[You can check out some more Zaytuna photos from a few weeks ago here, if you are so inclined.]
I spent most of last Saturday with my sister, as we went on a manic event-hopping spree that consisted of the Birth of a Prophet program at UC Berkeley, the South Asian [INDUS] culture show also on campus, and finally the Burdah [Poem of the Cloak] recitation at Zaytuna Institute in Hayward.
The evening before, our father asked pointedly, “Don’t you think it’s strange to go to a religious program and then a culture show right afterward?”
Well…no. Not at all. Not when he raised me to love and respect and take pride in both, so that I celebrate both on a daily basis. Celebrating as a group, with hundreds of other people who feel the same way? Even more rocking, is what.
I know my sister was disappointed that the mawlid program at Berkeley was not as lively and inspiring as last year’s, and that later we didn’t even get to enjoy the entire culture show because we had to head out to Zaytuna, where we only stayed for about half an hour. The day seriously had a hit-n-run sort of feel to it.
But I don’t think Saturday was a total lost cause, though:
There was the young man rocking it up to the radio (or the music in his head?) while driving on Foothill Blvd. in Hayward. Or was that Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley? Wherever it was, he was clearly having fun, and we enjoyed watching the physical, arm-waving, head-bopping manifestation of his spazzed-out rockstar bliss.
There was the little boy named Daniel, about four years old, who lay spread-eagled on the floor where we were all seated after the mawlid program and repeatedly propped his feet against my back while I tried not to shake with laughter and scare him away.
There was the guy at the coffee shop who took my order and asked curiously, “Did you used to swim when you were young?”
“No, I can’t even swim!” I sputtered in surprise at the random question.
He laughed, and began to turn away.
“Wait,” I said, confused, “but what made you think of asking me that?”
“Oh, nothing, we were just talking about swimming.”
“Yeah, well, I still need to get with that program.”
He shook his head, smiling. “Don’t worry about it too much, you’re okay without knowing.”
There was the fact that I sat through (part of) a South Asian culture show and actually enjoyed myself, although I think my alma mater held better ones. There was the fact that I’m somewhat over the desi-phobia that initially made me flinch from attending such events. (In fact, I texted Somayya at the beginning of Saturday’s program with, I’m at the desi culture show at Cal. Remember our freshman year, when we left all early? – a mere fifteen minutes after it had started, to be precise, because we felt claustrophobic surrounded by so many South Asians and especially despised the men sitting behind us for so obviously talking smack about us in Punjabi as if we would not understand – Good times!)
There were all the beautiful people I love to see, both in Berkeley and at Zaytuna. And the gorgeous Burdah recitation. And spending most of the day with my sister.
There was the fact that I re-discovered my love for the video feature on my digital camera, and used it extensively that day. So I have videos/audios for some of the tabla and bhangra from the culture show, as well as some of the Zaytuna Burdah recitation, if anyone wants! [The videos are kinda not all that – since they’re grainy, and apparently my 12x zoom is only for photographs and not for videos, and also because I can’t sit still for lengthy periods of time so they’re kinda shaky – and at Zaytuna I just aimed straight at the carpet instead of at the sea of faces surrounding me while I was recording, so there’s nothing to see, really, but the audio part is fun in all cases, so let me know if you want me to share. Bhangra is rocking. You know you love it.]
By the way – To the person who recently searched my weblog for “Zaytuna”: I hope you found what you were looking for. In curiosity, I performed the same search myself, and came across this post I had completely forgotten about. Thank you for the inadvertent reminder towards activism and accountability.
Driving home that night, we played our own copy of the Burdah, and midway through the ride I was stung by a sharp, split-second stab of grief. Tentatively reflecting on it, much as one touches or prods a sore area to discover where physical pain originates, I finally remembered it was because I continue to subconsciously associate the Burdah with this day, just as little red cars remind me of this day and bubble bottles of this one. Driving home late at night on empty roads? Deja vu sometimes when seeing my face in the dresser mirror as I’m pinning my headwrap? Check, and check. We find the deepest, most painful memories in the most mundane things.
Still, amidst random moments of grief, there are stories like this beautiful one.
As my favorite imam says, “Every Friday is Eid. Every day is our Eid.”
As Suheir Hammad writes, Affirm life.
Or, as I would say, Stand in the sunshine and dance, if you know how to. -Someday, I will learn, and join you, too.
Sing, even if you can’t really carry a tune in a bucket; if you sound like an eight-year-old boy with a perpetually stuffy nose, then so be it. -I’ll throw caution to the winds, and chime in; we can be eight-year-old boys together.
Maybe it’s all about what the coffee shop guy was saying after all: We’re okay even without knowing. Might as well quit worrying and just live it up anyway.