Bucketlist – Things I’d love to do on a day off.

Today, I took an off. Was tired of routine. Was unwell too. So just thought of pausing for a moment. It wasn’t an ideal day though – nevertheless, I felt much better for it. I thought of listing things I’d do on an ideal day off 🙂

  1. I’d wake up to cool morning breeze and lightening sky. Would love to take in the calmness of early morning. Peace and quiet. Just be. Take in lovely pink and orange hues of the skies.
  2. Make myself a cup of steaming ginger-flavored tea, listening to the early morning classical raagas. Just absorbing every taan, aalap, every nuance of a bandish… experiencing its mood, sentiment, just dissolving my existence, going to faraway places within that song – that raag. Its been ages that I have done this…. I guess these days, early mornings are all about getting breakfast ready / lunch boxes ready.
  3. Would then go for a walk on the podium. It is lovely around 7 here. Much brighter than I would like, but on an off day, I am hardly going to wake up too early 🙂 . What I love about Jakarta most is its green surroundings. At least compared to Mumbai, where I lived most of my life, this city is several times greener. Evergreen trees laden in their full glory all the time. 🙂 No fall here … The facility management of this apartment complex has done lovely landscaping work and maintained well all these years. Its a pleasure to walk on the podium – especially when it is less crowded. Mild morning weather, chirpy birds, green grass, evergreen trees, flowers… would just take in everything. The hibiscus near swimming pool with bright pink blossoms, frangipanis  just about everywhere, dotted with yellow flowers, at times which are scattered on the lawns below, making a beautiful picture. I would stop to notice the toddlers over at the kiddie-swimming pool. Their laughter and bright faces will be sure to set my mood. Maybe, I will just sit on one of the benches for a while, all by myself  – just observing. Just being. Doing nothing.
  4. I would return home to be served delicious breakfast. On a day off, I wouldn’t have had to bother about deciding the menu or even cooking it. I’d just get it ready in my hands. I would eat it while scanning through the morning papers. I’d find just the right news to debate with my husband and chat leisurely. Or just to talk about nothing and everything. No rush to get to the work – no rush to be on time anywhere. No meetings, no deadlines, no notes to be written, no follow – ups.
  5. I’d then tidy up and just lounge about with a favourite book to read. I think I haven’t read a book end to end for quite a while now. It would be fun to just read for 3-4 hours at a stretch.
  6. It would then be lunch time and miraculously home made lunch would be ready waiting for me 🙂 On weekdays, I cook only a part of my morning meals, and on a day off, I’d shirk from even that. It would be awesome to eat my favourite meal – varan-bhat-batata bhaji – poli – tup and limboo. Simple Maharashtrian fare. It would taste like my mum’s cooking.
  7. After lunch I’d probably watch some movie or tele-series, out of the collection of CDs that has been accumulating here over the last 2.5 years, but really never accessed yet….
  8. Or I’d go to a spa and pamper myself – especially my feet, I feel too worn out these days.
  9. Tea-time I’d just make some nice snacks. Try something new – and quick 😉
  10. I’d then make an hour – long call to some friend . Catch up. Laugh, cry and be happy. Maybe even gossip a bit.
  11. Husband would be back early from work. Or he too has stayed in and just lounged about with me. Maybe, we will go out for a nice dinner or just stay in. We will cook dinner together. I will cook and he will be with me in the kitchen, chatting about his day, maybe he will lend a hand. Would play some nice music – maybe consorto music? maybe Vivaldi’s four seasons while we cook. We’d have risotto, some bread and some salad. 🙂 Numero uno of comfort food.
  12. We’d then walk up to the terrace and just watch the city go to sleep. Try to catch some stars in the clouded skies of Jakarta. Or we’d take our sleeping bags and just lie down, listen to radio, playing old classics.

🙂 thinking up all these things in itself made me giddy with joy. Now I can’t wait for a real day off to arrive.

Advertisements

The culture of respect ?

“Ibu, aku terlambat , pesawat belum datang.” I heard a part of what my colleague was saying on phone. We were in Lombok, on an assignment and stuck at the airport. The plane taking us back to Jakarta had gotten delayed by 4 hours.  I had already called up my husband to inform and was waiting for my colleague to finish his call, before we went back to work related discussion again. “Ibu, nanti aku telepon ketika pesawat mendarat”. …

I was sort of surprised + impressed that he still calls his Ibu (Mum) first, even in his mid thirties. Indonesians are very close to their family – mostly like Indians, I had heard, but this was little out of ordinary for me.  I wouldn’t call my parents immediately under such circumstances, they need not know that I’m getting delayed and then worry about me. Maybe, he lives in a joint family. ‘The analyst’ started making her assumptions. Anyhow, after he hung up, I asked him how came he called his mother because she might worry unnecessarily. Indonesians do tend to ask even more personal questions and even to casual acquaintances or even strangers. Though I knew he wouldn’t have minded – he’s a friend.  Anyway, he did a double take – “Mother??, no, I called my wife”.  Then it was my turn to do a double take – “you  address your wife with ‘Ibu’?”. Till then, to me, Ibu meant only following things:

  1. Ibu is your own mother
  2. In formal situations, it is a title of respect – similar to ‘Madam’ – for someone senior in age / designation – mostly aged 30s and above.

So I was even more impressed with this colleague, who was addressing his wife ‘Madam’. Not jokingly, I could tell from his expressions. He added, “Of course, that’s what I always call her”.Having returned home, I mentioned this to a local friend and he set me correct. “We always call our spouses with the relevant title”. This was a shock and relief to me. After hearing the Bahasa Indonesia word for the word ‘husband’ – Suami, which has been derived from Sanskrit ‘Swami’ (master), I had been flabbergasted. So this new information was a happy shock.

 This means, husbands will call their wives – ‘Ibu’ (Madam) or Mbak (Miss) while addressing and wives will call their husbands  – Bapak/Pak (Sir), Mas (young sir I guess?) while addressing them. This to me initially seemed too formal, until I recollected that in many parts of India there still is culture of addressing significant other ‘aap’ (respect) irrespective of gender. Even kids . India always has culture of addressing husband as ‘aap’ – being the patriarchal society that it is. But in some areas even the wives are addressed in kind. In Maharashtrian culture too probably till last century I guess, the culture of calling significant other “tumhi” (respect) existed. However, I don’t think adding a title for those considered ‘junior’ was ever a part of our culture. Fortunately, today we have again gravitated to an era where genders are on equal footing when it comes to addressing each other (genders to come on equal footing in India in real sense will take probably couple of centuries more… but that is besides the point).

So, coming to the point, so far in my interactions, I haven’t come across anybody in this country, irrespective of his/her age, situation,  social status, profession etc, being addressed without title. Titles – Pak/Bapak, Mas, Mbak, Ibu, Nona (for young miss) etc are used in formal as well as casual situations. I guess, in situations with extreme familiarity, sometimes, you could be addressed only with your first name, parents calling their children etc.  I call some of my friends on first name basis, but I think their acceptance of it could be more to do with the fact that they understand differences in cultures.

To me it is amusing how the use of titles does not really impact the level of intimacy in this culture. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Indonesians are very genial? – that they always have given respect to anyone irrespective of their status / situation by addressing them with titles?  I can only make guesses.

Shoes that don’t fit (in my drawing room)

Why do some people wear their shoes indoors?

Or let me rephrase it – why do some people continue to wear the shoes that they wore outside, indoors as well? -in  their friend’s, or even their own house?

Till recently, I never really had to think about this question and likewise, I never really thought that I would one day explore in detail about its causes etc. I have been brought up in ‘No shoes at home’ manner –  and believed that this was Indian custom. A possibility that there existed any other way to behave  – than leaving shoes at the door when entering own/another’s house, didn’t even enter my mind for a long long time. However, times have changed and brought me into contact with people who wear shoes into the house.

Our Indonesian acquaintances have never done this. So no question of this being attributable to the diverse culture. They have always removed their shoes. The people who wore shoes indoors were in fact Indians. Belonging to a particular part of India. I do not want to pinpoint it – So let me leave it at that.

There have been instances, of people from this particular part of India walking in, either alone /in a group and walking in with their shoes, noticing that the hosts (us) are barefoot and yet continuing to move about the house wearing their shoes / chappals/ sandals. When they came in as a part of a group, they still kept their shoes on while the others removed their footwear. As hosts, so far we have said nothing, but I was shocked to see this repeatedly ever since I moved here. And only by people from one specific part of India.

To me, shoes worn outside are dirty and unhygienic. They must be carrying not only dirt and dust but who knows , even bacteria/fungi and what not from various public places that they’ve been worn to. Removing them means avoiding infesting the host’s house with that dirt. I guess, this is how I was brought up. Both India and Indonesia are countries where hygiene at public places can be an issue and people staying in either of these countries should be mindful of this. Further, noticing that the hosts (As well as other guests when they remove shoes,) are barefoot, and still continuing to wear shoes despite of that, is sort of arrogant and disrespectful.

I try and request those who are friends, and they do listen. However, this doesn’t guarantee that they’d remember next time. The job of reminding is quite embarrassing then. That apart, usually as a host it is a dilemma whether requesting the guests to remove shoes will give offence, some of them being my husband’s business associates. I guess, I never really imagined that Indians would do this. Most of the non – Indians ASK you – if they need to remove the shoes. They are very mindful about differences in the culture. Desi guests however neither ask nor are they expected to be unaware. Following rules at the host’s place is not culture specific I think. It is universal.

Anyway, after one more such experience yesterday, when some of my husband’s Indian associates came over for dinner and a couple of them promptly ignored that both the hosts and some of their colleagues had removed footwear, I was forced to think about the possible reasons for this practice of wearing shoes indoors. I came up with –

  1. Weather – People from this community in India belong to a region which can get too hot or too cold. Maybe the floor heats up or gets stark cold and you need to protect the feet. In this case well – this is Jakarta. Perennially stuck at 32 degrees celsius and definitely neither too hot nor too cold.
  2. Some people have ‘house slippers’ or house footwear.  – Basically they constantly wear something in their feet till they go to sleep. Yes, many people in my family too do this. However, the house footwear is not same as outdoor footwear and if they go to someone’s place for couple of hours, they probably can survive without footwear. Some families I know keep spare house footwear for guests. I haven’t done it so far and I don’t think it is practical especially when you are hosting a number of people at the same time.
  3. Some people have health issues or some injury – in which case it is understandable. However I guess this would be exception and even the hygiene-OCD affected people will accommodate such guests.

I could not think about a ‘culture’ specific reason  – none of the above is specific to that culture. Many people live in areas in India which have extreme climates. Not just this particular part of India. Anyway, I found a thread on metafilter discussing exactly this – but in the western countries. This was new to me. I had imagined that US and UK have colder climes and hence probably they must be wearing shoes inside the house. But I had no idea that in many parts, its the same pair of shoes that is worn outside the house. I find it amusing (because its not in my own house of course 😉  ) that some even wear shoes on their beds. But this thread gave many reasons why a person might be wearing same pair of shoes inside the house, what they wore outside.

Anyhoo, my rant is done. Time to sign off. In case anyone knows any cultural reasons why some INDIANS might be wearing their outdoor shoes indoors, please let me know.

My Mum (Always) Never….

Image

My Mum (Always) Never....

Story of my life

Happy 7th anniversary!

Two days ago, I happened to log into the wordpress for commenting on someone else’s blog that I had landed on, while researching on a work-related subject.

And suddenly, a message flashed on my dashboard! Happy Anniversary with wordpress.com. You registered on wordpress 7 years ago!

Wow! has it been so long? I guess the number of my posts don’t indicate so. I have been a sporadic writer here. Before my marriage, I was writing at Sense and Nonsense. For some personal reasons I quit writing there as I moved to Indonesia, and ever since have been writing here.

The occasional nature of my writing and the time and again public declarations of aim to write more regularly seem to have remained same over last 7 years. Nevertheless, I continue to update this blog whimsically. Its not that I have nothing to write about, its just that I am simultaneously active on multiple forms of social media including twitter, linked in, Quora, pinterest, youtube and so on. Apart from this, more personal versions of the social media – including whatsapp, viber, google hangouts and so on keep me active throughout the day -sometimes in measures that border on the lines of ‘over exposure’ to these media. Well, since I usually say a lot at these sites, I have not bothered to update this blog in a long time. At times however there is a need for introspection / thinking / self – time/ sharing something in long winded manner, which none of the other media can fulfill in this era of microblogging…..and so, I am thankful for this blog. 🙂

Again, with the never dampening aim of updating this blog more often,

Adios….

It takes a lot of planning to get a manicure ….

I am writing here after several months , being provoked by finely manicured feet with nice nail paint.  Goes without saying that the feet in question don’t belong to me. Now that would have been unusual enough as well actually, to qualify for a blog post. Sadly, that unusual event is yet to occur.  Though, I hope that someday, living in such a grooming – obsessed country as Indonesia, I will begin to really try at least, the things such as hairdo/hairstyles other than bun, various styled earrings other than the studs and formal wear other than trousers and shirts.  Well, I don’t really want to write about my lack of fashion – sense in this post, though of course, that has been giving me inferiority complex in this country where all the women I come across seem to be the walking examples of runway models,  women that have been gifted with naturally lithe yet slim bodies and smaller frames (Especially, my female colleagues who are 20 years older to me, are much better groomed and stylish than I ever could be in my life and take a 15 minute loo-break daily in the afternoon to touch-up their make – up and curl their eyebrows. By the way, I saw eye-brow curler for the first time in my life here…again, I am digressing …   )

So, coming to my point – yesterday, I met a bunch of Indian women my age (though have kids in class 1/2  now! , makes me feel super old, I know,  though they got married super early and shifted here…again, I am digressing)  – we had all gathered to discuss what to showcase at the upcoming expat ‘Diwali Mela’. Last year, we had performed a group dance, complete with traditional costumes, stage property and so on.

At one point, they started discussing their schedules.  Some of them are housewives with kids and others are working women with kids. All of their lives outside of office / house work revolve around kids – their homework, school projects, their performances, activities, various hobby classes. The kind of burden that 6-7 year old kids have on themselves is unimaginable actually. My generation I guess was one of the last few generations that could play at the ‘age of playing’. Sounds funny to say –  but that’s true. These expat 6-7 year old kids seem to be just moving – out of school into some activity class, out of that class into a hobby class and so on. From what I’ve been reading about India, I guess similar things are happening back home too…

Anyhow, I noticed the shining red nail-paint on the feet of one of these 4.30 am waking – numerous lunches- packing, numerous home-made -things- making working Mum. And I took a deep breath. Slowly, I took in the feet of all the other women at the venue. Only colour changed. Light pink, maroon, magenta, brown… whatever the colour, but the feet were well manicured (or pedicured – not sure what to call it), looked smooth, soft with a shining coat of nail paint. And I sighed. For myself. I didn’t have to look down at my feet – I knew exactly how ugly, rough, hideous mine would look. Then I spent few moments wondering how on the earth they could manage all their work AND getting their manicure??? That 4.30 am club looked to me as if they were totally in control of their time… what have I been doing with MY time??

When was the last time I really applied anything to my feet? Cream even? Almost 2 years back. At my wedding.  When was the last time I did anything to my face?  – that was in January 2013, when I was in India. When was the last time I styled my hair – in India again. In January 2012!! It’s not like I HAVE to do or HAVE to confirm to this standard of expat Indian woman in Indonesia. It’s just that I WANT to improve my grooming and nobody’s really been stopping me. Just that I NEVER FOUND THE TIME to do it!  TILL NOW. More so, after I began working here. It is so weird. Actually it is not. I am tardy.  Never taking the trouble really and just wanting to change things about myself….

Planning meals, organizing house, keeping things in order etc have never been my forte, but I had never imagined before marrying, how much of the married life means only this – especially if you don’t live with in-laws and have to entertain guests from time to time. Though, even if you don’t have anyone over at your place, living with a second person, the significant other, means that several things have to be acceptable to the both – including food. I never had imagined that thinking about laundry, meals, cleaning etc will be an important part of my daily thought process and so having not been much interested in all the domestic management before marriage, I find my hands full just with the two of us, short of containers to stock groceries with, all the times, overstuffed fridge and short of place to put clothes.  I am guessing (Correctly) that life will get even more dramatic whenever we plan to start a family!!  I can imagine how our life would have been in Mumbai currently, had we not quit our jobs there and continued to work wherever we were working. We probably wouldn’t have had any time together – what’s with the super long working  hours, commuting and family obligations. Since both of us belong to extremely traditional and large families, the obligations would have taken precedence over everything. Here, while we are away from these aspects, we still are in short of time  –  we always have unfinished chores at hand. I guess, we need to learn a lot. It takes a lot of planning I suppose to have your feet manicured….

Gyaan

Image

A day in life of Swapnil

A day in life of Swapnil

I went to Uttarakhand in August 2010

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, "This is what it is to be happy.”

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” – Sylvia Plath…

… on a trek. I had never seen the nature in such a glory before. Wait, I HAD seen it…only on Discovery, Natural Geographic or some posters. Like most other people. But when I actually saw it firsthand in all its glory, I realised, the TV and the posters don’t do any justice at all. It really felt heavenly, surrounded by so much purity, beauty and the quiet. To be very frank, the happiness I had felt during those days, seeing all these places…was incomparable on many levels to any emotion I have ever felt… Joshimath, Auli, Chamoli, Ghangria, Gobindghat, Rudraprayag, Devprayag, Badrinath, Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib…those lovely rivers, Alaknanda’s basin… miles and miles of greenery and wild flowers, sound of stream / river waters, billowing  medow, colourful birds, imposing yet, silent mountain ranges, bright sunlight, pure air, cool breeze, the melting glacier… all those memories…the happiness I felt amidst something that was a hundred percent natural and without any artifice, drama or falseness about it. Such a beauty and yet, the unassuming silence of nature…I felt, the greatest creator had not left anything out to make sure this place was the most beautiful place on earth…. I came back with fond memories and times spend with a very close friend…After I came, I couldn’t stop myself from recommending this trek to every single trekker I met. Those 15 days were the high-point of my trekking life I guess. By far, the best trek ever for me…

Here’s 3 years later almost and I am reading heart-wrenching news daily about the sudden cloud burst and floods in the area. It is really heart breaking to know that all these places, almost every place that I went to got flooded, so many lives destroyed. I pray for the peace of all those lives. Nature’s glory was really silent and unassuming. Nature’s wrath wasn’t . These places are situated at an extremely high altitude and addressing rescue and recovery itself would have been a huge challenge, let alone trying to rebuild lives. Basic necessities that we take granted in our comfortable urban spreads are like luxuries in those areas and I cannot begin to comprehend what a tall task it would be to just continue existing there right now…

A friend forwarded me a quote after this massive loss of lives…

बडी अजीब सी ही मौत भी,
कभी कभी उस जगह पर मिल जाती हैं,
जहा अक्सर लोग जिंदगी के लिये दुवा मांगते हैं

– The death is a strange phenomenon. It can even meet you sometimes at the very place where people pray for life and vitality.

All these areas are also home to shrines of various religions, famous for their pilgrimages. My heart goes out to all these lives, the lost, stranded and hurt lives, who had to face the fury of nature. They will be in my prayers.

Creativity project roundup – What I did between February 12 and February 15

Well, I have been super busy this week and was earlier unable to post details and relevant pictures. I am attempting to combine everything in a single post…

February 12 – I devised a new fitness plan for myself. I NEED to focus on gaining my muscle mass and build endurance. Given the changes in my schedule that I expect from coming week onwards, I thought I had to think up something like a fitness schedule. Weight loss if it happens will be incidental. I also need to add more proteins and fiber to my food.  I’ve set a goal of running/walking 500 kms over next 45 weeks (By end of 2013). A mix of running and walking simply because I want to slowly build my endurance, having known my capacity first. In fact, I HAD embarked on this plan on the same day, promptly felt sick the next day and spent couple days recuperating! So I have now made several changes, so that my strength and endurance develop gradually.

February 13 – This was Ganesh Jayanti day. The birthday of Hindu deity – Ganesha. I had an apt activity for the day. My husband believes in performing puja every day and while we do have a periwinkle plant which bears flowers regularly, many a times we don’t have flowers to offer to the deities. So I had thought of creating artificial embellishments which could be used in place of flowers. So I created little maalas of two types. For these, I went to the local mall and picked out standard items. It wasnt thrifted at all. These items are fairly standard and reasonably priced…

P1020275

P1020295

These maalas are quite tiny – so I kept a glue stick in the picture so that their size could be seen in perspective. Though these are tiny, they took quite a long time to make. Especially the one with beads. Because while I have used double thread to add in yellow beads, I have used single threads to add in red ones and added 2 red beads every time in each thread (I am not sure if I am explaining well – but anyone if at all interested can contact me for details) – plus these beads were tiny and it took forever to string them. I initially had used a needle, but then I thought of singling and doubling alternately and so it was relatively easier without needle…

February 14 – Continuing the earlier step of getting to know a few gals within the vicinity, I invited them for a function at my place. Menu was simple – pav bhaji and gajar ka halwa, but we spent good time chatting and getting to know each other more. I also arranged for small mementos – this was to be ‘haldi-kumkum’ function, a typical tradition amongst Hindu married women. So planning, inviting, shopping and then cooking and hosting took up the entire day…

February 15  – New? it was my anniversary. Wrote quite a few letters. To various important people in my family. One was hand delivered and others will be going through snail mails… Not intended to be shared here. Period.

All in all, apart from this, all these days kept me super busy with various guests dropping in at various times… busy, exhausting week.  But a fun week indeed.

Ciao

Mirror mirror on the wall…

[ D ] Edgar Degas - Madame Jeantaud in the mir...

[ D ] Edgar Degas – Madame Jeantaud in the mirror (1875) (Photo credit: Cea.)

I don’t remember the first time I peeped into the mirror. But as far as I remember…

Initially it always showed me a gangly kid. One who looked older than her age, with thin long limbs, protruding belly and wild curly hair that did not belong in the family. It reminded of several bullying incidents by the playmates, of being called a ‘junglee’, ‘porcupine’, of hair being pulled, being teased endlessly by own cousins and coming home defeated, to peep into mirror and wonder why I looked like this – so different from my own family…

My parents sometimes noticed this – me starring into the mirror and trying to pull my hair straight. I always told them why…They never taught me to retaliate  but always assured me – that I looked pretty. That my hair was different than others and the kids tease me because they were just curious. To all the parents, their kids are obviously the most beautiful beings on this earth, but I think my parents’ reassurance worked for me in some magical way….the mirror at my home became a source of comfort, it would show me in better light than any other mirror. Ever…

Several years went like this – I would look into mirror only to find blemishes and went through what can only be called a super awkward childhood+teenage+young adulthood. Majority of it, self – imposed, due to insecurities out of experiences from people other than family..

But as I grew older, I would realise that the mirror at my home showed me the best than any other mirror – the mirror in the school / college/ friend’s place/ relatives’ place / even a public place… I remember, if I felt shabby in the ladies common room mirror, I would just look at myself once more at home to wonder why  – because I looked okay. Not shabby at all… Every time, the mirror at home always worked for me, never failed. It showed a smooth skin, alert brownish eyes, the big teeth that I had, looked just a perfect fit to my jaw in there…and my curly mop of hair just rested fine there. Turn of curls sometimes even looked beautiful – no frizz, no out of control wig like it looked elsewhere….I looked just okay, like any other girl of my age…I just felt fine. By that time, the mirror probably knew me as well as my family. My nature, my true self – Which was unknown to the most of my peers  . .Over the time, I stopped feeling ugly.. I felt okay. I looked okay. Even while pursuing MBA, when I was amidst of the hottest and heppest girls ever, I looked okay. 🙂

I don’t remember when ‘I look okay’  – turned into ‘I look fine’. Eventually, I came to terms with my looking and being my own self. I guess I started accepting myself. My thoughts, my nature, my conflicting natures, two sides – a shy geekish one that loved to read books and reflect on life and a more daring one, that wanted to experiment more with life and make a statement. I am not sure today which of these survived or what have I eventually become into, but I guess for last few years, my mirror always makes me happy when I look into it. It remains better than other mirrors, as always, even here in Indonesia, but now I don’t look into this mirror for reassurance. I don’t need a mirror for that. Yes, I might not be beautiful or glamorous for that matter, I am me. Good old me. These days, I feel the dimple on my cheek is more prominent than it ever was and I look more my age than I ever looked before, my hair is more tame than it ever was…. I am at peace with myself……