Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Do you realise?

As 2009 draws to an end, and people all over the world prepare their party itinerary for the new year celebrations, let us remember that:

- the Gregorian calendar has only been around since the 16th century
- there were innumerable calenders all over the world before the Gregorian one
- there are many, many other calendars that are still being used today
- human beings have relied not only on the sun but the moon, constellations, planets, seasons, natural disasters, and reigns of kings to mark time periods
- calendars rely on at least one external object to relatively define the passage of time
- your age says more about the number of times your planet has revolved around the sun with you on it rather than anything about you
- even time, as people define it, is a relative concept

Reminds me of a seance transcript I once read where the medium repeatedly failed to get an answer from the channeled entity regarding dates and how long it had lived. The entity seemed to have answers for everything except the time-based questions. It would go silent, or ask for clarifications, like it could just not get its...head around the concept.

This is not about believing in ghosts. This is about accepting that you are not the authority on everything, that your view of life is limited to your very localised circumstances. Even the religions of the world simplify Creation for you in a version that you may understand, asking you to just trust, have faith in the actual reality that cannot be fathomed right now with your limited senses. Understand the limitations of what you think you know as an absolute fact. Unlearn what you have been told, every single bit of it, so you can really begin to see the true message. Unlearn that blue is for boys and pink is for girls - colours are merely light vibrations. Unlearn that chiseled or hairless or tall is all that's acceptable - it's just what you've been fed. Unlearn that summer means June and winter means December - there is no such thing really as a month. When you touch a table, a tree, another person, yourself, do you think they're all solid? They're not. They are all made of molecules which are made of atoms which are made of protons, electrons, neutrons, which are further made of smaller particles that only differ from each other in the way they behave. But your skin, your eyes, your every sense tells you that the table, the tree, the other person, yourself are solid. So are you going to believe everything your 5 senses tell you?

Unlearn the stereotypes. Unlearn it all, challenge what you define yourself by. Do it if you have the courage to discover what is absolute, what is universal. Undo all the conditioning and break free. Everything you know right now is someone else's opinion. You can't even be sure of what you have seen. Don't you see, I mean really feel in some strange place inside? The only thing you can be sure of is that you can't be sure of anything at all.


Sonic song
Light on fingertips
Eyes shut
Arms out
Live wire

Friday, December 25, 2009

Friend me or else

I'm not sure how to respond to Shahroze Malik's Facebook friend request. When I asked him if I knew him, he said, "u don no me....bt u'll".

OMG he can see into the future??

Milk Carton People

The flyers were in all the usual colours - flourescent pink, green, yellow, but also white. The thin young Indian boy smiled at the world from under the caption, "Missing Student". His father had initiated the search for his son who had seemingly vanished from the university campus. "Please come back," the rest of the flyer read, "we love you and don't care about your grades or anything else. Please call Daddy." The smiling face followed me everywhere on campus. I wondered where he was now. It was my first semester at the university. I had just turned 18.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Surprise

The dream only lasted a few short seconds. It was dark the whole time. Someone had swung out a gun at me, but my eyes were already shut because I was so scared of the tearing feeling of dying, of the hot pain of being shot, of the loud bang! that would set me on a fire. I couldn't believe that someone would do this to me, end my life, without even letting me say anything. There was so much to say and feel, and he wouldn't let me. The urgent terror of it had shot up to my ears.

It was quick. I didn't have time to say anything except begin to mouth a 'no' and raise my hands as my eyes pressed shut. My body was just beginning to curl up out of panic when I heard the loud shot. I was so afraid of the pain that was going to come, I wanted to cry.

But there was nothing. It was still dark, and I was surprised that death had been so painless. I didn't even know when I had died. There was the screaming bang, but I'd never felt anything, like I'd been whisked away to some other place. I was still here, but here was somewhere else. I'd felt nothing, there had never been any pain to be afraid of. Who knew?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yoda Man

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.

Do or do not... there is no try.

May the Force be with you.

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Grave danger you are in. Impatient you are.

Always in motion is the future.

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.

Named must your fear be before banish it you can.

You will find only what you bring in.

Not if anything to say about it I have.

Soon will I rest, yes, forever sleep. Earned it I have. Twilight is upon me, soon night must fall.

[Luke:] I can’t believe it. [Yoda:] That is why you fail.

Yes, a Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice.

Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you.

The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the future is.

Foreplay, cuddling - a Jedi craves not these things.

Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained. A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.

Pain, suffering, death I feel. Something terrible has happened. Young Skywalker is in pain. Terrible pain.

Remember, a Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Luke... Luke... do not... do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor or suffer your father's fate you will. Luke, when gone am I... the last of the Jedi will you be. Luke, the Force runs strong in your family. Pass on what you have learned, Luke. There is... another... Sky... walker.

Ohhh. Great warrior.Wars not make one great.

The boy you trained, gone he is. Consumed by Darth Vader.

Lost a planet, Obi Wan has.

Happens to every guy sometimes this does.

Only the Dark Lord of the Sith knows of our weakness. If informed the senate is, multiply our adversaries will.

Feel the force!.

Around the survivors a perimeter create.

Good relations with the Wookiees, I have.

Not victory Obi won. The shroud of the darkside has fallen. Begun the clone war has.

Use your feeling, Obi-Wan, and find him [Anakin] you will.

Blind we are, if creation of this clone army we could not see.

Urm. Put a shield on my saber I must.

Save them [Luke and Leia], we must. They are our last hope.

Always two there are, a master and an apprentice.

When 900 years you reach, look as good, you will not.

Karl who?

Cute story in the Times of Oman today.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Out of this body

I don't want to come back down to the world below. I never do. Whenever I feel the overwhelming web of myopia tightening around my lungs, I escape to a place of higher altitude. Up there, I can see far. I look down where I came from and I wince. I don't want to go back there. How was I living down there, how are those people still living down there, running around everyday with their eyes to the ground, never once even looking up to believe what could be real? They don't even know, can't even imagine what I can see from up here, how the things that people would kill or be killed for suddenly make no sense as I try to understand what drives the world down there, why I cared for any of it before. I cannot go back. I don't want to go back. But go back I must as the day draws to a close and a breeze I'm not yet ready for gains strength. I look at the setting sun, knowing that it is not that aging orb but rather the Earth I'm standing on that is moving. I finally know peace here, do I have to go back where I'll have to once again give up my sight and remember serenity only in dreams? Will I remember what I knew up here when I'm gasping in the treacherous quicksands of the world of Man? Can't I stay?

The breeze grows stronger, and I know I have to return. I will be back someday when this body will not limit me, not hold me back from taking flight on this breeze. For now I take leave. I begin to descend lower, back into the world of bodies and things. From here, I can't see the heights I had been to - the buildings and city lights block my view. But every once in a while a secret breeze rustles past my ear, where it comes from and where it goes a dull mystery, briefly awakening a vague feeling of a promise made to me in some forgotten time.

"Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." - Leonardo da Vinci

The Land of the Lost

Here's the emotional narrative of a dream I once had when I was 18. A terrifying vision of things to come as I entered a new phase of my life. I wrote this narrative down soon after having the dream, but the images and ravaging emotion of it have stayed with me ever since.

You can only reach that place if you are lost. If you've strayed from your path, you will come upon this place. They will greet you, welcome you, and it will be the most beautiful place ever imagined. You will have everything you ever wanted in this land of those lost, those strayed. When you will look at all the bountiful joys surrounding you, you will convince yourself that the shallowness and dread lurking behind each object is unreal. You will convince yourself of that. And then, when they begin to claw at you, when they toy with your nerves, when they begin to push you, push you, push you, you will seek refuge. Seek safety in danger and evil. You will not know why you feel terror when looking into their eyes. Fear for your body and soul. You will try to escape - run away. But where will the lost run to? Where do they run to? The waters of this land do meander aimlessly, but for the first time, you will notice them in a different light. View them as refuge. And once the plunge is taken, you will feel confused. You will sense an existence different but vaguely familiar. And you will behold a new land, one which doesn't appear to be as attractive as the one you will have just left. And you, orphaned once more, will wander in a trance into this new land. And they will welcome you and accept you. You will never find all the riches the previous land had bestowed upon you. You will never get all you want but you will get all you need. And you will feel more at peace than you ever had before, because sometimes all you want is not what you need. In this land, you will feel safe and have the gift of peace of mind. What you will see is what you will get. You will not get all, because you will not need all. And you shall dream of a land of the lost and will never ever feel like one again.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Beyond forever

There is a small grassy hill in the tiny park behind my uncle's house in Toronto, Canada. People walk dogs around it, and Little Leaguers play football in its shadow. No one ever climbs it though, I noticed on that breezy late summer afternoon. Everyday the world walks past it like it isn't there.

I stood at the foot of that hill looking up at its peak. There seemed no reason to climb the hill. There was nothing up there. I looked around, expecting passerbys to look at me funny as they saw a young woman standing in front of a hill, her head slightly bent to one side, looking up at its peak with a curious expression. But no one was looking at me at all.

I took a few steps towards the hill. I could feel the ground beginning to rise to meet the slope of the hill. A few white birch trees rose from the earth like eternal witnesses staring up at some invisible phenomenon. I stood under one of those trees, my eyes still looking at some unseen soundless something at the top of the hill. I placed my hand on the rough bark of the tree. I inhaled sharply, and a tear came to my eye. I'd been here before. Twenty years ago, I had seen this hill, these trees. Except this time I was alone.

I was nine years old when I dreamt that I was standing at the foot of a hill, facing its steep slope. The hill looked big as its slope spread out into the light grey sky. A lot of people were climbing the hill, walking all the way from the bottom to the top, taking slow careful steps as they strained against the force of gravity. They all seemed to be dressed in robes similar to the garbs of a Hajj pilgrim. I could just see the backs of these people who looked like the elderly waddling up the hill, many of them securing the hems of their robes so that they wouldn't trip and fall. I don't recall anyone looking back. They'd keep walking even after reaching the top of the hill so that they'd go to the other side and disappear from my line of sight. The hill wasn't crowded, people kept lots of space between each other, like the players on a football field. Everyone was climbing the hill, and so was I. I was following directly behind my maternal grandfather and grandmother, both of whom had passed away over the past few years.

There were a few trees scattered at the bottom of the slope. The top of the hill was completely bare and looked to be covered with short grass that had begun to lose its green colour. I was following my grandparents until I got stuck in the exposed roots of a tree and couldn't go further. I began to cry out to my grandparents, my hands shooting out to reach out to them. I was bleating like an orphaned lamb that had fallen into a hunter's trap, terrified at my fate of being left behind. My eyes were brimming with tears.

My grandmother turned back and began to cry because I was crying out for her, because she couldn't come back to get me or make me stop crying. She stopped walking and raised a shaky hand to me before drowning in sobs. She brought her shawl close to her trembling mouth as her eyes filled with tears at the helplessness that was both hers and mine. My grandfather turned to put his hand on her shoulder and laughed his usual clucking laugh, his eyes twinkling, his small cheeks shiny and round. He kept chuckling as he helped his wife get back on the course they were on, the one that took them up the hill and over it to the other side. The twinkle in his eye said that there was nothing to cry about. Their backs turned to me, my grandmother's small bent one as her sobs shook her frame, and my grandfather's tall strong one as he helped his wife up the hill, leaving me behind, stuck in the roots of the tree.

I looked at the birch tree next to me. I felt like I'd met that tree once before in another lifetime. I looked up at the top of the hill which grazed the bright blue Canadian sky. What was on the other side? I took my hand off of the tree. My feet were rooted to the ground that was beginning to rise to meet the hill. My stomach was in knots. I took my first few steps towards the peak, away from the trees at the bottom of the hill. I stopped and turned to look back. The trees hadn't held me back this time. I faced the peak once more and took slow but certain steps until I had reached the top where the breeze was fast and the world fell away and I knew what was true.

While googling for an appropriate image to accompany this post, I clicked on one that seemed perfect. Turned out to be a painting by a Canadian artist who likes to display her work on her blog, the - get this - 'Gallery of Dreams'. Of all the...

Friday, December 18, 2009

My secret way to the Truth

Love. Real Love.

I'm not talking about what people think they feel for someone else out hormonal or social compulsions. I mean Love the thing, like Good or Life or Universal Law. Love the force that is always, whether you have ever felt its presence or not. Love the thing that is bigger than your faith in it, bigger than your experience of it, bigger than your understanding of it. Love the thing, the silent song of the universe. Love is what we think we've glimpsed from the corner of our eyes sometimes in shadows and echoes, some truth of existence that we remember from another time, in the back of our mind, a long forgotten story, a repressed memory of being that we don't believe in anymore. Love is a clear pool that is always there, a pool we sometimes find when a catalyst leads us to it, a pool we are surprised to see reflecting a saga back to us, a pool we surrender to, to sink into, to let us breathe its secret waters, to let us never go back to the dry world again. Love was not the catalyst, it was not because of the catalyst, and it will not cease to be once the catalyst has served its purpose. The catalyst, whatever it may be - a person, a song, a temperature, a scenery - suddenly lets us see a wordless truth. Then, Love looks like the single radiant flower that startles us when it delicately blooms on its own in the darkness inside us, its roots agonisingly pinching your numb soul to a tantalising temporary sight. Then the sight is gone and we are blind once more, but we remember.

Every time I listen to Swan Lake, my eyes closed, I'm immersed into that pool each time, and I am so grateful. I fall deeper and deeper into the pool, into Love itself, sinking into its very depths, my tears mixing with its waters, at peace at last, so grateful to be able to touch the intangible for however long the music, my catalyst, lasts. I can fall in Love over and over again, I don't need anything else to know the truth anymore. I know Love, I know the stirrings of the Universe, and I am home, I am where I came from, where I one day long to go back to, to be...effortlessly.

It is so beautiful.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Return of the Feminine

I like Kaali. I always have. There is something about the symbolism of it that lives on in the forgotten recesses of my female soul.

Or maybe I've watched one too many Hindi movies with Rekha chasing Kabir Bedi into a lake of crocodiles. Either way, I know Kaali. I know why she's outraged on a cosmic level.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings

We were paying our respects to my aunt's mother in the cemetery in Windsor, Canada. I had just finished silently dedicating a faateha to a woman I'd never met. I'd looked her square in the face in pictures at my aunt's house, the gentle old woman looking right through me, as if I were the one that wasn't there, two people destined to meet only through ink on paper. My aunt and her brother stood at their mother's old grave with their children a bit longer while I stood a little away from them, my arms clasped behind my back, giving them the privacy that I felt they needed. I didn't want to intrude on their circle. My gaze wandered to the other gravestones around us. The summer sun was helping the grass and the trees grow. The cemetery was really quite beautiful. The sky was blue and the breeze assuring.

"We know a lot of the people buried here," my aunt's brother said as he walked up to me. He was looking down at the graves around us somewhat apologetically. "I've already reserved a plot next to my mother's." I suddenly felt uncomfortable as I always do in cemeteries, wondering if I'm accidentally walking over buried people. He pointed at three graves in front of me. I noticed that the stones were almost identical in design. Down to the last names. And the date of passing.

"A family we knew. A young man, his father, and grandfather had a car accident. The young man and his grandfather passed away on the spot but the father lingered in a coma for a few days before he too died."

We looked on at the three graves, the both of us standing with our heads slightly cocked to one side. "Three generations gone." My aunt's brother went back to his sister who was sitting by her mother's grave, quietly reading Quranic verses from a small prayer book.

It was then that I saw it clearly. My name in print, what I adoringly gaze at each time I am published or mentioned someplace important. "Khadija Ejaz". I live for that visual. It is pure selfish love, it makes me feel important in a deliciously thrilling way. But it was here that I realised what would be the last time I would have my name in print. On my gravestone. The final lonely dedication to the arrogance of anonymous dust.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Escape to Neverland

The sign on the middle school staff room door said "No Students Allowed During Recess". I am not a student anymore but I felt like a 5th grader as I stood on my tiptoes, straining to reach the narrow glass pane at the top of the doors, only my eyes and the top of my head visible to the teachers inside. I don't think anyone noticed me though, all the teachers were taking a break and loudly chatting. Hindu teachers in their bindis, Muslim teachers in their scarves and prayer caps, Christian teachers in their skirts and trousers.

On a quiet bannister I passed an Arabic teacher. He'd taken to wearing a long white beard when I'd been in high school 10 years ago, but now he also wore a thick rosary around his neck and a prayer cap. He was a really nice person and called every kid "child".

The rest of the time that morning I spent silently drifting about my old school like a shadow, subconciously taking back a world that had been my real home, a place I ran to to get away from my own home, to be free, to be myself. I'd lost my way in the world outside of it. What a relief life still went on here the way I remembered it. Outside is a world where people are growing increasingly divided over their differences. But here, that hatred didn't make sense. Children from all backgrounds fit in, the schoolgirl wearing a scarf, fullsleeves, full pants, or any combination of the three (if at all) didn't feel any different from the girl who purposely hemmed the skirt of her uniform shorter than required and pushed her socks down to her shoes. Everyone had the same issues - exams, parental pressure, crushes, and gossip. It didn't mean anything if you happened to look different. It never stood in your way. It meant nothing. You were just a kid.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our neighbour didn't want sugar or eggs

One evening in between the shifts my parents and I had taken to spend time with my brother in the hospital, our South Indian Christian neighbour, Mr. Jose (pronounced joze), appeared at our door. My mother was at the hospital - she had the night shift - so my father and I accompanied our neighbour to his house.

The Jose flat was the mirror image of our own home, and I always found it slightly dizzying to find my way around. In the room we used as a dining room in our own flat, a dark brown man sat on the couch, surrounded by Mrs. Jose and her young children. He looked to be about 30, a muscular man, but the way his head hung below his strong shoulders looked out of place. Mr. Jose explained to us that the young man's wife was in the hospital. They were newly married, and he'd brought her over from India to Oman soon after their wedding. She was a nurse. A few days ago the newly-weds had got caught in the tail-end of a traffic jam. The husband had already got out of his car to survey the scene. His wife was still in the car. She wanted to join her husband and was in the process of taking off her seatbelt when another car crashed into theirs from the back. The young wife survived but broke her neck. She was now in the hospital, permanently paralysed below the neck. Her husband was here, he knew the Joses from church. I looked at him, his strong shoulders shaking under his white office shirt. Mr. Jose knew about my brother's recent accident and paraplegia, so he'd brought us in, but I'm not sure for what. I just stood there, not old enough to interrupt all the adults.

I ran into the nurse once, now being tended to by other nurses, at the Indian Spinal Injuries Center in New Delhi, India. She was dark brown too with the short Princess Diana hair. I heard she had wanted children. Her face bore no expression, and I didn't know what to say to her either. You never know what to say. My brother once told me that paralysis is infinitely worse for women, all the things it can mean. I heard that she went back to her village in South India. The Joses have long since moved away, the building we used to live in demolished.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The judge and his son

The distinguished-looking gentleman by my brother's bed was a big judge. My mother had already told me about the other patients and their families at the Indian Spinal Injuries Center in New Delhi, India, the ones she'd run into while my brother himself underwent rehabilitation for his paraplegia. The judge was a tall brown man with a trimmed black moustache and some grey in his Brylcremed hair. Today he was wearing dark brown corduroy pants and a mehndi-coloured sports jacket. My mother and I sat on the other bed in the private room my brother was occupying. We kept our distance as the the judge quietly talked to my brother. It was strange to see a tall important man like him talk softly, his hunched back suddenly aging him. His 30-something chartered accountant son was a patient at the ISIC. He'd had an accident and broken his back, becoming paraplegic, like my brother. But the judge's son had also suffered a brain injury and lay there with a blank look in his eyes. The judge often liked to come to my brother's room to talk to him about his son, asking my brother for his opinion as a surgeon, relating to him as he wished he could with his own son. His son was married with a young wife and children.

I approached the judge with a plate full of biscuits. I gave him a weak smile, "Uncle, yeh maine banaye hain (I made these)." Anything stronger than a weak smile felt like lying.

The judge quickly shook his hand at me, a troubled look in his preoccupied eyes, and went back to talking to my brother. He didn't want the biscuits. I took the plate back to my mother on the next bed and silently joined her watching the two men talk.

The judge suddenly turned towards me. "Beta, I'll try one of your biscuits." He gave me a weak smile.

A quadriplegic my age

Sharad was a 19-year-old patient at the Indian Spinal Injuries Center in New Delhi, India. I met him when I was 20.

Sharad had been on his way to America for further studies and a bright future when he broke his neck in a scooter accident. His friend had been driving, two young men on a celebatory round of their hometown somewhere in Uttar Pradesh before Sharad flew to his dreams in the West. When his friend swerved to avoid hitting a cat on the road, Sharad fell from the passenger seat at the back. Now he was a quadriplegic at the ISIC.

When I met him, my brother was going through his own rehab experience for a broken back and paraplegia. While the ISIC staff was always cheery, all of their devastated patients and their shaken families would have given anything to be anywhere else, in a world where there was no such thing as a spinal injury. The numbed-out families of the patients would frequently run into each other, patting each other's shoulders and hands over stories being shared over and over with strangers who were bonding over despair and confusion.

I met Sharad once when my mother took me to his room. His family was there, all wearing forced smiles for Sharad who lay on his bed, forever unable to move or feel anything below his neck. His father was there too, and a brother and sister maybe. I remember his mother the most. A short Hindu lady in a sari and bindi who looked nothing like my mother except in the permanent helpless smile she had taken to wearing lately. Sharad was lying on his back on the hospital bed, silent with a face refusing emotion. He was a delicate young man. He was fair of skin and had a face that was pretty like a girl's. His slight moustache was like peach-fuzz.

We didn't stay there for more than 5 minutes. It felt like intruding, cruelly forcing the host family to go through meaningless social courtesies. My mother told me later that Sharad's famly often came to visit my brother and her in his room. His mother would tell her how she'd make her son's favourite foods and try to feed him with her own hands, but he'd refuse. She said that Sharad used to have a beautiful singing voice, but now he had trouble breathing on his own.

I think of Sharad often. I don't know what happened to him after that. I wonder where he is now.