Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Gift of Ramadan


Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calender. The Islamic calender is a lunar calender and so is 11 days shorter than the solar calender. Hence the month of Ramadan moves forward every year by approximately 10-11 days. It takes about 33 years and five days for Ramadan to complete a twelve month move across the yearly calendar. The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, which means scorching heat or dryness.

In Islam, Ramadan is the most important month as the initial verses of the Holy Quran were first revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in this month. Each day during this month, Muslims all over the world abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, as well as participating in anything that is ill-natured or excessive; from dawn until the sun sets. Fasting is intended to educate the Muslim in spirituality, humility and patience. It is a time to cleanse the soul, focus attention on God, and put into practice selflessness. The first three days of the next month, Shawwal, is spent in celebrations and is observed as the "Festival of Breaking Fast" or Eid ul-Fitr.

The Arabic word for "fasting" (sawm) literally means "to refrain" - and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts, and words. During Ramadan, every part of the body must be restrained. The tongue must be restrained from backbiting and gossip. The eyes must restrain themselves from looking at unlawful things. The hand must not touch or take anything that does not belong to it. The ears must refrain from listening to idle talk or obscene words. The feet must refrain from going to sinful places. In such a way, every part of the body observes the fast. Hence, fasting is not merely physical, but spiritual as well.

The ongoing Ramadan (started 11th July 2013 in India) is my first full fledged Ramadan. We have completed 21 days of fasting tonight. The fast starts after having Sehri (early morning meal) and ends with Iftar (fast breaking meal at sunset). The fasting continues for 29-30 days, depending on the sighting of the crescent moon.

It is said that the month of Ramadan is a gift of God to all his believers. With this month, every year the Almighty gives his people a chance to cleanse their souls and straighten their paths. It is said that throughout this month, the gates of Heaven are kept open, the gates of Hell are kept closed and the devils are chained up. The rewards of doing good in this month is 10 times, 70 times and even up to 700 times. The scientific benefits of fasting during this month include increased mental focus, detoxification, lower cholesterol, improved metabolism, ditching of bad habits, etc. With all the blessings, goodness, cleansing and festivities, the month of Ramadan is truly a gift.

Information courtesy:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Parents & Children

Children are very selfish creatures. From the moment we are born we demand our parents' love, attention, time and even earnings. We steal their hearts and become their pride and weakness. Along with us, our demands also grow. We ask and ask, but they never cease to give.

But we should learn to give back too. Like the many traits we learn from our parents, we should learn the art of giving from them too. They go on making sacrifices after sacrifices for us. Then why cannot we make small sacrifices for them. Why do we not understand that while forgoing things we can do without, we are relieving them in our own small way.


Many a times out of ignorance, instead of being thankful of our parents we complain of not having parents like someone else. But we forget that thousands of children do not even have parents. Our mothers spend most of her time in the kitchen preparing food for us. But at the table, instead of thanking her we complain about the food. We forget that millions of children across the globe do not even have a mother to provide for them. 



I remember Deta (my father) telling my sister and me that we should demand things from him; that we should not be worried whether he has the means to give it; that as a father it is his duty to provide whatever we want. We both were deeply touched because during that time our family was going through a rough patch. Even if he wanted us to, putting demands never became our forte. I think we could not do that because we never saw them doing that.
 
Our parents' world revolves around us. They strive relentlessly and tirelessly to give us a good life. They always work towards giving us better things and better opportunities than they had. Above all, they give us their unconditional love. All we need to do is to respect their efforts, treat them well, care for them and above all be thankful of having them.

It is very natural that our parents hope that we would take care of them when they grow older. They give us all their lives. And when we grow up, it is our turn to take care of them. This is the cycle of life. But unfortunately many of us do not think so. Many of us think that once our parents make us capable of earning a living, we are done with them. I know of people who have their own families and still trying to take from their old parents in whatever small and big ways they can. I know people teaching their children to demand presents from their grandparents. It is really so sad and pathetic. But such children forget that life comes to a full cycle. We should always remember that the way we treat our parents, is the most probable way our children will treat us.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WWW Wednesday 2 (24th July 2013)

WWW Wednesday is a weekly reading event hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To play along, you just have to answer the following three (3) questions…
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
My answers to the above questions are:
What are you currently reading? I am reading "A Quiver Full of Arrows" by Jeffrey Archer. It is a compilation of short stories by the author.


What did you recently finish reading? I last read "Can Love Happen Twice?" by Ravinder Singh. I did not like the book and to me it was a disappointment. You can see my review at http://natasha-pointstoponder.blogspot.in/2013/07/book-review-can-love-happen-twice.html

What do you think you'll read next? I am most likely to read "And The Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini and "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri. I received both the books as birthday gifts this month.




PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own WWW Wednesdays post, or share your answers in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

Book Review: Can Love Happen Twice?

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Frankly I did not like it. I felt emotions were missing and the book was a forced attempt. The first book was a true story and mixing fiction and too much drama in the sequel did not appeal to me. I also felt that he narration dragged in the middle, especially the incident when Simar tries booze. In a nutshell, a disappointment.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rain Bane

I have been born and brought up in Assam, a beautiful state in north east India. So naturally rains have been a very important part of my life. It was raining when I was born and it normally rains on my birthday. I love rain. But rains love Assam a lot more. Every year rains play havoc in Assam. Every monsoon, the mighty river Brahmaputra, the lifeline of Assam, and his (Brahmaputra is the only male river in India) tributaries swell and spill over embankments to inundate miles of land, affecting and afflicting lakhs of people in rural Assam. And when the sluice gates are closed in order to prevent the river water entering the city, urban Assam witnesses flash floods. 
Being a rain lover, I can not speak ill about rains. But it does have severe consequences when a region is ill equipped for excess rains. Unfortunately floods have become a part of Assam's  life. Every year more than half of the state's districts, hundreds of villages and lakhs of people are affected. Every year promises are made that the state will be better equipped the coming year to combat floods, but alas. The same  story of loss repeats itself, year after year.
Due to floods, rural Assam loses homes, agricultural lands, cattle, livelihood and infrastructure. Village dwellers are forced to leave their submerged homes and take shelter in makeshift houses on the national highway. Post floods, disease and hunger plague them. Homes and livelihood require to be built up again. Farmers venture out to the nearest city/town in search of work. Most of them end up working as construction workers.

Plight of the wild animals follows a similar storyline. Flood waters in the wildlife sanctuaries and reserved forests force animals like the rhinoceros, deer, elephant and wild hog to seek highland normally the national highway. Many of them end up getting injured or killed by speeding vehicles. Ruthless poachers also have their way with these vulnerable animals.
The story of the city dwellers is slightly different. The low lying areas of Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, also called the gateway to north east India, are consistently flooded each rainy season. Gutters and drains overflow as rain water has nowhere to flow out. In the recent years many of the natural water bodies have been filled up to make way for real estate development. As a result the rainwater flowing down the hills and other higher areas of the city has no option but to flood the city. Plus, as the Brahmaputra is already flooded, water from inside the city can not be allowed into it. Main roads and gullies transform into raging rivers and houses are flooded with all kind of debris. There are incidents of people falling into open manholes and getting drowned. Since a couple of years cleaning drive of the drains have been undertaken but that had been a little help. But again, some effort is better than no effort. The city people has also very little civic sense. Even after all that they suffer, they continue throwing plastics bags in drains and hence suffocating the whole drainage system of the city.
The sad part is Assam floods are now regarded as the state's basic features and left at it. Between the years 2005 and 2011, an astronomical amount of Rs. 11000 crores is said to be spent on flood relief and maintenance (http://news.oneindia.in/2013/07/09/flood-relief-funds-misused-assam-1255828.html). Every year politicians and government announces setting up of committees and funds to find long term solutions. But the reality is more the fund, more is the corruption and misuse. As long as the authorities involved are not affected by the devastating floods, they will not care for the victims. Floods are just another occasion for the political parties to secure votes by promising remedies to the victims.

Over time, there had been several suggestions as to how floods can be tackled, prevented or use to our advantage. One basic approach suggested is to convert Brahmaputra itself into a series of reservoirs (http://www.assamtimes.org/node/7397). Another is building embankments along the entire river length.But  of having the expertise and affordability, nothing concrete has been done about the situation. As long as the excess rains are used to our advantage, they will continue to be a bane to the Assamese.

News for Assam floods:




Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My 1st interview!

I have already shared with you that I won a blogging contest hosted by Sulekha Rivr (http://natasha-pointstoponder.blogspot.in/2013/06/what-makes-happy-mother.html). I was elated further when I was informed that they would be doing a feature on me. So I gave my first interview ever!! Here is the link to the article: http://homeneeds.sulekha.com/meet-our-contest-winners_604857_blog



Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Review: The Aviary Gate

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The story runs in two periods, one is set in the year 1599 and the other is set in present day when a research student discovers a manuscript. I felt the present day part was absolutely unnecessary. It was more like a plot of a Mills & Boons novel. This part actually spoiled the line of the earlier period for me. Plus I felt the period story itself was not so strong. Couple of things seemed irrelevant; like the slave girls Celia and Annetta were having stomachaches which was mentioned frequently but no explanation was given for that. The book started on an interesting note but towards the later part I had to force myself to finish it. This book can be read only as a time-pass.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Music Tape Magic


Anyone born in the 1980's and 1990's will surely remember the magic woven by music tapes while growing up. My earliest memories of music include bollywood songs like "Johnny Johnny Julie ka dil", "Jilele jilele", old bollywood songs re-sung by new singers and english numbers of Boney M. 

We had a Philips tape recorder cum radio. Deta had a whole music system in place by installing sound boxes and amplifier. He would play ghazals usually in the evenings. Deta had a huge collection of music cassettes. His taste ranged from old hindi songs, ghazals to classic english songs. He had hundreds of them and we often joked that we would use his cassettes instead of bricks to build our house. As he had lost several of them after lending them out, he had  stickers saying 'No lending' typed and then pasted one on each cassette. Listening to music was a task in itself. When the sound of the music went haywire, it meant that the 'head' of the tape player needs to be cleaned. It was made sure that the head cleaner was always in stock. Problems would arise if the reel of the cassette got entangled in the player. Once the tangled reel is freed from the player, a pencil would be enough to wind it back in. But on bad days, the reel required to cut and joined again. And that meant some portion of some song would be gone. The cassettes also needed to be put in sun from time to time inorder to keep the reel dry and free from fungus.

As my sister and I grew up, competition for the player became high. And finally we got our own upgraded Philips cassette player which we kept in our room. Latest bollywood songs and latesh english pop music ruled our room. Since we sisters got no pocket money, we saved the small notes given to us by our grandparents, uncles and aunts to buy the english music cassettes. One english cassette came in around 100 or 120 rupees which was a fortune in those days. Exchanging cassettes with friends was also a very profitable option. In later years we carried the player to our hostel too (we two were in the same institute).

But listening to songs was not the only job. Knowing the lyrics of the songs was very prestigious. So the songs needed to be written down and memorized. I had two diaries, one for english and one for hindi songs. Cassettes were played, paused, played, stopped, re-winded, paused so as to jot down the lyrics. The first cycle of song writing was done on rough paper.  They were written in the diaries only as fair copies. May be understanding the woes of teenagers, written lyrics started to com inside the english music cassettes.

I listened to music before leaving for school, in the evening before sitting down to study, while solving maths problem and to take short breaks when studying. I remember once my sister and I were listening to rock music at full volume at noon time. It was a hot summer afternoon and Deta just came home for lunch. He shouted at us and said that all we needed to do then was to build a bonfire in the backyard and warm our hands! He was so angry to hear such loud music in the middle of a hot summer day. Sometimes he would say that all his plants would die hearing such music.

I think it was around the year 2006 when mp3 music became a rage. People no longer bought cassettes and cassette players became obsolete overnight. A couple of years later, we bought a Philips CD music player for our home (Yes, we are Philips fans!!). Since then I have gifted several music CDs to Deta. His favourite ghazals and other compilations. But he does not listen to music anymore. He says playing music has lost the charm. Cleaning the tape head, checking the cassette cover to see what song comes next, forwarding or rewinding the cassette to play your favourite song, all that was a part of his magic of listening to music.

Well, I am doing quite well without cassettes though. I have sound boxes in my room and play music from both my laptop and cell-phone. But yes, my entire generation has lost the magic of cassettes just as the generation of my parents have lost the magic of gramophone records.