Saturday, July 30, 2011

Our Multi Lingual Universe

Music can be said to be one of the languages of the soul. That would explain why when sometimes we listen to instrumental music or music in foreign languages, despite being unable to comprehend the lyrics on a conscious level, we can still find so much peace in the beat. Similarly the vice versa also holds true, with us getting quite agitated while listening to other songs. I find the concept highly beautiful, one of the many mysteries of the universe on how music can actually transmit feelings and affect our moods so subtly yet so intensely. I sometimes wonder if we all were born with an innate ability to translate and understand the melodies of these instruments. The resonance, the harmony, the tunes all seem to have a quintessential charm, a hidden spark of the unseen.

I love music, I believe it is one of the gifts from God to us humans. I enjoy most genres of music. In this particular post, keeping in mind with the theme, I would like to share an old favorite track by a very talented, yet non mainstream group Clair Voyant. I have shared this song with my family and friends, and majority of them find the song highly soothing, as I do. It has an ethereal, haunting yet enchanting quality about it which sets it apart from most popular songs nowadays. The song is 'Mirror' by Clair Voyant:

I get confused when I hear about certain religious sects who have deemed music sacrilegious and have deprived themselves from hearing one of God's greatest blessings. I remember the movie 'Khuda Kay Liye' and how it made a rebuttal of this ignorant bias towards music by citing how Allah had gifted the prophet Hazrat Dawood with a beautiful voice for music. Obviously songs which comprise of  foul language and anti-religious lyrics are wrong. However majority of music is pure, instrumental, and beautiful. It is a gift for us to enjoy and realize. Whether we accept it or not, music is a language of our universe. Even if we turn everything off, and sit silently, we would still be able to hear the music of the Earth playing softly to our souls forever.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Birthday of an Invictus Soul

There are some people who earn the deepest respect from the hearts of others. Today I want to wish happy birthday to one such individual whom I deeply respect and admire. The name is one that requires no introduction. Nelson Mandela turned 93 years old today on 18th July 2011.

I had always heard the name Nelson Mandela while growing up, on the news or TV coverage. I had always admired his passion and patriotism for South Africa. However, it was only until a few years back, when I started to delve deeper into the details of apartheid in the country that I learned just how commendable his actions truly are. 

Apartheid laws were enacted in South Africa in 1948, leading to racist discrimination with the goal of preferential treatment for the white community. Stringent measures were taken by the state to ensure apartheid laws were implemented successfully. Any protests or attempts to repeal the unjust law were dealt with harshly, with killings or life imprisonment of the protestors without a fair trial. It was during such an attempt to speak for justice that led Nelson Mandela, an anti apartheid activist to be sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962. Mandela spent 27 years of his life in prison, and instead of being discouraged or disheartened, upon his release in 1990, continued his fight for justice, leading to the dismantling of apartheid in 1994 when he was democratically elected as the President of South Africa.

Mandela served 5 years as president during which he worked ferociously to create an atmosphere of unity in the country, regardless of skin color. One of his most successful attempts, which has also been turned in to a Hollywood film, is how he united the country through Rugby, leading them to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted in South Africa.

One of the main qualities about Mandela I admire is how despite being sentenced to life imprisonment, he did not give up hope. When days, months and years blur into monotony, Mandela persevered, receiving the degree of Bachelors in Law through the External Programme of the University of London. The movie highlighted a poem which he used to read as a beacon of hope during dark times. The poem ‘Invictus’, on which the movie is named, means Unconquered and is written by William Ernst Henry:

Mandela is due to have his memoirs ‘Conversations with Myself’, which mainly reveal his time spent during imprisonment, published in September this year. The man has inspired his nation to celebrate 18th July as ‘Nelson Mandela Day’ where people consciously practice kindness to honor his efforts towards unity. The country calls him Madiba, his clan name, or more popularly Tata, meaning father. The love and gratitude was apparent when millions of school children around Africa wished him happy birthday by singing ‘Happy birthday Tata, we love you dear Tata, Happy birthday.’ Considering his actions towards love and justice for humanity which also rightfully earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, I would also like to wish Nelson Mandela Happy Birthday from Pakistan. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Celebrating a Birthday in Style

Life is such that one can tend to get wrapped up in a personal cocoon. You have work to do, projects to complete, bills to pay, families and friends to meet that sometimes you can loose track of what’s really important. Given all the things whirling around on the personal and social front, it is no surprise that people can tend to have distorted priorities. And so society weaves a thicker web of illusion, covering the layers of what’s really important with conjured up pseudo ones. Multitudes are starving, streets are full of beggars at one extreme and at the other end people are throwing away gourmet food which was in excess to demand on a child’s birthday party.


All is not lost though. Even at times like these there are many people who stand up and refuse to allow such illusions to blind them. I happened to chance upon one such individual recently. I was sitting with a friend of mine, who had been trying to call to wish her neighbor in India happy birthday. Apparently both the girls were the same age, had gone to school together and were best friends also. She tried the phone, but no one was responding at the other end. She hung up, and looked at the time, claiming it was probably too early and she would try again later.

One would normally assume that the friend must be out arranging some lavish birthday party or spending the day relaxing away and being pampered. So I was pleasantly surprised by the story that continued. Both the girls had grown up together in one of the most posh locations in Mumbai. Since the time when kids get up on birthdays excited with the thought of getting presents and having a birthday party, on her birthday this particular girl would also dress up, going instead straight to the temple to pray. After praying and offering thanks to her god as per her religion, she would come back home where she, like other kids on their birthdays, would be surrounded by gifts. The difference being that instead of opening the wrapped up presents, she would pack those gifts which she had purchased with her family over the past few days. She would then load them in the car and take them to the local orphanage. Along with a birthday cake, food and drinks fit for a proper party. On a day where the majority of the world expects to receive gifts, this lady would pack and distribute them to those young children who may never have the family or resources to be gifted presents. There at the orphanage, she celebrates her birthday each year, holding a party with those young forgotten children who can never afford birthday parties of their own but are excited to get presents, feel the love and enjoy some good food and entertainment in an otherwise monotonous day in the orphanage.

I heard this story quite a few months back but it has had such an impact on me. Let us look at this simple beautiful tale through eyes that transcend religion and national boundaries. Before some readers get tempted to get into debate about religion , I am aware that Islam is a religion that takes care of its poor through the concept of giving such as Zakat. Also let us transcend the border of nationalities and take a humanistic approach. I am very aware that Pakistan is also full of giving people, the most famous of them being Edhi. The reason I choose this example is because of the simplicity and beauty of humanity shown. On a day when most people blatantly expect to receive, she instead gives thanks to the universe and tries to spread her blessings to those much less fortunate. This lady brings hope and a sense of love to those young children who have been deprived of the love of parents and lack the resources to enjoy the proper childhood they deserve.
I was highly inspired by this simple beautiful narration. There is something we all can learn from this when we look at the broader picture. Instead of focusing on ourselves, if we genuinely try to do something for the less privileged, and not just take the easy route by giving some money, but to actually give our time and energy, how much more meaningful our lives would be, and how much more beautiful would this world be. The choice is ours to make.