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Archive for the ‘RELIGION’ Category

Indo-Pak Cross Border Weddings- an Advice to the Bride


 

Many girls from all over India and Pakistan write to me about their love stories across the border and their wish to marry & live happily ever after. Just two days ago we celebrated our 29th Wedding Anniversary. So I think it makes me quite qualified to give some pearls of wisdom to the new daredevils. 🙂

Since in a vast majority of cases it is the girls who move to the other side, here is an open advice to these girls :

My first pearl of wisdom to you:
“If you think there is a genuine love between you two, go ahead and take the plunge and embrace the pain that comes as a baggage. But  before you decide, first meet him in person and ensure he is the same person who you have known on social media.”

Secondly, I want you to know there are realities beyond honeymoon:
“If you will live in India or Pakistan, you live in an alien land where you will always be under moral pressure, simply by default of being a woman, because our societies, on both sides, are swamped with misogyny, just as our cultures and faiths are deeply immersed in patriarchy. In our cultures, we marry in a family, one husband cannot be the only one you will deal with, even if you are his Laila and he is your all too supportive Majnu.”

Thirdly but most importantly be well informed of what you are stepping into: 
“Read and inquire as much as you can about the other side- both pros and cons. Know that the practical challenges that you will have with the bureaucratic red-tape are inevitable even if everything else in your personal life is going like the Bollywood style Veer-Zara. Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik star couple are a wonderful example, but they are not to take inspiration from. Ask ordinary couples in such marriages of how things are like. But none of their story will be exactly like yours, post marriage. Like any ordinary couple, it will be a constant struggle. Be open to unexpected pleasant and not so pleasant situations.”

However, once you have decided to go ahead, here are a  few tips for your safety: 

1. Try to see his country as your home too. Love and befriend its inhabitants too. Do not live like an alien. Belong there.
2. At the same time do not lose any love and respect for your country of birth. Many will say, “You are still so “Indian/Pakistani”. Tell them “So what? I belong to both the places.”
3. Try not to be cynical about his country. Learn to be objective and honest about flaws and positives of both sides. Trust me, both places are no better or worse than the other. Blind patriotism will not bring peace within your four walls or lay breakfast on your table.
4. Best bet is to make it a taboo in your household to discuss Indian Pakistani political rhetoric in a partisan manner. Don’t expect a man who so loves you today, will not taunt your nationality sometime years down the road and will still not understand why are you so ‘touchy’ about it. So better shut these doors before they even open.
5. Keep yourself financially independent. Do not submit every penny in the name of love and family. Because that will disempower you. Try to keep some money/assets aside( openly or quietly) in your own name.
6. Do not stop visiting your family back home. Visas will be difficult, but you have to be very very persistent and persevering to not give in. Try your best. Ask for help from anyone who can help.
7. When you have kids preach them to be objective and not be partisan with either parents or their families.
8. Keeping a passport of your country is very challenging in India-Pakistan relationships, but in current times, its easier than 30 years ago.
9. Create your own circle of like minded friends in your adopted homeland. Don’t just depend on your husbands friends wives as friends. At some point of time you may feel that your personality, intellect and values are not similar to  your spouse’s, and hence making your own group of like-minded friends will give you a space of your own.
10. Pursue your profession or work and hobbies in your adopted country as you would in your own country. There is no reason to give up work. It will help you build confidence and be financially independent.
11. Keep in touch with groups like Aman ki Asha  on social media and fellow Indian-Pakistanis locally, who will understand your situation far more than the local locals. These friends work as a peer-support group and as a deterrent for abuse and exploitation at home.
12. If possible, and if going gets tough, try to move as a family to a third country, or at least have an additional passport of the third country. It is not the easiest thing to do, I realize, but will give your kids a choice.

Wish you all the best,

Dr. Ilmana Fasih,
A proud Indian-Pakistani.

indopakcake

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Ashure’ : Noah’s Pudding


Ammi called me early in the morning on Friday, the day of Ashura( 10th Moharram). Ashura commemorates the day of the battle of Karbala for Muslims.
I knew why did she call that early, as it has been a regular practice since years, I have lost count of
“One request beta.”
“Yes Ammi.”

I knew it but still wanted her to say it.
“Please don’t play music today on Ashura.”

This is all she expects from me. But she does a bit more than just not listen to music. One of her routines is to cook a pot of Khichra( Haleem) and not let anyone touch it, or munch any of the ingredients till the Niyaz is done.

South Asians make Haleem on Ashura, a complete food with multiple ingredients in one: whole wheat, lentils, rice, barley, and meat with a host of rich spices in a lengthy procedure.

Along the same lines, the Turks make a sweet Haleem, called Ashure or Noah’s Pudding. The ingredients vary from 7 to 10 to 12 varying from whole wheat, beans ( red and white), chick pea, to dry fruits including figs, peaches and nuts like almonds and raisins.

There are multiple legends associated with it.

It is cooked on the day of Ashura ( 10th Moharram) by all communities in Turkey across different sects: Sunnnis (Balkan Sufis), Shias, Alevis and Kurds.

Ashure is then distributed to all in the neighborhood in small bowls, after performing prayers for health and harmony.

Alevites fast for 12 days, and break it on Ashura with this special dish Ashure. Alevis prepare it with 12 ingredients in their version of the dish. They refrain from killing animals or eating meat in these days of fasting.

There is also a different but popular legend of why it came to be known as Noah’s pudding. According to the legend, it was the day when Noah’s Ark came to the banks of Ararat and Noah’s family cooked a dish from all ingredient leftovers in the Ark.

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As I asked a Turk friend to confirm my list of ingredients, she added:
“The most important ingredient is the ‘Intention’ and the ‘Will’ to make this dish. In Turkish we say ‘Niyet Etmek.’

Asure – Noah’s Pudding
Ingredients
(can be found at any Whole Food Markets or Middle Eastern Store) –
• 1 cup of barley whole wheat
• 1 can of chick peas,soaked & boiled
• 1 can of white kidney beans
• 3/4 cup of black dried currants & raisins
• 3/4 cup of almonds/pistachios
• 6 dried Turkish Figs – cut into small quarter
• 6 dried Turkish Apricots – cut into small quarter
• 2 cups of brown sugar ( or plain white sugar)
• 1 lemon zest or orange
9– 12 cups of cold water/4 tsp rosewater(optional)
Condiments: salt/cloves/cinnamon sticks
Garnishing: Fresh pomegranate

Preparation:
One day Before: Soak 1 cup of barley whole wheat in 3 cups of water the night before. This will allow the barley to soften.
Day of:
1. Drain the soaked barley, pour into a deep cooking pot fill with 8-10 cups of cold water leaving about 2-3 inches of the top. At this time add in, sprinkle some salt, add in the cloves and cinnamon sticks.
2. Over a medium to high bring the pot to broil fior 30-40 minutes. The barley will have cracked open and have become white and soft to touch and taste.
3. In the mean time into a small sauce pan, boil the black currants and in a cup of cold water. Once the color of the water turns dark, drain the currants through a sieve.
4. Once the barley has softened, add in the washed chick peas and kidney beans and stir.
5. Add in the rest of the ingredients – the drained currants, raisins, apricots, figs, and almonds, stirring each time you add in an ingredient. Let this mixture boil for 8-10 minutes.
6. To thicken fast, in a cup of cold water mix the 4 tablespoons of corn starch, leaving no lumps. Add the corn starch into the boiling barley mixture and give it a thoroughly stir. *the corn starch will act as a thickening agent.
7. Add brown sugar to your liking, and again stir thoroughly, continue cooking over medium heat and allow the sugar to dissolve.
8. Finally add in the zest of the lemon or orange and the rose water and let cook for a 5-7 minutes.
9. Let cool for about 15 minutes, ladle into serving bowls. Top with cinnamon, nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Ashure can be served warm, at room temperature or cold.

Ashure is a vegan dessert too.

NoahPudding1Noah's Pudding2

Ashure served with a traditional touch:

NoahPudding0

God resides in your conscience


“Be just: that is nearer to piety.” (Quran: 5:8)

“Lo! The hearing and  the sight and the heart, of each of these it will be asked.” (Quran: 17:36)

No one would deny that  God resides within our conscience, in our kind deeds, and not merely in our rituals.

This Kabir poem befits that spirit:

Moko kahan DhunDhe re bande, main to tere paas me.
Where do you search me, O seeker? I am with you always.

Na main bakari, na main bherhi, na main chhuri gadaas me.
I am neither in goat nor in sheep (the sacrificial animals)) neither I am in the(sacrificial) knife or sword.

Nahi khal me, nahi ponchh me, na haddi na maans me.
I am not in the skin, in the tail, in bones or meat .

Na mein deval, na mein masajid, na kaabe kailaash me.
I am neither in the temple nor in the masque. I am not in the Kailash or Kaaba.
(They are symbols only)

Na mein kiriya karam me rahata, nahi jog sanyaas me.
 I am not in the worldy rituals nor in the act renunciation. 

Khoji hoy turat mili jaaun, ek pal ki talaash me.
If you seek me in true spirits, I am found in a moment’s search.

Main to raho shahar ke baahar, meri puri mawaas me.
I reside away from the city (Outside the usual places people associate with me) I live in the  real abode.

Kahe Kabir suno bhai saadho, sab sanso ki saans me.
Kabir says – Listen O’ the learned, I live within the breath of all your breaths.
(In your conscience).

Kindness

Kabir & Bulleh Shah- the need of our dark ages.


Depressed and dejected with the ever rising religious extremism, intolerance and hatred in the world at large, helplessness over powers oneself. The only ray of hope left are the few shining stars in this dark sky that shone on our lands several centuries ago. Their golden words still need to be heard and heeded by one and all.

Kabir from India and Bulleh Shah from what is now Pakistan are two voices that spoke of peace and love beyond beliefs and borders. They were shunned in their own times, but if they were reborn now, they would not find much has changed from those days.

Reminscing their poetry, I dare to use them on painting a silk scarf.

The scarf background is black, which represents the dark ages of extremism, intolerance and bigotry that we currently are going through.

The golden messages of the verses are scribbled in golden ink, The verses chosen  relate to the abundance of  knowlege, in this era of information revolution, but the information that still fails to convey the message of peace and tolerance that it should accompany.

The languages have been reversed,
Kabir written in Urdu and Bulleh Shah in Hindi so that both sides are able to read them.

Silk1 001

Bulleh Shah here says:

Parh parh aalim faazil hoya, kadi nafs apne nu parheya ai nayi,
Ja ja werda mandi maseetey, kadi man apne nu wareya ai nayi.

( You read bookes, became learned, but never read (compassion in )your own conscience,
You visited temples and mosques, but never visited (the love)in your own heart.)
KabirBullehShahSilk 003

Kabir says:

Pothi parh parh jag muwa pandit bhaya na koi,
Dhaayi akher prem ka parhe to pandit hoye.

{The whole world read books after books, but no one became learned,
Read two and a half words of love ( peace and compassion), to be a learned}

KabirBullehShahSilk1 001

The peace symbols in the middle of the silk scarf are crisscrossed by chaos and confusion prevalent in our times.
KabirBullehShahSilk 013

KabirBullehShahSilk 014

The edges below the verses represent the hearts interlinked through love and peace, if only we heeded the verses in spirit.

KabirBullehShahSilk 009

It was heartening to see Kabir’s message of love and peace ( coincidentally the same verses that I was scribbling), being presented in another art form, called Dastangoi. I dedicate this piece and the blog to this wonderful  Kabir presentation. 🙂

 

Kheloongi Holi ( I shall play Holi)


Published in Express Tribune Blogs here > http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/33221/you-can-play-holi-too-even-if-you-are-muslim/

 

Phagwa, more commonly known as Holi, celebrated on the full moon day of Phalgun, is a festival that heralds the arrival of spring. Played with dry and wet color, it is a symbolic expression for the changing temperatures and the blossoming fields.

Since very young, on the morning of Holi, I saw my Muslim parents being called at the gates of our house in Delhi, by a group of faces immersed in colors, who all looked almost identical. As my parents walked out, they were enthusiastically smeared with color by the crowd, and they too lost their identity with crowd.  It left no clue as to who was who, when they roared together with laughter and excitement.  As we siblings grew up, we joined in too, with our set of friends.

Holi, as I envision it,  is a perfect way to depict a spirit of universal brotherhood beyond color, creed, caste or social status.

If  taken in it’s true spirits, Holi never was and never is meant to be a religious festival to be celebrated by a select faith.

Though, like other religious festivals, it too claims a legend with a victory of the good over the evil ( The Story of Holika). However, from the context of its current celebration, it is said to have begun by the love duo Krishna and Radha.
Krishna as a young boy, being extremely dark complexioned, complained to his mother Yashoda, why was he dark, while his beloved Radha fair?

The conversation between a complaining son, and  his doting mother,  is  narrated beautifully, in a famous folk song:

Yashomati mayya sey bole Nand Lala,
Radha kyun gori, main kyun kala?
Boli muskaati Mayya, Sun merey pyaare,
Gori gori Radhika ke, nain kajrare,
Kaale nainon waali ney, aisa jadu dala,
Tuu isee liye  kaala.

(Krishna asks mother Yashoda: “Why am I dark, while Radha is so fair?”
Mother  smiles and replies: “Listen my dear, the fair Radha’s kohl eyes have swept you with their magic, and hence are you so dark.)

And one day teasingly to console Krishna she is said to have told him: “What’s in a color? Go and smear Radha’s face with any color you like.”
And Krishna out of love for Radha, smeared her with red color( gulaal).

Legend claims that  thus began  the playing of colors ( Holi khelna), between Krishna and Radha along with her friends referred to as Gopis.

Their romance with playing Holi has been immortalized in many miniature painting s:
HoliRadhaKrishna1

Another one, with in Mughal art:
HoliRadhaKrishna2

Mughal Emperors  too fancied Holi, for its association with color and romance. They brought the practice of playing Holi to their courts and palaces.

Akber is no surprise, knowing his secular conviction and a Hindu Queen, Joda Bai.

Jehangir, the romantic art connoisseur, is documented to have played Holi with his Queen Noor Jehan in his palace and called it Eid-e-Gulabi. It isnt hard to imagine the ecstatic aroma and aura that must have been created in the palace by red gulaal,  rose petals ( gulab paashi) and   rose water (aab paashi) being sprinkled during the royal play.

Auranzeb’s fancy for the colors of Holi came as a surprise to me. Writes Lane Poole in biography Auranzeb: “During his time there used to be several groups of Holi singers who besides reciting libertine lyrics also indulged in salaciousness, accompanied by various musical instruments.”

Bahadur Shah Zafar’s verses on Holi now are sung as part of the phaag ( folk songs of Holi). One of the most sung verses being:

Kyo Mo Pe Rang Ki Maari Pichkaari
Dekho Kunwar Ji Doongi Mein Gaari
(Why drench me with color spray,
now my prince, I will swear at you)

Bahut Dinan Mein Haath Lage Ho Kaise Jane Doon
Aaj Phagwa To Son Ka Tha Peeth Pakad Kar Loon.
(
After long have you come in my hands, how will I let you go?
Today is Holi, and perfect time to catch hold of you)

This is Mughal Emperor Jehangir playing Holi in his palace:
HoliJehangir

Sufi poets too eulogized the Radha Krishna romance and Holi, when expressing their love for their revered Sufi Saints or even God.

To begin with  Sufi poets, it is Shah Niaz’s ‘s Hori Ho Rahi hai, (immortalized by Abida Parveen):

Holi hoye rahi hai Ahmad Jiya ke dwaar
Hazrat Ali ka rang bano hai Hassan Hussain khilaar
Aiso holi ki dhoom machi hai chahoon or pari hai pukaar
Aiso anokho chatur khiladi rang deeyon sansaar
“Niaz” pyaara bhar bhar chidke ek hi raang sahas pichkaar.

(Holi is happening at beloved, Ahmed’s (saww) doorsteps.
Color has become of Hazrat Ali (as) and Hasan (as), Hussain (as) are playing.
It has become such a bustling scene of Holi that it has become talk of the town,
people are calling others from all over,
What unique and clever players (Hasan and Hussain) that they colored the entire world.
Niaz (the poet) sprinkles bowlfuls of color all around,
the same color that comes out of thousands of pichkaaris ( spray guns).)
{Thanks to Ali Rehman @Baahirezaman for the translation}.

Bulleh Shah also played Holi with his Master:

Hori khailoongi keh kar Bismillah
Naam nabi ki rattan charhi, bond pari Illalah
Rang rangeli ohi khilawe, jo sakhi howe fana fi Allah

(I shall play Holi, beginning with the name of Allah.
The name of Prophet is enveloped with light,
He only makes us play with colors, who annihilates with Allah)

Amir Khusro  relates to  Holi through multiple fascinating ways, in various places. Khusrau refers  not just to the color, or the play but of  the birth place of Krishna Mathura in the famous Aaj Rung hai rey:

Gokal dekha, Mathra dekha,
par tosa na koi rang dekha
Ey main dhoond phiri hoon
Des bides mein dhoond phiri hoon,

Purab dekha pacham dekha
uttar dekha dakkan dekha
Re main dhoond phiri hoon
Des bides mein dhoond phiri hoon,

Tora rang man bhaayo Moinuddin
Mohe apne hi rang mein rang le Khwaja ji
Mohe rang basanti rang de Khwaja Ji
Mohe apne hi rang mein rang de

{In summary: I saw Gokul, Mathura ( bith place of Krishna) and even East to West I roamed, but I did not find anyone with a color like yours. My heart is enamored by your color, hence color me in your shade, my master.}

Another lesser know verse I came across is:

Khelooongi Holi, Khaaja ghar aaye,
Dhan dhan bhaag hamarey sajni,
Khaaja aaye aangan merey..
( I shall play Holi as Khaaja has come to my home,
Blessed is my fortune, O’ friend,
as Khaaja has come to my courtyard.)

Needless to repeat, there are ample such examples.  No matter how much one may attempt, it is impossible to separate the two inter-meshed   cultures coexistent for centuries in the subcontinent. These celebrations of culture are all about love and inclusion, and absolutely nothing about hate and discrimination.

Let’s celebrate then, with an open heart !

Holi pic

Here is the link to Amir Khusrau’s Kheloongi Holi, Khaaja ghar aaye:

Whatever IS will be WAS.


The above heading is a Buddhist saying by Monk Ñanamoli. The  in depth meaning of its essence could not be more powerfully conveyed than by an ancient  Buddhist ritual called dul-tson-kyil-khor ( Mandala of colored powders).

Sometime ago in search for an idea for silk painting I accidentally bumped into a beautiful  handmade creation, which in first hand looked like an intricate colorful geometrical design, called Sand Mandala.

As the name implies, it is a creation made from colored sand. Mandala means a palace. There is much more to it than the eyes can see.

From the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this is not just a creation of a beautiful sand castle, but a spiritual journey, for which requires a great practice and meditation before embarking on it. Even during the creation , which usually requires 4 monks (bhikkus) who keep chanting hymns and focus all their minds and actions into its creation.

The sand mandala for them is a three dimensional Palace of Imagination in which they enter, and each dot, line, shape and color that they create in it stands for a specific aspect of Buddhist Philosophy. There are many types of Mandalas, and each stand for a unique symbol.

The creation has to be accurate, and the work  between the 4 creators, working on each quadrant,  has to be well coordinated.

Billions of grains of colored sand powder are carefully and accurately placed in its specific location, using two copper conical pipes called chapku, which are gently tapped over the other, to release controlled amount of sand.

The colors for the painting are usually made with naturally colored sand, crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal, and a mixture of charcoal and gypsum (blue). Mixing red and black can make brown, red and white make pink. Other coloring agents include corn meal, flower pollen, or powdered roots and bark. In the ancient times they used colored dust from the lapiz lazulli, emerald, ruby, and corals and other precious stones to get colored dust powder.

It takes from few days to few weeks to create a mandala.

However, the most mind boggling part arrives when the whole intricately built sand mandala is undone ( yes, you read it correct) from outside-in in a rotas wheel movement, never to exist again, by the very monks who created it. This metaphorically implies the impermanence of things.

The dust collected is immersed in a flowing water ( river nearby) symbolizing the transference of the energy of goodwill ( imparted to it during its creation)  and compassion, to the rest of the world. {The whole idea gave me shivers and goose bumps}

Hence, when even  at first look it appears to be an end of a creation, but in the real sense, nothing is ever destroyed forever, just that it is returned to the nature, to rejoin elements.

And this does happen to all animate and inanimate objects on earth, be they complicated  humans,  simple plants, soft clouds or  even lofty mountains.

When Buddha passed away, one of his disciples remarked:

Aniccaa vata sa”nkhaaraa — uppaada vaya dhammino
Uppajjitvaa nirujjhanti — tesa.m vuupasamo sukho.

Impermanent are all component things,
They arise and cease, that is their nature:
They come into being and pass away,
Release from them is bliss supreme.

It compels me to be reminded of Kabir’s doha:

Mati kahe kumar se tu kya rondey mohe,
Ik din aisa ayega main rondoonga tohe.
(The clay says to the Potter: What will you maul me, a day shall come, when I shall maul you).

Or yet in another doha he reminds:

Kaya nahin teri nahin teri,
Mat ker meri meri.
(This existence isn’t yours, don’t call it “It’s mine, it’s mine.”)

And of Bulleh Shah’s kaafi:

Na Kar Bandeya  
Meri Meri
Na Teri Na Meri
Char Dinan Da Mela
Duniya Fair Mitti Di Dheri.
(O people, why  be obsessed with me, mine. Its neither yours nor mine. Its for a while, then we all shall be but a pile of dust).

Indeed, “from dust we were born, and to dust we shall return.”.

Malala


Andhon ko unka chehra dikha diya hai Malala ney,
Jehad dar-asl kya hai, sikha diya hai Malala ney.

Jahalat sey hai jang, jata diya hai Malala ney,
Taleem  hai farz-e-momin, bata diya hai Malala ney

Soye huwe seenon ko jaga diya hai Malala ney,
 Khoye huwe iman se, mila diya hai Malala ney.

Payam-e-Amn duniya ko, suna diya hai Malala ney,
Her shakhs  ko Malala, bana diya hai Malala ney.

 

The blind have been shown their real face by Malala,
What is true struggle, has been taught to us by Malala.

The real fight is against ignorance, has been asserted by Malala.
Education is an obligatory duty of believers, is reminded, by Malala.

Apathetic hearts have been shaken awake  by Malala.
The lost message of faith  has been rediscovered by Malala.

The message of Peace to the world  has been conveyed by Malala,
Each one of us feels Malala, has been made possible by Malala.

 

 

Humbled these verses have been included in the anthology: Malala: The poems on Malala Yusufzai, released on the first anniversary of her tragic targetting on October 9, 2013.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18405178-malala