Monday, November 2, 2015

A thoery on Vancouver's rain

My partner's interpretation of why it rains in such long, misty half-efforts in Vancouver.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Can I still be a woman without being a mom?

It's probably like a very low-key version of coming out.

For the last few conversations we've had, my mother keeps prodding me if my partner's mom isn't mad that I don't want kids.

"But she probably want grandkids, though, right?"
"He's their only son. I'm sure they want grandkids."
"She might be really upset to know that you're still not thinking about babies."
"I know you guys don't have money right now to be thinking about it, but..."

I don't know why this keeps coming up. I remember telling my mother, perhaps as early as age 13, that I don't want kids of my own. I've never identified with baby dolls (uggggh), I find babies not only un-cute (sorry!), but also deeply unsettling, and holding one does nothing for me. I don't want to be a mom. I'm at the age now where people start asking me where my kids are, or how many I have.

Yet despite the repeated declarations, now that I'm this age, my folks are stunned that I actually meant to remain childless.

It's not at all the same thing (probably, the stress level is 1,000 times less in my case) but I start to sympathize with all the gay people whose parents are in mild denial. "Where's your wife?" "Where's your girlfriend?""Let me hook you up with someone."

So I have to respond with brutal honesty to stop leading my parents on.

"(Deep breath). Look, mom. I don't want children, though. It's not a matter of not having money. I simply don't want to have any."

My mother looks disapproving.

"But won't his mother object to that?"

I throw up my hands.

"Well, what can I do about that?" (silence) "If it's that much of a problem, we'll break up."

She looks shocked.

"So you're the one who doesn't want kids!"

There must have been an underlying assumption that my partner was the one who didn't want to be a dad.

It's almost like I'm the only woman in the world who doesn't want a baby. I'm reminded of my cousin, with three toddlers of her own, roughly my age. She'd written me before about how a woman can't know true happiness until she holds her own baby in her hands. No doubt, meeting my cousin made my parents extra anxious about their still-officially-unmarried daughter starting to reach that age of expiry date for bearing babies.

For me, like being told over and over again, "Don't you want a Honda Civic? You're over 18 now, and you have a driver's license. You should really get a car. Don't you want a Honda Civic? My goodness, you need to get a car. Before it's too late."

A car. A white wedding dress and groom in tuxedo. A big house with wood floors. Pink manicures. Baby showers. Babies.

All of this stuff is what people are supposed to want, stuff that I've never spent one second wanting that past the age of 13. It's not in my future vision. It drives me batshit insane that people who apparently have known me for years me keep recommending stuff to me they objectively should realize I don't want.

I feel sometimes, my parents' insistence on saving me from "barren womanhood" is so strong, that it's like they're trying to intervene in a loved one's spiralling-out-of-control alcoholism (I don't drink) or walking off a cliff (I've never been depressed). It feels like I'm just trying to express my authentic self as a not-mother woman -- and it keeps being denied.

Of all the things I love in this world, though, my parents come first. Would I have a kid (apparently I can't just adopt, because they'd never love a child not of their own blood, sigh) just to please them and make them feel whole? I'd probably treat the child well and be a responsible mom. I'd send them to college, attend their plays and stuff. Part of my rationale for not wanting kids is probably because I think a lot of social norms are just bullshit, and I don't want my kid to either conform to it or to be an outcast.

Maybe I'd even develop that "mom brain" or whatever. My advisor tells me a person is always incomplete without being a parent.

But I don't want it. I've never once never fantasized about it. Probably, this will lead to my loved ones thinking of me as a giant failure and disappointment. The dilemma is to bend my life path to please them, or to stick with my will, even if it leads to rejection.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mumbai, and unbreakable optimism

Nothing to do with any city per se, just a face I was drawing while listening to "Jupiter," the beautiful song that a lot of weird Japanese otakus LOVE to hate. 

The song conjures up a feeling of relentless, un-tameable optimism, of being ready to fight and expect to win regardless of the circumstances. It reminded me of the blinding smile of an Indian woman (who looked like a Rajasthani 'gypsy' -- I could be totally wrong here) who pursued me for 50 rupees outside the Jain temple. There wasn't a shred of shame or desperation about her, and she was so bold it troubled me. After I handed her the note and slinked into the car, she tapped on the window and waved at me, "thank you!" with the most dazzling smile I'd ever seen.

It shocked me because while she was pursuing me for money, I'd avoided making all eye contact. For about three minutes or so, all I saw was her feet and outstretched hands, and box of cheap bangles she implored me to buy when I refused to give her money. Even when I handed her the rupees, I was so deeply ashamed on her behalf I didn't dare look at her. Only when she unexpectedly tapped on my window, was I forced to look up — and I realized what astonishing eyes she had. A beggar woman with the face of a Goddess.

Her smile knocked the wind out of me.

That pure, confident expression, the clear gaze devoid of any negativity or bitterness despite the overwhelming odds she faced. That kind of person, I think, will probably save the world from apocalypse.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Independent clothes, and the reckless blue dress

I don't think I'll ever develop a drug habit. I've already got an addiction that will cost me as much — I am addicted to locally made clothes.

Not even the good kind (established brands like Twig and Hottie, for example). No, I like the clothes made by fresh out of university kids, whose brand mostly exists in the imagination and a dicey/non-existent website. I love the rough design and weird-pattern cloth with string sticking out all over the place. I love the slightly not-straight, wobbly seams where uneasy hands ran fabric through a sewing machine.  I like the sort of "brand" that's like a girl's childhood drawing come to life, rough around the edges, raw, dreamy and beautiful. Completely detached from the cage of pragmatism or cost-benefit analysis.

The last dress I bought this summer was ridiculously sumptuous, and its creator had no internet presence, none, the label is just a gmail address that if you google, will turn up nothing at all. All I know was it was made in Vancouver and it's the only dress of its kind that exists to my knowledge. No Amazon reviews, no Etsy store.

It was a romantic floral gown that should have been well over $500 if the creator was a real "business person" but was sold for much less, because like certain writers and artists, the creator cared less about making a good buck and more that the artwork is used in the world. The dress is a glorious handmade whimsy, with pretty silk threads and hand-painted flowers, brocaded panels woven from pure imagination.

Today, I met the creator of another lovely dress. It was blue tribal fabric piece with satin lining, understated colours with bold and original cut. It was both 1950s-inspired and completely modern, Asian and European at once.

"Where is this made?" I asked the young woman at the counter with brown dyed hair piled up on a bun and the whitest porcelain Asian skin you've ever seen.

Her pale cheeks flushed with pride, and she pointed to herself. "Uhm, here," she said in heavily accented English. "I did. I made it."

I thought about the different clothing options I'd kept a mental note of this month. I wanted to buy one item of clothing that was locally made, and two options made the cut.

 One was a pragmatic, classic locally made grey business shirt I'd tried on earlier this month. The brand had a slick and cool website. I could imagine this company growing, and being an established household name, like Lululemon, in 10 years. You could pair this shirt with anything, wear it anywhere, and never feel overdressed or underdressed. It would be durable for years and never go out of style. It was safe, practical, dignified, tasteful and timeless.

And then there was this reckless little blue dress in front of me. Here was its creator, a young early twenty-something designer/retailer/marketer/distributor whose sole calling card was the clothes on her hangers and an instagram account. As for her brand, let's just say the name didn't exactly roll off the tongue.  I couldn't tell if it would even endure til the end of the season. She might abandon it all, for lack of infrastructure and support. My figure might change, I might gain weight, and the dress might look desperate and eccentric next year, maybe even next month.

My thoughts drifted back to the business shirt. It was exactly what I needed for work.

And I looked again at her designs, bold, youthful, original, outrageous wholly unpragmatic designs of this young woman. I thought what it was like to be that age, in one's early twenties. About all the risks people take both with the clothes they wear and the hearts on their sleeves when they're not thinking about what they can lose. This kind of naive and trusting, idealistic time in life is not timeless at all; it whips by in an instant, like an arrow flying by. Eventually we stop believing in the goodness of the universe.

The dilemma was resolved. I chose the blue dress.

They both looked nice on me, and surely without a doubt the grey shirt was the better investment.

But the dress encapsulated the spirit of a time in life you want to keep in your soul forever, even as the body ages and the heart hardens, and a grey film of deja vu starts to snuff the shine out of everything you see. Even though this body might age, I'd still like to be the adventurer on the inside, the reckless Fool in the Tarot card deck that fears nothing and dreams the most beautiful dreams because she hasn't yet learned her limits.

No, I've never done drugs* (*to be fair, I've tried once, but never got high at all because I'm too anxious and proper to let my senses go), but I don't think I'll ever experience a high like wearing these obscure one of a kind clothes made right here in this city. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Witness: piano duet at Woodwards/W2 building

OK, pardon the drawing's ultra roughness. You know how they say better to move slow than stall.

So a piano mysteriously appeared in the Woodwards building on Hastings street. It is, in my view, the single most lovely object in the entire building, the most brilliant thing to have graced it in years. Every day I see new people approach the piano. Every day, I expect to hear some bullshit atrocious clanging on the keys, but perhaps due to sheer luck and timing, every stranger who approaches the piano is filled the building with the most beautiful music. 

Over the last week or so I've seen African Canadian kids take to the piano, a young woman in yoga clothes, a mother and daughter, an old man. All are trained in piano, all gravitated toward the piano like it was a magnetic force. 

The most lovely scene I've seen so far was an odd duo playing the most haunting duet song. Perhaps they were improvising, but it didn't seem like it: most likely, they both knew the same duet and decided to play it. 

The piano player on the right side was clean-cut, healthy, full of youth and middle-class wholesomeness in a blue jacket. He may have been a university student, maybe something completely different. 

The one on the left was older, scraggly haired, his emaciated, sickly body wrapped in a worn leather jacket. His bony legs hung from the piano chair, encased in baggy jeans.

But my, what music they played together! It was so seamless, so heavenly, I looked around the building and wondered why everyone hadn't gathered to watch.

How do these guys know each other, I wondered. Did they just happen to meet each other through  the piano? Or is the young man actually a resident of the Downtown Eastside? Are they friends? Co-workers?

In the middle of the song, the older man turned around and noticed he had a viewer in me. I was actually supposed to duck into Nesters' to buy groceries, but the minute the man became conscious of my presence, I thought it was better to stay put. Once every few seconds, he turns to me to check if I'm still there, as if I'm a ghost, a figment of his imagination.

I stay put and watch intently. He turns around to check on me again, and as he goes back to the keyboard, there's now a bounce in his fingers, he even starts to sing. With flourish, he drags his fingers across the piano in a brilliant swoop of notes. His feet dance. It's no longer just two guys playing vainly on the piano at Woodwards, now it's a concert, it's a show. All because now there is an audience.  

It may be my vain imagination talking, but I felt as if my staying and watching the music was not only good for me, but also important for the piano player as well. To witness is to acknowledge a human being exists, that their actions have meaning. Witnessing is telling a person: I see you. 

Being seen can be a shattering experience if you're undergoing something you don't want anybody else to see: being bullied, or suffering a drug withdrawal. Being caught in a corruption scandal.

But being witnessed as you do something positive is the most life-affirming experience — it's like being told not only, 'I see you' but 'I see you at your best. Keep going, don't stop now.' 

I wait until the song ends, and the older man stands up from the piano. There is no applause. I still walk up to the man because I feel I must, and tell him: 'That was really good.'

The older man, looking deeply contemplative, looks straight at me and puts two shaky hands together to form a steeple like a prayer. 'Xie xie ni,' he tells me in a soft, tiny voice. 'Duo xie.' 

It doesn't matter that I'm not Chinese. The spirit of trying to connect was there.

Through my simple and wordless act of watching him play the piano, it seems to have sent a vague and intangible message that his music and talent matters, that it's heard. in the world. And his awkward greeting was an acknowledgement that he sees me too. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mumbai: an unexpected encounter with the Snake God

India was filled with odd and unexpected surprises. One of the great things I miss about the country is how deeply spirituality was intertwined with daily life activities. The cabs, the rickshaws, were covered with unique and individual Gods' names, divine sayings. Rudra. God is Great. Allah. All painted on the windows of cars, temples drawing thousands of worshippers from across the country. Worship is not something you do every Sunday, but intertwined with daily life.

At our hotel, my partner, his friend and I were discussing where to visit on a Sunday afternoon. I'd been googling the major worshipping places like the Mahalaxmi temple, the Ganesh temple, and majestic Haji Ali mosque, and urged them to accompany me there.

But my partner's friend shook her head.

"These places would take over an hour to get to," she pointed out. "Why don't we check out something local, and nearby?"

I gritted my teeth and inwardly shook my head, thinking we'd then be stuck with nothing but roadside shrines and makeshift temples like some I'd seen in the slums.  Visiting a temple that wasn't on my guidebook would be pointless and a waste of time, I thought.

Boy, was I about to eat those words. 

When we went to the concierge for advice, he recommended a "snake temple" just down the road. It was a short rickshaw ride there and when he stopped, my heart sank at how tiny it was.

So small! I grunted to myself. This is just a roadside temple, we'll be in and out in 15 minutes, if that.

We went in, and saw a sea of plastic sandals, shoes and slippers on the ground. 

"Guess we'll just take our shoes off here," I said. 

As we slipped our shoes off, a young man approached us and insisted that we not put our shoes there.
"OK, then we'll put them in our bags and carry them around," I said. 

"No. No shoes in the temple allowed," he said firmly, then pointed to an old man in a white shirt and skullcap.

"Go with him. He says you should bring the shoes to him." 

"Oh God," I muttered, remembering the young lady at the Jain temple who aggressively pursued me for 50 rupees after 10 minutes of 'watching' my shoes. "How much will it cost?"

The old man shook his head firmly and said mumbled something.

"Nothing, he says it costs nothing," his translator said.

"I dunno..."

Meanwhile, my partner obediently took his shoes off and passed them to the old man, who was now standing on a raised surface of dirt beside a building. He took my the shoes and placed them on a spot on the dirt. My eyes bulged. Is this what we were going to be charged for?

"Come on, let's do it," my partner urged, standing barefoot now. His friend was now standing barefoot as well, passing her sandals to the old man.

"Fuck," I grumbled, finally taking off my shoes. "We're going to be charged an arm and leg for this."

The old man took my shoes, put them with the other two, and hid them under a red plastic basin, the kind you'd use to wash the floor.

You're kidding, I grimaced.

I stared at my pale feet, which curled as I gingerly walked on the cool wet ground, hoping I would not crunch anything weird underfoot. I knew walking barefoot was nothing unusual in India, and was perfectly common here, but being so isolated to the normal ways of other countries, I cringed and took hesitating baby steps the whole way.

We began by taking photos of the statues and premises. The space seemed small, if well attended, and we aimlessly took photos like this one of the snake Goddess below. With no historical context or knowledge, we were wandering blindly in a holy place. But thankfully, someone watching the scene took pity on us.

A woman with short hair and a friendly, open and kind face showed up beside us, and started translating each God and Goddess in fluent English.

"This is Kali," she smiled broadly, pointing at a fierce looking dark statue of a Goddess with a necklace of severed human heads, covered in garlands. "You need something? Pray to her. She will get it done for you." This is not a deity to be messed around with, she seemed to imply.

She taught us to walk around the Goddess three times, and pray properly.

Then we got led toward the main worshipping hall, where there appeared to be a lot of music -- energetic, frenetic drumming and flute playing happening.  I have videos of it, but don't think such spiritual worship videos should be made public (recitals of Qu'ran and general choir music is fine),  but see the photos below for an idea.

You walk inside, and there are men on the left side, women on the right. In the middle of the passageway, a group of worshippers, and a young man with a head full of curls, magnetic eyes and garlands around his neck, in the middle of a silver-plated room within a temple. You realize he is the Snake God incarnate, as he moves like someone not quite human.

The shorthaired woman ushers me to the women's side, where we are crammed against other women who clasp their hands together in prayer over the holy ceremony.

I have to note the flute is ear splittingly loud. I almost choked with disbelief that the young man was actually listening to the snake music so up close without going deaf.

There is a strange vegetable that keeps being offered up to the Snake God incarnate: he splits it, rubs his face all over it, and tosses it into the altar above the silver room, and into the crowd, where worshippers grab the plant as a symbol of blessing. I can smell the sweet scent of the plant beside me, and I remember that India has profound agricultural traditions, that its ceremonies are often filled with rituals relating to harvest.

The music grows wilder and more intense. The young man widens his eyes and moves like a cobra being seduced by the sound of music. He comes out and blesses the plants, then retreats after about 30 minutes into the silver room, where he sits still, closes his eyes and prays. At some point, the Guru comes out -- a bald, thin man with a long beard and white braid down his back.

His worshippers come out and decorate him with a silver belt, gold snake-motif arm bands and other gold ornaments. This Guru is far more demonstrative of snake qualities than the younger man. He lashes his tongue out like a snake, and writhes around on the ground in circles like a breakdancer.

I stare in awe as he throws strands of the wheat-like plant to the audience. By this point, the crowd is wild with rapture, and I can feel women grabbing my shoulders, pushing and prodding at me. He tosses a plant to me, but an over-eager older woman buts in front and grabs it.

"HEY!" the Guru shouted, as the woman shrank back and dropped her gaze in shame. He then looked straight at me and tossed me a blessed plant. Disclaimer: I'm not familiar with this ceremony/religion; this is only based on my journal entry.

The plant is greenish white and cold, and faintly moist, fresh out of its protective casing.

"Bow to him, on your knees," the woman with short hair's voice said into my ear, suddenly right beside me. I awkwardly fall to my knees and touch my head to the ground at his feet, like others have been doing.

He then looks at me and starts murmuring something. The woman translates:

"You've been crying a lot this year, haven't you?" I think back, and realize there were days when I was at any moment ready to burst into tears, that there were moments of intense despair, mostly over my relationship and murky financial future.

"Don't cry anymore. Stop crying. And don't worry. The Gods are always watching over you."

That voice, when she said it, at the time meant nothing in particular. I flushed a bit with embarrassment, back on my feet, and retreated back into the faceless crowd. But now that I think of it, these were the words my anxious soul needed to hear most. God has given up hope for me, I would often think, and there were times I'd look up in the sky and feel a chill of abandonment, like the spirit I always sensed over me as a child and young teen was suddenly absent.

The ritual continued for another two hours. As it continued, I began to wonder what kind of stamina the guru and the musicians (especially the drummer) had. Their brains must be scraped raw by now from the frenzied sound and dancing. But still, by the time I started wondering if things were coming to an end, we were only just at the halfway point.

It got crazier and more intense, with a lot of coconut smashing over heads and throwing offerings into a burning blaze, but three hours later, the music finally gave way to silence. And my ears were vibrating -- even at a distance, it felt like the songs made my ears go partially deaf.

"Come, come," the woman smiled, and led us through the back. Still barefoot, we followed her through to a space in the back, where people were grabbing metal plates and lining up to be served food. Giant scoops of basmati rice. Lentil dal. Sambar. A paper cup of sweet dessert.

"Come on," she said, and led us to a tiny, oasis-like room of pure quiet and peace. A tiny white dog lay relaxing under a chair. It felt like home, or someone's home. It was most likely the woman's.

The food, which we ate with our hands and fingers, was absolutely delicious. For some strange reason, even though I ate $50CDN meals in Mumbai on one or two occasions, the cheapest meals (this one was totally free) were the most exquisite. The spices were flavourful.

I was slightly surprised that my red-haired, blue-eyed companion, had no qualms about eating with her bare hands. She'd even picked up Hindi phrases much faster than me, and was completely moved by the ceremony, which might turn some other people off.

"You know, Baba (the guru) can do anything," she told us. "Thirteen years ago, I was dying of illness. My family was already arranging my funeral. But then somebody called him, and he healed me completely. Ever since, I've been studying at this temple."

I wondered about the life she'd led, completely committed to religion, but it was clear in her face that she was happy to use her skills to serve, to spread her experience to guests from around the world.

We sat and ate peacefully, exchanging thoughts.

Our greetings finished (we said goodbye to the woman and the snake guru one last time), we went back to the dirt hill where the old man retrieved our shoes. I learned later that my partner and friend offered the temple some money, but they emphatically refused. I thought about the hotel man who insisted to us that Indians only care about money, and how wrong that statement was.

Stepping outside into the busy Mumbai street again was like crossing an invisible wall into another universe.

"Only in India, eh?"

"Yeah. Only in India," I wheezed, my feet still floating on air and excitement.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The ugliest beauty?

So it's official. My partner, who is still in India, does not like the place. It probably has at least something to do with the fact that he works in a cockroach infested office, but these are his words about why.

"Don't get me wrong, India is beautiful. There are many beautiful things about India. But you know whereas most places, there's a beautiful place here (gestures with right hand) and uglier places over there (gestures with left hand, held at arm's length from right), in India, they are right beside each other," he said, bringing his hands side-by-side. "In fact, they are intertwined with each other." 

"Imagine seeing the most beautiful woman in the world. Blindingly beautiful woman. You look a bit at her and realize she has this disgusting skin disease that's eating her away. But that skin disease really brings out this beautiful necklace that she has on. India is that kind of place."

He went on that the proximity of intense ugliness has made it impossible to enjoy the beauty of Mumbai.

"I can't even really go downtown and enjoy it anymore," he said grimly. "Cause you might see something, and think, oh, that's really nice, but literally right beside it, there will be amputees and dead dogs and cockroaches and amputees, and there's no way to unsee it."

I first thought his point of view selfish (even though I totally thought it too), but then I read about his experience walking into a shoe store where people had painstakingly, handcrafted beautiful artisan shoes. He felt the sinking feeling in his gut that these things that people worked so hard to make were going to sell too slowly to make the artisans rich monetarily, and he knew there was a line of beggars and destitute people right outside the door who can never dream of accessing such nice things. This to him was traumatizing, and it would be to me as well, even though it is the world in a nutshell.

The other day I heard three wealthy looking young women with makeup-caked faces talking about a 20% off sale at House of Lashes. Meanwhile, kids starving. It's the kind of reality you can't turn off in a place like India.

I don't agree fully with that assessment, but I do accept that there was something devastating about India that I didn't feel in any other country before.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Happy rats

Nothing to do with anything, but I just have to get it out of my system. I like pet rats. I've never had them, but just the idea of it brings me joy. With all the grim stuff happening I needed to draw something to make me smile.

I regret not flying to Rajasthan to visit the "rat temple" with 21,000 rats. Supposedly if you get touched by one, it's a blessing of good luck. Actually, the photos look a little horrifying, and probably, I didn't  go out of fear that the sight of all those creatures would actually turn me off of rats forever. Anyway. Fantasizing never hurts.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Syrian refugees

Sidebar, a bit off topic. I've been having some difficulty sleeping recently. You hear news about crises all the time. But somehow the refugee crisis has been distressing to read about, and even though I've given to the cause, it still haunts me.

Doubly because I'm conflicted about this issue, even though people would say that's wrong. Many are categorically for, others against, bringing refugees to Canada. I'm mixed. We should because it's the right thing to do — and expect both negative and positive changes.

You hear news about refugees who end up in violent gangs in Canada, or about really religious types who do settle and get citizenship, but end up spending their hard-earned energy protesting sexual diversity or protesting for their religious rights, when tolerance of other lifestyles is precisely what makes multiculturalism work in the first place.

But then I remember the actual refugees -- not the people covered in the news -- who just want to live normal lives, get jobs, practice their religion in a devout but not-imposing-beliefs-on-non-believers way. These are the people, probably the majority, whose views never get heard because it's just not exciting to read about.

It's unfortunate that no one mentions that refugees actually have to pay back the money they owe government. It's not a "free ride" and I remember old Vietnamese refugees friends telling me about finding jobs at 15, 16, to pay back the loans and start life anew as soon as possible.

Some people say Syrians are different from the boat people back then, but fearing them is irrational. Steve Jobs was half-Syrian. Same for Paula Abdul. The people who criticize them for their "fancy clothes and iPhones" are would hate them equally if they were wearing rags and had no money.

I remember the regular Iraqi and Syrian refugees I've met in the past, and how preposterously lucky we are, compared to most people on the planet. When we start talking about how we can't afford to help them, we forget about those who hoard wealth (call it what it is -- beyond a certain measure, it's just plain hoarding), we forget about the billions wasted on wars, influence-buying, ridiculous ads and private jets. People have the freedom to spend their wealth and public funds the way they want, but seeing that we live on the same planet, it's unconscionable to not help while indirectly benefiting from/contributing to misery in other parts of the world.

So, a series of 3am sketches over two days.

What I mean in the above is a response to the "help our own people first" argument. The logic we use to deny refugees (don't have the funds, no budget, and anyway these people have to take responsibility and fix their own situation) is the exact same logic we use to deny our own homeless, sick and poor. So, no, denying refugees aid will not miraculously lead to public funds and resources being used to help Canadians — if there was a political vision of going all out and helping those struggling in our neighbourhoods, our leaders would have done so already. If the mindset of leaders is to help those in need, they will help both refugees and citizens.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mumbai streets: the rickshaws, the scooters, the street kids

Post in development - updates with stories coming.

OK, so I'm clearly a liar about uploading colour images. I will, but it's so late at night and my eyes burn, so colour finishing later.

This image got cropped funny, and the rickshaw needs some fixing, but it's a scene I saw often: migrant labourers on their way to work, sitting atop giant bags and stopped from falling out only by a thin rope. And, rickshaw drivers. Some old, some young, almost always bare foot on pedal.

Rickshaws absolutely fascinated me. Their drivers had to be hyper-aware of their surroundings, almost to the point of a sixth sense, in order to make a living and exert a level of rapid judgment during their daily jobs that I'd have a lot of trouble coping with. The drivers are almost all barefoot. Some chose to elaborately decorate their richkshaws with cushions and cool paint designs, others couldn't be bothered to fix rust holes in the bottom. One driver in particular kept staring to his bottom right when the cars would stop. I always wondered what he was thinking, lost in thought. Composing a song? A novel? 

There was an old, emaciated man who appeared to be an extreme spiritual practitioner. Every day, on the way back, I'd encounter a skinny man with a bun on his head, sitting in a tunnel with hands under his hips, deeply contemplating the nature of life. He was always in the exact same spot under a bridge at a busy intersection.
The street kid who climbed my car had striking orange hair and orange-red eyes that glowed against his bronze skin. His expression haunted me because the innocent smile felt totally staged; his teeth flashed in what looked like a not 100% genuine grin, and it surprised me that kids could be so adept at faking cute, benign happiness to make a living. How much rather he'd be somewhere else than selling plastic trinkets to random drivers.