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24 September 2007

EPITAPH : Dr. `Alí-Muhammad Varqá (1912-2007)

BAHÁ'ÍS AROUND the world learned today of the passing of Dr. `Alí-Muhammad Varqá, the last living Hand of the Cause of God. He died in the evening of 22 September 2007 in his home in Haifa, Israel, at the age of 95.

Dr. Ali-Muhammad Varqa. Image source: Bah&aacute'í Media BankIn a message released today to the global Bahá'í community, the Universal House of Justice describes the most esteemed member of the Bahá'í Faith as one “imbued with a luminous gentleness, a genuine kindliness and a natural dignity which combined to reflect the character of a saintly personality.” I reflected on these words and recalled my rare interactions with him during my precious days in Haifa. He seldom ventured out of his office due to frail health, but when he managed to attend social functions—usually holy day commemorations—the occasions became memorable moments of deep and sweet affection.

My last interaction was on the night of Breezes & Bridges: The Spirit of Southeast Asia, a musical show that I produced and directed in Haifa shortly before my departure late in 2004. At the end of the show, I approached him gingerly to offer my courtesies for choosing to attend the evening's performance. “Thank you, Dr. Varqá,” I said shyly. He looked at me with the famous broad smile and replied gently, “No, thank you.” I wanted to say more, but the impact of being thanked by someone of his stature was enough to gratify me (and shut me up!). It is a moment I will always remember.

The Bahá'ís are united in prayer for the quick journey of his soul through the next world and all the worlds to come.

19 September 2007

The fast of Ramadan

Ramadan Kareem!

MUSLIMS BEGAN observing the month-long fast of Ramadan last Thursday. This is the the holiest month on the Islamic calendar, commemorating the revelation of the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad as “a guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation”.

Ramadan Kareem to my Muslim friends and colleagues, with wishes for peace and happiness!

Related Site: The Fast of Ramadan (2006)

18 September 2007

Welcome, Fazal!

Fazal Mato

Fazal Mato
Image source: Jafred and Christina Mato

SPRING AND summer this year is turning out to be a delightful season of babies. Fazal Heaphy Mato has joined Ariana Songgadan, Elfida Laroya, Joaquin Ancheta, and Liam Fojas as the world's newest brilliant stars!

Fazal—Arabic for “grace”—is the first-born of Jafred and Christina Mato. He said his first hello on 5 September 2007 in Massachusetts, USA, and he may be saying “hello” to everyone he meets as he grows up: see how friendly he looks on his parents' blog. He is yet another global citizen-in-the-making: Mama is from USA and Papa is from Kenya. Twenty years from now, Fazal, Ariana, Elfida, Joaquin, and Aleta Leftwich will serve the Bahá'í Faith with Christina Mato's cello, Arnold Laroya's guitar, Farzana Songgadan's dancing feet, Von Ancheta's singing voice, Mara Fojas' poetry, and Ailsa Leftwich's directorial hands!

Congratulations, Christina and Jafred . . . and Welcome/Ukenereri, Fazal!

Related Site: Jafred and Christina Mato's Blog

16 September 2007

SIGHTED SITE : “Bombay Taxi”

EVER WONDERED how drivers in Mumbai manage two of the greatest threats to their sanity—taxicabs and parking spaces?

Ambassador taxi in MumbaiGames2Win has developed an online game called “Bombay Taxi”, where you get the chance to become a Mumbai taxi driver trying to fit into tight parking spots. The taxis are replicas of the real (and ancient) black-and-yellow Ambassador sedans plying Mumbai's streets. It is fun and addicting, especially since the game ends as soon as you hit even a bit of a car (and a male voice curses at you in Hindi). But that is where reality ends, because in Mumbai, when you hit a vehicle, the driving still continues.

Go ahead, play the game, and be a Mumbai driver!

09 September 2007

Welcome, Ariana!

Ariana Songgadan

Ariana Songgadan
Image source: Farzana Songgadan

FOLLOWING THE heels of Elfida Laroya's entry to this world is Ariana Lokhandwala Songgadan, first-born of Neil and Farzana Songgadan!

Born on 3 August 2007 in Haifa, Israel, Ariana—Greek for “most pure”, according to her very smart mom (she topped the CPA licensure exams a few years back)—is yet another fruit of the union of Filipino and non-Filipino. Farzana comes from Mumbai, India, and Neil is from northern Philippines. I await the growth of Ariana, another brilliant star with the best of both worlds.

Congratulations, Farzana and Neil . . . and Swaagatam/Mabuhay, Ariana!

Related Sites:

Ariana's First-Month Photos
Neil and Farzana's Blog

08 September 2007

Dining with hyenas

“YOU MUSTN'T go to the city,” she barked at him. “In fact, you will not go to the city.” There was silence, then laughter.

The barking and the laughter had been going on for twenty minutes now, and they were LOUD. In between were tales of New York City elevators and problems with the boss. She also wanted him to stop talking to a certain Neal, and he wanted her to drive the car tonight.

No, I was neither engaged in nor eavesdropping at this conversation: it was happening three tables away from me in this almost empty Japanese restaurant. After twenty minutes, I thought it was time to end the disturbing cacophony and finish my sushi in peace and quiet. So I turned towards the noisome storytellers with as much withering look as I could muster. The message was plain: the whole world DID NOT CARE TO HEAR their woes and tribulations.

The hyenas were an attractive young man and an equally gorgeous-looking girl friend. I immediately thought how the most annoying public disturbances belonged to pretty young things: loud mobile phone conversations in hybrid English, screeching Audis, Britney Spears-ish outfits, to name a few.

They easily saw my animosity amidst their animated discourse. He got my message and beckoned for her to lower her voice. She refuted the message and huffed loudly instead, “Some people.”

The battle lines were drawn, but I decided not to pick up the fight. It was useless to rage against nonchalance and youth (and gorgeous looks). If you can't beat 'em, eat your sushi. I gathered my lunch plate and sat as far away as possible and decided to focus on the sliver of salmon on my tekkamaki.

Fine, they got the last laugh (and bark). But at least I got my bliss!