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Archive for January, 2008

 

 

I’ve been meaning to write about Ayn Rand for quite sometime now…well, since the moment I finished ‘Atlas Shrugged’ with great relief, i.e.  I’ve high respect for the author for having crystallized her thoughts with such crispness of dialogue and narrative; she also makes certain points that may well challenge the thinking of many but unfortunately, she’s an unforgivable drone. She repeats the same ‘crisp’ dialogues over and over again. I feel horrible about criticizing someone for something that’s obviously their lifetime’s achievement but I’m sorry Mrs Ayn Rand, I would have told you something similar but well cushioned if I’d have ever had the chance to meet you after having read your book and being the person I am now.

 

Rand’s philosophy is not a winner, ladies and gentlemen, if you care to know. Her philosophy is the well-woven package of universal truths that have been recognized and embraced for all of time by conscientious souls, discerning minds but there is the brutal approach that she adopts that makes you feel like you’ve just been force-fed, all with good intentions.

 

She preaches the philosophy of ‘Objectivism’, of ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’. Even if I don’t agree with her completely, there are times when I feel that she has spoken my mind. The characters in her book are strong and imposing (makes quite an aspirant out of one) but really, what she hasn’t considered is the alienation of those people who might have been drawn towards the truth, if it weren’t for the brutally dogmatic stand, of people who might’ve been saved only with a little more kindness, understanding and patience. A quick-fix in the manner of a coup, to rout all evil by isolating the worthy ones in hopes of awakening this ‘other’ faction’s sense of wrong-doing is heartless. The glory (even if real or imagined) of such a revolution would be short-lived.

 

Her use of language is quite another thing. Use of words that have always been associated with negative imagery only builds the degree of wariness, the warmth is missing to befriend the…the… cupboard revolutionaries (still hiding, still discovering, still unsure of themselves), the ‘diamonds-in-the-rough’. Words are the stuff of a working wand that may be flourished in a swish of a delightful surprise, not shock especially in matters as delicate as coaxing someone to think better, live better. As a psychologist, I hold the power of words in immense awe. You make or break. Period.

 

I have reasons to find many other contentions with her work, especially, her easy dismissal of the role of faith, of spirituality in ones’ lives. It’s presumptuous and it’s dangerous. The importance of faith is unquestionable. A ‘moral code’ based on this should be a wonderful possibility, a revered lodestone. And on the ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’, the sheer misapplication that I see of this strain of philosophy is appalling and this provision that there’s room for colossal misunderstanding, itself, writes the story of inevitable fallibility of this circuitous logic. If selfishness were a creature, it would be a shape changer, easily switching from the guise of virtue to vice and vice versa, at will, never letting on one about its true identity.

 

In tentative summary, I feel that a little more heart, a little less judgement, a lot less sentencing, a great deal of patience, understanding and oodles of that famed courage can go a long way in making this world a better place. You just ride the storm baby- minus a twenty page speech about its ups and downs! 😀

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AptAptApt

I remember from the days I interned at the therapeutic community for schizophrenia and other schizotypal patients, one particular patient. He carried himself with an apparent aura of enigma, detached and rarely conversant. Over the days, we became something of passing acquaintances- I would leave him alone and pretend he wasn’t around when I sensed he needed to be alone but other times he’d walk over and greet me with marked nonchalance but that’s when he was in dire need of an audience.

On one such occasion, when we used to have almost normal ‘discussions’(one sided, more likely), he looked up suddenly with his piercing eyes and said something that never fails to unsettle me. I almost believed he could see right through me at that particular time. It took all my effort not to squirm as if I’d been found guilty and the act would save face.

He had said, “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Learn to loosen up and try living it like that”.

We’d never had discussions where I’d revealed anything about myself; in all our meetings, I’d mostly be the silent but attentive audience to what he had to say. This, was something of a shock. I’d felt the same way many times but I’d always brushed it away as an excuse that the mind resourcefully invents.

In Islam, all types of mental illnesses do not have to have the same explanation- Physical or emotional, there is also the ‘supernatural’ to contend with. There exists a parallel world of ‘spirits’ (to put it in highly simplistic terms), the world of djinns, beings created from smokeless fire who lead a life much akin to the human way, except of course, they have different powers that we don’t have. Every human being, at the time of his birth is assigned a guardian angel and a djinn (specifically called the Khaareen). Their respective activities are all but obvious- yes, one’s the guide, another, the whisperer of temptations.

These two have been witness to your lives for all of time, so to speak. But, certain human beings play with the forbidden, they learn to converse with their tempters- angels being angels know their boundaries and never cross that invisible line. This situation is highly potent, fraught with its own dangers. Smooth talkers can never be trusted as we’re wont to know, the tempters being no exceptions. They’ll eventually manipulate the human but in turn give him a taste of something else, the ability to converse with others’ appointed djinns and thus the means to gain obscene amount of insight into the other person’s life. This, I’ve read, is how the local medium, shaman, witch, warlock works. But every thing has it limits, the djinn only knows half-truths, never in the full-knowledge of the future, hence the warning to stay away from sure-fire traps of promised havens, or abodes through such encounters.

My point here, having explained in fair details about the djinn, is to mention their role in mental illnesses. Possessions apart, conversations with the beings itself might be enough to unhinge. When piercing-eyes pronounced the statement in no uncertain tones, I felt …how should I put it, …compromised?

Strong Iman is an invaluable weapon; I’ve heard that strong iman makes us inviolable from such treason, no less (since every person is his own state- my own theory of anarchy).

That was also my last working day at the place; I walked away with, admittedly, a sigh of relief. I want to return to work as a volunteer but according to one fatwa, according to a highly reliable sister, a sheikh said that it’s better to stay away from people you suspect of being in such states-  i.e, possessed or ‘shadowed’(another story, altogether). The dilemma is, how do I reconcile my professional obligations with just such a situation?

Any opinions out there?

All I gotta say for now, ‘Deuced If I knew, deuced if I don’t!’

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At 24, I must now hear the matrimonial clock ticking away grimly or so according to my mother. She rues the day she decided to give me reprieve for two more years, 22 would’ve looked far more appealing on the summarized Bio-Data- Your life on a cold, white sheet of paper, no less, no more.

Networking, by far is the only life-line once you’re on the block. You have ‘marriage brokers, a dime, a dozen, all with registers-full of male and female faces softened by the special ‘matrimonial photo effects’- I kid you not- you just stop at a studio and calmly announce, ‘One matrimonial photo shoot, please’, and promptly they shall enquire nary a blink, ‘2 or more dresses maydum? With or without make-up?’

From thence, it’s been a circus, all in the name of filial love, what it makes one do- I don’t care to relive or wish it on anybody.

Next you must thumb through these endless registers after you’ve become an entry in the columns yourself. If something hopeful is sighted amongst the one-page renditions of life, as it is, of the attached post-card- sized smiling 0980128 or 5752387 or 7269329, then the phone is put to use a great deal to settle meetings of the families. When the agreed-upon day dawns, it shall always be one way only, the boy’s family must first have the honor of visiting the girl’s, if, otherwise is suggested, it’d be laughed right out, or tut-tutted as forward thinking like a train that is headed for inevitable collision.

 Note: This is not a universal example, things might be done differently but this is what I’ve been witness to for eons now and it hasn’t changed much. 

The girl must make her appearance in all her shining meekness, a coyness that shall not allow her to look up even once, she must curb her tongue, speak only when spoken to and the responses must be minimal, preferably monosyllabic.

I find interacting with the older members of the family more genuine, respecting elders comes naturally, having been ingrained right from our first wail to keep that tongue in check and all manners perfectly in place but interacting with this new species, ‘The Prospective’ is very close to coming to spontaneous detonation. Having harbored every conceivable evil towards the other sex- stupidity ruling the list, you come onto the scene with a healthy dose of suspicion and a great deal of seething resentment at having to do what is as desirable as having slugs for breakfast. One’s own family turns a deaf ear to any protests, all the while laying down instructions and giving unwelcome ‘advice’.

          you’re a girl, you have to get married

         you can’t expect to remain single and happy forever

         no you cannot appear in your full hijab, it’s not done, draping a dupatta is as good as hijab

         these are the ways of the world dearest

         don’t you want our happiness

         no, you can’t just spread the word around the circles and people won’t appear out of thin air, think of it, you’ll make a brilliant match, even if you’ve to suffer the so-called ‘indignity’ of being a register number- with- a- face

          *chuckle, chuckle@-@

         now, I know you need to be yourself, but just this once, hold your tongue, will you? We don’t want to scare them off now, do we?

This is but the beginning, more rounds of high-teas and endless discussions will culminate the great- meeting-of-the families. It’s not marriage per se that I object to, but the approach to the matter that I dislike.

My friends seem to have taken it all well and most of them are now married. But why am I finding all this terrible? I can settle for the ‘ways-of-the-world’ most of the time but these days I just want to kick someone/something hard-  this nebulous world, perhaps, that dictates my happiness and that of my family’s.

In addition to all this, there’s more. Now that everybody knows that you’re in the game, you must watch your steps, v-e-r-y carefully. I’ve been corrected a million times, now, it hasn’t helped any and it won’t! It’s just plain absurd!

-When in a gathering, do not help the hostess, it draws the attention of all the ‘aunties’ who want you for their sons, nephews, neighbors.

– address every older woman as ‘aunty’, even if you’d love to call the warm woman as everybody else is calling her, ‘maasi’, ‘phupi’, ‘ammijan’, all this had hardly mattered before, but now it’s just signals approval of your interest in any tom-cats they might have in the bag or even more vile, one’s snaring prowess by garnering affection with endearments just so you can wheedle out a match.

It gets darned treacherous with increasing degree. Even, being human might not be allowed for fear of sending all sorts of muddled signals.

Patience, I tell you, is a trying virtue.

  

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When people get the first glimpse of my library, I can always hear my internal groan in great, painful clarity. ‘Oh my! Look at this!’ and I can tell by the gleam in their eyes and sometimes ecstatic comments that follow, they think of me as some sort of a formidable scholar, no amount of correcting changes their opinion. Truth is, I can hardly claim to have read some of those tomes of wisdom at all, most of them I’ve skimmed half-heartedly drawing to half-formed conclusions or hot-footed theories that I wouldn’t voice out loud if put in a spot. Sometimes, I skip reading many chapters altogether, selfishly reading only what I want for the time-being- I’ve always come away feeling guilty, like I’ve betrayed the author in some way.

Here, is where I tell you just why I’m the faux intellectual. Every ‘intellectual’ I’ve heard of can reel off wise quotations or verses or even theories with unassuming poise. Funny, I’ve always thought it as a mark of an intellectual, reeling off something or the other from memory but always spewing wisdom with certainty. (Does this signify the fact that I put too much into appearances and am altogether superficial or am I just reiterating what I and perhaps many others have been led to believe? )

But what I’ve come to conclude with or without this luminous fact 😀 is that I’m a fraud, a faux intellectual, trapped in the image that my library presents. The books that I’ve read and endeavour to read are supposed to be the fodder of the intellectuals-who, like I mentioned before, take this printed wisdom to their hearts, ingrain it in their minds and cleanse their souls. My only claim is to a vague grasp of these glittering pieces that are all too easily forgotten. I might’ve gasped on the momentous occasion of discovering the remarkable but unfailingly lose sight of application sooner than later. I know the implications of this are far greater and scarier than I can imagine especially since a Muslim shall be tested with greater severity if he/she was a scholar who failed to apply what was learnt. My case would have the stamp of ‘GUILTY’ all over it, even before I drew a breath to plead. Sigh*

This brings me to the question of what really is this ‘Intellect’ but the answer I shall save it for some other day in the light of the fact that I have only elusive wisps to secure and those I haven’t.

Peace,

Faux Intellectual

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The Bhutto episode calls for some serious pondering. I didn’t feel like going at it until I had my thoughts straight. The assassination itself being a shameful and cowardly act, it also draws our attention to some serious flaws in the thinking of the political populace-us.

 

Benazir Bhutto had remained an Iconic figure inspite of her exile for several years and her return was received with fervent adulation. But was this adulation for BB directed only towards her prowess as a leader, a ‘revolutionary’ or more towards the fact that she was part of the ‘Dynasty’, the Bhutto Dynasty. Did she only feed the people’s image of their own beloved ‘heir’ to the throne? There is a deep-rooted tendency amongst mankind to look towards a Hero, the archetype who fights evil, restores happiness, never stops campaigning for the good inspite of the many pitfalls. This tendency has now taken centre-stage in our political theatrics.

 

In political realms this ‘Hero’ is not just a single person but a whole unit, a family of heroes so to speak only by the virtue of being related to each other, black sheep and all- they will unfailingly step onto the pedestal just like in a supermarket line to handover the prized coupons. One hero is eliminated, another sets camp, he/she goes, another steps forward, it’s pointless to debate their abilities to lay claim to the post. What matters is the family name.

 

It cannot be denied that BB might’ve had a head over her shoulders but who was really listening, it was only the visual appeal, the poster-girl and her charisma- I suspect her party used her shamelessly. I’m no political analyst but it only takes half a brain to come to a few tentative conclusions, it doesn’t look good, never did. I feel sorry for poor Bilawal that he has to now wear the bloodied crown, step into mama’s shoes, all the while appearing to want this and also winning. He’s only 19 for pity’s sake, would it be too much to leave him alone for some time. But I guess the families want this hierarchical drama as much as the nation, who’s to step in play the real hero.

 

We Indians have our own Hero-family of an archetypical appeasement, the Gandhi family. Only Sonia has so far appeared to be fairly competent unlike her predecessors, if blood tells, there’s no doubt about the origins of that steely determination and I think that’s her saving grace. I find debates about the origins of leaders altogether ridiculous, we’re all humans lest we’ve forgotten, so along as we’re qualified and understand- stand up, speak, lead. It doesn’t matter if one is Italian, Ethiopian or Taiwanese.

 

Tizzy from the ramble but feel much better than before 🙂 , would go on and on but I assume you’ve caught on.

 

Peace then.

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While I’m still on the subject of books, I thought I’ll subject the good ‘ol machinery to Ayn Rand’s works. Got meself a book by her yesterday. ‘Her’ is in italics only because I thought of Rand as a ‘He’ until recently, much to my mortification, correction came from unexpected quarters.

I also picked up ‘Illiad’ and ‘Don Quixote’ since every self-respecting literature student should’ve read these books, says moi. Sweta, who accompanied me on this lil jaunt gave me very long-suffering looks and pretended I was jaundiced all the while I spent browsing the classics shelf. I had to try hard to convince myself to come for Dostoevsky later. Want knows no boundaries when you’re in a bookshop. We ended up having good laughs over the self-help section – ‘How to Seduce Your Man’, ‘Know your Woman’, ‘You can do ANYTHING!’ and the likes and promptly headed over to have coffee as nothing inspires ‘great insights’ like a cup of coffee with cheeky friends for company.

I’ve still got my Human Rights course work to attack, the research work stumps me. I keep running into walls and keep thinking what I’m doing is not enough and is not doing justice to the topics. Time’s running out, just have to tackle the thesis I guess, even if it does look like shoddy work to me. *sigh

Must petition The All-Inspiring to strike me with that big bolt of inspiration, Insha Allah, I need it.

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Romantic Foibles

I’ve been wasting away my time, shamefully. Dare, I admit it? Reading regency romances. There, I said it. It’s out in the open, you can laugh at me now and throw as many squishy pies as you want- I deserve it.

 

I’ve gathered during this limbo much wisdom- that virginal beauties of ethereal kind drive violent beasts of handsome heroes to passionate distraction and domesticate them with loving devotion, all the while glowing more brightly than your next-door light-house. Even with a perpetual smirk on my face, I still couldn’t put the darned books down, what vile depravity is this, pray, tell me?

 

I’ve resolved (falling much in line with the New Year lunacy) that I shall stop this pursuit of nonsense. Even though, I find lucrative prospects in the form of regency-psychotherapy- ‘The Virginal’ idea, the healer of all blighted souls, rescuer of the damned. No? I can’t complain.

 

The sands of time have just gotten in my hair and are slowly seeping into my brain to throw the wheels out of gear.

 

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