Oct 23, 2008

What's in a Name????

What’s a name? What’s in it? What does it mean? Why are we named and why does it matter? These are questions I hardly think about. Well, but if you ask me these questions, I would probably come up with a thousand answers and go on and on and on until I confuse even myself. But what’s in my name???

Two weeks ago, the much awaited and anticipated JNUCF newsletter ‘Veritas’ came out, with half a page of my much-edited ‘booklet’ review in it. The name “HMINGTHANZUALI HRANGLUNG” was printed underneath. As I glanced through the contents of the newsletter, I couldn’t help but grin at my full, total name. People started getting confused over the person who wrote the book review. I didn’t blame them, just a quick glance at it made me feel as if I’m reading a Thai name or something. “Copied and pasted straight out of Facebook” the editor, John “Tea” grinned. I laughed. It was everything that I have got, all that I am. But it’s nice to see for a change to be referred to with your full name. Besides, it also makes me wander through the years and through family stories to what made me have this name as my own.

My full name, Hmingthanzuali, actually wasn’t originally mine!! If names can be owned than it was my eldest brother’s! If you are a parent you might probably know the joys and jitters over the first-borns. The anticipation, the preparation and the extra care and length people would go to welcome the first-born into this world. It was the same with my family. When my eldest brother was born, the whole family rejoiced, and everyone fought to be the one who named the first boy. Truth is, my brother was given more than a dozen names!!!!! As a kid, it was one of my favorite stories on how Dad won as the ‘namer’. My brother was finally called Malsawma which means ‘blessed’. And yes, back to my name Hmingthanzual was the name given by my maternal grandpa. Mom used to say it was a very close contender to the name that won!! So, I guess my folks must have liked the name that I was named so when I was born 5 years later. I was also given a Bible name, Esther, but somehow it never survived!! Hence, here I am, Hmingthanzuali.

The meaning of my name? Well, my name is in Mizo language whereas my family name in Lai which are sister languages anyway. Hmingthan come from the word hmingthang which means ‘famous name’ or ‘well- known name’, zual means ‘more’. So my name literally means ‘the name which will be known more and more’. My school mates used to say my name means ‘a very famous name’ which I totally disagree. Hranglung is my family name. Hrang in Lai means ‘brave’, Lung means ‘heart’… so it literally means ‘braveheart’. “Mel Gibson!!” Levi and Asen screamed in unison when I explained this to them. One of my friends remarked about my name “So, Zuali, your name means ‘ a braveheart whose name will be known more and more’!!”. You decide.

Even though my family all agreed on my name, for some reason my Mom liked calling me Senmami. Soon after that, I became Seni to family. Sen comes from the word nausen which means ‘baby’, mami is what you would use to call any younger Mizo girl. So I became a ‘babygirl’.

And as I grew up, my name changes a lot. I was Hmingthani till High school, Zuali during my Higher Secondary in Chennai, Seni during college days in Shillong and finally back to Zuali here in Delhi. And as my name varies from Seni to Zuali, I must say there are times I feel attached to people who call me by a particular name than those who call me by another. Now I don’t feel so anymore, besides, I am Seni as much as I am Zuali. And for some, one name might seem distant than the other. So call me anything you like as long as it fits to my numerous names that I am extra lucky to own.

And for that part of the meaning of my name, or my identity without my name, or whether I live upto my name or not, I leave to philosophers like Asang to reason with it! And if you really can’t reason it out then chill…. I’m still privileged enough to own a name (or names), names that I like, names that I am comfortable with and most of all names that sprung my face on people’s head when they hear it.

Oct 4, 2008

Teri's Blue Tears: of responsibility and dedication...

If this sexy camel looks familiar to you... then I am sure you will recognise the lady with him... the acidic Miss. Bat-Teri-es Blue Bag. Have you ever noticed how attached they are to each other? Ron carrying her on to and fro on their date every sunday morning( believe me, Teri's quite gravitational!! ) , running after her whenever, wherever... Some say its because he's dedicated, some say it's because he's a nice guy, others say its because he's responsible... I say... he doesn't have a choice... :P. Whatever be the adhesion between these two people, I hope that it is strong enough to bend through this present, recent storm in their relatonship.

Remember Ron's green T we all really 'like'?? Yea!! the one with that noticeable yet extremely-unnecessary and inapporopriate cross cut on the front!! It breaks my heart to tell you that our favourite T is in grave danger of getting deported from Ron's wardrobe, to a place where we may never see him again :(

Connection between the two paragraphs on top??? Here it goes...

It all started one warm Sunday morning when SingSing (the culprit) was asked to escort Teri to church. He, a go-easy, breezy fella' decided that Teri didn't need much care, so he started swinging around with her, carrying her upside down and often complaining that she gained too much weight. The lady in blue must have been badly battered both emotionally and physically. Who can blame her, after all Ron cares for her with such love and consideration, running to her every whims especially when she refuse to help out with the microphones. Teri, after the brief swing with the fluttering and careless youth must have been heartbroken.

The next sunday, Ron, as usual, came an hour early for his date with Teri. One glance at him and you would know that he had tried his best for Teri. Cleanly shaven and still fresh from his dewy bath, he wore his famous green T, as he pranced in his way towards John T's room where I helped Teri to get ready for the weekly date. She seemed fine when she left with Ron, and I never suspected a hint of trouble when Ron, in an exceptionally good mood picked her up. I thought everything went well untill I noticed a hole on Ron's sleeve at Wangjin's B'day dinner.

It turns out that, Teri, shaken from all of SingSing's sways and swings, broke down soon after they left the room. She was probably crying her eyes out and her blue tears as well, that Ron's shirt doesn't just get stained but even 'holed'.

Ron was quite cool about the whole thing. He liked his T but at the same time, his relationship and responsibility with Teri was way too important to let a meagre thing like a hole in a sleeve to ruin or end it. He shrugged " I was so angry, it's all because of SingSing. But I'll still keep my shirt..." saying that he'll even let Teri cry on his shoulder again if she feels like it or if he needs another hole to make his cool T look cooler!!

Teri on the other hand, is doing well. When I last saw her, she begged me to not to send SingSing to escort her on her weekly dates :P... but she seemed fine. But something tells me to call on her best-friend Sam, all the way from Dwarka, just to make sure that there are no hurts and bruises that she's been hiding.

Some people sacrifice a lot. Don't they?? Not only the weekly dates with heavy ladies in blue and her bunch of book-ish, mic-stand-ish, umbrella-ish, mat-ish, music stand-ish heavy weight sisters, but always being an hour early for the dates, escorting them to and from the places you take them and a sometimes even earning a hole in the sleeve of a nice cool T.

Well I'm sure none of it will go unrewarded... all the best with Teri Blue Bags... and T's with holed sleeves!! :D

Sep 25, 2008

Hairy tales : the dark side of spontaneity

“ Nice try, Mary Poppins… hair won’t reduce your age” she grinned at me, chuckled and snapped her fingers and walked away. I blinked as I watch her sashaying down the school corridor. It’s not fair, she never gave me the time to explain. Well, who would?? It’s not like every day that suddenly you show up with your usually no fore hair ( read fringe) to something that suddenly ends at your eyebrows…. Well, this is my story and my lesson as well. It reveals the cons of being too spontaneous even though there are many pro’s to the nature.

People usually give me a grin or a smile and an unsaid thought “what an idiot!!” when I go back to the incident that led me to have this unusual fringe with my usual-same-length-hair. The genesis of this crazy hair begins one morning when I unusually got up at 6:30 am to fill my buckets with water. Precious water, it was, during that time when Chandrabhaga and Lohit hostels faced major crisis in the middle of a hot, sticky Delhi monsoon. No thanks to the contractors of the upcoming hostel “Koena”, who in their damp minds, diverted the water pipes of these two hostels instead of taking up their own connection. What we they trying to achieve anyway?? Pocketing the water bills???? Anyway, they gave us enough trouble with the water supply that we have to carry water from outside. I could have sworn that I developed muscles from carrying buckets and buckets of water from outside the hostel to my first-floored, west-winged, end-corridor room. That was the reason why I got up extraordinarily early to fill my buckets during the short hour when water pipes finally become water pipes.

While waiting for the buckets to be filled, I stared at myself in the mirror, still half-asleep. Then came my sudden moment of insanity. I ran back to my room, get a pair of scissors and a comb, came back to the bathroom, stationed myself in front of the mirror and snip snip snip went my fore locks. I looked at myself again in the mirror again, quite content with the mess I have created. I turned off the water tap and went back crawling between my sheets to resume my golden slumber.

An hour later, I looked at myself in the mirror and my heart sank. What have I done??? I tugged at whatever was left of my fore- hair, hoping to make it grow longer under the tugging pressure. I tried pinning it back but it was too short to be done so; I tried parting it and it looked like remains of a burnt curtain!! It looked fine when I plastered it on the sides but it refused to stay there for long. So in the end, I have to settle for the new look that I had created for myself while I was still half asleep.

Well! The reactions that I got were numerous… few of what I can remember are these…
Toi looked at me, smiled, and as polite as she was, said “It’s not that bad. It suits you!” Thanks Toi, my very first encouragement.

Ron looked at me, stared, turned away, stared again, narrowed his eyes creating those little premature wrinkles when he has something on his mind- something that he’d rather not discuss, or do discuss with lots of “it’s only my opinion, you don’t have to pay attention to it!”. But he was mum, or so I thought till he commented on a particular photo with ‘the fringe’ in my orkut account.

Sing Sing laughed at me on my face with a tonsil-exposing burst and a held back "MMMOO HM, MOM"…

Shruti, of all the people told me that there’s something ‘sweet’ about me that day… not necessarily because of my hair.

Apuii giggled with a hilarious “Why??” and couldn’t stop her giggling every time she turns towards my side. I guess she has the right to because she’s my officially- unofficial hair stylist.

My cousin screamed “Are you experimenting?? You’re too old to pull off that look”

My classmates just stared “It’s quite a change”
One particularly bold one remarked, “Hey, you look sixteen again…”

Bawiha, my favorite Kungfu Panda (read Mizo Male Voice) smiled “You look good with that hair”… well, this harmless panda hardly pulls anyone’s leg anyway!! But it hinted me that he must think that, me + fringe is suddenly a plaything when he kept on pinching me and pulling my cheeks during our usual Sunday evening choir practice.

Zoteii, a fellow teacher at Sunday School grinned “It looks nice when you wear it THAT way… no… not totally down. Sweep it on the side, yeah… like that… it looks good” as she desperately tried to help me tone the fringes down on the side.
U Tani, my roommate’s cousin stared “It totally changes your look. You look thinner with it!!!”

U Kuki, as usual squealed “You’re becoming prettier…” You can’t really believe people like U Kuki not because she’s not honest or trustworthy, but because she simply is someone who can’t see the dark side or the uglier side of life!!

It’s quite a change. I was quite hesitant to accept it at first, but now hey, I love my fringes. It’s only hair anyway… and I can change it anytime I want. But for the time being, as much as I dealt with the consequences of sudden actions and spontaneous gestures, I love the experience of dealing with it all. I hope I take enough pictures to help me remember that once upon a time, I had fringes to which almost everyone I know turned to give me a second look, which is, of course, something that I usually don’t get. I guess I’ll just have to get used to hair grazing on my forehead, until then, fringes or no fringes… the butterfly is still the butterfly!!

Sep 19, 2008

Of pork-craving, rainy evenings and complain boxes!!

It all started when my pork hormones started peaking on a calm Bible-Study Tuesday evening!! Surprisingly, my “shweetest” grin couldn’t coax Ron or Sing Sing or anyone for that matter to hike out of campus that evening. So I have to go home and satisfy myself with hostel mess that evening… and the next evening too.

But like I said, there’s no way to subdue the peaking hormones that Thursday evening, that I round up the guys and convinced them to take an auto-ride to Nagaland House, to sink our sharpened teeth on Bastinga-flavoured pork. Ron, Sing and even Toi agreed… even though she act as if she hesitated a bit, complaining that we won’t let her go vegan for a month!!! As if she really would!!

So, regardless of the rain and the cold wind, we set out… with borrowed umbrellas! When we reached Ron’s room, Wicham decided to join us in our quest for quenching pork cravings. The five of us set out at around 8’o clock. Rain and wind won’t keep us in… yes… it won’t even keep us from bargaining with the auto-walla. So after a few hustles and a few fights we finally climbed in an auto… all five of us and got whisked away through the rain.

As usual we pulled Sing Sing’s leg in the auto… and sometimes even his cheeks. You can’t blame anyone, can you? Sing Sing’s always the one who attracts all sorts of cheek-pinching attention with his usual whimpers and his perfect little complains about everything - right from the rain to the people whisking by in their huge cars. He kept on complaining about the rain coming straight to his face (he was sitting on the side), and finally stopped his feeble growls and settled down after placing both his palms right in front of his face. However, an occasional “CHHHIII!!” often came up from his side of the auto whenever we ran pass not-so-hygienic-streets.

I couldn’t be more excited… there I was, on my way to Nagaland House for my much awaited pork dinner. I kept on squealing and bubbling in between to which Ron retorted “ You never know!! They might not have pork there!!”. Then the goose bumps started. What if he’s right? He can’t be right?? Can’t he?? !! Anyway, we rode chattering along with Wicham and his usual short, yet hilarious comments as he perched with the auto driver on the front, occasionally giving traffic signals to people driving by, holding out his borrowed umbrella… Toi’s umbie, to be precise.

There we were, after a 15 minute ride, at the place I wanted to be at dinner time the whole week!! We walked inside to a catastrophically bad news. There was no pork in the house!!! It turns out that if we are a fairly big group, we need to order before-hand. There were a group of NSUD people who had their meeting in the evening who ordered first. Therefore they get to eat and we don’t!! I sank, hoped they were joking but no!! Ron’s comment in the auto totally jinxed us!!! It was already 9 o’clock and too late to go anywhere else, so we settled for chicken!

But hope floats.

"When really in distress", my Grandma used to tell me "God assigns fluffy little angels to take care of us". We, or yet, I must be in a really big distress when a "fluffy little angel" came in the form of Yaransho (of the JNU animal-rights fame). He showed up, mysteriously and saved us by giving us a piece or two each from their pre-ordered pork meal. When he did so… Wicham and Ron were so boisterous in pointing at me, loudly saying that I was the one who wanted pork, not them!!! Some guys they are !! Toi, tomato red, couldn’t help but sink in her seat trying to hide behind the water jugs and muttering under her breath that she will not be back for a year or so. The poor NSUD’s… they had to order another plate of chicken since they gave away at least one person’s share. But thank you so much guys… even though I didn’t have the guts to thank you back then.

All’s well?!! Not so. Wicham was probably disappointed with the dinner and his piece of pork that he grabbed the ‘Complain box’ title from Sing Sing.

“I’m never coming back here again”

“The rice is not good at all. I can make better rice than this”

“It doesn’t even taste like Naga food”

“I can cook better”

Well, these are the more polite ones!! No one had an exhilarating contentment that night, but I get to eat so much that I couldn’t sleep the whole night. Nonetheless, we finished off everything except a handful of rice and dal... which we left only because Ron thought it's good to practice etiquette once in a while!

After dinner, some of us craved for icecreams (Sing, Toi and I), some for paan (Ron) and some for nothing (Wicham). But Sing Sing was broken to see his adoptive father chewing the paan away. He frowned, stared at me, back at Ron and back at me again, pouted his lips and muttered "You hypocrits!! I don't want you as my parents!!". Ron grinned. It's not exactly the first time that we've encountered Sing this way. In fact, he often fires me from being his Mom, but he always take me back when he needed me. What a son?? Huh??

Auto ride back to campus was again time for irritating Sing Sing. We got down at Ganga bus stop; since we wanted to walk in the rain… but sadly the rain stopped… we walked anyway!! Sing Sing couldn’t understand why we didn’t take the auto till Godavari. He started throwing tantrums but surprisingly cooled down after sometime.

We all went back to Ron’s room to clear out the finances of the evening, from where we walked back to hostel. I had a great evening. Not only the ‘bustled’ dinner that we had but it was also super hanging out with the guys. I can't complain about the rain... it makes our evening more dramatic. I can't complain about the 'complain boxes' either... you guys make our evening more spicy. Hope there are more evenings to come, evenings when pork will be available of course!!

Huh!! All this typing about pork makes me hungry again already!!! Khupchand Sausages…. Here I come!!

Sep 16, 2008

... Reconciliation...


Do you remember me?? Does my voice seem familiar to you or can you even hear me at all? I heard things are going well with you, I'm glad. You deserved it after all you've been through. I have never stopped praying for you and I’m sure better days are waiting for you on the road ahead.
I'm doing great here too. So great that sometimes I want to sit you down and tell you of all the things that I've been through. But I can't do that, can I?? I guess we have come to an unsaid agreement that we should both exist in the same universe but however use indifference as our main solution to hide all the past hurts and bruises.
Time has treated me gently over the years. I must say I’m older now, wisened by the pain and the struggles. I have learnt how to look at pain in the eye and walk even through the darkest valley with grace in my steps and hope in my heart.
Well, life goes on after you left. Would you believe it?? I have already completed my master’s and I am now an official research scholar!! I remember you calling me up on the day of my 12 Biology exams, all the well wishes and the prayers. It’s been years, hasn’t it? The Lord has been extremely good to me, He’s always been close to me like a shadow, sheltered me and provided for me even when I’m wrong. The way He shows His care and love are simply amazing.
University’s not so bad after all… in fact, I now dread that I would have stayed back home and miss out on all these beautiful people and exciting experiences. I’ve met lots of friend here in University. Friends with whom I can be myself with, friends wit whom I laugh and cry with. And would you believe it? Most of them are not Mizos... again!! which proves that I am still an integrationist… I guess your purist philosophy doesn’t really stick to my head.
I haven’t changed much… I’m still no head-turner; I haven’t grown an inch taller or lost a single pound. But I’m finally contented with who I am. I have stopped writing though… except for a few scribbles. I guess it is one thing that you totally took from me. It must have been the constant criticism and the brutal sniggers, I guess I never really recovered completely from it. But however I’m working towards it, and the day anything from my pen gets published, I’ll send you a copy!!
I am still singing inspite of all that you’ve told me. I know I’m not good, but somehow I feel that God wants me to sing. And it has got nothing to do with being good in singing or having a good voice. Who am I to hold back against worshipping a God who does deserve to be worshipped? I have started dancing again… alone in my room though. But sometimes when I’m really really happy, I break out in wild moves even in the middle of the road. The butterfly is back and she’s here to stay…
I have also revived my rain-dances. But I can no longer feel the squishy squashy grass under my feet as I mostly dance on the hostel terrace. I still take walks in the rain… although I hardly have anyone to walk with. But nonetheless, I enjoy doing all these things even though I do it alone.
I have met a new guy. I couldn’t be happier!! He has been quite a rock in my life and the amount of care, concern and love he has showered me are not quite what I deserve. I’m immensely thankful for him and I hope to learn how to love and care for him in ways that he could and couldn’t see.

I do miss you sometimes. I want to see you again and thank you for all the lessons that you have taught me, the love and care that you have shown me and for the prayers that you have prayed for me for all those years. You indeed are one person who have watched me grow and change over the years. I still haven’t stopped yet, there are still so many mountains to scale, rivers to cross and lessons to learn. But I hope to be a better person everyday and i also hope that you will be happy with the woman I have become and the person that I will grow into in the coming years. Even though we are out of touch, someday I hope to bump to you in a busy market place or a hussled street and smile at you just so you know that inspite of what I believed back then, life does go on after you … and its still amazingly beautiful and rosy.

Lastly, I want to say I’m sorry for whatever pain I’ve put you through. And I pray that you won’t regret or feel guilty for whatever I went through. None of it was your fault.

To whom these words belong to…. You know who you are. I am blessed that I have met you.

May 11, 2008

The comforter

A close friend of mine back from Shillong just recently lost his dad to cancer. When I heard the news, I was dumbstruck, in spite of the fact that I myself lost my mother to cancer five years ago. Because this friend of mine had taken care of his dad who suffered from stroke, for five long years before he was even diagnosed with cancer. For five years, he sat next to his paralyzed father’s bed, changing sheets, giving sponge baths, taking him to the toilet and back, reading to him or just watching him when he sleeps. For five years, he sacrificed his college education, his social life and all the things that he could have done as a young man. He sacrificed the best years of his life, praying hard at the same time that somehow, one day, all his sacrifice would pay off and that he could see his dad walk again, be well again and get out of bed once again.
I remember, back in college days, our circle would pack up once in a while and go visit the family on Saturdays. We would sit by the fire and talked with his dad. His dad, well, was my mother’s local guardian back in her college days. So, he would talk about my mother when she was young, and I would listen to him, happy yet sad at the same time that I could listen to stories about my mother’s younger days, not from herself, but an old man who was paralyzed the whole left side. Visits to upper Shillong would usually leave me sad to see how the family struggled with the only earning member confined to bed; touched to see how the sons and their old mother cared for their sick father and melancholic to hear stories, bloopers and jokes about my mother when she was my own age.
But the thing that usually touch me the most would be the sacrifice that Mawia gave for his dad. He left college when his dad had a stroke, took care of him and the house as well while his younger brother went to school, and at the same time, working part-time at the little time he could spare. The part time jobs would include anything from loading cow dung cakes to being a local milkman. Here I am, finishing my Master’s in a week or so and this friend of mine, is still an undergraduate because all this time, he had been taking care of his dad. Priorities can be poles apart indeed!!
When I hung up the phone to a friend who passed the sad news, I cried. I couldn’t stop myself from doing so. “God! What am I going to tell him? How will I comfort him?” I cried. In spite of the fact that I have gone through the experience before, and in spite of people thinking that somehow I would know the right words to say, it’s never an easy thing to comfort people who lose a parent. Because the only people who knows how hard life is, without a parent are those without one. And life without a parent, I must say, is something that you can’t prepare yourself for, or something that you can put down in words. It’s something that you understand only when you yourself are in the situation. Comforting people who go through this ordeal is harder still. You just can’t tell them “it’s OK” ‘cause it’s not. Losing a parent or a love one for that matter is never OK!!
So when I dialed his number, I shivered as I prayed once again for God to put words in my mouth and comfort in my soul.
“Hello” his voice was light and cheerful.
“M…M… Mawi” I stuttered.
“Seni?!!! O My God!! This is another miracle indeed” he exclaimed.
I had expected us to cry for an hour and talk for two more after that. But no! It was all about him telling me how thankful he is to God for all that has happened. As he dictated on the last weeks, days and hours of his father’s life here on earth, he was calm, unaffected and cheerful at times. What touched me the most was the first words that escaped his mouth when the doctor told them that their father was no more. “I surprised myself because I was so calm” he said, “then I said ‘Praise God’ and believe me Sen, I mean it with all of my heart!!” I do believe him. Tears flow freely as I listened to him talk about his father’s funeral, how he sang his dad’s favorite song in the funeral and how he believed that it was only an empty shell that they buried in the graveyard, and not his dad.
Half an hour later, we hang up the phone with promises to keep in touch with each other. An hour later I was still in tears, glad to have witness yet another miracle that God works out for his people, sad to lose an old uncle and so very happy to see a close friend of mine at peace with his father’s home going. I was at peace with myself and grateful to know a God who exists for people who are in dire need of His strength. I had called up my friend to comfort him but I was too late. The Comforter was already there before me; the Comforter had always been there and will always be there with him.
“…and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

My 'un'fascination with beards

I had always been fascinated with beards. I remembered, watching my father shave, as a child. Each morning when I wake up, I would climb out of bed to see my dad shaving in the bathroom. He would stand before the bathroom mirror, make all sorts of stretchy plastic faces with the fluffy white foam on his face. And then, pursing his lips together, he would go ….. swish swish… with the razor. As a child it somehow amazes me that a foamy face and several swipes with the razor could transform a raspy stubble chin into a soft and silky patch of skin. “My turn!!” my baby brother and I would fight to be the first one to touch the freshly shaven face. Boy! We would kill to be the first one to kiss the silky smooth skin before dad would leave for work.
I remembered once, Dad had been travelling on a gruesome schedule, that when he returned home, he had this three day stubble on his chin. My brother, the moment he saw Dad, burst into tears; while the closest I got to Dad was watch him from behind my mother’s skirt. We were not used to seeing dad with a hairy face. But somehow, we came to love even the stubble. At the end of the day, we would laze around the bed while dad would blow our tummies and tickled us with his stubble. Then came the acceptance that even something so rough and ugly could be enjoyed in such a way.
The fascination with beards grew that one day, my brother and I tried the amazing task of shaving our faces before dad got home from the office. We were ‘rescued’ by the Nanny who snatched the razor from our hands, commanded us to wash our well-foamed faces and march out of the bathroom. When dad returned in the evening, that when the fun begins. The next morning when we woke up, dad, as usual was already in the bathroom. As we peeked inside, he smiled through his soapy face and gave both of us a bladeless razor each. Then he taught us the ‘art of shaving’. After soaping up our faces nice and thick, he gave us the plastic face exercise. Boy! To all the men who shave out there, I really admire your face stretching skills. My brother and I had to pull out the most expressive cartoons faces to make sure that we didn’t miss out a spot. After that, the three of us would line up each morning before the bathroom mirror, with stools and all, and carry out our daily ritual of shaving with bladeless razors.
That experience as a child must have left me deeply fascinated with beards. I admire men who keep themselves cleanly shaven every day, remembering the stretchy faces they must have pulled each morning before the mirror. I also admire men with stubbles at the same time, remembering the blown-tummies and stubble tickling evenings.
The other day, I was with this friend. This person and I had been through a lot together and I must say, we’re really close and comfortable with each other’s company. I can think aloud with this person and so could he with me. Hard luck so!! He looked at me really hard that day, stared at me till his eyes squinted and mentioned with delight, “Hey! Bawih, is that a thin mustache on your upper lips?” Stupid idiot!! My fascination with facial hair vanished all of a sudden, vaporized into thin air. It has been months since he’s made that comment. I’ve never recovered the fascination till now!

Jan 3, 2008

Taking My Time

I never liked cell phones ringing in the middle of meetings. I liked it even less especially if the cell phone belongs to me, even if the meeting is an informal one like the one that I was in that moment when my phone started vibrating. That Wednesday evening at 24/7 dhaba, I tried to ignore the vibration in my jeans pocket as I struggled to focus at Uma and the rest of the cultural-in-charge making suggestions on how to go about with the cultural activities for the JNUCF advent Christmas celebration. Finally I succumbed to the persistent vibration and excused myself as I picked up the call.
“Hi, Zuali!” a familiar voice rang “When is your meeting getting over, we’re waiting for you here for the North East night song practice”
“Sorry…It’s almost over. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
It was already 7:09 pm when I reached Ad block to a group of singers who kept showing me their watches and cell phones. I grinned, unamused, as I tried to apologise. I was 39 minutes late.
Three hours later, I was rushing on my way to Ad block again from Chandrabhaga hostel for the state dance practice. After a couple of hours of hopping and dancing in between bamboos beaten together, I limped my way back to the hostel; slumped on to bed, too exhausted for anything else, even my usual quiet time. Just before I fell asleep, a small voice asked me “When have you became to busy even to pray?” Ignoring the little voice, I rolled over and fell asleep only to wake up to the painful sound of the alarm reminding me that I have a 9 o’clock class that day.
I only realised that practice after practice, meeting after meeting, heavy academic work piling up on my bad health pushed me to the limit when I had a blackout once when I was getting ready for yet another practice. Lying on my bed that warm afternoon, staring at the stationary ceiling fan, thoughts poured into my head, thoughts that I never had the time to ponder upon. When have I started becoming too busy even to stop for a minute in a day to look back on how I spend the previous day? When have I started becoming too busy ‘serving’ God that I didn’t have time to spend with Him? When have I started becoming too occupied with my ‘academics’ that I couldn’t find the time to thank the One who gave me the health, the ability and the resources to study?
The Lord of heaven and earth came to die for me and I believed that He loved me enough that He would have died for me anyway even if I was the only one who needed redemption. He died for me because He loved me, He wanted me and He longed for me not my service. I know I can never repay Him back with my petty services then how come I am depriving Him of the thing He wanted most – my time with Him.
As far as I recall, I loved spending time with God. Those beautiful moments I would just quieten myself to listen to my Creator; those soulful moments when I would be at lost for words, knowing at the same time that I don’t need words to be understood by the One who knows me better than I know myself; those secret moments in the quiet place, when I would shut out the world, settle down at His feet and sing the little love songs that I wrote for Him in secret notebooks which no one would ever come across, knowing well that the silly songs would be appreciated even if the lyrics are crude or the tunes are out of place at times.
It is true that sometimes I am too busy ‘serving’ God that I couldn’t accommodate even thirty minutes a day for to spend time with Him. I also believe that unfortunately, I am not the only one with this problem. In today’s fast world, where fast cars and fast foods are in and everyone rushes for everything, we hardly find the time to ‘stand and stare’. We often talk about time management and how to handle our time, but I believe that no book, inspirational speaker or teacher would teach time-management lessons better than the One who could find time to create the whole world in just six days. Let us also not overlook the fact that even God emphasised on the importance of resting, like He did on the seventh day. Let us also be wise enough to rest in Him who leads us beside still waters rather than on some other form of stress buster. Lastly, let us always remember that our time with Him is much more important than anything else.

I won’t worry ‘cause there’s no hurry
The world’s not passing me by.
‘Cause the Lord, He knows just where each day goes
I know He won’t leave me behind.
And I won’t be bringing a single thing
That my heart can’t carry inside;
Cause I’m going home and I’m only taking my time.