Saturday, August 29, 2009

Run through my town, scream til I faint

By popular demand (i.e. Fahad casually mentioned it on my facebook) I am blogging about the joys of Canton. After coming back from Istanbul I expected to fall into a deep despair at being in Midwestern suburbia but I hadn't given Canton enough credit. These are the reasons why Canton has won my heart. 

Amee: I love my mother in law. She is one of the nicest people in the world. She makes me feel safe and loved. She doesn’t ask me lots of questions, she doesn’t make me feel bad for not being talkative when I don’t want to be and she doesn’t force me to eat when I am not hungry. These might not seem like big things but if you have ever had to live with desi people you know how oppressive those things become!

The Silence: There are certain perks to living in the city. There is always a protest or a concert or a near missed riot. There are lots of weird people and bad clothes to make fun of. But because of that, there is lots and lots of noise. In Canton, I can sit in my room and write and read and not be bothered by anyone in the world. I can hear my thoughts!! Also, there is endless diet coke in the garage and on most nights there are potatoes in the fridge.

No Responsibility: Now that I am in a new phase of my life (no more going to Ann Arbor!!) I no longer will have to associate Canton with any sort of work. That means that whenever I am home, I will be on a holiday or break. This will be like my ‘summer home’ but better because I don’t have to pay for it and my in-laws are here to play with.

Solidarity: People from Ohio are automatically impressed when you mention that you are from Canton because by golly they have a Canton too!

The Musjid: In Turkey I got so spoiled with having Musjids all over the place. Here in Canton we have almost the next best thing to But it is nice to just be able to zip right out and right back home without having to feel like you are making a huge commitment. Do you know in Troy many people drive ten or more minutes to get to IAGD??

Canton Couples: There are so many young married couples to play with in Canton. Some of them conveniently live across the street from the musjid and give nice snacks and treats. I have often heard one unnamed Canton moved to Troy guy complain that Troy is the most boring place on EARTH for a young married couple. (He is not related to anyone from 786...) Many of these couples have extremely cute little babies for me to play with. If I lived in Canton I would probably never have to have kids of my own.

Ikea: This isn’t really one of the main things I love about Canton but I just thought I would show off that it is down the road because this tends to impress people.

Add your own joys of Canton. Troy haters please be nice... I do not consider this a betrayal. 

Friday, August 28, 2009

It's a privilege to pee

Why is it that most times handicapped bathrooms are the only ones without pee all over the seat?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

katherine graham

Book Three: Personal History by Katharine Graham
Read: 8/18/2009
Rating: 9.6/10

Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. A much better use of your reading time would be to stop reading this blog and go read this book!

I will admit that the only reason I even bought this book was because it was so cheap. I went to the public library the day before our trip to find a book in their little used bookstore. My criteria were simple. It had to look like it was new. (I like the idea of writing in a fresh book.) It couldn’t be hard cover. (I wanted to be able to carry it easily.) It had to talk to an area on which I was mostly ignorant. Personal History by Katherine Graham fit the bill and for 50 cents it seemed like a steal even before I read a single word.

One reason I wasn’t sure I would get it because at 625 pages I was afraid it would interrupt my pace and I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my goal to keep reading about a book a week. No worries! It was really hard for me to put this book down, even when Costa Rica lay all around me!

I hadn’t even heard of Katharine Graham before picking up this book but was interested in the woman who was described on the back jacket to have piloted the Washington Post through crisis of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.

In her autobiography Katharine Graham not only tells her story but uses it as a vehicle to tell the largely untold stories of her parents and Phil Graham. In the beginning of the book we are introduced to the extreme life of privilege that Graham was born in to. But we also see how lonely this life is, where she is often left with her siblings under the care of governesses and grown ups with the non-existence of her mother’s affection.

Her father is an ambitious and extremely successful businessman. After he buys the Washington Post it becomes his great life work. Her mother is an incredibly selfish and often destructive woman. But there is no doubt that her mother is also brilliant. In one passage Graham quotes her mother, “Most people go through life without ever discovering the existence of the whole field of endeavor which we describe as second wind. Whether mentally of physically occupied most people give up at the first appearance of exhaustion. Thus they never learn the glory and the exhilaration of genuine effort….” This is totally me! I can never focus long enough now to get that satisfaction of pushing through and past a difficult part in my academic work. In law school one of my friend’s use to always tell me to try to sit down long enough that those first flirtations of distraction were gone. I never did succeed but I am going to try again. What an awful state to live in when you only see the most pathetic part of your ability exercised!

Later we meet Phil Graham. At the beginning he is a completely charming man. He is likable and the onset of Graham’s relationship and subsequent marriage seem very promising. She takes us through his great rise. He becomes the publisher of the Post at 30, personal advisor and friend to Lyndon B. Johnson and JFK. His brilliance is breathtaking at times. But he is manic depressive in a time where the language to describe his condition doesn’t even exist.

As he mentally deteriorates Graham is his only comfort and care taker because they are too ashamed to tell anyone about his deep bouts of depression. For five years she nurses him while trying to take care of their four children and still maintaining a picture of a perfect family and business. (Keep in mind that the Post is essentially completely under Phil’s control at this time.) 

As our heart breaks for Graham we are as shocked as she is when we discover that Phil has been having an affair (and also tells her about various other ones he has had) and has decided to leave Graham. At this point Graham blames just about everything on his illness and I am not sure if that is correct. But there is no doubt that at the time that Phil is spiraling out of control. At one dinner to honor his friend he rushes to the mic where he starts to incoherently talk and then proceeds to undress himself. This is his first public outing with Robin, the woman for who he has left his wife. Soon after he is institutionalized. After getting out he glob trots and starts a new life with his mistress. Graham writes “I found it haunting that the life he was reconstructing seemed to be a mirror image of everything we had done together.”

Eventually Phil’s life with his new woman falls apart and he suffers another bad bout of depression. He is soon institutionalized and with the charm that many manic-depressives have, he is able to secure a pass to leave the institution to go home for a bit. Graham and Phil enjoy a nice lunch together and then lay down for a nap. Phil excuses himself to go lay down in one of their other rooms. Moments later Graham hears a gun go off. She races into the room to find her husband lying dead as the pool of blood around him grows.

Graham emerges from this tragedy to take over the Post and begins to make a career for herself. The rest of the book details her rise, the incredible sexism she faced and highlights the many challenges she rises to in her career as publisher of the Post and in her many hats at the Washington Post Company. The story is remarkable and inspiring. If you are looking for a book that will greatly increase your knowledge about American history and politics, this is a sure bet.

The whole time I was reading this book, I didn’t want to know if she had passed away. It was written 12 years ago and as I read the last chapter I was so angry with her. She sounds tired and sad in some ways. My greatest fear is growing old. For the longest time I have prayed that I would die young. (I am sorry to the people this offends.) There is something about becoming that old, having seen that much of the world and losing everyone you have loved that is incredibly depressing and scary. Even Graham, who’s life has been so rich and varied and beautiful must humble herself before the cruelty of age. She is tired, illness is starting to take over her body and she realizes that she is in the “the last lap.” Those words broke my heart. Graham passed away in July of 2001. I pray that she is with her beloved Phil, far away from the darkness of his illness, with her parents who are restored to the days of their best health and with her many friends that she lost over the years. Ameen. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sometimes I wonder, if I'm ever gonna make it home again

After what feels like ages away, I am back at home. My parent’s home that is. Where my history and my life stare me in the face. Where we go to taraweeh prayer in the mosque where I grew up. Where I attended my first Sunday school classes and dreamed about crushes with my girlfriends. I vividly remember one Sunday where we said with wonder, one day we are all going to be married. What a big word that felt like!


I want to write this entry and I don’t want to write this entry. So, mostly I won’t. Perhaps it is my Paksitani background but there are certain things about home that are sacred. That you only write about and talk about with the people you love, trust and care for.


But the superficial things, those are easy to write about. Home has so many comforts. There in neatly filed binders, my mom has put all my awards. Lined on the shelves are trophies from all the different parts of my life. There are my diplomas and graduation pictures, one after another. In fourteen months we will add one more insha’Allah. There is a binder in which my mom has clipped out every newspaper story I have ever been in or written.


I notice that my life goes through periods of intense work and dedication and then I fade away, doing nothing academic or for social welfare. Perhaps we all need periods of renewal and growth, so that we can go back and face the world again. Unfortunately, my last period of inactivity has lasted about seven years. Lately I have been reading, writing, and digesting in an obsessed way. I have probably learned more in that last three to five weeks than I had in the five years prior. In reflection, law school was such a period of apathy and stagnation in personal growth that I feel an incredible intensity to make up for time lost.


This is what home shows me. It provides me a window into a place where I have existed, where I was something better and makes me believe that I can be that again. It is where my parents proudly display my accomplishments, more fully convinced than anyone in the world that there is absolutely nothing their daughter can't do. It is where my dad looks at me in wonder when I come down the stairs to go to a party and says, “That can only be the daughter of a Raja.” It is where, despite all the confusion and miscommunication, I know what love is and I know that I owe so much, if not all, of my success to my parent’s sacrifice and blind faith in me and their full conviction that I can really do anything.


So, I won’t be back here for at least fourteen months. The last time I left for Turkey I cried as we pulled the car out of the drive and I cried for many nights after.  I am scared to leave everything again. It is made even harder by the fact that this time I will be getting on the plane alone. That I will face these coming days with a new strength that I will have to find. But that is the price we pay for wanting to do something, to be something and to carry out a promise we made to ourselves and to our world. In this great month, I ask that you please keep me in your prayers, so that God may help make that which is hard, ver easy. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

spat out Plath and Pinter, I am all the things you regret

Book Five: Rough Magic, A Biography of Sylvia Plath by Paul Alexandar
Read: 8/21/2009
Rating: 7.2/10

I picked up the Plath biography because she is a writer I have always appreciated, though I am only familiar with her poetry and not her novel. It seems that she is as famous for her life story as for her work. She showed an incredible drive and commitment to writing from a very young age. She started submitting her work to magazines before her teens and by the time she entered Smith she had already began to develop her reputation as a writer.


While in school, she applied to anything and everything. One thing I am learning with each biography I read is that every success is born of so many failures. I have yet to know of a successful person who had a golden road before them. Even the most brilliant and accomplished people failed and failed and failed. (This gives me a lot of hope because I am very good at failing.) Here, Plath received about ten to twenty rejections (at least) for every piece of hers that was accepted. Even though she was a writer from the start, her best work didn’t come until the end of her life.


She was plagued with depression for most of her life and her first recorded suicide attempt came while she was at school at Smith. She took rejections to heart and held herself to an incredibly high standard in everything she did. When things didn’t work out, she would fall into a very deep darkness. Complicating her situation was the fact that she had started seeing a doctor for her depression who prescribed electric shock therapy. The therapy which in retrospect is barbaric and cruel was made worse so for Plath because it was not administered properly. She was left alone in the room after her shock treatments. The physical and psychological effects devastated her and seem to clearly lead to her suicide attempt.


I wonder if we will ever understand mental illness. Who can really know anything about it? The patient is lost and confused because they are stuck in a never ending circle of trying to reconcile if how they are feeling is basically nothing more than a severe personality defect or a basic inability to ‘handle’ life or if there is a true chemical cause for their moods and reactions to life. Even when doctors tell someone that they suffer from one mental illness or another, it is extremely difficult for the patient to draw the line as to where their self-responsibility ends and where the illness takes over.


No one can know the darkness, the hopelessness and the paranoia that comes with mental illness unless they have themselves experienced it. Outside of this personal experience there is often doubt, criticism and misunderstanding. Often times, inside of this experience, there are similar feelings as well.


So, as much as we dissect and try to understand Plath, to some extent we will never be able to. Her personal demons were surely elusive, even to her. One person who is portrayed as the great antagonist in her life is her husband Ted Hughes. They entered a whirlwind romance and were soon married. The marriage was both extremely productive and destructive. From this biographer’s account, Plath set the foundation for Hughes success in many ways. She secretly submitted his work to many publications and was his literary agent. She helped him make his name and encouraged him to write, always putting her own work on the back burner to help maintain Hughes.


What was Ted Hughe’s role and responsibility in the death of Plath? There are those of the school of thought that an individual does not have a responsibility for any other human. I strongly support this view unless (and forgive my legal side here) they assume the responsibility. If someone enters into a relationship with a mentally vulnerable person, if they know that someone is suicidal and self-destructive and then they offer themselves again and again, then they have assumed a responsibility for that person. Here Hughes does exactly that. He knows Plath’s vulnerabilities and then exploits them. He uses her loyalty to him for as long as he needs it and when something else comes his way, he abandons her. He knows that it is killing his wife for him to abandon her. He does not give her warning or preparation. One day he loves her and the next he is walking into another lover’s arms. It is my view that there is nothing more inhumane, selfish and monstrous than walking away from someone who loves and needs you. Perhaps it is too demanding a view of the world but the consequences are severe, and so perhaps it is ok to demand such a high standard.


Here, Hughes leaving Plath led to her most severe bout of depression leading to her suicide soon after. Hughes' curse does not end there. He marries his mistress and she moves into the home he shared with Plath and attends to her two children. Soon, she too has a child with Hughes. She is also a writer and lives in the shadow of Plath. Not many years later, she kills herself as well. However, unlike Plath she also kills her baby. Perhaps she could not stand the idea of another one of Hughes lovers stepping in and raising her children like she did Plaths. Almost forty years after her suicide, Plath’s son with Hughes also kills himself. Could Hughes have prevented all this? I think so.


Although the writing in this book is pretty terrible, Plath’s story is an amazing one and this book is definitely worth the read. It is mesmerizing and highlights the frailty of someone who suffers from mental illness despite any of the successes they may have in this life. 

The picture above, unfortunately, is summing up my Ramadan so far.


Ramadan began on Friday as the sun set and the first fast was on Saturday. Every year, for one month Muslims fast every day. They do not eat from sun up to sun down. This is the most base level of the fast. Additionally Muslims do not engage in other sinful activities being especially mindful of refraining from hurtful language, lying, backbiting, and a variety of other things.


I came into this Ramadan with very high hopes. It seems I may have expended much of my excitement in the lead up and am already somewhat drained. Part of the difficulty of this Ramadan also lies in the very long days. Fasting until 8:30 is a much different story than fasting until 6:30. By the time the fast opens it feels like your whole day has escaped while you had little energy to do much.


When I was younger fasting helped me understand how hard it must be for people who don’t have enough resources to attain basic things like food to get out of their desolate situations. While you are fasting you can observe the heightened difficulty in concentrating, in being motivated to push yourself or even just accomplish your basic daily tasks. Through our daily struggles Muslims come to be able to better empathize with the poor, hopefully motivating them to give more in charity and to have more compassion for their brothers and sisters.


I will try to write a little bit about Ramadan every few days to help me stay conscience of my personal progress and also to provide some basic information for people who might not know much about Ramadan or understand what some of the Muslims they know are going through this month. I also hope it can be an open forum for discussion or questions that anyone might have. 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

book reviews

Book: Dreams From My Father, A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barak Obama
Read: 8/13/2009
Rating: 5.5/10

What a slow and often times painful read!! There were so many points throughout the book that I found myself thinking blah blah blah. The main reason I think I found this book so disappointing is because there was a big gap between my expectation and understanding of Obama now in comparison to the time when he wrote this book. He was still quite young, had just finished his stint as a community organizer in Chicago and the book ends with his journey to Kenya where he tries to reconcile the race he has inherited but never really felt he could claim. His writing is not bad but he weighs down on details and exposes us to some of his inner struggles that at times are not the easiest to sympathize with.

Obama’s mother and father met while they were students in Hawaii. His mother is white and his father black. His parents split up when he was very young with his father eventually returning to Kenya, leaving Obama to be raised by his white mother and grandparents. Obama greatly struggles with his racial identity in this context. In a time where racism was legally validated he had to reconcile what it meant to be a black man who was often degraded by white people with the fact that his own family at home was white.

Before reading this book I always took offense to people saying that Obama was ‘black.’ For all intents and purposes he is half-black and half-white. I have often heard my mixed friends complain that they hate when they are identified as one race or another, feeling as if they are expected to deny their mother or father’s background just because of how they look.

Reading about his experience allowed me to understand why Obama can legitimately “claim” his “blackness.” Despite the fact that he was raised with status and privilege not afforded to most black men in his era, he still faced the challenges, hurdles and racial stereotypes that come with being a black man. For those purposes it didn’t matter at all whether he was half, a quarter or five percent black. As long as society saw him as black, he carried the black man’s burden in at least some ways.

He writes, “To be black was to be the beneficiary of a great inheritance, a special destiny, glorious burdens that only we were strong enough to bear. Burdens we were to carry with style.” But later he also adds, “My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn’t, couldn’t, end there.”

In one of my favorite passages in the books he starts to come to terms with his father, who has been absent and has grown into a mythical creature in his mind. “He had never been present to foil the image, because I hadn’t seen what perhaps most men see at some point in their lives; their father’s body shrinking, their father’s best hopes dashed, their father’s face lined with grief and regret.” As he comes to learn of his father’s faults he recognizes that “all my life I had been wrestling with nothing more than a ghost!”

In his trip to his father’s homeland Obama begins to reconcile his identity and fill the missing pieces of his life. He concludes by realizing, “I saw my life in America- the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago- all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain. My questions were my brother’s questions. Their struggle, my birthright.”

Friday, August 21, 2009

On that midnight train to Georgia…

Sorry for the recent absence! Feraz and I just got back from a week in Costa Rica where we celebrated our sixth anniversary and followed it up for a night in Hotlanta! We didn’t have our phones or laptops and it was amazing! I was going to do an extensive write up on the trip but fortunately/unfortunately there are several other things I want to write about which are more pressing to me so instead I will give you an album with lengthy captions. (Kind of lame of me to do in a “travel blog,” I know!)

Three trips for Costa Rica travel:

  1. Go to EMS and buy two pairs of active pants that tear away into shorts and are fast drying. Also invest in some of Patagonia’s underwear and socks that don’t require heavy washing.
  2. Make at least somewhat of a plan and pick a home-base from where you will do most of your traveling.
  3. Do every adventure activity you can but be ready to pay the price!!

At the end of our trip I flipped through my passport to notice there are just two empty pages left. I feel so lucky and happy that I have pushed myself to travel and am especially thankful for this most recent adventure. Despite all the mishaps we encountered, Feraz and I made the most of it and had a really great time. This anniversary trip showed me how well Feraz and I have come to know each other, how much we have grown as a couple and how strong our bond has become. I pray that our love always continues to grow and that God always protects our marriage. A while back I wrote about trusting someone so much that with your eyes closed and without thinking you can fall back and know they will catch you. This trip and these last six months have shown me more than ever how Feraz more than anyone in my life has lived up to this high standard of trust. So, I thank you my love and when I say happy anniversary it is most happy for me who has been so blessed to have you in my life!

Finally, I will say that the more I travel, the more people I meet and the more of the world that I see, I only become more firmly resolved to the basic fact that will drive the rest of my life. This is a world worth saving. 

Click Here for Costa Rica Pictures

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I don’t understand why hijabis call each other sexy, smoking, etc. I don’t think I can stand to see one more facebook album where one hijabi says to another, “I want to get a piece of that.” I am not trying to be antagonistic. I really don’t understand. I see girls and women who I sincerely believe are wearing the hijab for Islamic reasons. Who are wearing it as a means to submit to God but they still use this language. Are you trying to deconstruct the meaning of those words? Is this a form of reclaiming what beauty means? If so, is it ok to do it within the parameters of an ideology that we should be trying to reject? Both socially and religiously?


Is this our way of trying to send the message to young women that cover that they can still be considered beautiful or gorgeous? That they are “hotttt” and need not worry because even if they wear hijab that doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice their objectification in society? In my life I have reconciled a very limited amount of things about hijab and what it means but I think its safe to say that the hijab is in direct opposition to sexual objectification. If so, why do we use this language, why are we creating a culture of degrading women within the context of something that is specifically designed to empower women?


I wore hijab for seven years. I love what hijab represents and the greater struggle it symbolizes. I took off my hijab for so many reasons. Among them, I didn’t feel safe or respected as a woman in this society with it on. I felt that there was a wall between me and the average American and perhaps more meaningfully between me and other Muslims. As a member of this society I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want the great burden of always being a Muslim representative. I took off hijab for both superficial and ideological reasons. It took strength to take off hijab but that choice was born of a weakness in me. It was my weakness not to stand up to fight to create a world in which I could comfortably wear hijab. It was my weakness for not being the type of Muslim that could be proud to be representative of her deen. Instead I succumbed and took off hijab because I felt this society demanded it of me and because I didn't demand better of myself and of it.


These comments aren’t to let off people who don’t wear hijab and espouse the same values and express the same sentiments but I find it especially disturbing to see these patterns more commonly emerging within the hijabi community. Perhaps because when someone wears hijab, it is such a conscience choice. That even if wearing it doesn’t mean everything, it has to mean something. Even with that said, I will note that it is not just hijabis who should hold themselves to a higher standard of self-respect. As Muslim men and women we all make a commitment to modesty. The Prophet said, "Every religion has its characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is modesty." This means modesty in our appearance and modesty in our actions. It is difficult for me to reconcile this with our most constant praise of each other being how sexy or hot we are. 

While I was wearing hijab, I once spoke to a room of a people discussing the relationship between the feminist movement and the right of a woman to cover. I argued that there was no difference between a woman who stood in front of them wearing a hijab and one who stood in front of them without one on. That a woman’s choice to wear a head scarf did not fundamentally alter or define who she was. Just as feminist used to proclaim that a short skirt is not an invitation for rape, a head scarf is not an invitation for judgment, scorn and pity.


At this point in my life, I have to disagree with my younger self. A woman who wears hijab in this country, in these times is not the same as someone who doesn’t. Even if she does not recognize it, she has a great strength inside her. She is brave and courageous for fighting the homogenous image of women that is often thrust upon us in media and society. She is a soldier in a war against women's bodies and self-esteem. 

If looks could kill they probably will

If you are on Facebook you have probably seen most of these, but if not, enjoy!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down

The decorations have come down. The last guest has been dropped off at the airport. The wedding is over. For so many years we thought of the day Fahad would get married. We talked about it at countless dinners. We picked on him whenever we had the chance. There was even a time when he posed with a desi outfit and a turban hoping to fill the empty position.

But now it is over! Like so many days you think will never come, you see them come and leave and the world goes on. Subhan'Allah.

Sorry, I hope that didn't make it seem like we never expected Fahad to get married. Just a little aside. 

The last week wasn't as hectic as I expected. We slowly got the house in order and made last minute preps for the wedding. I was given full authority to decorate the house as I pleased and I gladly took it! 

On Thursday afternoon the guests started to stream in and the fun began! People came over to the house and got some last minute things ready. That night Fahad and Lubna rolled in from their honeymoon. The cousins and I blocked the entrance and wouldn't let Fahad and Lubna come in until he paid up. (This is another tradition like stealing the shoe which is another excuse to steal money from the poor groom.) Fahad first negotiated for us to let Lubna in which we accepted as we didn't want any money from her. Fahad was being a tricky one and ran around to the garage and got in from that door. He came in behind us and laughed but still gave us our money so we were happy! But he told the cousins not to split the money with me because I am married! That jerk!!! So, I did what any good sister in law would do and gave him the finger. Except instead of him seeing it, our Aunt turned around to get the finger right in her face!!! I was mortified!! (And this was caught on camera) Luckily she laughed it off and just made me promise not to go around giving the finger anymore. 

Then Fahad and Lubna had to go sit on a seat we had prepared for them and we all sat around them and stared at them. Feraz suggested we get popcorn as we sat there just watching them do nothing. I actually felt a litttttle bad for them at this moment but then remembered that Feraz and I paid our dues at one time and now it was their turn! They were given gifts, flowers and a balloon that said "Welcome." Haha. 

Then they were given some rice pudding to eat which is another tradition to welcome the new bride into the home. We stared as they fed each other and laughed at the silliness and fun of it all.

Finally, the couple was allowed to eat their food and we heard stories about their honeymoon in Blelize. Lubna wears hijab so for the water activities she wore a burkini which I had never heard of but sounds quite effective! They canoed, snorkeled and did other Belizish things. 

The next day was an off day before the wedding so we were able to hang around the house, go to Friday prayer, welcome more guests that were arriving from out of town, do last minute things for the walima, and get to know Lubna better. Feraz and I went on an adventure to Canada (Windsor) to pick up some of his family from the train station. The ride back involved getting McDonalds so it was obviously a success. 

That night Lubna's family came in to town so we went to the airport to pick them up. They joined us at our house where we hosted them for a dinner in our magical tent outside. We also had someone come in to apply mehndi/henna for the women. That night all the girl cousins crashed at one house. The boy cousins were at another house with the rest of the family split up between hotels, our house and other family members homes in the area. (Feraz's family is all over the world so we had lots of people flying in!)

And then! It was the big day!!! The morning was pretty relaxed. We got back to the house around noon where we ate lunch and figured out the schedule/program for the wedding. I did all the last minute things like get my bangels and jewelry ready and I ironed my clothes early because I knew there would be madness later! 

At around four I went to get my hair and nails done and got quittte nervous at the salon because I hadn't realized we would have to leave the house by six or so to make it to the hall on time. When I got back home I was surprised to see that MANY more family members had come over and were getting ready all over the house. Unfortunately I didn't know most of these people and didn't get a good chance to talk to them. So in a whirlwind of colors, hot irons, make up, lotions and perfume we all got ready as fast as we could. 

I rode to the hall with Fahad and Lubna who were happy and cute and not nervous at all for the big evening. When we first got to the hall I found my family and was sooo excited to see them. They were one of the only people there and I got teary eyed seeing them. Even though I have been back in the States for a while I haven't really had a chance to go home and see my family and I miss them so much! I was really happy that so many of them, including my brother were able to make it there! 

I was a little nervous in the beginning because the hall was so empty and it was already 7 and the wedding was supposed to start at 6. It is really normal for desi weddings to start late so it is pretty typical for a "6 o'clock" wedding to start around 8 but I was still scared! It would have sucked if all that planning went in to it and only 25 people showed up! There was another wedding of a friend of ours that was going down the road and that made me worry about the attendance factor. But it was for naught! Soon the hall filled up and the couple got ready to make their entrance.

Before they came in, Lubna's family came in and we pinned them with flowers as they walked in. Lubna and Fahad walked in to an instrumental version of Bittersweet Symphony which sent chills through me! I didn't know that was the song they had picked and it was perfect. 

The rest of the evening went off without a hitch. I surprised Fahad and Lubna with a little speech. It gave Lubna a heads up to some of the quirks of "Ashraf men" and I think people liked it! It definitely helped that I got to speak before dinner so I wasn't competing against delicious kebabs and chicken. 

Fahad's friends did a little roast of him and we played a slideshow with a fantastic soundtrack that featured all of Fahad's chubby stages. The wedding went off smoother than I could have hoped for. The food and company was great, Fahad and Lubna were absolutely glowing and by the end of the night, I think we all left satisfied.

After the wedding we headed home and did what anyone would naturally do after a wedding. We went bowling at the most ghetto ass place we could find! I bowled an impressive 47! We did that until two am and then I headed back to the girl's house where all the cousins were hanging out. We stayed up until 5:30 am talking about cute boys at the wedding, traveling and how to be the hunter, not the hunted. ;)

And it wasn't over yet!!! The next day there was a brunch and even more hanging out at the house. The tent was taken down and we all packed into the house where we ate pizza, chicken, kebabs and biryani. Pretty amazing. That evening Feraz and I had yet another wedding to attend since my cousin was getting married! But I think there are only so many weddings I can blog about so I will stop here! 

Everyone please pray that Fahad and Lubna have a successful, happy and loving marriage! May their love for each other be like the love the Prophet and Khadijah had. May they discover layers upon layers of beauty in life and each other in their union and may many, many beautiful nieces and nephews come into our life! AMEEN! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hey, is anybody home

We're back in Michigan and it feels good! We finally got a good nights rest after quite an ordeal on Sunday!

Sunday morning we all packed up our hotel rooms and headed over to the in-laws for brunch. It was one last hoorah before they would take us back to the airport. On this Sunday afternoon, everyone was wearing more casual clothes, had little make up on and generally looked fresh and happy. The bride's side had gone back to the house after the wedding and stayed up until 5:30 am swimming and playing games! Those crazy cats! I kind of wish we had been there! 

We had lots of great food plus cake and ladoos for dessert and at around one we headed for the airport. Little did we know of what was yet to come. 

We arrived to the airport at a decent time. Lubna's family took care of returning the rental cars and everything so we wouldn't feel rushed at the airport. We got through security with only my mom getting the super security check and made our way over to the gate. The best part about the airport was that we kept running into Fahad's friends and other family members who were also heading out of town. 

So, we found a base and the six of us settled down to wait for boarding. Soon, we were joined by an uncle and two of our friends from Michigan and now we were nine. We had a good support group when we heard that our flight would be delayed for an hour. 5 o'clock departure. Not bad. It gave me some time to get a desperately needed coffee. Then it was 6:30. Then it was we actually have no idea when your flight will be leaving because we are unable to fix this leak but no matter what you will get on at 11 because we have another plane coming then that we will send you back on.

We grew more and more tired and hungry. We contemplated whether we should just take a hotel and go in the morning instead of spending another four hours in the airport. As we waited in the line to talk to the attendant to discuss this option they announced that Plan B had been aborted and we would all have to leave the next day.

This made me soooo sad because had we known we would bet there this extra day we could have seen the desi mall of america, gone to see the set of dallas or hung out with cowboys. Instead we were stuck in the airport. 

It took another two hours to get our hotel sorted out (and we were the first in line) and about another hour to get to the hotel because of shuttle problems. Surprisingly we were all relatively calm through this and that made me happy. 

When we finally settled in our rooms we decided that we would pool all our vouchers together and order a crap load of dominoes. So, we ordered close to a hundred dollars of food! It was soooo good! By the time we got the food we were starving. I think I ate half an order of cheesy bread while Feraz was still sorting out the payment. We turned on some movies and called everyone to our room and had a great night. We stayed up late talking and eating and laughing. Despite the fact that we were all stone dead tired I appreciated being there and having that evening. 

The next morning we were up at 5 am to finally head back to MI! Now we are home and getting the house ready for all our guests that are coming tomorrow. We have been spending our days at the shops, cleaning and visiting friends. Not bad, not bad at all.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

pyaara bhaia meera dhula ban ka ayah


Last night Feraz and I both got so sick we thought we would have to miss it! Around two a.m. some sort of food poisoning set in and I thought there was no way we would be better by the morning. It was soo miserable! We were already getting worn down from all the festivities but we thought this might be the final straw! Luckily, around six a.m. we both started feeling better and we woke up a few hours later to head to Lubna's house for the 10 am nikkah ceremony. 

There was such an excitement in the air! We stood outside the house as we all got ourselves organized to do the walk in. There was a slight drizzle after the morning down pour. Rain is a sign of blessings and mercy in Islam so it was actually quite nice. 

The nikkah was performed by a really close family friend and teacher of Lubnas. It was nice to see the close relationship and to hear the imam speak so fondly of the family. The nikkah was actually quite emotional and it was very sweet to see Lubna's face light up when Fahad came into the room. We spent some time after the ceremony talking with everyone and eating mooore delicious food. Lubna and Fahad went outside to take cheesy pictures in their beautiful garden and we made fun of them from a safe distance. 

We stayed for a while at Lubna's place but then we headed out so we could get ready for the Main event that night. We had some great chill time at the hotel where Fahad looked as happy as a peach. When it came time for Fahad to head over to the hall, the whole family helped him get ready as is tradition in Bihari culture. 

The wedding was at a country club and Feraz assembled about 10-15 cars to make a caravan for the half hour drive. The caravan broke after about one mile when different cars started taking random other cars. Luckily everyone had directions or GPS and eventually we all made it over. 

Lubna's family greeted us and we took our seats as we waited for the bride to make her grand entrance. Fahad walked half way up the aisle to wait for her and take her up to the stage. Lubna walked in accompanied by her sister-in-law and cousins and looked absolutely stunning. She wore a red and green lengha and there was nothing Fahad could do hide the sheer joy and excitement on his face. It was soo cute to see how happy they make each other. 

I would have to say the best part of the night was when the bride's side stole Fahad's shoes. During the wedding, at some point the bride's side of the family steals the groom's shoes. Then they refuse to give them back until he pays a ransom price for which there are long and hysterical negotiations. If he doesn't give the ransom then he can't leave the wedding with his bride! All day we kept hearing about a 'master plan' with which they would steal the shoes but as the night was winding down we were all convinced that there was not actually any plan and the bride's side had given up trying. 

As the photographer was wrapping up family pictures she instructed all the boy cousins from Lubna's side to take a picture with them standing behind the couple and the girl cousins standing in front. Suddenly you saw Fahad's legs up in the air! The boys had tipped his chair back so he fell back and his legs shot straight up, making for what should have been an easy grab of the shoes for the girls. But Fahad fought long and hard to keep the one shoe they didn't immediately get but to no avail. They got the shoes, and the photographer, who was in on the set up, got all the best shots! 

The night ended with everyone sending off the bride and groom. Biharis have another tradition. The car with the bride and groom pulls away and you bid them farewell, then the driver reverses and they are back again! They do this three times and on the third time the groom runs away with the bride! 

Congratulations you crazy kids! We can't wait for part II back in MI and hope you are having an amazing honeymoon in Belize. Love you tons!!!!!!!


Saturday, August 1, 2009

bole chudiyan

Today was the official mehndi day! This day is traditionally the day before the wedding and brides often have their henna put on this night. However, Lubna, like many brides these days put her henna on two days before because it allows the mehndi's color to set as it gets darker over the first forty-eight hours that it is on. This allows the bride to have the beautiful dark color that mehndi is famous for. 

Feraz and I woke up early since we had to prepare the gifts to take to the bride's house and Feraz had to go pick up some family from the airport. The morning was spent packing the outfits we were going to give Lubna as gifts for her wedding. South Asian brides are often presented with many, many gifts from both their own families and the groom's families. Among the gifts are lots of new clothes that they will wear as a "nai duhlan" or new bride. After a couple is married, family members and friends will host dinner parties for them as newlyweds and at these parties the new brides are often expected to be dressed up. They wear the many new clothes, shoes, purses and jewelry that they are presented with on this day.

After we prepared the gifts we got ready to head over to the bride's house. Outside we lined ourselves up in pairs and created a procession to walk into the house. We also took traditional things like nuts and sugars which symbolize different well-wishes for the new couple, such as them having a sweet life together. 

Lubna's family had prepared a delicious lunch for us and we all ate lots and lots of delicious food. Soon, the men headed out for Friday prayer and Lubna came down to be with all of us. (Since the bride and groom don't see each other before they are married, she would stay in her room with her friends and family whenever we were over with Fahad.)

We then showed her all the presents she got and then her family presented her with gifts as well. The best part for a by-stander like me is that when you are a part of the family you get gifts too! I got a beautiful pink outfit and some gold earrings just for showing up! FABULOUS!!!

After hanging out with the family for a little while longer we headed out so we could go get ready for the evening festivities. 

Hena, my sister-in-law, and some of Feraz's cousins and I headed out to get our pamper on. We went to a fabulous mall where we got manicures and pedicures and enjoyed some down, girl time. It was a nice break from everything! 

In my opinion the mehndi is the best part of the wedding. You get to dance your but off late into the night and I had been looking forward to it for weeks. So, here I insert my only grip of the wedding. There was no free-style dancing!! Usually a mehndi works like this. You get to the hall. Everyone tells you you look sooooooo cute. Then you tell everyone, nooooo YOUUUU look sooooo cute. Then there is some fun music and the bride walks in. On this day she is usually wearing simple clothes in yellow and has little to no make up on. I think part of the reason for this is so the next day you are even more shocked by how gorgeous she is when she is all done up. But now everyone turns to the bride and tells her that she looks soooo cute.  So far, so good.

Then everyone sits down and eats. There was some amazing halva, puri, channa and chicken for dinner. We feasted! Next, at mehndis there are usually choreographed dances from both sides of the family. However the grooms side (us) punked out and we were all so slammed before the wedding that none of us were able to have time to choreograph and practice dances. So boo on us! But I know we would have if we could have. The girls side had some great choreographed dances and we had a good time watching them. So, usually at this point, after the last scheduled dance is done, that group goes out to the crowd and grabs everyone and there is a crazy dance party! 

Nope. We tried putting on american songs, desi songs, arab songs, fast songs, faster songs. No go!! 

We tried and tried and tried to get the momentum going but it was way too awkward. The set up for the choreographed dances is that everyone sits around and watches the people who have stuff prepared. So, when you go into the free style and you are only one of three people on stage with about 100 aunties staring at you, judging you, wondering if you are single and available for their son, you feel mortified!! If a huuuge group goes up at once it works because you all just become one big dancing body and collective judgment doesn't feel so bad. Alone, it is just awkward and then the music stops and there is no dance party and you go cry in the bathroom. As I did. SO SAD!!!!!!

Afterwards someone told me that biharis don't really dance at mehndis! Is this true??? Shocking!!! I am Punjabi! I was born to naach. So, it was sad but I am going to make up for it by dancing non-stop in Michigan until the wedding is completely over. 

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