Why I refuse to (just) pray for Paris

When I woke up to the news of the terror attacks in Paris yesterday, I was devastated. My heart ached for the victims and I prayed for the city along with the rest of the world, showing my support through Facebook posts and tweets. When I woke up today to several posts talking about the atrocities happening around the world, I realised how wrong I was. It is not just Paris that we need to pray for, it is the entire world, it is humanity.

The deaths of the victims in France are a tragedy. I believe that with every part of myself. I believe every death brought about by violence is a tragedy, no matter what.

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Yes, the world is hurting; we have lost so many lives in the span of 24 hours. There has been an earthquake in Japan, a suicide bombing in Baghdad, deadly blasts in Beirut (Lebanon), and perhaps many, many more lost lives elsewhere due to disasters (natural or man-made) that I may not even be aware of at this time.

What is more, I cannot even imagine what the people in these places, be it Beirut or Paris or elsewhere, are experiencing right now. Nothing I do or say can even begin to solve this crisis, but I’ve felt restless and unsteady ever since I heard the news. As one of my friends put it, “So much has been lost, and for what?”

In times such as these, is it right to mourn for one and not for another? Do these places, these people, deserve this? Were they not all innocent lives lost? Does the larger impact of one outweigh the smaller impact of another? Is the value of one lost heartbeat lesser than that of ten? In the end, does it matter who is suffering where on what scale, if they’re suffering at all? Is it justified to pray for one and not for another?

(while it is oh so beautiful to see the world come together like this, it is so very sad that it takes a tragedy like this to make it happen)

Since an (unverified?) news surfaced that the ISIS is behind the attack(s), I have seen anti-Islam sentiments spread like wildfire across the Internet, and even in people around me, and that makes my heart ache. I have numerous Muslim friends, I live in a place where many of my neighbours are Muslims, and they are all such good people. The idea that they, along with others like them from around world, are being subjected to hate for something senseless and cruel committed by one terrorist group is sickening.

When the world is hurting so much, would it really help anyone to point fingers? Would violence rectify violence? Would hate cancel out hate? These are questions I ask myself as I see blame everywhere, when all I (and hopefully many others) want to see is love and support.

Really, the violence and inhumanity around us frightens me. I am a pacifist at heart. I do not understand violence. It is Paris today, was Gaza yesterday, and could be Delhi tomorrow. There is always some form of suffering somewhere in the world; those of us who are not able to do much, can at least refrain from pointing fingers and causing blame, and instead stand united and stand strong to support humanity.

In the end, all I’d like to say is, I refuse to just pray for Paris, because I pray for the world in which countless cities, places, and people burn in suffering and pain. Because it is my world, my home, and my people, regardless of race or religion.

(and I hope one day we all stop hurting)

time, space. love, hate.

Beautifully written by a friend.

The Dabbling Zone

Warning – contains references to depression and abuse.

Written for a dear friend.


{Let the world shatter below my feet while existence remains unavoidable; I am not here.}

Its essence swirls around the room like grains of sand carried through the wind, echoing in the past, present, and future, suspended in reality, pushed forward across the lands and the skies, to stop deep in my heart. Time. What about it makes us all cower in fear, tremble in corners, wish and hope and pray, and finally end up in tears? The mystical path through this imaginary world, a life without purpose or guidance, stumbling around like wanderers, desperate to find solace, to find another whose heart beats the same rhythm – why does it hold us in our grasp, enchanted, never breaking free from its embrace?  I found you as I roamed these desperate lands; unexpected, though the encounter was…

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Dear Daughter

Dear daughter,

if you grow up to be anything like me

then don’t bow your head in shame

for sins never committed

mistakes never made

don’t shy away from the desperation

from the soaked pillows greeting you every morning

pain is what makes you human

don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

embrace the pain and let go of your fear

for if you’re anything like me

they’ll try to douse your fire

but don’t you dare stop burning

Dear daughter hell may knock on your door many times

disguised as men who will despise your every word

give you bruises and aches and scars

the fences around you will block your escape

hushed whispers and outrageous cries marking your nightmares

they will bend you to their will and entice you to conform

but Daughter if you’re anything like me

you’ll break free

fight and continue to fight

they may kick you bloody and sore

but let the pain steel your heart

don’t let them dash your hopes and dreams

or offer your ashes to the skies

you may think you deserve it at times

that you are not strong enough for battle

but dear Daughter if you’re anything like me

you’re cut out for this struggle

and I promise

you shall taste victory one day

for you’re born of a strong mother

who learnt how to survive

in this cruel, cruel world.

When the story writes itself…

I’ve been away from my blog for far too long, so here’s some random food for thought!

Having recently ventured into the realm of writing Original Fiction, I’ve discovered that although I’ve pre-planned my story, it can take a completely different turn than I initially anticipated. I have got all the details mapped out – this is going to happen in Chapter 3, this is going to happen in Chapter 5 and the story shall end with this in Chapter 25.

Then, when I’m writing, my characters start writing themselves – the plot takes twists and turns I hadn’t planned, and before I know it, the chapters are off on a completely different tangent and my story is continuing way past Chapter 25.

That, of course, is a hypothetical example. Yet, I’m sure one or more of us have faced these scenarios sometime or other while writing. I certainly have, be it while writing my novel, or a short story, or even just an article.

After much reflection, what I’ve learnt is this. You might think it’s a bad thing that you’re going completely off-direction, that you don’t know anymore where your plot is headed or what your characters are turning out to be – but is it really a bad thing?

In the end, the keys can’t type for themselves or your pen can’t write for itself. It is your own brain (and heart) behind it, so instead of trying to cling to the plan, I’d say, let it flow – let the creativity break through the carefully planned barriers and let the imagination run wild. Because sometimes, that’s what a story needs. Not just stories, in fact – any piece of writing.

As Albert Einstein rightly said, “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”

Unusual Sights in London

I have been in contact with Reader’s Digest and they have asked me to graciously host one of their posts on my website. Hence, the post below is written by Robert Reeve from the Marketing Team at Reader’s Digest UK. Definitely an interesting entry that I’m happy to host on my blog! Enjoy:

Unusual Sights in London

Looking to spend a few moments in London this summer? Then you might be interested in some of the more unusual sights London has on offer.

Although the capital has plenty of famous locations to visit, these hidden gems are definitely worth a visit too, and they offer beautiful backgrounds for travel photos – not to mention a lovely relief from the crowded city streets!

Leinster Terraces Fake House Fronts

London’s street can sometimes seem like a façade. In fact, some of the house fronts are exactly that.

The neighbourhood near Leinster Terrace at W2 is a beautiful area, but not all is what it seems. The houses at 23-24 Leinster Terrace were actually built simply for painting a pretty image of the neighbourhood for the new underground trains that passed by the area!

York Watergate

Houses located on the Strand used to have the luxury of having gardens fronting the mighty Thames. But in the 1860s, the Victoria Embankment was built and the view was gone forever.

Although you won’t be able to enjoy the palaces, you can still find an old York Watergate within the Embankment Gardens. It’s a beautiful little structure to photograph on a sunny summer day.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum

If you are into museums and the human anatomy, then you’ll probably love the Old Operating Theatre Museum. It is the oldest operating room in Europe and provides great insight into the medical profession back in the day.

The theatre is right next to the unique Herb Garret – both stunning and informative sights to visit, if you are ever roaming around the Southwark area.

Lloyd’s Bank, Law Court Branch

If you are exploring Fleet Street, then you need to pop into one of the most extraordinary cashpoints in the world. The Law Court Branch building for Lloyd’s Bank is completed with stunning decorative features. You’ll find it hard to believe you are actually entering a bank!

St Bride Foundation Library

Everybody knows the British Library, but if you are looking for something different, you should consider popping into the St Bride Foundation Library.

The library is located close to Fleet Street and its origins are deeply rooted in providing the street’s journalists with resources and creative tools. The library, chosen as one of the best British libraries, organises regular exhibitions and talks to inspire you – a perfect pick for budding journalists!

The Stone Nose of Admiralty Arch

If you are hanging out in Trafalgar Square, you might want to zoom your camera towards the Admiralty Arch’s northernmost arch. Around halfway up the wall you’ll see a tiny nose.

Similar noses are found around London, especially Soho, and they have been surrounded in a number of cool urban legends, but the appearance of the noses is thought to have been an artistic protest. Rick Buckley wanted to highlight the expansion of London’s anti-crime closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera schemes with these fitting little objects.

Do you know any unusual sights in London? Give your recommendations in the comment section below!

“Home is where the heart is…”

I hear the question “where do you come from” all too often. It is one that always gives me trouble because I am honestly confused what to answer, especially now that I’m here in England. Technically, I’ve come here from Malaysia. My “home” though is in Tanzania – where my family lives and where I go for holidays – but I belong to India. Harder than finding the right answer is explaining it to a complete stranger.

Harder than that though is explaining it to myself. Where am I from? Where’s my home? Yes, India is my home country but I haven’t lived there for a long while now. Tanzania is somewhere I grew up and it’s really close to my heart, but in the end, it is not my home. Malaysia is somewhere I went to study. England is somewhere I’ve come to study as well. My ‘nomadic’ lifestyle almost boggles me at times.

Despite that, I’ve loved every moment of my travels. The experiences have been amazing and the feel of being in an intercultural environment, meeting new people, it is always refreshing. They say home is where the heart is and my heart lies in travelling. In a way, India, Tanzania, Malaysia and England are all my homes because they all contain a piece of my heart. I have so many fond memories from each of these places and I honestly could not have been the person I am today without them.

Here’s hoping for many more years of travelling and many more places to call home =)

Hijacked by an insensitive Jet airways

What a terrible experience of flying with Jet Airways!

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Laveena and I were excited about our Easter weekend plans in Dubai. We were booked on the Jet flight 9W 542, scheduled to depart at 0920 hours from Mumbai on Thursday April 2nd.

As boarding time neared we walked to our gate and waited. A short while later a heavily accented announcement indicated a delay due to bad weather conditions in Dubai.

The new time on the airline departure display monitor showed 10:20. I ordered my second Americano and had a second breakfast as my eyes repeatedly redirected to the monitor to keep a check on the new departure time. At 09:45, it said boarding. Laveena and I walked to the gate, surprised that Jet had started boarding just 35 minutes before the scheduled departure. Once on board, the captain announced that due to VIP movement, there would be a further delay and that we were number 4 in line…

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Five random journalism ‘tips’ from an almost-graduate

If you’re a journalist, or in the process of being one, you might find these ‘tips’ helpful as they’re what I’ve picked up on my journey as a journalism student:

1. Don’t take no for an answer 

This might sound bothersome but interviews are a vital part of journalism and no story is complete without a good quote or two. You’ll often find people unwilling to give you their time. There is no trick to get them to agree, besides not accepting their refusal. Keep pestering them in a charming, pleading, coaxing way until they have to talk to you.

Things like “I’d just like a really quick 10 minute interview – we can do it over lunch,” and “this might be a good chance for some publicity as this could be published on the Bristol 2015 website” usually work well. In the end, after two weeks of conversing, you may only get a 10 minute interview but it will be good enough!

2. Don’t be afraid to explore unchartered territory on your own

It is a cruel, cruel world and while we all would like to have a friend accompany us to what sound like daunting locations, it is not always possible to have someone by your side. If you sniff a good story, don’t be afraid to go out there alone and capture it – it is difficult to do it all on your own, yes, but it is better than having to wait for someone to make the time and end up losing the story.

Just make sure you’re armed with a fully charged phone (with a GPS), some cash and a strong pepper spray and you’re good to go exploring the unknown! You may get off at the wrong bus stop, get lost, sprain your arm carrying everything, but in the end, you will make it.

3. Internet is not always the best way of communication 

This might sound strange in today’s internet-led era but sometimes the old ways come in much more handy than the new ones. Take for instance a recent experience of mine – I was trying to secure an interview as well as a photography session with a Hospice who normally don’t do either of those things. I emailed the marketing team and got a response in a few days politely declining my request.

But, (remember what I said about not taking No for an answer), I didn’t give up and rang up the information desk, explaining my request. The lady said she’d get back to me. I waited a few days then called again. This time she said they don’t really allow this but if I wanted I could come to one of their “professional visitor information sessions” to get info on the Hospice. Bang on. I went to the session, talked to a lot of people, got a couple of photographs and my work was done.

4. Be prepared for adversity

If you’re recording the interviews on a recorder, be prepared for something to go wrong with a backup recording on your phone or by taking notes. If you’re going to film for long hours, always keep an extra battery of your camera. If you’re going to meet someone for the first time, always keep a proof of your previous conversation regarding the meeting in case they ‘fail’ to remember having fixed it.

These are some obvious things but very valuable to remember, especially if setting out alone. I have known many stories to be spoiled by dying batteries, malfunctioning recorders, miscommunication with interviewees and what not.

5. Get your facts straight

Again, a commonly known and obvious point, but one that many of us forget. Sometimes, it is too easy to not double check an offhand statement or a suggested statistic. Next thing you know, someone spots a fact in your story that is actually not a fact. As a student journalist, this might not get you in much trouble but as a professional, it definitely could lead to lots of problems.

Before publishing anything, remember to verify and to cite the source. If it’s a dodgy statement that you really want to put in, make sure you state it’s not your say but your source’s. Even when you go out to cover a story, be it for print, online or video, confirm that the material is authentic. Authentic journalism is true journalism after all.

Image source: http://www.profkrg.com/quotable-greely-journalism

Tears of an Indian Daughter

I wrote quite a long post on Facebook about this but I want to share my feelings on the matter here too, in the hopes that this cry may reach out to another handful of people.

BBC recently released a documentary film called “India’s daughter”. This is a film about the rape & murder of Jyoti Singh in 2012, the infamous “Delhi rape case”. This documentary was banned in India but has been released on YouTube. I don’t even want to comment on the ridiculousness of the ban – they fear that “it will spread the idea of rape” which is a guise for “it will evoke anger in people, open their eyes to the terribleness of the society they live in and perhaps invoke some kind of action.” There is of course the other side of the argument that the court case is still pending and it may affect justice. I don’t know how this film could affect justice but I do know that it should not be banned – if it cannot be screened now, it should definitely be screened after the court case.

I was in tears by the end of the documentary. These were tears of helplessness, of outrage, of disbelief and of pain. I could not believe that I belong to a country where men like the bus driver & the lawyer (filmed in the documentary) exist – where such a mindset exists. I’m even more ashamed at the fact that it is not just them that think this way, but many – perhaps the majority – have the same perspective when it comes to women.

“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night.”

“Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good.” 

“When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they’d have dropped her off after ‘doing her’, and only hit the boy.”

“In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6:30 or 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening with any unknown person.”

“A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.”  

This video has sparked a lot of debate on rape, rape culture and India’s position in such matters. However, what needs to be understood is that it is not just the driver or his lawyer or certain Indians with these views but a large number of people in Indian society and abroad feel this way. Some may not say it outright, but the thinking is the same. These men deserve to be shamed but at the same time it is not just them who are the problem – the problem is large among many. Condemning them and thinking everything is alright is not a solution. These guys are not the only ones with this mentality – the society, and not just Indian society, has this mentality ingrained since generations.

Watching this documentary was also an eye-opener. It opened my eyes to the fact that perhaps this society will never change. We live in the hope every day that change will come one day, but I ask, will it really? These ideas are so deep-rooted that it will take centuries to bring about any kind of change – and it makes me wish that we could go into the past to change the mindset that has been passed down through generations.

I am a woman, an Indian woman and I have never been so terrified of stepping into my own country than I am today. I am in fact glad that I’m miles away from such disgusting men and such horrible ideas. I am not saying that the entire country is buried in this rubbish – thankfully I know a lot of good men who definitely do not think like this.

Nonetheless, the good ones don’t balance out the bad ones. Nonetheless, there’re still a huge amount of people who do think like this. Nonetheless, a woman is not safe in her country, among her people because most of them see her, not as a human being with her own rights & her own will to live the way she wants, but as property that must be protected because it can be snatched & tainted any time. A woman is not safe in her country, among her people because if something happens to her, it is her fault – not of the person who attacks her. A woman is not safe in her country, among her people because she is a woman.

A woman should keep herself covered at all times, not go out after dark, in fact not step out of the house at all, perhaps not even get an education, not learn to speak, not raise her voice, not look at anyone in the eyes, not cry out because of injustice…. but be a slave to the society that calls itself progressive, to a country that is supposedly the “largest democracy”. After all, if something were to happen to her, it would be the biggest shame ever and it will only be her fault, not of the beast that attacks her. I say beast because if there were any shred of humanity in that beast, he would think twice before committing an abominable act such as rape or murder.

Right at this very moment, some people would want me to not write this blog post. To not speak out. Why? Because I’m an Indian woman and I should not speak against my own people. Maybe I shouldn’t even speak at all. But I will not shut up. And if they manage to shut me up, my tears will speak and my cry will rip the silence apart. I’m an Indian daughter and I protest against this mindset.

They call to me

It has been a while since I wrote one of these…. and this just came to me today in my homesickness… so here’s a short poem composed by me:

The sound of the lapping waves, the rush of the wild sea, 

the kiss of the whistling wind, the rustle of the soft sand,

sunken in memories, shining through sight, they call to me.

The murmur of the green grass, the dance of the majestic tree,

the smile of the gleaming sun, the music of the pattering rain,

sunken in memories, shining through sight, they call to me.

The scent of the homely bread, the wisps of the evening tea,

the laughter in Her love-filled joy, the twinkle in His profound eyes, 

sunken in memories, shining through sight, they call to me.

The innocence of the childhood toys, the whisper of the cherished history,

the pull of the sweet heaven, the beckoning of the beloved home,

sunken in memories, shining through sight, they call to me. 

In memory of Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania – my home.
Missing my parents – Her & Him.

Thank you for always inspiring me.