December and a New Year

Christmas bench, Lost Lagoon, Vancouver (exposure)_resizeDecember is a funny month. You feel like somehow you owe it to yourself to look back at the year and pay a passing obeisance to it. Regretfully letting go of the time that slipped through your fingers, while searching inward for a glimmer of hope and exuberance about the new year.

I don’t quite remember what December 31 was or January 1 felt like in my school years, or even in college for that matter. At best, the only change it meant was that you wrote a new number at the top of your notebook sheets: “1/1/19##”. It always took me several months before the new year number came automatically to my pen.

(By the way, I’ve never been one for remembering dates or days or months or years actually. Inside my mind, I’m in a perpetual zone – one where time does not change.)

In the years of adulthood, it seems this pressure to remember the year going by and to commemorate it, is much larger. Not going to a New Year’s Eve party? Sitting at home? Not even having a celebratory drink?? Blasphemy!!

I’ve been to New Year’s Eve parties. Okay, “party”. I hated it. It’s the worst thing to find yourself spending New Year’s Eve with strangers you don’t care about. Even if you are with someone who’s important to you, just the whole drink-loud music-dance ambiance throws me off. I sulk. And regret each passing moment. I feel like someone just took away so many moments of my life that had *so much* potential.

Imagine: nestling on the couch at home with a loved one. Watching a romantic movie and getting teary-eyed. Drinking a cup of tea and burying your nose in a book you can’t keep away from you. Standing on a deck somewhere far away and listening to the waves crashing. Burying your toes in slippery sand as tide and froth engulf them, and struggling to hold on. Keeping vigil over a night sky and spotting stars creeping up on you. Sitting on a cold bench and exhaling to see your foggy breath making shapes in front of your face… and then reaching out for a warm silver foil wrapped package of food and taking a bite… flavors exploding in your dry cold mouth while your hungry tummy suddenly decides to be patient.

A few days ago, I did just that btw, the last one. I was in Munich, it was 8 PM and 4 degrees or so, dark and with just a few people milling around the Willy-Brandt-Platz, it seemed like time had slowed down. I remember feeling grateful for the warm food. And the warm clothes. But more so, for the freedom. To sit there on the cold bench, eat hot food and not care about anything else at that moment, not even my own safety – It’s incredibly liberating.

So… New Year’s Eve party? Deafening music? Drunk and obnoxious strangers? No thank you.

2014 was a good year for me. I would go so far as to say it kicked a lot of my previous years in the nuts. Freaking fantabulous.

Two years ago, I read this book called “The Happiness Project“.The author made 12 commandments for herself – a sort of mental compass for guiding her choices and living a more enriching year, and a better, happier life. I was so inspired by the book that I made a set of 10 for myself too, in Dec 2013. Here they are:

1) You’ve got you.

2) Be Light, Be Humorous.

3) Don’t live inside your head.

4) DO stuff.

5) Patience. Time will tell.

6) “Circle of Influence” – Don’t sweat what you have no control over anyways.

7) It’s not THAT important.

8) Be nice.

9) Deposit in relationships.

10) Don’t accumulate. Let go.

Gretchen, the author, often referred to her commandments whenever she needed to make a choice or decide how she felt or what she wanted to do. Oddly, this entire year, I didn’t think about any of these even once. Even though I took several days to put them together last year, deliberating on each and making sure they really resonated with me.

But it worked. I look back at 2014 and remember it as a year when I did a lot of this and more.

Now that calls for a party, yes? 😛

Happy New Year everybody!

P.S. I need to make commandments for 2015. Any suggestions?

P.P.S. I’ve been away at the blog for 19 months. In the past, I would have started this blog by explaining why, but now that I have told you I was having an awesome time, does it matter? 😉

Holiday spirit

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I recently realized that Christmas and New Year have this sneaky effect on me.

Despite my life’s-all-so-wonderful-yay pollyannaism, I turn an unbearable carper the moment someone expects me to participate in the Vishu/Onam/GaneshChaturthi/Dussehra/Diwali/KarvaChauth festivities in India. I hate the traditions with a vengeance, turn my nose at the merrymaking and incorrigible sweetness of it all, and sulk my way through most festival (holi-)days. Given a chance, I would rather lock myself in at home and work myself to exhaustion. (now isn’t that fun! ;))

But it’s odd that where all other festivals and religious occasions have failed miserably, Christmas and New Year have sort of been sneaking into my carefully-guarded stony mind and spreading holiday cheer. (Well, I’ll be damned!)

Ok, so it’s not that I run around in aprons baking Christmas pudding, putting up trees, and crooning Auld Lang Syne – the word was “sneak”, not conquer. But there IS a certain red holly, silver bells, gilt-paper-wrapped-presents, tall dark green tree and decorations affliction I carry around during the season… the insides of my heart sort of starts resembling this:

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The onset of the disease was, if I remember right, in 2006. Bangalore is in general, a land of spirited people who, despite all their best intentions, hang out in large numbers in malls. (On a side note, yes, so the place doesn’t have a beach, the parks are for senior citizens or kids, and IT companies are … well, IT companies. So where else can your average-entertainment-seeking-Indian-stranded-in-the-IT-capital go for said entertainment, huh???).

Anyways, as I was saying, I spotted this around one of my regular chalo-Forum-chale days and I guess it jolted the avid-Enid Blyton & Chalet School reading kid inside me, triggering memories of magic and faraway lands and the comfort of freshly baked cakes inside warm homes in winter (not that I had actually the experience, I was just an imaginative child :)).

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The dormant memories would have withstood the jolt and sunk back into oblivion had I not stumbled onto this in 2007 (pls. forgive the poorly made video, I couldn’t find a better one online :()

The Rothenburg Christmas Museum (which is featured in the video above) in Germany is a Christmas decoration collector’s heaven… If balls in metallic shades and bells and snowflakes in glass, and wooden puppets and ornamental clocks et al is your thing, you can attain nirvana here.

I didn’t attain nirvana but I oohed and aahed and spent a magical few hours in the museum, believing that I had actually been transported to my childhood world of imagination

The Christmas decoration desire btw, doesn’t augur well for a pocket with a limited euro supply, and also for luggage that gets heaved across continents, so I couldn’t really give in to my heart’s content worth of decorations. Nevertheless, the last year I was in Germany, this below was where I yielded to temptation, courtesy which I have now in my home, a few pretty little reminders of my excesses 😉 :

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A post with tidbits about Christmas in Europe would be incomplete without a mention of these fabulous Christmas markets. Just have a look at this picture and tell me if I’m wrong to be so besotted!

ChristmasMarket

I got a whiff of the Christmas market last year, and a permanent memory etched itself into my conscious: that of glühwein. Ah how ineffective words can be when narrating this experience … the sheer drama of being handed a piping-hot cup of sweet smelling red wine and having it slide down your cold-numbed lips and throat, dissolving you and your shivers into this delightful golden pool of warmth inside…

gluhwein  gluhwein2

… pure unadulterated contentment.

And if that didn’t do it for you, here’s another picture that will send your desires into riot – don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!

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This my friends, is a crepe. Cranberry sauce, almonds, cranberries & raspberries, and vanilla icecream, and fluffy white cream, lovingly resting on its folded warm surface – a treat for sore eyes, minds and hearts. And yes, if you do want to know – I and my friend (2 plates above, yes?) DID scoop and scrape every last bit of it :).

So now that you’ve sampled a bit of what this dreadfully-sneaky season does to me, I’m off to bask in the glorious 20 degree winter in Bangalore, sample some sensuous red wine (…erm or maybe masala chai?), walk up and down the decorated aisles of Forum and the like, treat myself to some baked-specials & decorations to add to my collection, and feel all pretty and warm and festive inside.

(So much for festival-holiday-hating, hmph)

Happy New Year everybody!! 🙂