too advise you on tea in our culture).

Pakistanis know tea by many names like ‘chai’ (brewed tea with sugar and milk added), ‘pakee wi chai’ (tea brewed in milk with sugar, or brewed tea with unusual quantities of sugar and milk), ‘tea-bag wali chai’ (the infamous tea-bag tea when you add boiling water, milk and sugar), ‘saadi chai’ (brewed tea without milk or sugar) and at many times we add ethnicity to the names of teas from various cultures in Pakistan, so its a vast subject and of little interest to me.

Strong tea is simply great chai. It may boost your spirits, lift your haziness, fulfill your day, yet it does very less to solve (if not elevate) our problems (as a nation).

Have it, enjoy it, gather around it and get some great work done.