Sensei Presents: Mortally Wound Yourself, In Bed.

I know it sounds hard, but it can be done. And last night, I proved it. Here’s how.

Set your alarm clock for 6 am, the appropriate time for Fajr prayer these days. When it goes off, wait for your roomie to pray first because there’s only one prayer-rug upstairs, and because that’s the way it works. So wait in your warm and comfy bed, and then be woken up five minutes later and pushed in the direction of the bathroom to do wudu.

Do wudu with cruelly cold water (I could pray faster than it would take the warm water to come into the tap) and then shiver your way over to the prayer rug. Do your best to be worshipful through chattering teeth.

I would like to take a minute here to describe the architecture of Pakistani housing. Most Pakistani houses are composed of plaster on brick, or RCC- reinforced concrete cement. None of them, not a single one, are insulated, and you could find a horned cat before you found one with central heating. What this means is that when it’s 50 F outside (10 C) it’s not much warmer on the inside unless you’re within the immediate vicinity of a heater. For all practical purposes, you live inside of a giant concrete refrigerator until spring comes and you thaw out.

It was 50 F/10 C last night, and foggy, and wet, and bitterly cold. The inside of the house wasn’t much better off. I tell you this so you may understand the blind enthusiasm with which I jumped back into bed after praying and nearly split my head open on a hard, pointed object that turned out to be Aniraz’s elbow lying on my pillow.

Then I died. And I have the bruise to prove it.

Now, there is some dispute as to whether her elbow infiltrated Abezistani territory and ambushed me, or whether my head was violating the border terms that had been decided in previous bilateral talks. (This is my bed, that is your bed. My bed, your bed. See?) . Our two beds have been pushed together so that both of them can be as close to the heater as possible, and there are often border skirmishes. She accuses my head of cross-border infiltration, and argues that her elbow responded with appropriate military measures. I maintain that my head was acting on it preexisting right to use the aforesaid pillow, as it is my ancestral pillow and its usage cannot be curbed based on the arbitrary Line of Control that Anirazistan has drawn up without consideration for the indigenous population. I would also point out that certain unsavory elements, such as Aniraz’s knee, have often made incursions into Abezistani territory to terrorize the native population and then return to the safety of their borders.

If it gets any worse, I will have no choice but to appeal to the third-party intervention for a peaceful and just resolve to the issue. Forget Mom, I’m taking this to the UN.

The moral is that man hasn’t a clue

One day, a man falls off of his horse and breaks his leg. And the man’s neighbors go, “How terrible that you should have broken your leg! Now you won’t be able to ride your horse or even walk.” And the man only says, “Allah knows best.”

The next day, a conscription officer comes around the village and takes all able-bodied men off to war, leaving the man with the broken leg behind. And the man’s neighbor’s go, “How wonderful that you should have broken your leg! Other men will go off to die, but you will be safe at home with your family.” And the man only says, “Allah knows best.”

It is later learnt that many of the men who went to war are returning victorious and rich with the spoils. And the man’s neighbors go, “How terrible that you should have broken your leg! The soldiers are returning rich and happy, and you have had to sit here convalescing while they earn money and honor.” And the man only says, “Allah knows best.”

As it goes, the man’s army loses the war, and soon the enemy soldiers come to take revenge on those men who fought them and killed their comrades. Many houses in the village are burned and many men taken away, but the man with the broken leg is spared. And his neighbors go, “You are the only able-bodied man left alive in this town, how wonderful that you should have broken your leg!” And the man only says, “Allah knows best.”

And the story goes on and on. The moral is that man hasn’t a clue as to what’s good or bad for him. Allah causes things to happen in our lives, and we become happy or sad depending on whether we think those things are good or bad for us. The truth is, that the only good or bad that can come out of something depends on how we react to it. A man can use the riches that Allah has given him (a good thing?) to purchase haram, to buy power and to oppress the people around him. Or, a man can take his poverty (a bad thing?) to build up his patience, his Iman, and maintain a humble generousness to those even less fortunate than he is.

It is not for us to pronounce the will of Allah as either good or bad, and like the man with the broken leg, I, with my broken engagement have nothing to say except that Allah knows best.

she’s our next-door neighbor

Aniraz and I were watching BBC today. Or rather, we were trying to watch BBC, but the program kept getting interrupted with a commercial that was rather carelessly thrown in, the same one every time. In it, a man and a woman walked purposefully closer and closer to the camera as they extolled the virtues of said cable provider.

They didn’t even wait for the commercial breaks, they just threw their poor-quality, badly-scripted commercial right into a perfectly good episode of Top Gear. And they did it precisely every five minutes.

“And the Lamborghini doesn’t at all compare to the…:::static::: Now! New cable service, 50 channels…:::static:::…car is an absolute beast, uglier than a camel with gingivitis and…:::static:::…First time, for you. Music, entertainment, and much more…:::static:::…But at only 75,000 pounds, is this car not a bargain?””

We patiently glared at the TV the first time it happened.

The second time it happened, Aniraz said, “Boy, that’s irritating.”

The third time it happened, I said, “I don’t care how many channels this cable company has, I’m going to boycott it.”

The fourth time it happened, Aniraz and I looked at each other and unanimously decided that if we ever met the people in the commercial, we were going to kick them. Really. Right in the teeth. And when we were done kicking them, we were going to kick whoever had hired them, and when that said kicking was done, we were going to kick the cameraman over and call it a day.

Then, somewhere in Islamabad, lightning flashed, a black-cat yowled, someone walked under a ladder and our doorbell rang. And the woman from the commercial appeared in our living room.

I am not joking. I am not even artfully fibbing. I went down the stairs to see who my father had let in, and it was the same woman that I had just vowed to kick. I bit my lip, stifled my heart attack and served tea and pleasantries. When I slunk back into the kitchen for teaspoons, I heard my father call Aniraz downstairs. From my vantage point behind the kitchen door, I saw Aniraz come down the stairs with hand extended and ready for a shake, and then go pale and wide-eyed as she shook the woman’s hand, the same woman’s hand from the same commercial that had been irritating the holy-heck out of us for the last half hour. (“I thought the people from the commercial heard us through the TV, and they were coming to get us!” she told me fearfully in the kitchen.)

I cautiously introduced the subject of the commercial, asking her whether she had cable tv? If so, had she seen the commercial? Yes. Was that her? Yes. It was. I swallowed my tea and nervously asked if the other person in the commercial, the man in the suit with the excessive hand-motions who seemed so disturbingly enthusiastic about digital cable, could he be the husband of hers that was standing outside of our gate at that very second? *gasp!* No. Thank God, it wasn’t. I breathed a sigh of relief. I might have been able to take her, her being petite and not so brawny looking, but that other guy, I wouldn’t want to try kicking him. You never know if all that hand-waving in the commercial was the product of years of King-Fu training.

As it turns out, she’s our next-door neighbor. She’s a legal consultant in the cable company, and when they decided to do the commercial, they just grabbed her and a man from a department downstairs and told her to say her lines and walk towards the camera. And unlike her TV persona, she doesn’t interrupt you every five minutes and talk about cable. Which is a pleasant. And she’s a very sweet lady, and not at all as seen on TV. I must shamefully admit that when Aniraz and I grew tired of seeing her face every five minutes, we started saying un-nice things about it. Which is back-biting, but we tend to forget that the people inside that little electronic box are actually people. (What can I say, we’re too stupid to handle home electronics.)

Seeing as how she’s just left, and I’ve given myself a severe headache from suppressing tears of laughter, amazement, and disbelief, I’m going to wind this up with a moral. Be careful who you vow to kick on TV. They may actually be nice people, they could even be your next-door neighbors. Or even worse, they could hear you through the TV, and then they’d come to get you!