We Had a Life

children playing
I was part of the generation of kids that pointed at planes and went “LOOOOK! It’s a plane!” and waved like mad at them.

We cycled in the summers and ate ice pops and spent our whole day outside, we had picnics on the terrace, swam in plastic pools in the balcony, told ghost stories to each other when the electricity got cut, we bought sugarcane from push carts for half a rupee, we flew kites and plastic balloons (not fake metallic ones) and our grand treats were icecreams in mango-shaped containers. We drew with toothpaste on anyone who slept during sleep-overs, we hijacked our neighborhoods with toy guns, we set up adventure camps on terraces and we wrote on neighbors’ catus plants and smelled their beautiful white roses. We watched Home Alone 20 times and laughed harder every time, we went to waterfalls and beaches and hill stations as large families, and ate home-cooked food out of 5-stack hot cases. We painted on pots and made leaves and flowers out of plaster of paris, we created puppets and held puppet shows in cardboard boxes, we attended karate classes, we watched different colors of paint as they swirled down in water. We baked cakes and made omlettes on weekends, we played hide and seek and hop scotch and “kitchen-kitchen” for hours and we made garlands out of yellow flowers growing on trees in our lanes. We climbed trees, ate their fruits, planted seeds, cooked in tiny earthen pots for all the neighborhood’s kids. We played dark room and spun under the sun till we fell down laughing. We would try to burn paper by focusing the sun through a magnifying glass on it, we would be thrilled out of our senses if our uncles took us for rides on their motorbikes.

We soaked in the sun, we HEARD the waves for real, we FELT trees and sand, we SMELLED flowers and plants, we PLAYED, with HUMAN BEINGS, we got hurt in reality, we baked and cooked and swam and ran and won and lost and got scared for real and we laughed out loud FOR REAL.

We had a LIFE. And we had the time of our lives!

 

The Past After the Future

It was one of those ritual trips to KLCC that students take while trying to deal with the short-semester boredom. As the LRT rolled on, the three of them sat watching the rain battering against the train windows… trees swinging wildly in the wind, cars caught in the jam below… and they began to talk about the train. What could possibly have existed a 100 years ago along the same route they were travelling on? People moved about on foot, rode animals, primitive carts maybe; taking hours to cross distances that we now cross in minutes. Their clothes, technology and food would have definitely been different from ours… ours developed, exotic and stylish; and theirs quite dull and monotonous. But what if, for a moment, we were one of those people who lived a 100 years ago that these bored friends were talking about on a train? Where exactly would we be as they spoke?

Somewhere deep below the ground, walked upon by millions of busy people. Rarely or never thought about. Our faces nameless, our positions taken over, our institutions and houses destroyed, our contributions ridiculously insignificant, our lifestyles outdated… our entire civilization buried. Our once existence on this earth would be imaginary.

Caesar’s dead for all you could care to know about him today. The mighty Pharaoh lies lifeless in a box somewhere in Egypt. The affluent Ottoman Empire has crumbled. And we would never ever know the multitudes of common people that lived during those generations. So too, we will one day be. Meaningless to those that live when we are dead.
If to learn from the past is to realise the true insignificance and temporariness of everything that humans have always cherished, it is also to marvel at the timelessness of the lives of revolutionary people throughout the ages.

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Who’s Life is it, Anyway?

Let’s see, what do we need for a life again? Air. Breathing apparatus (your lungs basically). An object to contain that breathing apparatus (this would be the physical you). A reason for that object with the breathing apparatus to exist. Well, you don’t make or supply your own air so that part of your life isn’t yours. You didn’t make your own lungs neither your body, you were made with materials belonging to someone else (guess Who), and if robots are copyrighted then you definitely are, so you don’t own your physical self either. But since you use them, it means they’ve been given to you, you must know by now that NOTHING is for free in our world (not even the ‘free’ ketchup!), so unless you remember buying your own lungs, etc. or renting them, you can successfully conclude that they’ve been loaned to you. And they all have an expiry date.

Now let’s talk about the reason for you to exist. This reason can be anything, unlike our lungs and our air and our body, we’re free to choose the design, quality, depth and beauty of this reason and thereby determine the value of our life. Ultimately, life is the execution of this reason. Since you determine this reason, you can safely say that at least this part of your life is truly yours. Or is it? Take a look at everything that you do. Is what you own what you require or what is socially accepted? Does dressing up go beyond the natural and civil requirement of being clean and presentable? Or does it involve dressing up (or down) for the pleasure of someone else, and hence living that part of ‘your’ life for someone other than yourself. Does getting a degree mean fulfilling a job requirement or developing yourself? Does learning mean passing an exam or increasing your awareness? Does talking involve regular showers of swear words that add nothing to the point you’re trying to convey? Does your sense of modesty change with changes in location? Do you sacrifice your own comfort just to beautify your walk? Are you ashamed to say you’re unaware of the latest shows and music? Do you smoke because you’re not a man if you don’t?

How much of what you use, speak, watch, eat, wear, spend or do is because it really makes you more valuable? How much of your life have you lived genuinely for the benefit of your own self? How much of your life have you let others own, determine and destroy?

We all need to work on our lives, large parts of which aren’t ours anymore. If our ancestors were physically invaded and enslaved; our very identities are the slaves of the massive consumerist and hedonistic empire of the modern world. Freedom is not the right to do what you want, but the liberty to do as you should. Go back to your Creator’s Book. It will show you the depth and beauty you can give to your life and will free you from being possessed by this world.

The Best of Beginnings

His voice echoes off the surrounding mountains and ripples through the silence, as the students in the settlement are plunged in sleep, half-dead, what with all the maddening effort that goes into the mid-terms and assignment deadlines to meet; and the stress of the exams looming near is like an insomniac ghost residing in their subconscience.

Slowly, the creation around them begins to stir, birds crawl out from the warmth of their wings, trees rustle off sleep as they gracefully lift their branches, and the wind, nature’s messenger, carries the muezzin’s voice into their rooms, spreading a heavenly coolness…

While many are lost murdering their roommate’s alarm clock in their dreams, lights turn on here and there; and the journey to the bathroom begins. After some extended dreaming where people usually don’t, there comes the jihad in the name of Allah: literally face to face with freezing cold water! A short battle; and the victory of a refreshing wudu’ adorns the warrior and he is promoted to the rank of a ‘worshipper’.

Stepping back into their rooms, breeze meeting their drops of wudu and spreading serenity, worshippers dress for prayer as they think: Have they not been awoken from the death of sleep? Has not new strength replaced their fatigue? Have they not been gifted a new chance, a new life? Now clean and composed, they stand in blue darkness. In silence. Allah is watching. There is peace. And their hands rise…

“Allah is the Greatest”…..”Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds…” ….”You do we worship, and from You do we seek help …Aameen” … “By the Break of Day…..And the night as it passes away, is there not in these an evidence for those who understand?”…”Allah is the Greatest”.. “How perfect You are my Lord, Most Supreme”… “Verily Allah has heard those who praise Him”… “How perfect You are my Lord, Most High”… “… blessings and peace on you O Messenger of Allah”… “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger”… “O Allah, I have wronged my soul excessively…bestow on me Your mercy, You are indeed Most Forgiving, Merciful”………. “Peace and blessings of Allah… be upon you”.

To all student worshippers, preserve this prayer; it is the best of beginnings to your day. Cherish this prayer; it adds light to the face. Embrace this prayer; it is the peace that balances your daily stress. Never give up this prayer, it reflects our unity of purpose; for as our prayers rise up from our own blue darknesses, they reach Allah from the same place: a settlement of knowledge where many young people have come together to find friends who strengthen each others’ Islam.