Tuesday, August 31, 2010


This morning I was watching TV when a news story about some Pakistani boxers came up. They used to be employed by the Karachi Electrical Supply Corporation (KESC) until a few weeks ago when they were summarily fired without explanation. Now they are starving. Their families have to borrow food from the neighbours to stay alive. Some of them are able to find work doing odd jobs making pakoras or fixing bicycles. Mostly they are just destitute. The children sit miserably against a bare wall, too haggard to even cry.

There are so many millions like them, both in Pakistan and around the world, families dying slowly from the corrosive effects of poverty. This Ramadan, as we sit with our own families and enjoy our iftaars, let's also remember them and their suffering. As hard as it is to stay hungry yourself, it is probably harder to watch your children starve. The captain of the team recently burnt all the gold medals he had earned for his country. "If things don't get better," he said, "I will burn myself along with my whole family. What use are these medals to me."

Monday, August 16, 2010


"With Madhukar, we visited 3 homes with suicide widows. One woman had a blind father-in-law, an old mother-in-law, and 3 obviously malnourished children to look after. She pointed to a heap of stale rice and chapatis in the middle of a room. She said they were leftovers from a village festivity, and if she kept them from spoiling, the family could use the food for the next 2-3 days."

A really good article. Read the whole thing.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Very Old

The very old are forever
hurting themselves,

burning their fingers
on skillets, falling

loosely as trees
and breaking their hips

with muffled explosions of bone.
Down the block

they are wheeled in
out of our sight

for years at a time.
To make conversation,

the neighbours ask
if they are still alive.

Then, early one morning,
through our kitchen windows

we see them again,
first one and then another,

out in their gardens
on crutches and canes,

checking their gauges for rain.

- Ted Kooser


The bright needles clicked;
The old woman's hands,
Quick, dextrous, expert,
Were a blur of colour.
"Your new gloves are finished."
She eased them on to my short plump fingers.
"Now you can play in the snow."
I ran into
the street, excited.
The gloves, soft, warm and dry
Were a magical source
Of safety and love.
Time drew on;
The winters grew colder;
The snow fell thicker.
Today my gloves
Are faded and thread-bare;
Her needles lie silent
And my hands are so cold.

- Robert McGregor


My grandmother passed away about a month ago. She had been sick for a while, losing weight inexplicably, skin carefully sculpted around bones. The doctors diagnosed an occult malignancy and in a few days she stopped breathing. I could no longer call her on the weekend and wait for the delight in her voice when she recognised me on the phone. Her physical presence had started to diminish long before her death but she retained a spry and inquisitive mind. We spoke often about books and history, about politics and moral values. The last time we met had been in March. My room was next to hers and she would often sit me by her bedside and share her life's experiences with me. Sometimes we would even get up together for morning prayer. In spite of a crumbling spine and fingers knotted with arthritis, she would unfailingly get up at Fajr, wash up and perform her prayers. She always made it a point to say a dua for all her family after the prayer, asking for each person individually. Usually I wouldn’t wake up on time and her voice, raised in supplication for her children, would draw me out of my sleep. It is the absence of that voice, clear and unbent by age, that I miss the most. My grandmother no longer wakes up in the dark to pray for me, one door down, listening to her under the bedcovers.

May Allah have mercy on her soul.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ramadan Kareem!

Here's wishing you and your families a very mubarak and blessed Ramadan. Have a great month!

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Lynn Weaver talks about his father, Thurman Weaver, who worked as a janitor and chauffeur and was the most influential person in his life. Dr Weaver is Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Morehouse Medical College in Atlanta.

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