Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mrs. Dalal from Yemen

One afternoon i met dear Mrs. Dalal, a jovial sexagenarian on a bus ride home from Dubai Internet City in Dubai. It isn't everyday you get to have a cheery chat with a kind old Arab lady with stories to tell.

The bus driver hadn't arrived yet and Mrs. Dalal wondered aloud about when he'd be back. Since there wasn't anyone else in the area designated for ladies, i answered back and mentioned seeing him smoking a cigarette nearby. She seemed to be in a hurry and so decided to go outside and check. I could tell she hadn't traveled by the bus before since she found difficulty in getting the door open. Dubai buses have doors enabled with little circular, touch-sensitive pads where a door handle would normally have been. She looked to me with her raised eyebrows for help and i motioned her to palm the red circle; she did like so, it turned green, and she got off. The driver, to the dismay of Mrs. Dalal couldn't be located and so she returned to her seat by the door.

There are about three to four regular bus models and there are those with a seat for one near the front entrance. These single-seaters can be quite unsafe during sharp turns and roundabouts, or when a bus jerks unexpectedly. I've seen plenty commuters nearly slide right off their seats. Mrs. Dalal seemed to find her seat uncomfortable already without the bus moving even and she grumbled about it too. I thought it best to ask her if she'd like take one of the more safer seats behind where i was. She gladly agreed and took one right next to mine.

Our missing driver finally returned to the wheel, started up the engine and soon enough we were on our way. By then, Mrs. Dalal had already begun to tell me about her room in a hotel nearby, where she was headed and who she was to meet with. She began by asking me how long it would take to Mercato Mall, which was about 20 minutes away by bus. A dear friend was waiting to have lunch at a restaurant and then later pay a visit to the Yemen lady's home. "Where are you from?" she wanted to know. When i told her i was from India she was so thrilled; her grandfather who was originally from India had married a lady from Yemen, thus explains her name.

Most of my female Muslim friends usually wear headscarves that cover just the ears and hair but Mrs. Dalal wore a traditional niqab that only allowed her to express herself with her eyes. It was such a different experience paying complete attention to her lively voice instead of lip-reading while listening at the same time as I was accustomed to before. An everyday experience for so many others around the world, but unfortunately not so for myself.

During our nearly half hour together, we shared our experiences, sorrows of loved ones lost, similarities in modern outlooks, and our love for public transport with its priceless vistas of the city. She showed me pictures of her children and grandchildren scattered across the globe and how she tries to visit them all whenever she can. 

The lady from Yemen also shared how she had battled depression after hearing about the loss of her father from a friend; her family knew she wouldn't take it well and at that time decided it was best not to inform her. It took two years for her to move on from her grief, which is more than my mum did after my elder sister passed away. I told her of how my dear mother could never get over the loss right till her dying day. We consoled each other on our respective losses and that's when Mrs. Dalal pointed out, "Honestly, there's no right and wrong way, everyone deals with loss differently. You've seen death so often (as told to her of my past experiences), so now you handle your emotions far better. It is good to be strong. It does not mean you are emotionless or feel no pain. It's not only better for your own well-being but it's so that nobody ever pities you. Anybody can sympathise, but after that they get tired of your constant grieving and leave you behind. Then you will be all alone, and nobody should be left alone."
Soon enough, her stop got closer and we exchanged numbers, tight embraces and goodbyes before she alighted. From my window I saw my Yemeni friend wave to to me. I waved back just in time before she turned to hug her vibrantly dressed Arab friend who had been waiting patiently for her. Arm-in-arm, they slowly moved towards Mercato Mall while the driver drove away from the bus stand.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

7 Kind Ways to Help a Grieving Friend

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” ― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

There are many simple and special ways to help a friend and strengthen those bonds. Only you as a friend know him or her best and can tackle it the right way. Here's how you can be a better friend to another who's recently lost someone. 

Things You Don't Do
1. Assume they're already fine
Asking, "How are you? Good?" barely a week after their loss makes you look insensitive. Of course, they're not okay. Try phrasing your sentence to, "Hey there, I know this is hard for you, I'm always here." Of course, if you don't mean it, don't say it. Being fake only makes it worse. Plus, your friend will know.

2. Leave them alone
If this is someone who's really close to you, waiting it out till they're done grieving will only make them realise how little you care. Don't act surprised if your friendship starts to fade away if you've been doing this. If s/he has been there through your stormy times, now's the time to return the favour. Death is not the same as your crush ignoring you.

3. Adding salt to an open wound
You really think a guilt trip is a fun idea? It's not. Badgering about what they didn't do while they had the chance is something their mind is probably already doing. If you've done this, an apology is in order.

Things You Should Do
1. Empathise
Often enough you may not know the right words. It's also possible you're geographically too far to give them a hug. Sending them quotes of strength and hope via email or instant message in the first few weeks is a good idea. Ask him or her about the best memories of the person who passed away and if you're religious, tell them you're praying for their soul. If you've been through a similar experience, sharing how you moved on can help.

2. Distraction
A person grieving may tend to avoid meeting people or going out. This could lead down that slippery slope known to many as depression. If you and your friend are in the same city, take them out to places like a library, a park or a quiet little beach, bring along a small meaningful present. Talk about things they like. Sleepovers are great too because they let you talk about things your friend might not be comfortable sharing when in public. Remember, actions do speak louder than words.

3. Laughter is the best medicine
"When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use." [source]

4. Be Honest
No one expects you to be an expert in dealing with this difficult situation and it's okay to admit this to your friend. Let him/her know that you're sorry they have to go through the pain. Specific offers of help are better than those cliche lines of, " I'm here if you need me." and will genuinely make a difference.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Find Your Soulmate - A Sample Survey

Recently a close friend shared with me (and others) the following questionnaire sent by a potential spouse. The courageous friend has applied for the position of 'spouse' and is awaiting selection for a physical/virtual interview if shortlisted. The friend claims that it is neither an arranged nor a love relationship, prefers not to have the situation categorised and has left me confused. Guess it's complicated.

Minimum editing has been made to the original questionnaire with respect to grammar or spelling though any names of cities have been removed.

For those of you in need of a few tips when looking for a potential spouse shall find the list interesting.

Feel free to respond at your convenience and if you have any questions for me, feel free to send me.
Please answer as honestly as possible cos what you think and believe are also important.
Of course I would like to have been able to spend more time with you and get these answered once i felt it was a comfortable time to bring it up, but unfortunately I need to make some sort of a decision soon, hope you don't mind

1)      Do you have a time frame within which you want to get married or is that flexible?
2)      Where do you see yourself living after marriage?
3)      Would you be open to (city name removed)? Are you comfortable at the thought of living in (city name removed)?
4)      Are you open to moving abroad if the opportunity does come up. Any plans or progress on that end?
5)      Are you currently staying in an owned house or a rental?
6)      Will it be a concern for you if I have a job that involves night shifts?
7)      Will it be a concern for you if I continue to support my parents financially after marriage?
8)      What are your thoughts on me being able to work after marriage?
9)      What are your thoughts on me being able to study after marriage (if required)
10)      What are your feelings about me being able to meet my friends and family after marriage
11)      I cant currently cook but will learn eventually. How important is it for me to be able to cook and cook well by the time I am married.
12)      What is your preferred mode of communication to stay in touch (when not able to meet)? Would you be okay with messaging over calling?
13)   How much are you currently earning?
14)   Do you have investments and savings?
15)   Do you believe you are financially stable for marriage?
16)   Is it important for you for us to live with parents after marriage?
17) If neither (city name removed) nor abroad works out, where do you plan on living?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Chineese Toast For Breakfast

Everyone loves good French toast, goodness knows we do. But sometimes a little bit of Oriental ingredients can add that extra zing to your breakfast. Chinese sesame toast does just that. It's is a quick-fix breakfast that can also double up as a nutritious travel snack for adults and kids alike.

2 Medium-sized potatoes
2 tsp. Soya sauce
2 tsp. Vinegar
2 tbsp. Sesame seeds
5-10g Butter
6-8 Bread slices

1. Boil, mash and season two medium sized potatoes with salt, pepper.
2. Add the soya sauce and vinegar to the mash.
3. Using a  flat-bottomed pan, lightly toast both sides of the bread slices.
4. Butter the bread slices, spread on the potato mash and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
5. Toast on both sides until golden brown.

Make it Better
Don't be afraid to experiment and bring your own touch to the recipe. You can even swap and use sweet potatoes, a sweet and fibrous treat it will make. Here are five ingredients you can add to step 2. of the standard recipe.

- Sautéed mixed vegetables
- Mint-flavoured cream.
- Bacon or sausage roundels.
- Cooked pineapple and/or apple bits.
- Light fried chillies and creamed cheese.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Travel Tales in Goa: Mapusa and Santacruz

So last time I mentioned all the nice places you'd like to visit while you're in Goa. Do keep in mind that those are spots for the not-so-touristy folk and more for the regulars ho visit that (once upon a time) homely little state.

Besides working really hard at keeping the old and rickety (I'm just kidding) house clean and tidy, dad and I did manage to do a little last minute shopping to carry back to Bombay. And what better than to load up on the best eats and drinks, right? :-D

Things we took back home:
1. Chocolate and mint flavoured liqueurs
2. Poies (Goan bread that's a lot like pita bread, but not really)
3. Fruit cakes
4. Bebinka (super-fatty, sweet and super-yummy Goan delicacy)
6. Anything (affordable and) edible
Breads! In case you're wondering, they're not doughnuts, they're nicknamed "bangles".

Where to shop for your stock?
1. Buy your booze at any of the local "wine shops". Avoid settling for a price if it isn't stated. Don't forget to check with other stores to make sure you're getting a good bargain.

2. I've found Mapusa market to be the best place for traditional breads and sweets besides everything else you usually find in a buzzing bazaar.

(Hubby-to-be is going to be back from Dubai soon plus another trip to Goa. Stay tuned for more pics!)

- Got something to share? Tweet me up on @fatterbrain for quicker replies!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Remembering You (For Dylan)

I miss the first time you smiled,
I miss the first time we kissed,
Wish I could travel those many miles
Rather than missing you so much like this. - 4

I miss the first time we held hands,
I miss the first time I fell for your charms;
This loneliness I cannot stand,
I'd rather be held in your arms. - 8
I miss the warmth of your face.
I miss the sound of your voice.
I miss the way into my eyes you'd gaze;
I know you're the perfect choice. - 12

In spite of the good you are,
In spite of the kindness you show;
I still choose to push you, from me, afar;
And now I feel down and low. - 16

I still miss every moment we shared,
And I'll hold them forever in my heart.
I'll never forget how much you've cared;
For in my life, you're the best part. -20

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Little Match Girl

(Click to go to Hans Christian Andersen's original prose)

A little girl,
Was cold as could be;
For it was winter then,
On New Year's Eve. -4

Seated on the street,
Barefooted was she;
Matchboxes in apron,
And nothing to eat. -8

So cold was she,
Feet purple and blue;
To gain a farthing,
Was all she knew. -12

But no one came,
No one stopped;
Not a single matchbox,
That day was bought. -16

How weary she felt,
But she had no money;
And she couldn't go home,
Till she made any. -20

The little girl's hands,
Were numb with cold;
She thought of the matches,
That were to be sold. -24

She decided to light one,
Warmth she did need;
T'was struck on the wall,
And how warm she did feel. -28

It seemed to her,
That there was more;
Of burnished brass,
A very warm stove. -32

She put out her hands,
That they may be warmed;
But before she knew it,
The stove was gone. -36

So she struck another,
Against the wall;
The previous flame,
Seemed so small. -40

Something new she saw,
How candles did gleam;
There was roast goose,
Cake and ice-cream. -44

The roast goose got up,
Lept toward her it seemed;
Then the image faded,
As it would in a dream. -48

So she lit another,
And what did she see?!
She was under the most,
Magnificent Christmas tree. -52

Pretty lights shone,
On the branches of green;
As in the shop windows,
She had before seen. -56

She stretched to feel,
But the match went out;
The Christmas lights rose,
Into the sky above. -60

And now she saw the lights,
As the stars in heaven;
One fell and left behind,
A trail of fire therein. -64

"Someone is just dead!"
The girl did discern.
This from her grandmother,
She did learn. -68

Her grandmother told her,
That when a star falls;
It is to God,
That a soul is called. -72

Only her grandmother,
Had ever truly loved her.
But she was no more,
So she had no other. -76

Another match was lit,
And in the light's lustre;
Stood no other than,
The girl's grandmother. -80

"Grandmother!", cried she,
"Oh, take me with you!"
What if she vanished too?
And that just wouldn't do. -84

She lit another match,
And another and another;
So she wouldn't lose sight,
Of her dear old grandmother. -88

But the grandmother stayed,
So beautiful and tall;
Pain and suffering,
The girl had forgotten all. -92

In grandmother's arms,
The little girl lay;
And there she was,
To forever stay. -96

And when dawn arrived,
The people had said,
"She wanted to warm herself,
But now she is dead." -100

The matches remained
With her on the ground;
Happiness and joy,
In the new year she found. -104

Friday, June 18, 2010

I WIsh I Were an Owl

I wish I were an owl;
Fly by night I could
Beneath the moon and stars,
Through the woody-wood. -4

With pretty shiny eyes,
Shining yellow and bright.
And tiny little ears;
To hear the mice at night. -8

I'd have pretty little feathers;
Warm and brown they'd be,
I'd ruffle them at once,
If a chill I were to feel. -12

As the darkness falls,
Out of my tree I'll be;
A little hole in the bark,
Carved out just for me. -16

I'd sit up on a branch,
When the moon is out;
And with the other owls,
Hoot the night throughout. -20

And when the dawn does break,
I believe it's time to sleep;
And when the stars come shine again,
A-hooting I will be. -24

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pewter Soldier

My pewter soldier,
Stands by my bed;
Remains perfectly still,
Just above my head. -4

He watches my window,
He watches all night;
Never once taking me
Out of his sight. -8

His eyes are bright;
Wide and alert.
His post as my watcher;
They do assert. -12

He's ever too quiet,
The poor old thing;
I really do wish,
He'd talk and sing. -16

So still he remains,
By night, by day.
Nothing to do;
Nothing to say. -20

If only he'd tell,
His learnings of life;
His stories of love,
Of war and strife. -24

If only he'd choose,
To have himself heard;
I'd listen intently,
To his every word. -28

But decided is he;
So, silent he'll be.
My pewter soldier,
Watching over me. -32

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Tempting Sea

One evening during Diwali, while vacationing on a beach in Goa (Calangute), I overheard a mother and father crying bitterly requesting the coastguards to go out once more and search for their son who hadn't returned from swimming. The coastguards tried their best while the boy's parents prayed for his safe return. Unfortunately, the boy was never found.

The Tempting Sea
Gentle whispers from the sea;
Softly calling out to me;
"Come in, come in, oh sweet child;
Bask in my waves so gentle, so mild."
But then I had begun to recall;
About a boy so very small.
Who was taken away in the month of November,
By the sea so full of danger.
He was taken away into the deep.
By the sea to be put to sleep.
Never again to see sunlight;
For the sea had held him down tight.
So even though the waves kissed my feet;
Inviting me to the sea so deep;
I refused to enter the deep blue sea,
For fear of what might happen to me.