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, 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, life, random

Why I Write

[The wonderful Deepa tagged me to do the ‘Why I Write’ blog hop. Me being me, had to procrastinate and let the idea fester in my mind before I could start. So here it is. I tag the Zinal Bhadra, Egeedee, Surya Bhattacharya and PeeVee.]

 

Why do I write?

I write to keep my sanity. Very often I find myself tethering along the edge between normal and crazy. And writing, helps me achieve that balance.

I write to make sense of the world, of the things in my head. Writing helps me see things in a new perspective.

I write because I learnt not to judge people by their face-value. Every person has a story.

I write because there are so many characters in my head. Every person I meet I try to fit them in my hypothetical novel that I have started and stopped numerous times in my head.

I write to lessen my burden.

I write because growing up I felt like I never had a voice.

I write to ease my anxiety.

I write to relive and preserve beautiful moments because that is what makes a person rich. Not wealth.

I write to feel less lonely.

I write because sometimes reality is too monotonous.

I write because I can’t help it. It is a fluid motion and I can’t stop it.

This blog isn’t my only outlet. I have a personal journal where I scribble away. Once I take a step back and look at what I’ve written, I see things in a whole new light.

Over the years writing had become my savior. As an angsty teenager I used to furiously writing in my Nightingale diary. I remember hiding it in places where nobody could find it. Writing has been the only constant in my life, when there were days where I felt I couldn’t talk with anybody I turned to my diary. I was that weirdo who started out with ‘Dear Diary..’ because my diary wasn’t a non living thing, she was my friend. My non judgmental, welcoming friend, who was always interested in what I had to say.

I write because writing is my solace, it is my comfort, my joy and my safe place.

 

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Eavesdropping, random, Untitled

Immigration Officer : “Sir, you aren’t supposed to enter here. Can I help you?”

Man with Jamaican accent : “Yes, I’m looking for my baby.”

Immigration Officer : “Your baby??”

Man : “Yes. My fiancé. She’s waiting in the line.”

 

Best conversation I’ve ever heard.

 

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America, Food, random

I am way too sweet right now

In the past twenty four hours I have eaten :

1. A slice of bread with Speculoos cookie butter

2. Strawberry flavored yogurt

3. Ten gummy bears

4. Tea with milk and a huge spoon of sugar

5. Half of a berry smoothie

 

Although I was fasting, I am reeling from an intense sugar high now! This sweet tooth problem is getting way out of hand. Somebody really needs to cut me off.

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life lessons, random, Random Things of Interest

Things I’ve been doing and feeling

The white screen with a blinking cursor is very daunting. This was one of the reasons why I was away from this space for a long time. I felt like I didn’t have anything to say and my little pot of “inspiration” was shrinking, smaller and smaller until it stopped existing. Although the empty screen did call out to me, coming back to it was like an elastic pull – forced but meant to be.

The past few weeks I have been in denial that I don’t have a procrastination problem. I’ve also been fasting for long hours. While it was hard for the first couple of days I have now got in to the groove of it. Eating bajjis and pakodas might cancel out the process of fasting, but this year I told myself I will not waste food. So we’ve been having leftovers every alternate day. And its been good so far.

I have also written so many amazing blog posts IN MY HEAD. My creative juices only start to flow when I reach the stage before REM. So right after I nod off to sleep I come up with these amazing ideas and story lines and tell myself to “remember this Zarine, you’re going to type it out in the morning”, and then I fall asleep. I wake up and all that amazingness is gone. Its a terrible, terrible thing.

Last week I sprained my neck sleeping on a flat pillow. Not just one, but both sides. I couldn’t turn left or right. Straight was the only direction. Not only were my movements hindered, it was also painful. I slathered myself with Tiger Balm (tiger not included) and wrapped my neck in a heat pack. Last night I was desperate for some relief so I Googled ‘neck pain cure’ and found an  interesting acupuncture remedy. You guys, trust me when I say that it WORKED LIKE A CHARM. All you need to do is press the area between your forefinger and middle finger at the back of your hand. Press hard and make small circles while you turn your head from side to side. Do it on the hand that is in the opposite side of the sprain. I know it sounds like some voodoo, mumbo jumbo but it honestly works. The pain begins to subside and you get a greater range of motion. I woke up this morning with the pain reduced by 50 %. The next time I sprain my neck (it happens quite often) I know that I have a handy cure.

 You ask, in order to entirely eliminate this neck sprain situation, Zarine, why don’t you get a harder pillow? Believe me, I’ve tried. This is my third pillow. Ikea has a terrible collection of pillows when it comes to the firmness. They have various pillows for side and back sleepers. I’ve tried both. They suck equally. In Madras I used a decent, solid pillow that didn’t sink to the floor when I placed my head on it.

I am venting over a pillow and a sprained neck for half this post. Either I’m really angry or my inspiration comes from bedroom textiles.

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America, Eating Out, Food, life, Marriage, random, The H, Weekends

Weekend Shenanigans – Part Deux

I’m not big on Hallmark holidays but once I heard that Friday was National Donut Day (yeah, its a thing) I had to get some donut in to my system. We woke up bright and easily on Saturday, excited to try out a local donut shop called Stan’s Donut and it was such a disappointment. I had to erase that memory of the bad donut so Sunday evening we went to a good ol’ donut corporation – Krispy Kreme and I had my favorite original glazed chocolate donut. To further quell my greed I had two more. Go ahead and judge me. It was worth it.

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*****

I have this terrible sickness where if I start watching a tv show or a movie I have to watch it till the end no matter how terrible it is. This past couple of months I painfully sat though Desperate Housewives. It was so exhausting but I HAD to know what happens in the end. Now I am watching the last season of Beverly Hills that I stopped while I was in college with a bit of 30 Rock on the side. I’m itching to watch Orange is The New Black but waiting for my finals to end before I get sucked in to that vortex.

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A couple of nights back in order to save the mutton from getting burnt Jay mutilated my tea vessel to place it inside the pressure cooker. I haven’t had my Lipton tea in two days now and I’m going just the tiniest bit insane. Speaking of tea, Oprah came up with a new tea. Starbucks sells it, so if you want one you have to ask for an “Oprah Chai Tea Latte”. Its a mouthful. N is a huge Oprah fan so I tried the tea for her sake. It tasted like sugar water with ground cloves. Americans have such average taste buds. They should taste my mother’s ginger tea. It’s so good that she could mass manufacture it.

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