Friday, December 12, 2014

Fair Play

Your laughs will choke on the tears you drank.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Frayed

We are tangled.

We are tangled in each other so intricately, so complicatedly, that these knots cannot get smoothed now. There are knots, a lot of small knots that have formed through twirling of our thoughts and twisting of our imaginations. Our thoughts and imaginations that found a home, a safe haven, a sanctuary, in each other, held hands, and without our permission, hitchhiked on the journey of envisioning things, together. Up and down, right and left, above and beyond, together and apart, they have covered so much, trailed many different paths, that all you can see now is a tangled map of their knotted footprints. We are tangled and the intricacy of it is so much that only the power of divine can untangle it. Force is out of question, because if you’ll force the tangles apart, you’ll get nothing but a broken thread. Taking this convoluted, intricate, complicated, messy tangle apart is going to result not in two separated entities but a broken mass of still tangled mess. Broken at one point but joined at many others. Go on and untangle each knot and you’ll end up breaking this thread at each joint. When you’re done doing that, when you’re done trying each tangle to smooth out but ending up breaking it, you’ll finally see the shredded, frayed knots of thoughts and emotions gathering at your feet, innocently questioning you why you tattered them. You’ll realize, at that point, looking at the protesting frayed mess at your feet, that the knots actually never got separated, the links never got broken. They broke closest to the knot, but not where there the knot was. Do you know why? Because the force never breaks the knots on the thread but the thread itself. The little space acquired by the knot actually secures that part of the thread. You'll realize, at that point, that just like you can't fix a broken glass, you can't un-fray a shredded thread. You’ll see the silent protest of those frayed emotions and a voice will resound in your head echoing the words I’m saying to you now:


We. Are. Tangled.

Friday, November 7, 2014

USA Diaries - New York

October 28, 2014
Dear Diary,

Last week, I went to New York, to see what all of the hype about NYC was. I set off for the journey to New York and after the connecting and delaying flights, I finally got to set my feet in New York City after 12 hours. The moment I stepped in the Times Square, I was welcomed by lights. Lights, everywhere, in every colour, on the big screens, adorning the shops, the cafe's, the restaurants, the theaters, the Broadways, the malls -inside the malls, outside the malls, the streets, the people. Yes, even the people were wearing lights to attract the tourists. The city is so busy and so crowded, it seemed to me that they all were running after time or the time was running faster than it should for them.Turning my head all the way back to see the tall buildings, and then turning round and round to see every possible thing in that crowd, I was welcomed by the lights.They were right in saying that NYC is the City of Lights and that it is the City that Never Sleeps.You ask me what NYC is like? It's illuminated. It sparkles. But, very artificial. The Times Square, at night, is so lightened up that it doesn't even look like you’re walking there at night. All the lights make it seem like daylight. It's pretty, and beautiful, and fancy. The lights would make you feel radiant. The tall buildings would make you feel strong. I saw the buildings glittering with the reflection of lights as the vehicle drove by them and it all looked so flamboyant. You'd find it very enchanting if you just sit down and stare at them. I wish I was there alone in my own company to sit down and mediate and get inspiration from the view.

The people of big cities are different than the people of small towns. They are too busy to hold doors for you, too busy to flash a smiling face at you. After spending two days in NYC, I realized that it’s just another city. But that still doesn't mean one should stop thinking about travelling to NYC. If you’d ask me whether I’d go back to NYC again, I’d say yes. I would like to go there again but for a longer time. I would want to go back to NYC and follow the path to The New York Public Library, to read every single sentence that’s written on the path that leads to the library. They have quotes written on the plaques and buried in the pathway that leads to the library. I couldn't read all of them. I missed doing my thing because I was too busy exploring the whole city in a small amount of time. This is why I would want to go there again, someday maybe.

New York City has skyscrapers, beaming lights, and bridges. The lady of liberty is so big and intimidating. The city, altogether, is different in a way you'd like to know about it. What I liked the most about NYC was the Brooklyn Bridge. I like bridges. I've always liked them. I wanted to go and stand on the Brooklyn Bridge. I could see a part of the sparkling skyline while standing on the bridge. I like how the bridge is illuminated with lights. I wish they were yellow lights. The yellow lights! They just go so well with the bridges. I like how it’s held by the strong vertical wires. There is something about bridges that always gets me. I always get attracted to them. I walked along the bridge, ran my hand over strong iron bars and saw different messages people had written on it, with their names and dates. I saw love locks, with the couple’s names, locked on the bridge wire. I think it’s beautiful. Someone would have come all the way here to lock their love, overlooking the NYC skyline. Beautiful. I walked on the bridge alone staring at the tall buildings and realized that I needed more time with myself. Like always.

Also, another 8 hour long road trip took me to see the Niagara Falls on the US-Canada border. Niagara Falls is beautiful. The most beautiful thing about it is that it’s natural. How Allah has made such a beautiful water fall left me in awe and I kept on saying Alhumdulillah for letting me see His artwork. The cruise took us to take a closer look at the falls, the water was falling down with so much pressure that I couldn't even keep my eyes open to look at it directly. In my head, I can still hear the roaring sound of water falling down, vertically. Such mightiness of a waterfall made me think how mightier its Creator would be. It was a beautiful view. No words could do justice to it. It needs to be seen, to be felt. I was dripping in water, after the cruise tour around the waterfall ended. The plastic-wrap hoodie they gave to the tourists to keep them from getting wet helped but not quite a lot.

NYC was so much and nothing. I want to say it’s overrated but I want to say that the big lights captivated me for some time, as well. I don’t know how I feel about it but one thing’s for sure, I’m thankful that I've seen it. I need some time to know how I feel about the city. I might write to you about it again.

Thank you for listening to me.

With love,
Yusra.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Birthday Thoughts - A Page from My Diary

November 2, 2014

Dear Diary,

It's my birthday, today. And although I want to be happy, there's a lingering sadness that's lounging within me. Each day that’s supposed to be a happy day turns out to be sad for me. Why is that? I didn’t even want people to wish me on my birthday. I wanted to go sit somewhere quite. I wanted to scream and cry and just be with myself. A lot of people came up to me and wished me. Every time they said Happy Birthday, it sounded like a ridicule to me. This was my very first birthday without a cake, my very first birthday when I was not excited to celebrate it, my very first birthday that did not make me feel special in anyway. Dear Diary, I didn’t like it today. Today, ironically, turned out to be an even sadder day for me. Everybody wished me to have a ‘wonderful’ day today. Almost everyone told me to ‘enjoy’ the day but I knew that this was not going to happen.

How sadness creep up on you and occupies you is hard to ignore. I remember the time in my life when I’d make a point of celebrating my birthday. Today wasn’t even ‘just another day’. Today was a sad, sad day and I hate saying that but that’s the truth. I wanted to hug someone so bad today. I wanted to hug someone and cry. But then they’d have asked me the reason and I wouldn’t have anything to tell them. Sometimes, I wish I could hug you. I like you because you listen to me and you don’t judge me. I like you because you understand me and you’re never disappointed in me. I like you because you’ve never disappointed me, either. I wish I could hug you. I want to hug someone right now. I have a question. How do you just ‘be happy’ when someone tells you to ‘be happy’? Is there a program I could install in my brains to help me with it?

I try to do things that are supposed to make me happy but I guess that's how my life was written. Even if I try, I don't get happy. There's no blaming on anyone but myself. Even though I didn't want my birthday to go that way, but the midnight, the 12:00 AM of November 2, started with tears in my eyes.

My thoughts crawled to the birthdays I've had before. I remember the surprises I had got on my last birthday - One of my friends showed up on my door out of nowhere, to celebrate my birthday. Another friend surprised me by bringing a homemade cake. That girl does not bake for everybody. If she bakes for you, you should know that you’re not just another person. I remember how my friends made it all so special for me. I remember the time I had spent with them. But snapping myself to the present, I think I’m moving away from everyone. I’m a loner, disappointing my friends by not talking to them, just hiding myself. I wonder how I’m going to end up. I know there are not going to be very many people at my funeral when I'd die.

Many thoughts are sprinting in my head right now. I was wondering how people see one side of the picture and make assumptions over it and then come down to a decision.
I wish people could see beyond what they can see. 
A picture is worth a thousand words but we have to see all sides of the picture before converting it into words. 
Can't you just come alive? Sit by me, let me rest my head on your lap, let me cry on your shoulder. Let me speak. 
What a down day today has been.
Why today had to be my birthday?
I’m such a disappointment to the world. 
Why do I even exist?
I need to let it all out or else it’s going to consume me. It’s going to gnaw my emotions, it’d make me hollow. And I fear I’d burst one day. Oh how thankful I am for the tears. And you.

Thank you for listening to me.

With lots of love,
Yusra

Thursday, October 30, 2014

USA Diaries - Thoughts in My Head

October 1, 2014

Dear Diary,

It’s raining outside. When I started writing my journal, I realized that it’s October already. Can you believe it? It’s October and I’m still not sure how am I feeling. There’s nothing to talk about, today. I just kept on thinking a lot. I have no idea where am I heading to. I say hello to a lot of people, everyday, but in the back of my head, I always want to find a peaceful corner and sit there. I’m receiving the background music of thunders as I’m writing. Did I ever tell you I almost never turn on the lights in my room? It’s always dark. I like it that way. I’m glad that my roommate likes to have lights turned out as well. There are little Christmas lights that are turned on almost every time. I do not turn on any light other than that.

I was wondering about happiness; it is so innocent. No matter how much of greed do you show to it, it’s never going to show up unless it itself wants to show up. If it wants to show up by watching rain outside the window, it’ll never settle for anything more or less. You can never bribe happiness. It's loyal to your heart. If you're not happy, then no amount of money can make you happy. I like the attitude of happiness. If a droplet of a special something can make you happy, then an abundance of something else is just futile.

Thank you for listening to me.

With love,
Yusra.


September 24, 2014

Dear Diary,

I am sitting on my bed right now. My roommate’s friend is here. He is a nice guy, and a very close buddy to my roommate. They are talking their hearts out, laughing like crazy, like all friends do. I don’t want to listen to their conversation, I don’t even know why. So I just picked up my headphones, shoved them in my laptop and blasted up the music. All I can hear now is a soft melody playing in my ears. I can still see this guy, sitting right in front of me on a chair, talking animatedly to her friend but I can’t hear him. All I hear is the music, everything else around me seems like a video playing along with this music.

I just felt my heartbeat and it made me think that it’s going to stop one day. I wondered what it would be like if it’d stop the very next moment. Am I prepared to die? What would it be like being dead while being so far away from all my loved ones? Would they get to know about it? Of course they would, somehow. How are they going to react? Would the process of my carcass being sent to them be a lot of burden for them? Would I get buried here? What’s going to happen to me? Who’s going to come to my funeral? Would they be sad? For how long? They’d forget me one day because this is how things go on but would I ever forget myself? Could I ever forget myself? 

I don’t know. 

Thank you for listening.
With love,
Yusra.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

GUEST POST - Smartphone Buying Guide

Hi guys, this is a guest post by Sage Harman. Sage is a frugal living enthusiast, a wife and a mother. Sage Harman runs http://www.no-contract-plans.com, a site dedicated to providing free information to consumers trying to find viable no-contract phone and internet plans. She wrote this post to promote her site through my blog. I hope this helps her.

Here's the guest post:


Smartphones, and the coverage plans that often come with it are expensive. These mini computers are so powerful that they have become a vital part of our day to day. With a handful of carriers and manufacturers offering great prices and cool features, picking the best handset can be rather confusing. Should you skimp on your purchase and possibly miss an important feature for a small price difference or should you go all out? Here are few things you should consider before buying a smartphone.

Android VS iOS VS Windows Phone
When it comes to platform, these 3 so far are the most popular options. Some people find that Google's Android is more versatile and customizable while others choose Apple iPhone's iOS because of its extensive collections of apps. Some say Microsoft's Windows Mobile is more user-friendly. There aren't probably that much differences with how these operating systems work so you can base your decision upon what's most important to you - security, customization, flexibility or user-friendliness.

Camera
More megapixels doesn't necessarily mean better photos. Take time to review the specs and consider the phone's capturing features and settings like the resolution, lens, shutter speed, sensor and zoom.

Design
Thin and sleek or bulky? Phones with large screens may be great for watching movies and videos, web surfing, and playing games but they can be a bit uncomfortable to carry. For ease of use and portability, phones with a screen size of 4-5 inches are perfect for me.

Battery Life
Your smartphone, with all the things you can do with it, I would imagine would require greater power supply. You might want to get one that comes with higher milliamp-hour battery, or one that has a user-replaceable battery.

Compatibility to Apps
Some programs may run on all existing platforms, and some will just work exclusively on one.

Storage
If you think you would need more storage space, purchase one with higher storage capacity or better yet, one that supports microSD cards.

Plans
No-contract plans may seem more expensive as you will need to purchase the phone upfront. If you have commitment issues though, this type of plan may be best for you as there are no hidden charges or termination fee should you decide to break the contract early. 

Anyone in the market for a new mobile phone? Compare plans and get free information on various popular smartphone plans at http://www.no-contract-plans.com.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pardes - پردیس

Nobody understood what I wanted to have, today. This time, I hugged my soul and consoled it. We lay down on the grass in each other's company. We wanted to quench the thirst of our tongues that wanted to speak. We looked around to fill up the hunger of our starved eyes to see what they wanted to see. We lay down on the grass of this foreign land this time and screamed in silence:

Yeh kesi Eid hai?

This time, I felt out of place.
This time, I searched for faces.
This time, I yearned to hear Eid Mubarak.
This time, I craved to say Khair Mubarak.
A horde of human beings swarmed around me but all I could see in their eyes was estrangement.

But, the sky wasn't a stranger to me. The trees have been my friends for a very long time. The sun came out and showered down it's golden light just like it's been doing for me, every morning. It's just that, this Eid, in lieu of a swaying dupatta, the two strings of my hoodie jiggled as I walked. This time, the grass was my carpet, the sky was my roof, and the trees were my hosts. Today, silence was my talk and air was my food. Instead of people, the wind hugged me three times, today. This time, I heard the rustling of dry autumn leaves, in lieu of the tinkling bangles.

This time, the dewdrops made a pattern on my palm and I smelled mud on my hand instead of henna.
And to all of the nature around me, the only thing that established a rapport with me on this special day, I whispered:

Eid Mubarak!












Friday, October 3, 2014

Just a Little Letter

Dear Abbu,

I hope you’ll be fine and happy. I wish you to be happy wherever you are. No matter what place, no matter what time, I only want you to have happiness around you. I am doing well, too. I am doing okay. Alhumdulillah. I was thinking about you and decided to write you a letter. I'll keep it very short.

I just want you to know that I know. Do you think I didn’t realize you were crying when I was lying with you with my head on your shoulder? Do you think I didn’t feel the tear drop that fell on my arm that was hugging you? I know you cried. I know you cried almost every night when my days of departure were getting nearer. I’m sorry I made a habit of sleeping with you every night even when you told me I was making it hard for you by doing so. I realized it later how you would have missed seeing me at that spot that I used to sleep in, every night. I’m sorry for that but I wanted to spend as much time as possible with you. I saw you in my dream and maybe that’s because I've been thinking about you. I won’t take a lot of your time but I really wanted to jot my thoughts down. I just wanted you to know that I know a lot of things that you think I don’t know. You can’t hide them from me. You can’t make me happy by hiding sadness underneath your skin that fakes a different expression.

No, I did not forget. It’s your birthday! Happy birthday, Abbu jee! I wish that out of all the moments that you’ll have in your life, not a single one would bring a speck of sadness around you. I pray to Allah that my life, my existence, and my presence would never bring unhappiness or sadness in any way to you. I pray that you’d never get sad because of me, ever. I pray that whenever you see me or hear my name, it’d bring a smile on your face and peace to your heart.

We’ll see each other soon, inshaa Allah.

With love,
Yusra.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Soul's Empathy

She kept staring at the screen, without blinking. She was just staring at it, her mind was elsewhere. It crawled into the past. She was dragged into the past. Her hands were on the keyboard but she was not typing anything. Then I came out of her, sat next to her, pulled the laptop from her lap and started typing. I started typing what she wanted to type but never did. I typed everything, there was so much to say and I kept on stroking the keys, filling up pages after pages, translating her thoughts, my thoughts, into words. She was still staring ahead, not knowing what I was doing, not knowing what she was doing. She was lost; it looked like she was gone to another world. Her physical existence was here but I could sense how hollow it was. I could see her vacant eyes staring into nothing. I looked at her but then I resumed my typing. I typed and typed. I wrote poems that were in her head, songs she never sang, stories she had to tell, secrets that were hers and hers only. I typed them all out, because I knew them all. Because I was her. Because I wanted someone else to read that. There was so much to say, so much to write about, a lot of thoughts to be processed and translated. I kept on typing and typing, vigorously, pushing the keys, getting relieved after every sentence that I completed typing, knowing that now another of her thoughts will not just stay inside her but it would be read. I felt so good for her. She needed that, she had to take it all out and I was doing it for her, I was doing it for myself. The sun went down the window and rose up again, she was still sitting there and I was still typing. The thoughts and feelings and secrets that she had stored inside all these years couldn’t get typed out in a day. It took me days after days and I filled up pages after pages. When I was almost done writing, I was finishing up jotting down her thoughts. I was winding up, almost on the last sentence. I signed her name, my name, at the end. YU.. when suddenly she jerked, as if coming back to life after a long sleep, she came back to the room where she was sitting. She looked at me, at herself, and then she looked at what I was writing down. She didn’t let me sign her name, my name. She quickly grabbed hold of the laptop, pushed the delete button, and cleared every thought, line after line, which I had written down. She was shaking her head in disapproval. She backspaced everything. She deleted all of those songs and poems and thoughts and dreams. She removed it all.

I looked at her with pleading eyes, I wanted her to stop but she did not stop. She cleared it all. The pages were all white again, with no alphabet that could portray her psyche. Carrying sadness in my heart, in her heart, I quietly went back inside her. I knew what was going to happen next. She had another way to let it all out.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fall

Have you ever watched the leaves, in the fall, swaying to the ground? Have you ever noticed the colours of autumn leaves? Have you ever seen the yellow, orange, red and brown dried autumn leaves fallen on the ground, on the grass, on the pathways? Why do people think fall is colourless? Have you ever registered how these dancing leaves look so beautiful while falling down on the ground? Even when they know they are dying, they are dancing for us. Making themselves look beautiful. I was walking amidst the trees while one leaf broke from its stem and swayed its way to the ground below, like a swing swinging back and forth all the while giving in to the force of gravity, letting itself pulled down to the ground, may or may not according to its will. Like a tear drop that comes out of the eye making its curved path until it finally drops off from the chin. The existence of these leaves is for a very short while. They live for such a small amount of time. And when comes their time of departure, they fall down onto the ground, ever so humbly, letting themselves get ready to be trampled upon by your feet. When they are up there, all green, attached to the stem, they help you let in the air that fills your hungry lungs. When they die, they let themselves be a carpet for your feet to crush them, to crush their existence into uncountable crumbs. 

And then..
A wind blows. And away it carries the tiny pieces of these crushed leaves to every which way possible, scattering them, taking them away from each other, separating the parts which were once one. United.

From the human beings to the winds, everything thing plays its own separate part in crushing, dispersing, and trying their best to vanish the existence of a leaf.
 
So is this a leaf’s life all about? This one leaf falling down on the ground made me wonder one thing; when does it actually live for its own self?

Maybe living for your own self isn't even an option.

Amazing how one leaf makes you think a lot.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

USA Diaries - The Victorian House, Culture, Chicago, Hastings and Guns

September 16, 2014

Dear Diary,
I just cooked noodles and made a big mug of chai for myself and I’m eating the noodles this very moment. I didn’t go to the dining hall tonight and decided to cook noodles instead. I wanted to make it taste spicy so I’ve put green chilli sauce and red chilli sauce and pickle in it. I would have never done that back home but it’s just that I’ve gotten so desperate for spices that I want to put them in any food to make it taste good and spicy.
But, anyway let me tell you about my day today. I woke up this morning and dressed up all Pakistani, again! I was invited to this class on Diversity as a guest speaker to talk about my culture and religion. So I decided to wear another one of my traditional dresses that I had brought with me. I had to talk for that class right after I was done with my own classes. When I was getting ready this morning, doing my hair, I was attacked by this nostalgia when I saw myself in the mirror. I was dressed up exactly like I would for my university back home. I had worn that dress a couple of times at my university in Pakistan and every time I wore it, my friends liked it a lot. Well, today when I went out walking around the campus with my shirt flowing along as I walked, a lot of people said that they loved my dress. The friends I’ve made here from different countries, when they saw me today around the campus, their first reaction was a curved, raised eyebrow on my appearance and then I would receive a compliment from them for my outfit. Anyway, when I walked inside my classroom where I had my Learning Strategies class, (I have talked about this class before, right? This is the best class among all the classes that I’m taking) my professor, she said that she wanted me to explain why I was wearing my traditional dress today, to the whole class. She asked me to stand up and walk around the class room so that everyone could have a look at my ‘lovely’ dress and ‘beautiful’ shoes. I did so. I explained to them that I was invited as a guest speaker to speak in that class on Diversity so I had to dress up like this. They were curious about my dupatta and then they started asking me questions about why I have to wear it and how do I pray and what are the timing of my prayers and how often do I pray and well, I was bombarded with a lot of such questions. I told them about my religion and how it does not allow me to show my skin and body, and this is why the muslims cover themselves up. I told them we pray five times a day. My professor asked me when did I do my very first prayer, today? I told them it’s before dawn so I woke up at around 4:30 AM this morning for the very first prayer. Their jaw dropped when they heard about the time. Everything was just so fascinating for them. A guy asked me about how do the guys in Pakistan dress up, He was wearing a sleeveless shirt and shorts. I looked at him and realized that we would see guys wearing that in Pakistan too. I told him they dress up the same but they have a choice so they can either wear shalwar qameez or shorts or jeans, whatever really. Which kind of made me go “wow!” in my mind. They really do wear whatever they want to. But any way, when this class ended, I headed toward the class where I was invited as the guest speaker. The students asked kind of similar questions from me there as well. They also asked about the holidays and the food and how do I feel like living in America. I answered them all. They were a nice bunch of people.

In the afternoon, I walked to the downtown with one of my friends, and then we decided to go even further. Warrensburg is a small town and it wouldn’t hurt my feet if I walked to different places and stores. Also, I love walking, so yeah. Well, we spent almost the whole day going to stores. I had to buy some presents. On our way back, I saw this pretty looking house on the street. I took a picture of it because it was looking so pretty all with the red flowers on the front lawn and a nice pathway leading toward the main door. I wanted to knock on the door and see how the house looked on the inside. I was reluctant to knock at the door because I didn’t want them to think that I was an intruder in their house. I mean who would like to say hi, without getting suspicious, to a stranger at their door, right? But well, I rang the door bell anyway (which was an old door bell so I had to turn a lever on the right which was actually the door bell). A man, in his 70s, who owned the house, opened up the door and said hello to us. I told him that I was just passing by and I liked the house so I just wanted to tell it to him. He was such a nice man. He invited us inside. I saw his wife peeking at us from behind. I wanted to see that house so I stepped inside their house without resisting. It was a Victorian house. A historic house built in 1880s. I saw this big piano sitting inside, by a window, and there were a lot of bookshelves filled up with books. Larry, the nice old man, had his own study room. It looked like a little library. Well his whole house looked like a little library to me. There were just so many books inside. Anyway, there was this study room with lots of books. And on one wall he had hung the caricatures of the famous authors like Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson. And there were so many of them. The whole wall was filled up with such caricatures. It all looked so good. They had their children’s pictures hung up on the wall. Oh and guess what, I saw ‘Bismillah hirrahman irrahim’ hung up on one wall in their house. Beneath the big Bismillah plate there were little plates on either side with ‘Muhammad’ and ‘ Ali’ written on it. It surprised me a lot. I asked them whether they knew the meaning of it. They didn’t. And I explained it to them. The lady, her name was Margaret, she took me to the backyard and well, okay, it was beautiful! They had put too much of effort in beautifying their house. The little wrought iron benches, the big swing on a tree, little garden decorations, artificial butterflies on the trees, the Utah corner, the plants, the fruits, the vegetables, the herbs, they had all of those things in their backyard. What a nice house to visit. What a nice house I chose to go in. Well, I hugged the lady on my way out and told her I’ll come back again there before going back to Pakistan. She hugged me back and said, “We are family, now!”
These Americans, I like them.



Also, when I got back home I did the henna for my roommate. I’ve been meaning to do it for her for almost a week but each time one thing or the other comes up and I just end up not doing it for her. But today, I finally did it. And she loved it which served my purpose. I like doing it for Americans because they get so excited for it. I like to see them smiling at their henna-hands. When I was done drawing henna for her, another friend of mine came up to my room because she wanted it as well. I did it for her as well and guess what did she ask me next? She said she wanted me to sign my name in Urdu on her other hand. Nobody ever asked me to do that before and she was so excited to get it. I did it for her and then my roommate wanted it too so I did it for both of them and now both of them are happy and smiling. Right now, my roommate is moving her fingers over my name on her hand and saying, “Your name is so pretty.” Even though for a little while, but they manage to bring a smile on my face.



My head is heavy as I’m writing. I just finished up my chai and I think I should go to sleep now. Oh, wait. I have my assignments due. Never mind.

Thank you for listening to me.
With love,
Yusra.





September 15, 2014

Dear Diary,
Remember I told you I’ll tell you about Chicago in my next post. I’ll be doing that just that now because nothing interesting happened today that I should mention here. So I’ll write about Chicago instead.
I always wanted to see the skyline of Chicago. I started looking at it in the daylight and I stayed there until night drew its blanket of darkness and the little lights on these buildings started turning on, giving it a magical view. I was on the boat and it wasn’t dark when I got on that boat. This boat had to give us a 45 minute tour, floating upon the Michigan Lake giving us the view of the beautiful skyline of Chicago. I stepped on the boat, it started moving. I looked down at the water, the boat’s engine piercing water, throwing its waves to the sides, making its way to move forward. The overlapping waves of the lake were so deep and intense. Water seemed so soft, like cotton, so easy to be torn apart, without much effort. I kept on looking at the water and then right across at the skyline. I could hear the seagulls flying above. It was all just so inspiring. I looked at the people around me. A mother holding on to her little boy’s shirt as tightly as she could while he leaned across the rail to look at the water. Two friends laughing loudly and taking pictures with the skyline in the background. A couple standing quietly in the boat, the guy hugging the girls back, his chin resting on her shoulder, both looking at the beautiful view outside. A group of friends holding drinks in their hands, not even looking at the beautiful view outside, just cracking up at a joke I was unable to comprehend. I looked around and saw a lot of people and then I looked outside again. Why am I here, I thought. I didn’t know how I was feeling when I was seeing all that. For a moment, I wanted everyone to just go away. I wanted to be there all by myself. They were all too loud. They weren’t letting me think. They weren’t letting me comprehend the meaning water was trying to show to me. I didn’t want to just look at it, I wanted to know. But I had to tolerate the loud voices, the laughs, the shouts. I looked up at the sky. The deep blue sky. The darkest shade of blue. I looked down at the overlapping water. Same colour. It was just that the sky looked calm and the water was unresting. When it started getting darker and the building started twinkling with the lights, I felt bad for the sky. It’s the sky’s job to twinkle, but the buildings, that night, were twinkling brighter than the sky. I hope the sky is going to forgive those buildings for stealing its ultimate idea of twinkling to make themselves look beautiful.



One of the things I did in Chicago that I had never done before is I learned to eat with chopsticks when I went to eat in a Chinese restaurant  (or was it Japanese?). Also, I ate sushi for the very first time in Chicago. Okay and here’s another one. I always wanted to see the beach. I had never seen it before. I saw one in Chicago but it was a beach by the lake. A small one. I want to see a beach by an ocean. The seashore, at night, under the full moon. I wish I could see that someday. But I’m thankful that I got to see this tiny lake beach in Chicago. At least I got to know how the sand feels like beneath your bare feet. I got to know how it feels like walking on the wet sand, when your feet sink in it. I saw my footprints in the sand for the first time. I wrote in the sand for the first time. I saw how the waves of water smooth out the sand and make it look as if a mason has evened it with his tool. The beach made me realize that no matter how much we try to prove our existence, life keeps on mocking at us, telling us that our existence is temporary. I wanted to stay there with myself, again. I always want to have my own company only but I have to say that I very much liked seeing the beach.



Also, I need to mention it. Do you know, I saw the fireworks after so long, in Chicago! You do know that fireworks make me happy, right? But do you know what happened that night when I saw the fireworks? It brought me sadness. Fireworks never make you sad, dear diary! You know that. I know that. But I wonder why it seemed to me that the firework show was sprinkling sadness on me. And then suddenly I wanted to be alone, all by myself, again. I wanted to spend time with myself only, then. I wanted to walk on the beautiful yellow roads alone with the fireworks displaying sky above my head and golden road underneath my feet. Fireworks made me sad for the very first time, that day. Even thinking about how it made me sad, makes me sad now.

The downtown Chicago has a collection of amazing architecture. If I could, I would just walk on the sideways for the whole day and admire the tall buildings. I saw people walking hurriedly, crossing the roads, it looked like some of them were getting late for work. Some of them were just out strolling with their pets. Some were tourists. There were a lot of people, just too many of them and I wondered how they all would have their own stories. I wondered how God knows our stories, He knows all about us. I wondered how amazing it seems to know that God listens to us all. There’s just too many of us. But for Him, it’s just no big deal. How amazing He is. Everything I see, everything from sand to tall buildings to people to animals to tattoo lovers to same-sex couples to fast moving trains to sky to water to fishes to seagulls to stars to lights to fireworks. Everything that I see, it makes me think of Allah.

Thank you for listening to me.

With love,
Yusra.



September 14, 2014

Dear Diary,
I went out for shopping today. You do know that I’m not a very big fan of shopping, right? I mean, excluding the book-shopping, of course. I don’t really enjoy dress/shoes/bags shopping. It’s very unlikely to hear such statement coming out of a girl’s mouth, right? But why should I fake enjoying things that I don’t really enjoy doing? Well, anyway, I had to go because my friends were going and also because I had to buy the essentials – coats and boots – for the winters. In one day, the weather flipped over completely. In one day, the temperature went down so low. So I had to consider buying something warm for myself. We went to different stores and we were all out looking for the things we ‘needed’ to buy, but then the girls started doing the real girl shopping and I just ended up doing nothing but standing there and looking at them. I came out into the parking lot and started walking there and just waited for them to come out from the store.  And so it went on. We explored one shop after the other and I really wanted to get back home because I started thinking that this shopping was wasting a lot of my time but then they wanted to go to the Dollar Store where you can buy different stuff for $1 only. I was just hauling myself along with them, and while doing so, I saw this store called Hastings right next to the Dollar Store. I told my friends that I’m going to Hastings instead. Two of them came with me to this store. They entered from the entrance door only to come out from the exit door. They said they had nothing to buy or look for in that store. I, on the other hand, entered through the first door to see, guess what, THE BOOKS! They were out on sale just for 99 cents. I smiled the genuine smile for the first time since that morning, when I entered that store. I opened the second door and saw just so many, oh-so-many books, and accessories related to books. You know how I always fall for words, don’t you? I’d rather choose a beautiful saying to hang on my wall than a painting. When I entered that shop, it seemed to me that it knew my weakness. Everything they had in there had words printed on it. The books, the shirts, the magnets, the calendars, the hats, the blankets, the badges, the wall decorations, the mugs, the key rings, the car posters and what not! EVERY THING, really. I wanted to buy everything. There was just so much to look at and to adore that I wanted to stay there for hours and hours. I could stay there for a whole day even, or a week. It had beautiful, beautiful books. It had classics in beautiful prints and I just adored their covers. It was a little version of heaven for me, the best place I had been to in Warrensburg. It was beautiful. There was just so much to look at but my friends were waiting for me to come out (they didn’t even bother to come inside because that’s how boring a place it was for them) so I came out whining about how it wasn’t fair because I wanted to stay inside that store. Well, I know I have to go there again now. I know I have to spend a day in that store. I’ve got to do that. Hastings made my day, today.
Oh, and I got these two lovely bracelets as well, from Goody’s. Well, while I was bored and just staring at the stuff around the store my eyes caught sight of this bracelet and it had something written on it. I picked it up and started reading it. It said: “LOVE ADORNS ITSELF, IT SEEKS TO PROVE INWARD JOY BY OUTWARD BEAUTY. LOVE DOESN NOT CLAIM POSSESSION, BUT GIVES FREEDOM. LOVE IS AN ENDLESS MYSTERY, FOR IT HAS NOTHING ELSE TO EXPLAIN IT. LOVE’S GIFT CANNOT BE GIVEN. IT WAITS TO BE ACCEPTED.”
I would love to just stare at my wrist every now and then and read these lines.

Having said that, last night a loud bang woke me up. It shook me up from my sleep. I thought my roommate slammed the drawer of her desk. But she wasn’t in the room. She stayed at her friend’s place last night. I looked around peeking out from my blanket, trying to figure out what was that noise. It was the sound of shots fired outside my residence hall. You know that I hate guns, right? I don’t really use the word ‘hate’ very much. But when I use it, I actually mean it. I hate guns. It made me so sad, hearing someone shooting fires. I almost felt like crying. Why on earth would people do that? It’s scary. It scared me. I don’t walk around campus after Maghrib, when it starts getting dark. I don’t feel safe. I never wanted to hear the sound of gun here, that too, while I was sleeping. I don’t want to hear it anywhere. I would never want to hear the sound of a gun fire again in my life. I wished I hadn’t heard that. Why do people do that? Why do they even manufacture guns? It made me so unhappy and sad.

Thank you for listening.
With love,
Yusra


Saturday, September 13, 2014

USA Diaries - Experiences

Alright, I have to do this. I need to do this. I'll be sharing my experiences in America here. Some day I'll get back here and read what I've written. I don't know how I would feel at that time. I don't know that, but there'd be something I'd know I had written. Whatever I felt having those experiences, will be coming straight from my heart here. My USA Diary.


September 12, 2014

Dear Diary,
I told you a lot in my previous post and guess what, it wasn't even half of what I wanted to say. I wish I could record every moment and save it somewhere just so that I could show it to all the people with whom I want to share my life in America. This might sound a bit abrupt but, here goes..

The convention center, where I was staying at D.C, was beautiful. Well, it was my kind of place. I could spend a lot of time outside with the trees and the grass and the bushes. One thing I like about America is 'the benches,' that's right. You'd see many benches while roaming in America, in the parks, on campus, maybe along a street, just to sit on it and to admire the view. You'd see a small table for two out in the balconies so that friends, couples, mom and son, dad and daughter, could come out and sit on the balcony, in the evening with a cup of coffee and admire the view outside. Doesn't it sound nice? It looked nice too. I admire these people for making it look so beautiful. I really do.





I can spend a great deal of time mediating here, on this bench.




We were around 100 students in D.C, for the Welcome Workshop and when we got there, we were split into 4 teams. Each team had its own name. And each team was given a colour. They gave us shirts which said Global UGRAD Pakistan. Each team got a separate color. One team got purple shirts, the other two got green and blue. I was in Team Washington and we got yellow shirts so yellow was our colour. They arranged some games for us. We won one but lost the rest so basically our team lost. Before starting the game each team had to come up with a chant to support their respective teams, and, well, I happened to make ours. We had only 10 minutes to come up with a chant so it's going to sound a bit stupid but don't laugh, okay? At least I came up with something. Since we were Team Washington, our chant went like this:

We are one
You are done
Wa-shing-ton
Wa-shing-ton!

Err, yeah. Well, oh and we had to do some moves with it too, but anyway, that was our chant.


Hey Diary, I must have told it to you before. D.C. is beautiful! The buildings and architecture, it all looks so wonderful. You would want to keep looking at it. You'd want to stay there. The roads are wider and cleaner. You'd see flowers on the sidewalks. Beautiful lampposts with flower-pots hanging on them. I saw a bicycle there, someone had parked it on the side walk, along the flower fence. Even that was looking beautiful. I don't know if it was beautiful for everyone or not, but to me, yes! it was.



I want to tell you all about what's happening with me and my university, too. I want to tell you things that have happened here. People I have met. I want to to tell you the difference I see here. I'm doing okay. Sometimes, even while just walking toward my dorm or classroom or anywhere, really, I stop and think about the days that sprinted behind me. Everything happened just so quickly that it seemed to me that I was picked up and thrown at this place. I don't even know what's happening sometimes. I talk to people but then I want to stay with my own self.

Well, back in Pakistan I used to see the moon, a lot. I would search the sky for the moon and look at it and admire its beauty. Since the day I came to America, I didn't get to see the moon until about a week ago, which is strange, I know. I was feeling sad and every night I searched the sky for a single sight of moon but I guess the windows of my room give the view of opposite side of sky that holds the moon. But I wanted to see it and the stars too so I asked one of my friends, Michelle, if she could take me somewhere where I could see the whole sky. Complete sky.  All of it, with the moon and the stars. Everything! Well of course there was such place. She's so nice, this girl, she took me to a lake at night. It was 9 PM and we were there all alone. I could occasionally hear a fish jumping out from the water. And a goose flying just above the water. But when I looked up at the sky, it contained the stars! So many of them. And the moon too, it was beautiful. The moon was full and it hid many stars. So the night was not very starry. But still, it had a lot of stars, I could see so many of them. I felt like I was home. The sky was my home. It was the same sky, it had the same moon and it contained the same stars. That was my sky just before my eyes. I laid down and watched the sky and it was so beautiful. I found the brightest star, too. Well, my cousin, Afzaal bhai, he lives in London. Once when he was in Pakistan and his day for departure back to London was coming near, I told him that I'd be going to miss him a lot. We were sitting under the sky and he pointed toward the brightest star. He said that's him so whenever I would miss him, I'd only have to look at the brightest star in the sky and that would be him looking at me. And after that I've told people the same. Well it's not like many people have told me that they'll miss me but when Michelle said that she'd miss me when I'll go back to Pakistan, I told her that she'd just have to look at the brightest star every time she'd miss me because that would be me and I'd probably be looking at the same brightest star from Pakistan. Well, and so it goes for you, dear diary! Will you find the brightest star whenever you'll miss me? That'd be me, looking for you as well.

Michelle is a photographer. I asked her to take a picture of the moon for me. Sadly, the lens was not powerful enough to capture the stars. But the moon looked so pretty.

I'm taking a course called Learning Strategies. Of all the courses I'm taking, I like it the most. Our instructor Mrs. Goetz, gives us assignments twice a week. So for my first week of this course, I had to turn in a paper writing about one thing that represented me. I got my graded assignment back the next week and while she was handing me my assignment, she smiled at me and then looked at the paper and then back at me again. She said she enjoyed reading my paper a lot and that it made her smile. She told me it was very special, whatever I had written in it. It made me so happy knowing that she thought whatever I had written was very special.




Oh, and I got to know about my result too. I've cleared my 3rd semester back in my home university. Wow, I'm growing up. Time is moving by fast. Well, time is strange; sometimes it seems to have stopped completely and sometimes it doesn't even give me time to think. Why does time do this? Do you feel the same?

I had a presentation on Wednesday for my Business Communication class. The instructor asked the students to pick a day for their presentations from three days. We could either present on Wednesday (that was just after one day), Monday or next Wednesday. When he asked us to list our names for 'the day when we want to present', everybody wanted to go for either Monday or next Wednesday. I wanted to do it on Monday mainly because I wanted to get an idea about how presentations differ in America from what we do in Pakistan. Well, almost everybody chose Monday and next Wednesday so I just picked the coming Wednesday. I had a rubric to follow. I knew what the professor was expecting from us so I signed up for Wednesday instead. Intrestingly, I was not nervous at all for my very first presentation in America and surprisingly, it turned out quite well. Everybody liked it. Each one of my classmates had to rate my presentation individually along with their comments. At the end of the class all of them handed out their rate sheet to me. The most interesting part was to see the different versions of my name on those sheets. They can't spell it, they can't pronounce it but they try. Which, I believe is quite nice of them.

Yashi, Yusia, Yusera,Yushira, Everything BUT Yusra.
Yesterday, I had to give a presentation on Pakistan. I went to a middle school and there was a class waiting for me to present my country in front of them. I had to go there right after my class so I woke up in the morning and dressed up in my traditional dress. Even though it was quite cold but I wore khussay when I could have worn boots because it was raining as well. Well, it wasn't raining very hard but it was misty. But anyway, since I was representing Pakistan so I had to look like a Pakistani from head to toe. Before I entered the class in which I had to present, the teacher in whose class I was presenting, came out and looked at me and exclaimed, "Oh my! Look at her. Look at that dress." Well, Americans here, they get quite fascinated by your dresses. She liked it a lot. I entered the classroom and the middle schoolers, they went all, "Whoaaa! That's a pretty dress there." Well, it was just a normal dress, really but they liked it quite a lot. I hung the flag and map of Pakistan on the hooks of one of the whiteboards and after that I started my presentation. Before presenting Pakistan to them, I asked the students what's the one word that comes to their mind when they hear the word Pakistan. One of them replied, "sand" and another one replied, "goats". It brought a smile to my face. I showed them on the map the parts of Pakistan that were "sandy" and that "goats" are not the only thing that one can see in Pakistan. I told them about the food, and the dresses and our cultures and traditions. With their chins, resting in the cup of their hands, they were listening to me. I felt like  a grandmother telling a story to her grandchildren infront of a cozy fire place. I told them some of the words in Urdu and they tried to speak those words. I had brought some Pakistani snacks for them and they ate them while listening to my presentation. I showed them how girls cover their heads when they go out, with my dupatta and the teacher of that class suddenly stood up from her seat and asked me if she could take my picture. She said she wanted to write about me and my presentation in a paper so she had to take my picture to put with her writing. I loved answering their questions about Pakistan and my culture. I loved doing that. While I was about to leave, one of the girls stopped me and asked me to wait for her because she wanted to bring her phone for taking a picture with me. They were all so fascinated by the culture and my dress and my language. It was an amazing experience. I liked doing that. Specially for the cute little middle schoolers who have a plethora of questions to ask and who are always curious about things.

I want to tell you all about Chicago as well. But I might do that in my next post. I really hope you liked sharing my experiences with you. I'll get back to you soon.

Thank you for listening.
With love,
Yusra

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Somewhere Amidst..

A smile that hid sadness underneath it. She smiled that smile. A smile quite similar to a rose amid a sandy plain. A smile that lifted her heart and saved it from drowning but upon coming to the surface, the shore was still far from being seen. A smile that watered her eyes. A smile that wanted to turn into a laugh but couldn't. A smile that was difficult for even her brains to interpret. The senses got confused between becoming happy or sad.
That was the kind of smile she smiled just now.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chaos

I'm screaming, but they can't hear me. Are my screams out of your hearing range? Can't you hear the noise that is surrounding my existence? What is wrong with the world? Why can't they see me? Is it because I'm wearing a mask? Don't ask me to take it off. You won't stand the sight of what lies beneath it. You'll see the bruises, contusions, marks and scars. By wrapping myself with the fake covering I'm only hiding the scars. Why does it mute my screams, then? There's so much noise in my head, why is it inaudible to the people around me? There's a mess of tangled thoughts inside my brains, how can it not be felt? If I can see what lies under their blank faces, why can't they see it for me then? Is it how it's supposed to be? I never wanted myself to get mired in my own existence. Where are the flowers, the butterflies, the stars and the moon? Where is the bitter sweet smell of caffeine and the smell and texture of the old book's pages? Why has chaos taken over the silence? Nobody is listening to me, everyone just walks away. They walk away leaving me in shambles. They walk away leaving me here to assemble my shattered self, all by myself. How can I gather myself together, if they are not willing to help me pick up my torn pieces? Even if I assemble myself together, bit by bet, I would need someone to put my last broken piece back together for me. I've been doing it, on and off. I complete this jigsaw puzzle of my broken pieces everyday but that last piece that just stays there waiting for someone to come and place it in its abode. Would anyone ever complete this puzzle? Does nobody want to see how does the full picture look like? Is this mess too much to be fixed? Would I be waiting on myself to get completed, forever?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Na Hota Mein Tou Kya Hota

I never thought I would hear that. But I did. It hurt my feelings but that’s okay. Believe me it is. I guess that’s what they say about expectations. They do get killed. But I don’t blame anyone. It’s just that no matter how hard I try, there does always come up something that stands in front of me and tells me that I fail at living life. So the blame is on me. I want to run away, far away. I want to leave it all behind and disappear into the wilderness. I wish nobody could see me. I wish nobody could talk to me. I wish I never existed. I wish I could just get up one day and get lost in the woods. I wish I could do that. If I were living my life for myself only, I would’ve done that by now. But I don’t live one life. I’m living a lot more. I don’t live for myself.  I can’t help wondering about my existence. I can’t help wondering how I manage to mess everything up. One thing that I really wanted to achieve in life was to be that person who brings happiness in others’ lives. I try so hard, oh lord knows I try my best to do so. But I fail! I fail every time.

Na  tha  kuch  tou  khuda  tha,  kuch  na  hota  tou  khuda  hota
Daboya  mujh  ko  honay  ne, na  hota  mein  tou  kya  hota

And when you don’t know where to go, and all the directions are lost, I wish you could see that one direction that always shines upon you. I wish you get the vision. I wish the best for you. Don't worry, I think about people in my mind like the person I knew they were. I think about the best version of them that they had shown to me. I’d try to forget what I saw. I’d try to forget that you said that. I’d try to convince myself that you never meant to say that. I’d keep praying like I always did for you. I’d just try to forget all that. It’s just that I was hurt but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is people’s happiness and I wish that they get that. I don’t know what else to ask for. And I’d never stop asking for it because I know He never stops giving. I just can’t get over the fact that.. well, never mind.

 Life, it happens!


Muddat  hui  mar  gaya  Ghalib  magar  phir  bhi  yaad  ata  hai
Wo  har  ik  baat  pe  kehna, kay  youn  hota  tou  kya  hota




Disclaimer: The verses are taken from Ghalib's poem and are property and copyright of the owner.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

USA Diaries

Aug 17, 2014
Dear Diary,

Whoa.
Whoa again!

There’s so much to tell you, there is so much to write, I can’t believe I haven’t started writing it all down already. It’s August 17, 2014, Sunday, as I’m writing it. Exactly 10 days since this journey has begun.  A crazy journey! Wait, should I call it crazy? I’m not sure. But I’ve been overwhelmed with stuff and I’m so glad to be finally able to write it all down. The sound of keyboard is music to my ears at the moment. It’s giving me so much satisfaction to finally record my thoughts before they get rusty.

August 7, 2014. The day I left my home to enter into a new world of things I had never experienced, to meet people I would never have thought of meeting with, to go to places that I would have never gone to, otherwise. What a day it was! The day before that, I was carrying a bundle of mixed emotions with me. I didn’t know how I was feeling. I was happy and sad both at the same time. I think I still am. But I don’t really know what to say about it. I remember that day I was filled up with emotions. I was going through things that people wouldn’t understand. Of course, they would not. Because I never gave them the chance to understand that. I was filled with emotions and I was feeling emotionless both at the same time. And as I’m writing it today, I feel like I still feel the same way. I don’t know. A couple hours before I had to leave for the airport, I was lying down with my mother in the room with lights turned out. It helped me to cry without getting caught but who was I kidding? Of course they caught me crying. I have never been this far away from home. I have never lived in a dorm with a stranger. I have never stayed away from home for this long. Maybe the thought of what I was about to experience was scaring me. And there were other things too that made me cry. I tried to control myself but it was hard, trust me it was. So an hour later when I finally got up from my bed, everybody could see my puffy, red eyes. What else I could do? I have always been that little kid in the house that gets too much attention and it was hard for me to say goodbye to my family; my mother and father, and my sisters. I remember when the day for my departure was coming nearer, one of my siblings started giving me kisses on my cheek, out of nowhere. Sometimes I would get a hug from another sibling whenever it would hit her that I was about to leave in a few days. They were all so happy and proud of me. They still are. But the fact that I wasn’t going to live with them was something difficult for them and for me to accept.

On my way to the airport, at about 3 AM, on isolated, well lit, beautiful golden roads, sitting in the car, I cried again. I realized something that day. I knew I wouldn’t really cry this much once I’d get to my destination. I understood that what makes us cry is saying goodbye. It’s so hard to say goodbye. It is just so brutally hard to do that, it demands your eyes to show how much painful it is to do so. But it was an episode of the journey that I had embarked on. I’m the kind of person who gets very excited over small things. It’s another story that the excitement doesn’t really show on my face because I’m not very showy over such things. So when I say that I had experienced my first airplane ride that day, I’m pretty excited about telling that. I was pretty excited experiencing the pre-sitting-on-a-plane experience and the post-sitting-on-a-plane experience. What happened to be a stab to my excitement was getting a middle seat instead of the window seat. I wanted to see outside and enjoy the view but the luck wasn’t on my side. I reached at the Dubai airport in a couple of hours. Dubai airport is huge, all fancy and glamorous. I had to spend 13 hours there and I was tired and not sure what to do. So I took a tour of the airport and then mostly I spent my time in the ladies’ prayer room. I saw a lot of ladies coming from different countries in that room, praying and then going away. There’s one worth mentioning thing that happened to me at Dubai. I was in the prayer room, making dua after my prayer when a girl entered there, picked out the Qur’an from her bag and started reciting. She had a very good voice. After I was done making the dua, I crouched on my knees and started folding my prayer mat, when I heard her saying, “No, no, no, no.. please sit back down again and make dua for me.” I was startled at first and looked at her with a question marked face. Then she said again, “I was seeing you make dua and I felt like you make dua right from your heart. I want you to make dua for me as well.” I smiled and asked what does she want me to ask from Allah for her and she replied, “Everything good in dunya (this world) and everything good in akhirat (the hereafter).” And I did so. After I was done doing that, she hugged me. We started talking about Islam and Allah and the conversation with her was so soothing. I really liked meeting a person like her.

I wandered around the airport before boarding for my flight to Washington. That was one long flight. I wanted to sleep and get all cozy but it’s not easy to get cozy when you’re on an airplane, sitting in the middle, yawning every now and then and not getting a chance to enjoy a wink of sleep. But the time passed and I finally set my feet in Washington. The days in Washington were sprinting around. My schedule was tight. I was not getting proper sleep and there was so much to learn before heading off to my destination, Missouri. The place where I was staying had a dining hall. I had to get down to the dining hall at 7 AM because that was the time when the breakfast was served. Breakfast, by the way, was the best meal of the day. The rest of the meals were a dilemma between halal and haram so I’d almost always end up eating an apple or some fries. While I was in Washington I went to see the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian. And I also went to see The White House and The Capitol Building. There’s this street in D.C, where there are a lot of embassies of countries around the world. I liked that. The buildings there were beautiful and there was just so much to see, I wanted to soak in everything but they say, you probably need more than a year if you want to see all of the amazing buildings and attractions they have there. While touring the D.C., it almost made me feel like I was living Dan Brown's book, ‘The Lost Symbol’. I had already read about those buildings in ‘The Lost Symbol’ and now actually getting to see them was quite an amazing experience for a reader like me. Oh, also that day when I was given a little tour of D.C., I finally ate some good food in an Afghani Restaurant after such a long time. I could finally fill up my plate without getting suspicious about the meat being halal or haram. That was the day when I saw ‘naan’ after so many days and had ‘qahwa’ after my meal. I came back to the place where I was staying at around 11 PM. I had 4 hours to get some rest before going to the Dulles Airport to catch my plane for Kansas City. Like I said before, I was overwhelmed! I managed to get some sleep and then came back down again at 3 AM where the shuttles were standing to take me and the rest of the participants to the airport. I spent 6 hours at the Dulles Airport. Yes, it was tiring. Then I finally got on my plane, and was flown to Kansas City. At the Kansas City Airport, representatives from my university were standing holding a placard in their hands. They took us to their cars, and from there we were driven all the way to Warrensburg, which is going to be my town for some time now. I’m getting to know my university now. It’s quite big, the campus. It has several places that one would enjoy going to. The town itself has a country touch to it. While the car was driving on the roads to Warrensburg, I could almost listen to John Denver’s songs ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ and ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ playing in my head.

But now I want to think how I feel about all of it. It had never been this way; there was so much dumped on my mind to think about that I never got the time to think about the things I actually like to think about. It made me sad when I realized that I’m not even getting the time to think but now that when I’m finally getting a chance to write it all down, it’s making me feel somewhat better. I needed time with myself only. I know I won’t be getting it that much but I need to work a way out for myself one way or another.
Dear Diary! I’ve found the people of Warrensburg very nice and helpful. I’ve always liked people and now after meeting the people here, it has added up to the faith that I never lose in humanity.

I like the view from my dorm window, especially at night, when the golden lights get turned on and make the road look like it’s made of gold. Sometimes I want to stand by the window and watch the cars go by. It gets so quite at night, and you can finally find some serenity from the hustle and bustle of the whole day. One night, I was sleeping with my back against the window. I turned to the other side, now facing the window, and my eyes opened up from the sleep. I could’ve shut them back right that very next moment but they caught sight of the outside view. There was a calm breeze blowing outside, and the leaves on the trees were dancing to the rhythm of the breeze. The golden light was turned on like always, and I could see the black sky in the stark contrast to golden-green leaves. I didn’t want to lose that sight so I kept staring outside, lying in my bed, and then the sight itself became a lullaby for me and I don’t know when did I go back to sleep that night. Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning, I almost think that I’m in my own home, and not in a dorm, but when the realization hits me, it brings a tinge of sadness to me. I don’t know, dear Diary! I really don’t. There’s just so much I’m going through that I’m inundated in my emotions.

Thank you for listening to me. 

With love,
Yusra.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Things to Do

  • Every time you feel like you can't take it anymore, talk to Allah. He is the greatest of listeners.
  • Do not lose your temper. Don't let the devil ruin you. Don't let the devil win the battle. Every time you lose your temper, you lose against the devil. You've got to win, don't you?
  • NEVER disrespect your parents. Make them feel proud of yourself. They don't ask much from you. They just want a bit of your time reserved for them. They just want you to love them like they love you.
  • Forgive people every time they make you sad for one reason or another. Every time you forgive people, Allah gets happy from you and rewards you for acquiring Allah's trait of forgiveness.
  • Understand. Every person has their own set of problems that they have to go through. Understand that. It's hard but it makes you a better person, trust me.
  • All those activities that mark you as a bad person, AVOID them.
  • Tell yourself that you are so much better than all those people who let you down.
  • Keep those hopes intact that certain people have from you. Don't ever give any person a chance to say that you disappointed them.
  • Prioritize life. Invest in life. Give time to life. You have to see how much time you have to invest in life in order to get the maximum profit out of it.
  • Pray, without any limitation or boundaries of time or place. Just pray. Allah lives in your heart. He is closer to you than your jugular vein. He can never turn a deaf ear toward you. He just NEVER does that. Not listening is just so unlike Allah.
  • Ask Allah for forgiveness. He is forgiving. If you truly, deeply, sincerely ask Him for His forgiveness, He gets so happy and forgives you right away and leaves you without a mark of sin on you.
  • Never miss a prayer.
  • Stay strong and focused.
  • Try to bring positivity in your as well as others' lives. Try to bring happiness for the people around you.
  • Follow the sunnah. We're not that pious, I know. But we can at least try to bring just a bit of piety in our lives.
  • Read more. It's better to get your brains engaged in a healthy activity.