The Shalwar that was never mine…

Two weekends ago I attended the first ever ‘Nikkah Bridal Show’ in Toronto, which is basically Suhaag bridal convention customized for Muslims. The main reason I went was to support a friend who is a professional cake maker. Also to meet up with other friends. As in every other brown/Muslim shows/conventions it had all the expected booths and vendors. I tend to gravitate towards the Indian/Pakistani clothing sections to see if anything catches my eyes. Lo and behold, one shalwar suit was calling out to me.

The colours were refreshing and the style wasn’t something I’ve seen before. I tried it on and loved it! Went back to the aunty at the booth and tried my luck at bargaining. She retorted once and accepted my second offer. I was happy and felt accomplished thinking my mom would be proud. Although in reality the aunty was just really easy and didn’t even put up a fight. I didn’t have cash with me so I told her to pack it up for me and I’ll come back later to get it.

Two things I should have done:
1) Given her a time so she’ll know when to expect me.
2) Given her my number so she could call in case she wanted to get a hold of me.

Unfortunately I did neither. Lesson learned!

I went about frolicking around the hall and then my friends and I went out for lunch only to return 2 hours later with the cash. I went back to the booth to see two girls( the daughters) sitting with the aunty. One of the girl saw me as I was taking out the money and started apologizing. She continued to explain as I stood there in utter disbelief and shock that they had sold the shalwar to another lady. This woman had looked at it and reserved it before me but the aunty didn’t know this. That lady had come back while I was gone and requested to purchase it. However, the aunty had tried to fend for me saying that I will be coming to get it. The lady had returned three times only to be rejected by the aunty who wanted to remain loyal to me. Anyhow, the luck just wasn’t on my side as I had taken a long time to return so they eventually sold it to this persistent woman who apparently walked around the booth like a hawk to see if I return.

Hearing this with dropped jaws I was completely heartbroken. I mean, I had already fantasized about what event I’ll wear the shalwar to. I had convinced myself this shalwar was mine. There’s a saying in Tamil, ‘Kayku ettunathu vayku yettala’.. Literal translation: what reached the hand didn’t reach the mouth. Basically, I came so close that I could taste it yet it slipped my fingers at the last minute.

The ladies tried to appease me by offering a discount on any other shalwar in their collection. I didn’t want it, the one I wanted was gone. I decide to go share my misery with my friend at her booth. As I was retelling the tragedy, another friend who was also listening said, ‘Imagine you see the women who bought it take it out .. What would you do?’ This reminded of the wedding dress episode from Friends where Monica fights with another woman over one dress. ‘If that happens I’d snatch it and run away.’ I replied still trying to swallow the bitterness of it all.
Not even two minutes after I said this, I see the woman, yes the perpetrator of my heartbreak behind my friends pulling out the shalwar from the bag. I let out a loud gasp and just words were needed to express myself. My friends looked in the direction of my finger and immediately understood. It turned out to be none other than my friend’s family friend who snatched the shalwar of my 15 minutes daydream away from me right before my eyes. I would have been fine if I hadn’t seen who took it away from me. But to watch her take it out of the bag was salt on the wound and it bloody hurt! The conceited devil in me immediately thought that shalwar would definitely look better on me than her. Not that it mattered now … I consoled myself by the fact that I at least got to try it on. Eventually .. By that I mean after sharing this story with 10 other people I reached the zen state of acceptance that this shalwar was never mine and never will be.

How often is it that we go through the same cycle of emotions with material and immaterial possessions in life? With each let down, disappointment and heartbreak we’re supposed to become smarter, wiser and stronger… Right?

Anyway, there will be many more conventions and conferences with endless selection of shalwars.  One can only hope.

Moments of 2013 – Part 2

In the last part I mentioned all the strangers that I met who willingly told me their life stories. However, last year I made an acquaintance who I wish had told me her entire story and not only an intro.

I don’t frequent posh spas but I got a deal (yes I’m brown to the core :p) for facials and went to a really chic parlour in downtown last March. The woman who greeted me looked worn down by life. Her smile was forced and her eyes were brimming with untold sorrow. Usually ladies at these places are chirpy and talkative but she wasn’t.

At end of the session she gave me an envelope with a pamphlet and a coupon for a manicure. Every business knows coupons are the best way to keep customers coming back. So the brown girl in me decided to use the coupon a week later to get my first ever proper manicure. I’ve also had a pedicure once ever and I doubt I’ll ever do either again. The sense of being served doesn’t sit well with me. Servitude should be out of love only, not merely as a duty or for money.

Anyway, it was the same woman as last time and she seemed a bit more friendly. For the first part she asked a bunch of questions about my nail care (non existent.. Don’t got time for that) then went about her job. Sometime passed before she asked a question for which she thought she already knew the answer. She asked if I was going to put varnish on. It was evident from the tone of her voice that she expected me to say no. I said yes. She was surprised. Then she asked me to choose a shade, I chose cherry red. Again she was surprised and said she thought I’ll choose a more neutral colour. I think she came to the realization that she has miscalculated me, which of course I’m not surprised about. When people see a hijabi, they immediately make their assumptions and you know what they saying about assuming things …


A few minutes later she asked a question I totally didn’t expect. ‘Doesn’t wearing nail polish prevent you from your prayers??’ I explained to her that women don’t have to pray when they are on their cycle. And then it clicked me to ask how she knew Muslim women can’t pray whilst wearing varnish. The obvious answer would have been that she had previous Muslim clients that passed the varnish during their manicure.

She let out a nervous laugh, paused for a bit and said, 

‘I was married to a Muslim…’

I waited for her to continue, she never did. My head was and is still flooded with questions courtesy of my curiosity.

The conversation somehow then changed to ethnicities. She identified herself as Canadian .. Just plain Canadian no dashes. Based on her name and features I’d say of German descent.

I told her I was Indian and she asked if I had ever gone back and inquired if it was safe. It took me 3 seconds to connect the safety question to the Delhi Rape case. I explained I’m from the opposite pole of Delhi, where it’s a lot more safer for women. I doubt I’ll live to see the time when India is considered safe for women.

One of the main reason women love going to the spa/beauty parlour is because it’s therapeutic. It’s a temporary cure to a problem that you wouldn’t widely admit you have. Going to a shrink means you accept you have a problem and therefore you are  seeking its remedy. But at the spa, you just spill your heart out to a complete stranger then leave looking pretty and with the added bonus of a lighter heart.

As I was rambling on about the woes of being single she stopped me mid sentence as she said,

‘You don’t need marriage. Stay single. You’re independent, self-sufficient, you don’t need a man in your life to be happy.’

I listened and realized that I was listening to her sorrow. Her advice was biased bitterness from whatever experiences she had in life. She was probably in her forties and fully prepared to live a companion less life.

Of course I won’t be taking her advice. I want contentment in life, which she was clearly lacking in hers.

I met her for a facial 7 times since that day. Each time I’d go with the resolve of asking her to tell me her story. But then I’d hear zen like spa music and just ease into slumber. The ego of my curiosity is bruised, badly. If I ever do see her again, I’ll ask. Or maybe this is one story I’m not meant to hear.

Second Cup: Everything Starbucks isn’t

Second Cup is the Canadian Starbucks. I frequented it during Uni days and became addicted to one of their signature lattes, Caramel Coretto. If you’ve seen some of my past posts, you’d come to the conclusion that I’ve become a professional complainer, aka Kvetcher. I got inspired by watching a couple of MarketPlace shows on CBC, which cracks down all the different ways consumers, are being cheated without their knowledge. That’s why I’ve been going after all the companies that are quick to collect the money but fail to provide the service they promise to do so in their Ads. It is never about getting back the money they owe me, or getting free stuff but about Principle.

I also watched the Undercover Boss episode  for Second Cup and admired the CEO Stacey Mowbry’s resolution to re-brand the company’s image to making it all about customer satisfaction. Most companies are all talk and no walk however  that wasn’t the case with Second Cup. About two months ago one of the sales associate charged me for whip cream when it’s always been free and I sent  a e-mail to their customer care. Within two days, they sent me this reply:

Good afternoon ,

We are sorry that you had a poor quality experience at some of our cafés. At Second Cup, we are the coffee company that is committed to caring, by offering superior quality products and service in a warm and friendly environment. Anytime this isn’t available we have failed to live up to our own standards.  We would like to thank you for sharing this experience with us and bringing this issue to our attention. Guest input is vital to the maintenance and enforcement of the quality that is The Second Cup.

In response to your feedback, all of our beverages are based on strict recipes making it that our products are uniformed no matter which café you go to or under the circumstances where a guest requests to have a change in the way that the beverage is made.   I wish to enquire with you further about the café location in question as I cannot seems to locate the address of the café you indicated in your email as I wish to contact the Franchise Partner of the cafe in question to address your concerns directly with regards to you received. As well, I have notified the Regional Manager of this location, for prompt follow up as well as additional training where necessary. Our Caramel Corretto standard recipe is typically made with Creamy Microfoam milk with the caramel lattice on the top but should any of our guests wish to have some whipping cream on the top of their beverage, the Sales Associate should be more than accommodating and not charge for the Whip Cream on any of our European beverages and it is for this reason as I wish to touch base with the Franchise Partners of the cafés in question.

Once again, we would like to thank you for taking the time to email us and I wish to also enquire with you if once I have addressed your feedback with the Franchise Partners of the café if I can suggest that they contact you to help in rectifying the situation as they take matters like these of great importance and they do like to touch base with all guests who experience unfortunate situations to invite you back into café.  I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience and have a wonderful day.

Kindest Regards,

Customer Care Team

The Second Cup Ltd.

I replied with my e-mail and phone number. The next day, I got a call from the store manager who apologized personally and offered a free coretto. I never collected it as it would mean that I’d be revealing I was the one who made the complain and didn’t want the workers to associate my face with one who had made them look bad. Also, as I said before it was never about getting anything free.

About three days after I sent the e-mail  as I was waking to work one morning I saw the CEO Stacey Mowbery walking out of the Second Cup that I had made a complain about. So they seem to have taken my complaint seriously.

A couple of days later, my friend and I went to get corettos. As the sales associate was taking our orders, the store manager made a public announcement to all the employees.

‘Listen up everyone, we do not charge extra for whip cream on corettos, a customer was charged and got very angry.’

It was hilarious that he said it right when I was ordering, not knowing that I was that angry customer that made the complaint.

It was refreshing to see a company that really does care about its customers amongst  the million others that are leeches awaiting to suck the last penny, or now nickel [pennies have been discontinued in Canada] from their consumers.

The Greatest Planner of All…

March 13, 2012 was gorgeous day weather wise. Spring had sprung upon us Torontonians a lot earlier than we expected, not that we were complaining. I was at home that day reminiscing this day exactly a year ago, I was in India for my cousin’s wedding. Made a mental note to call and congratulate her for making it through the first year. I had an interview the next morning for which I was prepping for. I had been applying to this company for two years since I graduated and was ecstatic that I finally landed an interview. It was just a summer position, but I figured it’d get my foot in the door.

My aunt next door called and asked if I could drop my cousin off at University. I took the opportunity to take in some of the fresh air and give my Salams to the Sun. It’s just a five minute car ride each way so I really had no reason not to go. Little did I know that in that 10 minutes I was away, we’d receive news that would set me on an unexpected and unforgettable journey. As I walked into the house after parking the car, I heard my mom crying and she was calling my name. She was saying something but I couldn’t understand properly. I saw that my dad was on the phone and even he had tears in his eyes. It was only after the third time I properly heard what she said, “Mansoor mama passed away…” He is my mom’s elder brother, who was living in California. I was in shock, I kept on saying ‘What? How??’ He passed away in his sleep from a heart attack. His room mate went to wake him up for work and found his cold body with his left fist clenched. That night he was up until 3:00 AM talking with his room mates  then called home and spoke with his wife/mother before going to bed around 4:00 AM. So, he had passed away sometime around Fajr (right before sunrise). This news reached us around 5 PM, but in India it was 3:00 AM.

My uncle had diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. He never went to the doctor in the 6 years he was in the states as he didn’t have insurance coverage. So his sugar/cholesterol/blood pressure was last checked before he left for the states in 2006. All his medicine he took was parceled from India. He had been taking the same dosage for 6 years, it’s actually a miracle that it didn’t affect him earlier. He had been complaining about pain in the left hand for about a month and just attributed it to his work strain. At night he’d take an aspirin and say it was better the next day. He completely ignored it and didn’t realize that the pain was indication of an oncoming heart attack.

Everyone back home insisted that my mom go to California for the janazah (funeral) as she was the only immediate family that was so close to him distance wise. We didn’t think it was possible for my mom to make it in time for the janazah as it is usually done within 24 hours of the TOD. My dad’s passport had expired too so no way my mom could go by herself as she has no prior experience travelling alone. By the end of that night, we had decided that there is no possibility of my mom going. In the meantime we talked to anyone and everyone we knew in California in order to arrange the funeral. Two of my mom’s first cousins living in Houston and Los Angeles, and they were making their way over to Vallejo, where my uncle was.

For majority of the 6 years, my uncle had worked at a gas station in Clearlake, California. It is a tourist spot in the mountains. He lived alone, worked 6 days a week 11 hours per day and his boss was heartless. It was a horrible and lonely place to work but he sucked it up for the sake of his family. The main reason he had come to America was to earn money to rebuild the 100 year old ancestral home he had inherited. In 2008 the first stage of the house was completed and there was a house warming party. I was there at the time and I had filmed and photographed the house and sent it to him so he can see the fruits of his labour. When I was in India in 2011, all the floors of the house was completed and now it was just waiting to be seen by my Uncle. During Ramadan in 2011, he finally got his green card. Now his plan was to wait another year, save up some money for his four daughters’ future and leave America. He had told everyone that he will be home for 2012 Ramadan. Mom and I had previously asked to visit him, but he told us not to come and instead he will visit us on his way to India. That never happened.

One of his major complaints living in Clearlake was that there was no Masjid to pray or at least go for Jummah. About a week prior to his death, he had moved from Clearlake to Vallejo. A friend had gotten him a less stressful job. He would be living with 3 other friends rather than alone. He had moved in on a Thursday and for the first time in 4 years he went for Jummah prayers that Friday. If only he had known that would be his last Jummah. It was almost as if he had moved to Vallejo just in time for passing. If he was still living in Clearwater, it would have been almost impossible for anyone to go there for the funeral. He had paid of all his debts, and had about $4000 in the bank, which is actually the amount needed for his funeral expenses. That money was sent to the family back home, while the community pitched in for the funeral. I’ve heard that you are buried at the exact same place from where the soil was taken to create you (unsure of the authenticity). Ever since he was a kid my uncle had wanted to come to America. Yet, it was almost as if his death was what brought him to America.

The next morning, I went for the Job interview. I have no idea how I did it. But it was as if a completely different person was in my place, not the girl who just lost her uncle the day before. Once I got home, various conversations had happened and it was decided that my mom is going for the funeral as it was planned for the next morning. When the paramedics came, they took the body to ensure it wasn’t suicide/homicide and determine the cause of death and they will only release it the next morning. Therefore, my mom had to get to California by the end of the day. However, I didn’t think it was safe sending my mom on her own so I offered to go in her place. We started looking for flight tickets, but there were no flights that went from Toronto and reached SFO by the end of the day. Then I thought of looking for flights from Buffalo and managed to find one at a really good price so both my mom and I can go. Told my parents about this ticket and how I can drive to Buffalo and fly from there. When I called back to book the flight, the agent said only one ticket was available and I ended up booking it for me. When I told my dad that I had booked my ticket for myself only, being the overprotective father he looked as if I had bought a one way ticket to Gitmo.

I quickly had lunch and starting packing. In the meantime, I have no idea what happened but my parents had asked an aunt and uncle to drop me off at the Buffalo airport. My aunt told my mom to also pack a pair of clothes and toiletries and maybe we can get a ticket for her at the airport. On the way to the airport, my dad somehow managed to get a ticket for my mom on the exact same route as mine. Which was a huge relief and in retrospect, I am so glad my mom made it as there was no way I could have managed it all on my own. A family friend had offered to host us while we were there. We have never seen them and they have never seen us, yet they were coming to pick us up at the airport. I spoke to the sister over the phone and told her I’ll call her once we land. The route was from Buffalo to Minnesota and then SFO. There was only a 30 min layover at Minnesota. It took us almost 30 minutes to go from one end of the airport to the other end where the flight for SFO was. We were literally running across the airport and made it in time only to find out the flight had been delayed by an hour. Once we landed in SFO, my phone battery was dying but I managed to send her a text saying that I am wearing beige top and hijab. For about 15 mins Mom and I walked around the arrival area trying to find someone we’ve never met while they drove around the airport looking for us. Luckily at one point my mom saw a women in an abaya and said she might be it. She looked at me and smiled as she noticed the beige top/hijab. We tried to get some shut eye that night to get up early to head over to Vallejo.

Vallejo was a small battered town with mostly African Americans. The masjid was a home that was falling apart and was soon to be rebuilt. It was raining, cold and gloomy, fitting for the occasion. We were the first ones there and we waited in the parking lot for the rest. My mom saw her cousins for the first time in over a decade and I was probably 5 when I last saw them. We sat in the women’s area as we waited for people to come and most importantly for the hospital to deliver my uncle’s body. Everyone back home wanted at least one last glimpse of my uncle before he was buried so we were arranging a live broadcast of the janaza via Skype. One by one, the families that had heard of the death or met my uncle before started coming in. Conversations with them helped give us a better idea of his life in California. He had been ill for a long time and everyone had told him to quit America and go back home. If only he had listened to them maybe we could have seen him at least once. Mom and I last saw him in 2002, and 10 years later here we are at his funeral.

While I was talking to my mom’s cousin, the ambulance had arrived with my uncle. Standing at the doorway of the women’s entrance I can see the stretcher being lowered from the ambulance. I was in utter shock that the man who used to be around 300 lbs had lost so much weight over the years that he was only as wide as the stretcher. Only his belly was protruding but he had lost weight everywhere else. The Imam of the masjid lit up incense and I saw him bring out the 3 white shrouds that will be used to wrap the body. The men got busy with washing the body and it was about an hour later I heard them say ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they carried my uncle in a coffin into the prayer area. The top half of the cover was open and his face was covered. My mom’s cousin uncovered the face so we can see. They told us not to touch him. The coroner was told not to make any cuts on the body, so they took a blood sample from his jugular vein in order to determine COD. There was still blood coming from that spot so we could see the cotton with blood stains near his neck. He was just 48 years old. I remember a picture of my uncle when he was 19 and he looked exactly like that. This was the fairest I’ve seen him as he is darkest in the family. If my mom was white as milk, he was dark as coal, people would wonder how these two could be siblings. He had a trimmed beard that outlined his face and it was just starting to gray. He looked so young, handsome and he was glowing. We could see a bit of his teeth which made it look like he was smiling. There was a sense of peaceful aura around him.

Once the janaza prayer was done, we all headed over to the graveyard in Livermore. The women stayed inside the car in the parking lot. But it was an open field nestled in between mountains with windmills. It was a gorgeous place that I couldn’t help but wish to be buried in such a graveyard. Through the fence I could see all that was taking place. It was pretty far and I was actually recording it with my camera to show back home. A plot had already been dug out for my uncle. I didn’t notice them lowering the body but I saw the men each throwing a handful of sand. Then they prayed and a truck filled in the remaining soil. A sense of relief came about us, or maybe our bodies were just tired from all that crying. He’s six feet under, can’t do anything about it now.

We went home and for the first time mom I spoke to my aunt, well we listened to her cry. That cry will stay with me till my last day. She was married to my uncle at 15 and now she was 35 with four daughters from 17-6 that she has to be the mother and father to. For the past 6 years, the highlight of her day was the phone call from her husband. My uncle had mostly worked abroad so at most she had probably lived about 6-7 years with him in their 20 year marriage. This is very common in my community, where the husband is often living abroad earning money at mediocre jobs while the wife stays back home and raises the kids. It’s an awful lifestyle that people need to put an end to! Also not Islamic at all!

Islamically, only 3 days are allotted for mourning. Death is part of life so no point in dwelling on it longer than needed, easier said than done. It’s the hardest for my aunt and to my grandma to some extent. The rest of us picked up where we left and moved on with our daily routines. It only seems like yesterday that I came home to my mom crying and yet it’s been a year already. I doubt it’s any easier today than it was a year ago for my aunt. For her, it will take longer to adjust or maybe she will never fully recuperate. I doubt she will re-marry, but the possibility is there. In the meantime she is supported by her siblings and my mom’s siblings.

Before going on a trip, we plan it to the finest details. How often does everything we plan happen exactly the way we want? There was almost no planning done on my part to go to California for my uncle’s funeral. Everything just fell into place. It was as if someone else was moving the pieces and it kind of had a domino effect. Can’t really explain it but I still cannot fully digest how everything happened. This is when I realized that we barely have any control over our lives. It is the almighty that is holding on to the steering wheel and we are just here for the ride.


Don’t use CAD Institute for Online AutoCad Classes

I am on a venting binge since this weekend (see Fido post). Actually no, I am just taking advantage of social media to fight back injustice in order to obtain what is rightfully owed to me. These days companies have learned how to promise a product that they don’t necessarily deliver. Or they trick you into paying more than you expected. Having worked since I was 15 I bloody well know the amount of effort and pain that goes into earning every single cent. All so that capitalistic heartless savages can swindle money from you right before your eyes.

So I started off by calling Fido and asking for a cheque that I should have received 2 years ago. I hated them while I was with and it was the happiest day of my life when I ended it. The fact that it’s been 2 years later, I’m not one of their customers and yet my mind is filled with hatred for them is completely their fault!

Acer dude was funny in a non-funny way. I started wondering how many people these days would actually pay $200 to repair their laptop. I feel sorry for these guys on the phone, they must know they sound idiotic based on people’s reactions.

Afterwards, I sent an e-mail to Second Cup explaining why they have lost me as a customer because of the lack of consistency and effort put into providing the absolute best drink (in my case it was the Caramel Corretto).

From Oct – Dec 2011 I took an online AutoCad course from CAD Institute. Upon completion I was suppose to receive a certificate in the mail. Three months later I didn’t get it, so I emailed the instructor and he told me that it’s been sent in regular mail (this is located in Kentucky, USA). It takes about a month for e-bay products from Hong Kong to reach me via regular mail. So please explain to me why I haven’t received it a month later?

I called the number on their site and explained the above. The guy kept on saying all certificates are sent 2 weeks after the completion of the course. Then he told me to e-mail the registrar. I said I already did that a month ago. His explanation was that the e-mail didn’t  go through and that’s why they haven’t responded to me … -__-… SERIOUSLY ?? It’s very rare but it does happen, we Canadians get furious as well.

I sent another e-mail to the registrar let see if they respond.

Many have suffered ‘The Wrath of Khan’ over the past three days. So seriously think twice before you cross my path. I can do a whole lot of damage with Twitter, Facebook and WordPress!


Why I hate FIDO/ACER & love WIND/TD

The first phone that I had was Kyocera slider and it was prepaid. I didn’t have to waste hours on the phone fighting for money that they sneakily steal from me. I voluntarily brought this headache upon myself when I decided to get a phone from Fido (Sony Ericsson flip phone) on a two year agreement on Dec 31st 2008. It was a so called student plan with 100 daytime minutes, evenings and weekends free and unlimited text messages. All that just for $25 #Sarcasm.. oh and no caller ID or voicemail. Every call I received was unknown. I had to pay $10 to get those services. I sucked it up at for a few months and paid the extra 10. Also, 100 mins were never enough and had to pay extra almost every month!

With the non-existent income as a student I went broke from paying my phone bill for 2 years and got out of it as soon as the contract ended. Wind was having a Christmas special with a plan called ‘Holiday Miracle Plan’. It was $40/month and included: unlimited talk/text/data, international texts and calls across Canada and States, voicemail/caller ID/conference calls. I got a BB curve so BBM was also included. They had a tab system where I paid $150 up front and 10% of monthly bill goes towards the remaining $150. I am not on any contract, if I wanted to leave I just had to pay whatever remains on the tab. So technically I am paying $36 for the services and $4 toward the tab. Last July my BB crashed, I had to pay $30 to repair it. I got tired of BB so decided to get the S3. I paid the $90 remaining on the tab ( later sold it for $100) and paid $350 for the S3 with the remaining $300 on the tab.

When I first got switched to Wind on Dec 18, 2010 I called Fido to cancel my plan as soon as the contract ends on Dec. 31st. However, Fido needs 30 days notice so they won’t cancel it until Jan 17th. So I had to pay for the month of Jan and they will give back the money for the remaining days of Jan that I didn’t use Fido. I got my final bill on Feb 28th 2011 showing that they owe me $17.89. It’s two years since then and I still haven’t gotten a check from them! I called them in July 2011 and spoke to a dude named Adam and he told me a check will be on the way. It clearly wasn’t. I called today and gave an earful to someone poor girl named Ikral. She can see in the notes that apparently on March 25, 2011 they called to confirm my address. So they’ve confirmed my address in March, and I spoke with Adam in July yet WHY HAVE I STILL NOT RECEIVED IT TWO YEARS LATER???? Imagine if this was the other way around and I owed them $17.89, with interest two years later it would have become $2000 !

Ikral said the update to my account will be made 96 business hours and a cheque should be on the way. I am going to call them 2 weeks from today and see if they have sent it or not. I apologized to Ikral for blowing off on her as none of this is her fault. She understood and was sympathetic, also had no clue why I still haven’t received the money that is rightly owed to me.

Now onto Acer…got my laptop in Sept 2011. In Jan of 2012, laptop stopped working and didn’t turn on. Called tech support and some lonely Indian dude gave me a trick to get it started again. It worked. Last Saturday it happened again, the trick didn’t work and it’s been a week since it last turned on. Called Acer today and another dude told me I’m out of warranty so I’d have to pay $199 for repairs. My dad bought that laptop for $300. They are lunatics if they think I’m going to pay $200 for repairs. Seriously, companies like Fido, (actually all major Telecom companies in Canada: Bell, Rogers, Telus!) and gadget companies like Acer that charge ridiculous amount for repairs are soul less blood suckers!

Thankfully there is such a thing as ‘Good’ customer service and I have experienced it. I went to India from Feb-July 2011. It would be a huge waste if I to pay $40/month during those 5 months. I called Wind and they said I can put my plan on hold and only have to pay $30 to reactivate it once I get back. While I was in India I was charged $70 ($40monthly fee and $30 for reactivation) in March. I wasn’t going to called long distance from India so I just e-mailed them explaining I’m still in India so I shouldn’t be charged. They apologized and immediately reversed the charges.

I know friends who are in contract with Fido and was refused to put plan on hold when they were out of country for a long period of time.  Also, loyalty means nothing to these jerks so prepare to pay for services you aren’t even using!

Last year I had gone over my limit for TD credit card and was charged $20. I called and told them I didn’t know I had spent more than the limit. They understood and reversed the charge… actually this happened twice.

Companies like Fido and Acer need to learn from Wind and TD how to keep customers happy instead of plotting ways to screw their lives!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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


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…

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. .)





A Heart Serene

Thanks to the long weekend this week was a short work week. But the past four days have bueen extremely long, with 8:30 AM meetings and reaching home around 9-10. Today was the first day for the Al Maghrib course, A Heart Serene. This is a two weekend tazkiya course on how to achieve Ihsaan (worshipping Allah as he was right in front of you). On Fridays the class goes from 7-10pm. I never miss the Fridays but today I initially had to pick up my mom from work so I was planning to skip it. I was somewhat relieved that I can go home and recharge from the long week that had drained me completely. However, Allah had a better plan to recharge me instead of my original plan of curling up on the couch and staring at the t.v. screen like a zombie. My dad called in the morning to tell me I won’t have to pick up mom, which freed up my Friday night. So now with no valid excuse to miss the class I stuck around at work until it was time to head over to U of T.

So far I’ve probably been to about 9-10 Al Maghrib courses and never has a course made so much impact on me on the Friday night itself! Usually the sheikh is at the front before the class starts or sometimes walks in a few minutes later. But this time, the Amir (male leader) went up and started playing some YouTube videos in relation to the course. A hilarious side note, as the trailer of the course was playing the ads YouTube attached to the clip was from The Amir had to forcefully close the ads resulting in muffled giggles from the audience.

In the back of my mind I was thinking the sheikh is probably late and we are watching the videos to kill time. But I was proven wrong as I heard someone walking down the steps and approaching random brothers and asking them, ‘what would you do tonight if you knew you were gonna die tomorrow?’  The first guy was completely taken aback. The ones after were also startled, first at the sheikh making a sneaky entrance from the back and second at the question that most of us never think about.

Sheikh. Riad Ouarzazi’s intro to the course itself was a tell tale that this is going to be none like any other. Everything I heard for the next two hours made me even more convinced that the up coming two weekends are going to be phenomenal. Here are some of his quotes that convinced me:

‘You may have come here with high expectations, I will Inshallah go above and beyond those expectations and this is my promise to you. ‘ – This course first came to Toronto in August 2008 when ~800 students took it. Some of  my friends have taken it and they have had nothing but praise and positive response. So I did go with high expectations and so far they have been exceeded.

‘Another name for this course is’ rollercoaster’, you will laugh like crazy and then cry like a baby.’ – Oh man, he wasn’t kidding about this one. He is hilarious, especially his poking fun at all the Pakistanis. He later clarified that to him Pakistani is all of Indian subcontinent including India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Meaning he is poking fun at me too! One second he would be joking and the next he would become dead serious/emotional. By the end of the first 2 hours the one tissue I had was in shreds soaked in tears. Must make sure to take a tissue box tomorrow! Yes, I am a softie okay?!

He also shared a story/hadith (unsure) about a student of Ilm (knowledge). His name was Hisham Ibn al-Ammar. His father spent all his life savings so he could send his son to Madinah to study from Imam Malik. In class one day Hisham was disruptive and as punishment he was hit with a stick. He was sitting outside the class crying as the Imam walked out.

‘Hisham why are you crying? ‘

‘My father sold all his properties so that I can learn hadiths from you, and this is what I get? ‘

‘Okay, how can I make up for hitting you? ‘

‘You hit me ten times so teach me ten hadiths. ‘ … so the Imam taught him ten hadiths and asked if he was feeling better, to which Hisham replied: ‘hit me again and teach me more hadiths. ‘

That is the mark of a true student of knowledge! The sheikh has promised to hit us with hugs, kisses and candies. I am super hyped for this course. I’ve totally forgot about my tiring week and I am fully rejuvenated for the weekend ahead. I have officially boarded the’ soul train to Ihsaan’ …

A Real Wedding

These days weddings (Hindus/Muslims from South Asia) in North America have become an emulation of those seen on bollywood movies. Its true essence is lost amongst the glamour, glitz, and fake galore. It often has the same formula, which is a series of functions (usually 3-5 separate events). Depending on the culture/couple’s preference the wedding events take place over a year starting with the engagement, sangeet, mehendi, bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette party and finally the wedding ritual. The bridal shower and the bachelor/ette parties are a western influence. By the end of it all, the parents are broke, bride transforms into bridezilla, groom starts to have regrets, friendships are strained and add to that a whole bunch of family drama.

The main wedding event itself has the same overplayed program…bride & groom walk into the hall with a cheesy song playing in the background, touchy speeches are said, cake cutting ceremony, food is indulged, pictures taken, friends perform to bollywood songs, and finally the floor is open for dancing with random aunties and uncles.

It’s the same thing over and over again and no one has the gall to break from the norm. What irritates me the most is the fact that it’s all just a show put on to impress people. ‘Look at how much money we borrowed to entertain you guys for one night, now you better come dressed fancily with fat envelopes to bless us!’ Such hypocrisy I tell you! Now, I’m not trying to insult anyone that are happy to hold such ceremonies. To each their own, live and let live are policies I lead my life by. The above rant is merely based on my observations of all the wedding events I’ve been to in my adult life. I just can’t fathom the amount of money that is spent to put on a charade for two faced people that will always find something to complain about.

I know what you all are thinking. ‘Look at her saying all such criticisms, she thinks she’s better than us haan? Let’s see how she holds her wedding, then we’ll have the last laugh! ‘

I actually didn’t have to wait until my wedding to show how it should be done. I recently went to one of my uni friend’s wedding reception and they were the first ones that had the guts to break free from the bollywood type fake fiestas.

Their actual wedding ritual took place in India three months ago. This was a small reception for friends and co-workers. At max there was about 100 people in attendance, it was a cozy event. Yes there were the usual things you’d find in fake fiestas I mentioned above: DJ, photographer, an Emcee, FOOD, cake, speeches, dancing. However, the entire atmosphere was none like I’ve experienced before. There was no pretentiousness! No one cared how much the bride’s outfit cost, how much gold she’s wearing, what designer suit the groom was wearing, how many tiers the cake had, no lavish $10k backdrops, useless $30/table centre pieces. The attendees did not care for such details. As a group, we were genuinely happy for the couple. We were happy to see that they truly loved one another and wished them whole heartedly on this wonderful journey they were embarking on as husband and wife.

Along with the newlyweds, the guests had a blast. They all left that night with reinstated hope that true love does indeed exist. I, for the first time ever left a wedding event thinking ‘This is exactly how I want my wedding to be! ‘

Previous Older Entries