Quite a few years back, while strolling in Landmark, a book store which was one of the few good places to spend your time when visiting that particular shopping mall, I picked up a collection of Munshi Premchand stories and novels. Was it in Hindi or English, I don’t remember, neither do I remember as to why I didn’t buy it. What one does remember is, Munshi Premchand.Munshi Premchand

If you have had the opportunity and blessing of getting educated in India, chances are that you have met this man. Premchand was a prolific Hindi writer, holding the title: “Upanyas Samrat” (“Emperor among Novelists”), and has dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories to his name.

There are many things that one can not see clearly and need to be reminded about. Our indifferent attitude towards Hindi as a language does not fall under that. If only one notices in his or her life, how we flow through the days and weeks, and count how much proper interaction we are having with Hindi the indifference should be pretty clear.

I picked up this short story ‘अलग्योझा’ for the very simple reason that I wanted to read something in Hindi and having liked his writing style and stories as a kid, Premchand seemed the right choice.

The story premise is basic and one that we Indians have seen, heard, and read countless times. The classic tale of a child losing his mother at a young age and coming to terms with having a stepmother.
Don’t let the words basic premise fool you. This is Mr. Premchand’s work that you will be reading. There is great drama in it. Brotherly love, compassion, envy, care and nurture, sadness, moments of sunshine and humour.

As usual the work touches on many of the social issues that we have ourselves come to know and see. For one the fractioning of house from a joint family to separate nuclear units and how the relations that were once cherished get estranged. The title itself references to that.

I would leave the rest for you to discover and enjoy.
I read this story using this app on my tablet. You can also read it directly on this website.

One of the most boring days of my previous job ended with one of the most glorious set of clouds that I have ever seen, I only took this one picture that day.

Live life with your head in the clouds

I don’t recall the exact timeline,
since when I have been looking up at the skies and enjoying the view,
the great brush strokes of a painter called Nature,
that is quite creative in her trade,
and though she is whimsical in nature,
as on some occasions she picks up soul searing hues,
but by far her favorites in the palette,
are the soul endearing whites and blues.

And these few lines that just came to my mind basically sum things up.
To quote what I shared around last year-

A pointless activity which is why it is so important. Cloud Watching.

You don’t need to plan an exotic trip to find creative inspiration. Just look up, says Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. As he shares charming photos of nature’s finest aerial architecture, Pretor-Pinney calls for us all to take a step off the digital treadmill, lie back and admire the beauty in the sky above.

Live life with your head in the clouds.

I highly recommend that you watch the following TedTalk and see the images that he shows for yourself.

Here are few of the pictures that I hope you would enjoy watching.


The Frugal Life

Frugality is the quality of being economical with money or food; thriftiness. That’s basically what it means but the definition of frugality is different for each individual as each individual’s budget is different. For what could be commonplace for one can easily be ostentatious for another. I am mentioning this just so that one keeps the above in mind before labeling someones extravagant if spending more than you and thrifty if vice-versa.

imagesAnd that brings us to the book: The Frugal Life: The Simple Path to Living a Good Life on a Budget by Michelle Stewart. Screenshot from 2015-04-08 20:07:07

The books explains the simple path to living and does so in a simple manner. It starts of by talking about the bygone eras, mentioning the lifestyle of her grandparents and it was easy for me to connect with it as I have personally heard and seen the same thing.

When you stake your happiness on material possessions, your joy has an expiration date.

There on, she mentions the basic things, and this where many falter. For most of the book you would be nodding along, as she narrates things that many of you would already know yet as the Legendary Bruce Lee said:
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”

Screenshot from 2015-05-03 18:00:55

The general principle of Non Fiction applies here, that the heading generally gives away as to what that section  contains. When I got this book on Kindle, it was available for free, though now it seems to be paid.

Speaking from an Islamic point of view, extravagance and wastefulness is not part of a Muslim’s life and so is not miserliness. Islam is the Middle Path.
There are various examples of it in the Quran, the Sunnah – Teachings of the Prophet Muhummad (Peace be upon him), and the Islamic tradition.

Mufti Ismail Menk briefly and beautifully explains Frugality which I highly recommend to both my brothers and sisters in Islam and Humanity.

I will also  recommend the following episode of Debt Free Muslims with Shaykh Mirza Yawar Baig in which a lot of topics related to frugality and life were discussed.

May Allah make it easy for us. Ameen.

Dog dashes away

WP_20150402_003The dog comes sniffing around the restaurant. A boy who works in sees it, goes in and brings the bones and leftovers on a newspaper. Dog sees the boy coming his way, he dashes away, No! not shy away, dashes away. Boy leaves the leftovers on the ground. Dog comes back sniffing and then digs into it, cleans the paper to the extent that you can read whatever sordid information that was printed on it.

This is how we are.

See. The dog is used to being cursed, beaten with sticks and having stones pelted at it. So that was his natural response, to make a run for it when he saw the boy coming towards it. Maybe he isn’t used to have people coming towards him to give something, maybe he was, but then the world taught him how it would be.

Similarly. We are used to being cheated, lied, and some poor folks, even abused (in whichever way you understand this word). So when someones comes towards us, our first response is to make a run for it. It wasn’t always like this, we also trusted others, we thought in our naivety that I haven’t done anything wrong to this person, why would he do wrong to me. But as the world taught the dog, same way the world taught you.

Don’t Trust.

tumblr_lrxb4pCIww1r19e2io1_500What’s in it for this person coming towards me, approaching me, what does he/she wants for me.

This is an unhealthy way to live for you aren’t an island.
Oh yes you are.
For those who put up with the world, don’t give up the good fight as Paulo said. The world teaches you the secret.

Trust but Verify.

You give access to few. You have trusted them with your past, you are trusting them with your present, and you will trust them with your future. You will make space for few more, some would eventually leave, some you would have to kick out.

But, that’s life.

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

If you would like an auditory experience of the powerful words by Langston Hughes, I highly  recommend that you watch this, reciter, Denzel Washington.
Admit it, you already know you are in for a treat and indeed a treat it is, as was the movie this clip is from, The Great Debaters.

Unless you have been living under a rock, the situations of Black people in America, No! I am not talking about the horrors of the past, what’s done is done. I am talking about what is happening right now. The nightmare that the Blacks are still living which would have been, could have been, should have been a beautiful dream.
The Beautiful American Dream.
Rather what they have is a fancy social media tag #BlackLivesMatter, and even that was taken over by others in the form of #AllLivesMatter and what not, as though even that was too much for them to have.

Note that this poem dates back to 1945, a period of great difficulty for the African Americans, rampant with prejudice and racism that too institutionalized.
Yes, it is not as bad as it was then but as the great American scholar Imam Siraj Wahaj said, the racism problem never went away, it just went in deeper. If you aren’t familiar with what horrors I mentioned above and how it is bad but not as bad as it was, I request that you check the video below which is part of a lecture series, The Life of Malcolm X. Note that it is a sensitive topic and the Imam makes it clear, so things you will hear may hurt you.

Coming back to the poem.
I, too, sing America. The poet refers to his (can also be understood in the plural sense as referring to all the Africans Americans) patriotism, that he also feels for America, works for America, wants good for America, that he is also a part of America.

He is the darker brother, and discriminated against for being that, treated in a different way than others.
But he takes it on the chin, laughs, eats well, prepares .
If you intend to dig deep into this, I recommend that you read up on the Civil Rights Movement, learn more about Black History, and what all it took to change their situation.

He prepares for a future, where he will be treated equally, and no one will have the audacity to scorn at him.
Sadly the future that the poet wanted has not materialized, not yet.

Besides they will see that he always was, what he is now, beautiful. A fact that they were oblivious to or rather purposefully overlooked.
And be ashamed.

I, too, am America.

Duma Key

People who know me know that I am not a big fan of the paranormal/horror genre, so the question arises as to why would I buy a Stephen King book. Well, to be honest, I bought it because I found it dirt cheap. We had a book fair in the city last year and as I was checking the books in the cheap books section (mostly used books) I came across this, checked it up on Goodreads, taken.

Now I did know about the fame of Stephen King as a master story teller, I have watched The Shawshank Redemption which is numero uno in the Top 250 IMDb list, and then I have also watched The Green Mile. I also had prior knowledge of the scaring prowess of Mr. King, having heard it from brother Abdur Raheem Green in his How I Came to Islam lecture that he wasn’t able to sleep after finishing Carrie. And that’s how I picked it up and boy I made the right decision. I absolutely loved reading this book.Duma Key

This is a paranormal thriller with a dash of mild horror so I will not divulge much as I dare not give any leads that will ruin someone’s book reading experience.

The lead character, Edgar Freemantle, is a major big shot in the building and contracting business, living a quality life with his wife and two daughters that don’t live with him. Then he met with an accident at his construction site, that accident destroys him and his smooth sailing life, and things go south drastically. To escape all this he takes the advice of going away to a different place to rebuild his broken self and his broken life.

We all came here to dig for treasure.

Presented just before the opening section, you understand them deeply in the context of the book, but the poem really struck me from an Islamic perspective. Magnificent.

Of all the places a man with his kind of financial worth can go to lay down, he decides on going to Duma Key, or is it a illusion of making a decision. As Wireman would say, “We fool ourselves so much we could do it for a living”. You will hear about Wireman quite early even before you meet him. Wireman is an interesting character, one in whose name you can easily slip a ‘s’ in the place of ‘r’ and voila! Wiseman.

There is something strange on Duma Key and it effects the lives of the few people who inhabit it and the lives of the people who are part of the lives of the people who inhabit Duma Key.
The characters in this book are skilfully brushed out and one is able to easily build a connection with them.

Some people whom I told about the book were not able to understand what the ‘Key’ means in ‘Duma Key’. So for them, lmgtfy.
“Cay, also spelled key, a small, low-elevation, sandy island formed on the surface of a coral reef”.Duma Key

I will leave the rest for you to discover, to unfold the mystery of Duma Key, to share some rare happy moments, to blank out after getting tired of the pain, to pick up a brush and start to paint, to see the distant horizon,  to see the Sun setting, to see the Sun rising, to see a man’s failure, to see a father’s triumph, to see a girl’s bravery, for all that and more, I give you Duma Key.

“If I kept saying it; if I kept reaching out. My accident really taught me just one thing: the only way to go on is to go on. To say ‘I can do this’ even when you know you can’t.”

“Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won’t carry a quitter. ”

“I realized the shells were talking in a voice I recognized. I should have; it was my own. Had I always known that? I suppose I had. On some level, unless we’re mad, I think most of us know the various voices of our own imaginations.

And of our memories, of course. They have voices, too. Ask anyone who has ever lost a limb or a child or a long-cherished dream. Ask anyone who blames himself for a bad decision, usually made in a raw instant (an instant that is most commonly red). Our memories have voices, too. Often sad ones that clamor like raised arms in the dark.”

“Life is like Friday on a soap opera. It gives you the illusion that everything is going to wrap up, and then the same old shit starts up on Monday.”

“A person’s memory is everything, really. Memory is identity. It’s you.”

“In the end we always wear out our worries. That’s what Wireman says.”

“Clear communication between selves – the surface self and the deep self – is the enemy of self-doubt. It slays confusion.”

There is plenty more where this came from, Duma Key is indeed a masterpiece and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who found the above interesting.
Will I pick up some other paperback by Stephen King? Insha’Allah, yes, not any time soon though. Peace Out.

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

What a brilliant composition of words by Robert Frost. This poem can be looked upon in multiple ways.

The poem talks about the end of the world, and what would be its fate. He relates fire with desire and ice with hate. But think about it, aren’t these two the very forces that are causing the destruction of the world at this present moment.

There are people who can’t stop consuming, can’t stop giving into the callings of their hedonistic and carnal desires. The want of plenty has made them blind to harm that their actions bring, having ages ago stopped to distinguish between needs and wants. They are like raging fire with an insatiable appetite, set to devour anything that comes in front of them.

And then there are people who are full of wrath, the rampantblood shed and violence, people who want chaos to reign. It is as if they don’t feel anything, it is as if they are ice cold, dehumanised. And it is not just they that are dehumanised, we are also loosing our humanity, we are ourselves growing cold. Everyday we hear  and see things that sometime back would have shocked and disturbed us, but is now met with indifference.

May Allah (God) protect us from both these forces of destruction. Ameen.