Tiny Changes

Tonight, while cooking dinner at the end of a very long day, I went to my Pandora app on my phone and tapped one of my custom radio stations.

But, while chopping vegetables, I realized that I wasn’t feeling all that great about Bruce Springsteen as I used to.

In fact, on the way to the animal shelter a few days ago, another artist I used to like was, at that moment, causing me a great deal of ache in my head  (see what I did there?) the sound was echoing weirdly and it just fhjghrjkh gw hoijdsijfhdbjh.

Tonight, what I actually wanted to listen to was a series on Muhammad (Peace be upon him), whilst dicing up the celery and stripping the chicken of the fat.

Now, before you go all crazy and tell me, “now, Nesha, things like that are not meant to be used as background noise…tsk tsk tsk”

I know. It wasn’t! I was listening, I promise.

I also listened to it on the way home from the animal shelter today, and I became very emotional whilst listening to the revelations about Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)  that are actually mentioned in the Bible! Citing the sources and Bibles as well!

SubhanAllah!

The amount of information I don’t know, the knowledge I didn’t try to pursue until know has become overwhelming to me. How could I not know about the similarities between Musa (AS) and Muhammad (SAW)? How could I not have ever slaked my curiosity about the Prophet’s (PBUH) wives (RA)?? Why did I never contemplate the reason for all of the Prophets (peace and blessings be upon them) being shepherds of sheep, and not of, say, horses? Why sheep? Why goats? Why them? The significance of the word “IQRA”, what it meant to Rasulullah (SAW), and what it means for us, and why it’s different from his. The mathematical proof of Rasulullah’s (SAW) revelations…and his beautiful mind and love for his Ummah.

His acceptance of gifts over charity (concerning himself , Peace be upon him).

The building and rebuilding (5 times!) of the Ka’bah.

Muhammad (SAW)’s ancestry. His parents! SubhanAllah.

The information I’ve learned and digested so far…just…wow. SubhanAllah. I don’t know that I’ve ever appreciated my religion and ALL of the Prophets (PBUthem) as much as I do now. The history is just so intense and incredible.

haha, I definitely don’t remember Sunday school being as interesting and awe-inspiring. It brings me to my knees in wonder and amazement, and praise to Allah (SWT).  Allahu Akbar.

It also makes me realize how much more there is to learn. May Allah make it easy, fulfilling and beneficial, Ameen!

The next few months are going to be umm….crazy.

In a day, or two, my sister’s coming home FINALLY. InshAllah.

Next weekend something awesome is going to happen, inshAllah.  Or at least I hope. InshAllah.

After that I’m apartment hunting in Chicago inshAllah ….because I’m going to grad school there, inshAllah!!!

And then in mid-June, I’m off to Scotland to visit family and absorb the accent and come back skinny and Scottish. Or atleast skinny, inshAllah.

InshAllah, at the endish of August I’ll be moving to Chicago.

And then will proceed to lose all sanity and social life to classes like “Biostatistics” and “epidemiology.”

Gulp.

In between all these titanic sized events I’m going to continue, inshAllah, to learn more about Islam and also try to improve myself. Also try to figure out why my body is conspiring against me.

Either it does not realize that exercise and diet = weight loss, or it’s just completely insubordinate. Doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, inshAllah, we’ll see what’s going on there.

On a side note, if I have any lady readers out there (yes, you, o’pretty one), I have a gift for you.

2 tbsp greek yogurt

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp lemon juice

combine in a bowl. Smoosh on your face.

THE. BEST. FACE. MASK. EVER.

***please keep in mind that turmeric is a rather hyper shade of yellow. It will leave a yellow tinge. To remove this, put boiling water into a large bowl, and cover the bowl with a large towel. Duck your head beneath the towel and let the steam rise against your face in 10-15 second intervals, gently using the towel to exfoliate in an upwards-rubbing-motion in between intervals. repeat until water is cooled or you’ve had enough, OR, just wash your face with a gentle cleanser and use a make-up removing wipe to clear up the rest.***

you’re welcome 🙂

Nesha

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Sunce Moje

You have bled into me,

Like the day which bleeds into night,

The change is subtle at first,

But, indeed, I blink

And the world is brighter.

From black dusted with stars,

The corners begin to turn

A blue that only time can provide.

Time and the natural order of things.

A darker blue, like your eyes

Is shot through suddenly

With a plume of pink

Like sweet kisses before the sun’s arrival.

It bids the moon farewell,

With warm orange hands that pierce the blue.

And I still see the stars, twinkling, reminding me,

I give a last respectful nod before my eyes begin to water,

Everything has turned bright.

Gold, like your hair.

Warm, like your heart.

Slowly, surely, making its way to the top

Is the sun,

And I feel my heart rise.

Sunce moje.

Nesha Usmani

4AM Arguing.

you say you know what I feel

and yet, your silences suggest otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not “all about me”,

But even you can’t deny the difference

between a two sentence (or ten sentence) text

and looking at each other.

I do wonder if you think I’m not one,

but two people.

How I wish you knew the weight of

what I’ve chosen to leave behind,

Before you, not for you.

For God, and the sake of my soul.

I have expressed to you,

the weight of my heart,

and the fire of my hope,

I have given it to you,

that you cannot deny.

It could be everything, you know.

It could be more than enough.

And I hate when you say things

that make me feel like you’re settling,

when other times, I know, or at least I think,

that you feel like you’ve struck gold.

I’m a tall order and sometimes I just feel like

I’m getting taller (to you).

But all these things might feel different

with your hand in mine.

Who knows? Only God.

I hope you know how much

I want you to stay.

Volim te.

Nesha Usmani

Stubborn and Irrational

‘Child’, she said,

Her index finger turning into a spear of generations,

with which she shook, both threateningly and with love

‘Your heart has made you a fool, now look how you suffer!

It is time to wake and shake off your dreams, and bid goodbye

to those irrational romances you hold so close.’

Outside, the sun poured light and a wind shook the

branches of the trees.

And the Child felt a peculiar sensation,

as though the ground fell away,

and she shut her eyes and imagined

opening them, and finding herself

in the arms of her love.

 

Nesha Usmani

The Wear and Tear

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

I sat down and I had, in my head, visions of heart-aching beauty.

In which memories of the sum of the years folded themselves

into beautiful, delicate shapes.

They cleverly hid the sadness and misery.

I guess that’s what they mean by having those

rose-colored glasses.

Oh but, I realized today, both an icicle in the heart

and a fluttering of the soul,

that in taking you away

Allah answered my best prayer for you.

My best prayer!!!

One of the most difficult ones I’ve ever made.

Everything else…He grasped my hands tightly

and it was as though I heard it in my heart,

“No.

“No. But you can have this.

You can have this and smile when things go wrong

When things go wrong, and you are crying,

And everything is changing,

You will have this. And you will know

that I always do the best.”

What can I say, Allah?

Allah, what can I say except,

SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar.

I’ve cried until my eyes turned red,

The skin around them stinging.

Gratitude and sadness mingling with

each other.

Don’t lead me astray, Ya Rabb,

nor the ones whom I love.

You will take them from me, as You have in the past,

if it is Your will,

But do not lead us astray.

Above anything, I want Heaven.

A Home close to Your throne.

A forest of date palms,

A house of treasures.

An afternoon with a Prophet.

A hundred-year sleep.

The garden underneath my feet

Underneath which rivers flow.

The ever-youthful smiles of my parents,

And the eternal skies of Your blessings.

I would take any pain in this world

for the promise of Jannah.

My moment of truth revealed,

The wear and tear of my heart

healed with Your mercy.

Your Grace.

Your Will.

Forgive me, Ya Allah.

Allahumagh fir lee.

Allahumagh fir lee.

Allahumagh fir lee, Ya Rabb.

Ameen.

As I Try to Describe Happiness

Assalamu Alaikum

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

You’ve probably noticed by now that a lot of the content on my blog is a bit melancholy. Whether that turns you off or not isn’t the point; it’s just that this blog picked up speed during a time in my life where…well…due to a lot of circumstances, I guess I lost the meaning of the emotion.

I’m not emo! Please, don’t think that. I’m just one of those people who thinks too much, over-analyzes, and then analyzes the analyzations (why does this word look weird).

Happiness.

Sometimes, I think that there really isn’t such a feeling. I suppose, I feel that that it’s sort of a morsel, something tasty, tied at the end of a fishing pole and attached to our heads. We follow it, chase it, like one of those cartoons of dogs who are forever chasing a bone, but never actually getting it.

Or like this cat.

Poor cat. What happens to her moment of thrill when she tackles the thing, yanks it away from her human’s hand? The process starts all over again. The chasing and the endless jumping and snatching. Bloody flipping hell. Is that happiness?

Setting our sights on what we like … be it a career or status or cheeseburger, and then once we have it…what then? What happens next?

When I was younger, it was so much easier to be “happy”. I was so carefree back then, you could have put a smiley face on a french fry and I would have made it into something to laugh about.

But now, everything seems so devoid of meaning. I don’t want to say “pointless”, because that makes it sound like I’m two minutes away from jumping off a cliff (thankfully, not the case).

When I think of happiness now, true, real, honest-to-Allah happiness…well, I think of Allah.

And I think of children, having a family. I think of a time in the not so distant future (inshAllah) when I’ll most likely still be struggling, but I’ll have someone to struggle with. Someone who will wipe my eyes and kiss them, and I’ll do the same for them. Someone to share my beliefs and my hopes.

Happiness, now, is not instant gratification, anymore. For me, I think it used to be. It’s not getting what you want when you want it. It’s not an elevated level of emotion or excitement. It’s not bright, sunny days or cold glasses of lemonade. A day off or a good movie.

While I might still like those things…none of then mean anything to me, anymore.

No. I can’t even describe my definition of happiness to you.

Or, maybe I can.  Your mind doesn’t just store memories of events. It also stores memories of emotions and sensations. Things you felt, tasted. SubhanAllah.

Somewhere along in my life, my definition of happiness went from instant gratification to remembering a sunrise from years ago.

It was 2005. My family and I were on vacation in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. We had rented a little house on the beach during spring break.

I think I was 16 at the time, but I could be wrong. The days were cloudy, just the way I like it (no joke). In the afternoons, dark thunder clouds would roll in and the ocean and the space between it and the sky would melt together, forming this ethereal gray-blue-black-white of impending stormy weather. Combined with the hot smell of sand and the caress of gentle, sea-infused humidity, it was intoxicating.

Lightening would strike in the distance and it was all I could do not to run out onto the beach and just stare.

One morning, my mother woke me up to watch the sunrise. I remember the sheer, exploding whiteness of it.

It was like the entire ocean had turned to silver, or gold, or some weird combination of both. My brain couldn’t really comprehend it. I took pictures, but I’ve lost them.

They wouldn’t have done it justice, anyway.

The edges of my vision seemed to darken; blotting out all but the sun. It rose like it has done in all of the memories of the earth, but, witnessing it from the beach was like watching some once-in-a-lifetime cosmic event. The entire sky seemed to be the sun, the ocean as well. Everything became one and the same. I actually started to worry I might go blind. My eyes were watering even though I kept them in a tight squint, blinking away the tears, or shielding my eyes from it altogether in intervals, like a panicky vampire.

I remember it now and I feel a rising in my heart. But, I don’t really remember the actual sunrise when I think of being “happy”. I just see a explosion of bright, white light over a molten ocean of silver. There’s a lump in my throat.Tears come to my eyes and I don’t feel excitement or thrill. I just feel content, at peace. Some mixture of longing and love threaded through with a ribbon of sadness, fear, and awe. 

Is that my definition of happiness? A perfect balance of emotion?

Could be.

Happiness.

Once something all about instant gratification, turned into what I feel when I see something so much bigger than I could ever be.

My mother likes to say this one thing a lot. I don’t remember it verbatim, but the gist of it goes something like:

“Human beings are so arrogant. We’re surrounded by things so much bigger than ourselves, so much more powerful and out of our controls, and yet, we are the most arrogant of beings.”

She’s right. In our arrogance we’ve taken granted of so many things, including each other. Chased after meaningless, fruitless things thinking we’ll find satisfaction, when all we ever find is more temptation, more emptiness, and a hunger for “more” (whatever that is).

I’m reminded of the simple lifestyle of our beloved Prophet (SAW). Who lived and died a simple man, and yet the greatest who has ever lived subhanAllah.

I am reminded of the hadith, according to Bukhari & Tirmidhi, in which the Prophet (SAW) held the shoulder of Abdullah Ibn Umar and said 

Live in this world as (if you are) a wayfarer or a stranger.

Travel light. Don’t live in excess. Don’t chase worldly things. All it will get you, as it’s only ever gotten me, is greed and suffering. Don’t plant roots in the dunya, for the dunya will not keep you. Inna lillahi wa inna illaihi raji’oon! From Allah we came, and to Allah is our return.

I just finished a book (which I enjoyed a lot) and in it, the author makes a lot of references to the Dicken’s character Jacob Marley (from A Christmas Carol). One line in particular, in which Marley supposedly said:

“I wear the chain I forged in life.”

::Shudder:: Isn’t that the damn truth? Doesn’t what we do in our lives bind us or free us in the next, depending on Allah’s mercy? SubhanAllah.

Well, I’ve done my best, describing happiness. Happiness according to a 24-yr old Muslim romantic. anyway.

If you decide to comment, which I hope you do, what’s happiness to you?

Sources

http://dailyreminders.wordpress.com/2008/07/16/live-in-this-world-as-a-traveller-or-a-stranger/

Image

Cross-Cultures & Desserts

DSCN6310

When I was a wee little thing living in a tiny two-family house in Clifton, New Jersey the one thing I loved beyond anything else…was chocolate pudding. 

We had only been in the United States for a few years and we weren’t exactly adventurous eaters yet, though we are now.

But back then, our diet rarely strayed from traditional Pakistani food and Western style desserts were an even rarer thing, besides store bought stuff like ice cream and cookies.

I remember, though, when my mom used to bring home these magical little boxes full of mysterious powders which would turn into different colors and consistencies when mixed with water or milk…pudding and jello!

My little child-mind could not handle the excitement. While jello was cool and everything, pudding was the real deal. That’s what got me hooked on chocolate (more or less addicted to dark chocolate, especially).

My mother made them rather well. As well as you could out of a box, anyway. But there were nights when both my father and mother were out working or studying and my grandmother would take care of my sister and I.

She has no idea how to make anything chocolate! But she is an extraordinary cook otherwise.

We asked her to make us some pudding and, well, she did.

Except every time she’d make it, she’d accidentally burn it. Where there should have been smooth creamy pudding, there were bits of char that stubbornly stuck to the tongue.

But, you know, I have that wonderful memory of my grandmother making us something she knew we enjoyed, even though she hadn’t the faintest idea how to make it or what the hell kind of child would eat instant-anything.

I don’t care. I love her for it. I love that pudding with the  burnt pieces of something or other.

And I adored my mother’s chocolate chip cookies, which, if you didn’t eat them straight away, you’d probably break a tooth.

But have you ever had my mother’s halva? Her doodh savai?   Her feerni? Her carrot halva? Everything prepared with love and butter and sugar,  painstakingly stirred over a blindingly hot stove for hours until it reduces, reduces, reduces…to perfection?

Try my grandmother’s desserts. Sure to blow your mind.

And to think, I would even compare my little party tricks with cake and cookies to what my mother and grandmother can do with a packet of crushed vermicelli. While I do bake rather well and rather often, alhamdulillah, I have made some pretty exquisite desserts (if I do say so myself, ahem ahem, mashAllah), but none of them, in their formulaic stirring and pouring, none of them compare to a cold rasmalai. Or a dish of kheer sprinkled with pistachios and almonds.

Or a glistening globe of gulab jamun.

Which, to this day, I haven’t the faintest idea how to make. None of it! I have no idea how to make any of it. Well..the halva I can manage with my mother standing watch..

…But, I pride myself in my chocolate  and flour adventures…because I’m a bit too nervous and scared to even touch upon Indo-Pakistani desserts.

The picture above is of the cupcakes I made this morning for my youngest sister. They’re from-scratch chocolate coffee cupcakes, topped with homemade pink cream cheese frosting, and drizzled with a homemade chocolate sauce, and then sprinkled with M&M’s (storebought, merf).

Assalamu Alaikum.

Nesha