7

The Alchemy of Happiness is a book written by Imam Al-Ghazali. In a chapter entitled ‘Knowledge of God’, he described seven types of people who are in error regarding their faith. I found this very truthful and full  of wisdom. It is a translation of original Persian text by Henry A Homes.


Those careless and indifferent persons, O seeker after the divine mysteries, who from ignorance, stupidity and sin have turned away from God and his prophet, and have wandered from the path of religion, may be arranged in seven classes.

To the FIRST class belong those who do not believe in God. They had desired to find him out in his essence and attributes, by speculations and fancies, by comparisons and illustrations. And because they have not succeeded in understanding him, they have referred his acts and his government to the stars and to nature. They have fancied that the soul of man and of other animals, and this wonderful world with its marvellous arrangements came of themselves, and that they are eternal; or that they are effects from natural causes, and that there is no creator beyond the sphere of the world. This class of people resembles the man who seeing a writing, fancies that it was written of itself, and infers that it was not written by a penman or by a super-natural power : or else that it is eternal and that no one knows whence it comes. It is impossible to recover from the path of delusion, persons whose ignorance, error and stupidity have reached such a degree as this.

The SECOND class of errorists are those who deny a day of resurrection and assembly. They allege that man and other animals are like vegetables, and do not enter into another body when they die. They say, that a resurrection, in which spirits and bodies shall be reassembled in one place, is impossible, and that there will be neither discipline or punishment, recompense or reward. The errors of this sect arise from their inability to understand of themselves their own souls. They imagine that the spirit is an animal spirit only, and that the heart, which is in reality the spirit of man, is the place for the knowledge of God, and that no evil can happen to it_ except that it will be separated from the body. They call this separation, death. This sect is unconcerned about this spirit, and in proof of this we shall discourse, if it please God, in the fourth chapter.

The THIRD class of errorists are those who indeed believe in God and a future life, but whose faith is weak, because they do not understand the requirements of the law. They say that “God is able to do without our worship. There is neither any profit to God from our worship, or any injury done him by our disobedience. If we worship God, we shall learn what good it did in the future world; and if we do not worship him, there will neither be any advantage or harm. God himself so declares in his holy word, “Whosoever keep himself pure, does it for his own advantage,” 1 and in another place, “He who does well, does it for his own profit.” 2 Although it is better to worship God, yet as God has no need of our worship, therefore if we do not worship him, what harm is there in it ?” These ignorant people resemble the sick man, who when the physician says to him, “you should be abstinent, if you wish to be cured of your malady,” should answer, “what advantage is it to you whether I am abstinent or not”? Now though the sick man is right when he says that there is no advantage to the physician from his abstinence, yet if he is not abstinent, he will perish. This class regards obedience and transgression as of the same degree in value. But in the same manner as disease may occasion a man’s destruction, so transgression defiles the heart, and will cause it to appear in the future world in a state of woe. And just as abstinence and medicine restore the body to health, so to avoid acts of transgression and sin and to be obedient to God, are means of securing salvation.

The FOURTH class of men who indulge in error, are those who indeed receive the law, but in some peculiar and erroneous sense. They wrongly say, “The law commands us to keep our hearts pure from pride, envy, hatred, anger and dissimulation. But this is a thing which it is impossible to do. For the soul has been created with these qualities and affections, and human nature cannot be changed. It is just as impossible to make a black material white by scraping it, as for the human heart to be free from these qualities.” These ignorant men do not know and understand, that the law does not command that these qualities should be entirely effaced and expelled from the heart, but rather requires that they should be brought under subjection to the heart and the reason, to the end that they may not act presumptuously, go beyond the limits set by the law, and indulge in mortal sins. It is possible even to change these qualities, by doing only what reason requires, and by respecting the restrictions of the law. Many devout men in past times have secured this change of the affections of the soul. These qualities once existed in the prophet of God, but they were corrected, as we learn from the tradition: “I am a man like you. I become angry, as a man becomes angry.” And God speaks in his holy word of “those who control their wrath, and who pardon the men who offend them.”1 Notice, that in his eternal word, God praises those who dissipate their anger and irritation : he does not praise those who had no anger or rage, since man cannot be without them.

The FIFTH class of persons in error are those who say that, “God is merciful and ready to pardon, loving and compassionate, and more pitiful to his servants than a father and mother to their children, and therefore he will pardon our faults and cover our transgressions.” They do not consider that notwithstanding God is bounteous and merciful, there are still multitudes of poor and miserable people in the world, multitudes who are infirm and helpless, and many who are subjected to suffering. This is a mystery which is known only to God. But it shows us, that though God is disposed to cover and hide sin, still he is an absolute sovereign and an avenger. While he is bounteous and beneficent, he is at the same time dreadful in his chastisements : while he is a benefactor, and provides the necessaries of life, at the same time he who does not seek to gain, obtains no store: and he who is not industrious, accomplishes nothing in the world. Beloved, these ignorant men, in the affairs of the world, in their schemes of living, and in their business, manifest no trust in the bounty of God, nor do they leave off for one moment their buying and selling, their trades or their farming, although God has decreed the means of their existence many years before they were born, and has made himself surety that it should be provided for them. He announces in his eternal word and book of mighty distinctions, that “there is no creature on the earth, for whom God has not taken upon himself to provide nourishment.” 2 Still they make not the least exertion in reference to their relations and condition in eternity, but merely rely upon the mercy of God, notwithstanding God declares in his holy word, “man can have nothing without exertion.” 1 When they say that God is gracious and merciful, they speak correctly. But they are not aware that Satan is deceiving them with it, hindering them from obedience and worship, and preventing them from engaging in that cultivation and commerce that would prepare them for eternity.

The SIXTH class who indulge in error, are those who, exalted with pride, think that they have already attained and are perfect: and they say, “we have reached such a state that transgressions do us no harm: we are like the sea, which is not polluted by filth falling into it.” These foolish people are so ignorant, that they do not know that “to be like the sea,” means to attain such a degree of calm that no wind can put them in movement and that nothing can cause any perturbation in their minds. These persons on the contrary, if an individual fail to treat them with honor and respect, or if in conversation the individual do not address them as, my lord or dear sir, or speak a word that touches their reputation, they bear him a grudge for a long time, and even perhaps attempt to do him an injury. And if a person take a piece of money or a morsel of bread from them, the world becomes too straight for them, and every thing looks dark. These foolish people have not even yet reached manhood. They are weak in their own souls, and are in subjection like slaves to passion and anger. If it were not so, how could they be so inconsiderate and presumptuous? Beloved, the falsehood and error of these people appear from this consideration. When inadvertently any of the prophets fell into sin, even a little and venial sin, they would spend years in mourning and lamentation over it, and occupied themselves in endeavours to obliterate their faults, and to obtain pardon and forgiveness. Filled with fear and dread, they became blind from their tears; from their long continuing perturbation and distraction of mind, yon would think they had lost the use of their reason. As for the companions of the prophet, and their immediate successors who were faithful witnesses for the truth and the beloved of God, they were so afraid in their suspiciousness of doing wrong, that they abstained in their anxiety, from doing even what was lawful. Do not these ignoramuses know that their degree of attainment does not equal that of the prophets and apostles, and that they are even at a great distance from them ? Why then do they not shrink in fear and awe from the shining vengeance of the glorious God ? If they urge, however, that the transgressions of the prophets were doing them no injury, but that they were exercising prudence and carefulness for the sake of other people, we then reply, that you also ought to be careful, lest other people seeing your actions, should imitate your example. And if they respond, we do not belong to the rank of prophets, that men should walk in our steps, or that any injury should befall us, on account of the sins which they may commit, we would again reply,/that it is better that no injury should come to you in consequence of the sins done from imitating you, than that injury should not befall the prophets from the sins done in consequence of imitating them; for they are the praised and accepted servants of God;their earlier and their later sins have been pardoned, and they are blessed in Paradise. Why, then, was it so necessary that they should abstain from forbidden things, from things of a doubtful nature and even from permitted things ? It is said that one day some ripe dates were brought to the prophet, and he took one and put it in his blessed mouth. But immediately a doubt entered his mind, as to the manner in which the dates had been obtained, and he took it out of his blessed mouth and would not eat it. On another occasion a cup of milk was brought to the faithful witness Abu Bakr by his slave, and he took it and drank it. After drinking it, he inquired, “where did yon get the milk ?” The slave said, “I told a man his fortune, and he gave me the milk in return.” As soon as the faithful witness heard this, he frowned severely upon his servant, inserted his blessed finger down his mouth, and threw up the whole of the milk, so that none of it remained on his stomach. He then said, “I fear that if any of the milk should remain on my stomach, God would expel knowledge and love from my heart.” Now what harm could result to other people from their eating those dates or drinking that milk, that they should have been so careful about such little things ? And since they did abstain from such little things, regarding them as injurious, how should it be otherwise than injurious to these foolish people to drink wine, in full bowls and even by the jar full ? They know that the wisdom, piety and abstinence of the prophets and saints were not less than their own. Can there be any more astonishing folly than that of these men who dare to compare themselves with the sea, because they are not disturbed by drinking several bowls of wine, while they compare the prophet of God, to a little water, which is changed in its taste by a single date ? They are just worthy that Satan should seize hold of them by the beard and mustachios, and drag them after him both in this world and the next, making them a shame and reproach. Now the faithful, truthful and experienced in religion, who are mindful that the soul is treacherous, deceptive, perfidious, malicious and false, always watch carefully over their own souls, lest they should do something that transcends the commands of the law, or that is contrary to reason. The soul is always disposed to say to itself, “I am obedient to the truth : I am submissive to the holy law : and I am well instructed in knowledge.” But thou, without being puffed up by this deceitful language of the soul, must constantly look to all its thoughts and states. If it is walking in the path of the law and of the prophets and saints, it is well! and happy is he that is faithful to his word ! But if the soul begin to have an inclination for self-indulgence, to explain away or exceed the limits of the law and to contradict clear and plain knowledge, you must regard it as a machination of the devil and a temptation to the soul. In short, man, until he descends to the grave, must always watch over his soul with attention, to discover in what degree it is obedient to the holy law and in harmony with knowledge. Whoever does not thus watch over and guard himself, is most surely in a delusion and in the way of a just destruction. It is the first step in Islamism, that a man should keep his soul subject to the law.

The SEVENTH form of error, beloved, is that of the class whose mistakes arise from ignorance and carelessness, while they have never heard any thing of these doubts of which we have been speaking. They merely wear the garments, cap and quilted robes of the mystics (soofees), and after learning some of their words and phrases, they pretend to have attained saintship and supernatural powers. And although apparently they have no evil intentions, yet because they do not properly respect the holy law, but practice their devotions in a lax way, their course leads them to corrupt doctrines and errors. They are always inclined to do whatsoever their corrupt disposition would lead them to do, such as yielding to the love of frivolous practices, or to sensual indulgences, or assenting to transgression and sin. In the presence of the multitude, they put on a holy mien and do not approve of error and sin, but they do not withdraw their hearts from the pleasure of wine, nor from adulterous and licentious society, nor withdraw their hands from the business of gaining the world. Although in these associations there may be no overt sin, yet they do not consider that such thoughts are but satanic suggestions and sensual importunities. They are not capable of distinguishing actions and circumstances, or right and wrong. Beloved, to this class belong those of whom God declares in his holy word, “We have covered their hearts with more than one envelop, that they may not understand the Koran and we have put deafness upon their ears. Even if thou shouldst call them to the right way, they would never follow it.” 1 It is better to talk with a sword, than to talk with this class of people, for they are not open to conviction….

The Fear Of Death

The following is a story by William Sydney Porter. I have changed the title and the original one is different. Why? Because its my blog and i can do whatever I want. I don’t intend any infringement of copyright nor am I fond of plagiarism (I will soon publish a blog on plagiarism). The story is very touching  and one of my favourites. Don’t read it if you are very busy. Read it gradually and you will have great pleasure.


In a little district west of Washington Square the streets have run crazy and broken themselves into small strips called “places.” These “places” make strange angles and curves. One Street crosses itself a time or two. An artist once discovered a valuable possibility in this street. Suppose a collector with a bill for paints, paper and canvas should, in traversing this route, suddenly meet himself coming back, without a cent having been paid on account!
So, to quaint old Greenwich Village the art people soon came prowling, hunting for north windows and eighteenth-century gables and Dutch attics and low rents. Then they imported some pewter mugs and a chafing dish or two from Sixth Avenue, and became a “colony.”
At the top of a squatty, three-story brick Sue and Johnsy had their studio. “Johnsy” was familiar for Joanna. One was from Maine; the other from California. They had met at the table d’hôte of an Eighth Street “Delmonico’s,” and found their tastes in art, chicory salad and bishop sleeves so congenial that the joint studio resulted.
That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, stalked about the colony, touching one here and there with his icy fingers. Over on the east side this ravager strode boldly, smiting his victims by scores, but his feet trod slowly through the maze of the narrow and moss-grown “places.”
Mr Pneumonia was not what you would call a chivalric old gentleman. A mite of a little woman with blood thinned by California zephyrs was hardly fair game for the red-fisted, short-breathed old duffer. But Johnsy he smote; and she lay, scarcely moving, on her painted iron bedstead, looking through the small Dutch window-panes at the blank side of the next brick house.
One morning the busy doctor invited Sue into the hallway with a shaggy, gray eyebrow.
“She has one chance in – let us say, ten,” he said, as he shook down the mercury in his clinical thermometer. ” And that chance is for her to want to live. This way people have of lining-u on the side of the undertaker makes the entire pharmacopoeia look silly. Your little lady has made up her mind that she’s not going to get well. Has she anything on her mind?”
“She – she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples some day.” said Sue.
“Paint? – bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking twice – a man for instance?”
“A man?” said Sue, with a Jew’s-harp twang in her voice. “Is a man worth – but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind.”
“Well, it is the weakness, then,” said the doctor. “I will do all that science, so far as it may filter through my efforts, can accomplish. But whenever my patient begins to count the carriages in her funeral procession I subtract 50 per cent from the curative power of medicines. If you will get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in cloak sleeves I will promise you a one-in-five chance for her, instead of one in ten.”
After the doctor had gone Sue went into the workroom and cried a Japanese napkin to a pulp. Then she swaggered into Johnsy’s room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.
Johnsy lay, scarcely making a ripple under the bedclothes, with her face toward the window. Sue stopped whistling, thinking she was asleep.
She arranged her board and began a pen-and-ink drawing to illustrate a magazine story. Young artists must pave their way to Art by drawing pictures for magazine stories that young authors write to pave their way to Literature.
As Sue was sketching a pair of elegant horseshow riding trousers and a monocle of the figure of the hero, an Idaho cowboy, she heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.

Johnsy’s eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting – counting backward.
“Twelve,” she said, and little later “eleven”; and then “ten,” and “nine”; and then “eight” and “seven”, almost together.
Sue look solicitously out of the window. What was there to count? There was only a bare, dreary yard to be seen, and the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old, old ivy vine, gnarled and decayed at the roots, climbed half way up the brick wall. The cold breath of autumn had stricken its leaves from the vine until its skeleton branches clung, almost bare, to the crumbling bricks.
“What is it, dear?” asked Sue.
“Six,” said Johnsy, in almost a whisper. “They’re falling faster now. Three days ago there were almost a hundred. It made my head ache to count them. But now it’s easy. There goes another one. There are only five left now.”
“Five what, dear? Tell your Sudie.”
“Leaves. On the ivy vine. When the last one falls I must go, too. I’ve known that for three days. Didn’t the doctor tell you?”

“Oh, I never heard of such nonsense,” complained Sue, with magnificent scorn. “What have old ivy leaves to do with your getting well? And you used to love that vine so, you naughty girl. Don’t be a goosey. Why, the doctor told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were – let’s see exactly what he said – he said the chances were ten to one! Why, that’s almost as good a chance as we have in New York when we ride on the street cars or walk past a new building. Try to take some broth now, and let Sudie go back to her drawing, so she can sell the editor man with it, and buy port wine for her sick child, and pork chops for her greedy self.”
“You needn’t get any more wine,” said Johnsy, keeping her eyes fixed out the window. “There goes another. No, I don’t want any broth. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I’ll go, too.”
“Johnsy, dear,” said Sue, bending over her, “will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by to-morrow. I need the light, or I would draw the shade down.”
“Couldn’t you draw in the other room?” asked Johnsy, coldly.

“I’d rather be here by you,” said Sue. “Beside, I don’t want you to keep looking at those silly ivy leaves.”
“Tell me as soon as you have finished,” said Johnsy, closing her eyes, and lying white and still as fallen statue, “because I want to see the last one fall. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves.”
“Try to sleep,” said Sue. “I must call Behrman up to be my model for the old hermit miner. I’ll not be gone a minute. Don’t try to move ’til I come back.”
Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor beneath them. He was past sixty and had a Michael Angelo’s Moses beard curling down from the head of a satyr along with the body of an imp. Behrman was a failure in art. Forty years he had wielded the brush without getting near enough to touch the hem of his Mistress’s robe. He had been always about to paint a masterpiece, but had never yet begun it. For several years he had painted nothing except now and then a daub in the line of commerce or advertising. He earned a little by serving as a model to those young artists in the colony who could not pay the price of a professional. He drank gin to excess, and still talked of his coming masterpiece. For the rest he was a fierce little old man, who scoffed terribly at softness in any one, and who regarded himself as especial mastiff-in-waiting to protect the two young artists in the studio above.
Sue found Behrman smelling strongly of juniper berries in his dimly lighted den below. In one corner was a blank canvas on an easel that had been waiting there for twenty-five years to receive the first line of the masterpiece. She told him of Johnsy’s fancy, and how she feared she would, indeed, light and fragile as a leaf herself, float away, when her slight hold upon the world grew weaker.

Old Behrman, with his red eyes plainly streaming, shouted his contempt and derision for such idiotic imaginings.
“Vass!” he cried. “Is dere people in de world mit der foolishness to die because leafs dey drop off from a confounded vine? I haf not heard of such a thing. No, I will not bose as a model for your fool hermit-dunderhead. Vy do you allow dot silly pusiness to come in der brain of her? Ach, dot poor leetle Miss Yohnsy.”
“She is very ill and weak,” said Sue, “and the fever has left her mind morbid and full of strange fancies. Very well, Mr Behrman, if you do not care to pose for me, you needn’t. But I think you are a horrid old – old flibbertigibbet.”
“You are just like a woman!” yelled Behrman. “Who said I will not bose? Go on. I come mit you. For half an hour I haf peen trying to say dot I am ready to bose. Gott! dis is not any blace in which one so goot as Miss Yohnsy shall lie sick. Some day I vill baint a masterpiece, and ve shall all go away. Gott! yes.”
Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to the window-sill, and motioned Behrman into the other room. In there they peered out the window fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other for a moment without speaking. A persistent, cold rain was falling, mingled with snow. Behrman, in his old blue shirt, took his seat as the hermit miner on an upturned kettle for a rock.
When Sue awoke from an hour’s sleep the next morning she found Johnsy with dull, wide-open eyes staring at the drawn green shade.
“Pull it up; I want to see,” she ordered, in a whisper.
Wearily Sue obeyed.
But, lo! after the beating rain and fierce gusts of wind that had endured through the livelong night, there yet stood out against the brick wall one ivy leaf. It was the last one on the vine. Still dark green near its stem, with its serrated edges tinted with the yellow of dissolution and decay, it hung bravely from the branch some twenty feet above the ground.
“It is the last one,” said Johnsy. “I thought it would surely fall during the night. I heard the wind. It will fall to-day, and I shall die at the same time.”
“Dear, dear!” said Sue, leaning her worn face down to the pillow, “think of me, if you won’t think of yourself. What would I do?”
But Johnsy did not answer. The lonesomest thing in all the world is a soul when it is making ready to go on its mysterious, far journey. The fancy seemed to possess her more strongly as one by one the ties that bound her to friendship and to earth were loosed.
The day wore away, and even through the twilight they could see the lone ivy leaf clinging to its stem against the wall. And then, with the coming of the night the north wind was again loosed, while the rain still beat against the windows and pattered down from the low Dutch eaves.
When it was light enough Johnsy, the merciless, commanded that the shade be raised.
The ivy leaf was still there.
Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it. And then she called to Sue, who was stirring her chicken broth over the gas stove.
“I’ve been a bad girl, Sudie,” said Johnsy. “Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was. It is a sin to want to die. You may bring a me a little broth now, and some milk with a little port in it, and – no; bring me a hand-mirror first, and then pack some pillows about me, and I will sit up and watch you cook.”
And hour later she said:
“Sudie, some day I hope to paint the Bay of Naples.”
The doctor came in the afternoon, and Sue had an excuse to go into the hallway as he left.
“Even chances,” said the doctor, taking Sue’s thin, shaking hand in his. “With good nursing you’ll win.” And now I must see another case I have downstairs. Behrman, his name is – some kind of an artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man, and the attack is acute. There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital to-day to be made more comfortable.”
The next day the doctor said to Sue: “She’s out of danger. You won. Nutrition and care now – that’s all.”
And that afternoon Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, contentedly knitting a very blue and very useless woollen shoulder scarf, and put one arm around her, pillows and all.
“I have something to tell you, white mouse,” she said. “Mr Behrman died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital. He was ill only two days. The janitor found him the morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and clothing were wet through and icy cold. They couldn’t imagine where he had been on such a dreadful night. And then they found a lantern, still lighted, and a ladder that had been dragged from its place, and some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it, and – look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn’t you wonder why it never fluttered or moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it’s Behrman’s masterpiece – he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell.”


I know the end was really great.

The expressionists

I have a friend named Surjaan, he has a complain to make. He thinks he has no great friends who can understand him and if not believe at least support his unconventionally peculiar thoughts and ideas. He has a blog and I often visit it. I found a post titled ‘ The Expressionists’ which I think expresses him very clearly.


This paragraph explains his unusual behaviour:

“When people say they do  not care what others think of them, for the most part they deceive themselves. Generally, they mean only that they will do as they choose, in the confidence that no one will know their vagaries; and at the utmost only that they are willing to act contrary to the opinion of majority because they are supported by approval of their neighbours. It is not difficult to be unconventional in the eyes of the world when your unconventionality is but the convention of your set. It affords you then an inordinate amount of self-respect. You have the self satisfaction of courage without the convenience of danger. BUT THE DESIRE FOR APPROBATION IS PERHAPS THE MOST DEEPLY SEATED INSTINCT OF CIVILISED MAN. I do not believe the people who tell me they do not care a row of pins for the opinion of their fellows. It is the bravado of ignorance. They mean only that they do not fear reproaches for peccadillos which they are convinced none will discover.”

 

And this, his inability to openly express himself:

“Each one of us is alone in the world. He is shut in a tower of brass and communicate his fellows only by signs and the signs have no common value, so that their sense is vague and uncertain. We seek pitifully to convey to others the treasures of our heart but they have not the power to accept them.And so we go lonely side by side but not together, unable to know our fellows and unknown to them. we are like people living in a country whose language they know so little, that with all manners of beautiful and profound things to say, they are condemned to banalities of conversation manual. Their brain is seething with ideas, and they can only tell you that the umbrella of the gardener’s aunt is in the house.  But I know a way of expression where you do not actually have to form sentences or paint pictures or create melodies to reveal yourself, you just have to stand and bow before the Creator, THE REHMAAN.”


 

Dear Surjaan! There is a friend who understands you.

A conversation with an indifferent friend

He doesn’t care at all about anything. “Have you ever thought of death?”, i  asked.

“Why should I? It doesn’t matter!”

He was standing before me, motionless, with a mocking smile in his eyes; but for all that i had an inkling of a passionate, tortured spirit, aiming at something greater than could be conceived by anything that was bound up with the flesh. I had  fleeting glimpse of a pursuit of the ineffable. I had a strange sensation that his body was only an envelope, and I was in presence of a disembodied spirit.

This friend of mine is not actually a friend but a person who interests me. I call him a friend because I have learnt from him and instinctively I inspire him, though very little. I am at loss why. But i have found the reason  from a book i was reading:

until long habit has blunted the sensibility, there is something disconcerting to the writer in the instinct which causes him to take an interest in the singularities of human nature so absorbing that his moral sense is powerless against it. he recognises in himself an artistic satisfaction in the contemplation of evil which a little startles him; but sincerity forces him to confess that the disapproval he feels for certain actions is not nearly so strong as his curiosity in their reasons. the character of a scoundrel , logical and complete, has a fascination for his creator which is an outrage to law and order. I expect that Shakespeare devised Iago, with a gusto which he never knew when, weaving moonbeam with his fancy, he imagined Desdemona. It may be that in his rogues the writer gratifies instincts deep-rooted in him, which the manners and customs of civilised world have forced back to mysterious recesses of the subconscious. in giving to the character of his invention flesh and bones he is giving life to that part of himself which finds no other means of expression. his satisfaction is a sense of liberation.”

He interested me because i am selfish too but not to the extent he is.

“haven’t you fallen in love ever?”, i asked, excited to hear his reply which i expected to be strange.

“I don’t want love. I haven’t time for it. It’s weakness. I am a man and sometimes I want a woman. When I’ve satisfied my passion I’m ready for other things. I can’t overcome my desire, but I hate it; it imprisons my spirit; I look forward to the time when I shall be free from all desire and can give myself without hindrance to those interests of mine which do not relate to my flesh but to my soul. Because women can do nothing except love, they have given it a ridiculous importance. They want to persuade us that it’s the whole of life. It’s an insignificant part. I know lust. That’s normal and healthy. Love is a disease. Women are the instruments of my pleasure; I have no patience with their claim to be helpmates, partners, companions.Life is too short for love and art.”

“You should have lived at a time when women were chattels and men the masters of slaves,” I said.

“It just happens that I am a completely normal man. When a woman loves you she’s not satisfied until she possesses your soul. Because she’s waek she has rage for domination, and nothing less will satisfy her. She has a small mind, and she resents the abstract which she is unable to grasp. She is occupied with material things, and she is jealous of the ideal. The soul of man wanders through the uttermost regions of the universe, and she seeks to imprison it in the circles of her account-book.”

“It’s useless to talk to you about these things as to describe colours to a man who was born blind.”

It was impossible to make him understand that one might be outraged by his callous selfishness. I longed to pierce his armour of complete indifference.Unconsciously, perhaps, we treasure the power we have over people by their regard of our opinion for them, and we hate those  upon whom we have no such influence. I SUPPOSE IT IS THE BITTEREST WOUND TO HUMAN PRIDE.

I think I meet him also because he is a great expressionist. He converses beautifully. I bade him farewell.

Is it possible for any man to disregard others entirely? You are dependent on others for everything in existence. It’s a preposterous attempt to try to live only for yourself and by yourself. Sooner or later, you will be ill and tired and old, and then you will crawl back into the herd. Won’t you be ashamed when you feel in your heart the desire for comfort and sympathy. You’re trying an impossible thing. Sooner or later the human being in you will yearn for the common bonds of humanity.

“But who cares, let him be that way! Why should I be worrying,” I said to myself.” Perhaps, I am indifferent too.

My Mother’s Father

my mother is a very hardworking woman. i think if she were the CEO of a company she would have driven it to the list of Fortune 500. she is so workaholic that if you find her not working, she is probably thinking about it. but her father, the great old man whom everyone calls “dada” in  the entire little muhallah of Ali Khan is no less assiduous. he was born before participation of subcontinent. “there used to be a boy in my class at the school who was made the class proctor,” he told me one night with a nostalgic smile on his still handsome face though bearing the film of many years’ experiences.

“he was really brilliant but he was weak in history. i identified this weakness and soon made my reputation stand shining in teacher’s eyes. next term, i was chosen as the class monitor.” his face was gleaming with victory as he had just been selected for the greatest post in school. there are so many similarities between children and old people. i love him the most when he is talking about his past experiences. he shares many thing including his hunting expeditions with rich friends and his first trip to Karachi while i relieve him of his old age’s never ending pains by pressing his feet and legs. “it used to be a barren wasteland back when we first came here. Karachi has changed very much.” He tells me about his visits to nightclubs in Karachi and his stays at famous hotels. He tells me how he moved from the village to the town and built the house he and others currently live in. In one particular story he told me about some ghosts calling his name in funny voices when he was sleeping in the under-construction house. He said, ” they were calling my name as we call some friend’s name while hiding round the corner and run away when he looks in our direction. I was sweating and breathing heavily and could not move my lips in an attempt to scream. i think they pinched me too. the ghosts sounded very mischievous. at last i gathered my courage and read as loud as i could but in an irresolute and wavering tone the Ayat-al-Kursi and seriously my voice faded when i reached the last sentences of the Ayat-al-Kursi.” He read sentences from Quran in the way he had recited in fear at those moments. ” then they stopped calling my name.”

at times he is very funny.he has beautiful white hair which contrast his brown skin.he gets them cut regularly and they always look very smart. he shaves regularly and tells me to buy for him a razor when i am going out. there is a list of things he does not like:

1.tomatoes 2.tasbeeh 3.hair oil 4.naughty and noisy children 5. modern music

he has a wonderful smile and perfect teeth which have yellowed a little.He always refers to his wife as “waderi” (although he is not himself a wadera). “how did you meet her?”, one of my sisters had asked him once with all other female cousins insisting him to describe the whole story. “i saw her in the fields eating or must i say trying to eat a sugarcane. she had dirty hairs and I didn’t like her at all.”

the whole room had burst into laughter, my sister was telling me later.

he is an amazing guy. he always smokes cigarettes of same quality and brand. he cannot quit smoking, that i am sure of. but he is healthy. his favourite movie is the original Devdas and favourite actress Madhuri Dixit. he is a real classic. i adore him.

i wish i can spare more time to spend with him. May he live long.

for a change, i listened…

so far i have never read any great works in Urdu. I once read a novel written by ibn-e-insha when i was fourteen or may be fifteen, i don’t remember. i could not understand it very clearly. after that my interest shifted swiftly to English  and i completely abandoned reading Urdu except in school, of course. then one day, years later, i heard this story by Saadat Hassan Manto.

Toba Tek Singh 1

It is a good story. Although it did not have the charm of reading but enjoyable.

Toba Tek Singh 2

The story reminded me of One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest.