And then, before I knew it, it was September. I’ve always liked this time of year; I think in my mind I’ve always linked it to the start of the school year, which meant fresh notebooks, pens and opportunities. The anticipation of new classes, the excitement of new subjects, the good intentions to this time really keep up with my reading. I loved the crispness of Autumn air, cycling home after a day of classes, looking forward to having tea with friends (yeah, I wasn’t the biggest party animal).

This time, for me, September meant a new job, complete with new colleagues, tasks and definitely opportunities. I’m looking forward to what this new school year will bring. That reminds me, I need a fresh notebook.

Silver lining.

With just a few minutes left before I officially won’t make my train, I decide against my trenchcoat and put on my leather jacket. I believe the only thought running through my mind to support the decision goes something along the lines of “fuck it”. Apparently I become quite eloquent when I’m in a hurry.

I’m almost at the train station when it starts pouring down. Of course. Within a few seconds I’m wet to the bone.

I can’t help but smile. And then I laugh, out loud. A man cycles by, and turns his head. He smiles and waves, and I wave back.

This is going to be a great day.


I got my first diary when I was ten years old. It was a birthday gift from a distant relative, and I loved the coloured pages and the little lock and key it came with. It felt exhilarating to have a private place to write down my thoughts. You see, privacy wasn’t a given in our family. To my parents, “privacy” was a place where secrets were kept and scandals were born, so you can imagine their reluctance to bestow it on their soon-to-be-teenage-daughter.

The first couple pages of the diary have been torn out. It took me a while before I realised that what I would write in there wouldn’t be seen by anyone but me. I could let go of writing neatly, or composing correct sentences—not that I was that eager to let go of my acquired knowledge of grammar, but the fact that there was no pressure to write novel-worthy sentences was very refreshing, keeping in mind that at ten years old, I had already decided I was going to be a very successful published writer. Most of my diaries are filled with stream-of-conciousness like prose, hard to understand out of context. I wrote to complain, to lament, to process, figure things out, and to celebrate. Writing down my biggest fears made them smaller somehow; writing down my dreams made them achievable. Luckily it took me months to figure out how easy it was to pick the lock. By then I’d already gotten used to writing freely, and more comfortable doing so.

Writing a blog fulfils a different need altogether. Since it’s hardly private, I have to mind my grammar. And though I’m not aiming for novel-worthy sentences, I do try to at least write with an audience in mind. In that way, it is not very private, and yet in some ways it feels like it is. It’s like I’m attending a busy party, whispering my thoughts into a dark corner. In theory, everyone present could hear me if they wanted to, but in practice only the ones I drag into the corner with me are part of the conversation. So, I guess I should thank you for listening. I hope you’ll stick around :)

First kiss.

I take a look at myself in the mirror. New black dress. Old sneakers. I apply a little lipstick, take a deep breath, and go up the staircase. My friend calls me over. “Hey Kyren! I love this song!” It’s her 15th birthday party, and I don’t know how she managed it, but her parents are not home to supervise. We’re in the attic, where she’s created a make-shift bar on her father’s desk. Passoa. Canei. Beers. Some bowls with crisps. She’s standing in a small crowd in the middle of the room, swaying to TLC’s ‘Creep’, a beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other. I wonder how she looks so comfortable, always, in every situation, whereas I usually feel like I’m performing in some kind of play, making up the lines as I go, desperately wishing I could’ve taken a peek at the script.

"You’re not drinking?" I turn around and there he is. We’ve been cycling to school together for a few weeks now, chatting about our teachers, classmates, homework; nothing too deep or uncomfortable. Of course that hasn’t stopped me from having a crush on him. He smiles at me, his green eyes a little bloodshot, tells me I look pretty, and takes my hand. My friend looks at us from across the room, grins, and starts moving towards us through the crowd. "Come on!" she shouts in my ear when she’s close enough. She grabs both our hands and drags us away from the group teenagers gyrating to "Freak like me", and shoves us both into a little room. "Have fun!" she shouts, and she slams the door shut.

We stay quiet for a moment as we listen to her stumble away, yelling to our friends that she’s locked us in. “Oh man,” I say, the Indian girl in me panicking a little, “People are going to talk about this in the morning”. “Well,” he answers, and only now do I notice his speech slurring a little, “let’s give them something to talk about then.” And before I can fully appreciate the smoothness of that line, his lips touch mine, and my head is spinning with the realisation that this is a moment I’ll remember forever; the song in the background, the warm breeze carrying a faint scent of lavender coming in from the open window, his hands holding my face.

When we come out of the room, the party is still in full swing. I dance, talk and laugh with my friends, dutifully giving them a detailed report. It’s not until later that night, curled up in a sleepingbag in my friend’s bedroom, that I confess to her that I feel al ittle lost. “It’s just a kiss,” she says sleepily, “no big deal.” Again I wonder who gave her the script, leaving her perfectly at ease with her life, but also a little underwhelmed by it all. I close my eyes, inhaling the lavender breeze, secretly happy that I have no idea what’s coming next, and drift off to sleep.


I notice his book first. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Hardcover. There’s a padded envelope that looks like it fits his book neatly on the seat next to him. He is so engrossed by the story that he doesn’t notice me studying his face, trying to figure out what he is thinking while reading the final pages of his book.

He turns to the last page. I can see his eyes moving rapidly from sentence to sentence. There is something very intimate about watching someone finishing a novel. I know common courtesy would have me look the other way; give him some space while he reads the final paragraphs of his book. But for some reason I can’t look away. Not because he is handsome, which he is, or because I’m curious about the book, which I am, but because I realize I have never witnessed it before.

And there it is. He sighs, closes the book, and rests his head against the seat. Then he opens it again, takes the bookmark out and places it between the cover and the last page. He blinks a couple of times, and removes his glasses to rub his eyes. It’s like watching him wake up from a deep sleep. Even though I would very much like to, I’m hesitant to ask him what he thought of the novel, whether he would recommend it. But then he looks straight at me, and smiles. Best recommendation ever.


Every year on my father’s birthday, my mother would give him a bouquet of red roses. I know, it sounds a bit untraditional, especially for a Surinamese/Indian couple, but she took it very seriously, and ordered them from our local flower shop a few days in advance, so they would be there in time. A rose for every year of his age, and a white one for luck: a gesture that became increasingly expensive—and harder to carry—every year. One time, they came in large black plastic vase, almost a bucket, and since it was the perfect height for the long-stemmed roses, she re-used it every year since then.

There are dozens of pictures of my father posing with these roses. Seated on a wooden chair, or kneeling down between several bouquets. “Come Kyren, take a picture!” he’d say, “so we’ll remember them even when they’re gone!”

We remember, Dad. I’ll bring by some roses today.

Happy birthday.


(I wrote this for a writing class at Uni, quite some years ago. I stumbled upon it while sorting some old documents on my laptop, and thought it’d be nice to post it here. Hope you enjoy it!)

The fan on the ceiling is still turning slowly, pushing hot air around the room. The air conditioning stopped a few minutes ago. Power cut. They usually last a few hours. From my bed I can see the tall, leafy tree in front of my window. Its flowers are an almost unnatural pink, as if the colours outside are slightly out of tune. Flies buzz in through the holes in the fly screen. Unable to find their way back, they fly around my room. My thoughts wander—though as slow as syrup—to my other home. Images of rows and rows of bicycles, yellow trains and bare trees come to the surface as night falls in New Delhi.

For my parents, home is still Surinam. Their families travelled from some rural district in India to settle down in a country far away from their own. My parents did the same, but went from Surinam to the Netherlands. When they talk about their childhood, they talk about Surinam. Nostalgia for their youth is triggered by the smell of rain in the summer, mangoes and Hindi film music. I never understood this until I moved away from the Netherlands, my home since birth. Suddenly, parcels from Holland became little treasure chests, containing not only the love of relatives and friends far away, but treats like liquorice and peanut butter (only Calvé, of course).

Though I was born and raised in the Netherlands, I never forgot that I was foreign. That’s a bit hard when people ask where I’m from at every opportunity—some have even used it as a pick up line. When I say: “I’m from the Netherlands”, they tend to ask me (laughing, as though I just made a hilarious joke): “No, for real, where’re you from?” I’ve lectured a lot of people about migration this way, some quick in their understanding (“Surinam… that’s where Gullit’s from, right?”), others still in the dark (“But, you don’t look Surinamese!”)

So, when I got the chance to spend some time in India, I grabbed the opportunity. I would complete the circle; go to the country my grandparents came from; India, from the place where my parents went some thirty years ago: the Netherlands. I felt like I was going back to my roots, to a place where I would feel at home. At first, the sight of so many things so familiar—music, food and people—made me believe I was right. So there I was, waiting for this great, big feeling of coming home. But, living between people that looked like me, and had, to some extent, the same habits, that feeling didn’t come. I couldn’t relate to the giggling girls I saw in the markets, dressed in traditional Indian clothes. They often didn’t speak English very well, rocking their heads from side to side at everything I said.

The trendy high society girls of Indian nightlife didn’t so much as glance at me. The conversations they had with each other were a lot more entertaining though: “But Sila, all your sunglasses are Gucci, why didn’t you get something a bit more classy, like Chanel?” “I know, but these will go so well with my Armani handbag!”

I felt different, and like in the Netherlands, I had to explain where I was from again and again. Not because I looked foreign, but because my ideas and behaviour were. I talked about sex during an English literature lecture, wore a bikini in the pool and I didn’t wax my arms. People questioned my accent: “No, no, I know where you’re from, Russia! No? Iran? America?” I did start to love India, but as a new and strange country, not as a long lost home.

An old saying goes that home is where the heart is. I know my parents could never live in Surinam now, though they might have left their hearts there. The Surinam they remember is a country long gone; like the Netherlands of thirty years ago. For them, it is the country where they became adults. I used to listen to their stories about it impatiently and slightly bored. I couldn’t imagine the thrill when the local grocery shop started to sell salted Surinamese fish. Or the need to receive Indian films through a dish antenna. I had to go all the way to India to understand how these things ease the pain of being away from home.


"It’s like a library in here" my friend whispers. She’s right. It’s very quiet. Even though it’s raining outside, there are only two other people in the cafe. But without the usual sounds of people talking or the clatter of dishes and scraping of chairs, it doesn’t feel like a cafe at all. I take another sip of my mint tea. Fresh sprigs. In hot water. Hugely overpriced. I did get a small container with honey, and I’m trying to get my money’s worth by spooning every last drop into my tea. The girl sitting behind me is typing an email on her laptop. For a while her fingertips on the keyboard are the only thing we hear. "Okay," I say. "Let’s go." I leave half of my tea. Too sweet. Outside, we plunk down on a bench, giggling out of relief to be out of the stuffy cafe. My friend lights up a cigarette. She just bought a new pack. She offers me one. She always does, and I always say no. A group of eighteen-year-old girls walks by. Army jackets, converse, tights and short denim skirts. They’re carrying shopping bags and laughing at a story one of them is telling. "Remember when we were students?" I say. "The possibilities seemed endless." As soon as I say it I hear how corny it sounds, and I look at my friend expecting her to burst out laughing. But she takes a drag from her cigarette and nods. "Yeah." she says. "Without a care in the world." We sit for a while in silence, watching the girls make plans for the night and say their goodbyes. They have been gone for a while when we finally get up.


“What do you do when something bad happens?” He pauses, and looks around the room. There are eleven of us, seated on yoga mats. “You make up a story,” he continues, smiling forgivingly. “You don’t just observe that what just happened. You create a story that keeps you from feeling the moment. And you become restless. People create narratives to let things make sense to them. But it keeps them from finding stillness. From finding peace.” I let it sink in for a second. Just when I’m about to ask why that is a bad thing, he stands up as a sign that the lesson is starting.

As I’m trying to balance, stretch and bend like he is demonstrating so effortlessly, I keep thinking about making up stories. I do make up stories, yes. I’m probably somewhat addicted to them. Not lies, mind you. But I love the free association process that can start with me seeing a girl holding a red bag and end with kangaroos. I love public transport, as it gives me a chance to just sit there and make up stories about the people around me, and then see where those stories take me before my stop. Surely this is not what he means? How can you be more in the moment than that?

He clears his throat before he starts speaking again. “How did it go?” he asks, looking around the group. We’re all seated again, cradling cups of herbal tea. At first I found this ritual a bit unnerving, but now I actually enjoy this moment to just unwind at the end of a yoga lesson just before we dive into a few minutes of meditation. “Did you manage to stay out of stories? Did you, when you couldn’t bend as far as your neighbour immediately think, ‘hey, she hasn’t been doing this that long, how come she’s better than me already, I’m so stiff, I’ll never get the hang of this?’ Did you create a story like that for what you saw?” Some people murmur in agreement. And I have to admit the thought has also crossed my mind. “What would happen if you would just observe? Without any judgement or harsh thoughts towards yourself?” Wait. So this is what he means. Not stories so much as assumptions, insecurities and negativity. But why call them stories? How can the antonym of inner peace be story telling?

I raise my hand to say something. He smiles the encouraging smile of a patient man. I’ve been a silent participant for most lessons, so I start off a bit hesitant. “But,” I say, “not all stories are bad, right? I mean, they’re not all negative?” It’s the best I can do in that moment, voicing my tumultuous thought process. “No,” he answers. “But to shut out the negative ones, you have to become aware of the fact you’re making up stories in the first place.” I nod. That sounds reasonable. In the next few minutes, I close my eyes and try to find silence within myself. But all I find are questions about the man sitting in front of the group. Isn’t he my age? How did he get himself so together? Why does he speak like an old man? Does he have a girlfriend? Does he ever lose his patience? And before I know it I’ve dreamily imagined his life, from his Surya Namaste in the morning till his chamomile tea in the evening. When I open my eyes again the lesson is nearing its end. People are starting to get up and roll up their mats. He looks in my direction. “And, how did it go? Did you manage to stay out of stories?” This time it’s my turn to smile. He takes it as a yes. As he should.

Dear Dad,

I still miss you so much. I miss talking to you about my day. I miss you when my son asks for “pani” or “roti”. He reminds me of you too. The way he eats his food. Savouring every bite. I miss you now that the Turkish shop has the good plums again. You bought them for me when I was pregnant. Half of them were overripe because you had to select them by touch.

You would’ve loved meeting up at the petting zoo, showing your grandson the chickens, cows and pigs. The pigs are his favourite. He imitates them really well.

There are so many conversations dead-ended in my head.

When my bicycle got stolen a few weeks ago, I really wanted to tell you. It was your bike after all, and I felt so guilty I got it stolen. Somehow I thought it would never be taken, nothing would happen to it ever. Sorry I didn’t lock it better. I remember when we bought it; you needed handbrakes because they would make it easier on your knees. I’m so sad that I can’t really remember you cycling, even though we used to go cycling when I was a child. You taught me how to fix a tire and discover leaky valves with spit. I thought it was gross but it works. You would’ve loved going to bike shops with me. Asking the salesmen about the best bike they had, letting them go on and on about it, and then telling them it was too expensive. You would’ve gotten me a great discount.

So there are little every day things I miss talking about. And the bigger, life question things. I’m trying my best to deal with it all, but the truth is, I sometimes still feel stuck. And I know that you couldn’t have done anything about that, and that your expectations of me were sometimes too high. But I miss your rock-solid belief in me. That I’ll be all right.

Happy birthday, Dad.