Archive for the ‘Friend’s Corner’ Category

Life Advice #2: Free Massage, Every Single Day

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015


OK, so you’re thinking “Nina’s lost it” but no, not yet. You can get a free massage each and every day of your life, if you get some balls. A set of these lovely rubbery colorful balls pictured below, which I found at Whole Foods’ Whole Body shop in Manhattan, but really, they’re everywhere. And if you can’t get these “professional” massage balls, two tennis balls or a dog’s toy ball of medium firmness will do. Mine cost less than 9 bucks for the pair.

I’ll add a personal note here, and why I bought these massage balls. I’ve been struggling with lower backache for the past six months. Part tension, part poor stretching (read: NONE) during my writing sessions, it got so bad I would need an intermediate position of excruciating pain each time I went from standing to sitting. Truly. And after just a week of serious, fully dressed-in-exercise-clothes-on-a-yoga-mat-self-administered-and-completely free massages, I’m as good as new. The link is to a series of moves to get you started. To get more, check out YouTube.

If you have delicate skin, you can use a tennis ball instead, it may avoid you some bruising. And if you’ve had back surgery, then I would check with a doctor before starting any new routine.

So here is a little mid-week gift from me to you, because it is true that we are sometimes the least kind to ourselves, in the struggle to make those around us more content.

Bookmark and Share

Life Advice #1: Dance Like No One’s Watching. Seriously.

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

I’ve discovered I really don’t like exercise much. I mean, I can enjoy a long leisurely run by the ocean, or lift a few weights in the company of cute men, in a gym, but I get bored easily. And boredom is the greatest enemy of any workout routine.

But give me a good song and I can play it back-to-back while grooving to it for hours. So my biggest life advice — starting here, starting now — is that true old timey cliche, “dance like no one’s watching.” It’s true, it works, it burns calories, and very simply, works you out without any side effects. Oh, wait, there is a side effect… You’ll enjoy life more, your spirit will be lifted. Guaranteed.

So, here are a few tunes that would do nicely, to warm up… Just don’t get stuck watching the videos, please.

Tous le mêmes by Stromae

Bailando by Enrique Iglesias ft. Sean Paul, Descemer Bueno, Gente De Zona

Bookmark and Share

My Own Six Fave Arab Films of All Times

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

So I read a wonderful list on The Guardian and could not leave it at that. It’s inspiring to find more films and more to love and so I added my own voice to the conversation, on the Huffington Post. Here is a teaser of two, but you’ll have to read the whole piece to see the rest and why…

While I deeply admire filmmaker Omar al-Qattan, for obvious professional reasons but also for putting together his short guide of must-watch movies from the past 50 years of Arab cinema, I must also respectfully disagree with his list of “The 10 Best Arab Films,” published this past Saturday in The Guardian. As someone who believes, perhaps misguidedly but never quietly, in the healing power of cinema and the ability of filmmakers to help bridge the divide, I could not imagine any list of Arab cinema that does not include these six modern masters: Hany Abu-Assad, Yousry Nasrallah, Annemarie Jacir, Nadine Labaki, Haifaa al-Mansour and Ziad Doueiri.

It is in this vein, slightly irreverent to those poetic works of olden days, but also looking at what I like to call “cinema with a conscience” — where you might actually leave the plush, dark comfort of your theater seat a bit enlightened, a whole lot inspired but also craving to be a better person — that I created my own, albeit it shorter list. In absolutely no particular order.

CARAMEL (Lebanon/France, 2007)
Nadine Labaki

Labaki’s film was my in. I’m a relative newcomer to the magical world of cinema from MENA, having been brought up on a mixture of Woody Allen, the works of Fellini and Visconti, all sprinkled with a bit of Lina Wertmüller, and Caramel got me hooked from the first frame. It’s sensual, full of life and each time I watch it, it makes me proud to be a woman. It’s also the reason I yearned to travel to Beirut, and once I got there, I could see Labaki’s lushly constructed characters at every turn. I may be a romantic, but it’s a must watch for anyone who has yet to discover the beauty of Lebanese cinema. And its people. Labaki’s follow up, Where Do We Go Now? is also a greatly entertaining lesson in peace.

OMAR (Palestine, 2013)
Hany Abu-Assad

All right, I’m cheating a bit, because most could not have watched Abu-Assad’s masterpiece yet. It just premiered in Cannes and it’s releasing in France at the beginning of October. Hardly a convenient trip to your local multiplex. But I include it here, because Omar is complex, shocking and absolutely gorgeous to watch and I’m positive it will be featured in my top tens for as long as I’m allowed to make lists. While waiting for Omar‘s release, catch up with Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now which should be on any movie-lover’s list of must-see.

Read about the remaining films on the Huffington Post

Bookmark and Share

Little Zizou on Hulu in the US

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

2013-04-29-1975_54811792513_2767620_n.jpg Sooni Taraporevala’s film Little Zizou — which can be watched for free these days on Hulu — always makes me yearn for my first true love: Bombay. Because Little Zizou represents the perfect template of the city known to outsiders as Mumbai but beloved by insiders forever as Bombay, the craziest, most chaotically beautiful place on earth, the one single spot that invades my senses and dreams even as I write this, lands away and miles apart.

While it is ideal for cinema to transport its audience to other worlds, it’s not often that a film manages to do it quite as well as Little Zizou.

The story is wonderfully simple: Xerxes (played by Jahan Bativala), or “Little Zizou,” is a young boy who prays to his late mother to send his soccer idol Zinedine Zidane on a visit to Bombay. His elder brother Art (Imaad Shah, who is also featured in Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist) is a prolific cartoonist, a romantic with a fantastic imagination and a group of friends determined to achieve the nearly-impossible, while the boys’ father Khodaiji (played by Sohrab Ardeshir) is a religious leader of sorts, with prophetic aspirations and a flair for the dramatic. Because of Khodaiji’s fanatical convictions, the boys spend most of their time at the home of their father’s archrival, Boman Presswala (a treat for lovers of Indian cinema as he’s played by Boman Irani, a beloved star), a principled newspaper man with a loving, kind wife Roxanne (played by Zenobia Shroff) and two girls. While Art pines for the elder one, the younger Liana (Iyanah Bativala) resents the presence of Xerxes, who is tended to with care and attention by her mom. It is a modern fairy tale, with a story as old as love itself.

Little Zizou does tell a story that is unmistakably woven into the tightly knit Parsi community to which Taraporevala herself belongs, but this film is also about any child with a deep sense of longing for his mother, any teenager trying to grow up in a world where dreams are difficult to hold on to, any woman who has enough love in her heart to spread to more than her biological children and any man who believes that the freedom of speaking the truth is worth fighting for, at any cost. Far from ever preaching or teaching, Taraporevala manages to infuse the film with humor and charming inside jokes, like the newspaper headline at the beginning of the film declaring “The Namesake wins Oscar for Best Film!”

Yes, because while Little Zizou is Sooni Taraporevala’s directorial debut, she is best known as the screenwriter of such Mira Nair hits as Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala as well as adapting Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake for the big screen.

Ever since sitting in the audience for the unforgettable film’s premiere in 2008, I’ve come to spend quite a bit of time with Taraporevala and her wonderful family. Turns out the Taraporevalas and Bativalas (both Jahan and Iyanah, who play the central characters in the film, are the filmmaker’s children in real life) are even more fantastically brilliant than the characters of Little Zizou, but watching the film comes in a close second.

For a great interview with Sooni Taraporevala, check out the full piece on The Huffington Post.

Bookmark and Share

Accentuate the Positive: Watch Great Films Like Zaytoun

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

I remember growing up being taught that good girls didn’t talk trash behind their friend’s back and that a potty mouth was the exclusive domain of the sellers at the central market, or the ladies of the night. Of course, I had no experience with the latter, at five and living in Florence, Italy and always seemed to show up at the market when it was meeker grandma’s turn to sell the veggies. But I took my elders’ word for it, and kept my life negative-free in my idyllic younger days.

These days it’s a whole different story. As soon as I get together with a dear girlfriend or catch up with a co-worker, it’s always a who-gets-it-out-first fest of gossip, recounting bad behavior and just all around plain verbal attacks on others we know. Or celebrities we think we know. Why is that? When did we become “those” women?

In the last week, since the horrific attack on the U.S. Ambassador in Libya, and now word of that stupid cartoon in a French newspaper, I’ve been haunted by that question. Why is that? Why would bad behavior always get the press, get the most attention and manage to affect the world (for the worst of course). This while great, positive acts of everyday kindness are sometimes ridiculed as “weakness” and human stories on the big screen struggle to find distribution and even an audience. An ex used to say, often “Bad press is better than no press at all” but these days it’s more like “Bad press is better than any good press, any day.” Sad.

In the midst of all this, I was glad that my piece on Eran Riklis’ Zaytoun at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival was published a bit late on HuffPost. I managed to sneak into the queue right before it was posted and edit in a few words that referred to the unrest around the Arab world, all because of a grossly irresponsible YouTube video. If as many people watched Zaytoun as those who watched — or pretended to have watched — this amateurish short film, we would today live in a slightly better world, instead of a scarier one… And yet, the media pounces on the anger, ignites more fear and disgust, squeezes every possible story out of it, distributors are probably falling all over themselves to get in touch with the idiotic producer of said film, while great artwork with a positive message still struggles. Thankfully, not Zaytoun, call it the little olive of a film that could (the title of the film is the Arabic word for olive). Runner up at TIFF for Audience Choice Award, it’s been picked up for distributions in many countries already and, mark my words, will make headways come Oscar time. Just saying…

So, find out more about this gem of a movie, by reading my own kind of “review” of Zaytoun on the Huffington Post, and this lovely interview with filmmaker Eran Riklis, also just published on the HuffPo. N-joy!

Top image from the set of Zaytoun: Stephen Dorff and Abdallah El Akal, by Eitan Riklis, courtesy of Touchwood PR

Bookmark and Share

Films as Choices that Change Our Lives

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

What movie did you watch this weekend?

I bet that although you were dismayed by the violence displayed by one criminal mind during one particular screening of The Dark Knight in Aurora, you still managed to sneak in a showing of the film… Unfortunately, no matter how much we try, it’s a lot harder to be cultural than it is to catch the kind of thoughtless entertainment those Hollywood blockbusters so easily offer. I’m guilty myself, not for the “Batman” series which does not interest me one slight bit, but I do love the whole crassness of The Hangover and found myself discussing the details of the film with a new friend just days ago.

Yet ultimately, we are what we eat, as the old saying goes, but also what we watch, read, discuss and wear. We talk the big talk about recycling and eating green, and then we throw our cans in the garbage because it’s faster, and we eat at McDonalds because it’s, well, there. When we are hungry.

We do the same with our culture. We don’t want to be left out of the pop-discussions, so we watch films we know we’ll be able to joke about and talk over with our friends. We read the newspapers that are considered intellectual in our circle, even if they are that old, tired New York Times which is always at least a day behind the hipper blogs. We do things for convenience, for the easiest results, instead of thinking how every move, every moment, every step of our lives means so much and creates such a momentous ripple effect.

I’m far from having it all down packed. Every day, I learn a bit more on how to be authentic, how to create an organic sense of rightfulness in my life (note to self: use “organic” a whole lot less for that to happen!) and I’ve started with the movies I watch. While I will still watch that odd romcom from time to time, I am substituting it more and more with real life inspirational stories and the kind of cinema that is slowly but surely changing the world.

So, this Sunday night, pick up your best friend, your lover, your Mom and take them to see the Korean documentary Planet of Snail, at Film Forum in NYC. Or put Oscar winner A Separation on your Netflix queue and while you wait for it, watch The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 on Netflix. Those choices, just by the sheer act of watching them, will change your life.

Let our knowledge allow us to never repeat the mistakes of the past. Insh’allah.

Top image courtesy of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival

Bookmark and Share

The Lady — Aung San Suu Kyi — Speaks

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

This speech was 21 years in the making. It was long overdue but also greatly anticipated. As we say in Italian “Meglio tardi che mai” — “Better late than never”. I salute you, The Lady. May I even hope to be a hundreth of the woman you have proven yourself to be.

Here is the full transcript of Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace prize lecture, from June 16th, 2012.

“Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Dear Friends,

Long years ago, sometimes it seems many lives ago, I was at Oxford listening to the radio programme Desert Island Discs with my young son Alexander. It was a well-known programme (for all I know it still continues) on which famous people from all walks of life were invited to talk about the eight discs, the one book beside the bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, and the one luxury item they would wish to have with them were they to be marooned on a desert island. At the end of the programme, which we had both enjoyed, Alexander asked me if I thought I might ever be invited to speak on Desert Island Discs. “Why not?” I responded lightly. Since he knew that in general only celebrities took part in the programme he proceeded to ask, with genuine interest, for what reason I thought I might be invited. I considered this for a moment and then answered: “Perhaps because I’d have won the Nobel Prize for literature,” and we both laughed. The prospect seemed pleasant but hardly probable.

(I cannot now remember why I gave that answer, perhaps because I had recently read a book by a Nobel Laureate or perhaps because the Desert Island celebrity of that day had been a famous writer.)

In 1989, when my late husband Michael Aris came to see me during my first term of house arrest, he told me that a friend, John Finnis, had nominated me for the Nobel Peace Prize. This time also I laughed. For an instant Michael looked amazed, then he realized why I was amused. The Nobel Peace Prize? A pleasant prospect, but quite improbable! So how did I feel when I was actually awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace? The question has been put to me many times and this is surely the most appropriate occasion on which to examine what the Nobel Prize means to me and what peace means to me.

As I have said repeatedly in many an interview, I heard the news that I had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on the radio one evening. It did not altogether come as a surprise because I had been mentioned as one of the frontrunners for the prize in a number of broadcasts during the previous week. While drafting this lecture, I have tried very hard to remember what my immediate reaction to the announcement of the award had been. I think, I can no longer be sure, it was something like: “Oh, so they’ve decided to give it to me.” It did not seem quite real because in a sense I did not feel myself to be quite real at that time.

Often during my days of house arrest it felt as though I were no longer a part of the real world. There was the house which was my world, there was the world of others who also were not free but who were together in prison as a community, and there was the world of the free; each was a different planet pursuing its own separate course in an indifferent universe. What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. This did not happen instantly, of course, but as the days and months went by and news of reactions to the award came over the airwaves, I began to understand the significance of the Nobel Prize. It had made me real once again; it had drawn me back into the wider human community. And what was more important, the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. We were not going to be forgotten.

To be forgotten. The French say that to part is to die a little. To be forgotten too is to die a little. It is to lose some of the links that anchor us to the rest of humanity. When I met Burmese migrant workers and refugees during my recent visit to Thailand, many cried out: “Don’t forget us!” They meant: “don’t forget our plight, don’t forget to do what you can to help us, don’t forget we also belong to your world.”

When the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to me they were recognizing that the oppressed and the isolated in Burma were also a part of the world, they were recognizing the oneness of humanity. So for me receiving the Nobel Peace Prize means personally extending my concerns for democracy and human rights beyond national borders. The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart.

The Burmese concept of peace can be explained as the happiness arising from the cessation of factors that militate against the harmonious and the wholesome. The word nyein-chan translates literally as the beneficial coolness that comes when a fire is extinguished. Fires of suffering and strife are raging around the world. In my own country, hostilities have not ceased in the far north; to the west, communal violence resulting in arson and murder were taking place just several days before I started out on the journey that has brought me here today. News of atrocities in other reaches of the earth abound.

Reports of hunger, disease, displacement, joblessness, poverty, injustice, discrimination, prejudice, bigotry; these are our daily fare. Everywhere there are negative forces eating away at the foundations of peace. Everywhere can be found thoughtless dissipation of material and human resources that are necessary for the conservation of harmony and happiness in our world.

The First World War represented a terrifying waste of youth and potential, a cruel squandering of the positive forces of our planet. The poetry of that era has a special significance for me because I first read it at a time when I was the same age as many of those young men who had to face the prospect of withering before they had barely blossomed. A young American fighting with the French Foreign Legion wrote before he was killed in action in 1916 that he would meet his death: “at some disputed barricade;” “on some scarred slope of battered hill;” “at midnight in some flaming town.” Youth and love and life perishing forever in senseless attempts to capture nameless, unremembered places. And for what? Nearly a century on, we have yet to find a satisfactory answer.

Are we not still guilty, if to a less violent degree, of recklessness, of improvidence with regard to our future and our humanity? War is not the only arena where peace is done to death. Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.

A positive aspect of living in isolation was that I had ample time in which to ruminate over the meaning of words and precepts that I had known and accepted all my life. As a Buddhist, I had heard about dukha, generally translated as suffering, since I was a small child. Almost on a daily basis elderly, and sometimes not so elderly, people around me would murmur “dukha, dukha” when they suffered from aches and pains or when they met with some small, annoying mishaps.

However, it was only during my years of house arrest that I got around to investigating the nature of the six great dukha. These are: to be conceived, to age, to sicken, to die, to be parted from those one loves, to be forced to live in propinquity with those one does not love. I examined each of the six great sufferings, not in a religious context but in the context of our ordinary, everyday lives.

If suffering were an unavoidable part of our existence, we should try to alleviate it as far as possible in practical, earthly ways. I mulled over the effectiveness of ante- and post-natal programmes and mother and childcare; of adequate facilities for the aging population; of comprehensive health services; of compassionate nursing and hospices. I was particularly intrigued by the last two kinds of suffering: to be parted from those one loves and to be forced to live in propinquity with those one does not love.

What experiences might our Lord Buddha have undergone in his own life that he had included these two states among the great sufferings? I thought of prisoners and refugees, of migrant workers and victims of human trafficking, of that great mass of the uprooted of the earth who have been torn away from their homes, parted from families and friends, forced to live out their lives among strangers who are not always welcoming.

We are fortunate to be living in an age when social welfare and humanitarian assistance are recognized not only as desirable but necessary. I am fortunate to be living in an age when the fate of prisoners of conscience anywhere has become the concern of peoples everywhere, an age when democracy and human rights are widely, even if not universally, accepted as the birthright of all.

How often during my years under house arrest have I drawn strength from my favourite passages in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

……. disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspirations of the common people,…it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law…

If I am asked why I am fighting for human rights in Burma the above passages will provide the answer. If I am asked why I am fighting for democracy in Burma, it is because I believe that democratic institutions and practices are necessary for the guarantee of human rights.

Over the past year there have been signs that the endeavours of those who believe in democracy and human rights are beginning to bear fruit in Burma. There have been changes in a positive direction; steps towards democratization have been taken. If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith.

Without faith in the future, without the conviction that democratic values and fundamental human rights are not only necessary but possible for our society, our movement could not have been sustained throughout the destroying years.

Some of our warriors fell at their post, some deserted us, but a dedicated core remained strong and committed. At times when I think of the years that have passed, I am amazed that so many remained staunch under the most trying circumstances. Their faith in our cause is not blind; it is based on a clear-eyed assessment of their own powers of endurance and a profound respect for the aspirations of our people.

It is because of recent changes in my country that I am with you today; and these changes have come about because of you and other lovers of freedom and justice who contributed towards a global awareness of our situation. Before continuing to speak of my country, may I speak out for our prisoners of conscience. There still remain such prisoners in Burma. It is to be feared that because the best known detainees have been released, the remainder, the unknown ones, will be forgotten. I am standing here because I was once a prisoner of conscience.

As you look at me and listen to me, please remember the often repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is one too many. Those who have not yet been freed, those who have not yet been given access to the benefits of justice in my country number much more than one. Please remember them and do whatever is possible to effect their earliest, unconditional release.

Burma is a country of many ethnic nationalities and faith in its future can be founded only on a true spirit of union. Since we achieved independence in 1948, there never has been a time when we could claim the whole country was at peace. We have not been able to develop the trust and understanding necessary to remove causes of conflict. Hopes were raised by ceasefires that were maintained from the early 1990s until 2010 when these broke down over the course of a few months. One unconsidered move can be enough to remove long-standing ceasefires.

In recent months, negotiations between the government and ethnic nationality forces have been making progress. We hope that ceasefire agreements will lead to political settlements founded on the aspirations of the peoples, and the spirit of union.

My party, the National League for Democracy, and I stand ready and willing to play any role in the process of national reconciliation. The reform measures that were put into motion by President U Thein Sein’s government can be sustained only with the intelligent cooperation of all internal forces: the military, our ethnic nationalities, political parties, the media, civil society organizations, the business community and, most important of all, the general public.

We can say that reform is effective only if the lives of the people are improved and in this regard, the international community has a vital role to play. Development and humanitarian aid, bi-lateral agreements and investments should be coordinated and calibrated to ensure that these will promote social, political and economic growth that is balanced and sustainable. The potential of our country is enormous. This should be nurtured and developed to create not just a more prosperous but also a more harmonious, democratic society where our people can live in peace, security and freedom.

The peace of our world is indivisible. As long as negative forces are getting the better of positive forces anywhere, we are all at risk. It may be questioned whether all negative forces could ever be removed. The simple answer is: “No!” It is in human nature to contain both the positive and the negative. However, it is also within human capability to work to reinforce the positive and to minimize or neutralize the negative. Absolute peace in our world is an unattainable goal. But it is one towards which we must continue to journey, our eyes fixed on it as a traveller in a desert fixes his eyes on the one guiding star that will lead him to salvation.

Even if we do not achieve perfect peace on earth, because perfect peace is not of this earth, common endeavours to gain peace will unite individuals and nations in trust and friendship and help to make our human community safer and kinder.

I used the word ‘kinder’ after careful deliberation; I might say the careful deliberation of many years. Of the sweets of adversity, and let me say that these are not numerous, I have found the sweetest, the most precious of all, is the lesson I learnt on the value of kindness. Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world. To be kind is to respond with sensitivity and human warmth to the hopes and needs of others. Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of people.

Norway has shown exemplary kindness in providing a home for the displaced of the earth, offering sanctuary to those who have been cut loose from the moorings of security and freedom in their native lands.

There are refugees in all parts of the world. When I was at the Maela refugee camp in Thailand recently, I met dedicated people who were striving daily to make the lives of the inmates as free from hardship as possible. They spoke of their concern over ‘donor fatigue,’ which could also translate as ‘compassion fatigue.’ ‘Donor fatigue’ expresses itself precisely in the reduction of funding. ‘Compassion fatigue’ expresses itself less obviously in the reduction of concern. One is the consequence of the other. Can we afford to indulge in compassion fatigue? Is the cost of meeting the needs of refugees greater than the cost that would be consequent on turning an indifferent, if not a blind, eye on their suffering? I appeal to donors the world over to fulfill the needs of these people who are in search, often it must seem to them a vain search, of refuge.

At Maela, I had valuable discussions with Thai officials responsible for the administration of Tak province where this and several other camps are situated. They acquainted me with some of the more serious problems related to refugee camps: violation of forestry laws, illegal drug use, home brewed spirits, the problems of controlling malaria, tuberculosis, dengue fever and cholera. The concerns of the administration are as legitimate as the concerns of the refugees.

Host countries also deserve consideration and practical help in coping with the difficulties related to their responsibilities.

Ultimately our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace. Every thought, every word, and every action that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace. Each and every one of us is capable of making such a contribution. Let us join hands to try to create a peaceful world where we can sleep in security and wake in happiness.

The Nobel Committee concluded its statement of 14 October 1991 with the words: “In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize … to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honour this woman for her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means.” When I joined the democracy movement in Burma it never occurred to me that I might ever be the recipient of any prize or honour. The prize we were working for was a free, secure and just society where our people might be able to realize their full potential.

The honour lay in our endeavour. History had given us the opportunity to give of our best for a cause in which we believed. When the Nobel Committee chose to honour me, the road I had chosen of my own free will became a less lonely path to follow. For this I thank the Committee, the people of Norway and peoples all over the world whose support has strengthened my faith in the common quest for peace.

Thank you.”

Top image by Shepard Fairey, full transcript courtesy of

Bookmark and Share

Kanwal’s Healthy Corner: 30-Day Challenge – Week 2

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

By Kanwal Ullah

We are now into week two of the 30-day challenge. How are you all doing? In one week I’ve managed to work out on five days and take 30-minute walks on the two remaining. Each day I’ve also made a conscious effort to eat right. If I did wind up overdoing it on one, I took it easy the next day!

One of the most important things I do every morning is eat a healthy, balanced breakfast. Breakfast is what keeps me fueled throughout the day and is a necessity. This week, I want you to focus on still getting your 30 minutes of activity each day, but also eating a healthy breakfast.

The weather has been cold and this is when I crave a hot and hearty breakfast. Lately, I’ve been starting off my days with a big bowl of oatmeal with non-fat ricotta or cottage cheese stirred in, topped with sliced almonds and raisins. This one meal gives me everything I need: fiber from the oats, protein from the dairy, healthy fats from the almonds and antioxidants from the raisins. I also stir in some cinnamon for added flavor!

Remember, this week should be focused on eating a healthy breakfast and getting your 30 minutes of activity going! Keep it up, you’re doing great!!

Below are the details for my hearty oatmeal breakfast.


  • ½ cup of rolled oats, prepared with water, or 1 packet of plain, instant oatmeal, prepared with water
  • ¼ cup of non-fat ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 2TB. of slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup of raisins
  • Cinnamon (optional)


Once the oatmeal is prepared, stir in the cheese. Top with almonds, raisins and cinnamon.


Servings: 1; Calories: 435

FOLLOW KANWAL ON TWITTER, see her progress and tweet her yours in the 30-Day Challenge.

Top image courtesy of

Bookmark and Share

6 For the New Year

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

To those who are my Facebook friends, well you already know there will be no resolutions made this year. Even if the Babylonians invented them… Personally, I’ve done away with the past and look forward to the future and that’s plenty of resolve for me.

But lets try out a couple of New Year’s traditions from around the world on for size and good luck. A little bit of luck can’t ever hurt, can it?!

From Scotland: It is considered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the new year is rung in. I say, come on in Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome! My door is always open for you… And even just Dark & Handsome can apply. I’m not picky.

From Japan: At midnight on Dec. 31, Buddhist temples strike their gongs 108 times, in a effort to expel 108 types of human weakness. New Year’s day itself is a day of joy and no work is to be done. I will perhaps change this around, and ring a small bell, since my neighbors might not enjoy the full gong experience. But I’m all for no work to be done!

From Spain: The Spanish ritual on New Year’s eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight. The tradition is meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year. Hum… does a glass of red wine count as twelve grapes. I think so, that’s what I’ll do.

From the Netherlands: The Dutch burn bonfires of Christmas trees in the street. I knew I was keeping mine around for something, am definitely lighting mine here on the streets of NYC and timing how long till the cute firemen get here. Maybe I should light it in the backyard, which would actually kill (pardon the unfortunate pun) two birds with one stone — Bonfire and Handsome Man — CHECK!

From Greece: St. Basil’s cakes are baked with a gold or silver coin right inside. Whoever gets the coin in their slice will be especially lucky in the coming year. What if I stuff a few coins inside mini cupcakes and hand each of my guests one personally lucky cake? More luck, more fun and THAT’s the spirit of 2012!

From Italy: Eating lentils on New Year’s Day is meant to bring money all year, which is why my brunch menu includes lentil soup, lentil pancakes and a lentil sandwich… But seriously, even in the Southern US peas are eaten to bring good stuff all year long, so eating a few legumes can’t hurt, right?!

May 2012 bring you everything you wish for and more and may you never forget to stop by The Ajnabee for a bit of fun, films and food.

Image courtesy of Google

Bookmark and Share

A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree = Perfection!

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

I love Christmas and the holiday just isn’t the same if I can’t decorate a tree. But these days, who has time to spend all of Christmas eve putting ornaments on a six foot fir, when my NYC apartment can look just as “festivus” with a little Charlie Brown tree and a few mini ornaments?!

So, I searched and searched around my ‘hood and was coming up with a lot of cute tree vendors but all quoting prices around $40 for a mini fir with stand. When I think small, I think diminutive budget as well.

Then I walked into Whole Foods this past Friday and found the perfect tree, on sale and absolutely divine at $19.99. It’s called a Table Top Fraser Fir Tree and for every tree cut down, the following year two trees are planted, so you are getting your green, saving your green and helping to plant more green. Winning!

But I imagine these trees won’t be around forever, so get yourself to a WF store near you and then pick up some decorating tips from Country Living, the kind folks responsible for the cute tree pictured above. N-joy!

Top image by Keith Scott Morton, courtesy of

Bookmark and Share