Exploring My Thoughts on What Should the New Year be About?

Tea cup on a table with a diary saying new year goals.
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Pexels.com

Since 2019, times have been very taxing for all of us. We were challenged beyond our limits on one hand and deprived of social contact on the other. When we felt burdened by deep thoughts and feelings, we hardly found anyone around to share them with.

Covid with its lockdowns though made us slow down amidst a life of rush and ponder over the meaning of life. When it comes to our life, what is it that matters in the end? Is every part of our life worth rushing back to? What is it that truly makes us happy, should we have good health on our priority list along with our material goals?

This January has been mostly a period of hibernation and retreat for me. I found time to blog again, it’s a joy in itself. I finally mustered up the courage to get my wisdom tooth extracted, it had been causing me discomfort for a very long time. I was also lucky to get some days off from work (winter vacations) and deemed it an opportunity to take care of the needful, including my dental surgery, my children’s upcoming assessments and some reorganizing. My family time includes watching a few movies with my kids and going out for nature walks.

2022 I feel is going to be better in many ways. It’s going to be about gaining courage, respect and recognition as most of us have been putting in a lot of effort in our work. A lot of us have come to realize our inner fortitude as a survival strategy and have learned to thrive on our own merits.

I think this year will be about dreams coming true. To cause this to happen, we must be as open to ourselves as we are to others, and be someone who no longer feels they need to camouflage themselves or disappear altogether in order to be accepted. This is a normal part of growing and maturing. I feel we are ready to set aside our velvet gloves and reveal the iron fist inside, we’ve grown stronger ferrying through the tumults of life.

2022 is about valuing and respecting ourselves, letting ourselves flourish in nourishing and healthy ways. We must rid ourselves of all old patterns that don’t serve us anymore. Keeping away from people and environments that don’t offer constructive support and silencing our inner critic, is what will lead us to success this year. Let’s embrace our authentic self, giving way to healthier ways of expression to who we are, as we grow strong and powerful every year.

There are many different ways to stand up for ourselves, including removing ourselves from harmful situations. This year is one of standing our ground and not apologizing for being ourselves. This should be our way forward.

Happy new year everyone, stay safe!

This Makes the Bohemian in Me Want to Wander

Khyber Hills on flicker.com

I had to disappear from the scene for a while owing to the nature of my job. Have been busy as it’s the start of a new semester here at the university. Lots of work to do, and hence no time for blogging as frequently. But I love my job nevertheless, and I enjoy teaching. Nothing like it.

So, I have been taking pictures of a lot of things lately, thanks to modern cellphones that come with an inbuilt camera. It’s spring here and there are flowers everywhere, our university’s campus is blooming with flora and fauna of sorts. I wanted to share with you a very beautiful view that I came across, and also felt like writing about it.

Peshawar city, where I’m living now, is one of the oldest living cities in South Asia, and many of its residents feel nostalgic when they look at the historic buildings of the city like the Kissa Khuwani Bazaar, Masjid Mahabat Khan and Bala Hisaar Fort that date from the Mughal Era. Hundreds of years ago, Peshawar was a very touristy place famous with merchants from Central Asia, who dealt in dried fruits, woolen products, rugs and carpets. The city was under British control from 1849-1947, and several residential areas, especially the Cantonment feature buildings dating from the British Era.

Peshawar is surrounded by hills and mountains from three sides that make it look like a valley. The hills are an amazing sight to see, and have history associated to them.

While commuting to and from work, I’ve always stared at the hills that are visible from the road and our campus. They look majestic both in the morning and in the evening, particularly because of how bright they appear in sunlight when it falls on them, or peeks from behind them during a sunset.

These hills aren’t the lush kind, they’re kind of rocky. Mostly covered with grass, and having limestone and gravel, these hills are still no less than a marvel. I call them a “marvel” because they have the historical “Khyber Pass” running through them. The most northerly and important of the passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The pass connects Kābul, the capital of Afghanistan with Peshāwar. The pass has historically been the gateway for invasions of the Indian subcontinent from the northwest. Through it have passed Persians, Greeks, Mughals, Afghans, and the British, for whom it was the key point in control of the Afghan border.

I’ve always been a traveller at heart, and the view of lofty hills and mountains stirs a wanderlust in me. Whenever I find my routine tedious, I feel like leaving the conventional lifestyle of the city and go live in the mountains like a bohemian. I think taking a break away from this noisy world where we’re overly occupied with worldly affairs is what can truly clear and purify our mind, body, and soul.

Living in the mountains with no T.V, cellphone and modern facilities means you’ll have a minimalist lifestyle and hence will have more time to savour the natural beauty around you. How peaceful would it be, ah!

Have you ever felt that there’s a bohemian — a wanderer, a vagabond, and an adventurer in you? Do you crave going away somewhere far?

Sometimes not knowing where you’re going is the best way to get somewhere you’ve never been!

Khyber Hills at daytime

Image captured by Maria A.

A 100 Followers! Thank You for Your Love and Support ❤️️

Hello dear readers and followers!

Today feels like a BIG day and I want to thank you all for it.

This milestone on WordPress has been achieved because of your love and support. There was a time when I had just started off, I was not sure if I’ll win friends here or if anyone would read what I write. I was looking for people to talk to, people to learn from and be part of an ever-growing community. I looked for inspiration, for mentors and for hope.

Today feels like a dream come true, I’m grateful to all of you, you’ve contributed to my success, my growth as a person and as a writer. I hope we’ll stay connected, keep growing and keep inspiring those who look up to us for encouragement.

I would like to raise a toast to celebrate this moment, and to wish you all the happiness and success you desire in your lives!

❤️️

Photo by cottonbro

Screens are Monsters: Kick Your Screen Habit in 6 Easy Ways

Screens are monsters that manipulate us into feeding them.

Everyone knows that screens are bad for health and well-being, but still, kids, teens, and adults have a hard time putting their digital devices down! Why is it so?

These monsters are actually manipulating us into feeding them! They cunningly beckon us to take a peek and seduce us with their pings and rings. Phones themselves aren’t inherently addictive, it’s the apps that do the trick. They offer rewards and gratification in form of likes and comments on social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat etc.

Read here:

https://maria-anwar06.medium.com/screens-are-monsters-kick-your-screen-habit-in-6-easy-ways-6f20180862ad

Here’s to the Crazy Ones, the Misfits, the Rebels…

Yes, I am mad and insane! (Sometimes there’s a method in madness)

Aristotle once said “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”

Photo by Sachith Ravishka Kodikara

Today a random thought just crossed my mind regarding “madness.” Sometimes it is very easy for us to label “different” people as crazy, mad and insane. Whoever seems to challenge the norms is called a troublemaker, we vilify him/her and in trying to do so we selfishly want ourselves to feel sane and more normal.

We often pronounce some forms of art as “madness” and we also call some very talented men and women as “mad.” It is so because the culture we grew up in defined the “normal” for us. Culture has been constantly manipulated to support certain things and repress others. Though some cultural practices must be respected, there are others which must become obsolete. I say so because every person has a different story based on their experience of life. By the way, culture is a human construct just like our language is.

If it is madness to live one’s life according to one’s own preferences, then let it be..

I think the person who tried to make the first airplane was mad too, and the women who went to war were mad as hell!

The bitter truth is that we basically envy free-spirited people! We don’t like people who dare to chase their dreams, because we never had the guts to materialize ours. We are so used to staying in our comfort zones, that people who’re free of the shackles we were brought up in, people who question rules, people who assert their independence, people who have no respect for the “status quo,” disturb us. Those who function with a desire to bring change, seem “mad” and out of their wits!

One of the famous science fiction writers named Philip K. Dick, who thought his wildest fantasies had a way of becoming scientific facts, said:

“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him. The problem, then, is that if subjective worlds are experienced too differently, there occurs a breakdown in communication … and there is the real illness.”

Similarly, Rob Siltanen once remarked that “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

There’s always some reason in madness.. and I leave it to you find that reason. Let all mad people live their life to the full. Let us all have the courage to be MAD and insane! 🙂

Scrawls of an Archaeophile, a Lover of Old Things and Places

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

Jonathan Safran once remarked “Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on…It is strange how we hold on to pieces of the past while we wait for our futures…”

The human mind has this wonderful ability to think about its own thinking. In Psychology, they call it “metacognition” — becoming “aware of one’s awareness” or higher-order thinking skills.

Nowadays, I often find myself looking in the mirror trying to see those fine lines around my eyes. Time flies for sure and at this stage of my life, I find myself thinking more about my own thoughts, my “old” thoughts.

I would say it is quite interesting to try to understand one’s own pattern of thoughts and musings.

Catching myself gravitated towards old things and places, I reminisce some fine lines from Charles Lamb’s essay on “Antiquity” :

“Antiquity! thou wondrous charm, what art thou? that being nothing art everything? When thou wert, thou wert not antiquity – then thou wert nothing, but hadst a remoter antiquity, as thou calledst it, to look back to with blind veneration; thou thyself being to thyself flat, jejune, modern! What mystery lurks in this retroversion? or what half Januses are we, that cannot look forward with the same idolatry with which we for ever revert! The mighty future is as nothing, being everything! the past is everything, being nothing!”

Lamb knew what it felt like to be nostalgic! Nobody can put it more exquisitely in words than him.

You find a lot of people telling you not to live in the past, but Oh! the pleasure of taking that walk down the memory lane — nothing like it!

I would rather embrace my past, the old days, the old things and places that are now memories to be relished, I would never try to cut them out from my experience of this world. They made ME. They are pure gold!

I would rather be myself, my “evolved self” than pretend to be something I’m not. I won’t part with my old self, and still keep my new self. I think most of you would agree with me. You are what you are because of what you’ve seen and gone through.

Visiting museums, witnessing old architecture, and strolling through antique shops has somehow become an addiction to me. These places are the “nothing” and “everything” that my soul craves, I desire to take them in like a breath of old air, like a scent, that soothes me somewhere inside. Everything seems to be time-kissed after all these years!

A part of me surprisingly feels young again when I visit the school I once went to in my childhood, and the bazaars I used to shop in. A part of me also mourns, when I recall the people who are not there anymore.

As the winter nears its prime, I sit in my cozy lounge chair and read poetry .. I contemplate how life has been. As I sip warm tea from the mug, I peek from the window at the grey sky with a hazy sun, and once again get reminded how all things old and beautiful, are also shrouded by a mysterious haze which renders them a charm incomparable.

Time has callously ensnared a lot of beautiful things and places around me, or should I say, transformed them into something more lovely, more admirable by its sacred touch!

Maybe I should just greet the passing of time like an old friend…

Antiquity! thou wondrous charm, what art thou? that being nothing art everything?

How Cleanliness Relates to Mental Health

Photo by Skitterphoto

We are quite familiar with phrases like “home sweet home” and “no place like home,” but the homes these phrases refer to are clean and organised homes that give a sense of comfort and not stress.

 It is very important from a hygienical point of view to live in a clean house, that is free of pathogens and nasty rodents. It always feels very good and welcoming when you enter a clean and well-organized house. Your house is more like a heaven with everything neat, clean, and properly managed!

The biggest benefit of having a clean home is that you enjoy good health and feel happy. Scientifically, cleanliness has a very profound relation to mental health and researches have proved that it reduces levels of stress and fatigue. A house or room that is full of clutter is not a pleasant sight to see, plus it subconsciously reminds you that you have got work to do. People who are in a habit of cleaning their houses regularly, are physically active and are not that prone to mood swings compared to those who live in messy spaces. Psychiatrists say that the way a person lives in a house tells a lot about their personality and that there are psychological reasons behind it.

Let us look at the importance of regular house cleaning and its benefits:

A clean house improves mental health

Messy and disorganised spaces cause stress and fatigue. It takes you longer to find things in a place that is not tidy, and the mess hinders your physical activity. When you’re not mentally at ease in the space you call your home, you become a victim of mental health issues. The stress and fatigue from the clutter you’ve accumulated seriously affect your immune system and you become prone to illnesses. You must take out time to tidy up your cupboards, cabinets, and other storage areas to reduce the spread of pests, and treat problem areas immediately. Principally, a house must be restful and not teeming with clutter.

A study conducted in 2010, that involved “linguistic analysis” found that women who lived in cluttered environments complained of depression and fatigue, and had higher levels of the stress hormone “cortisol” in their bodies.

Sweeping other outer parts of the house like the patio, yard, or garden also helps in keeping dangerous insects like mosquitoes and spiders away. Unclean and messy spaces give a sense of chaos and discomfort to our minds and impact our lives negatively. Hence, keeping a house clean and your rooms tidy has immense benefits regarding your psychological and physical well-being. A cleaner house makes you feel happier and lighter! Dr. Ralph Ryback in his blog “Truisms of Wellness” explains that there’s a powerful psychology behind cleanliness, and suggests methods that help reap the benefits of health by living in a clean house.

Cleanliness also keeps, germs, allergies, and asthma at bay

A clean environment is germ-free and therefore regularly cleaning your house can keep dust-mites and bed-bugs away. There are fewer chances of getting allergy from dust or other allergens when you frequently vacuum your floors, carpets, sofas and other upholstery. Doctors always advise patients of allergy to keep their living spaces clean, free of pet dander, and pollen. Deep cleaning a house every weekend is essential for a healthy and active life. We must hang our wet towels, bedspreads, and quilts outside in the sunlight.

Doctors say that it’s very important to keep bathrooms and kitchens clean as bacteria and viruses grow very fast in damp and unclean places. The kitchen counters and dishwashing areas should be thoroughly cleaned with bleach and disinfectants. Kitchen towels must be sanitized after every use and the use of cleaning sponges should be avoided. There must be a proper way of waste or trash disposal, and eatables in the kitchen must be kept covered in airtight containers.

You must ensure that your bathrooms should are kept dry, free of mold, and contaminants. It is advisable to use a disinfectant that kills 99% of germs to disinfect the faucets, flush, and sinks of a bathroom.

Tidying living spaces and cleaning the home thoroughly every week helps stop the growth of bugs, rodents, and other insects. It makes your environment ideal for your family members and loved ones, and it saves you from getting embarrassed when guests stop by your house unannounced.

Organized and clean spaces ensure safety and reduce the risk of injury

Safety should always be a priority with you, and keeping your family safe has a lot to do with the way you manage the cleanliness of your house. If your children’s toys are always all over the floor, and you have boxes tucked in under your sofa and couches then you are more prone to injury. Several people have reported tripping over wrongly placed furniture or getting injured by loose items falling on them from the top of disorganised shelves. A healthy lifestyle can only be adopted through clean living space. The benefits of a clean house include safety and reduced risk of injuries.

A clean place keeps you physically fit and increases your overall productivity

Everybody wants to stay physically fit by losing those extra pounds. People who are in a habit of cleaning up their houses daily get to exercise their body, and hence improve blood flow. Doing a physical activity like sweeping, brooming, or vacuuming makes the brain release hormones like dopamine and serotonin in the bloodstream, which results in stabilizing our mood and fighting depression. Whether you work from home or you go to an office, a clean organized environment improves your ability to accomplish your tasks timely and with greater productivity. People who work in cluttered spaces procrastinate more and often feel demotivated.

It is very important that we keep our desk and physical environment of workplace tidy and organized. Workers who frequently lose documents due to cluttered desks, gain a lousy reputation at work, and end up losing their jobs. An IDC survey conducted in 2012, found that many workers in the IT field waste a lot of time looking for misplaced documents and reports. This wasted time cost the organizations a loss of around 21.3% in their total productivity.

Another research article titled “Procrastinators and Clutter: An Ecological View of Living with Excessive Stuff” published in 2017 mentioned that there was a co-relation between chronic procrastinators and their environment. The researchers concluded that “clutter in one’s living space, negative emotions, and impaired social ability all predicted high procrastination scores.”

Our brain inherently likes order and a study conducted by Princeton University of Neuroscience shows that “constant visual reminders of disorganization drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus.” It also proved that people who cleared the clutter from their environment were better able to focus on their work.

Hence, a healthy life goes hand in hand with clean environment and this fact cannot be denied on any premises. I would finally quote another study conducted by Dr. NiCole R. Keith which proved that people who live in clean houses were more healthy, than those who lived in messy houses.

So turn up some radio, and start cleaning your house for a healthier and safer life!

To Write or Not to Write!

Who said that everyday should be productive?

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

Everyone here who talks writing, tells you to write, write more, write daily and write spontaneously. Nobody tells you that it’s okay “not to write” sometimes!

Being a freelance writer can be tough at times. Those deadlines, your pending writing projects and your valued clients, all make sure that you’re mentally occupied but there are days when you don’t feel like doing anything, and there are days when you would rather like to read, than write.

Don’t compare yourself to others, everybody is different. If you really want to compare something, compare your unhealthy routine with that of a healthy one. Are you a well-rested person? Do you eat healthy? Do you exercise? Whatever we’re going through because of a global pandemic, calls for deeper understanding of our priorities and habits. Stress is mostly the cause of a weaker immune system and hence all ailments!

I say take it easy folks! If you take a break for a day, the world won’t come crashing down on you! After all we are human and not robots or machines that keep on running non-stop. Our bodies and minds need rest, self-care isn’t about being selfish. Self-care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you.

Whether you work full-time or part-time, are a single parent like me who is a freelancer, or even if you’re just a housewife, you MUST look after yourself so that those you are tending to and are working for, find you in a healthy sate of mind. Eating well, exercising and resting will all improve your overall health and will in turn increase your productivity. You will finally come up with a writing that shines, glows and inspires!

We often hear about writer’s block, procrastination and lack of motivation from people who write for a living. The causes behind such issues are usually a lack of routine and work-life balance. Make it a rule that you’ll take break from work, will go for a nature walk and enjoy a family activity often.

There’s no need to get overworked, so much so that it takes a toll on your health. Keep as many clients as you can handle as a writer. Prefer quality over quantity and you’ll see yourself making progress. Deadlines and projects won’t be a headache once you achieve balance by taking care of yourself first.

Avoid squeezing the last drop of energy out of yourself by consuming tons of caffeine, or smoking like a chimney! Replace the junk and unhealthy stuff with fruits, herb teas and fresh juices that are good stress-busters and nerve relaxants.

Read something nice and light to stabilise your mood and stay happy! Life is a blessing, and it is too short to be spent fretting and worrying. Take good care of yourself, create a balance and everything will fall into place 🙂

Alternate Worlds in Postmodern Fiction

A Cross-Genre Analysis of Gaiman’s Selected Works

One of the key features that marks the fiction of the postmodern era is the subverting of age old traditions and beliefs. This is most commonly done by proposing the existence of multiple realities. This trend has also given rise to what is now being called the transrealist movement. Transrealism is one of the major literary movements of the 21st century, that emerged by blurring the boundary between fantasy and reality. Many writers have written fiction about alternative worlds; Neil Gaiman is one of them. The study analysed three ‘alternate world’ novels namely; Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and Neverwhere by Gaiman as transreal works that address multiple audiences on social issues.

The research examined the social impact of the selected works across three genres of children, young adult and adult fiction, by employing a theoretical model based on Rucker’s Transrealist Manifesto, and Poststructuralist theories of Derrida and  Lyotard.

The analyses revealed that the selected works of Gaiman with ‘alternate worlds’ have transreal elements and satirize social reality of the world by presenting an alternate reality. This alternate reality experienced by the protagonists of the novels, highlights social problems regarding parenting, family ties, teen rebellion, class division, poverty and lack of compassion for the underprivileged. The conclusion derived therefore proves that the works studied being transreal; subvert consensus reality by offering variety of world-views and embed themes pertaining to social reality.


Speculative fiction of the 20th century is best exemplified by the growth of new genres, it is difficult to determine where science ends and where fiction begins, the wildest fantasies of science fiction writers have a way of becoming scientific fact. Science fiction always worked hand in hand with fantasy and came to be called “science-fantasy” as well, but postmodern fiction being a blend of genres and techniques, added realism to this combination in order to construct parallel worlds existing side by side the author’s world. These fictional worlds offered an alternative view of social reality and became an instrument of social criticism. This is how Transreal Fiction emerged, which though has elements of science-fantasy, is rooted in realism and represents higher reality of our own life, and its problems.

The focus of the current study is “alternate worlds” which are built with transreal elements across three genres of Children, Young Adult and Adult fiction. Neil Gaiman is known for crossover fiction and as a cross-genre writer; his works have immense academic scope and are counted among postmodern classics. The researcher chose to work on Transrealism because it is a revolutionary form of writing that demands recognition and appreciation. Crossover fiction crosses over from one audience to another and cross-genre writing is that which traverses genres.

Author of speculative fiction Damien Walter, who also writes for The Guardian defines the emerging genre of Transrealism as; “It’s not science fiction, it’s not realism, but hovers in the unsettling zone in-between (2014, para. 1). Additionally, another Australian critical theorist and Science fiction writer, Damien Broderick calls Transrealism the unleashing of the fantastical and strange into ordinary life(2009, p. 10). It has been found that Neil Gaiman can be considered as a transrealist, who has a way of highlighting realities of life through fantastic stories. This thesis focuses on Transrealist traits in Neil Gaiman’s three novels that have been chosen for study. The researcher has systematically explored how this mode of speculative writing and the literary devices associated with it bring out the social behaviours, attitudes and issues that the author has satirized.

Alternate worlds stand for looking at reality from a different angle and represent variety of world-views. The fiction which employs this approach can foster change in its readers, by letting them see an alternate reality better from their own social reality. Postmodernists being sceptic, and influenced by deconstructionist approach are concerned with the unreliability, uncertainty and imprecision of the knowledge that exists. This is why the contemporary fiction including science fiction, aims at deconstructing popular myths that are tools of mass thought-control. Postmodernism hence is all about possibility of multiple truths, alternate realities and possible worlds that man may not know of. Transreal approach to speculative fiction has a social value, because it addresses multiple audiences on themes concerning social reality, which is built upon certain repressive ideologies, and is questionable.

(I did my thesis on this topic, felt like sharing the abstract and introduction with those who are literature enthusiasts.)

Available on Amazon.com for purchase
https://www.amazon.com/Alternate-Worlds-Postmodern-Fiction-Cross-Genre/dp/6138937635