Advice to Self

Some days are hard.

All you might want is to get inside a room away from life’s curveballs, fears, anxiety, people, all the bonds that tie you, noise/ news, tiredness and the general feeling of imminent doom that is prevalent nowadays.

‘Lightly, my child, lightly’

Find a place. Inner/outer. That you can retire to. A gulp of cold water. An open window. Quietude. Some green-trees, plants. Perspective. Stoicism. Or a hug. A book. Music. Art. Food. Exercise/movement. Sleep. Whatever comforts. Replenish. Rejuvenate.

One day at a time.

Smorgasbord of Rituals

Habit is not mere subjugation, it is a tender tie: when one remembers habit it seems to have been happiness.
–Elizabeth Bowen
Often inadvertent actions slip into unknowing uniformity and turn rituals, but these everyday rituals define us, comfort us and bring a certain order to our lives. I’m not the paragon of self-discipline, and I lack a structured life. Yet certain rituals have osmosed into my life, and remained.
Coffee and Crosswords
I nearly barfed in my mouth when I first tasted jasmine tea served in the lilliputian cups by a stand-in-Chinese waiter; but the taste (or the lack of it) grew on me and this aromatic concoction is on my table every morning now. It’s a part of my morning ritual which includes the following:
  1. Fumbling under my pillow for my phone to check for any messages, hoping for some earth-shattering good news only to find BSNL/Pizza Hut/Tata Photon spamming my inbox.
  2. Two minutes of stupor as I struggle with the decision of acquiring a little more sleep, and as testified by my family this is the most dangerous time of the day to approach me. Civility is clouded by sleep and primitive instincts of violence are sharp.
  3. An unnaturally long walk (or so it seems) to the sink to brush and floss and being startled every time by my the sight of my hair that could nest an Emu.
  4. Drinking jasmine tea (and this time in a cup made for adequately sized humans) in a desperate attempt to replace the caffeine in my veins.
  5. Sitting cross-legged on the divan in the verandah, leafing through the morning newspaper to check the headlines and the crossword, and inhaling lungfuls of recommended daily intake of fresh air.
  6. Dragging my reluctant feet to the study desk where tattered MCQ books lay awaiting me.
 This routine has subtle variations once in a while to include coffee; and on the days I’m charged up about fitness (usually brought about by reading a new issue of Prevention Magazine) it includes an early morning swim/a walk/half an hour on the stationary cycle which on other days serve as a clothes hanger.
Assault of My Eyes
I don’t eat carrots, or spinach. And I read ALL the time. My hawk-eyed parents make sure I study enough hours in preparation for that elusive AIPGE seat. Then I read the books on my ‘to read’ list just about every where; on the pot, while I ‘inhale’ my lunch without taking my eyes off the book, on my way to the gym (on my way back from the gym I usually lay motionless and breathless on the back seat of my car), while waiting in a queue, while waiting for perpetually running late friends (I’m sure they say the same thing about me), at dinner as my parents threaten to snatch the damn book away and in bed before I drift off to sleep (in a ‘dontiya do’ position, which only Assamese readers will understand!).  Once a month I switch off my phone, shut my door, put on a pair of comfortable pajamas, assemble a variety of snacks, get in bed and spend the day in a marathon reading session. But my eyes have miraculously survived this assault so far and been at a respectable -0.25D all these years (I made the ever-obliging and surprisingly mild-mannered ophthalmology post graduate trainees check my vision quite often during my internship).
Notebook Porn or Life’s Witness
I have a notebook fetish. I hoard them, especially the tiny ones with faded yellow pages. I keep a journal even though I am erratic in maintaining it and absolutely love the diaries from ‘Rubber Band’, with their unassuming black cover and smooth white pages with rounded corners. There are doodles, poems, even limericks and declarations of love and of despise interspersed among the mundane details of my day. Every night I furtively glance around for spies lurking behind curtains and sneak out my diary from its hiding place to jot down a brutally honest account of all that I feel, which would lead me to trouble in the courteous world.
Get Me Tokyo!
Recently the armchair traveller in me has been harboring a fascination for Japan and try to watch at least one of the following shows on NHK World every week: “At home with Venetia in Kyoto”, “Takeshi’s Art Beat”, “Somewhere Street”, “Cool Japan” or “Tokyo Eye”. I watch a movie every weekend, mostly world cinema, courtesy of the heaven-sent torrents. I will watch “The Red Violin” tomorrow.
The Secret Life of Monica Geller
Every fortnight I go through an obsessive compulsive cleaning spree that is almost meditative. I neatly fold clothes in my wardrobe and arrange them according to colour, I air the books in my library and the shoes in my closet and clean out disk space and back up the files on my laptop. This particular ritual is equivalent to a spa visit and rejuvenates me.
Of Talking to God And Not Telling My Therapist About It
I’m neither an atheist nor overtly religious. I rarely visit temples, and send my reluctant mother as my proxy to any religious ceremony. I have grown up watching my parents take their wet slippers off after bath, stand in front of the tiny ‘mandir’ at our home, light up a few incense sticks, bow their heads and pray with a devotion so pure that awed me even as a child as did the ritual’s unfailing regularity. I try to replicate such ‘proper’ prayers only before examinations and they are shamelessly need-based. But I have an informal talk with an unspecific and omnipresent ‘God’ daily while lying in the dark and awaiting sleep. I relate the events of the day and point out (for future consideration) how things could have been better, express gratitude for all the good things in my life-acquired ones than those given unasked-and repeated reminders to make sure that the coming day goes without any mishaps for my near and dear ones. I carry a tiny Ganesha idol in my bag everywhere I go. That’s all the religion I have.
The Rest
  • Being the sole custodian of birthdays in the extended family and undertaking the task of wishing them every year.
  • Saving up for winter, the season of books fairs.
  • Playing cards with my parents on rainy evenings and listening to Pa’s uproarious anecdotes.
  • Late night phone calls with my best friend (she does the calling up, I can’t afford hour long international calls) to share the comical indifference of our parents to the idea of marrying off their daughters who will always be 20 year old in their minds.
  • Making perfectly round and spicy omelettes on the rare occasions when I lose my way and end up in the kitchen.
  • Writing in stolen pockets of time.
  • Putting up a Christmas tree (remnant of a missionary school education and overdose of Christmas movies) every year.
  • Packing my suitcase two days before a trip and staring at the clock in a vain attempt to make it move faster by sheer will.
What are the rituals that govern your life?

My Autumn: Cottony skies, Ghibli magic, Banned Books, Lemon Cake, Pasta, Phase 3, Basho, Earthquake and Empty Bank

I would always be partial to November, as it gave me to the world and mostly vice versa.  September comes a close second, autumn subtly coloring up my life.
I got a new job. I am not ecstatic about it. It’s a government job (the mere sound of which nearly mars all possibilities of excitement) at a remote corner of Assam. But it’s preferable to studying at home the whole day till my exams in January. It’s just the right pace, 5 hours a day; the puzzle piece that fits into the jigsaw of my exam preparation and the solitude I seek. The place is so remote it’s like the 1920s.  A car passing by on the dusty road becomes the discussion of the day at the market. The people are laid back and “adda” is the widely practiced local sport. Only solace is the unsullied green fields, the trees, cottony skies, the dew-laden mornings; and a pristine solitude.
 September introduced me to Studio Ghibli movies. My breath often forms a solid lump of joy in my chest, as I watch and relish idyllic visuals, marvel at imaginations, and relieve my childhood. I cling to these movies like an oasis of pure, stark joy. I watch them alone on evenings, in my room, on my bed. ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, ‘Whisper of the Heart’, ‘Only Yesterday’, ‘Arrietty’, ‘Howl’s Movng Castle’, ‘Kiki’s delivery Service’, ‘Princess Mononkone’, ‘My neighbor Tortoro’, ‘My neighbours-The Yamadas’, ‘Ponyo’ and ‘Spirited Away’. I don’t rush through them, as I usually do with things that interest me. I am slowly savoring each visual, each word and each feeling that it arouses in me.

Being jobless for a month and half, had a weird effect on me. I went on a spending spree knowing fully well my dwindling finances. I added the color purple to my wardrobe, and made rich by a dozen books. I have an upcoming exam and can’t afford to indulge in the luxury of reading a dozen novels. But I hoard them. My mother has banned nine of these books from my life till January. Her threat is a real one, a new lock on my library evidence of her resolution. She doesn’t trust me when it comes to a few things in life, and reading novels stealthily tops the list. Many a flashlight had been angrily flung to the floor and sacrificed during my childhood, when my mother discovered it aiding a new novel to keep me awake beyond 3 am. I am 25, I have few bank accounts, I can drive, I can finally cross roads during rush hour, I can eat alone in restaurants, I am a doctor, I can call myself almost an adult; but I dare not defy my mother’s rules when an exam looms in the near horizon. So, the books are banned. Not the MCQ books though.
 My mother is overall a kind woman and I’m her first-born; so she let me choose three novels to read during the three months till January. My mind went into a tizzy, trying to decide which books to choose from the dozen new ones. I chose The naïve and the sentimental novelist” by Orhan Pamuk, “The particular sadness of lemon cake” by Aimee Bender and “Oxford anthology of Writings from North-east India”. I’ve started reading the Aimee Bender book. Beautiful writing. I devote pockets of time throughout the day to it without upsetting my study schedule and most importantly, my mother. I’ve read only a hundred pages till now. It’s about a nine year old girl who can taste in food the emotions of the people who cook it. It agitates her routine life, when she can taste a sad hollowness in her cheerful mother’s lemon cake. The knowledge of facades people erect lurches her forward from her complacent childhood. Aimee Bender’s words are brilliant and effortless; conjuring up images from a nine year old’s perspective. I am looking forward to reading more of it.
 I am a disaster in the kitchen, and so less bothered about my lack of culinary skills, that I stupidly flaunt it. I had a panic attack once when I was asked to boil eggs, because the duration of boiling was as unfathomable to me as the mysteries of life and death. When I was in a hostel, I was a mere bystander when other girls chopped vegetables, measured oil, marinated with spices and cooked delicious dishes that I shamelessly ate. My mother shudders to think what I would cook for my husband after marriage. Maggi noodles and cornflakes, quips my aunt. Then a month ago I read Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I fell in love with Italy. The food in the book personified and seduced me. Indian meditation and Balinese life balance intrigued me too. But Italy won. Not just the country and the language, even the food. I downloaded apps on my phone to learn Italian verbs, listened to the soundtrack of ‘La Dolce Vita’, and ate Italian food at restaurants. This phase lasted a fortnight. It mellowed down after that, but my ‘Italy’ hangover did the unthinkable. It made me venture into unknown territory within my own home, the kitchen. I cooked. Pastas, frittatas, and a variety of soups. As I skinned and seeded tomatoes, and whiffed the herbs in the soup, I FINALLY discovered the “joy” in cooking. It wasn’t finger-licking good, but after a few mishaps, I can now cook some decent Pasta. My mother thanked her stars at this small start. ‘All hope isn’t lost’.
July saw me falling in love, that went unrequited and September found me making peace with it. It’s Phase 3. After Phase 1 of dazed existence, and Phase 2 of sleepless nights, constant turbulence of thoughts, and brooding about the same person every day; this is a cool, refreshing gulp of air. It has cleansed and calmed me, and has brought back some much needed focus and stability to my life. Getting a grip on my thoughts had been a topsy-turvy and unpleasant ride, but time has worked its magic again. Relief. 
 I also discovered Basho’s Haiku poems in the past month; another delightful discovery this autumn. It appealed to me like no other poetry ever did. I watched “Winter Days”, a short anime movie about visuals from Basho’s haiku poems. I basked in his words. I made a clumsy attempt at writing a few Haiku poems myself too, which are on this blog here and here.
And to round it all up, there had been a 6.8 earthquake on Sunday that literally shook the life out of me for the briefest of moments. It has resulted in a sad loss of life and property in idyllic Sikkim and neighboring areas; not to mention the emotional trauma, fear and alarm that it has caused in the whole of India. I will always remember though that at the precise moment when the ground beneath me shook, I sprouted legs that could run as fast as the wind. I, who am outpaced by my eight year old cousin on long walks, glided downstairs from my second floor flat with my hard drive, phone and folder of school and college certificates in ten seconds flat. I salute my inner runner.
My autumn has just begun…

The Rain

I nestled my face against the half open windowpane, a book on my lap as I watched the clouds veil the sun and paint the sky a sharp grey. The wind blew in a stray leaf through my window; it was from the tree that I wake up to every morning. I picked up the papery leaf, and placed it on page 96 of the book I had been reading. It can wait.

Soon, it was coming down really hard. Sudden. Unexpected. Gratifying. I heard it on the tin roof, felt it on my outstretched hand, breathed it in as it soaked the garden, saw it glisten on the new road, and tasted it in a warm samosa and mango pickle.

I watched the rain for an hour, as it cocooned me from everything that bothered me in the recent past. I had said too much, messed up priorities, and hurt many. Relying on a memory that blocked out unpleasant incidents and repressed mistakes, I tried to lead a normal life; but kept on making the same mistakes over and over again. The brain was quick to mask them before I could learn my lesson. I lived in illusions to make it from one day to the other.

I needed this hour of quiet retrospection to break this vicious chain. I needed to feel something fresh and unsullied, that could wash away the accumulating grime of unmet expectations, a shaky self-image and futile hopes. I needed it to unfurl a blank, white sheet of my life; a new start imbibing much needed realizations and a clearer perspective. I needed the rain.

It stopped at dusk, as suddenly as it had come. The evening air, the black outline of the treetops, the lights gleaming on the distant hill, the raindrops on my windowsill, the wetness in my palm; I tried to absorb in everything as I woke up from my reverie.

Switching on the light, I opened page 96 and read on.


I beg anyone who has ever been in love to remember how one usually hurries home after dropping the letter in the box, rapidly gets into bed and pulls up their quilt in full conviction that as soon as one wakes up in the morning, one will be overwhelmed with memories of the previous day and look with rapture at the window, where the daylight will be eagerly making its way through the folds of the curtain.”
~Anton Chekhov
I read and re-read these words written a century and half ago, and marveled at their relevance even in the age of BBM, emails and tweets. I had clicked the ‘send’ button in Gmail, instead of dropping a letter in the postbox, but I felt equally overwhelmed by delightful anticipation on sending a letter to the one I love.
The Chekhov quote reminded me of those days of taking out time to pen a long, hand-written letter. I had not received such a letter for more than a decade. Email is the more available, more convenient option. So is a facebook wall and SMS. And there’s always the phone.
But how I miss writing long letters! I am terrible at making small talk, and overcompensate for it by writing long mails. That’s the most important reason I write. I can give some form to my thoughts and feelings, which become blurred in course of a conversation.
If and when I get married, I would want my husband to write letters to me. And patiently read my long letters. Even when we are living in the same house. It sounds silly, and probably is so, but I always want to experience the intimacy and the pleasure of exchanging hand-written letters.
During my childhood, summer vacations always brought letters from friends, cousins and pen pals. Pen-pals. Yes, I had a few. Just the very idea of communicating with a faceless person, who was from a different culture and country, and comparing notes with them during the growing up years was very exciting to me.
But as it happens to most things as time goes by, the child-like enthusiasm to write to a pen-pal faded away, and so did the pen-pal. I didn’t care anymore about sitting down cross-legged on my bed with the pen and letter pad on my lap and writing to a friend I had never met about my experiences in school and the books I had read in a scraggly script, oblivious to the rest of the world for a blissful hour. My parents got a telephone connection one summer and the new thrill was talking to my best friend every few hours about how many pages of history homework I completed, the latest songs we heard, and gossiped about how the new girl in class was such a big gossip. It was again the more available and more convenient option to communicate. Why waste time writing letters and waiting for days to receive a reply when I can just pick up the phone and talk? Letters faded away from my life. And I didn’t even feel their absence.
I shifted to a new city when I was in the 8th standard. I missed my friends back home and exchanging letters became a habit again. There were a lot of friends I wanted to write to but I didn’t know everyone’s addresses. So I used to address a fat envelope containing a nearly ten page letter to the school principal! And he was kind enough to pass the letter without complaining to my amused friends who read it in the classroom. And there were days when I walked in home after school and my mother handed me an equally fat envelope addressed to me. I can’t describe in words the joy I felt on reading my friends’ replies where they rejoiced with me in my achievements, gave me advice on my problems, described in detail hilarious incidents, shared the going-on in their lives, updated me on the latest happenings in my old school. And the familiar handwriting, the doodles, and the violet ink; these are memories I will always treasure.
When I had my first heartbreak I was devastated and I wanted to share it with someone who would understand the gamut of emotions I was going through, someone who won’t judge me by my wrong choices and patiently hear me out. I wrote a letter saying all that to my father. He understood and most importantly he didn’t laugh when I wrote him a letter from the next room!
And ever since that day whenever I face a problem where I am at a loss of words in communicating it, I write a letter. When I am in love, I write a letter. When I miss a friend, I write a letter. When it’s my favorite cousin’s birthday, I write a letter. When I want to apologize, I write a letter.
I will always write letters.

On an emotional brink

Yesterday I broke down into tears at a rude comment passed by a colleague I hardly know or care about. Caught completely unaware on being spoken to in a harsh tone for no fault of mine, I was definitely hurt but it shocked me when tears welled up in my eyes. Was I that hurt by the rudeness of a random stranger? I wasn’t and I didn’t care. But I still couldn’t stop the tears from falling.

This wasn’t even a case of sudden outlet of some pent up grief. I have no worries at present, no stress factors. So, the sudden emotional outburst shocked and embarrassed me a lot. I remember an incident that my best friend told me a few years ago. She had gone out with a few girls from her hostel and one of the girls in the group made a totally uncalled for and rude comment about her and for no apparent reason. My friend called me up and cried a lot and it took me a long time to calm her down. Later she felt embarrassed for this outburst over a nearly non-existent issue and brought about by a girl she hardly knew. I too wondered about her behavior which totally contradicted the emotional strength she possesses that never faltered at very trying times. But it did falter at a stray incident!

I am an emotionally sensitive person but not to the extent that I’d cry at the drop of a hat. I didn’t cry when my father felt seriously ill, or when I lost out on very important career opportunities, or when my close friend expired, or when my cousin relapsed while on cancer treatment, or when I see human suffering at close quarters while working in the hospital. It saddens me immensely, but I don’t break down emotionally. But it had happened to me once earlier too when I couldn’t stop tears from falling over minor issues. I had gone shopping with my family and my father rebuked me mildly about wasting too much time. What was highly embarrassing is that my tears rolled down in front of my cousin and his wife in a crowded shopping mall in Bangalore and for the next couple of hours had to shop around with puffy red eyes!

I wonder at times whether it’s just PMS! But then guys I know too have these unexpected breakdown over non-existent issues. In this fast paced world where no one has the time to stop, collect and reflect upon their thoughts, emotions and their impact is painfully short. Work pressures and busy lives don’t allow us the luxury to brood over how we feel or what might be bothering us subconsciously.

This apparent lack of getting in touch with our emotional self, makes us experience only the obvious reasons for being happy or sad. An expectation fulfilled, a pleasant surprise, a goal reached, a long craved object attained makes us happy. These reasons of happiness are obvious, measurable and looked forward to. Simple, everyday moments of happiness are taken for granted and they pass by unnoticed. No time to reflect and relish. Same with sorrow. It’s always a job gone wrong, illness, failure, lost love and more such obvious reasons. A subconscious mental conflict might be the cause of that unexplained sense of gloominess that sometimes mar even the brightest of our days or brings about a sudden emotional outburst. But a lack of connect with our emotional selves keeps us totally ignorant of these issues flooding our subconscious mind.

I was in a bad mood while coming back home after yesterday’s tiff. I was angry at myself for being emotionally weak and allowing myself to cry in front of a group of people for such a trivial reason. When my car got caught in a heavy traffic rush I positively fumed with anger. Looking out of the car window I saw two kids, around five to six years old, on their way home after school. Missing front teeth, blue and white uniform streaked with dirt patches, an orange lollipop in one hand, water bottles hung around their necks and chubby cheeks; they jumped over puddles and pushed their way through the afternoon crowd. The radiant smiles on their faces and the infectious joy they exuded vanished my anger in a flash! I couldn’t help smiling.

Laughter and tears, their unpredictability truly amazes me.

Photo courtesy:

April Musings

The curtains, billowing in the wind, brush against my bare feet; a gush of cool air enveloping me momentarily. The cuckoo bird’s call, the dulcet breeze, the soft morning light, and the smell of the rain-soaked earth; April mornings are a delight to wake up to. Before my mind acts on the urge to sleep in late, I get out of bed. Drops of wet gleam on the window at the foot of my bed; I walk towards it. The lawn outside glistens with dew drops, and the smell of the previous night’s rain is overpowering.

I put my foot across the window ledge, climbing out into the lawn. The softest grass touches my feet; its wetness is strangely comforting. The earliness of the hour offers me few precious moments of silence that will become elusive during the rest of the day. I gaze down at my feet as I walk across the lawn. The red nails against the green grass and the tiny jewels in my anklet, gleaming in the sunlight, paint a pretty picture. Birds flit through the shadows of the trees; their intermingling calls producing a familiar melody. Pied daisies and roses break the monotony of the greenery. I sit down at the lone weathered bench at the corner of the lawn and try to grasp everything that meets my eye. The whole ambience screams poetry.

The stillness is deceiving, as if it would remain so forever. I know it’ll break as the day progresses, and this uneasy anticipation holds me back from fully enjoying the moment. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I notice the lack of chaos in my thoughts. For a change I’m not thinking about anything else, but the serene present. It’s such a rarity, and such a relief to focus only on the present. As if on cue my mind mockingly fleets to past reminiscences and imaginations of the future.

Glimpses of the view from my window, in the house I grew up, with the treetops swaying in the wind; the sunset I turned back to watch as I walked back home tired and sweaty from playing long hours with my friends; the sound of heavy rain captivating my attention for hours as I sat in the veranda during the long, monsoon days; random memories cross my mind. Nothing significant, but sharing the commonality of not so obvious moments of happiness. But today I am highly aware of the beauty that surrounds me, registering every detail in my memory, knowing fully well that I’d recall and relish it for long.

I remember a song.

Aane wala pal, jaane wala hain; ho sake toh is mein zindagi bita do, pal jo yeh jaane wala hain”.

(Each moment that comes, will soon pass; so try to live a full life in each passing moment)

The lines so aptly impart one of life’s most important lessons. Small moments of happiness pass us everyday and we remain completely unaware as we hanker after that one big success or goal. The race to attain these supposedly more important goals and thence to attain happiness is cruel and unforgiving. You pause, you lose. I break this disturbing chain of thought. Instead I start humming the song I just remembered. Solitude dilutes my earlier inhibitions when it comes to singing out loud. Only when the pair of birds next to me flies away, startled, that I’m reminded of how bad a singing voice I possess. I look around, more out of habit, if another person had the misfortune of hearing me sing first thing in the morning. Thankfully, no one in the house has awakened yet.

A butterfly lands on the edge of the bench I’m sitting in. An array of bright colors adorns its body. I want to touch its wings but its fragility scares me. I’m reminded of the movie I watched last night, ‘The Diving Bell &The Butterfly’. It’s about a busy writer, a family man whose life is brought to a standstill by a stroke that paralyzes his whole body except his left eye, through which he communicates by blinks. His life is suddenly filled with unasked for solitude and stillness. I compare that absolute stillness to the few of moments of pleasing solitude I’m enjoying now, and it scares me.

Suddenly I yearn for company. Voices. Laughter. I walk back into the house. Coffee and conversations await me.

The Unrest Cure

I needed an “Unrest Cure”.

Saki (H.H.Munro) had mentioned it in one of his many delightful short stories. Stressed and harried individual retires to a relaxing environment, enjoy the sunshine, take a few long walks, laze around with some music or a book, spends some quality time with family and goes back to their usual hectic lives well-rested and with renewed vigour. That’s the “Rest Cure”. The exact opposite is the cure for those people who feel annoyed if the disturbing monotony of their lives gets altered, even the minute details. They find comfort in the predictability of what the day holds for them; they become mere spectators of the outside world and all the excitement it involves. It is such people who need an “unrest cure” to jolt them out of their routine and often complacent existence.

The past couple of years, I found myself getting more inclined towards leading a life planned to the last detail; soaking in the comforts of home and the known. I sought solace in the fact that I have my life planned to what I’d be doing five months and three days later (the answer: what I’m doing today!). I googled for articles on “How to wake up refreshed in the morning”! I had a hard time fighting Monday blues, and Tuesday blues, and you get the idea! I heard about, watched, felt awed and delighted in the spontaneity and excitement in the lives of those around me. But I was reluctant to disrupt my quiet existence. And I was just 23. It’s sad. But sometimes one gets addicted to the sort of days when nothing happens, and living life in a leisurely pace (which is highly over-rated!). It’s not so that I was seeking constant excitement or thrills. I just needed a break from this mind-set of seeking comfort in the familiar and the known.

I’ve started making small changes in the career front. I know I’m taking huge risks in terms of money, job security, and time in veering away from the expected (read secure) options. I admit I am scared. Not “what-was-I-thinking” scared, but “this-is-new-but-I-am-so-going-to-do-this” scared. Travelling, taking up new hobbies, learning a new language and meeting new people are small steps towards my “unrest cure”.

Two things had been of huge help in adopting these changes. The first is a healthier lifestyle (less mental and physical lethargy, more zest). Secondly, there should be perseverance and belief in following your passions without being bothered by those who ridicule your non-conformity.

I love this restlessness.

Photo Courtesy:

Vices (not men)…Can’t live without them, can’t live with them!

I had earlier written a post about Virtues, Vices and Ethics; in which I concentrated upon ethics and virtues. This is part two of the series and I’d like to mention my vices. I know my flaws; a few I try to avoid, and the rest has become a part of me.

Instant gratification
: I want something, I want it RIGHT NOW. Pronto! Immediately! It can be anything; a craving for my favorite dish, a new dream I want to pursue, letting someone know what’s exactly on my mind or a task I want done. I thrive on the adrenaline rush and pleasure of doing a task as soon as possible. This hurry and rashness in action without giving thought to prudence has put me in many a difficult situation. This can be a virtue if used constructively to pursue one’s goals in life. But can be a disaster if indulged in under the influence of anger or jealousy. I often find myself in a situation when I know I will be ashamed and embarrassed about the words I speak, but in that moment I just have to say it. I do it even with this awareness lurking in the subconscious that I’ll regret saying the very words soon enough. These are words and actions I would resolutely forbid others to do if they came to me for advice,; but when I find myself in the same situation, I’m guided by my instincts for instant gratification. But then it’s always easy to guide other’s lives than our own. I’ll say what I want to say and I’ll do what I want to do. Most often these are irrational words and actions that aren’t accurate portrayals of how I am as a person and done in an irresistible impulse.

Anger: I tolerate a great deal, but there’s a limit to it. And when that limit is crossed, God save the person who brought about this anger. My anger is (in) famous in the family and everyone likes to trace the anger genes I’d inherited. My father’s family is notorious for their mercurial temper and his sisters being the only female versions of angry young women in the past, they are often referred to as my predecessors! I get angry quickly, and then cool down just as quick. And I have mastered the art of being angry and torturing the person who made me angry with varying degrees of anger right from ‘exaggerated indifference to their existence’ to ‘a violent outburst’. But I don’t use expletives; I would instead use sentences that would wrench the heart out of the person. But getting angry is very human; few control it better than others. I never hold grudges and the anger episodes hardly lasts more than a week.

Jealousy: I’m a Scorpio, and although I’ve none of the Scorpio traits of being beautiful, mysterious and sexy (whatever that means); the fact that I’m a Scorpio shows on me only because of one trait, Jealousy. Not of riches, achievements or material things. It’s only romantic jealousy that I suffer from. And it’s this jealousy that brings about anger which in turn brings about the instant gratification I derive from irrational words and actions that makes me feel better at that moment and which I thoroughly regret later. It’s a vicious cycle. Not being in love has broken the cycle and I’ve been anger-free, jealousy-free and embarrassment-free for a long and happy period.

Perfectionist: When I set about doing something, I’ve to ensure it’s perfect. This causes irritation if other people are involved. I can never bring myself to trust another person completely to do something, exactly as I want it, without involvement from myself. If some task is entrusted to me, I want to be involved in its implementation at all levels and ensure that it is perfect. Every person has their own way of doing things, and most of the people I’ve encountered in group projects and tasks are quite laid back which is not my way of doing things. I can feel as uneasy as how Monica Geller feels if she is prevented from removing a dirt spot in the wall instantly. I want to tackle things as soon as I can, plan and organize them, and not just complete it but make sure it’s the best we could have done. As a result of this, I have some initial trouble adjusting to a group of laid back workers. And have to resist the temptation to organize and speed up things so as not to irritate anybody. But sometimes it’s too hard to resist and I take upon myself doing the whole task alone, much to the delight of the rest of the group who can relax as much they want then. The end result makes me happy but very tired, and it’s high time I can let go of this perfectionist trait to make my life simpler.

Sloth: Apart from studies and work I like to spend my spare time mostly lazing around; curling up with a good book, going on leisurely walks, watching movies, traveling once in a while or just catching up on sleep. In fact I spend most of my free time immobile in a couch or my bed, and the lack of activity is so sleep inducing. Another vicious cycle. Physical activity of any sort has gone way down in the past six years and I find myself huffing and puffing nowadays after climbing few flights of stairs. And I’m just 23. And over-weight (no surprises there). I was highly active till I was in the 11th std. Swimming and badminton were routine and I thoroughly enjoyed them and I was quite a fitness maniac. I had joined the local gym at the age of 13 and attended it for four years. Then sloth came into my life. Studies took up most of my time, and I took a break from all the physical activity and now I find myself unable to go back to my earlier routine.
(Note: I’ve erased this vice from my life now!)

Low Confidence: I’m a huge introvert and most of the time like the company of a select but thoroughly treasured individuals. I’ve problems socializing and meeting new people. I’m wary of hurried first impressions because of my non-existent conversational skills. Very few people are eager to delve into the depths of knowing a person; and frankly no one has the time and patience. It’s not that I dread meeting new people but I’m a loner by choice. I love spending my free time doing the things I enjoy. I’m trying to shed the barriers of low confidence and slowly getting to know more people. Blogging is one way of meeting so many like-minded people with a certain anonymity factor.

There are few more additions to the list: Getting too involved in solving other’s troubles and neglecting my own life, too trusting to the point of being taken advantage of, outspokenness to the point of being misinterpreted as rudeness at times, and white lies at times to excuse myself from doing something I abhor (which I thoroughly enjoy inventing)!

I’ve done it. Publicly listed my vices!

Pure Delight

Pulsating through her very being
Untamed, fervent, inexplicable…a feeling so strong,
Riveting is its course, unyielding to fluid;
Erupting in unison, the euphoric tremors.

Desires escalated, feverish fantasies reigned,
Emboldened by this new power, and exploring;
Lust and love osmosed into one,
Infusing each moment with warmth;
Gripping was the journey, and the union,
He is in her arms now, finally;
Taming, enticing, loving, espousing this man…pure delight!

(First attempt at poetry after six years. I have a major writer’s block when it comes to expressing emotions through poetry. But anyways, here it is…)

Photo Courtesy

Of Ethics, Morality And Virtues

Ethics, Morality, Virtues, Vices; I never really put much thought into them, and instinctively followed the values I picked while growing up. Some were deliberate conscious decisions and some were ingrained habits of my life. I have always judged what’s wrong, and what’s right according to my own principles, not biased by other people’s views. And have earned scorn for that at times. But ethics, virtues and vices are very subjective terms. What may seem perfectly moral for me, may not seem so to another. And we should accept the fact and not jump into a tirade denouncing the views of others unless it brings about deliberate harm to someone.

My views and opinions regarding these topics have been both pliant and staunch at different times and my current set of beliefs and values have evolved through the years. I learned from various experiences, mostly by trial and error method. My ideals are distinctively mine, my own individual set of values and others can like it or lump it but I’m going to lead my life within the boundaries of those rules. I’m open to change and my ideals may get modified over time, but certain values are so deep-rooted and so influenced by one’s upbringing that there’s but little change in those specific ideals.

What is ethics or morality? “A code of values to guide man’s choices and actions; a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct”. But it evokes the question of what’s acceptable conduct? And do we need a code of values and if yes what should they be? How does an individual decide the principles of right and wrong and should he/she strive to get them accepted by the society at large? And who should these values primarily benefit? The individual or the society? One needs to thoroughly clarify and answer these questions before deciding their life’s ideals.

I faltered many a time at various ideals I believed in and each time the only reason was because I put others’ interests over mine. And, the results were far from what I’d predicated and diminished my image in my own eyes. That’s why I say I’ve learnt through trial and error method, I know what works for me and how I should lead my life; not being bothered by the socially acceptable “virtuous qualities” and not being an “sacrificial animal” yet again. The beneficiary of my ideals should primarily be me. I’m not talking of material and monetary benefits, but the joy and satisfaction that arises from achieving my goals without compromising my values.

The present social scenario leads me to question how the society views what’s immoral and moral. It’s based on few very irrational and archaic principles. Firstly, if an individual’s actions benefits himself more than it benefits the others around him or the society, it’s evil or selfish. Altruism is the keyword for being the epitome of morality! And being concerned with one’s own interest is synonymous to evil! If a person sacrifices his life’s ambition for the care of other people, he is considered far superior than the one who struggles all his life to fulfill his ambition. “For the greater good” is the motto. “There’s no greatness in working for oneself!” Secondly, the self-custodians of morality are hell-bent on reforming the society of everything that they perceive threatens its existence. The rights of a person to live the way they deem fit is frowned upon. One has to answer to the society at large.

There are obvious flaws in this outlook towards life. Every person on this earth has the full right to pursue their goals and ambitions irrespective of whether it pleases others or not. I’m NOT talking about indulging in irrational whims, or harming others in any way on the pretext of “doing whatever pleases me”, but working towards rational goals. But we tend to be bound by the expectations of others, and get motivated to do what’s considered virtuous in the eyes of others and thus lose track of what we always aspired to do. Dare a girl who has the responsibility of her parents on her to pursue her dreams single-mindedly without being condemned for her actions. And dare a single girl live life on her own terms without questions being raised on her character after she passes the conventional marriageable age. We live for others! I used to do feel that’s the proper thing to do too. But it suffocated me.

After a long rumination based on my previous experiences, I’ve decided on my code of ethics. I decided never to renounce what I have in life for the sake of another person, anyone at all, at the cost of hampering my own progress. I know by now few of you’ve conjured up a image of me as the ‘evil’ one. But I don’t want to further arrest my progress in life by self-inflicted pain and sacrifice for the sake of others. I feel that’s the best decision of my life so far; something I should have done a long, long time back.

I feel the following values are enough in leading a life of happiness, a life one can be proud of. I will try my best to always uphold the following set of ethics I believe in and not just preach but actually put them into practice in my life:

Responsibility: Of achieving my goals. Of making my parents proud through my actions. Of never letting my self-esteem falter. Of a constant thrive to aim high in life. Of never sacrificing for the sake of another individual, nor asking anyone else to make sacrifice for my sake. I first read this line in the oath taken in one of my favorite novels, Atlas Shrugged. I used to think that’s not possible to follow; not any more. I would strive my best to live by it.

Rationality: In exercising my choice on the course of actions to be taken at every step of my life. In originating the goals of my life. In my thinking.

Pride: In leading my life on my own terms. In not being prey to the schemes of other people. In never harming any one for my benefit. In achieving what I’ve set out to do. In the power to think.

Independence: And knowing it’s importance, cherishing it and never misusing it. Freedom doesn’t equal to drinking, smoking, using abusive terms in everyday conversations, pub hopping and whatever the youth of today associate it with. It’s okay for those who indulge in these for pleasure or out of habit, and I’ve nothing against them; it’s all about the choices we make in life. But that doesn’t and shouldn’t pressurize me to ape them to assert my freedom.

Justice: And standing up for what I believe in. Of knowing the boundaries I’ve set for myself and being true to them and not letting the moral guardians of society influence my life. And not tolerate self-interest schemes masked by altruistic approach, like the power seeking politicians “working for public good” or the the ‘moral duty’ of supporting a leech (of the human kind!).

Selfishness: Being concerned with my own interests. Doing what makes me happy, and once again, I don’t mean indulging in irrational whims.

Self-esteem: Never losing it again. For anyone at all. Absolutely no one’s worth it. The loss of of self-esteem hurts and stings the deepest and the longest.

Productivity: A focused approach towards my goals. And not doing pseudo work. Of understanding the value of the opportunities I have received and utilizing them fully.

Integrity: A moral soundness that comes from living a life that I’m proud of. Of helping the ones in genuine need without making them leeches, but never at the cost of my own survival.

Knowledge: Of striving to achieve the best of it. Feeding the most precious treasure of man, the mind.

Trust and Honesty: Of valuing human emotions and understanding the hurt that comes from lies and betrayal. Of being honest in my career always, and never settle for minor neglects that I feel won’t harm anyone. Of being honest to myself and my priorities in life. Its neglect might not bring any immediate harm, but its cumulative effect can cause major upheavals.

Love: Caring for and nurturing my relationships with my loved ones and standing by them through thick and thin. And being careful in judging who deserves my love. Not let just anyone stray into my heart.

Effort: Relying on hard work alone and never luck to progress in my career. And not shying away from hard work ever.

The Battle of Muesli vs Aloo Paranthas

When I woke up at four in the morning today and went for a long drive and then stopped at a park for a quick jog, I knew it was going to be one of those days. The more energetic the start to the day, the earlier the energy recess sets in. I gave a whole new meaning to the word “sloth” today. Amplified, magnified, hyperbolized, expanded, and inflated it’s meaning. Slept almost the whole day!

After the sudden burst of energy and strenuous physical activity in the morning, I decided to sustain that rare desire of doing something healthy. It was time to attack my daily diet after the attack on physical activity or rather the lack of it. Decided that breakfast will be a small bowl of muesli and a fruit instead of the usual parathas. My mother asked once again whether I was sure I didn’t want Aloo paranthas for breakfast. I was so charged up about fitness by now that I vehemently refused. It was 8am when I had breakfast and went around the house feeling quite smug about my new found enthusiasm for fitness after a long hiatus. I felt so good till I heard my stomach growl at 9 am! I tried to curb the temptation to reach for the paranthas by eating some high fiber biscuits which claimed to get rid of hunger in a jiffy. Struggled for an hour. Distracted myself from the thought of food by studying, but that was a disaster. I gave up after a while and binged on paranthas much to the amusement of my family. I tried to justify by saying that I would cut down on the calorie intake gradually, today was the wrong approach. I over-ate. And that resulted in immediate drowsiness. I usually spend Sundays catching up on my reading and watching movies, the only time I can fully indulge on my hobbies without feeling guilty. So after the meal, I sat down to watch one of my favorite movies, “The Breakfast Club” (coincidence??) but felt so drowsy, I slept off within few minutes. I woke up, had a quick shower, more food at lunch, and again felt drowsy and the vicious cycle continued till dinner time now. I had hardly been sleeping more than four hours per day in the past week and my body caught up on the lost sleep. But what’s distressing me is my poor resolve to stick to my fitness routine.

Lessons learnt:
1. After a long break in your fitness routine; build it up gradually, rather than doing everything at once. Adapt your body gradually.

2. Be realistic in your approach to cutting down calories. Especially when Aloo Paranthas are involved. And stick to your resolve. Don’t follow my example.

I’m sleeping off now. The sloth fairy hasn’t left me yet. And I’ve some really sore muscles tonight because of the long gap in exercising. I hope for a better start tomorrow. No Aloo Paranthas tomorrow.

I’m cutting you off my life

Calls go unanswered.

Messages not replied to.

Some urgent chore to attend whenever the possibility of meeting is brought up in the conversation.

It can’t get more obvious than this…take the hint. You’re being cut off from their life.

How do you cut off a person from your life without being downright rude? I’ve tried to cut off few people from my life without being rude, tried every trick in the book; successful with a few, failed repeatedly with the rest. There was a time when I had that uncontrollable urge to please everyone and not hurt anyone’s feelings and that compelled me to wish everyone on their birthdays, or major occasions, send mails, call them up once in a while, the whole “keeping in touch” routine. I go out of my way to text every person on my phone book be it New Year, Diwali and even Republic Day! Huge phone bills notwithstanding, I go all out in making sure none of my acquaintances were left out.

But one day, in one of those rare moments when some sense goes into my head, I realized the futility of the need to lug so many people around. Sure, they are my school buddies, or college mates, or gym pals, or a friend of a friend. But I’m not obligated to carry on an acquaintance forever! Times have changed, I’ve changed, and I realized I don’t really care about what my friend from fifth standard is doing these days. I’ve known these people, had spent some wonderful times with them, but there comes a time when I don’t want to clutter my life with those people from my past about whom I don’t really care too much. I just want to focus on the ones who I genuinely care about irrespective of whether the feeling is mutual.

I’ve displeased a lot of people in the recent past by cutting them off, but there are some who just can’t take the hint despite calls and messages not being answered gradually, and end up hurting themselves for being ignored. But I just hope they take the hint soon enough. Just today I was discussing with my best friend how some people take so long to understand that they are being cut off. A common friend, who is a big time gossip, had been meddling in our lives for long. We cut her off. But she had been persistent too about not letting us go so easily. I got fed up of such characters; changed my number, blocked emails, and even made my Ma rehearse the “She’s out-of-town” excuse in case they drop in at home. So far I’ve been successful in warding off the few people who refuse to take the hint.

It’s not that I had never been at the receiving end. I too had been cut off by some friends. School, and college was a long time ago; everyone has different careers now, and their careers have taken them to different places. They’ve met new people, the earlier acquaintances have lost their value once time and distance have come in between. I took the hint early in few cases, but in the ones where I really cared a lot for the person, I persisted for quite some time before realizing the futility of my attempts. It does hurt when a person you care about, and had spent years together with suddenly fades out from your life. But it’s their choice. You can’t force your presence in someone’s life.

I have learned the hard way that people change, so do emotions. Once distance and time creeps into any relationship, only constant care and the genuine wish to continue the relationship can sustain it. The relationships that pass the test of importance in my life, remain with me for a long time to come. And the rest I simply cut off to de-clutter my life. We meet new people everyday, and we can’t lug the whole world along with us. I’ve realized the importance of nurturing the relationships I know are genuine and weeding off the rest. A decision I know I won’t regret. I hope.

Early morning study break…

“Night time is really the best time to work. All the ideas are there to be yours because everyone else is asleep”. ~Catherine O’Hara

Studied at night. Watching the sunrise, sipping lemon flavoured green tea, listening to my favorite song and writing this post. I love this part of the day. From 10pm to 6am. I love the quiet and the absolute stillness that prevails…That promises infinite possibilities of doing whatever you want to do undisturbed. And to see the sunrise, feel the best wind that blows between 3-4am is an amazing feeling. The feeling of having infinite time and capacity to do anything and everything. I love the night time and dawn. I work better, can retain better what I’d studied, the mind seems clutter-free. It’s the most productive period of the whole day for me.

I love night time journeys, love listening to music at night, love to catch up on reading at night cozily snugled under a blanket, love to have midnight snacks, love three am calls from my close friends, love watching the latest DVD release at night, love the early morning light, love the chill in the air in the early morning, love to see the early morning joggers on the street (but being the laziest person on earth never felt tempted to join them), and love the feeling of accomplishment that comes after working undisturbed throughout the night.

Losing Self-Respect

“Self respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself”

—Abraham J. Michael

That’s where she failed. In saying “no” to herelf. It’s not that she hadn’t tried. But the resolve faded out soon enough.

It wasn’t like this always. She valued her self-respect. And never compromised it for anyone. Her parents were proud of the way she carried herself. People were careful about saying anything wrong or offensive to her. And she never gave anyone the opportunity of treating her badly. She was happy that despite any adversities she faced she’d managed to maintain her self-respect and dignity. She was proud that she was in full control of her emotions.

And then the worst happened. She fell in love. That was 5 yrs ago. She was 20 at that time. She loved, trusted and respected the person completely. And it delighted her when her feelings were reciprocated.  Gradually emotional dependence increased and her vulnerability lay exposed in front of the person. That was the worst mistake of her life. Her first regret in life. Letting the one she loved know that he had the ability to hurt her. Slowly the “occasional differences in opinion” became “full-fledged quarrels”. But she always apologized and made up if it was her fault. What was unsettling that it was her again who had to soothe his wounded ego even if it was his fault. She wasn’t looking to settle scores. She was in love, and convinced herself there shouldn’t be any ego hassles between partners. Apart from it slowly becoming a regular occurrence, another trend started. Blame game. She was always at the receiving end. If he verbally abused her, she should be the one apologizing because she provoked the outburst and brought it on herself. That was his twisted logic. Why did she give him a chance? He never ever apologized to her. She still didn’t feel something was amiss in their relationship. A slow but sure stab on her self-respect had occurred, but once again she was too much in ‘love’ to notice that. There were moments when she saw reason, when she detested this downfall; but the fear of losing him was too overshadowed everything. She had invested a lot of love in the relationship, and she was determined not to let it go unrequited. The denial to see the extent to which she’d become emotionally dependent on him brought out a whole new side of her. An ugly side that she wasn’t aware of earlier. She became a clinging, emotionally insecure person who was ready to bear anything to save the relationship, even at the cost of losing her self-respect. Every time he used to hurl abuses at her and not talk to her for some time, she started reminiscing the good memories, often glorifying the past. She used to call him up later, trying hard to hear the love in his voice, which had long ceased to exist. ‘One day he would realize how much I love him, and he would be back to his old self’, the thought she slept on every night. It was no surprise that he never did.

He broke up with her saying that his family won’t agree to their relationship.She accepted his decision, and was too naive to understand why he got into the relationship in the first place if he didn’t had the guts to stand up against his family for the girl he loves. But she still nearly begged him whether they could remain friends. He was reluctant. But eventually agreed. She used to count the minutes ticking by till she heard from him next. As obvious, she was the one who did most of the “keeping in touch” part. Life continued. And all along she nurtured the secret hope that he would one day be back with her.

She came to know later that he was with someone else by the time they had their break-up. It angered her and an ugly confrontation followed. He admitted to this ‘lapse’ but adopted the policy of offense being the best defense. He once again hurled abuses at her. She stopped all contact with him.

Her inability to say “no” to herself when it came to matters of the heart got better of her. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing him from her life completely. The very fear that made her lose her self respect in the first place. She managed to curb her desire to keep him as a part of her life and contact him, even though it took her an year and half. To let go of someone you love and accept that they no longer want to be with you can be a very difficult to cope with. But her heart healed; it just took a little longer than others.

She hated this particular aspect of her life. The whiny, clingy girl ready to go to any extent to save her “love”. When the love faded away, and sense prevailed in her life,  she couldn’t fathom why she was ready to settle for a guy that abused her trust and love, and in all certainty would repeat it. Her friends and family too were shocked at the person she’d become. They always knew her to be a very balanced, emotionally strong person. And then they saw her when she was in love. The damage was done. She’d failed them too. But she tried hard to re-build her self-esteem, she resolved never to compromise her dignity for anyone. Ever. She had seen herself during her worst and was scared of ever being in that place again.

Life was good. And then..

She has fallen in love again.. She considered the risks involved, but love had slowly begun its hypnotic effect on her.  She told him  He didn’t find her worthy of any response. She is trying her best not to repeat her earlier mistake of putting her self-respect at stake again. She tries not to ring him or text him. She’d failed again. She started doing the opposite, and called him up when she knew she shouldn’t have. She’d tried various ways to distract herself, and her failure popped up on his inbox. But she can’t get him out of her head. She is scared she would lose her self-respect again. Friends and family point that out to her too. But she still nurses that damn ‘hope’!

How does one walk away from the person one loves? She doesn’t want to let him go. Her mind knows that she must. But her heart longs to stay. The logical and the best advice would be to let go. Let time fade him away.

The indecisiveness continues.

They say “no one can make you feel inferior and hurt you without your consent”. She had given the consent to someone. And she is hurt. And she does feel inferior as a person. It just took 5yrs. And she can’t look in the mirror without feeling ashamed of the person she has become. If only she had the sense to stop herself from giving the right to hurt her that first time. She is scared now. It’s a sort of addiction. She has paid a heavy price for it. The one thing she valued the most A sense of dignity.