Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Small Little Note..

I no longer bother with Facebook anymore, but yet on one of those rare occasions that I was bothering with it, I saw on the page "Lessons Learned in Life" a little paragraph that I really liked and wanted to keep with myself.. so here it goes:

"Right now, there are people all over the world who are just like you. They’re lonely. They’re missing somebody. They’re in love with someone they probably shouldn’t be in love with. They have secrets you wouldn’t believe. They wish and they dream and they hope, and they look out the window whenever they’re in the car or on a bus or a train and they watch people on the streets and wonder what they’ve been through. They wonder if there are people out there like them. They’re like you, and you could tell them everything and they would understand.
And right now, they’re sitting here reading these words, and I’m writing this for you so you don’t feel alone anymore

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Confessions of a Third Culture Kid

Recently I have been asked the question, "Where are you from?" and this is one question that has really stumped me. I don't know how to answer this question. Really, I do not. Which nation do I call home? Till date I have lived in a total of three countries, but emotionally I feel attached to one and do not want to go anywhere near a million mile radius of the other (OK, I admit, I am exaggerating this million mile radius thing big time) and I am yet to fully explore my third and current country to be able to form any feelings for it, negative or positive. I really do not know which place do I call home. Is it the place where I have lived the most? Is it the place where my heart says "this is your home country"? Is it where I am currently living? Is it where I was born? Does it depend on which passport I have? Where I am from is one question that I cannot answer.

The reason why I cannot answer this question is because I happen to be what is called a "third culture kid" and today I am going to share my experiences of being a third culture kid. A third culture kid is basically a global kid who keeps on drifting between one country to another. Well if you Google "third culture kid" the first link you will see is Wikipedia (or at least I did, Google tends to vary from nation to nation) and Wikipedia defines the term "third culture kid" like this - A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.

I think this definition applies to me fully. I remember being in school (and having no clue about the TCK phenomenon back then) I would some how feel drawn to fellow TCK's, like for some reason I felt some connection or bond with them, like that international connection gave us something to relate to. I remember when I was in university, the very first friend I made there was a TCK also and I remember being so grateful to have discovered a fellow TCK.

Home to people like myself who have constantly drifted between countries is beautifully summed up in this article: http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/where-is-home-for-a-third-culture-kid/?_r=0 We can not call any place home, nor can we feel at home in any place. I guess it is always better to just ask a third culture kid, "what is your passport country?" because that is the one question they can answer with certainty, except many third culture kids tend to have more than one passport, which again makes the "where are you from" issue to be an icky and tricky one.

In theory it sounds really good to be a TCK. You get to see different countries, explore new worlds, are more accepting and understanding of different cultures and have a strong sense of religious tolerance. We kind of embed in ourselves a culture for ourselves (no person can be without a culture, say sociologists) which kind of incorporates elements from all the cultures. This results in us not fitting in with any culture and unable to relate to any culture. Any culture we see, we can not say, "This is my culture" or "This is the culture I want to be a part of" or "This is the culture I want to relate to".

Being a TCK has its benefits, no doubt. All the new experiences and exploring of new cultures and meeting of new people and all the diversity. But mentally, being a TCK takes its toll on a person. A TCK will be alienated, will be the social reject, will be the one who can never fit in, will be the one who is rejected by the world and rejected by society. Reason? Because, thanks to their diverse experience, they will stick out so much and be unable to fit in so much that society just rejects them. In fact, in extreme cases, TCK people end up facing mental health issues.

You might say, people move abroad all the time for various reasons. They get into relationships which involves one partner to switch countries, people get jobs in different countries, people find more opportunities in other parts of the world, and so on and those people face no issues the way a TCK does. Why? The reason is simple. This all happens to a TCK against their will, while in other cases it only happens to those people who agree to it. A TCK summarized the experience of having to shift from one country to another against their will like this - The issue is that transition always involves loss, no matter how good the next phase will be. Loss always engenders grief and the greater you have loved a situation or place or people, the greater the grief.The layers of loss run deep:  Friends, community, pets.  Family, toys, language.  Weather, food, culture.  Loss of identity.  Loss of a place of comfort, stability, a safe and predictable world.  Home. These children are losing the worlds they love, over and over.  They cycle through the stages of grief each time they move -- or they don’t, and push it down, submerge it, only to have it bubble up later in life, unexplained.The grief of children is often invisible.  They are told they will adapt, they are resilient.  They are told they’ll get over missing that friend, they’ll get another pet, they’ll have a nicer room in the new house. Some mental health professionals call it trauma.(Do not attack me for plagiarism, I got it from this website : http://www.cmhnetwork.org/media-center/morning-zen/the-trouble-with-third-culture-kids )

Imagine this, you are used to a certain environment, a certain culture, a certain routine, a certain climate, a certain type of clothing, a certain type of food and so on. And one day, somebody picks you up and transfers you somewhere worlds apart.You have so say in this. You did not decide to move around. You were forced on it. Being a TCK myself, this has happened to me so many times. The place that I was supposed to call home, I was unable to call home. The food that I am supposed to love to eat, tastes yucky to me. The movies that I am supposed to enjoy do not appeal to me. I was expected to pick up a new language. I could not relate to the people around me. I had my accent picked on by both students and teachers alike when I was studying in the university because being a TCK also gives you a different accent, I have absolutely no clue which country's accent I speak in. I could not relate to the environment around me. In school I started to have trouble, they saw me as the different one, the odd one out, and they made me the victim of bullying. I did not share the same interest in movies or television shows or fashions and all, due to being a TCK it was impossible to be like everyone else and share similar interests, something that I think has strongly contributed to my inability to make friendships. Everything just felt so alien. On top of it I started to experience alot of "issues" (which I am strongly going to say that culture or nation or environment had nothing to do with, it was mainly due to individual people) which made it tougher.

I think I am going a bit off topic here. Back to the original topic. The worst thing to ask a TCK is "Where are you from?" because a TCK is actually a global citizen who belongs nowhere. Belonging nowhere. Wherever I am, I get the feeling of being homesick but I do not know where I am homesick for because I have no place that really feels like "home". I always get nervous tension whenever I am asked where I am from. This gif really summarizes my feelings towards being asked the "Where are you from question" -  http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/enhanced/webdr06/2013/7/1/17/anigif_enhanced-buzz-3487-1372712668-2.gif

I know I have painted a very negative picture regarding being a TCK but that is mainly because I am just feeling a big negative today. Being a TCK has many plus points also. In some future post I hope to go into the plus points and the benefits of being a TCK. You get to see the world through your own unique lens of your own culture, you get to make friends from all over the world. You get to experience so many new things. My own personal experiences as being a TCK is something that I would never want to trade and something I am immensely grateful for.

To answer the original question of "Where are you from?", for me I think that question is best answered with a paragraph - I get called Indian and Iranian all the time but actually I was born in Canada, I grew up in Pakistan and now I live in America.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Marraige Story - For Girls

Marriage is something that is considered to be an important ritual or rites of passage in a girl’s life. It is like something that is considered as essential as eating and breathing and girls do end up experiencing a lot in the name of marriage. From falling victim to freaky traditions and cultural practices to pressures from society and society rejecting girls for being beyond a certain age and not being married, blaming the girl for being too picky (as with all forms of judgements that society likes to pass, it assumes everything is just black and white).

Now, I am going to begin by giving a disclaimer. This article is going to be super biased. Two reasons. Firstly, my own views on this topic are extremely bitter, for valid reasons, but those reasons will not be disclosed here in such a public setting. Secondly, this is written one hundred percent from a female point of view. If I knew the male stance on this topic, the resulting article would’ve been relatively more balanced, but as currently I am unaware of that, the bias remains.

For girls, once we reach the ages of 23-25, it is usually the time when a person is in a position where their dreams seem attainable. They have the relevant work experience and relevant education and skills banked up, and they think, now I can achieve my dream, it is when the sword of marriage starts looming upon their head. (Yes, I know that they are very few people in this world who can say that they have managed to achieve their dreams, but I am just trying to prove a point here).

Now, when the girl realizes that she can now obtain her dreams, be successful, do something with their life, marriage creeps up. And it is at this point, an extremist view that many do end up taking is that  we realize that actually our parents were actually prepared us for marriage since the very first day. The reasons behind this extremist view is that every little thing about you matters. From which school you went to your favourite colour. Because we are turned into commodities up for sale in the market.

This sword of marriage means that everything just becomes a source of time pass. Education is a just a source of time pass. Job is just a source of time pass. Any hobby you may have is  a source of time pass. Basically every single thing a girl does becomes a source of timepass until marriage arrives. I extreme cases, sometimes the girl is made to sit at home and stare at the walls all day long, just waiting for marriage to occur. This can be quite frustrating for many people as anything they had ever hoped for, dreamt of and achieved is being taken away from them in the name of marriage. The question arises, why not just pursue whatever it is after you get married? Not possible. Marriage is considered final, once you get married, hopes, dreams, wishes, everything is somehow supposed to automatically be drained from your head. In fact, some even give up on all of their friends even. Ask a lady what her daughters are doing and you are bound to get a reply like this, “My eldest daughter is married and younger one works in a bank”. I am sure a homemaker is a good profession to have, a homemaker is on duty 24/7 without pay, but why portray it in such a way that it is the only option available to someone? Many people give up a lot of stuff to do that, you know. Why be so negative and final about it?

Secondly, just the entire process of these arranged marriages are enough to drain out a person’s humanity and scar them for life. Imagine being treated a commodity in the marketplace put up for sale. That is what girls are made to feel like. Either you studied the wrong subject, or went to the wrong school, or work for the wrong organization or have the wrong height or the wrong shoe size or the wrong hair texture. There will always be some big huge wrong with you, always, which will make a person damaged goods in this commodity market and in some cases, too damaged to be sold. I was the other day reading an article online where this girl had told the true story of her friend who committed suicide over this commodity business. Apparently she was a very bright and promising young girl with a lot of potential. Her mistake? She studied the wrong subject, she studied advertising. So the comments that people would pass were, “She is not a doctor” and “My son is taller than her” and “She is too talkative” and so on. Eventually the comments took a toll and the girl was driven to suicide. May her soul rest in peace.

The subject/study business reminded me of two things. Firstly, when I had recently started studying in the university a lady says to me, “Nobody is going to ever marry you if you study Sociology and Education. You should study Business instead, because guys of today like girls at the same level as them”.

The second thing is this project in my Social Psychology class. Lame class with the world’s lamest projects that made no sense or relevance with the course material. Anyways, one project was to pick up the marriage ads from the newspaper and compare what girls are looking for and what men are looking for. The number one thing that they wanted was the girl to be a medical doctor.

And opportunities outside of the country can also reduce your value in this commodity market. If you study in a foreign country, fine, but if you do a job in a foreign country, your value in this commodity market is zero. What is the difference between the two? I do not understand. I know of one family where the parents would vacation abroad but the daughters were never taken along thinking that visiting abroad might give them ideas and harm their chances in adjusting to a marriage situation.

Basically, what my entire point is that girls deal with a lot in the name of marriage, like just to get married. Since the first day of life, everything you do, think or say can improve or hamper your value in this commodity market. Going to the wrong school, to having the wrong hobby or having the wrong eye colour can make you considered damaged goods that cannot be passed on. It really harms the people who suffer from it, always hearing comments, hearing how they are not good enough because of one tiny thing. A note to society – treat us like human beings instead of commodities for sale in the market, expecting us to give up our hopes and dreams and wishes and expecting us to make every tiny decision on the basis of what will increase our value in this commodity market. 

Sunday, May 05, 2013

10 Things That I am Grateful For

Don’t get taken away by the title thinking I am some spoilt brat who is telling people to just shut up and be grateful for what you have and quit whining about your problems. I know whining is not the best choice of word here, but as it is letting me get my point across, I will let it be.

This is one blog entry that I am mainly posting for myself, rather than my readers. Sorry readers, next post will be for you guys. Life is very difficult and I may be only 24 years old, yet I have seen quite a bit of stuff first hand. And I know that no matter how much we want to say those clich├ęd overused dialogues like, “Always look at the glass half full” or “Always look at the bright side” or “Every single cloud has a silver lining and a person should look for that”, it is not always possible. It is good in theory and always worth a try, unfortunately it is not always possible, even for the world’s most optimistic and bravest person.

Yet I thought to myself that I should compile a list of the ten things that I am grateful to have, because sometimes it is the little things in life that count and it is in the smallest things where happiness can be found. To quote Harry Potter character Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, only if one remembers to turn on the light”.

And on top of this, there will always be nay sayers, namely, society. Society and the world will always tell you how nothing you ever have or do is ever good enough. A person with a bicycle is told to get a motorcycle, a person with a basic car is told to get a luxury car. Similarly, the darker toned person is told to get treatments to make themselves fair, the person with curly hair is told to “manage it” (make it straight). Society’s unwritten job is to make us feel bad about what we don’t have, instead of letting us sit back and enjoy and appreciate what we do have. We need to learn to appreciate what we have, essential for our own mental state and mental well being.

So here begins my list:

1. I am grateful to have a roof over my head. Right next to my house there is an empty plot where the owners have given to some family to temporarily live in. Those people live partially in a tent because the building they are given is not big enough to house everyone, they are apparently a large family in total because a lot of extended relatives are living together. Seeing them gave me the appreciation of having a roof.

2. Having an international set of friends. God has blessed me with an international set of friends, thanks to the internet. People say that you need offline friends, but I say why harp over what I don’t have. I sit back and enjoy my online friends and appreciate the diversity that I have been lucky enough to enjoy thanks to my international friends list.

3. Being pain free. I spent a long time struggling with back pain which was the result of a combination of a sprain and an old injury causing problems. Finally, now, I am getting it treated and as the treatment is towards the end now, I am almost pain free. Seeing how pain had affected many aspects of my life for a long time, I am grateful to be out of pain now and do basic activities which pain was preventing me from doing.

4. Freedom. There are many people who are in captivity. People locked up behind bars and other forms of captivity exist that hinder freedom in the sense I am talking about.

5. Being able to read and write. There are many who are denied the right to education for various reasons, may it be finances, or societal attitude or simple non-availability of a school. Even I had to struggle for my education due to simple lack of opportunity. Being able to read and write is something we take for granted, when it is actually a big gift and blessing.

6. Faith. When it comes to religion and faith, I will say that I consider myself to belong to a particular religious denomination and I strongly believe it. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I do not know, however, I do not have blind faith in that particular religion because there are certain aspects of it that I do question. Yet, religion and faith has been a big pillar of support for me during my most difficult times, hence I remain grateful to have it.

7. The ability to get out of bed in the morning. Whenever the morning sun hits our eyes and the alarm clock rings, we get irritated like anything wishing we never had to leave the bed. This, at least, used to be my attitude, until I got sick once. And due to that illness, I had no energy or strength to get out of bed. No matter how much I struggled, there was no strength to get up. This taught me a good lesson in appreciating basic mobility.

8. Life. To be alive. This may appear like a no brainer, but to me it is not. I once got sick and almost died of the illness. I must’ve been, I guess, around 16 years old at the time. Being so close to death is not a pleasant place to be at all and it taught me to appreciate being alive.

9. Internet. When something happens to my internet connection or I lose internet access for a bit, I fear I am going to lose my sanity, for real. So thank you for my internet connection. I may curse you when you go in a bad mood, but I am really grateful to have you.

10. Books. Books are my lifeblood, my lifeline, my obsession, my everything. I am like so obsessed with the written word to the extent that I simply cannot imagine my life without my books. Books have played a very essential and important role in my life. It is because I read, that I never felt alone. Nothing can beat the feeling of holding a book in the hand and just reading the book away. Books are epic, hands down.

And here I conclude my list. My apologies if this post made my sound like a self centered brat or a show off or a self obsessed person as everything I wrote kind of does revolve around myself. But again, just like I wrote in the beginning, this post was mainly meant for me, not my readers. Sorry for that, Dear Reader.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fishing for Stars by Bryce Courtenay

The latest book that I read is Fishing for Stars by Bryce Courtenay. Goodreads link is located here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8389940-fishing-for-stars I am no longer going to put spoiler alerts in the title of my entries on books, from now on, if you want to read a book review by me, you are reading at your own risk. You have been warned.

When I took this book out of my cupboard (I had bought it last year and it had been lying in my cupboard collecting dust since then) and read the description, I was a bit hesitant to read the book thinking it would be really boring as the description sounded so boring. But then I thought to myself that I must’ve seen something in it if I bought it (I am very picky in choosing books) so I must give it a try with an open mind. It is a decision that I do not regret because this turned out to be an excellent book.

Unfortunately I had the exact same luck with this  book that I had with the previous two books that I read. This book is a freakin sequel!!!  It has a prequel and this book is its sequel. Its like sequels are coming after me or something, LOL. However, thankfully I did not experience the usual problem that one experiences with sequels. I did not feel as if this book has a prequel nor at any point did I experience the need to want to read the prequel. All the characters were so well introduced and well formed that you felt like you actually know these people, as if they are your friends or your relatives or your neighbours or somebody to you.

Bryce Courtenay is a South African author who has lived most of his life in Australia. I was reading his mini-biography on Goodreads and turns out that he has lived a very eventful and colourful life with quite unusual and unique experiences. I believe this is something that reflects in his work as even in this book the characters have lived colourful lives with unusual and unique experiences.

This happens to be one of those books that a person really learns from. Even though the book itself may be a work of fiction, it consists of many factual items in it. Reading this book taught a lot about the Yakuza, which is the Japanese mafia and how they operate. You get to learn about their hierarchy, their focus on extreme discipline and obedience, how extreme punishments are carried out for the most minor of mistakes and the decision making process. Japanese culture is really explored in detail, especially how complicated gender roles are in Japanese society and the complex rules and regulations surrounding honour.

We even learn about environmental efforts in Tasmania and how the war in East Timor really impacted the environment there due to underhand government dealings and what efforts were undertaken in order to preserve the environment and protect the natural habitat of varies species that live in the region.  

This book revolves around a guy, Nicolas Duncan who is an old guy and a former soldier who served during the Second World War who has made a lot of money in the shipping business and living a quiet and assuming life on a small island in Australia. This book is written in an autobiographical style as we are reading the memoirs that Nicolas Duncan has written about his life after the Second World War and the two ladies in his life and how they both, at the end had made an agreement with each other to share him yet the two ladies have their rivalries calling each other Princess Plunder and Green Bitch behind each other’s backs.

One of those ladies is Anna, whom Duncan met when she and her father were escaping the Japanese invasion illegally on a boat. The boat had shipwrecked with Anna being the sole survivor. Many years pass in between after which Anna and Duncan reunite where we learn that Anna is a heroin addict and a shrewd businesswoman with a very keen eye for business and an obsession for money, making her a multi billionaire many times over. And it is through Anna that we learn about Japan as Anna had lived part of her life in Japan plus she and Duncan went on a long trip to Japan where it turns out that Duncan’s friend since the past 25 years is actually the head of the Japanese Yakuza.

The second lady is Marg. Marg is a navy admiral’s widow with two children. Marg and Duncan first met when Duncan was in the armed forces and then separated when Marg got married. We learn about the Tasmanian environmental struggles through Marg as Marg is very passionate about the environment. She is a member of the Tasmanian Green Party and a member of parliament and a vocal advocate for protecting the natural habitats of frogs and orangutans.

In conclusion, it is a very interesting book. Written in memoir style, it follows the diverse and unique lives of three very interesting, diverse and unique individuals.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Appeal of Indian Dramas

When I initially started my blog back in December, I thought to myself, “What the hell am I doing starting a blog, I have like no freakin’ thing to write about, what the hell am I getting myself into”, so it is with that feeling that I asked a friend of mine to suggest a topic for me to write on, and he suggested to me that I should write about why people like these Indian TV serials so much. Well that topic just got buried amongst my list of possible topics plus I just never came about to writing on this topic either. Well today the topic has been revived as it was dug out of its grave and subsequently resurrected. So here it is.

Indian TV serials are very popular in my country. They have declined in popularity since the past several years due to the arrival of good quality locally made television serials plus Turkish TV serials which are dubbed in Urdu. Indian TV serials are pure insanity. Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t have anything against India or Indian people, but I am sorry to say, these TV serials are insane. And Monday to Friday (or now Monday to Saturday and schedules have changed) I get a dose of them, whether I like them or not, so I would say that I do enough to spit out an article on it.

Firstly, they have so much jewellery, all the time dressed up in makeup and jewellery like it is nobody’s business. The people can be facing tough financial problems to the extent that they have had to sell off their furniture and their other personal belongings and have been forced to shift from their huge mansion which was spread over acres into a one room home, and yet the makeup and the jewellery will remain intact as it is. The clothes even remain as expensive. And what is even more interesting is that they even go to sleep with all that makeup and jewellery. I wonder how they do that, jewellery can be very uncomfortable in your sleep. Even when conducting the household chores the jewellery remains intact.

Money is a big issue in the shows too. Gives people a glimpse of how the elite class lives. The elite class, to many, appears to be very fascinating and very interesting. All of the individuals portrayed in the Indian TV serials belong to the elite class. Their homes are mansions with mega sized rooms. Nobody seems to be living in an apartment or a normal sized house at all. Nobody seems to have a job either. Everyone is running some kind of a mega super sized business which is worth millions upon billions upon trillions of rupees. And on top of it, the business keeps on expanding. They are always meetings, new contracts to sign, new projects to begin, sites to visit. And what exactly does their business deal with? That forever remains a mystery. Apparently mystery businesses bring in more money than a bank has.

They all have the same theme too, which is family politics. It is rare where a family will get along with each other, it has families riddled and plagued with politics. Personally if you ask me, if you stuff so many people under one roof to the extent that there is four generations of a crapton of people living under one roof, politics is ensured. Anyways, even in the politics, there is one conspirator whose job it is to plot and plan and poke their nose where it doesn’t belong and tries to make everyone’s lives impossible. And there will be someone who will behave like the “goody two shoes” so to speak, who is always trying to solve all the politics related issues that are going on.

This is my favourite part. How to be mean to your daughter in law. If you want to like be really mean to your daughter in law, exclude her from housework in the sense that ban her from carrying out any housework. Instead of being happy that they no longer work, they will cry and scream and beg you to let them do the housework to the extent that they’ll say they’ll take any punishment but this. Personally I don’t see how reducing a person’s duties and responsibilities are punishment. Well, I was discussing this very issue with someone and she told me that it signifies a lack of importance, so I don’t know. Maybe it is lack of importance, but this just never fails to amuse me. Mean mother in law is yelling at daughter in law, “from today you will not wash the dishes” or “from today you will not put the food on the table” and then the daughter in law is begging to be allowed to continue to wash the dishes or put the food on the dining table.

It must be for these reasons that these insane television serials manage to rake up so much appeal....