Aug 27, 2004

Gmail, Islam, Understanding

A couple of days ago, a red link showed up in my Gmail inbox page below the mailbox list. It said `Invite a Friend' [to use Gmail], and I was like OK, this may be my only chance to invite someone for I dunno, six months or a year or something, so I better make it good. And the only person I could think of who might appreciate a Gmail account was Faisal (and yes, Marvin, but he recently got himself a 1 GB Walla account so I thought a Gmail invitation would just confuse the poor guy). And Yaman would certainly not even understand the big deal about Gmail. So it's 1 GB, so what? He doesn't even use his 2 MB Hotmail account much. When Hotmail upgrades him to 250 MB, as they've promised to do soon, he probably won't even notice the difference.

So I called up Faisal and indirectly asked him what he thought of a Gmail account. He was interested but for the life of him couldn't figure out why I was asking these silly questions. But then he's probably used to that from me by now. As an aside, if I were called up and asked what I thought of Gmail, I'd probably make the connection immediately and expect an invite, but what the hey.... :-)

So, having assured myself that he would appreciate the benefits of having a Gmail account, I sent out the invite and congratulated myself on my wise decision.

Today, I signed in to Gmail and what should I see but 6 -- not one, but six -- invitations that I can give out to friends. Yikes. Sue me, but I think I'm running out of friends to invite. Nevertheless, I think I'll try. Alia could probably use the storage space, given her volume of correspondence, and Marvin, now that I come to think of it, could probably be persuaded to part with Walla for Gmail. Actually, I think I'll just email them, so there.


Now, I've finally finished Karen Armstrong's `History of Islam' -- not that it was huge or anything, but rather because I took a rather long hiatus to read other stuff. Dadiamma could never figure out why Dada leaves a book unfinished to start another one, and then finishes the first after the second, but I think that like me, he gets bored with one book after a while, no matter how interesting it is.

Anyway, Armstrong said something about why Muslim women might want to veil themselves from head to toe -- even though that is not required by the Quran -- that reminded me of my own affinity for my beard even when it was criticised roundly by both friends and family. Part of my rationale for the beard was, I don't care how I look to the rest of the world as long as I can have my way. Or, screw the rest of the world, I don't give a damn what they think. Or even, screw the rest of the world, I'll keep the beard just to irritate them!

So my being like that, I can certainly appreciate why some women might subscribe to the veil. It might irritate people, but I can appreciate the black irony of that and congratulate myself (!) for it.


This might sound shallow after the last paragraph, but I've come to realise that the most important thing I can ever learn is how to put myself in another person's shoes. In another word, empathy. The master's disciple may have concentrated on anger management[1], but I think if you understand the motivations behind people's actions, you'll find it a lot easier to control your temper. Now if only I could drill this into my head with a chainsaw. But no, it will probably take many years to fully absorb this idea.

[1] The story goes like this. A master once left his disciples to go on a trip. When he returned, he asked each of them what they had learned in his absence. They each enumerated the things they had learned, and the master was well pleased. However, when he came to the last pupil, and asked him what he had learnt, the pupil said he had learned only one thing. Hearing this, the master became very angry and struck the pupil. Then he asked him what he had learned. Calmy, the pupil replied, `I have learned never to lose my temper.'

Aug 20, 2004


Well, my beard is gone. And for some people, good riddance. Damn, I miss it. After I had it shaved off, I felt like I looked completely different. Like another person. Mummy was ecstatic. Yaman was smirky as usual. Daddy didn't react -- I guess he's a stoic.

Meanwhile, this may come as a shock to me (!), but other people aren't as interested in my beard (or lack of one) as I might be.

I called up the Malaysian High Commission to ask about their student visa procedure and it turns out they have none. Monash U. will actually be doing all the work on my behalf, arranging my student pass. Then they will send it to me and wait for me at the airport. That's pretty much it. The lady at the High Commission explained it to me in excruciating detail. I was afraid I would grow old and die listening to her rambling on about the process.

In other news, I've come across some videos of Richard Feynman's QED (quantum electrodynamics, oh how I love those two words) lectures -- the same famous lectures that were compiled into the book Dada bought. I'm going through the videos one by one now. Feynman is an incredibly rich and interesting character. Witty, smart, and sophisticated, he's like the Indiana Jones of theoretical physics. I'd like to see a movie about him. Russell Crowe's A Beautiful Mind proved that thoughtful movies could be made of scientists. And Feynman is such an interesting character even if you leave aside his scientific achievements -- his days as a barfly, artist, raconteur, immersion tank experimenter, marching band player in Copacabana (Brazil) would make incredible fodder for a movie.

If they did make a movie on him, Matthew Perry would be perfectly placed to play him in about ten years' time, I think, if he (Perry) takes care of himself. I think they have the same facial structure and Perry's sense of humour would only help him. The only problem that might come up is Perry's voice. At the least he'll have to go through some practice to make it sound deeper. Might even try catching a cold :-)


Aug 15, 2004

My beard

Perhaps the time has finally come to let go of it. If I do go to the concert tomorrow, everyone (probably including me) will surely have a better time if I don't have it there. In any case, maybe the time has also come to explain why I have a beard in the first place.

I decided to grow a beard a few weeks after the A levels ended because I didn't really have much else to do and I was getting tired of shaving every other day. So through the past month I haven't touched my face with a razor, letting it all just run wild on my face. I've discovered some very interesting things about the way it grows, including the places where it doesn't (beside my lips, if anyone is interested).

I knew it could get itchy, having kept various forms of facial hair before; but then it also got sticky and dry, seemingly sucking all the moisture out of my skin. Then I got into this phase where I kept stroking the moustache and/or the beard continuously. Actually, I'm not sure I've recovered from that yet. I discovered that I don't have to worry about little bits of food getting stuck to it, but that now whenever I drink water some of it always ends up in the hair somehow.

I've also realised that all this hair makes me look more indigenous, more Bangladeshi really. In the past people have been confused as to where I'm from, and I guess this brings my appearance into a familiar level for most people.

Of course, most people I know have been vehemently against the beard (big surprise :-). Mummy and Nano have been against, Daddy, Yaman and Nana have reserved their judgement, and friends -- for the most part -- have been against. I tell them I just want to look a little different for a while, and I'll get rid of it sooner or later.

And finally, today looks like the perfect day to do it. The hartal before the concert. If the barber shop is open, that is.