Sons of Roses

I recently had the honour of writing an article for Must be Kismet (a leading South Asian magazine & bridal show in Toronto) about queer weddings, featuring Haran Vijayanathan and Humza Mian, two amazing South Asian men who portray two grooms on their wedding day.

The entire article and accompanying photos can be found here:
http://blog.mustbekismet.com/index.php/2018/06/19/sons-of-roses/

It’s funny how things come about. My friend Saira who I met at one of my favourite coffee shops, Balzac’s, many years ago when I’d quit my job and was looking for adventure, always complimented my writing and told me that she’d love to have me write about some of her projects. She does henna on brides and on women just looking for adornment (who needs a reason to glam up?!), and she also profiles men and women who have stories that need to be told, through art and makeup and photography and a whole lot of love and inspiration.

Saira asked if I was interested in this project, and of course I said yes! (even though I was freaking out because of the short timeline – 4 days!) and because I didn’t want to let anyone down. Also, the subject matter really touched my heart – highlighting queer weddings and the challenge in reconciling religious/culture identity with coming out.

I received the notes from the interview that Saira and Rajen from Must be Kismet did at the shoot, and then reached out to Humza and Haran in order to clarify some of the points and get to know them better. Writing based on personal connection is the best! I’m so glad I called them, because I learned so much and was even more inspired. Haran mentioned to me that Hinduism is gender fluid and gave me a few surprising examples involving Krishna and Shiva. It reminded me of a book I’d read called the “The Two Krishnas” which actually touches on those themes. He also talked about how gay couples can be hyper-sexualized and exploited, and how he tries to stay away from that, and projects that are looking for that angle.

Humza was ordering lattes while we chatted on the phone. We talked about his journey and how his parents still don’t know about his alter drag persona (Manghoe Lassi) even though he’s public on Instagram and has a zillion followers. He also said that he commonly receives negative comments on posts, but he’s learned to ignore them and not let it get him down. Life is definitely too short for that!

My sister Roshni helped me out a lot with the article, thank god she was around! Feedback is so important, because when you’re writing it, you can only see it from your perspective, you really need a fresh set of eyes (and someone with patience) to review it.

Overall a really fun experience… looking forward to the next article! (does this mean I can call myself a ‘writer’? Hee hee).

 

 

 

Peonies

This morning as I was sipping my tea and typing away on my laptop at the kitchen table, my Mom walked in and we took a break to enjoy the garden. I inhaled the gorgeous scent of our beautiful bright pink peony that had just bloomed. I wish there was a poem that could describe this scent – more intense than a rose, sweeter than the best perfume, and more potent than the sultriest bottle of wine. I searched for a poem that would capture my sentiment and found one, by one of my favourite poets, Mary Oliver. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, as well as these pictures of the peonies (bloomed, in bloom, and soon to be bloomed) in my garden.

Peonies

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

— Mary Oliver

A New Day

A new day. A new opportunity to make conversation with a stranger, to wish a friend happy birthday, to smile and secretly hope that your smile will be returned in kind, to tackle your to-do list, to love and to be loved. To FaceTime your sister and catch up on things that in reality would take years to catch up on. To make that neglected phone call, to share a meal with a friend or alone, but not really alone, in that much needed solitude. To think about those who have touched your life, and wonder if you may have meant as much to them, and whether they still think of you. To try and see the good in the world, and to engage in it, even when you don’t like what you see. To read another page, another chapter, hoping to devour the whole book, wishing that the day could go on forever so that you could memorize all the words. To have those moments that are so good that you want to close your eyes and freeze time, and stretch the moment further and further and draw circles around it. To collapse in your bed exhausted and spent. To dream, and to surrender to the magical act of sleep, where consciousness shifts to unconsciousness. And to start it all over again tomorrow.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Herbal Remedies to Spiritual Lotus Flowers

I’m sitting in Balzac’s writing about last week’s walk. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before actually. It reminds me of the day when Terrence and Gosia followed me around and I was wearing my Walk In Her Shoes t-shirt. I’m wearing it again today. It’s confusing because I’m doing today’s walk while writing about last week’s walk, while worrying that getting a job means no more walks, while flipping out in general.

I started volunteering at Ronald McDonald House on Mondays as part of the summer camp. So I set out and walked along University, stopping at the Starbucks, and making my way to McCaul Street to the wonderful place that is Ronald McDonald. I thought I would have to do an activity or something but instead I got to just sit and watch a wonderful magic show, performed by Tim, one of the tutors from Tutorbright. He awed the kids with his ‘mind-reading’ abilities and ability to straighten out his twisted arms. I recognized a couple of the kids from the school, and it was really nice to see them.

After that I had lunch at the Village On The Grange, at this cute little vegetarian restaurant that I used to go to years ago. The owner is still the same and she greeted me warmly with “Hello gorgeous!”. I stopped at a cute little art gallergy after – how pretty is this picture?!! Reminds me of something Gosia would paint. I felt a little like I was in Pretty Woman because I was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and the woman working there was not being very friendly or answering my questions. I think she might’ve even rolled her eyes at me!!

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Photo at Baux-Xi Photo Art Gallery

Outside the art gallery was a brain. I love how The Brain Project has taken over Toronto.  There is nothing more beautiful than the human brain (except perhaps the human heart). Or the ability to go on in the face of overwhelming obstacles. This brain was about psychological trauma, so it hit close to home.

IMG_5853
The Brain Project, Steven Nederveen

The Fertile Mind is covered with lush greenery, vibrant flowers and a host of birds indicative of a miniature ecosystem. Vegetation pollinates the mind with fresh life and ideas while the birds carry strings of thought, connecting one busy cluster of growth to another. The greenery contains all kinds of flowers, from herbal remedies to spiritual lotus flowers to the poisonous berries of the Nightshade plant. A healthy ecosystem embraces renewal and decay. Problems arise when some aspect of the system falls out of balance. With the brain, there are physical and chemical imbalances but psychological issues may be equally debilitating. With a view to disease and trauma, the vegetation that wraps around this brain can be seen as an invasive and parasitic overgrowth that feeds off its host.

On my way home I passed by this couple making out in the park. How cute!

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Couple kissing at Queen’s Park

Lastly, I passed by this symbol of unity of all religions near Nathan Philips Square (image above), which made me pause and reflect considering everything going on in the world right now. In times like this, it is important that we remember that we are all in this together.