October 18, 2016

Purge, prune and get ready

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The nooks and crannies have been dusted off. The spiderwebs destroyed before they get a chance to weave their complex pattern at idle corners. The shelves cleaned and re-arranged. The junk has been thrown out without mercy and the outgrown stuff neatly piled into bags to be donated away. I'm methodically and systematically attacking every room and feel a great sense of satisfaction as I step back and admire the results.

Diwali is around the corner and I'm neck-deep in the getting my space ready for all things positive. I believe our customs are rooted in meaning and hence the prescribed ritual of cleansing before the advent of a major festival. The home-cleaning is only symbolic to reflect what we ought to do at a more spiritual and deeper level. We are preparing our mind for goodness to enter our lives, for light to dispell the darkness, for rustiness to give way for renewed energy and momentum.

I find spring cleaning therapeutic. While I pride myself on not being a hoarder in the literal sense, I have a tendency to collect unproductive adornments like anger, self-pity, despair, inertia, and demotivation. These sit silently beneath the surface, decaying my spirit. They burn my mental peace, the soot coating the true character from time to time.

I mentally visualize my mind being freed of the baggage as I diligently scrub away the dullness that is hardened precipice of dust and grime over my cherished brassware. Just as the metal responds immediately and enthusiastically, gleaming and shining, I will the mind to break away from the negative loop of ungainful thoughts and steer it clear from leading a disruptive way of life.

The blackness that cloaked the brassware previously has now blanketed my fingers. Placing my hands under the running water, I watch the remains fade away; vestiges of the labor, letting off a faint smell of the soap and powder remind me of my sweet victory.

Not far away, Chaos with its multi-faceted tentacles of turmoil is sitting quietly, smirking and shaking its head solemnly at the futility of my attempts, mischievously indicating its impending arrival. In reply, I look and smile in tranquility. What it does not know is that I'm not afraid of it anymore. I've begun to enjoy the periodical process of breaking it down and sending it scurrying away. I seek strength from defeating it every time even as I accept that I cannot wipe it away completely.

Just as I'm wired to get into action at the sight of disarray in my surroundings, I resolve to tune myself to work on my mind and body in a similar fashion. It is never a one-time activity and I'll probably never get to the day when I can sit back and say nothing that happens in my life will affect me negatively. However, I can:

  • Promise to attack negativity the moment it threatens to pollute my sacred space. 
  • Promise to not let it consume me and envelop me in its darkness. 
  • Promise to seek outside help when I falter and slip.


I'm ready for the festival of lights. Are you?

October 14, 2016

Of Reflections And Refractions

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There's an emptiness, a feeling of floating in a bubble as Dussehra comes to an end. There's a huge pile of things to be tackled but I'm unable to shake off an explicable inertia. I'm preoccupied, mentally jotting down the tasks that need to be ticked off a never ending list; the simplest of the lot and one sticking out foremost is that of spring-cleaning and getting the house ready for Diwali.

The period of a lull after a bout of intense activities is my excuse for the sudden dip in spirits. Yet, I know, that's not entirely true. A part of me is feeling pepped up, going with the flow, checking off the items, doing what the situation demands but the other part grinds to a halt at frequent intervals, non-cooperating, holding on to the present with tight fists and watching it slip away into a timeless zone.

Finally, the truth of life is that no event or situation is constant.

November will be the month of birthdays and also when my parents would visit us, something I'm looking forward to. It dawns on me that December would soon tip-toe in and slink away leaving me wondering yet again about where and how the 365 days disappeared and what is it that I can smile about 2016. I decide to make a gratitude list at the end of the year to thank the Universe for the many blessings.

I'm not willing to look beyond the year-end at the moment and instead focus on the past fortnight that flew by. The break from school routine was the only let up in the otherwise packed 2 weeks. Every day, every hour was bursting at its seams with to-do lists. The minutes had vanished into thin air teasing me to stop and just take stock. Yet, I was happy to just let myself ebb and flow without a pattern.

I had stiff deadlines to meet at work during the day but the evenings were earmarked for the festivities. Socializing, community programs, golu-hopping, or having people over for vettalai paaku, these adorned my usual plain routine like glittering accessories. Boring suits and jeans gave way to soft, bright silk sarees. I lingered a tad longer in front of the mirror adjusting a stray hair, making an effort to match the dazzling crowd outside. Roles of a mother, wife, and the adult shouldering many responsibilities side-stepped for a bit as the fun-loving woman peeked out of the closet, took centerstage and decided to let her hair down. Like a mono-stage act, I sauntered from one scene to another, wearing multiple hats, and changing roles seamlessly as these diverse characters converged at various points; it almost seemed like a carnival.

The screenplay brought back memories of the past when Amma, my sister and I would be a team doing the rounds of houses during Navratri-Golu. The sister and I were known in the close-knit circle as the singer duo and would be called upon to showcase our skill as an offering to the traditional dolls that adorned the odd number of steps in houses. Post-marriage, as the husband and I moved houses and in and out of various social circles in the past many years, I've come to don this mantle alone, slowly graduating from a self-conscious teenager who half-heartedly participated in the traditions, to someone who has begun to enjoy these little moments, experiencing the love and joy that emanates from cherishing the essence and spirit of these rituals.


How did you spend this Dussehra? What has been happening in your life lately?

October 3, 2016

If we were having coffee...

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--I'd brew you some lovely piping hot filter coffee, bubbling with froth and aroma, poured out in steel tumblers or cups, if you wish, and offer it along with some crispy savouries. When it comes to coffee, there's nothing like filter kaapi, I might brag. I hope you'd excuse my vanity and sit down comfortably to some light banter and eventually sober down for a heart-to-heart conversation.

--As we settle down and the initial laughter and madness, that is a part of the package when good friends meet, simmers down, I'd tell you how life is currently packing all the paradoxes in the world and shoving them right up my face. It's, in fact, smirking at me right now.

Something that I had wished for is about to happen. I should, then, be elated, right? Well, honestly, I'm fighting bitter-sweet feelings. It comes at a time when I had almost made peace with the status quo. In some ways, a part of me is looking forward to the change but another part is resisting it because it is a harbinger of some compromises and re-arrangements which are unsettling. It makes me realise how we wish for things without truly comprehending its effects. I was perhaps not fully ready for whatever I had wished for.

--I'd then perk up as you offer consolatory words and move on to tell you how our apartment complex has suddenly erupted up in festive liveliness and colourful spirit. It's taken a while for this to happen but it's certainly heart-warming to see the various ethnicities warm up to one another and emerge as a homogenous unit during community celebrations. Starting with a spirited patriotic front put up for Independence day to the cultural and devotional extravaganza for Ganesha, the energy has been pulsating.

--I'd share my experiences of the Ganesha celebrations; about how fulfilling it was to extend my contribution towards the prasadam-making for one of the days. I usually baulk at cooking large quantities of food and making a sweet for about 30-40 people was certainly not right up my alley. Yet, I brushed off my hesitancy and agreed. I shed a copious amount of inhibition as I sang many solo bhajans but the grand surprise was my decision to take part in a group dance. You might raise an eyebrow at the mention of dance because you know of my limitation and reservations in that area. I'd smile and explain how I kept denying the invitation to join the event until I happened to witness the practice session. The fun and energy exuded by the lovely participants drew me in like a magnet and I impulsively joined in. I'd always be grateful that for once I went with the flow and did not stop to analyse the outcome. I enjoyed myself so thoroughly that now I signed up for a group Garba number during Navratri!

--I'd discuss how work has been very hectic lately. Perhaps, I'd crib about how it has kept me away  from sleep, blogging, and even being idle on Facebook. Now, the last part surely means I'm genuinely busy, right? Yet, I'll also be quick to agree that this is something I'm truly grateful for. Apart from the fact that I derive from it a sense of purpose, I love the teamwork, the energy, and the camaraderie we, as a small unit, share at work. And, I'm not trading this for anything else.

--I'd confess how laid-back I'm and how I do not see myself fitting in the current breed of enthusiastic  mothers, entrepreneurs, bloggers; people who carry a fire in their belly, wanting to leave a mark in this world, do something stupendous and leave a worthy legacy behind. I attended an event recently that talked about how to make yourself stand out in a similarly motivated crowd or competition. I loved the inputs and insights and even networked a bit with the attendees. I looked on with pride and amazement at how some good friends were a part of the panellist. Yet, I couldn't imagine myself being on the other side. No, not because I see myself as less capable. But because I totally lack the fire and passion. Come to think of it, while the rest of the participants furiously clicked and tweeted the proceedings, I sat there happy to just take notes in my diary. I was carrying an old phone whose battery was dying out even as I laid it to rest beside me. I'm also a bit lazy with clicking selfies and photos that need to go out pronto as FB statuses. No, I didn't even come back and shoot out a post here about the lovely experience as I got busy with life. So not the "in" thing. I know. Sigh!

--I'd perhaps look for validation as I admit that I'm someone who at times feels confident and raring to take on the world and at other times is intimidated and boxed into feeling inadequate in a larger and more accomplished crowd. That I readily take a step back in a circle when the others vie and scream for attention and I'd rather not be one among those.

--I'd tell you that I've missed writing for myself, here, in this space.While I do write every day as part of my work, something I enjoy doing as well, it is not the same as writing to satisfy my need to channelise the many thoughts, ideas, and musings that jostle for space in my head to grow and develop their individual identities. I had been itching to share all the happenings in my life and would thank you for the coffee date and the chance to spill my heart out.

--I'd also retreat into spells of silence and listen attentively to what you'd have to share. I'm a good listener that way.


September 14, 2016

The most difficult words to say

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Have you wondered about the relationship between an artist and the audience? And, I'm not referring to the successful celebrities and their fan following frenzy. I'm talking about those unassuming people we see in our everyday walk of life. The ones who seem ordinary at the outset but carry a special skill  within that outshines when pitted against the rest.

Don't we all know of, in our immediate circles, a master chef, a pitch-perfect singer, a skillful painter, an imaginative craftsperson, a graceful dancer or even someone who's a bit of all of these? These are artists in their own right, some perhaps bidding their time to make it big and some just content being a devotee of art. At different points of time, we could well be that artist or one among the audience.

As an audience, how many of us walk up to the unsung hero and applaud his/her efforts? How many of us generously spend from our tightly-held purse of appreciation without a grudge or an expectation of a return compliment?

It's easier to be a mere spectator of the artist's mastery over respective genres, pausing only briefly to register his/her excellence. And then, move on. Without a word. To either wallow in self-pity or to sharpen our own set of strengths to feel worthy enough.

I often wonder why we don't praise easily; or generously and genuinely enough?

I assume it's because we are entwined in low self-worth and insecurities. It's very likely that we are ourselves a struggling chef, singer, painter or dancer and lack the confidence to showcase whatever talent we have. We begrudge the other person who has risked criticism and is brave enough to expose the raw self. The feelings of 'if only', 'what ifs' and 'why me' throng the egoistic mind, building up an invisible, impregnable shield between the self and the artist or even rest of the world.

Perhaps, this is also a reason why we're able to freely congratulate and applaud someone whose skills are disparate from ours. Here, there's no basis for comparison and therefore no green monster raising its ugly head. Again, it's easier to be in awe of a celebrity figure because somewhere in your mind you have accepted the fact that the artist and you are on different planes and there is no scope for the juxtaposition.

However, when the tables are turned and we do not see our talent being recognized and appreciated, do we smile knowingly? Ah, the complexities of a human mind! As slaves of an art form, we are constantly seeking a discerning audience, some constructive feedback, a bit of admiration or adulation.

Appreciation from external quarters is a validation of all the hard work the artist has put in to create a beautiful artwork for the world to see, touch or experience. The words that speak highly of a job well done serves as a throttle for him/her to do better each time.

A creative person's world is often lonely. Even among a company of those similarly endowed, he/she embarks on a long-winding path that is traversed alone. Thick boughs of a criticizing audience dotting the sidelines form an intimidating canopy. The path itself is strewn with thorns of self-doubt and fear. At such times, when a kind face waves out encouragingly and cheers him/her, all the obstacles seem to fade out into the oblivion and the journey becomes enjoyable.

The perspective changes dramatically by simply reversing the side you're on! Yes, it's tough to make that switch but not completely impossible. So, the next time our ego stops us from patting someone's back, we must try to put the self for a while in the artist's shoes. It might then be easier to smile easily and say those simple but difficult words, "You did a great job!"

What are your thoughts? Would love to know what you think.

September 1, 2016

Parenting fears: Is there a right way?

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Of late, we are seeing an increase in the number of students taking rash steps on account of studies, unable to cope with pressure and the fear of facing the society, including one's own parents. As is wont with the online space we are quick to take sides and debate the incidents, the merits, and demerits of various parenting styles. A classic case of 'have an opinion, express it'. Yet, for all its faults, the social media also rises in humanity to calls of distress and shows care and empathy as seen in many a case of missing loved ones being found by the virtual human chains.

So, when this delicate layer of goodness within the virtual world is ripped apart by callous attitudes, I feel disappointed and wonder about the future of compassion. The case, in this instance, is a young student who decided to walk out of her home because of low scores. It was not a step taken in a moment of weakness, we learnt later, but of thoughtful, careful planning. The trauma and trouble she put not just her family into but the entire community of strangers that helped to trace her to safety got trivialised as she spoke confidently in front of the camera accounting in detail how she travelled and survived on a shoestring budget, barely seeming repentant of her deed. The parents too seemed to be taken in by their child's ingenuity.

If ever there's a job that does not require a prior experience, provides no roadmap, is extremely demanding and confusing, it's got to be parenting.  The dividends, though delayed, are richer than the salary any job would provide, but oh boy, the journey is arduous, to say the least. Fraught with worries, self-doubt, and questions at every step and phase of the child, the parent truly grows up with the kid.

Parenting today, in a nuclear setting, means a chance to be a hands-on parent, to challenge and change archaic, rigid methods of disciplining and conscientiously nurture the generation next. Also, today, there's the internet and social media. A place teeming with articles on how to be a better parent, how to raise better kids, why the parents err, and why the children err. So, that should be make up for the lack of hands-on support, right?

That's the tricky part. While I cannot deny the advantages of having a wealth of information at hand, most of it well-researched and well-meaning, it does not necessarily make the task at hand any simpler. If anything, today, we parents face the challenges in a two-fold manner. We not only have to walk the tight-rope alone, we also do that under the limelight of the ever critical and watchful society.

We new-age parents truly want to create a better world for our children and do not hesitate to question our methods. And, while our newsfeed is filled with all the supposed model methods of parenting, we do not have the model child for whom these methods were devised or tried upon. Our child is always different. Every child is different. And, no one method can apply or fit like a glove magically.

If we critiqued the old methods of parenting, we are faltering no less than our own parents. We do not want to reprimand the child too harshly because we want to bring up empathetic people. We are careful not to question a low academic performance because we fear the child might take extreme steps and we only want to encourage progressive learning and not cut-throat competition. While these are well-intentioned goals, somewhere we are failing to factor in an important aspect.

Trusting our instincts 
We are so entangled in the external feed of what ought to be done that we have lost the connect with our internal voice. The voice that may not conform to the teachings and findings of better parenting yet might be right; right for us, for our child. We tread on eggshells fearing to make mistakes because we believe that our mistakes will cost our child's future. One moment we give in to rage at our child's mistakes and the other moment, when the inner critic seasoned with external knowledge rebukes us, we placate using rash promises. We border on extreme reactions confusing the child further.

I wonder if the girl's parents are similarly confused. If they realise the negative impact of showcasing the brighter side of their child's errant behaviour. It was such a lucky chance that she did not get into a bigger trouble, the horrifying ones that dominate the headlines these days. I wonder if the girl realised this. I wonder if we, as a parenting generation, are raising a more confused lot who want to succeed but do not wish to undergo the exacting tests in life, who want to take the easy way out and look to blame the parents and society for their stumbling blocks.

What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear.

August 26, 2016

Of customs and celebrations

August marks the beginning of the festival euphoria in India. As a child, I loved the second half of the year. School days would be generously sprinkled with holidays, the break for Diwali being the longest. The festivities at home were the most-awaited ones. The days leading up to an important festival like Ganesh Chaturthi or Janmashtami would throw the household into a frenzy mode of procuring the best ingredients for a 5-course meal, flowers, and other sundry pooja material.

We kids, of course only eyed the goodies prepared by the grandma and mom, waiting to dig into them. We could not eat them without offering them first to the Lord, of course. Tempted, furtive glances would be thrown at the spread of dishes; a great mix of sweet and savouries. Every now and then I'd loiter into the kitchen and pooja room to see how far the pooja had progressed only so I could appease my growling tummy and impatient sweet tooth.

Wisps of memories cloud my mind filling it with a bright tapestry; of the colourful decoration of the idol with flowers, the scent of incense stick mixed with the heady camphor-filled aarti, the hurried pace in the household; of Amma effortlessly ramping up energy, dishing out a scrumptious elaborate meal with the extra set of dishes for the naivedyam (customary offering to the deity) before aarti time; of her, in between all this, shooing us away from the sacred space of the deities gently admonishing us to first have a shower and then step inside.

Today, the tables are turned. As an adult and a parent, I realize being on this side of the scene is not as much fun. Festivals now bring in a dull feeling of dread, of impending duties towards the Lord above and mortals below and a self-imposed pressure to conform to the customs and rituals of yore. The responsibilities of the usual household chores, working in tandem with the child's school and spouse's work schedules, my own work deadlines, putting food on the table, all have a cascading effect and there's not much energy or enthusiasm left to walk that extra mile on special days.

I can picture my granny chiding me for all the drama and fuss I'm creating. She'd say at your age we did so much more and never felt the need to crib. True that. The next generation, though, pertaining to my mother and mother-in-law, seem to understand my predicament and empathise. They ask me to take it easy and do just the bare minimum for a festive occasion although they themselves did all of what the grandma generation did along with holding a full-time job.

I'm tempted to give up easily and do just a superficial show of celebration. I did that when I was pregnant with the child and couldn't run around much. I did that when the child was an infant and toddler citing reasons of not having enough hands to run the circus. Now that all the stages of acceptable excuses have been crossed, I'm forced to sit down and contemplate about my role as a torch-bearer of customs and traditions.

I think of all the times when I've placed a frantic call to the mother to ask for recipe proportions or to confirm about the rituals before a festival. I still do not hold the key to traditional recipes or niche preparations and look for simpler alternatives; the checklists before a traditional ceremony or occasion are always a blur and mixed-up. I wonder whom the next generation will approach when they hit similar roadblocks. Will I be able to answer satisfactorily about the why's and how's of a custom and rattle off the list of items to be ticked off the preparatory charts? I suspect I know the answer already. Perhaps the next generation will have an even more watered down approach and might not even bother to keep up. Time will only tell.

All that I realise and want for now is to create similar memories for R as he grows up. For him to associate the festivities with the folklore and tales of mythology, to fall back upon those during the times of being alone, away from family and friends; to stumble upon rare nostalgic memories if and when he chooses to follow old customs. The memories I create for him today may not be as rich or flavourful as they were for me. Nevertheless, they would be spun from similar fabrics of fun, bonding, laughter, family, and companionship.


What memories do festivals invoke for you? Do you follow the accompanying rituals and customs?

August 21, 2016

Taking the next step

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I've been blogging for more than five years now but only for the last couple of years, ever since the blogging community witnessed changes in the way bloggers projected and promoted their blogs, I've been wondering about my position and future.

While I loved to write, I was unnerved by the commitment, dedication, and aggression shown by the new-age, serious bloggers who are brand ambassadors of their blogs in a true sense. It was a new dimension for someone like me who had considered blogging akin to casually journaling random thoughts; solely as a form of catharsis and not really worrying about the impact of the written word on the reader/writer community.

As with any change, I found myself self-doubting, fraught with insecurities and consequently slipping into bouts of non-writing phases or half-hearted posts. I hesitated to go all out there and place myself under the harsh lights of scrutiny and competition. It meant I had to take stock and re-evaluate my present skills and future goals rather than meandering mindlessly. This took time.

My non-blogging phases, if anything, taught me one vital thing. That, I was unhappy when not writing. Secondly, I found my strongest supporter in my spouse. He has been a constant source of encouragement and has always given me sage advice. He's my soundboard and every time I voiced out a feeling of inadequacy, he knocked it off gently. He would constantly remind me about the need to shun self-criticism and work on building what I already have. While I'm scared of dreaming big, he urges me to believe more in myself and keep nurturing the skill without hoping for things to fall in place in the immediate future. For this, I'm ever so grateful to him.

Taking my writing and blogging to the next step largely means letting more and more people know that I blog. I need people to take notice and for that, I need to venture out into the open. The smallish network of bloggers I had initially built had disintegrated since many of them don't blog anymore or do so sporadically. I need to create a bigger and stronger network in the blog world if I want to sustain. That I'd also need to allow a dedicated time for regular blogging is implicit.

At this point, I need to thank another person who entered my life unobtrusively as a quiet guiding force. Shailaja (she doesn't need any introduction, does she?) has been instrumental in helping me shrug off the hesitancy. Whether it was directing me to sites on writing prompts, or sharing her own expertise in matters of social media and organized writing, or introducing me to a wonderful workplace, she has been generous in giving. She was the one who planted the seed of purchasing a custom domain for the blog in my head. It is, I learnt, one of the ways to give myself the visibility I desire and build a brand image for my blog.

Thank you, Shailaja, for all that you've done and continue to do for me.

So that, my friends, is how I came to purchase a custom domain for my blog. While I do not have any grand goals for my writing as yet, I have come to realize that, for my own satisfaction, I need to blog/write; better and consistently. And, to that effect, there's no harm in being a more disciplined blogger, serious about sharpening the knives. If nothing, I'll always benefit from the knowledge.

If you find me slacking off again, feel free to whack err. remind me about this post.


I'd love to hear your story/thoughts about how you came to self-host or purchase a custom domain for your blog.

Would you consider purchasing if you haven't already?