Tuesday, 30 June 2009

its getting hot in here!!

I couldn’t sleep last night, the heat seemed to be seeping in through the heavy red sandstone of my apartment block, sucking the humidity and coolness out of my bedroom. Heat is a rare commodity here in Scotland, and as a result, almost all of the major outlets have actually sold out of fans!! While the wasps haven’t quite bombarded us yet (every one knows of my phobia!), the flies certainly have! They are worse than Pakistan; at least in Karachi they flutter through one window, and vanish out of the next exit point they find! Here, they enter sneakily through cracks and linger over food, inside shoes and in the high recesses of my living room sealing! But sleep is only the start of it! When you finally shower and dress and sweat and get out of the house and sweat some more, you have the constant stairs, and all those who simply cannot comprehend how you can remain fully clothed in such hot weather!! “you are crazy! How do you keep all that on; don’t you get hot?” (and that’s just my dad!). “don’t you get hot without it? The burns all over your ass seem to indicate that you do!”, of course, none of this I say; like a good Muslima should, I grit my teeth, practise mental linguistic programming and so find myself walking along a moonlit beech with the heat of the day still deep in the golden sand under foot, Zuhair is holding my hand, we find a quiet corner and ….., OK I’ll stop now!!!
Back in the real world, All this stuffiness kept me awake, and I woke up to a rather strange day! Auntie Kamar’s daughter past away early this morning; aged 15, which came as a huge shock to us all. Her impairment was something which slid between the autistic spectrum and downs syndrome, but it seemed to cause her increased distress and a very weak heart. I was brought down to earth with a thud when I heard this tragic news, wondering how in the world a family comes to terms with losing a child in this way. Only last week, Anees and myself were discussing the tragedy that was losing Narjiss. When she left us, we lost a sister, a friend, and most importantly, Zara lost a mother. For auntie Kamar, she has lost a daughter, but a direction too; Asiya and Maryam have lost a sister, and our tiny community have lost another of our own, and each time we lose some one, we lose a link that binds us, we lose part of our own selves, and this is a difficult thing to reconcile. After getting my head around this, I rushed out to work; being late, I jumped in a cab, all too quickly to discover that the taxi driver was a fundamentalist Zionist, who held me entirely responsible, for the middle east crisis, Palestine, and the crude battles (as he saw them), committed in the name of Islam by the Prophet Mohammed! (PBUH). Under normal circumstances I’d perhaps try to take on a person like this, point them in the direction of some useful learning material, or at least give them some food for thought, but hey! I’d just heard of a friend passing away, and I was late for work!! Not quite what one needs on a Tuesday morning!
Any way, I finally arrived in one piece, and slept through another long and laborious staff meeting (yon yon!), but came out to find an Email from the Scottish Islamic foundation, inviting me to join their board!! I had applied to become a director a few months ago, not expecting to hear any thing at all, so you can imagine my shock when they asked me to join them! For a disabled woman who is a very active shia revert, this is momentous to say the least! First meeting is on the 10th of July, so will update you then! For now, I need to go off and fix up my Iraq flights; have made a mess of the London part! And bemoan the first of July; (remember remember the 1st of July!), …, OK so that doesn’t work!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

the verdict!

You guessed right; I didn’t get it!! Exactly a week after the interview, as I sit at my desk, wearing the same clothes I wore that day, and pestering colleagues at GCIL to tell me the verdict. I bothered them since morning, till my anxiousness must have reached their HR dept, and as an afterthought, she took it upon herself to Email me the rejection letter! I mean, couldn’t that all have been done on Monday? I am gutted about it, as I now realise that subconsciously, I had allot riding on this job!! It was a way out, an escape from the current work situation I find myself in, and having to face the boss in question should he return. That said, if I look at my career to date, too much of it has been about flipping hopelessly from one disaster till the next, and my fear is that I won’t break this cycle till the temporary supports I’ve built around me come crashing in around me; my home, my work, my personal life, every thing. Its ironic, yet significant, that on the 1st of Rajab, and the first Thursday of rajab too, (such a blessed and auspicious day), that brings this news to me. It might hurt a little, (well OK, it hurts allot!), but it reminds me of Imam Ali (A.S), and his reminder that one should be extremely careful what one prays/wishes for, as those very things might be granted to you! I can’t forget how intensely I desired this job last year!! I was so certain that it would bring me the professional contentment and satisfaction I had been craving! Now, 8 months on, the result of that craving is before your eyes! I need to use rajab, and in particular my ziyarat trip to seriously contemplate what in the world I am doing with my existence right now. Too many survivors accept the chaos that dictates their every move; few of them break the pattern! I am not unrealistic about life as it is; I don’t expect the earth to move and all to change, but I need to regain something of the energy that used to single me out, so that when muherram comes around again, I can face my imam with at least a handful of deeds that make me worthy of performing his ziyarat, and offering him my azadari. Please, remember me in your duas, today is a dark, yet a deep day for me.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

life in limbo

So our conference on Monday was successful, interesting, thought provoking, yet hot, tiring and very, very, very long!! The day began for me at 6 AM, that gave me long enough to wake up, take my drugs and allow for any throwing up which might have been needed as a result of downing the drugs so early. Then a hot shower, wash and style my hair, deliberate over what would be suitable yet cool to ware for the long hot day, some light breakfast, a few more drugs which need to be taken after food, and then get myself to the venue in question. I as there by 8.30, to set up for a press conference which no one but no one had the good grace to attend, or the conscience to inform me of their intention not to do so. Then there was the set-up of the room, Monday morning chat, the gathering of the clans (members), and finally the AGM, which started too late and dragged on too long owing to poor organisation. A good lunch was had by all, but by the time the afternoon session commenced at 1.30, the room had reached a critical temperature, the air and creativity was zapped from the room and a dull throbbing in my head began, which started at the edges, and then slowly penetrated through my chest and joints making each and every part of me ache. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I landed up perched next to the most loud, ignorant and annoying of our directors, (who shall remain nameless, but answers on a postcard!). I gave up after a while, grabbed the only jug of cold water and took it, and the pedestal fan to a corner by the window, one arm draped across the window sill, the other hugging the fan! That said, the presentation from the information commissioners office was truly wonderful! His passion and in-depth practical knowledge of his subject was both motivational and inspirational. People seemed to enjoy the day, and got well engaged in the debate afterwards, which by far should have ran on longer than the hot air gaps which seemed to proceed all that took place! We all got a good debriefing afterwards too, but there was something in the room that seemed to suck the life out of me. When I reached home, I changed my clothes, freshened up and dissolved in a heap on the bed, falling fast asleep and was barely able to open my eyes again till last night! I hate living like this, just scrapping by from one day to the next, with no direction, no energy, and even if I have a plan of action, I rarely find the strength and mental agility to carry it out on days like that. Needless to say, I was not at work yesterday, I heard nothing back about the job interview last week, and missed the last part of the women’s course I had been attending. Zuhair wrote something wonderful on his blog about how pain killers had affected him when he’d been forced to take a cocktail of drugs back at the beginning of May. I’m sure the poor guy has been struck down by nazr like me, not least because his scans thus far have revealed nothing. Its great that he is posting again, it’s the only insight I have to his world now, and the medication post just gave me that quiet, comfortable assurance that when all else fails, I am not the only one, and sometimes that is all you need. On the other hand (from one Z to another!), Zahid rang me from Karachi, he is back from Bangladesh, sparkling and idealistic as always, pleased with the seminars he held there. The Karachi heat and load shedding seem to be getting to him though; his one track mind rather ran away with him at frequent junctures during our talks, and he went on to remind me, (at least 4 times!), on how my life has become stuck in a rut!! Nice!! Just the encouragement, hope and energy I needed! There is an add for BT internet these days that shows the consequences of one’s life spiralling out of control. I relate to it so much when I watch it, but not because I can’t manage the buzz any more, rather because there is no buzz to manage!! The rishta I saw on Saturday was worse than awful, Reza is backing off (at least, I feel so), and the Birmingham stocker persists! While Zuhair’s rant on meds soothed me on one side, it took violently from the other, (a promising relationship? Huh? What happened there!), the last time we talked, he stressed his inability to contemplate relationships just now, which hurt like all hell, but I accepted the inevitable, trying to hide my pain and praying this would raise me in his eyes, but another relationship? I have my suspicions, but as the 1st July looms, its opened up a whole new can of worms, (or perhaps what I really mean is an old one that I’ve never been able to, or have never desired to shut down over the last 2 years), I don’t know if I love Zuhair, or if it is the constant preoccupation with what I can’t have that keeps me hanging on, but life is empty without him, and if only for one moment, I’d love to feel what it was like to shine out in the surroundings of his love and belief in me. Back in the real world, I’m still in Paisley, its hot, humid and miserable, its lunch time, I need chocolate, my eyebrows need threading, and I need news on this God dam job so badly it hurts!

Friday, 19 June 2009

some sparks from tubelight land

Well hello there!! It feels like an eternity since I’ve blogged; largely because about a day after I submitted my last post here, my internet connection at home decided it wouldn’t work, and the engineer, (in his own tempestuous wisdom), still hasn’t got to me!! Why is it, that IT guys seem to insist on exuding an air of mysticism which makes them somehow ethereal and unapproachable; I actually find myself apologising to this guy when I call him, asking with all the tact I can muster (which is dam tough for me!), when exactly he is planning to grace me with his presence, (I am paying him after all God dam it!!

Any way; significant things to update you on:

1. Went with the family to see ‘the war of the worlds last week (pictures soon to follow!). It was truly phenomenal; a once in a lifetime experience, and worked some way to smoothing things over in terms of the family feud (though things are still very tense back home!).

2. Had a job interview yesterday, and am incredibly tense about the result (please, pray with all your might that I get it, there is little more of this God forsaken place I can take, and a decision should be out regarding the deadly director very soon!).

3. Love life! Very complicated!! Reza has been looking in to a PHD programme in Canada, which would mean a positive move for both of us, only, being together still seems like a long way off; am I just being way too cynical? Or just realistic! I just don’t know!! A blast from my past has reappeared too, after marrying the wrong person (for the 3rd time), has suddenly decided that I was the right one for him all along! (I know! Don’t say it!), all this is too surreal for words, at first I was quite flattered; we are very good mates despite all the crap that came between us, and I actually started to think we might work it out, but the inevitable happened; truth ruled out and I’ve claimed head space, (a polite way of saying; bolt!). As if that wasn’t enough, I’m off to see another rishta tomorrow (who sounds like he is totally unsuitable; but it will be fun all the same!).

4. FOI.

5. Inclusion Scotland will be launching its Freedom of information report this coming Monday (more info to follow!), all very exciting stuff; the report is on accessible housing, and the inability on the part of local authorities to deliver the goods where and when it counts! The stats are shocking and the report doesn’t miss any one and hit the wall! But people are listening; we’ve got plenty of messages of support, and our policy officer will be meeting Trevor Philips in a couple of weeks, so all good in the hood!

6. Last, but by no means least; the Revert Muslim Conference!

7. It is with regret, that we’ve had to postpone the UK RMA conference in August, we just didn’t have the funds together, we couldn’t confirm speakers, and the Islamic centre seemed reluctant to confirm the venue with me, possibly because I’m new on the scene, and not one of the London political massive! I feel bad, as though my health dips, work commitments and ziyarat preparations have taken over, I know Shaykh Zakaria is pretty hacked off with me, but if I am to do this, I want it done properly; while people do offer all the help in the beginning, they tend to just want comfortable desk jobs, which are in short supply when arranging events like that! In any case; the conference shall go ahead Insha Allah, either later in the year, or after Muherram in the New Year, just keep RMA and our work in your prayers please!

Right; its Friday, and its chucking out time; I need to get myself out of the office; will blog more next week, and even more when my beloved computer/internet is finally restored to me!

Peace!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The trouble with being me!

I never fail to be amazed at just how relative progress can be; you can find yourself sitting comfortably in the false sense of security that occurs when something is going well on the surface, but it only takes one small ripple, a bubble of discontent to immerge, to make you realise that, in reality, the 10 years of progress you believed you had made, meant nothing at all!
I was reminded of this during an encounter with my mother earlier on this morning. Since reverting to Islam 11 years ago, I’ve had a very delicate, somewhat fractious and often superficial relationship with my parents. They chose to ignore/overlook my reversion at 14, believing it to be a faze I was going through; I even remember my mum laughing casually with a friend saying: “it could be worse; she could be taking drugs!”
Despite my rash nature and immaturity at that time, I was sensible enough to water down my religion for the duration of my time at home, seeing that over zealousness in this department was only adding fuel to their fire, and regardless of how much I desired to learn and practise Islam, I held back, preferring to attempt bridge building before walking out of the house. My company at that time (Islamic company that is), was essentially wahabi, and many told me vehemently that leaving home was, (and should have been), my preferred option. This troubled me, (and it troubles me deeper still when I see that such ignorance is still preached to reverts by many so-called Muslims!). I tried never the less, to remain at home, with very little support or backing from the Muslim community. When the possibility of marriage came along, I jumped at it! Even though marriage couldn’t have been further from my agenda at 18, it offered me a get-out claws, a safe, secure and respectable way of leaving home and carving a new Muslim identity for myself, with a Muslim husband, within a Muslim family. I was even naive enough to merely assume, that over time, and following the birth of children, things would level out with the family, I didn’t expect things to be perfect, but I thought we might at least reach a level where we respected the mutual differences of the other, and perhaps even shared and enjoyed in those accessible cultural practises we could share, (Christmas, eid and the like).
Some of you more experienced reverts out there will have doubtless guessed where this is going! As predicted, the marriage news fell like a led balloon when my parents came to know of it! the news was compounded by the fact that my husband couldn’t have been any further than my parent’s idea of “suitable”. He spoke rough Urdu and perfect Punjabi where my English was eloquent and cultured, I was intuitive where he was practical, I was outgoing where he was silent, and despite my basic schooling, I had qualifications and good prospects, while my betrothed was a man of the land, who was working in a restaurant, with absolutely no desire to learn daily English, never mind gain a University degree! We were the most unlikely match for one another, yet we somehow worked! He taught me Urdu, and then Islam, (and cooked a mean curry!), while I struggled to inculcate the rudiments of English, and flailed around clutching at the straws of practicality necessary to build a home and start a family. But while I studied, took on some voluntary work and even bagged a top job in broadcasting, my husband remained at the restaurant, making no progress at all. In fact, the only thing that had changed about our hand-to-mouth chaos was, I now had a job, and money to feed us, while my husband held pure resentment for my newfound status and confidence, and felt I was becoming too “white”, rather than the shy, tame traditional female he married 3 years previously!
The only bright spark that came out of all this, was with my family, they loved the “poor girl made good”, that I had grown to be in their eyes. A blind girl, “forced to marry an Asian Muslim” (again, as they saw it!), but all the same, still managing to become a successful broadcaster and excel in her chosen professional and social spheres respectively. They were happier still when, a few months later, my husband left for Pakistan with his UK visa (giving me ‘talaaq on route!). They pretended to feel my pain and even share it, but in reality I kept it from them. Their every gesture was spiked with unflinching “we told you so’s”, which were so cold and unfeeling, that I knew it was pointless to try and tell them that “I knew too!”, and that actually, the marriage, and the divorce were all part of my journey. I let these things go, and instead went overseas and took a job in a totally different environment, far from the past, the pain and my parents, where I could lick my wounds and start a new!
The plan worked, and the family were even happier with the strong, courageous and independent female who returned to them, (I could even get in to size 12s then, which in my mother’s eyes made me nothing short of a Fashion Goddess!).
For the 3 years that followed, we lived a fairly humdrum existence, things were better between them and me, not because of my work, my travels or my appearance! Things were good for one reason and one reason only; since the break-down of my marriage, Islam had not figured any where on my radar! It was a knee-jerk reaction of course; poorly reasoned and never thought through!
My explanation to any one who had the misfortune to listen, said that if all Muslims were cheep, pathetic, evil vindictive users who saw women as nothing more than sex objects and vehicles for securing UK citizenship, then I didn’t want to be among them, and would much rather be the typical run of the mill Western female that my parents wished them to be. Foolish as it may sound to some, sharing a glass of wine with my dad, sunbathing with the family on the back deck or going to a family party actually gave me a fundamental sense of belonging that I’d never ever known before. My “normality”, made them happy, and right there and then, their happiness was enough for me.
All that changed in late 2006, when I rediscovered Islam for myself. I stumbled back to my fitra, purely by accident, after reading a novel by ‘DR Syed Ikram Hussain Abidi, (see www.abidis.org).
DR Abidi (or Shabber as he prefers to be known), is a medical doctor, with a holistic view towards learning and teaching Islam. He has written a number of fictional novels, each with a profound yet subtle Islamic undertone, and it was his novel ‘hijaab Waali (or the Valed girl), which plucked certain chords in my heart. Moreover, the Novel introduced me to the ‘Ahlulbaytes, (or the shia) school of Islam, which finally provided me with the Islamic peace, belonging and answers I had so desperately been searching for. I finally put the pain of my failed marriage to rest, and started to make the obvious, yet prior to unchartered distinction between Islam (as a faith/way of life), and Muslims, (who are only human after all!). My contentment and well-being within my rekindled faith was something so natural, so elemental, that it never occurred to me that I should discuss it with work colleagues, with friends, or, (with my family!). I simply started praying, eating halal again and, (for the first time!), wearing the hijaab (or head scarf).
The scarf, was to be the only stumbling block for my traditionalist and fundamentalist Christian family. The irony is that, while my family do not practise Christianity in any way, shape or form, they take on what they believe to be “Christian values”, whenever any thing threatens their comfortably blinkered life, and while most Christians would actually prefer their daughters to dress modestly than other wise, my parents would most certainly be much happier if I were to walk out of my home half naked than wearing an abaya and a head scarf! Here too, I tried to play this down for a while; (wearing long skirts and shirts, trousers and long jumpers with short, stylish hijaabs to cushion the blow as far as was realistic), but this too had to reach a head somewhere. I even took the scarf off when out with my Grandparents or my father, (those who showed the most hatred and resistance) though felt intense shame when I was seen by a member of the Muslim community without my scarf. In moments of solitude, I’d often ask myself how long this would last; I am 26 now; would I continue fearing my parents and shying away from their disapproval till I was 30? 40? 50 even? When would I draw a line! And why was their approval so important to me any way? had I ever gained any thing tangible from it in the past? My professional and media profile began to grow slowly and steadily within an Islamic context, and as it grew, so did my confidence in my own skin! Taking refuge in the example of the hijaab of Saeeda Zeynab (A.S), I took on the Abaya with style, grace, elegance, confidence and piety. The fears and doubts still clouded my mind when I visited the family, (I still hid in the kitchen to put on my hijaab, and then rushed out the door whenever dad was at home!), but on the whole, things were much better than before (or, so I thought!).

Back to today! And I’m towelling off after my morning shower; preparing for my hospital appointment which mum was to accompany me to, and trying not to melt in the intense heat of the sunlight streaming in through the bathroom skylights. I commented to mum that my dad didn’t seem well to me, that he was quiet, with drawn and hadn’t seemed too interested in talking with me when I had arrived at their home the night before. Out of no where, my mother yelled in retort: “it’s the way you dress!! Its hard, very hard for him, don’t you realise that? Don’t you feel any shame in walking around like the sight you are embarrassing us?” I stood wrapped in my towel, open mouthed and overcome with shock! Where had this come from? Was I really that ignorant and oblivious to what was going on, or had this really come as a bolt from the blue? She went on:
“you and your friends might enjoy criticising us, saying we should be more understanding, but they have never disobeyed and shamed their parents in the way that you have! How would their parents feel if they were to become Christian?”. Now; this was familiar!! This was reminiscent of all the allegations fired at me 10 years ago! I kept my cool; reminded my mother that many people Revert to Islam every day, I have many friends in this position, and in the majority of cases, things do level out with respect to their non-Muslim families. My mother however, (who by choice has never constructively engaged in dialogue with a revert, or any other Muslim in her life), chose not to hear this, she accused me of not talking them through my conversion seriously, and said that all of the difficulties they were now facing, were entirely my fault! The long and short of this rant was, she felt I should review my position within the family; either “be straight” with them, (which I took to mean leaving Islam in this case, or at least open observance of it), or else living and behaving like a “real” member of their family, (real, being any one who doesn’t wear abaya and Hijaab!), my parents are not at all doctrinal; (neither of them as even read the bible cover to cover! But the appearance is all important, and the hijaab, with all its terrorist and fundamentalist undertones, simply has to out!).

The hospital appointment, and the few hours we spent subsequent were tense and heart rendering for me. While my mum tired her best to be normal, I found it hard to relax, engage in casual conversation and shopping etc. I felt displaced, wounded, hurt and more dark and alone than I’ve felt in a very long time. In a matter of seconds, the time taken to immerge from a cold shower and dress, I had stepped back 10 years in time with my mum, any apparent good work that had been done now lay in ruins at my feet, and whether true or not, I felt solely responsible for the alleged betrayals and carnage my parents claimed had been inflicted on them. The extended account above is not any thing new, in fact revert Muslims go through all of this, and more (and worse!), on a daily basis. Some are thrown out from their family homes, others are disowned, verbally or physically abused for their beliefs. Embracing Islam is not the bed of roses that many in the community perceive it to be. I remember my reversion being celebrated by the city; Muslims from every where, congratulating me, shaking hands, giving gifts, prayers and offers of support. I was a constant dinner guest for months at some of the most prominent Muslim houses in town, and was never short of a place to break fast during my first Ramadhan! As time passes however, these enthusiastic companions move on to the next new recruit; they might call once in a while, they might meet you at eid prayer, but that’s about as far as most are willing to go. Soon, eids drift in to insignificance, and the long nights of ramadhan are cold and lonely when you don’t have any one to eat or pray with. When I was flavour of the month however, I do remember discussing my family with many of them, and being tutted and sighed over: “make dua sister! Pray that they too find Islam some day!”, (naturally, those are prayers I do make, but is reversion really all we are dealing with here? Like other fundamentalist number crunchers in the faith world, have we too simply been reduced to a fickle figure game?). Those more ambitious reverts, who had travelled that road before me, did occasionally volunteer to meet with my parents, (which meant a great deal, even though I knew that neither of them would ever agree to meet a Muslim! Socially or other wise!). So, there you have it! stalemate! Here things remain and here they will doubtless stay for another 10 years! My parents and I, dancing around each other in apparent indignation, neither strong enough to challenge the other, our words and actions fringed with cynicism, anger and indifference, while the blood ties that join us only grow weaker and weaker! I watched my maternal family disintegrate slowly and painfully through-out my childhood, and now me, the last in the generation (if I do not marry again!), have to watch the same thing happen to my parents and me. Who is to blame? (probably no one!), or possibly even all of us. All 3 of us are new to this after all, and the pressure on humanity to homogenise and conform is phenomenal as the electronic and print media continue to bombard us with perpetual subversive references towards what is “normal” “desirable” and “sought after”
I am none of these for my parents, and Islam is far from the in thing these days! But surely if the preaching is to be believed, we are all one umma! A community, a tribe (a family!), who feels the pain of one member just as though it were a collective agony! But where are the mentors for Reverts? Where is the integration, when born Muslims do not welcome “goray” (Muslim or other wise), in to their families for marriage, and the mosques are still preaching Friday sermons in Urdu, Arabic or Punjabi!
This week, Shaykh Amer Jamil launches a campaign to encourage the mosques of Glasgow to vote for English sermons and more Inclusive mosques, tell them what you think by voting on; www.scottishislamic.org
English sermons and integration won’t move mountains with my parents, but perhaps, if mosques come together with new Muslims and the organisations that support them, then just maybe, disillusioned bloggers like me won’t be writing 5-paged rants like this one in 10 years time! (Insha Allah!).

Monday, 1 June 2009

excellent hustings event!

What a hot, yet productive day its been!! Slept late and woke up late after furiously working on some way overdue stuff for the RMA conference last night, and slept in because I thought I didn’t have to be at work till the afternoon! My colleague however, text me all too late to tell me there was an event in the morning that I was needed for, so yours truly crawled out of bed, got ready at a snails pace and arrived at the venue an hour late!! I got away with it though; we were only manning a stall in the morning, and as most of the conference delegates were in workshops, seminars etc, no one particularly noticed my entrance!! (apart from a particularly annoying family friend, who insisted in blurting out that she’d not seen me during the 10 AM opening and registration!).

The event in Question, was the 3rd Annual Learning festival and AGM, organised by Glasgow Disability Alliance. The founder and Manager of GDA, Tressa Burke, is a director on our board, and is some one I’ve worked with in previous jobs too. She is highly motivated, passionate, committed and inspirational, and one of the few disability activists that I hold in high esteem. Her passion and dedication shone through each and every aspect of the event today, as always with GDA Events, it was organised with incredible efficiency and detail, excellent accessibility and support, great food and workshops/stalls and events to suit all tastes! The high point however, had to be the hustings event in the afternoon, chaired by Lesley Riddoch! (and boy did she rock!). In True Riddoch style, she rocked the audience in to a frenzy of questioning, hooting and debating, (If only the BBC had displayed wisdom/equality enough to record it!). Those who know me are bound to accuse me of bias at this juncture (I did work for Lesley after all!), but since MR. J shot to power in radio Scotland, Lesley was swept off the air along with the rest of their quality output, and she is a real loss in so many ways! During the questioning, I did (as any true nationalist should!), brought up the issue of Independence, and quizzed the SNP candidate, (who was not the MEP standing, but a representative for the man himself, who had to rush off owing to his son being ill). There was some debate over whether my question meant that I was asking for the SNP to promote real independence policies in Europe, or associate more power with the devolved regions (which, whether we like it or not, is what Scotland is right now!). In sudo political style, I diplomatically pointed out that the 2 are interlinked; i.e., (increased power for the regions can only mean 1 step closer to Independence in the grand scheme of things!). My tact seem to win me a few brownie points with ‘Grant Tom, (the stand-in). He came and spoke to me afterwards and thanked me for bringing up devolution, and I took the opportunity to remind him that active citizenship and awareness of the independence debate is at an all time low among disabled people. Media hype and fear of the unknown stops them from engaging, and the SNP seems too distant, almost utopian for the majority. He went on to tell me that they were planning to set up an Equality forum (tick a box!), which would be a mechanism that disabled people could use towards connecting with the party, but I carefully pointed out that an Equality forum will merely act as a way of proofing the party and showing access on paper, it will not create awareness, it won’t persuade people to vote and won’t create catalysts for dialogue. The SNP have made amazing inroads with the Ethnic communities in Scotland, through initiatives like ‘Asians for Independence, and the Scottish Islamic Foundation, and it seems to me that disabled people warrant a similar structure. I think he got my point, but we’ve agreed to meet up and establish some kind of working partnership, If I’m still at Inclusion Scotland we could think about using the contact 100 groups as a means to getting such a structure started, (I don’t Think that would be seen as lobbying as such; after all its something we’d open up to any political party who was interested!).

It took me hours to get home though (or it felt like hours), heat and traffic jams in Karachi never bothered me, but they seem like such a big deal when you are in Glasgow! Perhaps the kids selling milk shake and gajras on Tarik road made it all worthwhile! Its more than that though; the heat seems to melt folk’s brains out here, and so the maniacs are out in force, and you feel even more terrified of a freak accident on George Square than you ever did on ‘University road!
Have another hospital appointment tomorrow, (neurology), I’ve lost count of the number of hopeless visits and pill popping I’ve done over the last 3 years, each time I leave the place, my despair seems to increase that little bit more, just enough to leave me at rock bottom before the fatigue incurred by yet more drugs kicks in! Its been a long hall, and I can’t seem to get this through to them, so please; all get behind me and make dua that tomorrow might actually drown my cynicism and actually be leading me in the direction of a cure, (or at least a diagnosis!)