Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…


 

کافر عشقم، مسلمانی مرا در کار نیست
ہر رگ من تار گشتہ، حاجت زُنار نیست
از سر بالین من برخیز ای نادان طبیب
دردمند عشق را دارو بہ جز دیدار نیست
ناخدا بر کشتی ما گر نباشد، گو مباش
ما خدا داریم ما را ناخدا در کار نیست
خلق می‌گوید کہ خسرو بت‌پرستی می‌کند
آری! آری! می‌کنم! با خلق ما را کار نیست

Kafir-e-ishqam musalmani mara darkaar neest
Har rag-e mun taar gashta hajat-e zunnaar neest;
Az sar-e baaleen-e mun bar khez ay naadaan tabeeb
Dard mand-e ishq ra daroo bajuz deedaar neest;
Nakhuda dar kashti-e maagar nabashad go mubaash
Makhuda daareem mara nakhuda darkaar neest;
Khalq mi goyad ki Khusrau but parasti mi kunad
Aarey aarey mi kunam ba khalq mara kaar neest.

Translation:

I am an infidel of love: the creed of Muslims I do not need;
Every vein of mine has become taunt like a wire,
the (Christian/Magian) girdle I do not need.
Leave my bedside, you ignorant physician!
The only cure for the patient of love is the sight of his beloved –
other than this, no medicine does he need.
If there be no pilot in our boat, let there be none:
We have God in our midst: the sea we do not need.
The people of the world say that Khusrau worships idols.
So he does, so he does; the world he does not need.

The singer: Janki Bai(1880-1934) was a celebrity singer of her times in Allahabad. She has 150 song records to her credit in the early years of gramophone. More about her here > http://scroll.in/article/729320/why-singer-jankibai-of-allahabad-was-always-associated-with-the-number-56

Another of her recording here:

 

 

 

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The word Nowruz meaning New Day, is the most anticipated and favorite celebration for Persians. It occurs exactly on the Spring Equinox. This occasion has been renowned in one form or another by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. Sumerians, 3000 BC, Babylonians, the ancient kingdom of Elam in Southern Persia and Akaddians in the second millennium BC, all celebrated this festival. What we celebrate today as Norooz (Also spelled Now Ruz, Norooz or Norouz) has been around for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrians of the Sassanian period.

It’s no secret that Persians love any excuse to celebrate. But of all the many reasons to celebrate, Norouz, The Persian New Year, is by far the most important and dear in the hearts of Iranians around the globe. Literally translating to “A New Day,” Norouz marks the first day of Spring (March 21st) and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar.

Originally a Zoroastrian holiday, Norouz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years. The most significant aspect of Norouz is the fact that it is a non-religious and non-ethnic celebration. Norouz brings together several hundred million diverse peoples spanning from Iran to northwest China, India and Central Asian republics,Turkey and Eastern Europe, Iraq and westward to Egypt; all celebrating this joyous holiday which represents new Beginnings, and the start of Spring.

Sofreh Haft Seen

In harmony with the rebirth of nature, the Persian new year celebration starts on the first day of Spring, illustrated by a beautiful spread Haft Seen:

haft seen1

 

A symbolic illustration of Norouz is the “Haft Seen” (Persian translation of “Seven S”), a ceremonial table spread, including at least seven items whose names start with the letter “S” in the Persian alphabet; hence the name “Haft Seen” or “Seven S”. The spread itself is usually a beautifully crafted and decorated fabric such as “Termeh.”

At the specific time of Vernal Equinox (when the sun is observed to be directly over the equator) which varies every year, the family gathers around Haft Seen holding hands. At the moment of transition into the New Year or “Sal Tahvil,” family members embrace each other and eat a sweet…for a sweet year! This is followed by exchanges of “Aydi” (cash gifts exchanged) and having the traditional new year dish “Sabzi-polo and Mahi” (herbed rice and white fish).

The Most Common Haft Seen Items: 

Sib (Apple): Red apples representing health and natural beauty.

Sabzeh (Sprouts): Wheat, barley or lentils sprouts growing in a dish,
symbolizing the fertility of the land in the Spring and the rebirth of nature.

Samanu: Common wheat sprouts are transformed and given new life as
this sweet and creamy pudding, representing the reward of patience.

Sir (Garlic): Displayed in beautifully decorated dishes, garlic represents
good health, and is believed to chase away evil spirits.

Sumac: A popular Persian spice used as a symbol to wish for some zest
in life in the new year.

Senjed (Oleaster): The Senjed or wild olives represent love and compassion.

Sombol (Hyacinth): Hyacinth is placed in the Haft Seen to signify the beauty
and fragrance of Spring, and the rebirth of nature.

Sekkeh (coin): Coins representing wealth and hopes for prosperity.

Serkeh (vinegar): The vinegar also placed in a beautiful bowl or decorative
container is a symbol for maturity, and the wisdom and patience that comes
with age.SONY DSC

Other items not starting with letter “S”, but included because of their symbolic
meaning and cultural significance include:

Mirror: The mirror is usually set at the top center of the Haft Seen,
representing self-reflection.

Candles: Lit candles are more commonly set on each side of the mirror
and represent enlightenment and happiness.

Gold Fish: One of the most fun traditions of Norouz is buying the gold
fish for Haft Seen. The gold fish are used to represent joy and movement.

Holy or Poetry Book: Religious families will often place their holy book
in the center of the Haft Seen. Others opt for famous poetry books such
as Divan of Hafiz or Shahnameh.

Eggs: Usually, one for each member of the family, artfully decorated eggs
are used to represent the human race, as well as, fertility.

Sweets: Traditional Persian sweets are another popular item for the Haft Seen.
The pastries are a symbol for a sweet life and are meant to be eaten
during the celebration.

Seville orange: Floating in a bowl of water, it represents the earth
floating in space.

(Credits: The above text and pictures are crossposted  from here: http://www.partybravo.com/Norooz-Persian-New-Year-Haft-Seen).

Other traditions of Nowruz:

Hajji Firouz:

Haji Firouz (Persian: حاجی فیروز / هاجی فیروز – Hāji Firuz‎‎) or Khwaja Piruz (Persian: خواجه پیروز – Xwāje Piruz‎‎),[1] also spelled Hajji Firouz, is a fictional character in Iranian folklore who appears in the streets by the beginning of Nowruz. His face is covered in soot, and he is clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine, and is the companion of Amu Nowruz(“Uncle Nowruz”).
(Source & further details: here >> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajji_Firuz).

Lyrics:
Beškan Beškan
Beškan beškan e, beškan! (It’s a snap-snap, snap!)
Man nemi-škanam, beškan! (I won’t snap, snap!)
Injā beškanam, yār gele dāre (If I snap here, this one will complain)
Unjā beškanam, yār gele dāre (If I snap there, that one will complain)
In siāh e bičāre če qad howsele dāre! (How patient this poor man is!)

Bonfire:

People traditionally jump over bonfires, shouting “Zardie man az to, sorkhie to as man,” which means “May my pallor be yours and your red glow be mine.”
The flames symbolically take away the unpleasant things from the last year.

Nowruz fire.jpg

Following is my favorite song  Nasim-e-Farvardin( The breeze of Spring) by Marzieh , an ode to arrival of  Spring:


As my fascination and exploration of war art continues, and I discover one powerful artwork after the other, this piece is one of the earliest and is considered as one of the most impactful of art pieces of its time.

1871_Vereshchagin_Apotheose_des_Krieges_anagoria

The Apotheosis of War (above) was painted by Vasily Vereshchagin in 1871 as an aftermath of a war. The painting in oil on canvas depicts death, destruction and devastation symbolized by skulls, vultures, barren trees and deserted town in the background. The painter  inscribed on the frame:  ‘Dedicated to all great conquerors, past, present and those yet to come.’

A closer look:

Vereshchagin_apotheosis_big

Vasily Vershchegin was one of the  most celebrated war painter of his times in Europe and Russia. In an exhibition in Berlin in 1881, a German Filed Marshal visited his exhibition. As Vasily brought him to this painting, the Field Marshal did not like how war was depicted in the painting. He issued orders to his soldiers to not see the exhibition. Austrians and his fellow countrymen Russians were also deeply offended. He was banned to exhibit and even to publish pictures of his art in books.  In anger and frustration he burnt down three of his paintings.

Vasily wrote on war: “Does war have two sides – one that is pleasant and attractive and the other that is ugly and repulsive? No, there is only one war, that  attempts to force the enemy to kill, injure, or take as many people prisoner as possible, while the stronger adversary beats the weaker until the weaker pleads for mercy.”  

Horrors of war obsessed him.  “I loved the sun all my life, and wanted to paint sunshine. When I happened to see warfare and say what I thought about it, I rejoiced that I would be able to devote myself to the sun once again. But the fury of war continued to pursue me,”

He travelled far and wide, and painted avidly on nature, beauty, humanity, miseries and oppression. In 1884 he travelled to India and painted ‘The Mausoleum of Taj Mahal’.
The painting not only reflects Taj’s beauty but also succeeds to capture the tranquility the monument exudes when seen in real life.

VasilyVereshchagin Taj Mahal 1876

What a therapeutic closing of this blog !


This picture was e-mailed to me by a dear friend.

Notice the facial expressions and body language of each of these 4 individuals seen in the picture. Try to guess what could be the story, before you read the context.

HumaNITY

The email said: “Abdul Raheem, an Afghan soldier who lost both his hands in war, received a pair of hands from Joseph of Kerala who had suffered brain death. Joseph’s wife and daughter are looking at the hands that once caressed them. The transplant surgery was performed by Dr Subramanian Iyer (blue shirt) of the Amrita Hospital, Kerala.
A Hindu doctor – a Christian organ-donor – a Muslim recipient. This is ‪#‎humanity‬.”

“We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion.”
Mother Teresa


Dear humanity,

A cold, wet, February night in Canada for ‪#‎LongestNightPeel‬  made me appreciate what ‪#‎homelessness‬ means and what the homeless go through, physically and emotionally, every day, every night.
Sleeping in the car, there was loneliness, it was cold, it was wet, there was limited space, there were lights flashing from outside and passers by were peeping in. And it might as well have been dangerous too if we did not have 5 cars parked next to each other.

We  are blessed we all had warm homes awaiting us, loved ones praying for us, friends sending text messages for strength and family eager for us to come back safe in the morning.

Lone homeless humans who sleep in cars or huddle in sleeping bags in public spaces, on pavements don’t have that luxury of accompanied cars for company or for safety. And they are pushed from parking lot to parking lot by security guards as it is against the bylaws  to after hours  or to sleep in public places.
They don’t even have loved ones praying for them or concerned for them, and there are no warm human arms or hearts or beds to return to.

As I lay there, the clocks slowed down, giving an endless opportunity  to ponder on the mysteries of creation, on how equal opportunities remains just  a good idea and the burning question on why Father Fortune favors some and not  some others?  It brought home the power of phrases, “to be in others shoes” and “how blessed we are”. 

It was an experience of a life time. Now, every day as I will sleep in the warmth of my bed, it will have a different meaning. Gandhi’s words,“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”  will haunt even more.

Thanks to United Way of Peel Region family that gave me this opportunity to experience what is hard to imagine otherwise.

With more power to the kind hearts who strive beyond petty divides of borders, beliefs, skin color, ethnicity etc for a just, safe and inclusive world, I salute you all.

 

Context:

Some hard stats on poverty and homelessness in Peel:

homelessness-in-peel

There is acute shortage of shelters for the homeless in Peel Region, Ontario, Canada. 450 youth are refused a bed each year. In order to raise awareness against homelessness, to ask for more government support to shelters, to push for policies  that alleviate poverty,  develop affordable housing and to raise funds to support programs for the homeless, United Way of Peel Region organized  #LongestNightPeel Initiative. Sixty community members slept in their cars on February 19, 2016 and have so far raised over $51,000, while the funds are still being collected.
Peel Community is compassionate and generous, they heard our appeal.
With yet another step towards a diverse yet inclusive Peel…

I end with a quote from Gandhi:
Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, try the following experiment: Recall the face of the poorest and most helpless person you have ever seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be for any use to him or to her … Then you will find your doubts and your self melting away.”

LongestNight


 

When I am overcome with weakness,

I bandage my heart with a woman’s patience in adversity.
I bandage it with the upright posture of a Syrian woman who is not bent by bereavement, poverty, or displacement as she rises from the banquets of death and carries on shepherding life’s rituals.
She prepares for a creeping, ravenous winter and gathers the heavy firewood branches, stick by stick from the frigid wilderness.
She does not cut a tree, does not steal, does not surrender her soul to weariness, does not ask anyone’s charity, does not fold with the load, and does not yield midway.

I bandage my heart with the determination of that boy they hit with an electric stick on his only kidney until he urinated blood. Yet he returned and walked in the next demonstration.

I bandage it with the steadiness of a child’s steps in the snow of a refugee camp, a child wearing a small black shoe on one foot and a large blue sandal on the other, wandering off and singing to butterflies flying in the sunny skies, butterflies and skies seen only by his eyes.

I bandage it with December’s frozen tree roots, trees that have sworn to blossom in March or April.

I bandage it with the voice of reason that was not affected by a proximate desolation.

I bandage it with veins whose warm blood has not yet been spilled on the surface of our sacred soil.

I bandage it with what was entrusted by our martyrs, with the conscience of the living, and with the image of a beautiful homeland envisioned by the eyes of the poor.

I bandage it with the outcry: “Death and not humiliation.”


A 75 year old Syrian Christian lady from Hama, works with my friend’s home as a cook. Apart from the fact that she makes amazing Syrian food, my  friend has employed her to support her financially. Not sure how she came here(as I have not interrogated her), but I know my friend worked hard to get her husband from Syria. The old man was served two deportation orders failing to obtain asylum until about six months ago, the Canadians accepted his application after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The gentleman is going through treatment now here in Canada.

My friend is also working to get her widowed daughter, with two sons 21 and 22 years old who are stuck in Syria. Her daughter’s husband had died in Syria 3 years ago from some medical ailment, failing to get treatment. My friend is working through a nearby mosque she attends to raise funds to call the family as privately sponsored refugees.

Each time I meet her and inquire about her daughter and sons, she has only sad stories to share, of their struggle back home. According to her is no employment, no school and no medical care available where they live currently.

The dedication with which she cooks in my friends house is touching, knowing how hard it is for her own close kin back home.

In my endeavor to look for how Syrians at home and abroad are coping with the conflict, I have been referred to some very creative Syrians who are expressing their pain and agony through various artforms. This only bears witness to the amazing intellect in the Syrian nation, caught in a filthy regional hegemony war.

Nizar Ali Badr a stone sculptor from ‪#‎Latakia‬, ‪#‎Syria‬ now residing in Turkey makes stones sculptures telling ‪#‎Syrian‬ story of torture, war and refugees.
Simple assembly of stones speak of the complex emotions, which words would fail to convey at times.

In his words: “I love dust and stones from.Syria. My message is a humanitarian message.”

Nazir4Nazir5Nazir6Nazir7Nazir8Nazir9Nazir10

Nazir11Nazir1Nazir2

Some of his works that portray peace and love are also extremely pleasing.

Nazir13Nazir14 Nazir3

Nazir15NAZIR17nAZIR16

They say miracles do happen and stones do speak. May these powerful stony expressions somehow turn into prayers for peace in Syria.
Amen.