Author Archives: Fatima

slumdog

After hearing about how great a movie ‘Slumdog Millionare’ was, my husband and I decided we had to see it for ourselves. Yes, it’s a good movie and if you have the chance to see it, you will enjoy it. As we left the theatre, those around us were whispering how wonderful a movie it was and people were filing out with lingering smiles on their faces. But other than the main story line, we wondered how much of the subtlety the general english-speaking and American audience would understand. Could you understand what it meant for those children to live in a slum if you have never smelled the stench? Or to understand the ultimate achievement of Jamal if you have not witnessed how the impoverished are abused? Could they understand how cruel the child begger mobs are until a legless child holds out his hand to you for change?

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calling for knowledge

 

Pupils at Belarmino Elementary School in Manila demand that their teachers come back to teach them

Pupils at a primary school in the Philippine capital, Manila, demand that their teachers come back to teach them after learning of its closure to make way for a new sports complex.

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protecting children

This morning I was extremely saddened and outraged to read the article “Pakistani boy ‘killed by teacher” on BBC.  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7426980.stm

The story is about a seven year old boy who was hung upside down from a fan for not memorizing his Quran lessons, and as a result of this punishment, died.  The teacher has been arrested, but in no way is this justice for the young boy and his family.

I have visited a couple of these religious seminary schools because, lets face it, it is where you will find  the poorest of the poor children- and in the same breath, they are some of the most determined and gifted children.  I have heard them singing songs and beautifully reciting melodic pages after pages from memory of arabic text from the Quran (try it, it isn’t easy).  They have sat in my lap and played with my clothes.  Many of them come to these schools from hundreds of miles away, at a chance to learn and have a future.  They return to their families only a few times a year, an experience I only endured upon leaving for college at 18.  From the schools I have visited, the children are well cared for, well fed, and happy.  In these schools they have a purpose and are shielded from many ills that perpetuate the cycle of poverty on the streets and in the villages.  Included in their religious education were subjects such as math, languange and geography.  Some who graduate become teachers themselves or learned scholars in their small villages.  But just as we would expect for our own, these kids should have even better. 

Reading the article about this young boy has left a hole in my heart.  Children must be protected and safe from abuse before any enrichment process can begin.

This is a picture I took at one such school.  These are orphaned girls.  They seem shy in the picture since for many of them, this was the first picture anyone had ever taken of them.  Afterwards, they swarmed around me to see the digital image and giggled to each other about how they looked. 

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shoes

We all need a good pair of shoes 🙂  Enjoy this picture!

Blacksmith in Kandahar, Afghanistan

A blacksmith in Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar makes shoes for a donkey.

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taare zameen par

Last weekend I watched a wonderful movie by Amir Khan called, “Taare zameen par”, which loosely translated means ‘stars on earth’. The production, acting and dialogue are wonderful and comparable in creativity and quality to hit independent movies. The story is about a young boy with a learning disability and his parents frustrations due to his explosive behavioral problems. I was so pleased to see a mainstream Bollywood movie tackling such a social issue with understanding and grace. Please watch it. I would love to hear your comments.

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reading & rushdie

A few weeks ago I heard a lecture by the world renown author, Salman Rushdie. A man whose mere mention evokes controversy and emotion for many. Even my mother asked me, “Why do you want to hear what he has to say?” But I thought, what good has my education and upbringing done for me if I can not use it to engage myself intellectually with controversial issues? I wanted to hear what he would say, knowing that I may disagree with his comments. I think most people know of Salman Rushdie for his controversial novel, “The Satanic Verses”, which generated much criticism from the Muslim world and even drew an order threatening his life. However, I was surprised that despite my criticism for some of his arguments, I found myself appreciating other arguments he offered, including his view on literature.

  

Rushdie grew up in Bombay, a city established by the British in India. Rushdie says that this dynamic of the city made him aware of Eastern and Western culture at a very early age. His family was friends with the Urdu poet, Faiz, and he credits his early literary influence to him. He says it is through literature that he learned about the world. His point was that reading literature from different parts of the world is a way for us to access foreign places, people and cultures.

 

Although fictional stories may have many things that are ‘made-up‘, the environment and the character’s reactions to events teach us much about culture. He noted how literature used to be the method that brought news to the world. He gave the example of when Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, met President Lincoln in 1862, he said, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!” Her novel, being based on actual experiences and anecdotes, was vital in starting the movement opposing slavery. He stressed the importance that we should read about other cultures. A statistic he cited was that less than 2% of books published in the US are translations not originally written in English. American English readers are denied access to a large portion of the world’s literature.

 

Despite modern technology, I sometimes wonder how all this advancement has caused us to become more lazy, more sheltered. We can easily access the news online, on demand, even watch “one minute world news.” But what are we really learning about the world and each other through these ‘short cuts’? Now that I have less time to read, I find myself choosing non-fiction books in the hopes I can learn something solid in the time I have. Perhaps I need to pick up a good foreign novel next time.

 

On a somewhat lighter note, Salman Rushdie also wrote the lyrics to the U2 song, “The ground beneath her feet”. Here is the video to the song…

 

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reuniting love

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but is it true even after 35 years? 

Yesterday there was an article on BBC about a man named Kashmir Singh who was released from a Pakistani jail after 35 years and reunited with his wife and children in India.  It was a Human Rights Minister in Pakistan named Ansar Burney, who worked for his pardon after Mr. Singh was convicted of espionage in 1973 and was lost in the red tape of the prison system.  But no, this is not a political story.  It’s a love story.  His wife, Paramjit Kaur, struggled alone to raise their three children as a single parent.  Below is an excerpt from the article: 

“Referring to his spouse using the honorific, ‘begum’, Mr Singh said that when he last saw her she was a pretty young woman. ‘She is still beautiful but has grown old now,’ he laughed admitting that he remembered very little about his three children. He said it was his memory of his wife that kept his hopes alive through the 35 years of solitary confinement. ”

 True love & respect doesn’t need roses and diamond rings; this is as good as it gets.

Paramjit Kaur - wife of Kashmir Singh - with their photo before he disappeared

 Mrs. Kaur waiting to see her husband after 35 years. 

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