Thursday, July 14, 2022

Coke Studio, Miss Marvel & my Dad. Who knew.

It’s no surprise that I love music. If you know me well, you’ll know my playlists go from R&B and rock to country, metal, Swahili, desi, pop and more.

I believed it was something that just happened over time. We listened to a lot of country music at home and while my tastes changed as I got older, my appreciation for beats, lyrics, voices, harmonies, soul, rhythm, bass – it all just got stronger.

Then the other day over dinner, we watched an episode of the awesomeness also known as Miss Marvel.

The end credits played and as I absent-mindedly moved to the kitchen, I heard a voice singing that my heart recognized. And such was the stirring soulfulness of the song that not only did I recognize it, but it hit me with a train of emotion.

I was a kid again, sitting with Dad as he made me listen to a woman singing on our cassette player. He told how talented she was and to listen to how she used her voice like an instrument. I wasn’t so sure I liked it, but I listened anyway. And eventually, I heard what he wanted me to hear. As I got older, I appreciated the magic that is the voice of Abida Parveen.

It wasn’t just an introduction to music I had yet to appreciate.

It was a lesson in acceptance of cultures I didn’t necessarily understand, but were beautiful nonetheless. It was a reminder that India and Pakistan, at the heart of it all, weren’t that different.  In fact, our differences made us stronger. It was a gentle window into how my Dad viewed the world then and how he chooses to view it now as well. That memory was a gentle nudge towards a journey I still travel today. 

Coke Studio. Miss Marvel. My Dad. All in their own way, appreciating and understanding the same things.

It's taken me a long time to realise my love for world music started with Dad all those years ago. I will be forever grateful. 

As for the song that started it you go. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

With all my heart, I love you.

As a mother, I can tell you the world has a lot of opinions on what it means to be a good one. 

Books, social content, support groups, videos – the list is endless. All you have to do is ask for help and a village of women will emerge to raise you up and help you, at every step of the way. 

But I’ve learned that this doesn’t really exist for fathers. 

I mean sure, they can search. Google will show them stuff. But is it fair to say they’re awarded the same kind of support mothers are? Probably not. Are expectations of them any less, especially now? Definitely not. Do they need help? Umm, yes, ALWAYS. 

But I’m not writing about the fact that they need to be congratulated for being dads. Or be commended for ‘doing a good job’.  But I will write about what I understand and what I know to be true. 

The two fathers I know who continue to fill my heart with pride. 

They’ve both had to battle their own demons. I’ve seen them sink into darkness and I’ve watched them pull themselves back into the light. Yes of course they had help, but they knew they needed it. They asked for it. They accepted it. There was never any shame in any of it and for that, I am proud. 

I have watched them succeed and shine. Work hard and achieve. Literally, climb mountains and overcome what everyone else might have thought to be impossible. 

They have hearts of lions and spirits of imps. Equal parts mischief and mystery. To them, respect matters. Loyalty does too. Friendship is important. Love even more so. 

The first sets the bar high, very high. The second meets the mark each and every time. 

Being a girl dad is a little harder, I think. It forces you to open up a space of mind that you didn’t know existed. To think what pride, shame, joy and pain feels like to your little girl and then find a way to talk to her about it. Show her how to overcome it. And help her navigate through what she needs to go through alone. You show her how much she can be loved by loving her mother that way. You stop yourself from catching her when she falls, but you help her stand up and try again. You teach her that she is just as good as any boy, no matter what the world tells her. 

You tell the world at your 25th wedding anniversary, that your daughter has not only been your daughter, she has been your son too. I was overwhelmed, I remember. He never needed to say it, but when he did, my heart soared. He politely told the world to screw themselves, daughters were just as good, if not better, than sons, thank you very much. All those years ago, that voice speaking that truth, mattered.  

Fast forward to today. A young dad watches silently as his eight-year-old is the only girl to play cricket with a bunch of boys after school. Her stance, bowling action, release – everything he’s taught her. He watches her defend herself fiercely and earn the respect she deserves. He looks at me with a different kind of excitement and pride on his face – “Did you see that?!” 

It is hard to explain what it’s like to love a father. But every year and every day, I try a little harder. 

With all my heart, I love you both. For always.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Why your voice and what you say, matters.

I was recently asked why I was suddenly so vocal about my opinions - political and otherwise. 

On the ‘Free Palestine’ cause, the state of affairs in India, Islamophobia, Women’s Rights and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, amongst others. 

Perhaps my answer came too soon. Perhaps I should have thought a little more and minded my words. But I didn’t. Because I have thought long and hard about so much of this, for a while now. 

My answer was ready, because these are lessons we try to teach our eight year old every day. 

If we can change something, anything, that is wrong in the world by speaking up about it, then that is what we must do. 

People deserve to be treated with love, respect and dignity. 

You respect their homes. 

You respect their lives. 

You respect their choices. 

Kindness matters. 

We don’t get to take privilege for granted just because of where we were born - geographically, historically or religiously. 

We don’t get to judge what we don’t understand. 

We don’t get to hurt people who seem different. 

We recognize our opportunity to help those who need it. To defend those who are worn. To support those who are tired and raise our voices for some sort of greater good. 

I would like to think that in some way or other, we all fight for something.  We stand for something. We want to affect change and make the world better. 

I’ve learnt that the minute you empathize with someone who is suffering - it changes everything. 

I have Palestinian friends who mean the world to me. I feel their anguish and I stand by their hope and passion to build a better tomorrow. 

I am Indian. I share the despair that hit my country with the second wave of COVID-19. The despair that hit my own home. And I am proud of the youth who reached out to help the elderly. Unknowns helped by unknowns. Voices that spoke out against false leaders. 

Throughout my life, some of my closest friends have been Muslim. I love them dearly. 

My husband’s name is Muhammad and my daughter’s last name is Hussain. I see the many, many ugly faces of judgement and violence that reveal themselves on both sides of this battle. And no matter the religion that is in focus, the misdirected persecution of those who follow it, will ALWAYS be wrong. 

I have many friends who have come out over the years. I sense that anxiety. I have watched depression take over. I have seen families torn apart by a lack of acceptance. A fear of society. An absolute hatred towards something so misunderstood. 

As a woman, I can tell you that the hurdles we still face every day, are hard to explain. But if you open your eyes to really see, it’s all glaringly obvious. Some of us handle it better than others. So we must help those of us who don’t. 

And so, I stand with them all. Always. 

Because if we don’t stand together and if we don’t stand for what is right, then we stand for nothing. 

As a human being, it’s hard to process, let alone fight for. And as a parent I find that to be true a 1000 times over. How do you explain something so hard to understand, to a mind so confused about what’s happening and a soul that’s still developing a sense of right and wrong? 

And yet, that is precisely why we must. 

So that tomorrow is better. 

Tomorrow will look beyond colour, caste, religion and race. Tomorrow will not destroy itself for wars passed down through history books. Tomorrow will be kind and compassionate. Tomorrow will not do the unimaginable that is being done today. 

Tomorrow, the fact that we stood for something today, will matter. 

Till later. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Where do you look for inspiration?

People say it’s everywhere. But I find this to be oft untrue.

Inspiration doesn’t apply to just the creatives of the world.
To the contrary, it applies to the world in general.

The conviction to find a raison d'ĂȘtre, to face the day, to make it count. To strive, to succeed and sometimes, to struggle. To be the best version of yourself you can possibly be and give your day, the tribute it deserves. 

There are days when I cannot find inspiration, no matter how hard I try. 
These are times I am tired – often physically, sometimes emotionally. When I have spent my day ticking all sorts of boxes on a never-ending list of must-do’s, try-to-do’s and oh-crap-how-did-I-forget-to-do’s.
When I try to be everything to everyone but I fall short. When the light in my corner shines rather dimly and I run out of hope in the goodness of anything. When I no longer believe that the world is as perfect as I hope it to be.

On these days, I find nothing.
Nothing but silence. Emptiness. Disappointment. Darkness.

Then there are other days.
Where happiness literally hits you in the face and you can’t get an old radio jingle out of your head. Peanut butter blueberry sandwiches for breakfast and hidden minutes of random reading. Memories are made by the dozen and every second of tomorrow holds promise by the truckloads.

But what changed, between these dismal days and the happy ones? The ‘everywhere’ that I was supposed to find inspiration in, stayed the same.
But me…I changed.

It is the hardest thing, to find a reason to be happy every day.
I have found that we all have moments where darkness creeps in. And it is not pathetic or lame, or a sign of weakness. It’s just how we feel sometimes…and that’s okay.
It’s our signal to reach out to people who care, no matter how few they are, or how far they are. We ask for help. We say a prayer. We make a call to an old friend. We play a song that plays a memory.
And sometimes, we don’t do anything, except believe tomorrow will be better. Because even when we have nothing, we have faith.

It is the hardest thing, to find a reason to be happy every day.
Perhaps ‘happy’ is pushing it. Maybe ‘thankful’ is a better fit. Thankful for family, friends, moments, melodies. For faith and love and trust and kindness.
For me, inspiration lies here.

Thankful, I can do. I hope you can too.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

She is more.

It took me a few days to write thoughts kept wandering to the many beautiful women I know and how gracefully I watch them do life. To them it is anything but graceful of course..and that is why I thought this had to be written.
In tribute to them and so many other women like them, all around the world. And as a reminder to those who know women such as these - you are more fortunate than you realize.

She is more.

What do you see when you look at her?
She is a friend. She is a lover. She is a wife. She is a mother.

But you are wrong. She is more.

She is your moral compass.
Going against the tide, pushing you to do the right thing, repeatedly and thanklessly.
Reminding you to think with your heart and your head, because neither work well in isolation.

She is your warrior.
Watching you struggle with everyday dilemmas, she reminds you she has your back,
calmly standing at the front of the lines with defiance, rising ferociously when it comes to battle.

She is your heart.
She loves endlessly and completely, there are no empty spaces or grey areas.
Caring about people you care about, she loves the ones you should love, but have forgotten how to.
She is the reason for love, she is the reason to love, she is love itself.

She is your storm.
There will be times when you will see her tempestuous streak rise.
Lightning bolts, angry showers, relentless silence – she brings them all.
Remember that storms pass. They are followed by rainbows.

She is your spirit animal.
As strong as a bear to protect you, as wise as an owl to help you,
as gentle as a humming bird to soothe you,  as sharp as a fox to defend you.
She is all the mantras of the world put together - she brings you peace.

She is your lifeline.
No matter how difficult the situation, she is the answer.
Her laughter will ring with yours as you celebrate life, her arms will hold you close in times of trouble.
In every walk of life, she is there, your own personal cheerleader.

She is every memory, every song, every absent-minded smile that crosses your lips.
She is a friend, a lover, a wife, a mother.

And yet, she is more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Arafath and the mountain.

Over the last few weeks, I've watched Ara get ready for his big Kili trip.

He leaves to climb Mount Kilimanjaro on the morning of July 21st and he's doing it for the Larchfield Charity Organization. Together with others, their aim is to raise funds to build homes for underprivileged children in Tanzania.
In the last month we've organised a charity book and bake sale, a charity basketball tournament, talked to countless people and done endless research. I've realised it's fairly easy to talk about, write about, read about. 

Living it however, isn't as easily done. 

I wanted this post to be about all the hard work he's put in. The hours at the gym and at the weekly Friday trainings. The time he's spent researching the right gear, preparing himself mentally, talking to me about the minute details and all the other hundred things he's done in preparation for the climb. 

But I can't. 
Instead, all that's in my head and my heart, is pride. 

I am proud of how he keeps reminding himself why he's doing this and who it is going to benefit. 
Of how he has gone about this - all guns blazing, pushing himself mentally and physically. 
I am proud when I watch him talk to others about the climb - educating, informing, inspiring - all the while not realising what a big deal it is. 
Of how he is worried about himself and about us, because he is human. 
I am proud of the boy who told me, "If I can do anything good with my love for fitness, that would be good, right?"

I am proud of the boy I married eight years ago. I continue to watch your heart get bigger and bigger and it never ceases to amaze me. What you and everyone in your group is doing, is amazing. But I am partial to you. 

I will always be partial to you. Because you and I are drawn with the same pen and by the same Almighty hand. We were drawn with the same heart and the same love. You are mine as I am yours and for everything you are and all you are doing, I am proud of you. 

You'd think after eight year of marriage, the flowery words would stop. 
I find that they instead, start to mean a lot more. 

I found this song yesterday and fell in love with it. I think you might too. 
Enjoy your adventure and be safe. Love you much. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Love Over Fear.

Being in the world right now kinda sucks.
Terrorist attacks taking place all over the world, and the death of innocence is all over the news. Corrupt politicians who think they can dictate what is meant to divide - colour, religion, sexual identity, gender...the list is endless.

When we were younger, we didn't worry as much - that's what parents were for. Growing up in the Middle East, the Gulf War was very 'real.' I have faded memories of mum and dad stocking up on tinned food, random power cuts and regular phone calls from family making sure we were doing ok.

But we're older now. We know more. We see more. We love more, so we fear more. That's beautiful and dangerous at the same time.

My husband and I are parents to a gorgeous little three year old. With her, every day is different. On some days her personality comes leaping out and we delight in it, but on others, we find ourselves holding back tears. Because I guess, it's what being a parent means....if it doesn't hurt sometimes, you probably aren't doing it right.
I often think about how we want her to be a good kid and have her heart in the right place. Love, respect, courage, generosity, compassion...all those words we associate with the beauty of every religion.

And then, I raise my eyes from my world of motherhood and take in the world around big must I ask this little heart to be, when this is what she's going to be faced with?

The thought stayed with me and bothered me. A lot.
I watched a beautiful video earlier this week. And luckily, that stayed with me too. It was a reminder that in the bloody, hurtful, distressing battle between love and will always win.
You can watch it here.

So, to my little heart (and to hearts everywhere if you'd like)

It will never make sense. 
There will always be hurt, there will always be pain, there will always be fear. For some reason - this is how things work, it's the way the world is designed. Perhaps it's meant to make things better in the long run, perhaps it's meant to teach us something ... we'll never really know and for longer than forever - people will debate this, just because they can. They will use social media, news channels, rallies and everything under the sun to support some, protest others, argue about who's supporting who...and it will be confusing. But sit back and think. How can you change this? For whom? Choose your battles wisely.

Be compassionate.
Hurt is hurt. Whether it's depression, a broken relationship, or an abusive marriage. Pain is pain. Whether it is war, earthquakes, or famine. If one country feels it - the world feels it. Do not give less of your heart...give as much as your heart can give. Whether it is money, prayers, or your time - just give. The person you help, may be the one who at that time - needs it most.

How much love is enough? 
It will never be enough for the world, my baby girl. Just as I don't know how much I love you (but it's a lot, trust me.) neither does the world know how much love it needs. But that can never stop us from giving. Our hearts have a beautiful magic to them...they're ever so tiny, but they grow enough to allow us to love. Always, just that little bit more, each time.

People, God, the universe...will keep doing things for you. A hot meal, a taxi ride when you need it most, a hug from a friend, a good game on court, a phone will just keep coming. Always, always, always - choose to recognise it.

It isn't easy. 
Sometimes it will hurt. You will see things, and experience situations that will break you, and make you cry. There will be haters and name-callers. It will be exhausting to deal with. It will piss you off, even. But remember to think before you react. Again, choose your battles. If you need to fight, by all means. You come from a long line of fighters, and if you truly believe in it, and it's for all the right reasons - go for it. And you will always, quite miraculously, have help. Because others will love like you do, and they will find you. And it will always be worth it.

It will make you happy. 
At the end of it all, it will. I promise you. Your heart will be your own, and it will be at peace.
People tend to be scared of the word 'love'...perhaps it's a bit too real for them to handle. But learn to know it and it will not scare you. It is loyalty, respect, truth, bravery, faith, compassion and more. Love will set you free.

Damn, parenting really changes the way you see things. You re-learn how to do life.
Love over fear, my precious one. Always.

For my Mama, Cecilia. 
Who taught me love is what made us, and it was love that saved us. 
Happy 56th birthday <3 nbsp="">