The fallen leaf

A mundane cold october morning, nothing in the diary apart from a loose plan to drop by the senior citizens group that I developed 2 years ago. Respecting my lie-in-day privileges, I woke up after 8. Succumbing to my sluggishness, I decided to skip the group and indulge in a Friends and duvet day instead. Albeit Friends is still Friends when you watch it back-to-back for the 50th time, you still need a ‘break’ (if you get it, you get it) so I watched ‘Same kind of different as me’ – I laughed, cried, reflected, planned. Thoughts crowded my head, so I decided to get away from my habitat, go for a drive, taking ‘Becoming Michelle Obama(cause you know, I love it) the Primal Wound (cause I have to), Cecilia Ahern (just incase), my journal and grateful journal and a pen with me.

Largs. A drive through the mountains which eventually opens up the view of the sea on the left hand side, rocky mountains on the right hand and the blue velvety hills up ahead.

My eyes and brain were going crazy- so many breathtaking things to register. Blue and pink sky, hills, sea, seals, ferry boats (even though mind did wonder about the possible impact this causes the sea, welcome to my environmental conscious brain!). But driving around looking right and left is not the way to go about in life, so the task was to find a spot. Having failed to pick a new spot, I retracted to my usual spot, parked the car and went upto sit on the bright blue bench near by with my blanket, music and books.

Braveheart song starts playing in my ears when two lil black fur babies, out of nowhere, run up to me excitedly. Although freezing cold, their playfulness, fight for my attention, and the good 20 mins chat with their owner warmed me inside. Went back into the car after they left because you know, hypothermia is real.

Didnt read, didnt write, didnt do anything else apart from sitting in the car thinking of the time when I caught sight of a little fallen leaf that was stuck on the cobwebs. A leaf that serves no purposes. But when the wind blows, it dances. It danced to the tune that was playing in my car and provided me with right entertainment during the red light.
A fallen leaf that became the dancing leaf. Huh.

The fallen leaf that became the dancing leaf for me made me smile then and it made me smile today thinking about it.

Nature, rather generous in her offering, gives us plenty to see, feel and enjoy but our eyes often fail to see them. With that thought, I decided to head back home. After about 50 yards, I see a couple in their 70s probably walking slowly on the other side of the road. Arm in arm. Nothing unusual. But then I take another look. The man has shades on, a walking stick, taking fearful smaller steps, relying heavily on his partner to be the eyes for him. To be the eyesight he lacks.

I am a Woman

I grew up in a country where palm lined beaches and backwaters along with the beautiful misty hills earned it a title ‘God’s own country’, Kerala. A place with 100% literacy where my hair colour, choice of clothing and not having children after 4 years of marriage concerns the general public much more than my basic right as an individual, as a woman. Although Kerala is much more liberal compared to other parts of India, its still a patriarchal society where women and men have different set of rules.

I spent 2 weeks in Kerala last month and I came across different types of men who stood out to me during my trip.

1. A man who is terminal, who has fear in his eyes, who had made a lot of wrong choices in his days pushing people away yet the love he has, love he had, connects all those near and dear to him.
2. A man who has no fear in his eyes, who is making a lot of wrong choices by drinking and smoking everyday and withering away bit by bit.
3. A man who followed 3 girls (2 of which under aged) back from church, in the dark, and parked his fancy bike in a dark corner and started helping himself and said obscene things.
4. A 17 year old young man (who was meant to accompany the girls on the way back from church) who ended up blaming it on the way the girls looked and behaved upon hearing the incident involving the man from point 3.
5. A 33 year old professional man who married his college girlfriend and has a child with but somehow thought it was OK to behave inappropriately towards his 15 year old cousin-in-law after having couple of drinks

Some of these men I’m related to by blood, one is a stranger who decided that he had the right to be ‘himself’ when in the dark and thus violate the rights of others (of women!), latter is someone who is married to someone dear to me. All these men have something in common. Choice. They all have a choice or had a choice. A choice to be yourself, a choice that may or may not cause (or have caused) harm to yourself, your family members or strangers. A choice I or the majority of the women don’t have.

I am a woman. A woman with rights, with skills, with desires and ambitions. Being able to walk anywhere without fearing anyone or without a male family member accompanying and not getting harassed is not my pride, my ambition or my arrogance, it is my right. My basic human right. But I’m denied that right. And when I do voice my dissatisfaction with that, I’m ‘sushed’ from left and right by own kind, the females.

After effect? Immense amount of anger built up for the innate inability to not do anything to those who misused their choice. You get affected by the incidents; angry for not having a choice to react, for not having a voice. But then out of nowhere, it occurred to me, I’m demanding a choice and a voice from others, from strangers and not from myself. I may not have the innate inability to react to others misusing their choice and my right, but I do have the choice and right to react in a way that does not give them any more power. Mulling over what had happened and being affected by someone’s perversion is still giving power to the perpetrator. The days where the woman gets sexually abused in the Indian movies and her life is distraught till a good Samaritan guy decides to ‘give her a life’ is over. Its not needed any more. Reason? She is a woman.

I am too.
I am a woman who made the choice to spend time with the man who may not have a lot of time. The reason for my visit.
I am a woman who feels angry when a man turns to alcohol or other substances and do not tap into his inner emotional strength,
I am a woman who said ‘F you you a******, go F your Fing mother’ when I caught a stranger masturbating in the dark,
I am a woman who said ‘Blame it on the way a girl walks or dresses, not the way a man behaves inappropriately’ to the 17 year old who blamed her for ‘looking nice’,
I am a woman who used careful words to the 33 year old man to let him know that he is not invincible,
I am a woman who knows a man no 6, who lets the woman be a woman, a real man. I married him.

I am also a woman who chose to focus on the above points and nothing else or no one else. I have rights. I have choices. I do not give men any power or control. I fixate on my choice, not their wrong choices. I am a woman.

Thailand and it’s tiny blue lotus flower

‘Where are we?’ Panicked me asked touching my legs.
‘We are in Thailand!’

Part of the conversation that took place in the middle of the night last night.

As it was a hot night, I slept with my shorts on but I somehow woke up in the middle of the night started touching my bare legs and panicked not knowing where I was.

I usually dissect my dreams and analyse what they mean. This was my analysis: I’ve been putting up pretty pictures of Bangkok on Instagram and people have been asking me how I found Thailand. I brushed this question off by saying ‘it’s ‘good’, ‘busy’, ‘pretty much like Kerala’ etc. But…like one of my friends reminded me yesterday..I’m deep..and nothing ever stops with ‘fine’ or ‘Good’ for me. My water runs deeper than that.

I knew what I felt about Thailand and Sterry shared the same view. But sometimes it’s easier to just not get into the ins and out of things when others ask your view. I suppose that left me feel a bit conflicted subcosciously hence the dream. So here’s my real view on Thailand:

The fruits, flowers, climate, and people all reminded me of my much loved home land Kerala. And it was a piece of heaven to come to a hot country after being in the freezing cold for 2 weeks.

There’s a lot to see, a lot to eat,a lot to buy..and..well… a lot of ‘sexpats’ too.

Thailand has gained an international reputation among travellers from all over the world as a sex tourism destination. Albeit not recognised as legal by Thai government, it has brought in an approximate revenue of 6.4 billion in 2015.

I was accustomed to this fact before entering Thailand and knew what it looked like in theory. However, after being a tourist in Thailand for few days, I got to find out the extent to where this has affected Thailand.

I’ve always supported Maslows arguement that sexual need is one of the primal and fundamental need of a human being. And I know that when you don’t have intimacy in life, it might be of a struggle. Therefore, whenever I saw a sexpat with a woman similar his age, I never looked look twice.
I also smiled and greeted all the fellow tourists when we bumped into them.

But what I forgot is that sometimes just sometimes.. this fundamental and primal need of a mankind turns us into animals with greed and without rationale. I started seeing 70 year old men holding hands and being inappropriate with girls younger than my younger sister, walking around enjoying the sights. These men were old enough to be the girls’ grandads and it left me feeling an unusual feeling in my stomach that I wasn’t able to shake off.

If that wasn’t enough, all the men I smiled at and greeted along with the others weren’t looking at me as a fellow tourist. It was lust in their eyes that interpreted my genuine friendliness/acknowledgement of their existence as an invitation…an invitation to appease their lust or lack of intimacy in life.

Consequently, my friendliness quickly turned into anger, disgust and quite frankly a stare competition. They look at me with whatever they were looking at me with and I with pure animosity.

But what I have to remember is that a coin has 2 sides and you choose which side you want to look at. We were lucky enough to stay in an area where locals with warmth and hard work resided. I’m going to try and choose that side of the coin and embrace that experience over the other.

As for the tiny blue lotus flowers I encountered, I tried putting myself into your shoes imagining how things would be if I was you which probably was why I got that dream. I really cant do much for you except hope that you will bloom into a wonderful blue lotus one day and realise that you’re beautiful now and then.

Goodbye Thailand, people of Thai and blue lotuses.

Backpacking across Asia part 1

Its been a week since we left home in UK seeking snippet views of a few handpicked countries in Asia that we have always fantasized about. Having covered 3 countries so far, living out of a backpack weighing 6.9kg or our inablity to verbally communicate were not the major challenges we encountered; the hardest challenge yet for me has been keeping up with the intensity of the experiences and the ‘moments’ each countries offer. For a person whose biggest insecurity is her memories, I find myself desperately trying to capture every corner of the places we visit through cameras and retrospectively record every feeling in my travel journal.

When planning our trip or hearing ‘this is once in a lifetime opportunity’ from family and friends when they eventually found out, I held my ground and kept my emotions in check. ‘My lack of enthusiasm’ may have confused a few but it wasn’t that I wasn’t enthused about the trip but rather my superstitious or anxious self took the better of me about not wanting to ‘jinx’ the trip (I know!) as it indeed was going to be a once-in-a-life-time trip.

When we go high and low looking for authentic places in each country, meet more kind people than unkind people on the way, indulge in delicious and sometimes unusual local delicacies; I find myself bargaining with time to give me one more second. Just one more second to soak it all in. But time is fair but unfair as some say. So I don’t get one more second. All I get is a camera to take pictures, a pen to write down the experiences and the heart to take in as much as I can.

The Japanese have a tradition that when they finish work, they go to the exit door, turn around and bow their head for a few seconds with utmost respect showing gratitude for their job. And Chinese believe that every person they meet are the ones they are destined to meet to bring something to their lives. As I enter each country, I will be on the lookout to meet kind faces that I’m destined to meet and as I exit, I will remember to bow my head in respect to say ‘thanks for this once in a life time opportunity’.

How 2018 has really been for me? A packet of bread!

You open a packet of bread, you see that hard piece of useless bread.. you are not a fan of it but you consume it anyway so you can get to the soft, smooth and normal pieces of bread.

So doing Newyears Resolution was something me and my sisters engaged in for years when growing up. Always hated it- never really worked for me, but did it anyway as a ritual with sisters because you know FOMO. However, this year, I couldnt wait to indulge in NYR and wrote down about 15 NYR and ticked off about 13 (ticked off 2 from my bucket list too! Yus!!!).

As a result, 2018 has been THE best year for me. I have lived and loved so much of it to the fullest extent. A year where I really pushed myself, started new things and counted my blessings with all my heart every day.

(Disclaimer on the bread packet):
The implulsive personality trait in me start things on a wimp and the passionate side of me then pursues it with blood and tears. Plus side of this: go-getter, downside: wouldnt know the stop button. Sterry who knows this about me set out a condition before I started my year, ‘do everything you want to do but the minute you get yourself burnt out and repeat the previous years, that would be the end of all the projects’. I happily signed the agreement by spitting and shaking thinking theres no way im gonna get burnt out this year, my time was spread out evenly and I’m doing everything I want to do.

The hard piece of bread vs smoother pieces:
So in the beginning of the year, I started my new job, my volunteering/social enterprise projects, fundraising projects and taking on more photography projects. It wasnt easy but in time, I was enjoying the smoother breads. I mean why wouldnt I? I was doing everything I am passionate about and enjoyed doing.

Bread meets Stale.
Half way through the year, I impulsively decided to stop eating meat and been pursuing it with difficulty. Id also stopped going for dance due to conflicting commitments. A bit of an unexpected piece of stale bread, but thats ok we’ll just deal with it and move on to the rest of the normal pieces. And so I did. Except there werent much left.

Last piece of hard bread:
Doing things that you love doing leaves you all high but it will also leave you quite dry. I preach about mental health and help people with emotional support for living. But ive been a hypocrite neglecting my own emotional and mental health. For the last 2.5 months, Ive been experiencing a lot of unpleasant changes. Lack of motivation for the things that I loved doing, de-sensitization, secondary trauma, feeling overhwhelmed and burnt out instead of feeling blessed, not wanting to go to the kitchen at all, no appetite, struggling to go into shower after work, struggling to get up early, not going to gym, not being able to pick up my much beloved books and read, sobbing every other night about missing meat (KFC!), taking a day off work, and above all, avoiding family and close friends who noticed some of these changes and advised me to ‘take it easy’ or ‘stop’

Im trained in seeing these things in others and helping them through it yet I failed to do the same for myself. I forgot to see the little signs throughout the year and had to wait till it got to the biggest signs and I was beyond repair. I missed out on a lot over the last 2.5 months because of that. No matter how many ticks you tick off during the year, if you work till you are unhealthy physically and mentally, and you miss out on lifes simplest yet most beautiful offerings, it cannot be considered as a succesful year.

Im working through my last piece of hard bread with great difficulty (a bit of peanut butter on the hard bread) and by trying to be kind to myself . It will not be easy but will be finished before i know it and prepare me right for my new packet next year.

Hope your bread packet has been great this year!

Birthdays, selfishness and what not.

Again, that time of the year is around the corner for me and this was a near-enough accurate converastion between me and my youngest sister that took place yesterday.

Her: What do you want for your birthday?

Me: Cook for the day for everyone.

Her: pfft

Me: Perfume. You know that perfume we got you from Dubai? Same one.

Her: No. I know what Im getting you for your birthday.

Me: Whats the point in asking me? I said Biriyani and Perfume. Birthdays are a great way to get a dopamine high by getting something for the person you love.

Her: Thats quite rude Achi.

Me: Think about it what were the best gifts youve given me?

Her: er…the video I made you for your 21st.

Me: Oh that was actually great. What else though? I love the watch. But thats not exactly what yous got me is it? I exchanged the one yous got for me and picked the one I have now myself. Whats one present that you got for me that you remember?

Her:

Me: what im saying is that we like the feeling that you get when you see the person opening the gift. So its kind of like a gift for yourself.

Her: Thats actually really really rude. I put in a lot of effort to get presents for everyone.

(*argument heating up*)

Me: All im saying is you get a dopamine from getting people presents. Why are you getting worked up?

Her: Im not getting worked up, you are the one whos getting worked up. You know what i will talk to you later.

Me: *Abruptly hangs up*

20 mins later i phoned her back.

We both puffed and huffed, shed few tears, blamed each other for the tears, had a go at Sterry for recording our convo and made up.

My family and friends are probably sick to death hearing my analysis of behavioural science. But cant help it. So the analysis: Human beings, just like animals, have a basic instinct to give and take what they need to survive. Social psychologist Dr Uriel Foa argued that all interactions are actually transactions, people co-operate to give and take resources from each other. Resources include physical items like money and food as well as emotional resources like love, advice, and status. Im going to take this a level up and list all the resources and mark the ones i ‘take’ and ‘give’ frequently.

Now, I know how important it is for my sister to show appreciation for others through gifts. I, on the other hand is not only picky when it comes to goods, my weakness is ‘affection’, ‘acceptance’ and ‘likeablity’. Unless its something that shows how much im ‘loved’, it doesnt unfortunately excite my brain. And not understanding mine and others needs can sometimes create a clash and few tears.

However, the moral of the story is not about the different needs of human beings but about the selfish needs of human beings. Both of us were right, both of us were wrong and both of us got angry. But when I was huffing and puffing, I kept wanting my sister to call back because heyy she was the one who started it, misunderstood me and was rude. With all this knowledge and understanding, I still relished in my belief that I was right and she wasnt it. It doesnt matter what I know in theory; when my pride is hurt, I become an animal or a human being may be? A human being with selfish needs?

The problems pizza causes

Some say marriage is a true test of patience. I say no you are wrong- husbands who make their lazy wives go out on a cold, wet and dark night and make em walk are the truest test of patience and a direct descendant of devil himself. Me and the said person head out to the city of Stirling for a celebratory meal. I held my ground till 8 so all the restaurants were full and we settle for a take away pizza He parks the car faaaar away and makes me walk (!!!!) through the cold cold streets of Stirling thats beauty is covered by the dark dark night.

We go up a narrow, poorly lit and people-less cobbled path. I spot the first homeless man and I put my head down knowing whats coming next. (Live in the country side and miss all the homeless people: Archana -1 Universe- 0. Go to the city for celebratory meal and I will show you what youve been missing: Universe- 1 Archana- 0)

We head up the street, and see another homeless man and then another one and then another and then another one in the space of a minute. Great.

We also find a pizza place, goes in, puts in an order, told to wait 15 mins and the devils descendant makes the lazy lady walk around the same freaking place AGAIN. Amazing.

We pass by the 1st homeless guy, the 2nd, the 3rd…”Have a good night”….Sterry walks back a few steps and gives the ‘polite homeless man’ some spare….and the 4th.

We go back in after 15 mins and decided to eat our pizza there. I cut up the rest of the pizza slices and looks up at my partner who was contemplating having cold pizza the next morning, with a smile and a half-sorry look.

On our way out Sterry full heartedly agrees to give some slices to the people sitting outside. We pass by the 1st man who was sitting near a pub. I hesitate. I make up an excuse not to go to him and walk on. I see the next man, offers him a slice, and the third and the fourth. I walk down the street carrying 2 pieces of left over pizza for my man to devour the next day and head filled with satisfaction that these guys accepted my pizza offer. Just before they go out of my sight, I take a sneaky look back and see one of them still eating the pizza. Dopamine running high and all smiles. But then a wave a thought occurs: ‘you offered a pizza slice to 3 men on the street. Pretty amazing thing. You go girl!!! But erm….there kinda was another man…who did not get a slice…erm…ok…right…shit…great….well done man well done….you handpicked the men who were worthy of getting a pizza slice’

In a world where theres plently of homeless individuals and others in need…there will be plenty of compassionate people whod want to help. But its still a game of survival of the fittest and politics. I offered 3 men a slice of pizza but for the 1st one, i offered him a subconscious excuse: ‘you are sitting near a pub, you will get more collections and I also saw you getting a cigarette of someone earlier on so you are not worthy of a slice’

Pizza.

Causing problems since day 1!!!

Its all about me and my facial hair

So, Ive been supporting a 5 year old rather intelligent and recently bereaved young boy for over 4 months. His mum had recently died after battling cancer for almost all her life. I met him twice before his mum died. He wasnt shy about showing his apprehension in meeting me then and expressing an understandable reluctance in talking to me about his feelings about mummys death.

After nearly 2 months after his mums death, him and his primary carer granny came to meet me. I was pleased to see him, being a social worker and all that, I knelt down and bent down to his eye level. When saying hello and bladdy-bladdy to him, he pointed his finger towards his chin. I immediately leaned back and touched my chin, quietly asking ‘have i got something on my face’ whilst dying inside thinking ‘shiiiitt a 5 year old just spotted your chin hair. This is what you get for being lazy and not taking care of your shit’, but he calmly shook his head and opened his mouth to show me something thats even bigger deal than an insignficant womans facial hair- a visit from tooth fairy. Hed lost his first tooth!!

When we ask someone, especially a child, ‘how are youuu’ with a squeaky voice and animated eyes, are we really.. like really really interested in their response apart from their ‘fines and oks and goods’ or are we just interested in ourselves and our facial hair?

I suppose I belong to the latter. Buck sake..me and my freaking facial hair!!!

Woman

Amsterdam
An infamous city with an uncompromising beauty and characteristics.
Picturesque canals,
touching history
and mesmerising architecture.
Her extraordinary beauty and her seductive characteristics-
Resemblance of a quirky, confident yet humble woman uncanny.
Woman.
While entrapped in Amsterdam’s beauty,
the very same word kept circling my mind.
Woman.
A visit to Anne Frank’s secret annexe of 2 years
entrenched me with the feeling that
The most powerful weapon for a woman is her Voice
A walk down the lane where her body does all the talking
Made me think that her body perhaps is more acknowledged than her voice.
It may (or may not) be her Choice that led her go behind the glass doors
A choice that young Anne frank certainly did not have.
But as I walked and locked eyes with the young women behind the glass doors
sharing a half smile, longing for one in return
and mentally offering apologies for being on the other side,
watching them like animals behind cages,
I also wondered,
As a woman,
would it be my voice or my choice of selfie that would be more appealing to one’s eyes.

Can ‘Saibol’ fix the Kerala floods?

T & C-1

The resilience I’m blessed with or the deep appreciation I have for nature and its beauty probably stems from the first 10 years I spent in the most amazing place called Alappuzha. With her seductive backwaters, lagoons and canals, and plenty of other picturesque features no wonder Lord Curzon called Alappuzha the “Venice of the East”.

Our family, belonging to a middle-class Christian family, was settled in a place called ‘Chungom’. Our house overlooked our paddy fields and canals. I proudly bear the scars of my childhood – from climbing trees and falling repeatedly, running the fields bare-feet with friends during summer,and by getting stomped on by a vast amount of people during ‘Mullakkal Chireppu’ (local carnival) . My fathers pure passion for ‘vallam kali’ (Nehru Trophy Boat Race) and competing in the Nehru Trophy as a captain of their boat for one too many years also meant that Nehru trophy, ‘kuttanadan punchayille’ song, the competitiveness and the innate resilience from constantly losing the first place (Sorry daddy!) are all well inherited by me and my sisters.

There was one other thing that was a constant companion during these 10 years- ‘Saibol cream’. House built near acres of paddy fields meant that, during monsoon seasons fields flooded, and in no time, the water would be inside our houses. Us kids loved it- swimming and “trying” to catch fish, why would we mind it?!.

Even though we ‘loved’ it, every morning when you had to get out of bed or go to the bathroom, it took sheer amount of will power and a good couple of minutes before putting the feet down in the cold water. And at night, it itched like there’s no tomorrow.

We grew up with our Ammachi (grandmother) during these years. Shed be walking in the water all day running the house and at night, her toes would be itchy with all the bacteria and she would rub ‘Saibol’ in between her toes.

I experienced this for 10 years..my Ammachi may be for over 60 years after marrying into a family from Alappuzha in her early 20’s. She was accustomed to floods and water and stayed fearless…till this monsoon season. After fleeing her house, going to her oldest daughters and then to her youngest (due to her oldest daughters house being also flooded), at the age of 88, I heard fear in my Ammachis voice for the first time and I could do absolutely nothing about it.

My family house was rebuilt 10 years ago so high from the ground that they never had water inside the house for over a decade. Water still went inside. It was over knee high of my uncle who is 6 ft high. He had to abandon the house, sell all their much beloved animals who were their family members and take rescue.

Now the mentioning of the class again, this is a middle class family who were able to have their house built appropriately according to the area. Now, for those who were unable to afford that..I will leave it up to you to imagine where their house is now apart from pointing out the obvious that ‘Kuttanadu’, a part of Alappuzha, rich with culture, characteristics and Love is pretty much gone. If you were to visit a house is Kuttanadu or Alappuzha..you wouldn’t have gone back home without a full stomach and may be some ‘tharavu curry’ to take back with you.

And if you know anything about a Kerala curry, you know that its a perfect blend and balance of spices and ingredients that just makes the most amazing curry- an imbalance of any one ingredient can cause trouble for instance, chilli or salt.

In the past few days, people have been extremely kind, generous and helpful in Kerala and outside Kerala. Regardless of cultural, geographical, relihious or scoial boundaries, people came together, like a perfect mix. From a kind Sikh individual from Perth, Australia who raised £1000 to School and University students who have given up whatever little they had in order to save Kerala, I have enough to restore my faith in humanity.

And the next time you eat a tharavu curry from Alappuzha (and I any other delicious kerala curry as I dont eat duck), I hope you and I both be reminded of how all the perfect incredients came together and made a good curry during this crisis (if you know, you know).

One thing people of Kuttanadu, Alappuzha and Kerala are good at is working hard. Like them, I along with my fellow British Malayali youth, we will commit to raising even more funds, to help rebuild our homeland, Kerala, as I think ‘Saibol’ cream is just not going to be enough to able to fix the damages of this flood.

https://www.gofundme.com/sy6kg-kerala-flood-relief-fund