Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Justifying my good feelings

I sense change.
That it is coming.
Progress, enlightenment, serenity, certitude. I have doubted their arrival and the timing. But slowly the patterns are emerging.
First there were voices, lonesome and frail. Then language was born, and communication florished. Which gave rise to debate and dissent, and only through their fostering could reason rise.
And all through the process, consciously or not, there is the yearn; to seek, to grow, to rise, to fly.
Guess what? They are being fostered.
It is coming.
Candles lit from candles, and the light is spread. Me, you, them; the least we can do is bear witness to our own ascent (and with a rising tide, all boats do rise), and the most is to spread the word, participate, contribute, everyone in their own way.
Here's to this new year. New beginnings, new ideals, new horizons; with renewed spirits and rejuvenated intellect.
Seeking, we are, and find it, we will.
-More on this later-

Monday, December 27, 2004

Independence Day

I read an article in the Globe & Mail celebrating lonliness, and the treatment that is meted out to the concept in books. Thats where I found out about Independence Day by Richard Ford, a pulitzer winner.

The story focuses on the life of Frank Bascombe going through his 'Existence Period', a time in life where he is happy to answer the question, 'Do you have a life, Frank?' with a 'no thanks, I have an existence'. He justifies his purposeless wanderings in real estate, his non-committal arrangement with Sally (another existence period dweller), and ex-wife Ann, who has moved on to a better life. He salutes the good in life rather than go after the best, and finally realizes that not taking a risk is the biggest risk of all.

I saw an uncanny resemblance between my last two years and his 'existence period'. 'Going slow', 'one thing at a time', setting small goals and trying real hard not to answer the grand-er questions that life has thrown at me. The way he has distanced himself from those who love him, asking everyone to leave him to his fate, forsaking love and its entwined spirals, demanding privacy; its was all too familiar, and kept me 'thinking about thinking' (as his son puts it).
There are times in life when existence works, but stretch it too far and it expands to encapsulate all interactions between human beings. Conversations dwindle, clarity is lost, and all thats left is lonely stretches of silence; a silence that can never reciprocate the spontaneous laugh, the untimely sorrow, the dry wit or the unlikely musings that arise when two people connect.

But life is so... individual, so specific, so very unique these days that the focus on 'me' can not be shattered. It has become a race truly, no matter how holy the goals might be. Why is their so little time, so many mountains to climb, journeys to complete, heights to rise to? Isn't the existence period our way of slamming the door to society and its imposed values?
Isn't Frank the modern day hermit who is trying to make sense of himself rather than mix in with the rest?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Small pleasures

The only personal gift I got for Christmas this year is a copy of the Naom Chomsky book 'At War with Asia'. This, from someone who has neither an interest in world affairs/politics nor Asian roots. That fact makes the thought behind the gift, greatly appreciable. Thank You.
One of my favorite sites, topleftpixel (linked in blogs I read) has been awarded the best blog of 2004 by Now Magazine. BoingBoing (also linked) also made the top 10. Congrats to both!
Elsewhere, in the desi newspapers I read that Imran Khan is appearing as a guest tomorrow for an evening on Islam. The cover price is $35 which means I am certainly not gonna be in the audience. Shahzad Roy is showing up in Toronto for eid- which reminds me, since when have we started celebrating Chand Raat before the second eid? Sigh. People amuse me.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Nightmares and Christmas carols

I am sitting in an open space inside a big mansion. In front of me, there is a green house. I see an oft-remembered love of long past playing tag with my younger brother. They run through the green house towards the left and disappear.
I am happy for some odd reason. My deceased grandmother and aunt are sitting beside me, one on each side, holding my hands. I realize I am in heaven.
Behind the green house is a giant swimming pool, overlooked by an all-glass building, on top of which the sun shines in a soft afternoon glow.
My brother is on the top of the building. He moves to the side. She comes running from behind him, doesn't stop, and dives into the pool with the elegance of an olympic diver, somersaulting, twisting, bending and finally hitting the water in a small splash.
My grandmother smiles.
I wake up with a smile on my face. With a start like this, my day is bound to be good. Its still not time, and my body is aching for more sleep. I turn over and close my eyes.
This time, I am in Pakistan, travelling in a car. The road looks like the GT road, with huge power lines running on the left, tower after tower, as I stare out the window.
I see two girls and two boys, in school uniforms, the grey drabs of Kurta and white shalwars, with shoulder bags on the back standing on top of one of the powerline metallic structures.
Suddenly, they jump.
I shout for the car to stop. By the time I get there, they have burned up in the mesh of wires, with the shoulder bags still on their backs.
I cry in my sleep, and wake up contemplating suicide. Even my dreams reek of symbolism.
---
I am shit tired of hearing Christmas carols. Everywhere I go, its about christmas. Well, atleast the musicians didn't mind being christians, and forgot about the politically correct 'Happy holidays'. God is in the details.
I didn't celebrate eid, and sure as hell won't be celebrating christmas. Its all a big farce for materialism. People reduced to petty emotionalism by the media. What a happy world we live in.
But, being the hypocrite that I am, I did give one christmas gift, to my most beautiful female colleague, (who graces this place with her one-liners from time to time). And guess what the gift was? An unabridged evening with Murli Zee, raw as sushi, albeit vegetarian.
By new year's eve, she will have fallen in love with me, inspite of her boyfriend, if not, because of him.
---
Dear Rahul,
You have caught me at a bad time, but what the hell. I'll bitch to anyone who will read. Beam me up, Scotty!

Monday, December 20, 2004

Cold, cold town

I woke up at noon on sunday, and called mom long distance. She kept asking me about the weather, and I kept saying that it was still ok. Later, I turned on the tv, lo and behold, the windchill was -34c. You have to experience it to know what it feels like. It gives me the idea that Hell is depicted as hot because the people of the books were in hotter climates, near the equator. If the Quran had originally come to the people of Canada, Hell would have been a cold dark place with constant wind, freezing rain and frozen sidewalks.
My walk to the subway was a jihad, and coming back from work at midnight, I was exhausted. The mental toll of this extreme weather is much worse than the physical.
But I still recommend it as one of those impossible goals everyone should have on their to-do list. To spend a week in -30c on earth before heading for the heat of hell.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Let sleeping dogs lie

So, what the fuck is Martin upto? The man has single-handedly turned the liberal party into a joke! I hate Bush, but atleast, he respects his mandate. And where is David Miller? What happened to the deal for the cities and the waterfront?
First, Martin lacked the balls to enact legislation on the issue of gay marriages and sent the issue to the Supreme Court. The courts shrug it off, 'not our issue, talk to the parliament'. But the hornet's nest had been disturbed.
Even though it is legal in 3 provinces to marry a person of the same sex (maybe more by now), he just had to come up with a federal answer to a civic issue. What a waste of leadership! And now, big-oil Alberta's Ralphie has the oppurtunity to confuse the country by demanding a referendum. Great! Then every Canadian has a say in what two people of the same sex living together, can or can not call their union. No referendum on joining the US missile defense program, but referendum on something that is already an established practice in the country!
If gays want to call themselves married, what the fuck is wrong with that? And many a moron will argue that marriage is sacred. Oh yea, here's a word. sacred. So what else has been dubbed 'sacred'?
The british duty to rule the world, sacred.
The right to import, buy, sell and kill slaves, sacred.
State persecution against left-wing artists in the US during the cold war, sacred.
Bin Laden's mission, sacred.
Bush's illegal war, sacred.
Marriage, sacred? Buddy have you seen the statistics for divorce in today's world. wtf!
My rational argument falls along the words of Truedeau, 'The state has no business in people's bedrooms', and my emotions are summed up by Cobain in his journal, 'I am not gay, although I wish I were, just to piss-off homophobes'.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Misery

O misery. It is difficult to walk
With thorns in your feet.
The sting, the bleeding-
Why is it you are not heeding
Your longing for another path?

O misery. You are walking on glass.
Your sole is cut and torn.
Why have you shorn your raven locks,
Why do you stumble dreamless in your pain?

Misery, I remember you before the hemlock.
I remember you proud and fierce.
Before you drank the drink of self-forgetting,
You were glorious, an exquisite gyre,
Turning in the sun.

Misery, what have you done?
Why do you pluck you feathers
Bleeding by your beak?
Misery, speak to me. Say your name.
Say the shame you feel not saying it.

Misery, remember who you are.
That long and jagged scar:
Own what you've done-
This costly dance with bloody feet on jagged stone.
Own what you've done, forgive it and come home.

(The right to write - Julia Cameron)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The end of an era

In the start of 2002, I convinced some friends from across the city, and we moved into Apt 2011. It was supposed to be a refuge and a shelter for like-minded people, and it was all going good, until 3 months back, strapped for cash, we inducted another roommate. And it went well, but for-and-against allegiances started to form. And 3 days ago, the shit hit the fan.
We are still living at the same place, but the drift is evident. The evenings are melancholic, almost depressing. The confusion is mind blowing. Mistrust is taking roots, and the channels of communication always strapped for time, are closing off. We avoid talking about the incident, but it is everywhere.
I have lost my sense of space, privacy and refuge, essential components that took months to establish, gone in one evening.
2011 was the talk of the town, the bachelor's hangout, where the married came to party every once in a while (much to the dismay of their wives). The eid milan parties, watching cricket matches the whole night, the barbecues, the episodes with our neighbors - sweet memories, no doubt.
I would like to remember the good parts but the way things are going, the ending will not be one of them. And right now, I am too exhausted to boost my mood and look at the bright side. And all out of motivation to try and repair the damage that has been done.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ironies of life

I spent thursday chasing after a few job leads, that I had found out about. So, when I got a long distance ring on my home phone on friday, I assumed that it might be a follow up. Maybe lady luck had smiled, and I would get out of my financial distress.
There's good news and bad news. You see, I haven't landed a new job, but I am one of the winners in a competition. My prize is 2 camera phones (don't know the model numbers yet) and seven months of free local calling. No contracts to sign, no commitments on my part to keep the plans after they are over.
I'm guessing the phones are worth around $300 each, so thats $600 right there. Free local calling is at $45 a month, so times seven , thats $315. All in all, thats around $900 worth of products and services.
And the irony is, I don't need either one of 'em, the product or the service.
I closed down my cell phone two months ago, because I didn't use it that often. I think cell phones are a huge distraction. Plus, your always available. If the weather's bad, or you're in a basement, you have to jump around like a circus freak. It also ruins the conversation and disturbs other people if you're in a public place. Cellphones should have no rings, IMHO, just vibrate-alert.
I still have my last set from another company. I can get it unlocked and activated on the seven month free service, and sell both the phones. That recovers $600. I have no way of recovering the rest of my loot, because having a cell phone means nothing to me. Sure, I'll get it. And I'll even use it. But I'd be hard pressed to get the value of $45 out of it every month. Cash would have been a hundred times better.
Maybe I should start a one-man telemarketting outfit, calling people in Toronto, selling them stuff they don't need (and also, helping them win stuff they don't need), making comissions on each sale and laughing out loud everytime I put the phone down...
Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Another adaptation

Jhumpa Lahiri's Namesake that I reviewed earlier, is being adapted for a movie by none other than Mira Nair. She has already bought the rights, according to the BBC story.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Cornered

Thats how I feel like right now. Cornered, with no way that leads out of the hell hole.
Its embarassing in a very personal way. You make rules for yourself and you live by them. But I can't. This rule-making-and-following does not work for me.
I am moved to action by three phenomenon, the first being Necessity. You might have heard of the do-it-once-do-it-best, or the put-off-till-it-bites life-style, but have u heard of the drowning-in-debt-but-dont-give-a-shit lifestyle that seems to have descended on me lately. Trust me, its exactly like Jon Stewart; when you want it to be funny, it bites.
So how does it feel to owe so much to society? It feels like shit. Honestly, I have to bear strained relationships, friends with hesitant words and calls from the collection agent of the day. I wish I had the insensitivity to bear it all, but I don't. I wish I had the strength to look them in the face, and say no, to be blunt and brutal in my apology. I know some who really deserve it.
Faith, effort, hardwork and the lottery feature high in my conversations with myself these days. Somedays I repair, somedays I maintain, somedays I hear myself lecturing me in ways not possible for anyone else.
It is brutal to be too honest with yourself. Like that quote I gave you the last time. If I were living in a void, it wouldn't be possible but I have sufficient examples of misdemeanor from society in general, that make my own crime seem belittled, somehow.
I might be living in a castle in the air, but my unconcious has turned mathematical. Every exchange that involves money is analyzed by algorithms, I cant even begin to explore. Plus, Minus and divide take center stage, while multiply (my favorite) has no real world implications.
And here's a question that bares the beast inside. How will I manage to compile fiction in this state?

Friday, December 03, 2004

Bush Arrested in Canada

If ur the type who scans headlines to judge the mood of the day, there's good news and bad.
The bad first. Apparently google news, the automated news aggregating service, can't differentiate between satire and... well, news. Granted, some days I can't either. But my personal fuckups are no lone-light-in-the-dark guiding the seekers of truth. And even my tyre treads know that Canada cant arrest Bush, as a peice of satire claimed, which somehow made it to the google headlines.
If anything has been arrested, it is the Canadian media, with reports covering Bush's visit, the inactive activists, the free trade apologists, etc.
Now that Parrish is gone, it was supposed to be better for the liberals, who wanted to call a truce with the Republican administration to our south- they wanted to talk about beef, lumber and border crossings. But Bush, riding the arrogance of a second term, declared what he came to get from Canada; commitment for the Missile Defense Program.
And when I say declared, I actually mean decreed.
This is embarassing for Martin. Before, he might have been a Minister of Finance, but now he's Prime Minister. Prime Minister, I must add, of a country that is horrified by the war, born of one man's infatuation with seeing another man behind bars; an infatuation that might be dismissed as a leather fantasy if the horrors of war allowed.
The activists meanwhile, came out with their very own humane-than-thou, proudly Canadian reasoning that they welcomed him as a neighbor, not as a policy maker.
I wonder if the deprived of this war judge the rest of the world guilty by association, or is this snobbish mannerism enough in our defense? How many people have been guilty by association before, in other wars, before our times? Why do we let this continue? What does the dictionary say about the word pre-emptive? Is this even a word?
Sigh... I'm lost.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A friend called Denial

I just finished Azar Nafisi's book, 'Reading Lolita in Tehran', and something struck me as very odd about my own behaviour.
Whenever my own life is hit by disharmony, I shift my gaze from the personal to the political. I read newspapers more avidly. I surf the internet. I participate in other people's lives, just so I can get away from my own. Like Humbert of Lolita, I shift the gaze from the pityful and repugnant, to the surreal debates, arts and random joy. I seduce myself into believing that grand-er things exist; that I am, only a small player, standing on the shoulders of giants, that somehow I owe it to the blessings I have receieved, to provide words and decipher meanings.
I read the future in the present, with complete disregard for the past, like the people around me who insist on a 'spiritual' love that stands apart from the passionate one, not realizing that it is just another ideal they have bestowed on themselves to hide the misery of the moment.
And as my roommate Sherazi reminds me, we all live in alternate realities, interpretations that give order to the universe around us; an act of faith rather than a statistical probability.
Right now, December 3rd is an important date, one where I will have to talk myself out of a jam I am in. And I can't wait for it to pass by.
Here are some big words to remember by yours truly, in a diary I wrote 15 years back.

No one should have to bear the reality of himself, before bearing the reality of the world around him.

BSA activity in Pakistan

Here's a news item that wont make it to the headlines on pakpositive. Pirates given one month to wrap up.