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Jun 5, 2011 - writings    2 Comments

Khair and loss

One sunny summer’s day I found myself parked in front of a yellow house. I could not stop staring at it. I was mesmerized by the way the sun and shadow danced its way across the chipping paint. This was my childhood friend’s house. Her name was Z. All my memories of her flickered across the walls of the house as if there was a projector. Doing each other’s hair, trying out our first eyeliner together, finding out about periods. Hanging out at the Mosque, going to camps together, writing in our yearbooks. Sleepovers and crushes, decorating my house for my 16th birthday. How she looked at her Henna party. Beautiful almond eyes and a white lace dress. Parting forever.

I felt an unbearable sense of lost.

She was a Cambodian Muslim that came to the US with her family as refugees in the 80′s.  Their family was big and crazy and ethnic and I loved her like my own sister and she loved me.

They said the chemicals from the war must have affected her when she was little. That’s why she got sick. She got married at 17, normal for their culture she said. And this was actually a love marriage because he was a friend of her brother’s whom she had met and talked to on the phone. She showed me her photo album of him with his picture cut out into hearts. She left and got married. I saw the pictures. The Cambodian traditional orange-red ornate wedding dress and the white bridal dress. The gold necklace. The happy contented face.

Then the phone calls. She’s sick. She was taken away in an ambulance. She fainted. She has cancer. She’s gone.

At 18 you don’t see any wisdom in losing one of your best friends. You only feel anger. Angry at God for taking away your best friend. Someone who had everything, who was so innocent and pure. Why take her out of all people? Were there not rapists and evil people on the Earth? Why take her? And then… why didn’t God take me? What did I have to live for? She had everything and I had nothing.

Whenever I am at a low point in my life or death comes close to me, I think of her. Allah kept me here for something, I tell myself. To do something. I can’t leave yet. I can’t just give up. She would be so mad at me if I just gave up.

The wisdom of years and now…I think now… she’s safe, at peace. It was khair. She doesn’t have to live out our worldly trials and concerns. Our struggles and pains. She’s happy. She’s waiting for us.

Pray for my friend, pray for me.



Jan 15, 2011 - writings    8 Comments

As the World changes…

This past September two unlikely events took place that I’m sure no one reading this remarked. The first was the demise of the soap opera ‘As the World Turns’. It stopped spinning the world of Oakdale, IL on Sept 17, 2010.

As a young wife my mother came to the US in 1979. The 1980′s were very hard for her with 3 young children and 1 on the way. She didn’t know the language, the people or anything else. The amount of Indian families here at that time were a handful. She used to watch ATWT every day. She said the character of ‘Steve’ a Greek, tall dark and handsome reminded her of her beloved brother an ocean away. She watched the storyline of Steve and Betsy (a then unfamous ‘Meg Ryan’) and their famous wedding along with millions of others. And even learned a lot of English from watching.

Over the years, I remember watching on and off when I was home sick or we had a day off. (I think the storyline of Shannon the beautiful dark haired/green eyed Irish girl who was one of the runaways at a Scottish castle halfway house (yeah I know u’d have to watch it to get it lol!) started my love of all things British.) It was something that was on in the background, familiar friends who had their share of ups and downs, excitements and troubles. We’d tune in every so often and notice that some familiar characters never seemed to change! Lisa always had a new husband, James the villain always mysteriously seemed to survive. Lily and Holden’s love story seemed unending.

So when I heard that they had canceled the show and it was going away forever, it made me very sad. Millions of women like my mother have watched the show for years. It’s comforted them and been their friends for so long. There have been women who watched the show for decades. I’m sure they are quite devastated about it, even if after all ‘it’s just a TV show’.

In the end it signals a real change in our world. Women just don’t have the time to sit and watch an hour show while doing laundry or feeding the baby like they did even a decade ago. Our world is so fast changing and career oriented. Even women who stay home with their kids just don’t have the time. Game shows and reality television are what will be on in the daytime now.

One day my mother was skipping around the channels and said, “I never see ATWT anymore, I don’t know when they show it now?” I just didn’t have the heart to tell her.

The second event that happened is that we got a new library! After some millions of dollars, 3 years of wait, our newly renovated neighborhood library opened its doors in September. This new library is supposed to have a new innovative green design with a main skylight, tiled floors and books arranged by subject (like at bookstores) instead of the Dewey Decimal system. It has a new teen section, dvd/music section, round table computer stations for adults and rows of computers for kids. It has boardroom like community rooms and glass office type rooms for the public along with a huge circulation desk at the entrance. And I hate it. Not just hate it, I loathe it.

When did libraries turn into community centers? or day cares? or public computer halls? It’s just so ugly… and tiles??? in a library?? The floors are just so dirty in winter and there’s no place for kids and babies to even sit. I just hate it. Did I mention I hate it? The sitting areas are all completely open so wherever you sit everyone else on the floor can see you. The computer desks are round tables that have 8 computers around them. They have tiny “privacy shields” for the sides but everyone walking by can see everything you’re doing on the computer. The one table with chairs is supposedly the study area for everyone. Last time I was there two girls incessantly talked for like an hour in Hindi, loudly, about their (boring) lives. The thin metal shelves are very low or extremely high and sparsely filled with books in a random fashion. They say it’s arranged by subject, but I never can find books I’m looking for. I sometimes find the next book in a series by the same author in a totally different place! There are no little desks tucked away or private nooks. There are also huge numbers of people there all the time. I feel like I’m in blockbuster or at the supermarket. People in and out, screaming, talking, whatever. It just does not feel like a library at all.

When I was growing up our library was in a beautiful restored Victorian mansion!! Wide double arched doors and you would enter this mysterious building with real circular towers. Inside there was a little circulation desk built into the side of the hall like a check-in desk at an old inn. Going through the house’s different rooms would be various collections of books, floor to ceiling in thick wooden shelves with little ladders or stacked around. Old desks and tables were everywhere. You could be in a room for a while and then only realize there was someone reading in the corner! Upstairs was the kid’s section with bean bags and tiny small shelves, fuzzy carpets and rocking chairs. The circular room’s windows would let lovely light and shadows into the room. It would always be quiet and creaking. Never dusty or dirty, just old and special.

Anyway again I’m really sad… I hate going there and it’s walking distance from my house! Now I drive all the way downtown to the main library which still has some real library elements left. Sigh, as the world turns indeed eh :)……..

Apr 23, 2010 - writings    18 Comments

Paranormal Activity

Have you ever walked into a building, met someone, or been in a situation where you felt every hair on your neck raise up. You feel panic, or that something’s not right. Or just scared, even though the situation is a completely normal one? You just have that intuition that everything is not as it seems? Do you feel like whatever happened in the past in a place can be felt by people now? Does the past give off vibrations or nuances that can be felt by people now, by just walking into a room maybe?

As Muslims, we do believe there is a whole host of activity outside our own senses. Such as the world of the Angels all around us, recording our actions, gathering together, charged with various tasks. The world of the Jinn seems to be right here as well. Not to mention the space-time continuum recording everything. Even in the world of the heart there is so much going on outside of what we know. The Quran describes things like a dead heart, a struggling heart, an ‘angelic’ heart. Things like evil eye exist in Islam and are very real.

I read not long ago about a study where they had people stare at someone in a concentrating manner for a certain period of time and then noted down if the person turned around to look at them. Their findings were never conclusive but they noted that there did seem to be some kind of correlation between someone staring at someone’s back and them turning around.

I used to work in an old office building here in downtown. It was our ‘temporary office’ until our beautiful new green building was completed. This old office building was ordinarily enough next to a few clothing and jewelery stores. A restaurant was near the corner. We were given passcards to enter and leave when we needed to. Our hours were in various shifts and sometimes that would be until 9pm at night. There was just something about this building that was so spooky. None of us wanted to be there alone. Even in the early morning at 8am I would always be turning around looking around me. At night I couldn’t wait to get out of there. After some time we found out that this building used to be an old-world nightclub in the ’30s and was always filled with gangsters, famous politicians and beautiful women of the time. But what it was most famous for we found out was many ‘assassinations’ at that location of politicians or mafia. Laugh if you want, but when we walked into our new quarters we didn’t feel anything. The place was brand new, clean and didn’t give off any vibes. Call that ambiance if you will, but I still feel like there is a lot going on that we can’t grasp but we sometimes feel.