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     Volume 8 Issue 87 | September 18, 2009 |

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Taking Time Out

Nadia Kabir Barb

Going out on a weeknight has become quite a rare event for me in recent times. With every passing year the homework quota for my children has been growing and getting progressively harder. Therefore, I find that being within visual and audio range is prudent during homework time. In other words letting them know that you are aware that instead of finishing their maths homework they are playing some game or the other on their phone or that the music they are listening to while they are revising is violating the noise pollution statute! And of course you have the inevitable, “How do you solve this maths equation” or “What happened to Queen Victoria in 1876” --- to which I say “thank God for the internet”! So when my husband offered to come home early from work in the middle of the week to give me the chance to attend a book launch reception last week, I jumped at the offer.

Of course it is easier said than done. Once I had organised dinner and made myself presentable I realised I had left myself very little time to actually get across London to arrive at the given venue. I took a calculated risk and decided to take my car instead of fighting my way on the underground at rush hour where the commuters would be pushing their way onto already over filled trains, thus sparing me the ignominy of turning up at the launch dishevelled and out of breath. I diligently entered the address on my invitation onto my navigation system. I had to finally give into the subtle pressures my family were bearing upon me to invest in one--- that and the fact that I was born with hardly any sense of direction. Even my children would ask me quite nonchalantly whether we were lost when I used to drive them around London when they were much younger! In hindsight, what I realised was I should never gamble as my instincts were terrible. I drove off unaware that I was about to fall headlong into a traffic jam (braving the London Underground would have been a much better idea). Of course once I was stuck in between the rows of cars crawling along at a snail's pace there was nothing for me to do but sit back and hope things would clear up. Luckily I had Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Habib, Ornob, Maroon 5 and a whole host of singers and musicians keeping me company.

My destination was Islington, a part of London I am not too familiar with and it was only then that I realised that 'Jane', (don't ask me -- the voice on my navigation system is called Jane) did not have the most recent infrastructure changes. She would tell me in her calm and rather irritating voice to “turn right in 300 yards”. The only problem being that there was a huge sign saying “no right turn ahead”! So once I over shot the given turning she would tell me to “make a U-turn” -- by this stage I found myself talking to her --- telling her I could not make a U-turn as I WAS ON A ONE WAY SYSTEM! If I did not know better I would have thought she was messing me around. Come on you must have seen some films where computers and robots take over the world...never mind.

Once I had combated the one-way system and could see where I needed to be, I found myself driving around in circles as there was no parking available at all. After fifteen minutes of driving around aimlessly I almost decided to give up and go home. By this stage I was already almost half an hour late and unlike back home in Bangladesh, where everything starts late, it was bound to have started promptly. But the thought that my husband had dropped everything to make it possible for me to attend the function made me rethink and park the car a few blocks away. The fact that my children might also imply that I had probably never even reached my destination and had been lost might have had something to do with my renewed resolve to show up even if it was for a few minutes.

I then ran (I use the word loosely), cursing myself for not
wearing my unattractive but extremely comfortable walking shoes, instead opting for ones with heels. There was logic behind my decision albeit slightly flawed, as I had led myself to believe I would be able to park the car at the doorstep and walk in with my heels clicking on the wooden floors looking unflustered and smiling graciously at everyone! Reality check. I arrived out of breath, on the verge of collapsing in a pile on the carpet (no wooden floor), my hair windblown and barely able to get two words out without reaching for my inhaler! The evening turned out to be a very pleasant one despite my initial obstacles and I am happy to say that I stayed for more than just a few minutes. What I have to say here is taking a little time out for ourselves, for some “me” time is something we all need to do once in a while and I definitely enjoyed mine. Even if it meant up for the book launch looking like I was dragged through a bush backwards.

Interestingly enough when one of the people I met asked me about my column in The Star magazine; it dawned on me that I have actually been writing for the past six years or more. My eldest daughter was only ten at the time and now she is sixteen and all grown up. It has been quite a journey for me and I can only take the opportunity to thank the readers for bearing with me for the duration (do I sound like I am about to give a speech at the Oscars?). In that case I would also like to thank my magazine editor, my husband, my...

Wishing everyone Eid Mubarak...

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