Saturday, 19 December 2015

A Train Ride Across India

Would you like to accompany me on a train ride from Jabalpur to Bangalore? A journey from central India to South India?
Here's the soundtrack to our journey. Plug your earphones in and listen as you travel with me.
Come with me. Come prepared though. Take your sweaters, jackets, mufflers, gloves. It’s 6.30 am and Jabalpur is very cold now, around 6 degree Celsius. In the station you will see men huddling together for warmth. Some will be walking around with bedsheets tightly wrapped around their head and shoulders, like human burritos. Listen to the announcements in Hindi and English telling you where your train awaits. Walk across the length of the crowded platform to get to your coach. Get in, get comfortable. Maybe order some tea and warm your bones.
Your neighbours are an elderly couple going to visit their son in Bangalore. They are kindly looking; the gentleman, a retired Hindi professor, will remind you of your grandfather and the woman will give you warm smiles. Make sure you talk to them. Also near you is a large, boisterous north Indian family that has come laden with food. An assortment of children referred to as chintu, bintu, munnu etc. will be beckoned from their daydreams and threatened and cajoled till they eat breakfast. Chintu, Bintu, and Munnu will resume their play, ignoring their parents’ glares and threats. 
The train will whistle to let you know the journey has begun. You are in an AC compartment so your view outside is unhindered while no one can see you from the outside. The train is picking up speed now. The buildings merge into one another and soon you leave them behind. Now you are travelling through plane lands. As you go further you see wheat and maize fields on both sides. Wide stretches of land with a tiny hut in the middle, it’s probably where the farmer lives. It’s still foggy. You cross a river where the mist seems to be reaching out to the sky from the water, rising like smoke. You marvel the carpet of fog that rests so peacefully on the land, twirling around trees, at times pierced by the sunlight streaming through the leaves. Your reverie is interrupted by a vendor peddling steaming ginger and masala tea. Another man walks by selling hot samosas that you try not to buy. 
Just when you are about to order breakfast, another set of neighbours- an army family known to your uncle- offer you a meal of homemade idlis and chutney. The sun is now up and you look out to see you are passing a tiny village with hay stacked outside the huts, goats tethered to trees, cows lazing near small ponds, and tractors readied to start the day's work. The train crosses a bridge and when you look down you see the dry river bed with just puddles of water here and there. 
Everyone’s had their breakfast now. All feet are up on the berths now. The lady starts to knit. She tells you its a sweater for herself. Mainly a way to kill time in this long journey. The other passengers have drifted off to sleep now. You go over a river again. This time a stunning one with shimmering water. The water flowing smoothly only to crash on some stray rocks, then bubble over. Framed by trees leaning in on both sides, the river is such a sight to behold that you almost flip your phone out to capture it. But you know it will never be as beautiful as your eyes see it now, in this moment. So you enjoy what's left of it before the train whisks you to another sight.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

What's in a name?

What's in a name?", asked a lovestruck Juliet. If she was Indian she would have said "Lot's in a name. tatabyebye." 
Dear friends, a name is not just a name. My mother will be first to attest to this fact. Mom's name is..wait for it.....Fathimathu Nazeera Begum Sherule. No, it's not a sentence, it's her full name. And she still hasn't come to terms with the consequences of this novel of a name. For one, filling her name in forms is a pain. The columns for letters will run out but her name won't end. So we are held back- in airports, banks, offices...waiting for the name to conclude. 
Secondly, since there are so many names to choose from, my mom uses different ones for different purposes. So her FB name is Nazeera Faz, her official name is Fathimathu Nazeera Begum Sherule. Her family and friends call her Nadeera. In school she was known as Nasira. It's so confusing now that she chooses her name according to her mood, trying out different permutations and combinations till she hits the right one. Often you'll catch her asking us which name she has used for which purpose. Now she says her name is causing an identity crisis...
My mammima was named Asiyamma, a name she didn't find fashionable enough after her marriage to a doctor, So was the case with Fathima's grandma. So these two Asiyammas decided to shed their old, unfashionable names and take on a 'hep' one- Ayesha. This was way before any records made names permanent, people could change names like coats. And so Kasaragod lost two Asiyammas and gained two Ayeshas. 
This dislike for one's own name skipped a generation and reached Fathima's sister, Sehar. Toddler Sehar disliked her name so much that she went around introducing herself as 'Blossom' (courtesy powerpuff girls) to everyone. One day her mother was asked about the wellbeing of a certain blossom by a neighbour. Poor thing was unaware of her own daughter's alias. 
It's not just the given names that cause grief though. Some names can be bestowed to you without your approval. My mother remembers a man from her childhood, the village gossip, who was fondly called 'Aakashavaani' (Indian equivalent of BBC Radio) much to his chagrin. Then there is modalaynde Aysinja (Crocodile Ayesha). I expected a grand story of a lady bravely fighting off a crocodile, but turns out it's just that Crocodile Ayesha's husband once skinned a crocodile. So he was named modala (crocodile), and she became the crocodile's wife. Thalekatt (Turban) earned his name because of his permanent headgear. And the village rage machine who went about fighting with everyone was simply called 'Ladai' (fight), probably making him even more pissed.
My mother also tells me there exist some scientific sex changing names in Kasaragod. Parents that had only female offspring and wanted a boy would name their last born girl "Pakkerchee". Similarly, families with only boys that wanted a girl would name their last born 'Baduan'. The idea is to name your poor child the worst possible name so that the next child is of the opposite sex. 
But there are aspirational names too! For instance, in Punjab, where soldiers are considered sons of the land and pride of the family, we have kids named Kernel Singhs (Colonel Singh) and Major Singhs. There is famous a story of a certain sergeant who was named Major Singh. Whenever officers asked his name it would cause quite some confusion as they didn't know if they should or shouldn't salute him....
You also have Happy Singhs, Lucky Singhs (no Happy Go Lucky Sings though) and a certain Yo Yo Honey Singh. In Kerala we have Sundari (beautiful girl), Sughunan (the one with all the good qualities), and the best one-Sreemathi (Mrs). I guess Sreemati sighed a sigh of relief after her marriage...
Considering all this name induced drama, I am glad my parents named me a simple 'Nazreen Fazal'. If possible, I'll give my children even shorter names. But since Ameen has been going on about naming our son (if we ever have one) Cassius Clay or Mike Tyson, I'lll probably have to act real quick.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Jabalpur Diaries- Part 4

After the excitement of our morning trip, we were famished. And there, in the dusty under belly of Central India, was The Indian Coffee house, nestled comfortably near the Tiger Reserve. ICH is staffed by a dozen malayalees. Proof that malayalees will find their way to any corner of the world.
After a delicious brunch we were off exploring again in the same jeep with Uttam. Our first stop was the Pandav Falls. Legend has it that the caves under the water fall were used by the Pandavas when they were exiled. 
From Pandava falls we made our way to Khajuraho, which was about 40 kms away. Khajuraho is home to an ancient temple complex renowned for its intricate stone sculptures. Since Uttam was a local, he took us through tiny villages instead of the main highway. We passed wheat fields, an old man crouched over heaps of cow dung patting them into cakes, another man just watching people go by. My favourite part was driving through Basatta, a village full of children. The school was just let off, I think, and as we drove by kids stopped on their tracks, screamed and waved "HELLOOOOO BYE BYYEEEEE . Some of them chased our car, one naughty kid even called out DARLING on seeing Fathima! One girl stopped cycling to wave at us, when I I turned back I saw her waving till we were out of her sight. 
In an hour we were in the city of Khajuraho. The streets got narrower and more crowded. The pavements had no place to walk on as roadside vendors flaunted their wares there- glass bangles in all colours, flowers for the pooja, temple bells, charms and bracelets that promised brighter futures. A couple of old men in ochre played folk songs on stringed instruments. 
The temple complex is now a UNESCO world heritage landmark. I did not expect it to be this well maintained. Out of the 85 original temples built between 950-1050 CE only 20 survive. The temples are surrounded by well kept lawns where art students and architects sit and sketch. Around the temple you hear all kinds of languages and dialects. Groups of people walk in and around the temples, following their local guides.
We hired a guide to show us around. Our guide was very keen to explain the history and symbolism of the temple architecture and sculptures. The sculptures depict different things- war, marriage, sex...yes that. Khajuraho is most famous for its erotic imagery which depict things that will now make every sanskaari Indian blush. Seriously, the moral police need to come here and see the "Indian culture" they want to protect.
The temples are covered with these sculptures carved on stone. These were carved somewhere else and transported to the site by elephants and stacked on each other. 156 elephants were carved on the base to symbolise them supporting the structure. An interlock system makes the whole structure stand sturdy. It's incredible how the craftsmen and architects pulled this off a thousand years back, without any of the modern day contraptions to help them.
As we were walking out, the temple was bathed in the last rays of sun. Snatches of the Maghreb adhaan from a nearby mosque reaches us, surrounded by temples. This is my India.
But my India is also amusing in all her other contradictions. As we stepped outside we were surrounded by hawkers pushing trinkets onto our face. From miniature Gandhis to metal pots with Kamasutra positions engraved on them. Some wanted to sell us Kamasutra guides. No thank you. The most outrageous ones were the sexy bottle openers... you get the idea..
We bought some non-A-rated knick knacks and were soon on our way back to our accommodation. As we left the confines of the city, the sky was emboldened and showed us her stars. It was beautiful to just look up and enjoy the ride. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Jabalpur Diaries-Part 3

 spent the night before twisting and turning wondering whether the noise is a tiger growling or someone from the near by tent snoring. I am pretty sure some wild boars were circling our tent too...
We woke up at the crack of dawn to get ready for our morning Safari. We realized the elephants were closer than a hundred feet to our tent. There was just a 3 ft high wall between us. One elephant in particular was very restless. It was chained to a tree and was pacing around it, visibly agitated. It was shaking its head, putting its trunk inside its mouth, twisting it around its tusks. 
Our guide informed us that this is Ram Bahadur, and it's time for Ram to mate. But he is so aggressive that last year he pierced the side of the oldest female elephant of their clan, Vatsala, with his tusks. The 95 year old Vatsala still hasn't recovered from that attack. So this year, they have chained him. Quite sad 
By 6.30 we were in an open jeep, entering the Panna Tiger Reserve. The reserve is spread over 543 sq. kms of which only 20% is open for tourists. It houses 35 tigers and an assortment of other animals like spotted deer, antelope, bear, and langur.
Our guide Kailash Tiwari has been working here for so long that he can spot the location of the tigers just from the sounds of the other animals. Mr. Tiwari told us that the reserve is divided in two, the male and female tigers live separately. They meet for mating and then the female tiger takes her cubs to her territory so the male doesn't eat them.
Our first spotting was the
spotted deer (ha!). Our guide asked us to look up and there was a langur hanging off the tree. Our guide said the deer and the monkeys are best friends. The langur spots the hunting tiger from its vantage point and screeches to inform the grazing deer. It's a one way relationship though, the deer do nothing to return the favour.
The deer still are amazing, they are just so graceful, even when just munching on some grass. They are the meryl streep of animals. 
Since it's winter, the trees are naked and the long grass is mostly hay. It lends the place a very Savanna feel. We drove through narrow dirt tracks, driving past 'kardhai' trees, the wood of which is used for the Indian railways sleepers. There were bamboos, teak, and a ghost tree. Yes, a ghost tree. It's a gum tree that glows in the dark! The gum collected from it is used to make laddoos.
Some areas were charred, the grass burnt to the ground. Since hay is highly flammable, just a spark will lead to a fire. But the beauty of nature is such that once the winter passes and the sun shines and clouds shower, the tiny green saplings will wake up and stretch. Soon what was black will be green. And this cycle has been turning from the beginning of time. Subhanaallah.
We drove through vindhyanchal range to the hinauta range, stopping occasionally to look at peacocks or click pictures of the amazing landscape spread out around us.
I felt so alive being so near nature on such a crisp day, filling my lungs with fresh, sweet air, feeling the wind on my face, watching the sun rise over the valley, over combed clouds.
It was hard not to be overwhelmed by the beauty of it, the serenity of things left untouched. Then my aunt, Zakeena, made a profound reflection, we humans feel compelled to possess beauty wherever we see it, instead of just enjoying it and letting it be. That really got me thinking, why is that? It's this impulse that makes us pluck a flower instead of just smelling it. Click a picture, instead of just breathing in the sight. And conquer lands and people instead of lifting each other up. This desire to possess everything that is true and pure and beautiful will drive us to our end.
Soon our guide heard something and asked the driver, Uttam, to stop near the watering hole, kein. There were a few other jeeps there too. Some Italian tourists, a Punjabi couple, and some Germans (I presume, based on their accent). For a few minutes we were quiet. The only sound that of the wind weaving through the leaves and a monkey screeching loudly, letting the other citizens of the jungle know that the tiger is on the prowl. I could hear my own breath as I strained to hear or see this elusive tiger we were all waiting for.
After almost ten minutes we started the jeep. The engine roaring to life felt intrusive after those minutes of pure silence, of being in harmony with the nature around us. As we trundled over the dirt track, going to the next spot the tigers are likely to be at, we all waved at each other; indians, Germans, or Italians...nothing mattered here. The unconditional camaraderie was touching, especially in a world where humanity and compassion is being divided by borders.
After four hours at the safari, we made our way out, having seen everything but the royal Bengal tigers, who decided against gracing us with their appearance.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Jabalpur Diaries-Part 2

Today morning we were received by Colonel Seethi and family (Fathima Nisar) at the Jabalpur Junction. They were quite shocked to see Nazeera Faz and me standing there with four suitcases. We travel heavy. I almost convinced them we were here to overstay their welcome.
I was nostalgic, driving through the army campus and seeing their "quarters", surrounded by a lovely garden.
After a scrumptious east-meets-west breakfast of "mooli parantha" and apple pie (courtesy Zakeena Seethi), we were ready to start our road trip to Panna National Park.
Driving through Jabalpur and asking for directions was...interesting. It's the first time I've heard someone use "seedha haath" and "ulta haath" to describe right and left. That's literally translated to straight hand and opposite/upside down hand for you non-Hindi speakers. Apparently that's how people give directions here, under the assumption that everyone has a dominant right hand. It's great that left-handed me wasn't driving, or we would have reached somewhere else wink emoticon
The journey was through plain lands, occasionally whizzing past tiny villages, women balancing firewood on their head, men driving tractors loaded with hay.
After years of the lush landscape of Kerala, it took some time to get used to the dry scenery. Halfway through the journey we stopped at a small dhaaba to have lunch. The food was great and the tea was amazing. Brought back a lot of memories too...
Refueled by tandoori butter roti and shaahi paneer, the Seethis and two-fifths of the Fazal's clan got back on the road. Games of antaakshari and dumb charades were played. I am sure Col. Seethi was quickly overwhelmed, being the only man in the car, surrounded by four boisterous women and a girly girl. The group dynamic was heavily tilted AGAINST him since he is also the only Thrissur-kaaran amongst us (with remote support and prayers from my father, Fazal Mohamed, the fellow-thrissur-kaaran). 
Anyway, once back on the road, we had to gasp and look away more than once as dare devil men just shed their pants and squatted down on the side of the road to do their business. But, I'm not judging, people. Some play candy crush or read while answering nature's call, others watch cars whizz by. Whatever floats your bowels, oops, boat. 
And I understand why they would prefer the wide open land over "jhaadi ke peeche" (behind the bushes). Thorns prickling the derriere is not a pleasant feeling. Don't ask me how I know that. 
An interesting thing about today, other than public poopers, is that we saw more cows than people. We must have passed literally more than a thousand cows on our ride to Panna. A consequence of the beef ban is that we have thousands of cows just growing old and not being taken care of . These are "protected" at various "gowshaalas". We passed two such gowshaalas. Instead of being fed, these cows are just let outside everyday to fend for themselves. It's so sad to see their condition. Most of them are starved, as you can see from the pictures. Really depressing. 
I won't leave you on that note though. I want to tell you about the place we are staying at. Folks, I am writing this right in the middle of a jungle. We are in a tent like structure inside a compound. If I step outside now I can see a sky scattered with stars that now, unhindered by city lights, shine bright. There's no moon either to dim their light. 
It's on stepping away from the city that you realize how over-stimulated (?) You are. The billboards, the bright lights, the loud horns-the cacophony of city is exposed to so much throughout the day that we have no option but to block out the 'noise'. Here, under this starry sky , all your senses come alive. My eyes are so grateful for this wonderful sight spread out in front of me. And guess what I hear, crickets elephant! Yes, there's one just a hundred meters away.
The manager left us with a few words that I don't know what to feel about. He said "Kuch aawaz sunoge toh daro mat. Bas jaanwar hongay. Aap thoda awaaz kardo bas". Translated- "if you hear some sounds , don't get scared. It might be just some animals. You just have to make some noise."
Already spotted a wild boar. God knows what else is there....

Jabalpur Diaries- Part 1

I am blessed to have an uncle in the Indian Army who gets posted to amazing places that you wouldn’t think of visiting otherwise. He has been inviting us for years now to visit him and his family in the places he has been stationed at. Finally, after ages of planning and cancelling those plans, Umma and I decided to visit them in Jabalpur Madhya Pradesh. As usual, my trips seem to obediently line up after each other rather than scatter around the year. So now, four days after reaching Kerala from Saudi Arabia, I was planning a trip to North India. 
The plan was- Air India flight from Calicut to Mumbai and from there a train to Jabalpur. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. Our flight was scheduled for a 9.30 am departure. We were ready by 6 am to leave for the airport when we got a message that the flight has been rescheduled to 10.15 am. I don’t know what crazy jinn possessed us to make us think ‘Okay, no broblem. We’ll leave home after a couple of hours.’ So we slept and woke up at 8 am, even had a lazy breakfast, and made our way out at 8.40 am. EIGHT FORTY AM FOR A TEN FIFTEEN FLIGHT!
For domestic flights the counter closes 45 mins before departure which mean we had to reach the airport before 9.30 am. Which was impossible considering the morning traffic and those damn children deciding to go to school right then. Umma and I were sure we would miss the flight when Umma, repository-of-great –ideas-when-we-think-there-are-no-other-options-left, called one of Uppa’s friends, Anilraj, who works in Air India and explained the embarrassing situation. He told us we can get in if we reach at 9.40 am. It was 9.15. Could we make it? We asked (basically shouted at) the driver to go faster. And we went, mother and daughter, zigzagging around big buses and tiny adamant autos that refused to let us overtake. And we made it to the airport at exactly 9.40 am.
We almost threw the taxi fare at the driver, picked our bags and ran in. Two frantic looking hjiabis clutching their bags tightly, what could probably look wrong in this scenario? We went to the counter to find that our boarding passes were already printed, waiting for us. Bags checked in, we ran to the gate…And had to go through Passport Control for a domestic flight….Turns out there is a secret passage for domestic passengers we missed. Considering the day and its happenings, not surprising at all. Anyway, we got through the tortoise lane and made it to the gate! Only to be told the flight has been delayed by another 45 mins. Sigh. The adrenaline rush kept me alert the rest of the day though. 
We reached Mumbai in two hours and had almost four hours more before the train. Having learned from our morning drama, we wanted to reach the railway station at least an hour in advance. So we hailed a pre paid cab from the airport thinking now we can relax. We got a driver who burped throughout the journey. Seriously, he burped at a rate of 12 burps per minute. I am not exaggerating, I timed it. After a disgusting 45 mins, we finally reached the Lokmanya Tilak Terminal (Kurla) and soon were on our way to Jabalpur. 
So here I am now, in a train chugging its way through Madhya Pradesh. It’s almost 8 am, the passengers are mostly asleep with the curtains drawn across their little cabins. We pass green fields of God knows what (my crop recognition skills are below average) and dusty roads. It’s quiet and peaceful, except for the occasional vendor who wants us to buy ‘breakfast chips’. (I bought the same chips for dinner last night.) Our co-passengers are three brothers- a bossy older one and two reverent younger ones. We also have new parents next to us, a sleep deprived mother and a doting father who can’t take his eyes off the baby. Now, sitting in this coach and looking out, yesterday’s drama seems like it never even happened. What does the rest of the trip have in store for us?

Monday, 7 December 2015

10 Reasons I love flying (Not)

List of things I enjoy about flying, airports, and travelling in general, in no particular order.
1)The hair bun squeezes over my hijab, when travelling to Europe/UK. Sorry folks, I am gonna disappoint you. I am too lazy to comb my hair while traveling, let alone fit a bomb in there. 
2) Passport control. I am probably the most innocent person you know.I have no criminal record, no run-ins with the law. But I still get nervous af when I am nearing the exit/entry counter. Seriously wtf, face? Why you start sweating and looking suspicious for no reason at all? I even start worrying that my finger prints won't match. Like how's that even possible?!
Same at customs. Even if the only thing dangerous in my bag is the tweezers for my chin hair (I'm desi. Deal with it.) To make it worse I just need to whistle and look everywhere but their face. Maybe in the next trip. 
3) My weakness for railway/airport beverages. It's common knowledge that Indian trains serve the worst, most watery and sugary coffee ever. But I will still drink the shit out of it. I am twisted like that. Same with airports, many a moments have passed where I have wondered, standing in some random airport, in some corner of the world, wtf is wrong with me. Why am I standing here with overpriced toilet water in my hand?
4) ‪#‎PeeingWhileHijabiInAnAeroplaneToilet‬. Why isn't this trending yet? I am not talking about just a scarf and jeans. That's cute. I am talking about long skirts, loose tops, abayas and the like. If you wonder why hijabis take so long in the toilets, it's because -
A) she's removing layers of her clothing. Like literally peeling stuff off different parts of her body. The socks, jacket, cardigan, scarf, under never ends. We are like the human version of Mary Poppins' hand bag. 
B) She is warring with herself. Using the flight toilet as a regular person is a chore. So you can imagine how it is when having to hold up a hundred different clothing articles at the same time. It gets better when there is turbulence. Oh so much fun. You should never have to use your chin, elbows, and ankles in the toilet cry emoticon
5) Random uncles reading my book over my shoulder. So this happened very recently. I am flying back to India and this uncle was really keen to strike a conversation with me. I am like chill uncle I just want to read my book in peace. And I am reading my book, now halfway into the story, with the reading light on and soon realize that this guy is reading over my shoulder. I dont understand, uncle. This is not a newspaper. What will you even understand if you start reading from the middle? Here take the book and read till page 167 and let's read together from there on. Are you happy now? Or do you want me to read to you?
6) Leftovers in my hijab folds. Nothing worse than eating a sandwich in the flight and not realizing you have bread crumbs nestled into your hijab. Try looking elegant when you realize and try to shake it off discreetly. "Sorry, my hijab sheds a lot..."
7) People who want to jump out of the flight before it even lands. Aunty, you need to to chill and keep your seat belt on. Don't you see the bright sign which says seat belt on? What could you possible do with the two mins you save this way? Drink the horrible airport coffee? 
8) Air hostesses who talk to you like you are five. What's wrong if I want to keep my earphones and blankey?
9)sitting near the exit. Nooooo. In case of an emergency, I am not prepared for this level of responsibility. Please..not me...I can't possibly twist that lever and NOT turn it the other way round. You don't want all of us to die do you?!
10) Meeting my family and hugging them at the end of all this drama. Now this, I genuinely like.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Humans of New York Stories

I spent the better part of yesterday poring through the Humans of New YorkStories book. To say that it was an emotional rollercoaster is an understatement. I spent hours smiling, laughing, sniffing away tears, and then giggling again. 
This book was about the stories of humans of one beautiful, dynamic, breathing city. Some stories lifted my spirit while others broke my heart, and yet others gave me hope in humanity.
So many times, as I cruised through the book, I wanted to reach into the pages and hug the person and tell them again and again- 'you matter' ' You. Matter'. So many broken men and women who are waiting for an escape. But also so many children who are still oblivious in their innocence, who see goodness in everything. I wanted to shield them and give them a world that didn't crush their dreams and hopes. Other times I smiled and shook my head at those in love, because I know now how heady, how exhilarating it is to fall and rise in love. I also identified with the frustration and helplessness of those grappling about in the dark, seeking a purpose they aren't even sure exists. 
I was surprised by my reaction to this book. But I know why it made me feel such a range of emotions. The world is in, for lack of a better term, deep shit right now. And we have a lot of people running around making an already difficult life miserable for others in this tiny planet of ours. We have nature turning against us because of the short-sightedness and greed of some of us. We have men and women in positions of power milking disasters for their personal benefit. We have entire communities living in fear and humiliation for the acts of a few. And now we have groups of politicians deciding the bloody fate of a far away country that has already taken more than its fair share of blows. 
Like I said, things are really shitty at the moment. And you can't be blamed for thinking that there is no hope, no redemption, nothing to look forward to. But this book made me realise that the world hasn't gone fully dark yet, that there are still some very bright lights for the rest of us. The stories were of New Yorkers, but it very well could have been the stories of humans of another part of the globe. Because love, heartbreak, sorrow, depression, grief, happiness, confusion, hope, joy speak the same language all over the world. 
Because a person in love in New York is the same as a person in love in New Delhi. Because the death of one's soulmate hurts and haunts as much in Beirut as in Barcelona. Because parents still love their children more than themselves. Because teenagers still think the world revolves around them. Because men and women still dream when all odds are against them. Because depression does not discriminate. Because heartbreak still hurts as much each time. Because humans everywhere are capable of feeling anything, everything, and/or nothing at all. 
So in times like these, when it is so easy to put up fences around us and look at everyone else with suspicion, we need this book to remind us that not everything that is beautiful is dead. That the human spirit still thrives, that it pushes against despair, against fear, against doubt, to shoot up and reach for the farthest star in the sky. That we are still capable of loving and caring and nurturing. That it's okay to dream of a better life, a brighter future, a safer world. That it's time to remove our blinders and embrace the wonderful shades us humans come in. That no matter how many labels we slap on each other, at the end of the day all we want to do is love and be loved. And all we want to know is that we matter to someone, somewhere. Let me start by telling you, 
"You matter".

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Confessions of a chocaholic

In four years of University I gained lots of beauitful memories and 10 kgs that wouldn't budge. 10 horrible kilos that I shed this year after trashing my 'See Food' diet and lots of tears on the treadmill. Was pretty darn proud of myself till my mum caught the B1B1. The dreaded baking bug.
Since then she has been on a baking spree. At first I was obviously very pleased. I was having red velvet cupcakes, choco chip banana cake, and other delicious baked goodies every other day. But terror struck when soon that muffin started becoming my muffin top.
And she is so damn good that I can't even stop myself.
Like today she made walnut chocolate cake. So around noon the delicious chocolatey scent, this tantalising intruder, started tiptoeing around the house. Then this sinful aroma shed all pretence of shame and seduced me into the kitchen. This is what happened next.
*Me staring wistfully at the cake*
"Do we have to do this again?"
Cake in a sultry, chocolate dripping whisper: Yes baby. You know you want me... wink emoticon
Me, now looking at my tummy: Tummy, do you want to do this?
Tummy: Girl, you know I have no say in this. Wait, are you drooling?
Tongue: Shut up tummy. You're such a buzzkill. Nazreen, YOLO
Me: That's true. You know what, I am gonna go for it.
*Brain briefly turns up to warn me only to stay back and enjoy the show"
Me after 30 seconds: That was so worth it. 
Me after 40 seconds: Why do I do this to myself. WHYYYY
After 5 minutes of chastising myself: This is the last piece I will ever have. I swear I won't even look at cake. I'll shun sugar for the rest of my cake-less existence.
Then mum calls out from the other room- Hey, I forgot, there's a whipped cream icing to go along with the cake. 
Me: NAHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII cry emoticon cry emoticon
*Then proceeds to stuff face with cake and cream because ‪#‎MightAsWell‬ *