Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In Memory of my Nani

My grandmother was a beautiful woman. I haven't written anything in her memory yet, mainly because I could never find the right words. My go to, for quite some time now, has been to write whenever I feel upset, or hurt, or angry, but this time was different. Every time I sat down to write, I would end up writing a few lines and then scrapping it all. Every memory I tried to put down on paper, it just never felt the same. Everything I wrote felt too weak. Nothing was powerful enough to describe how I felt, and nothing was strong enough to describe what kind of woman my grandmother was. A year later, I still don't have the words, but a year later I realize I don't need them. There are certain people in our lives that words could never do justice.

Last night, my grandma came in my dream. We say that when someone deceased comes in your dreams, they are visiting you. I've waited a year for her, but she came when I needed her most. In my dream, she was the portrait of happiness. She was younger, and sitting at my kitchen table telling me all kinds of jokes, and then just cracking up on her own. But, my whole family flocked to the kitchen at the sound of her laughter, and we stood their with beaming faces, watching this woman laugh so hard she slipped off of her chair. When I told my mom about my dream, she told me to enjoy the fact that my grandma was laughing so much--it meant that she is happy wherever she is.

I could literally ask for nothing more. So again, I am going to ask y'all to keep my grandmother in your thoughts, your prayers, your duaas, your hearts, and send her your good vibes, and well wishes, and most of all, love.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Old (Pakistani) Wive's Tale

Having been raised in a society where literally everything we need is at our fingertips, it is hard for us to realize how lucky we really are. If we are too cold, we can turn on the heater. When we want water, we can turn on a sink, or just head to a water fountain. When we want food, we can find something to eat everywhere we go. Yet here we are. We are a society of individuals, who come home from a grueling seven-hour day at school, or at work, and we claim we’re “starving,” yet we have never really known true hunger. We have no issue calling our parents “monsters” because they wouldn’t buy us that new car, but we’re driving around a mildly used 2001 Mercedes. We are so wrapped up in ourselves, and in our complaining, that we don’t even take time to realize how much we have to be thankful for.

By lucky circumstance, I recently had the chance to talk to a woman from my community. She was your stereotypical Pakistani “auntie;” wearing shalwar kamise, sipping on her cup of chai, and telling me all about growing up in Pakistan, and reminding me every few minutes: “Beta, you kids have got it easy.”

When we first started talking, I dismissed her stories as exaggerated “Pakistani- adult myths.” I had heard it all before from my own parents, from my relatives, from my friend’s parents. “Beta, when I was your age, I walked 5 miles, to and from school, through a forest— in the snow.” “Beta, when I was your age, we didn’t have this texting. If I wanted to see a friend, I had to walk 5 miles to his house, and then wait outside the door until his dad or mom saw me, because we didn’t have doorbells.” “But—couldn’t you have just knocked?” “No.”

So when Auntie started telling me about her life in Pakistan, I went into autopilot: smiling, nodding, and agreeing where it was necessary. I was in the middle of agreeing with her, when she leaned in close to me, and whispered to me, “Beta, the things I’ve seen in Pakistan, the people I’ve met—you wouldn’t believe it. I’ve lived life to such an extent, that I can’t even begin to complain about my own. I have seen so much, I’ve been humbled.”

She immediately started into a story that impacted her most as a child, and stayed with her to this day. She was a little girl, living in Pakistan, enjoying her life. Her family wasn’t “well-off,” but they had enough to live comfortably.

You could see the craving in her eyes when she started to tell me about the natural honey that her family would get in Pakistan. “There’s nothing like it in America.” Then, in a more serious tone, she told me how expensive the honey was and how her mom would splurge every once in a while. She went on to tell me how they had to be careful when they bought honey though. People would come to their door claiming to sell pure honey, but would have nothing more than tinted corn syrup. And it wasn’t as if you could sample the honey before buying it, so there were days when the family would splurge, and it would end in mere disappointment.

“Now, pay attention, beta. Because this is what I really want you to take in.” Auntie smiled at me, seeing that I had pulled my phone out and was literally typing her story, almost word for word. Looking pleased with herself for keeping me interested, she continued.

“Beta, I am about to give you a glimpse into what it is to really need something.”

It was a day like any other in Auntie’s childhood. She was busy playing with her siblings, when there was a knock on the door. She went with her brother to see who it was, and they were excited to see that it was a vendor selling honey. They asked about his honey, and while they spoke to him, their mother joined them. The man told Auntie’s mom that he was here selling the last of his honey. He needed the money, and this was his family’s only source of income. Auntie’s mom looked at him and then looked at the honey, and told him, “There’s no way this is pure honey. You must have mixed something in here.” The man explained to her that the honey was pure, and untouched, but she refused to believe him. She lowered his asking price considerably, and told him to take it or leave it. When he accepted her offer, she took this as his admission of guilt, and was incredibly pleased with herself for catching the “thief.”

The man left, and all of Auntie’s siblings had come down to the kitchen by now. Auntie’s mom opened the honey and gave her kids each a spoonful. The second she took a spoonful for herself, she realized the mistake she had made. Auntie recalled that it was some of the purest honey they had tasted, and she still remembers the look on her mom’s face when she realized how wrong she had been. In that situation, Auntie’s mom couldn’t just go out and find the vendor again. It wasn’t that simple.

Auntie sat back, exhaling, nodding her head, her hands crossed in her lap and a grin spread across her face. “You see, beta. That vendor was an honest man, and though he argued his case, he knew that whatever money he’d be getting was better than nothing. And that was true need. He needed to support his family, and he knew that was more important than anything else. That story stayed with my mother throughout her life, and I’m certain it’s stayed with my siblings. We robbed a man of his livelihood, because we were being selfish, and he accepted that because he was in need. Beta, it may not sound like much, but I was humbled that day. My mom was humbled that day. I learned what it was to really be in need.”

I am not sitting here, writing this, to belittle our personal struggles. I’m writing this to bring attention to the fact that we have so much to be thankful for. When something goes wrong, rather than blaming God, or feeling defeated, we should thank God, your parents, whatever, or whoever, you believe is responsible for your fortune, and for everything that we do have. When your clothes are “so last season,” be thankful you can afford to have a shirt on your back. When you are hungry, be thankful that you aren’t starving. When your teacher gives you a huge assignment, be thankful you are allowed to get an education. We have so much to be thankful for, yet we are constantly complaining. It’s something as simple as saying thank you to your mom for making dinner, or to your brother for help with homework.

Don’t go through life keeping track of how you’ve been wronged. Instead, start to hold onto the good things. I promise you, it’ll make you much happier in the long run. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In The Middle of a Bookstore Aisle

When I was a little girl, I used to love going to book stores. I'd walk through every section, trailing my fingers across the wide assortment of spines. Some were thin and bony, others were plump and juicy, some had glossy covers, while some were rough to the touch. But there was one thing that kept me coming back for more-the smell of the pages of so many books, stiff with anticipation, just waiting to be read.

I'm pretty sure that's where my love of reading came from. I literally had my nose buried in books. I would pluck these gems from the shelves and stand in the middle of an aisle at Barnes and Noble. I'd lift the book to my nose, inhaling, and as I exhaled, I'd always find myself grinning from ear to ear.

Last night, I was sitting in bed reading a book that I'd been meaning to read for quite some time. It'd been sitting on my nightstand, collecting dust, while I was away at school. Last night, I finally began to read it.

About 13 pages in, I had the strangest urge. I lifted that book to my nose, took a quick sniff, and then laughed at myself for being so silly. I continued reading, but I just had to lift it up and smell it once more. This time I really took it in, and all of a sudden, there I was; little, 7 year old, 2nd grade me, standing in the middle of an aisle at Barnes and Noble, taking in the smell of a previously untouched Nancy Drew mystery that was just begging to be read.

They say certain scents are connected to certain memories, to certain feelings. For each person, that scent could mean a different thing. And for me, that smell of books meant passion. It was a passion for knowledge. It was a passion for the peace that came with getting lost inside of a story for hours. Inside of a story where I was untouchable. Inside of a story where nothing could stop me from being who, or what, I wanted to be.

As we grow older, we tend to leave behind our sacred spaces. Sure, I still enjoy reading books of all kinds, but the magic, the passion, I'd lost it for a while.

Just because you've "grown up," don't lose sight of what it is that kept you going when you were younger, what it is that kept you passionate. Because, those odd rituals that we performed when we were younger, will serve to rejuvenate us and recharge our passion for life, and for living.

Monday, June 4, 2012


As I write this, I'm 33,000 feet up in the air, on a plane back to school. It's a pretty cloudy night and words can't even do the view outside my window justice.

We all love to think that this world, the material, palpable earth that we inhabit, is the cream of the crop. And so often, we forget to look outside our own window and realize that we are all a part of something so much bigger.

Too often, when we think about 'tomorrow,' we picture ourselves married, with a stable job, a nice house, a 'ballin' car, beautiful kids, and what we tend to assume is a perfect life. Only a handful of people think about 'tomorrow' and see a society of equals, a society of prosperity, a society of a content and happy people.

As the youth of today and the leadership of tomorrow, we need to take it upon ourselves to stop looking at the world with such a one-dimensional viewpoint, and we need to allow ourselves to take in the 'bigger picture,' and ask ourselves, "How will I contribute?"

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A First Grade Tragedy

When I was in first grade, I was quite the daredevil. The six year-old me had not a care in the world. I remember always attempting the most "dangerous" stunts, trying to impress my fellow finger painters.

It was one fateful day in January that misery, embarrassment, and I, got together for what none of us knew would be a disastrous recess. A disaster that, nonetheless, would go down in the great history books of Brookside Elementary's first grade catastrophes.

I remember sprinting out of Mrs. Donavon's classroom as soon as the bell rang for our 15 minute recess. I pushed past the line of my classmates that were pulling their arms through their jackets, preparing for the cold, dark tundra of a playground that was the result of a rainy night. I shoved my arms into my jacket as I ran, zipping it up tightly as I turned the corner out of the hallway. The chilly air slapped my face, my nose was stuffy, and might have even been a little runny, but all I could see was the makeshift sandbox pushed off to the side of our "soccer field." There was a teeter-totter, a pair of swings, and shiny new monkey bars. All of this was compacted into a small square of sand, walled off by a thick border of concrete.

I stood on top of the hill, taking in a deep breath of icy air, exhaling, smiling at my kingdom. I ran down the hill carefully, making sure not to trip over any of the imperfections in the land. I reached my castle. I was queen of the monkey bars. There was no first grader alive who would dare challenge me, and those who had the courage to try, fought valiantly, but never managed to usurp my throne.

I climbed up the three step ladder and stood there, waiting for the gaggle of first graders making their way to where I stood. I wiped the first bar clean of the built up condensation, treating the monkey bars like they were my most prized possession.

I smiled at my friends, feeling on top of the world, and then, one meek little voice called out, "I bet you can't skip bars when you play on here."

The taunting sound of May's voice made me furious. I glared in her direction and then climbed to the top of the ladder, my right hand holding the first bar, my left rested on my waist, I grinned, "Watch, and learn."

In my excitement, I grabbed the first bar with both hands and kicked my feet off of the ladder. I reached for the second bar, almost grabbing it, before I realized I was supposed to skip. My hand grazed over the second bar and reached for the third. My short arms reached, my fingers strained and finally, I managed to grab a hold of the third bar. So far, so good, I thought to myself as I reached for the fifth bar. I let go of my dry and safe bar number one, only to grab a moist, slippery fifth bar. I let out a little shriek, as I knew what was coming, and I shut my eyes tightly. I could feel myself begin to fall towards the ground, and I clenched my fists. The fall was a long one for a short first grader like me, but before I knew exactly what had happened, I heard a slap, a THUD, and then a crack. I felt a sharp pain shoot up my leg and I let out what must have been a long and loud scream of agony.

Hearing a collective gasp, I opened my eyes. Everyone had backed up a little and was staring at me, eyes wide, color drained from their faces. I turned my head, surveying the scene around me. I had landed in the splits, my left leg was in front of me, buried in the sand, and I smiled. Thank God I wasn't hurt.

I turned to examine my right leg, expecting it to be buried in sand behind me, but when I glanced at my right foot, an involuntary scream erupted from my mouth. My right ankle had slammed straight into the concrete, and was now throbbing, turning blue and increasing in size.

As soon as I processed what had happened, I blinked once, twice, and at my third blink, the tears came pouring out. The young boys and girls that were so used to seeing the courageous front I put on, had no idea how to react. I sat there, in the same position, for about 5 minutes. I finally heard a voice, "Move aside! She's hurt! She's right here! She's hurt herself!!!" One of the 3rd graders I used to play handball with had gone and called a yard duty to come check on me.

Tyler, my favorite yard duty, knelt down on one knee next to me. He smiled at me, then before I knew it, he lifted me up in the air and put me on his back. As he piggy backed me to the nurse's office, I turned my head back, watching my castle shrink before my eyes. The group of my friends had dispersed, and a few of them followed me and Tyler up to the school building. I buried my head in my savior's back, not wanting anyone to see me let even one more tear fall from my eyes.

Tyler deposited me onto a comfy chair in the nurse's office, and then went in to grab her. The nurse came out and saw me, defeated, crying, beaten and bruised. She shook her head and muttered something to the effect of, "Poor thing!" and set off to work, bringing me ice for my ankle, phoning my parents, and requesting that my backpack and school supplies be brought to the office by one of my classmates.

His name was Nick. He was my best friend and my biggest critic all in one. We spent many lunch times playing handball on the courts, tetherball with our friends, and climbing the monkey bars. As soon as he walked into the nurse's office, I wiped away my tears, biting my lip to keep me from crying anymore.

"I brought your stuff." He held up my backpack, making sure I knew he was here as my friend. He set it down on a chair and walked over to me, "Can I see it?"

I bit my lip, embarrassed of what he would say, but I slowly removed the ice pack to reveal my fractured, swollen ankle. A huge grin spread across Nick's face and he looked up at me, "THAT IS SO COOL."

I smiled as the nurse walked in and rushed Nick back to class, and I kept smiling as I went to get my x-rays, chose the color of my cast, played around with my crutches, and went to school the next day.

I learned two very important lessons that day in first grade. The first, that pride comes before destruction. One should be humble, and never boast about what he or she was blessed with. And the second, make sure to have at least one good friend by your side at all times, you never know what he or she will do for you. And for that reason, be sure to be the best friend you can be, because you never know when you will get a chance to change someone's life for the better.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The First Woman President

When I was in fifth grade, I went on a whale-watching field trip. I remember being excited, shoving the crumpled $20 bill my dad handed me, deep into my back pocket with the money I had previously collected from my mom.

I hopped into the front seat with Dad. He never drove me to school, but today, I had to be at school by 6 AM and Dad had so graciously offered to take me. I smiled up at him as he drove me 20 minutes away to my school. I looked up at my dad, filled with admiration at the man that had raised me.

He turned and smiled back at me and we began to talk. Somehow the conversation got to the topic of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I beamed at my dad when he asked me the question, and without any hesitation I blurted out, "I'm going to be the President of the United States."

I know that every kid that is born and raised in the US-at least once- dreams of becoming the President. What separates me from all of those kids is that my dad was probably as excited, if not more, for my campaign for President.

At once, he began coming up with slogans for me! Telling me, an innocent 11-year-old who knew nothing about politics, and just happened to be sitting in his passenger seat, who would be on my cabinet, who my vice president would be, and what party I would run for.

I was elated. Forget that I had no idea what he was saying, but he actually thought I could become president!

The reason that this story is so important is because I was raised to believe that I could honestly become anything I wanted to be. It didn't matter if I was a girl, it didn't matter if I was a Muslim, it didn't matter if I was only 11 years old! I could be whatever I wanted; whoever I wanted.

So, for anyone that decides to read this story, I want to be that figure, that my dad was for me, for you.

Stop worrying about everything that you believe is holding you back. Stop using those things as excuses. The only thing holding you back from attaining whatever- whoever- you want to be, is yourself. So throw away all of your inhibitions, and seek out that personality that you want to strive to embody.

Really think about this, and ask yourself: Who do you want to be?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Where I'm Coming From (Part 2)

Continuing on from Part 1:

Thinking for so long that I wanted to be an English teacher, it came as a shock to me when I came to college and realized that I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

People around me had known since elementary school that they wanted to be a dentist, a doctor, an artist, a politician. People around me knew what they wanted in life- and that honestly scared me.

I enjoy writing, that's no secret. In fact, I love it. But a career as a writer? That wasn't something I could see myself going into. Sure, I liked to entertain the thought of going into journalism; covering some hard hitting stories that would uncover piles of lies, piles of corporate filth.

But that was just a fantasy to me, nothing more.

So I began to sit back and really think about what I wanted in life. I had it engrained into my mind, and probably the minds of others too by now- I wanted to make a difference. But that didn't help me in any way. You don't have to be a doctor or social worker or a teacher to make a difference in this world.

That was the reason I had so much trouble sorting my thoughts.

Anyone, with the right intentions- regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or education- can make a difference.

Luckily for me, it was as if fate decided to lend me a hand, make my decision easy.

My older brother asked me to read through his paper for law school. I begrudgingly gave in, not looking forward to reading, what I assumed, would end up being the driest, least interesting piece of writing I had ever had the misfortune of coming across.

I instantly fell in love.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. It was as if I had finally grown up and made a decision I knew I could stick with.

I wanted to go to law school. I wanted to become a lawyer.

I had never really felt this way about any career paths I previously wanted to take.

I instantly began researching what I needed to do in order to separate myself from the thousands of applicants I'd be competing against. I decided to take a Poli Sci class and test the waters. My mantra very quickly became Law School or Bust...

But the one thing I did differently from my previous 'career epiphanies'- I didn't tell a soul that this is the path I wanted to take. And for some reason, now I'm comfortable sharing this with anyone who chooses to read my blog, even skim through it perhaps.

So, keep me in your prayers, in your thoughts, in your mind. And hopefully, if/when I'm a successful lawyer, I can help this world in the ways it needs to be helped.