An Ode to You Baby

You are wrapped up in a blanket, warm, fed and content, sleeping soundly as the outside world goes about its business without interfering in yours. Almost eight weeks old and you have grown a little day by day, quietly, as it is in your manner. Even during an eighteen hour labour, your heartbeat remained at a steady 140 beats per minute, completely unfazed as you left the comfort of the womb to be brought to an unknown, strange world. You remained oblivious to the fact that there were many who were impatient to meet you, take you into their arms and breathe your sweet smell; you were in no hurry to get here.

You’re wearing a slightly surprised expression, with a frown draped across your brow. Who will you become when you grow up, I wonder? Will you be like your father, the centre of attention, the life and soul of the party with his can-do attitude and optimistic outlook? Or will you be like your mother, the one quietly observing, a thinker, a dreamer, an analyst, the one who doesn’t care much for the crowd?


Whilst I am excited to see you grow up, witness your first steps, your first walk through the school gates, the first time you’ll meet that someone special, to see all these ‘firsts’ i’m also saddened to think about how transient life feels. There is no doubt that you are growing up too fast. Your first baby grows- what once hung on your small frame now lay redundant in an unused basket, ready to be given away. Your eyes, which were  once unable to focus, now follow me obediently as I move around the room, like an eighteenth century oil painting, never missing a step.

I can’t help but plaster all my dreams and aspirations on to you but I know you have your own calling in life to fulfill, one that I may not be able to influence, but perhaps shape.


Time now seems to pass so much more quicker now that you are in my life. Hours fly by and it feels like only minutes have passed. The sun just manages to peak across the horizon and it is ready to set again for another day. ‘Slow down world!’ is all I want to scream. I want to spend time with my son, get to know him for the angel that he is, gaze into his eyes and caress his soft skin, before he realises that he is able to escape my clutches. 

The cord that once connected us slowly ebbing away. Growing up, and growing apart.



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Papaya and Inducing Labour

I was 39 weeks pregnant and growing increasingly weary of the infamous waddle walk, the repetitive trips to the toilet and the feeling of my stomach being so very s-t-r-e-c-h-e-d. It’s a weird feeling being pregnant. I found it hard marrying the idea that inside me now was actually a full, real size baby and that one day, he would be independent to me, living outside the comfort of the womb.

As I was classed as full term, I looked online and searched ‘how to bring on labour’. One thing that peaked my interest were websites which waxed lyrical about the powers of tropical fruit: pineapple and papaya especially. Tropical fruits such as these, I learned, contain proteolytic enzyme called bromelain, which helps soften the cervix and induce labour.

Now that I was full term, I couldn’t wait to meet the little one and finally start our new life together. Trying almost everything on the list, this couldn’t do any harm I thought?


market2The next morning, off I went to my local market to look for the blessed fruit. And there it was: the papaya. The skin was a bright yellow and the skin was slightly soft to the touch, just ripe as the market seller put it. I put it in my basket and carried it home, sceptical but intrigued to see if it would do anything.


Fast forward a few short hours and I had devoured the fruit hungrily. I waited, and…..nothing.

No promised contractions as the websites and forums had promised. I fell into a fitful, restless sleep, the type that only a heavily pregnant woman could. And then in my deep slumber I felt a pulsating pull deep in my abdomen. I sat up. Is this a Braxton Hicks contraction? I hadn’t had many, but maybe my body was finally preparing for D-day now.

The clock struck midnight, I lay back down and pretended to sleep, trying to trick my body into giving me a few hours of shut eye. Ten minutes later I felt it again. With a degree of trepidation, I called the hospital. The midwife advised me to take paracetamol and lay back down. Lay back down I did, but I soon realised that no amount of paracetamol was going to dull this pain.

A few hours later, I was in hospital four centimetres dilated and now in active labour.

Maybe I would have gone into labour without eating the magical papaya fruit. Bt a large part of me believes that it was the catalyst, kickstarting our new life together as a family of three.IMG_1799


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Assisted Marriage: Search for a Suitable Boy Part I

As one of the only brown people in my primary school, my non-brown classmates would quizzically ask:

‘Are you going to have an arranged marriage?’

Now I must confess that at the tender age of seven, I hadn’t given my marriage much thought; I was too preoccupied with building nests from twigs and tending to my constantly grazed knee. I would shout a defensive ‘No!’ not really understanding what was being asked of me and run off in the opposite direction.

Now that I am somewhat older, and having walked the walked, I can matter of factly state that no I didn’t have an arranged marriage, but neither did I have what in Bollywood movies is depicted as a ‘love marriage.’ Somewhere in the middle between love and arranged marriages, exist assisted marriages and I am all for them.

I’m not sure about your experience, but if you’re looking for something particular in a partner, and in my case it was Muslim, British-born, fun-loving etc, the search is a difficult one, especially if you want ‘The One’ to get on with your family.

In the UK there is a prolific problem of asian men marrying from back home, whether that be because mother knows best, or their innate desire to marry someone uncorrupted by western values when they themselves are notorious for playing the field. With the exodus of decent educated men, finding a suitable boy is no easy feat.

And so, my parents were reluctantly drafted in. My Mum took the lead and was introduced to a woman who matches and sets people up. It’s an old-fashioned way of being introduced to somebody, a way that predates the internet and is so simple in its approach that no online algorithm can ever replace it. After a short chat with the Matchmaker she had somebody she wanted me to meet.



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Baby Born

After a short hiatus, I can officially announce that I am back! I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy (though I may be biased) on the 11 February, and since then we’ve just been spending time getting to know each other. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I think we have fallen into some sort of haphazard routine. It seems to work for us, but almost always involves me having breakfast at 2pm.

Sleep is now a thing of the past, but being the prepared bee that I am, I made sure that I slept like a sloth in the upcoming months before giving birth. Any sleep that I manage to get now, is treated simply as a bonus. The transition from pregnancy to full-blown mother is daunting, and nothing has quite prepared me for taking on the responsibility for a small human, no matter how much I read up on the subject.

My experience thus far as a mother: Laying awake in the dead of the night, the whole world seems to be asleep except for me and and my little one, I’m doing everything in my power to get the baby to latch on, but all that’s happening is that he’s thrashing his head from side to side whilst he’s getting more and more anxious. The screams become louder and louder, and I can’t help but question my capability as a mother.

But when the sun comes up, and the birds begin to tweet to life, people begin to stir and get on with their daily routine, and I realise there is life outside the confines of my bedroom, somehow baby has managed to fall into some sort of fitful sleep, and I’ve managed to dose for half an hour;  the thought that enters my mind is:

‘Enjoy it whilst you can. His teenage years are yet to come.’

baby 2

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Meeting the Feared Religious Police in Saudi Arabia

Late last year I found myself having to make a home away from home. The land was foreign, the people were different, the culture was aeons away what I knew and felt to be home. When my husband was offered

Haunted House

And yet we went.

The culture shock hit me hard. When venturing out of my humble abode, I would visit the limited places open to women, the famous malls, for if it’s one thing that Arabs like to do, it is to shop. These places would be heaving with people, and this was more apparent in the Holy month of Ramadan when all shops by law were required to open after dusk.

Queues of cars to enter these malls would snake around the block. Once in, you would be contending with a crush of people. But with my husband alongside me we persevered, as being cocooned in a small apartment in Riyadh, one of the most conservative cities in the world, had become suffocating.

The only Victoria's Secret not to sell lingerie!

I had felt awkward wandering around in my newly bought abaya. I felt like a fraud. The style which I had chosen was made of acres and acres of cloth, which I was told by the sales assistant was the latest fashion. When I walked, I found the excess material caught between my legs making me stumble, rather than float gracefully as I watched countless others do. Black is a staple colour of my wardrobe in London, however being dictated to wear only black felt constrictive and I began to feel suffocated with the lack of choice, even though I had subjected myself to it freely.

As if I hadn’t felt awkward enough, I waved goodbye to the other half as we agreed to meet in different stores. As I walked away and turned the corner I was met with the feared Mutawaya, with their beards thin and wispy, wearing an elaborate golden throw over their shoulders; their authority stamped for all to see, as if God had specially elected these people himself.

Not quite like Dubai

Saudi Arabia’s religious zealousness is unmistakeable. I had heard about the floggings that took place for minor transgressions, such as driving a car (if you are female), spreading ‘vice’ (however the state would interpret that) and spending times with the opposite sex. Let’s just say I was afraid when confronted with the face of enforcement.

We locked eyes and mine widened in fear. They had me in their crosshairs and the only way to go was forward, passing them down the now very quiet boulevard. As our paths crossed, I could hear mutterings of ‘astaghfirullah‘ as we neared nearer and nearer, rosemary beads laced around their thin fingers.

They stopped two feet away from me and started talking in rapid Arabic, gesturing at me. I opened my mouth and out stumbled a few words: ‘I don’t understand.’ I understood the word ‘ID’ and ‘Passport’ and with images of Chop Chop Square still burning bright in my mind from an accidental tour earlier last week, I hurriedly searched my bag. One man laughed a laugh of disdain, and the other rolled his eyes on seeing my foreign passport and after a few parting words, they were on their way.

I breathed a sigh of relief as they disappeared around the corner.

I have often pondered what prompted them to stop. I was in full abaya and hijab. Maybe it was because my face was uncovered, which was unlike the norm in Riyadh. Or maybe it was because I was a female walking alone, an easy target unlike the gaggle of girls who found refuge in numbers. But whatever it was, I knew I had to get the next flight home. Saudi was definitely not for me.

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How to Arrange a Marriage

I got my first arranged marriage proposal aged 14.

I was sat on a balcony with my two cousins. We were fanning ourselves trying to cope in 40 degree heat in muggy Lahore where load-shedding is a common occurrence, hitting us every day for hours at a stretch. It was so unbearably hot. I took a shower and before the water had even turned off, beads of sweat would have already formed on my brow and upper lip. My armpits were always clammy, no amount of deodorant could save me.

I wanted another shower so bad. I wanted to sit in a bucket of ice cold water and sip a mango lassi with the water beating off my back. Except there was no running water. We were hostages to the heat, to the government, to the claustrophobic Lahore city. I wanted to go out and explore, discover the nooks and crannies of this place.

But I felt so lethargic, so incredibly tired, lifting my legs felt impossible. I leant back onto the make shift bed. I fell into a rough sort of sleep.

Badshahi Masjid, found in the centre of cultural Lahore

Badshahi Masjid, found in the centre of cultural Lahore

I was awoken by the sound of loud conversation. My cousins were sat there, with a newcomer. ‘Hello’ I said in a bit of a daze.

‘Hello dear,’ was the response from the slightly rotund woman. She was wearing a bright red salwar kameez, which burned my eyes in this hot heat. Her neck and wrists were adorned with gold and she reminded me of an asian version of Miss Havisham; her outfit reminiscent of a Pakistani bride.

‘How old are you jaan?’ she droned at me, looking at me with her small beady eyes.

‘Fourteen,’ I replied slightly bemused.

‘Just the right age then,’ she retorted, matter of factly.


The woman briskly turned to my cousins and began speaking in rapid Punjabi, a
language I find difficult to follow. The few words I understood were ‘larka’(boy) ‘nikah’ (marriage) and I knew everything that I needed to know.I was half sitting up on the hammock, but I turned back over, smiling to myself. No age is too young to get hitched here, even if you are a spotty, sweaty teenager with big wet patches under your armpits. And with that thought the overhead fans, with some reluctance, creaked on and began whirring a comforting sort of sound. Soon I had warm, hot air hitting my face.

It was bliss.


Me at a wedding in Pakistan in my early teens



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When Hormones Take Control

So, my eggo has been preggo for quite some time now, (to quote one of my favourite films, Juno) and I thought I was special enough to have dodged  the wacky hormonal tides, the tears and the tantrums. But now at 35 weeks of carrying a small human in my stomach, the mood swings have swung my way with a vengeance. Everything is making me cry, from the thought of going in to labour, to over boiling my milk in the pan. These occurrences trigger something that so closely aligns me with my small five-year old self that I wonder if this is now the new ‘normal’ me.

(This is pretty much an adequate representation of me now)


Maybe this is actually a way of the mind preparing for baby tantrums, for we are all not immune it. Maybe this will make me more understanding for when the little one decides to make an appearance and cries for absolutely no reason. At those times, hopefully I will be reasonable when contending with a baby that’s not.

Crying-baby-010Source: The Guardian

Watching last night’s BBC adaptation of ‘War and Peace,’ did in no way calm my nerves for going into labour, as I watched on in horror as Liza Bolonskaya died in a blood bath whilst wailing out in a torrent of pain. There was a lot of crimson blood on her white stained gown and I could have eased my mind if I knew this was just something that happened in the ‘olden days.’

2FEA9A4700000578-3393894-Shocked_viewers_have_complained_about_the_amount_of_blood_in_BBC-a-31_1452526296989Alas, it is not so. Every day approximately 830 women die from child birth, with 99% of these deaths happening in developing countries. ( It is no surprise that birthing a child was once referred to as ‘confinement,’ as there was no guarantee you could escape the confines of death.

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