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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Events, life lessons, madras, Marriage, Travel

Questions & Answers

I’ve been away from my blog for a month because I’ve been traveling, moving and recovering from jet lag. Towards the end of 2014 I was in Madras for my brothers wedding. I was there to provide my brother with moral support and a steady stream of fart jokes. The wedding and reception were on the 30th and 31st which meant everyone was on a year end holiday so were free to attend the wedding.

My grandmother arrived a week before in order to spend some time with us. Now my grandma is a rockstar. She only ever travels with her entourage. Its like she is the honey and the entourage are the bees around it. Wherever she goes, they go. One of the ladies from her entourage, lets call her Jan, is considered to be her hand maiden. Jan is a character. Her voice has a particular pitch which is indescribable. She is loud, demanding and always wants to be the centre of attention. She is also extremely helpful and makes the best ginger tea. Jan is from Tirunelveli, just like my family. She isn’t educated, so her only mode of “learning” is the television.

Ever since both, my grandma and Jan laid their eyes on me, the only question they asked me was “Are you pregnant?”. Not “When do you intend to have a child?”, but straight up “Are you pregnant?”. I think, I THINK, I might have put on some weight since my wedding two years ago.

I am used to evading this question. I’ve had two years of experience tackling it. So this time around it didn’t bother me much. I just smiled and said “God willing”. I didn’t even bat an eyelid when on the eve of her return back to Tirunelveli Jan said, “The next time you come you should have a boy baby!”. I just attributed her need to stress on the sex of the child to her education which was nil and to her exposure to the outside world which again, is through the idiot box. I also ignored my grandma nodding in agreement to her. My grandma is over 90 years old, has ten children and so many grandchildren and great grandchildren that she can’t be bothered to count. I am just next on her list to procreate.

Once the wedding was over we had a stream of relatives come by our house to see the new bride and groom. This gave me a chance to meet all of them again before I left and also gave me the practice to hit the “When are you going to have a baby” questions outside the park. One of the women who came to visit us was a lady who I liked a lot. She is in the education field and I held her in high regard. After chit chatting and drinking adequate cups of tea it was time for her to leave. She hugged me and said in my ear, “God willing, the next time you come, you should come with a baby boy.”

Now this lady is educated. Her profession was in the field of education. She is smart, enterprising and SO BACKWARD. I do not understand her need to stress on the gender of the child. And what is this obsession with having a boy?! Did people not understand the biology they taught in school? There is a 50-50 chance of the fetus turning out any which way. No matter what we say or do isn’t going to control the sex of the fetus! We can hope, wish and pray for a boy but whoopsie when there’s a girl at the end of nine months nobody can be held responsible.

It honestly amazes me that this lady with all her education could say something like that. I didn’t bother when Jan said it, because Jan and her world are very small. But if both minds work this way then what use is education when people fail to grasp the basic concepts of life? And when is this pride of having a son going to fade? People should be thrilled at the prospects of having a girl. They should concentrate on bringing up an educated and strong woman, instead of “When you were born, we thought you would be a boy.”

The most worrying part of having a girl, at least from my observation, is what the parents will “give” her at the time of the wedding. This problem can be solved if everyone “gives” their a child, boy or girl, education and sound moral character. In this utopia both the sexes are strong enough that they don’t posses the need to compensate for their gender by bringing in money and material things into the relationship.

Clearly this utopia can only be a dream because for some people, no amount of education can rectify their basic thinking.

Also, no, I’m no pregnant.

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America, life, life lessons, Travel

I’m a nice person, I swear!

Yesterday I was on a  long haul flight (15 hours) from San Francisco to Dubai. I booked the tickets a month before and made sure to select my seat on the plane – aisle – because I have a bladder the size of a lemon and while I don’t mind getting up a million times for people on the inside, I do not want to be the one to shake the sleeping person next to me.

had this experience before where I selected the aisle seat and was asked to switch for the window seat because the obese lady said she wanted to be able to move freely. I had to prod awake her and the lady traveling with her every couple of hours and lets just say it was the LONGEST FLIGHT OF MY LIFE.

Like any other day, yesterdays flight was filled with babies and I was bang in the centre of it all. There was a kid behind me, twin baby boys in front of me and the couple next to me had a toddler. Half hour into flying the lady beside me asked me if I could switch seat with her because her son liked to walk “up and down”. I thought for a minute and politely declined. I said I don’t mind getting up for you any number of times because I am alight sleeper but no, I do not want to switch seats. She was nice enough to understand and the gentleman on the other side gave up his aisle seat. That is when my conscious hit me hard and I FELT SO GUILTY.

I spent the remainder of the flight wondering if I had invited karma to come bite me in the rear years later when I travel with a child. But I also do not understand some passengers. If your really do prefer a particular seat then its super easy to select it while you book tickets (at least in most flights). And especially if you are traveling with a child wouldn’t you make sure of that as much as you can, rather than leaving it up to chance and God forbid if you sit next to a meanie like me?!

I honestly hope karma is kind to me and doesn’t return the favor.

Pros of traveling with me:

1) I bring snacks.

2) Will engage you in good conversation.

3) I don’t snore.

Cons of traveling with me:

1) I won’t switch seats.

 

 

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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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