Life is a climb through rough terrain or a serene journey on a flowing river. It's an obstruction run in one phase and a quiet walk by a lake in another. It sinks to the bottom of the well one season and reaches the highest peak in a new one. Life carries on with joy and love of others but the constant reminder that nothing is forever leaves us feeling alone. This blog is to share stories of the lives of characters I have developed while contemplating on life's great journey.
The world today seems to have exploded
with biases. But, then again, it probably always was that way, just not
advertised as much. With the advent of mass media, alternate ways of decimating
viewpoints, the information overload is twirling people’s mind, questioning
their own biases.
All the arguments discussed in public
via Facebook or on CNN panel, each side push their agenda, each side make sense
to many after a while and then everything becomes noise. Right or wrong become
The thing is that humans are born with
biases, adopt a label or two and even some sort of stereotypes. We become hard
wired with our opinions in all sorts of issues. The biggest discussion that
hurts my heart the most is the biases based on gender and race.
Based on our innate nature, we label
people and interact according to the label we have attached to them. When a
girl or boy child is born to a couple, she or he is nurtured based on societal gender
norms. Selective colors and toys these children are made to associate with and
a definition of their place in society is affixed, allowing for even more
labels to be attached and stereotypes formed.
Gender fluidity, on the other hand sets
the stage for that child to grow up as an individual, a human being who can go
down a path based on her or his innate qualities. When we take the labeling and
as a result, stereotypes out, we are allowing a human being to be a good
citizen of the world. That world citizen is then free and able to carve a path
for her or his self on their, and ultimately, the human race’s success.
Same thing applies to biases on Race.
Seeing a woman in a headscarf, a person of a different skin tone or an
individual with ethnic features leads to a mental block. Most of us do not
attempt to look behind the curtain of whatever label we have stamped on them
from face value. We have already made up our mind on that individual before
even saying hello.
Bringing it down to a more “ordinary”
level, we apply labels to everybody we interact with. Seeing a woman at the
mall wearing trendy clothes and high heels, we classify her as an upper-class
snob. When we see a teenager with a hoody coming our way down the path in the
neighborhood, we immediately cross the street. Or in the case of the woman who
comes to clean your house or man who comes to mow your lawn, we form an opinion
that she and he is uneducated, whereas they may be a Master’s degree holder in
the country of their origin and have figured out that there’s more money in
running their own business cleaning or mowing than in working for a company as
an underpaid employee because of their inability to converse in the language of
their adopted country. To state the
cliché, we are judging these books by their cover and labeling our biases
We, as a human race, need to scratch the
surface, go beyond and meet eye to eye every individual at a human level. We
need to empty our minds and become open to discovery. Allow our biases to
recede and flow away as we introduce fluidity of an open mind. Instead of
having heated discussion or arguing over whether men are better than women or
vice versa, acknowledge that each gender is different and complimentary to each
other. We are pieces of a large, grand design puzzle who fit together to make a
whole. This mindset will help us take away the question of gender and race all
together and allow an individual to be. Just Be.
In the tiny apartment, Maya sat uncomfortably on the gray
leather sofa, her one suitcase by her side. She waited for her husband to
return from his foray, wherever he had gone off to after dumping her at the
apartment. She looked at the walls around her, decorated with large art pieces.
Images of wildfire in a forest, or flames rising from the roof of a house.
Drops of sweat beads began to form on her forehead as she sat surrounded by intense
scenes in the small space. Her breath became short and her throat suddenly felt
dry. She made her way to the kitchen to get some water. Just at the last of the
last of her sips trickled down her throat, she heard the door open. Her husband
staggered in and seeing her standing in the kitchen he momentarily showed a
look of surprise, as of he’d forgotten who she was. He stumbled into the living
room and slumped onto the sofa. As if suddenly remembering who she was, he
ordered her to serve him a drink.
Maya rummaged through the cabinets in the kitchen and found
a bottle of rum. She anxiously poured some in the glass and brought it to her
husband. He took it roughly from her hands and before he could take a sip,
passed out on the sofa spilling the drink she had just handed him all over his
shirt, the sofa, and the carpet. The glass rolled down the soft carpet without
breaking, but empty of its contents.
The next day Maya’s husband raped her. Unsure of what to do
after he had passed out, Maya had retired to the bedroom and had drifted off at
dawn after a tearful night. She woke with her husband’s hand on her arm in a
tight grasp. He grabbed her roughly and pulled her to him. She screamed in
shock and got a slap on her cheek in response. Her lip bled from while her
reddened ears pulsated with pain. It was over as soon as it had started,
leaving her in pain and her heart bleeding.
Days became weeks turning to months and Maya saw no way out.
He came and went as he please, expecting food and drink when he was home. Fear
gripped Maya and she performed to his bidding. In the first week she had
contemplated running away, but where would she go? Surely not to her aunt,
whose life would become hell if Maya went into her life again. In any case, her
uncle would send her back or call her husband. She had no one and nowhere. Her
current life offered her shelter and if she didn’t offend him in any way, her
life was normal.
He was rough in the bedroom but she closed her eyes during those
times and let her mind travel to the images of her parents. Even in those
vision she often was haunted by the blood ridden shirt of her father or the
heart wrenching scream of her mother. Those nights she stayed up late plotting
her escape while her husband snored next to her. Sometimes she reflected on her
life and its meaning. She thought of the downward spiral it had taken since the
tragic passing of her parents. The ten years at her aunt’s place were not ideal
but at least she had the freedom to go to school and the love of her aunt who also
shielded her from her uncle’s wrath, absorbing all his blows herself.
She thought about the violence that shaped the direction of
her life and continued to do so. She was weakened, her spirit broken, she felt
abandoned by her parents to face the cruel world alone. Her tearless eyes
cried, her soul felt sorry for herself, her head fell in her palms, dejected.
Suddenly, her head jerked up, her dark, pupils dilated shifting from left and
right, as if she was possessed. Maya stood up and in the darkness felt her way
to the door.
Out on the street, a blast of cool air slapped her as she
stepped onto the sidewalk. Defying the blast, she walked head on, letting her
dark hair sway in its disheveled state. She picked up pace as her bare feet
jogged across the cool ground.
Blind with tears, the salty liquid she hadn’t felt since
childhood, Maya ran on and on. The street was empty and she continued running,
toward a bright light, the beacon of hope at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
Maya opened her eyes to see whiteness greet her. A bright,
white light shone high above and she was mesmerized by its glow. She felt a
presence by her side, but couldn’t see its form. She felt an immense presence
of love, as if it were a solid thing that nestled her within, just like her
mother had held her on their last, fateful day together. Maya realized she was
not alone, that her parents and countless other forms who cared for her, loved
her, they all surrounded her. She was free at last.
One week after her birthday a young man came to the house
for dinner with her uncle. Aunt and niece prepared a hasty meal and visited
with their guest, who charmed the ladies. After he left, Maya’s uncle announced
that the wedding will be in a month. With that Maya’s fate was sealed. The
wedding was simple with only two guests in attendance – Maya’s aunt and uncle.
The groom either had no family or chose not to invite them. Her aunt stood next
to her through the quick ceremony, her head lowered as if she was afraid to
meet her niece’s eyes.
Maya followed her new husband to his apartment in the city,
100 miles from her only living relative. The car ride was smooth and silent.
From the corner of her eyes in the passenger seat, she studied her husband. He
was handsome in an odd way with point nose, sharp chin and a prominent Adams
apple. In profile he appeared to be a man with sharp edges and defined
contours. What brought all his facial contours together into a handsome face
were his dark, dark eyes under long, feminine lashes. With perfectly timed
blinks, his look charmed his companions. She was mesmerized under his look, but
his silence contradicted his warm eyes. She watched the wildflowers whizz by
and admired the cloudless sky that smiled down at her.
Maya sat on her aunt and uncle’s porch in a rattan armchair.
She stroked the red velvet fabric of a tiny box on her lap, a gift for her 18th
birthday from her aunt and uncle, well mostly aunt. She let the seconds pass, a
firm grasp on the soft box, until she allowed her fingers to unhook the latch
and open. Inside, she found an exquisite set, an arrangement of diamonds and
emeralds on a necklace with matching, teardrop earrings. Tucked under the
sparkling lace, she found a note. Her aunt wrote that the set belonged to
Maya’s mother and she had loaned it to her. Maya picked up the delicate piece,
lacing it in her fingers as she brought it closer to her face. She smelled the
arrangement, as if hoping to pick up any lingering scent of her mother. But a
whiff of mangoes from the neighbor’s porch mudded her fantasy and she travelled
back to ten years ago. She tried many times to conjure up memories of her
parents, the happy years, but her mind never travelled past the day her life
altered forever. She couldn’t see past the blood splatter or feel beyond the
sticky liquid as her parents’ faces faded from her memory and numbness assailed
her heart. Even tears abandoned her as her crying eyes remained dry. In these
moments, desperate for tears, she felt her body stiffen and for several hours
she lost blood circulation in three of her fingers of her left hand. It always
returned to normal eventually, but she struggled to bring back feeling to her
Maya tried to evoke memories of the past decade, the years
in her aunts home, but there again she failed. A fog had taken hold of her. She
feared everything – her uncle’s loud voice, losing her aunt and even the train
that whistled past behind their house several times a day. She constantly felt
obligated to her uncle, for taking her in even though she could sense his
annoyance with her presence. Maya was quite sure that he didn’t know about the
necklace, otherwise it would have been sold years ago. Maya also lived with
perpetual guilt – for surviving while her parent perished, her mother taking
the bullet and Maya escaping it. Her guilt extended to her aunt, who fought
with her husband daily to protect her niece and suffered his wrath alone. His
anger boomed through their bedroom nightly and Maya noticed a new purple mark
on her aunt to outshine the fading ones. Maya chose to drift through her
tearless, finger numbing fog as the decade passed. to be continued...
Frogs and cicadas colored the darkness with their music.
Maya sat on the swing on her porch, its squeaky staccato interrupting the
music of the darkness. She swung her short legs and swayed her body back and
forth to move faster. Her mother seated in a rattan chair next to her told her
to slow down, but Maya ignored her. She started a chant of the song she had
heard on the radio earlier that day, repeating the one line she knew, as if a
broken record needle, until it drove her mother to yell out, “Can’t you just be
still for a minute?” Maya stopped the singing and swinging, looked at her
mother and asked after her father. “He’ll be home shortly”, she responded as
she checked her wrist watch.
Just then her father’s car pulled up onto the driveway and
Maya jumped off her swing. When he got out of the car Maya stood in her place.
He was not alone. His hair was disheveled, a shirt tail untucked and his hands
held up to his shoulders, palm facing front, arms bent at the elbow.
Her mother grabbed Maya and enclosed her in her arms, as if
they were chain links to protect her within. Maya stared at the strange men who
were shoving their father from the back to move forward. Her father straggled
up the porch, mumbling, “Don’t hurt them” over and over. All three shuffled
indoors as the strange men followed close behind. A whiff of mangoes swam past
her nostrils as the bigger of the two men ran up the stairs. The smaller man
directed them to sit down on the floor in their foyer. Her mother burrowed her within
her folds, as a Kangaroo does to her young, with Maya’s tiny head sticking out
just enough to watch the scene unfold.
Maya noticed the shiny object the ugly man pointed at them
with an uglier hand scarred with burn marks. His other hand remained in his pant
pocket. His voice was raspy, as if it was a great strain for him to talk. The
man from upstairs shouted, demanding to know where the jewelry was. Her mother
said that there was nothing. He came down mad and yelled that they better not
be lying. He threatened to shoot them all. Her father swore they were telling
the truth, just like he had tried to tell them in the car, that they didn’t
keep any valuables at home. Now the ugly man got mad and pointed his gun to her
Maya shut her eyes tight as the shrill of sirens pealed
through their open window. In the midst of all that, she felt her house
reverberate with the man yelling, her father shouting at the man, “go ahead, do
it” and just as he did it, her mother let out a piercing scream. Maya opened
her eyes, but nestled deeper into her mother’s bosom trying to cover her ears
as she inhaled her mother’s familiar scent. Her eyes took in the bright red
splatter on her father’s wrinkled, white shirt, and the ringing in her ears wouldn’t
go away. And then another bang. She felt
sticky liquid trickle down her back as her mother sat limp continuing to hold
Maya in her grasp. Maya’s eyes were now looking down the dark hole of a gun
barrel and she waited for another bang. Refusing to lose her eyes, she stared
right into the eyes of the gunman. His scarred eyelids blinked, hesitating for
a second. That second is all she needed as just then another blast and her eyes
Maya felt no pain, no sticky liquid oozing out of her body.
She looked up at the ugly man and saw his eyes roll to the back of his head
before his legs gave way. He stumbled to the floor, his gun dropping beside
him. The big man tried to run up the stairs to escape the uniformed man behind
him, but they caught him by his legs and he stumbled down.
Our dear Jazz spent almost 10 short years with us of
playfulness. What was his purpose?
He taught us to take long walks and to notice all that
surrounds us. We began to appreciate nature, learned to capture its beauty with
our camera and became one with our earth. We sniffed the fresh morning breeze
or the dense afternoon air which carried fragrances of the new blooms or stench
of decomposing roadkill or passing car exhaust. We heard the cardinals sing and
owls hoot as we walked through the woods or neighborhoods, because of Jazz.
He disciplined us to step outside, go on regular walks,
rain or shine. We began to appreciate the raindrops and hopped, skipped and jumped
over puddles. We trudged through deep snow or admired our paw prints in the
fresh dust of snowy path. We soaked in the scorching heat as the high noon Sun
flared and glared down at us shining us from inside. We felt the breeze caress
our skin and flow through our hair as it embraced us with its cooling and
Thanks to Jazz, we stopped to marvel at the dew drops on
grass blades or droplets frozen in midair as they hung like jewels from the
maple. We revered the morning frost as it dusted its soft white elegance on
green and yellow lawns. Our respect for black ice and large frozen chunks of
ice sheets on the walkways helped us look at its beauty beyond its threatening
danger of the chilling fall.
Jazz’s desire to stop and sniff at every bush or tree, a
fallen object of unusual shape and size allowed our eyes to notice all that we
would have passed by without a thought. We would have missed the beauty of fire
ant colonies in their perfect shaped mounds, the speed of the albino squirrel
as it scurried up the tree, or even an empty plastic water bottle on the
sidewalk that Jazz chose to pick up and carry between his teeth to bring it
home so we could place it in the recycling tub. He found fallen twigs and
branches, short and long, and carried them home as if to build a nest.
His pure joy and elegance in the thrill of the chase,
whether he was chasing bunnies or was playing being chased by another dog at
the dog park, taught us to be free of inhibitions and run for the thrill of it.
His prance and frolic gave us courage to follow his cue as we paraded through
the streets with our pride and joy that was Jazz.
I take a big long stretch every morning before stepping out
of bed and I learned that from Jazz. Every cell in my body is awake and
energized with this stretch and I’m ready to face a new day refreshed, even if
it is a day without Jazz.
A year has gone by without his presence in his physical
form, but we know he is stardust and has mingled with our surrounding. He is
with us, around us and continues to serve his purpose of reminding us to stay
on the path of living for the day and appreciate the little things in life. He
taught us to use each and every sense that our body is gifted with and to wake
the inner sense that is elusive and enigmatic.
Thank you Jazz for your wonderful 10 years with us and I
know you are now helping others learn the same in a variant form, yet continue
to be with us in the form of some of your particles.
In memory of our dearest friend on this 1 year anniversary (March
4th) when his body ceased to be in the form we recognize him. Our
love to you for always and beyond.