Nargis Tarmohamed, a writer from the Six Week Writing in Your PJ’s classes tells her story.
The early morning sun was peeking through the linen drapes in the bedroom. I woke up to a text message from my friend Susan. “I am so sorry and I am angry and sad for what happened in London. I am thinking of you and Shoki, how are you feeling?”
The airwaves were full of politicians on the 10.00 pm news. They were all there voicing their feelings about the wonderful Pakistani community and their contributions to Canada. A Pakistani Muslim family was mowed down by a twenty-year-old white man in a pickup truck in the area of Hyde Park in London, Ontario the night before.
My mind immediately went to the beautifully made Pakistani series “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” on Netflix. The title meant “Life is wonderful”.
Over some twenty episodes it explored life lived by two families in Karachi. One is governed by traditional mores and the other a more liberal existence. The traditional family wore salwar khameez. The visual of the traditional garb versus the western clothes is what distinguished the values of the two families even before the dialogue began. I got thinking about the driver of the truck. Would he have killed this family if they were dressed in western clothing? Would the nine-year-old boy have been saved from the horrific tragedy that he is now enduring if only his family was not dressed in salwar khameez?
Shaukat and I are not Pakistani but we are Muslims. Could this have been us? My thoughts were all over the place. Anger, intertwined with frustration to then a sense of numbness and resignation lingered with me for most of the day. My husband and I first immigrated to Canada forty years ago. We just wanted to fit in, build a life for ourselves and be great citizens of our country of choice.
The phone rang. It was my sister Yasmin. She was really upset. “This is racism and we should be more vocal about the insidious values that have pervaded our communities. “Why did we not speak up more when we first came here?” she asked. “It is because we needed to get to a position of strength”, I replied.
I hung up and felt a sense of emptiness. I lived in the small town of Exeter and London was my city of choice. It was only an hour away. It is where we went to mosque, where I had my book club, where we met friends for dinner and shopped for wonderful things.
A friend Alice, who owned a restaurant we frequented, often talked about Trump. She was thrilled that he had won. Was she a racist? And what about the patient who came to Shaukat’s pharmacy and asked when he was going back to the “old country”. And the neighbour who had asked my cleaning lady if she worked for that Paki family on the street. “Paki” is a derogatory term used by white people. The dear friend, who, during covid was judging the people who lived ten to a house in the Peel region. Was she a racist? The time when my seven-year-old daughter, Alyza, came home from school and cried. She wanted to have blond hair and blue eyes like the other kids in her class. How I often found myself as the only person of colour in meetings. Whenever I told people that I was a Muslim, I always qualified it with “But not a devout one”. I didn’t want to be branded as one of “those fanatics” that the media portrayed so well. I was most uncomfortable when white people said, “When I see you, I don’t see colour”. What did they mean? Were they trying to reassure me that they were not racist? The little voice in my head shouted loud and clear: Wow, you are racist! Should I have spoken up and said, “But I am a person of colour.”
Something in me snapped. I picked up the phone and called my husband.
“There is a vigil on Friday, and we should go”.
“I very much want to go but you have not had your second shot, love”, he replied.
“I don’t care. I will triple mask”.
“Then in solidarity, we go.”
A few seconds later my phone rang. “Hey, Nargs, it’s Debbie. Do you want to play nine holes tomorrow?” No mention of the death of the family, just a game of golf, pure and simple.
Is life wonderful?
Nargis Tarmohamed. Born in Kenya, educated in Scotland, following which she immigrated to Canada. As a former accountant, a leader of an investment company and an active member of many not-for-profit and community outreach organizations she is now revisiting her love of creative writing. She was a wonderful contributor to the class and I am glad she allowed me to share her story with you.
Would you like to take my classes but don’t have time to commit to one particular time?
Do you want a class where you can do it on your own? But since it was a taped live class you will hear questions from writers and watch them coached live in the class.
Then this Writing Your Memoirs Independent Study might be for you!. Taped earlier this year it contains 6 weeks of lessons that you can work on at your own speed. It contains 6 90 minute videos that break down the process of writing a memoir. How to focus and find out what stories you should tell. What each story needs to capture the interest of your reader and tips on how to keep going when you get stuck.
Some nice stuff students said about these sessions.
Suzzie Huston. (Student)
Lee- Anne MacAlear. (Motivational Speaker/ Innovator)
“Deb’s writing classes got me through the pandemic. A great comic, writer and teacher! Is there anything this girl can’t do?”
Dorothy Ann Brown( author, Recycled Virgin)
Allison Ferguson. (Campus Recruitment Co-ordinator)
Janice Meighen, (Grief Counsellor and Weddings and Baptism Officiant)
“Taking Deborah’s Writing in Your Pyjamas Sunday morning workshop opened me up and introduced me to the storyteller I had inside of me. She was very supportive, empowering, and honest! I highly recommend taking any one of her workshops and unleashing your own inner talents for the written word.”