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Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Story From Sensational Shanghai

Fan of travelling yes, fan of travelling in the winter anywhere, a Big No. It is true, I am not a fan of the cold weather, it is somewhat outside of my comfort zone. This November I found myself hopping on a plane for what was a work related trip to China, the last stop of which was the largest city in China, Shanghai. My first visit to the city since 2010, when I had dropped by to visit the World Expo. That was at the peak of the summer season and boy it was definitely quite hot that summer with the Celsius scale hitting 40 in the peak of the afternoon.

My three days in Shanghai were followed by quick visits to Xiamen, Jinjiang and Wuxi, from the latter I hopped on a bullet express train to Shanghai Railway station. The journey by car which otherwise would have taken four hours and given Shanghai's reputation with respect to traffic jams, not the best of ideas. After an hour long journey by train I found myself at the Shanghai railway station. This was my first inter city journey by train in China, it went by far better than I expected, and not long after my arrival into the railway station, i was at my hotel, The Radisson Blu Shanghai New World on Nanjing Road.

The Nanjing Road area of Shanghai facing people's square on one side and the Puxi skyline along the Huangpau river on one side make it one of the liveliest districts not just in Shanghai but probably all of China. As per the locals, domestic visitors also flock to what they see as China's international city, with some of the best designer shopping and some of the best food the world has to offer.

 After a few very busy work days, I had some time to myself to explore the area surrounding my hotel and if time permitted other parts of Shanghai. But given how cold the weather was, I was not too keen to wander that far off from my hotel, and stayed within the surrounding area, and considering I was blessed with an incredible scenic view of the Shanghai skyline from my hotel, it was hard to leave the warmth and comfort of the hotel room also.

Nanjing road is absolutely tourist central, tons and tons of shops, cafe's, restaurants and what not, with limitless people just walking past you every second. There are no surprises that quite a few known brand hotels are also located in the district, as well as there being a Starbucks cafe every few minutes walk. While out and about exploring, I did get the opportunity to explore some Halal dinning in the Huangpau area around Nanjing road. I managed to discover a Turkish Restaurant called Kervan, was not impressed, I have had way better Turkish food than that in China. I discovered a very decent Indian Restaurant that I even returned to for a second meal called Kebabs On the Grille, which did a very decent job with the Paneer and Chicken Tikka. Probably one of the better Paneer Tikka's I have had on my travels. But for me the icing on the cake was's recommendation for the number one Halal Restaurant in Shanghai.

Shanghai's number one Halal Restaurant for Chinese food is this eatery called Yershari, located in a shopping mall on Nanjing Road. I do not remember the name of the shopping mall, but it is where the Apple store is located. Hard to miss the Apple store no matter where on the planet you might be. I arrived at the restaurant at 7 pm, and I was greeted with an hour long que, my thoughts, this better be worth the hype and those reader reviews on Now this is where my visit to Shanghai got interesting and I returned home with a story I would happily share, maybe for years to come.

In the waiting area of the restaurant, I went and sat down on an empty chair besides a young Chinese man, who it seems could not speak a word of English, but could clearly identify that I am a foreign traveller to his country. He initiated a conversation with me using a translator app on his phone, at that point I was expecting just a courtesy Hi Hello, was not expecting an experience that awaited me.

He used the translator app on his phone to translate from Mandarin to English, and I began reciprocating using Google translate on my phone. I was using a VPN to access Google services in China, along with Facebook and Instagram. So this is where it began, while waiting for our respective tables, his number was 28 mine was 42, we began communicating with our phones with each other, I know it sounds rather weird and some what anti social but it worked in this case here, our linguistic limitations were no longer a barrier to communication. He would type something in Mandarin on his phone, hit translate, show me the English equivalent of what he was trying to say, and I would do the same via Google Translate, type in English, hit translate and show him my screen so he had an idea of what I was trying to say. We did this for about 45 mins or so before he got the call announcing that his table was ready, at this point he had discovered that I was Muslim, and so was he, so he invited me to have dinner with him, to which I happily accepted. Who wouldn't want some company over dinner in a far away land, as much as I love my personal space, it is always nice to have some company over dinner.

After having sat down for dinner, Abdullah was his name, I asked my new friend to surprise me with his choice for dinner from the menu, he insisted that I being a guest to his country pick what ever my heart desires from the menu, but reminded me that the Almighty hates wastage so I order carefully. Not knowing what the portions would be like at this place and what to expect, usually such fine dine looking places have smaller portions, so I did not exactly order conservatively. I ordered the chicken and potato stew, which is something u find in almost every Muslim Chinese Restaurant all across China. I ordered something that loosely translated into Garlic Beef Ribs, 2 Chinese Style Naans, Egg fried rice and Chinese beef buns. I was expecting smaller portions so that is a lot I know!

We continued our waiting area style of engagement and communication with one another for an additional hour and a half while waiting for our food, and then while having dinner itself. Due to our linguistic limitations, we could not verbally speak with one another, so we continued doing what we were doing earlier, type on our screens, hit translate and show to the other. The only words uttered were Alhumdulilah, Mashallah, Inshallah. I insisted to Abdullah that he let me pay, for the company and the experience that he has honoured with me is something I will remember for a very long time, but while I was insisting on taking care of the bill, he had already paid when our order was complete by Scanning his phone against a QR code on  a device on the table, I did not even notice when he did that and that QR code payments were so common in China. He insisted I am his Muslim brother, and a traveller, this is the least he could do and he only asked that I remember him in my prayers and well wishes.


Before we said Good bye to one another, we added one another on WeChat, which is what everyone uses in China as a replacement for WhatsApp, and before we left the restaurant we were greeted with live entertainment, a cultural dance performance from Western China, from the regions that border Central Asia. I do not know at this point if my paths will cross with Abdullah ever again, but I hope we cross paths again one day in some part of this God's earth and we have another wonderful memory with which to remember each other by. My parting thoughts, language is not a barrier between two people, the real barrier lies in our hearts and minds, If we open our hearts and minds just a little bit, the world is a wonderful place, with wonderful people, and when two people meet, the possibilities are limitless.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Let's Talk About Mental Health, Shall We?

Image result for Mental health awareness month

It is the month of October and since 1949, October has been observed across the United States as a month for mental health awareness, by means of which millions of people are reached through campaigns and initiatives to create awareness regarding mental health concerns. The importance of good mental health can not be under estimated, yet there are many people out there still who do not even acknowledge this as an issue to begin with. For many people, mental health issues are non issues, some degrade it to the point of it being a figment of one's imagination. That is an unfortunate reality in a country like Pakistan as well, where generally all health related issues are put on the back foot and not even given a fraction of the due attention they deserve.

I am just going to simply talk about mental health right now, nothing else. I am going to keep this blog, plain and simple. I am going to say it again and again, Mental health issues are a reality, they are a God Damn reality, and they effect everyone. If you are not directly effected, you are indirectly effected because some one u know might be struggling with good mental health. The battle for good mental health is a life long battle.

The absence of good mental health can have negative effects on our life, they can effect our judgment, our ability to make decisions, our ability to be rational, it can lower our ability to confront or show resistance towards adversity.  Absence of good mental health can disrupt our very ability to live our day to day lives. That is how important good mental health is. I am saying it again, it is a reality, get used to it.

My experience of living in Pakistan as an adult has taught me that not only are people very apathetic towards mental health issues, but people actively contribute towards the decline of good mental health because of their sheer apathy not just towards the lives of other people, but also due to complete disregard for issues concerning good mental health.

A visit to  Karachi University's Institute of clinical psychology will prove to u, how many people, young and old, man, woman and child, suffer from mental health issues. Due to the stigma attached to talking about mental health in our society (I am guessing its like this in many parts of the world) people who come in seeking help for their mental health issues do so with a certain degree of reservation.  I have witnessed it with my my own eyes, those visiting the institute where dozens of mental health professionals tirelessly make efforts to help others, have a sense of fear and stigma with themselves that they have had to  take the initiative to come to such a place. The only anomaly u see there is the abundance of  hesitance among those visiting, but like you and I, their normal every day people, who are just seeking to make their lives better.

I am going to repeat this again, mental health issues are real issues, get used to it already. My request to any one reading this, take some time out and think about it, contemplate, reflect and what not regarding the reality of mental health. Keep an eye out on people around you, some  one around you could be suffering from poor mental health for a variety of reasons, the signs might not be too obvious and people might be reluctant to talk about it. Mental health is a reality and people right in front of you could be suffering from it. A lot of people develop mental health reasons due to personal battles, traumas, or loss and grief. Someone u know could have lost a loved one, or could have witnessed some thing traumatic, or they could have been bullied or just not been sleeping well for whatever xyz reason. Something or the other could have caused damages to their mental health. Most people suffer in silence, do not ignore mental health issues, do not ever tell people that mental health issues are a figment of their imagination, do not ever tell people that they are making excuses or evading responsibilities. We all have our limitations, there are things we can do, and there are things we can not. Sure its true what they say life truly begins when we wander outside of our comfort zone, but if human beings are pushed too much outside of their comfort zone, the consequences of that could be very damaging and have life long effects.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kindness needs a Reincarnation!

Okay people listen up, gear up! Yes I am talking to you, the person reading this blog, i wont lie, I really do hope there are a lot of people reading this. So people as you all know Ramzan is coming, or Ramadan as some of you like to call it. It is coming, in the middle of this brutal OMG you are killing me kind of summer, and very soon you will be bombed with everything Religious or Ramadan/Ramzan themed. For the faithful, fasting followed by the optional Tarawee Salah, for the not so faithful and devout, being forced to have your meals behind closed doors, keeping quite about whether you are fasting or not, and try to not  stand out for whatever XYZ reason. Yet both of you, yes both of you, a very large number of both of you are lacking in Kindness. Yes, I said it, among both of you, kindness is an almost extinct variable.

 Heads up, my blog will reek off a little bit of bias towards the visibly religious lot in particular, there is a reason behind this. I won't get into details, but what I will mention is that you visibly religious lot, certainly raise the bar of behavioral expectations that others may have off you and your new found piousness and fondness for spirituality, when that is really lacking, it adds to anger, frustration, anxiety along with severe disappointments. Then again you would blame us for having high expectations to begin, this is where i say cut the crap, stop making excuses, and stop hiding behind your religious attire u choose to to wear at your own free will. This is about kindness, kindness does not need an excuse.

Kindness is almost dead, its more extinct than the Dodo, sometimes I actually begin to wonder if we as a species have evolved properly, are we yet to get to the desired level of evolution or have we gone back a stage in the 21st century. Kindness needs a revival, it needs a reincarnation. The challenge I would like to throw both religious Muslims that will be fasting in this holy month as well as the non religious who would be continuing normal life behind closed doors, is to be kind to people around you over the next 30 days. Do you think you both can last a month without being unkind.

First of all let me make it clear, u may think you are avoiding being unkind to the other person, absence of deliberate cruelty or intentionally being mean is not being kind, but it is also a very damaging form of unkindness. Let me give u all an example to elaborate a little bit, lets say, you all need a small favour out of someone, or you want something done by someone, who u usually would not consider as someone who merits your time or maybe a lesser being owing the image u have in your head for whatever XYZ reason, ask nicely, ask in a kind manner, most people will still be accommodating even if they know their being used, least u can do is ask kindly, A little bit of kindness can go a long long way in making or shaping someone's life, you do not even have to do it beyond basic politeness and very basic courtesy, while a little bit of unkindness and cocky rude attitude can badly break some one. Most of us Millennials, be it the early lot that was born in the 80s or the later late born 90s and beyond, we are all living serious pressure cooker lives, though we broadcast a lot of shit on social media, there is a lot of things we can not share, some very personal stuff, it might be related to one's job, one's partner, one's family, one's health, the list is endless, so try and be Kind, it really does not take a lot of effort.

To make a stronger point, I will share an example from my own life. One of the months of 2016, I was fresh out of a broken relationship, was a borderline mess, took me a month or 2 to get over it and move on, but I decided to start the process of moving on within 24-48 hours. About a week after the unexpected demise of that I had a wedding to attend of someone I knew from childhood, at the proceeded with my usual Social media activity, those who know me, my usual wedding photos, including my signature wedding selfies of the crowd acting all natural in the back ground. One of the ladies who was not by design in the wedding photographs but purely because she was in the back ground, very rudely and obnoxiously in a very inappropriate like she owns me demanded I take down all evidence, absolutely all evidence of the wedding from my Timeline. Her Arguments as to why ''I know too many people, some one or the other will ask her how the wedding was'', she further added fuel to my inner rage by claiming I am ruining the wedding for the bride and the groom since they were selective in their guest list. If people see the picture, they will ask Qs over why they werent invited (all assumptions). The mental frame of mind I was in, I could have been a real mean person that point, I decided I needed to take a stand for myself without being unkind, so out of pure defiance, I uploaded one group pic intentionally and that on Instagram where the lady isnt one of my followers, not proud of that moment, but had to be done. I got to hear some foul language and swear words from that lady for daring to do something without permission, but at this point I do not care.

Anyways that's not the point of this, the point of this, be bloody kind to people around you, you do not know what their going through. If everyone of us makes a very tiny effort even to be kind and not at all be unkind to our fellow human beings, it can set off a small chain reaction, and the immediate world around us can be a far nicer place. A slightly nicer world, calmer nerves, better concentration at work, we can all sleep better, and best of all we will not be unnecessarily snapping at other people, who in turn will snap at others. So Give it a thought, my 30 day challenge to You, Be Kind Daily for 30 days, and see the difference you make.

If old TV shows and old movies can get reincarnated, why not kindness, so lets give it to a try..