Saturday, 9 October 2010

My Brother's Story

Will God be angry with me for NOT asking for anything for MYSELF?

When I see my brother on that hospital bed, I think to myself that I am very content with how my life is-marriage, a house, a job. It’s the life I know my brother wishes every single day that he had, but all I see is NOT a hint of envy in him; rather, his blessings.

It’s been 14 days since 21-year-old Robin was admitted into the hospital for a collapsed lung due to his already weakening muscles as a result of a Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. For three days straight, he was unconscious; for a few days following, he was half-awake. For the past four days, he’s been fully awake and there are times when he smiles and laughs. There are times when he gets emotional (he would kill me if he knew I wrote that). There are times when he gazes off behind the wall in front of him as if joy is hidden behind them. When asking him if he's thinking about something or worried, he denies it.

The day before my arrival to the USA, after over a year of living abroad, not only did my brother and I make plans on family outings together, but also, I had lost my USB disk. Within that disk is the saved edited version of my psychological complex thriller novel. It was meant to be that I lose it. It was meant to be that my brother become unexpectedly MORE ill than he already was while I'm still in the USA. AND…it was meant to be that I finally think about what he had said to me the second day of my visit, “In the future, you’re going to write my story, right?”

Those words are familiar to me because at least once a year, that question rings in my ear. In response, I hesitantly say, ‘If God wills me to write it.' What I don’t say is, ‘I’m afraid…I’m afraid of writing your story, of writing it from my point-of-view, of dwelling upon the emotions that I try so hard to suppress, and most of all, of revealing them to the world.’

I don't like to cry in front of my parents and my brother. I don’t want them to see me helpless when THEY are; I want to be strong FOR them. Even more, I want to keep pretending that everything is going to be okay, that life is more normal than it really is for us. I want to be blissfully ignorant, while still being somewhat aware of what's happening.

I can’t pretend anymore; it’s time to write my brother’s story.

Selling point? He has no super powers (I just lost hundreds of dollars/pounds?); he hasn’t built the world’s tallest building (I just lost thousands?) or brainstormed some brilliant invention (I lost millions already?).

Invaluable-He graduated from high school, was part of the high school choir with his opera-like voice (no longer the same after surgery), has the most amazing collection of model cars, is a sociable person, and once having met you, he will always remember the way you looked and exactly how the conversation went. Basically, Robin is living LIFE.

Monday, 9 August 2010

National Newspaper Out

The Ramadan Issue of THE MUSLIM PAPER ( is finally being released this week. This is an EXCITING issue, at 20 pages, bigger than the previous ones.

Our front cover was designed by Teakster, an artist whose creativity evidently thrives from the realm of his faith. This cover is different, it captures the eye and most of all, it shows something that most Muslim newspapers do not show as much-an appreciation for art.

The Editor-in-Chief, Khalid Sharif and designer, Emran Mohammed, have worked day and night, their fingers tap-dancing away at the keys, creating a harmonious tune from the 'T' 'H' and 'E' to the 'P' 'A' 'P' 'E' 'R,' all musical notes that complete the name of the orchestra, the Muslims of Today.

It has been one tough, yet rewarding year for this media resource. There were times when I nearly gave up hope in my abilities as Deputy Editor, not because I had no faith in The Muslim Paper's (already rising) popularity, but because, being a wife, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, an employee, time constraints and priorities had cascaded over my head and down to my shoulders-necessitating severe massage sessions or acupuncture (though I had none). I appreciate the strain, still there, but alleviated somewhat; it reminds me of how rewarding the end result has become and insh'Allah, will continue to become.

Khalid is a very patient, hardworking and hopeful man. He makes you WANT to work harder and reach higher; that is why I am still with The Muslim Paper.

Grab your copy of this national newspaper at YOUR local mosque.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Zayed & the Dream

Just went, on behalf of THE MUSLIM PAPER, to review a musical called, 'Zayed & The Dream'at The Coliseum in Covent Garden, last night. How do I rate this? I began by making a list of what a production like this would entail: acting, costume, set design, choreography, direction, production, music, props, costume design, lighting, composition, script writing. I'm not sure if I missed any other aspect(s), but I can say that 'Zayed & The Dream,' which turned the biography of the founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, into an epic story, is NOT to be missed. The next performance is on 3 August.

The review will be printed in September's issue of The Muslim Paper in more detail so I will only say here that I recommend anyone to see it. It's only here until the 3rd of August, then they are off to another major city to perform. The Caracalla Theatre, stationed in Lebanon and funded by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, is so famous for their performances that they are invited all over the world to showcase the works, from China and USA, to France and England. So...basically...they're good.

A few weeks ago, I had an incredible phone interview with the Director of 'Zayed & The Dream,' Ivan Caracalla and let me tell you that it never ceases to shock me how HUMBLE and FRIENDLY people like him are. Of course, not everyone is humble (ahem...Kanye West), but most who work extremely hard, day and night, to get to where they are, whose backgrounds are not exactly up-to-riches-par, tend to be approachable. This interview will also accompany my review in The Muslim Paper's September 2010 issue.

Monday, 28 June 2010

How can you be a ‘Cinderella?’

An article I wrote for London Bangla in May 2010

Most young girls, if not, all girls, have that ‘Cinderella dream’: Meet a handsome prince, get married, and live happily-ever-after,’ not really thinking of what that ‘ever-after’ consists of. Of course, once these girls become women, they will realise and perhaps will be unprepared for, REALITY.

Many women are single, divorced, or unhappily married. But some of us, like moi, have fortunately reached that ‘Cinderella dream.’ So, what is wrong with today’s society? Society-such a general term; in fact, one of my University English Professors from the USA, told me that when I say ‘society,’ I should state what sort of society I mean.

The fact is that there is no categorisation in this case; ‘Western,’ ‘Asian,’ ‘African,’ ‘Caribbean,’ and ‘Latino’ societies all face the previously-mentioned unhappiness of experiencing or realising that not everyone can reach that ‘Cinderella dream.’ It’s all circumstantial.

Take ‘Sex and the City,’ for example-the movie, not the series. Carrie and Mr. Big are happily living together, but Carrie wants to bind this relationship with a legal contract called, marriage. However, Mr. Big, who wants to live with Carrie forever, suddenly gets nervous about marriage. I thought he wanted to be with her. It’s only a contract and he said that if it makes Carrie happy, then he’ll do it. Anyway, he stands her up at the altar and Carrie loses faith, yet again, in ALL men.

Faith is such a beautiful word, yet so difficult to obtain and maintain these days. Could lack of faith be the core of all relationship issues and by relationship, for those who are single, I mean, the relationship within one’s self, faith in one’s self?

I don’t’ mean to brag, but no matter how many men I am acquainted with for business purposes or how many times I’m late coming home (late for me is 9ish), the hubster does not complain or interrogate me. He trusts me wholeheartedly and that is the core of our relationship. One must have faith within one’s self and within others. Of course, if one’s trust has been broken many times, as was the case with Carrie, it is difficult to stand up again.

So, what should one look for in a potential husband?

1.Sensitivity, however, if he cries during ‘The Titanic,’ I’d question his sexual preference.

2.Understanding: He lets you punch him to release your anger, but his silence might only make you more angry. He takes it anyway.

3.Family Values: This doesn’t mean that you have to live with his family (though I do, but that might not be everybody’s cup-of-tea). When a man is family-oriented, it means he loves spending time with them and he wants you to share those moments with him. He also, in turn, will get along with your family. Chances are, in this case, there will be no ‘monster-in-law.’ Remember that it was that family who shaped the man you love so much.

4.Faithfulness: ‘How can I tell?’ you ask. The most innocent-SEEMING man might be a ‘Tiger Wood.’ You can tell he is faithful when he rushes home to you, when he doesn’t get jealous if you talk to other men, when he praises your beauty and your intelligence, when he looks into your eyes and tells you that he loves you (a factual cliché), and when he comes closer to you every time you push him away.

5.Flaw-ful: He’s not flawless. He has bad habits as in cutting toe nails on top of the bed or leaving the toilet seat up. He might have had a horrible past. He is not perfect and that makes him REAL. We all need REAL men, who have flaws that we can learn to love because we have flaws too.

I’m no psychologist or therapist, but I’m a married woman and I was in search of a life partner once too. Fortunately, I’ve bloomed into a ‘Cinderella’ and I hope that the five qualities I’ve outlined above help you to become one too. One more thing, if the guy is a ‘Fonsie’ (character in ‘Happy Days’), he’s not husband-material.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Tree

I've moved more than ten times in my life.

When I was no taller than a pinky finger...exaggeration...I lived in a dainty Bronx flat and outside of the sitting room window, there resided a rather grand tree, the web of branches through which I grew acquainted with my neighbours.

I was a spy. The girl, within whom I would find myself a peer in an all-girls private Catholic high school, used to hang out with her friends outside of our building. I was not sure where she lived or any of my neighbours at that; however, I knew them. I did not know what they liked to eat or where they shopped, but I kind of, sort of, knew them. This was MY neighbourhood. I did not own it, but I felt some sort of attachment to it.

That girl was Michelle. She was a Spanish girl, whose dirty blonde hair ran all the down to her buttocks. Her hair was beautiful; it reminded me of the medieval Lady of Shallot who boated down the lake to her death. Michelle is two years older than I am and we used to take the bus together to school. I never told her that I had seen her before...I guess I didn't want to freak her out. Imagine being told that you were observed through someone's window many times....

Then, there was the dancer. She lived across the building from us. By now, you probably find me a little creepy, but every writer is inspired by his or her surroundings and I will never forget how much I wanted to be a dancer because of this unknown individual. I did not discover her name nor did I ask; the only reason why I knew Michelle was because of a formal acquaintance via school.

The ballerina had brunette hair, always tied up in a ponytail. Her window was directly across from my bedroom window and I could see her prancing grace. I was about 9-years-old, thinking how cool it would be to be a dancer. I pretended to be one. I played the music in my head and danced, hoping that someone, somewhere, would notice me dancing and be inspired by me.

There were many others who I recognised, chatting away at the corner of our block. Every time I went outside and saw them, I wanted to say 'Hey, I know you.' But that never happened because I was conscious about looking foolish.

When it rained and there were heavy thunderstorms accompanied by crackling lightening flashes, I left the sitting room window open and watched the drops pound against the emerald and trickling down until it falls off the point, the point of the leaves of that tree, the tree that made me feel at home...the one that introduced me to my neighbours.

I'm now in London; there is a tree across the street from me which reminds me of what a home is. I look at its proud appearance through my large rectangular window and it just makes me want to paint it. However, that rectangular window and that tree is already like a live canvas. Why paint something that is already real, a rare portrait?

Our neighbourhood is quiet and none of our neighbours appear to like the outdoors.... How will I get to know them? Knock at the door? But, then again, what's the fun in that? There will be no mystery behind each person. So, in a way, knowing Michelle, who her boyfriend was, what her favourite boy band was...disappointed me. No enigma meant that I really did not know my neighbours.... I liked imagining what each one's life was like; was he her brother? Was she married? Did they have loving families or troubled ones? I did not want to KNOW.... I do these things even today, on the train on my way to work, when I look at the people gliding along beside me or sitting across from me.

The tree is still there and when I visit the Bronx once a year, I see it there and I see my old window. I grow so sad looking at it.... I grow sad thinking about how many people the tree has gotten to know and how many have moved away. I grow sad knowing that life is a one-way journey; there are no round trips and what remains in reminiscence gradually fades away, becomes a fog and more.

When I saw the tree in front of my current house, I smiled as if saying, 'Hello Watson' to it.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Haunted-Durham Rise

Perched atop a hill is a white corner house, splendid-looking and towering above all. Five large bedrooms, a glorious sitting room, and above all, a big kitchen and dining, any woman's dream for dinner parties. It sounds beautiful and it was beautiful until...

Hark, who goes there? An unforseen figure, a figure that cannot be seen at all...a figure or...figures? We were not alone; there were others living with us...invisible others...others who instilled fear within us, whose voices and movements unnerved us, who did not want us there.

Subtlety was an unknown term to them, perhaps it still is. At night, there was sound of furniture moving around and being picked up and dropped down, awaking us from our slumbers. However, it did not matter to them whether there was sunshine or moonlight.

One morning, I was cleaning the sitting room table when I heard the rustling sound of dishes and utensils in the kitchen, adjacent to the sitting room. 'Baba,' I called out to my father-in-law, who I thought might have been in the kitchen. I peered in to see no one.

During Ramadan, 2008, my mother-in-law and I shut the sitting room door because footsteps pounded through the hallway and up the staircase outside of the room. We also raised the volume of the television, hoping the sound would muffle the noise upstairs-they lurked around upstairs, moving THEIR invisible furniture around. We also wanted to muffle the giggling of children around the sitting room. I knocked next door only to find that a single man was living there with no children....

I went into the toilet, saw the shower turn on and off in front of me. My mother-in-law heard it turn on and off many times as she passed by. One day, the door locked on me and I was stuck inside the toilet. I thought my brother-in-law had locked the door from outside as a joke. He said he didn't. Somehow, the door had locked on its own and they had to unscrew the doorknob to get me out. A few days later, my cousins from Bristol came down; I told them the story and my cousin went into the toilet immediately afterwards, only to experience what I had just told them-she got locked in!

Footsteps and a man's voice was constantly heard upstairs-everyday, we lived with this. Perhaps because we prayed, they could not harm us. In fact, one day, I was passing by my mother-in-laws bedroom when I heard someone running toward me from behind; I turned around; there was no one there, but the footsteps halted right front of me. It was as if I was face-to-face with IT. One night, my mother-in-law was praying, but heard the same footsteps coming toward her room, the door slightly opened on its own and banged against the footboard of her bed. Nobody was outside. Bare in mind that we did not share our stories with one another; these experiences just happened.

Things went missing and reappeared in the most strange places around the house; my nose stud which I had lost in the car one night was on the carpet floor in the basement-I had not gone to the basement after returning home the night that I lost it so how did it suddenly end up there the next day?

My husband did not believe me until he heard the footsteps and voices.... We had to move out as soon as massive blotches of black mould swarmed all over the walls; fur starting growing on it; the smell was unbearable-perhaps, the others wanted us out!

Where are we now? 2009, we moved into a maisonette (renting) and now, we've finally bought a house, Alhumdulilah.

Sometimes, we actually miss Durham Rise so we drive past it-it was to be sold and now, it's to be let... (smirk). We know one thing for sure...THEY'RE living in pure felicity-nobody is disturbing THEM, the JINN.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

BBC Mosaic Event

On the 30th of March, I, along with the Editor-in-Chief (THE MUSLIM PAPER), Khalid Sharif, attended the BBC Mosaic Networking event. It was an opportunity to meet people who not only share similar media experiences and exchange business cards, but also understand what BBC, particularly Mosaic Media, is about-promoting diversity in media. In fact, they have done everything from minority youth workshops in screenwriting to including Muslims within their television series, thereby breaking the boundaries of the traditional (medical/engineering)career choice and clarifying misconceptions about Islam. In fact, 'Eastenders' in the new year of 2010, had its first Asian (Muslim) wedding. If you read London Bangla in February, I interviewed Pavan Ahluwalia, the world's fastest henna artist, who also did the henna for the 'Eastenders' bride.

At the Mosaic event, I finally had a chance to put a face to a name. I personally met Rabina Khan, author of Ayesha's Rainbow, with whom I had been exchanging e-mails. ALSO, I met the BBC Presenter, Mishal Husain, a sweet character, and Head of Religion at BBC, Aqeel Ahmed, a respectable man.

Recently, I am employed with WAMY (Word Assembly Muslim Youth) on two projects. The first is to write a booklet on Islam and Science (what the Qur'an says and Muslim contribution to Science since before the Medieval times). Did you know that Muslims were responsible for creating the clock, chess, and trigonometry? That's not all; there are 1001 inventions made and some of them are currently on display at the Science Museum in London.

The second project is an overall position as a project manager. I will be helping WAMY with their various dawah events, Islam awareness.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Essay Writing Tips

Taking from previous tutoring experience, I would like to provide students with some essay-writing tips (plus practice, myself, for future tutoring/teaching necessities):

1.Planning: Whether it is a persuasive essay or a comparison between two or more poems/two stories, planning is a crucial part of developing a student's personal idea of how he or she wishes to write the essay. It also provides the student with excellent organisational skills. If it is comparing two poems, for example, it is important that the essay compares and contrasts poetic techniques and concepts by creating a chart/table (labelling two columns 'comparisons' and 'contrasts,' for example; each student has his or her own techniques). Not only charts, but also bullet points under proposed section breaks may be another planning technique.

2.Construction/Structure: Structure gives clarity to the essay. Sometimes, section breaks make the essay appear neat.

3.Development: Most students might find it easier to write the body of the essay before developing the introduction.

4.Conclusion: It usually sums up the entire essay.

Generally, an essay is five paragraphs long. A student should avoid saying, 'I think,' or 'In my opinion' because the reader is well aware of the student's opinion as the essay is written accordingly. It is important to use transition terms like 'similarly,' 'therefore,' 'on the contrary,' 'on the other hand,' 'otherwise,' and 'likewise,' 'moreover,' and 'furthermore.' Transition words help the essay flow well. A student must not be afraid to express his or her opinions (providing evidence). Sometimes, a question might be asking the student to write what he or she 'thinks' is happening; this is where students become most confused; they always think there is a 'right' or 'wrong' answer, when sometimes there really isn't one. I always tell the students, 'don't be afraid to give your opinion; there is no right or wrong answer.' Also, students should write as if they are writing for someone who knows NOTHING about the topic at hand so instead of imagining that they are writing for their teacher, it is important to write for someone who is simply doing research on the topic they are writing about.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Chick Flicks 101

CHICK FLICKS 101 is the headline for my next Women's page story in London Bangla Newspaper. I'm really excited about this as I'm interested in seeing women's perspectives on the story (to print this coming Friday, 26/03/10). The following is my intro, a sneak peek:

Chick Flicks: The RIGHT of a woman to wear her frumpiest, yet most comfortable pyjamas and slippers, while munching on a selection of chocolate delectables and ice cream delights; not to mention, those ever so scrumptious desserts (strawberry cheescake topped off with whipped cream or chocolate fudgecake with chocolate syrup sliding across the surface and dripping down to the side). It's THE opportunity to forget the relationship issues, to eliminate the stress of work/coursework and to sink into the sofa with a remote control in one hand and edible delights on the other. What could be more desirable than slipping a Chick Flick into your DVD Player and losing yourself to it?

If you have any story tips or comments (on already-published stories) for either The Muslim Paper or London Bangla, contact me via or

The Muslim Paper and London Bangla Newspaper are TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT NEWSPAPERS, not part of the same company. However, I am so grateful that The Muslim Paper has no problem with my writing for London Bangla and vice versa.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind!

GUINNESS WORLD RECORD BROKEN: Wednesday, 4th of March 2010, 6:00 p.m. at London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel, London, MOST CHILDREN READING WITH AN ADULT! And, I was honoured to be amongst the readers to participate. For more details, see

I'm on 2.31 :)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Politics and Fairytales....

On the 21st of February in 2010, at the Idea Store in Whitechapel, I had a book signing!

I began by giving a synopsis of HER FEET CHIME, talked about my publishing history, a little bit about International Mother Language Day, and then read an excerpt. It was the Q&A Session that burned HOT.

POLITICS! That was the hot topic of today. How does one get politics from a Cinderella story?

A lovely 94-year-old man spoke out when I said that I was not that into Politics or knew much about it. He made a point to convince me that Politics was important for us; that it was a crucial part of our being. I, of course, could not argue against the significance of dilemma was 'HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO RELATE THIS BACK TO MY NOVELLA?'

Thank God for a renowned British-Bangladeshi artist who said that politics is not everything and that my standing in front of everyone is a means of contributing to the community and that Politics was not necessarily the ONLY way.

Then, another woman jumped in, saying that writing is a means by which people spread news and raise awareness about certain issues and that joining the Labour Party was not necessarily the ONLY way to be involved.

Of course, these two women had sweet enough tones not to seem like they were ganging up on the elderly man. And the man, in turn, I'm not quite sure...agreed with them? or disagreed with them? BUT, he was ADAMENT on making sure that we ALL KNEW THE IMPORTANCE OF POLITICS.

I signed copies of my novella. I appreciate the support! AND, I thank that man, in particular, for adding fervour to the discussion. He was the life of the signing!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Book Signing

SUNDAY-21st of February, 4th Floor of Whitechapel Idea Store, London, 2:00 p.m. I will be signing copies of HER FEET CHIME 8 pounds. I will be giving a speech on International Language Day (Bangla language) and talk a little bit about my book. I will also be reading an excerpt (most likely Chapter 2).

I am currently on the hunt for a LITERARY AGENT or PUBLISHING COMPANY interested in a psychological complex thriller with supernatural suspense!

Yesterday was my last day volunteer-teaching years 7 to 11 (GCSE Level) at a Private Muslim school. TWO WEEKS felt like two months; I had grown quite attached to the girls and vice versa. It was a great experience assisting the teacher and even teaching the class for her when she was ill. The teacher and I have become good friends. Why volunteer at a school? I'm applying for the PGCE and PhD (Allah knows which one I'm destined for).

Visit, page 13, to see my interview with one of the world's most beautiful women, Gulzaeb Beg-Ali.

Two weeks later, keep an eye out for my interview with FAMOUS SCULPTOR, RANA BEGUM ( who is here from Dubai, doing an exhibit of her works.