August 28, 2013

Good-bye Dear Samad

Good-bye Samad our beloved friend!

You are gone and we are in two separate worlds suddenly. I look out of my window and I see the sunshine of a balmy Maldivian morning outside and suddenly realize that I will never see you again – every again – to experiences the joy of chatting with you in the ambience of your modest sitting room or share the taste of a simple Maldivian breakfast with you as as we stop-over at your house from a morning walk. We will miss your stock of hilarious jokes and the unstoppable laughter those bring out from within us we never thought was there; the chats and the wild banter that could span forever and yet keep us sitting up for more, with thoughts that span the time from our childhood together to the mutual moments of our work environment in the service of national and international health. We seem to never have parted company over these past fifty years or so. And now this tether is suddenly torn away by the inevitability of this human moment that we all must alas experience. It can now be only memories that keep us together.

In this moment, I yet again realize the wonder and complexity of life – the flimsiness of this existence;  the tantalizing that goes on in this worldly moment of ours often with not a sliver of a realization of this eventuality is how our lives are lived. It dawns on me yet again that the selfishness we inject into our lives will envelope us inevitably if our thoughts never toggle this moment of our sure exit from this worldly sojourn. What keeps our thoughts intact and in sync even as we traverse the other side of our existence is love -- the love that is given in this world when you do have the choice. You helped us share this always and showed it in so many ways as brothers and with other brothers and sisters in this existential part of our journey together. You kept us all reminded of the connection we have with the heart as we traversed the length and breadth or our lives in the many sweet moments of our chats and laughter and advice in both friendship and mentorship. At long last Allah gave you the pinnacle position you so deserved in society for the wonderful man you were.  Our moments of heart is the thread that will keep us in the bind that we all cherish. Everything else will perish. And finally we too will have to make our exit just like you have with the never-ending sounds of laughter in our hearts and tears in the eyes of those we leave behind. 

Rest in peace my friend, and may Allah give you your place in the Garden of Delight.

August 16, 2013

Character or personality - that is the question

A book I am reading now jettisoned me onto this topic as a basic aspect of how we relate to the human environment that envelope us. These two aspects of the human essence, not a new topic at all, yet timeless in their essence, is a behavioral vista we juggle as we move through life – given the context we would like to inhabit. Our Islam professes to the virtues and vicissitudes of these. Aristotle in the Oracle days, and the 18th century philosophers broached these in one way or another. Turn of the last century guru Dale Carnegie famously wrote about it and taught this, and more recently modern day writers and seers such as Chopra, Covey,  Tolle, Krishnamurty and others began a conversation on this human duality, and now I have this book that I am reading. Whether in politics or in the movement of everyday life, these are two sides of the same coin so to say. But they do have distinct defining aspects and a genesis that links each to the social ethic that has morphed over these past centuries.

Early ethics brought in the idea of Character. This is necessary for nurturing a civilized society where we learn to respect each other and value the virtues of each person as a contributing element to the societal whole. We all together make the whole and even expand the final entity beyond the contribution of each element. Thus character is the essence of our true self or "spirit". This is even considered divine as this relates always to the good in us, and it is built up in each of us through experiencing the hardships of life. In bringing up children the traditional approach called for us to get our hands dirty and experience the hardships or "suffering" that life embodies. So when the next generations take up the mantle of responsibility, they are ready for putting all hands on deck.

But the turn of the 20th century brought in the wave of globalization and industrialization and the business ethic which was about making the customer buy and be influenced into wanting all that is produced on the assembly lines or in the sweatshops of big business. Thus was born the Personality ethic. This in spiritual terms is linked to the ego and the vanity that we all embody. Being beautiful and showy, being smart even to the point of deceptiveness, being loud and skilled in argument, are all celebrated and linked with this ethic's emergence. The explosion of the personality ethic in the marketing of our goods and services transformed the 20th century world into a powerhouse of wealth generation, competitiveness and social conflict that we see today. Gone now seems to be the days of sharing and caring as we all gravitate blindly to looking good with plastic smiles and attitudes that are only temporary and that glaze only the surface of our minds. Looking good and the lure of the moment is the keeping quality of the Personality ethic. It thrives on deceptiveness and guile that attempts to fool the buyer of the product time and time again, and we assume the  receptivity for this ethic by the power of our vanity that makes us want to just look good if nothing at all. The adverts that deceive us daily to buy household chemical cleaners that degrade our environment and our health, baby nappies of various brands and absorption capacity that litter our beautiful reefs, cigarettes that maim and kill us insidiously, clothes that make us look half or more exposed and yet we admire in the name of fashion and modernization, and desire them just because someone lured us into believing they look cool. Yes the personality ethic has us all playing up to the folly of the “emperor’s new clothes” so to say, and we are oblivious to the fact that whatever vestige of character we may have had lingering within us is being choked by this ego based aspect of our being.

We need to reclaim the character ethic if we are to survive as loving and sharing communities. 

August 12, 2013

Good-bye my friend!

Today, our dear friend Ahmed Wajeeh, the health worker, said good-bye to us from this world forever . The recent years of suffering he endured from a not-so common ailment took its final toll in the bright and early hours of a beautifully sunny Maldivian morning. This is the irony that life sometimes thrusts on us. That Wajeeh, who worked indefatigably to bring health to our Maldivian population for almost four decades of his working life should succumb to ill health himself in so untimely a manner is the contradiction in this our left-brain dominated rational world of ours. Yet, we must know that Allah works in mysterious ways, perhaps to show us that linearity is really not the way of the world. That age is not the factor that determines our life-span. That He can take us when He wants and how He wants. That what happens must have unfathomable and hidden meanings that our shallow minds cannot comprehend.

But dear Wajeeh, we all who have worked with you, quietly admired you. We know that your life spent in the service of health to the hilt was spent in selfless dedication. You were patiently modest and your “for-ever-helpful” attitude was the spark of admiration that drew us to you so strongly. You were jovial, and matter-of fact, yet so committed. Your role during those formative days of the mobile health team that thrust you to the surface of notice in my mind and among your colleagues, and your role after that you spent in quietly leading the juniors in the nurturing of their commitment, is the stellar example that we would all like to emulate. You showed us that dependability is not impossible when your heart is given to service, and you exemplified this strength of modesty throughout your short life -- perhaps it came so naturally to you. Our lives take us along many paths, and although for me it has been a long time spent away from the friendship we share with you and those of your colleagues whose past is in so many ways intertwined with mine, I never felt far away. My heart was and still is with all of you Unsung Heroes. And you were a special one Wajeeh that stood out in my mind, even though to those everyday masses you were just another health worker of a bygone era whose work had not been remembered fondly enough.

And today, you have traversed the boundary that we all must indeed traverse one day. And so, I pray to Allah Almighty to give you the honor and blessings you so deserve in the Garden of Delight. Good-bye my dear friend! This is a wish from all of us dedicated to the health of our Nation, who love you and who will remember you always. You will always remain in our hearts!

August 9, 2013

Straight roads?

In a place like Maldives what is the enticement of straight roads? Why not winding ones?

In my last visit to Hanimaadhoo, I was sadly awe struck by the Island Council’s adamant desire to have the islands roads done in straight lines. My concern for this arose from the love I have for the environment. And given the world’s preoccupation with this aspect of development and the precariousness of ours, we need to save the trees. And in Hanimaadhoo I was fascinated by the huge and majestic nika and kaani trees that provide shade to us inhabitants and home for the birds and the biodiversity that we need so much to maintain a fragile environment such as ours. It’s not enough for us to protect the reefs and the mangroves; we need to protect these majestic edifices we have had for ages on these little emerald islands that we call our home. Winding roads would be just fine, wouldn't it, if we can save the trees?  

August 5, 2013

Good or bad is in the mind of the beholder

The presidential elections in Maldives is now on full throttle to culminate on 7 September, and the thought that comes to many a mind within the polity is about what constitutes a good person or a bad one. Is there really a good or bad person per se? How come someone is good for one person and then this same person is seen as bad by another person? How can one person be both good and bad? It cannot be we would say.

God created each one of us as a neutral being. We pick up our opinions as we go along in life and become the individuals that we think we are. The reality for us is this separation we perceive in this world of form that comes from our mental make-up. Try as we may to insulate ourselves or segregate our physical selves into man-made social, economic or political compartments, we cannot truly be separate from the oneness we were create as. So the essence of our being is still that God given element of the soul or real-self within. When one person judges another as good or bad, it is only an expressed opinion based on those sensibilities accumulated along one’s life process. So when I see another as bad that is my self-view and similarly when another sees that same person as bad it is that observer's thoughts, attitudes or intentions that makes for the good or bad that he sees. In other words it is I, the observer, that decides who is good or who is bad. Curiously, the observer phenomenon is something even quantum physics alludes to in what makes the universe what it is; if we want to measure quanta "those packets of light" that is the known smallest particles of our universe's make-up, we can measure these as waves or particles (yes, it can be two things at the same time -- just like each one of us can be perceived as good or bad) depending on our wish to measure it one way or the other. Thus do we create the perceptions of our universe and then then the confluence of these views becomes the collective view of a society that prevails for us as our perceived environment. So a society can see itself along a continuum of perceptions -- as cruel, conniving and violent on the one extreme or loving and compassionate on the other - or somewhere in between.

The point here is that we create our vision of the world and then we live it - loving it or hating it or somewhere in between; often not being aware that it is we ourselves that create the joy or misery that we live in. Therefore there is hope for violent societies to become loving if only we become aware of this responsibility we have to shoulder as participants within our universe. If we don't or if we choose not to rectify our situation even after we become aware of this possibility, then we will continue to live our lives with misery in our hearts. Thus, social harmony is within our calling if we should want it so.