Thursday, August 27, 2020

The First Step.

In this world of artificial intelligence, where the internet browser and devices know more about me than my family does, there are few algorithms that over perform very much to my annoyance. When I login to any of the social media websites, (I really wish I dint, it is just another self-destructive habit that I have) I am often prompted to add people I don’t remember under a tag titled ‘people you may know’.

The mental peace and happiness I had before I logged in seeps through my ears and disappears into thin air.

Honestly, being an introvert by character and an extrovert virtually, I wish my social media was smart enough to understand that I am not looking forward to add to my troubles. I also don’t want to be reminded of people I may know, but honestly don’t remember and I don’t want social media to tell me that my memory failed me. Secondly, going by this impromptu prompt, someone would have fallen into the algorithmic trap and sent me a friend request, which in turn puts pressure on me to find out who this person is. If I reject someone I don’t know, and going by how 2020 has been rolling so far, it could be an acquaintance of either of my parents or even a distant relative I haven’t seen since kindergarten. This is a very dangerous situation because some people take social media friend requests very seriously like their existence depended on it.

Basically all of this matters only if you care about consequences and what other people think. I can swear on my forefathers that I don’t care but I may care a little bit (sorry, forefathers.). We all have to reach that stage in our lives that our relationships are defined by real human connections and not by what we did on social media. Every day, I am trying to reduce a little bit of that self-destructive habit. One step at a time!

I cared too much at one point in time and this pushed me mercilessly to rock bottom. But rock bottom is not too bad, you people! This is exactly the place one reaches to learn that it cant get any worse and that it is high time to change (there is no other option, really).

I started my workout journey from there, exactly a year ago. It turned my life around. I care lesser about things that don’t matter, I slept better and longer, and it improved my mental and physical health in many ways! I was consistent and reached a point wherein I felt bad if I dint find time to do it. I walked by the beach side initially, later used the gym for a few weeks when I couldn’t manage to drive to the beach. The gym, however, feels like another office with walls, air conditioners, digital displays and graphs. It feels like slogging for appraisal. When I walk outdoors, the fresh air, street cats, birds, cars, familiar people who wave…everything about it feels blissful and liberating. 

I am thankful to myself for taking that first step.I pat myself on my shoulder for every single day I was weary, low, blue, stressed or even in tears but pushed myself to go out to walk. It was very hard, but I did it!

There is always that first step you should take, amidst all odds, and keep up at it. To update the resume, to start working out, to sleep earlier than you do now, to cut off that toxic habit, whatever it may be.

That first step. Do it today.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Corona Diaries: Published on Black and White Magazine, Oman.


“So, how are you coping?”

How do we answer this question in a lockdown?

I don’t think there would be anyone with five years of experience in effective handling of lockdown situation, multitasking between work, children, bosses, home and all of it while staying sane. Even the Indian aunty who seems to know everything did not live through a pandemic before, to bestow upon us her pearls of wisdom on how to survive it and be productive at the same time. However, there are experts out there, who still manage to advice everyone around, on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (lockdown version).

So, the best answer to that question would be, to look at the sky and sigh aloud.

There are some silent sufferers we aren’t talking about. Children. They have been deprived of friends, play grounds, malls and beaches. All of a sudden their childhood was ripped off and are confined within four walls with teachers and grandparents meeting them only virtually. They have been subjected to an unusual load of intense drama, stressed out parents and absolutely no friends to mingle with. In the month of March 2020, their world suddenly came crashing down, and were expected to follow a new set of rules, the fun factor completely wiped out of their lives. The rules have been more stringent towards children as have been banned from supermarkets and shops too.

However this time around, we the parents, cannot deliver the golden punchline that was handed down to us from every generation that ever lived. “When I was your age, I was so systematic during lockdown….” Well? I don’t think so. When we were children, we had other stuff to deal with, and none of that even remotely came close to surviving months on end without friends. Here I am, juggling between a full time job, a kid who is turning anti-social and the spouse who is conveniently using noise cancellation headsets.

Nagging him to wash his hands, hushing him while I am attending a call, refusing to play with him when he requests…you name it, I plead guilty to have done it. Later I top up the day with popcorn and Netflix because hey, offering bribes comes naturally to parents.

COVID not only wreaked havoc on the economy and global health, but also it is eating into the lives of our children who have conveniently planted themselves permanently on the sofa with a bag of chips. As adults, we are helpless as we don’t have a choice and are forced to watch them glued to laptops and television, verbally armed with ‘then YOU tell me what to do!” as a standard response to anything that is spoken.

I wish I could go back in time when my kid could play outside whenever he wanted. The uniforms, school bags, and the long hours I used to spend covering his books with brown paper, after which I wore a neck support for two days and blamed the education system that gave so much work to the parents! I want to go back to the times when I used to drag him from the playground at 8 pm for dinner and his friends would look at me as though I am a kidnapper. The days I listened to all the fights and laughs he had with his friends at school.

Never did anyone foresee, that there would come a day when everything we took for granted would turn into something that we’d desperately long for.


 Originally Published in The Black and White Magazine.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Lockdown Diaries: The Missing Tooth.

It's been four months since I started working from home and it already feels like a decade. I haven’t done my eyebrows, trimmed my hair or visited a dentist since! That my teeth hasn’t given me any major problems yet worries me deeply, like preparing me for an impending disaster. Like the calm before a storm. Perhaps all the teeth (that are left) may be silently plotting for a collective walkout?

Three of my teeth have been under the knife for root canal procedures. The dentist planted them using a screw and it stay put for a while. One month into the lockdown, I was munching delightedly into a chicken shewerma when SNAP! It came off. That is a five digit figure in Indian Rupees I paid for that was uprooted by a 1 rial shewerma.

On a normal day I would have freaked out over a tooth and the gap that is pretty obvious when I smile. During a lockdown that is the least of my worries. Well, who is going to judge me about a gap in my teeth? We are all doomed anyway, we should have our priorities right and not bother about appearances now, thought my lazy ass. Instead of throwing the tooth away, I kept it on a tissue paper on my dressing table, screw still under the tooth and like always, I forgot about it.

Image Courtesy: Here
Image Courtesy: Here
Hours later when I walked to the hall, two pairs of eyes were scrutinizing me like I was a criminal suspect. As usual, I ignored them, and kept doing my stuff when I caught them still staring at me.

“WHAT?” I yelled.

They were not speaking and still glaring at me with an unusual expression.

Usually they have only ONE expression which says ‘Where is my food?’. It looked rather different this time.

“I found your tooth” said my son, nine, who watches too many animated movies.

“Oh I forgot to throw that out, don’t touch it okay?” I replied casually, continuing to arrange the mats on the dining table.

“It had a screw under it!” he exclaimed.

He looked and sounded very serious, and had an expression like he caught me red-handed for some offence. My husband stifled a laugh and played along.

“I always knew you were an alien!  Explains why you are always so weird!”

Well, atleast now there is an explanation.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The curious case of Arachnophobia.

Last weekend when my spouse was not in town, I missed him terribly. Who else will open jars for me?  I have a runner’s backpack which holds water too, but whatever I do, I just can’t seem to open it on my own. Every time I walk to him to open a sealed jar, he responds with his typical ‘Are you even an Engineer?’ As if four years at engineering college they teach you to open jars. 
Dude. Do you know how hard is Digital System Processing? Artificial Intelligence? Microprocessors? C? C++? Fact is that I say all this in my head only. I am too tired to start an argument which will eventually end in his favor. That’s what marriage does to you. You learn to let go because arguments can be exhausting. You can very well spend that energy watching Netflix and chill your brain.

Then there was another question which he asked. ‘What do single women do to open sealed jars?’. ‘They call other people’s husbands!!’ I promptly answered. Then he opened the jar faster than usual.

The primary task of the spouse is to take out the trash, open jars, and scare away bugs because I am scared of reptiles and rodents, irrespective of size and color. Thankfully there aren't any of those here. When I was younger, my Dad did the bug elimination dutifully, without counter questioning. We used to live in an independent house in Trivandrum adjacent to an empty plot squirming with rodents and reptiles of all sorts. These pests had no boundaries and used to visit us whenever they got bored of their half acre land. Of all these creatures the one that terrified me most was the flying cockroach. You spot it once, and the next microsecond it is not there. It keeps us on our toes guessing where it could have flown off to, only to realize that it is on your shoulder, wondering why you look so pale and petrified for no reason. I just can’t handle the suspense and horror it brings with its existence and continues until I am convinced that it is ‘taken care of’. Poor Papa had to get rid of it and show it to me as proof for me to calm down. I think that was when my anxiety would have started.

Image Courtesy: Here
Spiders bring with it a different type of horror altogether. Right after I have stepped into the bathroom and shed my worldly obligations, the spider comes into sight. The pervert would be sitting comfortably in a corner near the ceiling almost saying ‘ I am the Adam to your Eve’. When we have crossed a certain age, screaming and running outside like Archimedes is frowned at by the society. So we have to literally scream inside and continue the bath, constantly looking at the spider without batting an eyelid. I wouldn’t have made extended eye contact as such with any human ever. The liquid dripping down my face could have been water or tears. The torture continues until the towel hits the face and for a moment I missed the spider and in a flash of a second it is not in the same place anymore. ‘Mummyyyyyyyyy….!!!!!!’

This is when my Mom got royally pissed and reminded me that I was not a baby anymore and that when I get married people may think I am possessed and send me back home (which also seemed like a good idea!)

To my loving family, I would like to enlighten you that fear of spiders is known as Arachnophobia. It is real. It is incurable.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Just Do It !

I may have wasted a lot of creative space on blogosphere bragging about my skills on…err...procrastinating. I am also a chronic over thinker who overthinks about overthinking. I had the innate need to be accepted and validated by everyone, much like Monica from Friends.

So one day as I was climbing a flight of stairs to my office, I started gasping for breath. I realized that my health was at its lowest point in my entire existence. It had already started the countdown to doomsday. I never really moved or bothered about what I ate. I was stressed, and lost a lot of hair, everything for matters that never added any value to my well-being or peace.

So this flight of stairs got me to overthink about my overall health. I was lost in thoughts and sank into an ocean of fear for impending issues like premature balding and anxiety.
One evening after work, instead of sinking into the couch to watch TV, I picked up my headphones, went to the beach, set my phone on airplane mode and started walking.  I read no article, nor did I listen to Sadhguru. I just pushed myself to the beach and after a long time, I felt my existence. The sound of waves, the wind in my hair and plenty of different faces was like swimming in the ocean after spending a lifetime in the fish tank. Once I was done, I sat near the beach side under the street lights and read until I was dry to drive home. I walked daily, most days landing home exhausted and hungry. A month later, I started running.

Running is not for the weak-hearted, I tell you. Initially when I ran, I was convinced that I was breathing my last. I said my last prayers. I worried for my son. I ran hardly five minutes and stopped as though my legs were falling apart. There were several runners in that area, all running as effortlessly as eating cake or giving free advice. There I was among them, literally battling for life, after running two minutes.This was a beach which was frequented by a health conscious crowd and no one stared or judged. I kept going.

I made it to two kilometers. Every day, I ran a little more than my previous run. On some days I shared it on social media, which garnered a lot of criticism. There were people who thought I was too thin to run and laughed at my achievements. There are still many who think I am showing off. I was motivated by my hubby and friends who are all marathon runners and they shared their achievements in social media which inspired me to step up and care for myself. In turn I shared my achievements with them who believed in me, gave me tips and pushed me to do better. If my update on social media inspires anyone to push themselves to workout, then I won. It is a matter of lifting each other up. This is not a competition or a race. Even a marathon is about finishing, it is never about who came first.

Me at a friend's house after I borrowed her book on
how to sleep better and posing in her indoor garden.
Today, I can run above 7 kilometers without wanting to call an ambulance. In fact I do it comfortably and enjoy it. As a result, I get uninterrupted sleep. I have spent years with little or no sleep and had turned into a night owl by habit. I borrowed a book from a friend on how to sleep better and stayed awake reading it.

I remain in good spirit during the day, and rarely have meltdowns. I am steady and not dramatic anymore. I stand tall and speak. There have been a lot of positive changes which I noticed in myself after I started working out and I love it. It is true that exercise can make physical and mental changes for the better.

Coming to anger management... I have massively changed from being angry to… okay don’t get me started on that.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Luxury in the Vicinity.

Image Courtesy: Here

Recently we moved to a new apartment at a different location in the same city. This shift has given me everything I ever wanted, as all I ever wanted was space. However, for all the excellent neighbors, spacious rooms, and proximity to the beach, we did sacrifice some of the basic facilities we had taken for granted over the years.

My new premises is not favorable to anyone who is even remotely absent minded. In my earlier apartment, if I remembered that I dint have curry leaves after I had started sautéing the onions, I could have got them in less than five minutes. The grocery was nearby and this was a huge blessing for a person like me who is not an advocate of the seven habits of highly effective people. Now things are different. Like the other day I was explaining to a friend on phone.

“Listen ..this place could actually force me to be more systematic”

Friend: (Laughs) “As far as I know NOTHING will make you systematic! By the way what makes you say that?”

“Mannnnn there are no grocery shops in the vicinity. I feel jealous of my Mom who has a grocery in her campus and my sister who lives 10 centimeters away from Nilgiris”

Friend: “Then which part of the earth do you live? What did you consider while you zeroed in on this apartment?”

“Bigger wardrobes”

Friend : “You have your priorities straightened out so early in life”

“You are not helping”

Friend: “Then what is there next to your apartment?”

“BMW showroom”

Friend: (Laughs again, now louder and meaner than before). “Well that’s not too bad!”

“Okay you laugh at my misery. Once you finish laughing I would have taken you off my favorite contacts. They wouldn’t even approve my loan for a BMW ”

Friend: (Laughs harder and almost breathless).

I disconnected the call and remembered that there is no milk, eggs or lentils in the house. I am stuck on the sofa like the dosa sticks on the cast iron tawa. One cannot make me move once I am set there, you see. I would have had a long day at office, I work out in the evenings, but after I have freshened up, finished dinner and hit the sofa, I call it a day. Nothing on earth can make me get up and do anything, unless there is fire under the sofa I am sitting on. I do not plan what to wear next day, or what should be for breakfast, nor do I iron the school uniform or sharpen the pencils. No. That’s not how I function.  The next day is practically next day. If I wake up alive I will do everything in my time. Any advice or tips on how to be more productive is strictly prohibited within my boundaries.

Few minutes later the friend called back. Finally! I sighed. I smiled seeing the name on display.

 “Hello?” I grinned.

Friend: “Hi I am calling to ask the price in Oman for the new BMW 8 Coupe. This is the showroom right?”

“Get Lost”.