Rethinking Muslim stereotypes

A Muslim woman wearing hijab

A Muslim woman wearing hijab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had pre-concieved notions about Muslim women, lots of them. All of those and some more were challenged recently when I met a young Muslim girl from Saudi Arabia at JFK airport in the middle of the night.

This was an encounter that left me touched and provoked in innumerable ways. My article about the same went live on Matador Brave New Traveler today. Titled- Rethinking Muslim stereotypes, it raises the question of how we perceive Muslim women but more than that it also is an attempt to unravel how these women perceive themselves.

I’d love to hear what you have to say, here or on Matador.

The Kansas Dilemma

It’s a warm Sunday afternoon and I am at home, watching a documentary. It’s called 10 MPH and it’s about two guys who decide to do a cross-country trip from Seattle to Boston on a Segway scooter. It’s a neat idea and fun to watch. I am feeling a little inspired. I like that feeling.

spring flowerThey are moving from state to state sharing their thoughts about what they see while on the move. There are comments here and there about every state, little trivia kind of stuff. Most of it has been good, so far.

They are about to enter Kansas. I am curious to hear what they are going to say. This is what follows-

“We are now going to enter the state that holds the dubious distinction of being termed as – the most boring state in the United States of America.”

Right.

I am laughing now. Kansas is where I live. I say Kansas City, but it’s actually Overland Park, about 40 minutes out of the main city area.Kansas was my introduction to the United States. Eight months down the line, I am not sure what to make of it.

I never aspired to live in America. Visit, probably. In saying so, if I ever did think about living here, I figured it would be in one of the bigger cities, maybe Chicago, Atlanta, New York? I didn’t even know where Kansas was, till about a month before I got here.

I was open to the idea of moving to a new city. In this case, the choice was not mine and I was even more determined to make it work. It was going to be fine. A day after I landed, I discovered through an acquaintance that there was no public transport. Except cabs, which were extremely expensive.

Really? How do people commute?

Everyone owns a car. Everyone. I met a forty something woman the other day who told me that she had never been on any sort of public transport ever in her life. She thought it would be something fun to try out at some point.

Hmm.

Our decision of not buying a car resulted in sympathetic reactions and long boring weekends spent at home.

We live on a quiet street, in a quiet neighborhood, which in turn is located in a quiet suburb. Don’t think it can get any quieter than that. I always thought I was a big city girl. Now, I know for sure.

I used to go for long walks. There are some nice paths around our complex. More often than not, I was quite really the only one on them.

I’d been warned about winter, more than once. Extreme weather and bone-chilling temperature were to be expected. I hate being cold. I made it through winter, only just.

It’s evening now and the documentary is long over. It has left me reflective. I have questions I want answered. So, what do I think of Kansas anyway? Haven’t I been here long enough to know? Have I ever even thought about it seriously?

What is it about this place that I will take back home with me?Fall colds from the balcony

I have always believed that it is the people that make a place. The longest lasting impressions that I have had from my travels have been of the people that I met during that time.

The answer came to me after some thinking. Kansas has redeemed itself in the people that I met here.

People who have been warm, friendly and smiling. As a visitor to their country, I have felt welcome. That means a lot.

The forty something woman who had never been on public transport told me so when she was dropping me and my daughter back home from school so that we wouldn’t have to pay for a cab. Our house was completely out of her way. That means a lot.

I didn’t meet many people during my walks. The few that I did though, always asked me how my day is going? That means a lot.

Five years from now, that is what I will remember.

I am standing on the balcony now. It is late but there is still some light left. There is a tree right outside with white flowers in full bloom.

It’s a beautiful spring evening. Eight months after I came here, I have finally discovered Kansas today.