Monday, 30 June 2014


Bored, I was looking at clothes online. And one item of clothing I totally love is the kaftan. Especially the yummy, amazing, stunning Moroccan kaftans. Getting lost in surfing the net admiring the highly embellished dresses, I can across quite a few blogs written by Muslim women. Interesting reading in their own right, but something I noticed as a common trend was the issue of modesty.

As a child in a well to do family at the time, modesty was always taught as having to do with behaviour. You don't flaunt your money and possessions, especially in front of the ones less fortunate, you don't brag about your high school grades (yeah, I was the perpetual nerd) in front of others that do not find it as easy to achieve the same things. Later, modesty was taught to be as a way always looking at my achievements in context. While my achievements were great (or so I thought at the time, anyhow), compared to the achievements of the person that invented penicillin hence saving millions of lives, were nothing. Later still, as I hit my teen years and discovered a passion for jewellery (still suffer from the disease), modesty meant more avoiding gaudiness and being moderate in the choice of accessories, in the sense that displaying the entire contents of my jewellery box at once was not only bad taste, but also immodest as it could be perceived as showing off.

Because of the world I had lived in, I always associated modesty with moderation. Yes, it was always encouraged to be proud of ourselves, but the idea of showing off was frowned upon. And, for me at least, modesty always had a lot more to do with behaviour then clothing. As a matter of fact, I don't think I have ever heard the word mentioned in regards to clothing until I married a Muslim. If my clothes were too skimpy or too much for the occasion, it wasn't an issue of modesty but of bad taste.

I know some very modest women some young some not so young. They never flaunt their abilities, they never brag, they know their own worth and feel no need to hit someone over the head with it. I openly praise my best friend for being a much better cook then I am when it comes to creating hearty, family oriented meals that taste and look delicious. And while she is very happy to be praised, who wouldn't?, she always points out that there is plenty more to learn. To be, that is modesty, it keeping it into context and being moderate in one's believes about themselves. And yet, when it comes to clothing, she often sports above the knee skirts and skinny pants, which she can easily pull off as she is one of those women that mother nature gifted with incredibly long, slender legs. What I would find lacking in modesty would be if she would feel the need to constantly praise herself on her great legs, not the fact that she wears clothing to show them off to the best advantage.

I had another friend, many many years ago that was fortunate enough to be stunning and she knew it. When it came to clothing, maybe she could have done with a little tone down, not so much in the cuts and patterns she chose, which always suited her to perfection, but in the number of designer labels displayed all at once on her body, and the fact that she had to point out the said designer names, in case that anyone was blind and did not see the markings. That to me, kind off screamed lacking modesty. We knew she had money, and no one begrudged her the fact that she did, however, poking out eyes out with it, was both lacking in modesty and terribly bad taste.

Jumping over to another decade and another friend. When it came to clothing, by just about any Muslim standard she was very modest. Not a hair showing, loose tops almost to the knee, scarf covering her neck and chest... And from underneath the scarf she will make eye contact with every male that crossed her path, her laughter and voice volume increased by about twenty decibels each time there was a man around and in the rest of the time she felt a compulsive need to point out what a great wife, mother, Muslim, sister, daughter etc she was.

I have to wonder who is more modest? A fully covered woman that did everything she could to attract attention to herself and spent the rest of the time going on about how great she was, or a woman that wears a tight top and a short skirt who always accept a compliment by offering one back and is by far one of the most unassuming beings I know?

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against anyone wearing anything. Hijab and loose clothing, dripping in designer labels or a bikini for that matter. As much as I am concerned, as long as you don't try to impose your views on me, you can wear whatever you wish, including chains and leather if that makes you happy. I might think at times you could no pay me to wear certain articles of clothing (for example the most hideous blouse I had ever seen that looked like rolls of toilet pater and it retailed at over 4Ks), or I might think certain things are absolutely tasteless, but as long as I am not wearing them, what do I care?

I guess that one I am trying to say by my various examples, is that for me, modesty is at once a lot more and a lot less than clothing. To me, someone saying they are more modest than I am, or some of my friends are, because that person is wearing something in particular, is simply put, immodest, because to me it says that you thing more highly about yourself then of others. And the hypocrisy or the pure blindness of the statement :"I am more modest then you because I am wearing X, Y or Z", makes me roll my eyes and bar my teeth.

To me, modesty is about attitude, towards yourself and others, is about the way you see yourself, is about not thinking you are better then anyone else, is about moderation. For me, modesty goes hand in hand with being gracious.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A silver thread

It is night. Around me darkness and silence. From somewhere, from afar, a silent calling that only my soul can recognise. I close my eyes, slowly, and tenderly I try to follow the calling, a silver thread expending over thousands of miles. 

With the thread between my fingers, oceans and continents vanish and finally I can step over my land, the one I left behind following an illusion. I know its song, I know its stories, I know the perfume in the air and my soul trembles in joy. I hear around my language, the one I listened to in the womb, and I smile. There, in the distance are my mountains with white caps of snow in early summer, with fir trees raising like proud arrows towards a sky that is as blue as my dreams, with fast cold springs running over rocks between the flowers. I pass through tiny villages lost on the map and resort towns and finally, as I descend the last mountain, across the fields, I can see the old castle sitting quietly at the top of the hill, a testimony of the history I had left behind. The stones beneath my feet know my story. I take one step after another, between old houses in which ones I had friends, on old streets on which once I sang and laughed. In the tiny little park with weeping willows the old benches remember still a young girl laughing as she was day dreaming about the future. 

I walk further still, passed the centuries old German church, passed a school that once was mine and stands older then the country for which I had left it all behind and finally, finally I take my first step on my street. Each house has lived in my memory, each stone etched in my mind, each tree a guardian to my dreams. And there, just a little lower, the house that when I left was white as snow, a sunny yellow now. I stop by the gate and I lean my head on it. Between tears, I smile at all the memories. The day I had left the house excited on a date with my love, the day I came home with all my friends celebrating the end of high school, the days I went to the market with my mother and for long walked in the forest with my brother… Teasing my sister and listening to my brother…

I lower myself to my knees, there, next to the gate, and I can not stop the tears falling down my face. Why did I leave it all behind? Why?

Once, a long time ago, when I used to fight with my sister about silly belongings, I thought that having my own home, my own space will be a blessing. Once upon a time, listening to my father’s lectures, I dreamed of the day when I will have no one to tell my what to do. Once, when my mother would ask me to sit with her, I thought that being alone will be exciting. Once, when my bother was mercilessly teasing me, I thought that I would give anything for it to stop…

I sit now on the other side of the gate, a stranger in my own home, a stranger in my own country and I cry. Because I would give anything to have my father tell me what to do and lift the mountains of responsibility of my shoulders. Because I would give anything to sit quietly with my mother as we cook together yet another meal. Because I would rather argue with my siblings then being alone at the end of the Earth where no one knows me enough to tease me about things that happened a life time ago. I step into the yard; tears still falling, tears of joy for finally being home, in my parents arms, in my siblings laughter.

The silver thread snaps, just another sweet dream, and I am back again in my own home, in the dark, at the end of the planet. Why did I leave? Why did I leave it all behind with a smile on my lips? Why? All I have left are dreams and memories. And sometimes, late at night, I can close my eyes and imagine going home, and for a moment, just a second, the illusion is powerful enough to settle the yearning, the longing. And then, the dream vanishes like the touch of the feather on the face, and I am left all alone in a country far away and the pain is ten fold worse and the longing is clawing at my soul... Why?

Monday, 5 May 2014


I live in a world surrounded by technology. Even now, as I am sitting in front of my computer, I have a smart phone and an iPad on my desk. My eleven year old daughter has an iPad, an iPod and a smart phone. I look at it and sometimes I wonder...

I close my eyes and I remember a world without technology, a world of old fashion phones that could be slammed with satisfaction, a world in which my friends would simply knock on the door, knowing they will be welcome anytime. And part of me smiles sadly looking at my children that do not know the satisfaction of just knocking on someone's door and the joy of finding them home.

What does technology means for me? The luxury of seeing my parents' faces when I speak to them from continents away. It is a luxury I did not always have in the days of insanely expensive overseas phone calls and long waited for letters. And yet, sometimes I miss the excitement of opening my post box to find a letter hidden between bills and more bills. I miss the excitement of ripping open that envelope that has travelled thousands of miles just to carry the thoughts of someone I love, of turning the pages of that letter and following the lines written by a hand I know so well.

I close my eyes and I remember being one of the first of my generation to leave my homeland to seek my future in other parts of the world and in an age without the technology we have today, it was easy to feel lost and broken away from everything I held dear. Years passed and one day, with couple of clicks on my computer I was able to check on people I had lost to the roads of life. Sometimes we chat, we people that used to be friends a lifetime ago. And yet, sometimes I wonder how would it be to just hear their voices.

Today, with couple of clicks on my phone, I am able to see my parents' house, too see them walking in the yard, and the possibility of it is bitter sweet, because while I can see it and while for a second it settles down the longing, I am not really there. Today, due to technology my parents can see their granddaughters and be seen by them, even though my girls still miss them and my parents cry for all those things they miss.

For me, technology is that one thing that makes living at the end of the Earth bearable, barely. Many times, late at night when sleep eludes me, I think of all those people that came to this land, or to others, generations ago, before computers and fast internet connections, and I shiver at the idea that on a lucky day they had to wait half a year to receive a reply to a letter sent. I am blessed to live in the world we live in today, because without it I would be truly lost from all I love.