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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Not In Anger

Two days spent with my head hung in shame. I cannot even begin to grapple with the senseless death of so many beautiful children. I have a boy and a girl who I send off to school every morning with complete conviction that they will return to me in the afternoon, safe and sound. I cannot imagine what it would be like, not to be able to wrap them in my arms or kiss the top of their heads, while they try to get away from me.
Normally, I don’t bother so much with Facebook posts, the size of Kim Kardashian’s behind does not interest me, nor am I interested in who owns what handbag, or which party some friend attended, but for the past two days I have been reading the posts. I have read things that made sense, a piece written by Bina Shah posted by a friend, rang true, as did an email by a Princeton Professor, but I am dismayed at other posts.
It seems that many of us are determined to turn this into our 9/11 and copy America’s response; a call to arms. I am no Taliban or Al-Qaeda sympathizer, far from it, but justice cannot be vengeful.
It is obvious that some among us harbor these groups. These men have neighbours, friends, and families who do not turn them in. We have to turn them in. But once they are caught, the answer is not to hang them, or “teach them a lesson’’ by brutalizing them. We have to have fair trials and allow justice to be served.  But even that, in our country, leads us into a maze because of a justice system that does not function even at the best of times.
There is so much that has to be fixed, so many systems that require overhauling. To imagine that simply hanging a bunch of men at the town square will make Pakistan a better country or a safer country for its children, equates to chopping hands for theft while people starve.
When push comes to shove, the first thing left out to dry, cannot be our humanity. Our first response should not be to roll up our sleeves and get down to the dirty business of “punishing these bastards.”  When emotions run high, the first response should always be to sit back and reflect. Once the moment has passed, and logic has returned, then that is the time to chart a course of action and remain steadfast.
I am not religious but many of you calling for violence in response to violence are, so in the name of the religion I was born to, and the religion you profess to, sit back and let the anger pass- for that is what your religion teaches you to do. Sit back, count to 10, and recite a prayer so that your first response is not in anger.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Early Morning in Adulusia.

Its early morning and the bees are swarming the alcove of trees next to the hammock, harvesting the tiny, yellow flowers that fall like a carpet over the courtyard coating the bar-b-que, the table tennis table, the lounge chairs. It is my favorite time of the day when everyone else is still asleep. This is the time when I feel most alive and completely at peace. 

Today is our last day in Andalusia. We plan on visiting Cordoba. The plan was to leave by eight. It is 7:45 and the house is still reverberating with snores. It has been a beautiful holiday despite a few hiccups. The house was not clean and bathrooms were fewer than promised but those are the little things like the insect bites on all of our bodies. The big things are the company of the people I love and the gorgeous views. 

Today is our last day here, my heart is heavy. I do not want to leave my sister and I am scared I might embarrass myself by crying when we part. There was a time when I always used to disintegrate into a water fountain at each parting, splurting  while she would laugh at my foolishness asking,"kia kar rahi ho tum?", her face a picture of bewilderment. I have become better at masking my feelings with age (yes, it has its benefits) and keeping a somewhat stiffer and less trembling upper lip. I remind myself there is always the phone and next time!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

I am not Religious

 This morning, another murder in the name of religion. So many senseless deaths...

I am not religious
But you are

I am not strong of faith
But you are

So how is it
That I do not judge but you do

How is it
That I try not to hurt but you do

How is it
That our religion means peace
Our greeting; "May Peace be upon you!"

Yet you dance on our streets
Brandishing Our religion as Your Weapon

This is not religion
Not yours or mine

So let's start anew
You and I
As humans
Without malice or judgement
Or vengeance

Let's claim that Peace
Let's make it ours

Peace is religion
Religion should be Peace.

Friday, 25 April 2014

My Vulcan

We have all heard over and over again, the incantations of "carpe diem" and we have all nodded absently in agreement. Life is precious of course. Duh, we all know that. Health is the greatest blessing but of course. Yet, none of it actually sinks in until something comes along to throw you off balance.

The visit to the doctor which lead to more scheduled visits, tests, surgeries, invasive, humiliating and painful procedures, and suddenly cancer is not something that happened to your maternal grandparents, it is something that could happen to you. You remember that time when you were so miserable that death seemed an easier alternative but aha, here you are, not so eager to die now. You find yourself waiting for the results, your imagination filling in the blanks that the doctors haven't filled in yet. Ovarian cancer, uterine cancer; you repeatedly goggle all the symptoms and you have them all. You tell your hubby and he asks if the ovarian cyst, fibroid and uterine polyps can cause similar symptoms and you sheepishly respond, yes. Damn him, for always asking reasonable but impertinent questions. You tell him that you are worried and he responds with; why? I may have cancer, you respond. You don't know that, he reminds you. Double damn him. Why did I marry a vulcan?

And then, the surgeon tells you that the biopsy results were clear and you find yourself releasing a breath, you hadn't realized you had been holding for the past year and a half. You call the vulcan to tell him but he is in a meeting. You call your parents and your father knows the result by the sound of your voice. You call your sister and you can hear the happiness and relief in hers. You email your brother and your best friend and get happy responses. You feel doubly blessed to be loved by so many. Six monthly check-ups seem a breeze. You can do that, easy as pie. You call the vulcan again and he can't resist sliding in the "I told you so!" Smug emotion; perhaps he is not so vulcan after all?

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Re-thinking Madonna

My mother feels the need to don make-up and totter about in high heels when she has to dress up. My father, on the hand, looks perfectly dressed up wearing his own face sans makeup and in comfortable shoes.

My gorgeous sister  is convinced that she has "lost it", simply because she has gained a few pounds over the years.

My mother-in-law owns a beauty parlour which does good business no matter what the country's financial or political climate because women's insecurities remain stable no matter how many people were blown up, a few neighbourhoods away.

During my teenage years, I would regularly cry myself to sleep and pray to Allah to make me beautiful because each time I looked in the mirror, I saw ugliness.

At the same time, I hate makeup or rather that men do not have to wear it. I hate that us, women have so much pressure put on us to look good.

I hate the well-meaning suggestions on how I could improve my appearance by putting on a lipstick or have my hair styled.

I hate that so many women think that they have to do all this, just to feel good about themselves.

This morning, I saw Madonna's hairy pit selfie. While all these years, the only thing I liked about Madonna was the light beat of her tunes, I read an extract of an interview she did a few years ago and immediately felt a connection to the woman who for years, turned me off with her pointy-boob suits.

"Drinking beer and smoking weed in the parking lot of my high school was not my idea of being rebellious, because that's what everybody did. And I never wanted to do what everybody did. I thought it was cooler to not shave my legs or under my arms. I mean, why did God give us hair there anyways? Why didn't guys have to shave there? Why was it accepted in Europe but not in America? No one could answer my questions in a satisfactory manner, so I pushed the envelope even further… But it was hard and it was lonely, and I had to dare myself every day to keep going… And I wondered if it was all worth it, but then I would pull myself together and look at a postcard of Frida Kahlo taped to my wall, and the sight of her mustache consoled me."

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Tissue Paper

T speaks very little English. His understanding of the language is better then his speaking abilities. One day, I greeted T with a "nihow".  He was thrilled.  It did not take him long to discover that my speaking ability in Chinese is very limited- to put it generously - and my verbal comprehension is no better. He forgave me though for my poor linguistic skills with a generous smile. I had a friend in kindergarten class.

Every lunch hour, when I walk into the room T rushes up to me and greets me with a "nihow". Today T found himself in a situation with a girl at the water table. They had a dispute over a toy and T  grabbed her arm causing the girl to cry. I explained to T using English and a lot of hand gestures that he should not grab other children's arms. T hugged me and started crying. His embrace was so trusting I felt my heart melt. I hugged him back. By now, his tears were flowing openly. He pulled my forearm up, pushed back my shirt sleeve and used the skin on my arm to dry his tears. I had never before been used as a tissue paper.

There was something so unaffected in T's gesture. To be trusted so completely for even the length of a moment by another human is to experience beauty; fragile and precious. 

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Removing Plaque

You brush your teeth, working the brush up and down right into the back on your mouth. You follow this up by flossing. Not because your dentist told you to floss or risk losing all your teeth day after tomorrow but because you have reached that age where the built up on the surfaces of your teeth bothers you. If you have tightly packed teeth like mine, it takes a while to wiggle the floss into the spaces and a few jerks to prize it out, once it is in. It is an annoying exercise, made worth the effort because you enjoy the clean feel of your teeth afterwards. It always bothers me that that nice, clean, fresh feeling doesn't last long enough, a few hours and I feel the need to do it all over again. Love is like that. Love like your  teeth, needs consistent attention. You can't just do it once and imagine that you are now all done. The plaque will build up again and you will have to reapply yourself to removing it: making it afresh.

Love is not constant. You fall in and out of love, at times with different people but also if you give yourself the chance, with the same person over and over again.

"Love doesn't just sit there, it has to be made, like bread: remade all the time, made new."

Ursula K. Le Guin , The Lathe Of Heaven

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Bring on the Yoga Pants

There is so much focus on how a woman should dress that it is impossible for anyone to get it right. Cover up too much and you will judged as being brain washed into wearing that hijab, reveal too much and you are shameless, dress for comfort and you have no sense of style, dress stylishly and you are shallow. No matter how you dress, there will be someone, somewhere, ready to pass judgement.

At the end of the day, is any of this even that important? Yes, the way a person dresses does send other people a message because our first impressions are formed by appearance but so what? If one woman wants to dress in a revealing manner while another is comfortable covered up, shouldn't we treat both with respect? After all it should be up to each individual woman to choose how she dresses.

Personally, I am of the firm conviction that the whole planet should dress in yoga pants and sweat shirts and anyone who doesn't agree with me, fed to the dragons.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Here and Now

Most religions present us with the idea of an afterlife. With many, the afterlife is either a reward or punishment for deeds done in one's lifetime. In other religions, the afterlife is just a part of a person's journey.

Most forms of Christianity believe in heaven for the good and hell for the bad though, there is disagreement on whether hell is an eternal punishment. Some believe that after a period of punishment, even the damned are either redeemed or just cease to be. Jehovah's witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists believe that sinners are destroyed rather than toutured forever. Some Christians, believe that heaven cannot be earned by a person's actions instead it is awarded by God's grace.  Mormons believe in "eternal progression" which is best described by Loranzo Snow as,"As man now is, God once was: as God now is, man may be." People who live honourable lives and marry in Mormon temples are eligible for admission to the highest celestial tier.

Like Christians, Muslims also believe in heaven and hell. Both heaven and hell are described vividly in the Quran as eternal outcomes for one's actions.

Judaism lays emphasis on doing good deeds and leaving concerns like afterlife and rewards for God to judge.

Ancient Hindu texts speak of Atman, the eternal, unchanging self which is identical to and a part of the Brahma, the Godhead, the unitary, eternal being transcending all gods and goddesses. Life is suffering and an individual must strive to escape the cycle of reincarnation. Reincarnation is determined by karma. If one dies before reaping karma, then one is reborn. A person has to strive towards moshka which means liberation. It is through liberation that the Atman merges with the Brahma, of which it is always a part - individualism being an illusion.

Bhudda accepted the Hindu tenets of karma and reincarnation. Bhuddists also believe that life is suffering and a person must strive towards Nirvana. Nirvana means extinction; the elimination of all desire. There is no eternal self. Self is an illusion and a person- a bundle of habits, sensations, memories, and desires. Nirvana is attained by abandoning this false sense of self, leaving nothing to reincarnate.

The Greeks believed that Hades and his wife, Persephone ruled the Underworld. The Underworld, a place of misery, hell-like in it's descriptions. The dead are lead by Hermes to the entrance of the Underworld where if they can pay the fare of a gold coin, placed between the lips at the time of burial, they are judged by three judges. Those who can not pay the fare are trapped between worlds eternally. The great pass on to the Elysium Fields.

The Egyptians took a great deal of trouble (those who could afford it) preparing for the afterlife. The pyramids stand testament to their conviction that those who were mummified and buried properly, would be reborn.

Religions share so many beliefs. Karma, heaven and hell, punishment and reward as well as the conviction that all men and women must strive for something better, something beyond just themselves.

Yet, the practitioners of each religion believe that their religion is unique and true. A conviction built on the foundation that other religions are misleading and false.

Perhaps, instead of allowing our individual religions to divide us further and further away from each other; we need to focus on what we share, the truths that can unite us if we allow them the chance. The Afterlife is a promise, a hope which may or may not be, but this life is here, present and demanding of our attention. We are hell and we are heaven; both for ourselves and for those around us.