Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

India Lessons overload

Posted: May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Thought I should gather a few lessons av gathered in India. Didnt expect the list to be so long , neither to anticipate writing edition 2 . Some I will keep some I will unlearn as soon as soon that flight touches  JKIA grounds, whichever way the learning was worth it all. Each of these has fascinating stories behind them.

  • To pull a beautiful poker face
  • To dodge stuff, cars , people , things
  • Ek minute …because a minute can be a lifefime, a lifetime can be a minute
  • Jesus rocks
  • To say yes more often
  • Hanging on the edge of the train, and while at it jump while its on the move
  • Run for my life
  • To feel and not feel everything with the same magnitude
  • Yoga Magic
  • The Bhaiya bait—to get everything I want from locals without a single drop of sweat
  • To Stop and Stare
  • Go for coffee dates alone and have a bliss
  • Indian bargaining style-everything costs 30 % of initial price
  • Acquire gas from illegal market
  • Lay my soul bare
  • Dance to my own music
  • Write some sarcastic stuff
  • Survive anywhere
  • Life as a diva
  • Kya bakwaas hai?
  • All the food that is bad for flat abs
  • To travel for days without shower and still pull off hot looks
  • I truly am an amazing person
  • To forget so easily & fast that I forget the names of the nouns involved
  • Checking into train stations at 3am for 5 rupees ( shower, dressup and hit the road again)
  • Say what I need to say, how I want to say it
  • Calm storms with grace
  • Things like this

Somewhere on my way to work

  • See through peoples eyes, while at it touch their hearts
  • Trust or leave- nothing in between
  • Embrace uncertainty with laughter
  • To help strangers
  • To pray for strangers and mean it
  • Live with bare minimum
  • An English statement is incomplete if its ending lacks the words, only, itself , correct , the same or na
  • India has its own world map , unrevealed to the world. Top secret
  • To graciously turn cigarette offers away, but make new friends
  • Kya, ek, sida, bhaiyya, baas, chalo , is enough hindi for me
  • To read Spanish in English , its kinda a long funny story
  • Accepting that my heart is too small for dogs
  • Being grateful
  • To accept freely without questioning food , sweets, gifts , friends,
  • I am a miracle
  • People will stare, people will talkm give them a masterpiece to keep their gaze transfixed, their chats endless
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Inside a Bombay Train

Posted: February 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

On days like this I head to my neighbours house and give this lovely girl 3 kisses , leaving my lipstick all over her face. She is the only innocent being I know , I silently pray they never get her.  The demons of racism.It is a honest prayer.”

baby

Jogging has become part come of my usual morning ritual. It is in these glorious hours that I strengthen my muscles for embracing diversity a key trait to survive in any foreign country.

Normal days are graced by very ugly dogs (yes I am unapologetic ), weird stares, ecstatic sunrise, several  beautiful smiles from strangers , romantic couples by the sea, and the best part is the small talks with CEOs , Indias who and who ,  and the energy I draw from the elderly who gather in different parks for morning brisk  walk and yoga. Several beyond 70 , yet full of much life and gusto.

Today however , the end of my morning jog took an interesting twist. On taking the last corner towards home, I notice a fat brown dog walking fast towards me, barking. I freak out , 7 months later my hate for dogs grows stronger by day. It’s a funny story because this dog specifically spotted me among ten other people sited or walking by and only came after me. The look on its face was terrifying. With my heart at my chest,  I quickly took shelter next to a man who was holding his 1 year old daughter  .  He was kind enough to protect me . I felt smaller than the child he was holding.

It took 3 adult Indian men to keep this dog away from pouncing its claws on me, tearing me apart into pieces.  Thank God, I maintain an amicable relationship with the neighbours , for their stern faces and human circle scarcely scared the dog. Keeping it away  for today , but am afraid of tomorrow. 😦

As I walked away, I recalled a conversation with a certain lady sometimes back. After sharing my morning dog stories, she quickly responded without much thought “ They can see you are different , your skin , your height , your entire physique so they come after you”  Oh how touching !  Luckily part of the commonly referred to as global mindset is actually a defense mechanism a traveller  develops for all kinds of bullshit, racism, foolishness , stereotypes and mere ignorance. I have it in check , double checked since am African commonly also called black girl. Hence I  quickly deleted her response from my mind. Rarely does stuff like this get to me ,  only pointing.  I was wondering  for 6 months , why pointing raises my emotions alarm,  till I recently made a trip to our embassy and was reminded by some Kenyan culture material that pointing is a taboo back home.

Moving gridsToday like all other mornings I got to see life from a different angle,  I saw racism from a dangerous animal view.  Its ugly,  disgusting, its fierce, its angry ,dangerous, foolish  and once it gets  to any being it tears  it  apart .

I also wish to mention  that it is  at this same place , where I  recently encountered a  5 year old who  called me a yogi because of my long braids. I felt ashamed to be a trained teacher. What an education system that intentionally misses Africa on its syllabus?

It also at this same spot , another  5 year old  cries clinging to her mother when she sees me. It has happened 3 times , so no am not paranoid , I am not dreaming either .

Mere coincidence ? only for those whose souls remain engulfed in darkness. Though these events sadden me ( an emotion am still learning), it  still  remains a funny story for I ponder how can any being judge another based on the color of their skin? What madness is this?

They say home is where the heart is , I wonder where mine is

I could live in four countries  and still feel home

It’s a blessing , I thank God

In the huge crowds of rushing people, I find myself lost

In the endless noise of the horns , I try to tune to the music within me

Helplessness surrounds me ,wherever I go, a hungry child rushes to me , I brush her off

Too many of them , I feel inadequate

 A battered wife by the street , stares  at me , my heart sinks

A poor street family, I get a sneak into Mother Teresas notion on poorest of the poor

My mind wonders how could so many people suffer in the hands of humanity

Just before I come to terms with it , 10,000 are dead in Philipines, We evacuated 1 million from a cyclone

May be there is hope , My day brightens a little bit

But not long enough  to last me  day, I mourn lives I don’t know, Its incomprehensible how god would let so many die of natural calamities,

How does a nation mourn 10,000 lives at once, how do they move on? Then I remember my neighbor Rwanda 800,0000

Again a lay of hope , 10,000 not too bad I guess

I remember the quote from the bible , I will never again destoy my own with water …not sure if it’s the right paraphrase but I know he promised after Noahs floods

I do remember as I read the whole old testament when I was a teenager

All but  Numbers, I chose from a young age , they were never meant for me

Few days later , comedians in church  back in my country of origin, talking all kinds of shit , Jesus would call this a market place.

Am an embarrassed christian

Nothing makes sense

Am at work,

 I try to figure out what to be excited about today sometimes small things like chocolate from one of my new recruitees excites me,

Sometimes it’s a conversation over an interview, with a stranger thousands of miles apart

My life is shaped around these, conversations.

I talk to hundreds of people, some piss me off , some mold me, some challenge me and the special ones inspire me

Every single day, I love it

And sometimes , am blank in emotions

This is a city of speed, everyone s running somewhere

Mumbai is a city of dreams , some never live to catch them

I too am chasing mine, I pray they don’t become a passing wind

I wonder how closer I got to mine , today. I feel challenged to run faster

In this marathon, forgetting yourself is as fast as the fast local train to Borivali

Av heard and read India makes you soft hearted,  to want to do things for humanity

I guess not for everyone, am becoming indifferent to many things

I can not look any more, I don’t want to look, Sometimes I want to scream and run away

Its too painful , I  cant do much. Rape, hunger, godmen that have delusioned the poor color the daily news

My collegue says,Martha dont read the magazine ,I dont listen, I read anyway , I am a conversationalist, words and information are my heartbeat

So I choose to shape my life and that of my generations

I know its selfish , but hey life is for the living

Am living mine , in the best way I know

Should I feel guilty? No Bill gates, and Oprah are doing great things and they are living great lives.So did Mother Teresa

I take a deep sigh, the sunset is spectacular

This neighbourhood is very beautiful too, clean, well kept and rich,A yellow Ferrari drives by

And my own life flashes ahead of me

All stars live here, enjoying their lavish lifestyles

Its reminds me that life is beautiful anyway, that I have lived the best I could

That I have loved and been loved by  amazing friends and family whom I would die for

I close my eyes and fall into the darkness

If tomorrow never comes, I will have lived , loved and laughed

It means everything to me

My heart is at peace

PS: I have undying love for Mumbai. Actually we have undying passion for each other.However just like any other normal relationship there are things I just hate BIG time. Its the the thin line between the two that keeps us together !

  1. Monday morning, actually almost every day. But Mondays feel worse coz am normally fired up to hit the ground running. Taking my time  to enjoy the morning breeze of the sea, trying so hard to avoid disruption. Then what do I see, an adult man lying on the streets masturbating  ,halfway in his asleep. Am mentally disturbed. My innocence is gone with the wind.
  2. DOGS.I HATE dogs. I hate them very much. Doesn’t matter how cute they are . Even my best friends dogs I don’t like them.Infact my history with dogs dates back to very young age. My grandpa had this fierce dog . It was my nightmare. For the sake of those who have never been to African villages, here is a briefing. The kitchen and main house are different.In most cases there are more than one main houses. This is the case with my grandparents home. Rarely is there electricity or any kind  lighting in compound at night. Dinner is served between 8-9 . Its this time that my grandma. May her soul rest in peace, would call me to get my dinner and my favourite big mug of fresh milk.As soon as she called my name, I would go to the door, try to squint in darkness, then make run , run for my life . Like Bolt does. And always the fierce dog would come running after me. That was my entire life, a nightmare to and from the kitchen, mostly pouring half of my food and milk.Fast forward over ten years later, these dogs in Mumbai are driving me crazy. They are everywhere, I go.It freaks me out mostly when they run after me during my morning jog.  Dirty , unkempt stray dogs with a tag. I don’t know how who tags them. I wonder all the time, but I don’t have to ask, I would rather ask if someone could get rid of them. That’s not  gonna happen. Animals are respected here. Something about religion. I have chosen to understand about some animals, but not dogs. No. Never. One time , I tried , then one bit my friend really badly she had to get stiches. I changed my mind to the worse. Even the ones for the rich , that are walked around my neighbourhood are equally ugly.And why do they poo in patterns , its like a competition in the street. I always watch where I am walking, coz I don’t want to take this shit to my house.
  3. Spitting. As much as I have seen no spitting billboards everywhere, no one seems to adhere. The rickshaw drivers, and pretty much everyone else. All appreciation goes to the green leaves with something something that is red in color, that are sold everywhere..Pan I think Once chewed, your saliva turns red. Yes red. Having become overly sensitive these last years, I practically walk dodging this red spit on the streets. The sight of someone spitting is always very disgusting . Problem is its stuck here in my mind and a few days ago I realized not even a trip to the beautiful Kerala beaches will erase this image
  4. Poking in the train, which comes with the where are you getting off?  question with some accent. There is a 50 -50 chance that the language would be Marati, Hindi or English.First days, I almost lost it. I couldn’t understand why the heck someone cares why am going. Its none of your business. Several trains latter , I learnt that they ask so that they can take your space when you get off. Since then , I close my eyes when I get into train so no one disturbs my peace.So far its working very well. I also happened to go to Borivali, dem its far. They kind of have a point .
  5. Rickshaw drivers. Ours is the true love hate affair. I speak Swahili, English , Sheng, Kikuyu or whatever language that comes to mind and you speak Hindi or Marati. We reach an agreement of my destination. But you take me somewhere else .85 % of the time. And insist that’s where I should be. We argue. I ask you to ask around. You are stubborn. I start getting furious, am getting late. At this point we either separate or you find your way around and take me where we agreed in our different languages. Even when you have been working all day, you still don’t have change. All those 5 rupees, 3 rupees change I leave behind is a huge loss for me. I know sometimes you just want to make money from me. I guess you should be rich by now. But that’s a different story. No one has change in this country. No one. If I have 5 hundred rupees and am on the rush , so only need to grab a snack, it’s a dead effort. I go hungry most times. Its funny that sometimes I have so many 10 rupees notes and 2,3 5, rupees coins, funnier that these are the days I don’t need them at all. Back to rickshaw driver, why you don’t want to take me to Bandra East? Its still Bandra just the other side, and you get more money. ?
  6. Ok I get it. I am tall, taller than 90% of the women in this country. My hair is sometimes short and curly, sometimes like Rihannas , sometimes like now braided and very long. I have no clue what it will be tomorrow. I am dark skinned, and my skin tone is very even. I am everything that an Indian woman is not. No pun intended. But my million dollar question is , is that why everyone is staring at me? All the time? Or is it some mediocre racist reasoning? Some laughing , others shocked, others emotionless, from kids to the elderly? Because if this is why, then I am willing to have a sculpture of me somewhere in the middle of Mumbai for your future reference. I could have it engraved… Yours truly Martha Dee , the hottest African woman alive !

A Tale of God and Love

Posted: October 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

The events below transpired on a recent Saturday morning as I came back home from my morning jog in Bandra West, Mumbai India . The characters Wife and Husband  are my lovely neighbours. *Shaila is their youngest daughter, while son is the firstborn.


Me: Goodmorning,

Wife: Goodmorning

Me :Where is Shaila ?

Wife : Shaila is in school .They have to cover up for the 3 days holiday  taken during Ganapati festival.Come , I will give you some tea. (She ushers me to the small living room  where the husband is sitting and leaves for the kitchen )

Me: (settling down, myattention on a picture of  a god I have not come across yet ) who is she? I ask pointing to the wall.

Wife comes in carrying a  tray, on it tea and some snacks  (Tea without masala , just like my  moms ) (In my mind awesome I am home )

Husband : He is one of our gods used to live in the Himalayas , you know Himalayas? All covered in snow.

Me(A bit shocked it’s a male god, he looked like a female, well that’s common here ) Yes Yes , I plan to travel there.

Wife : Have some tea.( Places the tray infront of the stool and sits on the floor)  Where are you from ?

Me : Kenya, in Africa

Wife :  Aha , I worked in Kuwait for 2 years .

(At this point my interest in this family doubles )

Me: Wow, what were you doing there?

Wife: I was a house help.  I didn’t study much so this was good job for me. Very nice people. I can speak Arabic very well.

Husband: Yes two years then she came back

Me: Why?

Wife: So I could get married to my husband. My employers wanted me to stay , but I said no, I have to go and get married to my husband.( Every time she mentions my husband she looks at him with adoration)

Me :How long have you been married?

Husband and Wife in unison: 20 years , anniversary is this December

Me:Wow, that’s a long time . Congratulations

Wife : Drink some tea , before it gets cold.

(I sip some tea as she leaves the  small room. She comes back after 2 minutes with a small photo album)

                                        *************************************************

Wife: Let me show you our family photos (For the next 20 mins , we go through the small album as she explains to me the different events page after page. Her wedding, her sisters wedding, her family, her daughters birthday and then we stop when she mentions her son)

Me: Son, You have a son?

Wife and Husband : Yes we have two children . He is the first born. (Husband leaves to go call him as wife  reminds me to finish my tea) He is now working in a call centre and studying his BA.

Wife : My daughter , she always tells me I will marry Shah Rukh Khans son. He is Muslim and his wife is Marati . His Mother is Muslim and his Father Marati . Mom you wont say no right? I tell her, yes its alright. She wants to be an actress .

Me : Oh, actress too? She also mentioned to me she is interested in animation

Husband: (Sitting next to his son) Yes animation too. We let them be what they choose to be. Its about their future , the rest of their lives. So if it makes them happy so be it. We pray to God, to guide them.

Wife: God is great. We pray all the time. No worries. Shaila will be back in the afternoon. Do you know Shah Khan? He and many Bollywood actors and actresses live on the seaside .

Me: Yes I know him.

Wife: Please come and see her when she is back. We never let them go anywhere. Just to school and tuition and stay with school friends. These are nice people. The neighbourhood is not very good here.

Son: Yes , people are mean .

Me: Aha , why is that so?

Son: No one cares, you greet some they don’t greet you back. They are just mean. Where are you from?

Me : Kenya

 Son : My sister has friends from Kenya, Japan , China too all over the world. She met them on Facebook She can speak japan, she learns everything online.I have  a college friend too from Kenya, she lived there 10 years.

Me: Wow, small world .

 Wife: Shaila uses my laptop , but its not working now. So I just tell her to use her mobile phone.

 Son: Where do you work?

Me: Tata Consultancy Services , my office is at Nariman Point, Air India Building

Son: How do you travel , local train?

Me: Yes , its ok. Gotten  used to it now.

Son and Wife: Be careful in the train. They steal your things. You don’t know when they open your bags or pockets. They can take everything, purse, money. So just be careful.

( I smile as I recall how it is back home in matatus)

Husband: Yes , he just lost his phone, 21,000INR phone.

Wife: You don’t need to be scared of anything , don’t be afraid. God is watching over us. We just have to pray to him and he will take care of us.

Husband:  Yes why be afraid?

Wife: (Smilling, with so much enthusiasm and full of life) You see, your Kenya could just be like My India. And my India could be like your Kenya. Not much difference. We are all the same. Not different. So don’t be afraid.

                          ************************************************************

All this time, I have been shifting my eyes to give equal attention to these three amazing people. I have never been more fascinated in my life. Suddenly I remember that we didn’t finish viewing the photos. I flip through to the last page and draw closer to the wife so we can complete. Noticing some are copies,  I continue flipping until I come across a photo of the husband in a tshirt written Dubai

Wife : That’s my husband. He went to Dubai to look for work. My inlaws stay there as well. But he didn’t stay long. My  Shaila was crying every day. I want daddy back.

Husband:  So I had to come back for her.

I continue flipping and stop at a photo of Shailas birthday.

Wife :   Shailas first birthday . Next we have Navarati  , 9 days of dance. Very beautiful festival .Then Diwali , the festivals of the lights , then your Christmas in December . India has so many  festivals .  She was born on the 1st October , but we celebrate her birthday on the first day of Navarati.

Me: Why  do you do so?

Husband: Because its an auspicious day. For blessings.

(I quickly decide I will buy her the birthday gift on the day they celebrate as much as I would love to do it on the actual day.)

Me: Thanks a lot for the tea. It was very nice and reminded me of home. Well, I have to leave now go wash some clothes . Will pass by in the afternoon to see Shaila . Please let her know when she is back home.

Husband, Wife and Son: Ok, thanks for coming. We will tell her.

Wife: And always feel welcome here. If you want anything come to us. If you want food , I will cook and give you some.

Me: Thanks a lot maam. I would love to come back ,  learn how to cook some Indian dishes too.

Husband : But how will you cook, you don’t have gas yet.

Me: Well, I can cook for you one day. Will use the skills when I go home too.

Husband , Wife and Son  burst into heavy heartfelt laughter as they show me out.

  (I gladly make my way to my flat , perplexed by the kindness shown to me  so much ,that I feel guilty. I wouldn’t have wished to spend my Saturday morning in any other way. )

 

*************************End****************************

 

 

 

Home away from home

Posted: September 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

You know you are home when your voice at the gate makes two girls come rushing out of their house hugging you and so excited to see you after a long weekend of your absence. In just two months they have become your small sisters…

But it doesn’t end there…they storm to your room and give you a 10 minutes brief of their idea to become AIESEC Kids and recruit others from their school, they have the draft of the initiative, and two project ideas ” why people travel the world” and”Creating change in the society” not to mention their personal plan to raise money for laptops and other materials to Kick off.

They also already have sold the idea to their dad who will be their financial and moral support partner. And also have researched and printed some materials for the first project.These two girls are clever enough to prioritize so they will start with the travel project and then launch the change project later when they collect more money.

As you sit in the candle lit room sharing with them about your weekend (only relevant parts) and showing them photos taken you see their eyes glow in the dark and their faces lighten up… A feeling and expression that is equally contagious

They are thrilled, hopeful, enthusiastic and full of life…

They remind you that life is really made up of such moments, experiences and conversations.

And as I waved them goodnight I knew tonight that there is a greater reason for me to be here greater than I ever imagined…
Am happy to be home…

Yet they are only 10 and 8 years old:))