Friday, December 28, 2012

A quick note about the rape

My friend Jess has been covering the backlash in India after a college student was brutally gang raped on a bus in New Delhi. The bus was crowded and no one stopped it.

Protests at India Gate have escalated by the day. 

After reading Andy's blog I realized I have something to say, too.

Some politicians are verbally attacking protestors rather than the assailants. On this list of sexist remarks made by Indian politicians, one politician opposed the long-pending Women's Bill saying it only benefits urban women, whom he called "par kati auratein" (women with short hair).

Another article came out to say that hundreds of politicians running in Indian elections have been charged with sexual assault, including 30 charged with rape.

Supposedly this is a country that takes care of its women. Supposedly, in Hindu tradition, women are revered and respected. I heard the same thing on the Rosebud Native American Reservation when I lived there. It seems that the places that laud their cultural traditions of respect for women are the same places where women are afraid to go outside.

For the past few months I have been interviewing women in Tamil Nadu and New Delhi about sexual and gender-based violence. I am writing stories about the lack of protection and care for refugee women. They all say the same thing, as do the men, "Refugee women are in the same boat as the Indian women–no one is safe." It's not that "this neighborhood is not safe for Chin women," it's "this neighborhood is not safe."

Delhi is a city where nearly every woman friend I know–Indian or foreign– has a story of being groped, grabbed, intimidated or worse.

Then I head up to Kashmir for a holiday. And the man who owns the houseboat simultaneously says that the men in Delhi are pigs and that the women in Kashmir are safer because they dress like modest Muslims. So, he was essentially saying Kashmiri men are no better, they just have less to lust over. Besides, a quick Googling of "rape statistics Kashmir" came up with this article that said of the 1,336 rape cases since 2006, only one rapist has been convicted. And one has to wonder why more women won't report it. Beyond reported rapes in Kashmir crime statistics are broken down into categories such as; cruelty by husband, molestation and dowery death

Thank God my boyfriend stepped in and gave the usual spiel about educating young men and responsibility the older generation in the community should burden and blah blah blah or I might have lost it... and then I would have been just another short-haired, American woman making the argument.

But Kashmir is a single state. And this instance of the bus rape in Delhi is just one that happened that day. A woman is raped every 22 minutes in India.

Perhaps this is not my fight. Rarely do I identify as being a woman. I have not attended any protests. And yes, as an American I should take the plank of wood out of my eye before commenting on India. But since this blog is my soapbox, I can say this to all of the men out there making jokes, all of the politicians refusing to lift a finger, and every piece of shit who gropes or leers or scares a woman in the streets just for fun: Fuck you, you fucking fucks.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to walk to the metro alone. Hopefully I'll slip safely into the "women's only" car because women aren't safe in the presence of men. Incredible India indeed.

All photos by Jess Letch

Christmas in Kashmir Part One: Held Hostage

The houseboat was designed for a king... or perhaps a colonizer. The stove was warming our hands and toes until bedtime. As-salamu alaykums and Merry Christmases were shared throughout the week. But still, this Christmas was not picture-perfect. Set on Nageen Lake and at the foot of the Himalayas in Kashmir, think of this Christmas blog as an adventure story rather than a holiday story, with capture, intrigue, romance, escape, a clash of religions and -yes- Santa Clause.

The story starts as any tourist tragedy begins. We touched down in a conflict zone, their airport decked out in barbed wire and camouflage, ready to rock and roll at any minute. We, on the other hand, we neither rocking nor rolling seeing as how none of us had bothered to Google Srinagar, Kashmir, beforehand. So what happens? We – Louis, Andy and myself – are greeted by a pleasant Kashmiri tout referring to himself as "Fish and Chips," no joke. Our second tragic tourist mistake? We shook his hand and let him lead us to his car to show us some houseboats.

And the next four days became an epic game of trying to escape the clutches of his family, from which we had rented an epically beautiful houseboat. We were told we were getting a great deal. But wood for the fire in the freezing cold nights would cost extra. Plus a service charge. Private cars and drivers became more expensive. We couldn't get away for a free moment to even book a taxi. They refused to let us visit "Tourist Information" in town.

Being too cheap to pay for wood and too trapped to find our own, my better half and I shiver-cuddled under five blankets at night, wrapped in three or four pairs of socks, gloves, hats, and my phiran. The only thing to keep us warm, aside from our bulky clothing, was our loathing for the family holding us hostage in this 5-star boat. Ohhh, how difficult ones life becomes when the hot water runs out, no matter how many chandeliers there are hanging throughout the house.

I melted my scarf on the fire. Louis accidentally drank gasoline when reaching for a water bottle during a power cut. Andy was left without heat or a cuddle buddy. Raj had to sleep in the cold living room due to his snoring. And I took the coldest shower of my life.

 But in between the knocks on the windows from everyone in that household and their cousins, we had some beautiful moments. Andy going to jail three times at the beginning of Monopoly, only to come back to win the whole kit and caboodle. Louis stuffing Christmas stockings. Peas and potatoes for dinner. Mutton. Chicken drumsticks. More mutton. More chicken drumsticks. Photogtaphing around the old city. Getting death stares from old burka-ed women whilst I smoked a cigarette and held hands with a man in public. Watching the sun come up over the lake on our private boat ride to the floating markets.

Christmas Eve, Andy and I managed to sneak away from our captors under the cloak of darkness into a taxi to take us to midnight Mass at the only Catholic church in the city. Done up in birthday balloons, Christmas decorations and a giant crucifix, this was one Mass I'll never forget... and never fully remember since it was 90 percent celebrated in Hindi. One part that needed no translation was the fireworks. Yes, fireworks on the church grounds at 2 a.m. Merry Christmas.

But we still had to come home to the same crazy family.

It eventually came down to all of us scheming on Christmas Eve, figuring a way out. So there I was, sitting with my friend Andy, in the living room of this pleasant family, lying straight-faced to a pious Muslim man in front of his 90-year-old, mustachioed mother. And let me tell you, my friends, he wasn't buying any of what we were selling. His grandfather was also in the tourism biz, so squeezing us for money is a family tradition. And the conversation would not end, any time we asked the price of something they would mumble to each other in Kashmiri before giving us "the best price." Eventually, as they were all finishing their dinner, wrapped in their phirans, protected by their "winter wives," Andy just blurted out, "Our good friend has come into some money so he is paying for a driver and a night at a resort..." And that was the end of that. They didn't so much as look at us once more before we parted ways the next day.

As we walked down the narrow road Christmas morning, heading for a taxi stand, giant backpacks on our shoulders, stuffed elephant in my arms, we were all thankful to be free once again. But the next stage of our trip, we would also be trapped. This time not by a family, but by central heating and a bathtub...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Your life must be so good

Whenever I meet new people, I am hell-bent on finding common ground. Whether it's a rooftop party in New Delhi or an NGO meeting, or a wedding, or a trip to the field, I am always looking for some sameness to connect me with who I'm talking to. That's how we all make new friends, I guess, so it's nothing special.

So I was laughing and eating cake with two girls around my age on the balcony of the JRS tailoring center on the outskirts of New Delhi. They are refugees from Burma's Chin State. And they dress like me and speak good English and we were talking about Christmas (Chin people are Christians while most of the rest of Burma is Buddhist). We were laughing about roommates and talking about homesickness.

Then they asked me about my job. I told them I am only in India a little while because I have to travel a lot for work. But I get to go home for a short time and see my family.

Then silence.

"Your life must be so good," one said.

I didn't know how to respond. All of our sameness was gone for a moment. Didi and her friend were back to being refugees, living with seven people in a studio apartment, unable to find a living wage, subject to harassment. Not eligible for resettlement, unable to go back to Burma.

"I'm lucky," I said. 

And I forget that a lot. 

The moment passed. and we went on talking and laughing. We had lunch and they took me to a Burmese grocery store to get Burmese tea leaf salad (pretty much my favorite food in Asia to date), and exchanged numbers and Facebook information.

I think I just need to remember that while always looking for common ground, I need to recognize the differences that make the people around me exceptional and realize that my own privilege plays a role in my relationships. It doesn't mean that I can't be friends with everyone. I just need to be aware, and eternally grateful.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My crime in New Delhi? Love pollution.

I am guilty of love pollution. Write me up. Lock me away. Try and get me, coppers. You'll never catch me alive.


See, awhile ago, Saadia sent me an article about Delhi's newest form of pollution, fogging the air and putting the city's children at risk. No, it's not auto and truck exhaust. It's not the smelting or burning trash in the streets. No, my friends, this pollution is much more serious. It's the pollution of love, and that cannot be tolerated. I should know. I've been caught–and scorned–for it.

This article she sent stated that more and more young couples are kissing freely in the streets and parks. This, of course, is creating mayhem for the older generation in India.

I know how conservative Delhi is. Three people were arrested in June for kissing in public under a colonial “decency law” (Thanks a lot, Brits). Last Valentine’s Day, there was an effort to catch young people kissing on camera and put it youtube to publicly shame them.

When I walk down the street with my what-have-you holding hands we get stares. It could be because I look like a boy, or because we're so cute, but I know the real reason. We are billowing love smog in everyone's faces. We might as well be disrobing right there in front of the chow mein stand.

Anyway, here's what happened.

After living in my new apartment for all of 20 minutes the aforementioned what-have-you and I stepped out on the balcony for some fresh air. While enjoying our cigarettes, we did what we do all other moments of the day, and what I would argue all "lovers in love" do – we laced fingers and whispered into ears and touched lips.

That's right, I admit it, ok? We kissed. We were polluting, right there where any woman or child could see us… if that child looked five floors up from the street or was standing on a rooftop with a set of binoculars.

Well, this was too much for the gentleman who lives across from us and was apparently watching. As a concerned citizen and the purveyor of the moral high ground, he stepped in. So imagine me, eyes closed, pressed up against a certain young man, mind cloudy and heart fluttering, to hear scoffing and noises of disgust coming from the rooftop across the street.

Real pollution in New Delhi. The white is low-hanging pollution. 
The black is what the sky should look like.

I didn't turn to face him, ashamed that I had dirtied this pristine city with my affection. But my partner in crime turned to see him brushing us off and shaking his head. As one would do in any large city with neighbors, we more or less ignored him… until there was a knock on the door.

As it turns out, this Dudley Doright, this Boy Scout, this citizen watchman, called our landlord to tell on us. She sheepishly walked into my unlocked apartment and beckoned me in the hallway. Embarrassed as all get-out to be put in this situation, she told me a neighbor was complaining that I was acting "inappropriately.” In my defense, how inappropriate can I be when my boyfriend is wrapped up in a thick cotton sweater–sorry, jumper– and busy smoking?

Well, the situation has gone unresolved, for now. But Molly and Louis have a new sworn enemy. And Church Road in New Delhi now has someone to answer to if they are caught enjoying their lives and being in love. There's a new sheriff in town, and this town ain't big enough for the both of us.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Grandma Clare's best Thanksgiving

Fr Doll said –what feels like a million years ago– that photographers should always practice on their families. I think it's that sentiment (and getting a C on my first few assignments) that lead me to borrow a camera and digital recorder for our Thanksgiving dinner in 2008.

I recorded everything, including most family members telling me to put down the camera and help with dinner. I have the sounds of Mom boiling mushrooms, Dad carving the turkey, me pretending to wash dishes. But more importantly I got the real sounds of Thanksgiving – Abby and I trying to rig who picked who for Christmas presents, Dad giving the prayer, chit chat about Nebraska, and Grandma Clare's laugh.

I've listened to these recordings about a dozen times since leaving home and I'm so happy I have them. And since Grandma Clare has died, I am comforted to know that I get to hear her voice whenever I need a little Irish Catholic guilt humor.

I made this little slideshow from the photos I have from that day and my favorite parts of the evening. I hope you all enjoy it. 

In this Christmas season, between Thanksgiving and New Years this video reminds me of how grateful I am of my family. And I hope you all know that while I won't be home for the holidays I'll be thinking of you and talking incessantly about our wonky Christmas trees, games of Cranium and my distinct lack of "baby's first…" ornaments.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Seeing Saint Francis Xavier in Goa and the ongoing Catholic conundrum inside the mind of Molly Mullen

 Thousands line up for Mass and to see the tomb of Saint Francis

I did it. I booked my flight. My first solo adventure ever. I had always had a companion on my travels but this religious pilgrimage I was going to make alone… or so I thought.

I recently met a young gentleman who I have spent every waking and non-waking moment with. And even through his devotion to atheism he bit the bullet and came to Goa with me. I tempted him with beach time and drinks with umbrellas.

But this blog post isn't about him. It's about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Actually, it's not about Him either.

It's about religion.

I booked flights, found hotels, took days off work all in the name of being at the Basilica of Bom Jesus for the Feast of Saint Francis Xavier, where he is interred.  And after all that fuss, what did I do? I left the Feast Mass early, grumpy and in the need of gin. 

The Mass started with some 'hymn' to the tune of a Dusty Springfield song. That was the first warning. I was sitting there thinking to myself, "Where on Earth is Roc O'Connor to save the day with some real music?" Oh yes, Fr Roc was in Omaha celebrating the Feast with my father and my favorite Jesuits in my favorite chapel singing songs like "Be Not Afraid" and "Glory to God" and "Sing to the Mountains." And I was here, in tropical paradise, with the Goan Jesuits and a family of mosquitoes about to get an earful.

The music wasn't the worst part. That I could take with a chuckle. It was the homily. Ohhhhh, that homily. In 20 minutes he managed to offend me, my family, the man I love and all my nearest and dearest back in Omaha. I should have taken it as a warning when he began talking about the evil hegemony the United States is inflicting upon the world, forcing us into a more secular lifestyle.

He continued, "Whatever group you belong to, be it Youth for Christ, Families for Christ, Singles for Christ (huh?!) it is your responsibility to set the world on fire, living fearlessly as Christians and bringing people back to the Christian faith like Saint Francis Xavier…"

I don't mean to be a thorn in the side of our Mother Church, but I don't want to bring my friends back into the Christian fold. They seem pretty content scooping secular ice cream, preparing secular felafel, making secular spreadsheets and taking secular photographs. Since when is Christianity under attack anyway?

But I made it through the homily with little more than an eye roll. It wasn't until after the Eucharist when there was an impromptu prayer to turn every nation into a Christian nation that I had to quietly gather up my things and retreat back into the secular world. And all I could think of at the time was, "I bet Dad got a killer homily back in Omaha. Fie, Fie on Goa!"

And as I sat in my secular restaurant, smelling the secular gin on the breath of my secular boyfriend, enjoying a secular cigarette I thought, "God bless the atheists."

Secular room service to take the edge off

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Top 5 things I had never experienced before going to an Indian hospital

1.  Sticking out like a sore thumb for being burka-less

2.  Giving a urine sample over a dirty squat toilet

3.  Being asked if I am married when really they want to know if there is a chance I could be pregnant

4.  Receiving a 1920s-era chest x-ray

5.  Only paying $50US for the experience

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How the Hard Rock Cafe saved Thanksgiving … and lessons on celebrating in Delhi

It was just days before Thanksgiving and I only had one job–procure a turkey for the party. Yet again, Saadia and I got the bright idea to host an American celebration on a rooftop that's not ours to celebrate holidays that aren't theirs. And I had to find the centerpiece food.

I couldn't do it. No one who was willing to sell me a turkey (and believe me, they are hard to come by in Delhi) was willing to cook it for us (no on has an oven in this city). So we started calling hotels. One hotel was willing to swoop in and save the day and prepare us an 8 kilo turkey for the small fee of $400. It was out of the question and I feared Thanksgiving was going sans turkey.

It was so disappointing. My Indian friends had never tasted turkey before, never celebrated Thanksgiving before, and I wanted to it justice.

And then, as if by Thanksgiving miracle, I received an email from the good people at the Hard Rock Cafe, just hours before dinner. They had an extra turkey, and it could be mine. When it was delivered I cradled it like a long-lost child, grateful that dinner had arrived.

With that, champagne was popped, wine was mulled and dinner was devoured. Andy, our lovely UK friend who owns the roof, carved the turkey like a Thanksgiving king. And once we plowed through that, we moved on to the back-up chickens, and then the pies, and then the cake, and then the fireworks.

So, what on Earth am I NOT thankful for? I am sitting here trying to count my blessings the day after Thanksgiving, my fingers still sluggish from overeating, my mind still foggy from the mulled wine. 

And all I can come up with is "everything." I'm thankful for all of it today. I'm thankful that my struggle to work today is due to having too many friends, too much fun and far too easy access to fireworks. I'm thankful that my lack of sleep is due to late-night rooftop chats and overseas Skype calls to family.

I thankful to live in a city where women get their own metro cars, where literally anything is repairable and everything is just an auto rickshaw ride away. I'm thankful for porridge and Oreos and accents.

I'm thankful that last night I got to enjoy a proper Thanksgiving with my new friends. I just wish all my friends from Omaha, Alaska, Bangkok and everywhere else could have been there too.


Ah yes, and the lesson I learned this Thanksgiving? The best way to dispose of chicken bones once licked clean… explosives.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dangerous Diwali

To properly explain the epic nature of my first Diwali, I will have to tell this Tarantino-style and start with the end.

My Diwali ended with me crouching in the street, huffing and puffing the tears away while my friends and a few random others crowded around to get a look at my hand, in which I had just exploded a firecracker. 

Yup. A firecracker. In my hand. Blood blisters and everything.

That's right folks. So now's you know. When a polite Welshman offers you a bomb and a cigarette to light it with, it ends badly. Be warned. Never trust a British accent.


Diwali is the festival of lights in India, their biggest holiday of the year to celebrate Lord Rama's homecoming. Imagine the 4th of July on amphetamines. Everyone in Delhi – all 13 million people – are stocked up on rockets, grenades, poppers, crackers and everything else that goes 'bang'.

So we had to get involved. 

The party that night was on the terrace, some apartment that has become party central for the human rights lawyers I now associate with. It had a perfect 360-degree view of the sky exploding around all of us. For maybe an hour I just sat and stared at the sky as it slowly became more and more thick with smoke and pollution until the fireworks were glowing in the smog. But, romantic smog nonetheless.

The party went off as most parties do. The lawyers and NGOers dancing and twirling about, the journalists turning it into a photo shoot. And while I should not discuss in great detail everything that goes on in these Delhi parties, I can say this - Gangnam Style happened. Chocolate cake fights happened. Bottle rockets happened. 

And it wasn't until we were one our way home – Saads, me, and the guys – the evening really became a proper Delhi story. One where I can now say, "Hey, have you ever thought it was a good idea to play with dodgy Indian fireworks?" and that's all one can ask for… a good story.

This is Halloween

It's remarkable that I have made more friends in the first eight weeks of my life in Delhi than I did in nearly two years in Thailand. What is it about this city that brings people together so easily?

Saadia and I needed to celebrate Halloween, one way or another. It has become a high priority in my "adult" life since I was sick for so many Halloweens growing up. There weren't any parties that interested us, so we decided to invite people to a party, even though we didn't know where the hell we were going to have it.

Our landlord officially has become a pain in the ass, so our place was off the table. I mean, you break a few things, leave the gas on all day, allow your friends to stay in the spare rooms, throw parties, hold 3 a.m. singing contests on the porch, and all the sudden you're a bad tenant? Please.

So Saads was on the case. How could we throw a party and make bad decisions that wouldn't render us homeless? After a few phone calls in her best girl-in-need voice, we had a venue. Perfect strangers, hopefully not serial killers or evangelicals. 

Well, the party went off without a hitch. Unless you consider a late-night police visit, a little bit of vomit, a few bumps and busies, and dropping a pumpkin off the roof to be a hitch. But with 20 people, all costumed-up, running only on beer and Halloween candy, we're lucky we all survived.

So thank you, all of my new Delhi friends. You not only know how to do Halloween in style, but you make this city more exciting by the day!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

French Fry Art

Anyone who sees my drawings knows that I only paint or draw on used materials, like paper bags and whatnot. Lately, I like to draw on french fry containers. They have a great shape and cool stripes. Here's my most recent stuff.

This is Daniel. He goes everywhere with me. My mom and sister gave him to me as a high school graduation gift. He has been  my best traveling companion since.

I made this one with Rick Bierman in mind. Rick was the lovely man who Richeff and I stayed with in Alaska. He and his wife owned property on an island near Juneau. I was so happy to get to know Rick, especially when we seemed to share a love for Abbie Hoffman. Rick once write a beautiful poem that was a response to Allan Ginsberg's "Howl," and it referenced Abbie. It was so beautiful I cried. So Rick, next time I see you, this is yours!

This is Bob Dylan. I wanted to make it colorful and put a beautiful quote next to him. But I was in a bad mood. So all I could think of was "I used to care, but things have changed..." So I left it blank.

While I was reading Salmon Rushdie's autobiography and he was talking about meeting a man in Kerala who had "henna in his beard." This is what came to my mind.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I never knew what you could do with a didgeridoo

 I tend to sometimes be over-flowery with my writing. Excessive. Embellishing. But hey, I was trained as a journalist, so it's not my fault.

I only say this so when I describe the beautiful evening I had, you won't think I am overstating it.

I was sitting with my newfound expat friends, work friends, and my roommate a stones-throw away from the Australian Prime Minister. We were sitting in folding chairs on the grass between the 5,000-year-old fort and the ancient observatory. We watched a great, great performance by Gurrumul Yunupingu who sings in a language only 2,000 people still use off the coast of Australia. We listened to Ravi Shankar's daughter play the sitar and her band play instruments I had never heard of before. All the while, brilliant artists projected 3-D images onto the observatory to make their music come alive.

Gurrumul's performance really got me. When I was little –and still now– I was never fond of the dark. So my mom bought me a little light for my room. As the paper around the light slowly turned, light shone through cutouts and I could see fish swimming across my wall as I tried to sleep.

When Gurrumul started singing his song about the fish he would catch when he was a child, water and swimming fish were projected on the observatory. Now, of course I can't compare a thirty dollar nightlight with the highest-tech projectors in India, but the same feeling of wonder and comfort came over me, listening to Gurrumul sing and seeing the fish swimming by.

And then Anushka Shankar came on, with a sitar about as big as her. It would have been hard to take my eyes off her long brown hair and sparkling gown if it weren't for the beautiful floral designs crawling and spiraling across the observatory behind her.

Truly magical. The sights, the sitar, everything.

By the end of the night that observatory had been bathed in every color of light in the rainbow. What a lucky building it is, to get dressed up for the prime minister and have such great music bouncing off it's stone walls. And how lucky we were to be there to witness it.

Here's a video that gives you an idea of what we got see and hear.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Life, I want to recognize your helper verb

After days of arguing over music, Saadia and I found one song we could both dance to. 

See, we share a room. We became close friends after staying in the same apartment building, but now that we share a room – waking up together, going to bed together, eating together – we can sometimes drive each other a little crazy. Especially recently. All I want to listen to is old blues and bluegrass. Saadia wants to listen to anything BUT that. And we just bicker, bicker, bicker.

I don't know why I didn't think about this before. I have one Indian song that I used to listen to ALL the time! Why didn't we start dancing to this weeks ago?

How did I find this song? By compromise. We started with Nirvana's cover of "In the Pines" because Saadia loves Nirvana, for some reason. I then played Leadbelly's version as the compromise. Because his version is obviously the greatest. Well, where can you go from Leadbelly other than to Skip James? So I played "Cherry Ball Blues," which led to "Devil Got My Woman".

And "Devil Got My Woman" brought us into the soundtrack to the film Ghost World.

I've written about my love for this movie before, but it never proved more useful than last night. I was looking through my iTunes, knowing Saadia wouldn't let me keep playing old music, and I saw it, on the Ghost World soundtrack, right after Skip James:

"Jaan Pechan Ho" by Mohammed Rafi. 

Anyone who has seen the opening scene to Ghost World has had this song stuck in their heads, no doubt, never knowing how to pronounce the words or what they meant.

Well, now I do! Saadia and I stepped outside to get some fresh air and enjoy a Kingfisher and ended up staying out for nearly an hour, dancing our way closer and closer to midnight while she taught me the lyrics to the song.

But after all the dancing and the beers, she began translating in a very interesting way, in a way perhaps only Christopher Hitchens could keep up with at that point. She was trying to explain the power of Urdu verb conjugations, or as she said " vern congenations." "He is trying to say that if they could only recognize each other –helper verb– life would be like a dream..."

So that was our Wednesday. Some chain-smoking Brooklynite teaching me – a tragically white Nebraskan – the ancient poetry of Urdu.

Eventually, I got the hang of it.

"Dil pe chrale wallet auk nah churau. Nam to patau…" Those who steal my heart, do not steal my gaze as well. Please, tell me your name at least…

So when we go to Kashmir this weekend, in the land of Urdu, I can tell my taxi driver, "Jaan pejan ho. Jeena a san ho." If we could really recognize each other, life would be a fantasy.

Perhaps I'll get a cheaper cab fare...

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Van Morrison conundrum

How can a man who looks like this

sing like this?

And how can a man who sings like that, actually talk like this?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

I've been drawing flowers lately

We put up my new flowers in the kitchen

Here is a closeup

I like this one a lot

This one too

This was my first attempt.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The broken hearts club

I am now living in an apartment where all three tenants are nursing serious damage to their hearts. And I always would hear what women say about these things, in these situations and all I could hear was bad dialogue to a B-grade chick flick.

But here I was tonight, sitting around a table with two beautiful women, inside and out, saying things I never thought I would hear myself say. And they listened intently and we all offered little insights to the other about what had happened. It is amazing how introspective and delusional we allow ourselves to be at the same time.

And tonight, instead of hearing dialogue that I wished Aaron Sorkin could rewrite, I found myself traveling the world and traveling through time in my head while we talked. I thought about all the other women in the world saying these things and sharing their hurt with new friends. How many languages this same conversation was taking place, over chais or espressos or margaritas or champagne. And I began to think of how many centuries women have been using the same words to describe where they are in the process of rebuilding and reshaping their hearts. 

And it just makes me feel that because of all this, we three are part of history. We are living the part of life that all women live and that this is part of life; this is supposed to be a part of life; this is what life is about. And that, somehow, makes it beautiful. Beautiful and painful at the same time. Like the sweet pain you hear Leonard Cohen talking about rather than the raw pain of Nick Cave. It's a pain that tonight I can sit with.

And while the three of us were at our lowest tonight, running out of cigarettes and grouchy that we went out on Ghandi's birthday which turned out to be a dry holiday, we were all talking about how these things change us. And this whole time I have been hoping that the next day I will wake up and be the person I was before. And now I know that I won't be. I will grow and change from this for better or worse.

But, my new housemate told me something the first night I met her, showing off a beautiful green ring with gold filled into it. She said that the Japanese make pots and pottery and when it cracks or when there is an imperfection, they fill it in with gold. So it is the imperfections that make it beautiful. I just hope that the same goes for humanity.