For some reason I have honey-boo-boo on the brain

Have you ever watched the show Here comes honey-boo-boo?  Hanna and I like watching reality TV because it doesn’t require too much brainpower and we end up spending most of the time talking at the TV, commenting on these “real-life” scenarios (which you can’t do with a movie – with a movie you gotta shut up and focus).  You better “redneckernise”!

I’ve also been coming back to the image in my mind, over and over again, of Bruce Jenner becoming a woman and wearing a dress (Bruce Jenner of Keeping up with the Kardashians fame).  The Bhebi has also noticed, and we had a brief discussion on what we are to think about sex-changes and homosexuality.  Islamically there is a view…

Anyways, moving on….Why are we fascinated by the lives of other people, to the point where we will watch their wacky staged lives with interest?  It’s morbid escapist fun.  We should probably leave alone that which does not concern us.  I’m not sure if this is similar to reading a novel, where you are allowed to peek into another world. Is there any similarity? Should we just try to go cold-turkey and quit the reality TV?  I don’t have a TV so it wouldn’t be too difficult.  But then there’s gossip news on Twitter and other social media.  It seems like the stuff bombards you wherever you go…and it’s sometimes so strange and fascinating…I guess it would be better to cultivate my fascination for figures more worthy of consideration.  Role models.  Maybe instead of looking up the latest Rihanna scandal I should turn to stories of the Sahaba (RA) instead.

What’s also intriguing though, is that these people clearly want and seek fame, but then try to avoid the label of role model, or sometimes bemoan their lost privacy.   They want to have their cake and eat it too (eeek, I hate that phrase….why wouldn’t you want to eat cake?)

On the other hand, do we gain anything from watching celebrities crash and burn? I’m not sure.  Maybe some parts of their lives are aspirational (but really only in a material sense).  Or maybe the hard work and machinations that it took them to get their 15 minutes of fame has something to be said for perseverance to their cause.   Or their messed up situations are a warning to us.  But overall, I mainly get a laugh…and then the images of these fake/real lives fade away…


Book club : Riding the samoosa express



I was once talking to a friend about arranged marriages when my boss walked by and stopped to listen to what he found to be an interesting exchange.  It’s weird how people from different cultures have such different ideas about marriage.  The bossman could not tangibly conceive of the concept of an arranged marriage, but according to Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, famed author of Eat, Pray,Love – but the book I am referring to this time is called Committed) the concept of love and romantic love is a western invention and is a fairly recent invention at that.

In many cultures marriage is still used to structure society and family – it is a practical tool used less to join two people together, than to serve a purpose in properly structuring the community.  One tribe of women in South East Asia did not understand Elizabeth’s conception of romantic love – when asked questions along the lines of whether her husband was “the one”, that special somebody, the elder lady of the tribe merely laughed, uncomprehendingly.  She knows that he is a good man – but more than that, she would not divulge.  The idea that the whole community is affected by a marriage also means that the community tries their best to intervene when things are going badly in the marriage – they have a vested interest in the structure remaining stable.  Unlike Western society, where dirty laundry is meant to be kept indoors…

I just read the book Riding the Samoosa Express (finally done) and I must say that some parts are amazing and some parts really made me cringe.

My favourite line so far is “as I grow older, age chases me like an old woman with a champal” in the essay titled Only Oomi.  The story My journey into spiritual awakening is also thought-provoking and well written.

But as I said, there were some awkward moments.  For example, the essay titled The Creation of Complex Me seems like an attempt to justify a lifestyle that the author is not completely comfortable with – it is defensive and condescending. Some parts seem to be just plain denial (and trying to deal with personal issues). I must admit that I am a snob and I know it – but at least I know it…The author creates an impression of herself as a cool outsider, with a pop culture reference thrown in here and there, but denigrates the culture and society, in favour of the Western culture that glitters so enticingly.  It seems like this story was written by an angry teenager, but who knows. Her point of view is something I may have identified with a few years ago, but after my second trip to India I have realised the awesomeness of the Indian culture and the young Indians around the world – granted, we do not have a perfect system, but it is not all bad. There are values and traditions that are good, and some that are bad. But if you don’t fit in, you need not look down on the rest of us mere mortals.  I must compliment the author though – it’s been a while since I reacted so strongly to a story, so I commend her for that.

My rant over, the book is actually really interesting and fun to read – most of the stories share the viewpoint that it is quite difficult for an educated Indian woman to find a husband, and this leads to the subtext that there is something wrong with Indian men for not wanting educated women…The book is a collection of essays from Muslim women in South Africa, all sharing their life experiences, mostly related to finding a spouse. It is divided into 3 parts, The road towards marriage, then Identity and finally Marriage and beyond (I would have thought that identity should come before the road towards marriage, but that’s just me – shouldn’t you first find yourself before finding someone else?)

At least there were some stories that did not follow the usual path of unconventional Indian girl meets prince charming (educated Indian guy who will accept her for who she is, brain and all).

I like the story of Zayboon Motala (Against all odds), a vignette of a life interestingly lived.  But there were many other cool stories too. Run, Samoosa, Run was really funny and I read it aloud to the Husband for some shared laughs.  I identified with Only Oomi and Reflections, although my life does not match those of the authors – their voices were authentic.  Education and Izzat was one of the stories that made me cringe, but hey, maybe I am getting more conservative in my old age.

The stories towards the end got better and better and there was more depth (and even some tears) – for some reason the authors towards the end of the book seem much more mature than the beginning – it’s like the book itself develops from angry teenager into mature woman.  Not a suitable career for a Muslim girl, and My journey into spiritual awakening, and From the depths of my soul were good reads.  I did not get the point of Out of the fish tank…and into the pond – there was a ton of description but no depth, resolution or analysis of all of the events described – quite unsatisfying.

The book could do with better editing, but maybe I’m expecting too much with regard to consistency and style from a book containing a collection of essays from different authors.  It’s probably a quirk of my own to always want the semi-colon to be in the right place (not that I know too much about grammar formally, and you all know that this blog is not edited with a fine-toothed comb – but I expect more from a real life paper book).  I really wished for more in the beginning of this book.  Even so, the book as a whole is interesting.  There will most likely be at least one or two stories to charm each reader (and one or two to irk each reader too, maybe).

The commentary on society was thought-provoking.  It leads me to believe that we all view society differently – if there are different pressures that society puts on different people, we may just be reflecting or projecting our own individual insecurities onto what we think society wants from us – when in fact, there is no global view.  We worry far too much about what other people think of us when the reality is that they probably don’t have time to think about us at all (or don’t care) because everyone has their own issues.

It seems that we all create our own realities and moralities and we judge people and actions and the world against our own standards.  If it is all about individual standards, we cannot possibly live up to all the different views of every person – everyone has a different view of what is right.  A few weeks ago, after lunch, the ladies were discussing some or other religious view at Rania’s house, and there were as many views as there were ladies.  Just goes to show: you may like chicken samoosas, but I like cheese.

…and now, a post on poop

We’ve been using Western toilets for years but my gran’s house used to have a high toilet and a low toilet.  Sweety-khala also used to have a low toilet in her house. I think Raahil may have even preferred that one, but I remember that I always avoided the low toilet.  I could never figure out what to do with my clothes and it was such a delicate mission.

India still has many low toilets, and they’re used often.  I guess it would be easy with a Lungi.  But lots of people in India are also adopting the Western style toilet.

The point is, research has now shown that squatting is the best position for pooping because it relaxes your colon properly and could save you from some fecal related diseases.  Click on this article for more detail.  The Husband tells me that you can get a “squatty stool for the high toilet. It apparently raises your legs a little so it mimics squatting.”  Have a look at this website to see a pic.

So that’s just a little contribution to the spread of poop-wisdom.  Happy pooping!

The Aurora Borealis and dark intentions

I love young adult fantasy fiction, it’s my favourite type of novel.  I used to think that I probably need to grow up and read more serious books.  I’ve had my Charles Dickens and Jane Austen moments and I’ve enjoyed them, but I keep coming back to fantasy.  For some reason I’d known about the Golden Compass books (by Philip Pullman) for years and didn’t feel the need to read them until I saw a reference to them in another book that I was engrossed in (Alif the Unseen).

But even then, the first time I saw Northern Lights at the library, I passed it by.  The thing that drew me to it eventually was that I remembered hearing comments about the book being heretical and having to do with religion.  Obviously, parents would be concerned if their kids are unknowingly reading a book that has strong views on religion.

Anyways, the book was stunning.  It took about 100 pages to really get into it but the alternate reality created is breathtaking.

The story follows Lyra, a young rambunctious girl who throws herself headlong into adventure (unwitting to the fact that she has been destined to change the world), but much to my delight the cast of characters is also filled with daemons, witches, gyptians and armoured bears.

The hints of religious philosophy are scattered throughout the book and really only comes to a head near the end, where there is discussion of original sin and the Church.  Being an adult and able to brush these references aside, I really fell deeply into the story…but I wonder if I would want my potential future children – or nephews and nieces – reading it until they are well into their 20s, because the obscure religious references may have an impact.  But maybe it’s good for kids to see all these divergent views, that may lead them to look deeper into their own religion and history.

I’ve heard that the Chronicles of Narnia also have a religious undertone but that was so subtle as to go completely over my head when I read the series, years ago.  It may be time to crack open the cupboard door to Narnia for a re-read.

Marriage, tying up loose ends and advice from the uncle – with a digression on Islamic Finance

The Husband and I got married with only a Nikah.  No civil marriage done in court, just our Masjid marriage certificate signed by us and the witnesses and the Moulana. Whether Islamic marriage is or is not recognized in South African law is a complicated question that I would not like to get into (partly because I don’t fully understand the issue).  Anyways, at least some parts of Islamic marriages are recognized, but this has been a piecemeal process and there is no overarching legal recognition that can give us complete peace of mind.

So, a few weeks before our Nikah, there was debate and discussion and advice floating around.  Most of the lawyers that we worked with strongly suggested that we get civilly married along with performing Nikah.  But, when questioned closely, nobody could give us a tangible reason as to why we needed a civil marriage.  After weighing the pros and cons and getting confused and un-confused, we decided to have Nikah only – we don’t want any other legal system to lay claim to our lives.  But we live in a secular country, so we knew there may be some issues lurking.

Luckily, I seem to have found the issue and there is quite a simple solution.  The issue relates to having a will.  Before getting into that, some background….

Marriage in Islam is closest to a marriage out of community of property, with no accrual – this means that assets are not shared – it does not all go into one big pot. Islamically, as I understand it, the husband provides for the family, and if the wife earns anything she is free to do with that as she pleases.  But in South Africa, the default position is that you are married in community of property – this means that everything is in the pot, mixed together.  If you don’t want this system to automatically stick to your marriage, you must write and sign an ante-nuptial contract (ANC) which you must have notarised (signed in front of a person with the fancy title of Notary) and you must have that contract registered (I think that means it must be lodged at Home Affairs, but I may be wrong about where exactly the lodging happens).

Anyways, we did not sign and notarise and lodge a formal ANC.

A few months later, while sorting out some investment issues, the investment uncle asked me whether I had an Islamic will.

The nice thing about this uncle was that he knows about Islamic Finance and investment and he gave me some interesting info on Al-Baraka bank and the various investments and accounts you can open with them.

So, you can use FNB or ABSA or other banks who have windows for Islamic Finance (this means that they have a few Islamic Finance products) or you can use Al-Baraka or another Islamic bank, where the whole range is Shariah compliant.  Since I already bank with one of the big 4, I may as well just switch over to their Shariah option.  But the Al-Baraka products do look exciting – because we can’t earn interest, earning something in a Halaal way on the cash just sitting in my bank account seems attractive.  They have these fixed term accounts (for example the money sits in the bank for 30 days, earns around 3% return, and then you can withdraw it, or reinvest it for another 30 days).

Anyways, just to digress a bit more – Islamic Finance creates structures that allows Muslims to invest, take out loans etc without having to deal with interest.  In Islam the idea is that money is a method of exchange, it does not hold value in itself, therefore money can’t make more money.  Your investment must be backed by capital or assets or something else physical – you must work productively to make a return on investment.  Islamic Finance contracts aim to eliminate interest, speculation and uncertainty.  The contracts are based on fairness.  So just a tip – go speak to a friendly Muslim investment uncle if you want to make clean investments.

The point of the story is that the Uncle also asked me about my will, and I told him that I didn’t have one.  But his explanation of the importance of a will has made me realize why the Husband and I both have to have wills (a thing we plan to do soon). If you are married Islamically and do not have a civil marriage and if there is a dispute on death, there is a chance that the dispute may lead to South African law being applied to your estate (and not Shariah law).  To make sure that that doesn’t happen, you must make sure that you have a will – if you have a will, the default South African law position will be overridden and then your estate can be sorted out in a Shariah way.

Islamic law tells us how two thirds of our estates must devolve (ie who gets what), but it also allows us to decide what to do with the last one third.  For example, we can bequeath that one third to charity or a friend etc.  If you want to make sure that your assets are properly dealt with when you die, you must have a Shariah will.  You can even find some templates online (click here for an example). I once read (I think) that making sure your estate is properly dealt with has consequences in the Qabr, so it’s important.

Anyways, the moral of this very long story is – get a will.

Get your sleeping bags, it’s time for camp!

The Ijtima is coming to town (not my town, Roshnee) but it’s exciting.  Sleeping bags, leather socks and crocs.  The guys get to bond and discuss important issues.  Also, I recently learnt that the main point of the Ijtima is to encourage people to “go out” (go out and give Dawah, it’s a big Tashkeeling session) and there are famous moulanas to boot.

While I’m not so sure about the cult celebrity status of Moulanas, the Husband explains that it is just a way of showing our respect and honour for the Ulema (they are the inheritors of sacred knowledge).

Roshnee is also famous for its hospitality so I’m sure it won’t be all that uncomfortable for the guys (I’ve heard that an Ijtima in Pakistan consisted of a field with hay to sleep on…that’s all…no tents and separate cooking sites and private cubicles).

I also used to call this thing the Istima (and I still do sometimes, it somehow rolls off the tongue easier than Ijtima).  Apa says it’s not a bad thing – Ijtima comes from the word Jamaat which relates to a gathering.  The word Istima is related to the word for hearing (so people go there and listen to talks).

I also heard some ladies talking about the Fikr of the Istima (I didn’t know what Fikr is either, but apparently it means to worry or be concerned).  These ladies are concerned about the success of the Ijtima and so they encourage people to read Yaasin or fast etc to ensure the success of the Ijtima.

People have been cooking and planing and the citizens of Roshnee are hard at work, waiting for thousands of Kurta-clad uncles to descend upon them.  Apparently there will also be a Moria contingent arriving for some Easter celebration, so best you leave early, because for some reason, there is only one road into Roshnee.

Here’s more