TRUSU Pakistan Club Launch

My fingers settled on the game piece or striker, shaped like a tiny cake, and I slowly slid it to the outlined bar before me. Eyeing the pieces scattered across the board I set up a shot. After a moment of visualization I tucked my index finger into a curl behind my thumb, my hand hovering near the striker. Straightening my finger in an instant, the striker shot across the board before me clicking and clacking as it bounced off the other game pieces and surrounding wall: click, click, click…click…click. It began to slow as it lost momentum. To my delight one of the black pieces it ricocheted off of flew into a pocket. Grinning I accepted the retrieved piece and added it to my small tower. Then I collected the striker, set the piece and wound up my finger for another shot at carrom.

Carrom is like air hockey, table shuffleboard and pool, or pocket billiards, mixed into one game.

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On January 29th, 2013 five students, Anum Sultan, Mohsin Iqbal Shekhani, Fahad Ali, Sana Khan and Omkar Shivhare, created the TRUSU Pakistan Club at Thompson Rivers University. The club was created as a response to international Pakistan students asking for one. It’s designed to promote the culture of Pakistan and inform new Muslim students about where to find local necessities such as halal foods, or foods that Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic dietary guidelines, and the location of a mosque. About 97% of Pakistanis are Muslim. They are not allowed to eat pork or consume alcohol. They can eat beef and beef-like meats unlike those in India, or elsewhere in the world, who practice Hinduism. In Pakistan all identification features a religion box. This allows those who are non-Muslim to eat pork and buy alcohol freely.

Working together in a round table set-up, the five founding students of the TRUSU Pakistan Club shaped a party to launch the club. And, on March 8th I joyfully attended it. I came in early enough to sit in the kitchen and watch chai being brewed and the various foods being cooked. They made samosas and pakora for snacks accompanied by the delicious chai. Gajjar halwa and cupcakes decorated by the flag of Pakistan were featured for dessert.

While nibbling these goodies and sipping the tea, I watched as the club set a variety of activities in motion. A short video presenting photos and names of different cities and regions in Pakistan showed a modern country as geographically diverse as Canada. From cricket and skiing to farmland and skyscrapers the video shared a country of variety.

After the video came to a close a man named Mohsin Uz Zaman stepped forward to sing for the crowd. The laughing, chuckling faces of moments earlier became still, entranced by the songs. Some of the audience members had a look of longing in their eyes, some seemed comforted, while still others sang along cheerfully.

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As the activities were going on two women were moving through the crowd decorating the wrists and hands of amazed girls with beautiful mehndi, known as henna in Canada.

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My hand drying. It took almost an hour to do this pattern.

Henna is a paste that is applied to skin, like icing on a cake, and then left to dry. Once it dries it flakes off and leaves behind a reddish-orange colour. Depending on technique the colour of the temporary tattoo that results varies in strength.

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Mehndi is particularly prominent during weddings in India, Pakistan and other nearby countries. The bride’s arms are decorated from her upper arm to fingertips and her legs from shins to toes.

The Pakistan club has plans to host an event in the summer to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, or the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Between July 9th and August 7th all people of the Muslim faith will only be allowed to eat after sunset and before sunrise. In Kamloops sunset in July occurs around 9:10 p.m. and sunrise occurs around 5:10 a.m., so local Muslims will only be able to eat during an eight hour opening. Eid al-Fitr is the breaking of that daylight fast and is celebrated with a large feast.

The club also wants to share the celebration of Eid al-Adha (Azha), or the Feast of the Sacrifice, with Kamloops.

Unfortunately I will not be in Kamloops when they celebrate these festivals, but for those of you still here, these two events could be real eye-openers into the Muslim faith and it’s adaptation to non-Muslim countries.

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