Omigosh! Today I was invited to do some entertaining at the Islamic Society of North America (Canada) conference.
So I dragged myself down to Mississauga.
Before my gig in the children’s program I took a breath and went through the bazaar and the weirdest thing! I met Farkhanda!
I’d been thinking of her for ages!
When I was in my teens or late twenties, can’t remember, one of the ladies in the community had a little daughter named Farkhanda. I was drawn to the name because it was difficult and many syllabled, like mine.
So when I wrote a story about a boy and his sister coming to Canada I called the little girl Farkhanda, after that little girl.
Um, she’s not so little any more! She had a twenty year old daughter who was helping her man her booth in the bazaar-selling everything from gumballs to hand-made soap!
After a bit of lunch I was just about ready to tackle a bunch of hyperactive kids from about one year of age to about ten.
Yeah, try telling stories to such a disparate group and keeping their attention!
One of the kids kept asking if they were allowed to go to the bouncy castle yet.
I did NOT have high expectations, and yet the kids hung in there with me. There were definitely some of them still listening by the end of Big Red Lollipop, even with the interruption of parents coming to pick up the kids.
Babysitting/child programs at Islamic conferences are usually a disaster. I can’t imagine a more horrible task then taking care of Muslim kids–trying to keep them entertained and out of their parents hair!
Afterwards I was hungry! And after showing me where the green room was one of the volunteers guided me up to the area where the speakers could get some chow.
And on the way I noticed how the crowd had swelled! The halls were packed, and the young lady who was escorting me named Falak, who was acting like a personal assistant, told me it was because they’d come to see Nouman Ali Khan.
The dining area consisted of three round tables in a largish kitchen. Around one of the tables sat about five different men. There were no women seated at the tables. I think I remember hearing Falak whisper again something about Nouman Ali Khan.
At first I grabbed my food and was ready to sit down at the other table, then I don’t know what possessed me but I went over to the mens’ table and asked, “Is it okay if I join you?”
Of course they said yes, what else could they say?
And Falak sat down beside me too.
Like a used car salesman, I handed out my business cards, and right in front of Nouman Ali Khan (who was sitting across from me) I asked Falak, “So where’s Nouman Ali Khan?”
Falak nodded at the gentleman, but he pointed at another guy and they all laughed.
I should be used to committing faux pas by now!
But alas I’m not.
And I attempted to make conversation, but every topic I introduced fell flat. So after a while I did the smart thing and shut my big mouth.
And somehow Falak started talking. At least she had something in common with these gentlemen. She’d spent time in Texas too and she started talking about Lubbock where she’d grown up, and for a bit we discussed the topography of Texas.
From her own admission later, Falak sounded so much like a ‘fan girl’. I’m assuming that’s young people talk for a gushing fan.
I was not a gushing fan at all.
In fact I kept trying to find out what Nouman did. Why he was such a big deal at the conference, kind of thing.
I asked a stupid question like, “So, do you work at a university or something?”
And he mumbled something about the Bayyinah institute, apparently it’s a big deal, but ignorance is bliss, and I really had no idea who I was talking to!
It wasn’t until I mentioned an idea I have to write a story about the after effects of the Boston bombing on Muslim kids that Brother Nouman finally showed some interest. He liked my idea and then I got to tell him about how frustrating it has been that the Muslim community in North America knows virtually nothing about my work as an author.
And the discussion started.
I swear I did NOT talk with my mouth full, but still, when you’re eating and talking untoward events are liable to happen.
To my absolute horror, a little speck of rice flew out of my mouth during one of my more emphatic statements to lie upon the shiny burgundy table cloth in between us. Both our gazes had followed and then fixated on the trajectory. Omigosh! I felt my face get hot and I said, “Oh dear! Excuse me! I shouldn’t be talking while I’m eating.” And I quickly scooped up the speck of rice and got rid of it.
It figures something like that would happen to me!
If there’s any possibility of my embarrassing myself, it will happen!
And yet part of me thought, ‘Geez it’s not the end of the world! It’s not like no other person has ever had specks fly out of their mouths! Could happen to anyone!”
He didn’t even seem grossed out at all but that might have just been an expression of his impeccable manners. But anyway, it really seemed as if he was interested in my work.
I asked him he wanted to see some, I had books in the trunk of my car. And he said yes so I left him a copy of Wanting Mor, Big Red Lollipop and The Roses in My Carpets.
I didn’t actually feel that embarrassed until afterwards, when Falak told me in urgent whispers how weird sitting down with those men had been! Apparently the other volunteers kept giving her the eye! (I didn’t notice) And Falak kept talking about famous this guy really is! And how BOLD I’d been!
She said that if he liked my books, he could spread the word all across the Muslim community in North America–he’s THAT influential!
That was about when the magnitude of what I had done really hit me.
I must have come across like I was packed with chutzpah or something. And yet what’s the big deal? I really did want to know more about him and the other speakers sitting there. I was networking! There was no physical contact. It was all straight forward, no flirtatiousness at all! I’m just not like that!
And yet, when I told one of the other volunteers about it she was a lot more sanguine about it. She said to me that he had probably found it humbling and even refreshing. That he was probably used to people being intimidated in his presence and practically genuflecting, and here I was completely oblivious.
And I thought back to the times when people had treated me with awe–it’s happened a few times–and how weirded out it made me feel. And I thought yeah, I preferred people to just treat me normal too.
And coming to this realization made me feel a lot better.
Oh, I ended up telling The Clever Wife during the entertainment portion of the program, and I think it went over well!
p.s. You might want to read this khutba (sermon) of his http://muslimmatters.org/2013/04/20/nouman-ali-khan-quranic-perspective-on-recent-tragedies/
I did and it was quite impressive!
(Gak! It makes me feel even more silly now!)
p.p.s. One young guy came up to me and said I reminded me of his mom. Really? I asked. “Yeah,” he said. “She’s such a tank!”
“A tank???” I asked.
“Oh yeah! You remind me so much of her!” And then he went on to say how parents weren’t really being respected and all that, but I didn’t really hear that much. I kept picturing me with caterpillar tracks and decked out in camouflage! Yikes!
And I wondered vaguely if he was referring to my and his mother’s size, but no, from the way he was talking I could tell it was nothing about that.
Not sure if I really want to know. But I did think it was hilarious!
No matter where anyone stands on the carnage in Syria, the refugee situation in the neighboring countries is desperate.
Women and children who are innocent victims just trying to run from slaughter.
I’ve been reticent to donate up till now because I wasn’t sure of the people working on the projects over there, but with my brother, a family physician going there with medicine and humanitarian relief supplies, I am certain that 100% of the money will reach the needy (and not make its way into any sort of terrorists’ hands!)
I’ve asked him to set up a literacy program for me and will be giving him some funds to do so.
I urge all my readers to do what you can!
My brother is very reliable!
This is my brother’s press release:
Canadians Helping Syrian Refugees in Jordan
Subject: Humanitarian Mission to Jordan – Syrian Refugee assistance
Dear all -
I wanted to let you know about our next exciting project – a group of five Canadians from Hamilton and Brantford areas to travel to Jordan on June 15 for a one week project to purchase and distribute humanitarian assistance to Syrian Refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan close to the Syrian border. The team includes my two kids – Saba Khan (age 17) and Hamza Khan (age 15).
This camp was designed for 50,000 persons but is home to more than 120,000. Conditions are overcrowded and deplorable.
We have a fundraising goal of $100,000 and will purchase non-food items (camp stoves, blankets, shoes, hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, feminine napkins, etc.) and participate in distribution to our target population – children, women and the elderly. We will also participate in clinical education to mothers with infants in the prevention, and treatment of malnutrition and infectious diarrhea, and basic first aid.
Our project is NON-DENOMINATIONAL but will be conducted through the CCRA registered Canadian Charity – Islamic Relief Canada (CCRA# 821896875RR0001) a professional and reputable NGO.
Please support our project either financially ( www.help4syria.ca ) or by spreading the word.
Let’s show these people we care about them and pray for peace and for their quick return to their homes. With no end to the fighting in sight, they could be stuck there for years. We are hopeful that this mission will help make things a little more bearable for them in their suffering.
Please visit www.help4syria.ca for information or how you can support us.
Thank you for your support.
Dr. Raza Khan, MD, CCFP, FCFP
I’ve been fascinated with all the coverage and hoopla over the movie The Great Gatsby. Apparently the release of the movie has increased the book sales dramatically.
Heard that within the last few months it sold 400,000 copies or something like that, way more than the 20,000 it sold in Fitzgerald’s lifetime.
And becoming so ‘popular’ tarnishes the book in the estimation of the powers that be.
Which brings me to the basic problem with ‘literature’.
One critic even called the book’s plot “pulp”.
Oh man, pulp is one thing I wouldn’t call it and I didn’t even like the book!
One review quoted a passage calling it evocative and beautiful and I just thought, “meh!”.
Basically it’s about a stupid criminal pining after a stupid broad. Ridiculous!
But it’s interesting about the idea of ‘pulp’.
One of my favourite books is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. I like it way better than Anne of Green Gables!
And even though there is a part of the plot that is definitely pulp, sheesh, what’s wrong with that!?
I think it’s horrible that the literati are such a darn cynical bunch that anything that contributes to a ‘happy’ ending is considered pulpy.
There’s something wrong with all of this.
Look at the ideas the book is exploring.
The main idea in The Great Gatsby is the melancholy of longing. He wants to fit in with the big boys and get the girl, even though she’s a dimwit.
But then so is he.
The Blue Castle is about about how a death sentence can free you of fear and give you the courage to go out and get what you want.
The biggest irony is that the author herself never followed her own advice. She ended up marrying the more ‘respectable’ suitor instead of the one she really liked and he turned out to be a pretty loony.
From what I read Lucy Maud based the character of Roaring Abel on her husband.
Anyway, the only problem I had with the book is that it does get a bit Jane Eyrish, and I’ll say no more than that for fear of spoiling it.
But then comes Lagaan, a movie that hearkens back to my growing up days watching Bollywood movies, the old kind, where they dance with Chinese and Burmese influences.
It’s nice to see that it got 95% on Rotten Tomatoes so that even they recognized how good it is!
It’s funny but I was thinking about it the other day and then when I clicked on Netflix, there it was!
And I watched it, and it was just as good the second time!
And yet, at the end my hubby said that the ending was a bit pat.
A bit pat?
That’s like calling it pulpy!
Nope. It’s just good!
It’s called an ending people! You need to end the problem! Resolve it.
Anyway, read The Blue Castle, watch Lagaan, and wait till The Great Gatsby hits the small screen–for free!
That’s my suggestion.
to pray that the Leafs lose.
Hubby summed it up well. He said, “They’re grown men with bent sticks chasing after a piece of black rubber!”
Omigosh. Why oh why do we search for these vicarious victories?
Is it because real victories of a personal nature are so hard to come by?
So that we have to look outside ourselves for a feel good victory?
And yet don’t you need a release sometimes?
And haven’t I learned lessons of perseverence and tenacity from sports teams?
Yes, and yes.
Sometimes I feel as though God ensures that no Toronto teams get far in the playoffs as a favour to me.
I know, I know, that sounds incredibly egotistical! To think that He’d make them lose so that I could stop being distracted and get back to work!
I’ve been feeling pretty glum the last few days, and yes, part of it is because of the abysmal performance of both the Leafs and Jays (tonight).
I mean the Jays were in the tenth inning of a four -to-four tie and the pitcher WALKS in the winning run!!!!
And I thought Omigosh, these are just men trying to hit a rock covered with stitched up white leather!
And yet the glumness came before that.
It was when the Leafs lost AND I got a rejection for a novel, and I felt like, who am I kidding? Who the heck is ever going to read it?
Isn’t it TOO deep?
Look at what sells?
I feel old.
I feel too ‘wise’ for my own good!
Things people seem to be wrestling with, like the jealousy and materialism of The Great Gatsby is stuff I feel like I dealt with ages ago! When I read The Great Gatsby I thought, “Meh”
I’m eager to plumb other depths. That’s what I did with the Hajj novel, and darn it, I LOVE it!
But the rejection I received basically said that the writing didn’t match the complexity of the plot, and I thought, “HUH?” If they want to reject the book, fine, but goodness don’t make up stuff like that!
And I’m tired, and when I’m tired I tend not to put up with nonsense.
Today I was at a school where there were a LOT of troubled kids.
I actually think that the inclusion of disabled kids has sometimes caused a LOT of problems with discipline in classrooms.
At the risk of being terribly politically incorrect, I’m just going to say it like I see it. There are kids who have so many emotional problems and come from such troubled backgrounds that they ruin the learning opportunities in the classroom for everyone.
There’s like a constant state of muttering, and you look at the kids to try to see who is doing it so you can ask them to stop and they just look back at you with a “Why me?” look on their faces.
Normally I just ‘bulldoze’ right over these kinds of kids. Make it so I’m so fascinating they stop trying to sabotage the presentation.
I ramp up the energy till they simply HAVE to pay attention. But somehow I felt tired so instead I stopped.
I did my usual tactic of pointing out the kids who were sitting nicely, ‘criss-cross apple sauce with their hands in their laps’ and NOT talking, and that worked for a while, but there was one mutterer who just couldn’t seem to help himself, so I moved him to the side.
And then he continued for a bit.
It’s like they’re so used to the lessons being boring that they’ve developed strategies! Highly effective obfuscation strategies!
And what happens is that the normal kids seem to see them getting away with stuff and model their own behaviour on the emotional kids and you have chaos.
In the staff room I overheard teachers talking about property values and the joys of real estate agentship. (Sounded like they were moonlighting as real estate agents.)
Things in Toronto are getting pretty bad what with the teacher friction with the Ontario government. Work to rules and all that kind of stuff.
I try to stay neutral, but I’ve heard things.
Teachers have it pretty darn good!
Better than the rest of the population!
At one point I heard one teacher talking about how she could tap in to ‘personal’ days, days she can take off because of personal issues (like a death or illness).
She was trying to figure out how to work the system, like when people take off sick days when the weather is gorgeous.
And I just kept saying, “I’m not hearing this! I’m not hearing this!”
I mean if I don’t work, I don’t get paid, and it’s as simple as that!
And honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way!
And I’ve been to schools where the teachers do ABSOLUTELY NO preparation of the kids whatsoever, and worse yet, they model BAD listening behaviour to the kids.
Today there were two teachers talking at the back of the room, in the middle of my presentation.
I’ve heard MANY artists complain to no end about this! That, and seeing teachers mark.
Honestly though I don’t care that much if they mark. Yes, it’s rude. Yes it destroys the benefit the students will get from the presentation because then they can’t follow up with the kids afterwards if they didn’t know what was said during the presentation, but at least it’s not disruptive.
And my hubby has trained me well. When I’d come home and complain like the other artists I’d heard complain about teachers not listening, my hubby, ever the pragmatist would say, “What does it matter? You’re getting paid whether they listen or not? Do you really think that what you’re doing is such a gift that they MUST listen?” Or words to that effect.
And yeah, he’s right. The whole you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink kind of thing. Just because I have taken great pains to make sure my presentations are loaded with interesting things for the kids to learn, and just because the school is paying good money to bring me in, doesn’t mean I need to get in a snit if the teachers don’t appreciate my presence.
But today, when the teacher was not just talking with another teacher at the back, not just saying a few words and then turning back around, when she was HOLDING A CONVERSATION with the other teacher, yes, I stopped my presentation.
I stopped in the middle of telling BIG RED LOLLIPOP and I just stood there and stared at her till she finally caught my eye, and I asked, blandly, “Do you need to be having a conversation?” Fully prepared if she said yes, to ask her ever so politely to then take it outside.
And by this time all the children and the other adults had turned around and were staring at her.
She said, “Sorry.”
And I continued on.
It really really doesn’t help when teachers don’t set a good example. I mean why should the kids listen politely when the teachers aren’t?
All that said, even with the disruptions from the disruptive kids, by the time I was winding up my Roses in My Carpets presentation even the disruptive kids were putting up their hands to answer the questions like all the rest of them, and yes, I had them.
Every last one of them.
Even though I was tired.
It was indeed a victory of sorts. And there were no grown men chasing after pieces of rubber in sight!
Last night I was laughing maniacally at the ridiculous slugfest that was the Ottawa Senators/Montreal Canadiens game.
The entire benches of both teams cleared. It was hilarious!
Tonight I’m not laughing any more.
In fact I was so down after the fourth goal that the Bruins scored against a beleaguered Reimer, that I undid all the good of my diet today and ate four Peek Frean cream-filled cookies!
It didn’t help that the Jays were down 7-0 on another sports channel.
In the past I always rejoiced when the Toronto teams collapsed and fell out of the running.
Watching your home team win a game is surprisingly similar to the feeling you get when a story is going very well!
And making a story go well is so much more work than watching a game!
So why wouldn’t you procrastinate with the work and just sit down and enjoy a game?
Same high right?
Well tonight I even made a dua that the Leafs would win and the Jays would win, and I was so doggone disappointed when they were both down.
But you know, the Jays rallied. Weird. Especially with how badly they’ve been playing lately!
But it was really the Leafs I wanted to win.
Oh well, one out of two isn’t that bad.
I’d like a win.
Some kind of win.
Feeling kind of low.
Anyway, got a presentation in the morning and my eyes are burning with allergies.
Gotta get some sleep.
Maybe I’ll feel better in the morning.
But on the other hand, I’ve been sailing along pretty steady for quite some time. Maybe I was due for a low.
A few days ago I was at a school talking to the librarian about some of the nominees for a local reader’s choice award and when I mentioned a particular author she said, “Oh he’s so arrogant.”
Just like that.
And it was a bit jarring for me.
And it reminded me of a moment in England, talking to a friend of mine, telling her about this author I’d met in Saskatchewan, a science fiction author who was arrogant like anything, and she immediate guessed who it was!
And then I couldn’t help it. I wondered what people were saying about me.
Mostly I never ever think of that!
I think if I dwelt on that it would be paralyzing!
I’ve got so many things they could comment on, and thinking about all of them sure would destroy my confidence. How could I get up in front of people?
And yet it’s funny. In my ever running quest to lose weight, one of the biggest things weight loss groups say is that losing weight will increase your confidence.
Somehow the weight doesn’t impact mine at all. I’m pretty sure of that.
Sure I’d look sleeker and better if I lost the weight. Sure I’d like to do that, but somehow I get up there and do my speaking gigs just fine as is and I honestly can’t imagine losing weight improving that in any way.
But getting back to the comments, I was wondering, for a brief instant, what people might be saying about me.
I did hear, third hand, a comment.
It was from a teacher who was quoting another teacher on a private listserve, and apparently they said something like, “Oh yeah, she dresses that way, but really…she’s good.”
I’m really paraphrasing.
And it was one of those weird moments where I’m slammed up against a wall as to how odd I must be.
I probably already said this in a blog post way back, but I made a deliberate choice to wear Pakistani clothes in my presentations. Firstly because I find them more flattering and modest than western clothes on my bulky person, and secondly the style of clothes is relevant in some of my presentations, especially when I’m doing Ruler of the Courtyard with primary children. It’s important that the girl in the story is wearing a shalwar kameez and it helps for the kids to see me wearing one.
The third reason I wear Pakistani clothes is because it’s a form of community validation.
When I first started, you should have seen the looks on the teachers’ and kids’ faces when I started my presentation wearing such traditional clothes and yet what comes out of me is a hip Canadian accent.
One equity officer for the Toronto District School Board at the time called me a ‘stereotype buster’. And I thought, yup. That’s me.
I often come across highly educated South Asians, and it always seems the more highly educated they are, the more they dress in assimilated garb.
Anyway, it is a definite choice I make and yet it still jars me to be reminded of it.
Like when I look in a dark store front window and see that I’m dressed Islamically, and for a moment I forget I’m any different at all, and think, “Oh, who’s that plump foreign-looking woman there?” and immediately I answer myself, “Oh yeah, that’s me!”
I do forget some times.
Just like most of the times I don’t worry about what people might be saying because there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. It’s completely beyond my control, and I always try to focus only on things that are within my control.
Whatever it is, good or bad, it won’t stop me. I will continue, insha Allah. Keep on keeping on, that’s my motto.
Over and out.
Every once in a while you go to a special school where they just…GET you!
Yesterday was just such a school.
The flavour the school hearkened back to gentler times. The kids were sweet! Not jaded in the least!
And the staff!
They had scheduled a pot luck multicultural luncheon for the day I was presenting and generously invited me to it.
There was Korean beef rubbing shoulders with Estonian bean salad and Finnish beet salad and vegetarian tofu with peas and Canadian bacon.
Everything cooked with love and brought in to share.
There was even a pile of seaweed packs and since I hadn’t had my sushi fix for a while, I picked one up.
And just the feeling of friendliness! So nice!
I’ve been to some schools where it’s almost as if the staff room is segregated.
The principal sat beside me during lunch. Someone might have introduced us, but I didn’t realize she was the principal. We just got to chatting away, then later, during the presentation in the library she was sitting at the side and I really thought she was just one of the other teachers.
I should have clued in when she was chatting with the librarian afterwards and decided to purchase 35 copies of Wanting Mor.
I promised to bring them the next day, I only had about twelve copies in the trunk of the car, and only today, when I was taking them over did I see her walk out of her office and duh, it finally dawned on me!
Just the loveliest loveliest lady! No wonder the atmosphere at the school was so warm and inviting!
And then the cutest thing! Two of the girls had approached me in the hall, after my presentation and asked to purchase copies of Wanting Mor.
I told them they could bring their money in today, and they both did!
And one of the girls handed me a ten dollar bill and some change, then she grinned, “I gave you an extra dollar, as a tip!”
Omigosh! It was so CUTE!
Never been tipped by a kid before!
In fact I don’t think I’ve ever been tipped!
Authors just don’t get tips. Not usually.
May God shower her with blessings!
May He shower all of them with blessings!
Expand their hearts and give them prosperity!
Oh, and speaking of expanded hearts, heard about the weirdest story lately!
Apparently the guy who had partnered up with that Dutch dude Geert Wilders, who had produced that offensive film about the Prophet (peace be upon him), his name is Arnoud Van Doorn, apparently became Muslim.
There’s a whole story about it here: http://www.miadhu.com/2013/04/local-news/former-dutch-islamophobe-arnoud-van-doorn-converts-to-islam/
I also heard that the Swiss guy who was so adamantly opposed to minarets in Switzerland, and was behind the movement to ban them, also became Muslim.
Go figure again!
Don’t know if it’s true, but if it is…just goes to show that Islam really is better than it’s portrayed.
I feel like screaming everytime I hear someone describe the Boston marathon bombers as ‘devout’ Muslims.
Devout Muslims don’t bomb anyone.
Just because a person attends a Friday prayer now and then, DOESN’T mean he’s devout!
Omigosh, it’s like saying a guy shows up for mass so he’s a saint!
And what’s with all the regurgitated picture books???
So you have one hit…Click Clack Moo, or Bear Snores On, or Scaredy Squirrel, and you’ve got to spin it into umpteen HORRIBLE regurgitations?
I mean if they were any good…
But they’re NOT!
And they’re INSULTING!
I can just see the editorial meeting, “Hey, that was a hit, why not Click Clack Splash!, or Click Garumph Trot! And stick a horse in there!
Today the school I visited was having a Scholastic book fair and since I’m always looking for more picture books for the grandkiddies I asked the librarian who was conducting the book fair if there were any good picture books.
He gave me a look, like I was asking for too much.
I did find the latest regurgitation of Bear Snores On, called Bear Says Thanks!
And then I saw the latest regurgitation of Scaredy Squirrel, where Scaredy goes Camping.
He should have stayed home!
Don’t the authors and the publishers have more respect for their audience?
This at a time when, yes, I’m struggling to find a story that will top Big Red Lollipop.
But does that mean I’ll cave and write a BIG BLUE LOLLIPOP? or a BIG YELLOW LOLLIPOP? You’ve got to be kidding!
Only if I could find a really legitimate GOOD story, I suppose, but honestly I haven’t even tried thinking of one.
Why, oh why, would I want to repeat myself???
I guess I’m like a lot of readers. I find an author I like and I go back and read ALL their books.
I remember the first Victoria Holt book I read was I think called Under the Seventh Moon or something like that. It was about this heroine who marries this count in Germany or Europe or something. It was pretty good, so I started reading other books of hers, then I found out she also wrote under Jean Plaidy and started reading those.
And you know what I found? Each story was the EXACT same heroine, just plunked into different situations.
Talk about regurgitations!
Same thing happened with Catherine Cookson!
And Jennifer Roberson who’d written some ridiculous fantasy series I read way back, but then it turned out she just recycled the same characters over and over again.
She’s one of the authors I blame for turning my back on fantasy!
I think authors should have integrity.
I think they should do the hard work and make each story an original!
Even if it’s a sequel!
Basically my aim when I write a successful book like Big Red Lollipop or Wanting Mor is to make the next book just as good but completely different!
And as for regurgitation…leave that to the birds!
On Monday night I got sick, and I’ve been drifting in and out of a muzzy-headed haze since then, but even in my fuzzy state I still saw the news of the bombing at the Boston marathon and the first thought that struck me was, “Not again!”
Geez! A marathon???
And the second thought that struck me was how the day before, or was it two days before, a report came out that Obama’s drones had killed thousands, that’s right, THOUSANDS, of innocent men, women and civilians in Pakistan and the Middle East, in the hunt for the targets they were after.
And then a perverse little part of me thought, who the hell cares?
Nobody cares over here.
We live our lives, we drink our chai lattes, we put on our exercise or yoga pants and stretch, we run our 10K or walk our 5 K on the treadmill and we cross the finish line, and death and carnage is raining down on people on the other side of the world, who are also just going about their daily lives, drinking their chais, biking or walking to work, squatting by the stove and clapping their chapatis (flat bread) before they cook them over the fire and they go boom, but nobody here knows, or cares.
We don’t count their dead. We only count ours. Three so far. As if that weren’t enough!
The images on the T.V. make me wince. And when I picked up the newspaper that was left in front of my hotel room door, I read the details of the bombing, but I must confess, as soon as I was done what I felt was my duty, and I had grieved for the loss of life and carnage, I turned to the sports page to relive the joint victories of the Maple Leafs (hockey) and the Blue Jays. It’s a rare occurrence when they BOTH win on the same night!
It doesn’t mean that I don’t care.
It doesn’t mean that I don’t hate that it happened.
(And for the sake of the record, YES I CONDEMN THE ATTACK! WHOEVER PERPETRATED IT!
People should be able to run a race without worrying about being blown to bits for goodness sakes!)
It just means I’m tired.
I’ve lived through enough bomb scares and enough weird looks from people because they can tell I’m Muslim, and I’m dog-gone tired of it. And I’m sick, so give me a break!
And I briefly thought of writing some sci-fi dystopian novel about a society of privilege in the future that lives under a glass dome, where everything seems ideal and the barbarians are kept at bay, except that underneath it all, they really aren’t, and I shook my head and thought, “Nope, it’s been done.” Because I basically just described the plot of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
And when I went to listen to that author Robert Sawyer, (who I met in Saskatchewan), he said that the reason why H.G. Wells is still studied up to this day and his contemporary Jules Verne is not, is because his sci-fi novels contained deep truths that Jules Verne’s did not. Jules Verne basically relied on wowing with the technology, he described a submarine long before anyone was ever made! But his were basic adventure novels whereas H.G. Wells showed through The Time Machine that privilege, in particular WHITE privilege, is detrimental not only to the have nots (the Morlocks) but it’s also detrimental to the haves (the Eloi).
Doesn’t it sound familiar?
Well, remember the old saying, “history not learned is doomed to be repeated”.
It seems as though our lives will change again. We will be frisked before we enter sporting arenas much like we are frisked before boarding planes.
And they’ll keep bombing the disaffected on the other side of the world and keep tightening the security on this side.
Drove up and oh, but the memories! I will forever associate this pretty little city with my older sister Bushra.
I had planned on meeting a friend for dinner at 5 pm, none other than Sheema Khan, so I hastened to leave home at around 11 am yesterday and yet each little thing I did seemed to delay me. Didn’t actually get out of there till closer to 11:30, you know how you get when you’re leaving, remembering every last thing you might have forgotten.
Still didn’t bring my kobo reader and I miss it. I had started reading The Blue Castle again (got it as a free download–yeah free!) after finishing the Brothers Karamazov.
By the way, The Brothers Karamazov isn’t nearly as good as Crime and Punishment!
So in driving up here I was in a bit of a rush. Didn’t want to be late. And yet I had intended to visit my sister’s grave.
It’s in this little cemetary just off Carp Road. I can always tell the road I have to turn down because there’s a pretty white church with a silvery steeple on the corner. She’s buried by a fringe of pine trees, her grave is lost amid a carpet of pine needles, those big long kind. Push them aside and you can see the number on the little brick like marker. We’d thought of getting a grave marker but it’s actually not really an Islamic custom. A relative was going to spring for one but I said it would be better to spend the money on her children.
But as I passed by the exit for Carp road thinking, nope, don’t have time, my heart did a sort of flip flop in my chest and I felt bad.
All the way here I was listening to two CD’s that particularly remind me of her. I installed them in the old fashioned CD clip thing in the trunk of my car before I left (one of the reasons it took so long to get out of there).
One was the Greatest hits of the Alan Parson’s Project. The last two songs I think one of them is called The Boatman, and the other is As far as my Eyes can See, or something like that. Both deal with death and are well worth listening to!
They made me cry. Oh how they made me cry.
Bushra was the one who introduced me to the Alan Parsons Project.
I still maintain the songs are some of the best!
And crying like that kind of felt good. Bittersweet if you know what I mean. Just missing her in a good sort of way and dwelling on my own eventual demise.
And I could finally figure out why people like the ‘blues’.
It’s like you go there, emotionally, but then when you’re done, you feel kind of better.
My friend picked me up and we went to a wonderful Palestinian restaurant called Jericho in the Glebe district.
Oh the hummous!!!!
And the anise tea at the end followed up with this kind of torte that was absolutely yummy!
But the hilarious thing was when we were driving down looking for it. Sheema Khan was busy at the wheel, manoevering the traffic and looking for the street number and all and talking to me at the same time, she asked about my sister because I’d mentioned that she’d lived in Ottawa and I said, “Oh she’s buried near Carp.”
And she said, “Oh, does she like it there?”
At first I was like, “Huh?” And then I realized that she hadn’t really heard me. She was too busy focusing on the driving, which was the way it should be, and I just thought it was so funny!
I said, “She’s dead. She’s buried there.”
And then poor thing, Sheema was all apologies but here I am laughing hard because it just seemed so funny to me.
And I knew she didn’t mean to say anything like that, and if I were in her shoes I’d have been mortified too, but maybe after listening to the blues, it just put things into a completely different perspective.
I don’t know. I just couldn’t hold it against her.
We talked and talked. The time flew! And it was great to hear the wonderful things Sheema’s doing these days, especially initiating a project that deals with family honor and honor killings, a sort of outreach program to new immigrants to prevent honor killings in Canada like the horrendous ones we’ve had Aqsa Parvez and the Shafia trial!
And I felt a little better because no way can I get involved in stuff like that, but she does all kind of good work and may Allah make her the stronger for it!
Sure she deals with a lot of flack and hate mail when she writes her column for the Globe & Mail but she just keeps on keeping on, and who wouldn’t admire that?!
I do my thing with stories and it’s funny how both of us work for Canadian society as well as the Muslim community but each in such different ways!
I’ll be done the presentations early today, insha Allah and I think I’ll pop out to visit my sister’s grave this afternoon insha Allah.
Sheema told me of a time when she and her mom went to visit her father’s grave and some Muslim guy starting haraguing her about it not being proper.
Stupid nosey men!
Oh well, they don’t seem to contend with me.