Saturday, June 24, 2006

Oops, we did it again!!

Cancer never sleeps and neither did we!

Friday June 23, 2006 marked the night 7 friends got together and attempted to fight the battle against cancer. This wonderful night that will stay in our hearts and bring HOPE into our lives for years to come was initiated and organized by the fabulous and sensational Shelina Adbulhusein. Thank you so much Shel!

Equipped with an air mattress, warm clothes, some lawn chairs and a beautiful sign ("FRIENDS FOR LIFE" - designed by my Grade 2 students), I left my house that Friday evening and made my way to Richmond Green Park with a wonderful teacher and friend - Sameena! I was filled with feelings of apprehension, nervousness and excitedness. As we struggled with our sleeping gear onto a makeshift camping ground, I began thinking about the night ahead. I wondered if I would be able to walk the whole night (esp. because all I had consumed that day was coffee). I wondered why I hadn't put more effort into fundraising. I wondered if I would fit into the FRIENDS FOR LIFE group.

Today is Saturday. The night is over. Our walk through the night is complete. Despite my aching feet, I still wear a smile on my face. Walking for the Cancer Relay For Life has been one of the best experiences of my life.

The best part of the night was the illumination ceremony. At this time, participants who had purchased a candle for someone they loved lit their candles in that person's memory or honor. Before the ceremony, the organizers recited a beautiful poem, followed by a bagpipe memorial service. Participants were then given a chance to light their candles. A hush of silence filled the air. People gathered - together, they prayed, cried, hugged and walked in silence. As we inhalled the emotions around us, we saw a little girl (I infer she is battling cancer). She was seated on her mothers shoulders. I watched the mother and daughter walk. Then the girl asked innocently, "Mom, when I die, will you light a candle for me?". Tears filled the mother's eyes and the eyes of everyone who heard the girl. I began to think about my life and about how ungrateful I sometimes am. As we walk through life, it is so hard to remember how blessed we are. This event definitely served as that reminder.

As far as my eyes could see, I saw little flames burning in white bags. On one of the hills, candles joined together to spell the word - HOPE. What a breathtaking sight that was.

The Relay For Cancer served so many purposes for me. It reminded me to appreciate my life, my good health and family. It taught me compassion for those suffering. It gave me a new source of strength - friends. In their own way, each touched my life. I learned courage and strength Fatima; I learned the value of laughter from Shel and Taseeb; I learned that physical injuries are not roadblocks (Thanks Suk); I learned the value of perseverance from Sameena and Shaista; Very importantly, I learned how to pitch a tent!

I watched the sun rise and I surrounded by people I care about. In that moment, I felt truly blessed, and truly happy.

Please recite a Surah Fatiha for all those that have departed from us.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Introduced to me by the wind - here is a poem that has inspired me!


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

Friday, June 16, 2006

Intentional Double Standards

"Good morning Ms. Fazal!”, I heard a cheerful voice call to me as I was leaving the school office with my class attendance. Smiling, I turned around to greet this kind teacher - a teacher who accepted me and challenged me at the same time. This is a teacher who I thought about on days such a "Hat Day", "School Spirit Day" or "Treat Day" because he faced similar challenges as me. Both he and I are practitioners of our faith and the symbols of our faith are visible to everyone around - he wears a kippa and I, a hijab.

Slowing my pace for him to catch up, we walked to my classroom chatting. Suddenly he stopped.

"Ms. Fazal, I have a question for you. I was hoping for some perspective".

I cringed. I always cringe when a teacher says he or she has a question. I know it will be an inquiry about Islam. In our school, we have many Muslim students, and I am honored to represent these students, stand up for their beliefs and help them take care of their faith. However, questions are always hard for me because a lot of the time, I don't know the answers or the answers are hard to explain because they may be directly linked to a hadith (saying of the Prophet Mohammed) or to an ayat (verse) of the Quran. The questioners have no schema about the intricacies of Islam, which makes it harder for them to understand and appreciate Islam.

In those few moments my whipped through possible questions he may have - Could he want my opinion on the attempted terrorist attacks? As I was thinking, I could hear him speak.

"Are you going to the water park?". I nodded.

"The kids must be so excited to go". I smiled in agreement. I just wanted him to tell me what he wanted to know.

"You know the music exempted kids," he started. (Yes, I knew them quite well. These are students who do not participate in music because of religious inclinations - in other words, the Muslim students)
"I was talking to them about going to the water park..."

I quickly clued in. He asked me why the girls were not going to the water park while the boys were over eagerly applying their sunscreen. I explained to him, the girls were wearing a head scarf to ensure and preserve their modestly. Running through a water park in a bathing suit wouldn't really be an option for them.

He explained to me a conversation he had had with the girls. The girls had explained to him the hijab (head scarf) was not just the covering of hair, it included covering their eyes from men/boys who were immodestly dressed. He then asked the girls why the boys could go to the water park and thereby expose their eyes to women/girls who were in little swim suits. In typical Muslim fashion, the girls replied, "It depends of their intention". Mashalla, I was so impressed with the answers these girls gave.

The maturity of these girls left me speechless. However, this teacher was more concerned with the act of going to such a place than the act of participating in the activities in the place. He wanted to know why it was ok for the men to go to an area where women would be immodestly dressed but women were not allowed to go to these places. I didn't know what to say. It was the double standard we have grown up with. The men are allowed to go clubbing, allowed to go to inappropriate areas of entertainment, however if a girl is seen having coffee at a Starbucks past eleven o'clock, it is scorned upon. I mean, women have been discouraged to watch soccer on moral grounds, but men watch the LPGA tours and tennis with gaping mouths.

The message of condemning an act based on the gender of the person committing the act sends a message that the Islamic laws are different for men and women. From my understanding of Islam, this is not the case. The men and women will face the same consequence for their actions. Allah will not participate in gender discrimination. So why should we? Society is putting men at a disadvantage by accepting their unlawful actions. Why don't we instill the same moral values in our boys as we do in our girls? Why do we laugh when a boy tries to pick up a girl and frown when a girl so much as checks a boy out?

Let us not be unfair to the boys. If an act is unlawful, it is simply unlawful regardless of gender. The eventual consequence is the same. By following double standards, we are hurting both the girls and the boys.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Brand Name Fever

A month ago, the count down for the world cup began at my house. Asif, soccer/football fanatic, has been unable to sleep ever since he booked his tickets to Germany.

(Actually, I am quite excited about his trip as well - I can't wait for some alone time in the house. But that is another story for another blog).

Well, amidst the whirlwind of soccer mania, I feel the need to pick a team to support. My soccer vocab is limited to Beckam, Owen and Lampard. I have actually met Frank Lampard in Dubai in the winter of 2005 - he is quite the looker. But truth be told, I have no real measure of their talent except for what Asif or Minaz tells me.

After the pitiful performance of England in their match against Paraguay, I realized England is made up of a team of Name Brand Players. As we know, choosing a name brand is not always the best option. Take for example, Wonderbread. It is the most luxurious bread I have ever tasted. It smells like bread and is soft and fluffy. However it lacks in its nutrient quality. Despite the potential health hazards of Wonderbread, people continue to purchase this brand of bread simply because it's brand. I think England's team(among some other teams) can be categorized as Wonderbread. Great to look at, but lacking at the core!

After much contemplation, I chose Portugal as my team. First of all, how can I not support a country that have built a shrine of my namesake - Lady of Fatima. But more importantly, I know the cheer. Isn't cheering the most important job description of a fan?

When I looked in my fridge this morning, I saw the gleaming cover of Wonderbread hiding behind my no name bread. To make up for the brand name in my fridge, my loyalty to Portugal grew. As Asif drove me to school this morning, we sang the Portugal cheer!

Portugalale! Portugalale, Portugalale, Portugalale! PORTUGALALE!!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Deal or No Deal

Sometimes it seems like I spend my life making decisions and forming alliances - with family, friends, employers, and coworkers. Sometimes I think the way the world operates has changed the way I communicate. I have fallen prey to a very self centered, self serving way of communication. Yesterday, I realized how severe my "You do this for me, and I do this for you" communication style had become.

As I was leaving the house to rent a movie, I glanced at the staircase. Seeing two brown envelops with government cheques enclosed within it had become a familar sight for me. When I glanced at the stairs, I was expecting to catch a glimpse of these envelops. However, my eyes met the dark brown hard wood floors. There were no envelops! There was no trace of my cheques on the stairs!

I began to panic. Putting my renting aside, I searched all over the house. Unsuccessful after ten minutes, I whispered what I thought to be a prayer - "God, if you help me find my cheques, I will recite one Ya Seen". I continued my frantic search. 40 minutes later with cheques in hand, I realized I had promised to recite 3 Ya Seens and pray one two rakaat namaaz.

As I began thinking about the events of the night, I am pretty sure my whispers to Allah were not prayers, but what I had been doing was striking deals with God. I began to feel like I had been in private episode of "Deal or No Deal". The sad part about this is I know Allah has nothing to gain from my reciting Ya Seens. The only gain in this deal is mine. Yet as I sit to recite my prayers, I am filled with "aaras".

I hope this will be my final "Deal or No Deal" episode. Prayers to Allah should be done with joy and to praise, not to serve my selfish needs.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

That will be $29.99

It has been suggested by my brother in law - Anis, that women should charge men for services rendered within the household. This suggestion brings with it two problems.

The first is that of the price list. What is the going rate for washing dishes, mopping, sweeping? This is what my price list might look like.

To: Asif

Re: Household Chores

As of July 2006, please note services provided within the house will have to be compensated for. The prices quoted are for daily services provided. Please provide your wife with a work log so she may document her daily services. Payment must be made on a bi-weekly basis.

Services Price
Mopping 45

Sweeping 30
Laundry (Wash and Fold) 50 - 80 (depending on load size)
Dishes 70 - 80
Cooking 110 (this is for the service - grocery needs to be
provided. Cost may increase on weekends and during peak entertainment times)
Making the bed 20
Bathroom 100
Dusting 100

Please be advised that the prices are subject to change and services not listed may have a charge.

Is this what my price list should look like?

The second and the more important problem with this suggestion is while it is my right to charge for my service, asserting my right would change the dynamics of my relationship. We would move from a loving, kind and almost happy relationship to a marriage punctuated with dollars and cents. What a waste!

The point of my complaint was not the money. Women strive to be self sufficent. The extra dollar won't change the way we feel - it will only aggravate the situation. When my husband does not pick up after HIMSELF, it disrespects me. Our house is a reflection of our relationship. When our home is unkempt, it tells me the he doesn't care about our relationship and he doesn't care about how our relationship is reflected to others! In my books, that is disrespect.

There are somethings money can't buy (our integrity)! For everything else, there is MASTERCARD!

Friday, June 09, 2006

WIFE - Wash - Iron - Fold - Eh?

I have been noticing a trend in the conversations I have been partaking in.

Married men all seem to have the opinion the marriage has ended their freedom filled lives - RIGHT! They believe marriage has tied them down, has given them added responsibilities, and added worries. And let us not forget - constant nagging!

Married women on the other hand seem to be of the opinion that marriage has transformed their lives from a woman of leisure, style and class to woman of bleach, clorox and olive oil.

So I began thinking - something I try not to do too often. When I was engaged (ahhh... Memories of that peaceful time in my life), my then fiance, now husband, said to me, "The word, WIFE, stands for Wash, Iron, Fold and Entertain". At the time, I thought it was funniest thing I had ever heard. I bragged to my friends about my humorous husband and shared how lucky I was, to be entering into a marriage that would be filled with laughter.

Four years later, I think the joke's on me! Yes, our life is filled with giggles, chuckles and sometimes roaring laughter - but the laughter ends quickly when it comes to housework. I am the living definition of a wife - I wash, iron, fold, entertain. I cook, clean, smile and try not to nag. I, along with thousands of women, live a WIFE life believing it is the only reality we can have.

Please do not misunderstand me - I enjoy serving my family. What infuriates me is when I hear men chat about their wives and discuss how marriage changed their lives (for the worse). My question is, what changes have they made? Is it that now after marriage, they smell good, look nice, eat well, and have a well organized house? Oh my, am I expected to sympathize for these men? Am I supposed to think it is funny when a man jokes that he doesn't need a dishwasher because he has a wife? I don't think so.

I want to challenge this definition of a wife. Our lives do not have to revolve around mundane household chores. We do not need to tender our happiness to a single supplier - our husbands. Women, let us build our own identities. Let us be strong and beautiful. We will only begin to derive respect if we respect ourselves!

The next time a man tell you, "Wash, Iron, Fold, Entertain" - challenge him with "Wash - Iron - Fold -Eh?"

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

High 24/7

Family, friends and ex- friends are just a few clicks away with the advent of Hi5.

The blissful life I led without Hi5 came to an end yesterday. I used to believe once you lost connections with old friends, they could no longer be a part of your life. My belief was my security! I enjoyed not knowing whether a friendship could be salvaged and not knowing the successes and joys of friends who had hurt me. Simply put, I enjoyed not knowing. It gave me a sense of power over my life and a certain kind of contentment.

Hi5 changed all that with just a few clicks. As I browsed through address books of random people, I was struck by the new, cool way of voyeurism. Not only can you look at the pictures and comments of the people in your address book, but you have access to a plethora of address books and pictures.

Hi5 does come with its advantages. It’s a great way of seeing the three degrees of separation between yourself, the people you know and the people they know.

While Hi5 is the thrilling new way to communicate, keep yourself safe. Be cautious of who you let into your address book, the pictures you post and the information you give. Beware of the time spend you spend browsing - remember to allocate time to living your life. Watching others live theirs is a poor compromise!