Ramadan 2022 in UAE: Local authors talk about children's book 'Moments of Joy'

10 authors along with illustrators from around the world come together in the book to celebrate moments that make life beautiful

Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Husain Rizvi

Published: Sat 9 Apr 2022, 1:03 PM

Last updated: Sat 9 Apr 2022, 5:35 PM

“Story books remain forever,” says Zakkiyah Mansoor, one of the contributing authors for Bismillah Buddies’ new book titled Moments of Joy. This Ramadan, the UAE-based Islamic brand has compiled a collection of short stories focusing on small moments that matter; moments that make you smile and laugh; moments that simply make your day better.

10 authors along with illustrators from around the world have come together in Moments of Joy to celebrate moments that make life, in all its simplicity, beautiful. With its theme being ‘joy’, the book brings in diverse characters and perspectives to highlight the simple joys of life. It features vibrant illustrations and heartfelt stories, connecting people with the aim of creating something beautiful.

For Sadia Anwar, author for A Perfect Ending, who is also one of the founders of Bismillah Buddies, the book is about celebration. “We wanted to create something for the occasion of Ramadan and Eid this year, but we wanted to dig a little deeper; to go beyond the outward aspects of food, clothes, and family,” she says in a conversation with City Times. “Celebrations are about creating moments of joy in our life. Moments that get highlighted, and stand out from the regular hum of everyday life. The feeling of this spike of joy is a connecting thread across cultures and faiths. We wanted to capture this notion of ‘emotional unity’ across all differences.”

We speak to some of the UAE-based authors to find out more about the book’s themes, its varied characters, and the lessons both, children and adults, can take away from the stories.

Mehnaz Anshah

Story: Matteppa wears Pants

What is your idea behind the theme of Moments of Joy?

In conversations I’ve had recently, people around me confessed to feeling overwhelmed and feeling like things were moving too fast. I wanted something that would force everyone to stop and smell the roses. The intentions with Moments of Joy were manifold. The colour scheme of the book signifies the dawn that is sure to come after dusk. The stories in the book magnify the little wins in our lives that are often overlooked. These little moments are catalysts to our big successes and in our attaining the ultimate feeling of JOY.

How do you relate to the characters from the stories?

The characters in the stories are loosely based on people the authors have known or experiences they’ve had. They give us a little view into their personalities alone with their own rich and diverse cultural backgrounds. This makes them unique but at the same time quite relatable to the people we see around us every day.

How different is childhood these days compared to the one mentioned in Matteppa Wears Pants?

This is a story from my childhood set in the early 90s. Life was slower and simpler then. My grandfather would entertain us for hours while we sat on his bed with playing cards, his Eau De Cologne and the candy he’d always have at hand. Although kids these days have their ‘Cocomelons’ and ‘Baby Sharks’ as entertainment, the bond that they share with a beloved grandparent is the same even now.

What are the lessons children and adults can take away from the stories?

The stories and characters in the book mature as you go deeper into the book. Each story portrays not only the joys one may experience at that age, but you also see the characters feel this joy because of the people they are surrounded by and the experiences they’ve shared. At the onset these experiences may even seem unpleasant but the characters show you that the joy that follows pain is simply beautiful.

In the era of digital technology, how do you manage to engage readers with story books?

Although technology has advanced at an exponential rate, the power of stories still holds true. E-books and audio books are very popular and have huge reach. This is something that we hope to get into as well. Despite this, physical books have their own place in the world of storytelling. Research shows that the feeling of a good book in your hand is the ultimate comfort even today. Digital storytellers like Humans of New York went on to publish best-selling books even though they had a well-established digital platform. Reading a heart-warming tale from a book will always be trendy.

Sadia Anwar

Story: A Perfect Ending

How do you relate to the characters from the stories?

I found a little piece of myself in every story. A simple pleasure of brownies on a plate, or sharing samosas, or a daring attempt to reset the world … each character has a little part of me in them, and I can empathize and connect with them. This is the power of good stories.

What are the lessons children and adults can take away from the stories?

Each story has a different perspective on the feeling of ‘joy’. Readers will be left with a warm fuzzy feeling, the glow of a golden dawn as reflected in the cover design. As a lesson, I believe the take away is about how similar we all really are, despite our apparent differences. There is something in the moments shared in this book, that make it seem familiar.

In the era of digital technology, how do you manage to engage readers with story books?

A printed book and digital technology are different modes of presentation. At the core of both lies a good story. We hope to have these stories available on e-readers and audio books formats too. Having said that, a printed story book remains special – something tactile, to hold and feel the weight of it in your hands and the sound of pages turning.

In the digital era, the importance of something tactile, something to touch and feel becomes even more important. It’s the difference between a meeting on Zoom and a meeting in person.

Mishal Faraz

Story: An Eidiya to Remember

What is the idea behind the theme of Moments of Joy?

The quintessential idea behind the theme of Moments of Joy is to capture those sparkling, effervescent moments that evoke a sense of happiness; it could be based on a personal anecdote, a wish, an incident or even a person. If we think about it, joy is the propelling force of life; it facilitates our well-being, connects us to the people around us, and encourages us to look ahead to the future with hope. It is about ordinary moments that are actually extraordinary and enrich the tapestry of our lives. It could be about making a loved one happy, tucking into a favourite dessert, an achievement, and so on.

How do you relate to the characters from the stories?

The book is really interesting and the stories truly resonate with the readers because the 10 stories are arranged in the ascending order of the protagonists’ ages. So essentially, we have a beautiful portrayal of how the meaning of joy evolves with age and how it is different for each individual. And yet, at the heart of each story is a simple but powerful message that our happiest memories are related to the people around us, our values, and ethos. There is no greater truth, and I can so deeply relate to the common message behind each story that at the end of the day, the most important things in life are not things.

What are the lessons children and adults can take away from the stories?

The most important lesson is that there are moments of joy hidden in the seemingly mundane days of our lives; what might seem like an ordinary, uneventful day, when looked back on has innumerable memories to cherish which will bring a smile to one’s face and warm the heart. So, we must value each moment and the people around us and live meaningfully with a sense of gratitude and contentment.

In the era of digital technology, how do you manage to engage readers with story books?

In this exceedingly digital world, where we have an oversupply of audio visual content, it’s easy to assume that the concept of story books is on its way out. But the truth is far from it. Market research has shown that the majority of readers, particularly younger ones, prefer to hold a real book in their hands rather than read a story on a gadget. There is inexplicable satisfaction and joy in holding a physical book in one’s hand, breathing in the scent of the pages and placing a book in the bookshelf after reading it and visiting it again after days, weeks or years. If one has a truly heart touching, soul warming story to tell, then rest assured that there would always be people wanting to read it.

Zakkiyah Mansour

Story: Zia Finds a Friend

What is the idea behind the theme of Moments of Joy?

At the rate that our familiar world is becoming seemingly new, taking a step back to appreciate the little things is what we wish to relate to our future generation.

How do you relate to the characters from the stories?

My inner Gandhi is what inspired me to write a selfless story. With charity being one of our pillars of faith, it is definitely worth finding joy in as opposed to it just being dutiful. The song Heal the World by the iconic Michael Jackson has been in my blood from when I was a kid, trickled down and diluted to the story of Zia and his selflessness. It’s the small and little things we can do.

What are the lessons children and adults can take away from the stories?

Each story has a different lesson to take away. It’s only fitting to see how much we take for granted.

Be it seeing your parents at your awards function, Ayman’s Iftar not quite going according to his expectations, Riham bringing back nostalgic memories or Zia and his want to give.

Here we are sending all the other amazing characters in Moments of Joy to try to heal the world and ‘make it a better place for you and for me and the entire universe’ by making us mindful of our little joys.

In the era of digital technology, how do you manage to engage readers with story books?

You mean, aside from the fact that research has shown a significant increase in the attention span and ability to retain information with a story book rather than any digital technology? For me, it is definitely Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response more commonly known as ASMR. To smell the fresh print and paper, to feel the texture, to see the vibrant colours and pictures on paper and, of course, the sounds of flipping pages and the clacking of books against each other.

I still have storybooks from when I was little but seem to have misplaced many of my DVDs or even if I do have my DVDs, I am not sure if my DVD player still works. I am sure many of you can relate, you find the memory card with all your old pictures, don’t have the laptop that takes the memory card, found a memory card reader but ‘Oh no! I can’t find the cable.’ It never ends. Yet books have spanned eras.

It is difficult and expensive to keep up with digital technology as its changing at the blink of an eye. For a story book, you are the complete device with a software that reads and comprehends it. No technical glitches. No software upgrades required. No ads popping up (this is a big thing). Story books remain forever.

Priced at Dh120, the book is available for purchase from Bismillah Buddies’ official website.

More news from Entertainment