Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I can't wait for a day when...

Gmail will have

  • most recently starred emails show up in a separate box on the top
  • an embedded calendar widget that'll help me remember pending emails, emails to follow-up on, and emails labelled as "action items"
  • the ability to label emails in one click
  • a customizable layout that'll allow me to place my Labels above the Chat list
  • the ability to label draft emails before they get sent
  • and also, the ability to click on any label on an email in the conversation list which will take me to all the emails with that label.

Yea, all these features will definitely make my Gmail experience more fun and perhaps almost complete :)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New in 2008

This blog might just self-destruct.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Emirati Marriage Fund

Which is where the Marriage Fund comes in. Its main function is to give one-off gifts of £12,000 to help bridegrooms pay for their weddings. But there's a catch. The bride must be an Emirati girl, not a foreigner. Each groom must have a fertility check and an AIDS test. So far -- since 1992, the Fund has helped to marry off 44,000 couples.

From Secret Dubai Diary's blog:

UAE mass marriages are always a heartwarming story, given the ludicrous and vast amounts of debt so many other young Emiratis get themselves into over their weddings:

Abu Dhabi: Five hundred young Emiratis, from all seven emirates, will tie the knot in a mass wedding dubbed the "Emirates wedding", on Friday, at the Dubai World Trade Centre's Za'abeel ballroom.

The wedding, which is being funded personally by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, is being celebrated on the occasion of the second anniversary of Shaikh Mohammad's accession as Ruler of Dubai.

If only there could be a general mindshift to view overblown nuptials as tacky and profligate rather than socially desirable, then there might be more young couples embarking on matrimony unblighted by huge debts:

"The Institute for International Research, a UAE think-tank, puts the average cost of a wedding ceremony in the UAE at Dh300,000 – 50 times the salary of an entry-level government employee in Dubai."

So good luck to these five hundred sensible young people, and may their marriages be long and happy.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Notes from my Hajj Journal I

December 24, 2006

And so it began. I’m on my way to Abu Dhabi... I have mu laptop in the car, so I decided to type the first part of my entry. It's become very popular for people to write their experiences once they come back from their travels, and Hajj is one of them. I'm not sure I want to follow the trend. I'm not sure how people can share the most intimate and private thoughts... their closeness to Allah (swt). Those who've asked, I've told them I'm nervous. Nervous... that my Hajj be accepted, that it be safe...

I know right now I long to be able to come back and tell all those people who asked me to pray for them, that I did.. that I took their duas with me, and tell them of the places I prayed for them at.....

But I dont know if I'll return.

4pm @ Jeddah Airport- Pilgrims section

Abu Dhabi airport was pretty…interesting. This one uncle on his way for Hajj started shouting @ the poor airport officials who sent him upstairs twice.

A khutbah is going on in the flight. We’ll be approaching the meeqat soon. The khatib is explaining the 3 types of Hajj and that you don’t have to wear Ihram if you’re going to Madinah first.

I received lots of tips from people, especially Farah Aunty. She told me to make sure I don’t miss the meeqat while making the niyyah in flight, when they announce it. She also told me that the crowd for stoning is less on one side, and that I should go to the end to throw the stones… and some other stuff.

I was feeling nervous. I took out my notes, read them, and felt much better.

Last night, I had read Sawitri’s Hajj memoirs. I was overwhelmed. She’s such an amazing sister, she captured so much in a few words.

I turned 23 today. My friend Sana said that this is the best birthday gift I could ever get. I know. It’s unbelievable.

Especially thinking about how difficult this had been. I remember having a conversation with someone- “When do you want to go for Hajj?”, I asked. “This year inshallah if I don’t get married, otherwise next when I can save up for two people.”

For girls in my culture, it’s not customary for them to go for Hajj before they get married. In fact, what people say is that, “spend an entire lifetime in sin, and then go for Hajj to repent”.


Still @ the airport. Really, how people even reach their destination is a miracle. Reminds me of my Hafiz sahib telling me about the organised chaos in India. He was once telling us how in India, everything just falls into place, despite extreme corruption, no centralisation of the transit system, the trains don’t have a schedule to run on, yet the country has progressed so much- life moves on. And it’s the same @ the Jeddah Pilgrims section of the airport. Total chaos, very few people know what’s really going on, and everyone else is sitting and having tea in the middle of the airport.

Saudi Arabia

The home of the 2 holiest cities, so holy that they’re blessed with real things from Paradise- the black stone in Makkah, and the Rawdah in Madinah.

As we exited the plane, in the bus to the airport, a sister noticed my UofT sling bag and started chatting with me. She was travelling with Nugget Travels from Scarborough. They were going to Madinah first.

I really wished the airport was non-smoking. I changed my seat several times and then finally gave up. Every other employee or guest @ the airport smoked. Little I knew that I would soon discover that the situation isn’t much better in the cities. I looked around me, and thought, nothing about this airport reflects the wealth of Saudi. This could be Africa, and you wouldn’t have noticed the difference. There are simply too many men everywhere. Do they even have a website?

Through the painful waiting hours I spent @ the airport, I often wished we were with a group… or at least a few more people. But there’s blessing and wisdom in every arrangement that we had. The airport authorities really exhausted my father. I prayed silently for Allah to help him, because for the time I was standing there, he must have run @ least 8 times between the finance and the pilgrims office.

I made a renewed effort to clear my conscience and intentions. Too many thoughts!

Azan and Music

A few days ago, a tent was setup about 20 metres from my house. I was wondering what it was for, when I concluded today that the men were having some celebrations because I could hear Arabic music blasting away.
At 7:11pm, the muazzins began to call out the azan for Isha. The music didn't stop, I could hear the azan and the music at the same volume. For a few moments, I was quite disappointed.
Subhanallah, we lose ourselves in entertainment so easily that we forget about all the muazzins in the city who have been appointed to call people to Salah. As I heard the words, I replied to each phrase of the azan, wondering which dua of mine will be answered by Allah (swt).
At that instant, the blasting music stopped. I was surprised... could it really be? I waited for the azan to finish and said the dua for the Prophet's rank in Paradise.
Then, I went to my sister's room and peered out her window. The tent seemed empty. Looks like the men went for salah (the closest masjid is a 4-5 minute walk from the tent).


Notes about my Hajj Journal

I tried to use the present tense wherever I could, but unfortunately, many times I would be too disheartened, or tired to write. I wish now that I didn’t lose any opportunity to pen my thoughts, but then it would have changed my entire experience. In so many ways, what a person writes does not reflect the changes they undergo within them.

I know this isn't the most vivid or best account I could write. Having worked for a year, my first priority was to go for Hajj as soon as I could. However, my plans wouldn't come together. Every door closed up on me and I locked myself up with depression. I couldn't understand what was happening in my life, and why I was facing nothing but rejection.

My parents couldn't see me suffer like that, and so my father, canceled all his important meetings, changed his investment plans, did whatever else he had to, and decided to, with Allah's Will, make my Hajj possible. We had our visas stamped some 4-5 days before the date of departure. It was truly an invitation from Allah, because such last minute plans are hardly entertained by travel agencies.

I was quite embarrassed before Allah (swt). How could I have not been patient through my ordeals in life? Perhaps I felt He had taken something away from me, but He replaced it with the best experience a Muslim could ever have, and that's how it was going to be.

A part of me was not completely prepared. I had a few exchanges, some words of advice, a fiqh course on SunniPath, and internet searches. I was going to be on my own. This was going to be my father's second Hajj, and mashallah, he had prepared well. I didn't want to discuss fiqh issues with him, because my own knowledge was recently acquired, and I was scared to confuse myself. Hence, despite being part of a group, I was on my own.