I tell stories

by Sameer Vasta

Snail mail boy living in an email world.

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March, Book Two

It is impossible to open a newspaper these days without some discussion about police shootings and the mistreatment of African Americans by law enforcement — and rightfully so. The spate of highly-publicized, hotly-debated, and heartbreaking cases of police shootings that have dominated the news cycle over the past year have done a lot to highlight what has long been known by most people: law enforcement treats people very differently based on the color of their skin.

This is, perhaps, why John Lewis’ March series, telling the story of the American civil rights movement from the lunch-counter sit-ins to the Selma to Montgomery marches, is so poignant right now.

John Lewis is no stranger to anyone that knows the history of civil rights in America. The only living member of the “Big Six” and a key organizer of many of the acts of nonviolent protest that shaped the civil rights...

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The first of April.

When I was 16 years old, I applied to attend Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific for my last two years of high school. My cousin had attended the school a few years before that, and was effusive about how his time there was among the best two years of his life.

My interview to attend the school came shortly after my 17th birthday, and while I was nervous to walk into a boardroom in the financial district and face a barrage of questions from women and men in fancy clothes, I was also relatively calm: I had prepared well for this interview, and there wasn’t a single question they could ask me that would stump me.

I was wrong.

The interview had a “Canadiana” section, where each interviewee would have to answer a few basic questions about our country. Since Pearson College was an international school, students selected would act as ambassadors for their home country; a...

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Birds singing outside the window.

There are a group of people who believe the first day of spring is on March 20, and another group that think it’s the following day, the 21st. Growing up, I always in the latter camp, mostly because we celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year and the marker of the spring, on March 21st every year.

These days, it’s clear to see that the spring actually commences on the evening of the 20th; the 21st is the first full day of spring, so both camps of belief can rest comfortably knowing that they are correct, in some way.

Today is March 21, 2015, and I am about to head home to celebrate my thirty-third Nowruz with my family. I’ve missed many religious and community festivals and holidays because of my travels or because I have been living in other cities, but for some reason, I always find myself with family on the first day of spring. It is a celebration of abundance and renewal, so it...

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University classes, at both of the places I went to school, started at ten minutes past the hour. While the official schedules listed classes as 9-11am or 2-4pm, the official start time was always 9:10am or 2:10pm, rather than directly on the hour. The rationale behind this was that the ten minute buffer would allow students to leave their previous class and walk over to their next one without being late.

At a small university like Georgetown, walking across campus in ten minutes was mostly doable. At a sprawling, urban campus like that of the University of Toronto, you’d be lucky if you’d make it to your next class if you sprinted.

I was never in a rush to get to class at either school. Part of this was because I understood that the stress of rushing to class meant I wasn’t fully aware and engaged in those first few minutes anyways, but mostly it was because I made it a point to...

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A little more than sixteen years ago, I carved out a little spot on the web called Eloquation.com. It was a blog, of sorts, back before everyone knew what a blog was or could be; even I didn’t know the term at the time, so I called it my “collection of writing on the internet.”

I don’t remember much from that time, but there are two names that stick out: Anil Dash and Om Malik. (I’ll gush about Anil some other time, I promise.)

Om had started a portal for South Asians (DesiParty.com) a few years before I created my first blog, and by the time I carved out my own space on the web, he was also collecting an ever-growing list of South Asian bloggers (I think it was called DesiBlogs or something of the sort). I was listed on the site before I had ever met Om, and was immensely flattered: someone with whom I had never corresponded was actively interested in helping me build my little...

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Love Me Back

The sex scenes—there are many—in Love Me Back are not titilating. I am not sure what the opposite of titilating may be, but when Merritt Tierce writes about sex—there is never a description of “making love,” but instead simply of fucking in its most raw and visceral sense—we get a feeling of unease and discomfort rather than arousal.

This, perhaps, is Love Me Back ’s biggest success and flaw at the same time: we never feel quite comfortable throughout the entire novel, and we are left uneasy once we put it down.

I have never worked in the restaurant industry before, but like many other people who eat out on a (more often than healthy) regular basis, I have had dreams of what it would be like to own a restaurant, or at least manage the front of house. I have fleeting moments where I dream of leaving my life as I know it and working as a maître-d’ at an upscale dining establishment—I...

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I’m surrounded by overachievers. I have been ever since I was young; at first, it was because my parents ensured that I was spending time with other children who were demonstrating potential, and then it became a conscious choice of mine to surround myself by people who could inspire me and motivate me to be better than I was. I’ve always espoused the notion that it was never good to be the smartest person in the room, and that you are a reflection of the people who are closest to you. As such, it made sense that my circle of friends—even acquaintances and those I correspond sporadically, really—are people who are incredibly smart, driven, motivated, and accomplished.

The merits of such an approach were obvious to me growing up: healthy competition in high school encouraged me to pay more attention to my production, and having smart people around me in college encouraged me to devote...

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What’s making you happy this week?

This past Friday night, a few friends came over for a night of snacks and wine and laughter. We decided to theme our conversation around pop culture and things that we wanted to share with the rest of the group, an idea blatantly stolen from NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour.

Our get-together lasted about four times longer than a ‘happy hour’, so we all shared lots of really different and exciting things. Among the conversation included a discussion of whether or not Adnan was guilty (mixed reactions) and whether dogs are the animals with the perfect UX design (almost-unanimous yes). The bulk of the evening was spent talking about pieces of pop culture that were making us happy (or sad, angry, curious, etc.) this week/month/year.

Here’s a quick list of what we talked about, in case you were looking for new pieces of pop culture for the weeks ahead:

Movies, Television, and Theatre

  • The...

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I spent the evening before my thirty-third birthday at home, on my own, listening to some Charlie Parker and writing letters to friends. I do not write this to incite pity or sadness; the decision to stay home instead of meeting friends for an Oscar party was conscious on my part. Instead, I made a mushroom and green pepper pizza and finished the leftover ice cream in the freezer; I refilled my fountain pen with black ink (not purple, this time), lit the new candle that my dear friend Anna gave to me a few days before, and proceeded to write seven letters to my penpals, near and far.

The weekend prior to that Sunday night was spent eating delicious food and exploring Toronto culture with my aforementioned friend, Anna, who had come to visit for the weekend. L has been in Israel for the past couple of weeks, so Anna’s visit was a wonderful diversion on what would have likely been a...

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Twitter poetry.

There was an app that I used extensively a few years ago that allowed you craft and revise drafts for tweets. It was called Birdhouse, and it was an excellent drafting tool for those times you wanted to make sure you said the right thing, in the right way.

Podcast recommendations

It may seem strange to spend time, to go through multiple revisions, for a quick status update of 140 characters that may never get read. Truthfully, about 50% of the drafts I had in Birdhouse never actually got published. Like many other forms of writing, they were thrown out or built into the content of other tweets, or of other types of writing I would do. Birdhouse wasn’t just a way to draft tweets, but a way to capture fleeting ideas and then refine them into concise, powerful, short statements.

I tell myself that I stopped using Birdhouse because it stopped getting updated, but in reality, the reason for leaving it behind was...

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