A few months back, I was asked to be a part of a very large Management Consulting organisation's efforts towards celebrating the International Woman's Day. In their wisdom, they asked me to prepare a talk for a large girl-woman audience of the Kalinga Institute in Orissa. In my misguided wisdom, I prepared what I thought was a comprehensive, intelligent presentation that contained about 30 slides! (Believe me, this was a helluva an effort because I am not a presentation - slides kind of person!!!)
I realised my mistake when I spoke about my slides to one of the coordinators who was travelling with me from Delhi to Bhubaneshwar. I could see the poor man's eyes pop out of their sockets and his throat convulsing with severe swallowing (all of which he valiantly tried to hide from me). At that point, I suddenly felt quite lost - if this was the reaction I was going to get from an intelligent professional, what was I to expect from college students who may have been 'actively encouraged' or even better 'forcibly persuaded' into attending the talk?
The next morning, I decided that I would just wing the talk. The only thing I felt that I could comfortably sail on, was the truth. So I opted to bare my life and experiences with a group of people that I didn't know from Eve! I know I have had a not-so-boring life so I knew that with a dash of humour and some amount of preaching, I would be able to take on the daunting task of talking to a large bunch of grown-ups, all in the same place and at the same time. (Again, let's get this straight, talking in public - not my chosen cup of tea!)
The talk turned into a conversation that lasted for about an hour. (Now this was comfortable ground, phew!). I loved the balanced views that our future (very) grown-ups presented (such as the understanding of gender equity as opposed to gender equality, the need to tolerate mistakes as a part of the process of progress, etc). The talk went well and I came away hoping that I had left something behind.
Months later, one of the people present at the venue told me that she had taken one of my mantras as a challenge for herself. She decided that she would step outside the Comfort Zone and in this effort, she had opted not just to resign from a job that she had done for well over half a decade but also decided to set a weight loss target! I am humbled to say that she has achieved one and is on her way to achieving the other!
Thoughts have such power. From the time I thought about making a presentation to the moment I thought against it, to the time I thought about an extempore talk, to the moments that my thoughts were heard, I had created a limitless thinking chain. For sure, some thoughts have disappeared like wisps of smoke. Some others have nestled into the comfortable corners of the mind, only to uncurl when touched at a later time, under different climes.
And then, there are those that have translated into immediate impact. The ones that have converted a thinker into an influencer!
These thoughts may have made a difference in the life of a listener but to the thinker, the impact has been exponential - and profound. Suddenly, the realms of possibilities for the thinker has increased because (s)he knows that (s)he holds power.
I can't begin to imagine how many thoughts each of us, in our daily lives, have discarded because we haven't had the courage to believe that they can have a life of their own. Maybe, we just need to listen to the voices in our heads too - because sometimes, they are loud for a reason - instinct understands this faster and better than rationale does!
So how has this impacted the thinker in me? I may get over being daunted by public speaking. In time, I might even seek out moments where I could deliver speeches before an audience.
All in all, I had a personal celebration that day!
A few days back, a friend of mine went to the Delhi airport to pick up her nieces who were travelling in from the US. While at the airport, she saw a bunch of dhol / drum artistes performing a welcome tribute to another passenger. Not wanting to miss the moment, my friend jumped in and started dancing, chanting under her breath,’ Welcome to India’. When she narrated this incident to me, I almost burst a vessel laughing, purely from just imagining the scene. Just for a minute, I regretted not being there – not because I wanted to see her but because I missed a chance to have some spontaneous fun!
The moment came . . and went but for her, she has something to carry away; something she can speak about and share a laugh with a few like minded people.
The magic of the whole act, is not just about the fact that she grabbed a chance to enhance the fullness of the moment but also in the fact that she lived in that moment - for her! I can bet that 50%, if not 60%, of the onlookers would have wanted to do the exact same thing but held themselves back, worried about what people would think or how they would look . . . In that entire process of over-thinking about the opinion of passing ships, the ability or chance to live a different moment, was gone.
Courage and self-esteem are not elements that magically appear overnight. They are not elements that can be given by someone. They come from deep within. They are available as foundation stones on the inside and are just waiting for a chance to be built on. Somewhere in the process of growing up, we have handed over the power of the construction to people outside ourselves. We have since then just sat back, expecting these outside forces to help the building of that which is inside of us! Isn’t that a paradox of sorts? Why would I want to hand ‘me’ over to someone else? Why would I want 'me' to be defined by someone else? Why do I need 'me' to be defined by someone else? But, we do and somehow, the approval, appreciation and acknowledgement of others become more important than what we feel or think about ourselves.
On that evening, what my friend did, was to put herself above all else. Now, just sit back for a minute while we look at one possible ripple effect:
- She had pure, unadulterated, unbridled fun (A definite yes!)
- Most onlookers had a chuckle (Definite) and maybe felt, a little envy (Possible)
- Everybody left the place with a memory tucked away. (Definite)
- The memory returns at least once, accompanied by an unconscious smile (Definite). It lifts the mood a bit (Possible). It becomes something to talk about (Possible).
- The airport is no longer a boring place . . (Possible)
Every significant moment we let pass, we are also stunting the building of the elements I have mentioned - but these are just two; there are a number of other forces deep inside us that are awaiting a little attention. However, on account of insufficient / timely attention, over a period of time, all that is left is rubble and we all know that rubble has a tendency to crumble.
Maybe, it is time we started to building on the foundation that is already there. Maybe it is time to go back and examine the selves we were when we were four or five or six, before the real world started descending upon us. Maybe, we just need to live life more than we are doing so right now.
As for my friend? Well, the airport just opened up a whole realm of possibilities – and she doesn’t even need to get on a flight for them!!!
The years go by
So fast they fly
And yet I plod on,
Sometimes, regret the gone
I have no clue
Where this road leads to
But this I do know -
To reap, one must sow
I can but hope
I am given a long rope
To veil my sins
And showcase my wins
But on days like this
I remember in bliss
That there’s no need for glum -
There is yet, time to come
Now wiser with learning
And no less a yearning,
I seek ahead
For what is in stead
I will meet it all
With gumption, grit and gall;
A smile on my lip
And a step that is a skip!
That title is going to shock the hell out of my friends who know that I give a damn about cricket and even lesser damn about the players! The cricket crazies in my circle are probably on their knees, thanking the good Lord for my ‘conversion’ (they think, no more dismissive comments are going to come their way – ha! as if!!!)
In the last few weeks, we have only heard BLARING news (yep, the newspapers literally SHOUTING at us) off / on / about Sachin - Sachin is God, Sachin Is Retiring, Sachin is our Bharat Ratna . . . . . . to the extent that we know that the morning after his retirement, he made breakfast for his wife! I must say that while the information is not life defining, it is pretty hard to not be caught up in the fever of it all.
My reasons for the ‘lurve’ however, are a little different from those of my cricket crazy - fanatic friends.
Extreme performers pave the way for a lot of things – most of all encouraging people to dream of a life away from the mainstream. Sports, Fashion, Theatre, Cooking . . . all these have begun to shine under the spotlight on a coveted stage!
Children are daring to dream a different life and parents are beginning to revel (and not despair) at potential that lies outside the covers of a book! Just 2 of the better reasons to ‘lurve’ the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Salim Ghouse and Sanjeev Kapoor. The Road Less Travelled is fast becoming a Trodden Path and many are finding their true calling in creating more colour and diversity in the world.
We live in a world that finds it easier to conform and honestly, there is nothing completely wrong with that because conformity does ensure order. How else can you decipher the ‘code’ of a UK or a US Size? I have to admit that lack of uniformity has on the occasion created chaos in my order of things – imagine ordering a Starbucks ‘Tall’ coffee in a Costa and finding yourself holding the ‘Small’ / ‘Medium’!
The real issue arises when people who do not wish to conform to what they would term the ‘ordinary’, are ostracized or marginalised. There was a time when a ‘Car’ and a ‘Secretary’ were signs of having arrived in the Corporate world. Designations had to have the term ‘Manager’ interred in some form and an organisation would have been able to attract talent. That’s how we ended up with t-a-l-l pyramid structures in organisations – we appeased just about anyone!
Today, it isn’t that uncommon to find people dropping out of the unilateral rat race to build start-ups, volunteer for social work or travel. It almost seems like the ‘done’ thing(s) to do. Even better, unique titles such as Chief Belief Officer or Gardener or Chief Fun Officer are far more coveted today than being a mere ‘Manager’.
With more avenues being explored and creativity being the norm of the day, it seems imperative to anticipate and meet the needs, wants and desires of the person on the street. ‘Customer Loyalty’ used to be A strategy in marketing; today, Customer Loyalty IS marketing. The ones who thrive are the ones who are able to understand a requirement and jump ahead to cater to / for it. Bringing your pet to a cafe on a lazy Sunday morning or designing an exotic theme for a wedding are all now pretty common place.
In my close circle of friends and family, amongst a host of other careerists, I have one award winning Chef and one designer for Victoria’s Secret. Yep, I can see your eyebrows rising in awe but believe me, there was a time when all wasn’t smooth sailing! The VS designer’s mum almost had an apoplectic shock when she found out that her SON was designing LADIES ‘chaddi –bras’! Didn’t matter that his annual salary was already a 6 digit number (back then)!! For a very long time, she refused to tell people that her US based Engineer son had digressed from his potential Professorial path – she preferred to announce that he was unemployed!
We forget that the biggest form of diversity lies not in the differentiation between sexes – it is in the way we think. Today, the real beauty lies in the fact that we are allowing ‘thinking differently’ to prosper. This is amplified in the rise in the number of products and services, prodigies and debutants. The new special doesn’t always remain special – it begins to become common and very soon, is taken for granted. Until of course, it ceases to exist – or he announces his retirement!
So yes, for the ordinary me, the likes of Sachin are signs – the possibility of making a difference in a sometimes not so different world.
And that’s what I ‘lurve’ you for, Sachin!
Sanjeeva puts a smile on my face. People who spend the most time with me say that they know I am thinking of him when I get this beatific, goofy look on my face. Well, considering just how significant his existence is in my life, I am not surprised by my reaction.
Sanjeeva is the man who makes my mid morning and mid afternoon cups of coffee. Those of you, who know me well enough, will testify to the significance and importance of those cups of coffee in the grand scheme of my day!
Like Sanjeeva, there are a number of other such people in my life, the ones who ooze reliability (well, most of the time anyway) – Anu, without whom I would starve as I would have had to depend on my cooking (!), Hanumantha, my regular source of taxi rides, Sridhar, who is responsible for ‘clothing’ me sensibly, Dhobi, who maintains my clothes and ensures I have a steady supply of pressed clothes. . . the list is endless (and includes amongst other people, my local store delivery boy, or in other words, the SOS factor for things that have run out!)
In the rat race that we are a part of, it is strange that while technology seems all pervasive, there are still some old world elements that we cling onto for dear life!!! These exist in the back ground, providing us with comfort that we so often take for granted. However, the minute one of these disappears, there is a severe sense of imbalance that has us scrambling, looking to level life again.
Over the years, a lot of such people have come and gone. They come in different guises, speak different languages but almost always demonstrate reliability and dependability. These are the people who have the ability to ensure that a part of my life runs smoothly or as I very ‘euphemistically’ term it, the ones who control my life! It is ironical that some people are important when present but create more of an impact when they are absent!
The requirements in our life can be so easily classified as needs, wants and desires. In my mind, needs are just that – the basics. Wants are the luxuries and desires? Desires are my dreams! The lines between the categories maybe drawn but they are extremely elastic, based on the environment we operate in. Nope, no economics or social lessons here except for the observation that the ability for human beings to adapt to situations is remarkable. For as long as I can afford the Sanjeevas and Hanumanthas, they are my ‘needs’. In case it is not possible to have them in my life, they become the ‘wants’ and when I can’t afford them, they become desires. (Funny how sometimes, I get to see all the 3 stages between two consecutive paydays!).
No matter where or who we are, desires invariably f-a-a-a-a-r outweigh our needs. . . (I figure there is no harm dreaming that I have Cleopatra’s bathroom – huge vats of milk and honey and all!). Some of these desires are so outlandish that it’s really not a wonder that they remain just there – as dreams. But there are those other times when desires are fulfilled and we feel a certain sense of achievement, of having reached a pinnacle that we may have only dared to dream about. . And just sometimes, our desires do not necessarily live up to the dreams. Whatever they are, somehow, desires give us hope and a reason for dreams and I can live with that any day.
In the meanwhile, let me enjoy Sanjeeva’s coffees while they still remain my needs because it is the 3rd stage of the month and I can see them quickly disappearing into the realm of my desires!
It is that phenomenal time of the year when one has a chance to take stock of Resolutions Made and Resolutions Kept. As the years go by, I have realised that the passage of time is inversely proportional to the gap between the Made and the Kept. I call this gap the Carry Forward Coefficient – with no specific emphasis on the Efficient!
So here I am again, making Resolutions, knowing very well that some of them have seen better times and that some have a long way to go before being fulfilled!
Some Resolutions have now become a Tradition. I call these the Ol’ Faithfuls:
I shall Learn to Drive (a 4 wheeler down the road – not 2 leggeds up the wall!). This has been more than an Ol’ Faithful; it is actually part of my Old Testament. It’s not for the want of trying –I did attempt the lessons long time back; I just never got around to being certified as being safe to be let loose. For those of you familiar with the Race Course Road in Coimbatore, my debut into learning to drive took place there, some two and half decades back. The last time I was ‘allowed’ to take the wheel (and I say this in full deference to the poor teacher soul who picked my application), I was steeped very deeply in some interesting daydream and neglected to see that the car had jumped off the road and on the pavement. Would have been ok had I not decided to ‘collect’ a bemused man on the bonnet! That being said, nothing happened to the man save his complete confusion on how one minute he was walking and in the next, was involuntarily transported on my car. To my defence, I got confused. See, I knew that the pedals were ABC (Accelerator, Brake and Clutch) – I just didn’t know whether that was to be read left to right or right to left!
I shall lose weight. This time round, I shall not be overly ambitious – that way, should I not fulfil this (again), the fall won’t be (too) steep! It isn’t that I don’t exercise – oh, I do, very religiously. I just belong to the school of thought that believes that food is for the soul and exercise for the conscience. That way, my ‘chi’ is in balance (tipping one way more than the other but still in some balance).
I shall be more patient with the human beings stupider than I! This one gets more and more difficult with each passing year. Seems like there is a relationship between passing years and patience / tolerance – the gap becomes exponential with every year. I am not sure if this is because I am getting wiser or I am becoming more stupid so as to start recognising fellow stupids with such clarity! (That was a rhetorical question – not seeking an answer!) Whatever the reason, I shall be kinder to such people – because who knows, I may be there one day (if I am not already there yet)
I shall not hoard. I hoard. I believe that when there is a famine or a flood or the end of the world, I shall not be found without at least a year’s stock of Harpic, Vim, Perfumes, Lipsticks, Cooking Oil, Air Fresheners, . . . .you getting the picture? Well the good thing is that I don’t discriminate on what I hoard. Iddu my friend, says that the minute people see me enter a hyper market, they should know what’s good for them and step out of my frenzied way. Else, they may find themselves swept into my shopping bag, probably never to see daylight again!
I shall faithfully use my diary from the beginning of the year to the end. Every year, with relish and anticipation, I replenish my beautiful, personalised leather Year Planner with fresh sheets. Every year, my enthusiasm wanes by May. Every year, my habit is kicked by July. . and August through December sees a deafening silence. So this year, I should either choose to not replenish the planner or I could start using it only from August.( Ah, what choices those present me with so many avenues to NOT fulfil!)
In all of this, I can say one thing for sure – there is no ceasing the Resolutions Made process. Like some Rules, some of these are just meant to be broken. Of what good I say, are Resolutions Kept; it is the journey that is far more interesting – with some you already know the end and with the others, the end remains a mystery (both in terms of whether they shall be fulfilled or when they shall be fulfilled!). What a fun process. . . creating a list of all that the heart desires. . .
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention the last of the Ol’ Faithfuls? Continue Making Resolutions – many of them make for beautiful dreams and others become treasured memories!
The buds, they are tender
Awaiting a little care
To bloom and blossom to fullness
The flowers, they are bright
Looking to be plucked
To adorn a beautiful vase somewhere
The roots, they are strong
To strengthen the hold on life
The buds, the flowers, the roots
They are still young
. . . Yet to see the promise made by the world
It takes but one harsh act
To uproot everything
Our children are the buds
To nourish and cherish
Our children are the flowers
To brighten our lives
Our children are the roots
To ground our being
Ours are these buds and flowers and roots
To preserve for life
As life. . .
Sometime back, a friend of mine informed me that her husband and she were making their already separate lives, legal. She knew it was not going to be an easy step – financially or emotionally. She had begun to doubt herself and her capability to build a new life, forge a different path and make a success of it all.
She called to ask me how I handled it all – the pain, the loneliness . . . even the decision of just making the decision!
Her call got me thinking. I wondered if anyone was ever really ready for such a change in status. Years down the line, I can share experiences, lessons, recommendations, but where do I start?
I told her that the first thing I did was to transform the question, “Why Me?” to “Why Not, me?” The answers I discovered, uncovered, received showed me the mettle that I was made up of. Maybe I always had it, maybe I lost it along the way . . whatever the reason, this was the best possible time to bring everything I had in me, out of hiding.
The next thing I told myself was to stop being afraid of being alone. Being alone is a very human fear, one that many people run away from. The sooner I embraced it, the easier things would be. After being a part of a whole, it is a little strange to step out to create a different ‘whole’. It isn’t easy.
I had to get over my fear and distaste at being tagged. The term ‘divorcee’ maybe more common now than ever before but it didn't stop me from going through a range of emotions – momentary euphoria, sudden bouts of guilt, fear of a different future, thrill at the possibilities, niggling doubts. . . Whatever the wave, it needed to be ridden before I settled down to think rationally. (I realised later that these waves keep recurring and they need to be ridden every single time!)
I started looking at perspectives. The easiest or most cowardly thing to do was to hate and blame my ex husband. However, it couldn’t be easy for him either - he had been in this as long as I had. Our life together was not always unhappy; now more than ever, I needed to focus on the good times. I just exercised the power to stop dragging everyone through our own version of hell and thereby creating more avenues to eradicate any good there was!
When my father died, the first thing my mum did was to return to her job as the principal of a school. She said that the kids kept her going. I took a cue from there and realised that I needed to get a job that would give me my own identity and keep me going. That’s what I did. Somewhere along the line, my job provided (and still does), a strange kind of salvation.
I realised that I needed people who were on my side and also people who didn’t take sides. For my support group, I fell back on friends and friendships that had witnessed and weathered storms. Sometimes, there is no greater soul food than some unconditional love and support. The 2nd group of people invariably pop up in the journey of life – airplanes, office, gym, supermarket aisles, radio channels (yep, I swear) . . . Well, over a period of time, some of these have moved into the support group kind of friends!
I drew up a list of stuff I can do or people I can call when things really got to me. I kept these people informed beforehand of their inclusion in the list – that way, no one was really caught by surprise by a desperate call from me and they can play the conversations on cue.
I reminded myself that it is only the ‘first’ everything that is daunting – the first time I tell people of the breakup, the first time I attend a function myself, the first time I take a major decision on my own. . . Everytime I balked, I envisioned life 6 months, 12 months and 18 months down the line. My divorce was soon going to become old news!
In all this, probably for the first time ever, I learnt what I wanted from my life and my relationships; what I would compromise for and what I would dig my heels on.
I learnt that coping was not an art, a science or an attitude – it was a decision.
So girlie, take the decision one way or the other; everything else just follows.
Dad passed on (the word away seems a little too final!), on September 20, 2004. He died from a debilitating, dignity-ripping disease called Pancreatic Cancer.
It is now 8 years since that fateful day and even now, I still find it difficult to capture the true essence of his life. I don't know whether I am doing him any justice, but I needed to share with people, just what Dad left behind - his legacy.
When he was born 80 years back, I don't think anyone ever visualised the impact that he would have on lives across the world. While he was born in a small village-town in Kerala, he outgrew his home very early on in his life and moved away to what he then considered fairer pastures – Malaysia.
In time, he became the centre point in a family of four.
His wife believed that the sun rose and set on him - she still believes this; we learnt that matters of the heart last longer than matters of the body.
We, his daughters are clear that there could be no luckier people on this earth – imagine, we were blessed even before we came into this world! We learnt that genes only went so far . . . everything else is what life teaches and demonstrates.
His friends believed that he was the best friend a person could ever have because he knew the art of friendship – he let people ‘be’. Over a period of time, we began to see that an accepting person is a rare blessing. We learnt that discrimination has to be only between what is right and what is wrong.
He gave off himself all the time, not expecting much in return. Actually, he never expected anything in return – if he got something, to him it was just a bonus. We learnt the art of unconditional giving and sharing.
He taught us never to speak down to children, we just speak; kids always figure out what is genuine and what is not.
We learnt that no matter how high a person is placed on a pedestal, expect him / her to disappoint/ fail once in a while. That is the only way, we know that the person is human. We also know that if ever we are placed on a pedestal, we can afford to be ourselves because it is ok to fail / disappoint sometimes.
We learnt about laughter and love, sunshine and rainbows. We also learnt that we need to cry once in a while to understand the value of the laughter and love, sunshine and rainbows.
No matter what people tell you, I have personally learnt that death creates a wound that heals marginally – but we move on, cherishing the ache that can only come from having had someone special in our hearts.
For those of you who know us well, please remember that all the goodness in us is from him.
If there is anything else, it is all us and not him.
He is missed. For those of you who knew him well enough, look into your hearts because he may have left some little bit of himself in you.
Well Daddy, you were loved, very loved!
Requiescant In Pace
I love this quote by Nicholas Spark, “I mean, if the relationship can't survive the long term, why on earth would it be worth my time and energy for the short term?”
Over the years, I have seen people come and go from my life. In some cases, the amount of turmoil that accompanied the coming and the going has been tremulous. I have often wondered why the human species does this to its own species – most other species inflicts this upon other species that represent either predator or prey!
I began to realise that in all of this, the one constant that remained, is ME. So over a period of time, I began to build a relationship with ME. The journey is a Forever Project, a Work In Progress . . . . . and when I started this, I didn’t think that I had signed up for a lifetime!
I have to admit that there are moments in this journey that I have absolutely loved and have wanted to secret away in a treasure chest somewhere. . . and a few other moments that I would like to erase like an amnesia would. Whatever else, through the journey, I have gathered my share of realisations:
- The relationship with ME is the most difficult relationship I have ever had to build. Like every human being, I have my virtues and my vices. Some of these I know but have at times, found very difficult to acknowledge. So the 1st step in my journey was to acknowledge who I am and accept that it is ok. What I lose out on my vices, I more than make up on my virtues. I just needed to be comfortable with the aspect that I am not perfect – I was never meant to be.
- While I need to make sure that my behaviour is not overly incompatible with societal acceptance, I am also free to make the best of my life. Sometimes, people may not understand why I do what I do but in the end, does that really need to matter? This is a life. It is meant to be lived in the best way one knows how to. So if this is how I know best, then this is how I would translate it to living.
- Whether lofty or not, there is purpose to my life. By being ME, I make a difference to people’s lives. Small or big, I make changes to people’s lives. Sometimes, this is through the job I do. Sometimes, it is just by being ME. When I make an impact on someone, then I am!
- I don’t need to be loved by everyone. What the hell, I don’t even need to be liked by everyone all the time! The world is filled with different people and I am not expected to conform to the likes and dislikes of the entire human race. I will however, pick and choose a precious few for whom I will make an effort on most fronts of my life. It is just my way of letting some special people in my life know that they are worth my giving up some of my loftiness! However, I am well aware that the human nature is fickle and therefore, like can just as easily turn to dislike. I am prepared for a change in others and I am prepared for the change in myself . . . and I know it is not going to be a smooth change!
- Nothing is ever a waste. My everyday living throws up all sorts of lessons. These lessons range from the trivial (Do not pack hot food), to the pragmatic (Learn to say no when you want to say no), to the profound (dealing with the loss of a loved one), to the spiritual (experiencing and believing in a force greater than I). While there are new lessons I learn every day, the old manifest over and over again, indelibly creating the identity that I am.
- Only I can let ME down. Whether it is in pretending what is not or lying about what is, I still know the truth. So to hell with being something I am not or being somebody else. . .
I find that this journey is like a spiritual ritual – it needs to be consciously done every day, even when it gets a tad emotionally tiresome. Each day brings a reminder and the chance to rectify what can be rectified, modify what needs to be modified and forge ahead.
Loving me may not always be an easy thing to do but I can honestly admit that I have now reached that point where I do love this relationship I have begun to build with ME.
I am told that I am fat.
I do have a few ‘nicer sounding’ terms that I would like to fall back on such as , ‘pleasantly plump’ (my all time favourite), ‘voluptuous’, ‘generously endowed’, ‘horizontal savvy’, . . . .
But when I walk out into the world, I find that the world has a far limited vocabulary and tends to categorise people as either ‘fat’ or ‘thin’. (There doesn’t seem to be any in-betweens)! So in addition to ethnicity, religion and gender, there seems to be a whole new demographic category – SIZE!
On the road, the thins seem to have a number of descriptions – most of which seem to SOUND glamorous – ‘size zero’, ‘slim’, ‘hourglass’. . . . and the occasional ‘scrawny’. With the more rounded of us, I only hear 2 terms – ‘fat’ and ‘obese’.
This turns the other way round when I step into a shop. Over here, the thin seem to be stuck with the ‘X-tra Small’, ‘Small’ and ‘Medium’, whereas the rest of the world goes from ‘Large’ to ‘Triple X-Tra Large’ or even 4L! This kind of tells me that the majority of the world seems to be firmly placed in the Large (??!) section. What completely trips me however, is the fact that some of the bigger sized garments are actually quite shapeless – quite like a coloured / otherwise textured gunny sack. I am sometimes tempted to put up a billboard screaming “Rounded, not shapeless!”
I am not sure when the divide happened but it seems that there is a firm divide between the fats and the thins. The hype is all around being thin and the need to be thin because thin equates to being healthy; I really have no idea when the ‘movement’ started but it has definitely gained an unhealthy momentum.
When I mention to people that I am a regular ‘gymmer’, I always get one (or both) of the following 2 reactions:
- A sceptical look in the eye
- The Question, “So how much have you lost?”
I gym because I want to be healthy. I have proven that very fact when I got back the results for my last comprehensive medical check-up. The only sensible thing I heard from the dietician was the fact that I probably would like to consider losing some weight just so my body will still be able to bear my weight. Now that’s a healthy argument to shed a few grams!
The thin mantra has now transformed into a movement that has invaded our entertainment space too. One of my fun pastimes is the one where some of us friends get together and do advertisement bashing (this generally happens during movie outings).
Take the example of a popular low calorie breakfast cereal – now, apparently the husband turns and looks at his wife even though he is engrossed in a nail biting cricket match. According to the wife, it is all because her size seems to have reduced! I would think that in a room that is slightly dull in colour, a person in red would anyway garner the attention and warrant a 2nd look. Maybe the colour becomes her? Or the outfit maybe? Or just maybe the fact that she was on her way out and he could get the house, the TV and an afternoon of peace???
All the bike advertisements feature wonderful stunts and usually done by very lithe people. (Don’t forget the disclaimer that these stunts are done only by professionals and not to be replicated by mere mortals). Bikes in India are in most cases, the mode of transport for an average middle class Indian family. Now why wouldn’t the advertisers like to call the attention to how comfortable a bike ride could be for a bigger made person?
When I look around me, I see people. I see people who bring their own brand of uniqueness with them. I see people who make a difference to the environment they are in, just by being who they are.
When I look into the mirror, I see a woman who believes that she is compassionate, intelligent and accomplished. I see the glories of the past and the aspirations of the future. I see wounds and scars that have made her more human and less perfect. I see the core of who she is, whatever the shell.
So call me what you will, perceive me how you want but I am me; I look like me, I think like me and I sure as hell like me!!
In our organisation, the HR team is known to be the best place to go to for a de-stress session. The team is small (just 6 of us – 5 phenomenal ladies and 1 overwhelmed man!) but we have managed to create the kind of bonding that not many families have been successful with. Most of our colleagues even walk down a floor into our cabin, knowing very well that they can get just about anything here – food, a safety pin, advice, medicines or a laugh. Our bonding is evident across the organisation and more often than not, we have a number of people who try to time their lunch hour to coincide with ours! As a member of the team, I am proud of the image we represent and portray - more so because it is all genuine and not an act!
A few days back, one of my seasoned colleagues mentioned that he wished that the HR team could replicate this success across the organisation! Had the 6 of us been cut from the same cloth, I would have found this task pretty easy – the answer would have been to ensure that everyone becomes this one person! But the fact is that we are 6 very different people who have our share of laughter and arguments. I got around to deciphering what really makes relationships tick and what causes them to breakdown.
A relationship is a funny thing – it can be a cause for the ultimate joy, a reason for pain, a beacon of hope or a channel of disappointment! These are just some of the many emotions / feelings a relationship can evoke. No matter what, the nature of the relationship is determined by all the emotions that are inherent in it – some of it is visible but most of it hidden. . . So what really constitutes a great relationship?
Accepting – a firm Yes Yes! People are strange . . Well at least, that’s what we tend to think about people who are different from whom we are. We look in the mirror and see this awesome person looking back. However, when we look at other people, we have a tendency to believe that they could be better, improved – more like us! We often forget that each of us brings our brand of uniqueness to the equation and once we leverage this diversity, there is a very different synergy playing between the different elements.
The easiest thing in theory and the most arduous thing in practice, is to be open minded about people. More often than not, it is difficult to accept people for who they are, so much so that we make the COLOSSAL mistake of trying to change them. Funny though how we would resist so hard any change to the ‘perfect’ us, isn’t it?
Taking for Granted – a strict No-No! Some hero stated that “Being taken for granted can be a compliment. It means that you've become a comfortable, trusted element in another person's life.” Here is my response to that - RUBBISH. Pray tell me how being treated as a spare tyre or a couch cushion is a compliment? Spare tyres are used in breakdowns and are a stop gap solution. Cushions are missed only when they are no longer on the couch! If relationships are so important, how can they be pegged as a mere convenience? Well, I guess we can all admit to making at least one person in our life, the spare tyre or the cushion. Ironically, we would not like to be treated that way!
Unconditional Love / Caring – Unbeatable. I know a few people who believe that relationships are best when treated impersonally, like a contract – a quid pro quo in place. It seems that the materialistic world that we live in has got its tentacles creeping into personal relationships in ways that we may never have imagined. If each of us goes back and looks at all our personal relationships, the number of people we call loved ones would probably be way below the number of people who have proven to be or are useful (and no, I am not talking about plumbers and carpenters!) We keep many people around because having them is advantage!
Have you ever observed the relationship a person has with a friendly dog? A dog articulates caring in the most profound manner – its entire body reflects what its feeling. The very sight acts as a mirror and invariably evokes a sense of contentment and unbridled joy. That is what a personal relationship should be all about – love! I am yet to come across a convincing explanation to state that caring / love is conditional!
Hypocritical – A Disaster. When I was in college, I went through this phase of wanting to cut my hair. Mum was averse to the whole thing since I was of ‘marriageable age’ (yep, don’t ask but most South Indians would get the connection!). A male friend of mine encouraged me to go ahead and gave me the “your hair, your decision” spiel. A few months later, when he and I dated for a few months and I brought this topic up again, he suddenly turned 180 degrees and stated that ‘long hair was beautiful, traditional . .’ Suddenly the ‘my hair, my decision’ did not really matter anymore!
This anecdote always makes me laugh but is one of the incidents I always use in my training programmes as an illustration for the inconsistency of human behaviour. Relationships change even when the same people are in it. The biggest disaster occurs when people pretend be something they are not – at some point of time, the truth really does comes out. Might as well avoid that disaster right at the beginning!
Honesty – Always The Right Move. In the end, it all boils down to being open, honest and transparent with people. Nothing tops this in a relationship. I have seen and experienced the magic of this one element. No matter how you feel or what you demonstrate, a false act can always be seen through at some point of time. And just sometimes, it takes one false move to destroy a relationship. I suppose there is an inherent fear of being judged that prevents us from sometimes being ourselves.
There are a number of other reasons that adds to or detracts from good relationships. The magic really lies within ourselves – just how much we really want something to work out (or not).
So here is to the wonderful people in my life who make relationships magical – just by being who they really are!
Most people may have a friend for every season – I have a friend for every movie!
Yep, strange as it may sound, I find that by applying this ‘rule’, I let my diverse group of friends know that I care enough to want to spend time with them – on a common turf.
It all began one day when I tried to bring all my friends together for a movie I wanted to watch. By the time I was done with trying to achieve this Herculean task, the movie left town! That’s when I decided that maybe, it was time to admit that though I cared enough for all my friends, it was not obligatory for them to adore each other!
Over the years, I have made a number of friends. These wonderful people have entered my life in phases – school, college, work, travel, training programmes, hobby classes. . . At each phase, I have made friends who sported similar wavelengths I did at the time. With the years, we have each changed – metamorphosed into who we are today. When you look back, the changes may have been gradual on a day-day basis but from a holistic manner, it is a transformation. Kind of accounts for the diverse group I have!
So how on earth do I resolve spending time with each friend without really ignoring or alienating any one of them? Simple, I choose the movie way! Every friend of mine shares some movie interest of mine. That kind of tells you that I am (almost) hardly discerning about the movies I watch.
Here is how I tackle the project:
Step 1 - choose a movie (usually by Thursday – just so we get the best seats in the theatre on a Saturday)
Step 2 - invite a friend who would enjoy the genre (also by Thursday. . sometimes finalised only by Friday)
Step 3 - spend the pre movie time + movie or movie + post movie time.
Output – A good or a bad movie
Outcome – Time spent in indirectly letting my friend know (s)he is special and I have time for him / her.
It’s funny how I can ‘typify’ my friends from when / what we watch – there are the Late Nighters (the ones who prefer to end their day / work week with a movie), the Sunday Morningers (the ones desperate to avoid large masses of humanity in a mall that would be crowded any other time), the Vernaculars (the ones who watch regional language movies with gusto), the Anytimers (anytime and any damn movie will do!), the One-Offs (the ones that you rashly make a promise to in one insane moment, that has to be fulfilled in a sane moment), the Particulars (the ones who prefer to choose a movie based on reviews), the Out of Towners (the ones I see movies with when I travel) and the Ol’ Faithfuls (those who would provide their company even if the movie’s not up their street).
The entire principle is not without its share of complications.
Twice Over - how do I address friends who may not get on but share a similar interest in a genre? Simple, I go with both – so yes, I have seen a number of movies twice (have been spared from seeing any thrice thus far but I am beginning to think that maybe in my future too!). If the movie is really good (like a Kung Fu Panda), sitting through it a second time round is not an issue. If the movie is not quite all there (like an Agent Vinod), I entertain myself by letting my friends know what comes next! Then there are the kind of movies that are not necessarily great but can be muddled through (maybe a Don 2?). These are easy – I catch up on my sleep / the loo / the snack bar during those spots that I didn’t enjoy the 1st time round!
The Theatre – Sometimes, it’s not the movie that is the contention – it’s the theatre. This really is the case of the best influencer winning. My friends have understood that this is always an easy win – all they need to do is mention what food-hole is nearby!
Double Booking – Usually the worst to combat. It generally starts with me asking 1 friend if (s)he wants to see a movie. In the time that (s)he takes to revert on a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’, a 2nd friend calls and plans a movie. By now, it’s a bit of dilemma but I follow the ‘first come first served’ policy and end up accepting the offer (it’s a lot easier to say ‘Yes’ than it is to say that I have asked another friend and am awaiting her answer – indirectly relegating or elevating one or the other). Of course, Murphy’s Law strikes and the first friend has cleared schedules to come for the movie! If I am a masochist for the day, I take both to the same show and then try to spend the rest of the time bridging gaps. The other way out of course, is to live with being an ass in the eyes of one friend!
In the times that we live in, more often than not, our schedules are invariably at conflict. To be able to carve out meaningful time for everyone can sometimes be perceived as a chore. The beauty lies in being able to make the moments special. I suppose you can do this with a number of other activities – food, shopping. . . For me, there is just something magical about the movies. And when you see a movie with a friend, it just becomes a whole lot fun too.
So the next time I call you for a movie, remember that it really isn’t just the movie . . . .
I know a girl who planned on marrying “Sallu”.
It took little time for the family to figure out that “Sallu” is actually “Salman Khan” ….. and even lesser time to be peremptorily told that only she could call him “Sallu” (and the rest of us should stick to calling him “Salman”)! By the way, this girl was 4 years old when she made this declaration!
The confidence level displayed by the young mind could have only come from someone who has yet to be corrupted by what we lay down as the “Do’s” and “Don’ts”, the “Cans” and the “Cannots”! The conventional understanding is that age brings reason. . . . or does it?
In the 4 decades (a tad over, to be more precise) that I have seen, I have realised one introspective truth: I enjoy getting older. It is such a pure and enriching process that is less often understood and more often despised and feared. The need to ‘grow up’ is most fervent when we are children. After that, it becomes a series of wanting to ‘grow down’!
I think we compartmentalise our life based on the decades we have lived. This is so evident in the phrases we use - “When I was a teenager...”, “.... in my twenties...”. It is quite strange but when you think about it, each decade seems to carry its own peculiar affiliations or representations in our lives.
It all begins in our Childhood when we start off wanting desperately to be our parents – driving cars and donning high heels.
Then we get into our T & T’s (Teens and Twenties) where we do get the cars and the high heels, but we want to be anything BUT our parents.
In our Thirties, we slowly graduate into becoming our parents and suddenly there is a brighter side to things – the next generation aspires to be us, THEIR parents.
The Forties dawn, bringing with it the ultimate truth - we ARE our parents and there is NO Way Out!
In all these transitions from one era of our lives to the next, we have been unconsciously gathering these ephemeral elements called ‘memories’. Little do we realise that memories have the power to define us and influence our life paths.
At 4, I wanted to be the fire’man’ who rang the ‘fire bell’ on the fire engines . (This was in the days when fire engines came with a physical bell and one of the firemen acted as the chimer). That ‘want’ quickly died down when technology replaced the chimer with a button. This was probably my first lesson on the dynamics of change!
At the age of 9, I was misguided into believing that ‘air hostesses’ led glamorous lives and therefore that was what I wanted to be when I grew up. That ambition died about the time I realised that the shape round does not form a part of the job description for the role! I faced the truth that sometimes, physical appearances make a difference.
At 15, I wanted to follow Mother Theresa. . . an aspiration that sank without a trace when I discovered that boys and lipsticks were not a part of the equation! I learnt that there could be a clash of desires and somewhere, somehow, some desires prevail over the others.
At 20, I learnt that choices I made, defined the direction of my life. Most choices were a one way street.
At 25, I learnt that dreams notwithstanding, money played a pivotal role in survival!
At 27, I learnt that love changes people but only if they wished to change. What’s more, love itself changes its hues.
At 32, I learnt that I should compromise only to the extent that I do not destroy my identity. Like my shadow, my identity is personal to me and should not be surrendered.
At 36, I learnt that freedom means different things to different people. For me, it meant that I was free to envision a different future for myself.
Now that I am in my 40’s, I find myself standing at a beautiful threshold - I can look back to savour and appreciate the richness of my memories and yet eagerly look ahead to the surprises life still has in store.
And as for the little girl who at 4 decided she wanted to marry “Sallu”, I can but hope that she has just as rich a journey . . .
I didn’t know this earlier but I am convinced now – I need to enrol myself in M.A. (Masochist Anonymous). I know that I am not alone in this; I have to be just one of the many 1000’s who pay to be tortured but probably one of the very few 100’s who have acknowledged that therapy is necessary to go through with it!!!
In the few months that I have resumed the gym regimen (I definitely had a moment of amnesia when I enrolled; I had forgotten why I had dropped out in the first place!!), I have alternately questioned my intelligence and accepted my insanity!
This time round though, I was clever enough to lay down my conditions with my trainer:
i. I will not starve my soul. . or body by dieting
ii. I will work out only 5, maximum 6 days a week
iii. I will never weigh myself – the idea is not to horrify / scare me away
I overlooked the fact that my trainer might have his conditions too. From what he says and does, here is what he has implied:
i. You don’t need to diet but I will scare the food (water, God, Devil . . .) out of you
ii. Your week will consist only of the ‘maximum’ days; the days you don’t turn up would lead
to a cumulative workload the next time you turn up
iii. You don’t need to weigh yourself but I will continue to irritate you by repeatedly asking
you the same question every morning
iv. You will have no dignity while you are under my dictatorship
I could have lived with a teensy-weensy part of the above but what I did not bargain for was my disillusionment over the falsity of some of the age old adage that I had previously lived by. I have now decided that I need to rewrite some of them for what I now KNOW as the truth.
Our Forefathers lied : Honesty is the Best Policy
I know the Truth : Honesty is NOT the best policy
Last Sunday evening, I was in a mood to have an egg salad sandwich. So I made the sandwich and put a few thin slices of smoked cheese to make the dish look sophisticated.
The next evening, at the gym, I was doing just alright . . . till I opened my mouth and mentioned this to the instructor. At that time, I did not realise that the admission was actually a confession that would be followed by a baptism by fire. Next thing I know, I found myself stuck in a major time loop of an endless stream of exercise routines with no possible end in sight! When the whole thing ended, my legs began to behave like 2 like-poled magnets, repelling each other and involuntarily moving in opposite directions. I finally walked home looking like a frog.
Our Forefathers lied : Empty Vessels make the most noise
I know the Truth : Fat Vessels make the most noise
Currently, I am recording higher decibel grunts in a closed environment than Monica Seles ever did in any open environment. It is impossible to lift or push anything in a gym without feeling it – expressing the feeling just becomes involuntary. Off-late, I keep checking to see if some of those sounds are just my breathing or my having an asthmatic attack! I believe that along with smoking, gym work-outs should be warned as being hazardous to health.
Our Forefathers lied : Charity begins at home
I know the Truth : Pain begins at home
Very self-explanatory, I would think.
Our Forefathers lied : A bird in hand is worth two in the bush
I know the Truth : Two birds in the bush are safer than a bird in hand
Dumbbells on the rack are very harmless. They do not try to kill you.
The ones in your hand however, are very menacing. They subtly threaten to break your head or wrench your arms out of their sockets.
A dumbbell gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘short, blunt instrument’, used most effectively in a statement such as, “She was killed by a short, blunt instrument that she involuntarily dropped on her not so thick skull”.
I think the gym has now become a necessary evil in my life. Kind of like a habit that remains until it's kicked. Getting me through though, is my most precious lesson (articulated eloquently by someone I have never met):
Helen of Troy may have had a face that “launched a 1000 ships", but mine has “lunched on a 1000 chips”.
Take this Helen - THERE IS MORE WHERE MINE CAME FROM!! ... Ka-ching!!
I bet you’ve heard the phrase, “It pays to dream”. It never ceases to surprise me how it is that, most things (even abstract elements such as dreams), end up with associations related to money?
Today, I actually questioned the veracity of that phrase. Let me tell you why . . .
I have a cook – a young, affectionate, well spoken, faith-in-God lady. Her immediate family consists of her tailor-husband and her 7 year old school going son. Over the last 16 months that she has been with me, we have built a fairly easy relationship, one where we discuss a number of things.
The cover page of today’s newspaper is predominantly dedicated to the death of 3 month old baby Afreen / Hina (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bangalore/Battered-Bangalore-baby-Afreen-dies-in-hospital/articleshow/12620022.cms); a baby who suffered a heinous death all for being a ‘girl’! The article was (and still is) very heart wrenching. I paused to think of the 3 of us in the house at the time - my cook, my domestic help and I – all 3 ladies and all from various strata in society. Thank the Good Forces that our parents had not been so short sighted / narrow minded!!!
I started discussing the story with the other 2. Both mothers (my domestic help incidentally, has 2 daughters of her own), went quiet for a few minutes and then began talking about other child abuse cases they had either heard off or seen. I rested the matter and left the kitchen.
A few minutes later, my cook came to the bedroom, wiping tears from her eyes. She came to share a very precious part of her history with me.
A couple of years earlier, my cook’s neighbour, a night watchman in an apartment building, brought a 2 month old baby girl to her. During his rounds the previous night, he had heard the continuous cry of a baby in an unlikely area. He went to investigate the sound and saw this baby girl left on a pile of rotting garbage. The little baby had ants crawling over her and mosquito bites all over her body. The man picked up the baby, swaddled her in his shirt and brought her home. The couple have 3 daughters of their own and could not afford to care for a 4th.
Post his wife cleaning and feeding the child, they brought the child to my cook, trusting that she would suit the role of a guardian angel. My lady true to form – and expectation – took the child in, lodged a statement at the local police station and brought her ‘daughter’ home. She thought that the baby was now hers, legally. She even went on to have the child christened and baptised in her church. She thought that all her dreams had come true - because it had been her dream to adopt a child and God had granted just that, hadn’t He?
A few days later, she was summoned to the police station. The baby’s mother had been found. The story was that the baby’s grandmother had abandoned the ‘girl’ baby almost 10 kms away from their home, believing that the ‘burden’ of a girl is gone forever. What she didn’t bargain for was the love and persistence of the mother who wanted the ‘burden’ back!
It is obvious which way this story went. . . the mother was very happily reunited with her baby. My cook knew that this was the right thing, but it didn’t stop her heart from crying.
Considering that she had always dreamt of adopting a child, this episode gave her the impetus to adopt a child.
Here is where the dream and it’s ‘perceived’ value clashed. She started the adoption process but every time she approached an adoption agency, she was told that she was ‘not financially viable’ to be an adoptee! Wow!
Present is a woman who has the ability to love and rear a child, the desire to share her family with someone who needs just that, the heart to take a stranger home and above all, the longing for a girl child to complete her family. Yet, she is told that she is not ‘rich’ enough.
I like to think of myself as a career dreamer. My dreams have always provided a wonderful refuge for those times when my reality was not quite all there. Sure, we all have wild dreams (mine is to win a Jackpot in Vegas where there is a mountain of coins piling up at my feet!), but are some dreams just a path to disillusionment? Should our dreams be pragmatic just so there is a probability of fulfilment? Or do we dream big and allow our dreams to define (some of) our thoughts, actions?
As far as I am concerned, I think my cook had the guts to make at least one of her dreams a reality. She can persist in dreaming and hoping. . . but she also has the option to rest this dream and pursue another one.
I would just like to think that she still dreams .... period