Thursday, December 25, 2008

STAYING APART KEEPS ROMANCE ALIVE

Love knows no boundaries. Be it ten hours or ten long years away from your partner, keeping up the intimacy quotient is a prerequisite for any relation to survive. Intimacy doesn't only imply sex, but maintaining a bond that keeps you emotionally involved with your partner.

Writing letters, sending E-mails, phone calls and voice chats are pretty common in a long-distance relationship. Now, what about some out-of-the-box ideas to pep up your love life even while you remain miles away from your beloved? These methods would not only spice up your relationship, but would also let you conquer the distance factor and maintain a never-ending intimacy.

Suneel Vatsyayan, a relationship counselor states, "The most important ingredient of any relationship is communication, especially if it's a long-distance relationship. While communicating, focus on things that reiterate the good moments you both have spent together so that both of you are able to feel closer to each other. Be it an E-mail or a phone call or a web cam conversation, using words, phrases and instances that bring a smile on your partner's face can do the trick." When faced with a lack of reassuring conversations between couples, there might be chances that relationship goes through a turmoil. So, here are a few ways that will help you kill the distance and keep the romance alive.

Snail mails: Quite clich├ęd, but perhaps the most inexpensive way to stay in touch with your partner. The recipient can keep the letter and read it any time they miss you. Mahima, a bank manager feels regular E-mails and letters are the best options to stay connected with her husband stationed in France. "It's tough during office hours to make frequent calls, so by the end of everyday we drop an E-mail in each others' mail box sharing whatever activities we engaged in throughout the day, things that kept us busy, office gossip, family news and plans for the next day. And of course, some lovely messages towards the end of the mail act as an add-on to express how much we care, love and miss each other."

Point to ponder: While writing such mails, do not ramble unnecessarily on mundane details. Keep the focus on your partner and your relationship, mentioning what are your emotions and how you feel without him or her.

Web-cam magic: Overcoming the logistics barriers and staying in contact with your partner throughout the day, web cameras add a much needed kick for long-distance couples. Jitesh Wadhwani, a business consultant in the US enjoys lovemaking moments with his wife through a web cam and feels that they can keep up their sex life alive using virtual means. "It may not be every night, but we try and come online as much as we can to enjoy some pleasurable moments. Surely we miss the physical 'touch,' but merely seeing each other and then enjoying our fantasies is an intoxicating feeling. She (my wife) was a little hesitant initially, but now even she is comfortable and we both enjoy this idea of virtual sex quite a lot," he shares.

Point to ponder: As long as it's between the two of you, there's no harm and you can enjoy sexual pleasure. Internet or web cameras may not be as safe as your physical relationship, so be vigilant about your acts and moves.

Recorded messages: Try sending your lover a taped love message or a CD that alternates between your conversation and some of your beloved's favourite songs. A software engineer by profession, Javeriah misses her husband a lot, who has gone abroad on a business project for two years. Stating that they talk frequently over phone, she adds, "There are endless things to talk about like family members, kids, relatives and other office happenings, but we rarely talk about 'us'. That's when I thought the best way was to record a tape and let him know what I felt. It had everything from how I felt when I saw other couples walking romantically or getting intimate publicly to sleeping alone in bed at night and missing him every moment. I knew the phone would surely ring as soon as he received this and it worked really well. During that call, we spoke about nothing else but about our love, romance and how much we missed each other."

Point to ponder: Mellow down your voice while recording a love message and let your partner hear your thoughts brimming with emotions. Both the message and your recorded voice must touch his heart and the feeling of passion should be clear and loud enough to ignite his senses.

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
mahtabbashir@gmail.com
Voice: 0300 52 56 875
ISLAMABAD

Friday, December 19, 2008

THE END OF CIRCLE

Dedicated to MY MEMORIES: I LIVE & DIEwith them

When the world was fair
And the sky was blue
And our house was small
With its bedrooms two
And the children laughed
As their toys they threw.

And the neighbours kids
Loved our Irish stew
Then each evening when
The kids had been fed
Xenab, Maryum kissed
Cuddled and put to bed.

Then Moazzam dressed in black
While Rehana dressed in red
And off to the parties
As our car was sped.

And everyone of us
Sagely nodded our heads
And prophesied doom
As our money all fled
But we laughed aloud
And our life we said
Was a carpet of roses
‘Neath a star spangled spread.

Time has proved us right
Our house is now bigger
It’s grown a new top
And the noises are fewer
The children went off
On their long school skelter
Moazzam bhai disappeared
And the rooms stood empty
Looking lonelier and neater
And I missed those sweet days
All the mess and the litter
The love and the nonsense
The laughter and the patter.

Slowly but surely
Things shaping up better
Now I’m waiting a moment
When these kids have kids
With God’s grace that’s what matters
And my life’s circle will close
With the grand children’s chatter.

Muhammad Mahtab Bashir
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@yahoo.com
Voice: 0300 52 56 875

Friday, December 12, 2008

AN UGLY OBSESSION WITH THE BODY BEAUTIFUL

Young women today know that talent matters, but that they will go farther if they have the looks to go with them.

Last night, among an audience of high-achieving teenage girls, I found myself a little in awe. How come no one has spots any more? Why are they better groomed, dressed and poised than I am even now? What's with this Identikit babe- licious hair: long, artfully dishevelled, flicked with the imperiousness of a Louis XV courtesan.

These are children raised in an age of supermaterialism. They know their precise market worth, are savvily aware of their assets and oversee them like hedge fund managers. I can imagine many such girls in a few years time entering beauty competitions such as Miss University London - this week picketed by student feminists - using it to extract a gorgeous ballgown from dad, pouting and preening, partying through defeat, then proceding with the business of conquering the world.

As the economy slip-slides towards the 1970s, how appropriate to revive that lava lamp of the sex wars: are beauty contests misogynist? Especially as it is exactly 40 years since “women's libbers” descended on Atlantic City for what they called the “degrading mindless-boob-girlie symbol”, the Miss America pageant, where they filled a brazier with bras, false eyelashes, tweezers, back issues of glossy magazines and suchlike “freedom trash”.

The protesters outside this week's contest echoed the old plea that women be judged for their brains, not their beauty. But what has happened in the past four decades is that women are now measured by both. A woman can be a presidential hopeful, Home Secretary, a classical violinist, the driest of academics, yet she will be judged most harshly upon her appearance and must take care not to neglect her mindless-boob-girlie side.

Today's young women work to that understanding: they aspire to a seat on the board and to look great in a basque. Thanks to decades of hairy-legged protest, no professional field is closed to them. Their grades and talent matter, but they know, all else being equal, they'll go farther faster by looking hot.

So schools now pander to this, having their prettier pupils parade in fashion shows. With a trend for cheerleaders, proms and balls, British education seems to be moving ever closer to the US model of teendom as an explicit contest of beauty and popularity.

So it was heartening that young women students - rather just than the usual Sixties suspects - spoke out against beauty contests. For a decade now, feminism has fallen oddly silent, few voices raised against the pornification of popular culture that has rebranded clip joints as entertainment, pole-dancing as “empowering” and Carnage freshers' balls, in which women are expected to dress as “dirty porn stars”, as innocent fun. Little surprise that for their efforts the protesters were dubbed rabid, jealous and - what else? - ugly.

The American columnist Maureen Dowd noted that women have latterly abandoned feminism for narcissism. As London's neo-libbers may find out, it is wearisome to be forever angry. It takes courage and cussedness not to care that the world thinks you a dog. Easier, more fun to lighten up, go shopping, hang out at the spa and get laid for once.

Moreover, it is no longer just girls who are beseiged by beauty's demands. Listening to the young EastEnders buck Joe Swash on I'm a Celebrity... remark that his backside was his best feature, I wondered when we started grading the male form on its constituent parts. Women have long been a sum of their legs, tits and ass. Now men must have butts, abs, pecs and - as the Strictly Come Dancing rugby player Austin Healey dubs his Popeye biceps - “guns”. The modern male body beautiful is not natural but wholly contrived. Look at the sex gods of the Seventies - Richard Gere in American Gigolo, John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever - and their once lusted-after torsos seem soft and slack where now we expect hardbodied and buff.

There has never been a crueller age in which to be ugly. Once plain Jane looks were a misfortune, now they are a sign of negligence. Go to the gym, see Gok, read Grazia, get a surgeon to sort out that schnozz. No excuses suffice any more. Your Heat-reading contemporaries will look on you with pity and disgust, mentally ringing “circles of shame” around your unwaxed pits and dimpled thighs.

I'm not worrying too hard about the Miss University London contestants dipping a pedicured toe into beauty's shallower end. (Better that show than one I saw advertised in a London nightclub: Miss Real Breasts.) The finalists will go on, in a few years, to be the hottie in accounts, the babe at the Bradford branch. Their worst misfortune will be to start taking their looks too seriously, drift into reality TV or acquire an eating disorder. They are buttressed by education and privilege. Their beauty is only a first-class upgrade: not their ticket to ride.

Unlike the wan girls who hang outside model agencies, the plastic-chested glamour wannabes, the boy-pleasing desperates who send snaps of their breasts to be graded by Nuts magazine or the contestants in the savage professional beauty circuit. The Miss World and Universe contests are regarded as kitsch-fests in the West. Our beauty icons drifted from amateur to professional, from nervous provincial girls in C&A swimwear to supermodels and, latterly, Hollywood stars. Beauty queens were good girls: rigid rules punished promiscuity, pregnancy, even marriage. Maybe we like our chicks a bit dirtier these days.

Today the big beauty titles are fought over by nations with little but pride and pretty girls. The winners come mainly from South America and the former Eastern bloc. The present Miss Universe, Dayana Mendoza, raised in a two-room house in Caracas, was spotted, at the age of 13, at a bus stop. Venezuela has churned out more champs than any other nation, because it has a plastic surgeon on its national team unscrupulous enough to give breast implants to still-growing 17-year-olds. “This isn't a nature contest,” said the country's beauty queen-maker Osmel Sousa. “It's a beauty contest.” Quite.

When the backs of women's magazines are crammed with plastic surgery adverts, how can we tell our daughters that looks don't matter, that character will out. Especially when we defy the notion that beauty is fleeting, when we strive to cling to good looks unto the grave.

So this is the post-feminist age - equal face lifts for all in a mindless-boob-girlie world :)

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
Voice: 0300 52 56 875
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/2, Islamabad
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

GRADES ARE NO PREDICTOR OF FUTURE SUCCESS

John Lennon left school without any qualifications, Damien Hirst did marginally better and was awarded an E for his art A-Level whilst Bill Gates dropped out of college on his way to becoming the world's richest man.

They are hardly shining examples of those who achieved all they did because of success in the classroom.

But according to intriguing new research, school tests are by no means a measure of true ability - nor can they be used as a tool to predict future success or abject failure.

The study, by the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA), found that as many as 77 per cent of people believe that formal examinations fail to reflect their true intelligence.

Sour grapes? Perhaps, but there are those who have successfully bucked the trend. They include Gordon Ramsay, Ralph Lauren (who quit college to sell ties in a New York men's store) and degree-less business knights, Richard Branson, Philip Green and Alan Sugar.

Then there's fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, Radio Four's interrogator-in-chief John Humphrys, the BBC's Terry Wogan, chat show legend Michael Parkinson and finally the X-Factor's Simon Cowell. Not one of them made it to university.

Not surprisingly then, just three out of 10 people associate exams with 'a sense of pride', according to the CIEA study which was based on the responses from 2,000 adults.

The research also found that 62 per cent spoke of feeling 'butterflies in the stomach' moments before they were due to sit an exam. Other reactions included headaches, insomnia and vomiting.

Pupils in England currently sit an average of 70 formal examinations, whilst primary school children are now subjected to more tests than their international counterparts.

Yet, 60 per cent of teachers who responded to a separate online poll for the CIEA said they did not think exams were necessarily the best indicators of a pupil's ability and were not reflective of their future success in a job.

'Exams don't suit everybody,' said Graham Herbert, deputy head of the CIEA, which aims to improve senior examiners, moderators and markers. 'They don't tell the full picture. Most adults agree that their performance in exams does not reflect their true abilities.

'That is not to say we should get rid of exams. What we need is a supplement to the exam system, a supplement that can be relied upon. And that supplement could be teacher assessment.'

The CIEA is training qualified assessors through its Chartered Educational Assessor (CEA) initiative and aims to place 3,000 of them in schools across England by 2011. Already 33 are in place, with a further 70 in training.

Mr Herbert said the reliance on exams meant that many schools were now focusing on teaching for tests.

'If you say the purpose is to put a school in a rank order, then it becomes a high-stakes test,' he added. 'People get really nervous about it because their reputation is at risk, so they tend to teach to the test.

'That means that their learners jump through the hoops put there by the exam, rather than testing their ability and their knowledge.

'Take Richard Branson and Winston Churchill. They are two very famous, highly skilled individuals who were both poor exam performers. So exams don't necessarily on their own bring out the best in individuals.

'And they become stigmatised by that. A lot of adults feel that. From our survey, the majority, it seems.'

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
Voice: 0300 52 56 875

WHY MEN CHEAT- and how to stop them

You're not as young as you used to be. Sex hasn't been great lately. He simply got his kicks elsewhere. Besides, she's probably prettier and slimmer than you anyway. These are the reasons women think men cheat - but according to best-selling author and marriage counsellor M Gary Neuman, they're all wrong.

For his new book, Why Men Stray And What You Can Do To Prevent It, Neuman spent two years studying 100 men who had affairs and 100 men who were faithful. 'Only eight per cent of the cheating men said it was sexual dissatisfaction at home and 88 per cent said the mistress was not better-looking or in better shape than their wife,' says Neuman. 'The number one reason behind their cheating was the emotional dissatisfaction they felt in their marriage and the emotional connection they unfortunately developed in the affair.'

Around 69 per cent had thought they would never cheat and were surprised at their own insecurity. 'They didn't think they'd fall into an illicit relationship because they were in need of some appreciation and admiration,' Neuman explains.

Although his findings should make some women feel better about themselves (his affair probably wasn't a direct result of your attractiveness or bedroom abilities), the book's title does seem to suggest some of blame lies with the woman. Neuman denies this is the case; many women, he says, are interested in learning what they could have done to prevent their partner's adultery.

'It tells women that emotional connection at home is by far the most important way to develop a happy marriage and reduce the risk of cheating,' he says.

The book may focus on men's infidelity but women aren't innocent: a 2006 survey of 46,000 people found one in ten married women - compared to one in five married men - had strayed too. So should we all expect to be cheated on? Or will we stray? What happened to monogamy?

'Nothing,' says Neuman. 'Alfred Kinsey's studies from the 1950s stated half of married men would cheat by the age of 40. What I have always found strange is how society understands that to be successful at everything in life, whether it be parenthood or a career, takes a lot of time and effort but we don't have the same view towards marriage.'

For some women the book will be a fascinating read. For others it will reaffirm what they've always thought - but we won't put words into their mouths. You've probably worked that out already.

The Truth About Cheating: Why Men Stray And What You Can Do To Prevent It by M Gary Neuman (Wiley, £16.50)

Appreciation is key
One cheating husband told Neuman about what had happened on his wife's birthday. 'He got up at 5.30am to prepare a surprise birthday breakfast for his wife. They'd been in a bad way and he thought it would be a good gesture to show her that he'd heard her complaints; it was a peace offering. But he accidentally left the microwave on too long. By the time he caught it, the kitchen was smoking and the alarm began to blare. His wife woke to chaos at 6.11am on her birthday and - understandably - she was pissed off. But the husband was so angry that she couldn't even take a moment to appreciate his good intentions that he left the house that morning and didn't return until the evening. It was that day he had his first sexual meeting with another woman.'

The signs
He spends more time away from home.
You have sex infrequently.
He avoids contact with you.
He criticises you more often.
He starts fights with you.
He may start talking about other women.

Neuman's action plan
The role his friends play: Neuman found that 77 per cent of cheating men have close friends who have also cheated. Here's one woman's story:
'Roger was his friend since childhood. How was I going to tell my husband who he should or should not hang out with? I was a blind fool.'
Ellen wasn't fond of her husband's closest friend but felt it wasn't her place to do anything. It was after their third child that she got suspicious and, after a few months, discovered her husband had been cheating. He'd found his girlfriend while visiting clubs he probably wouldn't have frequented had it not been for Roger.

Neuman's action plan: If your husband is part of a group of cheating men, his social circle is sending him a strong message about the normality of infidelity.

Step one: Invite his friends and family into your home so you can learn more about them. Some wives dislike their husband's friends and choose to stay far away but we have learned that you improve your odds of fidelity by knowing as much about his friends' lifestyles as possible without being overbearing.

Step two: If he has close friends who are cheaters, introduce him to new friends by going out with other couples. The more time he spends with new faithful men, the less significant his cheating friends become.

Muhammad Mahtab Bashir
Islamabad
Voice: 0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

HAPPINESS IS CONTAGIOUS

Happiness is 'contagious’ and can spread through networks of friends, family and neighbours, a study has found.

Researchers studied complex social networks of more than 5,000 people and found that happiness is partly dependent on the mood of those near to you and their friends.

Professor Nicholas Christakis from Harvard Medical School and Professor James Fowler from the University of California, San Diego, found that a person’s proximity to happy people – specifically partners, siblings and neighbours – could make them happy too.

The researchers, writing in the British Medical Journal, found that clusters of happy and unhappy people were visible in the networks and the effect lasted for three degrees of separation - meaning one person benefitted from the happiness of their friends’ friends.


It suggests having frequent contact with other people is more important for the spread of happiness rather than the depth of the relationship, the authors said, because the closer people were physically the more likely the happiness was to be passed on.

If you have a friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6km) and who becomes happy it increases the probability that you will become happy by 25 per cent. Similar effects are seen in spouses who live together, siblings who live within a mile of each other and next door neighbours. But there is no effect on your own happiness if your co-workers are happy or not.

The authors said happiness genuinely spreads and the effect is not because happy people band together.

The same phenomenon has been seen in the spread of obesity and smoking, leading the authors to suggest it may also happen in other health-related behaviours such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, drinking, eating and exercise.
This means the spread of happiness through social networks could be used in public health policy as a positive emotional state has been shown to reduce illness and mortality, they said.


Professors Christakis and Fowler suggest the way happiness spreads like an infectious disease may be through mimicry and copying of facial expressions.
Other explanations include that happy people might share their good fortune, by being pragmatically helpful or financially generous to others, or change their behaviour towards others by being nicer or less hostile, or they merely exude an emotion that is genuinely contagious.


The study was based on data collected in the Framingham Heart Study, in which 5,124 adults aged 21-70 were recruited and followed between 1971 and 2003.

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
Cell: 0300 52 56 875

SHORT-HAIRED WOMEN ARE LESS SEXY

Women who lop their hair short are no longer interested in bedroom action, say researchers, who claim that 'deliberately reducing one's attractiveness' can sometimes be a way of repelling men's interest.

Initially, the claim was made by sex therapist and former comedian Pamela Stephenson, 59, who said that ladies who cut their hair are deliberately making themselves less sexy to blokes.

However, now the theory has got scientific backing after experts claimed that the links between long hair and sex go back to caveman times, a newspaper reports.

Dr Pam Spurr, a relationships expert, said: "The woman who no longer wants sex uses a haircut to show she's reclaiming power in the bedroom.

"For women, hair is a reflection of the person, of her moods and her self-esteem." Relationship psychologist Anjula Mutanda added: "Cave paintings celebrated long-haired women - the longer the hair the more fertile and, therefore, desirable she was.

"But body language and behaviour expert Judy James disagrees, saying: "The only thing it symbolises these days is the shutting off of childhood. In terms of sex, I would argue it has the opposite effect."

Muhammad Mahtab Bashir
Islamabad
Voice: 0300 52 56 875