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"Marana Veedu"

2019-02-24

On Friday morning I woke up to the news that my father's mother, my velliumma, had breathed her last and returned to her Lord. She was 78 years old when she passed to the next world.

Velliumma was a constant fixture in our life from when i remember. She visited us in each place we were posted at, from West Bengal to Maharashtra to Karnataka. Every summer velliumma and velliuppa would come stay with us. What I know of her is through the numerous stories she happily narrated to me over the years. Velliumma's favourite time was in the past, where she'd happily go to through her beloved photo albums.

Born to Mohsin Bin Ahmed, a District Education Officer, and Fathima Mohsin, a stately lady far ahead of her time, on 11th May 1940, velliumma was the oldest of four children.
She spent her formative years in hilly ooty where her father was about to settle down when she was infected by deadly meningitis and the doctor recommended they move somewhere warmer.
Velliumma was much loved by her parents, uncles and aunts. She'd fondly narrate to us stories of how they pampered her.
She always had people to look after her, from doting parents to a husband who took care of her to children who gracefully reversed roles and became her caregivers. She was comfortable in every other way apart from a host of physical ailments that plagued her from childhood till her last years. From meningitis to brain tumour to a brain surgery that ended in nerve damage paralysing half her face. She, who loved pictures and looking at them, was conscious posing for pictures for the rest of her life since then.
I can still see her slouched over fading black white photos of her parents, almost caressing them with her wrinkled fingers.

She loved things. She was fiercely protective of every single thing she owned, be it a silk sari or a safety pin. She'd repurpose old ice cream tubs to keep her various medicines next to her on the window sill. Neatly kept next to it would be a small cuticura or ponds talcum powder, nail clippers, a plastic comb with which she combed her jet black hair. She was very proud of the fact that she didn't have even a single grey well into her 70s.

On her visits to our different stations she'd set up her own mini station where she'd arrange her beloved possessions. When she was in a particularly lavish mood she'd give us money to buy a packet of toffee which she would keep in a plastic tin near her, her watchful eyes guarding them carefully lest my brothers or I sneak away a couple. The toffees were strictly post meal only. When she was particularly affectionate she'd give us two instead of one post meal.

She was an avid reader, always looking forward to next issue of the Malayalam magazines that would bring to her novels that were broken into episodes always ending in cliff hangers.
When India was gripped by newly released tele dramas that brought to homes scandalous stories of scheming mothers in laws and innocent daughters in laws, velliumma was one of the millioms of women gripped by it. From 6pm-9pm no matter what happened we'd find her at the edge of her bed, nervously biting the ever present scarf around her shoulders.
The summer of 2002, I was 10, my brothers 7 and 4, velliumma was with us in Bagdogra, West Bengal in our modest 2 bedroom apartment. Her 6pm tv ritual carried on for a few days before my brothers got annoyed at her monopolizing the TV. So for the next few days they started sneakily disconnecting the cable a few minutes before 6pm, which left Velliumma flabbergasted trying to figure out why the TV stopped working each day exactly at the time she sat down to watch it.

A few years later we were in Pune, sitting out in the veranda, playing carroms with velliuppa and velliumma. She was quite good at it btw.

A few decades into life Velliumma was limited by her body, which refused to cooperate, confining her to the bed, unable to take care of her basic bodily functions. This naturally made her bitter at times and lash out at those caring for her. Through this all her two daughters in law supported her selflessly. Especially my uncle's wife, who went above and beyond what was required of her. I want to say that that the rest of us were always patient, but we weren't. In the midst of it, it was hard to understand why she was doing that. Empathy comes easier in hindsight, it's clear now that she was very very lonely, the people who she loved so much- her parents, her younger sister- no more there for her. There were days when she would traipse across the edge of memory and believe they are all still alive. And she'd call out to them over and over again, asking us where they are. On some days we'd tell her they are no more and she would get furious. On other days we wouldn't have the energy, neither the heart to break her heart. So we'd tell her they will be here any moment now.

We didn't realize it instantly but over the last few years she had begun to withdraw into a shell. Deteriorating eyesight meant an end to tv viewing and magazine reading, which she'd relied on as her sole entertainment when her legs refused to take her anywhere. When she stopped we wished she never did, she was now turning into a shadow of her former self. She'd sit or lie down for hours staring into space. Sometimes we'd try to draw her into conversation, inviting her into it with her favorite topic- the past. Some days she'd accept our invitation and talk fondly about my father's and uncle's antics when they were kids. On other days she'd just smile and continue staring into space.

My youngest brother was usually able to draw her out. He would take her in her wheelchair and do wheelies across the hall. She would chastise him in mock anger but it was clear she enjoyed his company and attention.

Last June when Z was born she was there with us. She was in a grumpy state those days, listless at times. One thing that never failed to cheer her up was seeing Z. She'd exclaim how small she is and coo to her and laugh.

On Friday morning when I read uppa's message that velliumma is no more it hit me with all the force. This is probably the closest relation of mine who's passed away in recent times.
My husband booked a ticket for me and I flew down to Kerala the same night. I joined my parents at Dubai airport and from there we were together as we made the journey to Tirur where Velliumma was to be buried.

It's difficult walking into a house where someone just died. "Marana Veedu" as we say in Malayalam. Especially when it's someone you loved. Walking in and seeing her laid on a stretcher like that is one of the most heartbreaking things ever. It hits you with a force that this person, who's been so central to your life, who's spent decades on this planet and brought into it generations of people, who's the very reason for your existence, is no more. Veliumma was short. In life she was slouched down, her body frail and her back bent over as she walked. In death she was tall, laid straight.

I joined other ladies in praying the Janaza prayers for her. A final farewell. My uncle then kissed her forehead and covered her face with the white cloth, her only possession that she took with her from this life to the next. And just like that they took her, her sons and nephews her pall bearers.
I was touched to hear that at the cemetery my grandfather insisted that they open the cloth so he can see her one last time. He did and then he led the final prayer for his partner of six decades before she was laid to rest. And that's how a generation slowly fades away.

When the last of the visitors had trickled out, we- her children, grandchildren, and in laws (my grandfather's sisters) sat around and remembered her. Her many stories, her eccentricities, her love for mysore pak and vanilla drop biscuits. We laughed and we sighed.
Velliuppa was staring at his phone for a long time, he eventually called me and showed me an SMS from our family association- "Arifa Mohamed (w/o PK Mohamed and D/O Mohsin Bin Ahmed) expired at Tirur".

Today morning we'd stepped outside when we got back into the car there was her red ice cream medicine box. Over the years I am sure we'll come across these lil things in some hidden corner of the house or stashed away on top of the cupboard. We'll smile wistfully and miss the velliumma shaped hole in our lives.
.....
In loving memory of Arifa Mohammed, lover of all things sweet except Jackfruit which she detested with all her heart. She who was a repository of all birthdays, anniversaries, and death days, our Google calendar of yore. She who loved the color red and a jasmine scent on any good day. The one who showed affection with hugs, kisses, extra toffees, and a spray of her favourite perfume if you were particularly good.
May you finally be at peace with your beloved parents and sister, enjoying the eternal delights of the hereafter.

11th May 1940 - 22 February 2019
Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon
(We belong to God and to Him we shall return)

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Romantic love is overrated.

2019-02-13

Romantic love is overrated. There I said it.
No I am not a bitter person who's suffering from a severe case of sour grapes-itis. Infact I like people talking about love, being in love, and celebrating love. But I still find romantic love being put on a pedestal annoying. Especially this time of the year when social media risks imploding from over the top love-poisoning and florists and jewellers and chocolate companies become trillionares overnight.

Don't mistake me, the love of a significant other is definitely a plus and a pleasant thing to have in your life. But it is not the only kind of love out there, is it? I think there exist purer forms of love that need to be celebrated with more fervour. A parent's love for their child. Siblings' grudging, but ever present, ever growing love for each other. A teacher's love for his students. An aunt's love for her niece. Self love on days you don't feel like being kind to yourself. The strong, indescribable love we hold for our soul-people (Because you can have more than one soul mate) the ones who hold you together, who are by your side through thick and thin, who knew you before you became the person you are and who will be there cheering for you as you become the person you are meant to be. Some call them BFFs, others call them their 'tribe', no matter what you call them, you must know that kind of love is blessed and pure. So pure that sometimes romantic love pales in comparison. And this love- which is not derived from blood or a legal contract or any other benefit- is something we need more than one single day to celebrate. And no rose,no chocolate, no fancy dinner will ever be enough to repay the debt you owe these non romantic lovers.

And guess what, you don't need a commercialised day to remind yourself that for someone you are all this and more. On 14th Feb and other days, you are a big part of someone's world. Make it brighter, love them louder.

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I love stationery. I love paper. I love pretty journals. I love beautiful pens

2019-01-31

One thing people close to me know about me is that I love stationery. I love paper. I love pretty journals. I love beautiful pens I can write with on the said pretty journals. And on top of all that I love a little time each day I can spend reflecting.

In comes an activity that combines all of the above- the one line/question a day journal. I spent hours at end on Amazon and ordered these three beautiful journals for myself. These were my gift to myself.

On Jan 1 I started the journaling journey with my one line a day 5 yr journal, q&a a day for moms, and couples one question a day.

One month since I've started doing it, I can safely say It's one of the best things I have done for myself. Each day I look forward to noting down the highlight of my day. It thrills me to think about looking back at these 5 years down the line. How great it'd be to know exactly what I thought was noteworthy about Jan 14, 2019 or May 7, 2022!

I like the mom journal too because it lets me chart how I am feeling about different aspects of motherhood, #raisingZ and being raised by Z. Some questions are silly, but some are poignant and make me go into silent reflection.

The final journal, the couples one, is another fun one. I'd be lying if I say the husband is fully on board with it. Unlike me, he thinks of writing journals are imposition lol. But like all good partners in good marriages, he sucks it up and does it for me. Which means sometimes writing down answers like "what Nazreen said" ???? But I still love him for putting up with my wackiness and going along with it.

These journals are mainly for me, honouring who I am today, who I will be in 5 years, and the journey that takes me there. It's a text of me. For myself. And also for my Z (and any others kids who decide to come into our lives). If you enjoy writing and reflecting and thinking deep thoughts and cherishing life's little moments, this activity is for you!

Within a few days you'll find yourself looking forward to this "me time" with just you, the journals, and your thoughts. And maybe a cup of chai ????

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Do you dream of all the lives you could have lived?

2019-01-27

Do you ever wonder what would have happened had you not made that particular choice at that particular moment? On some nights do you toss about in bed thinking of all the things you did or didn’t do that brought you to this moment, right now in the present? Does it fill you with relief or regret? Is the sigh you let out content or wistful or loaded with remorse?
Do you dream of all the lives you could have lived?
Do you imagine the parallel universes in which you followed through with that dream, or took up that opportunity, or rose up to that challenge?
What if I tell you that this moment is another crossroad? That right now is a time you will look back on wistfully or with pride and gratitude. Your decision, your intention, your habits today are the foundation for the you one year from now Be possessive about your time and live fiercely through each moment, with intention. You have it in you to make this your best universe, better than all parallel probabilities out there.

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#LettersToSelf

2018-10-20

On unkind days, be kind to yourself. It sounds easy, but it isn't.
Do not attach your worth to others' perception of you. Do not rest it on things outside of you. You are bigger than a single failure or victory. You are the sum of experiences and people and places that came together just for you. Do not ever doubt what you have to offer the world. There is no other person on this planet who has your unique perspective. Do not be quiet. Do not stay still.

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You see me here?

2018-10-15

You see me here? Eyes glazed from lack of sleep, punctuated by dark circles. Skin and lips dry because I forget to drink water, let alone moisturize. Motherhood is as unglamorous as it gets. But guess what, when I took this pic I was happy and content. I'd put in Z into the Aseema carrier and she snuggled closed to me and just fell asleep like that. 30 mins of that journey I spent hugging her close and with each second my heart grew bigger with love until I felt like I couldn't contain it in my body.
I may not look ???? outside but man, right now I feel ???? inside. I feel content to my bone. Alhamdulillah Alhamdulillah Alhamdulillah. Thank you Allah for my personal bundle of joy.

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Latent Rage

2018-10-07

I believe that most women, irrespective of race, religion, caste or creed, go about their lives with latent rage building up inside. No, we aren't born with it. It's a direct result of enduring and witnessing injustice over generations. Encountering sex-based discrimination, harassment, and even violence on a regular basis results in this slow build of rage that gradually begins to settle under our skin, around our thoughts, and on our bones. Like dust that settles all over after a storm. This rage becomes a part of us that very rarely finds a healthy outlet. This rage is like an autoimmune disorder, it attacks our own bodies and minds viciously. Never letting anyone on the outside know how the insides are crumbling.

Most women know what I am talking about. Even those who take the patriarchy pill every morning with their tea. In late night conversations once the kids have slept, or standing in the kitchen as the tea boils over, or huddled in the corner away from men, women spill the damage endured so far. They show each other their battle scars. They tell their tales. They confess. They console. They cry. They wrap these shared secrets and keep them close by.

They wonder, sometimes out loud, if it would have been better to be born a male. Entitled. Privileged. Without the burden of being reduced at each stage to what's between their legs.

I have never wanted to be born a man. I love being a woman-- all of it. I celebrate my femininity and its immense power. But, I have wondered what it would mean to be a woman in a world where my intellect, my feelings, my actions aren't tagged to one single aspect of my identity.

And I wonder about it a lot. I wonder if women's opinions will still be considered emotional rambling and if men's opinions will still construed as facts. I wonder if we can stop apologising for having minds of our own. I wonder if I can shed the burden of being likeable 24/7. I wonder if our actual physical pain will still be overlooked by healthcare workers who think we are being dramatic. I wonder if I'll have to think twice before smiling at some one walking down the street. I wonder if I can stop looking over my shoulder when I am alone. I wonder if I can stop fearing dark corners and empty roads. I wonder if people will stop confusing my quest to ensure my safety as paranoia.

I wonder if I can fully inhabit a world without disclaimers- will it open up to me its dark alleys and corners, its beaches and its mountains, its woods and its deserts?

But what I wonder is so far removed from reality that all I have left is this simmering, burning, latent rage. Different women wield this rage in different ways. Some deny society the pleasure of dictating the rules by creating their own rules, some carry hammers in their purses and break glass ceilings, some direct their rage at themselves and fling the hammer at other women, some mould the rage into a force that drives them to create a more equitable world.

Our rage will one day rise and crush all the injustice we have had to face silently so far. Our collective voice will be deafening. And I can't wait for it.

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Manbabyism

2018-08-31

I am the doctor that detects bullshit and I am here to diagnose you.

If you say you want round rotis (like your mom makes) rolled out with your wife's post graduate degree
If you want a spick and span home even though the thought of putting a wet towel out to dry makes you lazy
If you want someone who puts up with your temper tantrums over misplaced keys
If you want to be served even as you retreat into the man cave every other day
If you think you are entitled to your wife's attention and devotion 24/7
If you want your wife to be at your beck and call and fulfill every single need of yours
If you don't give a shit about your wife's needs
If you think your wife is your maid who you can get frisky with
If you think your wife isn't entitled to her time and space and dreams and hopes and ambitions

You are a classic case of Manbabyism. If you do every single point above, I am sorry to say you are in the terminal stage of Manbabyism. The only treatment is if your wife and mom leave you and you get your head out of your rear orifice to finally see that the world doesn't revolve around you.

Fortunately , there's prevention against this disease. Don't raise your sons to be entitled little shits. Simple. Don't teach them they are entitled to love/sex/services from others just by virtue of being born male. This is tough considering how our society trains girls to become women much before they need to be and tells boys that they will always be boys. But we definitely don't need more man babies, so if you have a son, please do everyone a favor and raise them into upright men instead of man babies who we all just want to smack upside the head.

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I can go on but I don't think it will ever end

2018-08-29

When you remove the patriarchy tinted glasses forced on you since childhood, a lot of things begin to clear up. You see things for what they are. You notice the 'little things' that have a lasting impact and how they end up forming attitudes of entire societies.

You see it when-- girls are asked to keep still and quiet while their brothers bounce off the walls; when a little girl is told "let your brother have it no"; when violence in boys is just 'boys being boys' but in girls is unseemly and unladylike; when girls are scolded for 'provoking' boys' aggression; when new brides are told "You must adjust the maximum you can"; when a woman with an opinion is considered 'oversmart' and people want her to be 'put in her place'; when parents fear 'overeducating' their daughter because she might develop higher expectations for her life and demand higher standards of her future spouse; when women are expected to minimise their personality to be likeable; when being likeable is more important that being ambitious or passionate or hardworking;

when society would rather have an unhappy and bruised married woman than a happy and fulfilled single woman/divorcee; when a whimpering boy is mocked for crying like a girl; when 'like a girl' is the worst insult for a boy; when men fear appearing feminine so much that they repress their emotions lifelong; when men don't have the emotional support network that women are encouraged to develop through their sister-networks; when women can't dream without being reminded that at the end of the day her family comes first; when women can't make choices for themselves without being guilt tripped; when biology is used to straitjacket women into singular choices; when mothers are expected to sacrifice everything for their family with a smile; when a woman slaving over a kitchen for 3 decades is 'just doing her job''; when girls are born with timelines and checklists that remain with them till their death.

I can go on but I don't think it will ever end.

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Thoughts on India's Independence Day

2018-08-15

Thoughts on India's Independence Day
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From 2016. Not much has changed.

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I have fond memories of Independence Day Celebrations at school. It begins when the class teacher threatens everyone to come saying she will definitely take the attendance to make sure everyone is present. You see, it's supposed to be a holiday but then we had students participating in march pasts, 'patriotic' plays, songs, and dances which squeezed in a 'hum sab ek hai', 'meri mitti, mera chaman' and 'bhai-behen' wherever possible.The participating students would obviously come that day, but the rest of the students didn't really want to spend a holiday under the scorching sun watching their classmates dance and sing. In the end the authorities feared there being no audience at all to their revelry, and thus the mandatory attendance.

I've attended some of them- as a performer and as a grudging, attendance short student. Sometimes it would be made worthwhile when everyone was given sweets and savouries in small white packets. It would hold a laddoo, a peda, a samosa, and one mango or coffee bite. Those small packets would make the day of us students; making waking up early to watch class mates act badly in plays worth it.

In the end then there was the national anthem. It always moved me. I would stand completely upright, for 52 seconds, my heart full of love and honour for the country, my chest expanding with pride, thinking 'I truly belong to the greatest nation in the world'. It was a high. An overdose of nationalism that all citizens are subjected to from their primary years onwards.

It's a big blow though, when you realise what happened. When your illusion shatters. It hurts when for years you are told that everyone is the same and that your country--your motherland-- accepts you as you are and then you step into the real world and every action screams the opposite. It is hard to accept that a country which proudly proclaims that there is 'Unity in Diversity' actually meant a Diversity predefined by it, not a diversity of beliefs, views, and practises.

Independence Day becomes a conflicting one then. On one hand you are grateful for the struggle of our freedom fighters in freeing our land from the colonial oppressors. And on the other hand, you know that we have exchanged one type of oppression for another. It's hard to digest, but we are still slaves, not to the British, but to another form of oppression that pits people, communities, and even ideas against each other. Slaves to the poisonous ideas that base the worth of a person on the lack of melanin in their skin, to their surname, to what's between their legs.

But worst of all, today we are slaves to a system that thrives in an environment where individuals and communities are othered and ostracised on the basis of their beliefs. You ask yourself then, how did we reach a place where love for the country is contingent on turning a blind eye to the state's excesses and atrocities against a section of its own people. How are we here, in this moment which history will hold us accountable for, allowing those who are meant to protect us to blind our children, rape our women, kill our young men, and jail our students? How did we become a nation that stands mute when its own are forced to add a loyalty disclaimer at the end of each contentious opinion, if the name is a Khan and not a Khanna?

70 years have gone by and we continue to oppress and be oppressed in the name of caste, creed, religion, money. In the name of 'Development'.

I am sorry, but we are not completely free yet. This is not independence. We are not free when just airing this view will most possibly bring to my page a swarm of the most rabid trolls. My people, we will only be free when merely stating that we believe on the contrary doesn't get us viciously attacked, when a surname is needed only to fill forms, when 50% of population doesn't fear the dark, when what's on the plate is less important than what's in the hearts and minds, when development is not at the cost of the indigenous people of the land, when love for the nation is not dependant on hate for its neighbours, when the state remembers that it exists FOR the people- ALL the people, not just the Ambanis and Adanis. When we realize that Justice is far, far greater than any arbitrary boundaries, beliefs, and notions of patriotism, we will finally be free.

Till then, Happy Semi-Independence Day

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Day 11: What If?

2018-03-13

When asked what they regret the most when on their death bed, most reply: not following their dreams, not listening to their hearts... it is always about not doing something. And thus they are left to face death with a heavy “What if?” hanging over their heads.
What if I had pursued what I was passionate about?
What if I had married the person of my dreams instead of the one picked out for me?
What if I had seen the world more and truly breathed it in instead of saving for something I won’t carry with me?
What if.... and the list goes on.

It’s one of my fears too... regretting at the end of my life the paths not taken. While it’s impossible for any human to make all the right choices all the time, we can do our best to minimize the what ifs that can come hounding later on.

As cliched as it sounds, seize the opportunities that come to you or you chance upon. Don’t settle for the wrong person/job/career just because you have pressure from outside. Have kids if you want to. Be childfree if that’s what you desire. Be brave enough to love more openly, more deeply, and more intensely. To hell with fear of cheesiness! Let people cringe (and ignore the little part of you that cringes too) but don’t keep away from that bear hug. (Unless the person cringing is the one you are hugging, in which case pls stop hugging immediately)

Make it one of your missions to pluck out and throw away every ‘What if’ that comes your way. And how do you do that? Consult with wise people who have experience, seek counsel in prayer, research, and listen to your heart. Living a what if free life doesn’t have to mean reckless living. It’s about making more informed choices that benefit you. It’s about not letting outside voices drown out the voice inside you.

At the end of the day, as we draw in the last breath, let us not regret the things we didn’t do, the love we didn’t give more freely, the friendships we didn’t celebrate more fiercely. Let’s not what if our way out of life.

#30DaysWritingChallenge

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I am an Indian Muslim woman

2018-01-26

This Republic Day I want to share something I wrote last year and is very close to my heart:

I am an Indian Muslim woman.

No matter where I go, in my blood runs its ancient soul, on my tongue dances its lilt, on my brown skin clings its heady fragrance, in my heart lies a vacant space that always yearns for home.
Home which doesn't want me anymore.

I am an Indian Muslim Woman.

Questioned for something that is a part of me. Demonized and rendered voiceless. Bullied and threatened by newly minted patriots and nationalists who now decide who deserves to live and who doesn't.

I am an Indian Muslim Woman.

These days I fear my men looking too Muslim. I fear their beards might invoke the wrath of someone who believes we are alien to this land we were born in.
I fear the skull caps will make someone want to bash their heads in and someone I know will encounter the fate of Junaid and Akhlaq and Pehlu and the other men whose lives were worth less than cattle- real and imaginary.

I am an Indian Muslim Woman.

I mourn the friends that never were. I mourn their silence as my people get lynched and burnt. I mourn the love lost which now looks like was never really there in the first place.

I am an Indian. I am a Muslim. I am a woman. I am all this and more. My identities intersect. They twist and turn around my thin fingers and knobby knees. They are as tightly weaved into my DNA as the threads in my scarf.
This is who I am. And I find no contradiction in it.

Let me tell you one last thing, if I haven't said it enough.

I am an Indian Muslim Woman. And I am here to stay.

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Some Words of Wisdom That Speak to You

2018-01-21

The Prophet (saw) said:
“Amazing is the affair of the believer, verily all of his affair is good and this is not for no one except the believer. If something of good/happiness befalls him he is grateful and that is good for him. If something of harm befalls him he is patient and that is good for him”
I am far from the ideal Muslim. Like really really far. I try to practice but I am very intensely aware of how much better I could do. However, one thought that I try to hold close is this saying of the Prophet (saw) I shared above. It’s always there in the back of my mind. When good things come, I try to be grateful for I know it’s not my doing and could easily be taken away from me. And when something bad happens I try to be patient because patience during difficult times expiates ones sins. These difficult times also remind one of The One who’s really in control. In this time and age the material world consumes so much of your mind, maybe some sorrows that life throws your way are blessings in disguise because they force you to take stock of what’s really important and compel you to rectify your affairs.
Also, personally I feel such a relief knowing that God has my back. I would be so lost otherwise!
#30dayswritingchallenge

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Be you

2017-10-20

One of the most grating things for me is to hear someone say my opinion/argument/insight is ‘illogical’ or ‘irrational’ because I am a woman. When I am made to feel that anything I say is just the result of ‘emotions’ because I am female.

Parts of me suffocate each day when my inputs are discarded because I said them but the same input from a man is accepted because anything that comes out of a man’s mouth is “intelligent” and “rational”, when I am told impatiently, “don’t behave like a woman” as though being a woman is the worst thing one can do.

This thought that women are innately foolish creatures is so universally ingrained in everyone’s psyche that anything which women enjoy is seen as less than. Fiction which women enjoy becomes ‘chick-lit’. Movies which women watch become ‘chick-flicks’. Hobbies which we pursue are seen as pointless. A woman who is feminine is seen as vapid. Us women have internalized these thoughts too. We want to be perceived as more intellectual and be taken seriously by the men around us. So we think and sometimes say ‘I am not like other girls/women’ to be accepted by the men we want to be respected by. We consider it a compliment when men tell that to us, not realizing that we are betraying our sisters just for the approval of some man.

Writing this hurts. It hurts when I think about what my children will be exposed to. If I have a daughter, will she learn to see herself as lesser? Will she believe that masculine characteristics are the ‘default’ for all human beings and feminine traits are something that need to be corrected? If I have a son will he grow up thinking he’s better just because he’s male? Will he not take me seriously when he grows up? When I try to raise him to be a good person will he see it as ‘nagging’?

To the women reading this I have one request- don’t minimize yourself or let others minimize who you are. Hold your ground. When a male colleague tries to pass of your idea as his own, say ‘I just said that’. Be okay with making people uncomfortable when they try to dull your shine. Please stand up for other women. Don’t forward or share sexist jokes. Don’t laugh at jokes that make an entire gender seem vacuous. Call out loved ones who do the same. This is emotional labor you shouldn’t have to undertake, and I understand if at times it is the last thing you want to do, but this is something we have to do to make sure our daughters and sons have a less toxic environment to grow up in.

To men reading this, please watch your words, actions, and thoughts. Please observe how you react to women and how you behave in conversations/debates with them. Stop believing that masculine traits are the be all end all. Stop being ashamed of femininity. Don’t hide parts of you that you think are feminine. Being emotional is not a feminine trait. Empathy is not a feminine trait. Kindness and gentleness are not feminine traits. These are what makes us human. Please step up and do more to make sure the women in your life and women in general are not alienated in their own homes/relationships/ work spaces. Take some ownership and educate other men about these issues. Learn and teach them about ‘gaslighting’ and how they do it to their partners and other women in their lives. Make them relearn what they were taught about men and women.

I am exasperated and tired at this point. It’s 2017. Hundreds and thousands of women and I shouldn’t have to write and voice this. Millions of women shouldn’t have to feel this way. So please, listen and understand and back us. That’s all I have to say. That’s all I can say without going hoarse.

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I remember the girl who forgot...

2017-09-30

They spoke often of her, of how she travelled lands seeking moments to collect. She walked backwards extracting footprints from the past. She stored memories in jars, filled pages with scribbles, and labelled pictures in ornate albums. At times, like beads, she strung these memories into beautiful necklaces; bright pink, calming blues, and fiery red made their way as the gloomy grays were left behind. And then, gently, she locked them away in velvet vaults.
They spoke often of the girl who pressed memories like flowers, to take out some day and mull over the past. She dove into obscure corners of her mind, emerging with smiles. In embellished treasure chests she stored them, these memories. She hoped to take them out on gloomy days and feel them in her palms, Run trembling fingers over the smooth surfaces, and will time to take her back.
But as she inspected moments worthy of remembrance, a thousand others slipped by.
So they spoke often of the girl who, in remembering, forgot what it was to live.

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'Not all men'

2017-09-26

'Not all men'
they say
till the guilty consciences get
glossed over by repeated refusals
to see the truth laying there,
trembling under the weight of
questions that don't matter;
"What was she wearing?"
"But where did her dress end and skin begin"
She was Inches short of appropriateness,
they declare.
She was smack in the center of the Venn diagram of rape,
Straddling the circles of rapeable attire and time
It's obvious she asked for it, they explain.
And I can't scream anymore without coming apart at the seams,
And I can't ask
"But what about the week old infant girl?
What about the 70 year old cancer patient who you snatched from death's mouth, only to violate and send back in haste?
What about the fully clothed girl sleeping in her own bedroom, inside a locked house?
What about the little boys and girls in school?
Where do they fall in your neat diagrams of acceptable rape?
How do you justify the young and the old and the sick and the new born
taken against their will each day somewhere someplace?
Which new theories will you pass to undermine our rage and explain away
the constant, unrelenting male gaze that
scorches the skins of women trying to
get through the day?
When will you stop and listen to the sighs of girls coming to terms with the crippling fear that will be their sole companion till death?
Would you care more then?

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brought them into the world

2017-08-28

I want to talk to the parents. The new ones and the old ones. The ones of toddlers and teens and grown adults. I hope you will listen.

You don't have a right to blind obedience by your children. You aren't entitled to it just because you 'brought them into the world'. Yes, you did a great sacrifice by raising your children. You spent your blood and sweat and tears. But that doesn't translate into you owning your children and deciding only you know what's best for them. They didn't come to you before their birth and ask you to bring them to life. YOU chose to do the deed and bring a human into this world. So guess what, it's YOUR responsibility to look after your children and family. It's not charity.

I don't know what about this is so difficult to understand. I have heard so many instances of spiritual abuse by parents who conveniently quote this ayah from the Qur'an-

'And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.' -

to convince their children that they can never say no to their parents. That they have to be mute as their parents decide what they should study, who they should marry, and even when they should have kids.

There are parents who do nothing for their children's well being or future but have great expectations of unquestioning obedience from their children. They basically want a slave.

What these cherry picked ayah quoting parents forget is this verse which comes right after-

Be humble and merciful towards them and say, "Lord, have mercy upon them as they cherished me in my childhood."

In this verse there lies a key expectation that the parents raised their children with mercy and cherished them. This relationship of parents and children is shown as one of mercy and love and humility. Now if the parent didn't show the child mercy as he/she was growing up, how can they just expect mercy and unflinching obedience from their child when they grow up?

What I have observed is that truly merciful parents who raised their children right, don't hold them and their future ransom over this verse. They don't emotionally blackmail children with filmy dialogues and accounts of how much they have spent on them. It's the parents who do nothing for their child that are petty later on in life and demand unreasonable things from their child and sometimes even the child's' spouse. Some being as crass as accounting for education expenses, food, and lodging. As though the child made a reservation in their life through booking. com. These parents are also the ones usually complaining to others about how ungrateful and disobedient their kids are.

Listen, parents, you are not doing your children a favor by raising them, clothing them, and feeding them. This is your RESPONSIBILITY. This living breathing mass of cells that is your child didn't come into earth of their own will. Parenthood is not an opportunity to blackmail your children into being your slave till the end of your life.

The following beautiful verses by Kahlil Gibran encapsulate what I wanted to convey in this (rant) write up.

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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Thoughts on India's Independence Day

2017-08-15

I have fond memories of Independence Day Celebrations at school. It begins when the class teacher threatens everyone to come saying she will definitely take the attendance to make sure everyone is present. You see, it's supposed to be a holiday but then we had students participating in march pasts, 'patriotic' plays, songs, and dances which squeezed in a 'hum sab ek hai', 'meri mitti, mera chaman' and 'bhai-behen' wherever possible.The participating students would obviously come that day, but the rest of the students didn't really want to spend a holiday under the scorching sun watching their classmates dance and sing. In the end the authorities feared there being no audience at all to their revelry, and thus the mandatory attendance.

I've attended some of them- as a performer and as a grudging, attendance short student. Sometimes it would be made worthwhile when everyone was given sweets and savouries in small white packets. It would hold a laddoo, a peda, a samosa, and one mango/coffee bite. Those small packets would make the day of us students; making waking up early to watch class mates act badly in plays worth it.

In the end then there was the national anthem. It always moved me. I would stand completely upright, for 52 seconds, my heart full of love and honour for the country, my chest expanding with pride, thinking 'I truly belong to the greatest nation in the world'. It was a high.

But even then, the love that I had (and continue to) for my country was genuine. You see love for your country is something that happens naturally, like loving your family. You can't help it, you still love your annoying brother and bossy sister, even when they eat the last piece of chocolate you saved in the fridge or steal your favorite toy. When you are not with them you still think of them fondly. Same is the case with me. I have travelled the length and breadth of India and loved her from close. I have loved the people and our many Indian quirks and saying 'we are like this only'.

So it's a big blow when the illusion shatters. It hurts when for years you are told that everyone is the same (all Indians are my brothers and sisters we pledged for years) and that your country--your motherland-- accepts you as you are and then you step into the real world and every action screams the opposite. It is hard to accept that a country which proudly proclaims that there is 'Unity in Diversity' actually meant a Diversity predefined by it, not a diversity of beliefs, views, and practises.

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'The Handmaid's tale'. I am now in a dark dark hole.

2017-08-12

Over the last few days I binge watched 'The Handmaid's tale'. I am now in a dark dark hole. To think that Margaret Atwood wrote this with a challenge to herself that she'd only include events that have already happened somewhere at some point in time...

To know that even now a lot of people think the primary role of women is just to fulfill her 'biological destiny' and bear children, future sons who will go on to uphold the patriarchy on the shoulders and bruised backs of his sisters and daughters...

I am privileged to not have suffered from any trauma, but even then this show was triggering. At points I had to physically turn away because I could not stand it. Because this dystopian novel is a dark compilation of horrific events that have actually happened to women and continue to happen in different parts of world. Considered property, not being allowed to read or write or vote or work, being forced to bear children for others and have them snatched away from them, reduced to renting their wombs just so they can survive, being at the mercy of the 'benevolence' of the man who owns her, being blamed for some men's inability to control themselves, women picked out by men to become Aunt Lydias and Serena Joys of the world (who become happy when someone tells them 'you are not like most women') who make sure the patriarchy functions like a well oiled machine by keeping their fellow women 'in check' and supporting laws that hurt themselves as well, governments and states controlling and regulating our bodies and deciding what can be done with it... this has happened for centuries and continues to happen.

My thoughts are muddled and I think I will have nightmares about this for some time. If you are a woman watching the series or reading the book, I have to say this will be triggering and will take a mental toll. If you are a man, you may think that this is hyperbole. But it isn't. The Republic of Gildead exists and has always existed, it was built on the blood, bones, and hopes of women. It continues to thrive by sucking out our ambitions and demanding of us sacrifices that leave us hollow and spent.

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Navigating the New India

2017-08-10

For someone who has a Masters degree in Political Science, I don't write or comment as much on politics. I used to. I used to read voraciously about it, consume numerous opinion pieces, and sometimes even engage in comment wars with random people.
But I can't anymore. For my own sanity.

I can't read more about everyday violence and oppression and still function as though that has not messed with me. It's impossible to be neutral and unaffected while people hurl slurs like "pissfuls" "peacefuls" "libtards" "sickular" "presstitutes" at each other. I can't stay normal when I see the vicious hatred people have for their fellow country men. I can't function while knowing there's a huge group of people who want to rid India of minorities.

The level of toxic hate inhabiting widening pockets of the internet now make it okay to completely slander entire communities, peoples, and even states and call for their exile/torture/death.

Our national history is one of invasions back and forth. Our history is of Kings conquering and plundering and surrendering left right and center. That was how it was everywhere back then. However, the narrative is being spun such that Muslims kings invade and Hindu kings conquer. This is to project that Muslims are alien to this land despite being here for centuries, despite sharing a tongue, despite sharing the same values and culture.

The process has begun, to erase us from history. To uproot us from the past. To make it seem like we don't belong to India/Bharat/Hindustan, whatever you want to call it. It's as though we didn't make any contributions to the art, culture, cuisine, the very spirit of this land. As though we didn't fight for the freedom of this land and sacrifice our blood, tears, and sweat in building it up.

Suddenly Azaans are too loud while temple songs are not. Monuments which were once the pride of the nation are now some kind of stain that needs to be wiped away. Urdu, the soulful language of poetry and ghazals and odes to lovers is now viewed with distrust. Our people, as much sons and daughters of the land as anyone else, are seen as disloyal terror sympathizer. Treated as if given a chance we would force all Indians into burqas and surrender to Pakistan.

I feel insecure all the time. I feel horrified when I see people trying to justify lynch mobs, as though our lives are worth much less than that of cattle. I don't know what to do when I see leaders openly call for violence against minorities, when they actively promote xenophobia and bigotry through their words and actions. However, what speaks volumes is their silence and inaction when a section of the people they are supposed to serve and protect are in harms away. What hurts more is seeing family friends and acquaintances slowly buy into this and turn against decades old neighbors, colleagues, and friends.

One consolation I had was that I was born in Kerala. Which is really the safest and most stable of all states. Here we share a tongue, a healthy sense of humor, and an unhealthy love for beef fry and parota. What we also share is a disdain for anyone who tries to shove their beliefs/values/dress codes/diets down our throats. I feel blessed to be born in a state where people help regardless of your religion or background. While political rivalries do exist, we have rarely sparred on religious lines.

Now to see leaders and journalists try to drag this state through the mud and try to paint it like some intolerant, god forsaken land, I am furious. And this anger soon turns to helplessness because while I don't know what else they are planning to do to destroy the peace here, i know what lengths they will go to, to divide our state.

So for the sake of my mental health, I don't and won't read much news anymore. I will try not to read comments either. I can't read about more violence, more rapes, more mobs, more justifications, more whataboutery. For now I will just bank on those who have our backs and hope against hope that they don't abandon us too.

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#ThinkingOutLoud

2017-08-04

Contrary to popular belief, millennials are one of the most overworked demographic. Especially in Asia. Here overworking is seen as a sign of good work ethic, it's supposed to show how dedicated one is. The later you stay after work hours the better worker you are seen as. And with such a high population and such low resources, a lot of us can't even afford to not work overtime because we can be easily replaced in this highly competitive market. Here there's never a shortage of candidates who are ready to sacrifice everything for a stable job.

So the overworked millennials continue to overwork themselves. Then they get stuck in traffic for an hour and reach home so tired that they have energy only to zone out in front of their tv (or Now, Netflix) or scroll mindlessly through their social media feeds. Worse is the case of couples who decide to have a family. It takes a heavy toll on them, financially, mentally, and physically. Especially the women as they are on work mode 24/7. Many might say well women in the past used to manage kids, what's the issue now? Well, women in the past had literally a village or a neighborhood or at least an extended family to help them. They lived in joint families where a lot of child rearing chores were distributed. That's not the case now in highly nuclear families where women work both outside and at home.

Our cities are islands of families now and parents are paranoid to let their children wander beyond their small island. And you can't blame them, the world has become so unsafe that you can't just trust everyone.

So here we are at a time where people toil and toil and toil more and then to soothe their aching limbs and joints and their overworked minds they splurge. They buy a lot, they eat a lot, they spend a lot. And they want the world to see and share in these little moments of store bought happiness. As if the external validation from others will convince them that their life is not all that bad. I am guilty of doing this myself.

I am not trying to be cynical and dampen your spirits right in the beginning of the weekend. ??I am just thinking out loud here...we need to carve out some time for ourselves in this madness. For ourself and our loved ones.
Mothers and fathers, sometimes it's okay to not do all the items on your checklist after you come back home. No one will die. Take some time to sit down and breathe. Free your mind. Zone out if required. Watch your kids play. In fact get down on your knees and play with them! This time you have is so so precious. After a couple of years you won't regret the things left undone in the list. But you will regret the time not spent with your little monsters.

Those without kids. Take time to be with yourself. Don't go jumping from work/study to entertainment to social media. Give your senses a break. Your brain is overworked. Give it some rest. Take some time, even if 5 mins to do something you are passionate about, something which relaxes you. Be it doodling, journaling, gardening, baking, running...anything at all. I sometimes try to find my zen in the minutes of prayer scattered across the day. It forces me to break away from whatever that is keeping me distracted/occupied and dedicate some time to quiet prayer in front of the Lord. Five times a day no matter what. It really helps in reorienting yourself when there's too much going on.

I have no profound wisdom to offer when it comes to finding the elusive 'work-life balance'. Like everyone else I grapple with not doing everything, being tired to do anything else, or trying to make myself happy through retail therapy. But one thing I know for sure is that finding happiness and peace don't require much of you. Sometimes it's just unplugging from all things that scream 'look at this! Look at her! Look at him! Look how happy this person is and how unhappy you are!'. Practice being mindful of all the good things going on for you and be truly grateful for them. You'll find you are one step closer to a content life.

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Hold on, you will get there.

2017-07-22

Earlier today I posted a comic about the 'imposter syndrome'. It's when you feel like you had nothing to do with all your achievements, like they were a fluke or just pure luck, and that you are just the sum of all your failures. So even when you are doing really well, you feel like you don't deserve all of your achievements and accolades. And when one negative comment comes your way (negative comments will find the best of us) you feel like you have been caught red handed. You feel like an imposter who's been finally exposed.

I want to tell you, the one reading this who feels this way, that this feeling is completely normal.The best of us, the most successful of us, the high flying amongst us, almost everyone of us feels this way. Except of course the Donald Trumps of the world who are good for nothing but think the sun shines out of their backsides

Three years back I was pursuing a master's degree in one of the most prestigious universities in the world. My family and friends were uber proud of me. I had made it. Yet I felt like I had reached there by mistake. I felt the admissions people had accidentally chosen me. It also didn't help that i was studying with some really bright and articulate folks who left me tongue tied with their brilliance. This feeling messed me so much that I felt depressed most of the time. I was working part time and studying yet I looked down on myself

Then I graduated. I didn't rush to look for a job, I was taking it slow. Then I couldn't find a suitable job. For a few months I didn't take it seriously, then I started getting worried. I was applying to a lot of places but was being met with rejection after rejection. Sometimes not even a response. Two years passed like this. I did a lot of things in this time. I got married, moved to a new place, travelled to different countries, started writing seriously, got published in different places. But I just couldn't see these things. All I could think of was that I didn't have a job. Period.

I spent a lot of my time in self pity and tears. I have sobbed for literally hours, curled up on the bed. I have wept in my husband's arms countless times and asked him why this is happening. He'd console me but would not allow me to wallow in self pity. He'd push me to search more vigorously.

The only outlet I had in this period was my writing. I started this page as a way to keep my mind off things. Writing is the one thing that makes me truly happy. And here I put all my energy. It's kind of sad but the likes and shares and comments gave some kind of validation. That I am not all crap. It pushed me to write more, produce more. It became such a drug that I'd be always thinking about what to write next.

Over the next one year of starting the page I slowly came to terms with the fact that me having a job or not is not the end of the world. Yes it sucks that I can't be financially independent, but I had so many great things going for me that I really didn't have the right to complain. Over the months I became more relaxed, more content. Occasionally the snake that is self doubt would try to sneak in, but I'd hold it by its head and chuck it out.

The funny thing? When I'd reached that place where I was comfortable in my situation and accepted the way things are without overthinking every second, a job fell into my lap.

Alhamdulillah. That word encompasses the feeling in my heart for everything that happened and what it led me to.

I will not stretch this further. I just want to let you, the one who needs to hear this, know that this dark moment you find yourself in, is just that-a moment. But time being relative and all that, the moment will seem painfully infinite. Trust me, it gets over. Then you will look back in awe and marvel at how you needed to go through that pain and tears and heartbreaks to get where you are now. Hold on, you will get there.

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Bleeding is not a 'luxury'

2017-07-06

So here's the thing. Periods suck. Menstruation. Aunt Flo. The Red Wedding. Inevitable pain and discomfort, whatever name you call it by, is still inevitable pain and discomfort. Guys, you need to read this. Carefully.

Periods are painful. Uncomfortable. And very messy. It's a wonder that 50% of the population is able to do stuff while having blood gushing out of their privates. Did that make you squeamish? Guess what, it's worse when it's happening to you.

To add to that when you have cramps, bloated stomach, back pain, headache, and sometimes even nausea and dizziness, you'd think that nothing worse can happen to you. Well, if there's one thing life has taught me, it's that there's always room for something worse. And in this case it is having the government kick you in the stomach while you are down writhing in pain during your 'time of the month'. What am I talking about? A 12% tax on an item that all menstruating women absolutely need and depend on to function semi-normally. Sanitary napkins and cloths are what keep us from marking everything we sit on with our monthly uterus carcass.

Bleeding is not a 'luxury'. It's a regular bodily function for women who, like I keep saying again and again, are HALF OF YOUR DAMN POPULATION YOU IMBECILES (talking to the government here). So it boggles my mind that some places put a 'luxury tax' on something that is so vital for our well being and functioning.

In India we already have a huge percentage of women who don't have access to feminine hygiene products. Instead of making it more accessible, educating the populace on different ways in which they can tackle the pesky time of the month, and dispelling myths of what women can and can't do during The Red Tsunami, the government is punishing us for bleeding. They must really hate us.

The worst part in all this is that sindoor and bangles are not taxed. What message does that send to women? We don't care about you as an individual citizen but we will not let you get away from your role in the society, with respect to men.

Women, we need to start making a noise (if you aren't already). Even if it makes people (men) extremely uncomfortable, we need talk about our bodies. These are OUR bodies, which are beautiful and nurturing and kick ass in general, and we need to take care of it. We need to tend to it with love. And we need to build a space where our physical and mental needs are not brushed under the rug in the name of culture or 'sanskaar'. We have to demand that our needs be catered to with empathy and understanding, instead of disgust and apathy. Let us start now. Let the red flow.

#BleedingIsNotALuxury #iDidntChooseTheRedLife #TheRedLifeChoseMe

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Bharati!

2017-07-05

It was a dark night- the dramatic kind- with the wind swooshing through the leaves and the thunder punctuating the silence. I was walking back home from work when I saw a woman trying to hail a taxi. Dressed in a simple kurta and jeans, she would have gone unnoticed, had it not been for the distress etched all over her face.

I stopped and asked, “Excuse me, mam, are you alright?” She turned and looked at me with fear in her eyes. “What do you want?” she asked with a trembling voice.

“Mam, you look disturbed. Do you need help?”
“No. Just leave me alone. All of you! Just. Leave. Me. Alone.”
Puzzling. I was the only one there.
Before I could react the woman broke down crying, hysterically. I looked around hoping no one would watch this scene unfolding and misunderstand.

Through tears she mumbled “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to be so rude…I am just going through a lot right now.”
“Oh...I am sorry..."
She continued to sniffle.
"You won't get a taxi here. Do you want to walk with me to the taxi stand? I’ll keep you company till there. My house is nearby”
She hesitated for a moment before nodding her head.
“What’s your name?” I asked as we fell into step.
“Bharati.” She said in an accent I realized I couldn’t place.
“Bharati…nice name.”
She gave me a half-smile.
“So…are you okay, Bharati?”

Tears welling up again in her eyes, she replied “It’s just…my family, they are turning against each other. And I am stuck in the middle. They harass me and then try to claim me, trying to keep me from each other . I can’t understand how they can hate each other so much.”
I didn't know what to say to that. We walked silently for some time.
“Where are they now?”
“They are... everywhere.” She said, without further explanation.
“And where are you headed?”
“I don’t know. Away from this mess, this bloodshed, this suppression of our young ones...”

Uhhhh…bloodshed? Who the hell is this woman? And what have I got myself into?

[To Be Continued..]

#BharatiSeries

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Women can't do it all.

2017-07-03

No, women can do EVERYTHING they want to. But they can't and shouldn't be doing everything at once. We have been trained to aspire to become the corporate superwoman who is also a domestic goddess. The one who has power meetings in the mornings and makes power rotis at dinner. We are told that we are falling behind when we aren't earning 6 figure salaries, maintaining a spotless house, raising angelic children, pleasing the in laws, and making exactly 5 cm radius rotis all at once. All while also being super sexy for the husband at night.

This is not only not sustainable, it's also very unfair. We don't expect men to do half these things and we definitely don't invent categories like 'Superman' (in a domestic context) for men to aspire to. The bar for men is so low that just looking after their own damn kids is called 'baby sitting'. And women who have partners who help out in doing house hold chores are asked to feel grateful for that. (I have to admit though that in our society it is a blessing to have a partner who can adult. So many men grow up thinking the kitchen has a deadly shield which allows only women to enter and kills men who cross the threshold)

I work a minimum 8 hours in the office, sometimes 10, when I come back I have energy to either cook or clean. Not both. I can do both but that would mean I have no time for myself that day. No time to unwind. So I order food from outside or I don't clean. Or I cook and le husband cleans. These days it's my husband doing most of the work at home because I am near dead when I reach home and hit the bed straight. (In our case he does far more work than me)

If things are unmanageable I will hire someone to help clean or cook. But I will not do it all.
For women who do it all, something's gotta give. And I am making sure it's not my mental or physical health for the sake of becoming a poster girl for the patriarchy.

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''To My Dead Husband"

2017-06-30

Darling,

A year has gone by without you by my side. After 35 years of being one with you, I spent the last one year collecting the stray pieces of my soul you left in your wake. I haven't finished yet.

Losing you was getting my skin peeled, breathing smoke, and falling into a dark, endless pit. All at once.

People come and try to console. They tell me 'time will heal everything', 'he is in a better place', and 'you should move on...'
So easy to say. Move on. Like 35 years of my life never happened. Like a life time of memories can be erased with a few tears. Like your death was just limited to a body turning to dust. How do I tell them it wasn't only you that died? That there are some kinds of pain that time cannot heal. That some deaths lodge themselves like blunt knives in your ribs, right below your heart. That moving causes pain but staying still hurts more. Waking, walking, laughing, eating, looking out the window, watching tv, sitting still and breathing....the pain is ever present. You just to learn to contort your mind and body till you find the spot that hurts the least.

But it's still there. It's there when I wake up and open my eyes to an empty pillow where your head should have been resting, your mouth slightly open till I gently close it. It's there when I see a single coffee mug in the sink. Or in the supermarket when I push my trolley alone. It's there when I come across an inside joke and remember there is no 'inside' anymore. When there is no one to lean on or into. When I am curled up in bed, crying into your shirts, thinking what I wouldn't do for one more hug and another kiss....but letting myself dwell on that is to push the knife further in, till I risk losing myself to the never-ending, soul-crushing cycle of what ifs and if onlys.

Dearest, my grief is without recourse or relief.

Your scent was mixed with mine, my habits were yours, our quirks had become one. And then you were gone. In that instant I regretted each fight, forgot each difference, yearned for a little more time so I could disentangle myself from you before it was too late. So it would hurt a little less when the time finally came. But, too late.

Beloved, I am learning to live again as our grandson takes his first step. We walk together. We fall, we cry, we rise.
Hopefully, I will arrive. Soon.

All my love, now and always.

Nazreen Fazal Post

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There's a leaky faucet in my kitchen

2017-06-14

There's a leaky faucet in my kitchen. If I don't close it the right way, with the right amount of pressure, it goes drip drip drip drip drip all day till I get frustrated and am forced to get away from my work to stop it. It's weird how such an insignificant sound- a drop of water hitting the sink- can get on your nerves. I can't stand it for more than 10 minutes. It makes me go nuts.

The same is the case with negativity and hate. It doesn't have to be a deluge of hate. Just constant "drip drip drip" of microaggressions and "just for fun" remarks is enough to push someone over the edge. When comments that may seem innocent, arrive in a slow but steady stream, it becomes annoying and damaging. It chips at your mental peace. It makes you want to pull your hair out in frustration. And yet, someone who isn't there and hasn't experienced this 'drip', will not get what the fuss is about. "It's just a leaky faucet" they'll say. It isn't.

Don't be a leaky faucet, don't let hate drip on others. And when you see a leaky faucet, close it immediately. For your own sake.

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Women!

2017-06-10

We have some messed up ideas of what it means to be a young woman, a newly married woman, a married woman without children, a married woman with children. There are some expectations of how women in each category should behave. Like a silent tree she must bloom and shed aspects of her personality according to the seasons. In Spring she must shade those around her with her full bloom of leaves and in autumn she must shed her interests in accordance with that of those around her. She must live for others and what she does purely for herself is seen as selfish. After all, does a tree ever shade itself?

The uterus enquirers have calmed down, in my case. Their attempts to know whether I have any 'good news' have been repeatedly thwarted by me. I still get the occasional query and my food baby is sometimes mistaken for an early pregnancy bump (sign that I need to start working out again). What I notice though is that when I say no to their queries I am expected to say it with great sadness. They immediately try to console me and say 'InshaAllah soon! Allah has a time for everything...' It's like they can't comprehend someone, especially a woman, not having a child as the first thing on her mind post marriage. It's like not having a child is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. As though we are machines that aren't living up to the purpose we were built for. Say a faulty washing machine that makes the clothes dirtier.

The same with young women who put off marriage for various reasons. They are viewed with great pity, even though these ladies might have everything working for them. Great qualifications? Check. Awesome Job? Check. Amazing friends and family? Check. Exhilarating life experiences? Check. No husband? It's worse than being stricken with cancer! There MUST be something wrong with her that she hasn't vowed herself to a MAN! And she doesn't even feel bad about it? How can she even smile? She must just step out into a shed in some abandoned farm and shrivel up and die a spinster death out of sight.

Although the thought of it makes me anxious, I would love to have kids someday. But this expectation that I have a deadline in which it's acceptable to have kids makes my uterus want to shrink and scream 'back off'. Especially when people go to my in laws and try to 'sympathise'. Like I am failing them in the one thing I was supposed to do as a daughter in law- continue their lineage. Alhamdulillah my in laws are super chill and never bring it up but I still find out about this and it just makes me mad. Not just for having random noses try to gain entry into my business and uterus, but also for this overall regressive mentality our society has and the stupid expectations it places on its women.

And what happens when you finally do have a kid? It's endless lectures on how to parent. How you must leave all sense of self and enslave yourself to your kid.After one year start the advices on having the next child. And if you have three plus children these same people will go 'How many kids are you guys having? Stop!'As though we are borrowing their reproductive organs to give birth to our kids. Uncles and aunties and folks who do this- You need to calm down and stuff your face with biriyani before people start naming and shaming you. Now that won't be good news.

Nazreen Fazal Post

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'Noodlepuff'.

2017-06-08

Imagine an independent country 'Noodlepuff'. It has its own culture, economy, and trade. It's supposed to be independent. However, Noodlepuff outsources its governance to another country, say neighbouring country 'Momopuff'. SO Momopuff dictates what the people of Noodlepuff eat, drink, wear, do, study etc. Can you imagine being a citizen of Noodle puff? How inconvenient and embarrassing it is to not be autonomous in your own land?

Inadvertently, a lot of us end up becoming like Noodlepuff. Handing over the reins of our lives completely to others, be it spouses, parents, in-laws, neighbours or the society at large. So THEY dictate what WE study (engineering or medicine), who we marry (Wealthy and tall NRI guy/educated but homely and fairer than milk 'girl' who makes the roundest rotis), when we have children (within a year of getting married), and overall how we live. Isn't this humiliating?

The other day I got a message from a woman who was living a nightmarish life, having compromised her dreams for marriage and kids. She wrote that reading about women being able to do anything they dream about gave her the courage to get out of living under the thumb of her in laws. She enrolled herself into a post graduate course and now hopes she can fly high.

Another absolutely courageous woman stood up against family pressure and completed her medical degree. She's now a doctor and supports her family. We are all capable of this, we just need that one push to unveil our magic.

It's liberating to take charge of your life. You have one life after all, there's not enough time to bend and contort yourself into uncomfortable positions just to please those who don't do shit for you. Don't let random uncles and aunties try to add more masala into your life when your chai has enough for the day.

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Attention: This is a kindness thread.

2017-06-07

The week has ended, some shoulders are slumped under stress at work or school, some have aching backs after too much toil, and others have heavy minds burdened by everything that needs to be done.
Let's take a moment to step out of our temporary stresses and worries and make someone else's day.
It works in two ways. Tag someone you know who's been having a rough week and tell them something awesome about them that you admire.
Or comment below if you have been having a rough week and need some e-love your way.
We will reply with some positive vibes, prayer, and love.

Only nice things in this thread ????

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Ramadan

2017-05-30

The most difficult part of Ramadan is not fasting from food. That's actually the easy bit, anyone can do it.

The most difficult part is fasting from everything that displeases Allah. Fasting from everything that holds you back.

It's fasting from anger when an argument is easier than keeping quiet. It is fasting from backbiting, when picking apart someone is more 'fun' than leaving the conversation. It is fasting from mind numbing entertainment, when it's easier to plop down in front of the TV than doing something that nourishes the soul.

So every Ramadan I make some resolutions. Either to change a bad habit or start a good one. Sometimes I succeed, other times I dial miserably, and yet other times I am partially successful.
This time around I roped my husband into it and we decided to work on one major bad habit that we have been trying to get rid of-Talking about people. Specifically, discussing things they wouldn't like behind their back. Back biting. It's a grave sin in Islam, equated to eating the raw flesh of your brother. However, it's something most people, including me, don't take seriously enough.

Even if we personally want to improve, the world is designed in a way that makes discussing people rewarding. There's an entire entertainment industry built on speculating over the lives of celebrities. 'Are they dating?' 'Is superstar xyz cheating on his hot girlfriend with another hot girl?' It's endless and we read this mind numbing stuff day after day.

The news industry is no better, with screeching hosts that compete for screen space by cooking up stories and labeling innocent people guilty. The media is now the judge, jury, and executioner.

As a society we have become preoccupied with knowing details that we don't need to know. We are so engaged with discussing others lives that at moments we forget we have our own lives to live.

Coming back to my resolution. It's difficult. This habit is so ingrained that we do it without knowing. When we remember we call each other out. We repent. We repeat. We repent. It's a cycle. Hopefully there will be fewer repeats and more control on our tongues. I don't want to contribute to mindless conversations anymore.

The real challenge is disciplining the soul and learning to say NO to yourself. One day at a time.

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Marriage / Ramadan

2017-05-27

Marriage is not always this rosy rom com where you wake up to your husband holding flowers for you and you feed each other chocolate till you die. You don't spend your entire day sighing and composing love ballads for each other. And breakfast in bed is really not that common. No. Marriage is messy. And it's understandable because it's a relationship that is not bound by blood. It's not like a parent-child or sibling relationship where you just instinctively love them, warts and all. The only thing that binds you to your partner in a marriage is that you chose them and they chose you. And what will ensure you continue to live with them through joy and sadness is whether you have love and respect for each other.

It is not easy. Sometimes you want to be left alone, sometimes you want to scream at them, sometimes you are exasperated at the annoying things they do. But at other times they make you smile, they fill your heart with a joy you wouldn't have known otherwise, they offer you a kind of companionship you didn't know existed, just the thought of them makes you happy to your toes.

So it's kind of sad that despite all this, the person who's the closest to us is also the one who see the worst of us. They see our real ugly side that the rest of the world isn't aware of. Ask any married couple and they will agree that their partner has seen them at their most horrible and unattractive point. It's inevitable when you have two people sharing physical, mental, and emotional space for so long.

However, It's not right and it needs to change. So to address this, and in preparation for Ramadan, for the past few days I have been more conscious (most of the time) of what I say. Sometimes I feel a snappy or sarcastic comment rising at the back of my throat and I swallow it. I remind myself that It is just not worth it. That momentary satisfaction of saying something "witty" is not worth the pain you cause your partner. In my case I've noticed that often what I say sarcastically is me projecting my insecurities and hurt on my husband. I am not being funny, I am trying to deflect from issues that I am not ready to tackle.

And what's a better time to confront the deepest,murkiest part of yourself than now? You are fasting from not just food but also all other mindless activities. This month literally forces you to reflect and ask the difficult questions you'd been putting off.

For this reason, Ramadan never fails to give me the warm fuzzies. No matter what my spiritual or emotional state, the beginning of Ramadan is like a small but growing glimmer of light through the darkness, through the emotional thunderstorm.

Ramadan is hope. This hope that it doesn't matter if I have hit rock bottom, I can still get up, dust myself, and begin climbing again. This month is for myself. The devils are tied away, so who I am this month is who I really am. What I am this month, I am responsible for it.

Ramadan is accountability. My relationships are an amanah (trust) entrusted to me by God. Am I honouring them in the right way or am I being selfish and hurting the people who love me the most? It's difficult to call yourself out, but you need to do that.

Take that first step. Reconcile. Treat that open wound before it festers into something worse. Take this month as an opportunity to address issues you had been brushing under the rug till now. Isn't it time to heal?

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Just a Date?

2017-05-26

I have been fasting the whole month of Ramadan since the age of 11 or 12. Before that, my Ramadan was mostly of half fasts-breaking my fast 5-6 hours before the adults. I remember one episode in particular where sunset was around 6 pm and I decided that fasting until 5 was the maximum I can do. So I broke my fast literally one hour before iftaar. Talk about patience.

Other fond memories include Iftaar parties with the extended family. The kids restless, exerting all their energies into praying the sun would just drop down from the sky, so they could polish off the yummy samosas beckoning them from the over laden table. Ramadan at Grandma's meant delicious Pathiri (rice flour bread) topped with coconut milk and her Spicy Chicken Curry™. When I look back now, Ramadan has always been of abundance. Alhamdulillah. Every Iftar we were fulfilled and maybe even overfilled (some to the extent that it was difficult for them to get up for prayers from where they were seated!).

In all these memories, however, my fondest memory of Ramadan is quite different. I was 17 years old, and awestruck. I was at the Masjidul Haram in Mecca in the last few days of Ramadan. Everything around me at that time inspired me. I was just blown away by the people- Oh God The People!- and their dedication. Malaysian women in their bright baju kurungs, Pakistani uncles in their kurtas and topis, Iranian ladies in their Chadors... Men and women of all shades and shapes and sizes worshiping with me, circumambulating around the Kaaba. All there for one reason alone- God. It was inspiring and humbling all at once

The atmosphere in Ramadan is quite different in this area. Usually, we hear of 'Ramadan Road Rage' and 'Hangry Hisses' , but what I saw was a competition to do more and more good among the believers. We were staying in a hotel not far away from the Masjid, our walk was about 10-15 minutes, taking us past hawkers selling 'Islamic Goods' like prayer clothes, rugs, Qur'an copies etc, tiny juice shops, kebab shops with heavenly aromas wafting out, almost pulling us in by hand (or nose?). What we also saw was people on the street corners handing out free laban (yogurt drink), dates, and other Iftar snacks to all passersby. There were so many of them! Some of them came in cars filled with cartons of juice boxes, waiting to help out anyone in need.

However, the most humbling experience of all was another episode. We were seated on one of the plush rugs in the Masjid, having just finished some of the more strenuous activities of the 'Umra. Naturally, we were tired, thirsty and just waiting for the adhan (call to prayer) to let us know its time to break the fast. So we're sitting there, just counting the seconds when an old lady next to me nudges me. I don't remember her name or her face, neither do I recall where she came from. What she did next blew me away. She had three dates and a glass of water with her to break her fast. Of this she gave one date to me and the other to the lady sitting on her other side. We didn't know each others' languages, she spoke in smiles. She didn't know me, and we will probably never meet her again, but that day she was so kind as to split what little she had with a complete stranger. Just because we shared belief in a God who asks us to be generous with each other.

More than 5 Ramadans have passed since then, but I still remember that lady. Not a face or a name. What comes to mind is the beauty of her soul. Today, the third day of Ramadan, has been a little difficult for me. By midday I was extremely tired and now I have a severely parched throat and a mild headache. And I haven't even stepped out of my room all day! So all I can think about today is that lady who probably herself was tired after a long day, and yet, was kind enough to think about the needs of the person next to her. And that humbles me.
Fasting is not for myself. This hunger is not for me. This parched throat doesn't say anything about me. This discomfort is a nudge to think beyond myself. A call to share, whatever I have- even if it is a couple of dates.

Most of us live lives of abundance. Of plenitude in all aspects. However, how rich is our heart? What have we given in order to grow? And by given, I don't mean emptying out our spare change and walking away. I mean really giving, stepping over our needs and greed and looking out for the person who probably needs it more.
Isn't now the time? Aren't you the person?

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Dear students about to receive your grades,

2017-05-21

I know that each day, as you get closer to the the results, you are a little more afraid. I can feel your heart in your mouth. You've worked so hard for this. You bought all the books and religiously did all the question papers. You skipped hanging out with friends for 2 hours of Physics. You missed a cousin's wedding because you had to get maths into your head. In fact, you don't remember a time when you didn't have exams on your mind.

Today I want to tell you something. Our society is lying to you. Whatever marks you score is not a reflection of you as a person. Marks mean nothing, especially board marks. It is an arbitrary and often unreliable way of checking someone's competency. So whether you get a 75 or a 93 in Chemistry, it doesn't make you a worse or a better person. You could have distinction in all the subjects and still be a mean person. You can score less than 70 and still have the kindest heart. Don't let anyone compare you with Sharma ji's son. You will still be you, today, tomorrow, once the marks have come, and when eventually everyone has forgotten about it.

You have given it your all and that's what matters. This was a test of discipline and you have passed with flying colours. Five years down the line, you will realise how meaningless these scores are. They are simply one of the things you need to jump from one level to the other.

Know that these days will pass by soon. And no one is going to give a rat's ass about how much you scored in your X of XII. So it really is not worth your tears or anything more drastic.

Instead, take a deep breath. Tell yourself that you are more than your report card. Then enjoy this time that you have. Work on improving yourself. Be kind to someone everyday. Laugh with your family. Go for a walk. Smell a flower. Draw something.

Explore the options for your future. Choose that which you love and are good at and leave the rest. You deserve to be happy with what you are going to do for the rest of your life.

Love,

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Dear Papa and Mamma,

2017-05-20

Tell me, which day was it that you assigned my future for me? What about me made you feel that I can be a good doctor? Was it written on my forehead when I came out of your womb, ma?

Papa, when I came to you in tears and told you that I cannot for the life of me understand what my science textbooks say, you didn't even keep your newspaper down as you shouted at me for not studying hard enough. How much harder could I have studied? What could I do when equations run away from my brain? When the dissections in biology made me want to throw my guts up? When the very sight of blood makes me dizzy?

Mamma, you knew what I wanted. You knew that I dreamt of weaving magic with words. You saw me lose myself in books. You read my words and told me they are worth being read. But you didn't back me when I needed you the most. One word, just one word of support in front of papa would have meant the world for me, ma.

You both have done a lot for me. You fed, clothed, and sheltered me. But I didn't know that my dreams are the price I would have to pay for being brought up by you. I didn't know that it's a child's duty to live her life trying to fulfil her parents' unfulfilled wishes. I didn't know that your desire to tell the world that your daughter is a doctor trumps my aversion to the profession and inaptitude in the subject.

I can't keep up appearances anymore. I can't pursue something that doesn't evoke an iota of passion in me. I can't live your dreams for you at the expense of mine. I can't be a trophy for you to show off in front of the society anymore. I can't be a doctor when I'm broken myself.

The anxiety crushes me a little more each day. Before it takes all of me, I will put an end to this charade.

Sorry for failing you twice.

From the other side,

Your daughter

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Wordlessness.

2017-05-09

For someone who aspires to be a writer, the worst thing that can happen is to run out of words. To have unruly thoughts bounce off the walls of your mind, unable to find a single word that can articulate it and let it out. It's even more distressing when you want to articulate oppression, be it your own or someone else's, and you find yourself short of words. What is the word for when your rage doesn't yield any words, when it doesn't translate into meaning, when you are exhausted of saying the same thing over and over and over, in different words, dressed in different phrases, compressed into different sentences?

What's the word for when you have reached the end of the tightrope but realise you have to walk back and forth a million times more before you can step down?
I find it happening more and more these days. Not just with me, but with the world in general.

I see an unshakeable exhaustion creep in, brought forth by the increasing violence of everyday life. Hopelessness that settles like dust into your pores. Another attack, another rape, more bloodshed. We crack, we break, we think we can move on.

But we can't.

Racism, sexism, misogyny, bigotry wear us thin in more ways than we can comprehend. It dilutes our empathy. It chips away at the edge of our sanity.

We lose more words. We lose more meaning. We lose a little more of ourselves each day.

And one fine day, when a dead child is washed ashore, or an entire tribe is burnt alive, or a woman's body is turned inside out, we pause. We mourn. But there is no meaning to our mourning anymore.

Nazreen Fazal Post

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'OLIO PICCANTO'

2017-05-08

My father worked in Italy for five years. He loved the quiet little town of Brindisi. He would go on long walks along the Adriatic coastline in the evenings, my mother reluctantly walking beside him since he's donned a ridiculous cow boy hat that she absolutely detests. On weekends they'd go on road trips to different parts of Southern Italy, a cowboy hat wearing brown man and his hijabi wife, making the Italian landscape a little more interesting. It was a leisurely life. Except for one thing-- food. My father, being the true blooded Indian that he is, couldn't stand Italian cuisine. The relatively bland Italian palate offended his Indian sensibilities.

After some time there, though, he discovered that Italians have something called 'Olio piccante', which is a spicy oil that is steeped in peppers. It was a miracle from the heavens above and soon he fell in love. In restaurants, before we are even seated, he would beckon the server and say 'OLIO PICCANTO' with the confidence that comes of knowing your food can be salvaged finally. I would try to hide as he, much to the annoyance of the Italian waiters, slathered all his meals with this oil. Pizza, Pasta, spaghetti, it did not matter, my father was just smitten with olio piccante. This made me fully comprehend the universally acknowledged truth that Indians are in a league of our own when it comes to food. I realise now that we are the desi Power Puff girls, craving sugar, spice, and everything nice, all at once.

I think this is something unique to our culture. We want our tastebuds to always have the best of everything in one go. The prime example of this quirk is Pani Puri. This magic snack that explodes in your mouth in a symphony of a million flavours and textures. It's savoury and sweet and sour and crunchy and mushy at the same damn time! Pani Puri is market research implemented way before anyone even knew what market research is.

Another one is masala tea. Imagine! Someone probably was sipping on tea and going 'Hmmm...what other thing can we add spices to?'
*Sluurrrrp*
"Why this tea, it lacks a je ne sais quoi. I guess It can be only one thing."
*Rubs hand gleefully and proceeds to powder cardamom, clove, cinnamon, peacock feathers, elephant tusk, and snake skin and adds to tea*
"Let no one complain that our tea is not spicy enough!"

We are truly terrified about missing out on other flavours with each morsel in our mouth. This explains our fascinating array of condiments. Is the food not hot enough? No worries, you can choose from a wide array of pickes- mango, garlic, ginger, tomato, beef(!), lime, lotus stem.

Is the curry too spicy? Worry not, Dahi, Indian yoghurt, will come to your rescue and neutralise the spices.

Is your pizza or pasta too bland? Chup ho jao and slather it with ketchup.

I'm not complaining though. When I see my husband down my culinary experiments with a generous helping of fish pickle and dahi on the side, I can only thank our power puffy foremothers for inventing something that can transform any food into a gastronomic roller coaster ride.

What are some of your cultural culinary quirks?

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7 way to raise independent and confident boys and girls

2017-05-06

I don't have kids so these are not tried and tested by me. These are based on observations of different parents and what they do in their parenting journeys, that sets their children apart from the rest. When I look back at my own childhood, I see a lot of the things my parents did that have contributed to making me who I am. I'd break it down broadly to the following:

1. Communication Skills
Our family is big on articulation. When we were younger my dad used to sometimes conduct speech contests for us kids. Sometimes our cousins would also participate. It was so much fun, without the pressure of winning. My mom used to encourage us to participate in school debates and elocutions. She'd help prepare the speech, sometimes my aunt would chip in too, This taught us the format and soon I was preparing my own speeches with inputs from my parents.
My parents also a put a huge emphasis on our social skills. Having a defence background also helped because you are expected to talk politely and articulate yourself well. These skills help later on in our life, be it at uni group discussions or at work.
[This also includes being a good listener]

2. Financial Skills
I can't put enough emphasis on this. Your children need to know how to budget and live within their means. At 18 when I left for college, I had an initial monthly budget of 5000 INR in which I'd manage my rent,food, and travel expenses. My father asked me to keep an account of where and what I was spending on. And over the 4 years of UG and PG I maintained excel sheets where I tracked my expenses.
My husband has a detailed sheet in which he tracks daily expenses and categorizes them into
personal/household/capex etc. We have our own sheets and we have a common sheet where we track our combined expenses. We have monthly and annual targets for our savings. Although it's a bit of a hassle updating every day, boy does it help in the long run. We know exactly what we are spending and where.

3. Plan B/Escape Plan/Conflict Resolution
This is quite broad and is a combination of a lot of skills. Children should know the exit/escape strategy. They must know what to do if they are lost in a crowd. Who to contact first? What do they do if someone touches them inappropriately? What do they do if they are being bullied or see someone being bullied?
I'd also include basic survival skills in this- being able to look after yourself, feed yourself etc. [Cooking is one skill I picked up really late, despite my mom's lectures]
.
4. Compassion and Empathy
Yes. These are skills. And in these times, the most essential ones. Please raise compassionate children. Teach them to identify with others struggles. Encourage them to walk in someone else's shoes. Help them help others. Not only will they be helping others, they will be increasing their Emotional Intelligence. We need more emphasis on high EQ than high IQ. [An aside: I believe reading helps a lot in developing empathy and the ability to approach things from multiple perspectives]

5. Respect their Individuality
No one will ever think they are destined for greatness if their own family encourages them to leave all their unique qualities and just follow the crowd. My siblings and I are starkly different from each other, with our own strengths and weaknesses. My parents have encouraged us to pursue our individual strengths and work on our weaknesses. They did not flatten out the differences. The result is that we are all (mostly) confident in our own skin.

6. The ability to laugh at yourself.
We don't take ourselves too seriously. We laugh at each other and ourselves. We make fun relentlessly of childhood gaffes and embarrassing stories. This makes sure that none of us let our successes get to our head. I am sure even if I win a Nobel Prize, my family will remind me of the time I cried in Pisa.

7. Reliance on God
This is the most important of all. At my lowest point and on my highest wave, I try to remember there is God watching over. Nothing can delay or deny what he has destined for me. And He listens. This thought has liberated me from being crushed by defeats and has taken me through a lot. And I credit a huge part of that relationship to deep conversations with my parents.

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Me with!

2017-04-14

One day I want to see myself on the screen and in the pages of best selling books. Me or someone like me. Not there as a caricature or a token character. Not there merely to be the head on which rests the hijab added for diversity. Not there to show how certain cultures oppress their women so the rest should gloat. Not there to evoke sympathy and be saved by the white hero.

Some day I'd like to see me with my fiery red hair under my sober hijab. Me with my unbound ambition to live my potential. Me with my addiction to memes. Me when cackling at the stupid 'fail' videos. Me when sipping tea with my best friends and sharing secrets only they can take. I want to read about Me in love. Me heartbroken. Me in tears. Me and my evolving relationship with God.

I want to see us Muslim women as we are- multi faceted. I want to read a character that does justice to the feisty and inspiring Muslim women I know. I am thirsty for a portrayal that is not made out of stereotypes stacked against each other.

I am tired of us being in the background.

I want the world to know the real us, living and loving and laughing and, guess what, saving ourselves.

Maybe I need to write that story.

Nazreen Fazal Post

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Dear You,

2017-04-14

Yes you. This letter is for everyone who was made to feel small. For everyone one who was bullied for who they are, what they look like, or where they come from. This is a love letter from me to you.

Dear person who is mocked for the colour of their skin and told they will never find love because they are too dark. Those people who said these hurtful things are wrong. You are beautiful. Your skin: smooth caramel, dark chocolate, burning wood, the very earth...it's incomparable to anything else.Anyone who doesn't see that is blind as a bat. Ignore those who ridicule you and then turn around to get fake tans. Ignore those who tell you to quit going out under the sun and stay indoors. They are wrong. Be as sun kissed as you want. You will always be loved.

Dear person who grew up hearing jokes about their weight. Who was judged based on their waist size. Who never found anyone similar on the ramp or on tv or magazines. You are beautiful. Your curves and plains don't define you. Your dress size doesn't define you. A size zero is not the pinnacle of achievement. And neither is having curves that big a deal. People have not seen the immense talent and skill you possess. They have not looked beyond how thin/fat you are. It's their loss. Dear you, unleash what you hold within and wow the world. And guess what, you will always be loved.

Dear person who was alienated because they don't 'fit in', I applaud you. You are one of a kind and you have strength in you to withstand the world's efforts to mould your soul into something it is not. At each stage you encountered immense pressure to become like the rest just to be liked. But you carried on being you. And thank god! Because there's no one who can take your place. You are needed. You are and will always be loved.

Dear you, today might seem like a struggle. It might seem like it's all futile and no one cares. I just want to say there are those who care. Those who love you no matter what. Who cherish the essence of your soul. Live for them. Burn bright for yourself. Let the rays show you the way forward and blind those who don't care to look beyond the surface. You will stay strong, won't you?

All my love,
You

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

'beta give us good news'

2017-04-07

I am open in my disdain of self appointed uterus status inquirers. So much so that most of them have backed off now. I show it in a frown or by outright saying NO or sometimes changing the topic in a jiffy. But there still remain a few who are persistent in trying to find out whether a couple is going to have little humans or not.

One lady has been confronting everyone remotely related to me and asking whether I have some 'good news'. A mere 'No' is not enough, she has to know why we are not having kids as it's been 'two years over'. This lady is a small symptom of a large rot in our society. She is not really asking to know the apparent answer, No. The real interest is in finding out if we have a problem conceiving. Then it's perfect fodder for gossip. 'Hey did you know that so and so has fertility issues?' Since we are giving her no indication of if there's a problem or not, it's frustrating and she just HAS to know.
And there are many like her, deeply invested in learning the problems families are facing within, not with the intention of helping them out, but just to take pleasure in someone's misfortune.

And then there are the advicers, who will come and impart their gems of wisdom of why we must start popping babies from the moment we get married. They present complex calculations of the ideal, scientifically verified, age gap that must exist between the baby and mother. (If it is more than 25 the baby will be born with two horns, a third eye, a butt tattoo, and will be the cause of the extinction of the human race.) These advisors are very very concerned about your future, they call themselves your well wishers. But god forbid you encounter a financial or health issue, they are no where in sight to help you. So they never really wanted to 'help' in the first place.

What we must do is stop discussing our lives with such people. Don't give them the tiniest atom of information about what is going on in your life. They are parasites that feed on the misfortune of others. Cut off the information supply and they will shrivel up and die. Okay not literally, but at least their nosy noses won't get any air and will grow back in.

So the next time someone says 'beta give us good news', there's just one answer: No.

#YourNoseDoesNotBelongInMyUterus
#TakeItOutBeforeIbecomeBadNewsForYou

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

Bookstores and restaurants

2017-03-25

Bookstores and restaurants evoke the same emotions in me. Well, more like feeeeelingsss. It's a bewildering concoction of excitement, dread, anticipation, guilt, joy, and sorrow.
Imagine walking into one of the best restaurants in town. It offers an all you can eat buffet and you have skipped breakfast and lunch in anticipation of the upcoming forgy (food orgy). You walk in and are immediately seduced by the heavenly smell of sweet and spice and everything nice. You see tables bending under the weight of all your favourite cuisines. There's Indian, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Mediterranean. And now you are confused. There are so many choices that you choke on the drool accumulated in your mouth and your brain fuses, unable to process anything. Once you regain your consciousness you begin sweating. 'What. Do. I. Eat'. While the buffet is 'all you can eat', your stomach is definitely not 'all you can dump'. You wince at the memory of the last time you tried to make it happen and had liquid oozing out of all the orifices (some even unknown) of your body for the next few days.
You strategise.
Round 1: A spoonful of butter chicken (no chicken. Fried chicken is always better than curry chicken),
one butter naan, two pieces of chicken 65.
Round 2: Quarter plate Chowmein,
two chicken dumplings, two spring rolls.
Round 3: A portion of lasagna,
some spaghetti with meatballs.
Round 4: Enchiladas, one taco, a handful of nachos.
By now you can't physically move. But an all you can eat buffet is a test of your endurance. So you unbuckle your pants, call for a wheelchair and ask the waiter to wheel you to the dessert section.
Round 5: A slice of black forest cake.
Half a bowl of trifle pudding. 2 gulab jamuns with ice cream.
When you force the last spoon of ice-cream into your mouth, you realize that there are 3 more tables you did not even have a look at. So you slide down from your wheelchair, try to curl into the fetal position (but can't because of your food baby), and cry until they throw you out.

Same with bookstore. You walk in. The smell of new books charms the pants off you. The thick spines of hardcover books call unto you, asking to be caressed. Yet you remain, rooted to the spot, not knowing which aisle to explore- Mystery? Fantasy? Crime-Fiction? Horror? Romance? Your eyes dart from book to book, from blurb to blurb. You are frantic now. Running across the length of the store, touching as many books as you can, opening them all and reading random passages, frantically seeking that one book you can take home tonight. But it's too late. You have been seduced by way too many books. You want to spend the night with all of them, at once. It makes you feel dirty and leaves you breathless at the same time. So you throw all the books you want in a pile and collapse on it crying. Let them have all your tears if you can't have all their words.

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

#Sheroes.

2017-03-08

Women never cease to amaze me. It is just incredible how much women can and continue to endure on a daily basis. From the moms on overdrive 24/7 to the single ladies out to make their name in a world against them to the girls who wake up and quash an assortment of stereotypes each day to grandmas in whose wrinkles rest struggles of entire generations.

Women are amazing. The only thing more awesome is the network of women that sustains us, that keeps us from crashing and burning, that gives us the strength to get up and take the next step. From mothers who've always got our backs to sisters who counsel you after heartbreaks to friends who give you a much needed smack when you wallow in self pity to coworkers who cheer you as you break new glass ceilings to random women who will at times understand your struggles better than even the closest men in your life. And yes, sometimes even the auntiji whose sole purpose in life is to see to it that you settle with a nice boy and birth an entire cricket team.

To the women in my life, I am nothing without you. Your smiles give me life, your soothing words are balm for the heart on the worst of days, and on other days your hugs give me the strength and courage to keep walking with my head held high no matter what the world says.

I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by inspiring women who raise the bar for excellence every day, in every way. Celebrating our everyday #Sheroes. <3

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

10 Ways Women Hate Themselves

2017-03-01

One of the main by-products of the patriarchy--Internalized misogyny and sexism-- rears its ugly head when:

1. When a mother feels a a tinge of sadness colour her joy blue when a daughter is born. Other women folk will only add to the sorrow by berating her for giving birth to a burden. (Even though it's her husband who determined the sex of the child) When women let out sighs of relief when a son is born to them.

2. When women are taught their duties but not their rights. Women who do demand their rights are told they are ungrateful and asked to stay quiet and maintain the status quo by their own ilk.

3. When women feel compelled to hide that they are on their periods. Because this natural, monthly phenomenon disgusts them and those around.

4. When daughters are taught over generations to keep their voices low, eyes wide, ears alert, and smiles bright. Because one needs to be careful not to attract attention but be likeable at the same time. A smiling girl not aware of her surroundings is asking for it but a frowning girl aware and alert probably needs to be taunted to be put in her place.

5. When mothers want docile and obedient wives for their sons. When an adult man can be a man child who needs someone to pick after him constantly AND get away with it. But a woman with no 'feminine skills' like cooking, sewing, cleaning thinks something is wrong with her and feels guilty about it.

6. When mothers-in-law carry on abuse they received from their own MIL. Because nothing says patriarchy like women being made to fight each other over a man.

7. When modesty is made into a gendered term. When mothers scream at daughters for crossing their legs while their sons pee on the road.

8. When respect is taught to be a one way street. When new brides are taught that you must respect your husband no matter what. But no one tells her that she must expect and receive the same respect back.

9. When an opinionated woman becomes a blot on the family. When women beg their daughters to shush and become likeable so they can bag a decent man.

10. When little girls skip spring for autumn; shed their ambitions, one by one, as each year passes by and they see their sisters, mothers, and grandmothers stop resisting and settle instead to become pillars that hold the glass ceiling up.

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

To Those Who Beat Their Children

2017-02-26

Spanking ones child is considered a god given right in most Asian cultures. Many parents here don't think twice before slapping, pinching, or taking out the much feared 'daddy's belt' to "discipline" their children. This abuse is so pervasive in our culture that even in schools many teachers resort to corporal punishment if their student is seen as falling behind in the classes. Sometimes it is done in public, absolutely humiliating the child.

However, in a majority of these cases, the physical abuse is not inflicted for disciplining the child. It is done to take out the frustration of the adult. The child is just a punching bag for stressed out adults who are angry at their bosses/spouses/the world. They are using someone under their authority as a venting machine.
What are you teaching a child when you hit them for doing something wrong? You are teaching them that force is a legitimate option to overpower someone under your authority or physically inferior to you. You are teaching them that violence is an effective corrective measure. You are taking away from them the ability to resolve disagreements or scuffles amicably, with reason and compassion. And then you exclaim exasperatedly "Why is this generation so obsessed with violence?" Because you are teaching them that!

I understand the urge to set things right with force. I must admit that there have been occasions when I've seen an extremely unruly child, wreaking havoc everywhere, and wondered why the parents don't just "give him one". But that's the result of my culture conditioning me into thinking that force is necessary for good behaviour, for better results.

We are not okay with an adult hitting another adult when there is a disagreement. But we don't mind when an adult hits a child. Why is that? In the former situation, the other adult atleast has some power to retaliate. But the child is powerless because we are basically telling them that "You are small. You are insignificant. A person more powerful can and will use force to get the powerless one to obey." How isolating it must feel when the person who is supposed to care for you the most is the one who scares you the most.

Don't mistake me, I'm not promoting a world where kids run helter-skelter without any discipline or supervision of adults. I am simply saying do not hit a small child. The physical bruises of your blows may fade away, but the wound it inflicts on the mind and soul of that child is never going to heal completely. It will manifest either as insecurity and low self-esteem as an adult or in another abuse cycle in other relationships. You are creating bullies and wife beaters.
With each child you hit, an adult is born with lesser empathy, the threshold is lowered for impatience and intolerance. With each frustrated slap you mould an adult who believes might is right. And when entire communities do this, we are left with a society that gives too much power to its authorities to suppress its weak and powerless. Don't go looking for compassion then, there won't be any left.
#FromTheArchives

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

Five Ways to Improve Your Language Skills

2017-02-22

'How do I improve my speaking/writing skills?' is a question many in my inbox have. I thought I'd write down a list of five simple steps to get started.

1)Read More, Read Diverse
I started reading picture books then moved to comics (Tinkle and Champak FTW!) and Enid Blyton novels in primary school. In my teenage years I read a lot of YA fiction and then eventually graduated to more complex novels.
It's important that you read widely- in as many languages as you know, and from as many sources as you can. It exposes you to new and different cultures/societies/ways of thinking. Read African, Asian, non-white literature. Read writers from different centuries, belonging to different economic and social backgrounds. Read female authors. Pay attention to the way they use language, the turns of phrases, their metaphors, their allusions.
Read newspapers, opinion pieces, infomercials, backs of cereal boxes and shampoo bottles. Just make sure that everyday you are reading something new.

2)Talk to Others
Talk about what you read, what you know, what you'd like to know. Talk to those who have a better command over the language and it'll help you step up the ladder. This is important because the more you practise, the more articulate you will become. Often we have all the thoughts and even all the matching words in our head, but lack of practise makes us stutter and stammer when speaking in public. There's an interesting phenomenon happening in your brain though. Each time you stumble, your brain learns a new way of dealing with that failure. So the more you falter, the more the brain learns, till one day you find that you can speak effortlessly. (This is how we learn all things we know-walking, eating, riding a bike).

3)Write, Write, Write
Make it a habit to write a little bit everyday, be it a journal entry or a Facebook status. Write about your life, your dreams, your hopes for the world. But make sure you have a locked diary if you want to write about your crush. ;) It's a wonderful time to be alive. You have so many avenues to put forward your work. It may not be very good in the beginning, but like with anything else, you will see a marked difference in the quality as time passes by.
Experiment with different forms of writing, try poetry, satire, listicles- whatever excites you! Don't wait till you think you have mastered a language to write in it. The beauty of this process is that writing itself becomes your teacher.
Also, don't be afraid to form your own style. Everyone appreciates a new voice.

4)Use Google
Praise the Lord for Google! The moment you come across a word or phrase that's new to you, look it up. Look at its noun and verb forms. See how it's used in a sentence. And next time, if it's appropriate, use it when you write or say something. Learn words for different emotions. Learn descriptive words that describe places and things and movement and sounds. You will be amazed at how a single word can change the image you see in your head. 'The soft caress of a feather', 'the metallic twang of a spoon on a steel plate', 'the ball swished over his head' 'the coconut tree swayed in the wind'. Could you hear or feel or see these sentences? It's because of the key words in them. So use Google all day, everyday!

5)Daydream
This is the key. Build castles in the air. See stars where others see lampposts. Make your life an animated movie. Just make sure you check in with real life every now and then. :P
Daydreams give the best ideas. Don't hold back from letting yourself loose in your thoughts when need be. You will be surprised by how much your dreams can teach you. Borrow ideas from your dreams and translate them on paper. Voila! You have created something new and unique.

These are the five tips that I have. Feel free to add anything else that has worked for you.
#FromTheArchives

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

Six Ways to Pluck Nosy People Out of Your Life

2017-02-22

We've all had to face questions about our career, marriage plans, and little human appearances at least once in our life. If you are a woman, definitely more than once. But the thing is, no aunty or uncle has any business peeking into your life or uterus. So here are some tried and tested tips to stop people from meddling in your binezz.

1. Do not smile when they ask intrusive questions.
Smiling encourages these people. Intrusive folks are kinda like vampires. They feed off on silence and smiles, taking that as a sign to further suck your energy out. Do. Not. Smile. If possible, frown. Gagging, falling to the floor dramatically and spasming also works. Shout 'Et tu, Brute?' before pretending to die.

2. Change the subject.
Pretend you had temporary hearing loss and didn't hear what they said. Ask them about the new sari they are wearing or about the darling son who's in Amreeka now. If an uncle, ask him his opinion on the latest headline and plug your earphones in as he drones on.

3. Be Frank
If the hearing loss trick doesn't work, be straightforward and tell them you are not comfortable discussing personal matters with outsiders. They may get hurt, but that's the price you pay for unnecessarily meddling in others' lives. As the saying goes 'MaH wOmB man RuLeZz' (No there isn't any saying like that). If it's a marriage question, ask them why they want you to be as miserable as they are.

4. Shock and Awe
Some people don't learn with the above step, for them there is only shock and awe. One of my very good friends related this story to me- One random woman walked up to her at a wedding and asked her how many kids she has. Now my friend is not even married, let alone have kids. But this lady didn't bother with knowing anything about my friend before asking her this question. My friend decided to play along and said she has four kids. The lady was impressed and asked 'what does your husband do?' 'I am not married' my friend replied sweetly and walked away. Watch that jaw hit the floor!

5. Embarrass Them
If shock and awe doesn't work. Complete and utter humiliation is probably the last resort. My friends and cousins have given me a lot of tips to do this to persistent Uterus Territory Invigilators (UTIs). My cousin said, ask them to recommend the ideal position to conceive. Another friend says ask 'Aunty what worked for you and uncle?'. Or just ask, why are you so curious about whether my uterus is occupied or not? Are you a real estate dealer? Even if you are, trespassers on my uterus will be prosecuted.

6. Be Sassy!
Work that mouth! Tell them you have made 7 horcruxes out of your ovaries and they needn't worry. Tell them you are allergic to baby powder and diapers and nutty meddlers. Talk about your ambition to conquer the world and be an evil warlord, a spouse or a baby will only get in the way of your plans for total and complete world destruction.

It's irritating and tiring, these persistent questions. It is hard trying not to explode into flames when a self appointed well wisher tells you should marry before your biological clock's battery runs out or that you should put aside your career and focus on popping babies before your eggs dry out. If you are like me, you are probably sick of the phrase 'Good News'. Just remember that you have ultimate power over your timeline when it comes to career, marriage,or babies. Women, your uterus belongs just to you and maybe your baby, if you decide to have one. Give no one room to dictate how you should live your life. Be creative in shutting these people up and share with the rest of us how you did it through the hashtag #BetaGiveUsGoodNews.

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

A 9 point letter to parents

2017-02-18

Dear Parents,

I write this letter on behalf of your child, who loves you very very much. They appreciate everything that you have done for them- all the sacrifices, all the money spent on them, all the late night trips to the hospital- everything. They will always be grateful for that and respect you for it. Nothing they do will ever repay what you have done for them, please know that. BUT, there are some things which are weighing heavy on your child's mind. Things which make them cry alone at night and walk around with an aching heart. They haven't told you this because they are afraid they will hurt you. Here are the things they wish you knew:

1. Your son/daughter has their own personality. Even though they are your children, they are completely different human beings. They grew up in a different time, with different standards. What worked for you when you were young, will not necessarily work for them. Sometimes what you think is good for them is the very thing that is hurting them.

2. Your son/daughter desperately wants to be your friend. They want to discuss things with you-things that interest them, things that depress them. Don't you want to be their friend too? Have you wondered then why they aren't opening up to you? Could it be how you react when they tell you something personal?

3. Your daughter would appreciate it more if you invested the money set aside for her wedding on her education instead. She wants to grow in her profession and make a name for herself. She wants to be on her own two feet instead of having to depend on someone else for the rest of her life. And she hates that you have to pay an exorbitant amount to her in laws just to get her married. She doesn't want anything to do with a person who thinks of marriage as a business deal. You daughter doesn't want to become a baby making machine that makes perfectly round rotis too.

4. Your son wants to tell you that he doesn't want to marry a woman just because she is good at 'housework'. He doesn't want a maid for the house, he can just hire one. Instead he wants someone he can trust and truly love. Someone who gets him and inspires him to grow and better himself. Someone who will stand by him through the roughest of life's waves. You son wants a partner for himself, not a chef and cleaner for the entire household.

5. Your children value your inputs and suggestions when it comes to the important decisions in life, be it education, career or marriage. But more than anything they want your support and understanding when they make their own choices. Yes, you may have their best interests at heart, but standing by your child when he/she makes a choice they are sure of is the best thing you can do for them. When I look around, so many of the happy and successful people I know are at the place they are because of the support of parents who gave them enough freedom to grow.

6. Your child's happiness is more important than what people will think or say. Did the people or the society help you pay your bills or look after your family when you were sick? No. Then why must you let people's opinions come in the way of what your child truly wants to do? Why is 'society kya kahegi?' heavier than your child's mental and emotional well being? Is an engineering or medicine degree more valuable than your child's talent, passion and ambition?

7. The thing with love is, it's like a tree- the more you leave it free to expand its branches and shoot into the sky, the more firmly it spreads its roots into the earth. Your job is to nurture the sapling, be careful not to uproot the whole plant in the process.

8. Please loosen the grip you have over your child. You may not have noticed but he/she is finding it hard to breathe. And some of your children are hurting so bad because of this that they are contemplating self harm to end their pain.

9. Weren't there things you never did or could do because of fear of what people will say? When you think about those things, do you have anything except regrets? Please be the first one to stop this life-sucking, soul crushing dependence on other's opinions. Don't let regret be the only thing your child inherits from you.

I hope you will reflect on these points and have a heart to heart conversation with your child. It is long overdue and they will thank you for it.

Love

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

Time we told our daughters they are in charge of their own story.

2017-01-30

When you remove the patriarchy tinted glasses forced on you since childhood, a lot of things begin to clear up. You see things for what they are. You notice the 'little things' that have a lasting impact and how they end up forming attitudes of entire societies.

You see it when-- girls are asked to keep still and quiet while their brothers bounce off the walls; when a little girl is told "let your brother have it no"; when violence in boys is just 'boys being boys' but in girls is unseemly and unladylike; when girls are scolded for 'provoking' boys' aggression; when new brides are told "You must adjust the maximum you can"; when a woman with an opinion is considered 'oversmart' and people want her to be 'put in her place'; when parents fear 'overeducating' their daughter because she might develop higher expectations for her life and demand higher standards of her future spouse; when women are expected to minimise their personality to be likeable; when being likeable is more important that being ambitious or passionate or hardworking;

When society would rather have an unhappy and bruised married woman than a happy and fulfilled single woman/divorcee; when a whimpering boy is mocked for crying like a girl; when 'like a girl' is the worst insult for a boy; when men fear appearing feminine so much that they repress their emotions lifelong; when men don't have the emotional support network that women are encouraged to develop through their sister-networks; when women can't dream without being reminded that at the end of the day her family comes first; when women can't make choices for themselves without being guilt tripped; when biology is used to straitjacket women into singular choices; when mothers are expected to sacrifice everything for their family with a smile; when a woman slaving over a kitchen for 3 decades is 'just doing her job''; when girls are born with timelines and checklists that remain with them till their death.

Time we told our daughters they are in charge of their own story.

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

ideal womanhood.

2017-01-28

In her lifetime a woman takes on a range of roles. However, it's her roles which are in relation to others (most of the time men) that she is asked to live up to the most. Countless are the articles which go "A women is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother so....". My gripe is with the word 'so' here. It makes the respect that a woman deserves contingent on her relationships and not on her own capabilities/values/strengths (or just by virtue of being a fellow human being). I have a problem with conditional respect. And I have an even bigger problem with making these roles a to-do list that all girls are supposed to check to become women. This is where 'motherhood' comes in.

Last year the President of Turkey said during a speech on International Women's Day that a woman is above all a mother to him. This makes no sense to me. The only person who is a mother to him is his own mother. Implicit in his statement is the society's general view of women as incomplete till they reproduce. It tells you that her purpose on earth is to be the producer of the country's future citizens, the mother to men who will go one to become leaders, scientists, doctors, and global shapers. That her primary and most coveted quality is that of a nurturer. It undermines everything else women have to offer to the society and the world at large.

While it is true that women can nurture when occasion arises, it is not what defines her. In fact, there is no one quality that can define women because women are not a monolithic group. Women who can't or don't want to nurture are not less feminine because of it. What's interesting to note is how the society makes 'attentive and caring' the default for mothers and 'goofy and irresponsible' the standard for fathers. This double standard puts the onus of parenting on the mothers, while taking away all the responsibility from dads. It is also an insult to the many excellent fathers who take pride in their parenting and are committed to the well being of their children..

Women are constantly told that motherhood should 'complete you'. Those women who do not agree with this idea are seen as heartless and cold. If you as a woman feel that motherhood does complete you, then I respect that and stand behind you. But no one else has a right to tell anyone that birthing a child is what will complete you. My personal opinion is that nothing in this world will ever complete you. This world is vast and it has a myriad experiences to offer in our short life time. How can one feel complete then with just one aspect of their life?
Motherhood is put on a pedestal and those who don't measure up and 'mother' are seen as lesser women. While we should have nothing but love and respect for our mothers, we should not box them into just motherhood.

Let women define themselves. Give them the breathing room to be more than just their wombs. Have higher expectations of them rather than their reproductive systems. Allow them to chase their dreams and passions without having to worry about checking a to-do list of ideal womanhood. Tell yourself and others that a woman is, above all, a human being. Then watch the world become a better place.

Nazreen Fazal Post

RANDOM

Not a 'catch' but a 'match' ( My response to the matrimonial advert. (This pic is a real ad btw!))

2017-01-26

Dear Anant,
Your advertisement seeking a soulmate has left me in a tumble of emotions. With each word you wrote about yourself, and more about yourself, and even more about yourself, I fell in love a little more with your humility. I am not like others, Anant. I see you. I see that behind the youthful happy face, trapped inside a muscular body in a slender frame, lies a poet. How do I know that? With the earth shattering, heart rending rhyme of 'catch' and 'match'. I knew right then that you were the one.

Reading the rest of your autobiography, sorry advert, was mere confirmation of the fact that we are meant for each other. I like everything about you. Your intellectual side that comes out when you watch TED talks on YouTube, your artistic one with singing, and your responsible side when out of concern for your own wellbeing you do extreme sport abroad only. We all know that extreme sports aren't extreme until they are safe.

I also like my man with his head on his shoulders as opposed to anywhere else. Your zen views on the meaning of life and the need for experiences over accumulation of consumables has opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. And your use of 'is it not?' after each philosophical question has convinced me that you are a deeply spiritual being.

Anant, my dear, your advert has taught me more than all my teachers, life lessons, and TED talks combined. How did I not know that culture can't be bought at a store?! What do I do now with all the packets labelled ' Pure Culture' that I bought from Mr. Khanna all these years? My whole family used to mix it with our chai in the morning and drink it to increase our culture. But it has been in vain.

When I read that you are looking for a partner to explore other dimensions that both augment and heighten higher pursuits including meta physics, it was like I was made for you. I like to get high too.

My parents also fulfil your academic criteria. Both of them are post graduates from IIPM and are willing to write any admission test you want as long as you share the question paper in advance with them.

As for me, my mother tells me I look like Aishwarya, the neighbour's daughter. I've also been told that I am as pleasant as Bangalore weather in all months except April. I'm not moody at all. In fact, if you look at the back of my neck, there's a switch with which you can control my emotions. You can select which mood you want me to be in at any given point in time.

My interests are eclectic. They include finding out big fancy words in the dictionary and using them in emails, safe extreme sports, traveling abroad through google images, and thinking about the meaning of life.

I'm glad you don't care about food preferences. Not many are supportive of my strictly cannibalistic lifestyle. Which is a shame, considering it's 2017.

Anant, will you make space for me in your heart, your very spacious oyster, and your homes abroad?

Looking forward to your happy vibrations.
Your soulmate

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Dying with Dignity

2017-01-21

On the worst of days, when hate seems to have coloured all things great with strokes of rage, there is still love, lurking somewhere.
There is still beauty, budding in some seed a random person threw carelessly out with his half eaten fruit. There is still kindness and empathy and compassion, no, it hasn't all left us. It is there in the hearts and hands and souls of the givers amongst us, working not for money or for fame, but purely to uplift someone in pain. One such example is the incredible work the people at Institute of Palliative Medicine (IPM) Calicut do.

You have read the stories of those who fought cancer and survived, living to tell this painful tale. But you might not have read as many stories of those who reach the point of no return and quietly slip into death. Most of the times, in incredible pain, without a support system by their side.

This institute exists to fill the gap in healthcare we have today. Where it's all about symptoms, diagnosis, prognosis, cure. There is a denial of death. It is seen as a failure. When a terminal illness presents itself, the patient is given up on. Just when she needs the most support, in the final few days or weeks or months of her life, her case is closed. Untreatable. What should she do? Where should she go? How must she face death? How will her family cope with a missing her shaped space?

If given a choice, most of us would want to die at home surrounded by family. But the new truth is that a majority of us are probably going to die in an ICU, intrusive pipes fitted into every orifice of our body, just to prolong our life for a painful couple of days. Death with dignity has become some kind of idealistic wish.

IPM works tirelessly and constantly to make sure that this isn't the case.This organisation provides free medical and social care for people who have been given up on by the rest of the medical fraternity. Their mission is to be with the dying person till their last breath, making sure they exit this life in the most comfortable way. This could mean providing them morphine to ease their unbearable pain or counselling them to help them come to terms with their imminent end.

I had the opportunity to visit this facility during my recent trip to Kerala. My friend Dr Anwar Husain works there and invited my family to visit. He is one of the most inspiring persons I know. Someone who gave up a successful GP practice despite protests from family and friends to join a place where death is a daily occurrence. It might seem morbid, but he says that helping people die with dignity and peace is one of the most fulfilling work.

So this organization, with its small team of dedicated doctors, depends mainly on the incredible nurses and the huge student volunteer group. They provide home care and discourage people from getting admitted to hospitals. The student volunteers bring in their infectious energy and laughter and cheer up the patients during the visits. They talk to the family and listen to their woes. After the death, the family is given support during the bereavement period, when they are most vulnerable.

I have truly not seen anything like it. I know the world seems dark right now, but places like Institute of Palliative Medicine with its incredible people like Dr Suresh Kumar and Dr Anwar Husain give me hope. If they can be selfless, so can we. And imagine a world where everyone lives for more than themselves, where we make the other person's pain our own and try our best to heal it? No orange cheeto in power, no fascist leader can take away empathy from our hearts. There's beauty midst the worst of hate. We reclaim this narrative and weave our own story, one interspersed with more kindness than apathy, more love than hate, more understanding than cynicism. Now isn't that a world worth living for?

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The 10 Phases of an International Student Abroad

2016-12-26

I wrote this a couple of years ago while doing my Master's away from home. I was alternatively homesick and jubilant. That's what student life does to you...

The 10 Phases of an International Student Abroad

I have been in a pensive mood today. And my deep, deeeep thought have led to this finding- An international student’s life is similar to a lunar cycle. Our feeling for the place we are in wax and wane according to how far we are into the term. Not convinced? Here’s proof then:

Phase 1: PRE-DEPARTURE-NERVOUS EXCITEMENT: This is when you are so, absolutely excited that you are actually terrified. It’s like a million butterflies- with baby butterflies in their stomachs- doing back-flips in your stomach. You have a million things running through your mind as you pack your bags for one year abroad. You are excited about meeting new people and at the same time horrified at the prospect of not making any friends at all. In my case I atleast had the stand by option of having Chalani as my room mate. Knowing someone for three years classifies them as a friend, right? ( Sorry, Chal, you were just a backup). This phase also involves endless nightmares about embarrassing yourself in your new class.

Phase 2: ON ARRIVAL- THIS IS IT! : This is when you land and realize that your months of preparation, endless editing of personal statements, and follow up emails begging for reference letters has led up to this moment. I remember feeling so incredibly blessed to have this great opportunity at hand. And boy was I hyper (and the fact that I’d demolished a large pack of m&ms in the flight did not help).

Phase 3: SETTLING IN: WHAT NOW?: I don’t know if I am the only one who feels this, but every time I am in a new place and I finish unpacking, I feel unhinged. It’s that moment when you finish making your bed, sit down and just sigh- What now? Suddenly, you are overwhelmed with homesickness which soon leads to a panic attack. All your thought are in CAPITALS. ‘WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?’ ‘OMG, WHY DID I LEAVE HOME TO COME HERE OF ALL PLACES?’ ‘I AM GOING TO FAIL MY DEGREE’ ‘IAMTAKINGTHENEXTFLIGHTHOMENOW’ (this is when you are so upset that you forget to space your thoughts). This isn’t a pretty phase and it doesn’t help one bit that when you look outside your window all you can see is grey skies and ugly brown backs of buildings (Before coming I had this huge fantasy that I’ll get a room with a huge window with a comfortable ledge where I could just sit for hours and look at the London eye or Big Ben. Fat chance).

Phase 4: NEW BEGINNINGS: The first week here was a flurry of orientations and inductions. I also managed to collect a drawer full of pamphlets, leaflets, maps; enough to have killed a few trees. These meetings are fun because you meet new people (and people, you will later realize, you won’t meet again for the rest of the term). You feel good knowing that there are others in the same boat and you manage to get yourself excited about your course again.

Phase 5: CLASSES BEGIN: LOSING YOURSELF: I remember my first class vividly. It was a 10 am class which I was so nervous about that I was waiting outside well over an hour before it began. I was literally shivering. I went in, with 50 other students, and let panic awash me as I saw a sea of new faces. It’s funny because I’ve faced this situation a dozen times already (I’ve studied in about 10 schools!) and it never fails to overwhelm me. There is that moment when you think you will never find your feet again, but you take a deep breath and dive in anyway.

Phase 6: THAT-MOMENT-WHEN-YOU-REALIZE-YOUR-PREVIOUS-DEGREE-WAS-A-JOKE-AND YOU-ARE-IN-FACT-THE-DUMBEST-PERSON-ON-EARTH: I have a BA in Communication Studies and Literature so, naturally, I was a little under-confident about pursuing a Masters in Political Science. This feeling magnified a thousand fold and shattered my self-esteem to bits after my first seminar. It’s a wonder I didn’t cry in the class because I-WAS-LOST. I felt like a 5 year old sitting in on a conversation among adults. I had NO CLUE whatsoever about what they were talking about and all I wanted to do was wish that I could morph into an Ostrich so I could bury myself and not see any of this. This feeling will subsequently fade only to reappear mid-term when you are left anchor-less in a sea of readings which are Greek to you.

Phase 7: FINDING YOUR FEET: ‘MAYBE I CAN DO IT AFTERALL’: This is around 3 weeks into the term when you realize it’s not so tough after all. You begin to enjoy your course and what you are studying genuinely interests you. This is my favourite bit (duh!) because I feel like all this was worth the struggle. I feel this intense urge to study to know more. My friend Misha’ari recently wrote about this feeling- Philomathy: "to love learning; to seek acquisition of knowledge and facts." It’s really a wonderful thing to experience! I felt so happy and grateful that I really enjoyed what I was doing.

Phase 8: STRESS BUILD- UP AND LETTING OFF STEAM: This is something I am really embarrassed about- I get stressed easily. If I have multiple things to do I sometimes blank out and go crazy. This happened a little after mid-term when I felt so over-burdened with readings (stop rolling your eyes!) that I just broke down. I had a good crying session and an hour long conversation with my dad, telling him I can’t do this anymore. The sob session did end eventually. I think it’s a weird coping mechanism. This is how I let off steam and it does help me get back on track.

Phase 9: EXPLORING NEW PLACES: This is one of my favourites bits. It’s after all the drama and letting-off-steam episodes when I suddenly realize that I am living in the heart of London. My hall is a stone’s throw away from Trafalgar Square and I am about 10 steps away from the Thames. So why the hell am I sweating the small stuff?!

I like taking detours from my way back from uni and just checking out random nooks and corners of London. I am big on aimless wandering, where I just walk, ignoring all maps,with no place in mind. And this is the best way to really ‘feel’ a new place because, for some weird reason, I don't like mapping places geographically and fragmenting them with streets and signs. I like to map them with what I feel when I am there. It’s difficult to explain. It’s like getting a sense of something by running your hands over its bumps, ridges and crevices instead of actually seeing it.

My memories of places are peppered with people and obscure spots instead of landmarks. What I tend to remember is sipping on steaming coffee in a small café and listening in on an old couple’s banter, after a long walk in the cold. What I cherish more than the standard tourist picture is chancing upon cozy second hand bookstores, hidden amongst bright shops selling novelty souvenirs. And what I enjoy most here is the conversations I have with random people in the most unexpected of places. My favourite one was at the supermarket(!) when this old lady taught me how to choose fresh bread by feeling its crust. She then told me that she learnt it from her grandfather and uncle who were both bakers. I never met her again, but I’ll still remember that instance because it is a wonder, when you think about it, that two strangers, from different spheres of life, can meet and touch each others’ lives for the briefest of moments.

Phase 10:GETTING COMFORTABLE: FORMING A ROUTINE: There’s a tendency for things to fall into place when you are not looking. You will not realize that your life has sorted itself into a semi-formed routine that you enact everyday. Wake up- Have a strong cuppa coffee- Facebook-Walk to Uni- Pretend to study- walk back- fall asleep on your readings. This happens without your knowledge. And it’s a nice feeling when you get a drift of what’s going on. You are finally comfortable. In this huge city, with its grey skies, wet roads and polite people, you have finally found a spot for yourself. It’s comfortable in the sense that it grows on you. In the sense that you forget the discomfort before you found it. And you realize that you are happy. For that moment at least.

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Languages .

2016-12-16

Something that all languages have in common is that they all possess reservoirs of lethal words designed to hurt. Often these words might not be dangerous by themselves, but when coupled with a harsh tone and dressed in resentment, they are more hurtful than physical blows.

These words don’t hurt in the same way. They bear down on you differently based on the time, style of delivery, and who unleashes them on you. There are the blunt words which hurt without leaving a mark to show. The sharp words are so swift that you don’t even realize that you are suddenly bleeding inside. The paper cut words come when you least expect it. Then there are the words that choke, they slowly form a noose and curl themselves around you, strangling you a little more each day till taking another breath hurts.

I see words when I watch people talk. As they projectile out of mouths I can see how perfectly coated they are in resentment. I see them slap and strangle, cut and choke. I see them hitting the other person and extracting a reaction of the same or more magnitude. These words never die or disappear. They are just hanging in the air. Often they launch themselves into unknown crevices of your being, only to declare themselves the moment before you crash.
Did I say they never help? They don’t.
These words have their own sounds too as they go about wreaking havoc. There’s crack of the whip word, the slicing knife word, the crushing wood word, the shattering glass word, the slap on the face word. Do you hear them? Strain your ears a little more, you will.

All these words hurt, but at least they are honest about their intent. The one I detest the most is the deceitful word. The one masquerading to be on your side, when all along it was just chipping at the corners of your sanity, eating away whatever peace of mind you had. They are the worst.

Wait, maybe not. The worst words, the most lethal ones, are the words of mass destruction. The ones which destroy everything, cut through all relations, wipe away years of trust, and crush all dreams. They leave no love behind. And, most of important of all, they ensure that every single heart in the vicinity is also scarred for life. Yes, they are the worst.

Where do these words spring from though? Surely they don’t exist in a vacuum. Maybe finding the story of that word will cause it to let its guard down. Maybe these words need to be caught midair, before they hit you. Maybe they need to be examined for what they really are- flying debris of hurt.

But there are other words too, thankfully, to help us cope.
The kind word, the loving word, words of solace, the words that envelop you in a warm embrace even when you are breaking into a million pieces. These are the words that we need more than anything at this point in time. Maybe your word can be the first one in this new story that we weave for ourselves. Or maybe you can look in and change the story of your word. If nothing less, maybe you can hold back your broken word and nurture it till you heal. Whatever you choose, let it be only the good word that escapes your lips today.

#FromTheArchives

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Ripples of Kindness

2016-12-08

How many times have you witnessed a 'Random Act of Kindness'? Maybe someone paid for your coffee when you didn't have change. Maybe they opened a door for you when your hands were full. Maybe they said a kind word when your day was dull.
Isn't it beautiful when you are the receiving end of such good deeds? Doesn't it make you want to do something like that for someone else?

Do it! Let's start an avalanche of kindness. Let's start the ripple now so that we can usher in 2017 with more love and kindness instead of hate and despair.

How do we do it?

First. Like the air hostess keeps telling us- secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. Keep a gratitude journal. This is for your eyes only. It could be online or scrawled on a tissue. Write at least one thing that you are grateful for each day till the year ends. (You can continue if you want to) Comment and let me know if you plan to do this. We'll come back after New Year's and see how it made a change.

Second. Comment below pledging small acts of kindness we can all do. Readers going through the comments, if you feel a certain action is something you can do too, reply to it and write 'Me too!'.

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5 Ways Men Can Survive Feminazis [Or Women Empowering Themselves] #HowToSurviveAFeminazi

2016-11-20

The Times of India believes that "It ain't easy being a man in today's world..with Feminazis turning up the volume." I believe they are right, the greatest threat to HuMANity is not climate change or wide income inequality or alien invasion or nuclear Armageddon at the hands of a stale orange cheeto with small hands. It is women who ask for equal rights. It's simple maths: When men have enjoyed so many rights for centuries and women so little, when the latter claim more rights, the former will lose some of them. Duh!

To help men get through these very trying times, where women can speak up without being disciplined by their menfolk, I have come up with a list of ways they can cope.

1. Grow a moustache
This should be obvious but I am writing it down in case excessive exposure to feminazi radioactive waves have interfered with your mental capacity.
Your masculinity is directly proportional to lushness of your upper lip fuzz. If you have a beard, even better. Use lush products, beard oil, the tears of Dobby, ashes of the old 1000 rupee notes... anything to thicken your mannifier (man signifier...geddit?) If you are of the group that can't grow anything more than a soul patch or goatee, tough luck. The Feminazis will smell out your lack of masculinity and feast on your blood and maul your hairless face.

2. Don't smile
It's a truth universally acknowledged that a man smiling must be a 'mangina' or 'White Knight' waiting to be whipped by a Feminazi. So don't move your lips upwards! Plus, what do you poor guys even have to smile about? Your life is so difficult with all the extra money you earn for the same work women do, and the access to public spaces at all times, and the ability to walk outside without thinking that people are undressing you with their eyes. Even the foetus you has a tough time, getting neglected when it is feticide time.The world really doesn't give you much to smile about.

3. Stay away from Pink
Pink is the colour of your destruction. Pink is the name of the movie that showed you the outrageous concept of consent and 'no means no'. Do Not Go Near It. If you have pink lips or tongue, adopt unhygienic oral practises to change it to brown or black- don't brush, smoke, chew tobacco. Oral cancer is better than telling the world that you support the royal colour of the feminazis.

4. Don't Cry
It's a well known secret among women that the most powerful Feminazis empowered themselves by drinking #MaleTears every full moon night. Drinking male tears is what gave them power to win the right to vote, to drive, to work, to get educated. Guard your tear ducts the way a woman walking down a narrow lane at night guards herself. Feminazis may tell you that you must not let societal norms and expectations of masculinity stop you from expressing yourself, but don't listen to them. They just want your power giving male tears.

5. Stop Being a Decent Human Being
Feminazis just want you to not be a shitty human being and stop trampling on their rights. How dare they ask you to be a decent human being! The sheer arrogance of this demand, asking you to keep aside your god given, millennia old male privilege and look at the real problems facing women! Why should you, a person who was blessed with male genitalia, have to worry about the life threatening, quality reducing issues that feminazis drone on and on about? Why should you care that teenage girls are given rape punishments by village panchayats? What is it to you that the state decides when and how a woman's womb should function? Why should you have to give a crap that parents invest in their son's future more and consider their daughter a liability? Who really gives a shit that your neighbour might be beating his wife black and blue every night? And really, how is it your problem that women can be gangraped in a bus?

So protest against these feminazis and their irritating requirements that you forfeit some of your privileges so they can function easily in their day to day lives. Instead, be a shitty person. As long as you are a MAN all's good, am I right or am I right?

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But no, they are JUST____

2016-10-01

Listen up, cause I am going to share something very personal. Yeah go grab that cuppa tea, I'll wait.
"What do you do?" "What are you?" these are the two most repeated questions when we are midst an introduction. This question is a weird one, over generations it has been distilled to mean something very specific : what role are you performing in the capitalist world to survive/ thrive / make more money than the rest. And thus the replies: I am an engineer, I am a dentist, I am a manager, I am an analyst. These are the expected answers. They make the questioner satisfied, okay this person has some money. But sometimes you don't get the questions you want to answer, or the answers you want for a question. So you have a home maker saying she is a house wife, or maybe someone else referring to her as 'just a housewife'. I hate this word 'just' when attached to a person. It's the most limiting, dreadful word ever. Especially when society has decided that this word will be used only for those who do unpaid Labour. No one says she is Just a CEO or he's just a surgeon. But somehow a home maker is just that- a homemaker. Someone who's not financially independent is “just” that- unemployed.
It stops mattering that these people have lives outside their roles. Maybe lives far more enriching and fulfilling than most CEOs and CFOs. But no, they are JUST____
How many times have our mothers been made to feel terrible about themselves, their Labour ridiculed by their own blood? Because we have deluded ourselves into thinking that a person's worth is equivalent to the money they make.

Maybe that's why no one answers the question 'What are you?' with
'I am a dreamer, I am a carer, I am a giver, I am a sharer' instead we have taken what someone does 8 hours of their day and made it their sole anchor of being. We don't value what that person does in the remaining 16 hours. Maybe that CEO doesn't have any life outside her work and is JUST a CEO and nothing else. Maybe the manager makes a ton of money but has the dullest personality that puts even his parents to sleep.
What you do to put bread on the table and a roof over your head has no bearing on you as a person.( Unless you are a bank robber or a con artist or Taher Shah) Detach your worth from these temporary titles and free yourself from the burden of being JUST one thing. Be everything you want to be and more. And when someone asks you what you do, you know what to say

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Weighing heavy on my heart and mind are a few things for the last few days

2016-06-13

A lynching for alleged beef eating in India; another beating up of an 80 yr old man in Pakistan for eating in public during Ramadan;
a brutal rape of a dalit woman in her own bedroom; an absolute mockery of justice when the rapist of an unconscious, intoxicated woman was given 3 months jail time for fear of the 'impact on his future'; and now, the massacre of 50 of the Gay community in the USA.

It's too much to take. Especially, when on the side reel, playing on loop, is the everyday violence endured by the people in war torn nations, living under occupation, fleeing death only to meet it in another continent.

It. Is. Too. Much. For. The. Heart. To. Take.

Too much of bloodshed. Too much of hate. Too much of bigotry. Too much of violence playing out in every second of everyday.

And to cope with all of this and function normally what do we end up doing? We limit who we empathise for. We keep quotas on grief and become stingy with our tears. We question those who don't mourn like us or with us. We stop caring about the obliteration of the 'other' and mock those who are shocked by it.

We don't pause to think 'Why not mourn together?'. Because mourning for and with another community necessitates building bridges between us first. And to build bridges we need to break the walls separating us, we need to open the windows nailed shut so that understanding breezes in, we need to draw the curtains of prejudice from around our hearts so we can finally see. And that's painful.

But this is a necessary pain. It's the pain that precedes healing and growth. It's the darkness before dawn. And then, once the curtains are drawn, the windows opened, the ceilings shattered, and the bridges built, you are free to love and be loved. You are free to grieve, to cry, to laugh with whoever you will.

I know it's easy to feel helpless and think that this is the end. That there's no good in the world anymore. But please, if there's anything you should kill, it's that thought.

I strongly believe that the mind-numbing violence we see in the news is the compounded effect of everyday injustice in our societies. The small injustices in our daily lives coalesce to come back and shock us out of our socks.

So listen, be a cliche- be the change you want to see in the world. Be just. Be good and encourage others to join you.

If you talk negatively about a
community/religion/person often. Stop now. Learn about them.
If you teach your kids to be suspicious of people based on their background and beliefs. Stop now. Tell them to befriend and get to know them. If you hit your child to 'discipline' them. Stop now.

Apologise and TALK to them instead. If you hear someone spreading hate and misunderstanding. Stop now. Educate them.
If you come across a victim of hate/prejudice/sexual assault and feel the need to question their motives.
Stop now. Listen quietly and be there for them,
If you see your leader/your father/your guru perpetuating hate against a group. Stop now. Call them out and then in, into understanding.
If you see an obstacle in the middle of the road/project/mission. Stop now. Be the person who clears the way for others.
If you see a hurting person/animal. Stop now. Be a relief to them.

Take a vow that from this moment you will add no injustice into this already messy world. Vow that you will stand with the truth even if it is against you; that you will be a vessel of understanding-- a means for people to come together; that you will elevate the voices that have been stifled; that the only thing you will not tolerate is hate; that when we leave, our legacy will be of love and compassion.

"You who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if against yourselves, your parents, your relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. So refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly- if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do."

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How to MAKE a Girl in Ten Steps

2016-04-12

For those who don't want to break her in ten steps.
1) Welcome her into the world with the love and care that all babies deserve. Be grateful for the beautiful little human curled up in your arms. Free a hand to backhand slap those who say sympathetically "Don't worry, next time you will have a boy." Pre-dig a ditch into which you can push people who don't know biology 101 and blame the mother for giving birth to a baby girl. Seal the ditch.

2) Give her the same childhood that her brothers enjoy. Don't divide world into inside (women) and outside (men). Tell her that the public spaces are hers too. Hold onto the back of her bike as she learns to cycle for the first time. Smile as she giggles when she feels the wind on her face. Tend to her scraped knee when she falls down and send her right back on. High five those who say keep her inside because the sun will make her dark, ugly, and un-weddable, with an iron brick, with nails, on the face.

3) Create a space where boys and girls can learn tasks and skills without worrying about gender specificity. Don't strictly divide the chores between your girls and boys. Let him wash the dishes and let her help you fix the sink. Your son will be grateful he can cook to survive hostel and your daughter will remember you when she changes a flat tire in the middle of a deserted highway.

4) Make values gender neutral. Flip the norm. Inculcate in your girls the courage to stand up for themselves. Celebrate them when they are brave. Teach your sons to be kind and polite. Bring out their compassionate selves. Teach them how you can stay true to yourself. Put empathy above all else. But also show them both how to upside down kick people who scream "log kya kahenge" (what will people say) from rooftops.

5) Empower her with education. Identify her passion and talents and point to her the spring board from which she can leap, spread her wings and soar. Roll your eyes back into your skull if people tell you "But...but why are you sending a girl to study when she has to get married soon?"

6) Teach her about her body with love, understanding, and tenderness. Give it your all to ensure that she has a positive relationship with her own body. Shatter the concept of an ideal/normal body or skin type. Don't just tell your girls and boys to be comfortable in their own skin, practise what you preach.

7) Shove sickly sweet gajar halwa into the mouths of people who tell your child that he/she is too short/too tall/very fat/so skinny/unacceptably dark. Between the shoving of the gajar halwa, tell your child "Beta/Beti I give you explicit permission to ignore everything this aunty/uncle says because they are absolute morons who don't respect what God created and are still suffering from a postcolonial hangover which makes them hate their own skin. Also, please be critical of the media you consume. " Okay, maybe not in those very words.

8) Talk to her about sex positively. Ensure that your relationship is open and supportive enough for her to come to you with her worries and doubts. Guide her gently through the rough terrains of puberty, adolescence and teenage. Kick shame out of the conversation. Don't rest her honour and worth in her vagina. Teach your sons about the female form and physiology. Show him how to respect women irrespective of his relation to them. Subject those who blame sexual harassment on the victim to a lifetime of Taher Shah songs and Donald Trump videos and tell them they asked for it.

9) Imprint on her mind that she doesn't need another person to make her happy. Enable her to stand for and by herself if needed. Teach her that no man is entitled to her body. No man can control her thoughts. And no man can demand her respect and servitude against her wishes.

10) Invest your time, effort, and resources into her present and future. Don't kill her aspirations in the name of arbitrary age limits by which she is supposed to marry and bear children. In fact, tear up and burn the cultural check list for women thrust upon her since her birth. As a parent, as a sibling, as a spouse, as a friend, be the cheerleader that she has been for you throughout your life.

tl;dr: Remember she is a human being before anything else. Be allies for each other. Don't unload your cultural baggage on her shoulders and make womanhood a straightjacket to control her. Zoom out of her womb. Period. (And don't make that a taboo either)

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For the Omran Daqneeshs of the world.

2016-02-22

The image still haunts me. I see it when I close my eyes. I'm there. Outside the ambulance, looking in. There is debris, there is dust--lots of it--floating everywhere. And then there is Omran, seated on a bright orange seat. The only thing providing contrast to his otherwise dull dress of dust being his own blood, painting half his face. That dust should have been mud from playing football with his friends on the street. The bright red should have been face paint after going to the fair with his brother and parents. He is five years old. He should be making silly faces at his brother and cuddling his parents. But he is a child of war, and these are luxuries that he can't afford. That aren't afforded to him.

I have a cousin brother- Arshin. He is almost four. He is our baby, a bundle of joy and a source of happiness for everyone around him. We are all fiercely protective of him. Omran was someone's Arshin. And yet they couldn't protect him from this madness. I can't imagine the frustration and the despair Syrian parents feel when they look at their children's faces. The internal monologue, wondering how much time is left, dreading when their angel is going to be taken from them, contemplating death sailing strange seas or death in their homes, weighing pros and cons, guessing which hurts less, which death is faster? And if they do make it out-- out of the rubble, out of an imploding land, out of hell-- they arrive on the shores of even more hate and suspicion. Branded refugees, they float across the globe, still tethered to their home that is no more, wondering if they made the right choice. While those that stayed back wish, at the brink of death, we should have left too. No one wins. No one is safe. And we-- the rest of us--we are culpable in this crime. We move on from Aylan Kurdi to Omran Daqneesh to the next child that bleeds to death on our newsfeed and phone screens. No one stops scrolling to notice the blood on our hands.

I am sorry Aylan. I am sorry Omran. We have failed you. Again.

ABOUT AUTHOR

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I am someone who finds herself constantly wandering, searching for that elusive place which is 'home'. My life is in constant flux and naturally, my thoughts are even more chaotic. This blog is an effort to channelize my ruminations and rants into a coherent space. I hope this proves as a platform for me to mature as writer by exploring different styles and as an individual by delving into myself. It's going to be a long journey, and I would love for you to join me, whenever you want edited

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