13 December 2012

a space of my own

i’m back! and it feels great. logging on to blogger felt like opening the door to my childhood room.. the template may be dated, but it’s home. this is my space, my corner of the vast universe where i can say what i want, where i can vent, where i can articulate and share and organize all those random jumbled thoughts running through my head at any given moment.

i write largely for myself, but always knowing that i have a small audience reading.. so yes, i write for them too. that doesn’t change what i write, perhaps just how i write it.

home is where the heart is
and my heart is filled with ink,
waiting to be spilt
in patterns and designs that share my soul with yours

i started this blog as a way to help me articulate, get over my fear of public speaking.. since then, it has become much more like a journal, a room for me to live in on my own, amidst all my thoughs ad words. it also became one room amongst many others, where a few travellers would come and pause, and perhaps share their journey with me. i found several online communities through blogging, for which i will always be thankful.

here’s to more writing, reading and sharing!

12 December 2012

motherhood and parental love

the moment i became a mother, was when i understood parental love. when my mom stayed up with me to rock my unconsolable twins, when she woke up at odd hours to feed me various nourishing concoctions, when she shared with me her experience with her first born; that was when i appreciated and truly felt her presence as a mother. she was my anchor in the sea of nursing, wailing, pain and exhaustion that i was buffeted by in the early weeks. she told me that her mother did the same for her children, and now she was doing the same for mine.. the circles of motherhood hence continue..

when my dad came and bolstered my courage, when he told me that i was given two blessings that i now had to do shukr for by bringing them up in the best way possible, i again felt blanketed in parental love. it is like a security blanket, one that will never let you fall. no matter what, no matter my tantrums, my idiosyncracies, my antisocial behaviour, i KNOW that my parents will always love me, they will always be on my side, that i will always find a refuge in their presence.

sure, i might have known all this before, but being a parent myself changes the perception. i know it more deeply now, i can feel it in my very essence, because i feel the same way about my babies. i imagine my love for the twins will only grow, and so the love my parents must feel for me is ten fold.

my pregnancy was not easy, and it took quite an emotional toll on me. giving birth had its own issues, and by the time i was ready to come home from the hospital i was in sore need of not just some TLC, but bucketfuls of unconditional love. i was panicky, mildly depressed and in constant tears. i was terrified of the responsibility of taking care of two tiny babies who never -so it seemed- stopped crying. in fact, i have to admit that the early days of mothering were not at all like the golden moments people describe, and i am very thankful to those who shared their own un-golden experiences.

i started reading momma zen by karen miller a month later, and that helped a lot too.

baraka described the process of becoming a mother wonderfully, capturing all the angst and joy it entails:
Every mother has two birthing tales:

One, that of giving birth to her child, is shared. The other, of giving birth to herself, of becoming a mother and all the ways that smashes into and fractures everything else she is, of being broken open and made anew, is one that takes a lifetime to understand.
this is the first of what i hope will be many posts on motherhood and parenting. i look forward to this lifetime journey with my twin boys :)

02 May 2012

women and obama

i loved reading bits of president obama’s speech at the 18th Annual National Issues Conference held by the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum. mel has a nice post on it, describing the ‘strides the Obama Administration has made on behalf of women’: 

"The Affordable Care Act has brought health care services to 45 million women. He signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work. He has forced employers to create space and time in the workplace for expressing breast milk for breastfeeding mothers. And he didn’t just recognize women as part of a campaign slogan — he appointed eight women to cabinet-rank positions, appointed a woman to be third in command of the country, and nominated two women to the Supreme Court (a branch of government which has only had four women total in its 220 year history)."

my fav quotes: 
And as long as I’m President, we are going to keep moving forward. You can count on that. You don’t have to take my word on it – you’ve got my signature on it. Because something like standing up for the principle of equal pay for equal work isn’t something I’m going to have to “get back to you on” – it’s the first law I signed. 
Women are not an interest group. Women shouldn’t be treated that way. Women are half this country and half of its work force. You’re 80% of my household if you count my mother-in-law… and I always count my mother-in-law. 
POWERFUL stuff. so nice to hear a politician, a president say that. as mel said, 

"And in saying this, pointed out how there are no such things as “women’s issues” because what affects women affects many other people. If we don’t earn enough money, we’re not spending it in stores, and therefore, equal pay is an economic issue, especially for businesses. If we have discrepancies in health care coverage, it affects the people who depend on us, becoming a family issue."

india, and so many other countries, have a looongg way to go..

30 April 2012


i haven’t blogged about books lately, so here are the last four books i read: 

the wedding officer by anthony capella 
a wonderful, light read. history, romance and food, all in one scrumptious mix. set in italy during wwII, it describes the growing relationship between a british officer tasked with preventing soldiers from marrying italian brides, and an italian woman who cooks for him. i will definitely check out capella for further light reads! 

hullabaloo in the guava orchard by kiran desai 
another light read, more of a novella than a novel. it was refreshing as a satire of indian society, a nice change from my usual choice of genre, but nothing i would necessarily recommend unless satire and magical realism is your thing. there is no comparison to ‘inheritance of loss’. 

calcutta exile by bunny suraiya 
i reviewed this book for another blog, check it out here.

the reluctant fundamentalist by mohsin hamid 
i no longer recall why, but when this novel first made its debut, i decided i would avoid reading it. i do remember the title putting me off, and i’m sure i had a glib conversation with someone about it, and after that it never made its way to my reading list again. until it was recently gifted to me, in my book drought phase. so i read it, and was pleasantly surprised. the novel is in fact highly engaging and intelligent, and not what you may expect from its title. the only aspect to annoy me slightly was that the entire novel consists of a monologue. but even that is undertaken with great skill by the author. his other books are definitely on my to read list! 

some quotes:

“I was, in four and a half years, never an American; I was immediately a New Yorker.” 

“I resolved to look about me with an ex-janissary’s gaze.. Seen in this fashion I was struck by how traditional your empire appeared. Armed sentries manned the check post at which I sought entry; being of a suspect race I was quarantined and subjected to additional inspection; once admitted I hired a charioteer who belonged to a serf class lacking the requisite permissions to abide legally and forced therefore to accept work at lower pay; I myself was a form of indentured servant whose right to remain was dependent upon the continued benevolence of my employer.” 

“As a society, you were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those who attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority. And you acted out these beliefs on the stage of the world, so that the entire planet was rocked by the repercussions of your tantrums..” 

“..it is not always possible to restore one’s boundaries after they have been blurred and made permeable by a relationship: try as we might, we cannot reconstitute ourselves as the autonomous beings we previously imagined ourselves to be. Something of us is now outside, and something of the outside is now within us.”

09 April 2012

identities and types

a comment on a friend’s photo, about not thinking of her and her uni friends as being ‘family type people’ at that time (she is now married with two daughters), got me thinking. i’ve only known this friend since she was married with an 8-month daughter who i babysat as she attended her grad classes. her life before that is largely unknown to me, except for brief glimpses through conversation. to me, she will always be that cool grad student mom, who carried her daughter around in a carrier as comfortably as other students wore their backpacks. she was the smart japanese student who was now navigating life in cairo, living amidst her husband’s large egyptian family.

of course, what i knew of her was so limited. our conversations generally focused on our immediate surroundings: auc, the day care her daughter was at, cairo, her daughter, kids, our few common friends, and sometimes we would talk of japan and hk. she rarely talked much about her marriage, her dreams, her future plans.

we all must carry so many identities, perceptions and dreams within us, with them merging and separating as we grow and embrace new experiences, new challenges. i know that as a teenager, i was SURE that i would be married with kids by the time i was 30, but this was somehow separated from my wanting to be a writer and travelling the world. the latter was where my energies were focused, what was ‘real’, while the former was just.. something that would happen while i went about my ‘real’ life.

today, being married and 30, i can say that there is nothing more real than this. i foresee this to be the case for the next few years, as our family grows. perhaps later, my identity and role will evolve yet again..

her comment reminded me of another comment, made by another friend, a few years ago. she said that before she got married, before she had her daughter, she was largely oblivious to kids. any kid sitting next to her would get practically no response from her. now this was from someone who i saw as good with kids, who spent a considerable amount of time with her young nephew and niece, regularly babysitting them when their parents were out of town. she was naturally friendly with other kids at the mosque; she could make them laugh, have a conversation with them. none of these were skills i possessed.

i like kids. but i am not naturally comfortable with them. it takes me time to build up a rapport with them, which is why i am good only with my nieces and nephew.

her comment made me feel better. if her skills and comfort had been developed, mine could too. i assume (and hope) that this development will increase several fold when i have my own kids!

in other words, 'type' can always change..

04 April 2012

smart connections

i finally joined the world of smartphones, and it feels great. being able to chat with friends and family overseas, for free, while i’m lying in bed, or taking a tea break, or when i come across something funny/interesting/sad, is awesome. being able to call them for free, without the encumbrance of headphones and both parties sitting at their computers, is equally awesome.

i last felt this way when i eventually signed up to facebook some years ago. today, i still enjoy facebook for the glimpse it gives me to my close, and not-so-close friends’ lives--their thoughts, their links, their pictures, their updates. it is a superficial interaction, but it is still one that i am happy to have. it is better than no glimpse at all.

i’ve come across so many people saying that they wish they were less connected, less addicted to the emails-messages-blogs etc that their phones bring to them instantly. i don’t foresee feeling this way, since i am quite particular with my phone usage. (it helps that i am online most of the day anyways, working on my laptop, so i can keep my phone for what/when my laptop does not allow.)

mel has a great (if slightly lengthy) post on the validation we get from being connected, check it out. as well as on the difference in perspective between today’s children and those of us who grew up without the internet.

despite working from home for just over a year, i have only recently begun to take part in skype conference calls with colleagues in hk. while there is some awkwardness due to time delays and not always hearing those further from the mic, (as well as fervent wishing that i too were there, in that room, dressed up, with my notebook and mug of coffee), i am realizing that the benefits outweigh the discomfort. it allows me to articulate, to interact, to feel validated, to feel part of a team again. oh yes, far more important than any slight awkwardness.

08 March 2012

international women's day

while march 8 is meant to be a celebration of women, their potential and their achievements, 100 years after the day was first celebrated, there is much to still be done. women in too many places still live lives of fear, poverty, inequality and repression:

pakistani teenager uzma ayub seeks justice for being gang-raped in captivity for a year

the situation faced by women in bangladesh, burma, india, indonesia, nepal, pakistan and sri lanka

international women’s day history and events

on a more positive note, i’m also posting links to two books: i speak for myself: american women on being muslim and love inshallah: the secret love lives of american muslim women. i came across a cheerful interview with nura maznavi, one of love inshallah’s editors, prompting me to celebrate the achievements of these women, and hope that others are given the opportunity to follow.

success and failure

“the power is in the balance: we are our successes as much as we are our injuries”
i love this quote. it’s from the poisonwood bible by barbara kingsolver, one of my favorite authors. i read it some 10 years ago, but i was reminded of the quote recently while reading a poetry blog.

ten years ago, the quote resonated for totally different reasons than it does now. ten years ago, life was much easier, lighter, not weighted with responsibilities.

being defined by our successes is something that i can live with quite easily (perhaps because my successes are modest and don’t reach the level of winning awards or gaining huge popularity; i am not in any danger of having any ego issues). being defined by my failures/injuries is more of a concern for me though. at this stage of my life, my failures suddenly seem larger than ever, outweighing my successes. many a time, i am not sure i have any successes to my name.

i have come across people who have let their failures embitter them and their view of the world. i do not want to be one of those. i already see my failures marking me, shaping my perspective, leaving me slightly more resigned and indifferent than before.

i must remember to keep a balance. i must remember that failure lies not in falling, but in not getting back up.

i must remember my favourite kipling poem, ‘if’..

13 January 2012

come say hi!

it is apparently, international blog delurking week -this means that those of you who’ve been reading in silence are encouraged to voice out your presence. why? simply because i’d like to know WHO my readers are :). so please, if you’re reading, take an additional few minutes to say hi and introduce yourself. cheers!

12 January 2012

india: rape and clothing

when i first read of andhra pradesh deputy general of police’s comments regarding women’s clothing being an invitation to rape, i was disgusted, but not particularly surprised. the comments responding to the times of india article perhaps surprised me more -who were all these people agreeing with reddy’s comments, and which planet do they come from?

logic is clearly beyond such people, and there is no point in telling them that studies have found that rape has nothing to do with clothing or desire, but is all about control and violence. rapists do not rape women because they are wearing ‘provocative’ clothing that ‘tempts’ them, but because they are sick and need to prove some kind of control over them.

there is similarly no point in asking them to explain why young children, elderly women or women wearing burkas are being raped in india, or how the culture of rural women wearing saris without blouses is more ‘modest’ and ‘appropriate’ than other types of clothing.

i was heartened today however, when i read a kick-ass article by an indian male on the issue, and i had to share it. it is SO worth a read. if only more indian men thought this way.

05 January 2012

mine is the morning

the light is still mellow, warm and tinted, not yet fully awake. morning has not truly arrived and the streets are still silent, awash in slumber. the house is bathed in a warm, yellow tinge and I sit on the bed, still warm from recent sleep. I like this time a lot, it feels like an extra couple of hours to my day, mine to do with as I wish. fajr is prayed, and there are no other pressing matters to attend do, and the time for work, for real life, is still two hours away. I can have breakfast in bed, I can watch some episodes of house, read my novel, look through photos..

as a child, I never managed to sleep in on weekends, unlike my parents. so I would sit in bed and read, or watch tv. even then, I loved this extra time to myself, always saw it as my secret!

slowwly, the light gets brighter, whiter, the noise outside the window increases, and the clock tells me to get ready for work.. morning has indeed broken, and reality begins!

02 January 2012

happy 2012

i had a great end to 2011 (thank you, H), a week of friends and family chilling time, and am now looking forward to 2012 -may it be the best year yet for everyone!

i am not a new year resolutions kind of person, but i like the idea of making ‘happy’ resolutions -doing things that make you happy, resolutions that actually excite you, rather than those that you ‘should’ be doing (and actually dread!). creating a list of things that would make me happy? oh wow :)

while catching up with an old friend, a college roommate, i found myself pensively reflecting on how it is that much harder to make such close friends now; friends who’ve known me for the past 10 years, friends i’ve lived with, travelled with, cried, laughed, celebrated with. friends who have watched me grow, watched me make my way from x to y and beyond.

when this pensiveness was over, it suddenly struck me that i had the exact same thoughts when i arrived in cairo, at uni, missing my school friends of seven years!! now though, it is my uni friendships that are closer and stronger..

so, perhaps there is still hope! or perhaps some of those old friends may move to bombay.. :P i’ve been lucky, in my one year here, i’ve had several friends and family members visit.. may there be many more such visits in 2012, inshallah!