My 2012 in Retrospect

Dec 31, 2011: This was the plan for our halal New Year’s Eve bash – Watch Sherlock Holmes, dinner at Salad King, skating at harbour front, dessert at Crepes and then Nathan Philips Square for the fireworks welcoming the New Year. This was my second time at Nathan’s for the fireworks, the first time was for the Y2K, I remember everyone was extremely happy that the world didn’t end then or maybe they were all just drunk. Now we were beginning a year in which the Mayan’s believed the world would end. This is just going to end like the story ‘The boy who cried wolf’. The next time someone says the world is going to end, no will believe them and we will all perish blissfully.

I don’t remember much of the fireworks, it was pitiful, the cold and the crowd were more memorable. We got pushed out by the crowd, and with useless instructions from an officer we found our way to the subway. That night ended with all of us swearing never to come to Nathan’s for NYE ever again, this is one promise I’ll keep.

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Jan-March 2012: The first three month’s weren’t all that memorable apart from a couple of snow storms. Actually we got it easy this year; it was a pretty mild winter in Toronto. I got a bad feeling that 2013 may make up for the lack of snow this year. One main incident was when I went for dinner with three other hijabi friends of mine at Red Lobster (No more Red Lobster in 2013!). We were served by a Muslim brother (his name was Iftikhar). When the final bill came we noticed that the desserts weren’t on it. We pointed this out when he came and he told us not to worry about itJ. Fellow Muslim brother treated his sisters in Islam. Yes we gave him a hefty tip! This was one of the few kind gestures I came across this year.

Mid-March: I hated my job; I was miserable and was praying for a way out.  Then I finally got an interview with an Engineering Firm that I had been applying to since I graduated. The day before the interview I had stepped out to drop off my cousin at Uni. In the 7-8 mins that I was out of the house, my parents received the news that my mom’s older brother in California had passed away from a heart attack in his sleep. I’ll never forget nor cease to be amazed at all that transpired in the next 5 five days. It taught me that we have absolutely no control over our life; it is the almighty up above that is moving all the pieces. Allahu Akbar (God is Great)! To him we belong and to him we return.

I did go for the interview the next morning; however I didn’t get the job. It didn’t matter; there was a bigger loss for me to be concerned about.

April: One of my best friends told me their workplace was hiring so they forwarded my CV/cover letter to the manager. Most of the month I was occupied with the interview process. Also, I was greatly let down by some people who I thought were my friends. I was infuriated, I wanted to do something to prove them that I don’t need them. However, everyone advised me against doing anything rash and just to be patient as there would be more opportunities in the future. They were all right; the opportunity presented itself 2 months later: D… again Allahu Akbar!

May: On the 3rd of May, I got a call on my cell phone while I was at work. This was a call I was waiting for weeks now. I knew who it was and said a small prayer before answering it. I put her on hold for a while as I ran into the ‘sick room’ and locked the doors. Then I jumped up and down as she told me that I GOT THE JOB! YES, I’M GETTING OUT THE BOONIES AND BACK TO THE CITY! Went back to my cubicle and googled how to write a resignation letter. Then approached two of my mangers and asked to speak with them, they knew what was coming. Great people, they were genuinely happy for me.  Allahu Akbar!

June: After you get a job the first two things you look at on your contract are: pay+bonus and VACATION! My best friend and I wanted to go somewhere and it didn’t take us long to decide/plan to go to NYC for a week. I have been wanting to go to NYC ever since I first saw it in Home Alone 2. I have tried several times previously but to no avail. In retrospect I am extremely happy that the earlier plans had failed. Sure at those times I was upset, but clearly God had better plans for me.

One entire week in NYC! We flew there and stayed in Times Square.

Day 1: If you ever go to NYC, take one of those taxi vans to your hotel. The way those guys drive is an experience itself! Once we got to our hotel we dropped off our luggage at the lobby as our room still wasn’t ready. It was a Saturday so there was a street that was closed up and food/merchandise stalls were set up along the way. We got some crepes for breakfast and walked throughout the bazaar doing some shopping here and there. Then we went back to our room and got ready to go to New Jersey. We took a bus from Times Square that took us to NJ where we met a friend who picked us up and drove us around. I had specifically asked to Hoboken to visit Carlos Bakery. Hoboken is a posh yet charming town. Once we got to Carlos we saw a long line that snaked across two blocks. I was relentless; I’m here so I’m having something from Carlos! We stood in line for about 1.5 before we got inside the bakery. Omg the choices… just like how you see it on the show Cake Boss. I went for the classic cheesecake with strawberries. IT WAS THE BEST CHEESECAKE EVER! Totally worth the 1.5 hour wait! So I then crossed off ‘Visit Carlos Bakery’ off my bucket list. Then we went to Liberty Park and saw the NY skyline.. Fine it is more majestic than Toronto’s skyline. After that we headed back to our hotel and our friend insisted on getting us chai from their favourite Pakistani Restaurant. So we had Kashmiri Chai from a Pakistani Restaurant in New York City… globalization for the win! Note to self: NEVER drink piping hot chai in a moving vehicle. We finished our chai sitting on the red stairs at time square while being entertained by all the various lunatics that this great city is home to.

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Day 2: I had booked a day trip to Washington D.C. not realizing that it’s 4 hour drive each way. We had to be at the bus terminal near grand central station by 7 am. Woke up at 5:30 and headed out hoping there is some place where we can get breakfast. Thankfully there was a breakfast place called Carve open. The owner saw me and immediately said Salam, the place was run by Yemeni Muslims. We went for breakfast at that place for the rest of the week as we developed familiarity with the owner and he treated us like his daughters.

When we got to the terminal there was already a huge crowd waiting for their respective buses. When the bus for DC came, it was only for Spanish/Portuguese tourists. After some scrambling we found out there was no bus for 10 of us that had booked an English Tour. We had to wait for an hour or so as they arranged a smaller van for us. In our group there were five Malaysians, a family from Mumbai, India and us two. Once we reached DC, the driver/tour guide would drop us off at each location and give us a time limit to spend before returning to the van. At first, we were like what 20 mins that’s not enough. But after going to the first attraction itself, we realized we didn’t need more time than he gave us. After the first stop, the Indians were late in coming back. In the second stop, it was the Malaysians and of course we the Canadians were always on time! By the third stop, everyone was conditioned and promptly returned to the van. Having been to Ottawa three times, I thought Canada had a boring capital. However DC proved me wrong, at least Ottawa had character. The Canadians don’t give two sticks about the Prime Minister, they go about doing their business. But in Umreeka, it was all about the President, almost as if they worshipped him. Everywhere we went in DC, there were police officers everywhere telling us not walk here or there, do this do that. It was a hostile environment.

We spent about 4 hours in DC, which was sufficient to cover all the major attractions. It was actually better that we were part of a smaller group, it was faster to move from one location to the next and we all actually got to know one another. The 17 year old daughter of the Indian couple highly entertained us with her innocence.

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Day 3: We got the two day pass for the Hop on/off double decker tours. So pretty much spent the entire day on the bus, covered uptown, midtown and night tour that took us into Brooklyn as well. Halfway during the day we got off near NYU however didn’t quite know how to get there. I had wanted to pray the afternoon prayer there at the Islamic University. So we were looking around to who we can ask for directions  when my friend was like ‘look there is a Hijabi, maybe she is going to NYU as well’. I ran up and tapped her on the back. It turned out she did go to NYU and she offered to take us to the Islamic Centre herself. Oddly enough we bumped into her two other times that week. I loved the prayer area at NYU, it was new, clean, spatial and was overlooking the Washington Park, which is gorgeous. Afterwards we decided to walk to Bleecker st. in Greenwich Village to get cupcakes from Magnolia bakery (totally overrated).

Day 4: Again took the double decker all over the city and stopped at various places; shopping at Macy’s, walked across the Brooklyn bridge, checked out the NYC library, hands down my favourite building, went to the Empire state building, and then headed back to our hotel to rest for bit. About 30 minutes before midnight we headed over to Times Square and sat on the red stairs. I wanted to spend the last minutes of my 23rd year soaking in the NYC surroundings. As the clock chimed 12, another girl was also  celebrating her birthday on those stairs. Her group of friends starting singing happy birthday as she blew the candles on the cake. I did not have a cake, candles or a choir singing happy birthday. I had my best friend who is the world to me and I didn’t need anything else.

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Day 5: What does a 24 year old do first thing on her birthday? I went on the Ferris wheel at the huge Toy Store on Times Square. We were the only ones without any kids in our carriage, we didn’t care , we were kids at heart and shall remain that way irrespective of our age! Then we headed over to catch the ferry for the Statue of Liberty tour. Afterwards we stood in line to get cheap tickets to Zarqana and we did get amazing seats at 50% of the regular price. After lunch we went to Madam Taussads. Then rested at the hotel before leaving for Zarqana. It was amazing, one of the best cirque’s I’ve seen and I’m sure the fact that it was at Radio City Hall made it more magical. Dinner was at shake shack, best veggie burger ever!

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Day 6: We walked A LOT!! From mid-town we walked uptown through central park up until the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Then we went to the Met and walked around for another two hours. Then walked all the way back to our hotel and crashed! After dinner, went to watch Wicked on Broadway, it was awesome to say the least.

Day 7: Believe it or not, we ran out of things to do. So we slept in and woke up in time to pack our luggage. Had brunch at shake shack and went for Jummah at NYU. The Khateeb was Imam Khalid Latif. I’ve never heard of him before so I was in for a pleasant surprise. The khutbah (sermon) was reminder for us to prepare for Ramadan which was coming in less than two months. I’ve heard khutbas on this topic several times before in the previous years, but for some reason this one really got to me. This was the first time I’ve listened to it fully from beginning to end. Also the first time I’ve ever teared up at a Jummuah. All that happened in the past week just sank in during that half an hour. I had an amazing week, loved every bit of it. I realized that none of it would have been possible if it wasn’t for my dad. I was grateful to my dad because of whom I had a great education, good job and the luxury to make the dream of going to NYC a reality.

Just as khutbah was ending, it started pouring. A couple of hours later as we were heading back to our hotel to get a taxi to the airport, the sky came down. We made it on time to La Guardia only to stand in super long lines. I stood in one while my friend stood in another. People around me started talking about various flight cancellations. Just when I was getting sick of looking at signs every two meters flashing ‘GOD BLESS OUR TROOPS’ my friend came to get me. So our flight was cancelled and the attendant was trying to get us in an earlier flight, but to no avail as we were too late. We were put into a flight the next morning and they didn’t give us a hotel as this was a ‘weather related delay’ (never fly AA!). So basically we were given the choice of getting a hotel on our own, or to sleep in the airport. So we called our friend in NJ who let us stay over for the night. We lugged our suitcases and got on a bus to NJ where our friend was picking us up. The one good thing that came out of this delay was getting to see the NYC skyline at night time, it sure was a sight to remember. We were slightly annoyed, but at the same time we didn’t mind at all and just took it in the moment. It was an experience, an adventure, a story to learn from.

July: For the first time in my lifetime, Ramadan came during summer vacations. Previous year, I was jobless, at home so pretty much slept through most of Ramadan :$. But this year, I had a full time job and I had to commute, it wasn’t going to be easy. Alhamdulillah  it became easier with every day and was one of the most memorable Ramadan  yet.

August: Just the previous month I was having a casual conversation with a friend of mine about visiting Chicago, and it’s amazing how some chit chat can end up being real. My family wanted to go on a road trip somewhere and we ended up going to Chi city for five days. I drove the entire time, and it was the longest I’ve ever driven; 9 hours each way. We visited all the major attractions, it is a charming city; absolutely loved the architecture, the skyline, navy pier, lake shore and the feel of the city. However all of our major complain was the lack of non-Western food, we swore never to eat McD’s or Subway ever again. Also there were no food carts anywhere, as there were in NYC. All I ask for is ONE falafel cart and the Chicago experience would have been a whole better!

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Sept – December: After Ramadan, I try to maintain that spiritual high you get whilst fasting. I do it usually through taking various Islamic courses. During these four months, I took a couple of classes, read some books and attended conferences all of which revolved around the life of the Prophet. Reading about the struggles the Prophet (s.a.w) went through during the prophethood gives you a whole new perspective to your own life. The problems that we face in today’s world are child’s play compared to what the Prophet (s.a.w) went through. I am not belittling the ordeals that we face by any means. It’s just you realize that no hardship is insurmountable ! Well, that’s what I realized anyway… and in good time too.

During these four months, I didn’t have much going on at work or school work to be worried about. So emotions that I had buried deep inside me for over 8 years started spewing out like a volcano. I hadn’t realized but I had so much anger within me. As in every other problem the first step to resolving it is acknowledging that you have a problem. This was the easy step, now  taking  the necessary measures to resolve those issues and  to fight the anger makes climbing Mount. Everest seem like a walk in the park.

Why did I write this post (took me forever!)?

I’ve heard people say they can look back at their life and pin point at one instance in their life when life took a drastic turn for the better (in most cases). In my case, it’s not a specific moment but this entire year. 2012 has opened my eyes, tried my emotions, and showed me what I need to do  to fix my life. And now I just need to DO IT! I have a long road ahead and as the saying goes, ‘if you’re going to eat an elephant, you gotta start with the first bite!’

As for 2013…

Long gone are the days when I received million ‘Happy New Year’ wishes. I’ve also stopped sending them. However, I did see a couple of statuses and posts that were meaningful.

‘There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.’ –  C.S. Lewis

FB status bymy friend N.Thambi

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Regardless of what this year has been for you, tonight celebrate the successes  you’ve had and the blessings in disguise that have made you stronger and wiser. And tomorrow we get a fresh start J

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The chief beauty about time

Is  that you cannot waste it in advance.

The next year, the next day, the next hour

Are lying ready for you,

As perfect, as unspoiled,

As if you had never wasted or misapplied

A single moment in all your life.

You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.

-Arnold Bennett

FB Status by Zaheer Abbas Molu (photographer)

‘It’s easy to say, ‘have a happy new year,’ but I’m hoping you’ll do much more for yourself and others around you so that you can have PHENOMENAL years to come!’

Lastly, from my friend N.Alam,

‘This 2013, continue to open your heart to loved ones,

Be honest, challenge yourself, and never stop having fun.

Maybe you’ll be sad, maybe you’ll go through a lot;

But “believe in yourself” is what I was taught.

Love yourself, and lose all your fear.

This is my advice, happy Gregorian new year!’

 

 

Dear 2013, I’m coming  for you…

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The next five years…

As one year ends and another begins, I often reflect on how my life has changed over the years. What was I doing last year at this time, am I better off or worse.

I recently came across a journal with Q&A for each day for five years. This way you can see how your life changes. Loved it and bought it immediately. So I shall be documenting my life from 2013-2017 by answering one question a day. (If I am alive. .)

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