letter to nigerian mother of abducted girl.

kidnapped nigerian girls

Photo taken in Luwero, Uganda with my Canon SLR: Sept. 2009

Dear Nigerian mother of abducted girl,

She is still your baby girl, even with her teenage long, lanky legs in her school uniform. I imagine you smiling that morning, grazing her cheek with your lips as you prepare breakfast for your family. Your husband makes you laugh, a private joke, and in the corner if your eye you see your baby girl say bye.

You finish your work fast that morning. The air is still without your daughter’s singing in your home. Your sons are already long gone to work. You go to bathe yourself, letting the water cleanse your body, the areas of roundness your children have brought to it.

As you get dressed, you hear your mother arrive. You know she is bringing the jackfruit your husband and daughter love from the main market.

Then, it’s all a blur.

You do not even remember where you were, what you were doing when you were informed.

I can feel your numbness. You could not breathe.

When you woke up, your husband was crying. Have you died? It feels as if you have left your body.

Your baby girl’s face floods your mind.

And I am flooded with your pain. I am a mother. I have a daughter. It is all I need to feel connected to you, to ache for you.

Is this a sick joke?

My stomach churns.

You want to tell me your thoughts though. There are moments of anger. There are moments of grief…of hope. The emotions are fleeting, but… the pain. The pain, you say, is just there. And it just kills your words.

Yesterday, it was Mother’s Day in the U.S. and although I should have felt like pampering myself and “taking the day off”, all I wanted to do fly on a plane and find you. Hold you and the other 275 mothers who have lost their daughters to the sickness of this toxic fundamentalism. Fight with you. Stand by you as we eradicate this poison. They say it was done in the name of Islam. Whatever they say, it’s just poison, and its the men in power, ones with greed driven egos who have created this poison in our world. It is not the deep rooted spiritual philosophy I have heard Islam can be. Or any religion.

But it doesn’t matter.  They said they will sell these girls. They say the girls should not be educated.

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mother goddess.

strong womanphoto taken in Langkawi, Malaysia, Sept. 2011


This poem is dedicated to all my fellow women, mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters, aunts and daughters that bring light and strength to our families, our communities, to the world.


Mother Goddess

by: Puja Shah

strong woman

inner divine

true feminine…

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a dosha’s balance.

you are what you eat

Photo taken with my Canon SLR: vegetable market in Malaysia, September 2011

Recently, my husband and I went through Panchakarma, an Ayurvedic therapy of eliminating toxins where after a strict diet and 5 different treatments (panch=five in Sanskrit), we were “cleansed”. While we did a shorter version, (the diet for 3 weeks and therapies for 1 week), I can feel the shift within my body. My treatments included abhyanga massage, shirodhara, navarikhizi, (all heavenly), and 2 types of oil enemas, basti, (not so heavenly).  I will say there were moments we got bored with the same spices or same vegetables, (it’s very strict). But it definitely felt good to my gut.

I was always pretty in tune with my body and ate healthy since youth, (my sister recalls how I never wanted soda with my pizza as a little kid, opting for tall glasses of water  instead and my husband jokes about how when he ordered a Jamaican beef patty at my college dining hall, I was ordering a large salad with extra kidney beans and broccoli on top). We have both of course evolved from our college days, but I attribute my most recent heightened awareness of flavors and energy lifting foods to this body purifying process we just underwent and also having a deeper understanding of my dosha, (vata). The dosha refers to the energies or life forces that combine the 5 basic elements each of us is born with, (space, air, fire, water, earth). There is Vata-space and air, Pitta-water and fire, and Kapha-water and earth. We all have all three, but your body type will always have one dominant one which controls how your body works.

What I loved about this specific cleanse was that Ayurveda is so in tune with the external environment. It’s about creating harmony between naure and delicate internal structure of our cells. Ayurveda believes that everything in the universe is connected, and good health is when your mind, body and spirit are in tune with the universe. I learned that it isn’t about just meditating, doing yoga, being raw more that not, juicing all the time, taking random superfood supplements every day or cutting out gluten and dairy. All those things are great to do, but I am learning to modify some of my old “healthy” patterns to fit in my new Ayurvedic lifestyle.

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let’s dance.


Photo taken with my Canon: Palm Springs, CA in April 2011


In the busy moments of our every day, as night falls and the moon dances in the sky, I was reminded that life’s moments and the presence of love, are what keep this song alive. A quote I once heard by the author Barbara D’Angelis, came to mind:

“The journey in between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life takes place.”  

 I wrote this poem before falling asleep last night. Remember to stop to dance today.

Let’s Dance

By: Puja Shah

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summer solstice haiku.

Photo taken with my iPhone (I edited): La Jolla Shores, CA
Summer Solstice was today- the relationship of our planet to our beloved sun. It was one of the two solstices, when the rays of the sun directly strike one of the two tropical latitude lines. June 21st marks the beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere and simultaneously heralds the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere. It’s a day of shifting energy, of opening and warmth. I taught a yoga class this morning to six 2 year old kids- all beaming with open hearts and dancing eyes. It was so sweet and inspired me to write this little haiku.
sun dance,
heart brings rays of truth,
shine pure.

blooming patience.

Photo taken with my iPhone, (I edited): Small local farm in Southern California during a private fundraiser with Jason Mraz

Recently, my daughter has been teething and going through a growth spurt so has decided that 11 pm , instead of 8 pm, is her new bedtime. While my husband and I have had a “good sleeper” on our hands for most her months, with this new bedtime behavior, she just wants to play and laugh the whole time, and has truly tested our patience. It seems that suddenly now, dishes don’t always get done after dinner, the work I had saved to type up or get done that night after she went to bed is waiting for me and when she gets up at her normal 5-6 am wake up call, I am not always at my peppiest, especially if I worked hours into the night.

Along with this new behavior, she has adopted a few other things, though…

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laugh, breathe, love, live.

Photo taken with my iPhone: Jericho, New York

There’s this simple saying I heard that always stuck with me.

“Laugh as much as you breathe, love as long as you live.”

I was surprised that it wasn’t said by the Dalai Lama or Gandhi or some great sort when I heard it. It was by Johnny Depp, (yes, I know, it makes him cuter) 😉

When I was snapping this picture, I remember hearing it in my mind… as Laila squealed, as my nani ba, Lila, took a breath and laughed with pure love as she held her.

Laila with Lila.

It was unbelievable to see them side by side this way. And the truth in those simple words, in the simplicity of my grandmother’s learned and daughter’s new eyes, both full of love and joy, reminded me how beautiful these breaths of life can be, every day. It’s about our perception, the way we see what these maya, these illusions, mean to us. It’s how we hold the loving visions, or don’t hold the unserved, in our hearts and eyes.

That through the cycle of these breaths, the beautiful, stormed, tainted, precious and dreamy…all of them, we can find real happiness.

We just have to breathe.

familiar travel song.

 Photo taken with my Nikon SLR. Ahmedabad, Gujarat: INDIA

I’ve been missing traveling. It’s been almost 18 months since I have been to another country, (besides the 2 hour plane ride for a weekend in Mexico for a friend’s vow renewal we went to last fall). I mean real travel. The exploration. Those who know me, know this is a long time. With a just reason of course, I was pregnant and then gave birth to my own love bug, rearing the travel bug in me to the side. But I’m itching again. Mommy hood has been good to me, and of course my daughter’s precious eyes, (she really does have the most unbelievable eyes), remind me that this part of the journey is a different kind of travel…to a place of unconditional love.

So I guess, the rest, well, it’s just a layover, a temporary stop in my exploration of culture, life and learning overseas. Yet at times, I still can’t help but to long to hear the song of travel, (over the sounds of Baby Einstein’s blue puppet that my daughter just goes ga-ga over).

The sounds of airports and unfamiliar tongue, the scents of a country’s comfort food sold by street vendors, the bold colors of it’s flag against the skies.

This photo is was taken on my travels to India in 2009, when I went with my mother and she led me through the neighborhoods of her childhood, turning corners and through narrow streets, recognized what was still and taking in what was new. To me, it was all new, and I stopped at anything to that made me feel something to snap my camera. Which felt like everything. In an odd way, it all was old familiar and new, even for me. I wrote this poem when I got back:

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