I began fasting at seven years old, purely out of peer pressure. I had thought to start fasting at puberty, just like my Daddy. Alas and alack, I was shamed out of going to the canteen during Ramadan and thus, it was easier to just fast.
It was more challenging when my school was in afternoon session. The heat made you drowsy and the day seemed endless. When I took the schoolbus, it was worse because the evening congestion often meant that I reached home after Maghrib, by which time I was dehydrated and ravenous. Luckily for me, my Mum began driving when I was ten so I no longer had to deal with that.
For all my ignominious start to fasting, I have always enjoyed Ramadan. I rarely went back to sleep after sahur; I used to spend it playing computer games on our enormous home PC using the large floppy disks, or watch the one Disney cartoon that my Daddy bought on VHS, and as I grew older, just reading.
I hate it that we police fasting in this country. Fasting is an obligation between the devotee and Allah; no one else is part of the equation. It is detestable that we have a criminal act under the syariah law that enforces respect for the month of Ramadan. How on earth does a month have feelings?! How is fining people and if they can't afford to pay, stuffing them in prison for not fasting Islamic? Not to mention that the ones who get punished are usually those from the lower socio-economic bracket; the lofty bangsawans get away scot free.
We need to go back to the core of fasting. Fasting is supposed to remind us of those who are less fortunate, and help us reflect on our spirituality when we stop feeding our body. It is supposed to give our bodies a rest from the usual abuses we heaped on ourselves and reprogramme how we manage our time.
No one should be punished for not fasting, whatever their reasons may be. Let us take this time to reflect on the blessings that we have received to improve our thoughts, words, and deeds. Because some people's behaviour sure makes me think that the wrong devils are tied up during this month.
If you are born a Muslim in Malaysia, chances are you grew up being told that homosexuality is evil and gay people should be punished/killed/fixed. That indoctrination starts as early as seven years old and if you're lucky, stops when you are seventeen.
Yup, I'm talking about the religious study classes that are mandatory for all Muslim children who attend government schools.
I was no different, and what's worse, I grew up in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic. I was a precocious reader, material-wise, and had begun devouring the broadsheet by the time I was nine years old. So imagine being told that the people of Lot is evil, and lo and behold! They are dying in the most terrible ways all over the world.
I went to an all-girls school so statistically speaking at least 1 out of 10 of my friends is gay. There was a transwoman in my parents' social circles; but everyone seemed to accept her as a woman although there may have been sniggers about whether a woman's wudhu is invalided after shaking hands with her.
As the majority, it behooves us to be aware of the lived experience of the minorities, which include those of the LGBTQIA community. Understanding can only create empathy and acceptance, unless you are a pathological sociopath. As said by Mahatma Gandhi, “A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
I'm listening to Jeff Buckley's Grace for the 8th or maybe 12th time today. For some reason, his eponymous hit never really hit my radar as a teen except for his cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.
The chords of the opening trills are distinctive of songs written and produced in the 90's. His varying octaves flowed effortlessly as he sketched a tale of farewell. His enunciation leaves much to be desired, but there's no mistaking the visceral passion that passes on through the vibrating sound waves.
How magical it is that sound can still touch your soul even after the emanator is long dead and gone.
Grace's melody triggered reminiscence of my teenage years. It was a time when I lived comfortably inside my head, with no urges to spill my latest thoughts and ideas across social media. I never even had a proper diary. I sometimes wonder why I'm compulsively sharing ideas and information as I do now, when I once was quite happy keeping them all to myself.
My head is a comfortable echo chamber that filtered intense emotions through books and music. It is powerful protective mechanism; perhaps one of the reasons I have been accused of being dispassionate and untouched by base emotions. The echo chamber made distancing myself from things that can hurt me reflexive.
But this comfortable echo chamber has another side effect: it made me more empathetic.
It's hard to hold on a good grudge when you can pretty much put yourself in your antagonists' shoes and understand that their lashing out at you isn't personal but rather driven by feelings of rage, impotency and fear caused by someone or something else.
I'll still look on it as a blessing.
by Jeff Buckley
There's the moon asking to stay
Long enough for the clouds to fly me away
Well it's my time coming, I'm not afraid to die
My fading voice sings of love,
But she cries to the clicking of time
Wait in the fire...
And she weeps on my arm
Walking to the bright lights in sorrow
Oh drink a bit of wine we both might go tomorrow
Oh my love
And the rain is falling and i believe
My time has come
It reminds me of the pain
I might leave
Wait in the fire...
And I feel them drown my name
So easy to know and forget with this kiss
I'm not afraid to go but it goes so slow
“The only mode of attack is to deal with a heavy decrease in the production of plastics, as opposed to dealing with them after they’ve already been created,” she tells the group. “Your consumer behaviors do not matter. Not on the scale of the problem ... It’s the cessation of production that will make the big-scale changes.”
Long ago in Borneo, you can only tattoo your hands if you have successfully completed a ngayau (headhunting) expedition. You need to get up close and personal with your enemy, breathe in his last breath, and feel the sprinkle of his hot blood as you severed his head to take home before raising your phalanges to be inked.
More than just a trophy, the severed head is a talisman against evil to protect your longhouse and its occupants against enemies and disasters. The heads are placed at the highest points in the house, to have a vantage view of all within. And during feast days, the heads are brought down, cleansed and smoked in a ritual as old as mountains, accompanied by the chantings of wizened wise women.
Hands of a master weaver(2)
It takes a great deal more skill and power to kill your enemies with a bladed weapon. A will of steel to steady your hands when needed. A dying art of war immortalised in museums and books, little more than ink and paint on paper. The heart of the tribe is now transformed.
The West are better killers, of course. With their phosphorus bombs, high calibre projectiles, cluster munitions, and drones. Now they can kill aseptically from thousands of miles away, viewing death from high tech lenses, spewing bullets and explosives like a child with a PlayStation in the den. Never feeling the gut-wrenching fear of dealing with your enemies face to face, not caring of their names or faces, armed combatant or otherwise.
Nowadays, who earns their tattooed phalanges honestly? Are there still any?