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My week of Reading Deprivation (part 2)

November 4, 2017

So, none of the three Internet-enabled time-sinks for a week. But books? I’m always reading one, would I miss that terribly? And the newspaper? Not really a big challenge, since I’ve all but stopped readin it. I just skim through once in a while.

The week, as it happened couldn’t have been busier – S travelling, my folks visiting, finding myself busy with some meaty work on hand, and resuming working out after over five months, with a trainer, three times a week.

So how did the week go? It’s been two full days since the week got over, and here are some things that I realised –

  • I didn’t miss picking up my phone every once in a while to check Instagram or whatsapp mindlessly. It was easier than I imagined too.
  • I did miss watching the current show I’m hooked onto (This is Us) a wee bit.
  • I listened to a TON of music, like this is 1999, 2003, or 2006 or one of those phases in my life. And I was ODing on a most unlikely band – Imagine Dragons. I’m not even sure I want to admit to this in public, but there you go.
  • On average, I sleep 6.5-7 hours each night. All through this week, I managed a nice 7-7.5 hours each night. There was at least one night where a slept a beautiful 8 hours. This is partly because of not checking my phone before bedtime (which I have reduced lately) and more because I wasn’t reading in bed either.
  • My phone battery life has never been better.
  • All week, I didn’t read through some random parenting article (thanks to the FB groups that I check once in a while more often than I care to admit) and feel like a terrible mother.
  • Not having ads chase me everywhere – enticing me to look at beautiful and ridiculously expensive clothes that I won’t buy, but will still go click through and look at on the site and then close window feeling smug about not wanting to buy it – was a great feeling as well.
  • I didn’t miss reading my books too much, but was a bit bummed that I couldn’t rightaway start reading from the stash that arrived with my parents right this week. So I was happiest to dive right in once the week ended.
  • It’s been two days and I’ve checked Instagram/FB only a couple of times, Twitter not at all, and probably won’t for a long time. I am blissfully reluctant to go back to all that social media noise.
  • I got a satisfyingly good amount of work done
  • Chores that I thought I might get around to finally – only one or two got done.
  • Finally, and this has been the most revealing insight for me from the week – it made me step back and take a look at how much time I spend reading online, starting with some stray thought in my head, which I then go on to Google. And bam, I’m lost in the great Internet black hole. It’s not so much the amount of time I spend on chasing an idea or a thought, but how often I would do it. It adds up. I would be in the middle of something, and then would get distracted by a thought, Google it and then that’s a good 10 or 15 or 20 minutes wasted. Rinse, repeat. Examples -I’d look at my withering Jade plant and want to look up tips to revive it. Down rabbit hole for 10 minutes. (And this actually happened inadvertently during my reading deprivation week !) Or, like today, my hip joint is feeling a bit sore, so I google hip flexor stretches. Next thing I know, I nearly clicked through to an article on how to do splits. Such rubbish behaviour, arghh.

The wonderful realisation that dawned on me when I was telling a friend about this week, was that I had actually single-tasked for most part of the week, and it was wonderful. My brain wasn’t overloaded with a bazillion thoughts all the time and it was good to slow down and be quiet. I hope that I will carry these lessons forward and keep myself from falling back into my old habits. Aside from the obvious effects, I’m sure my  brain (and the rest of my body) will thank me for ceasing the endless chatter.

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My week of Reading Deprivation (part 1)

November 4, 2017

Reading deprivation is an exercise in Week 4 of The Artist’s Way. (More about the book here. I’ll just say that for a book that was written 25 years ago, it is wonderfully relevant and a must-read).


It is as drastic as it seems – no reading, for a week, and in this age, it automatically means no social media either. The idea is that once you control how much information you consume, the outflow (what you create) will see a drastic improvement as well. ‘It is a paradox that by emptying our lives of distraction we are actually filling the well,’ writes Julia Cameron in the book. And how true that is, I was to find out.

I’ve become a big fan of the Morning Pages that she recommends in her book, and I love how it helps me feel more sorted in my head for the day ahead. I believe this routine of writing my Morning pages, despite the 30 minutes time taken each morning, has had a great impact on me as a individual, a parent and as an artist.

Barely a third of the book down, and I love it already. Naturally, I was excited to try this Reading deprivation exercise. No reading and no media meant three things out for me instantly for a week – general internet reading, Instagram and watching stuff online.

In the past I have tried to be more conscious about my reading habits online in particular, and how I end up clicking on one mildly interesting link after another and soon I’m far down the rabbit hole and 20 minutes have flown past. This has been only awareness, and I haven’t done much to curb it until now.

And there’s Instagram. That beautiful time-sink filled with beautiful art (my timeline!) and a bunch food and other photographs. I love the medium for how much amazing art there is out there, and I hate it for how often I’m mindlessly scrolling through posts, Liking posts and then mildly feeling inadequate about my own skills or my parenting, or my life, or rolling my eyes at someone’s pretentiousness. I’ve deleted the app for a week at a time twice in the past and this has greatly made a difference to how frequently I used the app. I scroll past a few posts and close the app now, I don’t try and catch up with all. And yet, I would find myself frequently and idly picking up the phone and scrolling through.

Coming to the third, my guilty pleasure. Netflix and Amazon Prime. I’ve lately gotten into the habit of binge-watching stuff, especially when I’m doing something that doesn’t involve too much thought. Like exercising, or even painting, at times. Not good.

So, the reading deprivation was a good thing for me to try, clearly. And since this post is getting too long already, I’ll talk about how the week went in part 2.

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School tales

September 15, 2017

It’s been too long since the last post – since then A started school, settled in beautifully and loves it. I was both excited for her to start, and at the same time a little sad that this is it, she’s off to school. And the day before she was due to start school, I remember we made rainbows on the wall with mirrors and a bowl of water. I think that’ll be a nice memory for me, even though she isn’t going to remember it 🙂

And on the first day she was greeted by her teacher who seemed really nice, and it didn’t take too long for her to trust her and become completely besotted at all! I spent about a week hanging out at her school, and the I was quite amazed at how quickly she settled in and didn’t cry much at all. When I would go to pick her up in the afternoons, there would be big outbursts of emotion at seeing me after so long, but even that stopped after a couple of days. Or she would tell me that she was crying because she wanted to stay in school longer! And now that is school is closing for 10 days for Dasara holidays, she is quite upset about it, and I hope I can keep her as entertained at home! While there is the usual trepidation on how I’ll keep her ‘engaged’ (funny how this wasn’t even a thing until she started school three months back), I think we will enjoy the relaxed mornings and probably do a LOT of painting and go for walks.

We have this ritual of stopping to getting tender coconut on the way back from school, once a week, usually on Fridays. So, this morning, I told her, ‘Today is Friday, what does that mean?’

We are going to drink,’ she said, all enthusiasm.

Oh yeah, TGIF!

And she continues to entertain all and sundry at school, sometimes at my expense. S and I joke that there are no secrets in our family anymore. Everyone knows everything that goes on at home now. Last month S was travelling for a couple of days, and this child, forever obsessed with bills of all sorts, pulled out some grocery store bills from my wallet and said she wanted to give them to Papa to ‘surprise him’ when he returned. I said okay (and added ‘you strange child’, in my head) and made a mental note to tell S to act surprised.

A week later, another teacher at her school told me of this conversation she had with her.

A: My Papa is travelling, so I’m going to surprise him when he comes back.

Teacher: How are you going to surprise him?

A: With Mama’s BILLS!

Like I said, total entertainment, never a dull day.

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The little things 

July 5, 2017

  

Nearly two weeks back, we just moved to a new apartment. Long day, and the movers left only at about 8.30pm. We were tired and headed out for dinner. Itchy throats, hence we ordered some tea with dinner. Now, you know how when you order a masala tea and many of these places bring your hot water and a tea bag and a milk in a cute little jug on the side? I offered that milk to A. I don’t know what it was, but that just got her RIDICULOUSLY excited. Maybe she reeeeally wanted some milk or maybe she didn’t expect any or maybe she was just tired, but she.just.began.to.jump up and down in excitement and kept yelling YAY MILK!! And man, that scene JUST lifted up my spirits like nothing else. 

This amazing ability to find infinite delight in the little things is probably the absolute best thing about children. As adults we’re jaded, seen-it-all, done-it-all, but being around small children who haven’t yet lost that ability to go batshit crazy-happy over the tiniest things is just ❤️❤️❤️ I wish I could bottle up that moment forever to revisit it and to remind myself to find that sort of joy in the smallest of things. Especially when I’m whining and complaining about something. For now, this sketch and post is the closest I can do 🙂

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Yesterday

May 13, 2017

(Yes, can we just do away with titles for blog posts altogether, please?)

Yesterday was one of those mornings where I started the day with low energy, had cramps and was so tired and wanted to nap by 10. The thought of making lunch made me want to curl up in bed.

Mercifully, around 11, A and I got into bed with the idea of an early nap for both of us. We read for a bit and then began to play the fool.  She climbed onto me as I lay on the bed and generally began to monkey around. We began to roughhouse and mercifully she didn’t jump on my tummy, and as always, it was so much fun. After about 30-45 minutes of this, accompanied by the world’s sweetest sound – that of A’s laughter, of course – both of us felt remarkably refreshed, we got out of bed and I was ready to make lunch.

I prepped for a pumpkin soup and also remembered there was some plain frozen millet khichdi (just pressure cooker millets + dal mixture that I made too much of once and frozen) I had to use up soon. I took that out and reheated it and took out some spinach I’d blanched the previous night and chopped it up.

Now, A began to get quite hungry and sleepy as it approached 1pm. Also, she’d been awake since before 6am, so I decided to make soup later and served the khichdi with some curd. And the plain, blanched (almost burnt) spinach. This child LOVES spinach, for some reason. So she devoured whatever was in her bowl, asked for more spinach (by now I had even given up the idea of adding garlic or some seasoning) and then, kept saying, ‘Thank you for food, Mummy’. And as usual, wanted to know how I had made it and what went into it.

So. Much. Heartmelt. And gratitude.

The way the morning just turned itself around was quite amazing. And I’m so, so, grateful for this sweet, understanding, accommodating and non-fussy child of mine ❤

 

(This post is mostly to remind myself of how sweet this child can be, on days when she’s driving me up the wall :D)

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Z: Zero Waste Lifestyle

May 1, 2017

This ( link) is a term I came across sometime last year, and I’m quite amazed by the idea of it. The very fact that there are people who actually manage to do this on an everyday basis is quite astounding to me.

Think about it, there’s so much trash that gets generated with each action we take. We wake up in the morning and brush our teeth. There’s waste in terms of the toothpaste tube we toss out after it’s empty, the carton it comes in, and then the toothbrush itself that we toss out when it’s past it’s time. Of course, there’s a good chance of all this getting recycled, but in a country like India, especially in cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad where Waste management is a disaster, I have no such hopes.

And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Takeaway food in disposable containers, mineral water bottles, groceries, packaged food, milk packets/cartons, tissues and sanitary pads and tampons – there so many things that we just use and throw with barely a thought of what happens to it after we discard. My pet peeve is the not-so-new thing at Indian weddings – small mineral water bottles at EVERY meal for about 200-300 people, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. We’re so Eco-friendly with the plantain leaves that we eat those meals on, but the bottles?! So much is sacrificed in the name of convenience.

I’m quite unlikely to implement the totally zero-waste lifestyle, mainly because I don’t see myself making my own soap or toothpaste any time soon, but I do hope I can make baby steps towards a reduced-waste lifestyle.

I do carry a bag every time I go grocery shopping, and refuse to put vegetables in those individual bags for weighing, as far as possible, but I’ll be conscious of the choices I make in the store to further this. When I do take those small plastic bags, I’ll make sure I reuse them till they fall apart.

I’ve mostly cloth-diapered A in her infancy, and I’m glad I was able to do that. But I’m still quite on the fence about menstrual cups, but I think will give it a shot this year. Worst case I’ll hate it and switch back. If not, imagine the amount of trash I’m saving each month with just that one change!

And I’ve discovered that someone sells bamboo toothbrushes in India, how utterly cool is that!

And finally, clothes. I’ve pretty much stopped buying stuff that’s cheaply made, or ‘Fast fashion’ brands (I avoid non-made in India stuff as far as I can, no Mango, Zara etc) but I’m yet to achieve success in having a really small wardrobe. I did some major culling once last year, but again it’s looking quite full. With a move of apartments around the corner, this is perhaps a good time to do this again and hopefully, sustain it.

A friend of mine told me she did  once went on a no-shopping experiment for a year. Unless it’s essentials. I think I can do this, at least with clothes. I think I’m set for a year already, but perhaps I’ll evaluate the wardrobe once more before I make that grand decision. Yes, it’s a plan 🙂

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X and Y

April 29, 2017

So I skipped X because life intervened and we had to make an unplanned trip to Bangalore and it was about 10.45pm and we were on the bus when I remembered that I hadn’t posted for X yet. And so I went ‘Oh well’ and went to sleep. I had a couple of ideas swimming in my head and didn’t get around to fleshing them out enough for a post. Here’s the illustration for X that I did. X for Xiao Long Bao, those lovely little dumplings filled with soup. I happened to get to know of and taste these at a SE Asian restaurant in Bangalore last year. All my years in Singapore, I had no clue that such a thing exists. And what marvellous little things these are 🙂

 

Y is for Yellow Bell Pepper. 

My most favourite vegetable, possibly. Now, my most favourite way to eat it is roasted on a flame until it’s blackened and then cooled and peeled. I love eating it as it is, or in a sandwich. And here’s my Yellow bell pepper illustration. 

  
Man, I can’t believe we’re at Z next! Yaaaaaay.