This is the year I lose friends.

Crabs have been crawling out from under my son’s blanket and pillow at approximately 2 am every night, pinching him with their “pinchers’. He wakes up screaming.

We assure O that there are no crabs, and tell him that maybe they’re lost and looking for their friends? We calm him down saying we will never let anything hurt him, and that we’re right there with him.

Did little Aya’s parents tell her that moments before she lost sight of them in Aleppo? Is that why she was being so incredibly brave?

Almost as an echo in my head, I can hear parents all around the world promising their little ones the same thing. In Aleppo, Mosul, Sudan, Peshawar, Sandy Hook.

I started writing this post around the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. I was sitting in the back of a cab, reading an article written by a father who lost his child on that day. My vision blurred and cheeks burned with something more than rage.

It wasn’t a blinding sense of helplessness like I’ve felt these past few years when living beings have been reduced to dispensable numbers, through power struggles, cowardly terrorism and blatant intolerance towards a different race, gender and opinion. It wasn’t helplessness or rage or sadness I was feeling.

It was failure.

Absolute, crushing, suffocating failure.

I failed. As a thinking, breathing person of the world, I failed. Because I didn’t act when I had the chance. I researched all the perspectives to make an “informed decision”, but these children and people didn’t have time to spare to educate me.

But now I see it. There are no good guys or bad guys. There are no oil pipelines or terror groups. There are no ifs and buts.

There are dead bodies, orphans, rape victims. Parents who will never kiss their child’s toes again. Dreamers who will struggle to close their eyes again.

And then there are heroes. Women, men and children who rise above fear and differences, every day. Who stand – at frontlines, rallies, shelters. Who stand – for equality, compassion, peace.

This is the year to take a stand. From world peace to workplace sexism, we cannot take this shit lying down any longer. We cannot wait for someone braver, smarter, richer to come sort it out. It’s up to us. You and me.

I understand keyboard warriors make more noise than action, but if the biggest election upset of our generation was stirred and spurred on by social media, then I’m sure as hell not going to stop spewing strength, support and positivity.

Nothing major has changed in my life to suddenly make room for activism, but there has been a big shift in my mind. So from here on out, I will be loud; I will be outspoken; I will be relentless. I will continue to feel the pain and weep openly, but I will not give in to hate. I will be optimistic and see the best in everyone. I will be happy and spread cheer when I feel it. I promise to be an insufferable feminist and opinionated pain-in-the-arse. And I take courage in knowing I’m not alone. (Even if it means I will be left alone because I’m being a Debbie Downer and taking the “fun” out of casual racism and sexism. Sorrynotsorry future former friends.)

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If support seems biased to you (there’s more #prayforparis than #prayforsyria), then please shout louder to balance the scales without tearing the other one down. Shout until we silence the very idea of hate and intolerance.

Here’s to a future where pinching-crab-nightmares are the only things that keep adults and children up at night.

Let’s do this, 2017.

“The whole world wants to save Tibet. Don’t worry about saving Tibet, don’t get caught up in trying to save the world or trying to affect what is not in our direct control. You will grow old and the world may not be saved. Dream big, but instead change yourself and affect people directly in your realm of influence, and soon it will have a rippling effect.”

                                      His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Let’s talk about talk, baby.

A few days ago, O told me he wanted a “peena budda sanmit”. I almost died of cardiomegaly. That’s an enlarged heart, FYI. That’s also more Grey’s Anatomy than general knowledge, sadly.

The “peena budda sanmit” in question was reduced to crumbs before I could establish a proper timeline detailing the name’s lifespan in my head. From cave-baby-esque banging on the pantry door to calling out for “peela balla”, it’s been a long, tongue-twisty journey to “peena budda”.

I constantly talk to him, about our day, our dreams and pretty much everything in between. Apart from developing his communication skills, I’m giving him a heads up that if he doesn’t start reciprocating right away, he may not be able to get in edgeways with me. That’s motivation, right there!

This may come as a surprise to you, but I talk a lot. Yes, it’s true. I know, I know. Take a minute to digest that, if you must. Take two.

Done? Ok, where was I? Yes, so I talk a lot. But thanks to years of writing for a living, I’ve learned to edit myself before spitting out every word that comes into my head. Except during a fight, of course. Or when that awesome human comes to talk to you. Then I may as well be banging on the pantry door, yelling “peela balla” repeatedly.

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I’m just as bad when I’ve been hurt. I analyse, overanalyse and then abuse my analytical prowess. I prepare speeches in my head and perfect them down to the parting words, to go with my dramatic exit. A few hundred different perspectives, inner reflections and devil’s advocating later, I’m ready for the confrontation. Except, all that tossing and turning took roughly 27 years and no one else gives a damn anymore.

At the other end of the spectrum, get me in front of, or on the phone with, an old friend or one of my closest people, and I can talk till the cows come home with their grandcalves. I will share and sometimes over share. It’s like I’m drunk on words, and I cannot hold my drink. Hashtag no regrets.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone in this.

Clearly, the vocal chords fail us when we’re angry, intimidated or hurt. Clearly, there’s nothing ground-breaking in that statement.

When I started writing this post, it was along the lines of teaching my little guy the importance of tone and the power of kind words. But now I’m wondering what happens to the words that we hold back?

Is that what we talk to ourselves about? Unresolved anger, hurt and embarrassment?

What?

Hold that walking the walk bit, we need to start talking the talk.
For a second, let’s forget the tones and intentions, length and brevity, sharpness and bluntness in our speech. For a second, let’s go back to our first words. Our “peena budda” moment, per se. When we had a basic need to communicate our basic needs.

Now let’s flip the conversation inwards.

Let’s train our tongues to frame compliments for ourselves. Hard as it may be, try telling yourself you’re awesome. It is, after all, the basic kindness we show other people. Let’s talk positive to ourselves and vent out the negatives. Not by whinging, but by flushing it out. If it can’t be fixed, flush. If it’s about people who don’t matter, flush. If it’s about the past, flush. If it can’t be flushed then take a minute to think about what you can learn from it and move on.

Wake up tomorrow – nope, why wait? – start now. Talk yourself up. Whisper sweet nothings to yourself. Be kind, adoring and inspiring.

I’m also starting to think that it’s ok to cheat sometimes. I mean, you praise people when you don’t mean it, so as to not offend them. How about not offending yourself for a change? I say, bring on the butter and lay it on thick.

Truth is, you’re pretty cool. Someone, somewhere wants to be like you. Someone, somewhere wants your home or your job or your friends.

You’re trying just as hard as everyone else at this life thing; some days are just harder than the others. You string together words to express your feelings, and you string together feelings to make sense of it all. It’s not easy, and yet, you’re here.

You’ve come a long way from your first words; now it’s time to talk nice to yourself. You’ll be surprised at what flattering things you’ll hear in return.

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!