Crazy Yet Blissful

Week 33! Only 19 more to go. It was a very rainy day on Monday. I started out in the morning tutoring a teenage girl who is a refugee from Syria. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had some time to help her out with preparing for grade 9. She wants to attend a local high school instead of one further away that has an ESL program. I’m rooting for her all the way!! We are reading a book called Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay – the author also did the illustrations which are magical and out of this world. It reminds me of how I want to help my Mom to complete her children’s book. We were just talking about it in fact. She (my Mom) is pretty busy at the moment with work, but we shall work on it in the next few months, after we return from England.

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Tutoring Session, Reading Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay

After the session I felt a little dejected because it was a rainy day and I had no plans and I almost felt like just going home instead of carrying on. But on I went. I made it to the local library (Beaverbrook Library), where I sat down on a round table near the back and read from Veiled Threat. The section I read hit close to home because it was about mental health issues and how many women in Afghanistan suffer from anxiety, depression, and are often on the verge of suicide. The numbers are actually staggering. Mind you, this book was written over 10 years ago, so it would be interesting to know what the numbers are now. One of the girls interviewed (age 16) from Kabul said: “Sometimes I think suicide may be a way out of this horrible life, but I feel sympathy for my mother since I am all she has in this world.” Some of the edicts set by the Taliban are so outrageous that they actually make me laugh. They have specified that the stones used to kill a woman must not be so large as to kill her quickly, but small enough that the death is prolonged and she gets due justice. Women continue to be stoned to death in countries like Syria and Afghanistan and Pakistan, although not legally but by communities for reasons like adultery or the husband finding out that his bride is not a virgin. Imagine how many stonings there would be in Canada if these were justifiable reasons?!

At the library, I ran into an old family friend, Surinder Auntie, who is a librarian there. We chatted a little about how I was in Ottawa for awhile, and how two of her kids live in Toronto, but her daughter misses Ottawa a lot and is planning to move back home. I can relate, because I find Ottawa so beautiful!! Nothing compares to the simple beauty of the Beaver Pond, late-night walks with my parents, and watching Hot in Cleveland in the evening, or Modern Family, The Mentalist, or Making  A Murderer (which I have yet to watch). Makes me not want to leave.

Oh, before running into Surinder Auntie, I logged into one of the library computers and drafted my email for Walk In Her Shoes, which is coming up this Monday. I am happy that there are quite a few people joining me, and that other people find this cause to be as important as I do. Or maybe they don’t, but are just there to support me. My Mom will be making us a big lasagna brunch to celebrate the completion of the walk. Here is a little excerpt from the email that I sent out:

I’ve included some photos of the walk over the past 5 years, full of joy and dedication, while keeping in mind why we walk – to walk in solidarity with women and girls who are not able to take human rights for granted, who deserve a chance not just to survive, but to thrive, to realize their dreams and potential. There are tremendous things happening all over the world, from grassroots to local to national and worldwide, and there is a planetary shift happening far beyond what we can imagine. In this time of so much negativity and violence, there is a lot to be hopeful for. As the CARE Canada slogan says, and what I truly believe, Together We Can Make A Difference. I’m grateful to be surrounded by powerful men and women who are taking action and making a difference.

And here are some of those pictures, gathered over the years:

After the library I sauntered into the Kanata Art Gallery, adjoining to the library and met a local artist and fell in love with one her paintings, which was made from fabric and was kind of like a framed quilt. Art Galleries are a place of such stillness for me.

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I continued on home in the rain, and when I arrived home I was absolutely soaked. My Mom said something like “You crazy girl, walking in the rain!! You will catch a cold.”  It’s true, I did look a little crazy, and also amidst that craziness was a little bit of bliss.

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Walking home in the rain, crazy yet blissful

The next walk is a big one; it’s the group walk with my Mom, Rima, Silin, my cousins, and others. Looking forward to it!

How Long Can We Hold Women Back?

I’m barely alive right now. I’ve been processing my pain and there is a lot coming to the surface that has been suppressed for a long time. It’s funny how things happen in your life and it’s not until months (sometimes years) after that you process them and assimilate them into your experience. Sometimes I feel like I am choking on grief. It’s actually a wonder that I’ve been able to function like this.

It was a beautiful day in the city, with all the snow and the branches laden with white, glistening and still. Everywhere I went I just wanted to capture it forever by closing my eyes and holding the image in my memory. I had missed doing the walk yesterday (I usually do it on Mondays) but it was family day and I stayed home pretty much all day studying for my project management exam. I set the date to three weeks away hoping that it would help motivate me to study but so far it hasn’t worked.

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Walking on University Avenue, near Victoria College

I walked past 525 University and stopped to talk to Anthony, the concierge. He showed me pictures of his daughters building their very first snowman in Canada (they’re from the middle east so this was their first Canadian winter). Then I walked to Balzac’s where I read an article about a filmmaker that created a documentary about a girl Saba from Pakistan, who was almost killed by her uncle and father because she married a neighbourhood boy against their wishes. It was a very difficult story to listen to (I’d heard it first on CBC radio), especially the part where her father boasts about it and says he now feels more empowered after teaching her a lesson, and his other daughters and the girls in the community will know better than to go against the rules. It made me so angry. One part that resonated with me was when the filmmaker said “How long can we hold women back? I see cracks in traditional society. More and more women know their rights because of how interconnected they are; they’re no longer isolated. Even in the remotest of villages you have cellphones now, and of course this is going to shake the status quo in a patriarchal society… Women now want a greater say, they want greater economic independence, they want a greater say in the kind of marriages they make, the kind of education they get, where they work.” Seriously! It is amazing that these societies all around the world have managed to hold women back for so long. Like Raj Balkaran says, patriarchy is a result of the fear of the power of the feminine. Who knows what this world would look like if women were enabled to unleash their power? I think we are going to find out! There is no holding us back anymore, that is for sure. And when I say ‘us’, I mean us as a global community. Because when a woman is repressed anywhere in the world, it affects us all.

Your Soul Is Not Made In China

Today was pretty wonderful. Beautiful weather, great conversations, a full moon, and inspiration all around. My creative writing class was cancelled, so I had some extra time in the morning to work on my blog (as I write this, I still have not shared this blog with a single person!), and also I stumbled upon a video of Walk In Her Shoes in the U.K. and was deeply inspired by how much it has taken off over there. And so I announced on Facebook that I would be doing this 10 Km walk for the entire year, thinking it was kind of a big thing since I had been struggling with it so much, but no one even noticed or cared. Lol. So I set off. I walked along University Ave, where I saw a reporter from Global News discussing the Sammy Yatim case, and as I walked by I thought that maybe that will be me one day, reporting on Walk In Her Shoes and what women experience on a daily basis in all parts of the world. I do believe that it is the greatest human rights crisis of our time, and is the root cause of many other conflicts in the world.

I continued up University, through the MARS centre, stopped to have lunch at Hero burger, and briefly stopped at one of my favourite used bookstores on Yonge street, where I read a bit of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground. Reading it made time stand still. His books are truly works of the soul. Twisted, dark, clever, and offering deep insights into human nature, our demons, struggles, and triumphs. I can’t wait to read all his stuff. I eventually made it to the reference library where I read a bit of The Great Work of Your Life and First There Was a Mountain, about a woman around my age that goes to India to learn yoga with B.K. Iyengar, a Guru that developed his own system of yoga based on Patanjali’s yoga teachings. I love reading this book because I feel like I’m in India, where I often long to be. It’s weird that it feels like home even though the last time I was there was when I was 15.

I went to Balzac’s where I chatted with Isaac, a guy that comes in there often, about starting your own business and what it entails. Then Raj, my mythology teacher, called me and we discussed pretty much the same thing. He is my accountability partner. We are both developing our own brand and thinking of what we have to offer to the world, and holding each other accountable on a weekly basis to make sure that we are progressing on our goals. Raj is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. His ability to transmit ancient stories, transport you into another world, heal your wounds, and take you to higher place is something that you need to witness for yourself. I feel like everyone would benefit from his teachings. I am taking his Faces of Power class about Indian goddesses, and the last class was about Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, learning, and artistry. She represents the subtle. She will take you to your higher self and bring you awareness. Someone asked a question about patriarchy and why it exists, especially in India where the Goddess is worshipped and revered. He said that patriarchy is a response to fear of the feminine power. I couldn’t agree more! He also talked about how Saraswati represents the soul, and how the soul has no colour or race or geography (“Your soul is not made in China” he said).

After that I walked home, through Nathan Philips square where I watched the skaters and bopped to Jesus Walks by Kanye that was playing in the background. I got home and I just finished watching Justin Trudeau speaking at the World Economic Forum. He talked about how men should not be afraid of the word ‘feminist’, and how he refers to himself as a feminist all the time.

I’m incredibly proud to have a partner in my wife Sophie, who is extremely committed to women and girls’ issues. But she took me aside a few months ago and said Okay, it’s great that you’re engaged and modeling to your daughter that you want her empowered and everything, but you need to take as much effort to talk to your sons—my 8-year-old boy and my 2-year-old—about how he treats women and how he’s going to grow up to be a feminist just like dad. And by the way, we shouldn’t be afraid of the word “feminist.” Men and women should use it to describe themselves any time they want.

I just love listening to him speak about this stuff. As you can see, I am a sucker for charming men!