“Sometimes we need someone to show us, what we can’t see about ourselves.”
I love my father a lot.
I trace back his life to his very beginnings and discover reasons that justify his behaviors today. I trace back to the times when Abba lived with a completely different group of people; to the times when his own children were nonexistent; to the times when his parents and siblings were all alive. I actually don’t know that Abba. I don’t know any Abba who existed before he got married to my mother. I only ever knew Abba as a father to my older two siblings. Who was Abba before that? I can only imagine.
Every now and then Abba drifts into his past and narrates stories. He always has a subtle smile when he is narrating- almost like an indication of an ache for his past, a deep desire of that inborn happiness to return.
Abba talks about the very beginnings: his three day long sea journey into Oman for his first job. Sometimes stories of him hopping onto a pony to go to school, in India. Sometimes of the bliss of falling asleep under open, moonlit skies to the smell of wet sand, and cool breezes. Sometimes, he expresses adoration of his little brother jumping into piles of mangoes and smelling like them. Sometimes he praises his father’s simplistic views of religion. Sometimes he speaks in great resentment of his older brother who died in an automobile accident. Sometimes he speaks of his early struggles in Bombay and how his dreams would fuel his endless walks along the beach. Sometimes of his intelligent business investments he made back then that pay off to this day, AlhumdulAllah. Sometimes of the beautiful understanding of Islam he got from Saudi Imams. Sometimes he expresses bewilderment of the cruelty people showed him in times of his struggle. Sometimes about his friend- who passed away. And sometimes Abba recites urdu poetry from black-and-white movies of the times when Indian Cinema was beginning to bloom and explains the meaning of the poetry to us, sentence by sentence, word by word. If you ever look at Abba, you’ll see his entire life encapsulated, snugged tightly into his pocket. He can pull out any chapter and narrate it to you, as though it happened yesterday. It’s with him. Always.
Many years have passed. Flashing forth to today, 2013- Abba sits on the upper level of a suburban town in Southern Ontario, Canada, alhumdulAllah. Facing the computer screen, he mostly switches between NASDAQ (stock market), a local classifieds site, and YouTube. He picks and points on his keyboards, letter-by-letter, to draft emails to his customers. He leans back on his chair, sometimes, falling asleep only to wake up to a customer’s call. For breakfast, Abba, slowly and carefully climbs down the stairs, a piece of cloth tightly tied to his ankle to reduce the un-diagnosed pain that he has suffered for many years.
Abba is, overall, a joyful man, mashAllah. He enjoys cooking and serving his guests; he doesn’t like doing the dishes. Abba loves the warmth of Canadian people; he dislikes the cold. At night, he has long conversations with people in India, sometimes with people related to his past who he may not have even met. Abba can have a meaningful conversation with almost anybody. Abba is very generous-his heart is vast, mashAllah. He gets along great with his grandson.
If there is one thing missing in Abba’s life, I would say it is the recognition from an elder–and I say this as a human being and I would probably say it about any person who has no elder to look up to. I wish that somehow, Abba’s parents came to the present and commended him for the things that he has achieved- pat him on his back. I want somebody to show Abba, that we are all incredibly proud of whatever he has accomplished in his life and I want those words to come out from the mouth of an elder. Because hearing such words from someone younger is ‘flattering’. Hearing them from an elder is ‘heartwarming’–a feeling that makes you want to drop to your knees and cry. Because, after a certain age, you don’t have elders–you are the elder. That ever-present blessing that we are used to getting from our elders ceases to exist. How I wish that for Abba.
My dear readers, I wish and pray that we all acknowledge the importance of elder people in our lives -and even better, wish that we have the privilege to live with them under one roof, and reap every blessing they can ever give. Regardless of how negative, depressed or unresourceful older people can be, they will melt if you offer them kindness and blow you away with the myriad of blessings they wish upon you. Its just that sometimes, they need you to show them what they cannot see about themselves.
Belonging to a family of six, we always did a lot of road-trips. In my mind, being in a car was always the safest spot in the world- my entire family neatly arranged within my range of view, mentally swearing that we ‘live or die’ together. On our day-long, moonlit trips to Makkah, we would cheer at every speed-bump that our car would toggle over and our curious eyes would eagerly read every Arabic sign-post to gauge how close we got to our destination. Staring at the endless mirages that unbelievably gave the false impression of “a water-body ahead”; empty roads that would gleam with cat eyes as it met our tiny Suzuki’s far-reaching headlights; and repeatedly listening to the same five to six songs as we prompted Mom to flip the cassette over and over; yawning, fighting, gazing into the oh-so starry nights, lulling to sleep, one by one. The stars and the moon would shine with such fierce, contained brilliance that it almost felt like day. It had to be day somewhere-I was always convinced about that.
Burj Khalifa dazzles the Dubai skyline. Every time I glance at this magnificent beauty, I’m in complete awe of the elegance this massive structure manages to portray. Every time I step out of my office and see Burj Al Arab resting behind my metro station, I feel like the building is breathing-that is how vivid the architecture in Dubai is. When the Emirates Towers first caught my sight, I was stunned-especially because I didn’t know about it before. There is truly something unbelievable about Dubai’s architecture — but nobody ever came to Dubai in search of an understatement. The most important question that heads my way these days is “Do you like it here?” I know the answer Continue reading
Today, as I scanned through my basement’s bookshelf, my wandering eyes settled on this book: “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”-a true story. All of a sudden, my mind flashed back to the time I read this book for a “Medical Anthropology” course. It caused such a compulsive stir in my life-it made me want to take immediate action. Enter Healthcare. Now that I am working in Healthcare in Canada, I have begun to scratch the surface of what lies underneath the complexity of such devastating stories. Understanding these complexities hasn’t helped me in any way. The feeling of helplessness continues, however.
Couple years ago, the color yellow presented itself to me in the most beautiful shape/form: a song. The video of this song presented an exuberant palette of yellow. I heard this song countless times. I admired every bit about it: the situation, the video, the mood, the actors, the dancers, the singers and, of course, the music.
Now let’s step back:
A couple weeks ago when IIFA (Bollywood Stuff) was hosted in Toronto, I joined the enormous crowds to cheer endlessly for my fellow Indian celebrities. I cheered in awe of their capacity to entertain the Indian crowds and for shining a light on India that helped accelerate it’s recovery from the ‘Poor, Third World country‘ Image to what it is today. While I waited outside of the Rogers Center where the awards were being hosted, I saw celebrities pass by in their IIFA marked cars. They would modestly lower down their window and wave to the crowds. I recognized most of the celebrities. In the midst of the hundred something cars, I saw a red car and a gentleman roll down his window. I had no clue who he was. He was three feet away from me. I could easily converse with him if I wanted to. But who was he? He stared back in our direction, almost eager to see who would recognize him. He had to be someone. He was going to take a picture of us, but I turned away. My sister and I agreed that we wouldn’t pose for any ‘crazy fan’ pictures. Oh well. ‘Probably one of those technicians or cameramen’, I thought.
A couple days later I found out. My friends, the gentleman in that car was none other than the music director of the song I heard three years ago. It was Salim- (from the Salim-Sulaiman duo) who composed the song Haule Haule. I wish I could tell him how much that song meant to me. I wish.