Music and Soul

I was invited to Abdulrahman Mohammed’s concert, and as I have always been a fan, I was very excited to see him live. He was spectacular. I am reminded by everything that his music takes me back to. I remember how his words used to make us cry. I remember how the poetics of it all barely captured the intensity of reality. He draws his inspiration and his lyrics from Old Arabic poetry, and he has included Qais’s (the poet) love for Laila. Qais, otherwise known as “Majnoon Laila.” In love, will anything other than madness suffice? I doubt it 🙂 Abdulrahman, like Qais, pours his soul into art. He left all of us completely awe-struck that night, and we left the stage reminiscing and wrapped in a blanket of passion, pain, and possibility. Some of his amazing words: 

قُولواْ لهّا أنني … لا زِلتُ أهواهّا

مَهمّا يطولَ النوىّ … لا أنسىّ ذِكراهَا

هيّ الَتي عَلمَتني … كيفَ اعشَقُها

هيّ الَتي سَقاتني … شَهدَ ريّاها

روحٌ مِن الله … سَوىّ لنا بَشراً

كَسىّ حُسناً … وّجمَلهّا وّحلاّهَا   

Flight B6 

As the flight landed, I sighed. Finally. It left me drained, and I rubbed my eyes, hoping for some miraculous recovery. I looked to my right, at the person sitting near the window. You loved the window seat, while I detested it. 

Two minutes later, my phone came back to life, and the first person looking for me was you. 

“Finally. Hope you had a safe flight,” you said. 

“Tiring. But safe. How are you?” 

“Hi,” you reminded me. 

“Hi.” Barely two syllables but I knew. I recognized in yor voice that I was still, very much, always landing home. 

Women’s Day

International Women’s Day. A day that we celebrate, a day that is still yet to receive significant exposure. Today we think about how far we’ve come, about what still needs to be done to achieve gender equality, parity, and how we can further this agenda of women’s rights. I won’t go into the sociopolitical issues at hand, because this blog remains a personal one, but I do want to bring up a few ideas that crossed my mind.

Around me, there are beautiful, brave, strong women to celebrate. There are fighters, there are mothers, daughters, students, friends, colleagues- you name it. Each one is fighting a battle of her own. And perhaps it’s important to mention that Feminism is NOT a hatred of men, it is not us against them. At a gender parity forum today, a couple of academics and myself raised the fact that women can be hostile – they can wage wars among themselves. There is a division even between women, according to religion, social class, sect, economic position, etc.

In class the other day, I asked my students to work in pairs. I trusted that they would choose their partners efficiently, and that there would be no issues. By the time I looked up from my book, I asked if everyone had a partner. Everyone nodded and voiced “Yes.” Except for one girl. One girl who remains invisible to the rest. I’ll call her Britney, for anonymity’s sake. Britney has a mental disability, as well as a physical one. She is slightly slower than the rest, but works very hard to keep up. In fact, she tends to be the only one who reads the text before class. And yet, Britney is isolated, not spoken to. My students are adults, and yet I was suddenly reminded of how mean kids tend to be. Being picked last for the soccer team, or not being picked at all. I was reminded of how I have felt left behind way too many times in school. The utter humiliation she felt while she raised her hand to say “Me. I don’t have a partner” came crushing onto me. Some girls, unfortunately, giggled in the background. I don’t understand it and will not attempt to unravel this behavior. My reaction was: “Great. Then I’ll be your partner, Britney.” She beamed with pride. One student laughed and complained that that wasn’t “fair.”  I simply shrugged it off.

What’s not fair is the way our society insists on divisions, separations. On sexism AND ableism. What’s not fair is how we want to empower women, but continue to disempower those who are at a disadvantage in one way or another. So my pledge for today, my gender parity pledge is to continue to support those that need a helping hand. I believe it is a cycle. I was supported by wonderful and kind academics when I was an undergraduate, and today, I aim to do the same, to pay it forward.

So happy women’s day, but also – here’s to doing better.