July 29, 2016

Do you wear a mask?

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I wake up to a dull, rainy morning. I wonder if it had been raining all night. A smallish water body at the far end of our apartment is looking bigger today and there are plenty of mini muddy pools dotting the lane in front of our gate. I'm in a hurry to fix the lunch, snack and dabbas for the kid and husband and as is my wont, the mind goes on a trip of its own. The hands mechanically chop, pull out and put back various spice containers, and scoop out the near exact measures of spices into the curry, broth, and sundry items that are being done, all simultaneously.

I wonder about the little girl in the lovely book I read last night. How she finds her happiness even in the bleakest of situations. So many lessons for me to imbibe, I reckon. I'm distracted by the child and husband rushing to be ready in time. I'm annoyed at myself for waking up late. I'm trying to fasten my pace if it was even possible. My mind wanders off yet again.

I'm disturbed by how I'm unable to gauge certain people and my relationship with them. One moment I'm positive that we share a healthy, malice-free regard for each other and at other moments I wonder if it's just me who can sense undercurrents of negative emotions. Some days our conversations smell of comfort, familiarity, and a pleasant warmth. Just as my perturbed mind seems pacified, I'm taken a bit aback at the coldness and closed connecting doors that stare at me from the other side. The icy path between us is thawed today only to get snowed under tomorrow. Maybe it's all in my mind though I ponder over whether it is possible to be your true self with everyone?

We're very image-conscious people and worry much about how we are perceived by other people. We also share a different equation with every single person we come across in this lifetime. The equations may be similar at times but never exactly alike. Some of us organize our social structure drawing concentric circles around ourselves and re-grouping people known to us within those circles. We then gather the complex lump of our personality and create a variation of masks therefrom; similar yet dissimilar ones for every enclosed space within the social circles. As sophisticated beings, we also master the art of seamlessly donning the different masks as we venture in and out of our varied social zones. It's also likely that we have people in our innermost circle in whose company we can be completely free of any masks, baring our souls and yet have neither squirm in discomfort.

I'm compelled to introspect about how I fare in comparison to my own analysis of human behavioural patten. I seem to have a transparent face that reflects off everything going on in my mind. Or so says the spouse. I try to convince myself that he's mistaken but deep down I'm frightened by this trait that's not entirely untrue. This is why I prefer writing to talking. I get the space and time to collect my thoughts and convey it truthfully but not hurtfully.

I'm sometimes caught in relationships I'd rather not pursue but feel delicate to cut the strings ruthlessly. I dawdle and give feeble excuses to exclude myself out. At the same time, I wonder if I've become a sort of social recluse, fussy about who stays in my inner circles. Perhaps, I have also become adept at wearing masks, I conclude.

Have you pondered similarly about people and their masks? Do you wear one too?

July 22, 2016

A page from a diary

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The chill of the mid-morning breeze hits my face as I gingerly push open the french doors of the living room. I can feel the goosebumps on my naked hands. The hot tumbler of coffee and the vibrant swing in my verandah cajole me to ignore the stuffed nose and dull ache in my head. The fragrant vapour from the tumbler caresses the face, acting as a soothing balm for my stressed muscles. I close my eyes to savour the strong beverage slowly, letting it melt away the sluggishness of the mind and body.

 As I gently rock on the swing, the view of the neighbourhood that's cut from the ground realities fills me with mixed senses. It seemed perfect if not for some ugly truths. I can choose to dwell on the superficial. In a way, the outside reflected the inside of my mind. On some days I prefer to gaze contentedly at the calm surface. On other days I'm swept by the strong tide into murkier waters. Several thoughts flit across my mind as the tumbler lies now cold and empty in my hand. I muse on life and other related things.

Aspirations in life present many a conundrum. I wonder if a sense of misplaced belonging is one of them. You're aiming for a particular altitude and when you reach it, you're left wondering if that's where you want to be. The place seems strange and a bit cold. Being pushed against a glittering backdrop, I feel jaded. It takes a while to get acclimatised, I reason out. I step back to lick my wounds, to ruminate over choices. The life I left behind is not the same anymore. There are people I do not relate to. However, they seem to be looking up to me. It's discomforting in a way since I'm seeking something else. Or not? I'm not sure anymore.

It's life that lets you hanker after a coveted object. It has an uncanny knack of granting you your wish in ways least expected (or even desired), and also possibly when you are least prepared to receive it. It's life that presents you a raw clay, goading you to carve that dream. It's also the life that takes the air out of the balloon as you pluck it from the soaring skies.

You can choose to lament over the deflated balloon or gather strength in your lungs and breathe life into it. Again.


****

In life, you assume many roles and in the act of juggling, you can lose perspective. Myriad thoughts grip you, paralysing the ability to rationalise.

Sometimes, it's best to have the disjointed thoughts connect as they flow out. You never know when they could make a beautiful tapestry.

Did you like this page out of a diary? Could you relate to it in any way?

July 18, 2016

Am I ready for a pet?

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If you're like me, you would dread the day your child will ask," Amma, can we pleeeease have a pet?" All puppy-eyed and a tone full of hope, this question will have you stumped for immediate answers. In my case, R started with ridiculous choices like a dinosaur or a giraffe, eventually boiling down to more plausible ones like a dog, cat or "at least a goldfish"!

The demand for a pet, as is common with kids in this age bracket, has been a consistent feature for a while in our household now. However, the more important point here is whether the household aka I'm ready for this.

To begin with, I'm or was never a pet-loving person. No offense to pet-lovers, please. I don't recall asking my parents for one. Even if I did I'm sure it was only because my friends did the same. I remember being very scared and uncomfortable around pet dogs and cats. I'd stand stiff holding my breath while the sometimes snarling, sometimes cute creatures would sniff me up to ensure I was no threat to them. How could I be, when they were the ones threatening me, to me at that point?! That's not it. I'll let you in a secret, the idea of being licked all over terrified me more than being bitten.

As I grew up, I became braver and once I became a mother I even mustered the courage to smile around these furry inmates and give them a friendly touch. Now, whatever my personal opinion is, I did not want R to develop a sense of fear or discomfort around pets. But, could I take this to the level of getting one home? It was a tough question. I began by logically arguing my own case:

We don't have a large space in our house. The apartment we live in is also not too pet-friendly. We have neighbours at each others' throats because one person's dog makes scratching sounds and the person staying below cannot bear the sound! The arguments have gotten rather uglier and sillier. As though we did not have enough troubles with human-to-human intolerance, I do not want to add a poor innocent, mute victim to this. Of course, I'm thinking only from the pet's point of view, so my first argument is:

1. Pets need large open, friendly spaces. And, we don't have that.

I've enough work around the house. What with strewn shoes, clothes, lotions, newspapers, straws, scissors, glue, and sundry things needing to be picked up constantly and put back. Sure, I yell and these do get picked up by the concerned person(s) scattering them but those days are rare and few. Now, do I really want additional responsibilities like pet poo, hair, and other pet elements to be chauffeured to the right areas in the house? The kid is only just learning to do his own things. What about the other adult, you ask? I say, don't ask! So, argument number two:

2. The adult(s) in the house don't have the bandwidth. The kid needs to be old enough to take care of the pet.

Having a pet is like having another child, really. It needs equal love, time and attention as you'd with a child. Not to mention special food, baths, walks, visits to the vet, the whole works that can put a strain on time and money. And, frankly, if you cannot afford to give these in adequate quantities, it's a grave injustice to the poor being. I'd asked these questions to self when we pondered over the second in our lives. I'm afraid the answers weren't satisfactory so I wonder how that can change in the face of a four-legged addition. Argument number three, then:

3. A pet cannot be a replacement for a sibling. A commitment, once given cannot be revoked for the next 10 years, at least. 
I guess, after these three solid arguments, I rested the case. In my head. Now, to convince the little fella, it would need some gentle talking and persuasion.

Are you like me? How did you tackle the question of pets in your house?


July 14, 2016

Why I love my weekend mornings

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Come September and I'd be completing a year at my weekend Zumba classes.  I can proudly say that for the past 10 months I've, without fail (well, almost), woken up earlier than usual on weekend mornings to head out for my Zumba classes. I'm smiling as I type this because this wasn't how it all began.

I had my own doubts and misconception about Zumba and felt it wouldn't suit me. "I've two left feet!," I'd declared to my friend-cum-trainer, aghast at the suggestion. She'd smiled and urged me to give it a try.  I surprised myself by signing up for the classes because a few years ago, I'd have completely dismissed the prospect of venturing into a program that was even remotely close to dancing. As though on cue, I chanced upon this encouraging write up later and felt good about my decision.

Today, I'm positively glad to have welcomed Zumba in my life. Contrary to the popular myth, it's a perfect fit for non-dancers since it's not about dancing at all. It's a holistic fitness program. However, it's a much larger package if you're lucky to find a good and enthusiastic trainer like I did.

So, why does Zumba make me ignore stiff protests by limbs and tempting requests by the heart on lazy weekends to sleep in a little more? Bangalore weather does not make it any easier.

1. A stress-buster: Getting out of the bed is the toughest part but once I'm out in my jogging tracks and running shoes, I feel like taking on the world. The fast-paced music and the heart-pumping steps actually work as stress busters. I step into a positive zone leaving behind the worries and chaos of the world I live in.

2. Fun galore: We shed sweat (and sometimes tears) in the tiring one-hour regime, we groan in protest when our trainer says, "one more song and we'll cool down". Yet, we love the energetic vibes. We tease, poke fun, laugh, and generally, let our hair down to have unbridled fun.

3. We endorse a non-judgemental attitude: We have people (again mostly non-dancers) of all sizes and shapes in the batch. Each person is here to gain a strength and lose a weakness. Although we have our friendly banter and pull each other's legs, we are careful not to hit below the belt.

4. A support group: Each of us struggles with internal demons related to some aspect of our image. Whatever personal equation we may share with each other outside, within the four walls of the class, we become a single encouraging unit that motivates the other to go that extra mile.

5. It's helped me shed inhibitions: I'm not the person that easily slips into this carefree party animal, grooving my body to peppy numbers at a public or social event. However, Zumba has helped me shed my awkwardness to an extent. I've loosened up in my perception of the self. From the rigid and uptight stance of "I cannot dance and will not" to " It's Ok, I can still have some fun", I've travelled that mile.

6. It's my 'me' time: I've always cherished the early morning silence before the household wakes up and I'm rudely pushed into the cacophony of mundane routine and external noises. Zumba weekends give me more reasons to slip out of the house and savour the time that's reserved for me.

7. More than fitness: This should've been number one on my list, right? Hell no, this was always a given since Zumba is a fitness program and once you sign up for it, you're already on the path to fitness. While I haven't lost any weight, I can feel the difference in my stamina and flexibility levels. Where once I struggled to even touch my ankles, I can now, with just a little effort, touch the floor.

An exercise regime is a must for all of us given the kind of lifestyles we lead. However, it takes a lot of determination and self-motivation to stick to one, right? This is why I like my Zumba program because apart from being a group activity it's also a lot of fun, so there's little reason to not adhere to the routine. The bountiful fringe benefits are what makes this program so loved.

So, what is your preferred exercise route? Have you tried Zumba? Will you, given a chance?



July 10, 2016

Things to watch out as you transition into a bigger platform

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Two seemingly disparate thoughts had been playing out in my mind but as I dwelled deeper I realized that they were intrinsically bound together. A transition by my 6-year-old into first grade and my writing. Quite an unlikely pair of thoughts to share a connection, right? Allow me to explain.

R has begun first grade this year. Now, I've come to understand that for kids and parents, this comes as a fairly huge step from the more cocooned atmosphere of a preschool. The subjects to learn branch out into several from the 3 or 4 main ones in pre-kg. There are also different subject teachers that the kids need to interact with as opposed to just a couple in the early years. Since the kids are entering a more independent phase, they are also being trained to be more responsible. That translates into self-written homework notes in the school diary (under the teacher's guidance) and being able to handle a bit of a burst in studies and related activities. So, in a nutshell, there's a bit of a change that the kids (and their parents) need to come to terms with.

Now, this already tricky combination of factors gets amplified if the child has been in a different preschool or preschooling environment; the adaptation or changes can get a bit more trying.  While children are natural adapters to situations and circumstances, it's the adults who seem more like the spoilt brats.

Feelings of insecurity, apprehensions about choices made, comparisons with the erstwhile environment, anxiety over the child's future, were thrown out in the raw, discussed, and dissected. In this, two sets of parents emerged clearly. One that subscribed to these feelings and the other, including me, that did not. While I empathize with the other set and concede that these feelings are natural, I do wish the parents showed some patience in the system and faith in their own choice. Any transition, minor or major, takes time and as parents, we are required to assume to role of the unwavering, solid anchor in the lives of our children who are making forays into the wider world.

As I thought more about this, I realized that what I wished in the above scenario applied perfectly well to my other line of thought. My writing! I've been struggling with writing and only lately I'm beginning to emerge out of this seemingly long span of writer's block, self-doubts, anxiety, and insecurity.

My short span of 5 years of blogging witnessed a lot of changes in the way this enigmatic world of words and connections functioned. I had lived a cocooned life of blogging and was happy in my own frog world. As I got thrown out into deeper waters of powerful writers, social media connections, and unending possibilities of gratification and personal growth, I faltered. Like the village belle making her way in a larger city, I was initially attracted to a larger platform and I dreamed of making a mark for myself. It was a period of transition for me. A big one. Yet, I did not show the patience in the system or the faith in my abilities. I made the mistake of not making the effort to forge new connections or trust the ones I had. I was new, insecure, and doubted my own capabilities.

It's been months of introspection and objective thinking where I've consciously tried to steer clear of the path of self-pity and low self-worth.

Two very contrasting situations found a common root in my mind and I thought I should file away these learnings here.

10 pointers that we could all keep in mind in face of a big transition:

  1. Observe how the new system works
  2. Take help from the veterans
  3. Voice your fears but refrain from feeling victimized
  4. Give yourself time to make new connections
  5. Adapt to changes in working styles
  6. The new is not necessarily evil and the old is not always gold
  7. Accept that acquired skills may be rusty and need a reevaluation
  8. Expect delays in learning
  9. Have faith in your choice
  10. Be patient 
Do you agree with these or did you think I was rambling? Do share your thoughts. And, oh, if you didn't notice already, I changed the look of my blog. New learnings and beginnings need to look good on the outside too, right? Did you like the look?

Linking the post to the Yeah Write#274 weekly challenge for Non-Fiction category

July 8, 2016

Tracking the chain of thoughts

The house is quiet, earlier than usual. The routine has been usual for me. Picking up old newspapers, shoving them into the closet, putting back the sundry lotions, face powder, and knick-knacks into the dresser, collecting the clothes strewn around and sorting them out. These are programmed into my body and my limbs automatically carries out the tasks.

Voices in my brain complain and reason out alternatingly. Another track in my brain is thinking about a possible topic for a post on my blog. Ideas gather in an unruly manner, jostling to get ahead, vying for attention. I try to accommodate, give justice to each of them, fatigued in the end, not finding anything worth writing about. The train of thought pauses to ponder about my worth as a blogger. I shake my head to dust off the doubts. It shouldn't matter.


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A quick scan around the house registers a sense of orderliness. Satisfied, I spend a moment to appreciate what I see. It's a bitter-sweet feeling. Feelings of displaced and disappointment are mixed with gratitude and pride. This wasn't how it was supposed to end up. Is the feeling of 'homecoming' illusionary?

I open my laptop. My newsfeed, online and offline, is filled with people changing places, figuratively and literally. I look back. My life in snippets flashes by. I remember dreamy conversations with my bestie from our college times. How differently our lives panned out, changed courses, switched tracks. Life always surprises you. In good ways too.

I'm in an unusually lazy mode today. My mind is pushing me to write. Something. Anything. My blog dashboard is gleaming with fresh ones from my favourites and I sit to read them. Today, I've decided to savour the leisure, to cast away the self-imposed schedules of the day,  to be a little indulgent, to procrastinate, to laze, to take the time out to read and write.

A random post for today. I've tried something new. Could you sense anything different?



July 7, 2016

5 ways to move beyond your writing faux pas

Writing blunders. Don't we all make them? If you don't then maybe this piece won't make any sense to you. I can speak for myself and I've no qualms admitting that I make a whole lot of them. On my blog here, in my work-related writing, over formal and informal emails, there have been instances of minor and even gaping flaws.

So, how long do I dwell on my writing faux pas?
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Each time I've realized the shortcomings, I've cringed. My ego is bruised and I cower in embarrassment to think of how I might seem to others. I imagine the sniggers directed towards me; someone who claims to be a writer and yet has not pocketed the nuances and finer aspects of the trade.

Despite this, I sleep over my failings. I brood, sulk, but emerge out of the shadows of self-berating and criticism. To write again. To falter again. It does not happen as easily or automatically as it sounds. Nevertheless, I try not to dwell too much on the damage already done. The more important part is to learn from those and move on. Perhaps, to make newer mistakes; perhaps, to write better.

It has taken me many years to learn to accept my limitations. I don't say I've been able to do this entirely even today. Yet, I'm on the path. Slowly, but steadily. A few decades ago, I'd have stopped trying. Shaming myself privately and losing the courage to pick the pieces up. Today, I at least, I look beyond what could've been and focus on what can be done.

5 Things that I tell myself when I'm too harsh on myself:

1. Accept the fact that there will always be more talented people in my circle.

I realized that I cannot learn if I constantly pit myself against the best. I can only better myself not be better than someone else. It's also unfair to myself.


2. I may not be the best but I'm still good

My field of choice is a large galaxy and we are all at different levels like the planets in orbit. The position of a particular planet does not make it superior or inferior to the others.

This is something I'm still working on. For, I lapse into phases where I tell myself if I'm not at a particular level I shouldn't be trying at all.

3. Set goals but embark on an unconditional journey

While it's good to lay down goals, if we lay down pre-conditions that I have to be 'this' good or I'm no good at all, we might not start on any journeys in life.

I have a problem in setting specific goals. And, I'm not talking only about writing goals. It's because I'm scared to think big; because I pull myself back saying when there are so many better ones out there struggling what better can I do?

4. Goals can be smaller ones. Celebrate every milestone.

So, my answer to the previous point is that I need not think big. I can start with smaller achievable goals and take it from thereon. I need to allow myself to pat my back for every little milestone I achieve along the way. This way the journey itself will become enjoyable and I won't be worried about the destination.

5. Enjoy the journey and don't worry about the destination.

Didn't I say that already? I'm going to tell this again and again. To myself and to everyone out there like me.

What's your mantra to forgive your mistakes and move on?