Saturday, 8 June 2013

Honour Thy Family by Naomi Elana Zener


Sitting at the dinner table, surrounded by an endless number of glaring stares from countless uncles, aunties and cousins, at what was supposed to be Majid’s high school graduation celebration, Majid felt nauseous in spite of his hunger, as he was caught in a wave of anxiety awaiting Father’s “now you have to become a man” speech. Unlike his older brother, the techie who grabbed hold of the app sails, swiftly gliding down to Silicon Valley on millions of dollars in stock options, Majid was lucky to have been accepted to a community college film production program, much to the dismay of his strict Tiger-type parents. It should have been him on the silver platter as the sacrificial lamb at dinner instead of Mother’s goat curry with its aromatic flavours wafting through the air. At least the goat was genteelly slaughtered in the Halal tradition, whereas Majid would be eaten alive.
“Majid, if you want to make it in this country, you have to be a shrewd businessman, like your brother and I,” Father ordered. “I have had enough of your loafing about on my taxpaying dollars for eighteen years. You did not even honour your family by being accepted to the University of Toronto or McGill, like your brother. Instead, you are off to play with video cameras for a year. And, then what will you even be able to do with that?”
“Don’t be so hard on my son,” Mother cried. “He has talents in other areas and one day I believe he will surprise us all.”
“We came to this country with nothing and we have given him eighteen years of free room and board, plus all of the bling bling clothing he demanded because my tailoring was not good enough for him,” Father bellowed. “Majid, you must become a businessman in order to earn the respect of your family.”
“I do want to make you and Mother proud of me, but it’s not so easy to just start a business. What kind of business do you want me to start?” Majid plead.
“Am I to have all of the answers for you too? Mother and I fled our homeland so we could enjoy our religious freedom as Muslims in this land of multicultural moderation, only to find out that Ontario was not everyone’s to discover. No, only if you were a white Catholic male could you get a loan from a bank. If you were a brown-skinned Muslim man like me, you were floating up a river without a paddle,” Father explained. “Pass me the samosas.”
“Then how did you get the money to start your clothing company?” Majid inquired extending his outstretched arm bearing the requested food.
“Ingenuity, my boy! Necessity is the mother of all invention. And, if you don’t have an invention like your brother created, then you must find another way,” Father advised.
“Is Ingenuity an investment bank?” Majid queried.
“How are you going to make anything of yourself when your head is full of so many stupid questions taking up the room where your precious brain should be?” Father asked rhetorically.
“What do you expect him to know after going to public school?” Mother asked sternly. “If you had only sent him to that ‘uck’ school like I begged you to do, he would have made connections with nice white Catholic and Jewish boys whose families would help him network with banks!”
“You mean Upper Canada College? I do not make those dollars as a simple tailor. If you want your son to make the kind of money his brother does, then he will have to get creative and figure things out for himself, just like I did. I’ve had enough of this talk – I’m hungry, let’s eat,” Father instructed.
Like a trapped steerage guest on the sinking Titanic, Majid left the dinner table that night drowning in Father’s words, which were circling him like sharks waiting to feed on his semi-dead deflated carcass. Determined not to become the black sheep of the family who would disgrace them by becoming a call center telemarketer, Majid laid awake all night devising and hatching new plans on how to become a success, while wondering if his porcelain-hued peers received this sort of parental pressure or whether it was reserved only for those children of immigrants, all of whom coincidentally came to this country with nine dollars in their pockets. Just as his eyelids betrayed him into slumber, Majid vowed that the next time he met with the eyes of his entire family, he would not be cast in the shadow of shame from their gaze, but rather would hear them sing his praises.
For the next ten and a half months, Majid toiled furiously in his film production courses at school while trying to build an empire for himself at night, forgoing any of the frivolous parties, mindless casual sex and beer bongs that his classmates were enjoying. He avoided Mother’s pleas for him to join the family for meals or attend any familial gatherings. Finally, one night Majid emerged stoically and triumphant from his room announcing that he had found fortune in the land of the beavertail.
“Mother, Father, I would like you to know that your son is officially the C.E.O. of a company worth five million Canadian dollars,” Majid announced proudly as his parents watched a rerun of Bumper Stumpers on an obscure specialty television channel.
“What nonsense are you talking about?” Father asked. “You’re interrupting our regularly scheduled program!”
“I know! I know! The license plate says  ‘sorry for SARS,’” Mother shrieked.
“How did you figure that one out from ‘SRY4SRS’,” Father asked in disbelief.
“Did you not hear me? My company is worth millions of dollars. Now, you have two sons who have made you proud through their riches,” Majid stated begging to be heard.
“Fine, fine hot shot,” Father said turning off the television, “explain yourself. How did it come to be that in a little over ten months of being a student in a sub-par college program with no prospects upon graduation except to hold a video camera up the right way at a Maple Looser hockey game, did you come to be the proprietor of a multi-million dollar company,” Father queried.
“Like you told me, Father, ingenuity,” Majid advised. “And, Mother’s advice about going to the ‘uck’ school.”
“My advice, really? I am so honoured,” Mother smiled.
“Woman, let the boy speak. He already graduated from high school, so he could not have gone to UCC,” Father advised.
“Correct you are,” Majid stated. “Instead, I crashed a party held for alumni that I found out about online. When there, I met a man who knows my brother and was more than willing to introduce me to my future partners: Miles Glucksberg and Smitty McSail. They pitched in their bar mitzvah and communion monies, respectively, and together we formed MFPC Inc.”
“And, what is MFPC Inc.?” Father inquired.
“The Multi-Faith Production Company. We produce multi-faith and cultural dialoging and communication sessions between men and women of different religious backgrounds, helping them to find common ground that they all share so they can get along. We promote peace amongst the faiths,” Majid stated proudly.
“I cannot wait to tell your aunties all about your success! Who knew there was so much money to be made in peace talks,” Mother exclaimed running to the kitchen to call all of their relatives.
“Well, my boy, I never thought I would see this day come to pass. And, so quickly!” Father added. “Maybe you can teach your old man a thing or two about business. I am sure that your cousins will be chattering away about you, and not your brother, in a few weeks at the family reunion. Come, let’s have a nice chai tea to celebrate.”
A few weeks had passed and the flurry of pride emanating from his parents did not cease. Rather, it built into a Mount Everest of glee and elation at being the mother and father of such young Canadian-Pakistani Muslim boys, proving them right in their decision to leave their homeland in search of making a life for their family in Canada.  Finally, the day of the reunion arrived. Mother had prepared her famous goat curry for her contribution to their family’s version of a potluck barbeque and put on her very best sari. Father made suits of the finest linen for himself and his sons for the occasion. Expecting to be met with a firestorm of forced happiness from his relatives at his newfound success, thinly-veiling their schadenfreude, instead Majid was taken aback by the angry commotion at the banquet hall upon their arrival.
“What is going on?” Brother queried of his aunties. He had flown in from the tech mecca at his parents’ insistence to attend the reunion.
“Have you seen this profanity?” one aunty cried waving about a local community newspaper.
“It is absolutely shameful!” another aunty stated menacingly.
“What are you talking about” Father asked. Thrust into his hands was the offending paper containing the following advertisement:
We are looking for talent, amateur or professional, from all religious backgrounds to star in our new productions. Are you Jewish? If so, then maybe you are the next star of ‘If I were a hung man!’ featuring the Kippah King Dong. Muslim perhaps? Then we are looking for lots of talented women and men to star in ‘Burka Roulette’ – a new game show where the winner takes what he or she finds under the veil. Will you get a big booty babe or a pig in the poke? Catholic guilt your thing? Then come audition for ‘Rosary Anal Beads: A Papal Sexual Misadventure.’ Auditions held this Friday April 15 at 1051 Willow Rd. Hosted by MFPC Inc.
“This is a travesty! How can our community paper advertise such obscenity?” Mother cried.
“This is more than obscenity, this is pornography!” Father exclaimed.
“And, it’s not just in our community paper. It is in the Canadian Jewish News, the Sun, the Star, every faith’s local paper, and sadly even in the National Post,” one uncle declared.
“At least the Globe and Mail did not print such garbage,” Father stated happily, a thirty year subscriber relieved that he would not have to cancel his subscription and access to their online content.
“What is funny is that the company producing the porn has the same name as Majid’s company,” Brother advised stating the obvious to the group who had remained oblivious. “Isn’t that interesting, Majid?”
“It is an odd coincidence,” Majid offered. “But, there are many companies out there with the same acronym as ours, which we discovered when we did our business name search.”
“Also that have “Inc” in the suffix? I didn’t think that was allowed legally speaking,” Brother jeered.
“Well, isn’t it a good thing then that you don’t speak legally since you are not a lawyer,” Majid replied.
Catching on to their discord, the aunties, uncles, cousins, Father and Mother leaned in to listen more closely to what the two brothers were discussing so hotly.
“Come clean Majid,” Brother egged on, “this is your company isn’t it? I mean, how else can you have made so much money so quickly? You’re a porn producer!”
“What dispersion are you casting upon your brother?” Mother shrieked.
“Mom, think about it. He is in a film production course. He knows how to handle video equipment, edit and produce films. Put two and two together please!” Brother begged.
“You apologize at once for trying to shame him! My Majid would never get involved in anything sexual, let alone so ugly. Isn’t that right, Majid?” Mother asked.
Unable to bear the shame in Mother’s eyes worse than that he had witnessed at his graduation celebration dinner, Majid decided to come clean.
“Alright, alright already. You’ve got me. I make porn. But, it is legal! All of the actors are consenting adults over the age of eighteen!” Majid confessed.
“I don’t care if they are consenting baboons!” Father cried. “This is filth, pure and simple. It violates everything we stand for as Muslims.”
“Technically dad, I don’t think that the people in Majid’s videos are doing much standing,” Brother chortled, mentally noting his reclamation of his crown as the only son who had legitimately made his parents proud.
“Oh, you think you’re a funny guy? Well, geek boy, what movies do you think you and your friends are watching when you enjoy your circle jerks? Mine!” Majid emphasized.  “Our films are the highest grossing in the porn industry set to overtake even Vivid, the producer of the infamous Kardashian sex tape!”
“Oh, the Kardashians are famous!” exclaimed an aunty.
“Yes, I DVR them on E! every Sunday night and when they show reruns,” Mother stated proudly.
“What do you mean by highest grossing?” one uncle asked.
“We’ve made five million dollars in the ten months we’ve been in operation, which we are set to triple by year end. Our year two projections are set to quadruple year one’s, with each subsequent year projected to grow even more. Our films are the highest grossing because no matter what religion you are, you have sex. And, our films poke fun at religion while the actors poke each other. No one has ever combined satire and sex in porn and we’ve cornered the market,” Majid explained.
“And, your partners’ families, are they proud of your accomplishments?” Father asked.
“Of course! Miles endowed a synagogue in his parents’ name with the money he’s made and all that Smitty’s parents had to do in order to get over the initial shame was to say a few ‘Hail Mary’s’!” Majid laughed. “Honestly, dad you told me to become a businessman and to find a way to make money. I found two partners flush with cash when no one would give me a loan,  who have tentacles with an extensive reach into their own ethnic and religious communities. We’ve hired crew from my school, creating jobs. Both our on-camera talent and behind-the-scenes staff are multi-cultural, so we make the governmental human resources organizations happy and we pay our fair share of taxes. And, we are non-union!”
Everyone in the hall paused to absorb the content of Majid’s speech. Here was a ne’er-do-well boy, for whom no one in the family had high hopes, who had made good. Majid was every immigrant’s North American dream come true. The angry mob had been transformed into a bohemian love-in.
“Making millions and non-union – I am so proud of you! “ Father exclaimed as both he and Mother enveloped Majid in their arms, as Brother stood off to the side pouting. “You have honoured your family!”
“Don’t think that I’ve forgotten you, Brother,” Majid offered. “We will need at least one app to go with our online launch of our content offerings!”
Brother quickly jumped in to join in the embrace.
“And, I have jobs and stock options for all of my relatives!” Majid exclaimed, as everyone else in the room piled on to show Majid their gratitude, honour and affection.
“Just, none of your relatives can appear on film!” Father ordered.
©2013. Naomi Elana Zener. All rights reserved.

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