Home Is Wherever I’m With You

Wow I can’t believe I’m finally getting around to posting this – it feels like it’s been forever since I’ve been on this site!! I wrote this on Dec.3, but then my computer died before I got a chance to post it

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Sitting at the Starbucks at the MARS Centre, listening to Christmas tunes, beside two young women who are discussing careers and gossiping and talking about job opportunities at UHN. Earlier today I learned the dance sequence to Beyoncé’s formation video:

Okay, okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation, cause I slay
Prove to me you got some coordination, cause I slay
Slay trick, or you get eliminated

It was a fun class, and I was exhausted and didn’t think my body could take it but somehow I survived it and even had a bit of fun. Like a lot of things these days, things seem to register as fun well after the fact. :-) There was a girl next to me who I would turn to every time I didn’t catch what the instructor had just shown us. Too bad she ended up leaving early! I wish I could post the video we took but it is forbidden for liability reasons. :p I hate that I have to abide by all these rules… I wish I could just write whatever I want, but I guess censorship is part of writing, or at least thinking about others feelings. I don’t know how Malala did it.. makes me admire her even more. Writing anonymously from her little house in the village, knowing that every word could get her in trouble. And yet still managing to keep a smile on her face!

It’s been a rough little past while, as you can probably tell since I haven’t been writing my blog posts which is very unlike me. However I have been walking the 10 KM at least once I week so I will write them all eventually.

Week 45!! It was a memorable one. I woke up early since I had promised Arvin that I would join him for a session at landmark forum. He asked me to be his guest since he is working on a documentary about mental health and addiction – his documentary profiles three people on the streets who deal wih addiction, and shows how they became addicted, their childhood, where they grew up, relationships, etc. I’m meeting with him next week with a few other folks to brainstorm further [Update: this didn’t end up happening – they met all the way up in Etobicoke!]. I walked from the Distillery where I’d been staying for most of November (at Samir and Shannon’s place while they got married in India), past some beautiful churches, up Jarvis, and to the hotel boardroom where the event was being held.

At first I was skeptical – I had heard both good and bad things about Landmark – some of my friends swear by it, and some people say it’s like a cult and they are really aggressive in getting you to sign up. So I went in skeptical, and emerged inspired. It was the stories that did it for me. One girl spoke about how she and her mother were separated for so many years because she held onto grudges and hadn’t fully forgiven her, and then during a Landmark session, she decided to call her and surprisingly, her mother was at a Landmark course just across the street from her! At that moment she realized that her mother had never actually abandoned her, she was always there. Hmmm… as I’m writing this it’s making me realize that I’m not alone either, and even though I don’t see my loved ones all the time, they are always with me. It’s hard to remember these things when you are feeling a little lost and hopeless (or a lot lost and hopeless).

Following Landmark, I walked out to the Allan Garden conservatory which was closed but I love that area so I sat on a bench there and FaceTimed my sister (or maybe she FaceTimed me, I can’t remember). We were both still upset by the Trump win… in fact I think I still am. I can’t believe how hard it hit me!! I had a great time at Sheldon’s election party, and then as I fell asleep, I was hoping that when I woke up, I would hear that Clinton had won, but instead I read that it was Trump. And my body locked up, and I felt SO much anger. Roshni and I talked about how she had been debating with Dad over a few things, but I could’ve told her that there is definitely no winning those debates!! Lol. Chris also felt really upset about the Trump win, because he resonated a lot with Clinton and what she stood for. I’ve noticed that all the leaders have been very positive in terms of making statements about working in harmony (like Clinton, Obama, Sadhguru, my Mom)… but I don’t know if I buy it. Usually I’m so positive but lately I’ve been a negative nancy to say the least. Where has my sense of humour gone?! There are moments it surfaces, usually around people. I miss the kids I was tutoring, I miss my old life, I miss my creative writing classes, I miss my old self. Not that I’m not grateful for my job and where things are heading, it’s just hard letting go of the things you love.

The next part of my day was pretty wild, insane, magical, unreal. In the middle of our FaceTime call, my phone died, which was pretty odd since it had 42% battery, and it normally works even if it’s 1%. I had an immediate urge to go home, charge my phone, make plans, absolutely anything to get escape this anxiety of being in the unknown – but instead I took it as a sign to explore and I wandered into a church at the corner. As I read my book, The Bandit Queen, about Phoolan Devi, my mind started to spiral into depression and I didn’t think I could continue. The words started to blur and not make sense and my mood got so low. And just then a woman came up to me – she had short black hair, was of African descent, very thin, and exuded kindness and warmth. She asked if I was staying for the event that evening, and I said what event, and she said that they were having an International Fair where there would be foods from all different cultures and music and dancing. I asked what time it was at and she said that it started at 5 PM. I glanced at my watch and it was only 3, so in my head I thought I probably wouldn’t stay that long – she caught my look and said vehemently, “You must come” so I agreed, still not entirely convinced.

I tried to read my book again, and that’s when a short man approached me – he had long white hair and a long white beard (he kind of looked like Santa Claus, or a character from Lord of the Rings), and he also asked me if I would like to join the festivities that evening. Now I could hear the universe loud and clear – I was going! In case there was any doubt, he handed me a long paper ticket and said that this would get me in (the cost of the event was $20, all proceeds going to children’s programs at the church). Just as I was thinking, now what am I going to do for the next two hours, he asked if I was hungry and of course I was, so he led me down to the basement and suddenly I felt like I was in another world. It was like I was in one of those black churches from the sixties, back during Martin Luther King days, where everyone was wearing those amazing hats and long dresses. There were people from other backgrounds too, there was an Indian family who had just left, and I would say white was in the minority. The man brought me a plate of yummy vegetarian food, and I heard from the guy sitting next to me whose name I now forget, that that is one of the values of the 7-Day Adventist church – they believe that a vegetarian diet is best for the mind, body, and soul. Similar to Hinduism in that way.

As I ate, I asked this guy so many questions about their beliefs and his own life story. He said that he was the only one in his family that was religious, the others weren’t into it and didn’t really understand his connection with the church. It’s hard going against the grain and doing something that your family doesn’t approve of. It reminds me of this movie I want to watch called Moonlight, about a boy who black and gay and growing up in a poor Miami neighbourhood. So excited to see it with Rhonelle after the holidays!

I told this guy (let’s just call him Evan because I’m going to keep talking about him) that I had stayed at Chris’s parents place the week before and stayed up all night reading The Book of Job, one of my favourite bible stories. Poor Job didn’t stand a chance… yet eventually his faith in God was restored and he was blessed with fortunes far beyond his wildest imagination (probably because like me he figured out that your imagination doesn’t exactly function in times of despair). Let’s hope my story follows a similar path to the other side! Evan’s eyes widened as I continued to share my insights on Job, and he pulled out a booklet from his bag that was a summary/study of guess what – yep The Book of Job! He said that every week in his church they study a different part of the bible and this week it was Job. What a crazy coincidence.

Then Evan started to excuse himself – he said that he had to set up for a workshop about anxiety and depression. That’s when my eyes grew wide. Oh wait, I forgot to tell you about the other amazing person that I met at the table – her name was Candace and she and I instantly connected. She had been through an abusive relationship and suffered from low self-esteem and didn’t have much money to live on. I told her about things I’d been going through too. It is amazing how we were able to be so open with one another. She and I were welcomed by Evan to join the workshop (he could probably tell we needed it!!). We listened to videos by an expert on mental health and addiction, and then did activities around goals and ways to overcome obstacles. Finally it was time to forget our woes and just play and have fun. We went into the adjoining gym for the International Fair, the event that had enticed me at the start to enter this magical place. Candace and I sampled food from all over the world in that little gym – India, Guyana, Kenya, Jamaica, and many more. We danced and let loose. We had ice cream and authentic home-cooked treats, and watched the kids having so much fun running around and being free.

After the event, we took some pics in the abandoned church (picture above). I was wearing my favourite t-shirt that says “Home Is Wherever I’m With You”. I love that T-shirt so much! Then we got to the bus stop and met this cool homeless guy who was sitting there drinking, and who ended up asking me out! He was actually really sweet; he said that sometimes, a person just needs to talk. How right he is.







The World Became A Slab Of Lead Sitting On My Chest

Week who-knows-what. All I know is that I’m not stopping. If I can do this walk in this state of utter devastation, that means I’ll do it forever. And it’s amazing how it still always delivers – there are twists and turns, darkness and loneliness, and magical coincidences and friendly strangers that guide me. There is insight into what is deep within, and what I’m holding onto. There are moments where my pride gets the better of me, and moments where I let it all go and reach out for help, so that I can talk to that friendly compassionate voice on the other end, who brings some light in the darknes and takes me home. And for all of it I am grateful.

I headed out around 3 PM from my home, and walked to Aakanksha’s place. Her grandfather greeted me (I’ve been having fun chatting with her grandparents since they are here visiting, and it’s been helping me practice my Gujarati). I went inside and her dad came downstairs and told me that they must have forgotten the session, and so he called his wife and sure enough, they were still at Carlingwood Mall. So I said it was ok, that I would come back another day. The grandmother was a little hurt that I was leaving so soon (she said “What? Is my company not good enough?”) so I stayed for a bit and had some tea and chatted with her. Before I left, I went to visit the Mandir and the symbols of Lakshmi and Ram and Sita and Hanuman and Durga, and I needed to do that, because there is still so much hurt, and also it feels so nice being in the presence of God. And I say that not just because of the mandir, but all-around. Throughout all the pain, there is God, there is love, there is hope. (catch me on another day and I may sing a different tune!!). I saw that the grandfather was reading a Krishna comic book as I walked out and I made him promise to lend it to me when he is done with it.

Then I wandered over to the park nearby, in the 40-degree sweltering heat, and that’s when everything fell apart and I felt lonely and torn, and that same relentless pain of the memory of when I saw him with her at Nathan Philips Square, that memory that hurt me so deeply, came up and made me crazy and there was nothing to do with the pain. So I went on the swing and I pumped up and down, over and over and I was flying high. Then I messaged by friend Neteesha who is going through something similar and she really understood, and made me feel so much better. Wow. Thank frickin’ God for friends. She was funny and compassionate and was like ‘Fuck them’. I made a typo and said ‘Suck them’ which is kinda funny but probably not a bad idea either. Hahah. People keep telling me that I need a fling but I’m pretty sure that’s not what I need. I just need a latte. And some other stuff that I probably shouldn’t mention here.

I took a path down Stikine Drive, that led to a park and to a beautiful old building that used to be a school-house until 1963 and is now a community centre. They have weekly Toastmasters meetings there, where I’ll be going tonight with my Mom. Isn’t it just beautiful?! I think my Toastmasters group in Toronto is going to be jealous.

S.S. No 1 March, Kanata

I ran into a man there with his two dogs who told me a bit about the history of the building. It was built in 1886 and housed children from European immigrants that had come to Canada from France, Germany, and Holland. These families worked on surrounding farms and sent their kids to this school to learn. Can’t you just imagine it? At lunch, the kids would swim in the pool (which is now a water hole in the Kanata golf course). I didn’t see the water hole but I’ll check for it the next time I go. In 1985, it became a Children’s Art Centre, and is now it is a meeting spot for people in the community. It reminds me of another place called the March House which used to be a restaurant and is now a rustic spa.

I walked to a little clearing in the woods nearby, and was engrossed in an article in The Star about Egyptian Olympian Doaa Elghobashy playing volleyball in her hijab. You go girl!!

I have worn the hijab for 10 years. It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.

And then. Enter Beyoncé. I watched the video “Sorry” and it blew my f’ing mind. If you haven’t seen it, take a look and be prepared to be amazed:

Then I ran into a man with his daughter and they were engrossed in this Pokémon Go game that has taken over the city. Everywhere I go there are people on their phones trying to capture these little critters. It makes me feel like I’m living in a fantasy world (I already feel like that considering how many 69’s and signs from the universe I see everywhere). He convinced me to download it and I’m definitely going to try it out – hopefully the next time we go to Andrew Haydon park, the park where I grew up, where we’d used to have picnics and make kitchdi and go for walks.

Then I continued on and got to Chapters where I had a tazo chai latte and read a bit from The Prisoner of Tehran. Marina Nemat might be the bravest woman I know. She refuses to reveal the names of her friends, despite the demands of the prison guards and even though she is aware of the lashes that will ensue. But her heart is another story. It must close for awhile because she is unable to process the amount of emotional pain and shock she is in. Imagine being safe at home one day, and then being thrown into the world’s most notorious prison. “The world beame a slab of lead sitting on my chest,” she says.

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While there, I leafed through the Anna Karenina colouring book (I have a copy of it back at home in Toronto). Also Roshni bought me the novel which I’m really looking forward to reading! I wonder if it is the same one that all these beautiful quotes are derived from.

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Following Chapters, I walked down Campeau towards the library (stopping to say hi to the bunnies along the way – I swear they have taken over this city). I watched a game of tennis which made me long for simpler times, when all there was to do was just play, or maybe it reminded me of how my Dad and I used to play badminton here. Or maybe I was just dying to get into the game. Then I got to the library just as it was closing.

I walked home along Beaverbrook, talking to my friend Vaishali, telling her about my darkness and my journey and thankful for her kind voice and understanding. Finally made it home, greeted by my parents who are always there and constant and so amazing; my dad a little worried because it was so late, and my mom smiling and happy, never doubting that I would make it home. Not sure where my brother was, probably listening to music in his room. It felt good to be home.





The Best Is Yet To Come

This day was infinitely better than all the previous ones. This walk is getting better, and things are getting better in general, and I do believe that the best is yet to come. I started my walk actually feeling pretty horrible – I almost thought I couldn’t go on. I left my house and felt like my body was going to give out on me. I’ve been through an incredible journey with my health, and one way that I’ve slowly nursed myself back to health is by taking supplements. I take lots of them – Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, Maca, Astragalus, Grape Seed, Red Reishi, Relora, etc. I’ll write about them more in another post. Anyway, lately I thought I’d change the mix so that I wasn’t taking so many and clearly it didn’t work. I’m back to what I know works, and I’m not messing with it!

I walked along University, past 525 where I used to work, and through King’s College Circle. I got to my creative writing class in Robart’s Library and saw that no one was there. So I emailed the prof and asked if the class was cancelled. Then I went home to fix myself and adjust my supplement mix. And also I realized that I had been an hour early for my class – it was actually at 1pm, not Noon! So I did make it back, albeit an hour late. It was great as usual – we were discussing setting, and how setting is integral to a story. Where does it take place? What does this mean for the characters? A lot of the time the story would not make sense without the setting. A lot of the story that is my favourite story happened along University Avenue. I guess that’s why I like to walk there so much.

After my creative writing class, I went to Whole Foods to pick up some stuff, and then to Balzac’s. I spent hours reading The Underground Girls of Kabul. Ok let me re-phrase: I spent hours there, but only got a little bit of reading done. My mind was on other things I guess, and also I was answering emails and chatting with my friend Raj about his upcoming course, The Demons of the Unconscious. I got to thinking about how women feel uncomfortable when men look at us (well only men we don’t like obviously!). While I was reading, there was a man sitting across from me that kept staring, and although I felt irritated, I also liked the attention. This was noticeable when he left and I kind of missed it a little. Ahhhh well what can you do? Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!

In the Underground Girls of Kabul, Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg meets with Afghan women and uncovers an interesting phenomenon – families that do not have boys often dress up one of their girls as a boy, so that they can reap the social benefits of having a boy. And also they believe that seeing a boy in the family will help manifest an actual boy in the family, through the method of visualization and positive thinking. I’m going to start staring at pictures of money I think! I’ve started to notice lately that I’ve been focusing a lot on the pain and not as much on the things that are going well. And it’s important to do that, because what you focus on expands. And in the story there was Dr. Fareiba, who defies tradition time and again, working under every form of government, and as a leading female doctor who has delivered thousands of babies. It is interesting that she also believes in the value of having a son, because daughters go away but sons stay forever. A son is a boon while a daughter is considered somewhat of a curse.

Dr. Fareiba makes a reference to her own sister, who has a university degree and a husband who is an engineer. But they were pitied as they didn’t have a son, only four daughters. So she came to Dr. Fareiba. “She asked me: ‘Why don’t you get any girls – you get boys? What is the problem with me?’ And I treated them one year ago, and now thanks be to God she has a son.”

Following Balzac’s, I walked home along Yonge Street, and to the Eaton Centre where I had some quiet time. I read a chapter from The Complete Life of Rama and had some tea and listened to the love songs playing in the background and even cried a little about the beautiful love between Sita and Ram. Who could know love so true? And I saw signs everywhere that good things are on their way. Like a book about Beyonce (the most empowered woman!) and journals with inspiring messages like ‘the best is yet to come’. Isn’t it?

Then I bought a heart pillow for a sexy Valentine’s Day photo shoot that I’m going to do with my friend Gosia this Thursday! Nervous and excited. It is sure to be racy!

Walked home in the most beautiful snow, and was elated when I realized that I was going to make it after all. When I got home, there was a nice surprise in the mail – my passport! Adventures await!


We Are Warrior Women

I just finished listening to a CBC radio documentary about Lorelai Williams, who is an advocate for missing and murdered aboriginal women. She has experienced a lot of trauma and loss in her life, and even though she finds it extremely difficult to listen to the stories of violence and injustice, she faces it every day. It is amazing how she has turned into an advocate and leader, and is the person that people turn to to speak on their behalf. It was a heartbreaking story. Near the end there is a person she works with that talks about how she and the others are all ‘warrior women’. Which was striking because today was my class on the Goddess Durga, the warrior goddess, power incarnate, victory incarnate, and the representation of good over evil.

As usual Raj Balkaran was on fire! [Ok I just took a break to watch the Superbowl Halftime Show, and damn.. Beyoncé was on fire! I love the ending so much – the entire stadium spells out “I Believe In Love”]. Back to Durga. She empowers individuals to find their own power. There is a myth where she induces Lord Vishnu (the Preserver God) into a deep slumber prior to the creation of the universe. Two demons arise from Vishnu who threaten to vanquish Brahma (the Creator), who then pleads with Durga to destroy the demons. She instead leaves him so that he can awaken and vanquish the demons on his own. Raj used the metaphor of ‘Give a man bread or teach him how to bake’. Empowerment is about enabling the person to uncover their greatest potential on their own. Without dependency. This is difficult for people who like to feel needed. It is definitely difficult for me at times!

Tomorrow I’m going to do my weekly Walk In Her Shoes and I’m thinking I’m feeling a bit better about it. There are a lot of things I’m doing in life right now that I haven’t fully processed and this commitment is one of them. I was reminded in today’s class that the power within is the most potent force to transform oneself and the world. Which is why the message of “I Am Powerful” resonates so much with me. Here is what I initially posted when I did the 50 KM last year.

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“She has the power to change her world. You have the power to help her do it.”

It’s that time of year again… Walk In Her Shoes! This year I’ll be walking 50 km, over the course of the week. This is my fourth walk!

I love the messaging of this campaign: I Am Powerful. It focuses on a woman’s inherent power to overcome adversity and realize her true potential. Once a woman’s power is unleashed, it transforms her own world, the lives of those closest to her, and her entire community. It is an unstoppable force that is capable of transforming the world. Join me and let’s walk this road together!