Between Dusk and Dawn…

Some *scribble* *scribble* by Ameera

Monthly Archives: July 2009

Water, water, water!

As a rule, man’s a fool
When it’s hot, he wants it cool
When it’s cool, he wants it hot
Always wanting what is not

Ever since I first read the above in a magazine advert for an airconditioner, I’ve found it applied very well to several situations I found myself in. Yesterday, again, it proved true. The monsoon was being eagerly awaited by Pakistan and Karachites especially, feeling the heat and also developing all varieties of weather-related ailments, scanned the skies for rain clouds. Being an absolute fanatic when it comes to rain, I was following a particular rain system on weather.com for the past couple of days and yes, it did bring rain starting Friday night. However, the jubilant outburst was quickly to turn into prayers for the rain to go away and the lines I’ve quoted above proved true once again.

Pakistanis, exemplified by Karachites, have a thing for outings and with such glorious weather, what else could be expected but for people to turn out in parks and on the beach to celebrate the onset of the monsoon? As for me, I woke on Saturday morning to a dark-grey, ready-to-burst overcast sky and went off to make breakfast for the family as the first showers began. Exams having ended on Thursday, cooking was a delight in itself and I made Chicken Handi and Parathas. It was the first time I made parathas and thankfully, they turned out great (except for one odd-shaped individual!). Then, expecting relatives in the evening, I went on to bake a cake in the afternoon. However, it turned out that we were to visit our Mamu (uncle) who lives in the beachfront “Seaview” apartments so we all got busy preparing to visit him.

It was raining heavily and, giggling delightfully, we managed to get into our car without getting too wet. The journey there was, although a little longer than usual as we looked for clear roads, pretty much fun and soon, we were having tea and snacks at our Mamu’s. Later, there was a spell of very heavy rain and we helped our Mamu clear out some water that was dripping through defects in the ceiling. Now, we probably should have set out for home then, before Maghrib, as Karachi’s roads have a tendency to flood quickly, despite all manner of drains being built recently, and there’s no way to swim home really! However, we set off to another Mamu’s place closeby and there, the large party all us relatives had made, plus the delicious food that was being prepared for the occassion, made us stay on. We didn’t really have much choice anyway I suppose because with a sudden gust of wind and lightning in the sky, there was a massive downpour and we delayed our jouney home. However, it was getting late so we decided to set off anyway.

When there are strong winds in Karachi, electricity cables tend to get snapped and with water flooding streets narrow and wide, the electricity supply is turned off to prevent any electrocution accidents. Also, the electricity transmission system often fails because of rain-related faults. When we set off from our Mamu’s house, it was dark and our car’s headlights showed just how flooded the lanes already were. We took the same route for home but all that rain made progress slow. My father talked of taking this lane and that and I thought to myself how we could, considering that certain roads were more prone to flooding.

Rain flooding

We turned on to a major road and found ourself in a traffic jam. I looked over on the other side of the road, the on-coming side, and… gulped. It was absolutely flooded and people were seen pushing their cars in the water-logged lane, some standing to a side and some trying to find alternate modes of travel. Our side of the road was also filling up and when the traffic jam persisted for a while, it was clear we were, literally, in deep water. We could only imagine how the scene would be further on. Suddenly, my sister said somethign about water in the car and sure enough, water was filling up in the floor of the car… we pulled our feet up!

My father put the car into first gear and, with all sorts of bubbling and grumbling sounds coming from our poor Corolla, we literally swam through the rising water looking for a side-lane that was less flooded. My hopes were going down as rain continued to lash upon us when I saw a traffic warden guiding people to a better route. Just then, our car rocked gently from side to side… it was the water all around us, lapping at our car doors in waves, even washing over the front bonnet, that rocked the car from side to side. That was scary. Alhamdolillah, the desperate move that my father made at that instant to turn into a lane was the first good news and we found ourselves on our way home.

The streets being flooded and enveloped in darkness, the only sign of life were the struggling motorists, pedestrians and motorcyclists whereas all the shops and other businesses were closed. It was all silent except for the gurgling nature of our journey as the car waded through water. Drawing cloer to home, the water on our route got deeper and all sorts of alternate plans of deserting the car and wading our way home came to mind. We had a couple of close calls when, as we waded into a particular lane, the water rose so high that the car almost gave up but Alhamdolillah, after a nerve-wrecking, trial-and-error spell, we got home. We could not believe, having travelled through all that water, that we’d manage to even draw close to our home, let alone reach it!

Home was a luxury and comfort that I suddenly felt intensely grateful for and it hurt to think of all the families still stuck out there in the city, trying to make their way home through the darkness. Our apartment was dry and warm, something I felt so guilty about just then. We even have a stand-by generator in our apartment building so, while there was darkness all around, we had electricity too, more reason for guilt that others were not as fortunate. I turned on the radio while my family busied themselves in drying up, offering their Isha prayers (and Nawafil of gratitude too!) and recounting their inner thoughts and fears during the journey. Mobiles and the radio was the only source of news just then, for the cable networks were out too and the phones were dead. One live radio show, where people were calling in with their stories, told how Karachi was suffering in the rains, which as we were to find out later, broke a 30-year record. The radio show host was also asking for information on alternate routes people could seek to travel by, where water levels were lower, so I tried calling in with whatever I could share. I did get through and, with a slight stutter from nervousness (it was going live all over Pakistan!), I was able to share our story in a few words. We also found out how people missed their airplanes and patients were unable to get to hospitals because of the crippled transport.

Life surely gets paralysed in Karachi very easily, unfortunately, for a multitude of reason that can’t be described in this post right now. Being the largest and most important city, problems here mean a lot more than they would in a smaller town. As I write this now on Sunday evening, electricity has just been restored to about sixty percent of the city (including our place) after twenty hours without power although the phone lines are still down. During the day, it drizzled occassionally and although the weather system that brought all this rain has moved on, even the slightest bit of shower suddenly did not evoke feelings of joy. I was continually reminded of this Hadith:

Narrated Sharik bin ‘Abdullah bin Abi Namir: I heard Anas bin Malik saying, “On a Friday a person entered the main Mosque through the gate facing the pulpit while Allah’s Apostle was delivering the Khutba. The man stood in front of Allah’s Apostle and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! The livestock are dying and the roads are cut off; so please pray to Allah for rain.’ ” Anas added, “Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) raised both his hands and said, ‘O Allah! Bless us with rain! O Allah! Bless us with rain! O Allah! Bless us with rain!’ ” Anas added, “By Allah, we could not see any trace of cloud in the sky and there was no building or a house between us and (the mountains of) Sila.” Anas added, “A heavy cloud like a shield appeared from behind it (i.e. Sila’ Mountain). When it came in the middle of the sky, it spread and then rained.” Anas further said, “By Allah! We could not see the sun for a week. Next Friday a person entered through the same gate and at that time Allah’s Apostle was delivering the Friday’s Khutba. The man stood in front of him and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! The livestock are dying and the roads are cut off, please pray to Allah to with-hold rain.’ ” Anas added, “Allah’s Apostle I raised both his hands and said, ‘O Allah! Round about us and not on us. O Allah! On the plateaus, on the mountains, on the hills, in the valleys and on the places where trees grow.‘ So the rain stopped and we came out walking in the sun.” Sharik asked Anas whether it was the same person who had asked for the rain (the last Friday). Anas replied that he did not know.

(Sahih Bukhari)

Thus, we must be careful in what we earnestly desire for. This has reminded me to ask for Allah’s blessings that will be good for us and not simply asking for something without measure. Too much of anything is harmful and duas for rain must, therefore, be based on the immense wisdom highlighted in the Hadith quoted above.

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5-day Crash Course in Homemaking!

This Wednesday morning, I enrolled in a 5-day crash course in a simplified form of Homemaking. You’re probably wondering who on Earth would organize such a course? And why would anyone want a “crash” course in this anyway? On second thought though, I suppose girls who have no skills in the kitchen or perhaps in other areas of the home and who are getting married very soon would probably want something to prepare them for what comes after. That’s still not a very good argument but well, let’s move on with our actual story.

So I did end up taking this course, in my own home. You see, my mother had to travel to another city for five days to attend my cousin’s wedding. It was the first time ever my mother had left us three sisters at home and travelled alone out of the city for this long. She prepared some food in advance, a few very basic instructions were passed on regarding the general keep of the apartment. Wednesday morning, before we drove to the airport, I quickly made breakfast for her the way she liked it, with a well-set dining table and everything. On the way back from the airport with Abba (my father), it felt a little strange not having her with us when we were so used to being around her all the time.

As the day went by, even as I was studying for my ongoing exams, I realized how the role Amma had played was sort of passing on to me, being the eldest daughter. Suddenly, my mind wasn’t occupied with studying alone – it was also wondering, “What should we have for dinner?” or “what time should I ask my sister to start making the chappatis?” My eyes would turn towards the wall clock and I’d wonder when Abba would like to have his tea or if he’d like his dinner before Ishaa prayer? There was also a subconscious desire to keep the house exactly as Amma liked it, spick and span without stuff lying around. What Amma had to remind us to do on usual days, we were easily doing without even realizing it ourselves. I suppose you’re cracking up, wondering if this is going to be the highlight of the so-called crash course on homemaking? Laugh no more, the real stuff starts here.

The next day, I think some weird spirit of “homemaking” took over me and I wanted to cook something proper for my family. Out came the chicken from the freezer and Yoghurt Chicken, which is always well received, was planned. With my Community Medicine textbook beside the stove, I started stir-frying the onions and made the curry. Soon, I was proudly looking down into a ready chicken curry… only, it wasn’t Yoghurt Chicken but Chicken Quorma. I had made a very silly mistake: added the yoghurt very, very early and killed it in the heat of the pot. You see, the yoghurt has to be added right before serving, as I recalled later, or you’ll have Quorma… which was what I had.

Overseeing the work of the maid, trying to answer her questions about what I’d like to get done around the house was another part of this crash course. I’d always wondered how I’d be able to interact with a maid I’d employ in my own house and now, I was getting a preview. From being the “Baji’s daughter”, I was a sort of “Baji” myself now and I’m surprised how I did not even notice I’d slipped into more of a directive mode unlike my previous role as a bystander while Amma did the directing.

My sisters put in a lot of effort too… laying the table, clearing up, washing up afterwards were chores they managed among themselves so I could study more. I also noticed how they were maintaining order in their own spheres by cleaning up after themselves or making the beds quickly in the morning. The clockwork precision with which the apartment seemed to be running was a little unnerving really… I hadn’t imagined things would run this smoothly but Alhamdolillah!

The Friday afternoon meal is really important in my family so when I got back from my exam, I had already known what I was going to cook, for which I had been making plans even while in the examination hall (during short breaks, of course!). I got home, changed and hurried in to the kitchen to prepare all the veggies for my Chinese Chicken-fried rice. A cousin, also a medical student, was going to drop by and I decided to make brownies too while trying to ensure the rice were cooked to just the right degree. It was… exhilarating in a way, to be able to plan and do all that on my own. Yes, the very thought that I was doing it because I was the one making the decisions was a very different feeling – I’d never played such a role before. The rice turned out great Alhamdolillah, tasting just like my mother’s and the brownies were okay, being baked in a rush. In the evening, I planned dinner again, which was beef-and-tomato grilled sandwiches with mango milkshake.

One aspect I haven’t mentioned yet is how things went with our father. Lately, I’d been feeling that I didn’t talk much with my father and he’d also withdrawn into his own interests, speaking less often and not like it used to be when we were younger. I had actually worried about how I’d interact with Abba while Amma was away, what I’d talk about. Here was another “wow” Alhamdolillah, right from the time we were driving back from the airport, conversation with Abba got flowing and these last couple of days have made it seem like the old times again! Abba and us sisters… we talked, laughed and enjoyed each others company, especially at meal times. I think we got the chance to interact directly with him, instead of going through Amma (as I’d subconsciously begun to do sometimes). Abba also kept checking with me about any things needed at home, what to get from the market and, as strange as that felt earlier (because he asked my mother these type of questions of course), I got used to it later on. I really needed this kind of time with Abba, I realized and so did he, with the three of us. Secretly, I’ve also felt my father’s treating me more like a responsible adult now and I’d like to think it’s because he’s found that, contrary to my usual self, I have organized and taken things like a mature person. Okay, that sounds like a Disney-ish movie scene but it’s sort of true!

Today was the most hectic day so far. I prepared breakfast and laid it out, organized the kitchen and especially the refrigerator, went out for some chores with Abba and asked Abba to buy certain vegeatables I’d noticed we were running short of. When I got back home at noon, I had already planned what would be cooked for lunch – rice to go with the left-over curry and possibly some vegetable dish on the side. I had also noticed we had a lot of milk in the refrigerator and, not wanting it to spoil, I decided to make Ras Malai, a traditional dessert I’d only made once before, a long time ago and not very well at that. However, this spirit of being temporarily in charge of the home had fired up my confidence and I got to it. Within half an hour, the dessert was almost done and Alhamdolillah, it felt and tasted EXACTLY the way my mother made it. Feeling wonderful (really, where were the endorphins coming from?) I sent off some to a neighbor, some for the maid, stored away some for my mother and have reserved the remaining for dinner tonight. Dinner… yes, I think I need to get to that after maghrib.

A very important point here, which really is the centrepoint of this whole post, is that today, with all the running around and tasks to get done, I realized how I was aching in a number of places and my feet were tired with all the running around. Most of all, my head was a little woozy with the thought machinery being exhausted by a succession of tasks… I had a long afternoon nap. I wondered how my mother did this every single day? I used to think she, being a stay-at-home mother with a maid coming to clean up, did not have it very tough. I even used to brush aside Amma’s questions of “What shall I cook for lunch? Will rice do? And what about dinner?” telling her to make whatever she felt like. I had wondered to myself, “how hard can it be? There’s a long list of possible dishes she could make for dinner… it’s all about picking one.” I eat my words today, it’s not as simple as that when you’ve got ten thousand other things to plan, such as picking my sister from tuitions, running errands outside home and at the same time, keeping in mind the available veggies and meat in stock from which to start cooking.

I really appreciate my mother’s role in the house. She’s set it in perfect working condition, we’re just “managing” her system. The cupboards are clean, organized and well stocked… the linens and bedding are in their right places… I can now really, really understand the importance and the challenges of keeping a good home in order, not for a day or a month, but all your life.

Today, I gushingly told her over the phone how everything’s fine and about my cooking being just like hers. I wondered, though, whether she would like knowing the home was working fine in her absence, as if she wasn’t needed but see, as I said, us siblings are just “managers” in her home. I think she did like it because it pleased her to know that her girls were doing a good job and passing this crash course would give an indication of what we could be like in their own future homes. That’s what is every mother’s secret (and often declared) desire for her daughters. And you know what, having learned so much from this experience and also realized that I’m not as hopeless a home-manager as I thought I’d be, I can say that I agree with her.

There’s the Maghrib adhaan… got to go off and prepare dinner afterwards. We’re having Ras Malai for dessert… and the best part is, I’d love to see what Amma thinks of it when she tastes the portion I’ve set aside for her.

Shallow Stuff

“You are the best Ummah singled out for mankind; you enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah.” 
(Quran 3:110)

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Every Sunday is the same – I pick up the newspaper’s weekend supplement and soon find myself digusted with its contents. The thick magazine that is issued every Sunday with the Dawn newspaper has several sections – columns by various writers, news about celebrities, new movies, fashion pages, song albums, gardening tips and technology updates. Very obviously, it caters to the middle class and elites of our society, the segment of the the population that actually reads the english language daily Dawn newspaper.

 Now, what is it that makes me fling aside the paper with disgust on a calm Sunday morning? Well, here’s how it goes: every weekend, I like to settle down with a cup of tea after breakfast for some enjoyable reading – after all, the magazine often has informative and even hilarious articles. However, over the past few years, there has been a growing trend for the newspaper to regularly feature columns and articles that poke fun at, and even challenge, some of aspects of our Deen. Coming from “Muslims”, it is alwaysunpleasant. There are many things a Non Muslim would say that we would brush aside as stemming from ignorance but when a Muslim says it out loud, with great aplomb, in a renowned newspaper, it is deeply saddening. I can never grow immune to that.

With the rebels wreacking havoc in the Pakistan under the guise of an “Islamic” movement, the media has shed a lot of light on the fallacies of their movement and often point out all the places these people are detracting from Islam. However, it seems as if many people have even taken this as an opportunity and a free license to air their long held, half-baked views on Islam in general, questioning and challenging even the most authentic and core principles of Islam. It is this phenomenon that has hit the newspapers too and suddenly, you have articles by every Tom, Dick and Harry talking of and even poking fun of religion and practising Muslims.

 

Nushaba Burney's Column - "

One of the hot topics in this age of capris-wearing and dupatta-shedding women is centered on women covering up. Dawn seems to be giving a lot of space to people who write on this. Every other week or so, some pointed reference or a whole article even is found devoted to this.
Why do you have to cover up? What are the benefits? How can women be ‘liberated’? That’s what it’s always about. Sometimes, there’s barely disguised venom, other times there are attempts to gloss over the whole thing with a seemingly neutral point of view, whereas it’s quite clear what the writer is trying to say. One particular writer wonders whythere is a new wave in the upper middle and elite classes to frequent Quran circles and cover up – yes, the writer’s a Muslim. She goes on to praise the young, hip Pakistani woman who dresses up in a “modest way” (read capris, sleeveless, no dupatta, etc.) without going all Hijab-ey!

 

Don’t these people stop and think for one tiny moment what they are challenging, what they are speaking against? It is the Quran and Sunnah the clearly spell out the laws, not any ordinary person and yet, many “Muslims” get away with such propoganda as the readers praise them for their “valuable points”, “eye-opening revelations” and what not. Really, if this isn’t contagious, I wonder what is?

Going beyond Hijab, there seems to be an unwritten policy to exclude from print all articles and comments that refer to religion directly with quotes from Islamic sources. Let’s not even go to Quranic verses or Ahadith, the very mention of the word Allah or and other religious reference in the article disqualifies it from being published. One of my articles was published last Ramadan, in which I had spoken about preparing for Ramadan. My article didn’t even focus on the “spritual” aspect of the preparation – it was about things like shopping early, making healthy foods and so on. When the article was printed, it was under the section of “Detox Diet”, altering the premise of the article quite a bit. Next, they had moved to edit out words like Sunnah, Taraweeh, Suhoor and completely cut out the tiny bit in the end where I had mentioned how, by preparing well, we could have more time for worship in Ramadan. To top it off, the article was illustrated with the image of a half-eaten burger that now looked like a cresent. Well ofcourse, isn’t Ramadan all about eating? I do not know what I was thinking when I attempted to point to something else!

As I said in my last post, we are a society teeming with contradictions and double standards. It’s easy to speak against religion when you are a Muslim because at the end of the day, you’re still a Muslim and no one’s going to boycott you if you play your words well. A’oodhobillah!  And we wonder why we are so downtrodden despite being “chosen” by Allah(swt) to lead the world in all that is good.

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