Posted on Oct 28, 2019
As we near the end of this series, our Blog Editor Dilshad Ali finally makes her debut! Everything you read (and share) on the blog is the work of Dilshad, who manages a team of four stellar contributing writers as well as HH team members who occasionally write for the blog. Dilshad has been covering and coordinating coverage of Muslims in America for nearly two decades and is dedicated to elevating the conversations and reporting/telling the stories that matter to Muslim women about Muslim women here on the HH blog.
But did you know that Dilshad, a mom to three kids, has also been working in the realm of autism advocacy for many years as well, writing and sharing stories of her family's autism living and helping to make Muslim spaces more inclusive of people with disabilities? She also loves grunge rock, The X-Files (but not the reboots) and irritating her kids by singing off-key to them! Get to know Dilshad as she answers 15 fun (and a few deep) questions in our ongoing summer (now fall) team-focused series – "15 Things You May Not Know About ... "
Our Blog Editor Dilshad Ali at at an open air market in London this past summer.
1. What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
I love reading books, especially favorites (mainly fiction) that are old friends to me and I reread them over and over as a source of familiar happiness and comfort. Though I don’t have much free time, recently I’ve been reading memoirs and more nonfiction, as I’ve been trying to write my own memoir and learn more about the world around me. I’ve been struggling to get through In a Different Key - The Story of Autism, because it’s a difficult read given my own family’s autism story/living. I made it to the last quarter of the book and have been stalled for two months now, trying to get the emotional courage to finish it.
I also just like hanging out with my kids (I have three, two sons and a daughter) in my free time, whether we are watching Bob Ross on Netflix on endless loop, Planet Earth episodes, talking Star Wars or hanging out at the park. And, because I need to be truthful, I also watch silly videos on YouTube, like scenes from Brooklyn 99, The Office or whatever. Those algorithms get you every time!
2. What are your hobbies? What are your dream hobbies?
Reading has always been my hobby and love. Writing (story telling), too. It’s my job, but it’s also my hobby. I’ve blogged for years on the intersection of faith, family and autism, and for fun I take memoir writing classes to work on writing our family stories. I have small and big dream hobbies - I want to learn to knit like my Nanima (maternal grandmother). I think I would like it. I’d love to travel, just be able to plan a trip and go. I’m way too much of a homebody, and I’d love to just head out for day trips or weekend trips on a whim.
3. What is something you hate doing?
Gosh, where do I begin? Washing dishes or cleaning up the kitchen after cooking (I cook nearly daily for my family). Having to fix things - like household repairs or medical bills. One of the things I dislike the most are all the meetings and paperwork and hiring of caregivers I have to do for my 19-year-old autistic son - maintaining his benefits and supports, justifying things, trying to understand and work with the disability system (be it educational, government, therapeutic, whatever). It wears you down, and I just want to be his mom, you know?
4. If you could eat something on an endless loop, what would it be?
Ooh, it’s hard to pick one thing. Biryani. Kidchidi/Keema (lentil rice with cooked ground beef). Hyderabadi Indian cuisine without the worry of health and weight gain :)
5. What feeds your soul/when are you at your happiest/best?
The well being of my family, especially my kids – all of them, but sure, my eldest son. They are awesome kids, and my eldest is profoundly autistic and nonverbal, but not non-communicative. When they are enjoying good health, have peace of mind and are happy, I can’t ask for anything more. Allah (S) knows what I pray for.
6. Who do you look up to the most and why? (living or dead)
My parents. It’s not an exciting answer, but let me tell you why. The older I get and more work I continue to do in covering and coordinating coverage of American Muslim communities, the more I am learning about all the different narratives from all the different communities around us. My parents were immigrants to this country, and like many immigrant stories – their struggle, tenacity, work ethic and love to find their place in this country and raise their children to be proud Muslims and proud Americans is nothing short of phenomenal. Like, wow.
I also admire my paternal and maternal grandmothers, their stories and the lives they lived. I could write volumes.
Dilshad and her eldest son at a local fall festival.
7. If you could go back and change something in your life, what would it be?
I’ve been the one editing and producing this series, and I’ve watched nearly every one of my coworkers answer this question by saying they wouldn’t change anything, that what they have gone through has shaped who they are and taught them many things they needed to know. I feel this as well, but also my husband and I’ve been charged with some heavy decision making for our eldest son, and if I could change something in my life, it would be some of the things I thought or didn’t think about him and his autism, which led to some of the decisions I made. I know better now. And, the stakes have always been very high.
8. What is your biggest challenge in life?
God, I never realized how loaded this question might have been for my fellow Haute Hijab team members until I am sitting here answering them. My biggest challenge has been my son’s autism and maintaining my faith, but not necessarily in a negative way. It has shaped every facet of my life and my family’s life.
9. What is something about you that people would be surprised to know?
I am a certifiable X-Phile. As in I’m a card-carrying member of The X-Files fan club and even attended an X-File convention back in the day. Not a big a fan of the reboots though. Also, I have a healthy affinity for 90s alternative/grunge rock. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and The Cranberries for days, please. I’m a great cook. But I hate to cook.
10. What is that big dream thing you want to accomplish in life? Or if not one thing, a few things?
I want to be a published author of a book. I’ve been writing my memoir for years but don’t have the follow-through to finish it and pitch it. I’d like to contribute a little something to make the world a better place. I want to make my local masjid way more inclusive for individuals with disabilities.
And, I want to secure my son’s future. I don’t want to fear dying before him.
11. For the Muslims at Haute Hijab – what is your favorite or not-so-favorite thing about working at a Muslim-owned company?
I love the values of Haute Hijab, steeped in Islam and general good human values. I love getting Eid holidays off and especially the patience and strength in which we are supported in Ramadan. We are naturally encouraged to work hard and we want to succeed for this company and ourselves, but there is always a place made for our faith and our dua’s.
12. What does a typical Friday night look like for you?
Dude, I’m so boring. Friday night is for pajamas and Netflix or some TV/movie watching with the husband and kids. They’re the people I want to be around the most.
Dilshad and her family celebrating her youngest son's fifth grade graduation.
13. What’s the strangest or most fun family tradition you have?
When the kids were younger, one inspired evening my husband read out loud to all of us The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak with a strong Indian accent. I took a video, and we all nearly peed our pants with laughter. If we can get him to do that again on occasion, that’s a good time. He’s promised to do it at our kids’ weddings (or some other big occasion).
14. Cat person or dog person (or some other kind of animal)?
We love most all animals at our home, including cats and dogs. But, we are DECIDEDLY a cat family. Like unabashedly. Our family text/Whatsapp group is called “the cat fan club.” Bluebell was our first beloved feline family member. A naughty and loving little cat named Luna is our fur family now.
15. If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be and why?
I certainly didn’t create this, but the ubiquitous “Keep Calm and Carry On” has served me well. Also from the Quran, Fa inna ma'al usri yusra. Inna ma'al usri yusra – Verily with difficulty there is ease. Verily with difficulty there is ease.