Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Saudi Arabia has done it again: stunned the world! Banning all things Valentine and all things red! No red roses, no gifts, lest they encourage "immoral relations between the umarrieds." One may argue that is the rule of the country and all who live under that sky must abide. But this is a country where a girl who has been gang-raped is lashed, where a woman is punished for being any more than a subservient property - what moral code are we talking about? This is like saying, in segregated America, that the rule of separating black and white should have been followed because that is the law of the land. Wrong is wrong - there is no justification. Not to say that Valentine is a necessary day - because any day can be a day for love - so spread the love to our fellow man!
Talking of fellowship, I have warmed toward Australia, which has joined a handful of governments in history who have apologized to the indigenous inhabitants of lands they took over. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized in parliament to all Aborigines for laws and policies that "inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss", singling out the "stolen generation."

Onto Denmark where
newspapers are reprinting the "offensive" Mohammed cartoons. Yes it their right, but what is the point of recreating the ire of millions of people when it has already led to turmoil and deaths? But equally seriously, Muslims should see this for what it is and not consider a threat to their faith - if anything denounce the people who allegedly were plotting a "terror-related assassination" of Kurt Westergaard!Spielberg has withdrawn his services from the Beijing Olympics as a show of support to Darfur. China feels this direct implication of their impotence against the injustice in Darfur is unfair. Actually what is really unfair is the fact that hundreds of thousands of our fellow man in Darfur have been massacred, raped, and left for dead while we celebrate the greatness of the human race at the Olympics.
I sound like a bleeding heart liberal - but what I am is just as mortal and just as human as my brother and sister human anywhere in the world. No label can strip away the frailty of life.

Monday, February 11, 2008


I used to think that touché was in reference to someone being "touchy" about a comment. Actually it means "well done, old chap, bravo, good for you, that was a witty come back." Well something like that. The word stem is the French verb, "toucher", to touch, and is used in fencing to acknowledge when one has been hit or touched.

Talking of old chaps, I am reminded of one of my most favorite fictional characters, Reginald
Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. Jeeves, a gentleman's gentleman, is a title character of the likes of "Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves" and "Well Done, Jeeves", amongst many other thoroughly charming books. In fact, the name of the search engine "Ask Jeeves", is inspired by the original Jeeves. And in the midst of a heavy semester, across an ocean from Totleigh Towers in Berkshire, I can still dive into a Jeeves book and laugh in guiltless delight. And truly the world does seem lighter.

We watched "Atonement" this weekend. It was fine, but expectedly, the book is richer in words, feelings, and alignment of characters. We also watched "Meet the Spartans" last week and there is nothing to which to compare this movie.

English is not my first language - as I conveniently remind people when I am at a literary loss, literally - but it is the language which allows me to express the thoughts within me. It is in expressing thoughts, especially the ones deep within, that we are able to understand ourselves, to form ideas, and expand the horizon of our perspectives.

"Oh jolly good," Jeeves might say, "if I may express myself, perhaps you should expand your horizons by resuming your work day."

"Touché. Yes indeed, rather, my good man. Hand me my hat would you? Thank you."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Busby Babes

"The Munich Air Disaster of Feb 6, 1958 rips the heart out of Manchester United with 8 of its brightest young things perishing in the twisted metal of the plane crash". They were known as the Busby Babes, incredibly talented and incredibly young - an incredible loss to be felt by all United Fans across the world, for years to come.

Currently, there are three books on my reading radar:

Ornament of the World - how the Muslims, Jews and Christians created a culture of tolerance in Medieval Spain: by Maria Rosa Menocal
Atonement- about perceptions, misunderstanding, consequences - and endless love: by the Booker Prize winner, Ian McEwan
Brick Lane - a Bangladeshi woman in a foreign land coming to her own: by Booker Prize nominee, Monica Ali

Both "Atonement" and "Brick Lane" are fiction and have been made into movies recently. "Ornament of the World" is non-fiction, if only it was current reality.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fastnacht, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras ... Super Tuesday!

Mardi Gras: "the last opportunity to feast and have fun, before 40 days of self-denial". The name sounds exotic, but it means "Fat Tuesday" in French.The most famous celbrations are in Nice (France), Cologne (Germany), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and New Orleans (USA). The official colours for Mardi Gras are purple (to represent justice), green (stands for faith) and gold (which symbolizes power).

In Venice,
the practice of wearing masks for disguise reached its pinnacle in the 18th Century, when Venetians of different social classes used Carnival as an excuse to mingle.
Not to be outdone, there are also fastnacht parades in Germany. Also not to forget Pennsylvania, where the PA Dutch celebrate Fastnacht by using up all the fat in the house by making fastnacht pastries. Try some recipes.
Others call this pre-Lenten Tuesday (before Ash Wednesday), carnival - in Latin root, "kiss your flesh goodbye."

Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day
. gets its name from the ritual of "shriving" that Christians used to undergo in the past. In shriving, a person confesses their sins and receives absolution for them. In fact, over 1000 years ago a monk wrote in the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes, "in the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him."

"Dear Confessor, I danced in the carnival, hid myself behind a mask, ate lots of pancakes and I feel fat this Tuesday. Please shrive me so I may strive to turn into a new leaf in the next 40 days."

In Olney, UK, Shrove Tuesday is celebrated with a Pancake Day Race - which, as the tales have it - started in 1445 when an unknown woman, cooking pancakes, heard the shriving bell summoning her to confession. In haste, she ran to church wearing her apron and still holding her frying pan and thus, this English Rose started a charming tradition. Try some. Also there is a tradition of having semla on Shrove Tuesday.
OH - and I nearly forgot with all this carnival hoopla! It's Super Tuesday 2008! Barack and Hilary in dead heat. McCain moving forward. Romney feeling the love from "conservatives", the likes of Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and the party of one, Ann Coulter.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Perks of Perkiness ...

Last Friday I heard, through the proverbial grapevine, that a couple of ladies (whom I had considered to be smart and friendly colleagues) had been saying how "lively" and "perky" I always was, even at 8:00 AM - and how it annoyed them! That hurt me. In fact, one of them had recently remarked, in what I had thought was a friendly, genuine conversation, "Nazli, you are always so happy". And I replied delightedly, "yes, I am so happy to be alive".

Now, gentle readers, my life is no better than yours - believe me. I have my own share of hurt that have cut to the core, and sets of obstacles that constantly need to be overcome. However, I am happy, for example, for my eye sight, for the use of my arms and legs, for being able to breathe, for my basic brain functions, and for what I value most - I am so happy for love! So yes I am generally very happy and excited - even at 8:00 AM in the morning. I am not a morning person, mind you - but I am bloody happy to be alive - any morning.These 2 women don't like me much because they think I am always "perky". At first I felt sad - then a few minutes later, I looked up "perky", and here are the synonyms: "lively", "vivacious", "playful", energetic". I'll take a dose of "perky" any time, thank you very much. Incidentally, the antonym is "lethargic". I'll pass thank you.

But I have faced this issue before, people thinking that my friendly nature is to be eyed with suspicion because how could someone always be genuinely "perky". Well, certainly if the depth of my character is undermined due to my friendliness, there is nothing I am willing to sacrifice - except the company of such skeptics.

Ok - I am not hurt anymore - I woke up just as happy and excited. But coincidentally, I saw one of the ladies this morning at a coffee shop. Other than the mild "good morning", I had little to say because I certainly did not want to "annoy" her. But it felt odd, not to be "genuine" and bubbly. Suddenly an elderly gentleman walked in with a Manchester United" cap; I forgot my melancholy act and with the exuberance I felt inside, I greeted my fellow man and talked about the best team in the world! It was as though Life was reminding me to be exactly who I am, and not to cater to the doldrums of negative opinions. What a boost to feel like Life is on your side.Here's to all you happy, perky people out there! Here's to the Giants for winning Superbowl 42 (Roman Numerals need not apply). And here's to the hilarious "what is love" Pepsi Max ad, and the unibrow Planters ad. Talk about perky ;-)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

ambiguous ...

is a word that connotes skepticism and wariness - it's root is from the Latin "ambi-", meaning 'in two directions' and "agere", as in 'to lead'. Basically - to lead about in two directions. so an ambiguous concept is not "clear" in that it is neither one or the other, i.e. neither black or white.

what, then, is the word then for, "to be able to see both sides"? 'considerate', 'reasonable', 'bifoca
l', 'ambi-something or the other'? what is so bad about not committing to one of two ways; instead, either seeing both ways OR actually having the depth to consider another perspective altogether. thus i suggest that the word "ambiguous" be redefinded.

so now 'ambitious' could be viewed with aplomb and warmth as well as with skepticism and wariness - because, after all, the word is by nature "ambiguous" and should invoke an undefined feeling of "awe, surprise, stunning possibilities, foreboding", the "who knows" and "que sera sera" sort of 'ambiguous' kind of feeling!
this picture taken last October is either a "sunset" or a "sunrise" - ambiguous, wouldn't you say? :-)

Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania saw his shadow today and has forecasted 6 more weeks of winter. Ambiguously, Gen. Beauregards Lee of Georgia did not see his shadow and an early spring is on its way. That would be ambiguous, except for the simply fact that GA is 3 states south of PA, and it was probably cloudy in PA and sunny in GA, thus the shadow.
Happy Groundhog Day!