The Importance of Humor: From Frustrated to Funny

Finding the funny in the darkest of times

I’m reviving my posts from five years ago, when I started blogging for a website by the Muscular Dystrophy Association called Transitions. The posts were written by people with neuromuscular conditions who were in the midst of any life transition: age, disease-related, anything significant that affected his/her life. Starting this off with one of my favorites!

Maintaining a good sense of humor about the various pitfalls I face living with a neuromuscular condition is one my greatest challenges. At first one might ask, what could be humorous about weakening muscles and limited mobility? When I was diagnosed 6 years ago, I couldn’t fully comprehend what life with LGMD would entail and the changes I would need to make to my life. A trip out the door felt like a game of Super Mario Brothers (a testament to my knowledge about current video games) — I had to jump, hop and skip at the right time, be super cautious about my moves, all while having my faithful partner Yoshi by my side for assistance otherwise I’d pay the price: a fall, fracture or worse. I was angry I couldn’t move with effortless grace like other women. Humor came with time and acceptance; I was able to discover the funny in the midst of my frustrations. A sense of humor has helped me deal with accepting living with LGMD and in better fostering my relationships. Instead of spending hours in a downward spiral of depression over something MD related that happened I came to discover time was much better spent finding the humor in these unique life experiences, learning from them and moving on.

Traveling with a disability is certainly not an easy thing to do. I recall a trip the Caribbean I took with a friend. It was our first time vacationing together and even though she was well aware of my physical limitations, I knew going on vacation together would be a whole different experience. The plane landed on the tarmac. Passengers proceeded to exit down the narrow steps. As we waited on-board for my wheelchair, I knew I was going to be carried down. Two disabled service men arrived and I was quickly placed in the chair — standard procedure. What was different this time around from others was that I was strapped in — arms and legs zip tied up. I felt like I was being institutionalized/packaged away for storage. Mildly embarrassed, I thought, ‘Oh God, this is a great way to start our vacation together.” I looked over at my friend, nervous to see her expression. I sensed a twinge of shock mixed with satisfaction that the airline personnel took my care seriously. We immediately both burst out in fits of laughter. We refer to this moment as my ‘psycho exit’. I later came to know it was indeed standard procedure for wheelchair passengers to be carried down in the safest manner possible, ie: securing all appendages in the vehicle. Our vacation turned out wonderfully — a trip to the grocery store became my friend Sam driving me around in the hotel wheelchair as I grabbed bottles of water and snacks from the aisles, dumping them into the basket on my lap. What would have otherwise been intense moments of outrage over my harsh realities became remembered moments for Sam and I. We still talk about the strange nature of some of the places MD has led us (ie: exploring hidden sides to restaurants/hotels/etc so as to access the service elevator, experimenting with whether wheelchairs will roll on the beach and so on). Being able to deal with those moments responsibly and laugh about it was key. It of course makes a difference when you have great friends who support you.

Prolonged staring is a common phenomenon in India. Sure, people are curious by nature but when they can’t make sense of things in front of them, their eyes tend to linger much longer. The stares used to bother me a lot in the beginning. I have my moments now when it still bothers me. What I better understanding now more than ever is that people are just plain curious. Sometimes, it’s none of their business and most of the time, it’s not their fault. Curiosity is a natural human tendency and unfortunately so is ignorance. The best way to combat these two things is with knowledge. The initial look of confusion/curiosity turns into one of understanding. At least, I hope it does. ‘What’s wrong with you?’, becomes ‘How can I help you?’ But not everyone is open to learning more. When staring becomes intrusive or accusatory, I play around with it. One day while visiting family in Delhi, I was feeling particularly tired and so my mom and uncle helped me get to the car. With each one supporting me on either side, an old man on the street screamed out in Hindi, ‘Look at that girl, she’s drunk! And it’s the afternoon!” I wasn’t sure what offended him more — the fact that I was a girl who was drunk or that I was drunk in the afternoon. Just to be clear, I was completely sober but because of my unsteady gait, this man was certain I was in fact drunk. My uncle was quick to correct him but for whatever reason, I found the situation ridiculous and absolutely hilarious. I played along to his idea of my being intoxicated, swaying a bit more than I needed to, my mom, uncle and I in stitches as we gathered into the car. Now I know this isn’t the best/smartest/most mature way to deal with a situation like that, but hey, let’s face it, we have to take those moments when we get them. Humor helped me create memories (albeit, weird ones) with my family and brought me closer to them because I was able to remove myself from the seriousness of the situation.

All this to say, I take my condition very seriously. But I don’t let the weight of it all overwhelm my life. I take pleasure in finding small joys however and wherever I may find them. I used to believe that laughing at my problems was a sure sign of denial or insecurity. That’s not always the case. Humor lightens the mood both for myself and for those around me. And I genuinely find the situations I’ve been involved with very amusing. Remembering to find the funny has been immensely gratifying for me. I’ve accepted many more things about my condition because of the way I look at them now, through smiling eyes.

Body Shaming in India, for better or worse

It’s a common phenomenon amongst Indians, commenting on another person’s looks, especially when it comes to their weight. Some think this type of critique is generally reserved for close family or friends, serving as either a compliment or perhaps a cause of concern.

In India, it comes at you from all angles: aunties at a parties, uncles in the lobby, co-workers and friends, and most recently, a maid in the lift of my building. Mind you, aside from my coworkers, I BARELY know these people. I’ve probably had one at max two interactions with them and yet they still find it okay to comment on my body.

My co-workers saw me after 3 weeks and one of them immediately commented on how thin I looked.

“Look at her face,” she told our other co-worker, “it’s gotten so thin. What happened?”

I haven’t intentionally been trying to lose weight, just more conscious about how and when I consume food. I told her perhaps I had; I’ve been doing physiotherapy lately but nothing aggressive.

The next day while entering the lobby of my building, an uncle stopped me to say hello. I had a knee brace on and was walking with my cane so planned to keep our conversation to a minimum. We exchanged pleasantries for a good 5 seconds before he said I had ‘gained.’

“You’ve put on weight, has it? You look heavy.”

I didn’t have an immediate comeback at hand and I bristled at his rudeness.

“No, in fact uncle, I’ve lost.”(I wasn’t sure this was even true but I was riding off my co-workers comments the day prior).

“Oh no, you are looking so chubby. Those chubby, chubby cheeks.”

He made a gesture suggesting expansion had taken place and pulled at his own cheeks. He was convinced I had become nothing short of a cow.

“I’ve always had chubby cheeks. It’s my thing.”

I looked at him sideways, curious with a half-smile. This man sees me in a brace and doesn’t bother to ask what happened to my knee but instead goes for my weight? I walked towards the elevator as he continued on about nothing I cared to hear. There was no room for niceness at that point. I was done being nice for social purposes plus I needed to sit down. I didn’t care what he thought of me. He eventually got the hint and waved goodbye.

I didn’t let the uncle’s comment get to me much that day. In spite of having muscular dystrophy, I can still walk and remain active. I knew my body and I appreciated all that it has done for me. It has let me travel to Turkey, Thailand, and Dubai in the last few years. It’s supported my decisions in going out and staying in and lets me exercise it in a mild manner. I finally reached a place with my body where I’m not criticizing it but rather expressing it as much love and gratitude that I can towards it. But here it was, other people’s unsolicited thoughts over my body flying at me

Later that evening, I had gone out to run some errands and was again, headed towards the lobby lift. A nanny/maid from one of the other floors whom I see on occasion called out to me

“Madam, you’ve decreased no? Lost weight it seems.”

The lift had come at that moment and I was totally caught off guard. I blurted out a response, something to the effect of, “Um, what? I don’t know. Maybe? Yes? Ok Bye.”

I was livid. I know most women (myself included) like hearing people say they’ve lost weight, it feels nice. In my case though, my goal isn’t about weight loss — it’s about taking care of my health. Even if I did lose weight, I’m not looking for outside validation. I didn’t ask for a compliment or to tell me whether the number on my scale has gone up or down. My weight isn’t indicative of a strict diet, upcoming event, or new relationship. Whether I’ve lost of gained, my ultimate goal is remain strong and happy, knowing I’m doing the best I can to stay functional.

The manner in which I handle these scenarios is so mood-dependent. Perhaps because these comment were coming at me back-to-back it all felt too much. I’ve been on the receiving end of much worse when I was younger and chubby from family members in India. It all boils down to your emotional state of mind. After the nanny/maid comment, I was a raging ball of anger. I immediately got inside my apartment and called a friend to rant.

Why is this so normalized? Why do Indians feel the need to comment on my body? I didn’t open myself up to this type of scrutiny. I feel obliged to reply back when I truly don’t want to because then I’m participating in it. Why do we have to arm ourselves with ready responses when this wasn’t a topic I chose to engage in? I don’t want to discuss my body weight with someone I barely know.

For better or for worse, I’m simply choosing to love my body no matter what.

Book Review: Not That Kind of Girl

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of


Blog friends: Some exciting news! In the last couple of month I’ve joined a team of contributing writers for in the US. I really enjoy it and I love that the editors are open to stories of all kinds. It’s a nice way for me to explore different topics and see what fits writing-wise.

Please do me a SOLID and check my pieces here:

In the meantime, here’s my latest published post on Lena Dunham’s book “Not That Kind of Girl”

I must admit, when I first watched HBO’s “GIRLS” back in 2012, I wanted to hate it. I heard about the show’s comparisons to “Sex & the City” and I had to know more about its copycat.

I related to the “GIRLS” characters, but what kept me watching was the writer, producer, director and star of the show, Lena Dunham. My admiration for Dunham’s work lead me to quickly pre-order her first book of essays titled “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned.” Released on September 30, the book is a compilation of short story essays on topics ranging from Dunham’s artist parents, sexual escapades and navigating the waters of adulthood.

Dunham, a 28-year-old New York City native, is known for her gifted writing, as well as, her raw no frills sex scenes in “GIRLS.” Her book opens with a similar honesty, detailing losing her virginity and non-consensual unprotected sex, an incident she deems as possible rape.

I questioned her choice to use love, sex and all things in between as her first chapter, it felt heavy and even crude. The essays are divided into five sections: Love & Sex, Body, Friendship, Work and Big Picture. Her personal stories are mixed with Buzzfeed style lists, which capture the thing Dunham does best: Making raw emotion humorous and human.

Stories recounting her years of platonic bed sharing communicate the need for companionship and loneliness everyone experiences at some point in time. Chapters like “Emails I would Send If I Were One Ounce Crazier/Angrier/Braver” and “What’s in My Bag” prove for serious laugh-out-loud moments.

Coming from the same generation as Dunham, I absolutely adored her nod to the pre-internet era. Chat room romances (A/S/L anyone?), outdoor adventures and bunk beds at summer camp, Brooklyn before the hippies and gentrification. It felt like home, familiar and nostalgic.

Dunham shares her life post-college, moving back to New York and taking on a cushy job at a high-end baby-clothing store. The specificity of her work will leave readers marveling at her ability to string words together and make them think, “Did this really happen? What is your life?”

Dunham’s pro-feminist stance is a clear theme, among many, throughout the book. It’s unassuming and dauntless. She writes, “I know when I’m dying, looking back, it will be women that I regret having argued with, women I sought to impress, to understand, was tortured by. Women I wish to see again, to see them smile and laugh and say, It was all as it should have been.” In a recent interview, Dunham talks about how her book wasn’t written for women alone, but for men to enjoy as well, given gender equality is a mans issue too.

“Not That Kind of Girl” may not be for the faint of heart. There is sex talk, boy talk, friend drama and eventually a discussion on finding your own happiness. Dunham holds nothing back when it comes to revealing her most embarrassing moments detailed food logs and her vulnerability, which makes for the best kind of read. Dunham is not shy, that’s for sure, and we all now know she is certainly not that kind of girl.

Neither here nor there

I remember when M visited India and stayed with me in my apartment for the first time, her reaction to doing housework was one of absolute horror.

“I’m in India! I can’t wash dishes and I will not cook’

I found this amusing mostly because she does everything by herself at home and hardly complains about it. Housework in India was apparently a completely different chore. Because of the availability of help/ labor in India, it’s relatively inexpensive and common to have household help–a maid/cook/driver/whatever else you don’t want to do yourself. Coming India meant sitting back and relaxing while someone else did the heavy lifting. I think of M’s reaction when I’m rinsing out my morning cup of tea or dare to experiment with cooking in my lovely large and well-stocked kitchen….

The last month has been one of flirting with recipes-Indian and non-Indian. Jaya (my maid/cook/Jane of a million trades) has recently caught the ‘recipe’ bug. When she’s finished with her work, she sits downs in front of the television and watches Sanjeev Kapoor famously work his magic in a kadai( an indian wok), conjuring up delicious subzis and Indian meals. I watch with her—there’s a heavy punjab sikh man with a chinstrap beard who seems to specialize in cooking fried foods and readily gobbling up his creations; another channel shows an Indian woman who seems, well, bored. Its clear a show on the cooking channel is certainly a job more than a passion. I can tell Jaya genuienly enjoys what she does, one of the many qualities I admire about her. She’s always sports a smile and knowing that she’s interesting in upping-the-ante when it comes to her skills makes me think she’s a smart, smart women. She’s investing time in jazzing up her talents. I silently acknowledged her business acumen, excited for new yummy dishes.

On Holi (spring festival or festival of colors) I did not celebrate color at all. I stayed indoors and cooked and cooked and cooked. I cooked the most I’m sure I’ve ever cooked in my life, for myself. It was more out of curiosity rather than hunger– I wanted to see  whether or not I could actually last that long in the kitchen, a great, productive and creative way to test my stamina. I want to take as much advantage as I can of having fresh market greens and produce available so very easily. Going to Pali Market to pick up groceries is way better than standing in line at Shoprite, that’s for sure. Also, it’s been a pain in the ass trying to find good salad dressing around here (I asked a friend from NY back in Dec to bring a bottle or two with her when she was visiting that month, but the ‘great moving crisis of Jan’ prevented us from refrigerating certain items and so the dressing had to go. I grew tired of my standard olive oil and balsamic mix. It was time for some experimentation in the the kitchen.

The menu of Holi included:

-mini minced chicken burgers with chopped vegetables

-fresh broccoli and cheese soup


-arugula salad with walnuts

-veg sandwich with pesto sauce

-pesto pasta with sundried tomatoes and broccoli

and last but certainly not least,

-roasted red pepper dressing

Okay so, clearly this was also done in an effort to get rid of some of the crap that’s accumulated in my fridge. Roasting the red pepper was especially hard work, not to mention extremely extremely satisfying. It took 2 hours to properly roast the peppers on the stove grill before I could peel back the tinfoil and begin stripping the skins from the peppers. It was intense. It reminded me of Michael Pollen’s book “Cooked’ which I started last summer and only halfway got through. In it was a chapter on the chemistry of cooking–what happens when something is caramelized or roasted, barbecued or fried. The chemistry and makeup of the pepper completely changed in the time I roasted on the fire, double and triple wrapped in tinfoil. What was once a sharp, crisp and juicy red bell pepper turned slimey, smooth and sweet. It was amazing. The heat changed everything. I left the pepper in the foil for about 15 mins after I roasted them because the steam was supposed to set in and lock in some of those juices, at least thats what the recipe said. INCREDIBLE. Yes, I realize the drama here but c’mon, I just did some scientist type shit in the kitchen! Of course I’ve had red bell peppers before and OF COURSE I’ve had roasted red peppers, but I’ve never actually MADE RRPS! I’ve only ever bought them bottled at the store, the way I’m sure most of us have.


Needless to say this ain’t no Julie and Julia but it’s still been fun, this whole cooking thing. It’s a nice pastime and a healthy habit. Jaya watches cooking shows at home and recently made a new type of muttar-paneer, (i think she added clove?) but it was simply delicious. This week we are experimenting with channa (chole, or chickpea dishes) and veg pizzas.

Bon appétit!

A few fun pictures below and above.

Whilst steaming en foil:











Graffiti Lanes

Graffiti Lanes

Since I came to Bombay 8 months ago, I always got an excited rush when I saw graffiti around town. I stumbled upon the coolest lane I’ve seen so far, Nagrana Lane, in Bandra West and followed the winding lane down till there was no more. I took a ton of photos of the graffiti displayed down the lane, here’s one which I thought was trippy.

Let’s make Paan

Let's make Paan

Commonly eaten after meals, paan is a preparation of betel leaf and areca nut with cured tobacco. Pictured here is a paan-wallah (one who makes paan) readying the leaf for ingestion. One chews on the leaf for some time, taking whatever juices they can from it and eventually spitting out the rest. Although it’s part of Indian culture and generally used to freshen breath, spitting paan has caused the spread of oral cancer, disease and filth across the country. It also stains teeth and is now seen as more of a dirty habit.