Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tell me...

This poem was published in the anthology 'Cover to Cover: A Collection of Poetry' by Forward Poetry, 2013

Tell me
have you ever thought
to stop birds
and ask
how things go beyond the sky
where is it that they head to
and what is it that they eye?

And has it ever crossed your mind
to crouch down to flowers
and ask
how it tastes to be clean
with nothing to be judged for
and no sin to redeem?

And have you ever stopped 
and giggled
at all the earth's residents
on a globe of green and blue
living every day like the next
looking for more to chew?

Does it make you stop
and smile
that mothers wipe dirty noses
babies clutch on to your finger
and that somewhere, someone
spills their brain out on paper
changes the world
once in a while?

And does it make you stop
and sigh
that bullies hate on fat kids
rural villages, billion-dollar-companies shun
and that somewhere, someone
lies behind bars
for daring to think
for a crime not done?

How often do you stop
and wonder
when it'll be your turn to leave
and how
and what they'll have to say
about the mark you left behind
about the tapestry that took 
your whole life to weave? 

Monday, January 14, 2013


'Good luck, Ghadeer!' in different hand-writings over the kitchen white-board.
I can tell that my cousins have been here too.
It's cool how the smallest of gestures can make a great start to your day.


'She can use this mix, it isn't spicy' they tell each other. It's Pani Puri- round and crispy, with a hollow that you fill and swallow in one gulp. I can feel myself blushing red as four eyes are on me in keen observation. Super-excited is how my friends get when I eat/ dress/ watch movies Indian-style. I find it adorable.


I close the front door and walk to my room on clouds.
'What's that?'- my mother peeks in between the handles of the canvas bag resting on my arm.
She bursts out laughing. 'You nerd, you! With no cure to your nerdiness!'

My last exam (the one on Auditing that moved me to rant on the previous post) was Comme ci, comme ├ža. It would have been ironic for me to rush through the exam because I was so eager to get over with them. But...I may have done just that, can't be sure. What I do know is that I was answering questions while an image of the library sat the back of my head refusing to budge. 

They're extending the library- there are vast amounts of carpeted space and rows of empty shelves. It's awkward trying to balance this pile of books across. I manage by walking carefully and finding everyones' glances amusing.

The librarian smiles. 'End of exams treat?' Yes, he has come to know me well.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Isn't there a better way to test students?

From Dear Optimists
Learning is supposed to be fun. It's not meant to make us stressful. It's not meant to clog up our schedules and it's definitely not meant to be limited to a few days' worth of mind-cramming.

It makes sense to test students' understanding of concepts before they're let loose on the world, but is this really the best way to do it?

I have a final exam on Auditing and Assurance in two days. I was really enjoying this course until the final exam came along and killed it. Most of us taking this course aren't reading the material because we would like to know what procedures to take when we become future auditors. We are doing it for the exam. Which is a very short-sighted view but it can't be helped when this is the sort of behaviour that universities and faculties encourage. My lecturer has said 'focus on X during the exam' way more than 'focus on X during your future audits'. What is he suggesting? That my success in an examination is more important than my success in the profession?

Not only is the education system's sense of direction funneled into examinations, but these 'examinations' are becoming more a test of memory than an actual test of learning. A short peek into our university's library is enough to let you know this is a true concern- a sea of anxious faces around, looking into their books or tablets and then closing their eyes to the air, repeating words they have just read. Research says that most of this cramming goes as quickly as it comes.

How different would it be if our system cared to encourage learning for learning's sake.
And if they remembered everything they were taught during school because it interested them.
How much happier and less stressed would students be?
How many more competent auditors could've been born from this class if only our system didn't sanctify the exams so much?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Day I May Have Caused a Divorce

It all started with a lunar eclipse. If the moon had chosen another day to walk behind our planet, none of this would have happened.

There I was, savouring a deep-dish, sizzling-hot pizza slice in the company of some of my favourite people. We bit into our heavenly meals, not saying anything besides necessary 'Pass me that ketchup' or 'Give me tissue', because there were things more important than conversation to be taken care of. The soft clink of forks and knives. The smell of ripe tomato sauce and melting mozzarella. Small smiles and happy tummies.

Then came distraction in the form of a ringtone. Everyone looked my way in annoyance. How can something as mundane as a phone ringing be allowed in this heavenly setting?

It was my mother. ''There's a lunar eclipse happening, and it's only going to last a few minutes". Eclipses are not just astronomical events for Muslims. They mean a special prayer. Thankfully, I've already done my ablution at home, and a prayer room is within walking distance in any shopping mall in Dubai, so off I go. The prayer room is empty except for another lady. I stand next to her, and once I'm done and in sitting position, she turns to look at me.

She is wearing a black abaya and sheila, has a plain face with small features, probably in her late-thirties. When she speaks, her dialect gives away that she's Emirati.
'Do you know English?' she asks in Arabic. Her accent is strong and un-urban-like.
'Yeah,' I smile at her. Serious expression in return.
A leather bag sits propped before her. She searches inside, finally extracting a mobile phone, and busies herself with its buttons for a while.

I look around, wondering who she will make me speak to.
'Read this message for me, please'
I look at the screen. The message is transliterated. It is Arabic in English letters.
'This is Arabic'
'I know, I can't read the English letters'
'Uh..okay' I clear my throat:

'Hey habibi' I recite. I pause and quickly read the message in my head, feeling myself turning crimson.
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I look up at her. Her eyes are on me, and there is a fire lighting in there.
'Go on,' she barks at me.
The next few seconds are possibly the most awkward in my life. The message is clearly from a woman addressed to her lover, saying she missed him, asking why he hadn't called her, and recounting very intimate moments from their last meeting. I stop after every sentence hoping she'd tell me that was enough, but each time she urges me on, something in the order and fierce tone that tells me I have no other option.

'What's her name?' she whispers, after I have finished reading it and showed her there was no more.
'It doesn't's just a number'
'Okay, thank you, darling,' she says. Her face expression has softened and she looks like she is going to have a breakdown any minute.

I don't move. Neither does she. We just sit there in our praying positions, until a small voice says, 'It's my husband's phone.'

The immensity of what I have just done sinks in.
'It must be a wrong number. I got a very creepy text message once like that!' Which is a lie, I have never read anything like that before but I am in a desperate position.
She snorts. 'No, I've been suspicious for long. This is just confirmation.'
I don't know what to say so I just sit there wishing I can take back time.
'You know, some people aren't made of flesh and blood like you and I.'

And with that, she grabs her bag and rises, leaving me alone with my guilt in the room.

Friday, January 4, 2013

But I don't have the time!

This is Time whenever we use him as a scapegoat for all the things we won't do.

There are twenty four hours a day. That's one thousand, four hundred and forty minutes. This is how only two minutes feel like. How was that? Long? You have seven hundred and twenty fold of that in just one day.
Most of us have stuff we want to do and never get around to doing it because we assume we don't have the time. The truth is- you don't have the time not to do them.

Invest in yourself. Sure, there are tasks that take a priority over others. But keeping your mind and body and heart happy are just as important. How much of your day to you put aside to making you a better person?

Sit alone when you need to, and think about where your life is going. Write down your weak points and what you want to do about them. There's time for that. Read about something written from a totally different perspective to your's. Watch documentaries about the history of places you've never been to. If you've had a good day, write it all down. Don't always trust your memory to remember everything. Look up your beliefs and re-evaluate them. Start from zero, and change them if you need to. Study because you're interested, not just to get a degree paper that will claim you're educated. Enroll in a random online course. Solve a Sudoku puzzle everyday. Take walks. Drink lots of water. Have long, silly laughs with your family. Trust me- there's time for all of that.

Remember the future you is the friend you need to take the most care of!

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