Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Perfect Guide to a Successful Marriage

Most recently, I’ve been acquainted with two very inspiring people, Ajmal Masroor and Henrietta Szovati. They are perhaps what I would call a ‘power couple,’ a rare combination.

Together, as husband and wife, they have created a potent organisation called, Barefoot Institute. You’re probably thinking, why ‘Barefoot?’ But before I answer that, I have to tell you who these people are.

Ajmal is a Relationships Counsellor, ex-MP candidate and an inspiration to Muslims nationwide (UK). Henrietta Szovati is perhaps one of the strongest women I have ever met, spending time with her children, home-schooling them and managing a business at the same time. The two often travel to conferences and Islamic gatherings to help Muslims and non-Muslims understand the true Islam. Together, they have even written a book called, ’10 Things You Should Know About Marriage,’ all proceeds of which go toward Barefoot Institute.

You’re probably asking again, ‘Why ‘Barefoot?’ Before I get into this, however.... The suspense is probably killing you so much that you’re Googling it right now and the fact is, I don’t mind if you Google it; be my guest..., I’d be happy to know that Ajmal and Henrietta’s story has aroused such curiosity within you because what they’re doing is worth checking out.

Within 10 Things You Should Know About Marriage, Masroor addresses many relationship issues, especially the fact that ‘falling in love is easy, but sustaining a loving relationship is hard work.’ How many Islamic handbooks have you read that say things like that, so necessarily open? It’s a complete guide from deciding whether you are ready for marriage or not, what happens after marriage, to what happens after children and when living with in-laws? It even touches upon intimacy and sex (oops, did I say that word?).

BAREFOOT: “By wearing shoes we often cushion ourselves from the realities of the world as if we were in a cocoon. The world is a place of rough surfaces, soothing corners and often uncomfortable spots. Our programmes are all about embracing and learning how to manage all these experiences while we remain true to our own spirit and values”

Happy? It's so beautifully-said, isn't it? And yes, this is DIRECTLY from the website. Barefoot Institute is a relationship counselling and life coaching institution for Muslims. Most recently, Ajmal and Henrietta had a marriage training course and despite there being a snow blizzard outside, all 30 attendees showed up and left extremely happy. You can read some of their comments on the Facebook Group,

There's another one on the 29th of January, 2011 so don't be shy (everything is confidential), sign up if you feel that you need to strengthen your relationship. Also, Henrietta just took a group of 30-50 women on a Muslim women's retreat in Somerset. Many of them left completely changed and more spiritual individuals.

Also, be sure to get your copy of ‘10 Things You Should Know About Marriage,’ from An easy-read, it’s the perfect wedding gift and the best guide for singletons considering marriage and married couples, whether you’ve been married for two years or ten!

And yes, I bought the book (out of curiosity) and I've read it. It really inspired me. My husband and I have a wonderful relationship, but there's never any harm in finding new ways to empower the bond.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Dreams vs. Reality

When I was a kid, I used to dream about silly things...things out of fairytale books. Every time I closed my eyes, I'd envision unicorns, rainbows and I'd be a princess in my own little land.

Then I hit the teenage years when I dreamed about things more 'real.' What do I want to be when I grow up? What University should I go to? I saw myself sitting in cafes and libraries, hanging out with faceless friends.

Then I hit University and studied English. When I closed my eyes, I saw a faceless stranger, a man with whom I would fall in love and marry, my 'dream' guy so-to-speak. I dreamed about a future with this stranger, marriage.

Then I hit the career world, got married to a wonderful man, had my first novel published and thought I'm thankful for all of this, every time I go to bed and close my eyes, I now see fog...mist. I see myself stranded in the middle of an open field, filled with grass, no end and no roads. I'm not sure if that's a bad thing or a good thing. I'm still striving for things so I'm not sure why that is.

Then it hit me...reality hit me...REAL life. The most difficult thing for us is to live in the present because we're all dreamers. The reality is that living in the present would protect us from expectations, thereby possible disappointment.

Apologies if my tone is morbid and if any of these comments offend anyone. I'm not saying dreaming is bad nor reality; I'm just exploring my own thoughts and venting them to you. I welcome your comments on dreaming vs. reality.

I made a video blog about this and wanted to post it for you. But for some reason the file was too big, but only 3 minutes long : /...strange. So I posted it on facebook.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

A Cure to Writer's Block?

Writer’s block is not a fly; you can’t shoo it away with a whisk of your hands. Sure, it can be personified in writing, but that’s about it.

Ideas, the ultimate tool for ending writer’s block. But where is their secret lair? Where do
you get them from? Are they solid things that you can just grab anytime you need them from some box somewhere? Are they like blurbs in a comic book which you can just reach out to and snatch the moment you want them?

There is one thing for sure, nobody just naturally sits down at a keyboard or grabs a pen and starts typing or scribbling things down. There is no natural flair through which ideas just simply flow down from a storeroom in your head to your finger tips. I WISH.

That leads us back to square one. Ideas come from inspiration. That doesn’t answer the question, does it? Where on earth do you get this inspiration? William Faulkner (1897-1962), author, said, ‘I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I get inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.’ Don’t you wish you could say the same? We can’t all be Falkners. Believe it or not, writers have to actually look for inspiration or try to get inspired. How? It takes exploration. There are many ways to explore. You can have fun with this.

For example, you can walk up to a complete stranger and start a conversation with him or her. Too bold and awkward for you? My professor once suggested that I walk around the University and eavesdrop on some conversations and then, base a story around what I’ve heard. This is a great way to get ideas and it often works! You, as a writer, are creative so even upon hearing the most mundane conversation, you can manipulate it; you can twist and turn it any way you like.

Movies, dreams, nightmares, books, certain locations, other peoples’ experiences and/or your personal experiences lead to an inspiration. Then and only then, the ideas will flow to the finger tips. Sometimes it’s a short process; other times, it’s a tediously long one. This is when your diligence is tested. The patient writer will always develop great stories. Those who rush their writing will only make the readers go, ‘Eh…that was okay.’ Mary Garden, Author and Journalist said, ‘My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of discipline.'

I will share with you my exploration for inspiration.

I saw a Bollywood film, ‘I Hate Luv Storys.’ Yes, the misspelling of ‘stories' did bother me, but I watched it anyway. The moment I saw it, I thought that it was cheesy, yet humorous and sort of…different. The movie is about a hopeless romantic art director teamed up with an assistant who doesn’t believe in love. It’s a romcom satire, poking fun at clich├ęs.

It made me think; how could I write a unique romance? I scrimmaged through my wardrobe, found a pink blouse and wore it. Not to mention the fact that I already had on pink-heart-spotted pyjama pants. Just wearing it did nothing for me. No inspiration…no ideas. I wondered if I should rub my stomach (ahem…abs) and pat my head like I’m some bottle from which a genie would pop out and grant me three ideas. The sudden thought of Christina Aguilera made me realise that I was losing it; it was time to move on.

Walking up to my beach-toned bookshelf, I picked out three poetry books: ‘Love Poems: Every Library Pocket Poets,’ ‘Timeless Thoughts on Love: An Anthology of Quotations,’ and ‘Indian Love Poems: Every Library Pocket Poets.’ Flipping through the pages, I hoped that some word or phrase would strike me. I learned that love is powerful, could be destructive, illogical, involve eroticism and…a whirlwind of madness. I was headed toward the right direction, but felt that perhaps I should try one more technique just to see if something more could be developed. I analysed my personal experiences with love.

My brother and my husband hold my heart strings, pulling me in two different directions. I only have one brother who is struggling with a disorder. I always said that I would never leave him and even if I moved out, that I would stay nearby. Perhaps in that case, I would be a ‘villain’ in the story.

I moved across an ocean, from New Jersey to London. My brother gave me his blessings because he understood that men like my husband are very difficult to come across. I was destined to be in London.

Unfortunately, that part of my life is too sensitive to write a film or novel about. I’m just not brave enough. I will, however, write an article about my struggle soon.

After this intense exploration, I have a few ideas, but I cannot share them with you JUST YET. However, I hope that this guides you to inspiration and ideas, brushing away the writer’s block. Remember that writing takes dedication, diligence and sometimes, a bit of struggle. Also, one must be confident in his or her work because ALL stories are worth telling.