Thursday, June 26, 2014

So long, so long…


Tonight is our last night in the apartment I have called home for the last 4 years. Not a big thing, you would say.
Only for me, it is.

While Sid’s Dad was in the Air force and hence the entire family shifted based every couple of years, my father is a doctor and once we moved into our house 20 years back, we stayed put. A change in house is a bigger deal for me than it is for the rest., particularly Sid who has done this every 2 years for the first 20 years of his life.
You see, this is only the 3rd house I have ever lived in.

I came her fresh off the boat ;). A 25 year old newly married girl (really, did I marry that young??), unsure and possibly a little intimidated by everything around. Everything was new. Sometimes I now wondered how I did it all! I had left my job, family and friends- heck- my entire life behind me to start a new.

Exciting? Yes.

A tad scary? YES!

The house saw me get to know Sid. It saw us fight, it saw us make up. It saw me not comprehending why anyone would want to put mirchi powder in food, it saw me begin to put atleast some every once in while…

It saw me change. It saw Sid change. It saw us both adapt to each other’s ways in ways neither had expected.

It saw me wonder if I could possibly even consider considering a book. It saw me sign the contract of the second one.

It saw me confused because of health issues. It saw me finally able to go to the doctors on my own.

It saw me take some tough decisions…it saw me grow.

It was the home I came back to from work.

We are moving to our own place. Our first house together. More on that later because tonight it is all about the house that has been my home for the last 4 years.

So long, Flat 31, you shall be missed….

Flat 1, here we come J

Monday, June 23, 2014

Men, Indian and errr...not so Indian :)

So there are workers in our new house. We have a 2 week overlap between leaving this place and moving to the new place and in that we intend to get all the work done (read transform it from the 1840s , no kidding, flat that it is into a trendy, modern house). Any way, last week, I was there and the workers were..err...working. Two of them. Both South Asian.
After the usual pleasantries, they began to open up to me. One of the called me 'didi' and the other called me 'Baji'. Something oddly heartwarming, by the way, about being called didi/baji by people in a foreign land.
As it turned out, one of them was from India and the other was from Pakistan. And they are best friends.
'You know, baji' said the man painting the ceiling of my living room ' when I heard bhai jaan speak I was sure he is from Karachi'
In all fairness, Sid has begun to use 'aap' and 'hum' quite a lot since he married me.
I laughed.
'Did you?'
'I am from Rawalpindi...and I had no doubt bhai jaan is from Karachi. I told Patel bhai also' he said pointing to the other worker 'that this couple is from Pakistan'
I smiled.
'Then' chipped in Patel Bhai 'when we were painting the cupboard, I saw Lakshmi ganpati and I knew you are from India'

We are so similar that even we are not sure which side of the border the other one comes from.
And as Ma remarked, sometimes religion, which intends to unite, ends up dividing.

""""""""""

I was in the IKEA store, tired after a very long day at work, waiting for Sid to join me. I decided to head to their cafeteria and have something to eat.
After looking at the food , I decided the safest option was chips. You can never really go wrong with that.
'Can I have some chips, please' I said without looking up.
'You sure can' came a bright voice. I was too tired to look.
'Thanks' I said when the chips appeared.
'Not a problem. Have a nice evening, Madam'
'You too' I said politely and was about to head off.
'You first' he said.
I looked up startled. A handsome young man stood infront of me smiling a warm smile.
Exhausted, tired and cranky yet I laughed.
'See' he said pointing a finger at me ' I made you smile'

Even now, a few days later, I still smile each time I think of the little incident.

"""""""""

I was in the lift. My Nokia Lumia in one hand and iphone in the other. The lift stopped and an elderly man enetered it. I cast one look at him and went back to my phones.
Just as I was about to leave the lift, he spoke up./
'If you hand another hand, you would have another phone, would not you?'
I paused and reflected.
'Most probably, yes' I said grinning.
He shook his head and gave me a 'you-younger-lot' look.

"""""""""

I do not want to generalise, but Indian men...*sigh* are...*sigh*
So these two young men,  late twenties I would imagine, investment banker types, Indian, were in the train with me. And you know how it is in the tube, everyone looks at everyone but pretends they are not. I soon busied myself in my book and regained consciousness (;) ) only when the train had reached my stop and it was time to change trains.
The men left the train with me. It is a busy station and in the crowds that thronged around us, I found myself just a few feet away from the indian men. And I realised with a start that they were talking about me! In Hindi and loud enough for me to hear every word.
They concluded that I looked intelligent. One man rated me higher in the looks department than a white girl who had been standing next to me in the train but the other man disagreed.The checked my hand for a ring and found none. One of them commented on how seedhi saadhi I looked. They wondered if I have just finished studying and am probably an intern in a bank or something (smug look- meri twacha se meri umra ka pata hi nahi chalta). Then the first man, the one who had rated me higher than the other girl, decided he wanted to ask me out. His friend egged him on and told him to seize the moment and the girl (Which had me very worried for a moment!). They concluded that i was probably Italian but he could convince his mother that I was indian because I did look a little bit indian. (Really?) By that time we had walked to a part of the underground where I had to take a left and the men, I could guess from their body language, had to take a right.
The men hesitated waiting to see if I took the same lane as them.
With a swift turn, I faced the men. Cleared my throat and spoke in clear hindi to a stunned audience of two indian men.
'Sudhar jao, mere dost. Aese koh ladaki nahi milne wali'
The men stared open mouthed. I tossed my hair, and walked off into the sunset, my high heels clanking against the floor. In my imagination fireworks filled the sky and I found it difficult to wipe the smirk off my face the whole day that day.
 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

I am now part of their story!

Today was sunny and on sunny days London blossoms into a stunning, gorgeous beauty, much like a woman  under the admiring gaze of the man she loves. On such days, I often find myself in our little balcony, staring not only at the river that glistens in the sun, but also at the families that troop by laughing, talking and enjoying the day.

Sid had gone out for a run and i was about to start my 40 minute yoga session when my eyes fell on a couple by the river.

I often see couples by the river but the moment I set eyes on them, I knew something soecial was going on. It took me but a few seconds to figure out that the man had just proposed. The girl, taken aback but visibly over the moon with joy, obviously had said yes and was laughing and crying as they stared at the new ring on her finger. I tried hard to not stare. The couple kissed about 200 times in a matter of ten minutes. The  man wiped tears off the girl's face and then a little later i saw the girl wipe tears off the man's face. He kissed her on her lips and when that did not seem enough, he planted tender kisses on her forehead. He held her and hugged her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled and cried. Together they stared at her hand admiring the ring that i have no doubt shone in the Sun. Even from a distance I could make out her expression, i could imagine her tears and i could sense her happiness.

Like, i said, i tried hard to not stare yet i stared for the moment was so beautiful and the couple was so much in love that i found it impossible to peel my eyes away. It was a private and a very special moment and I felt like an outsider (which I obviously was, but who cares!!)

And , in this day and age what do you do when something special happens around you?

You whisk out your iphone and click pictures and that is what i did. I clicked a few pictures and tried to forget about the couple. Afterall, it was their moment!

Only i could not, they were still there , staring intermittently at the ring on the girls finger and the river, still mumbling sweet nothings to one another. I flicked through the pictures and knew in that moment that were i that girl, i would love to have those pictures.

Of course going over to the couple to give them the pictures seemed weird. No one does that in London. We all pretend that we do not have eyes.

I decided to wait for 5 minutes. If the couple were still there, i would go them.

As i readied for yoga, i kept an eye out on the couple. They stood there, talking and laughing. They tried taking selfies which the girl seemed dissatisfied with. Then they asked another man with a baby in a pram to click a picture of them. Then they took pictures of each other. And i stared at what i felt was a beautiful picture of them on my phone and felt my heart bleed.

In london you do not interfere with what others are doing, a voice in my head said warningly.

'WHat the heck, I am Indian!' said the other part of my brain.

I threw on a coat, put on slippers and dashed out of the house. I ran to the startled couple and said ' Excuse me, I live in the house there' pointing to my house ' and was in the balcony taking pictures of the sunny day when i witnessed something special. I have some pictures of the two of you, would you like to have them?'

'Oh my God' the girl squealed, her eyes already wet as she stared at the pics on my phone.
'This is so special, this is so special' she kept mumbling.

I was so excited for the couple that i seemed to be taking ages to send a simple email to the man's ID with the pictures as attachment. I finally handed my phone to the guy who, as men generally are, seemed to be the only with his wits about him (I certainly did not :) )  They both thanked me profusely and I congratulated the couple.

I leave you with two of those pictures. I think they are beautiful mainly because that the two of them were madly in love was obvious even from a distance. And love can make life extra ordinary. Let alone a picture.







My heart felt very full, still does even though the incident happened a couple of hours ago. The Sun shone in all its glory; the Thames sparkled as if jewels were strew all across it; and the two of them stood there wrapped in love...

It was a special day for them and a special day for me too! I wish them all the happiness in their life together :)

Love,
R
  

Sunday, March 02, 2014

DON'T!

The fun bit about no longer being 16 is that you can pretend to be all wise and talk about how life has taught you stuff. Here are some things I try and NOT do. I am sharing some of them here, for your benefit and mine

Read on to see if you find takeaways ( I hope you do!)

  1. Don't judge people. They all have stories and some of them are more horrific that yours ever will be.
  2. Don't ignore your soul. Ever since I was small, I have been aware of how my body is different from my soul. We all do so much for our body- the medical check ups, the vitamin tablets, the exercise. We forget that we have a soul that needs attention and nourishment. When I stop outside of the tube station and stare at the flowers, I am feeding my soul. When I open my hair on a windy day and let the winds play with it, I do it for my soul. When I sit back and embroider a flower, I do it for my soul...When I write, I do it for my soul. When I act with grace and not scream at the random man on the tube who is being rude, I do it for my soul.
  3. Don't forget that there are other people around you. Whenever I am feeling sorry for myself, I get up and do something for someone else that makes them feel special. Nothing big, but  maybe bake someone a cake, give someone a well deserved compliment or even something as small as calling someone up and asking them about their new house or new baby or new job. Everyone is looking for affirmation of their existence and in validating others you uplift your own mood and soul.
  4. I try hard to not say mean, discouraging things. To anyone. I firmly believe that words have a lot of power and they should be used only to uplift yourself and those around you.
  5. Do not be jealous. When something nice happens to you, don't you wish people would congratulate you and mean it? Be that person.
  6. Don't try too hard to be friends. If it is not working out or if you finish each conversation with a bad taste in your mouth, just let them be. You guys are not meant to be friends; accept that.
  7. Don't be negative. By being negative you are telling the universe to send all its negative energies towards you. Also, no one will want to be around you because we all naturally gravitate towards happy, life affirming energies.
  8. Don't betray yourself. My biggest responsibility , and I think that it is true for everyone, is to bring out the best in me. No one else has that responsibility and I owe it to myself to become the best person I can be. 
  9. Don't ignore your mental health. It is as , if not more, important than physical health. Surround yourself with well meaning people who encourage you and see you in a positive light.
  10. Don't fear. Fear cripples. Fear weakens. Fear gnaws at your soul. Fear stops you from becoming the person are meant to be. So don't fear anything. Whatever is meant to happen will and if it is something bad you will face it, battle it and come out of it shinning.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Every once in a while it is okay to...


To not make every moment count. To not live every moment. To not be alive every moment. To just let time be.
To not hurry. to not catch up. To not run. To not chase. To just walk. 
To not shout. To not holler. To not be heard. To just listen.
To not shine. To not outshine. To just applaud.
To not measure. To not want. To not want more. To just breathe.
To not create. To not critique. To not improvise. To just appreciate.
To not get. To not receive. To not ask. To just not bother.
To not do better. to not improve. To just be bad.
To not achieve. To not do. To not do more. To observe.
To not wonder. To not think. To not overthink. To be at peace.

Every once in a while, it is okay to just be.
Every once in a while, it is okay to just be.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Times Table

Recently, while in India, I had to live through (could not find a better word) about 10 minutes of extreme anxiety.

How I dealt with that time surprised me.

From somewhere deep within, as my  mind grew more and more anxious, the brain devised a solution for itself.

I spent the better part of the ten minutes doing mental maths.

I calculated the times table from 16 to 23. I am quite good with maths and as my brain voluntarily occupied itself with the complexities of multiplying 17 by 8 (136, by the way, comes instantly to mind and I am not showing off here), my body relaxed as if someone had done some magic.

Before I resorted to mental maths I had tried deep breathing, visualising etc etc. All had failed in seconds. Mental maths took me through till the end :)

It is funny, is not it, the things that your mind can find comforting.

I was wondering if others have had similar experiences and if so what finally worked?

Love,
R

 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Twenty Thirteen: The year in a post!

To be honest, I never liked the sound of 2013; there was a bad ring to it. So for that reason alone, I am glad it is over. What i learnt about life and myself in the last year: (Lessons learnt from 2012 in this post, and highlights from 2011 in this post)

  • I like to keep challenging myself. I do it quietly, hesitatingly, all the while questioning my ability on the inside but i do it with a weird sense of confidence that is latent but very potent.
  • This yoga class i attended a few weeks back and a chance comment from the instructor that stayed with me- she said: 'Injuries are very clever, they let you know your weaknesses; make them your friends and respect them'. I was so blown away by that sentence that i almost let go of the lizard pose she had us all in and went and gave her a hug. Injuries; physical, emotional and psychological- they all tell you what the chink in your armor is and it never hurts to know that and work on it. 
  • The weirdest experience happened outside of office when a man stopped me and 1) said things about my past that were absolutely true and b) predicted my future. 
  • I think life should be documented, what else is it if not a string of easily forgettable moments? This blog is one way of doing it but of course there is only this much that you can mention on a public blog. I have taken Ma's advice and have started sending emails to myself about the funny things, the compliments, the heart warming little incidents that one tends to forget..
  • Its funny  you know; how you live life scared of some things and then the things that actually happen- you would have never even imagined that that would happen to you! I struggled massively with some issues this year and in trying to get over them, i tried so many new things, understood so much about myself that i think i evolved as a person more in this year than in any other. I learnt to be very optimistic and enthusiastic about everything in general. 
  • Africa. Visit it. It calls me again and again. (The Africa Diaries here)
  • Travelling is one of the greatest joys of life. I think it was this year that i truly realized how much i love to travel. My advice: If you can afford it, travel. If you cannot afford it, travel. So this year I traveled to India (of course), Lanzarote (Canary Islands),Mombasa (Kenya), Salzbourg (Austria), Istanbul (Turkey), road trip in Scotland, Amsterdam (again), Stockholm (Sweden), and Dubrovnik (Croatia). 
  • Life can be perfectly fabulous without certain people in it. Don't take $%^& from people. If you are even vaguely/ remotely successful a lot of people will behave the way they do because they are jealous of you. Ignore, move on. 
  • I performed on stage for the first time in ages. I danced to a Bollywood song in London. Here is a post with the details and some pictures.
  • I discovered the immense joys of baking! Pictures of some stuff i baked here.
  • I changed roles at work and am now doing something i never thought i would/ could. This change in role also meant that I pretty much smashed the before-i-turn-30 salary target i had set for myself. I am very thankful for this opportunity and work my hardest.
  • I have realized that my biggest strengths are hard work and a good sense of humor. There was an email from my doctor that began ' Dear R, I must say your email made me giggle...'  To be honest, his email made ME giggle :)
  • I made a lot of friends. 
  • I have become an expert at throwing parties. I cook for 10 people without batting an eye lid and zero stress. 
  • I got back to exercising and am loving it. Here is a post on my love for yoga.
  • I painted, baked and embroidered.
  • I realised that being Indian is a very big part of my identity. I tried very hard to not let Holi, Diwali, Karwa Chauth be just ordinary days; i called up people, cooked or got them to cook, and actually celebrated the festivals. For holi, we had colour, for diwali we had patake and for Karwa we had the channi and fasting. And for all these, we had a lot of people. My house feels like a home when all this happens and I like that feeling.
  • I have made a ritual out of Sid's birthday. I cook a day in advance, invite his closest friends and make him feel all special :) We have also almost made a ritual of travelling for mine.
  • My brother decided to get  married to a girl I am extremely fond of and the thought of them being man and wife just fills my heart with immense, pure joy.
  • I realised that we might be scared, vulnerable and fearful. I also learnt that with wisdom, we can overcome such negative emotions.
  • this was one of the most eye opening and oddly enough, spiritual experiences of my life.
  • I watched all the episodes of Big Boss. Yes, kill me now.
  • This year I finished writing two books. Maybe some day i will talk in detail about the first one but suffice to say right now that the first one is very close to my heart- I breathed and lived it for 1.5 years; for the first time the story completely overtook every aspect of my life. I would actually sort out the nitty gritties of the plot in my dreams, so obsessed was my being with it. Eating, drinking, sitting in the tube- the story would do its rounds in my head. However, no respectable publisher thought it would sell in the Indian market. That was a tough blow. I learnt to not give up. Picked myself up and wrote another one. Harper Collins has kindly agreed to publish it. (Whoop whopp, hurraaaayyy). I learnt, very simply, to not give up on my dreams. If you dream often enough and work hard enough, it generally, does happen :) And that is why, yet again, life taught me how important it is to keep at it. Simply keep at it.

I think, all in all, I became more active, learnt to massively multi task, struggled, succeeded, threw tantrums, cried my heart out, laughed, made others laugh a lot, stood by friends, fought with people i am close to, spoke my mind, grew in confidence, felt incredibly vulnerable, was horrible and absolutely lovely in equal bits. That pretty much sums up 2013.

To a fabulous 2014 to all of us!

Love,
R