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.

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

Besides,
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.

A House for Mr Biswas

If you ever come across a scene, where the members of a family are falling head over heels for someone, running around that person, trying to please and appease him. Know that the creature in front of you is the Son-In-Law of that family. This is an Indian cultural thing that is quite common here in India, though this status and prestige of the Son-In-Law depreciates over the years, the rate of depreciation depends on how he treats his wife and her family members.
The sad part is that Mr Biswas didn’t even receive the above mentioned honour when he married into the Tulsi Family.

Having purchased the paperback in August’2013, I picked it up last week. I don’t remember from where did I came to know about this book, but I am thankful that I did, for it is an excellent read, beautifully written by  V. S. Naipaul.

‘A work of great comic power qualified with firm and unsentimental compassion’                                                                                                                                 -Anthony Burgess

I couldn’t agree more.

The book is about the life of Mohun Biswas and his yearning to own a house.

How terrible it would have been. . . to have lived without even attempting to lay claim to one’s portion of the earth; to have lived and died as one has been born, unnecessary and unaccommodated.

The story is setup in Trinidad and major characters are Indo-Trinidadians. It begins with telling you that Mr Biswas is living in his own house, he is forty six years old, and he is to die soon. What follow is a journey that takes you back in time, to his birth, in the ‘wrong way’, in a village that is uniquely Indian. Most of the Indians living in urban India do have some connection with the villages and small districts because of family and friends though that connection is getting weaker by the day, and if not, most Indians have watched enough Bollywood to feel as if the the opening chapter is going on in some village in India itself.

While reading most books there are moment you pass a smile or have a chuckle, this one is different. I couldn’t help myself laughing out loud through out the book and the last time that I remember having such an experience was when I read Catch- 22.

As the story develops, you start feeling for Mr Biswas, his struggles, his troubles, his fears, his triumphs, all feel real, and you connect with him and other characters in the book. It all feels real.

‘When you sick you forget what it is to be well. And when you well you don’t really know what it is to be sick. Is the same with not having place to go back to every afternoon.’

Roti Kapda aur Makaan (Food, Clothing, and Shelter). These are the key struggles of many Indian and for the fact, Humans around the world. People who have the above should be grateful to God, be more humble and charitable.

Above I mentioned the Tulsi Family. Mr Biswas marries one of the daughters of this family, though the circumstances in which the marriage takes place, are quite hilarious for the reader, but surreal for Mr Biswas.

Mr. Biswas has no money or position. He was expected to become a Tulsi.

 From the ultimate low, Mr Biswas pulls himself up, and makes something out of his life.

He was going out into the world, to test it for his power to frighten. The past was counterfeit, a series of cheating accidents. Real life, and its especial sweetness, awaited; he was still beginning.

I wouldn’t divulge anything more from the story because I want to you read it for yourself. I had a great time reading this book, laughed a great deal, grew solemn in certain sections of the book, especially when the book was near its end.

Some of the quotes from the book:

He has begun to wait, not only for love, but for the world to yield its sweetness and romance. He deferred all his pleasure in life until that day.

There is, in some weak people who feel their own weakness and resent it, a certain mechanism which, operating suddenly and without conscious direction, releases them from final humiliation.

For Shama and her sisters and women like them, ambition, if the word could be used, was a series of negatives: not to be unmarried, not to be childless, not to be an undutiful daughter, sister, wife, mother, widow.

Father and son, each saw the other as weak and vulnerable, and each felt a responsibility for the other, a responsibility which, in times of particular pain, was disguised by exaggerated authority on the one side, exaggerated respect on the other.

PS: I did find out from where I learned about this book, TIME’S ALL-TIME 100 Novels.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Reading some classics now and then is a great joy in itself, they are from an era long gone, but the message still connects with people. As mentioned in an excellent article that I read on The Art of Manliness, “This is partly what turns great books into classics. They ultimately speak to the most basic truths of humanity in story form.”, and this book truly stands out in this regard.

I read the book through the Kindle App on my Nexus 7 (2012), started reading it around 2nd or 3rd Jan and finished it today. It had been on my reading list for a while. I first found it on the 100 Must-Read Books: The Essential Man’s Library, many of the books on this list are on my next to pick up list, and some of them I have already read. The best part is that a good number of the books mentioned here are available for free on Kindle Store and Project Gutenberg.

Note that this is not a review or critique of the book, rather my thoughts and what I felt while reading the book, and this may contain spoiler, depending upon how sensitive a reader you are.

The-Picture-of-Dorian-GrayThe book is written in an exquisite manner and wit oozes out of its chapters. The story by Oscar Wilde was first published in the year 1890 and the language is of that time. Though not many people care for dense phrases and complex sentences, the book is an easy read, the plot though quite known,  a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, upon seeing a portrait of his made by his painter friend, in pursuit of vanity, wished that he always remain as young as the picture in front him, and that the portrait bears the signs of his age. And so it happens.

“How sad it is!” murmured Dorian Gray with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June…. If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that—for that—I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”

There are two more important characters in the story and it is around them that the plot moves and the narration flows.

The painter, Basil Hallward, an individual with deep rooted moral beliefs, finds Dorian to be a great inspiration that has helped him find his best form as an artist.

The painter’s friend, Lord Henry, an eloquent cynic, and a firm promoter of  hedonistic thought and way of life.

While I was reading the book, a hadith (saying) of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) came to my mind. ‘A man is upon the Deen (way of life) of his close friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends.’. One of the axiom that I have always held on to is that “It is better to be in good company than to be alone, but, it is better to be alone than to be in bad company”.

I read a good chunk of the book today, the last eight chapters, and another thought came to my mind.
‘So when the devil wants to dance with you, you better say never
Because a dance with the devil might last you forever’.
This piece of lyric is from the song “Dance With The Devil” by Immortal Technique, a song that sent a shiver down my spine, you can read the lyrics here and I don’t recommend listening to the song.

The strange part is that I remember reading this book in the form of a short story as child in my early school days, though what a dark tragedy it is, not many could guess. In some sections, I was able to see what was going to unfold next but there were also some dreadful moments that I didn’t perceive.

This book is also a goldmine in terms of quotes and epigrams,

“He says things that annoy me. He gives me good advice.”
Lord Henry smiled. “People are very fond of giving away what they need most themselves. It is what I call the depth of generosity.”

“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”

“Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless word, too. The only difference between a caprice and a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”

“You like every one; that is to say, you are indifferent to every one.”

“It is the stupid and the ugly who have the best of it in this world”

“They get up early, because they have so much to do, and go to bed early, because they have so little to think about. ”

few of the many gems that you will find inside.

I highly enjoyed reading this fascinating book and recommend it to my fellow readers. It will make you chuckle, it will make you sad, but most importantly, it will make you Think, Ponder, and Reflect.