Monday, June 18, 2018

Breaking the period taboo

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I was contemplating writing about this pertinent topic a while ago after listening to quite an appalling Islamic lecture a few months ago but then I got so engrossed in a number of activities that it totally slipped my mind. Yesterday whilst conversing with a young teenage woman from a fairly religious orthodox background, it rekindled my insistence on expressing my thoughts on a subject matter that affects women across the globe. The young woman came to the pharmacy to enquire as to how she should be handling her menstrual cycle. In her house talking about your menstrual cycle is pretty much a taboo topic. Her mom simply gave her a book about the subject matter and that was that. There was no further communication. It was quite obvious that she wanted more information as to how her body functions, what medication can she take to alleviate the pain etc etc. Her mom expected her to receive this information from school or through the internet. I am of the opinion that your first line of knowledge and education should be acquired from your home. Your home should be a safe haven and place where all kinds of topics and subject matters can be discussed openly without any fear or objection. Let’s get back to the lecture. One morning I was trying to audio stream my favourite radio station 92.2 Fm East wave radio at work. For some reason it just wasn't connecting. I continued surfing the net and landed up on an Islamic website that had a live audio streaming mode. I decided to tune in. As I was listening I couldn’t believe that such hogwash could be aired on an international level. The speaker said something to this effect, “It is unacceptable for a man to be attracted to members of the opposite sex unless he is married to her. If a man becomes attracted to a woman then in order to avoid attraction towards her, he should envisage her with dirty impure blood coming out of her. In this way he will be disgusted and then find her revolting. She will not be attractive to him anymore.” What absolute rubbish. Needless to say, I closed the website and moved onto reading somethig more interesting and captivating.A woman’s body was created so beautifully by God Almighty. If it wasn’t for the menstrual cycle none of us would be here. Why should women be ashamed of a normal, natural process that God Almighty created? Every atom of our being was created to perfection. Instead of coming on air speaking absolute rubbish, presenters should talk about how fathers must play an active role in their daughter’s lives. There are many men out there who are single parents and they have to play a dual role. Advise these men how to comfort their daughters when they go through this life changing experience. I know of one dad who has a daughter in a wheelchair. His wife died years ago and so he takes care of his daughter helping her through all aspects of life. Teach husbands how to be more empathic towards their partners during their menstrual cycle. The body undergoes several processes that involves cramps coupled with mood altering behaviour. The Prophet Muhammed (saw) was a kind, loving and caring human being. He would never preach such crap to a congregation. He was an advocate for women’s rights 1400 years ago. The more I read about different aspects of my religion, the more I find that a lot of what is instilled within us as kids stems from culture and tradition rather than religion. On the other hand of the spectrum, my beloved driver in Riyadh, Ayyob bhai educated me about how a woman's coming of age is celebrated in his culture rather than frowned upon. He hails from a small village in South India. When his daughter commenced with her first period, he gifted me with a box of sweetmeats. He was jovial and excited. The entire village was invited at their family home for a meal. I think we need to change the way we bring up a girl child in this country. In 2018 we still find women coming to the pharmacy feeling shy to buy a packet of sanitary pads or tampons.It must be hidden or placed right at the bottom of the trolley out of sight. In 2018, there are husbands out there who ask there wives to sleep in another room during their period. These are topics that need to be spoken about and addressed. Parents need to be more proactive in their kids lives. Be open to them about all facets of life. Be their friend and provide them with the correct information, because if you don't they will simply seek incorrect information elsewhere.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dadi's words of wisdom

8 May 2018

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I woke up yesterday morning totally overwhelmed by the large number of birthday messages I received from all of you. Thank you so much for the well wishes. It truly means a lot to me and I thoroughly enjoy interacting with all of you. Some of you went as far as sending me cards and gifts to the pharmacy. Thank you so much. A sincere thanks to all of you who sent me messages of condolences due to the passing away of Dadima. Kindly remember her in your prayers.

I wanted to share with all of you some of Dadimas words of wisdom that she conveyed to me during her 2 week stay at our home...Dadima spoke in Gujurati and conversed in English occasionally.

1. Always pray on time. If you can pray now. Do it now. Don't say I'll do it after this or that. In between the angel of death could take your life away and then you missed out on an opportunity to pray. Ever since I've known ma, she always prayed on time. Up until recently she would wake up at 4am to pray.

2. Never leave the house wearing torn underwear. You may land up in an accident and other people would then handle your body and prepare your body for burial. Don't give people and opportunity to talk.

3. Always be clean in terms of personal hygiene at all times. Wax etc regularly so that when you die your body is presented to God Almighty in a pure clean form.

4. If someone argues with you. Push it in one ear and take it out the other.

5. If you do decide to get married, marry a man for his character not his money. Character is forever but money is temporary.

6. If you decide to get married and you stay with your in laws, learn to overlook faults. Become deaf, dumb and blind. In this way you will stay happy.

7. Always keep your house neat and tidy. Don't stack up dirty dishes in the kitchen sink at night. The angel of death could take your life in the early hours of the morning. People would come to your home for your funeral and then they would assume that you were an untidy person. Ma was a very neat and tidy person. Even her travel bags were packed immaculately.

8. Give out sadaqa every Friday. It wards off calamity.

9. Learn your mother tongue. She always said it's such a shame that today's youth don't know their mother tongue so they can't even converse with old people and take their blessings. 

10. Lead a simple life always. Sometimes when a person is rich they have pride and arrogance and one day if that wealth is taken away from them they are unable to face the public. If you simple all the time you will save yourself from humiliation and embarrassment. 

May God Almighty grant ma the highest stages in jannah...She left this world in a blessed manner simply because of the way she lived. Even whilst in hospital her shahadah finger moved as though she was praying...As human beings we are so quick to judge people. She is good. He is bad. Yet only Allah knows what exists deep within our hearts. He is the judge of judges and the king of kings. Indeed to Him do we belong and to Him shall we return......

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The end of an 85 year legacy

4th May 2018 

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As I stared at Dadis body shrouded in a piece of simple white cloth, there was only one thought that came to mind. Death is final. It is a journey that every soul will taste. It is a journey that many have embarked on but never returned to share the experience. As her soul left her body,Mrs Zubeida Mehtar lost her identity and was then referred to as 'the body'. All around me there were people crying, each one reminiscing on their interactions with ma. I was having flashbacks on the quality time we all spent together 2 weeks ago at our home. Ma would wait for us to return from work. Whilst we had dinner she and mom would enjoy a bowel of popcorn at the fire place. Mom went out of her way to make Dadis favourite foods.As I introspect on all our conversations we had I realise that she knew she was leaving this world for a better place. One Friday morning it was just the two of us at home. Mom and dad had to rush off to Cape Town to attend mom's uncles funeral. Before leaving mom gave me clear instructions as to how Dadi wanted her breakfast. First she would have a fruit, followed by a bowel of oats and then tea and rusks. Dadi loved her tea and it had to be served in a very big mug. She had this habit of squeezing her tea bags with a spoon making sure that the tea bag wouldn't go to waste. I guess she developed these habits due to her difficult upbringing. I'm not a breakfast person but Ma insisted that I join her for a cup of tea. I toasted a hot cross bun and obliged. Whilst chatting to her she poured out words of wisdom. She was insistent that I make an appointment with our in house beautician at Medix stressing on the importance of cleanliness. She said that life is so short tomorrow we can have an accident or pass away and other people would handle our bodies. She was very self conscious. I am so blessed that she spent an entire day with me at work. My staff were happy to have her and went out of their way to give her the respect she deserved. One of my male colleagues tried greeting Dadi with a hand shake. She refused stating, " Does the queen of England shake hands with strangers?..No right.. well I'm a queen too".. She was witty and straight forward too. She never kept anything inside her heart. Mom was the luckiest for being able to spend the entire day with her. They even went out shopping together and enjoyed a sumptuous lunch at a seafood restaurant. She loved mom's cooking and mom knew exactly how to prepare her meals. Due to the ulcers she had all her meals were prepared with no chillis and no ginger garlic masala. The only spices that she tolerated was turmeric, salt and jeera..Mom and her got along well as they both meticulous and fussy wanting everything to be packed in its place. Dadi loved fresh bedding every second day.I will always treasure the late night conversations we shared. She took me back in time as we travelled from 1933 until 2018. She had a remarkable memory. She remembered events as though it was yesterday. Dadi ma arrived in SA on the 8th of July 1940. She was 7 yrs old. She was born in Kathore in India and was very proud of her Indian roots, language and culture. In fact she was very annoyed that todays youth can not speak or understand their mother language. Her dad came to SA in search of work. Once he found a stable job he returned to India to bring his family over. World war 2 was about to commence and hence the ship they boarded from India was over booked with passengers. They landed up sitting on benches for three weeks as the cabins were fully occupied and double booked. It was after all the last ship to leave India. As soon as they arrived world war 2 began..Her family had to hang up dark blankets on the house windows so that the enemy can not see any light.Curfews were put into place and she always recalled just how traumatic her initial years in SA were. Dadi married Dada in 1978..Dad's biological mother passed away a year earlier and so dads father decided to remarry. It was Dadis second marriage as well. Her first husband passed away after 2.5 years of marriage due to illness. Dad's father Hafez Abdullah Mehtar was a well known personality as he was the principal at the school at Mias Farm. Through mutual friends Dada sent a proposal to Dadis family in Asherville asking for her hand in marriage. Dadi made me laugh when she said that a few family members and friends told her, " Zubeida you are a Randeree.You have a cook and driver in your papas house so how will you marry into the mehtar family that is so big with no cook." She discussed this with Dada who replied, " Yeh muqaddar ki baat hai.".. It's a matter of destiny. Dadi married Dada and walked into a huge family.Dada had 7 sons and 2 daughters. Dadi always recalled how she had to cook in huge pots everyday. Apart from cooking for her new family she also took care of students and teachers residing at the hostel. She had no kids of her own yet she was a mother to many. I must acknowledge that Dadi was a really good cook. Dadi also became a motherly figure to her sisters children. For a brief period of time her sister was ill and so Dada and Dadi brought the kids over from Durban to reside with them. She had a special relationship and bond with her nephews and nieces. She only spoke to them in Gujurati and took care of them as though they were her own kids.As a child I was closer to nani than dadi but as I grew older I developed a bond with her as well..I loved giving her a hearing. Being in her company was like being in the presence of a walking encyclopedia. There was still so much I wanted to ask her, there was still so much I wanted to say to her. Treasure your loved ones especially the elderly. Old people don't want your money, all they desire is a plate of food coupled with love and care. Give them a hearing and keep them happy.. May Allah grant Dadi the highest stages in jannah and fill her grave with lots of light.How fortunate she is to depart this world on a mubarak blessed night. An 85 year legacy has come to an end but will definitely not be forgotten...Please remember her in your prayers.....

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan illuminates sold out show

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Well done Blu Blood on executing a phenomenal show at Emperors Palace on Saturday night. The living legend Rahat Fateh Ali khan illuminated a sold out show with his enthralling voice belting out one hit song after another. The venue was classy with absolutely no incident of hooliganism observed. What really impressed me was the fact that the concert started pretty much on time. I was so glad that they got straight into the show with a bang without the audience being forced to listen to our local artists. I was however disappointed with the behaviour of some of the audience. I think a big contributing factor to the bad behaviour was the fact that alcohol was allowed to be served at the event thereby turning respectable individuals into absolutely pathetic imbeciles. Also the seating arrangement in the vip section was an absolute mess. There were people who came from the back and took up seats in the front causing absolute chaos. We were asked repeatedly to produce our tickets causing unnecessary altercations with shady characters. This kind of behaviour disrupts the ambience of the show. I also think that in the future a full barricade should be erected in front of the stage as there were people walking aimlessly up and down. This is very disrespectful to the artist as well as to the audience. When an artist is on stage, his stage becomes his temple. They evolve into a different world. Some songs would require absolute silence and quiet especially if the artist sings a song that is sentimental and close to his heart. Undoubtedly the highlight of the show for me was meeting the maestro himself along with the band members. Rahat Sahab definitely comes across as a soft spoken, kind hearted, down to earth human being. Thank you Blu Blood for once again bringing world class entertainment to our country and for allowing the Indian community to keep in touch with their culture through the magical world of Bollywood and music....

As a side note, a big shout out goes out to Shazia, Aadila, Fatima, and the families who recognized me through my blog and social media posts. It was really fantastic interacting with all of you....:)

Image may contain: 5 people, including Sumayya Mehtar, people smiling, people standing

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Image may contain: 4 people, including Sumayya Mehtar, people smiling, people standing

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Image may contain: 2 people, people on stage, people playing musical instruments and concert

Image may contain: 2 people, people on stage and people playing musical instruments

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Video links:

Friday, April 20, 2018

See the worry in my eyes

12 April 2018

So this morning I read Faizal Sayed's post about the piety brigade and I was left in stitches of laughter. I think I need to elaborate further. Last weekend I attended the saffron book launch and it was such an amazing afternoon in the company of like-minded intellectuals. Those of you who know me on a personal level will acknowledge that I am a person who loves singing. I grew up listening to Rafi Sahab, Kishore Kumar, Sonu Nigam and so many other world famous artists. A part of me has always wanted to learn about Indian classical singing and being able to sing difficult raags. It is a phenomenal talent that only a few have perfected. I am always in awe of these artists who place tremendous effort in being maestros in their field. At the book launch I was asked to sing a nasheed as a part of the program. Even though I am no meastro or diva,I enjoyed doing it thoroughly. The video that was uploaded on social media garnered almost 2000 views thus far and I have received so many kind and warm messages from so many new friends that I made at the function. However I have also received so many nasty inbox messages filled with criticism, hate and animosity from fake profiles. I’ve had messages stating why am I singing about the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and God Almighty with my shoes on. I should take it off. Another comment was related to the fact that I am a female and hence I should not have been invited to sing in the first place. A male person should have been asked to sing. What absolute rubbish. Why should a male be asked to sing at a function that was put together to celebrate the trials and tribulations of 56 inspirational women. There are people on social media who thrive on snooping at other peoples profiles and taking out fault in others. They forget their history and backgrounds. They more interested as to why a woman is not wearing a head scarf rather than airing out their own dirty laundry which is far worse than not wearing a piece of cloth.. Why is our community so ridiculous? If the neighbour’s daughter is getting married or divorced, it’s not your business. It doesn’t concern you. Worry about the happenings in your own home. I honestly don’t care about what anyone thinks about me. I live my life by my own rules. The people who are important to me are close to me and their opinion matters. My piety is nobody’s concern. The bond that I have with my Lord is between me and Him only. It involves no one else. Stop sending me messages from fake profiles. Only cowards behave in this manner. Why can’t we live and let live. Why can’t we be happy for someone else’s successes in life? By burning down someone else’s candle does not make your own candle burn any brighter. Learn to see the good in others. Juma Mubarak to all my friends and family across the globe. Kindly remember my family and I in your prayers.

Watch the video here:

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Letter from a prisoner - Wakey Wakey

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One of life's simplest but greatest pleasures is a good nights sleep. As a prisoner, it took a long time before I could sleep soundly. The thought of sharing a room with convicted strangers, an uncomfortable bunk, unfamiliar nightly noises and a mind constantly thinking of loved ones; were but some of the impediments to blissful sleep.

After acclimatizing, sleep came easily enough. Falling a sleep was no longer a problem but being aroused from sleep remains a periodic issue.

For much of my life and especially as a teen, I was not a morning person; it was only after loss and tragedy that I learnt to consider each day as a blessing. On school days, mum would gently knock on my door, open it and lovingly coax me from dreamland. Knowing full well that I would simply turn over for a few more minutes of slumber, she would then shout to me as she prepared breakfast downstairs. Only at the sound of her second or third attempt, would I reluctantly rise. That was the best way, my fondest memories of waking up. Mum's method could never be replicated, but she spoiled me in that I still required a few pushes of the snooze button before I finally woke up.

Unfortunately, I have been awoken in some of the most crude ways possible. As with many others, sounds awaken me rather easily. Even at home, sounds used to wake me but these were comforting in their own way. The rustling of palm trees against the roof, dads joints creaking as he ascended the stairs, the cat pleading to enter the room, adhaan being called out, dad mowing the lawn and the like; were sounds that comforted in as much as they disturbed.

In prison, I have awoken to a plethora of sounds which elicit the worst of emotions. For hundreds of days, my after fajr sleep (the best sleep ever) has ended with the traumatic sound of the cell door being unlocked. The gigantic keys make the most horrifying clank as they turn the robust locks. It is a sound that not only jolts me from even the deepest of sleeps, but is also an emphatic reminder of where I have awoken. It is a sound that is impossible to get used to.

Occasionally, I have been crudely awoken by the sounds of men vomiting, coughing incessantly, farting at decibel levels sound enthusiasts would admire, screaming in nightmares, having sex, snoring at octaves only sopranos could outdo or simply deciding to blast a radio or TV at full volume, with no care in the world.

Sound, though, is only one sense. Long ago (and hopefully soon again), I remember occasionally being awoken by a kiss or caress. Fortunately, I haven't been awoken in that manner in prison! Prison beds are what offer a great challenge. The steel double bunks wobble at even the slightest movement. Having someone above or below, is frustrating and at times, simply infuriating. Their every motion is felt making me wonder how sailors even get used to sleeping on boats.

I have learnt to deal with sounds and touch, to some extent at least. There is however one manner that robs me of sleep to which I cannot return or ever get used to; being awoken by smell.

There are times when men defecate or fart resulting in a stench indescribable by any metaphor. I once had the horrific task of cleaning out a deep freezer that was filled with only meat, meat that had been rotting for over three weeks.  I didn't think that anything would ever compare to that, until I experienced the potential of men.  The stench is exacerbated by rooms without decent ventilation and air freshener makes no difference at all. All I can do is bury my face in my pillow and wait it out.
These putrid odours fully awaken me into instant nausea and even scares my fatigue away.So the next time a seemingly nagging voice, meow, lawnmower, adhaan or restless spouse awakens you; remember that someone dreams of having just that!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Wrong number" theologians - Time to root them out of society

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I find it sad that despite our country having so many learned Islamic theologians, key pertinent issues within our societies are not addressed. The latest issue that has made its rounds on social media is the aalim who was found guilty of molesting his students. This is happening in our institutes but is a topic that is swept under the carpets. Then we have aalims who are associated with fraud acquiring millions of rand in a haraam manner. These same individuals are allegedly apart of the tabligh jamaat movement. How can you be calling your self a religious scholar on the one hand whilst you are a thief on the other hand. Why are our scholars covering up for each other? These wrong number aalims need to be exposed and brought to task. Lets talk about the blatant sexual harassment that women are enduring at Islams holiest site whilst making tawaaf. Women all over the world are starting to write about their experiences with many saying they don't ever wish to perform another pilgrimage due to the uncouth behaviour of Muslim men. Our scholars need to talk about these issues, not cover it up and act as though all of these issues only exist in other cultures and that we Muslims are perfect. .. the truth is we not... Let's talk about favouritism in our institutes. If your father is a big donor and contributor towards the institution then you are allowed to smoke in the institute and also carry a mobile phone no questions asked. This is why i am not a fan of islamic institutes that do not practice what they preach.Let us talk about nepotism within our institutes and organizations. We have Muslim organizations whereby the president down scales to a vice president after serving a term. Nepotism is not a part of Islam then why is it practiced in so many of our institutes.We are quick to bring down other religions and condemn people who are different to us yet we are morally and ethically imperfect ourselves. A friend of mine removed his kids from the local islamic school due to the blatant favouritism and bias afforded towards rich kids whose parents contributed significantly towards the running expenses of the school. He noticed that kids who came from middle income or poorer homes were ostracised and looked down upon by kids who hailed from affluent homes. You would expect kids going to an Islamic school to have qualities of simplicity and humility engrained within them as these are true Islamic values but in essence it's quite the contrary.The school is a symbol of class and prestige. I know I will be gunned down for generalising so please forgive me if this does not apply to you. Mom witnessed this kind of rotten behaviour first hand when she was asked to pick up kids from the local islamic school and drop them off home. The kids refused to sit in mom's car as she drove an old rickety Peugeot 504 at that time. It wasn't a fancy BMW or Mercedes Benz..I feel like puking when I think about how some parents bring up their kids to be so shallow. They brought up with this notion that wealth is their tool for power and success.Little do they know that wealth is a bounty from God Almighty. Today you can be high and mighty and tomorrow you can be penniless.