Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remind Me Again

Remind me again, my friends,
What it means to be happy
For I’ve lost my buds of joy and bliss
I’m becoming numb to my pain
And I live to find solace in my own oppression
Among the oppressed,
Among the dead

Remind me again, my friends,
What it means to be blessed
For I’ve lost my everything and more
My people are being plucked from their land
My elders have been slaughtered
My children orphaned
My mothers widowed
And I live to collect the limbs of my people
Among the cursed,
Among the dead

Remind me again, my friends,
What it means to be a citizen
For I’ve lost my home
And I’ve been forsaken,
Ensnared in the shackles of injustice,
My land has been denied to me
And I live to console my people
Among the wronged,
Among the dead

Remind me again, my friends,
How it feels to laugh
For the demoralizing silence of my people’s screams
Has muted me, deafened me,
I am being pushed into the abyss of nonexistence
And I live to hear a song from my people
Among the crazed,
Among the dead

Remind me again, my friends,
What it means to live
For I walk spiritless
In the ashes of each blast aimed at my people
I follow the shadow of death,
Yearning to survive,
And I live to swallow the rage of malice
Among the annihilated,
Among the dead

~ Qrratugai
~ Dec. 27th 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Are “Islam” and “the West” Mutually Exclusive?

** Pre-post: A very informal post, but I had to let it out desperately. Bear with me just this once, folks.**

Islam and the West? Why not Islam and Christianity or the East and the West?

It seems as though we Muslims use "Islam" and "the West" in a way that indicates that the two are opposites, as if both are religions or then both are localities. This becomes most apparent in the discourse of women’s treatment. We say things like, “In Islam, a woman is respected and honored, but in the west, she is disrespected and oppressed.” Why “in ISLAM ..., but in the WEST...”? Is there anything about the treatment of women in the west that has anything to do with the perpetrators’ religion? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So then why?

And then when non-Muslims (or even Muslims) pick on Muslims for mistreating their women, we get all defensive and stuff and say, “No, no, no! That has nothing to do with Islam! Islam is actually COMPLETELY against that! That’s CULTURE.” But why can’t we say the same about the west, that the way they treat their women, however good or bad it may be compared to the way our women are treated, has nothing to do with their religion but is all culture instead?

No religion in the world promotes or even supports the exploitation of women, so when we constantly emphasize that ISLAM doesn’t, it’s like … Well, yeah, it’s not supposed to anyway; no religion does. It’s always the way that religions are interpreted and taught, manipulated by the stronger to oppress the weaker – be that a gender or a group of people - that exploitations are accepted and tolerated.

I know that there are so many differences between the East and the West, but that doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to indirectly claim that what happens in the West is a product of religious beliefs versus what happens in the east isn’t (i.e., again: “it’s not religion’s fault; it’s culture!”). I must also add that when we say, "In Islam," we're talking about how things are in theory, but when we say, "in the West," we're talking about things in practice. Should we really compare the two? Besides, women in the West AND the East are oppressed *equally* but in different ways (I VERY strongly believe this but will elaborate on it in another post). Further, in the West, their (mis)treatment is not associated with their religion at all whereas it's very much associated with Islam in the East.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Imagine that you’re a guest at a dinner party at someone’s home.

Everything is going swimmingly until your host, looking at your plate, notices that you’ve left the asparagus untouched.

“You didn’t eat your asparagus," he remarks. “What’s wrong with asparagus?”

“I’m sure it’s lovely,” you reply. “I just don’t care for any.”

“What? You’re turning down asparagus? Have you ever even TRIED asparagus?” he asks, a little agitated. “Don’t you know that asparagus is the crowning glory of the vegetable world? How can you say you ‘don’t care for any’ – anyone with any discernment would love asparagus! Maybe you just haven’t had it cooked the right way. Try it now. I don't believe you've ever given it a chance, or tasted it the right way.”

You turn to your neighbors at the table and try to steer the topic onto something less controversial than vegetables and their relative merit. But your host won’t let it go.

“I’m serving asparagus because it’s the very BEST vegetable, and I love it, and you ought to love it too! You have no idea how much better your life would be if you loved asparagus!” He says, becoming more agitated. “There’s something wrong with you if you don’t love asparagus. You ought to be humbly thankful that I’m sharing it with you!”

“I’m sorry this upsets you so much," you reply, “but in all truth, asparagus makes me break out in hives…I’m not trying to malign your cooking, I’m sure that for people who don’t have this kind of reaction to asparagus, yours is terrific…but as I said, I get hives from it."

There is a muted gasp from everyone at the dinner table, and then an uneasy silence.

The woman across the table leans over and says, “I have no idea why you’re being so hateful. All he’s trying to do is to share vegetable goodness and truth with you. You need to read The James Beard Cookbook. In the chapter on vegetables, it says ‘Asparagus lovers…devote hours and days to gorging on this delightful green stalk’…and also ‘Indeed there are few food treats to equal fresh asparagus’ and it speaks about the proper relationship between humans and asparagus, too: ‘They even make whole meals of it.' Do you think that it would say that if asparagus weren’t the most wholesome, wonderful, RIGHT vegetable? WHY won’t you accept this gift, this truth?”

“Wait a minute," you exclaim. “I HAVE that cookbook, and I’ve read it many times, and that’s not exactly what it says. You left out the part that…’

“WHICH edition of the Book have you read?” your host demands.

“Ummm… the 1967 printing, I think,” you respond.

There are heads shaking all around the table. You neighbor to the left says, “Well, that explains it. You’re reading the wrong version of the Book – you really need to read the original, the 1959 first edition.” And your host nods his head sagely. "You have to read the right edition, AND you have to be filled with the spirit of Julia Child to guide you in your reading," he adds.

“No, never mind....what difference does the edition make?” you ask, puzzled. “And I don't need any help in reading - I'm literate. Anyway, the fact remains that asparagus gives me hives. I have to go to the doctor and get shots if I eat it, so why are you trying to push it on me? Do you WANT me to get hives?”

Your host gives you a pitying look. “Your hives," he pronounces, “are just a fear reaction to the truth, or a symptom of your wrongful desire to not give up false vegetables. We understand. We were once like you, eating artichokes and carrots and beets and eggplant. We know the lure of those false vegetables. But you have to understand that while they may SEEM to taste good or be good for you, they are not the right way. Only asparagus has the components of a good life. And what you now perceive as tasting good is really ashes in your mouth, and those false vegetables are the path to ill-health.”

“That’s it!” you exclaim, standing up and throwing your napkin on your plate. “Listen, I know it's difficult for you to understand this, but asparagus is NOT right for EVERYONE. Don't you listen at all? I get actual hives from that stuff, I have physical proof of it, and it’s NOT a ‘fear reaction’ or anything like that. I’m not going to eat it, and I don’t want to hear any more about it! And guess what? I eat those other vegetables all the time, and I don't get hives from THEM. As for your quotes...there are OTHER cookbooks in the world, and they are just as valid as James Beards’ book, and some of us even cook WITHOUT a book! And we do darned well without a book! So from now on, don’t invite me to your little asparagus-praise-fests!”

Mouths hang agape. A shocked silence descends.

As you head to the door, you can hear your host exclaiming to his other guests, “How sad! But we must pity that poor soul, not have contempt. There are lost ones in the world who do not know the joy and fulfillment of asparagus; they are not at fault, they just have something wrong with their taste buds….let’s beseech the Great Asparagus to change their hearts and bring them to The Way and save them from the horrible life they will have without it."

The next week, you get a call from a different acquaintance, who is inviting you to a dinner party.

“Forgive me for asking," you say nervously, “but you’re not serving asparagus, are you?

~ Author unknown

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiece!

This post won’t be anything like my previous ones, but bear with me. The last thing I will tolerate at this moment is seriousness.

Kha, so, everyone knows I’m visiting my sister, who has a son and a daughter. Let’s call the son “Khaaperay” and the daughter “Khaaperai” :D I TELL you, those names match them perfectly.
k, so, everyone also knows Khaaperay is the smartest, most intelligentest child on earth (mashAllah, mashAllah, tf tf charta nazara na shee) and that Khaaperai is going to be the next one AND is already showing herself to be a strong-headed gorgeous thing :D Wait, I have proof for this.

Doesn’t she look like she’s gonna rule the world? LOL. I mean, just look at her, world! :D

You know, I was the first person on earth she saw the moment she entered the world. Well, a few moments later. I introduced myself to her, told her who she was, talked to her of all the interesting things of this vicious yet fascinating world, taught her about feminism (JUST Kidding! :D haha, gotcha!), and so on.
And so, since I was the first person who held her in my arms and talked to her and whose eyes met mine first thing right then and there, she TOTALLY remembered me when I came to her house last week. When I was in the car, she was sleeping. For a few minutes, she remained sleeping and I was trying my tooo best to wake her up until finally she woke up … and noticed me and looked away and then blinked and then looked back my way :D :D AND guess what! She stared at me the whooooooooole time we were driving back home. I tell you, the girl was trying to figure out who I was ;) And she looked SO adorable and beautiful thinking!! She had her left thumb in her mouth and was looking at me with the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen of a child (mashallah, mashallah, nazara na shee, tf tf tf.). And when we reached a bridge with a top/ceiling (? Someone, please tell me what it’s called) over it and the sun would be hidden, she would widen her eyes to be able to see me! It was sooooooo CUUUUUUUTE, folks! From the way she was looking at me and from the way she made sure she was able to see me even in the “dark,” I concluded that she’s gonna grow up to be one hell of a determined woman, ka khairee :D And, wait, I have proof her determination too. Look at this, kha.

She wakes up in the morning, talking really loudly in a playful manner. She sings so cutely it’s impossible to ignore her. So I get up and lie next to her and then she becomes in a more playful manner and wants to keep me awake so we can play. Mind you, she wakes up at 7am. And, mind you, but I HATE waking up early (I always make sure that my earliest class isn’t before 10am. Well, I try.) And then she takes a nap for a few minutes throughout the day and thinks that the WHOLE world, including sweet innocent me, revolves around HER :S Oooh, speaking of which … some months ago, one of my sisters (not her mom) was telling her, “Khaaperai tror, stop being so cute and demanding, all right? We love you to death, but we can’t be here with you 24’7. Remember, this world doesn’t revolve around you, kha huo!” And my nephew said, “YES! This world doesn’t revolved around YOU – it revolves around ME, the ‘SUN’!” ;) hahahahaha. See?

Khaaperay saab wasn’t worth any less when he was her age. I remember we used to beg him to stop talking because, GOD, he’d talk SO much! (Akhir, khwaraye da chaa dey!) And the more my dad would tell him, “Yara, ta dessi dere khabare key. Bass ka, mara,” the more he’d continue his stories :p


And I LOVE painting her nails. When she was one week old, I painted them red. Here, I have proof.

Yesterday, I painted them kinda pink-brownish (I don't know what color it is, but it looks good, I swear). Haven't taken any pics of that.

As for my own kids, yeah, if the world leaves them to Qrratugai alone, they’re SO gonna be in the wrong hands. And so!! Our beloved Spogmai – God bless her infinitely – is going to take care of them for me :) And, of course, Khaaperai, when she grows up, is also gonna do it! I mean, I mustn’t let her get away with her ruining my precious sleep, you see! AND, let’s not forget Azad Khel brother! :D I’ll drop them over at his place and have him take care of them ;) … ok, ok, that was a joke, Azad Khela, lol.

k, for NOW, I'm done about the two most preciousest things in my life right now :)

Here's a couple more pics.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Expectations from Children Raised Outside of Their Native Culture

Some time ago, this awesome Pashtun lady friend of mine reported to me that my nephew (six years old then) had called her by her real name. My response: a loud gasp followed by a scolding for my sweet innocent nephew darling followed by sincere apologies to the Aunty.

That didn’t teach my nephew anything.

So the Aunty and I talked about it, and we realized that when our children are being raised outside our areas, we *expect* them to uphold the same values that we were *taught* to uphold when we were growing up. There’s a difference. Back home, parents don’t have to work as hard on their children because practically everyone around them believes the same way; society works together to raise the children of all the families, so the parents aren’t burdened entirely. But when these parents come to the west, or migrate to some other society where their cultures and religions begin to clash, should they have the same expectations of their children that they would if the children were being raised in their motherland?

Pukhtuns living abroad don’t have it easy, especially when they’re born and raised here. There will inevitably come those phases of loss, of insecurity, of identity crisis. Our parents punish us when we do something wrong that we didn’t know was wrong because they never told us that it’s wrong. This is a big mistake on the parents’ side – whether Pashtuns or not – because what’s right or wrong, what’s appropriate or inappropriate (particularly in light of our religion or culture) is nothing “obvious”; it’s something we learn from people around us based on the way they practice or promote/reject what is considered appropriate or inappropriate by them.

Did anyone ever tell my nephew that he’s not supposed to call elders, or anyone older than him by four years, by their real name? No. Has there been a need? Not really. Why? Because he’s not being raised around many Pukhtuns. He knows that he can’t call his parents, grandparents, and teachers by their real names, but he doesn’t know why. No one has told him the why, and no one seems to think he should be taught why. It’s as if it’s “common sense” that all people should KNOW not to call elders by their real names. Yeah, okay, it *becomes* common sense when we’re being raised in a society where everyone shares almost the exact same values and no one's necessarily directly taught how to behave and believe (as it's mostly based on observations and the sort of education we receive both inside and outside our homes), but how can we expect it to be common sense for those who are being raised in other cultures? As I said, I think even when we’re raised inside our culture, we’re not told the *why* to most things. We just know we’re supposed to behave a certain way often without understanding the significance of it. I’m against this no-explanations-provided part of our culture (and religion… that is, when religion is taught to us by those who themselves don’t know what the answers to the questions starting with “why” are) because I don’t think one can really appreciate and wholeheartedly cherish something – in our case, Pukhtunwali and Islam – if one does not understand it. And why should anyone have to go through various troubling phases to finally understand and then appreciate Pukhtunwali and/or Islam?

So this is just a note to those who are parents outside their native culture and expect their children to behave in a way that they’d be expected back home. Teach them. Help them understand. Try to understand them as well. Try not to punish or blame them when they don’t understand because I swear it’s not easy accepting something that’d make sense in one culture but makes absolutely none in another, and you fall in between, hence being a representative of neither. It's almost like standing between two cities, with one of your feet on the side of one city and the other foot on the other city, with a large gap -- say, a river -- between the two. See? The pressure and pain (the gap) is such that you can literally drown in it.

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