Category Archives: Humour

300 Books Before 30

Part of my identity has always been that I am a reader. I cannot remember a time in my childhood — from my earliest memories — that I did not love books or count myself among those who love reading; whether it was thick, cardboard-paged books about a spotty dog, The Famous Five, Sweet Dreams (cringe!), Sweet Valley, then finally the more mature books about life, love and such… books formed a huge part of my identity.

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But, increasingly, in my young adult years through to my current adult years (old adult?), I’ve found less and less time for reading. And I know that’s just because I’ve made less time for it. I’ve found more distractions, more stress, more work, more world news, more to fret about, and more Facebook and YouTube to numb my brain with.

I often found myself joking that I probably could no longer call myself a reader if I don’t actually read…

And I’d joke that I’m an English teacher who hardly ever reads (for leisure)…

These are extremely unfunny jokes, I know.

SIDE NOTE: To be fair though, I’m not completely hypocritical as The English Teacher Who Doesn’t Read. Firstly, my hundreds and hundreds of books in my youth must make up for some of the lack of it in these recent years, no? Come on, there were a super many books that I read in my youth — you know, sitting at my desk in my bedroom, with school books spread out in front of me, so that I may quickly shove my novel under when Mom walks in. And I had one of those round push/touch lamps that I would use at night, under the duvet, when it was time for lights out.

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Did anyone else have one of these as a child?

And… My mom used to take my stacks of books from me and hide them away because I read while I was supposed to do homework and study. I always found the hiding places though.

ANOTHER SIDE NOTE: I haven’t not read anything at all in these recent years — I’ve read some good stuff here and there; I quite enjoyed John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. And I’ve read the setwork novels for my teaching prep: Animal Farm by George Orwell, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and lots of Shakespeare drama. (I have grown to love and appreciate Shakespeare much more than I did in my teens!) And there have also been other random novels in between. I read some poorly-written ‘chick lit’. I’m not proud of that. And several non-fiction, historical reads. A few novels by Muslim authors also made their way into my repertoire. So yeah, I’ve been reading… stuff. As long as we understand all the side notes before we proceed and stop judging the English Teacher… :/

The thing is, those moments of getting utterly and completely lost in a book, where I can’t wait to turn reality off and climb back inside my new world of characters and places and faces, have been too few and far between. People talk about the latest books they’ve read with giddy excitement, exchanging notes and little anecdotes, and I can only take my old reading memories off the shelves of my mind and blow off the dust, and contribute my measly 5 cents. Or just remove myself from the conversation altogether.

My identity was no longer Reader. My answer to ‘interests’ could no longer be reading. This perplexed me for a while, but I shoved it away and, much like I didn’t have time for reading, also didn’t have time to think about this new identity, or absence of identity.

But… you can run but you can’t hide. It started catching up with me. Reading was my escape: from stress, from pressure, from boredom, from the mundane, from idleness. It was also my destination. Then I found I had no escape. And I had no destination. I was just going through the humdrum. I missed the visits with the characters between the pages of good books; I missed the intensity of their stories and I missed travelling through new lands.

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Source: Susan Wiggs

The intensity of my own story, my own stress of work and life, were my everyday visitors. I didn’t realise I needed books. I thought it was just a nice old pastime. I had forgotten that reading wasn’t just my childhood hobby — it was my identity. It is fundamental to every aspect of who I am — I’ve just forgotten how to enjoy it.

On a conscious level I knew the benefits of reading. I knew that it alleviates stress, stimulates creativity, increases concentration, etc., etc. But who really listens to their own inner-psychologist?

So while I ignored my inner-psychologist, I listened to my real-life doctor. She prescribed that I do something to unwind from time to time. And of course I chose Old Faithful: Reading.

I feel a peculiar sense of giddiness and strange emotional soppiness at this resolve to read again, consistently. Like returning to a beloved, dear old friend. I feel happy.

So to just return to reading again is boring — and what if I fall off the wagon? I thus decided to make it more interesting and at the same time hold myself more accountable, and so I will endeavour to read 300 books before I turn 30! Eeeek! Lol. Exciting and mildly scary. My 30 arrives in roughly 87 weeks. That means I have to read, on average, 3.45 books a week. Hahaha!

Let’s see if I can do it! I’m so up for it!

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Blog sign-off

Bowing Out

I made it five days into the glorious month of poetry before bowing out (gracefully?). Well, that’s not entirely true — I have still been writing this past week and I have a few poems to show for it, but none that I want to share right now.

NaPoWriMo is just not happening for me this year. Pieces of my mind are scattered in so many different places that I can’t quite gather them together long enough to compose something I like enough. And trust me, if I don’t like it enough, you’re sure not going to. Perhaps after some revision to those poems I’ll share them with you at a later time. I’ll still keep writing for the rest of the month, naturally. Will try to keep up with each day as much as I can, but what I really want to do is focus on more extended pieces of writing for now. So we’ll see where that goes. But besides that, what I even more really want to do (I know that isn’t right, but it just sounds so much more fun — why can’t we have fun with words?) and what I am doing a lot of right now, is concentrating a lot more on developing good writing in my students. And that takes a lot of time and energy. More than you’d think. So that also takes away from time given to my own writing. But I love it so much! And don’t worry, I won’t teach my students to write incorrect sentences like my one above — but I will teach them to experiment and have fun with the language and perhaps come up with their own funny ways of saying things that are otherwise just boring.

As a final salute to NaPoWriMo from me for this year, I’ll share one of the poems I wrote this past week — just to not leave you with nothing.

It was supposed to be a love poem to an inanimate thing. And this is sort of a love poem… though not quite.

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To My First Car

by Ruqaiyah Davids

I never liked you much.

In fact, I could hardly stand you.

And it was no secret too.

You were unwanted and unloved—

A harsh, cold, ugly truth,

Just like your harsh, cold, ugly exterior.

But you were needed.

I needed you like you needed a good paint job—

Without you my life would not have been the same.

Without you, I would have been stuck,

And alone.

You gave me freedom;

A temporary escape on the journey between two worlds.

You gave me reflection and introspection.

You weren’t very well-liked by my friends or my family.

And I’m not sure if you know this,

But they often made fun of you.

My sister hated you—

She always complained

When having to climb into your hard, unwelcoming backseat,

Which was a mighty task considering you only had two doors.

But I wonder how she would have got around without you…

Or how I would have.

I would always defend you when they’d mock you.

Because even though you were loud and rough,

And dusty and dented,

And peeling and painful to look at—

You were mine.

You were my first.

You came to me at a time in my life that I did not want you,

But I needed you.

And that counts for so much more.

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A New Place to Call Home

My family and I have recently moved into a new neighbourhood. In this neighbourhood, we have a new place that we now call ‘Home’. I’ve only ever known one other Home in my life; that Home, I had known for over 25 years–more, if you count the time that I was moving and shifting around in my momma’s belly. That was Home. And, a bit unnervingly, I still call it that even now. I don’t mean to, I really don’t. I like this new Home I have. I really do. I like the space and the air, the greenery and the birds.

But my old Home was family; it wasn’t just a brick and cement building. Imagine moving into a new Home and leaving one of your family members behind in the old one… That may sound extreme or exaggerated, and before moving, I might have thought the same if I had heard someone else make that analogy. But, I promise, that is how I feel. I have left part of my family behind. An old grandpa. Or old uncle. (Yes, my old Home was a man. Grey and wrinkly. And cracking in certain places. But he was loveable and dear.) It is impossible to bring him along, but it feels almost as impossible to leave him behind. I drive past this old Home and I struggle to picture other people inside it. I try to imagine them in our kitchen, eating around our table, or lounging in our living room, and I feel like they are intruders. I want to visit my old Home, just to see if he is doing okay. To see what they’ve done with him, and if they’re treating him well. Now, I know I am bordering on insane here, but how do you not become just a little bit crazy when you leave behind 25 years of running up and down the passage even when Mum said not to, banging bedroom doors to relieve teenage frustration, family breakfasts, lunches and suppers around an antique dinner table, or sounds of creaking doors that would alarm you to the approaching parent just in time so that you may hide that novel that you should not be reading or that movie that you should not be watching while you actually should be studying Bio or Geography for your final Matric exam? And if you think that sentence was too long to digest, perhaps that gives you a slight indication of the length of time I am trying to squeeze together into some comprehensible and tangible form so that I may keep it alive for a little bit longer.

Home

Now I know they say that Home is where the heart is, or where the family is, and that this is just a new place for me to make new memories, and that change is good and all of that. I’m sure they are right. But change and a new Home takes some getting used to, and memories take a while to become memories. So while I do honestly love this new place, I am still waiting for it to really feel like Home. In the mean time, let me share with you some things I miss about my old Home, my old uncle that I left behind. Some of the things on this list I had already documented elsewhere, on more temporary media forms, and due to a concerned friend, who kindly advised me to try to think of things I like about my new Home, rather than reflecting too much on the past, I stopped that list. But now I want to continue, but please note: this is not a lament. This is not a form of nagging and moaning for what is lost. This is just me reminiscing and fondly replaying the memories of a place that was Home for the first 25 years of my life. I’d like to look back 25 years from now and remember that place, and the details of it. But by then I’ll be 50. And I might have Alzheimer’s, or just plain ol’ bad memory. So these words might help as a supporting aid.

Memories at home

Things I Miss about my Old Home:

1. My cousin who lived 3 roads away. Random evening or afternoon walks up to her house, or random visits from her–these are no more. In fact, just random evening walks anywhere in the neighbourhood. We still take random walks in the evening in this new neighbourhood, to my sister who stays up the road, or just around for the fun of it, but there’s no community here. No little children running through the streets at a time that they actually should already be in bed, no teenage boys taking skateboard races up and down a cul-de-sac, or people sitting on stoeps having casual conversations in the cool night air. I loved seeing these things while my parents and I leisurely walk through the streets at night. Oh, and bumping into aunties and uncles along the way and stopping to greet but then ending up having a 30-minute conversation. (All our neighbours are aunties and uncles. I mean, our ex-neighbours.)

2. My neighbours. We weren’t the tightest-knit community of people. There were people two houses away whose names I did not know. But there was Uncle Kevin across the road; we never spoke, but we always waved in passing. There was Aunty Faeeza next to him; she always sent us guavas from her guava tree in her backyard, and I grew up playing with her children. There was Aunty Zaida next door; she made scarf shopping really easy and convenient because she sells them. And Uncle Muhammad who always stood on the corner at the end of our road; I’m not quite sure where he lives, and I’ve never spoken to him at all, but he waved in greeting to me each morning as I took that corner. And, like I said, all my neighbours are aunties and uncles, even those that lived roads away.

3. Hobos that you know and who become regulars at your house. I used to have conversations with them. It was memorable.

4. Shorter distance between Home and my place of work. And no traffic. At all. Just some annoying drivers along the way. But other than that, it was just me and the wide, open road. Now… I have more distance, annoying drivers, and a slow-moving, car-crammed, accident-prone highway between me and my place of work. Granted, that stretch of car-crammed highway is not very long before I again get on the wide, open M5 road, but when there are slow-moving cars, the 3 minutes you should spend on that highway to get to the M5 turns into 10-15 mins of agony.

5. My beautiful, close view of the mountains from my front stoep. My old neighbourhood is not the most scenic of places. In fact, it is pretty crowded and houses are very close to one another. But we were also close to the mountains. And I loved looking at it as I stepped out in the mornings, or on sunny afternoons. I love the mountains. Sometimes, as I’m driving, I am in danger of getting too close to the car in front me because I’m too busy staring at the glorious mountains and the different patterns and fashions in which the clouds cover it, So having the mountain so close to my doorstep was a huge bonus that I never took for granted.

This is not a pic of the mountain from my old Home. This pic is taken by a girl named Courtney. I found it somewhere in Cyber World, but it's taken in CT, and the distance between house and mountain is relatively the same.
This is not a pic of the mountain from my old Home. This pic is taken by a girl named Courtney. I found it somewhere in Cyber World, but it’s taken in CT, and the distance between house and mountain is relatively the same.

6. The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the air from the nearby Blue Ribbon bakery. This one my cousin reminded me of–the cousin who lives three roads away. She lives in the neighbourhood too, so she would know. That smell… is beautiful. I would come to the red light at the intersection just outside the bakery and sit there just sniffing up that aroma. Gosh, I miss it.

7. Living around the corner from a masjid. That was just a blessing. There is so much attached to that. To which masjid will I rush through the streets during Ramadaan for taraweeh now? Which masjid will sound the athaan into our home now? There is no masjid near enough here.

8. The ‘Eid vibe. ‘Eid has just passed us. It was the quietest ‘Eid I have ever experienced. Reasons are already stated above: community, masjid, all of that.

9. Creaks, cracks and bangs that I knew. Here, there are sounds of creaks, there are cracks, and there are bangs that I am not familiar with yet. And they FREAK me out! Especially when I am alone at home. I knew every sound in my old Home, I knew exactly from which part of the house or from which object falling it came. Here, I do not. The sound of the wind even scares me.

I shall end it there. I do not want to make this list too exhaustive, lest it be thought that I am unhappy in my new Home. I am not unhappy. I am, indeed, very happy here. Alhamdulillah (All praise to Allah). I miss the old, naturally, but I certainly appreciate the new for what it is. It is spacious, fresh, lush, quiet and safe. I find new reasons to love it each day. And I know that soon, this Home will become an old aunty to me (this Home feels like a woman; a fairly young and fresh woman too). So do not be mistaken by my words of longing for my old Home. I long for it, and I will most probably always miss it a little. It was my first Home. It is where all my firsts happened. But I am excited at the new prospects. I have visions of amazing times here with my family in this new place to call Home.

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Have you ever felt connected to a building or place, like they’re a part of your family? Or am I just a strange person?

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NaPoWriMo Day 30: Speaking in Opposites

Remember, as a child, when you would play that game where you’d say something cool/weird/funny/scary to your brother/sister/friend, and they would look at you with excitement or awe written all over their face, and then you’d wait a bit just for effect and then say: “In the opposites!” and laugh your head off? Remember those days? Or is my childhood the only one which has those moments? Because then this would be a little awkward…

The last prompt of NaPoWriMo requested us to take an original poem written by someone else and to change as many words in the poem as we could to mean the opposite of what it originally says.

I chose As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes.

As I Grew Younger

by Ruqaiyah Davids

It was a short time ago.
I have never remembered my reality.
But it is here now,
Behind me,
Dull like the moon—
My reality.
And then the wall sank,
Sank fast,
Fast,
Around me and my reality.
Sank until it touched the ground—
The wall.
Brightness.
I am white.
I stand up in the brightness.
Still the darkness of my reality behind me,
Below me.
More than the thin wall.
More than the brightness.
My feet!
My light feet!
Mend together the wall!
Lose my reality!
Help me to piece together this light,
To rebuild this day,
To mend this brightness
Into a single light of moon,
Into a single firm reality
Of moon!

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NaPoWriMo Day 14: Superty-Duperty

This is a persona poem, as is put forth in the Day 14 challenge. We were encouraged to write in the persona of someone else, preferably a superhero or super-villain. I don’t know any of them well enough to pretend to be them–we’ve never met. Instead, I’ve chosen to assume the persona of my mom. My very own superhero. She doesn’t have a cape, instead she has a scarf untidily draped around her head because she was in too much of a hurry to fix it, giving preference to giving all of us vitamins for the day instead. She can’t fly and doesn’t have x-ray vision, but she’s always just where she needs to be and she has the power of the super-glare. When she looks at you with the super-glare, you immediately stop whatever nonsense you were just doing and you know–you just know–you’re going to get it when you reach home. You don’t quite know what it will be, but you know you’ll get it. And you’re afraid. You’re very afraid.

A lovely woman she is, though often tends to believe she is more invincible than the rest of us. She sacrifices herself too often. But I guess that is one of the qualities of a superhero, isn’t it? They always sacrifice themselves for the greater good–even when the people they’re doing it for are undeserving of it.

Super-Mom

Rise early,
No time to be surly.
Get everyone up!
Serve them love in a cup.
I don’t get a sick day,
I don’t get to stay under the covers and lay–
Well, not for long anyway.
I have to work today–
And the next day.
And the next.
That is what everyone expects.

My cooking is not always the best,
But I take care of my family–
Who cares about the rest?

When they’re sick
I’m their doctor.
I rub their heads,
Sit by their beds
And even deliver their meds.

When they’re hurt,
Have a growth spurt;
When they achieve,
Or need some reprieve;
When they’re happy,
Or just feel chatty:
I’m there for it all,
Even when they put up a wall.

I shout and I scream.
Sometimes, I am a horror movie’s dream.
I manipulate and force,
But all with due cause.
They don’t always know what is good for them.
This was proven when
My youngest girl
Was too afraid to sit behind the wheel.
She fought and she cried,
She didn’t understand why
It was so important for her to learn how to drive.
But I fought even harder,
I wouldn’t allow her to discard her
Independence and intelligence.
So I manipulated and I forced,
I never paused.
Now, years later, my daughter is grateful
And no longer fearful.

I am not very well-read
And I don’t know the big, fancy words,
But I gave birth to four English nerds.

I am super-right;
I have super might;
There are few things that will cause me fright.
I am super-strong,
I raised four kids in these arms,
And I will always try to protect them from all harms.

I am Super-Mom–
And my love for my children
Is where my power comes from.

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Tell me about your Super-Mom. Or any other superhero you have in your life.

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NaPoWriMo Day 11: Tanked It!

It’s one of those days again, when the prompt from the folks over at NaPoWriMo are not that much fun to follow. Well, yeah, they’re fun, but they’re not easy. And right now I’m equating ‘fun’ with ‘easy’. So, because I’ve committed to seeing the whole month of April through with a poem a day (or sometimes skipping a day and giving you a whopping TWO poems a day! Yay!), I absolutely have to try my hand at this new type of writing that I haven’t done before. It’s actually quite fun to experiment with new forms of poetry that I’ve never done before–getting out of my comfort zone and all that.

Today’s prompt is to write a type of poem called a tanka. It’s a poem based on syllables, with the pattern being 5-7-5-7-7. According to NaPoWriMo, “[t]hey work best when those final two 7-syllable lines contain a sort of turn or surprise that the first three lines might not wholly anticipate.”

I must admit that I took this poem very seriously. Very. I think it’s quite heavy with emotion.

Tanked It!

Tanka is a poem
That isn’t easy to write.
Syllables and rhyme,
Do not show me a good time.
And I think I’ve just missed it.

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NaPoWriMo Day 8: Poetic Licence

I had some silly fun with this one. 🙂

Poetic Licence

The last time I tried this hard to rhyme
I was in high school.
Needless to say, in time,
I learned that forcing meaning and rhyme was uncool.
Regardless of my poetic licence, I felt like I was committing a crime.
When I read what I had written, I felt like a humungous fool.
So I threw them all away
And I am a better poet for it today.

(Even though, based on this poem, you would not say…)

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NaPoWriMo Day 2: Lies, Lies, Lies

The poetry prompt for day 2 is to write a poem that tells a lie. Yikes. This was a difficult one. Really difficult. I ended up staring at a blank screen for hours. Really. It was horrible. So this is the result of that horrible-ness. Not my best work–and that’s not a lie.

I’ve got it all figured out.

No questions about where I’m going.

No doubts about what I’m doing.

I know what I want.

And I know how to get there.

Yeah… No.

That’s a lie.

I have so many questions!

Sometimes I just want to ask, ‘Why?

I have doubts and fears–

Life is not as easy as it appears.

And writing this poem while to the prompt trying to adhere

Has resulted in a work which is more than a little queer,

I fear.

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Hate it. Love it. Share your thoughts with me below.

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It Feels So Write!

Aaah, it feels so good to be sitting here again. So good to be surrounded by words, thoughts, ideas and to actually have time to pen (or the modern-day version of ‘penning’: type) those words down, think the thoughts out, entertain the ideas that flitter in and out. I also have this strange habit of making up stories in my head at random times during a day when I’m tired or stressed and choose to escape inside my head. It’s nice to be able enjoy these mental stories now, and to add more to those stories than just character descriptions for a change–there is still a long way to go before they end up on paper, though, or my laptop screen. For now they will just stay in my head. But I enjoy them up there.

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...
I often prefer living inside my head. It’s more fun up there. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, yes, here I sit. In my bedroom. On my bed. The same place I’ve sat for most of this year. (And I do not exaggerate when I say that. I SAT here for so much of this year, planning lessons, marking tests and assignments, doing research, NOT going out with friends and family because I had so much work to do, NOT updating my blog because I had so much work to do, NOT sleeping, even though I was on my bed… my butt eventually hurt from the sitting. No jokes. None.) But this place is different now. The French doors leading from my bedroom to our very cluttered and un-scenic back yard are open; air and sunlight is streaming in; there are no papers, notes and books sprawled on all surfaces in my bedroom–save for the fictional ones that happily whisk me away to another time, another land, for which I had longed all year, but been deprived of. And my laptop has once again transformed into a dear, old friend; she is no longer the menace that burned my eyes in the wee hours of the night, draining me of all coherent thought. She is again my friend whom I write to about funny, old things that I think about, I tell her the poems of my heart, and she once again allows me to guiltlessly ramble on about random things on my blog. She is back. I am back. And it feels so darn good.

Line art representation of a Quill
Writers write. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not sure how wide the readership of my blog is–or was–but to those who do read it, those who had taken time to visit in the hope of reading something that will make the minutes pass by less glumly, but found nothing new to read here for days, and weeks, and months… I apologise. I sincerely do. This blog was never meant to be a by-the-way thing for me. From the start, it meant something, and I wanted to continue in that way. I wanted it to always be a place of truth for me, a place where I would write and I wouldn’t hide. Because I often do that. I write when it is convenient for me, and then I shove it to the back when it’s not. And for most of this year, it wasn’t. But a mentor recently told me: ‘You will be a writer by writing–not by planning to do it in the distant future.‘ And she is right, painfully right. So I’m getting back on the proverbial horse, and I’m trying again. I am going to write. Because I want to be a writer. I am a writer. But thinking about writing, planning to write, wishing I had the time to write doesn’t make me a writer. So I am going back to my roots and I’m using words like I’ve always loved to use them. I’m using them to live my life, because they are part of my life. And here they will stay.

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10 Reasons I Should Not Be Typing This Blog Post Right Now

1. I am utterly exhausted after an (almost) all-nighter pulled last night, baking yummies for my sister’s baby shower.

2. I am utterly exhausted from staying up almost all night last night and then having my sister’s baby shower today.

3. I should be sleeping right now.

4. My sister’s baby shower is, technically, not yet over.

5. I have my students’ exam papers to mark.

6. I have my students’ formal tasks to mark.

7. I am most likely boring you.

8. The chocolate cake inside is calling my name for me to eat it.

9. The content of this particular blog post is positively sad.

10. The 9 very good reasons listed above.

Thank you for reading it anyway 🙂

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