December 24, 2016

5 aspects of my life that top the gratitude chart in 2016

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December seems to be vanishing into thin air just the way I had imagined. I can already visualize 2017 hiding around the block ready to jump out and startle me. Year-ends make me nervous and excited at the same time. I wait with child-like enthusiasm for the New Year to begin but there's also an unmistakable feeling of anxiousness, like butterflies in the stomach. On the one hand, it's a fresh slate, a chance to start anew. On the other hand, I'm apprehensive about any new challenges that may be in store for me.

Perhaps, it's the sign of the Universe that asks us to be in the moment and leave our baggage behind as we surge ahead.

As I look back on 2016, my heart is filled with gratitude towards the five major aspects of my life that bring me so much joy. And, today seems to be an opportune day to write that gratitude list because today I complete 6 years of blogging. It seems rather strange (but true) that I've hardly celebrated this day on my blog despite this space holding a special place in my life.

It makes sense to start my gratitude list with this aspect of my life.

1. Blogging and BAR: I've come a long way from my first tentative post on this space on the 24th of December 2010. Since then, my relationship with blogging has seen a lot of ups, downs, and long periods of inactivity but somehow we have survived it all.

Blogging largely thrives on self-motivation and discipline but it also needs external impetus from time to time. While I struggled with the former, Bar-A-Thon in August this year provided the much need external push and with that, I seemed to regain my passion for blogging. That's when I decided to put a stamp of seriousness by purchasing a custom domain for the blog. A formal space for myself in the wide world of the web is a motivation for me to blog more and write better.

That brings to the second aspect, the BAR. Before you let your imagination run wild and think of me as an alcoholic thanking my vital dose of inspiration, let me tell you this is a blogging group (although this can be fairly addictive too) I'm talking about. I re-joined BAR (Blog-a-Rhythm), a vibrant group of bloggers on Facebook after the Bar-a-thon in August this year. I was a part of the group earlier too but opted out of it because I wasn't blogging regularly at that point of time. There's a right time for everything in life. I've begun to believe in this adage more and more as I started to fit myself into a blogging/writing groove this year.

So, why a group and why BAR?

A blogging group can be an effective catalyst for a blogger's growth and success. As writers, it might suffice that we write to satisfy our passion but as bloggers, we love an audience.If you have been in the blogging space for a while, you would know that building a healthy readership takes a while but with the right network, one can really speed up the process.

Also, the life of writers/bloggers can get lonely at times and like in any other creative field,  is fraught with self-doubts, anxieties, and performance lows. We too need people who can step up and say, "hey, you know what? It's normal to feel like this. You'll be OK and we're here for you." And, while these words can come from people who are not writers, it makes a world of difference when it's your tribe that roots for you because that also makes you feel accepted and included in the league.

BAR provides this and much more. It has a great mix of experienced and new writers who are excellent in their craft. The camaraderie we share is infectious and a lot of fun too. It's heartwarming to see the experienced ones readily extend their support to others. There's a wealth of knowledge shared both in terms of technical as well as blogging skills.

2. Work: I have held part-time writing jobs ever since R began playschool. I can safely attribute my work opportunities to having a blog. My first ever stint in web content writing and then later technical writing is all thanks to Aparna who was confident that I'd deliver the goods.

While I was content and happy to be putting my time to good use and also earn a little (quite literally) money, I was thrilled when, towards the end of February this year, Shailaja called me to discuss the position of a writer with a popular parenting website where she's the editor.

The work I do here is close to my heart and I love the work culture. We are a lean but passionate and energetic team. Each one of us strives to learn and contribute towards a collective goal. Indeed, I feel thankful to be a part of a set-up that gives me a creative free hand while gently nudging me to do better than my previous best.

3. Family: Every phone call with my Amma and sister ends on a wistful note of how much nicer it would have been if I were living closer to them! While there isn't much I can do about the geographical distance, I'm grateful for the fact that they are just a phone call and a flight's distance away. I'll always cherish the moments we spend together each year. I also ring in the New Year with my family in a spiritual manner each year since the past few years and I'm grateful to be able to continue the tradition so far.

This year was special as R stayed away from us for the first time and chose to spend some extra quality time with my parents and sister. He and S always got along well and it's heartwarming to see the sibling bond grow thicker and sweeter with each passing year.

I'm thankful to be married into a family who gives me a lot of space, freedom, love and takes pride in my achievements. I've to mention how the husband is the rock pillar in my life. He believes in my abilities perhaps more than I do myself. It's encouraging to have someone who doesn't tire of repeating his five-point mantra. Even as I pause and hesitate at every point, he pushes me gently ahead and reinforces my own confidence. For every doubt in my mind (and, there are always many) about whether I should take the step forward, I only have to look in his direction and the doubts are dismissed with a wave of the hand. With such a person by my side, I know that I must give myself a chance and persevere no matter what the outcome might be.

4. My readers: While 6 years is a long time to be in the blogging community, I have been slow to build a steady and strong readership base for my blog. I partly attribute it to my own nature that inhibits me from networking and publicizing this space as much I should be. Secondly, the blog world was a more private space when I began, so I'm still coming to terms with the current trend and hope to adapt myself better with time. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that so many people from my circle read my blog.

I recently nominated myself for the Orange Flower Awards initiated by Women's Web. The final nominees and winners for the various categories are to be partly decided by a set of esteemed jury members and partly through popular voting. I announced my nominations and called out to my readers on my Facebook page to vote for me tentatively without any expectation. It was then I realized how much I had undermined my own writing and this space. I was overwhelmed with the number of friends, family, and even distant acquaintances who reached out to say that they read my blog and voted for me. Some even went as far as trying multiple times to vote since the voting site underwent technical glitches and couldn't register their votes.

I extend my warm and humble thanks to each one of you. You perhaps silently follow my blog but you all mean a whole lot to me because I know whatever I write holds more meaning now.

5. A social community: However much I spend time online, I need my offline social engagement too. The apartment where I stay is a fairly new one and it has taken a while for all of us to mingle and come together as a single unit. This year was particularly a memorable one as we celebrated every festival with gusto and enthusiasm. As someone who takes a while to make new friends, I was glad to find like-minded company. Together, we let our hair down during the various celebrations. These are memorable memories for me.

*****

It's been a pleasure to fill out this post of gratitude and I hope the New Year ushers in peace and happiness for all of us.

And, if you've been reading this far, a big thank you! See you all in 2017.

*****




December 17, 2016

To a boy who turned seven

Dear R,

The days stretch on but the years fly past. This is what comes to my mind when I see you, my little boy, who's not so little anymore. You turned seven last month. In so many ways, you are growing to be an independent person and need me less and less. When and how did the baby and toddler I knew morph into this mini-adult who talks nineteen to the dozen and is already a treasure trove of trivia?

"Amma, please don't do it for me. I can do it by myself"  
I get to hear this all the time. And, the pride on your face is unmistakable, to know that you are capable of doing all that I would do for you until not very long ago. Yes, this also means you get to hear a lot of follow-up questions like, "did you clean your ear lobes, or did you flush and remember to wash your hands?" and a whole set of sundry instructions such as to use the stairs while going down to play and to come back at a particular time. Talking of time, you now know to read the clock but you have no sense of how the time is running out before we have to push you out of the doors for school because you take your own sweet time to get started.

You like to roleplay and often pretend to be on stage, performing an act, perhaps a magic show or a pilot addressing your passengers. Be it recitation or narration, you do it with passion. I realize you love to be in command. Yet, you more or less tend to follow your friends at playtime and get overpowered by them. It makes me sad to hear how you get bullied at times but I know you'll learn, in time, how to assess your friends and to assert yourself.

Even though you are our flesh and blood, you are different from us: more vocal, confident and sure of your choices. It could be the exposure and the generation gap. You are doing well at school and are amongst the popular kids too. Your teachers tell me how you love to fill in for a free period by telling the class stories you picked up by reading or even just randomly. Would I think of you as a show-off? Perhaps, not but I can say you're not shy about showing what you know. Understand that that can be a great trait if laced with empathy.

Which strangely brings me to my pet peeve (or one of the few?) about you. Your favourite word these days is "I know". And, that puts me off many a time. It seems as though you cannot accept or are afraid of accepting that you don't know. I want you to know that it's OK to not know at all times and the worst habit one could develop is a defiance to learning and remaining smug with half-baked knowledge.

While you like to chatter away without restraint, you can be perfectly silent and on your own too. While, in the past, the silence would invariably mean mischief, it now usually means you have slunk away with my phone to watch origami videos or are reading a book. Oh, well, I'm not really complaining here.

I had read about how the sevens can be the best phase of parenting and I'm inclined to agree. It feels wonderful to hold meaningful conversations (mostly) with you and have you notice something new about my dress or cooking. You still enjoy and allow me to cuddle and smother you with kisses and I'm savouring these because I know the time is not too far when you will resist. I love our bedtime ritual for that's when you become my baby again. Amidst admonishes to settle down and lullabies, we snuggle and whisper secrets. In that angelic moment, before you drift asleep, I find that vulnerable child I want to crush under my insurmountable love.

I often wonder how do I bracket myself as a parent, a mother. I do not gush about motherhood, nor am I the fun parent likes to do a craft activity or play with you in the playground. I'm often rule-oriented and perhaps restrict more than I indulge. Yet, I want you to know that I enjoy my time with you in my own way as I've always since your birth. I do hope when you look back at these days from your childhood, you find memories to smile about.

- Your loving Amma

****


December 14, 2016

When paints and pens blended at the #BergerXP Indiblogger meet

When I first saw the invite for the #BergerXP Indiblogger meet, I chuckled to myself. As someone as art challenged as I'm, it felt a bit weird to attend a meet that was associated with painting. Of course, I reasoned, this was wall painting and not the canvas kind. Plus, I was being invited as someone who blogs not paints.

This was going to be my first Indiblogger meet. I was excited even though I had no clue what to expect. I was jittery too since walking into a room full of strangers isn't exactly my cup of tea. However, the last part wasn't a valid concern because it turned out that a lot of bloggers I knew had signed up for the event. Technically, I was going to be meeting them for the first time as well but I had known them for long enough through their blogs and the prospect sealed the plan for me; this was surely going to be a memorable event!

Perhaps, I spoke too soon. For, life managed to insert a spoke in the wheel at the last minute. Ok, don't groan. I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say that after a nail-biting scene of "will I make it or not", I was relieved to sit in the cab that would take me from my end of the city to The Lalit, the venue of the event. Yes, I hear you sigh in relief. I did too, that day. Battling the famous Bangalore traffic, I landed up almost an hour late, right in time for lunch!

And, boy, was I glad to see my blogging group munching there and happily chattering away? You bet! We hit off right away and caught up with pleasantries and some more over bites of bland paneer, face-saving gravies, and finally, a couple of good desserts. Like a bunch of teenagers, we giggled over the selfies and groupies and entered the room set up for the event. The crowd seemed pleased to see our anchor for the day, Anoop. I was to soon realize why as he steered the show naturally with his hs infectious energy and humour.



Kartik pitched in with his zen-like moves to shake us off from the lunch induced lethargy. We replicated the moves clumsily but the trick worked. Next, we were made to skittle around with inflated balloons tied to one leg with a loose thread. The idea was to safeguard your own balloon while you went about bursting the ones tied to others' legs. The madness and laughter that ensued ensured we were alert enough when Mr. Chandranath Banerjee, the Service head of Berger Express Painting, took center stage.


Mr. Banerjee briefed us about the features of the express painting solution by Berger Paints India, the advantages it scored over the competitor brands, and the benefits it brought to the end consumer. Painting the house always brings in unpleasant memories of the dust flying around in the house, the chaos and mess caused by the displacement of furniture and functioning of the house. Not to mention the back-breaking after-work of cleaning and tidying up. If you're finicky about routine and cleanliness like me, you might want to schedule re-painting your home for the distant future. So, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that BergerXP (Express Painting) takes these concerns by the horns and offers an unbelievable solution.


  • The painting is done by certified painters who use sophisticated tools to paint minimizing the total time taken by almost 40-50%. 
  • The cutting-edge vacuum suction-enabled sanding machines keep your house dust-free and give a smoother and better finish.
  • The tools like sanding machine, auto roller, and airless paint srayer used for the process ensure that there's no paint spillage over your prized possession even as the professional experts do an excellent end-to-end job of covering your furniture with plastic sheets and readying the room after the work. We were shown short video clips of how the job is done and testimonies from satisfied customers


But, the icing on the cake is the fact that all these extra benefits come at no extra charge to the customer! Unbelievable, right? The reason is that more than 50% of the painting cost is taken up by the charges paid for the manual labour involved and since this innovative solution cuts down the efforts with automotive tools, the overall cost is off-set. The fact that the company has chosen to let the end-consumer benefit from the cost-effectiveness shows its sincerity towards its loyal customers. I must say, I was impressed.

Mr. Banerjee patiently and satisfactorily answered all the queries we had. I gleaned useful bits of information such as even if I have just a room or a wall to be re-painted, choosing Express Painting by Berger will be cost-effective for me. Also that, it would be better to paint the entire surface as opposed to choosing to do a spot-touch up for better aesthetics.


All through the presentation, we were encouraged to keep tweeting out the information. The more creative we could get with the tweets the better, we were told, since there were exciting gifts to be won. There was more to the fun part. The crowd got divided into six teams and each of us had two tasks to be accomplished. The first was to sandpaper a block of wood to make it smooth and free of any uneven patches. The second was to choose from a given set of themes and paint a canvas using the ready paints, stainers, and brushes. Both the activities freaked me out. Getting soaked with all the dust that will fly off during the first wasn't really my idea of fun and how could I possibly contribute to the second: someone whose paintings can be compared to a toddler's scribblings?



Armed with masks, and head covers our team set off on task number one. And,how wrong I was! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. We kept pulling each other's legs, laughed till our sides ached while also warding off distractors from the other teams. We completed the given task much within the stipulated time although the results of the competition were yet unknown. In the meantime, we readied ourselves for the painting activity. Our team lead, Madhumita, had a clear vision regarding the theme and approach. We called ourselves "Paint my love" and chose to depict a picture about the need to save our environment. Apart from handing out the right brush and appropriate colours to the more capable members of the team, I helpfully kept out of their way.

Post a short coffee/tea break, we came back to a wind-up session that included announcing the results of the above tasks. The judges combined the results of both the activities and awarded two prizes. We were thrilled to discover that our team won the runners-up place. We signed off with yet another rib-tickling game of playing the mannequin that had us taking our favourite pose and standing still for one whole minute. Phew! never did a minute felt that long. We struggled to not burst into laughter what with all the funny poses people chose for themselves.

Smiles on our faces intact, we left saying our goodbyes, already looking forward to the next Indiblogger meet. I, for one, have decided to be a regular at these.

****

December 9, 2016

Maid for each other: is it a myth?

I slide open the kitchen drawer. The metal clanks as I hurriedly look for the steel lid to cover the soaked lentils ready to be cooked inside the cooker. As I pull out the specific lid, I'm disgusted with how the edges still bear the food stains from the previous day. I quickly reach for a cleaner one, place the dirty one on the clean counter like a carefully collected crime evidence; my mind picturing myself giving an earful to the errant maid.

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This is not unusual. I regularly collect such proofs of disinterest and lack of sincerity on the part of my domestic helper. It happens, not too rarely, that I stand shoulder to shoulder with a friendly spider that's crawling rapidly down in its intricately woven web right above my desk in the study. I frequently notice effects of neglect on the corners and wall edges; like the fall colours, they go from a clean white to yellow to finally a dull brown. Only that these are rather ugly and not even half as romantic as fall colours. Even as I repeat the warnings to the lady responsible and vow to myself to replace her at the first chance or even pray she quits of her own, I know I'm blessed to have her as my maid. Sounds strange? Allow me to explain.

I live in an apartment complex. And, with that, I'm also a part of the ladies WhatsApp group. It's like that freebie that no one wants but still accepts because maybe someday you might put it to use. To be honest, for all its faults, the group is the most resourceful unit you can have when it comes to a crisis situation. A crisis could be anything: from a last-minute sourcing of a porcupine costume for your nursery going kid to getting candidates for a vacant position in your company; the group rises to the occasion almost always. Well, I digress. The point is a crisis situation concerning maids can be only one: they not turning up for work. This is when I'm truly thankful for the group because I usually find a substitute within minutes of posting the distress Ad for one.

Those were the days when anger against my own maid was fresh and I was looking for an opportunity to replace her. Contrary to being upset on being ditched at the last minute, I took it as an opportunity to find possible replacements. And, therein began my journey of eating humble pie.

Once a maid duly sent in by my thoughtful neighbour sauntered inside. She towered over me, her hefty figure adding to her menacing attitude. Even as I meekly laid out the work for her, she stated pointedly, "you have four balconies!" "Err..yes," said I, unsure. Would she rather have me detach them from the rest of the house? I wondered. I was glad to see the back of her as she finished the work, in a seemingly patronizing manner, for that day.

Another time, I encountered a middle-aged professional who seemed to know exactly how this entire business of being a house-help worked. I couldn't decide if her pan-stained teeth worried me more or her off-handed approach to the work. "Hand me the mop broom" she demanded. "Oh, we don't use a broom for mopping in my house. Here take the cloth," I offered. "What, no broom?!" I don't work with cloth. My back aches!," she glowered. I respectfully ushered her out and shut the door tight behind her.

In yet another instance, a pleasant looking person turned up to fit into my maid's shoes for a day. She seemed affable to talk to too. And, wonders of wonder, she even got my approval in the quality department. I was beyond myself with joy at having found a perfect maid and mustered up all my hiring skills. I enumerated the work while she smiled benignly. As soon as I finished, she put on an air of supreme importance and announced,

"3.5k per month ma, non-negotiable. Just vessels, sweeping and mopping; dusting maybe once a week. Also, I don't clean bathrooms."
Did she just think I had a money tree growing in my backyard? Hell, I don't even own a garden!

This is when my maid's good qualities took gigantic proportions to put me to shame. How could I think of replacing her? At least, she doesn't talk back, hasn't asked for a raise in the last one and half years, and even agrees to work on her faults when pointed out. Yes, perhaps we are also made for each other.

****
Do you have that perfect maid?


December 6, 2016

A re-cap of a lovely month

The blank page in front stares at me unkindly. The words swirl around the head not wanting to flow cohesively onto the paper. The house is silent and the only sound seems to cut into the stillness is the drone of the borewell machine in the nearby empty ground outside. My mind is in a rewind mode, replaying scenes from the past few weeks. As I make myself my morning cup of coffee, I'm acutely aware of how everything seems shrunk. It's back to the three in the household. Every single mundane task is laced with this-time-last-week recalls. The wistfulness wraps around me like a thick cloak: an inexplicable inertia and I pull it towards myself tighter like one would a warm shrug against the cold wind. The fragrant vapour from my brew warms me up; a smile creeps up at the freshly-minted memories.

November just flew by and how! Birthdays, outings, surprises, parents' stay, some more family visiting; our house and hearts were full. So many precious moments had been filed away in the recesses of the mind. A part of me rightfully fears the loss of these as life speeds on the tracks of the usual day-to-day existence. Yet, another part of me acknowledges that memories never die; they could fade or get infused with newer fragrances. The frames in my head slide forward and backward, not following the chronology of events and I sit down to relive them and capture them all like the falling rain.

The house had echoed with political arguments with the husband and Appa on either side of the debate. The news on Tele played side accompaniments to the sometimes serious sometimes comical jugalbandi between the son-in-law and father-in-law. Amma and I would weigh in occasionally but mostly just roll our eyes at the duo and carry on with our own topics of discussions. We had more important issues to sort out like what to cook for  the morrow or if there's enough food for the night or should we buy the pink saree or the grey one and such like. I was grateful for the extra pair of hands in the kitchen even as I felt guilty for letting her shoulder the housework. Yet, I knew I couldn't do it all what with my work calendar also brimming over.

R turned 7 and we celebrated it in one of the most satisfying ways. This time, the husband and I were not keen on having a typical birthday party. Since the grandparents were around, we felt a more intimate family celebration would make more sense. As though the universe agreed too, in a last minute plan, R's soul-twin that came from my sister's womb decided to pay us a visit just to be together on his birthday. I immediately conspired to keep it as a surprise for R. How the surprise revealed itself is a story for another day. Suffice to say that the plan was a total hit and the kids had a blast together. To top it, my favourite cousin, R's doting uncle was visiting for a couple of days the same week and the entire house was just bubbling with all the happiness and excitement. 



We took our first ever trip together with parents to the beautiful Wayanad. The drive got a little tedious but we compensated it for not cramming too many activities during our stay. We seem to be enjoying these "do-nothing" holidays. The unhurried schedule coupled with freedom from housework sets the mood for fun things. It helps us to bond with R better. It was a rewound to the childhood of the 90s, unblemished from the disturbances of smartphones and the online vortex. The sated feeling after several rounds of UNO and carrom, the squabbles over half-red strikes, benevolence showered on the kid by the indulgent grandma, the sadistic pleasure of owning better cards than your neighbour, these little moments added up to an unmatched personal treasure. 

I was away from this space for almost the entire month and had just a fleeting presence on the social media too. Did I miss it? To be honest, apart from a low gnawing sense that perhaps I ought to be more regular in writing, I never wanted it any other way. My life had felt so full that there was no space for anything else.

****
How have you all been? Did anyone miss me at all?


November 7, 2016

Lessons I learn from parenting

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We are at the table, the husband, I and R, poring over Math sums, word problems that I remembered coming across in a much higher grade than R is in currently. The little guy is restless, as we plod on, tweaking a number here, twisting a question there. His fingers go up clumsily as he counts, miscounts, rushing to arrive at the solution. His eager face falls as we point out that the answer is wrong. Perturbed to learn from us that an answer (right or wrong) needs to be justified by being able to explain the workings, he looks visibly uncomfortable. The session clearly wasn't going down too well with him.

I notice his eyes prick with tears but blinked away bravely. I sense the fear, disappointment, and insecurities masked by his defiant tone. In an instant, my childhood flashes out before my eyes. I signal the husband and we change stances instantly. From anxious parents trying to teach a kid the vagaries of numbers, we relax and reach out to the little human in front of us who is battling complex emotions. We empathise with the child who's trying desperately to win a pat on the back, feeling embarrassed to admit he doesn't understand and yet trying to put up a brave front.

It doesn't matter if you don't know. What matters is you learn and learn it the right way, I hear myself say. Why the steps and the explanation, he protests? When you break complex problems into bite-sized ones, it gets easier to find the answer and it's also a validation that you've learnt the lesson rather than arriving at the goal without realizing the whys and hows. It helps to be organized and discplined in Mathematics. I elaborate.

The reply I gave was an epiphany to me. Didn't this logic apply to Life itself? And, how easily I parted with the wisdom I struggle to ingrain in my life! I almost felt like a fraud doling out sage advice to a child when the adult in me forgets to apply the same tenets.

Yet, I was grateful for how this scene played out. It gave me a chance to pause, reflect, and take stock. It was not a chapter in Math but a reminder of life-lessons. I became the student rather than the teacher.

In another scene, R came back beaten, not in the literal sense, from the playground. Another boy had been bullying him, using the age old tactic of needling, teasing or even hitting him on multiple occasions without provocation. Incidentally, the boy is a part of the 'friends' brigade and I've observed R pandering to his whims and fancies soon after the boy offers an apology that is mere lip-service.

Again, I found myself mouthing wisdom that I had shied from implementing in my childhood.

Standing up for one's defence and self-esteem needs to start early. Identifying the real friend rather than being desperate to fit into a clique will go a long way in having a healthy relationship with the self. A good friend will always encourage and someone who finds your weakness to hold it against you time and again will never be that friend. Asking for forgiveness isn't the same as feeling repentant. And, one must be able to differentiate between the two. 

These are Zen rules and I realize that I do not walk the talk at all times. I'm aware that my child will learn from observing rather than listening. In that sense, I'm being given a chance to redeem myself through the child and I hope to learn well and not squander away the opportunity.

****
"Raise yourself before you raise your kids"-Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. 
I'm reminded of this quote and try hard not to merely preach or sermonize. Trying is the operative word here :-)

Do you feel similarly? Do share your thoughts. 


October 31, 2016

Of cultural conundrums and influences

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The days leading up to Diwali were marked by the lilting fragrance of milk and sugar simmering away on the stove alternatively followed by the tantalizing aroma of fried crispies filling the house. The excitement and anticipation built up slowly with several rounds to the market to buy crisp new shimmery dresses and crackers. The actual day dawned with the air thick with winter-y fog. The sesame oil mixed with peppercorns combatted the outside chillness, working its way into the recesses of the hair and pores of the body, lending warmth, sheen, and softness. The hot water bath before day-break with a background score of fireworks set off in staccato rhythm in the neighbourhood shook us off the remains of slumber on the D-day; a culmination of all that we kids had been waiting for weeks up till now.

The childhood memories of Diwali come back to me as I'm eager to create similar sentiments for R. As I wait for him to come back from school, I wonder how much of the significance of festivals is imbibed at an educational abode and if the percolation of the nuances of our heritage is all but left to the family and social community. As though on cue, R comes back from school and during our usual after-school conversation casually mentions learning about lesser crackers and more sweets for Diwali. Interestingly, he seemed to be more informed about how Halloween is celebrated and how he's excited to be dressed as a ghost. Apparently, his seniors and more knowledgeable peers had taken care to keep him abreast of the current trend.

I struggle to fathom my own emotions. Yes, certain celebrations need to evolve and going green is the need of the hour. I also concede that initiating and sustaining eco-friendliness, water conservation, waste management or gender-equity in a country that has been infected, since decades, with patriarchy and apathetic civic sense, is a gargantuan task and it would certainly help if individuals hold hands and bring about a revolution to set right the skewed nature of our social structure. Why, then, did I sense a tinge of annoyance engulfing me?

I'm embittered by the self-righteous tone of certain sections of the media that gathers momentum only on selective days. The said societal changes require a lifestyle and mindset change that cannot be achieved by pointing accusatory fingers at occasional practices. It's comical to assume that by conserving water on Holi, by not observing Karwachauth, or by not bursting crackers on 2 days in a year, we can transform the society. Rules are to be followed all year long and exceptions made on certain days. Interestingly, it's quite the other way round with daily routine marked by an indiscriminate lifestyle and the vigil being heightened and tightened when there's a festival to be celebrated. The height of irritation for me was to watch foreign TV actors in a commercial against noisy crackers.

Worshipping deities, following practices and customs, and celebrating festivals in a specific manner have a certain significance and should not be trivialized or distorted by a selected few to influence a large society. Social campaigns have a certain role to play and they are effective because the message is delivered at a constant pace and intensity that slowly corrodes into the staid mindset and starts to take effect. To that extent, these are extremely powerful and need to be used carefully.

The 'secular' campaigns I see these days are extremely unfair. Masquerading as messiahs and instrumentalists of a better and advanced society, they single out certain communities, ridiculing and deriding the very nature and fabric of their set-up. How else do you explain our inclination to celebrate a new and foreign custom with absolute surrender and happiness, even as we magically turn into intellectuals and skeptics to question the basis of rituals that have been handed down to us for years now? When one faith observes month-long fasts in order to secure a place in heaven and then cuts open an animal's throat as a mark of its traditions and beliefs, it is said to be cultural freedom and even finds acceptance among other communities because, of course, to each his own. However, when it comes to the customs of another faith, one that is still followed by a majority in the country, there are extensive debates, opinion slapping, and shaming.

I calm the waves of restlessness that threaten to rise within and drown me and decide to follow my instinct and rules. My child will follow as I lead by example. I may not have a lot on hand myself to pass on but I seek to preserve whatever is and inspire R to find the answers I may not have. I look beyond my apprehensions and dilemmas and I notice with relief and hope that my generation is not doing away with the festivities, yet. There are like-minded people who take pride in their faith, want to safeguard the traditions with sensibility and strive to make it happen for the next generation.

****

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?


August 18, 2016

When we met Bahubali!

Shravanabelagola lies prettily within a relaxing drive of approx. 180 km from Bangalore. That, it was just a short detour on our way back from Sakleshpur, sealed the deal for us. I had no clue about the history of the place apart from the fact there was a temple dedicated to king Bahubali. I was intrigued to know more especially having seen the eye-catching visuals from the movie.

We broke off from the clean, wide highway somewhere after Hassan to meander along the narrow but well-laid roads through a small village. Green fields alternated between flashes of multi-hued dwellings on either sides of the road. Soon our destination, the temple, lay within our view.



The husband claimed that he had been to the shrine when he was very young. Apparently, he didn't remember the details quite well. Especially, the fact that we had to set upon an arduous climb to reach the said shrine that was perched on the top of a steep hill! 



As you can see, the climb was a test of our stamina and strength. The first 200 odd steps were covered with the end in sight, so the strain got ignored. A periodical glance below after short spells of ascent left me awed with the beautiful sight and also a ticklish feeling at the pit of the stomach.

That's the Chandragiri hills (opposite the Gomateshwara temple on Indragiri hills) you're seeing. This is where Chandragupta Maurya breathed his last.


Our first landing was here. This structure, seen from below, was what we thought marked the end of our efforts. I remember telling myself, "Ok, now just a few more steps" But, alas, where was the huge idol hankering after which we had laboured this far up?! Turned out, it wasn't going to be an easy task being face to face with the mighty power. 

This structure was the Odegal Basti that enclosed three smaller shrines devoted to the main (Adi) tirthankara and two others. Upwards from here, the steps got larger and more cumbersome to lumber on. Two landings later, we finally entered the Gomateshwara temple or the sanctum where the massive idol of Lord Bahubali was housed. 

The history we learnt here:

Gomateshwara or king Bahubali was younger son of the the first tirthankara, Vrishaba Deva. He won the war of the throne against his elder brother, Bharata, but later renounced all power and wealth to become a Jain ascetic. (Also, the premise on which the famous movie, Bahubali, is based).

And, yes, it was about 650 steps up until here!



The Gomateshwara or Bahubali statue stands at an imposing height of 58 feet and 8 inches and is carved out of a single granite stone. It is considered the world's largest monolithic statue. A maha-ashtabhishekam is held once in 12 years that attracts large crowds from all over. You can read more about the history here.

Isn't that awe-inspiring? Such magnificent pieces of history and handiwork have a way of putting us mortals in place. Look at the chiselled features on the mighty sculpture. And, how well it has stood against the vagaries of nature!


Our temples, architecture, and history always leave me wonder-struck; I marvel at the wisdom of the powerful kings, the skill and talent of the local artisans, the stories of their lives underlined with deep morals; how they have left us with a precious legacy of philosophy and spiritualism! 

Why don't we learn more of these in our history lessons? Field trips like these will help to cultivate much pride in our heritage and culture; something that is starkly and sadly missing!

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Have you been here? What are your memories from the trip? Do share. I'd love to hear.



August 15, 2016

Of journeys, digressions and connections





This long weekend break was something that we, as a family, were looking forward to. It came after a long while for the husband who had had a particularly gruelling period at work. Yet, for all the pre-vacation excitement, I was a bit down on the preparation part. The last minute packing rush and a slight overstep of the time schedules as the day made me feel snappy. To add to this, I was supposed to keep one eye on the Google map and another on the road till we made the last exit from the city. (We prefer using the maps without the navigator to save us data and phone battery on long trips )

I generally have trouble correlating the screen map with the actual roadway in the city that never seem to match what with the burgeoning over bridges and one-ways. I'd rather look out of the window and try to freeze the landmarks in my head than pore over a small screen. The husband and I have had many an argument over my role as the secondary navigator but to no avail. And, to set the record straight, we have had our share of wrong turns and subsequent corrective U-turns on our road trips that are NOT always my fault. However, this time, we surpassed ourselves. By the time we took the last exit, the atmosphere in the car was so thick that it could be cut with a knife.

Bangalore is more unforgiving than life itself. One wrong turn and you’re forever regretting and praying for deliverance because the next U-turn is miles away and the ensuing trap of traffic snares doubles up as a punitive measure. Not having enough sign boards at crucial points, unexpected roadblocks and badly planned exits play the devil's part perfectly.

Finally, we were out of city bounds. It was simpler to stick to the right path now and we cruised along the near-vacant highways. Travelling during a festival had its advantages, after all. The lovely crisp air and scenic beauty all around brought down the mood and temper within a respectable range and the rest of the journey was fairly quick and pleasant.

I was told that if I was to ever plan for a “do nothing” holiday, I should choose any of the Linger properties. Golden Woods, Harley Estates at Sakleshpur fit our holiday plans like a glove. Tucked away into the thick coffee plantation groves, our room was in a middle of nowhere with no TV, wifi and a near non-existent mobile network.

The next three days were a sheer bliss as we simply lapped up nature’s abundant blessings. In between spells of heavy showers, the sun’s rays would cast a silvery glow all over. Large, tiny, beautiful butterflies flitted among the thick green foliage. The air, shorn of the jarring city noises, echoed during the day with myriad sounds of insects and birds but fell dead silent after dusk with just some stray nocturnal critters making their presence felt.



Barring an invigorating trek to a nearby waterfall, we were cooped up in the simple but tastefully done up interiors playing endless rounds of UNO and reading the books we had come armed with. We needn’t have bothered for the homestay itself was stocked with some mystery thrillers, a handful of board games, badminton rackets, and cycling bikes to suit our tastes. We also spent a good deal of the time lounging at the sit out in our verandah that overlooked a lush green lawn dotted with trees and shrubs. Birds in exquisite colours and various sizes flew in and out of the tree boughs and we shared R's excitement in spotting them. A peacock cried out in a distance and we hoped in vain to get a glimpse of the royal bird. 


It was refreshing to shed our adult images and let ourselves drown in abandon joy and childishness. R looked on amused as the husband and I locked horns in mock tiffs, calling out bluffs and poking jibes at the other's misery at the card games. My muscles ached in protest as I held the badminton racket after ages and displayed some beginner's enthusiasm and rusty skills. My heart felt tender love to see the father and son bond over rounds of cricket and football. I chuffed with pride to see the kid picking up some tricks of the trade; chuckled as one of them kept signalling foul and then laughed silly over their own antics.

In the daily rush of work, school, and household responsibilities we had forgotten how to enjoy the small pleasures in life and bond as a family. Technology plays spoilsport even on weekends as we sneak in social media activities in the limited time we get as a family. I'm grateful for this break in many ways than one. It brought in the much-needed pause to reflect, take stock, rejuvenate and energise.