Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
For about the septillionth time this year, I find myself wondering why in the feck I’m writing screenplays. Short of papier-mache sculpture and nudist interpretative dance, I think it might just be about the hardest art-form to gain any kind of material success in. In fact, I think those two art-forms might be far more accepting of the under-represented.
My current project is a rom-com called Whose Wife Is It Anyway. It’s tortured, it’s romantic and hopefully it’s funny.
That’s my sales pitch to you.
But to me – I get to say goodbye to my mother. The way I wish I could have. I get to re-imagine a few acrimonious conversations as sensitive, peaceful, healing conversations. I get to have a few more funny, loving conversations with arguably the funniest woman I’ve ever met. I get to hear her voice again if only in my imagination.
And dear owner of eyeballs, you have no idea how long and how badly I have wanted to hear my mother’s high-pitched hectoring again.
A project I want to work on next year takes place all in one location, namely my family’s home here in Colombo.
I don’t have a sales pitch for you yet -sorry.
But for me – I get to be there as my mother dies. And I get to imagine her as a super-hero. No, more than that. A legend.
Even if it sucked donkey testicles in real life, on the page at least, I want to say goodbye to my mother the way I wish I could have.
As most Game of Thrones fans have, I’ve also been pondering the poor sodding fate of poor sodding Elia Martell. In love with a good-for-nothing foppy hair-brained prince. Nearly killed by childbirth. Twice. Abandoned by aforementioned blonde fop. And then raped by the Mountain. And killed. Brutally. But not before her children are murdered in front of her. Including her baby son.
If we stop to think about it, this is probably happening in the real world a whole heck of a lot. In fact, it might even be happening right now. In Palestine? In Syria? In some ISIS-controlled hell-hole where there are no reporters because no one in the outside world cares?
I invite you to simmer in that fetid reality for a moment.
Now. Why in the feck did GGRM enshrine it in fiction? Who’s fecking wish was he fulfilling?
Every pregnant woman in the series either dies a gruesome death or has the ones she love die in cruel and unusual ways. Robb Stark’s wife got off pretty easy actually. Daenarys and Elia Martell – I mean, seriously, GGRM?
Which leads to wonder why the male species would be so cut up about Ghostbusters. They aren’t real.
The rape and murder of women and children in times of war – that ish is far too real.
Whose wish are we fulfilling with our art? It’s worth contemplating. It’s worth questioning. It’s worth saying no to the beast when he asks us to make our darkest fantasies true on screen.
- When my son naps, I go straight to my current project. I no longer waste time. No Facebook-ing, tweeting or other nonsense. When he is awake, I am his. When he is asleep, I am mine.
- I’ve realized I just can’t afford to waste time easing into it. I used to spend 30 minutes or more doing improv exercises, free writing, morning pages, etc., trying to warm up my brain. None of them worked. I’ve realized that my brain is warm, well, because, thank God, I’m alive. Which is good because I can’t ease into mothering either. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- I pay more attention to EVERYTHING. Whether I’m exhausted or my son is saying his first word while I’m looking at my phone, I’ve learned to be in the moment, however uncomfortable it might be.
- I don’t waste time on anything that isn’t beneficial. That’s why I switched from straight comedy to romantic comedy. I’ve been in love ever since. With being a mom, I’ve learned the glorious power of No. If something isn’t good for my family, sorry, not sorry.
- I know when to fold. I know when to ask for help. I don’t work to myself to exhaustion.
- I’m open to play.
- I’m open to surprise.
- I have no choice but to roll with the punches. I keep the faith, keep a sense of humor and survive. Everything ends and everything changes if I just give it enough time.
- I’m no longer waiting on baited breath for the outcome. I try and enjoy the act of writing itself and try not to care too much about winning contests, agents, managers etc. None of those things are assured in any way, shape or form. So I might as well just love writing. Similarly with being a mom, I try to enjoy my little boy’s company. Not be forever thinking of the next thing to check off the to-do list or to constantly be thinking of how I can turn anything into a teaching moment. Fact is, whether his dad and I are ‘teaching’ or not, the child is certainly watching and learning. And I have no control over what choices he makes as an adult. Only what role models he grows up with.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.
All of this is still true. And still enormously frustrating. In the face of waves of rubbish from English-speaking film, I want to hold firm to the mast of my principles i.e. the things I really love. I won’t be afraid to not like something and I won’t be afraid to fall head over heels in love with something. And I won’t be afraid to have my hopes dashed against the rocks either.
(But, thank God, I freaking loved Star Wars.)
9. Women/POC/under-represented people winning. Stories with these people which are not just about them being under-represented.
I HATE HATE HATE movies which make the conflict in the movie all about someone’s gender/culture/disabilty etc. As if the only story worth telling is how their depressing, awful, lack of privilege is making their lives depressing and awful. And often how they ‘rise above’ their depressing awful lack of privilege to become more acceptable to the privileged, one way or another.
Those things are true. It kinda blows not being a white able-bodied straight dude.
But heck, we have trouble finding parking too. We have days where everything goes wrong. Where our kids or spouse or co-workers or parents drive us crazy. Those conflicts have nothing to do with our identity categories. Couldn’t we also perhaps be caught unwittingly at the center of a zombie apocalypse? Alien invasion? Earthquake? A hostage situation? (To be fair, I can think of a few action movies that have represented women and people of color a little better. Salt springs to mind. And Jack Reacher.). A parental conflict? A black-magic ritual gone hysterically wrong? You know – life?
Romantic comedies make me want to weep (not in a good way). It’s all beautiful white people in sun-kissed environments falling in love. POCs fall in love too. And sometimes – really! – the people they are in love with aren’t too concerned with their background at all.
Now I’m sure this has shut down the brains of a lot of romantic comedy writers out there now. What? An Indian woman could marry a non-Indian man and not have to contend with culture?
There are other obstacles to true love. Drug abuse? Political rivalry? Bad weather? It’s called creativity. It’s worth exercising.
No, really. My kingdom to see a Muslim woman fall in love with someone who really is not intimidated by her faith. And I’m pretty…oh, I don’t know…hardcore I guess, but honestly, I wouldn’t care too much if their relationship was ‘Sharia-compliant’ (my Muslim peeps know what I’m talking about). Just Muslims being humans. The way I know them to be. Not refugees, terrorists or accomplices or victims thereof. Gah.
No, there are no examples of this because there aren’t any that I know of that don’t come from Bollywood, Korea, etc.
These kinds of movies positively cook with tension and are amazing fun to watch.
I’ve yet to see a better example of this than Skyfall. The dueling philosophies in Skyfall are the old (M, Bond and the M15’s ways in general) against the new (Silva and his tech-as-terrorism tactics).
One of my favorite bits of set dressing that reflect this – this bit of dialogue occurs when Q first meets Bond:
Q sees the end of something great. James Bond sees something much more blunt, much less beautiful, still pretty awesome.
And at the end of the movie, when Bond meets the new M – Ralph Fiennes’ character, Gareth Mallory – they have their first conversation in front of a painting of another bloody big ship, this one sailing into the horizon.
In other words – ‘screw the inevitability of time’.
I just loved it.
When every filmic choice made speaks to this one theme, the film coheres in an immensely satisfying way.
For the record, there are very few movies that I would watch over and over again that are NOT comedies. Of the straight-up action movies, there are only 3: World War Z (for reasons mentioned in earlier posts), Jack Reacher (for a great character) and Skyfall.
It’s been more than a year since I did this blog post. And yet again my thoughts on the matter have changed.
You see, just a couple of months ago, I realized I want to write romantic comedies. Heaven knows why it didn’t occur to me before. I’m a hopeless romantic and I love making people laugh. I guess I was just confused by my affection for fantasy, sci-fi and the perversely funny.
I think this list still holds true generally, but I’m going to work on a different list for romantic comedy. Gives me an excuse to geek out and watch as many rom-coms as humanly possible.
So there’s that. Cheerio, darlings.
I’m so full of feces.
I’m trying to distill life and death and guilt into bolded bullet points for your easy digestion.
When I’m fighting everyday at this keyboard trying to write something that feels honest. That cannot be contained by a three-act structure.
(That maybe does happen in three acts for clarity’s sake, but alludes to something bigger. Also because tying my brain in knots isn’t my idea of fun. And I want to make people laugh. And that means making sense. This is a long parenthetical.)
When my mom died, I learned that I don’t know how to grieve.
For a long time, I wondered if my father was right. If I was selfish. Whether I even loved anything or anyone enough to grieve if it left me. Other than stand-up, improv and my personal freedom. Grieving all of that sounds even more selfish.
But then Mama died and my life went on as if nothing had changed. As if I hadn’t lost a limb.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to grieve. Everything I said before was utter nonsense. Well, I do all of those things but only to survive the day. But I have a feeling that most of us want to do more than just survive.
Muslims aren’t really clear about grieving either. Sure, there’s the washing and wrapping of the body, the Janazah (the funeral prayer), etc. But being in America and my mother being buried in Sri Lanka, I could not partake in that ritual.
Leaving no clean break in my life between ‘with Mama’ and ‘without Mama’.
The best I could get from YouTube is don’t wear make-up or colorful clothes. Well, in that case, I’m grieving most of the time. Or my wardrobe is, anyway. Surely grief is more than sartorial choices?
So I’ve decided to drown myself in other people’s grief. After finishing #ZD30Script (in which I hammered out a holey outline) – I thought I’d treat myself by binging on House of Cards AND Breaking Bad.
But I figure they’ll wait.
Cried for a young man about my age, snuffed out before he could prove that he could be a father.
Decided to watch The Station Agent – a little person is underprivileged too. Though unlike the POCs in other movies, does his happiness come at so steep a price?
Well, I guess everyone’s happiness comes at a price. Uncertainty.
One of those quiet indie movies with quiet change happening over many quiet moments. The humor is pretty quiet too. The only two jokes in the movie are in the trailer.
My life has never been that quiet. It’s always been loud, messy, chaotic, out of control. Even if I wanted to be a hermit, no one would leave me alone. No one leaves me alone long enough to complete a writing sprint. It’s a struggle to quiet the voices in my head.
And of course, sex. Changes. Everything.
And things change all in a rush – that part is true to my life. And suddenly we’ve found our place in the world and all that madness was worth it.
I liked that movie. I’d like to see a movie like that about people of color.
There’s a grief here I can’t explain. Would movies have saved my mother? Would movies have kept me from post-partum depression?
Movies can’t even seem to tell my story.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
I hesitated to write anything anywhere because I didn’t want to add to the cacophony of voices yelling at each other across the void. So much noise, so much noise, so much noise. I just couldn’t take it anymore.
However, this blog is really for my benefit. My therapist said I should write down my feelings and I feel strongly about what’s happened and what’s been happening.
I confess I didn’t know at there had been attacks in Beirut the day before Paris was attacked. I did know about Myanmar. I did know about CAR where some murderers are apparently EATING their Muslim victims (click on link at own risk – needless to say, it’s pretty shocking). I say the victims are Muslim because the conflicts in both those countries are along ethnic/religious lines.
The world at large seems to think that Paris too has become another battleground in the clash of civilizations. The turmoil in my gut tells me that whatever I say, I believe it too.
I’ve lived almost half of my life with this fear. Expending energy trying to justify my faith. Trying as much as possible to show people how not extremist I am. When really, I’m hard-core bonkers in almost every way. Including faith. I don’t do anything by halves. You should taste my chocolate chip cheesecake. But that’s a blog post for another time.
And I’m tired. Good grief, dear friend, I’m so tired. I want it to end.
And this helps: https://www.facebook.com/noumanbayyinah/videos/vb.185523868247030/626546100811469/?type=2&theater
Nouman Ali Khan doesn’t speak specifically to my situation, but applying this to my life has cleared a lot of mists Alhamdulillah.
My job, what I want to teach my son, is to deal with what life gives him. I can try and protect him all I want. But I know that life isn’t always going to be rosy. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that at some point, crap is going to hit the ventilator. What’s he going to do then? What am I going to do then?
The sooner I accept that terrorists will claim Islam as their justification and I will have to face the consequences, the sooner I can move on with my life.
So some fool out there might try to kill my son and I. Or my husband.
No one knows when God’s gonna punch our card. This is reality. No use griping about it. Sure, it isn’t right. But it is.
So what am I going to do about it?
Fear sucks. So that’s out the window.
Insha Allah – I will live then by my principles. I will hug children (only if they want to be hugged, of course.) I will feed people, because God, nothing makes me sadder than fat bellies in one house and starving children just down the street. I will stand up for young women. I was one once and I would have appreciated someone having my back. I will stand up for women in general. I will tell the truth and not be ashamed of who I am – hijab, five daily prayers, fasting, horse-laugh and all. Most of all, I will make it my life’s work to practice compassion. And that means opening my heart. And trying to make sense of actions that, at first blush, often seem senseless.
The only way I’ve ever tried to make sense of things is drowning myself in prayer and drowning myself in story. Prayer is of course intensely personal. Story, however, is a dialogue.
Some days – some years, in fact – the only reason I stuck it out with humanity is because of movies. Movies convinced in the words of Samwise Gamgee
that there is good left in this world. And it’s worth fighting for.
I’ve gotten to know and love people I could never have known in real life through movies. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never met a trans woman. Yet Soldier’s Girl broke my heart into a million pieces. To the point where I couldn’t watch the ending. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never met a drug addict. But Half Nelson allowed me to. Maybe in our darkest hours, we’re still pretty damn fine people. I don’t mean Ryan Gosling-fine, I mean creative and fierce and protective and fascinating. It’s heartening to know that.
Maybe someone some day will listen to my story. Well, not just mine but all Muslims’ stories.
Until then, I can tell you this. I’d love to hear your story. We can sit on the carpet in my living room (you can sit on the sofa if you’re more comfortable there – I’m a ground-person). I’m South Asian so you can’t leave my home without eating till you burst. And I’d like to hear your story. You don’t have to agree with the way I live my life; I don’t have to agree with the way you live yours. But good God, I want to hear your story. The fear, the failure, the falling, the fumbling, the fury, the fantastic. The glory. The glory of being alive.
How people can kill each other after living lives full to the brim of awesome – doubt and love and heartache and beauty – I will never understand.
But then it just is. It just is. I’m alive. You’re alive. And our lives are too important for fear.
Peace out, brothers and sisters.
P.S. This dude just said everything I’ve been trying to but so much more beautifully. Nailed it. Just nailed it. Now I can rest without obsessively editing this post.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
So. On to the next few things I think are awesome – you’ll find Part 1 here.
This exercise has been profoundly useful because I’m aware almost before I watch a film why I’m going to like it or hate it. This is because the way films are marketed today, they leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. I always know exactly what I’m getting. Not saying that’s a bad thing.
And it provides an additional, much more nuanced layer of culling when I decide what I’m going to do next myself.
It helps to know that you’ll remember why you love something three years later when you’re weeping over rejection letters.
I wish human beings were like that.
Anyway, onto more serious but fun stuff.
6. Great structure.
World War Z performed as advertised. It had plenty of action sequences since it was an action movie. In between sequences, there were a few moments of breathing space as the protagonist worked out the problem. It took place in three or four different countries and managed to not feel bewildering. If I ever take it into my head to write an action movie (I might do just to entertain my husband) – I hope it’s as well structured.
7. Weirdness used to explore the quotidian.
My current two favorite examples of this:
- The One I Love
- The Future.
Both of these films used science fiction/fantasy conceits to explore a run-of-the-mill relationship milestone – where is this relationship going?
The Future is a little more absurdist than The One I Love. You’d have to approach it with a more of a film-school, liberal-arts sort of mindset. Basically, anything goes.
The sci fi aspect of The One I Love is much clearer and more pronounced. It never loses track though – the emotional through-line remains pretty clear. The partners in both movies are asking themselves the same question and exploring the answer largely separately and in different ways – ‘should we stay together? Do we have a future?’
8. Honesty/authenticity = BRAVERY
I find myself not being able to describe or define authenticity accurately. It just sorta is. Something in the story resonates with some deeply buried part of me. Deeply buried and never acknowledged. And the movie dredges it up to the surface and puts it on display for everyone to see. Liberating rather than embarrassing.
I’m sure my mother would rather I keep my mouth shut and act dignified even if it – literally – kills me. Yes, my mother has walked sedately across a pedestrian crossing as a truck careened towards her, horns blaring, refusing to break her gait even it meant certain death.
Me, I hoofed it. To heck with dignity.
(In case you were wondering, the truck missed, thank God.)
That’s why it’s called a generation gap, I guess.
My example for this was yet again Obvious Child. I’ve racked my brains trying to figure out what it is about that movie that resonated with me.
Of course, Shaula Evans managed to figure it out for me, disguised as a humble writing prompt.
Jenny Slate told the truth in Obvious Child. And there’s something in us that punches the air when someone tells the truth even if – especially if – it’s painful and not pretty.
At the risk of angering feminists – that doesn’t just apply to women, though Lord knows we need the truth. That applies to everyone. I’ve found myself resonating with some of the oddest movies and TV shows. Because they seemed true.
Maybe this is where the real power of cinema lies. In the truth.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.
I hope everyone’s having an amazing new year. I hope you had a great 2014 – mine was difficult but kinda beautiful in an unexpected way.
Looking back on my year, I’ve surfaced a few regrets (haven’t we all?) I’ve been choosing projects that I think people want to see rather than stuff that’ll light me on fire. Yes, thinking about the consumer is important. That said, scripts are like relationships – you really need to feel true love for it to work in the long-term. And that means looking for something substantial past that first flush of romance. It helps to get intentional, I think, with what you want out of life and what kind of family you’d like to have.
Yes, I’m very much still in the ‘beating metaphors to death’ business.
Replace the word ‘family’ with career and you have a good philosophy of screenwriting.
So here I am refining my previous ad-hoc rather ill-conceived list of qualities of great film.
Another thing I’d rather not do this year – write useless blog posts. I know when what I’m putting out isn’t particularly useful. I’m going to try and eliminate that. It wastes both my time and yours.
Don’t you just hate when you receive emails from people who are trying to sell you things? I want to receive emails because someone loves me and is thinking of me. It sorta makes me sad.
I love you guys, so consider this the first of God willing many presents.
- People being awesome.
- People being emotionally horrific.
My example for both of the above is Frances Ha.
This movie was excruciating to watch. Mainly because I’ve been there. No, not ‘poor’, but depending on the kindness of others and not getting it. Getting instead an odd sort of cruelty, an everyday but excruciating sort of torture, that you can’t really put your finger, that no one will go to jail for, but you know is a crime.
And who was awesome in all of this? Frances was awesome. Despite her pain and humiliation, she still danced down the street to ’80s music. She still held onto what made her unique.
And [SPOILER ALERT] – much like me, one day, she just got it. She figured what she had to do to survive. It takes a while, this adulthood crap, but it ain’t so bad once you get there.
I love movies that document that everyday inhumanity and everyday awesomeness. They are very often very uncomfortable to watch. But I love them.
This is not just about the everyday or the ‘micro’. Sometimes this can be about the macro – something larger scale that encompasses a town, village, a city, a country – politics, etc. A case in point being Billy Elliot.
Billy Elliot danced with joy, exasperation, frustration, guilt. He danced whatever he was feeling. And his family felt angry and sad because of the political situation and the loss of his mother.
Both joy and despair occurred in equal amounts in this movie.
There’s a lot about the human condition that seems dichotomous to me. To know joy, you have to journey through despair. To experience and truly appreciate comfort, you must know pain. To love, you must know what loneliness, hatred and non-acceptance is.
Which leads me to the next thing I love:
5. Cyborg movies.
I don’t mean movies about cyborgs.
I mean movies that inhabit the cracks between categories, that defy easy categorization – something I know Hollywood loves, but I frankly do not. Is it a comedy or a drama? Is it about one man or about the world? Is it about a family or America?
Examples – Obvious Child.
Comedy? Drama? It certainly wasn’t always funny.
Thriller? Drama? Is it about Michael Clayton or is it about the world that created Michael Clayton?
Watch this space because I’m going to keep talking.
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem (no, I’m not going to let you forget I’m a Muslim. And no, that’s not ‘speaking in tongues’. It’s speaking in Arabic.)
I know, it’s been a heckuva long while since I’ve written.
There’s been a whole lot happening which will probably become clear in the coming months.
- I got into the second round of Sundance Screenwriting Labs. My heart stopped.
- About a week later, I was selected to be a member of Geoff LaTulippe’s first ever #selectedten. My heart, which I had just gotten up to speed, stopped again.
It was quite a learning experience both times.
With Sundance, I had to write an acceptable nth draft (I’ve lost count) of a script in a week. A script I wasn’t planning on looking at for another year at least.
I don’t think I’ve ever worked that hard on a screenplay in my life. The important thing is, I know I can.
With Geoff’s thingy…competition? Quest? Quest sounds about right.
With Geoff’s quest, we had to write a screenplay in six weeks. From scratch. I had been prepping something else, but like a fool in love, I decided to go with the sci-fi comedy screenplay I’d been wanting to write for a while.
I really was a fool. But I think it paid off in ways I’m only beginning to realize now. Here’s what I learned from the entire experience:
- It’s hard work, this screenwriting business. From what I hear, 6 weeks is the standard gestation time production companies give you (I think).
- My instincts are much better than I think they are. I wrote two drafts in six weeks – well, a draft and a half. One was 58 pages long, the other 96. The first time I knew there was plenty wrong with the thing. The second time as well. In fact, I knew what was wrong both times. But I was too focused on hitting that deadline. Troubleshooting and solving problems are a big part of screenwriting and I should have taken more time to cook that turkey.
- Speaking of cooking turkeys – I love outlines. The more detailed and robust my outline, the more confident I feel, the easier and faster pages get written. That first ‘draft’ was sheer agony. Never again.
- People make everything better. The Selected Ten are kind of awesome.
- I love science fiction.
- And I freaking love screenwriting. I love that it hurts. Because, ladies and gentlemen, you can’t grow if you don’t hurt. I’m not suggesting stubbing your own toes, but you get what I’m saying. Even babies cry and then they learn that Mummy and Daddy have always got their back. Or not. Either way, it’s a good lesson.
- I love peeling away the layers and figuring out what the characters want from me. Whose Wife Is It Anyway is the first script I’ve brought to polish. The first script I think is good enough to show to people. And I love that I can remember so clearly – even though it was 3 years ago – not knowing what the characters really wanted. Really shooting in the dark. I remember doggedly sticking to it against everybody’s silly advice and finishing it. Of course, nothing may come of it, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.
About the Black List reviews:
- Some reviewers are definitely more inexperienced than others and it shows. But that doesn’t give what they have to say any less weight.
- Some reviewers are definitely on a power trip. One reviewer basically asked “what’s the point?”.
- Franklin Leonard did say that the score doesn’t always reflect the review. The reviewer I mention above rather inexplicably gave me a 5, in spite of the fact that he/she didn’t think my screenplay had a ‘point’ or was entertaining. Another reviewer pretty much agreed with the content of everyone else’s reviews, but gave me a 3.
- Does the ethnicity and gender of my main character have a bearing? I wrote a 51-year-old female Indian protagonist. Yeah, it probably does. Won’t be so naive as to think it doesn’t.
- Probably got the lowest score of Selected Ten. That hurts pretty bad. I guess I should have modified my expectations. My husband tells that I always knew I wasn’t going to write a ‘perfect’ first draft (that’s impossible), so the end goal was the reviews, not the score. Still, I’m a brown person getting a mark – asking me to ignore it is like asking me to eat poppadums without any chutney.
The sudden wave of recognition is over. So here I am, back again. In my pajamas. Still an unemployed, unrepresented screenwriter. It’s pretty depressing, to be honest. Unlike other jobs, one can’t really see a career path. One can’t see steady paychecks or insurance. One really can’t see anything. Even if I did become ‘successful’, ‘paid’, ‘represented’ – it’s never going to be stable. Right?
But you see, I’ve done that job thing and that job thing and I had to break up. I kept trying to go back but jobs really didn’t want me. Honest to God. Got laid off TWICE and fired once.
I’ve taken the easy way out. It almost killed me. It gave me anxiety disorder and made me miserable during my waking hours. I remember this. I’ll try not to forget.
This is what I’m meant to be doing, I think. But even though I remember the misery, I’m still scared. There’s no safety net. There’s no plan B. And the world is a weird-as place, dude.
Reading my previous post again, I realize beyond all shadow of doubt that I’m scared of losing. Losing what? Well, it depends what time of day it is. I’m scared of relinquishing control. But control doesn’t exist anyway.
Maybe this is the way it’s meant to be. One day at a time. Nothing for granted. I’m trying to be all spiritual about this.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Give thanks before you lose everything. I’m srs (look, I lost all my vowels. Damn you, Twitter!)
Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.
So this past weekend, we went to New York City.
I’d been dreaming of visiting NYC since I was very very young. I wanted to make a real weekend of it. Drive in and live at a motel and really get to see everything. On foot, on the subway, in cabs and in the car.
But it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve been unexpectedly ill for a few weeks now. Our New York weekend got downgraded to a New York tour. Which are usually 8 hours plus.
I didn’t feel up to that. No, really. Me. Who could jump up and down for 5 hours straight. Who spent three days on my feet shooting a short film. I didn’t feel up to it.
So instead we visited the Intrepid Air and Space Museum (my husband’s really into planes and war memorabilia). It was really cool.
West Manhattan is kind of gross and smelly and crowded though. And the Trump Place buildings right next to the museum are a real eyesore.
But it was nice too. The pall fell from my eyes a bit, I have to say. But that’s okay. It’s just a city. It’s not Heaven. Maybe I’ll find the life there if I went looking.
Which brings me to me.
I’m a real perfectionist. I don’t even want to attempt something until it’s perfect. To a degree that’s a good thing. But it also leads to feelings of despair, obsession (that’s one of my favorites). Not to mention when I enter the realm of rapidly diminishing returns.
Hard work is good. Perfectionism isn’t.
My latest screenplay seems to have a fairly solid structure. But it lacks flesh. I’m working on the flesh now. It’s new territory for me. I’ve not drawn on my own life. I’m writing different ethnicities, different ages and different genders. And the dysfunction of the family very much depends on the internal dysfunction of the characters. Which is what I’m drilling into right now. It’s a little scary. But kind of exciting.
I’m not going to wait till things are perfect though. I’m going to launch it when it’s ready. And not when I’m ready.
Which brings me to something else. A complete non-sequitur.
I don’t usually talk politics or world affairs on this blog. But this one hits a little too close to home. My home.
Regardless of what the BBS say…Sri Lanka is my home. Regardless of whether I speak the language (I don’t) or look the part (I don’t), Sri Lanka is my home (so kill me).
I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because almost every member of both sides of my family are still there. Maybe because every family story I’ve ever heard has been set there. Maybe because it just feels like it. And I don’t need to justify myself to anybody.
But apparently now I do.
I want most dearly to make movies in Sri Lanka. I have some radical sci-fi fantasy ideas I’d love to set there. To think that I wouldn’t be welcome, and that I wouldn’t be allowed to explore my own past, cuts a lot deeper than I thought it would.
If I’m not Sri Lankan, what am I? A Muslim woman, I guess.
No! No, I’m not going to let someone take away my identity because they feel like it. Sri Lankan Muslim Woman. Deal with it.
I bet no one has ever dared tell a white man that he isn’t white. Though I guess even white men have been chased from their homes.
Here’s what I think the worst-case scenario will be:
BBS start looting Muslim towns and Muslim properties.
The Muslims who can, scarper overseas.
The others stay and are butchered.
Or convert to survive.
You see, Sri Lankan Muslims, we’re not the fighting kind. People say that when you push us far enough, we’ll push back. But not us. We have nothing to push with. Not a fighting bone in our bodies. We’re all biryani and weddings and businesses. That’s all we are.
Yes, there’s fury. But I don’t think we’d ever harm another human being. We haven’t so far. We have simply run away.
But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps we will form our own militia and fight back. Be branded a terrorist group probably. Who’ll support us financially and with training? Our own businessmen? Probably not. We’re making too much money overseas and don’t want to be blacklisted. The Muslim Sri Lankan diaspora? Again, I think they’d largely be too scared. Who then? Boko Haram? ISIS? Al Qaeda? They have no interest in the region.
So what then? Massacre.
Then no more Muslims in Sri Lanka. At least not openly.
You know what people call that usually? Genocide. Pogroms.
What will people call it now? Absolutely nothing.
No one will come to our aid.
Not the first time I’ve been betrayed. But I really never expected blood.
All I can pray for now is that I still have a home to go. And all of my Muslim brothers and sisters too.
Lots of love and peace,
The Happy Muslimah