Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Norouz 2016


Second year of coloring Norouz eggs at home. Happy with the results! 🙂

May this new year bring blessings, prosperity, good health, and peace to you and your families (amen).


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Melody Queen - Madam Noor Jahan

Melody Queen – Madam Noor Jahan (One of my favorite photos of her)

Been listening to Madam Noor Jahan’s Ghazals since this morning. Somehow, I was reminded of her ghazal Dil Ke Afsanay this morning. So, I thought I’d search for it online. My search landed me to the page referenced above. Been enjoying Madam’s ghazals since then. I can’t thank my Lord enough for being born into a family where both the parents appreciated and enjoyed good music and movies. My dad was a diehard Madam Noor Jahan fan. Hence, my childhood was spent listening to her music on tape recorder and Radio Pakistan. It’s only now that I understand what a blessing it was! I remember listening to Dil Ke Afsanay on our tape recorder (good old days of analog music). It instilled in me the love and appreciation for good music. Now wonder that I simply can’t relate to the idea of music being evil. It just doesn’t feel natural to me. The whole phenomenon of poetry, music, and singing affecting something very deep inside a human being is just amazing. If you ask me, the very idea of banning any and all forms of music is pure crazy.

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Finished reading the book “Rumi’s Daughter” by Muriel Maufroy. Now moving on to the latest random find i.e. “The Mother-in-Law: The Other Woman in Your Marriage” by Veena Venugopal. I was at some place where there was an outlet of the Liberty Bookshop. Even though I have at least 2 dozen books that I haven’t read, I couldn’t stop myself from entering the bookshop..and buying not one but three books.. spur of the moment decision (or maybe true sign of a biblioholic?). Anyway, on my journey back, I started reading this book and read 8 to 9 pages. Found it a light read and decided to bump it up on my reading list. So, this is the book I’ll start reading 🙂

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I had heard/read about Sheryl Sandberg‘s book ‘Lean In – Women, Work, and the Will to Lead‘ before I saw it at the bookshop.Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. I thought for a while before I bought it. Started reading it a few days ago. After re-reading The Fifth Mountain, and The Alchemist, and reading Biz Stone’s ‘Things a Little Bird Told Me – Confessions of a Creative Mind’, I did find it difficult (initially) to go back to a book about gender issues. Having a Board Meeting this week didn’t help either. However, slowly and gradually, I have picked up pace and am enjoying reading Sheryl’s book. Still on the second chapter but can already understand and relate to the issues identified by Sheryl. More to come later.

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I must admit: Even though computer and text editors are convenient and quick, I enjoy writing in a notebook more. The thought process is much more involved (for me) when I do that. I also find writing using beautiful stationery quite fascinating. Put me in a stationery shop and I feel like a child who wants to get everything!

Matt Gemmell – Thank you for putting my thoughts into words! I’m just too lazy to do it myself 🙂

“There’s a ritualistic quality to these objects, but that’s not why I love them. I use them to slow myself down. To introduce just enough friction that I’m compelled to pause. We don’t pause enough anymore. We don’t give ourselves time to think.” Complete article is available at: http://mattgemmell.com/thinking-slowly/


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Have started reading the book titled “Clash! 8 Cultural Conflicts That Make Us Who We Are” by Dr. Hazel Rose Marcus and Dr. Alana Conner. I was at a friend’s place discussing my future plans and interests when she recommended this book. I have barely read a few pages but am already liking it. I can see that I can learn quite a lot from this one too! There is a website as well, called Culture Clashes.

May 26, 2014: The reading is going slowly. Interestingly, I bumped into the following TED talk this morning:


The speaker, Sheena Iyengar (a psycho-economist), talks about Choice and how it differs across countries/cultures. This topic is touched upon in the Clash! book that I’m reading. She also mentioned the experiment that she and her colleagues conducted. A similar experiment is also referenced in the Clash! book. What are the odds of me bumping into this talk! 🙂

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It’s the 2nd day of Eid in Pakistan. I know it’s a bit delayed but here’s Eid wishes from me to everyone around the world who’s celebrating Eid:

Eid-Mubarak-Greetings-Cards-2012-01I like this image as it represents the crescent (indication of Eid), the colors and the bounties of nature. On this Eid, I wish for everyone peace, tranquility and joy. In these crazy times, occasions like Eid come as much-needed break from all the insanity (provided you stay away from the Morning Shows being aired on the multitude of local TV channels as they personify insanity and shallowness).

No mindless morning shows for me, thank you!

No mindless morning shows for me, thank you!

I had planned to write this post yesterday (on the 1st day of Eid). However, my procrastination got the better of me. The purpose of this post is to document what symbolizes “Eid” for me (and most of the Pakistanis).

Eid Cards: The traditional Eid cards have long been replaced by emails, e-cards and, more recently, SMS greetings. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to receive an Eid card from a colleague. I think this tradition is something to be cherished:

Eid Card - becoming a thing of the past

Eid Cards – becoming a thing of the past

Chaandraat (the night before Eid): Eid is not just a day to celebrate. There’s a whole build-up to this day. It starts with the month of Ramadan (month of fasting). The end of this month is marked by the sighting of the moon. If the moon is sighted, the night/evening becomes Chaandraat (Chaand=Moon, Raat=Night, in Urdu) or the ‘night of the moon’. Once there is an official announcement of the sighting of the moon, the whole atmosphere changes. You can feel it all around even if you’re sitting in your home. It’s so palpable. The hustle bustle starts and people start preparing for the next day (i.e. Eid day). Some people (more adventurous than me) hold their Eid shopping till Chaandraat. They spend hours in the markets shopping for their Eid clothes, shoes, etc (and being ripped off due to exorbitantly high prices on Chaandraat). Don’t get fooled by anyone who tells you that only women shop on Chaandraat. Men are equally guilty of this practice.


Shopping on Chaandraat – Oh the frenzy!

Eid Prayers: The Eid day starts with the special congregational Eid prayers. In Pakistan, women do not have congregational Eid prayers. Men go off to offer the prayers and the rest of the family members offer their prayers at home. Breakfast usually happens when the men return from the Eid prayers, and is quite different from routine breakfast.

Congregational Eid Prayers

Congregational Eid Prayers

Wishing ‘Eid Mubarak‘: After offering their prayers, men greet each other in a special way. I am not sure if this is just in Pakistan (or sub-continent) or if it’s practiced in other parts of the world as well. You basically hug each other three times, saying Eid Mubarak, and then shake hands. Sometimes, women also greet each other this way.

Greeting each other on Eid - traditional style

Greeting each other on Eid – the traditional way

Eid Mela (festivities): Kids have the best time on Eid. There are hawkers selling kids’ stuff on Eid. This is due to the fact that kids are loaded with money thanks to the Eidi they receive (see below for details on Eidi). In the bigger cities, the Eid festivities or mela is not as common nowadays as it was over a decade ago. Security concerns have marred the celebrations. However, we still manage to enjoy the traditional festivities. It is said that the real Eid is for kids as they enjoy it the most.

Eid Festivities

Eid Festivities – notice the colors

Eid Dresses: Eid is synonymous with special dresses and accessories – for women & men. In Pakistan, just like in many other eastern countries, festivities mean ‘colors’ – lots and lots of it! These colors are evident in the dresses, shoes and other accessories. ‘The more, the merrier’ is the formula generally used. More color, more embroidery, more embellishments. Here is one sample of this year’s Eid trends:

Eid Dress

Please note that colors and embroidery are not limited to female clothes. It is equally applicable to menswear. Here are some samples:


Menswear – we like our colors..

..and embroidery too

Churiyaan (glass bangles): Another thing that is compulsory for Eid celebrations is the churiyaan to match the Eid dress. Usually these are worn in both hands. Again, the more, the merrier.

Glass Bangles

Glass Bangles – sparkle & glitz to match the special dress(es)

Mehndi (henna): is another ‘must’ for women to celebrate Eid (except for the few who cannot stand its smell or ‘fragrance’). The henna designs have evolved over the years, and the effects of globalization and open media can be seen in the henna designs. Traditional as well as Arabic style henna designs are now common. It is also interesting to note the difference in style between Arabic & traditional designs. Nowadays a fusion of both designs is also common. The patterns also vary. When you think of traditional style of henna designs, it is more ‘abstract’ or ‘stylized’. Whereas in Arabic style henna designs, you see flowers and petals. These days, you can have red, black or colored henna designs. This is our version of tattooing! An industry in itself 🙂

Mehndi - Arabic Style

Mehndi – Arabic Style: Less is more

Traditional Design – Give me more!

Mehndi - Traditional Style

Mehndi – Traditional Style

Shoes: The other thing we associate with Eid are shoes. Special, colorful, sparkly shoes. Some of them can feel downright gaudy for people with simpler tastes. However, for majority of women, the embellishments and colors represent femininity, I guess.

Eid Shoes

Shoes – To each their own

Gaudy or Feminine - You decide

Gaudy or Feminine – You decide

Eidi: What is Eid without Eidi! Eidi refers to the Eid gift usually given by elders to younger family members. E.g. parents to children, elder siblings to younger siblings, uncle/aunts to their nephews/nieces, elder guests to the younger members of the family they’re visiting, etc. Usually, eidi is given in cash. Hence, the rush before Eid to get the new bank notes. Nobody likes to receive old, soiled notes as eidi. The crisp, fresh notes smell oh so good. Ah, the fragrance of free money!


Eidi – Can you smell the money?

Eid Food: No Eid is complete without sumptuous, mouth-watering traditional food. The Eid after Ramadan (called Eid-ul-Fitr) is also called the meethi Eid (or sweet Eid) and is synonymous with everything sweet.

Sweets: The return of male family members from the congregational prayers means start of Eid food, especially the sweets. For me, Eid sweets refer to siwaiyyan, sheer khurma, kheer, and mithai. Some people also use special Eid cakes. However, Siwaiyyan (sans the dried fruits), and the colorful mithai (sweetmeat) are my favorites.

Siwaiyyan (sweet-laced, fried vermicelli)

Siwaiyyan (sweet-laced, fried vermicelli)

Many families have sheer khurma..

Sheer Khurma (made with milk & dates)

Sheer Khurma (made with milk & dates)

or Kheer on the first day of Eid..

Kheer (rice pudding, South Asian style)

The sweetness of Eid is further enhanced with Mithai (as mentioned earlier):

Mithai (traditional sweetmeats)

Mithai (traditional sweetmeat)

or Eid Cakes, especially used as Eid gifts when visiting friends and family:

Eid Cake

Eid Cake (with ‘Eid Mubarak’ greeting)

Eid food is also sent to neighbors, and guests are also treated with a variety of Eid food.

Meals: To me, Eid lunch and dinner means Chicken Biryani..

Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani – You can’t help but overeat!

with fresh salad…

Fresh Salad - Nothing beats it

Fresh Salad – Nothing beats it

and raita (condiment) of any type..

Raita (with cucumber & mint)

Raita (with cucumber & mint)

Raita (with chopped onion, tomato, cucumber & mint)

Raita (with chopped onions, tomatoes, cucumbers & mint)

Personal Favorites: To end this very long post, my most favorite things to do during Eid holidays (4-day long holidays this year) are – catching up on







and, most favorite:

So, here’s wishing everyone a joyous & blessed Eid-ul-Fitr. Peace (or, as we say, Salam)!

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