Liberated

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Silenced. Voiceless. Weak. Oppressed. Evil. Terrorist. That’s what they call me.

Outspoken. Eloquent. Determined. Liberated. Compassionate. Loving. That’s what I feel.

It’s funny how a piece of cloth I wear on my head casts a veil before my viewers eyes. Upon the first glance, my story is all of the sudden defined. My character set in stone. My personality diminished. My future bleak. And my dreams faded.

I smile at the apologetic sympathy filled eyes. I can see the question coming before it’s even asked. This is the West honey, you don’t have to wear that here. You are a free woman.

You see, had I not been wearing a Hijab, she would have looked at me with admiration. Complimented my beautiful long hair. My kind eyes. My welcoming smile. My B.S from an elite University. My successful career as a neuroscientist. My P.H.D that’s in progress. My strong personality. My leadership qualities. My work ethic. My ground breaking research. My eloquent speech. And had asked how I managed to do it all at such a young age.

There is her perception. And then there is my reality. I fight this battle everyday.

I look strong but my knees are shaking. My head held high but my mind full of doubt. My voice confident but stomach turning. My conviction strong but my self-doubt rising.

I ask myself why I do it. Why put myself through this everyday? — I stand out wherever I go. I have to prove myself every new acquaintance. Shatter all stereotypes. Justify the actions of a few hundreds I’ve never met, and billions I automatically represent. I embody what all Muslims must be like. I carry the baton without even realizing it. I am no longer an individual but a representation of a society, culture, and religion. I am an icon. A fabulous icon.

My life would be so much easier if I just take it off. People would see me for who I am. The first thing they see wouldn’t be an oppressed foreigner who probably doesn’t speak english. They’d see an intelligent woman, doing wonderful work, changing the world. But more likely, I would first be objectified and judged based on my looks rather than my intellect or personality. But still, life would be easier.

I’m almost like a revolutionary. A revolutionary of the small world that surrounds me. And now that I’ve tasted the triumph after the struggle, I can’t live an average life.

The baton that was handed by force, is now carried with pride.  I enjoy watching people look at me confused. I like initiating the first smile and a friendly Hello. I chuckle when they are surprised to hear me converse. I love shattering their glass castles and building a solid foundation. I embrace the opportunity to paint the blank canvas of their minds into a masterpiece. And I do it with love.

I wear my scarf proudly. You don’t have to be scared. It’s a constant reminder to myself of my commitment to God. It’s a layer of protection I’ve adorned myself with. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

It makes me push myself harder. It forces me to carry myself with respect. It teaches me to be stronger. It pushes me to be ambitious and not get distracted. It whispers in my ears to always be compassionate and kind. And it never lets me forget, God is with me.

It demands others respect me. It saves me from objectification. It makes my personality shine. It forces others to take me seriously. It gives me an opportunity to break stereotypes. It opens up avenues of discourse.

It gives me the power to choose who and what I want to be; rather than me trying to fulfill society’s exceptions of me.

So you see, it liberates me.

And at last, I am truly free.

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Saddle Up

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One of the oldest questions in philosophy concerns the matter of body and soul. Is there a soul? If there isn’t a soul then all that’s left is a body. In that case how do you explain the differences in personality and character of each individual? As far as science is concerned, each heart beats the same way, each kidney serves the same purpose, and each organ functions identical to any other. Clearly there is something, a Soul, that differentiates one from the other.

Many people speak of this “Soul” as a thing that’s inside them. And they think that they are their bodies. But did you ever stop and think for a moment that maybe it’s not the Soul that’s inside the body but, in fact, it is our body that’s outside our soul? That the Soul is this precious thing that was sent down and delivered into this world within the protection of a house called body. Our thoughts, our actions, our dreams and aspirations are a product of our Soul’s desires, not the body. The Soul is the rider and the body it’s trusted stead.

Have you ever watched a rider on his stallion, bolting through open skies? The awe stuck spectators praising the strength of the beast, the determination in it’s movements, the beauty of it’s being, and the amazing control and grace of the rider? Now imagine if the rider, in love for his Stallion, started to loosen the reigns. Instead of using his wisdom and knowledge to guide the Stallion, he begins fulfilling it’s thirst for adventure, a free run, and risky trails laden with snakes.  Pretty soon the rider looses all his control and the beast takes over. What is to become of such a rider and it’s used to be trusted stead? Both are bound for destruction.

The affair of body and soul is a delicate one. All is well and under control as long as the roles are distinct, expectations clear, and reigns in check. It is when the balance of power shifts, and roles confused, that the real trouble beings. It is the rider’s responsibility to keep a balance, and pull the reigns in time to keep the stead in check and compliant. Otherwise both could be badly injured and neither could survive without the other.

Wide Awake

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alone_by_miaboas-d4dwimh The sound of the ocean. Waves crashing against the rocks. Silence. Another one comes gushing and slowly dies. You open your eyes and see water as far as the sight allows. You look up and the stars sparkle as if there isn’t a worry in the world. Not a soul to be seen anywhere around. You lean back against the secluded rock you’ve climbed a dozen times before. A secrete hiding place. You close your eyes and take a deep breath to enjoy the ocean smell; take in the peace in the sound of waves. Against this vast body of water, an endless sky, and the magnitude of rocks that surround, you realize the fragility of your being. You wonder how people can live their lives thinking the whole world revolves around them. As if their presence is something so special that none else can compare to. When the reality is that a sight change in their brain matter could make them forget their very own existence within seconds. Their fancy cars, vaults full of money, powerful friends, devoted spouse, and loyal children couldn’t help them against the forces in the world. In the end we all end up alone. As you watch the sky change colors from purple to orange you are taken a back by the magnificence of the scene. You can just be in the moment. Think as you want, do as you wish, sit back and not have a worry in the world. There is something so peaceful in that. Accepting that you are alone and to be content with it. How many husband and wives sleep in the same bed, inches apart, yet might as well be two planets apart. How many friends one may have yet feel completely disconnected. How many children one may have raised yet be left to his own devices. We create illusions of not being alone, but sooner or later everyone must face the music and come to the realization of being alone. There is nothing wrong with being alone, the sooner you come to see things for what they are, the easier everything else in life becomes. When you know you are alone you have nothing and nobody holding you back anymore. No more empty promises, broken hearts, expectations from others, and most importantly no more fear of being left alone. You realize what is important and what is not. You realize how easy it is to live a good descent life, full of love and friendships. Everyone is also alone one way or another. So you stop caring for yourself and realize everyone is in this together. We are all alone. And that’s perfectly OK. It is alone that we are lowered into our graves. It is alone that we will answer for our deeds. It is alone we will be held responsible for our lives. Realizing and accepting that you are alone, takes away all the layers of falsehood and sets you free. The sky turns yellow from orange before your eyes. You lean back into the rock and close your eyes to the sound of birds chirping, waves crashing, and the city coming alive.

Black Hole

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images7:47pm a beautiful perfect sweet baby girl is born. Doctor wraps the freshly delivered baby in a blanket and hands her over to her mother. Forgetting how much pain she is in, she smiles down at the baby as tears fall from her eyes. The proud father can’t believe the miracle he just witnessed. The family is overjoyed with happiness. Hugs and laughter fill the air.

7:47 pm a door is slammed. A glass is shot at the door, breaking it into a million little pieces. He runs to the door and breaks it open. She tries to fight back but isn’t strong enough. He grabs her by the hair and drags her into the living room. Small 6 years young hazel blue, tear filled, confused little eyes watch from behind the sofa. Heart pounding. Breathing heavy. Lump in the throat. Future questionable. Life a test.

7:47 pm a black Mercedes is parked. Valet opens the door as the handsome couple walks out. Eyes turn to admire their beauty. Young girls envy the love they seem to have walking hand in hand. Restaurant is buzzing with life and celebrations. He had made a special reservation for two and the waiter leads them to their table. They sit on the roof top where the whole city is in view. They talk and they eat. She has no idea he has a ring in his pocket and he that had though this night out down to the seconds. She had walked in as a girlfriend and would be leaving as his fiancé.

7:47 pm the deal is to be executed. They look around to make sure no cops are around. He hands over his stash as promised, and they hand over the money they had agreed upon.

7:47 pm they walk into a party. Three girls wearing high hells, low necks, short skirts, and fresh layer of makeup. A group of boys offers them some drinks. They dance the night away, beginning to loose their senses as time passes. Loud music, smell of alcohol and college life takes over as they head into dark rooms.

7:47 pm he hits the car breaks a second too late. With a big bang the cars collide into one another. Paramedics pernounce him dead at 8:30pm. He was headed home to his son’s first birthday party. He had bought him some toys with so much love. His family at home is still waiting for his arrival.

One planet; one continent; one country; one state; one County; one City; one night; one mile radius; one moment; Endless stories. All happening at the same time; all trapped in their own worlds. Everyone is completely oblivious to the other.  A moment we take for granted, is so precious to another, and yet so horrible to another. Life happens around us every millisecond, we just don’t pay attention, we just don’t care, we’re just too selfish.

Guilty Pleasures

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3173181917_806167fec0Scared. Broken up. Chewed like a piece of gum. Used like a piece of paper. Played like a pawn. All bruised up.  That’s how it feels. There is no easy way to put it;  no word that could describe how I feel. Or can I even feel anymore. I don’t know. Numb. That’s what I am. Just numb. Like a giant piece of rock, smacked right in the middle of an ocean, the fierce waves keep crashing into. You just get used to it; there is no other way. It isn’t the rock’s fault; he was just placed at a wrong place. A cruel joke nature played on it. It isn’t the waves fault either; they were made to crash. Numb. As he lays on top of me, I feel nothing but numb. He enters me again and again, numb; I look at the clock. The ceiling has a grand chandelier, corners beautifully crowned. I am reminded of how much I despise big, rich houses. People fill them up with expensive furniture, Picaso, DeVinci, plasma TVs, and yet they’re so empty and cheap. You walk in and it smells like some air freshener or new paint. What’s a home without an inviting aroma of a home cooked meal? He lays next to me, playing with my hair. I turn and give him a smile. I wish he would just drop dead. But then again, how would I make my living without my most regular high paying client? This body, this body of mine, what a blessing and a cruse. How beautiful yet completely disgusting. How useful yet completely useless. What a pride yet a complete embarrassment. I wish I could hide it somewhere. Throw it in a bag and toss it in a river. Never see it again. Free my soul. It asks for too much: food, water, shelter, health, maintenance; oh and the things it makes me do to satisfy them. Numb. It’s easier to be numb. Feel nothing. Live each day as it comes hoping it would be the last. Maybe I could finally be free. Maybe I could look in the mirror again. Maybe my daughters won’t follow my footsteps. Maybe just maybe it will be alright. But still each morning the sun rises, and so do I with it. Broken up. Lost. Sad. Living but dead, that’s how it feels.

Beginning of the End

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We spend all our life running around. There is always a long list of things that needs to be done. Always someone to see, somewhere to be, something to do, some deadline to meet, some goal to achieve, someone we don’t really care about to impress, some decision to make, some challenge to overcome, some movie to watch, some revenge to take, some heart to crush, some lovers to break, some loser to ridicule, some promise to break and some point to make. We run around in circles all our lives only to get to a point when we have nothing left to do except regret all of it. When life starts feeling like it’s on the others side of the phone, put on hold forever, forced listening to annoying music, as sand on the hour glass falls like the opposite of pouring rain. That’s what old age feels like. When looking in the mirror you don’t see yourself anymore; every wrinkle has a story to tell; every grey hair it’s own tale. You see your mother’s eyes and your father’s nose. Your brother’s cheekbones and your sister’s chin. You see a scar by your left eyebrow that reminds you of summer 1965. You see your smile that your spouse adored. You see a person you once were. You remember the people you hurt, the friends you betrayed, the lies you told, the things you chased, the idiots you idolized, the love you ignored, the parents you disobeyed, the siblings you never spoke with, the time you wasted, and an ego that destroyed you. There isn’t enough time to waste your life worrying about meaningless things, running after individuals who don’t care about you, working your butt off to consume more and give less. You can work day and night, make millions, buy a mansion, expensive cars and all that your heart desires for a little while, but what’s the point? I mean after all, rich or poor, in the end doesn’t everyone end up in the same place, side by side, warped in a piece of cloth, covered in dirt some 9 feet underground? So chose your dreams and goals for life wisely. Do you want your death to be celebrated by the heirs of your estate or mourned for every laughter you brought, every pain you eased, every heart you touched, every problem you helped solve, and for all the love and light you brought into people’s lives? It’s your call. What do you want to see in the mirror one day?

Blessings

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Blessings. One could not count them all even if one tried. Being able to walk, blink, breathe painlessly; having normal blood pressure, teeth to chew, swollowing effortlessly, food to satisfy your stomach, water to keep you hydrated; being able to get up and go to the bathroom, having a bed to sleep on, a roof to cover your head under, a jacket to keep you warm, a book to keep you company which you constantly neglect, a pen to change lives which you never pick up, an intellect to make a change which you never take advantage of, a heart to touch souls that you’ve locked up in a freezer, a smile which could brighten up someone’s day that’s forgotten, a hand to help someone desperately in need that’s arrogantly resting in a pocket, a voice to stand up for the innocent and the truth that’s silenced, a 20/20 vision to see the injustices that’s blurred, ears that hear the screams but are deaf, legs that can run and save a neighbor in a burning building that refuse to move. There are countless blessings we are blessed with, I could write a thousand pages book if I were to list them all, that we only become aware of having after we have lost them. You spend your healthy days complaining about the work you have to do when you’d rather just lay on the couch and watch TV, couple of years down the line all you can do is lay on the couch and watch TV and then all you wish for day in and out, is being able to get up and do some work. You spend all your youth wanting to get older, then you get older and you wish you could be young again so you could use your energy and time on things that’ll give your life a meaning and purpose to live. You try your best to get away from your family, annoying siblings, complaining mother, heartless father, needy grandparents, and nosy aunt and uncles only to be left alone with an aching heart, sweet memories and great regret of not realizing their worth while they were still around as you lay in your bed with arthritis knees, grey hair, hunched back, and children who feel the same towards you now. Oh the irony of life. Count your blessings. Again and again.

Happy Ever After

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From the day a daughter is born, her family, friends and society begin preparing her for her big day: Wedding. Overjoyed father treats her like a princess; fulfills her every wish, plays horsey, tea parties and treats her like his most prized possession. Her every act worthy of praise, her every word precious, her every tear heart aching, and her every smile heart melting. The proud young mother finds her best friend; dresses her like a doll, prepares her favorite meals, bandages her every scrape, and watches her become a woman she herself could never be. In what seems like a blink of an eye, she is all grown. Daughters, it seems like, are like pearls; it takes years of care and protection to produce one only to be taken away. Parents give her away to whom they believe to be worthy enough to be in possession of their precious pearl. They try to find a nice family and kind hearted, handsome and intelligent, gentleman, a prince charming, for their daughter. They wed her away with damp eyes, heavy hearts and many prayers, as they watch her begin a wonderful new chapter in her life. They hope for the best, wish her happiness in every stage of life and expect her groom to treat her with the love and respect she rightfully deserves. Little do they ever know what a pit they have thrown her into. They learned people aren’t always what they seem; the family not so nice, the guy not so gentle, his heart not so kind, and his personality not so charming. Their daughter not respected, her eyes hallowed, her laughter silenced, her smile forgotten, her stomach larger, her escape impossible, and her parents helpless. Such is a never changing story, generations after generations.

Hooked

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Da-yellow-rulesImagine there was an epic new video game that was released for your favorite gaming console. A free download provided for everyone who owned the machine. The publisher announced an unprecedented award for the gamers who successfully complete the game with breaking the least amount of the handful of rules.  Everyone with the console was eligible to participate. The game is quite simple and players may share learned knowledge and their experiences with each other as they go. However there is a catch; each player will encounter a different obstacle and  have a unique undisclosed amount of time to complete the task. To be fair,  the same set of principals apply to each player and the goal is the same across the board. The winners would have collected the most amount of gold coins. Before the game begins, the publisher warns the players of various “distractions” they should expect to face and advises not to be distracted by them as time is of the essence. The “distraction” are designed to be subtle in recognition and only the players with sharp eyes and  keen minds will successfully move past them without wasting precious time. In addition to the distraction, the publisher warns of walking into the red doors. The worlds entered through the red doors have no gold coins and are designed as such that the time passes a lot faster while inside. As the competition begins, the entrainment news and geek blogs begin blowing up with feedback from gamers participating in the game. A few wise ones share their experiences of how to recognize the distractions and avoid walking through the red doors; while others, the majority losing the game, rave on about the unique worlds designed inside the red doors. The kind of worlds which utilize latest graphics, creatures, ideas, and creativity unmatched in any game ever made. Impressed by the unique worlds inside the red doors, many begin pointing fingers at the publishers saying they warned the general public not to go inside the red doors because those worlds are designed for people with special privileges only. Some believe there is a shortcut through the doors and disregard the publisher’s warnings, while others accuse the company of scam and not having the resources to give out the promised awards after. Those impressed by the uniqueness of the red door worlds begin telling everyone competing in the game to check them out; the deeper you go inside those worlds, the more amazing and epic the things you discover inside them. Gamers determined to win the prize follow the rules and stay focused on collecting as many gold coins in the normal black and white world as they can before their allotted time runs out; while the less focused and gullible ones give into the hype of breaking the rules and following others like themselves into finding an alternative route to success. At the end, those who followed the rules not only got rewarded based on the number of gold coins they had collected, but also got an all exclusive access to the newest, most technologically advanced and mind-blowing software updates. As for others who doubted the publisher’s intentions and got distracted, nothing was left but regret.

This life is like a game. The instructions are sent down with extreme clarity. The warnings all spelled out. Now it’s up to the player to choose which path to take. The task is simple. The reward beyond imaginable. The key to success in your own hands.