Month: December 2015

A Christmas… Post!

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I am a little late to the party. I wanted to write something the day of Christmas but I woke up that morning feeling sick as a dog. I spent the day in bed, sleeping from the soporific effect of medication, or not sleeping but still barely lucid. I’d like to point out that I did have my Santa hat on the whole day and not just for that picture, and my Christmas PJ’s 🎅. Anyway, I have never spent a Christmas home alone, ailing. My parents went to church with their friends and enjoyed a dinner together, my sister attended a midnight mass with her husband and their friends following a Christmas Eve dinner, and I watched A Christmas Story on endless loop sipping on copious amounts of hot beverages! A Christmas Story is, however, my favorite Christmas movie; A Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas story. Hence this is ‘A Christmas‘ post 🙂

We, my family, are Jain by birth (Jainism is similar to Buddhism in many ways, the most prominant being non-belief in a singular God. See here for side-by-side comparison (online source, not verified). For detailed information about Jainism, here is a Wikipedia link), Hindu by common association but secular in practice. Growing up, I remember visiting my Muslim friends for Eid and partaking in their celebration. My sister and I attended Catholic schools from the age of 3 until 18. Since it is a minority group in India, it is not mandatory to be Catholic to attend a Catholic school. So ever since I can remember I have celebrated Christmas along with the plethora of other holidays celebrated in India!

Having been exposed to so many cultures growing up, and always encouraged to learn more about others and be accepting of everyone, I find it very unsettling when I hear all the recent talk of ‘Islamophobia’. How is it justified to ostracize an entire community for the actions of some? Each organized religion has its fair share of radicals who commit heinous acts against humanity in the name of religion. History is littered with horror stories of mass murders, purges, persecutions, crusades, forced conversions, and so on. The takeaway from all this is not that crimes were committed but that they were eventually put to an end. What is needed is not to blindly banish an entire group but eradicate those who purportedly act in the name of religion. Easier said than done I know, but when someone influential gets up on a stage and makes ridiculous speeches, it creates the potential for catastrophic consequences. Zealots, in any religion, are people to be wary of. Pit one against another and you have a recipe for disaster.

The principal reason I do not follow any particular religion is because I don’t like labels. We have more than enough forms of discrimination in the world, some of which are natural- a person can’t choose their gender, or the color of their skin, or the country they are born in. Religion, to me, is a man-made way of segregating between people who might otherwise be exactly similar. A Jain girl from India will look the same as a Muslim girl from India, or a Christian girl from India. Why can’t we all then just be Indian girls? Why must we device a way to separate ourselves instead of seeking that what unites us?

I am also one of those people who, from time to time, are guilty of dismissing religion as a source of strength for the weak-minded. When all efforts fail, one might be able to find solace in knowing that as long as they pray sincerely, someone out there will take care of them. I have no authority to judge how someone else draws strength during difficulties. All that matters is that they are able to draw that strength. But speaking only for myself, I am not one of those people. I have gone through a considerable amount of adversities recently- immigration, legal, financial- my whole existence stood on the brink of destruction. And I was weak to the point where I thought dying was easier than living. But I found strength, in Milo. Perhaps he should be my god. The most ardent believer would argue that God put him there, or even that God Himself came to my rescue through him. Perhaps, but I believe in proof, and I’m open to be proven wrong.

Another reason I don’t fully appreciate the idea of organized religion is because, well, it’s organized! One’s faith should be ones own. No one else needs to tell me how or who to pray to, and where, and when. All that matters to me is to know that I’ve led a good life founded in love and respect for others and myself, that I haven’t hurt anyone intentionally, that I’ve apologized for my mistakes, and that I always stood for what’s right. We all know these basics even if no one else tells us. And isn’t that the ultimate goal of every religion anyway? Said one way or another, all gods want their children to be good so they can be together in afterlife. An organized religion then seems to incentivize being good. But why should being good require an incentive? Isn’t the joy that comes from helping someone in need enough to encourage people to be good Samaritans? I have seen people donate unimaginable sums of money to a temple but not give a homeless child a square meal- their religion is still guaranteeing them a seat in heaven. So who is this religion benefitting here, in this life?

I don’t want you think that I’m bashing any religion or anyone’s faith, and I sincerely apologize if this post comes across as offensive. I’m merely saying that we need to find common grounds. We all want peace, we all want to be able to live life the way we want. If someone decided that we’re going to take all the religions of the world and combine them into one and call it Humanity, I’d be the first to sign up! Let us try to find God within ourselves and not somewhere outside. Let us find common messages. I celebrate Diwali with just as much enthusiasm as I do Christmas. Diwali for me is a day to remember that good triumphs over evil and to renew my commitment to being good. Christmas reminds me that we must love and respect everyone, be thankful for what we have, and if possible share it with those less fortunate. A friend of mine invited me to a late Christmas lunch her family was having on the 27th. I am elated and eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a day surrounded by love and blissful cheer!

On that note, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, and my best wishes for the New Year! The next time I get some time to write will probably be after the big move!!

P

 

 

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Best view in life is in the rear view mirror

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A good friend once said that to me. I’m moving ahead in life but I’ll always look back at my time in Buffalo with greatest fondness, and I will do my best never to lose sight of it.

I have been trying hard to see the good in the upcoming change in my life. Each time I pack away a box, my heart sinks. Each time I take down something I had installed with great care, I cry. Although I live in a rental apartment, I treated it like it was own home. I have only lived here for 5 years. But I was planning to live here for many more, until I was ready to become a homeowner. I invested a lot of time and effort into the space to make it truly mine. Each room in my apartment has my name all over it. It looks nothing like the model you’ll see in case you were trying to rent a place in the community. The Moroccan lattice on my bathroom wall was so precisely planned that when I didn’t find the exact stencil online or in stores, I made my own. The wood-and-fabric box valance on my bedroom window required manually sawing so many pieces that it left me with a ganglion cyst on one of the fingers. Kitchen countertop, backsplash, bathroom vanity, wall colors- you name it and I’ve changed it all! I have gorgeous light fixtures everywhere that for now I’m packing away for good. I am going to wait few years before I decide to take them out and hang them, in case I have to move again!

It’s not the end of the world I know, but it’s the end of one chapter in life, and it wasn’t of my making. Moving isn’t a choice this time, it’s a necessity. It came suddenly and quickly so it might be okay to say that I’m still reeling from the shock and letting the realization settle in. And then of course there’re friends I’m leaving behind, although I’ll carry the friendship in my heart.

There’s something, or someone else that I’m leaving behind- my playboy. Honestly, are you surprised I brought up his name again?! I am proud to report that I haven’t had any contact with him since I blocked his number over a month ago. I doubt he even knows I’m moving. We have no common acquaintances. He never introduced me to his friends and my friends detest him, for obvious reasons. So I have no reason to believe that he will ever find out. And by chance if he does know, he hasn’t made any attempts to reach out to me. So he’s finally out of my life, woohoo! But that doesn’t mean he has been out of my head. At a conscious level, I push any thoughts of him to the deepest, darkest recesses of my brain from where they cannot be retrieved. But at a subconscious level, it’s not the same. I still dream about him almost every night. Sometimes when I drive by familiar places, and the radio just so happens to play Adele’s Hello, I suddenly find tears streaming down my face- gee, thanks Adele 😕. I think to myself, “should I tell him I’m leaving?”. But I’m quick to dismiss that urge and immediately start thinking about something else. Even I know that if I reach out to him it won’t be without expectations, it won’t simply be to say goodbye even if that’s what I claim outwardly. I also know that he will not meet those expectations. So why bother. Closure is makebelieve, it’s an excuse to start a conversation. Getting over him is something I have to do on my own. I am already aware that I loved the wrong guy, but that doesn’t change the fact that I loved him. So I’ll stay patient through the process but moving away from the familiar places will be an immense help. A fresh start in a brand new city suddenly sounds like a breath of fresh air!

Then there is my former place of employment. I loved my job. But just like with my playboy, things simply didn’t work out, my love alone wasn’t enough. It was a dry well that I had to away from sooner or later. A new job means new possibilities, and I’m all for it.

So all things considered, a move is not such a bad thing after all. There’s still going to be a lot of emotion until I relocate but once I’m there I’m sure I’ll find plenty of things to distract myself with initially, and to fall in love with eventually. And from time to time, I’ll keep looking into my rear view mirror and cherish the memories I’ve made here 🙂

P

Wind of change…

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Milo has been diligently helping mommy with the packing 🙂

I have left home before. When I left my parents’ home 12 years ago, all I had was a suitcase worth of stuff to my name. Few years later, I left India to move to the US; I had 2 suitcases then, 25 lbs each. Now, after having lived here for 9 years, I am getting ready leave again. This time around I have over 3700 lbs in personal belongings…

It is all material acquisition but in a way it symbolizes something deeper. When I left home to attend college all those years ago, I left all my friendships behind. It’s not that I didn’t have any friends in school, but right after graduating high school my then-boyfriend broke up with me. He didn’t have ambitions like I did and he didn’t want to hold me back. True to his word, he is still there, managing family business, married, possibly with kids too. We had a common group of friends so while he and I parted on friendly terms, I didn’t want to be reminded of him. We all went to different colleges in different cities and without the active effort on my part, I lost touch with everyone. It didn’t bother me though. Soon I had a new group of friends in college and I was busy having fun.

Two years is not a long time to form lasting bonds. Once I decided to leave India, it was tough saying goodbye but the excitement of the adventure ahead was more than plenty to drown out any sadness that I felt. There was one friend who I really cherished but his girlfriend never approved of his friendship with me so, inevitably, we lost contact too. Back then even the technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today. My sister recently moved from India but she hardly misses her friends because they are all using Whatsapp or FaceTime or some other internet-based application available right on the phone. For me it was a whole different experience moving halfway across the world. I think it was almost a week before I managed to find an affordable way to speak to my family. The only form of communication we had was via emails. Eventually, we started using Yahoo messenger, then Google, then Skype. But it took time. Now I FaceTime with my parents at least once a week! (The term has actually become a verb, that’s how commonplace it is!)

Being so far away from home, I learned to depend on friends in a way I had never done before. It wasn’t just about having fun. We took care of each other. Friends soon held the same significance in my life as family. For first five years after my arrival here I never visited India. There was never enough money. By the time I graduated from school, paid off my student loan- whatever little bit of it I had thanks to my parents covering almost entire cost of school- and saved up enough money to buy a round trip flight ticket and gifts for everyone, five long years had lapsed. And finally when I was there I kept longing to come back to Buffalo. For the first time in my life, I was homesick!

What makes Buffalo special for me is in a way same as that for someone who was born here- this is where I ‘grew up’, this is where my friends are. Living on one’s own forces one to grow up in a way no number of years can match. Compared to now, I was a child when I moved here. And friends have been a fundamental part of this growth. For last nine years I’ve celebrated every single holiday with friends. So this time when I leave home, I will carry these friendships with me. I will make sure never to lose contact. They are the ‘3700 lbs’ of love that I have accumulated over the years and that I’m taking along.

I always believed that everything happens for a reason. I am not sure if that banal statement bears the same weight with me anymore. If I had the choice, I wouldn’t do it this way. I wouldn’t leave home once more and try to settle in some new place. I wouldn’t leave friends behind and try to make new friends elsewhere. So I am no longer certain about the verity of “everything happens for a reason“. What I do believe in, however, is the resilience of human spirit. We take that what life gives us and make the most of it- lemons/lemonade. I am a hard working, smart person. I could have a successful career anywhere, a job doesn’t justify the need to move. But that is what I have been given and I look to the future with optimism. For the first time, I’m not 100% sold on the change. It may be that I am getting old and obstinate. Or may be that I did actually find everything that I was looking for but have been dealt a bad hand and must continue playing anyway. Time will be the judge of that. Right now the wind of change is blowing west, to Kalamazoo, MI!

Breaking the silence, “I’m alright”

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In response to Daily Prompt “Take Care” https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/take-care/

That’s Mirror Lake at the Japanese Garden here in Buffalo. I go to the Garden to relax and reflect, to meditate and be one with myself. The last time I was there was over a month ago which is when I took this picture. Winter is here, and granted that there have been more mild days than usual, it’s still enough to put a damper on spending extended time outdoors. Soon the scenery will change too- no more green grass or flowing water. All will be blanketed with snow and ice. So a picture seemed like a good way to inspire an imaginary escape to my favorite spot to find some peace and quiet on days when I couldn’t be there physically. I’ve been working on this post in my head for weeks now, never knowing just how to articulate the emotions I underwent during my time away. Reading today’s topic for Daily Post and staring at this picture now, I think I’m finally ready to speak out.

Life hasn’t been easy over the last several weeks.  I never thought I would one day find myself unemployed. With each passing day and with each new bill, I saw myself inching closer to the possibility of going broke. I was offered jobs but none that I could take due to immigration restrictions. I was trying to make things work, but the day after Thanksgiving all my efforts ran into a dead end, all at once. I always considered myself an optimist but it was impossible to hold on to hope that day. I wanted my life to end before it got any worse.

Sitting alone in a dark room that evening I started to find a morbid solace in the idea of death. For a fleeting instant I thought I could do it- take my own life. Then I saw Milo staring at me with his big eyes, like he was saying “I love you”. I remembered what a scaredy cat he was when I rescued him. He had been surrender by his former family. It took him a long time to regain his confidence, and finally feel secure and at home with me. Now he is a playful cuddlebug who is constantly purring. When I brought Izzie and Milo home, I made a promise that I would never abandon them; that I would love them unconditionally and look after them come what may. It suddenly occurred to me how selfish the idea of death was. How could I abandon my babies? How could I take their home away? I spent the next hour lying on the floor, wailing, begging for strength to face life and honor my promises. I remembered the closing paragraph from Robert Frost’s Stopping by woods on a snowy evening (source: PoetryFoundation.org)

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep”

So while I may have rescued my cats, they are the ones to save my life…

I have friends I could have reached out to that evening, or called my family. But the one thing I’ve realized is that in that dark moment when a person succumbs to believing that the pain of living is far worse than pain of dying what one really needs is a reminder that life is worth living, even in its darkest hour. The journey to rediscovering the joy of living is something one must embark on alone. People can only talk you out of a decision momentarily. No words, no matter how sincerely said, can make a difference if the heart isn’t at peace.

In a way I was unwell that evening, and I did need help. But I have always hesitated asking for help, especially from those I truly love and care about. Perhaps it is unfair to them that I shut them out when they really want to be there for me, but it’s something I have never been able to do. It could very well be some form of pride- I don’t want people to see me in my weakest, most unattractive moments- I want to be seen, and remembered, as someone always full of life. Or it is my way of protecting people from harm. I could not bear to see them worried on my account. I will let the jury call a verdict on that but the simple answer to today’s question is that I suffer alone and I don’t ask for help. I find inspiration, faith, courage, or whatever else the situation demands in my own way and, almost always in my own heart.

P

 

PS: Things are finally beginning to look up again. I have a job offer that should check all the boxes for immigration. Although it also means it’s time to sever the umbilical that joins me to Buffalo, I’m excited about the brand new possibilities in a brand new year! Buffalo is where my heart is, maybe I’ll find a way back eventually, but for now an adventure is beckoning me and I’m answering the call in highest of spirits 🙂 It also means I will have a lot to share and write about!