Saturday, September 14, 2019

I am not Cut out for it !

Excerpts from my last speech at Toastmasters International Speech Contest:


A 15 year old girl listens to her mom call out from the kitchen

"Charu, Give me a hand in here.”

And she responds "Mom I am not cut out for cooking !!".

Toastmasters/fellow guests

Tell me, how many of you would have done the same in their teenage ?


Good to see the men raising their hands too

Kitchen is no longer a no man’s land :)

My point is: Please consider, How many times in our lives have we told others and more importantly ourselves, that we are not cut out for this or that.

I have done that.
I have said that:

I am not cut out for public speaking.
And yet today, here I am, standing before you.

I dreaded facing public because I knew, I was flawed, and I often thought that if I face an audience, people would see across me and find out my flaws.
But 3 years into Toastmasters, I have found that when I am on stage I forget what I was,  or what I would be and there is only this moment. And this moment is perfect, devoid of any shortcomings.
When I am on the stage I am myself.
My true self.

The audience does not deter me, it empowers me.

People listening intently to you, without cutting you, for 7 whole minutes. …..
Where does that happen ?????
At home ?
At office ?
That happens only at Toastmasters.

Such golden opportunities I lost over the years, only because I said and more importantly believed, that I was not cut out to face public.

Years ago, there was a guy I liked a lot and he had a big family.
I befriended him but never took the next step because I told myself that I am not Cut out for marriage.
Joint family ! My God !
I could not even interact properly with one person, how would I live with many ?
And yet here I am today, living in a family of 10.

I had  once told my friend on his birthday ,
“Today, You can ask anything of me. Except of course, my hand in marriage.”

And the way he said: “What am I going to do with you, if I am not to marry you “
Actually, he had said something in Hindi.
The literal translation was “Without marriage would I make a pickle out of you ?"
Think pickle in Hindi!

Anyways the way he said it, I had to say yes.

That my friends, was my biggest …..
Victory !
By saying yes to him, I said yes to his beautiful family. I said yes to living with more mature people. I said yes to a deep sense of security. I said yes to happiness. I said yes to a new me. I said yes to cooking and cleaning.

How many of you know that Cooking is as creative an activity as painting, and a lot more gratifying.

Sometimes we think that we know ourselves but even our knowledge about ourselves in based on what we have experienced.

Tell me, How many of you think you are not out for  a 9 to 5 office job?
How many of you, who think are not cut out for an office job, are actually in an office job?
Good !
How many of you who think they are not cutout for an office job but are in an office job, have actually experienced doing their own thing.
Less !

My point is : How can you form an opinion about something if you don’t experience it.

You see, I have heard many young girls, boys, couples remark that they are not cut for out parenthood.
But I have hardly ever heard a mother of few years or a father of few years, say that.

There are mental barriers we barricade ourselves in.
I am not cut out for this. I cannot do that.
For an instant, think about how many times you have rejected something or someone  because you thought that you were not cut out for it.
Many opportunities lost.

I would say Don’t loose but Choose.

On this paper roll of life, we can be cut out to be of any shape.
How fine we cut it out or if a cut out a poor figure, depends on our patience and perseverance.        

We can be a triangle, a rectangle, a circle.
But that does not mean that we have to be all the shapes at the same time.
We can choose .
Say, I am cut out to be a triangle as well as a rectangle.
But I choose to be a triangle over a rectangle.

I choose happiness over being fretful.
I choose family over career
I choose entrepreneurship over day job.
I choose toastmasters …over ….over….. talking NONSENSE  with MY friends.
But I love talking nonsense with my friends.
Wait I choose them both.
I am cut out for both.

Likewise, I am cut out to be a mother as well as career women.

A friend of mine was offered the challenging role of a team lead as soon as she joined back after her maternity leaves. But she refused.
What she told the management was: It is not that I cannot do it, It is just that I don’t want to do it right now.
A year afterwards, she accepted the offer on her own terms.

Don’t Loose but Choose.

Choice, my friends,  is very powerful and liberating, whereas negative affirmations are also very powerful but limiting.

Therefore, I implore you, to explore the real you. The untapped you.

Experience everything and then choose.

Experience swimming, for with mystery the oceans are brimming
Try sky divining, dream high and never stop striving.
Trust me you have nothing to lose,
if you tell yourself, This is what I choose.

Look I can rhyme
Perhaps I am cut for poetry.
What say.

Have you tried to discover what all are you cut out for ?

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Loss of a Parent.

My manager called me on his desk for a quick discussion, a few minutes back.
It was about my appraisal. I got a decent increment and a great bonus. I thanked him and rose from the chair.
Instinctively, I picked up my phone and dialed 'his' number.
As the words "PAPA" flashed the screen, the reality stuck me again.
The same reality which strikes me each morning as I get up, and as I end my day and lie down to sleep.
My Papa is not there. He is no more.

He was the first person I would call up in case of any major or minor achievement or disappointment. Either ways, He would cheer me up.
To me, he was my Angel.

It's been a month.
But I still can't believe that this has happened to me.
It seems like a dream. A bad dream.
Sometimes I pretend it’s a dream.
I am just not waking up.

To think that I would not be able to hear his voice ever, hear him say "Charuji !" with such childlike enthusiasm like I was not his daughter but some celebrity,  not be able to shake hands with him  and not be able to see him smile, makes my heart go in pieces.

The last time I talked to him, I filled him with the news of winning one of the Toastmasters contests. He was so thrilled. He was eager to share some brilliant ideas for the short contest I was participating in. But I replied nonchalantly "Papa, we are meeting this weekend in any case. We will discuss in detail then."
He would often complain that I was so busy and that he was would retire soon, what would he do with so much Time ?
None of us knew, it was 'Time' indeed something that he didn’t have.

I and my father knew each other like only few people would. We understood each other intellectually and would often go into philosophical discourses about life, world and people in general. There was love and mutual respect.

But our relationship was not always so sorted.
In my childhood, he was more of a Tyrant than a father to me. My breaks were timed. I was not allowed to party. I was always made to study.
In 7th standard, I could crack the tough questions of Arithmetic Progressions, Permutation and Combination and Trigonometry.
It was all due to his hard work.

There was a reason why the movie Dangal is so close to my heart.
My father was the Dangal father.
Like the character of Aamir Khan, who decided to train his daughters after he saw there was something in them (they beat up boys who bad-mouthed them), my father saw something in me at one instance when he became in awe of my grasp on mathematics and decided that his girl should get into the ‘IIT’.
Unfortunately unlike the Dangal girls whose friend (going through child marriage) made them realize that their father was actually doing everything for their own good, I never reached that realization until I actually got into the IIT.
He put in his 150% efforts on me but my efforts were -25%. The net 125% were enough to get me admission into IIT albeit on a low rank.
Had I understood his vision, I would have supported him in his dream to have his daughter become the first girl to top IIT.
But alas, I hardly managed to get a seat.

I remember, Papa had once prepared a very elaborate question paper for me.
Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. He did great deal of research and was lost in books for days altogether to prepare that practice test. He handed it over to me and asked me to work on it.
He forgot to specify the timeline for me to complete the paper as he usually did.
He was gone for a few days (I believe to invigilate UOR Entrance or the GATE exam). In his absence I had a field day.
When the CAT is away, the mice play.
That was me.
For over those three to four days, I studied absolutely nothing.

The first thing Papa asked after he got back from the trip was:
"Charu, How did you find the question paper ? "
A paper he had prepared with so much effort.

"I didn’t work on it. You didn’t specify the timeline." I said.

"You didn’t even start working on it?"  Papa was angry.
And then, suddenly he was sad. He said with great emotion, "Charu, are you studying for me or for yourself ? Don’t you want to be someplace in life? A lot of IIT aspirants would have given their right arm to get an IIT Professor as their coach and look at you. You, seem to see it as burden. Have you no fire within you Charu? Only if you knew my journey, If only you knew how I used to wait for hours behind the door of the tutor's room, only so that he could help me with a handful of questions I couldn’t solve. We didn’t have money Charu, but our self-belief was high."

Later that day, I overheard him remark to my mother, "Shalini, What should we do with this girl. She lives in a dream world, lost in herself. If she does not study hard and become something how would she ever survive? She has no thirst, no passion to succeed. She studies mechanically, only to please me. Only if I die today, I know, she will study day and night to fulfill my dream."

That day, after hearing those words, I decided that I would cooperate with Papa. Not because it was important for me to get into IIT, but I understood how important it was to him.

There were times when I doubted my capabilities. I had once told him dejected, that I was not good enough.
'That's not true Charu. You are very special. Look at your palm, there is a gap between your life line and heart line. This means you are destined for greatness!"  He had said.
(It was a ruse. At his funeral I met one of his old students and he said "Didi, your father was a great man. My son had a crooked arm and was low on confidence. But Sir looked at him and told him that children with slant arms are destined for greatness. Those words instilled confidence in him and now he is a PO in a govt. bank !")

Other times he told me that he was my "Jambavant", I was his "Hanuman".
Just like Jambavant made Hanuman aware of his hidden capabilities, post which he could cross the sea in one leap, I had hidden capabilities too and his purpose in life was to make me realize that.  He often quoted stories from history and mythology to encourage me. I believe, he read a lot of material in his quest to motivate me.

"Every great person has a story of hardships. Do have a story Charu?" He had said.
Man, he did make his and mine life hard. I was supposed to study all the time, take 10 min break each hour and then continue again.
"The purpose of breaks is to help you freshen up to in order work even more. Always focus on your goal and what can help you reach there. A life without purpose or a goal is a life wasted."

His hard work paid off and I got admission to our dream college, his Alma matter, the IIT Roorkee in my fist attempt.
The days that succeeded were beautiful. My father was relaxed and I , …well I , got my fire to succeed. My self-esteem was high, I worked hard now not to please my father but for my own self-worth.
We were more like friends now. A friendship, which continued for years. We discussed movies, books, philosophy.

But my success was always special to him, no matter what.
He would readily take leaves and ride with me in rickety buses in hot summers, wait patiently for hours at exam centers, all to accompany me in the various tests that I took (Sun Java Certification, GRE, TOEFL, GMAT and later CAT). Not to mention the money he spent on me to help me undertake these fancy exams. Not once did he complain.

I remember there was an old CD of Hindi songs, he used to watch over and over. My mother often got irritated and asked him to break it.
He remarked good naturedly "If Charu gets placed in the upcoming campus interviews to a company of her choice. I will break these CDs."
And Lo! A day after my interview, after coming back from the placement cell where he had gone to enquire my result, the first thing he did was break his favorite packs of CDs. There were tears of joy in his eyes as well as my Mother's.
He took great pride in my achievements, the appraisals I received, the opportunities I received, my scores in various exams.
I remember that a day before my flight to US, he along with my mother and brother had come to see me off at Hotel Lalit , where I and my colleagues were put up. Before leaving, he shook hand with me and said proudly "Charu, you have become an 'Officer' , just like I always wished."

Those two and half years at US were so difficult without him. But our daily talks kept me going.
After coming back home, he was more than happy to get me married to the person of my choice.

Marriage brought new responsibilities and I was sometimes overwhelmed. I often discussed my situation with him and he always said "Leave all this Charu, and answer me a simple a question. How are the people in your family? Your In laws and husband. Are they good people?"
"Yes. They are very good people."
"Well, then there are no 'real' problem. You are very lucky Charu. Realize that. Nothing else matters."

My stint with writing and Toastmasters had brought us closer. He was always full of ideas for my speeches and stories.
Actually, he was always full of ideas about everything. He wanted to try new things, new ventures. He had once told me "I have this childlike enthusiasm Charu. Sometimes I run into trouble because of it. But this is what makes me come alive."

My father was a content man. He had spent over 33 years at IIT Roorkee, but was never very keen on promotions. While his colleagues were Dean and Directors in different institutes. My father was cool with his position in the Institute Computer Center as Asst Professor.
I had once discussed this with him and he said "I have no worries. I am a successful person Charu. And do you know what my greatest success is?"
And then he pointed to me.
I thought he was kidding. Only that he was quite serious. It was an emotional moment for us.
That day, I decided that I had to be a truly successful person for his sake. I also knew that success didn’t mean only professional success. It meant being a successful parent, wife, friend and a human being, who could make a positive difference in others' lives.

My father was not without flaws; he had a huge ego and would hardly ever accept his mistake in front of others. But with me he was his best version. No ego, no pretensions in front of me.
I was always more important to him than his own self. To him, I was the world.

As human beings, we all need to feel special about ourselves or else we would not be able to sustain a healthy relationship with others as well as our own selves. That is exactly why God made parents.
To others we are ordinary beings, running around in order to survive. To parents, we are the most special, akin to a gift of God.
Other people may give up on us. Our closest friends, life partner, may give up on us in certain situations. But our parents would never give up on us no matter what.
Not in their dreams would they think anything which is not for our own good.

But unfortunately the sentiment is not often reciprocated by their children. We take them "for granted" because we know that they are always there for us.
I wish I could change that.
I wish could have worked harder in engineering entrance exam. I wish I would have prepared for IAS instead of taking up a job. I wish my upcoming book of stories was launched earlier so that he could have proudly held the book in his hands.
I wish I could have told him that I loved him more often.

If you agree with my thoughts, please call up your parents for my sake and yours, and tell them how special they are. For those who are lucky enough to live with their parents in the same house go and give them a tight hug. For those who like me have lost a parent, I want to tell you that I am with you and am living with the same pain.

Death is an enigma.
Before my father's death if someone told me that they lost their parent. I would simply not know what to say. It was too deep a pain to comment upon. I couldn’t imagine that ever happen to me.
But it happened and it happened so suddenly.
One moment he was there and another he was gone.
When my mother took him hospital after he complained of chest pain, none of us knew he was never coming back. His laptop was open beside the side table. He was going through an article about “The death of Philosophy”. His medicines for the morning were neatly put in a container at the dining table. Everything was at its place. Only he wasn’t there.

His death has made me observe life closely.
People with us, will not remain with us forever.
We won't be here forever.
Death goes beyond all our plans.

My father was my support; I could always lean back on him. Now he's gone and my brother and mother seek my support. Death changes everything.
I have become closer to my brother more than ever. Our shared pain has brought us closer.

After Papa's death, people who we thought were our friends, found excuses, and at the same time, people from whom we expected nothing, had come forward to help us.
There are people who now mock Papa's 'exaggerated' plans and yet there are others who genuinely respect his vision.

To me his death is sorrow.
But to him it was physiological process.
I quote from his mail correspondence with me back in 2006 when I had joined my first company.
He had asked me which one of the two, soul or the body was eternal. He was not very satisfied with my response and replied in the below words.

" Charu, I may be wrong, but it’s my observation. Soul does not exist on its own.
The thing that doesn’t exist cannot be eternal. So you are right to little extent that soul and body are inseparable. For me body is eternal.
You have been a science student and you know it very well that body is composed of matter and matter can be converted in to energy. This implies body can never be destroyed and hence is eternal.
In fact the universe is composed of matter or energy (for me both are same as I have explained earlier). There is nothing like soul. Instead there is mind (which is of course part of the body) which has two kinds of memory cells. One of its kind is eternal it’s the one nature has given us. This kind of eternal memory cells (i.e. natural state of mind or to say natural thought) leaves false impression of being soul."

As a physicist he never believed in soul. He never went to a temple or any place of worship.
I once asked him why it was so. He had said "Charu, I believe in GOD. I just don’t believe in religion. To me nature is God. The Universe and its mystery is God."

I another mail correspondence he had said "Nature has bestowed on us perfectly everything that we require for a peaceful and prosperous life. Remember sorrow is akin to fear of death. Nature has made ordinary pain, bearable. So nature has provided a remedy for unbearable pain in form of death. "

With these words of his, I debate the futility of my sorrow. I know he is always there with me. Not in his human manifestation but in the energy and nature that surrounds me. He is there in the sunshine which keeps me warm and cozy. He is there is the soft breeze. He is there in the chirping of birds.

I love you Papa. I was lucky to have you as my father.

Towards, the end , I quote from the most beautiful poems on Death by Khalil Gibran, which I know would have resonated well with Papa.

" For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, 
that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?"

Friday, December 28, 2018

Why Women Overthink !!

Situation X:

A girl name MO and a boy called Ro are dating.
You know dating right ?

A phase where  90% of a relationship is about figuring out where to eat.

So after one of their dinner dates, just as they get inside the car for their way back:
Mo remarks with a smile so BIG, that she could eat a Banana,…sideways !   “Do you know, As of tonight, we are dating exactly 6 months.”
And then there is what seems like a LOUD silence to Mo.

Mo thinks:
“What is it about? May be he is confounded by my remark. Maybe he thinks I want to push him into an obligation which he doesn’t want !”
Ro thinks:
“Hmm.  Six months. Wait a minute. I got the car from the dealer then. It’s doing okay except for something with its steering.”
Mo thinks:
“Where are we going ? Would we continue dating or would Marry, have children. Am I ready for that kind of commitment? “
Ro thinks: “Oh no the car is overdue for servicing but the steering may not be covered in warranty.”
Mo thinks: “He is upset. I can see it on his face. Because of my overgrown romantic notions about a knight riding on a horse , I am letting go of the person I truly feel good with”

Mo finally finds her voice and says :  “Ro, please don’t torture yourself like this. I should never have said anything. I feel so guilty.”
Mo: “I know there is no knight and there is definitely no horse. “
Ro: "HORSE ?"
Mo says crying : Its just that I need time. Ro, What do you think? And looks at Ro expectantly.
Thinking as fast as he can Ro finally comes up with something he thinks might work.
And he says: "YES Mo"
Mo: “Oh Ro, Do you really feel that way ?”
Ro: “Yes Mo.”
Mo gazes lovingly into Ro's eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves… a HORSE.
Ro then drops her back. She a conflicted tortured soul, weeps until dark.
Ro on the other hand takes a bag of chips, lies down on couch and watches Television.
A tiny recess in his mind says that something major was going on in the car but since there was no way to figure it out, he thinks it best not to think about it.

Mo on the other hand calls up her friend or even two friends and they discuss the situation for 6 straight hours. Analyzing every word every gesture for any nuances of meaning.
They discuss the incident for weeks, even months, without any of the girls reaching any definite conclusion and not getting bothered about reaching a conclusion either.

Women  over think. That’s a fact.
The problem is we spend more time about what our men are thinking than they actually spend time thinking.
We women take all our relationships very seriously may it be with our partners, parents or friends. We know everything there is to know about our friends including what we should not know.
But Men, they would spend years playing cards with their friend and all they would know about them is what car they own and some funny nickname they would have given them.
We are so concerned about our friends but Men simply hang out with their friends and have a good time, all the time.
I recently questioned my husband:
“You friend is marrying such a dumb girl. Why don’t you warn him and make him aware?”
His answer: “Why should I? He didn’t alert me when I was marrying you?
How Insensitive.
Men don’t realize that you can’t just speak anything you think but you have to think what the other is thinking and then speak.
Last year, I had a huge altercation with my husband when he gifted me a mixer while I actually expected him to gift me a piece of jewelry on my 7th wedding  anniversary.
And then in his frustration, took away the mixer and he gifted me his seven Commandments instead (a list I am sure he got somewhere off the internet).

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect
an answer you do not want to hear. Like If you think you are fat, you probably are. Do not ask
me. I refuse to answer.

2. Sometimes, I am not thinking about you. Live with it.
3. Come to me with a problem only if you want help solving it. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
4. You can either ask me to do something OR tell me how you
want it done. Not both.
5. Anything I said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. All comments become null and void after 7 days.
6.If I ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," I will act like nothing's wrong. I know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
7. I am not mind reader and I will never will be. My lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how little I care about you.

With all these commandments and illogical reasoning, He was simply prolonging the altercation. Didn't he know that no fight ends until the more sensible one (ME!!!) has the last word.
You see, he may have given up on his mind reading ability but I have not GIVEN UP, neither on my mind ability nor his.

Tell you what, I think women over think because they  CAN over think!!
Not all everybody has that capacity.
We can over think about relationships, people, past, future and dates.

You see, my husband may forget my mother’s birthday but I would never FORGET, neither his mother’s or my mine. We have to the capacity to think and bring together not one but two families. To think about not only our home but the outside world.
So lets not question why women overthink but accept and cherish this fact for it is their charm.
Just like we should accept and cherish that men don't overthink for living in the moment and being uncomplicated is their charm.

Oh, I know,.. I know... I have talked a lot, without actually coming to any definite answer about the question in hand ,
But Tell you what, I am a woman, and A woman may think a lot, talk a lot but she still does not give even a fraction of what she thinks.

Think about it !

Monday, July 9, 2018

Adieu, mon ami !

We stood besides the cemented pavement across my new office. A few vehicles buzzed about. For a while both of us looked aimlessly at the vehicles passing by. She turned her gaze away from the road and looked at me thoughtfully. She then said "Chalo phir, milte hai". Okay then, see you.

She gave me a side hug, like we always had whenever we met outside of office, Only  this time I was rather inert.  She moved away quickly and proceeded towards her car. She sat down at the driver seat, put on her shades and smiled faintly at me. She waved to me and I waved back.
My eyes trailed her car until it was not to be seen. Suddenly, I started feeling giddy inside and my eyes were laden with water.

I had once promised myself never to cry in front of anyone,  after one specific incident.
Most of the times I was good at keeping that promise.
But I simply couldn't help then. There were not one but many people on the road watching me cry.
I wiped my tears and made effort to cross the road and get back to office , to my empty workstation.

Tears kept trickling...

Why did she mean so much to me ?

Not that we were related by blood. Not that we grew up together.
She is a Marvadi , I am a UP Brahmin married in a Punjabi Family.
She is strong willed, outspoken , stands up for herself and believes in smart work and usually is an optimist.
I am meek, soft spoken, hard working, sincere and a diehard pessimist.

What did her going away to a far away place mean to me?

No quick tea breaks,   wherein I would fill her with my days happenings.
Who would be interested in those trivial details now ?
Who will listen to my rants, so nonchalantly ?
Whom would I now philosophize with ?
Who would reprimand me for being a pessimistic every now and then?

Most importantly who would never judge me for saying or doing anything, and just let me be comfortable being myself ?

Her going away would mean a change in routine.
Its a change in life.

It been 7 years but it seems like yesterday when we first met. Providence you may call it.
It was one of those early days at my previous organization, I was having lunch all by myself when a lean, dusky girl with expressive eyes and hair set in a single braided plait approached me.

"Can I join you ?"
I looked at her and then at the cafeteria. None of the tables were empty.
I smiled.
We made a small talk and got to know that we had both joined recently, and that we both had been in US up until last year,  I at Florida and she at California,  the two edges of the same country.
We noted each others names and decided to have lunch together from now on wards.
I confess, I have had many lunch buddies and she was just one of them. But none of them had grown so special.
Our daily talks materialized to something more meaningful day by day and we felt a connection.
She was the first one to whom I broke the news of my pregnancy outside of my family.
That very day she wanted to share something too. But stopped after hearing my happy news.
Much later I came to know about what she wanted to share. It was a sad chapter from her life, but she held back because her Mom-to-be friend should be happy, no matter what !
She often joked that my baby would grow up to be like her (and guess what, shes turning out to be like her) for we had spent so much time together during my pregnancy, talking about everything under the sun. Work, people, marriage, relationships, mythology and philosophy.

Post maternity, when I joined back she had her own lunch group. A lot of things were going on my mind then. Work, baby, health, family. I hardly had time for anything, leave alone friendship

Our relationship could have died out slowly BUT for her.

She excused herself from her lunch group slowly and joined me for lunches.
The fact that she preferred a new Mom with all her woes, and left her gang of girls who had not yet started their family and could discuss more cheerful things,  meant a lot to me.
She chose to listen to my endless rants about how my life had changed, but her being there, mattered a lot to me.
She has reprimanded me many times for being pessimistic. She is the only person whose chiding I don't mind. For I know that she does not reprimand me because she thinks low of me, on the contrary I know,  that she respects me and  wants to see me somewhere. Many times she has pushed me to realize my complete potential.

She was the one who pushed me to find a new Job.

"Job change ? But I am settled? I mean I have a child, a family. I cannot work extended hours. On top of all that, I write, I chant . Where would I find a new job which would accommodate my routine. A new job would bring new challenges."
That was me.

"Please keep your excuses to yourself. At-least start finding out whats happening in technology these days. At-least start studying. At-least start applying. You never know you may land up with the very job you had been looking for !".
That was her.

And I made a career move.
And she did too. She got a wonderful career opportunity but at a faraway place.
She'll find new friends, I will find new friends and life would go on.

As it had, up until now.
Except that I could not stop crying.
I can never ever, even come close to return what she had done for me.
I cannot thank her enough.

Neither can I thank enough my other friends.

I have been very lucky, I had a share of good friends.
Starting from School, .... where I met a very sincere girl who wanted to achieve something and yet was so grounded. She was very special to me. Still is.
Thank you Pooja.

Then I met a girl who made me realize that you could be studious and great fun at the same time. That it was okay to watch movies as long as you study hard. That life can be fun if you make fun of your own miseries. A girl with the world's most beautiful personality.
Thank you Rupali. Its an honor to be your friend.

Thank you Neha for being my friend, even though I don't call you enough let alone meeting you.

At college I met some of the most wonderful girls and boys. It was there, that I discovered that you could have friends in boys. And what refreshing perspective they bring. They don't overthink like us girls but that doesn't mean they are insensitive. They live in the moment and make best of any situation. Shishir and Sharma ji, thanks for being there and supporting me.

Once I started job, I found new independence and new friends in colleagues and roommates. We thought alike, faced similar challenges and connected well.
Monica, my days at Miami passed though smoothly because of you. Thank you.

Thank you Neha Nigam, for retaining my faith in human goodness and in my myself. You exemplify the spirit of not giving up and making your own way despite all odds.

Thank you Seema for simply being what you are. Donot change yourself for anyone. Your are very special. A dynamite in store, yet as fluid as water.

Thanks to my wonderful friends at Toastmasters and Sokka Gakkai who strengthen  my faith in myself. Especially, Anjali from the former and Smita from the later. Thank you girls for bringing me back from my bouts of lethargy to my passion for public-speaking and spirituality.

Lastly, Thank you Rachit , my friend, my husband , my life.

Now, Why does friendship mean so much ?

Some relationships are like a wedge in one of your shoes . Something screeches, every-time you put your foot down. It doesn't hurt but.. well... its just not natural.
Some relationships are like wearing a shoe that fits. It protects, makes us comfortable and ...confident.

Friendship is a gift.
A friend accepts you the way you are and they cherish you for what you are !
Most of the relationships cannot be chosen. You do not get to choose your parents, siblings, cousins , neighbors, colleagues and sometimes not even your life partner.
But friends, You choose them , don’t you ?
You are with them and they are with you not because of your family, status, money or looks but because they like being with you.
You don’t have to wear a mask in front of them.You can be yourself and that is very liberating. They may reprimand you at times for your vanity or absurd idealism but its because they genuinely care for you. No vested interests.

I remember having read a story about a sweet vendor who was taking a cart full of sweets to the village fair. Four hungry passersby observed him.

One of them  approached him and said rudely: "You are so full of yourself, You are have a cart full of sweets. Why not offer some to passersby. Why ? Now Give some to me ! "
The vendor stopped the cart and gave him two pieces of stiff and tasteless Pakwan.

The second passerby came by and said to the vendor "Brother. I am hungry. Please give a few sweets to me."
The vendor replied : " Why not ? You called me brother. Here,  take these brother. ", giving him a handful of sweets, enough to alleviate his hunger.

The third passerby came by and said "Baba , Please give some sweets to me. I have a long journey to take."
The vendor replied sweetly :" Son, take these . It my duty to feed you.", handing him enough sweets to keep him going throughout the day.

The fourth and last passerby approached the vendor and said nothing. Simply smiled at him.
The vendor smiled back.
The passerby then said: "My Friend, wouldn't you feed me, your friend ?"
The vendor stopped the cart again. This time there were tears in his eyes.
He said :"Friend, this cart is now yours. You take it to the fair. I will simply walk along with you."

The first time I read the story it didnt make that much sense to me , as it does now.

In a life partner you have expectations. You may get disappointed every now and then, if your expectations are not met.
Family is pure love but it is also bound by duty. And Duty is a heavy word.
But Friendship is something beyond love and duty. Actually it doesn't have a defined boundary!

Another special thing about friendship is that age doesn't play a factor.

I will show you how. The best thing which happened to me after I got married was that I found a very special friend. Now Marriage is not easy. It is not easy task for you as well as your new family.
Its a life changing event !
The first person to wholeheartedly accept me as I am , with all my flaws, was my new friend.
She made sure that I belong.
My niece , my friend, my inspiration.
A girl so young, yet so mature.
She was the one who encouraged me to take up writing. Makes time-tables for me, every now and then, to aid me accommodate writing in my daily routine and has lately been pushing me to take up singing !
The time spent with her is sheer bliss. When I am with her, I forget who I am..... Or shall I say, I truly discover who I am.
Its a beautiful bond I share with her, thanks to her and her equally wonderful parents who didn't mind sharing her, a part of their heart, with me and let the friendship bloom.


I am going on a memory trip, recollecting all my friends to convince myself that I am not friendless and that I can get going without you.

But its all in vain.
I still miss you NIDHI.

When you went away, you took away a part of me with you and there is a part of you in me.
Your beliefs, philosophies and our shared experiences have changed me and I am  not the same person, I was 7 years back.

And now realize,
Chai ke liye jaise ke toost hot hai, waise har ek friend zaroori hota hai.

Adieu, mon ami !

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Being Normal

The below is the article which fetched me 2nd prize in the 2017 edition of NUHA Global blogging contest.

The Jury Verdict is here


What do we mean by being normal?
Does it mean being acceptable in society?
And who by the way, composes the society?
The Normal people.
Who decides what’s acceptable?
The Normal people.
Heard about normalization? The simple term ‘normalization’ refers to adjustments made with intention of bringing entire probability distributions to a common scale.
A common scale where we can weigh (or shall I say judge) everyone and decide if they indeed are like everybody else or else they are not normal.
The dark want to look fairer. The fair want to look suntanned. A lot of effort is put in to trying to be what we are not.
Introverts expend a great of energy to initiate small talk. For if they don’t, they would be taken to be snobbish or rude. Can one imagine what kind of energy they have to exert to make a small talk? Rehearse and rehearse in their mind what they have to say, only to find that the moment they gather guts to say something, the general topic of discussion has moved on. They sweat all their energy only to appear “normal” or acceptable.
Doing something that does not come naturally to you only to please others generates a lot of negativity. Once negativity seeps in, we have little energy left to devote to things we truly want to do. Like say, the introverts would want to write, paint or read in a secluded corner. Where they can be themselves. Where they can be accepted for what they are. Where no one is going to judge them.
Similarly, the extroverts who genuinely like being with people, who take genuine interest in others’ lives and who derive energy from crowds are told to subdue themselves. They have keep control over their harmless urge to talk to people, for the fear of being assumed insincere or for the fear of appearing shallow.
Why can’t we accept people as they are?
Why do we have to draw a median and try to normalize people? Why do we try to set them in a mold?
Are we afraid of something?
Yes. We are afraid of people who cannot be set in the mold. We like to label people. We feel comfortable that way and in control of things. Once we have labelled a person we know how to deal with him or her. However, an unconventional person is a threat. How do we deal with him or her? We are unaware of what their powers might bring. We are afraid of the unknown. We are afraid of change.
We try to be normal. We try to be like everyone else, blend and camouflage and hide in the crowd. We don’t want to stand out. Why? Are we cowards? Perhaps yes.
Why don’t we wear our identity and our individuality on our sleeves? It takes courage. Acknowledge that. It’s okay to be a coward. But at least respect other’s courage. Why push them, demean them, scare them into giving up their courage? Let them celebrate their individuality, their courage, their ab-normality. Let’s get inspired from them. Make the world a more flavored, more varied and spicier place to live in.
Tell me, why does a man always have to breadwinner? Why is his worth always measured in terms of what he has earned? Why are less ambitious men frowned upon? What’s wrong if a man wants an idyllic life? What’s wrong if he chooses to rear his children? Why do attach a stigma and push him to prove his mettle? Why is a woman who is ambitious frowned upon? Why can’t she make her own choices? Why does she have to cook to appear normal? Why would we set boundaries on how a man or woman should behave?
Boundaries are to be set if you are causing harm. If not, push the boundaries. The only harm you are causing by adhering to the boundaries is to evolution and development of the society. There would never be a Frank Lloyd Wright in architecture, there would never be something called Modern Art, there would never have been a Kiran Bedi (the first female police officer in India), had certain individuals and groups not decided to break the boundaries of what’s normal.
The only abnormality which should not be acceptable by the society are the activities and philosophies which bring harm to ourselves or the others. That should not be “acceptable” or “normal”.
Let’s do ourselves a favor and be accepting. Let people do what they believe in. Accept them for they are and society would progress tremendously. We are all brilliant at something. We really are. Either we have not found out about it yet or have found it but have taken effort to suppress that brilliance in the quest to appear normal. But a set of brilliant but repressed individuals would lead to nothing but downfall. Paulo Coelho was committed to mental asylum by well-meaning parents because they thought writing was not an acceptable profession. Many youngsters in countries such as India are forced to take up engineering and sciences and give up arts because the former are considered more lucrative by their parents. Being an artist seems like a wild goose chase. These countries have lost many potential artists and given way to mediocre engineers who may not enjoy what they are doing but are doing it because that’s what everyone else is doing.
It’s okay to have opinions. But acknowledge your verdict is not final. Feel free to reject something you don’t like, but accept that it is perfectly okay for someone else to embrace it. Don’t adhere to the herd mentality and pick only what’s in and happening. But pick what you truly believe in. Give that freedom to yourselves and the others. Set your life free. The world would be a better place to live in.