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

28 Ways to Make 2019 Great

One of my best memories this year was my sister getting married. Photo credits to Affinity & Beyond.

I’ve been writing this post since the start of December. Since December 02nd I’ve been drafting the first bits in my mind and on the 04th I took it to paper/screen. Every blog post that I take 800 days to churn now becomes a work in progress. It no longer is an affair of sitting down and writing a post at a time. It takes a few days to construct. I don’t know if this means that the writing has become more difficult. Or if the writing is getting better and therefore needs time to build, curate and nurture. Or perhaps I’m running out of time to write all the things I have in my head.

A similar post helped put things in perspective last year, so since perspective is something I’m always looking for, this seemed like a good idea.

December has always been a bit of a difficult month for me. Besides the month being the birthday of Daddy Cool aka Jesus Christ (no offence, my Christian friends), it’s also the family birthday month. But it is also the end of the year. See thankfully I’m not one of those “it’s a new year, new me” types (for those wondering, I believe that change can happen every day). It might have been more dramatic than this. As in the words of Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, “there is room for only one hysterical queen” and clearly that queen is not me!

But December is difficult. It is the end of the year and since some of are rounding off accounts and some countries present budgets for the incoming financial year (some, except ours) you cannot help but do one of those quick evaluations of yourself. The last quarter of the year always makes me wonder what I had achieved during the year, if I had done anything productive if not substantive or if my existence was simply a replica/continuation of what was written in last year’s blog post.

But amidst these questions and in trying to keep with one of the very few traditions I attempt at abiding by, here are 28 takeaways (in no particular order) from 2018 and hopefully ones that help make 2019 better than it should be.

  1. I learnt how to deal with grief. I realised through videos, talking to others who’ve dealt with grief and generic readings on the Internet on the importance of not letting grief manifest within me but to instead embody it and allow it to be with you as you move on in life. Because for me, I’ve learnt (even in my 2017 post) that I not only heal best alone but I cannot truly let go or forget of all things. Instead, it’s best that I don’t fight and attempt (and fail at forgetting it) and take it along with me and maybe even plonk it in my handbag.
  2. I learnt to let go of some things (not grief necessarily), having realised that regretting and pondering on things you couldn’t do at a time or you could’ve done better doesn’t really matter now. It doesn’t also make a difference for the damage or the lack of initiative has already been made. Instead of beating myself up about it, I’ve learnt to accept it for what it is. This has been a work in progress for over ten years and I think I’ve finally managed to master it. hurray me.
  3. Speaking of regret, I enhanced (haha!) my insight on regret and learnt how I best I could work towards keeping it away from me or allowing myself anywhere near it. It’s usually best kept all the way in the back of the bus.
  4. While putting people and memories away, I also renewed relationships this year. Some I have pushed away from my life, to the back of the bus while others have taken the front seat. I’ve become aware of the importance of shifting priorities so that it becomes the best fit for my mental and physical wellbeing.
  5. Continuing my bus story, I have grown to accept that those sulking at me from the back of my bus do not matter to me and neither do their opinions. In fact, I couldn’t care less. I not only realised that I already have too many problems in my life to deal with (as we all do) and too much self-doubt to overcome, that I couldn’t care less about someone else’s negativity or opinion of me. Their baggage of me is not my baggage and therefore, it does not belong in my conveyor belt (I hope all my travel symbols are foresight into amazing adventures in 2019 haha!).
  6. I realised that you can pick up hobbies as an adult. Or at least new interests.
  7. I learnt that fitness and wellness don’t come to you easy. Only fat and calories that won’t leave you will allow themselves to be easily absorbed like the negative people in your life. It’s your decision on how you choose to control them.
  8. Speaking of which, I learnt that being fit and well is a choice. If you really want to be your healthiest self, you can do it so as long as you put your mind to it.
  9. Such as cooking! I enjoyed cooking more than I did last year and have some serious gains with speed.
  10. I learnt that sharing knowledge will only bring you more knowledge. Or let you absorb and learn new things.
  11. I also learnt to set financial goals and become more aware of spending and saving habits. I realised that having such goals will also help with aspirations to look forward to in life, such as travel.
  12. While becoming more aware of money, I also learnt that money is a good motivator to get things done.
  13. Important family became closer to me while I put the remainder of them to the back of the bus.
  14. I realised that I can not only write wedding speeches on behalf of the groom but my writing skills have also expanded to writing eulogies.
  15. In 2018, I learnt that it was important to run behind what you wanted. No good comes to those who wait around for it.
  16. I’ve also learnt in 2018 to enjoy solitude, peace, the quiet and my awesome company.
  17. I also learnt something which I call “positive guilt”. To continuously articulate something so much so that you finally end up doing it. It worked for me with travel and to some extent with my savings.
  18. I also found out that (some) women and small groups of people will always motivate one another and have each other’s best interests.
  19. I also learnt that competition is not bad. Not only are you expected to work better, harder and smarter but there is more often than not enough to go around (and share even with your competition).
  20. I learnt that kindness towards others will never get you in trouble. Even if it does at that moment, your kindness will reflect back when you perhaps least expect it.
  21. I learnt that you can be more useful than you think you might be.
  22. I embraced the joy of trying to sleep before midnight and waking up with the sun rising.
  23. With this new morning routine, I also began to appreciate sunrises better.
  24. Speaking of the sun, I was fortunate enough to see multiple sunsets from different parts of the world.
  25. Speaking of travel, I learnt so much from travelling while on work and for fun (mostly on my own) and I also realised that travelling doesn’t have to always involve a visa stamp.
  26. In 2018, I reaffirmed (to myself) that happiness is a non-permanent state of being. I also if you are unhappy and find yourself in the pits, to always remember that there is nowhere to go but up.
  27. Speaking of happiness, the year also taught me to not miss things. I learnt that if you never had something you not only never knew what it would have felt like but you also wouldn’t miss anyway.
  28. Finally, I learnt that regardless of what happens, the show must and will always continue to go on.

#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

My Father

My (biological) Father died on the thirteenth of September. I don’t speak of my Father much as he wasn’t really a part of my life growing up. The night I was told of his passing, the fourteenth, I tried to recall the few things I remember about him. I was at the vet with my friend and his dog, Sasha. I tried with the greatest difficulty to remember his favourite colour. I settled on purple. A dark purple. I don’t, however, know if this was also because purple was my favourite colour growing up as I was convinced it to be the favourite colour of our then President, of whom I was a big fan of. I vividly recall throwing tantrums that resulted in us travelling in purple tuk-tuks. Or maybe it was just once. It’s not as though we used as many tuk-tuks in the early nineties. Times were better and we had our driver, Nishantha, to chauffeur us around.

I try the same night to think of other things I knew of my father. Any memories or anything significant. His handwriting, yes. That was quite significant. He could draw too. He was the one who would help out with homework whenever there was any drawing involved. My Mother could draw too yes.

He also once helped me build a “village” on a cake tray. It was for environmental studies. Or science. We used some toothpicks for houses and moss from near the well for the paddy fields. We brought it carefully in a tuk-tuk. It was the late nineties. Times were not that good then. We didn’t have the driver let alone a car. He helped me bring it up to my classroom that was at the end of the rickety staircase.

It’s the sixteenth now. It’s raining after long-weeks of drought-like weather. As children, we are told that it rains when the Gods up in the clouds start to cry.

***

See one of the problems of being the joke or the comedian in the family is that no matter what, comedians are never sad. I’ve wanted to be a clown during my younger days, back during a time before clowns were considered a Halloween costume. I didn’t mind being the butt end of the joke or doing a badly-choreographed chicken dance because my motive was to make people happy. I loved to see people laugh.

As an adult, I suffered (and still continue to suffer) from anxiety, depression and began to grow into myself. I socialised less and I enjoyed being with myself more. But when I was out, be it with family or with friends, I was on a mission to make them laugh.

But despite my anxiety outbreaks and ugly depression cries, it became increasingly difficult for me to become sad. I couldn’t express sadness in public. It wasn’t a matter of pride or lack of emotion, but when I was sad, I became stone cold. I needed to deal with the more difficult emotions, like sadness, by myself. I appreciated everyone being around me but I could not let them see me at my most vulnerable and I don’t have a clear answer as to why I felt so.

Which is why even now, I choose to be alone.

***

It’s the seventeenth today and the Gods are not crying tonight.

***

Not many knew of my Father’s passing. How do you tell someone that there is a death in the family? Do you call someone up with some “news”? Do you update your Facebook status or add an Instagram story? You tell someone that you have news to tell them and they immediately think of marriage, new jobs, promotions, migrating or babies in no particular order. Then you become that awful wet blanket and harbinger of bad news because you have to let them know that no, it was a death in a family and feel sorry about not having any good news.

Then comes the series of questions including but not limited to: why didn’t you tell me; I could’ve been there; why do you always go to everything alone – this is amidst our protests too of the complications that were already in place, only to be blocked out again with more – couldn’t you have told us when he was sick; we would’ve gone to the hospital (even though we jolly well know that your life is busy as it is and we don’t really expect you to go anyway) and amidst all this, no one really asks you, “How are you holding up?”

No one really bothers to think that they might be adding more grief to the situation by weighing you down with the questions and accusations as opposed to merely passing their condolences. But no, in true Sri Lankan style, it’s important to go above and beyond expectations and choose not to do anything about it.

***

One of the greatest joys of being a writer or as someone who can write something (because my first boss and Editor told me that just like not all who blogs become bloggers, not all who write become writers!), is that I get to write stories. It’s not always things I like but you can spin it into a little something fantastical I suppose.

But among the joys of writing are also the awkward times. Like today, when I wrote my Father’s obituary. I had written obituaries before yes, but it wasn’t really for family-family if you know what I mean. It got a bit more awkward when we were struggling to find the right words to say. We didn’t know much about him for the past so many years. We didn’t know where he lived. It was over ten years since what had happened. I was hesitant to say “daughters” or even mention our names. Because what good is it being family if we are only around to write obituaries? But again, that too was a choice we chose to make and like most decisions in my life, if I could justify them then and I can justify them now, it stays as it is. Regret never got anyone anywhere.

***

It’s also the second day since we told a few people of the passing. The questions haven’t stopped. The accusations have in fact become even worse. There is a lot of scolding happening.

There are many questions with regard to us “neglecting” him.

Then there are those who have very strong negative emotions, that is not sadness, but anger, extreme anger, directed towards us for not telling them of the funeral. To which, my only question is, “You didn’t care to ask how he was when he was living. Why do you care now that he has died?”

Why though?

Is it because people believe that merit will follow if they help lower a man to the ground that in turn will magically wash their wrongs away? A burial my friend, is not the Ganges.

***

I haven’t been able to God during this time either. I’ve tried, secretly. I know my sister has. I find it a little difficult though. Which is why I have taken to writing. For me, writing always healed. Writing always provided answers. Writing, above all, listens without judgement or question.

***

It’s Wednesday the nineteenth. I told a few of my friends what happened and just like what our friends have been for the past so many years, they tried to reach out, called, tried to come over and invade my space (and I mean this in the nicest possible way) just to make sure we were doing okay.

I don’t know how it works in your family really, but for us, it’s always been friends > family. We’ve had friends who gave us money when times were tough, another group of friends who would lend my Mother saris for weddings (and ironically even her own wedding), other friends who would house me as a sixteen-year-old when my Mother had to travel on her NGO work – because it was too inconvenient for those related -, also friends and outsiders who helped us through school and classes, a kind landlady who wouldn’t push for the rent on a particular day, it’s always been, friends and kind strangers.

Yes, for those reading it this might cause controversy and perhaps no one might speak to me again but this exercise had to be done and it’s sad that it had to be done on a topic as such. Please note that I write all of this with no malice in my little heart, or head, whichever that actually exists. I understand that your lives are busy. You have your own families, responsibilities, jobs and I really do understand where you are coming from.

But will you be able to understand us when we decide to go ahead with the decisions we have made?

If you don’t understand, can you at least choose to be kind to us during this time? Only this time, you can go back to being unkind after this time is behind us.

So, I’m sorry we didn’t tell you. But we had our reasons and I only hope you can respect that.

***

It’s been a slow week. My work has been progressing slower than I thought and I’ve really just been tired from driving, deciding on the correct words for an obituary notice and trying to block off negativity from others. But the slow week has taught me a few things and I would like to share them with you (if you’ve managed to read this far on!):

  • Be kind to people

Really, please do. You never know what they are going through. They maybe didn’t deliver that important document on the day it was due probably because their car broke down or their child slipped on the kitchen floor or they were probably hungover. Just be kind to others. If you are kind, nice and they think they can trust you, they might tell you the truth while it was happening and you wouldn’t be as disappointed on the day the important document was delivered.

I tried to do the same with a place I volunteer at. Of course, kindness wasn’t always received so I hadn’t been able to establish that foundation of trust, so I lied. Because honestly, I cannot volunteer with all my heart when there is very little left of it now.

  • Have your own squad, or just start creating one

Have a circle of people you trust. It can be family or friends or both. Just have them in your inner circle. Your ride or die. Those who will offer to drive you around or even do your laundry because of what you are going through.

Even though I’m adamant about being by myself during this time, I’m honestly grateful for knowing that I have a circle of my own.

  • Social media doesn’t tell you the truth 

I don’t know about you, but social media for me is not my diary. I do vent on occasion on the rising cost of living that doesn’t allow me to add two whole onions in my curry but things and people that are personal will always remain that way.

I enjoy keeping up with not the Kardashians but a facade that helps me be who I want to be online, a mysterious, silly person who can’t really define what she does for a living and my real self; an anxiety-ridden, die-hard not funny, wannabe writer of sorts.

Don’t honestly believe everything you see because it can always be curated, filtered and fit into the best frame to suit your online self.

  • Be present (in the now) 

I don’t mean this in the yogi sense of it really but nothing in life is as permanent as death. Yes, I know what you are thinking. One death in the family and here we have an expert on it. Funny, but true. I’ve had a lot of time to look into things this past week. I’ve given myself time to heal through writing and while the writing will stop the healing will continue over time. I’ve tried over the years to master the art of not regretting and I think I’m doing an okay job at it.

Your time is now. Do what you have to do now. If you don’t, try not to mull about it when it’s over. No, I don’t mean to quit your job and take that dream vacation. But do the little things. Spend time with yourself (not just masturbating). Take care of yourself and others. Save a bit for tomorrow without going all out today but for what’s worth it, YOLO.

***

The Eulogy

It’s been one week since my Father’s passing. It’s been a week with different and at times, difficult feelings. It will also probably be the last day I write about him and I thought let’s make today a eulogy of sorts. I’ve also run out of white and light coloured clothing. I don’t think I know him enough to write one and truth be told no religion in my family has this practice of eulogies, but a quote by journalist Mitch Albom (which was listed on my little doc of quotes) said, “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say”. 

Like I said, I don’t think I’m the best person to write this but since writing for me equals to healing, here we are. It’s still Tuesday when I began writing for the last day. It’s as though I knew of the impending gloom. Part of me always likes to prepare for what’s ahead. It’s probably the same part of me that reacts the way I do to surprises. I think my need to have flawless organisation skills comes from both my parents.

In the first house we moved to in Battaramulla, we had an “Apple” drawer. It was an Apple sticker – the rainbow coloured one before they embraced minimalism with the rest of the world and at a time the world was less accepting of the LGBTIQ community – in the corner most drawer of our kitchen cabinet. Back in the nineties, kitchen cabinets were all the rage. The Apple drawer contained screwdrivers, a hammer, nails etc neatly arranged in little lunch boxes. I still find segregating in lunch boxes to be a swell idea. Of course, Muji boxes and assortment trays are glorious as fuck, but I don’t like spending money on things I don’t need.

During the same time of the Apple drawer, I remember finding money – five rupee coins – in the middle drawer nearly every day one particular week. I used to be a fan of collecting coins in a little till since I was young. The middle drawer contained the rolling pin and lunch sheets. Yes, lunch sheets. The non-biodegradable ones because plastic pollution and usage were not as high. The coin was in the corner of the drawer and I – think I was about seven or eight at about the time – was amazed to have found a little coin there. Five rupees got me a Tintin chocolate from our school canteen in the nineties. Or even a patty from Prema, our primary school patties-Aunty. I was surprised at my luck and like a mouse that took to Pavlov’s experiment, went again the following evening only to find another coin! This went on for, you guessed it, not too long and the fourth day when I was about to take the coin I heard my Father laugh and say that he kept wondering what happened to the coins he kept in the drawer. Had I been smarter in the nineties, I may have told him that the mice took it away.

My love for computers and technology came from my Father too. He was a software engineer during the time I popped out and we had an Apple computer in the house! Or maybe it was just the sticker on the drawer. But I’m quite convinced there was a computer too when I was about four. I used to find myself fascinated over the Oracle books I never understood as a child, which I later used as weights to keep my notes from flying away when studying for my o/levels.

He wasn’t around consistently in the house till my o/levels though. By then it was the height of madness in our little-rented house in Battaramulla. But then, I do remember quite an embarrassing story about a few years before that. The premise isn’t as funny or embarrassing as it should’ve ideally been though. There was an argument at home. I don’t recall what it was about (it was the same house as the Apple drawer) but I was standing by our four-seater dining table and facing my Father whose back was to a glass cabinet (the nineties and their cabinets I’m telling you). I remember him yelling at my Mother and my Sister, the latter of whom is the more feisty one among all of us and being the superhero I was, I wanted to save them all. I didn’t have my cape but I managed to get my four-foot something frame in between my parents and pointed my hand at my Father and began an entire series of yells and screams. Halfway down the yells and screams, I realised I wasn’t speaking as fast as my brain could process what was happening and I stopped speaking. I didn’t stammer, which was surprising as it was a common trait even as a child, but instead, I laughed. I burst out laughing because I realised that my small body was in an attack position, hand pointed outright and the heroine had forgotten her speech! What could get more hilarious than that? It may have worked though because I remember him laughing as well. I suppose I assumed my role changed that day from superhero to Royal Clown.

My memories of him are vague and hazy. I last saw him when I was still in school and we all know that was a long time ago. I Googled on how to write a Eulogy and there were pointers on what I could include but clearly, there are not as many facts or memories I could recall. As an adult though, I look back at all memories, as fond ones. Even the unpleasant ones don’t seem as bad as they did now. That for me really comes with acceptance. But one thing I did correctly with the prescribed-eulogy format is that I stuck by the supposed word count! Woohoo.

Here’s hoping I did justice to my Father who is no more. I hope you are in a better place now with more happiness, less suffering and maybe a shot or two of arrack in a coffee mug.

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