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The Concept of Other – Pt 2.

9 Dec

The whole concept of “other” is strange to me. Being “Foreign”, “Alien” “Different” has negative connotations and represents fear of the unknown.
When I was a child, I didn’t “fit in” with the boys rough and tumble in the playground. I didn’t feel comfortable with the gender role created for us – boys in blue play football, girls in pink play with dolls. I wanted to play with dolls. I was “different”
With my friends in secondary school, I felt excluded. It was a multicultural, mixed faith comprehensive school. I identified as Asian, but not Asian enough.
With my Pakistani Muslim peers, I wasn’t either Pakistani or Muslim enough. I was more “Punjabi” because I wasn’t from the Mirpur and I didn’t speak the native language.
With my Sikh and Hindu friends, who stated their families originated from India, in particular from the Punjab, I wasn’t a true “Punjabi” as I was neither Sikh nor Hindu. I was “different”.
My identity seemed mixed up, like a mongrel ready to be put down.
Within my own family, i couldn’t quite connect with my brothers, who seemed to mock me whenever they had the chance. I was slow and dim witted, a loner and isolated in my own world. I was “different” and on the peripherals of the brotherly dynamics, hardly ever included in the socialisation of siblings, although the rivalry fell with abundance. A machismo world full of masculinity and hormones, Friday and Saturday night was club night and I stayed at home. I didn’t “fit in”.
i didn’t fit in because I didn’t talk sports, sex or state “She’s fit!”
I didn’t fall into the category of heteronormativity.
I laid the blame at my asexuality.
When I explored my sexuality, visited several pubs and clubs, opened my eyes to the world of homosexuality, I didn’t fit in. I had no label to hold my name. I wasn’t a “type” that could fit in. Not an otter, bear or whatever label is fashionable. I had no boxes to “fit in”
My religiosity was hidden. No prayers 5 times a day, or a pilgrimage to hajj. I didn’t show my faith, so couldn’t possibly be Muslim. I didn’t “fit in” like birds of a feather. Although i have read the Qur’an and the Bible and carry my own moral compass, worked with the most vulnerable in society, the poor and the needy, provide to charity in my own way. The colour of my skin highlights my heritage and origins, but when I speak, my voice is clear (as if you can’t be one colour and sound like another)
I’ve been told even my voice is “different” – a hybrid of London, Birmingham, with a slight twang of “theatrics” thrown in.
Am i from the North or the South? I am neither. My voice and accent is just part of me and who I am.
I met my partner who doesn’t say “You’re different”.
He knows who I am and loves me for who I am.
Our hearts, minds and spirits transcend the superficial world of “you don’t fit in”. We are so different, yet similar. We are chalk and cheese, like two worlds colliding. Yet we fit so well together.
We acknowledge and recognise that acceptance of others is key to moving forward.
I recognise we all have issues, stresses and factors that shape us. We all have identities which are unique.
Our DNA tells us we are unique individuals.
All our identities are multifaceted.

Did you know in the late 1940s and 1950s, the sci-fi movies created in America at the time were a part of a political propaganda, at a time when Americans felt they were being “invaded” by other countries, and policies, especially in relation to communism? and isn’t it ironic that here in the 21st century, USA is pedalling more Superhero/sci fi movies than ever before at a time when there is a global crisis, a fear of the unknown and countries being “flooded” with immigrants ?? Just think about that for one moment.

We fear the unknown, yet we say we love the “uniqueness” of individuals and to celebrate our “differences”.
In todays world, there is so much division, we can’t just focus on the differences and ignore all the similarities.
As in my relationship, It’s the similarities which bonds us together.

The Best Gift is this White Chocolate & Lemon curd cake

11 Mar

The best gift is one that is made by hand, with love, affection and attention. It doesn’t have to be perfect or made by the professional hands of an expert. It just has to appeal to the five senses…and I know that the best gift for me was the handmade, home baked white chocolate and lemon curd cake which my partner baked for me on my recently celebrated 43rd birthday. It was simple, tasted delicious and ticked all the right boxes.

It was the best gift I could wish for…

The Learned Kat

MOTHER’S DAY

I would normally spend the day with my mother, but since she is no longer with us, I decided to bake a Victoria sponge cake and share it with a close female friend, a mother of two grown-up children. We enjoyed it with a nice cup of tea, after her home cooked Sunday roast.

I also wrote this poem:

Mother’s Day is here
bringing good cheer
and the memories of Lost Ones live on…
Some mothers are near
and others are far
Devotion and care they are always there
so cherish them, my dears
and be thankful for having your mum
So, embrace mums, not just today, but everyday
Men – even the wife!
Be Thankful for the mum in your life.
Happy Mother’s Day xx
The Ultimate Best Gift? A Mother’s Love

The Learned Kat

Mothering Sunday: Remembrance Day

5 Mar

With Mothers Day approaching on Sunday, I decided to visit my parents resting place this morning instead. From my local florist, I purchased several bunches of daffodils and remarked to the gentleman behind the counter how I admired his window display. I then waited longer than necessary for the usual Number 11 bus and was aware that time was ticking by. I was becoming impatient and irritated by the traffic congestion and all the buses which sped past except the one I needed. It was delayed and once it did arrive, the driver did not offer any explanation or apology. On boarding, I finally managed to find a seat upstairs. Having to alight and wait for another bus just added to my anxieties and dread.

At the approach of the cemetery, the sun was casting a warm light on me, I looked out of the window of my eyes and watched the world pass by. As I walked into the cemetery and walked up towards the plot of land in which my parents are buried, side by side, I looked at the surrounding headstones, marble gravestones and the amount of graves that covered the lush green area of peace and tranquillity. I walked and words wafted through my mind. I placed on the grave without a head stone, two cards which I thought were suitable for the occasion. One, a regular Mother’s Day card and the other, a printed “In Memoriam” verse written on a plastic card. I placed the daffodils in the urns which were now embedded in the earth. I stood still and the words grew stronger, repeating and repeating again. I shed a tear and the words would not leave me alone. I sat down on a wooden bench and started to write the words which haunted my thoughts. Bereft of pen and paper, as well as my very supportive parents, I entered words on my mobile as a text message in case I forgot and sent them to myself.  Here are those words:

So many lives loved

So many souls lost

And my heart leapt in expectation

my breath stopped in anticipation

and the daffodils wept for liberation

as the numbers marked on your grave lost momentum.

My mind went blank in desperation

Think I’m losing my faith or is it depression?

My life lingers on without your devotion

Children and parents

A bond never broken

Gravestones and Angels lie out in the open

Dreams and Wishes left unspoken…

Walking in the sunshine

words racing through my mind

A parents face keeps appearing all the time

A little boy lost in an adult vessel

A woman weeping at the graveside trestle

A Special Person knows no bounds

Whether love is lost or underground.

The Learned Kat

February is the month that can be Friend or Foe

1 Mar

Phew! A big sigh of relief…

I’m glad to see that February is now officially over. Not only is it a depressing month weather-wise, but it’s mentally draining for me too. I mean, it didn’t use to bother me, weather, but over the last 5 years, February has become a time to dwell on death, dying and remembrance.

As I said in a previous post, my father passed away in February 2008. He was 79.

But what I didn’t mention that my beloved mum passed away two years later on Friday 5 February at the age of 71.  I know the medical reasons for her passing but I like to think that she died of a broken heart. I know it’s difficult to imagine or live your life without your loved one. My parents were together for 54 years. Like most relationships, theirs was an emotional rollercoaster, with all of life’s ups and downs, highs and lows.

When dad passed away, I know my mum would pine for him in her own way and say that, however he appeared to others, good or bad, he was her life, husband and soulmate. She didn’t know any other. She had no wish or desire to. Mum was very young when they married. Dad was 10 years older…She didn’t want a life on her own. She didn’t want to be left alone. My Mum used to say that she dreamed about him every night, could hear his voice calling or could feel his presence in her room. When she didn’t receive any of those signs or feelings, she used to get upset or disheartened and ask why or what have I done to deserve this? Why had he deserted her? But there were other times when she would say that she spoke to dad in her thoughts at night, or pray to him and hope he would answer her prayers. She would pray that he would come and take her away. She would say that she was waiting for him or she would soon join him and looked forward to that day when they would be together again…

The days when my parents were alive spin around in my head, and it’s hard to shake off…I have my memories and they can either put me at ease or trigger off tears…

I dread the month of February now. Maybe ‘dread’ is too strong a word but I don’t feel so much ‘alive’ or ‘passionate’ about it as much as I used to. Maybe I’m just full of anxiety. I used to look forward to it because it used to mean Valentine’s Day was here (I know it’s overtly commercial and a monetary issue) and it was a month away from my birthday.

So, one of the days at the beginning of February is an anniversary, mid-February is a “pretend all is good and well in my life’ day, with me sharing cards and a meal with my partner and trying to make it a good a day as possible, and then I have noticed or become more aware that I tend to drop into a slight depression or develop morbid thoughts when considering that another anniversary is due at the end of the month. Not only that, but with my birthday approaching, another celebration that I used to enjoy very much, which I know is a sign that I am getting older although I still feel young, it makes me very much aware that I am spending more years away from my parents when they were alive and losing sight of how things used to be.

Every year, since my parents passed away, I say I will try and fix it, try and change or reimagine my life or daily ritual in a different way. But every year, without fail, no matter what I say or do, February remains  the month of strong emotions, significant life events or the month I lost my parents. Nothing will ever change that. Nothing will bring them back. All I know is that my life HAS to go on and I shall cherish and remember my parents forever.

Death comes to everyone. We know that. But the life we lead, the moments we share with loved ones, store them and hold them, make the most of the days you have with your parents. As they grow older, they might become sick, frail, infirm, argumentative, or if they are of another age or generation, you might clash over issues like teenage rebellion, parenting, diets, job or college choices…I’ve heard some people say  I wish my parents were dead or out of my life or my mum/dad is a bitch/bastard/ evil etc. I look at them and think, you wish them gone, and if you knew what destruction it brings, the dischord within siblings or family life, the major feelings of loss and disorientation, the constant “what if’s and If only…”, the scenes played over and over again over the years, images and flashbacks, triggers and stimuli that wash over you for no apparent reason, the yearning and comfort required, the “I wished I paid more attention to mum’s recipe or wish I’d written that recipe down or I should’ve gone with dad to New York or India or to that party…”. The regrets, the pain and the heartache is unbearable and sometimes without justification.

Grief and bereavement knows no bounds.

I would do anything to have my parents back. I would want them back, tell them that I loved them everyday and pay more attention to what they said  to me.

I miss my parents and even now, as I type, dislike/despise/hate the month of February  for being the month which took my parents away.

 

The Learned Kat

Word press & Me: Why I’ll never be Freshly Pressed.

28 Feb

I started blogging because I thought I had a lot to say.  I used to write quite a bit on Facebook . not that often but when I did, my status update always used to receive a verbal response from friends and others. You have so much to say for yourself, especially the reviews about the books you read and the films you watch, why don’t you write a blog instead?  or they said you seem to have an opinion on everything, you need to channel your energies on a  book or something.

So I thought long and hard about my opinions and views that I store in my mind and vocalise with close ones or people who know me well and the idea of  sharing that personal information in a blog. It’s not like  Facebook where you can choose who you want to add as a friend. Someone mentioned WordPress amongst other free blogging websites, and I decided to do a bit of research before settling on WordPress. I chose it because the format, and style appeared to be easy to navigate. Then, with bated breath, I typed my first post. Not knowing what to expect or what to do next. Then, I just started typing and waited to see if I received any comments, responses or likes. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed when I received some comments and “likes”. I appreciated the feedback.

Then, I started to read other blogs on this website and some blogs I disregarded and others caught my interest. Then, I started to read and analyse the other blogs, the style of writing, the content, the descriptions, the feelings evoked . I started to look at the photos, how they were being used and  the impressions they left on me. I looked at the categories and tags used and how some articles or posts were “Freshly Pressed”. Posts which were or are chosen for FP tend to be witty, original, creatively  written in ways that I would never thought possible, inspirational and innovative. It made me think that maybe my style of writing is staid, linear and slightly old fashioned. I don’t think I could compete or compare myself to writing styles which appear to be more fresh, and place a different slant or perspective on life events.

I know I’ll never get freshly pressed or receive many “likes” or comments. But I have found that I do enjoy the writing processes, which I find therapeutic and  almost addictive. I find that when something happens or I have something on my mind, recording it all here makes it seem as if I am talking to a close friend or maybe even a Counsellor. I’m also picking up ideas and finding ways to be more discerning with what I write and share. I find blogging enjoyable and for now, fills a void and hopefully, with time, it will enable me to hone my skills and be able to write more freely, and concisely.

I find that I tend to write when my other half goes to bed and I can be sitting up until 2am writing. Just me and my laptop. Sometimes, I have the television switched on in the background. Other times it’s a distraction. But once it is switched off,  all I hear is the hum of the machine on my lap and the ticking of the clock on the wall. I don’t know about other bloggers, but it can take me ages to think about what to write or how to write what I’ve got to say. But then, that’s why the blogging world is full of creative, thoughtful, individuals or writers established, published or otherwise. Blogging is a platform for speakers of the 21st Century, another form of the chattering classes.

I just hope I can keep up the momentum in the long term and remain motivated to write, share and express myself as freely as I can without giving up the notion that my voice will not be heard as I realise that it’s very much part of  culture today to have a blog.  You can start a blog with good intentions but sometimes you can be either too overwhelmed with life in general or just give up on the interest as it’s deemed to be “just another piece of technological communication, alongside other forms of social media”. I intend to keep writing, either here as a blog or on a Word Document.

Hypothetically speaking, I think all bloggers hope to become published or established writers one day, don’t we? If not, why are we here? But it doesn’t matter. After all, if you’ve got something to say, say it or share it with others. You’re bound to come up smelling of roses one day, won’t you?

The Learned Kat

I am not my father but…

26 Feb

Today is a significant day for me. It is the fifth anniversary since my dad passed away. It is five years ago to the day that I received the call from my brother which changed my life. The day before, I had just started a new job as a Daycentre Manager for Older Adults with dementia. I had explained to my new staff team that I was expecting the imminent call to tell me that dad was no more. How do you know? they had asked. I can feel and sense death I said. I’d felt it for months. I predicted what would happen and told my friends that he’d either pass away the first or second day of me starting my new job. People wouldn’t believe me and thought I was being overtly dramatic.

On that day, Tuesday 26 February 2008, I woke up, went to work and within 10 minutes of my arrival, my brother called and told me not to rush!! I was in the taxi and on my way to the hospital when he spoke to me. I remember it all as clearly as if it was yesterday. The whole family met up at hospital. My main concern was mum and how she would cope. The reality of it all is, she didn’t. She was a broken woman and she just drifted through each passing day…

I was so angry, lost and emotionally mixed, I wrote a novella. It described my relationship with my dad and the associated memories I had growing up, intermingled with the events of the day of his funeral, the trauma and emotional aftermath that followed and how we attempted to pick up the debris of our shattered lives in the week that followed. It helped me cope with my grieving processes. It was incredibly cathartic at that time…

But now, five years later, I am not stronger. I am not feeling better for it. The saying “Time heals” is not necessarily true. It’s not time that heals. It’s the fact that I have to try and be practical and “get on with my own life” because if I did not, I’d probably end up having a breakdown of some sorts. There is work, bills and mortgage to pay, meals to prepare and cook, there are loved ones around me, friendships that I relied or depended on, and everyday tasks that we take for granted, have to be carried out. I know death affects people in many different ways. I know some people either receive counselling, or turn to other forms of “escape” like alcohol or drugs, some choose to withdraw from society. Others do end up having psychiatric care, treatment and therapy to help deal with their loss or manage their grief.

My way of coping was to write. And once I started to write, I couldn’t stop until all was out of my system. There were times when I sat on the train journey home from work and wrote notes in my diary. There were times when I wept silently. There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed but I did because I had to work, and went to work to help me through the days. I created my own distractions and coping mechanisms. There were days when I would see or hear a word and it’ll get me all worked up, grief would wash over me like a wave and I would feel myself choking. There were days when I would be walking around and suddenly, I would see a man who would remind me of dad, an apparition that would stop me in my tracks, my heart leaping and a sharp intake of deep breath… An image or part of clothing would remind me of dad, a trilby, a Crombie coat, a white nylon shirt or beige trousers… even going into a charity shop would trigger things he would say, do or the memory of the items he would purchase and bring home. At the time, I would say they were tat but he would insist it might be worth keeping as a valuable item one day…

There are or were many things that used to irate or annoy me about dad. But now, years since he passed away, I find myself doing those exact same things. When I was growing up he would do the following:
1. He used to watch old movies and comment on the stage sets, costume and design which I thought was an intrusion of my viewing. Now, I find myself doing the same.
2. He used to visit charity shops, purchase items that might come in handy one day or clothes that he might wear one day, He never got around to doing either. I find myself sharing the same habit.
3. He used to write in the early hours of the morning, which sometimes annoyed my mother. Here I am sharing and replicating the same pattern and passion.
4. He used to try and create new South Asian curry dishes. He succeeded in creating over 1,000. I find I enjoy cooking and wish to explore further cooking skills/recipes.
5. He was a very sociable man and was compelled to join several socio-political groups, clubs and associations. As a teenager, I used to think he was wasting his time. But I now realise he was following what he believed to be a worthwhile course. In my 40’s, I find I am doing the same but on a smaller scale for now.
6. He started to go grey around the temples at the age of 28. So did I!

I used to think my dad and I were at opposite ends of the pole. But since I lost him, and took time to re-evaluate and re-assess my own life, I realise that I am more like dad now than ever before. When I used to wear a suit for work, people would remark how similar I was to dad…I recall about three months after dad passed away, I visited mum straight after work. I sat on the side of the sofa where dad used to sit. Not realising it, but I caught mum looking at me in deep thought. I asked her if everything was ok. She hesitated and said she was just looking and thinking… She didn’t have to say anymore. I knew. I knew that she caught sight of me and was going to say how much I looked like dad, sitting there in a suit, similar build, height and mannerisms. But she didn’t. She never made that comparison but the intention was there.

I wished I’d spent more time with dad. Just spoke more about his interests, hobbies, passions and motivations. I could’ve learnt more about his story, his written work(s), his accomplishments and achievements over the years. But I didn’t as we seemed so far away from each other… Yet we had so much more in common than he’ll ever know.

In “celebrating” the fifth year since the death of my father, what did I do but visit the cinema to watch ‘Song For Marion’. And watching the male protagonist, Arthur, brought home a lot of memories. I looked at him and remarked that he was dressed so similar to how dad used to dress, even with his thinning white hair and stubble reminded me of dad. His relationship with his son, restrained and estranged, a distance between them, reminded me of my relationship with dad. For whatever reason, I couldn’t get close to him. Not even as close as my other siblings could. I was like a breed apart… But when I watched that film today, my emotional gates just burst open and in such a public auditorium, I had to hold myself in check to prevent myself from breaking down in tears.

Just like Arthurs son, James, I held myself together because grown men don’t cry, do they?
I just wanted to say I’m proud of you dad, I’m proud to be your son and I’m proud to say I love you. I know you are looking down at me and with whatever I do, you will support me all the way.

The Learned Kat

Emptying the ManCave

26 Feb

The loft in my home has become my personal space, my world, my domain. When we moved into our house, the loft was without light, boarded floors and pitch black. We agreed to convert it into my study and the only place I could keep my desktop computer, books, CD’s and DVDs and anything else that was work related.

Not only did I use the loftspace to use my computer on a regular basis, but it also became my haven to become more “messy” and personalise it as my other half has OCD and cannot bear the idea of seeing magazines, books, cds, and all other such paraphenalia on display. So, we agreed that the loft would be my area to “spread myself” without any such restraints, without limitations or making my other half feel more anxious at seeing items on display. Although, it does not stop him sometimes from re-arranging “my stuff” around as he deems it to be “too messy”!

Anyway, after living in the house for 5 and a half years, I decided to have a thorough clear out…I’ve already mentioned I started to download photos onto memory sticks on a previous post. The clean up campaign didn’t just stop there. In fact, it was just the start of my blitz. Whilst waiting for the images to be transferred, I started to sift through all my old boxes, my work related documents (hard copies) , old bills, payslips, diairies and other such items. I didn’t realise that I carried so much bumph. But alongside all that, I walked down memory lane as I read and shredded each document, copies of application forms, altered CV’s, pages and pages of cover letters with the slightest mistake, memos and Minutes of Meetings…

I was finding it hard to let go of my past. It seemed that the items in question, although they may seem boring and trivial to others, were to me,  mementoes of my life. I found particulars/details and bills fom my first house, a small two bedroom terraced house purchased in 1999.  I pulled out payslips from the days I worked at a Daycentre for people with learning disabilities/difficulties and established friendships with my peers that have lasted for 10 years now. I found minutes from meetings where the people I supervised were more than just workers, they were people with endearing flaws and personalities which created a diverse and dynamic team, which I admired and found appalling at the same time. I found rejection letters and acceptance letters, which reminded me of my struggles to find work whilst living in Devon, I found notes which made me feel angry or sad all over again as it brought back flashes or images of people who had wronged me, I picked up training notes which placed a smile on my face or thought a waste of time as I never had the opportunity to use the “skills taught” in any of my job roles. It was a strangely heartfelt experience…

But it didn’t stop there…I started to look around at my prized collection of over 400 DVDs and shelves boasting a proud collection of over 1,000 CDs. With the recession biting hard in our household, I took stock of my indecision and began to sift through my DVDs. We have bills to pay, and for the first time in my life, I have had to sell some of my items. With each DVD placed on the side, it was heartwrenching to place the barcode on the WebuyDVDs website to find that the majority of DVDs, although purchased between £5 – 15 are only worth 31p each. As my friends’ 25 year old son says, most people are streaming online now…

I remembered where I was and why I bought a certain DVD. I recalled the feeling it left inside me when I watched the film. I was looking at my favourite film, the saddest film, the happiest film, the most sentimental or weepy, romantic or action…each film brought a reaction or emotion and I was having to sell a part of me to be practical…So far, 134 DVDs, which my other half was worth several hundred pounds, have been sold  for a song.  I knew they weren’t going to fetch an awful amount of cash, I was just holding on to what they were worth to me. A collection of specific films purchased over a period of 10 years… to be disposed of within a few days.

My next step would be to download my music collection…I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet but I know it will happen soon. On the one side, I try not to think about it, but on the other, it’s like a relief or self cleansing therapy. Will it all be worth it? I ask myself?

My loft was my space. But soon I think it’ll become an empty shell. Even the computer that I’ve had for 10 years now is showing signs of giving up… I suppose I could’ve used a garden shed or used one of the bedrooms as a study but it’s not quite the same in this house…

I feel my act of disposal is a reflection on todays society and how we lead our lives today. Is that how easily things, whether objects or items, tangible or innate, emotional/physical or practical can be disposed of? Is that how much it’s worth? Like in life, at work and in play, we are easily picked up, used and disposed of, from the “Purchaser” e.g. hirer/employer or even in relationships (partners/spouses/friends etc),  to wait for the next big or best thing…to the item or person being deselected and made to feel redundant, useless or unwanted.

My loft was MY space. But the recession has taken hold, and I feel I am losing faith…

The Learned Kat