Saffron: a collection of real stories written by real women

A book review by Raashida Khan: Saffron: A Collection of Personal Narratives written by Muslim women

How does one do justice in a book review of >500 words, to a collection of writing that is beautiful, insightful, heart-breaking, heart-warming, fun, quirky, challenging and inspiring?

 

Saffron: A Collection of Personal Narratives by Muslim Women, edited by Dr Zaheera Jina is such a book. The stories are real, as are the characters – we are able to identify with the voices of the writers and the people they describe. Readers are invited to take glimpse into the lives of these women, understand and learn from them. What strength and courage each has displayed by opening up their minds and hearts to allow us in, even for a brief moment. I am awed by your honesty and bravery. I salute you all!

 

The theme is relationships, specifically the relationship of marriage as the book is intended as marriage guidance for young women. However, the stories are written by all women – married, single, divorced, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters and aunts – by us all; for us all.  Any person: young or old, male or female, married or single, Muslim or not would be able to see a reflection of him/herself in the threads of the stories. Anyone can identify because much as we are each unique, with our own paths to follow, the narratives bring home a resounding truth – that we are all connected. The experience of living with and relating to one another is what makes us human. No one can live in isolation – we need each other. That is the message in the first story in the first section: Lived Realities and is a theme that echoes in the sections that follow: Food and Marriage, Hardship and Conflict, Dealing with In-laws, Intimacy, Baby-making and Children, and Self-Esteem.

 

What is clear is that all the writers advocate one idea, in their individual ways: our two most important relationships should be that with our creator and that with ourselves. While we are encouraged to work at our spousal-, family- and in-law-relationships, we should never sacrifice ourselves and our identities for any one, or any relationship.

 

The other realisation that was brought home to me is that none of us have everything figured out. We are all on this journey of life, armed with best intentions, guidance and our own intuition. There is no one rule book that will work for every one, and we have to find our way. To do this, we need to allow ourselves to make mistakes.

 

Life is a journey – sometimes smooth, sometimes bumpy and thankfully never boring. Saffron reminds us to enjoy the ride.

Raashi reflects …

A week has passed since one of my happiest days of recent times. On Wednesday, 7 March 2018, I launched my first poetry anthology, Happy Birthday, Raashi. It was a celebration with friends and family, and I am so grateful to everyone who attended. I was thrilled that the work, my love poetry, my celebratory poetry was received so warmly by people in attendance. Read articles or watch videos of the moments here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/raashisreflections/posts/?ref=page_internal

A warm glow spreads over me when I remember the night. To have many of my nearest and dearest share this with me was overwhelmingly rewarding. I am overflowing with gratitude. It was like the heavens aligned and everything went off perfectly. Malebo Sephodi (author of Miss Behave), the discussant was awesome. What an honour to share the platform with such a recognised and well-versed author. It was clear right from the word go that she was intimately familiar with my work. Malebo was in touch with the audience, and engaging discussions followed. 

This rush that I’m feeling is balanced – I’m now also feeling pressure. Pressure to present the two novels I have written and to do that soon. Not least because, if I move quickly, I can capitalise on the momentum from the launches (yes, plural – I’m doing a launch in Durban and Cape Town too). Which means I can’t sit too long basking in the afterglow. I’ve got to get off my butt and get it happening.

I’m thrilled to say that I’m in the final stages (if I ever do stop editing) of the writing. Next step is to finalise the publishing and move into design. Exciting times ahead, indeed.

 

 

Raashida Khan (Raashi) is a full-time writer. For more information, read her Amazon Author bio here. https://www.amazon.com/Raashida-Khan/e/B07B2BLHJ4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1520956565&sr=8-1Follow Raashi on FB https://www.facebook.com/raashisreflections/

Book review: Happy Holidays (An anthology of short stories edited by Andrew Christie)

What a diverse and delightful collection of short stories around the theme of holidays. If the brief is simply, ‘write anything that you would be happy for your grandma to read,’ one is bound to get a selection of feel-good narratives that will capture one’s imagination.

I have the unenviable task of reviewing the book while also being a contributor. It does let me off the hook of choosing my favourite story though. Suffice to say, I thoroughly enjoyed every story and I’m sure you will too. The stories take you to big cities, local villages and farmlands, far-away lands (and galaxies), and into the hearts and minds of people like you and me. They explore themes of love, conflict, parenthood, aging, fantasy while ultimately ensuring a neat, happy ending where the good guy triumphs – not necessarily in a traditional way. I’ve tried to capture the essence of each story, or how it made me feel in a sentence or two.

‘The Potluck’ by Scott Burtness explores how differences amongst us should not divide, but rather, unite us. Food rituals of a festive celebration are described in this fantasy where we are introduced to likeable werewolfs, gnomes and trolls. ‘Gifts from the Heart’ by Sarah Key reminds us that it is always the thought that counts, and that our greatest gifts are the love and connection we share with friends and family. Laura M. Baird’s ‘Unexpected Friends for the Holiday’ touchingly describes how all it takes for someone; a lonely elderly person, to feel whole again, is to be shown a little bit of love and attention. ‘It’s not Funny’ written by yours truly is a hilarious recollection of the trials of being pregnant and giving birth. I’m grateful I can laugh at that now. Dean Baker’s, ‘Just what I’ve always wanted’ tells the story of a young boy being disappointed with his Christmas gift, only to realise the biggest gift of all at the end.

Mamatlodi Ivy Matloga’s, ‘An African Christmas’ explores what we dread but what is inevitable – growing older and aging, as she invites us to share the memories of her world. In ‘On his ninety-fifth’, Ian Patrick tells the story of a bitter, ungrateful old man having a sudden and radical change of heart through a simple act of kindness shown by a stranger. Robert Dinsmoor’s ‘Directions to another world’ is a perfect mix of science fiction and a love story which leaves you wondering … and hoping. Toni Cox’s ‘A Forgotten Christmas’ is a thought-provoking fantasy in the tradition of Lord of the Rings. It is a subtle reminder that no matter who (elf, human or other), we need each other and a link to our past. Let’s never forget to celebrate our traditions and ensure they continue from generation to generation.

‘Kappler’s Christmas’ written by LD Towers is a war story that celebrates the human spirit and the struggle for survival in a heartening tale of camaraderie. ‘How Happy got Lucky’ – a charming play on words, Bedelia Paulsen – is another beautifully crafted story of basic humanity and the principle of karma (what goes around comes around). Madelaine Palmer’s, ‘A Memorable Holiday’ is a delightful family story of love and laughter through three generations sharing the festive season. Ros Nightingale (what a poetic, melodious name) weaves a story of how one tossed fruit pip can change a city and its citizens outlook. Yes, a small stone can cause an infinite ripple. Her story is called ‘The Peach Tree.’

Sian Claven’s love for her furry, four-legged friends gives rise to this entertaining, gratifying story of how insensitive and plain dumb we as humans can be with regards to how we treat animals. It ends happily with a gift to the local shelter to assist them in their endeavours. ‘A Christmas Puppy’ was a treat.

I encourage you to download the e-book or buy a hard copy. All proceeds support world literacy and encourage the authors. Thank you!

Our elders show us the way

I attended the South African Book Fair at Museum Africa this weekend. This was nothing short of an incredibly inspiring and stimulating event with bright minds and thought-provoking discussions. For an aspiring writer like me, it was heart-warming to realise that there is a culture of reading and writing so alive and vibrant in this country; to recognise that all writers – new or experienced – are committed to their calling; and to acknowledge that I am part of a community stimulating conversations that engage with, challenge and possibly change our reality.

 

I am inspired by giants of literature like Zakes Mda, Sindiwe Magona, Achmat Dangor and Deon Meyer who were part of the Sunday morning session, facilitated by Kopano Matlwa, herself a talented young writer with four published novels under her belt. These stalwarts, all of whom have day jobs as well, have been celebrated the world over – collectively they have as many as eighty awards. They freely shared their inspirations, writing habits, opinions and advice we, the audience hung onto every word.

 

We were reminded that the best training is to read, read and read some more. Deon Meyer explains that it is essential to ‘expose and educate the writer in you.’

 

Sindiwe Magona stands testament to the saying, ‘dynamite comes in small packages.’ What a powerhouse, with a charming sense of humour, and dedication to her craft and herself as priorities. She has more than 180 titles published. One hundred and eighty. Respect, ma’am. This was possible only because she did not let ‘obstacles,’ like being uneducated, growing up in apartheid South Africa, working as a domestic worker who slept on a floor in her madam’s garage or being a poor single mum to three children, stand in her way. ‘We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day. Command yourself to use these as efficiently and as effectively as possible.’ I paraphrase, but you get the gist.

 

Achmat Dangor reminded us that we need to write what is on our hearts and minds, as simply as possible. Another scared rule – to write for ourselves and what we know so our voices will be authentic. How else does one make a real connection to ones’ readers?

 

Personally, the writing is probably the most rewarding or fun part. But the business side of publishing, distribution and marketing are probably going to be more challenging. Zakes Mda drove this home. He congratulated self-publishers and others like Niq Mhlongo, who, although not self-published, will market and sell books from the boot of his car. Bra Zakes likened Niq to the early kwaito stars who were solely responsible for getting their music heard by distributing their CDs personally.

 

My time at SABF was well spent. I came away inspired, hopeful and with a bag full of new books. If you don’t hear from me for a while, I apologise. I’ll be busy reading or writing.

 

 

Raashida Khan is a poet and writer, who will be published this year. Follow her on www.raashisreflections.com 

 

 

Not a blog post; a love post

The toughest part of writing a blog is deciding on a topic. Today, I had too many to choose from, not one of which lent itself to positivity.

 

Should I write about the disturbing phenomenon of women and children abuse? Eskom’s latest debacle? The proposed palace for King Goodwill Zwelithini, that tax rands will be used to build? The sickening bomb blast in Manchester? The continued obliteration of humanity and erosion of dignity in places like Palestine, Syria, Somalia, Venezuela … the list is endless …

 

Is there anything I can write that has not already been explained, discussed or lamented?

 

Today, my keyboard will remain untouched. I resolve to send peace, blessings and love to everyone – to the victims and the villains in equal measure, with the sincerest hope that my feeble attempts will make an impact of the smallest stone in a still, deep pool. Let the ripple reverberate forever and reach the furthest, darkest corners. Please let the healing begin.

Keep calm and love South Africa

Apologies for the delay in getting this blog written. I had promised myself that my next blog – this one – would be upbeat and positive. And it took me this long to reach this positive outlook. With thanks to my MD and friend, Janice Scheckter, who said, ’the beginning of the end has begun’. And she is right. Even if the end only comes in 2019, the end is in sight.

It has been a trying and challenging few weeks for my country, South Africa. We have mourned the loss of another of our greatest leaders and visionaries –  a giant of a man, fondly known as ‘Uncle Kathy’. A man who stood at the side of truth and justice, and at the side of our most revered and loved president, Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. We bemoaned our downgraded credit ratings and the events that led to them. We lamented the death of 18 bright and talented school children, and thousands more taken from us because, as a nation, we do not respect each other – the carnage on our roads continues unabated. We hid our heads in shame brought upon each of us by those who refuse to leave.

We have reached rock bottom and the only way from here is up. I believe in South Africa and its beautiful people. If we believe we will rise up, we will realise our potential to become the greatest nation. All that will be left will be a distant memory of this dark period.

Another dark period that we overcame so successfully, was the end to apartheid. Our incredible leaders ushered in the end of injustice peacefully.

Overcome the carnage that greed, corruption and looting has reduced our country to?

‘Is that all? Piece of cake.’

We are many – those of us who love South Africa; those of us who believe in its future, our future and our children’s future; those of us who are prepared to work to achieve it. We must not underestimate the power we have. Use this power collectively and it would be unstoppable. I know many of us are despondent and some are desperate with despair. We are fearing the loss of our beloved country. I urge you to look for the positive. Visualise a bright future and it will appear, rising from the ashes like a phoenix – restored and stronger.

Let’s become positive and active citizens. It may be as simple as just creating awareness around a challenge or cause. Join the Joburg City Network to create a group to start engaging in active citizenry. We owe it to ourselves, the future of the next generation and our beloved country.

While most us expect a 5%, or NO salary increase this year …

Sunday, February 26 dawned, and no surprise for us South African citizens. The Sunday Times headlines exposed yet another corruption debacle at a state-owned enterprise. Collins Letsoalo, acting CEO negotiated, demanded and pressurised officials at PRASA (Passenger Rail Authority of South Africa) to pay him a salary the previous disgraced CEO earned – a cool R3,5 million a year. An increase of 350%! Oh yes, and just in case that was not enough – throw in a personal chauffeur for him as well. 

Tired, beaten and disillusioned, we the people, shake our heads and turn the page. Will he be prosecuted or even disciplined? If similar incidences and stories in recent and not-so-recent times are anything to go by, probably not. As I write this, I am heartened to report that the PRASA Board has stated that the increase was unauthorised and he has been dismissed. Yay! But, I fear our rejoicing will be short-lived. How long will it be before this catastrophe is forgotten and the illegal actions, instead of being punished, will be rewarded by him being appointed to a new lofty position, that we as taxpayers will fund?

Disgraced Brian Molefe, implicated in the damning State of Capture Report resigned as CEO from ESKOM. He did not apologise. Instead, claiming he was resigning because it was in the interests of ‘good governance.’ Great! Marvellous! That’s done, now let’s move on. He has been sworn in as a member of parliament, and we hear rumours of him being moved to an even higher position of either Deputy Minister or Minister of Finance in the near future. Esteemed Minister Pravin Gordhan is expected to be removed, or at the very least, redeployed in the next cabinet reshuffle. He is seen, by ordinary citizens, as the last vestige of hope in a truly rotten government. Minister Gordhan does not serve the ruling party’s greed by holding onto the treasury purse-strings, and not allowing it to be looted. Zuma and his cronies, are interested only in lining their own pockets while the poor are left reeling under the disastrous economy which has seen the cost of basic essentials rise astronomically.

How does the man in the street survive? This is not a question leaders are interested in answering. They could not care. Elected to power to serve the people, they immediately forget their promises and obligations of upholding the South African constitution. Maybe that is too much of an ask, as it is the responsibility of every South African. May I request though, that you, Mr and Mrs Public Servant, just do your job – that which you have been appointed to and that for which you are being handsomely paid? Is that too much of an ask? As an employee myself, I think not. I am not expecting anything more from you than I, and millions of other South Africans do daily.

We, the people are ashamed and quite frankly, fed up with the antics we witness in parliament, state-owned enterprises and other esteemed institutions that are being eroded. At this rate, what legacy will we leave future generations? A failed state, an obliterated economy, destroyed infrastructure and hopelessness? If the ANC continues to refuse to listen to the people, this will all that will be left.

South Africans cannot expect the current government to halt this slide into detritus. Unfortunately, they have failed us. It is up to us, as individuals and passionate citizens of this once great country to rise up and shout, ‘No more!’ Join our platforms – Corruption Watch, A Better Africa and Joburg City Network, to collaborate with like-minded citizens. Believe that collectively we can make a difference, and use the online tools to further the cause that is close to all our hearts, minds and pockets.

 

Raashida Khan is first and foremost a passionate South African and Account Director at Indigo New Media.

Corruption Watch Connected is digital collaboration community of corruption fighters all over the world.

A Better Africa is a smart digital space for collaboration around education, social change, knowledge sharing and data assimilation.

Joburg City Network is a digital community building a connected, shareable and more resilient city using online tools and collaboration as catalysts for change and development.

Hey entrepreneur, have you had your crisis of faith … this week?

Beaten down and broken? Come back fighting. Entrepreneur, the gurus are right – plan, prepare for success, do the hard work, take on the problems, including underestimated budgets and the multitude of little and huge failures. It’s never an easy path, but to achieve anything worthwhile, never is.

Similar to birthing a real baby, the start of a new venture is painful, long, bloody and definitely not pretty. Self-belief and belief in the venture is paramount, lifelines that you will need to repeatedly reach for as sometimes insurmountable challenges stack up against you. The one thing you cannot allow is to take anything personally. This can be the most difficult as bringing your baby to life is personal. No one can understand the passion and motivation you have and how you have invested all of yourself. When things go wrong along the way, it’s natural to feel despondent and to want to throw in the towel.

What serves the best of innovators and entrepreneurs well, is to try and feel that they are actively moving towards their end goal (a moving target in itself), while understanding that certain things are simply out of their control. Period. The sooner we accept that, we realise there are certain things we cannot control. It is pointless to resist them and best to make peace with those things. They immediately become easier to bear.

Some practical tips:

  • Surround yourself with the most complementary team
  • Interact with others working on start-ups
  • Look at things from a different point of view
  • Interact and engage with your environment
  • Network, network, network. Dozens can and are willing to assist
  • Empower yourself with knowledge
  • Be patient
  • Know your resources, internally and externally
  • Return to your initial plan and objectively reconsider, tweaking and adapting where necessary
  • Accept that success before failure is a rarity, and not nearly as fulfilling
  • Harness your fear to direct it positively. It is a powerful emotion
  • Don’t forget to enjoy the ride
  • Read success stories – they are inspiring.

I have listed two of my favourite, inspirational start-up stories:

In 1995, a computer programmer, Pierre Omidyar, started auctioning off stuff on his personal website. AuctionWeb, as it was then known, was really just a personal project, but, when the amount of web traffic made it necessary to upgrade to a business Internet account, Omidyar had to start charging people fees. He actually hired his first employee to handle all the payment checks. The site is now known as eBay.

A trip to Milan gave a young marketer, Howard Schultz working for a Seattle coffee bean roaster an idea for upscale espresso cafes like they have all over Italy. His employer had no interest in owning coffee shops but agreed to finance Schultz’s endeavour. They even sold him their brand name, Starbucks.

These kinds of success occur everywhere, sometimes right next door, or just last week. You (or I!) could be next.

 

Raashida Khan is Account Director and Content Curator at Indigo New Media, a writer and an entrepreneur

 

Reference: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/243099

Is South Africa on the brink of disaster?

I attended a very interesting and inspiring course this past week. The facilitator mentioned more than once that in his opinion, South Africa is on the brink of disaster. The many statistics he mentioned, while not news, were indeed frightening. To know what is happening in society, communities, government, institutions, schools, at universities, in many companies and even homes, perhaps this is a likely conclusion. There are times, when I too shake my head at the reality and wonder if we have gone too far down the path of destruction. Is it possible to turn the tide? 

  

My answer is a resounding YES. At the end of the course, I felt incredibly hopeful and positive, in my personal space, and for society and the country. If every individual takes responsibility for him or herself, if we are all honest with ourselves and each other, I believe we can address the alarming statistics. Do not underestimate the power of one person acting while being cognisant of the consequences of his words and actions. This person can influence the people around him, they in turn will impact others and there will be a ripple effect that will be felt at the furthest shores.

Look at what we can do for others, instead of being selfish. Pay it forward and the universe will pay it back. Maybe not here and now. Maybe tomorrow, in a year or to your children. Improve society for others and it will improve for you and I too. These things can be addressed if people start by being honest and doing what they say they will.

I hope I am not being naïve or simplistic. This is not a magic fix; not by a long shot. Much is in the hands of those that hold power. Government needs to address systemic and endemic incompetence, mismanagement, wastage and corruption. But I don’t want this to become another rant against government. Rather, an acceptance of the responsibility that has been thrust upon me; that I want to stand up and be counted, and accountable. I will start simply by doing what I say I will. I invite you to join me on this journey. For it to work, I need the support and partnership of every South African.

Join one of our online platforms and start a group that makes a difference. A Better Africa is a smart digital space for collaboration around education, inclusivity, social change, knowledge sharing, data assimilation and access to people with great ideas. Joburg and Cape Town City Networks invite citizens and organisations to be active in raising awareness of issues that can be addressed collectively. It’s a start and a step in the right direction.

 

 

Raashida Khan is Account Director at Indigo New Media. She loves South and Africa South Africans.