Friends Moving On

Do you — or did you ever — have a Best Friend? Do you believe in the idea of one person whose friendship matters the most? Tell us a story about your BFF (or lack thereof).


Meena and me

My best friend at primary school was a Dutch girl called Meena. I used to go to her house after school and her mother would give us pancakes with honey and then my father would pick me up after a while when it was time for my elder siblings to be collected from school. After a few years Meena moved back to Holland with her family. I have no idea where she is now.

In middle school I was best friends with a girl called Hina with super curly hair and a dimpled smile. We always used to be together and in the break we shared chilli chips from the canteen. When we finished our O’ Levels, Hina immigrated to the US with her family. I am still in touch with her but the distance means that I haven’t met her for years and have never seen her kids.

Through college my best friend was Sehar whose father was in the Air Force. We had the same subjects throughout the 4 years in college and we would study together and spur each other on. After we finished college, Sehar got married and I went to University.

By this time I had realized that it doesn’t really make sense to be attached to one person only, because you never know where fate will take the two of us. It’s much better just to be friends with a number of people whose company you like.

Throughout the time I was working I made different friends but I don’t think I could call any of them my best friend. I’m in touch with a lot of them and I cherish the time I spent with them. I don’t think I missed out on anything not having a best friend.

Getting married moved me closer to my elder sister and I could share a lot of things with her. I have the comfort of knowing that she will not judge me and will always want the best for me. In the same way I will always be there for her.


Now that I’m moving on to Bahrain, I’d like to look back at some of my experiences in the last 4 years living as a Pakistani expat in Dubai.

For many people, meeting a Pakistani woman is a new experience too and I often get asked some awkward questions.

“Are you Indian?” Yes, well all white folk look the same to me too. But you do know that Pakistan is another country, right?

For casual wear, I often team up a long top with trousers. “Is that a traditional dress from your country?” No, I bought it from Debenhams.

“Are you originally from Pakistan? How come your English is so good?” Well for me, English is my first language and yes I was educated in Pakistan. I am originally from Pakistan, I didn’t make that up, nobody would.

“You had an arranged marriage? How strange!” It’s not at all strange. Most of the marriages that take place in Pakistan are arranged. They work. Mine does too.

There are a lot of Pakistani restaurants here. But when we eat from some other restaurant which is very often, it’s funny that they mark spicy on the menus because the spiciest food is just normal for us. I have green chillies in my fridge at all times because they’re used in all our food.

In the 3 years that I was driving (it took me a year to finally get round to getting my license) I had one minor accident in which a car hit me from the back and put a scratch on the side of the car. The efficiency of the police in handling the matter was impressive especially as it’s not something I see back home. Also in this entire time I have never felt unsafe even when I was living alone for 2 years and my husband was commuting on the weekend. This is something I cherish as I have experienced lack of it too.

What is strange is that in this entire time I have only met with other expats and have never met a local Arab family. When I arrived here and found that an Indian family lived in front of us, an American family to the left and Jordanians to the right I was thrilled at the prospect of new friendship and cross cultural learning. However it is really the Pakistani families living in the area that I ended up bonding with. I guess birds of a feather really do flock together.

And with my move just around the corner I will have another opportunity at making new friends and learning about people. I can take inspiration from the questions asked in the song “Mitwa” I heard once again today by one of our famous singers Shafqat Amanat Ali.

Which direction are you going?
What haven’t you got?
What are you searching for?


Me at Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

Off Target

As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

As a kid I thought that adults have all the fun. They don’t need permission to go anywhere, they don’t get homework, they can watch TV late at night, they can tell others (the children) what to do and drive cars.

I didn’t know that when I’d be grown up with a child of my own, I would go only to places with kid friendly menus, I’d have to do house work, I’d be too tired to watch TV at night, my child would hardly ever listen to what I’d tell him to do and I’d be the designated driver of the house.

zainab childhood

Me as a child

Friday Fictioneers: Life Decisions

chopsticksAhsan was at a fork in the road moment in his life where he had to decide whether to stay with his parents and continue his “job” fixing punctured tyres or try and get an education.

He had been “stealing” a few rupees from his salary to buy school books. He had taught himself to read and learnt some basic maths but now he needed to go to a formal school.

He stuffed his books and a few clothes in a bag and stood up decisively. He had no idea where he would go, but somehow he felt he would find a way.

This 100-word story has been written for Friday Fictioneers. For details see the link below:


It turns out that your neighbor on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?

I know exactly what would happen in this scenario. My son would start chatting with the other person and they would have a long conversation of which I would have no part except to accept congratulations at the end for having such a confident boy.

We were coming back from a trip to Bahrain and riding the bus to board the plane. My son was seated and I was standing next to him. When the bus started moving I was pushed a bit away from him. He started talking to the man standing in front of him and soon all the people around him joined him. He was telling them all about his trip and where he was going now and what he was going to do. They were all listening to him and smiling. Having entertained a whole bunch of people on the bus, he got off with me to board the plane.

It’s the same wherever we go. He’ll start talking to the people in an elevator. He has to strike up a conversation with the delivery man and the repair men who come to the house. Sometimes I have seen adults being shy to answer him. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way round?

I am quite the opposite. I would never start a conversation with a stranger. I don’t know where he gets it from.


The Death of Mangoes

When was the last time you watched something so scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky — in a movie, on TV, or in real life — you had to cover your eyes?

mangoesI usually don’t watch the videos people post on Facebook, but just recently my sister shared a video of a TV show and for some odd reason I clicked on it. It showed this TV personality who apparently has the highest ratings, stuffing mangoes down the participants’ throats. Yes, literally that was what he was doing. You know when you juice an orange with a manual squeezer and sort of twist and turn the orange until all the juice comes out of the pulp? Well this is what this disgusting man was doing.

I have no idea how the other people were letting him do this. I mean how much were they paying them for this humiliation? And why was this coming on TV? Is this what people LIKE to watch? There was even an audience watching this whole episode.

And then it had to be mangoes. Mangoes are exported by Pakistan. We are very proud of our mangoes. As an expat living in Dubai I always look for Pakistani mangoes when the season comes and never settle for anything else. And this is how this great fruit was being treated on live television.

I am trying to get that image out of my mind, but till then I will sadly have to distance myself from all kinds of mangoes and people eating them.

My Son is a Star!

Further to my post earlier today, my son Nadir and I did go to the beach and we didn’t encounter a hailstorm. Instead we met a film crew shooting a commercial and they asked my son to be part of the commercial! We readily agreed and Nadir’s part consisted of running on the beach with another “actor” who was playing his dad. They had to take the shot many times but Nadir didn’t tire at all. In fact when they finished a good 45 minutes later with a big round of applause for Nadir, he didn’t want to leave!

I made a video of Nadir while he was shooting. Here he is in action: