Archive for April, 2015

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Z: Zihuatanejo

April 30, 2015

If you’re going ‘Zih-WHAT?’, go watch The Shawshank Redemption. 

If you’re going ‘Zih-what-uh-ne-yo!!!’, you my friend, are either a very smart person who knows this is a beach town in Mexico, or you love the movie too. 

At the risk of giving away the plot of the classic 1994 movie that’s rated 9.4 on IMDB (I thought it would be an 8.2 or so!), Andy Dufresne is a convict, wrongfully sentenced to life for the murder of his wife. Zihuatanejo is a ‘warm place that has no memory’, where Andy Dufresne wishes to go to when he gets out of jail, and ‘finish out his life’. 

This post is not about the movie. It’s about the Zihuatanejo that most of us have built up in our heads. Most of us have a ‘want to do this‘ when we retire. Or when we quit our jobs. Or turn forty. 

I recently read a short story called ‘Retirement’ in by Gerard Durrell. It talks about the Captain of a ship who has been sailing since he was 16, on his last voyage before his retirement. The Captain talks with excitement about a small village where he has a house on the edge of a bay, where he can lie in bed and watch the gulls from his window and hear the sound of the sea. He plans to practise his calligraphy and paint and play the flute and make up to his patient wife for her years of loneliness. As it turns out, he suddenly drops dead on that very voyage. One of the closing lines in that story has stayed with me. 

‘I decided that retirement was something you should take a little bit of every day, like a tonic, for you never knew what awaited you around the corner.’  

 

Indeed. 

Andy Dufresne made it to his Zihuatanejo. But who knows whether we’ll make it to the Zihuatanejos we’ve built in our heads? So many of us are living our lives as if we’re sentenced to it. We barely tolerate the jobs we’re in, the relationships we have, and are constantly unhappy about something. When I retire I’ll do this. When I finally quit my job and take a break, I’ll learn music. I want to make all my money by the time I’m forty and then retire. 

Sure, but what if your heart gave up first cos it was over-worked and stressed and couldn’t wait until retirement?

Instead, let’s really treat it like a tonic, and have a little bit of retirement every day. Or, like R puts it so well in this post, try and lead a ‘life that you don’t want to constantly escape’. 

Like Andy says, get busy living, or get busy dying. 

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Y: Yoga

April 29, 2015

This is a no-brainer for me, I didn’t have to think for more than a couple of seconds about what I would blog about for Y!

I walked into my first yoga class when I was in Singapore. Yes, I spent 24 years growing up in India, and yet, I hadn’t been to a class in India. The yoga class was in one of those big gym + multiple group exercise classes sort of set up. I had been going solely for Body combat classes when my knees began to trouble me a bit more than usual, and so I decided to give a yoga class a try. I could have never imagined at that point how much I would come to love it. 

Since returning to India, I’ve been practising yoga on and off, fairly regularly through my pregnancy, and have resumed practice a couple of months ago again by joining classes. It helps immensely that I’m fairly flexible, so some asanas are easy for me. What I need to build is my core strength. While I can’t yet do a headstand, or the crane pose, I can do the chakrasana and that is something I’ll always be proud of. 

Power yoga or vinyasa makes me sweat it out on the mat like I’m doing some crazy cardio circuit training. Hatha yoga makes me realise what I’m capable of, what my limitations are and what asanas I need work some more on. In both forms, I feel strong. I have a long way to go in ensuring I have a mind free of thoughts during my practise. But unfailingly, at the end of each rigorous session, as I emerge from Shavasana, there is a stillness and peace that I feel. One of the yoga instructors finishes the class by encouraging us to retain that calmness throughout the day. 

Someday I hope I will train to become a teacher and teach yoga. And I hope when I’m 60 I can still do a mean chakrasana. 

For now though, here’s a look at some of the asanas that Lil A has been demonstrating to us –

  

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X: X Chromosome

April 28, 2015

No, this isn’t going to be a biology lesson. But given how much I had to rack my brains for a bloggable word starting with W, I naturally looked to my support group for ideas, and when Sayesha suggested X chromosome, I decided to go with it. This post will be about that blessed second X chromosome that makes us women, women. It could well be G for Girls, but hey, G is an easier letter to work with!

I am the youngest of three sisters. And my two sisters have three daughters in all. So before lil A came along, the family composition (did I just say that?) was already skewed heavily in favour of women. I mean, 7:1. And when I was expecting A, I was convinced I’d have a boy simply because I so badly wanted to have a girl. Why did I badly want a girl?  I have absolutely no logical explanation for it. Except maybe, COS BABY GIRLS ARE SO CUTE. (Did you come here looking for wisdom? Shoo! Also, HAHA) Besides, I’ve always been around girls, so hey that’s another perfectly logical reason. 

Despite being really convinced I’d have a boy, I gleefully picked out a name for a girl a little ahead of my due date and S liked it too. As for a name for a boy, we could not find one that we mutually loved. So let’s just say, if we’d had a boy, we would have been doing some research after he’d arrived. See, girls are already so easy 😉

After a 3-day wait in the hospital, waiting, trying to go into labour, I had to go in for a C-section. When the doctor took her out, I was dying of curiosity to find out whether it was a girl or a boy. But they took her away to weigh her and check her vitals and as they took her away, I craned my neck to see if it was a boy or a girl. This little bum had conveniently bent her legs at her knees, so I couldn’t see! 

So I waited for them bring her to me. I looked at that little pink-grey human, gloriously naked, and asked the doctor if it was a girl or a boy. The doctor said, ‘Oh didn’t you hear, it’s a girl.’ I reached out and caressed her little head with my hand and called out to her, the name we had in mind.

And then began to cry :’)

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W: Wish

April 27, 2015

So, Sayesha, Maya and I decided to something fun for W. We decided to pick the same word, Wish and make it a post on what we wish for another’s kiddo. This post will be about what I wish for Sayesha’s little munchkin, Xena. 

Dear Xena,

I don’t know how old you will be when you get around to reading this post. Blogging may well be dead then, going by the popularity of entire websites becoming popular based on ‘listicles’ and content generated solely using gifs (eyeroll), but I hope reading will still be in

When your Mom first told me she was pregnant, I cried. I cried because I was deliriously happy and incredibly sad at the same time. Sad, since I realised I wouldn’t be around in the same country to welcome you into this world. Trust me, growing up isn’t all that fun it might seem like when you’re , say, 12. At times you’ve got to make tough choices, and hope that they’re the right choices. 

Anyhow, when I did finally meet you, you were about 4 months old. A wee little bundled up thing, looking just like your Dad, and so, so precious. Our little fighter. Instant heartmelt. I recall sitting in your sunny living room, having you on my lap, and just watching, mesmerized. I also might have gone a little berserk with the camera, sorry about that. You can have your revenge when we meet next. 

Now, I have a little one of my own, lil A. A few years back, your Mom lamented that our kids and our sisters’ kids will only be cousins. At that time it struck me that yes, that seems unfair. We wouldn’t want them to be anything but sisters. But you know what, it’s okay. Sometimes all you need is a common love for a few things. That’s all it takes for a beautiful bond to be born. I do hope that you and Lil A, who is nearly 9 months old now will grow up knowing each other, and hey, maybe even liking each other enough to be friends. (No pressure!)

And my wish for you, apart from all the world-peace types – to grow up in a less polluted world, one that is safer for women, one where everyone is a little more kind towards each other, and where you have the freedom to be just what you want to be, and love who you want to love – is a simple one. 

To take you to Food street in Bangalore with your Mom, and see you beat her in a pani puri eating competition. 

xoxo

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V: VCP – Video Cassette Player

April 25, 2015

(I must admit here that this has been the most difficult letter yet, I even looked up a dictionary to get ideas. But suddenly it occurred to me that V for video could be interesting, and then progressed to VCP! Yay!)

Back in the 90s when cable TV wasn’t something everyone had, computers hadn’t made their way into homes just yet, if you wanted to watch a movie, going to the cinema was an option. The other, of course, was a VCP – a video cassette player. Now our family wasn’t affluent enough to afford to own one. So, like many other families I knew, every once in a while we would rent a player and a couple of movies. It would be a much anticipated affair, planned with a group, usually neighbours or cousins. We would go to great lengths to pick the movie – which language, what movies and also, the number of movies chosen carefully to get the best value for money that we were spending on renting the player. 

I recall watching Bobby at an uncle’s place, and while I hardly remember most of the movie, what vividly stands out what this – my uncle loudly saying, ‘All you kids, close your eyes!!’ when Dimple Kapadia appears in a swimsuit 🙂

Then there were sessions with neighbours. I don’t recall the movies I watched, but I distinctly recall one movie which I decided not to watch. Sis1 and Sis2 went to our neighbour’s place to watch The Exorcist. I was either deemed too young or I refused to go – I don’t remember exactly. They came back and were discussing some scenes. I recall them talking about a scene where the girl is sitting on her bed and it begins to spin on its own accord. That was enough to make me reeeeally glad I hadn’t watched it. To this day I haven’t watched a single horror movie. No thank you. 

We’ve graduated from VCPs to computers to DVD players to iPads. And of course, multiplexes. But as is usually the case, the experience of watching movies with a small group, after choosing what to watch after much deliberation, was a lot of fun, and forms a special part of my childhood nostalgia. 

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U: Unintended

April 24, 2015

Smartphones. Some of us love them, some of us hate them, some of us barely tolerate them, some of us have become slaves to them. This post isn’t about the phones, but that nifty little inbuilt feature that most of them come with – auto-correct. Yes, there are pages and pages on the internet devoted to the unintended, often alarming, sometimes disgusting, but almost always hilarious text messages caused by a perfectly well-meaning, but over-enthusiastic auto-correct.

Closer home, on a whatsapp chat, Sis1 talking about her Coorg trip, sent this once:

Just a straight road to the monastery…had beef there today

We’re a family where, forget beef, any sort of non-veg is ‘Achhachho!!!!‘ So naturally, even before I could register what she’d said and my jaw could drop to the floor, she hastily clarified that she meant she had BEEN there. Not beef. Damn you, auto-correct.

Another time, I was checking work email on my phone. I replied to some email about our team getting started on something.

What I wanted to say: Great, I’m so glad we finally got this underway.

What auto-correct thought I meant: Great, I’m so glad we finally got this underwear.

Umm.

This is why it’s always, always imperative to re-read your emails before you hit send.

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T: Trains

April 23, 2015

As a child of the 80s in a middle-class family, the primary mode of travel to any place outside Bangalore was by train. Madras was a destination we frequented the most. And there were trips to Nasik, Bombay and Calcutta as well. These were the more fun ones as I recall, since it meant spending over a couple of days on a train. More than the hours spent gazing out of the window, the distinct memory that stands out of train rides for me is retiring to the upper berth (second class, three tier – always) and curling up with a book. Since these books were borrowed from the library, inevitably, it meant the book had to chosen with great care, since we’d be paying for each day. 

Train journeys also meant food, but of course. Amma would pack chapathis with pickle that would last us a couple of days. And I recall being allowed eat the odd bread omelette at stations (eggs, at that point were a big non-no at home) That aroma of the green chillies in warm omelettes sandwiched between large slices of white bread – the heat often rendering the bread moist – is something I associate with trains. And the tea. Most often weak, watery, insipid. Yet, eagerly awaited. 

There is a certain undeniable charm and romance associated with train travel. I love the languorous state it puts you into. There is a sense of time slowing down and expanding. I love to read a book, or gaze out of a window and surrender to the thoughts in my head and prefer not to be disturbed. Unless, you’re a hawker selling something hot, preferably fried and hopefully tasty. 

Today, trains, unfortunately are no longer my preferred mode of travel within India. The reason being a combination of low-cost airfares, super comfy buses that zip across straight flat highways in no time and my hatred for the toilets on Indian railways which somehow seemed more tolerable in my pre-adult days. Besides, if I must take a train, I can now afford the relatively cleaner AC class. Which means no gazing out the windows and tasting the warm air and the rain.

After returning to India, I was excited to take a day train for a trip. I enjoyed it, but I was partly disappointed as well, since it no longer matched the image of train travel of my childhood. Things looked different, but thankfully, that sense of time slowing down was still there. I’ve been on a couple more since then, and hopefully another tomorrow, and I’m happy to say I still get a little excited at the prospect.

And then there are journeys that I will undertake someday, I hope. For the longest time, during my Singapore days, I toyed with the idea of at least taking the train from Singapore to Bangkok. But I only managed to take the train to Kuala Lumpur. And there is the Indian Pacific train that traverses the breadth of Australia, that Bill Bryson writes about in his book, In a sunburned country. Closer home, I still haven’t done the Ooty toy-train trip. And I’d love to revisit Darjeeling and take the train there as well. 

For now though, I’ll go to bed, and hopefully dream of a window seat, a good book and constantly changing scenes outside. And a sense of time standing still.