After two field work days that happened to be two of the coldest days of my life, I decided to stay in this Sunday. I was i upstate NY for work, it was about 25 degrees and with the windchill it felt like 18 degrees. When I got back to the city and felt the 40 degree temperatures, the difference was amazing. The city felt absolutely balmy in comparison to the interior parts of the state.
After those tiring days, I decided to stay in on Sunday and do these patterns. Nothing clears my mind and calms me as much as doing mendhi on my own hands.
Reach out to me for all of your henna needs! I am looking forward to hearing from you.
I worked on this design over the weekend. Let me know what you think of it!
Several years ago in 2011, Mayor Bloomberg said that the number of panhandlers in the subway had gone down drastically during his administration. I remember nearly choking on my water as I read the news. He obviously was not living in the same city as the rest of us. We encounter panhandlers and homeless people on a near daily basis- it is so normal that one does not even look up when these folks begin their tales of woe. The mayor obviously does not ride the A train or the 4-5 trains or the R trains (or any other train for that matter- I am the most familiar with these aforementioned lines). He does not see the hundreds of folks sleeping in Penn Station on a regular basis or the Roosevelt Avenue station, or the Jamaica stations or lining up outside train stations on Broadway near Wall Street.
I am ashamed to admit that I have become hard-hearted; I begin to make horrible assumptions about these people begging for money. What must it take for a person to become so desperate as to beg from folks who cannot even bother to look up from their phones or books? How difficult must it be to live from day to day, wondering where meals will come from or where one will sleep or if one will be warm for the night? May compassion never leave our hearts for those less fortunate!
There are several food pantries and organizations that are trying to combat hunger and organizations to help relieve homelessness. Can we, the city, the public and private institutions, open up more spaces for the homeless? For example - keeping public libraries open longer, especially in the winter. What else can we do to help? I try to give some money and pray for them. I am afraid that it is not enough. Any thoughts or suggestions?
If I seem angry or aggressive, it is because I am passionate and I care about something and it is not moving forward.
If I seem sad, it is because there is an injustice that hurts me and that I am struggling to find answers.
If I seem annoyed or irritated, it is because I am frustrated with myself for not having achieved enough or done enough (or possibly because I did not have coffee or because the MTA sucks).
If I seem withdrawn, it is because I am pensive and searching deeply within myself to rectify my faults.
If I seem happy, it is because I have learned how to balance everything above and accepted this range as a part of life.
I have a job that allows me to travel to some cool places from time to time. Back in October we went up to West Point in the town of HIghland Falls, NY. It was the best time of year to visit, autumn, and the leaves were just beginning to change.
Some of the most impressive and inspiring views of the Hudson River valley are in this area. This picture above really takes my breath away; I could hardly believe it when I was standing there to take the picture. It reminded me of the scene in the Fellowship of the Ring, where the companions are traveling by boat through the river with enormous mountains on either side of them. Just beautiful.
Weddings in the family create a nice but hectic break from the daily routine. I cannot remember the last time I had been so tired. Nevertheless I did get to work on a lot of henna- for the bride, for myself, and on a candle.
We opted for a less filled in look and I was impressed with the way the bridal henna turned out.
My next endeavor will be creating patterns with fine point pens.
Seaside in Karachi, Pakistan
I have had the luxury of observing Ramadhan (the Muslim fasting month) in Pakistan with my extended family for the past two years. My employers have been very generous in giving me that time off and I luxuriated the holy month in an Islamic environment. Ramadhan has been in the summer and that meant long, hot days of no food and water and the thought of that was depressing and frightening to me here by myself in New York. So, I went to Karachi and my relatives accepted me with open arms and I loved every minute of it. This year, however, I chose to stay in New York during Ramadhan. I wanted to get over my trepidation of a summer Ramadhan in NYC and just do it. So far, I am glad that I did.
In Karachi, the awareness of Ramadhan begins a week in advance. Signs are up, lights are up, it’s equivalent to Christmas. It is a countrywide experience (since Pakistan is an Islamic republic), school/work days are shortened or timings are changed (I used to stay up all night and sleep a lot during the day), days off are accepted and charity is a given. People are incredibly kind to those who fast. I remember driving home with my cousins one day, it was close to sunset, and there was a lot of traffic. In the midst of the traffic, folks were going around to the cars and people on street, giving them food so that they may break their fast. Likewise in my family dinners, other people were thought of first, either in prayer or by handing out food in the community/mosque or by giving money to the less fortunate. It was the done thing - charity was a given. My Ramadhan experience in Karachi was an incredibly social one, I was constantly surrounded by people, family, friends, neighbors, etc, we dined together, talked and traveled, joined in happiness and sorrow, in remembrance and forgiveness. It was truly the wholesome family experience any person could ask for during a holiday.
This year in New York, I have faced a different sort of Ramadhan thus far, one of solitude and reflection. I live alone, my nights are spent eating, praying and figuring out a sleeping schedule so that my work is not affected. I do not attend the mosque here for I do not have enough time to travel back and forth and it is physically exhausting navigating the subways at nighttime in the heat. However, this Ramadhan is one of the best I have ever experienced. This struggle has helped me understand how much I have in my life and how imperative it is to help others who do not have the luxuries I enjoy. I find myself constantly reflecting on my life and my choices. There is no “New York” rush this month, I walk slowly, I talk slowly; there is no overexertion of any facet because there is a thought behind every action. The solitude in fasting is a joy; it’s a silent, daily journey for God and myself. There is a real chance to improve my character, to try and change for the better.
While these two cities have offered me entirely different Ramadhan experience, the lessons I learned are quite similar. There is an importance in constant reflection of ones character and there is equal importance in the establishment of charity. May the rest of Ramadhan be equally rewarding to everyone.
We have all seen the ads. “Lose weight fast”; “Take this pill and you will lose weight”; “Lose 20 pounds in one month.” Etc etc
Upon seeing these ads, some specifically targeting young women, I become very upset. There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, that will make one lose weight without having to change his/her life in some capacity, without one having to do some difficult work and reassessment of his/her life. It is not simple enough for one to take a pill and drop 20 pounds in a month; I cannot believe that people buy into these gimmicks and that companies specifically target those who may not know any better.
We are accountable for our own health and well being. It is a constant, never-ending struggle. However, if one knows how/what to eat, it becomes easier. Programs like weight watchers have excelled for that reason; they have taught people how to eat without feeling like one has sacrificed something.
I lost 50 pounds in 2 years. It was through a mix of working out and eating right, with more of an emphasis on tracking what I ate. One of the best tools out there are apps like “My Fitness Pal” which help you track calorie intake per day. However here some other ways that helped me;
1. Consult with a doctor/nutritionist.
2. Do not drink anything but water (2 liters a day or more) and unsweetened tea,
preferably green (3 times a day- breakfast, lunch, dinner). Throw away all your
soda- that stuff is poison. Why bother getting sugar from a drink when I would
really enjoy it in chocolate or a cupcake?
3. Substitute brown for white. Brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta. It’s a healthier option and it keeps you full longer.
4. Eat a good breakfast and lunch to keep you going through the day (oatmeal, boiled eggs, bread with peanut butter). Have a light dinner- veggies and protein. Do not eat a lot of meat- there are many great substitutions for meat- tofu, beans, lentils, etc.
5. Track EVERYTHING you eat. Use an app, use the internet, write it down. Keep an excel spreadsheet of your weight and measurements, record it once every week.
6. SLEEP. Get into a proper sleep routine, 8 hours a night.
7. MOVE. Seriously, get up off your butts and move. Human beings have joints and muscles for a reason- we have been engineered to move around and do things- not sit in front of tv all day. Get out and walk, jog, do some karate,
yoga, take classes at a gym, do not just sit there and feel bad for yourself.
Believe me- that gets you nowhere fast.
8. Keep at it and don’t give up. It takes several months to see serious results. Be patient. Talk to people about it, keep motivating yourself.
How often does one act without thinking, his feet moving forward, trained, and his mind one step behind or entirely closed off? Routine- it's almost like sleepwalking- every day is the same as the day before as one becomes programmed to move in a certain way.
During my morning and evening routines I am able to close off the world entirely. I can walk, get on the subway, get to work, sometimes without a serious thought crossing my mind. The conscious world becomes unconscious as I choose to believe it is not there. Humans are treated as objects, or obstructions in my path during the routine. This is where the part of a routine becomes scary- where it takes away my compassion and awareness of the feelings of others. I become rude, irritated, and even hostile when people are in my way, changing my routine.
And this is where I'd like to tell you that my heart steps in each day and reminds me that every person is important, that each of their stories are important. But I'd be lying.
It takes a real, conscious effort to recognize this, to build and rebuild this compassion day after day. It truly is a struggle to really care. We are not machines, we are not programmed. Just as we feed our bodies with food, we must feed our souls with compassion and awareness of the creatures and the planet around us. How do I do this? Through memory and really thinking about life in another persons shoes.
Though feeling compassion is only the first step. Actions are the next.
I'll be adding pictures and commentary of the things I love. I am an ordinary person in an extraordinary place. There is no special purpose to this blog other than to project what I am thinking of at any given moment.
All the photos are mine (unless stated otherwise). Please do not use without permission. To learn more about me, check out my linked in profile below.