Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Good Earth, by Pearl S Buck

Nowadays I am reading the book “The Good Earth” and it definitely falls in the category of books that should be read at least once in a lifetime. 

It has been written by Pearl S. Buck, an American citizen who spent most of her childhood and much of her adult life in China. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.

It is a beautiful story of a poor Chinese farmer Wang Lung, his extremely hard-working and frugal wife O-lan and their family in old rural China where land and sons were valued above all else.

The story that I have read so far narrates their simple wedding, their hard labour on rice fields and what happens when drought dries up the crops and how the family then moves to a city to survive. 

The couple then moves back to their fields and Wang Lung acquires more and more land to become a rich farmer. Olan’s life was really tragic though. As long as there was poverty, she was needed to work like an ox without rest and without complaints but as soon as prosperity and wealth comes to their house, her husband found her dull and unattractive and brings home a concubine.

It made me want to stab him with a couple of chopsticks when he takes the pearls from her and gives it to his lovebird. But the book was great and an acute study of human nature with all its strengths and frailties.

I really wish I can find the other two books in the trilogy "Sons" and "A House Divided” but they are rather hard to locate. 

Great book!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Portrait of My Dad

HOW do I begin to describe my  relationship with my father? All my life, he has been like a shady tree that stands unflinching and uncomplaining under the scorching sun, the windy gales, the punishing hailstorm and the heavy snowfall but kept us safe from the harsh elements of weather. And life itself!

He is a man of very few words but every word that he utters is full of love for me and my siblings. He never spoiled us but made sure we had all the necessities of life. He wears very simple clothes usually in same shades of white, blue and gray and prefers not to buy too many things for himself. In fact he has very few personal belongings but he always made sure that we had the access to best health, education and other facilities in life.

In our childhood, he was not really involved in our day to day life leaving most of the decisions to our mother but he was always aware of our victories, school achievements, our joys and sorrows, our childish fears and problems. What ever we used to feel, he felt more for us.

How can I even begin to repay the love and sense of security he has given to us all our life? Even today, whenever I need something, I just have to place a phone call to him,. It is not in his nature to ask too many questions and his response is always, “I’ll see what can get done” and it always gets done. He waves away our gratitude and never lets us even say “thank you.”

He is also deeply religious and one of those few men who seem to have found peace and complete serenity in life. He has been badly hurt by some people close to him but he never lets anger, hatred, greed, envy or jealousy find a place in his heart. It is as if all the negative emotions get washed away by his ablution at night and he begins each day with a clean and wiped slate.

If we ever try to show anger at our relatives, he stops us by a look and now I realize that this has been his way all our life. As I said , he is a man of few words but he commands so much respect that it is always difficult to do anything bad in his presence. He never raised his voice with us and considered all his four daughters a precious gift from God but he never compromised on discipline and good morals for which I am eternally grateful.

My father loves to eat fruits. I have vivid memories of my childhood when we (my sisters or myself) used to peel apples or oranges for him, he would always offer the fruit slices first to us and then put it in his mouth. He loves to have his children and grandchildren all around him and then piling them with food, fruits or chocolates.

He is extremely hospitable and loves to have guests on his dinner table (something which drives my mom crazy). My mom is a great cook and whenever she cooks something special my dad would either call up his sisters or brothers to share the meal with us or have it made into a package to be delivered to their house. Our house was always full of laughter and noise in my childhood days.

I pray to God that my dad lives a long, healthy life. Though I am married, my dad is still my bedrock because with him I can shed my maturity, my years and my responsibilities and be a young, carefree little girl again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Butterfly Wings

Adil came home from school in a bad temper. He slammed the door shut behind him with a bang and flung his school bag on the floor. Hearing the commotion, his father called out to him

“What’s the matter, Adil? Is everything okay?”

“I will never play football again. Never, never, ever again,” Adil replied. He was almost in tears. “I cannot believe what they did. How can they be so unfair?”

Adil’s father realised that his son was extremely upset, so he warmly called out, “Come here and sit down. What’s the matter? Tell me.”

Adil sat down on the sofa beside his father.

“Dad, there is going to be an Under-16 football tournament in Malaysia next month. We have spent every free minute practising and training. Today, the coach and our headmaster were going to name the final team and most importantly the captain. Well, they have named Sameer as the captain. He is not even a good player. His father is rich and has some political connections so he called the headmaster and they made Sameer the captain.

“Can you believe it? I am not going to be part of this team and I am never going to play football again!” mourned Sameer.

Adil’s father listened to his son calmly.

“Adil, you have always dreamt of playing for your country and making a name for yourself. Are you really going to let one disappointment shatter all your dreams?”

“But dad, it’s not fair….” said Adil.

“Maybe it is not. But Adil, there are lots of instances in life where you will be tested. There will be obstacles which you will have to overcome and disappointments that you might have to suffer. Who knows where Sameer will be in five years from now and where you might find yourself? Will you give up your dreams just because of one phone call?

“Wouldn’t it be better if you worked harder and tried to play for Pakistan? It does not matter whether you are the captain or not. Each player in a team is equally important.”

Seeing that his son still looked angry and mutinous, he continued:

“Let me tell you a story. Once, a man watched a butterfly trying to get out of its cocoon. The butterfly struggled and struggled till the man felt sorry for the poor insect. He cut open the cocoon so that the butterfly could fly free. However, the butterfly had to struggle so that its wings could develop and become strong.”

“Dad,” Adil interrupted impatiently. “I am talking about football and you are telling me about butterfly wings!”

“That is what I am trying to tell you, my son. Sometimes life makes us struggle so that we can develop the strength to face difficulties. Those who give up easily, do not want to make any effort or get the wrong sort of help and they are never prepared for the next obstacle or the next battle that comes in their way. So they never learn to fly on their own or stand up on their feet.”

“When you play football, you have to compete against 11 players. There is a goalkeeper to block your every goal. Would football still be fun if there was no goalkeeper and you could kick in the ball as many times as you liked?”

Adil listened to his father’s words seriously and realised what he was unable to understand.

“I promise to do my best, dad,” he said with a smile. “I won’t run away from any challenge again.”

Say MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa Billah

After Alhamdulillah, the second phrase which I feel we should all start using frequently is MaShaAllah Laa Quwata Illa billah (Surah Kah...