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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Maji, it's Your Birthday! Happy Birthday Maji!

I have been blessed to know each of my four grandparents.  I've been further blessed to see my parents through the eyes of their parents.  If you've had the same good fortune, you will appreciate the level of understanding and compassion for your parents that comes from trying to understand what they were like as kids and seeing them as adults relating to their parents.

A child needs a grandparent, anybody's grandparent, 
to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world. 
~Charles and Ann Morse

When I was in grade four, my family lost my Nanima, my Mom's mother.  Losing her was my first formative experience with death and dying.  It was one of the first times I realized that my mother was someone other than my nurturer, provider and champion.  I began to understand her role as a sister and a daughter and the responsibilities that came with that.  My Nanima was a beautiful woman with a captivating smile.  She was a leader in our family in a way I will always admire.  She led with a quietness that was calming and reassuring.  She was kind and filled with faith.  As a kid, one of the best things about going to khane was going to say hello to her and getting a hug (and a candy!) She also watched All My Children everyday and I think she would be happy to know that Susan Lucci finally got her Emmy!

I am so thankful for my Sadru Mama and Gulshan Mami and their three kids Gulla, Shelina and Nafisha who took amazing care of Nanima and Nanabapa.  Not only did you love and take care of them, you always left your doors open at 681 Seneca Hill Drive and happily welcomed her 7 other children and their children so that we could visit her and enjoy her.

The summer between high school and university, just weeks before the death of Lady Diana, my Nanabapa, beloved patriarch of our family and my Mom's father, passed away.  He lived into his 90's!  He was a tall, strong man and he walked with his hands behind him in the small of his back palms facing outwards.  There was something about the way he walked that made him that much more approachable.  Whenever I remember him, I picture him walking that way.   If you ever met him you will know that his hands were full of character and he had these amazing fingers.  When he used his hands to gesture, I swear those fingers did something to make every point stick with you.  Nanabapa commanded respect and lead with an inner confidence that matched his outward authority.  He was a vibrant part of life at 681 Seneca Hill Drive and I have fond memories of picking cherries in the backyard with my cousins while he carefully supervised us and helped to teach us about the fruits of our labour.  (Pun completely intended!)

In the last part of his life, after surviving a heart attack, he lived with my Bahadur Mama, Khatoon Mami, and my cousins Aashif and Karima to avoid going up and down the stairs on Seneca Hill.  Aashif, a lover of fashion, would get him to wear these great sweaters and shirts.  Nanabapa never looked better, even after having had a heart attack!  I am so thankful to your family for nursing him back to health and giving us a few more memories (remember that photo we took after lunch at BCE place?) and making sure he felt loved.

Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.
- Anthony Brandt

Just over a year after losing my Nanabapa, we said good bye to Bapaji, my Dad's father.  I'm laughing as I type this because he was one of the funniest men I have ever met in my life.  My Bapaji was a rebel to the end and his sense of humour melted your heart.  He adored my Maji (Dad's mother) and I remember watching them play rummy over and over again.  He would get so agitated and fiery (yes that's where I probably get it from) when she would beat him at a game of cards.  A few seconds later you would catch him stealing a glance at her and you know that he was thinking "I love that my lady is so smart!"  You also saw his fiery side every day at noon when he watched Bob Barker on The Price is Right on CHCH Channel 11.  He would get so annoyed when contestants didn't win that brand new car, over spun the big wheel or messed up a bid on the Showcase Showdown.  He never yelled or screamed but he had this way of kissing his teeth, dismissing you by turning his hearing aid off, waving you away with his heavy hand and giving you a look to tell you that he was over it.

Thank you Bapaji for loving Maji so deeply and often times making her laugh so hard that she had tears streaming down her face.

My Maji turns 88 today!  Happy Birthday Lady!  Maji is a tiny woman. I can comfortably rest my elbow atop her head. Nonetheless, she has a huge presence and influence in our lives.  Her body may be beginning to fail her but her mind and her wit are sharp!  She has an endless amount of stories and memories to share with us.  Maji had an arranged marriage at the age of 15 and gave birth to her first of 10 children when she was 17.  She was a midwife in her community for many years and is an expert in soothing baby massages.  Lucky for us that she has 17 grand children and 14 great grand children to practice on!  Thanks to my Maji I've learned that the Toronto Public Library has an extensive selection of mystery books in Gujarati.  I know how to string a tashbi and it's fumko to render them almost unbreakable.  And I know that one can consume ridiculous amounts of salt and still live to be at least 88!

Mom and Dad, today we celebrate Maji but I also celebrate you.  Thank you for taking better care of Maji than you do yourselves.  You have sacrificed your evening walks, vacations, your careers, your privacy, the foods you love to eat and your time with us so that we have been able to get to know her, love her and be loved by her.  Now you are grandparents and the lessons we learn from your patience, endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm are your legacy to Karim, Minaz, Vanessa, Aneez and I.  We love you.

Here's a picture of the beautiful birthday girl taken at her 88th birthday party this past weekend.  Looking good!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Old School - September 11, 2009

Yesterday consisted of me fighting off some pesky September allergies.  Is anyone else out there battling seasonal allergies right now?  Yuk!  I seriously thought the day was going to be a write off.  However, during the first meeting of a new book club I've just started with some incredible women, wonderful things happened!

We met to talk about the book Beginner's Greek by James Collins.  It's a love story that takes many years, multiple mishaps, two marriages, one divorce, one death, a new baby, some weird corporate politics, an array of one dimensional characters and the saving grace of the fabulous back drop of New York City to finally become realized.  There were mixed reviews from the club and a few of us didn't finish the book.  Nonetheless, we had a great time.

Marta brought some amazing mini-mini-mini cupcakes from Parkdale's Yummy Stuff.  Hands down, these are the best cupcakes I've ever had!  Definitely something to be thankful for, no?

An insightful part of the evening for me came in the form of a simple Ho-Lee-Chow fortune cookie.  It stopped me in my tracks! 

I'm not sure why, but fortune cookies and horoscopes always get me to think about the things that I put out of my mind when I really should be paying more attention to them.   I immediately interpret a horoscope thinking to myself,

"Okay, it says that 'Mercury is going to be in my orbit three days from now and I need to create a clear landscape' I mean, OBVIOUSLY what this horoscope is telling me SO CLEARLY is that I really need to get my laundry this weekend and stop putting it off."

This tells me that whatever comes to mind first is actually something I should probably resolve within myself.  Soon.

Yesterday's fortune read, "We can learn from everyone, even our adversaries."  While thinking,  "I don't have any adversaries, someone's face popped so clearly into my head.  I thought about said individual and how s/he seems to get under my skin unlike anyone else I know.  Immediately I re-read the fortune and thought to myself, what on earth could I learn from this person?

I kinda smiled to myself.  It was not difficult at all to come up with at least three things that I admire about this person.  I can even name them.
1. S/he loves their family and treats them with respect and kindness.
2. S/he has a strong work ethic.
3. S/he is always kind, caring and loving towards children.

Next time I have to interact with this individual (I won't lie, I hope it's not anytime soon) but next time, I will be able to focus on the three things I admire about them instead of walking away feeling agitated, annoyed and disappointed.   So thank you to the Ho-Lee-Chow fortune cookie supplier and the writer who came up with this random fortune.  You deserve a shout out!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Old School - 09-09-09

Henceforth....I hope I am using this word correctly.  I've always wanted to start a meeting or conversation or paper with the word henceforth.

So anyway - henceforth, if you should come across a blog post that starts with the title  "Old School" you will find a list of things I am thankful for that day.  This is how I used to scribble in my last gratitude journal, ending each day with a list of things I was thankful for.   (Remember these push pencils?  Once I thought using these would help me become a better diarist.)

For the auspicious 09-09-09 (yesterday being September 9, 2009) here's what I came up with:

1. Talking to my British cousin Shireen about her brother Faizal's upcoming wedding.  This took me back in time!  The days Karim and Aneez got married were among my favorite days EVER!  For me, as a woman, there was nothing that made me prouder of my brothers than seeing them find love and witnessing the moment they became someone's husband.  (There's a whole other type of warm and fuzzy that comes into play when you see your brother become someone's father.)  I'm so proud of my brothers for setting an amazing example of marriages filled with mutual respect, frienship, joy, love and trust.  Anyway, I went off on a tangent there, what I really wanted to say is that I am so excited for Shireen to get to see her brother become Nevin's hubby in about a month!

2. Getting a surprise visit from Dr. Naheed Kheraj (he hates when I call him by his full name - title and all - but I am super duper proud of him.) Dr. Kheraj was at Surrey Place Centre for a morning of teaching.  What could be better than starting your day with a hug from a wonderful friend?  And did I mention he has the best flossing discipline I've ever come across?  Just ask him!

3. Meeting my friend Rishma for lunch on 09.09.09.  Highlights of our lunch included a slice of margherita pizza for me and a primavera slice for her, cream soda (so unbelievably under rated no?) and digesting our food outdoors on a picnic bench with a cool summer breeze and great conversation.  Rishma even brought me a present to comemmorate 09.09.09!  She and her hubby have been celebrating these days since 02.02.02.  Come to think of it by 10.10.10 she'll be a mommy to a cute champion of a boy and a delightful little girl. 

4. Ending the day with my Mark.  When he got to my house he was blasting Pearl Jam's "Black" and rocking out in the driver's seat!  Yay Eddie!  Later we silly slow danced in my living room to Bill Wither's "Lovely Day."  (MM - Thanks for putting up with me.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to Ellen!

It's been so much fun reading everyone's thoughts about going back to school on Facebook and Twitter these past few days.  So many of my friends, who now have children of their own, were wishing their little ones good luck or talking about first day jitters - as parents! 

My friend Sheba, a new mother, wonderful Montessori teacher, loyal and generous friend, budding photographer and avid reader (I love that geeky side of her) wrote about going back to school again as a new teacher.

My co-worker Melanie took a not so nice school memory and turned it into a new affirmation for herself.

And my brother Aneez wrote about a favorite teacher of his, Ms. Pisani, and the impression she made on him as a fourth grader.

Thank goodness for a Canadian public school education!  I am so thankful for all my teachers from North Bridlewood Junior Public School, JB Tyrrell Senior Public School and Sir John A Macdonald CI.  I'm not sure I fully appreciated the fact (back then) that all of you woke up everyday single day to teach me.  Me, who wasn't always so willing to sit in your class and learn and me, who sometimes (okay often) would have rather played euchre in the cafeteria.  I get it now and I appreciate you.

To all my teacher friends, I posted this image on Facebook a while ago and this week I salute you for choosing to take on one of the most important jobs in the world.  You are admired!

There is still one more thing to be thankful this time of year....

Thank goodness for Ellen DeGeneres!  She's back with Season 7 and I couldn't be happier!  Yesterday's show was great!  Who else has the guts to ask David Beckham if he has any tattoos on his body of her?  And how about that dance routine with the Top 10 dancers from So You Think You Can Dance?  I love love love love her!  Please write to her here and tell her to bring her show to Canada!

Friday, September 4, 2009


It's beautiful when an image captures a perfect moment.   Here's the first of a feature I'll simply call "Loveliness"

This is my nephew Kahzmir.  He's tiredly flopped himself over the railing at the SkyDome to watch his favorite team the Toronto Blue Jays.  He's just cheered his little heart out and sung "We Will Rock You."  The Jays lost but who cares? 


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Speaking of Giraffes

Speaking of giraffes...did you know they are my favorite animal?

I didn't grow up with animals as part of my family.  (Karim and Aneez - That is meant to be a compliment to both of you.)  I have never known what it means to love and lose a dog or cat.  I never wanted a pony for my birthday.  If you went to a certain summer camp with me on Doe Lake circa 1997, you will remember how I singlehandedly AND accidentally was responsible for the death of 200 goldfish.

Nonetheless, I have always always been fascinated by giraffes.

I can count the giraffes in my life on one hand.  I have a gorgeous stuffed animal named Gerry the Giraffe given to me by my Mark along with two toy giraffe figurines and I also have a giraffe t-shirt.  Yup those are all the giraffes I have.  Today I am thankful for these beautiful leggy, graceful Africans.   They make me smile tall.  :)

Here are five interesting things you might want to know about giraffes:
  • They are indeed the tallest animal in the world.  (Yao Ming is only half the height of the average male giraffe. Don't fret Yao - I am roughly the height of an adult giraffe's neck.)
  • They eat about 140 pounds of food a day.  (That would be like eating my nephew Kahzmir up three times over - and he's so yummy that I've seriously thought about it!)
  • Giraffes actually only sleep an average of 60-90 minutes a day. (Probably because they have to leave enough time in their day to eat all that food.)
  • Male giraffes perform a type of dance to attract the female giraffe.  (Mark did the "worm" for me in his parent's basement when we first started hanging out.  It was quite impressive.)
  • No two giraffes have the same colouring and spots.  Each one is a unique and beautiful animal, just like you, just like me.  Thank God for that.
(The photos above are named "I Spy" and "Giraffe".  They are paintings by a gifted and most curious Canadian artist named Alicia Wishart.  I stumbled upon her art at Toronto's One of a Kind Show in December 2008.  Her paintings of giraffes were the first ones I had seen that were realistic and colourful without appearing childish and kitschy.  Alicia, whose talent is another thing for all of us to be thankful for, has an amazing appreciation for animals This is obvious through her art which you should absolutely check out here.  Look at her Events and Shows page and try to see her art in person if you can.  Your eyes will soak in all the colour and be so happy!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's Gonna Be a Lovely Day

Last night I finished reading my first favorite book of all time. I'm so excited!  I love that I will now be able to answer the question: "What's your favorite book?" This is something that comes up a lot in conversations with me.  I'm guilty of asking anyone and everyone what they are currently reading.

Lawrence Hill's "The Book of Negroes" is outstanding. (Published under the title Someone Knows My Name outside of Canada.) Hill brilliantly tells the inspiring, heartbreaking and powerful story of Aminata Diallo. When we meet Aminata she is an eleven year old girl who is stolen from her small African village and happy childhood to be sold into the slave trade. As I turned the final page of the book, desperately craving an epilogue, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I quickly grabbed a piece of paper and wrote a note of thanks for the the privilege of being born a first generation Canadian to immigrant parents who proudly hail from Uganda. When I woke up this morning, the first day of a new month which is always invigorating for me, I was once again taken by an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

In 1996, during a spare period at high school I went home to pick up my choir music and I can't remember why but I switched on the TV. I caught a few minutes of an episode of Oprah. She had a guest on the show named Sarah Ban Breathnach author of Simple Abundance. Ban Breathnach introduced the idea of keeping a gratitude journal and taking the time to write down the things you were grateful for that day. I used one of my cahiers (earmarked to conjugate French verbs) to make my first attempt at a gratitude journal. I think I wrote something about being thankful for my friend Suzie for an amazing talk we had about our boyfriends. I kept the journal for a few days and then the momentum was lost. Here we are 13 years later. I've started many gratitude journals since then but have never kept a single one going for more than a week. I always thought it was because I didn't have the right pen or the right journal. I've tried every colour of pen imaginable, ball point, gel, multicolored, even my Dad's expensive Cross pen AND have had journals of all kinds - hard cover, soft cover, moleskin, covered in suede, covered in beautiful Indian fabrics - none lived to see a one week anniversary. In February, I gave my good friend Rishma a gratitude journal of her own for her birthday. I even took the liberty of creating some entries for her thinking that would motivate me to continue with my new journal. I don't even know where it is now...

I've resigned myself to the fact that I am not one to put pen to paper and record my thoughts. I've always been better doing it face-to-face or with a keyboard. And so I invite you to my blog. This is my latest attempt at a gratitude journal. This is my place to share and reflect on the people, places and things that bring joy, laughter, love, light, happiness and inspiration to my life. It's Gonna Be a Lovely Day is named after my second favorite song Lovely Day by Bill Withers. I can't help but grin ear-to-ear and sing along every time I hear this song.

I hope you will share with me what has made your day...a lovely one.

PS. What's my favorite song you ask? Diamonds and Pearls by Prince. My brother Karim bought me the cassette tape when the single came out and I fell in love. I once listened to it on repeat for 5 and half continuous hours.