Sunday, November 22, 2015

On a couple of convos

Yesterday I found myself at two baby events. With my departure from NYC imminent, I decided to go to both even though I'm supposed to be working on grad school applications. I knew these events would be reunions of sorts and so I went, saw people I haven't seen in a long time, and now won't be seeing for a long time, and took some photos.

At both events I ended up having long discussions that are pretty serious for a kid's birthday party, and then for a baby shower. I think with where my head is at these days, I can't escape from how the news affects me or with what I read/see/hear/experience. And isn't it better to have a meaningful discussion than to just sit around and talk about the weather?

At the first event I ended up chatting with a woman I've met before, and previously she vented something to me. So, I read her as being open-minded to some extent, and man was I wrong and thrown off with our conversation yesterday. We somehow got into race relations and she just could not understand why and how Black communities are disenfranchised. I attempted to break things down for her with my limited knowledge, and encouraged her to look further, do some reading, ask around, etc. Try to imagine yourself in someone's else shoes, I said. I was astonished though at her continued blatant racism and ignorance. She even did the whole "I work with Black people, have a couple of Black friends" thing too, etc. She just could not get how crippling America's history of slavery is and how it still affects millions of people today such as through incarceration and institutionalized racism. I don't want to paraphrase her words about Black families here because it was just such awful drivel, and just so damn racist. I wanted to ask her if she was a Republican because that's how bad it was, but stopped myself. I kind of wish I had asked though, heh.

This woman goes to the Islamic Center of NYU, a place that is supposedly more inclusive and open-minded than other Muslim spaces and masjids. The IC is a great place, sure, but its become dominated by desi yuppies in recent years, and that's one reason why I and many don't attend as much anymore (even though I'm desi myself, yuppieness just annoys me too much, for someone who's a working-class artist, amongst other reasons). This woman grew up upstate and is a Pakistani yuppie living in the UES. I thought, she's grown up here, gone to college, lives in New York - how can she still be so clueless, and not exposed to things? But she is. So many like her live in a bubble and I worry because us desi Muslims take up so much damn space, and so many of us are so racist. We'll be two-faced about it and hug our Black brothers and sisters on Eid, but in reality there's much ugliness with our hidden racism, that comes to light at times if you just happen to push a button.

Everyone is racist. Even anti-racists will be a bit racist. I know I'm still at least a bit racist, if not more so. But if you know you're racist, its on you to confront that and work on it. And if you're unaware that you're racist, or you claim not to be, and someone points out to you your racism, then you gotta work on it. I asked this woman if she would express the same opinions she was telling me, to a Black person. She said there would be no reason to go around and express these certain opinions, but yeah, maybe she would, even if it would make them uncomfortable.

I blocked out this conversation but am writing about it now…man, we just all feed into white supremacy so much, all the time.

My second conversation, at the second event, also happened to occur by chance. Something came in my head about Maryum (Mary) being a prophet herself, the mother of Prophet Isa (Jesus). Us Muslims believe that Prophet Isa has no father, at all, including God, and that the birth of Prophet Isa is a miracle that God made happen. I've been wondering more lately why us Muslims don't consider Maryum to be a prophet herself. She is mentioned so many times in the Quran, and there's even a chapter named after her. God made a divine miracle happen through her, we believe. And yet still, only a minority of Muslims consider her to be a prophet. Why? Why do the rest of the scholars say, that the 125,000 prophets God sent to humankind, were all men? How can we just assume and know that's the case? And that Maryum isn't a prophet, because she's a woman? Just because, she's a woman. For some reason this re-entered my head last night and I brought it up with this guy I've known for years, all the way back from 2006, but haven't seen much, but we've chatted every now and then and he's cool.

Him and his wife strongly disagreed with me. I made the case that Maryum isn't just any random person, she's one of the most revered people in Islam. Yet they went at lengths to claim that she's not a prophet. And I just kept asking, why? Some fathers of prophets are considered to be prophets themselves, why not Maryum, the mother of a prophet, actually, of a messenger? Why not this woman who's mentioned in the Quran so much? Why do we do so much work to claim that she's not a Prophet? Just because she's a woman? :-(

I'm reminded now of how some years ago, I had this co-worker who's Catholic, but like me also had interesting questions about her religion as well as of mine. I told her what I thought of Mary. And that yeah, there are all these men, all these male Prophets, and just one of her, a woman. I told her I flip it though and think of it as, she's the one woman, and all these men, are equal to just one of her. That shows her awesome power and importance. Maybe that's blasphemous of me to think of it in that way, some might argue. But then, why is she mentioned in the Quran so much, and so honoured?

Anyway, my conversation last night went off into a tangent about something else concerning Muslims, and me and Z had a more in-depth and personal conversation about that matter. Let's just say, I argued that Islam is a lot more grey, against the notion that this and that is so black and white. We didn't necessarily come to a consensus but through sharing, I think we gained a much better understanding, or at least he did, as we re-examined and questioned history.

Now, back to listening to New Order and continuing these MFA applications...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

So long, New York. Its been real. Too real.

7 years here. I came to New York on January 13th, 2009, two and a half years after spending a summer interning here in summer '06. After I graduated college in 2008, I went to India after 12 years, to see family I had no connection with and to build a connection with the place I had thought about so much. I tried to see if I could live and work in India, but it was just too intimidating, as a 22 year-old woman fresh out of college, trying to navigate and consider a new life in India, and the financial crash that happened that Autumn also made me reconsider my options. Instead of making my first trip to Bombay, I finished my India trek a few weeks early and headed back to the States. Days later, Bombay was attacked.

At that time my parents were on hajj, so I spent some time alone in their house in Michigan, and pondered my next move. The one person and friend I had in New York, told me to just come to NY. My parents returned, and a couple weeks later I left with a suitcase in hand, and an address with a sofa to crash on.

I ended up interning for two cycles then getting hired at the same place. I had no plan or timeline for what I was doing in New York, and after a while I didn't want to leave, I wanted to make it work. After a couple years I finally felt more settled in as I successfully made some friends. I didn't really get consistent work though until May 2011, two and a half years after I arrived. I had that job until last year, and I decided to leave and travel for two months, in order to get better and clear my head. I came back a year ago, attempting to re-settle. That hasn't really happened.

There's been many times when things were very wonky and not working out, and I thought about leaving, but I stayed, because I chose to. In New York I've had my heart broken again and again, I've found faith, lost that faith, made friends and lost friends, lost my mind, become a better person, and an awful person, and finally made a film along the way.

I came here to make films, but sadly that's in large part eluded me, save for one short narrative film I spent a year and a half making. I've done some experimental stuff, but narratives have always been my goal. Why haven't I made more films in my time here? For a while I was just trying to make ends meet, and when that's the case, its hard to find time to be creative. Once my job situation stabilized though, I started work on my film, and just did it, and it was great. After that though I felt lost, and then my mind in late 2013/early 2014 lost itself. Getting a mental illness is not something I saw coming, and it certainly didn't help my filmmaking dream. Since getting better though the itch to make films has slowly come back, thankfully.

As for New York, a couple months ago I decided I've had enough. There's nothing keeping me here, I realized. No job, no relationship, no film - there's no reason for me to stay here. And I no longer felt motivated or inspired by the city. I wondered if this feeling of wanting to leave would pass, like it had before. It didn't, instead this time it grew, and then I knew it was real. I started planning on leaving sometime in spring/summer 2016, once I knew where I'd hopefully be going next.

Push comes to shove though. When it rains it pours. All those cliches, all so true. Domino effect. One thing falling after another. That's what's happened, and I'm forced to leave a lot sooner. Blame money and racist roommates. I'm now looking at leaving by January 1st. Presumably I'll spend New Year's driving through states, NY in the rearview mirror, CDs, books and clothes in the backseat and trunk.

Leaving like this isn't what I had in mind. I had made a strong commitment to New York. I thought for a long time, that I'd be here for a long time. I thought about raising kids here. But after more thinking in recent months I thought, this isn't really the place to save up and buy a place. This place is no longer for artists. We know who its for now. Its not for us. Not for me. Not right now, anyway.

And in the last few months I've been acting out in all sorts of ways, doing stupid and questionable things (though I like my blue hair), and probably none of it is healthy, and I know its just signs that I haven't been doing well. Everything's been building up.

Moving out of NY feels like a break-up to a toxic relationship. Like a break-up, I want to get rid of as much stuff as possible; I don't want to have things that will remind me of my time here. I'm only taking back with me what really matters.

I'm also trying though to rearrange my mind, and embrace this abrupt change and transition. In the timeline of the universe, there really is no difference between spending 1-3 months in MI, compared to a few more. It just, does not matter, at all. Much, much less, than a blink of an eye. Gotta keep things in perspective.

And I don't see the point in staying here for a few more months, earning money just to spend it on expenses here. I was gonna leave anyway. Might as well just leave now. I'm very lucky that I have somewhere to go to, and parents that will take me in, alhumdulillah.

I've been told to stop putting myself down so much, and just appreciate the fact that I've spent 7 years here; that I didn't leave right away after a year or so, I stuck it out; that I tried to make things work, things did click and work for a while, then everything eroded, including myself; and its no longer worth it to keep trying here when I've already decided to head out soon anyway. 

I'm hoping with the few short weeks I have left here, to say my goodbyes to friends and the city, wind things down. I started taking photos again recently, and in black and white. Perhaps this was subconsciously because I knew it was my last year here. And now it turns out, this is it! There's one photo series I'd like to do here before leaving iA.

Some recent photos:
islamic center of nyu. spent and didn't spend many hours here

thompson and houston

while in queue for #allmymovies. didn't get in.

I'd like to spend my time in MI doing lots of things. I've become very lazy here, especially in this last year. I'm looking at MI as an opportunity to finally spend some time on working on myself, taking care of myself. I suck at that. Since I moved out for college at 18, I also haven't spent much time with my parents. This will give me a chance to spend a good amount of time with them, in their old age. iA it'll be beneficial and healing for us, I hope. And I know how lonely they have been, for so long.

I'll also be attempting to figure out and build on what I wanna do next and where. And to incubate myself, artistically, spiritually, intellectually. My twenties in New York put me through a washing machine; there's been good times but damn its been hard, I just kept getting thrown around and stepped on. I want to continue the journey my mind has been on though, to continue to challenge myself with interesting ideas and questions. Its because of that very difficult process that I've become much more of a feminist for example, and more public about the kind of person I am. I was finally nudging my way into groups in NY I've longed to be a part of and now that has to end sadly, but my thought processes don't have to at least.

Some things I'd like to do while in MI in addition to building what's next. I think writing them down publicly will help me focus and be more accountable to myself:
- eat better, sleep better, exercise. cook with the parents, become as good as them
- i recently started reading books again. continue that.
- continue taking more photos. sort through and upload the backlog of the last 2-3 years
- write and develop what i hope is my next film
- go back to making collages and messing around with spray paint
- work
- repair my relationship with islam. visit the sufi farm (parents will hate that, oh well)
- repair my relationship with myself
- visit college friends in chicago. maybe visit toronto. go to DEMF after many years.
- maybe chill with artists/filmmakers in ann arbor and detroit

Its a lot, but I'll be there for a while at least, depending on how things pan out. In general I'm just hoping to take care of myself and become a better person, and spend time with my parents. And take a break from life.

My Saturn's Return started churning a couple years ago, its still going, only picking up speed and getting more intense. Change can be frightening. Wish me luck please!

Laters, NY. It's been real. Too real. Please be nice to those remaining.

(someone once said that music is what feelings sound like. hence, here we go)

ok, last one, for some humour: