The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Credit: Photo by c.Everett Collection / Rex Features (872250a)  'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', Frederic March  'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' Film - 1931

Credit: Photo by c.Everett Collection / Rex Features (872250a) ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, Frederic March
‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ Film – 1931

Disclaimer: This is not a commentary on any ongoing issue. It’s just something I wanted to write and I choose to, today.

It surprises me sometimes. How we still tend to believe in the inherent goodness of people and in positive outcomes. This feeling called Hope, and the other feeling called Belief – it keeps us all alive I guess. Else, we’d all probably kill ourselves or each other.

Life has a way of proving you wrong. Sometimes, you believe in the good and then you see the worst in someone. Sometimes you automatically assume everything is going to go your way, and providence mocks you in your face and jeers at your impudence.

Is naivety a word for this kind of hope?

Somehow we expect rapists to feel chastised once they are in prison. We expect that marriages, having happened in heaven, always bring you the person you’re meant to be with. We expect to win – in cricket games, in board rooms, in exams. We expect our bodies to work perfectly till we’re seconds away from death.

People have died in concentration camps. Women have been burnt at the stake, are raped, maimed, thrown acid at. Innocent adults and children are shot at, and killed. Lives snuffed out without any provocation – lives that were cherished and for whom, so many people had so much hope. Viruses evolve over time, fighting to survive and finding new ways to break our immunity. Calamities around the world take out 1000s of people in one instant.

I ask myself these days: Why do I believe in perfect outcomes? Why do I automatically assume things turn out the way I want them to? Why do I outrage or get depressed when people I believed were Jekylls, turned out to be Hydes?

Maybe it was the countless movies where the hero/heroine always won at the end, true love found itself, and good trumped the bad. And children’s books and cartoons – filled with magic and extolling virtues of humaneness.

Over the years of adulthood, I realize that I have stubbornly refused to calibrate the reality of experience.

It’s easy to do that when you are generally successful of course – which I am. I live a charmed life, most of the time :).

But I’m being a bit careful over the years. These days when there’s some event that’s important to me, I check myself against hoping for the best. I remind myself that outcomes maybe positive or negative, and to not be arrogant in expecting good or success automatically. I mentally compute a “minimum threshold of pleasantness”. Something in between good and bad. Something that is “just ok”. I then brave the future knowing fully well that whichever way it turns out, there’s just a small distance between what I expected and what it turned out to be.

Also, I intrinsically trust everyone, especially *me*. Trust them to be good and do the right thing. It’s a good ability and I’m happy to have it because most times, people (even me ;)) are deserving of this and it makes for a lot of hope. But I have also begun to question this. Because I realize it’s a gold-standard of sorts and doesn’t calibrate the reality of humanity: that we have flaws and can behave in unexpected, unpredictable ways. Our choices are influenced by the opportunities we have and our context. Straight paths and predictable behavior is no fun. Wanting this shows an unwillingness to allow life to unfold and present an array of opportunities and to let people – others and me – to choose.

After all, life’s not meant to be “perfect”. It’s expected to be good sometimes, and bad sometimes. People are good and people are bad. Some people are angels and others are demons. There is heaven and hell. All of it on Earth.

Does this – calibration of reality as I called it – make for an easier life? Perhaps. At least I think I’m more realistic now.

Of course, I still believe in humanity, values, virtues, happiness, magic, harmony, goodness, love and God. I just don’t believe that this is all there is.

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? 😉

Existential Happiness

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She watched him as he lay sprawled on the couch, his muted snore being the only sound in the room. No judgment, she thought to herself. He’s here, and that’s all there is.

A few minutes later, his sleep-weary eyes opened and carefully averted her. She did them a favor by looking away and pretending to be busy.

“You’re very busy?!”, he called out to her a couple of hours later as she wiped the kitchen counter top for the 5th time. She needn’t have done so, it was already clean. But she was nervous and wanted to keep at something so that she could forget how much she wanted to sit by his side.

She let out a nervous giggle (“ugh. Do you realize how stupid you sound right now?”, the alter-ego admonished) and said “Not really, just finishing up here”. She walked over to the couch, and sat down gingerly a couple of feet away from him, smoothing her skirt as she sat. He was typing away at his laptop, his eyes focused on the screen and didn’t look up.

She watched him, enveloped in a soft halo of golden light that filtered in through the lace-curtains, and breathed in his essence: his masculine energy, his smell, his lazy physique and his easy dominance of the environment.

Tranquil beingness. That was how she would describe him.

She willed the image of him to be imprinted in her mind. For those days when life became too much for her. She would take out that picture of him in her mind then, and let these feelings bloom in her heart.

It wasn’t “love”, was it?

Love implied a right of possession. She didn’t want to possess. She wanted to let him be. Be in his element and be HIM. Because that’s what she marveled at. That’s what caused her to feel what she felt. Gratitude. Yes, that’s what it was.

Almost on cue, he looked up and their eyes met. She felt a ripple of fear inside – she hoped her eyes hadn’t betrayed her. He was saying something, narrating a story and the ripple died out. It was fine. She carefully matched the tone of his voice and it was then, just a conversation between friends. No other implication.

Her alter-ego grinned evilly.

In the after, there was a moment. She picked up the cushion that had been nestling close to him, and caressed her face with it, taking in the scent of his presence that was gone by then.

“Existential happiness”, she told herself. Happiness in that which exists.

* * *

Just if anyone is wondering, yes, this is inspired from real life :). And also this song (not the visuals, just the words and the singing):

TEDxIIMB 2013

tedlogo

Sometimes there are things that you do because you get this wave of inspiration that’s impossible to ignore and the impulse tells your normal discerning process to go to hell.

In the last week of December, I experienced something similar when I saw the notification for TEDxIIMB – “Live The Dream” in FB. Minutes later, I had paid Rs. 1500 for a ticket and it was probably one of the fastest buys I’ve ever done in my life.

As an engineer though, one needs the comfort of hard logic even if one is prone to occasional bursts of spontaneity. And so, the next few minutes, I spent in justifying this as follows: “well, you’ve never been to TEDx and it would be interesting to find out what that is like”, and “it’s in IIMB. Would be lovely to be back in that auditorium and chew on the nostalgia”, and finally “Live the Dream – sounds exactly what I need right now in my life!”.

Then again, I need to ask myself why I needed additional justification. After all, sample the speaker list: R Balki, Boman Irani & Rahul Bose (no introductions needed), Shaheen Mistri (Founder of Akanksha foundation and Teach For India).

Anyways… the event was in a mid-work-week, and I made elaborate plans to ensure I could get out of work on-time. The universe must have been conspiring in my favor, because while I had to skip a sit-down lunch to allow last minute discussions, and opt for a take-away bowl of Upma so that I could get out atleast at 1 pm (leaving just under an hour to navigate the ECity-Bannerghatta route; those who know Bangalore traffic and its perils, will agree how impossible this is), within seconds of standing outside my office gate to catch an autorickshaw, this phenomenal woman driving (what looked to me) a huge swanky car, stopped next to me and asked me if I wanted a lift.

Now I’m not one to take lifts but then if an opportunity (to avoid sweltering heat and haggling with auto-wallas) presents itself along with a fabulous woman who’s a sight for sore eyes, all niggling doubts fly away with the wind. I found myself in her car, happily chatting away and realizing that I would indeed make it in time, while she graciously dropped me at Silk Board after we exchanged numbers, and found to our mutual delight that we shared a sun-sign. After stepping out of the car, in addition to thanking Anjali for being the wonderful human being she is, I looked sky-wards and said “Thank you” :).

After 5 hours later that day, I did it once again.

TEDxIIMB 2013 will be special to me because of the experience of being in a room and watching and listening to 3 gifted and truly amazing people who reinstate faith that the world is indeed a wonderful place to be in.

What makes these people phenomenal is how human they are and yet how humane they are. You hear the stories of their struggles and how life hasn’t exactly handed it over on a plate to them. You hear of their vision and their unwavering belief in what needs to be done, and you see it in their persona – the ability to create miracles and change the lives of other people.

A Muruganantham (The Man Who Wore a Sanitary Napkin)

Muruganantham with his limited vocabulary of self-taught and Indianized English, started his session saying “I will speak in my English” and instantly warmed everyone’s hearts because he had discerned the unspoken question that probably several people had in mind when his turn came up after distinguished speakers on the platform. A few minutes into the session and we discovered a man far beyond the limitations of language – a master at (black) humour. He has honed the delivery of his story to perfection (the video above is of an earlier time and his articulation has improved vastly since), but the story itself moves you to wonder how men like him get made. Three points from his presentation that I hope to never forget:

  • “Finding opportunities” is an age-old adage. “Creating opportunities” is what we need to do today.
  • There are plenty of opportunities in the “Black and White” world – the B&W is his take on the bottom of the pyramid (“colors don’t exist in our world, those exist only in yours”) – exploiting these opportunities does not eat into the business of any mainstream company because of how different the needs are and how oblivious (or uncaring because of the low profit margin possibility) these companies are to that need.
  • Innovation lies in your ability to find problems, not solutions.

At one point in the presentation, he pulled out cash from his pocket and threw it on the ground dramatically, saying “That is where money should be! Don’t chase it. Mahalakshmi (goddess of wealth) will chase you when you don’t want her. Look at sustainability and how you can create, to benefit the lives of as many people as possible”.

Touché.

Shaheen Mistri:

Do you remember what you were doing at 18 years of age? Most likely not. But Shaheen does. Because what she created when she was 18 has today, far-reaching consequences in the field of education of under-priviledged children – the Akanksha Foundation, and later, TeachForIndia.

I’ve often noticed how people who spearhead causes are brilliant orators – not because of their vocabulary or accent but how their words can flow without pauses and pour straight into the hearts of those listening to them. As Shaheen, petite and beautiful, talks on stage, you get glimpses of a woman weathered by pain and suffering, and driven by hope and belief in the power of people. You cannot be the same person you were after you listen and distil the implications of her work.

Shaheen showed us a video of classroom impact: examples of the change that Teach For India fellows – people who’ve left successful careers to pursue for 2 years, a life of being responsible for educating a class of children who negotiate the terrain of being part of the underpriviledged class and eventually learn what it is like to have dreams for the future – are making in India. A child, Anushka, spoke about “choice”. It moved me to tears. Here’s the video: – watch from 2.36 onwards to listen to her.

Boman Irani:

Boman Irani is a star. He’s a star not because of his box-office status but because he shines brightly and lights up every room he walks into. A man with a booming, delectable voice that justifies his booming presence, he walked into the IIMB auditorium and wished everyone he saw on his way, acknowledged each and every member of the audience. At the end of his 20 minute talk (a cruel duration for a man who loves to talk), he bowed to each side of the auditorium as everyone stood up to give him a standing ovation. One word registers in your mind: Performer.

The TEDxIIMB 2013 publicity material noted happily about “Virus returns to college” and Boman started his session with “It’s not very often that I can say I’m returning to a stage that I’m familiar with”. It was clear as we saw him pace / gesture / act animatedly over next 20 minutes, that this was a man in his element – the rest of the world just fades into darkness around him when he’s on stage.

His story of success is a popular one; of a potato-wafer-seller turned photographer turned theatre artist turned film actor, experiencing real success at the age of 40. What inspired me though wasn’t the story or the journey, but what was evident throughout it: a nice, refined human being, and a God who made an example out of making life work for a nice human being, and thereby tells us it IS possible.

After all, if a boy who was raised by women (father expired 6 months before he was born and he makes a joke out of it saying he is always 6 months late for everything in life) and therefore, wet his pants when he heard a male voice for the first time because he had never heard anything like that before, who lisped and therefore wouldn’t open his mouth till the 9th standard, who managed his dad’s potato wafer shop and one fine day decided that “I am a photographer”, whose first trip with family outside of Bombay to Kodai ended up with him looking at a zero-watt light bulb in a dark, dilapidated & seemingly haunted hotel (that he had unwittingly booked as accomodation) and think that “this is me. I’m a big zero”, and who was told he had no talent (for theatre/acting) … can make it in life and be, STILL, a man of honesty and good character and kindness, then isn’t this proof that God exists?

There were again, 3 points that I carry with me after his talk and narrated to two people on phone on that very night (so you can gauge the extent of my inspiration here):

  • Take Control of Your Life: The day he decided that he is a photographer (notice that it’s not “wanted to be a photographer”), he stood on his dining table, spread his arms and declared his intention to take control of his life – and this, he said is imperative to ensure that we kick-start the process of what we want to happen to us. Those of you who have read The Alchemist or even otherwise, believe in the power of the universe to make things happen for you – will understand what this means. For others, well, try it :).
  • Not “Professional”, but “Inspired”: This almost knocked the wind out of my sails with how contrary to normal perception this is. He told us a story of how he had performed for an event held to commemorate a renowned person, much beyond what was expected and even what he expected of himself because he was immensely moved by the person he was performing for. At the end of the performance, he was told that it was very “professional”. As he was telling us the story, he took a pause, and I sensed a moment of angst and didn’t quite understand why because I assumed that the point of him telling the story was to tell us how much he was being commended for what he did. But then he explained how he took exception to being told he was professional, because for him professional meant that a person had done what he was supposed to do – a 9 to 5 job for a specific salary. For him, it was more important to be  “inspired” – because that meant that you did something beyond expectations and nothing – the effort, the time, the money, the outcome – nothing mattered beyond the best you could give and do. After I’ve heard him say this, I can never think of the word “professional” in the same way as I did before, ever again.
  • The Value of Honesty: He narrated a story about how he had taken photographs for a Norway newspaper, of an event that happened in India. It was one of his first events as an official photographer, and he had no idea how much to charge for photos (being an amateur), so he told them (acc. to him, the wisest thing he’s ever done) that he charged at “international rates”. He was expecting (for him, at the time) a princely sum of $300 for 3 pictures and the anticipation & desperation of getting a potential Rs. 12000 led to a heroic effort on his side. Incredibly though, the newspaper paid him $900 dollars instead. Further, they chose to send him $900 dollars, 4 times after that, for reusing his 3 photos (in his words, clearly, someone up there loved him!). But the reason he narrated this was to say how this… THIS act of honesty by persons in a faraway country, who’d never met him face-to-face but chose to reward him and honour their commitment to him even if they could have easily done otherwise … is what he attributes to his unfailing belief in being honest and its value. Several times in the past few months, I have personally wondered whether honesty was just a compulsion (so you’re being honest because you can’t be otherwise) because in the “real” world, it seemed people got along fine without it. Listening to Boman talk about honesty, I felt like someone was asking me to sit up and take notice.

TEDxIIMB had also 5 other wonderful sessions even though I don’t mention them here. Balki, in particular was rousing; his foray in advertising/films was a story about a man who fulfilled his purpose in life i.e. “making films”. He began by saying he didn’t understand the use of the terminology “dream”. Acc. to him, this is just “future reality” that shouldn’t be termed as a dream (which is seemingly unattainable) because we all should want it to come into existence sometime. Clearly, #FTW.

And so, now you know why I said thanks later that day, and more so, why I today tell myself I should listen to my inspiration-voice much more! The event nicely fit into a life-track that I have been pursuing of late and so, it feels like booking the ticket was indeed an inspiration from the heavens. Having gotten the inspiration, sitting on my butt and letting these realizations go to waste, would now be criminal so I’m executing my first change strategy by writing the blog post and “encoding it” for future reference. The next step would be to think deep and plan hard for how to let this change my life.

Afterthought: I realize that it is really easy to sit in your ivory tower and justify that what you’re doing is the best you can do and the most important thing for you to do. The only thing however, that one needs to master while doing this is to handle the slight discomfort that creeps in during those rare moments when the ivory tower fades and you realize you’re suspended in thin air.

Holiday spirit

bg-red-wine-white

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:

decorations

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 :)).

forum_christmas

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!! 🙂

Dreams that come true

Have you ever had dreams – and I mean, aspirations here – come true?

Have you been passionate about something so much, that there wasn’t anything that could come in your way of getting it?

Have you achieved this something and felt – not exhilaration – but a strange sense of calm and satisfaction at the thought that it’s all worked out to be how you’d imagined it?

Well, I have.

TWELVE years after having first read about it and having a glimmer of a desire appear in my heart – I’m finally finishing PGSEM from IIMB.

* * * * *

If you ask me, I don’t still know what about it appealed to me – that one morning in 1999, as I sat reading in The Indian Express, Cochin, about a new course offered by IIMB for software professionals.

Perhaps, it was the thought that it was management for “software” industry people – and I fancied myself to be always a mix of both. Perhaps because it was from IIM, in Bangalore – the only IIM, I thought was ever worth studying in. Perhaps because it was a part-time course, and I knew I was *aching* to work after graduation, so I would never opt for a full-time course.

Whatever it was, it was a dream. And dreams do comes true, I realize.

Poetically ;), I would say that the universe conspired to bring it all to a reality. I landed up in Bangalore for my first job, I found that though I loved working in the industry, I still sustained my desire for the MBA experience. My parents for their part, thought I was loony :-). (Sample this: Why, just why, would you want to spend the first 3 years of marriage – supposed to be the best years in a relationship – putting yourself and said spouse, in intense pressure? Do you even realize you’ll have to spend ALL your weekends for THREE years, attending lectures in college? How would you handle work – esp. because you have to spend half a day on Fridays, IN class – and then spend the rest of your week worrying about what you’re supposed to do on Friday and Saturday? What about the travel that you’re supposed to do as part of your work ? And last but not least – just HOW are you going to be able to come to Kerala or go for any trips?). Can’t blame them, yes?

However, as all parents are – they did end with that one line: “If it matters to you so much, well, best of luck”. And for my luck, I passed the exam, and the interview, and got a call in 2008.

The past 3 years has been incredible – looking back, an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Nothing that I imagined about it would come close to what it was really like though. PGSEM has always been about the extremes – as every PGSEM-er will vouch: Intense pleasure and intense pain :D. But above all, for me, it’s been a journey – a  re-discovery of myself.

* * * * *

Very soon, there will be a moment, where my past and future will converge: A moment when a thought that was born 12 years ago will come face to face with its realization: the day that I get my graduation certificate – a piece of paper, that will be a testimonal for the learning, the effort, the friends made, and the time spent over the last 3 years.

*My* universe will be smiling at that moment :).

Dreams do come true, Corolla, United States
Source: TravelPod

40 Questions!

I love doing tags, and so I voluntarily pick this one up from Preeti (and very “pretty” too :)) Shenoy’s blog. Voluntarily picking up a tag that has 40 questions in it, (esp. when I’ve done a 30 questions tag sometime ago) should tell you how much I like doing tags! Without further ado…here I go…

1. What is your current obsession?

Getting my blog back into what it was a couple of years ago. I’ve been quite pathetic over the last couple of years and am nursing immense guilt over not paying enough attention to my own need to write. So I’m back with a vengeance!

2. What are you wearing today?

A pink kurta from FabIndia, and a white chudi bottom. Hair tied up into a ponytail. (Hmmm, if I was wearing spectacles, I could have also said that I had the (pseudo) superior-intellectual look)

3. What’s for dinner?

We had a sizeable lunch at Dhaba today – so skipping dinner!

4. What’s the last thing you bought?

A Hidesign handbag for my mum … after enormous amount of coaxing and listening to her sigh, and say that her current handbag was serving its purpose well, and that she didn’t need one more, and that it may look too “hep” and therefore inappropriate on her … till I almost completely got mad. I finally gave her the option of dumping it on me in case she ever felt it was not good for her. And what happened? She left Bangalore with the handbag on her arm, and with a big grin on her face, even as I reminded her how much she’d driven me crazy. *Affectionate smile*…mums will be mums.

5. What are you listening to right now?

The mum again – she’s carping about some really *annoying* relatives, over the phone. Trust me, it’s HUGELY entertaining :D.

6. What do you think about the person who tagged you?

As I said earlier, wasn’t tagged personally – I picked it up from PS. As for what I think of her – she’s one of those creative, exhuberant personalities who we need more of in this world. She’s an adorable pixie :).

7. If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?

Now, you’re talking! Ummm.. would that be Mauritius, or the Bahamas, or Califormia… or …

Oh! I know, Paris! I adore Paris. And I even know that I want a house with a view of the Seine. *Sigh*. It’s just the most romantic city I’ve ever seen.

8. What are your must-have pieces for summer?

Shades. Some drink close to my reach. Loads and loads of tissue paper. Really airy flats for my feet – I have an amazingly comfy Timberland actually. Non-sticky sunscreen.

9. If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?

Must you ask me to mention Paris so many times? Okay, I’ll change that. I will want to spend it on an island in Maldives. Spent my honeymoon there, and that would be one of my other picks for a phenomenal place to visit.

10. Which language do you want to learn?

Ahem. I just spent the last TWO quarters in my MBA program learning languages. The first one, I learnt Japanese. The second, Spanish. Someone was asking me to pick Chinese for the next, but if I do that, IIMB will probably end up giving me a certification for “Diploma in International Languages” instead of the MBA itself. So for now, No, I’ll pass.

11. What’s your favourite quote?

All my favorite quotes are in Malayalam. Simply because most of them are sarcastic and extremely appropriate for many moments *wink*. One such would be “Patti-de vaalu panthiraandu kollam kozhalil ittalum valanje irikku”. Don’t ask me the meaning! Or who I’m using it on! (For the mallu ppl reading this blog….Shush!)

12. Who do you want to meet right now?

Even if it is farfetched, and probably not gonna happen ever? Deepak Chopra.

13. What is your favourite colour?

Peacock Blue. And Silver.

Okay, I know I am not supposed to pick two colors, but seriously, I love a lot of colors. So don’t ask me to pick just one. I can rattle off many shades like the ones Asian Paints have – Baked Biscuit, Mocha, Truffle Pink etc… I love really deep *feeling* kind of colors… something that you would use to express joy, and vivaciousness,… and passion.

(Oh, if only I had a carton of paints with me that I could throw onto a canvas. *Wishful thinking*)

14. Give us 3 styling tips that work for you.

=> Smokey eyes, for that touch of mystery.

=> Lip gloss for that well-turned out look.

=> Nicely brushed hair that bobs around , and strands of which caress your face in the wind. (Okay, that may not really be a styling tip – but yes, nice hair is important).

15. What is your dream job?

Getting paid to explore various channels of creativity (write, read, dance, sing, organize events, interact with people, paint…) –  while being able to work my mind and heart. Infact, that’s almost close to what I do now!!!

16. What’s your favorite magazine?

Nothing really. I don’t have too much of patience to read the kind of crap that most magazines churn out. If you have come across something worthwhile, please suggest.

17. If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?

Buying lots of fiction books. Not for me though. I and hubby are doing our bit in spreading education by volunteering to teach (economically-backward) kids on the weekend – as part of an initiative run by an NGO called Prerana.

There’s a lot to talk about the experience itself, but I’ll reserve that for a future post. Meanwhile, my latest resolve is to supplement our spoken-english-language support for the kids – by giving them something extra – books to read and enjoy! (Hopefully I’m able to recreate atleast partially for them, the magical experience that I had a youngster waltzing through the pages of many of treasured troves… and at the same time, break their language barrier, because I believe that unless you read enough, you’ll not get around to appreciating and understanding the language constructs). I’ve already started buying books for the kids to read and circulate, but there’s no such thing as more than enough, so any extra money of mine will go into adding to this :). $100 will come in handy ;-).

18. What do you consider a fashion faux pas?

A short western top and a stoal. Somehow it doesn’t go down well with me.

19. Who according to you is the most over-rated style icon?

I think almost every 2nd bollywood star is over-rated but I’ll not pick them because they get picked often enough. Therefore – Shobhaa De.

20. What kind of haircut do you prefer?

On me? Layered, and short – somewhere around my shoulders. I’ve been wanting to do something dramatically different too, but still haven’t found what it would be. Waiting for the perfect haircut therefore.

21. What are you going to do after this?

Work. Sleep. Dream :).

22. What are your favorite movies?

Many malayalam classics. Many hindi movies. Many english movies. I mean, asking a movie buff like me to name movies is not exactly easy. I think I’ve written a post about it already, so pass.

23. What inspires you?

A lot of things – humans, and their resilience, inner strength. Compassion when it was least expected. God’s Love.

24. What do your friends call you most commonly?

These days, my MBA classmates have christened me with a few new names – Shiks, Muppet. One of my close friends used to call me by my initials GP. Nothing more interesting though. Sadly, my persona probably lends itself well to Shikha. And besides, a 2 syllable name is easy to say, right?

25. Would you prefer coffee or tea?

Tea. Tea. Tea. Tea. Tea… x infinity. I could have as many glasses of tea as there existed on the planet and I still wouldn’t get tired of it. Try it. Ask me if I want a cup of tea sometime. Chances are you’ll get a beaming, resounding “YES” in response.

26. What do you do when you are feeling low or terribly depressed?

Talk to God.

27. What makes you go wild?

If wild as in “really irritated” – Incompetent people trying to lord over others. It makes me want to clobber the hell out of them.

If wild as in “letting hair loose down” types – being at the beach.

28. Which other blogs do you love visiting?

Many. Pls. see my recommended readings section, and the friends section on the right.

29. Favorite Dessert/Sweet?

Cheesecake. (after a divine experience recently :)).

Raspberry and Yoghurt Gelato. Yum.

30. How many tabs are turned on in ur browser right now?

Seven.

31. Favorite Season?

Spring.

32. If I come to your house now, what would u cook for me?

Pancakes. Nice, warm, sweet, pancakes and slurpy jam to go with it.

33. What is the right way to avoid people who purposefully hurt you?

Truthfully – I am not one to carry grudges around and judge a person just because something they did hurt me, and I do believe that people have reasons for whatever they do. So I wouldn’t purposefully avoid them if they cross my path. The only kind of people I actually avoid are those who try too much to be nice and yet your intuition tells you, that they are not as much. Better to stay away :).

34. What are you afraid of the most?

I have a lot of paranoias. Spiders. Worms. Fungus. Drowning. Things that move and go boo in the dark…. hehe, okay, the last one was just added for an effect.

35. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?

“Gosh. Open your eyes completely, woman. You’re going to knock something down, walking around, half-awake, looking like a female version of frankenstein!”

36. What brings a smile on your face instantly?

Friends. Cute kids. My hubby when he’s in one of his cute moments :). My mother when she’s sleeping, curled up like a ball on the couch, because she’s too lazy to get up and go and sleep on the bed. My dad, when he wears a pair of absolutely non-matching pants with one of his good shirts and appears completely unaware of the ridiculousness of it 🙂

37. A word that you say a lot?

“Terrible”. I don’t know, I use that to describe even extra doses of nice things…although why I do that, I have no clue. Have been trying to rid myself of it for sometime now.

38. When was the last time you did something nice?

Today afternoon. Went to see a friend who I hadn’t visited in over a year. Being with her and her one and half yr old kid, was amazing :). *Soup for the heart*

39. What would you do if you were made President of India for one day?

Being the President of India for a day is no big shakes. You can’t do anything constructive, that someone else cannot undo. However, I think there is a Right To Education issue that’s currently in the pipeline. I’ll see if I can add some presidential weight to that, and recommend the bill.

40. Do you Know who Master SHIFU is?

Yeah.  *Hiiiiiyyyyeeeeeeaaaaah*.

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Yes, I’ve finally done it.

*Solemn breath*. And I now tag…YOU (if you’re not mentioned after this) and @nikhilnarayanan, @shruti_007, Vinoshini, Lazy Pineapple, Emmanuel, Sonali 🙂 – hopefully none of you’ve done the tag yet, and because I would love to know what your answers are, yes!!

Update:

Follow up posts from the victims above 😉

Shruti’s version @ Lost In Translation

Lazy Pineapple

Emmanuel writes @ Reticent Expressions

Sonali’s take