Saturday, December 31, 2016

Things that made 2016 unforgettable

The year is about to come to an end. The time for a review is upon us. This post, more than the others, is for me. One day when I am old and wrinkled, or maybe later in 2017, I will read this and all the other annual posts and smile, laugh and cry, not in this order necessarily.
Unfortunately, for most parts I have to nod in agreement at the hundreds of memes flooding Facebook and Twitter that claim that 2016 has been one of the worst years. Office was eventful to put it mildly. As the HR and senior management tried to make up their minds, I was put in three different teams and under five different bosses in a span of six months.
January and February were cosy and comfortable at home. Meanwhile, there was a whirlwind at work.
In March we travelled to Mangalore to be with V’s parents. We went to my in-law’s farmhouse for the first time. V showed me around with so many childhood stories delivered at various stops. I drank nearly half of the coconut farm's produce. It was blissful. The barbecue managed by my BIL, cooking by my SIL, the pool shenanigans of our two-year-old nephew, my brother’s singing, my MIL’s anecdotes and FIL’s jokes and our laughter under the star-lit sky made the trip everything I had imagined it would be and then some more.
April went by with office playing more than required on my mind. But I did wear lots of sarees as a part of the 100 saree pact. I also painted penguins and ladybirds of some stones to decorate my balcony.
May started with a happy buzz surrounding me. The happy days didn’t last long. We suffered the biggest loss of our lives. I had a miscarriage a day after the pregnancy test came positive.
I was on bed rest for the better part of June. I lost a baby and in the aftermath lost a few erstwhile close friends as well. Friends, who I believed would be a part of my life forever, decided to keep their distance even at a time when I was drowning in the black pit of sadness.
July was about surviving. I am a child of a survivor. I have seen my mother survive hardships, one after the other. So, I decided to be inspired by her. No. I did not pick up knitting needles. I rekindled my love for photography. I started baking. I bake some kickass cupcakes with buttercream icing and meringues now. And I started posting shameless crowd sourcing pleas on Facebook for a KitchenAid tilt stand mixer.
The trip to Tirupati was the highlight of August. Had a great time with family. The food in Tirupati is to die for. We then went to Bangalore. Food was not as good but the weather was awesome. We visited the zoo. Seeing animals with Amay was loads of fun. He said hi to the bear in the sweetest voice. I learned that even if the guide says don’t make noise, a two-year-old will say ‘ROAR’ when he sees a real lion for the first time.
By September, following several visits to the doctor, constant hand holding by V and continuous support from elders of both sides of the families, I started feeling more like myself. I started eating better and exercising again.
October was exciting. V’s parents visited us in Delhi. This time they stayed for a little more than a month. V and I took them for a road trip to Kasauli. It was one adventurous drive. So much fun though. We bought 14 kg apples while returning. V drove like a champion. I cooked a lot and pampered them to my heart’s content. And I was pampered as well. Had a fantastic time celebrating Diwali with them.
Mid-November saw me returning to the HumSoc department. Like I told LB, it seemed like I was returning to my parent’s house after getting used to hostel life. Getting back to work and the grove of the department was not difficult at all. However, I am wiser to the changes in me and around me now.
Just as November was ending, office became interesting as ICSE decided to introduce a new syllabus. I loved being immersed in work. Bone-tired I managed to work on a book and handed it over for production in around 13 days. Proud to say, I did not have to sit late or work over the weekends. And I am more than happy with the way the book looks in its final avatar.
Just at the onset of the ICSE madness, V and I went to Bharatpur for our anniversary. Returning to the same road after nearly five years of the accident and coming out unscratched was a win. Sighted lots of birds and my favourite owls. At one point, V and I were atop a machaan, it seemed that it was just us two in the entire world, surrounded by hundreds of birds. Magical.
We got V’s drums home. His joy was priceless. And I am so glad that I played a role in making it happen for him. He plays for hours over the weekend while I bake or read or paint or cook. Our house is a happy home.
Prasha called from the states to wish us and told me that she bought a KitchenAid for me and that Mami was going to bring it to India on her return. Man, the Secret works! The fact that my baby sister bought the best machine in the world for me made it even more special. My cupcakes, my cakes, my meringues and the buttercream icing have started tasting so much better now! Yay!
December brought with it K from the US. She stayed at our place for one night. It was so much fun. K and V met for the first time but it just didn’t feel like it. I was happy to be surrounded by so much love. Mami bought the KitchenAid. My excitement knew no bounds. I was jumping with excitement. So happy with the gift. And can safely say I receive the best gifts. And the cherry on my cake of happiness was the fact that V got a big Christmas tree and a lot of ornaments for me to decorate.  
Just as 2016 draws its last breaths, G and her family have reached Delhi (from Calgary via Amritsar). I will be meeting them on the third day of the New Year. My joy knows no bounds. I will be meeting her kids for the first time!
The last day of the year is also marking a first of sorts. V and I are hosting our friends for a New Year party. This is the first time ever that I will have friends over. The only other time I celebrated with friends was in Pune in 2011. Otherwise New Year’s eve has always meant plonking in front of the TV or writing my annual posts, once from Goa, with my friends fast asleep on the bed next to me. I have cooked for the better part of the day. My house is my point of pride and it is ready to welcome friends with its warmth.
I hope 2017 continues to bring joy our and your way. May we end the negativities in our lives one-way or the other and move on. May we begin on newer paths of happiness and contentment. May we continue to bask in the warmth and glow of love and loved one.
Happy New Year!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Unsolicited advice, full of love :)

The mood to not enter the kitchen in the scorching heat, the fact that we had no idea when all of us would be together again and that we had several things to celebrate seemed reasons good enough to go out and celebrate. Unlike our usual pattern, the conversations ran in a mild, entertaining manner. The 20 minutes that we had to wait for a table at the restaurant passed by quickly while we shopped for beads, bread and cheese. The food and drinks, as expected, were delicious. The usual teasing the writer of this blogpost ensued. It was a good Saturday evening. Soon enough, it was time to say our goodbyes. Akshat was to leave for Lucknow to begin the professional phase of his life the next day. As is my wont I gave Akshat a list of instructions, a duty I believe, I must fulfil. He was indulgent and kept nodding and agreeing to all my suggestions and instructions. I turned my attention to mom and fired a couple in her direction as well. At this point, Vivek had had enough. He nudged and lightly pushed me to a side, went ahead and hugged my mother saying, ‘Congratulations, aunty! It has been a long tough journey for you.’

As if on cue, I began to cry. Akshat, mom and Vivek asked in chorus, ‘Why are you crying?’ I replied, ‘What kind of a questions is that?’

I cried almost all the way on the 40-minute drive to our home, as Akshat had predicted. Vivek kept asking why I was crying. He kept reminding me that it was a happy occasion. I kept telling him, ‘I know.’ I continued crying.

Since Saturday night (today is Monday) I thought a lot about why I was crying. I had been so busy celebrating all the good things coming our way that I had forgotten to remember what a journey it has been. And the kind gesture from Vivek just opened the flood gates.

I could see the image of a few-months-shy-of-6, Akshat near the door of the house. We had shifted to this house 17 years ago after our father passed away. Akshat used to be too afraid to go out to the park alone. The new surroundings took some time to grow on him. And today, I was saying bye to this 22-year-old version of him on the eve of his moving to a new city to start his career. Hard-as-I-may-try I cannot help but see him like a little boy. And even as I type this a few tears manage to spill through. Over the last few years, I have seen Akshat rebuilding himself again and again. Conquering the obstacles on his way. But since pelting out advice to him for the last 22 odd years has been a part of who I am, his elder sister, I want to continue with the tradition.

Look at you, all grown up!

Dear kiddo!
The journey has been a long one. On more than one occasion you have made wise decisions and have made mom and me very proud. You have been living away from home for nearly two years now. So, I won’t give you any advice about adjusting to a new environment. I am sure you have a better handle on it since I never went out of Delhi to live. However, I have been working for nearly 12 years so here is my advice for you.
  1. Work smart. A lot of people can work hard. But you should aim at working smartly. I have rarely come across people who are smart at working.
  2. Talk less. Coming from me this might seem like a surprise twist akin to a Game of Thrones plot twist. But this is a learning I have acquired quite recently. The lesser you talk the lesser are the chances that someone can use your words against you.
  3. Write more. Always depend on paper. Pen down your ideas and thoughts as soon as gold strikes. With bills, office timings, commuting, etc. taking up your mind space some ideas may be lost in the daily humdrum of things.
  4. Save money. You are a smart kid. Much smarter than I was at your age. Remember to save money. Money in your hand is better than money in the credit card account.
  5. Live well. Spend money in purchasing good things. Wait if you have to but never compromise on the quality of things you purchase. Buy good clothes, gadgets, shoes, furniture, gifts for mom, Vivek and me.
  6. Set your priorities. While work is important and will be for you for a few more years to come but remember to prioritize life and important people in your life over everything else. It won’t be easy but it is very important.
  7. Travel. Whenever you get a chance, travel. Explore new places. Meet new people. Eat new and different foods.
  8. Read lots. Books will always be around giving you wisdom, entertainment, and company. (I had to tell you that!)
  9. Nurture your hobbies. Always make time to nurture your hobbies. Sing. Play the guitar. Listen to music. Learn new skills. Increase your bag of skills. Learning a new language or a skill will rejuvenate you. Trust me after a couple of years as a part of the working class, rejuvenating helps. 
  10. Make friends. Keep your eyes and heart open for good people around you. Be the best friend you can be. The right people will be around you for the right moments in your life. Some friends might part ways. It might hurt. Smile through the hurt, wish them well and continue to keep your eyes and heart open for a new crop of friends. 

I think this is the shortest lecture I have ever given you, Akshat. Here is wishing you a successful, enjoyable and fulfilling career. Welcome to this side of the world. It’s big, it’s wild but boy it’s fun!