28 April 2011

burnt shadows

a beautiful novel by kamila shamsie. in every sense of the word - beautiful prose, beautiful sentiment, beautiful characters, a beautiful world (even amidst wars and blood, pain and loss). it soothed me when i first started reading it -again, it was one of those novels that came when its presence was needed. it evokes memories of the gift of rain. i will look for shamsie's other books -there's four of them, yay!

"The old man shakes his head, aware of the foolishness he is exhibiting in staring at the young woman who is entirely unaware of him, but grateful, too, for something in the world which can still prompt foolishness in him."

"..as for justice, it seemed an insult to the dead to think there could be any such thing."

"I love that about the Americans-the way they see certain kinds of craziness as signs of character."

"..until you see a place you've known your whole life reduced to ash you don't realise how much we crave familiarity.. I want to hear Japanese. I want tea that tastes the way tea should taste in my understanding of tea. I want to look like the people around me. I want people to disapprove when I break the rules and not simply to think that I don't know better. I want doors to slide open instead of swinging open."

"'but I'm at home in the idea of foreigness'. When Hiroko heard her say that she knew she'd found a friend."

"If the greatest loss of his life is the loss of a dream he's always known to be a dream, then he's among the fortunate ones."

"He almost laughed at this strange hierarchy which placed the law above advice by an elder.."

"That was the thing about Harry Burton which made his smiles so impossible to resist -when he said a thing, he meant it. For that moment."

"A city in which she could hear Urdu, English, Japanese, German all in the space of a few minutes. The miracle of it! Sometimes she rode the subways, overheard conversations her only destination."

"Nothing foreign about foreignness in this city. 'Like Marry Poppins' handbag', Ilse had said to explain how much the little island of Manhattan could hold within it. She felt she had been waiting all her life to arrive here."

25 April 2011

monday grace

1. health. a recent familial health scare reminded me of the fickle nature of life and good health. it also showed me a glimpse of what life could be like for chronically ill patients and those caring for them.

parents and family members ageing and developing illnesses is today the norm. i am no longer in my 20s, when health concerns were nowhere on my radar.

i am thankful however, that at least today, everyone i love is in good health. may this always be the case.

2. writing. the satisfaction i feel at finishing one article on corruption in india is immense (and has me eagerly anticipating what could be next..). as is the satisfaction of starting some other, fictional writing. regardless of the outcome, the journey so far has been fun :)

3. inspiration. i love finding new blogs/websites that speak to me, inspire me, act as my virtual guides in this journey of life. the latest of these are:
http://zenhabits.net/ -a great place to go for advice on simplifying your life, remembering what really matters, and just breathing.
and http://www.sprogblogger.com/ -a new mama's blog, filled with humour and grace (and some non-mama stuff!).

13 April 2011

optimism or denial?

i am confused about the fine line between optimism and/or faith and denial. websites and conversations are inundated with 'stay positive', 'believe things will work out', ‘fake it till you make it’, 'a smiling face will half your sorrows'. which reminded me of the hadith on always keeping a smiling face--of which I cannot recall the exact words right now; if anyone knows it, do share! (and that brought home to me (quite unpleasantly in fact) that praying namaz five times a day is not all that islam expects from me. but me being a poor muslim is not the subject of this post...)

i am not one of those persons who can smile and pretend the world is beautiful when I do not actually feel that way. apart from physically and mentally finding it a challenge, i also see it as deceitful. why should i say i’m fine when i’m not?

on the other hand, i’m rather tired of wallowing. every step i take forward, i stumble two more backward. is it better to sit and cry at my lack of progress and my oh so weary legs, or to rest briefly, smile and move forward yet again? if i have no choice but to remain on the road, then i pick the second option.

perhaps the difference is this- i am not denying my lack of progress and my weariness, just affirming that with patience, faith and yes, a smile, the road will eventually get easier to walk on. if i believe there is a reason for me to be on this road, then i must also believe that the means to walk it are also with me, that this burden is not more than i can bear.

and if this is in fact denial, then hey, I’m faithfully in denial!

11 April 2011

monday grace

1. 'unjust' won an award. jo's film won a special jury award at the 'movies that matter' film festival, 24-30 march 2011, the hague, yay!

2. 'just write'. i've been devouring the web recently for articles, blogs and websites on writing tips and tools. the most consistent advice i found was nicely summed up by aisha- 'just write'! indeed. like with anything else, first you need to begin, and then you need to keep going. in between, you will put in the necessary time and effort to become good, inshallah.

other useful blogs/sites i found: http://writerunboxed.com/,

3. making plans with a friend. in this huge new city where just the people i know (excluding H's family!) can be counted on my fingers, let alone any friends i may have, it is wonderful to make girly plans and have something to look forward to at the end of the week :)

07 April 2011

'un'reality tv

hindi tv serials (soap operas in other words) are insane. really. the clothes, make up, jewellery, houses are out of this world. who lives in these gorgeous palaces today, wears those fancy clothes with matching accessories and make up, and not only sleeps in the same attire, but wakes up with uncreased clothes, spotless make up and perfect hair???

i could go on with the unrealities portrayed, but i will refrain. i just want to rant about one particular aspect –i HATE it when they show these gorgeous women, in their gorgeous clothes and hair and make up, go into the kitchen, and whip up spectacular meals in the space of minutes, and all without dropping any onions, or spilling any water, or feeling any heat (the heat is something that bothers me the most about being in the kitchen!), and serve up these meals as though there was nothing to it.

i know this is all unreal and make believe, and yet it bothers me every time. it still makes me feel a tad bit inadequate, a tad bit guilty. why, you ask? for despising the heat, for being all worn and sweaty after chopping and stirring and slaving at the stove, for it taking me hours to cook a simple dish, for me being ready to lie on the bed with the ac on as soon as I’m done. most importantly, for not enjoying being there, for not being as happy as those women are in their kitchens. aaarrggghhhh. darn stupid serials.

06 April 2011

marriage as growth

being married for even a few months has shown me that marriage is no walk in the park (unless it happens to be jurassic park, as a forwarded sms noted!). while i chose the following vows prior to getting married,
Because marriage is a discipline
To be added to a list of achievements...

Because marriages do not fail, people fail
When they enter into marriage
Expecting another to make them whole...

Because, knowing this,
I promise myself to take full responsibility
For my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness
I create me,
I take half of the responsibility for my marriage...[mari nichols, 'why marriage?']
i cannot say that since then, i've done a very good job of taking care of myself, of not depending on H for my happiness and emotional well being. (i'd like to say that moving to a new country surely allows me some leeway here, but five months on, that rings a little hollow..)

i read some stuff today that renewed my resolve to work harder at being a better person, a happier person, and hopefully, in the process, a better spouse:
“Marriage is not designed to make us happy. What makes you happy is way too vague and elusive. What makes you happy changes with the seasons and the stages in life. And often, once you obtain whatever it is that would make you happy, it’s short lived and fleeting. If I define my life and live my life only by what makes me happy – I’m going to harm a lot of people along the way.”

“Marriage is designed for one thing: growth.” [http://www.projecthappilyeverafter.com/2009/11/the-best-marriage-advice-you-ever-got/comment-page-1/#comment-4773]

The best marriage advice I ever received was from my counselor….it was that you cannot change your spouse. You can change yourself, which will indirectly change your spouse. It’s hard to change yourself. It’s hard to look inward. It’s hard to get past the ego and see the raw ugly truth about yourself. You have to be patient with yourself. But once you see it….you can do something about it. And once you do something about it, everyone else around you seems to change.[http://www.projecthappilyeverafter.com/2009/11/the-best-marriage-advice-you-ever-got/comment-page-1/#comment-4751]

Why can I confidently say that marriage is worth it? Because... there is more to learn about ourselves than we could have ever dared imagine back when we were first single... I hope that the years that I am married serve as the refining fire I believe God intends them to be, molding and shaping me into someone who is more like Jesus than she was before.

I mean, really, in the Bible, God compares a marriage relationship to that of Jesus’ relationship with us for a reason. Because it is amazingly similar. Believers are referred to as “the bride of Christ.” We are lovely, loved and chosen, both as wives and as believers, to enter into a love relationship. And then what do we do? Show our admiration and appreciation by loving Jesus, and our husbands, flawlessly in return? Um, not. We flounder around, cause pain to our Beloved, make hurtful remarks and love imperfectly. And our spouses return the favor, loving us imperfectly, too. Showing us their flaws and weaknesses. And we have the chance to turn away in anger, rejecting our spouses, or to do what Christ does with us: Keep on loving anyway. The way God loves us all, no matter what, is such an inspiration in my own marriage. [http://mycharmingkids.net/2011/01/marriage-is-really-really-hard-work/]
and, of course, there is the islamic concept that engaging in any behaviour with the aim of pleasing allah is akin to worship. these will all be my new guides to personal growth, and inshallah, a strong and happy marriage! if you have any other tips, i'm all ears (or eyes)!