Throwback

What Autumn Means to Me

autumnintehran

TEHRAN, Islamic Republic of Iran (November 26, 2007) – In a short inadvertent chat last winter with a fellow MSUan and batch mate who is presently based in Toronto, she asked naively, “It’s too hot there, isn’t it?” To her astonishment, I retorted “Yes, it’s extremely ‘hot’ here as it’s the peak of winter now”. “Do you mean there are four seasons there in Iran like here in Canada?!” she queried. “Yup,” I quipped.

As the Middle East region as a whole is commonly associated with a portrait of camel-driving nomads in a vast arid desert, there is no blame if someone outside the region is unaware that Iran has four seasons. In fact, even fewer outsiders know that its calendar, whose basis of reckoning is centuries older than Christ, is accurately divided quarterly according to the four seasons. It commences on the very first day of spring (March 21 or 22) and ends on exactly the last day of winter.

Since September 23, it’s been autumn now here. Skies turn grey. Leaves of trees change their colors, usually turning into a reddish or brownish hue and begin to fall. Rain showers and at times downpours are frequent; hence, a natural boon to the polluted Tehran metropolis. The days get shorter and cooler while the nights get longer; thus, a rare opportunity to those who are keen to perform optional fasting. In short, it marks the transition from summer into winter.

Just as deciduous trees have different colors of leaves at this period, so are the meanings of autumn to different people.

To the tillers of soil especially in the temperate zone of both the northern and southern hemispheres such as the Philippines, autumn means time of reaping and fecundity. To me as a schoolboy then in the first half of 1980s, harvest season meant variegated and relatively cheaper fruits such as atis and rambutan at the Cotabato City Fruit Stand which is just outside our school.

During my college years in early 1990s, this season meant mushrooming of madang/marang fruits in certain spots of MSU Campus such as in front of PLH, Commercial Center, 5th Street, and Baryo Salam. Unless provoked by certain PLH dwellers, I would evade buying marang in front of PLH as the price was somehow heavy to my pocket. Instead, Baryo Salam which is near the dormitory where I stayed in during my first three years in the campus was my favorite hub where I could buy one marang as cheap as 2 pesos–after three to five minutes of bargaining, nevertheless. Around this time, lucky were those who had classmates or roommates who are from the nearby town of Balo’i because invitation to their hometown meant free-of-charge marangs to the heart’s content.

To the poets and ‘outdoor’ individuals like my wife’s Trinidadian friend, the fall season means melancholy and gloominess as the chill of winter and forced indoor retreat are in the offing, nay imminent.

To a bachelor or spinster, fall season may be linked to strong feelings of sorrow as it symbolically represents his or her own ageing self. It serves as a nagging reminder that like the natural world, he or she has also reached the prime of his or her youth while having no offspring.

To the mystics and spiritual wayfarers, autumn constitutes a stage of journey toward perfection as well as yearning for the forthcoming and sought-after reunion with the Beloved and the attainment of the state of felicity after life-long smashing of the idol of I-ness.

To the leaf peepers, this season means the time to come out of their cocoons to enjoy the mellow sight of fall foliage. It is therefore a seasonal godsend to the tourism industry of Eastern Canada, the New England region of the United States and Eastern Asia including China, Japan and Korea where colored autumn foliage is most famously noted.

To the Iranian households, autumn (and winter) means more consumption of gas as the source of heat energy.

To the Palestinians, this year’s autumn means possible reenactment of the Madrid Conference and its dismal repercussions while to their cousins, it means more incentives by forging diplomatic and/or trade relations with [Persian] Gulf sheikhs.

To the inmates of the world’s largest concentration camp called Gaza Strip, this fall and the approaching winter signify further suffering and starvation.

To the “coalition of the willing”, this year’s autumn means further dwindling with the impending pull out of the Australian buddy. To the Australians, in turn, the same means self-rescue through the ballot from the five-year old quagmire that is Iraq.

To me, every autumn means more emotionally charged reminiscence and re-experiencing of the MSU-Main Campus climate though, unfortunately, without the soothing panorama of Lake Lanao and the centuries-old serenity of its Sleeping Lady.

(An excerpt from my book “My Tehran Diary” (2015))

sleepinglady

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My Tehran Diary

MyTehranDiary

The present book is a collection of 11 short essays on various subjects I had written when I was still a postgraduate student of International Relations at the University of Tehran. Three of these essays – “Remembering Hafiz,” “He Whose Crime was Justice” and “Who is Papanok?” – were published in Mindanews.com, an online news magazine based in Davao City, Philippines. In the eleventh essay entitled “Tale of a Long Tunnel,” I gave a brief account of my experiences while pursuing my graduate and postgraduate studies. It was penned soon after my dissertation defense and I was then about to return back home (Philippines).

Table of Contents
Preface
Chapter 1 – Remembering Hafiz
Chapter 2 – He Whose Crime was Justice
Chapter 3 – Shall the Cyberpower of Quds Day Whither Away?
Chapter 4 – Who is Papanok?
Chapter 5 – On the ‘Verticalization’ of Eschatology
Chapter 6 – The Politics of Hermeneutics or the Hermeneutics of Politics?
Chapter 7 – What Autumn Means to Me
Chapter 8 – Right to Have a Good Name
Chapter 9 – Personally Experiencing Existentialism 1
Chapter 10 – Personally Experiencing Existentialism 2
Chapter 11 – Tale of a Long Tunnel
About the Author
Other Books by Mansoor Limba
Connect with Mansoor Limba

Author: Mansoor Limba
Title: MY TEHRAN DIARY
Published: 2015
Words: 10,670
Language: English
ISBN: 9781310878060
Available formats: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt, html, and Kindle
Price: US$2.99

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/545988

MyTehranDiaryAmazon

Categories: Current Events, Education, International Relations, Middle East, Throwback | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Is ‘Gems Sigay’ a Kaleidoscope, Rainbow or Mosaic?

Gems

Kaleidoscope. Rainbow. Mosaic. These are three words which are commonly used to describe a high school reunion’s reorganization, and its subsequent gatherings and activities.

Kaleidoscope refers to a tube-shaped optical instrument that is rotated to produce a succession of symmetrical designs by means of mirrors reflecting the constantly changing patterns made by small objects. It depicts a high school reunion group that constantly changes its colors of activities. At one time, it is all about wining and dining, while at another time, it is purely community service and civic action.

Rainbow, as we all know, is a bow or arc of prismatic colors appearing in the sky opposite the sun and caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays in drops of rain. A high school reunion is said to be a rainbow if its planned activities are too high and too big to be implemented or realized. And after a long period, they will just remain as ‘planned’ activities.

Mosaic, meanwhile, is used to describe the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. This word portrays a high school reunion which determines a set of diverse activities and then takes small, yet constant, steps toward their realization.

Today, exactly three months (or a quarter year) after the first ever reunion 25 years after graduation in high school, it is worthwhile for CCSPC Batch ’89 (Gems Sigay) to assess the identity it tends to assume – a kaleidoscope, rainbow or mosaic?

Immediately after the reunion day, the following steps in building our Contact Directory have been proposed: (1) Maintenance of FB Group Page, (2) Listing of mobile contacts, (3) Grouping according to fields of endeavor or line agencies, and (4) Grouping according to locations. (It’s part of commitment to the first step that this nondescript has to join the FB community.)

The following guiding principles have also been suggested: (1) Managing the Batch shall be a microcosm of our ability to duly serve (a) others (batch mates), (b) our alma mater, and (c) the community; (2) Batch ’89 shall be a marketplace of different and differing ideas; (3) Transparency shall be observed in financial matters and motives; (4) Reunion shall be an avenue for community service and giving back of blessings; and (5) To aim big while doing the doable things no matter how small they may be.

With these proposed steps in building our Contact Directory and guiding principles, the scene of actions in the past three months is dominated by the following activities, among others: charity works, luncheon meetings, homecoming parties, reaching out to a sick batch mate, wedding events, funeral services, entrepreneurship seminars, birthday greetings, etc.

The coming months, until the next reunion, will determine if we could maintain this mosaic of small, yet diverse, activities and programs. We hope we can – and we will!

Categories: Community Service, Current Events, High School Reunion, Throwback | Leave a comment

On Being a Resident Stranger

The_cave_and_its_surroundings02

Written: February 1, 2009

After yet another post-‘Ashura commemoration program held recently at the research institute with which I am currently connected, my daughter handed to me an LBC package. “Yes, Mustafa has sent them as he promised,” I whispered to myself while reading the sender’s address.

A few days earlier, I had received a text message from my Batangeño friend asking for my postal address as he has a gift for me. As I found out, the brotherly present consists of DVD films about Saint Mary, the Holy Messiah and the Companions of the Cave [ashab al-kahf] from an Islamic perspective. In his subsequent text message, I learnt that Mustafa offered similar items to his Christian relatives and friends as Christmas gift.

What I had initially thought to be only 2-minute examination of the DVDs’ quality turned into over 2 hours of watching the “Companions of the Cave” film. Dubbed in English, the Iranian-produced movie is about seven young Unitarian Christians in Asia Minor during the Roman rule sometime in 300 CE. In order to preserve their faith, the seven youth escaped from the tyranny of the pagan Roman ruler and took shelter in a cave. As part of God’s plan and sign of His omnipotence, they were made to sleep inside the cave for generations. When they woke up and went out of the cave, they realized that they stayed there for a long period of three centuries!

As mentioned in Surah 18 of the Qur’an, the Seven Sleepers found out that their town turned into a bustling city no more ruled by polytheists but by those who professed to believe in God and His Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. Yet, unexpected by the people who were anxiously waiting for them at the cave’s opening, the Companions of the Cave preferred to remain inside where they passed away while in a state of prostration in prayer.

A recurring theme in this story is what is called ghurbah in ethics and mysticism. The Arabic word ghurbah denotes ‘remoteness’ and ‘distance’ and its derivative gharib means ‘stranger’, ‘alien’ or anything which is far in relation to something else. This remoteness or farness may not only be physical but also spiritual, intellectual or emotional.

In spite of being Romans of noble ruling class, the seven believing youth were strangers in their hometown where worship of the Roman gods was then prevalent. That’s why they escaped from this state of ‘strangeness’ and sought refuge in a cave where they felt being ‘home’. Yes, when they came out of the cave, Roman paganism was no more yet they were still strangers!

Before, they were alien to the open polytheism practiced in society. The second time around, they were stranger to the hidden polytheism of ‘believers’ in the forms of hypocrisy, worship of deities and materialism. Likewise, the people were also foreign to them. Finally leaving the cave, a sixth generation grandson of the chief of Seven Sleepers told his granddaughter, “Let’s go my daughter; we are strangers to them.”

This state of ghurbah is a recurring theme throughout the annals of history. Thousands welcomed Muslim ibn ‘Aqil on his arrival in Kufah. The following day, they would scatter on seeing him and walk away as if they had never known him!

After the event in Karbala, the enchained womenfolk and children of Imam Husayn’s (‘a) camp were ‘strangers’ to the Muslim masses. So was the message of ‘Ashura to them. Even today, Imam Husayn is such a gharib to the followers of his grandfather Muhammad (s). Every year, local Muslims would welcome Muharram with the beating of drums in weddings and other joyous occasions.

Palestinians of Gaza are worse than strangers as they stand amidst the rubbles of their homes, looking for the remains of their loved ones. Much worse strangers than them are the Arab rulers who are abandoning them at the mercy of their ‘cousins’. Equally alien to ‘decent living’ are the internally displaced people in Maguindanao and other places. Indeed, much alien to humanitarianism are those who have a hand in their ordeals by omission or commission.

And everyone is a gharib in his or her own watan (hometown). Stranger is the husband whose wife does not partake in the love of the Holy Household (‘a). Stranger is the parent whose child adopts a lifestyle repugnant to modesty and decency. Stranger is the wife who wakes up alone for the dawn prayer as the husband is in slumber. Stranger at home is the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) follower whose siblings are Yazid-lovers. Stranger is the learned in the company of ignoramuses. Stranger is the pious in a holier-than-thou assembly.

In closing, let me wrap up this marginalia with a couplet from Hafiz:

I belong to my Beloved’s town, not to the land of strangers.

O Lord, unite me with Your friends!

I belong to my Beloved’s town, not to the land of strangers.

O Lord, unite me with Your friends!

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The Cosmetics and the Acid Test

Gaza child 2011

Written: January 5, 2009

On my return home last October from abroad where I attended an international conference and spent the whole month of Ramadan, my wife and I were treated by a longtime friend and brother-in-faith at a favorite Thai restaurant somewhere in Makati City.

No sooner that Tom Yam Goong was served than my former classmate started a casual tête-à-tête, “You know, I regularly monitor the US presidential race. I would hardly miss watching Obama’s speeches and interviews. I also read news reports of his election campaigns and debates. I like his ideas. With him, I hope for a change for the better. I really like to see him campaigning along with his ­hijab-wearing sister.”

“How about you, do you also monitor him?” he asked me. “I don’t have much time for it!” I replied. “As a student of International Relations, do you think this attitude of yours is good?” he asked again. “Of course, I read news reports and analyses of the presidential race, but I do not expect any fundamental change even if Obama wins the election—and I think he’ll make it,” I clarified.

When he asked me why I said so, I stressed that winning presidential election in the United States involves a lot of money. No one could take a seat in the White House without the blessing of financial groups and institutions. So, the person of the US president is not a decisive factor for global change, and no change in the US foreign policy in the Middle East, for example, can be expected.

As my family proceeded to Mindanao—to Cotabato City, to be specific—I noticed that the same positive expectation from Obama was expressed in local radio programs in Maguindanaon vernacular. A radio host and commentator was even daydreaming that Barack is a Muslim!

It was with such atmosphere of optimism for Obama that a lady ambassador of “goodwill and humanitarianism” paid a visit to evacuees and internally displaced people in Maguindanao and promised them so-and-so million US dollar amount of aid for rehabilitation, without them knowing that the superpower state Her Excellency represents is responsible for the ignominy that is Guantanamo Bay, the havoc that is Afghanistan, the quagmire that is Iraq, and perhaps, the terror that is 9/11.

Last December 28, while sipping a cup of tea with chamomile in the early morning, I heard over the radio that Tel Aviv began massive aerial and naval strikes in Gaza Strip. The ground invasion also commenced last Saturday (January 3). As of press time, at least 531 Palestinians have been killed and over 2,600 others are wounded. And the death toll is rising.

As usual, all attempts at the UN Security Council—the latest of which was yesterday—to call for immediate ceasefire have been vetoed by the United States. Where and how is Obama, the expected catalyst of global change? Still a silent spectator. Anytime now, expect him to express a word of support for the onslaught. Make no mistake about it—the least thing that can be expected from him is a word of condemnation or even a veneer of neutrality.

To put a brief marginalia to this episode, Obama is mere cosmetics while Gaza is the acid test.

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Who is Papanok?

Papanok

Sunday, 22 July 2007

TEHRAN, Islamic Republic of Iran (22 July) –Barely an hour after signing in Friendster.com early today from a student dormitory for couples here in central Tehran, the first three persons who joined my ring of friends are of course my better half, Mamot, followed by sister Mayhanie, and then an anonymous Papanok (meaning ‘bird’ in Maguindanaon vernacular), thanks to its extraordinary vision.

Since Papanok is flying with its wings of anonymity, I was curious to know its identity. So, I decided to sneak a look at its photo album which contains 14 pictures. Perhaps, at least one of these images could give me a clue.

Seven minutes of browsing failed to suggest any exact identity I could recall. Why? All the pictures are aerial views, impressive though—7 each showing different parts of Cotabato City and its suburbs (where the ORC Complex and the Pulangi River appearing like anacondas are prominent), and the MSU Main Campus (from the furthermost part of the 7th street down to the College of Forestry and KFCIAS).

True, I failed to identify Papanok but nevertheless my venture reminds me of the notoriety that winged-creature has earned here in the Middle East exactly a year ago.

With Papanok’s supply of Google Earth’s free repository of satellite imagery, maps and terrains of the world with exact cartographic grids which is becoming an emergent favorite toy of many online surfers, both the young and the young-at-heart, Hizbullah fighters were able to make a difference with their 4,180 Katyusha rockets fired into military and strategic targets in northern Israel during the 34-day showdown in Lebanon last year.

Through this surreptitious interference of the Maguindanaon bird in a far-flung region’s conflict, a geopolitical landscape is changed, a long-standing balance of terror modified, and the result of a war reversed.

Papanok has illustriously demonstrated the dynamics of asymmetrical warfare in the information age, embarrassed an invading army, shattered decades-old myth of invincibility, emboldened a defeated nation, deterred (or at least delayed) a regional war, and thereby surprised the world.

The unexpected outcome of the war, political pundits believe, significantly deters, or at least delays, impending Washington and/or Tel Aviv aerial sorties against Iran that could trigger regional war with catastrophic global repercussions and for which last year’s month-long devastating face-off was supposed to be a laboratory for experimentation.

Given this exposé, I advise you Papanok, whoever you are, to fly higher or hide yourself in the thick forest of Timaku island as my hunting gun is now loaded with the bullet of a newly crafted draconian law (Anti-Terrorism Law).

(Source link: MINDANEWS, July 22, 2007)

Categories: Information Technology, Middle East, Throwback | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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