Friday, November 10, 2017

Letter from a prisoner - University of Crime

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For years now, I have been incarcerated for a crime I didn't commit. As a Muslim Indian man, one of the toughest aspects to deal with has been living with a 95% population of Black men. The cultural differences mean that I have to constantly deal with noise and a general lack of manners. The morals and values are worlds apart. It has made me appreciate my upbringing and religion tremendously. It is a part of my faith to not consider myself better than others and indeed I do not, rather I try to gain an understanding of others. 

Infinitely more worrying to me as a man who loves his country; is the blase or even non-existent attitude towards the crimes men perpetrated. It is common knowledge that South Africa is plagued by crime and sadly by violent crime. For years, I have used my unique position of living among them, to try and get a first hand understanding of the men behind some of the horrendous and heinous crimes you find out about through the media. I even studied criminology for a couple of semesters to try and understand what motivates men to commit violent crimes. Whilst many theories exist, they fall terribly short. 

As a general observation from my countless interactions, it is evident that remorse does not exist. On the contrary, inmates spend much of their time planning how they will get away with it the next time. Statistics concur that over 50% of the men in here have  been in prison for previous offences and the recidivism rate is only increasing. 

I led a sheltered, privileged life before prison and it has only been in prison that I have been exposed to the gravity of crime. As a prisoner myself, I believe that prisons are the breeding grounds for crime. 

Everyday, the average prisoner spends most of his day by chatting to fellow prisoners. The conversations regularly revolve around crime. Listening to stories, I am shocked by the pride with which they are told and dumbstruck at how listeners are quick to offer advice on what should have been done or how it could have been done better. The narratives put Hollywood scripts  to shame. 
Another of the regular daily topics in prison regards smuggling or other illegal activity. I have yet to meet an inmate that is not part of something illegal. The vast majority of inmates smoke marijuana. Marijuana is a lucrative business in prison, enriching both prisoners and wardens alike. On a daily basis, users or traders refine their skill of being able to smoke or smuggle the substance without being caught. 

Prisoners also learn or enhance their ability to deceive, lie, cheat, smuggle and hide other contraband. Cellular phones, for example, are so rife in prison that the ones without them are the odd ones out. They are illegal as per regulations but corruption means that they are the norm. Prisoners go to great lengths on a daily basis to ensure that they can "safely" have a phone. A prisoner in possession of a phone has to hide the phone every single day and find new ways to outwit wardens. 

Similarly, other criminal activity is perpetrated by prisoners on a daily basis. Crime, if it was not already, becomes a lifestyle. The basis for prison is that it is supposed to be a means whereby criminal behavior is corrected and a prisoner should be released back into society as a rehabilitated individual. The reality  is the opposite, prisoners are released having honed their skills and having had time to plan their future endeavors. 

As a nation ravaged by crime, the whole concept of prison needs to be addressed as the system simply does not work. Prisons as a place of punishment and rehabilitation is a theory that is constantly proven false; instead they are nothing but universities of crime. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Incredible India - My journey part 1

October 4th 2017

As a child I never quite envisaged visiting so many countries and meeting different people throughout the world. God has undoubtedly been good to me. I couldn't thank Him enough for all the bounties He has blessed me with. Many great authors and poets have written about the beauty of Kashmir and so it has always been my dream destination. We left SA on Monday on board Emirates. I noticed significant changes at OR TAMBO in terms of security checks but it still does not compare to the airport security in Dubai as well as in India. In India only passengers are allowed inside the airport. In SA every Tom Dick and Harry are allowed inside the airport. Whilst waiting to board our connecting flight to New Delhi we became acquainted with some of the passengers in the waiting area. There was an elderly Sikh couple that truly inspired me. They were returning from a 3 week vacation in Europe. They were quite proud to tell us that despite being elderly they explored 6 countries with ease. The upright, neatly dressed Sikh gentleman is 75 years old and his other half is 65 years old. They were a cute, jovial couple. As the conversation ensued more passengers started joining in until it was time to board our connecting flight. Arriving at Indira Gandhi international airport, I was taken a back at the progress and development I witnessed. India has certainly changed in the last 17 years since I visited. The change is evident in all sectors. We were welcomed at the airport with smiles and warmth. The airport personnel were friendly and obliging especially the staff stationed at the e-visa counter. After collecting our luggage we were greeted by Arshad from Mantana travel and tours. We have been putting this trip together for a few weeks now through email and whatsapp and so finally meeting him in person was pretty awesome. His arrangements thus far have been excellent. We made our way to the opulent Suryaa hotel driving through Delhi's horrendous traffic whilst listening to the sound of Bhangra music. It made us wanna stamp our feet and clap our hands. A lot has changed in New Delhi but the driving culture certainly hasn't. I don't think I'd be able to drive in India. There is a strange driving culture here where cars do not keep in their own lane.People drive haphazardly whilst hooting and honking away. I would call it an organized chaos.Ironically, the accident rate is minimal.We were given a grand welcome at the hotel in line with Indian hospitality. My brother Zillurrahman who resides in Bihar came all the way to spend the day with us. Once we checked in and got all comfortable we went out to Al Bake restaurant located at New friends colony. The food was absolutely delicious. We devoured the mince shorma, seekh kebaab and tandoori chicken. The garlic naan was undoubtedly the best I've ever eaten. After lunch I wanted to meet my papaji. I7 years ago I was literally adopted by a Kashmiri shop owner. My dad and I were having a petty argument about which items of clothing i should purchase.Papaji intervened telling my dad that he shouldn't be arguing with me. Then he said that he only has sons and no daughters. So he asked dad if he could adopt me. He landed up giving me all the items of clothing that I had chosen free of charge. I was totally shocked. I knew the value of the garments as they were made from silk and on top of it hand embroidered.Meeting him yesterday after 17 years was definitely an emotional experience. He managed to maintain the bond for almost 2 decades.Just like the first time we met,I left papajis shop with bags of clothing. Arshad was kind enough to give us a mini city tour.We took a drive past the lotus temple, Humayuns tomb that is currently under construction, gateway of India, parliament house etc. Poor Arshad drove us with a smile from one end of Delhi to the other. As the day came to an end we headed back to the hotel. After freshening up it was time to attend a dinner function in our honour at Zillurrahmans extended families home. I was quite surprised to learn that the family moved from Bihar to Delhi in order to educate their 4 girls. They desire to become doctors. India has progressed in all sectors whilst we back home are regressing. All around us we noticed construction and development. However, the one thing that hasn't changed is a man's attitude towards a woman. Not all men but many men felt that it was quite alright to stare as though they were undressing us with their eyes. Hence Arshad accompanied us all over the city. As we meandered through gulleys and alleys amidst a cacophony of sound I couldn't help but notice various groups of people.. I noticed super rich snotty individuals in posh cars taking advantage of their drivers and maids. By the way not all rich people here treat their employees badly. It's not fair to generalise. Then I noticed the working middle class trying to make ends meet and of course how could I not notice the extreme poverty and slums in which thousands of people reside in.My heart broke. I was warned though not to give anyone money. Whilst there are genuine poverty stricken people residing in the city, there are also syndicates who use children to beg at traffic signals. They deliberately amputate their arms and legs so that the public would feel sorry for them and hence they can derive more revenue. On the political front we heard mixed reactions about the current leadership. Whilst many praised the Modi administration many were disgruntled especially with regards to the 28 percent gst.Many however sang praises for the previous prime minister Manmohan Singh and president Abdul kalaam. Under their leadership India showed a GDP of 60 percent and over whereas the GDP has dropped significantly under the current leadership. One Sikh gentleman made me laugh when he said that JZ and Modi are both the same. They both all words but no action. Under Manmohan Singhs leadership a 10 percent tax was proposed. Modi at the time was a part of the opposition. They threatened to burn india down. Now he imposed a tax that is way more than 10 percent. This morning we flew out to srinagar. We did however encounter hiccups at the airport. All domestic flights only allow 15kg of luggage per person. So even though Emirates allows you 2 by 23 kg bags when entering India, internal flights only accommodates 15kg. This is absolutely ridiculous. It's almost as though India is saying we don't want foreigners to spend money in the country or we don't want foreigners to support local artists and craftsman as the luggage quota for internal flights is minimal. So you either pay for the excess weight and carry on or you keep your extra luggage with friends. We stopped at Jammu to drop off passengers. We waited in the plane for one and a half hours before we took off again due to technical difficulties.Eventually we arrived in Srinagar. After completing the formalities Rasheed bhai whisked us away to our 7 star houseboat. I was a bit shocked at the huge presence of military personnel all around us. In fact no photography is allowed at the Jammu and srinagar airport as they are considered defence airports and hence they are a part of the military.We received a grand welcome at the HB montana houseboat and lunch was ready for us. The food here is divine... Totally out of this world. After lunch we took a stroll in the botanical gardens. Words can not describe the beauty of the place. I felt relaxed. I felt alive breathing in the fresh crisp mountain air. The best thing about India and kashmir is the minimal crime rate. Whilst petty theft does occur due to poverty and honour killing happen in villages due to family feuds, in general no one kills a person for a cellphone or for 50 rupees.I feel free as a bird. We noticed vans laden with goods parked on the side of the road. The driver didn't close the windows and neither were the doors locked.One more thing..many people discouraged us from staying in the houseboat. Don't ever listen to people. Anyone can stay in a hotel but the houseboat experience will remain with me forever. Time for dinner.... ma'am Sahiba dinner tayyaar hai. Jaldi aajao.......

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Letter from a prisoner - A man in a man's world

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I was married for just over 6 years and my marriage ended terribly. I also witnessed my parents marriage go horribly wrong and end in the most tragic of ways. I also witnessed the marriage of an elderly couple I care for dearly, end with the man hanging himself. 
Over the past month or so, I have been in touch with family and friends who have been sharing their marital or relationship problems with me.
Recently, a lady who I consider my sister was told by her husband that, after bearing him two beautiful sons, that she is gone too fat. He does not love her anymore and wants out. 
In another instance, a friend confided in me about how her ex-husband used to sexually force himself on her during his drug induced highs; albeit that he needed to inject himself in order to obtain an erection. 
Yet another friend was left high and dry by her husband when it transpired that she had breast cancer. A few years on, and he has not paid any maintenance for the 4 kids they share. 
My single friends have a plethora of tales of all the seemingly ludicrous things men want from a potential marriage. Men seem to think that they are entitled to dictate terms to potential spouses. They are not shy to set rules as to how their woman must dress, cook, behave, work or more likely not work, interact with family and friends; and such it seems as though men truly believe they live in a mans world.
This exposure definitely does not qualify me as an expert on the matter but it has given me a newfound appreciation for relationships. On a more personal level, it has made me question the man that I am, the man I was in my marriage and the partner I seek to be in the future. 
Am I too soft? Am I too romantic? Am I too selfless? Am I a pushover? Am I a man?
This train of thought may seem ironic coming from a person who has to be a man every single moment in order to survive my current environment of prison, but I cannot help but be intruiged by the attitudes of men that is seen as acceptable. 

In Indian South African homes, it is expected by the man and society that the wife will cook and take care of the house. By the time the husband returns from home, the house should be flawless and a sumptuous meal should be awating his arrival. My childhood home was this way too. Yet in my marriage it was the complete opposite. I would get home from work and prepare supper, which would be ready by the time my ex got home from the gym. I would then prepare and pack our lunches for the next day. Cleaning the house was left to the domestic worker. On weekends or when she felt like it, my ex would cook or bake. I did not mind cooking daily and saw nothing wrong with how we lived. Yet I know to most this arrangement will seem just plain wrong. Why though? Why is it wrong for a man to cook for his wife or family? By the way, I am now a qualified chef, is that not more reason for why I should cook when it is a passion of mine? If my partner isn't into cooking as much as I am, should I still "man up" and order that she cooks? Does cooking for your husband make one a better wife? 

I guess with my ex, a lot of it came down to her working and studying at the same time; which brings me to another sore subject. When it comes to women working, men get very insecure. Men seem to think that their wife having a more successful career than them or God forbid earning more than them equates to instant emasculation. Suddenly, men become all pious and say that a woman should not work; but such hypocricy is exposed easily. At this point I will probably be labelled as modernist or worse, when in actual fact I am very old school in the respect that I do believe that it is a mans job to provide for his wife and family. Make no mistake, I do not for a moment see myself as a "house husband," I simply feel that if so many women across the world can work and take care of their homes, then why can a man not do the same? Why should a woman only labour for love? 
Having a job or career brings about self-fulfillment that no man can give his spouse. Why then deny the one, you supposedly love more than anyone else, this opportunity at self-fulfillment?

When Indian men date women, then they are happy to be seen with a woman who shows off her figure and dresses modernly. Yet the same men want a wife who meets their criterion of modesty. Again, such hypocricy. Yes, as a Muslim man I would like my future wife to guide me towards jannah; but it is just as much my responsibility to do the same. The way in which it is done though is what bothers me. To the rest of the world, a man will be kind, sweet and gentle; but when it comes to his spouse he is harsh and abrupt. The very same men who will say they are doing their religious duty by being the man of the house fail to realise that kindness towards a spouse is also a Sunnah. 

As a prisoner, I have lost pretty much everything  that was dear to me. I miss a lot of it but the one thing that I miss more than anything else is love and companionship. Treasure the love and companion you have for love truly is life. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Rey's Indian style Basmati rice

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1. Boil water in a pot. Add a few 
pieces of taj, lavang, elachi and 
salt. (2 tsp salt per one cup of 

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2. Wash 4 cups rice in a dish

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3. Add the rice to the pot and boil
until halfway done

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4. Drain rice and then add to an 
oven proof pot

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5.Now make a vagaar for the rice.
Slice half an onion into a frying 

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6. Add 1 tsp jeera

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7.Add 4 tablespoons ghee 

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8. Onion must fry until slightly browned

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9. Add the browned onions with the
ghee over the rice

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11. Now add half a cup of water to
the rice and steam at 180 degrees
until done

Serve with any curry of your choice!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

CPL 2017 UPDATE BY Dev Govindjee

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It has been a long time since I sat down to write an update- so much has happened and so many countries visited over the past 12 months that I fear I shall not be able to do justice if I attempt to recall them all- safe to say that recently I have visited Qatar, Hong Kong, Nepal, Uganda, Kenya, The Netherlands & Jersey since December 2016 and now am in the Caribbean doing my 3rd CPL (Caribbean Premier League) tournament.

My schedule of travel has thus been totally frenetic and these appointments do not always come well in advance –so there has been a terribly stressful period of getting Schengen Visas and USA & UK Visas all sorted out in time for me to get to the various destinations –thankfully these hurdles have been negotiated and I now find myself sitting on the balcony of the lovely Royal St Lucia Resort on another glorious Caribbean morning with time on my hands- time enough to realize that many have requested updates and many others have indicated that they have missed hearing from me- for the others- well just read and enjoy or send me a short note indicating otherwise and I shall refrain from taking up your time.

My 2017 CPL schedule excited me as I have on my previous two visits to the West Indies missed out on getting matches in St Lucia- this time it was included- firstly though I had to complete a European U19 Tournament in Jersey ( first visit there) in the Channel Islands ( more about that later) and thankfully completed matches there on the 1 August allowing me to fly directly to London & Miami to be in time in Fort Lauderdale for the start of my CPL matches on 5 August. Had a hectic double header of matches there on the Sat & Sun and on Monday 7th it was a chartered flight out of Fort Lauderdale for 4 teams and match officials directly to St Lucia.There were long delays due to overloading of luggage ( cricket kit) so finally 4 hours later we departed and it meant getting to the hotel ( an 90 min drive) only around 8 pm – in time to spend a bit of my birthday out having supper with the umpires.

The island/country of St Lucia is absolutely beautiful- fantastic resort where we are staying so a walk directly onto the beach - idyllic conditions for doing whatever you feel like- a short walk into Rodney Bay where there are enough pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and shops for the satisfaction of the many tourists who come to enjoy what is on offer.A few days ago we arranged to travel around some parts of the Island and visited the iconic Pitons ( two cone-shaped mountains) as well as visiting the Sulphur Springs nearby and having a delightful Mud Bath.

With the CPL matches here all scheduled to start either at 5,6 or 8 pm, it does leave many hours free to get to enjoy new places- also got to Castries which is the main harbor town where passenger liners dock fairly regularly bringing the many tourists who enjoy being in the Caribbean.

This update was started on Sunday and it is now Tuesday- Our 4th and final match here at the Daren Sammy Stadium is at 6pm and then we prepare to leave St Lucia for an equally beautiful island called St Kitts & Nevis.

Last night a local passionate cricket-loving family invited the match officials to their home- a beautiful evening spent with them and some friends they had invited and to listen to so much of what life is like on these Caribbean islands –their love and following of cricket down to their knowledge of even the match officials was astounding and we were made ot feel really special by them all- hoping that one of their daughters plays for the West Indies one day.

Sunday 20 August

Yes- it is clear that the days are going by quickly and this update needs to be sent out before it is time to return home- so, from beautiful St Kitts on this reast day let me briefly update- have had a few matches here- my third visit to this magnificent island where the Port Zante region in the downtown Basseterre comes alive when the regular ocean liners dock-a few days ago two docked at the same time so it was a good time to be there and once again experience the buzz tha this brings with it- tourism is what the island survives on and the shops do a good trade- I have made some good friends in many places and here I have friends who own a jewellery store and my weakness for watches is well know to them and yes, I have bought another one!

I also have a couple who take me around to see new places so this afternoon they shall once again do that.

Some CPL matches start at 9pm for maximum TV exposure in the sub-continent- that does mean that if there are any rain interruptions then the extra time allowed pushes the cessation times way beyond midnight! Really should not complain as we do have free days and also match days are free until we leave for the venues.

From St Kitts the next stop on Thursday will be Barbados- looking forward to my 2nd visit to Bajan territory and from there it is play-offs and finals this year in Trinidad.

Until the next update