The Connecticut shooting, in which 26 children died, is still fresh in many minds. I read about the horrific event right after one of my final exams on the 14th. 

The thing with me is that I have multiple defense mechanisms to deal with situations like this, and after all the bad news I have heard in the past 5 years or so, in a way I have become slightly immune. My first reaction is to shut down all emotions and distract myself. When my dad woke me up on January 6th, 2009 at 2 AM to tell me my grandfather had passed away, something we all expected during his battle with cancer, my first reaction was–“Oh. I’m going to go back to sleep now, though, because I have school in the morning”. My dad looked at me, surprised, and said–“You can’t go to school tomorrow. The funeral will be tomorrow”. 

Of course the news was upsetting, but in a way I had seen it coming, and had dealt with it effectively. A part of me wondered if I was that cold, to not have reacted more emotionally. But that is just how I deal with stuff like that. I shut it off, so I don’t react in front of people, but at some point in the future, it hits me. It would hit me when I would go to his house, sitting in the living room and expecting him to walk in any second, well-dressed as always, a military man’s walk, even though he had never been in the military. It’s the same with my grandmother–I somehow knew she would have a stroke. When I heard she was hospitalized, I inwardly screamed, “it’s a stroke”. It could have been anything, really–but my first thought was, it’s a stroke, and when I heard of the paralysis and coma, despite all the prayers and encouraging others that she would miraculously pull through, I knew she wouldn’t make it. A small part of me also wished she would go away peacefully and not in pain, because I knew the kind of woman she was and she would never be able to handle needing help moving around, or even going to the bathroom with assistance because half her body was paralyzed. While everyone in the family was fighting about whether or not to pull the plug, she slowly slipped away during the night. 

The last time I saw her was in the hospital, while she was in a coma. But the last good memory I have of her is the day before, when I had been over at her house for dinner. We had left when I realized I left my cell phone behind, and I had run back in, grabbed my phone and then run to the door to put my shoes on. I had hesitated, wondering if I should hug her goodbye again, but it was cold outside, I had my shoes and jacket on, and I had already done that just minutes before. So I looked back at her, comfortably lounging on the sofa, awfully bright lights around her, and she smiled, waved, and returned my greeting of Khuda-Hafiz. The image is now blurred in my mind, and for some reason I picture her wearing a yellow outfit, even though she never wore yellow again after my grandfather passed away. 

So what at am I getting at here? Yesterday, while at my uncle’s house for a religious event, I had the constant urge to go greet my grandma. That was always the first thing we would do everything–go find Nana and hug her, say ‘Adaab’ to her. It’s been 8 months since she has passed away, and I miss her greatly. But it’s not a constant ache, it just happens suddenly, when I’m at her house and there isn’t candy hiding in that special drawer, away from all the other kids but saved for my sisters and myself. When I’m sitting in the basement during a family get-together, remembering that I didn’t greet her. 

While thinking about all this yesterday, and looking at the Christmas decorations, another thought struck me. “Think of all those quiet, empty homes on Christmas this year, parents that lost their children in that Connecticut shooting”, I told my sister. Now, my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, so I don’t know much about how it works. But I do know that while most people were out shopping for Christmas presents, standing in a long line for those really popular shoes or game, some parents were burying their young children. Ages 5-10, these kids didn’t get to celebrate Christmas this year, get those presents their parents had bought for them, have that eggnog, that special family time, snowball fights, winter break. All of it. That thought has left me upset since yesterday. I feel really horrible while trying to do things like watch a movie or listen to music. I feel like I should be doing something else, something meaningful, and I’m not quite sure of what it should be. 

In other news, a high school classmate of mine who had been struggling with a brain tumor since 2008 passed away yesterday. I didn’t know Miles very well, had only seen him around a few times and had a very small interaction in the form of a group project last year, but he really did seem like a great guy. I would probably never admit this otherwise, but I really did want to be friends with him since freshman year. Except, I’m not a very gutsy person, and since I didn’t really have any classes with him, that never happened. I have seen the jokes website that was created for him, and have seen some of his blog posts, and I’m not just saying this because he was some cancer kid and you always say nice things about them –he seemed like a wonderful guy, full of life, pulling strong. He was a fighter. Despite all his chemo and bouncing from and to hospitals, he worked hard and got into an Ivy League school, and fought the cancer like a champ. His story is inspiring and really gives me hope. 

Rest in Peace, Miles. 

hello to you, sunny road


Noun.  The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
A few weeks ago, in one of my classes, the teacher asked a question that only one person answered honestly. I don’t remember the specifics, or how exactly we got on the topic, but she wanted to know: Who here, considers themselves a feminist?
And I don’t know if this happened, or if it was just a feeling I got, but a few guys in the row in front of me turned around and looked right at me.
Now, I participated a lot in that class. Always had an opinion on something we read. There aren’t many girls in that class, and I sat with a few of them in the second row. So it is very likely that they were just looking around at all the girls to see who was raising their hand and who wasn’t. But a part of me felt that some people looked at me specifically–even though they do not know me that well– because they were 100% certain that, the very opinionated me would definitely raise her hand, especially because I have pointed out the male v. female dynamic in the novels that we have read.
My initial instinct was to keep my hand down, glare back at these guys and restraint myself from snapping, What? Although my expression did scream it, I kept the words in. The teacher glanced around the room, and only one hand was raised. This professor has published many works on feminism, so to me this was a topic that should be approached cautiously. I had the strong urge to raise my hand, high and proud. Self-preservation kicked in instantly though, and I immediately shut that urge down. 
I told myself–I’m not going to raise my hand because if she asks what makes me a feminist I would not be able to explain it. This. This feeling of self-doubt, of not feeling like I hold a solid stance on anything, of being doubtful of my own beliefs. It is not a fun feeling. I don’t even know why it has come up this year, but it has, and it messes up everything. But that’s not what I’m getting at.
The point is: I am easily swayed. I’ll be passionate about something, but one question that I don’t have the answer to, and suddenly I’m a deflated balloon. I have no idea what to say, and I start scrambling to regain some control, to make an argument without raising my voice (according to my sister, I try to win an argument by screaming the loudest, HA) and just have a SOLID stance. I just wish everything was black and white sometimes, you know? That I could be either a feminist or not a feminist, and not somewhere in the middle.

The truth? I’m hardcore all for women’s rights, to vote (DONE in the 1920s), to work (HAPPENING ALREADY), to exist (Well, yeah), to get equal pay (Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act!), and of being independent in general. But there’s a small part of me that’s obsessed with those characters in Jane Austen’s novels who just want to be wined and dined and serenaded. I just grew up with those books and movies, and I’m really embarrassed about it, okay? And I know it’s what I believe and I shouldn’t care about what people think but I do. I can’t stop it. No matter how many times you tell me over and over, DON’T CARE WHAT PEOPLE THINK, I physically cannot stop my mind from wandering to that, and obsessing over every little thing I do in public. It’s just me. Can’t help it.

But I digress. The point is, I’m against the oppression of women in the name of religion, and the idea that a woman belongs in the kitchen. But I feel like the word “feminist” has negative connotations. It feels like a radical movement where women obsess over every little thing that men do and make it sound like it’s anti-feminist. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. It’s just how I see it though–plus, and YES, this is a tad bit ridiculous, but we have to admit there are some things that women just haven’t been the best at (examples of political leaders that ended up being corrupt or doing something crippling the image of strong, capable female leaders in the so-called ‘East’ — Benazir Bhutto, Indira Gandhi, Sheikh Hasina), and could definitely use improvement in. Just sayin’.