Another Little Laila

little girl singing2Dear Mom,

I haven’t gone to the gym yet, which is what I’m really trying to get myself to get into the habit of doing more consistently. But what I have been doing consistently is practising singing. I love it.

Last week, I went to a karaoke night all ready to sing “for you” as usual. But I got the feeling you showed up for me there as well. At least I hope that’s what it was.

There was this little girl outside the restaurant, on the patio, sitting with her parents, I presume. She was so animated with her gestures. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, because they were on the other side of the glass windows and I was inside. But I smiled to myself, thinking of how she probably would have reminded you of your granddaughters. You were so entertained by your granddaughters’ antics- especially the rolling eyes, and big enthusiastic hand and arm gestures. And of course, the pointing fingers at her parents. You loved that kind of emphatic, excited way about kids, especially in your own grand kids.

I so wished you were there to see this. I was imagining the look on your face. I so wish you were there, that you are here, to see so many things unfold in the life you created in me, and your son, and your grand kids. And also in your larger family.

The happiness I felt for those moments, thinking about you as I watched this girl outside, kind of seemed to turn into sadness, of missing you.

I was watching the others sing, and being a little social where I was at. But I couldn’t veer my gaze too far from that little girl. I seemed to always be aware of where she was going, as if I was connected to her or knew her somehow.

She came in for bit, to take a peek at one of the singers inside. As she placed her palms of her hands under her chin, she rested her elbows on the corner of a table. She seemed pretty mesmerized by the singer on stage, or maybe by the whole concept of singing.

Dreamy. She seemed to be dreaming- maybe about that being her?

Her parents eventually came inside to join her. I think it was getting colder outside. And the karaoke host had tried to motion to the woman and her daughter that it was their turn to go up next to sing. It turns out that the little girl had put in a song earlier, but now it seemed that she was too shy to go up and sing it.

When I asked the girl which song it was that she would have liked to sing, she said something about girl on fire. I didn’t put the title together with songs I knew, because I figured that since she is five (her mother told me her age), that she was talking about a more young girl’s song.

It turns out it wasn’t so young girl. It was the Beyonce song This Girl is On Fire. I told her it was a good choice. And then I could have sworn I hear the girl’s mom say your name. Laila. As usual, I thought I must have heard her wrong. You know, that wishful thinking of always wanting to hear your name, feel it as a sign that you are nearby, and then sometimes realizing that it wasn’t what was said.

“What is your daughter’s name?” I asked her mom.

“Laila,” she said. I had to fight back the tears. I know my eyes looked upwards and back behind me, or at least to the side of me. I had to look away. I tend to do this more lately when I get emotional and don’t want to overwhelm the people or person in front of me with it.

But I looked back at girl’s mom and said, “My mom’s name was Laila. (Sorry, I should have said it IS Laila). She passed away four years ago.”

The woman looked sorry to hear that. But I said, “No, no. I see this as a sign. That your daughter’s name is Laila. It makes me feel like my mom is here somehow with me, at this very moment.”

“Maybe that’s why you had a connection with my daughter. Why you noticed her.”

Yes, exactly. Maybe.

I offered to sing the This Girl is On Fire song with that little girl. Her mom even tried to convince her to sing it with me. But she was really shy and said no.

I left it alone at that point.

The part that got stranger was that not long after, this young Ismaili guy, funny enough, sitting at the back booth got up to sing a song with this other girl- she was probably in her 20’s. He looked over at me when he got on the stage with her and said, “Could you be her backup? I don’t know this song really.”

I was confused, and didn’t even know what song he was talking about or whether I would even know it.  But he handed me the mic and then I looked up and the song had started.

“She’s just a girl and she’s on fire…”

It was This Girl Is on Fire. I was so shocked. I knew the song, and wanted to sing it, but it was Little Laila’s song. I wanted her to come up and sing it. I tried to motion to the DJ to let him know this was the song the little girl wanted to sing. He tried handing her a third mic. She wasn’t taking it. I walked as far down off the stage with my chorded mic to get the little girl to sing with me. But she wouldn’t.

I sang the rest of the song with the girl who was already on stage and had chosen the song. But all the while, I was thinking what are the chances? Of THAT song being the choice? And that I just happened to ask the little girl which song she would have chosen? And that her name was Laila? This can’t all be coincidence.

I felt badly because I didn’t want the little girl to think that I “stole” her song. That I chose it after she told me she wanted to sing it. I would never have done that. I would have put the song in to see if she would want to sing it. I hope she understood that I didn’t even know that that song was going to be chosen by someone else. I had nothing to do with it.

But did you, Mom?

Did you plant a little Laila in that karaoke place, for me to connect to?

I ask these questions often, trying to be hopeful. And then another part of me sinks down thinking that this is just another way for the universe to remind that you’re gone. And that I didn’t do all I could to help you have the best life you could have. That I was not the best daughter I could have been. That is not the attitude I want to take. So I am going to revert to the hope that this was you, bringing another little innocent Laila into my path, to tell me you are always there with me.

I love you, Mom. And I love your name. You and it are forever beautiful. Always in my heart, the name at the tip of my tongue, and its sound resonating all around me.

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Layla by Eric Clapton

Hi Mom,

 

I was talking to someone about you a couple of weeks ago near my place. I think I was saying the usual broken record stuff about how I’m not sure that I feel you. I don’t know if the signs are you. I don’t know if you are okay. (Yeah, I am still on that track. Sorry. It’s hard though, you know).

But then I walk into Shoppers Drug Mart just after that talk, and as I am walking in, I must have sort of in the back of my head asked you or the universe if you are okay, and guess which song came on?

Layla, by Eric Clapton. So as far as I know, you did not know of Clapton or that song when you were here physically. It doesn’t seem like your kind of music. Haha. But… it’s the only song I am aware of that has the name Laila or Layla in it that could possible be played in a store like that. Though, it would have been awesome if Laila oh Laila the Hindi Bollywood song came on. That would have freaked me out, but in a really great way. Can you make things like that happen?

Anyway, I smiled. I mean, I really, really smiled, because I got another little taste of this feeling of happiness, hope, possible peace and relief that maybe that was from you.  I don’t know. I should know though, right? I mean, should I just believe without a doubt, and feel and hang onto that emotion until my mind and body believe without a doubt?

I’ve been reading a book about this- You Are the Placebo- by Dr. Joe Dispenza. It’s about how when we align our emotions to a future event or occurrence that we want to have happen, our body thinks it is already happening, so it makes the shift as if it is in that future. That is the placebo without a placebo pill. We can create that in our own bodies, says this doctor. I believe that to such a deep extent medically. Though in your case, when you were in the hospital, I feel like you weren’t given a chance to do this. How can that work when you are sedated and can’t see, hear or talk? That just kills me inside. That thought.

But I need to stop focusing on that thought, and put myself in the emotion and thought that you are still with me. That you are giving me signs along the way. And hopefully, you are getting a little frustrated with me not fully believing, but in a funny way. I am trying to believe mom.

The lines in the Clapton song that seemed so fitting are:

“Layla, you got me on my knees Layla. I’m begging darling please, Laila. Darling won’t you ease my wary mind.”

It’s the wary mind I’m trying to sort out. My own, that is.

I walked to the post office connected to Shoppers just as the song was ending.  I was there making photocopies of some passages from another book I was reading at that time- Through My Eyes, by Gordon Smith.  Here I was- with the proof in my hands- from the words of this Medium. Exactly what I wanted confirmation of, he gives in his book. That there is life after death, that we don’t really die, and that souls speak to one another. That our loved ones are okay and they are speaking to us without words.

I ended up telling the lady working at the post office about the Clapton song and about you. And she was in tears. She ended up sharing with me that her mom passed away, and she too misses her very much. For all the times I went into that post office, I never knew any of this about this woman. Thank you for connecting us. Can you do that too? Connect me to people who can either help me or I can help them in some way? I always wonder about that.

I told the woman about the book I had with me, and I left her a copy of one of the first stories in it.

She told me that there is a woman who comes to the post office on and off who seems to be clairvoyant or is it clairsencient?  Anyway, supposedly, she passed on some messages to the lady at the post office that were quite accurate. This clairvoyant woman also said that there are many spirits in the building where Shoppers is located, specifically in the post office and down at the other end of the complex where there is a big dollar shop. It used to be a movie theater. I remember that theater, actually.

But yeah, it didn’t sound spooky or haunted or ridiculous what she said. It actually made me feel hopeful, and curious about which spirits around us and where. And I like the idea that those souls who have passed away can still be looking out for us. And that maybe they have particular favorite spots they like to hang out it. Haha.

It gives me a picture of their lightness, their playfulness, their carefree and happy nature. Their peace and their everlasting love and energy.

I want to feel that from you. That you are happy, free, at peace, and having the time of your… well, after-life. 🙂

Love you, Mom, forever and ever.

Laila, oh Leila, Layla

Laila1Dear Mom,

Besides latching onto hearing your name called out in a cemetery as a sign that you’re okay, I also have been following your name around in terms of other types of signs.

The first one I remember is when I was apartment hunting. After you passed away, just after actually, I needed to look for a new place to live because my previous roommate was selling the place I was living in.

I didn’t know whether I was going to stay in North Vancouver or move to some other area. All I knew is that I was feeling lost. You had just passed away. I was devastated (and some would say I still am after four years). But I was in shock of a different kind back then, and I had to move, and I didn’t know how I was going to afford paying for just a room in a shared place (which I was getting an amazing deal for) compared to living in my own place somewhere else.

I was pretty certain I could not live with roommates anymore, mostly because I needed to do my own grieving, healing and just be allowed to be sad without worrying that someone around me would be brought down by it. I needed to be on my own and figure out… well,  my life. I didn’t know how to live it without you and frankly, I still don’t. But I just take each day as it comes.

Anyway, I was looking in the paper or on craigslist- I can’t even remember- for apartments.

And then I was also just driving around to see what was available.

I ended up being really drawn to this apartment for rent in the Joyce Station area. It’s not even a spot that I would have thought of before. But firstly, the rent was way more reasonable than any of the other places I was looking at, the place seemed pretty decent from what I heard and saw in the pictures and from the person renting it out. But mostly, what made me think that this is the place I needed to move into was that the girl who was currently in it- who was advertising it- her name was Laila. I can’t remember if she spelled it the same way your name was spelled or if it was with an e. I think it was Laila. Same as yours.

Laila ShirtAnd so of course, a big part of me was hoping that this was somehow ordained by you. So not only was I being led to the apartment that I needed to find, but I also was maybe getting a sign that you are always with me, and that you are so okay and well and happy, that you were already helping me find the right place for me to move into.

Well, that apartment didn’t work out for me. I actually really liked it. It was really cute, and I ended up meeting that Laila. She was a sweet, beautiful young girl. Her and her boyfriend were moving out together into a bigger place. I told her the story of how and why I was drawn to her apartment, and her name. She seemed to empathize with me and hoped that I would get the apartment.

The choice wasn’t up to her. I guess it was the manager’s decision and it turned out that there were a few other people on the list of potential tenants before me. Someone else got chosen for that place.

Though it would have been less costly to stay there, I ended up choosing the place I am in now instead. It is in an area that I love, and is probably safer and allows me more interaction with people and freedom to sing in my apartment (which has somehow become a huge part of my life these days).

The place near Joyce Station would have been way more affordable, but maybe not in the long run since it is further out from the center of town. Mostly, I liked the association with your name at that time and I somehow thought I was losing not only the opportunity to stay there, but also the hope that you had something to do with it. I wanted to believe that your name and you led me there.

But my current place is owned by Ismailis, and is so close to the first elementary school I went to, and to the area where we grew up in the first few years of my life. In that sense, it brings me back to you, and connects me to childhood memories or surroundings that I think I may have otherwise had forgotten.

Though there isn’t a particular Laila in this building that I know of, I would still like to think that you somehow led me here. This place brings me peace. I have helpful and kind neighbors.  I feel a lot of freedom and security here. The tree lined streets, quaint coffee shops, convenient grocery and drugstores, and a reminder of where i came from surrounds me. A reminder of the “simple” life, living with you growing up here, and having had a mom who raised me without having much herself.

I don’t know how you did it, Mom.

But I am grateful for it and you every day. And Laila is still the name that rings in my heart always. I pick up on it in all its forms and spellings, but especially the “ai” version. Sometimes, I see it in books- as a name of an author or character. Other times, it’s on advertisements for performances- especially middle eastern dance or music. And sometimes, I just keep my ears open for the name in case the wind whispers it in my ear to tell me you are near. Laila. It is such a beautiful name.

LailaShirt3

I miss you, Mom. I miss you so much.

 

Where should we go?

dream travel

Hi Mom,

I had a dream last night or this morning that I was at some event. It looked like an Indian or maybe even Ismaili function. I just remember seeing some clothes that looked a little Indian-like, and that smell- you know the one?- Of chai and sweets and maybe even uger baathi (incense).  Anyway, I don’t even know what I was doing there.

But in front of this plain white door was laying this outfit, on the floor. It didn’t look like something I recognized of yours. But at the same time, I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt as if you had just been in it. As if you’d been wearing it. But then you kind of disappeared out of it. Like your physical form just left it and it lay on the ground not in a pile, but almost in the position it would be in if you had been sitting in it and leaning against the wall or door it was in front of.

It was an Indian outfit. Pale blue and white, I think. Light fabric. Maybe some little sequins on it.

Then, out of nowhere, you appeared. Not in the outfit, but just watching me look at the outfit. I stared at it with such sadness. You could probably see that. And I might have even asked around, wondering where the outfit came from and why it was there.

But then you were behind me. I don’t know what you were wearing. But you looked sad too, I think.  But you looked at me as if it was normal for you to be there, right near me. And I was kind of in shock and didn’t know what to do.  I knew you were not alive anymore, but as usual in my dreams, it felt as if you didn’t know this. And I never want to tell you or say anything about it in my dream. So I don’t know.

And instead, I just waited for you to say something. And you looked at me and said, “I miss you. Can we go somewhere after this?”

I cried. And I’m still crying at the thought of it as I write this to you.  I didn’t want to wait until after the event was over. I wanted to say why don’t we go now?  But I think I just cried in my dream and then woke up crying.

I don’t want you to miss me so much that you’d be so sad.  I don’t want you to be sad. And I know you don’t want me to be sad either. So I guess I can only try to turn this around and say, I miss you too, Mom.  You have no idea.

And I would have gone anywhere with you.  I wonder where you’d have wanted to go. To eat, to a different city or continent? For a drive or a walk? Or just to your home somewhere?

I’d like to imagine or pretend we could go somewhere together. Where should we go? Your choice. I want to take you anywhere you want to go.

Thanks for coming into my dream. Don’t be sad though, Mom.  I think I remember you had your hair done nicely in the dream.  That made me smile. That you were somehow still dressing up for any events, even if they were just to show up in dreams.

She Used To Be Mine

Dear Mom,

waitress-a-r-t-jessie-mueller.jpgI went to see the musical Waitress over the weekend. It is a stage adaptation of the movie Waitress which I guess came out a long time ago, or awhile ago. I never saw it and can’t find it on Netflix.  I started using Netflix after you passed away. Sorry. If I had figure it out before, I would have shown you how to use it.

Anyway, the reason I went all the way to Seattle to see this show is because

1) It didn’t look like it was coming to Canada, or at least not to Vancouver.

2) One of my all time favourite singer/songwriters Sara Bareilles wrote the music for it.

3) She Used to Be Mine- one of the songs in the musical.

I’ve been singing Sara Bareilles’ songs now for sometime.  Her lyrics and compositions are so unique and full of memorable images and pauses, and syncopations and she has a beautiful voice.  I love how every song really says something. I mean, the something is always profound, or playful, or poignant or all of the above.  I feel changed after going through the stories in her lyrics and music.

But in particular, “She Use To Be Mine” gripped me almost from the first note, but definitely from the first few phrases.  I first heard it at a live concert of Sara Bareilles’. My roommate Karen and I went to see the concert in Seattle a few years ago.  At that time, you were still around, and the song still spoke to me, gripped my heart, and made me catch my breath a little. It made me sad, and happy, and feeling alive and inspired, but also pained and empathetic as well- towards the subject of the song or to myself, I don’t know.

It was explained to us at that time that Sara Bareilles wrote the song for the musical, and that the musical would be out in a couple of years. It was also explained to us that the song came about because the character in the play is pregnant, but she doesn’t want to have the baby. She is with a guy who doesn’t treat her well, and she doesn’t have a good paying job or much stability. So she feels like she has nothing to offer the child, and also seems to miss the person she thought she would become.

So at that time, the “She used to be mine” chorus made sense to me as Sara Bareilles meant it- that the person who was the dreamer and beauty, and go getter used to be a part of the main character. I think her name was Jenna. But that Jenna was mourning her passing- as if that part of her had gone and died. Was no longer there. As Sara Bareilles said in her concert- it is a concept and feeling we can all probably relate to- when something in our lives passes over us, and we don’t look or act or have the time to be or do that thing anymore that used to be such a part of us.

I fell in love with the song instantly, and when I got back to Vancouver, I wanted to sing it. I learned it and kept practising it. And something in it always brought me to tears, whether I heard it, was singing along with it, or just singing it on my own.

But after you passed away, I couldn’t say the chorus lines anymore without just breaking down.  The “She used to be mine” line made me think that I was somehow referring to you, especially when I had to sing the whole line, “She is gone but she used to be mine.”

I found out recently that one of the karaoke places I go to often has that song available for people to sing. So I started singing it again. I try to imagine that I am singing it for you, or to you, or to tell people about you.

But there is a change that I make in mind when it comes to the song and the lyrics.  Whether I imagine the “she” who is gone to be a part of me or to be you, I don’t allow myself to believe the “used to be mine” part.  You are still mine and will always be mine, mom.  As I have written to you before, no one can ever take your place. No one can every be or try to be my mom. You are the only mom I want, the only one I had, and the only one I still have. There is no “used to”. You are still mine. My mother.  I hope you know that. I hope you know that I never forget about you and never will.

In the play, the main character ends up loving her daughter the moment she was born, and deciding to take care of her on her own. She doesn’t want the father to be around because she knows that he is selfish and doesn’t know how to love the woman let alone a child.  And I thought it was so beautiful but also so sad, how selfless this woman becomes to give her all to her child.  Without any help.

She would speak to the baby when she was in her stomach. Dear baby, she would say.  She would tell the baby her fears but also her dreams for the baby, that she wished that she could give her everything.

I know you were that kind of mom, but you didn’t have to tell me what you hoped to give me. You just did it.  I don’t know how. And it breaks my heart a little every day to think of how much you sacrificed for me. How there may have been so many parts of you that went away or had to go because you ended up putting me first, putting both of your kids first.

So I feel like apologizing and thank you all at the same time. I am sorry for all the things you had to do day in and day out to keep us safe, and cared for, and fed and loved, when sometimes that meant you didn’t have the time or energy to give that same caring and love to yourself.  Thank you, Mommy for having me, for caring for me, for sacrificing for me, for standing up for me and keeping me protected and happy.

In the play, the main character’s mom has already passed away. But she was taught to make pies from her, and so she continues to do so- talking about some of her mom’s favourite pie flavours.

What would I choose as a pie name for you? Sweet, Laila Mama pie?  Whatever it is, it could never capture all that you were and are to me.  I don’t know how to ever repay you for all that you have done for me. I wish I had done more to show you how grateful I was for you during the time you were here. Please give me signs as to what I can do now for you. I know it is not the same, but I want to try.  I cried so much in the play- for not being able to tell you all that I want to now.  For not having mother daughter moments with you anymore. Is there a way to still have different kinds?- that surpass time and space? I need my mom still, and always will.

 

You’re Simply the Best

Dear Mom,

I’ve been trying to get over my fear of singing in front of people, so I’ve been going out to Karoake more often. I still get nervous, and can be hard on myself in terms of how my singing voice comes across, but I try to remember why I am doing this. It’s not supposed to be just about pleasing others, or about comparing myself to others. But just about using my voice to reach others, and to reach something deep down in myself. And to bring it out. But mostly, I want to sing for you, and I need to keep reminding myself of that. That keeps it real for me, or unreal, depending on how you look at it.

Unreal because I want you to be able to hear me. I hope you do. I hope you hear me and it brings you peace and happiness. I hope the resonance of music and my voice making it transcends this supposed boundary between heaven and earth, between you and me.  Even the songwriting that I’ve been dabbling in lately is for you.

I was sitting next to this guy at a sushi bar a couple of years ago in Seattle. And we got to talking, and he said it really well when he said something like, “The funny thing is that the more you sing and create music, people will think the songs are all about some guy, some big love and heartbreak in your life. But in fact, all the songs will be about your mom, and people won’t even realize.”

And he’s right, except for the “people won’t even realize” part.  Because I am going to tell them. I will make sure that as much as I can, I will be telling people about you, telling them that the songs are for you and about you.

The one I want to learn now is called Simply the Best by Tina Turner.  Because that’s what you are, and will always be- the best.  One of the hosts at the karaoke places sings the song a lot. She does such a great job of it. And even though it is an older song, she just makes me FEEL it, when she sings it. And so now, it is in my head often.  And you are in my heart always. And I want to blend the two together to sing You’re Simply the Best for you, my mother, the best thing that ever happened to me.

Thank you for being my mom and for giving me so much love and kindness and sweetness in my life.

This song, and all other songs really, are for you.

“You’re simply the best

Better than all the rest

Better than anyone

Anyone I ever met

I’m stuck on your heart

I hang on ever word you say…” 

Navroz Mubarak

Dear Mom,

Guess where I went AFTER dance class this time, instead of before? Khane! Yes, I know I said it’s only a few steps away from my zouk class, but I usually would drive out to the zouk social after, if I have the energy to do any dance.  But you know what I danced instead last night? You’ll never believe it. Rasra!!!

No really! You don’t believe me, do you? Or maybe you do, because you were there somehow in spirit and were the reason I even got the urge to do it?

I did tell everyone that I was joining the rasra circle for you, my mom.  It’s true. And I was with a whole bunch of boody mas- older women. And men, too. But mom, some of these women can dance!!! How do they keep it up for so long? I was exhausted after just a couple of songs. But these women in their 60’s and even older were just going on and on and on. And with a LOT of energy!

That dance takes a lot of cardio. Man. I had my zouk class before then, but we move in a less jumpy way. This rasra stuff was definitely taking my breath, or pumping my heart. And when you do it properly, it really works your calves. Who knew?

This older woman in front of me was trying to teach me, because I seriously felt, and obviously looked, lost when I first joined them.  And because I am a dancer, I wanted to not just get through, but also do some impressive turns and get the feet in rhythm and all of that. It looks easier than it is, for sure.  But I tried to get some spins in there to see if you might feel that energy, if you might be able to feel the reverberations of it. Of me sharing it with you.

I am sorry I didn’t have sherbet. You know I never really liked that stuff. Maybe without the nuts and stuff. I like stuff a little plain. I did have cake though. Just for you.  It was not as good as your cake though. No one’s ever will be. But that’s okay.  Yours and you will always be my favorite. Nothing can compare.

So yeah, if you haven’t already guessed, I went out there because it was Kushiali- December 31st.  They had a cake to celebrate Hazar Imam’s birthday. My friend and I were laughing because the candles weren’t being blown out. We were a bit worried that they would just let them die down on their own on the cake.

I don’t know many people at all in that Khane. I felt out of place, to be honest. Not in a non-welcoming way.  But just in a “what am I doing here?” way.  And then I remembered- I am celebrating for my mom.  I am sorry I didn’t celebrate Navroz enough with you,  Mom. I just never resonated with it. I felt disconnected from it. But I see now that it would have just kept us more connected. Given us more of an excuse to share more memories together.

But now I cannot bring back those days. I cannot turn back time to change the opportunities that I missed. All I can do is celebrate them with you in another way now.  I hope you can feel it, somehow. I hope you know that if I had the chance again, I would get out and have cake and do some rasra rounds with you, and even have sherbet. Anything to spend more time with and around my mom. Now I can only hope that you are surrounding me in another way.

Love you, Mom.

Navroz Mubarak.

Intezaar

Dear Mom,

There’s a song I like, and get this- it’s from a Hindi movie! I know, crazy, right?  I don’t know if I ever told you about this song, or the movie. Or did you introduce me to the movie? I don’t know how else I would have ended up watching it. But I think actually, unless I made this story up in my head, I was looking in a shop- possibly Ace Video- for some movies for you? And I saw this one there, and it was the picture on the front that caught my attention? Is that what happened?

I don’t know. Anyway, the movie is called Paap, which I know means sin. And I must have kind of secretly looked around to see if anyone actually saw me pick it up in the video store, or wherever I got it, because it just looked so racy! I wonder if it wasn’t even at a regular Indian shop that I found it. Maybe it was on Main Street or something? I am not sure. But yeah, cover picture was hot. This absolutely stunning girl- as usual, and then an actually very attractive guy! Like really, really attractive!

I still look at it and think, wow! This is nothing like the Indian movies and images from them that I am used to. Usually, it is a beautiful girl with and old, controlling or just cheesy looking guy.  But not this one.  And the way they were entangled over each other- I just couldn’t stop looking at it. Actually, I am looking at the picture now and I still think it is so passionate and draws me in.  She is draped over his shoulder, and he is leaning into her stomach and thigh and, well,… let me just say that this made me proud to be Indian! Like YES! We are a sexy culture, is what I wanted to say.

I ended up getting the soundtrack to the movie. I wonder if I got the soundtrack first and then watched the movie? Oh God, I have such a bad memory. But it doesn’t matter. I believe that we remember the important things or the things we are meant to remember. And what it was I was meant to remember here was first off, the mesmerizing song Intezaar. That song still gives me goosebumps. I didn’t have much of a clue of what the woman was singing in it, but I could feel it, I could feel something very deep in it.

And I learned that the word Intezaar means wait, or waiting.

So I ended up using it in an assembly I did with my students years ago, when I was teaching Grade 6. I wrote an assembly with some characters based on our family but mixed some names around. For example, Laila, the sister, was played by this girl Nisia in my class.  I believe that is what I named that character- after you, rather than after me. And then the little boy, the brother, was played by the most adorable little guy in my class who had blond hair and was caucasion. But I believed I named him Rahim. Haha! And he was always teasing his sister. I wonder who that sounds like. 😉

And the students – the girls- all wore yours and my saris. Remember that? They loved it. I think you came and helped them put them on. I know you definitely came to watch the play. And the boys were dressed in Indian outfits as well. They seemed to really enjoy learning about the culture. If not the outfits, then the boys I think loved the food. You made samosas for us that day, or on another day, right? I am sure EVERYONE loved those.

Anyway, that song played in the introduction of my play. I loved it. It was beautiful. I think the girls got set up while that song was playing and the music just distracted the audience with some soothing sounds, and Indian instruments and that voice. Man, I love that sweet voice.

I watched the movie so long ago. And I don’t remember the details. But again, details don’t always matter. What matters was the message in this case, I think.  This woman dedicates her life to a monastery or convent. I can’t remember what brought her there in the first place. But from what I think I remember, she believes that the most giving thing she could do is to give herself to God, to be in the service of God, and live out so far from everyday life to pray and be around the monks and others who were so pious and all about spirituality in a very simple and non-materialistic, non-sensual, non-‘toxic’ way.  She is taught or believes that this would mean she would be living a life without sin, as much as she could.

But what she ends up learning is that actually, the sin is her giving up her everyday life, her life of mistakes and love and sensuality and sex and relationships. She ends up learning that for some people, the sin is NOT giving yourself to a relationship, to NOT being open to love and life.  She ends up learning that NOT appreciating and surrendering to the gifts we are given as humans- such as passion and love, is the ultimate sin.  And so she allows herself to fall in love and to allow another to love her. And she trusts and shares her life with a man who also shows so much passion and love towards her.  I definitely need to watch the movie again, because I feel like I made some of this up. Haha! Or maybe I just haven’t given enough of a summary of the story because the details have escaped me. But this is what I learned from what I remember.

And just recently, I decided to learn the lyrics to the song and use it in the vocal lesson I had last week. It felt very nostalgic somehow, when I was singing it, even as I was practising it at home.  I’m not sure why. Maybe because I first heard the song a few years ago, and you were here at that time, and I was teaching, and somehow, the song brought me back to that time? But somehow, it felt like more than that.  Like it was connecting me to something. I don’t know how to explain it.  But it was resonating with me, and within me, as if there was a bigger message or purpose in it.  Maybe you could hear it or me, when I was singing.

Intezaar- waiting… for you, Mom.

Love, Tas

Dance Me Free, …Spiritually

Dear Mom,

I ended up going to Khane yesterday. The funny thing is that I wasn’t planning to go, but guess what? The dance studio I really like to go to is only a few steps away from downtown Khane, literally.

I arrived at the studio earlier than I thought I would, and I had about half an hour before my class. So I walked into Khane just after first Du’a had started. And I sat downstairs, near the door, so I could make a quick getaway.

I know that sounds bad. It’s not that I wanted to get out of there, or that I didn’t enjoy any of it. But I have to take baby steps in getting into going there regularly, so I don’t overwhelm myself. And I didn’t want to be late for dance class.

This is the second time I have done this- gone into Khane before class.  I go in dressed very casually, but it works just fine at Drake. I like that non-pretentiousness about the Khane in downtown.  It’s a nice feeling too, to not put any pressure on myself to have to sit upstairs in the prayer hall. I just sit on the chairs downstairs, and end up sitting next to interesting people who either have little babies, or are unable to get up the stairs as easily, or maybe, like me, they like to sit away from the rest of the crowd.

Yesterday, there was a man who sat next to me with the cutest little girl. She was clinging on to him with her tiny little hands, and her little feet were all warm and cosy, covered up in the most adorable pink slippers/socks.  I just kept thinking about how you would have loved to play with her. Little kids always made your face light up.  And kids seemed to like you too.

There was also this older man sitting closer to the door. When he came in, he took off this thick woolen toque with a kind of native print on it. And under the toque, he had a very bald, shiny head.

I also noticed younger girls come in- in their teens and twenties. And some of them wore beautiful beige or black heels, while others were in comfy runners. Some had perfectly streaked hair- gold and deep browns and reds highlighting their heads.  While others had nose rings or jeans on. I loved the variety of people and outfits that walked through. There was no set way of what you should look like or how dressy or not you had to be. The feeling was just come as you are.  And that’s what I did.

You would have been proud of me, Mom. I didn’t cry once during the Du’as this time. I did think of you every moment I was in there, more than I already do each day.  And that is a lot, trust me. But I tried to just soak in the details of what was around me, just be in the moment, rather than getting down on myself for not concentrating or not sticking it out until the end. Oh yeah, I kind of left in mid tasbih, I guess you could call it? See, I don’t even know the terms. I think it might have been Chandraat yesterday, because everything was more delayed and more involved than a usual khane day. And I could have sworn they said something about Chandraat majilis in one of the announcements, but again, I could totally be wrong. I haven’t been keeping up on what is happening on which day.

I felt badly for leaving before it was done, but I was glad I went at all. And I think that is what I am going to keep in mind- the small steps I take to just surround myself with a little bit of that spiritual peace amidst the surroundings of the faith I grew up in.  It did take dance to get me there. And you, I’m sure.  But if it wasn’t for my dance class being so close, and being at such an optimum time for me to get to khane quickly beforehand, I would probably not have been there.

It seemed silly for me NOT to go, the way the universe planned it like this. Dance Me Free. That’s the name of my blog. Dance is even bringing me spiritual freedom, bringing me close to our place of prayer, giving me more incentive to sit with “my peeople” -haha!-  (too funny, because anyone who knows me knows that “my people” are not restricted by any race, religion, colour or culture. I am so fascinated by diversity and multiculturalism. But, you get what I mean, I think) and connect with your strong beliefs. To connect with you.

Who knew that Dance would bring me more spirituality not just from its healing and its powerful movement of energy, but also bringing me back to my childhood place of prayer.

Although I was a little late for class, I am sure that something about the peace and prayers that I spent in during that half an hour at Khane, somehow got me more connected and at peace in my dance class, in my dancing, definitely in my body, and in the moment.

I told the owners of the dance studio that you, my mother, probably is thanking them for choosing that location for a studio. For helping me to find my way back “home” in some sense.

Thank you, Mom. You were and always will be my home. So really, I am just always trying to find my way back to you and your spirit.  I will try to still be open to allowing Khane to be one of the avenues that will get me there.

Love, Tas

The Sufi Way

Dear Mom,

I haven’t made it to Khane much at all like I thought I would. I find it hard to get through even one Du’a (prayer) without just being in a bucket of tears. There are smells and words and sounds and textures- even holding a tasbih in my hand- that are so you. They remind me of you. And this should be a good thing. But they also remind me that you are not here to be the barer of them. And that weighs too heavy on my heart. So instead of solace, sometime being in our place of prayer makes me so overly emotional.

Don’t get me wrong. I think I have written this before, but what our faith and the culture you brought us in has taught me is invaluable. I feel so grateful to know that I could go to any country in the world, and if I walk into a Khane, I will be welcomed and be made a part of a community because of this commonality – a belief system- that we share or at least grew up in.

The problem is that I have so many questions. I have so many misunderstandings or “un-understandings” about the words and rituals and protocols we just follow. But I feel like I am following them blindly because I don’t have a good sense of what they mean or stand for. I do want to learn better. I want to learn not just for myself, but to teach others, especially my nieces, your granddaughters. I know they have questions too, and I want to help them find the answers, but also encourage them to find their own answers, and make their own choices. Faith should not be forced on anyone. It’s very meaning- belief- is about what we feel inside. And I want to feel a closer tie to this faith you so lovingly made a part of our lives. I want to do this also to feel a closer connection to you.

And sure, I haven’t been practising our usual Ismaili ways for years, in terms of customs or going to khane. But I think in my heart and the way I live and the way I treat people shows that I have those values in me.

And I found another way to delve deeper into Islam, through something that resonates more with me- Sufism.  Remember when I came back from that Sufism school that one day? I went to it somewhere on Lonsdale. And I told you about it that night or the next day. And you were so excited. I was excited too. But it was a little overwhelming for. But that and of course all those poems by Rumi, and my fascination with mysticism has just planted this seed in me that I think is my “ticket” into an Islam that connects with me.

Thank you for being so excited for me, Mom. I remember the way your face lit up when I told you about it. You didn’t know much about Sufism, as far as I could tell. But you were pretty charged up about finding me books or helping me learn more about it.

Well, guess what? I am now, Mom. I’ve been taking this online course called The Sufi Way of the Beloved.  It’s by Andrew Harvey, the author whose book I got sent in the mail. I think I have written to you about that recently. Well, he is a passionate speaker. And I was so drawn to his passion and the way he spoke about literature and spirituality and passion and … He had this one line in his description of the course. He said something about Sufism being transfused into your veins, and that just had me.

I have to admit, I have found a lot of the information quite overwhelming. It is a lot to take in and some of it, I don’t quite understand. Or maybe I have just never been a great listener to one voice speaking continuously for long periods of time. I need visuals. I need to read the words. I need to stop and think about them or discuss them. Otherwise, they all become a blur.

But each week, I took another line or another concept, or another piece of history or something that intrigued me with me. And it added up until last week where I just had goosebumps for the whole hour as Andrew spoke about Rumi. I think he is right. The other lessons and talks were leading me to Rumi. Rumi is my in to spirituality, to Islam, to getting back to my connection with my faith. And I am hoping it will help me find a connection to you.

I actually called in to the talk afterwards, and spoke to Andrew live over the internet. I told him about you. I told him about what I was struggling with, what my intentions with the course were. And he reminded me of something it sounds like Rumi taught him, or at least consolidated in him- that there is no death, really. That we are connected still. And that I can find that connection through honoring my name- Tasleem, which I know means surrender. And this is the reason I was so fascinated with Sufism in the first place, Mom. I never got a chance to tell you how after I learned what my name meant, I also found out that the Sufis believed that surrender was the highest attainment that someone to achieve.

And that has been my goal ever since- to live up to my name. To surrender to life, to love, to God.  I just never knew that I’d be doing this without you physically here. Or at least not this soon. But Andrew gave me some wise words of wisdom. He listened with so much compassion and gave me so much hope.

Thank you, Mom, for honouring our faith and being so full of faith. Thank you for being such a beautiful role model of spirituality. Thank you for bringing me up with this as my grounding. I am sorry that I may have never really showed much appreciation for it. But I was feeling lost in it. Not quite understanding it. But I am wanting to learn. It may be through a different route that most, or than you went through or that I expected. But I think this is more me- poetry, mysticism, dance, surrender, passion, and love. When I think of these qualities as being so embedded in Islam, that gets me excited.

And I am going to use this to get more in touch with you. I will try to update you with what I learn along the way.  The Sufi Way.  It is kind of intriguing, and magical, and gives me hope that something truly beautiful will come out of this not just for me, but also for you and me together.

Love you, Mom.