Thursday, 24 December 2015

How to become a Leela

An important tip for content creation is to create content you, yourself would enjoy looking at and would get inspired by. Keeping this in mind, I am here to create content on one of my biggest obsessions-Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Indian film- Ram-leela.

A violent adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Ram-leela blew me away and had me thinking about it 24/7. The obsession still hasn’t died down though, like I expected it to. No, this movie captivates me with its breathtaking aesthetics to this day, even if the storyline starts slowly fading away. It has cultivated a desi girl in me, who can’t stop dreaming about Leela’s absolutely gorgeous lengha choli’s, for example the filmy white one she adorns whilst lounging about in her room or the beautiful, sequined, patchwork choli she wears during the festival of Holi and the song, ‘Lahu Munh Lag Gaya’. For those of you who don’t know what a lengha choli is, it is an outfit comprised of a long, floor length skirt and a short, fitted crop top. It’s not just the clothes that dazzle me-it’s everything, from the music, the makeup, the tribal tattoos, the heavy jewellery, the way the rooms are furnished, the sort of activities that take place, the famous set where Ram comes to secretly court Leela at her balcony. In short, the lifestyle depicted in this movie.

In my daydreams about Ram-leela I often find myself wondering what it would be like to adopt certain elements of this lifestyle that really appeal to me, and how I can add on to them and build on this lifestyle, getting into the smallest of details. For example, if Leela drinks tea, what kind of tea does she drink? Does she use tea bags? That doesn’t give much of an ethnic princess vibe now, does it? She must use proper tea leaves. Does she add honey, sugar, milk or lemon to her tea? Does she drink it out of a mug or does she drink it out of a gorgeous, hand painted cup?  I would also like to note that THIS is the sort of attention to detail that has probably contributed a lot into making Ram-leela an iconic film, because visuals stick in an individual’s mind for a long time, and that is what influences them(example, me).

Ever since I watched Ram-leela I have developed an interest and a taste for things such as vintage furniture, desi clothes, especially lengha choli’s (a girl can dream of living in nothing but those), ethnic jewelry and much more. I have been contemplating getting a small nose piercing and I have been looking for an ethnic looking cabinet/dresser for my room. My mother, being aware of my muse, recently bought me this beautiful silver mirror for my room that looks exactly like something an ethnic princess would possess. I put a little crystal bowl on my current vanity, with just a little bit of water and a rose shaped candle. The smallest details and layouts add up. One morning before an exam I went out into our balcony. The weather was chilly and the trees outside as well as the plants on the balcony were slightly swaying with the breeze. We have a small pond in which we keep our water plants such as the umbrella plant, and we have lined it with pots of bright yellow marigold. It was a lovely morning, and I stood above the pond and looked down at it and realized that there is so much beauty in the imperfect composition-it lies within the happy flowers beaming up at me, and even in the reflection of the umbrella plant and the sky upon the muddy pond water. It reminded me of Leela’s balcony and the trees and plants everywhere on that particular set, and the jade green water body just beneath her balcony. Another time, at a social dinner for my school’s business competition, I looked over at our school pond, which now, is inhabited by our two school turtles. The dinner was fancy and formal, with these blue and purple lights. That light hit the reflection on the pond, causing it to cast its own purple glow. I had to take a picture because it was such a magical sight- not to mention it again, reminded me of Ram-leela.

Mostly for my own satisfaction, I want to start visually documenting the sort of lifestyle an ethnic princess like Leela would have, by developing it for myself. It’s like living and fulfilling a fantasy that will be adapted for practicality. I mean, I can’t go out in a choli even if I can dress up for myself at home. However, I can opt for more shawls over hoodies, as a very basic example. I invite you to witness and perhaps, get inspired by my development and documentation of a Ram-leela lifestyle. I plan to put in a lot of effort and detail into as many aspects of life as I can (without hopefully, getting too carried away), such as beauty, fashion, health and wellness, food, activities, education, and culture. If you are anything like me, and have desperately scoured the internet for ANY article or even the smallest paragraph that will tell you how to become a Leela (ahem ahem, Muskaan), this article, and over a period of time, this blog, is for you. 


Monday, 14 December 2015

There is no Majam.

Never have I been this honest in anything I have written before. Never have I opened myself this much. It’s scary, because usually you make up a huge part of yourself in writing, because how much do you really want people to know? It’s easier to glorify the good parts of our lives instead of revealing the embarrassing, scary parts. I think, personally for myself, that needs to stop. There’s impression management that keeps taking place all the time when it comes to me. As the sociologist Goffman says, the world is our stage and we are the actors. We choose the role we want to play and the person we want people to believe we are.  We act like them, we think like them, we completely adopt that new role, that new character. I think that is where my much beloved alter ego, majam derives from. Majam also helped me cope with lots of things. Maybe, we will get into that later on. I have realized how much this impression management has destroyed me, and I find that extremely strange because all these motivational books and speakers teach you to ‘fake it till you make it’ and to be strong in whatever way possible until you are your strongest self. Well, ironically, my strongest self has hurt a lot of people as well as me. I never expected it to turn out that way, but it did.

See, for quite some time I have been all about alter egos and how they don’t have to have a negative meaning attached to them. I have done projects relating to this and have promoted the ‘healthy alter ego’  image for such a long time. I mean, majam allowed me to be this badass, cold, unfeeling girl, who was confident and cocky and who raised her eyebrows a lot. She was designed to help bring out the best version of me, to be confident, to believe in my own capabilities etc. but I have learnt that there must be a reason all these movies and all these books promote alter egos and split personalities as negative things-they have a dark side to them.

You won’t even NOTICE it because it will creep up and will build up slowly and all the while you’ll be thinking ‘OH, my god. I am powerful. I am a goddess. Majam gets what she wants’ and you’ll be strutting as if you own the place and then YEARS later it will hit you and you will fall back, really open up your eyes and be amazed at what you see. There is nothing healthy about being two people at one time, let alone three or four. We cannot handle it as human beings, it is too much work. I have had melodramatic moments in my life in which I’ve stopped myself and thought ‘Oh shoot. Maybe, MAYBE, my alter ego is taking control of my life and fighting and winning against my normal self’. You know, just like in the movies. However, majam actually did take control of me. She infested my body and took it as a host instead of just slightly pushing away the real me. It’s like, she climbed into my body and I woke up the next day as Majam and didn’t even realize something had changed and that I had been this person all along. THAT is how dangerous alter egos and split personalities can be.

Tonight, I have participated in the spiritual scrapping of an evil personality with whom I just cannot get along with anymore. I refuse to. Tonight is the night, 14th December, 2015, that I should remember for getting rid of my alter ego. There is no Majam. She doesn’t exist anymore.

But wait! There’s more.

The matter of who is left after one part has been scrapped is still in discussion. See, MAHAM, is the girl I am most commonly known as. THIS is the girl who kept fluctuating between personalities and I don’t think I like her that much anymore. She lets herself be fake when needed. She lets herself inflict pain on herself and others, even if she doesn’t mean to. This girl leans towards being masochistic. THIS is the girl who couldn’t decide between good and bad. This is the girl who built up an alter ego. This is the girl who victimizes herself and lies enough to believe her own lies. This is the girl who can be quite vindictive and who can be self-absorbed without realizing it. This girl is too unstable.
That’s when I started thinking, ‘Whatever happened to Mana?’ Is it possible for me to completely forget about my own family nickname? Mana is the name that was given to that little girl with the ‘gawalon ki taangay’ and the cheeky smile I see in the family albums. The girl with the jet black, shiny mop of hair and this playful, innocent, youthful aura that clung to her. She smiled so much. I want her back because Mana is who I am. If you remove all the walls and get rid of all the layers of complexities, this is who you get, in her most raw, exposed form.

Who is Mana? Mana is the daughter of Sadaf Mahmood, a strong, independent, loving, beautiful woman. Mana is the daughter of a father, who no matter what Mana may feel at times, cares a lot about her and loves her unconditionally. She has a younger brother, who she loves so fiercely, even though she never shows it. He will always be the little baby brother, no matter how old he gets. Mana identifies as a female. She is a Muslim. She loves Ramleela, and cannot wait for the new Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie, ‘Bajirao Mastani’ to come out. She loves to take photographs, write, paint and make music. She dances like nobody is watching. She yearns to travel alone and take in the world and her surroundings and keeps changing her mind about what she wants to actually do with her life and what her calling is. I think Mana’s most important feature is that she loves people. She adores people and sees a lot of good in the world and those who surround her. She can actually show people how much they mean to her. She likes to make them feel important and loved. She just loves people more than is good for her and this intense love is what is her before prescribed as weakest but now, strongest quality. She loves and she loves, and she smiles and she smiles. She believes in all the good in the world, as opposed to Majam who held a bittersweet view of the world and saw all the bad.

Mana is who I am. Not Majam. Not even Maham, which is my actual name. You can change SO much the moment you decide to make a certain decision. Mana is my decision. I will resume introducing myself as Mana to new people, like I once used to.  I will ask people to call me Mana. I am going to bring that happy, giving girl again, even if that giving hurts her at times, because it is better than hurting. I am going to close a chapter of my life, and open a new one, right here, right now. Thank you for witnessing this moment. I hope I can bring good to you and show you the change myself, instead of through a blog post. I hope we will cross each other’s paths one day and we both will smile and nod at each other, acknowledging each other. I will call out your name, and you will smile, nod and call out, ‘Mana’.