Sweet Lies

I kind of like this story of mine – Sweet Lies – that’s been published in the July 2015 issue of Reading Hour.

It was inspired by this. DH loves to junk as soon as he comes home from office. I completely forget about the junk food at home till I hear all the rustling and crackling. Then I have to give in to temptation! But if DH catches me with the junk, he’s like – there she goes again! And all my protests fall on deaf ears. :)

So the story started with that, and then found its own sweet way to the end. Do pick up your copy of the magazine today and let me know if you like it.

Some Books and a Movie

Brief thoughts on some books I read and a movie I saw recently.

Villages by John Updike: The sentences were so convoluted and long, I had very little sympathy for the main character, and I felt restless reading this book. I could only think: OK, people like this also exist. It isn’t a book I will remember too fondly or go back to, at least at this stage.

The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks: I loved Word & Void by the same author. I waited for long to obtain The Sword of Shannara from the library, but ran out of patience and picked up the second book in the trilogy. I liked this book too. It was classic fantasy. I’m going to try and read all the Shannara books.

Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi: I wanted to read this book ever since it came out, since it received pretty rave reviews. I did like the book, but I honestly felt a bit let down. I thought it would have been great if he had stuck to just one of the stories (preferably the older one). Trying to thread the two stories together felt a bit awkward to me, and distracted my reading. But it’s a nice book and worth a read.

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough: What a lovely read this was! Gave me a ringside view of the events and personalities of the Wright brothers. So awed by the way they worked with such single-minded determination! I guess some people are truly gifts to humanity. I enjoyed the book a great deal.

Kaaka Muttai: An absolutely delightful movie, worth all the praise it’s received. Everything revolves around money, but money doesn’t get you everything. I loved everything about this movie, from the writing to the visualization to the characters. But what I loved best about it was that there was no moralizing, no preaching, and no condescension. It treated the subject very candidly, with absolutely no judgement and just the right touch of humour. Performances were superb, and I actually clapped along with the audience at the important climactic scene. This was a movie that I had wanted to see for a long time since I had heard so many good things about it. So very glad I caught it!

Immersion

Last week, I cracked a problem at work.

The issue was a long-pending one, and I kept returning to it on and off, in between other things that were higher on the priority list. It was a niggling problem that didn’t respond to any of the obvious troubleshooting techniques. Last week, I resumed work on it, and there were so many times when I felt the solution was so close at hand, almost at my fingertips, but it remained hell-so-elusive!

Finally, I got a breakthrough almost through serendipity. As I tested and re-tested to ensure my conclusions were correct, my level of euphoria rose. When I could successfully claim to have cracked the problem, I felt almost like yelling “Eureka!” The root of the problem was so crazily unrelated, no wonder it remained unresolved through the traditional methods I had adopted earlier.

These kinds of moments are getting rarer these days. I find myself unable to be completely absorbed by anything. Books seem repetitive, movies appear cliched, and I just don’t have the energy to indulge in a high level of personal interaction any more with other people.

Last couple of weeks, I also choreographed a couple of dances for DD (about time she graduated from Lil D to Dear D, right?) and her friend for some dance contests. Again, this hardly kept me engaged. I’m saying and doing all the expected things, but the level of boredom below is simmering constantly.

I really want something I could sink my teeth into, something that keeps me immersed completely, so that when I look at the clock, I go – “Wow!”, instead of  “Just 5 mins have passed?” I guess I could set myself up to as many challenges as I want, but that’s the thing. I don’t want to do a challenge just for the sake of challenge; I’ve done that for the past year, trying out many new things just for the sake of pushing myself. I want the immersion to happen organically.

Hmmm, maybe I should go and immerse myself in cleaning up the house. But unfortunately, that does not qualify as a Eureka-moment in my books. Any suggestions? :)

Honesty is the Best Policy

Honesty: that’s one of my ground rules for parenting. I think the more honest we are with children, the better. Especially about the major issues in life like sex and death.

I “honestly” don’t see the big deal about tip-toeing around the truth or beating around the bush. Cooking up stories leads to a lot of stress and distrust.

Of course, honesty doesn’t mean you are insensitive or brutally frank. It does mean that you are in tune with the child’s sensibilities, and you tell the kid the truth in a palatable manner. The way you tell a three-year old about death is infinitely different from the way you tell a ten-year old. You can make it simpler for the younger ones, rather than pushing it under the carpet. You can also get into the details at a later stage in life, rather than dumping everything at one shot and overwhelming the kid.

I dislike the attitude of “protecting” the child. I’ve seen some cases where this “protection” has crumbled in the face of actual death of an ailing one, and the utter shock and disbelief of the kid. Adequately preparing the child so that he/she can handle the inevitable is so important, yet parents avoid this task simply because it makes them uncomfortable.

I’ve had this honesty policy backfire a couple of times in my own experience. Lil D sometimes tells me she wishes I hadn’t told her some things. But then when we discuss it, she admits that it is better this way, and at least she knows the truth. I tell her that these are things she’d hear about anyway, and I’d rather she hears it from me than a third-party. The thing is being honest opens up a whole new level of communication, and we are able to discuss things that we would never have touched upon otherwise.

I guess it’s just the way we’ve been brought up, and the way we’ve brought up Lil D as well. But sometimes, I just want to shake parents and yell at them: Tell your kids the truth, they can handle it, dammit!

This Is It

I guess like most other people, I too have been through all the soul-searching and the quest for the meaning of life, and stuff.

Brought up in a pretty religious family that observed the rites and practices quite rigorously, my disillusionment with religion began quite early. I preferred the quiet of the chapel at school to the bustle of the temple, and felt nearer to God there. I began observing the discrimination at temples, how donors were treated differently and allowed closer access to the deity than the general public. I began to be amused by the rituals of bathing, dressing, and feeding the gods, treating them like infants. Surely if God were that powerful, He didn’t need all this doll’s play?

During the long break immediately after my tenth grade exams, I began reading a lot of spiritual literature, which included the Isopanisad, several translations of the Gita, and books by and about various swamis. This was a very spiritual phase in my life, and I began to detest the rites and rituals that marked our religion.

Soon, I entered a rather ambivalent stage, where I was neither very spiritual nor very religious. I guess at that point, other things like studies, friends, career, etc. began to take centre-stage, and religion was just another small segment of my life. But I was still quite vehement about the rituals, even though I did begin to understand that there was a history to it all. I was more drawn to psychology at this point, and was always trying to explain why people did what they did because of biology rather than anything else.

A major turning point of my life, as I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog, was when I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. That book unlocked potential in me like never before. I discovered myself, my real strengths and weaknesses, and the fact that I had been living in delusion about myself for quite some time. For the first time, I felt in control of my life, and recognized the choices I had made, and the choices I could continue to make. It gave me a balance that has stood me in good stead all these years.

For many years now, I’ve been on a more or less even keel when it comes to personal and professional life. I’ve learnt so many lessons, and I’ve found happiness in the mundane. The only part which still needs some kicking is my physical fitness, which I do in fits and starts. One thing that I do on and off is meditation. And the more I read about meditation, the more I am convinced that I need to do it regularly.

So recently, a friend was describing one of the meditation techniques and mentioned having a personal mantra to meditate upon. This thought lingered for several days in my mind. There are mantras readily available of course, but I somehow wanted something more personal, something that felt true to me.

I don’t know if mantras are revealed in epiphanies, but I did have one such moment. This is it! – I thought and immediately it felt right. This encapsulates everything I want to say, everything I feel about life on earth. The mantra is so simple, yet it conveys so much.

THIS IS IT.

That is my personal mantra. It reaffirms to me that this moment is what counts. This is it. I can say it in a tone of finality, I can say it in a tone of wonder, I can use it as a question, heck, I can fit it into any situation. But the one I like best says to me – This Is It – what are you going to do? It opens up choices for me, it drives me to act, even if I choose to do nothing.

Needless to say, I am totally kicked about this discovery! Now, if only I could meditate regularly! :)

So, have you discovered your personal mantra yet?

The Rain in Spain

I just cannot bring myself to write about our travels during our holidays. When I read travelogues, they seem flow so beautifully, have such interesting details, and make the holiday just amazing.

When I begin to write something like that, or should I say, attempt to write something like that, it soon degenerates into almost a bullet-point list of where we went and what we saw. If people were really interested, I think, they would just google up the details, and contact a travel agent for more, right? So, even if I’ve had an absolutely blow-your-mind holiday, it would come across as unexciting as a walk in the park. Believe me, a walk in the park would probably sound much more exciting!

So without further ado, let me acknowledge that we had a wonderful and most relaxing vacation in Spain this May, and here is my bullet-point list.

We started with Madrid where the Buen Retiro Park made me want to retire right there with its broad avenues, strumming musicians, skaters, roller-bladers, lovely lake choc-a-bloc with rowers, and a heavenly rose garden with roses as big as cabbages! The Prado museum was a revelation, and made me realize that I didn’t understand Picasso at all! Oh, and I almost forgot the Real Madrid stadium, where we took a picture with Homer Simpson, of all the people.

Then we took a high-speed RENFE train to Sevilla, where we marvelled at the beautiful Alcazar palace, admired the gorgeous cathedral which had the tomb of Christopher Columbus, loitered a bit in the splendid Plaza de Espana, took a restful boat cruise, enjoyed the flamboyance of flamenco, and finally feasted on paella at a riverside restaurant while the bright evening deepened into a shimmering dusk.

The next stop was Granada, and the awesome Alhambra , through which we were ably guided by the wise William, a guide who gave us much insight into the history of Granada. We visited a monastery also, which reminded me of my school.

We wrapped up with Barcelona, the city of FC Barcelona and the trio of Messi, Neymar, and Suarez. How could we not pay homage to the FC Barcelona stadium? We checked out the La Sagrada Familia unfinished church, that began construction in 1882 and planned end date is 2026! Makes our Namma Metro seem like it’s being developed at jet speed, no?! The Magic Fountain of Montjuic was enchanting. Barcelona was a typical bustling metropolis. We saw and interacted with quite a few shopkeepers and waiters from the sub-continent, and had tapas at a trendy cafe on the Las Ramblas.

Then it was back to good ole Bangalore, and after days of pizza and sandwiches and salads, we had a great breakfast of idli-vada-sambar-dosa at Adigas.

And I discovered the true meaning of a holiday: an interlude that makes you realize how much you miss your routine life! :)

There – in less than 500 words. And not a drop of rain in Spain. Unseasonably hot instead!

They Say

They say

Be whatever you want

Feel free

Wear whatever you want, say what you want, eat what you want

No body shaming, no fat shaming, no idiot shaming, no shame

Feel free

Be what you want to be

They say

However

Your dress is too short, you talk trash, you eat only junk

Eyebrows raised, lips pressed

Wafting fragrance of disapproval

Sure, feel free

Be yourself

As long as you are the self I want to see