Last FIFA, Last Taraweeh, Lost Ramadan…

A family friend was watching today’s football match Brazil vs. Chile whilst chatting with his elder brother in Singapore via text messages. They had their own commentary going back and forth across the Pacific from Singapore to Toronto. After a while the replies from Singapore stopped. The brother in Toronto presumed he had gone to bed as it was late there and he would soon have to wake up for sehri for the first fast of this year. He never woke up. Passed away in his sleep. Came so close to this blessed month yet it just wasn’t in his taqdeer to live through it.

إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ‎

For those who have been given the chance to experience another Ramadan, make it your best one yet. This is a reminder to myself as well.

Ramadan Mubarak.

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Here’s Why…

This is one of the last passages from ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran:

But you do not see, nor do you hear, and it is well.
The veil that clouds your eyes shall be lifted by the hands that wove it,
And the clay that fills your ears shall be pierced by those fingers that kneaded it.
And you shall see
And you shall hear.
Yet you shall not deplore having known blindness, nor regret having been deaf.
For in that day you shall know the hidden purposes in all things,
And you shall bless darkness as you would bless light.

***************************

That is the answer to all our ‘Whys’

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 pointed..no 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 …

image

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…’
‘Was???’
‘Was…’

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.

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.

Ramadan 1434

Blessed are those that live to see another Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims around the world. Irrespective of which day you start your fasting, I wish you and your loved ones a blessed one where you achieve the intentions with which you began this  month.

Amongst the many reasons I look forward to Ramadan every year, the daily series of  YouTube videos/Soundcloud Clips/Blog posts by various sheikhs/imams is one of them.

1.) One of the first ones I had come across years ago was by Br. Nouman Ali Khan, this was the first time I had heard his videos, it was called Majesty of Divine Speech, not all videos are available but some can be found here: http://www.halaltube.com/majesty-of-divine-speech-episode-3-conflict-resolution

This year he’s doing daily Quranic Gems from each Juz of the Quran on the Quran Weekly site, just about 5 mins, great to listen during the morning commute: http://www.quranweekly.com/juz-1-quranic-gems/

2.) Dr. Tariq Ramadan did clips on Soundcloud called Ramadan Chronicles, again just a few minutes and easy to listen to during the morning commute.

Here is the archive from last year: http://tariqramadan.com/spip.php?rubrique167&lang=en

This year: https://soundcloud.com/tariq-ramadan/day-2

I love how he always ends his clips with ‘Never forget to tell the people you love that you love them.. as this is also a form of worship.’ 🙂

If you have the soundcloud app on your phone you can directly listen from there instead of having to go the site every time.

3.) Sh. Muhammad Al Shareef had a series called Taraweeh Truffles during Ramadan 2010:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfd0Sh63xwY

4.) Sh. Yasir Qadhi did ramadan reminders last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOP0d5DWQRA

Here is also a link to Sh. Yasir Qadhi’s 30 part seerah from 2011: http://ramadanresolutions.blogspot.ca/search?updated-min=2013-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2014-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=1

5.) Sh. Nasir Jangda has extensive material from past Ramadans and so much more:

Tafsir of Surah Yasin, Ramadan 2011: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zX-Jy6oO2k

Tafsir of Surah Maryam, Ramadan 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbuBDaObekY

Seerah Podcasts, this is one of the most detailed seerah I’ve come across. I’ve downloaded them all and listen on my ipod during my commute: http://www.qalaminstitute.org/category/podcast/seerah/#.Ud37zPm-2uI

6.)  The ShaykhIt show, two cool dudes from UK doing daily podcasts during Ramadan. 2013 is their 6th season!!!! They are entertaining and educational, haven’t started for this ramadan but check their archives: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-shaykh-it-show/id547083852?mt=2

7.) One of the series that I most eagerly looked forward to last year was the daily Ramadan Reflections by Imam Khalid Latif. Here is the archive from 2011, 2012 and this year, scroll down to see all posts by Imam Khalid Latif:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/imam-khalid-latif/

Phew, that is long list and it can get overwhelming if you try to do all at once. But just wanted to show how to productively spend this Ramadan. They are great reminders and guidance to keep one focused during this month.

We never know if any of us will be alive for the next Ramadan so make the best of this one!

I’ll leave with the quote in Imam Khalid’s first post this year:

“There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us. Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up. Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah’s majesty. Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower. Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone. Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies. Let us fast from all complaint about the life experiences that Allah gives us. Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions. Let us fast from desiring what we do not have. Let us fast from obsession. Let us fast from despair. Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart. Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior. Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important. Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view. Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah. Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah’s Prophets and friends, and our own true self. Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.”

-Ramadan Mubarak

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.

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