The trip kicked off with three days in Karachi, sponsored by U for Ummah ~ a vibrant group of teachers and parents who organized a family festival attended by more than 11,000 people. It was an honour for me to present four concerts at their event, meet and sing with local school children at the Fajr Academy and be interviewed by Hiba Magazine. It was also a surprise to be granted national appearances on radio Samaa FM 107.4 and on Hum TV’s popular morning show Jago. A huge thanks to all of my hosts and friends who made the Karachi visit possible.
One of the tasks I have finally found time to tackle this month has been the sorting of old original poetry that, until now, had been in dusty disarray.
For quite some time, my good friends at Kube Publishing in the UK (who helped me release For Whom The Troubadour Sings back in 2009) have been suggesting that I compile a new book of poetry and songs. Somehow though, the time and head space needed to sift through the hundreds of old writings in archive has consistently escaped me ~ until this past March. The mountain air, the scenic surroundings of my wife’s ancestral village, the frequent cups of milky chai, the daily walks, the time with family, the fresh fruit…all have inspired me to spend time each day reading, re-reading and trying to convince myself why anyone should even want to read the drivel that has dribbled from my pen over the years.
Some of the fragments of prose, completed poems and unrecorded song lyrics date back to my late teens. All were digitized at various times in recent years from journals, loose-leaf pages, note pads, gum wrappers and airplane napkins but still require a great deal of assessment, refinement and editing. Though my office back in Canada still has a trunk full of hand-written journals with more to extract, what had been transferred to various digital files on my computer has amounted to quite a long list of titles that were fascinating for me to revisit and may indeed be a pleasure to bind for posterity sake.
As I dug through the piles of words, I created three folders: 1) Rubbish 2) Needs work 3) May be worth sharing.
The next phase will be to tidy up folder two, merge it with folder three and pass the whole mess over to a few close friends for their feedback on how many threads should be cut and how many could be woven into a new book. As months pass, we’ll see what evolves ~ published poetry or petulant pulp.
Visiting New Friends
Over the years, I have accumulated many wonderful memories working with the international humanitarian organization Islamic Relief on their fundraising efforts in the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada and South Africa. Islamic Relief have also been my go-to liaisons when seeking a reliable means of sharing what I have acquired with others around the world who struggle with finding food, water, education, housing or security due to war, famine or natural disaster.
Maintaining balance in life is such an important, and yet, often difficult task. When our babies learn to stand on their own, then wobble, walk and finally run ~ we cheer at their newfound “balance” and subsequent freedom to explore on their own. As children we then hone our balance ~ we learn to pull ourselves up on swings by ourselves seeking to swing faster and higher with each visit to the park. We walk along curbs, then walls, then dare each other to scale fences, ascend monkey bars, climb trees or even scramble up to roof-tops. The challenge of keeping physical balance drives some to be gymnasts, mountain climbers, window washers, roofers, tree-surgeons, high-rise construction workers or even Youtube thrill seekers.
But what of our internal balance? Our skills at social balance? Our responsibilities toward maintaining economical balance? Our mental, physical and emotional balance? We teach babies to eat, walk, and talk ~ but do we celebrate when they learn how to share what they eat, sit still with patience and listen with respect? We teach children to run fast and climb high, but do we teach them to how to walk softly and respectively or get down in the dirt to dig and plant fragile plants which grow high? We test teens abilities to memorize, read and count, but do we guide them on how to reflect, teach others the wisdom of what they read or ask themselves why they have so much while others have so little?
The very nature of living in a country like Canada means that I have access to so much ~ security, food, conveniences, “things”, money ~ you name it! More than I could ever need or use! Choosing to live frugally and spend minimally helps me avoid acquiring too many things that I do not need, and thus lessens the amount of money I need to a certain degree. In turn, the dedicated individuals who work with Islamic Relief help my family and I funnel the excess that comes our way toward others. Their offices around the world help our family connect with communities and individuals who have little or no access to the basic essentials we acquire easily.
A few days ago my family and I went to visit the Islamic Relief office in Mazafarabad Pakistan, just down the road from our extended-family home in Abbottabad. Together with IR staff and a few local families we’ve come to know over the past few years, we celebrated our collective international effort at trying to bring better balance to all of our lives.
There are so many other similar organizations working tirelessly around the world. Seek one out, get involved, share what you have, build bridges with other families and experience first hand the beauty of helping to bring just a little more balance to the world.
Reflections of Spring on The Silk Road
Living in northern Pakistan for three years was such a pivotal period in my life. In fact, even this blog was started during my time in KPK as I embarked upon early Simple Living experiments and experiences. Having to relocate my primary residence back to Canada in 2012 was an unexpected challenge, but, in no way did my change of day-to-day scenery sever my ties or heartstrings to the place I know as my “home away from home”.
My family and I have tried to spend as much time as possible each year in Abbottabad, where we have relatives, dear friends and the Al Imtiaz school that is such a passion to us all. This year though, we noticed quite a number of changes to our dear Hazara area ~ and sadly, there were many that were difficult to see.
The boundaries of our old neighbourhood, which once bordered villages, ravines and tree lined foot-paths, had been cauterized by military base expansion ~ closed off with high walls, razor-wire and armed check points. As a result, grazing goats no longer wander through our family’s gate, shepherds with flocks no longer pass us on morning walks and stunningly beautiful villagers with auburn hair, green eyes and colourful frocks no longer gather branches and twigs from the road sides to take home for fire-wood. In fact, there has been a concentrated cutting back of all foliage from road sides to make way for CCTV security cameras on posts ~ overlooking the tightening urban streets and alleys. Now becoming an over-populated, concrete suburb, full of wealthy families with little concern for the environment outside their front gates, the garbage has increased substantially along roadsides, with many people simply tossing bags of rubbish over their walls as if it would evaporate once out of sight.
The CPEC (Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor) stretching from the Chinese boarder to the Arabian Sea, is also quickly changing the texture of Pakistan’s terrane. On one hand ~ street signs in Chinese, schools teaching Mandarin, the occasional sound of Chinese voices singing out in conversation at shops and the curried-Chinese cuisine restaurants springing up in our little city are all very exciting stitches to Pakistan’s already vibrant cultural tapestry. On the other hand ~ multi-lane super toll-ways carved through the countryside, behemoth bridges stretched over once picturesque valleys, monstrous factories plunked in pastures and armed security guards accompanying jean clad newcomers through pervasively traditional bazaars are difficult scenes to observe.
Good? Bad? Economic stability close at hand? Economic occupation moving like quiet fire across the land? So many questions to ask. With 20 million new residences expected to move in to Pakistan from China as years and development progress, there will be much more to reflect and write upon, but at this point in time one thing is certain to me: The Pakistan of ten years from now, will be a very, very different place.