This chapter in my life is called…making new beginnings

Reading The Last Lecture from Randy Pausch has me engaged on a subliminal level.

As I turn pages stopping at times to have a aha moment, I realised I’m in a chapter of my life I call..New beginnings.

I have dealt with whatever cards life offered and tried coming up trumps. Most of the times I have and some times I haven’t for a self-defeatist self-fulfilling prophecy that I wreak on myself !!

Starting afresh on a new chapter, here are a few truisms that  held me in good stead thus far……..

Believe in yourself: There will be times when the world is dark and bleak, when circumstances conspire to defeat all your good intentions, when your loved ones push you to the brink, when nothing goes right……………stay calm. Look deep inside, there is a reservoir buried that only you can unleash (good memories, good times, skills that have earned you a job, anything at all that will keep you hoping and living for another day). Hold on steady, hold strong.

There is an angel waiting to give you wings.

(I found two when I was all alone in a dark hole, where I had no self confidence and sense of self; when I was suffering with physical, mental and emotional hurt with no respite in sight. Unbeknownst to me they gave me shelter and hope to hold on to till I found my inner self, strength and belief).

Never be obnoxious, mean or cruel: From a selfish perspective remember those who you trod on or hurt along the way will be those you meet sometime, somewhere in the not-so-distant future. They call it schadenfreude, and boy are people these or what.  So if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut up. Better to be boring than vile; better to be a good heart than Cruela De Ville!!

Sell yourself: Plenty and more cliches out there about not blowing your own horn. But every once in a while, and more blow your horn. Make your virtues, merits, uniqueness heard and felt. Whether it is in personal life or professional world, build your network, make it work for you and sell yourself. You never know where the next opportunity awaits. You never know when your other half or that loved one has taken you for granted. This also means that you will never let yourself go aka Keanu Reaves. Not all of us are born with diamond studs and tiaras, so make the most of what you got.

Build a strong network: Though a few of us would love to stay in a deserted island with a dog for company and a few books or mayhap Henry Cavill or Megan Fox..sigh, life isn’t as easy. We need to interact, and while we are about it what say we build a strong support system. This could be your professional or personal network. Give more than you get and a trusting relationship is sure to follow. I hate it when folks reach out only when they have work in hand, but then I realised I do the same thing. With the social media taking over live human interaction it is easy to make excuses. STOP!!

Call that friend you haven’t spoken to since you left school or college. Reach out to your family member whom you vehemently avoid meeting. Life is short, but yay yay why make it miserable.

Upskill: Easy to turn 40 and think you been there, done that. Even easier to turn 25 and think the whole world is waiting at your beck and call. Wake up friend. Competition is a killer. With the world’s population crossing 6 billion and counting, there are plenty of folks out there willing to do more to get that job you want, that boy/girl you crave, live that life you dream. Upskill, if you mean to thwart competition. Join a web building course, teach yourself Mandarin, visit all the places on your bucket list, do something, anything but live your life acquiring new skills that will enable you to live life more completely.

GIVE: Give of yourself without being asked. Not only will your house remain more livable, uncluttered and manageable but giving things is the start of a life long journey of giving. Give of your time, give of yourself, give your skills. All of us live to die some day. What if we give little of something to that child, that old man down the road, the morose colleague at the office, the stranger on the bus……something as simple as a smile or a hello to start with.

START LIVING. STOP BEING!!

Blazing a Different Path

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Ah, Robert Frost and his Road not Taken, standard English textbook fare for most of us who studied in the 80’s.

I gush and I gape whenever I meet someone who I feel/believe has taken the road less traveled by. It has been an aspiration for therein lies the secret to living a fulfilling life, a contended one.

And today, I met 2 incredible human beings who are living my dream, of blazing a new trail ……

I stumbled upon both by chance. The first through a friend who liked the FB page and the second coz of the first.

The Puzzle

When I browsed the FB page, I did a double take. How can some one be so foolhardy I thought? This is escapism taken to its extreme ran another train of thought. Perhaps this person has really been hurt or is running away from deep emotional trauma cried a voice from the inner recesses of my head. What motivates this man to travel the length and breadth of the country on his cycle stopping at remote communities and then staging a theatre act (street theatre style)? Doesn’t he read the papers? How can he survive without a toilet, without money, without his family, without comfort, without all the bare necessities like a roof over the head, 3 meals and more, friends to hang around with and so on and so forth?

The more I followed his travel and read his updates, the more intrigued I was….to analyse, arrive at a conclusion, understand, fathom what made this man undertake the journey he did.

The Solution

So when I found out he was dropping by where I stay I literally hounded him to meet up. The first was a washout thanks to an unexpected attack of the migraine but I got second time lucky. And how!! Not only did I get to meet The Cycle Natak, I met another intrepid explorer Andre Unger as well….

And so came 2 inspirational hours of freewheeling conversation with Andre and The Cycle Natak, who shared his journey with candor  humor, humility and a seeming sense of the unself-conscious self!!

Of course, I have to take you along this journey my dear reader and share the fascinating  nuggets I stashed away as I walked back to reality……..

The Cycle Natak

Over pepper sausages, a ham sandwich and chai, cold coffee and mosambi juice The Cycle Natak unraveled his secret to a happy life and his unquenchable urge to explore and travel. I will not dwell upon what motivated my friend ( I consider him that for he let me share his journey, if only for a while) since you would perhaps want to meet him and hear his story in his own voice. 

His 2 and a half year journey has obviously been adventurous, but what entices as this 24-year old speaks is his maturity and wisdom, something you would expect from a 70+ wizened sire who has seen, experienced, cherished and lived.

“It is not the destination but the journey that makes my travel interesting and gets me going again and again.”

“People are good. It is when you project goodness that you get goodness in return.”

“It is the truckwallas who have time and again let me hitch a ride with them that makes me feel good about getting back on the road again. They are honest, and would share their last piece of bread never expecting anything in return…..It is the laborer who takes me to his home and heart after just speaking with me for a few moments, happily sharing his frugal meal, which is not even enough for one….And then, I have had rich folks give me a 500 rupee note and ask me to take up lodging at a motel … And then, there is a villager who takes me to his home and gives his bed..”

“You learn to take the moment and live in the emotion of that moment but after it’s over, it’s over. You move on to a new one, a new moment, a new emotion.”

“At times, you have to just let go and let the dam burst because the more you carry with you the more dangerous the outburst. I remember sitting on the road in a particular phase of my journey just crying, venting out my frustration but then I had to shake myself off and move on..hoping there was something better ahead” (This when I asked him if he felt frustration and negativity at seeing how society was, how little progress we have made in spite of the India Shining chimes that play on)

“The condition of women is pathetic but it is far better that what it was so you can imagine how miserable it must have been…….women still think they do not have a right to conjugal happiness, that they owe it to their husbands to sleep because that is their duty.”

“Being a Muslim is not as issue when you get people to see you are a traveler, a human and not a caste.” (When I asked him if he found it difficult to get access to shelter or food because he was a Muslim)

“You have to feel empowered to be empowered. I was in some tricky situations but the fact that I spoke LOUD, spoke with Empowerment got me out.”

“You are answerable only to your (inner) self not anyone’s sense of what you are or who you should be….”

Andre Unger

Thanks to The Cycle Natak I also connected with Andre, an intrepid explorer, a risk taker by conventional measures. Giving up a well paid job Andre just took off on his bike traveling from Kanyakumari to Ladakh.

He hasn’t gone back to corporate sludgery by choice and instead opted to become an entrepreneur to “take off when I want to and not have to work 12 months to earn that week of well-deserved break.”

“We set off on a journey wanting to discover ourselves but what we don’t realise is we are who we are, no different from what we were..just more conscious of the self.”

“We are conditioned to eat 3 meals a day when we should actually eat when we want and not live by convention.”

“Being content with what we have and leaving a little for the rest will take you a long way.”

“Do what you want to do before you say it’s too late.”

“You don’t need to have an answer or an explanation or a reason for everything that you do, sometimes it is the doing that matters.”

………

Wow, I could go on but I won’t. I hope it has tweaked some part of you that wants to do something but is waiting for the right time, the right moment, the right sign to pursue your dreams..to pursue that elusive Will-o-the-wisp….

And even as I write this, I realize blazing a trail doesn’t have to be something dramatic or unconventional it could just be that one small step you have dreaded to take for an unknown fear, an unspoken taunt, or perhaps an unconscious inner barrier…

Stop….

For now is that time, and that time will never return.

And to all those who have taken that small step every day in a small way….Cheers and More Power To you…..

To Sit or Lie

PART I TO LIE

Ok, so a while back a close relative commented: “Why do you share your private life out there? You facebook, you blog, you twitter, you comment, why you twit? Why do you randomly seek attention instead of just living your life?”

Ok, so admittedly I was perhaps going overboard. Not that I was tweeting or facebooking about every single loo stop or vocalising the existential angst that hits you living in a city that corners you with its filth, aggression, numbness, insensitivity and so on and so forth..

But yes, I was quick to share my thoughts, and happiness and the angst that came at times as I see a (sane) society I once knew crumble and erode.

No longer was I safe to take my nightly strolls alone or even accompanied by my mum or go out for a drink with a male friend or catch up on a movie in a dark cinema hall or visit the coffee bar down the road or go jogging in the neighbourhood park.

2 eyes weren’t sufficient any more.

I needed compound eyes.

I was equipped with a pepper spray, a taser gun (i wish), a marriage certificate, a mangalsutra, toe rings, a ferocious dog on a long leash, headphones to plug into my ear, coolers, a bottle of bisleri, a heavy handbag…..

And no items listed above were not for seeing/quenching thirst/pleasure/answering curious looks/questions/exercise.

Oh no, these survival articles were to maim and mutilate; to deaden the senses; to ward off any male that leered or pounced in the dark or otherwise.

And I did go off facebook and twitter and didn’t blog as much. After all I’m a girl, ok, a woman – the weaker sex….and I didn’t want nor crave unwanted attention.

5-year old girl raped; 23-year old brutalised, raped and succumbs; 25-year old raped; 3-year old molested; and I lost count after a spell. Age didn’t matter and neither did the fact that they were ‘accompanied by male companions’ or were ‘decently dressed.’

Skewed sex ratio across the country; increasing rich-poor divide; mass migration to urban centers and exposure to urban culture resulting in culture shocks; shift in male-female roles; lack of education; north vs south; societal change; changing moralities; regressive society; confused rural male/uneducated male/unemployed male; changing female mindset; independent women waving a red flag to CRM/UM……and so on and so forth went analysis after analysis on the sudden explosion in violent sexual crimes against women.

Part II – To Sit

Do I join the protests?

Do I vent my anger?

Do I sign up and share links?

Do I pray to God that when I get pregnant it shouldn’t be a daughter in my womb so I don’t unleash this insane world on her?

Or do I harness my strength as a woman and unleash the generations of collective wisdom and empower my child irrespective of whether it has a XX or a XY chromosome?

Teach them the to Do the Right Thing, Stand Tall, Believe, Be Good, BE A MAN (in Kipling’s words) and Be the Best of whatever they chose to be or do

Sensitise them to a new world order where gender equality can be real and not dictated by khap panchayats and politicians seeking to bank roll their votes playing (preying) on increased crimes.

That it is ok to iron blouses and buy sanitary pads if she is unable to without being hush hush

That it is ok to do the 3 am call when the cries wail out in the night and not roll over and play dead while nudging the better half out of her sleep to play care taker.

That it is ok to wash plates and keep the house clean and take the garbage out and shop for vegetables and plan the evening dinner so the lady can get some precious me-time too.

That it is ok to not get married, travel the world instead and opt for a high powered job, buy a house, and pursue dreams

That it is ok to bring home someone from the opposite sex or the same sex as a life partner if they mutually respect each other and Trust each other and can live a life in harmony

THAT IN THE END ALL THAT MATTERS….is what you made of life for yourself and for others in the short time you had
….that someone somewhere sheds a tear or sports a smile or passes a sigh when you are no more in fond remembrance of all the nice things you did
….and that is all there is to it

How do you hit the jackpot

After more than a decade of working, mostly being part of the print media I have come across less than a handful of people who I look up to. While one was a great mentor the other two were great managers who knew when to pull the leash in and when to leave it loose.

Most of the people who were in the supervisory or higher-up roles were routinely bad, pathetic in fact. Reasons varied from:

  • Indifference to creating a motivational environment for the team to work with
  • Lack of mentoring skills
  • Scheming to serve one’s own ends; even using subordinates/co-workers as pawn
  • Inability to foster a spirit of bonding & build team work
  • Discouraging youngsters/co-workers from trying new ideas/methods
  • Having a MY WAY or THE HIGHWAY attitude
  • Defeatist when confronted with a problem/new situation/challenge

and so on and so forth…While I’m trying to understand what makes a person stay on with the same organisation for reasons other than job security & not wanting to get out of a comfort zone; what I’m also trying to understand is why do people, especially youngsters job hop. Surely, monetary benefits can’t be the only reason since a pay hike of 1000-2500 rupees really doesn’t matter. Would be great to get your thoughts on both counts.

Meanwhile, here is my pick of the lot for being a REALLY COOL boss.

  • Give your employee the end-goal and allow them to navigate their way towards that goal
  • Create a sense of working towards a purpose as a TEAM
  • Make each member of the TEAM accountable for their responsibilities, actions and achievements
  • Applaud good work in public and reprimand bad moves in private
  • Mentor the team or put a buddy system in place
  • Be a friend but only when asked for
  • The Boss is the (wo)man with a vision so be CLEAR in all communications & set expectations

I’m working with one such……

 

Be True to Thine Own Self

I walked into the workplace today wearing dungarees, a kurta, floaters and a jola. Smiles and smirks greeted me along with raised eyebrows and nudges.

While I’m not a self-conscious person naturally, I was forced to introspect. This attire that had  been a part of my writer’s garb for so long was suddenly alien in a corporate set up, even in a geeky corporate set up where it was OK to wear Croc loafers, tattered Levis and CK Ts.

When in Rome wear a Toga. That is my grandpa’s fav adage and still holds good as he prepares to turn 94 this coming year. You will never catch my grandpa go wrong with his sense of style and dressing. A formal occasion deserves nothing better than a crinkle-free trouser/shirt & pressed suit and if it is an Indian formal do than his best silk dhotis and kurtas are out along with the Rajasthani chadawas. His shoes have to sparkle till he can see his own reflection while his handkerchief stays unsoiled even after he has mopped his brow on a hot, sweaty day.

A walk to the neighborhood barber means wearing his old shirt and pants on since he still believes going to a barber is Ashudh. While I understand the hygienic connotation behind this belief what I’m yet to understand is the elaborate ritual that goes with a visit to the barber!!

While I have tried to emulate my grandpa’s immaculate dressing sense I have utterly failed in meeting his exacting standard. He cannot fathom how any grand daughter of his can go dressed in dungarees to a corporate meeting, and not even my by-now-standard line of  “Be true to thine ownself” helps!!!

So does this mean being a career journalist = sloppy, lazy & indisciplined or is it a mere excuse for having a straight-out-of-bed look & making it look smart 😉

Angst

A pow-wow over breakfast is healthy and stimulates you to be sharper on your feet, more than breakfast itself. Now I’m sure most people would disagree with this and argue the merits of having a healthy breakfast for healthy living. But that is not the topic of this post. And perhaps this post won’t really strike a chord with male readers, but here it is.

This particular morning our pow-wow digressed from corporate life and gossip to women and the lack of support there of in every aspect of living the day-to-day. Whether it was middle age angst or .. leave it for you to decide.

“All I want at times is for some one to get me a cup of coffee when I go home. I do not want someone telling me you – don’t need to work- I’m here for you- or take up all my burdens for me- just that thoughtful gesture will give me the strength to wake up to another day of struggle,” said this lady.

Feisty, driven, caring mother of a teen, considerate and duti-bound daughter of two aging parents (80+) this lady is the one we look to for support and direction when we get lost in the corporate quagmire of processes/politics/what-have-you. To have her voice such a thought seemed ludicrous. After all wasn’t she a super-woman?

Before anyone could react another lady chipped in, “I know what you mean. Every day I wake up to a day of chores and I have no complaints coz this is what I have been doing every since I can remember. But there are times when all I want is for someone to say thank you or just show they care or appreciate my efforts.”

And these thoughts found an echo in all of the women. Which brings me to this post?

None of the women are whiners. They shoulder more than their fare share of responsibilities. Each one is accomplished and successful, both on the professional and personal front. Their wants to be appreciated was not directed at the male sex but were generic.

Leading me to wonder :

  • Why women are not as quick to claim credit for anything they do
  • Why are uncomfortable at praise or complments showered on them
  • Why societal approval is still important
  • Why aren’t women as good at vocalising concerns compared with men
  • Why women are still hesitant in reaching out

 

 

The SlutWalk movement

Read this article to get more details on the movement and this commentary on it as well..

While the title of the movement/protest march sounds provocative it has served its purpose – getting media attention and tongues wagging.

In an Indian context, the Toronto cop’s advise to York University students on  not dressing up like sluts to avoid attention has been said in perhaps not such abusive terms. Whether it has been the 4th estate, policy makers, those influencers – Bollywood/Kollywood/Tollywood and wormwood:people who are there to serve and protect, nearly every entity has at one point in time preached the modesty of virtue!!!

Yet, we as (Indian) society have decidedly kept mum. Centuries of conditioning has ensured that a vast majority of girls/women here evolve into docile,  non-assertive, non-aggressive, submissive, non-questioning, non-thinking and a lot of other qualitative adjectives to become doormats, easily bought/exchanged.

We still live in a feudal society where a woman’s right is non-existent.

Women still prefer staying “married” to alcoholics, abusive, psychotic, bestial creatures, whom I shall not term as men, instead of walking away from such relationships with whatever shards of mental equilibrium, dignity and self respect they manage to hold on to.

All because society still treats a woman separated/divorced/single as pariah.

Urban society fortunately has changed with women in metros seemingly allowed their individuality. I thank my fortune for being born in a metro-esque setting till I walk down the street to have a stare follow me, till I see a woman fighting off a molester while a crowd enjoys the show, till I see women scurrying to their cars after catching a late night’s show…….