And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again  at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

This is the first half of the third stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’. And I’ve always thought that if gambling or drinking were at all allowed in Islam, I’d be addicted to both.

I’ve always been an all or nothing kind of gal.

When I do something, I do it wholeheartedly, no holding back, no moderation.

I can’t remember if I was fourteen or fifteen when I joined the air cadets. It’s a junior kind of paramilitary organization in Canada. There are air, army and navy cadets, where we did drills and went on weekend exercises where we played ‘war games’ and learned how to shoot rifles.

Oddly enough, I liked drill. Snapping to attention, saluting, right dress, at ease. We had a marching song that I can still remember. It went:


Can’t hear you.


Little Louder


That’s better.


Now you got it!





One, two, three, four, One, two, three, four.

Try it next time you’re walking along. You’ll find that it keeps your pace at a perfect rhythm.

I thought I’d found my calling in the air cadets, but fate intervened.

I got to the grand ole rank of corporal before I did a strange thing. I got married.

I had dreamed of getting my pilot’s license. You can get it for free through the air cadets. You go through glider’s first and then on to a pilot’s license. The problem was everytime we were set to go gliding, the weather didn’t co-operate.

I love the idea of gliding. Flying without an engine.

I’ve heard it’s completely silent.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d stayed in the cadets and gone on into the army like my older sister.

Sometimes I still wish I could get my pilot’s license but after 9/11, frankly I don’t dare.

I’m sure my path would have been very different if I’d stayed longer in the cadets. Every weekend we’d go up to the Canadian Warplane heritage and help in the airplane hangar. Usually we just cleaned up and watched the mechanics rebuild all the old warplanes. I saw them reconstruct a Lancaster bomber and a corsair. I was so gung ho, when they asked us to polish up an RCAF jet with an aluminum fusilage I didn’t even bother using gloves. The polish was so strong it ended up taking a layer of skin off my hands and turning my fingernails yellow.

 Sometimes I wonder how I survived the cadets intact. There were drugs all around me.

I remember going on a weekend exercise to Niagara on the Lake. It was for war games as well as shooting range practice. The boys and girls had their own tents but that didn’t stop them from raiding each other’s tents at night. Let’s just say there was a lot of fraternizing going on.

But I remember one night in particular, it was a full moon but it was covered by a lacy veil of clouds. It was so beautiful and so cold. I stuck around the campfire while others were off in the corners smoking dope. I’m sure I could have joined them, but I was just mesmerized by the beauty of the moon.

I had one good friend. I felt rather sorry for her because her younger sister always treated her so bad. It turned out that she was always high on drugs.

Come to think of it, she did have a very slow expression to her, but I just thought that was the way she was. I’d never seen her any other way.

You might think that my parents were lax in allowing me to be in that kind of environment. I don’t think they knew. But even then, my father had done something very wise. He had always reinforced within all of his children that ultimately we weren’t accountable to him. We were accountable to God.

I didn’t do drugs, not because my parents would find out. I knew that I could probably have fooled them. I didn’t do drugs because I knew that God was watching. If you instill God-consciousness in your children, no matter what temptation they’re faced with, they will not succumb.

This was the approach I took with my own kids.

As it is, the one addiction, the biggest weakness I have, the one thing I do find almost irresistable is spider solitaire.

How pathetic is that?

I have wittled away what amounts to years on the stupid game. And then someone I know said something that alarmed me.

She’s a children’s author who wrote one good book a while back. It was good enough that I bought several copies, but for years she hadn’t written a thing. I invited her along with some other authors over for lunch on a summer’s day and when I confessed to my addiction she said, “Oh Rukhsana, I’m so glad to hear that you play spider solitaire too! I’ve always felt guilty about all the time I spend on it.”

She hadn’t had a book published in years. I still don’t think she has. At least nothing that got any attention.

I could see where I was headed. Immediately I deleted it from my computer. My techie daughter says that it’s not actually deleted, it’s still there, but fortunately I’m not tech-savvy enough to figure out how to access it, and that’s just fine with me.

But the problem is, every time I upgrade and get a new version of Windows, it’s there! And I get hooked, for a while, all over again.

I don’t play the single suit level. I play the hardest level, with all four suits. Most of the games are impossible to win. I can’t say why this particular game has my number, it just does. I’d play till my eyeballs burned holes in their sockets from staring at the computer screen. I’d play till my left shoulder got frozen from sitting still so long.

Maybe when I did win, I felt like I was actually accomplishing something.

It always comes down to the point where I have to delete it, if I want to get any work done. And I do.

As a result, I’m not very judgmental when it comes to drug and alcohol addicts. I know there but for the grace of God (literally) go I.