Friday, October 28, 2011

Concussion, It Was...Really!

A couple of days ago, I went to some place with my father. He and I were sitting next to each other on a couch for quite sometime, when a woman ( Let us call her A, for convenience' sake) walked in and stood right beside us. The place was all so crowded. She couldnt seem to find a place to fit herself in. So I moved a little closer to my dad so that she could sit next to me in whatever little space that was thus made available for her. So she sat down relieved, or so i think, at least. We didnt talk to each other for quite a while, because I am usually not the talker when there are a lot of people around, and more so, when they are not even remotely related to me. But then, she asked me something, (I forgot what exactly), and we ended up striking a conversation out of nowhere. She asked me why I was here and who I was with. You know, things like that, to initiate a conversation...Actually we were at a bank, so I answered her as best as I could. And then, another lady came ( Let us call her B), and she too couldnt  find any place to sit, so my father stood up and made way for her. There I was, a young woman, sitting with two mature elderly and motherly women on both my sides. This other woman then asked me what my token number was and who I was with. So I told her and asked hers. She then kept asking me questions like whether my mother was here too, and how many siblings I had. To the former, I answered in negative, and to the latter, I said none. So she was quite suprised and then asked me if my father ever felt upset on not having had a son who would look after him when he got old. Again, my answer was a no. More surprised as she sounded, she apparently tried to make amends for asking such a personal question by telling me that these days, having daughters is far better than having sons. ( Disclaimer: I might be wrong in thinking that she just wanted to make me feel better by saying this......she might be saying this very honestly and without any concerns that she needed to make me feel better by asking whether or not, my dad was too happy to have a daughter as his only child) And then A joined us in our conversation. We remained quiet for a while, and then another woman came and she sat between B and I, so I had to move a little closer to A. And we ( A and I, that is) re-continued talking about the benefits of having a daughter. She told me ( I am yet to check its authenticity, though) that when a man gets a son born to him, Allah Ta'ala Addresses the father and Says that I Have Bestowed you with your arms or something to that effect, but when a daughter is born, He Says that I Have Become your arms from now on. So I was wowed. by this I asked her where she lived in karachi, ( I actually asked her this for the second time, becaue I couldnt locate the place in my mind previously, so I was curious as to where exactly she lived in the city of my origin) She explained it to me again but it went in vain.I, too didnt insist, for I understood that the failure does not lie at her end. Then we moved on to some serious talking. She told me that almost all the Signs of Qayamat have been manifested, and although I knew that yes, some of them are being clearly observed, I still asked her :Really? How come? And then she continued telling me all the different vices that are so prevalent in this day and age. So I was like, yes, you are right! And then she said the society has become so evil-like that I fail to practice fully whatever good that I have learned and whatever I have taught so far. So I said that good education ( taaleem) goes hand in hand with good tarbiyat. Both of them are necessary prerequisites for a morally healthy society. I added by telling her my story that when I was growing up, my parents were always focussed only on my grades and my ranks in academics. They didnt really tell me that I should be pious alongwith being a well-educated human being. So i just told her that it is all due to the ignorance and insufficiency of Knowledge that is keeping people away from following and adapting to the life of a True Muslim. But then she showed me the other side of the coin. She showed me what I have always failed to notice, let alone ignore. She said that yes, I might be right, but what about the parents who tell their children every now and then to be well-behaved?What about them who have actually become weary and exhausted in making their children true muslims but nothing good seems to come out of all their toil and strife?She told me that whenever she explains to her children to do what is right and stuff like that, her children get annoyed, leave their food and walk out on her. She then went on and asked me why do I think suicide attempts  have become matters of common occurence now. And I was like , it was may be due to people's lack of himmat, you know, and she said, that yes, you could be right. But there's another thing that goes with it. Every man values his life as much as everybody else. It is just sheer depression that results from seeing his children screaming every night for food, and his wife telling him every night that there is no ration at home, eid is drawing near and things like that. What does a person do in such circumstances? He takes his life. She was not justifying suicide. She was only making me understand how "real" things are and how not everything's going to be our way. And all we need to do is to just stay put patiently for whatever we didnt have, showing  gratitude to Allah Ta'ala, for whatver we did have.To not show-off for whatever we did have, or to not be envious for whatever we didnt have. She was a teacher at a private school,  she told me. Her husband was a head-master at some government school. He had taken a second wife. And he gave A only 6,000 rupees for food rationing etc, while A gets a meagre 5000 rupees for her monthly salary. She finds it difficult to manage everything, but she doesnt seem to be complaining at all. Not to me, at least. Our conversation was interrupted by my father who wanted me to write a cheque for him for a hundred thousand and something. While I did so, embarrassment crept inside me and overwhelmed me. It has never left me ever since. Wondering why? Me too. I have just spent an hour and a half in narrating this short episode of my life with no real "punch-line" or "motive" in my mind. I wrote this so that I dont forget Hafeezah. That's what A's real name is. And how well it suits her! MashaAllah! And she came from Mach Goth, somewhere near HUB Nadi. May Allah Ta'ala Protect us and Do Hifazah of our Imaan at all times, good or bad! Aameen thumma Aameen!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book Review: "Scattered Seed" by Maisie Mosco

Scattered Seed,
Maisie Mosco
Harper Collins

When shall we twain,
join hands again,
no more to part,
thou hast my heart?”

Life’s lessons are learnt and not taught, and the medium of learning is the course of life, and every pupil is in himself a school-incarnate. One realizes this and acknowledges many other enlightening phases and modes of life after having read Maisie Mosco’s Scattered Seed, which is the second book of a trilogy about a Russian Jewish family which emigrates to North Manchester, England in early 20th century in order to escape the anti-Jewish riots and pogroms which erupted in pre-Soviet Tsarist Russia in late 1800s and continued till early 1900s.
The assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 for which some hold the Jews blameworthy, provokes a large-scale, massive, violent yet organized anti-Semitic riots and massacres. With the lapse of time, in the early 20th century, despite military interventions, these retaliatory attacks become bloodier and homicidal as the Jews now take to arms to defend their homes, families and property from their Christian assailants. During these pogroms, thousands of Jewish families are torn asunder and reduced to a life of drudgery. With their homes thus destroyed, a large number of Jews seek new havens for refuge which they soon find in England and United States. Unfortunately enough, soon the initial airs of sympathy transform into a general attitude of social estrangement and aversion.
Sara and Abraham’s is one such family which struggles through the initial phases of homelessness and poverty, later stages of emigration and settling in England, and then subsequent alienation and degradation by the British society. This story is a family’s journey through all tinges and shades of life, be it white, black, or grey.  However clich├ęd it may sound, but yes, it is true that once started, the book with its grins and grimaces, meal-times’ discord and weekends’ reunion, and religious festivals and social occupations, glues the readers to it for as long as the narrative lasts. However, brief references to historical and religious details and elaborated and inter-twined kinship ties may often confuse the reader.
All in all, it is a good read for the lovers of religious history in particular and even a better read for the lovers of books in general!

Book Review: "Aleph" by Paulo Coehlo

Book: Aleph
Author: Paulo Coehlo
Publisher: HarperCollins

I’m exaggerating. If we seek something, that same thing is seeking us.
Nevertheless, you have to be prepared for everything. At this point, I make the decision I’ve been needing to make: even if I find nothing on this train journey, I will carry on, because I’ve known since that moment of realization in the hotel in London that although my roots are ready, my soul has been slowly dying from something very hard to detect and even harder to cure.
Routine has nothing to do with repetition. To become really good at anything, you have to practise and repeat, practise and repeat, practise and repeat, until the technique becomes intuitive. I learned this when I was a child, in a small town in the interior of Brazil, where my family used to spend the summer holidays. I was fascinated by the work of a blacksmith who lived nearby. I would sit, for what seemed like eternity, watching his hammer rise and fall on the red-hot steel, scattering sparks all around, like fireworks. Once he said to me:
‘You’ll probably think I’m doing the same thing over and over, don’t you?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘Well, you’re wrong. Each time I bring the hammer down, the intensity of the blow is different. Sometimes it’s harder, sometimes it’s softer. But I only learned that after I’d been repeating the same gesture for many years, until the moment came when I didn’t have to think, I simply let my hand guide my work.’
            I’ve never forgotten those words.

It begins with a confession of one’s repetitive failed attempts to be perpetually connected to one’s soul. It traverses along symbols, signs, intuition and adventure. It ends with a rendezvous with one’s inner self, one’s own soul. Like Paulo’s international bestseller, “The Alchemist”, his newly published “Aleph” has a journey within and without oneself for its salient feature, with the mere difference that in this recent work of his, the author presents himself as the protagonist. This is not to say that the “Aleph” has nothing new or worst still, nothing at all to offer to its readers as far as its story-line is concerned. Being a hundred-percent autobiographical account of the author’s journey across the Trans-Siberian Railway, which passes through seven different time zones and is one of the longest railway networks in the world, the book is marked with even the slightest detail related to the train ride, ranging from the constant lurching of the vehicle and the racket caused by the wheels rubbing against the rails, to the bothersome occasions of a sleep disrupted by the tumultuous halts and departures coupled with the constant jerks, which are a matter of common occurrence for a train-traveller. These and all other elaborate paragraphs, nonetheless, fail to bore the reader, let alone dissuade him/her to put the book down for even a fraction of a second. On the other hand, they only add to the reader’s already-growing interest for the 300-page memoir.  As the author sets out, a curious reader might as well intend to embark on such a journey himself, only to find later than there is no such need, for the reader already accompanies the author on the ride, and the journey thus under-taken by the latter is, in effect, the former’s too.  
            Having said this, one needs be reminded that this journey is not without a purpose, and to understand fully ( or even partially ) the author’s primary objective which underlies this decision of his. is an ardous exercise in itself, for, like Paulo’s other literary masterpieces, the “Aleph” is also inundated by philosophical and spiritual ideas which are often difficult to comprehend, despite the simplicity of words used to describe them.