Want to know who your friends are?

employment-numbers-up-and-down-2In this difficult market, if you ever find yourself down on your luck, use the opportunity to take a good look around.

 

Do you see? The people who are still around when you no longer seem especially useful? These are the ones who are worthy of your time.

Keep them close.

Checking on my heart on Palm Sunday

palm sundayPeace and blessings to Christian friends worldwide celebrating Palm Sunday today.

For all of us, whether Christian or not, this is a good time to – as Pope Francis said today –  look into our own hearts. It is a reminder to return to the “examined life” and to break with the somnolent continuity of apathy. I ask myself, along with Pope Francis, “has my life fallen asleep?” and whether I, like Pontius Pilate, faced with a complicated situation, wash my hands and turn away.

“Where is my heart?” I often ask myself – especially these days, when the survival of academics and scholars appears to rely on constantly endeavoring to generate likes, clicks, citations, and retweets. It is a struggle to foster and to enjoy the fruits of aloneness. And the Prophet Muhammad reminds me to look for my heart when I am alone. If I cannot find my heart in solitude, then – the Prophet urges me to “ask Allah to bless you with a heart, for indeed you have no heart.”  

Fahmida Riaz on fundamentalism on both sides

The progressive Pakistani poet, Fahmida Riaz, recites a poem to an Indian audience comparing the rise of Hindutva in India with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. Note the delight of the Indian audience and the “delicious” cultural affinity between Indian and Pakistani political discourse. And forgive my attempt at translation. It’s impossible to catch all the nuance, but I tried.

Turned out you were just like us.

So it turned out you were just like us!
Where were you hiding all this time, buddy?

That stupidity, that ignorance
we wallowed in for a century –
look, it arrived at your shores too!
Many congratulations to you!

Raising the flag of religion,
I guess now you’ll be setting up Hindu Raj?
You too will commence to muddle everything up
You, too, will ravage your beautiful garden.

You, too, will sit and ponder –
I can tell preparations are afoot –
who is [truly] Hindu, who is not.
I guess you’ll be passing fatwas soon!

Here, too, it will become hard to survive.
Here, too, you will sweat and bleed.
You’ll barely make do joylessly.
You will gasp for air like us.

I used to wonder with such deep sorrow.
And now, I laugh at the idea:
it turned out you were just like us!
We weren’t two nations after all! 

To hell with education and learning.
Let’s sing the praises of ignorance.
Don’t look at the potholes in your path:
bring back instead the times of yore!

Practice harder till you master
the skill of always walking backwards.
Let not a single thought of the present
break your focus upon the past! 


Repeat the same thing over and over –
over and over, say only this:
How glorious was India in the past!
How sublime was India in days gone by!


Then, dear friends, you will arrive
and get to heaven after all.
Yep. We’ve been there for a while now.
Once you are there,
once you’re in the same hell-hole,
keep in touch and tell us how it goes!

Transitions post-travel

Let’s accept that the transitions we make during conference travel can be difficult ones. This past week, I was in Oakland, CA and Los Angeles, eating fusion cuisine with great friends. Today I am in Central Illinois / Champaign-Urbana and my restaurant choices are Red Lobster and Panera – with my grading.