A Son’s Milestone Birthday…

Some favorite lines of mine from poems about sons are from A Soldiers Prayer for his Son by Gen Douglas MacArthur and Abraham Lincoln’s My Son…both these poems are poignantly definitive and have always resonated with Prayers for Children as also the prayer that I have been able to truly help my Children walk through life with the inner strength and integrity to do the right thing…knowing that nobody is going to know you did it or not! These cherished lines are from a treasured poem plaque my eldest once gave me
…sometimes when I think of Mom
I think of what she Took
She took a child and taught it how
To live this life with pride
She took the hands that longed to hold…
Her child and not let go
Used them to push her child along
The way to thrive and grow….

My two elder Children are celebrating what we now call…’milestone’ birthdays this year…my eldest son celebrates his today…and even though for me all their days are such…my thoughts go back to search…recall…review…tear over…reminiscence…with awe and a deeply felt sense of pure happiness at the wonder that has been my life as my children’s mother! This journey has been one of such incredibly powerful experiences in all aspects of my being…that it is by far my life’s greatest joy and blessing and gives me a sense of ‘non pareil’ accomplishment…and although I do believe that ‘having a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body’…often in far away lands…my children are all truly the joyous mainstays of my life…

Seeing this beloved son of mine live his life in a matrix of the search for excellence in all he does has been a learning experience for me too…his focus…commitment…hard work…humility…strength…choices…faith….accompanied by a compassionate and loving heart…has made mine sing so very  often…seeing some of his goals coming to fruition, specially now at such an opportune time in his life, makes my heart swell with pride and thankfulness…above all, his gentle concern…care…and love for all of us has truly been the icing on the cake…Khalil Gibran said….your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you, as by the attitude you bring to life…Not so much by what happens to you, as by the way your mind looks at what happens to you…I feel so very thankful to the Good Lord that you have understood this Usman…and pray you will always work to being the best that the Good Lord meant for you to be…believeing that the ultimate Wisdom of God is greater than ours and that we have to trust Him to guide and help us…Amen!

Happy Birthday Son…I feel so very blessed to have a son like you and in the language of your generation…you rock my world…

The Forty Rules of Love…(2)

The Forty Rules of Love have the potential to affect and change people from all walks of life…they can make absolute sense or push the boundaries of our beliefs, perceptions and prejudices…they can open up exciting opportunities to embrace this timeless message…they can propel us to find love and inspiration in unlikely places…above all, they force us to think…

11. The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new Self to be born, hardship is necessary. Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain.

12. The quest for Love changes us. There is no seeker among those who search for Love who has not matured on the way. The moment you start looking for Love, you start to change within and without.

13. There are more fake gurus and false teachers in this world than the number of stars in the visible universe. Don’t confuse the power- driven, self-centered people with true mentors. A genuine spiritual master will not direct your attention to himself or herself and will not expect absolute obedience or utter admiration from you, but instead will help you to appreciate and admire your inner self. True mentors are as transparent as glass. They let the Light of God pass through them.

14. Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?

15. God is busy with the completion of your work, both outwardly and inwardly. He is fully occupied with you. Every human being is a work in progress that is slowly but inexorably moving toward perfection. We are each an unfinished work of art both waiting and striving to be completed. God deals with each of us seperately because humanity is a fine art of skilled penmanship where every single dot is equally important for the entire picture.

16. It’s easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human beings with all their imperfections and defects. Remember, one can only know what one is capable of loving. There is no wisdom without love. Unless we learn to love God’s creation, we can never truly love nor truly know God.

17. Real filth is the one inside. The rest simply washes off. There is only one type of dirt that cannot be cleansed with pure waters, and that is the stain of hatred and bigotry contaminating the soul. You can purify your body through abstinence and fasting, but only love will purify your heart.

18. The whole universe is contained within a single human being—you. Everything that you see around, including the things you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in varying degrees. Therefore, do not look for Satan outside yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary voice within. If you get to know yourself fully, facing with honesty and hardness both your dark and bright side, you will arrive at a supreme form of consciousness. When a person knows himself or herself, he or she knows God.

19. If you want to change the way others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself. Unless you learn to love yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses.

20. Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That’s the hardest part and that’s what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.

The Forty Rules of Love…

The reading habit has the potential to leave imprints in our lives like few things have the power of doing…it teaches us…nourishes us…nurtures us and takes us on journeys of unimaginable dimensions…above all, it impacts…colors…and shapes our sense of being in vibrant and radiant colors…allowing all the bits to help shape and remake ourselves…nudging and allowing us to be in harmony with the heart and the universal truths of the universe…

Some reads touch you in ways that is almost complete in its entirety…a recent read, The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak, was one such! A fictionalised account based on Mevlana Rumi’s life, Rumi, poet extraordinaire of the Sufi canon, and his spiritual mentor the whirling dervish known as Shamz of Tabriz…the fact that this story is set in a country and city I have fond memories of, is a bonus! I will set down these forty rules of love of God from the book in four parts…hoping they will comfort…instruct…be food for thought and introspection…and inspire you as they did me…

1. How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.

2. The Path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge, and ultimately prevail over your nafs  (ego) with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God.

 3. Each and every reader comprehends the Holy Qur’an on a different level in tandem with the depth of his understanding. There are four levels of insight. The first level is the outer meaning and it is the one that the majority of the people are content with. Next is the Batıni—the inner level. Third, there is the inner of the inner. And the fourth level is so deep it can not be put into words and is therefore bound to remain indescribable.

 4. You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue, or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for Him…in the heart of a true lover.

 5. Intellect and love are made of different materials. Intellect ties people with knots and risks nothing, but love dissolves all tangles and risks everthing. Intellect is always cautious and advises, ‘Beware too much ecstasy,’ whereas love says, ‘Oh, never mind! Take the plunge!’ Intellect does not easily break down, whereas love can effortlessly reduce itself to rubble. But treasures are among ruins. A broken heart hides treasures.

6. Most of the problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstandings. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence..

7. Loneliness and solitude are two different things. When you are lonely, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path. Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely. But eventually it is best to find a person, the person who will be your mirror. Remember, only in another person’s heart can you truly see yourself and the presence of God within you.

8. Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.

9. Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be so shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.

10. East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.

The Joyous Reruns of Life…

The joy in these has to be accredited in the main to the fact that recollection of these reruns now span six decades…a long time to be sure…but oftentimes when recollecting and recounting, the memories are so freshly on tap…that the heart nostalgically skips several beats! True, memories are kind on the recollection…but that is how it needs to be for the retelling…to try and pass on to the next generation a sense of joy…elation…excitement in the celebration of family, cultural and traditional occasions…

Last week saw us celebrate our Festival of Haj…Eid ul Azha…family from near and far had blessedly got together to spend these three days of festivities, which have a lead-in of ten days of personal effort to be part of the spirit of those performing the pilgrimage of Haj! This includes acts of faith…preparation of all sorts of traditional fare…shopping for traditional garb…specially beautifully colored clinking glass bangles that catch the suns rays in a myriad of hues, often a best-seller for women of all age groups…and my all time favorite…one my lovely sister and granddaughter share with me…henna, the exotic designs colorfully staining your palms to perfection leaving you wishing for more hands to put them on! The excitement is palpable even for those blasé enough to be discounting it! Eid day dawns very early as kitchens are busy with the preparation of traditional and aromatic delicacies to be consumed soon after the Eid congregational prayers! The children impatiently waiting to receive their Eidi…traditional gifts! The resounding of traditional  greetings…Eid Mubarak…throughout the day from family, friends, neighbors, old retainers…near and far! I can almost still feel the excitement of such occasions gone by with my parents and hope and pray that my children and theirs will continue to do so too in years to come. Eid day passes in a pleasurable blur of bonhomie…gluttony…laughter…shared memories…tales of those were the days and do-you-remember…trying to capture the essence of these magical moments in photographs…strengthening of family ties in endless and tiring visits…exhaustion…all this the order of these celebratory days…

Being together…being ‘home’ is reassuringly enough, still as that wonderful website TCK, Third Culture Kids describes…the passport country of our parents…so appropriate for those of us who fall into this category! For a few brief moments in time, this is still ‘home’…even for those it is not anymore…there is an almost undeniable and sometimes hard to acknowledge feeling of harmony with our collective DNA of history, culture and memories, before the return to chosen and adopted lands of residence…but that is subject for another post! The happiness of these celebrations bring back memories of our parents…memories of their love colors my life with a sense of being whole, secure in my sense of belonging…blissfully happy at the celebration that was…the Good Lord be praised…

The Roller Coaster of Life…

The last week has been a roller coaster ride of life…with the dips overtaking the highs…but so is life…and it is often at times like these that we seriously take time out to think of all the taken-for-granted blessings of life! My father, a fount of wisdom, was wont to remind us gently that we were all standing in line en route to our Common Destination, with none of us aware of the order of this queue ! This last week threw a few curved balls in the realization of the order of who were in this line, en route to meet our Maker! As always at such occasions, we are a little shaken at the renewed awareness of our mortality, at the finality of death…with this great and undisputed truth and reality almost always catching us on the back foot, so to speak…in spite of ourselves and faith…

The realization of the comfort zone of our traditions is most reassuring…  enveloping us in the warmth and tender care of words…love…numbers…strength and support and carries us through the initial pain, easing the grief and giving consolation, strength and hope…definitive emotions to carry us through…the process of renewal of faith is further strengthened in Celebrating Memories and so the Good Lord’s grace begins to help us back…allowing our memories to color our being with a sense of comfort and inner peace…

It is His grace and generosity that even times like these are interspersed with the highs of life! A gathering of family…peace and thankfulness at seeing the new generation converge and take responsibility in times of need whilst embracing connective tissues…the joy and elation at having two of my children back home for a bit…one of them thankfully well on the road to recovery after an unfortunate injury…the weather change bringing much needed relief…a family holiday in the pipeline…happy reminders of the incredible color palette of life…humbling reminders of universal truths…

A Leap of Faith…

In the face of an unending and relentless barrage of negative news, events, non events, disasters…natural and man made, it is becoming easier to throw up one’s hands in despair, giving in to the hype of a sinking ship of state. This brew has been simmering on the flame of discontent for a while now…slowly sliding into, more than anything else, a burning morass of heartbreak…however…when all is said and done…heard and found difficult to digest…the sorrow and anger seems to be misplaced and is wrongfully eating away at the very moral fibre of our collective moral responsibility of actions and beliefs…and needs a committed leap of faith once again after so many years…

Actions in the form of national ownership is the need of the hour…paying lip service in the secure confines of our comfort zones is not going to do it anymore! Standing up to be counted has to be the diktat of the times. We have to believe this in the face of all that goes against it! We have to believe that the Good Lord is in His heaven and all is in His control! Giving in to despair is a negation of this belief! This is the leap of faith that has to prompt us to become those pockets of excellence that have helped us all these years! Creating spaces of excellence and integrity in the personal, political and social discourse is vital to start the way back from the scourge of an immense spiritual, emotional, physical, ethical and intellectual wasteland…a wasteland being precipitated on account of apathy…doublethink…acceptance of contradictory beliefs…above all, an acceptance, adherence and fidelity to the corruption at all levels of personal, social and political discourse and behavior…

“When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing…they believe anything!” Chesterton very wisely said this many moons ago…it is as acutely pertinent today as ever…this is the divide we have to overcome today…this is the leap of faith we have to take to be part of a comprehensive process of rehabilitation of the incredulous wasteland our people and land are fast turning into…this has to be done with a deep and real sense of commitment, ownership and national honor and pride…

Goodbyes…

Is it just me or are our children always saying Goodbye to fly off to distant shores! And again…is it just me or do we never get used to this? The tug at your heart at seeing them leave ‘home’ certainly never gets easier…I used to think and hope that it would get easier with time…it does not…you just learn to handle it better! In this ‘ Global Village’ we live in, this migrational trend is a commonplace scenario and in my part of the world, we are the first generation to experience the huge scale of this migratory phenomena in our ‘global village’ world…this is another ‘fact of life’ we have to get used to…it is not easy!

My first child got married and left home for the other side of the world almost eighteen years ago…seems a lifetime ago! I was overwhelmed by conflicting emotions and having my younger two still with me was a blessing! The beginnings of the ’empty nest’ syndrome had been initiated! Admittedly having children still at home made it easier…but easy is relative! When my second child left home, he was physically nearer and trips back home from college were more frequent…it was not easy…it was not getting easier! When my youngest left…the cycle of the ’empty nest’ syndrome was complete and I forced myself to constantly remember the words a dear friend had said to me ‘imagine how you would feel if you could not afford them these opportunities’! It was not easy…but I tried to keep this in mind and thanked the Good Lord for the blessing of Faith and the strength therein, amongst His innumerable other blessings! It was not always easy…it still isn’t!

Now, with their choices of residence in foreign climes…the children and theirs come and go…the joy of their comings is often equal to the heavy heart at their leaving! The realization that this pain is part and parcel of the fabric of motherhood has now been accepted…the conscious acknowledgement of the Good Lord’s generosity in all these ‘comings and goings’ is a constant! The prayer for their happiness…well being…safety…resilience…is ongoing…as is the prayer that their worlds are always blessed with good health, joy, peace and plenty…as well as the prayer that our collective memories of times spent together are always vivid with the colors of love and happiness so bright that irrespective of the layers of time, they will always come up blazingly vivid in their recollection of the ties of love and connectivity to family and ‘home’!

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