As the hands of the sun gently lifted the curtain of night, the aroma of warm, dry flour simmering in melted butter and caramelized onions woke me with a pleasantness I had not experienced since childhood. I rushed through the morning routine, eager to meet my parents. As I entered the kitchen, I was greeted by their love and warmth. Perhaps it was the atmosphere, perhaps the events leading up to that morning, I felt like a child rushing home from the cold and dark woods, to be greeted by his parents. I felt safe. I felt loved.
This is a true story about the exceptionally short life of a tree. As all good stories go, there are other characters involved. Which would make it a story of a tree, a caring person who loved this tree, a pig, some really mean people and me; well, I’m the narrator, so you can count me out.
We live in a world where children are increasingly being taught cheating, deception, and violence as a result of them playing games and using applications on tablets and smartphones. In this atmosphere of fear and distrust, how is a parent to pass on a tender heart to their children? How can I teach my children to be compassionate and caring? Such is the dilemma I faced.
She stands firmly against a linen white wall, an odd shaped red chair with swirling shadow stripes, making it come alive. She beams with radiance, waiting patiently for someone to be seated. Waiting for someone to tell her story. Waiting… Continue reading The Red Chair
The UK just left the EU, Mr. Trump wants to keep Mexicans and Muslims out of the US, and Little Billy just got sent to the principal’s office for a mishap in the sand box. Can you guess the common thread? Here’s a hint: I’m right and you are wrong, I’m big and you are small. It would appear that we are living in interesting times. Continue reading #BREXIT, the American wall & kindergarten
In the past decade or so, a horrendous word has become part of our common language; terrorist! Islamist and Jihadist have taken root in about the same time. Putting the two together, we find ourselves facing a term that is awesome for the economy yet fearful for you and I. It allows nations to steal natural resources to their hearts desire, it allows wolves to sell guns, bombs. It sells news and makes the world go round, at least for those left standing. It is fearful in terms that our lives may be cut short by those who subscribe to such horrors.
Today, we find ourselves facing this apprehensive term: Islamist Terrorist. What is an Islamist Terrorist? Put simply, this is a term attributed towards people who claim to commit murder in the name of Allah. Allah being Muslim name for God of Abraham, of Ishmael and Isaac, of Buddha and Krishna, of Moses and Jesus.
Some claim that Allah told them to do so. Some claim that they are defending the honour of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Some point out that they are merely protecting their right to bear arms. All have one thing in common, they kill. They take away children from mothers and destroy peace, annihilating all that is good for mankind!!
I too fear these barbaric people, for I am a Muslim. I raise my children on the principles of Islam, the very fundamentals of Islam. Does that make me a terrorist? Am I raising warmongers or peacemakers? You may wonder, what does Islam teach? In a nutshell, Islam teaches that God created everything and He is the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful. He does NOT desire ill for us. Islam teaches that all life is precious and killing a person is like killing the entire human race! My elders have taught me that being unkind is equally bad, so be watchful of your covenants and relations; your word is your promise, so honour it. That is what I teach my children. All humans are equal, they all deserve respect and they all deserve love. Harmonious living is not a dream, it is a reality. Let’s embrace it. Let’s live it!!
Many moons ago, I was afraid of African friends, of folks from First Nations. I was fearful of those who had tattoos, shaven heads and pierced bodies! I would cross the street and take the long way if I saw such folks walking my way. Till one day, when I read the last message of the Prophet of Islam, I realised, that we are all equal. Children of the same God. My first step was to learn, to get to know the ones I feared. Today I have friends who are proud to be African, who are Cree and Mikmaq, who have Tattoos and body piercing. I’m not afraid. I take my children to diversity festivals and encourage them to be friends with minorities, with those whom they fear. Alas, that cannot be said true of many other parents who are fearful. Fearful of colour, of clothes that are different and languages they do not understand, of food they do not like. It is this fear that they do not understand and it is this fear that they instil into the hearts of their offsprings.
Children are born of innocence. It is our job as parents to help them grow, to nurture them, to groom them, to make them a citizen of this world. They are unafraid. As our children learn from us, we can learn from them. They can help us grow! If you are afraid, hold their hand and let their energy flow through you. Let them guide you to open diverse doors, each colourful and exotic with its own story.
On one hand we talk about freedom of choice, freedom of words, schools free of uniforms, of religion, and children free to do what they please, yet we complain that ‘they’ are not like us? There are too many of ‘them’ and ‘they’ are taking away our lifestyle? What lifestyle are you preserving my dear? One of fear, of distrust? Isn’t that what killed 50 people in Orlando? Isn’t that what has killed Millions in Syria and Iraq? Do you stand proud of Adam Lanza and Seung-Hui Cho? Do you find yourself echoing words of Arnaud Amalric “Kill them all. For the Lord knows those that are His own?” Syndicates like National Rifle Association and Islamic State thrive on this fear. Don’t let them grow! Don’t become a means of prosperity for the ones who are out to destroy peace.
I spend countless hours with my children, guiding them towards humbleness, towards meekness. In moments of uncertainty, I seek energy from them and let the words of the Prophet mentor us. He advised us to ask the learned, speak with the wise and associate with the poor.
There is much to be said, much to be learned, much to be heard. Fear will only leave you standing where you are today. Grow with love, grow in peace.
I leave you today with a thought that we live and breathe everyday. Love for All, Hatred for None.
Till we meet again, stay in peace, and grow in diversity!
Many moons ago, I had to stress about exams. That was all. Never had to stress about money, rent, food, no, all those things, by the Grace of God, were looked after by my parents. It was just exams. So, I did what every studious student does. Played on Atari till last day, then studied as if my life depended on it … resulting grades left much to be desired! Eventually I learnt that it was better to balance the two. Consequently grades improved, as did the quality of life. Stress, however, remained constant.
Fast forward to post school life, marriage, job and all the fun that goes with it, stress has been a constant companion. My children are old enough to embrace this companion, wonderful or not. And I, wiser to understand this companion of mine, am able to change focal point and embrace it differently.
Sometime ago, my son encountered exams for the first time. “Welcome to the world of stress,” he was told. I reflected upon his situation and concluded otherwise. It was time for discussion, but not until after the looming sword had fallen! I worked with him throughout his exams and encouraged him, gently reminding him of the privileges bestowed upon him by Canada. All praise to God who has given us shelter from fire that rages from the sky and bullets that pierce the barrier of sound and life. This of course, is a discussion for another day.
After his exams were over, we went out for a drive as we usually do and spoke about the ordeal. I wanted to understand his perception of stress. Pressure, ability to understand, comprehend and recall, wanting to stay in the top 5 percentile and other usual suspects emerged. I am sure you have been there. Then I offered a different perspective. I asked him to think about stress as an opportunity to grow, to make a difference. If the desire to grow was there, but lacked the effort, how would you grow? A blank look followed.
Addressing the blank look on his face, we spoke about how diamonds are formed. The diamonds that exist amongst our bazaars were sculptured over a period of billion years. Oil has taken millions of years to form and is now our central force for growth. Humans are similar in this regard. The more pressure, guided appropriately, better the result. If you cannot withstand pressure, you will only grow so much. If you dodge every curveball life throws at you, you will grow as far as you stand.
Stress, in my humble opinion, is a tool put on this earth by God as a gift for us to engage with and harness its ability to commence greatness. I encouraged him to ponder how he could have improved his previous experience and we discussed a few changes. Perhaps sleep earlier and wake earlier to meditate and study with the first burst of fresh oxygen pumped in the air. Well, okay, that is not happening. We discussed importance of managing time, and I welcomed the ‘aha’ look. Managing time is of critical importance, a lesson I learnt while playing PacMan one night before Physics exam. Ability to manage your time and priorities amiably can lead to great things. In my humble and very limited experience, time management + ability to focus on one things at a time = stress management.
I have now begun to apply this principle in everyday life and have watched stress and anxiety facilitate my growth towards becoming a better person, a better father, and a better husband. While too early to gauge, repeated doses of such discussions with children would result in similar outcome.
I leave you with the wisdom that was parted on my children and me by Master Oogway. In his words:
“Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”
Till we meet again, speak kindly, love always, stay in peace.
Imagine you are lost in the woods. It is getting dark, storm clouds are rising in the east and sounds of horror are emerging all around you. Your mind is starting to trick you into seeing creatures surrounding you. Your heart is racing and fear is rising. Amongst this, a figure of care, love and compassion emerges from the darkness, surrounds you with their love. In a heartbeat, there is no fear, there is no darkness, there is no doubt. Just love, just assurance.
This person who appears when all seems lost and holds you in their arms and gives you unconditional love and assures you, is your mother.
A mother, by definition is a female figure. I beg to differ. Mother is a role that a person plays, male or female, family or friend, that takes you into a comfort zone, where you are not threatened.
I am fortunate to have four mothers. My biological mother and father who loved me, nourished me and raised me to where I stand today. Then my mother in-law and father in-law, who welcomed me into their lives, trusted me with well being of their daughter and supported me everytime I fell. I am fortunate that my children have two mothers, my wife and I.
My parents, yes all four of them, taught me as did my elders that a mother is your passage to paradise. A mother is to be respected, regardless of how harsh they may seem at times. I learnt that if all men started to respect women and all women respected men, this world will be a sunny warm beach with a gentle breeze caressing over every nation and every land. They taught me that Men and Women are equal in every aspect. Their roles as mothers and fathers are equal in every respect. Every human – equal.
What type of a man are you? Do you respect the person behind the skin? Are you a man who believes that might is right? Or perhaps you are a man who affirms that his way is the only way? Do you hold hands with your spouse and walk together or do you open the door and honour their right to lead?
What type of a man are you? I am, by the Grace of God, a man who believes that every woman is to be respected and honored, just like every man is to be respected and honored. I am a father who teaches his children that every day is mothers day, so honor it, respect it and celebrate it. I am a mother who teaches that nations cannot be reformed unless its children are reformed.
So, on this Mothers day, I ask you: What type of a man are you?
Till we meet again, stay in Peace.
We decided to visit family in the big town. It was different. It was festive, heartening. Three days into the vacation and I wanted back. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family; it is always nice to hug your mom, have breakfast with your dad while still in night gown. It feels good to be with your siblings, while their offsprings brighten the day with their laughter and sparkle the house with sounds of delight.
Then there is the spending ‘quality’ time parked on the highway or perhaps trying to keep up with the cars that pass you by at astounding speeds. In our mind, this scenario somehow does not equate to the gentle waves caressing the shores of the ocean. Many times, my wife and I had to call upon Vivaldi to resound our rhythm, however, mostly it felt like we were intimate with flight of the bumblebee!! I would imagine Rimsky had an alternative intention when he penciled the master piece.
Drive back was fun. As the sun set in the west and the sky spread out in the east, webbing her pink, purple and red net, the tears of pain at leaving the loved ones behind rolled down my sons cheeks. Part of me wanted to hug him tight and turn around, allowing him a few more days with family, but the father in me negated the emotion. This is the time to help them understand importance of cherishing the moments afforded to us, however brief they might be. So I did what in my humble opinion was right; I clinched my heart, let the tears gravitate, remained patient and prayed silently in my heart.
That night, hundreds of miles from either direction, I hugged him tight before going to bed, listened to his heart yearning, and reassured him that we will be together soon. Moments of sadness are always followed by happiness. With hardship, there is ease. With remembrance, there is peace. Then we prayed and slept peacefully.
You see, there are times in life when the urge to follow your heart is throbbing in your head, the desire to give in to your urges is oozing from your pores. This is when you must control your impulses, keeping in sight the overarching goals and examining your moral compass. It is at times like these that you should press on towards larger goals, leaving behind what appears to be seductive and enticing. Two more days with cousins would have been great, but the lesson to be learnt was of greater value. The lesson that it is okay to hurt, it is okay to cry, as long as you plan for another laughter, cherish the memories and work towards attaining them.
Sometimes, when solitude finds you and you can quieten your thoughts, I invite you to ponder upon the wisdom of these words I once read:
And he found you lost and guided you.