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Monthly Archives: August 2011

An infidel’s prayer


Born into a muslim family , “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali , is not a book I should’ve been reading in the month of Ramadaan. And definitely not the kind of book I should be reading on the train while coming to be with my old mother , who has had a recent surgery for a fracture on her femur. I should be praying to Allah for her speedy recovery , as would be recommended by the religion I am supposed to espouse. And yet , I was hooked on to her tale , following her through Somalia , to Saudi Arabia, to Ethiopia and Kenya and Holland. I was wonderstruck at her resilience, her uncompromising spirit . The range of experiences and suffering she had gone through left me in a constant state of curiosity ..what came next..what is there on the next page? How did she come to terms with her tribal/religious upbringing when the questions started tormenting her…questions regarding a compassionate God, who as per the book would punish us with the everlasting fires of hell, for our misdemeanors. Did she come to terms with it at all?

Imagine a little girl who had even undergone genital mutilation to supposedly preserve her “purity” and who had had no trouble abiding by the dictats of her community, growing up in Africa through the years when the different states were in a state of war torn anarchy and from there fighting her destiny all on her own to become a Member of Parliament in the Dutch Government , surviving a death threat and still standing tall and unbent .

But I had just about reached the chapter where she was about to be enrolled in one of the prestigious universities in Holland , where she had sought asylum, in an attempt to escape from a marriage her father had made her undergo, of course which was to be in her best interests, according to the paternalistic mores. I had gone off to sleep and had to get down at my hometown Kannur, early next morning. The book was left behind , I think , for I’ve been trying to locate it in amongst my clothes and stuff and it seems to have disappeared.

I’d bought “Infidel” and Arun Shourie’s book , “Does he know a Mother’s heart?” after many, many , many months of not stepping into a bookshop. I had actually been thrilled to be holding two brand new books in my hand. The smell of new print , the crisp paper, the prospect of turning through the pages to delve into the personal accounts of intimate journeys through the minds and spirit of two , whose circumstances in life was intense enough to shake loose the bedrock of faith . to gauge and assess one’s own churnings in the light of the meanings of life that they had discovered for themselves, was an invitation, I could hardly resist, to say the least.

I started with Arun Shourie’s book, his personal memoirs about his relationship with Faith and the denial of it through the journey of bringing up his only son who is affected with cerebral palsy. and I couldn’t finish it. Pages and pages of it were just quotes from the Koran and the Bible , which would ,to any questioning human being , raise doubts about the compassion and love of the God we are supposed to worship, make us wonder at Hell and the unforgiving nature of the Master of the Universe, when he assigns suffering to us and eventually confine us to the flames to be roasted continuously without ever having any reprieve. Shourie is supposed to go on with his questioning with the established ritualistic Hindu religion as well, but I didn’t get there. The problem was , I think, that for someone who has had issues with religions where questioning is not allowed, Shourie’s exposition was a dull repetition . He was meandering again and again through the same material.
I have always wondered, is communication more difficult for men than women? Not about the knowledge, not about the intellectual range, not about the reasoning part or logic…but something remains missing in the emotional content which would make writings of such a personal dimension relatable to the reader. Is it because men are loathe to reveal what they actually “feel”. Is it that they cannot find the words to express them or is it that doing so is a sign of exhibitionism in their perspective? Or may be men can indeed relate to it and women cannot. Or may be they can and it is just me who has a problem. Whatever. ……although both books are in the same genre, Arun Shourie’s narrative did not touch my heart the way Ayaan Hirshi Ali’s did. And now may be I will not be able to finish reading her tale as well, for a while.

My mother is in pain. She is in denial. She is depressed. Old age is trying, very trying, particularly if one hasn’t learnt to let go of attachments, of being in control. My mother is a namaazi. She has fasted during Ramadaan for the most part of her eighty plus years. She has abiding faith in the Holy book and in Allah’s compassion. None of which seem to be helping her through her suffering now. The standard rhetoric is of course that God(by whatever appellation) keeps testing us. Unless you can blindly, sedatedly, unreasoningly believe that, the question will continue nagging you….why would anyone want to do that, untiringly through all the “Time” that there was ,is and is going to be.? “Surrender” to a Power who can never be satisfied with the incessant “testing” of it’s own powers ?

I’ll probably burn in Hell and yet … … I cannot deny the feeling of infinite love that fills me in moments of silence. And I’m okay with appealing to that entity of Abundant Love to help relieve her insecurities , her fear of the unknown , which makes her cling on so desperately to her own image of physical strength and endurance and will power. I pray that she accepts the fact that it is okay to be vulnerable , to be weak , to be dependent. I pray that her mind may be free from the chatter and noise in which we find affirmation of our Self. I pray that she is able to surrender, really surrender .

 

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What am I?


This is written in response to the prompt on the following link:
http://magicinthebackyard.wordpress.com/2011/08/12/free-write-friday-do-you-know-who-you-are/

What am I?
Cells and tissues
Blood raging through?
My beliefs and views
That I thrust on you?

The rise of a wave
Pulled by the heavens afar?
A truant from the grave
Under the spell of a star?

A soul that’s been writhing
In anger and pain
Barren land that’s been waiting
To be graced by the rain?

A bit of the bamboo
A chunk of the weeds?
A slice of the song
Slipping through the reeds?

A self that’s been bound
By sorrows and strife
Going round and round
Through the circle of life?

A speck of dry dust
In the wind that is sown?
A lasting abundance
In which “I” will drown?

What am I?

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Poetry, Reflections

 

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Mother India


She’s crazy in parts
She giggles and sings
She twirls on her toes
Till it giddiness brings

Her hair is bedecked
With ribbons and flowers
Her silky attire
Is all sequined with stars.

She sprinkles the land
With verdant rich fields.
From the milk in her breasts
The rivers she feeds.

She’s a pretty cool mother
She moves with the times
She’s not much of a stickler
For metre or rhyme.

If her kids get into squabbles
She doesn’t throw a fit
She knows that sooner or later
By her knees , they will sit.

Sometimes she leads them through alleys
Of her wonderful past
And they listen to the whisperings
Of a pure wisdom that lasts.

That done, she blows bubbles
Like a carefree village belle
And then scoots over the highway
To where the city lights dwell.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in India, Poetry

 

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Mind and its mysteries


Took the day off from my normal routine, as I was feeling tardy since I awoke. Remnants of the happenings I had experienced in sleep mode? Do not know.
Was reading all day, on the monitor, that is. First, “The doors to Perception”, by Aldous Huxley. (My son had uploaded for me a sizeable collection of e-books) about his experiments with the drug “mescalin” and his conclusions about the possible effects of “chemicals” on our perception, some of which such as “adrenchrome” may be spontaneously produced by our body. So, poets, painters, musicians etc. whom we refer to as the “gifted ones” may in fact owe their genius to their neurobiology. And mystics too, may be capable of an altered consciousness because of the way particular regions of the brain many have developed or the chemicals produced by their cells and that is perhaps why they become aware of a reality that is denied to the general population.

Went on to read a couple of essays by a guy named Ingrid Solano , that I had bookmarked a few weeks ago , which was also a take –off on the same subject , with relevance to our notions of “right “and “wrong”. The gist of what he says is that our sense of right or wrong can be impaired by the biological condition of our brains, in that, our sense of empathy, which is the basis of moral behavior ( do unto others as you would have done unto you) may become kind of numb and while we may still intellectually understand something as “wrong” , we may not “feel” the effect of our actions on others and hence lose what we generally term as “guilt” or “compunction”.

Then there is Charles Darwin and his view that an understanding of morality is best based on a study of the evolution of Man and that a moral sense can exist even in a person who has no belief in a higher Intelligence from whom the rules of behavior are believed to emanate according to most religions that have existed and are existing. Morality , according to him, can come from an instinctive understanding that if one “acts for the good of others , one receives the approbation of fellow men and gains the love of those with whom he lives.”

James Rachel’s , “Created from Animals:The moral implications of Darwinism “ and Frans De Waal’s , “Good Natured:the origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and other animals “, also propounded on the same issues, as one can gather from excerpts that can be accessed on the internet. Social instincts/morality work towards greater harmony among groups or in other words, what promotes the best interests and harmony in a group is what is generally considered as moral. But there is apparently a hierarchy , altruism first coming into play within the closest kin, then to the group, then to each and every member of one’s species.

As a rule, they say, reciprocal altruism will not occur when individuals are unlikely to meet again and that it requires good memories and stable relationships. To see oneself in the plight of another is the basic building block of morality. So that would mean, that the more “evolved” we are, the greater should be our capacity for feeling a connection with the rest of our species and to other species as well . We should also then assume that for the “evolved”, their neurobiology would be such as to predetermine such altruism and harmonious behaviour would come naturally to them. In other words, it is part of their genetic make-up. As for those whom we consider, ”misanthropists”, or as a “deviant” or “psychotic”, it could just be that they are chemically compositioned that way?

There is a quotation from Marquis De Sade which was quoted in this context in one of the essays I read. “One must feel sorry for those who have strange tastes, but never insult them. Their wrong is Nature’s wrong too; they are no more responsible for having come into the world with tendencies unlike ours, than are we for being born bandy-legged or well proportioned.”. So then, “right” or “wrong” really has no basis for being “applauded” or condemmed. It’s just the way we are. And we owe ourselves some compassion. One can understand that.

Chemical imbalances in the brain can be triggered off by distress and trauma. Accidents and illness can alter the disposition of our brains. Mystics can have a heightened consciousness which gave them a sense of reality, much larger and intense than ordinarily available to the rest of us. All of this one can understand at an intellectual level. But how do we get to be hardwired in the way we are? Why do we get to undergo the particular circumstances that become the cause for distress or sets off a particular mental or “spiritual” experience? Is that where the “karma” theory comes into play? Do we still have something called “freewill” that will determine our evolution , both as individuals and in terms of this homogenous mass of “ human consciousness” in this universe, hurtling itself forward to “God” knows where?

 

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Fanaa (Annihilation)


From the waters
From not knowing
From being neither awake
Nor asleep
From simple awareness

We dragged ourselves
To the shore
To look at the sky
And the grass
And the mountains
With a new vision

And we stood up
And walked beyond
Our heads full of ourselves
We were, we thought,
Separate and free.

But now,when
Insignificance drowns
Our deemed reality
Our tired selves
long to return
To our lost abundance

 
 

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