27 September 2007

searching for genghis khan

Stories in my childhood have it that we descended from Genghis Khan kind of warriors from Mongolia. If it were true, then that would explain my dad's handsome features which got handed down to my brothers down to my nephews. That would also account for the sometimes quirky warrior-like qualities of the men in my family. According to tales that were fed us, my great grandfather was a horse-riding ponytailed hunk of a man. Picture a horsewhip carrying Shang (Mulan's beau) riding across the Gobi. That was the closest image I can have of my great grandfather. He was also a Muslim who perhaps came to Sulu to proselytize and eventually married my Mulan of a great grandmother.

My family on my dad's side is so interesting that an aunt in the States actually wrote two books about our genealogy. Unfortunately, the books did not tell about the hunk-greatgrandpapa, because they dwelt on the ancestors on the side of my paternal grandmother who were really sort of law-abiding citizens and not the Kazakhs battle hardened warriors which lit our imaginations. Rosalinda would always quip, when we, her children, were in this fantasizing state, "It runs in the blood". What dya say, Zaza, fancy writing a book about your great-great grandpapa?

24 September 2007

sungkai minds

Me: $!@#$!! I forgot to put out the dates again.

Meeza: Mummy, it's Bulan Ramadhan. Don't say bad words.

Hubby (a picture of cool): Let's not miss Tarawih tonight.

to youssif with love

Youssif the kid who got caught in the cruelty of war just had his first of several surgeries for face reconstruction. The heartrending story of this boy kept us glued to CNN for developments. We cried when on his way to surgery, he buried his face on his mother's chest. And, we ask, how many more little kids are facing the horrors of the inhumanity of conflict. How many more will be scarred physically and emotionally?

role models

The women of Islam need not westernise to expand their rights and roles within their societies. With this thought in mind I ventured into searching for those women in Islamic history and literature and found some of them. They were strong, some of them mystical, others exemplary. In my list, the following are on top:

Khadija was strong, with "character and conviction". She faced difficulties when she married our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) but kept to her faith.

Aishah was young yet a fine leader of Islam. She was outspoken and defended the weak, very pious and generous.

Rabia rejected all wordly pleasures. She was austere, simple and gave us glimpses of Allah in her writings.

Each of them deserve to be our role models. And they need to be studied, their lives read and their values imitated.

22 September 2007

the funny road to dissent

While in university in the Philippines, I was, as always, the marginal one. I had another tag to my identity. I was an 'elitist' person (meaning belonging to a family with feudal and oligarchic history). So, in a defensive mood, I had to prove that I was not 'elitist' nor 'oligarchic' in deeds and character. One of the tests was to dissent against the established opinions, even to the fashion of the day - must wear those tattered jeans and sneakers to fit in.

The university I went to was the beacon of liberalism, hotbed of activism, but has a history of producing the country's leaders (who, by the way, belonged to the elite).

On one Labor Day, we, the Muslim Youths, a group linked by cultural-religious dimensions, joined ranks with the labourers, human rights groups, animal lovers, the Reds, the Greens, and the Yellows (no Blues - they were the establishment). We were to march from Campus to Malacanang. With new found convictions, I trodded on unfamiliar waters and burned my bridges. I also recruited my kid brother, who was happily feudal, into the ranks. He did join in, albeit unwillingly, to protect me if something untoward happens. And so, I, the car-riding elitist was now walking tens of kilometers along with my comrades and my hesitating brother yelling slogans (seems to me now like expletives), waving banners and placards. I could see my brother's eyes lurking here and there looking out for jeering friends. We arrived at the destination and quickly were asked to lie down on the dirty streets and pavements to barricade the police planks wanting to cross over to us. At my angry prodding, my brother dismayed and red-faced, lay down too. Then, came the water rockets drowning us, testing our limits, extricating us from our positions. With water in our ears, eyes and noses, my brother and I ran for the life of us because we knew that the next probability was us being herded to the police trucks and our worst nightmare, facing the angry tirades of Omar, our dad.

That was the end of my living dangerously.

20 September 2007

innocence lost

Apparently, the buzz about the nude picture of Vanessa Hudgens has not died down. I guess as long as the Disney Channel continues to show High School Musical II intermittently, then the story is not ebbing out yet. Talk of innocence lost, Primary 6 children (perhaps, younger) are having a day talking about the picture. Remember us and the era minus the computers, all we thought of was who to play "patintero" with once we stepped out of the school premises. What a GREAT DIVIDE! Now, with info on the fast lane, our children are more informed, more sophisticated, perhaps more hardened than generations past...But, at what price? Tell me.

poetess of the faith

In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?

- Rabia

Among all the known poems of Rabia Al-Basri, this one is thought-soul provoking. It is beautiful as it is mystical, simple and powerful. Rabia lived in the 8th century and was known to have said that the veil was a "hindrance to the vision of Allah". She was a mystic, a Sufi. The Sufis at several times in history suffered from persecution. When asked where she came and where she was going, Rabia said, "From the other World... to the other World". She was said to "pray all night, sleep briefly before dawn and on the rise again just as dawn tinged the sky with gold."

19 September 2007

the golden rule

There were some reprimands from parents and teachers that we never listened to because they did not really relate to us when we were young kids. Then, there were admonitions that we were given again and again- for example - from a schoolteacher who barked "Keep Quiet" mindlessly, when what you were doing was simply ask your classmate for your ruler. We never listened, right? Moreover, what young child would pay attention to "Do unto others what you want others to do unto you" or the negative form, "Do not do unto others...." It is the GOLDEN RULE, Rosalinda would say in response to a misdemeanor done.

Then, in an unexpected twist of fate you suddenly become a teacher and it all comes crystal clear - the need to teach children ETHICS - when rowdiness becomes the rule of the day. You do need to tell about the GOLDEN RULE. And never mind that they do not listen now or they think of you as obsolete, because sooner or later your wards will remember its significance as they go on to discover LIFE.

15 September 2007

quo vadis, disney?

The latest Vanessa Hudgens fiasco has left many children (mine included) in crisis and many mothers grappling (perhaps, inventing) for answers. This one amidst all the dizzying, very public spectacles of La Heredera - Paris, Lindsay 'Knife' Lohan, Britney Spears,et al. We won't be judgmental, though. Imagine all the terrible pressures thay must be having! I suspect Vanessa's faults were borne out of naivete.

The silver lining? The unfallen ones (pray they won't slide)- there's cute and toothy 'Hannah Montana'; Emma Roberts (niece of Tinker Bell - Julia); 'Zack and Cody' - are still here. Emma Roberts has said, "If you're a role model and kids look up to you, it's just not good to do that stuff (explaining why she won't appear half-naked on magazines). Kudos!

11 September 2007

those of us who live to see this month

Very soon, we will not only be fasting for thirty days but we will be striving to be more thoughtful, charitable and faithful. The spiritual significance of Ramadhan is a blessing. Never ever think of it as a burden. This is what we have been taught since childhood. And this is what we always teach our children.

"Those of you who live to see this month should fast...". This particular injunction reminds me always about living a full life - we will never know what comes ahead of us and we must be thankful for all the blessings we have been given.

It is during this time, when we should remember those who have been displaced in wars and the difficulties they face. Fasting will be trying for them and we must always pray for them to strengthen their taqwah.

Ramadhan Al-Mubarak to all Muslims.

09 September 2007

from where i'm standing - meet me halfway

The school holidays began and I have lotsa time to write, relax, eavesdrop, gossip and surf and ..... found the lyrics to my favourite song, Bridges. Surely, I will have to answer to Meeza's queries - "What song is this? When? Who?" FYI, Flora Purim sang this song and is contained in one of Sergio Mendes' albums. SM's genre is bossa nova. This song was played frequently on the airwaves in the 80's.

Sergio Mendes, Kevyn Lettau

I have crossed a thousand bridges
In my search for something real
There were great suspension bridges
Made of spiderwebs of steel
There were tiny wooden trestles
And there were bridges made of stone
I have always been a stranger
And I've always been alone

There's a bridge to tomorrow
There's a bridge from the past
There's a bridge made of sorrow
That I pray would not last
There's a bridge made of colors
In the sky high above
And I'm certain there must be
Bridges made out of love

I can see him in a distance
On the rivers of the shore
And his hands reach out in longing
As my own have done before
And I call across to tell him
Where I believe the bridge must lie
And I'll find it, yes I'll find it
If I search until I die

When the bridge is between us
We'll have nothing to fear
We will run through the sunlight
And you'll meet me halfway
There's a bridge made of colors
In the sky high above
And I'm certain there must be
Bridges made out of love

La, la, la...

Something you should know about
As Told By Ginger Theme
Tune LyricsTitle: Macy Gray

Someone once told me the grass is much greener
On the other side
And I paid a visit well, it's possible
I missed it
It seemed different, yet exactly the same (yeah, yeah, yeah)

Til further notice (til further notice)
I'm in-between (I'm in between)
From where I'm standing (from where I'm standing)
My grass is green
Someone once told me the grass is much greener
On the other side

silver linings

Definitions of silver lining:
  • a consoling aspect of a difficult situation
  • a hopeful or comforting prospect in the midst of difficulty

Picture me as a young woman in her twenties unperturbed by a major career move in credit information. In five years I moved from editor to analyst. I ventured to work in a world of office politics, of difficult bosses and of personal ambivalence ..... was the marginal little fish in an ocean where the liberal inhabitants were unshackled from cultural sensitivities. And, I was the one burdened with labels. First of all, I was Muslim, and second, I was a Woman. I was in a sense tied up with my identity. I also had an authoritarian father whose interest was to further the family's political ambitions - daughters and sons must match his achievements. Can you believe the feudality of it all? But here was the silver lining - in my restlessness and with the first, rudimentary, beginnings of a rebellion, I went out to see more of the world, just in time to rescue myself from the great plunge - depression - did what others will not dare - give up the job that did not bring me to my real self. I went back to school in the hope of understanding the religion I was born to and devoured Islamic literature, history, political thought and learned Arabic. Thanks, Rosalinda for being so generous and understanding. In the process, self-acceptance was in order. Things came to stack up nicely and the world made sense.

And then life went on - gained some and lost some. But the silver linings were always there to the rescue.

07 September 2007

getting lost in yoga

Finally, I went to yoga class. Today I brought along my old water bottle plus pre-conceived notions of yoga - of contorted bodies and vocal cords articulating the ommms. I also had anticipations of vertigo, of awkwardness and of pain.

Our teacher was a lady with a body that speaks of perfection - belly-less, biceps and triceps toned in a feminine way and an unbelievable suppleness. The room smelt of a spa - the one that lulls you into nothingness and then lets you dream of cascading waterfalls.

Yoga is serious stuff. I promised not to laugh.

The beginning poses were quite comfortable and soothed my aching body which was for a long time cheesecake-fed.

And then came the moment when I had to stand on one foot. I heard a grunt followed by a "snapping off from the socket" sound. Was I disconnecting some tissues in my body? Then, I performed several ballerina lunges and plunges involving thighs, legs, pointed feet and raised arms. Twenty minutes on and the body was yearning to quit but the mind persisted on. I could not leave, It was too embarrassing - there were a lot of bodies more aged than mine. They were balancing themselves beautifully.

Another ten minutes and I lost myself to yoga and contemplated to say my ommms (though everyone else was quiet and butterfly-like). I had a sense of accomplishment. I felt heady and healthy and wise. At home, still wearing my euphoria, I played "Wind Beneath My Wings" on the piano perfectly.

What a day!