Baba

My father has forever been known as the funny man. He’s a treasure trove of stories, jokes and hearty laughs. I know he thinks it’s his sense of humour and jokes (most of them borrowed from his hero, my uncle) that everybody loves, but I know it’s much more than that. You can meet him once and be infected by the joyous, unadulterated spirit he exudes. It’s easy to miss the nuances that make up the rest of his character because his charm is so loud. When the words on a page are scrawled in a bright orange marker, you don’t glance between the lines.

I’ve heard stories from my mother about what he was like when they first married. There are things about the man she describes that I don’t recognise as traits of my father. Not because he was awful or anything like that. He was just different. What I hear not in her words but in the melodic tones of her voice, is that after my sister was born, my dad was a changed man. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I don’t recognise him from before- because I’ve only ever known him as a doting and overprotective father. Not as a “bachelor”, or as a bachelor who is adjusting to suddenly married life. For as long as I can remember, my mother, my sister and I have been at the epicentre of his universe. There is nothing he wouldn’t do for any of us.

I was a very sick child. Not the conventional cold and flu kind of sick either, but scaring my family into thinking I was dying every other week kind. I don’t know if this is why, for someone with crazy levels of memory retention, I can’t remember very much from my earliest years. One of the few memories I’ve preserved is resting my head on my father’s shoulder as he carried my fever-ridden body, marching around the flat and reciting poetry from Bangladesh’s greats. If you ever had the honour to listen to one of his recitations, you’d understand my lifelong love of poetry and language.

My father is also a man who is dedicated to his career. His ambition to constantly better himself and achieve greatness as a teacher, has no doubt rubbed off on both my sister and I, as we nurture bordering-on-unhealthy relationships with our work. Sometimes I will meet him in the kitchen in the middle of the night, and ask what he’s doing up. He’ll tell me he’s looking into a great job opportunity in Kazakhstan or California. I’ll reply that I’m putting together an application package for a job in Johannesburg. He’ll tell me not to move so far away and ask if I’ve given any more thought to teaching, reminding me of his notebook full of contacts and friends who are apparently just waiting to make a lecturer out of me. He will insist that if I just say the word, he’ll do all the legwork to make it happen. Anyone could tell you that my father was made to be a father. He’s funny, an entertainer and full of warmth. But he’s also a person of great value and character. I adore him and I thank him. Because I turned out to be a dreamer, just like my father.

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Flaw-gust

360 degrees stalking - Irnin Khan

*image generated using Type to Design

I recently came across the term “Flawgust”, coined by columnist Caitlin Moran in this article, where she ties together the embracing of flaws with August or something? It’s actually a fun read offering a host of strange and hilarious month concepts. Whilst charities have not yet jumped on board with Flawgust, as in the case of Movember or Dry July, I think it’s definitely got potential, both from an angle of hilarity and one of wellness.

Feeling a bit inspired, I’ve decided to go ahead and publicly own a flaw of mine: incessant web-stalking. For a long time I’ve been hesitant to claim it as a flaw, as I have to admit I’m good enough at it to dually claim it in my top 5 of life skills. “It’s research!”, I’ve told myself, “I’m a thorough researcher just flexing the muscle and staying on top of research methodology”. How can research be a bad thing? Having recently reflected upon the negative impacts that social media stalking and general rabbit hole tunnelling can have (including anxiety, lack of productivity, low self-value and being in a state of constantly seeking the instant gratification to which we’ve become accustomed) I’m officially placing myself on a stalk-lite diet. I can’t make grandiose promises of quitting, because I’m a realist and know that one day I’ll surely be required to use my powers for the greater good. But so far, cutting back on my 360 degrees stalking has been calming, clarifying.

Who else is keen on owning some flaws for Flawgust?

Taking Chances (may get you attacked)

dun-duneveryone-is-sketch

A friend of mine recently warned me that by confining myself to Rapunzel’s tower (minus the tresses), I might miss out on finding love. I answered, “It’s hard to not be guarded. I watch a lot of SVU”.

My mother is the kind of person who is convinced that things like father-daughter incest and bestiality are signs of the end of days. So it’s no surprise to me that she has somewhat of a rape-news-story scanner in her head. Every few weeks, she warns me about the latest “danger-suburbs” and gives me some generic tip she has recently heard – “Don’t wear earphones whilst walking alone at night in desolate areas”. She’s not crazy, just really cautious. Apparently, this apple didn’t fall very far from the tree.

When I first started watching SVU as a (self-proclaimed) precocious young adult, I thought I was being really smart by studying up on precautionary tales. Back then I used to believe I might meet the love of my life by accidentally running into them around a library aisle corner… I would drop my books everywhere; he would pick them up and marvel that we happen to be reading the same book. It would be love at first sight. Years later, I now have a tendency to think that every stranger who smiles at me for no apparent reason must be some form of predatory rapist. Someone walks alongside me for more than two blocks: must be waiting for a witness-free area to shove me into and attack me. A middle-aged woman attempts friendliness by asking non-descript questions about my parents: must be the den mother of a pimp-house, trying to suss out if I have family who would look for me if I disappeared. I can’t seem to stop myself from turning everyday interactions into elaborate SVU storylines. At first, I thought it was the result of a hyperactive imagination and the over- exposure to television’s crime genre. But the more time that passes (with back-to-back SVU episodes), the more legitimate it all seems.

The dialogue of contemporary singletons seems to be filled a smothering amount of optimistic platitudes, like “you just have to be open to finding love” and “if you never try, you’ll never know”. They’re also a tad saccharine, let’s be real. Amongst this landscape, people tend to categorise my fear of something shitty happening (like rape or murder) as irrational and dramatic. But really, isn’t it just as irrational to buy into the other side that television sells, of life being constantly hilarious and filled with romance, coincidence and risks working out?

At least SVU has counteracted the hoards of fairytales that filled my younger self with naivety and unrealistic life expectations, and armed me with the security of preparedness and an arsenal of worst-case scenarios. I know that if you get raped by a masked man, the next guy to enter your life and comfort you, could be the rapist who orchestrated it all. Your sweet, nerdy IT guy can end up planting cameras all over your house to watch you showering, pooping and sleeping. Basically, you can’t trust anybody because it could lead to getting creeped on, raped or murdered. With this in mind, how can I really be open to finding love? My best idea so far is to never reveal my address until I’ve done a thorough background check, clandestinely followed them around a bit, maybe conducted some informal interviews with exes. In other words, suss out possible creepers by being the creeper.

originally published by Your Friends House

Oh the places I’ve been…

Another obsessive habit I’m trying to outgrow this year is my proclivity for accumulating strange collections. I’m starting with my collection of train tickets, which has been in place since 2003. I’ve always vowed (as with most of my other collections) that I’ll do something with them someday, but a decade is probably long enough to wait for that inspiration to strike. While it feels quite strange to let go of it after such a prodigious effort, it’s also a bit of a cathartic release. Like most collections, it’s not only about the objects being collected, but about the marking of time and place. By letting go of this collection, ten years worth of memories of journeys are being released into the ether (or in this case, into the recycling bin). I’m feeling really motivated to start letting go of past baggage, in order to make room for new experiences and adventures. Right now, I can only imagine what it will feel like to come home with my next train ticket and throw it in the recycling, as opposed to adding it to the chronologically ordered piles.  But I’m sure the disorientation will pass, and soon it will feel like the mental cleanse it was intended to be.

train tickets

A Father-Daughter Trip to the Supermarket

I have finished shopping and am sitting out on the bench waiting. He lifts a finger towards me, the same way he gestures to waiters, to indicate that he’s seen me. Suddenly, I notice that my Dad looks like he’s about to go skiing (bundled in a beanie, overcoat and “muffler”), especially next to the checkout boy dressed in a short sleeved shirt. Watching him almost waddling around in his million layers of clothing, I struggle to stifle my laughter at the spectacle. Leaving with his groceries, change still in hand, he suddenly stops with a startled expression clouding over his face. He begins looking around on the floor, patting down his pockets, doing 360 degree waddle-turns as he walks back and forth from the checkout… all the while not noticing that his daughter looks like she is having a psychotic fit from laughing so hard. Eventually, he walks towards me dejectedly and announces “I lost my damn change!”  Fighting back tears of laughter from the cartoon he just put on, I ask, “how much did you lose?” No answer. Long pause. He pats his pocket and says “Oh wait, I put it in my breast pocket!!”

“How much did you think you had lost?”, I press. He hesitantly answers “$1.15” and as I once again burst into laughter, he says “$1.15 is no small amount you know… That’s 100 taka we’re talking about”*

Aaah, never a dull moment with my father around.

* taka is the national currency of Bangladesh

What If…

I’ve often wondered what I’d do if I suddenly noticed a spider or snake in the car whilst driving…

I now know that first, I’ll try to stay calm and tell myself I’m not too far from home (while the car spontaneously weaves around on the road). Then when I see the spider jumping from the door handle onto my pyjama pant, I’ll screech to a kerb-side halt and jump around in the car seat, trying to find it and simultaneously trying to convince myself that it isn’t on me anymore, and no it hasn’t gotten inside my clothes! And all the while I’ll be panicking about where it might be if not in sight! I’ll barely be able to stop myself from stepping out onto the street in humiliating pyjamas and jump around like a Wiggle on a sugar high to ensure the critter has made itself scarce.  When I’ve stopped myself from thinking that this is a viable option, I’ll start slapping things… myself, the door, the seat (just in case its camouflaging abilities are hiding it from me, and my random slapping might kill it). Suddenly, I’ll stop in disgust, remembering that killing it by slapping would mean dead spider remnants on my hands! Suddenly,as quickly as it disappeared, it’ll re-emerge from the back of my jumper and crawl back onto the door handle… just in time for me to open the door just a smidgen and flick the creeper out onto the street. I’ll take a moment to calm myself, drive home and vigorously scrub myself clean in the shower. Just in case sometime during that minute where I didn’t know where the spider was, it actually crawled on my skin and laid eggs or something.  JUST IN CASE.

On Failure

A seemingly unfortunate series of events last week led me to discover a pretty significant character flaw… I deal with rejection terribly.  I’m not referring to a boy turning me down for a date to the sock-hop (which will only lead to listening to a heroic compilation of feminist power ballads and Celine Dion, followed by maybe a few rounds of pouting… after which the recovery is seamless), but rather the fresh puncture of professional rejection.

Somehow, being snubbed by industry professionals in any capacity seems to affect me anywhere on the scale of reducing me to a puddling mess, to my hiding under my bed covers for hours, whilst undergoing a “self-evaluation”, until I eventually fall asleep. I could justify the development of this mindset with a lot of different factors… my obsessive need to be above average at everything I do, being driven by South-East-Asian parents to constantly be at the top of my game and achieve greatness, an unnatural need to parallel my life to fictional characters like Rory Gilmore, reading too much chick-lit in my teenage days that dealt with overachievers’ woes. My mother’s reasoning for this kind of behaviour is always, “you haven’t been eating well, that always throws off your moods”. But then again, her reasoning for headaches, nausea, muscle pain (and probably cancer) is that I “haven’t been eating well”.  Sometimes I wonder if she’d have had more peace of mind with an overweight daughter instead.

But I digress. Upon realising what an unhealthy habit I seem to have nurtured over the years, I decided it was time to break this chain of self-deprecation, link by link.  I found the deck of self-affirmation cards I made a few years ago and picked one out at random. “You are a rich treasure, just waiting to be found”, it told me.  Right you are little card, I thought to myself, picturing a pretty fierce fist-pump (whilst a voice of self-doubt whispered, “treasures don’t need gold miners or Ali Baba to find them anymore, not to mention that everyone’s a regular Columbus these days, so why haven’t you been discovered yet?”).  The trouble is, I equate these rejections with a capital F for Failure.  “We regret to inform you that your application has been unsuccessful this time” reads as, “The blood, sweat and tears you put into this application are not nearly enough, you totally snafued this one”.  The attitude adjustment needed here is pretty obvious.  I should accept the whims of the universe for what they are and convince myself that the rejections are making me stronger, and propelling me to work harder to achieve greatness.  I’ve taken the first round of baby steps, admitting the error of my ways and committing to change.  But the sad reality is, it’s easier to turn to pizza and chocolate for consolation than to implement a complete attitude change.  Maybe my mum’s on to something after all….