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).

 

 

 

Patience

We often hear that patience is a virtue. Waiting, waiting, waiting. It can feel like torture. I’ve found that the things I’ve waited for in life have driven me insane. To the point where I felt like I could only be happy if I got that one thing… and now. Clearly that’s not logical, but it feels like the only solution. What I’ve learned is this: True patience is when you forget what it is you are waiting for.

True patience is when you forget what it is you are waiting for.

When you let go of the waiting, you allow room for some peace. You throw yourself into other things that matter, and you find that perhaps the thing you were waiting for was not what you wanted after all – there was something better waiting for you around the corner, a deeper lesson to be learned, or perhaps you ended up getting exactly what you wanted… and it was all worth the wait.

All this talk about patience reminds me of a story. What better tale to exemplify patience than the story of the tortoise and the hare? Both animals set out on a race, and the hare in all his conceit assumes it’s a shoo-in. He laughs as he watches the tortoise trudge along, and thinks to himself that he could easily take a little nap and still end up winning. And take a nap he does – yawning and stretching out against an old oak tree. The turtle is not one to be discouraged by such antics. Ever so slowly, but with determination and patience, he traverses the path. As he approaches the end, the hare awakes with a jolt – how on earth did the tortoise manage to get so far?! He runs as fast as he can, but it’s too late. The tortoise has won. Slow and steady wins the race.

Tortoise_Hare.jpg
The tortoise and the hare: an age-old tale about patience and perseverance

Are there times in your life when your patience was tested? How did your patience (or lack thereof) affect the outcome?

Speaking of patience, it’s almost 7 PM and I’m heading out to a chic restaurant called Makita in downtown Ottawa. I’ve patiently been waiting to eat all evening!

Will write more on other other emotions – gratitude, compassion, fear, anger – another day. :-)

Julie

I wrote this fictional short story as an assignment for one of my classes at U of T, Generating Stories, taught by Ken Murray. Some stories tend to stay inside of us until the time is right to share them.


“Here’s a story I never told anyone.”

We were sitting around the campfire and I broke out of my trance when I heard my friend Matt say that. He threw a couple more pieces of wood into the fire and we waited, watching the embers rise up into the sky and scurry through the air like fireflies. We had just finished singing Hallelujah and there was a somber and reflective mood in the air. The brightest star I had ever seen shone in the night sky. The pole star.

“It happened back when I was a kid, growing up in Cape Breton.” He paused and smiled, the memories flooding back to him as he thought back to his happy childhood. Then his brow furrowed and his face tensed, as another memory struck him.

“There was a girl on the island that lived down the street from us. Her name was Julie. She was eleven, a little younger than me, with long brown hair and light brown eyes. Her parents home-schooled her, so I only saw her when all the kids played outside on our street. One day after everyone had gone inside after a street hockey game, only she and I remained, standing on the sidewalk. We just stood there face to face, not knowing what to say, and feeling like we knew each other from another life. She suddenly became shy, and said she had to go and I watched her run home.”

“She became my best friend. We started high school together, which was a tough transition for her. We were pretty anti-social in high school. I mean we had friends, but really only looked forward to spending time with each other. Eventually I had to leave the island when my father got a job in Toronto, the summer I turned fifteen. We wrote each other every week. Then after awhile her letters became more infrequent, until one day they stopped altogether.”

Everyone’s eyes got a little wider. I looked down at my arms and realized I had goosebumps.

“I was totally devastated. I didn’t know what to do, so I kept writing. Every week. I just didn’t send the letters. Writing to her was the only way I knew how to express myself. For years I wrote to her. It wasn’t until I met Lindsay that I stopped.”

“So what happened to the letters?” someone asked.

“I kept them. And then a few years ago, I heard from a friend who’d grown up with us that she had spiralled into a really bad place; she suffered from depression and was addicted to painkillers. Her parents had died in a car crash. I wondered if there was anything I could do. Then it struck me – I had to give her the letters. I located her address and I sent her a package. There were 136 letters in total. I waited for months, hoping for a reply, but I never heard from her.”

We fell silent, disappointed by the story’s ending.

“Until last week.”

I exhaled, relieved. “What happened?” I said with anticipation.

“She said that she’d waited so long to reply because she was so overwhelmed that she had to give it time before she could express her gratitude. She said that the letters carried her through the hardest time of her life, while she was facing her demons, getting help, and struggling just to get from day to day. Initially she had wanted to read all the letters at once, but she didn’t want the experience to come to an end, so she read one every week, over a span of three years, the same time it took me to write them. She said she’s doing well now. She made it through.”

“Are you planning to see her?”

“No, I’ll probably never see her again.”

Matt put some more wood into the fire. No one said anything for awhile. Then one of the guys picked up his guitar and started playing Nothing Else Matters. I looked up at my favourite star and began to sing.

Learning to Climb

In this short story, I tell about my adventure in Thailand back in 2006, with two of my closest friends, Neesha and Amy. Wish I was back there!


Brrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnngggg!!! The alarm went off. 5 AM. Startled, I leaned over to turn it off and thoughts of going to work whizzed through my head. I opened my eyes, pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t at home and didn’t have to go to work after all. Stretched out before me through the window was the Indian ocean, off the coast of Krabi. In bed beside me, my friend Neesha slept soundly. I was always envious of how deeply she slept, and she looked like a princess amidst the white sheets. “Wake up!” I yelled, and went to the adjoining room to shake Amy awake. She was another one that loved to sleep, and she couldn’t share a bed either. At almost 6 feet tall, she liked her space and we always knew that if there was a single bed, it had her name on it.

By 6 AM, we were ready to go. We got to the beach and gazed up at the silver cliffs that loomed up into the sky. What an adventure! Amy was terrified and instantly identified a small cliff (more like a rock) on our right that would be her challenge for the day. I had been rock climbing once before back home, but never outdoors and never in such a beautiful setting. Our Thai instructor was a small man with a wide smile, toothy grin, and lots of optimism. Back home we would’ve had to take a course, sign our lives away, and wear a helmet. Here in Krabi, we were handed ropes and a harness and a big smile of encouragement. “You can do it!” our instructor said to us. Neesha went first. She expertly scaled up the cliff like one of the spiders on my balcony, and reached the top like a champ. I was responsible for belaying her. I felt a huge weight on my shoulders as I became aware that my best friend’s life was in my hands. I would later read that “belay” is the most reverent word in the climbing lexicon; it is the ultimate act of trust. I did not take the responsibility lightly, and I followed the instructor’s guidance carefully, keeping the rope loose enough to allow movement, but providing just enough slack in case of a fall. She descended back to the ground gracefully.

I would later read that “belay” is the most reverent word in the climbing lexicon; it is the ultimate act of trust.

I was up next. I started climbing and I wasn’t nearly as graceful as Neesha. My head hit the cliff rocks a few times. Where was that helmet?! My hands were shaking and forearms sore; clearly I had not worked these muscles in awhile. I got about halfway up and I’d had enough. I yelled back down “Ok, I’m done… let me down now!” In response, the Thai instructor smiled broadly and yelled “YOU CAN DO IT!” Was he kidding?! I saw Neesha give him her ‘serious’ look – she knew when I meant business. He wouldn’t budge. He yelled “YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN OVERCOME ANY OBSTACLE!” I couldn’t believe he was preaching inspirational sayings while I hung there, exhausted and terrified. I gazed at the ocean through my disbelief; it was a stunning sight. I shouted back to him that I was not, in fact, going to do it. Back and forth we went like that, and eventually I relented. Slowly, painfully, I continued up to the top. And I made it! What I had assumed I couldn’t do, I managed to do with a bit of force and someone’s refusal to give up on me. I felt great, although I made sure to give them both hell when I got back down. But my ear-to-ear smile gave away my satisfaction.

What I had assumed I couldn’t do, I managed to do with a bit of force and someone’s refusal to give up on me.

On our walk back to return our equipment, Neesha, Amy, and I happily ate bananas and strolled under the huge palm trees along the beach. We chatted about how much we’d enjoyed the experience, nerves and all. Suddenly, I was overtaken by what I thought was a meteor. Something hurtled past my head and fell at my feet. My banana splattered everywhere – on my shirt, in my belly button, in my hair. I was shaking all over and covered in banana goop. I noticed that Amy and Neesha had collapsed on the ground laughing once they’d assessed I was ok. It was a coconut! It had fallen out of the sky and straight for my head – and it had missed me by about an inch. Every year in Thailand, a few people die from falling coconuts and I was this close to being the next statistic. Between laughs, Neesha said to me “What would I have told your parents? Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Patel, we did everything we could but the coconut was just too fast for us.” Ha Ha Ha. I wasn’t laughing – YET. I couldn’t believe that I had survived my rock climbing adventure but nearly gone out with a coconut. Shaken but laughing, we continued along the beach and onto our next adventure.

THE END