Monday, February 23, 2009

Thirty

Photo: Regina Povedav

A friend described turning thirty as turning a corner. At the time, I scoffed at the suggestion, Queen of Contrary that I am. But I concede - much to my chagrin - that of course she was right.

See the changes weren't so pronounced when I hit 30. But at 31 they're a whole lot more real.

SO what happens when you turn 30...1


  • you stop trying to impress people with beeg words, since you know enough of them now to no longer find them impressive

  • you become more accepting. I'd use the word resigned but that sounds somewhat defeatist. So yes, accepting it is. Accepting of your lot and the many jugs of lemonade that life has had you make

  • the phrase, 'it's a lemon' finally makes sense. Realising that it has much to do with sucking gives you great joy. (I know, too much citrus., I'd best change track before I give someone an ulcer)

  • You're more comfortable with your body no matter what the shape. You understand it better and know that if there's something you don't like about it, only you have the power to change it

  • You accept the fact that not everyone will have the heartstopping romance that novels promise. And that having 'comfortable' ; ' supportive'; ' friend' - in the long run these things can count for a lot more. Besides, your firsts were pretty impressive by your own standards and those are the only standards that matter anyway

  • you no longer believe everything you read

  • you finally concede that there is no Utopia. Not within religion. Nor without. It's all about carving that body shaped niche. One that is large enough to accomodate even your inconsistensies.

  • you realise that while black and white is a striking contrast and most fetching when it comes to colouring your world, it's also very limiting. You begin to explore all the shades in between and thank Allah every day for allowing to the ability to do so

  • You befriend Allah and discover minifestations of His Supreme clemency in tiny gestures each day. And know with all your heart that He has bigger things to worry about than the length of a man's beard or a woman's hair for that matter

  • you begin to discover what makes life so precious

So yeah, being 30...1 is not bad. It's atually pretty good. If you're real about it. And I'm all for real.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Walking...

Put the glass down.
Always darkest before the dawn.
Every cloud has a silver lining….

But what do you do when the glass is glued to your hand?
When the dawn is so long in coming that the darkness swallows you whole?
When the clouds are so dense that they fill the space between the heavens and the earth and press your arms to your side?
Are clouds meant to be so heavy?

She gropes about. Stumbling. Bumbling. Yet onwards. Always onwards. In the dark. What drives her?

Faith. An idiotic faith in?
People.

The ground beneath her walk-weary feet is rocky. It slopes uphill. Always bloody uphill.

The thing about walking uphill. Always bloody uphill. Is that you’re always looking down. To look up would mean a pain in the neck. Literally. So you look to the ground, at your blood ribbon-ed feet. You don’t see a summit. You don’t imagine that something awaits beyond those smothering clouds. You cannot imagine that a glorious vista approaches. It’s under a stream of cloud anyway. A murky one.

Look away now. Look away. She’s sat down. Crying.

Her tears are red. They’re not the product of her dusty eyes. Rather, from her soul. It’s such a broken sound. Should you be wretched enough to hear it…well don’t say you weren’t warned.

She grovels to her feet. Teeters. Totters. Wipes away the snot, the tears with the back of a torn hand. And she walks. And walks. And walks…








Monday, February 09, 2009

The Task at Hand

Palestine has long been touted as a worthy cause in the Muslim community. Since the suffering masses share our faith and remain where they are in order to protect the third holiest site in the life of a Muslim , Masjid al Aqsa. While I admit there are times when I thought of it as a lost cause - can life really have so little value? - but a recent mass rally held at the Bazme Adab hall in Actonville got me to revisit Palestine in my mind and decide which side of the fence I am sitting on or whether I want to be sitting there at all.

While much of what was said resonated, it was the address from the COSATU representative, Bongani Masuku that impacted most deeply, while the head of the SACC, Mr Eddie Makue spoke in a language that was much akin to my own.

Does it say something about me that I found the contribution from Moulana Akoodie – the Muslim View (says who?)- on the matter to be most ire-worthy? He was all bluster and fluster and empty rhetoric. In fact much of what he said didn’t sound very different to the pamphlets that were being distributed amongst Israeli soldiers in a bid to justify the senseless killing.

"[There is] a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it." This is an excerpt from a publication entitled "Daily Torah studies for the soldier and the commander in Operation Cast Lead," issued by the IDF rabbinate. The text is from "Books of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner," who heads the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem. The following questions are posed in one publication: "Is it possible to compare today's Palestinians to the Philistines of the past? And if so, is it possible to apply lessons today from the military tactics of Samson and David?" Rabbi Aviner is again quoted as saying: "A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land ... They invaded the Land of Israel, a land that did not belong to them and claimed political ownership over our country ... Today the problem is the same. The Palestinians claim they deserve a state here, when in reality there was never a Palestinian or Arab state within the borders of our country. Moreover, most of them are new and came here close to the time of the War of Independence." (HAARETZ.com, IDF rabbinate publication during Gaza War :We will show no mercy on the cruel By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent)

Sound familiar?

I’ve just completed reading The Book Thief , a work of fiction by Markus Zusak. It tells the story of a German girl growing up in Nazi Germany, whose foster father decides to give refuge to a Jew in his basement. Does it make me less of a Muslim that I am able to feel the pain of the Jewish people at the time? Is pain and suffering not a universal language? Does it really matter who is being granted the ‘privelege’?

Should our response as people, as human beings, not be to reach out and seek to touch that humanity that binds us, one to another, as brethren?
As the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) states : The Entire creation is the family of Allah.

I don’t really give a flea’s bottom about the politics, the Hamas, the Fatah and all the rest that makes up Palestinian politics. But I do care when I read tales such as these:

Seeing is not like hearing

Yesterday my father joined friend and local activist Fida Qishta and members of the ISM Gaza to visit the site of the al-Daya home- a four-story house that was leveled by Israeli forces on top of its occupants. My father told me there were still four unburied bodies underneath the rubble. They then went to visit the area where the Samouni clan lived-some 15 houses, citrus groves olive trees, two green houses, and one chicken pen (with about 10, 000 chickens), a water well, cattle and other animals- ALL were eviscerated from existence. The only surviving animal was a donkey. The poor beast was shot in the neck but survived nonetheless with a battle scar and a bandage on his wound.
(blog – Raising Noor and Yousuf: diary of a Palestinian mother, Laila El- Haddad)

Sure, there are two sides to every story, but that does not mean that I am not entitled to make a decision where I see wrong being perpetrated and perpetuated with impunity. And it certainly does not make me an Anti Semite when I decide that Zionism is apartheid and nothing more.

The statistics speak for themselves. In the recent bombardment 1 400 Palestinians have been killed, more than 5 000 seriously injured and 100 000 have been left homeless. A third of the casualties are children. 80 Percent of them are civilians. While the losses on the Israeli side amount to 13 deaths, 10 of them being soldiers in active duty.

When Nelson Mandela stood before a country on the occasion of his inauguration as South Africa’s first democratically elected president, these were his words:

We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.
We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success.
We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.
Let there be justice for all.
Let there be peace for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.
Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.
Let freedom reign.


Rise to the challenge South Africa. You have work to do.

Note: This is the first article that I have written in well over a year, if not more. Apologies if it's not 'all that'.I know, this is prolific by my standards, as far as blog posts go. But I had a good reason to write. Now to find someone to publish this.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Book Year

I prefer male authors. There I said it. So lynch me if you will for being a pseudo feminist :P







It’s just that the last year has been intense in so many ways and most notable being the books that have found their way into my hands.

It started with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, bought on sale from Kalahari. The coming of age tale of a …wait for it…hermaphrodite. I know, you’re thinking sex and more of it, since that seems to characterize most coming of age works. But this one was different. For one, it was more than just a novel. It was an epic. For another, it was utterly absorbing.

Then came Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Yes, yes, I know, even Johhny Depp is talking Shantaram (who knew that he is a reader). It is a tome. But I didn’t notice that, since I read it in stolen snatches of time. Grabbing a few chapters when the chance arose, between meals of Pratchett and Philippa Gregory. Okay, so the copy I have is misleading in that it tells a 'this is non-fiction' story, the internet reveals the truth, which is what I suspected anyway, but still, it explored concepts that are both thought provoking as well as disturbing.


In spite of my Indian origin, I have never wanted to visit India, but after reading Shantaram, what can I say, I’ve become the ultimate cliché wanting to see the land of my roots, the land from whose bosom my ancestors were suckled :P

But best of all has undoubtedly been The Book Thief, by Australian author, Markus Zusak, who says on the subject of writing : If someone wanted to be a runner, you don’t tell them to think about running. You tell them to run. And the same simple idea applies to writing, I hope.

And of course, I’m royally pissed that he’s only two years older than I am and has managed to write what I believe to be the best book I have ever read. But I am also in awe, humbled and even a little embarrassed.


The blurb says:
SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION

THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH

It’s a small story about

A girl

An accordionist

Some fanatical Germans

A Jewish fist fighter

And quite a lot of thievery

ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW

DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES

And that sums up The Book Thief a lot better than I ever will.

But the thing that each if these books have in common is an inexpressible elegance. The capacity that each of these writers - all male - have for expressing the mundane in a manner that is anything but mundane. I would never have considered describing rain as slits. Or paths as scratches. But they did. And it made for extraordinary reading.


Here's to hoping that in spite of all the shite that seems to have heralded 2009, it will be an even better book year. Since anything less would be a shame.