One of my favorite Youtube cooking video series is Bajiascooking. Bajia has excellent videos for Pakistani/North Indian Muslim dishes. She claims her recipes are traditional and occasionally ‘village style,’ but actually they are very Auntie-style, using the ‘throw it all into the pressure cooker’ method of the modern urban desi home chef.  Many of her recipes have worked quite well for me, and are very suitable for cooking outside of the des, as Bajia lives in Australia in a setting with no nearby desi grocer and doesn’t always have access to fresh desi cooking ingredients.  Most of Bajia’s recipes are in Urdu, but some of them have been dubbed in English with the help of her daughter. If you search Youtube for Bajia’s English you will find some good ones.

Haleem, not harees, and definitely not daleem

A few days ago, I was watching Bajia’s videos, and I decided to watch the haleem recipe. Occasionally, when surfing the net on food knowledge quests, I have encountered posts on the South Asian dish haleem which encourage Urdu speakers to call haleem ‘daleem’ since haleem is one of God’s 99 names (actually it is Al Haleem), and haleem is mentioned in the Quran. I came across this idea again as a comment on Bajia’s haleem recipe from a user called PaltalkRecording:

Sister . Please Note : Haleeem Allah kay 99 namon main say aik name hay or Sorah Baqarah main 3 bar is ka zikar bhi hay please urud main Haleem ko DALEEM kahtay hain . JazakAllah

The gist is that according to these people it is insult God by using His name in such a trivial sense, like to say “Haleem ko baghaar dena” “Haleem jal gaya” “Haleem kharaab honey walla hai, naukaron ko de do.”

A few posts also suggest to call it daleem or harees. Harees is an Arabic dish which is similar to haleem.  For Gulf Arabs, through whom I know harees, harees is much less seasoned dish than haleem. Harees means wheat in Arabic and it is a dish of wheat pounded with boiled meat. No doubt there is some ancient connection between harees and haleem, most likely through Persia and Central Asia.

If you google ‘haleem daleem’ you will find copious posts on the topic, all condemning the use of haleem as a dish’s name. I even found one Facebook Group dedicated to the topic which is “scheduled to be archived” so may disappear in the near future. (I shamelessly pilfered my haleem picture above from them for this post…)

I am just curious as to whether this attempt at linguistically purging haleem as the dish name from Urdu has had any success beyond the predictable circles? (It seems to me that these circles have grown larger these days.)

I have never heard anyone call haleem anything other than haleem in Urdu in my presence, despite knowing some fairly dogmatic people. It sounds rather absurd to me, but then again, people prefer Allah hafiz to Khuda hafiz now-dogmatic linguistic movements can be successful. So why not haleem to daleem?

Also, I know there is a dish hareesa, and another dish, khichra, both of which are similar to haleem. I was just wondering if there is also some region that has a dish called daleem, or was this moniker made up simply because among the grain and legume medley in haleem there is daal (or dalia)?

Have you ever actually heard someone say ‘daleem’?

Someone told me that daleem means pomegranite in Bangla, so this linguistic push against haleem won’t work for Bengalis. The dish is also made in Bangladesh and is known as haleem there, too.

If this anti-haleem movement takes off, Shan Masala will have to produce Shahi Daleem masala or maybe angry hordes will burn down the shops. (God forbid!) Ironically, the meaning of the rich Arabic descriptor of God,  Al Haleem encompasses notions of deep tolerance and moderation.

I say Khuda Hafiz instead of Allah Hafiz on purpose, since I think the Allah versus Khuda issue is silly. I will most defintely stick to calling haleem ‘haleem’ and never ‘daleem’ even if the new term does gain popularity.

WordPress tells me that it has been over three months since I last posted. I have been busy and in another transitional period with the Texas-Virginia move, so I haven’t felt like blogging.  I am just waiting right now for my pressure cooker lid to fall in, so I will try to write a post now as I sit in wait.

I didn’t feel much like blogging last year when we were getting ready to leave Dubai. Subhanallah, it has been well over a year that I have been back in the US. My husband left Texas for the DC area to start his new job in late June, and my daughters and I followed him in August. We would have joined him sooner, but we had to wait for the apartment we had selected to be ready. So, I got more play time with my family in Texas, alhamdulillah.

Now, I am in Novastan. I quite like it here, alhamdulillah. There is a huge and diverse Muslim community here. It is A LOT easier to be in public in hijab here, thank God. In Austin it was very challenging due to all of the stares. Here, there are many hijab wearing women everywhere, and they seem to be working in major stores like Walmart, Target, the grocery stores, and all. So it is a regular sight here and not something that draws too much attention. In Austin, it was also hard to go out with my parents because people would stare even harder at our interfaith family as if to say “Oh my, golly garsh, I would be so embarrassed if my daughter ever went and married one of them men and came home to me wearing that thing on her head…” but then again, maybe that is all in my own head and no one was really thinking that at all. Stares and visible discomfort, though mostly stiff uncomfortable friendliness and politeness, were a common reaction to me.  My whole family is great about it and it never bothered a single one of them at all to be out with me in public (well, except for my 90 year old grandmother, but hey, she’s 90 mashallah), and I realize that I am lucky that way because I have other friends who really get hell from their own relatives about hijab.

So, out here in Novastan I have a lot of options for Muslim worship, including a more progressive oriented community, which is refreshing coming from the Arabian Gulf where in order to be considered “religious,” you have to wear all black and cover everything but just one eye to see the way and pray in the darkest corner of your house. Any inclination to pray at mosques in a mixed gender musallah where you could actually SEE the imam or khateeb, while indisputably the Sunnah arrangement of a mosque, was just unthinkable. But here I have it much better. One of the many reasons I like being a practicing Muslim better in North America than in the Arabian Gulf.

There are also a lot of other things I like here: greenery (I like walking on trails), Muslim mommy meet ups, Hindi/Urdu language practice groups, and…I have an Andhra style dosa place right outside of our apartment complex where I can go and get my dosa fix. No, it isn’t my precious Saravana Bhavan by Lamcy Plaza, but it is crispy (though a bit oily), spicy, and good. Actually, my apartment complex is filled with Telugu speaking people. All my neighbors above and below are from Andhra/Telengana. It seems that there is quite a large Andhra community here. I should learn Telugu.

I also met a Sindhi Auntie who is visiting her daughter from Pune for a few months here in my apartment complex, and who I chit chat with while her grandchildren and my kids play on the apartment complex playground. She brought me a sample of some kind of Maharashtrian fresh green chile and garlic chutney that she made the other day. This place is really starting to feel like Dubai, all Indian neighbors and aunties bringing me samples of delicious things to eat!  I also met a white Australian lady who is married to a Bengali. She is a Hindu convert and she introduced herself with a Sanskrit name, and even though we have chosen different paths I feel we have quite a bit in common as someone who has changed my name to Fatima. When I talk to her about my life and travels, I don’t have to explain every single thing to her. Interestingly, she has a brother who converted to Islam. He is married to a Malay lady. For some reason, a lot of Western male converts seem to be married to Malay or Indonesian women, I have noticed. Last, I met an  Andhra lady from Hyderabad who is very nice to talk to. She told me “Oh, I have lots of Muslim friends back home, and when I talk to them,” …she points to the group of Andhra aunties standing nearby in a circle next to the play area… “they say, your Telugu is half Urdu!” I peeked at some online Telugu learning resources out of curiosity, and I saw that there were a lot of Sanskrit as well as Persio-Arabic words in it, so although it was Greek to me, I could pick out some words I recognized from the sample sentences…so I guess Hyderabadi Telugu is very Urdu-influenced??? She also told me her roommate in college was a girl named Ayesha who is still her best friend. I get it, she has to show me that she is friendly with Muslims and doesn’t have any issues with making a friendship with me. I held back from telling her the same thing back-”Oh, in Dubai I had sooo many Hindu friends, I lurve pure vegetarians and they lurve me back, yippee! Some of my best friends are…blah blah blah.” I did tell her that my husband has relatives living in Hyderabad and he has been there before, but let my actions and personality let her know that I am totally open to friendships with anyone and everyone. Anyway, I am an American, not an Indian Muslim, so I don’t count when it comes to these sensitive issues, and I have the option to brush this stuff off. She is very nice though and we have good conversations. I am thinking about asking her to take exercise walks with me, since she seems like she might be game. I walked almost every day for the whole year in Texas, but sadly have only been out walking one single time here.

We have settled into are apartment nicely, and we are just missing some pieces of furniture and some things that will finally make our new home complete, but mostly everything is set up. I still have to take care of some special vehicle registration stuff and get new license plates. I did get a new driving license, so one thing down, two more to go!

Well, *pop* there goes the lid to my handy old pressure cooker. Off I must run!

Inshallah we will be leaving Texas and moving to the DC Area soon. Northern Virginia, or Novastan :D as I have heard it called. So, in November DH turned down the Great Lakes job. In December he got an offer in Dallas and we were like, alhamdulillah. But then they stalled on sending out the contract, Christmas and New Years came and went, and right after New Years they told him that his position had not been approved in the budget. That was a big disappointment. Then there was a lull. DH kept on having regular phone interviews, but nothing progressed. For months. At some point, a company in the Kansas City area got very interested, but that didn’t pan out either. So we sat in wait. Each company scheduled their second and third interviews weeks apart, and the interview and feedback cycle is so slow. Finally, an opportunity that had come up in March ended up in the final stage of interviews. He flew out for the face-to-face interview this week, and today, they made the offer. Perhaps I shouldn’t jinx things because there has been no contract signed yet. But, a renege on the contract couldn’t happen twice, right? Right? Am I tempting fate by writing this out? Anyhow, three job opportunities actually came up together at once, and this was the one DH like the best. So we should be moving next month. It has been 11 months since we arrived.

I knew that this was coming for a few weeks. The DC area was one of the places that I had in my mind as very desirable. Everything I wanted in a place to move is there. I cried immediately when my husband told me he accepted the offer, though. I have just felt so comfortable here at my parents’ house. My kids have had such a great time and have grown so close to my parents and my brothers and sister. It is making me tear up to type that out. I was hoping we would be in Austin, Houston, or Dallas. I love Texas in the irrational and patriotic way that a person loves home. I wanted to be in Texas. I was hoping we could be close enough to at least visit my parents on weekends. Looks like it’s gonna be once or twice a year. But that’s okay. I will always remember this time with my little daughters at my parents’ house as a very special and blessed time. We had so much fun.

So, off to new pastures we go, saying bismillah…

The Secret Love Lives of Muslim Women – Call for stories As many of you know, we’re working on an anthology project entitled ‘Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women’.

We received some incredible submissions and great feedback from agents and publishers. We’ve been asked to include more stories and are reaching out in the hopes that you will consider writing and/or help us spread the word. We are soliciting auto-biographical stories written by American Muslim women on love, dating or courtship. While we prefer that authors write under their real names, we recognize that some topics – including sex, sexual orientation, polygamy, mutah marriages, etc. – are sensitive, so we are accepting a limited number of anonymous submissions.

If you are interested in submitting a piece, please send a first draft (1500-4000 words) by Monday, February 28th to relationship.anthology (at) gmail.com. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at the e-mail address above. Thanks for your help and support!

For more info: https://sites.google.com/site/loveinshallah/

According to an online date calculator, it is around 62,000 minutes until we arrive in Amreeka. That’s about 43 days. So much is going on. I am in the middle of a term at school. I have students to prepare to teach everyday. That keeps me busy, busy, busy Thank God. That’s what I am here for, right? 

 We are settling on a shipper. We have been discarding unneeded clothes and other items. But aside from those few things, it is just sitting and waiting for this huge life change to come. The major tasks of the move don’t start until right before we go. I am staring into my crystal ball, wondering how things will work out, but everything is hazy. Do I see foreboding clouds? Do I see a few glimmering flashes of light? My husband has been sending out job applications online for a few months. He actually has a couple of places interested in interviewing him. He is on a third level interview with a prominent company in California (Silicon Valley). What if we moved to California? My girls would be California girls. He has also finally asked his current employer about possible transfer to any of their US branches. He hasn’t given proper notice yet, though. His employer told him that they would look into this and get back to him. Two of the companies that contacted him for a future interview are in Texas. Right now we have nothing, and I am counting my chickens before they hatch, so to speak. But what if it came down to a choice between a major city in Texas and California? There are positives and negatives to any place. And I am just making khayaali pullao in my head.  Heaps of pullao.

I told our housekeeper a few weeks back that we would be going. I actually found her a new sponsor before I told her. The future sponsor is a colleague and I have known her for a few years. As she will be going to her home country for the summer, she is actually okay with letting my housekeeper go home to visit her family this summer, too. Alhamdulillah, this has worked out. This was another thing that had been giving me knots in my stomach. You see, before I leave the country, I have to either cancel her visa or she must transfer to someone else’s sponsorship, or I cannot leave the country. That’s the way the rules work here. I knew that she would find another sponsor pretty easily, but she has some requirements, such as staying in our neighborhood, and having certain timings off. If she went with just anyone, she couldn’t be guaranteed to get what she wanted in an employer. So now, alhamdulillah, she will be going to someone who agrees to her requirements, but will also be cool with her going on vacation this summer. Yay! If she hadn’t gone on vacation, we would have owed her the ticket money anyway, but of course it’s not the same thing and she really wanted to go home. So, inshallah khair.

I try to absorb the sights of Dubai, just because sometimes they are so surreal to me, and also so I don’t forget them. You see, we live on the edge of a desert. There are sand storms, especially at this time of year. The whole sky blackens, as if it were going to rain. But there is no rain. Just tiny sand tornadoes whipping around, sending granules of sandy irritation into my eyes, sending sand and dust underneath the front door, choking me if I take a deep breath. And sometimes there is no sand storm, but the sky is just gray. There is no sun. It can go for weeks like this. No sun.

And then there are surreal moments. On my way to work, I drive through a stretch of desert. I see cars with Oman license plates. I miss Oman. I see giant water tankers with scenes of Northern Pakistan painted on them. I have always meant to take pictures of them, but never have. I’d probably get in trouble for doing that for some reason. You can’t just go do stuff like that here. In front of me is big truck and I squint to read the Urdu lines painted on the back as we are stopped at a light (or it could be Pashto or something). Above it says ‘Haripur.’ Near to the license plate, the Urdu is very squiggly and I struggle to read it. Kabhi…Kabhi…it then becomes clear. Kabhi Haripur Ao, Na. I had been straining to read something so simple. The light turns green and the truck speeds away. For some reason Haripur sounded like it should be in India to me because of the nomenclature, but I google it and find it to be in the Sarhad. It looks like a beautiful place. Some Haripurwalla really, really loves Haripur. That sticker was most definitely not meant for my eyes in particular, and I had taken note of it randomly. But somehow I found it to be very interesting. I should make a bumper sticker that says ‘Kabhi Texas Ao, Na’.

I will soon be having Dubai lasts. Last meetings with friends. Last meals at favorite haunts. Hmmm, my last dosa at Saravana Bhavan. That will be a sad feeling. I have had friends come and go here, as that is the nature of the city. And now it is me who is doing the ‘going.’  The mango season is on now, and although we do get Indian mangoes in the US, there are special suppliers here with really great mangoes. Hmmm, and the litchis are in. Also, here we get Pakistani mangoes, too, straight from Sindh. I know those are available in Canada, but not in the US. I have already had some lasts. Last autumn I was keenly aware that it was my last season of ratab, fresh, ripe dates. I have always loved the ratab season. Hmmm, California has good dates, I hear.

It is gonna be American Thanksgiving on Thursday and then Eid on Friday, Inshallah. Usually we have people over for Thanksgiving, but this year I haven’t bothered to invite anyone. I still want to cook for Thanksgiving, though.  And then the next day is Eid. So this coincidence could potentially make for way too much cooking. Even though I have not invited anyone over for Eid, and we don’t know anyone well enough for any Eid milan unannounced but expected popover stuff.

I am just cooking because I am imposing on myself a pressure to play a role of wife cum-family cook who produces holiday meals. My husband could care less and would just as well enjoy ordering a pizza. And my kids are way too small to care. So it is all me. All in my head.

I don’t want to invite anyone for Thanksgiving. I just don’t feel like it. I know that’s bad. I am getting so anti-social. We get these huge turkeys over here and every year I end up freezing a bunch of leftovers even when we do have guests. So this year I bought a fresh leg-thigh piece. It is still pretty huge. And I have no clue how to cook this thing. I was thinking of pan searing it in butter and then baking it. But for how long? Maybe 45 mins to an hour? I just don’t know. I will have to research. I hope I don’t screw the dang thing up. But you see, I MUST cook turkey. Even if it just a piece of the bird. It is a compulsion.

And then the next day is Eid. Once again, I am being a recluse and have invited no one. And no one has invited us. That is how it is in Dubai. We may go all dressed up in our Eid finery to the Global Village or to a mall. So sad, I know. At least on Eid day 2 we are invited to a one-dish party. I plan to do dam ka queema. But for day 1 I am tempted not to cook anything. Yet I feel I should just to go through the motions. Isn’t that so silly? I will probably end up preparing my husband’s family recipe for qabuli pullao. I should make a sweet dish but actually no one will eat much of it but me. My husband isn’t too crazy about desi sweets so if I make muzaffar or kheer or sheer qorma or whatever he will have one tiny bowl and I will end up eating the rest of it, a bowl here and there a few times per day over the next few days, loading up on ghee, sugar and thickened milk fat calories. No thanks. I write this now. But watch me cave in and make a sweet dish anyway. The qabuli pullao we will eat for lunch. And then we will probably end up having some Eid dinner out at, perhaps at the Global Village at Kausar Pakistani resto. Or if we are at the mall it may be…gasp…Chili’s. Chili’s for Eid dinner? Oh, scoff away but I promise every Chili’s location will be packed and there will be a 25 minute wait for a table. And I will have a fajita salad and my husband will have a burger. Eid in Dubai. Hmmm. Last Eid, I did make a biriani for lunch and then I believe at 10 pm that evening we were at the mall and had Hardee’s burgers.

Anyway, I could invite. But I just don’t feel like it. Some people love entertaining, but I find it stressful. Especially cross-cultural entertaining where I have my American “help yourself, make yourself at home” type thinking and a lot of people here have the “you are my guest so let me attend to you ever so well ” style. I am just not up to playing hostess right now, I guess. 

Somehow I don’t want to play hostess, but I want to play chef. Sigh. I know.  Just go ahead and order that pizza.

Happy Eid al Fitr to you and your. Hope you achieved a lot during Ramadan, and that you have a blessed Eid!

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