Friday, February 29, 2008

Possibility of both?

Of course he should bring me flowers on a whim.
He should whisk me away for a weekend to Paris.
He should also buy me things to wear..clothes, shoes, perfume, jewelery..
I want to be swept off my feet..politeness and door opening, and all that...
Precious is my middle name. I wear high heels.
I like floral prints.
Small and petite I am, I like it when people help me lift luggage to high racks.
Candlelit dinners, long drives at night.
Walking on a beach in moonlight,
and listening to the silence of the mountains.
I like holding hands and being told I am loved.
Yes I am a romantic.

But then..
I also do not want to be treated like I am made of porcelain,
Cleaning and cooking do not come as bonus skills with a uterus.
Vacuum cleaners and dishwashers are not gender specific.
I do not like being told what to wear.
The body I have is not all that I have, I would like appreciation of what resides in my head too.
I am not on object and do not like being treated like one.
I can drive, open doors, unlock phones, operate machines,
I also like technology and know how to work it.
the presence of breasts does not diminish my ability to use logic.
The love of high heels does not mean I cant outrun you.
I work hard, and play hard.
Scotch on the rocks and cappuccinos are equally favoured.
I am not a responsibility.
And no one owns me.

Is it possible to be a feminist and a romantic?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

60 every year

I spent...

5 years = 60 months
Thousands of £££ on living expenses
On software, hardware, cameras,
dicta phones, batteries, paper,
phone calls, air tickets, fuel,
bus tickets, train tickets...
Many streams of tears
Many days filled with worry
Endless hours reading
And even more writing
Learned how to hide from things,
how to forget about things,
how to speak about things,
and find out about things.

A long journey of 5 years, and all I have is
300 pages. 60 every year.
All I know, and all I learned, packed,
in a linear fashion into an academic thesis.

But I am glad..its over,
and now I await my exam.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Baby is being Born!

Oh dear! This is painful. No one told me I would be this nervous, so unprepared and so worried. I am worried about how it will go, if I shall get through it smoothly and one last chance to hold on to this thing that has been a part of my for the past 5 years!

The PhD ladies and gentlemen is about ready to be born. I am ready for a final colour print and 5 copies, glued and bound to be submitted for examination. And I am nervous. Yes I have presented papers, given lectures and published my work. Yes I have done over 7 drafts of it and can recite forward and backwards in my sleep. Its been the pain in my life. The never ending work of writing and re-writing. Of traveling to Kashmir and back, transcribing interviews, asking pointed questions, lying or sitting still contemplating. Worrying about the end results. Thinking about word limits and the use of subjective opinions, of reading lists and reference formatting. It has been one long painful process of regurgitating my thoughts into text. Writing a linear story of a circuitous route of research. Mind maps converted into chapters and text. That flows, in terms of structure and content.

And now I have been given the go-ahead by my mentor to submit it for examination. No more edits, nothing. Hand it in and let the baby be. The baby shall be up for examination sometime soon and I am so nervous. I am not worried, I just wonder if perhaps I could improve it in some other way, give it yet another once over. Edit and edit more. Make it more perfect.

Which is why its my baby. I wonder if people (who examine it) will understand it, look after it, care about what it says and understand the painful process it has been, this journey of birthing it. I worry if I can make it a better baby and if I have been as good as I could have been to it.

And once it is out of my hands, it shall be out there in the world, to be read, used by anyone who wants to know about Kashmir, women, crafts, post conflict reconstruction, Islam, NGOs. It shall no longer be research close to my heart. It shall be a baby on its own. And then I shall get tested on it!

I feel like saying Boo!hoo! and Yipee! clicking my heels together midair. I never thought this point would come, I have dreamed of finishing, I have felt like finishing it, quitting it, getting rid of it, not thinking about it, trying to ignore it. But no more! Life as I know it, shall be different from Wednesday onwards!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Of The Lord Of The Rings and V-Day

Last night was magical. Apart from Londoner's turning out looking lovely and smelling good. And roses available everywhere, the air, albeit cold, was fragrant!
Him and I went to see The Lord Of the Rings at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane of Covent Garden. I have seen some musicals and quite a bit of theatre but nothing came close to magic of this one.
I sat there, completely enraptured!

The option for V-Day for me was a cryptic text message, 'Fantasy OR Hollywood'. I did not know what he was thinking but the surprise plan was to ask my opinion and then lead me on to see it! I chose fantasy. And oh boy, did it live up the expectations and a bit more.

The LOTR had magnificent sets, and thats a bit of an understatement! It initially made me look at it and think wow! I moved from being a spectator of the proceedings, aware of the people around me, the heads of the people in front of me, the sounds of people coughing, of crisps being eaten and the occasional mobile phone going off, as things moved on stage, I sort of fell into it. Enraptured, sucked into, speechless and absorbed to the exclusion of my surroundings. The interval made me come back to life and my surroundings.

The costumes were amazing as was the music. Sometime into the play, some Orcs made their way up into the audience and decided to breathe loudly around us and stare up close to our faces, scaring the life out of some, but making the make-believe even more real. They thumped around and snarled and shocked people, especially the children in the audience. It was really good! The Gigantic spider was unnervingly real as were the scenes of battle and the very fluid, slimy and creepy Gollum. Galadriel was ethereal and Gandalf had great delivery with a booming voice. The music of A.R.Rahman made itself known through some beats and use of musical instruments that are familiar to people who have heard his work.

The place was jam packed with families, couples and individuals. The whole thing was seamless.It was well worth a visit. And I was glad I was kept out of the mushy restaurants with hearts on the walls, and roses, and confetti and champagne and starry eyed people staring at each other over candle light. Valentine's day makes me sick with the amount of sweeti-ness that goes around. Him and I tend to run away from the crowds on the mushy day of the year. Whether it is to South Queensferry in Edinburgh, or to Lonavala I think we are expected to quit being mushy in a post marriage stage anyways! I am warned there shall be a day when if he brings me flowers I shall need to ask him - whats up?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Both sides now..

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
Ive looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
Ive looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
Its cloud illusions I recall
I really dont know clouds at all

Moons and junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
Ive looked at love that way

But now its just another show
You leave em laughing when you go
And if you care, dont let them know
Dont give yourself away

Ive looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
Its loves illusions I recall
I really dont know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say I love you right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
Ive looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say Ive changed
Well somethings lost, but somethings gained
In living every day

Ive looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
Its life's illusions I recall
I really dont know life at all
Ive looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
Its life's illusions I recall
I really dont know life at all

~Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now

More from her here


Deja Vu happening.
Have been here before,
in a space where I seem to be free falling.
In a time vacuum where nothing moves normally.
Things only seem to float by,
gravity-less, in slow motion.
Time stands still,
and then passes in large chunks.
I stare, watch.

Things outside,
a glass wall outside.
a bubble.
Its Zorbing in slow motion.
Sights, without the sounds.

And the lyrics in my head go round and round,
on repeat

'In my head there is a greyhound station,
where I send my thoughts to far off destinations'

Death Cab for Cutie - Plans

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

US Embassy, London

Well big headed moi has been invited to lecture in Buffalo in the US. Not too sure if I am going, so I thought lets start at the visa end and see how the process works and which category I can apply under, costs etc.

Well to know anything about booking appointments at the US embassy London you need to call a 0903 number, this costs £1.30 per min + the costs of the network provider. Not only is there no other way to book an appointment apart from calling this number. This number once it rings will book you an appointment, take your details, and also a payment in advance for your Visa. Should you not get the Visa, they shall keep the money! So its the standard 131$ for the B-1 + about 60$ for the phone call!! And then maybe you shall get an appointment in time to get a flight..6-8 weeks min time, 3-6 months max time..and then also there might be a refusal at the end of it!!!

I mean hello? Do you want me to come? I will not bother with this process, the effort involved in applying for a US visa is not only too expensive but their approach is condescending and he dont-bother-to-come, we-dont-really-want-you-there attitude sucks. What if I dont have a phone from which I can make a call to this number. In which case the USELondon page says, ask your friends or family to make this call. They know this number is costly and most phones wont allow you to dial!! And then there is the non refundable fee!! Tch!

Other embassies for European nations also have these numbers, but you can book things online if needed, they will take longer but at least everyone should have access!!

I am sure someone should raise this as an issue to the Brit authorities, this is unfair trade, after all we are consumers/ customers, we are paying for a service, not a favour!! It makes my blood boil!

Too much I tell you! And when people ask me if I have been to the other side of the pond, I say NO! And I dont want to either, they recoil with shock. The No.1 nation, the freedom of America, its power, its glory..they dont attract you? I am asked.
Nay, says I, Nay. Nothing does! And this is without my even starting a rant about Bush!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Curse You!

Came across some research around the history of an ancient Chinese curse,

'For centuries the Chinese used an ancient curse: "May you live in interesting times!" It isn't a curse any more. It's a blessing. We're scientific and civilized. We've got so many rights and liberties and freedoms that one can yearn for chains for the sheer pleasure of busting them and shaking them off. Reckon life would be more livable if there were any chains left to bust.'
~Eric Frank Russell, April 1950.

This curse of living in interesting times should be read as living in 'turbulent' times, which acts as a curse for anyone who considered stability and constancy as a sign of prosperity. This is in line with Confucian thinking..where stability acts as a precursor to happiness, peace, wealth and well being.
This curse could be seen from varied perspective, depending on your personality type. Many a person would rather die than be in a stable, secure, uneventful environment. However there are those who have lived through years of turbulence and only wish for depends on what, where, how and who you are. Something to think about I guess...

This curse gets upgraded (as the person thats cursing gets increasingly agitated I suppose). It goes on to become:
* May you come to the attention of those in authority
and then worse still...
* May you find what you are looking for

Eerie, creepy, but there is some truth they hold. These people really did think out things in depth and use them right. I am glad mum's not Chinese or inclined to such thinking..such a curse from someone who knows you would (should) freak you out!

Friday, February 08, 2008


As part of the work that I do and am involved with I have a deep interest in the women in Afghanistan, specially so Kabul. The stories of buzkashi and kite flying have been shown in popular culture..but I have been looking for more personal stories..I dont know why, but there is something about a nation in conflict, of rulers and dictators, beauty and cruelty, mountains and poppy fields..something stark, raw, wild yet beautiful.

I came across this poem (from which Khaled Hosseini found the title of his new book) - Its called - Kabul, by Saib-e-Tabrizi, a 17th century Persian poet.

Though somethings get lost in translation..i describes achingly well..the city that was, and his love for it..

Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains
And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies
Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes
But I love her, for knowing and loving are born of this same dust

My song exhalts her dazzling tulips
And at the beauty of her trees, I blush
How sparkling the water flows from Pul-I-Bastaan!
May Allah protect such beauty from the evil eye of man!

Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise
For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven
From the fort with sprawling walls, A Dragon of protection
Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of Shayagan

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls

Her laughter of mornings has the gaiety of flowers
Her nights of darkness, the reflections of lustrous hair
Her melodious nightingales, with passion sing their songs
Ardent tunes, as leaves enflamed, cascading from their throats

And I, I sing in the gardens of Jahanara, of Sharbara
And even the trumpets of heaven envy their green pastures

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

London is a Kind Place

Moving on from having damaged my Medial Collateral Ligament..which means I walk with a stick, and shall have to for the next 6-8 weeks. So having sat on my backside for a long time to rest my knee just as I was told..I decided I could not take it anymore and so went out for the first time with my shiny new crutch. I have never used one before..and so it took a bit of time to get the hang of it. I am ok to walk, but a stair or a step is a bugger! And there are brand new aches and pains from using the crutch which has thrown my body out of alignment..and it HURTS!! I am getting out and about London for the first time with a crutch...
I take the London Public transport to the National Film Theater on London's Southbank. And I enter a whole new world. Not talking about the theater here...the crutch..people are SO VERY nice to you. I did not realize it. I am sure I am the same when I see someone with a walking stick/ wheelchair/ crutch. I did not see it coming at all.

On the tube, the ticket/Oyster check guy opened the wide gate for me so I would not struggle through the barriers, people stood behind me patiently, waiting for me to climb in and out of the train , they got up and offered me their seats one old man insisted I sit in his space. Someone held my elbow as I scrambled to get into the tube. On the escalator, people let me go first. Someone helped me get off it without falling over. When I went to the loo, people let me go first, held open doors. The serving staff at the Cafe came out from behind their counters to serve me, made me sit, got me my stuff while others stood patiently in the queue waiting to pay for what they had picked up. At the theater the security guy called the lift for me, let me sit on his chair while I waited for the husband to come and fetch me. When I got up, someone helped me with my coat and bag, yet another time someone held my things while I slowly sat down on my seat.

On my way to work, rush hour pushing came to a halt as I hobbled along. On the commute to another city to teach I was asked if I want a tea or a coffee and I paid someone to get me a hot drink from the buffet car, saving me the hassle of needing to walk in a high speed lurching train.
Smiles I got loads of smiles. Nice ones, sympathetic ones, I am sorry I did not see your stick ones :) it was nice.

I dont know why I am so surprised. I dont know if I should be. I mean the very same people push and shove and rush you when you have fully functioning limbs. The very same people go tutting when you hold up a queue. The very same people will make you wait for hours on your own without a nod or sign of support if you seem to be fit enough to take it.

I am happy there is some amount of kindness in these people who rush around London and seem careless and cold. I am glad to see politeness as well of standing patiently. I love the good hearts these people hide well within them. To help, without asking.

I am not sure if I would feel the same if this crutch was a permanent part of my life. I might, in that case, take this kindness as patronizing..But the point is. It is not patronizing at all. It shows that people can be kind, when needed.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Joint problems

And so it happened that we walked along the Southbank, along the Thames, past Westminster, past The London Eye, past the coffee shops, along the stretch of the river till we reached the Tower of London which most people think of as London Bridge..walked walked walked, ate some pastry, had some coffee, caught the tube, went to South Kensington, walked around Harrods, walked around Brompton Road, had more coffee and then went back to Oxford Circus, walked to Edgeware Road...ate kebabs..walked past Maroush and then got home.
I managed to twist and wrench my knee. It got swollen, now I can not walk without wincing..and need to see the Doctor to get a walking stick!

Life sucks! Or maybe its Old Age!

When 3 is a crowd.

Marriage is a strange institution, those in will testify to it testing their limits and reaching points where you wonder why you did this to yourself, willingly and happily. Those who are married however will also tell you that there is a lot of good in it which is hard to explain and give examples of. Often you would find the Smug Married Couples egging on and fixing up dates for their single friends. Yes it has its downs and sad times, rough times and 'wonder why' and 'wish I had not' times but then nothing in life is ever smooth sailing anyways. You would disagree with your parents, siblings, colleagues, friends..and in the same queue is the spouse as well..expecting any different would be silly I would think. Marriages are strange but I still believe in the institution, why, is another post.

It comes to a point sometimes when marriages do not work out and then the legal systems of justice are sought to sometimes willingly, sometimes reluctantly, more than often painfully hand out the respite needed for a couple to part ways- divorce. Not easy, not fun, but currently becoming increasingly common. I am sure you know someone or of someone fairly close who has been divorced, its not uncommon and its not taboo anymore. Okay most people would rather not talk about it but that does not mean its not an increasingly common phenomenon in our society. This established lets move on...

On to the mid way point. The point where there are 3 in a marriage. Where one person deems it ok to seek comfort, warmth, love and solace elsewhere due to unhappiness in their marriage. Where one party is finding comfort knowing the marriage is not working and thus moving on. But is it really moving on? Are affairs justified in this day of easy divorce? I am sure there are many kinds of affairs, some to pass time, some to elevate boredom, some to test the greener grass, ego boosting affairs, what was i thinking affairs, i was lured into it affairs. But the ones which are I-was-unhappy-therefore does not make sense.

It is increasingly easy to dupe and lie as we all(men and women) work now, we have a life, friends, meetings, team building session, break away sessions, away days at work, the gym, the driving instructor, the IT guy, the interns etc etc..the list is endless. We meet people of all sorts, sit judgment on some, make friends with others, quite like somethings in someone, dislike interaction on a daily basis with strangers is a part of our lives. We can choose to do what we want, think what we like, and come home..back to the person we married. The ability to meet someone new is constant. A problem at home might send you running in the direction of someone who looks remotely decent to you. Might be the wrong person..but to someone its escape..from the problems at home.

I know I am no one to sit judgement on someone else's life and decisions, but if a marriage has died, and you want to move on, would it not make more sense if you let the other person know. Close the chapter on it. Then move on. Are you not willingly hurting someone (agreed you dont care about them and dont love them anymore) but are you not going out of your way to hurt someone willingly by lying and doing what comforts you? Is it justified to hurt someone because you are unhappy?

Whatever happened to the sanctity of marriage, agreed trust and honesty collapse when a marriage collapses,but what happened to mopping up the mess you make. And from the other persons (the affairee if such a term exists) point of view. Someone who is in a relationship with someone who is unhappy in a marriage, probably quite messed up in the head, who needs support yes, a shoulder maybe, but also practical sense, they do not need people to help mess them up even further.

I dont know quite what to think about this. I am quite anti-cheating. If you are sure enough that you want something else from your life, then be brave enough to express it, be strong enough to talk about it and be kind enough to let the other person out of the marriage as well as yourself.

In some culture I read about it says that when you lie you kill a part of your soul. Maybe it is true.