The Glory and Joy of Ramadan…

The glory and joy of finding oneself once again, in the blessed month of Ramadan starts well before the actual month…the anticipation and preparation of an internal and personal journey is a step by step trek, and then before you know it Ramadan has flown by and we are in the last ten days of this month…within which falls Laylut-ul-Qadr…The Night of Power/The Night of Destiny …the night when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad…a time of harnessing great blessings! We approach these last ten nights with an heightened awareness of the gates of the grace and mercy of Allah being flung wide open for those found on this path…a culmination of the vigils of worship…

Ramadan comes with a host of glories…above all, that of a personal search, and…relating the fasting, the abstinence of the outer and feeding the inner…to an ultimate form of worship and connection between the self and Allah, with the sole purpose of attaining His pleasure and grace!  Ramadan starts out in an anticipatory mode…filled with a hunger to find new meanings for the self and personal growth through a form of pruning the extra leaves of your life…almost, as someone said, a ‘personal  body and soul detox’…pushing the envelope of the inner self in this deeply spiritual time of year…with a sense of joy to recharge the battery of your spirit and soul! More specifically, this time of year has a direct co-relationship with the space you occupy at the present point of time in your own life and through it, to come to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the Divine…a journey of better understanding and experiencing the purpose of the connection of submission to Divine Will…

On another level it is also finding new meanings in the fellowship of the family…community and society at large…finding harmony in the bigger picture…consciously increasing justice, charity and compassion in the spheres of daily routine…a continuing search for equity…fairness…empathy…patience…brotherhood…mindfulness…and personal excellence! Definitive in this process is internalizing to understand and carrying this personal and spiritual discipline beyond this blessed month…to raise personal awareness and consciousness of the Divine to an heightened sense of being…

His mercy and generosity spills over in a celebratory culmination of this month of devotional abstinence, search and worship…to the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr…a three day celebration of kith…kin…joy…sharing…color…food…love…laughter…manna for the heart and soul…the Good Lord be praised…

Today we also celebrate 65 years of my home counry…Pakistan! It was the month of Ramadan when we celebrated the establishing of this new homeland and identity all those years ago…the need of the hour is a collective will and consciousness to renew those vows of sincerity…honesty…determination and hard work and re-establish ourselves as stakeholders in this wonderful land of ours…

I have been away from the blogosphere and missing it…am now looking forward to reconnecting with my blogging family…stay blessed!

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The Forty Rules of Love…(3)

The Roller Coaster of Life moves and changes at speeds that are often difficult to fathom much less understand…the perfect balance and harmony of the universe  however makes it all seem so effortless…and although many parts are often in motion and in a flux…the whole is exactly where it is meant to be and it is only we, who move in this perfect whole in a more disjointed and distressed manner who need to come to terms with this flux of life…time to understand and absorb…and take comfort in the reality that though physical links may be broken, it begets other links to help us continue in this circle of life and love…

This last week, a very dear Uncle of mine passed away…he epitomized  love of life , generosity of spirit, elegance, humor and a positive attitude in all aspects of his life. The heart grieves at the end of an era…but is comforted in rejoicing at the wonderful and personal Memories we all have of him! For me this Celebration of Memories is epitomized by the reality, that the mention of his handsome and debonair personality always brings an involuntary smile to all our faces…that is a commendable legacy…

21. We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No two hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is tantamount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.

22. When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine biber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is our hearts that make the difference, not our outer appearances. Sufis do not judge other people on how they look or who they are. When a Sufi stares at someone, he keeps both eyes closed instead opens a third eye –the eye that sees the inner realm.

23. Life is a temporary loan, and this world is nothing but a sketchy imitation of Reality. Only children would mistake a toy for the real thing. And yet human beings either become infatuated with the toy or disrespectfully break it and throw it aside. In this life stay away from all kinds of extremities, for they will destroy your inner balance.

24. The human being has a unique place among God’s creation. “I breathed into him of My Spirit,” God says. Each and everyone of us without exception is designed to be God’s delegate on earth. Ask yourself, just how often do you behave like a delegate, if you ever do so? Remember, it falls upon each of us to discover the divine spirit inside and live by it.

25. Hell is the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy, or fight someone, we tumble straight into the fires of hell.

26. The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do not harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back –not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.

27. This world is like a snowy mountain that echoes your voice. Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, if there is someone who harbors ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy. Instead for forty days and nights say and think nice things about that person. Everything will be different at the end of forty days, because you will be different inside.

28. The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternitiy does not mean inifnite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.

29. Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to leave everything to fate and to not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance.

30. The true Sufi is such that even when he is unjustly accused, attacked, and condemned from all sides, patiently endures, uttering not a single bad word about any of his critics. A Sufi never apportions blame. How can there be opponents or rivals or even “others” when there is no “self” in the first place? How can there be anyone to blame when there is only One?

Good Times…

Extended travel trips, and I am in the midst of one, gives you the opportunity to see life in general, as well as your own life, from multi-faceted sides…it often leaves me reeling whilst trying to absorb…rethink…appreciate…understand…relate…reformat…to all the vistas one is privy to…be they of the visual or personal kind…this is a learning experience and process like no other…the exposure…perspective…consciousness…provided by this view is ‘non pareil’…given one is willing to accept and embrace the fact that “minds, like umbrellas, work best when open”…

A ‘first’ for me on this trip was a long…very long…non-stop flight from Dubai to Dallas…a ‘first’ I was really not happy about…long flights are just not a preferred mode of travel…frequent stops are the norm…and my all time favorite dream of the “Beam me up Scotty” scenario was all I could literally dream about! For someone who has been traveling right from the word go…I was born in Moscow when it was still the USSR…this comes as a surprise, but I think age is a contributory factor, as is the fact that travel, whilst it has gained from the levels of comfort and technology available, has lost the graciousness and charm of yore…

A  sixteen hour flight just sounded too daunting and I was being ostrich-like by neither thinking about it nor discussing it with anyone…luckily this reservation about long flights is well known to my family and friends! It seems to have worked…I willed myself to think that…”this too shall pass”…and it did…the saying that often we have nothing to fear but fear itself has made a valid point…

After a brief stay in Dallas with much loved family members…Vancouver, a city well known for its heightened ‘livability’ factors… was the next destination ! All the preambles to Vancouver and its environs were not only justified but well merited…the city has delightful overtones and undercurrents of British and European influences…is large hearted in its welcome to nationalities of all denominations…is comfortable in accepting international languages resonate in its metropolis …and is truly home to very many, whose passport country originally was not Canada! What it brings home…in homes very far from what often still remains ‘home’ in one’s heart…is a gracious and warm welcome…an unusual commodity these days! 

 The beauty of its surroundings is in turn soothing and breathtaking…quite idyllic…and ideal for walking! It nearly succeeded in turning this non-walker into one who actually enjoyed this activity…nearly! This trip also helped establish a more personal and much appreciated and heartwarming contact with a fellow blogger! Meeting with so many younger members of my family in this far away land from ours…brought home forcefully the extent to which our family alone is helping the TCK family’s burgeoning numbers! Above all…it was spending time with so many loved ones in this beautiful city…celebrating this togetherness with good times of love…laughter…gluttony…shared memories…that helped make it the blessing par excellence that it was…

A Celebratory Finale…

The better part of the last month has been spent quite literally in a celebratory finale of 2011…an overflow of the magic of being surrounded by love and loved ones…as my elder son wrote in his last blog post of  the year…I wouldn’t trade places with anyone else at this moment in time…my heart sings at reading these words of his…words I totally empathize with and relate to…words that make me proud…

I  dream of hearing just such words from all the beloved children in my life…most of whom were with me in this celebratory finale, those that were not were sorely missed…I dream of having such reunions more frequently…I dream of this bonhomie and loving relationship being a constant in their lives when we are no longer with them…I dream of welcoming their spouses into this circle of ties of the heart…I dream of telling their children stories of these memories and their magical charisma as I do with the grandchildren I have. Our lives are ruled by constants that survive time and space…universal truths, the rest is pure fantasy…I dream of positive constants in their lives to give them strength…understanding…compassion…endless joys! As they all return to their lands of residence, I dream they realize that the ultimate constant is God…that the joys that come from Him must not be confused and overwhelmed  by trite commercialism that passes for measures of happiness…

I dream that the coming year will be one of positive change for my country…I dream of leadership in the realm of ideas…I dream they will realistically translate into a sustained journey to taking back ownership of the only place that many of us always want to call ‘home’…I dream that despots in garbs of freedom stop defending religious bigotry, marginalisation, intolerance and bias  in forked tongues and under the mantles of  feigned and insincere sounding stands…I dream of peace and compassion for people across the world…I dream we understand and embrace  that across borders and races we share a common human denominator…I am a dreamer as also an optimist…I dream of seeing my dreams bear fruition…

In this celebratory time of bidding adieu to the year past and ushering in the new, we also celebrated my youngest son’s birthday with a host of loved ones and friends from all over and blissfully, all three of my children present…his relaxed and laid back style does not reflect his inner determination but definitely adds to his very gentle, lovable, humorous and generous spirit…I dream that this much loved free spirit of mine will realize all his dreams and aspirations and continue to be a source of much joy and cheerfulness…the icing on the cake this time was the inclusion of my precious granddaughter in our celebrations…her wholesome ingenue innocence is a joy to be around and truly  adds to my dreams of unwavering belief for even better times in years to come…as always the Good Lord’s blessings make me reiterate very humbly and gratefully…truly my cup runneth over…

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year…

Riches of the head and heart…

The mind is quite incredible in it’s capacity to store what we call, a ‘mind boggling’ amount of data…it sometimes feels that there will be an overload breakdown with the barrage of memories…ideas…information…impressions…thoughts…emotions…reactions and all their related responses…but the Lord be praised…there is no memory enhancing requirement, the one we have continues to absorb…store…delete…process with no real problem or outside help…most of the time! As someone wrote to me…memory is truly an amazing gift…

However, with all this data on tap, sometimes it seems that there is nothing to write about…which is an arrogance based notion of wanting the ‘big idea’ to discuss…the ‘clever thought’ to expound upon…the ‘complex emotion’ to deconstruct…whereas all we really need to do is to look around us…take in…remember…feel…and let it all wash over us in the warmth and thankfulness of the little and simple pleasures of life…and our memories…

Oftentimes, all that is really required for me is to let the joy of walking in the  garden bring back it’s own host of treasured memories. The garden has always had a special place in our home whilst growing up, as well as with our own children, and a flood of memories are associated with it…in particular and especially, memories of the regular and traditional evening Tea in the garden with my parents…this was always a special and magical time of the day…a time of unspoken but deeply felt love and family ties…with friends and family often joining us because my parents being in the garden at that time was a given….an almost unacknowledged comfort factor at that time for so many of us…the laden trolley and trays of traditional tea fare and their favorite Earl Grey tea were staples…Mother always seemed to have arranged for an unending stream of goodies to cater to all those joining us…the enthusiastic discussions…the sound of abandon and laughter…Father’s wise ways with words and discourses which always brought young and old around him…the grandchildren lost in their own games and play area till the need for that extra slice of cake or samosa brought them to us…the boisterous cries of the boys busy at their cricket practice, confident that the next world champ was right here in the making, since grandfather and the uncles had all played for their schools and universities….the call to prayer breaking up the group for a short while…the children wanting to linger outside as long as possible thereby delaying the return to a schedule…good times, great memories…I am overwhelmed once again at the abundance and pleasure of memories that makes the whole such an absolutely incredible package…untold riches of the head and heart…

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…

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