Oh Frabjous Day!

They’re coming tomorrow! We’ve been cleaning and dusting and re-arranging furniture – basically making everything spick’n’span for the Grand Visit. It’s true what they say about spring-cleaning being a refreshing exercise. There’s nothing like getting down on your knees and doing some scrubbing or washing with your own two hands. It’s a very earthy experience and we tend to forget what it feels like because of all the gadgets we surround ourselves with.

The only thing I regret is that my Mum won’t let me take apart the toaster or the kettle to find out why both decided to quit their still-young electrical lives at the same time. I mean I’ve dissected the VCR more than once and it survived the experience pretty well. I’ve fixed watches and obscure stuff, but when it comes to kitchen appliances, she just won’t trust me.

She won’t rely on doctors, but she still thinks that repairs should be left to the ‘experts’. Really, the opposite is true, isn’t it? It’s easier to figure out what’s wrong with an electrical item then it is to try and understand the inner workings of the human body.

The first time I opened up something – I think it was either a radio or a VCR – I got a rush when I saw the insides. It was like a puzzle just waiting to be solved. I still can’t identify anything by name – couldn’t tell a diode from a … well, a non-diode thingy – but if you look long enough and hard enough, you can usually figure what makes what happen. It’s just plain common sense. Cause and effect and all that.

Most of life is like that. We just don’t take the time to stand and stare (as long as cows :P) or we’re not interested. But I digress, I promised myself to be completely superficial today, since I probably won’t get to post much while The Siblings are here.

So basically, the bane of my life right now is that I have to watch over toast in the old-fashioned under-the-grill way and with my current attention-span (or lack of it) we’ve been ending up with burnt toast 3 times out of 5. My parents don’t say anything anymore when I present the blackened chunks – maybe because the smell has already warned them of yet another disaster – but I seriously feel guilty when the charcoal dust begins to fly over the table as they scrape their way down to something edible.

I can’t convince them to give (the occasional) burnt slice a try, although I’ll vouch for the fact that nothing tastes quite as good as butter and jam on a thin layer of carbon.

So my grand advice to the world is: Go scrub some floors, hang up your curtains (and enjoy the ache in your arms from hunting for hooks in deviously hidden rails), wash out the dust from your clothes and while you wait for them dry, burn some toast under an oven grill and then munch on it over a mug of hot tea and a nice (preferably Ghibli) movie.

And then dare to tell me you’ve never experienced contentment.

S’laams
Bint Ali

P.S. I finally read through my Emily Dickinson stash and I’ve been picking out poems that seemed to call out. I’m probably starting an Emily-phase for the next few weeks. Here’s one I love:

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there ‘s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They ‘d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

– E. Dickinson

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Head In The Clouds

I’ve been acting a little strange today – even by my own standards. I could probably attribute much of it to my brother’s presence, but some of it is different from what he usually provokes in me. We’ve had the usual late-night chats, the endless questions (on my part), the vague ‘you have much to learn, grasshopper’ answers (on his part). And yes, he does call me ‘grasshopper’. Occasionally.

I’ll probably spread all the stuff we talked about over the next few posts (at least, I have good intentions to), but today is just about the aftermath of the first 48 hours. Suddenly, I’m seeing things differently. Or rather seeing them afresh.

When we dropped him off at the airport this evening, there was this holy mess of a traffic jam on the way.  We’d left late (as usual) and it was really a case of driving all the way simply because we were stuck on the road in that direction. We didn’t think we’d make it in time for the flight (although we did with like 5 mins to spare).

Under normal circumstances I’d probably have been panicking a little, or at least highly irritated that we didn’t take into account the possibility of traffic and all that. Today, I sat back and just enjoyed the view. And what a view it was!

A faint drizzle and a crisp, stinging breeze. Freshly washed grass and tumble-dried sunshine. A pale blue sky hung out to dry and the smell of life shaking itself awake. It was surreal.

I’ve always thought the scenery when driving towards the airport is about as close to picture perfect as you can get. The open expanse of heavens, the comparatively thin line of land barely defining the horizon and the colours!

When we’re going to pick someone up from an afternoon flight, the sky is the purest, crispest blue you’ve ever seen. The kind of blue that’s thick and heavy, as if you could reach up and drag a finger through it, leaving a mark like you would in a bowl of fresh cream. And if you could lick it, I’m sure it would taste of fresh blueberries.

If it’s an evening drive (like today’s) then it’s a treat of reds, pinks, oranges and purples. Most times, the drive starts off with a normal, evening lilac-y blue and those colossal white clouds lumbering along. And then just as you’re rounding a corner or blinking from having the sun glare right in your eyes, the new colours seem to appear out of nowhere, like they’ve been hiding and just waiting for that perfect moment to jump out and yell “Surprise!”

I don’t like to think of myself as a romantic, but evenings like these could possibly convince me of the benefit of indulging in a little soppiness now and then.

But the night flights are the best. I can remember them from years ago. Peering out the window on those seemingly endless drives sitting on the lap of some family member, surrounded by warm bodies and too-loud voices trying to disguise the pain of separation.

Between the last city lights and the first airport ones, there was a long stretch of blank. (It’s shorter now, but thankfully still there). No horizon, barely any road…just a steady, deep blue-black and the thrum of the car coming up through the body of whoever it was that I was sitting against.

If I was lucky, there would a clear sky and with just a little imagination, I would be sitting in a cocoon and rolling along under a glittering, sparkling spread of net. The moon would be racing along – either just ahead or just behind – never catching up or never letting us catch up with it.

And then there were the stars; so many of them, they made me dizzy. I can’t seem to see that many any more, even on a clear night. But then it’s been a long time since we drove to the airport after dark. I’d often wonder if there was some other creature on one of those shining dots sitting at her window or driving through her town and looking up at the stars in her sky. And sometimes, when no one was looking, I’d give her a little wave and hope she was doing the same. I guess I believed in telepathy even before I knew what it was called. 🙂

Looking back, I’m grateful I had the childhood I did. How many kids today will be able to have such memories? Or maybe this is the cycle every adult goes through – thinking that their childhood was more innocent, more sincere, more child-like than that of the current generation.

Either way, I like to think I was luckier than most.

That too perfect feeling I wrote about before? It’s not going away, it’s just expanding to fill out more and more of my view. And it’s highly distracting too. I can’t seem to concentrate on anything without getting carried away by some detail or another. A colour, a shape, a smell, and sometimes the whole picture, seems sharply chiseled out and clamouring for me to just notice it. More often then not, I end up with a goofy grin on my face and that results in worrying looks from my Mum.

I’m wondering if I should start giving myself worrying looks too…

S’laams
Bint Ali

A city that outdistances man’s walking powers is a trap for man. 
– Arnold Toynbee, historian (1889-1975)

*Sigh*

It’s done at last!   Exams finished today and a most amazing three months came to a close.  There’s a whole year left ahead, but this was the beginning and that makes it special.    At the start of this week, things were so hectic, I never expected to enjoy the whole take-a-test experience.  Last time I remember doing this was at IT college and it was a rush of theory and words, and honestly I can’t say I enjoyed it – although I didn’t dislike it either.  (I think that’s the stodgy part me rearing it’s ugly head.)

This time around though, everything was based on the practical part of the exam – it was a test of skill rather than information and that’s what made it all the more challenging and all the more scary.   Throughout the semester,  all our practical work was the take-home kind.  There wasn’t much that had to be fitted within a short, specific time frame.  And being creative is easy when you have the time to freak out, play with ideas and discard a dozen of them before selecting one.  

Having to do it withing a 2 hour time frame is whole different ball-game.  At least for me.  At the risk of sounding melodramtic – this was the true test of my mettle.  Am I cut out for animation?  That’s a question I needed to answer for myself, and while I’m still balancing on that fine line between passion and fear, I can let go of some of the insecurities I’ve been burdening myself with.

I enjoyed myself – not in that high, excited, adrenaline-based kind of way, but in a more settled, calm manner – like when you’re doing something you were created to do, and it doesn’t really matter how well you do it, or if someone else does it better than you – just as long as you’re doing it.   In a way, it has an air of the Divine to it, almost like worshipping God, but in your own unique way.

Every time I put something down on paper, or come up with an idea, I can’t help but wonder at: 1) the mental faculties that allow me to come up with it and  2) the fact that it can actually be appreciated by others.  The whole process of being able to have a certain effect over an audience is dependent on their ability to be effected.  And the fact that you can influence people simply by suggestion is itself one of the miracles of Creation – at least I think so.

It’s like the Ghibli movies I’m watching.  The lines are so simple.  Sometimes just one stroke for the mouth and yet curve it this way and you have a smile, curve it that way and you have a frown and draw it just so and you can capture an emotion that will tug at heart-strings.   How much of that power is in the placement a series of dots and how much of it is in the ability of perception that people have?

Is the power in the artist or in the people?  Is it in the image or in the eye?

As magical as it is, even animation relies on something that is beyond our control.  The whole Persistence of Vision issue is based on a biological anomaly that we didn’t ask for, create or have control over!  And there again you see the Hand of God over all our actions, no matter how unique or creative we think we’re being.

In a sense, it makes you fully aware of how dependent you are on His Way.  It’s His World, His Design, His System, His Everything – not only the way the things around us work, but even the way we ourselves work.   And yet, it’s all designed to suit our needs best.  Maybe that’s part of the all-consuming Love that exists between Him and us – that He created, but it was for us.   And we were created for Him.  

Except for one difference – He didn’t have to do what He did.  We don’t add a richness or value to His existence.  He was before we existed and will be after we cease to.  Unchanging, un-influenced.   We on the other hand, are thoroughly dependent on Him.  Without His Will for us to exist,  we wouldn’t.

Which means, we have only our Trust in Him to rely on.  That He will come through with all His Promises, that  if we are at His mercy, then it should be Mercy that is perfect and fair.  Otherwise, we’d be living in an opressive, dictatorship.

See what I mean when I say I am where I was always meant to be?  Much as I’ve thought about these things before, they seem to become clearer and clearer now.  The more I think, the more I can seem to understand.  It helps that I have plenty of stimulating conversation to help me along the way…and again, where would I have fouind it if I hadn’t joined this course?

So why the title of this post if everything is so hunky-dory?  It’s simple.  Things are too perfect.  And since they hardly ever are, I can’t help but be waiting for that hidden jinx to strike.   So I have a lurking pessimist within me, or maybe like the two boys in Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes – I’m the one who’s waiting for the next scrape or bruise, because I know it will come.

Life suddenly feels like this singluar, elongated sigh.  It’s weird – I feel like I’m taking in these impossibly deep breaths and trying to inhale the essence and possibilities of so many wonderful things around me, and then because I simply can’t hold my breath forever, I have to let it all out in these deep sighs.  And with every exhalation, I’m already readying myself for the next breath, because the emptiness within my lungs begins to suffocate me even before I’ve fully let all the air out.   

So my *sigh* is not a happy, satisfied, contented one.  But it’s not a sorrowful, sad, regretful one either.  It’s more of a nostalgic one where I know I’m going to have to give up my hold on some of these things sooner or later, and yet a part of me is still hoping against every grain of common sense that it won’t turn out that way.  It’s like that final term of high school when you know that part of your life has to end for the next to begin, but you’ve become so attached to it that the prospect of letting go saddens you before it even happens.

The question is: how did I manage to get myself into this despite all my good sense?

*Sigh*

S’laams
Bint Ali

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.
– Hart Crane, poet (1899-1932)

Stagnating…

I’m sitting in college, without much tafa to do anything.  I have oodles to do, but the s/w isn’t compatible, my head’s not working and I just don’t feel like doing it.

Total waste of time.  My next class is at 2 p.m. and it’s only 11.37 a.m.   

In some ways, I’ll be glad to see the end of this semester.  I learnt a lot and all, but you know how you just need to get away from everything sometimes?  That’s how I feel.  I think it has a lot to do with all the other issues involved in these past 10 or so weeks.  I so seriously need to get my act together – to do something, to change, to just start on all the things I had promised myself I would.

It’s only April so maybe, just maybe I’ll manage.  The year’s been more fruitful that many that have recently passed, so maybe that’s a good sign of things to come.

Lemme go read or write, or sit in the not-so-sunny sunshine and contemplate.  Anything to feel less useless than I do right now.   Correction: not useless, directionless…

S’laams
Bint Ali

Happy B’lated B’day!

Hah! Just goes to show, I don’t only forget b’days of friends and family members – Peppermintprose was officially one year old last week and it passed without me noticing it. Although (as usual) I had kept track through Jan and Feb and made a mental note to have a grand “Budday Post”. So much for that.

So, where am I one year on? What blog-wisdom do I have to pass on? Not much. I haven’t had any threats or controversial discussions, barely any comments (though the ones I did get were nice – thanks y’all!), Really, the one thing I’ve realised, having had two or three blog attempts die out in the past, is that the only kind of blog that succeeds is the one that you set out to do for yourself rather than others. Being a little selfish seems the best way to keep on track. It’s what makes you come back and put up a new post despite the fact that your reader-count in the past month could be on the left side of the number line.

And while you’re at it, blogging can be an excellent way to get stuff off your chest and learn about what’s hidden under all those issues that usually block your inner-voice from being heard. You come online, you type away, you post and suddenly things seem lighter and clearer. It’s like being your own shrink.

We’ve had a long weekend here for Easter and I took advantage of it to catch up on assignments. My exams start on the 16th and I haven’t read up on a single thing, I’ve forgotten how to use 3ds Max and I’m not yet panicking so I guess everything is normal.

I still can’t get over how different the various areas of my life are. I go to college and there everything seems worldly and basic. And then I go the mosque (like we did on Miladun Nabi) and suddenly it’s like being transported into a whole new dimension. The feeling of the place, the atmosphere, the aura – it makes you forget that there is such a thing as The Big Bad World. You feel this combination of peace and confidence that makes you think you can take on the world.

But I know, come Tuesday morning when I walk back into college, there will be a few minutes of disorientation – like when you wake up from a deep slumber – and then everything will be yanked back into this very tangible, earthy dimension. The magic will be lost. Or rather, I will be disconnected from it again.

I’m still wondering how to keep a hold of it. How to find a balance that will allow me to be on one plane and simultaneously live on another. I read in a book today, that you should empty yourself of your self and then only will you be able to find place to fill yourself with God. I guess, I’m pretty much stuffed to overflowing with myself, and draining out my ego isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. One second I’m making a firm resolution to put all these petty affairs that have been distracting me aside forever, and the next I’m thinking about them and have been carried along so far down the paths of my imagination that by the time I’m aware of what’s happened, I’m too shocked to be disappointed.

And it happens over and over again. No wonder the Prophet (s) called it Jihad-e-Akbar. I guess I should be grateful that I was able to catch myself in time, so that now I’m dealing (however unsuccessfully) with the matter rather than succumbing to it. God is Ever Merciful, eh?

So, one year one, what’s changed? I have. A very little. I know myself perhaps a tad bit more. It’s not grand, it’s not satisfying, but it’s a start. I intend to go the full thousand miles, so if you’ve stuck with me for the first step, you’re welcome to tag along for the whole hog. Who knows, if you let go of your shyness and make a comment or drop me a line, we might actually make good travel companions … 🙂

S’laams,

Bint Ali