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On Turning 30

Woke up this morning to lovely birthday messages from friends and family. I turned 30, something that I always wanted to be because I had read somewhere that you’re at your prime when you’re 30. And they couldn’t be more right. While I’m not glowing with flawless skin or flaunting my lustrous hair or wearing a size 8, I feel confident in who I am. It’s been 30 years full of life lessons, some setbacks, but many things to be thankful for. Above all else, it has been about learning to forgive others, letting go of what’s in the past and even the future. It has also been about learning from my own mistakes.

I was a chubby, awkward and scared little child. I had absolutely zero aspirations. If you had asked me what I’d want to be when I grow up, I’d be going down in depression looking for an answer. My grades were average. I wasn’t fond of any subjects, in fact most of my report cards mention that I am able to do everything but with more like a “meh” attitude :D.

When I landed into my teens, I was done with my good-girl attitude. I made up my mind to pick up something and be really good at it. In all of that drive, I think I ended up being a version of myself that I wasn’t. All teenagers do, I guess! I listened to music that I hated, I had my head up in the clouds, I kept unrealistic expectations from life and people, and I became friends with anyone and everyone (which wasn’t so bad because some of my strongest friendships were formed in that era).

I used to be an over-confident pain in the bottom in my twenties, which I think is needed in those times. Because you’re working hard for your career, you have zero savings, there are things you dream of having. You need a certain go-getter attitude in those times. Alhamdolilah it all worked out for me, even if at that time it didn’t quite seem so.

I got married exactly when I was 26. Somewhere in my mind, I had planned to get married at exactly 26 years of age. And coincidentally, Allah had also planned the same. Life afterwards was a completely different ball game. Now my life was parallel to someone else’s. Now, each step I took was alongside another and each goal in our lives was a collective effort. It wasn’t about me anymore, it was about “us” from here on. It took me a while to grasp this but when I did, I realized how blissful life can be when you share it with someone.

Looking back, I wouldn’t say that I regret any of the above periods. I’d say that it was much needed. All of those situations brought me to this particular moment. It all makes sense when you consider each time in your life as a tiny piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle. My life isn’t extra-ordinary, in fact it is quite ordinary. Like most people in the world, I wake up each morning and make breakfast. Like all people, I do groceries, cooking, laundry. Basic adult life stuff. I repeat the cycle every single day. It may sound very boring, but what makes it magical is the gratitude in my heart. We do basic jobs that allow us to live quite comfortably. I am not a billionaire (yet!), but if I ever become one, I know it would be a by-product of the work we do and not because we want to be rich.

Going forward, I do not know where life will take me but I am sure that being of service to others will take some part of it. Whether it’s about doing work or caring for our families, there has to be some output of it, and majorly it should be happiness, ours and others’. And after three decades of my life, I know that being truly happy is through showing kindness towards others and having gratitude in your heart for everything in your life and for everything you do ❤

Happy Big 30 to me!

Canadian Permanent Residence – My Experience and Other Stuff

I am a permanent resident of Canada! What this means is, that I can live, work or study in Canada permanently. Somewhere around the end of 2017, my husband and I made up our minds to apply for it. We read up about it, about life in Canada, the process of PR application, the requirements etc. It felt like a very easy and practical process. Fast forward a year and here we are with our permanent residence cards already! Alhamdolilah.

When we did our landing in Canada, I got messages from some people asking for the process, and while I would recommend everyone to hop on to their official immigration and citizenship website for all the information, I still feel that reading about my experience might give people some perspective into the process. So let’s begin!

What is Express Entry?

Canada is in need of skilled workers. Therefore, they have immigration programs in place through Express Entry in which skilled individuals could come and work in Canada permanently. One such program under the Express Entry umbrella is the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program. The other two are Federal Skilled Trades and Canadian Experience Class.

This blog post is specifically about the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program only. This program is for people who are in any kind of a professional, technical or managerial jobs such as, doctors, dentists, architects, engineers, managers.

How Express Entry Works

Express Entry FSW program works in a very simple way. If you’re a skilled individual with a university degree, have a good command over English or French, have work experience relevant to your skilled profession, then you can create an Express Entry profile and enter the pool of applicants. Once you enter the pool, you are given a score through their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). Each month, Canada conducts two rounds of invitations in which they select the applicants with the highest CRS scores and send out invitations to them to apply for permanent residence. So each month, the Canadian immigration officers decide upon a cut off score and total no. of applicants they’d want to send out invitations to. For example, they could decide that for the month of April 2019, we’d send out invitations to 3000 applicants who have CRS scores above 440. Now all of those 3000 applicants would go ahead and apply for a PR, submit their documents, pay the application fee and wait for their case to be assessed. This entire process takes place online on their website and is easy breezy just like any other visa application!

How to Enter the Express Entry Pool

The first thing you need to do is to find out if you’re eligible. Eligibility and CRS scoring are two different things. A lot of people make this mistake that they straight away go and calculate their CRS points and get disappointed upon realising their low scores. First you need to find out if you’re even eligible, and if you’re not, you need to realize what you can do to become eligible. For example, Canada has a strict rule that you must have a certain amount of money in your bank account before you even apply. Many people do not have this amount (we didn’t either!), and enter whatever is available in their bank account. Now the eligibility algorithm would obviously deem you ineligible if you do not fulfil the funds requirement.

Roughly the eligibility requirements are as follows:

  1. Age: You must be between 18-35 years of age to get maximum points. Don’t worry if you’re older than 35, you can still apply but you’re going to lose points if you’re older.
  2. Education: You must have a degree and have gotten a credential evaluation done from an official service like WES.
  3. Work Experience in one job type: The more the merrier!
  4. Language Ability: You must have at least a CLB Level 7 score in your language test. (IELTS etc).
  5. Proof of Funds: Depending on the no. of dependants accompanying your application (spouse and children), you must have a certain lump sum amount in your bank account.
  6. Admissibility: This basically means that you aren’t a criminal, are medically fit and not a threat to the people, have not misrepresented your case in the past etc.

Once, you’ve been deemed eligible, you can get your language testing done, that is your IELTS, and have your educational degree evaluated from WES. Once you have these two things in hand, you’re ready to go online, create your EE profile and enter the pool. Creating the express entry profile and entering the pool is free. Once you are invited to apply, then you’d have to pay the fee in order to proceed with your PR application which ranges from PKR 100-250K depending on no. of dependants.

For further details, please check the official website:

My PR Journey and Timelines

Because I have a Masters degree and a less complicated work history than my husband (:P), we decided to make me the primary applicant and him the accompanying spouse.

Educational Credential Evaluation from WES

The first thing we did was start gathering all our educational documents like high school certificates and marksheets, university degrees and transcripts and get them evaluated from WES for Canadian equivalency. WES accepts applications online and provides you a document checklist for things that you need to submit to them.

To Obtain Verified Photocopies of Inter Certificate from Board of Intermediate Education, Karachi:

This is specifically for people who have done their HSC from Karachi Board. You need to send verified photocopies of your Inter Certificate and Marksheet to WES along with the Academic Records Request form that WES gives you. Please note that you don’t have to send any original documents to WES. These three documents need to be in a sealed envelope with your WES Ref. No. mentioned on it and are sent by the Inter board directly to WES. Just go to Inter Board and to the library, ask the person that you want to get your documents verified and sent to WES Canada. Don’t worry, they all know what WES is. They’d direct you to another room, the number of which I do not remember, unfortunately. There you might be asked to show originals of your Inter documents as well as Matric documents so be sure to carry all of that along with their photocopies. You’d pay some fee, fill up some forms. They’d ask you to collect the verified photocopies in a few weeks depending if you’re going for normal process or urgent.

Once you go for collection of documents, ask where you need to go to send your documents to WES Canada. They’d direct you to a guy in another room who would process your request. In a few days you’d text this person with your WES Ref No. and he’d share with you a tracking number for your package enroute to WES. You’d spend several trips to the accounts department to make the payment as well so be prepared for a lot of walking as is typical of any official work in Pakistan 🙂

To Obtain HEC Attested Photocopies of Your Degrees and Transcripts:

You would also need to send HEC attested photocopies of your degrees and transcripts to WES. Please note that you don’t have to send any original documents to WES. The process for degree attestation from HEC can be checked from their official website here. You’d have to make an online account on their eportal, enter your information and upload your documents. Then you can put in a request for scheduling an appointment with them. On the appointment date, you visit the HEC Head Office, take a token and wait for your turn. You submit your documents and they give you a time when you can come and pick up your documents. You could also ask them prepare those documents in a sealed envelope for you as it requires HEC’s seal and signature on the backside as per WES requirements. Then you can mail this package to WES on your own through DHL or any courier service.

Pro-tip: Ask for an educational discount at DHL!

Language Testing (IELTS)

Simultaneously I had started preparing for my IELTS exam. I’d like to point out here that the primary applicant’s IELTS score is the most sacred and vital element of the entire PR application. It can really make or break your CRS score because I observed that the CRS scoring algorithm goes on and multiplies this score with your work experience (or does some math with it!) and it affects your overall score dramatically if you have a good IELTS.

Also, it is not mandatory for the secondary applicant to give IELTS. But if you wish to claim more points to improve your CRS score, you can go ahead and have them give IELTS exam too, and if they score well, you can get maximum 20 points for their language ability.

I would recommend everyone to aim for at least a score of 8 in Listening and 7 in all other modules (Speaking, Reading and Writing). Anything below this score gives you very less CRS points.

I had a score of 9 in Listening and Reading and a 7.5 in Speaking and Writing. I took my IELTS with the British Council in Karachi. You can check their website for more info:

Pro-tip: For a good IELTS score, practice is the key!

Express Entry Application

With IELTS and WES ECA in hand, we created our express entry profile and entered the pool. We had a CRS Score of 455. The cut-off in those days was around 444-450 so we were aiming for a CRS score of atleast 450+ to guarantee an Invitation to Apply (ITA). By the grace of Allah, our profile got picked up and we had an ITA in the very next round!

Permanent Residence Application

Now that we had the ITA, we decided to proceed with the PR application. This is an involved process as you have to fill several online forms which are easy to navigate but time consuming and demand attention to detail as you have to enter loads of information ranging from your personal whereabouts in the past 10 years, your work history, your family details, your personal details, your travel history for the past 10 years, educational details — everything about you! You’re also given a document checklist once you complete these forms. You have to make sure you enter everything you can think of and leave no gaps. For example, if you’re entering your personal history, that is, what you have been doing for the past 10 years in terms of work or studies, make sure you leave no gaps in time. I had a time period where I was not working or even studying, I was on a career break, so I entered that time period as well to give clear visibility of my whereabouts.

Same is for travel history. You have to enter every trip with dates that you have taken in the past 10 years. I would recommend that you scour your passport and look for exit and entry stamps and start maintaining the travel history in an Excel spreadsheet as soon as you begin your application process.

The next important thing is to gather the documents that they have asked you to submit. This varies from person to person depending on the information you have provided to them. For work experience you will need letters from your employers stating your salary, the number of hours you worked, the job duties you performed. Most employers have a standard experience letter format and are reluctant to accommodate changes to it. You would have to pester them to provide you the letters stating ALL of the information requested by the Canadian immigration otherwise you could be rejected. One of my employers were a pain in the a** to me. They wouldn’t mention my salary on the letter stating that it’s a standard letter format and were not ready to listen. To address this problem, I provided my salary slips along with the experience letter and gave a clarification about it in my Letter of Explanation to the Canadian authorities. So my point is, you have to provide what they have asked for to make your case easier to assess and not leave things to the imagination of the immigration officer. Whatever you’re claiming in your application, you need to have proofs that back those claims.

Medical Exam: While we were doing all of the above, we also booked our medical exam. The medical exam in Karachi is done by Migration Health Division – IOM. It’s located in PECHS near Nursery. Please check their website for more info: This medical checkup was also easy breezy but there was a lot of waiting period so you better take a day off from work to get this done. They would take your blood sample, urine sample, chest xray, eye test, and a physical exam done by a doctor. They basically screen you for life threatening illnesses like Tuberculosis or AIDS etc. In the physical checkup, they check your body for proofs of surgery in case you have lied about your medical history. Don’t worry if you have diabetes or thyroid problem. Ladies, make sure you select your medical appointment dates carefully so they may not clash with your menstruating days. Also, for pregnant women the chest xray is not done until they have delivered their baby because it could be harmful for the fetus. For this you will have to inform IRCC first.

Heads-Up! There’s no muslim shower in their toilet when you go for your urine sample extraction 😛 You’d have to wipe off with a toilet paper only. Full Canadian experience ke liye apko tayyar kar rahay hain! 😀

Police Clearance Certificates: In the documents section, you would also have to provide proofs that you are not a criminal or facing any criminal charges. For this you would have to provide a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) from every city or country that you have lived. Thankfully, we had only lived in Karachi all our life at that point in time. Also, in Karachi police stations are district wise which means that different areas come under different police stations so you will have to get a PCC from each district you have lived at. This is determined using your address history that you will be providing to Canadian authorities. Please do not lie here. Enter all the addresses you’ve lived at with their respective time periods and leave no gaps in time here as well.

Pro-tip: Misrepresentation is serious crime and it can bar you from entering Canada ever. So please do not lie about anything.

So that was it. It took us around two months post-ITA to complete our application and submit it. It was actually a relief once it was done!

Overall Timeline

So our overall timeline was as follows. Ours was a pretty straightforward case hence it took hardly 4 months. Most applications are processed within 6 months, and in very rare cases it can take a year. I know of somebody who had a crazy and extensive travel history hence their application took a year. But in general, simple and straightforward applications without any gaps or questions are assessed within 4-6 months.

Submitted Express Entry ApplicationMarch 28, 2018
Received Invitation to Apply (ITA)April 11, 2018
Submitted Permanent Residence ApplicationJune 11, 2018
Got Acknowledgement of Receipt from IRCCJune 11, 2018
Medical Exam PassedJune 26, 2018
Received “Ready for Visa” Golden EmailOctober 16, 2018
Submitted Passports to VFS Global in Dubai*November 11, 2018
Received Passports and COPR for landing in CanadaNovember 14, 2018
Landed in Canada as a new immigrantMarch 01, 2019
Received Permanent Resident Cards in CanadaApril 04, 2019

*We were living in Dubai at that time, so we submitted our passports to the visa office in Dubai. Yes, you can do that.

Landing Experience

Our landing experience in Canada was also very smooth. I had prepared a list of all goods that we were carrying with us as well as a list of goods that were going to come later. These two lists are very important, especially the goods to follow list. Because you’re allowed to bring all your valuables to Canada free of any taxes and duties on your first landing trip as a new immigrant, therefore these lists come in handy. Everything else that you would bring later, for example, jewellery, furniture and any other valuables, you must include them in your goods to follow list so that when they arrive later, on your next trip or through a shipping company, you are not charged with any duties or taxes. Make sure to include the item name, its picture (if it’s jewellery), and it’s value in CAD in that list.

While we were in-flight, all passengers were given a declaration form in which basically you have to declare what you are bringing into Canada. Upon landing when we reached the immigration counter, they took our declaration form, scribbled something on it and returned it to us and asked us to head over to another room where all the new immigrants were being processed. There we were asked some basic questions. First the officer asked us about how much cash we were carrying. I told him the amount and also that the rest is in our bank account for which we are carrying bank statements. He asked to look at our COPR and asked about where we were planning to stay in Canada so that they could mail us our PR cards there (we gave our friend’s address because we were going to be living in various Aribnbs). That was it from him, he said “Welcome to Canada” and told us to proceed to the SIN counter to get our Social Insurance Numbers. We filled up some forms there and got our SIN numbers in a jiffy. After that a guy handed out us pamphlets for settlement services in Canada and then we headed out to customs after picking up our luggage.

At customs, the line was huge and the wait was long. Finally when our turn came, I showed them the declaration card and the lists I had prepared. The customs officer took my list, made some copies of it, stamped the lists and signed them and returned the original to me telling me to keep it safe as proof that you’ve already declared the items that will arrive later and save the taxes and duties. Again, he gave us a warm welcome into Canada and sent us off!

Concluding Advice, Tips and Important Points

  1. Aim for an IELTS score of 8777 (8 in Listening and 7 in all other modules). Anything below this gives you very less CRS points.
  2. When you plan to apply, check the cut-off scores of past invitation rounds and see what the trend has been. Then create a target CRS score for yourself. Usually CRS scores can be improved by improving IELTS score, getting your spouse (secondary applicant) to give an IELTS exam, having an ECA done for the secondary applicant, claiming points for a blood relative already a permanent resident in Canada, getting a Masters degree or an additional three year or more Bachelors degree or gaining more work experience. If all else fails, go for a Provincial Nomination to increase your points. For this, check the official immigration websites of every province in Canada and see which one is accepting applications for your field of work.
  3. Take your Police Clearance Certificates very seriously. If you’re in Karachi, then as mentioned above, get it from every district where you have lived.
  4. Take your employment letters also very seriously. Read IRCC’s requirements for employment letters and provide them all the information that they ask for.
  5. Choose the correct National Occupational Classification (NOC code) relevant to your job and work experience. You cannot apply for a PR for a different job category and have an experience belonging to another job category. Your work experience needs to be relevant to the NOC code you select.
  6. Maintain transparency and do not lie in your application. Do not leave gaps in time when it comes to your address history or personal history when you are filling the forms online. Your past 10 years should all be accounted for.
  7. Also make sure that the timelines in your address history match those in your police clearance certificates. Basically, your PCC should clear you of any crimes committed while you lived at a certain address.
  8. Make sure your Bank Statement and Account Maintenance Letter that you would obtain for proof of funds is on the bank’s letter head and is signed and stamped by the bank. You have to show funds in your account through a bank statement only. You cannot claim ownership of funds on borrowed money, piece of property or land, assets such as gold etc. Please check the official website for admissible proof of funds.
  9. Make sure your educational degrees and transcripts are on point. Things like not providing transcripts, mismatch of educational details, dates etc can all result in rejection.
  10. I would recommend that you go for WES credential evaluation only. They take much less time (around a month) as compared to ICAS which takes 6 months. WES has a lot of detailed requirements when sending the documents, but the time factor is also something to consider.
  11. Please don’t waste money on consultants. Every piece of information is available online. Canadian immigration website is extremely comprehensive. There are forums and blogs and people like us who are willing to help you for free if you are doubtful about anything. At the end of the day, YOU know your case better than anyone. So use some common sense and delve into it.
  12. Lastly, do your research and do it well. When I was planning to apply, this mini-project was my day and night. I would obsess over every detail, make sure everything is aligned with IRCC’s instructions. I asked a lot of questions and I scoured the internet day in and day out for information. Google, forums, youtube – these were a great source of help.

I hope all the information that I have provided helps you if you’re planning to apply for permanent residence in Canada. I would only request that if you find this helpful share it with more people and send your good wishes my way. Also, please do not be disheartened or feel dejected. Coming from someone who hasn’t had everything given to her on a silver platter, please accept this advice that relentless effort and the grit to try is the only way to get closer to your goals.

Links and Additional Resources

  1. Official Website for Canadian Immigration (Express Entry):
  2. Credential Evaluation through WES:
  3. Medical Test in Karachi for Canadian Immigration:
  4. IELTS with British Council PK:
  5. Canadian Immigration Forum:
  6. VFS Global to submit passports in Pakistan:
  7. A fun Youtube channel about life in Canada:
  8. HEC Degree Attestation Process:

My 10-Step Plan to Gain Health

Today was my first day at the gym after a very long break. Before 2015, I used to lead a sedentary lifestyle combined with mindless eating habits. It only happened a couple of years ago when I decided to change this. The motivation at that time was to lose weight and get in shape obviously. But a year ago, I had a calling. That calling completely changed my outlook on working out and eating healthy.

See, often times we confuse the concept of losing weight. We drink endless cups of green tea after gobbling down cupcakes thinking that it would cancel out the negative effects. We spend hours mindlessly running on treadmills, killing ourselves in the gym with the hopes of seeing a smaller number on the weighing scale. We devoid ourselves of important nutrients when we go on a soup and salad or low-fat/low-carb diets. Aj kal kia in hai? Keto. What we actually want to approach is “gaining health” instead of losing weight.

I started reading books by Rujuta Diwekar a year ago when I was dealing with a myriad of health issues that occurred as a result of a shabby lifestyle. My world was a combination of eating junk, being a sloth for most part of my day, and on top that, a huge pile of mental stress from my work and domestic life. And lately, it has all been taking a huge toll on me. It’s not apparent if you see me, heck you’d even say that I’m exaggerating, but I know what’s going on inside, so you’d have to take my word for it! The fun part to all of this is, that the side effects of medications worsen my state and instead of making things better, it takes the problems to a completely new level. Maybe some of you women have been through something similar?

Since I am all about transformation these days, I’ve come up with a sure-fire formula to gain health for myself. I believe, it can be applied to anybody who wants to live a healthy life in the long run. All the points are derived from Rujuta’s books, especially Don’t Lose Out, Work Out and Women and the Weightloss Tamasha. So read on!

1) Working Out is a Must

Exercise has been known to reduce depression and improve our cognitive abilities as well. So this is something that we all must include in our daily habits. And that too for life long. Remember that consistent work outs are much better than intensive workouts. We only need 150 mins of exercise per week, so, lets say, working out five days a week for 30 mins consistently is better than working out for two hours straight one day and then skipping gym for the rest of the week ’cause of burnout! For beginners, it’s best to start from thrice a week. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. (But hey, what race? We are in no hurry here!)

2) Always Strength Train Before Cardio

Strength training is crucial. Rujuta says in her books that if you have one hour that you can spare for a particular exercise, don’t even think of walking/jogging. Instead, strength train with weights in the gym. Use the machines that are there to support your body, and reap the benefits. The benefits of strength training are immense. It’s been the general assumption that those who lift weights get bulky. That’s completely incorrect. Strength training is crucial in building lean muscle mass, yes, but because when you build muscle mass, you cut down on your fat deposits. You are able to make your tendons, bones and ligaments stronger through strength training exercises and that will ensure that when you’ll run a marathon, your body will be able to bear the impact that your legs would have with the surface! Means, less chances for injury. Moreover, when you strength train, your body experiences an after-burn for the next two days! So imagine, baithay baithay bhi calories burn horahi hongee!

Note: It’s not recommended to strength train two days in a row. Always give a gap of one day between two training sessions, or do cardio in the gap day which would help reduce the lactic acid build-up in your muscles. You know, that sore feeling?

3) Cardio Doesn’t Have to be Boring.

Who said cardio has to be mindless running on the treadmill? Find yourself activities that you enjoy, for example, swimming is a great cardio exercise as it is easy on our bones and joints and introduces the same cardiovascular intensity that we’re looking for. Taking a brisk walk or cycling around the neighbourhood is also an enjoyable activity!

4) Eat Local, Seasonal, Home-Cooked Food and Without Restrictions

When it comes to eating food, eat with all your heart, provided the food has been cooked fresh at home and comes from a local and seasonal produce. Don’t limit yourself to a particular food group or nutrient, for example, no carbs, mineral rich foods only. Eat without restrictions, eat whatever is in season. Don’t believe in fad diets, instead go on this you-can-eat-everything diet. Eat things that come from a farm, rather than things that come out of a packet. Avoid processed foods and especially foods that make promises of being low-cal/low-fat/low-sodium on their packaging.

5) Eat According to the Mental Meal Map and Eat Every 2-3 Hours

Dil bhar ke khanay ka yeh matlab nahi hai ke bindas khaya jaye aur kabhi ruka hi na jaye. Rujuta advocates that you should eat according to your “mental meal map”. What this means is that when you’re hungry, imagine a plate and a quantity of food that you’d like to eat. Then take out half of that imagined quantity out on your plate and start eating slowly and with mindfulness. You must not be eating in front of the TV, hey! Next, once you are done eating that portion, if you are still hungry, again imagine how much you’d like to eat and take out only half portion of that imagination onto your plate. Repeat. This way, most of the time, you’ll realize that you were full right after the first serving. Also, instead of eating three big meals a day, break your meals into 8 portions across the day. Even having a lassi or a banana as a snack can be counted towards one meal out of the eight. It doesn’t have to be a full fledged dawat 8 times a day.

6) Speak Your Mind Fearlessly

Yes. Can’t emphasise on this enough. Do not suppress your feelings. When you do hide behind your emotions, when you bottle things up, it comes out later on with even more intensity and you crash and burn like bad. There’s always a polite way of disagreeing with people and putting your point across. Find that. If you don’t agree with someone or something, be fearless in coming out with your opinion. Those who really care about you, would value it and won’t judge you. Those who do end up judging you, well, what can I say, good riddance!

7) Take a Break Whenever Needed

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by work troubles, family drama and other weird stuff that life is made of. One thing is for sure, life keeps testing us with one thing or the other. But people who do things with strong conviction of succeeding, or at least people who believe that failures are actually a great learning experience, always emerge stronger on the other side. To be able to do this, one has to be mindful, one must take breaks through life and disconnect from the world to focus on other things. Often our troubles seem huge when we see them from our tunnel vision. Going away for a while helps in looking at things from a fresh new perspective. And most of the times, problems get resolved automatically when we return rejuvenated.

8) Invest in Meaningful Relationships

We are the people we hang out with. The people we surround ourselves with have a huge impact on our well-being. Imagine living with someone toxic who belittles you at every other chance they get, who brings you down whenever you try to dream big. We don’t need such people in our lives. We get one life to live, and we should try to live it happily by spreading joy around us. Ignore the trash bags in your life and hold on tight to the people you love, even if they are only a handful.

9) Spend More Time Doing What You Love

Please put happiness over everything else. If you don’t like your day job, make an effort to either make it at least bearable. You could talk to your boss about how you can make your work interesting. It could be by switching to a newer project/department where your interest and the company’s interest are aligned. Or you could look for newer opportunities that would make you happy. In any case, there is always a way to beat the work blues. But you must remember that you might not always get what you want easily. There has to be immense hard work and grit from your end, then only things could work in your favour. There’s no place for slackers in this world, and easy is not how this world works!

10) Discipline in Sleep is Crucial to Well-Being

Our bodies have a built-in alarm system called “Cortisol”. It’s a hormone in our body which works with parts of our brain to regulate mood, motivation and fear. In the morning the Cortisol levels need to rise to allow us to start our day fresh and alert and by the evening the levels need to drop to allow us to have a restful sleep at night so that our body can work on repairing itself during the sleep. If we don’t practice discipline in our sleep schedule and inhibit the natural process by watching TV late night or having endless cups of caffeine all through the day, we are ruining our sleep and indirectly our lives. Along with a healthy diet, regular, consistent workouts, we also must work on having a good night’s sleep.

So how many of you would be joining me in this 10-Step plan to gaining health? Raise your hands! 😀

"The Majestic Sheikh Zayed Mosque" - Photo by Tehreem Iqbal

Eid-ul-Azha and the Spirit of Sacrifice

Joyous Eid wishes to everyone reading!

This is probably the first Eid-ul-Azha ever that I find myself reflecting on its essence. Previously, Eid was all about getting dolled up, making scrumptious food and exchanging Eid greetings with friends and family. Nothing more, nothing less. Eid-ul-Azha, or Bari Eid, as it’s called among desi circles, was my least favorite of the two Eids. Primarily because of the smell of animals in the air and because it seemed less glamorous of an event.

This year, however, things are very different. This year, I find myself reflecting inward, deep within the fabric of my soul, and wondering what I will take away from this simple occasion that we all call Eid and where we all talk very casually about the qurbani we did.

For those who don’t know, Eid ul Azha falls on the 10th day of Dhu’l-Hijjah (Zilhaj) where Muslims all around the world commemorate the ‘willingness’ of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to sacrifice his dear son in the name of Allah. Ibrahim (AS), like any father, loved his son dearly. Allah commanded to him in his dream to sacrifice his son for the love of Allah. This was obviously a trial for Ibrahim (AS) and probably one of the biggest trials anyone could ever experience. But for the will of Allah, Ibrahim (AS) set forth to give up his son. Allah accepted his sacrifice even before it happened and presented a goat/ram in place of his son instead. His son’s life was spared. Every year, Muslims all around the world commemorate this occasion and sacrifice an animal. The meat is distributed among family/friends and charity.

But what lesson do we take away from this entire story? The purpose of the sacrifice was not to kill the son or torture the father. It was to realize that Prophet Ibrahim’s love for Allah was far greater than his love for his son. That this was the kind of love every person should have in his heart. That any thing that belongs to this world is not to be the focus of our existence. That our attachment is only supposed to be with Allah, our love is only supposed to be for Allah and anything that we hold dear in this world is supposed be through Allah. It’s a pretty heavy concept to grasp, I know.

This does not mean that a person leaves the life of this dunya, becomes a dervaish and resorts to a life in eternal seclusion. This simply means that whatever a person sets out to achieve in this world, it is done by the will of Allah and is done for Allah.

It’s very easy to hold on to things and especially people because that’s all what we can see. It’s easier to love something that is physically present in front of you. It’s hard to love something or devote your life to something that is hidden from you. For example, wealth that you cannot imagine parting with, a piece of jewellery passed on to you from generations that you can’t let go of, a person you cannot imagine living without, children that you worked very hard to raise — all are examples of attachment. You might loose all your wealth. The piece of jewellery could get stolen. The person you loved dearly could leave you. The children you worked so hard to raise might only see you once a year. When you pin your hopes and your love onto all these attachments, you end up in despair when they disappoint you. You end up engulfed by a sea of emotions and misery.

The problem with all these attachments is that we let them consume our hearts. A heart that was made to be filled with the love of something perfect and permanent. But all of the above examples are examples of things that are imperfect and temporary. But then what is perfect and permanent? To me, I think, it’s the love of God. The belief that having and not having is a gift from Allah. The only place that is home is the Hereafter. The belief that this world is a bridge along the journey but not the ultimate destination.

I believe, every year, on Eid ul Azha, in fact through all the pillars of Islam, Allah gives us a chance to recalibrate our lives. Allah wants us to shift our focus back onto the perfect and permanent love that only the Creator can satisfy not the creation.

So this year, on Eid ul Azha, when you sacrifice an animal, remember to also sacrifice and let go of anything of this world that fills up your heart. Remember that pleasure and pain, both are temporary. Remember that gains are temporary. Remember that loss is temporary. Remember that all you so dearly love today will eventually persih tomorrow, like all things in this world, but all that you sacrifice for Allah, will be with Allah in eternity. Your sacrifice will be returned to you in the hereafter where everything is perfect and permanent, and in this dunya it will be replaced with something bigger, better and grander that your mind, which understands time as linear, cannot currently fathom.

Dedicated to every ambition that consumed my world, every person who filled my heart. Dedicated to apparent gains and losses. May the hereafter reunite us with all that we lost in this world.

Header Image is from The Majestic Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, courtesy of Tehreem Iqbal (El Arte).