09 December 2014

'boys don't cry'

i was so happy to see this new #vogueempower ad on indian tv the other day, about changing the way boys are raised, in order to eliminate domestic violence. the ad goes through many situations in a young boy's life, where he is consistently told that 'boys don't cry'. it ends with him as a young man, trying to control his emotions while twisting his female partner's arm. 

the ad is a refreshing change for indian society. i have two boys, and i will admit that i am terrified of them growing up in this patriarchal society, where they are already being told that they shouldn't cry or freak out 'like girls', or shouldn't dress like girls or play with 'girly' toys. this is a society where violence against women is always prevalent, both physical and emotional. where swear words/phrases are largely gender discriminatory. where the phrase 'be a man' has overt sexual innuendo involved.

the ad also recalled another awesome video by always, on doing things 'like a girl'. that video is one we should all watch. seeing those little girls run, throw and punch made me feel so proud and sad at the same time. they were not doing these things 'like a girl', i,e. badly. they had so much confidence. and yet, this taunt will at some point come to haunt them.  the message at the end is simple: 
I mean, yes, I kick like a girl, and I swim like a girl, and I walk like a girl, and I wake up in the morning like a girl because I am a girl. And that is not something that I should be ashamed of, so I'm going to do it, anyway.
i am glad that these videos exist, that some are even indian made, and i hope that by the time my boys are old enough to understand these films, the gender balance will have evened out more..


02 December 2014

to honour hearing

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” King, a great champion of nonviolence, wasn’t advocating rioting, but rather honoring hearing. 

Even long-suffering people will not suffer forever. Patience expires. The heart can be broken only so many times before peace is broken. And the absence of peace doesn’t predicate the presence of violence. It does, however, demand the troubling of the comfortable. When the voice goes unheard, sometimes it must be raised. Sometimes when calls for justice go unmet, feet must meet pavement. Sometimes when you are unseen, you can no longer remain seated. Sometimes you must stand and make a stand. 

No one of good character and conscience condones rioting or looting or any destruction of property. Those enterprises aren’t only criminal, they’re fruitless and counterproductive...

But people absolutely have a right to their feelings — including anger and frustration. Only the energies must be channeled into productive efforts aimed at delivering the changes desired. That is the hard work. That is where stamina is required. That is where the long game is played. 

As the old Negro spiritual proclaims: “Walk together children/Don’t you get weary/Oh, talk together children/Don’t you get weary.”
these words could describe violence and conflict almost anywhere in the world. they sound vaguely like all the statements and analyses and press releases that i work on at an asian human rights ngo. in fact, they are part of a piece about the reaction to the shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer in missouri, usa. it was not the specifics of the case that struck me however, but these general words. 

to listen and to speak: both are important, and both must occur equally. and so we go on, working hard, playing the long game..


i miss hugs. adult, girly, i-know-where-you-are-coming-from hugs. toddler hugs and kisses are awesome, and definitely lessen all heart sores, but today when a friend sent me this adorable image, i felt the pang of missing girlfriends. all those friends i left behind, all those friends who have moved away.. all those hugs that i can no longer reach for.

technology is awesome. but at times, i want a real hug.

#microblog mondays

24 November 2014

introverts are cool II

the other day i stumbled upon a list of introvert quotes, my favourite of which was the following by susan cain:

“Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.”

spot on awesomeness :) and it reminded me of an older post, when i first came across research on introverts and extroverts:
carl king has this awesome list of myths about introverts, based on a book 'the introvert advantage'. as he puts it, "I feel like someone has written an encyclopedia entry on a rare race of people to which I belong." most importantly, the book reveals that introverts are apparently people who are over-sensitive to dopamine, so too much external stimulation overdoses and exhausts them. this is exactly how i feel about most social functions/engagements, and until now i thought t s eliot was the only one who understood:

"In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light.
We are glad when the day ends, when the play ends; and ecstasy is too much pain."
introverts rock :)

#microblog mondays

21 November 2014

solitude and going for a drink/meal alone

i went to sit alone in a mcdonald’s the other day, while the twins were at playgroup. i ordered a coke and fries, enjoyed the air conditioning and solitude, wrote a few work emails and read the silkworm. it was awesome. while it is common in hk (and many other parts of the world i’m sure) for people to go to coffee shops/restaurants/parks (and many other places) alone, in india, it is weird, slightly scandalous. so in my four years here, i have never been to a coffee shop or restaurant alone. (thinking about it, i never even see people grocery shopping in supermarkets alone!! women even go to the market in pairs..) 

i so needed a break that day, and just wanted to get out of the house and sit with my kindle, alone. and the lift in our apartment had broken down, so i had a convenient ‘justification’ for not returning home in between dropping off twins and picking them up again. i was slightly apprehensive about doing this on my own, and initially i was the only one not part of a couple or group. within a short time however, two other women came and sat on the tables next to me, both on their own. one of them started making notes after finishing her meal, while the other was busy with her phone. it all seemed normal. not as strange as four years earlier perhaps. and the best part was that there were more women/girls there than men, which helped my comfort levels. i look forward to doing this more.. and venturing further afield (i used to go to the cinema alone in hk too. that might be a bit of a stretch here though..!). i can see myself walking in a park though.. well, certain parks at least :P 

17 November 2014

hindsight, wisdom and the law of repetition

"wisdom that isn't distilled in our own crucible can't help us" (the palace of illusions, chitra divakaruni)

how unfortunately true this is. and this is exactly why hindsight is so pointless as well. seriously, of what use is hindsight when i cannot go and change the past? we may like to think that we could avoid a recurrence, but that is largely wishful thinking. (borne out by the characters in palace of illusions. but all that karma, destiny and inevitability is for another post.)

i find myself increasingly thinking of my younger self these days, and wishing that i had not wasted so much time and energy on angst over a million trivialities. and yet, this does not stop me from doing the same today. i have less energy and time to waste, but still, i know that i spend too much time thinking, dwelling, feeling guilty..

perhaps it all comes back down to ben okri's law: "every experience is repeated or suffered until you experience it properly and fully the first time"

now if only someone would guide me through these experiences, H and i might stop having the same fights on a routine basis :P

#microblog mondays

13 November 2014

twins: 26 months

in the middle of being totally exasperating, m nudges me over in the thaal the other day, places his cheek next to mine and says, 'mama, i want to kiss you'. while telling him that he could kiss me after i finished eating, my heart was melting. this seems to occur on a daily basis these days -part fury, exasperation and part melting heart. or part laughter. sigh.

the twins are growing. they speak in sentences, they wear their shoes on their own, eat with their hands, wave goodbye and happily head off to playgroup. they also scream, run off at inopportune moments, explore totally unnecessary things and behave in public like they have just been released from a cage.

they have a new found love of slides, tunnels and playgrounds, which is wonderful to watch. they like riding their bike, playing with a ball, jumping and dancing atop their dad. they also want to do things on their own, particularly m, which gets quite frustrating for me, and them!!

i am terrified that one day all too soon, they will not need/want my hugs and cuddles, they will not wake up looking for me, they will not want to follow me around everywhere. 

12 November 2014


how narrow my world would be without science fiction, magical worlds, mysticism; without harry potter, twilight, lord of the rings, star trek. i watched christopher nolan's interstellar last night, my first non-bollywood film in ages, and it felt so GOOD. the movie has its flaws (mainly the length and the complexity/accuracy of the plot), but the visuals were awesome, and the idea. it felt so good to get out of all things local and petty. why can't indian films be as ambitious, as different? i miss difference here. i cannot emphasize that enough. i miss different cuisines, different films, people of different races and faiths and professions and countries. i try to forget all this, try to just get on with my daily routine, but seeing the movie just brought it all back. i am sad, yes, that i don't have access to all this difference right now. but more than that, i am thankful that i had it for so long. that i grew up with so much difference, went to university in a different continent, worked with all kinds of difference. i have no idea how to impart some of this difference to the twins.. i want for them a much broader world than what i see here..

20 October 2014

the end of my 'authors of colour' trip

i am reading the marrying of chani kaufman by eve harris, and totally enjoying it. orthodox judaism is a totally new world for me, so i am enjoying the journey. however, there are many things one can relate to in the novel--religion and its role in life, the need to cross boundaries, personal space, marrying someone you don’t know all that well, the fear of spinsterhood. being able to relate, in whatever way, to a novel, whether to the characters, the place, the issues or the time, is crucial in determining how much you will enjoy it.

some time ago i decided that i would try to read only authors of colour this year, and while i still have another two months to go, i am stopping. very simply, i am yearning for books from my old favorite authors, some of whom are authors of colour, and some who are not. i kind of feel like i took a long around the world vacation, i had a great time, but now i want to come home. i am tired and over stimulated, and i just want to lie on my sofa and read some chick lit. switch off my brain, put away my explorer wear and just be comfortable in my pajamas. 

i am glad i did this though; i have come across several new authors who i want to read more of, such as anne cherian, anita nair, marsha mehran, ruth ozeki. i also want to go back to reading books by jojo moyes, john green, barbara kingsolver, kate atkinson. (it is interesting how i seem to read more women authors these days.. food for a future post perhaps!) 

#microblog mondays

14 October 2014

writing, doodling and 'what is this'

my university notebook margins were filled with doodles. in a variety of colors. green, purple, turquoise, orange. i LOVED colored pens. gel ones in particular, with fine nibs. i had a pen fetish you could say.. i loved to write. i kept a journal for years, wrote letters and cards to friends frequently, took copious notes in and outside the classroom. with email, the letters gradually stopped. with blogging, my journal stopped as well. and now the note taking has stopped too. 

now that the twins have started scribbling with crayons, i find myself doodling again, in their books. i draw flowers and buses for them, which metamorphose into exotic doodles and geometric designs. before the twins, i don’t know when i last held a crayon in my hand!! it is fun, creative and oh so therapeutic. and it makes me miss writing, and my journal. writing down your thoughts, pen to paper, can never be eclipsed in sentiment by typing. just as reading on my kindle will never bring the same joy and feeling as reading a paper book. i want to do more writing and coloring and note taking! must come up with some projects to aid this.. ideas are welcome! 

the twins are smack bang in their ‘what is this’ phase. it started out as super cute and amusing. it is now giving me a headache. they scream, whine and cajole these three words on repeat mode. ‘mama will read’ now means that they will ask me ‘what is this’ to the gazillion pictures in their books, and i must answer immediately, or put up with increasing decibels of ‘what is this’. and if if don’t understand that they are pointing to the yellow tshirt being worn by bunny and NOT bunny’s tummy, well then, clearly i am not paying attention to ‘what is THIS’. sigh. i recall that at four, my niece was going through her ‘why’ phase… still some time to go.. ! 

i may be guilty of buying way too many books for the twins. i can’t help it though. i love books, and children’s books are so cute and colourful and CUTE. but i need to stop. really. i love that a will look through his books on his own.. with such an intent look on his face. ahh, may you both always love your books. (i emphasize this because reading is not really prioritized here, and no one in h’s family is a reader. my in laws term all the twins’ books and reading as ‘studying’.) 

01 October 2014

not knowing what to read and single parenting

i finished reading david mitchell's the bone clocks last week, and for a few days after, i was adrift.. all i wanted was to continue the adventure of horology, with marinus, holly, mo and l. i could not figure out which book to read next; nothing appealed to me. that is the worst feeling ever, when i simply don't want to read anything on hand. it is like those days when nothing in the wardrobe appeals to you, but you have to get dressed and go to work regardless. and so you wear something, and the whole time you just feel bleah.

i am thankful that this does not happen all that frequently.. there are times when i don't know what to read, but that is not because none of the books are as good as what i just finished..

finally, i reread the e-sample of pomegranate soup by marsha mehran that i've had for ages, and slowly felt like it would be good for my soul, healing, and foody, and foreign! it was a good choice, although i am now craving middle eastern food!!

with H away, i am parenting the twins alone. i cannot imagine how single parents manage. apart from the hands on, physical aspects of it, there is also the mental load--how can you carry all the anxiety and stress alone? when i found myself exhausted after dropping the twins at playgroup on monday morning, i realized that even though i do the same routine everyday, taking care of the twins alone (my MIL is there, but that is not the same as having my partner parent around) from 7am-7pm, just knowing that H is a phone call away makes so much difference. sigh. another three days to go.. so far i have intermittent headaches, shoulder pain and poor appetite. huh.

22 September 2014

parenting lows

i had all these happy, random thoughts/posts lined up for today, but with three sleepless nights, all i can do is yawn at the screen right now.

the twins being sick together just sucks. not only am i worn out taking care of them, but i inevitably get sick myself. and the lack of sleep is just getting harder and harder. suddenly, i cannot imagine how i used to wake up numerous times in the night to feed them/put them to sleep in their first year and a half. sigh.

people say that you learn patience as a parent. maybe, but i have also learnt rage. those who think of me as calm and unconfrontational would be surprised at how quickly the twins are able to rile me up. i am surprised myself at the anger i hold inside; at how many times i just want to throw objects across the room or shake the twins hard (no, i do not act on these thoughts).

i miss my mom. and the 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep i took for granted, in another lifetime.

15 September 2014

reclaiming the hijab and femininity

"my femininity is not for public consumption"
this is such a gorgeous line, from this article on women reclaiming the hijab to counter patriarchy and fundamentalism.

if i had been so articulate at 18, this is what i would have said to all those who questioned whywhywhy. it is so so liberating to not be seen by what you wear, your figure, your hairstyle. yes, at first, i felt like i was suddenly this asexual being, and many many guys (and girls) would simply shy away from me, or would treat me as they would an older, married lady. this was okay though, as i got my bearing as a freshman in university, in a different country, a different planet perhaps. 

being 'me' suddenly had so many more facets, such as what i studied, where in cairo i lived, who my room/flat mates were, what i read, which city i had come from. i am not saying that these facets are not there to people who are not veiled. i just felt that they came much easier now that my femininity was out of the equation.

today, some 20 years later, i am totally 'me', and my femininity is definitely not for public consumption :)

#microblog mondays

12 September 2014

the indian definition of 'pastry'

so we went to a couple of bakeries/cake shops yesterday on a quest to find me some cheesecake, which i have been craving for quite some time. it was a half hearted quest, as kandivali is honestly not the place for cheesecake, but i figured i would just get something else in the worst case scenario. all i could find was a slice of  red velvet cream cheese cake, which was yummy, but not the cheesecake of my cravings. i have always wanted to taste red velvet cake however, so i was quite happy.

what i wanted to note, and what has struck me since i moved here four years ago, is the lack of pastries in bakeries, and the use of the term ‘pastry’ to mean a slice of cake. fruit tarts, chocolate danishes, eclairs and pies are all missing in most bakeries/cake shops here. they will have whole cakes sold by the kg on one side, and slices of the same cakes in little plastic containers on another side. these are called ‘pastries’. i was initially very bemused by this. traditional indian bakeries will sell a wide variety of indian biscuits, puffs and breads, and a few varieties of sponge cake. i know there are a few bakeries that do have danishes, croissants and so on, but these are situated in the more posh areas of the city.

similarly, the indian use of the word ‘souffle’ is totally different to the original baked dish.. it refers to a dessert that is a type of jelly/pudding with a scoop of ice cream in the middle!! hah, i wonder what would happen if i actually served someone an original cheese souffle?! come to that, even the word ‘jelly’ is used differently here -my MIL refers to any fruit puree i make for the kids as ‘jelly’, and i was once offered some ‘mango jelly’ that was in fact, a concoction of fruit and milk!!

there must be many other words and terms that have totally different meanings here.. i will try to note them down as i come across them!

08 September 2014

shower versus bucket

i got to use the shower today after EONS, and it was pure bliss. it actually felt like a micro massage!! i am getting used to taking a bath with a bucket and mug (as is the norm here), but showering under a warm spray of water will always be like coming home. and yes, i know that using the shower is much more wasteful, but still, it feels so darn good. unlike hk and other places, here water is not provided to individual apartments directly from government water pipes. instead, government water is provided to each building in its storage tanks at certain times of the day, and this water is then distributed to all the apartments. in our apartment building, this occurs only twice a day, for an hour each, so we have to fill our own internal storage tanks to ensure water is available to us 24-7. 

anyways, the point is that there is simply not enough water pressure for the shower to work with individual storage tank water, sigh. the shower only works when the water is coming from the building water, and that is the time i need to take the twins to playgroup. today being a holiday, i was in the shower :))

more info on microblog mondays here

04 September 2014

random list of books

something else making the rounds on fb (i spend too much time there, i know) is making a list of 10 books that have stayed with you, without thinking too hard and in no particular order. how could i not do this?
1. the fountainhead, ayn rand
2. cloud atlas, david mitchell
3. burnt shadows, kamila shamsie
4. the poisonwood bible, barbara kingsolver
5. harry potter series, jk rowling
6. the gift of rain, tan twan eng
7. the notebook, nicholas sparks
8. an equal music, vikram seth
9. me before you, jojo moyes
10. life of pi, yann martell
11. the da vinci code, dan brown

i put 11, i just can't take out a single book from the list. and there are dozens more that keep coming to mind, so this is totally random, but these are definitely great books that came to me at different phases of life and stayed with me for various reasons :))

it is so interesting to note how different books appeal to different people.. and how even good friends can have such different tastes!

micro life

mel, awesome person that she is, has started 'microblog mondays', to reclaim our blogging spaces, and hosting our thoughts (status updates, tweets and so forth) on our own blogs. since it only needs to be a few sentences long, it is a great way to get back into blogging. many a time i find myself composing a status update in my head, and i think that eventually i will blog about this. eventually never occurs, of course. i am so excited, and have so many thoughts running in my head, that i could theoretically write several of these microblog posts right now :))

had a long overdue conversation with c last night, it was good. and it was pleasantly surprising to hear that she is suddenly moving along in worlds close to mine (work wise). it made me feel a tad less alone (i cannot recall the last time i used 'human rights' in a face to face conversation with someone), and also shed some glimmers of light on a world that i could eventually slowly maybe step in myself, here in india/bombay..

i have been reading ruth ozeki's 'a tale for the time being' and enjoying it. good writing, good characters, interesting plot and structure. i told z that it was 'good but not great'. i won't give you any definitions for such praise, as it is totally subjective, and varies from my mood to the time etc. more than half way through the book however, suddenly last night, it got great! the reason was the appearance of the personal diary and letters of one of the characters, a kamikaze pilot in ww2, which are totally awesome. now i simply have to finish the book before i can concentrate on anything else. this occurs with greater frequency nowadays.. to the detriment of so many other things i should be doing!! i have no self control when it comes to reading fiction.. i remember the very first time this happened, was book four of harry potter. i began in the evening, read into a good part of the night, and then simply could not go to work at my summer internship the next day. i called in sick and finished the book :P total bliss. if only i could get paid to read all these amazing novels!!!

27 August 2014

missing my parents, and writing

the twins are two! i started writing a post about this milestone a week ago (knowing that it could take me some time to get my thoughts down, and to 'find time' to write!!), which of course i haven't completed yet. but today, on their second birthday, i am missing my parents. i know how much they must want to celebrate with their grandsons. at this time last year, my mom was here. during every phone conversation, my dad invariably asks me when i am going for a visit, or tells me i should just send one/both of the twins over there. i truly envy all those people who have their entire families in one country, or even just one city. i don't dwell on this too much usually, as it could get quite depressing, and also because anyways, i am just thankful to have my family, even if they are far away. today however, i want my parents to be with me :s
"First there was nothing, then I was born... Yet that is not so. Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight. Families are webs... A birth is not really a beginning. Our lives at the start are not really our own but only the continuation of someone else's story... [the thirteenth tale, by diane setterfield]

i want my family, my parents and siblings to witness the twins' lives, which are also the continuation of our collective story.. 

a random career test was making the rounds on fb, and i succumbed to it expecting nothing but humor for my troubles. the screen told me that my destined career was to be a writer, to use words to tell a story, describe the world around me. huh. while not bowled over by its accuracy, i did see it as a sign from the universe, nudging me back to the path I had chosen so long ago. just yesterday I wrote that work is taking a back seat.. perhaps one reason for this is also because I am suddenly thinking of it as ‘work’. I need to make it my passion again, which is actually important to me as a person.. without it, I will be adrift.. additionally, i will be a better mom for it..

26 August 2014

david mitchell's new book, being 'that' mom and other random stuff

again, i have been meaning to write for ages. there have been so many thoughts crowding my head, which i needed to just put down, so i could process them later, and move on to other things [thoughts]. there never seems to be that right time though, or the right energy, or the perfect flow of words to screen. and so here i am, just vomiting it all out, in the 20 minutes i have before needing to go pick up the twins from playgroup.

** ok, first of all, i randomly saw an online banner yesterday announcing the release of a new novel by david mitchell -the bone clocks, which is reviewed to be even more awesome than cloud atlas. OHMYGOSH. i simply don't have the time to gush over my love of david mitchell yet again.. but i am ecstatic to read his new book :))))

i never imagined that i would be that mom, with those kids. you know, the harried moms with the kids who run around screaming in the mosque, or attempt to board every escalator they can see, or sit and have a tantrum in the middle of the mall. the ones who laugh and run faster when anyone tries to grab them or stop them from sticking their finger into a moving fan. 

i have tried time outs, locking them in the bathroom, shouting, scaring them with the sound of the blender/drill/bogeyman. all to no effect. everything seems to be a game for them, like they inhabit a huge amusement park. they are constantly running away from me and my restrictions- a now even tries to get out from the wrong side of the rickshaw, directly in the path of other vehicles.

the other day, at the doctor's office, they were creating so much havoc that the doc called out for an injection to administer to them, resulting in m immediately climbing onto my lap and demanding that he be given the injection first. i don't know whether to laugh or cry. 

trying to decide on a school for them is taking up a lot of mental energy. more so because i feel they are so young right now -i want to delay the world of routine and discipline and structure as much as possible. i just want them to play and discover things on their own. i just read this post on homeschooling, which made me even sadder at the need to put them in nursery from next year, when they will be just short of three years. i hate the entire system, and i hate that if i don't put them in nursery next year, they may not get into the school of our choice later on..

work is taking a back seat right now, which makes me feel super guilty. if i was more disciplined, organized and not so lazy, i am sure i could do better. i see so many moms who say that they get more writing/work done now, after having kids, and i am sooooo envious. i seem to have so little free time, and in that little time i want to read novels, play words with friends and catch up on whatsapp. i need more hours in the day. argh.

ok, 20 minutes are up. gotta go!

08 August 2014

friendships based on kids

a very long time ago a high school friend voiced her mom’s opinion that it was harder to make friends as you got older, and having kids was thus one way of making friends. what a surreal thought, my teenage self scoffed, sure that i would never be put in such a position. sigh. little did i know how true these words were, and how they would shine my later life path. since moving to india, friends have been pretty non-existent. without work or any other social ‘in’, i found it largely impossible to make friends. having kids to ease the loneliness was something i admit i thought of more than once. 

and now that i have the twins, i am suddenly part of an ‘in’. the entire past ramadan, i sat with other moms and kids in the masjid, and made more acquaintances and was included in more conversations than in my entire two-year-no-kids community life. i now have friends who i chat with regularly, even though scheduling playdates or adult dates is still a little difficult.. i have all the moms at the twins’ playgroup for random conversations and commiserations. in fact, now that the twins go to playgroup, i get out of the house everyday, i go shopping, i run errands, as opposed to just vegging at home. 

it’s like the twins gave me a whole new life. my new friendships are different from my old ones, my new ‘out and about’ routine is different to when i was working and single, but hey, i am so thankful to just feel alive, connected and useful again!! and i look forward to the blossoming of these new friendships, different and all :)

07 August 2014

books by authors of colour

so, my journey along the path of books-by-authors-of-colour is now three book old. the first was anita nair’s ‘lessons in forgetting’, totally wonderful. i had read her ‘ladies coupe’ a long long time ago, and although it impressed me, i totally forgot about nair. she is good. she writes well, her characters are real people you can identify with, and she combines that indian localness with global taste and experience very well. her india is not crass as that of chetan bahgat, and that is a relief! i am left wondering why she is not more well known.. will have to do some research into that. 

anyways, ‘lessons in forgetting’ was haunting. the plot and the characters are wonderful, and as you turn the last page, you are rooting for smriti, for jak, for meera. there is apparently a movie made out of the novel as well.. am not sure how i feel about that right now.. 

the second book was nadeem aslam’s ‘the wasted vigil’, and while i am tempted to say that reading the novel was also a ‘wasted vigil’, that would not be totally accurate.. the book has many redeeming factors, such as some of its prose, descriptions and some of its characters, such as marcus and dunia. one thing that really interested me was the perspective of those indoctrinated by ‘jihadis’; i would have enjoyed more conversations between casa and dunia, and seeing casa’s rigidly held beliefs crumble slowwwwly, as crumble they must, totally lacking in depth.. the end was hardly unexpected. my main problem with the novel was its slow pace.. and perhaps its cyclical nature. i want a story that goes from a to b, with characters that develop accordingly. i would not recommend this book, but i think i will try one other novel by aslam before deciding whether he is my cup of coffee or not.. 

i tried helen oyeyemi’s ‘the opposite house’, but really could not get into it. the symbolism is beyond me. i like her writing, but have no idea what she is writing about. that was a disappointment. 

to indulge my african craving, i am currently reading ‘we need new names’ by noviolet bulawayo, and it’s great. written in the voice of a child, food, parental/adult behaviour and childhood friendships and games are featured prominently, with little mention of politics or socio-economic factors. it is refreshing to understand a country, a time, and its people through these benchmarks (the games played by children are uncannily representative of the society they live in: ‘find bin laden’, ‘country-game’). bulawayo’s writing is striking and beautiful, and totally makes the zimbabwean/african experience come alive. 

my next read will be korean, which i am also eagerly looking forward to :) 

04 June 2014

different voices, different perspectives; authors of colour

some time ago, i read americanah by chimamanda adichie, and it blew my mind. the protagonist's take on racism in america was so sharp and awesome. also, the novel opened up nigeria to me. i have previously read nothing but 'things fall apart' (for a class, it doesn't count) from the african continent, and i know so very little about it. not only did americanah let me see a country and people that i was ignorant of, but it also showed me the common humanity that we share --and this is what i love about literature. when i read a book about people in different places, in different situations, speaking different languages, and yet i can still relate to them, i continue thinking of their stories after closing the book; that is just so enthralling, liberating, awakening!

i was so in awe of adichie that i recently finished her half of a yellow sun as well. and now i want more. i am suddenly hooked on nigeria and africa, the way i am with japan (haruki murakami, david mitchell). fiction from south asia holds a different level of interest for me, given that i am far more familiar with the places, culture and language.

seeing that many of my favourite authors, and those that i read a lot of, are not white (khaled hosseini, kamila shamsie, tan twan eng, isabelle allende, lisa see, mohammed hanif, kiran desai), and given my interest in world literature, diversity and cross cultural experiences, i was a little startled to read about the difficulties faced by authors of color. it comes as no surprise really, but it was just something that i had not thought about.

while reading up on this issue, i came across authors i had not heard of: aimee phan, bill cheng, nnedi okarofor and many others. so, i think i need to spend more time reading authors of color.

as lilit marcus said on reading women authors,
but opening myself up to a variety of female perspectives made me more aware of the female lives around me … Feminism, as bell hooks pointed out, is for everyone. And when we become more aware of the small injustices and tiny everyday tragedies around us, we become better people. Reading women’s voices helped me to hear them more loudly in my daily life. Our culture is getting better and better at encouraging women to speak, but it’s not doing enough to listen to what they say when they do.
i am excited to read different voices and stories, as well as play a tiny role in increasing their audience and publicity. recommendations are more than welcome.

[UPDATE] so, it is not all that easy to find these diverse books on kindle, or even in bookstores here. sigh. i am not giving up though..

03 June 2014

a child of the universe

i have been wanting to write forever, but time keeps eluding me. now that i am finally here, i will just let the words flow..

i met z in may, after EIGHT YEARS! it was only for one day, just some hours, but gosh, it was a wonderful day. it was time taken out of our usual routines, surreal, and yet totally real. i love you z!

on the same day, i attended a panel discussion of bohra women, which just opened my mind to the possibilities that surround me, to the world that is waiting outside my door.. as i have noted so many times, my world is quite quite narrow these days. as the twins grow, and as i get more confident, i can see the world widening however..

lisan-ud-dawat is such a beautiful language, and it was such a pleasure to hear it being so eloquently spoken that day. the ‘gujerati’ that surrounds me here has been such a sore to my ears and heart; this was the sweetest balm.

the past weekend was just lovely, and i am still riding its high.. may it last throughout the week!

Max Erhman

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, 
and remember what peace there may be in silence. 
As far as possible without surrender 
be on good terms with all persons. 
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; 
and listen to others, 
even the dull and the ignorant; 
they too have their story. 

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, 
they are vexations to the spirit. 
If you compare yourself with others, 
you may become vain and bitter; 
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. 
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; 
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. 
Exercise caution in your business affairs; 
for the world is full of trickery. 
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; 
many persons strive for high ideals; 
and everywhere life is full of heroism. 

Be yourself. 
Especially, do not feign affection. 
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. 
Take kindly the counsel of the years, 
gracefully surrendering the things of youth. 
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. 
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. 
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. 
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. 

You are a child of the universe, 
no less than the trees and the stars; 
you have a right to be here. 
And whether or not it is clear to you, 
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, 
and whatever your labors and aspirations, 
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, 
it is still a beautiful world. 
Be cheerful. 
Strive to be happy. 

this poem is another ‘if’ by kipling.. :) and the last line is a gentle reminder that being happy requires work, it is far from effortless. just as loving also requires work..

07 May 2014

twins, family time and good books

twins april: 20 months! 
wow. you are big boys now! you run and play and love to ride bicycles -mostly pretend ones using cushions! (sorry, getting you your own bicycles is quite overdue, i promise this will be our next priority!) 

you love playing in the water -your inflatable tub was an instant hit, but getting the two of you out of there? tantrums galore and incessant wailing, phew. generally speaking, getting you out of the bathroom is now a headache for me..! 

you talk more, you remember things (like the road leading to the dr's clinic!), you know the words to many a nursery rhyme. your favourites by far are 'hickory dickory dock', 'wheels on the bus', 'engine engine' and 'baa baa black sheep'. listening to you sing them at random moments (in words that are strangely not recognizable to all) makes me smile smile smile! you know most of your picture books inside out, and are pretty familiar with all your stories too. it is adorable watching you anticipate what i will read next, mimic my actions, or beat me to it with your own version. may you always be fascinated by stories and books!

both of you love talking on the phone. with a french accented 'allo?' that totally cracks everyone up! strangely, you will only speak to a dial tone. if someone is in fact on the line, well then, it is your silent time. you get very excited to skype-video your grandparents though :)

we visited your cousins last weekend, and m had a ball playing and following his younger cousin around. he now periodically asks to see her pic on my phone, and then carries the phone around with the silliest grin on his face. i am so happy to see you happy in the company of your family and loved ones. 

family time 
it was wonderful for me to be with family and friends as well. i love my nieces, but seeing them interact with the twins made me love them more. it was nice to shed some responsibility for their entertainment too :p not having to do any housework also rocked :p and having adults to hang out with, talk to, also rocked. i don’t get out and socialize enough here.. it feels good :) 

being a parent amidst other parents, watching all our kids be kids; this is all a novel experience. and yet, i wonder, will it really become old at some point? i hope not. i hope i am always in awe :)  

i read two great books recently, flight behaviour by barbara kingsolver, and a god in every stone by kamila shamsie. i don’t have quotes to share (and i blame this on the kindle), but i definitely recommend the books, particularly flight behaviour. have just started reading orphan train, which is promising to be an awesome read too. yay for great books :) 

21 April 2014

politics and literature

i came across this wonderful conversation between kamila shamsie, whose work i love (burnt shadows was absolutely beautiful) and pankaj mishra, whose work i know. they discussed political anger in contemporary literature, sparked off from the controversy surrounding chinese novelist mo yan’s winning of the pulitzer in 2012. it covers a lot of ground (and authors), and brings up great points for discussion: 

Do we ever expose the political preferences of Mo Yan’s counterparts in the West to such harsh scrutiny?...
[What i objected to] was the attempt to delegitimize [Mo Yan's] literary achievement through some selective reference to his political choices, like his refusal to sign a petition. If we were to take that narrow measure to many of the canonical figures of Western literature—from Dickens with his bloodthirsty writings during the Indian Mutiny, to Nabokov, who adored the war in Vietnam—those writers would have to be dismissed as worthless. 
...we need a more complex understanding of writers working under authoritarian or repressive regimes. Something to replace this simpleminded, Cold War-ish equation in which the dissident in exile is seen as a bold figure, and those who choose to work with restrictions on their freedom are considered patsies for repressive governments. Let’s not forget that most writers in history have lived under nondemocratic regimes: Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Goethe didn’t actually enjoy constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of speech. And let’s not forget also, alas, that freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee great literature. 

...You have to ask: How many writers in Anglo-America who, unlike Mo Yan, enjoy untrammeled liberty to say whatever they want on political issues, have actually made use of their privileges during the last decade of violence and mayhem unleashed by their governments? 

...The fact is that the patron saint of modern liberalism, John Stuart Mill, thought that barbarian peoples like the Indians were unfit for self-rule. 

...Where is the rage? It’s one thing to say writers don’t get worked up about what their nation is doing in the Middle East, but here we have writers not getting worked up about what the state is doing to their ability to write without constraint. 
I have been wanting to write up something regarding literature and human rights, and this is the perfect encouragement. in fact, it was nice to read one of my fav authors on a topic close to my heart. isabelle allende, barbara kingsolver, kamila shamsie, gabriel garcia marquez, mohammed hanif; they all write political, social fiction, and i love them all. i have been too busy engorging on the prose lately, and not paying enough attention/homage to the content. this article was a pleasant knock on the head. 

09 April 2014

children's characters grown up, and love versus duty

for all of you who compulsively read the famous five, malory towers and other wonderful children's series, you may want to check out their lives some decades later. compulsive confessions's take on these characters grown up is.. deliciously dark, not what you would expect perhaps, but fun to read! why didn't anyone do this ages ago? (or did they, and i just don't know about it..?) the posts brought back so many memories.. ahh, enid blyton!

100paths wrote a post some time ago on 'our duty to be happy', that has lots of nuggets to savor. such as "happiness comes and goes. but love? of all the things precious to man and god, it is love that goes on." and, "marriage is a dance with a mirror; we only receive the expression we make, we only swirl in the direction we move ourselves, we only reap what we sow into our own souls". totally worth reading, for these awesome nuggets, and for much food for thought. her conclusion, that living a life of love is more rewarding than striving for a life of happiness, is something that i came across on another blog (albeit in a different manner of expression).. and it is one that islam also preaches.. on a very very tiny scale, i am noticing the fruits of my tiny acts of love at home.. love is also not always easy though; my very first lesson after marriage was that love is a verb.. but that is all for another post!

31 March 2014

good movie experience

i saw vikas bahl’s ‘queen’ yesterday, and i thoroughly enjoyed myself. i did not go in with great expectations (bollywood movies and great expectations do not go together), but i was pleasantly surprised. it was not just the movie itself, but where we saw it, and the fact that H and i both enjoyed it (alas, this does not happen as frequently as i would like..!)

first of all, the new pvr cinema in kandivali is very nice. and you know, that makes a difference in watching the movie. really. our earlier option of too many seats in a too small cinema hall, resulting in cramped seating and no leg room, and literally climbing over people to get to your seat, not to mention people coming in even after 20-30 minutes of the movie beginning, people talking on their phones and so on, never made for a really enjoyable movie night out. here, the seats were perfect, the light was good, the audience was well behaved, no one was kicking my chair or stepping on my toes. moreover, the pvr concession stand was really good too -it offers way more than a samosa and a soft drink!! apart from three varieties of popcorn, they had burgers (veg and non-veg options), nachos, brownies and even blueberry cheesecake!! their soft drink options were also multiple (some places only have thums up and sprite, ugh). it's not like i want to eat a meal at the cinema, but if i ever felt like munching on something, i would appreciate having more than samosas or popcorn as my choices. especially since i rarely go watch movies nowadays, the entire experience seems to matter more :P

as for the movie itself, like i said, H and i both enjoyed it, we were both laughing, which made it a nice shared experience. the protagonist was brought to life brilliantly by kangana ranaut, and the first half of the film was light and disarming, with many laugh out loud moments. the second half dragged on a little; it was getting predictable, and i thought they could have cut out some of the scenes to make it shorter. overall though, it was a light, feel good movie, in a fancy new cinema; a nice ending to my weekend :) 

'queen' and pvr kandivali both have my recommendation! 

27 March 2014

twins march 2014: nineteen months

TODAY, you are 19 months, wow. in another five months, you will be two years old; the concept is mind boggling. age and months aside, you are growing beautifully, and everyday i am blown away by what you learn, what you do and your rampant curiosity.

most importantly--drumroll please--you sleep through the night now, with no more milk awakenings, ALHUMDOLILLAH. this began on our recent trip to kashmir, where you would wake up but not drink cold milk.. a few difficult nights ensued, but you got used to the lack of milk at night far more easily than i had anticipated. the subsequent five-six hours of consecutive sleep for me is BLISS.

your increasing vocab also means that you are able to communicate your wants, which truly is a relief. the few times you are not able to make us understand what you so pressingly require result in bouncing frustration levels all around. you use the same word to mean multiple things, which is quite clever and hilarious (sit down can mean: ‘he is sitting down’, ‘you sit down’, ‘i want to sit down’, ‘we should sit down to eat’, and so forth).

both of you are very affectionate, and i never tire of you constantly coming to press my cheeks between your palms, press your forehead against mine, or just cuddle in my lap. you do the same to each other, which is also joyous to behold.

m can hold a biscuit in his hand and bite it into nothingness, but a is still struggling with the idea of taking bites of food that are not already in his mouth, sigh. on the other hand, a can drink from a cup with relative ease, while m will end up spluttering and have a great deal of liquid spilt on him; yay for straws!

your next two milestones will be potty training and playgroup.. oh my!

07 February 2014

disappearing time and other rambles

i don’t know what i seem to do with the time these days. i am always running out of time. while having accomplished very little. i am spending too much time doing NOTHING. or taking too long to do little things. i just finished reading ‘the last anniversary’ by liane moriarty, and one of the characters could spend an hour contemplating a carton of milk, without realizing the amount of time having passed (she was suffering from undiagnosed postnatal depression). i can relate. i am quite sure that i am not suffering from depression, (although i admit to feeling blue and down occasionally), so i just need to get my act together.. (but you know, the whole postnatal depression thing, people should be made more aware. they should inform you and your family at the hospital. this character in the story, it was so sad that no one in her family, not even her husband (well, not until much later), realized what was going on..) 

anyways, related to this disappearing time that i am facing, is that i have not been blogging forever, even though i have several unfinished posts sitting in my draft folder, and many many ideas randomly going through my head. i decided today that i would just sit and spew it all out (well, not all, but some!). so please excuse the rambling and lengthy nature of this post. 

quite some time ago, i excitedly downloaded a daily workout app on my phone. when i used it for the first time, i started with a simple, 10 minute cardio workout, with essentially 10 different moves, all to be done for one minute. huh. i had forgotten how painful and long one minute can be.. pretty much all the moves requiring any form of jumping were impossible for me to do!! how on earth did i get so unfit?! not to mention all the weight i am putting on from the late night snacks i am 'forced' to eat due to the twins waking up several times each night.. ugh! apart from clothes not fitting me well, i am also concerned with the strain put on my body.. yes, we are getting older, and i suddenly have aches and pains that i thought i was immune to.. so, i will try to stick with this daily workout, at least until i can do all the moves comfortably, before heading on to something tougher. [so, it has been at least a month since i wrote this, and no, i never did the workout again :( i need to find a good time when i can do this, and then just stick with it. i know i can find 15 mins in my day for this.. if i could just stop blanking out hours at a time.. or stop playing so much scrabble and ruzzle. jeez.] 

another thing that i meant to do more of was write, and clearly, that is not happening either. aisha has a lovely post today on writing, and i REALLY need to follow her example of just sitting down and doing it. one of the reasons i procrastinate so much is that it is not always easy to get the rambling thoughts in my head into a coherent form on the screen. i know that it will get easier if i practice more, but this knowledge is not translating into action, despite my good intentions. again, i think i need to schedule a time for it, and then just do it. 

i am meant to be writing a book review for work, and while taking copious notes while reading the book, since i finished the book, i have yet to begin writing. i seriously need to kick my own butt. 

on a positive note, i asked a friend to write an article for work, and that has meant working with a friend! how fun :) 

the twins are 17 months now!! gosh gosh gosh. they babble a LOT, their vocab is constantly increasing and amazing me, as is their perception of the world around them. they crack me up daily, and every day i just want to hug them tight and bottle them up. all those people who kept telling me that babies are much better and easier when they are tiny and portable -but what about all the fun and interaction and giggling?? i loved them as babies when they just lay and flailed their limbs, but them being toddlers is so much more fun, and less anxiety prone for me. reading stories to them, drawing their favourite objects, watching them babble stories to each other or to themselves, watching them observe their surroundings and then trying to own them is so so precious and wonderful. alhumdolillah. (okay, their tantrums and aggression suck, but hey. that is for another post.)