We’re all kid-trepreneurs at heart.

Long ago during the days of anonymous AIM chat rooms and dial-up Internet, little Tania was a mastermind of ideas. Before becoming burdened with adulthood and its accompanying anxieties and risk-aversion ways, she was quite the action-taker, believe it or not.

What I should also mention (can’t handle third-person reference for more than 20 seconds) is that I used to be significantly more involved with my local public library at the time, borrowing upwards of 30 books a week. I say this not to humble brag, but because I am in awe of the person I used to be and potentially could have been if that childhood habit had persisted. Most of my ideas were generated from reading hundreds of pieces of literature in the course of my childhood.

I didn’t care about the specifics, but rather, just went full-steam ahead with my plans. For instance, Ann M. Martin’s “The Babysitters Club” inspired me to launch a real-life version. Start my own baby-sitting club without zero experience? Why not? I began by communicating the idea with unwavering confidence to my friends (coincidentally, they were also fans of the series). Plan out all the deliverables by hand (that is, scribble furiously on sheets of loose-leaf and essentially steal copyrighted ideas from Ann M. Martin), design a “logo”, host meetings and create excitement.

Our logo looked something like this too. Originality at its finest.

Okay, so that ended up going nowhere.

However, when it came to other executions, I was relentless. Back when children were hurt by skinned knees from bike rides rather than mean comments on Instagram, I was a fairly active child who loved being outdoors with the neighborhood kids. Weaving in and out of the hallways in the apartment building I grew up in, pestering those around me to play tag or simply run around the front yard helped plant the seed to start a community garden, so to speak.

How to start? I didn’t have any money–allowances are a foreign concept to Bangladeshis. Hell, we’re lucky to be living under our parents roof and paying rent by way of mandatory chores. My next course of action was to immediately ask my “wealthier” friends for a loan–that is, $5 from my equally poor neighbors to buy a ton of flower seeds from the local bodega. Through word of mouth marketing, aka asking my four friends for help, my would-be gardening club flourished for a good three days (or as long as my estimated attention lifespan.) I even managed to witness a few marigolds blossom.

Fast forward a decade and change–the spontaneity is long gone, replaced by deep set insecurities and indecision at the prospect of taking such chances.

I was recently struck with pondering just why this course of action occurs: barring the obvious–typical adult responsibilities, financial burdens, bills and the like–what exactly prevents someone like myself from making these major decisions in a more mature capacity? Fear? Uncertainty? Potential failure?

I’ve been on a mission to change my life in the wake of a quarter life crisis. I didn’t realize part of that meant regressing back to the old me.







Sweet land of liberty…?

The long stretch of Spring marked by hunger pangs and tongues dry as cacti lounging in our mouths came to a close on Saturday night. Thirty days of Ramadan culminated last weekend with the celebration of Eid-al-fitr, a day that, fittingly, is observed by stuffing yourself with as much food and delicacies as possible in the span of 24 hours.

Surprisingly, Muslims worldwide were able to settle on observing the holiday on the same day without too many arguments breaking out on a global scale. All five boroughs in NYC marked their calendars for Sunday, with public school children enjoying the following day off as well. I myself participated in last minute Chaand Raat festivities, opting to line the back of my hand with traditional henna patterns.

Image result for henna designs on hands
Mine wasn’t nearly as intricate.

But Muslims can’t catch a break for longer than a week, so it seems. The days leading up to and following Eid were inundated with a string of grim occurrences worldwide targeting Muslims.

  1. The murder of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen in an apparent road rage incident.
  2. A van crashing into a street full of Muslims after prayers in London.
  3. Reinstating Trump’s travel ban, with odd caveats–as the New York Times so aptly put it, “Stepsister, yes: Grandma, no.
  4. Acid attacks against young Muslims in London–the severity of the event notwithstanding, please note the Metro’s notable URL tags in their coverage.

As it goes, the rhetoric that tends to follow aligns with outrage, followed by a slew of blogs and news articles examining, over-examining, condemning, or defending the events.

The quiet.

And then the period of discomfort and unrest, before yet another incident occurs.

Despite all statistics highlighting the fact that crime rates are at its lowest point ever, it sure doesn’t seem that way for targeted groups. Disasters may seem exaggerated by way of social media, but the upside is its influence in making people more woke

Filter out the facts from all the noise.



30 days in 3 hours.

The word of the day: grateful.

The experience in feeding the hungry when you’re fasting during Ramadan is extremely humbling, to say the least.

A few coworkers and I gathered at the Holy Apostles Church this morning to serve a meal to hundreds of New Yorkers from all walks of life.


I was assigned bussing duty, a task that allowed me to stretch my legs and pass the time more quickly. I hovered around tables 14 through 16, watching visitors like hawks so that the second anyone rose to leave, I’d dash over to their seat and wipe down the area for the next person. (May have taken my job a little too seriously.)

In these few hours, I’ve come across some of the kindest and most appreciative people. I know, I know–this story reads as super cliche. Girl who has always had a roof over her head and a hot meal to eat goes to soup kitchen, meets people who know the real meaning of hunger, feels slap from reality.

The thing is, it’s not that I’m not appreciative of the things I have. But running about today with my tummy rumbling and helping hundreds today led to an epiphany of sorts.

I realized that regardless of the purpose of fasting, the fact that abstaining from eating or drinking for myself and everyone that I know is ultimately a choice–because sunrise or sunset, sustenance is readily available to us at all times.

The lessons of Ramadan were encapsulated this morning.

As the great Kendrick Lamar has said, “be humble.”



A country’s scars revealed, the wounds never healed.

*Opinion piece

In a paradoxical sense, I am at once a skeptic and simultaneously a fan of serendipity. But if the latter exists in its happiest form, then its less-positive counterpart must exist. I don’t believe coincidences are really just that.

That being said, my commute to work this morning was riddled with coincidences. I usually dread the hour-long ride to Midtown in the event that one of the following occurs: train delays, broken escalators, NYPD waiting just inside the station waiting to search frazzled travelers, that one person who stands on the left of the up escalator and prevents the steady stream of commuters from moving forward.

Oddly enough, all of the above happened on this dreary morning of November 9th, one day after the results of the United States election. Minor annoyances yes, but coincidence? Doubtful.

We’ve all heard the news: Donald J. Trump has won the majority of electoral votes and is slated to be the 45th President of the United States. The House and Senate belong to the Republicans. Many in the nation, primarily those along the border of the Northeast and West Coast, in concentrated cities and countless overseas nations are reeling in shock. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton and other women’s rights leaders are turning over in their graves. The stock future is careening downward fast. Tears are being shed, while fists are triumphantly thrust into the air at the same time.

Our current state of affairs.

What went wrong?

The Democratic party was convinced that we had it in the bag. The Clinton dynasty was set to reign on. We would proudly proclaim our first woman President. The same way Barack Obama paved the way for future black American presidents, so would Hillary for any woman citizen, period.

Last night, all the hope we had set on her platform came crumbling down at the feet of our new president to-be, a remarkably self-centered billionaire who can neither identify with the majority of his voters nor the demographics he has offended and condemned throughout his entire campaign.

So what happened, exactly? It’s not simply the fact that Donald won the election that is causing the uproar, but the fact that every shred of “evidence” pointed against him. Polls, surveys, observations, mainstream media, everyone had  us convinced. I don’t think anyone honestly, truly considered a potential Trump presidency. Sure, he’s the opponent, but his candidacy is too farfetched to ever make it far, we thought. I recall sitting in a waiting room in a Bronx courthouse last summer, waiting to be called for jury duty. Watching open-mouthed as Donald Trump declared his candidacy in a speech inundated with racist and xenophobic insults. Firmly casting away any aspersions that he may one day be the President of the most powerful country in the world.

I think it’s safe to say, given last night’s results: holy fucking shit.

Though it hasn’t quite sunk in yet, we should never be led to fall to our knees. Yes, the results have exhibited a clear message: we are a nation divided. Yugely divided. Why is this the case?

I think the true culprit here is a lack of listening skills on the Democratic part.

When you listen to a friend lament over their problems, are you really listening, or just impatiently waiting your turn to contribute your own problems? The fact that all of our predictions was wrong was a huge slap in the face, but was it such a surprise? Let’s ponder.

Most of us never cared to explore why Donald Trump has so many supporters in the Midwest and other red States to begin with. By simply casting aside these voters as “uneducated, white country bumpkins”, we have pushed a large demographic farther away in our deliberate refusal to understand or even empathize. Truth be told, the average American is severely misinformed or even uninformed on the ins and outs of politics. This passive nature is found in the so-called Southern rednecks and the allegedly sophisticated city dweller alike, so there’s no pointing fingers in this sordid scenario.

This election has been the ugliest in American history, completely transforming the country into adopting an “Us vs. Them” mentality. This is just the tip of the iceberg, friends. It is the bitter truth that Trump will be taking on the presidency, but as soon as the reality sinks in, we have to be ready to mobilize.

Mobilize. This isn’t a call to war, to condemn Republicans in the way that many of the party has condemned the Democratic party and Obama the past 8 years. It means that being a social media warrior and sharing memes and bemoaning the fact that Trump is poised to be the leader of the free world will not do anything to abet the current situation. We must learn to fully educate ourselves on how to effectively create change, not riot and bitch about what has happened.

What does this mean for the future of this country?

As my mother, a working class immigrant mother of three who shares one of countless stories of the immigrant diaspora who sought the United States to create a better life for children than the one they had lived–or, you know, Trump’s target demographic of people who are destroying this country–had said to me on the phone a few moments ago, “We can only wait and see.”

This much is true, for now. It hasn’t even been twenty-fours since the news was announced, so we Democrats will be sitting shiva for a few days now. Countless publications are steeling themselves and trumpeting their disbelief at the outcome of this election.

We the people–black, white, Asian, Latino, gay or straight or trans or veteran or disabled, anything and everything in between–must show courage in the face of unprecedented strife.

But for the rest of the day, I will weep together with the New York City sky.

The elephant in the room, addressed.

I bite my lip. Fidget around in my seat with my legs tucked into a vague lotus position.

Released a stifled coughed, scratch at the skin around a budding pimple and mentally cursing its appearance the day before Homecoming Weekend.

I shift uncomfortably. There is a sense of unease, a constant presence that weighs itself down upon my chest. I’m well aware of how to remove it, in fact I possess a manual that provides meticulous instruction on its removal. But I don’t use it, except to cast a cursory glance into the pages every now and then. Perhaps flip a page, engage long enough to lull the weight into a false sense of security, tricking it into believing that change was coming. But it wasn’t.

And even though I know what I should be doing, what I must be doing, I allow for time to lapse, only to look back in horror. It traps the oxygen into my lungs, asphyxiating me until visions of shattered glass, a painfully obvious metaphor for broken dreams, lines the bottom of my eyes.

There is no point in pretending there is potential. Potential exists so long as the individual is willing to earn it. There’s no coddling in adulthood, no parents to pat you lovingly on the back, reassuring you that there’s time, that you can do it if you try. It is the oddest feeling, the strangest sensation, this new life. Some seem to ease gracefully into the period after college, when true life begins. Others, many others like myself, only pretending.

“It’s true: we’re all a little insane.”

Adulthood is a sham. You never truly know what you’re doing. The fake it till you make it facade represents the entirely of one’s adult life. How is 23-year-old me any different from 18-year-ol me? Do I know more? Am I more conscious of my surroundings, can I say that I am more observant?

I’ll take a stab at defining this new life: it challenges your self discipline. You are no longer compelled to glide to and fro in accordance to a structure, a structure that you have practiced as long as you have been breathing. Schooling. Parenting. Rules. Repercussions.

You can do whatever you want now, and therein lies the truth: who have you been this whole time? A cog, following orders? Now that you have your own say, now that you can define who you really are with no constraints, does it scare you a little?

Yes, yes it does. It scares me. What if I have no idea what I’m doing?

What if I never did?

I came across an interesting AskReddit thread yesterday that posed the question: “If you could call yourself from five years ago and had 30 seconds, what would you say?”

A simple inquiry, but it haunted me: what would I say? Would 18-year-old Tania be proud of who she became today? There are some days, when the sun overhead matches the mood I am in, where I would confidently say, yes she would.

Those days don’t come by too frequently.

I can’t say whether this is a testament to confronting reality, and having the bubble finally burst. 2016 has been a year of changes, of hardship and guilt, and overall–growth. I have grown faster than I anticipated. It’s been a hard year. It will leave scars, both physical and invisible.

Sometimes, I cannot breathe. I want to be somebody, but these shackles won’t let me. Or maybe I just won’t let myself.

Cheers to disillusionment. In the meantime, how do I remember to breathe again?



Two Muslims murdered in Queens over the weekend in a “not-hate” crime.

Though I haven’t explored the depths of Queens as far as Ozone Park, I am aware of this diverse neighborhood along the A line that borders Brooklyn–it could be a twin of my own neighborhood in the Bronx in terms of demographic.

Teeming with Bangladeshi immigrants, many of who left behind a wealth of life experiences and memories in their mother country for the sake of pursuing their hopes and dreams in a vastly different environment. A story told and retold many a time. A story that I play a role in, having lived the first year of my life in the city of Dhaka before my parents made the move to the United States.


Source: BBC

Which is why, upon learning the story of 55-year-old Maulama Akonjeea nd his 64-year-old friend Thara Uddin being shot point-blank in the head to death by an unknown assailant following afternoon prayers at the local mosque in Ozone Park, thrills of fear tremored across countless Muslim communities citywide.

Mr. Akonjee and Mr. Uddin may as well have been one of the many friendly, devout uncles I grew up with, learning the wonders of Islam at their side. Though I cannot call myself a particularly religious person, word of all peril occurring in this world in the name of Islam and the slander of the religion these days sings a different tune than the one I was taught.

My mother, my grandmother, even my high school tutor in Jackson Heights were among some of the individuals who taught me how a concept as hotly contested and zealously protected as religion can be a wonderful thing, so long as the observer appreciates their beliefs for the its goodness and focuses solely on that. I experienced none of the negativity that is framed on our televisions and newspapers daily when it came to Islam.

But in the eyes of a killer, strife, struggle and passion are meaningless. It doesn’t matter how desperately one swam to reach the shore; never mind family and friends, loved ones and life. In a matter of seconds, this killer–hardly any leads on tracking him as of yet–made all that disappear. Forget the word of any God, because according to this man, he gets to call the shots and decide who lives and who dies.

Sincerely hoping against hope that the families and communities affected will persevere, and do not allow terror to shape their own lives.




To the man who sells bananas.

It’s been a few weeks since I last saw you, maybe longer. I hope you’re doing okay.

Every day when I get off the 6 train at my stop, I breeze out the doors of the station and cast a quick, curious glance at you before heading home. This action became perfunctory as I grew accustomed to seeing you daily, patiently hoping for a customer or two out of the throngs of people exiting the train station in the late afternoons and early evenings, with a box of bright yellow bananas perched at your feet.

I watched, a bystander whom you probably never noticed, as you waited vigilantly day by day. You keep odd hours, banana man; I’ve seen you at your spot when the handful of stars that belonged to the city glinted overhead, wind swirling through the crunchy leaves that lay on the ground in the dead of autumn. The nights when I would return home from a late shift or an evening out, I noticed you.

Sometimes, I wonder how you can stand it. On some of the coldest nights, you wore a threadbare jacket and sandals. I’d hoped against hope that you would go home soon, because the sight of your bare toes poking through the top of those shoes made me feel cold in places where no clothing could warm.

It wasn’t often that I looked into your face. In fact, so rare an occasion it was, that it is highly unlikely that I would be able to recognize you in a crowd. It is your presence, ever prevalent and doggedly determined, that makes you stand out. But I could tell, by the brown of your rugged skin and the tired lines etched into the corners of your eyes and mouth, that you are one diligent man. Your face, the few times I’d absorbed it, was often expressionless. But I say this not in a derogatory manner, but because you are still, yet accepting. You are content in your space, because you recognize that sometimes life simply is.

I know that this probably isn’t what you were expecting, growing up in whatever country you did. Maybe you were an educator, or involved in politics overseas. So tried and true is the immigrant story in the United States that you likely could have been anyone abroad, only to arrive to this country to start all over, but this time with a heavy setback. Perhaps you never pictured yourself at whatever age you are, eyeing folks in the Bronx in the hope that somebody would give you a second glance and purchase a bunch of bananas from your stock.

I hope you know you have the ripest bananas I’ve ever seen. I look forward to seeing you next, so I no longer deprive myself of those beauties.