Jump to content
Guests can now reply in ALL forum topics (No registration required!) ×
Guests can now reply in ALL forum topics (No registration required!)
In the Name of God بسم الله
  • entries
    108
  • comments
    174
  • views
    8,136

W.I.M. wimmin

Sign in to follow this  
Haji 2003

817 views

W.I.M stands for 'woe is me".

We get new threads on Shiachat started by new posters who typically relate some domestic issue where a woman has been badly treated by either the father or the husband and occasionally some other male.

The story, since these posts are typically reasonably long, has a fair amount of detail and explanation and has clearly been written by someone with a reasonably good command of the English language. We are not talking about someone who has secretly grabbed access to the village computer in some remote part of a developing country.

Not unreasonably the post elicits uncritical sympathy from most Shiachatters. After all, if you saw Bambi's mother wounded in the forest would you not do all you could to support her and criticise the hunter in the process? 

Given the patriarchal nature of Muslim societies, the collateral damage is, of course, the implicit criticism of such societies, their institutions, cultural norms and so on. So for example, if someone has been taken advantage of through the use of mutah, then invariably there will be concerns directed at the practice and the people who engage in it.

And to my mind, that is the objective of these threads. 

The following are the reasons why I usually have grave reservations about their authenticity:

  1. The person writing them is articulate and educated. They know how to construct a narrative that works. This is not an easy skill to acquire. Their spelling and sentence construction are always good. This matters because such education does not exist in a vacuum. Anyone who is educated to this level has a knowledge of their environment and you'd expect the support systems where they could get help (if that is what they wanted).
  2. The poster typically writes about a situation where they were taken advantage of, sometimes as a result of their lack of knowledge e.g. the terms of mutah. Now that situation would be entirely reasonable if the person was writing about a situation pre-internet. However, if they are writing about any event within the last 5-10 years the question which arises is that any google search of various Islamic issues throws up results that include Shiachat discussions. We are therefore being led to believe that the first time this person heard of Shiachat is when the situation imploded and not beforehand.
  3. Allied to this point the question why someone would turn to anonymous, generally unqualified strangers for help when it would make more sense to approach organisations and institutions they were familiar with and which would both offer an independent and trustworthy point of view. If someone can find shiachat on google they can find such resources.
  4. There are often references to the poster's fragile state of mind, which in my opinion is simply there to head off any uncritical assessment. In developed countries the first person anyone would go to in a fragile state of mind would be there local G.P. (doctor) and they would refer the person to appropriate sources of help.
  5. Such stories are always about 'relationships'. The topic is sexy and everyone has an unqualified opinion. We don't get similar posts about any other aspect of human activity. We don't get anonymous new posters writing in detail about the challenges they face in terms of choosing between medicine or engineering, for example. 

The question then is what motivates such posters?

In my opinion, it is to attack Islamic and Shia institutions and practices, it is to sow discord amongst board members and certainly it is to provide ammunition for those board members who have an anti-Islamic agenda and who can use these stories as the basis for attacking people with a more orthodox mindset.

You may well ask what would qualify such threads as being genuine. 

I'd expect a genuine poster to leave out the 'gory' details. After all, that is for the benefit of feeding the bun fight that is supposed to follow. I would expect a genuine person to explain in very general terms the situation that they are facing and then to ask posters if they are familiar with any sources of support in a particular country or region (this assume that they can't find such resources themselves). At a push, I would say that a new poster could say that they wanted to speak to someone qualified and whether board members or moderators could point them in the right direction.

Sign in to follow this  


35 Comments


Recommended Comments



1 minute ago, Maryaam said:

You cannot continually find external reasons for disharmony - at some point, you need to acknowledge that you need to look from within.

Yes, that used to be the white/western criticism of Muslim societies and then Mr. Putin's activities around Trump have shown that indeed you can take any society and exacerbate disharmony.

Share this comment


Link to comment
9 minutes ago, Haji 2003 said:

Yes, that used to be the white/western criticism of Muslim societies and then Mr. Putin's activities around Trump have shown that indeed you can take any society and exacerbate disharmony.

Any society, or community or family can survive many onslaughts if there is harmony from within - the speed with which it can be pulled apart gives an indicator of the internal health/strength of that grouping - and the disharmony in the US was there long before Trump or Putin entered the fray - they just acted as a means to expose and define it more clearly.  

Don't know how white and western got into this (externalizing maybe...) - a society is a society regardless of where it is located or its ethnic makeup - but even an individual at some point has to acknowledge the part they play in their discomfort/sadness/failures/etc.  Blaming does not solve problems - it might make you feel validated for a few minutes, but the problem is still there, it is still dysfunctional, and most of all, it still needs to be addressed.

Edited by Maryaam

Share this comment


Link to comment
46 minutes ago, Maryaam said:

Don't know how white and western got into this (externalizing maybe...)

Very much a colonial narrative that provided a justification for their expansionism.

"See those Hindus and Muslims in India and how they are at each others' throats? We're there to impose the peace while taking over the country. "See the Sunni/Shia conflict in the middle east it's been going on for centuries, but we can sort it out and steal the oil in the process. See those Hutus and Tutsis? That fight started long before our time, but we can loot their country in the name of peace".

etc. etc.

Smart societies understand the pressure points and knowing that a resolution is likely intractable manage the situation. It's the reason why the supposed shrine to Abu Lulu in Kashan is off limits. It's the reason why India banned Rushdie's Satanic Verses and it's the reason why my non-Muslim business associates in Singapore send me Eid cards.

They could follow your approach, but they've worked out that the dead bodies are not worth it.

 

Edited by Haji 2003

Share this comment


Link to comment

What does this have to do with Shia attacking each other on a Shia site, presumably over a post that they don't like, don't agree with or think is fake…. or they don't like the poster, feel the poster is irreligious or a sinner or a troll?  

You seemed to be saying that you don't want posts that you see as causing conflict on the site.  My position is that the posts don’t cause the conflict, the conflict is already there (within the community) - the post just produces a platform and opportunity to expose it.
 
Don't know about your further ramble. This is not just externalizing - it is a total disconnect…..
Edited by Maryaam

Share this comment


Link to comment

Either the OP’s assertion is correct OR -

One of the explanations could be that posts like these are initiated by good natured ShiaChat Mods & Admins who loose their sleep at night seeing no sizeable traffic coming to ShiaChat. :p

Damsel in distress posts that Hajji2003 mentioned help bring 95% of interested ShiaChat members back to life. 

Share this comment


Link to comment
15 hours ago, starlight said:

@Haji 2003 Brother, while some of the points you made are valid I would still give the benefit of doubt to such posters.

As you must already know 4/5 years back I posted here as a 'W.I.M' so I think I am in a position to address some of your reservations.

Having a good command over English does not automatically mean someone has direct access to help. In some places such resources do not exist and in others, hard to believe but true, reaching out for help just doesn't cross the person's mind. How your mind works when you are in a situation is very different to how you think when you are looking at that situation from an outside perspective.

Lots of people come here and post in hope of finding an easy solution. Easy, as in discrete, minimum fuss and without involving the families. Understandably in cases like underage and virgin mutah the girl doesn't want her family to know and in marital problems people fear the amount of gossip and hence resort to places where they can be anonymous. 

Marital issues affect lives like no other. They leave long lasting, sometimes life long changes on almost every aspect of the person's life - physical , emotional, financial, social which is far more than a choice of degree or car would affect someone. 

So while lots of times topics are started to attack Shia practices there are times when a genuine person comes here in need of help. 

Yours were unlike these, you posted them over a longer period of time with back and forth conversations.

Most of these WIM types are one off eloquent “teen aurtein, teen kahanian” (a seemingly similar articles written by three random women in an old days Women’s Urdu journal) which I used to steal away from my grandma. 

Share this comment


Link to comment

I think the problem is in desi culture, women are presented as knight in shining armor, emotionally strong, wise women who have the solutions to all problems. That's the character of asghari in Mirat ul uroos, in which asghari's husband was a demsel in distress and when he got married to asghari, she solved not only his problems but all the problems in his family and even neighborhood. That's why it's hard for desi men to see any woman acting like demsel in distress. I have noticed my cousin becomes very upset when I show any weekness like "I cannot drive in snow". And I am thinking: I am not your wife, you don't have to deal with my weaknesses or learning disabilities, what are you getting so upset about? It's okay for you to rant about all the girls you want but cannot have, but I am not allowed to talk about REAL problems? 

Share this comment


Link to comment
On 1/13/2019 at 11:27 AM, Laayla said:

Bismehe Ta3ala 

Assalam Alikum @Haji 2003

I don't know if you heard the news recently about a Saudi 18 year old girl seeking asylum in Canada.  She arrived in Toronto in a short skirt...

Freeland said Qunun commented about the cold and she responded that it gets warmer in Canada.

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/World/2019/Jan-12/473881-Saudi-teen-asylum-seeker-expected-in-Canada.ashx

Of course the issue at hand is not her type of clothing, but her impression of living a free life.  There is many points I want to address about this topic, but the “atmosphere" at ShiaChat feels like some voices are being restricted and prevented from sharing their viewpoints.  

She only wants freedom from physical abuse and I think it's her religous duty to try to save her life since physical abuse can lead to death. As far as her clothing is concerned, I believe when western people help Muslim women, they expect them to assimilate in western culture. People say that in domestic disputes, police always support the Muslim women. When my ex-husband called police on me, I was terrified, upset and shaking but police officer became mad at me just because I was not making eye contact with him. That day I knew that if I ever have to get help from police to escape my family, they won't help me unless I give up my hijab and other practices they dislike. 

Share this comment


Link to comment
On 1/14/2019 at 4:03 AM, Haji 2003 said:

Yes, that used to be the white/western criticism of Muslim societies and then Mr...... Putin's activities around Trump have shown that indeed you can take any society and exacerbate disharmony.

That is a good analogy. However, I'd say that external sources of disharmony succeed in large measure due to the preexisting discord from within. In the society where I live, I notice that there is very little criticism, if at all, of the prevailing attitudes that provide the grounds for the misuse of some Islamic and even cultural practices. What happens is that the blame is shifted to the individual whilst social patterns are conveniently ignored. Putin did not sow seeds of discord in the US overnight. He merely used the internal conflict and the rise of neo-Confederate nationalism in the US to Russia's advantage.

There's another thing that might explain what you describe in the opening post. There are a lot of people from within the Muslim community who have doubts about the truth and suitability of certain Islamic laws and practices. This comes up so often that it's hard to miss and always causes a big bun fight. I think Muslim communities have still not figured out a way to deal with sceptics and agnostics from within because there hasn't really been a need for that up until now.

That being said, is there a larger Western neo-imperial narrative and its agents pressing on the so-called traditionalist and/or religious societies to come up to speed? Absolutely. There is no doubt about that. Cultural imperialism has never stopped. That's why the whole of the Western world celebrated when the Indian supreme court decriminalised homosexual activity. India is now officially Gay Hind. 

 

Edited by Marbles

Share this comment


Link to comment

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Latest Blog Entries

    • By 3wliya_maryam in spoken words/poetry/ deep thinking
         1
      You're awake at night, in a deep dark suspense. Not a pindrop of sound. You face upwards towards the ceiling, trying to think about God, but everytime you do, the devil makes his way into your head. You feel frustrated, anxious, and devastated; wondering how can you stop him from getting inside your thoughts. How do you continue to keep that connection with your Lord without him trying to distance yourself from faith? 
      For nearly five years, I suffered from a common condition as to what we know as OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I never knew what it first was until I was around 15 and found out that it can even be genetic (from my father's side). It was really difficult and coming from a religious family, things became more complicated. Later onwards, I realised that God is not a strict being, nor does he want our religion to feel complicated - and yet we are the ones who complicate it for ourselves. Alot of people especially within my culture make it seem like Islam is somewhat forceful and harsh. The sad truth is, some corrupt leaders have represented our religion in such a way that contradicts to what it originally was 1400 years ago. 
      I don't only blame terrorist groups for portraying a terrible image of Prophet Muhammad's teachings, but our own community has also failed us. We are surrounded by blindness and ignorance yet its hard for us to realise that until we ourselves choose to divert in the path of seeking the true knowledge. However, alot of prideful humans will cease to believe the truth even if it was witnessed before them. Their arrogance is more worthy than divine knowledge.
    • By 3wliya_maryam in spoken words/poetry/ deep thinking
         13
      Please let me help you 
      Let me help you get this through 
      We share the same blood
      And I want you to be loved
       
      Look I know that you're depressed
      And I know that you're in distress
       
      But I wish you could open up
      Instead of always shutting up
      You choose to conceal yourself 
      And I still don't know why 
      sometimes I hate myself 
      For even having to try 
      To make you fess up 
       
      I know you don't want my help 
      Maybe I do suck at giving advice 
      But why should I leave you to silently yelp
      When I'm here for you, but you're just like ice
       
      I am always contemplating
      And always wondering
      Whether I've done more than enough 
       
      I want to be there for you
      But you keep pushing me away
      So I chose to do the same
       
      Please let me help you 
      Let me help you get this through
      We share the same blood
      And I want you to be loved.
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
         0
      The entrance to perdition
      Opens the heart to the previously imperceptible
      Recognition
      Of damnable action
       
      The ephemeral expert's turntable
      Rhythms with hedonistic resonance
      Amid blissful ignorance 
      Of the posthumous consequence
       
      The buried sinner hears the veiled reality
      Curated in the depths of memory
      Revealing the horrors 
      Of temptation's tortures
       
      The awakening conscience
      Is eternity's retribution
      Burning a soul's deafened
      Sense of guilt and shame
      Brought back to life by excruciating pain
       
      The seemingly heavenly choral
      Sounds of the celestial ensemble 
      Are just an aural residue of a spiritual debt
      Paid in burning firmament
       
       
    • By in5iyaha in Insiyah Abidi
         1
      Gham E Hussain is when you wake up in the morning thinking, how the AhlulBayt (A.S) must have slept in Karbala.
      Gham E Hussain is when you think that how they must have done their Wuzu to pray Salatul Fajr without water.
      Gham E Hussain is when you sit for breakfast you get tears in your eyes thinking how did the AhlulBayt (A.S.) survive the entire 3 days without food.
      Gham E Hussain is when you dress up for work and you are wearing your ornaments and you remember how they were snatched from Sakina (A.S.) how she must have cried in pain.
      Gham E Hussain is when you wear your hijab and you get tears thinking how did Bibi Zainab (A.S.) go to Shaam without it.
      Gham E Hussain is when you drop your child to school and think, how did Banu (A.S.) sleep that night without her children.
      Gham E Hussain is when you look at your husband and think, how did Sakina (A.S.) bear the separation from her husband just some minutes after her wedding.
      Gham E Hussain doesn’t come only by sitting in majlis, it comes from within you, it comes from your heart.
      Gham E Hussain happens everyday, I repeat, every single day.
      Labbaik Ya Hussain (A.S.)
      -In5iyahA
    • By Haji 2003 in Contemporania
         0
      The signs on the Paris metro are now also in Chinese, as are some train announcements. Since the French have a mixed reputation for speaking English I guess it means they have to try a bit harder when it comes to wooing the Chinese.
      And there are plenty of them.
      But this is the honeymoon period. This is when the Chinese are awe-struck by French style and glamour. It's hard to imagine that Imperial Russia was similarly besotted by France
      At the moment France exports its culture (which it has always been happy to do) and in returned is handsomely financially rewarded. It's a great deal.
      But the French experience in Africa shows that what may be a good deal in the short-term may have longer term consequences. In the African context it has been immigration into France, that's not very welcome. After all if you tout yourself as the font of civilisation it's not a surprise when the people you tried so hard to convince, agree and then decide to pay a visit.
      Or in the case of the ancient Romans it was the looting of Greek treasures that they admired (and the Greeks had not even promoted their culture to the Romans) And the British did it to both Roman and Greek treasures.
      In the Chinese context it may not necessarily be immigration into France and it won't be the looting of treasures, but perhaps at some point a Chinese billionaire may decide to buy French brands and admiring young Chinese may decide to work in these organisations and bring their own Han Chinese cultural interpretations to the story.
      I'm not sure the French will be too happy. Like many other cultures theirs is one embedded in ethnicity.
      The template is already there. Singapore has its own homegrown luxury brands, that seem English, but they're not. Singapore is small, but there are hundreds of millions of Han Chinese.

    • By Haji 2003 in Stories for Sakina
         4
      It's taken me nearly 15 years to get to 10,000 posts, so I thought I'd post something special.
      I remember the cold. I think it was the first time in my life that keeping warm was a struggle. Shafts of cold air channelled in through a train not designed to keep it out. Arriving at Amritsar station, there was some relief. I remember the shouts of ‘garam chai’ (hot tea) rising above the cacophony of engines, whistles, and general yells. This trip was the first time that I was allowed to drink tea. At home in London, tea was an adult’s drink, and there simply had been no occasion or need to drink it. Here at Amritsar station, in Indian Punjab, during the middle of the night, I was allowed to drink the strong, sugary hot tea and eat the hard-boiled eggs that the hawkers were selling. It was only many years later that I appreciated the business nous of selling hard-boiled eggs. Pre-packaged and ready to eat, what could be easier for a hawker to sell? 
      Some years later standing in the cold in the school playground would help me appreciate all the more as I read of Ivan Denisovich’s battles against hunger and cold in Solzhenitsyn’s account of life in a Soviet gulag. And many years later still this way of experiencing the novel would prompt me to encourage my daughter to read Denisovich’s account while she was fasting for Ramadan.
      Standing on the platform with my snacks, amongst the flow of passengers and porters, I took in the destination signs on the different trains, heading off to distant parts of a sub-continent. Perhaps my diminutive 10-year-old perspective added to the perceived size of the place; I would not be surprised. The porters wore a uniform, after a fashion. For each one of them, the acquisition of a customer provided a sense of purpose and superiority of status which would be underlined by rearranging their head-covering to better protect themselves from the luggage that would soon be loaded on top. On this trip, I was just a spectator to the rituals of engaging porters. When old enough to be a participant, I’d find it a difficult balance between exploiting and being exploited. 
      At last, it was time to get back in the train and cover myself as best I could with an assortment of clothes, waiting for the morning to bring some respite. Some mornings were awesome, the rising rays of sunshine spread across green fields, punctuated by trees and seemingly in rhythm with the regular beat of the wheels on the track. At some point, I’d have to go to the toilet, which was a balancing act of the toothbrush, toothpaste and some attempt at washing and keeping my distance from the ubiquitous hole in the floor.
      At first, I had distanced myself from the perceived filth of the train and had tried to keep myself to as small an area as possible. But as the hours passed my comfort zone expanded until I was even comfortable lying full stretch on the wooden slats of the third-class benches. As the miles passed the squalor, even that of the toilet, was no longer alien but something to which I had become habituated. Though I still haven’t managed to achieve the level of equanimity displayed by a fellow airline passenger who went into the toilet barefoot. As someone else commented on this practice, the liquid on the floor isn’t water.
      Safety was and still is a distant concept when it comes to Indian railways, best observed by the person at risk. In both my childhood travel and in recent times safety seems to lie, for example, in keeping your distance from the open door of the railway carriage. As a 30-year-old on a train from Chennai to Hyderabad and no parent to hold me back, I was able to lean out to take videos and photos to rekindle childhood memories of fleeting Indian railway stations. The observation stimulated the same sense of passing through and catching the moment in local lives. What I was not able to recapture in a photo was the rising dawn that I had observed in my childhood journey. 
      On that childhood trip, I had brought a couple of books with me, which I still remember. There was ‘Tarka the Otter’ and Joy Adamson’s ‘Home Free’. I can’t remember which one was more boring, but Tarka does stand out as being particularly good for being interrupted by the least remarkable scenery outside. The same can’t be said for the novel I discovered at our destination in Lucknow. Our host had a copy of ‘War of the Worlds’ the title itself was captivating and the story engrossing. I remember sitting in various locations of the house working my way through the invasion.
      A few years before this train trip, aged six, I had seen a book titled ‘War and Peace’ sitting on another relative’s bookshelf in London and that also seemed to suggest excitement within. I wasn’t there long enough to pick it up, but a few years after the Indian trip, when I was about 14 I made a point about buying the novel but the enthusiasm stimulated by the title was very, very quickly dimmed by the story within. I decided to grind down the story by reading a page a day. It took a couple of years, but I managed to finish it. 
      ‘War of the Worlds’ was the starting point, since then I’ve come to associate books with the places where I read them: Sterling Seagrave’s, ‘Dragon Lady’ accompanied me on a trip to Singapore and provided the incentive to visit China. 
      Aged 17, I was transiting between two Paris metro stations, on a trip to Aix-en-Provence when a kindly gentleman took pity on me and helped me with my overweight suitcase containing Lipsey’s tome ‘Positive Economics’. Amongst other books, this would be entirely superfluous to my needs at the French language summer course I was about to attend. Even in adulthood, I have never quite managed to balance taking on travels work-related things that I would use as opposed to those I might regret not having brought with me. Laptops and cloud storage have meant that that personal deficiency no longer has to be addressed.
      This had been a unique trip in some different ways. My mother was a widow, and we did not have a great deal of money. I hadn’t been abroad between the ages of 5 and 10. But travelling third class on Indian railways and staying with relatives wherever we went meant that this trip was fairly affordable. So, it was not unreasonable that my mother was not too impressed with what took place when we arrived at the border crossing between India and Pakistan sometime earlier. 
      When we got off the train for the immigration check, there was a French lady in front of us, and she and my mother started speaking. Quite proudly my mother presented me as someone who could speak French. The unexpectedness and ambition of the challenge meant that I was completely dumbstruck. For a good few hours to follow, I’d hear my mother’s lament about how much she had paid for a French Linguaphone course for me, which was well beyond our means. I had assured her that this would be a great aid to my linguistic efforts, the advertisement promised as much, and I had waited with great anticipation for its arrival. Finally, one day there was a brown rectangular package waiting for me outside our house. But for a 10-year-old to master the use of the different texts and develop some semblance of a study plan was quite an ambition and one for which my abilities and self-discipline fell seriously short. 
      There must have been a subconscious notion that the pursuit of academic endeavours would give access to budgets otherwise unavailable. A few years later I’d decide that photography O’level would offer a greater chance of scholastic success. Once more I was lured in by a mixture of an economy with the truth by the people promoting the offering and my imaginative willingness to fill in the blanks. First, there was a need to buy an SLR camera, and as time passed it became obvious that the necessary skills to process photos could not be acquired in the few minutes, I’d have to be in front of the enlarger at school every week. An investment in a darkroom became a necessity. This time self-discipline wasn’t needed to drive study. I had discovered a subject for which I had a passion. I’d end up spending many happy hours in the darkroom, well past midnight channelling Diane Arbus and Cartier Bresson. By the time a school trip to the Soviet Union took place, I was reasonably competent and still have some of the photos of that visit. 
      Looking back, both the camera and the Soviet trip itself seemed like a judicious investment in an unrepeatable experience, a few years later the USSR would cease to exist. This lesson in political upheaval was to prove particularly useful before a trip with my wife and kids to Syria. My brother had borrowed my video camera and forgotten to return it, and the realisation only came in the departure lounge at Heathrow. Buying a video camera specifically for one trip seemed like an extravagance, but soon afterward the civil war broke out. I have clips of my daughter walking amongst a temple to the Phoenician God Melquart, I wonder whether ISIS have left it standing?
      For the India trip, in contrast, there was no camera at all. As I had left London, I had been given a compact camera, which refused to show any sign of working for the duration of the trip and which it had not been possible to repair either. So, I have no tangible images of the entire trip. Whether that has forced me to try harder to remember over the years or whether I have become better at embellishing the details, I don’t know. I do know that on one review I have left on Tripadvisor, I have commented that the prohibition on taking cameras into a particular museum means that visitors are more likely to pay attention to the exhibits in their own right rather than as fodder for an Instagram feed. 
      From Lucknow, we went to my mother’s ancestral home in Fatehpur. We drove through the potholed roads of Uttar Pradesh, slowed even further by overladen agricultural traffic. We arrived in the evening, and all I could sense was that we entered a courtyard and then another. This was quite different to any home I had visited previously. Morning brought a much better sense of the place. The hallmark of the building was its twin towers, installed a couple of hundred years previously, with permission from the rulers of Awadh, since they were considered a mark of royalty and my maternal ancestor’s position as a tutor to the princely household earned him the favour to use them. These rose above the building and the surrounding town. Beneath them was the building’s mosque entered through several large wooden doors, several steps then led to a large courtyard at the other end of which was a narrow staircase leading to some apartments on the first floor. The men of the family had offices cum bedrooms on the ground floor of the courtyard, and their families slept in apartments on the first floor. Any tangible evidence of conjugal relations, such as a couples’ double bed was considered impolite. There were also apartments on the ground floor. To the right of the towers was the entrance to the building and beyond that the disused stables, a further courtyard and then the exit to the main street of the town.
      In Fatehpur, there were no books, or indeed television, but there was exploring the building, listening to stories, fishing and staring at a night sky whose lights I had never previously seen in such profusion. Frustratingly, the shot guns could only be seen and not touched, in fact, I wasn’t allowed to use the air gun. Even the fishing wasn’t with actual rods, but the sensation of the lightness of a short stick with a bait at the end being replaced with the sensation of something tugging at the end of a line remains vivid.
      Exploring the old building would be an experience for someone who had lived in a terraced house all his life. Playing cricket in its central square meant that we had room for both wickets and the ability to run between them, while back in London the garden lawn barely stretched a couple of metres and in our London suburb kids just didn’t play on the street. And then there was the dungeon. Like quite a bit of what we were to experience the name or prior description didn’t quite live up to schoolboy expectations. The Urdu word they all used was ‘mahal’ as in Taj Mahal, but you could hardly describe it as a palace. The dungeon itself was no more threatening than a basement room.  
      The family mahal stood in contrast to the Taj that we had visited on a side-trip while staying in Delhi with an uncle. The sense of serenity reflected off the colour and curves remains in my mind. The sound track no longer remains, perhaps the size of the place drowned out the chattering throngs. The image is now distilled from the range of different perspectives: the head-on view as captured by those photographers who pictured Princess Diana in the foreground, to my standing under the columns staring up and being up close to the marble.
      While the Taj was glorious enough to represent the nation and thus rose above its religious and ethnic antecedents, this was not the case with the family mahal. The condition of this modest building perfectly reflected the state of the community it housed: elegant decrepitude with only a memory of former glories. While the building’s statelier past was visible from the remnants of the structure, so the stories passed by each generation reminded subsequent ones of the lifestyle they had been denied because of opportunities missed and talents wasted. 
      Such was the problem they were facing that even acts of renovation seemed like destruction, where older styles of building work and decoration were replaced with more functional and cheaper modern ones. My youthful displeasure at the erasure of history would later be tempered by a more mature realisation of the practicalities of habitat when I had the chimney breasts and fireplaces of my Victorian house removed to create more space. 
      Occasionally the person who had hosted us in Lucknow would visit. He was a local politician and would arrive in a stately Ambassador car or even more excitingly a ‘jeep’. Not an eponymous one of course, but I still remember the fact that it had gun racks. Both that vehicle and the Ambassador were made in India. This was India before trade liberalisation. Not as familiar a place as the Pakistan we had travelled through to get here. Pakistan had the welcome familiarity of brands that I had grown up with; the ketchup was Heinz and the coke a recognisably friendly white swoosh on a red background. Billboard and television advertising was reassuring. Here unfamiliar names came across as peculiar. Why would a cola be called ‘Thums Up?’. 
      Such has been the irony of globalisation that a few weeks ago eating at Dishoom restaurant in London’s East End I saw the Thums Up logo once more. A symbol of rejecting western capitalism had itself become a brand, with a consumerist meaning, evoking a carbonated essence of India. 
      Like all children of Asian immigrants on visits to their parents’ country of origin, I was also overwhelmed with the extensivity and density of familial connections. There were first cousins, second cousins, and quite a lot more complicated combinations, for which there are no words in English. Added to this, a matriarchal aunt could also be a cousin. My wife came up with a novel way of explaining one such relationship to me. “If that aunt were Mary Queen of Scots, your mum would be Elizabeth I”. Indeed, an artefact of such complex and inter-related ties was the obvious existence of rivalries, jealousies, and squabbles spanning generations. In England, my younger brother and I had been protected from this aspect of extended family life. The protection came at a price: we didn’t know how to deal with it at all. At the age of 10 this did not matter, but on future visits, it would become more significant and certainly by the time my brother and I reached marriageable age. For the time being, it was just nice that as I wandered from apartment to apartment in the mahal, everyone I met was a relative and I was too young to understand any political dimension of that relationship. It would also be in subsequent visits to the mahal, when I was older, that I’d appreciate the tensions with the communities who lived outside the mahal.
      On my daily walks, I’d see hand powered sewing machines and food being prepared more laboriously than anything I had seen at home. The dirt floor did not afford the comfort of sitting cross legged and sitting on my haunches was not something my leg muscles were prepared for. Unlike the urban homes, I had come across in the sub-continent, the toilet here was a platform raised above the multi-coloured offerings beneath. So large was the place that any smells remained distant from any other rooms.
      The cold had not left us in Fatehpur. At night, they would light braziers which were wonderful for bringing around family members, sitting together on the Indian style wooden beds, sharing each other’s warmth, stories and gossip. 
    • By 3wliya_maryam in spoken words/poetry/ deep thinking
         1
      When you go through a rough patch in your life
      And you feel that your heart is being stabbed with a knife
      Remember Hussein (as) and the tragedies he went through
      Would you ever endure that kind of pain too?
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Blog Statistics

    79
    Total Blogs
    417
    Total Entries
×
×
  • Create New...