Repeat-peat-peat-peat. I love this song like a love song and you know how much I love my love songs.
Repeat-peat-peat-peat. I love this song like a love song and you know how much I love my love songs.
I laughed and I laughed and I cried and I cried and I cried and I cried. One day, I will have the words to discuss how I felt after watching Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix stand-up special. It so eloquently captures the traumas of sexual abuse, misogyny, suffering, living in a world often controlled by men (especially of the angry, straight, white variety) and more importantly, living in a world that is so ready to excuse the behaviour of these men so that they can be conveniently be labelled genius.
“There is nothing stronger than a broken women who has rebuilt herself”.
Watching this special has also made me want to do a deep dive into all things art history (Gadsby, an art history grad, explores how the world often perceives art from the greats like Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso – carelessly (or maybe purposefully) excusing certain aspects of their lives to bestow the genius label upon them). Right now, I just want to head to a Kinokuniya, plonk my ass down and learn everything I can. But since it’s 2.35am (I watched the special thinking it would lull me to sleep – so wrong), I shall rely on Wikipedia for now.
But seriously, watch this.
I finally deactivated my Facebook account for what I HOPE will be the final time (I didn’t realise how many important apps/accounts were linked to my Facebook account so I have had to activate them again to log into my app before deactivating again). I wasn’t actively using it much though it was my default app to go to after looking at everyone’s Insta stories (and their mothers and pets and pets’ pets and their pets’ mothers).
Deactivating Facebook wasn’t a huge loss. My main gripe was that it gave me a myopic worldview and very little tolerance for anyone who espoused political views (or Kardashian views) different than mine (seriously, I will cut you up if you tell me that the Kardashians are talentless). Facebook had become my echo chamber (especially since I was relying on it more for news). Countless arguments with Lawrence over politics, feminism, leftists, liberalism etc and the way that I reacted to him (emotionally and not very intellectually – angry tears were involved in an argument about Oprah and Harvey Weinstein that began with a stupid meme posted by his friend) when he poked holes in my oft-repeated mantras made me realise that leftists (along with people on the right) too can ascribe to a totalitarian type of tribe whose members have embodied a very specific, narrow line of thinking.
I also deleted my account because Facebook was boring – and yet I could easily spend A LOT of time on it. I thought my time could be better spent doing other things. But then that “other things” turned into Instagram and more specifically, Instagram Stories.
I then decided to “go big or go home” and delete the Instagram app on my phone. This is not a forever thing and I suspect I will go back to it at some point – possibly when I’m traveling again. I honestly hate not knowing what’s happening in my friends’ lives but I guess this means that I have to learn how to keep in touch with them more (something that I am admittedly horrible at).
The byproduct of the absence of both apps: Time.
I read a lot more now: Both the news and books. I also successfully binge-watched five seasons of Breaking Bad over 1.5 weeks so I’m not sure how healthy that is. But hey, I am reading more!
I don’t think anyone reads this anymore but I also thought it would be nice if I started documenting what I’m thinking, listening to, reading, watching, or writing on this space.
I’m currently reading two books now:
As you can see by the titles, they are heavy but crucial for me to understand terrorism (which is what I’m currently studying and working on). The Essence of Islamist Extremism is vital in understanding how Radical Islamists explain and justify the use of violence (Spoiler: Islam is not inherently violent but rather extremists use religious tenets of Islam to justify the violence). The Talibanization of Southeast Asia is a good primer on terrorism in Southeast Asia – especially with the rise of Jemaah Islamiyah in the 90s.
I have totally neglected fiction because all I’m reading now is stuff that will help me in school and at work and needless to say that it can be bleak. So I’m try to slowly ease myself back into fiction.
I will be re-reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. The book is heartbreaking and funny (I couldn’t eat squids for a week after reading the book) and it’s also incredibly well-written with economically elegant sentences.
I’ve also been semi-fascinated/obsessed with Modern Chinese history recently so I may look into reading a couple of books that can give me insight into the Chinese civil war, Great Leap Forward and the subsequent Cultural Revolution. I listened to a podcast panel session on China that included author Madeline Thien who spoke a little about her book Do Not Say We Have Nothing. The book spans forty years starting from Mao’s reign in the 40s to the aftermath of the Tiananmen protests. It’s definitely a book to check out and I’m excited to get to it!
I came across Against All Logic’s I Never Dream on an Apple playlist and immediately fell in love with it. With all my favourite songs in the digital age, I showed my love first by tapping the ‘Love’ button and then adding it to at least three other playlists I am making. It’s that good.
I Never Dream is heady, funky, and simply glorious. I press play and no matter where I am when I listen to it, I am immediately brought to Disco Box, a dim shady club in Tirana. I am in the middle of the dance floor smiling away, heart about to burst from joy, while my limbs carelessly flinging about. I have my own space, I am not powerless, I am in control and truly, there is nothing else in the world that can bother me. That is how glorious the song is.
After playing the song a million times, I listened to the album and I am happy to report that I Never Dream is not a fluke. The rest of the album is as glorious. It is sample-heavy (samples include J. Dilla and Kanye West) and the production elevates those samples to great heights. Techno elements with a little bit of soul and jazz (This sounds like how I should describe myself on a dating profile should I need one in the future).
At this point, I need to find out who A.A.L (Against All Logic) is. And 0.025 seconds later, I see Nicolas Jaar’s name in every search result and suddenly it all makes sense. NICOLAS JAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRR!!!! So grateful to live in a world where one single man is responsible for Space is Only Noise, Sirens, the best BBC Essential Mix ever, and now A.A.L.’s (Against All Logic) album 2012-2017.
If Sirens was a politically-motivated album that is a reminder that we should not rest on our laurels while our world is shaped by errant leaders and lawmakers of an older generation, 2012-2017 is a reminder that we can still and should have fun (A LOT OF FUN!) in this brave new world of ours.
Having bought tickets for a VIP bus from beautiful Esfahan to Rasht, a beautiful town in Northern Iran, I was prepared for comfortable seats and Iranian entertainment I did not understand.
But the VIP treatment I got was something I never paid for: A wonderful conversation (thanks Google Translate!) with an Iranian woman, a former math teacher, in her 60s. Within ten minutes of us meeting, my lap was covered with pomegranates, oranges and a stray lemon (for my Kebab meal provided by the bus company). We exchanged numbers and stories and soon she offers her home to me.
That is Iran for you – full of surprises and warm hospitality. Couchsurfing, the popular hospitality service that allows locals to host travelers for free, is very active in Iran. Before I left, I received almost 60 messages from Iranians inviting me to their homes all over the country. During the course of my trip, I stayed with and hung out with locals who made my trip unforgettable.
This may come as a surprise to those who know Iran for its association to the “Axis of Evil”, popularised by former United States president George W. Bush. More recently, Donald Trump passed an inexplicable (really) travel ban that banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries including Iran from getting a Visa in the United States.
Despites America’s animosity toward Iran, Iran has enjoyed a strong presence on many travel bucket lists. In fact, to match an increasing demand, AirAsia offers direct budget flights to Tehran for less than $600.
Tourism figures in the nation have doubled in the last year but it is still void of tourist trappings – for now. Even the most tourist-friendly places are still favoured and populated among locals.
In Iranian capital Tehran, there is the hip Darband. Darband lies at the foot of a popular hiking trail, and it is dotted with small teahouses, cafes and restaurants – almost all of which offer hookah (or shisha). It may be an uphill walk, but the best, most secluded spots are found further up along Darband where you can sit on carpeted platforms right next to a water fall.
In Iran, hijabs are compulsory for both locals and tourists. Many in Tehran take the law as a suggestion – merely covering up just a little of their hair. At Darband, we see women letting loose, with the safety of seclusion, as they take off their headscarves showing off their coloured hair, piercings and tattoos. They lean on their boyfriends’ shoulders and show affection freely.
While Tehran is Iran’s cosmopolitan city (complete with modern pollution), Shiraz is the nation’s cultural capital. It is known for its stunning mosques, gardens and its literature. As I head out to The Tomb of Hafez, the most celebrated Iranian poet, late on a weekday evening, it is packed with locals. Some are taking selfies, laughing as they enjoy one other’s company and others are sat on the ground in circles reading the poetry of Hafez out loud.
I am invited to join one of their circles. One of my new friends then tells me that along with the Quran, many Iranians keep a collection of his works at home. I may not understand Farsi, but I have gained an appreciation for Hafez and his musings on love.
Iran has many beautiful mosques but Shiraz, in my opinion, has the most beautiful ones. Traffic can be crazy in Shiraz and I found myself seeking refuge and peace in the mosques and its gardens for hours.
One of the most popular mosques is the Nasir ol Molk Mosque (below) – otherwise known as the Pink Mosque. Arrive before 7am, and you will be treated to a kaleidoscope of colours filling the small room. Also, remember to look up when you are in any mosque or bazaar in Iran. It is very likely that the ceilings may take your breath away with its intricate carvings, colours and symmetry.
Equally breathtaking is the city of Isfahan, the most beautiful city that I have ever been to. Situated at the center of Isfahan is the magnificent Naqsh-e-Jahan Square (also known as the Imam Square) – the second largest square in the world followed by Tiananmen Square. (80 per cent of my time at Isfahan was spent without my phone because I ran out of battery so I have terrible pics of the place. You just gotta trust me on this – it’s beautiful).
Surrounded by two grand mosques, a huge bazaar, and several teahouses, it is easy to spend an entire day here. But the best activity is to do what the Iranians are doing: Sit down and have a picnic, an activity common throughout the rest of Iran wherever there is a patch of grass. At the square you will see artists painting the sights around them, young teenagers gossiping, and horse carriages riding delighted families around the square.
After spending time at Imam Square, you can take a long leisurely walk to Isfahan’s famous bridges including Siosepol Bridge and Khaju Bridge – both of which are gorgeously lit up at night.
The bridges are a perfect backdrop for a romantic date as the arches are occupied by older Iranian men singing beautifully in groups. Romance is a language clearly not lost in translation. Local couples have the same idea too as they snuggle up close to each other in the arches of the bridges.
Once you have explored the three main cities in Iran, it is worth going up North to explore some of Iran’s beautiful nature. Masuleh is a village where houses are built into the mountains and where the streets are built on top of the roofs.
There is nothing much to do here except taking hikes, and drinking copious amounts of tea, and non-alcoholic beer and smoke Shisha but it is worth spending at least a night there. Several games of Backgammon as well as a free flow exchange of stories and 3/4 of a Fargo episode kept my Dutch friend and I more than occupied for three days.
Close to Masuleh is Rudkhan castle, which was a challenging two-hour hike through dense forests and up a mountain. You may want to give up mid-way through but just curse your way throughout and you will be there in no time. The view left me speechless (but it may also have been the exhaustion).
Iran is a beautiful, complex country that has many beautiful views, cities, and mosques but it is undoubtedly the people of Iran and their warmth that will lead to repeat visits to the country.
P.S. If you’re visiting Iran for the first, second or sixth time, make sure to go to Dina’s blog. Her Iran travel guide is the best Iran primer you can find out there – it has all the information you need and then some. She is a Singaporean that has been to Iran many many times – and she is basically an expert (in my opinion).
After getting tons of flattering messages about how my smile (and more) inspire men’s boners, my OKCupid account got suspended because I had “violated” the site’s terms and conditions. I was told to contact the site if this was “an error”.
If violating the site means seeking potential partners when I’m in bed, with my two-day-old unwashed hair, unshaven legs, cookies stuffed in my mouth only in a way that would make someone think I’m participating (not even winning) in an eating competition, then yes, I deserve the suspension.
Maybe I even deserve this suspension because I couldn’t even get those tiny, snackable Chipsmore cookies myself. My sister just got a FitBit so naturally I’m taking advantage of this. “Jasmine, you want to get to 10,000 steps right? If you head to the kitchen and get me lots of cookies, that’s like 20 steps,” I tell her. She hates me but she begrudgingly accepts that I am right. And so I hear each and every one of those 20 steps before the cookies enter my mouth.
Optimal laziness is helping someone else achieve their fitness goals from bed.
The truth is the suspension came at the right time and I’m in no rush to fix it. Any semblance of a search for someone new was a farce and I don’t think I was fully aware until this past Sunday. A good sign that you are not ready to be with anybody is if someone’s touches and kisses feels like a million cockroaches scurrying all across your body.
I so desperately wanted to be far away from him as soon as possible but then he requested I queue up with him for McDonald’s. I tell myself: “Just five more minutes and you will be alone”. I’m not very religious anymore but I felt ashamed for praying that he wouldn’t order some special order burger that would only serve to delay our parting.
Whatever I was feeling at that moment was made even more clear when I cried in front of my sister for the first time (excluding parental reasons) ever that night. A seemingly innocuous answer to an equally innocuous question (“How was your date?” “I don’t think I’m going to see him anymore.” “Why?” “I just felt so *cue ugly crying face* suff…..foooo…ccaaaaated”) resulted in tears that even my sister didn’t quite know how to handle (she ran to Jovita’s room for help and they came back and stared at me helplessly).
Let it be known that I literally had to hide my tears when we were watching Me Before You (I cry easily when watching movies). When we were watching the movie, I let fat blobs of tears hang all along my jaw until they could no longer hold on because I was afraid if I tried to swipe them away, Jasmine would notice. She noticed the fat blobs of tears that later formed white splotches on my faux-leather skirt. Busted.
The problem here is that I am not exactly heartbroken. Yes, I do feel hurt by Dom especially as our contact with each other started dwindling over the past few months. But I quickly learned to stop expecting anything from him (though I’m still waiting on an email reply from him…. ~insert angry face emoji~).
Yet, my heart still feels whole – whole in a way that I’ve never felt before. And it’s like as though there is some kind of shield protecting it, making sure it doesn’t crack just yet, and ensuring that no one else can slide in through those cracks. But how long can this shield last? When will the cracks start to show?
I feel hurt by his actions (or lack of) and detest the complete lack of control I have over the situation. But if anything is broken, it’s my fragmented little mind pulling me in all sorts of directions – desperately trying (and sometimes failing) to move away from that part of my brain that stores all our memories. Meanwhile, my heart remains steadfastly in love with him. Or the idea of him? I’m not quite sure.
Dom told me once about something his mum said. I think it’s his mum. Let’s just assume it’s his mum because she would say wise things. I have never met nor spoken to her before but I assume she is wise because she has her own garden and her own vegetables and she cooks food using her own vegetables and she does his taxes and she is his mum. She told Dom that you can only really know if it’s love six months after meeting someone.
So, is it love that I feel for him?
A friend (who is as clueless as I am) and I were talking about just what it means to love someone. After perusing countless films, literature and music, I still did not quite understand what love was – and more importantly, if my feelings for Dom could be equated to love.
My friend told me that he thinks he loves his girlfriend because she moves him – with her strength and grace. And to me, that made the most sense.
I think Dom moves me in a similar way. Not with his strength and grace. I think he moves me in ways that matter to me more. I wish I had the proper words to describe how I felt. But I feel that his presence in my life (both virtual and then physical over the few months we were together) has changed my life in very minute yet profound ways. He is kind, intelligent, caring, emotional, full of empathy, passionate and just unafraid. Every time I decry the state of humanity, I think of him, and suddenly I’m not as angry anymore. (Although when I think of how horrible dating is, I get angry when I think of him hahahahahaahahaha…. ~crying face emoji~)
It’s his fearlessness and passion that moves me the most. It inspires me to kind of take charge of my life (even though, as of now, I have never felt less in charge of my life). But you know, baby steps. Traveling with him has changed the way I travel too. Wandering around the streets of Hong Kong alone for cheap food, exploring the unfamiliar, treading into territory where I knew language would be a barrier just increased the thrill of it. When someone has so deeply affected even the little things in your life, what else can it be but love?
There are more than a few things I don’t like about him. He can be incredibly self-centered, and I wonder sometimes if he cares about how I’m feeling – about him, about all of this. As much as I love his passion, he is just never satisfied – and I think that’s dangerous. He’s always looking for more. And I guess we have both come to realise (separately – I took a lot longer) that I will just never be enough for him.
He is always in search of that next great story, and unfortunately the chapter of us has come to an end.
Despite all of that, I think being so moved by someone is a beautiful feeling, even if it’s not exactly being reciprocated. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to let go of that shield (wall?) protecting my heart. Because what if no one else moves me again?
I would be lying though if I said I didn’t care that I don’t inspire these feelings for him.
I wish something about me moved him too. I wish I was someone more than the person with the great taste in music (no small feat though…). Who was I to him?
But I’m going to have to ignore that broken mind of mine and appreciate the ways my life has changed because of him and maybe take that much needed break from the hell that is dating.
A couple of months ago, I wrote that I hoped I will never forget anything if he breaks my heart. Back then, I didn’t realise that falling in love with this person would mean these memories become a part of my story, and they will play a small but significant role in how I lead my life from now, and I think I’m fine with that. But that’s just today.
Most of the time, I think about how I seem to have been thrown away, cast aside. Confusion reigns. Could I have been more open? Should I have learned to tell better stories? How could I have been better? Self-doubt rules and that is a dangerous kingdom to live in.
And I get angry because why do I love a person who has exiled me to such a kingdom?
Because he moves me? Because he moves me.
I remember being in Angelina’s room when I sent what I thought would be one of my final texts to him.
By then, we had had quite a few back and forths about my feelings and his ambivalence towards them. I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t settled. I was so confused. I was told that it was a relationship. But no. No relationship would have me feeling so insecure. (Please tell me that’s true.) I long for one where I feel completely confident in my feelings for him, one where I don’t have to create a break-up playlist to prepare myself for the worst outcome, one that doesn’t make me almost-cry (just tilt your head upwards, so that the tears get sucked back in, and then tell – no – will those tears not to stream down your cheeks) on a bridge over the Pan Island Expressway (PIE).
So I texted him: “Hey I know I’m always sending you these late night(ish) texts. But I’ve been thinking that this thing with us is not really working out anymore and think we should just end it.”
We didn’t Skype (he didn’t see the point of downloading Skype), so text it was, as cowardly as it seems now. I was always better with the written word anyway. Maybe this was better.
As soon as I sent that text, I wanted to be as far away from my phone. I didn’t want to touch it. Did not want to hold it. Did not want it near enough such that I could feel its vibrations.
I did not want to know what he would say. Whatever his reply was would be too much information for me. His reply would either tell me that I had been wrong about our interactions prior to my final text – or worse, that I had been completely right.
For once, I did not want to be right. Just this once, I wanted to be informed that I was overreacting.
He texted back the next morning at 8.16am. I remember being on the crowded train on the way to the State Court when my phone vibrated. It had to be him. Yep, it was him. Still, I did not want to read the message. I have a full day of fishing for the juiciest crime stories, another day to try and make Page One of the paper, another day where I have to be friendly with lawyers, prosecutors, interpreters, another day of waiting at void decks of the accused or victims to try and get a little more than other dailies, another day of pretending, hoping, that I belong at the State Court with the other more experienced reporters. Another day of stuff that had nothing to do with him.
But that day had everything to do with him. I needed to know if I was right.
I checked my phone about three hours later (pretty remarkable restraint).
He said: “Jeez, you’ve been thinking a lot about this.”
And then two minutes after that first text, he said at 8.18am: “But yeah sure, I’m fine with whatever as long as you have peace of mind.”
I’m guessing it took those two extra minutes to show that he didn’t give a fuck.
Fuck, I was right.
It’s okay, I began the process to get over it. I guess I must not have felt as much for him as I thought. I’m actually pretty okay. I got a good story. I didn’t even have to whip out my break-up playlist (it has yet to be used). I’m fine.
Mostly because I had already started the process of forgetting everything. Forgetting why I liked him. If I didn’t have that information, then I didn’t have to feel.
All I know is that he was a mistake. The lack of information and memories in my brain led me to that conclusion. I have zero information left in my brain to tell me why I even liked him. I remember nothing. Was he funny? Was he smart? What did we even talk about?
I screengrabbed his texts and sent it to my closest friends. “You definitely did the right thing,” they said.
Actually, that’s how I remember all of this now. Those screengrabs are still in my “Screenshots” folder on my phone. I had deleted all of these on my main folder but hadn’t realised there was another album that had remnants of a relationship(ish) that I had almost no recollection of – until yesterday.
I went on a kind of… thing with someone (he thought it was a date, I didn’t even want to be there) recently and we were talking about past relationships. At 26, I felt like it would have been pretty abnormal to say that I hadn’t really been in a relationship, so I bring him up as an example of the only “relationship” I’ve been in.
I tell this “not-quite-date” (who likes to call me Babe and touches my arms unnecessarily) about G. He asks me what about him was attractive to me. My mind goes blank. What was it? I can feel my brain just flashing back to blank spaces that used to house memories that I’ve since deleted. I can barely even remember what he looks like.
I’m really attracted to guys who make me laugh. So he must have been funny right? So I tell this not-quite-date: “Er, I guess he was funny?”. I’m not convinced. Neither is he.
Yesterday, I looked at that album of screenshots. There were those break-up texts. (By the way, he thought I was joking. So I had to end it again one week later when he texted me because he thought I would “get over it”.) But there were also those texts that I screengrabbed so I could read them again. He had said to me once, after I made a lame joke that involved typing DONG 20 times: “Actually, my eyes always light up when I talk to you.”
I must have felt something then. Of course I did. Or I wouldn’t have attempted to save it. Nothing is based on fact anymore now. Just inferences of how I would have felt.
Two years later, somehow the lack of information in my brain, which disallowed any sort of memories of him to be stored in my head, enabled my heart to still remain whole, untouched, unscarred, pristine.
That means that heart is another’s to break.
I remember telling Shikin when I realised that this thing with G had the potential to become more serious than I was ever used to: “I don’t want him to be the one to break my heart.”
Admittedly, I said that mostly because he was perfect on paper. After all, he fulfilled my mum’s criteria of a perfect guy (catholic, Indian, engineer). And I could actually tolerate him. I didn’t want to lose that. I could settle for someone (at that point) as long as he would get my mum off my back (even temporarily).
Two years later, I still am the owner of a head that tends to over analyse everything, that tends to nitpick, and overthink – and then, forget.
But that same head is also now occupied with thoughts of another – a far better person, who for some reason makes me want to be a better version of myself, to experience life, to feel things, to just be me (but better!). He is flawed for sure, mostly in ways that I have yet to find out.
With him though, I feel like I don’t have to over analyse everything (admittedly on some occasions, I still do). It’s not because I’m confident in whatever this is. Quite the opposite. I have never felt so much uncertainty with anyone else before. But eh, I know I’ll enjoy the time I get to spend with him. I’m sure I may want more at some point. But for now, that’s enough.
One thing is for sure though – I do not ever want to forget. Anything. I do not want to delete information and memories from my brain so that my heart continues to remain unscarred.
It’s his to dent, fracture or break.
After 26 years of mostly idle activity, I think my heart should finally start paying its due and work a little. I’m strong enough to deal. (Besides there’s that playlist…)
Whatever it is, whatever happens, I don’t want to forget any of it. Of how ridiculously happy I felt during my last night in New York. All the colours in my head! His voice! My legs so casually intertwined with his, while he constantly readjusted the position of my head on his bony chest.
We listened to my favourite songs that I had compiled in a playlist for him a year ago, recalled the six days we had spent mostly together, heard his stories, learned more about him – I’m always so hungry for his words, his energy, his passion. I never want to forget the moment that I finally realised that this person my head was laying on had far surpassed the person that I had imagined in my head when we had been e-mailing just 1.5 years before.
As much as I wanted to at that point, now I don’t think I’d ever want to forget that second night in bed when I realised I was purposely sticking to the wall, as far as possible away from him, in an admittedly weak attempt to calm that beating heart of mine. I even tried rubbing my chest because I was afraid he would somehow hear it.
I never want to forget the feeling of his hands finding mine when we were out walking.
And I never want to forget the feeling when I knew I’d see him again.