Happiness Through The Hour-Glass

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If you had asked me what happiness meant a decade ago, my answer would have read: it’s finally coming home to good food and a warm bed. You see, I was in a boarding school that availed me only the basic luxuries—as basic as they could get. When I posed the same question to a group of friends, answers differed with each person defining happiness as best he could, given the prevailing circumstances of their lives.

I used to think this was a one-definition-fits-all thing; that you could tell people what should give them lasting happiness, and that the sum of one’s feeling would be their dreams, both short and long-term, fulfilled. I may have been wrong.

It explains why a person living in luxury would consider suicide when they can afford everything they ever wanted. Why a mother would kill her own baby if children are God’s gift to man. Why certain people suffer spousal abuse, if the call to marriage is the highest union that two people can find. Why privileged children run away from home, when there are less privileged that would die to have just a bit of their part. Or why some go into crime even when provided for by the State. The paradox is that people want happiness but do not understand why their desires, now fulfilled, leave them feeling hollow still.

The much I’ve come to know is that our personal and collective definition of happiness changes the longer the sands pass though the hour-glass. It was Heraclitus who said that no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man. If human character was subject to time and experience, one’s perception of happiness is also subject to the same prevailing influence.

It brings some perspective into this ever elusive definition. In fact I am willing to bet that if I threw open the same question, obvious as the answer(s) may seem, it will take some thoughts to offer one that pleases you.

So I asked myself again: what does happiness mean to me?

Over time it has been so many things, but the passage of time has helped to refine my perception. The more sand has escaped from the hour-glass of my life, the clearer I see through it. Whereas happiness used to mean getting as much as I could within the shortest possible interval; now it is knowing that happiness is not in achievement itself, but in the journey between how soon I want it and when I eventually get it.

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Intricate

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It took staring at a leafless tree for days and struggling to still my hands from reaching for a camera to come to this; to realize how monotonous life is when we allow it. Wake up. Eat. Work. Sleep. And perhaps pull out our cameras and take a shot ever so often. It’s not difficult to see how one can remain absolutely clueless about the world and the delicate beauty it harbors.

Few days ago I conversed with a friend. We talked about the special things that make us tick—mine were books and photography—and then about joy, sadness and emotions. At the time I felt what it could be like to exist in a space without experiencing it. It’s a lot like catching a nice view and jumping in just in time to take a picture, before the moment passes. That is the power of photography: the ability to freeze time, as good as elemental power can get for us, until you take a closer look at your picture and a whole new wonder explodes—like that Dragonfly. I always thought it ordinary till I took note of the light play on its wings.

“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”  Psalm 139:15

I think of humans like that, artistically formed. We are the wonders of creation with our diverse characters and emotions. There are seasons to life, every emotion carefully woven in the fabric of time. Our feelings of joy and sadness are each a part of who we are, so that we are a bit more appreciative of the moments in our lives. To know that our highs and lows are not just symbols of our strengths and failures; they are also testament to the intricacy of the human soul. It’s great to know that we are alike and yet so different, and it will always be a wonder plying one road to discover the depths of a single being; to move past this monotony and experience life, not exist in it.

I learned a good photographer is one able to tell a story with a picture and infuse his essence into the frame. I’m not that kind of hobbyist yet, but I hope to get there someday. Likewise I believe this also forms the basis of our humanity: our ability to see past the visible darkness and confidently step into the lives of others. I’m not that kind of human either, but hope to find the courage someday to hear your stories.

At Christmas

Christmas Hope Quotes Sayings, quotes_ edgar guest photo quoto

A man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season’s here;
Then he’s thinking more of others than he’s thought the months before,
And the laughter of his children is a joy worth toiling for.

He is less a selfish creature than at any other time;
When the Christmas spirit rules him he comes close to the sublime.
When it’s Christmas man is bigger and is better in his part;
He is keener for the service that is prompted by the heart.

All the petty thoughts and narrow seem to vanish for awhile
And the true reward he’s seeking is the glory of a smile.
Then for others he is toiling and somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas, he is almost what God wanted him to be.

If I had to paint a picture of a man I think I’d wait
Till he’d fought his selfish battles and had put aside his hate.
I’d not catch him at his labors when his thoughts are all of pelf,
On the long days and the dreary when he’s striving for himself.

I’d not take him when he’s sneering, when he’s scornful or depressed,
But I’d look for him at Christmas when he’s shining at his best.
Man is ever in a struggle and he’s oft misunderstood;
There are days the worst that’s in him is the master of the good,

But at Christmas, kindness rules him and he puts himself aside
And his petty hates are vanquished and his heart is opened wide.
Oh, I don’t know how to say it, but somehow it seems to me
That at Christmas, man is almost what God sent him here to be

. ~Edgar Albert Guest

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I find a lot of truth to this poem. And I pray that the spirit of this season carries all of us into the new year and always.

Merry Christmas.
Shine on 🙂

Shadows

candle

It was a starless night. The wind howled like a lone wolf outside and the little filtered by the mosquito net barring the window carried the promise of a heavy downpour. We gathered inside the tiny room housing two of us as was our ritual, were we would talk about everything and nothing in particular. A candle stood regally upon the study table, casting its warm glow upon the room and beside it sat a Bible in its divine glory, one of the most show-cased and least opened books.

They said I never say much. I smiled. As always there was little to say. We were but different people brought together by providence. They talked about study, boys, family, religion, food, sex, love. I smiled and laughed on cue, all the time thinking of how much we had changed.

Yes, there was always so much to talk about. The conversation went on around me, one minute building into a crescendo, followed by a barrage of laughter and the next, a sound no louder than a whisper.

I looked to my right and sniffed the air again, rain. Then a muffled sound snapped me out of my reverie. I held my breath as my heart raced and adrenaline pumped into my muscles numbed from sitting Buddha style. Something was out there. The conversation went on, and into fear grappled mind words finally began to filter through: slut…not so beautiful…poorly dressed…likes men…sleeps…lecturers…

I shook my head to clear my mind and turned back to my companions. Lightening flashed and from the corner of my eyes I caught a glimpse of a silhouette huddled behind the door.

Few minutes after the door opened and she strutted into the room. A quick glance at her downcast eyes confirmed my already budding suspicion. She’d been listening. I glanced at my companions who moments ago struck by dumbness, so artfully recovered and now launched into new horizons like they weren’t moments ago gossiping about our once absent friend. She flopped on the mattress and joined in the conversation, her sentences so often punctuated by childlike laughter.

I wondered at humans– the length we would go to make ourselves feel better. How easy it was to misunderstand others simply because they lived different lives from ours, or at least what we are used to having around us. Why it was so easy to forgive a child for being too trusting, looking at the world like a playground, and choosing to see only the inherent good in others; while with adults we brand them honorary titles like slut. But do we really grow out of our childish nature or does our shell just grow bigger? Do we don new clothes, fresh masks every day, live like society dictates and find a drug for our unhappiness and frustration? We carry bibles; hide behind religion or whatever else makes us feel good, pretending to be upright, but inside we are simply a bitter lot, people very much unsatisfied with life, hoping for redemption.

Behind each girl was a story– experiences, mistakes, choices, life. I saw dreams that could best be likened to fairy tales woven in the web of time and left to gather dust because of fear– fear of society, and fear of the unknown. But she was different, brave. So much had changed around her but she seemed untouched. She’d wrapped her past around her but was never deterred by it. She was life. She was like the candle: tall, regal, warm and full of light.

The flame flickered, casting a shadow. Its light shifting, changing, and then it was back to normal.

From across the room our eyes met and held. She regarded me briefly and I read the unspoken questions in them. I burned in shame. Then slowly her lips curved into a smile and I knew all was forgiven.

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I wrote this a year ago (June 2014) and since my brain is slightly short-circuited right now, I figured it worth digging up stuff from my archive. This was one of my earlier attempts writing something that looked like a story, 🙂 I can’t tell if I succeeded or not so you can be the judge.

See you around.

A Tale Of Bobby

He was virginal white, full of life and every bit active. I fell utterly in love the first day we met.

Aunt had just come home from a very busy day at work and we went out to welcome her and bring in the bags. I usually didn’t take part in the boot-clearing-bag-carrying ritual because the parents were the only ones older than I was. It was family tradition to leave work like this for the younger kids.

After a few minutes I came out to loud exclamations from the younger kids. They all stood gathered round an object, and were  obviously fascinated by what they saw. Curious, I took a few steps closer to see what had put the spark in their eyes… that was when I met him. Adorable, ginormous, probably obese creature. I named him Bobby.

Bobby like I mentioned earlier was full of life. He made himself quite comfortable at home. He knew all the entrances to the house, and would on certain occasions find his way into the store in the kitchen. I assumed he was pecking away at crumbs left by my feisty little cousin. Sometimes Bobby would strut into the living room clucking like he paid the rent and we were mere visitors. I remember fondly one such occasion.

PHCN had struck again in the early hours of the night and the living room was without a light source. Being quite comfortable in darkness and knowing like the back of my palm every nook of the house, I didn’t bother walking with one. I made my way to sit at the dinning table (which is my favourite spot) when I felt this cool rush of  breeze on my bare legs. I smiled in contentment thanking God for such small wonders (having the wind blow on your bare legs is an awesome feeling). This went on for a few minutes with only a brief intermittent pause before the next rush came, when suddenly something stabbed me on the foot. I yelled an ouch and jumped up from my very comfortable sit, when I heard what was unmistakably Bobby’s cluck. All these while he had been busy having the time of his life under the dinning table and apparently I was interrupting and crowding him. It would seem my brief cooling sensation was actually a ‘back off I got here first’ warning which I failed  to decode and so being what he was, he went violent. I flung open the door, and poked him with a cane till he found his way back out in the cold– after making me chase him round the sitting room.

That’s how comfortable Bobby made himself. He didn’t mind at all that he was actually an early Easter gift from a family friend, and that we were someday going to have to eat him. No, he didn’t mind at all. He just took control of his environment and the house. In fact he almost became a Dog. Whenever we left the gate carelessly open, he’d take a walk down the Close and still find his way back home for a drink of water and feed. We all loved Bobby.

Then came the day Aunty had to kill him. I begged and pleaded that Bobby’s life be spared. I forgot that he annoyed me consistently every morning when he would deliberately choose to make his morning cry below my window. I forgot that he would walk into the living room and leave his mark with that horrid stench. I forgot that I had the duty of feeding him every morning. I forgot all that, I just wanted Bobby to live. But Aunt wouldn’t hear of it. She chased him down– and he did try to escape, my obese friend– and caught him. She held him down with a foot on his wings, and the other on his bond feet. She pulled out the pristine white feathers on his long bulging neck with a knife she had carefully sharpened. Then she cut him. Bobby jerked, trying to suck in as much air as his severed wind pipe could hold. His blood spilled out on the pavement, rich in color and thick. The spot beneath his throat rose and fell as slowly life seeped out of him. Then it was over. Bobby was dead.

Aunt dipped him into a basin of steaming hot water and peeled off his feathers. Then she made me hold each piece of him as she cut off huge chunks of meat from that obese body. I stared in wonder. I had never seen such amount of meat come out of one creature. It was a good thing she didn’t make me cook him. I was feeling guilty enough that I let her kill him, and she made me hold his flesh for mutilatation.

In a few hours Bobby was ready. I wasn’t going to partake– No. I wasn’t going to betray what we had by joining in that unholy feast. I was going to stay true and mourn dear Bobby. But I was weak. The aroma from the  pot was too tempting. I resisted the urge for as long as I could, but my body and rumbling belly would have none of that. An hour later, I was cracking bones and sucking out marrows. Bobby was absolutely delicious.

We’ve had many come and go after Bobby. There was Hansel and Gretel– the twins, Rose– who ran away, Peter, Paul, Maryann and a lot more that I took no particular interest in. But none of them could ever match up to Bobby. Not in beauty, perfection, size, nor brains… and yes, let’s not forget taste.

In loving memory of Bobby– pal extraordinaire. Entertainer. Irritant. Pest. Food.

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This is an old photo of Bobby from 2010 when all the skill I had in photography was the combined effort of a 2MP mobile camera and bad lighting 😀 Goes without saying eh. Forgive the poor quality; had to dig into facebook archive to find it.

Freestyle Writing Challenge

I picked up this Freestyle Writing Challenge from George and he’s come up with an interesting topic that tickled.

If you were invited to someone’s home for dinner and the meal was the worst thing you’d ever tasted, what would you do?

I have never considered myself a foodie, nor am I big on paying visits to people either, but as a general rule peculiar to me and maybe a number of people around, my eyes and nose eat before my mouth does. What this basically means is that I have to find a meal visually appealing as well as having an irresistible aroma before the thought of munching comes in.

But what if the sight and smell are deceptive? That’s a funny one seeing as I have been caught smack dab in this situation before.

My facial expression says a lot and so I expect that the faces of others would too. Naturally my first reaction will be to see how others are taking this onslaught of their taste buds. It’s always exciting watching people pretend to love something. There’s the initial shock accompanied by a widening of the eyes. The forced swallow with a wince, like the esophagus is trying so hard to keep the food down. Then there’s the total lock-down. The last part I love the most: Pretense with a pretty smile that fails to touch the eyes.

Next up is seeing how the host/hostess handles their plate, and if they’re even aware how horrible the food tastes. Maybe they’ll pretend it’s decent or they’re just clueless.

But if they were my friends I’d simply say, “Oh God this is terrible. Were you sleeping when you cooked this?” And perhaps think of how the meal can be salvaged in any way. We might laugh over my outburst. Or they might feel ashamed and I’d feel terrible about blurting out my thoughts insensitively.

Otherwise I’ll be good natured, swallow the meal without complaint—even commend the cook—and pray I don’t puke before it’s over.

Then I’ll make sure I never eat another meal there again. So help me God.

Word count: 310

Time: 4 minutes

The Rules

1. Open a blank document.
2. Set a stopwatch timer to 5 or 10 minutes, whichever length you prefer.
3. Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!
4. Once you start writing do not stop until the alarm sounds! Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (it is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write with correct spelling and grammar.)
5. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals
6. At the end of your post write down the number of words to give an idea of how much you can write within the time Frame.
7. Put the whole document onto your post and nominate 5 others and give them a new topic. Remember to copy paste the rules in!

Nominations:

Target Verified

Tolawrites

A Prompt Reply

Chynanu’s Blog

A burdie from Lahore

Sheedart’s Blog

If you’re reading this and want to partake, please do.

Your Topic:

Tell us about something out of character.

 

A Long Way Home

I watch the bus make its last turn and come to a halt. The ride may have been a long uncomfortable one, but the early flutters of hope has my heart thumping in anticipation. The streets are full of people—old and young alike; some heaving bags out of boots, welcoming their loved ones with warm hugs; others chatting as they walk past. Rows of shops now replace a long line of familiar trees, sporting pepper soup restaurants with the promise of assorted meat, Continue reading

Flirting With Darkness

                                                     

My blogging friend George over at the Off Key Of Life does this exercise where he plays on the dark-side. The general idea is to get out of your comfort zone and write something different fiction-wise. It seems like a good idea so I’ve decided to give it a shot too. Why did I choose flirting with darkness? Because that’s what it feels like to me lol. Continue reading

A Threefold Lesson  

“Some of our biggest lessons come in beautifully wrapped little packages of experience.” 

Of all her body parts, Mma’s hair held the least appeal. It frizzed, broke and resisted every act of taming irrespective of her efforts. This was a cross, a very surprising cross because for years she had been blessed with beautiful hair—long, soft and admirable. Continue reading

The Measure Of A Man

There was something wrong about the men who came to seek her hand in marriage, Christie was convinced. It was not that some of them did not pass the superficial test of good looks, how many people would scale that anyway – especially now that pot bellies have gradually come to be regarded as sexier than ripped abs – nor was it that a good number of them were mere primary school graduates; people who had chosen to veer off the path of education in favour of their quest for the golden goose that laid eggs of diamond, gold and every other precious stone.

There was something else. Something deeply ingrained in them that troubled her. Something innate in a sense. Continue reading

A Good Day For Change

First love yourself

My cousin Megan was the most annoying being my eleven years old self had encountered. At six she was a scrawny looking firecracker; at ten a full blown typhoon. Having spent a considerable part of my teenage years in a boarding school far from home, I had to make do with spending short holidays with my extended family. It was on one such visit that I met Megan in her glorious fury. Continue reading

Raluchukwu

No_title(144)[1]When you made your first million, the world rejoiced with you. You were in you mid-twenties and that was a huge achievement. Your mother was ecstatic,  now she could tie all the expensive wrappers to the next August meeting and climb the social ladder. You were not bothered, the woman had done so much for you and no amount of wrappers could equate that. Your only regret was that your father wasn’t here to celebrate this day with you. There were tales of his suffering from a mysterious sickness that defied medical attention. Your mother always seemed upset when you asked about him, what kind of things he liked to do, that eventually you stopped asking. Time and again, you would visit his grave at the back of the compound and talk about all you’d accomplished over a short time. Continue reading