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Monthly Archives: February 2004

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I ate a bonbon.

It had to happen eventually, what with there being a box of white bonbons in the house. Do I feel guilty for it? Absolutely not, which may be part of the problem. Here I am lifting weights, exercising and trying to get into better shape, and I go and sabotage myself with a bonbon. And let’s not even going to talk about the bowl of ice cream I just finished. It’s too traumatic and I’m not ready to discuss it yet.

The point is, sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. Though as my own enemy, I might be in good company. Apparently my father is in cahoots with the enemy, because he’s the one who bought the ice cream. And LilGrey too, cuz she bought the bonbons. *muwah!* (love thy enemy?)

But if I’m my own worst enemy, and junk food is my enemy too, then isn’t the enemy of the enemy my friend? And doesn’t that mean that the bonbons are my friends? And if the bonbons are my friends, then why are they out to get me? Why are they out to thwart my plans of fitness and good health. How could you do this to me? I thought we were friends!

Sheesh. With friends like this, who needs enemies.

Left Brain: It’s 1 am again.

Right Brain: Yep. Same time as yesterday.

LB: That makes today Friday already.

RB: Yep. Happens every week.

LB: You know what that means, don’t you?

RB: That we know the days of the week?

LB: No, it means that we haven’t showered in three days.

RB: So what?

LB: So what? If we wait any longer we’ll set a world record, that’s what.

RB: I’ve always wanted to be famous.

LB: And if another day goes by without shampooing, then our hair will be able to stand up in spikes of its own volition.

RB: Hey man, you’re the one who scratched your head after eating parathas, so don’t try to blame this on me. Besides, even if we wash it it’s just going to get dirty again.

LB: Right, just like how there’s no point in cleaning anything because it’s just going to get dirty again.

RB: Now you’re talking.

LB: And there’s no point in eating cuz you’ll just get hungry again..

RB: Whoa, hey, now that’s just crazy talk. Step back from the ledge and we’ll talk about this.

LB: There’s nothing to talk about. We can’t go on like this, if we insist on having hair then it must be washed, and that’s final.

RB: Hmmmm.

LB: Hmmmm?

-pause-

LB: Hey, where are you going?

RB: To get a pair of scissors.

Aaaaaaarrrhhhh…my hands are shaking. Not just my hands, my arms from the shoulder down are trembling in an embarrassingly old-lady kinda way. Why? Cuz I’ve been lifting weights. And do you know what the embarrassing part is? It’s the amount of weight I’ve been lifting. You really wanna know how many pounds/kilos it takes to make me sore and trembly? You really wanna know?

*drumroll please*

And the amount of weight that maxes out Sensei’s puny muscles is…

5 kilos. (…that’s 10.8 pounds for those who don’t think in metric)

Yeah yeah, I can see all you people out there rolling your eyes and going psshhh…five kilos. Whatta weakling! And me at home, you know what I’m doing? I’m rolling my eyes and going, psshhh…I am a weakling! I have no choice but to confess that I, Sensei, am a weak and puny mortal, and if my life were made into a superhero movie, I wouldn’t get the lead role. I’d be listed in the credits as ‘civilian destroyed by city-eating monster #2,’ right between ‘fleeing man’ and ‘dog killed in the beginning to wrench viewer heartstrings.’

I like to imagine myself as a rough & tough, butt-kicking ninja-type person, especially when I’m playing video games, but the truth is that I couldn’t even make a good video game character. They do all that running and jumping non-stop, and they never run out of breath or break a sweat. Take Gabe Logan for example, the ape-faced secret agent in Syphon Filter who sneaks, rolls, jumps, shimmies and sprints his way through sniper fire and explosions, all while carrying this really heavy gun. Does he ever get tired? No. Why I’ve run him through three levels straight without giving the poor man a breather, while I, on the other hand, can’t run down the block without stopping to clutch at my heart and wheeze like an octogenarian.

Then there’s Lara Croft, who has a vertical leap of what looks like seven feet and can push and pull blocks of solid stone the size of cars. And Samonosuke, the Samurai warrior from Onimusha, he whips around that big old sword like it’s made out of a TV antenna and manages to keep all his hair in place too. Now there’s a skill I’d like to master.

Speaking of Samurais, I shouldn’t even bother thinking I could be like Jack. Not only can the dude practically fly, but he drives his sword through steel like it’s made out of butter. I, on the other hand, can’t drive a knife through butter without wondering if it’s made of steel. To be fair though, as far as cartoons are concerned Jack is in a league of his own. Other cartoon characters are slightly less intimidating. In fact, there are a few that I could even liken myself to.

Specifically, Garfield.

Blogistani time-travel. We are moving backwards through history (woosh!), all the way back to July 17th, 2003. Note the following entry:

Oh yeah, yesterday I walked into my room and noticed that there was a shaft of light shining through the packing between the air conditioner and the wall. Did I say packing? I meant Styrofoam, there’s Styrofoam crammed into the space to close it off, and behind the Styrofoam is a bird’s nest. So yesterday I noticed that the birds, who had steadily been poking feathers into my room through the cracks, had finally pecked a large hole through the foam and forced a mess of feathers and straw through the hole.

(Tweet tweet. Hey honey, did you know this nest had an attached bed and bath?)

So I went downstairs and grabbed a roll of duct tape (nothing a roll of duct tape can’t fix) and a cutting blade and came back up with the intention of closing the hole. I climbed the bookshelf (thank God for sturdy carpentry!) with tape in my hand and the blade between my teeth and was highly shocked to hear the top of the bookshelf chirping.

Turns out a baby bird had climbed through the hole and fallen a foot to the top of the bookshelf. So I carefully scooped the bird up and nearly gave myself an aneurysm trying to put it back into the hole using only one hand without hurting it. (the other hand was holding me to the bookshelf!) What can I say? Baby birds are very uncooperative. I had to double the size of the hole before I could get the bird back in and then tape the hole over.

That was yesterday. Today the dirty laundry was chirping.

It was another baby bird, buried under a towel. I don’t know whether it fell down yesterday, same time as the other, and had been overlooked by me, or whether it was the same brilliant bird trying to commandeer my bedroom one dirty towel at a time. This time, I had the foresight to bring the digital camera up and take a pic before putting the bird back. I just finished gently cramming the bird back into its nest and taping the hole up again. If anyone thinks baby birds are cute, I invite them to look at the one that fell into my part of the house. (the birds only own the outside, the inside is mine)

Now fast-forward to today. (woosh!)

And que the theme from the Twilight Zone. (ne-no-ne-no-ne-no-ne-no…)

And altogether now…

They’re baaAAAAaaaack!

The sparrows are building a nest in the air conditioner again, and as I lay beneath it today trying to sleep and yet not think hateful thoughts about sparrows in general, I found myself inspired to rip off The Raven. So without any further ado, here O Tolerant of My Nonsense Blogistanis, is:

The Sparrow

(ne-no-ne-no-ne-no-ne-no…)

Once upon a noontime dearie, while I languished, tired but cheery,

Over many a quaint and fluffy pillow trying not to snore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my aircondition-or.

“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “at the aircondition-or –

Only this, and nothing more.”

Back into the pillow turning, all my dreams within me burning,

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.

“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window, drat this:

Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this tippy-tap explore –

Let my snores be still a moment and this mystery explore; –

‘Tis a bird and nothing more.”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flap and flutter,

In there stepped a naked sparrow of the mangy days, Core!

Not the least of cuteness had he; not a mite of charm (nay) had he;

But, with mien of lizard palely fell onto my chamber floor –

Fell upon a pile of laundry just upon my chamber floor –

Fell from yon aircondition-or.

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to wear no clothes so plainly,

Though its buffness little meaning, little relevancy bore.

For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being

Ever yet was blest with seeing bird fall upon one’s floor –

Bird or beast with naked flesh upon his chamber floor,

Which I crammed back into aircondition-or.

And the sparrow, never ceasing, still is pecking, still is peeping

From the nest of straw and wrappers in the aircondition-or;

And my sleep has all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,

As the scratch-scratch o’er me streaming throws my peace right out the door.

And my soul from out that shadow that lives in the aircondition-or

Shall be lifted – nevermore!

You think you have problems?

It isn’t often that you watch something on TV that makes you cry, but sometimes it does happen. Like this evening. I was watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel about feral children, which are basically children who, through extreme neglect, have ‘gone wild.’ The most famous case would probably be Genie, who was kept in isolation, either strapped to a potty chair or tied to her bed for 13 years.

To me, the most shocking and outrageous thing is who treated her this way. Who could treat a child with such contempt? In Genie’s case, it was her own MOTHER. How, my God, how can anyone in their right mind do that to their own child? And it’s not just that one case, it hasn’t been just Genie who suffered. There was Edik who, at the age of four, was living in an abandoned apartment with stray dogs while his mother disappeared for weeks at a time. Then there was Isabel, whose parents kept her in a chicken coop for eight years. And Oxana who was kept in a damn kennel for six years! What the hell is wrong with these people? If they don’t want their children then they’d be better off leaving them at someone’s doorstep, because even state care is better than years of solitary confinement in a cage for an animal.

As I was watching this program I thought, “*&^#%^@ dead-beat parents, if you hate your own child too much to care for them, then give them to me!”

That was what I thought, but then I hit a mental speed bump. “My life has so many problems,” I thought, “I wouldn’t want to bring a child into this.” And, “I’d be so bad at it, someone else will do a better job.”

My answer to these hang-ups (and I can answer them because they’re my own) is this: You think you have problems? Try living in an abusive family, or try surviving in an orphanage. Yeah they get food and clothing, but they need more than that. They need love, they need a family, they need to belong. Your life may not be perfect, but no one’s is. And so long as you run a sane, loving, secure home, you will be giving a child exactly what they need, no matter what the ups and downs.

As for doing a bad job, think of it this way. You want kids right? Then you’ve got to learn to deal with them sometime. And a loving trial-and-error beginning is better than hateful neglect or orphanage deprivation. Kids are humans. It isn’t rocket science. You can learn. I can learn. And Insha’Allah I will. Insha’Allah.

I wish I was married already, because that way I would have a home to bring a child into. Right now I myself am a child living with my parents, and I have no home to provide. But I’m not going to forget about this. I want to remember this, and I want other people to remember it too. If you have a house, if you have a family, if you have more than two pennies to rub together, please adopt. And don’t wait to see if you can have your own children first, because it makes no difference in the situation. Just because you have your own children doesn’t mean that there’s no longer any need. You need to adopt because they need to be adopted.

Ad-Duha, The Morning Light

By the Glorious Morning Light, And by the Night when it is still,- Thy Guardian-Lord hath not forsaken thee, nor is He displeased. And verily the Hereafter will be better for thee than the present. And soon will thy Guardian-Lord give thee (that wherewith) thou shalt be well-pleased. Did He not find thee an orphan and give thee shelter (and care)? And He found thee wandering, and He gave thee guidance. And He found thee in need, and made thee independent. Therefore, treat not the orphan with harshness, Nor repulse the petitioner (unheard); But the bounty of the Lord – rehearse and proclaim!

-The Holy Qur’an, Surah 93

Hmm, is it Thursday already? Sheesh, time flies when you’re errr…bored. Yeah. Bored but busy.

Since we’ll be moving soon (‘nother house up the road) we’ve started delving into the closets and cabinets that haven’t been opened since the year 2001, when we moved in, shelved the boxes and threw away the keys on the storage. Now we have to go through all that junk. Sheesh.

Today Aniraz and I worked on the family room, dumping out drawers and crawling into cabinets. Aside from a head full of dust, we fond interesting things. Like my three-foot long purple flannel hat with a tassel on the end. I was missing that! And the left arm of one of my little brother’s old G. I. Joes. It may have been Sgt. Slaughter, I’m not sure. We also found:

Batteries. Dozens of them, and none of them work.

Rolls of film, all of them used and none of them developed. I’m afraid to turn them in, because I don’t remember taking them and some of the look very, very old. At 100 rupees per roll, I’m not about to take the risk of developing a roll that died sometime back in the seventies, or worse- was taken back in the seventies and will provide yet more pictures of my parents in loud polyester shirts with pointy collars.

Books we’ve never read and never wanted to. Sometimes when people move they go, “Hey! Abez and Aniraz like to read, and I can’t take my books with me, so why don’t I give my books to Abez and Aniraz!” That’s a brilliant idea, except that neither Aniraz nor I read crap, and so there’s a whole collection of books that have never been read past the cover. I know, I know, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But sometimes you can, for some books I don’t even need to read the titles, I can just look at the cover illustration and decide that I don’t want to read them. Books like ‘I Love You Mr. Pirate’, or the ‘Pouty Chick With Poufy Hair Giving Me a Saucy-Look’ book.

Dead dehydrated flies. I never thought it could happen, but apparently in my house, flies can die of starvation, and they sometimes choose the bookshelf as the place where they lay down to die, dry and crisp. *munch munch*

Oh well, on an unrelated note, Sensei is playing (but not necessarily enjoying) Syphon Filter II, only because it’s there. One game I’m finding surprisingly good is Bespelled, and I’m not normally a fan of online games. (I prefer the real deal, where you can actually cheat or throw pieces when you lose. :p )

Why as a child raised in a multi-faith home, I don’t support multi-faith marriages

Ok, here’s the part II to the post I did a few days ago about being raised in a two-faith household. It’s not so much a continuation of the story as it is a warning, or a fine-print. But here it goes.

coexist

You can coexist without marrying each other people- really.

Abez does not in any way endorse or support inter-faith marriages. Seeing as how Allah allowed it, I cannot order people not to do it, but I can say this- a child’s mother is the first and most important teacher in life, and if your religion is important to you, then you probably want your child being taught your religion. Which doesn’t exactly happen when your wife isn’t the same religion. (my wife though, is a different story. :p )

It is inevitable in an inter-faith household that arguments about faith should break out. Not out of anger or hate, but because sometimes talks about religion lead to arguments, and arguments lead to fights and at various points in the child’s life they will be told that the other parent is wrong. Which is pretty durn confusing for a child, because in your innocent eyes your parents are perfect and they’re supposed to know every about everything. (The realization that they aren’t perfect is better left for the teenage years, when they know nothing about anything and no one understands you anyway.)

*slams door*

*writes angstful poetry*

Another thing that a little kid will hear is, “Your Mom/Dad is going to hell, don’t you care?” This kind statement will come from relatives on both sides of the divide, who will try to pry an answer out of you, whether in the form of arguing about it or crying about it. (and when you rush out of the room with a tear-stained face, they whisper, “Poor thing, her parent is going to hell you know…”)

Can you imagine being six years old and being told that your parents are going to hell? And which parent is it anyway? Not having understanding of your own, you wonder which is correct, Islam or Christianity, and therefore, which parent do you have to frantically save before it’s too late? Never mind that Allah’s Paradise is far less exclusive than that, that’s an argument for theologians, not six year olds.

Life for a child in a practicing interfaith family is confusing at best and distressing/emotionally bewildering the rest of the time. (note: non-practicing interfaith family experience is not the same, because when neither parent practices any form of either religion, there isn’t that much to argue about.) Most people take the unquestioned childhood faith they have for granted. Before you get older and start to question, to have doubts that you can later resolve into a faith stronger than before, you have the warm, solid comfort of the religion of your parents that is as flawless as they are and just as real. That is, unless both of your parents tell you that the other’s religion in wrong, because in that case the unquestioned faith is a luxury you don’t have.

I’m not saying that all inter-faith marriages turn out badly for the children, but I am saying that it’s an unnecessary evil. I love my family, and I thank God for my loving parents and the stable home I was raised in, but at the same time, I can see the other mixed-faith households that I grew up with and realize that very few of the children came out religiously straight, and very few of those people are still married. Raising a good family is hard enough in this day and age, why make it harder on yourself but throwing in the element of religion?

Bottom line: Brothers, for the sake of your children, find a wife who will be your partner in instilling your shared religious values, and who will support your way of life. Marriage is a team-effort. It helps if you’re both on the same side.

I haven’t forgotten about typing a part II to the post I started a few days back (about growing up in a two-religion household), it’s just that I had to mention that we had two earthquakes today.

It was so amazing and scary at the same time, SubhanAllah. I felt the first one while I was praying, sitting between sajdas, and I got the distinct feeling that the floor beneath the prayer rug was undulating, like jello.

The second one was an hour or so after that, and as I was sitting on the sofa, I felt the legs begin to move back and forth and noticed that the chandelier was swaying a bit.

You know, you forget that the earth isn’t a solid, unmovable mass. I do anyway, and it’s a humbling reminder when part of it shudders and sets the tea-cups rattling in their saucers. This whole continent is just a crust of dirt floating on a sea of boiling-hot lava, and the sea of lava itself is the core of just one planet among billions in unimaginably large cosmos. And I, I am a trembling, mortal speck staring at the chandelier.

(which, incidentally, needs dusting.)

Alhamdulillah.

PS: A pox on valentine’s day.

(Hey Sensei, what’s up?)

1. I’m trying to brainwash one of my students, but it’s harder than I thought it would be. Hmmph. (mongrel)

2. I had such a big lunch today that it’s dinner-time and I’m STILL feeling full. *groan*

3. I’m wearing my father’s sweater and I’m sorry to say that it looks better on him than it does on me.

4. I’ve managed to distribute 4 dozen of the peanut-butter cookies.

5. My father managed to eat two dozen on his own.

6. I need a nap.

Zzzzz

Growing up: Muslim? Mormon? Confused!

I’ve been asked to write about how, even having been raised in a household with two faiths, I came out to be Muslim. And I have to admit I feel like I’m writing an essay for homework. (That’s irony, said the English teacher.)

Well, my mother was (and still is a Christian) and a my father was (and very much is) a Muslim. When my parents got married sometime back in the seventies, they were both under the impression that each would have the other converted within six months. This joke has only gotten funnier in their last 26 ½ years of marriage. Of course, it’s rather sobering to remember that of all the interfaith marriages we know of where both members were practicing, my parents’ marriage is rare in that they’re still married to each other.

As the story goes, we were born, four of us, each two years apart. We were all given Muslim names and the best Muslim upbringing that my father could manage while working 14 hours a day. We were taught how to read the Qur’an and pray, but there was a limit to how much my father could teach because he had to work. My mother stepped in from there, and on Sundays when a babysitter wasn’t available we went to church. At home, our mother bought and cooked halal because our father said so, but we children didn’t know why and I had secret longings for Oreos that were never fulfilled until Nabisco made them kosher much later.

I have to say that both of my parents became good at compromising and making allowances for the other faith. Our mother made sure we got our food at family parties before it was blessed in the name of Jesus Christ, because that would make it no longer halal. Our father paid for yearly Christmas gifts and Easter candy.

It was a confusing way to be brought up though, and I can remember being eight years old and adamant that I would not dress up for Halloween because it wasn’t Islamic, and the year before that crying because my father wouldn’t let me be in the school ballet for the same reason. (My mother snuck me there anyway. Good thing dad doesn’t read my blog, eh mom?) I’m not going to say that my mother tried to maliciously Christianize us, because any mother who believes her faith is true will try to instill it in her children. Not out of malice, but love. We absorbed church hymns and Bible stories. We grew up with bits of both religion, and I have to admit that I was quite confused for a while. Sometimes I get my stuff mixed up even now. (You mean we don’t have Daniel in the Lion’s Den? Are you sure that story belongs to the Christians? I coulda sworn…)

Having two practicing parents meant that I absorbed a solid base in both religions, but being raised in a totally average American society meant that I didn’t practice much of either. I knew enough to get by in both, but I personally had no strong interest in either religion until I was in high school. And I won’t say that I went and looked for truth. I say truth found me, and that’s well…the truth. It is solely, exclusively through the Grace of God that I was given faith, because I wasn’t looking for it. It happened like this.

One year, my sister and I were talking to our shared best friend, Sabah (our parents were friends before any of us were born so we’ve known each other since we were fetuses) and she told us about this great camp that was all for girls, where they had swimming and rock climbing and workshops and best of all, it was for Muslims. I don’t think we would’ve been able to go off to camp if it weren’t for the fact that it was just for Muslim girls, and before that summer, none of us had canoed or been rock-climbing, or prayed much for that matter. Well, I know it was true for me, but I’m not going to speak for Sabah and Aniraz.

At the time I was 15 and stupid, and the boundaries of my spiritual universe went no farther than Eid prayers twice a year. My world was friends, and school, and giggling about boys, and wishing mom would let me wear make-up and learning to become an artist and writing poetry and terrorizing the mall with my friends. That was my world. I never came to Islamic Camp for the Islam, I came for the camp! And I was not at all hoping or expecting to find Islam.

Well, we went to this camp, and I was just blown away. I was in shock, not because of the spiders (though I refused to sit on the grass the entire time we were there), but because of what I saw. I saw hijabis, beautiful, intelligent, loud, crazy, wonderful hijabis who destroyed all the myths that even I believed about Islam and Muslim culture. It’s true, being raised in the US I had the same stereotypes about Muslim women who covered, that they were oppressed with the cultural baggage of a scarf that their fathers/brothers/camel-riding husbands forced them to wear. It never one occurred to me that there might be logic or beauty or even free will behind it, and I had never been challenged before to open my eyes or even do any independent thinking about religion or what it meant.

That was not the year I started wearing a scarf and practicing Islam, it was the year after that. That was just the year my eyes were opened, just a little. I couldn’t see the big picture, but I knew it was there, and I knew that I had some looking to do. I started asking myself questions, but very, very slowly, because part of me didn’t want to. No one wants to do what’s hard, no one really wants to go and make a difficult change in their lives. It was hard for me to start thinking about being a Muslim, because it wasn’t something I had thought about often. My identity was of reluctant half-Pakistani American.

(*Note, I never called myself a half-American Pakistani. For years I told everyone my ancestors were Mongolian rather than admit I was a ‘gandhi’ Pakistani. There was one year when I told people to call me Diana. The next year I wished my name was Brittany. If I remember correctly, I think Aniraz had wanted to be Clara)

Out of the four of us siblings, I can easily say that I am the most Caucasian looking. Without a scarf I am practically unrecognizable as anyone remotely non-Anglo. I have my mother’s nose and her Irish freckles, the only people I know with paler skin than I are Europeans. I know dozens of half-breeds like myself, but none of them look an un-Pakistani as I do. I used to consider this an advantage, because except for my name, I blended into Anglo-American society perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that when I finally started wearing a scarf a year after attending camp, many of my friends were shocked. They hadn’t even known I was Muslim.

I can’t blame them for not knowing. I lived in T-shirts and jeans. I never spoke Urdu except in Pakistan (and even that with a terrible accent) and I had never talked about religion. Until I started wearing a scarf they had all thought I was like them, normal.

But it was a long year between my first camp and my first time wearing a scarf. My second year of camp I was a nervous hijabi with a badly pinned, highly unmanageable scarf. Luckily my second year of summer camp came with the best, closest, most inspiring, most Islamic circle of friends I have ever had in my entire life. Of course Sabah was in it, but now we had Hana, Shamaila, Nadia, Aneeqa, Fareena, Yasmine, Amira, Sana, Naeema, Fareeha… There were so many hijabis, they were all great people, and they were my inner-circle from that year until the day I left the US, five years later.

It is said that your friends, and not your parents, have the greatest impact on who you are and who you become. I believe that 100 %, because it was not my initiative, but my friends’ initiative that carried me farther into learning about Islam, about debating the questions we had and figuring things out for ourselves. I had never been outside of cultural ‘Pakistani Islam’ before, in which religion was prayer on holidays, a shawl for when the azhan was called and a dupatta on your shoulder. That was all. Once you covered those bases you were 100% guaranteed a spot on Paradise.

I had never thought even for a moment what Islam meant and whether or not there was a point to anything at all, and when I started finding out I was awed. And humbled. And naturally, very guilty. Not because any of my friends ever told me to wear a hijab or ever rode me for being such a substandard Muslim, but because I realized that I owed Allah gratitude and faith, and I was measuring up short. I had to put my money where my mouth was, and if I said I was Muslim and that I believed Islam was the best, then I should be practicing it.

And it’s been slow going, and I’m still nowhere near my destination. But here I am today, and I have Allah to thank for it, for giving me parents who taught morality no matter what religion and kept me from straying too far before I had sense enough to look for a path on my own. I thank Allah for my friends, and I still pray for them though I haven’t seen most of them in nearly four years. I thank Allah for making me Muslim, cuz God knows that if I was left to my own devices, I would have vanished into the spiritual no-man’s land that people sleep-walk their lives through.

Alhamdulillah. That’s all.

Alright y’all, that there other comment box was a’running out of space. Here’s our spaghetti western so far.

A light breeze blew, stirring up the dust in front of the saloon and carrying it down to the stable where my horse stood. Good old Bullet, my trusty steed had carried me this far in my journey, through dry canyons, across roasting deserts, through Desi traffic, and now into Hell’s Teeth. Hell’s Teeth was one of the nicer names of this one-horse town, this out-of-the way den of crime and corruption they called Isloo. And they don’t even have a ice-skating rink.

I sat rocking on the porch of Ma’s General Store, cooling my heels and waiting. Ms.X could stomp all over the Mesa looking for me, but I was gonna be here waiting for her when she came back, and then. Well, then there would be some talking and maybe some fighting and maybe some shooting too, but one of us was going to lose. *queue rousing battle-score type music*

Two-fingers Mac came out of the saloon with his broom in his hand and started sweeping. He looked up at me mid-sweep and froze. He knew what was coming, so he took his broom and hurried back inside. Everyone knew, what with the way Ms. X had been a-talking up her outfit and riding roughshod over the locals, challenging them. And she had a-challenged me, but not afore trying to make me join her crew.

“Sensei,” she said with a chaw of tobacco in her cheek, “I reckon there’s room for a fast gun in my outfit. So long as you cut your allegiance to that other outfit, and stop wearing that there rag on your head. We pay better than ole Iz-laam any day now, don’t we boys.”

I rejected her outright. Told her where her outfit could go and what she could do with her pay. It weren’t pretty. But I wasn’t there to talk pretty, I was there to talk straight and shoot fast.

As I sat on the porch waiting, the bat-wing doors on the saloon opened and the sheriff stepped out. The sheriff, whose name was…

(Continued by Binje)

The sheriff, whose name was…

Ugly McPretty walked out in his usual outfit of black all over with the shinning silver badge which asserted his authority over the town. “I hear ya been waiting for Ms. X here Sensei, what in tarnation is all this about?”.

“Dont concern you sheriff, best you stay outta my way”. This comment from our hero took the sheriff back for a moment. With a stern look on his face, the sheriff walked over to Sensei and said, “y’all may have yer petty disputes, but dont ya have ’em none in my town. I’m the law here and everyone respects me fer it. I kept this town clean all this time and I aint about to derrrty up ma jailhouse over this”.

“I told ya before sheriff, and I aint gonna repeat myself… now let me be” came the reply….

The sheriff was just about to say something when all of a sudden….

(Continued by Baji)

The sheriff was just about to say something when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught Ms. X make a sudden movement. Time slowed. I saw her hand reach for a right-hand draw. Her lips twisted into a victorious sneer. My black scarf undulated in the wind. Dustballs rolled down the street coating vehicles, horses, camels, cows, and gawkers alike in a fine, thin layer of grit and grime. Before Ms. X could clear her weapon from its holster, I had already drawn, locked and loaded, and aimed.

“There may be room for a fast gun in your outfit, but is there room for a fast bullet in your slow brain?” I asked.

Ms. X froze. The only detecable movement was the angry tic at the edge of her beady little eye. Tobacco juice began to dribble down her chin but she made no move to wipe the spittle away. She knew she was just a hair’s breadth away from meeting her end.

*queue the theme music from ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’ since blogistan has no regard for copyright infringments. ooeee ooeee oooooo…wah wah wahhhhh*

(Continued by Shady Wayne)

…The glint off my silver Peacemaker shone on Ms X’s face, as her shameful past slithered by in a flash. X knew her end was near but she loved her life just too much to let it get away.

“Your scarf’s off kid” she drawled and burst into a hissy laughter. Instinctively, my hand reached for my head and as I dropped guard for that split second, X jumped up and grabbed my gun. “Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway,” she shrieked, and now it was my turn to stare down the barrel as a cowboy crooned in the distance…

“She found him with a sweet young filly

Makin’ calf eyes and layin’ it on thick

And before he knew what had happened

She stabbed him with a Texas toothpick”

(Continued by Abez)

“She found him with a sweet young filly

Makin’ calf eyes and layin’ it on thick

And before he knew what had happened

She stabbed him with a Texas toothpick”…

I lay on the ground humming this tune to myself. X looked at me like I was outta my blasted mind. And maybe I was, laying in the middle of the road with an enemy on my stomach and a gun in my face, singing.

Ms. X got a look in her eyes that I often a’seen in cattle when you cut them off. She was spooked. I smiled at her.

“I thought you was plannnin to shoot me Ms. X, not ride me.”

The people laughed. X swore and jumped off’a me, pointing her piece. I’m going to shoot you and I’m going to do it right,” she hissed, “So stand up and take the bullet like a man.”

“Very well then.” I got up slowly and made a big show of it, dusting off my chaps and straightening the scarf underneath’ma hat. As I stood I tipped my hat to Sheriff Ugly McPretty and he frowned at me. I turned and was about to drop a curtsey to the barber who was peering out of his shop windows when Ms. X fired.

She got me too, clipped my ribs and drew blood, but never more than than. Cuz I drew lead and took a shot off’m her that knocked the gun out of her hand. She was a-mighty mad, and she was clutching her bloody hand to her chest for dear life.

“Damn you Sensei!” she screamed, insulting me and turning tail at the same time. “The Boss is gonna hear about this, you can’t mess with our outfit and walk. You’re gonna get it bad!”

She said some more after that, ugly words as she ducked into a side-street and ran, but I wasn’t paying attention. I was busy being fuzzy-headed, and wondering why my side was hot and my shirt was red and why the ground seemed to be rising to meet my face.

They told me I passed out before my face even hit the dust…

(Continued by Mujahida)

They told me I passed out before my face even hit the dust…

During the following days I had only a few minutes of consciousness. Sheriff Ugly McPretty’s wife had taken me in and did her best in patching me all up. Unfortunately I was her first patient, her previous experience amounting to the healing of a paper cut on the Sheriffs thumb…

(Continued by Baji)

Unfortunately I was her first patient, her previous experience amounting to the healing of a paper cut on the Sheriffs thumb. My ribs still ached when the weather turned and I was going to have to work hard to get my left shooting arm back to its swiftness and stregth. But by the Grace of God and my own darn stubborness, I healed quickly and cleanly. Which is just the manner in which I hoped to dispatch of Ms. X the next time I clapped eyes on her.

I thanked Sheriff McPretty and his dainty lil’ wife for their hospitality and made tracks. Ms. X’s posse was surely on its way. I (somewhat less gracefully than usual) mounted my horse, tipped my hat to the McPrettys, and turned my face towards the blazing, setting sun. I was heading west. Right into Ms. X’s territory. If she wanted a fight, I was going to oblige and bring it to her…

(Continued by Momma!)

Suddenly out of the cornor of her eye, Sensei caught a streak of silver. She knew there was only one thing that traveled that fast in all the Wild Wakistani West. Her portable weapons of mass distruction she kept hidden under her hijab wouldn’t be able stop this!

She sensibly made for high ground and had just shimmied up Devil’s Chimney when the silver streak stopped with a screaching of brakes, and a curb jumping thud at the base. Out of her trusty steed, the Silver Bullet jumped the Indian Princess Grouchy Owl. Her kaajaled eyes and mehendied hands told Sensei she was on the war path again (or should I say as always?). Dictators and Potentates shuddered at the pass of her shadow.

She straightened her owl feather hijab, adjusted her silk sari(Hey, you asked for Indian, so you got an Indian-Indian) She extended her arm in the universal greeting of “Salam” to the starteled Sensei.

“I have news from the reservation.” she grunted.

(Continued by Shady Wayne)

“Fire away”, I said, although i knew what the owl had to say. She was my jumma woman, my faithful ally as I worked the daily grind in the Wild Wakistani West. Battle-scarred she wasn’t but I couldn’t do without her.

“Them cowboys sent you regards and a nod. They will be waitin’ at the usual place–the crooked tree by the ol’ wooden bridge.” I smiled and rode on as the Owl’s silver bullet burned rubber heading back to town. Just before I left ol’ McPretty’s house, I had sent word to my cowboy buddies. My adventures were a-lacking without them and I wouldn’t dream of hitting X’s territory if they not be ridin’ by muh side.

My silver Peacemaker, still smellin’ of a shootout, lay snug in its holster. And under my hijaab, I stacked them shiny throwing stars—a sensei special. I looked forward to seein’ mine buds; It was long since we had all saddled up.

A long, rough ride lay ahead o’ me and my faithful steed slowed to a canter as the crimson sun started to cast longish shadows.And as we rode into the desert, I hummed…

“And he rides the wild horses,

The same blood flows through their veins.

Yes he rides the wild horses,

Like the horses he’ll never be tamed.”

(Continued by Abez)

I was singing again, being in a singing mood. Things were looking up. My friends would be waiting for me and my side was healing up nice.

Of course, that meant that Ms. X’s hand must be healin up too, but that was something I could deal with. She couldn’t out-shoot me. She took a pot-shot off’me when I wasn’t looking, but I beat her to the draw.

Still, she would be mad, and mad people do stupid, violent things. I didn’t feel like singing no more. Nevermind. I changed my direction and started riding for the crooked tree and my friends. Some of them were excellent trackers, what with them being Indians- like Shady Wayne. He lived on the Hydro Reservation upcountry, where he…

(Continued by Christoph)

… had a cactus ranch. Shady Wayne bred the tallest, spikiest, cactusiest cactus herd this side of al Paso.

(Continued by Abez)

And maybe if his cactussy cacti gave him a spare moment, he and his guns could ride out to the crooked tree. I wasn’t sure if he was coming though. I wasn’t gonna force a body to take on another man’s fight. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to swing by the Hydro Reservation and say salaam.

It was a dry, lonely ride to the reservation, and my side ached and reminded me of how close I’d come to being a late-gunslinger, a Sensei deceased- an ex-parrot. All that reminding made me cranky, and when Bullet stopped at tiny oasis to refuel, I hopped off and kicked at the dust before I thought better of it. And then I heard a voice say, “What you got against that there dust?”

I was taken aback, I couldn’t tell where the voice was coming from.

“Come out and show yourself,” I said irritably. Being caught off guard made me nervous and angry.

The voice came again and said…

(Continued by Shady Wayne)

“Lookie here kiddo; on yer left” I turned to look but I din’t see nobody ‘cept vast expands of sand and a dry shrub. Just as I turned to the other side, I heard a laugh and just then it struck me. It wasn’t an urban legend after all. There in front of me stood the folklore I had heard again and again right from the time I was knee high. “He he he”, said the talking shrub…

(Continued by Lil Baji)

I rubbed and blinked my eyes. My attention was directed to my left when I heard someone crooning “Rambling Man”. I whipped around, I saw a long, lean vampire playing a banjo. I scratched my right arm and tilted my head, trying to make sense of what my eyes were telling me. It wasn’t until I saw several squirrels dancing around in tutus that I figured something was seriously wrong.

I shook my head vigorously to clear it. Once. Twice. The hallucinations were gone. My right arm was itchin’ something fierce and when I finally gathered my thoughts and focused, I found a wee feather attached to a slender dart that was jammed directly into my arm. Uh oh.

(Continued by Baji)

“Well well well, lookee what we got here,” Mx. chortled, emerging from the shadows. “You ain’t so fast now, are ya?”

She was right. I tried to reach for my gun, to ball my hand into a fist, even to make some obscene gesture. Nothing. My arm would not obey.

“Looks like your trigger-happy hand is unhappy,” Mx. sneered.

“Least I got a hand,” I replied, looking pointedly at the stump at the end of her arm.

Her cruel smile wavered for an instant and then she really laid into me.

“Ya got yer hand, but you don’t got yer lil’ Princess Grouchy Owl no more. We do. And we got plans fer both of ya.”

Rage coursed through me. Instant, spontaneous, fierce. It cleared my mind for a moment, but I could feel the effects of whatever poison Mx. used on me begin to race through my body. Somewhat unsteady on my feet, I had just enough energy to glare at her.

“Why you low-down, lily-livered, yellow-bellied, good-fer-nuthin’. . . flea-bitten, card-cheatin’ . . . rassin’ . . . frassin’ . . . . . . ” My thoughts slowed and my anger melted into a sort of wavy, blissful feeling. My lips refused to form any more words. The world tilted. My vision wavered and dimmed. I could feel myself starting to fall.

“Not again,” I thought to myself. .

(Continued by Abez)

I can’t say it was unpleasant, being out cold. I remember a humming noise, and warmth, and the sensation of wanting to be left alone. But they wouldn’t leave me alone. There were snakes twisting around my ankles, holding them together. I could feel them growing tighter. I looked around and saw my hands in the jaws of a giant lizard, and felt myself being dragged along as it gnawed my wrists raw.

After a time the snakes calmed down and turned back into ropes and the lizard that drug me turned into a horse. I was still being a-drug though, hands-first behind a horse through the blistering sand.

At some point the dragging stopped and I felt myself being hauled to my feet. My hands were still tied, and so were my ankles. I was grabbed roughly under the shoulders and pulled towards a camp fire. I could hear its crackle, feel its heat, and I knew that alot of time had passed while I was unconscious. It might have been too much to hope for that someone would miss me and come looking. But still, a body could hope…

(Continued by Taha)

… with all the shadows leaping and dancing from the crackling fire I couldn’t be dead-on certain though normally only old Steady Hand Atticus could see better than me on any given day, matter of fact, as the story goes he once shot the head off a rattler 90 paces away just to impress a missus when the rest of us couldn’t even see it till we got closer. But ol Steady Hand Atticus is gettin on in years and his sight just ain’t what it used to be so that pretty much makes me number one…

…so when I tell you I thought ah saw a cowboy hat out there in the shadows well you can just take mah word to the bank but heck don’t take it to the one on Elm street ’cause one time ah found a gold nugget, OK well maybe I didn’t find it, maybe me and Shady captured it in one of our raids but Ahm tryin to tell a story here and if I says I found it then I found it…

(Continued by Raahil strong)

…and hope indeed, a body did have. Although hands and ankles still tied, sitting before that fire was soothing and reassuring in its own way. though, with daylight, even the strongest of camp fires would leave nothing but ash.

Time was running out, and something had to be done. For these hand and ankles were not bound by some ropes a mere mortal could remove.. for they had to burned off by the CINDERS OF ZAFA! Terror struck the hearts of commoners at the mention of its name. For it was a place, enshrouded by the jungle of Kanba, a place where only the lionheart dared to enter by night. But, there was something else… long ago, at the birth of I, a wise man had trekked the plains of south, only to arrive at the birth and give glad tiding of hope.

Still a little dazed and confused, I focused my eyes towards the one… the one who had rescued me.. Sayyidee, I feel as if i’ve known you all my days. Will you not make mention of your tale, will you not reveal yourself, my robed companion? Slowly before me, he pushed back the loose hood that had covered his head and had obstructed a view of his face…

Raised in the barren deserts of Namnor, Sayyid was a truth-seeker, a wise youth of noble lineage…

(Continued by Abez)

Or so I heard. Or maybe that’s what I thought I heard. I wasn’t even sure if that’s what I had seen, because I doubted my sanity when I started seeing hooded cowboys rising noiselessly from the desert sand. I told myself that it must have been them poisons that X shot me up with, but when the campfire suddenly went out and I found my hands free, I knew it had been more than a hallucination.

But I didn’t give it more thought than that. There was a whooping and a hollering in the dark, and it sounded like X and her crew were in for some trouble. I lit a shuck. I don’t care what some people say about the enemy of my enemy being my friend. Truth is, sometimes my enemy’s enemy hates me more than my enemy himself.

“Damn poison,” I muttered while dragging my boots through the cool, midnight sand. “Damn X,” I said when I realized that I left my horse back with X. I almost turned back for Bullet, but then I remembered that only the lowest, meanest varmint will hurt a good horse, and X may have been bad, but not that bad. Besides, Bullet was faster than sound and stronger than an ox. To shoot a horse like that would be a sorry waste, and I was counting on X’s greed to kick in where her compassion might leave off. I’d get bullet back later. For now, I was walking to the crooked tree with friends far ahead and enemies close behind.

I sat down on the sand just as the sun was beginning to peek over the dunes. I was dog-tired, my feet were chaffed from where sand had gotten into my boots and my lips were beginning to crack. I needed water, I needed shelter, and I needed them both fast. Once the sun came up I’d be a goner.

Once the sun came up I’d be a goner. I climbed to the top of the dune and tried to get my bearings. The Margalla Hills and Isloo were behind me, the ugly town of Pindi was to my left, and ahead of me lay an endless sea of white sand. I wanted to scream.

But I didn’t. I closed my eyes and sat down. That was a mistake right there. Never close your eyes and sit down. You might sit on a cactus, like I did. It was quite a cactussy cactus too. Tall and spiky, not at all a pleasant place to rest one’s laurels. I jumped up and whooped, and from somewhere in the sea of white sand someone whooped back. I knew that sound, and just then I knew them cactuses. I was on the Hydro Reservation, and here was a’coming Shady Wayne…

And now, Chapter Two…

RIP: The Iron

It’s 1:30 am and everyone else is asleep. Whackos. They went to bed early on me. Hmmph! The night is young, I say! So here I am downstairs, on the computer, blogging in the dark. Hooray!

I was going to blog about Urdu expressions, specifically, one that I hear most often- Aap kiss matkay may say nikal kay aie ho? Literally meaning, What clay pot did you just crawl out of?

The proper time to use this expression on me seems to be the afternoon, when I have just changed out of my work clothes (jilbab) back into my house clothes (shalwar qameez.). As I walk down the stairs in the aforementioned house clothes, it is one’s duty to look up at the wrinkled qameez and the shalwar so creased that it hangs at the calves, and then say, “Aap kiss matkay may say nikal kay aie ho?” the implication being that until recently my clothes had been balled up inside a clay pot, and I inside of them.

Alright, so I don’t always iron my house clothes. I do sometimes, but to be honest, I boycott the iron from approximately June until September, when the weather is so hot that I don’t have to iron my clothes, they just wilt naturally in the 110+ degree heat. The weather right now is nice though, so how come I’m still being asked about clay pots? Well, the iron’s dead.

Deceased. It’s gone to meet its maker. (Black & Decker)

It hasn’t worked in nearly two weeks, and consequently my professional wardrobe has been reduced to only those things that are wrinkle-resistant. Or at least less wrinkly than other things. That leaves me with the black jilb, the red jilb, and the pinstrip jilb. I’m fortunate that some students only have class with me once a week, so with them I have two more jilbs and thus two more weeks before I have to fix the iron or begin the black-red-stripes cycle all over again. With other students I’m not so lucky. Some I have three times a week, and I’m running out of imaginative ways to bring variety to my wardrobe.

Week one:

Monday: Red jilb with paisley shawl.

Wednesday: Black jilb with silver pin.

Friday: Striped jilb with sandals.

Week two:

Monday: Black jilb with paisley shawl

Wednesday: Red jilb with sandals

Friday: Striped jilb with silver pin.

It’s only been two weeks, but if this keeps up any longer I’m going to get desperate.

Week three:

Monday: Red jilb with paisley shawl turban.

Wednesday: Striped jilb with necklace of sandals.

Friday: Black jilb with a delicate spray of toothpaste-fleck-flowers.

Week four:

Monday: Striped jilb with paper-clip necklace.

Wednesday: Red jilb with paisley shawl toga.

Friday: Black jilb with barrel on suspenders.

Week five:

Monday: Buy new iron. Wear its box to work with black jilb.

Writer’s Block

*Baked 8 dozen peanut butter cookies.

*Peeled an orange with a spoon.

*Began designing myself a new layout.

*Wore mismatched socks.

This is a sum total of noteworthy things I have done today. Somebody tell me how I could turn this into a blog.

I Love Islamabad Traffic

While the action and adventure continues in our Blogistani Spaghetti Western (in the comments of the post prior to this one) I’ll get back to blogging.

I try not to be redundant and blog about the same topic twice in one week (I said ‘I try,’ not ‘I succeed’) but here’s another blog about traffic. I love Islamabad’s traffic. It’s not that we have so very much of it (except in Blue Area from noon to three) but what we lack in quantity we more than make up for in quality. Take, for example, our taxis. We may not have ten percent as many taxis as Karachi does, but we have one hundred percent of the taxi-induced mayhem. Just yesterday one of them drove through a red light and into oncoming traffic (me!!). And you know what the best part of that near-death experience was? That he was driving through the intersection backwards.

Our private cars are no less exciting. On the second day of Eid I found myself driving behind one of the thousands of white Corollas on our streets. There was nothing unusual about it except that the driver was going rather slow. And then he started to veer not-so-subtly to the right, directly for a grove of trees lovingly planted by Pakistan Tobacco Company Ltd. (Save the world, Kill those pesky humans) I pulled alongside of him and looked inside. The driver was asleep, hands on the wheel, chin on chest, foot on accelerator. I honked and he awoke with a start, swerving wildly. I sped out of the way.

Certain other parts of daily traffic here include neither cars nor pedestrians. Such as livestock. Incidentally, buffalos don’t know what it means when you honk. All you can do is roll up the windows and wait until the herd (and the smell) has passed you by.

I mentioned our suicidal pedestrians just a few days ago, but I forget to talk about the murderous ones. These aren’t the ones trying to kill themselves, they’re just trying to kill the others. And these would-be murderers are usually school-boys who think it’s funny to shove their friends off the curb just as a car is driving by. Their friends would fall directly into traffic if it were not for the fact that they are grabbed just in time. Ha ha.

Ha?

What can I say, pedestrians these days have a weird sense of humor.

Hey, on Saturday I actually met Ms. X, the proverbial Darth Vader from my January 13th blog about joining the dark side. I would like to have asked her about that job that was offered (on condition that I not wear a scarf) and whether it had been filled. I would also have liked to have asked her about what the heck she had against my scarf, but Alas, there was no time. The extent of our brief conversation ran like this:

Me: Ms. X, how are you. I haven’t seen you since that last National Day Party.

Ms. X: Oh fine, thanks. I-

Ms. Other: Oh Ms. X, come over here and…

There Ms. X is pulled away by a friend of hers and the conversation is cut short. The End. On asking around I found out that the job actually has been filled, and I have to say I’m disappointed. I was kind of hoping they’d ask me again so that I could have a second chance at that good old-fashioned show-down I’d been wanting with Ms. X. But since it hasn’t happened in real life, I’ve decided that it should at least happen in blogistan. So here, dear blogistanis, is the beginning of a classic spaghetti-western group blog. And remember, it MUST be read with a Western drawl.

A light breeze blew, stirring up the dust in front of the saloon and carrying it down to the stable where my horse stood. Good old Bullet, my trusty steed had carried me this far in my journey, through dry canyons, across roasting deserts, through Desi traffic, and now into Hell’s Teeth. Hell’s Teeth was one of the nicer names of this one-horse town, this out-of-the way den of crime and corruption they called Isloo. And they don’t even have a ice-skating rink.

I sat rocking on the porch of Ma’s General Store, cooling my heels and waiting. Ms.X could stomp all over the Mesa looking for me, but I was gonna be here waiting for her when she came back, and then. Well, then there would be some talking and maybe some fighting and maybe some shooting too, but one of us was going to lose. *queue rousing battle-score type music*

Two-fingers Mac came out of the saloon with his broom in his hand and started sweeping. He looked up at me mid-sweep and froze. He knew what was coming, so he took his broom and hurried back inside. Everyone knew, what with the way Ms. X had been a-talking up her outfit and riding roughshod over the locals, challenging them. And she had a-challenged me, but not afore trying to make me join her crew.

“Sensei,” she said with a chaw of tobacco in her cheek, “I reckon there’s room for a fast gun in my outfit. So long as you cut your allegiance to that other outfit, and stop wearing that there rag on your head. We pay better than ole Iz-laam any day now, don’t we boys.”

I rejected her outright. Told her where her outfit could go and what she could do with her pay. It weren’t pretty. But I wasn’t there to talk pretty, I was there to talk straight and shoot fast.

As I sat on the porch waiting, the bat-wing doors on the saloon opened and the sheriff stepped out. The sheriff, whose name was…

Since 10 this evening, I have:

Washed dishes

Made two coffee cakes

Baked bread

Burnt my thumb

Smashed my thumb

Dyed my thumb black

All I have left to do is:

Clean the house

Wash my baking pans

Press my Eid clothes with a non-functioning iron

Ice my thumb

Wash my thumb

Bandage my thumb

And it’s only midnight. And Eid prayer is only at 8 am tomorrow morning. And there are only 15 people coming over. So I only have enough time to say:

Eid Mubarak! 🙂