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

A Letter to the Children I Would Never Have

To my dearest,

I know you think it’s silly that I am writing to you, truth be told, it is.

I haven’t written letters in a long time, let alone one that wouldn’t be open by the intended recipient. But I think it’s probably wise you know on why I have decided on taking the decisions I did. Again, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll read it but I need to get it off me, so here we are.

It might sound ironic, but I love children. Especially little ones. I like to think it’s my mental age, but I get along with them, probably because I am jealous of them being able to simply eat, poop and nap whenever they want. It’s the simple life I’m a little jelly of. But besides that, we get along. There are building blocks, Barbie dolls and unintelligible noises. How wonderful.

But no, I don’t want any of my own.

Yes, you are right my love, I am being selfish. But I have a good reason for being selfish and I want you to hear me out.

I am scared for you. I am going to be that helicopter parent even after you are married and leave me because I will be always protective of you. We might always argue because while I would make sure you are independent and go by bus and do your own thing, I might also follow you from a distance.

Why am I being a creep you ask?

Because, this world we live in is sickening. It’s so sick that neither men nor women are safe anymore. I don’t want you to grow up here in Sri Lanka. But do I want you to grow up in another country? I really don’t know.

Either way, I don’t want you to be a part of this ridiculous petty competition that is currently prevailing. By not being a part of it, I don’t want you to really be cornered or bullied. It’s bad enough that I as your Mother come with the anxiety and depression, let’s try to at least keep that away from you. God forbid there isn’t something else they’ve discovered by then.

I know you will grow up in a safe and liberal environment. If you tell me when you are old enough that your sexual orientation differs to what our “culture” defines as “normal”, my love, you will still be my baby and so will your partner. If you tell your (now) Agnostic Mother that you want to embrace an established (or new) religion, I am fine with that as well. Let’s hope that you don’t incline towards Scientology or Paganism. We might have a few problems there.

But in reality, there is only so much that I can do to protect you. Despite being a creep, I would still grant you your independence and I know you wouldn’t exploit it. But I cannot be there always. What would happen when I look away? Or when I am not there anymore? Will those around you protect you and have equally accommodating liberal ideologies? Will they let you be who you are? If you say that  you don’t want to study and invest in some crazy start up, would they be supportive? Who would be supportive? Would the minority conservative and fundamentalist society we have now grow to be something larger than it already is? I may have watched too many episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and that’s what’s probably scaring me, but I had made up my mind before that.

I can’t have you in this country, let alone in this world because the world is not a good place. It is not a kind place. While there are people like Ellen who preaches kindness, not everyone really practices it. Not everyone shows the other person the respect they deserve.

I love little girls and would be thrilled if you a girl but then it scares me really. Would you as a little girl, grow up to face the same challenges and difficulties I did of sexual, physical and emotional abuse for the very reason that you are a woman?

This makes me think that boys have it easier. But not really I guess. Even if I were to raise you to be a man who stands up for good causes, would you be able to successfully make it out there without the support of your peers? Worse, how would you be able to deal with peer pressure and no, I don’t mean the drugs and the alcohol.

There’s so much more that I want to tell you and make you understand on why it’s simply a bad idea to have you here.

It’s my only hope that you would someday understand.

Love,

Me.

27 Ways to Make 2018 Great

To Bhagya – who reflects along with me, even from a distance.

One of the most beautiful sunrises I have been fortunate enough to have woken up to. Orissa, India – December 2017

This was supposed to come in as a birthday post but that didn’t happen. New Year’s resolutions aren’t really my thing but most of 2017 has been spent a lot with a good deal of self reflection that has obviously resulted in the following. Here’s how I intend to make 2018 the Year of “Now”.

1. Be grateful

It’s not as though I was not grateful for 2017, but it’s fair to say that gratitude din’t come easy. I’ll hopefully be giving thanks once a day, I don’t know. I usually have a problem with…

2. Be(ing) ambitious. 

It’s funny why this is a problem because I consider myself to be mildly narcissistic anyway, haha. But it doesn’t hurt to think a little more, dream a little bigger and know that if I aim for the stars that I will land somewhere on a coconut tree.

3. Take time off

I’ve been doing a lot of this already in 2017 be it when driving alone, eating alone or not doing anything significant. Hopefully there will be more of this in the year ahead.

4. Spend time with family

I would like to nail it down to age but family has become an integral part of my being. I can’t imagine life without family. While part of me lives in my fragmented memories of India a greater part of me is able to find roots here thanks to the time I’ve spent with my family. Here’s to being rooted for longer.

5. Spend time alone

I heal best when alone. There’s no harm in having a little extra healing as backup either.

6. Travel Sri Lanka more

Despite the shit state the country is in, I have love for this island. Work has been fortunate enough to take me around and here’s to seeing more of it.

7. Travel India more

2017 was glorious. Work once again took me to India a few times and Nepal, once. These travels have helped me find home in places I think I find myself.

8. Be at peace with myself

It’s still a work in progress.

9. Embrace myself

Because self-criticism comes easier. Here’s hoping that 2018 will not be rough.

10. Take each day as it comes

Because life is so fickle and we never know what the future has in store for us.

11. Save more

To help yourself, to help others and to see the world.

12. Take care of more people

Because altruism saves the world that helps save yourself.

13. Take care of myself

I’ve been falling sick more than I would have liked to. The last quarter of 2017 was rough. I’ve made friends with more hospital staff than I would’ve liked to. Here’s to healing and looking after my old soul.

14. Write more
To heal and to reflect. I’ve not been doing this as much as I should’ve. Hopefully giving thanks every night should set things right.

15. Connect more with colleagues

I like to compartmentalise my relationships. Never let one see what the side another would. Colleagues would always remain at work and friends at the bar. But 2017 has taught me that blurring the lines between the two can bring about changes, good changes. Here’s to opening up and making friends out of colleagues.

16. Appreciate nature

By being one with nature. Not seeing the world through a screen in 2017 has helped me be more in awe with everything around us, like sunrises.

17. Look forward to things

Yes, the very things I put down in my planner.

18. Compliment more

Especially women. I am unsure how men feel about complimenting each other but women feel great when other women compliment them and what better way than to uplift spirits of your sisters?

19. Say NO

To things I don’t want to do. The world has evolved, I’ve matured and I can say no when I want to.

20. Write more letters

Because letters heal. It heals those who write letters and it heals those who read them.

21. Try harder

Without giving up easily. While I do believe that good things take time, I can also be impatient in seeing results. Here’s to trying harder and not giving up easily.

22. Believe

In myself, in something.

23. Forgive myself

If not it would be difficult to believe in myself.

24. Heal

Because if have not healed, I will not be able to take care of myself. 

25. Breathe deeply more often

Use the app or just practice it in traffic while driving. Breathing calms me down and brings clarity when things are blurry.

26. Meditate

A little bit everyday. Yes, I fail. Drift off to sleep. Deviate. Think of things I have to do tomorrow but it doesn’t matter.

27. Reflect

At the end of the year to see how far I’ve come. There’s no turning back now.

Picture – Sunrise at around 0614h in Puri, Orissa.