The Poem

September 8, 2008


 There is nothing to do in the mornings of Ramadan. I get up at nine after the late night dinner at four in the morning, the Fajr prayer at 4;45 and an hour or two, of Qur’an recitation, and till around eleven, I just end up walking here and there. Sometimes I try dusting the furniture, sometimes I browse something and sometimes I try rearranging my kitchen and bedroom. But that cannot be done everyday. So after three four days, I end up having nothing to do. It was on one of those days, while simply cleaning the last-week-cleaned shelf, I came across my college magazine, published when I was doing my sixth semester, or third year. I have cherished this magazine, after throwing away all other magazines published during the other three years. I have kept it with me because I was the student editor of it. Titled the ‘Scroll’ with a grey cover, the magazine lay at the bottom of my bookshelf. I still remember the day it got published. I was happy and proud. There was a small speech by the Principal (we call him Princy for short), after which we, I and our staff editor Anila madam, passed the magazine, neatly wrapped, to our Princy. He tore the wrappings on the magazine and held it high for all of us to see it, and then presented it to the guest of honor, I don’t remember the person. I was so proud.

After the event, we returned to our classes and the magazine was distributed in all the classes. The next day, one of my classmates Nisha came to me and asked, “Where is the poem I gave to you? You haven’t published it!”

Yeah, I remember her poem. After I was elected as the student editor for the magazine, I began asking my friends and everyone who I saw on the campus corridor for articles. Nisha was one of the first students to come up with an article. I was pleased with her. She has given me a beautiful poem named as ‘Rashtreeyamen bhoovil’ meaning ‘Politics of My Country’, describing the political situation of present India. I was really wondered to see such a talent in her. I scolded my self for not getting close enough to her to know about the great blessing God have given her. I took it to Anila Madam, for her verification.

“Such a big topic described in such a small and wonderful poem!” Anila madam exclaimed. She was happy to get a good work from her students on the first days of our endeavor.

Days flew by, and within two months we had been loaded with a huge amount of articles from around the college. My book shelf was full of A4 sheets, and so was Anila madam’s table. We burned the midnight oil in our editing process for so many days, selecting the good ones, selecting the not so good ones to be given back and editing the average ones to make it a good one. There were only a few articles that was too good to be edited, one of them the poem of Nisha.

After about three months as the editor, students started asking me where the magazine was (as if a magazine was something you could pluck from a tree!). I was busy running behind it to get ads for it, and get good and affordable printing press and also preparing for my internal exams. Some of them even asked me if I have used the money provided for the magazine by the college to have some dinner party. I kept quite to those mocking questions. They complain of the busy schedule they have when it comes to practicals, records and exams. So why can’t they think about me? I am also having those practicals, records and exams, and also the magazine to do with. Do I have an extra hour in the day that they don’t have? Well, I was under tremendous pressure those days.

After the exams, I started again with my work of the magazine. I have got enough ads with me now, thanks to the ad team and I have found out a good press. Anila madam was also there to help me. We were coming to college after the meeting with the press owner, when Anila madam spoke about her cousin, a well known Malayalam author. I have seen him before at some meetings. He was an old man, may be in his sixties. He was almost bald, and the remaining hair was snow white. There was a pleasance in him with a sweet smile always on his face, and he seemed like a loving grandfather to all.

“Why don’t we ask him to help us with our editing?” She asked.

I thought it was a good idea. He could edit the articles better than us. The next day we fixed an appointment with him, and gave him all the articles. He asked us to come back and collect it the following week.

The next week, I along with my classmate went to meet him to collect the edited work. Anila madam was busy with some work, so she asked me to take someone else with me. We had tea with him and a little chat. He was really a great man with so much of knowledge. I instantly became a fan of him, even though I haven’t read any of his works. After the tea, he introduced his family to us. Then he went inside his library and brought the articles with him.

“Here are your articles. I have edited them all. Some are too good to be edited.” He congratulated the young talented generation of authors and expressed his happiness to see such good budding authors. We were also happy to hear it. He was complimenting our college. We were beaming.

He then took a paper from his pocket, and said, “I haven’t edited this poem. Can you please collect it after two days?”

I noticed the poem by Nisha, and wondered what was there to be edited in such a good poem. But I gave him my consent.

After two days, I went with Anila madam to collect the poem. Aftr the usual salutations, he went inside his library.

He came out with an old magazine. The pages where yellow in color and it broke where ever he bent it. It smelt of cockroaches and there where some silverfish running on it. He turned the pages with utmost care. He stopped at one page, and held the magazine at us. Anila madam took it in her hands while I moved closer to her. The page was yellow in color with letters of the old Malayalam font printed in black, and curiously I looked at the date on the page. August 1970.

There was a poem in it, named ‘Ente Bharatham’ meaning ‘My India’. It was written by the man sitting in front of us. I stared at the lines of the poem and it seemed very familiar. Yeah, the poem by Nisha. This was it.

We both looked at him in shame. But he seemed cool. Anila madam started to apologize for Nisha. But the author never took notice of it. He started speaking, “You know why this student of yours selected this poem for the magazine? Because India still faces the problems it faced in the 60s and 70s. This poem stands true even today.”

He was not angry with Nisha for stealing his poem. I thought he seemed happy that Nisha stole his work. He went on.

“That was my first article that got printed in a magazine. Even though I have forgotten my other works, I never forgot my first published work. It was like my first child.” He started explaining the history during the 60s and 70s.

We had no time for these long lectures, and so we said goodbye to him soon. Anila madam apologized once again for stealing his work. But he was never bothered about it. He asked us to give him a copy of our magazine as soon as it got published. We promised him we will do that.

Days flew by and at last the magazine got published, thanks to the layout team, editing team, finance team and all others who directly and indirectly helped with the work. Phew! I was more than relieved to see that all the problems where over. But I was wrong.

It was on the next day when Nisha came to me and asked me about her poem. There were many of our friends and classmates around us and so I didn’t know what to say to her. Saying that she had copied the work in front of these many students may make our friendship end forever, and make her feel very bad. And to be honest, I was a little weak in such matters. I muttered something about giving it to the press to be published and simply wondered why it was not there. I thought that solved the matter. I still don’t know if I have done the right thing.

Two days later, an office staff came to our class and delivered a notice. ‘The principal wants to meet Najeeba of sixth semester Electronics and Communications Engineering branch’. I saw some fifty pair of eyes turning at me. Usually Princy only calls students who have done something against the rules of college, or somebody who still haven’t paid the fees. Moreover, Princy was the last person we would want to meet in our college life. I felt something stumbling inside my stomach.

When I reached the cabin of my most dreaded Princy, I found I was not alone. There stood Anila madam. So something about the magazine. I thought. May be he is not satisfied with the financial account of the magazine. And yeah, he is not satisfied with anything. I thought.

I asked permission to enter. I stood near Anila madam, and the expression on her face told me that she knew nothing about this enquiry. Princy was looking at some papers and never bothered to look at us for a few minutes.

Without looking at us, he started, “I have got a complaint here against the editors of the magazine.”

A few moments of silence when Princy carried on his paper work.

“What is the complaint, Sir?” asked Anila madam, with as much politeness as she could. I mused in the irony of her politeness, when she shouts at our mischief in the class. We stand in politeness in front of Anila madam, while she stands in politeness in front of the Princy. Wonder where he stands with his head down. May be in front of the Technical Education Officer. And that person in front of – well, I don’t know. I thought I have found a new pyramid here apart from the one I learned at school – The Pyramid of Food Chain. Now, my new discovery will be called The Pyramid of Politeness. The top most part will be for God. And then –

My thread of thoughts was broken by Princy’s voice.

“I got here a complaint from Nisha, that her article was not included in the magazine.”

We were surprised. The thought never even occurred to us. Nisha complaining for not publishing her stolen work! How dare of her! And that too, let alone me, against Anila madam.

Princy looked up at us for the first time, expecting an answer from either of us.

“Sir, her work was a stolen poem sir, from the People magazine dating august 1970.” Anila madam explained.

“Oh, yeah? Where did you get that magazine now?” Seemed princy did not believe what Anila madam said. I became angry with him. What reason does he think he has to believe Anila madam is lying?

“Sir, we edited our articles with the help of …, the famous Malayalam writer. It was his article that she has copied. He gave us the magazine in which the poem was published for verification.”

Anila madam explained. I stood there with my mouth shut. I never dared to talk to this person.

“Well then, you can go.” He dismissed us. It was when I came out that I found I was sweating all over. His cabin seemed too hot. May be because of his high temperature.

“What a girl this Nisha is! Wanting to publish the stolen work!” Anila madam exclaimed.

“Yes, she asked me about her poem the day after the magazine was published.” I said.

“Really?” Anila madam seemed surprised. “What did you say?”

“I didn’t say anything.” I said. “She was my good friend, and so I thought keeping quiet was better.”

“But you were not her good friend,” Anila madam observed, “or she would have not gone to complain about us.”

Yeah, may be. I tried not to humiliate her in front of others, but this is how she paid me back.

“Leave it, Najeeba.” I heard Anila madam consoling me. “Just take it as some of the funs during your college life, for you to smile at your old age.”

“Yes, madam.” I smiled. Actually I was too happy to be out of Princy’s cabin to think about Nisha and her poem. “And keep this between you me and the Principal. Not a word to anybody.”

How nice of her. I wanted to report this incident to all so that they could understand the real nature of Nisha. But Anila madam has put an end to it.

“Yes, madam.” I gave a reluctant consent.

We dispersed into our classes, Anila madam as a teacher and me as a student. Friends came asking me why Principal called me, and I answered it was to ask about some financial matters regarding the magazine. I saw Nisha two benches apart from me, looking at me, happy for her revenge. But a few minutes later, another notice arrived asking Nisha to meet the Princy. I saw her going to meet him, and everyone in our class was surprised. It was rare Princy calling two students of the same class to meet him on the same day. She came back after some fifteen minutes, with her head down. I heard someone asking what the matter was, and she replying something about not paying the fees. The matter was over.

Nisha never spoke to me after the incident, and I never wanted to be the first to speak. So we ended our college life.

 All this happened some five years back. I still have contact with Anila madam, she has been retired and now leads a happy life with her children and grandchildren. I heard that Nisha was married to an engineer working at Baba Atomic Research Center, Kanyakumari. She works as a software engineer. I have got her email id with me in our classmates’ database. I send mails and forwards to everyone in the database except to Nisha.

When I was going through the pages of the magazine, a new thought came to me. It is Ramadan, a time to mend broken strings of friendship and family. So I thought, why not send her a mail. With much difficulty I typed one, and sent it to her, with a ‘BCC’ to Anila madam. I took care not to say anything about the incident or the magazine. That was two days back.

Today I received her reply, with photos of her hubby, herself and their cute little princess attached to it. I was so glad to receive it. And there was Anila madam’s reply too, saying that she was very happy to see that we have built up the broken parts of our friendship.

Thank you Ramadan!


The Tamarind Seed

July 14, 2008

The calender on the wall said three more days. Three more days for the big event, my wedding. But there were a lot of work to do, that I cannot sit and dream about the event. Friends and relatives will be arriving from tomorrow onwards. I have got to clean my room, make it comfortable for my friends who will come on the eve of the wedding, clean my shelf, and a lot of work to do. I haven’t got the wedding dress from the tailor. Will go to him today evening, I thought. But now, I’ll have to start with some other work. I thought for a moment, and decided to start with the shelf. I calculated the time needed for that job, may be one hour or maximum two hours. That means by lunch time, I can finish the shelf. After lunch, I’ll start with the room. Good. I thought to myself.
But when I opened my shelf, I knew my plans were not going to work. The shelf itself needed a
full 24 hours to clean it. There were so many letters which I have started saving form my seventh grade, cards, gifts and the little bits of paper we pass among friends during a boring lecture, all piled up on one rack. The single rack may take my time until lunch, I amused. I wanted to keep all those letters, gifts, cards and all, but I decided to burn the letters. Those letters from my friends have got many of their sighs and giggles that I prefer to keep to myself. I took the pile and kept it on my lap to select the letters form it.
. I smoothed the bit of paper that lay on top of the pile and read.
‘Boring class, wou ld you like some fun? Ayathullah’
‘Sure, what do we do?’ – My reply.
‘Draw a funny picture about Sathyan Sir taking the class and pass it to everyone.’
‘Ok, you do the drawing, I’ll do the writing, and we will pass it.’
I remember the sleepy class waking into a bright day of suppressed giggles when the picture was passed. But, sadly, I never got the picture back.
I put the smoothened bit of paper into a box. Next I took a heap of letters to be burnt, and there was a small piece of rose colored chalk lying beneath it, engraved ‘With love, Jeena’. Jeena gave it
to me on my birthday. Next, there was card from Femi, with the postman’s notice for not putting the stamp on it. She says she had pasted the stamp, but it must have fallen somewhere ‘coz when I got it, there was the 5 Dirhams bill on it for sending it without a stamp. I put that to in the box. There was puppets made of chocolate coverings, given to me by my friend Anitha when I we were in higher secondary. A cute and tiny glass basket, with glass fruits. I got it for my 20th birthday from Sumi, one of my best friends. I kept the basket in my shelf, near to my foto. There was this big gift which I got from my friend’s would be, a huge Guiness record book of 1999. I have even got the gift wrappers neatly folded. There was a puppy doll given to me by my friend Shaheena, when we celebrated our christmas friend at college.
A mock love letter given to me by Krishna came next. I was sure the letter was not written by him but his friends for the fun of it, and I kept it among the letters to be burnt. I wanted to keep it, but what if some one who read it never got the fun in it? There was another love letter below it, written by me and my friends for one of my friend, Nadiya. That was during our first year at college, and the seniors, as a part of ragging, asked her to write a love letter to her family friend, our senior in college. We wrote in Malappuram slang which is difficult for many to understand. That letter was a huge hit in our college, and I saved the rough copy. I put that in the box. The cards that came next fell into the box of saved items. There were some more bits of papers, self made cards and some drawings of my friends which was put in the box. A bunch of beautifully drawn cartoons by my friend Mirfath came next. Her letters also had pictures drawn on it. I saved all of them for the pictures drawn by her, when we were in our tenth grade.
When I took the last letter to be burnt, a tamarind seed fell from it.

I have told you about the tamarind seed in the last post. The memento given to me by my friend. We were not very good friends, but just friends who would pass by with a ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. We had nothing in common to share, were very different. I don’t remember exactly, but I think we had some fights also. I am very bad at remembering people, and so I would have forgotten her without the tamarind seed. When I picked up the tamarind seed, I remembered the moments when she gave me the seed, and asked not to throw it away. I have kept my word. The tamarind seed was placed at a corner of the box.
I tied the box, plastered it and put it in my shelf, with the memories of my school and college days. I then went to burn the heap of letters, saved during the last 11 years.


July 14, 2008

I thought and thought and thought …. What to write on blog today? Seems I’ve got nothing to share with you all. I started reading other blogs. Beautiful Muslimah has put a nice cream costume on her blog. I just stared at it, ‘coz I’m sure I cannot wear it. My hubby will never allow it. There was some nice articles in Shuhaib Webb‘s too. I read Asad123‘s Nitrogen Cycle Poem, but didn’t get the whole of it. Just understood its a nitrogen cycle, but I felt there may be something else in it that I didn’t get. There wasn’t any new posts in the other blogs, so I did not open them. There was not much to do at home, as my co-sis said she will do the cooking. I tried to concentrate on the cleaning, but I couldn’t. So I thought I would come back to the blogging.
Hubby, me and my in-laws planned for a Umrah during August first week. But when we inquired the fee for stamping our visa, they said it was AED 500. Last year it was only AED 300 for a person. 500 per person meant 5*500 = 2500 in all. Return flight tickets costs
around AED 1000 for a single person, ‘coz we have got ID tickets. So the sum get 7500. Food, room and other costs extra. So , we just dropped the plan. How can a normal family live on with such a high rise in prices? My MIL once said, when she joined as a school teacher in 70s, her basic salary could buy around 100 grams of gold. When she retired in 2003, with increased salary and other allowances, she could buy only around 10 grams of gold. Such a big difference within 30+ years! In 2006, when I came to Dubai, the rice ( palakkadan matta rice) cost only AED 2 per kilo. Now its AED 5.50! We eat it twice daily. Whose fault is this? Who should we blame? To whom should we complaint about this?
I was thinking about all of these when my Uncle, living near by, came to see me. He came from India yesterday. He had my mom’s letter for me. I was glad to get it. I haven’t seen anyone writing letters except me and my mom, and sometimes my brothers, Nawaz and Nasweef. My hubby and in-laws sometimes make fun of me, but there is that special letter bond between me and my family which is maintained through letters – and only through letters. There are so many things special about a letter, not found in emails or any other type of communication.

  • Letters always start with “Endearest” or at least a “dear’ while emails start with a ‘hi’ and phone calls with a ‘hello’.
  • The handwriting of our loved ones is so nice to see. Ok, I agree with you – the voice of our loved onces is also so nice to hear.
  • When you are on an international call, there is no time to go to the less important details. Letters bring you all the details aat home, however minute they are.
  • Letters end with a “loving,…” while emails usually end with “regards” and phone-calls with a “bye”.
  • There will be many prayers to God, for me, in my mom’s letter. She gets no time for that while on phone.
  • Letters will be written when you are free, and so i will be stuffed with the writer’s love. You don’t know when and where you are answering your phone to stuff your sentences with love.

There are many more reasons to which I love letters. I can read them again and again. I can keep it as a treasure in my personal drawer. I can kiss the letters, it gives a feeling of kissing the person who wrote the letter. I hold it near to my heart when I feel lonely, sad or nostalgic, it would bring an unknown strength. I had all the letters sent by my family and friends, till my marriage. I burnt it before my marriage, ‘coz it contained the woes, tears, smiles, laughter, frights, romances, life and love of my friends, which i decided not to share with anyone else. But I still have got the little bits of papers we passed in our class, the cards sent by my friends and their presents. I value them more than anything. I have with me a seed of tamarind which a friend gave me when we departed from school. I haven’t heard of her since, but I know she is thinking of me when I take the tamarind seed in my hand!

Mirror and friends

June 18, 2008

Mirror and friend – what do they have in common? There is a proverb in malayalam – If you got a friend indeed, then you won’t get a mirror, in need. Well, I sometimes wonders why those old people put it with mirror and friend, they could have put something better than mirror for a friend – like eyes, hands, legs, tongue, etc. These thoughts come into my mind usually on the saturdays or sundays that comes after an exam, during my college life, when you sit simply and have nothing to do. Those days are really boring, you have got know exams, assignments, homeworks – nothing to do, until the next semester commences. Then you wish if you had those nothing-to-do weekends back! Thats what I said in my second post – you wish everything were here if there is nothing, and when you get it, you wish it was gone! Human mind!
It was on one of those nothing-to-do days when one of us wanted to have a mirror in our apartment. There were nine of us – all girls, doing our graduation and staying together in an apartment. Most of us had small mirrors with us, but that was not enough, especially while dressing, to get a full view. So we thought about it and decided to buy a big mirror, if and only if our budget allowed it. We started spending less on our mobiles, snacks, cool drinks – and everything we thought unnecessary. We wanted to have an elegant looking mirror in our room. We went to different furniture shops to find out the best in quality and cost. At last we found one, and bought it home.
I am a person who doesn’t care much about my looks. I don’t use the mirror except for combing my hair, and while combing I concentrate only on the hair. The hair done, I turn away from the mirror. I don’t usually use creams on my face, or kajal in my eyes or any other cosmetics, except some Vaselineor a lotion of rose water and glycerine on dry and windy days. I find some of my friends standing hours infront of the mirror, applying creams on their face, combing their hair, giving the final touches to their scarf or hijab, pinning their shalls, and what not! But I never thought a mirror necessary for these activities. I do most of it without a mirror.

Well, there I was living peacefully and happily, when they ( including me) bought the mirror and found the place near my bed to keep it. It was at the foot of my bed, and so while lying in my bed, I was able to see myself in full view. Whack! What a boring scene, to look at your face all day! At first I found it difficult, to see myself laughing, giggling, crying and shouting all the day. But then I got used to it, and started looking more into the mirror to see myself more. And thats how the problem started.
One fine morning, when I was looking at myself into the mirror, I noticed a dark spot on my face. I went closer to the mirror, and there it was – a dark color under my eyes, on my cheeks. I called Sumi, my roommate and showed her the spot. But she didn’t notice anything new in it at all!

“Oh, that was there all time. And its not that dark to be noticed!” she said.
I was angry with her for not giving me any proper explanation or advice.
“Sumi, tell me the name of something to apply on my face to make that spot disappear.” I begged her.
“Ok, if you insist, I’ll give you a cream. Apply it at night, before going to bed.” She said.” But I assure you, there is nothing to worry about it.”
I wasn’t assured with her words, and so I started using the cream. I didn’t notice any changes for the first one week. I decided to change the cream if it didn’t show any effect after applying for one more week. After two weeks, on one morning, when I looked myself in the mirror, I was shocked. The dark spot has widened and become darker! I called Sumi, and asked her what to do. She sat by my side.

“Hey, Najee, I have told you already that there is nothing to worry about those dark spots. But you didn’t listen to me. Now, after applying the cream, you have become fairer, and so the dark spot darker and wider. Please understand that. There was no dark spot on your skin. But when you keep looking into the mirror, you keep looking expecting to see some thing on your face, and then you imagine that there is something. That’s all.”
I didnot think she was right, but I had to promise her not to look too much into the mirror, and not to use any creams on my face. I turned my bed away from the mirror. Now that I couldnot look into the mirror for a long time, I forgot about the spot. I stood infront of the mirror only for doing my hair.
Now, I have got no time to watch myself in the mirror, with the duties of a housewife. And so the dark spot has never become a problem. But I learned that friendship is better than a mirror at hand – may be better than our hand, legs, eyes etc. I don’t know about that 🙂 !