Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Let me start by saying that I've never particularly admired patriotism or flag-waving.

I blame religious/national/racial patriotism for all the wars & misery that ever existed in the history of humanity. I think of it simply as an extension of basic human selfishness & nepotism. Am greedy & prejudiced in favor of myself so by extension am greedy & prejudiced in favor of people who are like me in race/belief/geography/culture etc...And this kind of loyalty doesn't seem to me to be as noble & admirable as all the national anthems & war poems say. What I respect is loyalty to principle, a sense of what is just, a code of ethics, doing unto others as you would be done by.

Call me a hippie. I believe in the universal brotherhood of Man & human rights & in world peace. I believe we live on the same planet, we have the same needs & what we need to concentrate on is how to make the best of its resources in the manner that best benefits us all - not to annihilate it & destory ourselves in the eternal quest to grab as much power & resources & glory for our various clans/tribes/sects.Essentially we are destorying the species & the environment while happily waving our flags & singing our stirring patriotic songs.I'm sorry I see nothing noble or brave about that. It's just sad & futile & tragic.

When someone says they are proud of their country I always wonder what they mean?What is there to be proud about?You were born in that country or culture. It's not like you had any choice.Pride should be in something you worked for & achieved yourself.

Finally, I do wish that I could get rid of this tendency to feel ashamed & embarrassed when people from my country misbehave. I consider this a great weakness & I don't know why it happens.

First of all, I come from a very mixed cultural & religious background. Both my parents are half-caste which gives me roots in 4 different countries. Now it's a GREAT burden to have to feel embarrassed on behalf of that many cultural groups. It means you are practically never free of shame. One would have expected that this background would have freed me instead of restricting me more.

Also I have never actually lived in any of these 4 countries. I grew up in UAE which is a very cosmopolitan country. I had friends, neighbors etc...from all over the world. In my family we don't even care about nationality or religion when it comes to marriage so I have in-laws & relatives from all over the place.

So again why I do I have to apologize on behalf of people in places I've only ever visited as a tourist?

The worst part is when they do something good I don't feel particularly proud. I don't feel the connection. So patriotism - a sentiment I have never respected - HAS rubbed off on me against my will. And it managed to do so only in the negative sense.

I MUST work harder to rise above this.


Monday, June 27, 2005

How Is It Different From a Normal Love Song?


The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair---
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin---
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all---
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all---
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say,
I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?...
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep...tired...or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.

Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald]
brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet --- and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say, "That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor
And this, and so much more?
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
"That is not it at all,That is not what I meant, at all."

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or to
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous---
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old...I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Til human voices wake us, and we drown.

-- T. S. Eliot

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The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both,
And being one traveler, long I stood,
And looked down one as far as I could,
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I-I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


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Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Coffee Room...

One thing am not & have never been is a morning person. Everyday I wake up in the morning, get showered & dressed & stumble into my office in a semi-comatose state. The next 3 steps are to leave my bag on my desk & switch on my computer so the stupid secretary doesn't mark me late (she's programmed to think anyone who doesn't have a handbag on their desk & their pc on is not in the office) & make my cellphone silent because by some bizarre company rule we're not allowed to use cellphones in my office. Then I sleep-walk to the coffee Room.
I can tell it's going to be a wonderful day when someone's been in there before me & they've absolutely messed it up. I mean coffee, tea, sugar stains all over the counter & the floor, empty kettle, all the spoons dirty in the sink. So then I begin my day by cleaning up the coffee room because if I leave it like that the next person to walk in will think I messed it up & I'd be MORITIFIED.Is it because my department is a technical & therefore male-dominated one?I have friends in other departments & their coffee rooms never seems to look as bad as ours. What is it with men?Do they expect women to clean up after them even at work?
Only AFTER I've had my coffee & a small bottle of cold water do I actually say my good mornings. Everyone is used to that by now so no one really gets mad at me. They understand. Am just not a ray of sunlight that early in the morning.
My supervisor just informed me that someone from engineering is coming in an hour's time & I have to train him on how to use one of our systems. I said what training?Even our office secretary can use this system & she's not an engineer. Infact she could probably train him herself.But no of course she can't. His grade is too high. So he must be taught how to fill out a form & click submit by one of us. God forbid that we should fail to massage his professional ego for him. Then we'll have to pay for it next time we need something from his department. Go figure.


Friday, June 24, 2005

Love is A Many Splendoured Thing.....

Probably that's why it's so complicated. It has so many different aspects to it. You have to click on so many different levels.
Am falling in love. And am frightened.
First because am in a transitional period of my life. Am leaving this country soon. So is my family. To make a commitment here would mean such a big change of plans. Never thought of this place as a permanent home. And none of my previous relationships were with people who did. Always made sure we had similar plans for the future.
But this one happened so suddenly. Another new experience. I've fallen in love once with my cousin & once with an old friend. In both cases they were familiar faces. It wasn't love at first sight.
We only met 3 months ago. Last night he called from work at about 10 & we talked for half an hour. Then he said he was really tired could he go home & sleep for 2 hours & then call me. I said ok. Was sleepy but I was afraid that if I fell asleep I wouldn't hear the phone. So I didn't. And he called at around 1:30 in the morning & now it's 6 o'clock in the morning & I just got off the phone with him.
3 months & we talk all night. This is not me. Am so incredibly impressed with him. More than I've ever been with anyone before - except maybe my father. Impressed to the point where I feel inadequate somehow. But tonight it hit me that it's not just a case of being charmed & impressed. Not if I give up my sleep & stay up all night to talk to him. Could've just told him to call me in the morning. It's what I would have done with anybody else.
It scares me because it's too fast. Can't get this involved yet. There's so much he still doesn't know about me. Love shouldn't happen like this. You should get to know each other well then accept each other for who you are and THEN fall in love.Not fall in love first & then wonder will he still love me if I tell him this or that.
Are we rushing into this because we both sense that my time here is so limited?Is this why we try to spend every waking hour together - if not in person then on the phone?
Are we crazy to be talking about love so soon?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I Didn't Go To Work Today.....

Why do I feel so guilty about it?I'm sick. I spent last night in the hospital with food poisoning. That is SERIOUS. And it's the doctor's orders that I should stay in bed until Saturday to avoid complications.

But I have so much work. It's scary to think about it. And I HATE the idea of anyone else touching my projects. It'll take me ages to figure out what's been done because it's so difficult to follow someone else's thought processes. And you can't just scrap what they did & start again because how can you justify a delay when progress has been made. I'll be forced to follow in someone else's footsteps & change direction & I hate that.

I never realized before that I'm so responsible. I mean work is ALL I've been thinking about all day. Everyone is worried about my health & coming & bringing me flowers & stuff & I just want to get up & go to the office. An overactive conscience or am I turning into a workaholic in my old age?


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Politics & Children

Yesterday I read an interview with Egyptian President Mubarak in Trends Magazine. In an answer to a question about the current drive for reform in Egypt he said that "Egypt has never responded to outside pressure".

Now THAT aggravates me. Why do politicians persist in treating us like children?Which country today is imprevious to outside influence?Even the US - the sole surviving superpower - sometimes finds itself having to make concessions & compromises on the worldstage.Interests are too intertwined & interconnected for any country to be an island today. Let alone a developing country with that kind of foreign debt & that receives that much foreign aid.Foreign influence is a reality. What we can do is make the best of it. Try to reach mutually satisfying arrangements with it. But one way or the other it MUST be responded to.It can't be denied or ignored.

It's just like when successive American presidents go on national radio or national TV & talk to their people about spreading democracy & freedom when they are infact subsidizing the most brutal regimes in the world. Or about working for world peace when infact they are the biggest arms manufacturer & exporter in the world. Why can't they just tell their people the truth?That in order to maintain their position as superpower & protect their interests they must maintain their economic & geopolitical sphere of influence?That they need a stable supply of oil at reasonable prices & they need new markets for everything including arms?

Most politicians seem to insist on fostering this political culture of idealism among their people by speaking in terms of black & white & absolute good & absolute evil. Come ON!International politics are about strategic interests not lofty principles or brotherhood or love, peace & tenderness & the defeat of evil.We're not talking about a Disney movie here.

I think we'll all be much better off when we learn to think pragmatically & weigh the cost to our interests of defending a certain principle & decide for ourselves which principle is worth which sacrifice.

I guess after religion, this type of idealism is now the new opium of the people.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Wearing hijab provides protection, liberation?

Setting aside all the arguments about whether the Hijab is Fard, Sunna does it actually protect?Protect from what?From the male gaze?
I hear some women talk about how being hijabed forces people to judge her for her personality instead of physical appearance & I always wonder how she knows that.
In an 'idealized' Islamic society where all women are hijabed, do we expect that men will stop looking at women?Isn't this an instinct that God created in us?That men look at women & women look at men?Can anything really stop it?And does it matter if it stops?Surely what matters is whether or not we act on our feelings/impulses/attractions?A Saudi friend told me once that there is no place in the world where women get more male attention & sexual harrassment than Saudi Arabia & all women are covered in Saudi Arabia.
What makes hijabed women think men don't look at them?I see a hijabed girl walk by & men will check her out just like all the girls who walked by before her. And at work I hear male colleagues talk about the attractiveness or lack thereof of ALL girls hijabed or not. Infact one colleague told me once that a girl we work with was even more beautiful with hijab. He was arguing for hijab at the time & I remember thinking well if it makes her even more beautiful i.e. noticeable then isn't that defeating the purpose?
Infact here in UAE, it's quite usual to see guys standing there while a girl from Eastern Europe walks past in a miniskirt & not paying too much attention but let an Arab girl wearing a headcover & 3abaya walk by & they get up & start following her.My friend's husband told her that when something is covered it arouses your curiosity. You get to use your imagination. And that no woman is ever as beautiful as you can imagine her.
I can understand that some Muslim men will respect a hijabed woman because she looks more religious & in our culture we respect religious people. But if she thinks that means they don't look at her as a woman then I've seen no evidence of that.
I always think to the Qura'anic verse that states that faithful Muslim women should cover up so that they maybe known & not harrassed. In America, I saw so many girls wear it & put up with a lot of harrasment because of it. Again if it singles you out & draws attention to you then isn't that defeating the purpose?


Taking a Riddle into the Tavern

For many years my heart wanted
something for me,
not knowing that it was itself
what it wanted:

the desire for Jamshid's cup,
wherein all existence can be seen,
except for that chalice itself, that is.

There was a man beloved of God
who cried out to God, "Why
have you forsaken me?"

I took the riddle of this into a tavern
and asked the one who served.

He said, "Some secrets must be kept,
not told to the world at large.
The rosebud and the soul write mysteries
on their margins fold within fold.
Stay closed and wait."

"Your wine glass is the all-revealing cup!"

"Given before the creation."

"And what of that woman there
that I cannot forget?"

"Hafez," said the tavernmaster, "this love
within you that speaks needs
some restraint!"

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Halves of the Whole

God instills the desire of every part for the other:
from their union, generation results.
And so night and day are in mutual embrace:
they appear to be opposites, even enemies,
but the truth they attend is one,
each desiring the other like kin,
for the perfection of their work.
Both serve one purpose, for without night,
human nature would receive no income:
what then could day expend?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mayl-e har jozvi beh-jozvi ham nehad
ze ettehâd-e har do tawlidi zehad
Shab chonin bâ ruz andar e`tenâq
mokhtalef dar surat ammâ ettefâq
Ruz o shab zâher do zedd o doshmanand
lik har do yek haqiqat mi tanand
Har yeki khvânân degar-râ hamcho khvish
az pay-e takmil-e fe`l o kâr-e khvish
Zânke bi shab dakhl na-bovad tab`-râ
pas cheh andar kharj ârad ruz-hâ

Mathnawi III:4416-4420
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyل Monastra)

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The Fool's Errand

What wisdom was this, that the Object of all desire
caused me to leave my home joyously on a fool's errand,
so that I was actually rushing to lose the way
and at each moment being taken farther from what I sought--
and then God in His beneficence made that very wandering
the means of my reaching the right road and finding wealth!
He makes losing the way a way to true faith;
He makes going astray a field for the harvest of righteousness,
so that no righteous one may be without fear
and no traitor may be without hope.
The Gracious One has put the antidote in the poison
so that they may say He is the Lord of hidden grace.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In cheh hekmat bud keh Qebleh-ye morâd
kardam az khâneh berun gomrâh o shâd
Tâ shetâbân dar zalâlat mi shodam
har dam az matlab jodâ-tar mi bodam
Bâz ân `ayn-e zalâlat-râ beh-jud
Haqq vasilat kard andar roshd o sud
Gomrahi-râ manhaj-e imân konad
kazh ruy-râ mahsad-e ehsân konad
Tâ na-bâshad hich mohsen bi vajâ
tâ na-bâshad hich khâyen bi rajâ
Andarun-e zahr teryâq ân Hafi
kard tâ guyand Zu al-Lotf al-Khafi

Mathnawi VI: 4339-4344
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"
Threshold Books, 1996
(Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyل Monastra)

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Let your senses feed on His pasture

When one sheep of the flock jumps over a stream,
they all jump across on each other's heels.
Drive the sheep, your senses, to pasture:
Let them feed on the pasture shown by
"He who has brought forth the herbage,"*
that they may graze on hyacinth and wildrose;
and be led to the green meadows of the Realities;
that every one of your senses
may become a prophet to the others,
and lead all senses into Paradise.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chon ze ju jast az galeh yek gusfand
pas payâpay jomleh zân su barjahand
Gusfandân havâsset-râ be-rân
dar cherâ az "akhraja al-mar`â"* charân
Tâ dar ânjâ sonbol o nasrin charand
tâ be-rawzât-e Haqâyeq rah be-rand
Har hesset payghambar-e hess-hâ shavad
jomleh hess-hâ-râ dar ân Jannat kashad

Mathnawi II: 3242-3245
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski
"Rumi: Daylight"
Threshold Books, 1994
Persian transliteration courtesy of Yahyل Monastra
*al-A`lâ, 4

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Qura'an & Science

I've always been a little a impatient with people who like to talk about scientific miracles in the Qura'an. The Qura'an is not a scientific book. Science is process of observation, hypothesis, experimentation & testing. The content of science can never be 'proved'. It can only be verified & validated by each successful experiment up until such time when someone designs an experiment to disprove it.There are no absolute truths in science.

So to watch someone struggling to interpret & re-interpret some verse of the Qura'an to make it sound as if it is a manifestation of some current science theory just irritates me because don't these people think how stupid they're going to look if 10 or 20 years from now this same scientific theory is discarded for a revised or more advanced one?

Science is just a human attempt to understand the physics of the universe & how we can use it to make our lives more comfortable. Faith is all about spirituality & metaphysics. It's about trying to draw closer to the Creator. The Creator doesn't need scientific theories. He doesn't need to try to understand the universe. He created it. He makes all the rules. He is omnipotent & all-knowing. He is NOT a scientist.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I miss college

Another brilliant day filled with laughter & sunshine here in my office. Yes I am being ironic.

I don't think I'm cut out for working in industry at all.If only research & development weren't so completely stunted in the Arab world. What I miss most about college is the constant learning & exploration. It's having to struggle with 5 completely new courses every semester. When you leave college & come to work in industry you're hired in a certain position to do a certain type of work & then that's it. You're stuck. You'll be doing more or less the same thing for next 30 years when you retire unless you change jobs.But the thing is even when you try to change, they will see that your entire experience is in a particular technology & no one will want to hire you for anything else.It gets so mind-numbing after a while.And getting up for work becomes such a drag.

I would seriously consider quitting & going back to college for graduate studies. But really post-graduate degrees are mostly useful only if you're an academic & you plan to stay in teaching & research. Otherwise work experience is a much better asset than another diploma or master or even a PhD as far as the job market is concerned.And it simply doesn't pay to be a university professor in the Arab world. Very little job satisfaction & very little cash. Not very rewarding.Also I'd probably be stuck having to teach the same courses for 30 years. Let's face it. We don't invent technology in the Middle East. We just try to keep up with it & even that we don't do too well half the time.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Someone Should Start Laughing

I have a thousand brilliant lies

For the question:

How are you?

I have a thousand brilliant lies

For the question:

What is God?

If you think that the Truth can be known

From words,

If you think that the Sun and the Ocean

Can pass through that tiny opening

Called the mouth,

O someone should start laughing!

Someone should start wildly Laughing –


From: “I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz: by Daniel Ladinsky.

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The Arab Mind

Is there such a thing as an all-encompassing Arab Mind that ties us all together & sets us apart from other people?What if anything do all Arabs have in common?What are our unique cultural traits?Generosity?Warmth & hospitality?The concept of shame & honor?Over-infatuation with our own eloquence?The tendency to get carried away with our own rhetoric?Moralism?Idealism?Emotionalism?A Lack of Pragmatism?The herd mentality?False pride & bombast?

I hate to sound like a bookworm but my first posting is going to be a book. Not because I agree with its content or even because I enjoyed reading it. Quite the contrary infact for at least one of them.

It's important to me because it made an impression & I can't stop thinking about it.

The book is Rafael Patai's "The Arab Mind". Being an Arab, it was a novel experience to read a book about Arabs by an Israeli. I think it was the first time I got a chance to see 'us' as we appear to 'them'.This is not a book about war or geopolitics or strategy. It's an anthropological study of Arab culture. By an Israeli no less.

Am not going to deny it made me feel quite angry & frustrated in some parts. It is quite prejudiced. But not prejudiced enough to dismiss entirely as racist drivel unfortunately.

It is interesting to think about how much of what passes for mainstream Arab culture today comes from Islam & how much of it is just that. Mainstream Arab culture.Which force is more powerful in our societies today?Islam dressed up as Arab culture or Arab Bedouin culture dressed up as Islam?