A blog post about nothing and yet everything!

It’s been a busy week. I went to Atlanta for the first time last Thursday for The American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (didn’t have time to pretend to be Scarlett O’Hara as Savannah is a 4 hour drive, but I did pass the Margaret Mitchell house two times! Notwithstanding Mitchell, the film adaptation was a running theme of my childhood due to my older sister’s obsession in the late 90s. SHE WAS OBSESSED, I tell you), I dressed up as a cow on Halloween (just for work; I’ve never been trick-or-treating or have been involved in that process. Since I wasn’t allowed to go as a child, I never wanted to pass out candy later to those spoiled little kids that did. Also, strangers ringing the doorbell is scary), I launched the first issue of the Journal on Muslim Philanthropy and Civil Society that I’ve been working on since August, and the two-day Board meeting where I was scheduled to present (I ended up not saying much) concluded yesterday afternoon.

(BTW, I’m sorry for all the parenthetical notes in the above paragraph and I guess for this one too. I have these little tangents always running in my head and since I have no intention of making my blog post as long as a thesis, I must defer to parenthetical notes. I don’t think WordPress allows the use of footnotes, unfortunately. Thanks for reading my tangents. It means a lot. I find my tangents to be the best part of my blog)

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I have to admit: the udders hanging out like that kinda felt haraaaaam, but hey, I’m fully covered! And if that turns you on, that’s on you, buddy!

And yet, here I am blogging on a Saturday morning, wearing my cow costume/night-suit because a) I can’t sleep after the rooster cockle-doodle-doos (i.e. the alarm for fajr) and b) I need a break from work-type things.

Oh but hey, the countdown to my 31st birthday has officially begun today. Each year, I start counting down 3 months before. Some might say that I’m too old for this, but I say, “Birthdays are fun!” I love when I actually have a valid reason to eat cake (I get it, the food police need to die, but I eat way too much cake for my own good). Also, everyone’s usually much nicer to me, wishing me that I have an amazing day and telling me to eat lots of cake. So, it’s just great!

Honestly, people who think they’re “too old” for birthdays are just being pretentious and illogical. You’re not too old. You’re perfectly the right age as long as you are ALIVE. Birthdays don’t stop after 21! If you’re gonna use that argument, find a better word or phrase! {end angry rant against imaginary people}

Also, I don’t fear getting old. I look forward to it. Of course, I’m at the age where the body is not quite at the point where it really begins the inevitable process of deterioration (I can, however, start to blame my metabolism – and I will). I may feel differently when I’m 40 or 50. But I honestly hope that I can accept whatever changes come with age. I just look at old people and I’m in awe. Not only are y’all way cuter than the rest of us, you’re also so wise and funny and you finally have earned the right to say whatever the heck you want (well, maybe not everything) and we love it. I love it, anyway.

Where was I?

I don’t know. I’ve been up for a while and have yet to eat. BREAKFAST TIME. Catch y’all later.

On the importance of memoirs

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Photo Credit: Amazon

I just finished reading Leila Ahmed’s A Border Passage last night.

For those of you familiar with Leila Ahmed, you’re probably thinking “Oh no!” or “Right on!” For those unfamiliar, Leila Ahmed is a controversial figure within Islamic Studies scholarship. Or maybe just with Muslims. I don’t know. I honestly haven’t really read too much of her work. Maybe I should. I feel her views may have evolved.

In any case, I first encountered her work as a freshman in the midst of writing my very first research paper (we didn’t do that in high school – have things changed since then?). At the time, I didn’t wear the headscarf, but was still interested in the topic of Women in Islam. Leila Ahmed came up as THE scholar in this field and I basically used her arguments to justify my feelings on hijab at the time (i.e. it is not required).

Things obviously have changed since then.

Fast forward almost five years later, I felt regret and almost disgust for having taken the self-righteous and arrogant position I once had (I don’t blame Leila for this, this was all on me). For now, I had begun to don the headscarf.

So, when I came across Leila Ahmed’s memoir at Half Price Books a few months ago, I was at once intrigued and a bit hesitant. Did I want to subject myself to more orientalist drivel (I just love that phrase, btw)? But the synopsis (can it even be called a synopsis if it’s a memoir?) mentioned things like Arab nationalism and identity that I thought to myself, “Hey, it’s only $3.50.” I don’t have to buy into everything she says. So I bought the book.

And then read it (well, I read two books in between, because like I said, I was hesitant). But I have to say: since perhaps A Suitable Boy, I haven’t read a book that has caused me to ponder on so many topics on such a visceral level: manufactured nationalism (because it always is), women, feeling “home,” the “liberating” West, interfaith relations in a more pristine time, etc. I didn’t agree with everything Leila wrote, but I do appreciate her telling of history.

Whatever you think of Nasser (he’s the most prominent political figure in this memoir, Leila having grown up in Egypt in the middle of the 20th century – but you can substitute him for almost anyone), depending on what side you are on, the history book you are reading only tells you one side. We like to think of history as objective, factual, empirical in a way. But Leila’s recalling reminded me that there are many more perspectives than we are privy to. I particularly appreciated how Leila herself added many times throughout that her own memory might not have captured all that was going on. And that too reminded me of the importance of memoirs.

As someone who writes about her life with one-time plans to write a memoir, I realized that even if I don’t live an extraordinary life in the sense that I will never be recorded in “history,” that does not mean that my personal experiences don’t have something unique and needed to offer to those interested in the entirety of the human experience. As my last post almost abruptly touched on: What is it like to be a young woman who loses all that weight after the “entire world”* essentially made her feel that her weight was all that mattered? That story, as I’ve lived with for the past 8 years, does not come with a nicely packaged conclusion after that “after” shot.

But that’s not all. What is it like to be a young woman observing hijab in a world (or country) where some people feel that shariah law is going to take over the entire world? What is it like to be a Muslim from India and to be proud of this fact and yet also be concerned about what the right-wing hateful political establishment is doing to your Muslim brothers and sisters still living in the desh?

These are but some of the narratives constantly playing in my mind — and only I can weave them together in the way that I would.

In a world where individuals increasingly feel that there’s nothing we can do, that there are forces more powerful (and sinister, in many cases!) than we moving and shaping the trajectory of our lives, memoirs reminds us that our thoughts and our feelings are still within our control, and that they still matter… to at least someone.

*Remember that my telling will be subjective. But that’s fine.

Guess Who’s Back? I dunno. I was listening to Eminem yesterday (while working out, don’t judge!) and it seemed fitting.

So, since I can’t go back to sleep after fajr (early morning prayer) and it’s technically not a work day (though I did work yesterday, on a Saturday, yes!), I figured it’s high time to actually blog. I could continue to re-post content, but I met a nice young lady the other day at a party who asked about my writing and I thought: “Oh yeah, I write, don’t I?”

So, here I am… writing… something.

I have written since my last post. And no, I’m not talking about writing emails. I’ve actually written a paper and a book review, and even a blog post. But they’re not exactly for a general audience, so I’ve been reluctant to share it freely with others. Also, the latter two are drafts waiting for review.

That reminds me. Another reason why I’ve not blogged here in a while is because I got a(nother) job. I haven’t even Netflix-ed in what seems like weeks, because I literally feel like I’ve been working all day! I’ve pretty much work been working through breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the past couple of weeks. Hopefully, the working through dinner thing will end soon. And then, maybe, I’ll blog more frequently.

But who knows.

My end of the blogosphere has seemed to die… or taken a nap (I really gotta stop with the histrionics. I’ll never be a Broadway actress. Rafia, give it up). I bet all my blogger friends also have a life and stuff. But like, when all your emails are newsletters you signed up for and random solicitations, your zest for blogging just dissipates. Not getting an email notification for the blogs I follow makes me forget that I too used to blog at one point.

Another reason – and this is not at all a valid one –  one of my many quirks is that whenever I go on a hiatus (whether intended or not), when I do eventually come back, I feel this compulsive need to hit restart. If I’m feeling particularly drastic, that means a new blog with a new title. If I’m lazy and cautious, a new layout. I’ve been feeling frustrated with these free WordPress themes for a while now. I don’t think it’s smart at this point (or ever!) to switch to a paid platform (I’m sorry, but 115 followers on FB does not merit becoming a full-time blogger. And also, I will die (sorry!) quit blogging before I willingly puts ads on my site). I thought I’d get some web developer to design a custom theme for me. He quoted me at over 600 bucks. That is when I politely said “Quda Hafiz.”

So, I was back to square one, but with an even more persistent desire for change. After playing with a few themes (again), I decided to change the font on this one this morning… and saw that it could work. I am neither as talented nor creative as my sister. So, I quickly made this header and decided, “let’s just do it.” A lack of sleep and the need to extricate oneself of a compulsion can do this to a person. I know everyone loved the previous layout because of that beautiful header. If I could somehow keep the header and change the theme, I would. BUT WORDPRESS, OKAY?????

As I said, this is one of my (many) inexplicable quirks. And if you’re reading my words, you have to accept whatever oddities come with.

So, I guess I’m back.

What’s in a name? I don’t know, Shakespeare, you tell me!

 

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An early morning contemplative cow

Sometimes I wonder whether Cake & Cows is too limiting of a blog name for me and my writing.

I’ve created – albeit a very minuscule one – a brand for my online “presence.” Most days, I like it. I am just as crazy and whimsical as the name would suggest. That dressing up as a cow two weeks ago was not merely for the hits (if I really cared about that, why would I dress up as a cow?). But I won’t lie and write that it wasn’t the PERFECT fodder for this blog, either :)

I have come across blogs that are super serious and deeply personal and I applaud these writers for their bravery. Perhaps I’m just too wary of being that open with potentially the rest of the world. It’s not a bad thing to be cautious, it’s actually very wise at times, but I wonder if my Desiness has anything to do with it ;) Log Kya Kahenge?

But sometimes, I do wish that I could write as openly as these writers. There’s just something about publishing (whether through a third-party or self-publishing) that makes one’s thoughts and struggles seem more valid. I am not saying they are – we all got our struggles and if you are not aware of this, then your humanity is severely deficient. It’s just that human beings want to be acknowledged. Finding a community outside of one’s physical one, which is not always so accepting, is one of the great joys of living in the digital age.

I am blessed to have people in my life that I can speak to about these personal matters, but I do not feel “complete” unless I have written. I don’t mean complete as in “whole,” more like “done,” if that makes sense. Is this the performer in me seeking self-aggrandizement? Does this idea resonate with anyone? Perhaps other writers?

I don’t know.

I guess, cows don’t always have to be silly. You know, cows are actually really intelligent, contemplative animals. Have you ever been to a dairy farm? A very deep experience!

LOL at myself.

I am not changing the name of this blog, alright? I like the alliterative feel of it way too much. Also, my love for cows has just skyrocketed in the past year or so, I don’t think I could find a replacement.

Still, sometimes Rafia is not just a silly little cow. Sometimes, she is a very deep and serious cow. That is all I wanted to say. And it only took me 400 words to say it! :)

On Writability: Why I write

You know that guest post I mentioned a couple of weeks ago? Well, it’s finally up! Check it out here. If you’re a writer, I’d love to know the reasons why YOU write, so please do leave a comment.

Also, the header image my sister drew for Cake & Cows‘s first birthday is back – and finally incorporated in a free WordPress theme that doesn’t trigger my OCPDness all that much.

Happy Friday, everyone! :)