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

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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.