24 hours and counting…

Okay, so they said by 31st May – the publishers that is. Only thing is that they said it a month ago and I haven’t really communicated with them since. Partly because I was so busy trying to do other things to distract me from remembering that I had a month to wait, and partly from being too chicken. Point is, there’s the proverbial twenty-fours left before I know if they’ll remember or forget.

In the meantime at least have the magazine to keep my mind off things. The printing deadline is tomorrow and even as I finish it off, I’m wondering how this figures in my experience and expertise department. I guess since I work on a semi-voluntary basis, I’ve never stopped to analyse the professional side of my work.

After almost 4 years of handling graphics, editing and design I must have picked up some skills along the way, right? That’s my biggest ever problem, inability to assess my own work. Thank God, I’m not pursuing graphics right now, so I don’t have to worry too much about that. If I do in the future, I’ll think about it then. (It’s all about living in the Now. 🙂 )

Will be back to update tomorrow – too jittery to do any coherent thinking for now.

S’laams
Bint Ali

Ordinary Days

Things are pretty much the same as they’ve always been. I went into a mindless burst of crochet frenzy and made a couple of ponchos, a curly-potato-chip scarf that I probably won’t ever wear in public and am in the middle of my third filet doily in ecru.

Did you know ecru refers to a pale cream or beige colour? If you’ve done crochet or live in the West, you’re probably going “Duh! Is this the million dollar question we’ve come all this way to read?” But honestly, it’s amazing how cut-off the world is from us in some ways.

When I first began to crochet and work in filet, the only books I could find were Ondori ones from the 80’s. I still have them and I still can’t find any of the new ones in bookstores. After getting online, I was amazed at the variety of techniques and patterns available (and so many for F*ree!) Anyway, my first patterns always said No.10 Ecru and for the life of me I couldn’t tell what ecru was. I thought it was a brand name like Anchor, DMC or Red Heart (I didn’t know RH existed till about a year ago).

After all, I couldn’t tell a No.10 thread from a No.40 one and while the numbers became familiar, I still have no way of differentiating them. Over here, I work with one standard thread thickness and my wool varieties come in 4-ply, double knitting and chunky or more easily – thin, medium and thick.

When I browse silently through discussion groups where I don’t dare become a member because even the amateurs speak a lingo I have no access to, I am amazed that even small-town residents in these groups have access to the same materials. If someone says Lion Brand something-something wool, everyone knows what they’re talking about. I had to google LB to find what they were and then I discovered eyelash wool (teehee!)

The point is, we still crochet here and sometimes even better stuff than those abroad, but no one will accept a pattern from me because I’ll say something like 3 balls of Winterking or 5 balls of Seagull and who the hell knows what I mean?

The world truly is a big place. And yet despite it’s big-ness, it’s still only a temporary playground. Eesh! The complexity of it all!

S’laams,
Bint Ali

Daytime Musings

Okay, let’s try a post written in the daytime. I usually read and write after 10 p.m. and cyberspace for me is subconsciously associated with the darkness and eerie silence of the light-challenged half of the 24-hour day…there’s a word for that, but I can’t recall it.

So (*looks out the window*)… no sun shining, no blue sky, no warm toasty feeling on my skin. I can’t help but notice how imprisoning my surroundings are. This life in a city that has a high-crime rate and a low-lie rate.

My window is a small 4 by 5 foot rectangle of glass, one half is a fixed pane, the other – those shutter like windows that tantalizing slant but never quite enough to give an impression of being open. And outside that, an old, dusty grill – just incase a bunch of thugs decide they might manage to squeeze through the glass slats on the first floor of a house with no footholds, no pipes and no means to climb up to.

Maybe if there was a cornflower sky and prickling heat, I would feel more restrained, but as it is, that’s winter peeping back at me. And not even mysterious, electric, stormy winter in her maturity. This is just the feeble beginnings. A sickly grey swirled faintly with a pale dirty white. There is neither promise nor threat. Only a suggestion of pallor, an almost-shadow in the atmosphere, a dullness of life.

Maybe writing at night is a better idea after all. I can actually see three stars through my glass-encased view. Yes, I think I’ll definitely come back at night.

Shallowed Depths

Well, we attempted to have a practice today. Half the actors didn’t turn up and the rest came late. Which might have been Life’s way of settling the score for me being late last week. Except that I took half and hour while the rest of them varied from an hour to three! Simple stuff, but it’s amazing how much you can learn from such an ordinary incident.

I progressed from worry that no one would turn up to being highly irritated when they did and didn’t seem to realise how late they were, to a slight nervousness when I discovered that we still don’t have enough people to fill in all the parts and no one to help with backstage and props, to a general lack of concern about how things would be settled in a month from now.

If this had happened to me a few years ago, I know I would have freaked out from the very first minute. I’d have sulked and probably projected my irritation at everyone through my expressions and words. Or I’d have done it once I got back home. I guess age and good friends do help to temper one’s character.

SK has been a gem that way. And it’s ironic that I’m saying to everyone I meet and now announcing it to the world, and I haven’t told her yet. If I did, she’d brush it off and not take me seriously anyway. I should get her to come and read this blog so she’ll believe me! (y’hear that, S?)

We were talking today about life and how things turn out. How often do you think the words: “Things didn’t turn out as I expected they would” have been repeated over the ages by different people? I think perhaps it’s the circle of friends I move around with too. FH mentioned the same thing to me and now so did SK. It’s like an echo that reverberates between the three of us.

I don’t know how it figures in their lives, but I do know that for me, Now is a time when I feel slightly lost chronologically-speaking and very, very lost spiritually speaking – I’m not supposed to be announcing that to all and sundry, am I? I did think a lot about it before deciding to discuss it on this blog. At first, I was afraid that it would make people think I had failed in some way as a Muslim. That I’m putting down Islam as not being satisfactory enough for my spirit.

Whether you’re Muslim or not, get one thing straight. I have NO doubts about my beliefs, it’s the strength of my personal faith that I am worried about. That I am still lacking and falling so far behind what is expected of me. I’m not saying I can’t be better or that I won’t. Just that I seem to be stagnating and sometimes even regressing. I’ve lost something within myself.

Perhaps the journey to re-discovering it is what my life is meant to be about. Or maybe that’s what will prepare me for what the future holds for me.

People can get so condescending when it comes to matters of faith, you know? If you express the slightest weakness or shakiness, they’re ready to jump in with “Alhamdulillah, I’ve NEVER felt like that!” or “How sad!” or even “Hey, come over to my faith and I guarantee you won’t feel like that!”

I think this process of having doubts and clearing them up is the most natural thing in the world. The only issue that bothers me is that it’s come a little late in my life. I’m not a revert, I’m a born Muslim. Ideally, I should have been allowed to explore and deal with these issues when I needed to most – while I was still a teen or in my early twenties. Instead, the community I’m in seems to penalize those who do ask.

I’m just plain lucky to be born in the family I am, to be living in the environment I am and to have the social circle I do. Otherwise, my doubts could have taken me in either direction – towards or away – from Allah (SWT). I guess that’s one more thing in the endless list to thank Him for. We can’t even guide ourselves without being helped by Him in every way.

The complex framework of love, dependence, mercy and unconditional blessing that underlies every moment of our existence is mind boggling. I know this, and yet I sometimes catch myself being as heedless as the ones who don’t know this.

S’laams
Bint Ali

Things take a Normal Turn

Well, people liked my Open Letter from Your Mother piece. I actually got written responses – which feels so wonderful! If readers knew how much a simple line can do for a writer’s ego, I’m sure they’d make a point to say something whenever they could.

Now I’m dreaming of another play, even as the reports still wait to be written and my assignment sits half done (the latter because of fear of disappointing my tutor as usual). I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer as chicken as myself 😛 If that even makes sense.

I had a sorta critique the other day from someone I kinda respect. I gave him the manuscript of Surviving Zahra to read just to see what man would say about the book, and he said it kind of dragged him down (oh dear!) especially in the first two pages.

Now remember, everyone who’s read it so far has loved the first chapter and said it grabs and is full of suspense. Of course, it’s a setting for the seriousness of the theme, because the rest of the book is pretty lighthearted on the surface. The first chapter is supposed to provide the grey-ness that lies underneath the bright facade that my heroine presents throughout the book.

Then he told me he’d only read two pages and made this decision. I’m not sure how well to take that. Is that an example of criticism to ignore or it is good advice? I guess I won’t know until my editor sets to butchering my current draft – which reminds me, only two weeks to go before I can expect my contract!

God! I hope it’s one I can sign without having to compromise much.

S’laams
Bint Ali
Current saying:
If you expect someone to do more than he is able to do, then expect him to fail you by as much as you have exceeded his capacity – Imam Ali (a)