Next Post Coming Tonight

My apologies for not posting in a while – I have been working on something rather big and perhaps I’ll tell you about it one day. Just know that it is important, and is filled with Iman. I will finally be taking a break this weekend but rest assured, my piece on Walking will be up before I leave tonight.

Stay tuned, dear reader.

Microscope II: Madness

Not a lot of people know that I originally started by writing poetry – perhaps it’s apparent in my writing, perhaps it’s not. A wonderful friend of my describes my writing as that of a poet. As such I thought I would share a poem I wrote on my way to work a couple of months ago.

The piece is called Madness. I would love to get your thoughts on it!

Madness

Love on a real train,
Like a tangerine dream,
Louis the fifteenth
Draped in moonlight sonata.
A bird in the air,
Flanked by fireflies,
Blanketed by the clouds.
Frenzied obsessions,
Built on untrue confessions,
Find the hidden meaning,
Hear the blind nun screaming,
Ready your swords,
Guitars playing power chords.
Madness is not taught,
Neither is it earned or bought,
Madness is inherited brilliance,
Gifts of generational passing,
Percolating without asking,
Trickling into your brain,
Permeating every fiber of your being,
Giving you sight without seeing,
Traveling a thousand miles a second,
Count from one to five,
And see it come alive.

Happy Monday, my friends.

P.S. – Amanda, this post was inspired by you!

Telescope II: Prayer

What does it mean to have faith? How is it possible to show that you have faith? For most people, myself included, I would suspect that it is through prayer. But what is prayer? What does it mean to pray? I cannot speak for you, but I can certainly speak for myself.

I have never considered myself particularly religious. I was born into a Hindu household, but we were never religious. My grandmother chose not to eat beef primarily because her teeth hurt and it would be hard to chew. No, we were never religious. We respected all faiths at home – celebrating Diwali, fasting during Ramadan, lighting up a Christmas tree, and not really knowing what Kwanza was.

Our living room at home in Dubai is, to me, the most religiously harmonious place on the planet. In it, you will find a painting of Jesus looking at the serene face of Buddha. In it, you will find the Lord Ganesh, flanked by two paintings that say Allah. It’s no surprise that I have always considered that living room my happy place.

I will not lie to you, I did not write yesterday because I found myself in an emotionally difficult place. I will not lie to you, the last 6 weeks have been the hardest of my life – when you are faced with the idea that the life you imagined for yourself might not be possible, or presently impossible, you tend to give in to the sadness of loss. You tend to lose faith. You tend to lose Iman. Just thinking about it makes me uneasy.

In the last 6 weeks, I have found that there no greater peace than in re-embracing my spirituality.

So, what is prayer? To me, these days, prayer is peace. Prayer is singing to the universe and hoping to hear back. Prayer can be daily, it can be weekly, it can be every decade. But prayer is prayer.

I went to a temple for the first time in almost 10 years yesterday. 10 years. It’s such a humbling thought to realize that you have lived long enough to have last done something a decade ago. I walked past dozens of Hindu deities, the same prayer to each one. I sat with what could best be described as a cornucopia of old ladies, singing songs that could well have been in Chinese. Seated there, legs crossed, eyes closed, peaceful.

I go to church every day, Low Mass at All Saints on Margaret Street in Fitzrovia. My dear reader, if you ever wish to join me, to share in the peace of prayer, I will be there at 6:30pm every day. The ritual of contrition, of believing in something more powerful than yourself, the ritual of earning a blessing somehow puts my mind at ease. I spoke to a bishop of the church yesterday, asking him about the power of prayer,

“It’s not about asking the Lord for what you want, it’s about asking for the strength to be a better you in the service of good.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

I thought other rituals that I had somehow formed a spiritual connection with. Walking. I love going on long, ambling walks. I walked home from the temple yesterday – it took me 3 hours and I loved every second of it. I walked along a canal in the middle of London that ran for 7.8 miles. My mind raced the entire time, it zoomed way beyond the canal, way past London, across the world, to the East. How could it not? But taking one step after another, towards home, there is prayer in that.

There’s a wonderful, wonderful quote from a Bollywood movie I love, it’s called Delhi-6 and I suggest you watch it for all it’s manic brilliance. The original Urdu/Hindi goes something like this,

Zarre zarre mein uska noor hai,
Jhaank khud mein wo naa tujhse doore hai,
Ishq hai usse to sabse ishq kar,
Ishq hai usse to sabse ishq kar,
Iss ibaadat ka yahi dastoor hai,
Ismein usmein aur usmein hai wo hi,
Ismein usmein aur usmein hai wo hi,
Yaar mera har taraf bharpoor hai.

Roughly translated it means,

His light permeates each and every particle
Look within yourself, he is not far from you
If you love him, then love everyone
If you love him, then love everyone
As these are the rules of prayers to him
He’s in you, them and everybody
He’s in you, them and everybody
My friend is there completely in all directions

So take a moment, a brief flutter of your day, to think about what it means to you to pray. Think about the rituals that you share not with others but with something above you, something within you. Take a moment to appreciate it, to smile while doing it. Take a moment to remember that prayer is a beautiful, beautiful ritual. And maybe, just maybe, prayer can have the power to work. Take a moment to remember that faith, that Iman, it exists everywhere and in everything.

Have a good week, my friends.

Telescope I: Food

It’s a cloudy day outside, mildly chilly, very quiet. I must admit that I have been looking forward to writing. At a rather turbulent time, I find solace in putting some of my thoughts on paper. The need to think, the ritual of writing, the anticipation of sharing – I find it comforting. And yet, at the same time, I must also admit that I find it hard to write about something when the only thing I want to write about is the only thing I cannot write about. Not yet, anyway.

So I find myself back here in the Nordic Bakery that has, somehow, become my unofficial writing desk. There is the same, large latte on my right, and an oven pancake in front of me. My dear reader, if you’re ever in London, and you ever need someone to talk to – 9am, Saturdays, Nordic Bakery, Soho, I’ll be there, just look for the oven pancake and the latte.

As I sit at my table, way in the back of the shop, trying to take in industrial silence, trying to think about what I want to write about, trying to hide. I look around, I try to find something that I can focus on. I sip my coffee. I feel the wooden panels on the walls, the cracks, the smooth varnish, and the rough scrapes. My mind begins to wander to places I so desperately don’t want it to go to. Places that, for now, I need to set aside. I take a bite of my oven pancake.

Velvet.

I take another bite, this time with the wonderful, delectable jam that they offer here – I’d like to believe it is homemade, but to be honest with you, it really doesn’t matter. I suddenly remember a scene from Mad Men, from the episode called The Carousel – I strongly urge you to watch what I believe is one of the most powerful scenes put on screen, it’s on YouTube. Don Draper says,

“…it’s called the carousel. It let's us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.”

If the ritual of writing gives me momentary solace, it is food that puts me back on the carousel. A ritual so basic, so fundamental to our existence that we forget the meaning of it. We forget that food not only sustains us, but it makes us pause, for the briefest of moments and takes us to a place inside of us where there is nothing but love, even if it is just for a moment. Food has that power. It’s like being hugged by someone – maybe someone you love, maybe someone you’ve lost – someone whose embrace will always be home. No one can take that away from you.

There are times when we lose faith, when we forget what it means to believe. Sometimes it’s the velocity of life itself, sometimes it’s the tornado that tears your home from it’s foundations, daring you to build it again. Those are the times when your leg shakes violently, when your breath staggers uncontrollably, when you feel like control is a forgotten concept. It’s at times like that, you walk into your nearest Nordic Bakery, order an oven pancake and a latte, take two deep breaths, and remind yourself to have faith. Remind yourself to have Iman.    

Microscope I: Serenity in Chaos

These days, I find moments of serenity to be precious – they are very few and very far in between. Tonight, as I write this on the eve of my 24th birthday, I find myself sitting in my office, of all places. There is a cup of what can best be described as “utility” coffee next to me, and no one else around me. This is not the dark, cavernous coffeeshop, this is a fluorescent space, enough to make your head spin in a neon haze. Somehow, it is in this, very, very, non-functional, functioning office space, that I have found a moment of serenity.

Today, or rather, tonight, I want to turn the microscope onto work. My work.

There are two types of work places – the corporate jungle – built on rules, policies, regulation, and formality – and the wild west – where anything goes. They are both equally savage, equally consuming, and equally miraculous. I chose the wild west. Why? For many reasons – the opportunity to grow, to learn how to fight, to survive in an environment full of cowboys and Indians. It hasn’t been easy, constantly having to find ways in which to “deliver value”. I have often found myself backed into a corner, my weight has fluctuated more times than I can remember, my hairline has receded more inches than I care to count. But each time, every day that I was told that I was not adding value, was another day that I learnt something new. That’s the beauty of the wild west, you learn or you die. Best try and live a long life.

Then what about the corporate jungle, the place where trees grow tall, with green leaves, with plentiful rain. Where branches on vines are serpents, where fire ants roam the ground, where the treetops are so far above you, that they have forgotten what the ground looks like. What about that jungle? It is a space of great sadness, many bodies are buried there, many more skeletons in the closet. But it is a place of great opportunity. Those who climb those trees have the ability to shape the world. Those who hang from the vines learn how to survive, how to swing from branch to branch without falling. And those who fall, they have the memories of a beautiful view.

In both the wild west and the corporate jungle, the going is hard. You are forced to de-sensitize yourself from the world around, often to devastating effect. The long hours, the continuous pressure, the mind numbing tediousness. How can you not give up on your humanity? How can you not let the tracking of your productivity as the number of hours you bill not make you feel de-humanized?

I used to hate the long nights at this office. Despite it being on Baker Street, it had none of the charm you would expect. It was cold, it was quiet, it was barren. And it was frightfully apparent and ferociously potent. I would FaceTime from the office at night and dream about being on the other side. And somehow, tonight, I find serenity in this dead space.

“Abandon all hope ye who enter.”

Dante, you’re wrong.

As I sit here, on the desk that saw me gain almost 10 kilograms (that’s 20 pounds), the same desk that saw me lose 20 more kilograms (that’s 40 pounds), I remind myself what kept me strong throughout the cold. As the clock strikes midnight, and the 18th of July begins, I want to leave you with the thought keeps me going,

Work is not a reflection of you. Sometimes, you are a reflection of your work. But you, and only you, are a reflection of you.

So feel the sadness, feel the loneliness, feel the despair, feel the coldness, feel it all. Feel the happiness that you learnt something, feel the gladness of being with your team, feel it all. And remind yourself that this place, in the dead of the night, this place is the only place, other than where you are loved, that makes you engage with your humanity and makes you fight for it.

Now wipe your brow, be thankful to be human, and sweat the glorious sweat for there is serenity in this chaotic place. Have faith, have…Iman.

Happy birthday, V.

The Coffee Shop

I find it tremendously hard to focus these days. As I sit here, in the Nordic Bakery in Soho, London, I remember my thoughts about writing in coffee shops – how invigorating people I knew used to find the smell of freshly ground coffee in the morning as they hid themselves in the deep recesses of dark coffee shops while the sun shone outside. I was always more of a sunshine person, the warmth on my skin, like a blanket enveloping me as I faced the world outside. Come to think of it, I was always an “outside” person, I would stand under an umbrella in the rain, outside. I would watch snow fall in a ski jacket, outside. I was never built for the coffee shop.

But somehow, today, I find myself in a coffee shop. There’s a very large latte to my right, adjacent to the laptop on which I write, to my left is a picture – I’ll tell you about it one day. With any luck, I will explain it the way I wish I can. I write a lot, in recent days, I’ve written even more, always for myself. I smell the coffee next to me and it gives me what I have been craving, so desperately, for the last few weeks – focus. I sip the coffee, to my great surprise, it truly is invigorating. 

So, in this temporary reprieve of mental stability, let me introduce you to this blog. Have you ever watched the movie, Chef? If not, I suggest you do. If you have, I suggest you watch it again. This is my food truck. I will have my own food truck one day, when a career, a non-restrictive visa situation, when all the operational difficulties of life aren’t a factor anymore. Until then, I hope I can serve you my words.

The name of this blog is Iman. Iman means faith. To me faith is belief. Not just belief in the power of the universe, it’s ability to resonate back to you. It is also my belief in myself, in the power that I possess to cause change. Whether it is to end conflict in the world, to achieve my goals, or, perhaps, to win back a heart. Faith is a sweet, sweet poison, it permeates every inch of you, it binds with your soul. As much as I wish I could take credit for this, I remember someone telling me about a quote by Victor Hugo,

“Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins. Which of the two has the grander view?”

Victor, you beautiful bastard.

Iman is about the telescope – my long term vision, and the microscope – my self, my best self. And the faith to achieve both.