Musings, Uncategorized

Rolling Stone

Black sheep? He was hardly even a sheep. As one friend said, boundaries did not apply to him. My uncle traveled more miles, encountered more scandal and embarked on more adventures by the time he turned 18 than most people I know have in a lifetime. Sadly, I no longer have the chance to hear these tales from his own mouth.

One out of four sons in a litter of seven, nature won out over nurture with my dad’s brother. My grandfather’s near-asceticism didn’t keep chachu from literally marching to the beat of his own bass drum (music was strictly forbidden in the household, so you can imagine the fury unleashed when my grandfather spotted him rolling with the marching band on the street). My grandmother’s nerves were apparently fried worrying about chachu, especially when he ran away at 13 without a trace. Several years later, she found out from other relatives that he somehow worked his way to Kuwait via India and ended up in Sweden.

I didn’t realize just how much love he had for family until I noticed how he had pictures of each and every one of us, his nieces and nephews, alongside black and whites of him and his siblings, snaps of children and grandchildren; weddings, graduations, candids, the home a visible record of the Choudhury clan.

Among these is a photo in the dining room I try to sear into my mind: him and my aunt perched on a rooftop with what I imagine to be Stockholm in the background, embraced in a kiss with her long blonde hair and his thick black mane flying as if he had just pulled her in as the shutter flashed. It was young, unapologetic love like I could not imagine from someone in my family. That’s right: my Bangladeshi uncle married a Swedish woman, in the seventies. He was decades ahead of the interracial curve. On top of that, they had my Jenny apu before getting married. Sex–and therefore procreation–out of wedlock was and still is virtually unheard of in South Asian circles, so there’s another mold broken. We tend to forget all too often that the elderly were in fact young at some time and had lives as pressing and developing as ours feel now.

Source: HRH Walls

Source: HRH Walls

I see a sitar sitting in the corner of the living room and ask my dad if chachu played. No, but know what he did play? Harmonica and banjo, metal picks and all.

I had no idea about this uncle for the longest time. The uncle I saw at dawats was norom, soft and stout from age and poor health, who brightened up whenever I came to say hello. The last adventure I saw him pull was running his own Indian restaurant years back (which of course was still a feat). Sure, my aunt stands out in a sea of brown, but I got used to it and never questioned how they met. I hear tidbits now about how much she helped my uncle become successful in Sweden and how they struggled together to build a good life. This part is vague since these pieces, along with the majority of his life, are still missing to me. It’s not that my uncle has kept his life a mammoth secret from everyone (although some parts still are). He is a family favorite and his reputation for wilder days is well-known to most. I just never bothered to ask and find out for myself. Fortunately, he had been working on an autobiography recounting his experiences before passing away. Unfortunately, the ‘manuscript’ is rough– out of order in trying to recollect increasingly distant memories and written in broken Bengali. Several relatives have mildly attempted to get his work published before, but the pages remain uncomposed, put off and off for another time.

Going to his house tonight reminded me of how long it’s been since the last time I came, even though he often asked me to visit. He had my graduation picture on the kitchen counter and I can count with half a hand how many times I came over. woulda, coulda, shoulda, didn’t.

As I begin to learn about my uncle’s life far too late, he has shown me the truth of cliches by breaking rules and wandering willfully. He lived YOLO before Drake’s parents even thought about conceiving him.
Life is too short. Just do it. Live your bliss.

I miss you for the brief moments we had and for all the ones we never did.


Field Visit: Jirani

After too long, I finally went into the field to observe a few of the play centres BRAC IED’s early childhood development team is piloting. Two of the program planners and I visited three centres in Jirani, a town just outside of Dhaka city. The road was rough. We started at 7 AM to beat rush hour and reached the site over two headrattling, bodybreaking hours on clay/dirt roads bumpier than a teenager’s face.FullSizeRender (15)

The set up is basically the same for all play centres: tin shed roughly 10 x 7 x 8 feet (I have terrible space perception) with four corners, or “worlds”: Color World, Book ”, Dream ”, and Mother’s Lap. Inside walls are decorated with garden scenes cut out of paper, paper animals and shapes hanging from the low ceiling, along with any other flourishes the play leaders come up with.

image2 (2)

Ma’er Kol (“mother’s lap”) nap corner

It’s hard to be cynical when you see a bunch of 3 year-olds singing in a conga line around the classroom. Sure, this could all very well be a show put on for the supervisors, exaggerated to prove efficacy; but I would like to think that I could read genuine content in the faces of the mothers when they say the centre is a better alternative to the kids doing nothing at home and good practice for when the kids have to go to school later on; hear sincerity in the play leaders when they say that really, they just love playing with kids and again, it provides a job alternative from sitting at home; it’s also pretty tough to get a bunch of 1-3 year olds to do anything you want, let alone ‘act’ active and playful.

FullSizeRender (16)

1 to 3 year olds session. Mothers at the back with the littler ones; play leader leading; bigger ones watching me watching

When I asked which activities the children liked to do most at the first centre, a play leader said rail gari, the conga line game, because they could choose where to go with the imaginary rail train. Often times, the young woman said, the children would pick places they didn’t get to go in real life, like their grandparents’ house, uncle’s house, or to the market when it was time for Eid. That gave me both sad and warm fuzzies.

Challenges faced include explaining to parents (and kids) that the centre is strictly meant for play and not a space for formal education because the kids don’t need that kind of pressure just yet, that play offers a unique curriculum for early development. Kids want to bring other books to read but are limited to the set that BRAC has assigned (which I agree should be allowed).

image3 (3)

En route to the second centre

We were too late to catch the play sessions in the next two centres so my co-workers stuck to touching up decorations and advising the play leaders for the upcoming visitor. The second centre especially, though was impressively done up by the play leaders themselves, with hardly any instruction from HQ. One of the young women was largely behind this and clearly enthusiastic about her position. She excitedly explained to me how she loves playing with kids because she feels like a kid herself, so who wouldn’t want to have job where you just get to play?


image4 (3)


{Untitled Dream}

She sat in between Orange’s legs in the grassy field and laid back against his chest as his arms wrapped around her. Blue witnessed all of this from the stands with a mix of anger and sadness.

“We’re just very comfortable with each other,” she told Blue when she saw his discontent and went to meet him. Her embrace around his neck was met with a steely gaze straight past her. “We’ve known each other for ages, that’s all.”

That was the truth. The truth was also that she was not sure about the boundary of their friendship herself. They shared secrets whose breaths were never uttered to anyone else’s ears. They constantly teased and cajoled each other, played along the pond for hours.Their bodies latched on to each other whenever a stone throw’s apart.

“I love you,” she tried comforting Blue.

That was another truth. Her friendship with Blue started in later in life when they went to the same school, and quickly blossomed into romance. He was the somber and gentle stone that grounded her effervescent personality. The full and absolute opposite to Orange whose energy only multiplied hers.

“Come with me,” Orange offered suddenly with eager, pleading eyes. “We’ll go all over the orange lands, to the farthest reaches together.” She struggled to formulate an answer in her mind. Of course a journey together would be exciting and merry. But something held her back from jumping to “yes.” Blue made a similar offer to travel along the blue lands, which she accepted. But something had held her back from that decision, too. After a few seconds of wading through her thoughts, she accepted Orange’s offer to her own surprise. There was no plan as to how she would accompany both men, but she couldn’t come to reject either of them.

It was then she realized she did not want to be tied down to one journey with one man, but to journey on her own across both the blue and orange lands. As soon as their backs were turned she bolted away, charging in her kimono to escape.

Months, years later, Blue and Orange thought back to her, where she must be and what she has been doing. She was teaching literacy and math to young children in the villages. They both knew she was destined to travel alone, even if she did love each man.

“I hope she’s happy.”

“She is.”

*I am poor in fully and properly illustrating what’s in my head, but this was an actual dream I had last night–which is why it’s so random–narrated to the best of my (current) ability. May be expanded later.*


Earwax & Scottish Accents

I don’t like beer. Every time I give it a chance I just taste bubbly rotten bread, or worse, earwax. Pale, dark, smokey, craft, light–all I’m hearing is earwax, earwax, earwax. Just like wine, I don’t see what all the craze is about because, to me, they don’t taste nearly as good as they look or as much as people go on about them. At least I can tolerate wine and it gives a decent buzz. They are tastes I have not acquired yet, but meanwhile there are connoisseurs who research and fangirl over origins and tastes and tones they way I’ve recently become interested in makeup I suppose. That said, there’s no real reason I should be watching “Brew Dogs” on Esquire Network except for the lack of more interesting options this cold, Thursday afternoon and the stylish charm the channel has anyway. Two Scottish brewers travel around the States sampling the best brews and creating their own, all the while teaching me about the histories and processes behind different beers. many sexy earwaxes...

Mmmm…so many sexy flavors of earwax…

While my taste buds aren’t any closer to craving fermented hobs, something else unexpected happened: I found myself with an immense desire to have a Scottish accent. Honestly, I’d like to have just about any accent besides my own bland, slightly Southern American tone (I do like the Southern part a little, though), but I hadn’t really considered a Scottish one. It brought up images of angry golfers in kilts and Mel Gibson in Braveheart–hey, blame the media. These guys though, they made it sound fun and warm. If I had to describe it, a Scottish accent has the aristocratic air of Kent English and guttural passion of German, mixed with a cavalier American attitude. Maybe it’s this blended nature that makes it so difficult for me to imitate, but oh do I wish my mouth just naturally spewed Scottish.


In the Nude (lipsticks, of course)

Next on my perpetual quest for lovely lippies: nude. It has taken me a while to get aboard this trendwagon because I’m not about the pale, wash-me-out, crack-abuser look. However, I found out that there is a wider definition of “nude” that allows for more flattering options. In fact, during my extensive research for the right color(s) to flatter my skin tone, I came across an acronym that apparently other South Asian ladies like myself look for: MLBB (My Lips But Better–cute).  This read my mind because I really do like the color of my lips already–a light mauve overall and slightly darker on top–but I want lipstick because it’s A. to add a little color, and B. just fun to wear! I turned to YouTube once again as my guiding light into the overwhelming unknown of lip products. While it definitely provided a starting place, the majority of gurus are of different ethnicities slash skin tones than myself. For example, one of my new favorite people to watch is ItsJudyTime who is Philippino, and thus a lighter yellow-beige hue than I am. I tried out her Revlon Lip Butter-Creme Brulee recommendation but sadly it just didn’t go. That’s when I turned to Google (“best nude lipstick for Indian skin”) and found dozens of blogs and articles by desi girls who I could better relate to. Several brands and colors kept popping up as I sifted through the blogisphere so I felt well-equipped to march on into Ulta and find my perfect nude lip. Specifically, I was looking for Maybelline Color Sensational in My Mahogany, the alleged Holy Grail of flattering MLBBs for brown girls everywhere.


Round-up of what I’ve used in this post. I’m holding the NYX lip gloss to show off the cute bow detail on the lid. Bottom L-R: MAC “Verve”, L’Oreal “Toasted Almond,” NYX Matte “Sienna,” and NYX Matte “Whipped Caviar.” Holding NYX Lip Gloss and Essence Lipliner “Natural.”

…alas, it was not to be found. The other names I had carefully picked out beforehand also turned up empty so I had to start my hunt over, almost from scratch. I was determined to walk out of that store with at least one (two, three) fabulous nude shade, non-negotiable when there’s a BOGO half-off going on. Commence crazed fast-pacing through the drugstore aisles, “sneakily” swatching every contender on my left wrist. After a solid 45 minutes (how time flies at that store), I had a Matisse of nudes on my arm, trying to imagine what the colors would look like on my lips by straining to hold up each shade next to my face in the little mirrors available (ridiculous image to be sure). My mom finally convinced me to just go ahead and physically try on the lipsticks because there was simply no other way to be sure (don’t worry, I cleaned them off after if I put them back!). Luckily, I ended up with 3 lovley lippies completely different from what I thought I was looking for, but fit the bill beautifully.

Without much more ado, here are my nude picks (pun may or may not be intended) Note: I will go ahead and give a slight apology for the following attempts at modeling–must have been a subconscious projection of my excitement for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show airing that night. My only shot at being an Angel, arright?:

First off, NYX’s Matte Lipstick in Sienna. I was, and still kind of am, on the fence about this orange-tinted brown shade. Normally, I wouldn’t dare to go orange but after trying this on a whim, it’s really not bad. The gall of it actually adds to the appeal because orange doesn’t tend to be as popular as the go-to pinks and browns (hello, hipster). I try to wear this one out as much as possible in hopes that it will grow on me more–which it has–and my mom keeps on squealing about how flattering it is on me. So looks like this one’s a keeper.ImageI would wear this for casual outings with light makeup, i.e. eyeliner and light bronzer, because the orange is already POP for me.

Next is NYX Matte Lipstick again in Whipped Caviar. This one also wasn’t a first choice for me because I had seen YouTubers try on the Matte line and not be keen on this shade. It looked too Jersey Shore pale pink when applied (don’t know if that makes sense). Surprisingly though, I really liked it when I tried it out myself, as evident by my increasingly silly expressions below. It is a little lighter than what I normally go for, but just muted enough to not cross the line into grenade territory (see previous Jersey Shore reference).ImageI think this color could work for day or night looks because it’s a fun pink without going overboard, and you can go a little heavier on the eye makeup than you could with more intense lipsticks.

For the last of my newest purchases, I got L’Oreal Color Riche in Toasted Almond. This was an unexpected pick for me because, this was nowhere on my aforementioned hit list. However, this one actually overshadowed a couple of the other candidates with its rich pigment and just-right taupe-y brown. This is a definite MLBB for me, and my mother’s squeals confirmed.ImageThis one would be an everyday hitter for me. It adds a little sophistication from when I want to look like I am too mature for pinks (obviously the last picture would negate that image). The shade can withstand heavier makeup or add to a lighter look.

Just for funsies I decided to model a couple of colors I already owned because I felt it fits within this shade range. The first is a NYX High Shine Lip Gloss in a peachy pink that I bought a few days before. The last one is MAC in Verve, which I got earlier this year after it was part of the wedding reception look a MAC girl did on me. I realize this isn’t exactly nude but it’s still in the warm, brown family and is perfect for fall/winter.ImageEasy to see that this gloss had me feeling extra girly and Angel-like. Here, I paired this over a nude-ish lipliner base (Essence in Natural). I am normally NOT a gloss person–it’s sticky and usually kind of teenybopper to me–but done right, I can dig it.ImageAw yeah, I’m feeling super vampy in this shade. The lighting here doesn’t show how dark the color really is, but rest assured, it’s a rich mahogany-burgundy tone that will make you feel all kinds of sophisticated. This shade is more brown than the wine-like Bordeaux I bought recently. I see this on a classy night out or looking to impress in a high-brow coffeeshop/library (No? Just me?).

It’s a wee bit sad how much I look for opportunities to wear lipstick, but you can’t deny how it puts a little more pep or pomp in your step.

PS: Guess what time it is? Time for me to get a better camera (phone)! The less-than stellar quality of my iPhone 4 cam paired with the bright daylight kind of whites out my face and makes the lip shades look more similar than they are in real life. Just trust my words to help paint the picture on this one, guys.)