As a journalist, my aim is to recede to the background -- to become the white of the page, a ghost presence. I feel honored, humbled, heartfulled to capture and convey stories from so many dark alleys and corner offices of this wide world. I am never anything short of awestruck that complete strangers would open their lives to me. I like to believe they do so knowing that I will handle them with the care they deserve, and that they somehow know how I revere stories of all sorts. It's because of all this that I feel moved to share parts of my own story. Here are some facets of the whole, because after all, "For those to whom much is given, much is required."
-- B.A.

 

Six Strings
"Happiness is mapped onto the next of kin, displaced, as every generation tries to please the one before it. I denied my mother her right to plan for me the life she herself could not lead. I severed a centuries-old chain of events. Either you hum along to the age-old melody of obedience, or you strike discord."

A Mother's Beloved Cooking. A Daughter's Bittersweet Inheritance
"
Food connects my mom to her family, her homeland and her past. That might be why she stuck to what she knew in those early years, packing me lunches of Pakistani food when I was a plaid jumper-wearing Catholic school-going first-grader. It makes her sad when I tell her for the first time all these years later that my hallway partner refused to hold my hand whenever I'd had lentils to eat. 'I'm not going to touch you after you ate all that slime!' she'd say, accepting a scolding from our teacher before taking my hand."

Muslim and American: Living Under The Shadow Of 9/11
"In the middle of sprawling cornfields dotted with red, weathered barns, the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo is an architectural wonder in white. On either side of a vast dome stand two towering minarets that are even taller. Stained-glass windows of turquoise, blue, and vermillion line the inside of the prayer hall. Built in 1983, the center was one of the largest mosques in North America at the time. When I was a kid, my friends asked me in excited playground voices if a princess lived there. I felt ennobled by the place where I had spent nearly every Sunday of my life learning to pray and recite the Quran with melodious precision. Early on the morning of September 12, bullets shattered one of the stained-glass windows."

Learning — And Unlearning — To Be An 'Ambassador' For Islam
"And so, I will always say please and thank you when I order my coffee. I will smile at you on the bus if you happen to make eye contact with me. I'll do so despite myself. And even if these habits result from my Ohioan upbringing as much as the traits imparted by my anxious, insecure, and yet incessantly good-willed immigrant parents, I know that I do these things because a part of me still can't believe that I actually belong here. Still, I refuse to be an ambassador in the country of my birth."