x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Ask Ali's My Life: Stay busy, make it count

Saying the words "everything is good" is a habit I've had since childhood

In this serialised feature, Ali Al Saloom shares his insight and experiences from growing up in the UAE

Last week was probably one of my busiest so far and my friends who are reading this piece right now are probably saying, "Ali you are always busy!" Well, amen to that, and I'm actually happy about it, because it's not cool when you don't have something good to achieve. Except sometimes you can get so busy that you forget what day it is, or even what month it is.

Oh well, as I always say to my mother whenever she asks me about how am I doing: "El-omoor Tay-bah alhamdulilah," which means, "everything is good thanks to God". When in reality it can be good or bad but, at the end, we thank God for everything.

But saying the words "everything is good" is a habit I've had since childhood.

I remember how my parents would talk in such a way with their family members or friends; even some of the other elder parents would say the same phrase, "everything is just good". Some might not act the same, but in my family I felt so blessed that we were growing in a way where, no matter how things can turn out to be really negative and bad, at the end good things will happen. If not, then we have to accept God's fate and move on.

For a few weeks now, I've been in a race against time to finish working and producing my first book in the Arabic language which will look at the internet and its influence on our part of the world post-Arab Spring. And yes, it shall be available at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair this weekend, so wish me luck, as I really need it.

The effort that I've put into this project is different from my previous literary projects (the Ask Ali miniguides to Abu Dhabi and Dubai). This time I have worked on writing a book in Arabic - not, and I repeat not, an easy task, especially for someone who has been writing in English and for The National for the past four years (mashallah). But I'm up for the challenge.

I remember the first book I wrote. It was more of a collection of the best information on various subjects and I made it like my own encyclopaedia - I was 13 years old. Of course, my parents helped me a lot and guided me to the philosophy of dealing with books. I still have these memories of my father entering my room with about 10 empty black folders, placing them on my bedroom floor, and he would say: "So what do you want to call the first chapter of your book?"

I remember saying, "Introduction". He would write "introduction" on a piece of paper and stick it on the first folder, then he would add anything that was related to my message in the introduction - images, small or large paragraphs, even drawings - to this chapter folder. A few hours later, or even on another day, he would come in and check on the other folders and see if I had added any information myself.

I used to try to impress my father by adding lots of stuff, just for the sake of filling the folder and without caring about the content. I was young, after all. But my father always made sure to treat me like a young friend of his, so he would make sure to help me in understanding and giving more value to what content I should collect and add to the folders.

It was during this time when he said to me: "Son, many people talk, but few people speak! And less people write what matters. Hence, I hope to see you some day speaking and writing what matters only."

In my mind, those words from my beloved father were stamped with an indelible ink, and I shall make sure to share this same philosophy with my children, so it will remain forever in their hearts and minds.

The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair started on Wednesday and goes until Monday. I hope you don't miss it. Its always great to experience such an exhibition.

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