Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Qissa Aurat March Ka..

Yeh qissa hai aurat march ki behnon ka
Aur un se khafa daqyanoosi zehnon ka.

Tang zehn mardon ko to hona tha khaufzada
Lekin yeh nasamajh khawateen ko kya huwa?

Sadiyon se hain khud apne huqooq ki dushman
Sasta jo khareed-ti rahein patriarchy ke chooran.

Kaise mayn bolooN,  kitna ooncha hansooN
Kapre kya phenuN aur kaisey mayn baithooN.

Buss bund ab keejiye naseehaton ka karobar
Phalang lee hai aurat ne roke-toke ki deewar.

Aurat March ne misogyny ka Pandora’s box kya khola
Chale dilon pe khanjer, huwe kuch brains aag baboola.

Mana nahin tum mein tauliya uthane ki skills,
Mayn abhi tauliya baher phaila ker jo lautoon,

Jab takk tum tal lo frying pan mein do andey
Aur toaster mein rakh do bread ke do tukrey.

My dear, kereyn pher donon office jaane ki tayyaari
Dont worry, ghar lock kerney ki meri hai zimmedari.

Car mein mayn apni petrol khud dalwa loongi
Utility bills bhi ghar ke online pay ker doongi.

Janoo, sham wapasi chicken aur grocery letey aana
Pher saath mil ker pakayengey garmagaram khana.

Janab, aurat mard hain donon, ek gaari ke do pahiye,
Yeh kaun si hai rocket science jo tum nahin samjhey?

Aurat March ne lagaya hai faqat gender equality ka nara
Meri jan, koi badla leney ki jung ko tou nahin lal-kaara !

Note: Mayn koi poet tou nahi, 
lehaza ye sirf tukbandi ki ek mamooli koshish hai. 
Yuun samajhiye, buss dil se nikli hui ek aurat ki awaz hai.
Aurat March

Several decades down the road, this nazm and this rendition remain my lifetime favourite by Akhter Shirani
Ay Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, 
O’ Love, smash us not, destroy us not
Barbaad na kar, Nashaad na ker
Smash us not , depress us not
اے عشق نہ چھیڑ آ آ کے ہمیں
Ay Ishq na cheRh aa aa key humaiN
O’ Love disturb us not, again and again
ہم بھولے ہووں کو یاد نہ کر
Hum bhooley huoN ko yaad na kar
Recall us not, the forgotten ones
پہلے ہی بہت ناشاد ہیں ہم
Pehley hi bohut nashaad haiN hum
So disheartened we already are
تو اور ہمیں ناشاد نہ کر
Tuu aur humaiN nashaad na kar
Make us not more disheartened
قسمت کا ستم ہی کم نہیں کچھ
Qismet ka sitam hii kum nahiN kuch
As if the injustice of fate was enough
یہ تازہ ستم ایجاد نہ کر
Yeh tazaa sitam eejaad na kar!
Reinvent not,  this fresh injustice
یوں ظلم نہ کر بیداد نہ کر
Yun zlm na kar beydaad na kar
Inflict not such cruelty and tyranny
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not, destroy us not


جس دن سے بندھا ہے دھیان تیرا
Jis din se bundhaa hai dhyaan tera
Since the day our thoughts possessed you,
گھبراےؑ ہوےؑ سے رہتے ہیں
Ghabraaye huwe sey rehtey haiN
Anxious we remain
ہر وقت تصور کر کر کے
Har waqt tasawwur kar kar ke
Lost in your imagination 
شرماےؑ ہوے سے رہتے ہیں
Sharmaaye huwe se rehtey haiN
Feeling embarrassed (all the time)
کملاےؑ ہوے پھولوں کی طرح
Kumhlaaye huwe phoolon ki tarha
Like the wilted flowers
کملاےؑ ہوے سے رہتے ہیں
Kumhlaaye huwe se rehetey haiN
Shrivelled up we remain
پامال نہ کر بیداد نہ کر
Paamaal na kar, beydaad na kar
Trample us not, torment us not
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not , destroy us not
راتوں کو اٹھ اٹھ کر روتے ہیں
Raaton ko uth uth kar roTey haiN
Weeping we wake up at nights
رو رو کے دعایؑں کرتے ہیں
Ro’ ro’ kay duwayin kertey haiN
And plead as we snivel
آنکھوں میں تصور، دل مین خلش
Ankhon main tusawwar, dil mayn khalish
With fantasy in the eyes, regret in the heart
سر دھنتے ہیں، آہنیں بھرتے ہیں
Sar dhundtey haiN anhein burtey haiN
Our head throbs( in pain) and heart sighs  
اے عشق یہ کیسا روگ لگا
Ae Ishq ye kaisa rog Laga
O’ Love, what kind of ailment is this
جیتے ہیں نا ظالم مرتے ہیں
Jeetey hain naa zaalim martey haiN
Neither do we live nor we die
Ye zulm tou ayy jallad na ker
Inflict not this torture, O’ Tyrant
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not , destroy us not
ان خوابوں سے یوں آزاد نہ کر
In khwabon se yuun azad na kar
Release us not from these delusions
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not, destroy us not 

English translation attempted most humbly by yours truly. Translation of full nazm will follow.


Many girls from all over India and Pakistan write to me about their love stories across the border and their wish to marry & live happily ever after. Just two days ago we celebrated our 29th Wedding Anniversary. So I think it makes me quite qualified to give some pearls of wisdom to the new daredevils. 🙂

Since in a vast majority of cases it is the girls who move to the other side, here is an open advice to these girls :

My first pearl of wisdom to you:
“If you think there is a genuine love between you two, go ahead and take the plunge and embrace the pain that comes as a baggage. But  before you decide, first meet him in person and ensure he is the same person who you have known on social media.”

Secondly, I want you to know there are realities beyond honeymoon:
“If you will live in India or Pakistan, you live in an alien land where you will always be under moral pressure, simply by default of being a woman, because our societies, on both sides, are swamped with misogyny, just as our cultures and faiths are deeply immersed in patriarchy. In our cultures, we marry in a family, one husband cannot be the only one you will deal with, even if you are his Laila and he is your all too supportive Majnu.”

Thirdly but most importantly be well informed of what you are stepping into: 
“Read and inquire as much as you can about the other side- both pros and cons. Know that the practical challenges that you will have with the bureaucratic red-tape are inevitable even if everything else in your personal life is going like the Bollywood style Veer-Zara. Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik star couple are a wonderful example, but they are not to take inspiration from. Ask ordinary couples in such marriages of how things are like. But none of their story will be exactly like yours, post marriage. Like any ordinary couple, it will be a constant struggle. Be open to unexpected pleasant and not so pleasant situations.”

However, once you have decided to go ahead, here are a  few tips for your safety: 

1. Try to see his country as your home too. Love and befriend its inhabitants too. Do not live like an alien. Belong there.
2. At the same time do not lose any love and respect for your country of birth. Many will say, “You are still so “Indian/Pakistani”. Tell them “So what? I belong to both the places.”
3. Try not to be cynical about his country. Learn to be objective and honest about flaws and positives of both sides. Trust me, both places are no better or worse than the other. Blind patriotism will not bring peace within your four walls or lay breakfast on your table.
4. Best bet is to make it a taboo in your household to discuss Indian Pakistani political rhetoric in a partisan manner. Don’t expect a man who so loves you today, will not taunt your nationality sometime years down the road and will still not understand why are you so ‘touchy’ about it. So better shut these doors before they even open.
5. Keep yourself financially independent. Do not submit every penny in the name of love and family. Because that will disempower you. Try to keep some money/assets aside( openly or quietly) in your own name.
6. Do not stop visiting your family back home. Visas will be difficult, but you have to be very very persistent and persevering to not give in. Try your best. Ask for help from anyone who can help.
7. When you have kids preach them to be objective and not be partisan with either parents or their families.
8. Keeping a passport of your country is very challenging in India-Pakistan relationships, but in current times, its easier than 30 years ago.
9. Create your own circle of like minded friends in your adopted homeland. Don’t just depend on your husbands friends wives as friends. At some point of time you may feel that your personality, intellect and values are not similar to  your spouse’s, and hence making your own group of like-minded friends will give you a space of your own.
10. Pursue your profession or work and hobbies in your adopted country as you would in your own country. There is no reason to give up work. It will help you build confidence and be financially independent.
11. Keep in touch with groups like Aman ki Asha  on social media and fellow Indian-Pakistanis locally, who will understand your situation far more than the local locals. These friends work as a peer-support group and as a deterrent for abuse and exploitation at home.
12. If possible, and if going gets tough, try to move as a family to a third country, or at least have an additional passport of the third country. It is not the easiest thing to do, I realize, but will give your kids a choice.

Wish you all the best,

Dr. Ilmana Fasih,
A proud Indian-Pakistani.


As I was planning for a holiday after a long haul, my son inquired, “So where are you and Papa planning to go for holiday?”

I was busy on my laptop and replied in brief, “Florida.”

“Oh Florida. Okay. Anyways its a destination for the old snowbirds from Canada. Have a great trip.”

I was too busy and fascinated in my vacation planning that I did not find it necessary to respond.

A few days later he saw me exploring the map of Florida Keys:

florida Keys

He screamed from far: “Are you going to Florida Keys?”


“Damn you told me you were going to Florida.”

“Yes, it’s in Florida.”

“Can I come?”

“Sorry my son, tickets are booked. And you have your weightlifting tournament coming.”

He certainly wasn’t very impressed.

In two days, I was driving off to Bufallo, to receive my husband at the airport, and we were then flying together to West Palm Beach.

In merely 4 hours of flight, down south, the world changed from a 8 degrees Centigrade mandating a heavy jacket and boots to 100 degrees Farenheit, flip flops and a muslin shirt.

With every fleeting moment I was drawing closer to the wierd childhood ambition of driving all through the 128 miles off-shore highway 1 on Atlantic Ocean all the way upto Key West.

If I had my way, I would have rented a convertible car and drove like Rajesh Khanna singing “Mere Sapnon ki Rani kab aayegi tuu” (“Fairy of my dreams, when will you arrive?”)
Silly as it may sound, this is how I had dreamt through my teens of driving to Key West, in a roofless car.

PS: Why in the world did I dream of driving to Key West as a teen? That’s another story, that I will share in the next blog on Key West. 


However, half a century later, with soaring temperatures of 100 degrees Farenheit, and with a heat warning in place, we were advised by the rental company agent, “I suggest you get an SUV and drive with an AC to save yourself from heat exhaustion and enough energy to enjoy the drive.”
So we began, from Miami, heading down south.
In about an hour we reached the point, almost at the last edge of land on Florida coast.


I did not need  pinch myself, to make sure this wasn’t just an age old dream. My thumping heart raced with the speed of the car, and was enough of a testimony that it was a dream coming alive.

(Note: To give an over view, Florida Keys are a coral reef archipelago( of 1000 islands) spread across the south of Florida peninsula, dividing the Atlantic ocean and forming Gulf of Mexico in the North. These islands are called Keys, and mainly classified into Upper, Middle and Lower Keys. A beautiful US Overseas Highway 1 runs from the entrance at Key Largo upto the last inhabited island Key West. Various concrete bridges with a single track connect these keys along the way. About 65 miles further west are uninhabited group of keys Dry Tortugas. )


I am sure my heart missed a beat as I saw Welcome Key Largo board glaring at us. Key Largo( Cayo Largo is the Spanish name) is the northern most key and forms the gateway to the Offshore Highway.


Almost instinctively out of excitement, the five year old in me began to hum the Muppet version of Beach Boys song Kokomo which I must have listened more than exactly a 1000 times with my little kids as they watched the Sesame Street videos. (Here is the song ).

“Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go,
Off the Florida Keys,
Oh I want to take  down to Kokomo,
We’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow…”

I could now relate more, the disappointment my son had when he realized we were going to Florida Keys without him.
Key Largo is a long island running a length of almost 33 miles. It has the largest live coral reef in North America and is a haven for water sports including snorkeling, deep sea diving, scuba diving, kayaking, sea surfing and even paragliding.
There were several billboards tempting the uninitiated like us with ‘snorkeling for the novice’.
We kept driving as our target was still 128 miles ahead.

Note: For movie buffs there is a very interesting post war film called Key Largo starring the icon Humphrey Bogart. The film was in 80s named as one of the top 10 gangster film. 

The next Key was Islamorada. Curious as the name was, we found a Theatre of the Sea and stopped for a tour. It was a beautiful facility that also served as a rescue spot for injured turtles and other sea animals.

Here is a selection of a part of their flora & fauna:

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Cautious of speed limit on the single track road, passing through patches of land, and connecting bridges, on a calm sunny day, listening to old era Bollywood songs(given to us by our Abid Uncle and host in Palm Beach) , we headed out and south and west towards Key West.

The seven mile bridge that divides the gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean, and connects Knight’s Key (Middle Keys) to Little Duck Key ( Lower Key) is not just a mesmerizingly scenic experience but a great human marvel that has withstood the mood swings of the surrounding seas. Deep calm turquoise waters on both sides personified a deeply contented heart. But it will take only a moment to turn this heavenly experience into a hellish trap if the winds decided to roar and the ocean raged in anger.

Right across the turquoise waters, we noticed a bridge that looked old and broken at places-


These were the remnants of the Overseas railroad built between 1905-1912 and remained operational till 1935 only. It was marveled as the Eighth Wonder of the world. The railraod was destroyed in 1935 by what is known as Labor Day Hurricane

The entire story of the making and breaking of the Overseas Railroad is very interesting and worth a read. Many original photos of its construction and operation can be seen here: Overseas Railway

Seven Mile Bridge, an oil painting of the Overseas Railway by Christopher JenkinsKW1

An artists depiction of Overseas railway in the hurricane. KW2

Along the entire route we notice beautiful houses characteristically painted in a range of eye soothing pastel colors. Majority of them stood elevated on 10-12 feet high concrete pillars. I later read, they are designed so to withstand hurricanes. Most of them withstood the devastating Hurricane Irma in 2017.


Traversing 128 miles across some 35 islands (Keys) and 42 bridges on the Overseas US Highway 1, we finally reached our destination, the southernmost city of USA- Key West.


The details of our adventures and explorations of Key West will follow in the next blog.





Mother’s Love Is Magical

About 8 years ago Ammi, when she was active and still in her designer mode, she sent me a beautiful mehndi green raw silk suit stitched by my favourite tailor, who knows exactly what I like. The dupatta was missing.

I lamented on phone: “Ammi how can you send such a classy raw silk shalwar-kurta without a dupatta? How do I wear it now?”
She remarked: “I just found my favourite mehndi (henna green)

Read the rest of this entry »

Eons ago as a teenager I had a delicious pickle at an aunts place.
For almost 4 decades I hunted for it in the aisles for pickles in desi grocery stores, searched for it on family or friends tables. I even asked if anyone knew or made it.
Some friends knew about the pickle but I never had the luck to find it ready anywhere.

So one day I hunted for its recipe on the net. And there it was,  at several places.

To my utter surprise the method of preparation was very simple. So there was no excuse left to not make it myself.  So here it is:

Sweet and Sour Pickle of Carrots, Turnips and Cauliflower with Jaggery.

Carrots: half pound
Turnip: half pound
Cauliflower: 1 pound
Anise seeds(saunf): 1tsp
Black seed(Kalonji): 1tsp
Fenugreek seeds(methi): 1tsp
Mustard seeds(Rye ): 1tsp
Jaggery (Gurr): 1 pound
Mustard Oil: 2 tbsp
Salt, chillipowder, garam masala powder:  to taste

Cooking method is described with the pictures:

Step 1: Chop washed carrots, turnips into medium thickness sticks and break cauliflower into medium sized florets.pic1

Step 2: Mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar and half pound of jaggery in a pan and leave on slow flame till all the jaggery melts.

Step 3: Boil water in a large deep pan till it bubbles. Once boiling, add the chopped vegetables and cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are blanched. Drain off water and spread the vegetables on a kitchen towel till dry. (I did for about an hour).


Step 4: Heat 2 tbsp mustard oil in a wok. Add mustard seeds, anise, fenugreek and black seeds and let them splatter for half a minute. Then add salt, ground garam masala and red chilli powder. Finally added the vegetables. Stir fry them.

Step 5: Stir fry the vegetables with seeds and spices.

Step 6: Add vegetables mixed with spices  & seeds into vinegar and melted jaggery mixture. Cook till most liquid evaporates.

Step 7: Once cooked and cooled, store it in a sterilized air tight cannister and leave in the sun for 2 days to pickle well. 

Step 8: Once ready(in my case in 2 days) enjoy it with parathas and hot steaming chai. 🙂

This pickle is a delicacy prepared in winter in Northern India specially because that is the time carrots are available.

Its easy and very delicious. I wonder why did I just keep looking for it everywhere and did  not try it myself all these years? Do try it out in a smaller amount as a trial. You will not regret it.

Happy Pickling !

Recently a photo of a 25 year old Afghan girl Jahan Taab from  a remote poor village Oshto in Daikundi,  went viral when she was taking the college entrance exam called Kankor Exam while breast feeding her child. Later it was confirmed that she has passed the exams and wants to go to college to study Sociology. Photo credits are given to an invigilating lecturer Yahya Erfan. He was so moved by her determination that he posted the pictures on his facebook. Link here

“She got up from her desk when her baby started to get fussy. She sat down on the floor, breastfeeding the infant, and kept filling out the answers to the test.” (Buzzfeed).

She reportedly told the lecturer Mr. Erfan that she is worried about the cost of education and that the University is 8 hours from her residence. It is the power of social media that a Go-Fund was created to support the cost of here higher education.

More about JahanTaab



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Needless to say, girls’ determination to study is never an issue. The key barrier is the systemic patriarchy in the garb of cultural mores or religious edicts.

Patriarchy is such an omnipresent barrier that hinders women in all communities and all economic strata one way or the other. And here is where the role of men becomes extremely important in bringing about women empowerment by dismantling the walls of patriarchy.

Here I must share my own story too.

(Bear in mind I am an urban educated woman with a strong will power. But even then, had it also not been the supportive men in my life, I may not have sailed through various systemic hurdles that patriarchal infrastructures create at every nook and corner of a woman’s life). 

In the early 1990s, as an Indian medical graduate I had to go through a written and a clinical exam by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council to be certified to practice in Pakistan. I opted Karachi centre. When I received notification for the exam it said the exam will not be held in Karachi as there are no other candidates. The exam will be in Peshawer.

Since I lived in the Middle East, I was supposed to travel with my kids to Karachi where my in laws lived. But before I could even know and panic about how I will travel with kids to Peshawer, my husband first took an emergency leave from his hospital, and then informed me that we are all travelling to Peshawer. 

My husband Fasih and I, with our two kids- a toddler and a 6 month old breast feeding infant landed in Peshawar. It was a 3 day long exam- with a written paper and clinical exam.  From day 1, my husband sat in the lawn of the examination centre, with two babies, as he dropped me for the exam. I would come out to feed the baby every few hours in the breaks.

Funniest incident in the whole saga was when my daughter cried, “Papa potty.”
He ran with the baby in one hand and the toddler in another to the washroom.
As he entered the male washroom the guard said, “Take the girl to female washroom with her mother.”
“BUT mother is busy in exam.”
“Then wait.”
“But this baby cannot wait. She has to go urgently.”
So the guard let him take her to the washroom. And while holding the infant in arms he helped the toddler finish the job and clean her. 
Finally they came back to play and sit in the lawn again. 
And then he smelt the baby has soiled his diaper. He ran again to the same wash room.
The chowkidar got annoyed, “Ap pher se as gaye?” (You have come again?).
Fasih: “Smell this diaper.”
The guard laughed and commented, “Aur parhao biwi ko.”(Let your wife study more).

After day1 the entire examination team knew about my family and when I went from each viva and clinical exam, from Internal Medicine to General Surgery to ENT to ObGyn to Ophthalmology, first thing the professors asked was how are the husband and babies doing? 
Second question they asked was, “Where have you graduated from?”. 
On reply “Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi” every single one of them began the viva with the comment, “So do we really need to test your knowledge?”
No bragging but I passed with the top position. 

The head examiner was Prof Zakaullah Beg who was my husband’s professor in his postgraduate life. He himself called Fasih on phone 2 weeks later in Karachi to break the news.

Moral of the story: Empower a woman and she will make her husband, family and entire community proud.