Meeting the Dream Chaser

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If you know me, you probably know the following:
1. I am a dreamer.
2. I am hopelessly ‘in love‘ with David Michael Bautista Jr. a.k.a Dave Bautista a.k.a Batista.
3. I am 100% serious when I say I am passionate about helping women with infertility issues by creating an artificial ovary.

And somehow these are all connected.

Facebook memories can be useful sometimes. Just this past Saturday it showed a post from 5 years back that read: “You say I dream too big. I say you think too small.” And it is very true. I really do dream big.

6 foot 4 inches, 290 lb to be exact.

Words in this world can’t suffice to describe my elation as I am typing this, but I will still try. In order to understand my story, you have to use your imagination. Imagine being the native of a small town that is as big as the Penn State campus, where you have about 3 million people of different socio-economic backgrounds living together. Now imagine you are a young girl who doesn’t fit in anywhere. When I say you don’t fit in, I mean that you stand out like a lonely meerkat in a sea of lazy regular cats laying down.

Now that all my similes and metaphors (and cheap humor) are out of the way, I will try to explain my situation. I was a tomboy (with spiked boy-cut hair) in a then conservative society, who enjoyed watching WWE, playing soccer and cricket, and had more male friends than female friends. To make matters worse, I have always been on the heavier side, which made me subject to constant body-shaming (24 years and counting!). Growing up as Fari was challenging only because I was never accepted as myself by people other than my parents. Being Fari wasn’t easy and was, at times, frustrating. Whether it was my strong drive to stand up for women’s rights, my battle against local corruption as a lowly teenager, my inclination to resist social norms, or my very own multiple #MeToo situations breaking me at every step of the way, I couldn’t find a baseline to normalize myself to. Things can get difficult when you can’t express yourself to anyone for the fear of judgment or victim shaming. Teenager Fari was simultaneously strong and weak. And in a world where you don’t fit in, and nothing seems right, it’s crazy when you find something that grounds you…something that holds you steadier than gravity has ever held you.

If Batista were a thesis topic, I’d have become Dr. Fari at the mere age of 11!

It was during my summer vacation of 6th grade when I was recovering from a terrible typhoid (and malaria, and anaemia) that I stumbled across a beautiful photograph of a person I didn’t know, on my cousin’s phone. Let me get this out there- I was pissed at WWE after The Rock left and I hadn’t watched wrestling in a while at that point. Anyways, I saw this photograph of a beautiful man in a black suit and shades, and the next thing I know, my teenage hormone-crazed brain couldn’t stop thinking about him. And by that I mean that I was losing my mind thinking about this person, and I wanted nothing more than to get to know him. Unlike the kids today, my parents regulated my computer and internet access, not to mention we had crappy internet with 0.01 kb/min speed via dial-up connection, and God forbid someone would call just as you’re about to connect – you’d spend 5 hours trying to reconnect. Hence, finding out about this man from the internet was the true test of my patience, since it took about 45 minutes to load wwe.com using that horrible internet connection. But I have always been a determined person, and whenever I set my heart to something, I very likely achieve it. I invested every waking second of my entire summer vacation and learned everything I possibly could about this man in black suit. This man was none other Mr. David Michael Bautista Jr. a.k.a Batista. If Batista were a thesis topic, I’d have become Dr. Fari at the mere age of 11!

It was the era of Ulead Photo Express 2.0 SE, and in a span of 15 days, I ended up with about 105 badly edited photos of me with Batista, because my 11-year-old brain was convinced that I was in love with this man, who at the time was married with two daughters, and his youngest daughter was my age!

Living in Narayanganj, Bangladesh, back then, meant we didn’t have the luxury to afford the official WWE Batista merchandize. However, my friends and family always went above and beyond to support my madness. My mom kept hunting everywhere, and would bring home all these ‘Made in China’ replica action figures with Batista’s name on them, that remotely looked like him! She once brought home a WWE monopoly, and she said of the 5 packs, she picked that particular pack because it had Batista in the cover! On my birthday, I received birthday presents with Batista’s printed photos for wrapping papers, and his framed photos on the inside for presents. So in a year’s time, my bedroom had turned into the ultimate Dave Batista shrine, and everyone knew that this Papa’s boy with a boy-cut hair was officially transitioning to a woman, who was a devoted Batista fan.

In a world where I had a hard time fitting in, Batista gave me my own world where I could be myself.

In case you still can’t fathom the height of my madness, let me tell you more. Our only access to watching wrestling matches were TenSports televising weeks old Monday night Raw and Friday night SmackDown on Mondays and Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m, respectively. And like a good girl, who knew Batista would be on SmackDown, I would come home from school every Tuesday, finish all my homework way ahead of time, and spend solid 30-minutes getting dolled up (to stay at home and watch television, mind you), before SmackDown would start. Sometimes my grandma and uncle (we all lived in the same multigenerational home) would tease me and say, “You do know how the television works, right? You CAN see him. He CAN’T see YOU!” But none of that mattered to me. For the ten to fifteen minutes that SmackDown would show Batista- either wrestling or addressing the crowd- I would forget everything else in the world. And God forbid there was load-shedding (the usual Bangladeshi power cuts), and I’d miss seeing him at a given Tuesday, the entire house would know Fari was sad and was crying and wouldn’t eat dinner. Later that year, when I aced my mid terms in school, my brother bought me an mp4 as a reward (that was the closest to an iPod we could afford at that time). Since then, I would spend my Tuesdays recording Batista’s entrance music and voice on my new mp4 and play them on endless loop, listening to them as I fell asleep every night.

In a world where I had a hard time fitting in, Batista gave me my own world where I could be myself. It really didn’t matter to me that Batista didn’t know who I was or even know I existed, but to me he was everything. He gave me the strength to imagine a world where being Fari was normal- where being a strong, smart and outspoken woman, and standing up for myself was acceptable; where I could be myself with a 6 foot 4, 290 lb man encouraging me to never back down every step of the way.

I was only allowed to use the computer and internet for “Batista purposes” and that opened a whole new world for me. I wrote an essay about him and won a contest in August 2007. I kept looking into his works, which led to me requesting my uncle in NYC to get me a copy of Batista Unleashed. That was the first time ever that I had asked him for anything, and once I got that book, I studied it- in and out, word by word. I dissected that book more than I have dissected Dr. Morgan’s paper on artificial ovary in the last four years!

“Stay in school and finish your education. Education is important in life.”

When you are 13 or 14, you usually don’t know what you want in life. I was no different. Up until Batista came into my life, I knew I wanted to do ‘something’ to help people, but I had no direction. Once I started ‘studying’ Batista, I learned about his then wife Angie and her battle with ovarian cancer. Since this fell under the scope of “Batista purposes only” use of the internet, I started studying about ovarian cancer, and I stumbled upon the emerging field of Biomedical Engineering. At the mere age of thirteen, I decided I wanted to become a biomedical engineer and create an artificial ovary. For a young girl trying to maneuver life with no sense of direction, somehow Batista had gift-wrapped and given me my life’s purpose. Getting diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) a few years later and combatting it everyday ever since only strengthened my focus on helping women with infertility issues. I still remember reading the line in his book Batista Unleashed, “Stay in school and finish your education. Education is important in life.” There was a time when I was the only female student in my high school class, and I was asked to switch/quit schools, but I stayed in school, and despite all the obstacles, graduated as the class valedictorian.

In one of his interviews Batista once said, “Work hard and sky is the limit,” and it became my living motto. I woke up every morning, committing to work hard. I saw another man besides Batista who embodied that rule- my Papa- and with two great men fueling and lifting my spirit everyday, I continued to dream. Papa has always been there in person, encouraging me to be myself, and Batista has always been there in spirit making me smile and helping me get through days when I fell on my face and couldn’t get back up.

“Why Penn State?”
Besides all the amazing reasons to attend Penn State- one of the best schools in the world, I also decided to follow my dreams and pursue a career in Biomedical Engineering in Batista’s land. However, even as a freshman in college, I could only dream about meeting Batista in person. To be honest, I wanted to be worthy, and someone before I could meet him. I went on to become the first ever international student to receive the Freshman of the Year award (http://news.psu.edu/story/315839/2014/05/13/penn-state-behrends-outstanding-first-year-student-sky-limit) and while Penn State covered my story and mentioned how Batista had inspired my journey, I still didn’t think I’d ever meet Batista in my lifetime.

I wonder if he has some sort “Today Fari is Sad” radar…

College is never easy. College especially isn’t easy when you develop a learning disability following a concussion, and your cognitive skills get compromised. All that mixed with a lot of math-based engineering courses and additional research? You have a recipe for disaster. And this horrible recipe was in my plate as I started junior year in college. It was around the same time that Batista decided to start his acting career from scratch, and wasn’t backing down despite all the struggle. So while I was no longer seeing him wrestle everyday, I was getting fueled by his courage. Batista’s courage to move out of his comfort zone at the peak of his career fueled me to not give up despite the struggles I was facing. I remember one particular night when I was upset and couldn’t study for my ‘Electrical Circuits and Simulations’ exam – the next morning was Eid-al-Adha and I was homesick. And just as I was sitting with my piles of notes, teary-eyed, Batista ‘liked’ my comment on one of his Facebook posts, and I was euphoric beyond limit! I jumped around, called my mom, Papa (and almost everyone on planet Earth) to let them know how happy I was! And that was not the only time that he made my day. While I religiously tweet at him everyday, somehow Batista always responds/acknowledges my efforts on my WORST days! I wonder if he has some sort “Today Fari is Sad” radar…

And the stars aligned to make my dream come true on March 31st, 2018 in Washington DC- Batista’s hometown.

It was a January evening this year, and one of those ‘worst’ days. I was having a meltdown while listening to the E&C Podcast episode with Batista in it, that I fell in love with him all over again. Batista’s work ethic highly impressed me, and my post-concussion self could relate to him all too well, “I have a tunnel vision. I can only focus on one thing.” And as the podcast continued, I noted down something Batista said, that went on to become my favorite motivational quotes of all time- “I pick something I am bad at, and work on it until I am the best at it!” For a person who was sitting in a foreign land all by herself, not knowing where life was taking her in 90 days, and almost gave up on hopes, those words gave me a new jolt of life! I got a new boost to keep pushing hard, with new excitement. And it was at that spur of the moment that I decided I had to meet this man and thank him for everything he has done for me over the last 13 years!

And the stars aligned to make my dream come true on March 31st, 2018 in Washington DC- Batista’s hometown.

And I truly appreciate my friends preparing me for the worst.

Between January and March, I had a lot to accomplish. I was recovering from a spine misalignment, I was overworked, and I had lost my body fitness. I spent these three months training hard (S/O to my Personal Trainer Keith Ligon for helping me reach my goal) just so I could be Batista ready. I spent hours at the mall trying to find the ‘perfect dress’ for when I’d meet him. And God knows how much money I’ve spent on miscellaneous things, getting dolled up for Batista. And as the day approached, I had friends and family preparing me for the worst- “You will only have 20 seconds or so. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t ‘talk’ to him,” “Don’t hold your hopes up high. He probably meets a ‘biggest fan’ everywhere he goes,” “May be see if you can get a hug. Don’t be sad if you can’t though. He will have a tight schedule.”

And I truly appreciate my friends preparing me for the worst.

In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting anything too crazy out of this opportunity. One thing I’ve learned from loving Batista over the years is to love without expecting anything in return. I spent 13 years loving and idolizing a man who didn’t know I exist. I spent 13 years defending the honor and respect of a man who probably had no idea that a young Bangladeshi girl was raising her voice for him (yes haters, you know who you are!). I spent 13 years of my life following and living my life on the principles of a man who had no idea his words and actions influenced a small town girl to become a biomedical engineer. To me, this was an opportunity to see the man of my dreams in flesh and blood, so that I could tell my grandchildren about a man who played such a big role in making me who I am, and that I’d once met him and shook hands with him or something.

I was standing at a comic book convention wearing a dress and pantyhose!

Over the last 13 years, Dave Bautista has taught me to be a few things:
1. Being a dreamer, and dream chaser.
2. Being my true self, and always making my honest opinion heard (have you seen the man tweet?)
3. Being a lover- loving unconditionally, and with all my heart, without ever expecting anything in return.

So when the BIG day arrived, I stood in line at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at 11 a.m. hoping to breathe the same air as ‘the love of my life’ without expecting anything from him.

And what I got in return was more than what I could ever imagine!

As I saw Batista walk in and take a seat, I forgot to breathe momentarily. And then remembered that I was missing out on the opportunity to breathe the same air as him, so I started hyperventilating. Trust me, I am an engineer. I have my diploma sitting next to me. I have a functioning brain. I just forgot that I had a brain at that moment. As I stood in line, I couldn’t shut up! I had to tell everyone how I was feeling, because I was having a hard time breathing, and keeping my calm. And I was standing at a comic book convention wearing a dress and pantyhose! Yes.

As my line moved forward, and I approached Batista, I could only admire the man he is- especially his smile. I remember watching him smile as a 12-year-old and losing my calm. As a 24-year-old, I was still having a hard time keeping my head straight. I felt adrenaline, dopamine, oxytocin, and every other freakin’ hormone rush and energize my body. I don’t think I’d ever felt what I felt standing in line at the moment.

“I am one step away from Dave. ONE STEP!”- I thought as my eyes were fixated on him, and my hands held the ‘Bluetista’ action figure that was a graduation present from Steve (Thank you so much Steve!). I honestly forgot that there was a world outside that didn’t circle around this beautiful man right before my eyes. And yet, I made sure I didn’t get my hopes up too high.

Love people without ever expecting anything in return.

I wish someone had recorded the entire moment because I still can’t believe I lived it.

As I approached Dave, I had my I-am-losing-my-sh*t-high-pitched-shrilly-voice going on and I could say, “Hi Dave…” (so original!)

Dave let out his beautiful smile (I am crying as I am typing this), and stood up. And he said, “Come on back, you!” And for a split second I forgot the English language. Everyone directed me behind the table where he was sitting, and I was breaking out in tears as I walked up to the man of my dreams. As I jumped into Dave’s open arms for a hug, while looking at him through the tears welling up in my eyes, I still couldn’t believe what had just happened. “I know you!” he said.

When you spend 13 years strongly believing that a person you love with all your heart doesn’t even know you exist, it can be overwhelming hearing those words. The interaction that followed after was me rambling on about chasing my dreams, and loving him and getting inspired. I can’t recall what I told him because I don’t think I actually phrased a proper sentence in English in front of him, except the first sentence, “I am from Bangladesh and I never thought this day would ever come!”

Earlier that week, I was telling my buddy Liger how much I’d love to kiss Dave, or have him kiss me, and he said I shouldn’t pursue that. I asked Dave if he’d give me a kiss, and he gladly implanted a kiss on my right cheek. He asked me questions about Penn State, my goals, my life, and my PCOS. As we stood there hugging (and I was still crying), someone was taking a picture of us, and Dave was telling everyone how I was the girl who spent all her money getting dolled up for him. I asked him whether I was dolled up enough, to which he replied, “You look beautiful!” Love people without ever expecting anything in return. I still didn’t believe that the man of my dreams– My Dream- had just hugged me, kissed me, and said I looked beautiful. He asked who was ‘Fari’ as he signed my action figure, to which I replied, Fari is what my friends and family call me. I wouldn’t want Dave to call me anything other than Fari– while he’d been Batista for everyone else, he’s been nothing but Dave to me since day 1. And that day, Fari finally met Dave in flesh and blood.

Love and respect are intangible. You can only feel them deep down inside.

Later that day when we went on to take my official photograph with him, I told him I call him “the love of my life”. And the way he hugged me during the photo shows how he reciprocated my love and affection for him. He may not ‘love‘ me the way I ‘love‘ him, but I know he has an affection and adoration towards me, that I could feel- with his touch, the way he smiled at me, and through his beautiful eyes when he looked at me. Love and respect are intangible. You can only feel them deep down inside. And that day, I felt a deep sense of adoration from Dave that no one can ever fathom.

I always kid and say that Batista is my future husband, or that I am the future Mrs. Batista. Up until that weekend, everyone took me lightly. These days I have started noticing people getting alarmed whenever I say it. But here’s the truth- nothing matters to me more than Dave’s happiness, and Dave’s happiness is his wife, Sarah. Dave is an incredible man with a heart of gold, who knows how to care, and show that he cares. He is a man who knows how to love and project that love. I am one of the millions of fans he has worldwide, but for him to give the love and respect he has given me, shows that he is a down-to-Earth man who is great. “All great men know how to love, baby, and he is a great man too!” said Papa, once he heard about my experience.

…that’s because my ‘dream’ was resonating the love and affection I’d given him for 13 years

The next morning, April 1st, when I saw Dave again, we met and talked like old friends. I was still forgetting the fact that I have a brain (Dave asked me twice how I was doing, and I didn’t answer!), but we were able to carry out a conversation without me freaking out or crying. Walking up to Dave without telling him my name again, and him remembering that it’s ‘Fari‘ on his own meant a lot to me. He answered my questions, allowed me to hug Oliver, and we just talked. It felt too normal to be casually talking to the ‘dream’ I’d chased for 13 years. But maybe that’s because my ‘dream’ was resonating the love and affection I’d given him for 13 years.

At the end of the convention, I had the privilege to say ‘bye’ to him before he left (Thank you Jonathan!). We talked about how this might as well be the first and last time I’d be seeing him, and he seemed genuinely concerned. He told me not to give up, and keep trying, and he hoped that I’ll be able to work something out. It seemed like he wanted to see me again. I want to see him again too… and not just because he gives THE BEST HUGS IN THE UNIVERSE!

…chasing to make your BIGGEST dream come true is surreal.

Over the last 13 years, Dave Bautista has heavily  influenced my life- from learning to use the internet (which was a luxury in Bangladesh back then) that I later used for school searches leading me to Penn State, to pursuing a healthy lifestyle, to leading me up to my career, to my choice of music, and to my outspoken personality. His honesty is contagious, and over the years I have realized that I am just like Dave- I speak my mind without worrying about how I am being perceived. While it works out great for him- he is a superstar- I still have a long way to go in terms of leaving my mark in this world with honesty. After the convention, Dave tweeted about me, and that tweet made me cry again. I was happy crying because once again, I was living through my childhood dream.

Dreaming is one thing. Chasing the dream is another.

But chasing to make your BIGGEST dream come true is surreal.

One of my cousins left a comment on my photo with Dave on my Facebook that made me wonder if that’s how the world, Dave inclusive, perceived me:

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I have received a lot of positive (and negative) feedback from people I know (and people I don’t know) after my meeting with Dave. I am thankful for the positive remarks, and I am thankful for the negative ones too. As a devoted fan, nothing filled me with joy more than hearing multiple people say, “Now I am a Batista fan, just because of how well he treated you! He really is a great guy!” And one of the more thought-provoking feedbacks I received was this question, “How can you ‘love’ a person you’ve only read about?” It made me stop for a second and think. And I have an answer: I think of love as an emotion without a definition. You ‘love’ someone or something despite his/her flaws. We love our country- as a Bangladeshi we refer to our motherland as ‘Mother’, and so I grew up with immense love for a ‘mother’ who is intangible. We love God- an entity we can’t visualize. We love our pets, without knowing how the pet really feels about us. I love Penn State- the place, the community, the people. Love can’t be defined by textbook definitions. What I feel for Dave Bautista can be better described as devotion, and utmost respect. I idolize this man, and I draw inspiration from him. Without ever being there for me as a physical entity, his mere existence has fueled me through the toughest times. And may be that is how I’d define ‘love’- being the source of inspiration and encouragement for a girl, who is still working hard to find her place in this strange world.

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Love people with all your heart and never expect anything return, because when they return your love and affection, it touches your soul and leaves a mark like never before.

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The Key to Happiness?

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I am a person who has never given up on life. May be that’s why you should listen to me.

After 12 unfinished drafts of fictions and non-fictions, one spine injury on the recovery, a bad pedicure and an awful cup of tea later, I have finally convinced myself to write and publish this post for you all.

Since graduation, I’ve often found myself wallowing in self-loathe curled up in a ball, cursing everything under the sun (which, of course, got hyped up by the multiple house break-in attempts while I was inside the house, living in a ‘questionable’ neighborhood and losing control of my own schedule). So in 2018, I decided to take charge. Of my life.

And trust me, it wasn’t easy.

I am no motivational speaker. I am not an experienced blogger. I am not a celebrity. I, in fact, am the jack of all trades and master of none. I am a 24-year-old biomedical engineer, identifying as a woman, thriving to be better at what I do for a living. I am a person who has been through ‘some’ difficult situations, and has been pretty average at overcoming them while keeping a straight face. But I am a person who has never given up on life. May be that’s why you should listen to me.

Today, one of my friends, who hasn’t talked to me in a while, suddenly decided to carry out a conversation with me, and the conversation ended with him telling me, “You seem very happy these days.” And it compelled me to compose my thoughts here.

Happiness is relative, just like good and bad. It is up to you to ‘define’ and quantify your own happiness. For a person who had to change 5 homes in the last 5 years- living in a foreign land- constantly converting the temperature from degree Fahrenheit to degree Celsius, the currency from Dollars to Taka, the language from English to Bangla, and working hard to find her position in the food chain, it can be difficult to define happiness from time to time. After my friend/roommate/coworker/partner-in-crime Chipotle and I parted ways, I have been eating lunch by myself at work, and it has given me plenty of time to ‘think’ (there’s something I don’t do very often, huh!). Whenever I am having a ‘bad’ day, I think about all those who are having a day worse than mine. I know it’s wrong to base my own happiness at the cost of others’ misery, but that’s a decent place to start with when it’s a Monday and you feel like the entire universe is conspiring to make life a living hell for you. So while you’re ‘better off’ than so many out there, is there anything else you can do to be happy?

My ‘#bff’ Liger and I had an interesting conversation yesterday. We were talking about how I am living on the edge (like a Metal Slug character falling off from a cliff with a giant booger hanging from the nose), and how my life has been ‘inspired’ by someone who doesn’t know that I exist (Yes Dave Bautista, I am talking about you). I was going on-and-on (God bless my friends) about how Bautista is the reason behind all my accomplishments, and how he is the reason behind who I am today (a Biomedical Engineer wanting to change the world) etc. And Liger, being the nice person that he is, first agreed with my reasoning, and then said, “I understand that Bautista has inspired everything that you’ve done and you have accomplished, but you have to accept the fact that YOU have done all these for yourself. You need to ACCEPT the fact that YOU have worked hard and accomplished all these. For YOURSELF.” While I still insist that Dave Bautista has done everything for me, Liger made a very good point. I must have worked hard enough to have made all these possible! So until 2 in the morning last night, I kept thinking…

…And I have finally decided to accept this: I am in charge of my own damn happiness. I have never given myself enough credit for it, but may be I should start doing it. So hear me, friends: YOU control your own happiness. And it can come from doing anything that you like- working out, checking off your to-do list, food shopping, binging on some dumb show, eating ice cream, hanging out with friends…anything! Just know that you are doing whatever YOU want to do. Yes, we often tend to ‘have too much fun’ and then not get anything done (been there- remember, I am a recent college grad?), hence, balance is important. To me, happiness comes from doing something that makes me a better version of myself. Happiness, to me, is doing something that empowers me, and doing something that’s making someone I love happy. I always have a goal and a vision, and I almost always end up succeeding because of my own determination.

Papa has reiterated this a million times now- don’t depend on anyone except yourself. And it is true. You have got to do what makes YOU happy. Making adult, sensible and responsible choices- all belong to YOU. If you wanna go drink a big-ass pitcher of margarita, you do it! If you wanna go on a low carb diet, you do it! If you wanna go eat ice cream, you go eat ice cream! (Yes, I am obsessed with ice cream, you got a problem with that bro? jk) You should never allow anyone to control your happiness.  It is easier said than done. Trust me, I know it. I can never say ‘no’ to anyone, and I always put others before me. But the more and more I am ‘adulting’, I am learning that the sense of self-happiness is the best gift you can give yourself. I am yet to climb the Jungian Tree of Self Actualization- just when I think I am succeeding, I fall face down on the floor. But I make sure that I get back up on my feet and start climbing again, because there’s no such thing as ‘giving up’ for me. Not giving up makes me happy.

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“The Entropy of Happiness”- Ramisa Fariha, MD, March 21st, 2018.

Short Story: The Silver Lining

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“Whatchuu doing?” he asked inquisitvely.
“Chasing my dreams,” she answered without looking up from the pot she was scrubbing. They just had the delicious beef stew that Jason made for dinner. They had a pretty well balanced life- Jason cooked, while Amanda cleaned. Occasionally, Amanda would serve Jason a burnt toast or two, but Jason was the man in charge of the kitchen.

“Just how exactly are you chasing your dreams by scrubbing a dirty pot?” his voice was rather serious.
“I am kidding,” Amanda finally looked up at Jason, before she gave him a light peck on the cheek and turned back to scrubbing again. As Jason made his way back to the living room couch, Amanda focused on cleaning her pot. She could hear him starting yet another old episode of the Big Bang Theory. As a team, they both enjoyed the show a lot and often referred to each other as different characters from the show.

They were a team. And there’s no in team.

Amanda was always an open book: she was wild, loud, fun and energetic. Jason was the calm, quiet, responsible and mysterious one. Their relationship was mostly an agreement of mutual respect and a lot of compromises. But they supported each other immensely as well. She just couldn’t figure out why she felt out of beat- she couldn’t play her music anymore, she didn’t enjoy reading as much, and she had a major writer’s block. It had been a while since Amanda felt like herself- she was happy and unhappy simultaneously, “Hmph, didn’t know that was even possible!” she said it out loud, unconsciously.
“What was that, hon?” Jason called over Sheldon Cooper’s voice.
“Nothing,” she replied grimly.

 

Later that night Jason noticed something unusual: for the first time in months, he saw Amanda’s hair tied back in a ponytail and her fingers striking the keys on her laptop voraciously. There was a sparkle in her eyes, the one he noticed only when she was excited about something; something he hadn’t seen in months. Jason contemplated what he should do, and finally walked over to sit next to Amanda; her gaze fixated on the laptop screen. Her perfectly manicured fingers were painting a pot of gold through her creative word stock. He gawped at her with amazement until Amanda finally realized that he was sitting right next to her.

“What?” she asked begrudgingly, while still typing.
“Nothing,” he replied, with a faint smile in his lips.
“What?” she asked again, her fingers still on the keys, but her eyes were on him.

 

“You’re writing. It’s sexy.”

Amanda spared Jason one of her unusual sincere smiles- the kind that she had kept hidden for the last four months- before turning away to her story. She knew that the next NYTimes Bestseller was in the making.

(to be continued)

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-Solar Eclipse 2017- Ramisa Fariha, Columbia, MD

Nanotale: Clown

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She was squinting her eyes under the bright sun. Her dry hair was all over her face, and she had no makeup at all. She wasn’t extraordinarily pretty, but there was something about her that made me look at her more than once, amidst the sea of faces that Sunday at the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

I am not the type of person to walk up to some girl in public and get her number. I am the total opposite of that. According to my best friend, I’d rather die alone than ever tell a girl that I have feelings for her.

Whether it was that extra shot of espresso in my coffee from earlier in the morning, or just a rush of adrenaline, I was compelled to gravitate towards her even if it meant a 2-seconds interaction or awkward smile exchanges.

As I started walking towards her, I noticed a bunch of balloons approaching her. Getting closer, I noticed a 4-year-old girl, pulling her by the finger. “Come on Mummy, there’s a clown show…Over there! Come on!” I noticed her reluctantly follow her child, hiding the pain in her eyes with a fake smile, flashing her perfect set of teeth.

Walking in the opposite direction, I began to replay the moment in my head. She didn’t have any rings in her fingers, meaning she was available. I still chose not to go after her.

It wasn’t the child so much, it was her fascination with clowns.

 

 

Re-centering Life

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center: (ˈsen(t)ər/) noun 1.the middle point of a circle or sphere, equidistant from every point on the circumference or surface; 2.the point from which an activity or process is directed, or on which it is focused.
recenter: verb to restore the center.

“Accepting you’re not mature itself is maturity”

So it’s been 5 months since I have been ‘adulting’ (correction: trying to adult) and with my birthday in 25 days, I am sitting in my bed on a Friday night listening to songs I last heard at my uncle’s wedding 15 years back, evaluating my life.
Last week, I lost an aunt- very close to me- to cancer. What’s worse is that she was too poor to receive proper diagnosis, let alone treatment. By the time my family and I found out about her grave condition, it was too late to do anything (she passed away on the third day after we found it out). I cried hard and a lot that day. I sat down and remembered her as a person with the biggest and most giving soul, and her smiling face. And then I started recalling every single person I’ve lost from my life. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends- most of them were lost due to some medical condition or another. Momentarily I questioned my own life, education and work. I looked for answers- What’s the point in working to find something that can only cure the rich? Will we succeed? How many more lives will end early before we- the scientific community- can find the solutions?– and failed. I wanted to give up everything momentarily. I wanted to go home and simply blank out on life until I could convince myself that I am where I am supposed to be. Which is when my mom asked, “Why do you choose to carry the whole world’s problems in your weak shoulders and think only you can solve them? Look after yourself first!”
I am a soon-to-be 24-year-old and I am not perfect. Nobody is. And I am not some superhero who was born to end everyone’s miseries. I am an adult who sucks at being an adult.

There. Acceptance.

To quote my best friend, “Accepting you’re not mature itself is maturity.”

So here is one of the most difficult adulting lessons I have learned so far: It is okay to feel like giving up. But it is important not to give up. It is also important to accept and move on.

Although now that I think, that was my motto for Biofluid Mechanics a.k.a BME 409, the horror story for all Penn State Biomedical Engineers! So college really does teach you something!

As I look around, I see so many things that need help and I would like to help. But sometimes it is important to address that YOU need help. By help I don’t mean medical help only. I am talking about helping yourself. Self care, doing something that makes you feel accomplished, talking to a friend or family- basically employing methods of self-care can really make a difference. As an adult, you need more than you’ve ever needed (take it from a person who has been through hell and back).

As if my mom’s words weren’t enough, my cousin stepped in and told me how he had noticed that I was a different person. He’s my first go-to person for all troubles and when he drilled the fact I seemed down, unhappy and as if something’s not right, it hit me. He was correct. I was all those because I wasn’t looking after myself. Like Papa says, “You can’t help others unless you help yourself first!” And that’s what I started doing.

With 25 days remaining for me to be year older (and mature?), here I am giving my piece of advice to you: Take care of yourself first. I am trying to stick to a schedule, getting my prayers on time, getting some workout in, trying to give my 100% at work, and still managing to have some time for friends, family and myself everyday. It is not easy and I honestly wish there were more hours in a day to get a few more hours of sleep, but I am giving myself a pat on the back for getting out of bed everyday and doing something constructive. Sometimes it is okay to falter, only to get and recenter yourself and your life.

I will leave you all with a quote from my golf coach that keeps me moving every single day:
“Remember, if you hit a bad shot, forget about it and move on. Hit the best shot of your life next!”

Ciao!

Recentering Life- Ramisa Fariha, Columbia, MD, 2017

Let’s Talk about L.O.V.E

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So it’s a weekend where I am supposed to have some ‘me’ time a.k.a meal prepping, doing laundry and cleaning. However, owing to various unavoidable circumstances, I have spent most of today adulting in the ‘Brownest’* way possible.

(*Brownest= ajd. The most eco-friendly, harmless brown* style. Example: Fari ate the brownest meal for lunch today!
*Brown= noun, adj., verb etc. Fari’s go-to word to describe everyone and everything of Southeast Asian heritage; can be used anywhere, anytime and as any part of speech. Example: The only reason Fari goes to brown weddings is for the delicious brown food.)

So as I was saying, my brown Saturday today was composed of eating chips and cinnamon milk tea for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and watching classic Shah Rukh Khan movies (To those who don’t know who Shah Rukh is: Shah Rukh Khan Tedtalk). So the King of Romance’s movies were, of course, romantic! I watched two old movies- Pardes (which means “Foreign land”) and Veer-Zaara (names of two lovers). And as I watched those movies lying in bed, I thought about love. What really is love all about when it comes to someone who is not family? How does love really operate? And I’ve decided to put all my thoughts in words.

I am writing this as I am listening to ‘love songs’, by the way. Right about now Asha Bhosle ji is suggesting that a man has stolen her heart and is asking him to not steal her gaze (Chura liya hain tumne jo dil ko…).

In our subcontinent, where Bollywood is much bigger than Hollywood, we grow up with ‘romance’. We grow up watching love stories in movies and television, we listen to romantic music, sing romantic songs and basically start thinking about the dream boy/girl at the age when our focus should really be on action figures and the newest video games. It is normal that a 5-year-old brown baby is heard singing “Zaalima” or some other romantic song these days. It really is! So based on an interesting conversation I had with a bartender last weekend, I began to think, “Are we really programmed to be ‘in love’? Are we programmed to believe that true love exists?” Hence, I back-tracked a little to try to understand what is love.

If you ask me, love is a chain reaction gone horribly wrong- worse than ozone depletion!

Other than the selfless affection that you share with your parents, siblings and like two other friends, how do you define the ‘love’ that makes you sleepless and makes you want to jump on someone and kiss them? As a straight young woman, who wrote a ‘research paper’ (yet to be published) entitled “Boys are Stupids, Throw Rocks at Them” I often look at the boys I find attractive, my crushes and the one stupid-boy-who-broke-my-heart and think out loud- “What was I thinking???” And two texts and a smile later I am back to square one! In theory, the love between a man and a woman (or man, or woman and woman, you pick) is basically a series of biochemical reactions that eventually lead to stripping, performing the actions-you-don’t-talk-about-in-the-brown-culture-out-loud and producing babies and then complaining about the other person ’til you die. Or so I think. If you ask me, love is a chain reaction gone horribly wrong- worse than ozone depletion! Seriously, in love, according to Bollywood, the man wears layers and the woman wears a see-through saree and dance in the snow! The last time I checked, my leggings beneath my jeans, full sleeved t-shirt and sweatshirt underneath my snow jacket failed to keep me warm in the snow. But of course, I was not in love. So may be love does make you feel hot (must be an exothermic reaction in that case), and you take the clothes off. Makes a lot of sense!

Had you asked the 16-year-old-smitten-Fari what’s love and all that jazz, she’d have replied, “It’s the best feeling in the world! I feel butterflies in my stomach!” If I clearly remember, it was my horrible diet making me feel all kinds of things in the stomach (not to mention, the horrible constipation! Yikes!). But if I recall all those times I had crushes and loves, I can honestly claim that not once have I ‘seen’ my guy anywhere where he wasn’t physically present (as depicted in the movies), I have never spent a night sleepless because I was in love, neither have any of my crushes and I broken into an unnecessary dance number because of our ‘Wohoo, we’re in love’ moment. So why are young boys and girls programmed to think about this non-existent love and their princess/prince? And if all of these really isn’t love, what really is love?

According to my roommate, with whom I’ve had detailed conversations about love and shit (literally), love is when you want to be with a person when you are not with them. And that love is about compromises, where both people have to make adjustments to put up with the other. His description of love makes a lot of sense to me. My concept of love is that you just really care about that one person a lot more than anybody else in this world. And even when you’re in a room full of people, you only focus on that one person. But what is really my idea of love? It is the feeling you have when you become dysfunctional and can’t think rationally. It’s like a frenzy that makes you do things you that you won’t otherwise be caught dead doing (But then again, I felt the same way when I dead lifted for the first time, so clearly I am no expert in this field)!

…may be humans are incapable of ‘falling in love’ after a certain time.

The more I am growing up and learning to adult, the more I am realizing that may be humans are incapable of ‘falling in love’ after a certain time. May be my roommate is right about love being a compromise, where you just continue to put up with the other person and that’s it. May be true love is just a mythical creature like the unicorn- or ‘Shonar Horin’ (the Bangladeshi unicorn)- that you will never see or catch! And if, God forbid, it is real, shouldn’t there be a medical diagnosis for it? I guess brain MRI counts. And the forever thing? My roommate says, ‘You get tired and bored of the person’ (which is his alibi to kill his old roommate in “Kiss- Marry- Kill”) if you’ve been with a person for too long. But then again, I know people who are in love, have been in love since forever, and seem quite happy. So how did they know the other person was ‘it’? Did they break into a romantic track in the middle of a busy street? Did they start hallucinating like Zaara in Veer-Zaara?

May be I will feel butterflies in my stomach without any gastrointestinal issues! Who knows?

As I continue to grow and explore, may be someday I will post a follow up to this piece IF I ever find love. May be I will feel butterflies in my stomach without any gastrointestinal issues! Who knows? Until then, I will continue to watch romantic movies, trying to fathom why the girls aren’t freezing to death, and should they go see a psychologist or something; and will continue to appreciate the selfless love that my family has for me; and keep entertaining you with all the thoughts I have in the back burner of my brain through my words. ‘Til then, ciao!

Get you a guy who looks at you the way Shah Rukh looks at Kajol in the snow! (Photo: Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge archive)

Goodbye Dear Old State

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Before I forget, just fyi, adulting sucks.

After writing 5 different incomplete drafts at different time points (at night in my room in Brill Hall after the last final, at the night of graduation, at the night before moving out, after first day of adulting and after the first week of adulting), I am finally forcing myself to finish a post.

This school year still feels incomplete because I never wrote my ‘End of the Year Reflection’ blog post. Each year I do a recap of my year and list the things I have learned, the do’s and don’t’s etc. But this year’s post might be a little different.

Because unlike all the other years, this year I actually finished school for realziez aka I graduated aka got my shit together!

Yes, after spending 4 years of running around the university like a headless chicken, trying to understand engineering problems, digesting the broccolis from commons dinning, and doing some research to contribute to science, I made it through. I freakin graduated! Me!

However, these 4 years were not easy by any means. At all.

In fact, my last semester was one of the most difficult semesters of my college life. Earlier tonight I was talking to my roommate and fellow PSU BME alumni about all the challenges and experiences I have had these past 4 years. He was asking me a bunch of questions after reading an earlier blog post. That’s when I realized that I am stronger than I am perceived as. My roommate often wonders out loud why I am so happy and cheerful at all times. “How can you be so happy after all day of work?” he asks almost every other day. I just laugh and say, “I am high on life!” Penn State has made me is a stronger person. In my 4 years at PSU I have had so many experiences- great, good, bad and the worst. As I look back at those sleepless nights- whether working on reports in Hallowell or crying myself to sleep in my residence hall room, I remember thinking to myself, “This is the absolute worst! Why me? I hate this! My life sucks!” But in reality God was putting me through tests- as if a carbon under pressure- to shape me into who I am today.

Before I forget, just fyi, adulting sucks.

What doesn’t kill you makes you an engineer.

Anyways, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Correction, what doesn’t kill you makes you an engineer. There are a few people out there who know me well enough to actually know what I was going through my last semester. May be someday I will gather enough courage to publish it in a blog post too, but yes I had problems. And this time shoving things down the rug really didn’t help. It was very difficult to gather myself together and be strong enough to finish the school year. But I am so proud of myself to be able to do that.

Not everyone can mask their pain with a smile. Those who can are true warriors and I am glad I know at least one other person besides myself who has done it. But out of this whole battle, I have learned that I need to start sharing the bad stuffs with a few trusted allies and that it is okay to not always smile. I am still learning to do both. I still find myself at a loss of words to explain when something hurts me and I often catch myself grinning during the toughest times. I am still learning. 

Now back to the whole PSU aspect: Penn State has been my home away from home. I have found brothers, sisters, mom, dad- a whole family here in the US thanks to Dear Old State. Even though I moved from one residence hall to another, I still found my niche at Penn State. Through all the 8 am classes, and 9 pm labs, I still managed to have fun with my friends. I went to one of the biggest party schools and still came out sober (halal life, man!). And I had a blast! I used my minimal ASL skill to sign ‘Love you’ to one of my celebrity crushes Nyle DiMarco. I heard one of most inspirational athletes of all time- Ibtihaj Muhammad- in person sharing her stories. I watched WWE front row with my brother Timo at Bryce Jordan Center, where I walked in as a student and walked out as an alumni! I sang ‘Sweet Caroline’ with my fellow Penn Staters at the Beaver Stadium. I made friends who are now ‘fam’. I went to the BME Bar Crawl (still didn’t drink) and danced my heart out with my fellow engineers. I have cried sitting on the Old Main steps at my last day as a Penn Stater. I have showed my family around the campus with much pride as they traveled thousands of miles to watch me graduate. I bled Blue and White for the last 4 years and I am still bleeding Blue and White.

Trust me, I am an engineer!

I have learned so many things at Penn State too! From learning how to do my own laundry (yes I was the smarter London Tipton), to cooking pretty decent meals, to solving differential equations, to conducting finite element analysis- I have learned it all! I remember us all complaining about BME 201 (huh!) and just today at work I heard SDS and immediately knew what it meant (and to think that we never learned anything in Dr. Hancock’s class!). And remember all those cell cultures and Student’s T-test? You will actually use those (if you stick to the related field). It is true that we have done a lot more theoretical work than practical implementation however, when you work in a position related to your field, you get to utilize all your knowledge. Everything will eventually start making sense and all those classes you hated (and may be professors, though I have never hated anyone) will actually come to your aid. Trust me, I am an engineer! (Funny how I can actually say that phrase and mean it now haha)

So yes, Penn State has taught me a so much beyond text books! And being a Stater just doesn’t end with graduation. As an adult (very questionable), I am working for a Penn State alumni with a Penn State alumni (who happens to be my roommate). You can take a Stater out of the State but you can never take the State out of the Stater. And for a person who still doesn’t understand an ounce of American football, I still scream on top of my lungs every time I see ‘Penn State Football’ anywhere. To me, Penn State is about the sense of belonging. It is about the feeling of oneness, forgetting everything else – race, religion, culture, gender, ethnicity, color, politics and anything that creates divisions.

I will shamelessly admit that I have cried when I left State College. I have cried even when I transferred from Behrend to University Park. I have cried during my first weekend as an adult- remembering the good ol’ State College days. I miss Penn State. I miss my classes, my professors, my beautiful campus and of course my friends! However, even during the toughest semester I have learned coping mechanisms and have acquired the skills to survive adulthood (I think). So as I bid adieu to my Dear Old State with a heavy heart, I know that my heart will always be there. I know that I will bleed Blue and White for the rest of my life. I know that I will scream ‘Penn State’ in response to ‘We Are’ as a reflex anywhere, any day! But I also realize that Penn State has done its job. Just how my parents did their job and prepared me for my journey at Penn State, now my State has prepared me for the next chapter. I can’t wait to explore adulthood (actually I can, but I will pretend to be my usual optimistic over-excited self) and see what adventures it holds for me.

And until my next ‘Adulting Chapter 1’ post…

WE ARE…!!!

2T6A7994

“Thou didst mold us, dear old State, Dear old State, dear old State.” (Old Main, April 2017)     Photo: Steven Li

C for Consistency

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“Homeostasis”- the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.

In simpler words: Things must stay the way they are.

I am a big homeostasis fan for everything in my life- while every single day is different for me, I like to maintain some form of homeostasis or another. I am the type of person who doesn’t get bored with the same food or the same routine everyday. I rather freak out when things deviate from the normal.

Which happens often, I must add.

I relate to Sheldon Lee Cooper quite well as a person. While my friends might say I am Amy Farrah Fowler I beg to differ. I am Sheldon Cooper. With a v-jay-jay.

Anyways, one thing that has been engraved in my brain since day 1 of training is that in order to get results, I have to be consistent. A few cheat meals here and there is fine, and there are rest days but it is very important to go to the gym almost everyday and do something. And eat clean.

Now, for a person with eating disorder eating clean may be a challenge. I used to (still do sometimes) eat uncontrollably, and I enjoy eating crap a.k.a food-I-am-not-supposed-to-eat. My World’s Best Trainer not only trains me but occasionally tells me what to eat and what not to eat. And guess what? I actually listen to him.
One thing I have realized about succeeding in health battles is that I have to maintain homeostasis as best as I can, and today I am going to share a few things that I have been doing and how they have helped me.

First things first: C.O.N.S.I.S.T.E.N.C.Y
It is important that you give yourself pep-talks everyday to keep going and not giving up. Giving up can be alluring and one day can easily become one week and all your hard work can vanish just like that. So make sure you have your charts/documents/files/folders/Google Doc ready and updated. For me, I maintain a Google Doc to keep track of all my workouts, including weekly progress, weight increments, body mass etc. For my food intake, I use the MyFitnessPal app on my phone. But I am at a point where I can easily eyeball things, or commit my calories to memory and know how much I am consuming. So step 1 is just to become that nerd with a color-coded schedule who sticks to the routine. You will feel a lot better if you can stick to things. At least I feel accomplished every time I finish a certain set of workout and update my progress in my Google Doc.

“I actually listen to him.”

There are 3 things I strongly believe in life:
1. Praying is very important, God listens;
2. Study Chemistry everyday, leave it for a day and it will leave you for a month;
3. Always listen to your trainer.

And I follow mine religiously. He is the best!

My World’s Best Trainer has taught me a lot about staying healthy and I feel obligated to share them:
Having taught him what ‘Bhuri’ is (bhuri is the Bangla for pot-belly/bulging tummy/tummy with rolls and everything), I have been reminded several times that “Bhuri has more to do with diet than exercise!” This means that while working the core muscles is important, losing belly fat is a more diet dependent process than anything else. So what happens to a person like me who has a love/hate relationship with food and has the wildest food cravings? What can be done? I clearly lack in self-control whenever I see curly fries, or any fries for that matter!
My World’s Best Trainer told me something that has become my motto now. I was telling him one day how I’ve been good with my diet except I couldn’t resist eating curly fries at Pollock Commons for dinner the night before. He explained to me how curly fries- fries– are big NO-NOs. “Every time you feel the urge to eat fries, go and grab a plate of broccolis. I want you to grab all the broccolis in the world and eat them, but DO NOT eat curly fries!” he said. And I decided to take it to my heart. It was hard. It was difficult. It still is. I mean come on! We are comparing curly fries to broccolis. BROCCOLIS! So being the fat girl at heart that I am, I certainly had to convince myself a great deal to accept the deliciousness that is broccoli. Since then my World’s Best Trainer and I have own hashtag: #TB #TeamBroccoli!
Here’s to all the ‘fat at heart‘ people: It is difficult. Trust me. It is a torture seeing those curly fries ready to be eaten, and then having to walk away from them. It physically hurts. My hypothalamus screams in pain and curses me ten million times! But here’s the thing: you don’t have to change overnight. It never happens overnight. I cheated for weeks until I got used to it. I went from a bowl of curly fries, to half a bowl of curly fries and half a bowl of broccolis to all broccolis. It’s very tempting to cheat. I know. I am always tempted to not eat those veggies. I am always attracted by that bowl of Jasmine rice. I want to go eat those burgers and what not. But then I remember all those times I cursed myself at the gym for letting go for so long. I think about all the times when my World’s Best Trainer had to pull me up from the floor after an intense circuit. It helps.

Accepting is winning half the battle. I accepted the fact that I had an unhealthy lifestyle. I accepted the fact that I needed to work on my body. I accepted that I am obese. It made working hard and sticking to it easier. Accept your flaws boldly. Accepting doesn’t mean hating yourself. I love myself- whether a size 14 or a size 10! The way my World’s Best Trainer puts it, “You’re just becoming a better version of yourself.” And that’s all it really needs to be. And know that we all have different body goals. You might see someone at the gym working with a 50-lb weight and you’ll be there holding a 5-lb, don’t beat yourself up over the fact that you can’t lift that weight yet. You both have your individual game plans. Just go out there and be the best you there is!

Remember: Acceptance, consistency and broccolis. They’re all in this together!
And until next time: wear teal with pride, fight like a girl and… eat broccolis!

#TeamBroccoli

#TeamBroccoli

C for Cyst, C for Courage

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After such an enthusiastic response from all the readers worldwide on PCOS, I have decided to publish a series of blogs about my PCOS journey hoping that it would help others like me living with this condition.

As a PCOS patient, something that I always struggle with is my weight and staying fit. It is normal that PCOS will cause weight fluctuations and will also result in lethargy, and my story is no different. I am the kind of person who always tries to eat well and I have been relatively active throughout my whole life- swimming, dancing, golfing or recreational walking- I have always tried to incorporate some kind of activity in my life although they never helped me too much (mostly because I kept switching around so much!). So, long story short: I had never stepped inside a gym. Ever. In my whole life.

When my Papa suggested getting ‘strong’ by graduation and that it should be my thing for 2017, it is needless to say that I was scared. I knew the basic treadmill and elliptical but I had no idea what to do inside a gym. I hated gyms and I hated people who’re gym rats. I was too conscious to ever step inside a gym, I always wore the wrong clothes and mostly looked around at other people while huffing and puffing after 5 minutes on a treadmill. So it is needless to say that deep down inside I was screeching paying for the gym membership I was never going to use. My mom suggested getting a trainer to get myself started, which sounded like a good and bad idea simultaneously. Good idea because it was going to get me started and someone would actually be there to help me. Bad because I was too conscious, lazy and not brave enough.

The day I first met my trainer, I went prepared with my list of Don’ts and Can’ts. In short, I was not ready to give my 100% and with all my health complications I was pretty sure he was no going to help me out in day 2. However, his contagious positive attitude towards every little thing I did encouraged me so much that I decided to have him train me for the whole semester- and from here onwards, he’ll be referred to as the World’s Best Trainer.

C is for Cyst, ergo Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). C is also for the word Courage. When you’ve heard ‘fat’, ‘fatty’, ‘fat ass’ or similar words growing up, it is very natural for a person to be overly self-conscious and not have self-confidence. For a girl who projected confidence all the time, I had zero confidence with my body. And even worse, I refused to do something about it. In order to bring about a change and to actually make it effective, it would require me to get my ass out of my couch/bed and head to the gym- which was not my thing! And for a person with zero body confidence, I was not willing to wear exercise clothes that emphasized on areas I was out of shape in, areas that needed work done and areas that are good for nothing. So to actually put myself in exercise clothes- my grey leggings and a black performance t-shirt, for the first day when I had to go see my World’s Best Trainer– it required me to gather all of my courage. I had a melt down, an anxiety attack, an-exaggerated-almost-heart-attack, a bout of depression and some very questionable thoughts about my existence when I saw myself in the mirror. It took me a new supply of courage to put on my running shoes and fill my water bottle. And then I had to look around and gather more courage to start walking towards the gym.

Stepping inside the gym and looking around scared the crap out of me! If I were a cartoon, you’d see my eyes popping out and my heart pushing out of the ribcage! As part of my ‘orientation’ when my World’s Best Trainer asked me to ‘try’ the rower, I forgot to breathe. I was smiling because that’s my default face but clearly I was not about to get on that machine. Deep down inside, I was scared, overwhelmed, terrified and mortified already and it was just the first thing he asked me to do. I had to force myself to gather all the courage in me and sit on that machine. It felt crazy that I was about to try out a machine. Inside a gym. With a trainer (who has the body of John Cena) next to me. I don’t think any word exists in English language to express how I felt at that moment. The next thing I knew, I had just rowed 800 meters on a rower at my first go! The rest of the orientation, then, was pretty smooth in terms of my anxiety, embarrassment and mortification. I tried tricep extensions, some low rows and leg press. I even tried planks! My planks were awful but I tried them anyways.

That day I walked out of the gym with a big smile on my face- having done something I’d never done before, and having acquired a new friend in the form of my World’s Best Trainer.

I got home and looked at myself in the mirror. I still saw those rolls, those cellulite and the bad posture, but I also saw a brave girl. I saw someone who had the courage to fight back the negativity she grew up with. I saw someone who had enough courage to step out of her comfort zone and try something new in order to bring a positive change in her life. I saw someone who had the courage to smile despite the throbbing legs and arms. I saw a girl who had courage.

And the next day I used all those courage to walk back into the gym ALL BY MYSELF to ‘workout’.

Courage.

A small word that can bring mammoth changes in a person’s life.

The first C, that I believe, all PCOS patients need to have is courage. Have that courage inside you. I know it is easier said that done. Trust me I have been there. It is the worst feeling to have to fight so many things and gather that courage. It sucks. It drains you. It takes time. It takes several counseling sessions with yourself while taking showers. It takes even more counseling sessions with yourself as you look in the mirror. I have done them all. But once you can gather that courage and redirect it towards something as constructive and positive as trying to make a change for your own self, it can move mountains. Think of it this way, we are already brave enough to deal and live with PCOS at a regular basis. We freaking have the courage to look those damned ovaries in the eyes (!) and scream ‘Bring it on!’. So why can’t we have the same courage to start taking small steps towards doing something good? And it doesn’t have to be joining the gym or getting a trainer. It can start with something as simple as substituting your side of fries with a side of broccoli or green beans. Or, may be just doing 5 squats in your bedroom. The important thing is to have the courage to fight back urges and cravings- the urge to crawl back to our cocoon of safety and accept that we can’t help ourselves, and the crazy cravings for food that might make going slightly difficult for us. Hence, just try to make sure your C for Courage is always higher in the scale than your C for Cyst. It is difficult but not impossible. Just trust yourself.

This was my first C in the journey. As the time progresses, I will be revealing my other C’s I use to combat my PCOS. ‘Til then, fight like a girl and wear teal with pride. Blessings. xx

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HOPE
Ramisa Fariha, September 2015
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Fiction: She Complained

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I am a modern guy- I go to rock and heavy metal concerts, I drink and party hard. I have a lot of female friends. I have one night stands. I drink and smoke. I am a software engineer working for Epicor Retail Software in Montreal, Canada.

Sure my story started in a small town back in India, but I am not your typical Indian man.

I hated being in my small village of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, and I worked hard enough to reach where I am. Ever since I moved to Montreal I had been home only once, and I wasn’t thrilled with all the heat and pollution. With my father in a critical condition, and the immigration paperwork still stuck in the pipeline, I rushed home to my village to move my father to a better location for proper treatment as soon as I got the news of his first heart attack.

It was the year 2010, around November. We were in Mumbai hospital: the walls had several marks on them from spits and foot prints and I even spotted a few betel leaf spits on the faded sky blue walls of the hospital; a few candy wrappers were seen on the corners, hidden behind potted plants that needed proper grooming. Doctors and nurses- male and female- in their ‘once upon a time white but now dirty in pollution’ outfits were running frantically. My mother, Aai, sat on a chair, with worn out leather and spring peeling through the covers, and covered her mouth with the anchal of her saree as she sobbed. I paced back and forth outside the Emergency unit while the doctors took care of my father. This is the best they have, I wish I could just take Baba to Canada with me right now! I thought as I walked back and forth in frustration.

After waiting outside the Emergency unit for what seemed like forever, Dr. Shetty walked up to Aai and I and informed us that everything was safe, and we didn’t have to worry about anything. Baba was safe. But little did I know that I wasn’t going to be safe following that incident! Here’s an important lesson from the book of Indian Children- Indian parents will emotionally blackmail you whenever they are unwell. Tried, tested and proven. As Aai and I walked in once Baba was conscious, both Aai and Baba cried in unison. I couldn’t help but tell them it was all my fault for not being able to take them with me to Montreal. I wished I could speed up the immigration process but I certainly couldn’t do much about it. That’s when it happened.

“Beta, we are both old, and it gets harder for us every outstanding day to take care of each other,” Baba said, with much difficulty, losing breath in almost every other word.
“I understand that Baba, but the immigration process isn’t in my control. I certainly can’t move back home, so tell me what else can I do?”  I tried so hard to be a good son, and controlled myself from snapping, how could I snap at a person who just had the second myocardial infarction within the span of a month?
“Beta, we have been thinking…” Aai started the sentence, wiping away the tears and brining a soft smile to her face. Just the sound of it sounded like trouble.

And I was forced to hop on to the train to the crazy town called “vivah”- marriage.

“Beta, I understand you feel terrible about not being able to take care of us, and with my current health, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fly to Canada. My last wish before I die is to see you happily married,” Baba spoke laying in the hospital bed, when Aai started sobbing again, her anchal fixated on her mouth as she sobbed.
I looked all around me- the dirty floor, the fading walls, the hopeless ceiling with the plaster falling off in places- everywhere except looking at my parents straight in the eyes. I was being emotionally blackmailed into something I was not ready for. As a man, it was important that I protested for my freedom, “But Baba, I am not ready to get married, and I didn’t come prepared to get married. I just don’t want to do this!” I voiced my opinion, hoping that my voice was firm enough to deter Aai and Baba from their stand.
“Listen to this boy, Madhavi, this is the day we brought him up to be a man- to refuse his father’s dying wish! Do you hear this child?” my father spoke, still struggling to voice his words properly, grasping my mother’s fingers tightly. Aai had started crying loudly by then, and took all the blame on her for ‘spoiling’ me with all her love.
Because I was desperate to make my parents happy and the guilt in me for leaving them behind piled up to a mammoth size in my chest, I threw in the towel. And that is how I got stuck marrying Sandhiya. Of course I was a person of morals and called and broke up with my then girlfriend Isabella, the drop-dead-gorgeous Mexican co-worker, the beauty with brains, I was dating.

Sandhiya was the neighbor’s daughter who took care of my parents when I was away and that’s how my parents decided that she was going to be their daughter-in-law. In my absence, my mother explained, Sandhiya helped my mother clean the house, chopped vegetables, read books to my father and made, to quote Aai, “the world best Aam rass and poori” (tortilla chips with mango dip). I first saw Sandhiya the night of our engagement. It seemed like she needed major reconstruction- she was nothing like any of my ex-girlfriends. She walked in wearing a neon orange saree, a little to bright for her complexion. Sandhiya was very dark skinned- while I am a modern man with modern values, and I claim to not be a typical Indian man, but generational habits die hard. I am that typical Indian man in certain aspects- I incline towards women with lighter skin, and Sandhiya definitely wasn’t my cup of tea. Her hair was dripping of coconut oil and was tied back in a ponytail underneath her transparent head scarf. It looked like she had never been to a beauty parlor- her eye brows were all over the place, her hands were not waxed, and she had crimson lipstick on her teeth from the excessive use of it. Her face was almost plastered with white makeup- a little too uneven and light for her tone. I was almost embarrassed and angry that my parents thought she was eligible enough to be my wife.

I mean, I know I wasn’t expecting to see some Miss World at our small Maharashtran village, but I was expecting someone better than…well, her!

So I basically became the Lamb of God for my parents in an attempt to return their favor to this innocent neighbor girl, who was definitely doing somersaults in her heart getting to marry me- the 5-foot-9 tanned creation of God, complete with 6 pack abs, a goatee covering the chin dip, and intelligent hazel-brown eyes.

On our first night I made it very clear to her that I wasn’t going to touch her, ever. I told her I was flying away in a few days and may be come by once a year but I basically married her to take care of my parents. And that she shouldn’t expect a husband’s love or affection from me. Of course I had to spit the words out in Maharashtran because this girl didn’t know a word of English.
“Soonn (listen), you are going to sleep there tonight. And away from me, always, got it?” I commanded my new bride, wearing a bright red wedding saree, and her usual terrible makeup, staring at me with her bright brown eyes. I realized I was being a jerk, but I had to establish my territory for future references. The floor was at least clean, although would be slightly chilly at night for a local girl; “Here, take this,” and I handed Sandhiya only a pillow, and no blanket or comforter because there was only one in the room that I wanted for myself- just in case it rained and I got cold. “It’s okay. I am fine,” and I saw her walk slowly towards the corner of the room, still in her bridal wear, and lay down on her side using her henna painted palms as a pillow. She never complained.

I hadn’t talked to her once for almost up to three months since I moved back to Montreal. It wasn’t until my parents started coaxing me, and then emotionally blackmailing me with their “We are old and we want to see our grandchildren before we die” card. As a spouse, Sandhiya’s immigration was much more accelerated than my parents and I travelled back to India in a year to bring her back to Montreal with me.

As we travelled on the plane, Sandhiya looked at everything with amazement. What else could I expect from a girl who had never stepped out of the small village. I was very embarrassed to be seen in public with her, and I made sure she didn’t have that hideous make up on, or didn’t reek of coconut oil.

“Do you watch movies?” I asked her as I strapped on the seat belt for her in the plane, because I was not ready or willing to entertain that mess for 20 hours on air. “I like Ranbir Kapoor,” Sandhiya whispered in a quivery tone, as if speaking louder would have angered me- I was angry already. “Hmm,” I replied, and put on some cheesy romantic film of Ranbir Kapoor on her seatback television, and concentrated on my favorite Mila Kunis on Friends with Benefits playing on my screen.

It was a beautiful summer evening when we landed on Montreal. Once we got home, I had to establish my boundaries with Sandhiya, again.

“Listen, you will stay here, in this room. And that over there is my room. Don’t come and bother me. I am always busy, okay?” I made things very clear, in my male dominating voice, in a rather derogatory tone to her the moment we stepped inside my house and I took her luggage to the guest room. She nodded in agreement. That night I ordered in some sushi, ate and slept following my usual routine. I took a nice hot shower before I went to bed. She didn’t know how to work the shower. Sandhiya later told me that she showered in ice cold water and went to bed hungry, shivering in cold, but that night she didn’t complain.  

I had given Sandhiya clear instruction on how she was supposed to always refer to me as Sir and with respect- but I certainly didn’t respect her enough, didn’t respect her at all– and she always followed those instructions. She cooked and cleaned for me and she never asked for anything in return. She always waited for me to get home, served dinner and ate only after I was done eating. She reminded me of the perfect Indian housewife on one of those cheesy Hindi daily soaps. She had curious eyes, but they trembled in fear once in a while- of doing something wrong and being yelled at by me. I didn’t thank her the night she made her “world best Aam rass and poori,” I didn’t thank her for packing my lunch every day, I didn’t thank her for the special dinner she made on my birthday. I didn’t even thank her the night she struggled to make the chicken I brought home, because she remained true to her vegetarian God unlike me, and it was equivalent to a murder for her, but she never complained.

My friends knew about this little accident of mine called marriage and that my wife had moved in with me from India. So they demanded a party from me as a celebration and as an excuse to meet my wife. I agreed to it and went home with a bunch of groceries, and some beauty products. I realized Sandhiya hadn’t asked for a thing from me since she moved in with me. I had never checked to see if she needed body wash, shampoo, soap, toothpaste or makeup. I hadn’t asked her how she was doing; once. As I returned home that night, Sandhiya smiled at me when I handed her the items I bought for her.
“Here, take these. I have some shampoo, soap, makeup stuff and a dress for you. Use them. For tomorrow. Don’t ruin them. And don’t do any crazy oily hair, or white makeup. Okay?” I said, as I handed her the Walmart bags.
She nodded her head and smiled at me for the first time since we got married. I had never noticed until that moment that Sandhiya had a beautiful smile. Her smile had the innocence of a child, and yet flaunted the beauty of a woman through her dimples. And she actually looked decent when she smiled.
“Thank you,” she said, in her soft, husky yet melodious voice, trying to suppress her joy, too afraid that I might take it away from her.
“Let me know if you need anything else, okay?” I offered, trying to be nice.
She almost walked away, but returned hesitantly.
“Is it okay if I do puja (pray) in the morning?” she asked, not looking at me straight in the eyes.
“Hmm…” I replied, that could have translated to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ had it not been my nodding in agreement, with my eyes glued to the sports section of the newspaper. If I had looked up from the newspaper at that moment, I would have noticed a victory smile on Sandhiya’s face, as she stood there for a minute appreciating my kindness that night, tracing my presumably perfect face. Sandhiya, months later, told me that she loved watching me read the newspaper from afar, “You seem to forget the whole world, all your tension and stress,” she said. She said she loved watching my thick dark eyebrows crinkle occasionally as I’d read a bad news, and she loved watching me smile at the sight of a good news.

The next day I instructed her to not call me Sir in front of my friends but call me by my name.
“Call me Taran, okay? In front of them. Okay?” I tried easing her into the situation and making sure she understood my words. “Okay,” she replied softly.
Later that night she referred to me as Taran for exactly three times, and never had my name sounded sweeter. Ever. And surprisingly she didn’t embarrass me in front of my friends. If anything, she surprised me, and looked presentable in the grey dress I bought her.
“So Sandy, what’s your favorite movie?” Alex, my co-worker and best friend, asked Sandhiya, completely butchering her name. She didn’t seem to mind. As I parted my lips to translate Alex’s question, I heard her reply, “Friends with Benefits” with a smile, “Hey that’s T’s favorite movie too!” the astonished Alex replied. I was surprised, and yet oddly satisfied by her response. We had never talked about any of our likeness, hobbies or anything in particular. I was surprised Sandhiya understood Alex’s question. I was surprised she remembered the movie I watched on the plane.

Later that night I gave her the permission to call me Taran at all times. I saw her smile again.

Months later during the winter, I got home late one night. It was David’s farewell party at work and then a bunch of us went out for a few drinks. I came home to find Sandhiya asleep on the couch, crunched up in cold. She didn’t know how to operate the heating system. I went straight to bed. At 29, I had been working hard to support my family for years, made sacrifices and chased money; I was mechanical and the human inside me was almost dead. Or so I thought. Laying in bed I couldn’t fall asleep. I knew she always ate after me, and I wasn’t sure if she ate that night. So walked up to the living room couch. Sandhiya looked beautiful sleeping. Her dark skin shined in the dim light from above, and she had a sense of peace and calm in her face as she slept. I woke her up and asked, “Did you eat?”
Puzzled, she looked up at me, with her hair flying in all directions. I repeated my question, “Did you eat, or nah?” “No,” she finally replied, “I was waiting for you,” her voice lingering in lumber. “Hmm,” was all I said before I went to the kitchen and started microwaving some food for her. With my gaze fixed at the rotational movement of the plate of rice, vegetables and rice inside the microwave, I recalled all the other nights when I had returned home and went straight to bed, without checking on her, without asking whether she had eaten or not. That night she finally got the permission to eat without having to wait for me. For a change, that night I served her the food and watched her eat with her tiny hands. She smiled hard as I stared at her while she ate. She later told me she went to bed the happiest that night, although she had a fever. I wasn’t aware of the fever because she never complained.

It was first day of snow of the season that I first took her out with me for a non-grocery reason. I wanted to show this little village girl her first snow. As it started to snow and the snow fell down on her head, it was as if a 110 kilowatts power energized her. She seemed the happiest I had ever seen her. I bought her jeans and boots and a bunch of ‘Western’ outfits. In her jacket, jeans and boots, she didn’t look like the Sandhiya I married a year and a half back. She looked like any modern day Indo-Canadian woman, playing in the snow. She couldn’t contain her excitement and she started running back and forth with her arms wide open. The pink-purple glow of the twilight sky tinted her face in a beautiful aura of red and pink- the kind you would only see when a light-skinned girl blushed. As a husband, I never made enough efforts to make Sandhiya blush, and may be that’s why I never knew how she’d look if she’d blushed. She was elated, and her body motions exaggerated. It reminded me of my first time seeing snow- I was jumping around like a baby too! I stood afar and looked lovingly at my wife; for the first time.

And then I saw her standing still, with her eyes closed, facing the sky. She held her arms wide open- welcoming the cold snow, that I only imagined was piercing through her cold intolerant dark skin. Her lips were slightly parted. I noticed she was wearing a light pink shade of lipstick. I was also able to trace the hint of kohl she had on her eyes; closed at the moment. She embraced mother nature, with her arms wide open. She didn’t hold grudge against mother nature for punishing her with the extreme Maharashtran heat and then the brutal Québec cold. She woke up every morning to pray and thank God. She never complained, to God, for putting her through so much; for making her leave home and getting stuck with me thousands of miles away from home, alone for the most part. As Sandhiya stood there, unaware of my aching heart- overwhelmed in guilt- I admired the dark-skinned beauty that’s my wife.

I realized she was beautiful; may be not in the most conventional way- she didn’t have the most perfect features, except her expressive big brown eyes; her nose was rather too small and rounded, and her forehead pushed forward like tulip petals, and her rounded face wasn’t the most feminine. But her eyes- still closed- said a lot. At the spur of the moment, I realized that I had never admired anyone’s eyes as much as I admired hers at that moment. I loved seeing her eyes as happiness and joy cascaded through her pupils occasionally. And her ample delicate lips contributed much to her beauty. As she stood there, her lips still slightly parted, I noticed the opaline snowflakes make their way towards my beautiful wife. For the first time ever, I felt the mechanical robot inside me transform to a human. I noticed the intricate shapes of the tiny snowflakes as they moved and admired this creation of the elephant-headed God, Ganesha, I had long forgotten but only remembered because the girl who stood in front of me believed in him whole-heartedly and prayed to him every single day. As I saw the snowflakes fall, one after another, on her face, I tip-toed towards my wife. Sandhiya, still absorbed in her first snow moment, didn’t feel how close I had gotten to her.

As my ice-kissed wife stood with her eyes closed, I held her by the waist and pulled her towards me. She stood frozen in astonishment. I tilted her face down towards me, holding her chin between the index finger and the thumb of my right hand and placed my lips on to hers. We kissed for the first time as the twilight changed into a dark night sky and the snow kept falling. Sandhiya, surprised in the moment, didn’t understand what was going on, until I paused, let go of her lips and cupped her beautiful face with my hands and looked straight into her beautiful brown eyes.
“You are beautiful, and I love you, and I am glad you are mine. Forever.”

And continued to kiss her until she finally kissed me back.

Sandhiya, or Sandy as I occasionally teased her, still continued to be the timid Maharashtran girl even though I encouraged her to be wild. However, following her first snow evening we embraced our relationship and continued to learn more about each other. She would often mention how much she loves my nose, “Your nose is like a koala bear’s. I like koala bears,” she would tell me, stroking the tip my nose with hers. The more I got to know Sandhiya, the more I respected her. She had to give up her university education because her father could only afford to send one child to school which was her younger brother following the heavy dowry he had to give at her sister Bindiya’s wedding. Sandhiya wanted to study Astronomy in university because she loved the stars, they mesmerized her.

“My Aai-Baba were always worried that I’d be a burden on them- I couldn’t finish my education for financial reasons, and I am not pretty,” she would often tell me over our morning coffee, “They never thought someone would marry me without a huge dowry. Thank you, Taran,” she would add, with a smile and a glint of tear in her eyes. And every time she thanked me, I apologized to her for being a jerk all along, “Honey I am so sorry. I never gave you a chance. I was a fool! I was a stupid!” I would growl in self-loathe, which she often took as her queue to hug me. The more I got to know her, the more she amazed me. She grew up being bullied for her complexion, for being ‘ugly’, and I was nothing but a bully to her the whole time.

“I am happy Mishu is getting the education. He is a very bright boy,” Sandhiya would smile thinking about his younger brother who was in 11th grade then. I admired her more and more as days went by. My wife was a strong woman- being bullied her whole life, being called names and always called ‘ugly’, she never complained; despite being a bright student she had to give up her education and her dreams for her siblings, but she never complained; she had to work odd jobs to support her family and had to live with the mental pressure of being a burden, yet she never complained; and finally, when she thought she found her way out of the misery, she was stuck being ill-treated by me for months and still she never complained. I was proud to have her in my life, and with every passing day her smile became the reason for my existence. I found myself loving her more and more every day, it was as if I woke up every day trying to make her happy and considered it a successful day if she went to bed with a smile.

I never said no to anything she wanted, because she never voiced her demands. She would giggle like a child if I would ever pick up some flowers for her on my way home. Unless she really needed something, my Sandhiya never asked for anything. She was 32 weeks pregnant, and I was too busy with work following my recent promotion to stay home and take care of her.  Sandhiya wanted to be with her family in her crucial time of need. Although I was strongly opposed to having our first child born in India, I couldn’t say no. It was the first time she had ever asked for something.

“Taran, may I please go? I really want to be home. Your Aai Baba will be there too. I will feel better if I am there with everyone,” she pleaded, her beautiful eyes lined with kohl projecting how much she missed home.
“Fine,” I replied with a sigh, and grabbed her hands, pulling her close to me, “I’ll make arrangements for you to go home, but promise me you’ll take care of yourself, okay?” to which she nodded with a grin, “And I promise I’ll be there as soon as I can get my days off approved, but most likely closer to delivery,” and I kissed her on the forehead.
“I love you,” was all she said in return before she buried her head in my neck.

“Honey, I promise I’ll be by your side in a heartbeat whenever you need me,” I told her, implanting a kiss on her forehead as I dropped her off at the airport. Her decision still seemed crazy to me, going to India at such a crucial time for our first child’s birth, but everything was about her happiness then. Sandhiya, gradually and eventually, became the core of my being- the gravity that held my entire universe together. And in her words, “Soon we are going to have the Sun that will hold our solar system together,” referring to our unborn child.

As promised, I was there by her side when she went to labor. It was the same filthy hospital where Baba decided my future with Sandhiya, where I was blackmailed into marrying someone I didn’t love. And I was back there, holding the hands of the most beautiful girl in my life. Life had come to a full circle.

They say childbirth is the most painful experience in the world, and I hated putting her through this. I couldn’t bear to see Sandhiya go through the pain, but I held her hands as she screamed in excruciating pain. Sweat welled up, in her forehead and neck, and the lower half of her body was covered in a sheet, the same shade of white as the doctor’s nasty jacket. I hated the idea that she wanted to do this in that crappy hospital but I stood by her side. Despite the pain, and the screaming, she didn’t complain.

Breech birth. Complications. More screaming. More pain. I was asked to leave the operation theatre at one point. I sat outside with my parents and my in-laws praying to Lord Ganesh, for the safety and well being of the girl who believed in him the most. I saw the panic stricken faces of the doctors and nurses as they moved in and out of the operation theatre, and heard Sandhiya’s piercing screams in the split seconds that the doors opened and closed. Anxious, and angered, I demanded to be inside the operation theatre with my wife, but they wouldn’t let me in.
“This isn’t your Canada,” they said.

After what seemed like the longest two-and-a-half hours of my life Dr. Shetti walked out of the OT, with Sandhiya’s screams silenced in the background.

“Hey beautiful!” I made it a ritual to call her beautiful at least twice a day. I tried to keep my voice as steady as I possibly could, being careful to not express how shattered I was too from the inside. Sandhiya and I had spent weeks and months planning our lives around this child. Back in Montreal, in our home, was a nursery with lime-green walls and cartoon animals drawn on them, filled with toys, waiting to welcome someone. How could I take her back there knowing now that the mere sight of that room would kill us both over and over again?

She laid in the dirty looking hospital bed, almost lifeless. The pain and the screaming were all gone. Sandhiya’s face was blank, and her eyes wide and expressionless, staring up at the hospital ceiling. I noticed the ceiling- it must have been white initially- but now was a filthy shade of yellow-beige. I stood next to her motionless body, and stroked her hair and forehead. She often told me it calmed her down and made her feel safe.

The entire room was silent. The only audible sounds were the urgent voices of doctors from the outside and patients’ panicking relatives, dampened by the doors; and the sounds of the machines hooked to my wife’s stationary body. Beep Beep Beep.

With a blank look on her face, and her eyes fixated on the dirty hospital ceiling, Sandhiya spoke in a dead voice.

“Why me, Taran?”

I looked at her, not able to answer. She wanted an answer from me. I stared at the strongest girl I knew through the tears welling up in my eyes; her image, then, nothing but a blob refracting through the tears, she repeated the same question in the same dead voice. For the first time ever, I heard Sandhiya loud and clear; she complained.

White Joy- Ramisa Fariha 2017