Saturday, January 6, 2018

Lipstick Under My Burkha

Lipstick Under My Burkha is a film I wanted to watch but found no immediate need to. So despite having liked the trailer and read a few articles about the film, I never got around to watching it until today. And I’m glad I waited until now to watch it because it’s one of those films you need to focus all your attention on (also because I needed subtitles to understand what was being said).

If you haven’t watched the film or even heard about it, this isn’t the best place to be if you want the storyline. I’m not very good at remembering names or timelines. And this isn’t exactly a review of the film. But of course, major spoilers ahead.


As the movie came to an end, I realized that what made Lipstick Under My Burkha different was both its theme and how that theme was set in motion/portrayed. I haven’t watched a lot of films but this is one of those films that sheds light on women as they are without any of the subtlety. The film talks about female sexuality (yes, we aren’t objects that have no sexual needs, desires or urges). The film talks about the lengths women go to keep their families from starving. The film talks about girls who want to have fun and enjoy themselves but also have to live by the rules of their families.

And you’d think, ‘but this isn’t the first movie to talk about the ‘struggles of being a woman’?’ And true, it isn’t. There are so many films that talk about female sexuality, oppression, discrimination, domestic violence, etc. Lipstick Under My Burkha doesn’t bring us new shocking and so-far hidden stories about women.

But what it does is this: It portrays the woman not in the shadow of a man but as the protagonist. She’s in the spotlight. She has been given the mic and she doesn’t stay silent.

The characters live in a sort of apartment complex that is over a hundred years old and has definitely seen better days. The head or landlady, Usha, lives with her family and is loved and respected by her tenants. The erotica that she reads aloud carries the story forward. The fifty-something widow starts engaging in phone sex with her swimming coach (a young guy who thinks he’s talking to one of the young women at the pool).

Leela is engaged to a man she doesn’t love, an arrangement made by Usha. Leela and Arshad, a photographer, have big dreams about starting a business. The two are sleeping with each other and it’s not the nonsensical ‘making love’ we see in most films. On her engagement day, during a power cut, Usha finds Leela having sex with Arshad. Usha scolds Leela but then applies lipstick on her and sends her off to the engagement party.

Later on in the film, Leela and her soon-to-be husband are making out in his car. She starts unbuttoning his shirt when he says that their first time having sex should be special and should happen on their wedding night. This scene is important, I feel, because we see how Leela, the woman, wants sex but the man wants to make it some special union between a husband and wife. This is in contrast to the usual man forcing himself on the woman scenario.

Not that Lipstick Under My Burkha doesn’t have that kind of man. Shirin is married to a no-fun man who is back from Saudi Arabia. He is bringing no money to the table so Shirin starts working as a saleswoman. Her husband doesn’t know about this, and treats her like nothing but an object he has the right to fuck whenever he wants to. There is no affection between them. Shirin’s husband refuses to use a condom and so we learn that Shirin has had multiple abortions. She already has three sons.

Rehana is a college student who wears a burkha when leaving home and changes into jeans and tshirts when she gets to college. She loves Miley Cyrus, loves to dance and sing. She helps at her father’s tailoring shop. She lives two lives and in order to do so, ends up shoplifting quite a few things. She takes part in protests against a ban of jeans for female students.

There are obviously a few more characters in the film, the jealous ex-girlfriend who is also pregnant, the mistress, the mother who works as a nude model for artists to earn money for her family. But the film revolves around these four and ends with these four women.

And it’s amazing how, while the women’s lives and stories are shaped by men, those men are never the focus of the film. This, I feel, is what’s often lacking in ‘feminist’ films (which is apparently what people call films that talk about women in a positive or empowering sense). With this thought in mind, I went to the IMDB page of the film and scrolled down to the reviews. And the first user review made me roll my eyes.

The title of the review is ‘A feminist film where all (or most) men characters are rotten by default, but one that raises valid points! [+62%]’

The reviewer goes on to say, ‘While the film raises valid points on freedom of expression (in terms of occupational aspirations, dressing styles, sexual interests or taste in music even) when it comes to womenfolk, it does so at by portraying most of the men characters as vile/rotten/insecure. Is it so hard to make a feminist film without depicting the men as scoundrels (cheating husbands, jealous and instantly-dumping boyfriends, daddies who believe their daughters should be hidden away in boxes)? I think a feminist masterpiece would take shape only when women are portrayed (holistically) on/above par with their strong-willed (and well- written) better halves. That's when you feel a sense of genuine gratification.’

Of course, everyone is free to have their own opinions and sure, the men in the film are sort of props. They lack any depth and that is sort of needed in this case. In Lipstick Under My Burkha, the men don’t really matter. And while there are good men out there, there are also some pretty vile ones that we need to talk about. You see, men cheat on their wives but still manage to put the blame on the wife. Men don’t want their wives to earn money and take on what they think is their role in the family even if they don’t have a job anymore.

But it’s not only men who think sexuality, income, freedom, etc. are men’s territory. Women also think so. And Lipstick Under My Burkha doesn’t ignore these women. When Usha’s family finds out about her calls and the erotica she reads, it’s not only the men who kick her out of her house and shame her for having sexual needs ‘at that age’. It’s not only Rehana’s father who forces her into a life of the burkha, work at the tailor shop and no dancing, music, etc. It’ her mother too, who talks about shame to the family and whatnot.

And so the film is much needed to make us understand what a lot women go through in their day-to-day lives. Dealing with abusive and cheating husbands, social expectations of how you should behave at a certain age, cultural and religious limitations placed on your freedom, and the confusing and messy pool of love, sex, marriage, etc.

This is why Lipstick Under My Burkha is a film that you can watch despite its imperfections. This is why Lipstick Under My Burkha is a film that is needed, especially in South Asia where people can accept god into their lives but struggle to accept that women have sexual desires too.

As I said, this isn’t a review, so I won’t rate Lipstick Under My Burkha. And I won’t recommend it or suggest that anyone watch it. But I’ll say this. It’s nice to watch a film that talks about women without it being through men. It’s nice to watch a film that portrays women as they are instead of through the eyes of a man. And it’s nice to watch a film that doesn’t whisper or say but shouts, ‘women are sexual beings and they have the right enjoy what or who brings them pleasure.’

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The signs we ignore

(Warning to family if they are reading this: This post is about Athamma and Jon, so you may want to skip this one)

Sleep, for me, used to be easy. There was no tossing and turning. By 9.30pm, I was ready for bed. And even if I didn't fall asleep immediately, I'd just act out some scenario in my head (usually related to a story I'm working on. Nothing of the sexual fantasy kind. I promise), and before I can even work out most of the details, I'd be asleep.

Now I stay up till late, waiting to feel really sleepy so that I don't need to be alone with my thoughts anymore. I used to treasure that silence. That peace. I used to look forward to it. It helped me work on my stories and even poems. I'd piece together scenes and come up with stories I wanted to write someday. I thought of characters. I put together words and hoped I remembered them the next day.

These minutes of peace and quiet also allowed me to think about life. The people I love. The things I'd done. Just everyday, ordinary things. But it helped me wake up the next day having 'thought things through'.

Now, all I can think about are the bad things. The sad things. And so I opt to watch shitty TV shows (Comedy Central, get your act together) until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. Then I go to bed, knowing I'll feel terrible the next day because I'm used to getting a lot of sleep.

Continuing on this really interesting discussion on sleep, I've always looked at sleep as an 'all at once' kind of thing. Once minute I'll be acting out the argument between character A and character B, and the next I'll be asleep- or rather, I'll suddenly wake up and realize that I'd fallen asleep.

And this is how I thought death was too. One minute you are going about your life, and the next you are dead. I believed this even though people kept telling me how 'lucky' my grandmother was to have died without 'suffering' or having to spend days and days in some hospital bed.

And I knew what they meant. She woke me up at 11.40 complaining about feeling sick. I woke up my mother. Called my uncle. An ambulance was called. Within the hour, they carried her out of the house. Within the hour, my mother, uncle and brother came back from the hospital bearing bad news. Wait, did I say bad news? I meant, terrible, godawful, I-never-want-to-hear-such-news-again news.

But she seemed to have died all at once. Relatives, friends, people didn't believe she was gone so suddenly. She was 'perfectly alright' the day before. How could this happen?

Let's go back to the topic of sleep, now shall we? As much as it feels that way, I don't think we fall asleep all at once. Sleep is gradual, I think. I could be terribly wrong. I most probably am. But those hypnic jerks. Suddenly waking up. Feeling like you are floating. The slight confusion. That's all part of falling asleep, right? So you aren't awake one minute, asleep the next. There is this whole part in between where you fall asleep, but we never really remember that.

Death is like that, I now realize. It seems like something I should have realized a long ago. General knowledge, isn't it? Unless the death is caused by an accident, it's never sudden or unexpected. There's always this time in between being of good health and death that we so easily ignore.

When someone commits suicide, we wonder how their loved ones missed all the signs. I've seen posts about how Linkin Park's last album, One More Light, almost warned us that Chester wasn't okay. The last interview he gave was basically the biggest sign ever. How could we have missed it all? Why didn't anyone help him?

Well, it's easier to notice those signs and warnings after the person dies. It's then that you realize that death isn't a sudden occurrence. The universe sends us little warnings but we choose to ignore them.

With my grandmother, we are all thankful that she didn't 'suffer' or have tests done on her or take lots of pills. She hated all of that. She was so scared of doctors. Until her very last day, she never controlled her diet. She ate all the sweets she wanted. There used to always be chocolate in the house because she just couldn't resist it.

Until that very last day, she seemed to be in good health. Or so we like to believe.

But what about the fact that she felt weak and faint when walking? What about the fact that she didn't have as much energy as before? What about everything she hid from us? What about everything else we never noticed?

How did we not see how sick she was? How did we not see what was coming?

Fast-forward to last month.

Johnny Meowing Wickrama Adittiya is someone who filled my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If, somehow, you missed all those posts, he was the cat who decided a few years ago to adopt us. After Athamma's death in 2015 and my working-from-home status since September 2016, I got very attached to Jon.

If you know me, you'll know that I'm terrified of animals. I once nearly peed myself because there was a cat sitting in front of the bathroom door and I couldn't get to it. And I never liked animals either. I wasn't an animal person. Then this cat, who Amma claims has lived in various houses in the neighborhood, thought of entering our lives.

He wasn't just another cat. Oh man, he wasn't.

You see, I have an aversion to affection. I can't be loving or affectionate with people. Ask my mother. But with Jon, all that changed. Here was someone I could love with all my heart and be loved back. I started my day with Jon's meows and a little kiss on my hand or foot. If I was relaxing on a sofa, he'd jump on and find room to nap. He would sleep on my bed, wait for me outside closed doors and remind me that it's okay to love someone with all your heart.

A friend once told me that she has never seen me so attached to anyone. And I hadn't. I usually keep most things personal away from Facebook. With Jon, I just couldn't. He was my everything.

And then, last month, he fell sick. And we were given bad news. Not terrible, godawful, I-never-want-to-hear-such-news-again news. That would take three more weeks.

Jon's kidneys were causing him a lot of trouble. And he wasn't as young a cat as I liked to believe. He needed his kidneys flushed every single day. He was weak. He didn't eat. For four days Best Care visited us and treated him. From then on, we took him to the vet every evening.

He went missing one evening, and I was so heartbroken, a dentist thought my toothache was that bad. But no, it was Jon. He came back later, having gone gallivanting. He started eating more. He was back to meowing in the morning. He gave his little 'good morning' kisses.

Two weeks ago, things took a turn for the worse. He stopped eating. He could barely walk. We admitted him to a hospital, so he'd get better care. A day later, I got the terrible, godawful, I-never-want-to-hear-such-news-again news.

“I have some bad news,” the doctor said. “We tried our best,” he said. But all I could think of was, “my baby is gone.” And he was. Just like that.

Last night, my mother and I were going through all the pictures we have of him. And there are a lot. And he was so chubby in them. In those last few weeks, he was much thinner. In fact, a friend told me too, that he looked thinner. But I didn't think much of it. Jon had always had his moods.

While I console myself by saying that we did our best and that there was nothing else we could do, we should have known. I was with him all day. How could I have not known?

But anyway, it was his death that made me realize that how I thought of death was so wrong. Death, as sudden as it seems, isn't always so sudden. There are always signs. Always warnings. It's just that they turn into signs and warnings only when it's too late.

And it's difficult to not blame yourself. With Athamma, we were with her whenever we could. She lived with us. I slept in the same room as her. We spent so much time together. What were we not seeing? How did we miss all those signs?

But here's the thing.

I've spent the last two years, somewhat avoiding the truth that she's gone. I avoided it by focusing on Jon. Now that Jon too, is gone, I can't avoid this godawful truth anymore. I love very few people. And two of them, I've already lost. This leaves me with very few I want in my life. Immediate family. Friend who has always been with me. Few friends from work. And that's it. For now, there's no one else I love or want in my life and it terrifies me.

But there's something my cousin told me a few days ago. And at first I refused to accept it. But maybe it's time to look at the good things, instead of the bad. Sure, my life has been in crumbles since Athamma passed away. But this isn't what she left for me.

She left with me amazing memories. She taught me so much in life. She helped me be who I am. She showed me how unconditional love can be. And I don't want to remember her with all the pain and loneliness her death left me with.

Today is her birthday. She's not here to celebrate it. If she was here, we'd wait until evening to surprise her with a cake. We'd sing 'Happy Birthday' and she'd blow out the candles. She'll feed a piece to her two children, one in-law, her six grandchildren. She'll laugh and smile and be happy. We all will be. And that's what I want to remember.

It's hard. But it's necessary, maybe. Athamma deserves so much more than tears and pain and loneliness. She deserves to be remembered by all the good times we had together. And we had a lot of those.

As for Jon, I miss him everyday too. I miss how he'd nuzzle against me. How soft his fur felt. How he'd come looking for me inside the house.

And life feels so empty without them. Without Athamma. But even if we can never move on from the people we love, life goes on. It must. And we must let it drag us along even if we don't want to.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

About the fish in the sea

A lot of people have told me there are plenty of fish in the sea. Not always using those exact words, but it was the same old 'there are plenty of people out there. Date someone. Anyone.' It gets worse as you get older and seem to care less about the fact that you're single. I thought being 20 and single was bad but oh boy, try being 23 and single. And I know that 25 and single will be a frikking party.

Anyway, quite a few well-meaning people have told me that maybe it's time I found someone. Get that fishing rod, hook and can of worms and go catch something. But here's the thing about fishing. Since I was a kid, I've been grossed out by it. I grew up eating meat. I know where meat comes from. But the thought of doing the catching and killing yourself grossed me out. Also... Fishing seems like such a bored, jobless uncles who want an excuse to drink activity. So fishing never really appealed to me.

But most of all, I'd rather not go fishing -cast my line and let the sun cook me before I can catch anything worth killing, cooking and eating- because I have better things to do with my life.

You know what I'd rather do?

Well, I'd rather climb mountains (okay, kidding, I'm not fit enough for this). I'd rather cross oceans via ship or plane or whatever else way they come up with. I'd rather travel and see what the world has to offer me. I want to meet people and learn things. I want to focus on my job. I want to graduate. And I want to do these things without having to divide my attention between them and some human being.

And if I manage to randomly catch a fish while on my adventures, that'll be fine. I'll pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate. And if not, I'll most probably still pop open a bottle and celebrate.

But then, once my adventures come to an end, then I'll get myself a comfortable lawn/pool chair. I'll buy that darned fishing rod. I'll get a book or two. A bottle of something strong, something nice. Snacks. A can of worms. And I'll find myself a nice spot under a tree. I'll cast that bloody line, have a snack, have a nap, hit the books, hit the booze.

And if some stupid sucker of a fish ends up taking the bait, I'd have found my fish. And if the fish are too smart to get a hook stuck to the roof of their mouth, there are fish elsewhere. There are aquariums where I can enjoy from a distance. There are pet stores that sell fish. I'm an adult. I can take care of myself. As for companionship, I have an amazing family. I have amazing friends. And most importantly, I have myself.

But here's the point of this post: I know that people mean well when they say it's time to settle down, or that it'll be good for me to find someone. I know that romantic love and relationships are important in life. Hell, I wouldn't say no to a life of growing old with someone I can spend evenings bitching about the neighbors with. While I currently have zero plans to ever have a family of my own, I do know that family is important.

But more than any of this, I know myself. I know what I can manage in life and what I can't. I know what I need and what I don't need. And right now, at this point of my life, I have other priorities. There's a degree that is determined to kill me. I have a job that takes up most of my time. I have plans to travel. I want a house of my own and that crap is expensive. I still haven't found the time to even learn how to drive.

And what's not on my list of things to get done? Catching one of those fish in the sea. For now, the fish can wait. Marinate in the salt water a bit longer.

Friday, July 14, 2017

7 easy ways to lose friends

Have you ever thought, "hmm I have way too many friends. The situation needs fixing"? If so, you've come to the right place.

If we've ever tried to have a conversation, you'll already know that
1) I'm not very good at talking to people.
2) I take weeks to reply to anything
So I'm not the easiest person to have a conversation with. And this has helped keep the friend count at a minimum. Since knowledge should be shared, I thought of blogging about how to lose your friends.

(Also please note that this post is an attempt at humor. I didn't do these things to cut ties with people. I did most of the following without such intentions but ended up not having many people to talk to, and so decided to turn this thing into a post.)

1. Be an asshole

This is something that people did to make it easier for me to delete them on Facebook or unfollow them on Twitter. And I'm sure I've done it too, even though I mayn't have even realized it. If you are an asshole, and say homophobic, racist, sexist things, people will at first throw a shit ton of mud at you. Then they'll throw poop at you. Then they'll give up and delete/unfollow your ass.

If you don't think this will work, here's a story. I don't care much for Facebook posts. I scroll up and down a lot but mostly to see what I can laugh about on Twitter. But when Mangala Samaraweera was made the Finance Minister, people shared this post where gay porno pics were photoshopped into our currency. Thankfully, only one of my 'friends' shared this, and what did I do? Deleted his sick ass.

2. Slow coach

When I used to work in Maradana and had to take the train back home, or even go to work by train, I'd always take the slow train that ends/starts in Panadura. This was because I could sit from beginning to end and not get suffocated by humans packed close together like sardines in a can, and the smell of sweat, bad breath, human-juices and hot lunch. The express train is what most people wanted though.

So no one likes a slow coach. They take way too much time and make you even more frustrated about life.

And what better way than that to lose friends? I take ages to reply to messages. Admittedly, this isn't always because I'm lazy or not in a mood to talk with someone. Sometimes, I just can't put together a message. But this has led to a situation where no one wants to talk to me. And if you don't talk with someone... you aren't friends. Mission accomplished.

3. Whatapp

Back when I was growing up, we were all texting. That's how we communicated with people. Then Facebook happened and we started chatting with people. Then Whatapp happened and everything went to shit.

Suddenly, it was okay to drag people into massive group conversations. Work-related stuff was done via WhatsApp. Contacts you made for work stuff could talk with you on Whatapp. And so you had to have your mobile data on at all times. This used up your phone's battery juices but also made your bill amounts high enough to give you a mini heart attack.

So getting rid of WhatsApp gets you a few things:
(1) People no longer have a way of contacting you. You can avoid making a ton of friendships because:

Person: So you on WhatsApp?
You: No
Person: *walks away*
(2) You save money because you won't be using much mobile data anymore
(3) You don't always have to be on your phone

(Please note that I'm talking about Whatsapp from three years ago. I don't know if it has changed since)

4. Smart to dumb

Now I don't like calling feature phones dumb phones because they are plenty smart but I'm not the one calling the opposite of a feature phone a smartphone. So when you have the above WhatsApp convo, the person can ask you why you don't just install the app.

I personally don't like having to lie, mostly because I'm bad at it, so I like to have a valid excuse.

Imagine this happening:
Person: So you on WhatsApp?
You: No
Person: Why not install it?
You: My.. urmm... so my phone doesn't like support it?
Person: Oh what kind of phone do you have?
You: *tries to hide your brand new smartphone*

So... avoid this awkwardness by getting a feature phone. I used one for three years and that was more than enough to fix the friend situation. I used a tab too, because I needed to use taxi-hailing apps, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and also check my mail all the time.

My feature phone
(1) Gave me an excuse to be a difficult-to-reach/disturb person
(2) Saved me a lot of money. I go months without a reload
(3) Helped with the accidental calls and typing issues I had/have

Why I changed back to a smartphone is a different story. I needed a new phone and had to accept that I didn't have many choices that didn't look hipster-ish or stupid.

5. Excuses

'My phone can't handle WhatsApp/Messenger' is just one excuse and there're so many more you need to work on. Crappy internet, unpaid bill/disconnected connections and the lot are okay at first but soon make you look like some stingy bugger.

So work on some good excuses. Phone was on silent. I left my phone in my bedroom and spent all day in the living room. My mother's phone broke and she was using mine. My phone's being a shithead and messages aren't getting to me.

Make sure they are convincing, and don't get caught up in your lies.

6. Lay low (online)

I managed to sort of lay low since I wasn't on WhatsApp and I had a feature phone. I wasn't appearing online on Facebook either. So all this meant that not many knew if I was alive or not anymore.

Three years of this has led to safe times when I can get back to the old way of life without having to swat at people trying to contact me for friendship purposes (not in the creepy online dude way. I mean, they are still disgusting, slimy flies but none of this will help you get rid of them completely).

7. Lay low (irl)

Guess how many mini batch reunions I've gone to since leaving school? Zero. And since around the end of 2015, I haven't been to any social media stuff either (see, I went for those once upon a time too) besides TweetupSL last year.

This isn't because I don't like the people that I'll meet at any of these events but because I don't like meeting people, especially in crowded places. So I don't go for anything that's happening, and again, you'll need some good excuses.

Amma wants me at home. Family thing.
I have work stuff to do.
Uni assignments. Deadline is coming up.
No one's at home so I have to stay here.
Relatives may visit.
Not feeling well. Might be the flu.

You see? So many excuses that are basically better ways of saying, 'I don't want to hangout with you.'

And that's about it for the time being. Now that my wisdom has been shared, I hope you make good use of it. Good luck!

(If the post looks ugly and the pics are here there everywhere, just know that a lot of effort went into drawing those and I really wanted to showoff my artistic talents).

Monday, May 29, 2017

To pray or not to pray

I don't believe in the power of prayer, mostly because I don't believe in any prayer-answering entities and so constantly wonder who exactly one prays to. It's also a bad habit I have, asking this question when people talk about praying. I apologize if I've asked you this question or if I've given you a look when you spoke about praying.

What got me thinking about prayers is the current situation in Sri Lanka. A few people asked that we #PrayForSriLanka, like we prayed for Paris or wherever else a bomb went off killing a few dozen people who were usually white non-Muslims.

But then praying is easy. Sharing a post about praying for Sri Lanka is easy. Even I, an atheist, can share such a post. Even I can pretend there's someone up in the skies (which is where, by the way, these cursed rains came/come from) who will listen to me and magically make the rain stop, the collected water disappear and undo the landslides.

And I accept the argument that praying is personal in the sense that it offers the person who is doing the praying comfort and solace and whatnot. And sure, when you are helpless even words that will have no effect on your circumstances seem better than nothing. Hell, I still mutter 'namo Buddhaaya, namo Dhammaya, namo Sangaaya' even when I switch off all the lights and have to make that walk to the bed in complete darkness.

So I'm not here to say that praying doesn't help in this way. It has that effect and if you believe in a prayer-granting entity, whether it's some god or a tree or the sky or whatever, then good for you. Keep praying.

However, do you know what would have happened if everyone just sat on their asses or prayer rugs or whatever and prayed?

This may seem slightly off topic, but I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter. I love that I get to talk about whatever, whenever. But I hate the cliques and negativity and drama. And yet, there's one thing that Twitter, or rather the Sri Lankan Twitter community, is good at, and that's being there for people when their help is needed.

I don't think I saw more than two or three #PrayForSriLanka tweets. Everything I saw were updates about what's happening where, donations being made, people volunteering to help, whether by donating Rs. 100, buying dry rations, working with organizations or offering people transport or a place to stay until things clear up.

And this is what happens when people actually do something instead of praying for our country, changing profile pictures or sharing #PrayForSriLanka posts. And maybe this is why we don't need anyone to pray for Sri Lanka.

Because if there's one thing this year's and last year's floods taught us, it is this: We are not a people that waits for the government to do anything. We don't wait for the president or prime minister to do anything (because, quite honestly, they won't. All they can do is tax the shit out of us and use that money to make sure our asshole politicians travel in vehicles most us will never be able to afford even if we sell everything we own, including all our organs).

We are a people that do. I can't plead not guilty to having made jokes about how lazy Sri Lankans are. But during such disasters, we get off our asses and actually do whatever we can to help people. And this, I think, is much more effective than praying.

But this is just my opinion. And I have a lot of not-very-good opinions. So you can tell me to shut up. You can tell me to stop talking about things I don't understand. You can tell me about all the stories you've heard about how praying actually does work.

Because religion is a sensitive topic, isn't it? I try to stay away from such discussions but even a joke about god or a question about religious people vs. human rights can spark arguments. So if you want to pray for me, okay, sure, go for it. It may do me some good actually.

But before you do any of that, please make use of that time and effort to make a donation or to help out. And then...

Then we'll talk*

*I'm kidding about this. We will never talk. I won't reply to your messages/comments or answer your calls, so don't bother. It's not because you pray and I don't or because I know you are going to preach to me. It's because I suck at communicating.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

All grown up

As a kid, there was nothing I wanted more than to be an adult. Being an adult meant the great I and the great F. Independence and freedom was what I was after and for some reason I, along with many others, thought that turning 18 meant you were suddenly independent and free.

I was of course in for a shock because life sure doesn’t work that way. You don’t go from being a kid to being an adult just because you celebrate your 18th birthday. Sure, you may be able to drive or drink or get married but none of those things make you an adult. And yet, at some point in life, you will feel like an adult. You know that while you haven’t got your shit together, you can still deal with whatever shit comes your way. You just know…

And so here are a few things that I did when I thought I was an adult and what I do now.

(Note 1: Things will change, because I still have a lot of growing up to do. So there’s a lot more to add to this post and I’m sure a lot of actual adults will just laugh at me, but whatever).

(Note 2: This post goes no where, and it's kind of long. The reason I wrote this was mostly because I was having a mid-youth crisis and was starting to question if I really was an adult. I needed some convincing and so wrote this just so I didn't feel like a real failure of an adult. The reason for said crisis? Way too many people on Facebook are getting married and having kids.)

Dirty laundry?

Here’s something I’m not proud of. I left the washing of all my dirty clothes to my mother until very, very recently. During school, I just knew I couldn’t do a good job washing my uniforms. And once I started working, I claimed to be just too tired and out of time.

Since a few months ago, I’ve been washing my clothes and this has made me feel like a real adult. And here’s the thing. Whenever, as a kid, I pictured adult-me doing her laundry, I always saw a day of the week dedicated to the mammoth task of washing clothes.

And now that I wash my own clothes… the truth is that I wait until the dirty clothes basket is overflowing and I have no more clean clothes to wear. And my definition of clean clothes has changed too. Let's admit it. No longer do we wear something just once. If the article of clothing in question doesn’t smell too bad, it can be worn a couple more times.

Will kid-me be mortified to know that adult-me goes through the dirty clothes basket in search of something wearable? Yes…

And a few years ago, I would have never admitted this. Recently, I was talking with someone, and they said they do the same thing and while kid-me would have pretended to be disgusted just so the other person wouldn’t know my secret, I laughed and said we are both in the same boat.


Let’s admit it. Alcohol was one thing that seemed super adult-ish to us. By the time we got to our mid-teens, there seemed to be nothing cooler than drinking before you are legally supposed to. And then, when we were right out of school, we thought that a meet up couldn’t happen if we weren’t going to drink.

But we also weren’t earning (much) money. Most of us were at university, depending on our parents. We couldn’t walk up to them and ask for money so we could drink with our friends. And so we had to find places that sold cheap alcohol, didn’t attract creepy people and was ‘safe’ in case our parents found out where we were.

I didn’t belong to the party crowd so I don’t know what it was like when it came to parties and clubbing and proper drinking, but as someone who has had very little alcohol in her life (and I'm not saying this in case my parents are reading this), let me say this: I have forced down drinks just because it seemed like what adults did.

Now… Now I only drink if I feel like it. There have been plenty of times when I’ve said no to a drink just because I didn’t see the point of drinking at that moment.

This may change, because ain’t no better friend than a bottle of something strong, eh? but alcohol no longer seems like something that we need to just chug down.

Money, money, money

Kid-me thought it’ll rain money (and men too. What’s with the drought, universe?). I thought that a job meant a never-emptying bank account. And so, for other reasons too, I got myself a job. And I swear I had more money when I depended on the pocket money my parents gave me.

But here’s what has changed. During my late-teens, not having money was something we didn’t admit openly. We beat around the bush. We carefully studied menus to make sure we could pay for what we were ordering.

Now we plan meet ups depending on how much money we have. I can openly tell my friend(s) when I can’t afford to eat at a certain place, and it is fine because most of the time, my friend(s) would tell me they have no money either.

And so dining on popcorn and candyfloss is as okay as spending a bit of money on some nice food. It just depends on how full/empty our bank accounts are.


Believe it or not, there was a time when I thought it was rude to not answer calls or messages. If you know me now, you’ll be laughing about this. I used to always answer calls and messages. Now I’m wiser. And I just can’t be bothered to.

So messages are ignored. Calls go unanswered. But it’s not because being an adult means you are rude or lazy. It’s just that you don’t see the point in replying to messages or emails that don’t really need a reply. For instance, I hate it when people reply to an email with ‘received’. It’s 2017, Gmail will let me know if an email hasn’t been delivered… right?

And also I find that I have no time for bullshit. If I know a friendship won't work out or I have nothing to contribute to a conversation, I'd rather save my energy than make an effort to talk to people.


Be yourself

My self-esteem suffered a massive fall a few years ago and hasn’t budged since, so in that way, kid-me and adult-me are the same. However, the way I see myself has changed slightly.

I somehow missed the phase where one experiments with makeup, messes up, learns and masters the art and then when they are 18 or 19, they look like an artist drew on their faces. Added to this, when dear ol’ Mr. Creator was working on me, he forgot to add the little part of your brain that makes you like having various pastes and liquids and powders on your face.

So that’s why my idea of makeup is lip balm, which I get out of those travel packs airlines give. And I’m pretty happy about this… now. A few years ago, I felt inadequate. I felt like I wasn’t enough. I felt invisible next to friends who knew how to put together an outfit that wasn’t jeans and a tshirt. I felt invisible next to friends who knew how to look all dolled up.

And then I grew up and started seeing that there’s no better or worse in these matters. If someone likes or feels more comfortable wearing makeup, that’s fine. But it’s also okay if someone doesn’t feel comfortable wearing makeup. What’s important is that you are happy and comfortable.

Home sweet home

I’m sure everyone, at some point or another, pictured what their perfect home would be like. My perfect home looked amazing. White walls, massive rooms, library, beautiful garden, two or three pets, loving family and a kitchen that was beyond amazing. I must confess that I have pictured grown-up-me scenarios like picnics with my future family or cooking dinner for everyone. This was my idea of home.

A few days ago, I pictured my perfect home. And what I saw was a small house, cozy and comfy, but most importantly, low maintenance. The smaller the house, the less cleaning to do, you know. And I saw myself come home to this house empty besides my cat. Tired after work, I would get into my pajamas, sit on a sofa, watching TV and being all classy by ‘sipping’ some wine.

And I thought: Oh I should get a sofa bed so I could just fall asleep while watching TV. And every Sunday, I’ll just make a lot of food so I don’t need to cook during the week.

And then it hit me how much my idea of a perfect home had changed. Sometime in the future, this will change, I suppose. I don’t want to be forty and living such a lonely life. But for now, I’d much rather have a small and empty-of-other-people house than a gorgeous house with everything I could ever want.


From our youngest days, we are required/forced/expected to have a belief system. It needn’t have been religious in nature or belonging to a particular religion. But we took bits and pieces from the religion we were born into, studied, chose, or the people we met, read about, associated, or the things we heard, saw, experienced. We picked up little bits and pieces from everywhere and slowly built this belief system that we believed in. And we look at the world through these beliefs, even if they aren’t ‘right’ according to the majority.

A few years ago, I found it difficult to accept that people had different beliefs to my own. I thought that my beliefs were those held by most people and that those who didn’t agree with me just needed some convincing. And other people thought this too, because there have been so many times where I’ve had to deal with people who tried to change my beliefs.

You see, we are told to look for what makes us alike instead of different. And so we equate similarities to unity or togetherness. We think that we can’t connect with someone unless we are alike. And beliefs are very important to all people, so we want to share the same beliefs as someone else.

Once you do some growing up, you realize that it is possible to be friends with people who aren’t totally like you. You see that you can keep a friend company while they shop for clothes even though you have zero interest in shopping. You find that your friend who doesn’t read is willing to go with you to buy books. You find that you can be friends with people, despite differences between the two of you. And this isn’t because having things in common with people is close to impossible, but because you become more tolerant and accepting about differences.


I remember being around 19 and being asked where I see myself in 10 years time. And oh boy the plans I had. This was with regard to my job but still. I had so many plans and goals and dreams. If you ask me now where I want for myself in 10 years time, I’d say that I just want to earn enough to be able to pay my bills and feed myself.

Priorities change as you go on in life. A few years ago, I was incredibly selfish. I thought my life was about me. It wasn’t my parents’ life, was it? I was here to do what I wanted to do. Now, it’s different. The way I think has changed. Before making a decision or doing something, I think about what it would mean to my family or friends. ‘Would this job allow me to spend enough time with family?’ or ‘if I take this course at university, it’ll be a bit too much for my family.’

I think that whole idea of independence and freedom when we turn 16 or 18 comes into play here. We see adulthood as being removed from our parents/families and we welcome this. We want to get away. A few years later, we realize that we’d rather be with them. We learn that freedom and independence doesn’t come at the price of your family. You can have both, as long as you manage to convince your family/parents to accept and understand that you are an adult and not a kid anymore.


Just a few years ago, I was a smartphone user. I needed to have access to Facebook and Twitter despite also using a tab which gave me access to these sites too. Being connected to people was of utmost importance.

It no longer is. I gave away the smartphone I used and replaced it with one that can only handle calls and messages. This isn’t to add to some hipster image, but because I found it annoying to always be connected to people. I stopped using Whatsapp, I only use Viber to transfer pics from Amma’s phone to mine and I ignore most messaging apps despite the red notification alerts.

I still rely on Twitter to keep me sane but it’s more about clearing my mind than talking with people. I prefer being by myself. I have no clue about the latest songs or films. My idea of Friday night fun is wasting data on YouTube.

Rewind to 2012, and you would have found me trying hard to fit into a lifestyle I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable with. I thought that being an adult meant staying out till late, partying till dawn and just living the life. Now I make use of every opportunity to sleep or be comfy in bed. And when my phone rings, do I pause the video I’m watching and answer the call? No. I ignore my phone and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Are we adults yet?

Silly old 15-year-old me thought that once you are 18, you are an adult and you will only do adult things. 18-year-old me thought I was an adult and was ready to leave my kid-self behind. 23-year-old me can’t wait for the opportunity to be a kid once more. I see candyfloss or pinwheels and I’m more excited than I am about the idea of doing something adult-ish.
And here’s what you realize when you feel super old when someone tells you they are sitting for their A/Ls just this year: being an adult isn’t something that turns you into a new person. You don’t go through this makeover.

You don’t suddenly know better just because you are legally an adult. There are days when I feel like a real adult and there are days when I feel 13-year-old me had more sense than I do now. And I know that 30 year old me will look at present-me and just laugh. And it’s okay. In ten years time (I’ll be 33!), I’ll read this post and wonder how stupid I was to think I knew what it meant to be an adult. And that’s okay, because right now, I can only know what 23-year-old me knows.

If I’m to use cats to describe adulthood, I thought being an adult meant that you could do whatever you wanted, just like a cat. You could disappear for days, leave home whenever you wanted to and you knew how to take care of yourself. But now, seeing how Jon just sleeps all day, waking up only for meals, I relate to him the most. Yes, there are adventures to go on, youth to enjoy, opportunities to be wild and free, but I’d much rather be comfy in bed, clicking on yet another cat video.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Impermanence and attachment

I was brought up a Buddhist and if there's one thing Buddhism does, it is that the truth isn't sugar-coated. We aren't eased into the concept of Anittya, Dukkha and Anaathma. We are thrown, head-first, into the impermanence of things. And I'm glad we are, because from my youngest days, I knew that there will be a day when everything I currently know in life will be gone. My parents. Loved ones. Family. Friends. Books. Looks. Feelings. Everything I value now and have such attachments to will be gone.

And yet, most issues we face in life are because we aren't willing to let go of people or things. We think that everything will remain as it is forever. This is why we freak out when we discover our first gray hair. This is why we hope anti-aging creams will smoothen our wrinkles. This is why we refuse to let go of people, to move on. And this is why it hurts when things change.

But that's just the way life is and there's not a goddamn thing we can do about it. This post comes to you in five parts, each that have something or the other to do with impermanence and attachment.


One thing a lot of people with no intention of getting inked ask me is how I can bear to have something so permanent on my skin. "What if you are thirty and you regret having those words tattooed on your arm?" they ask. And I never have a well thought out answer prepared, because it's complicated.

I always expect the worst. I know people leave. I know minds and hearts change. I'm sometimes too scared to buy anything expensive because I don't trust myself to still want it or like it in a few days time. And yet, I also know that there's nothing you can do about some things. If, in seven years time, I find myself wondering why anyone who loves me let me have a phrase on flying pigs inked to my arm, well, there's nothing I can bloody do about it now, is there?

Sure, I can consider getting it removed or I can easily cover it up. Or I can think about my own life. At most, I'll have another fifty years of life left. After that, I'll die and then be burnt in a coffin and finally, my ashes will be thrown/swept away. And in those fifty years, I'm sure I'll have other, more important things to do than worry and lose sleep over something I can't really change.

If there's something you want to do badly, whether it's a tattoo or bungee jumping or just being honest about your feelings, don't talk yourself out of it because you think you will regret it. Now this may only apply to my life, but there's one thing I've noticed about regret and it's that you mostly regret things as long as there's room to change the way things for.

Because even though we may be reluctant to admit it, we know, deep down that, there is no use in regretting something that can't be changed or fixed.


It is extremely difficult to lead an isolated life. We all need someone to lean on, to talk to. Someone to make us feel alive, human. But we also shouldn't depend completely on people and we shouldn't be surprised when people leave.

Even today, two years since her death, I find it difficult to accept that my grandmother is dead. Even now, I sometimes forget that she's no longer alive. And there are times when I gasp for breath, tears burning my face, wanting more than anything else for her to come and comfort me. But I also know that she's not coming back to me and that that's no one's fault. I know that no matter how much we love someone, we can't make them stay with us forever. People leave. People change. People die. That's just the way things are.

But this isn't something that is easy to accept, especially when you are heartbroken over the absence of someone, whether its a relative, friend or significant other. When you feel like your entire life is falling apart because someone decided that they no longer wanted to be part of your life, you don't want to hear about the impermanence of things.

And yet, it's a truth we can't refuse to accept. When someone leaves, we blame them. We blame ourselves. But sometimes there's nothing any of us can do to make someone stay.


I go for a yoga class and the instructress tends to talk about various things after the class ends. Sometimes we talk about friendship, other times we talk about the challenges we face in life. One day, she spoke about the importance of leaving a place of employment when the time was right.

I've always had trouble with this. I've only had three jobs and so it's not like I have tons of experience but during two of them, there have been plenty of moments when I've wanted to quit.

One of the first things I was told at the first place I worked was that I shouldn't work at the same place for more than two years. This may seem crazy but it makes sense in the field I work. I was at that first job for close to three years and would have stayed for longer if not for certain changes in how things were. I never quit that job. I just had to leave.

My second job, I quit. I was able to see that quitting isn't the same as giving up and that jobs aren't permanent. They shouldn't be. That's the beauty of life. With each new job, you get to know more people and more things. You can't move ahead in life if you choose to tie yourself to a certain place.

But quitting wasn't easy. As much as you may dislike the work you do, it becomes part of the routine you depend on to make sense of life. And we are too afraid of change to save ourselves sometimes. That's why I held on dearly to that second job for as long as I could. I was afraid to quit because I'd become attached to those people, the work and the way things were.

And I feel this way about a lot of places, which takes me to part four of this post...


I don't own a lot of things in life but there are certain places that I consider 'mine' or rather, as a place that belongs to me and someone special to me. For instance, it can be a café that a friend introduced me to and I think is too important to me, to us, to introduce other people to.

And there's this poetry blog that someone I know online told me about. I love the poems, even though I don't know the writer. And I've only been able to tell around two or three people about this blog, solely because it feels too precious to share with every Tom, Dick and Harry.

And yet, it's not my blog. It's not my place to hide from anyone else.

But for all my talk about how attachment or forming bonds is what makes it difficult to accept the impermanence of things, I still hold on to such places dearly. And dear lord, the amount of heartbreak this has resulted in.


*This paragraph is a spoiler for Paterson, a film starring the gorgeous Adam Driver so skip it if necessary* Paterson brought to me two of my favorite things: Adam Driver and poetry. Paterson is a bus driver whose days are lived in a very predictable manner. He wakes up at a certain time, has his cereal, goes to work as a bus driver, has his lunch, works some more, writes poetry, comes home, takes his dog for a walk, stops at a particular bar for a single glass of beer... And so on. Anyway, at the end of the film, the notebook in which Paterson writes his poetry is shredded to bits by his dog. He loses all those words he wrote.

From 2009 to around 2014, I maintained a personal blog on a not-known site. In this blog, I wrote freely about my feelings and experiences. The blog meant a lot to me for it was where I first started writing. And then suddenly, the blog was deleted by the site itself and I lost all those posts.

I was naturally devastated. When words are all you have, you don't want to lose any. But I had no say in it. And I was shocked and sad and angry.

Today, I have another blog, one which doesn't get to hear my most private thoughts. It's a blog that is still unfamiliar to me. But I've realized that, while I won't get those words written during some of the most important years of my life, there are more words to be written. There are more blogs to fill (which I'm doing a terrible job of because I have never before written so little in this blog. Sorry!).

But anyway, the point of this post, badly-written and useless as it is, is to remind myself that attachment is bad news. It's so that when it's a bad day and I'm reading through what I've written, I'll be reminded that it's okay that nothing is permanent. And that it's okay for life to change. That it's okay to move on.

That nothing -not how shitty life is or the ink on my skin or the bad decisions I've made- is permanent. It will be alright, and even if it's not, it will be different. And that's enough, sometimes, to get through each day.