Questions for My Parents

Read time: 3 minutes

The first generation American experience does not include knowing your parents. Although my parents and I are close, I don’t have a complete picture of who they were in Bangladesh. Our parents’ stories begin at the chapter when they moved, to first provide a better life for their children, and only second to a better life for themselves. I’m not sure what causes this unintentional secrecy but I can imagine the strength required to make this immense sacrifice came at the price of leaving behind your first life.

Last year, we went to Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King show and a part of his segment about flying before a stand up performance to see his dad in the hospital stuck with me. He got to know his dad at a point where it could’ve potentally been too late. Thinking on it, I didn’t know a lot of basic things about my mom and dad either. What are all those questions I would regret not asking my parents? 

What were they like in highschool?

What's a strong belief they compromised once they moved to America? 

During the holiday break, I had some time to ask. My sisters and I created a list of questions for my parents and sat them down without letting them in on too much. My parents and I are close but there is no way my three sisters and I all know the same information. We weren’t really sure what to expect but the four of us sat across from our parents and had a camera recording their answers. It was the most productive hour long conversation I’ve had with my parents. They told us their stories and I was instantly glad this opportunity was provided to us.

This experience was similar to falling in love. Time slowed down and I was completely fixated on knowing everything about them. There were laughs, sadness, reflection, and walks down narrow nostalgia. My mom described this exercise as cathartic and my dad wondered why this didn't happen more often/casually. The days following, we had more questions here and there and our parents were happy to share. My parents felt they walked away with more from this.

We never know something will happen to either us or our parents. If you have a parent (s) or grandparent (s), I encourage you to ask them simple, interesting, and tough questions. Doing this with my parents and parents-in-law has allowed me to start the new year a lasting inner peace.

Because you can’t ask Why are you like this??, here are a few of the questions but I would tailor it to your own family:

  1. Why did you move to America?
  2. What was your favorite hobby growing up?
  3. Which sibling are you most close with?
  4. We never really got to experience our grandparents, what were they like?
  5. Who was your first friend in America and where are they now?
  6. What was your major in college? What did you want to become?
  7. What is something that surprises you both in a good or bad way about American society?
  8. What’s the biggest parenting advice you’d like to pass down to us?
  9. How would your parents describe you?
  10. Were you scared when you first found out you were going to be a Mom/Dad?
  11. What did you like about your parents?
  12. Tell us something about your parents we don’t know
  13. What was the biggest problem you had growing up?
  14. What’s your greatest fear in life or with your kids?
  15. What’s a belief you compromised on once you moved here?
  16. How would your friends describe you in high school?
Thank you.

Thank you.

Purple Lighting and a Closet Bridezilla

Read time: 5 minutes “Something simple and modern,” is what I tell the Indian wedding decorator. He shows me five more pictures of frilly linens, beaded curtains, floating candles, and purple lighting. They didn’t seem to get it and I don't blame them. Indian weddings have a long history of being everything but “simple” and “modern”. The only thing that’s evolved is the swankiness.

Everything I Never Wanted
Everything I Never Wanted

If I didn’t already have a lot of opinions on weddings before, I definitely do now. With the onslaught of posting pictures from every event, throwing an Indian wedding has gone from pricey to a reckless expense and painstaking formality.

What to expect:

300-1000 guests

Anywhere from 3 to 11 events

Baseless traditions that are either sexist or narcissistic

Lavish gold and diamonds as gifts, boasting a resale value you could never consciously utilize  

Then add on some modesty with brides covering their hair and the grooms wearing ornate turbans

Parents invite all their friends, the bride and groom's’  friends barely make the guest list...

Then there are some traditions I do enjoy, like the central theme of Family:

Everyone in the family will dance

Family and friends take this opportunity to show how much they care - in whatever way

Plenty of jokes, chai, and sleepless nights

And in general, lots of giving

People ask about my wedding planning a few times a week. For someone who’s terrible at celebrating their birthday, I’m doing surprisingly well at answering questions about what it means to have all these events centered around me and my life partner. From the beginning, I knew I had a choice to make: I could care a lot and drive myself into the ground or take a step back and enjoy regular life as my family and friends take over planning till the big day. I chose the latter but I quickly found it to be selfish because weddings are a lot of work.

There’s no way to explain how many decisions have to be made for a wedding. Anyone who’s planned one deserves an honorary degree in Business Administration. Now I have one foot in the trenches of planning and the other obliviously dangling in happiness because life’s been good other than that.

Even if I wanted to not care, its hard not to plan silly details. I come up with new ideas for the events almost everyday but then I remind myself to care less...it's just a few days. However, I also super care about being “different” with my ideas and choices.

For an example: is there another lighting color BESIDES PURPLE that looks good at weddings?!

Please advise.

I wanted to have just one big event which is hilarious because reality will end the event count at six. From the beginning, I’ve fought to keep down the excess but I let my family in on the fun so here we are, excess. In general, it’s better to not fight the traditions, unless you really care about something. And for those few things, fight to the death.

I haven’t hit the apex of wedding chaos yet. I’m assuming the final battle will occur during the week of, when my repressed inner Bridezilla will rise and threaten the survival of my entire gene pool.

Until then, I have a two themes that’s kept me grounded:

Allow for Creative Freedom

Don’t choose vendors based on their work, choose them as you would a business partner. Choose people you believe in, that are passionate, and ones you can trust on the big day. You may want the best decorator or caterer but if they don't show up on time, none of it even matters. Decor, food, photography, videography, and music have one thing in common: creativity. Definitely don’t pre-plan every detail before they even get a chance to think. People need to love what they do so that your pictures, the stage or the songs all turn out incredible because they themselves were allowed to have fun with it.

Establish Values

Decide how much you care about the big day’s details and establish some values on what matters vs. what doesn't. You can’t make everything perfect and you cannot splurge on every aspect for an event (or 4) that lasts a few hours. Once you decide which aspects you care about, it’ll be easy to delegate the others. And it will be much easier to avoid having philosophical debates over table settings with your mom.

Yes

I'd like to share something incredible that happened this weekend. I catch myself doodling when I am stressed. My subconscious finds serenity in drawing an island with palm trees, with a sun that needed more than a corner. I find refuge in the idea of warm sand, ocean sounds and blue horizons. In college, I met this boy who I knew would do anything for me. Any time with Tariq feels like being on this made up island. He kept me sane through tough days in college; brought me snacks, made me laugh. He told me I could write. He is the reason I started this blog. Back then, I never understood how rare that was in a friend. Now we’re both mostly adults, finding it hard to fathom we met freshman year in Astronomy class.

Throughout the years, I noticed that my best ideas came from conversations with him. I was the best me when he was around. This person believes in my ideas, my life. He nurtured my creative spirit. When I finally realized all this about myself and him, I was grateful I wasn’t too late. I guess once you know, you do anything to make it happen. There isn’t a right time, only a right person. Time had a way of shaping us both together and separately. I am lucky to have him, I know that.

Together we will soon start the longest hang out of our lives. There will be tears and laughs on this island but above all, I am ready to CONQUER LIFE TOGETHER.

Of course, I will marry you.

- March 13, 2015 -

On Friday night, Tariq and I were walking through Deep Ellum. He knows how much I love music, especially live music. He knows I attempt to paint but mostly enjoy the idea of others' passions. He gets me, he always has. So we walked into Kettle Art gallery.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

He was poised most of the day beforehand. We were in a little bit of a rush, our dinner reservations were in 15 minutes across the street. I normally do a slow graze when looking at pieces but Tariq pushed me to the back where they were playing music. We stood in in a corner. But then he asked me to turn my attention behind.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

It was a painting of an island, a near replica of my doodles but much, much better. A board stuck in the sand  had "Marry Me?" scribbled and when I turned to face him, he was on his knees.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

I couldnt hear anything, I didn't question the flashing camera lights, and I can't even remember if I said "yes". This was the start of a fast and surprised-filled blur.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

See, I do feels things. I have tear ducts.

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View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

"Can I keep it?"

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

"Yes, you can keep it"

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

Shout out from the Kettle squad.

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View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
IMG_5181
IMG_5181

We could have been there for two minutes or thirty. I have no idea. But when we went to dinner, my best friends - who all equally helped Tariq make this happen - were there to cheer. Sara helped with the idea of an art gallery and canvas. Laura stayed up and worked on it with him. Bijal flew in for a night. Sahar brought the most beautiful, delicious cake. It's overwhelming to know you are friends with some of the greatest humans alive.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

And then my family came, late as usual - wouldn't have it any other way.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

For anyone who doesn't know, most of these people are my sisters.

View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq
View More: http://spencermoonphoto.pass.us/tariq

The surprises, the friends, and the excitement still hasn't stopped.

Deafening Silence: Muslims Against Radical Islam

Until Muslims want more from their people, there is little room for complaint. The anger and frustration against my own religion has been numbed by sadness and displaced acceptance. I want to feel ashamed by the silence I maintain when people around me express their disdain towards my religion, Islam. For some reason, however, I feel no shame. Because I don’t want to feed Islam’s greatest misconceptions, I avoid engaging in frenzied debates or displaying my frustration with strangers and even some friends.

Take a tough moment to sympathize with anyone who has ever degraded you, attacked your most precious beliefs, or has unjustly left you without spirit. Sympathize because everyone hates and everyone is a victim at some point.

Fanatics
Fanatics

It took long, mindful thinking to realize that I too would be left with a bit of inescapable contempt towards Muslims after everything that has happened in the Muslim world. The emotional, physical, verbal attacks against the Western world from Radical Islamists are endless.

Radical mentality cannot exist without and is only supported by stubborn ignorance. The greatest display of ignorance is in the leaders of suppressive governments. Recently, it was the Bush Administration that first discovered the complexities and inanity of Islamic Regimes. And now beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, corruption is unfolding from Tunisia to Indonesia.

Muslims, who live outside the tiny scope of Radical Islam, feel betrayed. They are victims to their own kind. No one retaliates the way militant Muslims do in this era. Their methods are unwarranted and accomplish nothing but notoriety—fueling the ignorance and hypocrisy of fanatical “Muslims”. Despite everything, more people in the United States acknowledge the discrepancies between real Muslims and the fanatics. I am always so proud to be American.

Ignorance exists everywhere but Muslim-Majority nations are letting it cripple their image with the rest of humanity.

The association of terror with Islam cannot be limited to Western ignorance. The fear is perpetuated by false practices of Islam by the militant leaders. Under the guise of morality, extremists in these nations maintained a theocracy—dictated by distorted interpretations of Islam’s holy book, the Quran. They ignore the basic, crucial principles of peace, compassion, and true faith.

Before Muslims can defend themselves against hate, they should condemn radical Muslims for their ignorance.

The Quran is beautiful poetry, outlining the need for compassion, accepting that God gave everyone freewill, and leading a life of humility. Violence is limited to defense, women (especially Mothers) are held with the highest regard, charity is a must, and there should be no limits to education. Yet, these radical leaders and their followers continue to arouse chaos, fight against social reform and keep their people silenced—all in the name of Islam. What validity of faith, peace, and worship exists after acts of any violence?

makkah
makkah

Small cries soon lead to fierce shouts against what was once silence. The chain-reaction of peaceful uprisings against fascists in Africa and the Middle East has enthralled everyone. More than hope, there is now a progressive social reform in the Muslim world. People broke free from dictatorship and corrupt regimes with movements loud enough to show truth in Islam.

Twitter #Jan25
Twitter #Jan25

Islam does not justify suppressing women, burning schools, and stoning adulterers. Although the reality of Radical Islam is difficult to grasp for normal Muslims, we should display spirited defense. Political and social movements took perseverance. The recent efforts in Northern Africa and Middle East are truly noteworthy. For once I know: it can be done. The bubble has burst and the aspirations of modern men and women can no longer be ignored.

Why was it ever so hard for me to say: “I’m a Muslim and my religion does not support that.” That’s almost all it takes.

Break the silence against ignorant, illiterate, radical “Muslims”—the real enemies against Islam.

A Few Things I Learned the Summer After Freshman Year:

1. Being a workaholic is a good thing…until it’s a bad thing. Apparently there is such a thing as being over productive.  I’m always exhausted, forgetful, and feeling out of the loop. Is 20 the new 40? Ick. Finding balance between relaxation,work, studying and eating right has never been so important in my life.

2. There are plate-stealing gnomes in every house.

Ever notice that with time, tons of plates and glasses seem to dwindle down to just a few? Yeah, I’m sure some break with a few accidents. Many are left at your neighbors’ after the potluck but exactly how many? No, not that many. We have to buy new plates, utensils and even cups every year because it seems like they just “disappear”. Give it a rest you filthy cup hoarding gnomes…I’m onto you.

3. Things get worse (sometimes really worse) before they get better.

When shit happens, it really happens. Every time something has gone terribly wrong, it gets worse. I think the best thing to really do is let is all happen. Soak it in. I learn the most when I’m sha-shaken up. I become humble again and learn to get back on my feet with stronger legs. Maybe its karma. Maybe it happened so something even more horrifying is prevented. And after the storm passes, it seems like the sun just shines even more brilliantly.

4. And when things do get worse, look around and see who’s there listening by your side. You will have them forever.

During the worst of times I find myself truly grasping the greatness of my family and friends. The people that encompass my life are probably the most amazing and warming people I have ever encountered. I can only hope to be remotely the same for them.

5. The average person will use college as a crutch- an excuse for all their stupidity. The extraordinary will learn all the lessons offered and only take steps forward.

During my first year, I found myself making excuses for everything I had slipped up on: grades, losing touch, upsetting family, and not keeping things together. The truth is: it’s never really okay.  It’s actually not that all right to throw away time, money, and a valuable education for an extra few hours of sleep or a night out with friends at all. As obvious as this lesson is, its quickly forgotten the next time an opportunity presents itself. There are no excuses- it’s that simple. Work when you’re supposed and have extra fun when you’re done. Some people take it really far and let nothing faze them.  Ignorance, after all, is only a temporary bliss. Fortunately, I haven’t done anything that would cause a scare at the doctor’s office or something regretful. Unfortunately for some, they have. College is awesome.

6. Music is an all purpose remedy.

Need I say more? I could drive down long, scenic routes with Muse on full blast all day. I love discovering new artists. I’ve also started listening to music very differently from before. I’m beginning to grow strong appreciation for artists with amazing compositions. I love all the marriages these days of two very different genres producing one melodious child. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Muse- that shit is truly bananas.

7. Somehow I always remember the little, simple things.

I’m not one to dwell on the past but, during some rare times of nostalgia, I seem to remember the very small, unimportantly important things.

8. Blotchy red walls, that you half-heartedly painted the summer before college, will leave you traumatized for too long.

Its 9:30 AM. What’s the first thing on your mind?

1) I’m hella tired.

2) Ugh, what to wear...

3) Oh, good morning period-stained-like walls.

9. Everyone is artistically inclined in some form or manner.

Either you sing or are an undiscovered, shower version of Beyonce. Or maybe you can dance- especially when you think no one is looking.  Forget singing and dancing, you make sound? Band geeks were always hot. Sometimes people can’t do any of those things too well and they express themselves through pigments or colors of emotion. I even think that acting or writing can be someone’s true niche of artistic comfort as well. AND some people are really annoying and have the capacity for all of these things at once. AND then there are those that realize God peed in their gene pool and can barely do one of these things properly. Regardless of where your niche really is, the fact is that everyone has one (or a few....sluts.)

10. I'm currently in Chocoholics of America Rehab. Kind of.

I can’t just get a chocolate fix with any chocolate. I like my chocolate like I like mah boys: perfect amount of cocoa, mildly sweet and utterly delicious.

Totally kidding about the boys part.

I like girls.

Jk. Not really.

11. If you don’t make time for yourself every once in a while, you’ll lose yourself.

It freaks me out if I don’t get some sort of alone time a few days during the week; just an hour or two to do the things that I like- alone. It’s when I tune out the world and paint that I figure out who matters to me the most in my life. During those long showers is when I realize that something is bothering me. Time alone, regardless of how it’s spent, feels like the itunes sync button. I feel updated, harmonized, and ready to play hah.

Now that I thoroughly feel like I wrote a middle schoolers xanga post, I'd like to thank those who have tolerated this already before.

400+ hits on last post, yayyyuh.

Why WordPress?

I picked up a random issue of GQ the other day. There was this really insightful article about Matt Mullenweg- a typical bachelor in his twenties with a not so typical business. He developed WordPress during his college years in order to innovate and simplify blogging. This is, indeed,  probably the easiest thing ever (with creative potential if you have the skill). I know I have a facebook but I would genuinely feel like a creep if I were a frequent “note” writer because that’s how I perceive those that do. Personally, I feel like this is a great way to organize my thoughts and ideas about global incidents, personal experiences or recent events occurring in our chaotic society. I also really enjoyed writing in high school and hate that I’ve gotten out of that habit since I started college. If I truly plan on achieving all the goals I’ve set for myself, writing will be an imperative skill. This should help.

I’ll try not to make these too long or meaningless. Let me know if you enjoy reading this once I eventually get this going.

Cool.