Children of Immigrants

When I look at other young men and women around my age, I realize that the majority of people in my generation are first generation Canadians. Our parents have immigrated here from back home to give us a better life, and this is not just families who grew up in Sri Lanka, but from other Asian and South Asian countries as well. My sister and I, like many others, were born and raised in Canada. The environment that we grew up in was mixed between learning about our culture and learning to blend in with the other children our age. When you’re young, you don’t notice things like differences in religion or culture.

Because my sister and I were born and raised here, we were able to learn English as our first language. Oftentimes my dad would phone or text me while he was at work to ask if I could proofread an email he needed to type out or how to spell a certain word. I grew up reading the manuals for new home appliances that we would buy or read out Ikea instructions for my parents so that they could understand the complex language. I’m sure there are other children of immigrants who also have the same experience with helping our parents to install computers and cleaning viruses off the hard drive. Sometimes my father and I would sit on hold with Rogers for an hour together trying to figure out why the Wi-Fi wasn’t working. I typically offer to make these calls myself but my father always jumped at any opportunity to learn something new. He is now able to expertly deal with Rogers in a way that always give us the best deals and discounts on our home plans. I find that our parents have an impressive learning curve, which is amplified by the fact that they came to such a progressive and developed country while barely knowing how a lot of things worked.

My parents always made every effort to make me feel like the other kids around my age. Growing up, we would celebrate American holidays like Thanksgiving as well as other religious holidays such as Christmas. During Thanksgiving we would sit down for a family meal, sometimes catch a movie, or embark on an adventure in downtown Toronto, if weather permitted. The Christmases that I remember were always filled with presents under a tree. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, we would unearth the plastic fir tree from the basement and spend time together decorating it with ornaments and candy canes. My childhood was spent leaving out milk and sugar cookies while waiting up for Santa Claus every year until I realized that Santa wasn’t real. Even though we don’t carry the same traditions now that everyone is older, we still string lights up outside the front of the house and have Christmas dinner together as a family. It wasn’t until later in my young life that I realized Christmas is a religious holiday, one that we don’t really need to celebrate as a Hindu family. Despite that, my parents still wanted my sister and I participate in the wide-spread festivities.

There are other days such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween that weren’t really holidays, but were still a cause for celebration among other American families. My parents did not really understand the concept behind these days merely because they were not typical holidays that were celebrated back home. Regardless of that, they did their best to ensure that we were able to participate in customs that other children were also taking part in. My mother would go Valentine shopping with me and help me write out cards for all of my classmates back in elementary school. She would make sure that I had one card for each classmate and sometimes a small dollar chocolate to go along with it. If I had not participated in these activities, then perhaps I would have been ostracized by the other children for not taking part in something that all the other kids were doing. Halloweens were special days because of all the fun I had dressing up as a witch or a clown or an undead zombie. My mom would help me paint my face with fake blood and gashes and send me off to school in full costume, and my dad would volunteer to take us around the neighborhood for Trick-or-Treating. I’m grateful that I was able to have this experience as a child. It helped me feel like a part of something bigger, even if it was something that my parents didn’t understand.

I realize that as we all grew older, we developed our own personalities and our own distinct opinions. Typically, people my age have a very Westernized mindset since the large majority of us grew up in a Western world. Our parents still carry their old fashioned Eastern ideals, since that is what they have known for most of their lives. There’s a gap between what we think is acceptable and normal, versus what our parents think is acceptable and normal. For example, our parents would not often mingle with the opposite gender in a casual setting, whereas a lot of children of immigrants have platonic friends from both genders that they like to spend time with. Our parents believe that there is a set and strict way of living, while most of us live by the philosophy that life is short and we have to live it to the fullest. It’s not that either perspective of life is wrong. The issue is that both generations believe their own standpoint to be the right one.

When I think about everything that my parents had done for me and given me as a child, I realize that they’ve helped me in ways that I definitely took for granted. Only now do I remember all the times that my mom spent her time trying to make out my illegible handwriting to type up an essay assignment for me on our old dial-up computer, or my dad making me help him assemble furniture for the house. Our parents should also realize that we do try to make them proud in everything that we do, because we understand the sacrifices that they have made to leave their childhood homes and start a new life for us in this country. I try to repay my parents in the small ways that I can, such as introducing them to new technology and teaching them how to use it so that they can keep up with modern changes. When I was younger I always wanted everything that the other kids had, and my parents gave me whatever they could. But it was after I grew up and starting working to make my own money that I realized how much of a struggle life really is. By that time, I learned to be more appreciative of what I already had.

I think that there is a lot of opportunity for discussion between us and our parents. Our parents don’t often understand our Western language and a lot of misunderstandings take place as a result. That being said, there are ways that we can bridge this gap. If our parents are willing to sit down and have a discussion about what is considered normal in Western culture, and learn to accept it as easily as they accepted things like Halloween and Thanksgiving, then that is just the first step to a better relationship between parent and child.

On the other hand, our generation will also need to work on finding the time in our busy lives between work and school to ensure that we meet our parents halfway to have these discussions. A friend of mine mentioned to me that her parents are very logical and progressive, but despite that they still sometimes don’t understand what it’s like to be in our generation in the Western world. Facilitating conversation is the best way to alleviate the stress and frustration that we sometimes have when we argue about the differences between Eastern and Western culture. Our generation has all these brand new influences, namely the media and fast-changing technology that our parents were not exposed to in their time. It’s up to both sides to set aside our pride and try to foster communication between us. Having an old-fashioned mindset is not wrong, what matters is your willingness to learn and progress.

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Ocean Breath

Ujjayi breathing: the act of taking long, smooth breaths as a means of both relaxation and energizing your mind, body, and soul. Also known as ‘ocean breath’.

There is something so meditative about the simple act of breathing. Think about back to when you used to run marathons for track and field day in elementary school. All I can remember is how the gym teacher would chant, in through the nose, out through the mouth, as we jogged lap after lap. At work I take the stairs up five flights from the lunch room to my desk and repeat the same words to myself when I feel like I’m losing my breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. This control in your breathing actually strengthens your lungs and your heart, leading to a healthier body. Think of ujjayi breathing as a way to mimic the push and pull of the ocean tide. You pull in your breath and with a whoosh you let it back out, like the sound of the waves.

Yoga is an excellent place to learn to control your breathing. The classes that I attend are quiet spaces where I encounter people from many different walks of life. I usually sit right behind a group of surprisingly nimble elder women who are there to bring some life back into their ageing bones. There are middle aged men who attend the classes to heal their back pains, especially after hunching over a desk all day. There are also other people like me, young professionals who sometimes just need a moment of peace and quiet in an age where everything feels like its moving at light speed.

The word ‘yoga’ itself is a Sanskrit word for unifying the mind, body, and spirit. The practice brings an awareness to your body that improves alignment, flexibility, strength, and balance. It brings you a sense of being comfortable in your own skin, and it teaches you to be patient and, above all, forgiving. It is said that people who practice yoga also learn how to deal with the self as well as deal with others. You learn to listen to your body and gently push your limits with every breath that you take, which carries over into our daily lives as well. We, as a collective community of individuals, need to learn to be patient and understand how to push without going too far.

The yoga studio that I currently frequent is located in downtown Markham, in a unit that has windows that face the northern and eastern directions. The yoga room is a large, rectangular space with two walls of windows and one full wall of mirrors. We enter the room and instantly feel the heat from the heated ceiling panels opening our pores and soaking our bones with warmth. I place my mat down, lay out my towel, lie on my back, and wait for class to begin. The first thing the instructor tells us to do is to always give thanks for the opportunity to practice yoga, and to take a deep breath in through our nose, and out through the mouth with an audible sigh. This is the sound of all our troubles and worries dissolving into the air as we sharpen our focus into the present. We then utter a single Om (more correctly pronounced as Aum) in unison with the class, followed by a silence.

The symbolism of the mantra Aum runs deep in yoga practices. The sound of Aum is in harmony with the sound of the universe, by chanting it you are planting a tiny seed inside yourself that allows you to tune in to everything that exists around you. This is how you acknowledge your connection to all other living things in the universe, with a simple vibration of sound that passes through your lips. Aum is a powerful spiritual symbol in Hindu culture that refers to the duality between Atman (the true self, your soul) and Brahman (the ultimate truth and reality of the universe). It’s used during traditional ceremonies, during rites of passage, and for meditative and spiritual practices such as yoga. It is thought to be the elemental sound associated with the creation of the universe.

It’s pretty mind-blowing, actually.

The instructor leads us through several poses once we complete our initial chant. We do a variety of warrior poses, sun salutations, eagle poses, child’s poses, upward facing dogs and, of course, the ever-popular downward facing dog. When I first started this practice, I struggled to do a decent crow pose, which is where you start in a squat and then lean forwards until you are balancing your full body weight on your hands with your knees resting just above your elbows. I kept falling over and feeling like the palms of my hands were on fire. My warrior poses were shaky and I couldn’t balance on one leg for more than six seconds. It’s kind of intimidating to be in a room full of people who are better than you are. That being said, it’s increasingly rewarding when you are finally able to breathe deeply into a pose with the correct stance and posture. You feel your breath permeating your body and absorb into each of your organs, filling you to the brim.

At the end of our classes, we transition into our final Shavasana pose, which is where we lie down on our backs with our palms facing skywards and take deep, ocean breaths. I always feel that the end of the practice is the best part. I feel the sweat from the past hour roll down my skin and soak into the mat. I relax my shoulders and let my body melt into the ground, limb by limb. There comes a point where my ocean breaths have become shallow and more spaced out without my realizing it. I tune into my body and listen as my muscles tell me how tired they are and marvel at how much I strained myself. Everything else just comes to a stand-still. You tend to forget what you were stressed about at work that day, you forget the argument you had with your friend/parent/significant other. Your mind goes blank and you zone out, almost until you fall asleep.

Finally, the voice of the instructor calls us back to our bodies. I wiggle the awareness back into my fingers and toes and blink my eyes open into the darkened room. We slowly sit back up, backs straight and legs crossed. We take a moment of silence before the instructor thanks us all for sharing our energies with each other. We then take a final breath in through the nose and breathe out with a sigh through the mouth, and say Namaste in unison to formally end the practice. We roll up our mats, put our things away and head back out into our separate lives. The hour that I spend with these strangers means so much more to me than the hours I spend at work or at home with my family. It’s the quiet peacefulness that you absorb into your body and carry with you throughout the rest of your day.

Yoga is for the people who want to bring a sense of balance into their lives. The feeling that you get when you leave the hot room and step into the refreshing cool air beyond it is like no other. Being a part of the practice helps me feel like I’m more in touch with my spiritual side. My breaths have more meaning now and every step I take feels more firm and grounded.

This is what I learned from this practice: inhale the awareness into your body, and exhale the doubt and negativity. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

Amma’s Memories

It was a quiet and peaceful Tuesday evening; my feet were up on the couch and I was lounging comfortably with a steaming mug of masala tea in my hands. I was only staring idly and half-paying attention to the drone of the television in front of me as I let my mind wander freely. Even from where I sat, I caught the waft of spices permeating the air as my mom prepared chicken curry in the kitchen. I could easily picture her humming to herself and heard the sizzle of green chillies being added to the piping hot oil for the gravy base. I took another whiff of the familiar spices and my mouth watered at the prospect of having the final product for dinner in just a few hours. The fragrant smell took me back to the innumerable nights over the years spent around the dining room table with our plates piled high with the delicious meat and ivory white jasmine rice.

The ease and comfort of that memory starkly contrasted the somber expression on the face of the news anchor on the television screen, describing the details of yet another horrific shooting incident somewhere in downtown Toronto. I heard a tutting come from the kitchen and realized that Amma was listening in to the breaking news with one ear. I looked over at her and noticed that she had stopped stirring the curry and come over by the couch to watch the story unfold. I wondered if this kind of thing had ever happened back where she grew up. I knew that civil unrest had made daily life fairly dangerous – enough for my parents to decide to uproot everything they knew and move to Canada what feels like a lifetime ago.

I turned to the kitchen and watched her expression quietly for another moment before asking her why she had bothered to move to a place that was so foreign and so far.

“Why did you choose to live in a country that makes your joints ache with pains every winter season and tease you with too-brief hot spells every summer?”

Even without a language barrier, one thing to note about my mom is that her English is very impressive. Her parents were very supportive of speaking English around the house and made sure that their children had this as an advantage over the other kids in the neighborhood. It couldn’t have been easy for my mom to be so far from everything she knew, from her friends and home to her mother. I recalled the last time that I had visited my grandmother in Sri Lanka. I was always intrigued by her accent whenever we conversed in English as opposed to her native Tamil. She pronounced her consonants with a hard edge, but caressed the vowels in her melodic voice.

Amma explained that the temperature in Canada barely grazed the heat waves that they faced back home. Sri Lanka rarely had days that fell below 25 degrees Celsius. Their daily average usually sat at a humid 30 degrees. It was incredibly difficult to take a deep breath without feeling like you were choking on the heat radiating off every surface of the country. Still, that was home.

There was a split second of silence before she continued. She would often enlighten me on the lack of opportunities that were faced back home. The fact that I can live in here in Toronto and have easy access to high quality education and equal career opportunities is something that I am truly blessed to have. It is difficult to find the same opportunities back home, where oftentimes other aspects of life come into a higher priority than your education. At the time of the civil war, it was difficult for families to continue to offer the best for their children. Many residents were frightened that they would be caught in the middle of the conflict, and sought to migrate to more peaceful locations to raise their families.

“There are opportunities here that you would never have gotten there. But when you are older, I will go back. Back to my home.”

I often catch her when she stares into her memories of the banana trees that grew in her backyard and the fresh curries that my grandmother would make every day. The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg would float in the air when you take a stroll down the street, the spicy smell wafting from each home to greet your taste buds and prompt your mouth to water. She would describe the smell of the fish market, cods and crabs at every stall to take your pick from when the night’s recipe called for Kool.

I asked Amma if we could have Kool that weekend. She smiled at me and told me to call all our cousins over, after all Kool is a social dish. The rest of the week was spent coordinating with uncles and aunties to see who would bring the tamarind and the crab, who will buy the squid and the crayfish, and who had a stock of jack fruits for dessert. Soon, that weekend, the house filled with family and the smell of prawns, chillies, and cumin. The aunties chopped the beans and ground the spices together as the uncles set up the large pot to hold the broth and shelled the seafood to prepare for cooking. We looked on as the ingredients swam in the pot, the shrimp looking as though they were still alive and attempting to jump out of the heat.

We all sat around the pot, taking turns spooning full ladles into our bowls. The conversation was flowing, only to stop as our mouths were occupied with the soup. It was always here that my cousins and I would talk about memories from our childhoods and have sweat and tears streaming down our faces from the spiciness of the soup. The Kool could feed a small village if enough was made, and it’s the dish that truly reminds us of our homeland, our island.

If not, it can’t be helped

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim”, 1969)

I first came across the Gestalt Prayer while I was in high school. The moment I did, it completely resonated with me. I couldn’t forget it if I tried, it truly stuck with me and became my mantra. It’s the first tattoo I had gotten and it’s the one thing that continues to hold me together everyday.

The definition of a gestalt is “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts”. It’s when something that is made of many parts is sort of more than just its pieces. It’s what I believe about soulmates, that when two people are so deeply and utterly in love, they become two halves of one being. In a way they are people who are more significant together than as individuals. This goes back to what I believe about the universe, that everything that happens in our lives is meant to happen for a reason. We are meant to suffer, we are meant to lose, we are meant to cry and meant to die. It’s what makes us human. We should be celebrating our individuality, but at the same time, we should also take every relationship and cherish it.

To live is to meet new people and have their influences in our lives. Not every person who you come across in your life is meant to stay in your life, and that’s the way it is. What matters is what you take from that interaction, whether its a relationship or friendship or a random encounter with a stranger, and how you learn and grow from it. Maturity comes from age, and wisdom comes from experiences. If by chance you meet someone who has completely changed your perspective or loves you for your unique weirdness, then that is a beautiful thing. Your mind has expanded and you are all the more wiser for it. Some people are meant to come and go, and if they go, then so be it.

What I have come to realize is that we are all in this world to be ourselves. We are constantly changing. Humankind is both independent and interdependent. We rely on others as creatures of habit, but we also value our autonomy. The prayer taught me to live in harmony with my whole self and to be okay with attending to my own needs before others’. It means that once we are self-fulfilled, then we will be able to help others in the same way, thus creating beautiful relationships. Once you are able to truly be at peace with yourself and who you are as a person, then maybe you will be ready to be completely selfless and help others achieve the same.

If I were to write about all the lessons that I’ve learned from the universe, then I would be writing forever, for we never stop learning.

The Universe

Every night I try to make it a point to look up at the sky and gaze at the stars. Of course I can’t do this on cloudy nights, but my favourite nights are warm summer ones when they’re at their brightest.

How amazing is it that we are looking back in time when we look into the sky? Every single star has it’s own story, it’s own surface that is yet to be explored by mankind. Looking at the stars always makes me feel like I’m so small, and it’s a very humbling feeling. You realize that you are only one small, tiny part of our great universe, barely having any effect at all. You realize that your problems are so insignificant compared to how big and wide our world really is. We don’t even completely know how large the universe really is, it goes on forever as far as we know. It’s so hard to wrap our heads around the idea of infinity, the fact that the universe might not have an end is so mind-boggling in its complexity that I feel as though my head may implode whenever I think about it.

The universe is so complicated in its fabric, it’s an intricately woven tapestry that hangs over us. I hope that mankind will always be striving to unearth its secrets, and explore further and further as our technology gets more advanced. We can’t be naive in thinking that we’re the only intelligent forms of life out there, maybe one day our descendants will bridge the gap between our world and others.

So every clear night, I gaze at the stars, hoping that someone or something out there is looking right back at us. I admire the patterns of the constellations, and hope to learn all the stories that they tell. I want to map out the path of the stars as they move positions and watch the planets enter their most visible times. The stars are truly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever laid eyes on, and I hope that they don’t fade out in my lifetime.

Thoughts on 2016

As the first day of the new year comes to a close I can’t help but take a minute to reflect on the past couple months and all that’s changed in the world. We’ve had a lot of crazy things happen to us – there was the Brexit fiasco, Trump won the US presidency against Clinton, we’ve lost a large number of people near and dear to our hearts, and we’ve experienced terror like never before.

Keeping all that in mind, we’ve also done some great things too. We’ve had an unforgettable summer Olympics, the giant panda is no longer on the endangered list, we had some great music releases (Lemonade quenched all the thirst), and other truly unforgettable moments. This just goes to show that mankind isn’t far from change, we’re capable of being positive when the future looks bleak. When people die, we find a way to honour their memory by shining light on their achievements and not their failures. When the Orlando, Paris, and other terrifying events happened we stood in solidarity and came together to help our neighbors. We finally are taking significant action against climate change to make the world better for our future generations.

We should take a page out of our own books and strive to better ourselves in the coming year. Every day should be better than the last, and every day we should be helping those in need and working to change the world. There are so many things that we have been gifted with (Pokemon Go and offline downloading on Netflix ftw) and many more to look forward to.

 

So with that being said: goodbye 2016, here we come 2017!

The Difference Between Shy and Introvert

When I was younger I used to dread the days where extended family would visit our home to catch up and chat with my parents. I would always ask if there was a child around my age with whom I could play with, or if I was allowed to scamper back to my room after saying hello when they arrived. My parents laughed off my behaviour, telling our guests that I was shy and didn’t like to meet new people.

Now that I’m older and have had the time to understand who I am, I realize that introversion is something that very much defines me. I like to be alone and watch shows all day, I like to stay in bed for hours and read a book while I sip on some tea. With that being said, I enjoy a good party and I love to get together with my friends. None of that means that I’m shy, it just means that I sometimes need to be alone more often than what people may believe is normal.

Shyness is to be afraid of being judged negatively by those around you. It’s akin to anxiety, to be uncomfortable when you’re meeting new people . To be an introvert means that you prefer to be in a quiet environment, especially if it’s a mentally stimulating one. Many people get these two traits mixed up with each other. I’m often perceived to be awkward or standoffish because of my introvert nature. I do like to meet people but sometimes I simply don’t feel like I have the energy to do so. The most important thing to me is my own mental health, so sometimes I’ll make up excuses for my absence at events. I could be invited to something as simple as a catch-up session over coffee, but when the time comes I’ll fabricate a doctors appointment to get out of the plans.

I think it’s important for us to start being truthful when we can’t make it to an event due to any kind of a personal mental strain or issue. I understand that some people don’t want to come outright and say, “oh not today, my anxiety disorder is weighing me down”. Not everyone is comfortable enough to be so honest about themselves, and that’s okay. What we should be doing is starting the conversation so that others can be more accepting of themselves. I’m still trying to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m trying to stop making excuses for why I sometimes don’t want to hang out and just honestly say that I’m feeling too exhausted to leave my room. It’s time that we understood each other and are okay with our individual needs.

So to all my friends who I’ve cancelled on because of a doctor’s appointment or a random last minute thing my parents needed me to do, I really am sorry. I was probably just needing some alone time that day.

Wild animals belong in the wild

Yesterday I saw a documentary called Blackfish, about the treatment of killer whales in captivity back in the 90s. I enjoyed the film, definitely understand why it’s critically acclaimed. It’s the kind of thing that really gets your stomach in a knot knowing what’s going on with those animals out there. Creatures like Harambe or the whales in Blackfish are raised in captivity, not being allowed to experience true freedom like they’re meant to. It’s not natural for us to hold animals in tanks and cages and stare at them for our pleasure. I am ashamed to say that I have been to zoo’s and aquariums, recently even, and perpetuate the normality of seeing wild animals tamed and confined within walls. It terrifies me to even think about being in their position, to be captured as an infant and raised among strangers, then being fed only after performing tricks to please an audience several times a day. It’s inhumane. The whales in Blackfish were volatile and rightfully so. Animals live by their primal instincts, we can’t talk to or completely understand them. As much as we like to argue otherwise, they’re unpredictable. We like to believe that we can communicate with animals, that we understand their wants and needs and form a bond with them. In some ways we can, with domesticated creatures like dogs and cats. But for wild animals like killer whales and gorillas, mankind hasn’t progressed enough for us to know what these beasts are thinking (and to be honest, we don’t deserve to). They are highly intelligent and have incredible emotional capabilities, but they still can kill us at the snap of a finger whether they are provoked or not. We need to stop hunting elephants for their tusks, that ivory doesn’t belong to us. Stop hunting seals for sport, stop killing lions to show off to your rich friends, stop separating baby whales from their mothers. Stop bleeding the world dry to make a profit.

 

Island – Daily Post writing prompt, July 3rd

Religion

Religion is one of those things that people either love to argue about, or avoid all together. It’s a topic that’s led to wars and crimes against humanity. But you know me, I love to talk about stuff that makes people uncomfortable. I identify myself as an agnostic rather than as a Hindu like I was raised, although I used to tell people that I am the latter to avoid questions. To be agnostic means to believe that the existence of God is unknown and may always be unknowable. We’ll never really prove that God is real, but we also don’t have a sure method to prove otherwise.

I personally don’t believe in creationism. Evolution is what makes sense to me, but I know that there are those people who believe in both. Science and religion are often seen as opposite sides of the same coin but it is possible to see truth in both. Some say that the two are complementary as they deal with different human experiences. Accepting one doesn’t mean that you’re dismissing the other.

I always wonder back to when humans first started believing in a higher existence. Why is it so powerful that people today are still divided into religious beliefs? The three major Abrahamic religions are a great example of religious division. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all based on a similar monotheistic premise. Christianity and Islam believe that Jesus was the messiah. Judaism and Christianity say that Jesus died at the cross, which Islam does not follow. Only Christianity believes that Jesus was resurrected, while Judaism does not believe that there will be a second coming of Christ. It’s a little confusing, but the point is that these three ancient beliefs are very similar to each other, yet the relationship between them isn’t fields of daisies and roses. People like to play the “my religion is better than yours” game. Why they are divided instead of following one common belief could be due to a difference in how they interpret their religion. It’s similar to how Christianity is further divided into different denominations such as Catholicism and Protestants, each with their own varying practices.

I may not believe in God but I do believe in karma. It confuses me when people ‘ask’ God for things. We ask for better grades, a well-paying job, good luck for our children, but the temple is not a marketplace where we ask for things and wait for it to happen. I believe that we are supposed to make our own decisions and give thanks for when we feel that thanking is necessary. We live our own lives according to what we feel is right, and hope that through whatever guidance we have, we make the right decisions. We shouldn’t ask an invisible being to place a shortcut on our path, we need to learn how to take the long way around, mistakes and all.

People like to have something to believe in, we want to know that there is someone out there who is looking after us, because to know that we are completely alone in the universe is a depressing thought. We like hoping that there is a reason for the good and the bad in our lives. Over the years we’ve all become divided in our faiths because we all see religion with difference perspectives. Some people believe in a single god, while others believe in polytheism. We can’t really judge someone for their beliefs, your faith is your own and no one else’s.

It’s Pronounced Vidhurah

This is something that I know a lot of people can relate to. When the supply teacher walks in and begins the attendance at the beginning of class, I just sit and wait for the inevitable.

“Vi-, Va-, V-…umm…”

“It’s Vidhurah, I’m here.”

The above interaction is usually followed by said teacher attempting to repeat my name, then me saying it again correctly, a back and forth until they either give up or finally get it kind of right. What I tell people is that it rhymes with fedora (as in the very popular type of hat) but starts with a V. When I go to Starbucks I sometimes tell the barista that my name is Victoria which I see as the Western equivalent of my name, or I just shorten it to V. Over the years I’ve learned that I need to “American-ize” it, so to speak. I’ve had to mispronounce my own name so that others can somewhat attempt to say it.

Those extra letters are in my name due to the positions of the stars and planets at my time of birth. All that information was mapped and my family used numerology to plan out the best combination of letters that would bring the most prosperity and luck into my life. I know a lot of us Tamil kids roll our eyes and sigh when we hear the word ‘astrology’ but it’s a pretty interesting tradition of our culture. I love that my name is unique, and to me it has almost a mystical energy around it. I feel like my name protects me, and what I’ve learned from various shows and movies is that a name has power. There is power in identity, a name reflects who somebody is to their most bare spirit. The way you pronounce your name, the way it’s spelled, your name gives you your most basic sense of self.

If  I were to describe it, my name is pronounced with the ‘dhu’ sounding more like ‘thu’, and with the ‘rah’ slightly rolling off the tongue. I’ve spent my whole life hearing people say it differently, but I’ve grown to like it. I’m more grateful of the fact that people at least try and say it the way it was intended. I like how there are so many different ways of saying my name. I’ve heard all the variations, from Vadora to  Vid-who-ra, and I actually find it all quite amusing. I know that many, many people can relate to me, some of us have pretty complicated names, and I know that a lot of us have gotten frustrated at the number of times we’ve had to correct someone.

What I want to say is to forgive those who fail. We grew up pronouncing syllables a certain way, the ‘rah’ sound rolls off my tongue much more easily than for my non-South Asian friends. It’s like how I can’t really pronounce French words properly because I didn’t grow up with the practice of speaking it everyday. Some people just can’t say it right, and that’s honestly okay. I love my name and what it stands for, it has so many meanings that really amaze me. Vidhurah is a Goddess. Vidhurah is to be without beginning, middle, or end, or to suffer separation. Vidhurah is my name and I wear it proudly.