Friday, November 30, 2012

Not that you'd be interested

There are many forces of discomfort playing at my life today:

  • Firstly, it rained. I know that's an everyday occurrence in most parts of the world, but it's an exceptional event here that makes it to breaking news. I don't like complaining about any weather, but I can't help letting the gloomy, dark wetness dampen my mood a teeny bit. 
  • Secondly, I spent most of the day in the presence of people and I feel that inexplicable need to just sit alone in my room now. And I'm annoyed with my anti-social self for feeling that way. 
  • Finally, Monday's off for the UAE National Day, and the university has still not decided when the make up for those classes will be. I have a presentation and two assignments due that day, and not knowing when is very close to disastrous for me.
But I am comfortable, in spite of the evil discomfort forces. I'm sitting here with a pack of Sohar Chips (eating super-fast before my sister realizes I've nicked it) and an open, ignored Auditing textbook, and I'm so proud of myself for being this comfortable! 

Tomorrow, Dazzling_Mage at A Reading Kabocha will be hosting a Read-a-thon for three days, so I am hoping this helps me catch up with my to-read list. I can't seem to decide which book to start with, and it's one of those moments where I'm pleased with the sort of tough decision I have to face. :)

"How are you feeling today?" 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Sun on the Day of Ashura



How did I withstand the scene?

A ten-month old baby, in piercing arrows decorated
Mothers in agony; the loyal brother's arms
from his body separated;

And the army of a Muslim Leader, self-placed
Demanding approval
When the term Human they disgraced

How can I ever forget?

The day I shone over a peaceful body, lying on sand ablaze
Tongue scorched, heart broken.
The day his pain I caused to raise

Why must I be the sun?

Adding to his thirst and ache
Watching high above, a full view, helpless
Burning with grief in his wake

What was in my hands?

I tried.
I prayed that my tear-drops would fall to you as rain
Over your dry lips
Quench some thirst before you had to be slain

How could I bear it be?

I tried.
There was nothing I could do
Not yet time for me to set, nor time for night to pull through

I looked left and right, seeking a cloud to cover me
To not have to watch your slaughter
To stop the world from having to see

I will always recall

And at the close of every day as I withdraw
I think of you and shed
Tears blood-red.

________________________________________________________________________________



On the 680 Tragedy of Karbala 

Inspired by the eulogy شمس recited by باسم الكربلائي

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

I know, I'm late. The world has already stood up, said all it's got to say and sat back down again.

I wasn't really going to read this. When I heard about J.K.Rowling writing another novel, a judgmental voice inside me went 'Oh, here we go again.' Somehow I felt it was a betrayal to Harry Potter- like she didn't think the legendary series were perfect and enough for her writing career. There was another voice inside- squeakier and kinder- that kept reminding me of my curiosity. Then it was out, and people were reading it, and not liking it, and the judgmental voice felt fed and satisfied. 'That's what she gets for turning away from her gold mine to dig from another.'

So when a phone call from the university's library called me to declare that my request purchase has been made and my book's ready to be picked, it took a few seconds to recall what they were talking about. I was at the library counter in the blink-of-an-eye, telling everyone "I never really expected them to buy it" but secretly over-joyed.

What it's mainly about
A fictional town in England buzzing with drama behind a seemingly-peaceful cover, its residents dealing with issues that places all around deal with- local government politics, social class issues, death, broken families, poverty, racism, drug-abuse, et cetera et cetera

What was so good about it

  • Writing: Distinctly Rowling, with simple sentences well-worded, un-opiniated leaving judgement to readers, witty or poignant as fitting to the scene.
  • Characters: Realistic. 
  • Plot: Begins with a climax, and ends in one, with a very slow-paced story in between. Many reviews mentioned that the story dragged on, but I feel the sluggishness of the main body of the story gave the characters time to develop and allowed Rowling to delve on to each character's relevant past and inner struggles. 
  • Message: Without giving away any detail for fear of accidental spoilers, the way the novel ended with all the characters' separate stories just SO perfectly weaved together demonstrated very neatly how the members of a close-knit society impact each other's lives in such direct ways, and leaves no doubt in the reader's mind the main message of the novel: we are responsible for each other. 
What was not so good about it
  • Filled to the brim with colourful language and dirty scenes
  • That it was by JK Rowling. It's not fair to expect another magical world that sweeps you away. I find it interesting how she first wrote a fantasy story where the good ultimately prevails, and then wrote an adult novel showcasing our real world, where- *oops*
Overall, four on five stars to The Casual Vacancy. Joanne Rowling, I'm "your girl through and through".

(Next read: Divergent by Veronica Roth)




Saturday, November 10, 2012

Arundhati Roy


^That's Arundhati Roy, author of best-selling novel "The God of Small Things" and political activist (which she apparently doesn't like being called, because 'what do activists really do and who came up with that word anyway?')

I saw her last night at the Sharjah International Book Fair, where she was supposed to be talking about her famous book. (Note: Supposed to be talking about her famous book.) Her session wasn't sponsored by any corporate, because how hypocritical would that be?, so basically, it was one of those times where random people passing by just drop in because something interesting seems to be happening, never mind if they have no idea what that is. A few minutes after I was lucky enough to get seated in the fourth row, the hall was infested with men, women, mommies, daddies, grandparents and mostly- KIDS. What were kids doing at a talk on 'The God of Small Things'?! The room was getting stuffier and noisier by the second, and there were huge crowds of unseated people squeezing at the sides, and for a moment I doubted whether I had accidentally walked in on a free three-ring circus. 

By the time she finally came up on stage (after arriving half an hour late another half hour of unnecessary introductions), I was sort of not excited at all and wanted to come back home. I've been to one of these sessions before to meet Jacqueline Wilson, and then I had had trouble staying still in my seat. So I don't know why and how this was happening, my mood turning one eighty degrees so easily before she had even started speaking. And this was the author of a book that I five-starred and read three times.

It didn't help that the interviewer was asking her such superficial, on-the-surface questions, like 'Would you change anything in the book now?' and 'Will you write another novel?' I really wanted her to talk alot more about the underlying themes in the book... about the incredible unique language she uses... how she thinks it contributed to telling her story...how much of herself did she put in the novel....there was just SO much to be said about her book. I thought that was coming up after she read an intense extract but the interviewer was slowly steering the conversation to her political views, to recent comments she's made, to the press's reaction and blablablablabla

An hour later and I was sitting in the midst of a freaking convention on Indian politics, watching my favourite author argue with an economist in the audience. Another thirty minutes and I had given up on the book-signing happening anytime in the near future, stood up and left the hall (ignoring the protests coming from a disappointed copy of 'The God of Small Things'in my bag).

When I left the room, I really wanted to sit down on the carpeted floor and just bawl. You know the way you find kids doing in supermarkets' candy section? 


Friday, November 9, 2012

A Mercy to Mankind

He would cut up his cloak to be able to move rather than disturb the cat sleeping on it.

He would embrace the poor and radiate his warmth, undeterred by rags or social status.

He would never be the first to let go of a handshake's grip.

He was famous for his bright smile that flashed perfect white teeth.

He befriended the dark-skinned and the foreign at a time when only the prejudiced were welcomed.

He would stand up in respect whenever his daughter entered the room, and give her his seat.

He received with open arms visitors, offering all of the little he had.

He neither pressured, nor forced his teachings on anyone, inviting them instead with gentle reasoning.

He was diplomatic- open to third solutions, his ear always ready to listen.

He made sure everyone around him was fed before he turned to his hunger.

His lap held the weight of many children, careful to always build their confidence.

His tongue only knew the sweetness of words.

His heart never held an inkling of hatred, his tears abundantly flowing for his enemies.

He was so, so far away from what you are doing in the name of his religion.

"And we have not sent you except as a mercy to all creation" The Qur'an 25:56

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Baffled.

The day was going well.

  • I did not have to turn to car air condition on my commute to university because when I pulled the windows down and drove, actual breeze hit my face. A rare phenomenon that I fully appreciated.
  • The woman at the Circle K cashier first assumed I was sixteen, then declared I look like a 'fresh fruit'.
  • I had a thirty-minute final revision session with the girl I tutor before her exam, and she was doing brilliantly (never mind that she was also palpitating)
  • I watched a deathly debate between an Apple and a Samsung fanatic, and whispered a prayer of gratitude for not having to worry about any of this as I feasted on the scene and invisible popcorn.

So I was in the midst of all those little positive moments that make a day, and inside a lift with a friend, when the lift stops at a floor and in comes one of my lecturers. I flashed a big smile at him and practically sang out 'Salamun Alaykum' [which is literally translated as 'Peace be upon you' and is the Arabic equivalent of a Hello]. He stood there facing and looking right at me, made a disgusted face, then turned around to give me his back.

I looked at my friend to check if I'm not imagining things, and the reflection of our equally baffled expressions in the four mirrors around us was enough confirmation.

We tried to analyse what happened in there.
Maybe he couldn't hear me? Even though the lift was dead silent and my voice was loud and clear and ringing. Maybe.
Maybe he couldn't recognize me? Even though I'm one of the few who attend his early morning lectures, always on time and sitting in the first row with nerd-mode on? Even though that doesn't really explain why he'd react to a stranger greeting him in that way? Maybe.
Maybe he thought I was greeting my friend? Even though she was already with me in the lift? Even though I smiled and talked right to him? Maybe.
Maybe he's just a jerk?
Maybe.

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