Khanversations

Rukhsana’s thoughts on her journey of life, writing and sometimes—when she dares—a bit of politics.
Options:

Spain and Portugal…

I’m sorry for taking so long to do a blog post. I’ve been away on vacation and it’s been so overwhelming catching up upon my return that it’s taken me a while.

It’s like I’m digesting all the things I saw in Spain and Portugal, all the ideas that percolated through the sand in my mind to be refined into new ideals within myself.

Interestingly enough my husband said that after Spain, Toronto seems kind of boring. And there’s some truth in that. But at the same time is that necessarily a bad thing?

You don’t want the place you call home to be too dramatic, do you? Safe is kind of boring, and you definitely want it safe.

The funny thing is that it’s gotten to the point with me, that getting on an airplane is not my idea of fun. But at the same time, I’ve always wanted to see Spain, and particularly the Al Hambra, ever since I read the final bit of The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery where the Barney Snaith character praises it and tells Valancy Sterling (the heroine) that it’s as close to her blue castle as she’s ever going to physically get.

I’ve seen documentaries on The Al Hambra. I’ve seen numerous pictures, especially of the lion fountain in the women’s quarters where the lions (that look kind of like sheep) spout water out of their mouths. It’s the highlight of the Al Hambra apparently, and I wondered if it would be like Stonehenge, where I’d immersed myself in the significance of the place so much that actually going there would be a huge let down.

esp_alhambra_courtoflions_flickr_blog1

It was not.

Walking through the enchanted halls of the Al Hambra was like nothing I had imagined! At every turn, in every quarter, I kept uttering, “Wow!” automatically, without realizing it was coming out of my lips.

It is simply something that needs to be experienced.

It was so beautiful in fact that the Spanish people did not destroy it.

Oh it became derelict over time but even through the ruins and the looting people like Washington Irving could still see the romance and beauty of what it had once been and the Spanish government took it upon themselves to restore it and not only is it a world Unesco heritage site it is the most famous tourist destination in Spain.

They limit the number of people who go there though to about eight thousand. The tickets you purchase are time stamped and if you are late by more than twenty minutes you miss your turn to enter.

And yet I have a strange reticence in revealing all the things I’ve been up to.

Came across a hadith of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) where he said something like: Be discreet in order to achieve what you want for everyone who is blessed is envied.

And it’s funny but I’d been coming to that conclusion on my own. I’m tending to hold my projects a lot closer to my chest, letting fewer and fewer people see them until they’ve come to fruition. I didn’t even want to mention I was going to Spain and Portugal before I went. But now that it’s a fait accomplie then it’s kind of safe.

The most curious thing was that as I was making my way through the beauty of the Al Hambra complex I kept wondering, and I kept asking God, “Why? Why did you allow these people, who created such beauty, to fall? And fail?”

And as often happens, the answer came in the form of an inspiration, a little while later. A little voice that said, “Because they were not good.”

And even as it occurred to me, I thought of how my own life’s journey has molded me into the person I am, and I often wonder, if I hadn’t been so persecuted, and known the pain of persecution would I have become someone who vows not to perpetrate it on someone else?

And having grown up in the shadow of western society, instead of only admiring its accomplishments, I have also grown to see its shortcomings and seen where my own Muslim upbringing has aspects that are superior and that sustain me through the mess of crass materialism.

And growing up, didn’t I view it as a competition? Didn’t I feel for the first stage of my existence that I was hopelessly outclassed by my Judeo-Christian environment? Didn’t I feel inferior? And didn’t I gradually come to see that true value has nothing to do with material possessions but rather has to do with the evolution of one’s character?

If I too had been born to the opulence of the Al Hambra without having seen any other reality, how would I have ever learned such lessons?

The original Moors who carved so faithfully into the marble walls, “The only conqueror is God” must have believed that adage faithfully, but for the generations that followed, such a text must have been no more than a sweet sentiment and part of the decoration.

the only conqueror is god this is repeated all over the nasrid palaces

My feeling of horror grew as the tour guide told us about some of the things that happened in those beautifully carved halls.

There is a verse in the Quran that urges believers to travel through the world and see what became of the people who have gone before, and it’s one of the reasons why I love to travel so much. I love history! I don’t care about the beaches on the Mediterranean we visited. Sure I could appreciate the sunset on the beautiful waters and the peace of it, but what I really love is to see the ruins of former civilizations and figure out how they went from so great a stature to such rubble.

It is both humbling and illuminating, and it reminds me yet again of the adage that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it!

I will be writing more about my Spain and Portugal trip. There is SO much to say!

But this is enough for now.

 

 

 

Out growing friends…

Had lunch with a very dear friend over the weekend and during the course of the conversation I told her something, just in a matter of fact way, and afterwards I was struck with how true the statement was.

I was telling her how the more successful I’ve become, how certain friends and family members had basically dropped me.

It’s been difficult because I never planned to change.

Haven’t we all seen TV shows that demonstrate how fame and success can change a person, turn them obnoxious and snooty?

Well I vowed that wouldn’t happen to me, and as I’ve always mentioned on the blog, I’ve been really fortunate to be surrounded by down to earth family members who love me enough to tell me like it is, and prick my bloated swelled-up head if need be, to let the steam out!

Such modest success that I have had, hasn’t changed me, and yet I have felt a difference from both family members and friends and I told my friend that it’s become rather lonely, that it really is ‘lonely at the top’.

Not that I’m at the top yet, but I’m significantly more successful than some of the people I grew up around.

But why?

When I’ve been constantly reaching out and trying to maintain our relationships to the point where I felt like it was one-sided so I stopped.

It’s always been my policy that when people say negative things to me, the first thing I do is ask myself if what they said is true. So when a close family member started in on me, “Oh well, you’re a world famous author! And you travel all over the world! And …”

I couldn’t believe what he was saying. This is a very successful professional.

Oh well.

I guess you can’t have everything.

I could have given my writer friends the support they needed to be successful too. I even tried with one person in particular.

This person was absolutely fantastic at marketing, social media and ideas! It was her writing that wasn’t that good.

I urged her to develop her writing skills, and yeah, I probably didn’t handle the situation in the most diplomatic way, but my advice was good.

I always give good advice! Even to people I don’t like, but this was a person I did like–a lot! And so I gave her extra special good advice, work on your writing! But alas.

And consequently she dumped me as a friend. It still stings.

But it was nice to get together with this dear old friend.

And I plan to keep it that way.

She said that as she’s aged she thinks it’s important to keep in touch with friends and I couldn’t agree more.

We’ve planned to meet again in about six months.

You’d be surprised!

Six months comes faster than you’d think!

Back from the Maritimes…

Subhan Allah, the physical beauty of the country I call home, takes my breath away at times.

A few days after the whirlwind that was Eid, I left on a week vacation with my son. We went on a bus tour of the Maritimes. The Maritimes is the far eastern region of Canada with a distinctly nautical feel to them!

We drove and we drove. A round trip of 4500 km through Quebec, to New Brunswick, to Nova Scotia and PEI and back home again.

And even though I’ve been out that way several times in my life, this time I saw things that I had never seen before.

On the tour we went to Hopewell Rocks, in the Bay of Fundy!

Hopewell-Rocks-New-Brunswick

hopewell-rocks-new-brunswick-flowerpot-3

I stood right under that arch at low tide and felt the magnitude of all the rock above me!

The Bay of Fundy has arguably the highest tides in the world.

And the whole idea of tides is something that is often hard for us to really understand.

We went to Green Gables,

yup, THAT Green Gables of Anne fame, and I meandered through the house and I walked Lovers Lane and I stood inside the lee of overhanging conifer branches that formed the Haunted Wood and I thought of all the whimsy of L.M. Montgomery’s story, and the tragedy that she was too cynical in some ways to really believe in it herself. If you think of it, her stories were filled with heroines constantly bucking social convention, and yet she, in her life, was not able to do that. And in the end she killed herself.

Of course they make no mention of any of that during the 8 minute film about her life that they show you in the welcome centre but my son and I had an interesting conversation about it as we continued to drive away.

We visited Cavendish beach, which I had never seen before, and we skipped little round stones as red as the soil of the island into the ocean waves, and we saw seaweed and bits of broken shells and jelly fish, looking like little mounds of purple jello, stranded on the sand.

(This is not a picture I took. It was cloudy when we were there, but this is the gist of the feel of the place.)

Anyone who could commit suicide with access to such beauty in their life is…so tragic, so needless, so ungrateful!!!!

And we saw her grave in Cavendish cemetery, just a bit down the road from where she grew up.

Evoking L. M. Montgomery and the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ sensation ...

And my son observed that many great authors had really terrible family lives and I agreed. And part of me wondered if you could even be a great author with a stable family home life and a stable personality, and I came to the conclusion that yes, you can.

And all the time we were surrounded by flocks of Chinese tourists, snapping photographs and yet most of them had never read Anne of Green Gables and so they had no idea how significant the place really was.

We saw Charlottetown, the birthplace of Confederation (of Canada), in 1864, and even though it’s the provincial capital, only about 20,000 people live in it, and that’s not much more than my home town of Dundas, and I pondered on what makes Charlottetown significant, and Dundas not.

And I ate lobster! What an adventure that was!

It’s quite good actually. I can kind of see what all the fuss is about, but my son summed it up well and said, “What a lot of work to eat a meal!”

I ate the meat from within the claws and tail just fine, but as I opened up the torso and saw all this greenish pasty stuff I wrinkled my nose. Why would I want to dine on whatever the lobster itself had been eating?

The Chinese around us were cracking open the torso, and scooping out the stuff with glee. They urged me to eat, so I tried a bit but it tasted kind of gamey so I put it into the bucket they’d provided, to discard it. But then I saw some of the Chinese talking among themselves and gesturing at me and when I asked, the tour guide said, “Oh she said she was so sad when she saw you throw out the head! That’s the best part! She wanted it!”

And even he said to give him our torsos if we didn’t want them! So the next day when we ate lobster again (this time like  semi-pros and not such newbs) we did indeed give him our torsos. And we even gave tips to the Indian couple seated next to us as they ate lobster for the first time.

And we loved Peggy’s Cove! Nova Scotia is just the most beautiful rugged landscape you can imagine! And this time I had no little children to watch out for. I could stroll down through the village at my leisure while my son explored the rocks, and I could soak in the feel of the place and admire the brilliant pinks of the wild roses and dianthus that grew in profusion out of the rocky crevices impervious to the salt water spray.

It is so beautiful and so charming because they’re not trying to be anything than absolutely who they are, and there’s something noble and admirable about that!

Destination's:

It was a genial group on tour with us! And I’ll never forget the time I spent with my son!

Came back exhausted but full of awe!

Canada is indeed an awesome place!

 

 

 

 

Eid 2015

I can’t believe Ramadan is almost over.

In about four hours we will begin celebrating Eid ul Fitr (the celebration of charity (fitr))

I’ve been working for weeks getting the house and all the FOOD ready!

Omigosh, the freezer is bursting at the seams, and I had to remove the vegetable drawer to make room in the fridge.

Muslims really know how to eat, and this year I’m hosting Eid!

This morning at Fajr prayer, I was thinking about Ramadans and Eids past, and even though I didn’t accomplish all my spiritual goals this year, I still feel a little recharged and will just have to continue the process outside of Ramadan.

Many years ago my sister, her husband and me and my husband had a fledgling Eid card business. We tried to make a business out of it, but the cards we tended to like are not flashy, not shiny, simple nice photographs.

They were beautiful cards, I still think so, but the business did not do well and though we learned a lot, we didn’t really make a lot of money.

Not surprising, I was the one who composed the messages inside and I came up with something I thought was pretty clever.

In the Quran, in surah Inshirah, God says: ‘After every hardship there is ease. Verily, after every hardship there is ease.”

And it’s funny because people’s perspective is the other way around. That after enjoyment comes suffering. That nothing good will last. But God’s perspective is the other way around. That He will give us ease after every hardship.

Well anyway, I got the idea to write a little jingle in the Eid cards saying:

After every hardship there is ease

And after Ramadan

There is Eid

I liked it. And other people also commented on it.

Okay, so years go buy, the business goes defunct, and I don’t know how many Eids later, I get a card from one of my husband’s cousins. Unlike the cards we produced it’s shiny, got some gold glitter stuff on it, and I open it up and there’s my jingle:

After every hardship there is ease

And after Ramadan

There is Eid

Woh! I thought! They stole my jingle!

And for the briefest of moments I thought of tracking them down and slapping them with a lawsuit!

And then rationality returned. And I looked at it from a different perspective.

God is All Knowing, All Seeing. He knows what they did, and if I overlook this, He will reward me. It will come back to me, in one way or another.

And honestly, if that little jingle gives someone joy, I’ll be rewarded for it, for God keeps account of all things.

It’s all good.

Never wanted to be a card jingle writer anyway.

So it’s all good.

So peace to all those who read these words!

Whether you’re Muslim or not, may the Blessings of Eid touch your heart with the lightness of being!

Peace out!

 

Ramadan two-thirds gone…

It’s so weird to have something so consume your daily attention and be so completely oblivious to the world at large.

Here I am, in the midst of preparations, this year it’s our turn to host Eid and the logistics of doing that are tough to say the least!

But one day at a time, I’ve been cooking, baking and freezing, getting ready for the big day, reading Quran, pondering, praying and watching the moon shrink as it has already waxed and is now on its waning period before it disappears altogether a few nights before it will be reborn as the new moon, and a new month Shawwal, the first of which is Eid ul Fitr.

One of the things that invariably happens is that I tend to read a lot during Ramadan. One of the reasons for that is that I’m kind of the ‘book aunty’. I do give books as Eid gifts and some of my nieces and nephews even seem to appreciate my picks for them.

I’ve very careful in choosing books. I choose the ones I think the child in question would appreciate, and not necessarily what I would appreciate.

But also, I have to make sure the book doesn’t contain anything too controversial.

Not so easy now that the kids are all getting older.

So I bought some copies of John Green’s books: Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. Finished the first one, tried to read the second, and omigosh, couldn’t get through it.

A dear friend had talked about his tendency to employ the ‘manic pixie girl’ and I get it now.

Basically the manic pixie appears in both books. For some reason a male author thinks that portraying a girl as manic, and sexy hot, is empowering???

Not sure what’s going on there.

Not sure why the books are even that popular. I suspect it’s because he shows a lot of respect to teens. The teens in his books are bookish and smart, kind of, I guess.

And yet Looking for Alaska is full of sex, alcohol, smoking and drugs. There’s even a bj in there.

Now the thing is if the narrative actually deals with such material in a responsible way, rather than just for the sake of titillation then I actually don’t have that much of a problem with it.

These are realities that teens are facing. As an author, you can’t shy away from it. Your writing has to reflect reality, it’s as simple as that.

And the ultimate point of LFA is kind of good.

So I was torn as to whether or not to give it to the teens I was thinking of giving it to. Speaking to the parents though, I realized that nope. It wasn’t appropriate.

On another note, I finished reading a book by a promising new Muslim author named Ausma Zehanat Khan (no relation). It’s called The Unquiet Dead, and is a mystery set in–get this!–the Scarborough Bluffs.

And it’s good, but oh why oh why can’t these authors get their facts straight???

She has lilies blooming in the fall!!!!!!

Everyone knows that lilies bloom in high summer! In fact my lilies are currently in the process of blooming or are already in full bloom. By the fall they’ll be nothing but greenery!

Don’t these authors realize that such a slip up detail will take the reader completely out of the story???

Oh, and there’s a character in the book that is SUCH  a floozy that it’s over the top, and jarring.

It just breaks your heart.

It’s a book that could have been incredible!

And in fact it’s still quite readable and has moments that are brilliant…if only…

Oh well, I guess my rant is over.

It’s still a good enough book that I will most assuredly give it to some nephew or niece one day. I did really like it, and it’s clean enough.

I’m glad my nephews and nieces don’t read this blog! Hee hee.

 

 

Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O’Malley Cerra

I finished reading this little gem of a book a little while ago, and some of the themes are still reverberating within me.

It’s about 9/11 from the perspective of a boy named Jake who lives in Florida.

His best friend is Sam.

And I thought the story evoked a lot of nuances between the two characters.

The thing is, I always cringe when I think of books about 9/11.

Somehow it still feels so raw.

When I read a book I don’t want to be reminded of something so horrific.

But this book was a good read.

I’m planning on including on my Muslim Children’s Booklist as an excellent title that explores the ramifications of 9/11.

At first it kind of jarred me that it was written from a mainstream point of view. But I’m starting to believe that this kind of perspective is a lot easier on the eye, when reading.

A Muslim perspective of the events always seems to come across as so defensive. Which is understandable, and yet off-putting.

Definitely check it out!

20344662

One week down in Ramadan…

Subhan Allah how quickly the time flies when you’re not eating, you’re not drinking and you’re not having much fun, and yet you’re sublimely immersed in the calm and the peace that is Ramadan.

The first few days are not easy, but even now, when Ramadan is falling during the longest days of the year, and we fast for about eighteen hours straight, the body adjusts.

That’s what people don’t realize.

The body adjusts.

Like when my body adjusts to wearing the hijab, and even though yeah, at times in early summer I can be really hot with it on, the body gets used to it, it changes its thermostat setting and everything becomes bearable.

We seem to be living at a time of impatience.

Where everyone expects the world to accommodate each and every one of their whims instead of people developing the intestinal fortitude to tough out inconvenience, to tough out hardship and not always take the easy way out.

What happened to developing discipline?

Don’t they realize that if it were easy everyone would be doing it?

But I am so fortunate because Ramadan has fallen in the summertime and during the summer time my schedule gets free. I am basically not busy until things start up again on September 8th insha Allah, where my residency as Artist in Library at Downsview Public Library begins again.

I have adjusted my schedule so that we get up around 4 am to have suhoor, the pre-dawn meal before we fast, and then I stay up till about 7 am and I write, and alhamdu lillah, I’ve been able to finish a project that’s been haunting me for years.

So now comes the discipline of polishing, which really isn’t that hard.

And soon insha Allah, I’ll be able to send it off and see if it will get published.

There’s something really beautiful about being up so early in the morning.

Praying Fajr with my husband and son, and then tidying up the kitchen so it’s clean for the day! (Another benefit of Ramadan.) And then taking out the computer and getting to work while the house is blissfully silent and the eastern horizon is slowly growing light, first with that bluish hue, and then with tinges of pink and orange until the final climax of golden orange light that doesn’t reach you down at ground level because there are too many trees and buildings in the way, but definitely hits the top branches. And the birds are singing their hearts out, and there’s just the coolest freshest breeze coming in through the open dining room window.

And there’s something to be said for just getting to it.

I won’t deny that I always sort of dread Ramadan coming. A month of fasting and losing sleep and all the Eid preparations, and stuff, it definitely isn’t easy.

But…once it’s actually underway…it’s a whole different story.

There are so many little moments, rewards that you just wouldn’t notice otherwise because you’re too busy eating and drinking and getting on with stuff.

It’s amazing how much TIME you have when  you’re not stuffing your face!

Time to just observe and to soak in the here and the now, and notice the little beauties like the coming of dawn.

And you know that the hardship will be over all too soon.

And I remember what my mother in law said, that I probably already mentioned in my last post, that she wishes all year could be Ramadan, and there’s truth in that.

People don’t know what they’re missing!

Subhan Allah.

Life is good, and Ramadan is achingly beautiful.

A time of blessings.

A recharge.

A spiritual renewal.

Peace.

 

 

It’s weird what happens when you start getting successful.

Within the Muslim community I’ve had lots of people come up to me and tell me how they want to get published.

I’ve had a relative blatantly ask me for one of my editor’s names and phone number because his daughter had written something ‘brilliant’ and he wanted her to get published too.

I’ve had people, again blatantly, ask for my agent’s name and phone number.

And for the most part these are people who have no real love of literature.

I think they just assume, “Hey she did it. So can I.” And so instead of supporting me as a Muslim author and storyteller, they decide they want to throw their hat in the ring.

Well, all power to them.

One thing I realized a long time ago is that we need more Muslim authors! And competition is healthy. It keeps you on your toes. It pushes you to write better because hey, you’re not the only fish in the sea!

Back in November when I went to the NCTE convention I was interviewed by an organization that promotes literacy called Colorin Colorado.

Do enough videos and a funny thing happens, you actually start getting comfortable in front of the camera.

Here’s the link to see the interviews. They edited them so well so that they’re like playlists of shorter pieces!

http://www.colorincolorado.org/read/meet/khan/

And it really feels like they’re starting to notice me. Like I’m an entity within my own right.

And then on last Sunday, I spent the day at Sakinah TV, a fledgling Muslim satellite TV station, telling folktales and stories. When I have links I’ll post them insha Allah.

They want to include children’s programming. They’d brought in a group of kids for me to tell to, and I did, but by the end of it the producer said we could even just do the stories with me telling them to the camera, and I thought, yeah, I could do that!

I started getting comfortable with just talking into the camera when I did my book talk/tutorials for my youtube channel.

It’s so weird to think of myself becoming okay in front of a camera. I’ve always been shy of watching myself on screen.

Oh! In the days of those Michael Coren shows where I used to be a guest!Yikes! Couldn’t stand watching myself. Cringed every time.

Now, not so much.

Allahu alim.

I realized it’s been fifteen days since my last blog post and I’ll try not to let that happen again although sometimes I wonder if anyone actually does read these ramblings of mine.

Been super super busy! With all sorts of things.

Oh, and another curious thing happened and it seems to be happening more and more. When I go to certain family functions, people are starting to introduce me as an author. Like first they’ll tell people my name, “Oh this is Rukhsana, she’s …’s wife/daughter in law, etc., and then they’ll add, ‘She’s a children’s author…” And other nice things along with that.

It’s kind of nice.

But what’s not so nice is that as I wrap up revisions on this current project, I’m getting really really scared that it might get rejected.

I’ve been second-guessing my skills for the longest while. What with all the rejections I’ve been receiving, and now with this project, it’s  a sequel for Wanting Mor, and there are parts that I like so much I keep re-reading them just for the fun of it.

That’s a good sign, right?

But I don’t know any more.

Oh well, I’m just scared it’ll get rejected too, and so it’s like I’ve been dragging my heels on finishing it. But finish it I will, insha Allah.

I was hoping to be done before Ramadan, but nope, got sidetracked with a bunch of other stuff.

And here now I come to Ramadan, and the summer solstice, the longest day of the year is a few days away, so yeah the fasts are basically as long and as difficult as they’re ever going to be, and for the next three years they’ll be this way. Not easy.

I couldn’t help dreading the fasting, and yet last night, at twilight, which heralded the beginning of the month because the night comes before the day, such a feeling of peace descended on my heart, as it always does in Ramadan. Peace and joy. And even though, yeah, it’ll be hard, there’s a part of me that welcomes it.

My mother in law said it well this morning. She said how much she loves Ramadan, and wishes it would last all year.

I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I wish it would last all year, but yes, I do love Ramadan.

With all its hardships, I still love it.

It is a blessed month!

And I hope to recharge and reboot and reconnect with family insha Allah.

So Ramadan Kareem everyone, whether or not you celebrate it.

May it be a month of peace and steadfastness for all of you.

 

 

 

A few days to decompress…

And alhamdu lillah it feels so good!

Getting up at a reasonable time (around 9 am) not having to rush to shower and have breakfast, even pottering around a bit before having breakfast and starting the day’s writing.

It’s been so tricky working on this project. I’ve had to stop and start so many times, and each time I come back to the project I have to reacquaint myself with it to get back into the flow.

That’s the problem with doing a lot of presentations.

They’re incredibly tiring!

But alhamdu lillah, I’m not complaining. Not at all!

I’m so fortunate that I even have this problem at a time when many authors are struggling to make a living.

The Writer’s Union of Canada even did a survey and it seems that authors’ incomes have fallen in the last fifteen years so that most authors are living under the poverty line.

Alhamdu lillah, I’m doing just fine!!!!

But the cool thing is coming back to the project and getting kind of impressed with some of the scenes, and coming at it so fresh, it doesn’t even feel as though I wrote them.

I really hope I can finish this project soon, even within the next few weeks before Ramadan.

I have so many projects I want to write and with the Artist in Library residency starting again this fall at Downsview Public Library, I’m thinking I won’t have much time this fall to write, so this summer is it.

I even put in my garden.

There is such a satisfying feeling once the flowers  you’ve purchased are safely in the flower beds, all tucked in with a good dose of fertilizer and mulch.

I kind of feel like I’m getting my own fertilizer and mulch in terms of my creative process.

Feel ready to grow, and blossom and bloom over the summer insha Allah! I can only hope!

Like, don’t lose control of your temper! Even when a student does something silly!

It was a grade three class, and I was entertaining questions. It was stifling hot in the library! And I was tired and I was frazzled, many of the teachers had been totally rude, conducting animated conversations during my presentation but still…when a student does something dumb, just take a deep breath and politely explain that you’re looking for questions, not comments at this moment.

Thing was, I had been told to wrap things up. There was only time for two more questions. I’d already allowed the students to express the fact that many were from Pakistan like me, and many had relatives with the same names as the names in my books.

I had told them that’s very nice but I’m looking for questions.

So there was one little girl, so eagerly putting her hand up, looking like she had something so profound to say that she simply couldn’t contain herself, so I called upon her, and she says, “My aunt’s name is … too!”

And I blurted out, “I don’t care.” in a kind of frustrated and funny and ironic way.

I was looking for questions. And then immediately I realized what I’d said, and I added, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. That was completely inappropriate and I don’t mean it. I’m just looking for questions at this moment.”

A moment of weakness. A moment of exhaustion, but luckily, the little girl was completely unfazed.

I’m often blunt with kids, but hardly ever that rude.

No matter how blunt I get, the kids can always tell it’s nothing personal with me. And usually they even like it. They’re so used to the hedging speech of teachers, that a little bluntness can be refreshing!

I remember one time I was brainstorming a poem with some grade fours and fives and one kid had shouted a preposterous description and I just screwed up my face and said, “NO! That doesn’t make sense.” And moved on.

And the teacher had been totally surprised that the kid hadn’t been offended in the least.

Afterwards the little girl joined the queue and talked about how much she’d enjoyed the stories. No harm done, but darn it! I felt it!

And I remember dealing with some of the people I most admired when I was growing up and how often they snapped at me and I didn’t take it personally. In fact the more intelligent I considered them, the more often they snapped, or so it seemed. Not saying that I’m intelligent or anything, it was just an observation I recall.

In fact, afterwards I really chided myself for it. To put things in perspective I thought of how she was in grade three, that meant she was about eight years old, like my oldest granddaughter! No way would I have said such a thing to her!

All the way home I scolded myself for losing my patience.

And then it occurred to me that here I was really making a huge to-do about something that the little girl hadn’t even cared that much about, but I knew it was wrong. And it occurred to me that the more stringent you try to be, in terms of your ethics and moral, the more you beat yourself up when you slip up like this! And we’re all bound to slip up aren’t we?

And the next day, I was speaking to the junior students and many of the kids came up to me afterwards and used the same descriptor words for my presentation. They told me it was ‘inspiring’.  And one kid told me that I’d totally described his life.

And in the midst of all this, I remembered what my friend had told me about privilege and private schools.

Apparently the biggest advantage in going to private schools has little to do with the education you receive. But rather it’s about connections.

The fact is that kids in public schools have the same access to information that any other kids have access to, because of the library system. But where the kids in private schools are distinctly at an advantage is that their peers are the offspring of rich and influential people and being in such close proximity to such influential people they’re more likely to get good jobs and do well financially.

That’s the benefit. It goes back to ‘who you know’.

I found this fascinating!

So I asked my friend, “Then that means, that I’ve accomplished all the stuff I have, without having any connections at all!”

She said, “Yes!”

And I thought, “Wow!” That is actually pretty darn impressive!

And the fact that SO many authors are struggling to make ends meet and I’m doing very well in that regard, alhamdu lillah, is again, quite an accomplishment.

And somewhere along the line I came across the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I can’t remember who said it, but it’s a very good quote!

We all do way too much comparing, keeping up with the Joneses and stuff.

Alhamdu lillah, I really have nothing to complain about!

And yeah, I made a mistake with that poor little kid in grade three and I regret it, and insha Allah, I won’t do it again, but at least I didn’t scar her for life!

I can and will get past this, insha Allah!

And yeah, I’ll continue to hold myself to a high ethical and moral standard even though I won’t always meet them. But I will always try! Insha Allah.

And in terms of news: King for a Day has been chosen by the TD Summer Reads as one of the 20 best books of 2015.

And it was just chosen by the South Asian Book Award committee as a 2015 SABA Commended title!!!

Woohoo, lots of accolades! Will have to add these honors to my book page for it!

Yeah, so basically that’s the things I’ve been learning over the last few weeks, as the school year’s been winding down.

I’m really looking forward to Ramadan.

And I’m looking forward to wrapping up some writing projects insha Allah.