Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hajj 2015 - Day 2

The second day of hajj is known as Yown ul Arafat or the day of Arafat.On this day, the pilgrims leave Mina after dawn and make their way to the plains of Arafat for the culminating experience of the Hajj. Devotees would spend the entire day on the Plains of Arafat asking God Almighty for forgiveness and engaging in worship through the recitation of the Quraan and also through supplications. Muslims around the world would be in solitude with the Hujjaaj on this day by fasting for the entire day. After sunset, on the day of Arafat, pilgrims would make their way to Muzdalifa, situated halfway between the plains of Arafat and Mina. Here they would spend the entire night in the open under the star light engaging in prayer and worship and also collecting pebbles that would be used the following day. Pictures courtesy Abu Ammaar.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hajj 2015 - Day 1

On the first day of the pilgrimage the millions of devotees that have traveled from far and wide would now make their way from Makkah to Mina, a small village located east of the city. Mina is an enormous tent city.The Saudi government spent billions of riyals in erecting fire proof tents after the hajj was marred by a fire a few years ago causing damage and loss of life. My dads sister was present that year during the hajj and she related to us that when the fire broke out people started running  in all directions. During that time she had lost her husband in the crowd. With every passing year, the Saudi government tries its best to provide better, more efficient facilities for the Hujjaaj in order to make the Haj process easier and to facilitate a smooth incident free Hajj process as depicted in the pictures above.
The Hujjaj would spend the entire day and night at Mina engaging in the recitation of the Quraan, praying and basically taking rest before heading off to Arafat tomorrow.

Pictures: courtesy Abu Ammaar

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Scars of happiness


Usually when I shower I take note of some of the scars that I have on my body and whilst many women out there have scars that remind them of abuse, I am fortunate to be blessed with scars of happiness. The other day I noticed the scar on my left leg and it brought back fond of memories of a family holiday in the Mpumalanga region. Dad loved taking us for holiday to that part of the world. One morning whilst residing at an exquisite resort, my brother and I went out to play on the swings totally oblivious to the fact that there were a pack of monkeys behind us. Suddenly, as I got off the swing, one monkey ran towards me and grabbed me by my legs. It then bit me and ran away. The wound was quite deep and so in tears I made my way back to our chalet....As I type this post I take notice of the burn scar I have on my left hand and it brings back the most amazing memories of my Saudi friend Abdulla and his family. Abdulla invited me for fatoor during ramadhaan at his home. He and his family never wanted me to feel alone during the auspicious month of Ramadhaan.They wanted to fill the void of my own family not being with me. On the same day as the invite it was my turn to prepare fatoor for my colleagues at work and because i worked the night shift I was exhausted during the day. Nonetheless I got home from work, slept for a few hours and then woke up to prepare fatoor. As I was rushing, my left hand touched the hot oven element and I burnt..The scar still remains..

Looking at the scar on my face, how can I forget the bright and bubbly, happy go lucky Sheida Bhen. She is an Indian born Saudi national having married a Saudi man. She was my personal beautician who would arrive home to do facials at the oddest hour of the night. Whilst I loved the end result of her facials, there were times that she was over enthusiastic to remove a blackhead or an ingrown hair and it felt as though she was carrying out a mini operation on my skin. One day whilst battling to remove an ingrown hair, she literally dug the hair out with a needle. Of course she was thrilled it finally came out but I was left with a scar...I think it was her way of planting a stamp on my face so that I will never forget her.......

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dev's Final update from the Caribbean

Caribbean Update- Tuesday 21 July 2015

Greetings from Port of Spain in Trinidad

It has been a Month since my last update which was from the Island/Country of Barbados & since then I have moved to the smaller island of St Kitts & Nevis & from there through to the much bigger Trinidad.

So much cricket has been played at this CPL T20 event and so much of sight-seeing has been done that I shall try to keep this update short and not go into too many details lest it becomes far too long to make an enjoyable read- and yet I do hope to capture the essence of the Caribbean and the fascination that it has provided for me.

With trepidation one takes the LIAT flight out of Barbados as the L.I.A.T has often been given descriptions such as “Luggage in any Terminal” – or “Late in All Travel” etc – thankfully other than some delays the luggage arrived safely at both St Kitts as well as here in Trinidad.

St Kitts & Nevis- Either side of this quaint island country ( a federation together with the smaller Nevis) one finds the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and “the Narrows” is the passage across to the much smaller Nevis.

Arrived in St Kitts on Sunday 28 June from Bridgetown Barbados via Antigua ( this is common practice in the Caribbean with virtually no direct flights between the islands which are all independent countries as explained in my Barbados update.

The trip from the Robert L Bradshaw airport to the Marriott Resort & royal Beach Casino was a mere 10 minutes- what a wonderful location we had in the Marriott – situated in the Frigate Bay of St Kitts the resort was sheer paradise- massive in size as it has not only the main hotel but many blocks scattered around – with all sorts of swimming pools, a Pizza Shack and restaurants as well as the Casino ! As it is also geared up for time-share users there are tennis courts and the health spa with all the usual mod cons that go with it!

Anyway, As Urmila and her sister together with my brother-in-law from Florida joined me at St Kitts it proved an ideal place to spend family time together- an Island tour with the umpires gave us a 5 hour trip taking us to the historical Brimstone Hill fortress and also a stop at the famous Caribelle Batik place- set on historical land with marvelous landscaping.

From the hotel there was easy access within walking distance to restaurants and The Strip – many pub/like places which are all along the Caribbean Sea side of Frigate Bay and which all come alive at night with tourists.

A short cab ride from the hotel takes one into the Port Zante part of the Island- regular docking of Luxury Cruise liners makes the area the perfect place for the souvenir shopper- jewellery stores all over and some lovely places for the beers and the food! In the central area called the Circus there were many places of interest and one could spend many hours roaming freely around the areas taking in all the local vibes.

Naturally the focus for me would be the CPL 2015 and the stadium at St Kitts was also right in the city – our match-day travel was a mere 15 mins and all matches played by the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots drew enthusiastic local support with a fair amount of spectators also supporting the visiting teams – either Guyana, Barbados, St Lucia, Trinidad or Jamaica.

We also managed on one of the free days to take a ferry/barge across to Nevis- wonderful day spent- have never seen so many delicious mangoes hanging on trees all over the island! Had organized a mini cab to meet us when we docked after the 30 mins or so crossing – spent another 4-5 hours touring the island- highlight being a stop at the Four Seasons hotel- certainly the playground for the rich & Famous and also lunch at The Oasis in the Garden – a Thai restaurant set in the magnificent Botanical Gardens – stunning.

The family flew back to Florida whilst Urmila flew out to Trinidad a day earlier than I did- got here on Sunday 12 July – she spent a week here and has returned to the USA to spend some time with our good friends in West Palm Beach before going back to her sister and then heading out to PE around the time I get home which will be on the 29th.

Trinidad is entirely different- it is a big island in comparison to Barbados and St Kitts & Nevis.

The Hilton hotel set on a hill provides beautiful views down to the Queens Park Savannah – the biggest roundabout in the world- a lovely 3.5km walk around – and at intervals one finds these decorated carts that offer ice cold Coconut Juice- freshly prepared right there!

The Queens Park Oval proved to be quite special- the population in Trinidad is far more diversified with Indians forming the bulk of the local population.

The vociferous and noisy steel band support for the Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel team was something to behold –have never heard so much noise at a cricket match- wonderful atmosphere they create with a public that know how to enjoy themselves at such events.

Am now into my final week in the Caribbean- the CPL tournament has been one amazing opportunity and the experience incredible- have 3 free days before the play-offs start on Thursday and Sat and then the Final on Sunday before I head back to PE- 6 weeks is a long time and am now looking forward to getting home- even thought the winter that awaits me will be in direct contrast to the warm weather of the Caribbean.

Shall enjoy my last few days here and take in as much of Trinidad as possible- yesterday visited some Temples- The Temple in the Sea in Waterloo which has a fascinating background of the determination of an Indian indentured labourer wanting to build a place of worship and also the 85ft Hamuman Statue at the Datttatreya Mandir which has become quite an attraction for those visiting Port of Spain.

We are hoping to get across to Tobago for a visit on Friday. The sea journey across will be about 2.5 hrs.

When in Trinidad one has to eat “Doubles” – I did that yesterday- what a treat- and it is Veggie! Google it!

My next update will be from PE!




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Friday, July 24, 2015

Her illustrious musical family

If you are an avid Bollywood music fan, you must have heard about the internationally acclaimed Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan Sahab. He was born in 1931 and as a teacher he has trained several noted playback and classical singers. Some of his students include my favourite playback singer of all time Sonu Nigam as well as Shaan, Geeta Dutt and Hariharan. His sons are well known classical vocalists within the Hindi film industry and have worked with legendary music directors like A. R. Rahman.

According to wikipedia, Khan Sahab was awarded the Padma Shri in 1991 followed by Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award of India in 2006.In 2003 he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award highest Indian recognition given to practicing artists given by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama. It gives me great pleasure to be interviewing Shadma Khan, the daughter of the living legend as she takes us down memory lane talking about her father's musical career and what it was like growing up in a musically inclined family. Read on to find out more in her words.


1. Firstly Shadma jee, thank you so much for taking time out to be interviewed by me on such short notice. Tell me a little more about your family background and life from childhood until present? What was it like for you as a child growing up in an illustrious world renowned musical family?
It is my pleasure to have been given an opportunity to speak about my beloved father. As a child I remember my father doing his riyaz (music practice) for more than fourteen hours a day. He devoted most of his time to music. I am grateful to God to be born into such a musical environment. While growing up, I got the opportunity to listen to quality music and meet great personalities from the world of music. I am lucky enough to have the same environment even after getting married. My husband Ustad Ghulam Abbas Khan is a renowned Ghazal, Sufi and Hindustani Classical Vocalist. So, nothing much has changed after getting married.

2. Did you also have an opportunity to learn music from your dad?
We belong to a conservative background where the women of the household were not encouraged to perform music publicly. So I did not learn music from my father. Also, I was more interested in listening to music rather than performing it. My husband and I do, however, encourage our daughters to learn music and pursue it as a career if they please.

3. Elaborate further on your family's relationship with Sonu Nigam jee.
My father very beautifully breaks down the word ‘Gharana’ into ‘Ghar’ and ‘Ana’ which means ‘coming home’ in Hindi. He considers all his students as his children. Sonu is very dear and near to all of us. He has been learning from Papa since 1997 and has become a very important member of our family. We think of him as our younger brother and even tie him rakhi. (Rakhi is a sacred thread which sisters tie on their brothers’ wrist indicating an eternal bond of love and protection).

4. How did your dad embark on a musical career? Did he learn music from childhood? Is it a gift that is passed down from generation to generation?
Born into a family of traditional musicians, my father breathed music from the very first moment of his life. Having maestros in the family was a huge source of inspiration to him and at the tender age of three, he was initiated into music by his father Ustad Waris Hussain Khansahab and later continued his training under his paternal uncle, another renowned vocalist, Ustad Fida Hussain Khan (who was a court musician in Rampur and Baroda Darbars) After his death, Padma Bhushan Ustad Nisar Hussain Khansahab took my father’s charge. Thus, he had his complete taleem (musicial education) at home. Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khansahab started performing vocal music from the age of eight years. He is an approved artist of All India Music since 1949. So yes, music is indeed a gift that is passed down in our family from generation to generation. My father received it from his father and then he passed it down to his sons and now his grandsons.

5. How does an individual become a classical singer? How much of practice is involved and how is this art form taught to students?
To be a Classical Singer, one has to have a lot of patience and perseverance. It requires proper taleem, and hours of vigorous riyaz (practice). The guru teaches his students according to their personal requirements. The guru also assesses their skills from time to time.

6. Is Indian classical music a dying art form or do you think that it is an art form that requires more exposure globally?
No, I do not believe Indian Classical Music to be a dying art form. It has survived and thrived through centuries and is still an important part of India’s heritage. It will live on for many, many centuries to come. It could definitely do better with more global exposure so that more people would get the opportunity to listen and appreciate good music. For this purpose, Indians from all over the world should consider it their responsibility to help this art form flourish more at a global level.

7. If you could be granted one wish and have any skill or talent in the world, what would it be?
If I could, I would love to be an organiser and promote the rich culture and music of my country on a global scale. It has always been a dream since childhood.

8. What are your favourite websites?
I am a full time homemaker and I also manage my husband’s career so I don't get much time to browse through websites. Occasionally, I do go on YouTube to listen to a variety of artists.

9. I understand that your brothers are all classical vocalists. Tell me a little bit more about their musical journey.
My brothers are all very talented vocalists and they are not just limited to Hindustani Classical Vocal but are also accomplished Playback Singers. They have sung several Bollywood songs for AR Rahman and other Music Directors.

10. Does your dad still teach music?
Yes. My father is still an active guru but he teaches very selectively. Sonu Nigam’s son Neevan is among his students.

11. What advice would you give to young aspiring musicians out there?
I’d like advise the young aspiring musicians to have patience, perseverance and to work hard to achieve their goals. Vidya hasil karne ke liye sabr ki zaroorat hoti hai (You have to be patient to achieve education) To be a good musician is to be honest to yourself.

Once again Shadma jee, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by me . Desert Moon wishes you all the best in your future endeavours!!! This is definitely one of the most inspiring interviews that I have ever done. I am so honoured and proud to have interviewed the daughter of a living legend who has made a positive impact globally through his music whilst the world is engulfed in political turmoil and war. Thank you for giving me this opportunity Shadma jee and hope to meet you one day in Mumbai.

As a side note, Shadma jee mentioned to me via our telephonic conversation that her husband, Ustad Ghulam Abbas Khan  teaches music to students throughout the world via skype. If you are interested in learning how to sing on a professional level, feel free to contact Shadmajee through her facebook page.