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In my shoes- appreciation

“The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for.”

This is by far one of my favourite quotes because despite how much gratitude you show towards anything in your life, there are some things you take for granted. Be it something major like having a car or even the fact that you have the luxury of not knowing what it’s like to go hungry. It’s human nature to feel as if a few things we have are deserved but the fact is, it’s not.

The past week I left home and came back to my small university town. It was the first time I was away from home for my birthday, so my parents drove me up with a car filled to capacity of food. This is a twelve hour drive that they really didn’t need to do. It would’ve cost them a lot less time and money to just send me up with the bus and give me a great big hug at the station. But instead, they put their lives on hold for a few days, left their other responsibilities and road tripped all the way to the Eastern Cape. I know for some students, their parents haven’t been able to see where they live yet.

Forgetting to appreciate the sacrifices others make for you or even the basic luxury of receiving an education happens more often than you might think. How often do you stop and think “Man, I’m so lucky to be studying.”, almost never right? Instead we complain about how heavy the workload is or how early we need to wake up everyday. It’s totally okay and normal to complain, but we should just say thank you more.

That’s all it is. Saying thank you to God and if it’s not God then just the universe for putting things in place, or even your parents, your guardians, siblings and friends! Everyone in your life who pours any form of positivity in deserves a thank you.

So next time when everything is going well in your life, take a moment to appreciate all the things and people that brought you there.

 

 

In my shoes- timing

It has been about two weeks since the idea of this series popped into my head. I thought it would be a good idea to remind myself and my readers that we don’t take enough out of our situations. But I didn’t expect something so strange to happen to me and create the perfect opportunity to explain how something so negative could end up being a positive.

Cyber bullies and keyboard warriors are a real thing. These perpetrators are usually hiding behind their computer screen or cellphone because, well, guts. They want to hurt you and bring you down but definitely not as themselves. Recently I had the unfortunate experience being harassed via Instagram.  Some very puny minded individual thought it would be a great idea to create a fake account and DM (direct message) me all sorts of things.  At first I was extremely taken aback and hurt to say the least. Based on the information they knew, I thought this has to be someone I’ve known or currently know. Of course it was a little unsettling to know that someone I have crossed paths with has the ability to stoop so low.

How do you describe an adult who feels it is appropriate to take up a fake identify and threaten someone else? The problem lies with maturity and sense of protection.  Many of these cyber bullies who use false identities forget that actions have consequences. Whether the consequences are immediate or take time, being a nasty individual catches up to you.

So what did I learn? After posting an angry status on my Facebook page on this subject, I had a few ladies mention to me that this has happened to them before. It’s not hard to believe that sometimes girl hate or even just hate is expressed by others through a screen. But it made me realise that you could be a saint or the worst type of sinner, and you will still deal with some form of negativity from the world. These individuals want to break you. They want you to feel isolated, hopeless and lost. But you shouldn’t give them that satisfaction.

I think maybe we all have little demons inside of us that push us to do really dumb things without thinking through the consequences. I steal my sisters clothes almost every holiday even though I know she will eventually see it on me and I will be dead.  But I consistently still take the chance. So my point here is that some people have bigger, out of control demons. And unfortunately, they target others and reflect their own mental wars on you. It is up to us to decide how we will react, and this is something that should always be remembered. Reactions are everything. So if you are ever in my shoes with a tough little situation, remember that these things are learning experiences and they are put in your way to teach you that we are all coded differently and sometimes we just need to accept, grow, laugh about it and move on.

 

In my shoes

It was eons ago that I actually had the time to be consistent in my blog life. Last year was an exacting year and so much of my time was frittered, which is why after my Prague series  I just fell a bit short with the concordance of the blog. So here I am introducing a new series that I anticipate will continue for the next few weeks.

In my shoes

If we wholeheartedly pay attention to the world around us, we can learn something new every day. Regrettably, I don’t have such a wide awareness so I feel I learn something new at least once a week. Maybe a few months ago I would consider something small an inconsequential learning experience and I would just let it slide. But as time goes by, it has started to become clear to me that the little things we learn from the people around us or even the small gestures we stumble across have the chance to stay in our lives mentally and maybe even one day help us become better people. This doesn’t mean just being a witness to good or positive things. It can be a learning experience from being exposed to something you might deem unfair or an overheard conversation that made no sense to you.  Nobody in this world experiences anything the exact same way you do. And that is one of the most beautiful facts of humanity; no two people can experience the same thing in the same way. It is what makes us remarkable creatures of nature.

In my shoes will bring you parts of my week that touched me, shook me, broke me or even made me smile. It will be small things or even huge things that would have altered my life in some way. The purpose isn’t to focus on what I learn as a person, but rather to bring to the surface how easy it is to take something positive away from every situation.

Let Me Roll It

It has been a long time since the last part of this series so I apologise, it has been a busy term back at campus which is why I have neglected the series a little.

Last but not least, I would like to end with some pictures of the concert. The entire reason my father and I traveled across the world (literally) just to see Paul McCartney!

 

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My dad insisted we leave for the concert about two hours before it actually began. We stood in a line filled with beaming Beatles fans, all so eager to push their way through. Luckily we had reserved seats so we were not part of the rush!
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The concert started with A Hard Days Night and the atmosphere from the very beginning was unbelievable and out of this world. 
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Paul was so energetic for a man his age. He performed for about three hours straight and did not even have a drink of water. 
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Performing a song especially for George Harrison. 
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This picture speaks for itself. One of the most unforgettable nights of my life!

Food and Beer. A lot of beer…

One of the most exciting things about traveling is experiencing all the yummy foods around you. BUT not for me, I am the type of person who prefers to play it safe and eat what looks ‘normal’.

Doughnut cones have been something that kinda broke the internet for a while. So many people were posting pictures of these cones with soft serve in it with captions like “Where can I find this?”, after some time it was brought to everyone’s attention that the hype comes from Prague! SO obviously when I found out I’ll be going to Prague, I knew I had to get my hands on a doughnut cone! To my surprise, they weren’t hard to find. In fact, on our first day of walking around town, there were several little bakeries in the middle of the street that served them. But they aren’t a great size for someone with small hands so you cannot exactly walk around with them. The cone is huge and so fresh, they make it right in front of you! And they definitely are not misers with the soft serve. You can have the cone with just some chocolate inside, my dad had a plain cone with pistachio chocolate. You can also have it with fresh cream, nuts, fruit OR the good old soft serve which is what I had.

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Look at the size of this thing! YUM.

Most of the things we ate or drank, we really just stumbled upon. Nothing was planned. So our next notable eat was Hard Rock Cafe. Dad and I just spent the entire afternoon in a massive three story vinyl shop, so we were HUNGRY! We both opted for the popular hot wings! It was refreshing to be surrounded by people who also spoke English for about an hour or two.

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This was exactly what we needed!

Prague was where my dad had his first Starbucks experience. He is FAR from a coffee person so he wasn’t really phased by the whole Starbucks thing… He decided to have a strawberry and coconut shake. We really just ran into Starbucks to escape a really bad storm…

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The oddest  part of this trip was our Pub Crawl… So this was tour of four different pubs where you got to taste the pubs most popular beers. I went along with my dad, but it was pretty funny explaining to people that I don’t drink while on the other hand my dad was asking me to just have one. But, I didn’t budge. This didn’t stop him though, I mean, when in Prague…

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The highlight of our lazy mornings were our amazing hotel breakfasts.

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I’m generally not a big eater in the morning, so I preferred having my croissants and tea on the balcony of our hotel.

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Making my way down town

We knew it was going to be a challenge getting around in Prague because of the major language barrier, but thanks to Google Maps, great data charges and my not so terrible Android battery, it was easier than expected.

As soon as we reached the airport, I went straight to Vodafone to buy two sim cards and activate my data. Unlike South African data charges, a prepaid sim card WITH 1.5 gb of data was about R200! Now that is pretty reasonable coming from a Vodacom prepaid user herself. Prague is a small town, so we had a good number of days to do the expected exploring and touring before the BIG DAY!

We then arrived at our beautiful vintage hotel, Hotel Paris Prague; we settled and almost intermediately got ready to start exploring!  We made our way using the metro (which was scary, this was our first and last time!) to a Jazz Boat trip. This was a LONG three hour trip around Prague on a lovely boat with live Jazz music and a yummy three course meal.

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Prague welcomed us with some dull weather, but it was a pleasant change!

 

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Hotel Paris Prague had the most beautiful staircase.
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Just before the sun could set, a view from the boat ride. My dad chose to sit at the upper deck so we could see better although it was freezing!

 

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When the sun eventually set at about 9pm, the lights from all the buildings reflected onto the water and it was a magnificent sight.

The first two days were mostly just travelling, so they were extremely exhausting! But don’t worry, I will not be doing a day-by-day post! These will just feature some highlights, lowlights and photos.

Paul who?

SWOT week crept upon us and all our stress-levels increased. It was that time of year again, mid-term examinations. The time of year where most of us spend three weeks studying two terms worth of work. There’s tears, over-eating, trips to the local convenient store in the early hours of the morning; it is no doubt one of the most stressful times for a student at Rhodes University.

But my third year experiencing this didn’t happen the conventional way. I had the pleasure of spending the days building up to exams in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with my favourite man in the world. If you follow me on any social networks or keep up with The Vision of Iris, you will soon learn that I am a massive fan of The Beatles. I have a Beatles related tattoo, my headboard sits below two canvas’s of the Beatles, my favourite mug features The Beatles; and the list goes on. So you can say I am Beatles crazy.

My family is a musical family. My grandfathers business was a Jukebox manufacturing business, and he left this trade to my four uncles and father. From a young age, the children of the family grew up being exposed to old school Rock n’ Roll, and we all held this exposure close to our hearts. From a young age, I spent a lot of time in my dads workshop, while he worked on this magnificent machines, he would play his favourite music and I slowly grew an attachment to The Beatles.

During my younger years when all the girls at school were swooning over One Direction, often referring to them as their ‘five boyfriends’, I was hung up on my four boyfriends, Paul, John, Ringo and George.

So it was brought to my dads attention a few months ago that one of the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney was starting his tour around the world. As the tour started my dad would spend hours on YouTube watching the videos that fans had uploaded and he would call my sisters and I up to share his excitement on what he just saw. From this, my eldest sister sparked the idea to send my dad for one of the concerts which were everywhere, but South Africa…

Within two weeks, my sisters teamed up and together with my mom, they spent the little time they had to plan an entire trip. I was lucky enough to have been the one to accompany my dad. After about six phone calls a day, an email thread of about 200 messages, trips to Home Affairs (again and again and again), from Grahamstown to Pretoria to Durban in a matter of 16 days- we were finally all set and ready to go to see Paul McCarney LIVE in Prague.

The reality of where we were going and why didn’t hit us. It was unreal.  So this was it, dad and I, travelling across the world just to see Paul.

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Hand Me the Henna: Phase 3

Hand Me the Henna

We are at the end of the road with Hand Me the Henna, we hope this journey has been as a beautiful one for you- as it has for us.
If you missed the first two phases click here: Phase 1 Phase 2  

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Location: Bagwandeen Household

Mission: Mehndi Day (phase 3)
Time: 1:45pm

The Body- What is happening?

If this were a race, we are almost at the finish line and we are winning. We have taken the heat head on, and the first day which marks the beginning of the wedding week is about to come to an end. As the mehndi artist continues to apply ravishing designs on my sister’s body, she proceeds from the arms, to the feet, with extreme care and undiminished concentration. After the latest outburst that emerged from ‘the wedding jitters’, Kashmir is much calmer now while she is fed lunch by my little niece. Being a child, she is distracted by the magnificent art. So, with each helping of food that she feeds to my sister, she marvels with delight at my sister’s arms and feet.

I sit with them both as we discuss the forthcoming festivities; the exhilaration in our voices is noticeable. With each bite that Kashmir is fed, I stare at the spoon with the hope that in the midst of our merriment, the food will not fly off of it. I know my sister’s first instinct would be to clutch the spoon, or instantaneously stand up, but we can’t afford a mishap right now – we have come so far in seeing this mendhi ordeal through, and we are nearly at the end.

The artist is reaching my sister’s calves and Kashmir is starting to get slightly twitchy. I think to myself, “there’s just a few minutes more and we are done. I will no longer need to be a right hand lady, and my niece can finally take a mid-day nap.” Only in this moment did it occur to my sister that we are nowhere near the completion of this majestic process (which, in the blistering heat, isn’t feeling very grand.) There is still another five hours to go. The job of the mehndi artist is now completed, and now it is up to us (as the family) to take care of my sister’s exquisite hands and feet so that all of the work that was put into it would not be in vain.

Kashmir now moves herself out of the sun and into the dining room so that the rest of us can commence the preparations for the evening’s celebrations. It is not easy for a perfectionist like my sister to sit on the sidelines and watch everything being done  before her eyes ; to be entirely unable to contribute to what we’re doing. But she took everything in her stride and ceased this as an opportunity to take a break from the busy household.

Every few minutes, one of us breaks away from our preparation duties to moisten the inevitably drying henna on my sister. I am the first to start this process.

I am under a lot of pressure as I take a ball of cotton wool and dip it into the concoction that the artist left for us to use. This all begins to alarm my sister as she knows I can be a little careless at times. Thankfully, she was observing the artist when she performed this routine, and so she guided me through it with ease and elation to be helping in some way.

Everyone has had their turn to assist the bride-to-be as the day descends. Night begins to fall, and as the stars burn the dark sky, the copper coat becomes more rooted onto my sister’s body.  Old traditions believe that the darker the stain of your mehndi, the more love your mother-in-law will have for you. So, fingers are crossed for Kashmir.

Guests start to fill the house and the sound of music ignites the celebrations. In every corner of the house, there are groups of laughing girls tapping their feet to the music as they get their turn to have their palms adorned in mendhi. Kashmir greets all her guests and this is accompanied by warm hugs before everyone admires her beautiful hands. There is a light in her eyes that I’ve never seen before- this is the light of a bride-to-be. She is glowing.

It is now time for us to remove the mehndi and admire the dazzling tint that will be left behind. My eldest sister and I help Kashmir rub the mehndi off her body as she twitches and fusses as a result of being exhausted.

The morning after today will reveal the actual hue of the bridal mehndi. So, as she dances the night away with family and friends, the colour will seep through her skin, and leave the true mark of the extraordinary bride that she is.

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Time: 2:05pm

The Mind- The Backdrop of Henna as an Art

Henna artists, Dipti and Sayuiri Nathoo, are a dynamic mother and daughter duo situated in Durban. They explained that they have come across a multitude of brides who have requested that their henna designs be symbolic to elements of themselves, their families and even their first meeting with the groom. Despite the fact that patterns with such great sentimental value may be challenging to execute, henna artists respect their responsibility to master the trade, and are devoted to fulfilling the wishes of their clients to the best of their abilities.

In addition to hands, the bride-to-be gets her feet adorned with henna too. This is the completion of the henna process, once the feet are ready-in the Hindu tradition; the bride-to-be is then ready to conquer day two of the beautifying process. This is usually a prayer followed by the application of hurdee or haldi, this is a yellow paste made from turmeric and sandalwood. Both these rituals enhance the procedure of self-expression that the bride undertakes before her big day.

Although these sacraments are seen as a technique in which she can express herself and her inner beauty, it is entrenched in the roots of traditional India. At the time, the community didn’t have jewelry or foundation to add to their special day, so they created natural ways to replace these characteristics of bridal preparation that we commonly take for granted.

The history and the meaning behind the application of henna, including the traditional mehndi ceremonies, have rich significance in guiding us with understanding how these practices came into existence. As the traditions continue, the effect strengthens and this is reflected in the self-expression of those who indulge in it.

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Time: 2:30pm

The Spirit- How does it make me feel?

How do you come to conclude something that is so sacrosanct to beauty and expression? Something that has been in action for thousands of years and has had a substantial impact on the rituals traditional Indian brides immerse themselves into. The answer is, you cannot. I have always felt strongly about culture and tradition, and this being one that has such beauty attached to it- there will never be an adequate amount of words to explain the splendor behind an act that is sustained by tradition.

There are countless customs over numerous cultures that mirror the act of self-expression, some new and some old. It can be enlightening to expose your mind and discover the extensive spectrum of ‘techniques’ that have a list of purposes including self-expression.

I have found that, in many settings, beautifying can be seen as an egotistical act but, within these settings, there is still the implication of expressing yourself.

The mehndi ceremony will always be one I keep close to me, and the experience can be imprinted on your mind forever. As henna grows progressively popular in western societies, it becomes more recognisable as to why and how it can be used. Sometimes westernization of longstanding practices can contribute to the meaning being lost in translation and the practice could even be trivialized but I hope this has delivered a better understanding.

So next time you come across a henna artist, don’t forget to ask her to hand you the henna!

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Written by- Khinali Bagwandeen

Photographs by- Khinali Bagwandeen

Hand Me the Henna: Phase 2

Hand Me the Henna

Hand Me the Henna continues to explore the process of the henna application which a Hindu bride undergoes. If you missed phase 1, click here

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Location: Bagwandeen Household

Mission: Mehndi Day (phase 2) 

Time: 11:00am

The Body- What is happening?

As minimal movement becomes more persistent, my sister is beginning to get somewhat restless. The oppressive heat covers us like a heavy blanket and as I turn away to get myself something to quench my thirst, I hear the bride-to-be beckon me by name. I turn around to respond to her call and think to myself, It’s too hot for this, what could she want now?” Expecting a request like brushing her hair back, or maybe even feeding her a sip of water, I find myself facing a more familiar appeal.
My sister communicates to me without words, and instead uses the glare of her eyes to signal me to her side – This was similar in the way in which she would initiate an encounter in which we would meet to gossip (as sisters do.) I walk towards her and position myself so that my ear is close enough to hear her whisper, “Khinali, I need to call Vivek (the fiancé) because he has forgotten to bring the tables for tonight!” I giggle at the distress in her voice.

The bride-to-be is in the middle of what is supposed to be a charmed and captivating activity, but her concern is focused on something as trivial as tables. Maybe this was her defense mechanism in coping with ‘wedding jitters’. I tell her to relax, and that it is not an issue because he will bring them (I mean, he’s a pretty responsible guy) but she insists that she needs to make a call to him. I try hard to contain my laughter as she points at her phone and tells me to dial his number. I dial Vivek and place the phone to her ear awkwardly because getting too close would mean risking a stain on my outfit. As he answers, my sister starts harping on about everythingbut the tables.

I think to myself, “definitely wedding jitters.” and try to imagine what must be going through his head as she speaks in low, aggressive whispers into the receiver. Naturally, I position myself close to my hand holding the phone, to try to listen to his response while, at the same time, gently reminding my sister (who instinctively wants to grab her phone and crush the life out of it while carrying out her verbal assault) that her hands are still covered in mehndi. She cautiously places her hands at her sides, so as not to wreck the delicate designs or her outfit.

She (now reminding Vivek about the table) is inspecting the marvel; that is the masterpiece that was created on her skin. I wonder what she is thinking as she simultaneously waves her beautifully dressed hand in my face; as if to tell me to ‘shoo’. She does this in the same manner in which you would, with a fly, that’s hovering in your personal space – I think she wants me to cut the call.

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Time: 12:00pm

The Mind- The Backdrop of Henna as an Art

A traditional Eastern wedding ceremony often consists of a series of (preparation) events leading up to the official (wedding day) affair; where one of the customary events is a “mehndi ceremony”. During this ceremony, the bride-to-be is adorned with decorative henna patterns which are applied by a practicing mehndi artist.

The application period is usually 3-4 hours depending on the intensity of the design. Although in earlier times when artist were not so acquainted with art of henna designs, they used toothpicks to apply the henna, hence it could take up twenty hours to complete bridal designs.

The expression is transferred through the elaborate designs the bride-to-be chooses to have applied on herself. The henna artist is equivalent to a conventional artist that expresses her/himself through their paintbrush, musical instrument or tattoo gun. It takes extreme concentration and a steady hand to have the capacity to draw intricate designs.

Once the application on the limbs and extremities (hands and feet) have been completed, the bride is not allowed to use her hands and minimal movement is essential. This is due to the fact that the henna remains wet for a period of time so there’s is a risk of “smudging”. It is crucial that it is left untouched to dry and once it does, the artist will continue to add moisture so that it better adheres to the skin.

Some elders who are well versed in the tradition speculate that the bride should not partake in any strenuous activities during her wedding week, and this could possibly be why.

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Time: 12:35pm

The Spirit- How does it make me feel?

The self-expression channeled and projected through the henna ceremony that many traditional Hindu brides part-take in is often a procedure that is unexplained to the brides but is performed based on accepted traditions, much like the application of other more common beautifying phases such as make-up.

I feel that there are instances where one’s self expression peaks during an unconscious state of awareness. During the ceremonious in my home, I personally was swathed in the many conversations, laughter and playful moments we shared together as a family that I didn’t realise the intricacy of the situation, and I abandoned the magnificence of it.

It is much like this, in which certain forms of self-expression go unnoticed, but they are still in existence, whether they stand alone or in the multitude of our conscious mind. After processing the hours that passed by during the mehndi application, I reflect back and think about the moments in which my sister’s face lit up after beholding the beautiful patterns on her body- it is this enchanted feeling of what looks like euphoria to me, that I wholeheartedly believe is the absolute and paramount reward of self-expression; this gradually existing as the feeling that is a deduction of an inconspicuous sensation that shields us.

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Written by- Khinali Bagwandeen

Photographs by- Khinali Bagwandeen

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