Archive for July, 2007


Because I live on the luschious peak of a hill in the green middle of nowhere, moated in by a triple laned stream and perilous 90 degree drops on all sides and I have to effortfully book flying red goats, branded with the numbers 275, to take me down to the nearest paths which lead me towards the nearest distant masjids, it is rare that I get to partake in those beautiful congregationals.

As a clanging result, I envy a healthy envy those that pray together as a family if not in the masjids. It is indeed the ego-slap which gels that thing called unity together and makes prostration just that little bit sharper and heavier.

I once found this short girl, who stood in the most pained manner. She scratched her partly covered head and wondered out loud, ‘My family always want to pray together but I can never concentrate. I prefer to escape to my bedroom and pray alone.’ Tsk Tsk, the echoes resounded in her ears. The devil stood in the corner sniggering with sticky delight. He had opened the door for her to leave and was fluidly hoovering up the glittering bonus points she had left in a neat trail behind her.

Oh, Oh, Twas her, who should have twer to let him evil leave the room

Abandon him w’out cameraderie in the place of heat of heat of selfish heat

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I suppose I could always just drive down the hill.

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Rapunzel

I sat staring from my bedroom window at the new rooftops, red with embarrassment at the mental assylum they had replaced. My own personalised looming lookout point, situated at the highest point of the highest tower  of the highest house on the highest hill. I threw my hair down and out of the window. Then I waited but nothing happened.

So hauled it all back in and, instead, I have been consumed with experimenting with moody film noir techniques, wondering all the time where my tripod is, learning to infuse lavender oil because I hear it’s good for the hair, mostly arguing with poorly informed Brownie associations who I often leave speechless and promising me that the manager will call back personally, trying to figure out who left the black olive to roll into the cutlery drawer and why everybody doubts my strawberry and basil smoothie-coolie-juice addition and then loves it when they do try it, not to mention thinking about where Harry II is performing nowadays, how many pyramids Deeja has confronted and whether she has a suitable hand-fan for the job, does the Maggy-Bird live where I sent her her very own voodoo doll, who knows how to convert SWF to MPG, when I’m going to have lunch, when I’m going to have lunch with Fun, remembering to get superglue tomorrow morning to fix the broken finger on my delicate mannequin hand, musing over what drunken astronauts are doing fizzing around the atmosphere and why some people just cannot let things go and how many shots Aussie would get by sitting in every tree in the park. Photographic shots, you know. At least I’ve decided I’d like to leave my tower. Enough vegetables have been peeled and plenty of spinning has been spun, at least for now.

Another thing I haven’t thought about, but others have and do, is the use of numerical digits when typing Arabic words in roman script. I guess it was the mu7ahajaba that triggered it. Why use numericals? To represent the letter that the English Alephbet doesn’t have, of course, and thus not risking a compromise with the meaning of words. Also, it is sometimes used simply to confuse and belittle people who don’t understand. Sometimes. Sometimes, uppercase is used intead of numbers but numbers are more common. And words are important.

2 – This is the glottal stop, like the cockney ‘butter’ (: bu2er) which is usually the Hamza ء in the Arabic script. In colloquial, it also represents the glottal stop that Egyptians turn the ق into. Guilty. e.g. Enti fen ba2aaaa? – Where ARE you?

3 – This represents the Ayn ع , the sound of which can’t really be explained, only picked up and is actually not as difficult or vomit inducing as most people make it out to be when first trying to pronounce it. When followed by an apostrophe (3′) it represents the Ghayn غ . e.g. as Nancy Ajram beautifully sings ‘lawn 3ayounak’ – The colour of your eyes.

5 – This is sometimes, but extremely rarely, used in place of 7 [see below]

6 – This is used for the explosive Ta ط and when followed by an apostrophe (6′) it represents the explosive Dha ظ . e.g. 6ayyeb – Good.

7 – This is the deep Ha ح which comes from the same part of the throat that the haaaa comes from after a sip of hot tea. When followed by an apostrophe (7′) it represents the Kha خ . e.g. Sa7! – Indeed! Correct! Right!

9 – This is the explosive Sa ص and when followed by an apostrophe (9′) it represents the Da ض

So, if anybody ever wants to have a giggle at Araboman script, just don’t use the numbers 1, 4, 8 or 0. Or it might look silly.

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Above: Film Noir with a touch of what the Dr ordered.

This is perhaps the most enchanting picture taken in my garden to date. Not Sony this time, no no no. Canon. It’s all about the Canon 400D… aaakkhhh thu*! The contrast of light and dark, the focus and posture somewhat remind me of a mu7aajabah: elegant yet poised; humble yet confident; enlightening and yet growing.

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But then, I am no stranger to making obscure associations.

*‘aaakkhhh thu’ – an ancient method of fake spitting used to ward off evil eye [evil eye also known as 7asad or nazar], often practiced by [great]grandmothers, attributed as a common act amongst older generations of Moslems, although its actual origin is unknown; a verbal form of the black dot on the face used for similar purposes.

The day was set to be a success. Everybody was punctual and the weather looked promising at Charing X. A quick 45 minutes later, the train pulled up in Tonbridge and the rain had just begun. This was probably thanks to Harry II’s wireless rain-dance in London at 10:27am. Deeja peeped out from beneath her rice paddy field hat and her adamant expression made it clear that even torrential rain would not hold us back this day, not when we’d come ‘this far‘.

Good thing too, because torrential rain is exactly what we got after hiring our bikes and being told by the funny bike dudes that we couldn’t have picked a worse day to do this ride.

Taj and I hadn’t ridden a bike for years. Exercise bikes do not count because they just don’t and they are stationary. But it is true; you never do forget how to ride a bike. The riding was fun and setting off in the downpour was unbelievably enjoyable. Ignoring Cautious Cat’s inner instinct telling her it was better to head back and wait, we carried on with the rain beating down on us and our dodgy assortment of raincoats. With no real fear of electrocution we bounded down paths, through woods, up hills and down them… OK, so we bounded down and sometimes hiked up- except for Expert Cat, though, who breezed through!

We stopped off to have lunch by the prophesized field of cows, which were stunningly beautiful, all white and looked obviously healthy, even to the un-farmer. One appeared to be rather interested in our paddy field girl who held out a banana for it. It soon transpired that it thought I was a luscious piece of walking grass- compliments to my giant green raincoat- and remained by the fence for quite some time. It was gruffly called back to the main grazing area by another cow, who sounded angry and turned on the ghastly waterworks.

Around this point, upon seeing a well groomed and clearly male dude cycle by and say ‘Hi! : ) ‘, as all of friendly Tonbridge does, with splashes of mud on his face [no really, how would that happen unless somebody was burning rubber in front of him and spraying up the mud directly into his face?] and Deeja thought that he was a she.

‘She’s more covered [in mud] than us!’

He heard. We are yet to calculate how this happened and hope he thought she was talking about one of us and not him. Deeja is yet to agree that it was, in fact a male. Dude was seen riding further up, cycling with his head down.

We carried on because Cold Cat was turning blue.  We saw pretty scenes masked through the trees, a giant water lily pond, running water- muddy brown- that sounded sublime and beams of sunlight shining down and glorifying a coca-cola can to magical status.

Once we arrived at Penshurst Castle, the sun broke out and we inadvertently raised the decibel level in the beautiful Quaintways teahouse, where we had tea, coffee and hot hot scones. We had come in as quietly as mice but by the end we were speaking at London volume. I officially adore teahouses. Particularly those that sell preserves without Scotch.

The way back was wonderful! With the raincoats tied around our waists, the sun on our backs and the wind in our hair and hijaabs, we freelanced downhill under the blue blue sky. We saw the paddy field girl again, stood gazing over her ongoing hard day of work.

Taj was calling out to us from behind that she was feeling incredibly sore. We couldn’t hear her but, much to her dismay, she discovered a couple were riding right behind her who heard her very well. We know this because we saw them laughing. Don’t worry, Taj, they struggled up the rest of that hill because of it.

Apparently, my bouts of cycling on the exercise bike has kept me fitter than I knew because at the end of 12 miles, I still didn’t feel tired. Having said that, at one point, I did manage to gracefully lower myself into a bush of nettles as I was staring at it too hard. This concluded in three bruises and me being entangled in the bars of the bike. ‘Toobaa, I nearly crashed into you from behind!‘ ‘Oh, really? Look at those nettles…’ There isn’t much you can do on your way down. Just watch. *flump* Oh, this feels quite soft. Then the stinging of the nettles seeps in. Commando Cat found some anti-nettle-dock (I’m too tired to google their proper name) leaves with holes in but they sufficed, alhamdulillah.

We also managed to conquer our fear of dogs. Pitbulls, poodlike things and baby-eating dogs approached us menacingly on several occasions as we sprawled on the grass drying off. Then. Much to the amusement of a passer-by, Proper Cat part-demonstrated, to us three Brownies, the correct way to use a hole in the floor. We are yet to report on whether these means are efficient or not, but we suspect and hope that they are.

We went on to impress the bike shop dudes with our completed mission. The day ended with four muddy girls browsing through the Monsoon sale. We trudged home in our browned trousers and sprayed backs (except mine, muwahah! The giant tree raincoat prevails!) feeling rather satisfied that we had finally done it. Peace at last : )

Thank you. So much. I would do this again! And again! I couldn’t have imagined a better group. And Ummi loves the ‘chutney’  from the ‘English Teahouse’!

The most amazing picture is yet to be added and may possibly may never be. But know that it exists. (Paddy Field Girl- now added).

[1- Lime does cure the throbbing of a headache but the inner ache remains and can be nauseating. Bits of lime will also be stuck to your forehead. 2- Calamine lotion does zilch for nettle stings. 3- In the absence of anti-nettle-dock leaves, Garnier Fructis Body Cocoon + Tibet Snow + Oil of Olay works great on nettle stings. 4- The one thing on the list that you decided not to bring is the one thing that you will need.]

This time last year, tarmac was peeling off the ground with girlies’ flip-flops.

Exhibit A: Yesterday’s weather.

And so I declare, yet again,

I am going on a bike ride.

A route through the country. Records show that Deeja and I have been trying to achieve this for the past couple of months now but to no avail. On the run up to every day we’ve planned, the weather soothsayers have said that our chosen day will be filled with tycoons, storms and floods. Each time the day has finally rolled round, and we have cancelled our plans, it turns out to be the bightest, warmest sunniest day of the week, ever!

Exhibit B: Today’s weather.

This time, we’ve decided to stubbornly go, even though they’ve predicted heavy rains, showers and downpours with the risk of flood and specifically warned against outdoor activities. Eh, we’ll take raincoats and know what to do if we get struck by lightning, God forbid. And we won’t ride if it really does rain (ptschhhh). I’d like to think it won’t rain this time. But it already is. God is taking pictures of the expression on my face as I pump an hour of cardio on the training bike, gazing forlornly out of the window and watching the torrent of downpour . I count between His Flash and the the reprimanding grumble of thunder:

One one thousand

Two one thousand

And that’s all I have time for before it crrraaaacks! Not very far away at all.

The Blob-Meister picked up his second and last fish-finger and, biting off a hearty three quarters in one go, bellowed ‘Stay indoors!’ Ok. Watch it with the breadcrumbs though, eh?

Meanwhile, Harry II, during his rehearsals for the Oliver Twist production, between the lines of chim chimini chim chimini chim chim chiroo, laughed and twirled his umbrella, ‘Going on a bike ride are you? Pah! Hah! Haha! I’m going to a GARDEN party!’ What.

Affi met the idea with silence and then proceeded with borrowed and yet untried methods on how to deal with my chronic daily headaches.

Deeja reckons the cosmos has a vendetta against us having social lives. I like to think we’re destined for greater things and the cosmos is trying to keep us safe. So, have your moozemac and if worse comes to worst, we can just go ice-skating. Or something. InshaAllah khair!

My Baby Canon 400d

It shlicks in the most divine and glossy way… Almost slicks… It’s a triumphant sound… Not-only-did-I-get-the-shot-but-I-got-it-gloriously-shlick! It fits my hand like a beautiful leather glove… And the pictures- oh the pictures… Like surreal whorls of silk and icing… Perfect balance… Perfection… Shlick!

Now… I wonder where that snails gone…

Blood Diamond

I had no idea that one gold ring produced 18 tonnes of waste. This information, along with a compliment for my white gold necklace, had just come to me when I, unusually, left the sink unplugged while trying to fasten this piece of jewellery around my neck. It is an exquisite piece with pink sapphire and diamonds. Ah, it won’t fall, not with my agility and reflexes and good reputation for keeping jewellery safe. So I didn’t push the plug in this time. And, of course, it could only really be this very time that it would slip from my hands. So, it slipped. The three long bars of the pendant tinkered off and went dancing around the basin whilst I swiped, unbelievably wide-eyed, like a pinball machine trying to channel them up out of the looming abyss that was the plughole. At this point, I should like to sigh. Sigh. I rescued 3 out of 4 pieces (one chain and two bars) as a result of my swiping. The longest bar continued and slipped right through the tiny gap around the plug. Sigh.

 

However, by the Grace of God, as I gently lifted the plug up a little, I found it precariously balanced along one of the arms of the plug. With a little delicate manoeuvring, the precise details of which I do not care to reproduce, we managed to rescue it (that’s me, and my agile self). Alhamdulillah!

I haven’t seen Leo Dio’s Blood Diamond, but the latest Developments magazine has made me seriously question where my diamonds have come from. How can I be sure that whoever mined it and whoever profited from it got their deserving pieces? Are they from conflict countries? Do I care? Really, how much? I’m sure that as I look into this, and ask the questions better, I will appreciate the answers better and I will really care to the point that it affects my decisions, not just my feelings. This is not sarcasm. It’s much clearer when I’m really being sarcastic.

From what I know so far, Kimberly is working to ‘stem the flow of conflict diamonds’. Mr Valerio reckons it will take about 15 years for consumers to treat jewellery buying in the same way as they do eggs from battery chickens and that his Cred Jewellery is the closest thing we can currently get to a fair trade diamond and green gold.

I don’t know the status of my necklace, but had it continued down the drain, it would most certainly be classified as a blood diamond. Ummi.

Seriously:

www.cafod.org.uk/unearthjustice

www.cred.tv

www.globalwitness.org

The doorbell twittered and echoed through the whitewashed haveli, whilst the sun beat down from its highest point. It was the time of the midday siesta and whilst Ghulam Mustafa lay resting his old self after eating and praying with his usual military precision, Afzal had been pottering around, straightening doilies atop bowls of fruit in the cool storeroom. Upon hearing the bell, she turned and made her way to the gates.

‘Kaaauuun? Kaaauuun?’ (Who’s there?) she called out in her aged yet tireless voice.

‘O kholi, pehhhn!’ (Open it, sister!)

Sister, hmmm, this is a familiar voice!

Drawing the latch aside she thought about how it needed a good oiling. She pulled the gate aside and saw him standing there.

He was very short, of hobbit-like stature, darkened to a deep steady glow by the sun, in his white stiff shalwar kameez and topi. His ears were very large, as was his nose. His senses were as sharp as when he was in his youth. There are more interesting things to discuss regarding his appearance, but this can wait for now.

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Although he continues to pester Afzal during his stay there, fussing over the contents and quantities of his meals (too hot, too mild, can’t eat this, can only eat that, too much, too little), she often bites her tongue and remembers how Allah had sent him to the gates of her large home, asking for some living space. She had thought to herself, after much deliberation, Allah has given me such a generous abode, a generous lot, Alhamdulillah, is there not room for this old man to stay? This old family helper? So, she decided to let him stay.

I wished he had kept a journal of his own, to record all of his exquisite stories. Patwari is the Punjabi word for a builder or architect. More often than not, it’s used in the way we use the word ‘brickie’. And Lala is simply a title used to address certain elders. Elders indeed, for although Lala Patwari’s appearance would tell you that he was in his late 60’s, he is, in fact, around 110 years old. One hundred and ten years. He claims that at the time of the partition of India, he was no less than 50 years of age.

Grandma, Nania-ji¸ knew him from when she was a young girl. He often looked after her and her siblings as a helper. He had worked in the palace of the maharaja, where my Kurdish great grandfather was once an engineer. He also made the perilous journey with them from Jammu to Sialkot. And then, my mother remembers him likewise, he was around when she and her siblings were growing up, too. ‘I remember him looking exactly as he does now’, she says, ‘and he would tell us the happenings of his life then, too.’ 

He now lives in the servant quarters of Nania-ji’s home in Sialkot, the Punjab of Pakistan (and from time to time he oils the latch). During my six-month stay out there, I was delighted by his storytelling, and dismayed at the fact that very few other people truly appreciated his treasure chest of experience. He only needs to be asked once. Then, he will relish recounting his stories, interconnected, interwoven, a stream of tales that ends only shortly before, isha, the evening prayer, when he retires up to his quarters in the tower. Yes, it is a tower. It is a short turret adjoined to the haveli, or mansion, the stairs of which he can quite fairly climb only twice a day.

From time to time, I will write about what I discovered about him; pictures; notes; descriptions; habits; traits; all that I documented, all that I researched and verified with regards to his age and, most important of all, the stories themselves. For it is up to us to ‘eternalize’ these voices. After they have wasted, they will ring haunting the living- reminding them of the fleeting haste that our souls make, and the voice it dons to speak of its stay in this place.

Snail Eye

I never really thought about where snails eyes really are. I only really ‘noticed’ for the first time today. Lucky- I had my camera with me.

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Brushing Up

I never used to watch Big Brother. I’d always heard it was revolting and rather explicit and hence there was a lot of channel skipping in avoiding it every evening. Then one night, I heard a gasp from the living room. I ran in and saw the BB house on the TV and a look of sheer horror and revulsion on Ummi’s face. Oh no! What has she seen?! ‘That girl just brushed her teeth and didn’t even spit or rinse or anything!’ Eugh.

Big Brother as we know it? Pah! One of my versions would be to gather the most intelligent people of the country (measured by academic merit, IQ …and several other key tests) and put them all inside a somewhat Big Brotherish house. Then, they could be given fantasy tasks based specifically on genuine issues of the world and see what they churn up and what churns them up. Although, there would have to be one village idiot with them. Yes, he’s always useful.

      

            [Exhibit A] 

Goldilocks, on the other hand, did rinse today, I’m sure of it because I have to give her the benefit of the doubt. Although, I’m still unsure about how exactly one brushes their teeth in front of a computer, with a toothbrush and toothpaste. If it was a miswak, I could understand. You can use that anywhere, even when commuting to work, apparently.

Goldilocks dashed off to get ready for work, probably spraying toothpaste juice as she did, but not in time to hear my final tip. A toothbrush is the best exfoliation for your lips [exhibit A, above]. If you use it gently, it exfoliates and softens the surface skin, improves circulation (exfoliation is also massage) and helps give that wonderful, natural, reddish glow. If you use it harshly, you will not be pleasantly surprised. But you already knew that.

It should not be considered tragic that brushing my teeth is two (sometimes three) of my most favourite parts of the day. The squeaky clean squeaky feeling at the end is wonderful. And whilst I get through more toothbrushes in three months than most people do in a year, and whilst Salima claims she can hear me brushing in Sloth, the result is bright, spangly, pearly whites. De-lish. A bit of cranberry juice before breakfast also prevents streptococcus mutans bacteria from sticking to your teeth, keeping them sparkling. De-lish.