Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Book Launch Event: What Happened?

This post describes what happened in the book launch event which I participated in and have mentioned in my previous post.I will begin by taking you through how my day started and then subsequently work my way up to the end of the event.

It was a Wednesday and I had a conference to attend to in the morning for work. I also had a meeting to to attend in the late morning that lasts up to mid afternoon. Then, another meeting popped up at the last minute which started right after lunch and did not end till 6:30pm. As a matter of fact it did not end then, I just had to excuse myself since I needed to be at the book launch venue at 7pm.

My original intention was that I would use all afternoon to prepare for the event in which I will be one of the first speakers where I am expected to read a small portion of my article that is getting published in the book. That obviously did not happen because of that meeting that popped out of nowhere. So there I was at 7 pm in the avenue where the event was suppose to be held, and I was exhausted. I scanned for the closest good coffee place and got myself a caffiene shot to keep me on my feet and not collapse.

Holding my Latte cup in one hand, I casually strolled in the avenue which is now semi-full. My first thought at that moment was "Shit, I did not print out my article... this is just wonderful!". Then I noticed a stack of copies of the published book and heard a sigh of relief come out of me. I just picked one up and sat down to wait for the editor to come (whom I have emailed for quite some time yet never met). She finally did arrive and I introduced myself, shook hands then sat back down and kept sipping from my caffiene/fuel cup. Found a friend there who also happened to be one of the speakers in the event. Chatted with him for a bit. Then a girl from the row in front of us, turned around asked which one of us is [insert my real name here]. I replied,"That's me..." in an unsure tone. She thanked me profusely for writing such a wonderful article, and said she was glad there are Qatari guys who think this way. I was too tired to show any emotions at that point so I told her I was glad she liked it, then the event started.

Cover of the book

There was first the anouncements, Sponsor's comments, then the editor's welcoming speech. Then my name was called as the first speaker. I was too tired to be nervous. People clapped as I walked up to the stand. I sat down, placed the book on the table facing everyone and held the mic with my left arm. Then I began by introducing myself. I paused after every sentence because I was thinking of what to say next while I was there (since I didn't have time to prepare). I explained why I wrote my article (which was critical of typical marriages in Qatar) and my explanation was something along these lines:

"[pause]... My article is about marriage in Qatar... I wrote this article because I am a 23 year old male who ... fulfills all the 'eligibility reguirements for marriage' that... are set by society... And therefore ... Society, in a way, imposes on me the fact that I should be thinking about marriage right now... [long pause] ... And I have...

My thoughts, and conclusions or outcomes that came out from my thoughts are in my article in this book."

Anyway, I read the first paragraph of my article after that since I didn't have time to choose a paragraph to read then repeated my speech in Arabic.

After the event ended I walked towards my friends and colleagues who managed to come to see me speak publicly. Thanked them for coming and they complimented me on a great speech. They then had to leave so I decided to walk back towards the editor to thank her again before I left.

As I was on my way to the editor, a Qatari woman in her 40s/50s (I think... she was with her 10 year old daughter) stopped me and I remember thinking to myself, "here it comes, the sandal on my face is coming as I predicted..." and I prepared for some harsh words thrown in from her as well. But she did nothing of that kind. Instead, she extended her arms and gave me a copy of the book and asked me to sign it! I remember I was caught off guard by her request and I heard myself say "...Why?". She replied politely and explained that she would really like having the writers signatures on the book and said, and I quote, "god bless you for that article". That made me almost blush. I smiled and took the book from her hands and wanted to sign it real quickly to fulfill this wonderfully nice woman's wish. After managing to locate a pen, I signed her book and thanked her for coming.

Then the weirdest thing happened. I handed the book back to the Qatari woman, then saw what looked like a stampede of girls who wanted my signature (mind you, I am sure I am not the only speaker they wanted a signature from but still...). I was overwhelmed. I did not see this coming. I was signing so many books (some girls had three books each for me to sign), that towards the end of it, I got so used to signing books, I would sign without even looking. I would sign the book whilst simultaneously talking to the owner of the book and asking each one where they were from and what they do then wrap it up by thanking them for coming and then smile politely.

It was quite a unique experience, and I never saw this coming. I felt like some kind of celebrity and what surprised me even more is the fact that I never felt any different. I was still myself. I still felt grounded and didnt feel like any of it got to my head which, I guess could be a symptom of my exhaustion... but I choose to think that it is just my good strong character ... I guess I may never know.

In conclusion, considering how I am a celebrity now. Anyone here who wants me to send them a signed book will be required to send a cheque by the amount of $250 to my bank account or through paypal :P

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Public reading: Souq Waqif, Wed, 11th Feb. Doha, Qatar

I wrote an opinion piece a few months ago entitled "Marriage in Qatar". I wrote it after reading a news article in one of the local newspapers in November of last year, about a book which focuses on how Qatar has transformed. I emailed the editor of the book asking if it would be okay to submit an article. She told me the deadline for submission passed months ago but 'send me your piece' and she will let me know if she could include it in the book. So, I spent around 3 hours writing what I think is wrong with the way people marry here. It did not take much time to write because I have this frustration that is bottled up regarding this issue which is affecting me now more than ever. It was like I just threw up everything that was causing me pain into words on a sheet. I felt better after finishing it and felt a bit lighter too. Anyway, I sent what I wrote and it is now getting published in a book that is launching next week. Here is a description what the book is about:

DOHA: Souq Waqif, in collaboration with the Qatar Foundation, will launch this month the second book in the Qatar Narratives series, Qatar: Then and Now (pictured), which features essays on the present generation’s reflections on how life has changed in Qatar since the last generation.

“We will be launching the book, Qatar: Then and Now, before the end of this month. This volume highlights male and female writers who submitted essays, opinion pieces, and memoirs through which they invite readers to explore how everyday issues are addressed in modern society as opposed to methods used by previous generations of Qatar,” said Maya Saikali, art director of Souq Waqif.

I am going to be one of four writers who will do a public reading of a segment of their written piece in the book launch event. So, if you happen to be in Qatar, come to Souq Waqif and go to the Waqif Art Center at 7pm this Wednesday and cheer me on!

Since Souq Waqif will have a number of bedawins (very traditional Arabs), I have a feeling one of them will hear my "open minded" views that are critical of typical marriages here and decide the only way to deal with me is to throw their sandals or shoes at my direction... Note to self: Gotta call George Bush and ask him how he dodged those flying shoes.

Hope to see anyone of you who can make it, there.