Monday, October 28, 2013

MLUS (Melanin-Laden Ugly Skin) and its treatment

MLUS is the short form for Melanin Laden Ugly Skin, a geographic and genetic disorder prevalent all over the world but with concentrations in South Asia, South East Asia, Middle East, Latin America and Africa (Or the portion of living world designated as non-Western countries). People suffering from this disorder often suffer from increased levels of the pigment melanin in their skins which renders their skin complexion darker and sometimes way darker than the acceptable limit. Other salient features of these people include a history of centuries of living under the colonial rule serving mostly light colored rulers.

How is it contracted?

 If you know anything about this disorder you would know that it is considered worse than HIV AIDS. Most people are born dark because of their geographical location while the rest are a pathetic result of poor choice of life partners by their parents.


Inheriting dark skin, lifelong attempts to lighten it in order to appear beautiful and constant mental pain over your skin color.


Unfortunately, there are no cures to MLUS but certain treatments do exist which make it seem less obvious and hence less horrible. Like any other disorder, prevention is better than cure here as well. Following are some of the available treatments to reduce the pain of this disorder:

1.      Always try to be white. Remember every day is a new beginning and where you can be lighter than the day before. It's an on-going journey. Use tonnes of chlorinated products on your face, body, and intimate areas. You are in luck here as there are so many products to choose from. Cheap, openly available Hydrogen peroxide to Garnier Skin Whitening cream, there’s something suitable for every type of budget.

2.      Be humble and never forget your lowly place as a dark person.

3.      Pleasantly accept derogatory comments and patronizing from people who are even an iota of a shade lighter than you are

4.      Since you will virtually never see yourselves and your likes on television, movies and other media, learn to live like a social and cultural vampire which means that spending time in sun is a huge no-no.
5.      Remain marginalized and never question whatever is construed as beautiful.

6.      Marry lighter people. Silently hope and actively try for your kids to not turn out like yourself. There are skin lightening creams for kids as well! Hallelujah!

7.      It is ok to have bouts of self-pity and constant fights with God, Ishwar, Allah, Buddha, Jesus, Till Lindemann, or No God, for making you too dark

8.      Put lighter people up on a pedestal.

9.      Decline yourself the privilege of wearing certain colors in which you look too dark.

10.  Hate yourself (and the people who have the same complexion as you do) until you attain the socially acceptable amounts of lightness.

11.  Always try to change yourself. You can never even dare to think that you are perfect the way you are, you absolutely have to believe that there is something wrong with you. So keep trying to fix it so that our society keeps riding the cycle of our fake sense of Eurocentric privilege forever.

Also, its ok to be smart when you are dark but it is NOT OK, NEVER EVER OK to be beautiful when you are dark.

Wait...What? An Indian American woman named Nina Duvulri is the new Miss America.

That's so cool. Let me google her picture…
What the …? She isn't even that pretty. These White people obviously don't know what is considered beautiful in India. How’s that even possible? How could she be so confident with that dark, poor complexion to actually tryout in a beauty pageant? She would not have survived even the first round of Miss India contest.

Anyways, back to MLUS…

Listen to me, where are you going? I was telling you about MLUS, wait wai....




Monday, September 16, 2013

Kathmandu ekdum sanchhai chaa! I love this Sahar!

I completed the first five hours of language training today and yes, I am totally going to flaunt it.

Yes, there I said it. I love Kathmandu. This city has everything that my inner scholar gypsy demanded from me always- I.e. the vibrancy of a well preserved diverse historic city, the urgency of a modern capital and the beauty of a hill resort. These are the best descriptors about Kathmandu that my limited dictionary can put forth at the moment. So far, Kathmandu has been much better than my expectations and I already am in love with this Sahar (city in Nepali).

 The coolest things about Kathmandu are:

  • rooftop gardens-they are everywhere. The land is so fertile and rich, plants grow out from every nook and corner and they look fabulous.
  • women riding scooties (mini motorcycles plus scooters). They are also everywhere.
  • Convenience stores run by womenfolk-most of the shops/cornerstones are being run by women
  • (shops that open up at 5 am and remain open past midnight)
View of mountains from our rooftop.

Some random ethnic building located near Thamel(the tourist district)

Dhobi Ghaat: the open air laundry.

Buddhanath Stupa: Love this place and its location.

This really beautiful post modern meets Bauhaus building found in Thamel.

  • extremely hospitable people
  • its walkability (Although, due to on-going construction, walking on main roads is not advised), the streets or 'galis' are a great secret tool to explore this city and many of its hidden gems.
  • the ingenuous intersectionality of modern and ancient cultures-here you will see Buddhist monks chilling out in a Pizzeria and kids playing table tennis on a makeshift concrete table.
  • mountains of Kathmandu valley- these are visible from every rooftop. Rooftop tea parties could actually be a pretty great idea here.
  • FOOD-which is simple yet great.

I am so excited for the next eight months here in Nepal. There's so much to explore, learn, experience and this is just the start. One week is definitely not enough time to do justice to description of any place one has moved to, so stay tuned for more updates and please show me your support in the comments section.
Oh, by the way, the title means: "Kathmandu is superfine. I love this city."

Monday, September 2, 2013

An account of a bittersweet parting...

I am aboard an emotional roller coaster as I type these words.

My itinerary for the travel that I was so excited about is here.  I leave Toronto on September the 6th and reach Nepal on September the 8th, which is coincidentally, also the day of  Teej festival, or the festival of women being celebrated in Nepal.  For me, three years of waiting are finally over as I am just three days away from  hopping on a plane and move to a new part of the world which I have never seen, experienced or felt before. Yup, the travel seems to be real-er than ever.

Nepal Teej festival: Women sing and dance at the Temple during the Teej festival
Teej Festival: -when married women fast for their husbands and single girls hope and pray for a great future husband.On this occasion, women normally wear bright red, green and pink clothes to celebrate their men or future men.
I am neither a very emotional person nor someone foreign to staying long weeks away from home. I am very well accustomed to the mixed feelings of  excitement, ecstasy, hope and anxiety that engulf a person prior to an altogether new experience.

However, I admit that the closer I am getting to this journey, excitement is turning to melancholy and anxiety is becoming a creeping sadness of parting from the familiar. I have already started missing my mother, brothers and beautiful friends. Little things such as an Iced Cap from Tim Hortons or a trip to downtown Toronto have gained much more sentimental value in these last days.

I  do know that I will be back in eight months (hopefully!) and that once in Nepal, I will have the time of my life, but in these last days, through this blogpost, I want to let everybody- who has helped my transition into the Canadian life-know that I will miss them, that their efforts to help, motivate and support me will not go wasted and that you have all been a strong inspiration for whatever I do or wherever I plan to go and whatever I ever achieve. I love you all and I am gonna miss you.

Goodbye Toronto,Waterloo,Family,Friends and Canada.

Namaste Nepal! As I fly to you on an auspicious day, when you will be welcoming me with beautiful colors of red, pink and green, I hope that you will turn out to be great for my future and for those beautiful girls' who are waiting for a great husband. In fact, I don't just silently hope for you to be great,  I know you will be!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

#Malaladay or #Malaladrama: What's your take?

A few weeks ago, when #Malaladay and #Malala were doing rounds on Internet, hashtag #Malaladrama was trending in the Twitter feed of the teenage heroine’s home country, Pakistan. As the name suggests, social media updates from Pakistan, denounced Malala's struggles in the coldest way_by declaring her a fraud. While  rest of the world was busy applauding the Malala cause-education for all-with moist eyes, EDUCATED  Pakistani youth were busy creating a momentous backlash against Malala on their smart phones. This backlash didn't go unnoticed in the wider world as major news outlets, including Toronto Star, soon picked it up, as Hamida Ghafour writes, "On social media the 16-year-old, who last week made a passionate plea to world leaders at the UN to fund universal primary education, has been described as a western stooge, a CIA spy and even a prostitute." Bear with me but, to me, this backlash was not really surprising.

Malala Yousafzai addresses UN on Malala day.
 When Malala was brutally shot in 2012, I saw millions of  men,  women, youth and children out on the streets of Pakistan, protesting against the Taliban brutality. I saw thousands of Pakistani youth changing their covers on Facebook in her support. I witnessed all major TV channels giving her countless hours of coverage. I noticed  mainstream Muslim scholars, releasing fatwas (religious decrees) against the people who had shot her  Yet , DESPITE all that,  International media kept on beating the same drum of "Islam, terrorism, Pakistan, barbaric bearded men, Taliban, women rights,". Jeez! Pakistanis were frustrated and had enough of this racist and stereotyped rhetoric.

According to the Pakistani youth, Western media and politicians have hijacked the Malala cause, which they(the youth) so rigorously supported, yet were conveniently ignored and were never given credit for. They think that UN, which religiously practices gender inequality in its own ranks; and people like Gordon Brown, are just plain hypocrites who have cherry picked Malala Yousafzai to sustain their own Western saviour complex. 

So which side are you on? Did you know about the hashtag #Malaladrama?  Is Pakistani youth right in denouncing Malala,  to vent out their own frustrations? Has the west really hijacked Malala cause? Do you want me to write more about this issue? Leave your valuable comments, suggestions and opinions below.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Geographies of Breast Cancer: Awareness and Advocacy in South Asia

 A recent op-ed written by famous actress Angeline Jolie about her decision to undergo a double mastectomy to prevent a future likelihood of breast cancer has generated discussion about all aspects of Breast cancer.  At one hand, it celebrates another milestone that science has achieved while at the other, it showcases the amount of resources a rich Western woman has at her disposal, to be proactive about the prevention of a deadly disease even before the diagnosis. Through this blogpost, I would like to throw some light on the increasing rates of Breast cancer in South Asia and the constraints of civil society in battling with it.

South Asia includes countries like Pakistan, India and SriLanka. A bird’s eye view of the Breast cancer situation in these countries paints a very deplorable picture. Pakistan has the highest rate of Breast cancer in all of Asia and 40,000 women die each year due to this disease. India, on the other hand, also has almost the same number of casualties  and is a place where 50% of the women diagnosed with Breast cancer have already reached final stage. Breast cancer is the highest cause of death in women aged 24 and above in SriLanka.
In these countries, the rich always have the monetary resources to pursue treatment in expensive healthcare facilities in developed countries.  It is the poor women who suffer the most and ironically are the most likely victims of the disease.  Often times, they only seek help when it is too late due to economic reasons.  The social stigma attached to the reproductive body parts of a female makes it even harder to bring this topic out in the public for any intelligent dialogue. 
An Urdu Advertisment from Pakistan urging women under 40 to get regular check-ups and women for 40 to get screened once a year.

One of the reasons why it is such a big issue is lack of information and stigmas surrounding the disease. Poverty, language barriers and the social taboos are also some issues which hinder the discussion. Mostly the diagnosis takes place too late and when it is past any chances to save the patient. Moreover, women are shunned by households and many die in poverty, being destitute and helpless since the treatment is so expensive. This causes further disturbances in the socio-economic fabric by displacing families, disturbing kids and upsetting budgets. Things are made further deplorable by the fact that there are not many specialized hospitals to treat cancer in South Asia. For example, Pakistan, a country of 180 million, where over 52 percent of population are women, has only one cancer hospital. 
Local school girls raise awareness about Breast Cancer
in Pakistan.

Government and civil society are working hand in hand to curb this disease. Pink Ribbon Pakistan is a fortunate NGO to be funded from various government and international organizations. They offer self diagnosis and treatment options, but on their website it clearly states, that they need greater advocacy in the sector and want a dialogue initiated. Roko Cancer is a similar NGO working in India which provides free ultrasounds and mammograms and is creating meaningful change in behaviors and perception of people. 

The civil society in these countries is striving hard to generate greater voice through advocacy and by stimulating social movement towards the Breast cancer cause. However, the mammoth size challenges they face must not be underestimated. Often times they are dealing with complex religious, cultural and social myths associated with the disease which are very hard to dispel. Considering all these elements, in my opinion, further empowerment of civil society in these countries may help increase local people’s knowledge about the disease and improve the longevity of the patients. 

Due to the advances in technology, a Breast cancer is thankfully not incurable. In fact, it is promising to see that in developed countries, such as the US, there has been a phenomenal 20% increase in 5 year survival rate, in three decades. This is a huge increase made possible due to increase in advocacy, dialogue, literacy and cheaper heath care options. Perhaps, with greater care and empathy, one day not only privileged women in the West but also the common women in developing world will be able to defeat this deadly disease. 

Indian Actress Sonam Kapoor as a spokesperson for Elle Breast Cancer Campaign India.