In improv class, we have to create our reality–like go up on stage and act like we are a photographer in a museum or a participant in a yoga class. Within 5-10 seconds of when our classmates understand what ‘reality’ we created up on the stage, they come and join us and participate in our reality. As classmates we have to ask ourselves, ‘if this is true, what else is true’. For example, if there is a person on stage practicing yoga, there must be a ‘yoga’ mat somewhere, or perhaps a ‘yoga instructor’? Nevertheless, whether or not our classmates understand our reality is irrelevant– they have to act like they do, with full confidence. That’s the first lesson of improv- say yes- accept the reality that our partners have created. Once everyone is on stage, we start with spontaneously inventing dialogues that suggest the reality that we think we are in.
A scene can start with an actor illustrating a ‘chopping vegetables’ scene to imply that they are in a kitchen; their colleague may understand it as a ‘restaurant’ and join them on the stage with an impersonation of a ‘head chef’ and the following actors may act as customers in the restaurant or they may flip the whole scene around and make it look a prison. The breadth of realities that the human minds can create is bound to wow you and you leave the theatre in a state of ‘amusement’.
“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.
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.