Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Venice

This was going to be a post about the two days I spent in Venice with my family on a summer trip to Italy. But not anymore, because as I was looking through that summer's photos, I noticed how few pictures I've taken there. Which reminded me of something, and I decided to write about that instead.

I don't remember exactly how is started other than that my sister and I left our hotel room bickering at each other. Which, as anybody with a sibling would know, is perfectly normal. But this was one of those arguments that went on and on with no conclusion. It was also one of those times where my parents didn't even want to bother intervening. And one of those times when our ego was getting the better of us and neither I or my sister were willing to admit we were wrong.

So we just continued sulking. In Venice, for God's sake. We rode those lovely gondolas and watched the cute city with all its houses, cafes and taxis floating on water, and that wasn't enough to cheer us up. I wasn't in the mood to take pictures and nobody else knows how to use the camera well, hence the absence of pictures.

Now that I look back, I can't believe how absurdly I was behaving. Thankfully, the next day we were back to being jolly holiday-ing mood and able to see Venice with clearer eyes, but that's still a whole day gone from what could've been an amazing experience.

Moral of the story: If you find yourself arguing with your siblings on vacation, swallow your pride and anger and let. it. go.





Saturday, April 21, 2012

So the Soothsayer said to me...

It was just outside the famous Mosa Castle located in one of Lebanon's breath-taking valleys. I guess she noticed my looking at her a little longer than necessary and decided to take quick advantage of the situation.

'Sit down,' she barked at me. 'I am going to tell you your future.' I obediently crouched down on the little oriental rug in front of her, holding out my right hand. 'Just for fun' I told myself- I've never believed in any of this stuff. She took it in hers, and she and I and the little crowd growing around us just stared at my hand for a while, awkwardly waiting for her to start.

'You have good intentions. And a good heart.'

'Awww,' my cousins echoed around me.

'Your life will be long enough for you. And you have good things in store. You'll always live a stranger in your land though.'

Stiff silence.

'He'll cover you with gold, from head to toe. The emir (prince) that will marry you.'

Giggles around.

'And....' a hesitant pause. 'You will have two maids at your service- one SriLankan and one Japanese.'

An explosion of laughter erupted around us. With that, the environment switched from serious to blatantly comical. My cousins around me buzzed with teases and comments all at the same time, making it impossible to hear anything.

She looked at me angrily. 'Say InshaAllah!' raising her voice.

'InshaAllahhhh' came the sarcastic replies around. I couldn't help escaping a giggle as well, which I quickly disguised into a cough looking at the expression on her face.

'When it happens, you'll remember me,' she said in a low voice filled with reproach. As we stood up to leave, throwing her a few notes, 'Three sons and two daughters' she added, back to her normal tone again.

Do you believe in fortune-telling? Have you ever had any similar experiences?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rayna

During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a quiz.  I breezed through the questions until I read the last one:  "What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"  Surely this was a joke.  I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name?  I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.  Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade.  "Absolutely," the professor said.  "In your careers, you will meet many people.  All are significant.  They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello."  I've never forgotten that lesson.  I also learned her name was Dorothy.  ~Joann C. Jones

There's no way I would not know the name of the lady who maintains my university's girls' washrooms, because she is one of the few people at university who can bring my mood up in an instant. Her name is Rayna- originally from the Philippines, in her forties but not looking it, with straight shoulder-length silky black hair, an oval face, eyes that meet yours earnestly when she speaks, high cheek bones and a beautiful smile that never leaves its place.

While the girls in the restrooms will be staring at their reflections, reddening their lips and lining their eyes while whining about having to wake up early in the morning, about how fat they think they are or about how busy they are getting an education, Rayna- (who probably had to wake up way earlier, would do anything to be studying in university and whose weight is the least of concerns on her list of problems) will be happily sorting out the place, swelling it not only with cleanliness but with her endless supply of positive energy. She gently reminds us of the brighter side of things yet without belittling anybody's worries.

It's a myth that you have to get famous to change the world. Some people change the world just by being in it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quality Street, packaged in a purple box with a dose of stress

It's just too much to handle knowing there's a Quality Street box in the house.

How often must I have one? More than once a day is an insult to its prestige- it is much too precious to be treated so liberally. But keeping to once a day is a bit too much self-discipline to ask for. What is the optimum number of Quality Streets I must restrain myself to that is practical whilst maintaining its nobleness?

With what intention must I set on? Should I single out the flavour that complements my mood? But that would make the Quality Streets at the mercy of my mood, which is not at all befitting to their status. Or should I select sporadically, relying on the Quality Streets to adjust my mood to the better instead. Dare I doubt their power?

If I do decide to reach out and treat myself to one of these delicacies, how can I make sure I'm performing this careful selection process wisely? How do I guarantee that I am making the most out of the precious moment by sound judgement of the opportunity costs that associate with each choice?

A royal purple caramel cup, that will be light to bite and end too quickly?
A fun yellow toffee finger to reminisce old days?
A warm, feminine touch from strawberry delight?
A simple yet deep milk choc block?
A sweet orange creme?
An indulging noisette triangle?......

Oh, the stress that arrives with a box of Quality Street.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Open Door

I wrote this piece for a writing competition with the theme "The Open Door". I didn't win but thought about sharing this with you for my O day :)

He drummed his fingers on the floor of his prison cell, then sighed. That left him
exhausted. His fingerprints looked like deep excavations through the thick layer of dust he was on. The hot air he exhaled stood still by his lips, hesitating to mingle with the coldness of the room. How long had he been in here, with his head drooped down? He couldn't for the life of him remember. It didn't matter anyway. Time had ceased to be important: minutes and hours and days and years swirled around in his fuzzy head like misty silhouettes indistinct from each other. Desperation- This is what it did to him.

You are his twin, not his mirror-image. Look into this mirror I'm holding up for you now. You see? Your cloned features are crammed with so much more. I can almost see vision overflowing from your eyes. If I could, it would be red. The color of energy. Look at the caterpillar on the window-sill and see the vibrant butterfly inside it, waiting patiently till the time comes when it can flaunt its beauty.

He settled over there pathetically. Perched on the prison floor that he had become a part of. If the room was capable of holding more gloominess, he would be feeding it some. But it had saturated. The accumulation of a billion dark thoughts. The thoughts were cranky teenagers, sulking at him for bringing them into a place they couldn't figure out.

Don't let that distract you though. Can you smell the stench of fertilizer outside the room?  You're not one to let that get to you, right? I can see how you're thinking about the substitution that will soon occur. When the manure will produce fragrant flowers, their delicate scent invading the world. Can you detect the subtle whiff now? If it had a color, it would be yellow. A bright, light, sunshine-y color.

He lost all feelings of being and belonging. Numbness shrouded him. His body parts cried out loud for a change in their position. His jugular vein throbbed in pain, his neck having forgotten its default position. Yet he felt none of this. If they could speak, they would complain to him of their anguish, plead him to put them to mercy. His lifeless eyes moved over his body, the separate entity, with an objective look that saw nothing.

Ignore that. Look at your intact self. You're a machine with a million friendly parts, working in harmony. Do you sense how the blood cells are thanking your heart for its pumping and your veins and arteries for the amazing ride? You see how they look behind at the lungs and wave? When meal-time arrives, you will smile at the little food, cold on your plate, thinking of all the fun activities going on inside you. Green is the color of the world in you- the color of well-being.

He lived on in his self-pity. Since he couldn't add more dismal thinking to the atmosphere, the thoughts got trapped inside, gradually filling him, entering his blood and oxygen, until Hopelessness became him. From the corner of his eyes, all he could see was murkiness. 'A waste of space', he told himself, another miserable thought to add to the darkness. The four walls of the room loomed over him, gray. They were approaching- shutting in on him, making him feel even more confined, until he was suffocated. He finally moved- to wrap his arms around his knees and rest his head on them. Gave up on life with only death to look forward to.

If I could see the aura around you, it would be purple. The color of nobility. Hear that steady dripping on the ceiling? The one that was designed to torture you? It could be anything you want it to be. I can practically hear the tune you're turning it into in your mind. A beautiful melodious song that can soothe the edgiest of people. Blue is your composition's color- the color of trust and tranquility.

Funny how a pair of twins in the same room can be living in parallel worlds. Don't mind the prison bars, you have butterflies, perfumed flowers, music and yourself to accompany you. Soon your beautiful thoughts will give rise to a new beginning. Do you see how the door opens before your eyes? I see that the fruits of your optimism have left you dumbfounded. Don't be. You underestimate the power of you. As you step out into your new world and celebrate yourself, don't look behind you. Too bad Hopelessness is too busy looking down to notice The Open Door before him.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mona Lisa, Over-rated

Have any of you guys ever paid a visit to the Mona Lisa?

I did and let me tell you this- it was the biggest anti-climax I have and will ever experience in life. If you haven't, please read on so that, if you do, you are prepared before-hand for the shocking falsification of high hopes that awaits you.

As you approach the museum, you will most likely pause outside to lovingly observe the beautiful rectangular Palais de Louvre and the Pyramide Inversée. As you enter the Inverted Pyramid, you will look above you at the glass panes and most likely remember reading something in The Da Vinci Code about Mary Magdalene's body being around somewhere here. You will wait for your ticket patiently, because any amount of waiting time is worth a visit to the world's most famous painting. right? Then you will dive into the Museum with your ticket in hand, heart beating faster with each step.

There will be gallery after gallery show-casing precious artifacts from the world's oldest civilizations. There will be Hammurabi's Code of Laws standing right there in your face. There will be halls beyond halls housing any thing you can think of that's older than five hundred years and more. You will stop and stare at some of these, but also not want to expend all your fascination at once, for you have not seen Her Majesty as yet and must preserve some delight for her alone. You will follow the signs at every corner guiding you to "La Joconde"

Then you will arrive at displays of dazzling paintings. The sort that can make you gasp aloud. If you are nothing close to an artist like me, you will simply wonder at the charm of a world foreign to you as you watch the experts furiously taking down notes or bursting into tears. You will notice how not a single space on the walls or ceilings inside the Museum have been wasted- everywhere you see art. You will most likely start feeling dizzy. Like your eyes cannot take anymore and need to rest before they can start interpreting messages again. But you have not met Her yet, and the signs in every corner are leading you to "La Joconde".

You will finally arrive at a long passage-way with intensive signs announcing her being close-by, and probably a little part of you may wonder how it could be anything more than what you have already seen in pictures, especially compared to all the wonder you have already seen and had to rush through for her. But you will probably also silence this passing thought by telling yourself it'll be different once you see her in reality.

As you enter the hall, all you shall see in front of you is a large crowd of people pushing each other. Paparazzi camera flashes. The blue of security guards. You will let yourself be pushed by the wave of the crowd, until you finally see her.

It, actually. A small dark painting. Protected by a glass covering. And surrounded by a boundary marked by a rope. Security guards eyeing the frenzied crowd suspiciously for potential "threats".

The awkward moment when you realize the world's most famous painting isn't worth all the attention. You will most likely, at that point, wish you had spent much more time with the rest of the Louvre and its contents, under-rated at the expense of the very over-rated Mona Lisa.




Saturday, April 7, 2012

Glittering Vampires?

It was just another day out for a typical Dubai-an. I was strolling around in a shopping
mall, seeing but not really looking at the oh-so-familiar shopping mall elements
around me: the window shops sparkling with alluring, glittery shoes and bags, the
frequent aroma of a mixture of fatty fast food and Oriental spices, the confused beat
in the background of the songs blaring from all corners and a non­stop flow of all the
nationalities you can think of. Everyone wore a satisfied expression because everyone
was on familiar grounds. It was just the way it should be.

And then out of the blue, disaster knocked on the door pledging to destroy the
peacefulness of our scene. We found ourselves invaded. A troop surrounded us,
clad in dark blue t-shirts declaring their army slogan: Twilight. They were armed
with books and held up high pictures of what I assumed was their commander. They
proceeded to frighten us with shrieks of excitement and hoots. "Bite me, Edward!"
screamed one of the soldiers wildly. Strangely, I was more repelled than intimidated.

That's when I blinked again and realized this stampede was in reality a bunch of over-
excited Twilight fans marching towards the cinema to watch the premier of the first
movie.

Four novels and movies later and I still stand bewildered at this bizarre craze that has
engulfed the world. If you are not one of the one hundred and sixteen million who
brought the book, here's basically what Twilight is all about: An ordinary girl who,
one unfortunate day, meets a peaceful vampire who glitters in sunlight and falls in
love with him. Her life from then on is one absurd event after the next, from being
almost killed by the "bad" vampire, meeting another guy who can turn into a wolf to
eventually being forced into becoming a vampire. There. There's nothing more to it.

So what is it about this queer story that drives people to wear Twilight t-shirts and
scream in shopping malls?


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

De-chickenifying myself

With every coming year, I notice my progress in de-chickenifying myself. I'm still chicken, but not as chicken as I used to be. As a kid, I was proper chicken. If I had randomly started clucking, I bet life would've carried on with nobody expressing any surprise.

There are still many items on my fear list. I haven't ridden any ride that goes upside down yet, and the only times I've ridden roller-coasters were under extreme peer pressure, and I regretted each of these times as intensely as the other. I have never gone jet-skiing even though I live right besides the most popular jet-ski place around. I cannot watch people climb ladders and don't like being around anybody having an energy drink. (It goes without saying that I don't climb ladders or drink energy drinks either). Insects, particularly flying ones, mortify me.

But I do think I've come a long way. As a kid, a constant feeling told me that a cat behind me was watching me. No amount of head-turns checking that the coast was clear would remove this phobia. I was also afraid that all my toys and dolls were using my falling off to sleep as a signal to come to life and plot against me. I'd spend a few minutes every night laying in bed smiling at them nervously to try to make them like me (It all started with Toy Story). Sometimes, I was even afraid that people around me were imposters, pretending to be the people I know by wearing masks that they had got done professionally (This I credit Mrs Doubtfire for). Once while eating a hot-dog sandwich I was suddenly gripped by an immense fear that the ketchup wasn't really ketchup and that the company producing the ketchup was using blood as a cheap alternative. It took weeks to rid myself of that worry. When we went grocery shopping I was always afraid of my mother losing me and then my picture ending up along the black and white 'Gone Missing' leaflets near the entrance of the supermarket.

Fears are funny. I don't get them: they're all irrational and there's always a logical reasoning to do away with them. But our logical minds still insist on holding on to them for some reason.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Crushed

That familiar walk between block number five and block number fifteen. The path I knew so well, starting out straight and then curving ever so slightly. The wide, red-and-grey-bricked path under a clear blue sky amongst leafy trees, the happy grass, the cool benches and carefree laughter. The smell of grass and youth in the air. But something about the aura of this place is different and I know why. It's because of the dead birds spread all over the path. Very tiny baby birds and big motherly ones. Grey and yellow feathers, little orange beaks grounded, thin talons and bird limbs. All these bird body parts sprawled around the place. I try to tell but I'm invisible now. I rush from happy person to happy person. Don't step on the dead birds. Falls on deaf ears. Their bodies have flattened against the path, leaving their mark, and this place will never be the same again for me. All that was in the birds: our connection between sky and earth, our symbol of endless freedom, our symbol of peace, of love and family. Watching in vain as all that was in the birds crushes under red Christian Louboutin high-heels and Reebok trainer soles.

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