We’re going through changes

Most of us get jokes and funny pictures sent through to our e-mail account a few times a week. Maybe we have laughed or scoffed at something like this, thinking, “Thank God times have moved on.” I know I have. So imagine my horror and consternation when I realised that in the run-up to my wedding, I was being trained and instructed in the same way. And whilst my “training” has not been as stringent or backward as the linked picture, it is most certainly based on the same ideology.

In a warped version of the Pretty Woman/Princess Diaries transformation, I am being gently coaxed from general scruffbag with no cultural nous to Asian Woman Extraordinaire; the epitome of elegance and grace. She puts on a sari perfectly! She can make herself beautiful! She has bangle sets in every colour to match any outfit! She knows the exact right thing to say at the exact right time! She has an endless supply of safety pins and hair clips! And most importantly, her chicken korma is to die for! None of that is me. Well, not me right now but maybe me in four months. I’m going through changes and whilst buying a few bangle sets is hardly a big deal, it’s kind of scary. I have to start acting like a grownup; a woman, not a girl. I started off this transformation last Wednesday by getting my ears pierced. The way people reacted like I must be the only 24-year-old Asian girl in the world without her ears pierced (I had them pierced when I was about eight but they closed because I don’t wear jewellery). Hold up, was I the only 24-year-old Asian girl in the world without her ears pierced??

And all the aforementioned is not even the half of it. Usually, when speaking to elders, my side of the conversation goes a little something like this: “Asalam Alaikum. Ji. Ji. Ji oy, Ji na. Ji. *mumble*” (a slightly more polite version of: “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yes. No. Uh-huh. *mumble*“) before I skulk off. I’m not made for sit-down conversation with elders. I just don’t know what to say. I may throw in a “Bala ni?” (Are you well?) but that’s kind of it. Now that’s hardly the kind of conversation I can hold with all the new in-laws I’ll be gaining. I’m not quite sure what the solution to that is yet but I’ll let you know if I get there.

In addition to all of that, there are all the names I have to learn. I don’t mean the names of my relatives but the names of the relation which they are to me. See, we don’t just say “sister-in-law”, there are four different words for sister-in-law: Nonond, Non-hori, Zetali, Hali. I’m going to lose you here but that translates as follows:

Nonond: A woman’s husband’s younger sister is her Nonond.
Non-hori: A woman’s husband’s older sister in her Non-hori
Zetali: A man’s wife’s older sister is his Zetali
Hali: A man’s wife’s younger sister is his Hali

And all four of those words essentially mean sister-in-law. Now throw in brother-in-law and everyone’s spouses and kids and the uncles and aunts and grandparents, etc etc etc and so on, and it all gets more than a little confusing. Now, whilst I know some of this, I’m still prone to describing my future husband’s brother’s wife as just that: “This is my husband’s brother’s wife” but I can’t say that because I have to say “This is my Zal”. So I pretty much have to learn all this stuff if I hope to ever pull off a conversation with a bit of panache. Anyway, I see your eyes glazing over so I’ll move on.

In addition to all of this hoo-haa, my publishers are trying to persuade me to go and have a professional shoot done. Apparently, “everyone trades on their looks.” On one hand, I was almost offended: “What? My writing isn’t good enough to trade on its own?” but on the other hand I was kind of flattered: “Ooh, I have ‘trade-worthy’ looks?” which kind of flew out the window when my sister proclaimed, “Those professionals can make anyone look perfect.” I agree but I delayed because at this moment in time, there are already enough people trying to make me perfect.


Azzurri to win

As unpatriotic as it may be, I have been behind Italy (rather than England) for years and years. It started off for obvious reasons (namely Nesta and Pippo :) but once you get behind a team, it's near impossible to abandon them so I'm going to do my unpatriotic thing and say ITALY TO WIN!

And I've heard all the diving/cheating accusations and all the "The day video refereeing is introduced, it's all over for Italy" arguments but feel free to reiterate.


Chic Geek

Hi all. Firstly, I just want to apologise for the silence last week. I’ve been crazily busy. Those of you who tuned into the BBC Asian Network interview will know that I’m having to juggle a full-time job (where I’m having to create a web database that does everything but cook you dinner), promoting my first book, writing my second book, salvaging a social life and planning a wedding! It’s enough to make me go all Girl, Interrupted, but I’m managing ok. Well, apart from the fact that everyone has started to make Daahling comments at me! (e.g. “Daahling, I am far too busy to mix with the masses” or “Daahling, I am afraid I will not be available, I am booked for a facial at the Sanctuary”). All, of course, are tongue-in-cheek - anyone who knows me will know I’m a million miles away from facials at the Sanctuary (in fact, you don’t have to *know* me, you just have to *see* me to figure out that little tidbit!)

Anyway, I like to write blog entries under the pretence that they actually mean something and are about something rather than me just rambling on (and on) so this week, the topic in question is the title of my book. Many have asked me what the word “Assimilation” means within the context of my title. Well, actually, I have also been asked what the word “Assimilation” means on its own (by those who follow the “Ask a question and you’re a fool for a minute. Don’t ask a question and you’re a fool forever” philosophy). So I’m taking a second out to explain myself to “the masses” :)

Assimilation (when it’s at home) means the absorption of an element into something bigger than itself (i.e. grouping). Dictionary.com gives one definition as “The process whereby a minority group gradually adopts the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture” – so the minority group is being assimilated into the majority group.

Assimilation with regards to my title is a tiny bit different. To be totally honest, it actually comes from Star Trek Voyager. There is this species who do not allow their members to have any individuality (fellow geeks will recognise this species as the Borg). Members of this species are stripped of their personality and thoughts and forcibly assimilated into the collective. I feel like this is similar to what happens to young Asian men and women. Parents expect us to follow the traditional path through life; study, marriage, children etc without much regard to what we, as individuals, want. Hence, the title of my books refers to life, love and how we are denied our rights to individuality. If you look at the cover, you will see that the letters in the words “Life” and “Love” have an individual image attached to them whereas the letters of the words “Assimilation” have no individuality. Clever stuff, eh?

Anyway, I should probably stop before I descend further into depths of geekdom. I’ll be back… soon. If only to avoid doing “real” stuff in the “real” world. *Yawns*


Taming the Shrew

As a woman who has always focused energies on excelling in academia, I have more than neglected all things domestic. In fact, I have pretty much ignored it all. I can solve simultaneous equations, normalise databases and program in Java but ask me to cook a kick-ass curry and I’m gonna stall. But these days, this is simply not good enough. Women are expected to graduate from university with first class degrees whilst acquiring the skills of a masterclass chef in order to become what all the mummies want for their darling sons; The Perfect Wife. Well damnit, I’m sorry but I just couldn’t do it. Well, actually, I’m pretty sure I could have done it, it’s that I didn’t feel the need or inclination to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t planning to become some high-flying career woman, plotting world domination (not least because I didn’t have a sidekick) but I did feel the need to put my studies before the cooking and the sewing and the dressing demurely and femininely. I mean, I didn’t even learn how to use eyeliner, the staple of Asian makeup, before the age of 22! 

So now that I’m of marriageable age, what am I going to do? (Yes, I hear you, 18 is “of marriageable age”, 24 is nearing “on the shelf” but allow me my small mercies, okay?) Well, there simply isn’t a choice; you have to learn how to cook, I’ve been told for the past few years and I’ve given it a shot a few times and praise the lord, I didn’t poison the whole family. Sure, I gave them dysentery for a week but what’s that compared to a slow, painful death? Ok, no, just kidding, I didn’t really give them dysentery but my cooking is “hit and miss” at best. I almost wonder if I should bother since my God-given nature refuses to believe that I should be docile, meek and submissive to a man, all qualities of the woman I’m becoming to despise ever increasingly (yes, The Perfect Wife) but since I can’t be all those things, I guess I should at the very least get the cooking thing down to a pat.

I know that practice makes perfect and that’s what I plan to do. And I’m of the school of thought where, “If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it right.” So I pulled out an empty book and started writing down the recipes much to the amusement of my family. You see, my mother didn’t learn to cook with a pen and paper but who is to say that I can’t? The sticking point with my sisters was that I wrote down minute details – instead of “Add salt”, I write “Add 70% of a tablespoon of salt,” to which they tell me it’s all relative anyway but I don’t care. They tell me cooking is an art, not a science but I can damn well try to do it that way! And it was working just fine until my mum handed me a small wooden spoon instead of the metal tablespoon I was used to working with at which point my recipe crumbled. I know that the key is figuring out all the powders and the salt relative to the amount of meat or vegetable but I just can’t do it that way yet.

Maybe cooking is an art. Maybe you can’t pick it up by examining the intricate ins and outs of it. Maybe you need to just throw things together and “get the hang of it” but in academia, you don’t do things that way so I’m just not used to it. So right after I finish posting this, I’m going off to Amazon and buying, “50 Great Curries of India”. I’ve been told that if I get down six of the recipes, I’ll be “sorted for life”. And I’m going to buy a set of scales which I will use to measure things accurately to the disdain of my mother but if that method works better that the way she’s been teaching me, well, it’s 1-0 to the undomestic goddesses out there because our way does work.



I’m thinking of picking up an addiction. Anything will do; drugs, sex, cigarettes, alcohol, porn. Yes, addiction by its very nature is bad; something that makes one forget oneself and do all sorts of crazy and nasty things, so why is it that I want an addiction? Well, in this day and age where there’s an addiction that can be used to explain away almost anything, I can say that I have never truly been addicted to anything which in turn means that I cannot comment on it with any sort of authority. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke or get high and unless I go home tonight to find Johnny Depp in my bed, it’s unlikely I will develop an addiction to sex. 

So why is it that I feel the need to comment on addiction with some authority? Well, in my book, Life, Love and Assimilation, I discuss drug addiction and how I refuse to believe that it’s some kind of malaise of the mind; how it can be explained away with the words “disease” or “mental illness.” I have always believed that the inability to give up an addiction is the result of a weak will and a weak mind. Now I’m wondering if this is because I have never had any personal experience with it. I mean, sure, I love chocolate and in my book, a person can usually get away with murder as long as they leave a box of Milk Tray afterward or maybe even just an Aero but chocolate, whilst wonderful and amazing and all things good, doesn’t have an active addictive ingredient so can’t even come close to what is experienced by “real” addicts. And whilst I usually say with 100% utter conviction that placing addiction under the label of “disease” is wrong, that it undermines the laws of accountability and that addicts should just “pull themselves together”, I do wonder if I’m wrong and of course, the only way to really know is to go through it myself. After all, I am a great advocate of “…a thousand miles in his moccasins …”

So, what should my poison be? Ok, let’s get serious. No, I’m not seriously going to go and start smoking or drinking or sleeping around. Some say that these things add to your life experience. “How can you say you’ve lived when you’ve never smoked a joint, never got high and never got drunk?” To me, that’s not experience. Watching a sun set on the most beautiful beach in Barbados is experience. Living with dirt-poor people in one of the poorest countries in the world is experience. Having a conversation with a monk in Thailand or having enjoyed the view from the twin towers before 9/11 or attending the last concert put on at Wembley Stadium or simply enjoying a good meal with good friends, falling in (and out of?) love, or revelling in that note in your favourite song is experience. I don’t need to get high and drunk to have good experiences in life. I have them anyway. So what’s the point of everything I said in my first two paragraphs? I guess I’m trying to say that I want to be more open-minded, that maybe addiction is not just a simple matter of, “Ok, I’m going to stop,” and Voila! Addiction be damned! But I’m such a goddamn stubborn person that unless I go through the extremity of an addiction, I simply can’t fathom how it can be so all-consuming, how it can sap one’s good sense and self-worth, how it can make one value the subject of their addiction above all else including life itself. So I guess for now I’ll stick to what I know and continue to spurn all the “weak-willed” addicts in the world and if one day, I fall into the hands of this dark thing called addiction, I’ll understand why I have people’s pity but not their sympathy. I’ll understand why I don’t have their respect, only their scorn. I’ll understand why they refuse to excuse addiction as a disease.

I’ll also understand that they are wrong.