Al-Hakam

“Allah does not burden a soul beyond what it can bear.”

This one verse from the Holy Quran is one of my most fundamental beliefs. Actually it is more than that. It is the centre of my being. The one that balances me in the face of hardship.

In life, we are faced with countless struggles, trials and demons. Some people more so than others and certain tribulations more intense.

It’s like we have all been handed a bag of candy with assorted flavours. We can’t pick n mix. There are those that we savour and those we would rather trade and then those that are in between these two extremes.

It may seem that some of us have been given more than our fair share of the delectable ones and certain of us are stuck with an undue amount of the unpleasant ones.

Sometimes we accept this as fate and more often than not we dwell on the inequitable distribution.

But what if we were to analyse this more objectively. What if we were to consider that the Giver has not been unjust. That the bags are not identical because the recipients are diverse.

Some have higher tolerance levels, greater strength and better ability to manage undesirable encounters. And every bag is the perfect mix of what the beneficiary can handle. No more and no less.

After all He is al-Hakam. The Supreme Justice.

Whatever hardships come our way, we are well equipped in our design to deal with them.

It may get too much. It may seem that luck is never on your side. It may feel like living has become a chore.

And whenever that happens, no matter how often or how many times that happens, just believe that you are tougher than this.

It is a test that has been drafted to specifically suit your credentials.

You cannot fail because you are destined not to.

You may not achieve something despite your best efforts. Or you may not be able to avoid a calamity even when you fight it with your last ounce of energy.

But that’s okay. Because the burden is no more than you can bear. You will survive. This too shall pass.

And eventually you will get to the prize candy which will make it all worth it. If not today, then tomorrow. If not in relationships then in career. If not in this world, then the hereafter.

Faith. That is the answer.

Love,

A Fancy Cinderella

Instagram: afancycinderella

Feminism? No, thank you!

Yesterday I read an article on feminism by acclaimed Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was so well written that despite its length and my kids screaming in the background, I managed to go through it in one sitting.

But largely I didn’t agree with it.

Clearly her traditional Nigerian roots have played a role in shaping her as a staunch feminist. I, myself, was raised in an Asian family with different rules for girls and boys.

Where there were more expectations of the females in terms of adhering to a certain moral code of conduct. Where being a male allowed you a greater right to pursue your dreams. Where women were not encouraged to be independent and men were accepted as superior.

It was clear to me and my parents that I was not designed for that environment. I was strong headed, opinionated and independent. But I was not and am not a feminist.

Yes I believe in women having rights and independence. I aspire for a world where we don’t feel the need to show that we are “nice girls”. That subservience is not a test for who is more worthy as wife material.

I believe that it’s okay to have dreams and fight for them regardless of gender. I want to raise my boys to be supportive of their partners in helping them achieve their goals in life. That gender is not the basis on which it should be determined who leads decisions in a household.

I believe in a world where both sexes are free to make choices that affect them without feeling apologetic. I would love to see a change where girls are hailed for being their own person. That being a strong girl is more attractive than being a pretty face.

Conventional family values defy everything I have said above just as much in Africa as they do in Asia.

But the West has its own struggles. They are trying too hard to be at the opposite end of the spectrum. They propagate men and women as equals. They have confused gender inequality for gender discrimination. They have inadvertently created a world where there is a lot of pressure on both genders to fight being their natural self.

Men and women are not the same. More importantly they should not be in competition with each other. So there is no question of equality.

We must embrace the differences between the two sexes because that’s what makes this world so interesting.

We must recognise that we are partners not competitors and it is only then that productive relationships with healthy dynamics can exist.

We must know that we are not equal because each of us brings to the table something unique without which there would be an imbalance.

As an example, it is okay for a woman to be the breadwinner, if through mutual understanding, it is agreed to be the right thing for the family.

However, it is more natural for the man to be the primary wage earner. Just like it is more normal for a woman to be a better homemaker.

Even if the woman is the principal manager of the housework, it does not absolve the man of all responsibility for this aspect of the household. It depends on the circumstances. Is the lady of the house a working woman? Does she have kids? Is she able to cope emotionally and physically?

The man should be willing to support his partner to create an overall environment of mutual respect, understanding and affection.

And there may well be relationships where the roles are reversed because it comes more naturally. And that is also okay. There is no need to stereotype gender roles but at the same time it is beneficial to accept that gender stereotypes are broadly true.

It’s not about me vs you or my job vs your job. It’s very much about working for a more wholesome family structure. You take control of areas that are your forte but also play a “sidekick” role where necessary to get things right.

Men and women have different strengths and weaknesses and together they form a whole.

Women are destined to be the child bearers which is a physical feat of such magnitude that it tips the scale disproportionately in favour of women. Men must counter this by bringing something else to the relationship. They must nurture the women in their lives.

I wholeheartedly believe in chivalry. Contrary to Chimamanda’s view I don’t think it implies female weakness. This argument baffles me because why does a strong woman and a woman who is looked after have to be mutually exclusive?

You are not weak because you expect your man to be gallant towards you. You are weak if you believe that to show your strength you have to reject that a man can do certain things you shouldn’t have to.

I could continue for several more pages but I think I have made my point. Feminism is a flawed argument. Gender equality is unachievable because oranges can’t ever be apples even if you paint them red. Enjoy what is cultivated by nature for what it is rather than masking it. It will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

Love,

A Fancy Cinderella

Instagram: afancycinderella

Age is just a number …

I am currently planning a Paw Patrol theme birthday party for my two shining stars – Aadam and Aazaan.

6 months ago if you had mentioned Paw Patrol to me, you would have seen a blank expression. But today I am a mini Wikipedia on all things Paw Patrol.

From Chase to Everest. From Marshall’s red to Zuma’s orange. From Skye’s helicopter to Rubble’s bulldozer. From Rocky’s “Green means go” to Ryder’s “Paw Patrol is on a roll”. I am on top of it all.

The story of how I discovered Paw Patrol and the fact that Aadam is into them goes back a few months.

One of my friends was organising a Paw Patrol theme birthday for her son. I was browsing online for an appropriate present and as I was scrolling through a page with theme-related toys, Aadam leaned closer and started blurting out the characters’ names.

I was confused at first because I didn’t know the names of the characters myself and it only registered belatedly what he was saying.

Apart from making a mental note to myself to monitor his YouTube activity more closely, I had another reflection.

Why is it that my 2 and a half year old who had just about started to form coherent words can memorise the names of some cartoon characters without any encouragement yet most things I try to teach him are received with fifty different shades of resistance.

“Aadam you can’t snatch”

“You must share this with Aazaan”

“You have to wait for your turn”

I have no doubt he will learn all this in due time but for now they seem like chores to him. Things he has to do not what comes naturally to him. The classic battle between what he must versus what he would rather.

Strangely I may be 30 years his senior, but our internal struggles are very similar in their essence.

When I throw a party, entertaining 20 guests, in my excitement I manage to make some 10 plus dishes yet on an everyday basis I can barely make one thing. And whatever I manage to stir up half-heatedly, I want it to last for at least 2 days.

When I go “window” shopping I randomly decide to treat myself  and come back with 3 bags of stuff I have no need for. However, when I must buy necessities I am running out of, I procrastinate for days.

When I can’t go for a walk because of kids I am frustrated but when I have to buy milk from the corner shop and Asif is available to babysit, I wish he would offer to go instead.

I suspect it’s because deep down we never really grow up.

We seem wiser on the outside but our instinctive reactions are child-like and pure.

We age but the rebel is lurking within waiting to pounce at any opportunity. We can tame it because we must but we can’t smother it.

Perhaps age really is just a number.

Love,

A Fancy Cinderella

Instagram: afancycinderella

Be there for yourself! Take yourself seriously!

I have recently returned from a 2 week long holiday in Europe. For anyone who has travelled with a toddler in the prime of their terrible 2s and a baby will probably tell you that it’s not really a “holiday”.

And they will be right. What it is, is a break. A break from monotony. A break from the endless household chores. A break from the norm.

All us stay-at-home mommies need it, deserve it and God knows we have earned it.

Being a full-time mommy is hard work. You have heard this before and I will say it again: you work below minimum wage and for very little appreciation.

The reward is not tangible. You must find it in the little things to keep yourself going and to give some value to your endless sacrifices. The tiny hugs, the wet kisses and the growth of the small person you helped bring into this world. They give immense satisfaction without a doubt.

But it gets to you. It can get claustrophobic. It helps to detach yourself, however briefly, from this rut of cleaning, cooking, laundry, and especially always putting someone else’s needs before your own.

Fortunately since I live in London, its geographical location on the world map, allows convenient travelling to a whole range of exciting places. And for me travelling is therapeutic. Metaphorically speaking it oils my squeaky hinges. I feel a sense of calm wash over me. My brain, which usually thinks a gazillions thoughts an hour, slows down. And I return to my abode, with a renewed energy and fervour to take life on.

Even if you are unable to get away completely you need to recharge those batteries. It could be as simple as reading a good book or watching a movie. It could be an elaborate girls’ night out or a heart-to-heart with your girlfriend. It could very well be an active pampering session be it shopping or spa. Something. Anything.

Just know that it’s important to look after yourself first. After all as they say – a happy mom makes a happy home. Clichéd but so so true.

Be there for yourself and take yourself seriously! Make a conscious effort to find personal happiness. And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it. You owe it to yourself. No other justification needed.

Love,

A Fancy Cinderella

Instagram: afancycinderella

Smile and the world smiles with you …

Before I moved to London, over 7 years ago, I had always taken seasons for granted. The year starts with winter that blossoms into spring which boils into summer which withers into autumn and eventually it freezes into winter again.

London, for all its glamour, lacks this basic essence of living that I was so used to. As anyone who has experienced London would know, the city suffers from frequent overcast skies.

It is a unique city. Full of life and opportunity. It has a spirit of it’s own. A pulse. A throb that every true Londoner feels and loves. But the lack of sunshine literally dampens the mood.

I can write a whole book on the annoying traits of rain specially when, to get from A to B, walking is a primary mode of transport.

The days when I wake up to a sunny sky, I instantly feel happy and energised. I want to bask in it, savour it, absorb it. There is a skip in my step. A rhythm to my walk. Not much can get me down that day.

I feel the same joy when I see flowers. They are a treat for sore eyes. The fragrance warms up my insides and I feel light. They make me happier than chocolate and that’s saying something. I got a bouquet for Valentines Day and even as I sit to write this, I constantly glance in that direction, smile and get back to work. I can’t ignore them.

And then it’s the act of smile itself. There is something spiritual about a genuine smile. It shines up your face, lights up your eyes and sprinkles happiness over everything it touches. When I see someone smiling, I smile back. It is contagious. The simplest and cheapest act of charity. A gesture so small yet significant. It encourages polite and well-mannered interactions. It stimulates positivity. It prompts happy vibes.

Imagine if all of us smiled more at strangers, the mundane walk on the road would become a happy encounter and the routine grocery shopping trip would become a sociable experience.

Of course charity begins at home and if we start smiling more around our loved ones, there will be less frowns and more joyful banter.

Any good deed, however small, starts an avalanche that may be slow at first but will undoubtedly pick up momentum. All you have to do is plant a seed and nature will nurture it.

Send more flowers to spread colour and beauty in this world. Smile more specially at strangers and the less fortunate. You never know yours may be the only smile someone got that day.

You can choose between being the sunshine that makes the world sparkle or the rain that can grey out even the brightest scenes. It is THAT simple!

Love,

A Fancy Cinderella

Instagram: afancycinderella

 

If you are happy and you know it …

As I hit the delete button on yet another exciting prospective career opportunity, I feel a sadness wash over me. A little ache for the girl who had dreams to be a successful independent woman one day. Who wanted to have an identity beyond that of being someone’s daughter or wife. Who wanted to make a place for herself in this big, bad world and be proud of that achievement.

She is now “reduced” to someone cooking, cleaning dishes, changing nappies and pacifying a one year old almost round the clock. Her best achievement on most days is if nappy changing happens without an “accident”. She is proud of herself when she can get through mealtime without losing her temper. The biggest feat she accomplishes these days is to find new and innovative ways to entertain a little mind that is specially prone to boredom. The most “accounting” she does now is counting down to nap time and then bedtime.

It’s not enough for an active mind like mine, I must admit. I am ready to pull my hair out and scream. Boredom seems to be gnawing at my insides. The girl with big aspirations is being crushed one day at a time. Yet if someone asks me if I want to go back to work I will not think twice before saying “No”.

Why is that? Because all that I have given up in life was worth it for the reward that this new role brings. The warmth that spreads through me when I get a random, unexpected hug from tiny arms. The feeling of pride when he does something new and seems beyond what his level of ability should be. The joy of seeing the angelic face light up as I walk into a room and knowing that I am the only one with that effect.

The way he climbs into my lap to read a book, snuggles close to me at nap time and tries to get my attention by silly little antics.  I am there for each and every one of these moments and feel well compensated for my sacrifice through the bond I have with my baby. It satiates my desire for self-importance because to him I am the person who matters the most.

My journey from being a career-focused woman to a stay-at-home mum is lined with countless poopy diapers yet I will choose it a million times over.

Life is never perfect. We can never have it all.

We make our choices based on personal priorities but we cannot prioritise it all. So it is important to have clarity. Ponder, think, brainstorm, discuss, do all that you must. Discover yourself and it will all become lucid. The decisions that follow will be logical and the emotional stress will be manageable.

I quote from a famous Urdu couplet (my native language):

Kabhi kissi ko mukammal jahan nahi milta
Kabhi zameen kabhi asmaan nahi milta

Loosely translated it means:

No one can ever have everything in this world. Sometimes you can’t find the stability of this earth and at others you can’t obtain the heights of the sky.

There is always something missing. There is always a void. The aim should be to make your peace with the emptiness that remains.

Simply put the key to happiness is contentment. That is THE only success that matters.

Love,

A Fancy Cinderella

Instagram: afancycinderella

Welcome to Cinderella’s Story Time

Deciding to be a blogger was the easy part. Knowing what to write about is a whole different ball game. Specially the first blog because well it has to make a statement.

As I think that, a light bulb goes on in my sleep-deprived head (owing to my 14 month old) and I know what I want to talk about. It is …… wait for it …… about …… MAKING A STATEMENT! How original! In case you are wondering, I did give myself a pat on the back and a nod of approval for the genius idea.

Now, back to the topic. I am a sucker for anything that makes a statement. A big piece of jewellery that can’t be missed from a mile off. A fancy bit of china that will attract more attention than the food at the dinner table. A unit of furniture that will be the focus of anyone walking into a room. The image above will show you some of the things from my “Make a Statement” collection to give you an idea of what I am talking about. It goes with my loud personality (if you hadn’t guessed that already!).

I add a colourful scarf to plain outfits. I listen to item songs (and would dance to them too if only I didn’t have two left feet … sigh!). I laugh out loud without worrying about being appropriately demure and lady-like.

Of course that’s not the only way to make a statement. You can be subtle (read “slightly boring”) and still have an impact. We all have our own ways, complemented by our individual personalities.

And the primary rule if you want to make a statement is to do so unapologetically. Be who you are and believe in yourself and even more so in your Creator. If you were not meant to fulfil a destiny that ONLY you can then you will not have been chucked into your milieu (fancy word I know – I found it on Google and just had to use it) by Him.

So in a way, your very existence is a statement. Because you have something unique to offer to this world that no one else could. Believe in that. Go out with that thought in your head every day and enjoy that you are important. Live your life in that knowledge and you will be noticed. You will have an impact.

Don’t be fooled if it’s not obvious in your lifetime. We normally only value what we HAD and rarely what we HAVE. This last statement is as clichéd as they come but as true as the sun rising in the East. Another cliché I know. The point is it happens!

Emily Dickinson and Vincent Van Gogh are two famous names who pop into my head when I think of appreciation too little too late. Yet they went on doing their calling in life and left an eternal impression that even appeals to my softer side (even though many will argue that I have no “softer” side).

The bottom line (as an accountant that’s what I am always looking at) is we can only make a statement if we believe in our ability to do so. Be it in fashion, morality, oratory, skill of the hand, brainpower, the list goes on and on. We are capable of so much if only we tap into what comes naturally to us for that is what the Creator has designed us to contribute.

Did I mention I can talk forever if you let me!

Love,

A Fancy Cinderella

Instagram: afancycinderella