Happy Sandy-versary

Happy Sandy-versary!

The raging winds have finally calmed down-so have my nerves and my fast beating heart. Today is a calmer day, with the sun peeping through thick cumulus clouds, so unlike the stereotypical grey skies of London. The air is cooler and crisp; thank the Lord for finally bringing in a cold front. Never thought I would be thanking for a cold day, but the hotter than normal weather brought in a surprise for Londoners. What are the odds for Hurricane St. Jude to fall a day shy of my sandy-versary all the way across the pond! I swear I am cursed! It may have been scarier than normal for most Londoners, but for me it was DEJAVU pangs of anxiety. If the 62 mph winds weren’t knocking the wind out of me, I would have even had sense to laugh at the irony. Come to think of it, I may have laughed, but it was more a nervous laughter than the kind of laughter one laughs after realizing the hilarity of a situation.

Clear blue skies the day after St. Jude
Clear blue skies the day after St. Jude

 

Mostly when I think of Sandy, it seems surreal. I often question whether we really went through those circumstances? The clumps of hair that I continue to lose are an affirmation of the reality of the ordeal from a year ago. The beautiful thing about time is that it passes and it tends to fly. It has been a year since I went through Sandy-which I can safely term as one of the top worst times of my life. The impact of Sandy may not be much on my daily life, other than the odd times when my olfactory senses will be overwhelmed with the smell that I have come to term as the “Sandy smell”, or when I will be reminded of the odd thing or two that were drowned by this catastrophe, however yesterday night, the impact of that storm became wildly apparent. It is true a storm will change you forever, whereas, I used to enjoy the odd gusts of wind in the past, those same gusts left me almost paralyzed with fear and up all night. My wild imagination ran rampant with all that could possibly go wrong with the 62 mph winds beating down my balcony door-for example the trash can lying on the balcony that posed the real threat of being rammed through the glass door, thereby leaving us exposed to all the elements! You would think surviving through a storm would prepare you for any such disaster again. Think again, fear and secondary trauma my dear friends can leave you unprepared. The almost repeat of similar circumstances on the anniversary of my Sandy experience made my stormy weather roommate to suggest that I follow in the footsteps of Helen Hunt in Twister and find my new calling as a storm chaser. I had to inform her that I may have survived through that stressful situation, but I am a colossal wuss and don’t see myself being a storm chaser extraordinaire anytime soon.

Dark Clouds as the gusts pick up
Dark Clouds as the gusts pick up
A piece of paper making a run at 62mph
A piece of paper making a run at 62mph

A lot has changed since that dreadful night of the 29th of October in 2012, for example I no longer reside in that ground floor apartment; heck I no longer even live on the same continent. Not only was I lucky enough to not have to restart my post-sandy life in that God forsaken apartment, I was lucky enough to be moved across the pond to start anew. The stressful move at that time across the Atlantic surely proved to be a blessing in disguise. They say once you step in a river neither you nor the river will ever be the same again. I had part of the New York bay and 6 feet of Hudson river in my apartment, and although I did not wade through the murderous waters, I did spend more than 3 weeks salvaging the pieces of my life through the muck that it left behind-therefore, I can say with certainty that it has changed me.

What last night reminded me is that no matter that you survived your first storm; a subsequent encounter does not necessarily mean you will be better prepared. Of course the principal of once bitten, twice shy would dictate extra precaution on your part the next time around; which is exactly why I no longer reside on a ground floor. We actively sought for a place away from the water and 6 storey high because of our little Sandy-experience, but precisely because we are 6 floors higher than the last time, I was unprepared to deal with the unexpected storm from last night. Whilst going through the Sandy ordeal, I had taken mental and written notes to later convert them into a guide on how to survive through a hurricane, but playing ostrich became a vital part of survival and I never actually got around to doing that. On my Sandy-versary, I wanted to bring that ostrich head of mine out from under the sand and start on that guide (which I will start putting together in the coming weeks and could be found here.)

Disaster preparedness-at its best
Disaster preparedness for Sandy-at its best

What I can leave you tonight is a starter kit to surviving through a storm! The kit needs to consist of:

1. Great sense of humour
2. Faith
3. The ability to roll your sleeves up and get dirty
4. Tenacity
5. And an ample dosage of great friends and family-this last one is of utmost importance because everyone has fair weather friends, only a handful of people are lucky to have stormy weather friends-and stormy weather friends are forever!

friends-are-forever-triple-31000

The truth of the matter is that the Sandy days are behind me but the experience will live with me eternally. Perhaps overtime it too will fade in memory, but the generosity, love, and care that my dear friends showed me will live with me forever. I look back on that terrible time not with anger, but rather nostalgia. What I lost that day were material goods, but what I gained goes far beyond the material world. I learned the beauty, strength and the human will for survival, I experienced shared grief, communal generosity; I earned gratitude, fortitude and patience. Most of all, I learned to cherish and love my friends who took us in when the roof over our head had 6 feet of water below it. On the anniversary of Sandy, I choose to be thankful first and foremost to God for giving my husband and I the mental and physical strength to survive through it, for putting friends into our lives who had such big and generous hearts and for letting us be of the few who were affected very little by Sandy. I choose to be thankful to every single person, friend, family, community member who stood by us, whether it be in providing shelter, helping us through the clean up process, letting us use their showers to clean ourselves up, for acting as movers to help move our belongings, helping us carry our dirty laundry, for providing emotional and moral support when physical support was impossible, for their prayers and best wishes, for words of encouragement, for providing entertainment and humour and of course who generously cooked for us. A big thank you to all those who suffered equally with us, yet offered a helping hand as neighbours and community members. I may have digital images of the disaster, but I have feelings of love and gratitude towards all those family and friends who supported us that cannot be captured in any digital format. To the bonds of friendship that became stronger due to Sandy I say Sandy wasn’t a disaster at all!

Happy Sandy-versary!

“Black man’s murderer got away with murder”-hardly ever the headline!

I feel an immense rage reverberating through my body—!! Just read that the only ethnic Juror (B29-Maddy) on the Zimmerman case has come out claiming that she knows that “Zimmerman ‘got away with murder’ for killing Trayvon Martin and feels she owes an apology Martin’s parents”. Well, thank you for your apology as that undoes the colossal mistake that you made and the years of oppression and mistrust! Aghh! I am so angry, I can hardly see the screen and hardly type because my hands are shaking in anger. So, I am sorry if what I say in the next few paragraphs make no sense at all. Image

This proves there was so much wrong with this trial–Really don’t care, if someone says it had nothing to do with race, it had a lot to do with race. Zimmerman’s legal team went out of their way to play on the black is dangerous stereotype by painting him in the same manner.  In the original call, Zimmerman is asked by the dispatcher what the ethnicity of the kid is and he says he is “black” (1:03).  The story is about race because it is a white man suspecting a black man of being dangerous. The man has bragging rights for walking away from murder—Not sure how the jurors will live knowing that because of their verdict, there is a guilty man walking around free to kill again!

and this is why the Jury system is so very dangerous!
“Zimmerman concedes he shot and killed Martin in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012, but maintains he fired in self-defense.
“That’s where I felt confused, where if a person kills someone, then you get charged for it,” Maddy (Juror B29) said. “But as the law was read to me, if you have no proof that he killed him intentionally, you can’t say he’s guilty.”

“As much as we were trying to find this man guilty…they give you a booklet that basically tells you the truth, and the truth is that there was nothing that we could do about it,” she said. “I feel the verdict was already told.”

Law is seldom just black and white (no pun intended)-it is the application of that law that makes it hold any merit or value. A crash course in the form of a booklet is not the best  way of deciding someone’s fate. An ordinary person may not have the knowledge or understanding of the law to its extent (especially when it is presented to them in a shortened version)! Plus, human beings are ALMOST NEVER able to make decisions without other personal factors affecting how they relate to a certain story. We don’t live in a vaccum! The all white panel could NOT have felt the empathy, nor understood the threat the young black man felt as they have not been subjected to years of suspicious scrutiny–It is precisely because of the lack of feeling that scrutiny that we had Juror B37, making a statement on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show, that she believes Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place” when he became suspicious of Martin and that the teenager probably threw the first punch. This is a classic example of the woman accepting the mainstream narrative that if he is black, you probably should fear him and the likelihood of him throwing the first punch is of a higher probability–never mind that all this testimony was one-sided from the killer himself, since the other witness was buried six feet under anyways!

Juror B29 is a blatant example of groupthink in action in our society. Groupthink “is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.” That is exactly what happened here. Juror B29 could have continued not agreeing and they could have deliberated some more, but hey who wants to be the sore thumb standing up against the grain right?

THIS is also the precise reason why we should NOT stop talking about such atrocities. If it feels wrong, it probably IS wrong! And why should the Trayvon Martin story concern any of us, especially if you are not black? Well, because if you are a minority, you better understand and recognize the system of oppression that exists in the form of White Privilege. And why should it concern you if you are white, because there are enough people out there who will use the colour of their skin (white) to use their white privilege whereby putting all of the good white guys and white girls  (and I believe there are More of them than the haters) as part of a big group of people who are complacent. This only adds fuel to the already existing racial tensions that exist in the world and creates further mistrust. Oh and also simply because this sort of injustice is ABSOLUTELY wrong and immoral.

I am not black, but I can relate to the anger my fellow black friends are feeling. This anger comes from a place of being under the lens for far too long as a minority- where my religion and my faith have been put to trial the same way as the colour of their skin. And even though our struggles are different, but the resulting pain and anger is a actually very similar sentiment!!

In the words of rap group N.W.A “F*** the Police,” the law agencies, the jurors, the system of oppression, the oppressors!

Ramadan Reflections: My Room

I am currently visiting my parents in Vancouver. They still live in the same house that I last lived in before I moved to the East coast 3 years ago. I am very nomadic when I visit my family. The other day, it hit me that I can no longer lay claim to my room as “my room” since  my baby sister has completely taken over it. She and I shared this particular room for 5 years and had been roommates for 13 years before I moved away. Whenever I visit my family, my stays are of longer durations.  My family is always excited to have me over and do everything in their capacity to ensure my comfort. One of the bedrooms is almost always made available for me to stay in, however, I get anxious and have troubles sleeping in a new space, so I generally crash on the couch in the living room. Our home (3 years since I moved away, and I still can’t refer to it as just my parents home, but ours) is not huge, but a cozy little place. growing up here, that was one of the things that I loved most about it. It was sometimes hard to really find privacy (which would get annoying), but you always felt the presence of the people in the house. At times, it seemed to be a small home, but for our family of 6, it served its purpose.

Since I moved out, it meant that each sibling had a room of their own and basically a private space. We managed well in this home of ours. Since, I don’t see this house as separate from my existence,  there really is never any need for any sort of formality. Comfort to me is not defined by my convenience but by the convenience of the hosts that I am visiting. Sometimes,  to me, requiring a private space to sleep in is not important when I visit, but this very Bedouin-like attitude of mine is in fact what impedes their normal routine.

It occurred to me that although when I was around, there was 6 of us who managed fine in this space, but now that there are 5, somehow that same space seems small when the 6th member of the family rejoins. I started thinking about the irony of life, that once people who are integral parts of our homes, and lives, can all of a sudden seem to be the very cause of disturbances. Like molecules that are constantly moving and adjusting according to the space allotted to them, human beings do the same.  My room is no longer mine, but rather I am a guest in the house. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t behave as a guest, nor am I made to feel unwelcome or as a disturbance, but I am no longer an everyday part of their lives. The layout of the house and the natural flow of the space is now adjusted to be managed without my being there, hence my very presence disturbs the equilibrium of this home.

Life, as a cycle is cruel! As children, we are entirely dependent on our parents, our lives unimaginable or even non-existent without their constant care and nourishment. As we grow up, we crave our own personal spaces, so we move away. I remember when I was younger,  I always thought I could not live without my family for a day, let alone spend 3 years away from them. Being the eldest, I had a lot of responsibility placed onto me. My parents, out of habit always called out my name first when they needed something, before they called out any of my other siblings. There was a huge dependence and reliance on me. Similarly, I was so used to just having everyone around me, that the very thought of not being around them was crippling. It would shake me to my core and I would spend sleepless nights crying; yet I have survived the past 3 years, and so have they. It is not to say we don’t miss one another or even miss each others’ constant presence in our lives, it is just that life takes over.

I often think about my grandparents who have passed away. My maternal grandfather passed away 21 years ago and my maternal grandmother passed away almost about 9 years ago. I think how my mother lives without them in her life? I wonder how my father lives without his dad, who passed away 4 years ago. Our time on this earth is limited, we are bound to each other in relationships of love and nurture. We deem ourselves incomplete, and incapable of living without one another, yet life stops for no one. It continues its vicious cycle of living. Time flows seconds into minutes into hours, into days into weeks into years into decades into centuries. We all come to this world, and leave. When we leave, we cause pain to those we leave behind. At those moments life seems impossible to live, yet we too find the strength and the will to continue living. First we miss our loved ones every waking moment of our lives, then it becomes every other day, slowly, we miss them on happy occasions, or remember them on the day they passed away. Those  people who were once crucial to our very survival , their memories start to fade and they become a distant, hazy image in our heads. Everyone around adjusts and makes themselves a little more comfortable in the space those loved ones once occupied. There remains no empty or extra space.

Just like my room is no longer mine, this earth is also one day not going to be mine. We all do return to Him. Our time on this earth is temporary and short, yet we spend majority of our time inconveniencing everyone around, when we all know we will leave one day. We spend our lives making strong buildings, and yearning to earn unlimited amounts of money for a future time we cannot guarantee we will have. In the process often times, we burn bridges, break hearts, humiliate, keep animosities, lie, cheat and deceive, all for our temporary existence and comfort  in this world. Before I moved away, at times I would feel that my family didn’t value me enough, and I deluded myself into believing that once I was away, they would realize how dependent they are on me. I think we all become slaves to the idea of others existence somehow dependent on us. Yes, we are interdependent, but no life ends with another. It is arrogant to believe my non-existence would somehow stop the world. Coming back to visit my paternal home this Ramadan has been a humbling experience because I realized that once where I was an integral part of my family’s daily life, they have been forced to adjust without me, just as I am forced to without them. This does not mean that our love for one another has diminished, but just that we have learnt to manage without one another.

Our lives should not be slaves to our ego’s desire to be the centre of attention, nor should we live in a life of delusion to think that somehow the world revolves around us. Those of us who live today are blessed to experience this beautiful month of Ramadan. How many of us will live to see the next Ramadan, none of us know. May we all gain the blessings of this month and may we be granted another day to live and utilize the blessings within this blessed month. May we continue to realize the temporary state of our stay in this world, even after this month of Ramadan is over and may we continue to live our lives to the fullest servitude of Allah rather than the worldly possessions and whims (Ameen).

Ramadan Reflections-Moon where art thou?

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar. It is the most blessed month where the Shayateen (devils and his chaplains) are chained up and we are basically left to our own vices and no one to blame for our bad behaviour. Imam Khalid Latif of ICNYU is submitting daily reflections to the Huffington post, which I find truly inspiring, so I thought, why not take sometime daily and reflect. After all, isn’t the month of Ramadan about taking a deeper look at oneself?

I am obviously 4 days behind in my reflections, but my very first reflection began on the night when we begin the tedious battle to sight the one moon our earth has been blessed with. Like every year, there was a confusion, some people started on Friday the 20th, while others started on the 21st. Every year, I find myself getting angry at this lack of unity between the Ummah. If we cant seem to agree on the day the moon is sighted, how in the world can we agree on other matters of graver consequences?

Every year, I find myself cursing, being agitated and irritated. This year, the confusion was still there. Since, I am visiting my parents in Vancouver from NYC, I am 3 hours behind from my counterparts on the East Coast. I got an email from the ICNYU declaring Friday as the day for Fasting. I waited anxiously to hear form our Local Masajids to see when they would declare it to be Ramadan. Vancouver is generally a city of overcast days, which of course adds to the dilemma of sighting the moon. As luck would have it, Thursday night was a beautiful clear night. Our local mosques finally declared that Ramadan was not beginning on Friday as it was for Saudi Arabia or as followed by ISNA. Generally, by about this time, I am pretty angry, and thus begins the month of Ramadan on a very sour note. However, this year was different; maybe I am finally maturing, maybe I have been too preoccupied to really delve deeper into the matter, or maybe because I decided last year to pay closer attention to Mufti Google:).

 

I was out late on Thursday night rekindling contacts with my old University mates, maybe it was that feeling of rejuvenation that this whole moon sighting fiasco didn’t send me hurling down anger lane. I came home, realized that it was not Ramadan as per the local mosques and went on my merry way to check what Mufti Google’s moon app has to say? As it were, iGoogle showed the moon at 1% waning (new moon). 1% waning to be viewed by the naked eye is perhaps a tad difficult to accomplish, so there is room for negotiating the start date of Ramadan by using this traditional method of moon sighting. Similarly, Islam makes allowance to utilize the scientific breakthroughs and come to a conclusion. Either way, whoever decided to fast Friday was just as safe as one who decided to start on Saturday. I, for one decided to start fasting on Friday. I still followed the beginning of Ramadan with the local mosques here as Saturday and to offer Taraweeh prayers starting Friday night, but my logic to start fasting was that even if it is not Ramadan, then I get the reward for nafil Fasting, and if it is indeed Ramadan, then I ended up fasting on the right day.

I am by no means well-versed in the matters pertaining to my religion and faith. There is significant disagreement within the Islamic Scholars on various topics of Islam and it ends up becoming a bone of contention for many Muslims growing up in the present day. I suffer from the same day in and day out, including the debate around the start dates of Ramadan and the Eids. However, for some reason I reacted much more calmly and logically this year than I did last year. I recall, the same confusion around Eid time after Ramadan, and I remember being so furious that I am sure my entire fast that day was wasted. A lot of this agony perhaps from from feeling left out. Ramadan and Eid are such festivals that there is joy in celebrating it together as one. It feels miserable to be fasting when some are celebrating Eid or you feel guilty when some are fasting and you are still eating. I don’t think there is a solution that would make everyone happy, but the lesson to learn here is to try to not react badly in such situations.  One of the beautiful things about this religion is the vast diversity of people that are part of its make up. Celebrating on two different days is part of that diversity.

Happy Ramadan to All my brothers and sisters around the globe. We are lucky and blessed to share together this month of goodness despite distances, time zones and different start dates!!!

 

 

Pay to snuggle !!!

http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/shine-on/snuggery-york-woman-hopes-living-snuggling-60-hour-173322575.html

I am going to sound judgemental from here on, but how much money do people have in their lives to pay someone to snuggle with them? I understand the importance of touch and meaningful relationships, but does cuddling with some random stranger for the sake of releasing the feel good hormones really “normal” and should we really accept it as “normal”?

I am not denying one’s need to want to feel that physical touch. Touch is a powerful sense. The human psyche is complicated indeed, and it is difficult for me to comprehend why someone would pay to cuddle? Whatever happened to actually getting out there and working towards having meaningful relationships? Why is it okay for someone to capitalize on a “natural need” and make it a business? We are allowing for people to further marginalize and disintegrate from society and promoting isolation. Research shows that cuddling lowers levels of cortisol, strengthens the immune system, and lowers blood pressure, but I am going to argue that paid cuddling to fulfill that physical void without the emotional connectivity of a relationship is only going to offer the benefits in the short-term and not in the long term. Human beings are social creatures. We are meant to mingle, make friends, get into long term relationships, have families and build communities. We were not meant to just live in isolation. How much of our times have we dedicated to the pursuit of money that we have no time to build meaningful relationships and communities?

The very basic premise of this idea of seeing a “need” and then starting a business to fulfill that need perpetuates that money can buy happiness. What lessons and what kind of community are we leaving behind as legacy for our future generation? We are basically saying it is okay to be lazy and not need to have relationships or to work to have relationships (relationships in all its forms, friendship, family, society, even with God etc)? Why are we not trying to work to make holistic individuals, rather than just being able to buy every emotional desire? Why?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand how hard it is sometimes to meet people you want to have relationships with. It is not easy, but anything worth having is generally not easy. Relationships by definition are not easy and require work and effort. I guess, this is our quick way of paying for something just so we don’t have to work for it? Why are going further towards a life that is unfulfilled? I also cannot ignore the obvious problem with this model, $60 an hour for cuddling means only those who can afford it can fulfill this need of theirs; therefore, only the rich have the means to be able to do this, whilst the not so rich are left to the good old tactics of having to do things the old fashioned way.

Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy or am I crazy?