My stay in London taught me that there was immense beauty in diversity. How boring would it be if all looked and dressed alike, ate the same food, and had the same culture. But the most important lesson I learnt is that thoughts are conveyed to others as vibes, and not necessarily through interaction. Integration or friendship cannot be rewarding or long-lasting without total sincerity from both sides.
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, is one of the many texts I chose for my ESL classes. With a poetic mix of Spanish and English, the story of Esperanza is the story of immigrants and home.
Later after my dad passed away, I often sat here with my mom—talking about everything but really nothing much or just sat quietly, enjoying the peaceful view overlooking my hometown.
But those thoughts can wait. I have other more important decisions to consider. So many ice cream flavors. Which one do I not choose? And at tea time, Battenberg cake. For Sunday lunch shepherd’s pie. Fish and chips served in newspapers with vinegar drizzled all over.
Gibli رياح القبلى , the Libyan sandstorm, is my worst nightmare. It descends from the highlands of the country making its way to the Mediterranean. It covers everything in its path with a layer of fine red sand.
The anthem is in Farsi, not Urdu, the national language. We understand a few verses, not all of them, but we know to bow our heads at the end, showing respect to Khuda, Allah, God… Sayyai, Khudae zul jalal. Protection in the shadow of the Almighty.
Fernando, who grew up in Argentina, speaks up: I hate the British, he says. I’m surprised by this otherwise mild-mannered student. When I was young, I thought I would kill any British man I met. The Falkland war made me think that way…the society around me made me think that way.
Others in the class join in. Post-revolution China comes up, followed by Movimiento Estudiantil, the1968 student revolution in Mexico to oust the longstanding PRI regime.
For years my label for myself has been musafir, مسافر/यात्री which is the word for traveler in Hindi/Urdu. I grew up in India and since my father was a doctor in the Indian Army, I found myself in a new city and school every two to three years. It was a transitory existence, which I assumed – as any egocentric child – was how the world lived. Seven schools, a couple of universities and many, many homes in many cities later I found myself in a city and home in California, where I have now lived the longest. And the musafir is still here.
It took 25 years for my self-confidence to find a foothold, and 25 years more to ensure permanent stability.
To return to the story of Mabel, she brings over ten books to Patras’ room, and, for weeks, they both argue about their content and style. These intellectual discussions build an underlying tension that is released the day Bokhari falls ill.
A woman, Maria, approached me at the Buddhist temple on Millcreek Drive in Mississauga, Ontario—“I feel I have to talk with you”—and introduced me to a female Buddha with toenails and fingernails painted pink, one foot stepping forward, holding a vase and the wish-fulfilling jewel of the enlightened mind.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo , a painful and powerful story of survival, inspired this work, says Selma when we discuss how we’ve kept ourselves creative during COVID shelter-in-place.
What I had imagined were shadowy road side bushes were actually tanks. It was the summer of 1979.
I wonder how much they miss their old routines. Do they miss playdates? Do they feel the same comfort when they listen to the teacher’s voice which is a notch louder in an online class? What do they make of the teacher’s writing on the whiteboard in a synchronous class?
Never lose hope, my heart, miracles dwell in the invisible.
If the whole world turns against you keep your eyes on the Friend.
Freedom of thought and freedom to migrate are rights hard won. A childhood confined by military dictatorship, a present obstructed by populist world leadership has made me treasure them even more. The former destroys minds and bodies with religious dogma, the latter with racist anti-immigrant policies.
Her friend, Yelena, who works at the A‐Corner, tries to camouflage her befuddlement on seeing a brown American; Olga had only mentioned to her that I was American. I try to explain the concept of a naturalized citizen. She cackles and chortles with a blush and offers me tea or coffee. I graciously accept her offer for coffee. “American coffee”, she asks with a sneaky grin? “Brown American coffee”, I submit… “make that naturalized brown American, will ya”.
“My Amma says things in a way that make you smile, and she laughs along with you like a friend should, and she stands up for you like a father should.”
Anwar Masood’s Punjabi shayari is beyond class politics and is for everyone. The humour of Masood’s Punjabi shayari speaks to every Punjabi about the Zinda-dilli and the josh-o-jazba of our culture and tradition. #Punjabipoetry #Alifseyeh #Anwarmasood
Once inside, I splash my face with water from a plastic bottle. My eyes are red and my lungs still hurt. I look around for my husband. He is helping an old lady get up off the road. The police continue with their lathi-charge. Their batons are being used indiscriminately. I move away quickly – out of their range.