Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014.

I remember saying last year that 2013 had been the most difficult and challenging year till then. That still holds true. In consequence perhaps, 2014 was the year of recklessness. This year I really did what I wanted to without giving it ‘logical’ thought. I played with fire, sometimes wearing hand gloves. I realized that being brave does not mean NOT being scared. This year was full of fears and insecurities, but I learned to move along.

In 2012, I had traveled a lot, mostly due to work, but 2014 travel was a lot of adventure. I had spent the new year’s eve of 2014 in Muscat with my sister and her family. Also celebrated her birthday. A few months after that, I went to Rishikesh for white water rafting. Then there was the elaborate Rajasthan trip with my mom. And later in the year, the magnum opus, my solo Europe trip.

I took a lot of chances in 2014 (following through the inertia of 2013). Some risks paid, some didn’t. Some made me feel great, some made me feel stupid. 

Apart from travelling, I also read a lot. I had resolved to read 36 books in 2014 i.e. 3 books in a month. The first quarter of the year was good. But it was this book that broke my momentum – it was so good, I took a whole month to finish it, and then couldn’t pick up another one for quite some time. At the end of the year, my score is 29 books – the maximum I have ever read in a year. I am a slow reader, I like to pause and ponder and lick on the words as I move along. Speed is not my thing I have realized. 

I have still not completed watching Game of Thrones! But there were many other TV shows that I watched this year and enjoyed thoroughly. I recommend True Detective and Fargo. Masters of Sex was also good, but it would have been better if the protagonist was a hottie :P 

I lost a lot of weight this year. Lot as in, it is at least visible enough to be noticed by others. But come December, I think everything is getting piled on :( I have also stopped going for my regular walks. This winter, I hate!

Did I mention that I got promoted again this year? So I am a Manager and all that now. 

The theme music of my life this year was the Original Sound Track of the movie Begin Again. The movie is great too.

The color of this year was Yellow. Last few years had been Green. I never thought I was a Green or a Yellow person. I was always Blue, and Purple maybe. But this year was Yellow. The bright sunshine yellow. 

Now each year feels like a new person, a stranger I meet who makes me look at different things, and same things differently. In the process it leaves a part of itself, a whiff, a droplet, a fume, that changes the chemistry of what I am. Can’t wait for 2015 to begin.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday sunshine


I was inspired to write this after reading Sakshi’s post on the winter sun. Her thoughts probed me and took me back to those days of abandon, soaking in the December sun as I sat on the terrace lined with pots of marigold flowers.

I remember those folding cots that droop from the center like a hammock on overuse. Sprawled on a new tightly knotted cot with my back towards the sun, hair wet from the late shower (because mom said no lunch until I take a bath) and a small rectangular book of Mental Math under my shadow as I bend down to work on those sums . . . Mental Math and sun’s warm embrace would put me to sleep, before I could have lunch. I miss those days, now when I dig into that memory box. Smell of naphthalene balls, colorful balls of wool for a new sweater (and how sweater designs would be copied and discussed at length by the aunties), practicing Christmas carols in school, wearing blazers to school, playing pranks by switching on the fan, cracking groundnuts and having them with a pinch of rock salt, the pseudo smoking by blowing in the air, blinding fog and the car headlights . . . Winter has a lot of childhood memories.

I had not realized I missed the childhood winter till I did it again today – bask in the sun. I dragged a mattress to my living room near the balcony which was filled with sunshine. Shivering only slightly from the hot shower, I sat with my back towards the sun and took out the bag of groundnuts. I was as happy as that ten year old kid on the folding cot. If only the ten year old me knew that that was happiness, right there that moment when I was sulking about Mental Math.

After eating those groundnuts, I started reading a book that was delivered the previous day (oh the joy!), slowly stretching my legs and beginning to lie down. The sun felt great on my back pain (ha! The perils of growing up), my hair had begun to dry in parts as I ruffled them up, and I was just about to fall into a sweet siesta when my mom called up. I was reminded that I had to go grocery shopping and then make lunch. My childhood reverie broke right then, as I realized that THIS moment also will not come ever again. Right then my only worry was about cooking my next meal (leaving aside the existential conundrums :P). A few years down the line, I would long for a moment like this – an idle Saturday under the sun with a book.

I don’t want to grow up.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The right thing.

As a child you are taught to ‘do the right thing’. Be honest. Don’t fight. Respect people. Work hard. In Hindu mythology, consider Mahabharata here, Krishna spoke about Dharma and Karma. But honestly, I think, He manipulates and twists the truth to suit his convenience and get what He wants. People, very fondly, like to call it Krishna’s leela. Who decides what the right thing to do is? Can there ever be a right thing without having opposite consequences? Can you ever be sure that you are in fact on the right side, and that it is not counterproductive in another space and time?

I truly pity and sympathize with Arjuna. He really wanted to do the right thing. His intentions and conscience were clear. But Krishna is a manipulator, he is a politician with a very warped sense of Right and Wrong. 

From the life I have lived so far, with all the rights and wrongs, I really think that there is no such thing as ‘doing the right thing’. Nothing is right and nothing is wrong. What may seem right at the moment, may lead to extremely devastating things later on. And what may seem wrong, let’s go back to Mahabharata where Krishna tells Arjuna that war is the right thing to do (because it is ‘meant to be’ and Arjuna is merely a puppet in the bigger scheme of things…and that he should only do his duty and leave everything else to providence), may turn out to be the right thing in fact.

For the record, I think Arjuna was right and Krishna was wrong – especially in today’s context. I cannot expect a ‘divine intervention’ in my life, I don’t know what God’s will is and so all I can really do is what seems right at that moment. That is the best shot life has given us. We cannot try to predict our future and try to make the right choices – because NOTHING ever works out as planned. Life and the world has a way of surprising us when we least expect it. And as long as our conscience is clear – which I think is more important than following someone’s definition of right and wrong – we should be able to live with it.

Edited to add:
Did you know that after the war got over and Pandavas ruled the dynasty for several years. . .they all went to Hell? And the Kauravas who lost the battle, went to Heaven? And that Krishna was also cursed because of his misdemeanor during the war?

This whole idea of doing the right thing and getting brownie points of Karma makes no sense whatsoever! At the end of the day, you have only one life to live - no point in thinking about what is good or bad.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Respect.


Respect.

I have heard people say that they want to be respected for who they are. But I choose to differ. I have come to realize that respect is never gained by being who you are – affectionate, sincere or conscientious. . .these and many other such attributes alone won’t get you respect. Respect is something you gain with your actions. Respect is strongly correlated to results, whether we like it or not.

In our culture we are misled in our understanding of ‘respect’. We have been taught to respect people irrespective of whether they are worthy of it – so respect your parents, respect your elders, your teachers, respect people with more experience. . .basically just because you were born before me, I have to respect you. That makes no sense to me.

Respect also is linked with a person’s self esteem. So if I am well-respected, I have a high self esteem. If I am not respected, I feel insecure. But in a world that is running like the wind, how can I expect to get respect just for being who I am. Respect is a jewel that is not easy to find. Respect needs to be earned. It needs to be gained. It is not served to you in a shiny platter.

I have learned it the hard way. But that is what makes respect taste so sweet. If you get it easily, you would neither value it nor enjoy it. I have struggled through various circumstances where I have been looked down upon or made fun of – in the beginning – mostly for being ‘new’. The new student, the new recruit, the new colleague, the new manager. What you have done in the past – your education, your experience – does not matter. You have to start from scratch and earn your respect when you enter a new world.

And the same applies in relationships. When I ask married people, what is it that they expect from their partner – one of the top five answers is Respect. Everyone wants to be treated with dignity. But to expect that you’ll be respected for who you are, is wrong. Respect, just like trust, needs to be gained. And you need to work for it. 

When I started working for the first time, I was just another new recruit and nobody took me seriously. It was gradually when the client started appreciating my little pieces of work, that my workplace also changed their opinion about me. Recently in my current job, where I am much younger than what someone at my position should be, my client would act cocky . . .always asking for a ‘senior’s’ involvement. It was really amusing how his behavior changed overnight (he saying sorry for not taking my call, he cracking jokes, asking and clarifying doubts…) after he saw my work. 

In personal life, recently, I have seen people’s attitude change when they come to know that I traveled solo around Europe. Not like I did it to impress anybody. But a little thing like that changes how people perceive you. So now someone (much senior to me) says how he wishes his teenage daughter grows up to become a ‘bold lady’ like me. Or someone (dean of my college) invites me over for lunch to discuss work agenda – whatever that means. Or someone (who I really admire) says – I see so much of my younger self in you. Even in the countries where I traveled solo – the kind of reaction I got from some people when they came to know that I was doing it all by myself, or people’s reaction when I tell them that I planned the whole thing without anybody’s help, was overwhelming.

You need to test yourself, put yourself through challenges, come out of them tactfully, express yourself, steer your life. . .SHOW the world what you are. Then you will get respect. Don’t expect the world to respect you for just existing.

Why do we respect our parents? Because we know how much they have sacrificed and worked towards making our lives comfortable. If my mother did not care about me or advise me when I am down or take care of me when I am sick – would I have respected her as much as I do now? I would have still respected her, sure, because she is my mom. But it is through her actions that she has gained my love, trust and respect. I have cousins who wish they had a mom like mine, who wish to emulate and be a home maker like her, or ask their wives to learn from her. How did that happen? It takes efforts. 

Does that make me selfish? That I will respect you only if you do something? Here it is important to note that I would still respect someone who cannot do anything for me. That’s not the point here. There is always a dignified way of treating people, I am not denying that at all. 

The point is that respect needs to be earned. What you do to earn that respect shapes you as a person. What you become in the process of earning that respect builds your self esteem, and you feel respected. And THAT is important.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The October that I will remember forever :)

Oh..we are almost half way through October and I have not posted anything on this blog. I had decided (again..one of those resolutions) that this year I will write on my blog at least once every month. It has not been difficult so far : )

Well, I am in Europe. 

Yea, that sentence needed a separate paragraph. Haha. I am in Rome, to be precise. And I have already covered 6 cities and 3 countries in last 10 days. I am on my last leg of the trip. One more destination, three more days and then back to India. Thoughts of going back to REAL life are already messing up my euphoria of travelling.

But what a trip it has been so far! I had created a separate blog to capture my experience but unfortunately I have not been able to post much there. Walking around, seeing so many things, tons of thoughts floating in my mind. . .I really need time to gather everything together so that I make sense when I write :P Right now everything is a mishmash in my head. 

I have an early morning flight tomorrow. And my room is a wreck. I have to pack. Also I have to figure out maps and stuff for tomorrow's destination, and plan the day. 

This Euro trip was an experiment. . .with no set objectives. But plenty of inferences. And observations. Brace yourself for a LOT of posts in coming weeks :D

Ta! Hope everything is good on your side.

Leaving you guys with a picture of my favourite city in Europe :)



S

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

S turns 26 *big smile*

Keeping up with the tradition of birthday posts, here is the one for this year. People usually are busy partying or doing whatever rocks their boat on their birthday, how do I get the time to write every birthday? I wonder. I remember saying on my 23rd Birthday that I am waiting for my 27th Birthday – that it feels like I would be a “sorted” strong independent woman by then. I am stepping onto that 27th year now. And I am not sure how close I am to that whim of being sorted. But one thing I can say with absolute certainty – I am the BEST version of myself at this very moment.

I don’t understand why people associate being alone with being sad. This birthday was the most lonesome birthday I have ever had, but I was not sad for even one moment. I think my loneliest birthday was my 23rd Birthday and I was surrounded by tons of people. Well, irony.

Last year I turned 25, my parents had come over and it was a sweet family celebration. My parents wanted to throw a small party but I asked them not to. I would rather celebrate my day with the two people who mean the most to me in this world, than with a bunch of strangers who are border line acquaintances and friends. And who wants to take the stress of socializing with plastic smiles on one’s birthday? Plus the responsibility of hosting a party. Not me.

Today my parents couldn’t be with me and they were sad about it. They had their own societal/moral duties and responsibilities entangling them. And I completely respect that. Indian parents are usually very protective and pamper (read spoil) their kids a lot. While in western countries, one waits to leave their parents’ house – in India parents would feed you, shelter you as long as they possibly can. I am sure none of my non-Indian friends can fathom how a ‘joint-family’ works in India wherein all brothers, their wives, their children would live under one roof – the roof built by their dad!

So there was a lot of pitying around me for the fact that I was all alone on my birthday. People could not believe that I didn’t have a ‘plan’ for my birthday. My parents were distressed that they couldn’t make it. And I was absolutely fine. Is that weird?

I am someone who really gets excited for birthdays – it’s a day you celebrate YOU – maybe that’s why people thought I would be sad. But I don’t need someone else to celebrate myself. I can do that very well :) I am the only person who knows what I like the best! Nothing can go wrong there. So I bought myself gifts, I bought myself a bottle of wine (some fancy wine glasses to go along with that!), I played my favourite music – and I was as happy as a pig in shit (maybe bad analogy…hehe)

One thing I have learned as I turn 26 is that you cannot depend on someone else for your happiness. I have always been the kind who needs a push – I usually underestimate myself just coz I am extremely critical of myself (and others :P). And I tend(ed) to depend on others for my happiness. And I realized that was a recipe of a disaster. One ping from a ‘favourite’ person could make or break my day. How unhealthy is that? As children we are spoiled by our parents for all our needs and wishes – they bend their backs to see a smile on our face.  

I am happy today. And I owe it to myself. Isn’t that a proud happy feeling? Perhaps that was the final lesson I had to learn about being independent. I think it is very important to enjoy your company and know what makes you happy. When you wait for someone else to do things to make you happy, make you feel special, you are going to be disappointed. Been there, done that!

The only thing that didn’t happen to me this birthday (and has not happened for many birthdays) is a surprise. I have never got a surprise on my birthday (oh there was one time- when my mum told me that the city they were moving to was the one I was living in at that time :) Sweet poignant moment I remember. Surprises need not be 'things'). I am not easily surprised, thanks to my hyperactive imagination :P Now you get me a cake on my birthday and expect me to be surprised? Haha. Yea but if you flew down from another country to be there with me at midnight (I have done that for my sister once!) - that's a memorable surprise :)

Coming to gifts, I got myself a new phone, a pretty dress, a funky coffee mug and cushion cover for office use, couple of books that I always wanted to read, a decal wall art, also I made a cute pen and stuff holder. . .and the biggest and the most ambitious personal project of my life, the trip to Europe. It is turning out to be quite expensive :P Exactly one month away!

So far so good. I wonder what 27 holds for me and if I would really feel ‘wise’ at 27 – one year from now.

Cheers,
S

P.S: Here are the previous parts of the Birthday series -
How S turned 23

P.P.S: This is the 150th post of this blog.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Am I Naïve? (Movie review: Highway)


This movie was released earlier this year but I got the chance to watch it only now. It is an emotional ride and there were some thoughts that had been lurking around in my head for quite some time and resonated instantly while watching the movie. This movie is about a girl who has been kidnapped (unintentionally) by a man and they are on the road – passing through deserts, farms, hills, valleys, streams, snow – running away from police. The girl, away from the fake bling of city life, loves the ‘highway’ and the journey. She does not want to go back home, she does not want the journey to end. She falls in love with the kidnapper. Watch the movie to know what happens in the end. Visually it was a delight to watch this movie - Indian landscape(s) at its best!

What this girl goes through is a classic psychological case of Stockholm Syndrome. I have always found this idea fascinating and wanted to write about it. Watching Highway today pushed me to finally do that. Stockholm Syndrome is a subconscious phenomenon where a hostage/victim develops positive, loving, sympathetic and/or empathetic feelings towards its perpetrator. It is an act of defense mechanism perhaps, a way of coping with the trauma.

Would you call a person naïve for falling in love with someone who is perceivably dangerous and wrong for her? A lot of people remain in a relationship not knowing what they are doing. They may not be happy, their needs may not get fulfilled but they stay. . .trapped and ensnared in that relationship. The world calls it love. Someone once called me naïve to which I took offense. I am smart, intelligent, logical, thinking person, I am not naïve. I rolled my eyes. But if you knew you were naïve then you wouldn’t be naïve. That thought somehow stayed with me.

The lead actors, Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda, have given fantastic performances. Veera, the hostage, hates the city life – the fake mask that you have to put on to be social, to impress people, to do things in the ‘right’ way, to be nice to others. She has not seen much of the world, she is indeed naïve but of what she has seen, she does not want to be a part of it. She wants to run away. Somewhere in the movie she says – I don’t want to return to where you got me from, I don’t want to reach where you are taking me, I just want this journey to go on and the road to not end.

But can you escape life?

I am reminded of a quote from Breakfast at Tiffany’s –
“You call yourself a free spirit, a "wild thing," and you're terrified somebody's gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you're already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it's not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It's wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.”


There is no running away then :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Travelling to Europe *Yayyyyyy*

Picture courtesy: http://rincme.in/
Heylo!

Writing that blog title brought a huge smile on my face :) So yes I am planning to travel to Europe. What makes it special (apart from the fact that it's Europe) is that I will be going alone. ~cough~ yes a solo traveller, that's what I am going to be for 15 days across 4 countries and 5 cities.

To capture this travel, I have created a new blog. Why not continue writing on this blog? Who wants to keep up with another blog? Well yes, I did toy with the idea of using this space for penning my adventure. But in future I may want to share my travel story with people in my real life, with whom I don't want to share my personal space of To Blog, With Love. I don't love them as much as I love you guys, you know :)

So all those who want to know all about my travel, story of a young Indian solo traveller walking across the cobbled roads of Europe - hop on to my new blog.

*drum rolls* I present to you

I realized that on this backpacker's trip I won't be able to afford any other souvenir except a fridge magnet and a post card :) But a lot of pictures and a lot of memories.

I am not going to ignore To Blog, With Love, I promise :)

Edited to add:
I have changed the name of my travel blog :) Just like that. Now it is called Stories on the Map.
www.stories-on-the-map.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Don't stop those tears

Today I read an article that touched a very sensitive, though healed, wound deep inside me. It took me back to that time when I was 21 years old – my first tryst in a professional environment. It was a 3 month internship with one of the leading Advertising houses in Bangalore. I had great fun during those 3 months. There were a lot of challenges but it was all very exciting. I loved going back to office on Mondays. I was the starry eyed girl curious about everything, hungry to learn and work. My biggest goal during that internship was to convert that into a job so that I don’t have to depend on my college for a placement.

At the end of the internship, my boss (the branch head) wrote a letter of appreciation for me which had mentions of all the projects I had completed during my time there. And a few lines about my personality. In that he had written something like S is blah blah blah (good things) though needs to show enthusiasm at work. That last line was like a sword through my 21 year old heart. I did not understand what that was supposed to mean. Enthusiasm? I worked so much, more than any other intern that time. How could he say that I lacked enthusiasm – when I was the one running around getting things done, asking questions, curious to learn everything I could lay my hands on. I was severely heartbroken with that letter. This not only meant that my internship would not lead to a job, but also the letter was a stinker for future job prospects. I must have read that letter a thousand times and decided that I needed to talk about it to my boss – at least to understand what he meant by freakin’ enthusiasm. 

So I went to his cabin and asked and in the process shed big dollops of tears and put my palms on my face and CRIED. Now when I think back to that moment, I smile at my naivety. But that time it was a moment of ‘crisis’ : ) What my boss meant to say was that I need to ‘display’ my enthusiasm more. The important word there was ‘display’ and how that enthusiasm needs to come alive to infect others too. Now I was not that person who is animated around others; three months was definitely not enough for me to break the walls around my space. At least not that time. After seeing me cry, he edited that line to make it clearer. Haha. And I must point out that he did hire me after I completed my course :)

The article that I read today was about crying at your workplace – whether it is taboo or a sign of strength. And that made me think. I am prone to crying, yes, mostly happy tears. I don’t cry sad tears at the drop of a hat, but I do feel a wave of emotions (it literally feels like a huge wave) for something I feel very strongly about. For example in the story I just narrated, getting a job and becoming financially independent was an urgent need of the hour.

After that particular incident, being ashamed of crying at a ‘professional’ environment, I decided never to cry again like a child. I was after all, the young-independent-working professional I always wanted to be. But the first six months of my work were absolutely horrible. I had the worst team, the worst client and the worst boss in the whole world. And that taught me a lot. Those six months were like three years of work experience – every day a trial, every day a disappointment and the struggle to deal with all of that. I would be on the verge of tears and then ‘display’ my armor of strength pretending to be strong. There were days I would run to the washroom to vent out, to shed those tears, wash my face and come back on the battle ground. 

Every day I wanted to quit but there was a thriving force, a voice that did not want to give up. It was a hell of a shocker (pun completely intended) after studying for 5 years. I couldn’t believe that the place of my dreams was that. My self esteem was torn to pieces and stomped over ruthlessly. But as dramatic it may sound, I came out of that crisis, reborn like a phoenix. Things took a turn and became splendid – great client, great team, great boss, lot of good work, appreciation, recognition and fun.

Tears have made me ashamed of myself at one instance and also acted as a source of strength at another time. I don’t think tears are for losers. What you do after shedding those tears is what matters.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What makes you sane? (Book review: The Illicit Happiness of Other People)


Isn’t that a fascinating name for a book? What kind of happiness would be illicit? Another book I have been reading is called Too Much Happiness – it is a collection of short stories by the famous Canadian writer, Alice Munro. Can there be such a thing as ‘too much’ happiness? Is happiness ever enough? It could be overwhelming, yes. But never too much I think :) I want more happiness! Give me more!

Coming back to Illicit Happines. . .It is a novel written by Manu Joseph. This is his second novel; the first one called Serious Men, was a huge success and got him some awards. I have not read it yet. But today I will be talking about The Illicit Happiness of Other People. This is one of those rare books that I finished reading in a jiffy; usually I take a good week or ten days to finish a book – but this one was like eating an ice-cream, gulping down once spoonful after another, savoring every sensation.

This novel is based in late 80’s, early 90’s in Madras. It is a story of a 17 year old boy, Unni Chacko, who commits suicide. He seemed like a ‘happy’ person but he kills himself by jumping from the terrace. And nobody knows why. His father starts a journey, 3 years later, to find out about his son and understand what could have led him to do what he did. There was no suicide note; only clue left behind is in the comics and cartoons drawn by Unni. He was a cartoonist – a surrealistic cartoonist I must add. It is the story of Chacko family – a drunkard father, a schizophrenic mother, a son who killed himself, and another who lives under the shadow of his dead brother. It is a tragic story that talks a lot of philosophy and psychology, but you can’t just miss the humour in it. Manu tells the story so beautifully, with the right amount of mystery, intrigue and dollops of funny one-liners – mostly funny, candid observations of how things are. I don’t remember the last time I laughed while reading a book. Unni is one fascinating character, and so is his brother, Thoma. Both the kids have very interesting ways of looking at the world. Unni’s perspective is well, philosophical..metaphysical, witty, but Thoma is plain adorable – the stupid little kid.

The book goes on to talk about what sane and insane really mean. The delusions of the world, the folly of two. If everyone in the world believes in what is not really true, does it become true? What constitutes madness and how is it different from being enlightened?

It made me think about what freedom really means. The true form of freedom where nothing holds you back, you say what’s on your mind and do what your heart desires. . . will be considered insanity in the real world. The truth about insanity is that it is the truth, and the world does not want to see and accept the truth in all its clarity. The world moulds you in such a way that you stop looking at the truth and consider that ‘normal’. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dragons!

I have never liked McDonalds Happy Meal. In fact, I am not very fond of McDonalds. There is exactly ONE thing I like there – their McChicken burger. I have eaten at McDonalds a lot of times and finally have come to the conclusion that I don’t like it. All their burgers are annoyingly Indian – they put all these Indian chutneys in all the burgers, except in McChicken. That is the only burger which has mayonnaise in it and none of the orange and green chutneys. Yes, I know their menu that well. I was their frequent customer at one point of time. But never had I ever bought their happy meal. I never liked the toys. I thought it was a stupid scam for kids.

And then I saw their recent toys. DRAGONS. From the movie How to train your dragon 2. I saw a few of them at a friend’s place. And it got me really excited. The dragons are super cool! I decided to indulge. At this moment, reader, it must be noted that I am trying to live a ‘healthy’ lifestyle right now and staying away from burgers and pizzas – I have them once in a while but try to avoid them. Now when I do decide to have a burger, I won’t waste it on a McDonalds burger when there are so many other good places to eat. Anyway I digress. So. The toys.

Next weekend when I went for grocery shopping, I decided I will get a happy meal and then I won’t have to bother myself with cooking and that could be my dinner. But before I could do grocery shopping, I spent a lot of money buying clothes. Yes, it was not part of the plan. It just happened :P Now with those bags of *expensive* clothes in my hands, I decided I didn’t want a McDonalds burger and what’s the big deal about toys!

This week I had a lot of work. On Tuesday evening, my boss piled up a lot more work on my head which had to be completed by night. There was no way I could go home and cook and eat and then work. So I told myself – this is the right opportunity to have that happy meal. A lot less guilt. It made total sense. McDonalds is right next to my house. So that day on my way back home from office, I stopped by McDonalds. Generally I hate going there, coz there are so many kids all the time. But that day I was happy about my first Happy Meal. 

I stood in the queue and placed my order – got an Iced tea instead of soda (health health – although iced tea turned out to be ultra sweet!). And then, after I paid the bill and got my burger, they gave me my toy. I was horrified; that guy handed me some pathetic Frisbee!! There I stood, carrying a laptop bag on my shoulders, wearing very formal "adult" clothes, looking at him with a shocked face. First thing I said, quite sulking-ly was – “I don’t want this toy, I want a dragon!” As soon as I heard myself I realized the hilarity of the scene, but I was too angry to let it go. So there were kids all around me and there were people behind me in the queue and I decided to put my foot down over the toy. I was like the angry Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones who was furious when she lost her dragons. I lost my dragon even before getting. And then the guy called his manager. I told him that I don’t want the happy meal if I don’t get a dragon – that’s the toy I am supposed to get (and no one can take away my right!! :P). He listened to me carefully and said that’s the only toy they have in stock. I was irritated beyond all measures. I felt cheated. Those 145 rupees over that stupid burger and Iced tea. The manager then assured me that new toys will arrive on Friday and I can get the toy exchanged after that. I felt a little better but I was not completely satisfied – you know people say such things to kids to keep them quiet, and nothing ever happens. I wanted to ask him to give it to me in WRITING that he will exchange my toy! But I shut myself up. I told him I was buying the happy meal only because of the toy. He looked quite unruffled, not bothered. He must be used to kids throwing tantrums in McDonalds.

So I came back home with an annoyed face and ate that burger. And finished my work. The sight of that Frisbee was boiling my blood. But I had to keep it safe so that I could exchange it.

TODAY- Saturday. I went to McDonalds again to get it exchanged. I was apprehensive; what if they don’t exchange it and don’t believe me story? When I went there I couldn’t see the guy I had spoken to that day – the one who had assured me that I could get the toy exchanged. I went to the counter. I told him that I wanted to exchange my toy. The manager was called again. It was some other man. I narrated the whole story to him. “So you want a new toy?”, he politely asked. I nodded. I am not sure if I did the puppy eyes, I don’t think I did. I was trying not to embarrass myself as much as possible. He came out after 15 minutes carrying two toys – not the ones I had seen at my friend's place. I asked him if those were the only two kinds he had. He said yes and I asked him again whether he was sure and he said yes again. I gave him a big smile, it crawled in quite suddenly, and I took one of the toys and gave that Frisbee back.


I think my dragon is pretty cool! You want to see? :) :) :)


The dragon throws out that thing from his mouth if you press a button :)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The 2 AM friend

I grew up as a loner. I would be in complete denial if I said that I did not have too many friends because I changed cities and schools ever so often. From 7th grade to 11th grade, I was in a different school every year (By 7th grade I had changed 3 schools already!). That could have influenced me in two ways – either I could have had a lot of friends, meeting so many new people every few months or I could have had no friends, moving along before forging friendships. Neither of the two things happened. I was stuck in a limbo.

I did not make A LOT of friends. But I did make a few. Select few that could not blossom… or withered in course of time. Everything said and done, I at least have had a great experience in writing letters to my friends. If you have grown up with the same friends all your life, I am sure you don’t write them a letter (a birthday card maybe). I miss those letters. I am not from the 140 characters of today’s Twitter generation. I am an old soul, I believe in writing letters, long letters. (Unfortunately, nobody writes a letter anymore, email is the best you could get, if not a whatsapp ‘hi’.)

The long letters, even if they were platonic, gave me a lot of joy. And the anticipation of receiving a letter. . . It seems like a different era now. It never stayed the same. The letters stopped and we went back to being strangers. Now I have a lot of those stranger-friends on my facebook. They are my friends from that era. I don’t know how they have changed over the years, in fact I can’t recall a single conversation I’ve had with them. They were my first friends. I met such a friend recently after 12 years. We were 13 when we had become friends. I had studied for half an year in the school we went together. And now we met again at 25. We had kept in touch off and on through facebook.

Talking about old things, most of which I could not remember. Looking at the buildings, shops, roads that I had last seen 12 years ago. Catching up on all the years that had flown between us. An adult sleep over, lying next to her in the bed talking with the lights off, confiding, chiding, laughing and finally dozing off. I was surprised at the ease with which she filled in all the space between us, while I didn’t know where to start. I think the start was me informing her that I will be in her city on that day. I have changed so much over the years that ANYBODY I meet from my past would be taken aback; it could be like becoming friends with a new person. She was not shocked; she had too much to tell me about her life.

Deep down I am still the same, I know. Especially when it comes to friendships. Maybe I am less intimidating now than I was before. I still have a tough time making friends. I am not a gang-of-friends kind of a person. I have been a part of that kind of friendships, and I find it very exhausting. It leaves me with no space to breathe. I love watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S and Sex and the City – and everything seems great! But I just can’t do it. Another kind of friendship is the room-mate kind. I think I can handle that better. Also it depends a lot on the room-mate. I have had 11 room-mates in my life so far. I am in touch with only 3 of them.

I am very territorial about my space I think. From time to time, I need to cave in, shut the world out. Not everyone can accept and deal with that. I have been accused (not by my room-mates) of talking only when I want to. They don’t understand that the ‘talk’ when I am in one of those I-am-not-in-this-world moods will be much worse.

I also find it extremely difficult to be friends with people my age. All my friends, with very few exceptions, are older than me. I just CAN’T get along with younger people. And I can’t begin to explain why.

In one of my favourite movies of all times, Before Sunset, the girl says – “I guess when you're young, you just believe there'll be many people with whom you'll connect. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.”

I connect with very very few people. I can count in my fingers, the people I really like talking to, whose names I see in my chat messenger list and feel great. We don’t even have to talk every day, but just seeing them on the messenger makes me glad. Knowing they are there.

I have friends with whom I can chill on the weekend, watch a movie with, meet them when I am in their city or they happen to be in my city, I have friends whose weddings I attend, friends with whom I make travel plans, I have friends I cook for or go out eating with. . . but I am not sure if I connect with them. I am not sure if I am comfortable enough to tell them everything that is on my mind without the fear of being judged or stereotyped or that it could be used against me later or it would be made fun of behind me. I am a very insecure person with a lot of trust issues. Coz I have seen people doing it. I have seen alleged ‘best friends’ and ‘close friends’ go bitching about each other behind them. I detest this hypocrisy and politics of friendship.

I don’t have a 2 AM friend. But I am great friends with my sleep :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Keep pedaling

This was not the first time I went to Rishikesh. The trips before this followed the quintessential religious track of visiting the temples, the jhoolas and such. But this time it was different. And this time I really enjoyed Rishikesh. Too bad we didn’t have more time, or we could have also seen the Valley of flowers – not sure if it was a good season to visit though. I did white water rafting for the very first time, and I am sure I am going to do it again. SUPER fun.

We stayed in a guest house (the one for high officials in a government owned company) thanks to my dad’s “contacts”. It was nestled cozily in the mountains and the trees. It was tucked away from the traffic and hustle-bustle, and you could only hear birds chirping. The highlight of the trip, but of course, was the experience of rafting.

That's the view from my room in the guest house

Our raft didn’t have many people – it was only two of us, one Australian ‘daadi’ (that’s what they were calling her) and two little boys who were supposed to be our saviors. These boys asked us to stay in front and LEAD the raft, at his command. “When I say ‘forward’ start pedaling forward, when I say stop you must stop at once” – he was quite a master. And sitting right in front of the raft, maneuvering it almost independently (as compared to other rafts which had at least 10 people pedaling together). . .was quite a task.

The Australian lady had done it several times before and said, “Oh this is not adventure, this is very easy” – before we got into the raft. In her earlier rafts, there were a lot of young guys who did most of the pedaling while she enjoyed the experience. With us, when she had to really work out on the raft, and our raft almost toppled over – she experienced adventure :P

Yes, our raft almost toppled over. For that micro second, I thought I was going to fall, as I lost balance when the rapids came. As all the water came crashing on to me and the raft went up in the air, I felt my back swaying down towards the water. It was exciting. Next moment I was back, straightened up. In that moment of panic, I had stopped pedaling and the Australian woman sitting behind me kept shouting – ‘keep pedaling…keep pedaling’. I could sense the fear in her voice. We were completely drenched (I wear spectacles, by the way) and the white bubbling waves came thrashing us; we were bouncing in the air – I didn’t see any point in rowing . . .coz my paddle would not reach the water. It’s like pedaling in the air. And I did just that. Soon the rapids were over and we were back in the smooth waters. Everybody looked at each other and laughed. The master was visibly annoyed and threatened us to put more efforts.

Lesson learnt: Keep pedaling even if you feel it is pointless. In life, too. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How should you love? (Book review: The God of Small Things)

What is love, I ask myself? There have been a lot of love stories written on celluloid and paper. . .but all that is fiction. In real life what does love look like? I thought I knew what love was, I was perfectly sure, until I realized I didn’t. How do you love? Who do you love? Can you decide to fall in love? Is it something that logical? Someone once told me that the spark, the chemistry, the rush. . .all that is transient. It never lasts. It is a combustible recipe that burns down, fades away. I didn’t want to agree.

The God of Small Things is about such love that burnt and destroyed everything on its way. A love that nobody understood. A love that nobody approved of. A love that had to be under wraps. A love that challenged ‘normal’. What is normal, really? Whatever a million people are doing is normal? Everything else is abnormal? And therefore wrong? Why should we follow the definitions made by others and not create our own meanings based on our instincts? Because others will burn you down. You need to shoulder the burden of living in this ‘society’ and what other people think is right. That is why love is scary – it is either mediocre or blazing. How do you walk the fine line, that tight rope with spectators watching hawk-eyed waiting for you to fall?

I had picked this book long time ago in my late teens, and left it after reading a few pages. There were way too many characters, the names were confusing, the narration was not linear and it felt convoluted. But I always wanted to read this book as I had heard so much about it. This year I am on a reading spree and I have decided to read everything that I ‘always’ wanted to read. Last month I bought The God of Small Things and I am really glad I finally read it. . . though I ended up breaking my momentum by reading only one book last month (against my pact of 3 in a month). Reading The God of Small Things was an experience that pushed me in one distant dark corner, tore open my eyes, shining bright light onto my pupils…leaving me in a dizzy of a blinding clarity. It sensitized me in a way that a book has not in a long time. It is unlike any book I have ever read. I could not pick up another book for very long after that.

I loved the language, the flow, the tiny snippets of humor, the way Arundhati has explored ‘nature’ and how people behave and think and act. This book touches upon a lot of things and is still not preachy. It does not judge. It shows you how people are; giving you details of their background that led them to become what they are. It was one book where I did not identify myself with any character and yet felt so close to them – their lives, their helplessness, their dreams, their needs. . .the strings attached to people, string that holds you down, string that you gather to find your way, how it needs to be cut sometimes, and then tied again, only to be untied later...until one day the knots become too tight.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rajasthan travelogue

Last week I went for a mini vacation to Rajasthan. It was the first trip I had single handedly planned, right from the dates, to cities to travel to accommodation. I enjoy the planning and preparation of the trip as much as the travelling itself. In a span of four hectic days, we covered four cities- Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Udaipur and Jaisalmer were the main destinations. Chittorgarh and Jodhpur were more like getaways and transits (respectively).

We took trains and buses, and stayed in heritage guest houses. It was a beautiful earthy experience. I travelled in a train after very long time. The sound of the train rushing by and view of the various lush farms filled me with nostalgia. Everyone in the train was talking about elections, about Modi and politics. It was fun to see how everyone has an opinion and arguments are endless in such train journeys, with a sheet spread in the center and playing cards.

The day we reached Udaipur, the first destination, election polls were taking place. We were afraid that we'll have trouble travelling around the city, but surprisingly everything was normal. But I had already checked out details of Chittorgarh and wanted to explore that if Udaipur was closed. So the first day, as soon as we reached Udaipur, we freshened up and decided to go to Chittorgarh. Chittorgarh fort is apparently the largest fort in India. It is on top of a hill, and there are a lot of palaces and temples inside the fort. It was very very hot. Considering we went in the month of April, I am sure it was relatively better. We kept ourselves hydrated with Shikanji and ice-cream. My mom said my face had turned red like a Monkey. Oh there were a lot of monkeys there. When I was about five years old, I was bitten by one. Since then I am a little cautious of monkeys around me. They are fun to watch but so unpredictable.

We came back from Chittorgarh by evening and then we explored Udaipur. There is a vintage collection of cars driven by rajas and maharajas in Udaipur. It is not a tourist attraction, but I had read about it somewhere randomly. I love everything vintage! So we went to see that. Some of the cars were really nice, the kinds you see in old movies and then there were chariots and old school buses and carts. Then we did some other touristy stuff, visiting museums and gardens. We finished the day with a nice candle light dinner at the rooftop of the hotel we were living at, just next to Lake Pichola. The wind and the light and the privacy were great. If only they played good music :-|

Next day we explored some more of Udaipur, saw the beautiful Udaipur palace, bought some ethnic Rajasthani curios and boarded the bus to Jodhpur. It was a looooooong, tiring bus ride. Google said it would take four and half hours, at the bus station they said it would take six hours...ultimately it took us EIGHT hours. We had taken a Volvo bus from Udaipur to Chittorgarh and it was wonderful. But for Udaipur to Jodhpur, Volvo bus timing was not convenient for us. And we had to take the regular roadways bus. Thankfully, we had got good seats. By the time we reached Jodhpur it was pretty late and we just managed to crash on our bed after dinner. The heritage guesthouse that I had booked was right in front of the fort. Early in the morning, we climbed up to the fort and enjoyed the view of the blue city. I bought a pretty pair of puppets and a mashaal like candle stand from there.

Then we took the bus from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer which was also long, but comfortable. Long journeys give way to long conversations which is the best part of travelling. Eat, drink, talk and nap once in a while. I enjoyed the bus rides as much as everything else. By the way, the ‘we’ I have been referring to is me and my mom. I went to this trip with my mom. She had her apprehensions in the beginning which she confided in me later on, about two women traveling alone. I come from a fairly conservative family background. My parents are one of the very few ‘progressive’ people in our clan. And while they try to keep pace with our changing world, with me, they gasp from time to time. Especially when I make sweeping statements like I don’t want to get married or what is the big deal about alcohol or I need to start smoking. Sometimes I say things just to see their reaction :) cheap thrills..haha.

Coming back to the trip...Jaisalmer was a lot of fun because of the sand dunes that we visited. Sam sand dunes. The tour agency from where we booked the cab for the dunes, said how Satyajit Ray was the God who discovered Jaisalmer and put it on the map (with his movie Sonar Kella). “Nahi toh pehle Jaisalmer kaun aana chaahta tha. Jab kisi ko punishment deni hoti thi, tab use bhejte  the yahan- ‘ja-sala-mar’” And everyone laughed. I smiled thinking how many tourists he must have said that practiced joke to.

We did a Camel safari around the sand dunes – one of the most memorable moments of the trip. We stayed at the sand dunes over night and came back in the morning. We did some more touristy stuff in Jaisalmer the whole day, and took the train to Delhi in the evening. My mom was extremely happy to find a Bengali restaurant in the middle of Jaisalmer, and we gorged on some “home-like” food at the end of the trip.

It was a very short trip but we managed to squeeze in a lot of things. Not a minute was wasted. Next I want to go to Jaipur and Pushkar. With that my Rajasthan odyssey will be complete. 

Here are some pictures from the trip.
From the Vintage collection of cars in Udaipur

In a temple at Chittorgarh Fort

View from the hotel in Sam sand dunes, Jaisalmer

The Bengali restaurant in Jaisalmer

Typical Rajasthani moooch :)

One of the many beautiful doors in Rajasthan.
I have a whole series of such doors captured in my camera

View from the hotel in Jodhpur
Our caravan in Jaisalmer
Camel ride in the Thar

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Shut up, Confucius!

Confucius said- “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Three months into my first job - for which I had studied for 5 years eagerly waiting for the day when I will finally do what I love doing - I understood that Confucius was wrong.

What I realized was – if you make what you love doing, a ‘job’ - you will start hating it! Let me explain. So. I love writing. Let’s see what are the career options for a writer – journalism, copy writing, novel / book writing, script writing (TV / movie / theatre). . . I write when I feel like, when words come to me, overwhelm me, touch me and I feel compelled to put my pen to paper. It comes from my heart. Cut to scene – I have a deadline. Client has feedback. Others think they know better than me about the subject (they may!). I don’t care about what I am asked to write. I need to keep changing what I have written to get it ‘approved’. I cannot be attached to what I have written. I may have spent days and nights, redbulls and espressos on something, and then it never sees the light of the day. All this is professional, nothing personal against anyone, really! Most of the times the first draft which you felt a connection with, is completely mutated in the final version when it is finally approved. It doesn’t feel like it was yours. It becomes the Ship of Theseus.

Thank god, I did not take up writing as a career. Now the position where I am in, I can happily say that I absolutely love what I do. I don’t mind working over some weekends (unless I have plans!) because it is so interesting that I want to do it. But it is a job after all. When you absolutely love something, you are so attached to it, it is very difficult to keep a distant stance and view it pragmatically. My love could be my life but my job is not my life. I am working so that I can live the life that I would love to.

It becomes especially difficult when you love your job, the work that you do, but the people you work with are not as excited or passionate about it. In the short span of my work life, I have realized that I should not be attached to my work. So what if I have spent days and nights working on an idea, creating hundreds of slides, wringing my brain, forgetting to eat (you know it is a big deal for me!). Just because so much time, effort and energy is spent on something does not mean it will be accepted by everyone and you will get applauded (there will be those days too). You should be ready to start from scratch if required. That is how good ideas germinate. There is a thin line between attachment and detachment which I think I have come to learn. I get bogged down, yes. But there is only one way after that – getting up.

I don’t think I could use my attachment – detachment funda with something I truly love. That is why I don’t think I could be a ‘professional’ writer (though writing is a big part of what I do, it is not exactly what I do – it is a golden mean which I thoroughly enjoy).


P.S: A dialogue poster from one of my favourite movies :) Annie Hall.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Women's Day!

Happy Women’s Day- I may be a tad too late for this post, but work has been crazy busy since a few weeks and time is scarce (though I strongly feel that today people tend to glorify being busy, trying to sound important :)).

The first memory I have about this day was when I was twelve years old and my mom had wished me a ‘Happy Women’s Day’ just as I woke up and dragged myself into mum and dad’s room rubbing my eyes lazily in my polka dotted pajamas. I became stiff with embarrassment when my mom wished me, as my parents sat on their bed drinking their morning cup of tea in two big coffee mugs. Feeling my cheeks burn, I quickly and sternly retorted, “I am a girl, I am not a woman.” My mom insisted, “Now you are a woman, you are not a girl anymore.” I thought my mom was being very mean early in the morning, teasing me like that- right in front of my dad! I had got my periods just a few months before that morning. Being a woman felt like a curse.

Now though I don’t think being a woman is a curse, I do feel discriminated by the male and female stereotypes that exist in the society. I was exposed to discrimination right at the very moment when I was born in a quaint hospital in the pink city of Rajasthan. On that breezy day of September, I was the only girl child born in the hospital while hundred other boys wailed their way into this world. Incidentally, I did not cry when I was born. I was slapped hard so that I cry and start breathing. It was some complicated delivery in which I was born with blue arms and legs due to stunt oxygen supply. While my parents were happy and excited about my birth, there were people from adjacent rooms and nurses in the hospital who came to console my parents at the ‘second’ girl child. My mom was fairly young, and people told her that ‘bhagwan ke ghar der hai, andher nahi’- my parents were encouraged by those random strangers to try for one more baby. Our neighbours did not believe my father when he distributed laddoos celebrating the joy of a new family member. Who celebrates a second girl child?, they wondered and thought that my dad was fooling around with them. They came over to the house next day to confirm if I indeed was a girl and what was there to celebrate? According to them, our family was not yet ‘complete’- whatever that means!

That was years ago. But even today there are simple instances where I feel discriminated. Like how when I am out dining with a male friend, the bill is always given to the guy and the ‘feedback form’ is given to the girl. Always. It is just infuriating. Another instance, I was on an international flight and there were two guys- an American and an Indian- sitting next to me, I had the window seat. The air steward was offering drinks to everyone. The guys asked for beer and rum respectively. Then the steward asked me- “What would you like to have, ma’am?” And I asked him what were the options (I wanted to know if there was wine, but I didn’t want to sound too demanding) and he told me Orange juice and Apple juice. Hahaha. I almost laughed, the joke was on me. I smiled and said, “Apple juice”. When we were exiting the plane, the Indian guy saw me carrying a bottle of Absolut vodka and champagne in a “Duty free” bag, and looked surprised. We talked for a bit about buying alcohol at duty free.

Recently all the books I have been reading and all the movies I have been watching have strong female protagonists. And with the whole Lean in ‘phenomenon’ started by Sheryl Sandberg, and the celebrations of Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday this week- I have been thinking about feminism a lot. The book I finished reading today (by the way I have made a pact this year, my first real new year resolution ever, of reading 3 books every month- and I am so happy :) it’s working so far) was The Pregnant King by Devdutt Pattanaik. I am not quite into Indian mythology- many a times I confuse characters of Ramayana with Mahabharata, and I have never followed either of the epics- but this book is beautiful. Placing the story in the period of Mahabharata, it is fascinating how Devdutt conjures contemporary issues of gender and gender roles relevant even today. The Pregnant King is about a king who has two sons- being a father to one and a mother to the other- how he experiences both fatherhood as well as motherhood. It demonstrates how power lies with the man and how he needs to prove his manhood to grab and sustain that power. It is these acts of taking control, the thirst of being the mighty one that leads to violation of the opposite gender.

In the same vein, all the rape cases that we hear about in our society- is it really about the girl asking for it or men not having high morales? Not completely. Psychology behind raping someone is the power play- he does it, because he can, because that makes him feel more manly, because that makes him feel more powerful and the girl powerless.

I recently read the latest book by Jhumpa Lahiri called The Lowland, also nominated for the Man Booker Prize (did not win though). On the cover of the book it says that the story is about two brothers bound by tragedy. . .giving details of the plot. But for me the book was about the woman protagonist. She falls in love with and gets married to the younger brother who gets killed in the riots, and then as she gives birth to a child, she is married to her husband’s elder brother. Spread across different timelines, the woman is the only character who is constant and present at every curve of the story. When I had read the reviews online, people had some really bad things to say about the character of the woman- that she was bitter and selfish and ungrateful and stiff and emotionless. When I read the book she turned out to be my favorite character. She was not the conventional wife and mother. She was strong. Opinionated. Unapologetic. Focused. She was not heartless, like others perceive her to be. She only had a different way to express that love, she had different priorities. She reminded me of another fictional character- Dr. Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy. She is my absolute favourite character in that TV show (apart from the yummy Dr.Shepherd ;) ) 

One thought struck me when I was pondering over these characters and human behaviour. In the same plots, the same characters, if you just change the gender, people’s perception would change diametrically. Now imagine if the woman from The Lowland was a male character who could not be loyal to the second wife because he was in love with his first wife and had seen her being murdered . . . haunted by that past, he could not focus on the present and left the house, his second wife and daughter, to pursue higher studies, his career and distanced himself from everything that reminded him of that past. Does it make the character hate-worthy? But because this was a female character, the readers were spiteful. A woman is supposed to be a nurturer and her priority needs to be her family, her kids. If you don’t fit that mould, you are selfish.