For the Love of Honesty

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I am a terrible liar. Not for lack of acting skills, but due to an overactive conscience. To keep pangs of guilt at bay, I usually rely on unadulterated honesty. For a long time, I maintained the naive perspective that most other people in my life also follow this refreshingly honest mantra. In this manner I found my downfall the same way Hassan from Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner lost his innocence. As Hassan’s best friend Amir so carefully observed: “…that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too.”

A few jolting discoveries in college helped me understand that actually, not everyone always tells the truth and people do not always mean what they say. In fact, many people have no qualms whatsoever about telling lies and fabricating stories.

Over the years I managed to adapt my ways so as to better cope with society’s realities, and during this time my mom has been my biggest supporter. From trivial matters such as cancelled lunch plans to more crushing blows of personal betrayal, I have always relied on my mom to serve as my pillar of strength. We agree on most everything, my consumption of outrageous amounts of diet soft drinks aside. So imagine my surprise when we disagreed on the very principles of honesty and candor that she has always instilled within me.

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An honest man

Many moons ago, Love InshAllah co-editor Ayesha Mattu asked me to be an advance reader for the anthology. I used the word “honest,” and structured my thoughts around that idea.

Ayesha engaged me as to why I thought being “honest” was so important. It’s because honesty is hard, and no matter how much we practice it – and it is something we practice, because it’s not natural for us – it’s still a radical thing.

We never want to present ourselves in a way that makes us seem less than we think we are. That means we obfuscate, divert, and weave tales of who want to be, both to ourselves and to others. We craft these narratives, and in the telling, there are omissions and commissions. We are not lying or being dishonest, but we are not being honest. We want to be well-thought of by other people.

Love is a hard topic. Along with money, it’s probably the one place no one likes to think of themselves as being less than successful. To talk about sex in a way that intersects with religious sensibilities adds another layer of complexity. Unless these women were all malamati, seeking opprobrium to detach themselves from this world, their stories were radical because they were honest.

When Ayesha came to me and asked me to contribute to the blog, I readily agreed.

Then, I panicked.

I realized that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be that honest.

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