Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Egg

You were on your way home when you died.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
And that’s when you met me.
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”
“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.
“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”
“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”
“Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“I’m Jesus?”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
And I sent you on your way.

(please drop a line of appreciation to the author if you like this story as much as I did)

A new blog

I just realized that I've written 50 posts- which is a lot more than what I expected when I first began to write. I thought I'd give up after a month or two. But it has been going good so far. I have started another blog about my current visit to Karachi, and it seems I will be updating that blog more often nowadays than this one. This doesn't mean I have abandoned my eternal limits one. I'll continue to share poetry and my experiences here, it's just that a travel blog won't fit into this site. If you want to learn more about my city and daily life, do visit my other blog. I promise some information and some entertainment in each post. I hope you appreciate. Thank you!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Coke Studio's back!!

Hello readers! I am really excited today because the next season of Coke Studio starts in a week (next Sunday), so I thought I'd do a little compilation of my favourites from all the last 3 seasons.

What is Coke Studio?
-It's a TV series featuring live music performances by various artists of differing genres collaborating with each other (read up more on Wikipedia here). 

Why should I/we bother to read about it or watch it?
- it's not just any regular music programme! Each performance is something to experience!

What's so special or different about it?
- you get to hear different languages (Urdu, Farsi,Punjabi, Purabi, Sindhi etc etc) - you don't have to know all of them (I don't know any language except Urdu/English and a bit of Farsi - I just check out the English Translation on their website)
- Blend of different musical instruments (western fused with eastern, flutes and guitars, tabla and drums, rabab and the Sagar Veena) - some of these you have never seen or heard before
- lots of Sufi influence (especially lyrics)
- best house band ever!

 In short, it is the best representation of the cultural tapestry that is Pakistan. 

CK reminds us that Music knows no boundaries. So here's my top 15 countdown (tried to limit to 10 but it's impossible):

15- Ramooz-e-Ishq (performed by Abida Parveen) 
language: Urdu
style: Sufi / Qawwali 

14- Dastaan-e-Ishq (performed by Ali Zafar- lyrics so touching that he broke down while singing this song, and they had to upload the rehearsal version) 
language: Punjabi (some Urdu)
style: Sufi / Punjabi folk

13- Sar kiye pahar (performed by Strings- though the original 90's version rocked, this is a mellow version accompanied by steady drum beats in the background)
language: Urdu
style: modern rock fused with Baloch drums

12- Moomal Rano (performed by fakir Juman Shah- note the synchronized strumming of the lute-like instrument of these folk singers)
Language: Sindhi (I don't understand a word of what they are saying, but they are retelling the famed folk story of Moomal and Rano as told by Shah Latif Bhittai in his Shah jo Risalo)
Style: Sindhi folk

11- Aj latha naeeo (performed by Javed Bashir, original track by the Legendary Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the beat of this song was such a hit that it was often played in fashion shows for cat-walk- a classical folk song about pleading the lover to stay a little bit longer)
language: Punjabi 
style: punjabi folk fusion

10- Mori Araj Suno (performed by Tina Sani with Arieb Azhar- a composition of Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poem describing a complaint to God about the condition of humanity on this Earth, and God's short and sharp answer - has some slight Communist undertones)
Language: Punjabi (some Urdu and Purabi dialect usage)
Style: Ghazal-style fused with modern Western

9-Hor vi neevan ho (performed by Noori brothers, along with their mother playing the rare Sagar Veena instrument- simply beautiful rendition)
Language: Punjabi 
Style: modern western with typical Noori-ish singing =)

8- Aicha (Urdu cover of the French-Arabic song by Khaled, this version performed by Amanat Ali- the song tries to keep the same general rhythm and tune, while the lyrics are a bit tweaked to fit into Urdu)
language: Urdu
style: modern pop/rock style

7- Khamaaj (performed by Shafqat Amanat Ali- while the original has been one of my favourites since it came out and when the band Fuzon was still around, I think this version is just as good if not better)
language: Urdu 
style: folk with mellow tunes

6- Nazaar Eyle (performed by Zeb and Haniya - Original song by Baris Manco, the beat of this song is completely foreign and playing it so perfectly was a lot of hardwork)
language: Turkish (I don't understand a single word, but its a folk song)
style: Turkish folk song with some Western fusion

5- Bibi Sanem Janem (performed by Zeb and Haniya- old Farsi/Dari/Tajiki song, often sung on weddings and a famous rendition of this song from Tajikistan radio can be found here. Check out the brilliant Rabab the CK version begins with)
language: Farsi (Dari/Tajiki dialect)
style: Folk with western fusion

4- Na raindee hai (performed by Arieb Azhar- not exactly a 'song' but more of a melodious recital of Baba Bulleh Shah's brilliant Sufi piece. Note the soul-stirring violin that begins this song)
language: Punjabi
style: folk

3- Yaar Daddi (performed by Ali Zafar, original song was made famous by Abida Parveen- this version combines the Seraiki folk with a hint of Spanish beats, also check out the flute following the pattern of the raag towards the end of the song)
language: Seraiki (famed poetry of Baba Ghulam Fareed)
style: Sufi - Folk

2- Paimona (performed by Zeb and Haniya- this song basically made me fall in love with Dari/Farsi music and now I'm a huge fan of Z&H. Check out the rabab playing in the beginning, and Zeb's soulful voice.)
language: Farsi- Dari Dialect (from the "Rubaiyaat" of Omar Khayyam)
style: Afghani folk with a bit of fusion

1- Aik Alif (performed by Noori and Saein Zahoor- what can I say, just brilliant. From the lyrics to the banjo, to the last couple of lines sung by Hamza in his refreshingly different voice- this song is a masterpiece, and as yet No. 1 on my list)
Language: Punjabi (by Baba Bulleh Shah)
style: Punjabi folk with some Western fusion

I hope you enjoyed. I know almost all songs are great (but I had to cut them down to fit into a blog). If you like the Punjabi folk you might also like Alif Allah by Arif Lohar and Meesha Shafi (it was a big hit, but sadly it did not make it into my top 15). Let me know your comments. 
Now I can't wait to see the new season, it'll be awesome, I'm sure! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Cost of War

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. ......Is there no other way the world may live?”

–President Dwight David Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace,” speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Apr. 16, 1953.  (Comment found on NYTimes website)