Distant.

… turns out, I am not going to have much of a break.

The last few days have been transformational – things have come my way when I least expected them to and how! I am now caught in the several labyrinths of choices with each of them offering me a way to reach where I see myself.I am euphoric and thrilled and all that but the paradox of choice has never struck harder before.

Now that I know I have something coming up, I would not mind a reasonably long break. It is funny how this my mind works. I always prided myself on being cool about not having a certain place to go but I guess somethings change. As much as I am a homebody (I am that person who will proudly will tell you she cannot make it for a Saturday night out because she wants to stay home and do nothing), I love people. I love feeling connected and having an opportunity to care for others and be there. And going out, meeting people, hugging friends and then meeting some more makes me insanely happy when I feel like it. And the opportunities I have now will enable that, at least the way I see it.

Over the years I have come to view things and act on things in two ways: the first type is where I let go and just get into something with gay abandon, without so much as a care for the why, how and what ifs. These are times when my mind tells me, “go for it. I mean, why not?”. So every time I act on this impulse, I do not spend an iota of thought on it. The second type is where I really start thinking of why should I do something, how does it take me where I see myself, what purpose does it serve and how and why am I adding any value to what is out there already? How is my action making someone’s life better (mine included)? And I have a good mix of both these and being a Gemini has nothing to do with that (ask me tomorrow and my answer may change). I adopt these two approaches for equally important decisions so it is not a case of when I use what. Sometimes I just act on a whim even if it is something that can have big consequences. Without much overthinking, I view this as a strength. It lends a strange sense of balance and comfort to me knowing that there is no secret to figuring things out. Sometimes you just do what feels right to you then and really, things eventually work themselves out one way or the other. All the more reason why I have come to appreciate and value different approaches to living and learning. It has made me more tolerant, accepting and even appreciative of ‘to each her/his own’. It has made me less judgemental of how people approach challenges and made me less inclined to hastily suggest but rather be more empathetic and just listen even if I have nothing to say at all. Many a time, I have come away learning a bit more about myself when I have listened harder. I will even go so far as to say that learning to listen has made me like myself a bit more and be a little less critical and that includes listening to myself as I write this and the train of thoughts that emanate from something so distant.

Distant is the vision I have for myself. But I can see a path. It is really hazy and not without curves and tricky bends and straight paths I can tread with my eyes closed. I will have to make some choices. Sometimes I will just walk without a care and sometimes I may tread with caution. Maybe I will take a detour and try a different destination or a pitstop. I don’t know. I think I will never know. But that is the whole point. How is it fun otherwise? And why would you be excited for tomorrow and next week and the year after?

Where next.

I have no idea where to begin and how to say what I want to say. Some days trigger a deep rooted nostalgia and a strong craving to be more purposeful in life. It tickles me, inspires me and excites me so much that I want to spend time thinking of how to get around doing it and not start right away. I see it as a blessing but on some days I just cannot. The last few days have been transformational for me.

As a PhD candidate, my work and research formed a big core of my focus. I was/am proud of it, I mean I dedicated 4 years of my life and jumped on it with a lot of zeal and naturally wanted it to be truly insightful to others in the field. I wanted to discover what worked and most importantly that did not. And amidst all this, I was involved in a lot of other things. So, having a big focus but never letting it consume all of me was something I was proud of. So when that went really well, I defended successfully and submitted (Thank you God!), I find an urge to do something more. To push a boundary and to fight. There is a gap now and I want to be able to fill it with more things to pursue, to wake up to, to constantly have in the back of my head (at least most of the times). You see, breaks are good only until they are not. I never have had a ‘break’. I always told everyone and myself I would take a break after PhD, a break to do just “other” stuff. But the truth I have come to realise is, I do a lot of stuff when I have a lot of other stuff to do. It is just how I am wired. I do not think I can be productive if I am too reflective for too long. I love myself a good 2 days and then I need to have things to work against time.

But what makes this all so much weirder is how I take longer breaks and walk away when it gets a bit much. So, I have a very innate unique sense of balance that I am trying to understand, one that I cannot summarise or share in words but one that my body and mind dictate according to circumstances. That is a good thing. Yes, it is a good thing, I guess.

Which brings me back to where I started – I have no idea where to begin or what to say. I have a vague picture of things I want to try my hand at and I have already started on it. Somewhere amidst all this, we are moving homes again (I know!) but we will still be in the UK, so that seems like a pretty minuscule task compared to the big move last year. Right? Anyway, moving homes, shifting our physical locations has stopped affecting me. To me, they are things to be done and get done with. All other decisions on moving and whether we are moving to a place that makes us happy is something you can dwell on but never really know until you have given it a shot and tried your best to work with. And this sort of compartmentalising actions into, “what is under my control” vs. “what is not under my control but I can do my best with” offers a delightfully relaxing perspective of sorts. I save some of the overthinking for other things that prove me wrong (delightfully so) and ones that did not require any of it (as K always warns me). Most importantly, I have come to realise that one can start from anywhere and anyplace. 10 years ago, I had an entirely different set of plans and without giving you too many details, I’d have been sitting in an office in rural India. Five years later, I wanted to be providing services in a rehab clinic and that is what I did. Because at that point, that was what I wanted to do and to me that felt purposeful. So for a while, I wondered to myself of all the possibilities that could have been if I had pursued my first dream. And then I realise, I would not have it any other way. Being what I became and doing what I did opened up a lot of myself to me and helped me understand others better.

And today, I am here. A different purpose but serving a similar dream from a different location. It does not make me as guilty anymore (I still have bouts of guilt and that constant nagging feeling of missing being closer to my family but that is not something for today). I know I am in a place I am meant to be. Perhaps I can fight it and change it, but I don’t want to. Not just yet because I need to harness my energy positively. There is so much to do, so much to see and so much more to learn.

Secure in that knowledge, I will not dwell on the “where next” for now. For now, my mind needs a break. And after all, what are tomorrows for?

Of welcoming and bidding adieu to our first winter in UK

What excited me us most about moving to UK was winter. We love Europe and had always read and heard of the gorgeous English countryside but our hearts screamed for winter and just the thought of experiencing seasons. Singapore’s tropical weather and rainy-humid climate all through the year meant that we escaped to cold climates during winters. Such was our need for the cold. Naturally, we felt ecstatic. Also, while I love myself flowers and fall (oh, I love fall!), winter really is my aesthetic. I cannot get enough of feeling cold, being wrapped up in layers that leave me feeling perpetually in a state of “hug”, spending a good portion of the day brewing coffee and tea, forever having my kaDai out for that last minute bhajji/bajia, huddling in the warmest corner with a book, stepping out only to be met with a fiercely cold wind hitting and numbing the face leaving you feeling noseless.. I could go on.

So when people told us very politely about how we will now be facing “London weather”, we did not flinch a bit. We are somewhere amidst the last traces of winter now and I already miss it. None of the weather was remotely as “dreadful” as people made it out to be. On the contrary, the winter has been soothing and except for the short daylight, we loved every bit of it. I missed a good chunk of it as I was away in New Zealand for a good time enjoying spring and its blossoms but I was back for Christmas to hop on the winter bandwagon.

As I write this, it is getting to spring now. The super markets are full of petunias, tulips and a diaspora of blooms. The wild flowers in our yard have started to bloom from nowhere! I was not even aware that there were plants with such gorgeous flowers and to watch them appear miraculously on one fine morning, out of nowhere obvious, has been beautifully surprising. The root vegetables are replaced by berries and lots of fresh greens. Those big boots and huge cloaks are replaced by thin cardigans and denims and sandals. The entrances to the super markets are lined with the essentials for barbecue.

And all this has been utterly beautiful to witness. I really miss the winter but I love myself a spring and the joy it brings to so many people. There is nothing quite like watching people being happy for the weather. I cannot believe I am saying this, because a year ago, I used to wonder what it is that makes people talk of weather all the time. But I know and appreciate it better now. To be observant and perceptive of the changes around you is indeed appreciable. And in a way, that has made me very thankful for the weather and for all the privilege I have to experience the seasons comfortably.

A few days ago, we walked along the Ockham and Wisley Commons with gay abandon. After more than a week of warm sun, that day was quite chilly. We being us, headed out to enjoy that chill. We got our large coffees from the local bakery at the entrance and walked endlessly. Some days make you happy for no reason at all and this is definitely one of them.

The dry-fruits box ritual

I wrote this on Medium sometime last year. But something in me stirred and I wanted to share it again. That is the thing with memories – they are so random. Randomly beautiful. Beautifully random.

For some reason today, I am again reminded of the little ritual of filling the boxes with dry fruits. Every month, Pa used to bring home 200 grams of anjeer, raisins, cashews, almonds, dates and pistachios from a local store at the fresh market. He’d announce his arrival with a “Tan-ta-daaa, look what I have got!” and we always knew. We always knew that this meant only one thing — filling up the boxes with dry fruits. After getting refreshed, we would all go to the kitchen, get the almost empty boxes of dry fruits and then carefully set them on the dining table. We’d huddle together around Pa. Meticulously he’d open the packet of anjeer, they always went in first, those rings stacked around a fibrous cord. This was followed by the raisins and every time he would take extra care while opening the packet of raisins always tsk-ing away at why they staple these packets and how one has to be very careful lest the pins get mixed with the raisins. And we’d chorus, “We will eat them one by one and not stuff them in our mouth at once,” because that was what we were always told and we knew when we had to give him that reassurance. It was a joy watching him struggle with pins because he had such short nails that it was impossible to say if he had ever had them any other way. Finally, he’d manage to get the pin out (always stubborn to use his fingers). The dates, almonds and cashews followed. What always excited us were the pistachios. Somehow they were the most enticing of nuts, the one that gaped through the gaps waiting for the shell to be broken. The pistachios were always eaten 6 at a time. We did not want to finish them soon. It did not really matter a lot if we did, but somehow that was how we wanted to pace ourselves always. Once the boxes were all filled, we helped Pa carry them to the kitchen and place them on the rack — the second row from the top, just about the right height for us to reach for it if I tip-toed or stood on one of the chairs at the dining table.

For some reason, I thought of this and it made me smile and also sad at the same time. I miss the predictability that still always had an element of undiluted happiness year after year. I visualize Pa’s smile as he filled each jar with a small announcement and it was and is easily one of the happiest moments we have had together.

Grand 2019

Let’s face it – everyone seems really kicked about 2019. At least that is the impression I get from all the inspiration and happiness that seems to emanate from social media. And I mean this in a very very positive upbeat way – I love New Year. Who am I kidding – I love all the New Years and we have a fair share of them as Indians. So yes, I love festivity, new beginnings, the fervour that accompanies these beginnings and how it seems to make everyone look forward to a brighter time. I am a sucker of sweetness and mush.

With that out of the way and acknowledging that some why‘s can never be answered, let me tell you what I am most excited about 2019. I am excited because I want to make it grand. I want it to be fabulous and I will go out of my way to make that happen. Infact, we already made a beginning – because, as I sit here writing this, I see the most fiercely loving pair of eyes look at me beseechingly to get her off the sofa and onto my lap. While I have spent my fair share of nights we have spent our fair share of nights wondering if and why we deserve this unconditional love, I am not going to that territory again. I rather focus my energy on giving all of my love, even if it means falling short of what we are receiving, Because let us be honest, we are basking in the love and glory that Mili has brought with her and showers us with so generously. I cannot believe I denied myself of this happiness for this long and K had to talk me into just taking the plunge.

And that exactly, that is my plan for making it grand – taking the plunge. Not over-thinking it. Not do a pros-cons analysis. Because that is how it works – you make a decision and then everything works around it. Of course, this shifts things, moves your other ‘plans’ and all that, but it will still come together beautifully inspite of some challenges along the way.

So yes, that is my plan for 2019 – to make it grand. And that, sweet reader, is my wish for you.

Kia ora from Auckland

I started drafting this post a day after I landed in Auckland and it has already been 3 weeks now and that includes a week away in Singapore for some exams – time flies when you are having fun but more so when you have a crazy life. Who knew I would say this about my life – a geeky teenager, a nerdy post teenager, mostly the kinds who attended every class and never wanted to get into any sort of trouble, someone whose every minute was taken care of by her parents, never having to dirty my hands with anything. How things change – I am proud of every minute of it, of how long I have come and yet how much of the old times still seem so beautiful. I feel like I can never pinpoint to one single episode that turned my life into the crazy plane ride it is. And the chain continues.

So back to Auckland. Well, the flights were booked in less than 12 hours and I brought my *long packed – waiting to travel* luggage with me. It was far from an unplanned trip and yet when it happened, it caught me by surprise and had me running all around the house. We had just celebrated Gokulashtami, our first one in the UK home and I had whipped up quite a fare (yes, am modest that way). And before I could feast on all those koDubaLes, nippaTs and barfis, I had to leave. Just like that. I had waited for 2 months and now when I had a plateful of good stuff, I had to travel to a place I had been wanting to.

Auckland has been a blur. I landed at a time when I most needed to be here for a deadline – just when that was done, I had to fly to Singapore for my pre-defence and just when I thought it was done, I had some unexpected work in Singapore and now am back in Auckland again. It is getting beautiful here with the winter transitioning into spring and cherry blossoms appearing on random corners and lining the streets making every walk a treat. I am happy.

This year has been a a year of 4 continents across both the hemispheres, all of 7 countries and counting, none of which were for leisure and yet turned out to have pockets of them. When you travel for long or travel a lot, you start learning to find time and make it a home, even if for a fortnight or 4 months. I have learnt a lot in this time, about myself and about how I have come to learn about myself through others. There are sides to me I dislike but have come to accept without being defensive. I have a long way to go but this year has been a start. I am not a very reflective person (most often just going with the flow and not being too serious about things that sometimes demand attention) sometimes so this side to me has been surprising, tiring and yet rewarding. When I made my first solo trip to Australia 4 years ago, I was thrilled – I loved it. I was super goofy, grinning ear-to-ear while stopping at cafes for a coffee and eating when hungry, sleeping when sleepy. And this year has been full of it – I do miss my family a lot but I have learnt to not let either of these emotions get in the way of the other. I have come to acknowledge and accept that things are where they are because I chose them to be so. And that sort of going back to why I brought myself here has helped me – to visualise the big picture, to give my best and never ever take anyone or anything for granted.

This year has seen me become a minimalist – NOT someone who possesses less stuff but one who holds on to those that mean a lot to her. There is no number on this – I let myself indulge in everything I think will make me happy and add value. Once it ceases to do so, I let it go – things, events, people. Memories, well, those are hard but then it works both ways. I have learnt to not harbour feelings that get me nowhere. I am learning to say no though I suck at it big time. I have come far. I have learnt to laugh at challenges and recollect all those instances when challenges seemed only big in my head.

Life has a funny way of giving you things you never thought you needed. 2018 is my most travelled year yet and not because of the number of places I visited but more because it has been a personal journey that spans far over the 4 continents across the 2 hemispheres and all of the 7 countries.

Lunch and a story at The Eagle, Cambridge

A week ago, we drove to Cambridge with a friend who was visiting us from Singapore. It was such a wonderful trip (more pictures and snippets on that soon). I want to quickly share a little accidental discovery that we realised later and the irony of it.

It was one of the hottest days in UK and after being toasted and roasted and crinkled from the sun (it is a thing here too, people), we decided to walk into a restaurant that catches our fancy; after all, our intuitions with food have been good in general. As we walked along Benet street, we came across “The Eagle” and we absolutely loved how dated it was and how much of a character it had. It is a traditional 16th century English pub with wooden flooring and just a very lovely rustic feel to it that I love.

They only have a couple of vegetarian options and I chose the mushroom ragout with pasta and a fantastic garlic bread to boot and some lentils. The meal was very good with the only shortcoming being the low spice and flavour in the lentils.

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So here is the juicy part – apparently, this was the place where Watson and Crick announced that they had discovered the “secret of life”. I was just reading more about this pub while posting it on my instagram and then saw that it has such a juicy piece of history. I do not know for sure how true this is, but isn’t it fantastic when something like this happens to you? To have been in the place where the discovery of DNA was talked about – the secret of life, indeed! To imagine the kind of curiosity, condescension, wonder and hesitation that may have greeted such news!

We all strive to become someone, to do something significant with our lives, to make a discovery, a change that touches one life or a few, that leaves us immortal, makes us proud and gives our short time here some greater meaning – and to have shared one such space for a brief moment albeit years later, is a happy reminder to prod on.