Book Review: An American Family by Khizr Khan

‘An American Family’ is literally one of the few Advanced Reader Copies or ARCs that I finished reading within days of receiving it via NetGalley.

I was curious to read the story of Khizr Khan. He is the Pakistani-American man who stood proudly at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 to take Donald Trump to task for his criticism of John McCain and Muslims during the U.S. Presidential Campaign.

Not only does Khizr describe his own struggle to achieve ‘the American Dream’, from sleeping on park benches to working multiple jobs, he also manages to become a voice of the 2nd or 3rd wave of original Pakistani men who had to leave the newly-minted nation to find work and stability in the Arabian Gulf countries and beyond. This entire generation or two, both men and women born in the early 1950’s to late 1960’s, all chased a better standard of life for their families and themselves, often by being exploited as skilled and unskilled labor in the Middle Eastern nations like the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia.

I highly recommend this book for millennial Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans to read to understand life from the perspective of our parents, aunts, uncles and mentors.

 “I wasn’t leaving so much as I was going forward”

“The billionaire’s playground that Dubai would become was light years away, but it was obvious even then that the emirate was making a frantic leap forward.”

Read my book review on Goodreads.

 

Let’s raise a glass for the ultimate teacher…

Experience.

Challenges, failures, and successes – all culminate into experiences that shape our decisions.

These experiences are extremely potent; to the extent that they can color our perspective on a number of important things.

Some experiences can alter our moral fibre; others can reinforce the preliminary truths that have been ingrained in us since childhood.

Experience is the yardstick with which professional  acumen and financial worth is measured out in the workplace.

Experience adds an extra swagger in one’s walk after nailing ten three-pointers in a row on the basketball court.

That satisfied smack of the lips after applying lipstick flawlessly while driving – that’s experience, all right.

It wakes you in the middle of the night, as autumnal breeze makes the windows creak and groan with increasing frequency.  All those pre-Halloween movie marathons, they count as experience, be it fictional and borrowed.

Experience saves us from heartbreak.  You can spot the red flags from a mile away.

Why pause before every turn? Even on a deserted intersection? Previous experiences, more accurately described as close calls, demand you leave space for crazed drivers breaking stoplights.  Experience saves your hard-earned money from ending up in the mechanic’s wallet.

This week social media will be flooded with poems and platitudes, all praising the traditional wielder of wisdom and clarity – a teacher.

You know better than to subscribe to that trend.

After all,  you have the Experience.

“a pleasant task to do”

Upon resuming activity on the blog, I thought it best to start the party with this poem (part-wish/part-realization).

This is My Life

by William Stanley Braithwaite

To feed my soul with beauty till I die; 

To give my hands a pleasant task to do;

To keep my heart forever filled anew

With dreams and wonders which the days supply; 

To love all conscious living, and thereby

Respect the brute who renders up its due, 

And know the world as planned is good and true–

And thus- because there chanced to be an I! 

This is my life since things are as they are;

One half akin to flowers and the grass;

The rest a law unto a changeless star. 

And I believe when I shall come to pass 

Within the Door His hand shall hold ajar

I’ll leave no echoing whisper of Alas!

City Blog: Joie de Vivre & Lahore Eat

It was supposed to a quick stop. In and out. A check-in. Basically a #keepingupwiththeKhans in lieu of the Joneses. Plus, we didn’t have any other plans this Saturday night.  We trooped into Lahore Eat with minimal expectations and maxing out on  comfy shoes. To our collective surprise, the open-air stadium ground was well-kept, there was a large variety of activities to take part in, from attending a concert to taking part in a renegade rickshaw ride.

W16be412f784aaf1dd9792ef8b7f8bd6d.jpgithout meaning to, our inhibitions started melting away. Something pulled us in… reeled us in. Reminded us of what can not be terrorized out of us. It was our distinctly Pakistani flair for Life –> ZEEST *.

*Zeest is a word from the Urdu language that literally means viability and life. 

We live life to the fullest – it’s a gift. We cherish it in every which way: by wearing the brightest colors, laughing a little too loud, singing off-key in public spaces and spending time with those we love the most. Those couple of hours at Lahore Eat became a testament to our collective joie de vivre. 

 

“Phir ban gaya na, equal -equal” – Fair and Lovely takes a Jab at Fairness in Adulting expectations

You *must* have eye-rolled at this fairness cream ad by now. It depicts a father-daughter duo jogging in a park when the father pitches a potential suitor who has EVERYTHING a young girl could desire ‘a good job, his own house, well-settled’.  Since this is a fairness cream commercial, based in India but also shown in Pakistan, the young woman gains confidence to ward off the potential suitor with her OWN plan to get a ‘good job, her own car, etc’ in three years.

Surprisingly, my issue this time around with the fairness creme advertisement is not that the systematic bleaching of one’s skin makes a woman not only more beautiful, but also endows her with wit and savvy.  (That is a long-standing objection with the prejudicial and superficial approach that such beauty cream adverts take when marketing to multi-complexion communities such as Pakistan. No complexion takes precedence over another.)

She is effectively bargaining with her parents/guardians  for a paltry three years to put into play all that she has learned at university (even Life) before entering into an arranged marriage situation.hqdefault

Can Fair & Lovely ad execs back up the claim that Snow White makes that she can accomplish all the markings of financial and vocational success fresh out of university in 3 years? a car, home, “good job” in THIS  global economy? It is impossible to afford a home independently on just a Bachelor’s degree in Pakistan or India, especially within three years of graduation.

Going with the general dynamics when desi folks go ‘rishta’-ing, it is likely that that the potential groom is at least 5 to 7 years older than our  formerly- dark and distressed damsel. Why does this invisible casanova of her father’s dreams get a minimum 5 year advantage on the whole ‘success’ aspect?

This ad reinforces that the double-standard that is glaringly relevant in Pakistani and Indian communities the world over; if a young woman is to experience her adulthood as singleton, she MUST be achieving the very pinnacle of vocational, educational and social success.  That, too, on a considerably shorter deadline (leash?) than her male counterparts; to be exact, before her  ‘looks’  or ‘charm’ fade into oblivion. 

F&L, if you are listening, this may be the one time I will applaud you for illustrating just how drastically societal expectations for  young men and women vary, especially when it comes to leading one’s life as an Adult.

What do you think? Drop me a tweet @catalystwoman. 

 

 

Stop Outsourcing Your Decision

“What advice do you have to offer someone who is just starting out? The biggest piece of advice I would give to aspiring writers is: if you’re writing, then you’re a writer. You don’t need anybody’s permission to start living your dream; the only person’s permission you need is your own. It’s your decision to make, so stop outsourcing it to other people.”

Excerpt from Interview of Ashley C. Ford

Lessons from the Silver Linings Playbook Movie

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If you just lean in a bit, lemme put these headphones on you. Comfy?

I can watch the Silver Linings Playbook a hundred times. I have already watched a couple hundred already. That’s what playing in the background as I type this.

What is the movie about?

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It’s about loyalty. Figuring out that your best people are not of your own choosing — you will be surprised at who shows up when it matters. Surprised and grateful. Don’t forget to show up for them, too.

It’s about accepting yourself as you are. With the internal crazies and the obsessions. With the impractical dreams and the practical rituals.

It’s about focusing on the interior life. Taking those same internal crazies and obsessions, being unafraid to change if it means stability. Being open-minded to alternative views about the world and how to deal.

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It’s about accomplishment. Keeping your head above water and reaching the shore of your own picking. Never giving up half-way. No excuses. Especially not to yourself.

It’s about keeping promises and delivering. Even over-delivering. The reason being that your word matters. As Tiffany screams to Pat to be a ‘Stand-Up Guy’, think if you are being ‘stand-up’ to the commitments you’ve made.

It’s about living your life with a sense of Love and Gratitude. silverNot like you are gonna get out it alive, anyway.

Go on, go find your Silver Lining. I’ll be right here if you need me.

Journal: Discovering Kabir

Listening to a Bollywood soundtrack was where I first discovered the 15th century Sufi mystic-traveler-poet Kabir.
Who was this restless soul? I wondered as words remained heavy in the air. A mysterious figure who resists all bonds; to whom even the shadows beckon in urgency. Can anyone really be so free? The question remained unanswered and life carried on.