Thursday, 21 November 2013

Let It Go

On cloudy days, when gloom prevails
and shoulders sag with the weight 
of the world and its many folds
When you stand alone
watching the world revolve 
Crumbling, tumbling. Breaking and tearing,
Remember to let it go. 
Let it go.
Breathe. 
Don’t let the tears stop.
Let it flow.
Cup your palms and collect what remains of
broken hearts and shattered dreams.
Let the pain seep through your pores and
drain yourself inside out.
And just when you think you are done,
Pull yourself out and head back into the whirl because
The world won’t stop spinning if you get dizzy,
So hold on to what remains because
This is not the end. Never will be.

And remember,
Time will heal as it always does
the scars will fade as they always do
and the memories? They will just float away.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

In Conversation With Old Age


I looked old age in the eye,
caressed her many wrinkles and
let a tear slide by
I took her frail hand in mine and asked,
Are you ready yet'?
‘I’ve always been’ she replied
‘I’ve lived my days and known my nights
Seen the world and felt it in my bone.
I’ve chased dreams over valleys and
swum rivers to find love.
Oh and I’ve loved and laughed
and shed tears in pain too.
So I have lived and
I am ready.
But you, dear child, are not.
Your clear skin and agile bones have blinded you to life
and her deceptive ways.
You’ve taken for granted every sprightly step
Too drunk in youth, you don’t realize that
This Won’t Last.
Your steps will become slower, your breaths sharper
stabbing at your heart everyway
Eyes cloud, ears fail and soon
you will begin to trust yourself a little less each day.
And then, when your memory begins to fade,
you will remember-
this wasn’t the case.
But now,
All doors have closed and
there’s no where left to go.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Implode

Blinded in Bliss,
I traded my dreams for yours because
The world ended
where you began
Your pleasure my only goal,
I stacked old wishes in dusty corners
where you’d never look and
In imagined futures I saw us:
I was yours and
You belonged to the world
But I built sand castles too soon
on shaky grounds
where the winds never cease
and illusions don’t exist.
On a summer day you left,
my shattered spirit in tow
while I came apart,
one dream at a time.



Sunday, 20 October 2013

Before I forget...

Before half remembered thoughts become me and
you become just another face 
Before the last streaks of memory fade away 
taking with it your name
Before I forget,
Let me remember love
as it was supposed to be
Me and you
Before blanks spaces invade
and nostalgia becomes an empty frame,
Come, make yourself known.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

On the subject of writing...


It’s been long since I’ve written anything significant. The truth is, I am afraid. Afraid of not living up to what I wish for myself. It sounds silly, I know, but there is a reason. I cannot begin to describe how much I value writing, as a mode of expression and as a creative outlet. I’ve always been in awe of how we can take random words and string it together to create something so meaningful that it can move hearts and etch itself in ones memory. The right words together can make magic. It can spark love and break hearts too. Just play around with words, and you can elicit any emotion you want in the reader and in yourself too.



This realization of the power of words is precisely what keeps me from writing. Frankly, I am terrified. Of words. And yet,I constantly feel this intense need to write something, Anything. But I’m always waiting for that perfect beginning, for that spectacular end. It’s like, I can’t start without knowing for sure where I am going. But that’s not how writing has worked for me so far. Writing has always been an organic process for me. Before this, I never consciously thought about writing. I just grabbed on these ‘sparks’ blindly and then didn't let go till I managed to get something out of it. Lately, I've been missing these sparks. either because I was too late to capture them, or because once I got them, I didn't hold on tight enough…Or maybe I don’t see them at all.

This inability to write has made me generally unhappy. I've had words reach till my finger tips and then trace their way back without any explanation as to why. It’s frustrating and exhausting. At times I sit with a pen between my fingers, or the laptop in front of me, coaxing the words- the right words- to reveal themselves to me. They make brief appearances and then, just like that, they disappear. Leaving me hanging, lost for words.


Maybe I’ve waited long enough for them to approach me. Maybe it’s time I go looking for them- in conversations with friends, chance encounters with strangers on the subway, between thoughts over a solitary cup of coffee, under strange skies where everything is capable of being that spark. I am sure I’ll catch up with them. Soon enough. 

Monday, 30 September 2013

London Revisited

So here I am, on a cloudy Monday, seated on an old wooden bench facing the Thames. I feel different things- excited, exhilarated, nervous, scared, happy. I am all of these now.

This is my second time in London. I came here last year, but as a tourist. This time, I am a student. And what a difference it makes! My last visit to London was experienced through the camera lens. Like any other tourist, I walked around constantly capturing anything and everything I saw. Old buildings, the iconic black taxis, the bright red telephone booths..even lamp posts! I did what a tourist in London is supposed to do- go to the millennium bridge, see the national gallery, walk through Hyde park, take pictures in front of the Big Ben and London eye. And of course wait in a crowd of hundreds to take blurry pictures of the change of guard at the Buckingham palace. I did all those things and I really enjoyed it too.
But this time, I'm FEELING London. I can feel the fast pulse of the city, I can see its colourful diversity, I can smell ambition around me. A lot of things which I didn't notice in my first visit are revealing themselves to me now.





Today morning I walked out with plans of buying some stuff for my room and then changed my mind and decided to just walk around. I didn't have any place in mind so I just..walked. If certain streets seemed interesting then I explored them. I got into random buildings, did a lot of people watching. Followed some around when I wasn't sure where I was going. Heard interesting snippets of bankers contemplating on whether to eat couscous or not…
At one point I was caught in an oncoming rush of people in suits. Smart bankers and investors in greys and blacks and blues. Women, ready to take on the world, rushing to their offices in their nikes and Adidas with the heels stuffed into their bags. Steaming coffee from Costa in one hand and sandwich in the other, they marched on to the face the gloomy Monday. And I came back to my cozy room.


I think I like this city. Maybe because I blend in here. I can be one of the many walking around, without explaining why.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

I

Fiery,
I swam across bloody oceans
seeking that elusive shore
where dreams run free
and I am just me.
Where gentle curves and rough edges
do not determine fate
Where sacred bodies do not contain imprisoned minds.
I prayed for footprints that do not trample,
Eyes which do not degrade.
Hands outstretched, I waited for
winds which carry freedom
and my ears strained for
laughter that didn’t stifle hidden pain.
But all in vain because
Masks slipped as they
snatched the books and confiscated my pen.
Then they laughed and said
‘This, dear girl, is not your place’
So now you find me,
plucked out of the womb, or buried under the sand,
In unhappy unions with bruises as bands.
Soul shattered, body battered,
I walk over the flames of a thousand burning suns,
With nothing to show but battle scars and
faded dreams in empty eyes,
looking for that place where

I am. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A Nightmare

Sometimes you pray that dreams don’t come true. As I did today. I am usually a good-dreamer (?) and wake up mostly feeling positive. This afternoon’s nap however was the most disturbing one for me and I woke up in a cold sweat. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t real and I was safe.

What did I dream about? Child Sexual Abuse.

I wasn’t there in this nightmare. It was someone I didn’t know I knew. It was a young friendly girl who loves to talk. She laughs with abandon and is carefree. And the world exploits that.

I watch in horror as she is molested, again and again, till she loses herself. And this is done by people she knows and trusts A friend’s parent here, a teacher there….till she doesn’t know whom to trust. Life for her becomes an endless loop, each cycle bringing more pain. I was stuck in that horrible dream- watching her breaking and tearing and screaming for help. And, like in all nightmares, I was confined. I opened my mouth to tell her I am coming but no words escaped. Muted, I watched as she shattered. And then, like grains of sand, she slipped away from their hands and was lost into the wind, never to come back.

Losing her was the un-becoming of me. Why did I let it happen? Why couldn’t I say anything- not one word? But dreams aren’t democratic and you don’t get to choose what you can see, or do.
UNICEF estimates that more than 200 million (including 73 million boys) have been exploited worldwide by the age of 18. That is more than the population of Greece, Italy, France and the UK combined together. And this was statistics taken 10 years ago, now the numbers must have gone through the roof. Not only are they sexually assaulted by people they love but also degraded by institutions through forced involvement in child prostitution and pornography.

The more I read about how sick certain sections of the society has become the more grateful I am for the life I’ve been blessed with. I had a very happy and sheltered childhood. People around me gave me nothing but love, care and security. I didn’t have my innocence brutally shattered before me. I believed in good and I trusted people. But for millions,that’s not the case when they watch their childhood being brutally slaughtered in front of their eyes. We are manufacturing broken people who have unlearned how to trust.
Unfortunately, this isn't just a bad nightmare- this is reality. And we need to stop being mute spectators. It’s high time we move beyond the age old ‘good touch- bad touch’ lessons. Kids deserve to know more in order to protect themselves. If there is anything we need to be paranoid about, it is this. Our children, our brothers and sisters might be victims and we don’t even know it. Imagine the plight of their little minds when they can’t even comprehend what’s happening to them. They might be broken inside and yet blaming themselves for what is happening to them.


We need to do everything in our power to keep them safe, to protect them from the perversion out there and the rest- we leave to God. What more can we do?  


Saturday, 17 August 2013

Aromas from Home

I grew up in a Nomadic family. Well, almost. Having a parent work in the armed forces meant living out of the boxes throughout our childhood. My memories are like a huge geographical collage; a few snaps from West Bengal, some from Maharashtra, tit bits from Karnataka- you get the picture. In all these trips and stays my siblings and I subconsciously internalized a lot of what we saw, and felt. And, as I recently found out, even what we smelt.

This constant association of memories with smells has always fascinated me since then. Until I found out the psychological answer for it- we were wired to have this smell directory within us. Thus a walk down a park in a distant country, surrounded by jasmine flowers will always remind you of days spent in the aunt’s garden with cousin sisters giggling over silly crushes, the salty air at seashores will always make you smile at the memory of a family beach trip 10+ years ago. Smells hold on to you. They enter your clothes, seep into forgotten corners of your being and then cling onto you forever. Embedded memories.
Sometimes they surprise us by springing up out of nowhere. Shopping in the supermarket and going through the detergent aisle always reminds of the new terms at school. Armed with news books and stationary, and smartly dressed in starched whites, smelling of Surf detergent (daag acche hain!), we would head off to school. I have realized since that our lives have a smell- timeline of their own where different fragrances chronicle your experiences as you journey through life.

Some of the lasting scents which I still hold on to are- the strong scent of the Old Spice aftershave which my father used to use generously every morning, the sweet-tangy smell  in the air when my mother made pickles and squashes out of home-grown mangoes which now belong to summers long gone,  masala chai on a rainy day,the smell of old yellowed books in our personal library which remind me of watching ‘The Mummy Returns’ for some weird reason…

There are more of these conspiring scents which grab hold of me at the most unexpected of times and take me down the nostalgia lane. For example, the scent of ink takes me back to high school days and sleepless nights spent perfecting my chemistry record book. New clothes bring to mind Eid day in all its celebration and revelry. One memory leads to another and I often end up reminiscing about Eid as a carefree child. Growing up in a Muslim household, aromas originating from the kitchen- were, and are- a central aspect of our daily lives. Hailing from Malabar, my mother is quite the cook. On Eid day she would cook up a storm for the entire defence colony we lived in. Our table would be laden with delicious chicken biriyani, deep friend meat cutlets cooked to perfection and the sweet payasam (rice pudding) to finish it all off. I remember waking up on Eid to the smell of caramelized onions courting the spicy masala from the chicken sizzling on the stove and then mingling with the sweet milky fragrance of payasam. My brothers and I would tip-toe to the kitchen to steal a few treats and have the refreshing smell of coriander and mint (being vigorously chopped by our maid to use as garnish in the dishes) wash over us.




Eid afternoons are a medley of sights, sounds and smells to this day, no matter where we go. More so when it is with the family, my grandma’s house for instance. Those few Eids we spent at her place are always accompanied with memories of great smells. Spices, sweets, melting ghee, lemon tea always brewing on the stove, the henna from the day before adorning our hands- smells on Eid day were a heightened sensation especially  when accompanied by the festive glee of children about to receive gifts from the elders. Naughty kids that we were, we spent Eid more outside the house than inside. Playing carefully in our new clothes, we made sure no adults caught hold of us. My grandmother’s yard was another symphony of smells- fragrances so calming you could lose yourself to it. As kids we would run from the fig tree to the guava tree in her garden, fighting for the last fruit and when the sun set and we ran back inside- bruised and muddy, our hands always smelt of sweet wood. Then we would we whisked into the bathroom and ordered to scrub ourselves with Dettol. Ah Dettol! Companion to all worried mothers, and enemy no.1 to bruised children- Dettol was a constant presence in all our houses. The strong astringent makes me think of a time when we were reckless being, my siblings and I, jumping from one sofa to the other, scaling cupboards like mountains, swinging from trees to land on our heads and arms and elbows. Each bruise was fervently rubbed with this stinging liquid [and obviously preceded by a smack on the head and lengthy ‘I told you so’ speech by our mother] as we kept a brave face and willed away tears. Whenever I smell Dettol-in hospitals or at a relative’s house- I am taken back to the days of cycling races and bruised knees.


Fragrances form an essential part of my life. I hold them close to me and cherish them. For me each scent signifies change and growth. They take me to times long gone and sometimes propel me to days yet to come. Scents take over when pictures can’t take you any further. Whatever it be, when things get rough or I get low, I just need to smell something-the right thing. A whiff of some hot chocolate, the familiar smell of my room or just the scent of my best friend when she hugs me- and I realize how blessed I am. 


This post is a new entry for AmbiPur 'Smelly to Smiley' contest on IndiBlogger. More details can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/AmbiPurIndia

Friday, 16 August 2013

Enough Now


'Enough now',
said his innocent eyes,
'Hand me down grenades
which explode mid way
and bullets which shoot inwards
have scarred
and re-scarred.
And now blood runs freely
in this land of the golden dunes and the glistening Nile '

'They watch freedom bleed us dry 
and say,
Blue and red interweave to
paint your city free.
But when the cries of my mother echo
from the square,
over my sister, clutching her broken doll:
tangled limbs,
out of socket, eyes blank,
I am not so sure anymore.'

'But now bullets spoke
what text books never taught, and
I’ve learnt my lesson-
freedom isn’t free.
It stole my dreams and sold it
to monsters under my bed.
I've traded and I've lost,
So enough now.
Before the smokes settles down
and the world forgets my face,

put me out of this pain.'


Monday, 29 July 2013

Some thoughts

A lot has been going through my head. So much that I am unable to figure out where one thought ends and the other begins. The only way I can get them to appear even slightly coherent is if I try to write it down.So here’s me typing each and every word that comes into my mind. I do not want to think ahead about what I am writing. i want it to be a catharsis; complete. I do not want to stop to correct any errors or typos, because this is just my thoughts flowing out, so it is bound to stumble and change directions.. .Any stream would do that, and so will this.

Why did I want to write? Because I was feeling a little low. My ramadan hasn’t been going the way I planned it to, and now that there’s only 10 days left I am filled with this intense regret and inexplicable grief at what I’ve allowed to take place. I let myself slack, I let myself slow down, I let myself procrastinate. All when I knew this might be the last time I get to witness this blessed month. I feel hypocritical. Am I portraying one image and living another life? I don’t want that to happen because Allah says that hypocrites are the worst of the people. So I find myself coming back, again and again, to the same question- “who am I doing it for?” Do my actions and intentions overlap? Did I do this to please Allah or to feed my ego?

And frankly, it is terrifying.

The last 10 days of Ramadan, the most blessed days one can experience, have come upon us and I am here thinking am I even in right frame. Did I even start the car in the first place, before embarking on this spiritual journey?
It is quite depressing and writing about it makes me feel even worse. But I am doing it anyway because there might be others like me who feel they haven’t done enough (Or anything, actually Sad smile). This post is to pull me, and you out, of this rut. Yes, we are stuck. And yes it’s horrible. But do we just sit around and mope about it? No.

1/3rd of Ramadan is still with us. And, all praise be to Allah, it’s still not too late.

Allah is the most merciful. He forgives and he loves to forgive! So this is the chance to shake off the dust that we managed to bury our soul under and polish our Eeman. Let’s be proactive and not let a single precious second escape without it being used to wipe away our sins or earn us more reward.
The gates of heaven are open and beckoning us. It’s waiting for us to make that one du’a, to shed that one tear of repentance, to give that one note in charity.  Are we ready to go back to Allah? I am. In shaa Allah.

So my du’a for the next 10 days-
Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘annee
( “O Allah You are The One Who pardons greatly, and loves to pardon, so pardon me.”)

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Muslim's perspective on God

I have shied away from writing anything in detail about spirituality or religion for a long time now. Faith is something intensely personal, and rightly so. But in this globalized era what's personal has become political. And as one can see from the news, the geopolitics of faith have become more important than the principles of it. Which is quite sad.

So this post is my effort to introduce you to God, from a Muslim perspective. I am not here to proselytize. My only intention is to shed all pretenses and barriers around me and just tell you what God means to me and what place religion occupies in a Muslim's life. I hope you will benefit from this post and will be encouraged to do your own research on this religion. 

At the core of the Islamic faith is the principle of Tawheed, which translates into Oneness of God. God is One. He has no parents, no wife, no husband and no children. Among His attributes is that He is like nothing else we know of. He is not needy like humans are. This is best surmised in Chapter 112 of Qur'an- Surah Ikhlas (The Sincerity):

Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One,
Allah , the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born,
Nor is there to Him any equivalent."

This chapter makes it explicit that God, the creator, is different from us humans, His creations. God doesn't have any weaknesses, we do. Thus, we believers don't attribute any image or idol to him because He is beyond this worldly realm and what we procure from our imagination can never ever come close to portraying Him in all His majesty. 

The word Islam means 'Submission to God' and a follower of Islam is a Muslim i.e One who submits himself completely to God. This is what makes Islam a way of life. For a Muslim, the sole purpose of life is to worship and please God almighty. Thus, everything we do in our day to day lives is informed by that love for God. So a Muslim strives on a daily basis to rise above the distractions of the material world (dunya) to worship the Owner of the world(s). 

To make it easier for us to understand HOW to achieve this spiritual state, God sent Prophets to different societies, in different times, with the same message- There is no God worthy of worship except The God. Some of these prophets- as mentioned in the Qur'an- were- Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, Jacob, Joseph, Abraham (May peace be upon all of them) and the seal of all Prophets- Prophet Muhammed (Peace and Blessings be upon him).

Each prophet was sent to a particular society and Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) was sent to the entire mankind. Some of these prophets were sent scriptures, such as Torah, Bible and the Qur'an. Qur'an is considered as the final revelation and is also defined as the 'Criterion' - it is a guide to distinguish right from wrong. In simple terms, it's the user manual for human beings, released by the manufacturer Himself! 

Some people are under the impression that Islam is a religion of do's and don'ts as can often be seen from the Halal-Haram battles on the internet. Islam is so much more than a ritualistic religion. From its follower it requires firstly a complete internal submission followed by a physical one. Faith is a state of mind too, so in the Qur'an Allah asks the believers to have Taqwa i.e. God- consciousness. We are asked to be aware of God and his ultimate power. We are asked to be mindful of the fact that with all its temptations, trials and tribulations, this life is temporary- a test whose results will be out in the afterlife. And it is this very consciousness that makes a Muslim mindful of what he does and does not do. It is his effort to make sure that he doesn't in any way displease God. So he refers to the Qur'an and the Sunnah (the life and etiquette of the Prophet Muhammed) to ensure that he is on the right track. 

The problem occurs when some Muslims lose focus of the bigger picture and occupy themselves with the technicalities and the nitty-gritty of the Halal/ Haram. This takes up so much of their energy and time that in the end they completely lose sight of why those things were required of them in the first place. 
Islam is a religion of action. It's not enough if it's "all there in the heart", we have to translate our intentions into actions too. A demonstration of this is the 5 pillars of Islam. 
They are- 
1)Shahadah-Testimony that there is no God worthy of worship but the God (Allah) and Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) is the last messenger.
2) Salah - 5 daily prayers spread throughout the day for men, women, children- young and old- alike. 
3) Sawm- Fasting in the month of Ramadan from dawn to dusk.
4) Zakat- Annual charity. This is a pre-calculated portion of your annual salary and assets and is given to the poor and needy of the neighborhood. 
5) Hajj -pilgrimage to Makkah. This is required of all those who can financially and physically afford to make the trip from their homelands to Makkah.

Apart from these the believer is given certain guidelines to live by. Some of them are- Internal and external modesty, generosity with money and time, humility in the demeanour, kindness to those around. Islam is a social religion too. A healthy community is viewed as a pre-requisite for harmonious living. Thus, our neighbours have rights upon us. The poor and oppressed of the society have rights upon us. Even the environment has rights upon us. Charity is given utmost importance in the Qur'an. A believer is asked to give charity from what he loves. He is encouraged to ensure that destitute of the society are looked after. We will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement if our neighbour goes to bed without food while we sleep on full stomachs. 

Islam is also a just religion. This might comes as a shocker for those who follow the middle eastern news. But the sad thing is, none of the countries in the Modern world are completely Islamic. They have made a mockery of the 'Shariah' by being extremely prejudiced against woman and those of other races. However, Islam asks male believers and female believers to respect and honour each other and condemns racism in the strongest possible terms. In front of God, what matters is the piety and depth of belief of the person and not whether he/she is black, white or brown. 

The Qur'an emphasises this in the following verse- 
" O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted." ( 4:135)

This fairness and sense of justice is also reinforced in the Prophet Muhammad's last sermon, before his death, where he said: 
" O’ Ye people! Allah says, O’ people We created you from one male and one female and made you into tribes and nations, so as to be known to one another. Verily in the sight of Allah, the most honoured amongst you is the one who is most God-fearing. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab, nor for the white over the black nor for the black over the white except in God-consciousness."



There are obviously some rulings which may appear confusing to non- Muslims. It's understandable but it doesn't mean you make your own assumptions about what it "could mean". You have to put it in the context of the time and place of revelation and how it relates to the present day. If you wish to understand more about Islam, I advise you to read a translation of the Qur'an in whichever language you are most comfortable in. 

And talk to your Muslim friends too! We may not have all the answers all the time, but we will help you look for it (and in the process learn ourselves too). 
This post has stretched out more than I wanted it to and I still can't do justice to it. I hope this was an informative read for you and would love it if you have any feedback or questions. If I don't the answer to any question, I am going to say just that- 'I don't know' ! I am extremely lacking in terms of Islamic knowledge, but I'll try my best to point you to authentic sources from where you can clarify your doubts.

I pray to God that he blesses us with that which is true and pure. And I pray he blesses our lives with peace and contentment. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Family

My slightly weird family of five is un-settled. Literally. Dad's jobs never let us stay in one place for long. He works for some secretive organisation which needs its employs to be always on the run. Ha! Got you! My old man's just a harmless diplomat.

While growing up like a nomad isn't really the ideal situation, if I had to do it all over again, I would, without any hesitation. By my 12th grade I had studied in about 10 schools, I am not kidding! Every place we went I made tons of friends (and a few enemies) and generally had a ball. Before it was time to leave. Farewells were the norm and all of us tried our best to not get emotionally attached to any place or person in our postings. But boy was it hard!
I remember crying each time I left a place...and each time set my foot into a new school, new neighborhood  new city. Much to my embarrassment, it has sort of become our family's inside joke. Apparently I cry and cry and cry. And then forget everyone I left behind. Of course it's all lies. I love each one of the amazing friends I have made so far and will always treasure the unique perspective each new place has offered me. 



What made each move easier was that we were always in it together. It was rough at times, but we still sailed together! And what I love about my family, and which probably holds true for all families in some way or the other, is that we are a bunch of oddballs. I am not kidding, we are insane! Each one of us has some or the other eccentricity which all of us have to put up with( (there's no other way around it, is there?). If I had to give examples- My dad has a hat fetish. He LOVES collecting hats. So wherever we go he manages to buy a hat AND wear it around for the rest of the trip. Of course, like a good wife my mom absolutely HATES this. So often our family walks would end up with my mom pleading with my dad to leave the hat behind and then eventually storming off herself. Rumour has it that my mom has unintentionally *cough cough* lost a few of his prized possessions each time we moved. I think I saw a few homeless people sporting his hats in each city we lived...

My two younger brothers- where do I begin? If I could (or, more precisely, were allowed to) I would fill books after books with their stories. There are SO many stories just languishing in my memory, so it's really sad that I can't share it with world. However, I do have to give credits to my brothers for (un)graciously featuring in some of my better articles. They are the ones who provide the most comedic material for me to flex my writing muscles on. For that, I am grateful!

Coming back to oddities. My mom's main pastime is international smuggling. I have written about it in my previous post, but it won't hurt to mention again. She *adores* cutlery from different parts of the world. So most of our airline woes are because of her really heavy secret stash of wooden spoons. Maybe it's a married woman thing, I don't know, because even my aunts, when asked what they want from Italy/ Malaysia say- don't choke- Kitchen knives. What in the name of everything else that is lovely and nice does it mean? Why would you want kitchen knives and meat scissors from all corners of the world? 

Moving on, my brothers- Both of them have unique personalities and are interested in completely different things. Their shared love in life, though, is making sure I am miserable. I am kidding of course. But there were times, as a young girl, when I absolutely dreaded this deadly duo. Whenever they used to get into fights with each other, I would try to be all suave and get in between them and make things worse, just so that I could have one of them on my side. Sadly, it never worked out. They always smelt out my scheme and would gang up against me with renewed vigour. *sigh*

We weren't all that bad of course. The three of us had a blast growing up- going to summer camps, badminton coaching and generally breaking each others' teeth and bones. It was mostly fun, really. One thing that all three of us hated in equal measure was our Sunday Arabic classes with a local maulvi. A few times, when our parents were out, we put a lock on our front door and feeling like ninjas snuck back into the house through the back door. This elaborate set up was to mislead our teacher into thinking that we were not at home (duh!). And he did fall for it. The first two times. The third time he saw three nervous faces peaking back at him from the window. It was then inevitable then that our adventure ended there... 

Another family feature I am thankful for is our common interest in travelling. We all were bitten by the travel bug at birth and, thanks to God, we were given plenty of opportunities to travel to different around the world. The past three years especially, have been pretty amazing. We have covered most of Western Europe by now.

Something I should tell you- we get crazier when we travel. Yes, it's possible. We love trying out 'different' things when travelling, but the idea of different is, uh, different for each one of us. My dad, obviously, thinks HATS. For my mom it means the local cuisine and probably the cutlery it's served in. For Shereef it's just wandering around with a camera taking self pictures. And for Bilal it's trying the Coca cola there. Me? I am not a pleasant co-traveller from what I hear. I spend an awfully long time in front of each scenery/relic/ building and it drives my family crazy. I also enjoy taking a few million pictures of each leaf and twig within a 50 mile radius. I can see why that can be a teeny weeny bit annoying for the rest of the fam...

Oh, we also do this EXTREMELY brown thing of going to Indian/Pakistani restaurants in European countries. I can never really get my head around it. We are in Italy- the land of pizzas, spaghetti and delicious lasagnas- and what do we have for lunch? Dal Tadka with butter naan. How much more desi can anyone get? This probably features first in the desi 'Things to do when travelling abroad'.


What I have noticed, in my immediate and extended family, is that each one of us have some or the other crazy quirk. However, I really cherish these oddities now. Yes, they may be a bit annoying at times, but they are what makes one family different from the other. These lil' things lend flavour to our memories. It's what makes the trip down the nostalgia lane more colourful and fun! So years down the line, when I am enthralling my kids with our childhood stories, I'll be glad that my dad loved hats and my mom courted knives. And most of all, I look forward to telling them what great fun their mother and uncles had, the time they went to an Indian restaurant in Italy... 

Friday, 19 July 2013

End

The end was near. Voices hovered over  my head. Time is running out, they said.

'Wait', I said, It's not over yet.

"He's still alive"

"But he's almost gone"

Not yet

"He's our son, Phil. I can't let go. Not now"

"That's it, Deb. It has been a month. He can't even hear us"

But I can, Dad. I hear you.

"Just give him one more day, Phil"

 I may need more than a day, you know

"He's as good as dead, for heaven's sake! I... I can't take this anymore, Deb."

A whisper in my ear: Sorry son, we waited and you never came. We are sending you to a better place. 

And then they pulled the plug.

I was just there. Almost. Waiting for another day.

It never came.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

D for Drama

D for Drama

Oh come on now! You never saw this coming? I am Indian (and me) how can I not write about drama?

On the 7th of March 1992, in an unknown hospital in a dusty town in Kerala, I was delivered. With the first scent of the drama that my life is going to be, my little self launched into a long, tortured cry which was mistaken by the doctors to be a normal 'just-got-butt-slapped-by-the-doctor' cry. 

Fast forward to 2013 and here I am, a 21 year old wearied woman who has seen all the lemons that life has to offer. Well, most of 'em.

"What's wrong with this weirdo?", isn't that what you are thinking. No, don't hide it. It's too late. Plus, unlike Sheldon Cooper's mother, my mom didn't get me tested. So I can never really be sure if I am not the very house of crazy.

The thing is, drama pursues me no matter which corner of the world I go. My life has this very irritating habit of recreating worn out Bollywood clich├ęs just for the heck of it. I can see your raised eyebrow, so here's an example:

In my 21 years, I can count on one hand the number of times I've boarded a train without, um, dying. The rest of the time, I've had to run like a crazy woman, buckets of sweat pouring out of me, and my fifty thousand bags clutched to my chest, finally to get into the train in the nick of time. And just when I am about the flash the victory sign I realize there's a good 10 minutes before departure. What am I to do with all the adrenaline lying around after a sprint through probably the most crowded railway station in the world? Well, my now jittery body decides I can just make it worse and hit every single person on the way to my seat with my bags, and maybe step on a few toes too. 

Oh my public transport woes don't end there! There was once when I ran behind a moving bus (like all good Indians do) and jumped into it. It was my first time and I was elated. Till I found out I was on the wrong bus. Imagine my embarrassment when after all this-oh, I don't know DRAMA?-I had to make the driver stop the bus. I could FEEL the disapproving eyes of the entire bus on me as I got down.

No, this is not the end either. My life decided that buses and trains weren't enough and I should embarrass myself in international airports too. First things first, my family has this very weird obsession of carting things back and forth between countries. By my family, I mean my mother. So every time we fly to Italy, to my dad, our bags are filled to the brim with all sorts of pickles that the world has to offer, CLAY POTS ( I am not joking, my mom apparently HAS to have it to make 'authentic Kerala fish curry'), and an assortment of  Indian snacks and sweets.  And from Italy to India she carts back Italian cutlery and culinary contraptions.  The worst thing is that we are almost always carrying more baggage than we are allowed. This inevitably results in a few frantic minutes of rearranging luggage (where we take out the excess baggage and stuff it into our handbags in front of the entire airline staff) praying we are let through. 

The worst incident so far happened on our recent trip to Langkawi island, Malaysia. We reached the check in counter exactly 15 minutes before the boarding time. So we weren't allowed to check in our baggage despite me procuring a few tears and begging them to let our precious bag in. The stone faced lady at the counter printed our boarding pass and told us we could just take our cabin bags in. This resulted in us basically just sitting on the floor right there and emptying everything in our suitcase. I don't know what people thought of us as they saw us stuffing  undergarments and sanitary napkins (which seemed to have reproduced themselves in the suitcase) into plastic bags. My beautiful red suitcase was left behind in the cold airport floor and we boarded the flight looking like a family of sweaty nomads.

What terrifies me is that this is probably just the beginning of a lifetime of last minute luggage betrayal. *Sigh*

And this, my friends, is just an extract from the 'Transport' section of the volumes that make the drama that is my life. 

Another section for another day...




C for Chocolate

C for Chocolate


My name is Nazreen and I am a chocoholic.

There. I said it.

It all started when I was still an embryo in my mother's womb. One day my mom tried to ward off a bout of morning sickness with a bit of chocolate. Little did she know that this tiny piece of heaven was going to be the cause of a genetic mutation so severe that in the future her daughter would susceptible to life threatening diseases if deprived from chocolate for long.  And thus, was I introduced to a lifetime of medicinal chocolate.

Not buying it? Well, this is the story that seems most plausible as in the face of my irrational love for chocolate. People who have seen me with Chocolate will back me when I say I need it in my life. From the time I can remember it has made me weak in the knees like no man has ever. I won't be far off if I say in my world all the love sonnets and songs are dedicated to my beloved chocolate. If I could write odes, I would. Chocolate, dear reader, is my best friend, lover, muse, inspiration and at times my worst enemy. Of course, I don't take it personally, because I knew what I was getting into when I first got into this relationship. Even though my heart sang when we were together, my body didn't like it in particular. Especially since I completely neglected my body once Choci came into my life.

courtesy: Alicia D'souza

It really wasn't deliberate. When it started it was something innocent. I mean, I never thought it would get this serious. I should have heeded the warning signs but by the time I realized, I was head over heels in love. And you know how it is when one is in love, everything else just blurs and you and your beloved are all that matters; all unicorns and rainbows, I guarantee. With my love, my waistline also expanded. Exponentially. But for centuries people have died for love, so what's a few extra pounds in comparison?

I was so smitten that I stood by choci not matter what form he took. I was loyal through the milk chocolate, dark chocolate, Hazelnut phases. I did falter once when choci turned up at my door with those twins of questionable repute- fruit and nut. But I didn't turn Choci away because that's what love is, embracing your partner- flaws, nuts, raisins and all. After that incident Choci was so grateful that he didn't tell me about his 'experiments' with mint, coconut and orange, because he knew that would break my heart. That's our love, strong and intolerant to weird people trying to make my choci someone who he isn't. Come on, you all, who in their right mind would ever think that my beloved choci can gel with that annoyingly upbeat mint? That's as blasphemous as it can get. I think I'll leave it at that because my blood pressure rises every time I think about what they tried to do to my poor choci.

The thing is, I knew Choci like no one else does. People like to think he is great when accompanied with these silly nuts, but he is best natural. Just pure Choci. He's loyal. And he is by my side as I brave through depression, fall outs with friends, fights with my body....and he NEVER avoids me when I am PMSing. That's love right there.

However, evil that the world is, people have begun to call our love an 'obsession'. Then last time I was looking at choci adoringly in the supermarket someone told me it is 'Unnatural'.  It's a wonder that I didn't faint right then. This isn't natural? Choci and I, we....We are meant to be..Right?

But the doubts had now begun to wriggle their way through our love and to make things worse the weighing scale landed a heavy blow. As I stepped on the scale, my world fell apart. I began to see where this would lead. I could see myself, a few years down the line, stuck in a relationship where the only thing I gained was weight. Don't mistake me, we are crazy about each other, but our love can only destroy me. Completely.

That's when I decided, it's time to end it. And just like that, I let Choci out of my life.

For a few days.

I am ashamed to say that I cheated, more than few times, by letting Choci in again. But what was I to do when he looked at me with that dark, brooding face of his? How could I not give him one more chance?

But it was a cycle. And I found myself again on the scale- which was now about to give in to the weight- wondering how could I mess things up so badly, TWICE.


So here I am, dear reader, spilling my heart to you, hoping that you will help me out. Let me out of this misery, tell me if this love is worth it. You will be honest, won't you?