Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Countering intolerance at a personal level

For the last few weeks, no, months, I have been mulling over this trend of rising intolerance in different parts of the world. It’s as though all the racists, bigots, and ignorant ass wipes had a late night global meet to unleash their hate on the world. And now intolerance is on the rise. Now different thoughts and opinions aren’t tolerated, let alone different people. 
It’s a sad time when individuals, groups, communities,and entire nations are praying to be tolerated by the rest. What went so wrong with us as a society that we think tolerating someone/thing is a privilege we bestow on them? Sorry, but mere tolerance just doesn’t cut it. Don’t just tolerate the minorities, the refugees, the rebels and reformers, accept them as they are and respect them for what they are and could become. As a woman I don’t want people to just ‘tolerate’ my presence in the public space, I want them to respect it. As a Muslim I want to be embraced by my fellow citizens of the world as another human being on this lonely planet, the only planet we have, rather than be just put up with. 
Yet, Intolerance still trends. But then, this intolerance can’t arise from a vacuum, can it? I have come to believe that all of us, yes ALL OF US, have seeds of this intolerance buried within us. The only difference is some proudly showcase it to the world while exhibiting their bigotry, and others manifest it within the four walls of their homes. 
While we complain about those who want to close the borders to the refugees, how many of us look inside and reflect on the borders we have sealed, the electric fences we have put up against our own? We brush over our own moments of intolerance- frustration with our spouses for not being exactly who we want them to be (without changing ourselves a bit), getting irritated with the little quirks of our family, tapping our feet and sighing loudly for a few minutes' delay at the checkout counter, honking impatiently the moment the signal turns green. These are small things but they are indicative of how, at some level, we all are intolerant.
So while I can’t probably exert any influence on border issues or have a say in the refugee crisis or change a bigot’s mind, there are some small things I can do to extract these seeds of hate from my own heart. Here are the things I want to do to make my little spot in this world a brighter place-
•Hug my husband a little tighter each day. Be grateful for the wonderful person I have as a partner rather than count his flaws.
•Celebrate my family and friends in all their craziness. The quirks are what make us, US.
•Smile a little wider at a stranger (even if it creeps them out)
•Appreciate the little moments in between the big events. Whether I tap my feet or not, time will still flow at its own sweet pace-right?
• Be grateful for loved ones, peace, security, food on the table, and a roof over my head. Realise that this is not everyone's reality, be empathic.
•Grab every opportunity to be kind, to show a little mercy, to lend a helping hand.
•Be patient. Not sweat the small stuff.
•Forgive gracefully, apologize sincerely.
•Listen. Listen. Listen.
•Be kind to myself and not beat myself up for my shortcomings. How can I ‘tolerate’ others, when I can’t accept myself? 
So that’s my list. What’s yours?

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Contain Terror

The other day I heard someone say,
Why don’t they keep terror in their corner,
And not let hate escape their bay.
Then I read somewhere,
Prominent persons discussing relevant questions like,
‘Why do they hate us and our freedoms?’
And ‘How do we civilize them?’
Whines the white man.
Now I hear
They burned a mosque,
Boxed an old man in the face.
Ripped her headscarf off and
Pushed a woman onto an oncoming train.
Then screamed at brown kids:
‘Fuck off. Go back to where you came from’
I am sorry,
I can’t ignore this anymore,
Even if I’m ignored.
So let me answer,
If these answers are the key, maybe
They will unlock our shared humanity. 
Dear Delusional One,
You can’t keep terror in my corner,
Because the world is round and
My corner is your corner so
Your wars kill my children and
The other way around
You didn’t ask for it, but then,
Neither did I.
And know that
Hate can’t be contained in our bay
Because it spills and taints
Every single thing in its way.
If hate could be contained, then
Why does yours wash over our shores,
And rain on our homes.
Why does it stifle our hopes and
Tread on what's left of our dreams?
Dear prominent person,
We don’t hate your freedom,
But we do crave the ability to
Live our lives free
From the politics of faraway lands
We have never seen.
But it seems freedom isn’t free
As the fine prints indicate, each time
Certain *conditions apply.
So the lives we lose is just
The price we pay for wanting
To have a say in which way
Our future sways. 
Dear White Man,
Who do you want to civilize?
Those that were left behind in the
Centuries of civilizing missions
Of colonizing tongues and
Othering complete continents?
Or those whose lands you made sure were
Reduced to rubble in a matter of seconds?
Or do you want to civilize the orphans, the widows,
The living dead,
The vague numbers in your brief mentions
Of the ‘collateral damage’ we must endure?
Please, do let us know
As we wait with bated breaths.
Dear Ignorant Bigot,
Those kids live right across you street
So, please, retreat. Crawl back into your cave
With the others competing to hate.
Don’t worry,
We won’t miss your face.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

For A Hurting World

I have been saddened by the deluge of bad news the last few days. Innocent lives have been taken away so cruelly- In Iraq, In Syria, In France...I am scared to read the news, dreading what new tragedy might be playing itself out in some part of the world.
The world might have lost just a few of its inhabitants, but in the last few days some people lost what was the world to them. With each gun shot, with each explosion, a mother's heart was ripped apart, a husband lost his soul mate, a child became orphaned, a family lost its only source of income. A light was dimmed out, forever. 
As I write this, people mourn in different parts of the world. It's surreal, though, how grief is so carefully doled out, based just on where you were born. Each life lost is sacred, but we seem to assign different values to them. So we don't see a JeSuisBeirut, or a flood of Facebook photos in shades of the Syrian or Lebanese flags. We don't see 24/7 coverage of non-western suffering, or leaders falling over themselves to send their condolences and lend their support. There is no solidarity with non-Western pain. Why? 
Because all lives are not equal. Because if a mother in Syria lives in constant fear that her child can be bombed to death at any moment, her suffering is not the same as that of a mother in Paris who lost her child unexpectedly. Because if a people have been living through a conflict for a couple of years, their lives don't need remembering. Because an innocent life taken in a Parisian stadium is worth more that one in a Pakistani field. Because death by a terrorist's gunshot is worse than death by state sanctioned drones.
The threshold for global outrage and grief is a western life in a western land. Every other pain, every other suffering, every other drop of innocent blood spilled is just collateral damage. There is privilege in pain, even in death. As though man made boundaries and labels erase the fact that we all belong to one world and we all return to the same place.
My prayers for this world, for the hurting souls, for the lives ignored, for the smiles stopped short, for the hearts that stopped beating, for the hearts that were left bleeding, for the lands that are still reeling from being torn apart by its own people; for children without homes, and homes without children.
And because there is nothing more I can say now that can explain the sadness and confusion and dread that I am filled with, here's a poem I wrote some time back.
Dear World,
If you could stop
For a second-
Just a moment-
We need to talk
Right now.
I see cracks where
Men carved your skin,
Etching borders that
Starved your kids
Midst wars that bleed
Those who don’t even know
What they mean.
The world is in a whirl
And where do you start
Solving what’s tearing us apart
When your sight is met
With imagined borders that select
Who’s safe, who’s a threat. 
Your children are dying,
Your rivers are drying,
And I know you still turn
So sorrow never
Reaches your shore
You spin because
Standing still is
Letting grief stifle
From within. 
Dear World,
If you could stop
For a second-
Just a moment-
Let’s talk,
Right now, about
The End.