Some Observations for the Holy Month

The holy month is just around the corner. Literally at the corner in fact. 3-4 days away now. And given the temperature rise that takes place in our personalities in general and the way the actual temperatures are going I think we must take stock of things before hand to ensure that we actually live up to the most basic creed of this holy month. It is an ideal time to learn patience, peace, self-control and acceptance. The patience to not just go through the day without food and water. But patience in our dealings as humans with other people as well. In our understanding of other people. In managing our tempers and moods and attitudes. Peace with knowing who you are, peace with the situation and circumstances around you and in your particular world. Peace in achieving spirituality. Peace through spiritually getting closer to our Almighty Allah. Self-control on all forms of temptations. From food to all those addictions to habits and behaviors which are negative or not exactly good. And acceptance of others. Of who they are. Of the fact that not everyone is the same.

From this point on let’s try and be on our best behavior from all aspects for Ramadan and maybe continue those behaviors going forward in life as well.

  1. Remember – We are all human

We are all but humans created by the same Almighty. However we are all not the same and yes some people make errors – in work, judgement and simple day to day tasks. Let’s remember that being human means to err. Let’s not lose our cool on those mistakes made by people no matter how irritating they may seem. Breathe in and don’t let it get to you. People aren’t robots and maybe some people can’t perform to their possible levels during Ramadan. Or well some people are genuinely more error prone but not due to any lack of effort. That’s unfortunately who they are. So maybe instead of losing your cool try and helping. You might just point out something they have been doing or approaching wrong.

  1. Fasting isn’t just about no eating and drinking

It isn’t just about not eating and drinking during the day. It’s also about practicing good behaviors and interactions with people. It’s also about your good manners as a human being overall. Not being rude to people unnecessarily. Not just trying to be aggressive in an effort to establish yourself as a dominant personality and showing your well I don’t know perhaps position of power. Not having ulterior motives. Not back biting. Not gossiping. Not getting into everyone’s business. Not spreading everyone’s business to everyone when everyone is not even concerned. No dramatics.

  1. Live and let live

First and foremost everyone isn’t a follower of Islam. There are people who follow other faiths. And it is not in their religion to be fasting. So they are eating and drinking. You should not have a problem with that. PATIENCE AND ACCEPTANCE. Ok there are people who follow Islam as well and who do not fast. AGAIN – YOU should not have a problem with that. PATIENCE and ACCEPTANCE. Maybe they have health issues which does not allow them to fast or they are currently unwell or in a situation where they cannot fast. Or maybe it was an off day. Or maybe they don’t fast. It is between them and Allah. As long as they are not coming and interfering with you fasting or actually trying to make you not fast then it shouldn’t concern you. Judgement is not for humans. It is for Allah. Yes we may advise – but not judge. And this is not just for Ramadan and fasting. Everyone has their own way of living and approaching life. Their own priorities and their own goals in life. They have their own worries and struggles and happiness moments and achievements. Their own way of celebration and their own way of dealing with stress and grief. People go through circumstances which change their personality. Some people have a change in lifestyle when they have a change in their life – new place, new job, getting married etc. Different things. People evolve and grow. Its ok. As long as whatever is happening isn’t coming and actually harming you physically or getting in the way of your being able to live happily and do your things and duties of life in peace – then it is not your problem. Don’t go out of your way to make it a problem. Live and let live. And be ok with things.

  1. Explore a healthier lifestyle

It might not sound like something that can happen in Ramadan especially given how we are a culture which is big on grand iftars and grand sehris and as a nation love our food. But tell you what – Ramadan is actually a very good month to develop certain habits and routines. You can actually develop a better nutritional balance during this month as long as you are disciplined about it. Choose healthy foods over the jalebis and samosas. One offs are all good but focus on the greens and the fruits and the good proteins made in a good way. You can with discipline get your body used to this eating habit. And this eating habit will definitely help you in the long run. Avoid all the junk as much as possible and stick to as much organic as possible. Oh and home food is king during Ramadan. At all costs avoid the All you can eat Iftar buffets. Please. They are a waste of money and time and health. Also the best time to break habits which you might want to. And addictions if any.

  1. Dates are not just for symbolism and tradition

Dates are actually packed with a lot of energy. They are a good source of various vitamins and minerals. Its a good source of energy, sugar and fiber. Essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc are found in dates. It also contains vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A and vitamin K. So don’t think it is just a tradition for Ramadan or symbolic. There is lots of good in eating dates as can be read above!

  1. Plan a work out, sport or exercise just before or a little after Iftar

I am sure some of you already do this. And some of you are raising your eyebrows saying ‘is he mad! In this heat in Roza’. Granted on the face of it that may be a valid observation. But it is tried and tested. Rest it out during the middle of the day after your school/college or work. And just before Iftar hit the track/gym or field of sport. It will do wonders. You will realize that some latent energy will come through for you and just reaching home and freshening up in time for Iftar will be a great way to make sure you have a balanced iftar also and not over do it. At least that works for me. For those who don’t fancy this can always take the night work out option after Iftar.

7. Be as charitable as you can and help the needy

I can’t stress on this enough. People are needy and poor out there. They are suffering and are facing challenges on a daily basis. Help out as much as you can. Switch on the charitable side of your personality and never turn it off. Help children who are being deprived of their childhood eat meals. Distribute as many iftar as possible. Help people not just through money and food – but in any way possible. This is one of the best ways to appease Allah and also to attain a sense of spirituality and inner peace for yourself. And also for your after life. Help people to eventually help yourself. A few hundreds everyday will not affect your wallet. I am talking to the affluent ones here or in the very least people who have some privileges in their lifestyles. Distribute help this month and beyond. Donate to a charity. Spread the word. Physically help out with tasks if necessary. Aid those who are of special needs perhaps. Or those who are medically not doing well. There are many ways you can do this and must.

The Power Within

Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit – a magic blend of skill, faith and valor – that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory.

                                                                               – Walter Lord

The power of the human spirit is immeasurable, unimaginable and always a factor with utmost surprise. It is the power of this spirit that can actually move mountains, create nations, endure, persevere and succeed. It is one of the single most greatest strengths of being human. And one which puts us at the top of the theoretical food chain.

We survive wars, rise above emotionally crippling and traumatic experiences, fight life threatening diseases and illnesses and show courage to shine through in the darkest of times and places.

Examples of this have been there throughout history, since the dawn of time. From revolutions to the plagues. From the fight for independence to the fight for getting justice for someone. From the search for survivors to the people who fight Cancer and Aids and live a lot more then what would be expected (medically expected).

Helen Keller’s example – a child deemed “uneducable” who blossomed into a world-renowned figure – demonstrates the power of education to transform individuals, whole families and, in turn, entire communities. (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/6/prweb10878783.htm)

Then there are stories of revolutionaries, people who fought for independence for their respective nations. Jinnah, Gandhi. Their struggle is rooted with the strength of their spirit. Mandela’s struggle to free his people from apartheid. Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight against racism.

You will have to make up for the smallness of your size by your courage and selfless devotion to duty, for it is not life that matters, but the courage, fortitude and determination you bring to it

                                                                             – Muhammad Ali Jinnah

The birth of Islam and all that was borne by our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the rest of his companions. In following Allah they also displayed key characteristics of patience, valor, an indomitable soul and extraordinary will power. In this world the most powerful element with all of us as humans is our mettle inside, our core.

It is there for the most gravest of matters and for things bigger then the individual as in the cases above. It is also there on individual levels. Stories of cancer survivors, handicapped individuals achieving key milestones are all laced with the special ingredient which is present in each and everyone of us. Regardless of the weapons, the machinery, the wealth and the worldly power that may accompany us, if the will is weak nothing can be achieved. If the will is strong it can make us do things and help us climb heights even without the aid of other elements.

It is also as important in the more lighter walks of life like sports, theatre and other arts.

All of us have it stored inside. And we are all given our lives because we are strong enough to live it. This world is after all a temporary stage and a test for the after life, the permanent life. That is our belief. To pass the test we must all appreciate the power that is there within ourselves. We must understand this power to help us go the distance.  To get through even the trials and tribulations of everyday lives which can be daunting at times is better done with the right channeling of that power within.

From soldiers to statesmen, from teachers to engineers to scientists to pilots, from sportsmen to journalists, from mothers to sons – every walk of life, every person, all of us have an incredible power deeply lying in us.

Of Rhetoric, Peace Talks and Sindh Festivals

I have felt myself being disconnected with the general happenings in Pakistan over the past couple of months. It is down to a couple of reasons – personal circumstances being major in occupying a large majority of the mind’s capacity. But also because of a general disdain. A feeling setting in that there is no fix in sight. That there is nothing concrete coming out from any side. There is just talk. Rhetoric. And the same old blame the previous government, terrorism bad but because of US war, condemnation of the xyz attack in xyz city. It is the same vicious cycle repeating itself.

My vote for change last May has really fizzled out to a big nothing. I don’t see any concrete change taking place. It has been majorly disappointing the manner in which Imran Khan has conducted business. My vote for him was to establish infrastructure. Focus on that. On what should be his forte. Something that he has proven himself in being capable of. But no – all we have had is a lot of noise over drones, peace talks, US bad etc etc etc.

First of all – let’s get it straight. This is our war. It may not have started out that way. But it is pretty much our war now. You can’t just say that the thousands of lives that have been lost to this barbaric notion of TTP is because it is not our war. The constant security situation of the last 10 years cannot just be swept aside as not our war. It is our war. They have challenged our sovereignty just as much as the drones have. They have attacked more innocents and military/security personal. Their logic is flawed – if they have a problem with the drones – attack the drones. Why civilians? No this is very much our war.

Second of all – peace talks. I am sorry but the idea of holding ‘peace’ talks with murderers is just beyond me. The simple fact of the matter is that they are using religion to get away with it whereas the religion under which they claim to be doing all that they are doing will hold them more than accountable for a lot of things that they shouldn’t be doing. But they are still getting away with it. Because they have so successfully worked upon the stereotype of the ‘religiously’ correct into our heads that it is unthinkable for anyone to openly and aggressively challenge them on religious grounds. I mean those who do are dealt with and the state does nothing to respond, other than the ‘condemnation’ and other rhetoric.

Khan and his PTI have been pro-Taliban that much was known to me. But I believed that he had it in him to deliver on other fronts – the administrative and infrastructural fronts. That really hasn’t happened. There have been mobile court rooms and little bits here and there. But nothing big, nothing concrete. Nothing in focus. The focus has been the drones, and the peace talks with the taliban. You have been given a chance to change the fortunes of this country starting with KP, and with all due respect you are blowing it. Well not for yourself perhaps because you are still playing the popular politics that got you KP in the first place.

Mian sb and company I would have given a 20% benefit of doubt. Third time prime minister. Changed heart and all that. Leave a legacy of having done something for the fortune of Pakistan. But nada. Disappointment there as well. Absent leadership, a nod here and there. A speech now and then comprising mostly of previous government, we will do ‘insert vague statement’ and promise nothing concrete.

And the next generation – well they are just focusing on their marketing image for now. Saeein rocking his Sindh Festival ads and speeches and looks and viral videos and what not. It’s an overhaul of the PPP image for the next elections come 2018 or maybe even before if this government doesn’t complete its term. Because the need of the hour is concerts and tournaments. That’s what sindh needs. That’s what Pakistan needs. Hey here’s a neat idea – how about not wasting money on all of that and instead putting it into the system – making a real change which is sustainable. Just a thought. Tell you what – you can still make an ad and wear that ridiculous ‘saayeein’ moonch to do the image overhaul that you so desperately want.

And finally the military. Well I cant say much on that front. Kiyani was all about keeping the boys out of politics. Keeping the boys a little restrained and compliant to the democratic cause. Raheel Sharif seemed at first to be going all guns about business and bringing the boys into action. But well there seems to be a stalemate there.

As Cyrial Almeida puts (once again might I say brilliantly) in his column today TTP V 2.0 is really the winner here – they are evolving in their thought and ability to tackle and manipulate Pakistan.

The real losers are the people, ignorant and aware alike.

So hence – I feel getting more disconnected with the current affairs because it is the same rhetoric cycle over and over again and no one is seemingly interested in changing it.

Kudos.

P.S.

Cyril Almeida’s column can be read on the following link as it has been published by Dawn:

http://www.dawn.com/news/1087283/taliban-20

The ‘Tali-Bang’

So let’s see if we can get this straight – ‘Taali do haathon say bajti hay’ hence you need two parties to be mutually working towards the goal of a ‘peaceful’ dialogue process. But what is happening here is that the government is doing the taali for that process and the militants are bringing a Bang instead. And hence we establish how to do the ‘Tali-Bang’. That was just a lame way of saying that the Taliban is not an entity that you go and have a dialogue with. There is no basis for the government or the armed forces to be holding a dialogue with the Taliban.

For 12 years we have been entrenched in a war / conflict that has been inherited as a collaborated result of the American operations in Afghanistan and the prequel creation of the Taliban back in the Soviet Conflict. For 12 years we have faced drone attacks, terrorist attacks, suicide bombings, civilian casualties, armed forces casualties and countless other acts which will on any soil qualify as an act against the writ of the State and government of the country, against the Sovereignty of the country. Yet some of the more ‘sharp’ minded individuals in our leadership apparatus are convinced that the solution is a dialogue, a dialogue with an entity which continues to target innocents and armed forces personal. And it doesn’t end with the TTP. There is your LeJ, LeT etc etc. All carrying out different aspects of the same mindless killing plan. The TTP wages its war against the security forces and cries Jihad against the infidel American forces and the infidel American supporter. The LeJ cries infidel on all minorities and burns, kills, bombs their houses. Just yesterday we bore witness to a scathing attack on a church in Peshawer killing around 80 people (women and children included) and injuring countless more.

Earlier this year the LeJ carried out a series of attacks on the Hazara community in Quetta. Attacks were carried out on the Abbasi town Shia Community in Karachi. Homes of a Christian community were burned down in Lahore. All mentioned events are from this year alone which have resulted in the loss of almost a thousand lives.

The TTP’s most recent attack on the armed forces came last week in which a General was also killed. This was a day after some modalities of the ‘Peaceful’ dialogue process were shared.

The countless incidents of the TTP, LeJ and the likes’ various attacks on the armed forces, civilian populations and minorities can be listed. The where and the how many is not meant to be the discussion point. The point is there needs to be action taken against these groups. The point is no way that these groups should be sat down with for a dialogue. Why? It doesn’t make sense to hold a ‘dialogue’ with cold blooded murders slurring the name of our religion and constantly challenging the writ of the state and its security apparatus not to mention targeting innocent lives.

This is something that I was and still am against in Imran Khan and PTI’s mandate. I don’t agree with their approach. And please let’s come out of any corners and admit and condemn what is wrong.

So what is the approach then? What is the solution? The only thing that comes to my mind is that an extensive operation has to be carried out by the armed forces – either head on or covert. But that’s the only way. Admit that there will be casualties. There will be collateral damage. But it is necessary. It has to be done. Will it work? I don’t know because honestly that’s where the will of the army comes in. They need to be heavily inclined to carry this out. But the more one thinks about it, the armed forces will probably not be inclined towards an all out operation. It will contribute towards a the Taliban’s methodology of recruitment using the whole ‘your own country is attacking you’ to lure more and more recruits. Secondly the Army for all its credibility and what not, does seem to give that sense of still having some deeply entrenched need not to severe ties completely with their previous employees. I mean after all they were used by us for the Soviet Conflict jointly with the US and then later on Kashmir. Let’s not make two ways about it. The mercenaries have been utilized by our armed forces for their gain where they saw fit. And one gets the feeling that they haven’t outlived their use in the minds of the security think tank. Especially when you take into consideration the fact that the army has and always will remain quite India Centric on one end and a little bit of America centric on the other. I am sure otherwise that as was done in Swat a similar operation is quite possible by our military. And covert hits are also possible through our intelligence. It is not beyond our capability.

As a colleague of mine pointed out that once the army option is exhausted above in terms of the do’s and don’ts and the want to do’s – there comes the civilian government and leadership. They will not make the call. They cannot make the call because they have ties and some coalitions with the clergy. With clergy driven parties. So no – they won’t. Imran Khan has never given the indication of wanting to take action against them and has rather stuck to the ‘Dialogue’ process so he gets ruled out. PML-N needs the clergy driven and religious driven parties to work with. They are not ordering the hit.

The clergy simply cannot back an operation which will engage people who are supposedly doing what they are doing in the name of Islam and Allah. That puts them in the most awkward of positions.

No matter how much one can wrack their brains there is no solution in the head which comes which makes any sense. A solution which has a murderer coming over for dinner is not any sense for me. These people have destroyed the social fabric of this country. They have pushed us more towards two different extremes rather than a moderation, a balance. But for the life of us there just doesn’t seem to be any way that can be fathomed which will give us a solution. Not any time soon and not from anyone but the armed forces who need in their heads the various entities and mercenaries for their ‘immortal’ enemies. For what is their use if there are no enemies and no borders to defend? Right?

So what do we do? What is the solution? What is the way forward? What is going to happen?

No one knows. So we continue with the Tali and they continue with the Bang.

Of Death

Life is just a stage and we the actors playing are parts till the script demands our presence. And then when we are done we exit the stage.

Death is the most real and absolute reality of life. It is the final reality. Birth being the first. And these two being the only ones shared by all humans. It is our belief (Muslims) that the time and place of someone’s death is pre determined, it is of Allah’s will and no force can change that reality. It is inevitable. It is final. It is the interval between life and eternity.

It is a fact that we are all aware of that all must go one day. Yet when someone close goes it seems as if this information had eluded us all these years. To make us more human in dealing with a loved one’s or a close friend’s departurein the plethora of emotions that follow, perhaps the most frequent, most felt one is the ‘what if’. Because that’s when we tend to start asking what if we would have been a little earlier? What if I got another day with them? What if that wasn’t the last thing I had said? What if I could have just had the chance to tell them how I felt for them? What if? But of course these questions will never have answers and we have to deal with that and move on. We have to deal with the void created.

After all is done and dusted (the shock, the emotional overflow, the reminiscing etc) we just move on. We have to. It’s part of life. Those gone cannot be replaced but can’t be brought back either. That’s the way it is. It’s the deal that was given to our unconscious, unborn souls.

‘Indeed to Allah we belong and indeed to Him we will return’