Book club: Forbidden lessons in a Kabul guesthouse

I recently peeked into one of our local libraries to see what was up.  I wandered along the rows of books, thinking how ill-stocked the shelves were, when I started to realize when I looked a little closer that there were actually quite a few books that I would want to read.  I now have a library card – even though there are over 50 books on my home bookshelf that I want to read (or re-read).  And many more unread books, waiting for their moment, on my kindle.  Oh well, I’m a book lover, and I love it when the stack is high.

I came across Forbidden lessons in a Kabul guesthouse and took it out, left it at home for three weeks and then realized that time was up.  So I renewed the book, and now, two weeks later, finally cracked open its spine.  To my surprise, it is the kind of book that you finish in one day because you can’t put it down (even when there is also a huge pile of tasks in my in-box, begging to be done).

It tells the story of Suraya Sadeed, an Afghan who emigrated to America when the Russians invaded Afghanistan at the end of the ’70s.  Years later, after the unexpected death of her husband, Suraya sees a newsreel of fighting and chaos in Afghanistan and decides to go back to deliver humanitarian aid at a time when no one was going into Afghanistan.  The books focuses on her work from 1992 until after 9/11 and tells of her struggles to open clinics and schools for girls (forbidden by the Taliban).  They end up opening the first schools in the basement of a friend’s house and lessons are held by candle or lamp light.

At times her work seems pointless, because every bit of aid they manage to bring is overshadowed by the constant fighting and chaos in the country.  But Suraya is reminded, “where there is life, there’s hope”.

I learnt that contrary to what many people assume, the Afghan Burka was not an invention of the Taliban.  It has a long history in Afghanistan and was at first seen as a status symbol because only the wife of a wealthy man could afford one, so a woman would wear it to signify that she wasn’t a peasant working in the fields. Afterwards, some women chose to wear the Burka because it offered protection against ignorant, violent men.  But not even the Burka could protect countless displaced widows who were relegated to the “widow camps” – with no male protection, these defenseless ladies were subjected to the torture of being used by soldiers at will.

The book also criticizes the tendency of Western women trying to “save” Muslim women from the perceived torment of the Burka.  As the author explains, if you had to choose between equal rights with men and the ability to feed your children, the choice is obvious:  women’s rights were irrelevant to a mother with a starving child. There is also the issue of culture and tradition.  So while Afghan women may welcome the introduction of western comforts such as cell phones and computers, they do not see the need to be exactly like the rest of the world.  If you asked an Afghan woman what she needs, rarely if ever would she say that she needs to be liberated from the Burka – her concerns were different to that of a Western privileged woman.

I was also surprised by the author’s account of media reaction to Afghanistan.  Pre-9/11 there was almost no interest in the suffering of Afghanis.  However, as soon as the twin towers were hit, media frenzy erupted.  While Suraya’s organisation tried to get aid into the hardest hit areas, journalists were jostling to get the first shots of the bombing, unsympathetic to the fact that these were real bombs, affecting real people. They found it “awesome” that they could get photos of the front line of this new war. Their ability to bribe ferrymen also led to a delay in humanitarian aid getting to Afghanis, because they monopolized the transport that was necessary for NGOs to get their supplies into the right area.

The main thing that struck me about the book was that, while I was aware that Afghanistan has been under attack since 9/11, I was ignorant of all of their struggles prior to 2001.  It seems that the Afghani people have been suffering for many years under warring factions internally.  The people on the street barely knew or understood the reason for the US invasion, assuming it had something to do with the Taliban but unaware of the strike on the twin towers.  Their land has been used as a battle ground for other people’s wars since at least the time of the Cold War, and the Afghani people pay the price for issues that they are barely aware of.

Apart from wars, they were also subject to some crushing natural disasters.  One remote village, hit badly by an earthquake, lost 17 grooms and 16 brides who had had a big wedding the night before.  Only 1 bride remained.  Suraya, assuming that the girl had broken her hand because she refused to open it, tried to get medical help – only to realize that the pain in the girl’s hand was not physical – she could not bear to look at the bridal mehndi that remained, in the wake of all that had passed away.

The author’s organisation, Help the Afghan Children, still operates today, trying to help as many Afghanis get a decent education as possible.

The ability of Afghan women to survive is amazing.  Their continued struggles should not be forgotten.

Books, my precious (words words words)

books

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”

It’s often said that reading is good for your brain. But studies now find that just having books in your house (even if they’re just lying around, with no one actively reading them) is an indicator of how intelligent the children in that house will be.  This is presumably because if there are books around, it shows that the parents value education – and therefore there’ll be a general emphasis on education in a bookish-house (I think Malcolm Gladwell came up with this conclusion).

In my childhood home there were tons of books around because dad loves reading – I remember as a teenager once stumbling across the Art of War by Sun Tzu.  But not only was I reading ancient Eastern wisdom, this book was The Art of War – For Managers.  Dad had lots of business books around.  I learnt about management stuff (the parts that I could understand), there was a book on reflexology in the study too – along with books on right brain thinking and a lot of other stuff that I’m sure most 1st year psychology students learn.

I may not have known what the point of what I was reading was, but combing through dad’s bookshelf opened up my reading experiences to some really random stuff (for a teenage girl that is).  If not for his bookshelf, I may have stuck to Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High (shudders*).  So I best keep books all around the house for when the potential future kids arrive.

And keep sifting through dad’s books for more unexpected knowledge.

Probably the coolest thing though is that dad bought us books all the time – so apart from reading from his adult business-y library, we got to choose lots of our own stuff, and discover what we liked to read.  I went for mostly fantasy but still – it was cool to have someone funding a book-love.  Even my brother who barely ever opens the covers of a book once bought a book (about WWE wrestlers I think?)  I remember reading that book on Mick Foley (is that his name? The wrestler whose stage name was Mankind, how weird).

So we’re a house of bookies.

And then there’s the Quraan – which is the most important book – we at least try to read that once a year in Ramadan and more if possible. But I’m thinking more and more about how we read without understanding. I watched an interview with a lady who wrote a book about Islam and in her research she decided that she had to read the Quraan to try to understand Islam and its history – so she read four (yes four!) different translations / interpretations alongside the original text. If a moderate agnostic/Jewish woman can do it, I should be able to do it too.

The travel diaries: Vietnam, gentle people and history retold

Ha Long Bay - Vietnam
Ha Long Bay – Vietnam

The man balanced a couch, 2 chairs and a coffee table on his dirty motorbike, a scene reminiscent of India and the overloaded bikes and cars (and everything) – except instead of an extended family sharing one bike, he was moving around his lounge suite it seemed.

Vietnam reminded me of a gentler, calmer version of India.  The people are friendly, hard-working, not pushy, and calm. If you travel out of the city and the immense crush of people, heritage sights like Ha Long Bay present a beauty and serenity indescribable, with a silent majesty so amazing that you can almost feel it in your bones.  Monolithic limestone island mountains jut out from tranquil emerald water, and the village on the water is almost like a time capsule – until you look more closely and see the usual traces of Western influence, TV screens and cell phones, tie-dyed clothes and coke bottles.

Enduring a 30 hour train ride from the North to the South from Hanoi to Saigon, the breathtaking scenery of the landscape of the entire country is enough to (almost) make you forget how long the journey takes and how grunge-y the train bunker is.

The language barrier is always a small issue when travelling, but nowadays most people speak at least some English – but I always think of the word Miaow (like a cat) when I think of the guy I was asking for Milk, trying to understand what I was saying.

The country is less spoiled than many other touristy countries (because so few people think to go to Vietnam, presumably) but the people are still recovering from the echoes of the Vietnam war – although they call it the American war there, which makes sense.  History is written by humans, who choose to portray whatever they want to, it’s all just stories really.

We went down into some of the tunnels used during the war with America, and I was struck by how claustrophobic and terrifying even spending a few seconds underground could be – it was like a grave.  The tiny Vietnamese people are proud of their resilience in the face of war with a huge superpower, and I was amazed at how much they could get done underground.  They even had kitchens and hospitals built into their tunnels.

Thinking back on those tiny tunnels, it reminds me to contemplate death.  Imagine the sand being thrown over your body as you lie wrapped in white cloth, with no escape.  I need to remember death more often, it will force me to choose better what I do with my living moments.

Trying to be serious – oh look, a butterfly!

I have the attention span of a lukewarm teaspoon.  I used to be able to spend hours and hours doing just one single thing (most of the time that one single thing was reading a book that I couldn’t put down).  But nowadays, I won’t even wait for one google search page to load before I’m off reading something else, flitting from one book to another, 15 minutes at a time.

I fold half the laundry and then get distracted by the chaos in my wardrobe and start sorting that – only to be distracted by a Watsapp message, and then end up reading some link to an interesting (or maybe even not so interesting) article on my phone, and on and on and nothing gets fully done the first time.

Is it because we’re glued to our phones and have all of the information in the world at our fingertips that we find it hard to focus?  I keep reading articles and web pages, and then I start skimming because I am not even patient enough to properly read them.  What’s a distracted girl to do?

I want to slow down the chaos in my mind and the haphazard attention that I pay to everything – they say that no one can truly multi-task (not even women!)  What actually happens is that your brain switches between the different tasks that you are doing – and in trying to switch between multiple tasks, you lose a few minutes of focus each time – because it takes your brain a few minutes to get back to focus on one of the things that you are doing. Constant switching means you lose lots of minutes each time you jump from one activity to another.

The better way is to just do one thing at a time.  Be fully focused when making breakfast (and save yourself from burnt toast).  Be fully focused when reading salaah (one Apa switches her stove off, even if she is midway through baking, so that she doesn’t feel distracted).  Be fully focused when chilling with the family.

I’m not sure how to get my focus back – one solution is to force myself to read one whole book, from start to finish, without flitting around (but I have yet to succeed).

 

It’s just the dishes, but I’m grateful – and my husband taught me all I know about ironing

I’ve heard (or read?) that if you remember Allah when things are good, Allah will remember you when things are bad.  So let’s give thanks.  If you are reading this you are part of the literate educated elite, with internet access and some spare time.  Any problems we may have are not of the basic-survival kind.

For me, the small things hit me hardest – like waking up after a lazy late night to find that the Husband has washed all the dishes left in the sink.

Guess what, I didn’t know how to iron when I got married.  Well, I had one experience a few years ago in Durban, ironing Raha’s husbands shirts in the hotel ironing room (who knew that hotels had ironing rooms) but that was more of a game to see whether Nadia, Rania and I could do a halfway decent job of ironing – and I’m not sure whether Raha went and re-ironed our first sad attempts.

But Husband taught me how to iron a shirt, and then a kurta (which is a massive thing) and the other day he re-ironed a trouser I was struggling with, and showed me where the lines are.  You have to iron trousers on this pressed line thingy.  So much ironing complicatedness!

Anyways, I’m grateful that the guy not only changes all the broken lightbulbs, removes any wandering spiders, fixes door-handles and clocks and other things that I brake (break? which brake/break is correct?), but he also patiently teaches me to iron all manner of different clothes.  He even wields a huge chef’s knife to tackle onions when my eyes can’t take it.

This reminds me that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did his own chores: he mended his own clothes, took care of the goats (I think it was goats) and served his family.  He did not claim any superiority over other human beings, even though he was the best among us.

Anyways, while I try to learn house-hold-y things, thank goodness I have someone around who is more skilled than I at many of these mysterious tasks.

 

The travel diaries: Spain, old masjids and why I have to go back

Running through Granada with Mishka and Aria (we were really running, this is not a metaphor) with Subway subs in our bags and a few minutes left to catch our departing bus, I was struck (maybe in retrospect, who knows) by the immense beauty of the city.  Later that evening, bus caught and heart rate back to normal, the three of us watched the ancient part of the city wizz by in the twilight, on our way to where the gypsies live, whitewashed houses, some on the edges of mountainsides, long hair and bright skirts and flamenco rhythms to boot.

But apart from the obvious flamenco and paella and gazpacho and being in Barcelona on the night that Barca won el Clasico, the hidden gems of Spain were even more enchanting…even haunting.

Regretfully, I did not get to see Cordoba, home to many remnants of Islamic history. Thankfully, I did get to see Granada and the Al Hambra, the iconic fortress built sometime around the 13th and 14th centuries, teeming with the ghosts of Spain’s old Muslim leaders.  The Al Hambra (the name derived from the Arabic word for red fortress) sits majestically atop a hill in Granada, a reminder of the last Muslim kingdom of Spain.

In another part of Spain (was it Seville? I can’t recall) we explored a church that had a high column on one side – we walked up the column, round and around, no steps, but an inclined slope, to the top, for the breathtaking view.  Why was this column erected?  The church had actually been a masjid, and the column was the minaret from which the muezzin gave the adhaan.  Because he had to climb the minaret 5 times a day, instead of steps, they had built it in an upward slope, wide enough for a horse to walk up – and so the muezzin ingeniously avoided too much exercise and was easily able to make it up in time to give the call to each prayer.

Many other masjids had been converted into churches after Muslim rule left Spain – domed minarets were merely changed to square or pointy tops, with most of the rest of the buildings left intact.  Some new artwork was done, but many of the arabesque designs remain.

Spain is a treasure trove of Islamic history and art, but it takes a discerning eye (and a more careful plan than my haphazard noticing of relics of Islamic history here and there) to find it.  That’s why I need to go back, to see Cordoba and more of Granada and just more of everything, Islamic history especially (okay and throw in some more Gaudi too).

Hints of Islamic civilization abound all over the world, and it reminds me that Islamic culture had a lot to add to the civilization of the world, not just in terms of religion but also in areas like architecture, agriculture, mathematics and more.  The golden age of Islam left golden nuggets of development in many countries, still to be glimpsed by passersby if they have the interest to see it.

How do we reclaim our lost Islamic history?  How do we ensure that all that Muslims have to offer the world is not left in the past, but that we continue to make contributions to humanity today?  It probably begins with repairing our tarnished global image.  But it also means that we have to sit up and do something worth remembering.

Use it up, wear it out

Leftover pizza for breakfast is my favorite.  That’s the cool thing about food: either you eat it, or it goes bad – so you have to eat it (except for those very processed foods that last forever, meh) but you can’t really save your leftover pizza indefinitely.

So why is it that when we save up and buy that amazing thing that we’ve wanted for ages – we become afraid to use it?  We save it for a special day.

My sister Hanna had this adorable habit when she was a little girl – if someone gave her a wrapped present, she wouldn’t open it for days because she enjoyed looking at the beautiful wrapping  and wanted to save that moment of discovery when she tore the gift open.  Nowadays, she tends to wear new clothing almost as soon as she buys it.  Even though little-Hanna was cute, adult-Hanna has got the right idea: use it up!  Her theory: what if she dies and never gets to wear that beautiful new silk scarf?

I’ve heard countless stories (and some in my family) where someone only used the “good” dinnerware on “special” occasions.  How often does a special occasion happen? And who are we saving this stuff for, people we see once a year?  What about everyday dinner with our family being a special occasion, and using our best  stuff for the people that matter most, the ones we live with.

Without losing our concept of the value of things, I think it is precisely because things are valuable to us that we must use them.  What good is a thing if it cannot bring us joy, if it instead leaves us feeling anxious or nervous that we might break it.

I sometimes do this thing (when I buy a really expensive dress, for example) where I think : okay, if I wear this dress 10 times, that’s about 100 rand per wear.  This process of rationalization also ensures that I get the most use out of my stuff.

Someone once waited so long to open a new pretty bottle of perfume that when she opened it, the scent had been completely corrupted and smelt quite bad actually. What a waste.  The thing is, if you think using stuff up too quickly is a waste, consider not using it at all – which is an even bigger waste.

So: use it up, wear it out, enjoy it.

Being the full you…lessons from friends, American Beauty and a note about strange

There’s a scene in American Beauty where the weird new neighbor boy across the street who walks around with his camera filming stuff, claims that the floating of a plastic bag in the wind – basically, trash – is beautiful.  He also films a dead bird for the same reason.  He is an oddball I guess, doing whatever he wants, finding beauty in the mundane and going for the a-typical goth-girl and ignoring the cheerleader.  The point, you might ask?  Well, while the cheerleader looks at him in disdain, goth-girl makes the observation that “he’s just so confident.”  She thinks it isn’t real, but he does whatever he wants, even though it may seem completely odd or random or weird, and he doesn’t care what other people think.  He really was that confident.

Some of my friends are the perfect example of being completely themselves, even when it goes against the grain.

Mishka would campaign for any cause that touches her heart, be it battery farmed chickens, striking cleaners at university, or the rights of cockroaches (to be relocated, not exterminated).  She is never afraid to show her love and appreciation and wonder.  I once lamented the fact that some girls wore high heels to campus – how in the world did they do it, why were they being slaves to fashion, blah blah.  But Mishka was having none of it…her view?  She admired them for their dedication and commitment in being able to accomplish such a difficult feat.  She often makes me see another point of view.  And she’s clever, so her points aren’t arbitrary, but well thought-out, well argued and empathetic.  So while I may never have warmed to the idea of wearing heels, I stopped being so judgmental to those girls who brave the cobblestones with their favorite high fashion.  Mishka is not afraid to take the differing view, with good justification, and stick to it passionately, even when others may not see the point.  She is just that confident.

Fatima is confident in a different way.  She’d seek out alternative artists, cultivate her own very unique (and bad-ass) style (she’s the one with the rocker boots:) and would not suffer arrogant fools.  She is so secure in her knowledge of who she is and what she wants, that she just goes for it, and often gets what she’s after.  Both Fatima and I would rather spend the afternoon before a big exam reading a book, only to cram into the night, learning last bits of information right before the exam.  She knows her abilities, so she would use her reason to work out complex accounting questions (since she hadn’t studied that section) and often ended up getting the answers right (or at least partially right).  She has confidence in the ability of her brain to work out a problem instead of relying on rote learning.  She’s set up at least 2 business (and we’re just in our 20s).  If she sends me a recommendation for a book, I know I’ll read it, because her taste is impeccable. She does not have to pose or bring others down in anything that she does – she does what she loves for herself, and that is enough.  What other people think is irrelevant.

I’m not there yet – I’m not that confident.  But I want to be.

It’s crappy that so many of us are dragged down by our conception (or misconception) of what other people think.  The fact is, we’re deluding ourselves if we think people really think or care about what we do – they’re much too busy with their own lives to bother with us.  And if they have the time to criticize and judge, then they obviously have way too much free time on their hands.

I have heard that the Prophet (S.A.W) said that Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.  The explanation that I have been given for this hadith is that Islam began with a few people who accepted it and stuck to its teachings and practices.  This means to me that Islam went against the grain of the society into which it was born.

Nowadays, Islam is beginning to be seen as strange again – a lot of the world are misunderstanding the religion and think of Muslims as strange.  Sometimes if you wear a Hijab in a very conservative western community, you need to embrace the fact that people will think of you as a weirdo or a stranger and use your strength to stick true to your principles.  If we are confident enough to stick to our religion and practice it properly, we might be seen as strange or strangers.  What awaits those who have the confidence and ability to be steadfast in their religion when it starts being seen as strange?  Glad tidings to the strangers.

Less stuff, more space, lessons from Islam and Captain planet

I have so much stuff, way too much stuff, stuff upon stuff…

I want to downsize, minimize, streamline (do I sound like Oprah or some chirpy lady from those reality hoarding shows?)

Living with less stuff has so many benefits: I won’t have to find space to store it, time to maintain it and there’ll be no guilt for not using it.

Tips for a minimalist lifestyle:

  1. Embrace the concept of enough. I once read that we can’t have everything…where would we put it all?
  2. Declutter. Apparently a serene environment invites a serene mind but I wouldn’t know… I’m drowning in clutter.  I used to think that being disorganized and cluttered was okay as long as everything is clean.  Nope, time to change that thought.
  3. Consider the impact: someone has to make everything we buy, then it gets transported from who-knows-where, to be used and then disposed of… Landfill mania.
  4. Less stuff may mean more time to focus on what’s important – living and doing and being…not chasing a piece of …stuff.  Save the money from some piece of random stuff that you would have bought, and chase an experience instead.
  5. Everything is finite.  The less I have or use, the more there is for others.

I need to declutter my mind too.  No junk TV and excessive social media.  More valuable reading and doing.

I’ve vaguely seen book titles that suggest that Islam promotes environmentalism.  I need to find that info, it may have some useful inspiration for aspiring minimalists.  For now I’ve read this article on Islam and global warming, and it reminds me of the importance of avoiding waste.

I remember being taught in Madrassah as a little kid that we should not waste water (and my Apa then proceeded to try to show us how to make wudhu, but in making her point about water wastage there was barely a trickle of water coming out of the tap…so it took a while!)

I also remember from long-gone days that when someone littered we would tell the person to pick it up because otherwise 70 000 angels (or some other large number of angels) would curse you.

Then there was that cool cartoon Captain Planet (a blue guy with a mullet, seriously, what were they thinking?) that had these teenagers from all over the world trying to save the Earth from pollution.  The message must have stuck with me because I can still hear the theme song playing in my head every time I think of that blue flying mullet-head.

Okay, back to the point: We don’t own this Earth, we’ve just been given some time to wander it.  I want to lighten my footprints on this planet.

Mothers, sisters and khalas

I believe that having a sister is the coolest thing ever.  Ladies, if you have just one daughter, try for another.

My own sister Hanna is my fashion guide, movie-buddy, mind reader…and spirit animal (just kidding, I don’t even know what a spirit animal is).  I can always count on her to be with me at those interminable functions or events that us Indian girls are forced to be at (where are our brothers at these events, you might ask? They were allowed to stay home and play Playstation.  Maybe our parents thought the girls are like those debutantes from Jane Austen’s time, who needed be “seen” on the scene.  But I digress…)  Hanna will bust a happy-dance move with me for any small random awesomeness that only we understand, and we can talk in half-formed sentences, sometimes just one word conveying a whole history of meaning.  She is also always ready to say “BAM!” at any given moment, and everyone needs a Bam-Girl around.  It makes life worth living.

Then there’s  the cousins who are like sisters, and these often inevitably end up being the Khala’s daughters.  The reason probably is that our mothers also know the value of their sisters, so we end up spending a lot of time with those ladies, to our immense benefit.

I have only 1 sister and I have only 1 khala, but my 1 sweety-khala was kind enough to have given me 4 more sisters (thanks Aunty-tjie!)

If I ever vaguely yell “mum?” into a room where both sweety-khala and mum are sitting, they will both look up and say yes.  Khala’s are second moms.  Sweety-khala is not afraid to tell me when I’m wrong, treats me like a daughter, planned my wedding and made sure it went smoothly, calmed my mom down when I was acting crazy, and just generally being one of the most fun, practical, energetic and lovely ladies I know.  Khala teaches me the value of a good list (I love making lists) and how to throw a shoe with flair (in long-gone days she was always throwing shoes at the kids to get their attention:)

Moms are well – moms.  My mom has a laugh that can stop traffic (in a good way), a giggle that can warm your heart and a streak of perfectionism that I will never match. She is always trying to psycho-analyse us, much to Hanna and my amusement (because I have no idea where her theories come from) but she is always there: to stitch up a trouser, whip up a meal, laugh at a funny picture, dish on the gossip and give tons of advice.  Having a young (and young-at-heart) mom and khala keep things rolling at the speed of fun.

I spent most of my childhood with Rania, just a few months older than me, who is one of sweety-khala’s middle children.  We spent endless days together, sharing our common belief that one of our great-aunts looked very much like Nelson Mandela, studying together, making big decisions together, crying and laughing and chilling and everything in between.  Rania was my first love (in a totally platonic way guys!) And she is so beautiful MashaAllah!  May her future daughters have all of that beauty and more, InshAllah.

Nadia is the youngest of the bunch, whose childhood we stole by always being around – by this I mean that she was always surrounded by older girls, making her mature beyond her years.  This is the girl who will make a plan and enlist the help of strangers to get stuff done.  She is the youngest but the most resourceful person I know – and brave!

Rania, Nadia, Hanna and I were always off on a mission, building the tent, choreographing a dance, experimenting with make-up, taking our first selfies together, whiling away endless holiday hours playing scrabble or Jenga or building puzzles or playing TeacherTeacher/AuntyAunty/The Durban game (where we all pretended to pack up and be off on an adventure to Durban) and just plain being together.

Razina and Raha are the older sisters I never had.  They taught me the facts of life (to my utter horror), took us along on holidays, faffed around with us when we were too young to be cool or interesting and were really the inspiration for Rania, Nadia, Hanna and my growth into women.  I think the 4 of us all wanted to be just like Razina and Raha (not a bad idea at all).

Razina is gentle (with surprising outbursts of humour and laughter) while Raha is our ringleader.  Raha knows someone who knows something, she can get you a deal, give you directions, hand-make something that can be handmade (I can’t even give a concrete example here ‘coz I can’t hand-make anything) and basically sort out all of life’s problems.  Her mind works so practically that my mind just boggles.  Razina is the pacifier, keeping everyone happy and loved and feeling toasty inside.

Razina and Raha are now bringing up our next generation of ladies, and watching those girls play and love each other like we do, I know that their childhoods will be just as special as ours was.

With the backdrop to my life filled with scenes acted out by these ladies, I must say: life is good.

So here’s to all the amazing ladies in our lives.  Jummuah Mubaarak!