Moments of 2013 – Part 1

The year 2013 did not start off well, which is probably the main reason why it has been the best year of my life so far.

After a tearful talk with my dad in the first few days of January I made the resolution that 2013 will be all about me, only me! Selfish, yes.. But I felt I needed it to recover my beaten soul. Having always been an adventurer I wanted to explore the world, meet new people and learn about my family’s heritage. Travelling gave me all those opportunities and it proved to be the respite I needed to revive my soul. Before you jump the gun, this post isn’t going to be about my travel escapades. I’m certain my IG will give a good picture of what I did(and ate) during my trip around the world. However, I wanted to write about the moments in the past year that couldn’t be posted on Instagram. The moments I will take with me as the souvenirs of 2013.

For some reason I had quite a lot of encounters with blind people this year. There were two blind fathers who left a lasting imprint on my heart. Considering I spend a lot of time commuting, most if not all of my stories are of people I bump into on the bus, subway or streetcars. One day after work I ran into the bus to catch a father and daughter, around 4 years old, in the middle of a serious conversation. Based on his walking stick and his demeanour I deduced the father was blind. The daughter looked guilty but seemed unsure what her fault was. They had been at a park earlier and when the father called out her name she didn’t respond right away. After he eventually found her, he had scolded her and now he was explaining why he got upset. ‘I didn’t know where you were and I got worried, you have to respond to me whenever I call you or else I’d think I lost you.’ She immediately understood and wrapped her arms around her dad’s neck, kissed him and said sorry. Watching this scene unfold before me I couldn’t help the tears rolling down my cheeks. The father then changed the subject about some spongebob game.

Any loving father in today’s world would be naturally worried about the safety of his daughter(s). My dad is a born worrier and having four daughters doesn’t help either. I often tell him he shouldn’t worry too much and let Allah take care of the things he has no control over. But to be blind and not see your daughter to ensure she is safe takes worrying to a whole another level. I can imagine his heart lurching every time he calls his daughters name and doesn’t hear a response. My heart went out to him and I really hope the beauty of their relationship makes him forget that he cannot witness the beauty of this world.

I have a collection of strangers who’ve I’ve met in my journeys that have told me their life story. I was 16 when I sat across an Afghani father with his 5 year old daughter on the subway one day. He was in an army like uniform, I wondered if he was an officer of some kind but never found out. He himself initiated a conversation as he said seeing women in a hijab makes him happy. Apparently his wife had left him for asking her to wear the hijab. He also took on the responsibility of raising their daughter. This was the first time a complete stranger started telling me about their life on the subway, so I just listened and I honestly didn’t know what to say to help him feel better.

Then there was a time I sneezed on the streetcar and just as I was saying ‘Allhamdullilah’ (Praise be to God) the man next to me said, ‘YarhakumAllah'(May God have mercy on you). By the end of that ride, he told me the story of how reverted from David, a Jamaican Catholic into Dawood, a practicing Muslim.

In 2011 I went on my first ever solo flight journey. On the flight from Toronto to Brussels I sat next to a Punjabi woman who told me her story about how she was returning to India within just 5 days of living with her husband and in-laws. She couldn’t bare the mental and verbal abuse and luckily she was one of the few that were brave enough to get up and leave. They had been married a year prior and even while communicating long distance he was suspicious and treated her horribly. She had come to Canada hoping it may change, it didn’t, her in laws of course supported her husband. It was the guy’s aunt and uncle who had dropped her off at the airport. She hadn’t spoken to her family back home so they didn’t even know she was coming back. I’ve heard of these stories before but to hear it directly from the person who’s affected was an eye opener for me. She was calm and composed. Like someone who had come to terms with the cards life had played for them. I knew if I was in her place I would have been bubbling with emotions! After we landed at Brussels, I made her get a calling card and call her family back home. I watched her as she spoke to her brother, again no show of emotions as is if she had become numb. Before we parted we exchanged email addresses. I emailed here as soon as I landed but she only replied a couple of months later saying she had made a mistake and should have never left Canada. I asked for more details but haven’t heard from her since. I hope she’s alright now. The last thing this world needs is another name added to the list of women who isn’t given their due rights as a human.

Now the second blind father I came across this year told me all the pertinent details about his life within the 5 minutes, yes just the 5 minutes we stood at the bus shelter. I was waiting for the streetcar when this man stumbled off the curb at the intersection. I asked him where he needs to go and he said he was looking to take the streetcars towards the subway station. I told him he’s at the stop and I’ll let him know when the streetcar is here. Then he started talking,

‘I think I must be giving off some nervous vibe, as I asked four different people to help me on the way here but no one did. I’m moving from the west to the east end, yeah that’s why I’m nervous. I’m living with my brother now but he wants me out. My 19 year old daughter is also looking for a place to stay so she said she’ll move in with me. But her mother doesn’t like it, she tells her ‘don’t move in with your father he’ll treat you like a slave’ but I’m glad my daughters going to live with me.’

He said all that in one go, with no show of emotions on his face. He didn’t look sad, he wasn’t upset, he just accepted all that life threw at him. What amazed me in all of this was his inability to see the faults in other people. I’m sure people he asked for help just ignored him or had their headphones on so they didn’t hear him as they passed by. But even then, he put the blame on himself for humanity’s lack of empathy. This just blew me away, we are all pointing fingers at each other and blaming the people in our lives for our own shortcomings. Yet, here was a man who can’t blame anyone for being blind, so he blames himself for being an inconvenience to the people around him. I guess when you don’t have sight, you also don’t see the flaws in humans.

Every single person that come into our life has a purpose, even these random encounters with strangers. I learn something about life from every one of them. I only pray and hope that my life continues to be enriched by such incidents.