Some Reflections On Friendships

I had a couple of interesting chats last week with different friend groups. The main topic, was regarding the longevity of friendships and how over time people just disappear. Involved in their own world and then moving from chatting constantly to weekly, to monthly and then essentially never. They say that’ll meet up and then, when asked to make plans, disappear on short notice: you know, flakers.

Richard said something that we all need to hear time from time: “Sometimes you got let things die.” There is no need to keep in touch with everyone in life, that the effort is not always going to bring in reward and not everyone is going to be there until end.

Well, if you do not know me, I rank my friends. I have a list that is updated every month or so, it’s just a top 100 list.

The reason I decided to talk about friends, was due to going to a funeral. Not just a random funeral, but one of my best friends father died.

Now, I’m no funeral expert, but the speech given by one of the friends was fantastic. It wasn’t a sugar coating, nor was a rip into the man. It was honest and reminded you about the fragility of life; but also how few people you can truly rely on. The friends that stay with you throughout your life are rare and people you need to hold on to.

In this regard, I feel very lucky. My friends are across the globe, I have someone to chat to in most time-zones and catch up with, no matter what time of year. I have my friends that I haven’t spoken to in years, but I’m sure that if I saw them on the street; it would be as though nothing had change and we would pick up wherever we left off. I have my close friends, who I rely on my emotional support on every issues. Finally I have my best friends, the ones that regard as family.

Now how do I know whose who? Well, if you do not know me, I rank my friends. I have a list that is updated every month or so, it’s just a top 100 list. Now I know that this may sound weird to you, but I’ve been doing this since I was around 9 years old. Let’s be honest, we all have list of close friends. However, I guess that most people don’t have actual list like I do. People go up and down the list, some jump right to the top, some never drop below a certain number. It doesn’t matter, as long as you want to talk to them. I have decided over the last few weeks to start making new friends, which I luckily have never struggled to do so. Why? I have my best friends and they’re not going anywhere soon [on the list]. Essentially, some people will come and go; but we gain lessons from people. The more people you know, the more you can learn from their success and mistakes. Plus, I feel as though I lack friends from my own Gujarati community. It’s always good to know people who have similar experiences to talk to… well… let’s say: have similar cultural issues to complain about! Plus, they’ll understand certain things straight away.

“Sometimes you got let things die.”

Richard Osho

How do you make new friends? The simplest answer, is be interesting. What does that actually mean? No-one, that includes you, likes to chat to a person who is boring. You want to make friends, you need to go out into the world and do something. Start playing online games that require cooperation, head into pub and start talking, join a book club…whatever. You’ve got to go and do something that you enjoy, just with other people. Enjoying yourself should be the number priority, because we all want to chat to the person with a massive smile on their face: even the biggest twats.

Now, the new friends I’ve made, will they be by my death bed in the future? I don’t know. I’m sure that my best friends will be there, potentially a family and my close family. Don’t need anything else. However, we don’t progress with just focusing on needs, it’s our desires that push us to do more. I wanted more Gujarati friends, so what did I do? I joined a society and next week I’ll be submitting a dish into the cooking competition. Have I already made some friends? Yes. Will I make more? Of course, because I want more friends.

The One Who Wrote Destiny, by Nikesh Shukla

A book review, which lead to thoughts about representation in the media.

Having representation in the media. When most people think of such a topic, they think of having a TV personality, I would even say that online stars (be it, YouTube, Instagram, Podcasts) is an important part of being viewed as accepted. What never occurred to me, was the fact that I have not read a book until last night about having a Gujarati person as the lead character, even more specifically to be from an East African background. I have never been a great activist of having representation in the media, not that I am against it; it has never seemed to be part of the world I really care about. For me, I have always been able to see people like myself in the cinema, with Bollywood films, or television in South Africa with the classic show of Eastern Mosaic and Carte Blanche with Devi Sankaree-Govender doing some of the main reporting; heck even BBC World has loads of Asians, with Michelle Hussain & Yalda Hakim being some prime examples. I’ve always felt that I could find representation in the media. Then again, I have never found a Gujarati person in the media to latch onto as a role model; or anyone that comes to my mind right now.  

So how did this book impact me? I was entertained, made to laugh and in tears by the end. Laughter from the pure moments of joy and happiness and tears to the heartful realisation that I can see myself in the characters; that I recognise my own grandmothers. How my grandfather talks about his past. To me, this was scary; that generational divide that exists between those of us who have left India.

What is the point of having people to look up to, if none of them are like you; with their different life paths and opportunities. What control does anyone have, on where life is going to take us? What does this have to with the book I’m reviewing? Apparently at least.

For starters I’m now listening to “John Jaani Janarden”, from the classic film Naseeb, on repeat. Let’s just that I haven’t listened to classic Bollywood music in ages, at least on my own accord. Only because this book reminded that this song exists. Sometimes, it’s nice to go back to your roots (and yes that’s a reference to the song that my father loves to listen to).

The book itself is about an Indian origin family, from East Africa in the United Kingdom. Our main story is about Neha, who has contracted the same cancer that killed her mother, Nisha. We start in Keighley which is over 300km away from London; where Mukesh is sent by his friend Sailesh to spend some time before they both end up in London. This is where Mukesh meets and falls in love with Nisha; and we learn that is repeated by Mukesh to his children throughout their lives.

The story jumps in time, back and forth; starting with Mukesh and moving to Neha, then to Rakesh (Neha’s brother) and finally to Nisha’s mother (aka Ba). While the story fills the picture of this family’s situation [I’m trying to keep this a spoiler free review, everything said so far is from the blurb]. We learn about the circumstances that have shaped the way they are meant to be perceived by those around them, in the family and of course internally; where they are struggling with what they have become and what they will make of themselves.

It is a story about the weakness and fragility of being human. Nikesh’s male characters are shown to be weak and frail; which is the opposite to the trope of the Indian masala movie staple. The women are strong and brave, but still flawed in their own way. It’s refreshing to see this in characters that are meant to sound and look like myself; I do hope that more books, heck media, that show this sort of side to characters from India (or Indian origin). The book also mixes in mysticisms of Hinduism in here, which I loved. Normally, I see characters that are all super into Hinduism or totally no part of the character. Rarely in English, do you see the religion portrayed in a positive context or one that represents what is more prevalent in India; or at least in my experience in India. That prevalent nature that religion evolves and that while there are negatives, we can choose to bring the positive aspects forward. Essentially, it’s not a simply good or bad thing.

Through the lenses of the first person and even exploring a character purely through the second person; we not only see ourselves, but how a judgement of others effects the way they act. The novel is absorbing not just because the story itself is part of this strange family trying to figure out whether one can know the future. Are things pre-determine? It brings in the nuance, that is maybe different for a person of colour or an immigrant coming into the UK. Maybe our choices are just a façade. That is the crux of this book. It’s not a depressing book, even it made me cry and yearn to return to Africa. It’s real and reminded me of what being human is about. Being in love, opening yourself and allowing to hope for the best. That’s all we got, in this life at least.

Who are we to question the one who wrote destiny? Well it’s quite easy; first decide if you are in charge of your own destiny. Then worry about the writing.

Inside

Sitting on the grass. What felt like a farce.
I left to escape hell, only to find that it was within me.
There are no demons that follow. The am the demon, the gargoyle... the mutant.
Constantly in dispair. My hope comes alive when I can escape pain; by avoiding reality.
I don't want to escape to paradise.
I just want to escape me.

Working

Last week I started working for the first time outside the family company. I’ve ended up at FCI London, with a role that I never expected to be in and in a company I have never heard about. What I can say is that the role, so far, is challenging myself in new ways and allowing me to dip my toes into the water in areas of work that I’ve never considered myself in.

I’m honestly overjoyed by the opportunity and I do think that I will have the space to grow and develop. My proximity to the CEO, is better than whatever bank or multinational mega-corporation could give me. I’ve already been put in charge of events and finding an intern. It’s been six, that’s right six, days in! I’ve got to push myself to ensure that the opportunities are taken; but I do see a bright future for the next few months.

I could give you a day by day breakdown of the last week, but unfortunately, I have a bedtime to stick now! Let’s just say that in the coming weeks that I’ll start typing about my experiences at work. Of course, things will be redacted; but I am sure you’ll enjoy what I post. I mean, why else would you still be reading?

As always, have a good one.

Expectations

The sky is not just overcast, it’s grey. The dreary atmosphere extracting everyone’s soul. Each fibre holding it to you is torn. One by one. Slowly it stretches and strains, until snap! And it begins again, and again and again

Lucky for me, where my soul should be; there is just despair. A hole where no light reaches.

No joy. No anger. Just pain.

The lower the lows, the higher the highs; or at least they say. I close my eyes to escape. To pretend that there is bliss, that the pain is just my mind playing tricks on me.

The truth is inescapable. I’m not where I want to be.

Alone. Broken.

It’s just me now.

Micro-fiction

I wrote this on the Sixth of February 2016

With some small adjustments

Ramblings through the parks and even the city. Surrounded, but alone. I hear the buzz in my pockets. It’s then I remember that no matter where I am, I’m never more than arm reach away from a friend.

Poem 5

Friendship

What do we call those blissful days,
When everything we recall is just a haze,
Where every gaff is met with a laugh,
Even if it was daft, there’s no faff.

The mates you join at the pub,
Even if it’s to grabs some grub,
The ones who can jest with zest,
No matter how much rest, it’s always a fest.

Make no mistake,
There’s no limit to intake,
You just have to say hello to a fellow,
And who knows, you might have a mellow bellow.

Life is full of randomness,
That’s why we need those with candidness,
Rather than than those fake snakes,
I have a life with those who partake and keep me awake.

Let me be frank, I do rank.
I might know a ton, but you’ll always be my number one.

India Part 1

Back to Mumbai

So, on my flight, the thought that I was about to travel to India without my family for the first time was just exciting. I honestly didn’t have a day by day plan. All I knew, that I wanted to see my Masi’s in Mumbai, that I was staying with my Kusum Masi while in Mumbai and that I would sort everything out in the first couple of days. After going through arrivals, I met Kusum and Bella Masi, which was amazing! I was expecting to grab my own cab at the airport, but via the miracle of onboard WIFI, I got a message that Bella Masi was coming to pick me up. It was great to see both of my Masis straight away!

…via the miracle of onboard WIFI

The next day was simple, the first thing I did was run to Pali Hill and drop off the clothes to the tailor/designer that I had brought over for my Mother and Sister (which also took up more than 50% of bag). I also tried to get a sim card was turned away for not having my passport on me (I had a copy). So, I had to come up with an alternative way of getting one.

[Jai] Shree Krishna Silk Mills

The next day was going to the market with Masi and sorting out a sim and picking up some groceries. Now this Adhaar card, which the Supreme Court [of India] has pointed out not being necessary to prove address, is required in India. The amount of time saved with having this card, from the limited experience I had, is that Adhaar is a necessary part of living in India. For now. Returning to my life, got a sim card and I have to say we are all getting ripped off in the rest of the world! I paid $3 for 1.5Gb of data per day. That’s right per day! What we pay elsewhere is just a scam. Once the network is set-up then it’s all about bandwidth. We really need a Jio like company in Europe for example. I don’t buy the argument about costs to current firms. Telefonica, Orange and Vodaphone are multi-billion-dollar firms. We are just getting rinsed. I think that is my rant over for now.

So later that day I was back at Masi’s (I should say that if I say Masi without saying who it is, it’s Kusum Masi) and looking up flights and trains to Gujrat and back. I was shocked how hard it was to get a ticket from Ahmedabad back to Mumbai on the train. So, I ended up booking a flight to Porbandar and flight from Ahmedabad back to Bombay. How I was to get from one side of the state. That’s 340km (ish), let alone the actual road distance, quality or you know, actual transport. Either way, I called my Piyush Kaka and just told him that I was coming the next week and to tell my family in Ahmedabad, who I never met or spoken to, to expect me afterwards! I mean, what’s the point of having family, if you can’t randomly meet them and live in their homes for a couple of days?

Next day I just spent with Masi, sorting out the rest of my time in Mumbai, as I was originally planning to meet up with another Masi, but she was fasting and told me to come another day. Not too bad, got to spend more time in Santa Cruz.

…what’s the point of having family if you can’t randomly meet them and live in their homes for a couple of days?

Now the following day I will have to mark as one the most important days of my trip! Masi had organised a chaperone to get me to South Bombay, which was one of my Mamas who I had never met before. So off we went. I was going to spend some time with Babul Mama and family, which included my cousin Sonia and G, plus their two children Raaisha and Vivan . Now I met Vivan a few years ago when I last went to the States, but Raaisha was not there. I had spoken to on Facetime before and she basically just laughed at my name. Well, let me just say that girl is a cheeky monkey! An example was her taking a piece of cardboard paper and tearing it, only after saying it was Vivan’s old ticket to a theme park! I miss her and her brother quite a bit! The other thing I miss is the street food around them! The Sev Puri is to die for! And the Wada Pav! I’m drooling! Now, normally I avoided street food in India, but as I had a long trip Sonia said this; “Hanik, if you get ill, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? You will spend three days in bed. That’s the same as relaxing on holiday! Live a little!” So, I did and thank goodness that I listened, as this just opened a whole new world to me!

The following day, I was back in South Bombay. This time visiting couple of my Mamis, with Masi (yeah, it’s slightly confusing). I wanted to catch up with my Gita Mami and Kishore Mama and see when they were coming to visit me, either in London or South Africa. Being elderly, they responded with the only acceptable answer; whenever I was going to get married, wherever it may be, they will be coming. I mean, what do you respond with? No, I have no intention of getting married so come along? Why not the engagement? Whatever I answered, the question would then turn to my love life. And just like in real life, this blog is not the space to talk about (well at least for now). I was told that my Nana, used to go to Haj Ali for juice in the evenings, which meant that I had to dragged Masi to Haj Ali. I got some scrumptious pomegranate juice and Masi decided to go for an orange & clementine juice mix. It was more expensive than our Uber home, but it was worth it!

Candid shot of Masi drinking her juice

The next day Masi took me to the Elco Market. Now I went to the Elco Market in 2004 when I was 10 years old. I have not forgotten the taste of the first pani-puri I had there, I can happily report back that taste is just as magical! That first pani-puri was time machine. I was transported 14 years into the past! If you are going to Mumbai for a day, this where I would send you! Alright, time to move on. Next on the agenda was watching a Hindi film, unfortunately we (Masi and I) went to see Zero. Out of ten? Giving zero stars would be too kind. Don’t see it, even for the effects. It only makes SRK even more punchable. A feat that I did not even think would be possible but trust me it is!

The next day I was planning on catching up with Sanchi. Now I do not know what this girl was thinking, but she thought we should meet at 4pm for coffee and then head for dinner after around 8pm. So, I ha booked to go to Yautcha. Yautcha for those out of the loop is a fine dining restaurant which is known for its dumplings. Sanchi and I meet at a café just off Linking Road and grabbed some coffee (well I grabbed a breakfast smoothie) and had a catch up on what was going on in the last few months in our lives. During the conversation I heard the words that should never be uttered by an Indian. She had never been to a wedding! Nor does she have an outfit for the wedding she’s going to in the next couple of weeks! Thank goodness we were on Linking Road. I grabbed her and dragged her to a fabric shop! Sanchi, since you are reading this, don’t talk about the price when you are looking! There’s no need, but trust me, it was a good fun trip! As we headed to Yautcha for dinner, we past Anita Dongri; so, guess where we headed… Now I must say that men’s section was disappointing. Nothing in fashion! I try my luck and call our mutual friend Roshika and she picked up! It was a nice little reunion, but I had to say Roshika was a bit savage when saying certain clothes were ugly, on loud speaker for the whole shop to hear! She wasn’t wrong, but still. Moving on to Yautcha. What a meal! Just plate after plate of great food but being in Mumbai fabulous vegetarian options! I don’t want to complain about the vegan/vegetarian tax again, but it’s so refreshing not having to pay a premium for good vegetarian food at a high-end restaurant. The dumplings were on point and I’m glad that we didn’t focus on the “mains”. Dessert was great, and we even got a cocktail. The meal was expensive for India, but in comparison to the London version, it was a pittance.

What happens next? I head off to Gujrat, which I’ll recall next blog. Hope the pictures are interesting enough, do send some feedback!

My trip to India

The preamble

Yeah, my MUN days lead to the sub-heading….onto the show

Well, I guess I should wish everyone a happy new year first. Or should I wait for Chinese New Year? By the way Erik (yes, just to Erik), when’s Taiwanese New Year? Jokes aside, I literally stayed up for around ten minutes for the initial fireworks and then called it a night.

So, after my flyby trip to London, I returned to Dubai for a week of work and then off to India. I’ll start off by explaining my reasoning for going back to India, then I’ll move onto my daily life in Mumbai for the next week, then my week in Gujrat and then my final week in Mumbai. I’m going to write it as three separate blog posts (one for each week). Let’s get started!

Having tea that is hallucinogenic, let’s just say me and Alex got wavy
Saw Yasmin giving a speech to the current MUN-ers at Essex (forgot who is on the right 🤷‍♂️)

Back to choosing India

I chose to go to India, rather than join the rest of the family for a few reasons. Firstly, I missed India, which is odd considering that I don’t have that much affinity to the sub-continent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Gujju who would follow the Indian Cricket to the ends of the earth. I am practicing Hindu, a full vegetarian (if the Gujrati did not make it obvious) who eats Indian food almost every day. I’m addicted to chai. I’ll happily go to a Hindi film or run to see the latest Rajnikanth film. I have one grandmother from the country, let alone my infinite number of Masis and Kakas in the country. But, I only consider myself Indian in certain aspects. I’m pretty sure that this has to do with me being a third-culture kid, as I chose what part of cultures I like. I prefer to say that I’m African over Indian, because my childhood was on the continent and my parents and the rest of my grandparents are from East Africa. Sometimes I like to say I’m British, because I’m obsessed with tea (see what I did there). Also, because London is my home as well, as well as being the greatest city on Earth (no bias whatsoever). This doesn’t really answer why I was missing India, not really sure what I’ve pointed out other than me being me, but I was missing India… I don’t know what else to say about that.

I’m a Gujju who would follow the Indian Cricket to the ends of the earth


Secondly, I wanted to go to the Jalaram Mandhir in Virpur. So, this has been on my bucket list for years. Essentially Jalaram Bapa is my favourite saint and his mandhir in Virpur doesn’t take any donation, yet continues to feed people every day! Last year, we (as the nuclear family) made it to the outside walls, but there were so many people we had to choose between praying or catching our flight. Well, we picked the flight…I guess I had unfinished business!

Thirdly, I wanted to see my family. I’m not going to lie, my niece Raaisha was the number #1 person I wanted to meet. I had already flown to couple of countries to see her and she was never there! I also wanted to spend some time with my family in Porbander, meet some of my Kakas and Faibas for the first time in Ahmedabad. Plus there were plenty of Masis in Mumbai to catch up with; while not being married off! 😅

Fourthly, I wanted to see the Unity Statue. Mainly because most of my friends hate Modi, so I thought the best way to mock them would be to go see the statue and dab with it in the background! Spoiler alert! There weren’t any tickets available! Seriously, who is trying to see this bloody statue. Guess I’ll have to head back to see it.

Fifthly, I wanted to eat some proper Indian food

Finally; I wanted to buy some Indo-western clothes. I just had no intentions of paying Western prices.

A dumb mug shot

Here’s a dumb photo I took the day I got a haircut before I left. Why? Why the hell not, I’m sure there’s meme out there

Pomegranates

My Trip to Baku

Straight to work

When I first started writing this piece, I was on my way back to Dubai, after a whirlwind trip to Baku and all I can think about is when shall I go back.

Coming into Dubai

The city is full of amazing restaurants, great bars and has a rich history. That’s before you even meet anyone. There’s that saying that it’s not what you say,but how you make them feel, well the Azeri people make you feel like home royalty.

Personally,the best thing was catching up with one of my best friends and seeing his family. I cannot express in words how amazing it was to see Adil!

Adil having a candid photo

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. When I first landed in Baku, I had issues at the border control when the immigration officer looked at my passport and then me. She asked where I was born, and I responded with London. This was not a great idea, as it actual says [the actual place, I’m not dumb enough to put my passport info online] and how that is in London. Breezed through everything else and was standing in arrivals looking for my ride (Adil had organised me a cab). Well this guy didn’t think I’ll be out then, and I had to go looking for him. After eventually finding him (and his terrible MR HANIK sign) got into the car and headed into the city! Now things didn’t look great when I looked at the wing mirror and saw a cracked wing mirror, which said that things were distorted due to the mirror. But on the drive in, let me say that new Bravo supermarket looks great! Bravo is where Adil works, in case you were wondering why I gave the shout out.

…the first thing I had to do was give my friend a hug!

Seeing one’s friend

Got to Port Baku Mall, which I can only describe as a high-end mall, which is definitely out of reach of most people, let alone those in Baku. However, this was where I first saw Adil (after heading into the Mall to grab some cash to pay the cabdriver). He looked at me, with those “what an idiot” eyes, saying that cabbie told me to wait (in Azeri); though in my defence he kept saying money in English! However, the first thing I had to do was give my friend a hug! Now Adil and I haven’t seen each other since my master’s at UCL and boy that was a long time ago! We have been in touch via the group’s [only for those in the know] WhatsApp chat and a call here and there. So, we are aware of the general status’s one’s life. However,there’s something special when I meet an old friend, especially those from the boarding house, it’s as though nothing has changed; we could have been mucking about in the grounds and the conversation just flowed as though we had been chatting every day for the last few weeks.

Everything was fresh…

After Adil finished work, we headed into the country side to go to Adil’s family home and to have dinner with his Dad and uncles in a restaurant. Now this was the first real challenge, food. As a vegetarian, Adil was concerned with what I could eat, as almost everything local had meat in it. I had already tried a green qutab at Baku Café (it’s amazing, got to learn how to make it). Adil’s Dad produces meat, so obviously we had a bit of banter with me just stopping being a vegetarian for a few days. What he ordered me was something else. Let me just start by saying that there is something special in only eating seasonal food. Everything is fresh! None of this rubbish of all year-round fruit and vegetables. The cucumbers, tarragon, aubergines… everything was amazing! The pilaf I had was essentially a pilau with fresh aubergines with a different spice mixture! It was great! The cheeses, the breads, salad were all great! We washed it down with a local fruit juice concoction, which honestly tasted like Vimto, and a few…okay several shots of vodka! Headed to the family home for tea and a freshly baked cake from Adil’s grandmother! A top-class lemon meringue. It’s true no matter where you are, grandmothers are always make the best food. After a night tour of the home, headed in for the night.

The Family Yard

Adil and I both overslept, but it was good night’s rest which we would need given on what we had planned for the day. What followed was breakfast of pancakes, fresh bread, cheeses, jam, honey, more qutabs and copious amounts of black tea. Sidenote here, but apparently it’s the national drink of Azerbaijan.

The Temple Site

After saying my thanks to the family, we headed off to a temple. Now, I know what you are thinking; temples in Azerbaijan? But yes and even more shockingly it was used by Hindu’s on the silk route, due to the continuous gas fires there! The site is about 2000 years old, which was originally a Farsi site. Definitely worth checking out! Unfortunately, but obviously, the French had ruined the temple when it was buried several centuries later when looking for oil. Putains! So,lots of the materials are now lost, but thankfully the government is slowly restoring the site and trying to uncover the past.

The Eternal Fire
Me and Adil!

We then headed into old town and to go see the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the Meydan Tower. Loads to see and what’s wonderful is the juxtaposition of being in this ancient part of the city and seeing the modern architecture all around you in the distance. Even though the tower’s purpose is still in debate, it lies in the heart of this amazing city. If you are looking for your next profile picture, with a bit of planning, I’m sure that you’ll have a new hit here!

After, we walked along the promenade and just caught up. Seeing the outside of all the museums that I’ll have to come back and visit on my next trip. Before nightfell, we went to the war memorial to pay our dues and take in the view over the city.

The Flame Towers lit up in the national flag

Later on,after going home and dropping our stuff off, into the city for the French Bistro to meet Adil’s mate and grab a quick bite before going out. Food was good, but not that many options for a vegetarian. But what I did eat was good! We then headed to The Room for a night of drinking and chilling. The Azeri wine I started with was a lovely red, but as the night when on we moved onto shots and beers! That’s all you are going to get out of me, but I must say that people Adil spends time with are great. All kind hearted and definitely know how to have a good time!

[Adil’s friends are] All kind hearted and definitely know how to have a good time!


An Azeri Breakfast before a mad dash to the airport

The next was just breakfast and a rush to the airport (via the shops for a gift from Adil’s family). It was unreal how quickly time has passed by, from the time I left Dubai and arrived back was a blink of an eye! The land of fire definitely left a fire in my heart to return!