The other day.

Just the other day, we were out window shopping when we got-on-a-flight-and-went-to-melbourne-and-returned-a-month-later-and-flew-out-to-muscat-for-the-weekend-and-signed-the-kid-up-for-school-and-found-an-apartment-and-got-into-a-super-intense-interior-decoration-mode-and-HOLYSHIT-I-FORGOT-ABOUT-THE-BLOG.

I’d apologise for my absence, but then I’d have to apologise for my insolence in assuming that my absence was felt. (Except for you lovely ladies; thank you for checking on me. And I’m sorry.)

Since I last wrote, I’ve been back home to Melbourne and back home to Kuwait, I’ve found a house to make our home again, my hair is blue-er and purple-er and turquoise-er, I got another tattoo, I’m finding my way out of the darkness, and I’m not much wiser than I was three months ago.

But I have been scribbling down incoherent sentences in disconnected places. Maybe at some point in the next few months I’ll be able to unpack my life and regroup my thoughts. Until then, these are the things I think of when the lights go off.

lights-go-out

  1. Meeting old friends is an emotional rocket in your pocket. Must do often.
  2. As Mufasa* wisely taught Simba: “It moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place in the path unwinding. In the circle of life.” We go from school cliques to relationships to jobs. Before you know it, you’re attending weddings and helping friends move into new homes. And divorces. Then cribs and sleep training, and right back to school cliques. Whether you’re ahead or behind, you’re always in the circle.
  3. Moving homes/ jobs/ across the globe is a massive change. But as long as you’re doing the same old things in a new place, you haven’t moved at all.
  4. Forever is a cop out. Don’t promise to love forever. Promise to love every day.
  5. Anxiety is very real. Very lonely. Very scary. Very get-over-it-ed.
  6. Screw promises. Just get shit done.
  7. Life is hard work. Literally. It’s actual work. When you’re under-appreciated, under-valued and ill-treated, some mentally check out, some quit. Best bet is yourself. Be your own boss. When you figure that out, partner with people who make you happy and help you grow by helping themselves.
  8. Sometimes you need to go back around the world to see where you need to be. Other times, you need to go back around the world to see that there was always a happy place, and there always will be.
  9. You aren’t a bad person for wanting both – a safe home for every child, and a vintage chic yellow settee to go in your new living room.
  10. Me-time is not necessarily for self-discovery. It’s for mentally checking-out and checking other people out. Self-discovery mostly happens at peak stress levels, and perhaps on either side of me-time?
  11. Resentment truly is the poison they all say it is. But it isn’t as easy to let go off as they all ask you to do. Leeching is the way to go. Stick a proverbial worm on your self, let it drain out the bad blood, and don’t try to pull it out too soon. It is slow, painful and puts you off resenting anything for a while.
  12. The cliché, cheesy self-motivational quotes that you stashed away in your teens – DIG THEM OUT. Put them on your wall, mirror, desktop, phone screen. Read them every day.

Less ramblings and more coherent-ish thoughts from the next post on. I promise.

No, wait. I take it back. No promise. No deal. Next week is moving week and pre-kindy for the little guy. There will be no coherence of any sort.

 

*Disclaimer: I’m one of the 3 people in the world who never watched this movie. Luckily, Google.

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Egos wherever I go.

Put it away, leave it behind, drop it, forget it, destroy it.

The word “ego” gets a worse rep than the ego itself. I’m convinced that people are more afraid of it rather than against it. Afraid in the way that people are of heights; because you felt you needed a weakness and this one seemed like a no-brainer.

Please let me, from my current not-so-full-of-myself vantage, tell you why you shouldn’t fear your own ego.

We’re never completely happy with our functional, healthy-ish body. It only takes a sharp look to shush our mind. We simply must comply. If you have a difference in opinion, you’re only doing it to rile everyone up. And failing that, we have an ego problem.

Yeah, no.

I’ve been going through some dark shit these past few months, but I love myself with the same intensity that I hate myself. That’s my prerogative. Having an ego lets me do that, and it also lets me stop the world from weighing in on the debate.

I put my foot in my mouth on a weekly basis, I make mistakes, I stumble and fall, I second-guess my every move. But I’m the boss of me. I decide when I get to celebrate, regret or repeat both my genius and my stupidity.

We’ve all been told this at some point in our lives: “For any relationship to work, you need to put your ego aside.”

If I put my ego aside to make a relationship work, then what am I putting into the relationship? By definition, I’ve just given up my sense of self-esteem. I’ve just given up the “I” in “I love you” or “I’ll respect you” or “I don’t want to”. That makes me nothing, and gives me nothing to put into my relationships.

Would you want to be with such a person?

Being with someone who respects themselves and knows what they stand for means that you don’t need to constantly validate their every move or think for them. You can both live and love as equals.

Having an ego even gives you the clarity to put someone else’s needs before your own.

Ergo, ego is good.

Ego

And no, Trump doesn’t have an ego problem, he has a mental problem. Kanye doesn’t have a giant ego, he is a giant arse.

I have occasional spurts of shaky ego. I don’t think that will ever go away completely, but that doesn’t “keep my ego in check,” it’s just a reminder that I still have a lot of learning and living to do.

Then there are instances when my ego takes a beating. I reckon that’s ok; much like tripping over my own foot. Or walking into a mirror. Shit happens. Contrary to smartarse opinions, it isn’t because I have my nose so high up in the air that I don’t see my own foot coming. Or mirror. Or beating.

Besides, your ego would only get a beating when you’re willing to go into unchartered territory. So, good on ya! Now dust yourself off and try again. You’re the only one who has to look yourself in the mirror when all is said and done. You’re the only one who you owe an explanation to. I say embrace your ego. Flaunt it, boost it, never stop working on it.

Yeah, about that deadline…

Another year is drawing to a close, and I’m another year closer to cancelling my backup plans.

Plans made for the “by the time I’m at the ripe-old, very distant age of 35” kind of deadline.

I should’ve travelled at least half the world, become super successful in my career, gone to a Backstreet Boys concert, be married.

Ah the all-important cliché, if-I’m-not-married-by backup plan and the subsequent and much more fun, backup friend.

To blame our baseless desire to be married young on society, movies, parents or fear of being alone, would be weak. It was cool to have a backup and be a backup. That’s the absolute only reason.

Backup

(They worked, but they’re also fictional.)

It was like flirting a little but mostly for the future, with someone you didn’t want to give your A-game to right now.

For the life of me, I cannot remember my backup. The person I chose (after not much deliberation) to throw away what would be left of my life with. Clearly, it was a match made in lazy heaven.

Good thing I got me my M, or I’d have to rummage through my memory and send out some embarrassing emails. Or you know, not desperately marry the ol’ trusty friend who I may have had a heart-to-heart with on a sad day.

And trusty friend he must have been. How else did I feel so free to propose marriage to him – and for him to accept – under the conditions stipulated?

Maybe that’s why people publicly renew their wedding vows, to send a message to the backup friend that their pact is off.

Luckily, I wasn’t solely relying on Prince Charming to infuse meaning into my life. I even set a deadline for career goals. I was meant to be at the top of my game right about 2 years ago.

Backup plan? That I suck. I should just give up on writing and go back to being a Civil Engineer.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not my calling. Right now, I want to keep writing. Maybe later, I’ll want design school bags. Or be a nurse. Who knows!

There will be no “giving up” in any case, just dreaming some more. If we give ourselves the freedom to change personal styles and whom we love, then changing dreams shouldn’t be called giving up, just growing up.

I haven’t travelled the world, either. My backup plan was to drop everything and leave.

Um, no. And um, yes.

We did drop everything (not so much drop as plan and ponder over for 4 months) and jump on this little adventure to move overseas for a little while. It’s the married-with-kid version of dropping and leaving.

Besides, I’ve moved around a lot and I’ve fallen in love with different cities. And I’ve realised that there’s no deadline for travelling. I’ll get there. But right now, I’m kinda in the middle of a pretty big adventure.

I barely recognise the girl who made this list on my sister’s PC several lifetimes ago. She was a few months shy of turning 20 and knew nothing about being an adult in the real world. She wasn’t sure about what she stood for and what she was capable of.

But she had heart, I’ll give her that. Something that hardened with time, with heartbreak, loss and failure. But those are the things that strengthen resolve and make tough, badass women.

I am strong, and it has served me well.

But now I want more heart.

More trust and faith and love. More fire and less give-me-that-job passion. More affection and less xoxo. More care and less duty.

I want to feel so much affection for a friend that I can ask them to be my backup in another lifetime.

I want to let myself express so much love for my husband, child and inner circle that they think I’m being borderline creepy.

I want to feel happiness without cynicism, and kindness without a cause.

So I’m putting only one thing on that deadline list today with no backup plan.

I want to have more heart.

If you’re happy and you know it, click the link!

I’m still figuring out how to use WordPress and it’s awesome features. Like, tagging. It’s like hashtagging, but for people who are just not cool enough. So you list the key words along the side panel like a good little child.

Yesterday, I also discovered that you could see the most highly searched-for tag.

And there it was: Happy.

How cool is that?

We’re all looking for happy. We’re trying to find it, keep it, create it, spread it, share it and reinstate it.

 

smiley

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

                                                                                                                          John Lennon

In books and movies, it’s all so clear to us. If only the heroine would pick the life that makes her happy. If only the hero could see the woman who truly makes him happy.

Isn’t it obvious? In the mad rush to get to work, pick up after the kids and catch up with friends, we see ourselves as extras who provide comic relief or a side story to someone else’s life.

We need to be the protagonist. The one who turns heads. The one for whom all the stars align. The one who gets the guy or the girl or the job or the throne or freedom.

Make today the day that you, the hero/heroine, have that “A-ha!” moment and go for life. Catch that flight, call that person, quit your job, get that other job (because bills), sign up, sign out, let go, give it a go, start thinking about it, stop thinking about it.

tick

Back in the day, I was one of those annoying optimist with an I-just-found-God smile plastered across my face. What was there to be unhappy about?

Loving crazy family, check.

Coolest friends ever, check.

Good food, check.

Safe home, check.

Healthy body, check.

Active mind, check.

Sometimes, out of nowhere, none of this is good enough. Not loving enough, not friendly enough, not healthy enough. And that’s ok. Contrary to what I thought when I was younger, you can’t just snap out of it. It takes time and thought, and that’s what makes your joy last longer.

When it’s not good enough, re-check your list and find happy.

 

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I’m guilty of internally fighting happiness.

It’s not the same, we say. Same as what? When we were young, carefree and sans responsibilities?

School days would come with asking for permission to step out of the house, asking for pocket money, having a curfew, explaining ourselves, and exams.

Pre-baby years would mean, firstly, no cuddles and kisses from the little person you created. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the way looks pretty empty. As much as I loved my life before my son, I don’t feel like erasing him just right now. Let’s chat when he’s giving me a migraine. Besides, back then we wanted to go back to being children and being loved unconditionally.

Nothing is ever going to be perfect forever, and that’s just perfect. Learn to love the low lows as you do the high highs. Happiness may come under the guise of a lacklustre old relationship or a predictable lifestyle.

love

We’re so consumed by this globe-trotting, sky-diving image of Carpe Diem, that we think anything less means we’re not nearly as happy as we should be. I enjoy travelling and seeing new places, but it’s not my calling like it is for many others. And that doesn’t make me any less happy than they are.

Yet, no matter how level-headed some of us claim to be, there’s a pang of jealously when we see stupidly happy photos on Facebook. Of people living it up, travelling the world, having the perfect relationship and eating the best food across the world.

We tell ourselves that it’s just a photo and we don’t know anything about their troubles and worries. (I do hope the people in them are really stupidly happy.)

My loves, choices and dreams brought me to where I am right now, as yours did for you. I wouldn’t change any of them, which makes this life pretty damn special.

There are a lot of people who lose sight of their loves or are given no choice or have their dreams shattered by war, illness, disasters and cruelty. I’m not saying count your blessings. But make your blessings count.

If all we have today is rushing to work, crawling in traffic, picking up after the kids and paying bills, it’s where we really, really wanted to be. And it’s ok to change your mind, but while you think about it, try to enjoy the ride. Smile.

If you’re happy and you know it, dwell on it!

Rama

No mother should ever have to bury her child.

Before she turned 60, Radha buried her first born, her precious boy. Before she turned 70, Radha buried her youngest son, her little baby. Her husband stood by her side the first time, and on the other side the second time. Long before that, she lost her youngest one at birth, and almost lost herself with it.

She stood outside her body and watched as her mind slipped in and out of sanity. She watched as daughters-in-law were widowed and grandchildren were left without their father. She watched her two heart-broken children left behind grapple with one hard blow after another. She ached for them, she ached for herself and she ached and she ached.

Then she got up, rearranged the cushions and went to check if dinner was set.

Life tried to break her, and life lost.

No one radiates as much hope and belief in life as Rama does. Her eyes shine with the kind of love that we all crave, all-consuming, fierce and loyal. Her smile has a curiosity and mischief that is unheard of in women her age and situation. Her hands, her bejewelled hands are comforting like that’s their only purpose and purposeful because that’s what comforts her. The food that appears at the end of her magical wand-like hands could solve world peace if only she had the time for it. A heady mixture of Fair & Lovely Fairness Cream and Ponds Talcum Powder announces Radha’s arrival into the room and lingers on long after she leaves. The mattress under her, the clothes on her and the air around her carry the scent like a halo. The halo only a real human can carry. Her superhuman strength is carefully wrapped in delicate silks and diamonds. Her mind is always racing, her feet not far behind.

I must confess, as I write these words, I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I promise you, I have a story to share.

 

Rama

Her name is Radha, and she lets me call her Rama.

Rama is far from perfect but everything she does is. She makes friends, enemies, memories and mistakes in a minute. She feels love, hate, joy and pain with an unparalleled intensity. She dislikes dirty places, people and words. Her saris are starched and spotless and timeless. If it smells sweet, looks lovely and tastes good, she’ll accept it. She chases a fly out of her home with the same ferocity with which she welcomes a compliment. She is superficial and sincere in the same breath. She’s generous with her time and attention, but her special brand of blind love is reserved only for her siblings, children and grandchildren.

Nothing gives Rama more joy than seeing her family together. She never shushes or restricts kids from running wild. She’ll get us afterwards though, to scrub off the dirt before we step into her heaven (not haven), her home.

The home her husband and children built for her is her everything. The fact that her husband and eldest son never made it past the housewarming only makes her home a heaven more than ever.

She was treated like a princess till the day she wed, and like a queen every day after. Her home is her palace and she rules fairly.

The rooms are cushioned with music and sunlight, kitchen bursting with aromas, veranda decorated with flower pots and backyard with freshly washed clothes. Not a bowl out of place, not a cushion, not even a sound.

Remember how I said she rules fairly? Not if something is out of place. In the event of such monstrosity, there’s a very small chance that she will quietly go about putting it back in order. Rama has a – how do I put this mildly – she’s a control freak, a cleanliness freak and a broken record when it comes to running her home.

If you’re on an overseas call with her, she’ll put you on hold in order to fluff the cushions. She never entrusts anyone else to clean her bathroom, she does it herself every day, and believe me when I say you can eat off the floor in there. A Dettol cloud surrounds everything and the silverware doubles as mirrors. Her little army of housekeepers work with a steadfast loyalty that you can only get from an iron-fist wrapped in duck-down feather and glitter.

It was in this home that Rama taught me my first and only bedtime prayer. Together, we prayed that we would have sweet dreams and wake up early with fresh hopes and dreams for a better day. We prayed that we would be kind and respectful. We prayed for ill relatives and travelling neighbours and the homeless people we couldn’t help. We prayed for peace and happiness and love.

We didn’t pray to a God with a name. We prayed as a reminder to ourselves, to wake up as better versions of who we were that day.

Then I fell asleep, her prayers and arms keeping me safe.

That was when I was a child and she was my fairy grandmother.

A million lifetimes later, she falls asleep safe in my prayers and arms.

I move into an apartment in the city with Rama during college, and she takes about 32 seconds making the place hers. While I was away growing up and figuring out who I was, Rama perfected her unique brand of her-ness.

She brings along her little army of housekeepers and her her-way-or-the-highway-ness. She hates being away from her home, but she is unbreakable in her optimism. Deaths in the family and near-death health scares for herself and her loved ones can’t shake her faith. In rare moments of solitude when she lets herself reminisce, you can see it. You can see it in the way her fingertips touch her face, you can see it in her soft, faraway eyes. Raw, agonising pain.

On nights that I stay up late, I find her asleep with her arm reaching across the empty bed as if to clutch the husband, babies and siblings she lost and the family that’s scattered far and wide.

Born into a family of 9 children, alone was not a common feeling. Married to the eldest among 8, she instantly doubled her family. Then she built her own brood with 3 boys and a girl. Then there were in-laws and their families. She lost count after the 6 grand children; nothing else mattered.

These are the numbers that run through her head when she lies in bed at night. These are the numbers she aches for. These are the numbers that give her strength. She counts and recounts, wondering where so many of the numbers have vanished.

She wakes next morning, full of fresh dreams and hopes for a better day.

These are some of the many memories of Rama deeply cemented in my heart. There’s no obvious storyline here. No moral. Just that no matter how small or short life is, make your mark and leave your scent, so people speak of you as if you never left us 11 years ago.

Fireworks

I’ll rise early and happy tomorrow and have a nice long shower. I’ll wash my blue-blue hair and pick my bright-bright clothes. Then I’ll sit down to eat, and finish around 12 hours later. It’s Diwali tomorrow!

For those of you who don’t know what Diwali is, it’s the gift giving and feasting of Christmas + the togetherness and feasting of Eid + the noise and feasting of a very large-scale New Year/birthday/anniversary/wedding party.

In school essays, we wrote that it is the day we celebrate the victory of good over evil, of light over dark. But mostly, feasting.

But this isn’t a food post – at least that’s my intention so far.

But the food, man.

Samosa and dhokla and pakoda. Puri and pulav and chaat. Lassi and daroo and daroo. Green chutney sandwiches and chole batura and paneer tikka.

Kaju katli, motichur ki ladoo, rasgulla, gulab jamun, jeelebi, rasmalai, I’m dying.

And fire crackers! Before the implications of bursting crackers were known – child labour, air & noise pollution and animal-safety – every child and adult was outside their home holding a sparkler, watching the sky light up with rockets, jumping around the swirling chakras and exploding flower pots. When poisonous fumes and deafening fireworks didn’t bother anyone, conscience never stood a chance. (It’s getting better, but I’m not getting into that just now!)

Photo Credit: The man, M

Photo Credit: The man, M

Oh Diwali, Diwali, Diwali; there’s just something about this time of the year that just doesn’t do it for me.

Yep. I’ve started writing a post about a festival I’m not even crazy about. Diwali and I have had an unspoken standoff that’s lasted a few years now. I am hoping it goes away soon, because year after year I stand in the sidelines admiring it from a distance and hoping it’ll let me in with all the other happy cool kids.

I’m not sure if I miss the way it used to be before a few untimely deaths in the family shook us all up and turned every family celebration into a massive if-only fest. Or if I subconsciously connected a lot of personal trials to that time of the year. Or if taking fire crackers out of the equation was like taking chocolate out of Easter? I don’t know why, but it bugs me and needs to go.

So this year, I’m making a Diwali resolution. Out with the dark, in with the light. Tomorrow, I’m going to pick positive over negative. I’m going to laugh and sing and dress up. I’ll make it so Diwali will beg to be my friend! Aha! Who’s the boss now?

And if I can do it tomorrow, I can do it again day after. And the day after that and the one after that. Maybe I’ll take a dark day off every now and then, but I’ll find my way up again.

After all, this Diwali isn’t just about the food. I’m with family again and I love my family (near and far, in-laws and in-loves) with Godfather-esque loyalty and passion. We laugh and we cry, we love and we fight, we push and we pull. And we do it all together at the same time.

They’re all the fireworks I need in my life.

Here’s wishing that all of you rise happy today, and find your true love and light!