Waking up in Trump-land.

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What a week it has been! Just a few days ago, even on the day of the elections I thought about how exciting it will be for my little girl to see a woman president. Despite the fear  of what the opposite happening could mean, I think most of us felt THAT sure of the outcome. And then on Tuesday night, it felt like the ground under our feet was taken away and everything we knew about this adopted country was wrong! Could America really elect someone who had spewed so much hate throughout the last year, who had uttered unimaginable things that many of us could not even repeat to our families? Waking up the next morning was terrible, knowing what had just happened the night before. Living in a blue state Alhamdullilah, we might have been a part of our own bubble and it was even more unexpected for us!

As parents, I think most of us worried about breaking the news to our children. Because whether we had explicitly included our children in our conversations about the election, our kids got that one of the candidates was a bully and a bad guy, and they wanted ‘Hilary to win’. We had to wake up that morning, put our shock and our fear aside, and tell our children calmly that the ‘Bully’ had actually won! Right after breakfast I told Anya that I had to talk to her about something and broke the news to her. My little girl was so disappointed and sadly told me ‘ But I wanted Hilary to win’! I explained to her that we did too and we were sad too but it was okay, that we can give him a chance and after a few years we get to choose a new President again. I told her what is great about America is that there are laws and rules which will prevent Trump from doing any scary things that he said he would do. And that satisfied her! Somehow it also felt like the perfect time to remind her just one more time that it was even more important to choose kind over mean, in words and actions. And that if she sees anyone teaming up against a kid because he/she was different, one should always stand up for them! She proudly replied, ‘Yes, that’s what we should do!’

For months, Anya has been excited about the elections, following the debates alongside us, and playing “dabates” with her dolls. ‘Mister Trump again!’ became her favorite thing to say as she overheard his name in the news almost every other day as a new controversy sprang up.  I think most of us specially us immigrant/minority citizens of this country have been left wondering what these results would mean for our children and specially for our daughters…

On Wednesday night, I showed Anya HRC’s concession speech, specially the part where she addressed all the little girls and Anya was so proud, eyes shining! I especially wanted to show her how gracefully she took the loss. We talked about that , that even though she must’ve been so sad that she didn’t get to be the president how kind her words still were and how she was still smiling 🙂 Anya spent the rest of the evening pretending to be Hilary Clinton, carrying around Chelsea Clinton (her Dora doll was Chelsea for the evening) and their pet bunny!!

As Immigrants, as Muslim-Americans, of course we are scared of what this election result can mean.. but fear is just what we don’t need. In fact on many levels it was fear that lead people to put their trust in an untrustworthy person and we don’t want to walk down that path! America has a lot of greatness in it and us immigrants have witnessed enough of that in our time here to get disheartened by recent events!

For our kids sake and for ourselves, we have to work even harder than before for our children’s better future in this country! People fear the unknown. I personally have realized that we need to be even more active in our communities, talk to more people, share and listen with an open mind! We can all start in our own circles with friends / family / neighbors who have different views than ours. Let’s be kind, let’s speak and listen to understand! On social media since the day of, it has been so disheartening to see all the negativity! To the extent that I even witnessed working moms blaming stay-at-home-moms for not supporting successful women which lead to Hilary’s loss! This is exactly what we do not need!

In HRC’s words ‘Let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.’

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There will be a better day!

Let’s start in our own houses and in ourselves to counter hate with love!

Thanks for reading you guys!

PS: I have missed this space and it feels good to press ‘PUBLISH’ on this.

ALSO FROM EARLIER ON THE BLOG: Hate cannot drive out hate // This country we call home

Life Remembered – A Memory Book

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On January 19th, it was 4 years since the death of my dad and the first time when I was not with my mom and sisters on the date.  I had bought this journal a few years ago and sat down this month to finally print out all of the messages and memories that have been left for him on Facebook and email and adding them to this. It was so bittersweet, going through all of them, I couldn’t stop tears as some reminded me of so many painful days but in the end it felt so good to do this. My dad was so blessed Alhamdullilah, it is unbelievable the kind of love he received while in hospital and since his passing, we have received messages from countless people, some that we didn’t even know, who told us how he touched their lives. That is such an honor. And adding all those messages in one place felt so good to me!

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For those who’s hearts ache with a loss, it helps to be able to do something like this that reminds you of them and their life (Also helps to give some sadqa in their memory). In January as I silently grieved, it helped to do a few of these things that made me feel so much better!

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Thanks for reading. Lots of love.

ALSO: Shadow Frame to honor my dad’s memory // Memory Table at my sister’s wedding

#144stories

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#144Stories

Today, let’s look into their eyes as we look at their beautiful photos and as we read their stories another time. Today let’s imagine what they went through before their young lives were so brutally cut short. Today let’s think of their parents’, the state of their hearts. Think of each minute, each hour, each day and then 365 very very long days that have passed without the lights of their lives, with that trauma heavy on their hearts. Today let us think of all the ones who lived to tell their tales, the things they have seen that no words can even describe. Today, for another time, feel for them, weep for them, pray for them but also more than ever, think! What can we do? Because today is a reminder that we are truly failing our children! #neverforget #144stories #APSpeshawer

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We were in Bahawalpur at my mother-in-law’s place last year, and vividly remember the eerie stillness in the air, in the days that followed. Shops remained closed, banners hung high all over the cities, eyes wept endlessly, hearts prayed, people stood in candlelit vigils to show their solidarity with the affected families. In a country that loves its conspiracy theories, it felt like for once everyone was united. It felt like this time they had hit where it hurt the most. On this day, they pierced through the hearts of a whole nation and left such a hole that even time can’t fill. Hope with all of my heart that these children’s lives were not in vain and that never again do we have to see such a dark day in Pakistan’s life.

Urainge us aasman mein;

(We’ll fly in such a sky)

Rahainge aisay jahaan mein;

(live in such a world)

Jahaan dard ka koi maara na ho;

(where no one quivers in pain)

Akaila na ho be-sahaara na ho;

( no one is lonely or left alone)

koi maa say bichara dulaara no ho;

(no mother would live without her child)

siva ishq kay koi chaara na ho;

(nothing to choose from than love)

Listening to this right now and remembering all these beautiful children and their teachers today.


FYI

Read about this tragedy, about the heroes of this horrific day, all the young lives lost in this heartbreaking dedication by DAWN. Also read this for the heartbreaking journey behind collecting these stories

A little history about the Army Public Schools here. Specially personal for me because my mom studied in these and recently was in the management too. The Pakistan Air Force schools that I studied at were also similar.

Also can’t help being reminded of the 3 year anniversary of the Newtown Shootings in Sandy Hook. This is a senseless world and we really have failed our children all over the world!

Hate cannot drive out hate

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Since the Paris Attacks and now the San Bernardino Shootings , and even more so, since finding out the killers happened to be Muslims with backgrounds from Pakistan, our hearts have been extra heavy. Cannot write in words, how very sorry we feel for the lives cut short and those forever affected from such tragedies. These people that kill in the name of the same religion that I love and practice, in the name of the same Prophet who I wish to emulate in my life, have also killed and injured scores of Muslims all over the world (like this horrific incident just last year). Yet to the rest of the world, they are us and we are them!

After this latest incident, the next morning as I woke up Anya and got her ready for school, I couldn’t stop thinking about raising a Muslim-American in today’s times. It’s scary. As is becoming more mainstream after every such incident, the cycle of hate keeps growing. And it breaks my heart. Will this girl of mine be hated by some around her as she grows up for the color of her skin, the faith she practices or because her parents were immigrants? This girl of ours, who loves asking questions about God who she calls Allah, who loves to link all the beauty she sees around us to Allah and who loves talking about Him, this girl who once made a song about Allah and was singing it loudly as I shopped and tried my best to not let my nervousness show. Is that day coming sooner than we thought when she will realize she can’t publicly do that anymore? My proud little American-Muslim, at what age will she realize we have to be careful about certain aspects of our faith in public because of the misrepresentation and how someone else might take it? (eg: AllahoAkbar a common phrase used by Muslims and a part of the daily prayers has been used by militants before attacks and hence has become one of those phrases we try to avoid uttering too loud when we’re in public even though some of us were used to casually saying it in conversations) Will someone around her one day tell her to “go back to her own country”? She loves her America. How will it feel if one day it doesn’t love her back quite the same? It saddens me beyond measure as I imagine a world around her that is fearful of her very presence, where she could possibly be required to carry a ‘Muslim ID’. Where because she is Muslim she possibly can’t dream of being the President of her own country. Just last week she spent the whole evening pretending to be president so she could ‘rule’ us!

I watch her these days, her confidence, her talkative, proud little personality, and I pray for a better, more peaceful world. Where the voices of love are louder than those of hate. Perhaps that is exactly what is wrong with the world, what is required to end this cycle of hate. That we respond to hate with love. In our own little worlds, in our surroundings, in our interactions with people, lets all respond to any hatred we get however hard it can be at times, with love and break this cycle. Like they say what goes around comes around and maybe one day just one person at a time, this might be a better world for our kids.

AROUND PAKISTAN: Fun City in Centaurus Mall in Islamabad (& some thoughts)

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Pictures from our trips to Fun City in the Centaurus Mall, Islamabad’s premier mall that opened last year. Probably the first of its kind in the city, it was so nice to have an indoor play area we could take Anya to. The carousal is the main attraction for kids but they have quite a few coin rides along with a bouncy play structure with lots to do inside. There are even some rides and entertainment for older kids and adults. Totally makes for a fun evening with your friends and family 🙂

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Since before we reached Islamabad, my family had been super excited and looking forward to taking Anya here. And like it is on every trip, I was more paranoid in the first few days, about security issues and all that could go wrong while we were there. So when my family mentioned going here, I was too scared and made excuses. Tried to convince them to go another day, a weekday when there would be less people (and in my head, lesser of a security threat). Their faces fell and I could see I had hurt them. I realized soon enough that we had taken the journey across the world to meet them and make memories with them and that we were in a comparatively safer part of Pakistan. That a city I considered not safe enough to take my daughter out freely in during a visit, they lived their lives in it. That going out of our house is a risk, driving our car is a risk, every single step we take or don’t for that matter, we are at risk of losing it all. And yet we keep doing all of this because we got to live our lives. And so I said ‘Yes, lets go’, even though we were jetlagged and Anya was half asleep, even though my heart was beating fast at the sight of all those people when we were there, even though I kept checking the faces through the crowds trying to catch anything suspicious. The smiles on my mom and sisters’ faces, the excitement in their voices expressed their joy at finally doing what they had been dreaming of all those months, bringing Anya to a place they had found for her. It was priceless and I am so glad we went. It was worth it! May Allah keep our loved ones in His safest care.
More posts in this series here.

And similar thoughts shared earlier here.

Thanks for reading and lots of love.

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Picture Credits for the bottom four pictures: Waliya Najib

Finding hope in times of grief

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picture by my sister, Waliya.

I can’t begin to thank you enough for all the comments received when I shared the story about losing my daddy here last year. My sister and I have received messages from countless people who shared their own stories of loss. Some said they understood the pain, some asked for advice on dealing with their own tragedies. I wanted to share some of the things that gave strength and hope through our grief specially in the first year.

When we go through a tragic time in our life and once the realization has set in, you need some kind of motivation to go on. You need some hope that you’re not alone and that your heart will feel less broken someday. Here are some of the things that helped heal my broken heart a little bit at a time.

Faith

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‘To Him we belong and to Him is our final return’ just said it all for me. And just reading these words makes it easier every time just like so many other verses from the Quran. They just put it all in perspective. That this life is not all we are striving for and we all must go one day, it’s not such a big surprise is it! As well as knowing that God is all powerful and knows what is in the hearts of people, He knows cruelty, He is more fair than anything else, and the ones that have continuously tried to hurt us after Papa, thinking we are helpless, Allah knows.

Having faith that even when we doubt being able to smile or laugh again, Papa will want us to be happy and that he in in a much better place now iA. Believing that Papa will be proud of us knowing we stood on our feet and stood up for each other through this tragic time.

Believing that this had to happen, the way it happened, and when it happened and we could’ve done nothing to change even a small part of it. There will always be days when you go over it in your head, wishing for things to be different, but reminding yourself every time that it happened the way it was destined to. It breaks your heart a little less knowing that.

Family and Friends

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taken by my sister, Waliya

My daughter was the biggest strength for me. And without her, I really don’t think I or my whole family would’ve been able to survive like we did. Babies have no idea of the enormity that has happened, and for them you have to continue to live. Just like you have to go on for the sake of your loved ones. We lost one of us, and it makes the rest of us that much more precious to each other. Anything can happen anytime and our families are our most important asset. With and for each other we slowly started smiling and laughing and finding strength because NO ONE understands this pain the way the four of us do.

I went through a phase where I found it hard to be around some of my friends. My relationship changed with some friends, and I made many new friends. Going through a tragedy is a hard time for your relationships. I had become a different person and my perspective on so many things just changed. I became more sensitive in certain ways. I tried to be around people that made me feel happy and tried to stay away from the ones that didn’t understand my pain or expected me (or I got the feeling that they did) to just laugh and smile and be normal again. In retrospect, I have learned that loss and death is an uncomfortable subject for many people so talking to just anyone about it won’t heal your heart.

I was also lucky to know friends that had experienced loss at some point in their lives and just being around them made me feel better and stronger. I talked about it here once. My network in Seattle helped me in many ways, the playdates, the coffee with friends, the normalcy of life despite it all, even though seemed pointless specially in those early days, made me get back to normal life little by little.

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Music/Movies and Books

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Songs I had listened to so many times before without feeling anything, made me weep like a crazy woman, because suddenly I felt like I could connect to them. Somewhere in that pain, it felt like I wasn’t alone. So many people go through tragedies and it takes courage to put these into words, in art, in songs, in any kind of creative medium. And that inspired me or made it bittersweet. In some way it made it a little easier to feel the pain. Two favorites became, Without you by David Guetta and Pee Jaun by Farhan Ali Khan.

I read a lot of memoirs during this time, sad books, but all that spoke of hope and living through the challenges and tragedies that touch our lives. Some of my favorite became Two kisses for Maddy, Three weeks with my brother and The rules of inheritance.

I love reading inspiring words and have a collection of inspiring quotes on Good Reads and Pinterest, many of them bittersweet and sad, but inspiring at some level. Many of you follow my sister Waliya’s page on Facebook where she combined many such beautiful sad words with her images to tell her story.

Writing, Art and Creativity

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taken by Waliya

I got back to blogging in April of 2012, less than three months after my dad left. For me it became a place where I could find hope in that pain, share my thoughts and stories. All three of us sisters, have put our dad’s life and the way he left us in words in one way or another. There is catharsis in writing and painting and art and in finding a way to express that pain. Waliya and I found a whole different meaning to our photography. We both chose to share our story with the people that followed our photography on Facebook and are immensely grateful for the love received through there.

For me, another thing that helped was keeping a little journal of my dad’s memories. I find it heartbreaking that my dad wasn’t able to experience being a grandfather, and that Anya will never know him. A friend gave me the idea to write down memories in a journal, and I try to jot down the most random-est of memories of my father. I can tell Anya all these little stories over the years about him, so even if she wont know him, she will know lots about him. And that makes me feel a little better.

Everyone’s recovery through grief is different and these are a few of the many things that have given me hope and strength. You also pass through different stages and each person’s journey is unique. If you have experienced tragedy and are struggling to stand up again, I hope some of this will give you some sort of encouragement.

Thanks for reading.

 

Your words will guide me

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My dad wrote me this email. I was returning from Pakistan after attending my sister’s wedding. Because of some visa issues I had to return the very next morning after the Valima1 and I left the event early to pack for my flight the next morning. I had a huge lump in my throat throughout. It had been an emotional and stressful couple of months because of my dad’s sudden job loss because of the government change in Pakistan, planning my sister’s wedding in Islamabad while living in Karachi2 and just the emotional baggage that comes with a wedding, and just the Pakistani summer heat that makes everything harder.

Just a few hours after Papa and Mama dropped me at the airport the next morning (and a painful goodbye as always. I am terrible at airports!),  I stood at the public internet terminals at the Dubai airport and read the words that will stay with me forever. I still don’t know when he found the time to write the email in all that pre and post wedding chaos. I stood in the middle of the airport, reading Papa’s words as tears just flowed. Like most dads mine was also not very expressive but he had the gift of words and whenever he did express his love for us, it went straight to the heart. What I didn’t know then was how much more this email would mean to me a few years down the road!

Three and a half years later, when I returned from Pakistan after Papa passed away, the first thing I did was print that email and put it up on my refrigerator where I could see it all the time. Reading it in those early days felt like he was talking to me, and it gave me motivation to go on. It guided me through those painful early months. It is so amazing the impact of our words. When we write them we don’t really know the places they will reach and the time barriers they will cross. Even when my father isn’t there, the words he wrote remain. Every time it is feeling especially hard to get through the realization in my head that I cant talk to him, I read these words and I feel peace in my heart. It is like he is talking to me, it is like he knows, he understands how hard it has been, and in a strange way, he is guiding me on how to get through this.

Though he wrote them years before he passed away, it seems like they were written for right now, for this time for our fears and tears, and the struggles we face today. Papa you were and always will remain our hero and our guide. Thank you for everything. May you always be in God’s best care. Ameen.

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Thanks for reading and stopping by.


FYI

1Valima is translated as a marriage feast and the second of the two traditional parts of an Islamic wedding and its arranged by the groom’s family.

2Islamabad, the capital, and Karachi, the largest city, are almost 1000 miles apart in distance and are very different cities in their own ways.