Monday, February 27, 2012

Not that you'd be interested

10:30 am Leases is what we're studying this accounting class. How to classify leases. And how to account for them, but that's way easier than figuring out a lease's identity. Does the world know how much we're thinking into a simple lease? How we're analysing theories and using formulas and performing calculations to figure out what we can name the lease?   

Just how it is so much more difficult knowing yourself than knowing how to account for yourself. 

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6:00 am There are three reasons it's difficult getting out of bed this morning.

First, I didn't use my usual tactic last night of putting the cell phone in the other corner of the room to force myself to get up, walk to it and make it shut up. The alarm sounds so friendly on my bed-side now that I'm comfortable having it here, singing to me. I am watching it vibrate and light up, wide-eyed. It hits me how something that happens every morning seems so interesting now, and I feel guilty for having ignored all the previous performances. But I can make up for that by appreciating it right now.

Second, my feet are too cold. Getting up would mean they'd have to touch the cold white floor before they find my slippers, and that's too much to ask from them so early in the day, even if it would just be for a few seconds.

And third, I am admiring my purple night-gown and then remember that my sister in London requested cotton ones from the Chinese pavilion in Global Village. I'm wondering whether she'll find it cute or lame if I get her the same one. The thought of not being able to predict the reaction of the closest person in the world to me is disturbing. 

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5:00 pm It's that favourite part of the day when I can temporarily experience someone else's life. This time it's Jack Gladney's life from White Noise. One of those heart-stopping plunges has just woken up in the middle of the night, and it makes him think of death.

Is this what it's like, abrupt, peremptory? Shouldn't death, I thought, be a swan dive, graceful, white-winged and smooth, leaving the surface undisturbed?

I like the thought of that.

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6:30 am I am standing in front of the mirror, drowning my contact lenses in solution while I read the bottle label just for the heck of it. Slide in the right one, wishing I could see invisible foreign particles -to be safe, and then quickly taking my wish back. The left one is refusing to get in properly, and I pop it back into the solution angrily. It floats happy, cackling victoriously. Then I smile at my absurdity and put it smoothly back to my eye, wondering how normal it is to imagine inanimate objects capable of feeling.

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9:45 am I am standing outside with a close friend and a not-so-close one and we're making small talk. Starts with how pleasant the weather is. Ends up covering noisy neighbours, protective dads, and buildings in flames. I am trying to figure out how interested we all really are in what we're saying when I find myself talking animatedly too, and that's when I ask myself if that's how everything in life is. 

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8:30 am It's easy arguing for something you don't believe in. You just have to leave your own body and watch yourself. I look at myself standing in front of the room, trying to convince my sleepy Business Communications class that communication can't be taught. It's funny. I notice how much I'm using my hands to help me explain. And I notice other things about myself that nobody can see unless they really want to, like how white the tips of my fingers have become from holding the flash cards too tightly, and how I'm looking at everyone around me just because I don't want to hold eye contact with anyone for too long. When I'm done, I slide back into myself and marvel at how well I hid my nervousness. 

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12:30 pm We're not done with leases yet. But we've had a break and now that we're settling down again, the guy sitting in front of me turns around with a precious Lindt chocolate bar in his hand. "Chocolate?" he offers kindly, and I stare at the picture of mint on the cover, my heart pleading and pleading me, knowing deep inside I am going to let it down but trying anyway. And I do let it down. "No, thanks."

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8:00 am My team member asks me who judges the winning team. Cigarette smell attach themselves to the words coming out of his mouth and stay there hesitating in the air. The smell makes me think of rotting lungs, black teeth and swearing. I can't help it. I bite back a cough and clear my throat instead. It takes me two minutes to reply and remind him it's not a contest. 

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10:00 am I have an appointment with one of the warmest people in the world. Noorhayati is her name. Light of my life it means. Doctor Noorhayati. She welcomes me with a beaming smile in her office. I go towards her, meaning to hug her and then remember half way that it might not be the most appropriate way to greet a teacher. We end up awkwardly patting each others' arms. She wants me to speak on her behalf in a conference while she's away. And she wants me to co-author a chapter in a textbook. I feel like laughing out loud all of a sudden. I'm not sure why I get the feeling that I'm an actress on stage, faithfully keeping to my script. But then I look at the hope in her eyes, the big smile on her face and the memory book we surprised her with in our last lecture, sitting on her desk, and I want to cry instead. How selfish of me to not take on their trust. 

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3:00 pm Us three sitting on the kitchen table, eating delicious fattening burgers and chips and drowning them down with Coke. My mom's thinking out loud: deep contagious thoughts. She is talking and I'm wondering if she knows how much I love her. She takes her calcium and back-pain-relieiving pills as she shares her thoughts on how cunning the pharmacuetical industry is, and how much more profitable they would be if they ran straight. I think of my accounting professor's words that same day, "It's not about knowing how to number crunch- it's about learning how to manipulate the numbers. Get to know these scams because one day you'll be a part of them." He's joking, of course, we think, as the class giggles nervously. 

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

"The Hunger Games"

This post is dedicated to Abeer, a friend of mine who is obsessed with The Hunger Games and anything remotely related. Talk about a great book you recently read and the conversation will slowly and subtly be steered towards how necessary it is for you to read this one. Randomly mention the name of a bookstore and you will soon find yourself listening to a lamentation of the inaccessibility of Hunger Games in a tangible form. Take a peek through the glass library doors and you will see her bent over the counter, filling a book request for    - you guessed it- The Hunger Games. Have a few free moments before a lecture? Out she zips her Xoom tablet and has one of a million version of trailers waiting to be played at her fingertip (with occasional pauses in the middle to clarify each scene and character on the screen).

So when I was browsing bookshelves in the library with her one fine day and heard a series of muffled squeals and gasps followed by three little jumps and the cover of the Hunger Games shoved in my face, it was with a mixture of a secret pumped up curiosity, relief at finally getting to the bottom of this and genuine concern for her nerves that I immediately checked it out and didn't see her next until I was done with it.

The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) is the first of a dystopian three-book series set in a controlling regime that forces its citizens annually to give up their children by including them in a draw to be participants of a real-time show where the objective is to kill or be killed.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The Good:
Besides the commendable storyline, the author also did a good job of keeping the suspense high throughout.

I've always had some reservations when it comes to adventurous novels- I don't enjoy watching action-packed films, much less the idea of having to follow the struggles of a fight or a race in words and trying to picture it. But I was happy to find this one defying the typical adventure genre, with the action-packed events being widely-spaced out throughout the novel, and the events themselves not too complicated.

You can never have enough books on the "Big Brother is watching you" theme in my opinion. This book fairly shows the extent those in power can go into controlling the public, including the disguise of reality with a false picture of stability (the "peacemaker" policemen on hand to silence any opposition) and also briefly brings up the fear and frustration such a regime can have on the psychological mind-sets of the public. The mismanagement of such governments is described well through the state of Katniss (the main character) and her family's struggles to survive.

The Bad:
The first thing I like asking myself after completing a novel is, "How has this book made me a more mature thinker?" I can't help thinking Collins fell behind on that. The theme of her story had so much more potential than she allowed it. I was expecting a greater stress on the philosophies behind the scenes, and greater depths in the events that happened. I was waiting to see how the Games impact Katniss, how they threaten her humaneness and the compassion of everyone around her. I am not claiming that the answers to these aren't there- but I hoped they would be more the lessons that the author is loudly trying to get across to the reader rather than something left to us to pick on.

At one point, Katniss and her fellow participant Peeta are exchanging their anxious thoughts the night before the Games begin. Peeta says, "Only I keep wishing there was a way to show the Capitol that they don't own me...that I'm more than just a piece in their Games." I think this is the closest the book comes to its own theme. I was looking forward to see how Peeta (or Katniss) will find a way to show this, and was disappointed by the way things turned out in the end.

I think the best writers of novels are those cruelest to their characters and yet Katniss was practically Suzanne Collin's China Doll! Yes, she was put in the most unfortunate of situations but always managed to get out of them safe and sound. This pampering reached its peak with the announcement through the Trumpet that the unchangeable rules of the Games have been changed, all so that Katniss won't go through the dilemma of having to kill Peeta. This did  turn out to be a ploy, but we only discover that at the end, and for the majority of the novel, the readers' minds are at ease concerning this, when they shouldn't be.

And the Ugly:
Ugly may be too cruel a word to use but Suzanne Collins would not make it to the top ....let's say fifty- good literary writers. She may be an awesome storyteller but she's just plain lazy when it comes to writing beautifully.

And let me not get started on the whole mess of Katniss and Peeta having to pretend that they love each other to survive but Peeta is pretending to pretend and Katniss in my opinion is also just pretending that she is pretending but she is pretending that she doesn't know that she is pretending to pretend. You see?

Also, this just so put me off:  Stephenie Meyer (author of the Twilight series) said, "I was so obsessed with this book....The Hunger Games is amazing."


I realize I may have criticized this book more than praised it. I don't really know how that happened because I was planning on making this a positive review. :/ Anyway, I give this book four stars, for managing to keep me captivated throughout despite all its frustrations.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Looking beyond

Above the fast-moving, busy life that we're all engrossed with here on the only home we know, is a meticulous planner crossing our t's and dotting our i's. A power that's the only reason the mess we make of our daily lives ends up okay at the end of the day. And with each passing day grows an increasing conviction in me that without a life dedicated to our Protector we are blind, lame and hopeless creatures, stumbling along life bitterly with heavy and harsh hearts, feeling our surroundings for a glint of hope in vain and blaming everything but our selves. How ironic is it when we're prepared to understand, analyze, interpret, draw conclusions on a life that we're merely looking at through a peep-hole?

The trick is to stop the little things from ever getting to us (and as Richard Carlson says- they're all little things). Maybe your car punctured at this critical moment because your Protector didn't want you to be involved in the car accident that was on your way. Maybe the take-out you ordered was wrong because your usual order would have poisoned you. Maybe your phone battery went dead just as your friend called because she was planning on sharing some destructible gossip with you. Maybe your treadmill wasn't working because it had a shortage that would've put the power out. Maybe getting a not-so-great grade on that course was preventing a future inflated ego from building up.

Always remember you're only looking through the peep-hole.
And it's a good thing for most of us that we haven't got the entire view.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Iraq

Patriotism- Such a funny feeling. I wonder where it comes from. The other day, I was updating my timeline and discovered that the makers of Facebook don't realize you could have a Hometown that you never really lived in.

The first time my eyes saw my homeland, I had already seen it. All the nostalgia that I was busy inheriting the first ten years of my life. Before I saw Iraq, I had already tried velvety buffalo cream and honey for breakfast. Then I had walked down the narrow alleyways of Baghdad and breathed in the fresh scent of orange trees towering over me. I had already picked up a fallen pomegranate, ripped its layers open and devoured the heavenly golden-red pearls inside it. I had walked to the holy Shrines, watching the shining domes looming ahead appear bigger and bigger, whispering my wishes along with everybody else. I had stopped outside on the way back home for a loaf of samoon. Then I had waited for my family members' siesta time so I could sneak into my ancestors' library- the one located in the attic, that smells of dust and hard work. I had browsed through bookshelf after bookshelf filled with yellowing pages, not resting my tired eyes until I had heard the yelled out rhymes of the vendors outside and the excited screams of all the children around them. I had climbed the stairs up to the roof after a juicy watermelon with cheese slices, where my warmed bed waited for me. I had spent the nights lulling myself to sleep by counting the brilliant star-lit sky above me.

I did all of this from across the world, in a foreign land far, far away from my real home. Memory-stealing is the only option I had. I had to experience all the not-so-good bits too as well, though. It's not like I could pick and choose what I heard. But I suspect my readers are all-too familiar with that side.

So the first time my eyes saw my homeland, I had already seen it. It was nicer this time though, through my own eyes. Iraq was under sanctions, so the new encounter didn't occur from the side-window of an aeroplane. It happened from the window of our cabin, a distant promise of land after three days of nothing but blue. Thirty six hours spent anticipating my re-union. How I missed my Iraq then- is it possible to terribly miss something you've never really seen?


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