Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Archive for November, 2011

Are we lollipops?

It is a matter of pride that I was born a girl, despite knowing very well how tough life continues to be for women from birth till their death, and from east end of the globe to the west.

From parental upbringing  to interaction outside, from  house chores to professional job, from  status at home to  dignity at work, women are given second class treatment in most places. We form more than 50 % of the whole world’s seven billion, but still struggle to make ourselves being perceived as more than an object.

Whether in the name of faith, culture, or physical vulnerability, women are shown their worth  merely as an Adam’s rib.

A few days ago , I came across a picture which got me nauseated.

It had an  added  caption ” Would you like to be a covered lollipop or an exposed one?”

And to add more to my horror, many women and girls seemed to be nodding in agreement with their comments.

Do we really have to compare ourselves to lollipops ?

Does a lollipop have a mind of it’s own ?

Does a lollipop become a scientist like Marie Curie or a Prime Minister like Benazir Bhutto or an astronaut like Kalpana Chawla ?

Do lollipops even become strong caring mothers, supporting wives or sincere friends ?

But we women folk do. So we better stop this idiocy about covered or uncovered lollipops, please.

Everyone has a right to choose what should one wear, or not to wear, and so does a woman, whether she chooses to wear a hijab or not. Many women willingly  choose to wear it as a part of their religious duty. But there are many who go for  it because they consider themselves safer wearing one. Sadly, that is a myth.

If it was just exposure, or physical attraction, which made girls vulnerable, why would girls as young a ten years, two years or even six months  be abused, molested or raped ?

It may make one feel less exposed physically, but the real safety comes from a strong mind. A strong mind comes from awareness.  And awareness comes from quality education.

It is naïve to expect that things will change, only when men will change. They need to change too, but if women get empowered, men will change themselves.

If women really wish to make women abuse a history, they need to empower themselves with right education and independent thinking.  And then they need to pass on that information to other women folk .

Challenging oppression does not mean to be a rebel. It does not mean to hate men folk, nor does it mean to detest womanhood. It simply means to have your own mind and stand on your own two feet, with hijab or without.

P.S. In this  16Days of campaign of Violence  against Women, try to teach at least one weak woman to become strong  through Education, for herself and for her family. 


The soil is in ferment, O friend~ Bulleh Shah

While looking for more of Bulleh Shah’s poetry in an attempt to make a comparative list of Verses between Bulleh Shah and Kabir, I came across a new fascinating piece of his poetry.

In this Kaafi he presents the truth of life on Earth, beyond the temporal day to day life.  In the last verse he challenges the riddle of life,  to be solved.

In Seraiki (a dialect of Punjabi):

“Maati kudam karendee yaar,
Vaah vaah maati de gulzaar;
Maati ghora maati jora, maati daa aswaar,
Maati maati nu (n) dorave, maati daa chankaar.

Maati maati nu(n) maaran lag-gee, maati de hathiyaar.
Jis maati par bahutee maati, so maati hankaar;
Maati baagh bagheechaa maati, maati dee gulzaar.
Maati maati nu (n) vekhan aayee, maati dee a bahar;

Hus khed phir maati hove, paindee pau pasaar.
Bullah ja(n) eh bujhaarat buj-jhe,
Taa(n) lah bhau siro(n) maar.”

English Translation:

The soil is in ferment, O friend
Behold the diversity.
The soil is the horse, so is the rider
The soil chases the soil, and we hear the clanging of soil
The soil kills the soil, with weapons of the soil.
That soil with more on it, is arrogance
The soil is the garden so is its beauty
The soil admires the soil in all its wondrous forms
After the circle of life is done it returns to the soil
Answer the riddle O Bulleh, and take this burden off my head.”

Translation by : JR Puri

Laughter, the best medicine.

Mirth is God’s medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it. ~Henry Ward Beecher.

Born and brought up as an Indian, I know one thing for sure, that in India we don’t bathe in it very often. It’s another matter that we mock at others accent, skin colors, hair or even names. We lack the capability to laugh at our own selves or even silly, with no rhyme or reason.
And many a serious beings drowned in deep intellect, find it below their dignity to laugh a hearty laugh. Sorry to generalise, but more so amongst my own clan, the middle aged women.

Today morning  twitter friend tagged me and a couple of other twitter friends to the new song KOLAVERI. The tune was catchy, the words hilarious, not hard to believe it had a 2 million hits with numbers  visible at the site. It lifted the mood at worktable.  And I heartily retweeted it.

Just then in my TL,  I saw a comment from someone to someone else :
‘”I’m aghast to see otherwise sensible people falling into this kolaveri promotion trap. How sad!” and “huge marketing gimmick and every media outlet fell for it, us included “.

Well I don’t know if it was marketing gimmick, I found it genuinely hilarious and a new taste in the mouth. And as for the intellectual quality of the song, even the singer himself began with “a soap song, a flop song”.

If only we had learned to laugh silly and be a little lighthearted at times, Dr Madan Kataria wouldn’t have needed to invent the Laughing Yoga for the Indians. So much of success it is now that there are 5000 laughing clubs and people of all ages participate. It is not just the momentary elation one gets in one’s mood, but the researches show that a hearty laughter reduces stress and its related chronic illnesses like hypertension, depression, heart disease, and arthritis.

Laughing yoga which includes a childlike playfulness, clapping, breathing exercises and a hearty laugh for no reason. It culminates with a two minutes silence to relax. What is funny is that you really need not be in a funny mood to reap it’s benefits. The brain cannot tell the difference between between a fake and a real laughter and in both cases it ends up producing endorphins and neurotransmitters that strengthen the immune system and hence our body’s resistance to deseases.

Needless to say laughter takes us momentarily away from the negative emotions, and makes bearable the stressful that envelopes us all around.
Laughter  needs no space, infrastructure, or expensive club membership.
It is infectious too. It spreads and connects people, be it the virtual friends.
More so, laughter even benefits those who sit and watch other people laugh.

As goes the Irish proverb, a good laugh and long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.

And before we click on to a childlike laughter at the lyrics of Kolaveri, lets share what Farhan Masood had tweeted at the same time ( with no connection to this discussion)

Zindagi ki uljhanen, Shrarton ko kam ker deti hain,
Aur hum smajhte hain k, Hum barrey ho gaye !

And well into my forties, I refuse to grow up, when it comes to laughing.

Domestic Violence and helplessness

Here are three stories from my experience, which I personally saw growing with time.

They all had two things in common.One, that they were all  classical examples of domestic abuse, and secondly, that I was helpless in being of any help to them.

Ahmed was a 55 years old Pakistani man living in the neighbourhood. We did not know his wife for months, till when he once asked my husband if I could see her, because she was pregnant and had some complaints. Zubeida, his wife came to visit me as a patient.

With a toddler in her lap, she seemed way younger than her husband. After several visits it was revealed that she was his second wife and almost 25 years younger to him and he had married her 3 years ago. Ahmed had lived in US in his youth and married a local there. They had 3 kids and were together for 12 years after which they got divorced. He moved to the Middle East and ran a restaurant there. Now decided to marry Zubeida, from his clan, who had been a widow with three young children. So parents married her off to Ahmed, a well off businessman, while her three children, 6, 4 and 1, ( when she married) were being taken care by her parents. By the second marriage Zubeida had a 2 year old boy and was now pregnant again.

On being asked, that I never saw her in the neighbourhood, she revealed that when her husband went to work, he put a lock outside the house. And that she was instructed to not talk to anyone in the neighbourhood and tell details of their life. She wasn’t allowed to have a domestic help either.

She confided that she missed her little kids who were in Pakistan. She barely talked to them once a month because her husband didn’t like when she cried while talking to them on phone. She hadn’t seen them since she came  there, three years ago. Her husband insisted that now she should be content with the kids that she is having from him.

On being informed that this was ‘abusive’, she justified that her husband had suffered a lot at the hands of that American woman, who claimed half of his property at divorce, and took away the custody of the kids. And hence, his trust on women has been eroded.
“He always provided me with good clothes, and if I did not cook, he brought food from his restaurant.”

She said her parents were happy that despite having been widowed with three kids, she was lucky to have found a nice husband. So they do not like when she complains that she misses her older kids. She also did not want to be Thankless to God for the same.
After she delivered, I never heard from her until she was pregnant again for the third time.

Misbah (a local ), was a doctor herself.  She had married a Mutawwah (a mullah) , as his second wife, making all the justifications and necessary quotations from the religion for her act. And also narrating the virtues of marrying a religious person. Despite all the warnings from all of us at work, she went ahead.

For six months, it was sheer honeymoon for her, and she was the most obedient a wife could be. If he asked her to quit her work in the middle to see him, she would throw a sick leave and go. If he demanded her to cook something in the middle of the night, she would comply happily, for she thought she had to win his heart, over the first wife.

It was heartbreaking to see a bold friend of ours lose all her personality all of a sudden. News that she was pregnant transcended her to the seventh sky.

Six months into her pregnancy, she was devastated to discover her husband married a third time. On protesting, her husband stopped visiting her. She again resorted back to the same vicious cycle of pleasing him to draw his attention in competition with the other two wives. And the demands to please him kept multiplying exponentially. The extent his demands were such that if she talked on telephone for longer than his liking, he would leave and go to one other wife.

The complaint that, “she wasn’t paying attention to me”.

And so dutiful was he, that he never shared a penny from his own pocket with our friend, and possibly with the other two wives too, who were all working women.

We cried ‘he’s abusive’, but she wasn’t ready to accept it.

Her simple argument, “He never hits me, and that it is my duty to please my husband”.
We were left helpless.

Saira was a Indian nurse, who had come to work in the gulf. From the first month of the marriage, she handed over every penny of her salary to her husband. They were to save money to buy a land back home. Even a small demand of a dress, would need her to beg him for hours before he complied. And when they did buy the piece of land it was in his name.

For Saira, it was “Okay, because he is the man of the house. “

However, 12 years after their marriage, her husband fell in love with her own best friend, and they got married secretly. When Saira came to know, she was pregnant with her second child. From then on, she refused to hand him the salary, and this is where her physical abuse began.

Putting a brave front, she refused to comply. So his next demand was that she quit the job. She almost left the job, until we all colleagues intervened and convinced her not to.

She did ultimately, but the cycle of physical violence kept on unabated. Our cries to the people of authority were of no avail, for it was justified to have more than one wife and she was unreasonable, in being angry about it. Hence, his resorting to physical violence was justified.

Saira was unwilling to take any step to walk out on him because despite all the miseries, she still “loved him”.

Saira’s family, too, was of the opinion, “Men are all like this, women have to bear it always. “

These are just a handful of stories, from the barrage of incidences of domestic violence I have come across during my work experience.

For most women, if they were not being hit, they were not being abused. Emotional, financial or any other form of violence except physical was no abuse.

Unfortunately, in most of the cases it was the ignorance or denial on the part of sufferer, or the cover given to it through religious or cultural practices, or lack of the necessary infrastructure to lodge a complaint, that one felt helpless and miserable seeing these women continue to suffer.

And to tell you the truth, with them, I suffered too.

PS: The names of the women have been changed.

Next Blog to follow soon: Myths and Facts about Domestic Violence

A Birthday Party

She walked in
With a glow,
On her cheeks madeup.
And a sparkle,
In her kohl lined eyes.
She glowed and sparkled,
Far more than ever.

We could read,
Behind that glow,
Were pale cheeks.
Beside the sparkle,
Were wet, sunken eyes.
Beneath the smile,
Was a broken heart.
Beyond the party attire,
Was a shattered morale.

We cheered louder,
We grinned wider,
We sang ‘A Happy Birthday to you’
As a three dozen candles, she blew.
We hugged her tighter,
To make her world seem brighter.

Alas, overwhelmed with cheers,
she could not hold back her tears,
And cried and cried , mumbling ‘Thank you’.
We felt her agony and cried too.
She talked and talked,
Through her past she walked.
All her grief she shared,
For she said, that we cared.

As the party was over, she left with smiles
With dreary cheeks and Kohl smudged eyes,
But a calmer heart and a stronger will
Though for her, the party, wasn’t over still.

P.S. This was a birthday party arranged for a friend who has recently gone through a traumatic divorce. I know some of the readers might think or even say about the poem , ” it went off me”.  But ask some one, who feels shattered, what a small  gesture of  ‘you matter’ can mean to them. 

Autumn fire


Autumn forests set ablaze in tempestuous fire,
Trees dance in intoxicated  flame  of  desire.

Chilly winds sing farewell with  gusty hiss,
Caressing the twigs, and pines they kiss .

Leaves draped  in scarlet  for the  bonfire,
To bid goodbye before mounting the pyre.

Beshno az ney (O’Listen to nay)~Rumi

So far this is one  the best music post on my blog: 

A Masnawi by Rumi 

Jelaluddin Rumi was a Sufi mystic poet originally from Balkh Afghanistan, but his family travelled west. First performing Hajj they moved further west to finally settle down in Konya, Anatolia( now Turkey). He spent rest of his life there, composing  poetry.

Farsi ( Persian):

Beshno az ney chon hekaayat mikonad
Az jodaayee ha shekaayat mi-konad

Kaz neyestaan ta maraa bebrideh and
Dar nafiram mardo zan naalideh and

Sineh khaaham sharheh sharheh az faraagh
Ta begooyam sharheh dardeh eshtiyaagh

Har kasi ku door maand az asleh khish
Az jooyad roozegareh vasleh khish

Man be har jamiyati naalaan shodam
Jofteh bad haalaano khosh haalaan shodam

Har kasi az zanneh khod shod yaareh man
Az darooneh man najost asraareh man

Serreh man az naaleyeh man door nist
Lik chashmo goosh ra aan noor nist

Tan zeh jaano jaan zeh tan mastour nist
Lik kas ra dideh jaan dastour nist

Aatash ast in baangeh naayo nist baad
Har keh in aatash nadaarad nist baad

Aatasheh ishq ast kandar ney fetaad
Jooshesheh ishq ast kandar mey fetaad

Ney, harifeh har keh az yaari borid
Pardeh hayash pardeh hayeh ma darid

Hamcho ney zahri o taryaqi keh did?
Hamchon ney damsaaz o moshtaqi ke did?

Ney hadiseh raheh por khoon mikonad
Qesseh hayeh eshq e majnoon mikonad

Mahrameh in hoosh joz bihoosh nist
Mar zaban ra moshtari joz goosh nist

Dar ghameh ma rooz ha bigaah shod
Rouz ha ba souz ha hamraah shod

Rouz ha gar raft gu ro baak nist
To bemaan , ey aankeh chin to paak nist

Har keh joz maahi zeh aabash dir shod
Har keh bi roozist, roozash dir shod

Dar nayaabad haaleh pokhteh hich khaam
Pas sokhan kootaah baayad, vassalaam

English translation

O’ listen to the grievances of the reed
Of what divisive separations breed
From the reedbed cut away just like a weed
My music people curse, warn and heed
Sliced to pieces my bosom and heart bleed
While I tell this tale of desire and need

Whoever who fell away from the source
Will seek and toil until returned to course
Of grievances I sang to every crowd
Befriended both the humble and the proud
Each formed conjecture in their own mind
As though to my secrets they were blind

My secrets are buried within my grief
Yet to the eye and ear, that’s no relief
Body and soul both unveiled in trust
Yet sight of soul for body is not a must
The flowing air in this reed is fire
Extinct, if with passion won’t inspire

Fire of love is set upon the reed
Passion of love this wine will gladly feed
Reed is match for he who love denied
Our secrets unveiled, betrayed, defied
Who has borne deadly opium like the reed?
Or lovingly to betterment guide and lead?

Of the bloody path, will tell many a tale
Of Lover’s love, even beyond the veil
None but the fool can hold wisdom dear
Who will care for the tongue if not ear?
In this pain, of passing days we lost track
Each day carried the pain upon its back

If days pass, let them go without fear
You remain, near, clear, and so dear
Only the fish will unquenchingly thirst
Surely passing of time, the hungry curst
State of the cooked is beyond the raw
The wise in silence gladly withdraw

Cut the chain my son, and release the pain
Silver rope and golden thread, must refrain
If you try to fit the ocean in a jug
How small will be your drinking mug?
Never filled, ambitious boy, greedy girl
Only if satisfied, oyster makes pearl

Whoever lovingly lost shirt on his back
Was cleansed from greed and wanton attack
Rejoice in our love, which would trade
Ailments, of every shade and every grade
With the elixir of self-knowing, chaste
With Hippocratic and Galenic taste

Body of dust from love ascends to the skies
The dancing mountain thus begins to rise
It was the love of the Soul of Mount Sinai
Drunken mountain, thundering at Moses, nigh

If coupled with those lips that blow my reed
Like the reed in making music I succeed;
Whoever away from those lips himself found
Lost his music though made many a sound
When the flower has withered, faded away
The canary in praise has nothing to say

All is the beloved, the lover is the veil
Alive is the beloved, the lover in death wail
Fearless love will courageously dare
Like a bird that’s in flight without a care
How can I be aware, see what’s around
If there is no showing light or telling sound?

Seek the love that cannot be confined
Reflection in the mirror is object defined
Do you know why the mirror never lies?
Because keeping a clean face is its prize
Friends, listen to the tale of this reed
For it is the story of our life, indeed!

Another version by Farid Ayaz & co which has it’s own desi touch and charm:

Pleasing Allah

In Kindergarten, my son learned in the Islamic Studies class:

“On Eid Al Azha we please Allah by sacrificing animal in memory of Prophet Ibrahim’s obedience to Allah. “

My son, like other kids, was expected to learn this by heart at the age of 5. But he came back,

“How can Allah be pleased by killing an animal?”

Honestly I had no plausible answer to give to a 5 year old then, so I told him, “Just learn it.”

My Mom warned: “Expain to him Hz Ibrahim’s story. Don’t agree with him, he’ll become a rebel.”

I had no answer, so I preferred to keep shut too.
However, I found some sense in his question. And my conscience pricked.

A few years later, I began to confide in him,”I agree with you.”

“But then why don’t you do anything? “ he questioned.

Again I was clueless.

About the age of 9 years , he was sent to Pakistan in his Hajj Holidays( we lived in Makkah Saudi Arabia),  to witness Baqr Eid firsthand. Probably we thought once he sees this happening everywhere, he would flow with the tide too.

In Pakistan, he had a gala time visiting Bakra Mandi (cattle market) with uncles and cousins. They came back with a fleet of 4 goats. Each boy was assigned to take care of one goat. The fed,  played and raced their goats in the lawn all day.  They even named them after the Ninja Turtles.

They bought accessories like bells and necklaces and adorned the pets with them.

When his cousins were off to school, he looked after all four goats with utmost loving care.

The Bakr Eid came and passed. All the goats were sacrificed, one by one,  in the same lawn where they galloped all day.

We received complaints that our son is timid and he refused to see the animal being sacrificed, when other kids of his age did the ‘throat cutting’ job for their respective animals. He even did not eat the chops and Biryani made out of his pet.

After a two week’s trip he came back home with the memoirs of  Michaelangelo-his bell and the plastic necklace his pet goat wore before it was sacrificed. And along them were loads of complains of how heartlessly were the pets sacrificed, and the stink that persisted for days, by the guts of the goats splattered all over the city.

Along with this came a message for us from  his Grandfather and Uncles:

“He should be a strong man.”

My husband concurred. I disagreed, quietly.

In grade 9, while  learning Islamiat for O levels he came up with an idea, one day:

“Can’t we do an Ijtihad (consensus) on sacrificing on Eid Al Adha ?”

“Okay you try the Ijtihad ( consensus) .” I permitted.

He talked to his friends, and they mocked,”You say this because you can’t see blood.”

Not even one agreed.

“There cannot be Ijtihaad, as in that each and every person must agree.” he had learnt it in the lesson on Islamic Jurisprudence.

“I don’t care what others say or do, but I will never sacrifice a goat on Eid, and that too myself. I will donate as much amount to charity. It will not only help the needy, save an animal’s life but save me from feeling guilty and sick. And I know this will not displease Allah”, he took a firm decision.

This was about four years ago.  And each year he repeats the same view when Baqr Eid approaches.

And to let you know, this is a boy who never missed the Juma ( Friday) prayers in his two years of High School in Canada just because, “the govt has arranged it especially for us Muslims, and if we do not, it would be such a shame that the Canadians care for our religious obligations , but we do not.”

And another thing, he was born just a few days before Hajj, in the month of Zil Hajj, in Makkah and we named him Ismail.

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