Massacred Town

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There is a black hole

where the last memory of a lover resides,

you call, unaware, that they’ve died 40 days back,

The speakers ring with subtle hope, inna ma al usri yusra*,

the evening prayer fades into torture cries

ringing from the same speakers.

There is a gaping hole

where images of twisted young bodies

are yellow under incandescent bulbs,

where blood trickles

from perforated backs and unseeing eyes.

~ Saadia,

On the day Shahid left us to embellish this massacre with our words

 

*Arabic: Verily with pain comes ease.

4 August 2019

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Frantic phone calls spiderweb across families

college sessions terminate 2 days after they start

lights for a wedding lie still, unlit,

in anticipation, in unclarity

an indefinite curfew imposed

the night before an orphan was to be married.

 

Kashmir lies still,

veins taut in alarm,

too much stillness

for a possibility of war.

~ Saadia

 

Wrote this on the 4th of August when it was still unclear what was going to happen, there were rumors of war and Kashmir was gripped with a fear that was impossible to swallow. 65+ days of communication blockade and 90+ days of internet shutdown later, here we are, still counting the days.

The Dream of a Ridiculous Man – Fyodor Dostoevsky

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“A dream is a strange thing. Pictures appear with terrifying clarity, the minutest details engraved like pieces of jewelry, and yet we leap unawares through huge abysses of time and space.”

 This is a short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky written in 1877. It chronicles the experiences of a man who decides that there is nothing of any value in the world. – Wikipedia

The journey of a man from a nihilist to a believer, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man walks us through his suicidal inclinations, a small encounter that changes the course of a lifetime, a sudden sleep, a vivid dream, travel through space and time, a parallel universe, corruption, social constructs, a change of mind and the attainment of ‘truth’.

Dostoevsky writes this story based on his own experience; a dream that changed his view on life and the human condition. He examines the self intensely, asks questions that he seemingly can’t get answers to and when he does, rejects the notion of knowledge being more important than love. He maintains the belief that suffering gives life meaning and changes us, how we interact with the world.

“On our earth we can only love sincerely with suffering and through suffering. We do not know how to love any other way and know no other love. I want to suffer so that I can love.”

This short story is also full of allusions to Christian faith; a figure of grace, references to crucifixion, humanity’s ‘fall from grace’ shows a hint of the fall from Eden, and the realization “love others as you love yourself.”

A work that untangles fold by fold and seeks to talk about a multitude of themes, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man is a compelling story on nihilism, faith and humanity.

~ Saadia

 

 

Loss of meaning & Loneliness

Life seems to mean so little,

in our cities of material excess,

the silk curtains that keep the light out

are our cages,

our narrow circles, our shackles.

 

Yet we are happy with false friendships

and falser values,

we register a heavenly day

when the sun has already set,

and so we trudge back to our now comfortable cells.

 

We’ve been deceived by billboards

and the American dream,

in a world of hyper-connectivity,

we are lonelier than we’ve ever been.

~ Saadia

 

Top 10 books for Beginners / New Readers

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Here’s a list of books with a lucid/ easy to understand writing style, no complex world-building and yet are deeply impactful. These are perfect for new readers or beginners searching for simple books to start with. Having said that, these are also some of the best books I’ve ever read.

  1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: This book tells the story of a boy struggling to cope with the consequences of his mother’s illness. Written in the most simplest of manners, it is an easy and gripping read (under 214 pages.) This book is a work of art, showcasing how simplicity is indeed the ultimate sophistication.

And if no one sees you, are you really there at all?

Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2RrKfCd

2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini: Set in war-torn Afghanistan, this mesmerizing, fast paced and heartbreaking novel is a rollercoaster of emotions, mostly anger, at a dysfunctional society made more so by war. It weaves together social stigma, sisterhood, loss, love for one’s country, the role of women in the Afghan society, self-sacrifice, hope and trauma. This may seem like a daunting novel but it’ll make you love reading like no other book can.

” One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs or the thousand splendid suns that hid behind her walls” – Al Beruni

Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/31MDwre

3. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella: tells the story of a teenage girl suffering from acute social anxiety and depression and how her life changes for the better. This book is written in a simple, easy to understand, fast-paced manner; with inserts of text messages, making it more interesting. Even though it deals with a hard topic, it is a fun read that one keeps coming back to.

“The trouble is, depression doesn’t come with handy symptoms like spots and a temperature, so you don’t realize it at first. You keep saying ‘I’m fine’ to people when you’re not fine. You think you should be fine. You keep saying to yourself: ‘Why aren’t I fine?”

Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2L0rULz

4. The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling: Written in a charming, imaginative manner, this series is an upward graph for a new reader. I read the 7 books in a week when I first got my hands on it and reread them from time to time. These books have been spellbinding (pun intended) for millions of people worldwide and are on the top of the ‘books you should read before you die’ list.

“Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one that rises against them and strikes back”

Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ZC0aRw

5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: A beautiful, hard-hitting and coming of age book following Eleanor, a chubby, 16-year-old girl with curly red hair, and Park, a half-Korean, 16-year-old boy; this book deals with different social classes, domestic abuse and young love. It is a one of a kind book which makes the reader come back to it again and again.

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”

Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Rn050W

6. Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordian: Equal parts fun and profound, Rick Riordian’s writing style is a gift to mankind. His characters are beautifully written, the story arc executed with immense skill and his books are perfect for middle-graders, young-adults and adults alike.

“Wow,” Thalia muttered. “Apollo is hot.” 
“He’s the sun god,” I said.
“That’s not what I meant.” 

Get Book 1 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ZGybAd

7. The Famous Five Series by Enid Blyton: The most concise and fun adventures are found within the pages of this series, each book around 200 pages. These books leave you refreshed and satisfied with beautiful countryside imagery, delicious food and marvelous exploits.

“The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better.” 

Get Book 1 on Amazon for Rs 158: https://amzn.to/2ZJtMfV

8. The Outsiders by S.E Hinton: One the best books I read this year, this outstanding coming-of-age novel is equal parts adventure and revealing of society’s brutal follies. Dealing with gang-culture, dysfunctional families, drug abuse and adolescence, this book will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

“Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.” 

Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Y4c2eA

9. The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth: A well written dystopia, this triology is based in a society that defines its citizens by their social and personality-related affiliation with five different factions, which removes the threat of anyone exercising independent will and threatening the population’s safety. (source-wikipedia). Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior navigates the dangers of being divergent while trying to survive in her new faction.

When I first read this book, I remember thinking and being in wonder at how perfect Roth’s writing style was. Perfect for a new reader,this book deals with self-dicovery, young-love, society and social issues. A critic claims, “No one can argue that Divergent is not a fun, edge-of-your-seat read. It is easy to get submerged in, effortless to remain engaged in, and impossible not to enjoy even the slightest bit.”

“We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.” 

Get the series on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Rw4BdO

10. Heidi by Johanna Spyri: Heidi is written in a freely flowing, imaginative and well-paced style. The character building is effective and true to real life. Even though it is a children’s fiction, it can easily and competently be read by people of all ages with immense enjoyment. It encompasses the themes of Family and relationships, Empathy and Religion (Christianity). It is written in a simple, unaffected manner and calls for several re-reads for the pure joy that oozes out of its pages.

“The happiest of all things is when an old friend comes and greets us as in former times; the heart is comforted with the assurance that some day everything that we have loved will be given back”

Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Rz5JNT

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Recommendations from other readers:

  1. Fatimah, Kashmir (Instagram: @fatimahbatul.7) : The Harry Potter Series, The Grisha Triology, the Hunger Games, Coraline, Norse Mythology, The Kite Runner, Six of Crows, Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe.
  2. Kat, USA (Instagram @fieldsofliterature) : Jane Eyre, Fangirl, Everything Everything, Pride and Prejudice.
  3. Maira, Pakistan (Instagram @maira.reads) : The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, Kaise West’s novels, the Harry Potter Series.
  4.  Abbie Ruis, USA (Instagram @epochnovels): The Wrath and the Dawn Duology by Renee Ahdieh (magic, fantasy, adventure, friendship, romance.) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (well-written characters, banter is off the charts, fighting is kickass), An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir ( political corruption, violence, Ancient Rome), Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco (YA historical fiction).
  5. Tanya, Australia (Instagram: @pagestoberead) : The Harry Potter Series, The Kite Runner
  6. Fatima, New York (Instagram @starry_tima) : The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
  7. Miran Gulzar, Kashmir (Instagram: @miran_gulzar): Letters to Young Poets by Rainer Maria Rilke (highly recommended), Old man and the sea by Ernest Hemingway, The Room on the Roof by Ruskin Bond, The Little Prince, Maus (graphic novel).
  8. Ruby, England (http://rubysbooksblog.wordpress.com/) :A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.
  9. Sadiya, Kashmir (Instagram @salazarsaddler) : The Goosebumps series.
  10. Nel, UK (Instagram: @nelwhichcraftsbooks): The Harry Potter Series, The Twilight Series.
  11. Ifreen Raveen, Kashmir (Instagram: @ifreen.raveen) The Famous Five series, Sophie Kinsella’s books.

Happy reading.

~ Saadia

 

The Tidy Guide to Writing a Novel – Book Review

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This book aims to provide precise, lucid and practical tips to writing your first novel.

Review: Because of its clear-cut expression and division into bite-sized chapters, this book is a quick read. This concise book can open doorways for learning more about different genres and publishing but can also be treated as a summary of writing advice from a more thorough resource pool. I rated this book 4/5 stars.

It is a perfect read for someone with just basic knowledge about writing their first book. It gives out important information about word-counts and characteristics of different genres. The best way to read this book is to jot down the tips in your journal/notebook to come back to whenever necessary. This book also helped me understand why books with side-characters who play an important role in the protagonist’s development are more successful. (Think Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games, Divergent Series and so on.)

A quick and beneficial read for debut authors or beginners.

Get it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2RmeRFb

~ Saadia

Advice to Enneagram type 4s

09b89588609698697b03d11163eec4e1.jpg“The Enneagram refers to the nine different types or styles, with each representing a worldview and archetype that resonates with the way people think, feel and act in relation to the world, others and themselves.” – integrative9.com

After hearing a lot about this ‘personality test’ last year, I finally decided to give it a go without expecting much, I just wanted to find out what number I was on this seemingly popular scale. (I am a 4) I wasn’t ready for how precisely it would pin down my biggest fear, my drive, behavioral patterns and my relationship with friends. It felt like someone had studied my behavior and beliefs for the entire course of my life and then summarized it. So if anyone of you reading is interested in learning about your driving motivations and basic belief, you can take the test here (https://www.9types.com/rheti/index.php) . Personally, I use the enneagram as a tool to understand myself better, improve on my shortcomings and understand what certain feelings/emotions actually mean.

After reading every possible article, watching every video, listening to podcasts on type 4s, I still found a lack of helpful advice or tips that might ease the harshness of everyday realities for 4s, so I decided to start a list of things I’ve learnt about being a type 4, especially after being in the most tumultuous period of life so far with a hope that it will help other 4s out there in navigating this crazy, messy world. I’ll keep updating this post as I learn more about myself and grow into a more tranquil and cohesive 4.

  1. Don’t overwhelm yourself: Being idealistic and driven, you can take up too much at once, give it your best shot and then start burning out. I have done this countless number of time by taking up 4-5 huge goals at once instead of starting out steadily and then building up. It seems strange to not take up everything you want to be good at so you plan extensively and then find yourself exhausted 4 days down the road. Take up 2 long term goals (both should NOT take a lot of willpower, they should differ in their intensity) and a very-short term one (think reading a book, decluttering, making notes) at a time so that while you are building productive momentum by ticking off the very-short term goals, riding the wave of optimism with the low will-power goal, you are fulfilling a long term one without feeling entirely spent. 12 months, 8-12 long term goals and you are so much closer to who you want to be.
  2. Patience:  Continuing on from 1, it is easy to get tired with seemingly ‘low rate’ of growth but know that no one gets to their best self in a week. What we want to build is not a stamina for a summer hobby but the ‘grit’ for an entire lifetime and that takes more failures than successes and the patience to be a beginner over and over again. It is hella scary but worth it in the end.
  3. On taking everything personally: This has probably wasted SO much of your time and tears. I still struggle with being extremely sensitive but what has helped me get a bit better with it is accepting that what a person says about me/to me has more to do with what kind of person they are rather than who I am. This seems like cringy, old-school advice but it works.
  4. Melancholy: The most important thing I learnt about the intense melancholic moods 4s experience comes from a podcast (can’t remember the name, will link if i find it). The speaker was a 4 too and she said,” Know that you are feeding the melancholy; at any moment you can choose to snap out of it and do something that’ll make you feel better.” What struck me was how it clarified that I had a choice in the matter because when I am down in the dumps, I feel so stuck that I start believing that the only thing I can do is stay there and wallow in self-hate and be morose.
  5. Emotional Turbulence: What can help you be more tranquil is ensuring your basic needs at ALL TIMES; keep hydrated, eat at regular intervals, get 40 minutes of exercise, manage stress by taking breaks, because often feelings can seem to be totally separate from the body but really, well-balanced health regulates your emotions and help you lead a wholesome, well-rounded life.
  6. Identity: As a creative 4, it is important for my mental health to keep writing poetry, reading books or consuming art to feel like myself. If I take long breaks from doing those things, I feel less confident in my ‘identity’ than I already am. Find what are those things that ground you and help you feel more yourself  and do them regularly.
  7. Perfectionism: Being idealistic can also lead to 4s giving up on doing any basic or small task because it isn’t ‘significant’ enough or ‘perfect’ enough but almost always, I’ve found that doing these small tasks is extremely important to get closer to a balanced state. So try to overcome the crippling need to be ideal at all times and try to jazz up the small things by listening to a podcast or TED talk to take your mind off of them. Similarly, take care of the small things about yourself even if they seem insignificant.I have also found resistance to keep creating art because it didn’t feel good enough but I try to keep in mind that a great artist always chooses volume over perfection and to reach a certain level of greatness at my craft, I must keep at it.
  8. Nostalgia: I still struggle with letting the past go but have certainly come a long way from when the past was all I could think of. I made a realistic list of things to look forward to, I planned stuff with friends and family, occupied myself with new goals and books, changed my style and surroundings to not fall into the dark pit of nostalgia. Another thing that worked for me was allowing myself to think of a moment gone by but actively helping myself realize that there was nothing to gain from the past.
  9. Support: Even if you maintain a steady emotional and mental health, it is best to have a close friend to confide in when you feel dreadful and incompetent. Trust someone who has similar thinking patterns as you or is very empathetic and a good listener and let them help you untangle the threads of confusing emotions.
  10. Confidence: This comes last as it is something I am still working towards improving. 4s think of themselves as fundamentally lacking. I used to struggle with immense self-hate but I got over it by continuously reminding myself all that I liked about myself till I started liking what I despised in me. Continuous positive self-talk can create wonders yet, I have a long way to go in this regard.

Disclaimer: This is written from a personal experience POV and may or may not work for every type 4. The trick is to take what works for you, leave what doesn’t and try to come up with other mechanisms that might help you be a tranquil, joyful 4.

~ Saadia

pic sources: pinterest

 

 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly – Book Review

20190521_202927.pngBelieved to be the 1st attempt at science-fiction, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly is a Gothic novel that starts off with Dr Victor Frankenstein’s creation of a human turned monster and centers around the occurrences that follow this unnatural event.

  1. Title: The book was initially titled Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus but the subtitle was removed in later publications. This, in my opinion, has contributed to the misconception of the monster being called ‘Frankenstein’ when it was never named in the book. While the original title and subtitle together referred to Dr Frankenstein’s feat of giving life to an amalgam of body parts, usage of the title alone has led to a popular belief that it refers to the monster.  Of course, the adaptations of the novel in the form of movies and plays have played a larger role in doing that.
  2. Writing Style: Personally, I found the writing style to lack flow. The first 100 pages read like Victor Frankenstein was voicing thoughts as they came. This heavily retarded the pace of the book for me. However, the book begins to gain some pace after the 1st 100 pages with the beginning of the monster’s account.
  • Narration: All 3 narrators had the same voice, as pointed out by various critics. This made the book monotonous.
  • Characters: While there were really only 2 main characters, the side characters lacked depth and description. It almost felt like they appeared whenever necessary, to carry the book onward but the reader never got to know much about their stories, background or values.
  1. Themes: Science fiction, Gothic horror, guilt, ambition and its consequences/thirst for glory, the struggle against societal control, the contrast between isolation and society.
  2. Rating: 1/5 stars

Based on:

  • It took me a long, long while to get through
  • Didn’t gain much value from it
  • The story wasn’t absorbing at all
  • The ending fell short of the buildup of the last 124 pages
  • The downfall trope was heavy in Victor Frankenstein’s character
  • Uni-dimensional side characters
  • No description of the process that breathed life into the monster’s body

Frankenstein on Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/0007350961/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=3638&creative=24630&creativeASIN=0007350961&linkCode=as2&tag=saadia-21&linkId=47ebefad7761b8325867d7883007bd83

~ Saadia