Sunday, May 21, 2017

Letter from a prisoner - Days of our lives, Prison edition!

Image result for letter from a prisoner

As an inmate, I only have access to watch the National broadcasters’ 3 television channels and 1 free to air channel. The choice of programs to watch is very limited. I am unfortunately one of the millions of people globally, who watch soapies; for now. It is only out of absolute boredom and because of a lack of choice that I endure a daily dose of escapism. Soapies on the television screen are not the only source of mad behaviour, deception and affairs; the prison is also a source of entertaining events.
Many men in prison have cellular phones, through which they try to win the affection of ladies in the free world. Most of the time, all they seek is a sugar mommy, someone to spend freely on their needs. Their rate of success is very high, all things considered.Interaction with ladies also happens at the visit area. This provides the opportunity for a hug and kiss. It is also common to see inmates eyeing ladies coming to visit another, fellow inmate. These interactions often result in events worthy of a place on any of the popular soapies on television. I will share a few incidents to substantiate this.

A few weeks ago there was a terrible fight in a cell one night. The 2 occupants of the cell ended up in hospital, naturally because of a woman. Thabo had a girlfriend in the real world. A woman he had known for many years. Thabo and his cellmate, Martin decided to put their money together and buy a cellular phone. As they shared everything and were good friends, Thabo did not mind that his lady spoke to Martin when he was busy or sleeping. This carried on for over a year. When Martin thought Thabo was sleeping, he did not realise that Thabo often listened to his conversations, which were often what can only be described as phone sex. Little did Thabo know that Martin was getting his highs from Thabo’s lady.A few weeks ago, Thabo’s lady sent a picture of herself in a compromised position. Thabo was chuffed, thinking the raunchy picture was for him, but on closer inspection noticed that the lady had a new tattoo on a very intimate
body part. All hell broke loose when he realised that the tattoo was Martin’s name enclosed in a heart.
Thabo broke the cell’s window and started stabbing Martin, getting him to confess everything. Martin then somehow overpowered Thabo and a full on fight with broken glass ensued. Both men had time to talk it through as partners in the same hospital room for a few days thereafter.

Another crazy story involves one of the inmates I associate with regularly. James is a young man who is very conscious of his appearance, even when wearing a prison uniform. He gets visits regularly. One day, he was seated a fair distance from an attractive young girl. He could not help but notice that her eyes seemed to not be focusing on the boyfriend she was visiting, but on him. As the lady left, she slipped him a piece of paper with her name and phone number scribbled on it.
James started talking to the young lady and they found a liking for each other. The problem was that the ladies boyfriend is a notorious gangster in the prison. James came up with a rather ingenious way to get rid of his problem. He got the lady to bring pictures of the gangster as well as records of conversations with the gangster. This resulted in the gangster being transferred to the highest security facility in the country, quite literally in the middle of nowhere, where he only gets to make 1 phone call a month.
The deceitful way that this ‘relationship’ started in, did not prevent the couple from getting “engaged.” Only time will tell if this story has a happy ending.

Many men in prison have multiple ladies or “girlfriends” as they like to call them. It seems they like to not only keep their options open but also want to have financial support from more than one avenue. This “cheating” sometimes results in the guilty party being caught out in rather dramatic fashion.
I have witnessed on one occasion a literal cat fight between 2 ladies at a family day. Sipho, like most men enjoyed the attention of ladies. He had planned for 2 ladies to visit him on a particular family day. A family day is basically an extended visit which takes place on the sports field. Sipho arranged for one lady to visit him when the gates opened at 8am and for another to arrive at 11am; with the plan in mind to get rid of the first lady by then.The plan seemed to be going very well. By 9am, Sipho was locking lips and cuddling with his first lady of the day. During one of his kisses, he was abruptly disturbed by the sensation of wetness, only wetness where he did not expect it. Lady number two had come early and had seen her man being very intimate with another lady. She proceeded to empty her bottle of cold drink all over Sipho and his first lady.
Sipho did not know what to do or say, in fact all he and all the spectators did was watch in awe as the 2 women had an epic bitch fight. Sipho lost more than just 2 ladies, the fact that he had a cellular phone and was engaged in other illegal activities also came to light, resulting in him being punished.

These kinds of stories happen quite regularly with varying degrees of intensity and absurdity. They are however not only confined to interactions with ladies.A while back, at my previous prison there was a number of serious gangs fights. It resulted in many spending time in hospital with serious injuries and even with one man loosing an eye.The reason behind the mayhem was a young white boy. As 90% of the populous is black men, white meat is a sought after commodity. The leader of one of the prisons gangs had eyed the boy for himself. The young boy was very insecure and loved smoking weed. As he could not afford to maintain his habit, he became the gang leaders’ toy, offering his bum when it was desired.
Things got out of hand when a rival gang leader decided that he wanted a piece of the white bum. He proceeded to pay more for the services and went on to demand that the boy only serviced him. This then became the starting point for much bloodshed. Unfortunately for the man whore, he lost his eye amidst one of the many fights and subsequently lost his ability to lure clients.

Infidelity is not the only practice of soapies that is found in prisons. There is revenge, betrayal, backstabbing, fraud, stealing, cheating and every other vice known to man in some form or other. Such are the days of our lives...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Rey's yummylicious Phirni recipe just in time for Ramadhaan

No automatic alt text available.
1 Add 3 cups milk to a medium sized pot

Image may contain: one or more people, people eating and indoor
2. Add 1 teaspoon elachi

Image may contain: drink
3. Add 3.5 tablespoons sugar for taste

Image may contain: drink and indoor
4. Add 2 tablespoons semolina

Image may contain: one or more people and food
5. Add a few drops of rose essence

Image may contain: one or more people
6. Add a few drops of either red or green colouring

Image may contain: food
7. Stir the contents of the pot and bring to boil.
Stir continuously to prevent scorching

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, table, drink and indoor
8. Once boiled, pour the milk mixture into dessert bowls. Allow to cool

No automatic alt text available.
9. Sprinkle dessicated coconut on the top and then refrigerate

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Free speech verses religion

Image result for freedom of speech and religious sensitivity
Picture taken from

April 17th, 2017

And now this, "You should be ashamed to be taking pictures with Sonu Nigam after his anti Muslim tweets. As a Muslim woman you are a disgrace to society for being associated with him considering that you are from a family that has many aalims and haafith."
I wanted to refrain from commenting on this issue. But I think I now need to voice my opinion as I am now being attacked on a personal level. First and foremost it is absolutely cowardice to message someone from a fake profile. If you wish to tell me something have the guts to say it without hiding your damn identity.
So I woke up this morning with twitter going crazy with regards to Sonu Nigam's controversial comments on a public platform. Whilst I was initially taken aback by his bold choice of words, would we as Muslims have reacted in the same way, if he complained about the sound of Church bells ringing or if he was irritated with the sound of early morning bhajans at a mandhir. Would we have made a noise with equal enthusiasm calling for religious tolerance or would we have not reacted at all. Why do we as Muslims have to react about every comment or statement that is made about our religion or religious practices. He resides in a democratic country where he has a right to voice his own opinion in the same way that I have a right to voice my opinion by stating that I was livid hearing the sound of horns emanating from a mandhir adjacent to our hotel in Mumbai a few years ago in the early parts of the morning as it was disturbing my sleep. Does it make me anti Hindu. Hell no. So why does his comment suddenly make him anti Muslim? A close friend of mine residing in India text me this morning about this issue and this is what he said, " As a Muslim, I fully support Sonu's stance. The high court in Mumbai has passed a law stating that there should be no athaan and bhajans from 10pm until 6am, yet there are masjids in our locality and temples that continue with their prayers on a loud speaker illegally defying the court ruling. I am surrounded by many masjids and sometimes the muazzins in these masjids literally have a competition with each other as to who makes the longest athaan or the loudest athaan or the best sounding athaan. This is not Islam. Islam and our beloved Prophet Muhammed (saw) does not condone the practice of disturbing others. We are encouraged to always follow the laws of a country and abide by them. We are not residing in a Muslim country. We need to accept this. I think he should have condemned noise pollution across the board targeting all religious groups rather than just signalling the athaan only. I do however fully understand his sentiments totally"
Why the bloody hypocrisy. For decades scholars have been debating the use of loudspeakers in Islamic countries. There are many suburbs in the Middle East where the athaan is not said over loudspeakers or it is said over a loudspeaker that is governed and regulated in terms of decibel levels. Even in Morocco whilst I was there, there was constant debate with regards to the calls to prayer via a loudspeaker. If there are many masjids in close proximity should all of them recite the athaan over the loudspeaker or will one athaan suffice for the entire neighbourhood? How loud should the athaan be in terms of decibel levels etc etc etc Why then have the Muslim community not come out guns blazing. There are many Muslim scholars in the Middle East who have suggested that the calls to prayer be regulated so as not to disturb the elderly or people following other religious faiths. I know of a Muslim family residing in Bahrain who complained to the authorities with regards to the call to prayer at fajr time as their home was right next to the mosque and their dad was a cancer patient who disliked noise. The sound was way over the recommended decibel levels. The authorities took their complaint into consideration and action was taken.Nowadays we have technology at our fingertips. We can listen to the athaan on our mobile phones and also through Athaan receivers in our homes without disturbing our neigbours. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and hence instead of displaying a mentality of tit for tat, we should be the one's accommodating to the needs of others. Is Mr. Nigam anti Muslim, NO he isn't. If he was he would not have learned music from a Muslim ustaath who he has revered and looked up to all his life, Muhammed Rafi Sahab would not have been his hero and idol and neither would he have maintained a 17 year long friendship with me. If he was anti-Muslim he would not choose to have a Muslim personal trainer, his drivers would not be Muslim and neither would his barber be Muslim. An anti Muslim person would not allow Muslims to pray salaah in their home either.Just to set the record straight, if I hail from a family that has many haafith and aalims that's great. All praises are due to the Almighty. But at the same time I was brought up in a home where we were allowed to explore other peoples cultures and faiths. I am proud to have friends from all over the world hailing from different socio- economic and religious backgrounds. We Muslims are a nation filled with hypocrisy. We are unable to tolerate practices of our fellow Muslims. We have created sectarianism and allowed religious intolerance to rear its ugly head within the banner of Islam. Yet we expect other nations and religious groups to adopt and have religious tolerance towards us. Knowing the person that he is, I am of the opinion that he returned home really exhausted and when he was woken up by the sound of the athaan he suddenly went on a rant in a fit of anger or frustration. Whilst he is a superstar, at the end of it all he is a human being and like any other human being he has a side that gets upset and angry etc. I have seen the human side of him on many occasions and it has only led to constructive criticism and dialogue between us. Whilst Mr. Nigam has certainly got thousands of knickers in a twist, I would like to thank him for sparking debate and dialogue on a global scale. To the coward who inboxed me, the only person who is shameless here is YOU, not only for judging me but for assuming that I am less of a Muslim for taking pictures with a person who has been my friend for almost 2 decades. Your idiotic comment means squat to me dearest for only Allah alone is the the supreme Judge and only to Him do I answer to. Always remember whilst you quick at pointing a finger at me, there are four fingers pointing right back at you!

For those of you who are not aware of the ruling:

If the majority of the residents are non-Muslims who are objecting to
the Athaan over the loudspeaker, then the Athaan should be given
without a microphone. It is not a Shar’i requirement for the Athaan

to be recited on the loudspeaker.



Mujlisul Ulama of S.A.

Perhaps the best comments I read with regards to the above topic is as follows:

"As a revert to the Islamic faith I am appalled and disgusted by the hate speech displayed by Muslims with regards to the Bollywood singer. Rather pray for the gentleman for the worst of people have been guided by God Almighty. A lot of Muslims are hypocrites. They will feel hurt and jump up in arms if something is mentioned about them yet when their own clerics spew hate speech against Jews and Christians no one stands up to condemn these actions. With regards to the athaan I lived in a neighbourhood where there were many masjids. Being a Muslim myself I use to be irritated with the fact that over 30 minutes there use to be 5 athaans and once again one masjid wanted to compete with the next in terms of loudness, not very courteous considering there was an old age home nearby... I felt that one athaan sufficed for the entire suburb.Correct me if I'm wrong but it's not compulsory for the athaan to be said on a loudspeaker..we should be encouraging good relationships with our neighbors..I believe his tweet was written in haste or anger straight after being woken up and has possibly been misinterpreted. Trust me if you are an insomniac like me the fight for sleep is real.
Remember I use to be Christian, so when I resided for a brief period of time in the Middle East I felt that forced religiousness was being imposed on me in terms of not being able to consume alcohol or eat pork for example. India has imposed forced religiousness to its citizens with regards to consuming beef. But that is the law of the country and you abide by it.. India is unique in a sense that its made up of a diversity of cultures and religions and whilst one needs to be extra careful with regards to your choice of words in order to prevent a religious war from igniting, you need to remember that due to corruption laws are never adhered to in India. In small localities you will find numerous masjids or mandhirs depending if it is a predominantly Muslim or Hindu locality and yes it becomes irritating when mandhirs and masjids compete with each other over a loudspeaker. The law is clear, no Hindu hymns, no church bells and no athaan from 9pm until 6am. Reading up more about the man at he centre of the controversy, why haven't Muslims come out in praise of his good deeds and charity work that he does not only for Hindu children but for thousands of Muslims kids in rural India. Why hasn't Muslims praised him for funding hundreds of kids with disabilities in India and in the Middle East many of whom are Muslims. Why hasn't anyone spoke about the love and respect he has for his Muslim teacher who is a fatherly figure in his life. There are hundreds of Muslims who listen to the athaan day in and day out and yet they do not pray. Their lives are empty without God in it but on social media they are quick to jump on the bandwagon and criticize a person who God can guide towards goodness one day. Islam has taught me to never ever look down upon anyone else or speak ill of them even if they are perceived as being wrong. To the Muslims who used vulgar language to defend their faith, two wrongs dont make a right. Would you be pleased to wake up at 4am everyday to the sound of blaring church bells and Sanskrit hymns in your bedroom in praise of a deity that does not fit in with your religious beliefs. If you alright with it that's great. But if not, I rest my case."

"I was Christian and I hated the sound of church bells blaring ding dong in my home. That however does not make me anti Christian. does it? Here's a video that I viewed sometime back. To all those Muslims who commented on the Bollywood singer fiasco, why haven't you as Muslims stood up in arms about such practices of spreading hate among other nations by brainwashing students which is a more serious issue than a silly tweet. Does Islam teach us to run down people of other faiths.""

Friday, March 31, 2017

Letter from a prisoner - The ladies prison

Image result for ladies prison in south africa
                                                Picture taken from

Crime is not confined to any one race, culture, age or gender. Just across the road from my concrete home is a slightly smaller version of the prison I am in, but it houses something most male inmates miss- ladies.
There are around 300 ladies at any given time. The ladies prison has separate sections for awaiting trial, maximum and minimum sentenced inmates. There is also a section for mothers and their infants; whom they can keep until they are 3 years old.

The 2 prisons are only separated by 2 walls and a few fences. To me, it wouldn’t make a difference if the 2 were separated by light years but for some the ladies provide the motivation one needs in a place like this.
There is almost no possibility of meeting the ladies in person. The only time that there is limited possibility of meeting is when the ladies visit our hospital, as I understand their hospital is very basic.

Communication with the ladies is possible. Sending and receiving of letters is not only legal but efficient. This medium is the most popular. In their letters both male and female inmates will write about their friends who are also looking for ‘love;’ in this way the communication circle always grows.
Due to English being my first language, many inmates come to me to edit their letters or sometimes even write it for them. The letters are one of the rare mediums through which inmates truly express their feelings and by which they let down the guard we unconsciously keep on full alert.
Perhaps it is due to my conservative upbringing and Islamic background that I am constantly amazed at the brazenness and directness of the correspondence. After just a couple of letters, ‘love’ is expressed in the most endearing ways and promises of a blissful life together are elaborately detailed. I put it down to just another form of escapism.
For a brief period, I wrote to a lady who was doing a very short sentence for fraud. From what she conveyed, it seems that the way female prisons are portrayed in movies is pretty much the way it is in reality. Fighting, rape and contraband is far more common as compared to a male prison; especially considering the vast disparity in numbers. My communication ended the day she wanted to “take the relationship further.”

Another means of communicating is through “facebook.” Not the Facebook you know! The top floors of the prison buildings are enclosed by concrete walls which are lined with small holes (about 10 by 10 cm). One such wall faces directly at an identical wall of the female prison, about 150m away. Inmates on either side get the attention of their ‘partners’ by waving a sock in a specific way through the holes. Once they receive a reply signal they each wear a sock on one hand. The socked hand is visually clear from their vantage points. They communicate and often have sessions lasting for hours during which they spell out each word by signalling out the word letter by letter.
I have sat and watched and but too slow to make out the words but am told by the users that they love their means of communication. Each ‘couple’ also have unique ways of saying ‘”I love you,” and other short sayings; they even have ways of blowing kisses!
Cell-phones are also present in the ladies prison so some are able to be in touch through more conventional methods.
Whilst these means are effective; nothings compares to being face to face, looking into each other’s eyes and whispering sweet I love you’s. This is a difficult proposition but not impossible.
At the hospital there are male inmates who work as cleaners and assistants to the nurses or doctors. They make money by sneaking males into the hospital toilets when the ladies come for treatment.
Unfortunately for them, they are unable to be with the ladies. They can only hold hands and chat through the toilet windows which overlook a courtyard which works as the waiting room.

There is one male inmate who works in the reception area and he has access to pretty much anywhere in the prison without any escort. This is the only guy who I know of that actually gets more than a handshake. Rumour has it that he is in fact a gigolo who ensures some of the women get a lot more than medical treatment. It could possibly be true as the inmate he replaced recently got Aids.

In the recent past, more intimate opportunities were possible from what I heard albeit restricted by a fence. When male and female inmates took the dustbins out to the dumping area, they were engaging in sexual intercourse through the wired fence. Recent visitors to the prison have noted that new fences are being installed, with significantly smaller gaps.
Whilst I don’t feel that many, if any, of these relationships are based on true love, it is evident that love truly knows no bounds.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

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

Image result for jail
                                                               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!