Mehndi lagah ke rakhna

With my hands covered in mehndi, I write the first of this series of posts. My regular blog will go on a short hiatus so I can try to capture my brother-in-law Fahad’s wedding and give you guys a look into the mysterious and amazing phenomenon  of south asian weddings.

This is my first BIG wedding where I have been a part of the family. To understand any desi wedding you have to know what hungama is. Think madness. Think chaos. And then dip it into chocolate and put some sprinkles on it. That is wedding hungama. 
Today was day one of the official hungama. I flew in from Buffalo late last night and this morning, my mom who had been sleeping over helped me attack the big task of packing for the wedding. Somehow I got four days of wedding outfits into a carry on. I probably deserve some sort of medal for this. 
Then all seven of us gathered in two cars and started our journey. I don’t know if you have ever traveled with a group of seven people but you feel SO desi. You are thinking that everyone in the airport is staring at you and thinking you just stepped off some boat somewhere and you are probably right. I wanted to put a turban on Fahad and make him sing songs so everyone would know there was a wedding going on.
When we arrived to Dallas we had a huge party awaiting us and they showered us with flowers and candies. I loved this family already! We managed to settle ourselves into the hotel soon after that. At the hotel, there were delicious nuts, cookies, croissants and fruit baskets in all of our rooms. Also, there were some fresh flowers. Feraz and I decided that we could get used to living like this. 
We had a short time to settle in before we had to head over to Lubna’s house for our first full introduction to the family at a dinner they were hosting. We arrived quite late since our flight didn’t even get in til 8 or so. There was mehndi being put on all over and the house was decorated with yellows and greens. I went upstairs and met my new sister-in-law to be for the first time! She was getting her mehndi put on and the lady was going at an incredible pace! I think she finished the whole thing in two hours. There are times when the bride’s mehndi can take all night to put on! 
We spent the evening getting to know the family and Lubna and eating lots of delicious foods. We all had henna put on our hands and afterwards all the women got together and sang traditional Indian wedding songs. As I have done since I was a young child, I sat along and mouthed random songs pretending I was singing along even though I had no clue what the song was. 
So, that is day one of four. Three more days of wedding fun left in Texas!! 

the hills that we climbed were just moments out of time

So, I am in Buffalo right now. What a beautiful and mystical town. I made some new friends here. We are all staying at the same B&B. We had some delicious scones and muffins with fresh fruit this morning. For dinner we found this fantastic little place with outdoor seating. The food wasn’t anything to write home about but the conversation was on spot. It is so nice to meet new people that are so funny, witty and open.

After dinner we had a hankering for ice cream. One of our new friends had seen a ice cream place the day before. When we walked in Paula Abdul’s Straight Up started to play. It was probably a top five moment of my life. After we finally made our ice cream selections we walked back towards the B&B. The sky looked like pink cotton candy puffs and along the street there was a young teenage boy and girl looking like they were falling in love for the first time on this July day.

It was perfect and I thank God for this moment and this day and all the circumstances that happened for me to be here to witness it.

I am sorry for all the cheesy posts on this blog. I will try to write more normally soon but for the time being I just feel like i am in one of those movies such as the science of sleep and the whole world has a bit of a fuzzy feel to it and each human interaction feels elevated and wonderful.

Standing in the light of your halo, got my angel now

I have been reading another blog where the writer has made a goal to read 100 books each year and on her blog she keeps a progress report of what or how much she reads. This has inspired me to set a reading goal for myself. I decided that starting on August 1 I will read 50 autobiographies in the next year. I picked autobiographies because they inspire me so much. I am amazed by the things people can accomplish and the power of the human spirit to survive. Autobiographies fill me with hope like donuts fill me with fat grams.  
Today I was at Borders and had some time to kill before my ride showed up. With no intention of actually starting to work towards my goal, I decided to scope out the autobiographies. My eyes fell upon Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou. In her introduction to this book she says, “I have one son, but I have many, many daughters all over the world. This book is for my daughters.” 
I sat down in front of the shelf of books and started to read the first few pages. I was hooked right away. Maya Angelou is a poet. No matter what it is she writes, it is has a rhythm that invites you in and then holds you there. 
Without even realizing it I found myself in a comfy couch and for the next 166 pages I was completely immersed in Maya Angelou’s stories and advice. The most touching pieces for me were the ones that discussed her relationship with her mother. In one story, Maya Angelou talks about how she became pregnant at the age of 16. She was uncomfortable and insecure in her already six foot frame that looked nothing like a woman to her. After ongoing propositions from a suitor she finally gave in, hoping the act would fledge her body into womanhood. She went to meet the boy at an arranged place and time, where she describes what were 20 clumsy minutes. 
She left the place without even remembering if they said goodbye. Nine months later she would give birth to her son. Her brother Bailey convinced her not to tell her mother until she finished high school so she could graduate. As soon as high school was over, she told her step-father through a note she left on his pillow. Terrified, she didn’t sleep that night. The next morning he knocked on her door asking her to join him for breakfast. He added as a side bar that he had read her note. 
He helped her call her mother who came home immediately from her travels. Maya Angelou was 8 months and 1 week pregnant. Her mother asked if she knew who the boy was. She did. She asked Maya if she loved him. She didn’t. “Then there is no use in ruining three lives,” her mother said and told her she would support her fully. During the delivery, her mother who was a registered nurse, told her jokes and stories, waiting to say the punch lines at her most painful moments. 
Reading the story in Maya’s words… from the fear that comes with becoming pregnant at such a young age to witnessing her mother’s unconditional love brought me to tears. It is in the hardest and most difficult moments of our lives that we need to be able to turn to those who we love and not even have to open our eyes, not even have to take a deep breath and know that we can fall and they will catch us. To read about her mother’s tremendous love for her in this incident and so many others was incredibly inspiring and moving. It made me want to be such a mother, such a friend and such a daughter. It helped me realize why Maya Angelou is so strong and so beautiful.
The other main theme that really inspired me in this book was Maya Angelou’s message to live life with courage. In one section she thanks the lovers. She thanks them for being brave enough to be in love. She discusses what courage it takes to be in love with someone. I think it is so easy to love someone but to let someone love us- now that takes guts! It is so rare to find someone that loves you unconditionally and it is so commonplace to have been hurt and betrayed that it feels like a revolutionary act to trust someone to love you. 
And I don’t think she was talking about the typical lovers. Quite frankly, when most people say they are in love, they are just insecure. They are with their partners merely because they like the feeling that someone loves them, or they are afraid to be alone. That is why dysfunctional relationships and co-dependencies are so common. People aren’t loving each other, they are running or hiding. That is why you see so many girls, and sometimes guys abandon their friends and go into a hole where they count on their partner for everything. The foundation of their love is so weak that they jealously guard it, they run away from anything that might question it. People sometimes describe the beginning of a relationship as feeling like an addiction and that is profoundly sad.  
But to love someone in a healthy and trusting way, that takes courage. It takes trust in our selves and trust in the love both from us and from our partner. Maya Angelou did a great job of highlighting this and the general courage one must have in life. 
Overall, I would highly recommend reading this book. It is a fast and easy read and there are many great life lessons to take away from it. 
I am also looking for suggestions for what other books to read! I want to take one with me to Dallas and right now I am leaning towards Memoirs by Pablo Neruda because I have been in love with his writing lately. Also, there is a new biography about Albert Camus which looks very promising. Any other suggestions? What is the best autobiography you have read?
Book One: Letter to My Daughter
Read: 7/26/2009
Rating: 8/10

Words are verrrry. unnecessary. they can only do harm

(The painting that inspired the cover of the movie is  by Edward Greene Malbone and has three women who represent the past, present and future.)

I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ’til this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer… What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that — everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

Tonight I revisited The Hours. What a brilliant, brilliant movie. I always thought that Corrina, Corrina was my favorite move and although it still holds a very special place in my heart, it is time for it to move over for The Hours. I know that this movie only tells one part of a much larger story so as I talk about it here, I do so recognizing and noting that this may not be the most cohesive reflection, but I wanted to write it right after watching the film. 
To look life in the face. Always to look life in the face. And to know it for what it is. At last to know it is. To love it for what it is.
The voice that Virgina Woolf had is one that has spoken to women for over three quarters of a century.  The 19th century female authors are some of my greatest heroes. Virginia Woolf, Kate Chopin, Emily Dickenson, George Eliot, the Bronte sisters, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlotte Gilman Perkins and so many more… these were the women that gave me my feminist education. They were revolutionaries simply for stating the basic truth of so many women’s lives. For putting into words, the debilitating depression that comes from a life restricted and bound. They challenged what was “natural” for a woman. They demanded a new space, a new language.
It would be wonderful to say you regretted it. It would be easy. But what does it mean to regret, what does it mean to regret when you have no choice. Its what you can bear. There it is. No one is going to forgive me. It was death. I chose life.
Today while we were driving in the car, I mentioned to Hena that I might have liked to have been a trophy wife in another life. She seemed surprised and asked, “And you were a women’s studies major?” But that is it, I told her. Women’s liberation is about women’s freedom to choose for themselves. To define on their own what life it is that makes them happy.  If we can free ourselves of the bonds of gender and socialization, we might discover a peace that so many in the world find so elusive. Feminism is not radical at all. It is an idea that every person would ascribe to if they sat down alone with themselves and asked one simple question. Do I want the freedom to just be myself? To be seen as a human being, as an individual without someone else’s interpretation and limitation imposed on me? To simply be ourselves, men and women, independent of someone else’s construction, that is some sort of freedom. That is the only kind of freedom.
I would tell you that I wrestle alone in the dark, in the deep dark, and that only I can know. Only I can understand my condition. You live with the threat, you tell me you live with the threat of my extinction. I live with it too. 
This movie had so many lines that are more embedded in my brain than I ever realized. Watching it is like reading The Awakening for me. It is such a powerful reminder of the frailty and consistency of life. In the lives of these women, I can’t help but see the life of every woman, of every person. It is a story of longing for something more than this world. It is the struggle of trying to stay true to yourself while the whole world asks only that you be just like everybody else. It is reconciling living for yourself or living for the ones you love. Where does that line end and begin? When can we make a choice or take a step without seeing our parents, our families, and all the people we love? Should we ever?  
Always the years between us, always the years. Always the love. Always the hours.