jazakâ€™Allah khayr for the memoriesâ€¦
– of my primary email account, which must have broken any and all existing records in going over the maximum limit dozens of times over the past few months, and my cell phone bill, which should make me cringe when it arrives any day now.
– of a mother who may not have understood, and a father who did, but both of whom dealt with our event-consumed lives and the constant skipping of household chores with grace and humor, and didnâ€™t lecture us (too much).
– of driving up to Sacramento the day before the event, to pick up some supplies for tabling. I hadnâ€™t counted on the fact that there would be stop-and-go traffic at 3 in the afternoon, that the heat would be so oppressive, that itâ€™d take me over two hours to get there (as opposed to the usual one hour). In the end, though, Somayya and I wandered around Wishing Well like gleeful children in a candy store, laughing our asses off at the decorations and masks and hats and fake boas, ultimately buying cheap tablecloths and tickets and, yes, candy!
– of buying last-minute posterboard, pens, masking tape, and markers from OfficeMax the day of. (Note to self: Next time, do this beforehand, yo.)
– of driving over to UC Berkeley with Somayya and L, listening to Somayya, sitting on the backseat, flipping through my pile of childrens books and reading them in her best imitation of a South Asian accent: â€œâ€˜Papa,â€™ said Monica to her father, â€˜please get the moon for me.â€ (â€œOh!â€ cried Somayya as an aside, still immersed in her fobby accent, â€œthis is a pop-up book!â€) â€œMy God,â€ said L derisively, the non-desi girl who speaks English, Arabic, and French fluently, â€œI can do a better desi accent than that,â€ and proceeded to illustrate with gusto.
– of the mass chaos and confusion and nearly unbearable sound levels that awaited me when I entered Wheeler Hall, of giving the merchants and organizations instructions about where they could table, of dealing with people who didnâ€™t understand why they werenâ€™t allowed to table in the lobby, of S who advised, â€œIf they give you attitude, stand your ground.â€
– of finally picking up our copies of the Burda, and the many, many thoughts of Seher that ran through my mind throughout the day. Remember when you read my post and emailed us to recommend the Burda as soothing? You were so right. Jazakâ€™Allah, woman. You rock for reals.
– of the ten vendors/merchants and the twenty-two organizations who tabled, who with their mere presence lent our event an air of expertise and professionalism. And, from amongst these people, the many who came up to me and said, â€œAhh, so youâ€™re Yasmine! Itâ€™s good to finally meet you.â€
– of the cute little old couple I saw, wandering around inside Wheeler Hall, holding hands, smiling serenely.
– of sitting down to listen to the speeches and performances, only to sprint back up the aisle and out the doors whenever my cell phone vibrated with calls from fellow organizers.
– of praying Dhuhr with Somayya in a peaceful little alcove (actually a side entrance for some campus building), and later praying â€˜Isha shoulder-to-shoulder, along with literally hundreds of others, on a field close by Wheeler, the grass tickling our noses and foreheads during sajdah, looking upwards while making duâ€™a to see the Campanile (the campus tower) beautifully lit up against the dark sky.
– of the countless guys and girls, strangers many of them, who came up to me, hands held out in appeal, pleading, â€œI want to help. Please. Give me something to do.â€
– of constantly being mistaken for my sister. No, we donâ€™t look anything alike.
– of listening to Ali Shayan say, â€œYou have four scholars living amongst you: Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Amir Abdul Malik Ali, Ustadh Suhaib Webb, Imam Zaid Shakir. Iâ€™m only here for one short day, and Iâ€™m running around like crazy trying to figure out how I can meet all these people in the span of one day, whereas you all have the opportunity to see them every single day,â€ and realizing that we truly do take our proximity to these people of knowledge for granted.
– of staring mesmerized (more like, gawking outright) at the sign language interpreter at the front of the room, a woman who calmly and competently displayed her fluency in that mysterious language made up of fluid gestures.
– of the deaf brother tabling for the UC Berkeley MSA, who asked me if I know sign language. No, I donâ€™t, though Iâ€™ve been talking about learning for years.
– of listening to Dr. Sapphire Ahmed say emphatically, â€œDonâ€™t ever ever let anyone judge you,â€ and looking around me, over a sea of faces, seeing people nodding their heads in agreement, knowing that that remark had hit close to home for many.
– of brother W, who must have changed his clothes at least three times that day, finally ending up in traditional clothing, including a mirrored and intricately-embroidered black-and-silver Afghan vest that brought back memories of our own childhood. â€œHey, we used to have black-and-gold vests like that,â€ Somayya told him. â€œI donâ€™t wear gold,â€ he said disdainfully. â€œStop hatinâ€™,â€ she reproved, while he countered that silver could be paired and matched with more items of clothing than gold. And heâ€™s accused us of stealing his style. The nerve. All I know is, he was much easier to find when he was wearing the red t-shirt.
– of racing down to a drugstore just after they had closed up and locked their doors for the day, and the owner who smiled and let us in when we pleaded we had just stopped by for one item.
– of wandering over to the student store for water bottles and getting sidetracked by other things: â€œBlue slurpees!â€ I gasped theatrically. Too bad the blue raspberry slurpee machine was running way slow, and it would have taken me days to fill up a cup. I settled for lime, while Somayya artistically layered her cup with lemon, blue raspberry, and lime. Grand.
– of listening to the Arabic qasidahs near the end of the day, SA and I leaning our heads together and whispering the words along with the performers.
– of the hundreds upon hundreds of people who turned out for the event. We stopped formal registration procedures after the first 800 or so people, yet there were hundreds more milling around, crowds and clusters of diverse folk united by faith in One.
– of the three people who made shahadah. Subhanâ€™Allah. May they always be blessed.
– of L again, who had the strength of spirit to give a plateful of food to a homeless man, one of sadly oh so, so many, sitting against a light pole on Berkeleyâ€™s Telegraph Ave.
– of our dinner two days later with Dr. Sapphire Ahmed, discussing with her politics and religion, medicine and activism. And, after dropping her off, conversing with the Pukhtun traffic control guy at Oakland Airport.
– of the follow-up emails from attendees, organizations, merchants, fellow organizers, congratulating us on a job well-done. Alhamdulillah. And the numerous requests for a video tape of the event. Heck, I want one, too.
People â€“ merchants, organizations, attendees â€“ have asked who was behind all this; what was the â€œbig organizationâ€ behind the event. â€œThere isnâ€™t any,â€ we replied. Although the event was held on the UC Berkeley campus, it was not a UC Berkeley-related event. And although a few Bay Area masajid have pledged to help with our budget issues and out-of-pocket costs, it was not a masjid-sponsored event either.
Itâ€™s just us, a group of mostly college students in the East Bay, trying to figure out ways of livinâ€™ it right.