Hello Dear Reader:
I am Zainab. But let’s just call me Z, like all my friends do. It is short and distinctive — like me — and, as the last letter of the alphabet, le plus ultra.
Here’s what I would love to share with you all about my background.
I am a citizen of the world. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, I emigrated to Zimbabwe as a toddler, went to boarding school there from age 8, and emigrated to the States to attend one of the most prestigious institutions for higher education.
My father was one of the most prominent bankers in Africa, a legend and a role model who exemplified in the following seven areas — community leadership, faith and spirituality, family, financial independence, health, personal care and education.
My two siblings and I grew up observing my parents — especially my father — excel in those areas. Today, we still reminiscence about how my parents chose to send us off to boarding schools at a very young age; how they designed our home to have uniformity in furnishings — every room had the same look and feel — around the house; how we were always dressed in the same clothes, down to matching shoes; how individual tutors were carefully selected for our after school activities; how a good student ought to know minimum four languages; how makeup was a no-no until I hit university; how menus were crafted for dinner parties; how conversations on current affairs were always preferred to discussing the latest style trends and new movies, and so on. My parents did everything with a purpose in mind. The purpose was to design a life around structure, discipline, balance and high achievement.
Although my parents never imposed on us to have certain degrees or habits but guided us, I became the product of the environment. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to have fun. I do. I’m a lot of fun — I work hard and I play hard — but I like to do it right. And if that makes me sometimes too intense—well, that’s me: Z.
Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, I believe in self-reliance. While I’ve grown up with privilege, I’ve also worked hard for everything I’ve achieved and with a handicap at that — one unbeknownst to me until adulthood, when I learned that I had a hearing impairment. This shed light on the past: I hadn’t been daydreaming at school, nor slacking off at my exams. I just couldn’t hear! Corrective measures were taken, and all is now well; but, in hindsight, I must acknowledge that I did it all on my own. I am my own inspiration.
I’ve broken my blog posts around four general areas: Travel, Work Life, Social Life and The Z Experience (or, how to do it my way).
As a global citizen, I am always on the move. I plan things a year in advance, and like to go first-class, all the way. Hey, I work hard to splurge on myself. Among the places I’ve been are South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, USA, UK, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Belize, Mexico, Portugal, Hungary, Russia, Austria, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Maldives, Ireland, Greece, Scotland, Iceland and Canada. I plan my trips a year in advance, capture plenty of moments to tell a story, pick out my outfits so as to contrast with my surroundings, and choose my restaurants carefully. I love trying new cuisine, but ambience will always trump food for me. I also am a keen observer of art, design and architecture.
Sometimes my friends travel with me. Last year we went to Turkey together. More likely, I see them in the States. I have different groups of women — not just one — so I meet each group once a month. They are from all backgrounds and all walks of life. They ask me to select the places to dine and set the schedule around when I am in town. As much as I love my home girls, I love to be home, alone. If you can’t be happy by yourself, you’ll never be happy with someone else.
And, speaking of someone else, I was blessed to share two years with a strong, loving husband, but lost him to a chronic illness a few years ago. Dating has its own challenges — I know you agree with me — which has led me to appreciate more the Pakistani tradition of the arranged marriage, like my own. Even now, I’d like to meet someone in my circle. I’m 46 years old. Why go outside? Don’t think I am parochial: As a realist, maximizing points of commonality minimizes points of conflict. I’m looking for an equal, a companion who will complement (and compliment) me. We will travel the world over, and, as a strong woman, I will do it with or without you (and can pay my own way, thank-you very much).
There’s a time to play and a time to work, and, again I take a disciplined approach to both. As a consultant, my company pays me to be disciplined, to structure workflow, schedules and deliverables. I work with clients across the globe and in all time zones. My satisfaction comes from being passionate about whatever I do and learning along the way. I believe in sharing experience in the workplace, and not hoarding knowledge, trade secrets or what goes on behind closed doors. I know I’ve put in a good day’s work when I know I have crossed off all the to-do items on my day’s list.
I believe in doing things right, with thoughtfulness, grace and elegance. Good manners matter: They put people at ease. When someone walks into my home, I want them to feel welcomed, even if all I am serving is a cup of coffee. And when I walk into someone else’s home, I can immediately see how much effort they put in. I dress to respect the person I am meeting. (It’s a myth that women dress to please men; women dress for each other.) And dressing up is something I truly love. Among my favorite designers are Kobi Halperin, Cushnie, and Etro.
Why the blog?
My friends have always asked me for advice, from how to set a table to how to discipline millennials. I’ve asked them, “How would I know? I don’t have kids?” Their response: “No, but how did your parents raise you?”
And so, giving all due credit to my parents, I will attempt in this blog to convey their values and ways of doing things that we don’t see much of these days, but adapted to a 21st century world. Let’s say: a bit of old school with a topspin.
I look forward each week to sharing my reflections on travel, work and social life and all manner of The Z Experience, and, in doing so, I promise you, my readers, to keep it real.