Friday, April 24, 2009

That Lame Sparrow

And for some reason, maybe the way he said it, I began to understand. He wasn't giving me an order. My dad, was asking me for help. That morning, as I stood with the man who was my father... The son of my grandfather, the man who would one day be the grandfather of my sons...I realized something. That not all gifts are simple. That some battles are fought out of love.
- Narrator, The Powers That Be [3.12], The Wonder Years
As I pulled the car into the drive way I saw two birds resembling ducks near the rear tire of a parked car on the right side. They started crossing the drive way and I had to come to a dead halt. I have never seen such birds here and I assume they were migrating to some place and stopped over for some food. Though they resembled ducks, I am half sure they were not. Their beaks were flat but short and they were smaller in size than the ducks I know. They could be ducks too but they were interesting due to their colorful feathers at the neck. They took short steady steps making me fall in love with their moves. I was waiting in the car for them to clear my way. Perhaps I would have written more about them if they had at least turned their heads towards me in appreciation of my patience. I waited for them to cross; I didn't even honk. They were rude and knew only of their way.

Frequently my memory goes back to my grandparents' house 15 years back. The scene of the open veranda, the servant maid sitting on the floor cutting vegetables and onions around 11 am daily and my grandmother on the other side of the veranda in the kitchen cooking - usually boiling the fresh milk at that time of the day. The guava tree outside the grill always had fruits on it and the curry-leaves tree was green all through the year. A cat was usually seen sitting on the boundary wall watching birds sit on the tree, come down to the floor of veranda, take pieces of vegetable waste and fly away. The huge pomegranate tree was on the other side not visible in this scene. But I feel it's cool presence well aware of the sweet fruit it always blessed me with; alhamdulillah.

There was a small nest made by some sparrows in the outer side of a ventilator at roof-level and one of those sparrows had a cut limb. Though when sparrows move on the ground they appear to be hopping, this sparrow's hop was different. It would fly down from it's nest, pick pieces of cut cilantro in it's beak and fly away. I remember seeing this happen several times during those days. I remember our servant maid leaving vegetable waste on purpose in the open so that these birds could pick them up. After those days, I don't remember seeing many sparrows in India. And now, when I am here, I seem them so frequently. I miss that lame sparrow. A few years back I wept thinking about that small bird. I guess it's already dead.

In the evening I was checking out at Walmart when I saw a three-years-or-so girl playing with a CD box waiting for her mother. A boy younger to her was sitting on the cart and there was a baby lying inside the cart. I watched the girl moving around jumping when she saw me. I smiled at her and she returned a smile but I turned away with several things in my mind. I recollected my brother telling me that my smile looked artificial most of the times, I realized I have not found any times in the last one week to shave my beard that I might be looking unpleasing and I was sure I would feel more sad watching those three kids play not giving me a chance to join them and talk to them. The girl was so beautiful. She was Hispanic.

Tuesday morning I returned from the university at 6:45 am. We were working on a project involving AES, MAC and Google APIs for a few days and we had to submit it before evening the same day. The day before I went to the university in the afternoon after returning from job, came back to apartment for some rest and food and went back again. On Tuesday afternoon I was there to make the final proceedings. Our submission was before time but we were late for another assignment we had. An hour later I had another submission for a core course. The class had already started and I was working in the lab. I called my teammate who was in the class; as expected, he didn't receive. He called me back after a few minutes. I asked him if he could come out for a minute. A couple of minutes later I was on my way back to my apartment thanking Allah how blessed I am to have wonderful people around me. I had handed over some papers to my teammate and asked him to submit them on my behalf. I couldn't attend the class because there was hardly any time left for it to get over.

The status message of a contact in Facebook reminded me of a poem I had written about more than two years back. His status message said he was very happy. That night I wrote the poem I was very happy too - with no reason; and I don't remember being happy like that again since then. It's not that happiness has stayed away from me - I have seen lots of happiness and satisfaction in other ways; but this was different. It was night time and seemed as if it was going to rain, the weather was pleasant with cool breeze entering the window and the only thing I knew was that I was very happy. I remember no words of the poem, I only remember what made me write it; I remember the happiness. It was so different again when I was going for work at 5:30 am in the morning. Every day seems something different here. Alhamdulillah. My job started at 6 am on Thursday.

One of my friends is going to leave for Jeddah next week inshAllah. He has had his share of waiting and now inshAllah he shall be on his own. It's eight months and ten days since I have left home and I seem to have forgotten so many things about how I used to live there. Allah has made us very flexible and adjusting that we can blend ourselves into anything we find worth it. I am going to see my first summer here and I hope I make the most out of it. I want to earn as much as possible and perfect Java. InshAllah by next month I will have paid off for my car and I know how I will be satisfied. It's another dream fulfilled alhamdulillah - having a car here is not a big deal but having it being a student like me is. Right now I can think of only one thing in this life that could give me more happiness than anything else. It's not getting a permanent job, going to India, getting married or even buying an island. It's something else irreplaceable.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Little April

One of the virtues of being very young is that you don't let the facts get in the way of your imagination. 
-Sam Levenson
There isn't any big reason to write today save the fact that I haven't written for a while. With hardy any time left for the semester to end there are some project submissions and tests to be taken care of which consume a lot of time. It's good to be spending time this way rather than doing stuff that works for nothing. I have to go to bed early now so that I can wake up at 7 am to go to work. I haven't slept much in the last few days - I guess it was four hours yesterday and about five hours a day before. I don't remember how long it was before that. It isn't of much importance except that my eyes appear tired with darkness around them.

I registered for courses for Fall 2009 the other day. InshAllah I am going to study Advanced Software Architecture and Design, Advanced Database Design and Telecom Network Management. I am not quite sure if I am going to go ahead with the last one in list - I have least idea about what it is. All I know from others is it gives good grades. I will go for something else if something new and interesting is offered. I wanted to study a course involving Data Mining but it has Computational Biology as a prerequisite which I am in no mood to consider. I won't be taking any course for the summer semester. I don't want to finish my studies any earlier than May 2010.

After writing the first two sentences I felt like deleting them and postponing the update after which I stopped thinking about what I am feeling. I will have some snack and go to bed in a few minutes inshAllah. It definitely doesn't feel good not spending much time on the computer, but I have to sacrifice that for a couple of days inshAllah. It's not supposed to be called as a sacrifice though - it's a path I have chosen over other things I could have opted for. Being patient can be frustrating. I used to think it's all just a matter of time. Being patient also at times leads to giving no importance to what patience can bring. Frustration can kill many a thing. I can't stop myself from thinking about everything I feel. I like a few of them - even if they are self-defeating.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Some Times In April

Today I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter's gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat, do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.
 - Yasser Arafat, United Nations General Assembly, New York, November 13th, 1974
I got an e-mail from a friend from India who asked me to vote for the present king of Saudi Arabia for the Nobel Peace prize. The moment I saw that I decided I would vote against it. I opened the link that e-mail contained and found a button on that page that read "vote". I thought clicking on it would give options to vote in favor of the king or against the king and so, I clicked it. On the contrary, the web-page gave me a message that thanked me for voting for the king. It just made me say "what?". That king might be the ruler of that country Saudi Arabia but he can't dictate on what I think about him. He might be a king, one of the richest men in the world owning more than $21 billion or even a Muslim. I would never want him to get any prize.

If this king was a true Muslim he would have given up his power and had enforced khilafat in his country. If he was a true Muslim having so much money he would have helped millions of poor dying with hunger in Africa. If he was a true Muslim he would never live in castles made out from money his country men deserve to have. Wikipedia tells about the amount of money he has donated for various purposes. If he was a true Muslim not even his four wives, seven sons and 15 daughters would have come to know about it. He has been ranked No. 5 on Parade Magazine's 2009 World's Worst Dictators list. I would never be in favor of this kind of person getting a Peace Prize.

Saudi Arabia has already been sold to the United States of America. Every time a Saudi king or a prince makes an international statement it is moderated by America. Literacy rate in Saudi Arabia is too less given the amount of wealth its citizens possess. Every few years they build a new university, emulate America, create a western environment and the king takes credit for it. If the king was really interested in getting the people of his country educated, Saudi Arabia could easily afford a hundred new universities every year. The royal family doesn't want the people to get educated. Education is a threat to monarchy.

Recently I read an article that said how 200 Mosques in Mecca have the wrong Quibla direction. I am well aware how many people living in Saudi Arabia practice Islam because it's their culture and not purely because Allah has asked us for it. There are so many fake Shariat laws in effect in Saudi Arabia including the one that gives the government the power to enforce purda. And it's purda which is enforced, not the hijab which Allah wants us to practice. No matter how many years a citizen of other country lives in this kingdom, serves the rich sheiks there, he is never treated like how the locals are treated. I am well aware how South Asians are given second rate treatment even by the police that is supposed to keep law in order. A king of such a country deserves no prize.

I was already angry while returning from work today and this e-mail proved to be a perfect catalyst to it. I was so angry that I had to remind myself of the speed limit on the roads I was driving on. I just wanted to press the gas hard and pour out all the heat my blood had but the rules don't allow anybody do that. Alhamdulillah. All my way back home I was trying my best to find faults in myself and every time I could find even a small piece of it I could feel calmness returning to me. I even forgot to drink the can of soda I had kept by my side. Perhaps I was good by the time I returned to my laptop; I saw this e-mail and it was back to square one again. I never liked Saudi Arabia having a king. But perhaps it's in the best interests on those illiterate people that they are ruled by somebody than given the power to rule themselves. Allah decides; alhamdulillah.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

With Mondays

Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society. 
- Mark Twain 
I changed my wallet today. I had been using a black one given to me by my aunt a couple of years back. She and I were cleaning my grandfather's room and found two new black leather wallets in one of his bags. She asked me to keep one of them so that it didn't go waste staying in the same bag. Today, I removed all my money and cards from it and put it in the new one, put the money I had in my suitcase in it and put it back into the suitcase. The new one I am using now was gifted to me by my friends in 2007 on my birthday. It's brown in color. I remember that day.

We went to watch Pink Panther 2 on Monday at night. I had a class till 9:45 pm but the professor was not going to come so I thought I could inshAllah finish the assignments by next class and skip this one. The movie got over at 11 pm, we went to Walmart after that and by the time we reached home, cooked food and had dinner, I am sure it was 2 am. This was an hour early than when I had my dinner after coming home on Sunday. I had slept a little before 7 am to stay in it for 10 hours. I sleep on Mondays alhamdulillah. It's as difficult to get out of bed as it is to get in. It's a fight.

Sunday, just a few hours after talking to my parents I felt like talking to my father again. For an hour I tried to imagine how he would respond. I was sure he would ask me if everything was alright but I just wanted to talk to him. It was uneasy to think how calling my father too needed a reason. Further, I didn't wish to give him any impression that there might be something I am feeling bad about that I wanted to talk to him - I just wanted to talk not even knowing what to talking; it's not what we talk; it's the talk - the time spent. And I called him. Perhaps he understands how one would feel and we spoke as if we hadn't had any conversation for a week. Alhamdulillah. I wish I never have to think twice before I feel like talking to anybody, never have to decide that I shouldn't call and always have the phone number of the person I wish to talk; inshAllah.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Piece Of Days

I never knew until that moment how bad it could hurt to lose something you never really had.
- The Wonder Years
I remember when April 5th was a Friday - it was two years back ; all my classmates were hosting a farewell party for the seniors in Taj Banjara and I had stayed home. Though I never myself had a straight explanation why I wished to stay away, later I thanked Allah I didn't go. There were a few reasons I hardly remember now but one of them was how everybody behaves in a disco. On Thursday I recollected the freshers party in Taj Krishna, I attended when I was in my first year of bachelors more than four years back, when I went to the UT Dallas International Students Dance Party. I didn't go there to dance but just to attend a party. There were several such events all through the week which I had stayed away from so, I thought I should be a student too. It's three years now since this blog came into existence.

On Friday there was a foam-party my roommate friend attended. He asked me to come along but I had plans to prepare chicken biryani with my other roommate friend and I stayed away. Later he told me how he enjoyed though he didn't step into the foam for not having the right kind of footwear. I secretly wished I had been there for a while at least just to see how a foam-party looks like. There is free food too on all such parties that happen here; they happen every other day. There is so much to enjoy - parties, food, indoor and outdoor games, girls, boys money, luxuries - alhamdulillah I never find it difficult being selective.

I see how soda drinks and juices have slowly replaced water in my diet. They taste tastier with food, have calories that help me and make me feel good! My favorite is Dr. Pepper which none of my roommates appreciate. I remember my cousin telling me in one of the iftaar times in Ramzaan that Dr. Pepper tastes weired at first, but if I adjust to it I will never find any drink better than it. He was right. It's no wonder why so many people here especially with non-American origin don't like it - it tastes really weired. I wonder how I ended up liking it - that's weired too. I even like Minute Maid's Fruit Punch.

I met the same cousin on Friday at Walmart in night. He was with his UTD friends who know me too. I always feel great whenever I meet him and even these other guys. They are the kind of people who make me want to say I should be like them. But immediately I realize there are many things I need to learn from them but I would never want to be like any other person I come across. I might fall in love with how these people are, give them the highest respect or even call them the best of people I know, but I love being the person I am alhamdulillah. This cousin always gave me peace and help. He taught me how to order at McDonalds and Subway, taught me the basics of driving here each of which I observe even now, taught me to how girls wearing jeans here is not as bad as I used to think and also taught me how one can enjoy life following Allah's path.

I can recollect the night he was dropping me back to my apartment after a party I was invited to. I asked him why girls wore jeans here even though they always sport scarfs, pray ardently and observe all practices made mandatory by Allah. He told me that I need to get used to it. A few days later I had asked my cousin sister. She gave me a similar answer too. It was only after my long stay in Houston that I understood how my perspective had been illogical. We people from India are a little conservative in our approach about clothing and food. Since January both of these in me have changed - being conservative is not what is needed, being how Allah wants us to be is. Allah asked us for hijaab; never for any particular kind of clothes.