Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Lust for Life gets published in INSPIRE Magazine, Canada!

Ladida! Just discovered: A Lust For Life archives have been published in the nascent Canadian Islamic magazine INSPIRE. Alhamdolillah! They are an small project, steadily growing. I discovered INSPIRE by chance, and their artful covers completely awed me!

It means to me to be published there - at least because it makes me happy today!

I have written perhaps all my life, but have never published for reasons known only perhaps to my Shadow. But then someone opened my eyes to choices.

I sent some writing samples from A Lust for Life - all of which got accepted and published in one go! Hmmm, perhaps that was a bit too enthusiastic a publishing spell, but it's fun nevertheless!

Check out INSPIRE, and download it free from the website. I'd appreciate your comments on the articles, especially if you send them in to the editor Salma at info (a.t)

Also recommended is the interesting article "What's in a Word? - The Literary Transcendence of God" by Sadiq Alam for its historical insight. I have explored a similar theme in the post Ilahi and the One Language.

INSPIRE is a non-profit magazine, friendly and open to new writers - I suggest writers of related subjects definitely contact the magazine with their work!

P.S. "Faith and the Hill" has also been published in the Pakistani magazine Hiba.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Buying books in Karachi - a guide

Where to find books in Karachi? Jamash of Karachi Metblog has written a guide on buying books in Karachi. Readers of the blog have suggested the stores they seek out when looking for books. While not exhaustive, this guide is an interesting effort of its kind, and much needed too!

What's your favorite book store or book cart? What kinds of books do you like and where do you get them from?

Related posts:
Can we design access to good literature?

Literature: Opium for the psuedo-intellectual mind

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Comfort of Friends

Nothing surprises me like the generosity of my family and friends.

I completed yet another year of life today, Alhamdolillah. This year, I spent a great deal of time misbehaving with people who are closest to me: family, and friends. A great deal of it was displaced anger. Another great deal of it were suppressed or belated opinions. I had been having some difficulty telling it exactly like it is earlier, so I spent this year "cleaning my system."

This year I haven't replied to emails, been obstinately refusing to answer to invites, haven't responded to my friends' persistent inquiries after me and my well-being. Some may have been surprised by my "change" later in the year to a strong-headed being. For those who are recent friends, this is a reversion to being who I truly am.

I had lost myself in the process of growing up and older, and this year I reclaimed my life - a process that was as challenging to me as it was surprising to my friends and well-wishers.

But come today, I am surprised at the goodness of all who have been affected by my metamorphosis... and wished me. Truly, I have been strange for absolutely no reason to some, at least as far as they know.

As the new year starts in my life and on the calendar, I know that I have made a lot of decisions. I have decided to forgive who I should. I have decided to not displace either my tender-heartedness to those who don't deserve it and in situations where it is not right, or my hard-headedness.

I have decided that no matter how strange or hard-to-accept it may be for myself and for those I am related to, I am best when I am my true Self, realizing my destiny - and hence this process of change and development and seeking my truth continues.

I am truly touched by and grateful for the love and warmth of my life's people. Thank you for making this a day!

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Karma of Unforgiveness

"Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different."

Sigh! The dreams would not give up throwing up the idea. I saw the dream again. Rather, the same person in new dreams - always there, like a wallpaper in the room - usually not interacting with my main dream that actively, but there. They say if you see someone from the past in the dreams, you have unresolved issues with them.

I talked to my friend Dr. H. M. about it. She and I have taken up the activity of analysing our dreams together. With time, not only are we improving our skills, but adding to our repertoire new techniques and angles of analyses. She believed that the person in question, a friend from the past, may be a symbol for an associated concept.

I do see symbols more often than I see persons from the waking life. Which is why these dreams have caught my attention: I do not see real-life people in my dreams, I see concepts enacted visually. But that is another matter. What has concerned me more than the dream business itself is their content, and the ever-present character.

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching, well, Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire. Don't ask why I like HP, but I have always liked fairy-tale movies, magic, and like subjects. I do like Harry simply because he's a wizard - and I love fairies and wizards and people who do unusual things. In one scene, a matured Harry can't help but suppress smile when a thoughtless Hermione remarks at her athletic boyfriend, "Victor and I didn't talk. In fact, he and I don't talk at all. Victor is more of a physical type." I missed the pun too, until an embarrassed Hermione quickly realized, and Harry cracked but the gentlest of smiles, without a remark.

And somehow that was it. For a very vague association of this scene with the innocence of my own teenage years, I am ready to accept the message of my dreams. I am ready to close the unfinished business. I have decided to forgive the person that my dreams are concerned with.

The Indian thinking states that "unfinished business" creates a karma - a kind of sycle that must close or end, or it will go on. If it's not inherently evil, it's certainly very sad - for it's all about memory and none about possibility. The karma of our relationship has haunted many persons involved. I recently learnt that the karma had come back to hurt once again, another person involved in this network of teenage relationships and hurt-doing. I think, I have had my part of the karma's retribution. So did the person in the dream. So did another person I later related to. So has another person they later related.

I have been watching closely, and fate has been coming, again and again, to hurt everyone involved in this web of broken friendships, betrayals, and losing a good thing for nothing just because a group of childhood friends refused to grow up at the right time. The fate, the karma, and the dreams are all coming with a message: this cycle has to break: someone, somewhere, must cease to inflict hurt back and forth for things of the past. Someone, somewhere, must forever clean their heart of grudge. Someone, somewhere, must choose to step out of this cycle of childish jealousy, causing pain, suffering retribution, remembering bad things for years, forgetting good things - like the slips of tongues among two friends who were once as innocently connected as the magical Harry and Hermione... or any two children friends - and letting dreams stage their purposeful drama. Someone in this network of karma-stricken persons has to forgive.

I will be that someone. I have decided after years of needless, pointless losing and breaking of perfectly gentle and respectful relationship amongst a group of talented, beautiful persons - that we all deserve better. We all deserve to move on. And that it cannot happen unless we understand the depth of our own heart: we are all, in our hearts, kind but afraid to accept that, willing to let go of the past but unable to take the first step. And that this very dual feeling is leading everyone involved to be forever stuck in this cycle.

I have forgiven - myself first, for I was part of the cycle of wrong-doing and I got my just reward several times over. The person in my dream, for he deserves this and better - he deserves happiness and a use of his talents; and by Allah, he too received a severe retribution. And the associated everyone, for their continued bad luck means that my grudge is their bad karma...

Allah says, "Cooperate with the faithful in good deeds." With a group of people who were once fine friends, I cannot but only cooperate from now on in good will, and good deed. What one sends into the world comes back to them, and I want to send forgiveness in the world. Where I realize my good intention will not be well-received, I will still send forgiveness, so as not to get resentment. It is strange how these things come and go.

Dr. H. M. says, "Pay attention to your feelings in the dreams." My dreams are not of anger or grudge nor of jealousy, but an amused letting go, that is quite not indifference, but an unpossessive attachment. Of a fresh relationship. My dreams have told me, I am over. I am over a long, long cycle of the karma of unforgiveness. My dreams tell me that I have understood why Allah says, "The wronged is rightful in taking a revenge, but it is better that you forgive, if you understand."

To inhabit, to cultivate, or to honor: The Family Breakfast

cul·ture [kuhl-cher] n.

A set of learned beliefs, values and behaviors the way of life shared by the members of a society.
From Latin: Colore: To inhabit, to cultivate, or to honor

con·ver· sa·tion Pronunciation Key[kon-ver-sey-shuh n] n.

1. Informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.
2. Association or social intercourse; intimate acquaintance.

Breakfast conversations are one of the best ways in which families come together and strengthen a common culture. After years of "rushing off" to school and work – a behavior I learned as part of the package of being a Karachiite – I've now realized how important is to have a breakfast over paper, daily news, and an exchange of views. Culture, even in a family, is a process of diffusion – of sharing – of ideas, beliefs, and values traveling from one person to another.

The breakfast, with everyone at the table, is a barometer of change in the everyday values and learning of all family members. You learn what your brother or mother learnt yesterday, and how it has subtly changed them. You note how your father is concerned about the news last night. You learn your mother's view on the rising cost of a household budget. And you learn the price of potatoes and tomatoes, and gauge them against your future aspirations.

Unlike the lunch or the dinner, the breakfast is the time when you treat yesterday as yesterday and bygones as bygones because you have woken up to a brand new day. At lunch, you are in the think of things, you are in the present. Dinner is reflective upon the whole day, which is still today but has become a part of the past about which one cannot do anything but reflect on that day.

It's at the breakfast table that you set the rules for a new day with a group of people who not only likely share your belief, but also, within just a degree of separation, your genetic code. The bills. The space. The inter-dependence.

Everyday is a new day in the lives of humans: new circumstances, new challenges, new opportunities. The past goes in the codes of memory. The present is lived. The future is anticipated. At breakfast time, you archive the past. You begin the present. You look forward to the future, and announce your course. You share it through a conversation. You create a culture. The family gauges where it stands today, in relation to its members.

The morning is also an excellent time to educate the freshly awakened minds. Hunched over the paper, discussing views, critiquing the headlines, reading aloud the absurd and the shocking, letting in the sound of the morning news, passing a comment at the strength of the tea and the taste of the bread - the conversation naturally steers to food, to health effects, oh!-the-hair-loss, the remedies, the drawbacks of each remedy – blaming it on the winter or the sun. Having a sudden thought about the car, the repair, the rising cost of petrol and everything, the concerned frown rising at all foreheads – the gentle reminder to watch the expenditure. The sudden hop to a future plan, asking each other what's going on with our work… learning and educating, and re-forming the genetic code.

I have started holding more conversations on the breakfast now, free as I am from the routine of school and college, and office work. It's perhaps one of the most rewarding things I have done lately. I used to be given the breakfast as a school-going child in haste – and now I set the course of the breakfast, choose a variety based on our new learning of food and health, and direct, in a larger part, the course of the day. How truly wonderful and important these tiny experiences and everyday routines are!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sitting on a flame

All right. They say when you have written a particularly angry email (Flame), sit on it. Sleep on it. Mull over it.


Just write it, and erase/delete it. Re-write it, and mull again. Just don't send it as soon as you write it, for you will surely regret it.

So, I am sitting on what doesn't exactly qualify as a flame, but burns just as much. Actually, I slept on it (not too well) but it was no bed of roses. Have to "give it" to someone for whom I sincerely made several undue provisions - and they kept pushing as if just to check where will I break? I didn't, and as if often happens in the case of such sad persons, they did - and it was rather awful. I have received a particularly ingrateful message from a person who was almost cracking with guilt. (Darn, I've seen it before. In real life, and in the movie Shattered Glass.) - ((Oh by the way you've all GOT to see Shattered Glass if you want a crash course in identifying guilt-ridden psychos who blame you and the world for all their issues and actions!))

Specifics of the story will, of course, be withheld. However, the general public is advised that it's best to unload one's "opinion" as soon as they have it and NOT sympathize with someone who's banking on our tender nature. Now that I have written the long, fact-filled email in response to a very rude missive sent to me by the person-in-question, I am wonder where my opinion has been all this while?

It was, of course, shrouded in misguided sympathy. I am considering this a seminar in real-life learning about how not to mix sympathy and work - and tell people exactly what you think about them.

Time to hit SEND! Oh, I feel good!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shane Leavy's "Orkut Experience" not perfect

A lot of what I write everyday happens to be interactive, and I have decided to bring together much of my writing on my blogs.

Shane Leavy, 23, of Dublin, Ireland and member (moderator? I can't access the community page) of Orkut community International Relations wrote The Orkut Experience in DAWN's Magazine on November 19, 2006. (No permalink.) The article intro states:

Gaining notoriety recently when an Indian court served them notice over a hate campaign against India that featured on the social network service, the virtual community on the internet has hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis taking part in a vast array of discussions with people from around the world. Some of them though seem to be conveying the kind of image that may not be representative of the nation at large.

Shane worries about the violent interactions of Pakistanis with Indians, and Pakistanis with the West - and wonders if it is representative of the society at large? It is an outsider's comment and though it touches a raw nerve, I respect Shane for taking interest in what he observed in the community and on Orkut at large. Shane's guide on "How to manipulate people" is reflective of his solution-seeking nature. His article is a case of a commentary by a well-intentioned person trying to understand a baffling phenomenon.

There is a deeper layer to the behavior of the Pakistani and Indians, especially the youth. I have shared these views with Shane through his scrapbook:

Consider this: many people who you fear will act upon their violent fantasy, won't. Often, many are simply looking for a "reference to authority." What is disturbing is that by validating this behavior, the youth are gradually being led to believe that they are actually violent.

I have worked with youth as a trainer; talent manager; teacher - and this "verbal aggression" is a subject I have given some thought to. My observations are:

1. Consider the fact that many Pakistani youth are not empowered to speak up in school or in homes. They don't have an opinion vis-a-vis authority that comes in the form of the Parents, teachers, school, etc. Many youth who are plaguing the Orkut circuit have otherwise not spoken anywhere. Untrained to think or speak, they become irrational, exaggerated, and hyper.

Most, not all, Pakistani youth are the product of this system where they have never expressed their personal feelings. In some ways, even those of us who were "privileged" to have a better education still have no opinion that matters, because the system does not take us into account.

That is why, places like Orkut where most Pakistanis are exposed to the world for the first time, having NOT travelled globally, and having no access to an education, become a small aperture of too much withheld expression. Result? Uncontrolled ideas and passions. Minds untrained to think and unaccustomed to expressing opinion going amok.

2. If you want to research your/my hypotheses further, simply take a look at the school curriculum and the exams of the Pakistani youth in particular - I do not know about India but in many ways they are the same.

I did A-level as external candidate of Cambridge Uni via British Council. Our exams contained open-ended questions on the lines of: "In what ways do you think the life of a celebrity is in public domain, and should there be a limit to public access to a celebrity's life? (Recollection of q' from General paper, 1998. Q' obviously reflecting upon Lady Diana's death.)" Compare that with the home-grown educational systems exams at the same school level: "Write an essay on 'Pakistan Revolution.'" Outdated. Not inviting thinking or opinion. Not current.

This is the system of which some very fertile minds are the products. In observing and analysing the behavior of youth from this region, these cultural facts make the context.

I am from Pakistan and don't pretend to fully understand the very multi-layered Indian society. But <a href=" ">this motorbike ad for Bajaj Avenger</a> is very telling. A must watch for a great concept, and a beautifully executed ad!

It is based upon a deep insight of what the middle/lower-middle class (and likely other classes) youth of South Asia suffer from: beatings from fathers, careless government, poor service by businesses - a world of unfairness to which we could not respond.

This ad is hopeful, but for many, the only expression comes in less savorable ways. Such as Orkut babbling.

This is one view of the situation. Yet the bottomline is that this situation is not healthy. Words ultimately turn into actions. Here, Shane's concerns are very relevant. What are we doing for the youth to empower them in positive ways?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I am the crow.

Once I was walking in the park nearby. The crows - the infamous, politically-opinionated, self-absorbed Karachi ravens - had arranged a cacophonous opera. As I walked under a particularly noisy assembly of these black artists perched on a naked tree, I realized: for all the sound that they are creating, it is only because I have ears that I can hear.

No ears. No sound.

All that we see, hear, sense depends upon our own faculty of reception. All that we absorb from the environment depends upon us. That means at least two things: first, what we are largely depends upon us, since we chose our learning by letting certain things in, and blocking other things out. The second thing is that, in a way, the sound of the crow is in us.

No ears, no sound. My ears are therefore part of the whole orchestration. No audience, no opera. This is what I learnt in theater studies: the audience is as much a part of the play as the actors and directors. If the audience refuse to suspend their disbelief (and instead enter the story, the act, the play), you have no play. For the play to be successful, the actors and the audience both have to enter the make-belief world together.

And this means so, so many things. Any mindful awareness, any moment of truth, any reality - means so many things. It's like getting to know Oxygen and all that it means...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Excuse me sir, but you're naked.

Honestly. We need more child-like people. Who can tell the emperor that he's wearing no clothes. Who can tell the truth like it is. Whose minds are not goaded by media and peer-pressure.

What's up with the youth of this country Pakistan? What on earth happened to the eye-opening, paradigm-shifting, life-changing moment that was October 8th the previous? What did we learn? What have we forgotten?

Is there anyone out there whose not given their mind on rent!?



You need Halloween in Pakistan!?

Sometimes, I get plain angry. Reading a blog about celebrating Halloween in Lahore a few moments ago, it was one of those times.

Here's my response on the thread:

What a complete waste, and completely beyond the point too.


It is appalling how on the one hand, the economic and social situation is worsening in Pakistan and a society still deficient in primary and secondary production is being pushed to consumerism/media and on the other hand, the privileged of the society are maddening at an increasing speed.

There are serious economic implications in that a good part of our GNP will now represent pointless, wasteful economic activity. Which is becoming the basis of government's falsified statistics, leading to conclusions such as: poverty is decreasing.

Ever heard of the butter/gun argument in economics? You can fill the economy with guns and balloons, and it will still register a healthy GNP. But does that feed stomachs?

More nonsense in the name of: "It will create jobs/ People need fun." People need to accept the reality of the country that is Pakistan, and the privileged (i.e. those with access to EDUCATION, health, money, time) must realize they are not earning more and more to brun more and more, but to give back more and more. In the shape of schools. Hospitals. Meaningful businesses.

One used to get surprised at the ignorance and callousness of Nero and Marie Antoinette who frolicked in dire times. Now one realizes we are always living in times where on the one hand people are dying, and on the other hand, people can't have enough silly fun!

I don't have a personal problem with any festivals, and I believe we genuinely need to create more avenues of creative, positive, constructive fun for the children and the young. In fact, that's been my battle #1 for a long time. But actions are judged by intention. The import of all sorts of festivals in Pakistan is more to do with a mentality that fails to contribute to the development of the country, and instead diverts resources elsewhere.

In other countries, where we import these cultural festivals from, they at least do their work before they start dancing. In Pakistan, we have a different case. There is utter poverty and hopelessness right outside and even within the urban centers. I am sitting in Karachi, a city that is fast decaying and marred by terrible planning. Where are the brains that are needed to dream and construct and build? They are busy with utter nonsense - with image and status and what-nots. Many of our young have the emotional and intelligence quotient of a misguided child. The only time most show a spark of purpose is when they are speaking of flying out of the country.

There is yet another group of young, who are running on the fuel called media. The concept of "life," to them, is "the happening scene." This is one group that I most often encounter... and bless their souls! but I don't see how are they any more productive or useful or conscious as citizen than many of the villagers I have met. The villagers, instead, tend to be better at times.

This society is delusional!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Can we design access to good literature?

All right, I don't just want to complain about the state of fiction and non-fiction literature, but find a solution. Can there be a system of making suggestions for literature of the meaningful kind? For those who might be wondering if I am looking for a favorite novel, then no. I am looking for titles on development sector and N.G.O. management, and titles on the practice of traditional art.

I've found that some of the most awesome books are only available as photostats in the market, while trash is selling in the name of good fiction and non-fiction in leading bookstores.

My tip: realize that most writers never even touch the world of their subject matter. Stay away from the theorist writer, find experiential writers: people who have actively dabbled, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially in what they have written about.

Words of such persons change us in fundamental and profound ways. The rest is all commentary that anyone with access to Google can find or make.

Back on track: Liberty Books informed me they need at least 70 confirmed orders/ expected demand projection for a book to order it if it's not on their list. And I have been getting regularly frustrated that some of the most amazing books are never stocked by Liberty. (I do prize my ability to recommend very good literature on a variety of subjects.)

Can we devise a way to rally for the truly good books on matters close to our heart? How can we bulk-order the books we love? On the aside, it would be interesting anyway to have a group of people whose literary taste is un-quenched in the land of the pure - and who make Amazon their shrine, often to end up in cold sighs.

I am clueless on the subject and the logistics. Help!


Literature: Opium for the psuedo-intellectual mind

All right, I despise this term "pseudo-intellectual" because it's often applied freely by those of low intellect who want to escape the responsibility of thinking by labeling the thinkers with all sorts of titles, but... I am going to use it.

What's up with this Liberty Books storing the kind of literature that is fodder for the pseudo-intellectual brain? I respect knowledge, but I no longer respect a kind of coffee-table, cafe-something knowledge that leads to endless chatters peppered with irrelevant literary references.

It was interesting for a little while when I was in the teens - to feel empowered by quoting the obscure and far-fetched. But it's no longer fun. No just because I am a practical adult, but because that's just not relevant to our world anymore. Who wants to know what you've read? Honestly, even the paindoos are laughing inside - nay, on the face. What we'd want to know is, do you have access to literature that has made you a better person, and made you able to talk to me, not at me?

Besides, I do have a personal preference for practical and experiential things. If only for fun.

I don't the best books that I am looking for in the top bookstores. The latest activity is often in the section of the latest hot-cake fiction. The non-fiction, I have realized, is primarily being written by the clueless who have gained authority by way of their access to sophisticated sounding, irrelevant knowledge. All right, this part of my rant is generalizing, but I won't steer back on course without reminding that "relevance" - to one's people, times, culture, and life - is one of the most critical characteristic of anything that enriches us or becomes part of our life. Be that a spouse, a product, or a book.

So. Let's steer back from the general world of publishing to non-discerning readers to BOOKS. More specifically, non-fiction literature available in Pakistan.

I want to see and read more practical, relevant literature that adds meaningful value to my life, enabling me to pass the same on to those around me. I don't care about the Russian slang of Clockwork Orange, about which Jugnoo the AAG TV VJ was recently enlightening the audience. Honestly!

In bookstores, there are terribly beautiful novels about "a profound sense of loss," and "shock and denial," and endless books about what turned Muslims intro terrorists and how America should fight back or get out and what Bush's got to do with it - but very books that truly enrich lives and lead one to meaningful action. Speaking more practically, most books I see are of the type that are just a better alternative to staring at the idiot box. What most of the selected literature in the bookstores does is to borrow our minds for a while, give them a tour of fantasy land or dip them in a quagmire of terrible thoughts, and return them to their place.

Yes, I know not all literature is like this. But speaking from the results end, it's hard to find many people whose lives have changed for the positive better (not the cynically educated) by reading the kind of literature we have access to.

More practically, I have not found some of the most profound books I have been looking for on the bookshelves of Liberty Books (and nowhere in their e-store) which makes this rant slightly personal, but still insightful on what I think is truly the state of literary taste...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My Name is Red: novel for the Renaissance Soul - 4

My nomination for the Wednesday blogwordoftheday # 19: Red.

Continued from Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3


Now we know the premise of the ____________ that I am creating.

I found myself a little worried yesterday and frustrated today after I spoke with the artist's rep and Tazeen, respectively. I assured Tazeen that somewhere, somehow, many more people have thought of the same idea and are working on it. But we are not well-known nor are we connected.

I also told Tazeen that though un-named, un-nicked with a popular word... this concept is a living trend. It is living, and it is growing in this very 21st century world. I believe in this concept, whatever its name will be.

But I have just synthesised my life's long learning recently, and I was terribly alone - I knew few people in the modern world who have thought on this line. And even fewer in the Muslim world. (Oh by the way, another time I will tell that Muslims were the pioneers of the Renaissance, and that the ancients and the European Renaissance just fell short of the Great Synesthesia that Muslims would ultimately have moved towards if not for the eradication of knowledge from the Muslim world?)

And then tonight, while checking the Amazon Bestseller Books rank for In the Line of Fire, I found My Name is Red : an intellectual mystery novel about a Muslim miniaturist's murder. Written by Orhan Pamuk, and riding the bestseller wave as Pamuk just became the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Literature. Orhan's Nobel win confirms my thesis that persons with this line of thought represent a strong though non-popular trend in contemporary human thought. And that it is reason enough, if passion & belief alone were not, for me to create [the gallery].

I haven't read the book, of course, but overviews & my instinct tells me I have found a twin soul... there is no co-incidence this co-incidental. I can't begin to tell in how many ways this is just the book that answers my many, many questions!

Post-script thoughts:
"Islamic Renaissance Art"... "Global Renaissance Art"... great words to capture this concept, but sadly over-used in all the wrong contexts. ??????? Hmmmm.

Similar earlier thoughts:
Will Robert Langdons of Linguistics Save the World?
"Whole World Thinking" - the Third Way
Divine Beauty


My Name is Red: novel for the Renaissance Soul - 3

My nomination for the Wednesday blogwordoftheday # 19: Red.

Continued from Part 1 & Part 2

In my view, a true renaissance soul is one that is beyond art and science, or for that matter, any common conflict. It is the soul that has learnt to embrace the many without prejudice or question. That is why, such souls not just have multiple talents, but little resistance to any new hobby or learning that comes their way.

In our boxed-education-ridden human society, we often call these people "unfocused." By God, it is our gift to be not focused on any one thing! We are like museums and encyclopedias - timeless and spacefree. We embrace everyone and everything... we sacrifice a single identity, to find many!

And so I am creating this __________ for [Islamic-human Arte-Scienza/IHAS]. These species need names.

IHAS's idea is: differences between east and west and north and south are meaningless. True knowledge and art and science are those that realize that the four fingers and the one thumb are sticking out of One Hand. Humanity has a common source of knowledge - even though all humans see that through their own lens. The human "arte-scienza" is an aesthetic approach to real (vs. fantasy) knowledge that embraces all humanity. In other words, the real human knowledge presented artistically.

This is not the idea of a lone nut. We have heard just these ideas, by many other names: The Da Vinci Code was all about knowledge of the world (scientific, mathematical, truly renaissance) hidden in/ represented by art. Only, the novel had a Christian context.

Enter Islamic-human Arte-Scienza.

The European Renaissance is the only time in modern history to which this synesthesia is attributed. Actually, the ancients have always been aware of this concept - and their learning is now surviving in Pagan and Shamanic faiths. Don't judge yet... I don't advocate paganism. I only say that a pagan sees the same Fibonacci sequence in a sunflower petal arrangement that a Muslim or a Christian or an atheist does. Therefore, there is really no grand behind-the-scenes-conspiracy in the symbols that were so masterfully described in The Da Vinci Code.

There is nothing shocking about the fact that the blade & the chalice are actually rather prevalent symbols. In fact, the dome & the minarets of the masjids also are blade and chalice! What is shocking is that humans are blind to what is right in front of our eyes!

Darlings, a circle is a circle... and we may find it in a flower, or the dome of a mosque. Big wonder?

Now: Islam. A monotheist religion. To skip a very possible second essay, here's the summary: at least the prevalence of similar symbols must indicate to One God? Or whatever you want to call it, but a Common Design behind it all?

This Common Design is above (picture it ABOVE/ ATOP right now) and it is beyond (picture it BEYOND/DISTANT) all cultures and times and spaces. It is above and beyond only Science and only Art. It is above and beyond only Yin or only Yang. It is above and beyond only East or only West. All our existence and consciousness and creativity is contained in this One Design. And no artist or scientist or renaissance soul ever created anything ex nihilo.

Similar earlier thoughts:
Will Robert Langdons of Linguistics Save the World?
"Whole World Thinking" - the Third Way
Divine Beauty

Continued in Part 4...
Next: My Name is Red

My Name is Red: novel for the Renaissance Soul - 2

My nomination for the Wednesday blogwordoftheday # 19: Red.

Continued from Part 1

All my life, I have believed that humans and human minds and hearts have a tremendous undiscovered potential. I believe there is a vast reservoir of knowledge out there, and that our hearts and minds have as deep and wide an access to it as we wish. I believe that in this world, as always, we need people with a generalist knowledge - the wise Oracle of yore, the know-it-all of today. In fact, there is a name in the world of knowledge for just such a person: the renaissance man. Or in contemporary, more gender-friendly terms: the renaissance soul.

This specie is quite different form another one that we commonly encounter: the... the "person" with an opinion on everything, just because they have heard something about everything, and if they have not, it still does not matter. Yes, we know who this type is, and sometimes they are literate and equipped with the latest quotes and facts & figures which baffle a normal person. You know they are just parroting away at your mind, but you can't block them out with as many facts.

But these are not renaissance souls. The quick & dirty test is: is, in any field of their life, the experience of that knowledge evident?

We will leave this specie here and move on to the Renaissance Soul. There is a growing number of literature and research that is now advocating the "rise" of the creative, the right-brained, the artistic soul. Because of the elitist and erudite nature of art, it is easy to once again believe that artists have renaissance souls. Possibly, but not automatically.

Similar earlier thoughts:
Will Robert Langdons of Linguistics Save the World?
"Whole World Thinking" - the Third Way
Divine Beauty

Continued in Part 3...
Next: Beyond Art & Science - And...

My Name is Red: novel for the Renaissance Soul - 1

My nomination for the Wednesday blogwordoftheday # 19: Red.

Wow. God is always listening, and answering. Today Hu answered with " My Name is Red."

Yesterday, I met the representative of an artist and had a long, drifting talk about an idea. Today, I talked to Tazeen and asked her to try understand "the idea." All this month, I have spoken with quite a few persons about the idea... and none have really understood my idea of Islamic-human Arte-Scienza, though they did a good job of nodding along.

I call it Islamic-human Arte-Scienza because this "thing" has no popular name.

But first, the context of this out-of-the-blue post: I am creating a __________. I don't know what to call it either? A gallery? A museum? A collection? An experimental studio laboratory?

For very easy reference, and to escape the indifferent scrutiny of the common mind, I call it a gallery. An art gallery. Yet I just realized that we start believing in what we say, and I have much more to say and believe in and do than create an art gallery. So it's not an art gallery. Not just that.

I have decided that the time has come in my life where I start living out my knowledge. After all, wise men such as Hazrat Ali (blessings be upon him) say that knowledge without action consumes a person. What is the point of knowledge, truly, if we don't use it or pass it on - through demonstration?

Next: The Renaissance Soul...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Studies of Beauty/ Truth: da Vinci's drawings

Our man Leonardo da Vinci was in a constant state of awe. He observed with an aware mind, and didn't let slip in oblivion most of what he saw. He captured his observations and studies in great detail.

[I'll update the rest of this entry when I have time. The old post has been removed for driving crazy stat-distorting traffic to my blog.]

My Daily 15 Good People List

Are there 15 good people in the world that I know? At least 15 good people? Then I can sleep well and happy...

This is mantra that I have been using since this past week. About a week ago, I found myself unusually sad and let down one night - unable to sleep. Now this was funny, as a mere month ago, I had prayed to God: "I can feel no sadness in my heart, and I am extremely happy. And I think I may forget You and the real life of the people around me." That prayer was immediately answered with a dream full of sad memories and un-happened terrible futures. (As I was just saying to Yawer a moment ago: "Never posit any awkward propositions to The Universe. The Universe answers!")

Then again, I felt this sadness - usually brought on by a change of circumstances, of weather, and by an inadvertent encounter with people of ill intentions.

So unable to sleep one night, I realized that my mind was more occupied with complaint than with thanks. And that I had been thinking too much about the kind of people who make no heart happy. It's true that they exist, and so do their problems, and their actions - but they are not the only type. Besides, I was just a little too overwhelmed with all the news that I am sensitive to... not right!

All right, so apart from being patient, which is challenging for the heart, I had to be thankful too. Certainly, life isn't all "challenging" - but also "rewarding?"

So first, I let out all problems of my system. I laid down a list of complaints for God to worry about while I slept; as Hu reportedly doesn't sleep all day, night, or eternity. Then I told Hu my strategy: I have to think of all good that happened to me that day. Upon counting, I realized that it was only my impatience that prevented me from seeing that this day was indeed better than the last. And for heaven's sake, that is what a good life is all about!

And then suddenly, I was inspired! Why was I letting my mind brood about the wrong sort of people? Surely, there were at least 3 - no 5! - no, even 10! - wait: 15 good people out there, right now, who I knew personally and closely. People who are wonderful unto themselves and they have been especially kind to me recently. I made a list in no specific order:

1-6. The Mohsins (1 boy pal+1 his wife+2 his sisters +2 his cousins). We share all kinds of stuff, and support each other. They are one family who really listen to me, and I am honored for this.
7-8. My parents. While I was thinking of only having non-family persons on the list initially, I realized suddenly that this is not the moment to rank or separate, but just listen to my heart. And my heart said I must always be mindful of those who we generally take for granted: the ones closest to us.... the ones who make the most sacrifices without getting effusive thanks or even a nod.

Note: I am totally upset at my brothers for not helping me out with cleaning our house, so I postponed their entry until I had found other people. Yes, brothers, you don't know how I get back at you! No Oscars for you gentlemen tonight!
9. O. A. - an azeem babaji person who loves and sacrifices unconditionally for everyone. And for me, despite my extreme bad-tameezi.
10-13. M. Joyo + her three sons: my hosts on the Khairpur tour. Terrific, spiritual, hospitable people.
14-15- on and on: a string of people who have been kind to me or others. Including my villager hosts in Haramosh valley, and a friend who manages charity ops on her own. Plus my brothers. My girl pals... who I don't get to talk to often since they've moved out of town and country.... but who've been there for me... so many people!

Why was I upset to begin with? So it was true - I *was* looking the wrong way!

The list has just swelled on! I chucked out a few persons I have been upset with - sorry, but the heart had to sail on effortlessly through the list and not start worrying afresh. But still, after that one night when I needed a list of absolutely worrying-free people, I have expanded my outlook to those with whom I have multi-tiered relationships. People who are easy to forget because they are always there. People who have so much to offer to themselves and the world. People who on the paths of self-discovery... people who are at a different level from me, but essentially good people.

So each night now, I think of 15 new names... or new things about names who've already made it on My 15 Good People List. If I have been thinking about someone unpleasant, I bring up themup mentally after I have made my daily list, and tell them: "Well, darling, I know at least 15 good people, and somehow you are looking really insignificant rigiht now! So *POOF!* you go!"

Sleep well.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

End of Maybelink. Welcome Warid.

This one is personal, and I am going to have to serve this below the belt:

What an entirely pathetic and unresponsive company Mobilink is! Since July, I have been approaching this company to help me block unwanted anonymous callers. But, no. Private investigation reveals that Mobilink account holders who are involved in harassment and otherwise the misuse of the service have fake account information - and contacts within the company.

I once managed to get a number blocked, which was promptly re-opened the next day. The company's response is non-sense and basically means I waste more of my time telling them what happened, what happened, what happened.

It takes a lot for a person like me to disbelieve in something good - and for now, I neither believe that our system serves ANY justice to a citizen, nor do I believe that corporations like Mobilink are interested in the welfare of their customers at all.

They have the nerve to ignore the request for help by a female customer, and bring out a "Ladies [Fooled] First" package! I don't believe they put ladies first, or last!

Islam and afterlife: answering a Hindu's question

Understanding life and my own faith is a project that I am devoting a large time to, lately. I do this because I feel that our minds are so badly indoctrinated with false, incompatible, and often non-sense beliefs, that we do not see what is right in front of us. Besides, it is part of the human quest to always understand the reason and mystery of being. As Neo of The Matrix felt, there was something more to life than we all can see.

Anyhow. This Ramadan, I am going to share some of my understanding. Below is a Yahoo! answer that I gave to a Hindu questioner who wanted to understand Islam's concept of Heaven and afterlife.

The answer is to the best of my knowledge. I draw heavily upon modern metaphor and knowledge of science to "decode" the scripture. Call it the Da Vinci approach. :-)


At last, one question on Islam that seems to invite genuine opinion.

First, very briefly, the concept of life and death:

God created Humankind, and indeed other species, for Himself. Much as we see artists everyday creating works of arts as expression of their talent. God said, "I was a Hidden Treasure, and I wished to be known."

So He created the Universe, and perhaps the multiverse (Western scientists have acknowledged this concept*), and many species therein. Even Space, Time, and apparantly lifeless things are His creation, and are treated as entities unto themselves by gnostics and upon close understanding, even scientists. By the way, "He" is genderless, it's just a pronoun commonly used for God.

God created cognizant beings of higher intelligence so that they may know Him - and worship Him - and that is the purpose of all life. These beings include Angels, Humans, and Jinns - and humans are the supreme creation as they are both sublime and earthly.

Angels are bound by God's command, and humans and Jinn are by His principles. However, they have a degree of choice to opt between the principles of life and creation and society, or not.

All souls were created and given consciousness before they came to Earth. All souls that will ever come have been created. And it is not a concept beyond understanding for those who observe how an entire oak tree hides in its seed before birth; and indeed, in some ways, its children are also in that seed. Actually, all life around us hides signs and codes of Divine principles.

Anyway. "Life" as we know it is a part of the entire journey of creation. The purpose of life is to know God, and to live life according to His Design.

Personally, the best example of this is in theater where a director creates both good and bad characters, and gives them a script to act on. The act on stage is similar to life - and "death" means real life, when the actor gets off the stage. Shakespeare understood this well when he said, "All the world's a stage/ and all the men and women merely players**."

Islam treats men and women equally in matters of faith, and respects their gender differences in a few social matters.

Now to your questions:
(1) what the purpose of one's going to heaven
A reward for the good they did in "life" - i.e. time on Earth
(2) what exactly the souls that go to heaven do
Enjoy Divine nearness, and understand the truth behind life. They enjoy a world without cause & effect, and extra dimensions - often portrayed as a grand fantastic place in the scriptures. They will enjoy pureness, and in the words of Quran, will not hear anything crass or tasteless.

It is said that there will be a time, however, when they will go in a state of foreverness. I understand that best with the analogy of a writer: we are a novel being written by a Just Writer: near the end, good guys get good things, bad guys get a bad end, but eventually the novel ends. The story ends then, but it stays in that  state forever.

(3) whether women who believe in the religion also go to heaven and if so do they also get the reward there that men get there?
Women will go to Heaven, of course. Women are part of the one being that God created.... Chapter 4, line 1***. Islam address men and women equally in matters of faith. As for the "hoors," the beautiful celestial beings, I am not sure. I have only heard a couple of writers claim that hoors are not only the companions of Men. Yet this has weak support, and it may be that there are ifferent rewards for men and women. Yet the biggest reward is the sight of the Lord and the revelation of the secret of being. It is common to all - human and jinn males and females.

(4) How it is more important than the life on earth?
(5) Why god can not give that reward in this life on earth itself?
He can, but it's like writing the end of the story without writing a story; I hope my answer above answers this question. Life after earthly death is more imp as it is the actual destiny of Humankind etc. to meet their Lord; they will also be answerable about their choices. Also, God *does* give rewards to good deeds in life - one doesn't need any religion to believe that what goes round, comes round. And the basic good deeds, as understood by humanity regardless of religious beliefs, lead to good results - even if the results show themselves over time/ generations.

Yet this life is merely a pretext of the other. Once again, an actor was made an actor by virtue of acting. One could ask what's the purpose of finishing a play? Why doesn't the hero get the good end in the middle of the play? Why the play at all? Why not an Oscar just without it?

I read the interviews of J K Rowling, author of Harry Potter sometimes, and it astounds me how she sounds like God in some ways: she has written the end of the series, and is deciding who to kill or not in the story in the 7th book. She is not cruel; she is just a creator.****

The issue is how we perceive life; all the messgaes sent by God, inclusing Bhagwat Geeta and other ancient texts before Quran were to remind Humans of this reality.

Thank you for creating an opportunity to have Islam's view understood.

****** General Islamic teachings + my own understanding. I have been working with creative arts...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Elements of Being" - a drawing

Elements of Being; oil pastel crayon on paper, August 2006 - Ramlas
I have been drawing. Again. After years.

This is a detail from an untitled oil pastel crayon on paper drawing, made one night in August 2006.

Oh! Inspiration!

I just chose a blog as well as drawing title: "Elements of Being."

Perfect! The drawing grows from layers of colored earth, and soars up to a fiery sun. Elements of Being. I like the sound of it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Should we give to the beggars?

Someone told me this formula:

There are three types of "people who ask/ who need:"

1. Bhikari/ The Begger: the types who'd throw you any line their professional knowledge knows will affect you. They will say things like, "Give 5 rupees/ money for food. God will give you ______." They are selling God, marriages, pilgrimage, happiness, etc. Do not buy God from them. Deny them flatly. If you still have a tender heart, know that these liars are earning thousands of rupees per day and are richer than you. In any case, why don't they just pack up after collecting, say, 100 rupees and go get the food/medicine they were in such dire need of?

2. Sayil/ The Needy: They may be rich or poor - but these are people who need our charity: monetary, or in kind. They need our time, attention, help, assistance, kindness. They may need to recover from accidents, or may be ill friends who need our time and love. Give them, in fact, we are commanded to give to them FROM OUR SALARIES. Those who wish may read parts of Sura-e-Baqr etc. to know that The Needy have a due part in ALL INCOME we earn, and that's after Zakat has been given.

3. The Fakir/ The Fulfilled: People who are beyond need. Whether they are given or not, it matters not to them. However, it is good for the society to be conscious of their needs. They must not be refused when they ask.

When ever we give, it is our duty to be aware of where the money is going to. My personal recommendation is to the LISTEN TO THE HEART which tells us exactly what to do. And to give INSTITUTIONAL CHARITY. Let's build institutions, not permanently needy individuals.

My response to the "Allah ke naam per..." thread on Karachi Metroblog

Monday, September 25, 2006

A peaceful funeral

Friday, I went to the house of the Mohsins. Mohsins are my favorite set of 4+1 people on earth. They are genuine, straight-forward, and harmless. They wish good for others, and are so helpful, you want to ask them to stop. Above all, they are positive human beings who do not complain.

This Friday, there was a long-expected death in the family. When I reached there, the Mohsin girls had dried up their tears, and wore their kind smiles. The family is religious, but not dogmatic. They were a little sad, as all families are after such a loss, as to why had people attending the funeral turned back to their normal conversations so promptly.

I invited the ladies, seven of us in total, to say a prayer granted to me by a friend of God. We sat with eyes closed in an almost-circle, and called the name of God's self - Allah. Once each person felt they had the attention of Allah, they prayed for forgiveness and whatever was in the hearts.

This was the first time I didn't feel an immense darknes spressing on me as the leader of prayers - that may be because the company of the Mohsins and their cousins was so pure and sincere. Taz asked, "How do we know if the prayer has been accepted?" Izz rested her hand on her right side, and said, "You know it in the heart." I am still a little curious as to why her instinctive resting was on the right of the heart? Does she know that the left is where is the heart is, and the right is the house of the soul in human constitution? I must tell her another time...

After the prayers, everyone felt positively cheerful. It was uncontrollable: the glee, the light-heartedness. We turned to what we often do when together: Kiran brought up a question relating to the beliefs of a convert atheist, and we discussed with reference to the Book. I shared with my friends another insight that gives credibility to the Chinese theory of the Yin/Yang. They were as incredulous as I was when I first "saw" it.

Among other things, I also reminded my friends, who were curiously pondering over the translations of the Quran over matters relating to women, that they must remember the Quran has been translated by men; and like prior religions, men have given the meanings that they saw in the Quran, often appending their own words in translations or modulating the degree of a word... and the result is sometimes a translation that is all masculine. This was the subject of an academic research which I want to have access to now.

An example is the word "zauj" which means the gender-neutral "spouse," but is often translated as "wife" wherever the word zauj seems to have a secondary value.

Kiran wanted to "help" the atheist-convert; my view was that educated jaahils are the worst to deal with, because they do what they do on purpose. They know exactly what they are doing, and most of them are looking for excuses to do wrong.

However, we discussed a few matters of our personal faith, and then moved on to helping with dinner. By that time, we were almost laughing and getting rather noisy and playful. It happens after all funerals, yet this time I felt a genuine aura of happiness and contentment. The Mohsins are soulful people.

It was the most pleasant and peaceful funeral that I attended.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Once again: I am in love!

I belong to a kind of people I call "The Constant Lovers," the kind who always are in love though the object of their love might change often - and here I am in love again.

Something that I had been working on for the past two years, quietly and steadily, has entered a promising phase. It's a project related to beauty and life.

But my taste is not for the ethereal. It is for the existential - for the moment to moment change, for the glimpses of Divine beauty that I see in everything. It's a manner of knowing and seeing; once you have that manner you see that all you see is neither changing, nor going anywhere, it is merely the existential display of one beauty. And then what appears to be "different objects" of love are actually the love of one, and many displays of it.

And what I am working on is a way to love One in Many Ways. I am working with forms of arts that help humans connect amongst themselves first, and then with the Divine, through Beauty.

I am working with genres of art that have a great potential to cure humanity. Not that art is the way, but it's one of the many ways, and one that has largely been misleading so far.

All right ways lead to one objective; and in my work, the objective is above the way.

God knows how, little by little all my life, I have been on a quest for this beauty! God knows I have loved and accepted ugliness deeply in order to understand and one day have access to the beautiful.

After all, ugliness is a form of beauty, for those who see.

More on this another time?

This work is what has kept me very occupied recently. I hope, inshaAllah, that it will be ready to be unveiled by the end of this year.

Prayers, of course, are what I always strongly believe in. Send one my way!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

How to split your soul in two

According to Harry Potter, the thing that splits a human's soul in two is committing murder. I think murder merely kills a part of humankind, and in some way chips away at the collective soul of the world, but it's not the crime that splits the soul.

In Maya, a Jostein Gaarder novel that I understood late, the evolutionist-anthropologist protagonist Frank laments the loss of a part of human history in him if he dies without a child. A part of human history that is capsuled deep within his genetic code – thousands and thousands of years' worth of history in danger of being lost forever with his childless death. And so, I think, murder kills a part of human history and evolution of the journey of man.

But it's not committing murder that splits a human's soul in two. The crime that accomplishes that is telling a lie.

One World or Another
There is this popular theory about "possible worlds." Variants of it exist, known as "parallel worlds," "multiverses," etc. Simply, this theory means that every moment, or at every "event node," the world splits in to two (or more) possibilities. For example, the day I decided to join my university, the world splits in two: one in which I joined my university, and another in which I didn't. Where is that world, and what is the rejecter "I" doing in there? I know not. But "I" only know of the world in which I chose the university (and I can tell I'd really really like a little glimpse of the other).


The possible worlds theory is often, as those who can see must be seeing, also tied up closely to the concept of Destiny. You know, that devilish thing we always think of: what if? What if? But destiny is not a matter to be discussed by or with a common mind, so we leave it here.

The fascinating theory of possibilities also has a significant presence in literature. The finest of the possible world stories that I read is also the only one I read: The Garden of Forking Paths. A man commits an essential but unpleasant misdeed, and hopes that in another world, he was caught before he did.

I feel that a lie puts a human in another world intentionally and knowingly. In doing so, a lie splits our memory in two. In Forking Paths, the central character only wondered: what if? And the thought – the subconscious wish that he was stopped before his misdeed – tormented him so that he wrote his story. A liar wittingly divides themselves in two worlds, or more, depending upon the variations of the lie. Memory, as most other intangible functions of the human mind, is retrieved by the human soul. To split one's memory in two places means that the soul is split in two spaces. One of them is true space, another is not – and lying stresses the soul to consistently try to reconcile its split existence.

A lie is different from imagination. Imagination is known to be imagination, and it belongs to the first world that a person is living in. In itself, it is separate from Memory, and the Soul accesses the Imagination as an entity independent, though not exclusive, of Memory. And the Soul accesses many creations of God.

A lie is not known to be imagination; for the audience, it is something that exists in the first world – where they would never find it were they to look. A lie is not part of the Reality that we all share. And it permanently alienates the liar from the truthful, in as much as the lie diverged from reality.

No wonder that the persistent split of the soul, the to and fro drift of the soul from the real to the false world, is hard on the liar who always feels the need to hide their condition and create distractions. It is a painful situation, more painful for those who still share the common reality, and have not permanently drifted mentally off into their false worlds. Nothing can be said about those who have the misfortune to have permanently chosen their false world, constantly powered by a web of more lies, delusions, unnatural beliefs, and tyranny for the humankind. (Certainly, no one can shift into that world without first creating by force conditions around them that would lead others to accept their situation. Sometimes these liars are in positions of power, and make an entire faction of humanity believe in things such as "this war is good.")

Taking Lying Down
I have the experience of knowing at least one terrible liar, other than the many who grace my TV screen everyday. I had the experience of watching that person's soul split, split, and split. It was painful just to watch; by way of a connection of heart, I felt a degree of that torment too.

There are no words to explain the drastic positive difference that I felt when I returned to the world of Reality – which I found rather insipid and detail-less initially upon return, but every bit my home eventually. Not to mention, I have developed, too, the eye that sees the beauty of the real world now that I know how agonizing the false world can be like, no matter what promising perpetual possibilities prosper there.

They say that the best diamonds are colorless, as color denotes elemental traces. (You know. Minerals & metallic ions give colors to earth and what lies within). The most beautiful things in the world are the purest, the most real, the most untainted. Above all, they have an integrated Self. They are One.

To live in the true world is to be in one place, not needing to hide or allude, always with an undivided one happy soul.



Do they matter?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A thing of Intrigue: The Jetta Report

The Jetta Report, its ad link claimed, was an eye-opening account on the owners of Jetta. I clicked the link believing it to the auto-industry's equivalent of The Constant Gardener - some spill-al account prepped by an NGO.

What the site really is, though, is... oh, check it out yourself! It's clever, smart, daring... and very funny. Oh, BTW, some of the "comparisons" on the site - and JR is big on them - make me seethe with amused fury!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Thing of Beauty: Visual Dhikr - contemporary Muslim art

Visual Dhikr is a prayer answered. Just when I was wondering if I could ever find a very decent graphic designer who hopefully was adept at Islamic calligraphy, along came Visual Dhikr.

Visual Dhikr features contemporary Islamic art by Ruh al-Alam, and was co-found by Ruh and Abu Ta-Ha.

Dhikr is a spiritual term meaning remembrance of God.... a continued, attentive, conscious remembrance. Visual Dhikr uses artwork as a medium to stimulate a continued remembrance of the Divine.

The artists do more than just Islamic artwork, but all work is within the very unique parameters that faith describes for artistic expression. Islamic art is often geometric and floral, representing concepts of infinity, Divine beauty, and peace.

Visual Dhikr awed me for several reasons:

1. It's so politically misplaced! In this day, one has to be daring to put the Islamic identity first unless one is on a preaching mission. For two artists to wear Islam on their sleeves is an amusing exception to the norm - where contemporary art in the Muslim world is pre-dominated by culture either local or imported. To wed digital media with art with Islam is a marriage of great un-convention.

2. It works. There are no error scripts, no wildly outdated links.

3. To create a visual tradition of remembrance amongst traditions of primarily auditory dhikr is an interesting experiment. It's always been done - after all Islam is submission to Allah and the constant remembrance of Hu - but I have rarely seen a modern Muslim artist in the West make this a declared mission.

Be: a calligraphic rendition of the Arabic letter Be4. The site has an astounding background musical that just about induces trance. So the art is not just visual, but also musical. It touches many senses. I must say that to have a uniquely modern, Muslim experience is a rarity that I have loved.

5. Visual Dhikr extends my identity as a Muslim in the cyber-space, and in the space of arts. You see, I believe every identity in the modern real world needs a platform, a place of reference, an authentication. Everyday, we see - though perhaps not notice with awareness - instances upon instances of people and nations who are perfectly correct in their belief, but without a reference group, a platform, a social contract that validates them.

Art has long been employed by humanity to create identities, to create culture, to create an image that one can refer to and declare: "I am something of that thing!"

Sadly, art has often imposed the identities of one or few onto many - the lone man or group projecting onto the world, a romanticized notion in all art. The art of this new age is one that reflects the global society, and its diversity. One that gives the members of humanity points of reference, which lets them say: "That thing is something of who we are!"

The only taboo in art today is its alienation and elitism... In the modern world, technology has begun to work for the disadvantaged. Today, an artist of any culture or background can use technology to perpetuate and make de facto through art their identity.

This is why I loved Visual Dhikr in all its simplicity. I like the promise this art makes.

BTW. Did I tell you that Visual Dhikr was commissioned to work for Sony PSP Exhibition launch? And the catalog is a must download!


Monday, September 11, 2006


There is a certain kind of silence which is not silence at all, but the powerlessness to express the many many words one suddenly must say to express the many many ideas one has suddenly acquired... but knows not how with the limited way in which popular human language has developed.

Last month, I went trekking in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, in a valley called Haramosh, some 110 kms northeast of Gilgit. From our base camp in a village called Barshi, we were to trek up to the village of Kutwal, with only a rudimentary idea of the distance... the trekking trail has been unexplored since many years. It took no less than six hours to trek up, with mountain after mountain to traverse. I have no idea of miles and kilometers, so I reckon it was no less than 6-8 kilometers with at least a 1000 meters of height gained, in scorching daylight.

Fields of Gold

We passed many a small settlements on the way. We reached levelled grounds, we trekked up steep climbs, we walked down... and the trail wouldn't end, and Kutwal wouldn't come. We stopped. We ate. We took in the scenery. And then we moved. I passed by a tiny field which was barricaded off, and in that tiny field, golden king butterflies silently fluttered by... and then I moved on. Over a rock perched over the noisy Barshi River, I stopped to breathe deep and relax my feet. An hour from our destination, we were awed by the sight of a glacier visible through a gorge, at the foot of which many river-lets dropped into the main river, and in which the few visible birds of the areas soared, aloft on the wings of wind...

But we got up and moved on. For none of these were our destinations, though they enriched us tremendously with the knowledge of hunger and thirst, relaxation, peace, the flow of water, and the beauty of life.

We talked, we marvelled, we wondered all the way. We exchanged notes on the unexpectedly long trail, the unimagined hot weather, the unbelievable beauty of the golden-flowered fields, and the unforgettable hospitality of the villagers... yet when Kutwal came, there was silence.

Plainly Hiding

The silence not just of exhaustion, but of exhilaration, and of suddenly walking onto a plateau hitherto non-visible to our eyes... yet it embraced us, took us in whole, as we stepped on to it. You have to step up to reach the plain of Kutwal, down from the hike below. And then there is a large plain patch of grassland to cross, after which, turning left, the whole expanse of Kutwal rises to the scene.

Its ancient-ness is breath-taking. Its quiet and peace has a sound of its own. And in that moment of just turning left, and letting the hidden scene meet the eye, one is suddenly enriched with the knowledge of an entire hidden village, a valley, an existence. The knowledge of a destination. And it brings an overwhelming silence... not for the lack of ideas, but the inexpressionability of a tremendous knowledge aspired for days, and acquired in an instance.

Secret Kutwal

I took that trek as a symbol of my personal development, to test my mettle, and to see what feelings does climbing up a mountain - a classical symbolic act of achievement - brings me. I can say now, with cognizance comes silence. Metaphorically, in my life, in my stages of learning and personal development too, I am in just such a phase.... I am silent.

For I feel I have walked into a hidden valley where in an instant, a whole scene has risen to my view.... a new world, a different world. A world where many things become meaningless in an instance, and others become significant, for they truly are significant.

And nothing else matters.

As always: edited many times. Photos added.

Each beautiful, marvelous day

Each day, I open my eyes to the beauty of life. And each day, life reveals an instance of its marvels to me. Each day, my eyes take in a little more, see a little more, understand a little more. Each day, this quest for beauty is rewarded.

Prompted by a dream last year - that told me beauty is not to be created, but to realized - I have been keeping the senses alert. The treasures have come everyday.

I have been keeping the treasures found to me, enjoying in privacy... but by my philosophy, what is a thing that is not shared with all? For everything comes from All, and must return to All. I am but a medium.

I want to share the occasional bits of happiness that come my way. They come in the shape of good news, emotions of all variety, and the works of other humans. What I love above all is that I find what I had been looking for just moments ago.

If memory serves me right, Sophie in Sophie's World learns about the white crow that is always there, waiting to be seen. The white crow... I think this is what her teacher said to her.

And now. I want to share. A marvel. A tajalli. A beautiful find. A glimpse into the ever created beauty of this evolving life.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Spicy & Sweety: Revealed

The answer to the Sense-itivity quiz is here. For the sane amongst us - a friendly version is in the diagram. Study it, be happy, sleep well. For the mad, the following:

The epiphany occurred, as it usually does with me, during a conversation. Ahad A. and I were talking about where is knowledge found when I drew up the shapes of Spicy & Sweety and quizzed him. Actually, I gave him the more mathematically correct but less glamorous version: which of the two is Spicy, and the other Mildy?

The answer came after I drew up the shapes. I found a brand new angle on the old quiz: Why would we call Kiki, Kiki? Why not call it Booba?

If you have no idea what I am talking about and think I just delivered the latest in high street insults your way, you will be de-mystified shortly. But I am not talking about curses; I am talking about a famous test on synaesthesia.

Synaesthesia – or the synthesis of senses – is a fascinating subject. You will usually hear of it in eccentric tales of “colors of music” and experience it closer at home when you decide the taste of food just by its smell. Those very smart with audio-visual effects will also know instinctively that synaesthesia also occurs when music is represented by the exotic visualizations of most modern audio players such as Windows Media Player.

Syn+aesthesia. A synergy of aesthetic senses. How, when senses combine, they create a whole larger than the sum of the parts.

I have been researching, experimenting on, and theorizing on a unified theory of senses for some time.

Separately, I came across the Azeemi (Indian Sub-continental Sufi silsila) concept of “wavelength” meanwhile while learning about spirituality and understanding how God’s design works. Yet the Azeemis are only marginally educated in the fields of physics, mathematics, and art – and they have not explained the concept in terms other than purely spiritual/ esoteric.

The Azeemi elders suggest that there is a “wavelength” and a “light” going around in and sustaining the Universe. They suggest that everything has a “wavelength,” but stop just short of explaining it more sophisticatedly.

While I drew those shapes Spicy & Sweety for Ahad, I was drawing a variant of the Kiki & Booba test.

Then suddenly, the dots connected.

Wavelengths. Graphs, that I had just been thinking about. Mathematics.

I remembered asking myself those very days why I could not separate the math of the graph from the shape of it, and the shape of it from reality of a traveling particle? Why oh why is the sharper shape Spicy? Why is the more toned shape Sweety/ Mildy?

Funny how things come together. Synthesis!

Allow me to use the more correct term Mildy to explain the answer.

These shapes in the quiz are two different graphs. We know that the taste of spice is caused by molecules of certain chemicals (Vitamin C, potassium, etc.) when they come in contact with our taste buds.

The more taste buds a person has, the better their sense of taste. A taste bud is like a catching mattress. The larger the mattress, the bigger can be a falling object to catch on the mattress. The more taste buds one has, the more molecules of a chemical they catch. But suppose a limited number of taste buds, says 10,000 on a tongue. Then take a bit of a sauce with 1,000,000 molecules of potassium. That’s 100 molecules per taste bud.

Take a bit of a sauce with 30,000 molecules of potassium. That’s 3 m/tb. It will taste "Mildy” and perhaps even “Sweety” if taken after the first.

If you plot a graph for the first, it’s sharper, like A. If you plot one for the second, it is closer to the baseline, like B. (B gets its curves from continuous tasting, but that’s irrelevant.)

These graphs are also wavelengths in shape!

So. Think about it. Even taste has a “wavelength.” That wavelength has a shape. Somewhere in our minds, we can associate that shape with the taste. Spicy is sharper looking. Sweety or Mildy has gentler, smaller slopes.

As I said earlier, we have been seeing music represented with wavelengths all our lives. For a sense of touch, we can quickly develop a Thorny/ Grainy/ Smoothy test.

Does this mean that our minds have a de-coder where all senses get processed based on the very unfunny shapes of wavelengths? And do these wavelengths lead us to a theory of universal aesthetic?

(And does an overload of waves lead to certain psychologocial disorders?)