O Pakistan

To Pakistan. To the country the great Jinnah gave his life for. To the soil of the motherland and to finally understanding the love for the mitti1 as our elders used to say, that overwhelming feeling as you step out of the airplane and the airport. Through the smoky air, through the very Pakistani smells, you can almost feel it. These are your people, this is your land, your language, your history. This is your home, my home.

To Pakistan. To home. Because more than anything, that is what it will always mean to most of us. Wherever we will go, whatever we become, the one place where we will always be welcomed, will be this. Like they say, you can take yourself out of the land, but never the land out of yourself.

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all photos from our time in Bahawalpur in December 2013.

To the people, the land, the food, the beginning of our stories. To all that is good about it that we can never forget. To the country that continues to survive because of the hundreds and thousands of nameless everyday heroes that work for it and get forgotten amid the stories of the many that malign its name. And to the resilience and the courage of its people, to continue in the face of turmoil.

And to all of us that began our stories there, from its cities and its colleges and its universities, but then moved on to greener pastures, may each of us from our corners of the world, find something we can do for its cause and its people. We owe it to it’s mitti.

A very happy Independence Day2 to all the Pakistanis from around the world.

Thanks for reading and much love.

THIS IS ANOTHER REPOST FROM MY PREVIOUS BLOG


FYI

1Mitti is an Urdu world that means the soil.

2Independence Day observed annually on August 14, is a national holiday in Pakistan, commemorating the day when Pakistan achieved independence and was declared a sovereign nation, following the end of the British Raj in 1947.

Little House. Big Memories

If you follow along on my Instagram, you might know that we moved from our home of 9 years last summers. Sharing this kind-of photo tour along with some memories today.

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Last year after living in our little rambler for over 9 years we switched houses and moved to a nearby city. It has been a crazy time but things are settling down now. Alhamdullilah we will always look back on our memories from this home with nostalgia. Up till very recently Anya has told us how much she misses ‘the old house’ almost daily.

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Amidst the craziness of our move and as we wrapped up our life in our little house, I kept thinking of all the years we had spent there. It was our first little home.. where we got to understand each other a little bit more every day as we celebrated that first year of being married.. It was where we enjoyed visits from our loved ones, my parents and sisters.. including the only family reunion in Seattle (that visit became my dad’s first and only visit to us), Anya’s first meeting with her very favorite taaya and recently her cousin visited with her husband two years in a row.. All those heart-to-hearts over cups of tea + chatting late into the night in our little living room on these family visits. We spent our life when it was just the two of us here, where Bilal and I would be up all night watching tv and doing stuff like there was never anywhere we needed to be the next day.. Where we longed for a baby and then prepared to welcome our little girl, where those lazy-hazy newborn days were spent.. with my mom + sisters who came to help us and made their first memories with Anya.. Where my baby learned to sit and crawl and walk and talk and spent her preschool years.. This was the house where I started dreaming of my photography business and worked in its little study as I finally registered it. Where we were when the news of Bilal’s father’s death came.. Where I found out my father has cancer, where we returned to after losing our respective parents.

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..So many.. little + big / happy + sad.. memories.. all against the backdrop of this house. My guess is Anya’s very first memories will contain this house in them 🙂

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Is it just me or does anyone else feel like that too? Like so many little memories were connected to that house / those rooms / those streets and that town.. I have a picture of Papa that my mom took, where he’s lying in bed in that same corner where Anya’s bed was later on, photos of mama painting in the guest room which later turned into my little miss A’s room room.. All those videos of Anya lying / sitting / crawling / walking and then doing all those little funny antics of hers in the middle of our living room.

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(All these photos above taken on my cellphone for when we were listing our house. )

Little first house of ours.. Despite your little quirks and all the things we dreamed of changing but never got round to..  you were so very special and such a big part of our story those 9+ years. Thank you for all those memories.

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Thanks for stopping by sweet readers, it has been a while.

Also, would anyone be interested in tips for small-space living / entertaining? Because I was thinking of sharing some ideas relating to that and what I learned over the years living in a 1000 sq-ft place!

Lots of love and stay blessed!

 

Happy 6th my girl

Every year for the past 4-5 years, I have shared a photo story of Anya’s birthday. This one is for her 6th birthday with an excerpt from the letter I wrote to her the night before her big day.

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Good Morning baby girl. It’s finally here, the day you have been waiting for.. You are 6! Alhamdullilah. This birthday is extra-special because this year you can read and I’m so excited I can give you this letter instead of saving it for you like I’ve done every year.

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On this special day, I just wanted to tell you that your baba  and I are so proud we get to be mom and dad to a smart, loving & kind-hearted girl like you. You amaze us each and every day. I know that you love looking ahead towards growing bigger and another year older, but you know its so much fun to look back at times like birthdays also, to see just how far you have come.

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You were only just starting to read at your 5th birthday & look at you now, reading everything. You’ve started Kindergarten, lost 6 teeth & grown 4. You had to move from the only home you ever knew; though you didn’t want to and even after missing it all the time, you still are settling down here and already making so many new memories. You got to learn many little life lessons about adapting and learning and stepping out of your comfort zone and courage . This year you grew in so many different ways my babe!

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Every day these past 6 years with you has been a special one my love. You love us like no other, you test us and teach us and make us want to be better parents, better people, every day.

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I love your loving and your cuddling especially when you walk into our room at night.. I love your always on-the-go mind as you keep asking me all those questions after dark. I love the way you’re so sure of yourself and know just what you want or not. I love your excitement and laughing like crazy when you play those pretend games with your dad. I love your sensitive, kind heart when you worry about animals, trees and the earth. I love everything about you and hope you always remember how special you are and that even if we miss your baby days and how adorable they were, we love watching you grow and turn into our own little friend.

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I know you will continue to push me and test me and drive me crazy but never for a second will all of this be not worth it. Stay yourself, my girl. Love you forever, your mama.

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Behind-the-photos :  After I was done setting up the birthday decorations + balloons the night before // Anya checking out her room in the morning and reading mama’s letter // Skype with her nani (grandma) and khalas (mom’s sisters) khalu (khala’s husband<-) after breakfast and opening gifts from them // blowing out the candles on her donut tower-cake which she asked for // Running all around the house on her treasure hunt till she finally found the gift from her mama-baba, her own grown-up camera // staying in for dinner instead of going out as she wanted to ‘spend time with family’ and eat ‘daal and roti’ // (not photographed) Skype with her Taya and Phupo / Dressing up in her puppy costume and spending the afternoon like that / A movie night followed by me reading out all her messages to her to end the evening

Thank you for following along all this while you guys. Remember her in your prayers.

ALSO: Stories of her previous birthdays ( 2nd / 3rd  / 4th / 5th)

A friendship story + a birthday wish.

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Happy Birthday to my best friend of almost two decades and one of the most positive inspirations around me. Any day that involves our ‘5 minute'(or not) phone call is almost certain to go much better than the ones when we don’t get to talk. From being our awkward teenager selves (mostly me, since she has been pretty much the same since day one) when the only things occupying our minds were how to get my mom to give permission for our next get together (+ possibly our Matric and FSc board exams too) and through decisions like ‘which university to apply to’ & ‘where to work’ & ‘who to marry’. Through adjusting to married life & new countries. Through the various seasons of motherhood and trying to figure out how to do it all and being content with what we have. Our friendship truly has been a summation of all those hours and hours of conversations through these 19 years on anything and everything that has been in our thoughts or hearts. What began in E-9 Islamabad in 1998 when she chose to sit next to ‘the new girl’ in class (me) and ultimately change her classroom for her (me again) and the phone calls that started soon after. The long non-stop conversations about who-knows-what back then but which continued undeterred by our PAF phone line which would auto- disconnect and drop our call every 8 minutes or so (we would keep our finger on redial and continue for hours:p).

Through the next decade and getting married and moving countries, Riyadh/Bahrain for her and Seattle for me, luck stayed with us because we always had a way to be just a phone call away thanks to the Vonage number she had and later on thanks to our smartphones. Through the very many different phases of our lives and through happy and sad moments, we’ve been in touch and been there, without actually ‘being there’! I love that she is the kind of person who will always push me to be a better person. She won’t just listen and let me vent, but give me just the angle I need to come back to my center and think things from another perspective. Seriously if everyone had a friend like her, we would all be so much sane-er. (Not trying to say I am always sane but it can help you know) Lol. It’s amazing to me how we have never run out of things to talk about in all of these years.. and our conversations, some serious + deep and others not very much like our eternal obsession with finding the perfect solution to organize ourselves and our lives ;).

The weird thing is that in all of these 19 years, we were only in the same school for a little over a year, in the same city for probably another 1-2 years. And between my wedding in Sep 2006 and June 2016 we couldn’t meet even once. Our trips to Pakistan somehow never coincided and the only in-person memories we had of each other were from before we were married! We’ve sifted through old photos on birthdays trying to find a good one to share with our birthday messages and even took the Skype photo at the top of this post just so we could be in the same frame! And then this summer, it finally happened! We met, and each others’ not-so-little ones for the first time! We got updated photos and made in-person memories and it was even better than we could’ve imagined it to be! Between Iftari at my mama’s place and Sehri at her parents’ place, we squeezed in time with each others’ families + bonded with each others’ babies. And even managed some deep heart-to-hearts before we fell asleep as the sky turned into morning outside. So much has changed in all these years and sitting at my Mama’s house with Papa not there it was a reminder of that but yet so much is still the same, and being at her parents’ house with reminders of all those memories we have made there, it felt like that. And that’s all we got, a little short of one whole day together but it felt like we made the most of it. So thankful for that!

I know this has turned into quite a love letter, but sorry what could I do! It was somehow harder than I realized to summarize a whole friendship into words! Here’s wishing her the happiest of birthdays and for all of us to be blessed with friendships like these.

And because I love her and you guys alot, here is a blast from our past 😉

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Have a fabulous week and Happy Valentines Day!

 

Waking up in Trump-land.

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What a week it has been! Just a few days ago, even on the day of the elections I thought about how exciting it will be for my little girl to see a woman president. Despite the fear  of what the opposite happening could mean, I think most of us felt THAT sure of the outcome. And then on Tuesday night, it felt like the ground under our feet was taken away and everything we knew about this adopted country was wrong! Could America really elect someone who had spewed so much hate throughout the last year, who had uttered unimaginable things that many of us could not even repeat to our families? Waking up the next morning was terrible, knowing what had just happened the night before. Living in a blue state Alhamdullilah, we might have been a part of our own bubble and it was even more unexpected for us!

As parents, I think most of us worried about breaking the news to our children. Because whether we had explicitly included our children in our conversations about the election, our kids got that one of the candidates was a bully and a bad guy, and they wanted ‘Hilary to win’. We had to wake up that morning, put our shock and our fear aside, and tell our children calmly that the ‘Bully’ had actually won! Right after breakfast I told Anya that I had to talk to her about something and broke the news to her. My little girl was so disappointed and sadly told me ‘ But I wanted Hilary to win’! I explained to her that we did too and we were sad too but it was okay, that we can give him a chance and after a few years we get to choose a new President again. I told her what is great about America is that there are laws and rules which will prevent Trump from doing any scary things that he said he would do. And that satisfied her! Somehow it also felt like the perfect time to remind her just one more time that it was even more important to choose kind over mean, in words and actions. And that if she sees anyone teaming up against a kid because he/she was different, one should always stand up for them! She proudly replied, ‘Yes, that’s what we should do!’

For months, Anya has been excited about the elections, following the debates alongside us, and playing “dabates” with her dolls. ‘Mister Trump again!’ became her favorite thing to say as she overheard his name in the news almost every other day as a new controversy sprang up.  I think most of us specially us immigrant/minority citizens of this country have been left wondering what these results would mean for our children and specially for our daughters…

On Wednesday night, I showed Anya HRC’s concession speech, specially the part where she addressed all the little girls and Anya was so proud, eyes shining! I especially wanted to show her how gracefully she took the loss. We talked about that , that even though she must’ve been so sad that she didn’t get to be the president how kind her words still were and how she was still smiling 🙂 Anya spent the rest of the evening pretending to be Hilary Clinton, carrying around Chelsea Clinton (her Dora doll was Chelsea for the evening) and their pet bunny!!

As Immigrants, as Muslim-Americans, of course we are scared of what this election result can mean.. but fear is just what we don’t need. In fact on many levels it was fear that lead people to put their trust in an untrustworthy person and we don’t want to walk down that path! America has a lot of greatness in it and us immigrants have witnessed enough of that in our time here to get disheartened by recent events!

For our kids sake and for ourselves, we have to work even harder than before for our children’s better future in this country! People fear the unknown. I personally have realized that we need to be even more active in our communities, talk to more people, share and listen with an open mind! We can all start in our own circles with friends / family / neighbors who have different views than ours. Let’s be kind, let’s speak and listen to understand! On social media since the day of, it has been so disheartening to see all the negativity! To the extent that I even witnessed working moms blaming stay-at-home-moms for not supporting successful women which lead to Hilary’s loss! This is exactly what we do not need!

In HRC’s words ‘Let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.’

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There will be a better day!

Let’s start in our own houses and in ourselves to counter hate with love!

Thanks for reading you guys!

PS: I have missed this space and it feels good to press ‘PUBLISH’ on this.

ALSO FROM EARLIER ON THE BLOG: Hate cannot drive out hate // This country we call home

Time to take a break.

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Sweet readers, I’m just stopping by here today to let you all know that I am in an odd place right now where I’m finding it super-overwhelming to keep up with my blog. I have lots of half-written posts and ideas in my head that I’m not able to follow through and that leaves me feeling frustrated and uninspired. I also feel I should focus more on my business at this stage. For those of you that don’t know, I have run my photography business as a hobby and just last summer my husband and I decided the time was right to finally register it and take it more seriously. It has been amazing and I’m so excited about that but as a result the blog has to take a step back. I might be posting on and off as all those words in my head force themselves out but I’m taking the pressure off of myself to have to post every week.

You can follow me on Instagram and the Facebook page, where I will continue to post on and off and share whatever is currently going on.

Would really appreciate it if you checked out my work too and if you like it, I would love a recommendation/referral for anyone in the Seattle area looking to get some photos done. I do Portrait sessions as well as cover Events. I also do the occasional Bridal photos + Weddings. 

My Work: Website // Instagram // Facebook

This stage might last just a month or it might go on for the next six months, whatever it might be, thanks so much for understanding!

Lots of love.

The day you turned 5

As per tradition now, a photo story of the day you turned 5.

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Your baba and I stayed up the night before to blow up these balloons for you to wake up to on your big day.

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Waking up the next day, super excited to be turning 5. A little post-breakfast celebration in the form of a mini donut tower.

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I made you a little treasure hunt for your birthday gift and you were so excited as you tried to find each little clue leading up to your present.

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Exploring your brand new little robot. // And later helping me make our birthday cake.

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Talking to your nani on the phone and telling her about your gift // More robot exploring with your daddy. (This is the one Bilal got)

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I told you I wanted to take some birthday photos + do a video-interview of you and you excitedly decorated the space for me. (Here is an example for you guys.)

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You chose Cheesecake Factory for your birthday dinner because of the Happy Birthday song they sing for you and it made me reminiscent of your 3rd birthday dinner there. How time flies!

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I had been feeling bad that I hadn’t baked your birthday cake after your 1st and 2nd birthdays when you were too young even to enjoy them and wanted to make the rainbow one that you wanted. Sadly it was an absolute disaster (Please don’t ask why). So sorry baby girl. Thank God for the tiny extra cake we had made that we were able to decorate instead!

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Hanging out with us as we couldn’t stop remembering the day you walked into our lives. 5 years of being your parents Alhamdullilah!

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All day we got messages from all over and we tried to read as many out to you as we could. Ending the day with some Skype with some of your favorite people.

PHOTO STORIES FROM EACH OF HER PREVIOUS BIRTHDAYS HERE.

Thanks for stopping by! Lots of love!