All posts by Maryam Qadeer

About Maryam Qadeer

An avid reader, who is always in the process of trying to figure out things. Important: Keep it as you would want it to be.

Hoses and Cannons

If only living were as easy as following instructables on the internet. For instance, how many times have you read about tips to keep on top of your game (read: priorities), getting in control of your temper, or having better conversations? Yet if you were to rate the practical outcome of the reading to your life on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is nil and 10 is mastery, would you be in the second half? Me, I know I’d fall shy (read: very, very shy) of even 5.Similarly, time and time again we read, watch or are told about how we ought not to discriminate on colour, caste or the degree of curvature of someone’s waistline, but have we put it into practice or tried to? Wonder why it’s shalwar that easily goes in and out of fashion for ages at a time, yet demeaning jokes about said curvature or the intensity of melanin have been here since time immemorial. Why else would RasulAllah have spoken about it in the last sermon? Why indeed.

Ever thought how impossibly dull life would be if everyone had the same perfect (whatever goes for one’s haughty definition of perfect) shade of skin; an even, model perfect waist to hip ratio; and the right kind of accent? How would we ever tell Americans from British, Karachi from Lahore, Indian from Pakistani? It’d be robots all around. And that would not be God’s green Earth.

Let’s look for cooler topics to talk about, shall we? How difficult it is for people to have access to necessities and what we can do about it, how we can improve upon conversations to win hearts all around, how a greater tolerance for accents would raise our ranks in His sight, and how we should truly stop advising people on getting fairer or thinner or fatter. Don’t do it even if it’s well-intentioned. Do it when they ask you.

In this age of visuals, most people aren’t living under rocks. Which implies that many of them are already probably, possibly, maybe battling with body image-an issue so obscure to most of us on our high horses, but nevertheless true. Girls crying through childhood and beyond, men succumbing to all that looks green, and depression- all sound cliched as anything, but merit repetition for it is oh-so-easy to forget.

Ignore all the random barbs you say? Grow up already, right? Hmm, let’s just ask the clouds not to rain for it may bring floods and plates to stop moving because they are going around causing earthquakes, shall we? For we still got to litter, baby. We’re humans.

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Day 43

And then they were here!

Day 37

Some think we’d be having serious trouble feeding ourselves. I’d like to disagree. The process isn’t breezy or fun but neither is it like a boulder that refuses to give way. It’s the other little things whose thorny presence can only be felt in their absence.

The encouragement that you did well, the confidence that they afford you in your decisions, the knowledge that you can err and have a laugh at it with them afterwards, the luxury of leaving every niggling detail for them to sort out be it big or small, the comfy feeling of being safe, the thrill of their appreciation, their backing at the confrontation of every horrendous worldly monster, their support for your every venture, their correction of your heedlessness, their scoldings, the absence of constant rain in their presence, the happy bolting down at dinners and being able to complain of overeating afterwards in peace- those are the kind of things that leave a gaping hole.

And the feeling of liberation! There’s hope in the air and silver lining in every dark thought, there’s strength in your back and the mind- scores of it- to brave whatever comes flying at you- be it troll, leprechaun or cake. There’s even fun in the mundane and routine, there’s cheer and trips to the outside world, there is wind in your hair and there is a fight- to do more and grow; to better oneself.

Day 31

‘Eid Mubarak! So how was yours?

If ever a people were lost for the simple things in life (food, sleep, conversation), they may have looked similar to us. Why? Here’s an attempt at explanation.

The eve of ‘Eid ul Fitr had me drinking in episode upon episode of Bugs Bunny after a healthy dose of procrastination and mommy-scolding. Too tired, quoth I. The eve of ‘Eid ul Adha was spent with the same iconic character with a certain exception: nothing was ready or prepped and no one to help us out with it (which was a good thing).

Then there was a miracle of miracles; I couldn’t find my ‘Eid dress. It was an ordinary printed lawn shalwar-qameez that mum and I had gotten on our pre-Hajj shopping trips. Down came every stitch of clothing I possessed as I emptied the cupboard to look for it, ending empty handed. Next I tried the parents’ cupboards, trying to be careful as I sifted through the neatly folded clean-smelling contents, which called out to be hugged. However, the dress had apparently disappeared into thin air.

Had ma been here, she’d have given me a good telling off. How dare I lose a dress of all things? Anyway, to the store room I went. Perhaps we’d put our purchases there after a hurried errand and forgotten it? It was a highly doubtful thought for the store had been cleaned and arranged when ma had left, and we’d promptly returned it to a tornado-struck state a few days later. How? You guessed it: whilst rummaging for things of course!

Righted an upended bucket, kicked another and stubbed a toe in haste, moved around some bags and no dress. To the laundry area, the sheets’ closet and beyond… To this moment, the dress has been unfound.

Day 29

Years of research and scientists claim that crying is actually a healing experience for it releases a great deal of harmful stress and makes you stronger. In fact, the kind of tears that result from an emotional episode (anger, grief, etc.) are better than the ordinary tearing up such as the one that arises from something having gone in the eye. Now how well have YOUR tears been received, that’s the question!

Having said that, psychologists still advise you to refrain from giving in to crying at the workplace or school for obvious reasons. Yet, you should revisit the emotion when in a safe place such as your room or a bathroom stall (I promise you this example comes from the article!). Also, it isn’t “healing” if you berate yourself during the experience, like laying down the blame at your door or calling yourself names.

I can go on as I read a fair number of articles, but what I am sincerely interested in knowing however, is how good the above knowledge made you feel. Was it liberating? Did it give your crying some sort of validation? Or did you still just shake your head..?

Sure, showing your vulnerable side to others might make you open to empathy, trust and kindness, perhaps even friendship! However, there are those sceptical like my brother, who would tell you that tearing up will make you fair game to the wolves.

‘Ah, she/he’s so easy to get to? Let’s get him!’ Inviting the kind of human un-kindness that you are quite definitely good without.

They also say that the stronger gender (pun intended) is put off by tears because the pearly waters give off this slight scent (not unlike ultrasounds I suppose?) which is well, off-putting. Oh well. RasulAllah (s) did advise us to take care of our women, and be kind to each other. And Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا يَسْخَرْ قَوْمٌ مِنْ قَوْمٍ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُونُوا خَيْرًا مِنْهُمْ وَلَا نِسَاءٌ مِنْ نِسَاءٍ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَكُنَّ خَيْرًا مِنْهُنَّ ۖ وَلَا تَلْمِزُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ وَلَا تَنَابَزُوا بِالْأَلْقَابِ ۖ بِئْسَ الِاسْمُ الْفُسُوقُ بَعْدَ الْإِيمَانِ ۚ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَتُبْ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

Believers, no one group of men should jeer at another, who may after all be better than them; no one group of women should jeer at another, who may after all be better than them; do not speak ill of one another; do not use offensive nicknames for one another. How bad it is to be called a mischief-maker after accepting faith! Those who do not repent of this behaviour are evildoers. (Al Hujurat, 49:11)

Cool huh? Beware when you make fun of someone for their tears y’all!

Day 23

Something I wrote for school going children to be published in their newsletter 

Day 19

Things happen for a reason, innit? There are no accidents or coincidences. It happened because it was meant to happen. 

It is so much easier if you deem it a coincidence though, is it not? You move on, whistling a tune like there weren’t invisible, high tech recorders furiously taking down every small response of yours. Could that be an opportunity you missed, a test you failed, a challenge you aced, some fear you conquered- what was it?

And then I wonder about that Hadith of the Prophet’s; how the angel Jibrael (a) said amen to the misery of the one whose today is no better than yesterday. Are we growing every moment? Have we consciously programmed into our subconscious that we ought to be improving, making better choices for one..?

Is that why my days frustratingly melt into one another, with nary a change for the better? Cannot grow unless there is improvement- say if day one sees me going ballistic at my sibling, rounding it off nicely by calling said person animal names (in lieu of profanities of course), then a repeat of the incident on day five should see me being slightly more patient by letting go of the swear words or the screaming or at least knowing inside, where it was that we crossed over from rightfully annoyed to the land of crazed trolls!

That would explain why there aren’t more of some “happy coincidences”. If I’m not consciously making an effort to improve, why should there be help from the heavens? 

Day 17

Breakfast is the most difficult meal of the day. If you don’t believe me, you ought to head down to our kitchen every morning. There’s a call for homemade yet interesting, economical yet delicious. Oh, and don’t forget healthy! All this in a sleep-deprived state of sham-manliness, served hot with a smile.

Then comes lunch and it’s miserable to try to brew all the interesting magic that’s already been used before noon. There are a lot of factors to consider here, heavier on the scales than they were at breakfast. Talk gourmet, talk special and delicious. Most of us may not be consuming it but we would definitely wish to sample it, (especially) if it should be absent! Then of course we’ll let you know how we haven’t had a proper meal since that Wednesday biryani of some ages ago, and how not-well (read: abysmal?) you cooked. 

Order-in anyone? For after all the fiasco of the previous meals, should you even try anymore? Should you attempt a stand at the chopping board with watery eyes, red nose and stinky pits? Even if we behaved well, we’d only fry something for ourselves to curb down the rumbling rather than give thanks to what’s on the menu by you. 

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُلُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا رَزَقْنَاكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لِلَّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
You who believe, eat the good things We have provided for you and be grateful to God, if it is Him that you worship. (2:172)

So much for food? Really? And I’ve been told time and time again how ours is a household that’s choosy about food to a lesser degree than many. Now that’s one shuddering thought.

Day 13

The only person whose opinion ought to matter to you, is yourself.

Ever heard of the aforementioned concept? You see, there are a lot of put-downers (those who put you down) in the world and not enough put-uppers (those who encourage you). The latter should cease to matter if one has substantial trust in one’s abilities. (By extension however, yourself could also include your people; parents, siblings, etcetera.)

So long as we have a clear idea of what we wish to accomplish in life and how we want to go about things, why should anyone’s opinion of your route/decision/system/process matter? Weird as it may seem, I have always trusted my instincts when it came to decisions. Say it’s the morning of the final exam at university and I can’t find my admit card- Is the gut beginning to panic or just the brain going around asking for possible suggestions, is what I ask myself. And somehow the body parts know which is which and behave accordingly. 

Had I really lost the card, the mouth would’ve tried up and the throat choked down. Good signs in order to decide upon the way forward (whether or not to puke/panic/hyperventilate), no?

Anyway, if you know you got to go a certain way, that is indeed your prerogative and yours to mess with as you please, if you’re doing it for the right reasons (as explained by you, to yourself). Psychology says if you know something with a surety (inside of you) and then you try to explain it, you are sure to go wrong.

Malcolm Gladwell explains it very well in his book, Blink, how a top notch archaeologist looked at this dug up statue and knew right away something wasn’t quite right, even after a lot of experts had studied the piece of art and come up with tangible evidence proving its historic beginnings etcetera. Try explaining your misgivings to someone right away though, and that is just the brain trying to shoot arrows in the dark and sure to miss any target. Bottom line: Trust yourself and stand true, especially after you’ve prayed istekhaara!

Day 11

Ever said No?

Never said No?!

Naysayers may not be looked at very favourably but neither is it cool when you say “Aye!” all the time. Quite pitiful really. Ah, look who’s talking!

From lending out cute (nearly nonexistent) outfits to books to having less than happy food shoved at you to giving bed and breakfast and time and energy to all and sundry and all things in between – it would be sigh-worthy pleasurable to do something for oneself every once in a while and-this is the most important bit- NOT feel guilty afterwards.