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? 😉

Happy 2013

It’s a *brand new* New Year, and how I love that feeling of being able to write a new number one fine day :).

For several reasons, 2012 has been a tough year for me, and at the end of it, the most profound realization I carry with me is that nothing in this world can bring me as much happiness as being with and Being ME.

It’s what Kareena says in Jab We Met.

“Main apni Favorite Hoon”

It’s a lovely line, right? :).

Everyone should be their own favorites. And if they aren’t, they should figure out how to get there. And do whatever it takes. After all, YOU’re the only person you spend every moment of your life with!

I’ve spent years on this journey, and it’s not easy. Every day is a new experience. There are new thoughts to distil, new discoveries about myself (not always pleasant :P), and choices to make – not necessarily with enough time to allow you to reflect and choose. And then there are consequences.

As 2012 comes to a close, I realize that there are a few realizations that have helped me make peace with this process and move forward:
~ Negative emotions – fear, anger, sorrow, guilt, regret, helplessness – can make you experience a lesser person than you really are, but can never make you that.
~ Patience is not a virtue, it is a muscle. Exercise it intentionally, and keep it supple. When all fails, patience and the knowledge that time erodes even the biggest mountains – that’s what is going to keep you ticking.
~ Change – yours, and of others – is always voluntary. There is merit in trying to attempt change and being a trigger for change, but… BUT… You need to know when to try, and you need to know when to stop.
~ In the midst of all the evolution and choices and complications of life – it helps to maintain a stock of a few key aspects about yourself that you consider as the Essence of You. Could be anything… something you consider a core value that you live by, or maybe something about yourself that gives you a high… as long as it is what identifies you to you. Every once in a while, take out one of those aspects, have a good long ponder over it, mentally polishing and lovingly going over the feeling of that as you. If it is possible, find new ways to explore the aspect and to engage the energies that it generates inside of you.

I did something such, a few days ago as I was trying out (yet. another. social. networking. platform.) Pinterest. It occurred to me that creating a Board was a fun way to explore and unravel something that I consider an aspect of myself… and what better than a visual reminder?

An aspect of me (that I love) is my ability to evoke a sensual pleasure in everything in the world – touch, feel, sound, taste, see, breathe, and experience. (ahem, I also scored a 93% on the Sensuality test, so there. *cheeky grin*).

As I thought about topics for my board, there was a resonance when I thought “sensuality” and it took me a few hours to put together a board that was my kind – Here it is:

The process of searching for the right images and compiling this was great because it wasn’t just about being the Me that I know about, but about Remembering the me that I am.

The outcome was even better because I realize now that dormant energies that are awakened and directed towards your SELF – it reinforces you from within. And that, my friends, is Power.

So, on that powerful note, let me wish all of you a Wonderful Year of Self-Belief, Contentment, Discoveries and most of all, Happiness from being your own favorite :). Happy New Year!!!

2013

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*.

————————————————–

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

The Last Mango

The Last Mango

The Last Mango

The car zoomed up the gate and stopped abruptly. It was almost synchronously followed by the front door opening, and a group of exuberant faces emerged – sporting big grins – they were there at the gate in no time.

I gingerly stepped out of the passenger seat of the white ambassador car, my face having that typical embarrassed look – it was always an odd feeling for me, meeting them all after 2 years… I never knew what to say at first.

My grandmother, in her trademark white sari and blouse ran to hug me. My face was for a few moments showered with kisses, and the embarrassed look gave way to a wide-toothed grin – if there was one thing that was constant in this world, that was my grandmother.

Her penchant for disfiguring faces with her kisses would never change :).

Extricating myself from the bear hug, I proceeded to acknowledge my aunt, and my cousin – they were tugging at our bags while giving us those lovely smiles that always warmed my heart. My grandma wouldn’t leave it at that though. Excitedly, her wrinkled hands clasped my tiny one and led me inside the gate, with a purpose. I looked sideways at my mother, but she was too caught up in the exchange of pleasantries to notice.

Soon, we both were at the foot of the mango tree (at my age, I wouldn’t recognize it so however). She pointed to a lone green mango, hanging at a reasonable height and said

“See that? I’ve left it for you to pluck. I haven’t let anyone else pluck it saying that it was meant only for my darling”.

The profoundness of her statement made me look at her in wonder. I had never plucked anything from any tree before and this was like a God-given opportunity (one never got to be near too many trees when growing up in Saudi Arabia, you see).

The woman of 65 obviously knew the mind of a child of 10, well.

I reached out, and my grandma bent the branch towards me. My fingers grasped the green mango, and before I knew it, it came off the branch. I proffered it with pride at my grandma – she said “Shall I make a pickle out of it then?”, her affection laden voice matched by a face with a smile that I can only call heavenly. I nodded in happiness.

My cousin came to hold my hand and whispered in my ear “She wouldn’t let me pluck it for so many days! All of the rest was gone a week ago, but she asked to leave just this one till you came!”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[Many, many years later…]

“Let her pluck a few!” That was my mother, today morning.

I raised my eyebrows at my dad in mock superiority and smirked. He smirked back, “Let them be for some more time. We can eat them ripe, that would be better”.

“She’s here only for 2 more days. You’ve had enough ripe mangoes in your life. My poor daughter… she’s so far away, who’s giving her any?”, motherly concern dripped from her voice like honey.

I grinned and looked at my dad, and winked. Here I was, a 29 year old, bordering on 30, woman, and my mother still spoke of me like I was a 5 year old ;). Gosh, mothers are just so wonderful.

(We were ambling around the garden in front of my house, the three of us. As I skipped around the grass, my dad stooped often to pick up stray leaves and my mum was critically examining the flowers on her treasured creations. It was just one of our together-times, I guess.)

Seven green mangoes were hanging from the small-sized mango tree … pretty amazing bunch, I reflected, especially on such a small tree. I reached out for one.

This time, I mentally made a statement – directed at the tree – it was just a request – “I’m taking one, pls. don’t mind”. (I had read somewhere that one must ask a tree for permission before plucking its fruit – apparently, trees feel pained when their fruit is yanked off rudely – but give off willingly even with just a dash of politeness ;)).

As it had many many years ago, it came off as soon as I gave a gentle pull.

A memory flashed past my mind – the rustle of the white cotton sari, and the wrinkled hands, gleeful eyes with the crow’s feet marks outlining them. Kindness, love of a unique kind.

My eyes then focussed on the two people next to me, as I watched them  – chattering incessantly about seemingly inconsequential things; enveloped in their own world – a world where I was just so important.

Such treasures were hard to come by. For a few seconds, gratitude poured within me.

19 years had passed. But the past and the present were merging. There was only one moment. And only one emotion. Love.