An Interview with Umar Siddiqui – Weightless, Woven Words

Recently, we interviewed author Umar Siddiqui about his recent book Weightless, Woven Words, Umar Siddiqui resides in Riverside, CA, where he was born and raised. His passions are reading, writing, reading, cooking, dabbling in working out and fitness, Disney, and fashion. He enjoys the TV show, “Friends”, and alternative music. He loves going to Disney parks, water parks, and the beach. Siddiqui graduated from University of California, Riverside with a BA degree in Media and Cultural Studies and an MA degree in 2020 from California State University, Northridge, in Mass Communication. His writing focuses on empathy and good feelings

Umar Siddiqui Interview
  1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

To describe myself in three words, I would say driven, imaginative, and adaptable. These change as I evolve. For example: it takes dedication to make yourself adaptable. I used to be very stubborn in this sense; I would want my way. Now I am adaptable in the sense that I am able to adapt to any environment or situation. I am imaginative beyond being creative. My impression of creativity is transcendent because I am able to have an outlook for my creativity. I materialize it using words and fashion. My outfits are tailored to my moods and coordinated as well. I am driven by ambition and ideas. I genuinely think I can bridge gaps through my writing and communication.

2. All over the world there are many followers and preachers of Disney and its world. How do you interpret your inspiration from Disney?

I agree; Disney has a global and very binding impact. I have seen Disney fans come together and it is quite majestic.  My inspiration is very aligned with the values Disney presents today. I evoke the Disney culture through fashion by a practice called “Disneybounding.” To define this as best I can, it is where I incorporate Disney themes and colors into my outfit. I also have two Disney poems in my collection, “Weightless, Woven Words.” They are “Run for Cover” and “Good Side.” I rhyme some Disney themes, songs, and characters. I had so much fun with this!

3. Your book ” Weightless, Woven Words ” really creates hundreds of thoughts in the mind as everyone can interpret their experience accordingly but would you like to share why you chose this title?

 I usually think of three things when asked about this title since there are three words in it. I chose “weightless” to evoke a sense of being free and also to say words can be interpreted in many ways. I chose “woven” because the words are essentially woven together to create the meaning I aimed for. Words is what the two are describing. I asked the cover designer to give a shadowy quality to “weightless” so those that pick up the book can really get a sense of the title. I chose for him to evoke a basket-like quality with the word “woven.”

4. Would you like to share your journey and what motivated you to start writing? Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?

My journey spans my life. I have always been into writing and words. They always carried an awe-inspiring allure to me. They have a consolidated power but even mean so much alone. My second-grade teacher was the one who told me I had an abundant vocabulary and should never stop writing. I am inspired by books by Yuval N. Harari, since he explores the human condition and path, books by Malcolm Gladwell because they veer into the mind thoroughly; Melody Beattie’s book inspired me because they are concerned with mental health and have a huge self-help aspect and theming. I am inspired by poetry and usually read non-fiction books. I have read a book by Pakistani actress Mira Sethi called Are You Enjoying? , a collection of fiction stories, and the poetry book by Fatima Asghar, If They Come for Us. I also enjoyed Dressed by Shahida Bari, a non-fiction account of clothes and their underlying meanings, intertexualities, and histories, and Exit West by Mohsin Hameed, a fiction book.

5. The poems and the kind of aesthetics you have used while expressing the thoughts sometimes make humans feel how alienated they are in today’s world even in the gatherings of thousands. Did you feel alienated from yourself sometimes too?

Yes. You may have heard of the notion of not being alone but still feeling lonely. That is the best parallel to moments in my life. I sometimes feel lonely in people’s company because they do not complement me as a person. I think that is exceptionally important.  

6. One of the alarming concerns that you have raised tremendously in your work is mental health. According to you what are the reasons which are leading to a worse degradation of mental wellness?

I confront schizoaffective bipolar disorder on a daily basis. I have dealt profusely with its many nuances. I do not like to say that I suffer from it, because I like to feel I conquer it when I need to. I want people to know they are not alone in this fight. Mental health can be a menace and we all have to be adequately equipped to manage it.

7. In contemporary times people are so obsessed with management, control and regulation of their mind but contrary to that your poems have expressed how it is important to have ” liberation of mind ” as freeing oneself from one’s own clutches. Why do you think so?

We have to unlearn conventions that are disadvantageous to us. We cannot let them limit or stifle us. I feel like you can only control a certain amount of things in your life. We need to all aim to focus on what we can control and fix. I feel that is key to finding growth and freedom.

8. Behind every world there is a power of words and you have immensely added power to your words by forming rhythmic poems. What is your inspiration behind writing these collections of poems?

Thank you for saying that. I agree that words, when coupled or put together, have more power. That is what I want humans to be—stronger together. My inspiration surrounds me. It is literally everywhere in the world. On a billboard, on a chosen outfit for the day, on television, on music, a movie, etc., is where I find easy inspiration. I have my muses and passions to boundlessly inspire me, but I also am quite perceptive and observant of my surroundings.

9. You have completed your Master’s in Mass Communication from California State University, Northridge. What are your opinions on the role of media in contemporary times and how do we understand that what is shown to us is reality or merely an artificially presented reality?

I feel like the media is idiosyncratic and characteristic—it is tailored toward a certain audience and has an agenda, however innocent or not. The media is generally good or beneficial when surrounding a stereotype and giving voice to a marginalized person or community. The news reports myriad negative stories, but I do want to iterate there are ads and commercials that inspire awareness and togetherness. This is what we need to direly pay attention to.

10. The world is full of uncertainty, and unrealistic expectations and in the world of hero worship where people not just imitate blindly but lose themselves in pursuing others. How do you think it’s important to question the learning which we carried with us?

I love how you used hero worship. It is a salient word and relevant today. One has to have an actualization beyond their hero. We must all believe we can be heroes of today. I know it’s cliché, but not all heroes wear capes. Learning who you really are and realizing who you really are, are the key concepts here. We are socialized into a lot of ideas that are imposed upon us so thinking for ourselves is key.

11. In contemporary worlds the hegemonic understanding has created so many speculators of modernity where Pakistan is portrayed as backward. Do you think this perspective needs to be challenged?

My parents grew up in Pakistan. They came to the United States in the late 1980s. I still clash with some of the traditional perspectives but see the value in general in Pakistani and Islamic culture. People shouldn’t be close-minded and need to be open to Pakistani or Indian voices.

12. In this world we find so many misinterpretations of Islam in the name of constructive interpretation. What do you really think Islam has taught you that you will like to share with the people?

I grew up in a Muslim family. As I grew, I learned that Islam has no flaws. Muslims sometimes feel like they have to represent Islam. Islam, to me, is perfect; Muslims are not. Islam has molded me into an extremely kind person and pacifist. I know all religions teach virtue, but them misconception I hate hearing about Islam is that it oppressed women. It gives high regard t to women and respects them as people and their minds. For example, the hijab is not practiced by any woman in my immediate family, but a dear family friend would tell you her hijab permits her to be close to God while respecting herself.

13. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I definitely do. I love seeing positive reviews but do not despise people for a bad review. Fortunately, most reviews I have seen of my most previous book are positive. The bad review I saw, I dismissed as an opinion. I just remember the phrase, “everybody’s a critic.” People will always have things to say, but I just move on undeterred.

14. What is the most fascinating difference you have noticed among the teenagers of Europeans, Americans and South Asian teenagers?

I have noticed the culture does heavily influence how they act. In South Asian culture, we often joke that our parents do not see our mental health as important. In fact, I saw a meme that said “brown parents will not see your depression but won’t see their family scamming them either.” I laughed at this one, admittedly. I think teenagers want to rebel because they are finally thinking for themselves and need guidance.

15. What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book? What are common traps for new authors?

I would say write from not just heart and mind, but from the gut. Your instincts tell you your next move, and while some are impulsive, it is great to listen to them intently. They will drive you in a good direction that you should not second-guess, unless it seems unfamiliar. Also, being in a reaffirming comfort zone doesn’t teach you much, so venture out of it and write!

16. Do you have other writers in the family?

Yes, on my mother’s side, my grandfather wrote prolifically. My mom’s sister who passed away wrote poetry and read a lot, just like I do. My uncle also writes poetry and articles. He has several books published in Pakistan.

17. What are your best memories of holidays or family gatherings?

Obviously, we do not celebrate Christmas. Growing up in California, I got to experience the Christmas spirit with te lights and the cold weather. I love cold weather and lights, so I was always drawn to it. I was always into Halloween but my family is only remotely into it. We celebrate Eid twice a year, where we gather with family and friends; it feels so warm and comforting that I adore it fondly.

18. What is your favourite food? do you like biryani?

My favourite food is any kind of salad. I do not know why but I am drawn to the idea of it because it is quite creative. You can add whatever you want, as long as your ingredients work in harmony. I do like biryani. As a matter of fact, I ate some today! I love anything spicy or savory. I veer away from sweets or anything too sour.

19. Would you like to share something about your upcoming work and what is the driving force behind the coming works?

Yes actually. I am currently having a book edited that I am self-publishing. It will most likely be released in February 2023. It is called “Float Your Boat: You Have Power and Control.” It is a self-help book aimed at harnessing yourself and finding your creative side. Once you see words on paper, your vulnerability kicks in. You are facing and confronting issues in your life by seeing them before you. You thus make them manageable and fixable.

The author can be reached on his social media platforms, Instagram: @umarrrzy_

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