It’s On The House

Week 20. This time I wore my Walk In Her Shoes t-shirt although you can barely see it in this picture. I walked up University as usual, stopping at Osgoode Hall to see the beautiful cherry blossom trees. I did take a video but I’m a little embarrassed to post it.

I had to stop for a break since I was in pain and read from my book “True To Life” by Beth Kaplan. I’m taking a class at U of T called “Life Stories 1”, taught by the vivacious Beth Kaplan, who is a writer and former theatre actress. Like me, she has written a diary since she was 9 years old, and like me, she was inspired by the Diary of Anne Frank. She really listens to our stories and offers such meaningful feedback. It’s been tough digging into my past and creating stories from my experiences. We are currently in the childhood phase, and my first story was about my grandmother during the time when I lived on Stokes Crescent growing up in Kanata. I vividly remember one afternoon when it was blistering hot (we didn’t have AC), and we were both lying on the bed in my room, immobilized by the heat. She asked me to walk on her legs to relieve the soreness. I used to love doing that. I guess it is typical in Indian culture for grandmothers to ask you to do that, but in my class other people had never heard of someone walking on their grandmother’s legs.

I walked up Yonge street, passed Buddies in Bad Times theatre, and made it to Balzac’s for my 3 PM meeting with Gillian. She is my friend who is working on a documentary about Phoolan Devi. She just spent a few months in Vancouver with the director, Hossein Fazeli, to edit the film and plan the next stage, which will be returning to India to shoot the re-enactment scenes. Talking about India always gets me excited because I am dying to go there! (haven’t been since I was 15). Perhaps I can go the same time that they will be there – it would wild to actually see how a documentary is filmed. They will be filming in Uttar Pradesh, which is in northern India, close to Nepal. It is also the home of the Taj Mahal, the birthplace of Krishna, and the land where Lord Rama was said to have ruled thousands of years ago. It must be a magical place!

Lately whenever I get to Balzac’s, I start crying tears of gratitude. No one really understands this, because whenever people see you cry, they naturally think that you’re upset, but really, there is something about being there that feels so grounding that it moves me to tears. And I’m becoming accustomed to crying in public. I think my sense of what is socially appropriate is going out the window. A result of spending too much time on my own I guess. Anyway, when I was about to leave, the ladies that work there gave me a beautiful daisy cookie – “It’s on the house”, they said. How incredibly sweet!!

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Daisy flower given to me from the ladies at Balzac’s

I stopped by Chapters on the way home, and encountered this owl that reminded me of the universe and it’s all-knowing wisdom. Far beyond my own knowledge that’s for sure. The owl has a special significance for me because it was the symbol for the team I worked with at Cancer Care Ontario, called ‘Knowledge Management’, and my manager Casey had given us all owls to hang above our desks.

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Owl at Chapters, Bay & Bloor

Then I walked home all the way in the rain, and it was beautiful!

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University Avenue at night

Hare Krishna, Hare Rama

This evening I went to the Toronto Yoga Show at the Metro Convention Centre. There was a beautiful energy in the hall, and I was instantly calmed by the smell of incense, chanting from the Hare Krishnas, and seeing the graceful postures of the yogis and yoginis practicing in the central yoga class. I wandered around for a bit, admiring the cotton t-shirts with pictures of Buddhas and Aums and Indian gods and goddesses. Then I went to visit my friend Neesha’s booth. She has a booth with Reshma, Mike, and Zak, and they sell their creations as well as their services. Neesha and Reshma both teach meditation and yoga, Zak is a spiritual healer and all-around badass (she has a t-shirt line called Spiritual Hustler) and Mike is a Qi Gong teacher and energy healer. Here is a pic of Mike at the booth:


While I was there, I ate at Govinda’s (the Hare Krishna restaurant), and listened to the beautiful chanting that calmed my soul. These Hare Krishnas sure know how to lose themselves in the moment!

Wake Me Up Out Of My Slumber

11:48 PM. It was a bad idea to come home and do my body scan meditation before starting to write! I really should write while all the ideas are fresh in my head and I’m going off the energy and excitement of the day.

It was nice to sleep in and then walk to my creative writing class. We explored character and how important character is to a story; all other aspects – setting, plot, language – are attached to character. And what makes a great character is inner conflict – a person who is torn between two (or more) conflicting thoughts/ideas/emotions that cause them to act often irrationally, inconsistently, or at least explains their behaviour and the motivations behind it. It is important that the story reveals what the character really cares about in terms of long-term and short-term goals. And is what they say they want really what they want? We gave some examples of characters in movies/books that stood out for us. I thought of Lord Rama in the Ramayana, and how he battles with himself throughout the story. Especially in the seventh, often hidden book, where he decides to send Sita to live alone in the forest because society does not accept her after she has lived in another man’s home (Ravana’s). He is conflicted and torn, and whatever decision he makes is sure to lead to great pain. It sucks when both options are painful – sometimes you are likely to pick the less painful one, but really it gives you an opportunity to actually do the right thing, because either way it’s not going to be easy.

After class I walked to Balzac’s, where I read a few chapters of The Color of Grace. It is a beautiful story about a young woman who goes to Uganda to help children that have suffered greatly due to war. She is deeply affected by what she sees and through the depths of her soul, offers all that she has to her work, to God, to the children, and all those she encounters. It is unbelievable to read her diary entries and witness the depths of her own suffering and of the little souls she encounters, and to find beauty, hope, and resilience through incredible hardship and trauma. In one of her diaries, she references the great poet Khalil Gibran:

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Interesting… I’m just now noticing that the quote I chose actually links to the ‘character’ theme of today’s class – so cool! Today was actually a huge synchronistic day for me… I saw my number (69) probably at least 20 times. On license plates, signs, addresses of buildings… it was everywhere! I’ve gotten so used to it now that it no longer surprises me but is a constant reminder that the universe is alive and there is an underlying force that connects everything and everyone. It is comforting, sometimes scary, and always beautiful. I wish I could say that it was enough to wake me up out of my slumber, but it seems I’m taking my time – the conditions aren’t quite right and I get defeated easily still. But all that is changing and I have lots of hope for this year! I’m so behind on all my resolutions but I know I’ll get them all done because it’s just the way I am. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it.

Following Balzac’s I went to see Daniel Clowes speak at the reference library. I haven’t been there in awhile and it felt good to be back. It was an engaging discussion about his career and his process in creating the comics and how he sees comics making a comeback and becoming more popular in the future. Following that I walked all the way home! I’m proud of myself for completing the 10km today because I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it!