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

Thoughts on ‘Ho Mann Jahaan’

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I was so excited when I found out Ho Mann Jahaan, was coming to our area and last weekend I took my little girl along and we went to see it.  (Over the summer while in Pakistan, she went with us to see a few of the Pakistani movies that were out and knowing this would be kid-friendly too I thought it would be fun). Because of the mixed reviews I had read, I went in with low expectations and 3 hours(!) later left with a good feeling!

Since Khuda Keh Liye, there have been a number of movies made on social issues that have been absolutely amazing, the best of which include Bol and Dukhtar, there is still a place for commercial, lighter movies that can be more widely enjoyed. Movies that also stay true to Pakistani Entertainments’ roots of being family-friendly, the way Pakistan’s cinema and TV entertainment were in the old days and that we have heard about all of our lives.

(Pakistan had a flourishing cinema industry till it’s decline began in the late 70’s. Pakistani Television produced classics that are still remembered in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and has again boomed in the last decade or so)

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Ho Mann Jahaan was a visual treat much like most of the movies I saw over the summer with my family. Beautifully shot, it made Karachi look picture perfect. From the beach to the Railway station scenes and the beautiful tree lined roads as the characters sped on that scooter with the pop of red helmets! I loved the styling, from the bohemian inspired interiors especially the house belonging to Mahira‘s character layered with beautiful art and textures (I saw Khaadi’s name in the sponsors and their presence really stood out) and well as the beautiful rooftop scenes were such a treat to watch!

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But then most of the recent movies have been really pleasing on the eyes (including this and this) and I liked this one a little better because despite the simple story that it was, it tried to convey a few messages in a non-preachy kind of way. The underlying message of letting our children dream their own dreams is an important one for our culture, where wanting to be an artist of any kind is seldom encouraged by the parents whether they belong to any class of the society.

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I liked that the main focus of the movie was the friendship between the three characters and because of the chemistry between the characters, it was very relatable. I loved each of the parent-child relationship that was shown and how each had glimpses of so many Pakistani parent-child relationships. Like the dad who spends his lifetime’s earnings to send his son to a top university because he himself was never able to. And the parents who emotionally manipulate their son because they think they’re doing what’s best for him by not letting him pursue his dream of becoming a musician.

The music was a big plus for the movie. I like how our movies are not trying to do ‘filmy’ songs and instead giving us such a beautiful variety of a soundtrack to remember for years to come. Over all for me, it was a simple, feel-good kind of a movie that was not perfect but enjoyable.

I do feel that they could’ve done better in many ways, specially a stronger story-line, and better editing. I know Bollywood does movies of that length but I really feel 3 hours is just too long to enjoy a movie.

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There’s also something else that makes me excited about this revival of cinema. You know how because of Hollywood as well as American TV shows that are literally watched all over the world, American culture is not that much of a mystery to people who’ve never even been to the States. In an ideal picture in my head, one day Pakistani cinema like this might find a way in the Foreign movies category on Netflix and those people who only get to see Pakistan when it happens to appear in shows like Homeland, will be able to experience a first-hand version of it. Thoughtfully made cinema can tell you so much about a culture, the good, the bad, the thinking, the relationships, the expectations, the lives, the hardships, the people and maybe giving others a better understanding and hence maybe more empathy? Art has a huge quality to be able to connect worlds and to bring together people in ways that politics never can and I would hope one day in the future, Pakistani cinema could bridge the gap. As my daughter grows up American with Pakistani roots in a world that tells you there is so much negative about that part of the world, I hope Anya is always able to see the other side. Maybe one day cinema from Pakistan will help her connect to us, our culture and where we come from a little better. Maybe through them, our kids will know us a little bit better!

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And for all of these reasons I feel so passionately about supporting the movies that are coming out, and despite the many flaws just making an effort to go see them! I have been a little put off by some of the movies that I saw in the last year but it feels like since the revival of Pakistani cinema of the last 2 years, we are slowly heading towards our own niche. One where we are not trying to be like Bollywood, and instead merging the strengths of our flourishing music and TV drama industry and using it to give our cinema a beautiful feel!

Have you seen Ho Mann Jahaan yet? What did you think?

#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.

Guest Book for N+H wedding

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I mentioned earlier about the photo guest book I got printed for my sister’s wedding and just wanted to share a little more about it today. I ordered the photo book via Shutterfly, and used this design with some changes. I loved the simple modern look and the bold typography of this template. Thanks to my baby sister Waliya, this lucky couple had lots of beautiful photos from their year or so of being engaged and I used all those photos in the book with empty space for messages from loved ones. A few weeks before the wedding, all of us family members started writing messages for the couple because we knew it won’t be possible on the big day with everything going on.

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All the above photos thanks to Jahanzeb Khan Photography

On the big day, we left the book out with a permanent marker to write on at the memory table we set up (More about that here) and reminded friends and extended family to leave messages/advice for the couple.

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And here is the couple, day after the wedding, reading all the messages, heartfelt, funny and full of love. Loved watching them read them out to each other mashaAllah!

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These photos above by Waliya 🙂

Thanks for stopping by. Lots of love.

On living far from your family and finding little connections.

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Living so far from our families is at the back of my mind a lot and since Anya was little, I have tried to find little ways to bring their presence into the routine of our daily lives. It is a tiny little way to say that even though we don’t get to see them here, they are an important part of us and our lives.

The other day as soon as we entered Trader Joe’s, I saw tuberoses (not usually found here) and instantly they reminded me of Pakistan and then my mom. So I put them in my cart as I told A about the connection I felt with them. I told her that every time we smell their beautiful fragrance in our house they’ll remind us of her and she got it! After we got home, she would happily snif at them, saying ‘ooh I love nani’.

And it made me wonder about what our kids will take from this; from a lifetime of seeing us miss our families. In us finding little ways to connect to our parents and families, through the recipes we make, through the flowers we bring in our houses, the books that lie on our shelves, the songs we listen to on the loneliest of evenings and the values we try to pass on to our kids. For me, all these little things are a bittersweet way to feel the presence of my family on a daily basis. Maybe that’s why Bilal and I love telling stories to A about our families.

If you are homesick, or if your heart is aching from being so far from your parents or your loved ones today (specially more so during the holiday season), try this. Share an advice or a story about them to your kids, bring your mom’s favorite fruit and tell your friends about it as you give it to them (like my friend did recently), watch your sister’s favorite movie, print out some family photos to put on your fridge or on your nightstand.. it helps to have little ways to feel their presence.

Near or far, hoping our kids (and ourselves) are surrounded by the love of our parents, siblings and loved ones for all of our lives.

How do you make the pain of living far from your family a little bearable for yourself? Would love to hear ideas.

Thanks for stopping by. Lots of love.

ALSO: On missing our families // Celebrating together when you’re far // Keeping your kids connected to your families the long distance way

Memory Table at N+H wedding

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My sister recently got married in Pakistan to my school friend. My family has known him for the longest time and we have been so excited this past year planning the wedding. Here’s a little story for you guys. 14 or so years ago when H’s dad was terribly unwell, my parents would go see him in the hospital along with other friends from the airforce family. When uncle passed away, my dad was the one to call us from the hospital. In the days that followed, we spent alot of time with H and his family as we’d go over to be with their family as much as we could. Papa encouraged us to be there for them and to do whatever was possible at such a difficult time. In the years that followed H became a regular at our house.

Fast forward to the day when my dad passed away, as news spread people started arriving at our house the same evening. I remember the moment H entered and I looked at him and it hit me.. all those years ago when we saw him and his family after his dad passed away, not once could we imagine the pain that ripped their hearts, till it hit us. It was one of those moments that felt like they happened in slow motion and as I write about it, it passes right in front of my eyes! In strange ways losses unite us!

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Anyways just thought I’d share a little background story. Earlier this year once the wedding plans started getting finalized, Waliya and I talked about the fact that we really wanted to include the memory of both the dads to the celebration. Some brainstorming and Pinterest-ing helped us come with this idea. We made a memory table to display our dads’ smiling faces with a little ‘Wish you were here’ message.

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We also displayed wedding photos of family members of both families and it was so nice having those memories in front of us as we all came together in celebration. I got a guest book printed via Shutterfly and we asked guests to leave messages or share memories for the couple. (Do check back later for a post with details on that guest book)

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Guests totally loved the idea and many family members got so emotional seeing the photos of my dad and uncle. It didn’t do much to remove the pain of not having them on such an important occasion but being able to celebrate their memory felt bittersweet!

Thanks for reading. Lots of love.

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Photo Credits: Jahanzeb Khan Photography