Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Coz I'm keeping it real...

I find it strange and kinda odd how most people around the world have so much hope going into the New Year, especially since it’s that time of the year where there is always a shocking celebrity death and a catastrophic natural disaster of some sort looming.

If I courageously delve into the dusty cob-web archives of my brain, many things come to mind. It’s been quite an eventful year with the devastating Haitian earthquake, the Gaza flotilla debacle, horrific floods in Pakistan, Greece and economic turmoil threatening the state of the European Union, Eugene Terblanche found murdered, a phenomenal Soccer World Cup in SA, massive protests at Ground Zero surrounding the Islamic center / Mosque debate, Chilean miners trapped underground for months, Julian Assange & his Wikileaks, South Africa versus Shrien Dewani, positively the worst winter the northern hemisphere has seen in decades, the worst summer the Southern Hemisphere has seen in decades, Prince William engaged, and a few countries in Africa on the brink of civil war – that’s your 2010 in a nutshell.

It was the best of years, it was the worst of years. And I’ve watched, observed, often participated and learned my lessons, like I usually do every year.

This year I learned that sometimes my impatience makes me condescending – even though it’s never my intention to be all prick-ish. I HAVE TO learn to be more patient.

I’ve learned that no matter what you do to help others in whatever way possible, most of the time your efforts will mean nothing to them and they will either conveniently forget what you’ve done or they will simply ignore you and live in denial. And therefore any good we do in life must be done for the sake of doing good… not with the hope or expectation of reward or recognition.

I’ve learned that I can dance merrily for 5 hours straight drenched in sweat with limbs and muscles that ache to the point of anesthesia, but I have major issues doing 20 minutes on a treadmill.

I’ve finally learned something that my late grandmother told me around 2 decades ago. She said “to do the right thing is difficult. It’s always very tough and difficult and people will call you names and talk behind your back and no one will stand with you. But when you’re doing the wrong thing, those same people will cheer for you and you’ll be everyone’s hero. Do the right thing, fuck every one else because most of the time, they’ll only want to be there for the good times anyway”.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter who you are, we are all being tested continuously. This year I’ve been stunned and astonished to my core as I witnessed a few key figures in society fall from grace under the most horrific and scandalous of circumstances. Mind you, some of these people were the same ones who once-upon-a-time looked down upon me quite arrogantly. But I take no joy in their pain, if anything, it’s left me absolutely terrified because I think that if God could allow that to happen to some of those prominent holified folk, I dare not imagine what could happen to me. We reap what we sow and the higher you fly, the harder you fall unfortunately.

I’ve learned that behind the façade that is Lady Gaga, behind the bad hair, behind the strange and outrageous apparel, behind the mask of make-up and over-sexualised innuendo, behind the assumptions and propaganda – there is a genius in the form of a woman who possesses a brilliant mind, coupled with profound depth and insight, heralded as one of the few true artists of our time, who is probably more “real” than any celeb Hollywood has ever produced.

I’ve learned that most of us are so colonialised that it affects almost every part of our lives negatively… not that every aspect of colonialism is bad or negative… but people cannot seem to reconcile parts of themselves, their cultures and faiths, without becoming walking contradictions and most of that internal conflict comes from colonial ideals ingrained in the very fabric of every society that was ever occupied or colonialised by a Western power. I don’t expect most people to *get* this one.
And perhaps, my most important lesson this year is that you can take people out into the sun, but you cannot make them see the light. See, there are different levels of understanding in this Universe, but we all haven’t been afforded the same degree of comprehension. And it doesn’t matter what you do or say to make the other person see this “light”, if they’re not meant to get it, they won’t.

You could physically show people the huge gapping hole in the road ahead but you cannot prevent them from not jumping in quite willingly. You could show them the pitfalls and warn them constantly about making those mistakes; but most of the time they won’t listen, make you look like the crazy one, and go ahead and do what suits them anyway. And the light will only go on when The Almighty wills it to go on… in Islam we call this hidayah “for any to whom Allah giveth not light, there is no light!” (Qur’an 24: 40).

It reminds me of a well known story: the story of Moses (Musa AS). From all the stories I’ve ever told on this blog, this is my absolute favourite. It’s less of a story – because a story implies an element of fiction – and it’s more of a historical account. So this particular historical account happens to be the lengthiest and the most detailed of all the Prophets (AS) in the Qur’an and for me, it’s a definitive illustration of Good triumphing over Evil. It is the ultimate story. An original.

What I love about the narration is how “human” Moses was. He was remorseful and repentant when he accidentally killed a man and when he was commanded to face the Pharaoh and his magicians in the court, he was genuinely scared! They said: "Our Lord! Verily! We fear lest he should hasten to punish us or lest he should transgress (all bounds against us)." He (Allah) said: "Fear not, verily! I am with you both, hearing and seeing (Qur’an 20: 45-46). In a life where I have many reasons to be afraid all the time, I always remember those words.

Anyways, the part of the story that strikes a chord with me is when Moses eventually managed to lead the Israelites out of Egypt towards The Promised Land of Jerusalem or Canaan as it was known then. And one day while out in the desert, he went up into the mountains – where he received the ten commandments and spoke directly to God Almighty – and didn’t come down for a number of days. When he eventually emerged, he saw that the Israelites had fashioned a calf out of a lump of gold and they were worshipping this calf, calling it their deity.

Now, seriously, after all the shit they’d been through – after escaping Pharoah’s soldiers and magicians and crossing the Red Sea whilst witnessing a sheer miracle granted unto Moses (AS) by God Almighty, with their own eyes, as he struck down his staff and the water parted for them long enough to pass through but then gushed together again so that Pharoah and his men all drowned – they STILL went ahead and decided to worship a lump of gold!! I mean, there they were, witnessing God’s work first hand and what did they do? They basically forgot all that He had done for them and rejected all belief, and substituted it with their own. And one can’t help thinking, how absurd, what kind of idiocy is that?!?

The Israelites never made it to The Promised Land because as a punishment for their shameless ingratitude and their transgression against God Almighty, they were left to wander around the desert for 40 long years.
Fast forward 5000+ years on, and the most tragic of all is that things haven’t changed much. The majority of people today are no different. You can try to show them the light, you can show them a better way, but they’ll be just as ungrateful, indignant, arrogant and obstinate as those Israelites were over five thousand years ago. I guess it must be human nature. Most people would rather wander through the deserts of life for all their years than to seek and accept enlightenment. Most would happily brew in their status quo because they lack the courage or fortitude to venture out of their comfort zones for the purposes of self-improvement – improving upon the self for the sake of oneself.

And with that, I will leave you to think about this. You may agree or disagree, that’s your prerogative. I’m done with all this shit.

But before I go, I thought it would be worth mentioning a few of the people that have made this year more than just a little bearable for me.

Fatima, a huge heartfelt thank you for always giving me an ear and listening to me bitch and whine throughout the year. You are one of the most unpretentious people I know with an amazing open heart and open mind, and you make it so easy for me to be myself too. I think I really do love you ;P

Prixie, a huge heartfelt thank you to you too, for listening to me air my frustrations about things that only you can understand and for always having a kind comforting word waiting for me.

Tazeen, my sister from another mister lol. I know I can always count on your objective point of view, your wicked sense of humour and your brilliant mind. You are the one person I can always turn to without fear or reservation. When I grown up, I want to be just like you :)

Zesty & Mezzaterra: Thank you ladies for your honesty and for being generous with yourselves. It’s always a pleasure to talk to both of you because I know that you ladies are for real.

I feel a sense of kinship that transcends geographical boundaries with all of the ladies because there are facets of my life that only you can understand. And each of you have given me something that I cherish the most in any friendship – that unpretentious honesty, openness and true generosity of spirit that is so rare and hard to find. You are inspirational and there is a part of me with each of you.

And I cannot forget the somewhat less vocal but equally present Honest Waffle, Shameema, Pserean: Thank you ladies for your input and for always being there.

I’d also like to thank a few of the gents: Dreamlife, LL, Mezba. Thank you for your comments, discussions and notes throughout the year. We may not always agree on every single point but you guys have the ability to make me question and challenge my own perceptions and see things in a different light. I value your input because it helps build a better me.

For the rest of the commentators, fans, email buddies and all the readers – a big thanks to those who’ve provided their input and feedback too. It’s always nice to know that we don’t live alone on existential islands drifting out to sea. I always welcome comments and emails because it reminds me that there are other people in this world too… and we are always more the same than we are different.
Geez this sound more and more like a goodbye post. Not that I have any intention of leaving or going anywhere or quitting cyberspace or anything like that; but if there is one thing I DO know is that anything is possible and life often takes us where our imaginations don’t.

And so, for the New Year, and all the years ahead, I wish every single one of you light and truth… not the kind of truth that’s convenient for you… but an authentic truth that brings about peace and clarity. May you live your absolute truth, and may you find the light, if you haven’t already.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Be careful of what you tell your kids...

I must have been 4 or 5 years old at the time... but the memory sticks out as vivid as ever. We were at Mother’s workplace and they were hosting a Christmas party for all the employees’ kids and they had a variety of colourful party snacks – the stuff that every kids’ dreams are made of. And I remember I was playing with Mother’s colleague’s daughter, Michelle.

Mother had told us that Santa was on his way and if we were good, we’d all get presents! We were so bloody excited, we decided to wait at the door for his arrival. We waited and waited, eventually got bored and ended up playing with the other kids in a huge empty office instead.

We were running up and down the corridor when we got the news. Apparently, Santa was stuck on the side of the building so he wasn’t going to make it after all. But he was smart enough to send one of his Reindeers up with the presents.

I was so disappointed, but too strong-willed, even back then, to give up so easily and I was determined to wait for him to get his big fat red ass un-stuck and show up at the damn party. And I waited... and waited. But then someone started handing out all the presents he had sent with the Reindeer that no one saw, and I temporarily forgot about waiting while I tore through the bottle- green Christmas wrapping paper imprinted with gold wreaths and felt my disappointment reach a whole new level.

That red fat bastard sent me a Raggedy Ann doll and Michelle got a Barbie. So he didn’t show up like he promised to and then to add insult to injury, he gave me a rag doll. What the fuck was I going to do with a rag doll? Michelle had already changed Barbie’s clothes and was busy combing her long blond hair. I couldn’t comb Raggedy Ann’s woolly hair because firstly, I didn’t get a brush unlike some other people I knew and secondly, Annie’s hair wasn’t made for that, it would have all fallen out anyway.

That very moment was the pinnacle of Apartheid and if I had never felt less-than before that moment, I sure did then. But I couldn’t just let it go. It was not going to end like that for me. So when Michelle wasn’t looking, I grabbed the orange scissors off the nearest work station and gave Barbie a new hairdo, because that’s the kind of bitch I am. I had decided that she looked better in a Bob anyway. Michelle didn’t think so. Whiny bitch shrieked like a banshee and cried all day.

And to this very day, I think it would have all turned out differently if Santa wasn’t such a dick and just showed up when he was supposed to. Sometimes, I secretly wonder where he is and every year since then, in the most bizarre unconscionable way, I find myself still waiting for him. And I don't even celebrate Christmas!!

It was only much later, in my teens, that I found out that our gifts were in fact bought and paid for by our parents. And that is why I love giving Mother useless gifts like shaving cream, stamps and PVC sweat suits.

Wishing a Merry / Happy Christmas to all those celebrating! :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We don't *really* do Christmas...

I usually get tonnes of presents in the post at this time of the year. They come from everywhere… the US, the UK, Venezuela, Italy, Germany, France and I usually get a card from a dear friend in Iceland too. Now what amuses me is that all my non-Muslim friends know that I don’t celebrate Christmas, but they send the gifts and cards anyway. And then I feel terrible and compelled to go out and get each of them something in return.

Thing is, Christmas is not a big deal in SA. Sure, every store is decked from top to bottom with all kinds of decorative apparel and there’s Boney M or Mariah Carey playing in the background… but to most here in SA, its advent means the beginning of Summer holidays where schools close for around 6 weeks (they closed last week Friday and only re-open in the second week of January) and everyone goes down to the coast or takes a few weeks off from work to lie around at the pool side or on the beach, attend parties, have picnics or troll about in shopping malls.

Needless to say, my first Christmas in London was a real culture shock. It was like our Christmas but on steroids... then mixed with amphetamines. People decorated their homes with little fairy lights on their windows and little Santas on the roof and huge Christmas trees in their homes. Some even competed for the best lighting displays outside their homes... most of them being quite pretty to look at. In Europe, it was much the same. It feels like Christmas, so much so that everyone usually wishes everyone a “Happy Christmas” even amongst some of the Muslims, Jews and Hindus…

At first this surprised me a lot… I mean it’s not like I go around wishing all my gift-giving Christian friends a blessed Eid Mubarak… but then it became interesting to see how other “western” Muslims interact with their societies and how they interpret events that they share with others even though it’s not really a part of their culture or religion.

And then, over time it occurred to me that to most people, Christmas has become more a part of their culture in that it has more to do with the culture of the country then it has to do with religion. And yes, of course, there are still many that observe it on a religious and spiritual level where attending mass, praying and worshipping etc. is the focal point of their beliefs and the day itself represents much more then exchanging presents and indulging in a day-long feast. But to a lot of other people, that’s exactly what it is… it’s the culture of Christmas and everyone’s invited.

In SA, things are very different… for example, people very rarely wish each other a “Merry Christmas” (we say *merry* y’all, the way it’s supposed to be said :P). None of my South African Christian friends have EVER wished me a Merry Christmas… in fact, I can’t even recall them telling each other (although I’m sure they did many times before)… yet in other countries, it almost felt like the Muslims were celebrating it too, that’s how often they said it. I remember the first time I came across another Muslim who wished me a “Happy Christmas” like it was the most natural thing on earth and reacting on my first instinct I was like “Why? We don’t celebrate Christmas”.

Yes, SA is very different in that way… people don’t put up lights outside their homes and they don’t sing carols in the streets (unless they’re striking for more wages) and even the most staunched Christians keep their Christmas under wraps… going to church and having lunch with their families etc. Our Christmas culture has less to do with Christmas and more to do with enjoying some downtime in the summer by spending an excessive amount of money shopping, quality time with our families, going to the beach, having braai’s, swimming on these hot humid days and using New Years Eve as an excuse to either party the night away or make empty promises with the renewed hope that the next year will actually be the one that's better than all the rest. And maybe this culture robs some of the Christians from that Christmas-sy atmosphere and experience, but they don’t seem to be too bothered about that.

Well where ever you are and whatever your beliefs, Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Everyone wants to be a billionare so freakin bad...

When it comes to money, there are essentially two types of people in this world: those who have it and those who don't. The DON’T category is further divided into those who have access to money that does not belong to them, and those who don’t have any resources so to speak.

Now I come from a middle class home, but parts of my family could be classified as wealthy... they’re the 'we-charter-our-own-airplanes-and-yachts kinda rich. But even so, I would classify myself as one of those people who don’t have money.

See when it comes to money, my definition of rich is when you only fly first class and stay in the Penthouse or Presidential Suite of every hotel; you possess your own 7-star furnished home or three, a nice luxurious car or ten, and several other essential items like a Rolex and a closet filled with designer gear AND you have tonnes of extra cash in the bank so that if you had to lose it all tomorrow, you’d be able to go out and buy everything again WITHOUT incurring ANY debt whatsoever... meaning you DON’T have a bond or mortgage, or a credit card that’s in the red and you don’t owe a single soul or entity a single penny.

From my definition I can tell you that there aren’t many people that are really rich or wealthy... although many would think that they are or pretend to be and the majority of them would only really have ACCESS to money.

One of my acquaintances is one of them rich people... they’re the 'when-we-go-overseas-we-stay-at-the-Kings-Palace-as-his-guests-&-when-theres-a-wedding-in-the-family-statesmen-&-royalty-from-all-over-the-world-attend' kinda rich. I’ve known her for quite some time but we’ve only really become friendly over the past few years when we got to know each other a little better. We usually go out now and then either for coffee or spend the day shopping etc. And we’re the weirdest pair because we have absolutely nothing in common... she’s married with kids and is a good decade older than I am... but for some reason we are quite comfortable with each other. I like her because she’s down to earth and I can be playful and totally honest with her... and she likes me because I don’t kiss her ass or give a shit about her money and I’m not materialistic and completey honest to the point of being blunt – she thinks it’s hilarious.

Anyways, spending time with her has taught me a great deal about really wealthy people. Firstly, they don’t display their wealth or status. There’s no show or ceremony every time step out of the house because class is something that no amount of money can buy. And unlike brand whores who need to define who they are by the (very visible) labels they wear, simple and understated seem to be the two labels that stick with these people. When I look at her, she always looks casual yet elegant, poised and relaxed.

At first glance, you’ll NEVER say that she’s one of the “elite”. All her labels are neatly tucked away on the insides of her clothes and only a skilled fashionista will be able to tell what or who she’s wearing. She drives a beautiful 7-digit car with coffee stains on the dashboard, an old tattered issue of Marie Claire on the passenger floor and the kids’ toys on the back seat, she’s not pretentious about it. She owns her money, her money doesn’t own her.

There is nothing more frivolously fascinating than watching a rich person spend their money. I’ve been out shopping with her numerous times in various upscale neighbourhoods and she’s the type of person that will walk into Louis Vuitton, buy two handbags for R17 000 each without blinking and ask me if I want one, then grin as I scoff at the notion of owning such clearly over-priced merchandise and bitch about capitalism and the starving children in Sudan.

But here’s the thing... she CAN do that. She CAN go out on a whim and get the latest Prada or iPhone or a small country or what-ever-the-hell-else she wants to. And I suppose anyone else with a yearly income of between 100 to 200-million could and would do the same thing. She is in the ‘has money’ category and not many people are like her.

I know an alarming number of people who have ACCESS to money... it’s a middle class thing... but they think or act like they’re rich, often living an extravagant lifestyle on a pauper’s salary. The simple truth is that most people in this day and age live way beyond their means, more so than any other period in history. Everyone wants to be a billionaire so freakin bad... and what’s worse is that most people aren’t willing to work for it. I know guys in the younger generations that expect to leave to school, work for a year and then buy brand new BMW’s.

Everyone’s out for a get-rich quick scheme... hustling their way through life so that they can be gawked at and admired for what they have, not who they are. And I can’t understand why. Is it a low self-esteem thing? Is it the psychological effects of post-Apartheid where everyone who was previously disadvantaged and wasn’t allowed to own or consume anything now suddenly wants to own and consume EVERYTHING in sight, because they secretly believe that it will be all gone tomorrow?

Most times I consider myself so fortunate because I don’t have that need to compete in that way... that I can love beautiful things but not become enslaved by them, and I’m not drowning in debt just to prove to the outside world that I’m worthy of my place on earth or that I'm just as good as they are. If I can afford it, I will buy it and if I can’t my heart doesn’t break and my world does not shatter. I am excessively rich in that I’m at peace within myself and content with my lot and if I can get more it would be great but if not, I know I’ll be perfectly fine without it.

Take it from someone with a background steeped in wealth, and being surrounded by it, I’ve seen first-hand the devastating effects of insatiable greed and the lengths that people will go to, to get what they want just to find that their efforts were in vain because no amount of money in the world can fill those emotional and spiritual voids... nothing good will ever come from the culture of acquiring and consuming. It inevitably results in the worst offenses committed by mankind and is a major contributing factor to the current state that the world is in.

And trust me, that no-name imitation bag purchased from China Town for R120 works just as well as that R17 000 Louis and no one will be able to tell the difference.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I Can't Think Of One...

I have the most fantastic stalking skills. I guess it’s not something to be proud of but I’m always amazed at what I can accomplish if I just put my mind to it. I should have been a detective. So who wants to know where Diego Forlán lives? I’ve got details on the house, the estate, the district, which municipality is falls under, which highway gets there faster; and for those of you on a budget, which bus routes to take... all this and I’ve never even been to Madrid.

It’s Friday already and as I sit here at my desk, acutely aware that I should at the very least pretend to be working, I can’t help but think of how fast this year went... one week blurring into another until the months fade away into obscurity. Sometimes it’s even difficult to fathom that we hosted the World Cup this year because it seems like a life-time ago.

When I was much younger and still at school, every day seemed like a week and it felt like every week dragged on for a month. Now, being somewhat older, I see that time means nothing and I have to wonder, is this how it’s always been? I’d like to speak to a few older people and get their opinion on this... has time as we know it begun moving at a more rapid pace as we move into the 21st century, or has time always moved on at the same pace and it’s just our perceptions of it (and our contemporary lifestyles) that has changed?
In any case, I’m looking forward to my two minutes at home (because that’s exactly what my weekend’s feel like) because this past month has been a nightmare with long 20 hour days and little sleep. For the first time in a very very long time I will not be going on a holiday this December... we usually have our holidays booked in December or January but since I’ve just come from a holiday, I’ll be at the office for most of December. I guess it’s going to be weird working alone... but there’s a getaway lined up in February so all is not lost.

There is a saying "the truth always reveals itself"... and throughout history, time and time again, this has proven to be true. It's still a wonder then, how (and why) do people think that they can do something and get away with it *wink-wink* *nudge-nudge* *cough-wikileaks*. There are just way too many gossipy people on earth and with the advent of technology, such secrets can not and will not remain kept or hidden.

And oh yeah, I think Anni Dewani's husband had her murdered for the insurance money.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Thought For Today

If Moses, Jesus and Muhammad could all come back today... they'd take one look around and say, 'What the F***! This is NOT how we intended it, people'.

~ Eddie Izzard