Friday, December 31, 2004

This world has changed forever

The Dice has rolled.

2004 is a year like never before, at least in my observation. Mark this year for when the destiny of the world and its people has changed forever.

Has anyone else noted...? This year, like in no other year before, I have seen many, many people meeting themselves for the first time. This year, like in no other year before this year, I have seen the humanity - as a whole, wherever it may be - questioning itself. This year, like in no other year before this destiny-changing year, I have seen the lives of many change forever.

This year was a hard year for the good people. This year was a blinding, odd year for the not-so-good, but could they see? Did they hear the wind blow, and the ocean rage? Did they feel the earth move? Forces of nature which have changed forever?

I heard in a CNN report that the Asian tsunami has made the Earth tilt an inch on its axis and "caused the planet to spin 3 microseconds, or millionths of a second, faster." Who cares an inch about that. I said to my father, "This is one of the events we've been warned about." And he said, "Ah, God forgive us! Those poor people who go this way compensate for the wrongs of us all." I said, "Yes, Papa. When a system goes bad, some factions suffer more quickly and visibly than others - the rest just do not know they have suffered too."

But you know what? There is another thing I know. On results day in school, it were those who never studied or prepared or gave a damn otherwise who fretted, plotted strategies, carved excuses. The ones who did study well and worked hard and right in the exam calmly waited for the triumph to be announced, fearing only in their heart how well did they match up against the toughest competitor. There used to be a clique of "good students" in school (and fortunately I was part of it) who worried about how good they got, and there was a disparate set of "bad students" whose only concern was to somehow manage to get through. Each were a world apart.

I remember the teachers would gently chide a good student for fretting too much during exams and on the results day, at the same time expecting them to beat themselves to the top.

So is the case of believers and non-believers today. God is gently separating the two through a series of tests. He must chide the believers for worrying, yet expecting them to worry, but not about being wronged by a just God, but worry about never ever getting on the wrong side so close to when the exams are beginning.

The final exams have begun. May the next year bring the good people more wisdom, peace, and reinforcement within their dwindling numbers. May the evil or the wrong in those of us who are struggling with us never prevail. May we see only as long and as much of this world as will do us good - and if the times are to change more violently, may we remain staunch and steadfast on the right side or be gone before we can't.

New Year Wish

All my life, I have been told that I will do great things. Everyone told me there was something special about me, that I was like no one else they had ever seen, and that I will achieve great heights.

I do not even know what great heights are, but I know that there are many who believe I will do something extraordinary. I do not know yet what my calling is, but I know it's calling already... and that I have no choice but to answer it.

Today, I walked a lot, here and there. Each step that I took, I asked myself: follow my dream? Or not follow my dream? I do not even know what my dream is.

I just have a clear feeling that I want to help, and to make things better. And that I do not want to see anyone suffer. What a stupid unachievable goal this is. What do I want? Where do I want to be?

I know. I want to inspire personal greatness in people. I want to help people see the good in themselves. I want to reach them, and touch their lives to turn them for the better. I do not want anyone to ever wilt in sorrow or hopelessness. I want to take everyone's pain and replace it with the love, courage, and faith I have in an endless supply. I just have this crazy, impossible dream that takes me from place to place...

For this new year, I just have one wish: I want the Universe to conspire in my favor. I want the eternity to change to accomodate the realization of my dream. And I want the order of things to make room fo rmy ill-fitting wishes.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Life calling: Where's the pilgrim?

I saw a Smirnoff Vodka ad the other day. The tagline went: "Life is calling. Where are you?"

I went quiet. Life is calling, where am I? I think I am a pilgrim in search of life? I think I read that everyone's in a state of sleep and then one day they will wake up? I think I heard that the world is a delusion; so then what is life and where is real life, and when it's calling, where am I?

This is too much thinking and very little doing. Life is done, not thought. Life is a verb, it's not a noun.

The ad showed a street full of bizarre, theatrical characters, calling out to a man in an apartment to GET OUT. He was apparantly in dreary conditions. A similar series of Nokia ads show men in boring setting - and suddenly cinematic/ circus character pop up around them.

Very funny. Very, very clever too. The bloody ads hit the modern person where it hurts most: the desire to lead a free, fulfilling life. It is amazing how many people I meet every day, every day, who think there is life out there which is better than their own life. In fact they think they have no life, and they want someone else's life, without realizing that "someone else" vies for their life! I have met women of beauty, and men of wealth and tremendous intelligence, and they are all weary of what they have. I am disturbed to hear them - so much so that I am suspicious of my own life. Is this life? Or can it become something else?

A few days ago, I thought I woke up. And I saw that life is pretty simple. Just keep doing the right things in our immediate surroundings,... and that's pretty much it. Keep the five senses alive, and note the tastes, colors, sounds, smells, sights.... never lose the sense of wonder and inquiry. We'd then be like children who have the feeling that the world lies ahead of them - and not like adults who think the world has come to stay.... and then they can't bear a change which occurs.

Finally, it helps if men and women understand one thing: nothing lasts forever. I have learnt that God's favorite people are thankful in good times, and patient in bad. What does God get from it? Nothing. What do we get from it? The understanding that this is life, right here, as it is, and no one is calling from anywhere outside but from within ourselves asking us to make the given situation better, and warning us ever so slightly that the good will not last forever, and giving us hope that the bad too shall pass!

Why am I not blogging?

Simply, because even I am afraid to read what I write. It is deeply disturbing. I thought my role in life is that of a disturber of order - otherwise known as a philospher. A Socratic philosopher, to be more precise. But this is a huge responsibility. First of all, I have to disturb myself, and be surrounded by fools who do not understand my condition. I am more than just a little sick of pandering to the wishes and norms of these cave-dwellers who have their backs turned towards the sun, and see only the shadows of what lies outside the cave. They think the shadows are real, but they are not. If only, they would turn arouund and look at the glowing sun of life!

A simpler reason is that I hate logging in to Now, I could have said that and that only. But I have to give a disturbing reason first!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Good day

I got a picture of a painting scripting "Allah" on my desktop. It's a reminder to start my day at work with Bismillah - name of Allah.

I did that, and read another dua which is supposed to being help and cooperation. I think it worked, Alhamdolillah. The person who cooperated most with me was myself. I had a good day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Monkey shoot

I had a photo shoot today. No, let's call that an accidental photo shoot.

It was arranged for boss who didn't (want to) turn up. So I was like okay we have the works set up. And the photographer wanted to go back with something. And I was wearing this picture perfect serious-y corporate dress. And yes, it's a fantastic excuse... you can't make anyone do something they don't want to do, and I wanted to get a photo shoot for quite some time. Not really this serious corporate one, a more glam.

Anyway. It was a bit silly to do that thing on a fly, but I remembered my new lesson. Don't ever let an opportunity go. Don't ever! (If you do, manage to lose your memory.)

I was prepared. There came an opportunity. A formula says, luck = opportunity + preparation.

The pics looked fab in the digicam preview. Now I am waiting. And I've already thought of three places where I can use them!

How to be happy

Do not become.

Do not try.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Four billion years of faith

I used to live in a land where weathers were extreme. The summer scorched with sun's blazing fury, and the winter blistered with its icy chill. The rains were plenty, and they sometimes flooded the house.

Before rains were to come and the water was going to spread everywhere in the house, we rolled up their assets and put them on the shelf. And we calmly barricaded and cleansed out the water - knowing that it would nevertheless pervade. Our feet would be wet, but our belongings would be safe. We hoped that the water would never reach them. And that once the flooding rains were gone, everything would be the same. Until next season.

Last night, when the water reached my feet and I felt it was going to rise and stay for a while, I knew I could no longer keep my belongings on the flooding earth. I am not certain how high it will rise. I took my most precious assets - my heart - and entrusted it to God. He can safe-keep, until I can have it again, and He can have it again, and I can have it again.

Acts of faith are not easy, but they are part of the cycles of life. It is strange. For all eternity, humans have travelled towards an unknown future. What do we know? We only have theories of what lies ahead, and some stories and divinations that help along the way. What have we seen beyond this very second? Nothing. What do we have for the future? A little vision, and a tremendous amount of faith.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

People like me

I am afraid for the first time in life.
Afraid of myself, afraid of life, afraid of past, present, future.
I feel despair.

But beyond the end of every limit lies freedom. If it's not passion that drives us to go beyond that limit in a leap of courageous faith, it's despair.

People like me! Passionate people like me! Who lust for life... They are driven by these extremes. We mad, strange people on the edge of life. We who go miles before sleeping, and don't fear before leaping.

And yet the worst thing to fear is fear itself. Oh well. Good that I have seen this monster in a life time. And been among those people - the cynical, cold, weak people that I always wondered at - whose company has conjured up these demons. I will never return here. And never pity these people.

As always, I trust the God and my will to deliver me.

To faith! To undying trust in self!

One hundred years of solitude

For no reason, and for every reason, I want to write just that one line.

One hundred years of solitude.

If I write another, it will be

The unbearable lightness of being.

I hate literature. I hate, hate literature. And all art. How can in one line it capture so much?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Tension lenay ka nahi hai...

...denay ka hai!

[Loosely translated as: Dawnt take tenshun. Geeve tenshun.]

I read the Quran this morning. And ringing up God in the morning means trouble. I mean I am sure He's set the personalized ring tone of my calls to "trubble, trubble." Aaaaanyway. Since I was sleeping while reading and searching for an answer (weee-ird pilgrim!), I don't remember what He said about what's-going-on.

Why would He? I already know. Good friends don't waste time elaborating the obvious for us. I understood that He can't tell me more about that which I already know.

So I quickly came to the point: the will-You-be-there-when... question?

And He answered. From Surah Aal-e-Imran ("The Family of Imran"/"The House of Imran"), verses 139-143:

139. So do not become weak, nor be sad, and you will be superior if you are indeed (true) believers.
140. If a wound (and killing) has touched you, be sure a similar wound (and killing) has touched the others. And so are the days (good and not so good), We give to men by turns, that Allâh may test those who believe, and that He may take martyrs from among you. And Allâh likes not the Zâlimûn (wrong­doers).
141. And that Allâh may test (or purify) the believers (from sins) and destroy the disbelievers.
142. Do you think that you will enter Paradise before Allâh tests those of you who fought (in His Cause) and (also) tests those who are As-Sâbirin (the patient ones, etc.)?
143. You did indeed wish for death (Ash­Shahâdah - martyrdom) before you met it. Now you have seen it openly with your own eyes.

I said, thanks for the answer, oh You reliable friend. I kissed the Quran, and thought immediately that the kissing bit was a little silly. One of those symbolic, gesture things I am always suspicious of. But who cares? I kissed again, a tad scandalously this time, and put it away. Then I went back to bed, put my head on my arm and slept in peace.

Monday, December 06, 2004

20Five: the 1/4 century blog

I am 25 today. I have seen twenty five years of life. A quarter of a century. What would some people not give to have twenty five years of relatively safe, warm, unharmed life - even if it were only as much?

If I were to be told to pack up today and leave, I will not have many regrets. I'd just make a silent wish that someone else carry on and finish my work, blow a kiss in the general direction of the ever-spinning Earth, and leave, laughing at my usual flustered hurry.
Coming, God! Hold that train! Oh no, I left my watch behind! Haha. Can I go back, and come back at a later moment? Your one moment and my lifetime, God?!

It's been an extraordinary life for a person in ordinary circumstances. Thanks to clear choice, to courage, to freedom! I am reading the novel Eleven Minutes today - still half way through - and read about Maria who listened to her passions and took the opportunities that came her way. She reasoned that this way she'd not regret what she, or others in her birth surroundings, did not do. After all, said Ally McBeal, people regret most what they do not do.

People sometimes ask me if I have any regrets about some of the very extraordinary and seemingly crazy things I have done. Such as throwing away secure, comfy job offers to the winds, and choosing a risky career path.

No, I do not have any regrets. Not today, when I am twenty five. Not today, when I have a sudden realization that my life would not be the same had I not seen the tribulations, challenges, and sorrows and pleasures, gifts, opportunities that I have.

I have loved things, people, moments, my life with a rare fervor. I have been dreaming in color - with music, lucid imagery, and a variety of stories... I dream tales out of Arabian Nights. I have very often lived on the dangerous edge. I have spurned the ordinary and the comfortable mundane. I have taken risks. I have touched dust and turned it into gold. And I have seen gold turn to dust and fly away... thus learning some of the most enduring lessons about the delicacy of this illusion called life.

God has shown me much pain. Most of it was my own, but even if it weren't, God gave me one of those hearts that cannot tell the difference. I am a citizen of the world, and connected to its joys and sorrows - and I feel everything. The mortality of worldly things often brings pain of its realization. I have learnt to accept it.

God also gave me glimpses of pure joy and delight. One clear winter night, in a cold city in the north, I lifted my head under the dark blue sky and saw a sheer halo of frost glistening under the full moon... a bird fluttered away through the halo. At another day in that same city, I ran to the roof after a heavy rain. Three rainbows spread their magnificent arcs over the skies.
Three rainbows! One arcing over the other... fading into the azure vastness of the sky...

In a life where seeing shooting stars on clear nights was taken for granted, God gave me the extra bit of profiles of paradise: I have seen, while traveling on a sleepy night train, a gigantic cloud miles away, flashing up with bolts of lightening. It was too distant – I saw the entire cloud but never heard the thunderous, terrifying clap. It was dark, and the cloud would occasionally light up like a giant nucleus…profiled over the backdrop of electronic bolts running through it, and then disappear in the night.

I thought I had seen God’s throne.

I have collected rainbow toned sea shells used in jewelry. I have been taken away by currents of the ocean (that I fear so much) and returned by the devilish, playful waves: frightful and excited! I have seen a frozen waterfall in one of the world’s most enchanting mountain ranges. I have heard enchanting music, often the product of my own imagination… playing in my mind. I have also chanced upon some of the best art in life.

My imagination has seen many things before my eyes saw them, and I was most proud when it was my hands and efforts that turned those dreams into reality.

But who could be happy to end life now on these experiential notes? These experiences came my way. What, then, have I given to life? Today, I heard someone tell me that I had inspired them to make their life as it is today (better than what it would have been otherwise). Frankly, there could have been no better birthday gift. To know that I have touched a few lives – or a few moments of many lives – and turned them for the better.

I was born with the gift of beauty, wealth, and intelligence. Many billions of souls strive all their lives to end where I began. Over the course of my life, I have done the very daring experience of giving it all back to life; risking, betting, renouncing, giving charitably away the gifts. While some were tremendous mistakes – I have more often been rewarded. And whenever God brought me to it, He brought me through it too.

My God has loved me generously. I have slept drained of spirit with my head in His lap when I thought the world had left me. I have secretly turned my head west-ward ever so often and whispered to Him to stand watching as I met imminent challenges or threats. I have been discussing my personal, professional, and philosophical life with Him during lunch and work hours, and in bed. I have blamed Him and fought with Him. I don’t worry when He x-rays my soul and tells it like it is. Like a watchful friend, He has often slapped me back onto the right path when I just, ever so little, began to err. At other times, He just stopped a step or two behind me and watched as I went about on my own. I often came back wearing one of those face expressions [:(]… and He gave me one of those smiles [:)]... His and mine has been the most enduring of relationships. The most reliable love affair. Oops! He minds my language sometimes, but I know in His secret chamber He laughs.

I have to go now and do the sleep thing. The sun of December the sixth, my official birth-day, has not yet risen (I have tampered the timestamp). It will rise shortly, and I will be ever so thankful for the twenty-five wonderful, adventurous, and beautiful years of my life.

And for family, friends, and strangers who made a beautiful life possible. I would never change a thing about myself or you, except my wish to make it better for you.

My love to this beautiful life!

Friday, December 03, 2004

Immortal with a kiss!

Helen of Troy: the face that launched a thousand ships. Link source:

Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss!

After many years of being quizzed by Rosen, I have learnt that these lines are not from Homer's Illiad after all, but from Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus.

Thank God of serendipity!

Divine Beauty

Blossom |©| Ramla A.

I have had an uneasy love affair with Hibiscus the flower all my life. It's one of the primary subjects in the study of botanical science. We grew up studying the "pollination & fertilization" of the flower, drawing its many pictures. I particularly got adept at drawing the five-petalled flower and its edgy leaves. Perhaps I have not drawn any other natural form so often and so regularly. Why, I always wondered, was I so drawn to the five-petalled flower form? It seemed uneven because of the number 5, and yet had a beautiful symmetry.

Then I learnt about the divine proportion, Phi, from my mathematical genius brother Umais. Phi, he told me, was the "golden ratio (1:1.67)," the most prevalent mathematical proportion in nature. It existed in shells, in flowers, in sun flowers... the ancients knew it. The golden ratio was used in Greek architecture among others. The best use I made of that information was to apply the ratio to many logos and graphics I designed.

I also related the ratio to Shakespeare's verses, structured in iambic pentameter. And to the most intriguingly attractive tiles in my home, the deep mahogany marble tiles in my parents' bathroom. And to Hibiscus the five-petalled flower.

I never quite liked its color, though I loved it divine shape. In April, my eye rested on a hisbiscus springing forth in a garden. I tried to capture its blossoming glory, springing forth from a quaint building in the background. A low resolution digital camera running low on memory led to a less than desired depth in the picture. I hope the depth that my imagination saw can now come from the background thought running in my head when I took this picture.

Note: The world has discovered about the graceful, mystical divine proportion now through the wildly popular The Da Vinci Code, a riveting book with a rather unsatiating end.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Blaze of Glory

Blaze of Glory |©| Ramla A.

Once Upon an Evening

Ascend to Darkening Heavens | © | Photo by Ramla A.

Trees: my absolute first love when it comes to choosing subjects for photography or sketching. I particularly love them in their nude wintery cloak.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


If you know my lust, you've got to know about my love.

Romeo is Dead

The Age of Romance is over.

I turned on a random TV show this morn, and caught Ally McBeal saying, "People are looking for love." Two days ago while I made one of those hushed-toned, cuddled-on-chair, eyes-on-computer and ears&lips-on-phone call to Tanushka, she told me that she had read the copy of Eleven Minutes I gifted to her.

"...and you know what he wrote? No one in the world is happy. Not politicians, not stars, not businessmen, no one. People just want love. People just need those eleven minutes of real, tangible love that they feel when they... make love. This is what Coelho says everyone looks for."

Interestingly, Paulo tells the tales most prevalent in classical literature. I think I had read The Alchemist's actual storyline several times before I actually read the book last month. So is the case with Eleven Minutes.

They say when you're true, you relate to most people. Paulo Coelho relates to the most pressing question of modern times, "What are we looking for? If it's love, after all, where do we find it?"

Worse, has the Age of Romanticism/Romance finally given way to the Age of Anxiety? Whatever the answer may be, but it seems that the Eleven Minutes for this couple are over for good.

Romeo, it seems, is dead.