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!!

IMG_4136 (2)
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.

IMG_4167 (2)
Owl at Chapters, Bay & Bloor

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

IMG_4224 (2)
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!


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!


Diary of A Loose Woman

I’ve always been fascinated by society’s obsession with a woman’s so-called promiscuity, how many men she has slept with, her purity, chastity, virginity, etc. There is a stigma associated with so many things when it comes to a woman’s sexuality – if she has had sex outside of marriage, has chosen a lifestyle that others disapprove of, or is a victim of rape or sexual assault. From ancient times to modern day, this theme continues. I have a great interest in the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana in particular, but really everything from the Shiva Purana to the Vedas to the Bhagavata Purana. In the Ramayana (Rama’s journey), Rama’s wife Sita is asked to walk through the fire to prove her purity, which she does, emerging unscathed and untouched and yet it is not enough to appease the doubters, because the doubts in people’s mind cannot be assuaged if they choose to remain doubtful, corrupted, always unsatisfied, thinking that unless every last doubt is erased from their minds, then it must be the woman’s fault.

The word ‘loose’ normally has negative connotations, but really what could be better than being a loose woman? A woman that is free, unbridled, uninhibited, wild, one who roams this earth, rides into the wind, spends time with her soul, moves to her own rhythm.

One such woman is Radha, the lover of Krishna. She was the ultimate loose woman. She didn’t care that society shunned her, that she was breaking her marriage vows, she didn’t care about anything but pure unconstrained love. She had wild eyes and thick eyebrows and only had eyes for Krishna. He drove her mad, as she did him. Yet they found ultimate liberation with one another that carried through even during their separation. Krishna, Radha, and the gopis would dance frenetically in a dance called the Rasleela, losing all sense of themselves, and joining in the wild dance of life, becoming one with the universe and all of existence. Some would call it madness; others call it enlightenment. Either way it was an awakening.

One of the herbs that I take is called Shatavari. In Sanskrit it can be translated to “She Who Has One Hundred Husbands.” Should I be so lucky?! This herb is critical for libido and longevity. As most people know, in many societies around the world it is common for a man to take multiple wives, but a woman with multiple husbands is unheard of. But then there is Draupadi, the heroine in the ancient story the Mahabharata. This tale is haunting and gruesome, enlightening and majestic, and reading it will take you to the centre of your soul. She enters into an arrangement to marry the five Pandava brothers, mostly because of a technicality. She initially marries only Arjuna, but when he brings her home, he says to his mother, “I have brought something home that I would like for you to see” and his mother responds “Well whatever it is, make sure you share it with your brothers”.  Uh oh!  Of course, in those times, you must take your mother’s instructions literally, and so they decide to share Draupadi among the five brothers. Initally she is outraged, but eventually comes to rather like the arrangement. She spends a year with each brother, and during that time none of the other brothers can look at her or think of her impurely. And there is a special arrangement by which she magically becomes a virgin between the hand-offs. So you can only imagine the way Draupadi is regarded by society – she is called everything from a whore to a prostitute, and of course, a loose woman. Yet she is the most powerful woman of them all, and her actions and indomitable spirit change the course of history.

In Afghanistan, a woman can be considered loose and impure for many reasons – even just looking at a boy could brand her this label. In The Underground Girls of Kabul, Jenny Nordberg uncovers the stigma that girls face when they verge on inappropriate behaviour.

A teenage girl should not be anywhere near teenage boys, even in disguise. She could mistakenly touch them or rather be touched by them, and be seen as a loose or impure girl by those who know her secret. It could ruin her chances of getting married, and she would be seen as a tarnished offering. The entire family’s reputation could be sullied.

She talks to a woman named Nahid, who chooses to leave an abusive relationship and is supported by her father who gives the husband all the family money so that she can keep custody of their three children. “As a divorcee, Nahid was seen as a loose, available woman, risking threats and violent approaches by men, as well as plenty of direct and indirect condemnation by other women. As a woman with two sons, however, she is considered a slightly more respectable creature.”

Well after reading all of this (or should I say writing it) I am inspired to be even more loose than before. I stand with all the so-called loose women of the world, and I think we should loosen all the way!