Kaatru Veliyidai

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Dear Varun,

It’s been a while. Almost six years. The details had slowly become a blur but the feelings remain like it was only yesterday. When you held my hands and confessed love one week after our first date. Sounds ridiculous now. But oh, how I swooned! The cute guy with a cheeky smile and silence that was constantly inviting. You were almost too good to be true with trouble written all over you.

It was summer. I was home. You called and asked me to marry you. We’d been together less than a year. I was 19 and I wanted to. My parents hated you. That eloping plan sounded perfect for then.

Nobody had cared. People around me too busy wrapped up in their own lives to ever tell me what to do. And when you did, I felt adored. Like someone was finally looking beyond the surface. I should’ve sensed the red light but all I felt was love. Oh how much he must care if he takes the time to tell me what to wear! I should have seen the control freak in you.

One week. That’s how long I spent trying to track you down. Knowing you were in pain didn’t help the fact that you were gone. Phone calls, emails, there’s nothing I wouldn’t have done. Just to know you were okay. Just to hear your voice. I should’ve known you didn’t want to be found.

Layers. Your sisters told me “it wasn’t easy growing up.” I nodded my head and pretended to know what they talked about. It wasn’t until Christmas vacation that I finally understood. You were a different person when I wasn’t right next to you. You had so many sides, I wouldn’t know where to look. I should’ve asked for more. I didn’t know if I could.

The anger. That secret seething rage you hid so well until it was too late. Shoved against a door. Your hand mid-air. I wished I’d done more than listened. Maybe asked. Maybe helped. So I began. Untying the knots that made you sink when you needed to swim.

Suddenly I was weak. For not running. For not leaving. For staying. For loving. The child abandoned and his fear of being left. His anger for letting himself care. His need to keep me by his side and always know where I am so he can sleep with knowledge that I’m not halfway to hell. How could I blame a man that feels like a caged child for actions he wishes he didn’t commit? Someone who helps others with their emotions but has no control over his own? How do I call a man undone an emotional abuser?

I wasn’t old enough to analyse, let alone fix. But I tried. In my way, letting you know – no matter what, I’ll always stay. Even if I’m hurt. If I’m scarred. I’ll sit by your side. But marriage was not a choice. And so I watched you punch a wall. My heart hammered for how red your knuckles turned. But I wouldn’t say yes.

So you did what you feared I would. I’m not ready for this. I can’t be a life partner right now. You hung up the phone and you left.

I tried to keep track but you know how those things go.

Six years later, I saw “you” in a movie. One so many seem to hate. And I know how many layers his emotions have. I know why he feels anger he can’t control. I know why she stayed as stupid as it sounds. And it reminded me of you. I can’t even tell you. So I thought I’d write a blog.

Maybe, in some part of this world, you’ll click on a stranger’s link and find this. When you do, I hope it’ll remind you of us. And if it does, I want you to know – If I had to do it all over again..

I would.

Love,

Leela.

The Same Old Story

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It’s the same old story
That night at a party,
A drink every minute
But I never said you could.

It’s the same old story
Last evening in your cubicle,
I was doing my job
The description never said you.

It’s the same old story
This morning in a crowded bus,
My naked legs where your hands end
What could you do?

It’s the same old story
My desperate No is a drunk Yes
My reflex step back is begging to be touched
If only you knew the truth.

It’s the same old story
He’s a swimmer, not a rapist
She’s immoral, not a victim
“We’re sorry, let it go.”

It’s the same old story
It’s man bashing.
I mean, how can he be raped?
Isn’t all we want what he got?

It’s the same old story
Virginity is only for me.
For him, it’s sex.
She can’t be the victim
But neither can he.

It’s the same old story
Abuse is a conversation
Victims, liars
Abusers, oh how dare you?

It’s the same old story
It’s just another month.
What good is a conversation
When we move on to another one?

It’s the same old story.

 

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you find yourself looking at someone that is a victim of sexual assault, know that it’s difficult for them to admit it and they need you at that moment. But they’ll need you more when they try to go back to normal life with the inability to feel secure. Don’t ask them to hold back, don’t treat it like it’s a sin. Talk about it. Get them help. And give them the voice they can’t find within themselves.

Yes, men are also sexually abused. And any fight against abusers is not gender-based.

Find more information about SAAM at: Wikipedia SAAM

Here’s one video that NEEDS to be watched: The Boss

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Dear Beautiful

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Dear beautiful,

How you doing today? If the answer is great, I’m happy for you. If the answer is bad, let’s fix it. Because I’ve had those days too. And I’d have loved the help too.

I didn’t know how to say these words to you. I’m not the best at giving a speech. So I thought I’d write them down and let you read.

I get it. We may look different but we suffer the same. Whether we’re openly emotional or we dump it within ourselves, we feel the same. Whether we fit into that dress or have to have it custom ordered to our size, we love ourselves the same. With a little doubt. A little insecurity. A lot of wishful thinking.

You may not feel like you’re doing the best you can – at work, at home, in a relationship. You feel unsure. You have those moments when you wonder if anyone cares. And when they do, the acceptance is a task, not easy.

You do all these wonderful things that people compliment you for but you don’t see it. It’s not significant. It’s not changing lives or the world. So you sigh in silence as you hope to be someone else. The TV version of a woman who spends her silent nights, wishing the way you do, to be someone else she sees too. But you don’t know that.

Because how can she be that and this? How can you?

There’s a room filled with paper boxes. Each with a label – Strong, career woman. Submissive, housewife. Opinionated, judgemental. Open-minded, troublesome. Rebel, anti-establishment. Goody two shoes, daddy’s daughter. Abusive, vicious. Abused, liar.

You can only fit into one of these. You can’t be stunning and insecure. You can’t be successful and homely. You can’t have a career and a family. You can’t. You Can’t. YOU CAN’T.

Stop. Stop listening to those voices. Stop letting yourself believe them. Stop underestimating who you can be.

And never stop.

In a world that focuses so much on labelling who you are and what you do, never stop being your authentic self.

Around people who tell you your choice is a mistake, never stop taking chances.

When the ones you love try to hold you back in the name of care, never stop breaking free.

And that dream? The one that you shrug about as nothing but an unrealistic wish when deep within you want it more than anything you could imagine? Never stop chasing it.

This world isn’t a kind place to us. Yes, it’s harsher to some more than others. But that doesn’t make it better. For you to get where he has, you’ll work twice as hard and be overlooked twice as much. Don’t let that keep you down.

Don’t compare who you are to who she is.

She might get ahead of you faster than you got to where you are. Don’t hate her. There are enough people in this world to tear us down. Let it not be ourselves. We need each other today more than ever before. We need each other to fight for ourselves and the ones beside us. The ones who can scream and the ones who succumb. The ones who laugh and the ones who cry.

You may count yourself insignificant in a fight to prove ourselves important. But are you sure? Imagine if we all thought that. Who’d be left? Your voice and your fight matters. You matter. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So go be that woman.

The one who chooses based on emotion.

The one who dreams beyond reason.

The one who hiccups when she laughs.

The one whose hair tangles with the wind.

The one who can seldom get a candid picture right.

We all have insecurities. We’re all unsure where life leads. We all date that stupid guy. We all fall in love and break our hearts.

Never let someone else’s perspective of who you are affect what you know about yourself. There’s no winning with the ones who are waiting with words that poke and hurt. So take yourself out of their game.

Be outspoken and shy. Be loud and socially awkward. Have an amazing career and a loving family.

It’s not impossible. You’ve seen it. You know it. You just have to believe it.

So go on. Spread those invisible wings and do what you’ve always wanted to do.

If you fly too close to the sun, we’re right here with a lot of cold wind.

With silent wishes and loud compliments,

Me.

Someday

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We’re at that point now. I don’t know where my life’s headed. You don’t know where yours seems to be going either. It’s not a cross road. It’s fuzzy vision. What’s two steps in front of me cannot be seen. It’s scary. I feel my heart begin to race. I turn to my right. Guess what I see?

Someday.

It’s not a place. It’s not a moment. It’s a face. It’s a person.

Someday.

In a little world of our own, you’ll come home to me. There’d be no goodbyes. No airport kisses. Just you and I.

Someday.

A bowl of soup and a lot of Netflix. Dala curled up around my feet. His head resting on my ankle. Yours on my shoulder. Our hands intertwined. I’ll squeeze tight every time the wall moves and the mother screams, “Will!” But I won’t be afraid. If the walls were to ever come alive, I know I’ll have you by my side.

Someday.

After dinner that should have been lunch, we’ll go on that walk I was never allowed to. The clock past midnight. Your arms around me, tight. As the curfews of the past seem to float away, the breeze I’d longed for becomes the cherry on my cake.

Someday.

Your work will get to you like never before. My ability to understand walking out the door. That screaming match I’d always feared. You’ll give me hugs instead of papers. That tear rolling down will tell tales of insecurities. Ones I’d never had to speak.

Someday.

We’ll fight over where the tv goes. Why you’re not allowed to keep those ugly clothes. How much space you need and how little you clean. You’ll end them with your crappy jokes. That laughter reaching my eyes like it always does. Remind me again, what were we fighting about?!

Someday.

That house will slowly become a home. Something I’d spent all my life longing for. The future no more a far away dream. It’ll be now. It’ll be here.

Someday.

This fuzz will fade. Our paths so clear, but never meet. Unless you hold my hand and walk into mine. Or I… into yours. Giving up dreams. Shedding family.

Someday.

Our hearts will race. That choice we make, changing everything in its wake.

Someday.

I’ll sit on that patio, overlooking the beach. A glass of chilled wine and Dala at my feet. My children running around with sand in their hair, happy.  The door behind me opens with a little creak.

He’ll walk through the door to put his arms around me.

Someday.

In a faraway land. In a home that we built. We’ll smile at the little ones. The hands holding me, putting my heart finally at ease.

I’ll turn to my right. Guess what I’ll see?

Someday.

Why do you care?

Remember that time your parent stopped on the street to intrude and question a stranger’s choice and you found it so embarrassing?

How many times have you said, “Oh my God. Why do you care? It’s their lives!” ?

Do you follow your own advice? Are you sure?

How many times have you stopped on someone’s status message or tweet and responded to it because it offended you and didn’t match your idea of what is right?

You don’t have to tell me. But answer to yourself with absolute honesty. Have you ever looked at something someone said, felt bothered by it and took it upon yourself to tell them about it?

Today, I rooted for Casey Affleck to win the Academy for Best Actor. Old classmates to new friends had a problem with the fact that I wanted a man who has been accused of sexual harassment to win what is known to be the most prestigious award in the film fraternity. He won. And I clapped really loud.

A few days ago, I put up a status message on my Facebook:

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This bothered people. Now, my question could have been genuine, but so many people rushed to tell me how, “It’s her body, it’s her clothes, it’s her hair. Why do you care?”

So let me ask you, why do YOU care?

I asked this on my page and I ask this here again: Have we, as a generation, become more easily offended than the ones before?

Maybe not.

Maybe you don’t see as many people on the street to be offended with as you do on a social media platform and so it seems to us like we’re more offended. But is that really it?

Or has the ability to hide behind a glass screen enabled us to become more entitled to our opinions?

We have more access to information than ever before. To different perspectives. Where there was one side of a story, we now see three. We hear things. We can evaluate it. We can choose our rights and our wrongs. But it also means we now have an opinion about absolutely EVERYTHING. Things I didn’t know. Things I couldn’t be bothered about are now within my attention.

I like Barack Obama. I was in the US when he was elected and I liked him. I didn’t care what he did in his first 100 days in office. I didn’t care what his healthcare bill was. I didn’t have access to that information and I didn’t care. But I follow Donald Trump. I know what he’s been doing in his first 30-40 days in office. I know what I don’t like about his policies, his behaviour, his tweets, his language, his manners and him. I have an opinion on who he is and what he does. It’s not a good opinion. I’m very vocal about it on my Facebook and occasionally, on my Twitter.

I find it offensive when someone says they voted for Trump. It’s so obvious to me why they shouldn’t have. But I know that they’d have their reasons and I never comment. I will never go to a person’s status or message and ask them why. It’s their choice. If they thought he was their President, it’s their personal choice.

I can be offended by him. But I can’t expect everyone else to be.

Yet, that’s what we’re doing as a generation.

We’re so up in everyone else’s business, we forget that we actually have the option of walking away.

Because, here’s the thing – Our comment, our opinion, our offense does not change who that person is. Not everyone is meant to think like you or I do. If you ask Trump, he’ll tell you a list of reasons why he acts the way he does. It’s offensive. It’s so morally wrong.

But he didn’t take the office. He was voted to be there. Clearly, there are people who agree with him. I can’t change their minds. I can try. But I will get nowhere with, “Oh my God, what’s wrong with you?!”

This world is filled with people who think and act differently. Walk into the four rooms in my house – You’ll find my father’s room in silence, my mother’s room filled with soap operas and drama, my sister’s room with regional music and mine with Ed Sheeran. This is just one house, in one city, in one country, in one continent on this massive planet.

We can’t all always agree with each other. ACCEPTING DIFFERENCES IS KEY TO A HAPPY WORLD – Isn’t this what we’re all fighting for? Whether it’s in gender, in political beliefs, in personal choices, in opinions – it’s okay for you to disagree with someone and IT’S OKAY TO WALK AWAY.

Manchester by the Sea made me feel guilt and grief when I had no reason for either. It made me mourn a man and a family I didn’t know and doesn’t exist. I sat glued to the screen wanting to reach out and hug a character who felt dead inside. A character portrayed by Casey Affleck. I don’t approve of sexual harassment. I don’t think “settling out of court” is a show of innocence. I don’t care who he is outside the screen. I can’t remember that last time I saw a movie of his before and I might never see one again.

But today, I really, truly, from the bottom of my heart wanted Casey Affleck to win that award and he did. And I’m happy about it.

Now, please, tell me – Why do you care?

Why does my choice of actor in a leading role offend you so much? Why does this become an example of who I am as a person? What about this entire ordeal tells you I support sexual harassment?

Why do you think you could question me about it?

Because here’s what you want to tell people who bring their person beliefs and try to thrust it upon you. Here’s what people who hear how offended you are about something that wasn’t sent directly to you want you to know.

Here’s what you told your parent as you dragged them by the hand from an awkward situation:

It’s none of your business.

“Is it me?”

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I was at the tailor yesterday. He had to take measurements and yet again, his hands were where it shouldn’t be. They always were but with my mother not around, it was more obvious now. I walked out wondering why he felt like he could. Maybe I should’ve panicked. I should’ve screamed and said “What are you doing?” But I was silent. I had told myself it’s part of life as a woman. Maybe I look like someone he could take advantage of. Maybe it’s not his fault that he feels entitled. Maybe it’s.. me. Is it me?

I told my mother later that day, “If this man was bad at his job, he’d be in jail for molestation already.” She shrugged and told me it’s who he is. She asked me why I couldn’t find another tailor. That sounded like a normal question to which I responded that not everyone can stitch well for fat people with slender shoulders. This one does. So I have no choice. Maybe if my body was different, I could avoid this. Or maybe it’s because I’m fat and my boobs are too, he feels the need to. Is it me?

But this wasn’t the only man. If I had to list down  similar experiences, I could go on forever. Like the guy in the flower market who casually pressed himself to my back and I blamed myself for shopping when it’s crowded. The old man at a temple who casually touched my butt and I cursed myself for not knowing it’s a mistake and thinking bad of an aged person. The married man on my right running his hands along my legs when his wife is sitting to my left and I knew I shouldn’t have worn those shorts on a Saturday night. Oh! How could I forget the stinking man who pressed my boob flat while he walked past me making me shiver with disgust for days and I shouldn’t have worn that damned kurti when I knew it was a little tight. If so many felt so comfortable over a decade, it couldn’t have always been them. It is me, isn’t it?

But then I remembered the man who asked me to kiss him when he thought he’d gotten me alone.. at 12 years old! I wore a middle school uniform and ran for my life. That wasn’t me. I didn’t know men could behave like that. I didn’t have big boobs, I didn’t wear tight clothes and it wasn’t an accident.

I suddenly realised I was wrong. When I answered my mother’s question, I was wrong. I was focusing on the wrong part of what she’d said. When she’d asked me why I still went to this man when I knew he was like that, I shouldn’t have given her a reason. I should have asked her why he was forgiven.

Why have we accepted the fact that he is who he is and come to terms with it? Why are our questions always turned towards ourselves and not the other person?

Why did you wear that dress? Why did you go out that night? Why did you smile at him? Why didn’t you ask for help? Why didn’t you scream at him? Why did you?

Why did I what?

Wear a dress I’d loved and bought with money I worked hard for? Go out of my house to unwind after a day of chaos with friends who just wanted a laugh and a fun night out? Smile at a stranger who was older than my father out of courtesy because I was taught to be kind and never harsh? Scream at a man that was invading my private space in a very disturbing manner knowing he could kill me and my Government will tell you its my fault?

Why did you?

Why did you raise a son who thought he could have it all? Why did you tell him he can abuse me and walk away because it’s his birthright to be an asshole? Why did you shame the girl who talked about it instead of applauding her for being brave enough to relive that experience over and over again with every word she spoke? Why did you bring a nation’s culture and values into behaviour that should be punishable?

It’s not me. It’s you.

You are the reason I had to walk away silent. You are the reason his wandering hands and his filthy mind are forgiven. You are the reason I feel unsure writing about my experience.

Because what if they read? All those men who have grazed and touched like I belong to them just because I’m walking past. They’ve made me used and worthless. What if the man I will someday marry read this? Because YOU have taught and preached to him that a woman is only good if she is pure and untouched. But then you went and told him he could. Now what about me?

You don’t have to answer to me. I’m nobody to you. But your daughter, your wife, your best friend, your future family will need to know why you, in your need to make your son feel important and manly, have tarnished her safety and way of life. Will you tell her it’s her fault? Will you tell her she should’ve known better?

When she asks you, “Is it me?”

Will you still say “Yes?” Or hang your head in shame?

Because we both know, it’s not her.

It’s not me.

It’s You.

When I Gave Up.. It Rained Glitter!

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Can you believe I have six versions of this blog post? Because there are just no words to describe my 2016 to you. It’s been a year of throwing my hands in the air with both frustration and excitement.

I started this year with something that was emotionally important to me.

After two and half years of waiting for my love to be reciprocated, the beginning of this year saw me finally let go. It is a feeling of freedom from the emotional clutch love tends to have on you. I told myself enough is enough. I give up on dating and the idea of perfect men.

I began focusing more on what I was doing. This life that had been forced upon me didn’t seem so bad anymore. I made friends I cared about. I met people who seemed out of my world. I identified ways that would make me better at work. I still wished I could have had the life I’d wanted. But I no longer felt like a failure.  So I gave up hope.

My new work and my plan B didn’t give me enough mental energy to blog though. My writing style began to change. I neither had the time nor the ability to write. I considered pulling down my blog. I thought it’s time to give up writing.

The idea only grew stronger with every draft I couldn’t finish, with every thought I couldn’t put into words. I remember that night. I was sitting by the window, staring at my computer. I didn’t want to hit Publish. The article was so cheesy, so romantic and so girly. It seemed like the worst thing I had ever written. Maybe I need to edit it a little, I thought to myself. Maybe I should just delete this article and this blog and admit I can no longer write! After an hour of arguing with myself, I finally published “To The Girl In Her Mid-20’s.”

You know what they say about taking chances? Letting that article stay was the best chance I ever took because “It went viral” is an understatement of what happened to me that week. It wasn’t the platforms that shared it, it wasn’t the BuzzFeed feature. It was that email. The one that gave me goosebumps because I had done this to someone’s life. This…

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That blog wasn’t representative of what I normally write. But it reminded me why I do. The emails, messages, comments and love that poured in were each a reminder of why I started this blog. And I know for a fact that I’ll never forget again.

It was almost the happiest week of my life. Almost.

I was at work, just another day of life, when my phone rang. I knew what was coming. But sometimes, it’s better to not let your heart believe until it happens. And so the moment it came, I broke. With joy I’d never known before. One that made me run to the closest room and sob like a child. Because, so many people in this world continue to live life without one shot at chasing their dreams and I’d just gotten my second.

The moment my dad said, “It’s done. You’re going back.”

I could live to be 100 and never forget how grateful I’d felt in that moment. Grateful for the opportunity. Grateful for another chance. Grateful for a father that never gave up. Because I did. And if he had too, I wouldn’t have the ability to now tell you – After having to quit university half way, struggling through depression, battling suicidal thoughts, watching everyone I’d grown up with graduate, trying to be okay when my sister got closer to her degree – I AM BACK AT UNIVERSITY, FINISHING WHAT I BEGAN.

I am crying when I write this because nothing I ever say will do justice to the feeling that rises within me when I think about it. And I’ll say it a thousand times over – It wouldn’t have been possible without my father. And if we didn’t live in a very dysfunctional family, I’d probably hug him ‘thank you’ everyday of my life.

My classmates, unlike my last ones during degree year, are not rude. They are very nice people. We have fun. We all like cute cat pictures. And besides when criticising my apparently unreadable handwriting (jokes), there is never a dull moment.  But going back and absorbing so much information after a long break is quite difficult. I’m no longer a straight A student. But that’s okay. I know I’ll get there.

The most difficult part of it all was having to be all alone. I’ve lived with my family these past three years and loneliness was suddenly all around me.

I wouldn’t move back, I wouldn’t give up what I’d just gotten. But if something could make it just a little better..

I turned to a friend I’d never gotten to really know for comfort. We grew closer and everyone else began to see in us what we hadn’t quite acknowledged and when we did, it was like nothing I’d known before.

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It wasn’t butterflies, it was calm. When everything around me was in complete chaos, I felt relaxed. Waking up feeling like I’m somehow more important and special than I was yesterday. Finding the ability to be myself with no walls, no fears and no insecurities. Because irrelevant of what the world might think, somebody liked the crazy that was me.

And I told myself, “It’s a crush. It’s silly. You’ll get over it.” But then he texted words I’d longed to hear all my life for reasons so personal it makes me cry. “No matter what, I’ll never leave you to face anything alone. I’m here.”

They say you don’t always know the moment you begin to love someone. But I do. It was the moment I read those words and tears dribbled down my face. No, I don’t know if this is it. I don’t know if we’ll be married with kids in ten years. We want different things and hold different dreams. But today, with him, I’m happier than I’ve ever been with someone that wasn’t my family.

And to think, I’d given up on everything that had come back to me, better and happier.

I’ve gotten to know who I am this past year. I’ve had the ability to choose and I’ve made choices that were both logical and also, at times, emotional. Some of the choices were right and some weren’t quite. And I know the consequences of it all will come back to me next year. When every choice I make will define everything my future will be. Work, location, love. But I feel good about it. Because I’m waking up on the 1st day of 2017, exactly as who I am. No hiding, no pretending. Just me. With a smile on my face.

And I’m hoping it’s on yours too…

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