America, Black and White, life, life lessons, random

My clothes, my chicken. Your opinions, I don’t care.

I’ve been visiting the gym regularly this year. I realized that it was a necessary evil I had to comply with if I wanted to lose that extra butt I’ve been carrying around. I could easily run for Most Unhealthiest Person in Gym award and win since most of the people I see there are hard core, weight lifting, protein shake drinking, cross fitting guys and gals. In the past few months that I’ve been there, I’ve seen more armpits than I’d like to accept. I’ve seen abs and six packs and calves of steel. None of them are mine, btw.

So, I go to the gym 2-3 times a week after I drop off this man who stays in my house (he says he’s my husband but idk). After an hour of cardio and struggling around with minimal weights, I go grocery shopping ’cause after all that exercise your girl’s gotta eat. I’m very iffy about the kind of poultry I purchase. Good poultry is available in this Pakistani/Indian/Arab/Confused grocery store a few miles from the gym. Some weeks I go there directly after working out and other weeks I drop by while running errands.

There’s a sweet old Pakistani/Indian/Arab/Confused Uncle who works there. I’ve been frequenting the same shop for a few years now so he recognizes me. Every time he sees me he gives a toothy smile and says, “Salam Alaikum! Kya haal hain?!”

Now firstly, I can’t speak Urdu and I know only conversational Hindi. Yet for some reason 99% of the people I’ve met assume that I can actually SPEAK these languages, because as a Muslim it is blasphemy if I don’t speak urdu. They then proceed to have long conversations with me. However, while I can understand what’s being said, I cannot reply back. So when Confused Uncle asks Kya haal hain, I give my best smile and say “Teek hain!!!” He then returns to stacking the shelves apparently satisfied with my answer.

Now, every time we’ve had this interaction I’ve been dressed more or less like this.

 

hijab final

 

A button down, skinny jeans and whichever scarf is clean. This is my uniform, my normcore. In the above picture I’m wearing my favorite button down with donut prints (H&M men’s section, you’re welcome). I most probably haven’t showered and from the look on my face I’ve only had one quota of caffeine. While I applaud my sartorial choices, I’m not too thrilled to go grocery shopping at 11 am when I could sit at home and watch Netflix. Basically, I’m the most anti social person and that’s just me generally. But I always try to put on a smile, even if it is fake, for Confused Uncle ’cause he always enquires about my haal.

The days when I go the shop after gym, I look like this.

 

gym

 

Sweatshirt, leggings, a cap instead of a scarf cause I don’t want to strangle myself and a smile because endorphins. I’m sure most people would find this gym outfit too stuffy but I feel comfortable in it. And some days I look cuter than pictured. I’ve not got weird looks in the gym so far ’cause honestly nobody cares what I wear. They’re all too busy pumping weights and what not. The first day I went grocery shopping, Confused Uncle was manning the meat area. When we made eye contact I automatically smiled and said “Salam Al–

Aapko kya chaahiye“, this cold eyed stranger cut me off.

“Uncleji!”, I wanted to scream. “It’s me! You know me!” But this man with his poker straight face looked right through me like we’ve never exchanged the same conversation ten times before. I was confused initially but then it struck me “Uncleji didn’t recognize me in my gym clothes!”

Oh Uncleji, could my cap and leggings be that big a disguise.

But it wasn’t just that he didn’t recognize me. He treated me like he does every other customer and reserved his sweet side only for scarf wearing, desi Mozlem women. I was and still am so outraged by this. Funnily enough, I’ve never had bad service anywhere because of my scarf. Maybe it’s because I live in liberal state where there are Mozlems aplenty but people have generally been nice to me. I’ve never felt mistreated because of what I wear or don’t wear. But this Uncle is a perfect example of stereotypical desi man mentality of sitting on a 100 feet high horse judging every woman for the choices she makes from their stinky Tower of Male Privilege. Men like him only believe in external “modesty” because they understand modesty to be one dimensional. My cap wearing self is not wild and loose. And just cause I wear a scarf I’m not a goody two shoes. Over the years I have found a sweet spot in the middle of these two “extremes” that suit me just fine. Also, why do men get to dictate levels of modesty? It’s so easy for men to tell women to dress modestly (doesn’t matter the level of modesty)  when they get to wear the same two pieces of clothing as every man on the planet. If you have an opinion about women’s modesty you better be a woman yourself. And don’t judge a woman for her choice of clothing unless you’ve actually worn said clothing before.

Since I have a deep fear of confrontation I never said anything to Uncleji about it. But it wasn’t the only time I experienced it. The situation played out the same way every time I wore my gym clothes. Now, I don’t go the store in my civilian clothes ’cause I ain’t got no time for fake enquires about my haal. So, BYE FELICIA.

(I will still purchase poultry from said grocery shop because chicken.)

(Not all Muslims speak Urdu. Your world is shattered, I know. But hey, it was a small, narrow one after all.)

(All images belong to me. Please contact me if you’d like to purchase my artwork.)

 

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America, Black and White, life, life lessons, madras

Hoarder

I have a problem. I hoard things. I don’t collect random knick knacks and all my nostalgic stuff consists of slam books, letters and diaries. These I keep in two cardboard boxes marked with “ZARINE’S STUFF DO NOT OPEN” written across the front. The boxes safely reside in Chennai, perched above an antique cupboard in my room. I unbox them every time I’m at home, relive those memories for a few moments and pack them up again. Those few moments are enough to tide me over for a year.

What I hoard are pretty things. Notebooks, shoes, clothes and scarves. I buy pretty things with the intent of wearing them but I hoard them while I wait for the “perfect” occasion. This has caused me to buy stacks of pretty clothes that never see the light of day because no occasion seems “perfect”.

I have a gorgeous, purple colored, Kashmiri embroidered jacket. While buying it I was ecstatic at the prospect of wearing it. Since that day five birthdays have come and gone. Anniversaries, special dinners, festivals, but none of these matched up to the “perfect” occasion that I created in my head. I possess a number of beautifully designed notebooks that scream to be written in. Rolls of silk scarves are piled on top of each other, each anticipating a perfect outfit. Exquisite kurtas wrapped in delicate tissue paper sit in my closet waiting to be worn, waiting to create memories in.

But lately I’ve realized that the most imperfect occasions create the best memories. That “perfect” occasion in my head will never materialize because my expectations far surpasses the reality of it. And funnily enough the reality is a million times better than my expectation. Now, I’ve promised myself that I will wear the clothes I want to and write in all my books even if it is just a sentence. I will use my pretty things to make memories even on the most ordinary days and years later, when I come across these things I will see them for what they are- not just “pretty” things but memories.

As for my purple jacket, she still hangs in my closet in quiet anticipation. Little does she know the plans I have for her.

closetold

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America, Black and White, life, life lessons, random

Epiphanies

The past few months I’ve had an epiphany of sorts. Maybe its the growing up or maybe it’s just seeing people in a clearer light, but it is happening. This epiphany (or epiphanies to be precise) has shaken the core of what I thought I knew. I guess everyone goes through phases like this that help them realize things, but accepting what I saw of others and of myself has taken me a while to adjust to.

I know people change, priorities change and people grow but it has been so hard for me to come to terms with it. Friends I once thought were everything have left me stranded and the others, I see them for whom they truly are. This has taught me to be selfish. Selfish of my heart that I should protect from people who treat it mercilessly, like its a plaything. Being selfish has also given me a thicker skin. I don’t let words or actions affect me and I just imagine them sliding off of me, distancing myself from it as far as I can.

Now I know not to trust people based on their face value. I know that promises are just that.. promises.. words that can be so easily mouthed without any action being taken. But what this phase hasn’t made me is bitter. I’ve realized that everyone is going through some difficult stage and the way they act out is by throwing darts at others. I see those darts and I understand them, but they aren’t going to hit me. My shield is my empathy. I feel you, I hear you but you aren’t going to get my heart.

So that’s my lesson for today, kids. It’s okay to be selfish as long as you are protecting your heart. And no one is worth those sleepless nights spent agonizing every situation over. Those that are meant to be in your life will be there no matter what. And then there are others that are there only because they feel they owe you. Learn to differentiate. Prioritize the ones that bring you happiness and protect your heart. Always, always, protect your heart.

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America, Black and White, Podcast, Serial

Serial

The past few days I haven’t been doing much because of Serial – the crime thriller podcast that has taken over my life. I love radio dramas. Audiobooks, I hate but radio dramas are my thing. I noticed the Internet obsessing over it but I brushed it off as some new-age, hipster-ish vortex that I did want to be sucked in to. But a few weeks in and I couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer. And, OHMYGOD its the best decision I’ve made all year.

Serial follows the real life murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school girl. Adnan Syed, her ex boyfriend was convicted for her murder. Sarah Koeing (the narrator) explores the possibility that maybe Adnan is innocent, maybe someone else killed Hae or maybe Adnan is just an A-class sociopath.

I love Sarah Koenig. Her voice, the way she narrates the story, the question she asks without coming across as harsh is just.. everything. I managed to listen to all the episodes (there are nine so far) in 48 hours. It helped that I was working on something that required 10% of my concentration and I was free to donate the rest of my energy to Serial.

I was obsessed with the story. I perused Twitter looking at reviews, trolled websites that listed the possible theories and then.. it hit me. This was someone’s real life I found interesting. Hae’s family live this reality every day, Adnan is strongly pursuing his innocence and I.. was on Twitter reading theories and memes, scanning articles that displayed web-like pictorials trying to find the missing link (but lets just agree that “Mail.. Krimp?”, is probably the best thing that’s been said on the internet).

 Sometimes these stories are cloaked in so much sensationalism that we forget they are real life. Sarah Koenig delves deep in to the narration and she repeats off and on that she isn’t a detective. So maybe its okay for us to have our opinions about the “characters” but its equally important that we remember they are real people and not take the show out of context.

That being said, I am so psyched for December 6th. Like, I’m literally crossing the dates off on my calendar.

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America, Black and White, college, life, life lessons

Stories

My workload for this semester is pretty hectic. A few months back all I used to do was watch terrible TV shows. But now, I do not have time for such things (sob). One of the projects we are doing requires us to interview patients with a terminal or chronic disease. So yesterday at 9 AM I found myself chatting with a fifty year old man – M who has been HIV+ for twenty one years.

We spoke about our project and about different support groups for people with HIV for a good hour. Slowly he started opening up and telling us his story. As he told us his story of how he found out about the infection, how seemingly dark his days seemed, how he came out of that depression, decided to take matters in his hands and help the HIV community, my life and my problems felt so pointless.

He talked a lot about forgiveness and letting go. All I could do was list the times I’ve been hurt and brood on it. He said the more you keep that hurt in your heart, the heavier your journey becomes. If you want to feel light, just say I forgive, wish the person the best and let go.

Next to M, my problems seemed so fickle. I am such a procrastinator. Every time I’m given a task I sit on it for a while before I get to it. I don’t know why I do that but I just do. M said he never leaves anything for the next day, because he never knows if he will get to live it. And then I realized the only difference between M and me is that although we are both going to die eventually, he knows that his time is, possibly, closer than mine. Shouldn’t I live the same way then? I am alive today but I don’t know what my tomorrow brings so why do I keep putting things away? This whole interview might have been for a school project but it made me look deeper in to my life.

I love listening to peoples stories. Because once I hear something as heartbreaking as this, I realize that my story is just a tiny speck in this universe. People go through so much, and most of the things I take for granted are of extreme importance in their lives. This helps me reevaluate mine and see things from a better perspective.

And maybe this passing of knowledge is one of the purposes of life.

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Black and White, life, movies, random

Highway

I finally watched ‘Highway’ over the weekend. I loved the movie, the locations, everything. The underlying message of the movie was so subtle yet so strong. I love how they treated something as scary as sexual abuse with such a delicate hand. It wasn’t got through hurriedly. Apart from just entertainment, this is what movies are supposed to. They are supposed to open our eyes and help us discuss issues which we’d rather not talk about because its not polite.

Silencing victims of sexual abuse is probably the most cowardly thing to do. Imagine going through life with no one to actually hear what you are saying, subconsciously pressing the mute button when your insides are raging and screaming.

Opening up to someone about the abuse us definitely not easy. Opening up is reliving it, it is digging up stories that were safely buried. If someone comes to you wanting to talk about this, listen to them. They trusted you out of all the other people in their life. They trusted you would understand, that you would help them and that you’d realize why they are who they are.

Everyone deserves a voice. And everyone deserves to be heard.

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America, Black and White, Fiction, January Blogathon, random, Uncategorized, Untitled, Word Pad

Day 5

The sudden stop of the plane jolted her awake. She craned her neck to look out the plane window, past the man with the greasy hair. It was still early. She could see the golden rays of the sun inching slowly through the clouds. Clouds – fluffy – white- vanilla – ice cream – Ian’s – Asl— her mind immediately made the connection. She shook her head hoping that it would empty itself of the memories.

It was half an hour before she could collect her bags. The descent from the aircraft had been uneventful. After being away for so long she expected small things to give her that spark of excitement, but no. She saw a girl who had the word fear tattooed across her arm in Italian.

“Exactly what I needed”, she whispered under her breath.

Finally, she saw the polka dotted ribbon of her suitcase. She collected her things and pushed the trolley towards the exit. The butterflies were going crazy in her stomach, a mixture of excitement and fear, of the unknown.

“Just remember its not going to be the same, Hana. Remember you can change everything about you.”

With this chorus in her heart and a prayer on her mouth she stepped out on to the busy streets of New York. It was a mixture of people and taxi cabs. Everyone was heading somewhere. Everyone had a purpose. But she was stuck to the pavement. There it was, bang opposite the airport exit – Ian’s Ice Cream Parlor written in a cheery red color. The moment she saw that, all the memories came flooding back and it took all the strength she had to move forward.

“I can make it through one day without thinking about him.” T

his was just one of the many lies she told herself to get through the day.

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