May 27th, 2017

Blog Quake Day9

Today is Blog Quake Day, well technically it was yesterday, but I have yet to sleep. I found out about BQD from Rambling Monologues, whose blog is one of the best blogs linked to your right, and who has written heart felt, informative and very useful posts about the earthquake, and how one can help the victims of the earthquake.

I do not know where to begin…that feeling of helplessness and uselessness, which first descended on me when I saw the pictures of that massive devastation for the first time, pervades my days and nights here as I, and pretty much everyone around me, otherwise go about our lives as usual. For the first time in my life, I share my parents’ unbounded disappointment at my not having got into a medical school; perhaps I could have been of more use, had I been a doctor. For the first time in my life, I am disgusted with myself for living the life of that anecdotal cricket who saved nothing for tomorrow; perhaps if I had been saving something in my bank, I could have put it into good use at this hour. Not for the first time in my life, I feel a total failure. I am wrong of course; I am what I was destined to be, and prior today I have always believed that saving is for middle aged people – if at all; my needs and wants have always been taken care of by Allah, and will be taken care of by Him always. I have never had ambitions to build a mansion, buy acres, or stock up on the yellow metal. I know I am not a failure when I look at the wonderful people, and whose love, Allah Almighty has blessed me with, family and friends alike. Yet, I cannot help but feel that way. that has been the effect this earthquake and its aftermath have had on most of us – they have jolted the very premise of our philosophies.

I am invaded by a feeling of guilt each time I spend a dirham towards items not essential to my survival, as it rears up images of those devastated, cold, hungry, and desparate people who would kill for each of these dirhams right now.

I shudder at the thought of being in their predicament…and beseech Allah to ease their suffering, and spare all His creations, including my family, any such suffering. I pray and pray and pray…

Yet, there is no denying the fact that those five million people affected by this catastrophe went to bed after Suhoor on the morning of eighth, with not the slightest hint in their minds that their lives, if at all spared, would be turned upside down in the next few hours. There is no knowing what lies in store for us, and it just underlines the importance of making the most of this time we have to carry out our mission on earth, and our mission on earth is to follow Allah’s commands, and He commands us to refrain from shirk, worship Him, and spend on and for the betterment of our brothers ans sisters in need, out of the bounty He has given us.

Donate, donate and donate, because this is the only way of loaning out to Allah, and Allah promises to be the best repayer of all loans. www.pakrelief.org lists the various channels through which donations can be funnelled into the affected areas, take your pick, but remember to donate as much as you can, and then some.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, we have all seen and heard uplifting stories of sacrifice and devotion from all segments of the Pakistani Society and from multiple sections of the world society. It is unfortunate to note that it took such a collossal tragedy to bring out this compassion and sincerity in us. Yet, there is a dire need to keep this spirit alive until the victims of this earthquake have been rehabiliated, until the women widowed by this earthquake are freed of concerns about how to go about the rest of their lives, and until the children orphaned by this earthquake are all provided the compassion, love and security that we all want for our own children. The Abdalians, alumni of the Hassan Abdal College, have shown this spirit and have adopted two villages and its people, vowing to cater to the needs of the people of these two villages, until those villages find their own feet. It is not possible to put a time frame to the life of this spirit, but it is easy to see that this spirit calls for more than just digging deep into pockets today – it requires for all of us to make a long term commitment; a commitment to continue to open our hearts and pockets for our people until these people, especially the old, the widows and the children are self sufficient. It could take years, and if it must, we must be ready to come through for those years.

Lastly, we must remember that this is not the last earthquake to jolt us humans, but it should be the last one that comes to jolt us into humanity.

Perhaps, then, there will be fewer earthquakes; perhaps then they will strike in unpopulated areas; and perhaps then, we will have completed our mission.

Test – theirs and ours.10

People have been saying, implicitly or explicitly, depending on who was saying it, that this earthquake was Allah’s wrath. Why are we so fatalistic, I wonder? I came across these ayahs in Surah Baqara recently, and I found an answer to all such deductions.

“155. Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere,

156. Who say, when afflicted with calamity: “To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return”:-

157. They are those on whom (Descend) blessings from Allah, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance. ”

Why do our people not understand that life in the world is not a fairy tale affair, where the princesses are pretty, princes handsome, and villians ugly. If it were that simple, everyone would be a believer, save the Abu Jahal’s of this world. No, faith is just that – faith, and it is tested by bounty as well as by tragedy, and it is not easy to fare well in these tests.

The earthquake that shattered much of Azad Kashmir, and parts of Frontier (Pakhtoonkhwa?) on the 8th of October is the biggest test we as a nation have had to face. It is a test of faith, and of character. It is a great test for those who have lost loved ones in an instant, and must now come to terms with injuries, hostile weather, hunger, disease, and uncertainty. “Sabr” according to the Quran is where they must find solace, in Sabr and in Salaat, in patience and in prayer. For in these times of suffering, in these times of weakness, shaitan will attack them from all sides, and create in their hearts doubts of all kinds, raise questions in their minds as to why did Allah choose them to be victims of this tragedy. He will remind them of their good deeds, and make them skeptic of their value and importance. He will ask them if those good deeds were all of any good at all? Through patient and perseverant belief in Allah’s mercy alone will the people be able to stand up to these devious attacks, and I know it is not going to be easy for them.

It is not easy to hold on to one’s sanity after a calamity of this scale, and under such circumstances, to hold on to one’s belief is all the more demanding, all the more daunting. It is much easier said than done, and I am aware of that. We, who start complaining at the slightest inconveniences that hinder our daily lives, can have no idea of how much faith, and how much strength of character this task requires. One can only pray that Allah’s unlimited mercy arrives for them from all sides, and brings them comfort, relief, and reassurance.

It is an equally great test for the rest of us, who have been spared the horrifics of the earthquake. While, those affected must delve deep into their hearts to find the belief and the strength to come to terms with the after math of the earthquake, we must realize that just as their response to this collossal test could bring them the rewards of heaven or more misery from hell, so will our response determine our place in this world and in the hereafter. As Muslims, and as fellow humans, it is binding on us to reach out to our brethren in need, to do all in our power, and more, to lessen the impact of this catastrophe on their lives. This entails not just opening our wallets and digging deep in our pockets to donate, but it calls for us to open our hearts and dig deep in our souls to sacrifice. Donations alone cannot and will not help 3 million people made destitute in a minute; no amount of money, not even the five billion dollars the authorities say are required to rebuild the devastated areas and their people’s lives, can heal the scars left by crashing ceilings and crushing losses.

The money is only one factor, just the begining, what is required are lasting love, timeless devotion, and above all sustained sacrifice. Because it will be love and devotion for our people which will enable us to empty our pockets for these people, but it will be the spirit of sacrifice that will keep us from putting this tragedy behind us in a few weeks, or months, and getting on with our lives. Today, we need to decide to sacrifice our relatively secure and carefree future for the betterment of our brethren affected by this earthquake. Today, we need to realize that our people will need our dedication and attention for a longtime, they will need our support until the time they are stable themselves.

We cannot absolve ourselves of all responsibility once we have made our donations. The money sent today will be spent tomorrow, and might not be there day after, but it will be required for months after that. What happens then? Today, we need to set aside a portion of our incomes for a long time to come for the victims of this earthquake. Today, we need to own up, and take responsibility for specific people, specific children, or families until they no longer need their brethren’s help. We are a nation of a 150 million people, which means there are a fifty people to take care of each person affected by this tragedy. Essentally, every person needs to take care of his designated person for one week every year. It is a simplistic calculation, but it should become the premise for a large scale initiative. Yes, any such initiative will need thinking out of the box, but we must realize that after 7.6 on the Richter scale there cannot be a box – all boxes get demolished in a 7.6!

A tragedy that eliminates all structures in a society, a calamity that wipes out an area’s civilization cannot just be grappled with by money. It requires a structured approach, and a sustained effort until new strcutures are developed.

So, let us take stock of our lives, do we have a week?

7.6!19

I learnt about the earthquake, when Madi sent me an SMS from Karachi asking me to check on my folks back in Mirpur and Islamabad. Ironically, I got the SMS as I sat with the morning paper, reading about the tragedies of the day before.

Understandably, my reflex action was to start calling home, but all lines were jammed, and I could get through to niether home, nor my sibling based in Islamabad. There were moments of despair, and frantic praying, as attempt after attempt at calling home failed. Finally, I got through to both places, and was relieved to know that everyone in my family was safe and sound, and that our city Mirpur had been spared the severity which had jolted Muzaffarabad, Rawlakot, Baagh, Mansehra, Abbotabad, and so many other cities of the country.

Friends started calling in, and the duo M&K were the first two people to call, one after the other, may Allah bless them for their kindness, generosity, love and affection. I went about checking on the few other people I knew from the affected areas, and thankfully, no-one I knew was affected directly by this catastrophe. When I say affected directly, I mean no-one had lost any of their near and dear ones to the earthquake.

Quite a few people reported damage to property, and when at 10:00 p.m. here, I met Shah Saab, who hails from Abbotabad, and has family residing there, he told me that his folks were sitting out in the cold, under pouring skies, because till about half an hour ago, they had been getting the tremors at regular intervals. Abbotabad is up in north, and winter has already set in there. Nightime temperatures hover around zero degree centigrade, which makes sitting under the rain at night no mean feat. It was only then that the true magnitude of the catastrophe began to sink in. May Allah have mercy on people trapped in these conditions, and may He make the ordeal easy for them.

Fact is, I am still over whelmed by the tragedy, and the challenges it poses for the people affected by it. After the initial shock of casualties is overcome, and it is not a shock easy to overcome, thousands and thousands of people must muster the courage, and find the resilience to set out on the uphill task of rebuilding their lives – a task easier said than done, especially so for those people, who even before they were pulled into misery by the loss of their loved ones, and their homes and places of work, had little to celebrate. People, who after a lifetime of toiling and suffering had mudbrick houses for their ‘property’, and a change of clothes for wardrobe.

The live coverage beamed by the Pakistani channels had me under the impression that the worst consequence of the earthquake had been the crumbling of the Margalla Towers’ block. I can understand that MT was the easiest to access site of damage, and of course there is no undermining the tragedy that has struck the families residing in those 60 apartments. However, Margalla Towers was singled out in the coverage in such a way that it pretty much seemed like the epicentre of the earthquake had been the MT rather than an area 90 miles away. The President and the Prime Minister issued statements standing in the rubble of what was once the prestigious MT, and every newschannel telecast pictures of MT as it covered the earthquake. Sure, there were footages from the Muzaffarabad hospitals, and other places, but it would all come back to MT as if all else was secondary and the primary scene of destruction was MT. Perhaps, the coverage could have been more spread out.

The people living in those mud houses in villages are affected as much by this calamity as are the people of MT, and in times like these it is the poor who need additional coverage so there plight cab be brought to fore, and aid and assistance can be mobilized for them. Hopefully, the survivors from those luxury apartments, will have some sort of financial cushioning to fall back on, while people who lived in mudhouses might just have lost everything, and may need to start from scratch. Both these people, the poor and not so poor, have lost loved ones, and any surity of tomorrow they might have had prior to this tragedy, and in these times will need their fellow countrymen, their fellow Muslim brethren to stand fast by them, and to reach out to them with a helping hand.

This Ramadan, more than ever before, we need to exhibit the spirit of Ramadan – the spririt that requires us to empathise with those who have lost, and those who do not have enough, the spirit that needs us to sacrifice our comforts to bring comfort to those who have not seen it or lost it. This Ramadan our cause, and that of the affectees of this earthquake, will be better served if we make an even more concerted effort to stop our excesses, excesses that unfortunately have become synonymous with Ramadan, contrary to the very spirit of this holy month, and pour our resources in to help our brethren in need.

The morning newspapers today put the death toll from the earthquake at close to 20,000, and counting. There are four times as many injured. The sheer numbers are heart breaking. However, for those brothers and sisters, who are blessed with the means to donate, and/or the will to sacrifice, these numbers also represent the number of opportunities we have of redeeming ourselves – so let us stop and think, do we really need that extra pair of clothes we are about to spend money on? Must we wear new clothes this Eid? Is there a blanket in our house that would do better keeping a brother or sister back home warm? Are there any warm clothes in your wardrobe you can do without, but your brother or sister affected by the earthquake can’t? From today onwards, we must realize that every penny that we plan spending might just have a better use in the earthquake areas, and that every dirham spent unnecesarilyt has an opportunity cost, our brothers and sisters in our country cannot afford.

May Allah guide us all, and give us all the strength and conviction to perform our duties.

Circumference, Zany JB, and Nostalgia.1

1 Meter!

Its official. Knicq has breached the 1M barrier in circumference.

In the past, I have hovered around this barrier, but never really did cross it. My failures, however, were not due to lack of trying. I know now that everything must happen in its own time, and one must continue to strive for excellence in the face of adversity and failures. A 100 cms is a lot of me, and I knew I was on the right track when standing up straight, I could no longer see my size 9 shoes. Jalali Baba has always had reservations about the usage of the word straight here in the context. He believes half moon conveys a much more accurate picture, but I differ on technical grounds. The semi-circular image invoked by the half moon metaphor does not really fit me. As far as imagery goes, Jalali Baba says it is more a case of getting the China wall to stand vertically rather than lying around like a lazy python, and getting it to swallow the half moon just so it comes to rest in the middle. Of course, this is a ridiculous way of putting things. Everyone knows, walls don’t eat half moons, or full moons; and whoever heard of pythons lying around lazily?

Thats Jalali Baba for you. He will be 30 soon, and although he maintains otherwise I have this nagging suspicion that he crossed 1M long ago. It is common knowledge that he is on the wrong side of 100 Kgs. I remain on the right side by about twenty kgs. JB thinks my eating habits add to his weight, and his smoking habits to my girth. The more I evaluate the data available, the more sense this hypothesis makes. I guess, he is pulling me into senilepur along with him. He is senile, this part I have figured out. I have also got to the conclusion that he is fighting old age. You know you are fighting old age when you start believing you are getting old, because most people choose to fight old age rather than age gracefully. Before I tell you why I think he is fighting old age, let me tell you about a small incident that should have alerted me to JB’s condition years ago.

A couple of years ago, wifey and kids had chosen exactly the same time to go on a vacation, when JB’s family was in Pakistan. JB lives in Abu Dhabi, approximately 175 Kms from where I live. He used to drive down with a bundle of wood, and a makeshift tent, in the trunk of Saab-ki-Gaadi, and drive on another 100 kilometers to Dibba; where he would put up the tent in the ‘wilderness’, make a ‘bonfire’ 2 feet in height, spend the night there, and drive back to Abu Dhabi in the morning. This used to qualify for the ultimate adventure out in the open, away from the hustle bustle of cities and towns – the former employed to refer to Abu-Dhabi and Dubai, and the latter used to allude to yours truly’s city of abode.

He did this almost every week, and talked about it to me for the rest of the week. This has to be the explanation for my affirmative nod when he invited me to one such night of adventure. I find no other logical basis for this stupidity of mine. I am not an outdoors person. I am a Dubaiite, and like all fellow-Dubaiites, I would take the air-conditioned malls over the “wilderness” anyday. (After the trip, I would take malls on fire over a trip to the wilderness with JB)

I was ordered to pack in a copy of “Kuliyat-e-Iqbal”, while JB packed in OSK, who has until now been introduced as Fash’s BiL. We set off in Saab Ki Gaadi about midnight on an unusually cold night. Along the way, Jalali Bab tried to educate the lesser mortals on Iqbal, but lost interest when we could not even feign interest. Then came the punishment for this insolence. At two in the morning, with the whole world, including the road ahead plunged in absolute darkness, JB switched off the head lights – only for a few seconds, but for long enough to scare the living daylights out of the two of us. Our screams only encouraged him, and he did it for a second time, and stopped only when the two of us threatened to tell his wife about his smoking excesses(provided, of course, we made it back in one peice, but a provision we chose not to elaborate on at the time).

He finally found a place to stop the car, and put the tent up – a deserted spot between two hills, populated by nothing, save a few shrubs swaying suspiciously in the howling winter wind, and the omnipresent fear of grouchy ghosts woken from their slumber by our cacophony. To JB’s dismay, we decided against spending the night there, and forced him to choose another spot. The spot we did agree on was at the beach, the impracticality of which choice was laid bare when it came time to put the tent up. Somehow, the tent was done, and JB got down to making his ‘bonfire’. Here again was a challenge, since the winds were not conducive to getting the fire going; a challenge that was overcome eventually. We huddled around the fire to keep ourselves warm.

We had barely got comfortable, when a strong gust of wind brought a ton of sand to our fire, and chased on its way out particles of sand with their tails on fire. For a while, the whole place was lit up like the sky; in this while I heard JB scream and run after those fiery particles, it was only later that I realized that he was running after our tent, which had been uprooted by the wind. That put paid to the night under the skies.

A few weeks ago, JB was chastizing me for my reckless driving on blackey about a year ago, when I had done a little swerving and cutting while talking on my cell phone; and I had to bring up his switching off of those head lights. That shut him up. A while later, while sitting down in a traditional Yemeni restaurant for our dinner, I asked him what the dickens did he think he was doing at the time. His reply, ‘Saab, there is no thrill in life anymore’. I had to suppress my murderous instinct, but even the best restraint could also not keep me from going ballistic in his face in two public places – one the afore mentioned traditional restaurant, which refused to serve us food given my outburst; and the other which served us food despite the ballistic me.

I have figured out now though – JB is old, and he is fighting old age – some men resort to cheap thrills in this fight. There are those who switch off head lights while driving on a dark highway, or go bungie jumping, or join a gym; or remarry; and there are those who opt for a more enduring pain- they go nostalgic. The latter crop of fighters is a sad bunch of people; they find something wrong with everything around them, and long for days gone by, the miseries of days gone by, and the joys of days gone by. If they are any good with the pen, they write books about days gone by, and romanticize the past at the expense of present and future.

JB comes from a new breed of fighters though – this is a breed which thinks itself older than it really is, so while the guys resort to some or all of the switching-off-the-headlights thrills, they are disappointed to find that they can’t really get nostaligic because their days gone by are no so far off. They must then do the next best thing – they live in other people’s nostalgia.

It is a way of life elevated to an art form by the likes of JB. The method is simple. You read a few books on genuine nostalgia, and then realizing that what you are living through today, will constitute your nostalgia tomorow, just as the past turned into nostalgia for those writers, you start living your picture perfect nostalgia, for tomorrow’s sake. Am I making any sense?

I do not have to, I will be 30 in a year’s time, and I will be able to think back to today with a touch of nostalgia, think back to days when I used to fight the oncomings of old age with half baked philosophic psychoanalysis of my freinds who were living their nostalgia before they got to the logical age of nostalgia.

For now, I am 1 Meter fat, and JB is a 100 KGS heavy – these will be the days to hark back to!

Fash’s 30th!2

In just about twenty four hours, Fash will, by the grace of Allah, turn 30 years old. He will be the first one from my friends to cross over into thirties. Not that it is of any consequence, thirty year olds today are so much younger than thirty year olds from my father’s generation. I should know. 30 year olds today are just about a year older than me today – they used to be something like 25 years older than me back then. Those guys used to be so old!

Fash has been a dear dear friend, the dearest, and he is also the oldest friend I have today. We first got to know each other back in 1985, when we started grade four together in school. I had just come back from Pakistan, after being gone for some two years, and he, I think, had come down from Abu-Dhabi. I don’t remember how we came to be friends, and after this long who really cares; one wonders if it really was out of choice since the gender ratio in our class was 26:4 to the disadvantage of the males; besides my memories from those days are rather painful. Fash has maintained a decent four inch vertical superiority over me all along. I used to think he had a superiority complex, until I found out he was the short guy in his cousins. This vertical advantage of his often resulted in horizontal consequences for me, owing to our daily wrestling matches before the morning assembly.

He has often laughed about the time he picked me up, and brought me down on his knee. I still attribute my back problems to that fateful incident. Another time, we were sabre rattling, only mine was a plastic scale, while he had that wooden scale that used to come with a blade – in my enthusiasm, I caught one of his ‘blows’ in my hand, and refused to let go…he just pulled the scale away – left me with four fingers bleeding. We both left that school after seventh grade, and were to meet again a good seven years later in Pakistan. It has been another nine years since, and Fash has introduced me to scores of wonderful new people in these years, amongst them Felicity, Madi and Jalali Baba.

Moral of the story: Great friends come to those who hold on to their first great friend.

I have learnt that the strongest of bonds are formed in the weakest of moments, under the most fragile circumstances. I have also learnt that one of Allah’s greatest blessings is a friend close by in turbulent times. A few years ago, I was left bruised and battered at the end of a most trying day; Allah had given me the strength to plough through the day’s events, but I did not see it that way at the time. Despair, regret, anguish, and sadness were pulling me into hopelessness, when I found Fash on line. I was fragile, deeply hurt, and very tired at the time, and I am glad it was Fash I had found on line. He comforted me, reassured me, and kept me from completely disintegrating. I did not realize it then, and it was only months later when I came across that same conversation that it dawned upon me just how vulnerable and unwise I had been in those moments, and just how big a blessing of Allah Fash had been that day. That chapter in my life tested a couple more of my friends, and Alhamdu Lillah each one of them came through. I could not talk to Fash after that, but Madi was with me for the next couple of weeks, and helped me and guided me as a friend must a friend lost in darkness. I got back online, and found an email from Felicity that had just the rigth words saying just the things I needed to be told at the time. After all that turbulence, peace and releif came to me through a precious few lines, written to me by a precious friend. Sure, I suffered, but I also discovered the wonderful joy that friends are.

This is turning into a song of friendship; I had meant for this post to be an introduction of Fash, one of my closest, dearest friends; but it is begining to read like a boring chapter from my biography. My apologies. It is, however, an undeniable fact that no introduction of a great friend is complete unless one elaborates on just what makes that friend great. To Fash’s disadvantage, what makes him great is that he has stuck around despite the boring me – and this he has done for over two decades now!

So, dear friend, here is wishing you a very very happy birthday, and many many happy returns of the day. May Allah shower His blessings on you everyday and every night, and may He reward you with joy, happiness and contentment for bringing joy to so many lives; may He give you the courage and strength to endure being my friend for all years to come.

Ameen.

How to make…0

How to make Knicq
Ingredients:
5 parts competetiveness
3 parts brilliance
3 parts energy

Method:
Stir together in a glass tumbler with a salted rim. Add a little lovability if desired!

How to make knicq

Ingredients:
1 part mercy
5 parts arrogance
1 part joy

Method:
Stir together in a glass tumbler with a salted rim. Serve with a slice of wisdom and a pinch of salt. Yum!

How to make ‘my given name’

Ingredients:
1 part competetiveness
5 parts humour
5 parts leadership

Method:
Add to a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously. Add a little cocktail umbrella and a dash of sadness

How to make Yawar

Ingredients:

3 parts pride
5 parts arrogance
3 parts joy

Method:
Blend at a low speed for 30 seconds. Serve with a slice of lustfulness and a pinch of salt. Yum!

Moral of the story: Always write Knicq with a capital K, and while Knicq’s given name is too good for him, his Takhallus is best got rid of…:)

Find your own personality cocktail here.

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