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Archive for March, 2012

Traditional Chinese Wedding vs Desi


Befriending a Chinese colleague closely has busted a lot of myths with which I grew, primarily them being reserved or unfriendly. Going though her wedding pictures ( which took place 27 years ago in Shanghai), I could not with hold my surprise, of the similarity between their wedding and our desi one , in terms of similarity of rituals, elaborate celebrations and expenditure.

“Our weddings are extremely elaborate and interesting.”  remarked my friend.

Exactly like us desis, Chinese believe that marriages are arranged in Heaven, and merely completed on Earth. They believe the predestined couple is tied with red string in the Heaven, long before the marriage occurs on Earth.

For them too, it is a union between two families, not just two individuals.

The traditional Chinese too have elaborate rituals of sending marriage proposals to the girls family. Once decided, it is a must for the two families to consult the fortune teller ( as a Jyotishi in Hindu wedding) about the auspicious date for the wedding.

The invitation cards are as elaborate and showy as ours.

 

Red color is overwhelmingly predominant in every Chinese wedding, as it represents luck and happiness.

The celebrations begin days before the actual ceremony.

Days before the wedding, the bride is expected to stay away from the eyes of the general public, in isolation.

The groom’s family brings gifts to the bride’s home days before the wedding,  while the bride’s family returns the gifts along with clothes and gifts to the groom, his parents and unmarried siblings.

 

 

Like us desis, the bride’s side is also expected to deliver dowry and money to the grooms home, the amount of which  states the dignity and position of the bride’s family.

On the day of the wedding day, as  she gets ready, the bride goes through a hair combing ceremony where a ‘lucky’ woman, mostly a married woman ( = our suhagan) combs her hair 4 times. Each stroke carries a special meaning. The first combing blessed the marriage to last a lifetime; the second, a harmonious marriage; the third, many children and grandchildren ; and the fourth, good health and fortune.


The bride adorns a red gown, red shoes and covers her face with a red veil.

However, the groom, unlike our groom, wears red robe, red sash. A capping ceremony like our ‘sehra bandi’ takes place where his head is covered with cypress leaves by the father.

 

Amidst the banging of gongs, drums and firecrackers, ( like an Indian baraat),  the groom leaves for the bride’s house in a procession.

 

As the groom steps in the brides house, the brides sisters & friends stop his way and bargain for entry towards the bride.

The bride leaves her home for the wedding arena under a red umbrella to ward off evil.

However the basic difference between the desi and Chinese wedding is the main ceremony.

They do not have any written contract or chanting of verses.
The couple goes on its knees and bows thrice- for the Heavens, the ancestors and their parents. They even bow to each other in a gesture of promising faithfulness to each other. There are no spoken vows.


 

Like us desis, the banquet is extremely elaborate, with 9 or 10 course meals.

However unlike us, each meals signifies something. First course is pig which signifies virginity, followed by others eg   fish & seafood for wealth and abundance,  pigeon for peaceful marriage, and whole chicken head for togetherness.

For details in the 10 courses: http://www.boneats.ca/2010/08/food-culture-chinese-wedding-banquets.html

 

The preferred presents like us desis are generally in  cash, which has to be placed  in red envelopes called Hongbao. The amount of money given varies upon the closeness of the giver to the bride-groom.

 

 

After the ceremony and the feast, the bride serves her  in laws  tea, holding with both hands, showing a gesture of her service and faithfulness to her new family.

 

What excited me most was to know that like our old tradition, the Chinese bride also leaves for her husbands home in a hand held  carriage quite like our doli.


 

Although now only a few girls like this tradition, and now this has largely been been replaced by more posh mode of transport i.e. a car which is mostly extensively decorated with fresh red roses.


 

Some of the rich who can afford prefer a red car itself.

 

The ‘bridal bed’ as it is called is arranged quite a few days in advance in an elaborate ceremony, taking care the direction of the bed. The details here too depend upon the affordability of the groom. However all have traditional red bedding and are spread with fruits on it, which signify fertility— red dates, litchis and longans.

In the next morning, the bride gets up early to prepare meals for the new family.

Three days later she visits her parents along with her husband, as a special guest.

The picture that inspired me to write this blog ( Courtesy Tahir Hashmi) was this, which reminded me of the Hindu wedding’s pheras:

 

“Many of the Chinese youngsters are now  getting more fond of  traditional wedding, after two decades of having had more modern weddings.” added my friend.

(Special thanks to my friend Jenny for the details & helping dish out pictures)

Smart Art


With smoking zones shrinking more and more in public spaces, poor puffers barely get the ground to stand on,  in this smoking alley in a Hotel. They can’t even raise their heads to blow off the smoke, all for the roving eyes ‘looking down’ upon them,  from the roof top. Wouldn’t be wrong to say,  “Roof has been taken away from smoker’s heads.”


The artist paints with his hands, what he sees through  his heart.  The artist here sees no wall,  but a passage right through it. Quite like  when Napoleon’s Army questioned how would they cross Alps, he replied, “There are no Alps.”

 

And then the epic Palestine-Israel  wall and it’s art of resistance. This speaks volumes of the hope that artists paint  on the canvas of  hopelessness. Paintbrush is their weapon, ideas their gunpowder.

  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

How I wish we all envisioned  in front of us, “There are no walls.”

P.S. Please click over the pictures to see them larger and with greater details.

When hate or peace become a business


In my last trip to India, I was strolling for window shopping, in one of my favourite spots in New Delhi, when I heard some loud speaker announcements nearby.

I saw a Yogi on a big screen, speaking with utmost tranquility. Some of the words I could recall are:
“Want is always hanging on to the I. When the I itself is dissolving, want also dissolves, disappears.”
And
“How far to heaven? Just open your eyes and look. You are in heaven.”

There were a few other things he spoke. At the first instance all I could think was, ‘Had Kabir been alive, he would have said the same thing.’


As I attempted to take a picture from my mobile phone, a boy intercepted. Wondering if photography was not allowed, I told him “Okay I won’t.”

But he said, “No Didi, there are so many people in the way, I’ll have you take it from a better angle.”

I was quite surprised at his generosity.

While returning, I collected some leaflets from the Art of Living ( Sri Sri’Ravi Shanker’s Organisation) stall, one of which said:

To love someone whom you like is insignificant.
To love someone because they love you is of no consequence.
To love someone whom you do not like means you have learned a lesson in life.
To love someone who blames you for no reason shows that you have learned the Art of Living.

Back home, talking to an old college friend who still lives in Delhi, I mentioned the incident.

She said, “Yes it’s nice, but this is business. Pay fees and attend the classes. What you saw was their marketing section.”

When I heard of his trip to Pakistan and the news about his offer to teach peace to Taleban, I was intrigued, wondering:

‘How would it be taken as an offer by the ilk of Zaid Hamid, Gen Hamid Gul, or the Taleban themselves? Would they again rant of the Hindu agenda or the greater Zionist agenda.’

Instead of the Hindu agenda rant, I saw a couple of positive FB statuses and some tweets on the issue. A tweet worth the mention is:

“Sri Sri has already had a Positive Effect on Taliban! Mullah Omar is now calling himself Mullah Mullah Omar.”
Thankfully, instead of an offence,  it was taken in lighter vain 🙂

Incidentally I happened to chat with the same friend on Facebook , and told her of his trip to Pakistan, and the Taliban offer story.

She said: “Oh come on, he is there to promote his AOL centres, one of which I know is located in the capital city. And again this is the marketing department at work.”

I again muttered to myself, ‘Well nothing wrong with it. One could consider this a social enterprise. We do have an epidemic of hatred in the world and he has provided a therapy for it, but at a price, which will work if it is cost effective.’

He did tour the AOL offices and camps in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore. But to my utter dismay, before I could start to keep track of his Pakistan trip, and his talks with Taleban, I heard that he was back in India.

Wonder is he wasn’t allowed to approach Taleban, or was it not on the agenda?
I have no clue.

Anyways he did repeat his offer after coming back “There is a lot of violence in Pakistan and people are fed up, they want to live peacefully. If I could be of any help in bringing an end to the vicious cycle of violence, I am ready to talk to the Taliban,”

And that “We are all sufferers of stress, tension, violence and hatred – and small ways of easing out are all that you need,”

There is no doubt that the techniques which he uses for de-stressing are scientifically based.

The primary exercise, which they call Sudarshan Kriya is basically a deep breathing exercise which any psychologist you visit asks you to begin with, on de-stressing. There is a proper technique for it.

I can’t help being amused by the mere visual imagination of Mullah Mullah Omar sitting in a Padma Asana (lotus pose), with hands stretched over the knees, and breathing-in through nose and breathing-out through mouth. 🙂

How I wish that my friend is still proven wrong and some miracle asana (yoga position) comes up which exhales all hatred out of the heads of these radicals.

If that so happens, then I would also secretly whisper in Sri Sri’s ears to develop some Yoga position (asana) in which our politicians extend their arms  in service of  the masses, who vote them in, instead of flexing them, with hands reaching their own pockets.

And so will I also pray to Sri Sri to apply some tilak ( teeka) on the foreheads of our uniformed (on both the sides), so that they start seeing each other as friends and not enemies, and start piling books and medicines for the masses on both sides, instead of arsenals.

I would also beg Sri Sri with folded hands to ‘please please’ make some vibhuti ( spiritual ash) for our diplomats ( on both sides) which when touches their tongues gets them addicted to the taste of peace and makes them feel nauseated just at the sight of visa, passports, police verification etc etc.

Be it a profitable business or social enterprise, there’s no offence, if it is all intended to bring real peace, beyond just a marketing tool.

After all,  all the  chaos and divisions on ground, are also a result of the seeds of intolerance sown by those who consider hatred as their business.

O’ the wandering mind ~Kabir


Kabir has hardly spared any animate and inanimate examples to ridicule the bigots who have great illusions about their self image and through their beliefs repeatedly,  make a fool of themselves.
In the same spirit, I came across yet another simple yet interest verses.

Poem 1: 

Apanpo aap hi bisaro.
Says Kabir, they  fall prey to their  own illusions and forget the essence of our existence.

Jaise sonha kaanch mandir me, bharamat bhunki paro.
Just as dog who enters the house of mirrors, goes crazy barking at the images, considering them different. This is a very curious satire on those bigots who bark at other bigots, thinking they are different, but in essence are reflections of each other.

Jyo kehari bapu nirakhi koop jal, pratima dekhi paro.
A lion looks deep into the well, and mistakes his own reflection as another lion, and jumps into it. This also satires on the ‘lions’ of different faiths, who are such egoists, that they destroy themselves, in challenging other ‘lions’ in the business. The current sectarian bigots could be appropriate here.

Aisehi madgaj phaTik sila par, dasanani aani aro.
An elephant, so proud of its strength, bangs his head against the rock, and hits it with his teeth. Here rocks could be interpreted as hard, rock like beliefs which they bang their heads against.

MarakaT muThi swad na bisare, ghar-ghar naTat phiro.
A greedy monkey for whom the food in the pot is not enough, and goes from home to home asking for more. This is perhaps reference to looking outwards, though we could easily content with what is with us.

Kah Kabir lalani ke suwana, tohi kaune pakaro.
Says Kabir, their logic is as impossible to catch as the parrot of a village girl. Here he gives a satire of those who keep repeating mindlessly like a parrot, with no logic what so ever.

And then in contrast to the satire, many verses of Kabir bring home the message through simple, day to day examples, of how should we be viewing our beliefs, and the essence of our existence.

Poem 2: 

Man tu maanat kyu na mana re.
O’ the wandering mind, why don’t you understand?

Kaun kahan ko, kaun sunan ko, dooja kaun jana re.
Who is worth to speak or to listen, when there is ONE truth.
Here he refers to perhaps the various claimants of ONE, and give it different names and forms.
( The next verse makes it clearer)

Darapan me pratibimb jo bhase, aape chahu disi soi.
He is all round in every atom, the way there is a reflection in every mirror.
( This could be compared to the idea of sheesh mahal—made of tiny mirrors all around one image is seen in each and every tiny mirror)

Dubidha mite, ek jab howe, tau lakh paawe koi.
If you get ONE truth, you will get contentment worth a million, and the confusion of mind will go away.

Jaise jal se hem banat hai, hem ghoom jal hoi.
The way ice is first made of water, then returns back to the same water.

Taise yah tat wahu tat so, phir yah aru wah soi.
In the same way, we are all come from that truth, and unto the same truth we have to return to.

Jo samajhe so khari kahat hai, na samajhe to khoTi.
Those who get this, call this a stark truth. Those ignorant who don’t get this, consider it falsehood.

Kah Kabir khara pakh tyaage, waaki mati hai moTi.
Says Kabir, one who gives up the essence of truth, his brain is thick ( stubborn).

It is remarkable how Kabir talks of evils of bigotry, unity of mankind and the true spirit of secular spirits, rising above the superfluous divisions in the dark ages.

Or perhaps, we are living in darker ages.

Indeed, it is a long road, before Kabir’s examples and teachings become irrelevant to the current times.

The Kabir bhajan below, again, gives some more examples through which he challenges the bigots. Note the translation subtitles. This is my favourite tranquillising Kabir song. 

Smoker, and want to kick off the habit? Come on.


Have you tried to quit smoking before ?

Whether or not, take comfort that most smokers try and fail many times, before they finally quit. Past failures do not suggest you cannot.

It’s a normal journey for most smokers.

TIP: Begin with the fact that it is harder than you think. You will probably get frustrated several times, on the way.

But…DON’T GIVE UP TRYING!.


First of all: You need to change the way you think about smoking.

It may help if you think on any of those lines:

“Smoking is bad for me. Period.”

“Quitting is tough, but I am tougher.”

“I want freedom from Cigarettes.”

“I am in control, not my cigarettes.”

“My second hand smoke hurts my family and friends.”

REMEMBER:  You are the only one who has to make the decision. Your loved ones may want you to quit, but the real commitment must come from you.

Still strong on your resolve…go to the next step. 🙂

Second: Decide a quit day and make a plan.

Pick a day within the next one month. It could be an important date ( a birthday, any anniversary etc or any number you like). Circle that date FIRMLY on your calendar. And make a strong, personal commitment to quit on that day.

• Tell your friends and family about the QUIT DAY

• Get rid of all ashtrays, cigarettes in home, car, workplace etc.

• Get ready with a stock of chewing gum, hard candy, cinnamon sticks, toothpicks, straws, coffee stirrers, even pencils/pens ( No am not kidding  ).

Third: Decide on the right course: .

There is no one way—you can chose your own:

Stop all at once
or
Reduce gradually the no of cigarettes each day, then stop on the QUIT DAY
or
If you want to take the help of medications, or Nicotine Replacement like gums, lozenges, patches : You need to consult a doctor in advance who will prescribe medication and tell you if it is safe for you to take the nicotine replacement.
The medication will have to begin a week before the quit day. The Nicotine Replacement, however, will be used as and when needed.

TIP: Practice often repeating to yourself: “No thank you, I don’t smoke.”

Fourth: On the quit day: Make it a DIFFERENT DAY:

• Don’t smoke AT ALL….not even a puff.

• Make a routine that is busy, and keeps you on feet, be active. Change a routine…take breakfast, lunch at different location and different menu from the routine.

• Drink loads of water and juices.

• Tell friends and family to avoid smoking around you, and that they support your day without cigarette with louder support, pat, hug etc.

TIP: Know that withdrawal symptoms and craving are due to physical and mental nicotine dependence and NOT CIGARETTE.

Fifth: If and when you get a craving :

Do something that keeps your hands busy, like holding a pencil in the hand like a cigarette, which can help distract you from the urge to smoke.

Replace the pack of cigarettes in the pocket with a talisman(e.g., a photo of a loved one or a souvenir) that reminds you of what you want to accomplish.

Breathe deeply: When you smoked, you breathed deeply as you inhaled the smoke. So, when the urge strikes now, breathe deeply and picture your lungs filling with fresh, clean air.

Delay the lighting up: If you feel that you are about to light up, hold off. Tell yourself you must wait at least 10 minutes. Often this simple trick will allow you to move beyond the strong urge to smoke.

TIP: Remind yourself of your reasons for quitting and the benefits you’ll gain as an ex-smoker.

Sixth: Staying quit

Remember the Mark Twain quote?

You too may have to quit several times.

If so, you know that staying quit is the final, longest and most important stage of the process.

Use the same methods (as above) to stay quit as you did to help you through withdrawal.

Think ahead to those times when you may be tempted to smoke, and plan on how you will use other ways to cope with these situations.

IMPORTANT: Repeat in your heart “I am a non smoker”

Sounds silly? No, it isnt. Many smokers see themselves as one– a self image which wants them to still have a cigarette.

BEWARE: More dangerous, perhaps, are the unexpected strong desires to smoke that can sometimes happen months or even years after you’ve quit. Rationalizations can show up then, too. To get through these without relapse, try these:
• Remember your reasons for quitting and think of all the benefits to your health, your finances, and your family.

• Remind yourself that there is no such thing as just one cigarette — or even one puff. As you will often suddenly have the urge `just one cigarette.

• Ride out the desire to smoke. It will go away, but do not fool yourself into thinking you can have just one.
• If you are worried about weight gain, put some energy into planning a healthy diet and finding ways to exercise and stay active.

Seventh: What if you slipped and did smoke?

Don’t feel guilty. YOU DID NOT FAIL. You can look at it to realise what went wrong and renew your commitment.

REMEMBER: Even if you do relapse, very few people are able to quit for good on the first try. In fact, it takes most people several tries before they quit for good.

IMPORTANT: Figure out what helped to you during the Quit period, and what made you relapse.

MAKE A STRONGER COMMITMENT THIS TIME.
FINALLY: If you`ve succeeded:


Don’t pretend smoking wasn’t enjoyable. IT WAS.

After you have smoked your last cigarette, throw out all your tobacco products in the trash or burn them in a bonfire.

Do not give them to another smoker, and least of all to a friend.

Discarding your tobacco like a funeral that says goodbye to an old love and starts you onto a new life.

GRIEVE the loss of your love. It’s okay.

FEEL and you HEAL !
 .

 

 

Credits: Smoking Cessation Program in Credit Valley Hospital, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

Lawn ki kahani, meri zubani ( The story of Lawn in my words)


Published in TheNews Blog : http://blogs.thenews.com.pk/blogs/2012/03/21/story-of-a-lawn-hater/

Designer lawn, designer lawn, designer lawn!

Every Sana, Nida and Hina is coming out with designer lawns.

Thankfully never a fan of lawn as a material, it does not awaken the woman in me.

However I remember my mother, who lives in Delhi, where summers are really biting, once came back from a trip to Pakistan in mid 80s, all excited, for having discovered a wonder cloth. She is a woman with sensitive skin, and sweat rash (garmee daaney, as we call it in desi jargon) was what she had to struggle with each Delhi summer.
Fed up of wearing starched Khadis (hand spun cotton) and malmals (muslin) in the sweltering heat, she said she found something which was soft, low maintenance, colorfast and did not need any starching. The picture she painted with her descriptions and expressions got me really curious to open up her suitcase and dig out the jewel, basically to choose which one was mine.

The result that came out of that digging was so befitting to the Hindi idiom “Khoda pahaar per nikla chooha aur woh bhi mara hua”
(From the digging came out a dead rat).

The first look of it was totally unappealing –bold designs on the shirt piece, with its giant replicas on the dupatta. Didn’t need to check the third of the half a dozen three piece suits she brought.

“What’s wrong with your taste? Ammi you’ll wear this?”

“They are so comfortable. And most of all they are so reasonable. One suit costs just Rs 225.”


She didn’t even bother to comment about my ‘taste’ rant.

From then on, I saw her pass all the worst days of summers in lawn suits. And when I got married in Pakistan (perhaps she must have prayed for this secretly for her own vested interests) all she wanted from me each visit was…”bring lawn ke suits, so that meri garmiyaan nikal jaayein.”

I remember from 1990 onwards, buying them for Ammi from Rs 250, Rs 450, Rs500, then Rs1000,  1200, 2500, and last I got for her was Rs 3500. Agree that with time, along with the prices, the designs evolved too. And they certainly got better.

But each time, Ammi felt uneasy with the price escalation. At the 3500 one she told me, “Enough, I don’t need a dress at this exorbitant price just to soak my sweat.”

And now with the advent of designer tag they have graduated to even five digit prices (at the higher end). And they usually begin from 4,000 going upto 12,000, I am told.

I remember some 2 years ago, hearing two cousins talking of outlets where they got the same designs as the big brands copied at much lower prices.

“The original is so expensive, so I buy the duplicate ones.”

“Even the previous year’s designs are available at cheaper price,” said the other.

Yes, but you know there is a teacher in my school who thinks she is very  smart. She instantly recognizes, ‘ye to pichle saal ka design hai’. So I can’t wear that. But woh kaminee tou isko bhi pehchaan jaati hai, ke ye duplicate hai.’

“Why do you need to copy? Or in fact wear designer lawn at all”, I asked.

She rubbished my question and moved on to some other topic.

This is certainly not to act snobbish, but I certainly find it hard to fathom the compulsion to owe one’s allegiance to these ‘disposable’ pieces of cloth which are so short term that they become obsolete the next season.

If I have so much money to spare( 5-7,000+ on a dress) , I will perhaps invest in a piece I can cherish for longer, and if you ask my secret desire, it would be on something I can pass on to my daughter. And indeed I have done exactly by getting hold of  some beautiful pieces with  Baluchi, Afghani or Sindhi hand embroideries.

Dump my hard earned money into a casual wear lawn suit which won’t last the next summer—no way.

In the background of so much disinterest for the designer fad, I was made to see this disgusting ad ( see the bottom pic) by a twitter pal.

And this perhaps was the boiling point of my emotions,  for the ‘designer lawn’ and hence I decided to blog my disdain for them.

With all the designer hype or price escalation, the brand had the audacity to show their product with coolies in the background.

What did they wish to relate to?

Was it the quality of attire in comparison? Oh ! Theirs is so simple, non designer unlike mine. Yet in my two dim visioned eyes, the poor men’s is the rawest of  cottons.

Or

Was it about the worth of one’s labour? Oh look at us, how much we get for the every drop of sweat we shed in the labor for those ‘designs’. 

Or

Was it about the matching colors?

But then, Buddhist monks and  Hindu sadhus too wear the color similar to the woman’s. With ‘Muslims’ as their major market, it was too much of a risk to take.

Oh,  yes, the coolies do not prick anyone’s sensitivity, so were  pretty risk free to have as a background.

Kudos to the imaginative  Advertising Company that thought of this ad and flexibility of the Designer Textile Company that approved of it and owned it.

To me personally this was absolutely nauseating…akin to showing middle finger to the poor fellows in the background.

So rightly had someone commented: “Thank you for hiding their faces with your brand name.”

Hats off to the Feudal mindset, yet another common man’s commodity, the lawn, has turned into an elitist product. Of course in business jargon this is called as ‘value addition’. So what if it gets unaffordable to the vast majority, at least it looks coool ( with a triple o) !

How I wish we did some value addition to Islam too, in Pakistan?

On a second thought, haven’t we?

With the  tags of suicide bombs, Ahmedi hate, Shia kafir rants, we have made it a brand which ordinary Muslims like me find hard to afford.

Learning the art of peaceful protest from Gandhi’s Dandi (Salt) March


This is a unique and simple story that changed the course of Indian Independenc movement. No destruction, no chaos, just a peaceful protest for a cause.
Though it is impossible to summarize it in a few words…

‘On March 12, 1930, Gandhi along with the protesters set out, on foot, for the coastal village of Dandi some 240 miles from their starting point in Sabarmati, to protest against salt-tax.

He issued a warning before he began: “Those who fear the government can leave, only those who are prepared for jail going and receiving bullets should follow me tomorrow morning.”

The procession was at least two miles in length.

On April 6th he picked up a lump of mud and salt (some say just a pinch, some say just a grain) and boiled it in seawater to make the commodity which no Indian could legally produce–SALT.

He implored his thousands of followers to begin to make salt wherever, along the seashore, “was most convenient and comfortable” to them.

There was also simultaneous boycotts of imported cloth and asked to wear khaddar.

The effects of the salt march were felt across India. Thousands of people made salt, or bought illegal salt.

Gandhi was later arrested.

This incident is considered to be the apex of Gandhi’s political appeal, as the march mobilized many new follwers from all of Indian society and the march came to the world’s attention.’

Today is the 82nd Anniversary of the Dandi Salt March.

The original footage of the March ( Courtesy Geetali Taare)