Diamond in the rough – Roaring Springs, PA

What’s in a name some ask. If a town is called Roaring Springs the first thought would probably be that of rushing rapids complete with adrenaline junkies flexing their muscles against the might of Mother Nature’s very own Hercules – water.
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Whilst the drive to Roaring Spring from Clearfield PA is filled with clouds kissing the hills and wild bushes enveloping the ever green pine trees. The roads mimic life with their blind turns and hidden verges.

Upon arrival at Roaring Springs you are greeted with the soul calming tranquility  that only Roaring Springs can offer. The quietness is amplified by the sweet chirping of the birds. It is here where you feel God reaching out His healing hand that touches your soul to leave it serene and quiet. It is here where you can experience the sound of the stones crunching beneath your feet and you realise that the roar of a car engine disturbs the peace akin to a tornado that passes through shattering everything in its wake.

Standing on the grass it feels like the earth is taking away all your troubles cleansing the heart from all anxiety.

What Roaring Springs PA also tells us that sometimes our alter ego is not all about being irresponsible and vain, it might just be about experiencing the majesty of God’s love first hand and realising that the best things in life are indeed free.

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Happy Easter

Easter is a festival that celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. From a ritualistic perspective Easter shares a similarity with Eid ul Fitr which follows the holy month of Ramadan. 40 days of fasting commonly referred to as Lent followed by celebration.

Lent is a period of sacrifice culminating in the ultimate sacrifice made for us humans. And as Christians we celebrate that our sins have been washed away by Jesus’ blood.

Indeed Jesus taught us to pray by saying ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. How often can we do that and how often do we actually forgive people? It’s a question that plagues me deeply sometimes. 

Easter at its very essence is a renewal of faith. A message of hope particularly from the darkness that surrounds our lives. A wiping clean of past transgressions, a new lease of life. Hence the coinciding of Easter with the first Sunday of Spring. But how often can we do that? How often is it actually water under the bridge? 

Life has a way of making us vengeful but the only person we tend to punish is ourselves possibly because we have either been too trusting or too loving or just feel that people have taken advantage of us. But do we actually need to live in the past and let our fears dictate our present?

Faith in its essence is living by a code that requires us to be more trusting of God than we are of ourselves. Being more God like is a lifelong process strewn with failures. But it is in our failures that we see our mortality and experience the grace that God bestows upon us.

Let us therefore use this Easter to forgive one another but more importantly ourselves for the mistakes we have made. Let us wipe the slate clean and wow to ourselves to live a life with a closer personal relationship with God. Let this Easter bring a new season in our lives a season bursting with freshness of hope, love and light. Happy Easter all. 

The number 10

The number 10 jersey in football is reserved for the best. Pele, Maradona, Zidane and Messi just to name a few have donned this sign of respect and adoration. Looking back, this jersey was assigned to the playmaker. Those familiar with football will know that the playmaker basically runs the show for a team. He is the glue that holds the team together. In short the playmaker is the heart of the game.

Speaking of heart, being a supporter of the Pakistan cricket team is not for the faint hearted. Their performances like our heartbeats raise you up onto cloud number 9 and pull you down to the depths of despair.

On 2 October 1996 a star was born into the cricketing world that has since shone brightly for the men in green. That star rewrote the record books and changed the way cricket is played.

The enormity of his feat is understood by the fact that the record stood for 18 years and only one person has equalled or bettered it. Despite the Chris Gayles or the AB DeVillers or the Virat Kohlis trying no one has been able to do what this man did in Kenya that day.

His batting heroics left many a captain scratching their heads and millions worldwide mesmerised. To say he pioneered a change in the thought process of cricket fans and players would be factual. He made the impossible possible.

The man was named Sahibzada Muhammad Shahid Khan Afridi. There is only one, the man who can turn the game on its head with his sixes, his googlies or brilliant fielding. The man who defines Pakistan cricket – heart. The mind says you play sensibly but the fearless heart says just play. Akin to a person jumping from a tall building where the mind says what if I fall and the heart says what if you fly.

Over the past two decades a lot has changed in cricket. But what has not is the fear and excitement that the name Afridi brings to foes and fans respectively. In an era where match fixing has ruined reputations and careers Afridi has held his head up. Outspoken yes, but never has one questioned his commitment and honour. He has always given his best and yes he has gone down fighting but that is the gladiator that is Afridi. He will fight till his last breath.

I once thought what would happen if I were to do my job with 60,000 people shouting my name and millions of people expecting me to perform. The sheer pressure would not let me move a muscle. Yet Afridi has done it for two decades.

The heart of the Pakistan team is the number 10 and like our hearts it has its ups and downs. So let us open up our hearts and give a fitting tribute to the only man who can make it go Boom Boom.

Thank you Lala for the wonderful memories. The cricket world will always and forever only have one Shahid Afridi. And I can boldly say he made my country proud.

Motorcyles

My love for motorbikes is possibly second to none. Its a passion that makes me literally risk life and limb everytime I sit on the saddle.

Why would I do it some might ask.
A motorbike fulfills your senses like nothing else. Whilst exhilrating a motorbike is also unforgiving to lapses in concentration, over confidence, or laziness. The gravity can only be appreciated when you land flat on the ground with a bruised ego and broken limbs. Having said that a motorbike gives you a sense of freedom- a freedom from everything that bothers you. When you are riding its just you against the world.  The most primal feeling you can get in this world – survival. All who ride will know of the pitfalls of a person talking on the phone when driving, someone pulling out of a lane without looking. Someone deciding to change lanes and indicating as an aftethought. You are quite literally fighting for your life.

Some might ask if you would ride only when its nice and sunny. All weather riders are a rarity even within the motorcyling community. Yet when you do ride its a wonderful experience.

I suppose motorcyles represent living your life one ride at a time. Living and not existing. You see in a car you are in an enclosed space. You are secure. On a motorcyle you pay not only for your mistakes but mistakes others make.

On a deeper level motorcycles remind me of life and how unpredictable it can be and that when life throws you a curve you take it. You ride through the storms that leave you with low visibility and desperately balancing yourself on a machine. That sometimes going round a corner means going down on a knee. That when the sun is out it doesnt always mean its a smooth ride. That when the cold winter winds blast against your chest and freezes your knuckles you keep on going.

They tell me that sometimes you have to bend to take a bend, that you are hanging over just to go faster – pushing yourself to get better. But above all they remind me to enjoy all the seasons life brings us.

Observations 

Why would a man cheat? Why would he get up and leave and why would a wife not be able to keep a man happy? Is it a phase every marriage goes through? Is it the woman or the man or both? Is it the fact that contentment breeds resentment and a woman cannot love a man because the man relaxes or indeed the woman relaxes? 

The myraid of questions coupled with soul searching led me to observing how loyalty is percived by men and women. Most women particularly those after the age of 35 know the one thing they could use to ensnare men is rapidly declining – “their charms”. Instead of embracing this many resort to covert manipulation……men those gasps you hear…its just the women thinking “how does he know?”  Manipulation comes in the form of honesty. How many women have asked us to be honest to them including our mothers and then there is always a form of lie sometimes camoflagued as “I did not want to bother you with these trivial matters”. How many realised that working late is far better than going out with friends? 

We have all grown up with emotional blackmail in one form or the other from the women in our family to friends to colleagues. Its just how we are conditioned. Our social conditioning has led to good behaviour reward – it starts at home with the mother conditioning us men that her being happy is reward for good behaviour when she isnt she doesnt talk to us, all the other women we encounter in our lives including our wives do the same thing reward us for our good behaviour otherwise known as chivalry. 

How is marriage viewed by men and women? My observation which is limited I must admit leads me to state that marriage is difficult largely due to how men and women view love. Let me put it this way. Are you concerned about the feelings of the cow whose carcass produces the steak you enjoy? Nope. Men when you realise that your role is to provide absent from emotions expectations will be more pragmatic.

We are selfish both men and women. Men need women to further their race. Women need men to take care of them. Its a simple equation that once understood helps to keep things in perspective.

But why manipulate when direct statements can help? 

To answer this question we have to go back into the inherent conversational tools women use. Subtly is the key word here. The term security would also be relevant. How many times have we heard that a woman is insecure? Lets understand security from the perspective of a business transaction. If we go to a bank for a loan the bank asks for some sort of security possibly an asset. What does that mean? It means that the bank is trying to minimise its losses from lending. In other words controlling the outcome of a lending transaction. 

Many of us have heard our elders say marriage is a compromise because it is. Marriage gives a woman security which means that she knows that the guy is not going anywhere. Which means she can relax into her natural state. The facade of love disappears and the inate cold heartedness comes out. Thats what confuses most men, the fact that the sweet girl they married is now the woman that eats at their peace and well being. My observations are that this is just the way it is -a price to pay for furthering your race. 

So what makes men cheat? Is it the longing for companionship or the sweetness that they once saw in their wives or plain simple compliments. It could be either or all of those things. I suppose thats why the religions particularly the Bible asks women to respect their husbands. It is the kind of self control that women are called to exercise because I suppose its against their nature. 

And whilst this post might be termed minsogynst by some it is not that. I would like to think its about the clarity of thought that comes from knowing that life is unfair and the only way women could ensure survival was through controlling the men that they produced offspring for. Its about survival and when it comes to that anything goes. Hence the oldest profession and the sweet-to-nasty transformation. 

Capriciously endearing

Hoarse voice and beaming smile. That is how I would describe that Sunday at Lords’. Just as a reminder it was the 21st of June 2009. It was a warm day in London, the sun (a rarity) was out. Driving was a no no so the tube was the only option. Getting on at Baker street everyone was wearing green some (including yours truly) had the famous flag draped around their shoulders. An air of anxious expectation hung about. You did not know if it would be worth the effort. Some even lied about this just being a good day out. You see supporting the Pakistan cricket team and being outcome independent is at best an excercise in futility. 

Mercurial as they are the boys in green are a breath of fresh air. Unorthodox flair is what closely describes these hugely talented men. Would Waqar’s toe crushers not leave you in awe? Would Inzi’s dismissive pulls to the “white lightening” not have you spell bound? It did and thanks to you tube it still does. Who can forget the game against New Zealand – Lala running towards the boundary and taking the catch before raising his arms in celebration. Those moments of genius are reserved only to the men in green. Genius that like magic leaves you yearning for more. Genius that makes you wake up in the middle of the night and sing the National Anthem at the top of your lungs whilst risking anti social behavioural compliants. 

Supporting Pakistan though is not for the faint hearted. The love-hate relationship that cuts through your heart with a dropped catch and raises you to cloud number nine when the Rawalpindi Express rattles Tendulkar’s middle stump and in the process Eden Gardens into hushed silence is what dreams are made of. I suppose these men in green show us the unpredictability that life brings us. 

How can I forget the winning runs and the lap of honour. How can I forget strangers hugging each other united only under one flag. How can I forget shouting at the top of my lungs “dil dil Pakistan, jaan jaan Pakistan” smiling as if I somehow had a part to play in it. All thanks to the men in green. I can say I was there when Afridi hit the winning runs. I was there when the National anthem was sung by thousands of ardent Pakistanis. I was there when Younis lifted the world cup and the spirits of the nation. 

Capricious yes, but like the warm smile of an innocent child the bouncer to an Australian in Australia makes you their most ardent supporter. You love them because in some way or form they are you. They remind you that it is in those fleeting moments when life is enjoyed and that you continue working, taking on the accolades and the insults in your stride. That moving on to the next game is the only choice you have. Yes my heart aches when Pakistan looses but it equally jumps for joy when Pakistan wins. Difficult some might say but the challange is endearing nonetheless. Tum jeeto yeh haaro humain tum say pyar hai…. How difficult it is to write that down only a supporter of the Pakistan cricket team can understand! 

An attitude of gratitude

I grew up at a time when the cars had carboretors and planned obsolescence was not a norm. I give away my age I suppose. But also things were a lot more real and a there was nothing virtual. There was no google or wikipedia or the internet. You took notes on a piece of paper and you read books that were printed on paper.

Yet the wonders of technology let me type this post on my phone whilst I lie in bed pensive about how the virtual took over the real.

An interesting conversation with a dear friend of nearly two decades incidently through technology spurred this thought pattern.  Reminiscing about those times when landlines were modern and if you wanted to offer condolences it was not just a text message or a virtual hug. You went in person and hugged in person and gave the most precious commodity we all have “time”. But I suppose we move on with times-change is inevitable. The flip side is that technology makes it easier for us to be in touch with people on the other side of the planet. My last memories of my eternally rested father are a blessing of the internet. 

In those days things were built to last, people fixed things because consumerism was not rife. A good pair of shoes was meant to last a few years. Your first job lasted until retirement. I guess it was the same with relationships people were content in what they had. Some might say because they did not know better. Doubtless, they made things work. Till death do us part meant exactly that.

Where did it all go wrong? Granted, consumerisum makes our lives easier, but it does add complications. For instance, nearly everything that makes our lives easy relies almost entirely on electricity. Yet we are raising awareness on the green agenda. Without electricity we might be transported back into the stone ages.

What is gratitude though? Is it knowing that you have a better life than your ancestors? Or is it just a case of appreciating every blessing that we have thanks to our fellow men.

I suppose gratitude extends to the associations we form whilst living this limited life – our families, friends, acquantinces or even the stranger that helps out in a moment of need. Its about appreciating the individual quirks that make us human – prone to errors of judgement.

Gratitude to me is waking up and thanking the Almighty that He has blessed me with another day to live on this wonderful planet that we call earth. Gratitude is being able to sit at home and enjoy the pleasures this life has afforded me. Its being able to ride my motorbike, see family through the internet, type on my smartphone and update this post instantly. But its also about appreciating the people who have been in my life. And everyone has taught me something that has shaped my personality. Some through their words some through their actions and some through both. Its been the deeply penetrating heartaches and the stomach hurting laughters all of which have taught me that change is inevitable.

How often do we stop and take a deep breath and just are thankful for the moments that could one day become memories. Moments when someone talks about the ‘good ole days’ with a glint in their eyes. Moments when your dreams became realities. Its those moments which although fleeting burn deeply in the recessess of our memories. Carpe diem I hear! If I were to sum up gratitude it would be to enjoy all the seasons life brings us, it means not letting success get to the heads and failures to our hearts. Easier said than done you bet! But arent you grateful you can still try!