Monday, November 11, 2013

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I have just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and it has changed my life. And I say this humbly, and with a lot of unexplained pain inside my heart. I cannot recommend it enough for your guys to read it.

There are many magical moments in the novel that transported me right into the heart of Kabul, Afghanistan.

But nothing is more shocking than this short piece of passage I am going to share with you. The Talibans have just taken over Afghanistan and this was written on the flyers, strewn around the city:

Our watan is now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. These are the laws that we will enforce and you will obey:

All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and you are caught doing something other, you will be beaten.
All men will grow their beards. The correct length is at least one clenched fist beneath the chin. If you do not abide by this you will be beaten.
All boys will wear turbans. Boys in grade one through six will wear black turbans, higher grades will wear white.
All boys will wear Islamic clothes. Shirt collars will be buttoned.
Singing is forbidden.
Dancing is forbidden.
Playing cards, playing chess, gambling and kite flying is forbidden.
Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden.
If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed.
If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal again, your foot will be cut off.
If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims. If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned. if you are caught trying to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed.

Attention women,

You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home.
You will not, under any circumstance, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.
Cosmetics are forbidden.
Jewelry is forbidden.
You will not wear charming clothes.
You will not speak unless spoken to.
You will not make eye contact with men.
You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.
You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger.
Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be ceased immediately.
Women are forbidden from working.
If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death.

Listen. Listen well. Obey. Allah-u-akbar.

Put things in perspective eh?

10 In The Morning

Over the past weekend, I spent Diwali, for the first time in Taiping, Perak. A friend, upon coming to terms and the sudden realization that I am hopelessly obsessed with Bollywood and the Indian culture at large have, in his best interest, invited me to his house (mansion, really) and to soak in the full Diwali experience.

I jumped right into the idea almost immediately, not knowing that there is an ardous, back sore 9 hour bus ride involved in the equation. It was too late to get an air plane ticket so begrudgingly, I went ahead, bravely I might add, with a brand new kurta in my bag (don't ask) and a fervent, almost manic sense of excitement for the impending three day Indian Culture Extravaganza; all just a 9 hour bus ride away.


Love the festival. The ride? Not so much.

The bus ride started at 10 at night and it was everything I imagined it to be; dark, long, insanely freezing because the driver had a bad clout of judgement and decided to crank up the air conditioning throughout the entire journey. The bus ride was made more unbearable with the fact that I sat beside a man (and I'm not making this up) who was so fucking drunk he peed on his seat.

Thankfully, with all the alcohol coursing through his system, he managed to sleep throughout the entire journey and diminish any chances of him puking all over me.

9 hours later, I was at the Kamunting Bus Terminal, smelling the crisp 7 o'clock air and awaiting my Punjabi friend, Terry to pick me up and drive me back to his house.

"Oh by the way I have two dogs at home," Terry said as we drove into the street leading to his house.

"What?! You didn't think it was important to tell me this BEFORE I came to your house?" I shouted.

"Relax, they don't bite," Terry said.

"That's what all you pet owners say," I mumbled under my breath.

When we arrived at the front of his gate, both the coolie and the maltese started barking at me.

"They're barking at me," I said, holding Terry by the end of his polo tee.

"They're dogs, that's what dogs do," Terry rolled is eyes.

"What fantastic hospitality Terry," I said with no hint of emotions in my delivery.

The dogs were then tied up to their respective barn situated at the far end of Terry's expansive lawn by his mother and I was ushered into the house by his father.

The moment I stepped into the house, a strong smell of masala and butter hit me. I knew then that I was home.

After settling down nicely, his father, Mr Hari, prompted me to sit down at the sofa in the living room and watch television and rest while lunch is being prepared.

"I heard you like Bollywood? We have all the channels. Come! Watch!" he said, voice booming throughout the entire living room.

And before you know it, the sounds of Bollywood music filled the living room and there I sat on Terry's sofa thinking, "I've hit jackpot!"

That night was a night of many firsts for me. I, for the first time sat down with Terry's younger brother Ammarjeet and witnessed how he made kollum from scratch. It was magnificient to say the least.

After that we played with fireworks and in between we filled our stomachs with more briyani and masala mutton and ayam masak me rah that by the time Diwali happened the following day, I felt more indian in a single breath that Katrina Kaif can be in her entire life.

All decked out and ready to serve guests, I made my way to the kitchen to show Terry's mother my kurta that I bought just for the event.

"Wow! You look great! You're officially one of us now!" she squealed.

"Where's Terry aunty?" I asked.

"Oh he's outside at the lawn drinking with his brother and father," she replied.

"It's only 12 noon," I said, shocked.

"They started at 10 in the morning," Terry's mother laughed.

Right. How could I ever forget that they drink at every given occasion. Heavily.