20 December 2011

teaching and learning

mel has written another beautiful post, about parenting. i am sure all my young-parent friends will relate, and so will not-young-parent friends. i was discussing with H just two days ago how difficult it is/must be to raise a child and inculcate the values you want them to grow with. how ultimately, you just never know how they will turn out, what path they will choose. i know of several families where siblings turned out completely different to each other, choosing opposing value sets, despite growing up together, in the same environment, with the same ethics and principles.

i love mel’s Y, such an awesome idea:
It is shorthand for the idea that every single person on this earth has two possible lives — the one she leads and the unfulfilled life that isn’t accessed because of choices she makes. Each decision takes us to a fork, and I want them to take the path that is going to bring them what they desire in life: friends, success in school, a thriving computer company. I make them sit and think about that other fork; that road not taken. The one that takes them far away from everything they think they want, like some secular version of A Christmas Carol.
one comment to the above post said this,
“It just feels so hard again at each stage because I have to learn. To play catch-up and figure out this new phase. Every time I get a grasp on something, she changes it up. Life changes it up.”

which totally resonated with me. i’ve been feeling like every time i get something figured out, life throws yet another curveball at me. i miss those days when i felt on top of everything, when i GOT IT; the last two years of high school, or the last two years as an undergrad. or even the first few years of work (not the very first year, but two, three, four!). the last few years, and especially this past year, has been a see-saw ride on the learning graph. i would really like to just cruise on the top there..

and this brings to mind one of my favorite ben okri quotes (from astonishing the gods): “The law is simple. Every experience is repeated or suffered till you experience it properly and fully the first time.”

i'm okay with life being one huge lesson; i just want to be a good student though, i want to get it! i'm tired of feeling out of the loop..

14 December 2011

contentment, imperfection and self improvement

i read a thought provoking post today regarding quashing the urge for self improvement, and instead learning to be content with who you are and what you have. i find this idea contradictory though, and almost a paradox. i agree with the first half of the premise:
You could say it’s great that people are constantly trying to improve themselves, but where does it end? When is anyone ever content with who they are? We are taught that we are not good enough yet, that we must improve, and so … we always feel a little inadequate.

This is true no matter how much you’ve accomplished. You might have achieved a thousand goals, but do you have defined abs? Are your boobs big and bouncy? Do you have perfect skin? Have you read every classic in literature?...Do you have the perfect home, and can you cook gourmet meals? Are you the perfect parent, or have perfect work-life balance? Can you do yoga, meditate, juggle and do magic? Do you brew the perfect cup of coffee, or tea, or beer? Can you recite Shelly, Shakespeare, Homer? Are you good at picking up women, are you the perfect friend, the perfect lover, a romantic husband, a wife who meets her husband’s needs, a master craftsman, a hacker and a programmer, a knitter or sewer, a home-repair expert...

We are never adequate, never perfect, never self-confident, never good enough, never comfortable with ourselves, never satisfied, never there, never content.
all true. all bad.
but. the second half?
What if instead, we learned to be happy with ourselves?

What would happen?

Would we stop striving to improve? Would that be horrible, if we were just content and didn’t need to better ourselves every minute of every week? Would we be lazy slobs, or would we instead be happy, and in being happy do things that make us happy rather than make us better?

Realize that you are already perfect. You are there. You can breathe a sigh of relief.
really? i don’t feel perfect. far from it in fact. and that’s okay, because i’m not really looking for perfection. i want to be able to do certain things better, things that make me happy. and that requires improvement, which is fine. i’m not looking for a bigger house or trendy clothes or better skin. i think the line between content and improvement is fine, and you have to be aware, all the time, of which side you’re on. being content is not a bad thing, but neither is striving to be better. it’s all about the degree i guess. and the context: being content in a job you hate or a relationship gone sour is just copping out. striving for all kinds of material gain or trying to be perfect at everything meanwhile, is not about being happy.

focus on the things that do make you happy, and strive to do those better. because, you know, the chances are, you’re not innately destined to be good at what makes you happy. and being great at something, almost always requires work and practice (malcolm gladwell’s infamous ‘10 000 hour' rule for instance).

striving to be a better human, a better person, is never a bad thing.

ask yourself why you want to improve whatever it is you want to improve. if the answer is internal, related to you, great. if it’s external, then you need to stop and rethink.

a woman’s search for god in the city discusses the trend in western self help literature to advise ‘quitting your job and following your dreams’, and compares this to her own job and life situation. her conclusion:
As an Indian woman who was destined to be a housewife, being able to work itself is a dream. That I am in a job I love, is nothing short of nirvana.

I don’t think it is the job that is to blame for stifled dreams. After all, people choose those jobs willingly for whatever reason. They follow their priorities. Our jobs are actually a reflection of our own life condition. They mirror our own truths and inner realities. If we don’t like what we see outside, we need to look inside for what needs fixing. Joy can be found anywhere — even in dusty old law books or crooked text boxes on computer screens.

step. by. step.

familiarity, recognition, belonging, acknowledgment, stature; the curtain lifted slightly and i glimpsed a world of possibilities. one smile, one nod, can make such a big difference. it was the difference between belonging and not.

it is a far cry from the innate sense of rightfulness and connection i experienced for the last decade, but it is one step towards it. more importantly, it is one step away from nothingness, nonbeing, oblivion.

it has been a slowww step in coming, but one i am oh so thankful for. that world of possibilities? it more than makes up for the past. i would like to think that from now, i’ll be on a fast train to somewhere, whereas the reality is probably more slow, plodding steps. oh well. i’ll just keep my eye on the view behind the curtain!

07 December 2011

choosing what is

i came across the following poem, which is summed up by the line, 'i vow to choose what is'. and this is something i have considerable difficulty with!

In this passing moment
by Shodo Harada Roshi

“In the presence of Sangha, in the light of Dharma,
in oneness with Buddha — may my path
to complete enlightenment benefit everyone!”

In this passing moment karma ripens
and all things come to be.
I vow to choose what is:
If there is cost, I choose to pay.
If there is need, I choose to give.
If there is pain, I choose to feel.
If there is sorrow, I choose to grieve.
When burning — I choose heat.
When calm — I choose peace.
When starving — I choose hunger.
When happy — I choose joy.
Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.
What I shoulder, I choose to bear.
When it is my death, I choose to die.
Where this takes me, I choose to go.
Being with what is — I respond to what is.

This life is as real as a dream;
the one who knows it can not be found;
and, truth is not a thing — Therefore I vow
to choose THIS dharma entrance gate!
May all Buddhas and Wise Ones
help me live this vow.

in discussing the poem, ivan notes, "You would think the unavoidable nature of “what is” would make a vow like this meaningless, but the human mind and heart are not entirely sane. ;) They often choose fantasy, imaginings, shoulds and coulds, possibilities, even impossibilties, over what is. Very few of us truly dwell in reality. Very few of us sincerely experience the moments of our lives."

so true. the lines regarding choosing to grieve, choosing hunger, choosing to bear remind me of rumi's the guest house. lofty sentiments, but so hard to follow. when i am feeling lost, hurt or abandoned, i want to unexperience that as soon as possible, not dwell in it. moreover, when i am feeling wronged or upset, i have no smiles or sympathy to offer someone else.

and then, i am reminded by buddha, “Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone.” perhaps the key really is to focus more on myself, rather than others. perhaps i would be much happier if i only worked on myself, and just ignored all the (perceived) slights and faults of others. this is also not easy, but at least it is something concrete i can work towards. whereas if i were concentrating on how mean x was to me, i wouldn't know how to change x's behaviour.. as thoreau said, 'it is not what you look at, but what you see'.

23 November 2011

books, oh books

i started reading ‘the thousand autumns of jacob de zoet’ by david mitchell last night. all those who know me will know of my love affair with mitchell and his writing, and can understand how ecstatic i must be right now. (the novel is placed right besides my laptop, and my eyes stray lovingly there every now and then.) for those who don’t know, I LOVE DAVID MITCHELL and his writing and novels are AWESOME. 'cloud atlas' was too brilliant, and 'black swan green' had me swanning.. (okay, i’ve stopped drooling and am back to the keyboard)

on my way to the airport while returning to bombay some time ago, i stopped by a bookstore quickly, to see if i could find some good reads. heading to the literary section, i saw mitchell’s new novel, the new sebastian faulks novel, ‘a week in december’, and muriel barberry’s ‘the elegance of the hedgehog’, which z had recommended to me eons ago, but i could never get my hands on. fate had placed all three books oh so conveniently, for me to just enter, pick up and take to the cashier. the euphoria of carrying those books in my hand luggage (i had been pretty much book deprived for a year) made leaving my parents, hk and friends a tiny bit easier.

when i put away faulks’ novel last night and took out mitchell’s, a little of that euphoria came out with it. it increased this morning as i looked through my little notebook of books and authors and updated it. and it increased further as the internet told me that new books were out by beloved authors--so i have the following to look forward to:
-falling together by marisa de los santos
-started early, took my dog by kate atkinson
-hidden buddhas by liza dalby
-sacred games by vikram chandra

i also came across this wonderful post on picks for best literary fiction in 2010, and added these two to my list:
-the lotus eaters by tatjana soli
-one day by david nicholls

the post and comments were so effusive and booksy, and reminded me of how much i enjoy talking books! oh books.. (i’m off to book dreamland..)

it is sad that i no longer have access to hk's awesome public libraries where i could IMMERSE myself in books. it is sad that i have no one to TALK books with anymore, no one to share a love for the written word. but i am SO glad that i still have books to be in love with, that i have the internet for sharing and connection purposes, and that H is slowwwly learning.. :P

22 November 2011

november end

gosh, where did the month go? i was doing so well with the writing last month, and then suddenly an entire month has gone by with no posts! it’s not that i didn’t want to write-in fact, several anniversary markers went by, and i had great intentions to write about them (on the blog and in H’s journal).. but of course, the intentions remained just that, intentions. sigh. i wrote before about distractions getting the better of me at times, and i guess this still applies. when will i become more disciplined, more focused, ya rab?!

anyways, enough rambling. i cannot rewind and write those posts now, so i will just share a few other things here:

i read a wonderfully cute anniversary post by mel. it is such a sweet, ordinary story, but so heartening and inspiring. it captures their two characters and their relationship so well. i would love to be able to share something like that..


tomorrow, november 23, is the launch of the international day to end impunity. check out the interesting website, which features stories of writers and freedom of expression advocates who were killed for speaking out, reporting the truth.

31 October 2011


no one is promised tomorrow. a family friend passed away yesterday, and it was a shock. inna lillahi we inna ilayhi raji’un. plans were being made and there was no inkling that he wouldn’t be around to take part. i cannot believe that he is no longer here, that he will not be around for so many milestones. i recall him telling me several times that he wanted to meet H, and i can only mourn that this never happened, that it will never happen. i could have tried a little harder to make it happen on my last visit home, but the thought that there would be ample opportunities in the future made me lax..

‘today is all you have’, ‘tomorrow never comes’ are words that fall like water off our backs. we all say them, we all know they are true, and yet, how many of us truly live as though today was all we had? i tell myself i will henceforth be more mindful of today, of doing important, meaningful things soon, rather than putting them off for some unforeseen future, but deep down, i am not sure how much my habits will change...

the worry that my parents will not always be there to cushion me, to parent me, is magnified by any such news. it is a worry that eats up at me, that can cause instantaneous tears and panic attacks. being so far away from them is made more painful at such times..

life is oh-so fragile. in a matter of moments, your world can shift 360 degrees. you can never be prepared for this, but perhaps certain characteristics and behaviours can be cultivated to make it easier to stay upright while your world is tumbling.

i pray for strength and forebearance for his family, and for sunshine to slowly return to their world.

27 October 2011

creative juices and boosted circulation

i made a card for H today, after not having done any hands-on artsy-craftsy stuff for awhile. it felt GOOD. let me just say, i am no artist. i do not have deft, nimble fingers, cannot draw a perfect circle or cut a straight line. i like colors and shapes and textures though, and i like to play, experiment. i like writing too. a lot. making and writing cards is thus a whole lot of fun, and i can feel the creative juices flowing in parts of my brain that are usually dormant.

making a card for H is doubly fun, because i am not overly concerned by the slightly crooked edge, or the millimeter of tape that can be seen, and so forth. (just to make clear, this is not because H deserves any less immaculateness, but because anything i make for him (i assume) would be taken in the spirit i made it in.) i would not make things for anyone else with so much enthusiasm. in fact, i don’t make cards for anyone else. i have friends who are pretty much professionals when it comes to such things. my 11-year-old niece is a much better artist than me. i would be embarrassed to show them my creations.

but i really enjoy making them. hmm, perhaps i should get back into snail mail, make small, fun stuff and send it along to my friends and family in various pockets of the globe!

i started working out again, after a year. i have a couple of exercise dvds that i used to play regularly, which i can do in the confines of my room. apart from anything else, i missed the adrenaline rush from working out, the feel good factor of an elevated heart rate, muscles in motion, and a boosted blood circulation. sure, i want the fitness that will come from regular work outs, but right now, my motivation is the feel good-ness that comes with it. it’s like quenching my thirst and soothing my throat with cool, delicious lemonade on a particularly hot day- yummm!

18 October 2011

burma: national reconciliation through hostage taking

the media has been happily reporting on burma’s release of detainees recently. most news stories are cautiously optimistic regarding the release, seen as being on the path to democratic reform and national reconciliation.

famous burmese comedian zarganar, however, likens the act to “putting makeup on a paralyzed elderly woman and taking her out on the town”, and says the detainees are like “hostages, being released at a trickle in exchange for deals being struck with various parties at home and abroad”.

read more here.


i’m currently reading i speak for myself: american women on being muslim. while enjoying the essays (which i’ll blog about later), i’m enjoying discussing my thoughts on them with a good friend via email even more. her last email made me grin and grin and grin (yes, i’m still grinning!). it is so wonderful to share something with someone, especially something close to your heart, something that interests you, that you are vested in. and to have feedback regarding that, to know that someone else is listening to you, is sharing your perspective, to connect with someone regarding that.. well, it just made me feel like this is why we are friends, why the world was so aligned..

and it brought to mind some awesome words by mel:
At the same time, it is our relationships that make the difference in this world, that heat this cold world. We notice those moments that people leave their bubble to enter our own because those moments are what makes the difference between people feeling supported and people feeling alone.

Humans are not meant to be alone.

Think about the emails you’ve saved because someone said something that meant the world for you to hear. Or the times when we’ve gushed about how someone took the time to converse with us or read our blog. We have such gratitude for human interactions — even the small ones.
read her entire post, it’s SO worth it.

i would love to join a book club. to read together, to discuss. hmm, how do i go about that..

12 October 2011

visited by genius

i came across this wonderful ted talk by elizabeth gilbert on creativity. (i need to check out more ted talks, really.) she shared some interesting history of greek and roman concepts of genius, where it was believed that individuals were visited by a ‘genius’, rather than being a genius themselves -like gilbert, i totally dig that!

surely, many people today (artists, writers, all creative people) must believe that to some extent anyways. how many could say that their creative work is 100 percent them, and not a product of circumstances, environment and some kind of divinity (including themselves)?

the talk brought to mind one of my favorite erica jong quotes: “the truth is no one knows where poems come from. especially not the poets.”

and reminded me of the following words by czeslaw milosz in ‘a book of luminous things’ (awesome international poetry anthology, you should definitely check it out if poetry is your thing): "Writing is a vocation but many writers experience it also as a curse and a burden. In a way, they feel as if they are serving as instruments to a force alien to them."

these were an intro to ‘in praise of my sister’ by wislawa szymborska, in which “the word ‘poems’ at the end of the lines serves to enhance the weirdness of that occupation”!!

‘poetry reading’ by anna swir also serves to capture the pressure put on poets to talk about all the mysteries of life, death and eternity.

linking etiquette

so i’m never sure what the etiquette for linking to other blogs is -do i need to tell them i’m linking to them? i’m not fishing for any reciprocal links or anything, but it just feels rude to be talking about someone without telling them! if i were talking to a friend about a topic that was inspired by xx, i’d go tell xx about the inspired conversation. doesn’t the same apply to the blogging world?

a quick google search says apparently not. (it makes the blogging endeavour sound a little lonely in fact..) on the other hand, if i were to leave a link to my post on their post/blog, that would seem like uncalled for advertising..

your thoughts?

10 October 2011

being happy AND right?

ever since coming across that women bloggers article (and the subsequent contemplation on women’s lives in general), i’ve been veering between two conflicting realities. i have never been a staunch fan of feminism, but i do believe in equality and non discrimination based on sex/gender.

in my current world, feminism seems to pose a huge obstacle to the notion of changing yourself in order to change your circumstances. ‘you can either be happy, or you can be right’. feminism tells me to be right, while life/relationship gurus tell me to be happy. dang it, i want to be happy. so how do i bridge the divide? how do you be a strong, independent woman, at home and in the world outside?

i read a beautiful essay two days ago, ‘the muslim feminist’ by hebah ahmed in the collection, i speak for myself, which spoke to my conflict. the author’s resolution of the conflict was internal however, and not really spelt out for me to follow.. perhaps this is one area where no amount of intellectual or other reflection can help me however; perhaps this is one of those struggles that i have to go through myself, and work out for myself, with no particular right or wrong..

a wise thought from a woman's search for god in the city: one of life’s lessons is to learn not only how to make choices, but also to learn to live with the consequence of these choices

03 October 2011

women and blogging

coming across this post on the topics favored by women bloggers in India (parenting, personal life, domesticity, cooking) was interesting, for several different reasons. firstly, I was surprised that there weren’t more women listed for writing about books, travel and current affairs, as I’m sure they’re out there. second, it was interesting to follow the comments regarding what constitutes ‘interesting’ topics, and I was reassured by most commenters noting that rather than women having to further diversify their interests (to ‘keep up’ with men), perhaps men should be encouraged to write more about parenting and domesticity. thirdly, it made me reflect upon the various blogs I read and their topics. a quick breakdown:

parenting: 3 women
Writing, books: 3 women, 2 group
Religion, spirituality: 1 woman, 4 men, 2 group
Life reflections: 11 women, 3 men
Poetry: 1 woman, 1 man
Travel: 1 woman
Current affairs: 3 men

while it is relatively easy to categorize the blogs in terms of gender, it was far more difficult to categorize them into various topics. not only do all the blogs fall into more than one category, but the categories themselves overlap: spirituality and life reflections for instance, or writing and travel. furthermore, how do I decide what is current affairs? should it be limited to the current debate on india’s poverty line, or is the southwest airlines’ policy on same sex kissing and its effects on a little girl included too? what about this and this ('this week'); are they current affairs, life reflections or parenting?

the majority of the blogs I read are not by Indian authors. (I have in fact been trying to increase my intake of Indian blogs, without success to date. recommendations are always welcome!) the three that I do read are on current affairs and politics, writing and life, and travel and life. two by women and one by a man. I read more blogs by women than men –this is something I only realized now, after this exercise. I read what interests me, what speaks to me, what makes me feel good. in other words, blogs about writing, faith, books, life, community, current affairs. and yes, I also read blogs written by people who interest me, who I care about.

fourth, a quick google search on the topic of women bloggers brought up an interesting book (that I hope to read someday), which indicated that while women bloggers are perhaps doing better in the west than in India, the same issues/stereotypes continue to plague them, albeit at a different level. some quote-worthy paras:
In an effort to counteract invisibility, many female bloggers have created gendered blog spaces on the Internet to support, promote and highlight each other’s work… Women bloggers use these blog spaces to identify good female blog content that is not being picked up in the popular or top lists…

Though women bloggers are often accused of avoiding political discussion, an analysis of blog postings… shows this assumption is erroneous. Quite the opposite, female bloggers shine a light on many neglected issues in the public sphere that relate to feminist politics… Much of the alternative news that is created in these networks addresses topics that are either routinely ignored by mass media news reports, or buried in such newspaper sections as the lifestyles or features.
I also came across the following article on Indian women bloggers, which noted that the advent of blogging in languages other than english gave more diverse women an opportunity for articulation than before. as a result,
In the Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Bengali blogospheres, the rise of female bloggers has been sharp in the past two or three years, especially in small-town and rural India. They discuss the joys and trials of more intimate but often more conservative communities, and the challenges of life within the extended family. Politics comes up, but with a focus on local issues usually missing from English-language discussions.

English-language female bloggers have tended to write about city life, dating and relationships, and workplace issues. The women who are coming online now from the small towns may have more circumscribed lives — fewer opportunities for work outside the home, a greater emphasis on marriage — but blog with confidence and self-awareness about changing social mores and their growing economic aspirations.

And whereas the women who dominate the English-language blogosphere tend to be urbanites in their teens and 20s, the Bengali, Hindi and Tamil blogs seem to have engaged the attention of older women.
so, to end, go women bloggers! anyone who thinks women blog about 'boring' or 'typical' topics simply needs to read more female blogs. on the other hand, if finance, IT and mainstream politics are their narrow world of 'interest', then their definition of boring needs to checked!

28 September 2011

the economics (and politics) of india's poverty

the following letter was sent to India’s Planning Commission by civic groups in Madhya Pradesh:
Dear Shri Montak Singh,

I am writing a very small note, because you have no time for poor usually.

What I have learned about Planning Commission is that, this institution do not hear voices of the poor. As these people are considered to be burden on economic growth. But let me assure you that Poverty Line prescribed by Planning Commission will certainly kill hundreds of thousands of people silently.

Hunger and Hungry do not make noise. They live short life silently and die with silence. They are left with no energy to express their own concerns over what India's Planning Commission is doing with them.

I would, anyway, like to request you to think over it again that why you want people to keep Hungry and Malnourished!! What is your feeling and belief behind this? I am of firm understanding that you just don't want society to decide what is poverty and who is poor. You want to decide at your level because you want to justify, wrongly, that economic growth policies have contributed in decreasing poverty, hunger and vulnerability in India. Whereas the truth is just opposite to your efforts.

If you don't agree with me, I would request you to live on this amount for six months and show that survival is possible on this expenditure, if you can do so, at least I would join your concept. Otherwise for the sake of humanity please don't play with the vulnerability of people living with hunger and poverty.

short and sweet (ignoring the grammatical errors of course).

a bit more description on the poverty line by ranjani mohanty:
The poverty line for a given individual can be defined as the money the individual needs to achieve the minimum level of ‘welfare’ to not be deemed ‘poor,’ given its circumstances.

This is how Martin Ravallion, director of the Development Research Group at the World Bank, defines the poverty line. In 2005, the World Bank revised the international poverty line up from $1 a day to $1.25 a day, but countries are allowed to set their own national poverty line. The Planning Commission has set India’s national line at 578 rupees a month, or the equivalent of 43 U.S. cents a day.

Even assuming only a charitable (to the government, that is) 30 days a month, that works out to less than 20 rupees a day. A half-litre packet of milk at Mother Dairy costs 10 rupees. One mango, those in season and heaped on carts by the side of the street, costs 10 rupees. And a cabbage …but no, your 20 rupees a day has already been spent. If you spend more than that, even on clothing or education or fuel, you cannot be termed as below the poverty line and therefore you are not eligible for BPL-related benefits and subsidies on food, shelter, and medical treatment. And note that the luxurious 20 rupees a day is for city dwellers; rural people have to spend less than 15 rupees a day in order to be below the poverty line.

The absurdity of such a low poverty line is astounding. Even the World Bank, which does not usually comment on national poverty lines, feels that India’s is too low and was hoping for a more realistic peg at $1.17 a day. Many concerned individuals have called India’s poverty line the “starvation line.” In fact, it is tending more toward the flat-line on a cardiac monitor.
and a much more detailed description of how the poverty line came about, its faults and so forth can be found here.

26 September 2011

catch up

it’s been over a month since I last wrote! I was lucky enough to be home for a month, and I thought I would have much food and time for blogging–what a crazy idea! the time flew by in the blink of an eye, and I am left wondering whether it was all just a beautiful dream.

it was wonderful to see my parents again, to live under their roof, to soak in their essence. I will never forget the wonder and joy on their faces when they saw me (it was a surprise visit); what I wouldn’t give to go back and capture that moment on video! a few days after returning, I came across this poem, ‘who am I, dad?’ which touched me..

I have books to read! 'in spite of the gods' by edward luce has been an informative and thoroughly enjoyable read, and I’m now getting into ‘a week in december’ by sebastian faulks, which promises to be as earthy and engaging fiction as I need right now. I put away muriel barberry’s ‘the elegance of the hedgehog’ for when I am ready for more intellectual, slightly elusive, prose.

in my last post, I noted my inability to truly focus on the present. I recently came across a post
with tips on practicing mindfulness – I’m going to try them out!

25 August 2011

rooted in the present

i am realizing that i am rarely fully in the present. i tend to always be anticipating the next thing, the future. last week i was attending a conference that i'd been waiting for for a long time. but instead of being totally present and immersed in it, i found myself spending a lot of time wondering when my cold was going to get better, anticipating my next conversation with H, imagining the food i'd be able to eat in x number of hours, and so on. the conference ended, and i found myself thinking of all the things i should have done. argh.

this is not to say that i just blew off the meeting. i attended all the sessions, took the notes, spoke to people, yadda yadda yadda. however, i did not give 100 percent of myself to all of it. and i think this is the case a lot of the time. i am so easily distracted by so many other things, i spend so much time thinking of what i should've said at any particular instance, or what i wish to accomplish tomorrow/this week that my right now suffers.

this reminds me of how all my early school reports would mention what a hardworking student i was. at seeing this, my dad would invariably ask me, 'just imagine what you could accomplish by truly being hardworking!'

is there a pill i can take to root myself (and my brain) right here, right now?? it would be particuarly useful about now, given that ramadan is drawing to a close, and there is so much prayer and self improvement i have yet to undertake..

10 August 2011

the good, the bad, and the beauty

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

beautiful poem, with a beautiful message. (how cool to have met rumi..) life is good and bad, and both can teach you a lot. being open to both is kind of related to being thankful for the small stuff, and a good resolution to work on during ramadan :)

08 August 2011

thankful for the little things

he who is not thankful for a little will not be thankful for a lot. hadith of prophet mohammed (sa)
I used to be better at being thankful for the little things in life, at stopping to smell the roses, at enjoying the little things more. I resolve to be better again.

being thankful for the little things is a great way to be happier, to be more positive, and inevitably, to strengthen your faith and be closer to your Maker. it also makes you want less.

focusing on the little things can also remind you what is important, and how much we take for granted daily—functioning limbs and organs, a roof over our heads, annoying but loved family members. it is also a great way to immerse yourself in the here and now.

I’m excited to begin. alhumdolillah :)

03 August 2011

knowledge and action

there is little value in knowledge when it is limited to the tongue (to words). the most valuable knowledge is that which manifests itself in the limbs and parts of the body (through actions). kalam of imam ali (as)

indeed. islam consistently says that it is not enough to know, you must also do.

yesterday, I heard a sermon on helping fellow muslims. I know the benefits of such assistance, I know its importance. but I do not actually act upon this knowledge. in fact, islam places a lot of emphasis on being a good, honest, humble person, on developing good characteristics, on being generous and kind and forgiving. I know all this. the corresponding actions are a little vague though—refraining from being unkind or dishonest is hardly enough..

if I were asked what my good deeds were, I’d be at a loss. I don’t really do all that much (prayer is not counted here.)

and I’m not even sure how to go about changing this. how do I be a better person? a better wife? I’m going to have to reflect on this and come up with a few things I can attempt on a daily basis..

suggestions or your own experiences are welcome!

02 August 2011

hidden beauty

“the beauty of that which is hidden is greater than the beauty of that which is apparent” (kalam of imam ali (as))
I usually cruise along happily in my rida (more so now, after having lost some long unwanted extra kilos!), until someone rudely jolts me with their own prejudices and stereotypes. I have always thought the rida to be a beautiful and comfortable outfit, and wearing it always made me feel more ‘me’. it covers your hair and figure in a gentle, elegant manner. I never wanted anyone but my significant other to see me without a rida—everything within the two piece outfit was only for a special pair of eyes. everyone else could admire my rida, and the ‘me’ not related to any physical attributes.


i read this article today about india’s fairness obsession. a similar obsession exists in most of asia –hong kong, china, south korea, japan, and others. I am clueless as to its origins and what it means. I can understand that people have preferences for their skin tone, but to have life choices hinge on this is seriously insane.

i remember just returning to hk after graduating from college, and beginning my job search. this one ad kept playing on the tv, where a recent graduate is all depressed about finding a job, until her professor gives her some beauty product. as soon as she uses it, she’s all glowing and immediately lands a job. I was outraged. what, all I needed was a beauty cream to find a job?? what was the point of the four years of hard work, of graduating with honors?? argh.

society’s obsession with skin color, weight, fashion sense is truly bizarre, if you sit down to think about it.


the beauty of ramadan is also hidden. it's not found in just the physical manifestation of hunger and thirst, but in the spiritual cleansing and rewards undertaken.

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music. [Rumi, 'Fasting']
Let nothing be inside of you.
Be empty: give your lips to the lips of the reed.
When like a reed you fill with His breath,
then you’ll taste sweetness. [Rumi, 'Ramadan']

31 July 2011

ramadan kareem

and it's ramadan! last year i spent quite a bit of time wondering what this ramadan would be like, in a new city, amongst new people.. it is hard to believe that a year has passed and life is moving along so quickly.. having no 'memories' here yet, my mind simply returns to the ramadan rituals and routines it was familiar with..

my favourite part of ramadan is its simplicity and lack of baggage, physical and mental. not being preoccupied with food, and focusing my energy on quran, namaz and dua is refreshing and.. fulfilling.


the following is something i came across some time ago, and it seemed like a good set of principles to work with during this month of ibadat:

1. God is a matter of alignment, not belief. Faith in God is not enough, you have to align yourself with the message. Valuing the master without mastering the values will not take you anywhere. The greater your non-alignment from the laws of life, the greater your suffering. Suffering is feedback from life, telling you that you are not aligned.

2. Life follows enthusiasm. Being enthusiastic is your way of being in touch with God. If you have to do something, do it enthusiastically or don’t do it at all. Right action is that which generates the energy to perform the action by itself.

3. We are people who are busy in our lives, and ‘also’ seeking God. But we have to become those who are busy in our lives ‘only’ seeking God.

read the entire piece here.


i was recently gifted an awesome book of rasullalah (sa)'s hadith and moulana ali's kalam. the month of ramadan is a good time to study and reflect upon them.
"do good to the worthy and unworthy. if a person is worthy, then he is deserving of that good. if the person is unworthy, then you are the one who does good regardless."

28 July 2011


after much angst and frustration about a particular troubling thorn, I recently asked for some advice from a couple of close friends. after reading their responses, my immediate thought was, ‘that sounds so sensible. why didn’t I think of it/act upon it?’ for a few minutes, I began wondering how it was that these friends were so much smarter than me, and had better perspective. then I asked myself that if I had been asked the same question, what advice would I have given? lo and behold, it turns out I would have given similar advice. because of course, I would have been calm and rational and positive in viewing someone else’s life scenario. sigh.

so next time I’m in a sticky situation, before panicking and reacting adversely, I’ll ask myself how I would advise someone else to respond.

it’s not easy to curb those instinctive (and frequently negative) initial reactions though… I will try though!

"The best way to succeed in life is to act on the advice we give to others." seriously!

"To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it." not sure if this makes me feel better, or worse..!

25 July 2011

kindness and pain

kindness. you would think that this was such a simple, universal concept. in fact, it is not. a big kindness for me may be nothing to you. or vice versa. or a small kindness on your part may rock my world. it all comes down to what someone needs at a particular moment, and what they see as important, courteous and what makes them happy.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m just adding up wrong… if I’m just dealing with people who have a different currency. Whilst I complain that they never bake me stuff, they complain that I don’t hug enough, or whatever. We’re all trying, but using such different methods that the other person never sees the gift.

I too feel that I don’t get enough kindness sometimes (and what a relief to know there are others out there feeling the same), but the above comment (to the linked post) was a nice reminder that perhaps I’m just not looking closely enough. perhaps I’m focusing too much on instant gratification of my immediate needs, without seeing the other little things that could brighten my day.

this is particularly important in relationships –one of the first things I read as a newly wed was advice I try to follow consistently (but falteringly..): ‘love your spouse how they need you to love them, not how you want them to love you’. your acts of kindness and theirs may differ; learn to notice (and appreciate) the difference!


the above comment inspired me enough to check out a new blog, and the latest post reads thus:

To heal, first and foremost, you have to want to heal. It sounds trite, and more than a little dismissive, as if everyone hurting is doing it on purpose for the attention, or perhaps to annoy. The thing is, some of the time we are doing it on purpose, but usually for a different reason. We carry our grief, our anger, and our resentment for further than is necessary when we haven't yet decided what to do with it. We have, after all, paid dearly for our pain. It's not reasonable to expect us to part with it easily, even though it is ugly and burdensome. Tossing it aside - "letting go" or "moving on" - is not our goal. Instead, we seek a transformation; a suitably valuable exchange.

indeed. how lovely if everyone could find such an exchange, if everyone could transform their anger/hurt into something useful and gratifying.

20 July 2011

friendship, part II

in the earlier post on friendship i said i had nothing to add -well, there is one thing i would like to add. that i am particularly grateful for having found friends to ease my journey at various times. these friends came into my life and fulfilled particular roles, helped me in particular ways, at particular times. then it just seemed oh-so-natural, but upon reflection i can see that they were like my guardian angels, guiding me, supporting me through certain paths. many of these friends i am either no longer in touch with, or not as close to as i once was. and yet, i always think of them with great fondness, for being with me through my tough times. there was my gcse physics partner, my a/s level english language pal, my bus buddy, my faith-spiritual guide in college, my polsci mentor, my dorm neighbor who was also getting over an intense crush, and so many others.

these awesome people befriended me, helped me through various roadblocks or just walked with me on an otherwise lonely road. our shared journeys resulted in intense connections. they also made me a firm believer in the ecstasy and comfort of true friendship, as well as its divinity -these people did not just happen across my life, but were surely placed there for a reason. (of course, i believe that all my friends are in my life for a reason, it's just that that reason is more visible with some than with others.)

for them, these lines have even greater meaning:
"no matter what person I become, there will always be in me the girl you knew, and no matter who I become, I would never have been that without knowing you"

18 July 2011

news and current affairs

i've come across some great/unusual/fascinating news stories/articles recently, all of which deserve individual blog posts. time and brain cells however, prohibit such a plethora of posts. instead, you'll have to make do with the links and some brief commentary!

delhi police solve mumbai blasts case
really, you should just read this short piece yourself. no commentary needed.

the u.s debt crisis
any debt crisis is complicated, and this gives a nice rundown of the various factors involved. my favorite lines: "We won't attempt to assign blame to one party or the other for the deficits. There is plenty of blame to go around, some of which rests with an American public that won't accept cuts in the largest categories of public spending, and also resists tax increases on anybody but "the rich.""

khan academy and doing homework in class
i began the article because of the reference to salman khan -no, this salman khan is not that of bollywood fame. the article is still (more so perhaps) deserving of a read, for info on khan's simple videos on maths and many other subjects that are being widely viewed by students and educators. one of the teachers making use of the videos in her class is 'flipping' the classroom, so that the video lectures are assigned to students to watch at home, while the homework and exercises are done in class, so that students get more, and more targeted, help. i could've done with that when i was in school for sure! maths homework sucked. really.

alice walker: why i'm sailing to gaza
"Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: What else would I do? I am in my sixty-seventh year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content. It seems to me that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one's understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young. How are they to learn, otherwise?"

13 July 2011

ksa diary

as i mentioned previously, one of my best friends came to visit me last week from south korea. it was a wonderful eight days, filled with much chatting, laughter and exploration. of the three, i couldn't say which was more fun, or which took up more time. in reality, the three melded together so that we were just being us, together, whether thoroughly enjoying coffee, artwork, street food or silence!

everyday, for me, was happy and adventurous -i had a girlfriend to talk to again, a fellow coffee- harry potter-peanut butter-english cinema and theatre-chinese food-human rights aficionado to share interests and activities with, an ex-colleague to wax sentimental upon ahrc with and a foreigner to be 'foreign' with!!

the week spent with her was more social and busy than my past several months perhaps:
monday- mall, beach
tuesday- haji ali (tomb), chinese lunch, coffee, shopping, xmen
wednesday- art gallery, coffee (together with another friend from hk), heritage street
thursday-lunch, beach, dinner
saturday-lonavla, lavasa
sunday-harry potter, thai dinner
monday-shopping, coffee

amidst all this was of course going through lots of photos, reading, chatting and napping. oh, and getting wet in the rain too! ksa also spent considerable time trying to understand hindi tv dramas and music videos!

her visit left me rejuvenated, and with a renewed sense of wonder and possibility at living in this new city and making it my home. thank you ksa, and please come again soon!

12 July 2011


"She said no matter what person I become, there will always be in me the girl you knew, and no matter who I become, I would never have been that without knowing you."

"Dating is about figuring out what you want. Friendships — those are about figuring out who you are. What matters to you. How you see the world. And one day, hopefully if our female friendships have prepared us enough, we can take what we learn from them and make that man or woman we commit our lives to our best friend."
this is from an awesome post on friendship, female friendship in particular. it says everything that i would want to say, so i really have nothing to add here (except for my favorite spanish proverb: 'tell me who you're with, and i'll tell you who you are'!) i could write about my friends, but i won't.. at this moment, i do not feel the need to share those precious, private, wonderful moments. perhaps at some other time; for now, i am happy to relive them in my head, to know that they exist(ed).

one of my best friends, ksa, was just here visiting me. just by being her, by being here, she reminded me of everything that i wanted in life, of everything i held important, of everything i aspired to. it was not so much that i had forgotten, but that it had been buried beneath too much baggage.

i have been blessed with some truly amazing friends, alhumdolillah!

23 June 2011

me, myself and.. who?

yesterday, i opened my well thumbed, small notebook, some 13-years-old, filled with the names of books and authors i've read or wanted to read, after a good six months or so. names such as nicole mones, david mitchell, sarah waters, haruki murakami, linda grant jumped out at me. elif shafak, emma darwin, audrey niffeneger called to me silently. hanif kureishi, paulo coelho, joanna trollope, john grisham took me down memory lane to my teen years. i was assailed by the memories of words, pages, covers, feelings, stories and people; how the books made me feel, who i shared quotes and plots with, who i had recommended which book to, who had recommended which book to me. all of this, between the pages of my palm sized book, within the span of a few minutes.

why had i waited for so long to flip through its pages, when previously i would usually look through it at least once a week?

the answer is simple: i do not have access to these authors and books here. so i suppressed my urge, i tried to make do with other books. (as i seem to have done in so many other areas of life..)

but those few minutes yesterday brought home to me how much i am giving up, how lost i am without my familiar markers. if someone were to come see me and my life today, i worry that they might wonder whose presence they had disturbed. ten kilos lighter, with no bookshelves or books to speak of, no coffee, music or tv shows to gush over, who am i? when was the last time i had a conversation about harry potter, house or the coffee prince?

i live amongst people who cannot understand concepts such as lactose intolerance or atheism. this is only funny when i can share it with someone. but where is that someone?

many posts ago, i had feared losing myself -this is exactly what i was afraid of. but i don't know how to remedy the situation. it is so easy to say i need to make friends, but really, the options for that are oh-so-limited at present. and friends who read, who watch intl tv, listen to western music?! seriously, that only happens on some other planet..

21 June 2011

forget writing what you know; believe what you write

the old adage on writing has always been to write what you know. (which is strange, really, because as a child, when I did most of my fiction writing, not only did I not know much, but I always wrote about things I did not know –supermarket trolleys with a life of their own, magical birds that could talk and save you from all kinds of disasters, boarding schools and midnight feasts.) perhaps ‘know’ should not be taken so literally, perhaps it is more about ‘knowing’ the characters and places well enough to bring them to reality for someone else.

according to stephanie mooney, you need to “believe what you're writing. Know it in the pit of your stomach. Make it real.” she notes that this is how jk rowling makes you believe in quidditch and wingardium leviosa, or how jr tolkien convinces you of the characteristics of middle earth. so, you need to believe, and believe with a passion. (for those interested in writing, I recommend you read her entire post, which is quite short, but totally packed with goodies regarding writing your way to genuine characters and plot.)

mel makes a similar point, noting that you can use your own experiences and “slide sideways into something unrelated”, rather than limiting yourself to the biblical sense of what you know. I’ve been stuck with my writing for awhile, and I know it has a lot to do with me not creatively expanding my horizon, mired in the very little that I ‘know’. my characters, places and events are boring me, because they are too close to what I know, there is no space for them to grow into their own skin.

it is a little scary to suddenly throw my characters into unknown territory, to flounder along with them as they make sense of the new. but hey, they say it’s the journey that’s more important than the destination, so let’s see where the floundering lands us!

beyond the fear

'if we lived our lives not doing because we were afraid, what a different life we’d live.'

aisha noted that many of the fears she has today, she had four years ago as well. oh how true. and how human. on a grand scale, this must be why history repeats itself, because we humans never learn, never get better, never move on. being older is definitely not being wiser. at least, not in the sense that we make less mistakes. only that we see our mistakes more clearly perhaps, or we are slightly more humble.

five years later, why is it that we’re still scared about the same things as five years before? most of us probably push aside the fear long enough to do what we need to do, while still being wary and uncertain. the fear never really goes away, we just learn to deal with it, and not let it take over our perspective. and as soon as we’re done, we get scared all over again. it’s like getting on a roller coaster –no matter how many rides I take, and how many times I get off it safe and sound, I’m still scared just before the ride begins. my heart is in my throat and I wonder why I’m putting myself through this, before I’m whizzed off in the air and can no longer form more coherent thoughts than, ‘OH MY GOD’.

i have heard that you don’t regret the things that you do in life, but the things that you don’t. that being the case, rumi's advice seems the most sound here:

"Keep walking. Though there's no place to get to. Don't try to see through the distances. That's not for human beings. Move within but don't move the way that fear makes you move."

if i'm always going to be scared anyways, it's better not to focus on the future, or to worry about any outcome. i will simply nudge aside the fear and do, and then do again. if i'm lucky, i will eventually not be scared. if not, well, i'll still have done what i needed..

introverts are cool

carl king has this awesome list of myths about introverts, based on a book 'the introvert advantage'. as he puts it, "I feel like someone has written an encyclopedia entry on a rare race of people to which I belong." most importantly, the book reveals that introverts are apparently people who are over-sensitive to dopamine, so too much external stimulation overdoses and exhausts them. this is exactly how i feel about most social functions/engagements, and until now i thought t s eliot was the only one who understood:

"In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light.
We are glad when the day ends, when the play ends; and ecstasy is too much pain."

carl king's list of myths about introverts make me feel oh-so-much better about myself:

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days. [yes, this has been pointed out to me in surprise by many an individual!]

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. [again, spot on.]

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in. [friends are good. acquaintances? not so much..]

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts. [excuse me, it's time for my recharge, see you some other time. what a great way to put it!]

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time. [i'm always happier with one or two persons at a time. max three.]

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy. [no, my choice of clothes and reading material has nothing to do with 'fashion'; why would it?!]

16 June 2011

like a brother?

this post on guy friends being like brothers, and the comments it generated, made me reflect on my own relationship with my brother-cum-best friend, as well as other guy friends. having grown up with two biological brothers, i never felt the need for any additional male siblings. on the other hand, i was very much lacking in male friends. i never seemed able to become 'buddies' with guys -there was always awkward chemistry/tension involved. (or they were just too 'weird'.)

according to one of the comments to the above mentioned post,
Friendship with a girl (however platonic it may be), is perceived to come about because the girl finds you fun to hang out with, smart, and a cool company in general.. The moment 'brother' comes into picture, it seems to throw all those flattering adjectives out of the window.. no idea why it happens though.. Also, 'brother' forcefully closes the door to a lot of talk-worthy topics and that occasional harmless, playful flirting between friends of opposite sex, which I think is healthy for a normal male-female friendship..
the indian context also has the 'rakhi brother', which apparently is commonly used to keep unwelcome advances at a distance...

i agree with the above comment, and i think this has a lot to do with the way brother-sister relationships are viewed (particularly in india perhaps). i grew up seeing my younger brother more as a playmate than a sibling. close enough in age, we did many things together, shared many interests and a sense of humour. this continued until today. many a time, my girl friends would remark on the fact that we could finish each other's sentences or that he was privy to my crushes. he was my best friend, who also happened to be my brother--seemed totally normal to both of us! my relationship with my older brother is far more conventional, due to various factors i guess, age difference perhaps being the biggest.

the point i want to make i guess, is that it really depends on the kind of relationship one has--while there is no playful flirting going on between me and my younger brother, he is much more my best friend than simply my brother. the few good guy friends i do have now however--again without any possibility of romance/sex on the table--are also not in the 'brother' category though..

15 June 2011

writing through distractions

it is so easy to get distracted, to stray from your goals, to not write diligently. a recent comment on my last post reminded me that it’s been 15 days since I last blogged –huh, how did that happen? where did those 15 days go? I know that there have been numerous blog worthy instances occurring in the past two weeks, but the time and inclination to write has just passed me by. it’s like if I don’t consciously take note of things and force myself to write them out, they just remain elusive thoughts and ideas floating in the universe. this is not to say that it is difficult to write regularly; it is just too easy to get sidetracked and not write. if I had actually written every time I’d had an idea in the last 15 days, I might have ended up with one post every two days! [note to self: write through all distractions. in fact, distractions can be great topics for blog posts!]

so promptly seems like a great exercise to join.

30 May 2011

In defence of the human rights defender: FMA Razzak’s story told

States and state agents have historically used violence to stifle public debate, and silence their critics. In many countries around the world today, states no longer rely heavily upon overtly coercive methods and instead acknowledge the need for authentic debate. But in many others, states and state agents continue to resort primarily to coercive methods.

In such countries, some persons try to break the silence on matters of importance that threaten repressive systems for social control. These persons we honour with the title, “human rights defender”. Oftentimes, the efforts of these persons seem small, especially to people in countries where authentic debate is taken for granted. Yet, such efforts necessarily begin small, and build up only with years of hard work.

Despite their appearance of smallness, such efforts challenge fundamental principles on which the state’s power is based. For this reason, human rights defenders in these countries inevitably become targets for violence. Sometimes the violence seems arbitrary. Sometimes it seems grossly disproportionate to the small efforts of the person.

People unfamiliar with the milieu in which the human rights defender has been working naturally have trouble seeing how apparently small efforts to change society can provoke savagery. At such moments, those people who work with the human rights defender have a special responsibility to delineate the person sharply from his social and political environment, and in so doing, to set out some features of that environment, so that others can also understand why the person has been made the subject of violence.

For this reason, the Asian Human Rights Commission is issuing this short narrative on the work of a Bangladeshi human rights defender, FMA Razzak.

The story of how members of an army officer’s family barbarically attacked and almost killed Razzak, gouging at his eyes and breaking his limbs, is now internationally known. The AHRC has set up a campaign webpage, which it is updating constantly, providing the latest details on the case and on subsequent events.

The purpose of this narrative is not to iterate all the contents of statements and appeals on the attack against Razzak, but to explain what motivated the attack, and to show how the police, judiciary and National Human Rights Commission in Bangladesh are working not to defend this human rights defender but to enable the continuance of violence and impunity in their country. To do this, we must begin with the story of Razzak, the human rights defender. That story, although specifically the story of Razzak, is more generally the story of the human rights defender as Bangladeshi; the story of anyone who sincerely believes and fights for human rights in such a country.
Read the entire narrative here.

25 May 2011

india's missing gender

there have been several media reports within the past week or so regarding the rise of aborting girl foetuses and the resultant shortage of girls in indian society. this is an old, old story, but here are some new (for me at any rate) arguments/facts mentioned:

-the increasing abortion of second girl children amongst india's rich and educated does not mean their higher preference for boy children, but rather indicates their greater access to sex selection, abortion and their ability to evade the law.
[or both perhaps?]

-caste continues to perpetuate dowry because the system restricts the supply of marriage partners, as a result of which, efficient matching of individuals doesn’t occur. caste thus acts as "a barrier in the free market of marriage. Then dowry becomes a method to bid for mates, signal social status and perpetuate an arms race to reach the top of the pecking order. Free enterprise has unshackled the economy, but the beneficiaries are operating in a restricted marriage market, limited by caste. They just demand higher dowries now."

-to counteract all this, laws can be used more creatively: tax breaks for mixed-caste marriages, grants for having girl children, government benefits for gender neutral employers

23 May 2011

monday grace

1. maaraz al burhani. what an awesome exhibition has been created on the life of syedna mohammed burhanuddin (tus). which is no surprise really: moula's life has been so awe-some, that an exhibition tabulating it cannot be any less so. i am blessed to witness both. mashallah.

2. 'comments are the new hug'. i have been increasingly finding refuge and inspiration online, and i like very much the idea of an online community to be part of, to feel connected with. (yes, perhaps i would not be so enamoured if i had an actual group of friends to rely on here, but in their absence, i will happily make do with this!) people commenting on my blog, me commenting on theirs, having a 'conversation' in this way feels good. international comment leaving week is the icing on the cake!

3. more inspiration: http://www.project-syndicate.org/

4. ck's birthday! many many happy returns of the day ya helwa. i am so glad to have known you, shared milestones (and much else) with you. here's to many more memories :)

16 May 2011

buddha's teachings

while working, i came across the following teachings of buddha, which i thought i'd share:

“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do if you do not act upon them?”

“We are what we think… What we think, we become.”

“I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.”

“Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone.”

“Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others… No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

“Each morning we are born again, what we do today is what matters most.”

10 May 2011

friendship and gratitude

When I am insecure or self-critical, my friends are both mirrors and crystal balls. They reflect all the good things about me I cannot see, and they assure me that my future is as bright as I want it to be. (192)

I don’t think this means that your friends verbally reassure you. At least, that’s not what I take it to mean. It’s more like… Your friends say (figuratively) a lot about you. They show what kind of person you are, and what kind of person you want to be. That’s why it’s important to seek out people who challenge and motivate you. Who are doing things you respect, who have qualities you admire.
[yes! exactly!]

For the record, my friends constantly amaze me.

Success surely means surrounding myself with loving people who bring me joy. (194)
i read the above here this morning, and it reminded me of the proverb, "tell me who you're with, and i'll tell you who you are". as i wrote in an earlier post, i am so lucky to have made some amazing friends, each of whom inspires me in different ways, each of whom has different qualities for me to admire and attempt to emulate. and most importantly, they inspire me to be the best i can be. i actually LIKE myself when i'm with them.

their absence on this new journey of mine has left me adrift and lost. and then, this afternoon, one of these wonderful friends sends me the following:

..along with your gratitude list, make an i'm great too list, where you pen down all the wonderful things about you. start with i'm so modest i don't see how great i am.

i can help you with that list - i can tell you what a loyal friend you are, or that you have wonderful eyes, or that you are witty and make me laugh. i can tell you stuff and much more, but it's not important that i believe. it's important that it comes from you, that you see your own value. and that you know that even though you have your flaws, that you have some wonderful qualities - not in comparison to anyone, but just good things that you have. i'm sure you can come up with five everyday. you can find a format that works best for you.. i suggest the 'today i feel + i'm great word'.

for example, here is mine right now. today i feel wise - i can dispense great advise to my friend.. just let it be at that moment where you are nice to yourself, and stay there. you don't need the negativity. slowly you'll fend it off. and slowly you'll emerge, not dust-free or coal-free, but a diamond nonetheless.

h is lucky to have found you. i am lucky to have found you. i hope you find yourself too, you're luckily the closest to you.

THIS is what friends are for. they hear the song in your heart and sing it to you when your memory fails!

today i feel blessed and lucky and loved. thank you ck, and all my wonderful friends :)