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….

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Harbour, docks & lighthouses: Re-discovering Mumbai

My Favourite Things

It is only 9.30 am, but the sun is quite intense and if not for the sea breeze would have been quite unbearable. I am on the upper deck of a launch berthed at the Gateway of India in Mumbai trying to peer through a haze that has dulled the shimmer and sparkles of  sunlight on water. In front of me, and as far as the haze-driven visibility allows, are ferries, fishing boats, luxury yachts, launches, security vessels… The place looks like one big parking lot in the sea 🙂

Mumbai Port and Harbour Tour, KGAF, Mumbai Harbour The parking lot in the sea.

On board the launch, my co-passengers indulge in some gentle jostling for prime spots to photograph, discuss whether the haze would play spoil sport for photography, and generally chat about what is it that we are likely to see in the ext couple of hours. As we wait for the launch to leave the…

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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

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A day in life of Swapnil

A day in life of Swapnil

Alone, alienated, detached, isolated, soliatary, withdrawn….

I cannot think of any more synonyms, but I just thought of writing this here. Wanted to purge these thoughts somewhere. These are the exact words that describe what I felt a lot during last few months.  Around the same time that I started working, my husband’s critical deals entered into advanced stages of discussions and he had to travel. A lot. Sometimes, in a month, he used to be home for less than 10 days, and not continuously (not consecutive days of being at home). That just left the situation being him back from one trip, just for doing the laundry and repacking and be gone. Thankfully, I had started working, otherwise, I would have gone crazy. But for all the non-working hours in the day, I was all those words I mentioned above.

Sure, I know some people here by now. Knowing is not same as being friends – I realised more than ever. They were available of course, mostly on whatsapp. Some who I consider friends have children and it was I who felt I would be imposing on them if I sought them out. Others… well, they let me know subtly and not so subtly  – that they don’t appreciate ‘clinginess’ and still others… well  I suppose they didn’t even care to understand my loneliness despite my own subtle and not so subtle hints…I don’t blame anyone of course, I should not and cannot be expecting support everywhere I go, cannot expect every person to like me enough to keep me company when I want… and I was alone for quite some time. So anyways, there would have been a limit on how many times I could impose on anyone like that….

I could have of course pursued my hobbies, etc during those days…but I didn’t. I didn’t handle this well. I have never stayed alone even as much as overnight before I moved here and somehow, I wasn’t able to handle it well. I could have explored the city.  I always wanted to. But I didn’t. Mainly because of my still fledgeling bahasa skills and the fact that my husband and I were both not sure about safety in exploring the deep interiors of Jakarta. He was out of the country and he requested that I postpone my explorings till he was in city for longer stretches. There are many ways in which I could have handled this better, but I couldn’t and I cannot – I think- even in the future.

I realised during these days, how much I had taken the social life granted back home. In India, while I was working, the work-life balance was disastrous with exceedingly long working hours. Still I will say, I was better off socially, simply because I had a great set of co-worker friends who had my back all the time. We each hardly had time for our other friends outside work, and we each had distinct tastes and personalities. Still these never were barriers in connecting, in talking about anything under the sun. We never judged each other, maintained our own opinions and still were one cohesive group. I think, most of the meaningful friendships in my life, were formed in my adult life and this group was a big part of it. While this happened because we each hardly had any time outside of work to engage more with our other friends, the most important reason was the great connection we shared with each other.  I cannot expect such connections to form everywhere I go, but then I know what great happiness it can bring. I could of course contact them and all of my other friends, though its not same as meeting in person. Though I hated to just be complaining all the times and consequently I avoided chatting with anyone.

Anyhow, now I expect my husband to be at home mostly. I won’t face this situation hopefully for some time now. Though I wonder sometimes, if expecting your friends to set aside some time for you is really an unreasonable thing… after 5 months of loneliness, I am inclined to believe, it isn’t mostly, because they too can count on you when they need you. Though here in NRI world, things are different. Or, they’re not different, this is just how the world works, its just that I had this moment of epiphany so late in life….

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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.

Protected: My Reinhart and Rogoff moment….

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What (the h) have I have been doing all these days

Have been really busy folks...

Have been really busy folks…

 

 

I looove blogging. Writing actually.

Even better if you know that there’s a dedicated audience for that. That’s why I took up blogging in the first place. However, I have been quite remiss in updating. Some people make it a habit to update their blog daily, but sometimes the inspiration is not there. I admire all those who can describe most mundane things in their lives lucidly… Anyhow, Long story short, I haven’t updated this blog in a while and thought it was time to do so.

Catching up from where I left, I haven’t forgotten about 30 days of creativity challenge. Coincidentally, worldwide, that is what is going on. Well, I don’t have 30 days remaining now, seeing as today is 24th and probably don’t even have that much time daily. However, I plan to complete 30 creative things as promised. In fact an on-going event in Jakarta actually gives me an opportunity to do one creative project that I had been thinking of for some time.  Mostly I will be ready to post it by end of next Sunday. So yes, I haven’t given up on the 30days of creativity.

So what have I been doing….

Well, I have been working. I got a job finally. I mean, I had got it long time back, but the regulations here are just too tedious and they took a long time to release the approval. I got the job in my own field, so even that is great. Work’s been hectic. Especially the last couple of months. Though I am not exactly complaining….

Other than that… well… I got a new phone (yesterday), because my old smartphone crashed and I was cut off from the network for almost 3 weeks. It was kind of living in exile. Especially with Swapnil traveling all the time. The only interaction I had was with my colleagues and sometimes when I called my family. So this phone was much needed. I spent long enough researching on the right kind and all and eventually bought Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini.

Didn’t travel much (at all actually). Given the work-schedule. Most of my local friends also went out of Jakarta / country due to their kids’ holidays and I was sort of ‘marooned’ to put it in right words . .when I wasn’t at work….

I tried my hand at losing weight. Looks like its not my cup of tea….after spending a month of tracking food and attempting some exercise, I have lost just 1 kg. Though something better came out of it. My Fitness Pal has almost become like my Facebook now, because I needed to keep a track of my protein intake . I began recording food and got hooked to it. Lots of support and motivation from the community. In real life nobody took me or my need to lose weight seriously 🙂 so I turned towards virtual support I guess… 

Stopped watching TV altogether. Instead shifted to the whole new genre of entertainment. They call it a new age media and blah blah blah. I call it you-tube series. I landed on one such series by accident. The YouTube series work in unique format. They are hardly 5-6 minute episodes. Sometimes they get interactive. Work a lot on improvisation. Other times, they are shot in real environment. Lot many unique ideas and characters. You can of course watch at your own leisure and there’s probably a series out there on a subject of your liking. Meaning, lot of variety. What’s even great, these things seem to be run by nerds… totally my kind of people 🙂  It was like a whole new world was opened before me 🙂 and I totally am loving it.

What else, no I haven’t been cooking a lot. Actually with husband travelling, there’s noone to impress (and when he’s here he’s anyways far from being impressed). Also with work, I don’t have any motivation in me left to do cook something new. The other day I tried my hand at Mushroom masala since my husband remarked that his colleague’s wife makes it very well. However, it was disastrous and I concluded that I’d rather admire someone cooking for me than myself cooking it… I mean, cooking and I… is a love-hate sort of very moody relationship. Its complicated.

Yeah… those were the highlights of last four months… not much, I know….

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…

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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……