Letter to the 16-year-old Tanzila

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Dear Tanzila,

Today your wish will come true. You will get what you had always wanted. Remember that Hair straightener set? Mum has got it for you. It has curlers too!

But I have some bad news. You will forget about it within 3 years and never think about it again. Why? Because you will embrace Hijab as your identity. Don’t freak out! You will love it.

Today as the 26-year-old ‘you’, I have reached you in the past to share some lessons. Some of them I learned in Sweden. Others as I was sitting in a training session in Thailand.  While some as I read an excerpt from my second book to an audience in Dubai. While in the streets of Pakistan I have learned my identity and my mission. I have to admit that the true sense of peace and love knocked through my head as I took that first bite of Dosa with Astinder Maasi in Chandigarh, India.

Shocked? Darling I haven’t even started on the bounties of Allah that await you in the future.

Disbelief? It’s because today you look at yourself the way the society looks at you. A helpless, handicapped girl that can only be uplifted by constant compliments, sympathy and words of wisdom. Don’t cry in corners about that.  I am sorry to break it to you a bit too soon. But you can’t await a hero to lift you up anymore as you are the hero awaited by many.

Today as you cry over the disaster your cheerful tailor has done to your Eid dress. I admire your efforts for trying to be normal. But if history demanded that, your birth wouldn’t have been so dramatic. Stop fitting in. Don’t get an orange Khussa just because Shakeela did. You have your own destiny to conquer. Similarly, don’t feel left behind when Shakeela gets a husband then two children and is then admired by everyone for her Chappaties. You don’t know how to make Chappati. But you do know how to sell one.

You will be called, ‘Langri, wheelchair wali, mazoor, bechari’ in the sweetest of tones. You will find yourself isolated when you would want to communicate. You will be judged even before you open your mouth. Every idea that you would float would be met with disbelief, doubt and scrutiny. You will be misunderstood, mischaracterized and misjudged. You will be kicked hard in the face, blood would spur out of your nose and a tiny whimper would escape your mouth. You will look around for a corner where you can save the embarrassment and cry a bit but would have to swallow it all as it hits the bottom like a hard rock. Because the corner would be two steps above the ground. But this will be the last time life has kicked you hard. Because soon you will have your own light and shades on, and every scar will make you beautiful.

You will fall in love twice. Both will teach you why it was a bad idea. I mean who likes to fall and break a bone anyways? But you will soon rise in love and learn the worth Allah has given to every woman on the planet.

You want to lose weight. Don’t. Let it be. You will soon show the world that confidence is a language of the mind for the minds that think. And those who think that body types define you. You will shun them in silence. So wait. But love your body. Every bite you take should be worth it.

You are fretting about good grades? Don’t. No one will ever ask you about them. Instead learn facts and absorb information. Strengthen your mind for a debate with the world. You will need your education desperately but not in classrooms but on roundtables. So don’t waste your time cramming that past paper. Treat your exams like a case study and you’re Sherlock Holmes who does nothing but impress.

Save money. Save every penny that you can. You will soon reach a point where you will have bigger projects in pipeline. You can’t wait to get them validated by a funder. You will take your own initiatives that would require your personal savings, stamina and time.

I am leaving you with just the right amount of curiosity that you need to go on. Today when you blow the candles, believe in yourself and don’t pause. Love your family and be sincere to your friends. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t achieve your goals. You can, you have and you will….

Happy 14th October 2006! A very happy birthday!

Love,

Optimism Expert

Yep! That’s what they call you now

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