Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Earning a Life while Earning a Living

So in the last few weeks, I have been repeatedly told that I was being very "brave".
Brave for not continuing to be in my chosen field.
Brave for pausing a career after being in it for ten years to start a venture based on my passion - an attempt to see how one can have even a small impact on the society by doing something good and meaningful.
Someone even said "brave" for leaving behind printouts (as a sign of progressive office) to choosing carbon paper(from billing).

"Brave" is their chosen adjective, maybe because, unfortunately, brave has come to be a synonym for foolish. Or, maybe because "brave" to them doesn't mean "Wow! How?!", but means "Why would you?" instead.

Not wanting to be completely cynical, I do take it as a compliment. I DO. Because, when the society thinks like this, it is indeed brave to choose a different path than the beaten, old, dreary, "safe" one. But one can't help thinking.

Because then, isn't it disappointing how skewed our vision has become? That instead of it being the most natural thing in the world for people being people, following their hearts, doing something that means something to their souls, that makes them happy and helps them leave a mark in this one chance at life we have, this is the "braver" choice.

Whereas, just doing our "duty" to this life as defined by others is normal, accepted and way more respectable even.

The by staying on that logic of "brave", how is it not way more "brave" to give up on your dreams or even worse, to not even stop to think about your dreams or passions and instead just walk through life in a hazy coma on a path you have been always "taught" to be normal and right for you?

By that same logic, how is it not way more "brave" to live your whole life doing what is said to be "safe" and "secure" and "shall provide"; to go to a workplace day after day doing something for 8 hours a day for 6 days a week for maybe 30 years of your life, especially when that particular task gives you no happiness or a sense of fulfillment?

How is it that waking up every day wanting to face the day, wanting to lose yourself in the task at hand, doing something where each moment makes you happy and is not just good for your wallet but amazing for your soul, coming back home tired to the bones but feeling like you made a difference to someone's life, as small as it might be, has become the "braver" option in our heads??? Isn't that really the happier and hence easier option actually?

So in today's date, it is bravery to choose to do something that you love over doing something that makes no difference to your soul other than to earn you a salary or climb an invisible ladder?

I am not saying that money or security isn't important. It would be very foolish to say that. And hypocritical. Because I have done it too.
I mean I have earned a degree, a PG, followed my career for ten solid years, proven to others and more importantly to myself how good I am at that job, I have gone places with it, and had a good idea what I could achieve when I kept at it.
In fact, I know I have created a very strong foundation where I can pick up that career and continue where I left off. So yes, an education, a career and some achievements under your belt are all very important to have.

But the point here is, who decided that this is the end? I always thought those were the means to an end; That that education and those achievements and that experience were meant to finally help us onto a path where we could start thinking of how much more meaningful we can make our lives and how many other lives we could touch and enrich.
I thought that was the next natural progression in our lives and not the final destination! Wow! that is such a dreary final destination if all we were meant to do in this life was follow set paths, fill papers, push files and finally earn a "living". And to choose to do just that is the less "brave" choice?

When do you actually earn this "LIFE"?

This is not generalizing. I perfectly understand that not everyone is in a position to make those choices because of their circumstances.
This post is mainly applicable to those, and there are plenty of "those" out there, whose financial situation is very stable, whose family is secure and cared for,who have all the support of family AND have the education and the experience, ie., all the means to progress from earning a living to earning a life, if they so choose. And still decide not to make that progression because they judge our natural next step as the "brave" choice.

All the "brave" in quotes has the meaning assigned when attributed to the 'next step' people. By which I refer to the meaning in para 1.

BUT, I am not judging those who choose to only continue earning a living as "brave".
Because I am not judgemental like that. 
I am just asking these questions. And wishing that you would really actually mean brave, with all the admiration that word deserves, the next time you attribute it to someone struggling to start-up something that means something to them, instead of wondering why they would do something so stupid.

And oh! P.S

Isn't judging people who do not want the same things in life as you, or chose to not follow the same path as you, a little self-indulgent, egocentric even?
To each his own. Everyone chooses to follow their heart or their pockets, or hopefully, both. How is one choice braver than others?
In my book, everyone is brave in making a choice and sticking to it, whatever that choice is.
Or, everyone is just normal and brave and strong and weak in equal measures.

Unless you are a soldier. Then you are the bravest. Salute.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Scrubbed Clean!

In all these years of going to the parlor for my monthly cleaning, scrubbing, de-hairing and overall, trying to look more presentable, I have never felt THIS scrubbed clean ever before. 

On this visit, the parlor had this new lady stylist; and maybe because I am among their less fussy, less difficult clients, they usually do not think twice before letting the new ladies  learn their parlor crafts on me. 
It really is tough being kind, you know. (That should be rewarded really, not punished!)

It's not that she was lazy or any less dedicated to her craft in any way. 
If anything, she was quite the opposite.

Yeah! No one's ever looked that happy at the
sight of blackhead removal things!
PC: Google Images.

So after the initial cleaning and steaming and such, her first important task, I think, was the removal of those yucky blackheads. And my! She seemed to be of the school of thought that  "no nose means no blackheads". 

While lying there getting those blackheads removed, which even under the gentlest of hands is a rather painful experience, my only thought was that I would be walking out without a single blackhead on my nose this time (Good job, girl!), considering I was going to be walking out without a nose (erm...).

And then started the massage. The brute strength on my blackheads should have been fair warning really, but my brain simply comforted me that that was only due to those ugly little blackheads she wanted off. She had no reason to hate my face so much, did she.

Well, apparently she did...

And all I could think of while lying there in that ugly, shapeless, parlor gown, was what people would think if I walked out of here with handprints on my face!

After the massage came the eyebrow threading and this time my brain had no excuses left to pacify me. I was trembling. 

When she descended on my brows with absolute dedication and determination to remove all that unseemly hair, all I could seem to think of lying there was, 'when I'm arrested for not having any eyebrows, would "it is my stylist's fault"be enough to bail me out'. 

She would do Wonder Woman proud, I say. 
Way to go, Girl Power. Or not so much! 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Why I stopped making lists!

I was a chronic list maker. From the time I worked in big firms where the only way to get through your next 100 activities was to have a prioritized list of top 20 tasks for the day TO when I stayed at home and planned the things I need to buy, the tasks I needed to complete to have the school admission documents set & ready and so forth, I loved writing it all down in a dated, numbered, to-do fashion in my little black book. And the best part was the tick-off. That satisfaction of completing a task was never really real till one could tick it off from the list. AND the satisfaction from completing the last task of the day, when you ticked off the page itself, whoa! that just cannot be replicated. So yeah, making lists is heady and very satisfactory.

But then like any thing that is heady and satisfying it has a definite downside. And mine was the stress. And probably the addiction.

So, as we all know, each task consists of a number of sub-tasks.
For eg., if one of my tasks said "Get XYZ layout from consultant TODAY!" it would involve me sending an official mail asking for the layout, then giving them a friendly call to make sure everything is on track and to know an approximate time when I could get the same;
There, in case the consultant needed some other detail before they could complete the layout in stipulated time, those had to be arranged for them (which included a couple more mails and calls to other parties) and so on.
So then, I would realize that it would take forever for me to tick off that one task from the list. But, if I couldn't tick things off from the list in a certain time frame I started feeling like I was getting nowhere, like things were not getting done and that it was a very unproductive day. Here I started fretting and stressing. So, in order to feel better and to feel like I have achieved something, I started listing out these little sub-tasks and then ticking them off!Of course, I also listed the sub-tasks so that I wouldn't forget even the smallest of them. Hence the stress and the addiction combined.

Now, the moment I broke down the 20 tasks into 5 sub-tasks each, I'd have a list of 100 tasks to be completed "on priority" today and just looking at it would push me over the edge. These tasks being things like small phone calls and email reminders which would otherwise just get done as part of a normal day without much thought.

The worst part was when I noticed this same trend repeating into everyday chores. The moment I started thinking about and listing down all I would have to do before I packed the kid off to school for example, I would already start fretting.

When things got totally our of hand and the stress mounted immensely, I just started ditching my list and getting through whatever I could get through. And with this was discovered peace of mind. Tasks get done with much less stress. Of course, old habits die hard and I still write small reminders and notes on the major things I simply cannot afford to forget for the day. But I have realized that most things just get done in their own time and we really don't forget the important ones so much. So much more breathing space and calm. Phew!

Monday, July 4, 2016


Do you suppose that among questions in general, "Why" is the more difficult and, for want of a better word, "Heavy" question to deal with. I mean, of course there are enough and more controversial questions that can be raised with "Who" and "Where" and so on; but I have always felt that "Why" is really the heavier one.
When something really hurtful or sad happens, a lot of us resort to wondering "Why" such a thing would happen. Or sometimes even, "Why me".
Tell a kid to do or not to do something and the first response is a very logical "why" or "why not".
Do something different from the rest, follow a path or make a choice in life that the majority may not make and you are plagued with "why"s. Why are you not married yet. Why no kids yet. Why are you doing this after studying so much. Why did you not continue pursuing your career.
I think it is obvious what prompted this thought. The last few days since The Reading Room began, I have been asked by many many people the reason for such a decision. It is especially the older folks who visit the store that seem pretty disappointed as to why I would give up on my flourishing career to open  a small venture of my own.
And the saddest part is words like "passion", "love", "choice" etc. are the most unacceptable of all. Not doing things the "acceptable" or "normal" way, not following the flock because of personal choices and then not having a more convincing (maybe even tragic) reply to their "why" is a pretty challenging spot to be put in constantly.
And if you do reply to the "why" with reasons close to your heart, the confusion and incredulity on their faces is a little bothersome mixed with amusing. I wonder Why.

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Protecting" our Gods

It is a topic that's been discussed and debated forever. Basically boils down to why do our Gods need our protection against those out to "insult" them. I mean they are Gods and you believe in their supreme power. If they did get insulted, wouldn't they simply smite down the person responsible without your help?! But, I am getting into a different angle of this discussion right now.
Lets start with this. Assume you know two kinds of guys, one can take a joke, knows how to laugh at himself, doesn't get insulted or outraged at the smallest funny remark and is just an all-round chill guy. So fun that most people like to hangout with him, laugh with him, laugh at him at times too knowing full well it would be taken in jest.
 On the other hand is the guy who is out looking for a reason to get insulted and then pick a fight, shout, argue, abuse and do all that classless warfare to "avenge" this " terrible insult".
I guess it is anybody's guess who you'd like more, who you'd chose as your friend and who you would be comfortable around.
Today I saw this post where Indian Gods or Mythological figures are depicted, sometimes in ways different than how we are used to seeing them. Not at all insulting or disrespectful, just different, like holding a phone using various social networking apps and so on. Maybe funny and cute to some, uncomfortable to others cos they aren't used to it.  And one of the most common reactions I see (I am only talking about the sensible, least abusive and most civil. Let's ignore the other kind of common for now) is "Try doing it to other religions and then you'll see", "Why only insult Hindu Gods", and such.
Now this is an extremely sensitive topic and I am not getting into the "insult/not insult" OR the point I started off with that is "do they need your protection" debate here. And for now lets work on your premise that " try doing this to the other guy" is a valid argument and it honestly does hold good, in which case (and this is the point I am mainly trying to make), shouldn't we simply feel good that we are that former kind of guy who is sensible, friendly, can take a joke unlike the other guy I mentioned and basically NOT a sensitive snowflake. I would outrage and defend any of my belief systems being demeaned and insulted, like any other (civil) person. But seriously, just because there is the word "God" (and His other names) and (s)he is holding a phone instead of his/her usual armament, do we then need to take up arms and defend and protect? Our Gods? 

I agree there has to be a line of respect that cannot be crossed. But that's also the point. There should be a line up to which we don't take it upon ourselves to get insulted or defensive where none was intended or apparent. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sacrifice or Joy.

Don't we come across one too many people touting the certificate of sacrifice and martyrdom they have faced in the name of relationships and love. If I were to give one piece of advice to them (Not that I am asked to give many!) it would be this - Don't!!! For the sake of yourself and the sake of those you think you are doing it for, please Don't. It is a very simple thing - if you see it as a great sacrifice that you do for someone else then it is making you miserable and that is making the others feel the same way as well - guilty and like they owe you something in return. These aren't really productive feelings when it comes to love and happiness.

I'll give my own example. When my kid was born I made the choice to not work for a couple of years. To spend that time with him. Now this is NOT a "SACRIFICE" I made for HIM. This is my life choice I made because I wanted to spend quality time with My Baby and that made ME happy. Why is this difficult? 

It starts from the moment people decide to have kid. Like it was a great sacrifice you made for the child to carry him/her in your womb for 9 months and bring him to this world. Really?  I thought it was a choice made out of wanting a child for YOURSELF. There are a lot many other sacrifices we hear about. For eg. one of the two spouses deciding to leave their jobs or change their jobs to move and be with the other. Again, if you see this as a great sacrifice you are making for your significant other, then you are making both of yourselves miserable for life and heading for some major troubles. However, if this is a decision one would make for oneself because for you being with the other is more important than that particular job in that particular city; Basically being with the family gives greater happiness than being in a job but away from the family; then you take that pick. Don't see it as a sacrifice and more importantly don't tout it on another's face all the time. If you know that leaving this job would make you miserable and unhappy then just don't do it. Seriously. The sacrifice value of that misery is really not worth the unhappiness and unpleasantness going all around.

I have always maintained that a happy healthy relationship is a selfish relationship, by which I do not mean that don't give a damn about the other person. The point I make is, if giving a damn about the other person gives YOU a sense of joy, then it is going right. If giving a damn about other person earns you, inside your head, only a certificate of sacrifices you've made, and you are planing to achieve your joy from knowing you are a martyr then it is just wrong. So bloody wrong. And so bloody sad.

Moral: Make compromises that make you happy to make them for the others. Not ones that give you pain and then you expect to feed off that pain and expect constant gratitude and super extra consideration from others all their life, cos you caused yourself pain. That just sucks to have to be around! 

P.S This one started off as a general observation post as nothing happened to piss me off while writing this. However, while I was writing this I thought of 2 - 3 characters in my life and just worked myself up to a frenzy. Hence the tone. :D

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Ill-wishers!

Why is there so much compulsion in the world to talk bad about others. 

Recently I have been reading conversations on a few whatsapp groups where everyone is super supportive of each other, helping each other when doubts and concerns are raised, complimenting each other on new looks, sharing recipes and movie reviews, being a support group when needed and genuinely being good to each other. These are people who met about 15 years back, then got on with their own lives and as life always comes around a full circle, have now come back together to find friendship, solace and lots of fun in each others' company. Seeing this gives me a lot of faith in humanity. 

Then there are my own precious friends. People, knowing that I'm a right klutz in making an effort to keep in touch, knowing that I am not very good at sharing my deepest, darkest, have still been around and have always shared the comfort to pick up the phone after months, even years, and start talking like the last conversation was yesterday. People that have such huge hearts, they support their friends through thick and thin, stand by and never judge. People whose convictions in me and my decisions have helped me way more than I could ever express to them in my very limited vocabulary of expressing feelings. And they strengthen my belief in humanity and kindness that much more. 

And then there are these others, the ones that motivated me to write this post. The ones who have really no place in our lives except for being acquainted by circumstances. I have seen a few of these people around among all the other caring, appreciative supportive ones. Not only can they ever wish anything good for others, let alone actually helping, they seem to take a lot of glee from when something sad (read that as 'newsworthy') befalls others. And if they can't find anything really sad or negative to talk about and judge, they will make things out of thin air.

I have gone through stuff in life that have brought me to a lot of junctures where I'd have been judged and talked ill about. And I am sure a lot of these people would have had a field day (or a few years) of doing just that. (Thankfully, I have the friends I mentioned earlier and of course my family, who helped that sailing be not-as-rough as it could have been.) But what's even worse is when these people don't have anything new to say. The unexplained hatred and the need to fuel this negativity is so great that they would even end up saying something as random as "What's so great about the photos she shares of herself with her kid! I don't see why she should put photos of her and her kid on FB as profile photos" (!!!!!) when someone happens to mention in their presence that this person's photos on fb are nice or something random like that. Erm...need? I mean what is this intrinsic compulsion these people feel to HAVE TO be so negative and hateful and mean? Is it insecurity about their own lives? Is it pure jealousy? Is it the need to validate their own lives and decisions by showing other people's as worse? What could be that factor, that driving force behind wanting and having to feel only bad things for other people especially who they really have next to no direct interactions with? It beats the hell out of me the kind of negativity and filth these people's brains might be filled with to always have such things on the ready. And also, isn't this kind of negativity festering inside their own minds bad for them? To nurture so much hatred and negativity and always say bad things, don't their own minds have to be a sad, dark, vengeful place?

Let me also just say this at the risk of being hated and called an anti-feminist(!!!), most of them that I have come across are mostly who us Indian kids identify as "aunties", ladies of a/or a few generations back. No I am NOT generalizing. I know a lot of really cool, awesome, caring supportive ones as well. I am sharing what I have experienced. (Basically, I am only saying the apples I have seen are mostly red, NOT that everything red is an apple.) Anyways, the very cliche picture of kitty party aunties bitching and gossiping and wishing only bad on others and deriving oh so much happiness after that is, like all other cliches, come from too much of reality. It is just sad to see. But, once again ending this on a high note, it really is so so heartening to see more and more people of my generation going the extra mile to be nice and positive and make that bond. (Lovely thought!) I really hope this is a changing trend of humanity and not just another cycle where a lot of us will eventually grow up into being those aunties. (Scary thought!)