Who Am I?

I am in my last semester of Masters, and for this semester I have taken electives that I, for once, am enjoying studying and participating in. One of the electives is Teaching English Internationally. Based on the course title, I assumed, it would equip me with skills to teach English in an international setting. It is anything but. The unit delves into the migrant experiences and how language is a major but not oft seen concept in the current era of globalisation.

A little background info about me. I was born and brought up in The United Arab of Emirates till the age of 16. My family and I then moved to Australia where we have been settled for the past 8 years. So, in a sense, my identity is an amalgamation of Indo-Arab-Aussie. I have married an Indian guy who hadn’t travelled outside India until our honeymoon in Europe. Whenever I travelled to India, it was only to my relative’s place. My husband, on the other hand, has travelled all over India. My husband and I come from different states in India. In India, each state might as well be its own country. My husband and I speak completely different languages, have different cultural backgrounds etc. Since I have always lived overseas, our upbringings are also vastly different.

I had never realised the importance of identity until I got married.  I might look Indian, but my upbringing has never been because of “log kya kahenge?”. I was raised along with my two brothers but except for the fact that I should be back home by sundown, I never felt that I was limited in opportunities and freedom of expression. My in-laws are great people, but I was expected to behave like the Indian daughter-in-law. They never limited my movements, but I was expected to wake up at the beck of dawn. The food and language, albeit minor issues, were still issues. I am expected to learn a language even if the rest of Assam is fluent in a language I speak, Urdu/Hindi. Which came as a shock to me. No one can learn a language overnight. I felt like an outcast in a foreign land with a language that was alien to me. It’s not just Assam apparently. If an Assamese went to any other state of India, they would be expected to learn the language. And yes, I assume in a professional setting, that would do. But in a home setting, I would assume people would speak in a language that was understandable to all present. No? Just my family? Right.

My parents raised us in a way that wasn’t apparent in efforts but seeing families in India and their upbringing highlights the different way my parents instilled their values in us. It was never forced upon us and yet we grew up following their way. They taught us the principle of empathy. They showed us the beauty of Islam through their practice. The ideals of our Prophet for the whole of mankind and humanity was something we strived upon. My parents raised us to inculcate the good values of any culture, community or country and to disown the not so good ones. We were never patriotic to any country but I feel close to the Indians, Arabs and Aussies. They are not perfect but they can’t be stereotyped. And I, most certainly, do not fit into any stereotype. I am my own person with my own values. And I will not conform to anyone else’s expectations of how an Indian should be.

The Yes Girl

I haven’t watched Jim Carrey’s Yes Man but my friend was telling me it was about this guy who says no to everything and then goes to this seminar thing where he is told that in order to truly live life, he should start saying yes. So he does that, he starts saying yes to each and every opportunity and his life changes for the better. Sorry for the spoiler but the movie is quite old I believe and those of you who would have wanted to watch it would have already done so and those like me who haven’t, well, if you’re reading this, it’s too late (geddit? Drake reference?)

I am the opposite of Jim Carrey’s character. I can’t say no. I am the actual yes girl. And I hate that. It has gotten so bad that now when I say no to a plan or a suggestion, people look at me surprised, they can’t fathom the fact that my mouth actually formed into an O and produced the no sound when they are accustomed to me saying yes. And while everyone is blinking their eyes,still unable to comprehend, I get all flustered and reply “Ok yeah, let’s do it.” So, in the end, I end up acquiescing to whatever’s up.

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It’s not that I am getting forced or people drag me. It’s the fact that I feel I am getting forced into doing something. And I often question why I can never say no. Is it because I am a people pleaser? Or is it because I am a don’t want to offend people-er? I like to believe that I am the latter. I care way too much for people’s feelings. And no, I am not complaining. I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone intentionally or not. But I have realized you can’t really please everyone.And even if you try, you don’t end up pleasing yourself. Which comes back to what I am trying to put across : Saying yes to every one and everything, even if you don’t want to doesn’t make you happy. But saying no sounds stuck-up and selfish.

For as long as I remember, my friends would come up with something, like going somewhere or working together in a group project and suggesting an idea, and while I would try to explain why it wasn’t such a good idea or something to improve to get better grades, they would just override it and continue doing what they liked. And it left me with feelings of anguish and helplessness because hey, I am getting graded for the assignment as well and I know that your idea is not good,so shut up and listen to mine but majority rules and damn it, the majority’s opinion suck!!!

It’s too late for me to start being the no girl and personally saying no to everything will lead to a boring life, so no, don’t say no. But say no once in a while. I am trying my best to practice but it is not working out as I would like to. I wish I was strong enough to say no. I wish I was strong enough to not care for others and care for myself once in a while. For now, I know the very first trait I shall be inculcating in the future generations : the ability to say no.

***Image and gif via Google Images

East,West and the Middle

As most of you would have pieced it together by now, I am a 100% Indian who was born and brought up in the Middle East, currently living in Australia.

Fellow desis growing abroad would relate to the fact that parents try to inculcate culture in a variety of ways. For me, my parents spoke to us in Hindi/Urdu and took us to India during the summer vacations, dressed me in frocks and traditional dresses such as shalwaar kameez and lehengas rather than shirt and jeans (although that would be more a religious reason than cultural). My parents also taught us to respect elders and would rebuke us if we even joked about our teachers. We ate traditional dishes such as daal (lentil), curries and roti. We were taught to be accomodating to everyone’s tastes and to put everyone else’s needs before our own. We were taught not to talk bad about others even if they were younger to us and to not mock or ridicule anyone. We didn’t have television growing up, not because we couldn’t afford to but because my parents believed it would mature us earlier than usual.

Growing up in Dubai in the 90s, I saw like-minded selfless people who did not take the wrong meaning of what you said or did, where aunties mollycoddled you more than their children, where everyone helped each other out in anyway possible. No one had time for gossip, in fact no one cherished gossiping. Everyone cared for the betterment of others.

Cut to Australia and I not only experienced a cultural shock but psychological as well.To be honest it was latter more than the former. I mean I knew that there wouldn’t be as many desi families here than there. But even the small circle of desis that I have made here is vastly different than the group of people I grew up with. Everyone here is intent on building their own paradise. No one wants to advise or coach other’s children because they don’t want to build competition. No one wants to recommend “friends” for jobs because they don’t want to strain their own relationship with the boss.No one wants to help or give advise to anyone out of fear that the suggestion they give might be taken in the wrong way.

I used to be open-minded free thinker who gave out honest opinions as I wished. But I realised that not only people took double meanings out of it but they also later quoted me in the wrong context which used to infuriate me. I no longer speak as I please. I think thrice before I speak if I ever speak at all. What I have learnt is to keep mum at social situations.

Australia, as they say, is a land of opportunities. Too right they said. Here, I had the opportunity to get hurt. I had the opportunity to see people behind their masks. I had the opportunity to muffle my existence. I had the opportunity to grow up and meet the real world. Because Dubai was just a fairytale with its flowers of innocence and sweet gestures.

I am not attacking or eulogizing countries or generalizing its people. I am just ranting against the viewpoints and mindsets of people I have had the opportunity to get along with. Perhaps I am yet to meet selfless desis in Australia. Until then, I shall continue to be the selfless one.The way my parents raised me to be.

***Feature image via Google Image.

Life of a Loner

If you read the title and assumed that I am going to complain on how lonely I am while others are out socializing, you would be wrong. I am not complaining but I am not too proud of it either.

party

Ever since I can remember, I used to enjoy parties and socializing and having a good laugh. But coming home and entering the sanctity, the warmth and solitude of home, now that, I enjoyed that more. I still do. While everyone else is posting on social media about how much fun they are having on weekend or meeting up with their mates, my only accomplishment worthy of mentioning would be that I was successful in making delicious chocolate mousse. While everyone is clicking selfies or snapping away on Snapchat on a recent meetup, I am at home, in bed, checking it all out. Now it’s not that I don’t get invites.I get heaps of invites, both on Facebook and personal. Why don’t I attend? Various reasons

  1. Religious reasons (I can’t go places such as clubs, pubs and discos (total no-no).My friend is a DJ and has invited me multiple times on Facebook to go clubbing with her and I can’t explain to her without offending her. She seemed nonplussed when I replied religious reasons and I don’t really know how to delve into it deeper without having an hour conversation).
  2. When-there-are-no-kids-your-age reason. This mainly happens during desi get-togethers. All aunties and uncles are busy gossiping away, leaving me in charge of their little kids. They don’t officially ask me to babysit but what you gonna do when you are stuck with kids whining and crying? Keep them entertained of course!!I get bored in the process. So now I attend a party once in a while but try to avoid them if I can.
  3. When your Muslim friends invite you to a lunch and choose a restaurant which sells halal chicken but also sell pork or an Indian restaurant that has all chicken and beef menu but also sell alcohol. Now the restaurants claim that they cook and fry separately, which might be true but when you have teenagers behind the counter cooking and cleaning at such places, you can’t assume they would be too careful not mixing oil or changing oils of the fryers or cleaning dishes well enough before using it for halal chicken. I mean cleaning their own rooms seems a hurdle to them. And I was a teenager once. And I know that even though I am a perfectionist when it comes to cleaning and scrubbing, even I used to get lazy once in a while.Even if there aren’t teenagers working but adults, I still wouldn’t risk it.The chicken is not halal anymore if a drop of oil that was used to cook/fry pork gets on the chicken. I avoid such places altogether.
  4. When you go to a party but people have already formed groups or you go to a party and have seen them after ages while they have been meeting practically every weekend and are having a conversation about something that happened at a party two weeks ago to which you did not go to and hence have no clue what they are talking about. You sit there clueless, not really getting the jokes and they are laughing so hysterically, they are in tears. You feel a bit lost or the feeling that you don’t belong there. So then you vow that either you will attend EVERY party from then on or mute and exit the group.Knowing me, I do the latter.

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And hence, tis the life of an eternal loner who would rather spend weekends writing blog entries and playing Sudoku or word puzzles than be turnt up for the weekends. And that’s nothing to be ashamed off or pitied on.Do what makes you comfortable. The only downside is your friends are going to think you are a haughty snob but oh well, doesn’t warm tea (or coffee) and warm bed sound heavenly?

girl with tea

*** All images via Google Images. Excuse the spelling of “Because” in 3 reasons image. I inserted it  because it was spot on and fit with the article perfectly.

Schnitzels of BBQ Wrap (Review)

It had been quite a while since I had visited Werribee Plaza (now known as Pacific Werribee). In fact I can’t recall the last time I had been there since I returned from India 6 months ago. So my brothers and I decided to go check out the revamped complex last weekend. While we were there we decided to eat out at the Malaysian eatery BBQ wrap.


My brothers decided to order the Spicy Schnitzel while I settled on the Classic Schnitzel (from the Chicken Schnitzel Wrap Line (there is also Hawaii Schnitzel)) since my stomach is unable to handle anything to do with s of spices (ironic given my heritage).

It took about 10 minutes for the order to get ready and we attacked the schnitzels as soon as we unwrapped it from its gold packaging. The schnitzel was nicely cooked and there were good lashings of sauces and dips which made it yummier and easier to swallow. By 3 quarters of it, I was too full to even look at it and wrapped it away for midnight snacking. Mikaeel , on the other hand, was snivelling tears as he is a non-spicy Indian like me. My older brother Khalid was the only one who was still too busy relishing to see our defeat.

The pros :

  • Comes in gold packaging. 
  • Halal 
  • Has kid friendly options.
  • Decent amount of stuffings and toppings for the cost. Quite a bargain.
  • Customer friendly staff.
  • Efficient service.

The cons :

  • You pay extra for additional sauces.

In short, I would recommend BBQ Wrap and its schnitzels (try Cassic for starters or if you are more daring, spice it up with Spicy). I haven’t had the opportunity to try other stuff on the menu, but they all look promising and delicious.

In the grey…

As a student at RMIT, living in the suburbs, I can safely say that I have done enough travelling to and fro city for a lifetime. 4 days a week, sometimes 5, bus and train drivers as well as ticket officers would know me by name now. The mundane task of dragging myself to get dressed and attend lectures now seem exciting to me as I near the end of my Bachelor days. I used to assume that one needs friends for the whole university experience to be unforgettable. Listening to my parents’ and older brother Khalid’s stories of hostel life and adventures or silly pranks that they used to get into, I set my foot into university in 2012, promising myself that I would make it one of those memorable experiences worthy enough to relate to my kids.

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First semester was going really quiet and I wondered if I would graduate as a nobody when suddenly in my Scientific Skills class, another hijabi, Ayesha, came and said hi to me. Now one thing you must know about me is that I come across as shy when you first meet me but once you make the wonderful mistake of approaching me and getting to know me, I emerge from my multiple layers of shyness and blast you with my philosophical depth. By the end of class, we had exchanged phone numbers and details about ourselves and interestingly enough we had a lot in common so we hit it at the start. Since I was still on a Nokia, we exchanged Facebook details to chat and exchange memes and gifs. I don’t think whatsapp wasn’t even a thing back in 2012. A few weeks later, my mum got a call from Aisha’s mum and we were invited to dinner at her place where we got to know each other a bit more. Both mums sighed in relief when they realised that their daughters were studying the same course and would be looking out for each other against the big bad world. Inwardly I was mighty glad as well since I wouldn’t be stuck outside class or in practicals, wishing for someone to pick me to be their partner. As days rolled into months, I got to know every little itty bitty detail about Ayesha so much so that we were inseparable at university and at home (constantly chatting away). Other friends in my group circle would even laugh when they would spy either one of us without the other and ask how we were even alive without the other half.

lecture hall

Alas those days were to end. Ayesha was engaged to be wed and had to finish off a semester during a vacation. I, with no such plans as of yet, am still trudging to university these days to complete my degree. While everyone believed that I would go into bouts of depression from which I would never regain to continue uni, I proved them wrong by still attending lectures and practicals dutifully. I won’t lie, I hated the first day. I felt abandoned and desolate among the chaotic chatter of excited first year students. As days passed, I realised that there was a whole different level of adventure awaiting me to explore on my own. I got more independent and organized as there was no one to remind me of due dates. I could decide whether or not the lecture was worth attending to without someone riddling me with guilt. I could leave the uni straight after the long hour pracs without having to wait for someone to get rejuvenated by a cup of tea from the cafeteria (I don’t drink tea, I watch people drink tea (well not watch, wait) ). I could be of free will and decide on plans without someone debunking them because they had other plans or simply weren’t up to it. I could just sleep in as long as I wanted to and get to uni 5 minutes before lectures/practicals without someone waiting for me hours earlier. I can now explore the city and travel in any direction I wish to without someone complaining of tired feet. I feel anonymous and obscure and I relish that feeling as well.maxresdefault

People assume that just because a certain someone has walked away, that life will never be the same. And that’s true. It will never be the same. It will be different. Sometimes that difference is what makes you realise you can still be you without needing someone. You are a whole. And while I will have many funny anecdotes of me and Ayesha to relate to my kids, I shall also have loads of nostalgic memories of my university experienced first-hand by me. No recommendations, no suggestions. Just me and the city.

*** All images are from Google Search.

Bored of board games??

I am a 90’s kid and as most people who grew up in the 90’s would know, board games, tamagotchis and Pokemon were the rage. In fact, my brothers and I have an ice cream box filled with Pokemon cards. My little brother Mikaeel and I were reminiscing about how we used to spend summer vacation nights playing Monopoly and how we had three tamagotchis, one for each. Mine and Mikaeel’s was a blue tamagotchi while my older brother Khalid had a red tamagotchi and we all had dinosaurs as pets. Somehow they died and I can’t recall if we ever named them. I, to this day, believe 90’s era was the best era to be brought up in.


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My parents recently hosted a dinner party where the guests were a mix of aunties, uncles and the littlies (ranging from 5 to 12 years of age). To keep the kids entertained, we downloaded a couple of animated movies. When we questioned whether they would like to watch Minions, a general response of “We’ve already watched it” rang out. After giving them a series of options such as Home, Tangled, Frozen, Up, Toy Story (all three parts), Monsters, Inc., etc, and getting “no, nope, borrrriinngg, seen that, hate that” in response, I decided to settle for my final trump card : Lion King (a movie that even I (non-repeater of books and movies) would watch countless times over and still not be able to get over Mufasa’s death). I was shocked when almost all kids made a face in mock horror for me to be so stupid as to suggest such an old classic when they found the recents so ho hum and mundane. So then I brought my board games such as Monopoly, Ludo, Battleship, Snakes and Ladders, Scrabble and Pictionary among many others.

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What I didn’t realise was that these kids were the I generation, where iPhones, iPads and iMac dominated their eating,sleeping and waking habits. They slept with iPhone’s in their hands, woke up with it ringing and ate with Youtube playing their cartoons. So naturally the concept of board games as a form of entertainment not only seemed medieval but absurd to them. And no matter how exciting or appealing I tried to make the plastic counters and cardboard game board, the kids just seem uninterested and indifferent. In the end I gave up and fetched the iPad that resulted in squeals of pleasure and satisfaction and a few minutes later the ruckus died down as they found a video suited to everyone’s taste. I was left with feelings of woe and disappointment, seeing them huddled around screen, eyes wide, enchanted and motionless, almost brain dead as zombies, recalling how I used to scream and shout at Mikaeel for taking rent money from me when I was broke at Monopoly, not considering the fact that I was his only sister.

Maybe I consider 90’s to be the best, the same way my mum considers her childhood to be the best. Maybe these kids will grow up someday and shake their heads at their kids with 4D technology and futuristic gadgets and recount on how their childhood was simple and the best. And maybe I should just consider being grateful for having such great childhood memories while understanding that each kid is living the best childhood he/she can.

*** All images taken from Google Search

I am addicted…to Trivia Crack (App Review)

Before all those aunties start shaking  their heads and start giving my example to their kids on me coming out as a drug addict & getting high on some crack, let me clarify : Trivia Crack really does get me high. I get euphoric when I am able to crush and beat my opponent. I get excited when my questions get approved or when I win a challenge. I get ecstatic when I am able to guess a question right without having to use my coins.


Trivia Crack is an educational game that is a perfect mix of entertainment and knowledge. There is a free version at the app store and an ad-free one that you have to pay for. You create an account through email or Facebook and start playing with your Facebook friends or random people.


There are two game modes : classic and challenge.


In classic you verse your friend or the random person you are playing with. There are six categories : Entertainment, Art, Sports, History, Science and Geography.The aim of the game is to answer correctly the questions of the six categories that the game has to offer. There is a wheel of chance that spins and lands on the category. If you get three categories right, you get to choose which crown character you would like to win or challenge your friend to win his/her character.


  
The first person to get all characters wins the game.

There are four options to choose from when answering.


You also get power ups such as extra time ( which costs you a coin but you get extra 15 seconds to answer) , bomb (5 coins (it eliminates two options)), double chance (5 coins ( you get to answer one more time if you answered incorrectly ) and the option to skip the question (3 coins). When you win a classic game you gain 3 coins.

Now in a challenge game, you are pitted against 15 to 20 people who are currently playing the game. The amount of coins you can gain varies but the minimum is 6. You get 2 questions from each category and you can’t use the power up options. It is also a race against time as the person who scores the highest in the least amount of time wins.

There are several pros and cons to the game.

Advantages :

  • It is a great way to pass the time while you are on the commute or in a long queue.
  • You increase knowledge in a fun interactive way.
  • It has quite many features to dabble with.
  • You get to create your own questions and rate other’s questions.
  • One can interact and communicate with players within games.
  • The game comes in several languages such as Chinese, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, etc.

Disadvantages:

  • The free version is crap as the game crashes once a video ad starts playing and you lose your turn.
  • You are able to get 3 turns but you must wait for an hour for each to charge. You can buy lives (with real money) so you get 5 lives instead of 3.
  • The ad free version retails for $ 3 on the app store which is a huge amount for just a game *
  • Since the game’s questions are created by the players, the credibility and the content of questions can be compromised.
  • Suggested questions must be approved by other players who can reject if they wish so.
  • I find that the there aren’t diverse questions in the art category. It would be great to include questions on fashion, literature and the like instead of just on Renaissance painters.

The game is great if you pay for it as the app store has many customers who are complaining about it crashing in the middle due to ad. It tends to be very frustrating especially when you are winning. Other than that it is an addictive game and I enjoy playing it.

* Update : The game is currently for $0.99 for a limited time at the time of writing.

***All images are screenshots from my iPhone.