Why I gave up coffee.

20 Apr

  

I have gone seven days without coffee. And I couldn’t be more proud.

A week doesn’t sound much to you, right?

Well, figure into that this; I don’t remember any time in the past three years where I went even a day without a cup of it.

In fact. Twice a day had become my minimum in the past two years.

So seven days without it? Something that once seemed impossible to me? I’ve done it. And I feel better than I would have expected mysef to feel. I wouldn’t put “energized” and “more productive” yet on the list, for to be honest the fourth day of the experiment, all my insomnia disappeared and I slept. For six hours straight. With only a tiny break. (Huge for me.) But. There have been so many other pros, that for the next fourteen days at least, I’m willing to overlook this con.

But why, after three years, the sudden change? And why the hope that I might be able to extend this 2-week challenge into something more long term?

Although my mother would like to believe it was her continuous pushing that got me off of it, that’s not the answer. It was the late in coming , and yet the all too sudden, realization that this much amount of caffeine was doing me more harm than good. What harm? Nothing too big, and yet too much. But to keep it concise,  here are the five main reasons why I ended up taking a little time off from my elixir. Five reasons which might inspire you to cut a little back on your coffee too.

1. I had become too jittery. Not just the “I can’t sleep” or ” I can’t stop moving kind” but my attention span had grown shorter and shorter. So much so, that I couldn’t even keep my mind focused on a conversation at hand. Or in the here and now. My anxiety levels were shooting up, which was probably the worst of all my problems. I could see this leading to a nervous breakdown-if not in a year then in three, and when a family doctor advised that this all could be sprouting from my caffeine, I finally decided to take his advice and cut back on it. Has it helped? The insomnia, a little. The jitteriness, again slightly. The rest? Let’s see.

2. My skin had gone to the dogs. Literally. Pimples-a new one every day. Dull skin. And I don’t know what not. And although my mother always told me it was because of my coffee it’s only now that I realise the truth in her words. Sounds insane? It isn’t. In seven days my skin looks better than it has in ever. And for just that I am willing to stick to this cleanse for longer than 14 days.

3. It actually does dry you up, even the parts you don’t want to. I first came across a readearch my friend forwarded to me. It said how it can shrink up parts of you, dries them up, parts you wouldn’t want that dried up. And then a friend of my mother, a doctor, told me the same. They might be wrong, but for the sake of it, I want to see if a decrease in my caffeine will go to prove them right or not. 

4. It causes tachycardia. Yes. It fastens up your heart rate. Not just right after the strong (fourth) cup of your joe when you feel your heart will beat right up and out of your mouth. But it alters your normal rythm. I came across this fact in a physiology practical in my university. We had to take the pulse of each other and when my friend took mine she was astonished by how irregular mine was. It would go on from a normal rythm to a faster one to an extremely slow one, in the space of a minute. But that was three years back. It has worsened now. All coffee drinkers have it, but the more you drink it, the worse it gets-till the point where it can morph into ventricular tachycardia. Which can, yes, lead to death. It didn’t scare me till a couple of weeks back, when I was lying in my bed and the (4) coffees I had had decided to let my heart know about their presence. The way it’s rate went wild, I think part of me promised myself right then that I would never like to be back at that point again. Has my pulse rythm improved? Not much. But I’m willing to be patient about the results in this area.

5. It had become a source of too many fats for me.  You can’t always have it black, and all the lattes and ‘ccinos and frappes that I was picking up at my favorite cafes were definitely adding to my weight. It’s not a sudden thing, it builds up on you slowly, without you realizing it. Till one day you realize that though you have been cutting on all other sources of fat, you have still put on weight. (Damn you coffee, I trusted you.)

Maybe these reasons won’t be enough to keep me off coffee forever. Maybe, next week I’ll be back to two cups a day. But I’m trying. And till now-succeeding. And till I can be sure I am back in the safe zone with this little addiction? I’m going to take it a day at a time.

Let’s see how it goes though.

Love,

Gull.

The Giver.

17 Apr

The first time I read the Godfather, I loved it.

The idea of a whole underground mafia running through the loopholes of the most stringent law forces, was amazing. And the way Mario Puzo presents the criminal families to you, the power, the understated fame, the fear. It all leaves you…star struck. 

And then their is the Don himself.

He, his three sons. I could probably right essays on them. Full of both their praise and criticism.

But even more, they inspired an awe in me. An urge to know more about them, an understanding that the wish was as childish as wishing for Hogwarts to be real (meh, we have all wanted that now).

However, it’s when I was reading the book the second time around that I came across the most important message in the book. The secret to Don’s success. Something the glam of it all let me miss the first time around.

And his secret weopan was just one attribute that he was intelligent enough to take it up very early in his life.

He was a giver.

Theory says, that in this world there are three kinds of people. The matchers, the takers and the givers.

The matchers probably live the hardest of the lives, because they spend their’s keeping a tab on who owes what to whom and by how much. Who never forget a favor they did for someone and keep waiting for them to respond with one of their own. For a chance to take it back. It’s not just disgusting. It’s a life time handicap, for in the struggle to keep the score equal, they fail to actually live, to keep up with those around them. They exist. Their only worry being the score board, never even playing the game to its full.

The takers seem to have the best of it, for they are getting what they want, how they want-no matter their means to get it. They don’t mind what they owe to whom, but soon the people around them do begin to mind how much they have been “taking”. And inevitable as their reluctance is, so is the fall of these takers from their faux greatness. For it came from a web of deceit and wishes, not hardwork. These are those who forgot to wander in the right direction, and now they are lost.

And then there are those whom people would like to believe are stupid. Whom some would like to con, but only true genius would see their worth. They are the Dons. They are the givers. They are ready to bestow any favor on you as they strive on their own path to success, hoping for nothing in return, but a friendship which with such kindness would be inevitable. The Don’s price for the hardest of favors was the promise of a friendship, and isn’t it how it practically is, but without the question of it? You do a man a kindness, how then would he not love knowing you when you ask for no tat to this tit? Why wouldn’t ten men come to your help when you helped thirty in their need. Maybe the scoreboards would never be equal, but it’s more than about just that.

It’s about getting something money can’t buy you. 

The joy of putting a smile on someone’s face, the warmth of someone’s hearty hug, a simple thank you note, that silent acknowledgment of your support. Sometimes the biggest gifts lie in the tiniest of gestures. Hence, unseeingly, and then more apparently too, the givers begin to leave all the others behind on the scoreboard. And as they continue to rush towards a victory, they never lose their chance at living. 

In short, the Godfather has taught me, just as life has too, that the best amongst us aren’t the ones keeping score nor the ones leaning around in the background, rather it’s the ones on the battlefield, who can spar without regret, without worry and without getting lost as they wander.

So take a step forward, and be gentle. Give without wanting. Take only when you can’t avoid it, but never keep score. Help, smile, do, share. Be everyone’s support, solution, hero. Hope. And let no one be let down by you. 

Then watch how speedy your own victory is. 

Feminine Fridays

6 Feb
-'Aimee'

-‘Aimee’

It’s not easy I tell you.
The curling, the blow-drying.
The skin care, the make-up.
The dressing, the walk, the talk.

Being a girly girl, it is infinitely more than this all, and hence so so hard.
I mean, it’s adopting a lifestyle, but it feels more like a 24/7 job.
Progress? There has been some, just some. The walking might not be at it’s best, but my slouching habits are much a story of the past. Which brings me to my next aim, my hair.

I love my hair, I really do. But I have gotten into the habit of doing nothing to them-NOTHING. I just brush them, and I am out the door. Part of it might be the fact that I love the snooze button of my alarm, and am usually left with five minutes to do it all, from brushing my teeth to making it to the car on time (in the right shoes…;-) ) almost every morning.

It was only this past weekend that I got my hair blow dried into the most delish of waves when I realized what a rut I had gotten myself into where my hair are concerned (or maybe it was my friends’ shock on the change in my hairstyle that finally jarred me out of the laziness), but either ways, it has made me realize that it is time to up my game.

New Objective:- Try new hairstyles.

But tell me, are you having trouble with styling you hair too? How are you dealing with it? If you have any tips for vegetables like me when it comes to hair, I would love to hear them.

Until next time, here is some rad pretty stuff to inspire your femininity.

1. This pink coat is like the chicest girly-go to!

Nothing more feminine|than pink.

Nothing more feminine|than pink.

2. This DIY is the cutest!!! #girlyapproved

3. This Nasty gal top is EVERYTHING!

I just.

I just.

4. Dainty jewelry is good, but dainty hand chains? The girl-bomb. Get similar here.

I love this.

I love this.

WTF Wednesday

21 Jan

WTF do you wear on a rainy Uni morning-where you will have to commute between the campus and the hospital, walk around the wards and the labs? I asked myself that a million times this morning and almost all the times I drew a blank before finally sitting down and taking (too much) time to think my options through. Now, though, having partly answered the question successfully today, here I am sharing my tips (and favorite looks) to help inspire your wardrobe choices on a similar rainy day.

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1.Rain boots:-You need to be in flats, understandably, as you navigate through the rain washed/wet roads. But you also need shoes which will keep your feet warm against the cold wet ground and that will not be damaged by any water. Rain boots are not just the solution, they are the answer to every fashionista’s prayer. Because they come not only in the prettiest colors, but also in different styles. And, they make walking around in rain a piece of (delicious) cake. Without any slipping involved.

2. Wear those gloves:- Winter rains might be pretty, but definitely too cold to brave without proper insulation. And with the infinite options in gloves that we have, they are not just a pretty accessory but a pick-me-up for any look.

3. Leather jackets:- They and winter rain just go together like peanut butter and jelly for me, and add a pretty knit to it and you are in heaven-clothing heaven.

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4. Don’t forget your umbrella, ella, ella…:-But do invest in a pretty one to make it am accessory for you rather than an extra load.

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5. Bright make up:- Everything is already in every possible shade of grey, don’t add to that. Stand out, and pick your own mood up, with a bright lippy or catchy eye makeup.

6. Tie your hair: Because with or without any rainwater getting into them, they are sure to get frizzy yet weirdly oily and completely unmanageable if you don’t tie them up. So, TIE THEM UP!

Tasteful Thursdays-Black coffee

15 Jan

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It’s drizzling outside, you don’t have just a long day ahead, rather a long week. Because, oh snap, it’s Monday. And you have to drag yourself out of your warm covers and plunge into the wild, viscous world out side. Drench yourself in the cold knocking on your windows. But the very though of it all sends you shivering deeper into the covers and as you close your eyes against the horrors awaiting you, you send out a little prayer. A hopeless wish to help you survive it all, to give you the incentive to get out of bed and face the nightmares.
And then it hits you. The answer to your prayers. The perfect mix of “rev-you-up for world domination” and incomparable paradise-for-your-taste-buds taste. Your personal Monday-pick-me-up.
Black coffee.
They say you need time to acquire the taste for this coffee, that and guts.
I disagree.
You only need a well prepared cup of this mysterious drink, the rest would be taken care of by it’s own irresistible aromas and the rich flavor of freshly ground coffee shining as it’s brightest star. If it’s not done just rightly, if the aroma or the taste or even the color fails to rise above a minimum effective level to bombard your reward/happy-making centers, then, duh you won’t be able to gulp it down.
No matter how big a coffee-holic you are.
Why do I say this? Experience.
I was a born coffee lover, yet no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t develop a “taste” for black coffee (not even the long black) till I realized I wasn’t doing anything wrong. The coffee was. And it was doing all sorts of wrongs. How? By falling short in one or more of the areas mentioned above.
In short, I was buying second class black coffee. And trying to fall for it. Until I stopped trying, and then God led me to not just the love I craved but the reason why I couldn’t get it, in the form of the most perfect cup of black coffee I had ever had. I came across it by forced chance, sheer circumstantial lack of choice, which had me ending up at one of my favorite cafés in Lahore. And, somehow, the friend I was with persuaded me to give their black a shot (pun not intended). Timidly, reluctantly, I gave in to her and giving up my black-coffee boycott, I ordered a cup.
And never did I regret that decision. From the time since I first glimpsed the rich, deep, utter blackness of it, smelled it’s mind numbingly amazing aroma, tasted it’s tongue tingling bitterness, I remained a fan of CTC black coffee for a long time.
Until I got up the courage and tried a couple of other places whose black coffees were even more unforgettable (especially now when CTC’s is no more that good). And which proved that black coffee needs only to be made with enough love to make it easy for one to love.
Which places were those? Here is a list of my favorite cafés for black coffee.
1. Stumptown cafe, New York.
2. Mocca, Gulberg, Lahore.
3.At the risk of sounding highly cliched-Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.
4. Ninth street espresso, New York.
5. Greyhound Cafe, West Lafayette, Indiana.
6. Butler’s chocolate cafe.

There are other cafés too, whose black coffees are fat better than just good, but if you want to get acquainted to the taste of them or just like getting the best of the best-then it doesn’t get better than this. Of course, Gloria Jean’s (especially the Islamabad outlet) gets an honorary mention. But I wouldn’t call them black coffee experts, even though they offer the best in some other areas of the coffee “dynasty”.😉
And, to be honest, all this coffee talk has made me crave another cup myself. So, as I quickly wind this up to rush to the kitchen and treat myself with one, let me just leave you on the warning-black coffee isn’t just addictive, it can wind up becoming the centre of your universe.
Just kidding. Not really. 😜

Until next time,
Gull.

Humanity, our ray of hope.

14 Jan

Where did humanity go? Have you seen it anywhere?
In the silent vigils, perhaps, held for the 134 kids who were murdered in a fashion too brutal to be uttered, in the name of some insanity?
In the charity collected to aid the dying kids in Thar, victims of poor nutrition and health, tagged as “death tolls rising” from the drought?
Maybe it lies in the solidarity shown via the hashtags for the cartoonists at Hebdo who died doing their job or maybe it’s in the vocal acknowledgement of the Muslim guard who gave his life for the same magazine’s right to express.
Or, do you think, it’s hidden somewhere in Israel’s continued acts to control the Palestinians or in the mass protests against it? In the vocal opposition of terrorism in the world or in the silent acceptance of killing of some religions, for the sake of protection of others?
Can you see it? A hazy glimpse?
If you do, point it out to me, because despite the straining and continual searching, I can’t seem to find it.
Do you want to know where I think it’s gone to?
It was washed away in the mother’s tears whose only kid got killed at school, amongst over a hundred others, because his father was fighting against the extremist, and yet, who couldn’t be brought to justice. It was forced out of the lonely man by the road, whose whole family was wiped out in an attack in Palestine. It was bled out of Ahmed Meramet’s family, whose own blood couldn’t save Islam’s reality in the face of the brutal murder of Charlie Hebdo by some psychopathic extremists. It was shaken out of the girls of my country, as they saw Malala Yousafzai fight for her life.
Or maybe.
It left us all, each and every one of us, silently, steadily yet all at once, as we grew, to an extent, desensitized to all these deaths and all this pain.
It left, never to be gotten back again.
“Where did our humanity go”, a friend exclaimed today, shaking her head, ” and what’s going to become of us?”
What indeed is going to become of us, when we face all our enemies with our whole selves exposed. With our only weapon, our only solace, leaving us. Bereft. Unprotected. Deserted.
What are we without humanity, but empty shells with no sense of justice.
It wasn’t humanity that made us weak, no. It was, will always be, our greatest strength. The one thing that separated us from the other forms of life. The one difference that we have lost now, as the contrast between us and animals grows less apparent every day.
You shrug now, I suppose, “What does she know? I am not at a loss of humanity yet. I was at the forefront of the protest condemning the attack in Paris; I wrote the most moving article against terrorism in the US; I used social media brilliantly to raise my voice against Pakistani terrorism.” But as you go on thinking of your accomplishments, let me just ask-is that all really humanity? Or is it just you, a human, choosing a side as a person. Acquiring an individuality as you identify yourself at one end against the other.
Non Muslims against Muslims.
French against extremists.
Israelis against Palestinians.
Pakistanis against TTP.
Americans against terrorists.
And so goes on the list.
Condemning, complaining, blaming; finding fault in the opposing side, yet unseeing the children, the families, the powerless people who end up becoming the victims of all these oppositions. Of all these wars-cold, or otherwise.
“Oh but we see them. We condemn their deaths too. We aren’t that unfeeling, we are sad for them, we wish away their pains with our hearts.”
I hear you. But do you really hear them? Can you hear the parents’ silent weeping whose kids are dying of hunger in Pakistan, or are you too busy holding them in contempt for being “Muslims”?
Can you feel the pain of Ahmed’s family, over not only his death but the fact that it counted up to nothing in the face of the misrepresentation of his religion by some extremists or did you feel rid of your duty by reposting beautifully done illustrations, through which you unknowingly advocated the fact that some lives are more important than others?
Is your conscience so light that it feels cleared after writing a touchy status, sharing a moving illustration, reading a tear jerking article?
In this sea of pain, silent vigils and mourning mothers, do you not want to come forward first as a human and then as a nation, as a religion, an ideology? Wouldn’t you prefer to live with the motto “je suis in etre humain”?
Every one loves his country, his beliefs, his religion more than the next person-or at least everyone of us likes to believe so. But before we let our thoughts divide us, our judgement lead us astray, shouldn’t we rather save this one dying belief that will bring to us what all our forefathers must have dreamed of.
A world living in peace. A human race in harmony, with each other and with their own self.
I do not tell you to give up your opinions, to not to take sides. I don’t ask for the impossible, but I beg for you to feel your heart-not to love a chosen few, but to love all. And let us all then, love each other.
Today, I beg you to make a pledge, but before that I plead with that little humanity hopefully sparking to life in you. I plead with it to help you realize, that no one’s life is more important than the next one. Killing one man is killing the whole humanity. Killing one child, is equal to erasing the word’s very existence itself. That’s what my faith teaches me. To protect the human race before fighting for anything else. When we hear of death, let our first questions be not of the victim’s caste or creed, their crimes nor their backgrounds, but let’s make an effort and turn these questions into ones for help. Requesting to lend our support, our prayers, our care in any way and every way. Because we can condemn what we choose to be wrong even after that, but if we confuse the sequence of these acts, what little ambers of humanity reside in this world yet, we would be erasing their existence, killing it all with our own hands.
And, I fear, it might then be too late for regret.
So let’s regret now, when we still have time. Mourn the children who died, even if they were Muslim, mourn for the Charlies of the world no matter their opinion on other’s religions, resent the deaths of Palestinians, even if we don’t agree to their demands, pray for the departed casualties of all the disasters that could have been avoided if the perpetrators of the acts leading to them had had any humanity.
For you see, humanity doesn’t just separate us from living beings other than humans, it’s what separates us from the walking dead amongst us, whose brutality our whole race is a victim of right now.
So today, let’s realize that no religion, no belief, no nationality is bigger than humanity. Lets realize that and then, let’s pledge our efforts, to fight first and foremost for humanity. Fight for it and save it. Make it a war for all of us with only one aim-with only one expected result-of wining. Let’s pledge to try and not get lost in the floods of hatred and pain and revenge opening on us. Try and keep it at bay with our last ray of hope.
Humanity.

Tasteful Thursdays

8 Jan

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I am a caffeine junkie.
Anytime now, I will be the first certified coffee-o-holic in my country.
I can down more than a pint of any kind of coffee, if not in one go then at least in a day, and still be craving for more.
The proof of it lies in my insta-feed. And with my mother who bickers over this fact with me all day long, every day.
All of it? True story. But why am I going on about it? Because, almost every day, without break, I have at least one coffee from a cafe. Or a restaurant. Or a hotel. Or whatever crosses my path which is selling a fresh brewed cup of coffee. So, at least in my city, there would be hardly any place from which I haven’t tried coffee at least once.
For wherever I go, my “eccentric” urges make me have to try the best and the worst of coffees from the worst and the best of places.
So, I might not be qualified enough to pass my judgment on much of the else in the list of eatables, but I hope my word on the topic of coffees after so much coffee-gulping holds some weight.
Having shown off enough for a day (totally not-I can brag all day, buuuuut…) let’s get down to more important things. So why the huge build up? Because for January and February, through my ‘Tasteful Thursday” posts, I will be sharing my favorite coffee houses to date-each it’s best for a particular kind of coffee- with you, both in Pakistan and elsewhere.
But it’s Thursday you say, and I am telling you about everything but a good coffee place.
Already there, hyper-birds, already there. 😉
So, what’s the flavor of the day?
Toffeeccino from English Tea House, Lahore (duh I would start with my hometown.)
Cappuccino is probably one of the most loved of coffee types, the most popularly acclaimed and, although it will never be my favorite, it will always be perfect for the kind of rainy winters heading to us. And it’s one of the few cappuccinos for which I would ditch a latte or mocha. Yes, it’s THAT good.
For when it’s the toffee flavored “-ccino” from ETH, believe me you will have your lips smacking for quite some time after the festive flavor of it has left your mouth and will be instantly craving for more. Be warned though, I have gotten many friends not just hooked onto it, but they are now proudly addicted to their Toffeeccino. Even the ones, who like me, agree that most cafés in this city don’t offer even a passably good Capp. So, if you feel like trying something new in the cappuccino department (or have always ignored it and are willing to give it a chance now), this flavor is for you. And so is the place. It’s not just the added toffee flavor that makes it stay in my top ten list. It’s the basic brew of the cappuccino itself. It’s the aroma, with the right amount of bitterness, the umami. The smooth milkiness without the useless froth. It’s the laid back, understated mugs the coffee is served in.
It’s the experience itself. And what an experience it is.
The cozy, yet not closed in interior with the welcoming staff and the quaint English furniture. The warm, welcoming ambiance, the mesmerizing antique paintings and the cute cutlery that all seems to take you to the old English restaurants-as if you walked right into a classic novel, and Mr. Darcy is just a couple of tables away waiting for Elizabeth, sipping away in his tea Queen Elizabeth cutlery. The lighting, down to the casually placed books and the big windows in both the outlets, make for a perfect place for your coffee-meet. And that’s probably the best part, for whatever I said above, stands completely true for both the outlets, though each has some points over the other. For example, while the view from the one in DHA is much better (the busiest cafe square in DHA), the outdoor seating in the one in Gulberg makes up for it’s lack in as good a view. And although the noise from the kitchens is slightly louder in the DHA branch, their mock-library interior makes up for it.
But, whichever branch you choose, the quality of both the coffee and the experience is equally rich and enjoyable.
Plus, both their main menus have enough finger licking-ly good options in the entrée and main course that they will surely satisfy any non-coffee lover who happens to tag along for that caffeine date. And will help you avoid any cribbing. 😜

So, although there are high chances you have already fallen in love with ETH, fall in love with it again while you sip away at one of the best things they offer.

Till next time,
Love,
Gull.

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