Adolescent Musings

Sometimes there’s this strange sense of familiarity in being ordered around – in being told what to do. Reminds you of school or when you were a kid – when everything was simple and you weren’t responsible for your actions. The person ordering you was.
As an adult it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting that. Of having someone else to take responsibility in your stead. Being ordered makes you feel as if you have found it but it’s only in flashes that you realise that you’re no longer a child and have to learn to say you want something different. That someone else can no longer make decisions for you because it’s you who have to live with the consequences. The decisions could be as simple as choosing what to wear and who to be friends with. But they should be yours.
That’s a really important part of being a grownup. Knowing when to say what you want and knowing when to say no.


Mafia Wars

I woke up to my cellphone’s call for attention – the occasional ping of a social media website that sends a shiver of excitement down anyone’s spine each time it’s heard, only to often end up being an invite from a food group that they had forgotten to unlike.

With partly open eyes and a mind still clouded with the last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I clamored to find the phone from under my pillow – my hands reaching out as if a drowning man calling for help – frantic and all over the place.

“Fauzia Arif,” the notification read, “has completed 56 levels of Candy Crush. Post on her wall to congratulate her.”

“How difficult is it to have a life these days?” I questioned angrily before, logging in to Sims Freeplay to check if my Sim was well-hydrated after the hours of virtual gardening I had put it through.

Now that I was finally up and getting my daily installment off the newsfeed, I scrolled down to spot familiar faces doing things that I only wished I could.

Sofia “Princess” Mir, the first update read: Just got updated to an iPhone 5, thanks to my hubby to be <3.

This was my friend from school who I had lost touch over the years and what remained of her memory were just the ugly bits that still stung like an evil bee. The status, as if spiraling me back to that time had me wanting to reply, but I couldn’t just comment on her status. That would just prove that she had my attention, which she didn’t of course.

I decided to update a status of my own.

“How cute. People are just beginning to get an iPhone 5. Steve Jobs is dead, folks!” I wrote.

And just as I was thinking my passive aggressive rant was done with, a new notification checked my smile that hadn’t fully appeared on my sleepy face.

“Don’t compare yourself to me. I’m someone they couldn’t even dare to be.”

“Whoa! Who is comparing who? Wait, where is that picture of Ali with that goofy smile of his where everyone thinks he resembles a deer?” I thought immediately scanning my desktop for saved pictures from yesteryears.

I had posted of photo of Ali and I at our best. The caption read, hubby already. It was the only picture of him where he hadn’t lost those few extra strands of hair covering his forehead and when his smile was just a genuine show of good countenance and not a silent question of “What’s for dinner?”.

The photo even though misleading was gold. Contented, I thought this would shut her bitch fit up but here’s the thing about social media: You can never be too sure – about anything.

And sure enough, a new status update from Sophia had followed: “I pity my friend who ended up with someone who has such an ugly face.”

My head was now reeling. I felt betrayed, backstabbed, insulted – all at once. This person, who had more asterisks in her name than my computer password was actually having fun at the expense of me? Me? Who had always scored the highest, got the better job, gotten the guy and had real friends for a change.  Who does she think she was?

My mental blabbering was interrupted by another ping from my cell phone.

“What? Is she not even going to wait for her turn now?”

It was a notification from my high school’s principal who thought tagging both of us in a status would be akin to calling us in to the principal’s room. She had proceeded to give us an online scolding – caps lock and all and said something about how our failed attempts at trolling still gave her nightmares.

If our online spat with each other wasn’t embarrassing enough – well, it wasn’t quite embarrassing, I am known to be more challenging on Facebook, that tagged status took the cake.

I quietly switched my phone off, pretended the online me was going on a hiatus and proceeded to tend to my real life responsibilities – the first of which included me getting out of the bed.

(This was done as part of a creative writing course at SZABIST)



Part of the problem


A lot of women have internalized gender discrimination. Tell them that they deserve more and you will be met with shocked eyes – tell them their daughters deserve better and they will shoo you away. What with all the blogs and articles on feminism pointing out how it is the men who perpetrate sexual discrimination, I’d like to say that I have seen more women who do.

“Are you insane? Girls don’t play sports.”

“It’s in a sign of religious devotion for women to work in the kitchen even if they lose the skins on their hands.”

“Using a woman’s money to pay for utility bills takes away the barkat from the house.”

“Don’t raise your voice in front of the men in the family.”

“Just get married.”

“What was she wearing? She was clearly looking for attention” [When news about sexual assaults appears]

These are all the things that I have heard friends’ moms and female relatives say – not just the men.

While it’s true that the kind of family you’re brought up in is different for everyone, I think it’s unfair that it’s only the men who are assumed to be sole perpetrator of sexism. If it was a first-person account I’d say my dad has never disallowed me from studying (I have quite a knack for going the extra mile), or working (At one point, I was working at two places), I have never heard male colleagues or classmates ever discriminate against me because of my gender. In fact, I have seen more men being vocal about crimes against women. I have seen them drive women around to help them out with assignments, household chores – just because of the fact that they are men and have internalized the fact that they are supposed to be facilitators in certain situations.

Even when certain households have men that are clearly domineering and have “rules” about who gets to do what, I have not seen a lot of women questioning the “status-quo”. Challenging, arguing or asking for a reason are practices that are looked down upon. Even when women are presented with outlets or opportunities to take their rights, they feel it’s inappropriate to accept it. Several take discrimination matter-of-factly with “this-is-how-it’s-supposed-to-be” kind of an attitude.

The womankind have been struggling to get gender equality for years and to be honest, there is so much “talk” about it that I’m afraid it’s not taken as seriously as it should. But why are so many people just talk and nothing more? Why is it that we have been unable to get what we want? Equality is not something that can be handed over on a single platter and yet, what is it that’s stopping us from attaining it?

In my opinion, part of the problem lies in identifying who perpetrates the gender inequality that exists. Just because it’s rights of the women that we are asking for doesn’t mean every women has worked to get it – a lot of women in our society are actively involved in fostering environments where their daughters, nieces and so on won’t feel comfortable asking for it at all.

This is not supposed to be a blog bashing women – I have heard a number of feminists say that that’s the last thing we need.  I just think that under the “woman deserve equality” banner, a lot of women who are actually contributing the problem are given a free pass, while men, regardless of their views on the topic are termed as the enemies.

As mothers, mothers-in-law, aunts, teachers, or any other influential role women play in society, if they are perpetrating women inequality in their own ways, they should also be called out as part of the problem- I think it’s only fair.


Why So Festive?

With people mistaking you for their daughters to aunties trying to get into your head, Eid in my family has become infamous for setting off a ticking time bomb that explodes ever so often. In the end, you are just left to seek refuge – sometimes from your own home which just a second ago might have appeared to be a welcome abode but is now swarming with hungry pest-like relatives who would like nothing better than to rip your life stories apart, dine and leave.

Some of them would throw a tantrum. Few would just make an extraordinary request (“Can all the lights in the drawing room be switched off?” ) while others would stick to leaving chewed gums in between those tiny spaces in a sofa that you think no body would ever notice but then they haven’t met my mom.

This bi-annual ritual of annoying the shit out of your family is probably what this public holiday has become with many a time me losing my head over my possible choices of escape – all of which have been pretty much futile in the face of a tiny flicker of hope that maybe this time won’t be so bad.

And you know it’s bad when you run.

Once, even literally.

The Final Word

Writers are funny people. As much as they’d like to think that most of their writings, well the good ones anyway, are a result of their persistence and long hours of their sitting near a table lamp with a pen and a paper, quite a number of times it doesn’t take as much. Sure, research lies at the backbone of any good written piece but the actual process of penning thoughts to parchment doesn’t take as much effort as writers or the readers would have themselves believe.

When I am about to start with a blog, I usually find myself at a loss with respect to a choice of topic or a certain stance on something I should feel strongly about. It’s only when my hands are resting expectantly on the keyboard that words start to form – out of nowhere. If anyone were to ask me about what it is that I’m going to glorify, criticise or neutralize in the piece that I’m writing, I would probably be found giving a clueless shrug. All it takes is to sit determined in front of a laptop screen (it’s perfect if you have had a bad day) and just let the words type themselves out, as if by magic.

A part of me would like to think my hands have a mind of their own. A mind that almost never feels like collaborating with the grey mass inside my head. A blessing, some would call it for what goes on in my head is quite the pile of shit. However, if I have given the impression that the writing that appears out of nowhere is only a good thing, I would like everyone to stand corrected.

While the decisions that I take after much contemplation and thinking are subject to change (A number of times actually for I’m but a typical Gemini), the writing that starts off on its own poses quite a challenge. It’s like the other mind is always looking for an opportunity to provoke, incite or to at least land me in trouble with the readers, the more conservative ones anyway.

Something that I would like to call “uncool” gets written down as “disaster in the name of high fasion”. An unpleasant event that I would (using my head) describe as a momentary lapse in my good fortune appears as a collection of three alphabets – FML. And as much as I would like to rephrase and to rewrite so that it appears less provocative, I just can’t. Once written, it appears to be the missing jigsaw piece that the puzzle was looking for, as if no other word could take its place. And I give in to my writing with my fingers crossed and the computer mouse hovering over the “publish” button, unsure as to the consequences that not reasoning with the other mind might bring.

Lately, writers online have called towards themselves a lot of unwanted attention for their choice of words. As the usage of print media continues to decline (Believe it or not, three of the magazines where I worked have gone from print to publishing online), more and more people are relying and “devouring” information and opinion that is available on the web. And while the information that appeared on the print has always assured the reader of a strong “proofreading” and “editorial” process that it goes through, the writing that appears on the internet isn’t always as rigorously checked, if at all.

Is that a good thing? For a person like me, who values opinions as much as information, it is. I am a writer – an artist. For me, everything comes to down to colours, shades (not Fifty Shades), opinions, notions, ideas. And while, I would never prefer reading something grossly incorrect, the writing that gets to me is the one that I can relate to (and, which is grammatically correct).

The writing, that has a mind of its own.


Eid Escapades

Let’s get one thing straight. I’m to Eid, what a cat is to a mouse (for want of a better analogy). I just hate the holiday not because of its essence but because of what it has become for me: an annual get-together of petty blood relations who pick this day out of all the rest from the calendar to bring out their casual advices, unwelcome retorts and of course, cringe-worthy judgements.

No, I don’t really care if Mr X’s son said he wanted to marry a journalist, instead of a doctor. Seriously, is that really news? Why shouldn’t he?

And again, another relative is heard talking about his female boss who is “40 and not yet married” and that’s enough for the people in attendance to assume that she is “batshit” crazy. If it had been a male boss who would have been 40 and unmarried, this wouldn’t have even come into discussion as a negative point.

No, I’m not a feminist. In fact, I don’t really think I fully comprehend what the word implies. It’s just that our society has a knack for steering or packing up crude jokes on the fairer sex and in their defense, even the fairer sex doesn’t seem to mind.

If this wasn’t enough, when told that you’re studying, all you get in return is an unimpressed shrug and a nudge and wink towards your parents with a “too much reading can be damaging to one’s health” thrown in between.

Reading can be damaging? God bless my self-control.

So what Eid every year has established is: There’s absolutely no way to make some people happy. Not even if there’s food on the table.