Friday, December 30, 2011

Labels.

I am a young woman. I am a Sikh. I am an Indian. I am an American. I am a student. I am a teacher. I am passionate. I am strong. I am weak. I am independent. I am confident. I am insecure. I am a believer. I am a dreamer. I am many things, but I am not one thing: definable.

It is human nature to organize everything around us into boxes, all tied up with neat, nice bows. After all, we are conditioned to do so.

As infants, our parents teach us to name things. They help us make sense of the chaos around us. “Mama.” “Bottle.” Each object is assigned a term.

As children, we are given pictures of objects to color and underneath each one, we are asked to name it. “Apple.” “Ball.”

In school, we are forced to swallow down books of vocabulary. Define these words. What do they mean?

By the time we reach adulthood, it’s not a surprise that our natural reflexes include assigning labels to everything we see, hear, or feel. See. Define.

After all, we are conditioned to do so.

When we are unable to assign something a label, we become frustrated. Is that person I see a man or a woman?

In the end, our seemingly innate ability, or rather need, to define everything around us incredibly limits our capacity to see the world for what it really is.

In reality, nothing fits into a nice, neat box.  Events, people, everything around us, is complex. And until we train ourselves to open up our minds, we will always be stuck in a place of limited thinking.

Limited thinking breeds negativity and stereotypes; it breeds hate. Tolerance is a product of understanding and we cannot understand what we do not consider. 

Let’s open our minds to the beautiful world with all its complexities.

Don’t label me.



(For the complete album, please visit this link)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Learning Respect

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." – Maryanne Williamson
Since it’s December, I’ve been thinking about doing a reflection piece on a lesson learned this year, but couldn't pick one to focus on. I stumbled upon this quote the other day, and it really got me thinking about a lot of the conversations that I’ve had over the past year.

And so here is my lesson learned and advice to you: love yourself; and above all, respect yourself.

I truly believe that our fear of incompetence has, time and again, prevented us from achieving greatness. But why are we more afraid of our light, our talents, and our significance? We constantly allow people to take advantage of us, and hide behind the shadows of others in the name of humility. Over time, this becomes a habit. We allow our self-image to shrink, and in return, self-respect begins to fade. Then, when people treat us badly, we accept it. We don’t challenge; we don’t refuse to be treated that way; we don’t stand up for ourselves. We just accept. And that acceptance becomes a signal to people that it’s ok to treat you badly, and the cycle continues. Often, inaction is the loudest, clearest action. But it’s time to break that cycle. Do not stand for disrespect.

Stop thinking that you’re not good enough. There is nothing wrong with you. You have incredible potential that you are completely unaware of because you are worried about your imperfections and insecurities. But it’s time to let go of self-pity. You are a person – an amazing person. Look in the mirror and tell yourself that. You will strive for greatness, and if people try to hold you back, you will let them go. You will not settle because you deserve better. You deserve the best.

Now I’m not saying become a self-involved egotistical person. I’m saying give yourself credit. You don’t want to look back on your life years from now and think, I could have done better. Do better now. And the first step is to respect yourself. Love yourself. And trust me, it will change your life in unthinkable ways.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Economics of Life : Sunk Costs

As an economics major, I can affirm the rumor that economics is more general, more theory-based, and less hands-on than the other business majors. Unlike my friends that are accounting majors, I’m not learning specific skills that I will use when I graduate. However, I’d like to think I’m learning about life. (That sounds so cliché, but it’s true!) When my professors aren’t rambling on about which economists won Nobel Prizes, I seem to be learning theories that further make sense when applied to situations we face in everyday life. Let me explain….

Theory 1: Sunk Costs

In Theory: In economics, sunk costs are simply costs that have been incurred and cannot be recovered. Economic theory teaches us that sunk costs are not relevant in decision-making. In other words, when you make a decision, you should not consider any costs that cannot be regained; only future costs should affect a decision. The reasoning behind this is that if we were to let sunk costs affect our decisions, then we are not logically evaluating that decision based on its own merits.

Purchase decisions: You buy a pair of really expensive (but really nice) shoes. Of course you’re so excited to wear them, you ignore the pain that they cause you in the beginning, thinking that you’ll wear into them. But soon enough, those pumps are doing unthinkable damage to your feet. What in the world was this shoemaker thinking? But you can’t possibly throw them out. After all, you spent last month’s rent on them. Right?
We do this all the time! It may not be shoes, but I’m sure at some point in your life you bought something that you regretted, but you felt the need to use it because you spent so much money on it.
Let’s look at the situation using the theory of sunk costs, shall we?
The purchase of your expensive (but really nice) shoes is a sunk cost. That means that the money spent on them is gone, non-refundable. So that cost, however large it may be, is now irrelevant to the decision to continue to wear the shoes. Let’s look towards the future: those beautiful shoes are killing you, and the more you wear them, the more you damage your feet. So let’s call this the utility of wearing the shoes (which is very low). On the other hand, if you stop wearing the shoes, you won’t incur extra costs, since you (hopefully) don’t own one pair of shoes, and also, your feet won’t hate you, so utility would be greater.
If we look at the situation this way, it’s pretty clear right? I mean, it’s obvious that we should stop wearing the shoes? Wrong! Too often, when faced with similar situations, we aren’t able to let go of what happened in the past. We think about how we would be losing the sunk costs (“But I spent so much money on the shoes!”) But sunk costs are not recoverable.

Relationships: We often hear about people that stay in unhealthy and unhappy relationships. And the reason is usually something along the lines of, “But when we met, he/she was such a good person…” or “Things never used to be this bad…” You know how something inside of you just wants to scream at that person? It’s because deep down inside, you know about rational decision making. You know that the past doesn’t matter if the present and the future don’t look good. And that, in essence, is the theory of sunk costs.

We’ve all heard it before: “Don’t dwell on the past.” As human beings, we can’t help but to focus on our yesterdays, because after all, our history is what defines us. What we often fail to do is focus on the future. The future holds the unknown; we fear its randomness. What we should try to realize is that by controlling the situations in our present by looking ahead instead of looking back, we can make more rational decisions (unclouded by past judgment) and in a sense have some control on our futures.

So focus on your futures. Yesterday is history, but tomorrow may not be a mystery…

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hope

“Phil, she’s on the tracks!” Someone was shaking me by the shoulders, grabbing me out of my vivid dream and lifting me into the darkness that was my home. “Phil, get the hell up!” It was Candy. I opened my eyes to find him standing over me, big white eyes staring out like flashlights from his gray being.
“What?” I asked groggily, shoving the massive watch that was wrapped around my wrist in front of my eyes, squinting to read the time. 3 o’clock in the morning.
“Phil, it’s Hope.”  Hope. I had just walked with her to her house, waited for her to cry herself to sleep. “She’s on the damn tracks. She’s not listening to nobody. Ya gotta get her off, man,” Candy said, ripping my coarse blanket off of me. I lifted myself off the cold ground that I had cushioned with some clothes that I wasn’t wearing. Candy had already started walking out of my place, disappearing into the blackness that enveloped our lives. I grabbed a flashlight from the worn cardboard box that rested near my unfinished bed. I checked to see that my sneakers were still on before I headed out of my house, which was separated from the outside by once-white sheets covering old chunks of wood that were shoved clumsily into the ground.
I walked through the debris of our subway neighborhood, trying to be careful not to step on the needles that were scattered across the ground. Cigarette butts, coffee cups, and wrappers of different colors coated the floor like confetti. I walked down to the tunnel near the tracks between the 110th street and 116th street stations, and saw her standing there.
“Hope!” I screamed. Silence. Her back was turned towards me. “Hope!” I screamed louder. This time my voice echoed through the tunnel before me. Nothing. She continued to stand there, frozen. I heard a train whistling in the distance. “Hope, there’s a damn train coming!” I shouted. She turned around on the tracks.
I could make out her face in the darkness, and as I stood there, waiting for her to react, I noticed how much she had changed. Her body was now sickly thin, and the sparkle in her eyes was replaced with despair. Anguish was written all over her pale face. This was not the Hope that came into our lives four months ago. Or rather, it was the soulless body of that Hope.
***
I remembered the day we first met her. She had made quite an impression. At first sight, I was speechless. She was eccentric, to say the least. Carrying an enormous flowery pink and yellow tote bag, she was dressed in faded blue jeans and a blinding yellow sweater with a giant sun sequined into it. “Way to pick an outfit,” Candy had whispered to me as I stared at her, wondering how she had possibly fit that huge bag into the entry hole on the outside.
“Hi,” she said, smiling wide. She had one of those odd but pleasing smiles. One of her two front teeth was missing. It was the only thing that gave her a homeless look – that and the graying hair that seemed to be falling out of her skull in chunks. There was something nervous in her big radiant green eyes, something that I couldn’t quite grasp. Pop approached her first.
“Who are ya?” he asked. His voice was muffled, but threatening nonetheless. He held a knife in his right hand, but rather than pointing it in her face, he let it hang at his side. There was no doubt in our minds that he would use it if he needed to. Pop was the oldest, and he protected us in a way. His pure white head of hair was always covered with a black woolen sweater hat, but you could tell from the wrinkles around his eyes and the white stubble that covered his pale cheeks that he was at least sixty. He came from Brooklyn four years ago, and was one of the first moles in our territory. Nobody knew why he came, and nobody dared question him. That was the thing about us moles. We all came to live in the dark to get away from the people who asked questions.
“I’m Hope,” the lady said, and stuck out her hand, as if the knife he held was a bouquet of roses and he was welcoming her to the neighborhood. Pop looked at her hand for a moment, and looked back at her face incredulously.
“You a reporter?” he asked. He had chased the last one out with that same knife. She looked confused.
“Oh, oh no,” she said, as if he had said something horrible. “I want to stay here.”
Candy chuckled and got up from his makeshift cushion of cardboard stuffed with plastic. “You crazy, lady?” he started, approaching her. Pop put his hand out, stopping him. Candy didn’t say a word after that. He just sat back down on his cushion, looking down in shame. Pop stared at the lady for a while, and after a few minutes of silent but careful deliberation, he walked away. Candy looked at me wide-eyed. He hated anything that smiled, and this woman – well, it was as if happiness radiated from her very being. The yellow sweater seemed to be glowing. Candy shook his head, grabbed his cushion, and headed down to his house. Hope looked at me nervously. I wondered what had brought her here, as opposed to the outside homeless life. She had courage though, walking into the mole life like that.
I got up. “Hi,” I said, “I’m Phil.”
Hope set up her home along the edge of the main tunnel that led to the tracks of the downtown number 6 train. By God, that house was the nicest thing I had ever seen. Instead of the worn-out white sheets that covered the majority of the houses in our neighborhood, Hope used vivid pink ones with orange polka dots printed across them. Inside, she decorated her home with pretty bright things – a beaded lamp, a quilt that she claimed she made, and a vase with real flowers. The flowers were a mystery; they were always fresh, but Hope never seemed to leave the tunnels. Some of us thought that she knew how to breathe life into things. Hope was like that – so full of life. When you were around her, you couldn’t help but think you might be able to make things right again.
 ***
Candy soon grew to like Hope, especially after she offered him one of her real nice cushions. “You know something? I knew she’d be good here, Phil. I knew she’d be good for us,” he’d tell me. “She’s something, that Hope, she’s really something.” She somehow managed to put a smile on his face. Once, he told me that he was thinking about getting out. “For real this time, Phil, I’m not playing. I’m thinking I could go find my brother, ya know? Try to start over, get a real life. Nobody wants to live in this dark hole. I mean come on, this is no place to stay for good.” It was the first time he seemed motivated to change. I asked him what had gotten into him. “This is gonna sound crazy man, but you know what? I was talking to Hope, right? And I says, ‘I wanna get outta this hellhole.’ And you know what she says? She says, ‘Why don’t you?’ and man, I realized that, man, I don’t have a God damn answer. I really don’t.” He sat down on the bright blue beaded cushion slowly, lost in thought. After a few minutes, he whispered. “Man, isn’t that weird man? Hope,” he smiled, “her name is like a weird coincidence.” Coincidence. I cringed at the word. It was an atheist’s neologism for a miracle, or some other work of God. Hope. Maybe God shoved a light into our dark lives for a purpose. It certainly grabbed hold of our attention.
***
One day, I was sitting outside my house on a makeshift chair I designed with the help of Candy, reading the Bible, when Hope came and sat by me. “Hi Phil,” she said, smiling with her missing tooth. “You know what I realized? I realized you’re the only one down here with a real name!” She giggled sweetly, clapping her hands together.
“Na, my name’s actually Joshua. They call me Phil ‘cause I’m from Philly,” I told her, and watched as she giggled again, shaking her head.
“You know, it’s not so bad here. I mean, when I first came here, I thought, this is gonna be hard. But you know what? It’s not so bad.” She was right. It’s surprising how a person can adjust to a place like this. The first night is the worst, but it always gets better after a while. I didn’t exactly want to stay here, but I had nowhere to go. I came to New York City with little money in my pocket, in hopes of finding a good job. I was mugged on 181st street on my first night. I remember falling asleep on a park bench. Within the next couple of days, I was sitting on the street, begging for money. I spent three months living on trash and spare change. Then winter hit, and I almost froze to death sitting out on the bitterly cold streets of Manhattan. That’s when I met Pop. And before I knew what was happening, I was living in a tunnel, surrounded by people just like me. We hated New York for screwing us over, and we took revenge by stealing electricity and living in a dark world where no one would dare bother us.
***
 “You have a family, Phil?” Hope asked me one day, as she helped me sweep debris out of my house. I could never seem to get rid of the remains of New Yorkers that cluttered my life. I didn’t answer, so she continued to speak. “I had a son, you know? He was such a beautiful boy. Dark brown curly hair. Kind of like yours. And he had the sweetest smile.” She stared off into the distance and continued, as if speaking to herself. “Sixteen. He ran away. That was two years ago. I tried so hard to find him, so hard. He got into drugs. It wasn’t his fault. He got mixed up with the wrong kids. My poor baby.” She was almost whispering now. After a few moments of silence, she laughed, realizing she was speaking to me. “You know, I must have spoke with every dealer in the city.” I looked at her, and wondered how she had managed that. I couldn’t imagine her, a middle-aged woman dressed in bright yellow and pink, speaking to a drug dealer as to the whereabouts of her son. And yet, she seemed to be telling the truth. “Somebody told me he came up a couple of times from the subway tunnels to buy…” her voice trailed off, and she seemed embarrassed. She was silent for a few minutes, and then she got up and left. I knew from the moment I saw her that there was something different about her. Hope wasn’t homeless; she was looking for her son.
 ***
Yesterday, my friend Tiny and I were playing cards at my place. It was almost 9 o’clock and he was saying something about going home to sleep. But he never got up, and so I kept dealing the cards. I heard Hope’s voice outside. “Phil, can I come inside?”
Tiny turned around. “Who’s that?” he asked the door of sheets.
“Ya, come in Hope.” I called to her. Hope came through the cloth, and flashed a smile to Tiny, nodding her head in acknowledgement. Tiny repeated the gesture.
“Phil, I need some help.” I was busy rearranging my hand, putting doubles together. “Phil, I think I know where he could be.” She was talking about her son. She did that a lot these days, but only with me. I think she trusted me not to say anything, or judge her son in any way. “I was talking to Rich. He said he think he seen him a few years ago down by the tunnels after 125th street.”
         “125th street?” Tiny interjected. “You don’t wanna go down to that place,” he said, shaking his head, placing a double on the table. “The moles up there are just, well, I mean they’re all shooting up drugs and stuff. Not just any drugs, either, lady, like hardcore shit. There’s people passed out everywhere; you don’t know which ones are dead.” Hope looked anxious. She took a seat. Tiny looked at his cards, smiling. I could tell right away what his hand looked like. The man didn’t know what a poker face was. “Who you looking for anyway, lady? I knew some people down there,” Tiny asked, looking up from his hand.
Hope started to describe her son. “He’s about nineteen now. He has dark curly hair, green eyes. He had an accident when he was little. Crashed his bike right into a big van. My poor baby. He walks with a limp now.”
“Oh I seen that kid. He was friends with…uh what’s his name? Rudy. Yeah, yeah, he was friends with Rudy. He came from Jersey, I think. Poor son-of-a-bitch, OD’d a few months ago. I’m telling ya, these kids were out of it all the time. Raymond or something.” Tiny said without looking up from his cards.
“Randy,” Hope whispered, her voice cracking. I looked up at her. Her eyes were wide, and she stared off into the distance. I watched as the color drained out of her face. I could’ve sworn I heard her heart thumping in her chest. She started breathing harder. I dropped my cards and ran over to her, catching her as she fell to the ground. She looked at me and shook her head. “No, no” she whispered over and over again. Tiny, realizing something was wrong, got up, nodded at me, and left. Hope’s whisper turned into screams. “No!” she cried. Her voice pierced through the darkness, and as I held her close to me, I could feel her shivering. I grabbed a jacket from my bed and wrapped it around her. She screamed for the longest time. I could do nothing for her, so I just held her in my arms and said “Shhh” every once in a while. After some time, she fell quiet, but I could still feel her tears soaking my shirt. I lifted her off my shoulder a bit, and saw that she was still screaming voicelessly from the empty hole on her distorted face. I held her until she stopped shivering.
“Hope?” I asked, wiping away the gray hair that stuck to her drenched face. She just stared off into the blackness, her eyes blank. And in that moment, it was like she was gone. Everything that Hope stood for had just disappeared. It was as if someone had reached into her and ripped her soul out, damaging her for life. I helped her get up off the ground, and slowly walked with her to her house. Laying her down on her decorated bed, I stroked her hair until she fell asleep, tears streaming down her pale face. There was a gold frame by her bedside. I picked it up and saw a young boy with dark curly hair looking back at me, smiling sweetly. He had Hope’s eyes. I realized then that he was Hope’s whole life, and with him gone, Hope was gone as well.
I got up, and started towards the polka-dotted door when I saw a bright blue vase of flowers sitting on a table made of the leftover wood I had given her. I put my fingers on the stem of a red carnation, and pulled it out. Running my thumb over the petals, I realized they were cloth-like. I slipped the fake flower back into the vase, checked to see that Hope was still asleep, and walked back to my house.
***
It was 3:15 A.M. I screamed her name as I heard the whistling of a train in the distance. Hope turned around on the tracks. A number six train was approaching. The red number was visible in the distance, just far enough for her to read it. As it came closer to her, the bright white dots grew into long beams. Spotlights. They were set on her, and as the train approached, screeching violently, they illuminated her beautiful lone body standing on the gray tracks. She opened her arms wide, as an intense rush of air sent her hair flying wildly around her. She closed her eyes and whispered his name, and for a moment, she was enveloped by heavenly brightness. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and in an instant, the train blocked the image from my sight. When the number six passed, the angel disappeared, swallowed by the radiance. I sat there staring into the tracks and said a quick prayer for her lifeless soul, as darkness descended on our lives once again– this time, for an eternity.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

You were Summer

Like cotton candy melting away
on our tongues,
and the smell of orange peels;
like the smooth shells
that lined the beach,
and lemonade;
like the carpet of dogwood petals
coating the garden,
and sun showers,
you were summer.

But summer days fade
as the seasons change,
and the night finds its way
home.

And as the shadows of autumn
settle in,
I watch as the candle
that once burned bright
begins to flicker,
threatened by the passing
of chilly breezes.

I know the flame will only live
for so long,
before it vanishes
into the cold darkness,
leaving nothing
but a spiraling trail of smoke
as I shiver,
praying for the warmth
of those summer nights.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Woman in the Sand

The translator told me that her name was Naina.

As I smiled at her, I realized that her name was quite fitting because her eyes pierced right through me as I quickly lowered my gaze.

Perhaps something inside of me did not want to see the pain.

She couldn’t have been more than thirty, but there were lines etched into her deep caramel skin, and I knew that each one told a story. Age had snatched her youth away quickly, and grief seemed to have settled into the creases that were mostly around the corners of her eyes. A few of them gave rise to a furrowed brow; there was an intent look about her.

She was carrying a large pot above her head, and I wondered why she was out here by herself. Perhaps she was lost as well.

I asked her, in broken Hindi, if she had family.

Her eyes pierced through me once again, but this time I held my gaze. I wanted to see the depths of her pain, to understand the ache that I couldn’t possibly ever know, to feel real empathy for just a moment.


She said something incomprehensible, but I was more focused on the sound of her voice; it was soft and breath-like.

The translator looked confused, and then told me that her family was in the sands.

I looked around, at the hills of sand that coated the earth for miles. There was no one in sight.

She smiled slightly, and the lines around her eyes deepened. They were all saying something that I could not hear but desperately wanted to. She grabbed at the earth, lifting grains of sand into the air and releasing them as they were caught by the wind and blew around her body, which was wrapped in a dark red shawl.

I wondered who they were and how they had died. I wondered how she had found the strength to move on alone.

There were so many questions that I wanted to ask her, but her presence had made me numb. I didn’t know this woman, and yet something inside of me shattered.

The translator asked the woman something and she pointed towards one of the ridges in the sand.

“Let’s move,” said one of the cameramen, and the crew began to walk away. I followed.

When I turned back, the woman who had given us directions was just a spec in the desert, another grain lost in the sand dunes, blurred by the heat in the air, drowned out by the voices of the wind. I closed my eyes and prayed that she would find her way home. 


(The images in the post are self-portraits. I recently began experimenting with photography as another form of art; I would love feedback!)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Mess I Am

Baby,
I can’t tell you what a mess I am;
what a lovely, impossible mess I am,
and yet somehow
you love me
irrespective of myself.

I can’t imagine why
or how
you’d ever want me
the way you do

because I’m like
lipstick on a glass,
and rain on a perfect day,

like that kind of pain
that never fades away

I’m like soap slipping
out of your hands,

like castles in the sand,
I’ll fall apart

with shatters of my heart,
and yet you don’t run away.

And I can’t imagine why,
you claim you don’t even try
to love me
the way you do;

I am blessed to have you
in my life
because in your eyes
I am beautiful

even though I tell you what a mess I am
what a lovely, impossible mess I am.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Lioness Mane

Mine is thin 
and feels like silk
and it is beautiful
when a breeze sweeps it up
and blows it around my silhouette
like ribbons twirling and dancing.

My sister’s is rough and thick
and spirals in a long braid
which winds down her spine
to her knees
and swings side to side
with every step.

I still remember when mama
would brush our hair
when we were little girls
and weave long braids
and kiss us on the foreheads
and tell us we were beautiful,
that our hair was beautiful,

that is was a gift from God.

I would always be mesmerized
by how glamorous she looked
with her black hair down,
dripping water,
and wondered why
she would always tie it
into a tight bun
when it dried,

until I started doing the same
because it just looked cleaner that way.

But now I wonder
if hair was ever meant to be obedient;

why not just let it grow free and untamed?

Because I know my Guru
saw me
like a lioness
with a long wild mane
that flies as the wind carries it about
untouched by anything
but Mother Nature

Sometimes I wear my dark mane out
and close my eyes
and feel it whirling around me
playing with the air
that carries the dust
of all my ancestors
that gave their lives
to protect this gift from God,
so that one day
I could be a princess,
with my dark long hair
as my crown.

And at those times
I can feel
the lioness
that hides
deep inside my soul

and I can’t help but wish I were stronger.


Monday, October 10, 2011

There are only three truths in life.

Lately, I’ve become a slave of logic.
It’s fascinating because it breaks everything down – all complex things become simple if-then statements. It is sensible; it is straightforward.

And lately, I’ve been wondering how truth fits into the whole scheme of everything. What is truth? Because what we often take as fact is usually just a combination of other facts; if you really dig deep and break them all down, everything collapses into nothingness. There are almost no facts; there is almost no truth.

Conclusion #1: The only truth I know is that I am alive.

I know this because I can see, taste, breathe, and think, and create. I know this because I can feel joy and pain. I know this because I can love and hurt. But these things cannot be explained. I know them to be true because all the systems in my body are working in such a way that I can feel these things. Therefore, that must mean that I am alive.

Conclusion #2: If I am alive, then I was born.

Conclusion #3: If I was born, then I will die.

That’s it. Those are all the truths I know.
It’s kind of scary how logic boils down to these three truths.

I was born. I am alive. I will die.

Given these statements, life seems oddly simple considering how complex we always make it out to be. It’s like we were snapped into existence and one day we’ll be snapped out; on and off, with some time in between. That time in between is long enough to make something of it and short enough to waste away.

I feel like there’s a trick to it though. Maybe if we make something of our lives, something unbound by the tethers of death, it will continue to survive after we’re gone. And that way, even though we will die, some part of us won’t; some part of us will live on long after.

Five days ago, Steve Jobs, a brilliant man, passed away. He may have came to these conclusions early in life, because he spent his time creating and revolutionizing technology that ensured his legacy would live on long past his years on earth. Today, I’d like to commemorate his incredible life and leave you with something he once said:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It's life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new...Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

May we all learn to follow our hearts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I'm that kind of a woman.

I’m that kind of a woman.

The kind that’s falling fast
through an hourglass
wondering when
she’s gonna find,
find that thing that makes her click; tick
tick, like the clock,
those hands are racing,
pacing,
faster,
faster now,
and these grains,
they just keep gathering,
spilling onto each other
like beautiful paint spatters,
but there’s nothing beautiful about it;
and she’s always suffocating
as she tries to make them slow down.

I’m that kind of a woman.

The kind that breathes life
and one day,
maybe,
maybe she’ll breathe for another
but until that day, she knows
she’s on this earth
just to be somebody;
but not just anybody,
somebody that’s gonna make her momma proud;
somebody that won’t change herself,
not for a man,
not for the world.

I’m that kind of a woman.

The kind that’s real;
The kind that has substance
because she knows what it feels like
to hurt
and love
and feel
and want,
want so badly.

I’m that kind of a woman.

The kind that believes in hope
and peace
and kindness
and all things good
but can’t help but wonder
why there is so much hate
in this world.

The kind that knows love
is a cure
and tries to radiate it
wherever she goes
because she knows God
lit a candle in all of us
and in that light,
He resides
so what is there to hate?


I’m that kind of a woman.

The kind that knows one day,
after all,
she will stand
on top of the world
holding the hands
of her mother,
and of all her sisters.

The kind that knows
she is beautiful
because God made her
beautiful.

I’m that kind of a woman.

The kind that is like no other
and yet she is every other woman
because in the end, she is

every kind of a woman.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Forgotten Victims of 9/11

The morning of September 11, 2001 will always be etched in my memory. I remember the whispers of the teachers as they left their rooms to listen to the radio. I remember all of my classmates being picked up by their parents, each disappearing one by one. I remember my mom crying because my dad worked in downtown Manhattan and she couldn’t get in touch with him. I remember my dad telling me that he and his coworkers saw the second plane hit from their office window; I remember trying to imagine what he must have felt that day. But I couldn’t.

About 3000 innocent people died that day. Among them were heroes who knew they were walking to their deaths, and kept on walking. Today, I remember the victims of the 9/11.

Among them, I remember the forgotten victims of 9/11.

The horrific 9/11 tragedy did not end on that September morning in 2001. It did not end when all of the families found out if their loved ones were still alive. It did not end on May 2, 2011, when a team of US Navy SEALs found and killed Osama Bin Laden. No, the violence did not end there. The hatred did not end there.

Just four days after the attacks, a man in a pick-up truck pulled up to a gas station, pulled out a gun, and shot a man five times at point blank range in what seemed to be a safe suburb in Arizona.

The victim, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was an immigrant from India. He was a Sikh. Little did he know that more than 800 victims would follow him. And they would all be targeted for the color of their skin, or for their long beards, or for the turbans on their heads. Today, I remember those 800 people as victims of 9/11. No, they were not killed on that September morning in 2001. But their deaths were a result of the hatred and the ignorance that followed.

Today I remember the life of Avtar Singh, a Sikh truck driver that was shot and told to “Go back to where [he belonged].” Today I remember Rajinder Singh Khalsa, a Sikh man who was severely beaten unconscious outside a Queens restaurant, leaving him partially blind. Today, I remember the lives of the three Sikh cab drivers that were shot to death. Today I remember the life of an elderly Sikh man who was stabbed in the neck with a steak knife in front of his two-year-old granddaughter because some man “wanted to kill a Taliban.” Today, I remember the life of the Sikh man whose body was found floating in a canal. Today I remember the three-year-old Sikh girl who had a gasoline bomb thrown at her head through a window in her home. Today I remember the life of a Sikh woman who was attacked with a knife by men shouting, “this is what you get for what you’ve done to us.” Today, I remember all the victims of the hate crimes against innocent Sikhs that started after 9/11. There are many more stories like these.

More than 800 of them. More than 800 innocent people were attacked because they “looked like terrorists”. And the unfortunate thing is, these hate crimes are still continuing today.

In March of this year, two elderly Sikh men were gunned down in California.

The 9/11 tragedy did not end on that September day in 2001, nor did it end a week later, nor a month later. No, the tragedy is still continuing today.

So today, a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11. I pray for the families that lost their loved ones. I pray that this tragedy ends. I pray for peace. God Bless.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Do you remember what love feels like?

Thoughts of you are entangled
in the ribbons of my dreams;
they unravel in my sleep
but wide awake, all I see
is my reflection
in your eyes

We’ll never make it,
never ever make it,
but I can’t help but want to drown
into your arms
over and over
again

I remember
when you’d trace the lines
on my hands
with your fingertips
and whisper my destiny;
I wish you had told me then
that you weren’t written there

Because you are
in my every breath,
and all I need
is for you
to set me free
so we can find our way
home

Do you remember what love feels like?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

With Liberty and Injustice for all?

A few months ago, my 8-year-old cousin asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  When I told him I wanted to be a lawyer, he made a disgusted face and said, “All lawyers do is get bad guys out of jail.” I couldn’t help but smile, because that’s exactly what I thought as an 8-year-old. As a child, I would have never considered being a lawyer; law always looked so corrupt. In my mind, lawyers were rich old men in suits like the man who lived across the street, and they all lied to get their money. (And as Mom always said, lying was bad.) But like they say, you can’t help who (or what) you fall in love with. And I, well, I fell pretty hard for law.

I don't know what it was exactly, but I think the first thing that attracted me to law was the way all the lawyers I met spoke about law – with romanticism, respect, and complete faith. And through them, I’ve developed a similar respect for the law, and the way it guarantees equal access to justice for all men and women, regardless of race, or color, or age, etc. But that’s what you learn in the classroom; that’s the way the law was designed. In reality, however, the application of law is far from equal.

If you dig deep down into the issue (not that you have to dig very far), you find that people wrote the law, and people have been shaped by their own biases and preconceptions. So it logically follows that these prejudices will flow through into the policies that they design, and the legislation they support.

Why, after 9/11, have the airport security screening policies of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) evolved to promote racial and religious profiling against men and women who wear turbans? When people standing in line at airport security constantly see people that wear turbans go through mandatory tertiary screening, a negative stereotype is created, and profiling by the federal government is just reinforcing that negative image.

Why aren’t there laws accommodating articles of faith in places like schools, courtrooms, and other public places? By denying access to courtrooms, men and women are being denied their constitutional rights of due process, and basic rights such as free exercise of religion.

Why is Hungary so close to passing a Religion Law that will contradict all European Court of Human Rights decisions by essentially de-registering three hundred minority faiths from status as religious organizations, subjecting all members of minority faiths to a possible ban on their religious freedom and a rejection of religious rights solely based on discrimination?

How can laws promote discrimination and inequality? Wasn’t the law meant to prevent injustice?

I can’t help but think that my 8-year-old cousin was onto something when he scrunched his nose at the mention of law. The law, as beautiful as it is, has a nasty underbelly. People will always scrunch their noses at the mention of law for as long as there are corrupt people in this world, but I won’t give people the chance to scrunch their noses at me. All I know is that I’m not going to be one of those rich old ladies who lie to get all their money. All I hope is that I can be part of the effort to attack the law’s underbelly and stand up for the little guy, because in the end, the law was meant to provide justice for all.