It is with growing horror and a deep sense of foreboding that I read about the re introduction of the Sharia law in the kingdom of Brunei. Sharia law, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is considered the infallible law of God in Islam. In its radical interpretation, music and dance are forbidden as are (very obviously) cigarettes and alcohol; there are medieval punishments for crimes like theft, and enforcement of attendance to regular prayer is brutal and swift. The introduction of Sharia has been a longstanding goal for many Islamist movements. Even as ISIS the breakaway extremist faction of the Al Qaeda, makes steady inroads into Iraq and neighbouring Syria, with an alarming speed, it is bringing these changes along in its wake.

Scarily, for the women in this part of the world, this will mean losing whatever little independence they had to begin with. Servility, subjugation, voicelessness, obedience and anonymity are bywords for the womenfolk under Sharia. In Brunei, where the plan is to introduce the law in three phases, the first will include fines and jail terms for unmarried women becoming pregnant. The second will incorporate punishments like whipping and amputations for alcohol consumption and theft. The third will be the imposition of stoning and death sentences for adultery, sodomy and murder. These punishments will apply not just to the locals but also to non-muslims.

It should come as no surprise that the judges, enforcers and authorities will primarily be male. Moderate Islamists have always understood and supported the role of women in society. How can a nation, a family, or a relationship thrive and prosper, if a significant proportion of the populace is metaphorically bound, gagged and blindfolded? Yet, in a return to the Dark ages, these laws aim to do just that. Women are seen as no more than baby making machines, with the added perk of being housemaids and nursemaids.

With a denial to basic freedom, to education and to any kind of joy in their lives, what kind of a future will emerge from these lands? For is it not the hand that rocks the cradle, that subliminally rules the world? If not in deed, then in desperation, there is bound to emerge a counter movement. One that will be spearheaded by brave souls like Malala Yousafzai. When that happens, and it will, it is women in the free world who must rise in support of our sisters. The time to be passive has long gone. What we are questioning and debating are not the tenets of a religious law, but our rights as humans to be accorded the respect and the dignity that should be the bedrock of all existence.




Mind the gap

Apologies for the l o n g gap between posts. Life has been exceedingly frenetic and I know that is a poor excuse, but it is nonetheless true. I write this past the witching hour, having just trawled through mountains of paperwork, with the prospect of correcting my daughter’s Kumon looming straight after. Can it get any worse? Oh yes it can. A sports day, a mid afternoon cocktail and dinner at a friend’s tomorrow. Whither the time to write? Add to that the perpetual jet lag, and you have all of the best excuses procrastination can offer up. 

Needless to say, the voice of conscience and other writers’ diligence, stabs at me daily.

A couple of ideas are fermenting. Till then bear with me, and actually, don’t mind the gap too much.



Language of Love

Lately, I was sent a poem of tongue twisters. English words that were spelt in a similar fashion but were quite distinct from one another, in the way they were pronounced. Now, each language has its inherent vagaries, yet, I’ll wager its the English language that has more inconsistencies than you could shake a stick at. In its varied capriciousness are the contradictory proverbs that we are regularly assailed with.

How about: It’s better to be safe than sorry. (But) Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Or: Distance makes the heart grow fonder. (But) Out of sight, out of mind.

And: Many hands make light work. (But) Too many cooks spoil the broth.

I’m sure you follow my drift. Interestingly enough, it is these very quirks and foibles that make English such a wonderful language to explore and try to master.

Language, for the most part, is seen as a means of communication. For writers, poets, orators, actors it is much more than just that. It is a living, breathing, ever evolving entity that facilitates a flow of ideas, art, information and in the process a little of the person enters into the medium. For anyone who has read Hemingway, or watched a performance by Olivier, or wept over a poem by Sylvia Plath, the language is but a step ladder into their souls.

I’ll close with the poem that gave birth to this blog post. It alternately amused me, confounded me and challenged me, but ultimately made me realise, that love – true love- is unconditional. And so, my love affair with the English language carries on.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation — think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough —
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!