A Letter To Santa

Dear Santa,

Hi!

I don’t know if you remember me, but I kinda wrote to you when I was in first grade. And to be frank, I was forced to write to you as part of my winter break homework. I knew you won’t get me anything because in India, I always thought, Santa Clause came on Diwali.

So since I’ve got all these years of pending Christmas letters to write to you, I thought I might just sit down and tell you what I really want. You know, to balance out all these years of not writing to you and you not bringing me anything for Christmas. Also because I know that what I want is something my parents, or for that matter any muggle cannot get for me.

So let’s get to the point shall we?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been having this weird thought. I’ve tried to reason it out with the voices in my head but they never listen to me so I had to give in and agree to what they were saying.

I want a Dragon for Christmas. And not the store bought, Made in China, plastic one. A real, flying, fire breathing dragon. Not too fierce but not a sissy either. One who would live on my terrace. And in the winters can stay in the guest room.

Now before you raise your hands in exasperation and throw this letter into the ‘crazy kids’ section, just hear me out.

The voices in my head have given me some fairly good points as to why a dragon is all I need for Christams, Holi, Diwali, Rakhshabandhan and my birthday combined.

Firstly, since it flies, I won’t need to drive a car in this mad city where the traffic is so bad that it takes an hour to somewhere that is half a mile from my place. Also, the fuel expenses would drastically reduce, thereby leaving me with enough money to buy whatever I would have otherwise asked you to bring me.

You know, like a Louis Vuitton bag, or an Armani dress or maybe a Lamborghini.

And think how fast I would reach everywhere. That means I can sleep another hour in the morning when I have to go to college.

Also, think how safe I would be with a dragon. I mean who would dare touch, or even speak to a girl who rides a fire breathing dragon!!

Maybe then my parents would let me stay out late at night and not freak the bats out of my phone by calling me every 10 minutes to ask when I will reach home.

And when it comes to safety, no thief or miscreant would dare come near the block where a dragon lives.

Also, how cool would it be to start a bonfire with your dragon’s breath!

But the cherry on the cake would be that I would finally get a pet! My parents are absolutely against pets of any kind because they know that a lazy bum like me would never get up to walk the dog or feed the bird or do whatever you need to do to keep a cat!

I mean anybody can keep a dog, but who in this world has a dragon!?!

And as far as bringing him her is concerned, I would suggest you begin your nightly visit from my home so that Drako (Yes, that what I’ll call my dragon) does not scare your reindeer’s.

If you’re worried about what will he eat, well there are plenty of rapists, terrorists and psycho murderers in this world. I’m sure he’ll enjoy eating them since the governments in all the countries are pretty useless in dealing with them.

So you see!! Everybody wins if I get a dragon. Though my mom might faint at the sight of it, but I’l keep first aid ready just in case.

I’ll be waiting for you tonight. No need to wrap him up like a gift.

If you get me this, I’l never ask for anything else. Ever. Pinky Swear.

Lots of love

Urshita

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‘I Saw Death So Close’

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                                                                   I SAW DEATH SO CLOSE

 

This post is probably just a way to vent out my anger but I have absolutely no words which could describe the anguish and pain I feel when I hear all this news about the Peshawar attacks. I mean in my country every time there is a terrorist attack all you hear is “These Muslims want to kill all Hindu’s”, or “It’s all Pakistan’s conspiracy. It wants to ruin India.”. But after what happened yesterday, I believe it’s high time that we stop blaming the Hindu’s or the Muslim’s for such cowardly acts. These people have no religion. For that matter, they are hardly behaving like humans!

And for all those who keep saying that Pakistan is to be blamed for every terrorist attack, well there you go. These cowards went out and killed innocents in Pakistan.

The majority of causalities yesterday were kids! Innocent children who went to school. This is NOT about India or Pakistan anymore. It’s about humanity.

These terrorists apparently wanted to take revenge from the army. Well if you want to revenge the god damn army then fight with the army! Killing children does not make you brave or in any way makes you superior. It shows what lowly living beings you are.

And I’m sure Islam DOES NOT in any way tells you to kill innocents in the name of god or religion.  This is not Islam. It’s not any religion. It’s just inhuman.

If you read the article that I’v linked above, you’l see just how barbarically these bastards went on and killed children, aiming to kill maximum. And no, I’m not going to mind my language on a public platform for such mother f******s.

A video clip of a father wailing and screaming that his child left home in the morning in a uniform, and is now coming back in a kafan (Shroud)  is forever going to be etched in my memory.

I express my heartfelt condolences to all the parents and family members of the kids who lost their lives yesterday.

May their souls rest in peace.

 

1000 Weeks Of Falling In Love

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Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaenge is a movie that every Indian has watched at least once. I on the other hand have watched it so many times that I’ve lost count, simply because it has everything a masala bollywood flick needs.

It has illogical scenes where the father is proud of his son who has failed the university exams, an entire family that moves to India from London within a matter of 24 hours with no consideration whatsoever to packing, visa’s and tickets. And since this movie is 19 years old, when there were no online bookings, I wonder how the hell they managed to pull this off.

Also, this movie has song sequences shot in breathtaking locations in the Switzerland which is like a Mecca for the Indians. I’m pretty sure that all Indians who can afford it, would visit Switzerland once before they die.

It has the heroine, Simran who wants to elope days before her forced arranged marriage but is stopped by the hero, Raj, because he would rather face her dictator dad and convince him to change his choice of son in law, making this movie a blockbuster. Yes it is completely impractical, but that is what you should expect from the majority of Indian movies. 😀

It is the longest running movie in the history of Indian cinema, completing 1000 weeks of successful run on 12th December 2014.

Yes, this movie is a mixture of romance, family drama, beautiful locations, comedy, customary songs, and illogical script. And all this makes it a classic Bollywood film.

Till date people flock to the ‘Maratha Mandir’ where this movie is screened and enjoy it just as much as they did about two decades back when it was first released.

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I love everything about this movie, and I blame it for making my heart beat rise every time I see a “sarso ka Khet’ (Mustard field). That is because the heroine runs towards the love of her life in a mustard field surrounded by those bright yellow flowers.

And I fantasize about doing the same to the future love of my life at least once. And if he refuses, I’ll just have to tie him up to a pole and make him stand in the middle of the field while I run towards him. 😛

I might never be a romantic but this movie turned me into a filmy crazy girl who believes in the “Ja Simran, Jee Le Apni Zindagi” (Go live you life Simran) philosophy.

 

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Silver Linings

Arrange marriages always befuddled me. The thought of spending your life with someone you don’t know seems weird. And though I belong to a country where arrange marriages are still a pretty common thing, I tend to be a little apprehensive about the whole concept. Not that they are bad in any way. It’s just that when you meet someone, they will obviously show you their good side. Who knows what creepiness hides behind that smile.

My parents just completed 25 years of their marriage and all my life I’ve been fascinated at how these two, despite being poles apart in personalities and temperaments, have managed to stay together and sane. These two are probably the perfect example of opposites attract.

They were set up by their parents through a newspaper matrimonial column. They met a couple of times and god alone knows what they talked about cause these two agreed to the match pretty quickly.

Though in those times people rarely allowed the girl and boy to meet often before the wedding, my grandparents were pretty open in their thinking and these two often met at ‘The Host’ in Connaught Place for tea. Those were days when there were no Starbucks or Café Coffee Day’s. So meeting over Chai and Pakora’s was their date.

There was no phone at my dad’s place so he used to call my mom from work. They couldn’t have talked much because my mom tells me that in those days, call rates were quite high. In this age and day we have Skype and Whats app and endless other ways to communicate with someone. But 20-30 years back, when there was barely a landline phone in every home, getting to know the other person was a humongous task.

After 6 months of courtship, they got married with much pomp and show.

Over these 25 years, I’ve seen my parents going from a simple middle class lifestyle to luxury cars and Rado watches. Not that I was there for all these 25 years. But this is what I remember. They’ve worked together and built a solid foundation for me and my sister.

I still don’t understand how these two have over the years maintained their sanity. I’ve never seen them fight. I mean yeah, they argue about stuff, but I’ve never seen them scream at each other or bang doors. And that is because strangely, every time one of them is in a bad mood, the other one makes himself scarce. Like they avoid each other till they cool down and then have lengthy discussions.

And when I say lengthy, it means I could have a round trip to the moon by the time they finish. These two just looooove discussing things elaborately.

I know I’m too going to have an arranged marriage, because believe me no normal person in his right senses would date me. If in these 24 years of my life I couldn’t find a guy, despite there being more guys than girls on this planet, I can very safely say that my parents would have to make a huge effort to find that one guy who can handle the craziness that is their daughter. 😛

And though this arranged marriage thing scares the shit outta me, I find solace in the fact that if these two could be together and make things work and celebrate a silver jubilee, then maybe it won’t be that hard to make place for a person in your heart even if you don’t know much about him.

Life will be like a mystery then. Unfolding new things about each other every day and making it work together towards that much dreamed about happily ever after. Despite all the thunder and clouds, maybe I too can find my silver lining.

Loving My Job

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Let me start by clarifying the title of this post. When I say job, I don’t mean my day job. Oh! No sir. My day job is a boring desk job which requires me to stare at a computer screen for hours at end.

The job I love is the one which I do after I leave office. And that is running off to a wedding and capturing memories.

I’m a part time wedding photographer and I love every part of that job.

And this love comes naturally to me, simply because I adore weddings. Not the cheesy kind of adoration like “Oh! I wonder when will I get married”. No. I mean yeah I think about my wedding. Every girl does. And if you see any girl saying that she is not interested in her wedding or has not thought about it, believe me when I say this, is lying. And my thinking is mostly about the poor guy who would end up with the craziness that I am. 😛

Anyways, coming back to the point, if you’ve ever been to an Indian wedding, you’ll know how electric the entire atmosphere gets. There is madness and chaos everywhere. Men running around arranging that perfect tent and getting stuff for the halwai. The women being all bothered about the arrival of the mehendi wala, their clothes, their jewelry and gossip.

People running around the place, bumping into things and getting all flustered while trying to get ready for the big fat Indian wedding.

And in all this chaos, I find my happy place. Where I can stay somewhere in the background and capture memories for them which they would cherish for decades.

Though let me tell you, it’s not easy for me being a wedding photographer. There are so many people who appreciate what I’m doing, and an equal number of people who exclaim at my choice of career. And the questions they ask me are always baffling.

Like, “ Beta, aren’t your parents worried that you come home late at night?” To which I reply, “Umm…No aunty, I’m never out alone and I try and reach home a decent time.”

Or, “So why are you going for law degree when all you want to do is click pictures?”  Here all I can say is, “Well, I like law. And besides, in this country you’re pretty useless if you don’t have a degree to show off even if you have no intentions of using it.”

And the cherry on the cake was, “Isn’t this camera a bit too heavy for a girl to carry around all day?”. To this date I have no answer for this question. I mean if it was too heavy for me to carry it around, why would I be doing it??

But all these inquiries about my life choices from random strangers just adds to the insane fun that I have at each event.

I come home drop dead tired from every wedding
and sleep like a baby knowing that I’ve done a good job.

And even though going through thousand of pictures, short listing them and then finally editing them is a humongous task, I still love doing it.

Because the look of appreciation I get from the people when they see the pictures for the first time is priceless.

And no pay check in this world can ever give me the happiness that I get from knowing that people appreciate my hard work. (A Ten Million Dollars check might come close, but let’s be realistic shall we!) 😛

 

Picture : Clickaholicks

It Goes On

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I’m pretty sure everybody has one incident in their life, which shook them so bad that surviving beyond that point seemed impossible. That one point when life seems to come to a dead end and even breathing seems to be a task.

A bad break up with somebody you thought was your soul mate can be crushing. Or maybe a poor score in a test for which you had studied day and night. Or any other horrible incident that happened and it seemed like god was punishing you.

At that time it seems so hard to get over it; to find that inner strength to move on and turn a new page.

I myself have been through horrible phases in life. A couple of years back, I was walking to the metro station from work to attend a class. It was a super busy road due to an upcoming festival. I had earphones in my ears and I was walking down pretty much not bothering about anybody around me.

Everything was fine until the time I felt a hand trying to touch me indecently. It was sheer reflex on my part that I turned around and caught hold of this pervert’s collar and slapped him hard.

Seeing that people around had stopped and were looking at what was happening, he pretended to be innocent and became defensive, shouting at me saying what the hell did I think I was doing.

I swear to god every fiber in my body burned with rage. I slapped him again and screamed at him as loudly as I could. Looking me screaming like this, a few men who were standing at a nearby shop buying sweets came up and asked me if this guy was bothering me.

When I told them what happened, they caught hold of that man and boxed his ears so bad that I’m pretty sure he saw stars in that glaring daylight.

I’m not in favor of violence as such but if you personally ask me such perverts need to be kicked in the balls. Which is exactly what I did when a policeman came up and tried to calm everybody down.  I was so angry that I screamed at the policeman as well and he took that man in custody.

I literally blessed my starts that somebody came up and helped me. I have heard countless cases when nobody comes up to help a girl when she is in such a situation.

I thanked those men who came up and helped and believe me, for nearly a week I walked around with such suppressed fury in me that even sleeping became impossible.

Although I was unharmed, but the very thought that somebody can actually do something so disgusting in the middle of a busy street made me furious.

The shock took some time to wear away and at that time I actually thought that I would never be able to walk down a street without being touched by some pervert.

It took time, but, I finally got over the incident and was able to move on with life without any anger seething inside me.  (Though I still hope and pray that all such men who think that a woman’s body is like a public property which they can touch in any way at any time should burn in hell.)

Every such incident in your life will bring your life to a halt. I pray that no woman should ever go through any such harrowing experience. But I’v learned that time can be the best balm for any wound.

And life I’v seen will always move on. No matter how much you think that it is not possible to get on with it. Believe me when I say this. It is not always possible to get over something quickly, but give it some time. It will seem difficult but you need to find that strength inside you to fight every demon that haunts you.

Life can be a bitch sometimes, but it will move on, bringing to new experiences and many more happy opportunities.

It was war….It Still Is

Every child in India is taught the entire freedom struggle where our ancestors fought and gave up their lives for a free India. Everything from the establishment of colonies in 1757, to finally gaining independence in 1947.

And while learning all this we come to know as to why India and Pakistan are such arch enemies today. Of course this rivalry is mostly political but every time the names of these two countries come up, the first thing that comes to the mind is war.

Believe me when I say this, the common man in both the countries does not has that cruel hatred for its neighbor. Yes there is cross border firing every other day, and god alone knows how many innocents have lost their lives in a futile war over Kashmir. But the hatred is more for the idiots who call themselves leaders and kill millions in the name of religion or their so called ‘right’ over a certain piece of land.

But the one thing that really hurts is the fact that we were fooled by the British and that a reckless decision on Jinnah’s part created a rift so deep within the people of the undivided India, that the country was ripped into two, thus creating two separate nations.

And no, it was not only Jinnah who was at fault. We probably didn’t try hard enough to hold that man close to us. If you go through the Indian history, you’ll see how Jinnah was an integral part of the Indian National Congress and how he had been part of the common objective to free Indian from the British rule.

Yes, he was brainwashed, but the mistake was from both our and his side. We should have tried to make him see how the British were fooling him and trying to play their trump card of ‘Divide and Rule.’

Time and again the people of both the nations have tried to create a peaceful relationship. There are cross border marriages, direct buses from New Delhi to Lahore and there are so many Pakistani artists who work here in India.

Atif Aslam, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and Ali Zafar are just a few of the many talented Pakistani artists who have worked here and have a dedicated following.

Bollywood movies and songs are a hit in Pakistan, and we Indians are these days copying the style of salwar suits worn by the Pakistani women which we saw on their television soaps that are being aired here.

I came across this article today written by Mahwash Badar, a Pakistani woman, and it brought back all these hidden feelings inside me, which I’m sure every Indian has. Not that I’m in any gloating about the fact that the people there are living in constant fear of a nation that’s crippling under fundamentalist ideas. I weep for my brothers and sisters, who had absolutely nothing to do with the partition and the massacre that followed, and were separated from us because of a misunderstanding caused by the British for their own selfish motives.

But after reading this, I realized how people there too are not happy about the fact that we were divided into two countries and political parties have time and again tried to instill hatred into our hearts for each other.

I truly pray for the day the people of both the countries will awaken to the fact that idiots of the first order, who call themselves our leaders, are just using our emotions to fulfill their barbaric, greedy motives, in the name of religion and god.

 

Here is the article written by Mahwash Badar

Anyone who has ever traveled abroad will tell you that no matter where you go, no matter how developed a country it is that you’re travelling to – if you’re a British national or a Caucasian American, the doors become friendlier. The security becomes less pressurizing. Visa queues are shorter. Procedures are simpler.

If you’re a brown Pakistani man (or even woman) who is travelling to another country – that’s a whole other story. You’re working in the Middle East, chances are your salary is just a little bit above the basic working wage – or anything that will get you a bed-space with seven other human beings. Respect is minimal.

You’re not supposed to ruffle any feathers. Or demand for rights. Your children are thousands of miles away studying (because you can’t afford education for them here), your wife probably has another job to help make ends meet and your job squeezes every drop of your blood into a tiny container that helps build the skyscrapers and that little container is thrown away quicker than you can say “burj” as soon as your company decides to say bye bye.

Pretty much the equivalent of … well, I don’t know. What is that the equivalent of? What analogy do I draw to represent the utter misery that is being a Pakistani in this super-power dominated world?

As if the current state of the country, what with its years of dictatorship and lack of infrastructure, hasn’t driven us insane enough, there is the added bonus of inviting religious extremists and letting them destroy everything we hold near and dear. Sure, apologists will reason it saying “this is not true Islam” and whatnot. But my question is when – seriously – when do we set aside the debate of what is true Islam and what isn’t?

Let the clerics and the religious scholars sit in their mosques. But once and for all, eliminate and annihilate the savage, beastly, cowardly, immoral men who buy the bodies of fragile, poverty-stricken, desperate men, strap them with explosives and send them into markets filled with innocent women and children. Finish these abhorrent elements in the society that attempt to throw us back to the Stone Age.

A recent article in the New York Times reported on the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaration of the polio emergency in Pakistan.

Last year, a polio worker was killed in Peshawar, as well as another who was shot dead in Khyber Agency. Several were kidnapped in Bara. In January this year, gunmen killed three health workers taking part in a polio vaccination drive in Karachi, not Kabul, not Sierra Leone, not Riyadh, Karachi.

My heart boils and burns as more devastating news and reports flood the channels. The New York Times article further stated that according to a report, the highest refusal rates for polio vaccination were recorded in wealthy neighborhoods of Karachi because they had “little faith in public health care.” In North Waziristan, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have had vaccination forbidden for years. Pakistan thus has 59 polio cases to report, the highest in the world.

Being a mother, it scares me. It keeps me awake at night. It reminds me that even if I run far away from the borders of my own land, its demons will continue to haunt me and my future generations. I Google “Pakistan” on the news and everything that is reported is about death, destruction, squabbling politicians, ailing children, extremists blowing up things and a struggling economy.

I raise my eyes to our neighboring country and see what could have happened if we were still a United India. Maybe we would have been polio free too. We would have been a unified part of a process of being the world’s next big force to reckon with, of being a part of the next blazing economy.

I find myself deeply wishing that Jinnah hadn’t made this mistake – that he had thought about the future of Pakistan. He didn’t think of the obscurantist mindset that he had propelled forward, the countless millions that died at the hand of this vague agenda that fails to unite us as a nation. I look at the years of struggles that Pakistan faces, the fall of Dhaka, the provincial wars, the stark separatist mindsets and I wonder what Mr Jinnah was thinking when he decided to leave the Indian National Congress (INC).

We share more with our Indian brothers than our ancestral DNA. Our food, language, clothes, lifestyles are more like them than the Arabs we so badly want to mimic and ape. I stare at the green passport with the same self-loathing as the fat 16-year-old girl with pimples on her face who is told that she cannot get married because she will always be blind, diseased and fat and her elder, stronger, prettier, better-educated sister will snag all the good catches because she ended up with the better caretaker after the divorce of their parents.

I am ashamed of being a Pakistani today.

I am ashamed that I belong to a country that kills human rights lawyers and sitting governors, and issues death threats to university professors.

I am ashamed that we believe in spaghetti monster theories and pie in the sky conspiracies and risk the future of our children.

I am ashamed that we have rejected our scientists just because they believe in a different dogma.

I am ashamed that we cannot protect our women, we cannot protect our children and we cannot protect our men from the evil that is extremism, fundamentalism and the foolhardy idea that Pakistan is a great nation. Pakistan is a fledgling, flailing state.

And those 59 children, whose legs can never work anymore, the family of Raza Rumi’s driver, those who shed tears for Salman Taseer, for Perveen Rehman, for Rashid Rehman, for Dr Murtaza Haider and his 12-year-old son – every single person who went out to have a normal day and never made it home alive – are all paying the price of the empathy, respect and awe YOU show cowards like Mumtaz Qadri.