What Sparks Joy in Me!

When posed with this question,

I did face trouble initially.

Looking through all the layers,

figuring out, “What was it

that really worked for me?”

I tried going back to the times,

when I felt the most happy.

When I roamed without a care,

When I truly lived and

was not scared to satiate my curiosity.

The mere thought of those moments,

brought a smile on my face

I finally had my answer, and

one again I wanted to relish that space!

When I leave behind the expectations,

and I stop looking for validation.

When I create something from my heart,

and I venture into an uncharted path.

When I just let myself be,

That is what sparks joy in Me!

Opening up our minds!

If you are one of those people who like to have control over situations, love sticking to plans, absolutely hate abrupt changes, unexpected meetings/get togethers annoy you to the core – I suggest you read this. I can say “ditto” to all the above – it all applies to me, but in the recent times, given that we really do not have much control over things, and have more than enough time to look back, I have started to realise that this has been one of my biggest issues in life. I cannot really point out when exactly this came into play, because as a child I clearly remember being the most unplanned person ever and yes I am sure it was hell for my parents! I was one of those kids who would not study a thing before exam and still went and appeared for them, not worrying at all about failing. I would cancel plans just because I wanted to sleep more and all the careless things you can think of. I am not justifying that it’s good to keep people waiting, definitely not, but it’s certainly not good to torture yourself to meet perfection all the time.And what is perfection in any case? For you it might be something and for me exactly the opposite of it.

Now what made me suddenly so aware of me being a control freak? Well, my child and life! So when life throws at you situations which you never expect to get into, and you off course curse it like this is it, and after all that turmoil in your mind, you eventually realise that it could have been dealt with in a better way – that’s what kept happening to me a lot of times. Especially with a kid around, I think it anyways becomes impossible to stick to any kind of order and it was really hard for me to just go with the flow.

To give an example – in last one year, as a part of my course, I heard a lot about taking the class as per what the kids want to go (not like literally go some where but like letting the discussion take a shape as per what the children want to discuss more about) and trust me for a teacher, that’s really difficult. It can put you in a place you never want to be, you never ever finish what you plan, the voice levels of the class can be much higher than what is the norm and you may expect a visit from a senior to check on whats happening (happened twice with me), but , the important thing is that the kind of learning that will happen in such a class is going to last a lifetime. Same is the case with life, as I now have experienced, when you plunge into situations you are really scared off and you somehow sail through it, you may not really make a landing you wanted to have originally but it may be something much more deeper and beautiful too!

It does not always have to be taking big risks, it can be simple things like – ok today I planned to put my kid to sleep by 8 pm so that I can work but he refuses to sleep. I have experienced a lot of stress due to this, like a hell lot and it resulted in me turning into mad women who is whining and cribbing about how unfair life is. In our day to day targets, we often forget that our kids are humans too and not machines (like us – or what we have turned into) and forcing them to do something without their consent is again very inhuman. You may say that there is some discipline that is needed for a child and yes it is, but most of the times, it can be achieved amicably without really forcing your kid to follow your orders.

In a rational set up, we often say that look for alternate solutions, but in life we forget to do the same. In the situation above, there can be multiple options to work around – seek help from your spouse, let the child play for another hour or even have a dialogue with the child telling him/her that mumma needs to work and she will need some time off, so can we come up with a plan where she can get that time. A lot of times we just rule out these options because in our minds we have already concluded that it won’t work and that’s where we go wrong. We have to try, that is what we keep telling our children “Beta, ek baar aur try karo” so why not do it ourselves. Look at it like a math problem, there can be multiple ways of reaching a solution but how did it feel when the teacher stressed that “you have follow this method only” – it sucked. That’s exactly how our life feels too when we want to restrict ourselves to a pre planned way of reaching a goal or whatever we are trying to achieve.

A lot of conditioning comes into play, which shapes us up. Our experiences with people often makes it difficult for us to reach out to them or anybody else and that’s what leads to closing our minds. A lot of times, we set up a process for everything, sticking to routines makes us feel safe and keeps us sane too.Honestly, it’s good to have structures but the problem begins when we start getting so rigid about following it that we loose touch with our own inner sense. We often hear people say, life is so mundane and boring – why? Because we so want to stick to our comfort zones that it becomes difficult to venture out and try something new and that’s how life looses it’s charm – it’s magic! An important aspect of this also is that we stop questioning ourselves, it’s like we are not open to our own feelings.

I suggest you try asking yourself a few questions that might help you whenever you feel that you are loosing control – it can help create some space in your mind and heart to see the good in that situation,

Why is it so important for me?

Is there a better way of doing this?

How will this change impact me reaching my goal? Is it going to be permanent?

Can I ask for help?

Do I need another perspective?

Is it worth the stress?

Remember that days when we were young and just thrived for adventure, a new game, a new friend, a new place and most important new experiences. These days we get happy with a new dress or a new gadget but what happened to experiences…do we really need to take a holiday to get one? Every day in our life is an opportunity for us to experience something new, and we can totally do this by just keeping our minds open to try new ways of doing things, initiating conversations we never had, playing random games with our kids and other family members, taking a pause before passing a judgement on someone’s work, breaking a part of our routine to form a new one. There are endless possibilities for all us, we just need to embrace life as it comes!

Embracing the “New Normal”

It’s been almost 3 months since we woke up to the nightmare named”COVID-19″.In last two months, we have witnessed unprecedented loss of lives, people losing their livelihoods, the exodus of daily wage labourers who had no option but to go back to their hometowns and villages and a lot mental and emotional unrest in people all around the world. Amidst all the unrest, what kept us all hopeful and together was some of the bravest acts from our medical professionals, people who reached out to the people in need, Police and government officials who did their best to keep everyone safe – even though their lives were at stake.

You must be wondering why am I telling you all of this again, we all know this already. Isn’t it? Because I felt, amongst all the news which has been going around, I felt one thing has not been given enough importance – Mental wellness. A world which thrived on holiday plans, social interactions, night life etc has suddenly been told to stay home, many of us have lost our jobs, our loved ones and a lot of us may not really have the support of our family right away, many of us are staying by ourselves too. The amount of unrest being stuck at home – for an uncertain amount of time can cause is beyond your or my imagination for a lot of people. If I talk about myself, the first month for me too was exceptionally difficult. My work came to a sudden halt, which only added to my anxiety, there was no timeline as to for how long this is going to take to get back to normal and what would this normal be like.

In my last post I shared some stuff I was doing to keep myself and my kid engaged and it did help. But there were days when I needed more than just some fun activity to keep my spirits high or rather even at normal levels. What came to my rescue were these three things, which I call my mantra to survive this pandemic – Gratitude, Kindness and Meditation. I did not just stumble on these, they are actually practices we often do but not consciously, but when you actually try to make a conscious effort to do them, you can actually see the difference in the way you look at life.

1.Gratitude: We have a lot of literature and videos talking about the power of gratitude but what really helped me see how useful it can be was when I actually just started to think of three good things about my day before I went to sleep. One,I was able to sleep better and it also helped me think in a positive direction that even a small event like getting a call from a friend who made me smile was something to be grateful about. It’s amazing to see how gradually I found it easier to focus on the good in life rather than things which at present were beyond my circle of influence. You may even want to watch this video which kind of explains it really well:

2.Kindness: This is something I feel I had almost forgotten about in the last few years. The power of kindness, is immense and what makes it special is the kind of contentment you experience when you indulge in it. For all those who might find this too preachy, you might want to refer to a lot of research which has been done on how acts of kindness effect our happiness.Here is a link you can refer to:

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/kindness_makes_you_happy_and_happiness_makes_you_kind#:~:text=The%20idea’s%20not%20as%20fanciful,promotes%20lasting%20happiness%20and%20altruism.

An interesting study also surveyed people who were given some money which they can either spend on themselves or somebody else. As per the results, people who spent the money experienced boosted levels of happiness as compared to the people who had spent in on themselves. And it does not always need to be a mammoth donation or a huge drive to help people in need. It can be a simple act of calling up your parents and asking them if they need anything, taking out time to make something special for your kid/family or giving a compliment to a person and how much they mean to you. A lot of times these simple acts can make a big difference to a person’s day and you never know it might be the one thing they look forward to everyday.Most important, lets not forget to be kind to ourselves.

3.Meditation: This is one thing I honestly did not practice much in my life earlier, but last couple of days, it has kept me sane. For people like me, who probably want to run away from the very sound of this word, it does not always have to be a very spiritually lead experience. It can be a simple 5 minute experience, where you just get to shed all your worries and relax your mind – by either listening to some soothing music, going for a walk or simply just sitting and silence and trying to help your mind calm down by some deep breathing. It works wonders and especially in times like these where uncertainty and a lot of negativity is floating in the air, it gives you that pause, to re think and focus on what’s really important. It also brings in a lot of self awareness which I feel is the starting point for any kind of change you want to bring into your life.

A couple of links which are easily available on you tube:

The times ahead, certainly need us to be agile and open towards a lot of change which only stresses on the importance of our mental and physical well being to begin with. It is definitely easy to get swayed with all the forces around you – fear, anxiety, depression but what we really need is to stay strong and keep doing our bit everyday for our loved ones and if possible for people who really need our help. No step is too small so do every bit you can as right every action you take towards building positivity around matters.

Before the Coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi – Book Review

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When I read this line at the very beginning of the book, my mind was exploded with possibilities and to think of it, I have a long list of people I would want to meet (some pending slaps, closures, goodbye hugs what not to do) and so I started this book with a hell lot of excitement.

As you would have guessed it by now, the book is about time travel – going back in time or visiting the future – which can have a significant impact on relationships and how does that change the lives of the people who take this risk. One common feature to really observe in these stories is, how we as humans can be so lost in our versions of a relationship that we end up losing the essence of it with time.

It’s a compilation of four stories – The Lovers, Husband and Wife, The Sisters and Mother and Daughter. Each story is at a critical juncture and the author has made the transition seamless by creating links between stories. As you proceed to the next one, you will feel “Oh! so that’s why this happened”. There can be a scene where you feel that this seems like unnecessary detail for this story, be rest assured it will be used in the next one.

I also liked how the author has given you a lot of detailing on the ambiance of the cafe, the dressing of the characters, their movements, and expressions, it just helps you imagine the whole thing very clearly in your mind. What might feel a bit stretched at times is the fact that these details can get repetitive after a point, so you may feel that this could be skimmed through.  I also kept wondering about the “women in white dress” till the end. Like will she ever get back to being a human or she will continue to be the ghost in the cafe? I really wanted the author to like to do something about this lady in particular till the end, but I guess it has been left to our imagination.

Now, did it live up to the excitement, as I mentioned before? It’s mostly a pleasant read and makes you delve into the intricacies of your most cherished relationships. The stories are simple, very day to day, which I think adds to the appeal of the book. You might expect some dramatic developments given the theme of time travel, that I am leaving for you to discover while you read it. So, if you are looking for something sweet to enjoy with your cup of coffee, this book is good to go!!

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Mom, be a girl again! – Happy Mothers day

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You know over the years, I have become quite cynical about these “women’s day/Mother’s day” concepts, it all had started to seem to like some conspiracy to just make you feel all special and awesome for a day and then push you back to that typical life you dread. I won’t say it has stopped happening now but I do believe and am happy to say that, I have started to see the goodness in this one-day celebration as well. What happens to us every day, is definitely not going to get fixed by one day full of motivation and love showered by our families, but this one day might just be the day when we decide to do something for our own happiness, not just for a day but every day!

While working on a lesson plan about memories, I couldn’t help but wonder why can’t I be as happy as my 20-year-old self, what really stops me? Is growing up all that bad? After contemplating for a couple of days, I actually zeroed down to the one big reason – and no it wasn’t getting married (I know a lot of you would have guessed that and it was my first guess too, understandably so) but it was something deeper. I saw a pattern repeating, something I saw my mom doing, something I noticed my friends did and a lot of it comes from our ever so influential movies – we were all trying to be that perfect person which everybody else wanted to see and in this process, we forgot where our happiness was. This pattern definitely accelerates while you are in a relationship, as proven by research, you do everything to make your partner happy because at that moment he/she means the world to you, then if you happen to have kids, the focus shifts to their happiness and so on. A funny bit here is, how people who are not even related to us tend to affect our happiness meter just by the mere importance we give to what they think about us and that’s like the final blow to our inner peace a.k.a “Goodbye Happiness”! Yes, social comparisons affect us more than we think they do.

So getting back to the memories bit, so effectively, we were the only person standing between our happiness and us, and if we decide to shift that focus on ourselves, as we did when were younger (it was all about us and trust me it’s a good thing now and definitely better than “it’s all about them”), we have a higher chance of escaping the monotony of what this life eventually brings in. I saw this wonderful series of advertisement by Amazon – #mombeagirlagain and it was like yes that’s exactly what I want to do, I always keep saying this – give me a break – I want to feel free of all my responsibilities for a day – which we know will never happen if we wait for others to give us that break – I mean why will they? Did you give your mom a break? I didn’t (Karma). So why not take it on your own, snatch it if you need to (it’s good to be evil for the greater good), you deserve it!

You might feel, it’s all gyaan and easier said than done – trust me I see you but I also know a bunch of awesome ladies who were sailing in your boat and how beautifully they managed to take these baby steps towards their own growth, to do something they had set their heart on and in spite of resistance from their families to let go of them (even if it was for a couple of hours), they did not give up! In the process, their families became independent, they came out in their support eventually and today these women are all set to redefine the education space and hopefully nurture the young minds with this refreshing change. So there is HOPE!

And if you see another mom struggling, give her a hand, a hug, or if you feel she needs her space, just let her be, but don’t you ever judge her. You know what makes motherhood the toughest part of being a woman, how other women make her feel. We all learn while we grow with our kids, we will make mistakes and that’s ok but its nobody’s business to judge us for the mom we are.

Now that we are at home, we are doing everything to make our families and employers comfortable, why not do our bit for ourselves. Why not restart evening coffee/tea virtual breaks with our old friends, why not call up that friend and push her (literally push her) to join you as you did in school/college, why not put on those shoes and go for a walk (if possible) just because you want to feel the air, why not pick up that book and lose yourself in it because that character excites you enough, why not cook something because you have been craving for it, why not pick up that brush which has been waiting for you and dip it in the colors you wish to paint the sky with, why not start that car and go for a drive just because you need some time off for your sanity, why not wear that dress you had bought to be worn on a special occasion because the day you decide to be happy, the day you decide to give back yourself all the love and attention you have been giving everyone else, the day you decide to be yourself again, you won’t look back!

I penned down a few lines dedicated to all the amazing women and moms out there, here it is

Spread the wings, the ones you forgot about

Take that flight, you had dreamed about

Leave the fear, for once say “I don’t care”,

Embrace yourself, I know that’s rare,

And don’t you worry about the rest,

Just try to put the order to test,

You may wonder, but just hang on before you turn around,

They may struggle for once, but they will learn how to work it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Educated – Tara Westover

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Educated

When I started this book, I was still hungover from the one I was reading before, so it took me some time to actually adapt myself to Tara’s world. I actually read the first 2 chapters twice to be able to absorb the context. I found this whole idea of a family in the US, which is so blinded by their faith and is so anti-government, kind of unreal. So it was an eye-opener for me that these problems do exist and to this level even in the US. That somebody has to struggle so much to get an education there, not because of finances but her family, who is pulling her back all the time.

I remember how my mother used to tell me, that you are lucky to receive an education but you do not realize the value of it, and honestly, while reading this book I could feel every word my mom said to come to life.

As a parent, it gave me shivers thinking about how my beliefs and actions can alter the way my child thinks about himself. How deep-rooted conditioning is and it takes a lifetime to come out of it if it goes wrong. How important it is to find your own voice and let it lead you rather than just being a mere follower of what has been preached all along. It took me a while to read this one, not because the book was slow or uninteresting but because it gave me so much to think about.

It’s a brutally honest account of how your life is shaped up basis what you keep hearing about yourself. How you can undermine or overestimate yourself, not because you realize your own worth, but because that’s what people talk about you or preach you. How you constantly seek validation from your loved ones because you always feel that you are the one who is at fault, you stop trusting your own self. How it can affect your relationships, your performance at work – mere judgment of others, and a life at stake!

I would like to quote a para from the book which touched me like really hard:

“I could tolerate any form of cruelty better than kindness. Praise was a poison to me, I choked in it. I wanted the professor to shout at me, wanted it so deeply I felt dizzy from the deprivation. The ugliness of me had to be given expression. If it was not expressed in his voice, I would need to express it in mine”

She has been able to recreate her whole life. She makes you feel every moment, the happy ones (rare but yeah they are there) and especially the disturbing ones. I actually felt like reaching out to her and give her my hand at times, while towards the end I was in awe of her.

Through her journey, Tara comes across as an inspiration, but it’s not that she is all-heroic. The beauty of this book is how real it gets, her struggles, her self doubt, her weakness, how she tries to hide her background, how she feels like an imposter even though she is a part of a world-renowned institution, her efforts to imitate others, her failures, her nightmares are all a part of her journey like us, but what makes her inspiring is how she fights them back and finds herself in this process.

The most beautiful part of this book for me is what education can do to you, how it can liberate you. It also raises so many questions about what really is worth learning, is it all books or is it the knowledge you actually put to use and how you learn because you have the hunger to know more, to dig out all the why’s and a thirst to really understand, to make sense of things. Is it to follow blindly what is passed on to you, or is it questioning and finding your own answers? Is it about listening to other’s voices or finding your own voice amongst the chaos around?

In the end, I can’t help but quote the last lines of the book, which left me thinking for good:

“That night I called on her and she didn’t answer. She left me. She stayed in the mirror. The decisions I made after that moment were not the ones she would have made. They were the choices of a changed person, a new self.

You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal.

I call it an education.”

I seriously felt like clapping after reading these lines. This book is a masterpiece and it needs to be read by as many people.

My Question to you!

When the world has shrunk
and everybody stays home,
trying to be safe from this virus
the duration of this lockdown is still unknown!

My mind is full questions
it never stops thinking about,
how good were those 5/10 year plans
everybody would ask me about?

We all are at the mercy of a handful of people
many of those who never plan beyond a day,
That garbage man, the delivery boys, the cleaners, the fruit and vegetable vendors
the people who were invisible back then,
when our own aspirations have come to a stand still, is when our eyes opened to truly see them.

We spend our lives worrying about the future
but did we ever plan for this day?
Saving leaves through the year,
we planned our holidays
squeezing time away from life,
we worked non stop to spend quality time on a vacay!!

And here we are, when countries have sealed their borders and you can barely move out of your house,
the malls have lost their charm and so has the designer stuff we went crazy about,
there are no parties to attend and flaunt your achievements,
weigh your choices…and the reasons that made you choose what you did.
Was all that worth it…is my question to you!

The Forty Rules of Love – by Elif Shafak

I am not a critique or a regular book reviewer, but this book forced me to write about it. First of all, I guess the timing for me to read this one could not have been better as we are all locked up in our homes, these are indeed testing times and have immense potential to push our sanity to its penultimate limit. But while reading this book, I started to realize that I really needed this time, to better reflect on myself, my behavior, my choices and also my reactions (more so the patterns) on the most mundane things. I will not say it changed me overnight, but it definitely had me thinking. In fact, it has been a week since I finished reading this book, I am still unable to start a new one with the same interest. I started two books and left them after reading maybe ten-odd pages as I was not able to connect well with them, or you can call it the hangover of the one I going to talk about.

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It started with a glimpse into Ella’s life, a middle-aged family woman who so far had been content being a “mother, wife, the dog walker and the housekeeper” which kept her busy enough, but since her children were growing up now, she was not needed as much now. Two weeks short of turning 40, she starts working with a literary agency in Boston (her husband helps her find this job). This sheer monotony of Ella’s life is so relatable to most of us, especially after a couple of years or marriage and kids, this is exactly what happens. This very connection served as a major hook for me to leave everything else and get engrossed in this book. Here was a story about a woman who has had a share of struggles and is attempting to change her life – I think that is a subject I want to know more about.

What caught me off the guard was how magnificently the teaching of Sufism has been blended into this book and for all the people who feel that we want to stay away from all the “Gyaan”, trust me it’s worth giving a shot. Without spilling out too many details, what stood out in the book was Shams of Tabriz, how beautifully the character grows on you with every chapter and I was so intrigued by his ways that I could not help but wonder, have I ever encountered someone like him in my life – somebody who changed the way I look at life itself and in a way transformed me (not like a project makeover sort like the makeup counters we see in malls) – but in the most subtle of ways. Looking back, I realized all the people we meet in life, who have either given us great grief or joy change us, for the better. I told you this book had me thinking and reflect and that’s what clearly sets it apart from others.

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The whole journey of Ella and Aziz, Shams and Rumi and a lot more important characters just wraps you in and takes you back in time. With every new test Rumi faces, you absorb the fact that no great teacher is born great, it’s his experience which makes him great and it will only happen when you risk your image, ego, beliefs and go out and explore the real world. What it really means to step out of your comfort zone to expand your learning or rather at times unlearn is what Rumi’s journey is, while he strives to fulfill his destiny.

I cannot say this book will appeal to everyone and I strongly feel you need to be ready to be able to relish the gem this book is, but for those who are ready to take the plunge, I know you will not be disappointed. It’s a treasure you want to go back to, time and again whenever you feel you are struggling in life, it has an answer for you, all you need to do is look.

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Let’s take a moment and think…

A lifetime dedicated to outrun each other

,A generation trained to look down at others,

Business targeting to divide us by class

There is this maddening drive in us to surpass.
But now that life has paused for most of us..

Let’s take a moment and think,

Let’s take a moment and take a view of the sky

The blues and whites blessing us far and wide!

Let’s take a moment and feel the breeze on our face

The mild sensation, the life it brings to us!

Lets take a moment and hear the birds sing

Their songs were hidden amongst the noise we created!

Let’s take a moment and nurture our trees

Sheltering under them, they are the life support we all need!

Let’s take a moment and think we were missing on all of this and more

Until life was paused for us and we could escape no more!

Let’s take a moment and think,

It took a whole pandemic to give us our wake up call

And if we go back to our old choices

Will there be a world for all?

Life in the times of Corona!

This week seems unreal to me.Well I have been home for the past week and in ordinary circumstances I would have been thrilled to get a break from the non stop errands and piles of work and like with no definite date to join back.. but wait…this is a different kind of vacation, it is Coronacation!

We cannot really go out unless our life depends on it, we start the day with the news and the count of people tested positive for “COVID-19”, a standard reaction is like “Oh gosh! The numbers are practically doubling every alternate day now.” I keep checking my phone for any update on the data and probably would have read a 100 articles on how to deal with Corona, how to avoid it, how to stay safe etc etc…but I am still scared! It’s the first time I am experiencing anything like this in life and guess that holds true for most of us…a fear for real..for our loved ones..for us!

What has helped me so far is trying to get myself in a routine so that I don’t just sit aimlessly in front of the TV and worry. So I thought to brighten up my day and possibly yours too let me share what good has happened over the last few days:

1. My room has finally started to look like a room after a long time (it mostly looks like a bombed site with things all over) so I spend time in cleaning one corner of my room everyday and it also keeps my kid engaged.

2.My balcony looks prettier…I have got some 20 odd flower pots to have something nice to look at when I am practically locked up.so we usually start our day with watering these plants and taking care of them.

3.I have started to clean my bathroom everyday trying to make it shine like we see in advertisements (still a long way to go but given the time frame I am sure I’ll get there)

4.My cupboards are finally organized (which means I able to find clothes which I intend to, not like you wear what you manage to find types). I will certainly not do this everyday but yeah it’s more like cleaning one section at a time.

5.Me and my son have done lots of painting together and

6.I even tried baking today ( don’t ask what it turned out to be) though my little kiddo loved eating whatever it was and that made me really happy! Sharing a pic of what I desired it to be

I really don’t know how long is it going to take for our world to get back to the way it was…I really don’t know when will we get to be back at work and meet our friends…I don’t know when will my kid get back to school because he really misses it…but while we are at home…let’s just do all that stuff we always plan to do but never have the time to do…you know chores, activities, calling up friends or parents, taking naps like really long ones which we always dream of…and let’s not forget our books and cooking! Take it as a break like “Vipasana”…away from all the worldly pleasures and try to find what makes you happy even when you can’t go out and loose yourself. It’s an opportunity to spend time with yourself!

Stay at home…help control the spread…make the most of your time and spread the love whatever way you can 😀