Thursday, March 9, 2017

Letter from a prisoner ---- My pied-a-terre

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                                                               Picture taken off the net

My Pied a Terre

Interaction with people from the free world is something that every inmate looks forward to. I thoroughly enjoy finding out about people I knew, places I frequented and events that I would have loved to attend. As much as I want to know about the happenings beyond the walls that imprison me, I generally do not get much time to be the questioner as everyone wants their own curiosities about prison satisfied.
The most common questions I am asked are with regard to; where I sleep/stay, what I eat, what I am allowed to have, what I do in all the time I have, is there violence, did anyone try to rape me and many more. As the images or ideas you probably have of prison, from watching TV shows and the media, is very different to the reality of the situation I will try to paint the real picture.
My 1512 days in prison thus far have been spread over 3 maximum security prisons. All 3 prisons are absolutely different, not only in their physical layouts but in every way imaginable. Currently, I am at a centre which is supposedly one of 4 national “Centre’s of Excellence;” due to the educational activities.
My home is a triple story building. It has 5 main wings, a hospital section, reception/visit area, kitchen and management offices. All the different sections are linked by a central walkway. Each of the 5 main wings house roughly 100 inmates over 2 floors. The wings or units as we call them have their own managers who oversee the day to day running of their units. Each unit has 2 courtyards; generally one is used for soccer and 1 for hanging washing. The units each also have a dining room, recreation room, washing room, store rooms, a managers’ office and 2 communal showers.

The unit I reside in consists of mainly tertiary students. Our recreation room is a library. We have 2 courtyards which are meticulously maintained. One courtyard is a grassed area bordered by plants. The other is broken into 3 sections; one sandy area for playing soccer, one for our fishpond and one for a vegetable garden. The inmates with green fingers put a great deal of effort into maintaining and frequently altering their meagre landscape.
Each floor of the unit is lined with 2, back-to-back, rows of cells. Between the cells is a maintenance area wherein all the piping and electrical wiring leads.
Prisons are actually relatively clean in general. Cleaning material is found in abundance (good tender to have!) and officials inspect regularly, ensuring decent standards of cleanliness. My section is thankfully the cleanest by a long way, due in no coincidence to the fact that it is the only section run by a white manager. He also ensures that there are actually fish in the fish pond. The communal areas are cleaned by inmates employed to do so twice a day. Cells are cleaned by their residents and inspected formally once a week.
The cells we stay in have one entrance accessed by an 8 cm thick steel door and solid steel gate. The door and gate are locked when the prison is closed every afternoon. During the day, inmates are allowed to lock their cells with their own padlocks. The door has a flap on it through which officials are able to look inside during the night, however this seldom happens.

The wall opposite to the door of the rectangular space is lined at eye level with windows. The sight through the windows is of the cell behind. The windows open a few centimetres before being restricted by a thick steel mesh. In summer the slight breeze through the open windows is a welcome relief, however in winter cold air finds its way in through the gaps left by windows unable to close properly.
The cell is 2.4 m long and 2.1 m wide. The floor and roof is bare concrete. The walls are made of brick and painted beige. We have some posters of dream cars and places that cover most of the drab paint. Lighting is provided by a central fitting with 2 fluorescent bulbs. The light is actually too bright for the small space so I have pasted paper over it to dim it slightly. Residents are able to determine when they want the lights on or off. The light switch is unfortunately outside of the cell. The only
way to manipulate the switch is through the flap on the door. One has to push a piece of broomstick through the flap and then hit at the switch. My coordination is not that great when I can see the target so trying to switch off the lights is a task I attempted once (for over an hour) and never again.
The other fittings in the cell are a toilet in one corner and a steel sink next to it; both under the windows. The toilet also doubles as a seat when the lid (a piece of plank) is down. The sink has a hot and cold water tap. In winter there is rarely hot water and in summer the hot water is boiling almost all day long. On the floor between the toilet and wall we keep a box for cleaning material. The prison provides green bar soap, dishwashing liquid soap, a Jeyes fluid rip off and ultra strong bleach. We also get brooms, toilet brushes and cloths.

One side of the cell is taken up by a double bunk bed and a locker. I sleep on the top bunk because the cell had one occupant when I arrived. My cellmate is serving a 20 year sentence for armed robbery and the plethora of charges that go with it. I am fortunate that we get along well. He is a dedicated student, spending many hours every day with his books. He takes schedule 6 sleeping tablets every night at around 7 pm, so by 8pm he is in dreamland until the next morning (and if he managed to get dagga then he wakes up by lunch). This gives me the liberty to do what I want without bothering my roomie at all.
We use our locker to store our foodstuff, kettle and iron. Clothing is stored under the bed in private kit-bags. Clothing that we want to wear the next day or not get creased is put on hangers and hung from a nail in the wall. I have nails all over to hang clothing, dishcloths, towels, keys and even one high up for my Qurans.
The wall opposite the bed is taken up by a desk (a typical school desk) and chair alongside a cabinet. There are only about 5 cabinets in the prison. The other cells only have desks. My cabinet cost me R100 which in prison is a lot of money, it was worth the every cent. My four shelves enable us to keep our books, tv, radio, 2 laptops, study lamp, toiletries other and odds and ends rather neatly. Without the cabinet we would have to use boxes.

Living out of boxes would not cut it, especially when I live on Millionaires row. The row of cells that I live in earned this name because the inmates living here are ones who all have tv’s and computers. We also put money together to pay for extra cleaning of our corridor and have plants lining our corridor. Most of my neighbours are ex-celebs, high profile fraudsters or cash in transit hijackers. Our row also has a view over the lawn and pond; and in the distance civilization. And if anyone is interested in moving into one of the penthouses, they are very rare and cost a hefty R200. Even in prison property is all about location, location, location!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A short weekend getaway

1st March, 2017

Over the last few days my family and I decided to spend a few days at our beach apartment located in the picturesque, quaint little town of Margate. I am not a fan of Durban city and Umhlanga. It is not my ideal holiday destination as it is merely a concrete jungle. I prefer getting away from the city appreciating the peace and quiet that nature has to offer. The Durban south coast area is definitely an area worth visiting. The area is undoubtedly a photographers paradise made up of unspoiled beaches coupled with lush vegetation and greenery.Despite the rainy weather, my family and I made sure that we took a drive to the beautiful Lake Eland game reserve that boasts a variety of activities for the entire family, such as zip-lining, hiking, walking over the suspension bridge and much, much more.

The drive to the game reserve is absolutely breathtaking, passing through waterfalls, rivers and forests. "The Oribi Gorge is situated along the spectacular forest-cloaked ravine of the Mzimkulwana river west of Port Shepstone. Oribi Gorge is the western of two gorges that cut through the Oribi Flats (flat sugarcane farmlands). The Gorge, as seen from the Caves and the Suspension Bridge, was formed when large quantities of water from Central Africa cascaded down the ravine, gouging through the sandstone mountains. It spans an area 27km long, 4km wide in places and 400m deep. The vertical sides of the Gorge are made up of Natal series sandstone layers. The slopes down to the river are granite. Two types are evident: pink Oribi Gorge granite, and charnokite which is dark green in colour and can be seen in the river bed."

Waking up in the morning to the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks is a totally surreal experience. After enjoying a morning jog on the beach soaking up the fresh crisp air, it is so refreshing to head back to the apartment just in time for a delicious breakfast followed by a walk down town meeting up with the locals. In the afternoon we enjoy driving along the coast to the famous Mac Banana farm stall. Their pancakes and waffles are simply divine; awesome for my taste buds but not for my hips.... lolol.... I guess that's what a holiday is all about. Breaking away from routine is refreshing and energizing. I need to do this more often.......

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"O jealousy! thou magnifier of trifles"

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                                                     Picture taken from LoveThisPic


"You don't know me. We have not met but I do follow your posts on a weekly basis. Interesting posts on your wall.Seen you at a wedding last year. You definitely looked like a celebrity outshone the bride. Seen you at a concert sometime back also. The singer even called out your name a few times. Gues you were a VIP.Sure you were on cloud nine.Pity that you not married. I have the reason too. Most of the divorces nowadays are due to your type of women, High flying women who want to be men. No man wants to marry a high maintenance lady...fancy clothes.. tip top make up. Designer shoes. In your case a lady who is in the spotlight as well. Lets face tje facts. You very beautiful yet you single. There has to be a problem. Men prefer simple girls who can live within their means and who are content with the income their husbands earn. A woman's responsibility is her home and a man's responsibility is to be the breadwinner. You may disagree but this is my personal opinion. No muslim family will accept your feminist ideas."

This is what I woke up to this morning. To the lady who sent me this message from a fake profile I presume as I'm unable to access the profile, I'd like to say the following.

Thank you very much for reading my posts and giving me importance by acknowledging my presence at functions and events. The concert you attended was probably at Sun city and the singer and I have a very special connection. I love him with all my heart, always have and always will. I treasure the 17 year old friendship that we share so yes I was on cloud nine as he made me feel special as his friend. I value him for his pure heart and exemplary character. He is not only my friend but my mentor too. His advice is filled with goodness and wisdom.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble but I was brought up to reach for the stars and beyond. I will not settle for mediocrity and i will not marry a man that I will have to support or look after either. Life for me is a race against time.It is a race to achieve as much as I possibly can before I leave this world. To meet as many people as I can.. to travel to as many countries as I possibly can. Most divorces are not due to feminism but rather due to men who do not know how to treat their women as per Islamic principles and teachings. It is all about enforcing a strong patriarchal ideology which is not a part of Islam.Drugs and other social issues plays an important role as well. It takes two to tango and hence divorce is usually culminated due to flaws and weaknesses that are innate in both individuals.Today's men are lazy.Most women nowadays are educated and know their rights. When a person knows their rights they become a threat to others. When a person prospers in life they become a threat to others. Please don't feel pity on me for not being married. I think we all need to feel pity for those women who are tied up in marriages simply for the sake of their kids. Yet everyday they are unhappy suffering in silence. They are so dependent on their partners that they can not leave despite being abused verbally or physically on a daily basis.They need to play the role of wife, mother, breadwinner etc etc simply because their husbands are too lazy to provide for them. Alhamdulilla a million times over, my Lord has been so good to my family and I. I never envisaged having a life filled with so much of contentment and happiness.I couldn't possibly ask my Lord for more. Here's a small bit of advise, " jealousy destroys good deeds in the same way fire destroys wood" The next time you see me at a function please do come over to say hi. Who knows, a bit of my 'wow factor' might just rub off onto you. Juma mubarak and have yourself a blessed day. :)

Friday, January 27, 2017

So who's the big shot I got married to?

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                                                    (Picture take from Pinterest)

I am proud to say that through our Facebook page and whatsapp service we receive on average 50 inbox messages a day. It is so rewarding to assist others without wanting anything in return. However, sometimes people don't know where to draw the line. There are occasions when patients request for my personal mobile number as a family member is terminally ill and they feel they have someone to call in the case of an emergency. I really don't mind that. But when a patient or family member starts getting all romantic and crude on whatsapp that's when I switch off completely. On average I receive around 100 inbox messages a day on my personal facebook profile and whilst I love replying to all messages I am deeply saddened by some of the messages I receive from so called well known Muslim men who think that a woman is nothing more than a sex object..
' Hi hun. Surprised that you still single. What a waste of prettiness. What a shame.You obviously missing out on the oolala stuff. If you wanna get hitched. Drop me a text. We take it from there.i am married though and bisexual
' Hello. SLMZ. My wife can't have kids. Looking for a surrogate. Take note that the child will belong to her and me. You only needed to make a child basically."
'Hey doll. Never seen such a gorgeous lassie before. Striking eyes and lips. So I'm in Cape Town. Come to egoli twice a month for business. Let's hook up for some adult fun. In simple terms I'm happily married but my wife bores me. She won't know about our fling. All she needs is money, spoiling and pampering and she's cool. Drop me a text if you want to try.'
' Can I clarify something. Heard you lived in Saudi. Heard you were married to a big shot there and then divorced your hubby and returned home. How come you not married. You quite good looking'
It makes me sad that these are the kind of Muslim men within our society. I feel pity and sorry for the women in their lives. Their poor women don't know what their husbands are up to behind their backs. So why am I not married? I'll tell you why. I'm not married because I do not want to live my life being dictated to, being told what to do and where to go.Who I can share a cup of coffee with and who I can't. I am not married because men within my community are intimidated by successful women who lead their lives by their own rules. They are afraid of women who know their rights. I am not married because i wont allow a man or his family to stop me from working and serving others.I am not married because I will not allow anyone to treat me inferiorly due to my caste or where I hail from in India. Does it bother me that I'm not married.Definitely not. Oops I'm still trying to figure out who was I married to in Saudi. If someone out there knows please inbox me lolol. As I was saying whether I'm married or not makes no difference to me at all. Not everyone in life is cut out to join the marriage club.Society makes it seem though that if you not married you haven;t attained exclusive membership to this club.Well to hell with membership. I will not marry just to please society. To hell with society and people. Everyone's purpose on this earth is different. Alhamdulilla Allah has granted me the best family and parents in the world. I have been blessed with so much that I have to grateful night and day for whatever I have and I couldn't possibly ask for more.My beloved parents gave me wings to fly from a very young age. I certainly will not allow an outsider to clip them. To the men who want to merely have a fling with me, shame on all of you. You choose to respect the women of your family whilst willing to tarnish the reputation of a muslim sister. All of you know who you are. How utterly disgusting? My advise to all of you is this, God has granted you a wife, a life partner and kids. Honour your wife. Value her and appreciate her. Become good role model fathers. Why do you want to wreak havoc in your marital home. Why do you want to break hearts and hurt others. Will your Lord be pleased with you when you leave this world?...And No I don't do friends with benefits....Go try your luck elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The story of a Sri Lankan domestic worker

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                                                  Picture taken off the net

Sister 'R' was born into a Tamil speaking home. Some of her family members are staunch Buddhists whilst other family members practice Hinduism. As a teenager, this young Sri Lankan girl was unable to understand the faith of her ancestors. She opted to learn about different religions and eventually she decided to convert into the fold of Islam. She was a practising Muslim yet her family did not know initially that she denounced their religious practices. When they eventually found out they disowned her. They also tried killing her on a few occasions. She then decided to apply for a job as a domestic worker in the Kingdom. After receiving a confirmation letter that her application was successful she made her way to the land of shifting sands. She met her employer who resides in the blessed city of Medina tul munawwara. Her employer also happens to be a very close family friend of ours. He noticed that each month after sister 'R' received her salary she would visit the Prophets mosque and hand over her entire salary to the poor people. After a few months her employer confronted her with regards to her actions to which she replied, ' I do not need the money as I do not have any family. You provide me with all my needs." She then related her entire story in detail. Her employer was overwhelmed with emotion. He then decided to put away her monthly earnings into a savings account for her. Whenever she requested for money he would then hand it over to her. Within a short period of time the kids became attached to their Sri Lankan nanny. They would sleep with her and she would read them bed time stories. She was at their side during school concerts and functions. In fact she was given the status of being their second mother. After 38 years being with the same family she has become a part of the family. She is afforded the same rights as a family member. Over time the kids grew up into young adults. Sister 'R' bought them gifts and jewellery on the occasion of their weddings. She never ever returned to her country of birth and she refuses to travel outside of Medina. Her only goal in life is to die in the city of Medina and be buried in jannatul baqi. May Allah fulfill her wish and grant me the same level of conviction and steadfastness as she has within her heart. I was delighted to meet this kind soul during my recent trip to the Kingdom. Her story has proven to me that God Almighty guides those whom He wishes to. He protected her every strep of the way and it also proves that not all Arabs are bad human beings as portrayed by the media. We can not generalize and paint everyone with the same brush.Good and bad exists in all societies and as the Saudi saying goes, 'If you have beautiful eyes, you will see the good in others and you will attract good but if your eyes see negativity and bad then you will attract the same.' 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Travel diary - Umra Part 3

December 12, 2016

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So we started off the day after fajr prayers making our way to Jeddah. My Saudi family planned a fun filled educational trip for us enroute to Medina tul munawwara. Our first stop was the newly built King Abdullah Economic City. Located 100km from Jeddah the newly developed city boasts five star hotels along with offices and banks.In the future the main train station connecting the new airport to Makkah and medina will be located inside the economic city. We had snacks at the beach admiring the beauty of the Red Sea. Lunch was arranged at the beautiful Bay La Sun hotel. After enjoying a relaxing afternoon at the economic city we made our way to Badr where we paid our respects to the shuhadaa who passed away during the infamous battle of badr. The last time I visited Badr was almost 20 years ago. Once again we observed so many changes in this town. The town has grown from being a small rural community to a city with newly built homes and shops. As we drove closer towards Medina tul munawwara there was a sudden eagerness within our hearts to get to the city of our Beloved Prophet Muhammed (saw). My Saudi family belong to the Bani Quresh tribe. They are sayeds hailing from the lineage of Hasan. Hence as we drove to Medina our hosts refreshed our memory with regards to the history and life story of our Beloved Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). Alhamdulilla 3alas salaamah, we arrived in Medina tul munawwara safely. Dinner was arranged for us at a family members home. My Saudi family have went out of their way for my family and I. I do not know how to reciprocate what they have done for us. Subhanallah, in this day and age it is so hard to find people that have hearts of gold. May the love and care that we have for each other exist for eternity. Ameen.

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