Amma’s Memories

I asked Amma why she had bothered to move to a place that was so foreign and so far. It wasn’t easy for someone who had lived their entire lives in one place to suddenly be uprooted and move their entire lives to a whole new country. The first thing to note about her is that her English is very impressive. Her parents were big on speaking English around the house and making sure that their children had an edge over the other kids in the neighborhood. I was always intrigued by my grandmother’s accent whenever we conversed in English as opposed to her native Malay tongue. 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 20 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. Staying in my parents’ home country always made me miss mine. As a born and bred Canadian, I craved the winters as much as my mom craved her summers.

So one day, I asked her why she came here.

“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?”

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

I often catch her when she stares into her memories of the jack fruit and 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 fish, and who had a stock of jack fruits for dessert. Soon, the house filled with family and the smell of prawns, chillies, and cumin. The aunties chopped the beans, peeled the jack fruit seeds, 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. Soon, 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 flowing, only to stop as our mouths were occupied with 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.

A Rant About Tipping Your Server

There was a period of time when I worked as a waitress in a quaint little breakfast place down deep in Scarborough. My overall experience there was pretty good, I had a great boss, the food was fantastic (who doesn’t love breakfast food) and the customer’s were great people. What really drives me nuts though is the fact that some people don’t think that servers should be tipped. Because of my time as a server, I make sure to always tip generously when I eat out. I have several friends who are currently or have been servers at one point in their lives, they probably understand what I’m saying here. Being a server is stressful. You deal with being on your feet for your entire shift carrying heavy plates back and forth. We carry drinks on trays praying that we don’t slip and cause a major accident. We deal with customers who think they’re high and mighty, and customers who are just generally mean people. There’s literally blood, sweat, and tears that goes into this kind of job. The entire industry is built upon sub-minimum wage and tiresome physical labor.

Being a server means being a master in multi-tasking. You’re constantly making sure that things are up to the standards of the customers. Everything has to be spotless and clean, the food has to be presented perfectly, drinks have to be served immediately, tables have to get their orders at the same time. You have to please the customers, laugh at their jokes and marvel at how great the weather is today. We are essentially the faces of the establishment we’re working at. Customers see us and they have to understand what it is that the restaurant is about. We’re family-oriented, we’re fun, we’re energized, we always have a big smile on our face! You can imagine how tiring that would get after just a few hours. Sometimes it’s actually fun to talk to customers, you get to meet some awesome people from different walks of life. With that being said, there are still those days where you just aren’t “on” all the time. Some days are worse than others, when it gets really busy and you’re not able to deliver as well as you are capable. The feeling of being so stressed out that you want to cry in the middle of your shift is not a fun feeling. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to my friends, it’s happened to nearly every server out there. We all have our horror stories.

A vast majority of servers don’t get paid the same amount as the most basic office job. Full-time employees in the service industry rely on tips to get by because minimum wage isn’t paying the rent. I myself was pulling two jobs at the time because the wages just weren’t enough to make my student loan payments. You don’t know which of your servers is trying to pay their way through school with their tips. You don’t know who’s there doing their best to feed their kids. You don’t know who is out of school and doesn’t have the education to get a better job.You don’t know who really needs the money, or who is just trying it out for the experience. Tipping is a standard practice and if you’re one of those people who don’t tip at the end of your meal, then please rethink your decision and understand that if the situation were reversed, your server would definitely tip you. I’m not ignoring the fact that sometimes the service isn’t up to par, and believe me when I say that no one is more sorry and embarrassed by it than your server. It frustrates me when people don’t think that servers deserve to be tipped, don’t demand a service and then belittle the people who provide it for you. That’s exactly what it feels like when we don’t get tipped. It feels pretty damn shitty.

My Story

I grew up hating myself. I always thought that I would be the quiet awkward kid for the rest of my life. I thought that I would be alone, and that no one would love me because I didn’t love myself. I’m ashamed of the destructive thoughts that used to fill my mind, they were not pleasant. I felt ugly, fat, dumb, and like I wasn’t good enough to reach the standards of the people around me. Sometimes I think back to my childhood and wonder why I felt these things. I wasn’t bullied, I had plenty of great friends, but I realize that what I was missing was confidence and reassurance that I was okay the way I was.

My parents aren’t the sentimental type. I get it, they didn’t grow up in a self-obsessed generation like ours, so they didn’t really teach me how to love myself. When I was a kid I never really gave too much thought to how I looked or what I was doing, it was more until I hit puberty and became a teenager that I became more self-conscious, just like every other kid at that age. It’s normal to doubt yourself and to wonder why you look a certain way or why you don’t look a certain way. Maybe for some it’s worse than others.

If you knew me in high school, then you’d know that I had a ton of acne on my face. It was disgusting, to say the least. I cringe every time I think back to those days. There is nothing anyone can say to me now that will make me feel better about my face from that part of my life, and I’ve come to terms with it. It made me feel incredibly self conscious about myself, and I started to find other things about myself that I didn’t like. I hated how my front teeth were slightly larger than normal, it made me stop smiling wide. I hated my big thighs, they rub against each other and made holes in the thigh areas of my favorite jeans. I hated my small eyes, I always got huge framed glasses to make them seem bigger. I hated my hair, it used to be puffy and flat. There were many, many things that I wished I could change about myself. Like any other girl my age I wanted to be skinnier, to be smarter, to be cool, interesting, funny, social. I wanted to be happy, and I wasn’t happy with the way that I was.

Sometimes I would stand in front of my mirror and just stare at myself. Years ago, all I saw were imperfections. All the curves that I wanted to flatten out, all the scars that I wanted to hide. It was at some point in my post secondary career that I finally committed to clearing the acne off my face, I refused to be discouraged by things that I can’t control. Someone taught me that my odd teeth are endearing. Someone showed me how to dress to my body type. Someone showed me how to use makeup to my advantage. Someone helped me realize I didn’t even need makeup to feel pretty. Someone tells me I’m beautiful every single day. These people in my life have taught me to love myself, all of my curves and imperfections included. When I look in the mirror now, I see a young woman who’s on the way to loving herself in all her glory. I adore my love handles, I love my smiles, my wild curly hair, my slender fingers. I love my body, the way my tattoo wraps me in a hug and my curves that make me feel fantastic in a dress.

It’s important for people to start being confident in themselves. By loving yourself, you gain control over your life. Sometimes I still feel like I’m a bore, a bland wallflower in the background. That’s something I’m working on, it’s not shameful to admit your insecurities. I think that I’m a creative, beautiful person. I think that I’m a smart and caring person. I think I’m pretty awesome, and I’m proud of myself for coming such a long way from an insecure teenager to a confident young woman. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who’ve gifted me with pieces of confidence that have built up my self-esteem, and I hope that I can do the same for my friends who need a little extra boost. Just keep doing you, and along the way you’ll love who you are.