Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Ramadan-y things we do

We're back to being a family now. Complete with the Mommy, Daddy and three girls. Gone is the echoing of footsteps in a house too large for us; gone is that unpolished silence. Our Skype button's been untouched for a while, left to itself feeling useless. And there couldn't have been a better time.

I love this month. Who doesn't? 

It's a feeling that I can't quite put my finger on- a weightlessness in the air. Like the burden of breathing to keep yourself alive has lifted, and now you're just be-ing without effort. Out pops the crescent and our worlds turn friendly overnight. Curvy smiles and serene hearts. Floating of people who usually drag their way along.

I love this month, and the little family rituals we preserve. A sulky meal at 3 a.m. where the joke of whoever dares falls flat. Prayer mats that stay unrolled in their places. The melody of my father's Quran reciting. Clinking of prayer beads and clicking of electronic ones. My mother's 'Menu of the day' in elegant writing on the kitchen's white-board. The items in the menu under construction. Us continuing to purposelessly stride in and out of there. The speedy evaporation of anger or annoyance. The sweetness of an empty tummy. A gentle reminder of another's hunger. The swelling of mind over matter.

It's hilarious what no food can do to you. The sun sets- we're in the kitchen. The first few moments of our meal are unusually silent. Everyone is too busy pacifying themselves. A mathematical equation we must follow: dates, then soup, then the main meal. And a cup of Vimto ofcourse. A scented candle lulling us. And once that's done and we've smirked at whoever's turn it is to wash the dishes, we huddle up and read Du'a al Iftitaah. Another family ritual. Drink tea and pick a television show to laugh at. Spend the whole show throwing comments at the story, actors, and each other. The occasional arrival of family or friends. More laughter. Late into the weightless night.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Our faithful sky

A smell of 'what now?' lingers in this room, and I don't know what to do with it. The heat doesn't help. I could go ahead and switch on the air condition, but lately I've been abit too dictatorial in imposing the air condition on the room that links to mine, so I'll pass tonight. Never mind that it's boiling in here. The temperature seems befitting to the strong transience floating about. Like all the relatives of discomfort agreed to arrive arm in arm.

My mind is being the annoying kid that wants to play when you're really not in the mood. It's giving me little snippets of thoughts. Giggling at my frustration. An unanswered email, an unpacked gift, an unplanned lesson. The flash of an acquaintance who needs to be given alittle more thought than she's getting. Three-quarters of a creamy chocolate cake sitting innocently on a refrigerator rack. Aliya in the air. Pictures of murdered children in Burma. The pimples on my cheeks.

What would really help at the moment is a thought-washing-machine. I'd unload all my mind's contents in there. Add in sweet-smelling conditioner. Watch through the tiny circle the cleansing of my thoughts. Wait. Then clear all out, and flop them one by one on a hanger to dry. Secure them with pegs. Just in case they try to slip away. And finally fold the dried refined scented thoughts neatly back into my mind.

Looking at the sky is comforting. It's 3 am and pitch-black outside, and I can hardly see it, but I know it's there. It somehow makes me feel better that the sky's seen more change than any beating heart. That he just stood there, being himself, while he looked down on eras changing. Dinosaurs and animals and humans taking turns in control. Through births and deaths of civilizations and world wars. Just stayed in his place, watching trends and fashions and mass crazes come and go. Observing strangers turning into friends, and friends turning into strangers. Staying the same old blue sky over all the changes, without even throwing a tantrum.

And then there's my grandmother who's been having the same day everyday for six years now. Waking up and going to bed at exactly the same time. Eating the exact same breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday at the exact same times. Asking the same questions at their prescribed times. I watched her today, seated at the dining table having her 13:30 meal. Everything in its set position. The two tissues placed neatly on the table, tissue box on the left, pills on the right, and date container in front. With its lid opened and tilted at at 45 degrees angle on its side. Just like it should always be. She starts with the dates, eating six of them and then placing the seeds on the two tissues. In neat pairs. She counts them, mouthing the numbers silently. 'Six' she declares. 'Yup, six dates'. My confirmation is acknowledged with a slow turn of the head and a blank stare. That's when the thought crossed my mind- that the sameness of her days to her is like the sameness of the sky to me. A comforting constant in an uncomforting world.

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