Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka

Sunday April 21, 2019 – 23:53

It’s probably not the time to write this, but writing for me, has always been a source of therapy. And therapy is what I need now. I’m also aware that I began a sentence with “and”. I’m also quite aware that I don’t often write about my country as I don’t feel the need to.

I began drafting this post in my mind from the time I was woken up with a call with this very news. While asleep, I dreamt of blood. Blood on me and blood around me. I’ve been having weird dreams for weeks anyway so that’s all there is to it. My Mother, while watching the news tells me of the “fall” of Notre Dam and how it was symbolic of the things to come and even possibly, the end of the world. See, unlike me, she believes in religion. She, unlike me, has been able to bypass and look beyond the cruel intentions of small groups of organised religion and continue with her faith. I, unfortunately, have not been able to.

Which is why these multiple coordinated attacks on a religious holiday bother me so much. It bothers me more than the floods from two years ago. Because this wasn’t a natural disaster that we couldn’t prevent (the floods too could’ve been prevented if we looked at adequate measures but that’s a conversation for another day). It was a disaster, there were multiple attacks, which were targeted predominantly at a minority ethnic group in the country.

It’s a topic we are all too familiar with. For 30 years, to be precise. Since the “end of war” in 2009, we have witnessed smaller-scale attacks on other ethnic groups on several occasions, a few times a year. Correct me if I’m wrong but – and no I don’t mean to trivialise war and the state of the country – during the last few years of war, with the multiple bombs going off every day, it became a normal thing. Yes, war, was normalised. Just as how when a male/female is “accidentally” touched when travelling in public transport or catcalled when dressed well, is normalised. Both of those statements sound wrong and it is wrong, but that’s what it was and is. Anything more than 10 casualties may have been taken seriously. People found it horrendous when the forces carefully scrutinised a packet of rice but that’s what it came to. But that was in 2009.

After the war ended, at home we continued the practice of carrying our National Identity Cards (NICs) with us at all times. In the event of us not having the NIC at hand, we would have our driver’s license or passport. My Mum used to work with war widows pre-“end of war” and we used to travel a lot to the North Central and Eastern provinces. I too often accompanied her as my parents were getting a divorced around that time and my Mother didn’t want to leave me home alone – we didn’t really have a lot of people we could rely on, save for the kindness of our neighbours and friends from the neighbourhood, some who offered to house and feed me while she was away sometimes (and my sister during the time was working abroad). During that time, we both had a majority-ethnic-group last name, which worked for our advantage. Travelling to my Mother’s location of work today would take us no more than four-five hours without stops thankfully for improved infrastructure. Travelling then, took about seven or eight if went in public transport and six or seven if she drove. Sometimes, Akki (my older sister) would be there on holiday and we would take her too during the field visits. Lucky for us, she is very fair and looks Southeast Asian for most of the part. This meant that the checkpoint checks will be cleared for us in no time – yes, that actually happened the two or three times we all travelled together.

Besides carrying our NICs at all times, our house was always well stocked. We always had an extra gas cylinder, extra dry rations and sometimes, extra frozen meat too. We were always ready for a curfew. Ready for an emergency. And ready to run. We continued this practice even after “the end of war”. Since the post-2009 wave of minority group attacks, we would even have a bag of essentials ready, in the cars and in the house, the latter would also have a bag/box of documents to take and run. In recent years, we wondered why our house had only one entrance and we contemplated asking our neighbours if they didn’t mind sharing a back gate in the common wall.

So fear, as you can see, has not been something new. Perhaps it has not been shared in equal degrees by all people, some more, some less, but fear has always been present.

 

A fellow tweep had this thread too. I asked him for permission and he was okay with me posting it. (edited 23/04)

However, as years went by, the fear remained, but we grew positive about life, sometimes about the economy and about those around us. For those wondering if we grew positive about the government, it’s fair to say that it never happened. We knew deep down that what befell us forty years ago, might not strike again. However, a month shy of our “10-year anniversary/victory day celebrations”, we had a change in heart and we feared this might happen once more.

For me, personally, what makes things scarier is the fact that people have more access to improved technology and communication. While this is a good thing, what this does is people have the capacity to become overnight journalists and share unverified information from sources they are not even certain of. They are capable of sharing “fake news” and information that is not true. The calamity of the situation doesn’t stop there. Despite the war and multiple ethnic-group attacks we’ve had over the past so many years, those whom we elect as our leaders would constantly fail us. They will not be able to reassure us and with each passing election, the country and the future of this country grows to become more apathetic than the next.

The government has currently blocked social media, which is a good thing I believe. It helps lessen the spread of rumours and false information. Of course, those who are keen on disseminating such information will download VPNs and continue as per usual, but there is a certain degree to which, this has been curtailed through the blockage. It’s a radical move, yet an important one. Sometimes, the older generations who have been introduced to embrace technology and digital media have not perhaps been familiarised with identifying accurate information, which is fair, as it was never a concern during their time. However, it is now.

I might continue this post later today, however, I’m hoping that there is no need to and all we talk about is the new Game of Thrones episode. While we wait for the curfew to lift, I would like to leave with a thought that was inspired following the attacks at Christchurch in New Zealand.

Share the names of those who are not with us anymore. Share the names of those who did not make it through. Let’s remember them. But share not the names of those responsible for these crimes.

Stay safe and sunny.

My ‘Live’ Story

Of the many things I want to write about, I thought it would be a good time to write a bit on mental health. After all, my domain renewed for the year and thought it was about time to put something in here. It was time to do a quick check-in with everyone and see how they are holding up as the first quarter comes to an end. How are you all? Well? My first quarter has been great yet, overwhelming. Business-wise, it’s been great and it even came to a point where an email response contained, “We are a bit too busy right now, will get back to you no sooner we are able to!” That’s swell yes? But with such overachievements also came waves of self-doubt, lack of confidence, motivation and real slumps in creativity. I considered getting help to manage the workload but the task of re-briefing someone seemed a little too daunting and time-consuming. And when I had time, I tried to rest and sleep.

Sleep though, hasn’t been easy to come by. While sleep itself wasn’t the problem, the dreams that continue to haunt me became of serious concern. Often, and still, I will wake up feeling restless and tired. Even my favourite meditation app can’t put me to sleep anymore or it doesn’t let my brain turn off. General anxieties on life and the sorts have been at an all-time high too and last night, I thought about the first few times I made silly attempts at suicide.

Disclaimer though. I don’t mean to make fun of suicide and as someone with a fair amount of mental health concerns, I do understand the gravity of suicide, but I like to tackle most personal issues with a bit of humour and that’s what I’m doing with me and my silly suicidal attempts.

It’s not an interesting story because I’m not really as bold as I like to be. Haha. All attempts thus far have been involving an attempted overdose of pills/medication. And no, to those who know me and have seen the insides of my handbag and my ‘drug pouch’, that’s not why I carry it! If I recall correctly, I first attempted suicide at the age of 16 or 17. Or maybe it was 15. I tried to take some lousy sleeping tablets, I think around five, wrote cards and letters to those in my life explaining what they mean(t) to me the night before and went to sleep. Alas, I woke up the next morning groggy AF and immediately hid all the cards before any unwanted questions with regard to my miscalculated attempts were raised. The second time was a few years later into my early twenties and to say that I learnt something from my teenage years, was nothing short of a disappointment. I didn’t however, try the cards and letters and the Amy Winehouse ODing incident did get to me (and later in psychology taught me of the domino-effect these things have on people living even millions of kilometres away).

Now when I think of suicide, I like to think of myself as a more developed individual and know would opt for effective methods like euthanasia, obviously not in this country. I’ve realised that killing myself is a very inconvenient affair. The paperwork, fingerprints for the phone, deleting internet presence, sending out emails and letting my internet community know these things, working out a way to manage the businesses and telling the other employers, oh boy. So yes, down days, pre-menstrual days and bad hair days still get to me, but the inconvenience of it all puts things away for good.

Hope you enjoyed my little story for you and again, in no means am I trying to belittle those with depression, anxiety and mental health conditions far worse than mine.

I hope you are able to continue to be at peace with yourself and chase sunrises/sunsets, mountains and lighthouses as I have.

Until the next sunrise 🙂

#ThinkSunny

Giving Thanks – January Edition

To say that January has WHIZZED BY in a blink of an eye, is accurate. This month has also been rough. I mean, my wallet is empty, my heart is hurting and emotions are running high. To also say that it took me nearly 30 days to write a blog post though, is no surprise.

I saw this on someone’s feed and shamelessly downloaded it. But true right?

I’ve been wanting to write nearly every Tuesday (Tuesday is my designated ‘blog post’ day) but clearly, that has not been happening. True, life has gotten busier, more exhausting and more expensive – doing #adulting tasks and not even wasting it away, sigh – and napping now seems like a better alternative to sitting down to writing a blog post.

Without further ado, here are a list of things I’m grateful for this January:

  1. Writing – man there has been a lot of it. Not here, obviously, duh. But paid writing gigs, woot. Bigger writing projects than anything I have been commissioned before. If by chance it does get published, I’ll leave a link somewhere.
  2. Health – I’ve had some health concerns this month. Nothing too alarming, just expensive. Here’s to staying alive.
  3. Money – an odd thing to be grateful for but money has been very useful in paying for #2.
  4. Reflections – I’ve been doing a lot of this during January. I have begun something what I call a ‘Daily Happens Log’. It’s a bit silly-sounding but it is what it is. It’s a small journaling activity and yes, I have a reminder set for that too everyday.
  5. Loved ones – Didn’t I say that January emotions were running high? It has been and some of those closest to me, even the ones whom I haven’t been speaking to much, have been of help, silently, helping me reflect better and even heal.

January has been a month of healing.

Tell me your list of ‘gratefuls’ for this month we are so glad to close off.

#ThinkSunny

Week Thirty-Five: Giving Thanks

It’s been over a year (and more!) since I visited this side of town and I’m just going to continue from the last week because no one has time to be setting up new processes.

It has been a long time and a lot has happened, duh. But let’s not try to get too ambitious and call this a weekly practice, but a frequent practice of being thankful to what’s around me.

  1. The (newish) construction of our daily use by-road – first things first, I’m in my late 20s and I get super excited about new shortcuts and homeware purchases. Having said that, this particular road, while may not necessarily be a ‘shortcut’ in the traditional sense, does help us avoid a fuck tonne of traffic. It’s always been a really bad road and I silently (always) apologise to my tires and the misery I put it through. But recently they had reconstructed it and also added the much-needed speed breakers to avoid us getting too fast and too furious on it. But yay, for new roads!
  2. My mum and I finally went to the homeware-some-clothes-type discount store in my area. True enough we shopped quite a bit but these included some birthday presents and many 2019 Eid presents too. Woohoo.
  3. I’m thankful for mad productivity levels and the shitty days too. I’ve realised that my productivity is not consistent. I’m pretty sure that I’m not burning out and I take extra-precaution not to but somehow, Monday and Tuesday work out great and then Wednesday turns out to be an utter-fucking-flop. But still, I manage to bounce back on Thursday so all’s well.
  4. Speaking of bouncing (I love that epic transition though), I began a rebounding class! It looks a little like this. Or at least I look a little like this.
    It’s balls of fun. It’s not HIIT and in fact is a low-intensity workout that works well for me. I do these classes with Playmore and I’m quite thrilled with myself for having gone for a few classes, yay.
  5. My sister is back! I know all of you must think that I complain about Akki a lot, lol, I do. But then I realise that I do that a lot about the people closest to me. I analyse and justify my reasons for doing so as being me being able to show that I can live without anyone when in actuality I probably can’t. Haha.

Giving Thanks

I hope all of you have a good week ahead!

#ThinkSunny

Let’s Talk about Suicide in Urban Areas

It was World Suicide Prevention Day yesterday and trust me if we don’t talk about it, then, when will we?

NB – There are tonnes of disclaimers in the following text just so we don’t offend anyone you know.

I don’t mean to sound like a negative nanny by the end of it, but like most causes in life, I feel as though it’s becoming one of those where the privilege is allowed to speak of or share their opinions on. Or even become ambassador’s (for its prevention) of.

If you ask all the kids of my generation and maybe the ones before or after, they’ve all probably either contemplated suicide or even attempted at it. I mean, does writing ‘farewell notes’ before an attempt and then waking up the next morning only to realise that the attempt was not successful sounds familiar to you?

See that’s the sad thing about it. I mean I thought it was only limited to cancer, AIDS and maybe Alzheimer’s and similar things – please note that I mean neither to offend nor belittle anyone undergoing any of these conditions, in this day and age of everyone being offended with everything – where causes were overtaken by celebrities and all. See, I know the benefit of having celebrity endorsements. The cause gets more money towards research, development and those suffering from it etc.

But what about those who try to speak about it but are sidelined by the people who are more eloquent on the subject?

It’s like why we don’t talk about marital rape in urban areas.

Or when we don’t talk about rape of younger children within a family.

Because it’s shameful.

Because the voice of the supposed privileged doesn’t matter in this instance. Because like most things, many of these situations cater to the underprivileged. Like I said, not to be a negative nanny or to diss those who were not born into privilege but I realised during this conversation of suicide and suicide prevention, why can’t those who are born into privilege speak about it? And by privilege, I mean the English speaking, credit card using, yes, I have some #Wanderlust on my Instagram feed community.

While our reasoning for committing suicide are probably not the same – no our crops did not fail and no, we probably don’t have money lenders knocking on our doors. But perhaps we are lonely and in need of someone to talk to. I mean everyone around us, including our own selves, continue to hustle hard in this day and age when petrol prices increase when you go to sleep at night.

Can you not judge?

Like my friend said, can you give us something other than prayers?

We would like someone to listen.

Maybe tell us we are not mad. Or that we are a little mad and it’s okay to be mad. That they are mad too.

We would like someone to make us feel accepted. Welcomed.

You know, make us that cup of tea with a little bit of extra sugar, just so we know that you like us.

Taken off Google

Yes, we come from privilege. But that doesn’t mean we do not want to be heard.

Afghanistan at First Sight

Hello friend!

It started with being told that I had to cover my head from the airport to car park C. My arms too. I wore all black, for no particular reason but the dirt on my clothes will not be seen after a really long flight. I almost always pack a shawl, socks, cardigan and my statement pink batik wrap slash beach cloth so covering was not really big deal.

Another important point of interest was there not being too many solo female travellers. Hence, an Indian-looking / South Asia woman travelling without an accompanying male in liberal clothing too seemed rebellious, so to speak. Perhaps this might be my debut into my adult-rebellious streak. Always, always a late bloomer. Interestingly there wasn’t much segregation between males and females as I assumed there to be. I mean Indian airports have a sometimes-functioning “male-female queues”. Even the fact that I picked a corner in the bus from the airport to the plane in Dubai, and later found myself surrounded by Afghanis didn’t seem to bother them either. Besides a few odd looks that may have got them thinking about whether I was boarding the correct flight to start with, we were all good to go. I guess the choice of clothing though not robustly appropriate were not as entirely inappropriate as I would’ve feared. Thank bloody Heavens.

The First Afghanis

My first interaction with Afghanis was with the two girls sitting next to me on the plane. I took them for sisters and being in their pre-teen / teenage years. I assumed they too shared the same curiosity the men on the bus had in seeing a solo female traveller who was definitely not from the Middle East, travelling to Kabul. Having been travelling the whole day, I had a strong desire to sleep but trust me that was the last thing I was about to get. Despite the endless string of questions and my throbbing headache, I was not in a foul mood because after all, I was a long way from home and there was not much I could do about it anyway.

Perhaps one of the most striking characteristics I observed from these girls, was their lack of physical boundaries. Coming from the background I do and the sort of attributes I’ve imbibed over the past so many years, I did find it mildly invasive. Of course, none of it was done deliberately. The fact that they would ask me both peculiar and personal questions to the fact that their abaya-clad body weight would rest on the left side of my body, seemed completely normal. The first, they saw me scribbling these very notes on my notebook and ask me which language I was writing in. Of course, it’s a given anyone would ask that with my horrendous almost illegible handwriting. I then picked up the book I took with me to read, (because sleep was a dream too far away from the aircraft) and I was asked if it was the Bible. I did silently laugh, not at their ignorance but at the fact that how the red pages of the Bible may have transferred itself to the cover of my red book. Haha. I suppose had I told them of my half-Muslim roots, that may have not gone down too well. Having failed to read, I turned on my laptop to watch a film. It was the only sensible thing to do with my earphones on, as the girl next to me was watching a Hindi film on her phone without any earphones of her own. I was on The Hobbit and LOTR marathon during the time and since I didn’t have a few hours at a time, would watch the film in parts. To say that the girl next to me and her half-sister (or cousin – despite explaining the relationship, I’m not sure what their relationship was) put down everything they were doing and leaned their bodies’ weight on me as I cramped up against my little window seat, to watch the movie with me, despite not hearing anything, is absolutely not an understatement. In hindsight, I wonder had I been watching something raunchy on screen, how that would have played out!

I almost forgot. My plane row-partners opening lines were, “Have you ever had chicken pox?” and then when they went on to say about the almost chicken pox outbreak in their family and how many people were getting the infection. I’ve had an injection earlier as a result of a near chicken pox scare, but I then began thinking of the chicken pox virus circulating in the airplane and wondered whether it would be like the time I fell ridiculously ill in Nepal, almost about the same time last year.

Tranquility at First Sight

I had seen and been in the desert before, but seeing a desert and dry mountainous regions was a whole new experience. Landscapes have always fascinated me and most people and newer landscapes, I learnt that day, were even more enthralling.

The serenity that comes with seeing the Afghani landscape at an aerial view however, stops there.

The larger than life concrete dressing room screens

The roads and barricades of Kabul – I was not fortunate enough to see beyond the streets of Kabul – are anything but serene. It’s interesting to me because as a country that was once at war, there was a sense of what was familiar. Barricades, an unfamiliar stronger kind made entirely of concrete and similar to a larger than life dressing room screen, were everywhere with the forces patrolling the streets and behind vehicles at all times.

Kabul, without war looks like a beautiful place to live. Especially if you like warm, dry weather.

It’s almost surreal at times, knowing that the country is at war, yet the poet in me that died a natural some years back found its way back amidst the dry arid mountains that became a beautiful backdrop to the country that looked almost at peace, from its hilltop.

Spot the balloon if you can. All pictures have been taken inside an armoured vehicle, hence the crappy quality.

In fact, I’m assuming that the surveillance system setup by the Americans (or that’s what I was told) provided an aerial view of Kabul city. When in Kabul, don’t be alarmed by the little aircraft like balloons you see floating about. Also keep in mind that it’s not a brand promotion either.

Despite being at war, no one wants to miss the football highlights.

However, it was business as usual elsewhere in Kabul. We went out for dinner on the third night we were there. Perhaps our hosts thought that we were bored out of our mind with hotel food and my boss being vegetarian didn’t necessarily help with most of the meat-mixed meal options either. Those who were not suffering from war or perhaps because it was important to resume day to day activities (like we did before 2009 living in Colombo), it became important to indulge a bit. Or even watch the football highlights (this was FIFA season).

Afghani musicians also draw a lot from Indian classical music perhaps to cater to a majority Indian tourists?

When in Rome Kabul…

Be an Afghani? Salam to you too!

One of the things I couldn’t help but notice were the ample amount of fizzy drinks being distributed before, during and after meals. I would like to think that some even substituted water – always mineral and always by the monopoly company – with sodas!

This was at the hotel we were at and basically anyone can open the fridge and take however many they wanted. Basically, my sister’s dream.
On an average in July it seemed to be around 38*c and people still preferred carbonated water over bottled water.

Now that we done with the unhealthy bits, is this a good time to talk about nuts? I mean, we cannot not go to Afghanistan and indulge in a bit of nuts, which were, even by Sri Lankan standards, cheap!

Also in Kabul are…

If you think reckless drivers and vehicles that seem to want to leave the road the minute they enter it are among the crazies Kabul has to offer well, no wait, there is more.

Apparently kids who go to school also require extra security because you never know who could enter your classroom. Also, despite being the sarcastic person I am, please know that nothing I say here is meant to be or sound sarcastic. If it does, it’s because that’s what the real situation is with no frills.

Kabul has a not-so-new-normal.

This would also be a good opportunity to speak on child labour, which I saw quite a bit of. Or maybe it wasn’t child labour and they were kids helping out parents during a school break. Maybe they have summer holidays when it’s ruddy 38*c out there. Too many maybes and too little clarifications.

Not an uncommon sight really.

Also, what do you know about romance in Kabul or in Afghanistan? I haven’t read enough and Google seems to show me search results for matrimonial website and other marriage scammers.

* * *

I know, I know. It’s taken me a while to write this one. But hopefully it’s the start of more frequent writing, which hasn’t been happening for a long time. It’s easier to write them as letters because I genuinely do enjoy writing letters.

Until next time,

#ThinkSunny

Bullet Journaling for Noobs

Hello, children of the sun!

Let me first say that I’m mighty proud of myself for actually posting in here, BEFORE it being a month. I mean, how amazing is that? “Blogging Tuesday” was the plan, but then I like my Thursdays as well.

Today, I want to talk a bit on Bullet Journaling. If you don’t know what it is then, I highly suggest you go on Instagram or YouTube, do a random search, lower your expectations and come back to this post.

Yes, I know. I never thought I will ditch my old school planner for a bullet journal either because it’s just too much work. Old school planners are great but finding that right fit is like trying to find that perfect pair of jeans. It’s a shit tonne of work. But I haven’t given up on old-school planners, it’s been a 10+ year long relationship with. We are in transition okay.

In 2017, I was gifted a beautiful Moleskin one, but it was too bulky, too heavy and had tooooo much space. Late last year I bought a basic planner for 2018 but the finish was meh and before I knew it, the pages were coming off the little silver binding section – mind you we were still in April? Clearly, it was too late buy a new planner at this time of the year and I for one do not do branded planners. Unless of course, it’s someday from my own company.

So I watched a shit tonne of Bullet Journal videos and knew that it while it was perhaps too ambitious for me – I mean the watercolour and lettering and other potentially time-wasting activities, I was determined to give it a go. Nearly a month in – this was super co-incidental! – I can say that it’s a love-hate relationship. Maybe more love, most of the time.

So a month after, here are a few images of what things are looking like.

I’ve seen people do these “plan with me” posts, but to be honest, I don’t really use the stickers and other stationery. I mean I did start by using some chalk, pink and blue pens and a yellow highlighter. I added a pink highlighter to keep the “(work) due dates” separate from the “meetings”. But will I add more stationery besides the occasional post-it when shiz gets real?

Probably not.

I might, however, do a very basic version of what I included. Trust me, I don’t have fluff. I tried a tracker and it’s currently sitting at z-e-r-o. What wonderful progress.

#ThinkSunny

New Beginnings

It’s been a long time coming. I say this a lot, I know but this has been a long time coming. I made this “reminder” sometime back and never checked it off. In fact, a few months after it was created, I even removed the due date as I wasn’t sure if this would ever kick off.

But we are here, with a new domain. It’s still a personal domain and I can’t add plugins and all, I know, I know. But it’s a start. I’m not sure what overcame me, but I found myself using Mama’s credit card and the next thing I know I have a receipt from WordPress.

I also did another exciting change. The “Et Cetera” menu actually has a lot of the older blog posts, BECAUSE I KNOW TO MIGRATE AND SHIZ NOW. How cool is that?

I want to also write more on travel. This is something I am quite excited about.

I also want to focus on other stuff I’ve become more involved in as an “adult” including the likes of:

I hope you are as excited as I am. Many thanks to those that drove this little decision’s inspiration: my friend Ashen’s writing, Lily Pebbles’ Blog, the wonderful Anna’s Blog and my sister who sat by me as I added to my piling mountain of (maternal) debt.

Until next Tuesday, or sooner.

#ThinkSunny