“Just the way I saw him, 365 days ago.”

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Epiphany?
As a pessimist I have to admit the following. Regardless of how blessed and thankful I am, a part of me still looks for a reason to live another day. All 365 days of the year, I constantly go over my mental bucket list on which only one item is crossed off. That one item being ‘cross one thing off your bucket list’ should give you an idea of where I’m going with this.. However, on my last trip to Pakistan, I realized how extravagant my ‘reasons to live’ were in comparison to the small blessings I am bestowed on a daily basis. Small reasons, that I have taken completely for-granted, which at any moment could be taken away from me! Numerous realizations followed, however the most interesting part is how I came to these realizations.

Deja Vu:
6 o clock sharp an old fashioned horn went off. As if the feeling of déjà vu, I rushed to the balcony of our little apartment. I tried to get the lock on my window to open but it was rusted shut from the last time we had visited. I put on my shoes & ran outside to get a better look; that’s when it hit me. It wasn’t déjà vu, it was the rush of realizations. There stood the same boy who had been delivering bread to us the last year we visited. The same boy, as though oblivious to the changes going on in the world around him, still stood tall. This boy had not even aged! The few strands of hair on his chin still remained freshly trimmed & his shalwaar kamiz just as starched as the last time I saw him, 365 days ago.

Prioritise:
The children around him had grown taller, but just as rude as before. This time they had siblings, half their height as though carbon copies of their elders. He still responded to them with just as much love, as though he did this for them. For him, all he needed was these kids looking up to him! Instantly the energy to live another day would be reimbursed. With huge bags hanging from his little Honda, he carefully picked out local chocolate bars of their choices, but the light in the children’s eyes could not even compare to his. At that moment, it was quite obvious how counting your blessings is just as important as prioritizing them.

Unemployment in Pakistan:
At times one must realize it is not what you do for a living, as long as you enjoy it. However, with the pacing rate of unemployment, many are left struggling. One of the main reasons behind this, is the uncontrolled growth of the population. The population of Pakistan is growing at an insane rate, hence logically there aren’t that many opportunities available. Some believe the reason behind this pace is due to early marriages, lack of awareness & illiteracy. Despite the uncountable schools on every street, some factors caused by corruption do not allow for a fair education system. Therefore, those that have gained their degrees through unofficial systems, are granted the jobs of those who deserved them.

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Content?
For that reason with such little opportunities available, at times many find themselves in a constant battle to be happy. On the other hand, for the blessed, knowing about the numerous opportunities available around the globe can also cause unsatisfactory to their current stage of life. So frankly, it does not matter whether you have it all, or if you don’t, you will always find yourself in the same battles. It’s those that make the most of them, that remain content.

All photos taken by yours truly!

 July 2014

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Finally Content

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Despite being born and raised in Saudi, I am no more than an expatriate. My father having lived here for more than 40 years, makes him no more than an expatriate. My grandfather who spent his entire life helping build Saudi Arabia’s economy, died on their land, no more than an expatriate.

Why?
Numerous reasons to why our ancestors moved to Saudi Arabia, in my opinion it was mostly to cut short the distance between them & God. It’s quite a luxury to be able to visit Makkah & Madina any time we wish, at times we don’t even realise how many people would kill to be in our places yet we just take it for granted.

On my last trip to Madina I was fortunate enough to see the less spiritual and more routine life of its people. I then decided to at least try & voice the issue that clearly seemed to spread throughout the region. Of a family business where the women sell everyday necessities under the hot sun while the men sit & guard, one of them in particular caught my attention. Looking down at the ground she waited till the sun set to once again catch the sight of her children, to see how much they earned throughout their day. By carrying the inherited business forward & despite the conditions she still believed to call Madina her home as,in her defence, she knew no other. However deep down she was aware, she knew she was no more than an expatriate, just another migrant from Pakistan.

Give it your all
Despite spending all her time & money in this beloved country she was never given any recognition. Every month would be a struggle from one bureaucratic office to another, just to be able to earn the legal title of a “resident”. Over the time span of a couple of months, as the process would begin to clear, it wasn’t long before the documents would begin to expire again. Once again forced to go through the same processes over & over, struggling to stay in the country her ancestors and herself had given their all to.

Inspired by famous Saudi artist Manal Al Dowayan’s piece “Ismi” – she creates an artwork based on how men find it offensive to mention the names of their women.Taking matters in her own hands Manal decides to gather the saudi women to stamp their mark in the emerging art scene. As the industry grows their names shall remain preserved, un-erased & never again be a source of shame.

Earning the title
Manal Al Dowayan is now known as Saudi Arabia’s top female artist whose name brings upon her people’s faces sheer pride. Proved to have clearly achieved the objective, it was after Manal’s last exhibition that I was stimulated to at least voice this issue. An issue that seems to permeate the entire region! Often when people hear me vent about the matter they seem to have no other solution than to leave. Frankly no better cliche fits in here than “easier said than done”.

Finally conscious
Jeddah is & shall always remain home to me, not only has it moulded my every characteristic into shape but has rather taught me far more than any other place in the world could. Being able to deal with such a vast number of nationalities is not a characteristic we inherent , & frankly is one that’s definitely worth keeping. Along with the luxury of frequent spiritual journeys it’s far more than a blessing. A constant reminder to what my morals are, Jeddah seems to have the perfect blend of life & the afterlife. Most of you that don’t agree have not yet reached your epiphany,I reached mine right after I shot the preceding shot ..

Being content with what you have, and with what you don’t is what most of us lack. We might say we’ve given so much only so we are given at least its equivalent in return. Only once intentions are clear & hope for nothing in return,might actually prove to be quite a satisfaction.

Content, yet still fighting
Tackling cultural issues has always intrigued me & somehow have always made their way on my canvas.
What started off as rage-full drawings of “home” as a child, have now lead me to capture other faces who tackle & struggle the same matters. Not only did I notice the great number of people who wished to share their voice with mine, I also learned to express it in a form that gave me most pleasure. With the aid of just one lens, every shutter is a step closer to my actual epiphany..

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. Photos Dated – December 2012