Thursday, 19 February 2015

Compassion and Courage

Compassion and Courage

Richard Adams wrote about it in his book, Watership Down. This is a book from my childhood that I would recommend to anyone wanting to understand compassion and courage in animals. It's a work of fiction of course but one of the more amazing things that I witnessed this past week was an act of compassion between our rabbits. Seems bizarre that I should mention them here when I could be writing about something related to humanity instead, but hold on, I think there is something that we can learn from a species that seemingly is only instinctual - what else would we expect from animals that are to all effects and purposes at the bottom of the food chain? 

Rabbit teeth grow permanently and must be worn down through gnawing and nibbling. The position of the teeth must line up so that they grind against each other. It is the way they are designed. One of our rabbits - Camembert has incisors that have previously required regular trimming because of the way they were misaligned. He started off not minding a routine trim (once every 6 weeks) but the frequency of the visits to the vet began to create a level of stress in him (every three weeks to a fortnight) and he went from being quite jovial before visits to very anxious when being put into a cage. Without his trim however, he struggled to eat and drink and this was potentially worse. After months of procrastination perhaps, we decided last April to make the decision to have his incisors removed permanently and he was put under general anaesthetic and operated on. Rabbits under anaesthesia have a higher failure/mortality rate that other small pets, so even that was a risk. The night he came back home from the vet, he looked weak and his eyes were either closed or weeping. I would never have thought I would be troubled so much to see an animal in such a state of discomfort and was genuinely unable to sleep until sitting with him late into the night, I witnessed him eating and taking a drink. Regular foraging/eating is essential for rabbit well-being. Camembert recovered and learned to adapt to eating using his molars and we adapted his feed in accordance. 

Fast forward to August and on our return from the middle-east, we acquired Yuki a new addition to the rabbit family in the form of a Himalayan dwarf, white with red-eyes and Siamese ear/nose and feet-tipped in grey. She is quite an adorable bunny especially with her gregarious character. Very happy to be handled, but requiring a claw clipping early on. At that point the vet examined Camembert again and suggested that his lower incisor was reemerging. It remained stub-like for months until this month it became obvious that both his lower incisors had fully emerged and that they were now beginning to curl back. Rather than a trim, we opted for a (hopefully final) op.  I feel strongly that the company that animals give to each other is important and Camembert's brother, Harrod went with him to the vets. He's the most reserved of the rabbits we have, but a brother, even when he gets grumpy at you, is still a brother. The first time around Harrod was instrumental in Camembert's recovery. Made sense to involved Harrod again this time round too.

We left Yuki at home - she's a playful rabbit, as already mentioned, but by mid-morning she sensed the absence of the other two. The day passed and when Camembert came home in the evening, he looked tired and again his eyes and movements suggested that he was in for a long night. Now I know that Harrod had nursed Camembert the first time he'd been operated on - licking him and keeping him close, but as brothers  they have been bonded since birth. To see Yuki lick and nibble Camembert when she saw him after the operation really blew me away. She must have sensed his illness and her compassion towards him was on a level that made me reflect on care amongst animals and what this means for us as people. 

I know we have people who care - who go out of their way to show that they care, but we are higher order beings, I expect us to care. However, we just as create and destroy equally and there are days when I feel that we do more of the latter than of the former. But to witness rabbits being compassionate and caring really made me think. We don't have the monopoly on compassion, on what it means to feel and care. There is much that we can learn just by observing these seemingly small things. 


Meet Yuki.
Photographed using a Samsung Galaxy S4 (Summer 2014)

Read also: Bright Eyes

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Time is Relative

British Summertime: An Illusion

I get to ask a lot of questions about the start/end of British Summertime and the supposed reasons we put our clocks forwards one hour and then back one hour every Spring and Autumn.  There's not much we can do with the Earth's rotation around the sun and the amount of daylight we get depends on how close/further we are away from our winter and summer equinoxes. The continued argument about saving daylight would actually only make sense if by virtue of "springing forwards" and "falling back" we were making an impossible physical alteration by adding more sunlight to our days. What we do in our twice yearly clock adjustments, is create an illusion. The facts remain, that at this time of year, the days get shorter and the nights get longer, and of course because of the Earth's tilt, our northern hemisphere temperatures also drop, creating our long, dark and misty winters. 

So why all the fuss with adjusting the clocks? And for that matter, when we are already contending with temperature changes, harsher weather and adjusting our eyes to the dark, who cares about clocks? Does counting minutes and seconds make us happier or does it add to an already over-stressed society? Can we not challenge this Western notion of  time 'efficiency'? Perhaps, let physics and nature preside over this one.

Time is Relative

Why cannot we take a look back into the history of our ancestors?  After all, the winters were always harsh and there was less daylight (note I am speaking of the Northern European context here - but each society and part of the world would have made their own adjustments) and we exist today inspite of past hardships. As Muslims, there is always this continuing debate around our calendar - notably around Eid and right now, the exact start date for the New Year. I'm now largely of the belief that the 'exact' date/time matters only if you need to do some specific number crunching - maybe if something needs a precise mathematical measurement. For the rest of us - a date - a precise minute - counting time - has got to be fairly arbitary. 

There wisdom of our ancestors meant that 'time' was much more closely matched to our natural patterns. They also 'measured' time, true - Fajr, Zuhar, Asr, Maghrib and Isha were all good markers of the day, and were decided by amount of daylight, but clinical precision was not foremost when talking about time. "See you in the afternoon," meant that people would meet after Asr and before Maghrib, and not precisely at 3.15pm - woe betide anyone arriving for an appointment at 3.16pm. People, (again Northern Europe illustrates this very well) having reaped their harvests in autumn, would conserve their winter energy by getting up at dawn to feed their livestock and retire to their huts when it was dark to drink their hot broths and eat what they had put aside from their summer's stock, sleeping most of the winter out. In other words, over the winter, people had a different working pattern and lived according to the amount of light available. Different stresses, but compare that to waiting at bus stops in the rain trying to get home in the evening rush hour traffic when the world has gone dark. Who are we kidding? What makes that version of 'daylight' saving better and more efficient? 

At this point in the year, there is a collective slow down; hibernation for animals and stocking up for winter are natural phenomena. Apply that also to the human condition; our history bears witness to seasonal variation and not a constant mechanical expectation of the same levels of work output. What's wrong with admitting this? Would most of us not be happier simply to follow the natural patterns of daylight and live accordingly (yes, by working less) rather than attempting to manipulate time in order to drive 'efficiency'?

Read more.

Source: izquotes.com

Read more: Time

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Postcard from Al Khor

I took the drive to Al Khor some days back; a route that I would take often, when I lived in Al Khor. As a family we had lots of fond memories of the place and it was great to visit some of the key places that we were attached to 13 years back. The Al Khor Community has expanded and matured, and therefore changed somewhat, as all places do, but it remained very familiar, and navigating my way round was not that difficult. I include a couple of snaps and a Google Map showing my journey from Doha




Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Arabian Nights: Souk Waqif

Souk Waqif has been shaped, in part by the Iranian tradesmen who settled in Doha.  When I was last there (around 2001), it was a jumble of shops selling rugs, spices, cloth and copperware. Today it has been smartened up with hotels and outdoor coffee shops, where the smell of perfume and shisha hangs in the air. It still retains the old souk feel with its narrow alleyed streets, Arabian craftshops, Rajasthani storytellers and Iranian barrowmen. Worth a visit on fresh summers night.

Read more on Trip Advisor.

 
 
Photography: Samsung Galaxy S4

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Qatar قطر

I first arrived in Qatar in the year before the turn of the new millenium. It was for me the first time that I'd lived in a new place and was, for three years, my home. After the initial settling in period, I grew to love the place as did my young family and we have fond memories of our time living in Al Khor in the north and discovering a new and exciting region. In the interim, I have lived and worked in other places, and passed through Qatar, staying in Doha en route to the UAE where I also made my home. Today I return to the country that was once home, with an older family, and to a much changed country. I am here this time for a family event, but amongst the most exciting aspects I hope to experience, will be to return to those places that were familiar, when, fifteen years ago, this was a fledgling country with a mere population of 600,000. The Gulf isn't quite out of my system, I confess. For example, when I send an email, I edit the signature tag that still carries my old cell number.  Also, when I write this blog, whilst the dates are accurate, the times that are published by each posting actually reflect Gulf Standard Time. Memories perhaps?

Qatar. I am home. Enjoy the film.

Monday, 28 July 2014

اختر مو مبارک شه

اختر مو مبارک شه
روژی مو قبولې شه


Eid Mubarak
May your fasting be accepted
Tor_Khan تور خان

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Human Cost of War

... Or more specificially, the title should perhaps be The Human Cost of Someone Else's War ...

There must be a first rule - humanity, above all else. No other ideology - religious, political, economic, fashion or tradtion is equal to that first rule.

The downing of the the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 still has me in a state of shock. It seems to come admist a number of human tragedy/gloom stories making the news of late (including the current conflicts in Syria/Iraq/Palestine/Waziristan). At times like this I am forced to pause and return to that 'first rule' - humanity - the most sacred thing worth 'fighting' for. All else is second.

In the current Israeli-Palestinian bombardment, the major news-networks are cautiously selective and present a somewhat sanitised view; not quite able to be fully critical of Israeli aggression, despite a track record and a revealing body of evidence. Hamas is also responsible for aggression, so deaths and injury must not be sugar-coated but here is a clear case of imbalanced response. Considering that Jewish suffering during the Second World War is still within living memory of some, I can never understand how the Israeli state can have complete disregard for the most basic of human compassion.

The Pakistan army operation in Waziristan (Zarb-e-Azb) - again is illustrative of another human tragedy where the rights and wrongs of the conflict have disregarded basic humanity towards ordinary people who are caught in the cross-fire. Most Pashtuns in the tribal belt wish only to protect their land and possesions. Collective punishment, seemingly deemed legitimate in both the Israeli and the Pakistani case treats the innocent as expendable.

The same could be said for the non-combatant civilians caught in Iraq and Syria, and of course between the Russian-backed rebels in the Ukraine and the Ukranian government. The recent downing of the aeroplane is  exactly that - innocents caught up in someone else's war. A real human tragedy and one that has shaken my faith in others. I always expect humans to show humanity, but am fast adapting to the reality that this isn't always so. Pessimism perhaps. Somehow I must hang on to hope, as I fully endorse those genuine fights for autonomy, self-determination and rule of law. But this cannot be justified by mindless acts of violence where innocent humans have to pay for the costs of someone else's war.

 Source: Patheos.com
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