16.10.06

What happens when you cross an Islamist with a Mac?

Firstly, what the hell kind of word is “Islamist” anyway? What does it mean? Is it a person that follows Islam? We are not “Islamists”, we are “Muslims”. If it is used as a reference to the crazies that like blowing people up, call them terrorists or extremists or even fundamentalists but don’t use the word “Islam” to define them because what they do and what they are goes against the very grain of Islam. 

Ok, gripe about semantics over and done with. The real reason why I’m writing this is the laughable reports about how Muslims are apparently up in arms over the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York because it is shaped like the Ka’ba. According to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Apple's store has been slammed by "an Islamic website" as a "new insult to Islam".

What Islamic web site? Which Muslims are up in arms over it? Who is actually offended that Apple’s store is cube-shaped? Does Steve Jobs really have it in for us? The very concept is completely ridiculous. It seems that one person can make some kind of bizarre parallel between two things and just because that person happens to be Muslim, they suddenly represent the views of a wide cross-section of Muslims.

I don’t want to go on about how the media were inflammatory specifically in this case simply because the religion in question was Islam but it’s true. Would a Christian saying s/he was offended by a rectangular building because it resembles an altar have been given the same time, space and attention?

If I wrote on a web site that I am offended by a Dell computer because it is black and cube-shaped, would that view be reflected by a large number of Muslims? Of course not but it would sure as hell be projected that way. I guess I should slap myself on the wrist for getting caught up in this. I haven’t dignified Jack Straw’s comments and the veil debate by addressing them, I probably should have left this one alone too.

The Key to Perfection

After spending almost two weeks’ wages in one day during yet another trip to Green Street this weekend, I think it’s safe to declare that my trousseau is officially complete. Along with gathering mounds of sarees, shalwar kameezes, bangles, sandals etc etc etc, I have also been trying to adjust my attitude. I was in the kitchen when my mother told my elder sister to take her husband some water/food/tea. I started to say, “Does he not have functioning arms and legs?” but stopped myself lest my mother starts lecturing me on the virtues of a good wife. 

That unvoiced comment helped me figure it out though; the key to being the perfect wife. It’s simple: you just pretend that your husband doesn’t have any legs and do stuff the way you would if it were actually true; you would not only make his breakfast/lunch/dinner/tea but you would take it to him, you would constantly check if he was ok and ask if he needs anything, you would run his bath, bring him the remote, fetch the paper etc etc etc.

Ok so, yes, this post is meant to be tongue-in-cheek but I still reckon it’s a neat trick. This way you’re not succumbing to a life of subservience but one of benevolence and a quiet amusement. Of course, pretending he doesn’t have legs only works to a certain extent. We may have to rely on the good old headache for getting out of certain other wifely duties...

9.10.06

Defeat?

My joy about Schumacher equalizing with Alonso came to a bitter end yesterday when he retired from the Japanese F1 race. Usually when I’m set to watch a second broadcast of a race (the first being before dawn) I avoid the news so I can watch the race without knowing its outcome. This time however I knew the outcome of the race so I didn’t watch it as I couldn’t bear to sit through the excruciating moments of Schumacher’s championship go up in smoke. He seems to have put aside his win-at-all-costs philosophy and accepted the fact that Alonso will win the championship. It is gutting because Schumacher is a sporting legend. Yes I know at times he has acted in an unsportsmanlike manner but no one can deny that he is a fantastic driver and truly great at what he does. He is a legend and this is no way for a legend to exit the game. It is unfair.

Ok, I’m done. For now.

PS. Fat lady. Not singing.

2.10.06

Leaving Tower Hamlets

I’m leaving Tower Hamlets. After my wedding at the end of October I shall be moving to the borough of Redbridge. Many people I know would rejoice at the thought of leaving the “crime-infested, poverty-stricken cesspool” that is Tower Hamlets but for me, it is a reluctant move and a sad event. Tower Hamlets may be one of the poorest boroughs in Europe; it may be saturated by high unemployment rates and have an uncontrollable drugs problem but it has always been my home and I have grown to love it.

Living in Limehouse, I have experienced both the affluence of the Docklands and the poverty of the surrounding areas. This dichotomy has only helped create the unique identity sported by my borough. It has history, culture and an amazing mix of people. I know I sound like an over-passionate council brochure or a second-rate estate agent but I don’t care. From Limehouse Basin to Brick Lane and Billingsgate, the colour, charm, diversity, vibrancy and authenticity of Tower Hamlets is unmatched by any other borough in London. It is as much a part of me as the colour of my skin or the level of my education. I hate to leave it because it is a part of my identity as a bengali, as a woman, as a writer, and as a person.

Stragging and haggling

A half-decent weekend overall. Sunday was spent exulting over Schumacher equalising with Alonso in the F1 Championship standings (so I’m a geek, shoot me). Saturday was spent traipsing up and down (and up… and down) Green Street buying some sarees for my "Asian Woman Extraordinaire" arsenal. I also have to stock up on jewellery and even thought about buying a jewellery box (Kia Abdullah, you have been assimilated). At some point during my (third? fourth?) shopping trip to Green Street this month I realised that I no longer feel awkward walking into Asian clothes and jewellery stores. I no longer feel like I’m going to act like a fool (Q: Would you like that in a kabuli or chudidar? A: Uh, What’s a kabuli?), feel inferior for my inability to match shades of baby pink just-so or feel like I’m going to get screwed out of money on 300% mark-ups. 

In fact, I have proven to be quite the adept haggler. I managed to get my price in all stores but one. This one involved getting into a gladiator-type battle of prides with a silver-tongued salesman complete with spectators and hecklers. It came down to a twenty pound difference. I was not willing to go any higher and he was not willing to go any lower. Eventually we decided to meet in the middle. “There we go. Neither of us lost our pride,” I commented. “It wasn’t about pride,” he replied. “I want to sell it to you more than you want to buy it.” I could not help but narrow my eyes and say, “I still think you got the better of me.” “No,” he replied immediately. “You got the better of me. Buy another saree and we’ll have another round.” I left with my pride intact but was not entirely convinced (Asif, you and I have a score to settle).

I have also developed a set of “haggle” statements (“Let’s not waste time, give it to me for fifty and I will hand you the cash right now,” “My sister’s getting married in two months. Give it to me for sixty and I will send my family here for the wedding shop.”) I haven’t used the “I’m a writer, I’ll tell the world you do great discounts,” line yet but who knows what I’ll stoop to? After all, now that I have been assimilated I may just start to enjoy it! (eek)