Revisiting an old friend – 2

When in trouble, turn to an old friend and all will be right with the world. Yes, that is exactly what I’m doing and happily, unashamedly and guilt-free. I wrote this post in Sept 2011 and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s amazing how some of the things that touched me then still resonate with me today. I guess that’s moi :). Well anyway, let me know if you enjoyed this piece and oh yeah, what’s your word for the day/week/month/year? Think about it and don’t hold it in. Let it out. :).

“I decided on my word – attraversiamo. It means ‘let’s cross over.

Elizabeth Gilbert from the movie Eat, Pray, Love


I’ve heard about the book Eat, Pray, Love that was doing the ‘Bestseller’ rounds. I know my friend Sweta bought it at the Delhi airport or was it Bangalore, when we were heading out to Leh, Ladakh in 2009. 2009 – a year that will remain forever, imprinted in my heart and my memory. A year, which was my 40th and I remembered a long-ago promise I’d made to myself that ‘The day I turn 40, I will quit my job even if I have 5 rupees in my bank account.’ It was time to test my courage and see if I’d actually stick to my resolve and promise made to myself many moons ago. I just about made it by the skin of my teeth. Yes, I quit my job in November of that year just 2 months away from my 41st year. Wow! I remember a queer feeling in the pit of my stomach – of exhilaration and of apprehension, of unexplored adventures of life that lay before me, of seeking and perhaps finding my own inner demons, slaying them and emerging victorious, of perhaps, finally leaping from my comfort zone and headlong into an unknown and maybe, just maybe, discovering who I really was. Yes. All of this lay before me as I, a good South Indian TamBram (Tamil Brahmin ‘Iyer’)  girl, with good upbringing and morals (the question of morals is very personal and more on that some day), duty bound and hemmed in by traditional, cultural and societal mores, was giving up a job. To see if I could do what I wanted to do, nay needed to do. It was an emotional, rational, impulsive moment all rolled into one. I knew I didn’t want to chase the ‘big bucks’. I knew I didn’t want to get caught up in the ‘competitive race’ that I’d been running all my life without much success. I knew I didn’t want to be or sound like what I was doing was righteous and slip into sanctimonious lectures, nor did I want to be the ‘loser takes recourse to quitting’ mode. I just wanted to do my thing. I wanted to find my balance.

It’s been 22 months since that moment on November 9, 2009 where I remember driving past the security guards of the office that was home for so many months prior to that. Walking out from one chapter of your life can be a strange experience. You know that when you turn away from something, you automatically turn to something else. So what if that something is hazy and undefined. Light from a tunnel is light and signals hope, an impetus to keep digging yourself out from whichever tunnel (aka hole/ rut/ moment/ space/ darkness/ path) you are in, and move towards that light. It’s been fascinating these 22 months.  Surprised. Happy. Calm. Unflappable. Divine. Meditation. Spiritual. Friends. Family. Wishful. Anger. These few words have repeatedly sprung up during this journey among a trillion others in what has been, quite honestly, a surprisingly delightful experience thus far.

I haven’t read the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, but I find it has interesting quotes by the lady author. I happened to catch just the last hour of the movie on TV and I found this last dialogue in the movie very profound. For me. And it just seemed to lend itself so naturally to the earlier ‘Go beyond borders’ that I just had to share. I don’t know what my word is or will be. But I like the idea of ‘let’s cross over’ however you interpret it.

I know I did. In November 2009, I did. I crossed over. Maybe it’s time for another ‘attraversiamo’. I don’t know what or where.  I am seeking an answer. Maybe I will seek it forever. Does it matter?

Aside: Javier Bardem is a wonderful actor. He’s my definition of a ‘sexy man’. He’s not  ‘drop dead gorgeous’ like George Clooney or Brad Pitt but by Jove, he’s sexy. Earthiness, intelligent and sensuality with a body and a dimple. Sigh!If he wanted me to take a boat and ride into the unknown, I would give him my hand.  Attraversiamo baby!


Did you know that:

EPIPHANY (Capitalized) means: January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ.

It also means an illuminating discovery, realization or disclosure.

What’s your illuminating thought, word or feeling today? Go ahead, make full disclosure, no one’s going to hang you out to dry. The Universe has your back. More importantly, do you have yours? If not, listen to the song and hopefully suddenly you’ll see…


The Other 4-Letter Word That We Can’t Let Go Of!

Benjamin Mee: What I figured out is that when you love somebody that much, that hard, that long, you can never get away from them, no matter where you go. And that only comes once in a lifetime. Just can’t get a…
[he clenches his fist as if trying to open a handle on a door, imitating Walter Ferris]
Benjamin Mee: …handle on it.
[Kelly smiles]
Benjamin Mee: I cannot let go.

Dialogues from “We Bought The Zoo” – the protagonist is Benjamin Mee played by Matt Damon (one of my all time favourite actors. No one else could have played the eponymous role of Jason Bourne.)

You know, I have a confession to make. I cry when I see movies. I let the dialogues and the moment touch me, somewhere deep inside. I somehow extrapolate what they’re feeling and I imagine myself and how I feel or felt at vulnerable times in my life. It makes me cry. Even rom-coms with great predictable ‘happily ever after’ endings make me cry. I’ve often wondered why.

I used to think I was (and still am) an emotional fool. Emotion and fool go together see, and so I’ve never bothered to question it. Pause. Just think about it. Whoever coined it must have thought that to wear your heart on your sleeve, feel, show that you feel, is actually detrimental to health LOL. And so, if you’re emotional, ergo, you’re a fool. Oh well, whatever! But today, it’s the reverse. If you’re not emotional you’re not a fool. Or so the world’s behavioural psychologists and researchers would have us believe. Anyway, forgive me the digression. The point is, yes, I cry, I feel miserable, and while I’m not a manic depressive, I can tell you with a great degree of assurance that when I’m emotional, I operate at heightened creative levels. I write with more depth, more feeling, more meaning. Or so I believe. When I revisit some of my earlier writing, I find that my style has changed, perhaps and somehow I’m unable to create that same degree of intensity. I may have lost my flow. I don’t really know, what it is, but which is why, I started putting up my earlier writings to not just share with you, but also to serve as a reminder to me that it’s okay to feel pain. It’s not necessary that one needs to bathe in pain everytime one wants to be creative, or be slightly edgy or veer on the precipice of insanity like Van Gogh to produce works of sheer genius. But one needs to have empathy, sympathy, and emotion.

You’ll agree with me when I say we’re all alone. We, each of us, you,you, you and I are all alone. We find companions if we’re lucky, to share the journey of our ephemeral lives on this planet. And during our lifetime, we go through myriad experiences, but the ones that help us grow and evolve and learn is the pain, the failure, the rejection, the fear, the sadness, the insecurity among a whole plethora of emotional turmoil, that stymie us as we seek to soothe our wounded souls. And our big deep gaping wounds are healed (if we’re lucky, or sometimes like yours truly, some wounds heal but the scars run so deep that they serve to remind me, for eternity what the wound was all about, forever accursed to remember) when we find that we’re not alone in our pain, our grief, our sadness. That there are others in whose pain we find healing to our gashes and abrasions and fractures and the assurance that we’re not alone after all. And thus a connection is formed and a bond is birthed.


We’re wired to tune in to pain. We’re not meant to be unhappy, no, am not saying that. In fact the very opposite, as our spiritual masters would have us believe. It is my belief however, that it is when we swim through the river of pain that we can truly enjoy the lightness of being and revel in having found (however temporarily) the embankment of joy. 

And if you haven’t felt pain lately or if, in your pain, you haven’t been desperately seeking someone who can look you in the eye and say honestly, “I don’t know how to ease your pain, and I don’t know what to say, but I’ve been there, so I know what it means”, then you’re being untruthful. If you haven’t felt cleansed after you’ve let your tears cause a tsunami of emotion, if you haven’t felt relief and sometimes reborn, rejuvenated and clear as the cloudless blue sky after a storm, then you’re just lying. But that’s okay.
Because we’re all emotional fools, it’s just that we’re conditioned not to be found out . But you know what? I’d rather be a fool any day. Come on, get a handle on it and let go :).


Revisiting an old friend – 1

In 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, I had an epiphany. I wanted to write and share some of my ideas with a very close knit group of friends and family, because it would keep me connected to them, I loved to write and I thought (at that time) that my Musings (as I called my personal newsletter) would go viral. I kept at it for 6 months, week on week writing about things that mattered to me and hopefully providing food for thought to those who were my audience. I was revisiting some of it today and I thought it’d be worth putting some of that writing (entirely mine and original and am sure some of my friends on that mailing list will vouch for it) here for your consumption. Yes, there may be an odd reference to something ethnic as I come from India, so perhaps I’ll add something as a Footnote for you 🙂 if warranted. I’ll probably post all of these under a new category called Musings, that way you and I both will know the fresh from the regurgitated :). But hey it’s all me. Hope you enjoy it and please do share because sharing is caring. In fact why don’t you tell me which song would go well with every post that I post under Musings? I’d love to accede to your requests…this is the JukeBox after all!

“Go beyond borders”

Many of you would recognize the quote that I’ve posted above. I found it brilliant. Of course the context that CNN used it was to promote their brand of news making and presenting. But for me it stands for so much more. It truly means ‘pushing beyond the paradigms of well defined, articulated and accepted definitions’. You see, we need to teach ourselves and our children to reflect deeply on what being human entails. It’s a tough ask but it’s also deeply enriching. Don’t we often, say, ‘push the envelope’? Or ‘think out of the box’? Why do we say it and what do we mean by it? Aren’t the envelopes and boxes our own borders? Aren’t our prejudices our own borders? Aren’t our attitudes and mindsets our own borders?

You know I saw this lovely movie called ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ for the nth time. I love that movie. And not only for Julia Roberts, but also for the premise that she puts forth. She’s an art teacher who teaches this bunch of young, smart and sassy girls at Wellesley in ’50s America, to think beyond what they perceive, to question tradition and dogma. Here are some interesting snippets of dialogue to illustrate:

“Look beyond the paint. Let us try to open our minds to a new idea.”
Julia Roberts known as Katherine Watson shows the class a slide:
Katherine Watson“Carcass”, by Soutine, 1925. Is it any good? C’mon, ladies, there’s no wrong answer. There’s also no textbook telling you what to think. It’s not that easy, is it?
Betty Warren: Alright, no. It’s not good. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it art. It’s grotesque.
Connie Baker: Is there a rule against art being grotesque?
Giselle Levy: I think there’s something aggressive about it. And erotic.
Betty Warren: To you, everything is erotic.
Giselle Levy: Everything is erotic.
Susan Delacorte: Aren’t there standards?
Betty Warren: Of course there are! Otherwise, a tacky velvet painting could be equated to a Rembrandt!
Connie Baker: Hey, my Uncle Ferdie has two tacky velvet paintings. He loves those clowns.
Betty Warren: There are standards! Technique, composition, color, even subject. So, if you’re suggesting that rotted side of meat is art, much less good art, then what are we going to learn?
Katherine Watson: Just that. You have outlined our new syllabus, Betty, thank you. What is art? What makes it good or bad, and who decides?
[referring to a childlike drawing of a cow]
Katherine Watson: 25 years ago, someone thought this was brilliant.
Betty Warren: Who?
Katherine Watson: My mother. I painted it for her birthday. Next slide. This is my mom. Is it art?
Susan Delacorte: It’s a snapshot.
Katherine Watson: If I told you Ansel Adams had taken it, would that make a difference?
Betty Warren: Art isn’t art until someone says it is.
Katherine Watson: It’s art!
Betty Warren: The right people.
Betty Warren: And who are they?
Giselle Levy: Betty Warren! We’re so lucky we have one of them right here.

There was a Point/ Counterpoint in the editorial about having legislation on ‘lookism’. For many of us who are not sure what this means, including yours truly, it means to remove bias at workplace on the basis of one’s looks. Well, what can I say! I don’t know if legislation will really help. It’s an attitude isn’t it? It’s an age-old mindset about what constitutes ‘beautiful’ vs. ‘ugly’. Ask me about it. I’m a dark, not terribly attractive woman. When I was in school, one of the most impressionable years of one’s life you will agree, I remember coming home crying, or sitting outside with ‘friends’ and feeling completely wretched because the ‘boys’ would always call me ‘Kaali Bhains’ meaning ‘black buffalo’. When you’re 8 or 9 it scars you. You question and you don’t get too many answers that make sense. ‘You’re beautiful inside’ doesn’t make sense. You want to know why do they call you so? You want to know why you don’t get ‘red roses’ in college. You want to know why guys are forever dedicating songs to the ‘fairer prettier one’. You want to know why you’re asked supposedly innocent questions by your own family ‘So you’re quite alright girl, how come you don’t have boy friends?’

You may of course wonder, is this something to get upset about and isn’t it time to grow up and leave it behind? I have, but till date, I feel uncomfortable looking at myself in a mirror in a public ladies’ cloak room. I am afraid to comb my hair or anything. Till date I feel a sliver of something undefined when someone says, ‘she’s so dark or she’s so ugly’. Do I not indulge in being judgmental about others and their looks and their sense of style? I do. Which brings me back to the question I began with: Will legislation help people who are discriminated against on the basis of looks? Isn’t it a shifting goal post as the definitions of beauty shift and as they say, ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder?’.

I don’t know the answer.

Have you noticed that some wounds run so deep (perhaps as deep as the Indian Ocean’s deepest point at 14,800 feet) or the Mariana Trench in the Pacific, that you keep talking about it repeatedly? Yes, my deep insecurity and scarring about my looks has me mentioning it very often, because at the end of the day am trying to heal myself. My outpourings to you help me learn the utter hopelessness of holding on to self-defeatist and self-sabotaging thoughts, but when it runs in your veins, perhaps it will take the 12 step AA process to get it undone. Maybe I’ve just done 2 or 3 and still have a ways to go.

Well, anyway, am older, wiser, greyer and I know that being who I am in my own skin is the only way to be. My skin may be dark, but dark is also beautiful. And I think that if there was no dark, how would you appreciate the fair-skinned? You need the darkness to revel in the light.

Being Disciplined Will Get You The Gig

“If you only write when inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist.” 
― Neil Gaiman

I agree with Mr. Neil Gaiman. So there goes my dream of becoming a novelist. Unless (dramatic pause), unless I get my act together. The act of submitting myself to a routine and being disciplined about it.

Now how many times have you heard the old aphorism, “Practice makes perfect”? Well truth be told, I’ve heard it a gazillion times and I never really paid heed to it. I mean not in a disrespectful way, but you know how it is when you hear or see something so often, you generally take it for granted and you don’t really ‘hear’ or ‘see’  ‘it’ any more? So that’s what I guess I did with that truly profound and life changing adage. I should have paid more heed.

Today was one of those days where I got a lot accomplished, yet at the end of it all feel like I’ve not really done anything. It kind of amounts to nothing. Why? For Chrissakes:

  1.  I woke up in the morning and took an important client call. It was fruitful.
  2.  I paid some bills that I’d needed to.
  3.  I had another important call with a ‘personal branding’ expert.
  4.  I played with my niece and nephew
  5.  I answered all my emails, got some reading done, watched some videos which
    have been enriching.
  6.  Managed to negotiate with a venue on rates (for an event that I’m going to be hosting).
  7. Had yet another call with another client later in the evening.
  8. Sitting here to write my post.

If you cast a glance at the list, wouldn’t you agree that it was a pretty good list of accomplishments? I think so too. Then why the hell do I feel so out of whack!?

That’s because I didn’t follow a routine that I’m used to. And I know for sure had I followed that routine and was a little more rigorous about my discipline, I’d have accomplished a lot more, for sure.

Being disciplined about your day/ routine/ life helps you:

  1. Start your day with greater clarity and purpose. When I wake up, I lie in bed for a few minutes acknowledging myself, the day, and my life for all its little gifts and miracles. Yes, I practice gratitude. The day I don’t, I feel irritable, anxious and yes, out of whack! Little wonder eh?!
  2. Get and feel organized. If your daily routine is to wake up, have a cuppa steaming hot espresso or lovely warm Darjeeling tea, read the paper, go sit on the pot, with or without a newspaper, check your BB or smartphone for emails, it’s a routine. You know the next step you need to take that will take you towards fulfilling your chores, to-do lists, whatever. Right?
  3. Say NO to clutter. From the carousel of your mind to a list or a diary or Tasks or whatever and wherever you find peace in listing down the “Things to do”. The pleasure of actually ticking each accomplished task off the list is like having a warm chocolate brownie with some gooey Hershey’s sauce squirted all over it. You know what I mean?:). No clutter in your mind. No clutter, no anxiety, smoother day. Whoa!
  4. Feel self-assured. Notice am not saying ‘in control’ because control is not a word that I particularly care about. It’s connotations are all black and foggy and wormy for me. Nope, nyet, not happening. Exit Control. Enter Self-assured. When the clutter’s gone, the day’s course all charted out, you’ve done your morning ritual, you’re actually ready for the day, of the day, by the day. Yes, you’re ready to take the day in your stride. And boy does it feel assuring!
  5. March towards your goals/objectives/aim/ endeavours/ intentions/ purpose. Am an eager beaver participant in Brene Brown’s Online Course on The Gifts of Imperfection where there was this interesting question about how the word intention is being bandied about so frequently and therefore perhaps lost its potency. And hence the alternatives above :). But it is true that when you set yourself a little routine and are disciplined about following it, you get a whole lot done. Which essentially means that you can even have a scheduled ‘me’ time, to reflect, introspect, be empty, anything, and perhaps identify, resolve and implement your life’s purpose. Isn’t that one more brownie point in favour of Big Daddy Discipline here?

(Every post that has a ‘how to’ in its title usually doesn’t go beyond 5 bullet points. Say what you have to in 5 or perish. Everyone has ADD so hey, who’re you trying to impress eh?)

Now I know why I am feeling so out of whack today! Though for all practical purposes it seems that I did get a lot done, I still didn’t go for my walk, practice my meditation or my yoga, or get my journaling done, etc. Yes, I do recognise that I’m a creature of habit. And some habits are good to keep. Breathing is a good habit. Thinking positively is a good habit. But habit is a force when it’s deliberately inculcated. And to do so you need discipline. Even the Buddha believed that true happiness, peace and enlightenment could only be achieved by disciplining the mind. So there you have it. Discipline baby!

Practice. Discipline.Everyday.Success. Peace. Gigs. Yours. I like!!!

So which song would you like to hear today to get you out of the blues? How about The Beatles?