A Charmed Life


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we could be heroes

I like the idea of a hero.
So I became one.
Not by plan exactly.
Nor by donning a cape and saving lives.
It was more like a series of events – known to you and I as living – that got me believing that I had in fact become a hero.

For as long as my memory serves me (and with my elephant memory it serves me very very well), from all the way back to when I was a wee thing I have had heroes: From real figures like my grandfather who immigrated to New Zealand from Gujarat, India with nothing but hope to provide better for his family, to my selfless, educated aunt the first feminist I knew, to Madonna one of the first people I felt a kindred spirit, to my form two teacher Mr. Emmins the first person to truly see me; to those heroes who reached me through history books Elizabeth I, Frida Kahlo and Steve Biko; to the heroes who lived only in stories Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre and Anne Elliot. And so on and on it goes, this amassing of heroes as I travel through this thing called life.

As is the case with heroes, my heroes have been feted and referenced often but until recently I never questioned the need for them. It took for these divisive times for me to think about this notion of heroes, and listening to my inner dialogue I realised I had created this otherness where my heroes lived. This is I think not an uncommon thought as when we think of heroes – they are people who create, save lives, inspire, achieve, thrive, survive. We human beings are not given to consider how we ourselves create, save lives, inspire, achieve, thrive, survive in our everyday lives. But we do.

Many of my heroes have transitioned in recent years – some of whom are known Madiba, Maya Angelou, Wayne Dyer, David Bowie and Elie Wiesel and others who are known only to those of us who basked in their light –  and as I became aware of this I had this moment where fear grabbed me. The fear that there is no one to replace them. This fear led me to call a friend for perspective, she said ‘we see in a hero something we think is not in us, so what do you see in your heroes?’ And hearing this was an ‘eureka’ moment. I was so busy looking for people to emulate I overlooked why I needed heroes in the first place. What had been lacking in my childhood that made me seek out people? And why have I kept up this practice throughout my life?

Having been on a journey of self awareness the answer was plain as day. Not only did I hold my heroes in high regard, I paradoxically saw myself on a much lower shelf. And these heroes I was collecting, all these people have had just the one role to play in my life. Of his character Juan in the film Moonlight, Mahershala Ali said he was grateful he got to play ‘a gentleman who saw a young man (Chiron) folding into himself as a result of the persecution in his community and taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered, that he was okay and accept him.’
Each of my heroes throughout my life exist to uplift me, tell me I matter, that I am okay, to accept all of unique, crazy, geeky, energetic, resilient, compassionate, wonderful me.
Each of my heroes by example of their lives wills me to use my voice to live my purpose.
Each of my heroes has pushed me to be my own hero.

So could I be my own hero! Sounds rather ridiculous and self serving but I do know that my journey of self discovery from hitting rock bottom to getting back up again has been long, hard and full of sacrifice but to my betterment I am not the same person I was five years ago. I also know when I talk to my tribe they see in me my miracle but I have never given myself any credit for it. Another girlfriend has this one line she habitually says when asked for advice, ‘what would you say if it was me telling you this story?’ And when I think about my story there is a hero in there for it takes courage to change your life as I have done especially when you are surrounded by people who do not understand and choose to not join you at the finish line; but if you are fortunate to reach that finish line having become the person you were meant to be like I have, well that sounds like a hero to me.

And if I needed further proof of my heroness I found it last month at The Women’s March. To be part of this massive global consciousness, feeding off the vibrational energy of my fellow sisters and brothers as we came together to be our own heroes was one of the most empowering moments of my life so far.

So here I am – a hero or as my beloved Ms. Maya would say a SHEro, you won’t read about me in the papers or see me on the news, nor am I likely to be referenced in history books (although there is still time) but as long as I create, save lives, inspire, achieve, thrive, survive I am my own SHEro and that is plenty good enough for me. The actress Viola Davis said it best ‘the fact that we breathe means we have a story.’

Sat Nam

 And… I am a week late but has to be said Superbowl51 was hands down the best game I have ever seen. Like everyone else going into the game I thought the Patriots had it, but then three touchdowns later I had swung the Falcons way. There was NO way the Patriots could win, to do so SO many records would have to be broken. They just couldn’t but holy mother of comebacks, they bloody did. They aren’t even my team but the Patriots have got me seriously rethinking my Green Bay allegiance #TomBradyYouLegendYou  The Women’s March, oh what we can create when we try. I’m always up for a universal love in and I see more of these moments to come as we try to make sense of this new order we exist in #IWasThere #Resist #Forward  I think I fell a bit more in love with Adele after her George Michael tribute at the Grammys, it takes balls to admit a fuck up but to have that fuck up broadcast live around the world is a whole different kettle of fuck up but I just know he was there willing her on. Bravo Adele you SO didn’t mess it up for him, he would have been chuffed to bits, and bravo on the 5/5 Grammy wins, love how you always keep it real. #GottaGetUpToGetDown  Still on the Grammys bravo to our Starman for Blackstar also winning 5/5, we love you and we miss you so ♥ And finally as we watch truth being murdered by the US predator-in-chief and his foot soldiers, can we all take a moment to say thank you to the immigrants in our families. My history at least four generations back is one of immigrants – my great grandparents, grandparents, parents all immigrants and I myself am an immigrant. Each generation has sought to better their life not weaken the lives of those in their new environments. TRUTH: Communities are built on the shoulders of immigrants and WE ARE ALL BETTER FOR IT #RefugeesWelcome #WeAreAllImmigrants #OneLove


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guess who’s coming to dinner

blogA funny thing happened to me while I wrote this post. I got me some happy. You see this year so far has me in a bit of a funk and so I thought by writing something I might get my mojo back but after hours of trying to find my muse it just proved impossible in my current state of mind. So I settled on something completely trivial and guess what happened! In writing this there has been the desired lifting of spirit. Now that I’m feeling happier, today’s post –

If you could invite anyone to dinner who would you invite? Would you choose an entertainer, an intellectual or someone you could stare at dreamily across the table? I have been asked this many times and I am pretty consistent in my response, after all dream guests are dream guests for a reason. Unfortunately all my guests have transitioned so there will be no sampling of my roast chicken with creamy butternut squash and chilli in this lifetime but in a parallel universe…

At the best of times I do not preach at the altar of Oprah but where we do joyfully coexist is in our love for Maya Angelou. An angel walked on earth and her name was Maya Angelou, this is what I believe to be true. I so revere her that in all probability no one would actually get fed at this dinner because I would want to stay engulfed in her embrace the whole evening. Ms Maya came into my life when as a teen I read ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ which is an autobiographical account of the first 17 years of her life. In the years since I have voraciously read much of her work. This woman lived.

Having survived sexual abuse as a child, she would eventually become an author, poet and activist as well as a mother after having worked as a prostitute, fry cook, dancer, performer and journalist. Her participation in the civil rights movement saw her work with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and what these men never got to see – she lived to see an African American be President in the country of her birth AND not only did she live the most extraordinary life, she was blessed with the gift of storytelling… the voice, the cadence, the words, the grace when she spoke it was with her heart and her soul AND as if all this didn’t already qualify her as the perfect dinner guest, she is one classy broad, one you could easily see yourself having a glass of whisky with. I  describe myself as a lover of words, a history buff and an activist and as such Ms Maya has been an invaluable teacher to me. Oh to hear her velvety voice in person…

Then there is Queen Elizabeth I my favourite historical figure. During her reign Elizabeth was able to establish stability and economic growth in England, fashion her kingdom into a major world power, nurture the idea of nationalism and champion the arts (this was the time of Shakespeare and Marlowe). She achieved all this being a woman at a time when women were seen as weak creatures of vanity lacking in intelligence. Today the idea of feminism and equality is topic du jour but can you imagine being the Queen of England in the 16th – 17th century successfully exercising your power in a man’s world AND of course I would have to ask if was she really the Virgin Queen? Why she was if she was? If I had a court full of men at my disposal there is no way I would stay chaste. It would be such a terrible waste no?

♂ Bullish arrogant toff  – that’s how Christopher Hitchens would come across to those who first meet him and quite possibly to those who knew him too AND he would not give a monkey’s. Christopher Hitchens was not interested in playing nice and I loved him for it. I came to know him through his editorials in Vanity Fair, a magazine I have read since I was 15 years old. He taught me an invaluable lesson while I was still in my teens, he made me realise when we ingest information all we really do is take on an opinion.

I want Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the US, I base this on the information I have gathered via various channels but for every pro Hillary sound bite out there, there is an equally opposing offing and by no means do I think she is flawless I just like what I see. Christopher Hitchens was not a fan of the Clintons, of Hillary he thought her hawkish and fake and he questioned her experience, connections and the origins of her foreign donations. Here we disagreed but of Mother Theresa he offered a criticism which I have also come to believe; of her saintly image he said she was an ally of the status quo, that she wasn’t interested in eradicating poverty and that ‘her cult of death and suffering’ depended for its effect on the most vulnerable and helpless like abandoned babies or the dying who supply the occasion for charity – she needed these people to exist so she could exist as Mother Theresa.

He was an atheist, socialist, Marxist and his work helped me form a more secular view. He didn’t just spout criticisms, when he wrote it was after thorough investigation; he actually went to Calcutta and spent time with Mother Theresa and he even underwent waterboarding to prove it was indeed a form of torture. As a dinner guest no doubt he would come across as a bullish arrogant toff but one thing I know for sure is this contrarians’ contrarian would never let the conversation lag.

♀ When I was about thirteen I saw a picture of this woman; her braided hair was piled on her head  atop of which sat a crown of flowers, her piercings eyes pitch black, her lips full wearing bright red lipstick – what distinguished her from the females in my life was that she also had a distinct unibrow and a faint moustache – this image fascinated me. It was so outside my norm, it made me feel oddly haunted and within me a fire had been lit, from that moment on my burgeoning inquisitive nature knew no bounds, anything that was considered taboo or wrong no longer was. It was also the moment I fell for Frida Kahlo. Frida and her art fascinate me. I can look a painting of hers for hours trying to decipher the meaning and because her work is autobiographical it is as if by interpreting her work you are by extension interpreting her life. A life marred with continual physical and emotional pain, her art deals with the idea of beauty, sex, abortion, miscarriage, gender inequality… all issues that get people hot under the collar today, imagine what it must have been like to be a crippled woman in the first half of the 20th century in Mexico. I certainly would love to have that conversation.

Rather predictably David Bowie is my last guest. To have been in his presence… just to have had one real conversation… he is was such a man.

I wonder what my selection says about me – each of my guests is a strong intelligent charismatic individual who lived their life by their own rules – do I want to be like them or surrounded by them or both. Hmmm something for me to ponder… as for you dear reader I would love to hear about your dream dinner guests over in comments.

Sat Nam

Also in the news: Well done to Super Bowl 2016 champions the Denver Broncos and to Coldplay for a fab halftime performance – any theme that involves love I’m in – the first six minutes were mint, shame the other two had to be included though, there can never be enough of Chris Martin’s high voltage energy in my book #SB50 #WillManningRetire #BelieveinLove ♥ I had high hopes for the Syria peace talks that were meant to take place this month in Geneva and am sad that they ended so abruptly with no actual resumption date. The time wasted in bureaucracy just increases the death toll. And it is important to note not at all refugees are Syrian, many come from Africa and Asia so any resolution has to tackle the issue on a broader scale #RefugeeCrisis #GlobalCitizen ♥ Market turmoil continues, are we on the brink of another global recession? It’s a bit scary #DominoDancing ♥ and lastly a bit of a rant… so the most unique mind blowing artist of this generation dies and what does the music industry’s most prestigious award show do – roll out Rent-A-GaGa. Lady Gaga for a David Bowie tribute – are you fucking kidding me? Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. I feel so vehement about this decision I initiated albeit unknowingly a mini twitter war with her ‘monsters’ as her folk like to be called. The point is not whether she has any talent but that David Bowie was everything Gaga isn’t – he was a unicorn she is a wannabe. The Grammys have missed an opportunity here, it should have been his peers, those he loved and admired. Big Mistake. Since boycotting the Oscars has become a thing this year. I say boycott the Grammys #GagaAPoorMansBowie #GrammysSoWrong


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this kiwi girl muses about… the words of others

lovewriting
What would Gwyneth do? Not sure how this turn of phrase came about but this is a ‘thing’ on social media; and while I think she certainly knows how to rock a frock and has some very cool friends, I’m not sure I see her as an aficionado of anything in particular, but then again these things do tend to take on a life of their own in these days of twitter, instagram and the ilk.

I do often use the expression though, only depending on my mood I replace the Gwyneth bit with one of the many writers who inspire me.
You see, I like to write.
I have never really given much thought to whether I am any good at it.
I just like to write.
And it is a privilege to be spurred on by so many greats.
 
Dr. Seuss taught me that just because a word is not in the dictionary does not mean it is not a word. The art of whimsy came to me by way of Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis, not that this was a happenstance for I was born a dreamer but reading their books stretched my imagination beyond the world I was growing up in.

Jane Austen instilled in me the premise of the sisterhood and the strength which came from within that bond. Through the steely yet passionate character of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte gave me a heroine of my own sex to admire; whilst the autobiographical storytelling by Maya Angelou taught me that the heroine or rather shero I should believe in was me.

A spiritual awakening of sorts came by way of The Alchemist and more poignantly By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. These works of Paulo Coelho along with much of his work throughout the 90s resonated in my soul, even though it would still be another decade before I would consciously walk my spiritual path.

Speaking of spiritual awakening, when I read this sentence ‘Davie brightened up as the insidious comfort of the plum jam stole into his soul’ written by Lucy Maud Montgomery (in the second book of the Anne of Green Gables series), I had my first epiphany about the power of words to evoke emotion for this one sentence stole into my soul and still remains there today.

The discovery in the importance of the structure of a sentence came from the journalistic stylings of Ernest Hemingway and Joan DidionBryce Courtenay’s stories interwoven against a historical backdrop ignited my interest in history. The poetry of Paolo Neruda versed me in romance in a way Keats and Byron had failed to ignite. F. Scott Fitzerald taught me to love a narrative, Kipling gave me my love of prose, from Tolstoy I learnt perseverance and from Wilde irony. On and on it goes for many great writers have lived and still do today.

In my wildest dreams I could never wish to be as good as them nor do I aspire to be, as I said I just like to write. Sometimes though when inspiration is not forthcoming and I suffer bouts of writer’s block I call upon these maestros and say to myself what would (insert here) do? If I feel melancholy I ask what would Dickens do? If I feel a want for romance I ask what would Neruda do? And eventually from no thought comes my muse and I know in no small part that it is down to invoking the spirit of the said writer. Got to love those winks from the universe.

Sat Nam

And lastly before I leave you, I couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon, especially as it is my favourite magazine  – Caitlyn Jenner in Vanity Fair… simply stunning #yougoGIRL #BeautifulMomentinHistory


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Let’s talk about the F Word, no not that one… the other one

A scantily clad Beyoncé standing in front of a brightly lit sign that reads feminist at the recent MTV awards. Chanel’s spring/summer 2015 collection presented amongst banner-waving models shouting feminist slogans. Were these two acts meant to further the feminist cause? Or were they PR stunts staged for personal gain? I’m inclined to believe the latter for they reek of token feminism to me.

Still feminism has become the buzzword du jour. Everyone seems to need to have a stance on it and as such I find myself wondering if I am a feminist? I can honestly say I have never thought about it before. As someone who was born in the 70s I grew up familiar with the works of Simone de Beauvoir, Maya Angelou and Gloria Steinem, for a time when I was at school Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister of India and Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. I think because I stand on the shoulders of these women and countless other people, who have challenged stereotypes and worked tirelessly for me to live the privileged life I do – I take my liberties for granted. I don’t know what it is like to not be able to vote or have access to an education nor was I ever in any danger of having to experience FGM but I am acutely aware that there is much inequality in the world we live in today.

A memory comes to mind of when I was about ten years old. I’m out running with my dad and at some point trying to race him. He beats me of course but instead of feeling defeated I say something to the effect of ‘I will beat you one day.’ In that moment and for a long time afterwards I truly believed that I lost because I was little. I didn’t have the foggiest that it could also be down to the fact that men and women are different. And we are different. So while I absolutely do believe in equal rights for men and women on all levels, where I would hesitate on calling myself a feminist is that a part of me thinks women are different to men and we should celebrate these differences.

♀ Do I think a woman should change her last name after she is married? Only if she wants to.

♀ Would I watch a movie where the male lead is a superhero and the only significant female character is desperate and needy, can’t do anything for herself and who incidentally happens to have her chest plopping out of her shirt? Yes, if it was a movie that was of interest to me.

♀Do I mind participating in traditionally female tasks at home? No.

♀Would I like to see more female leaders in politics and in the workplace? Yes but only if they are best candidates for the job.

♀Do I like dressing sexy for my man? Yes.

♀Would I pay to watch a female comedian perform? Mostly likely no, I’m one of the lucky ones I reached the zenith in comedy when I saw the genius that was Robin Williams live and I doubt anyone will top that for me.

♀Is it disappointing that in this celebrity culture world we live in, when the word feminist is mentioned actual heroes like Arundhati Roy, Sheryl Sandberg, Emma Thompson, Hilary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, Annie Lennox, (or the many others who actually walk the talk) are bypassed as examples for a more popular Beyoncé? Yes.

♀Are gender roles important to society? I think traditional gender roles are more or less defunct but as mentioned before men and women are different and sometimes it is appropriate to embrace this difference so to me the concept of gender roles is still relevant just in a less black and white way.

♀Does every single women deserve equal pay, equal rights, same access to education and healthcare as their male counterparts? Absolutely yes.

♀Is there more work to be done globally to change general stereotypes, government policies, restrictions on reproductive rights and to end FGM? Unfortunately yes.

♀Am I a feminist? As one of my heroes Maya Angelou so eloquently said ‘I am a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side,’ and who am I argue with that.

Sat Nam