Love.

Love.

It’s such a heavy word. It is good and it is bad. It holds so much power over who we are, how we live and everything we become.

Love.

Sometimes I think it’s a cliché in a word. Overrated just a tad bit. Adds an unnecessary twist to basic everyday things.

Love.

Versions of it can be found in every corner. You can feel it, you can share it, you can buy it. It is a new perspective for every person – rarely the same in two. This one’s mine.

Love.

I found it in a broken home. In food we ate, movies we watched, late night beach drives with her friends and family. In how the world felt when I would lie on her lap, her hands on my hair. She felt it too. She always knew and she always will. Simple but consistent. Through arguments and rebellious teens. Through crazy good and insanely bad. We knew.

In the way he stocked up my favourite food when I visited Singapore. Washed the curtains, changed the bedspreads, carefully keeping my dust allergies at bay. The way he woke me up at 9am with a gentle knock and soothing words. I never startled, never panicked out of slumber. The way he taught me how to really drive two hours before my license test. His pride knowing I’m doing everything we planned for my future. His smile when I said I won’t change my last name. A daddy’s daughter can remain one with a partner, with a husband, with a life for myself. He doesn’t feel it from me. He doesn’t know by instinct the way he guides me, in my head, every step of the way. He can’t process the impact he has. His affection, guidance and protection have every minute of my life.

How she knows me better than I know myself. Her hatred to physical affection but eye-rolled hugs. Three years younger and a decade wiser. Her smart quips that she thinks tease but make me happy. It means things are okay. It means she’s not mad for the third thing I did or said wrong that day. It is the lunch she packed when I woke up late for work. The way she listened when I complained about the same thing yet again. The small words of appreciation that make me feel recognized. Her presence around me, giving me a piece of home.

Love.

It’s abundant for her. It’s complicated for him. It’s streamlined for her. It’s them for me.

Love.

I found it in a sister unrelated by blood. Harsh words when the dating was too much. Hugs when the world was tough. She was my guardian angel, my best friend and my family in one person. An inspiration in many moments. Her calm, her sanity and her patience. Nothing quite like it. I felt it in the times she trusted me with her life. I knew it when I could cry about mine to her. I don’t cry to friends. But she was always more.

Love.

Not very traditional. A myth not to be prioritized. Life requires more things than just that. Responsibility, towards duty, towards family, towards society. A career, a plan. More things mattered in the long run. A sustainable future is so much bigger.

Love.

It had a type. A mould that you needed to fit into. A person that you absolutely must be. Kind, calm, patient. Skinny, fair, attractive. Not too much make up but made up. Kitchen skills don’t hurt. A shyness around the bedroom and topics of sex. Don’t know what you want but don’t be an idiot. A job is great but family first. Duty to the future and wellbeing of the partner and the babies yet to be conceived.

Love.

Synonymous with change. Obsessed with being found. In a person. Preferably of the opposite sex. Ideally with a job. Perhaps a bit of faith and religion. We can include a few things from my list too – Taller than me, smart, well-spoken, career-obsessed, an equal partner, well-travelled, independent of me, a partner I share a life with, no decision-making authority about my life. An unreal list for an unsuitable person. It’s not about what I wanted. Not about what he wanted. It was a parent’s list. Mine. His. Maybe theirs?

Love.

Adapting, adjusting, understanding. Silent, submissive, sweet. Smiles at everyone, never has an opinion, never argues. Does not dare raise her voice, takes care of their son and creates a home that’s acceptable. To them. To theirs. To everyone else.

Beliefs that adapt to theirs, lifestyle that modifies to their plans and parents that become them.
Child over career. Bounce back culture. Partner Husband over everything else. The perfect wife for their perfect son.

A list from the parents. That’s all that matters.

Love.

It hit me like a train without a break. For the first time, I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could be fat, I could be rebellious, I could be anxious. It didn’t matter. The things about me I was criticized for became things he admired. My smarts, my passions, my job.

He supports, encourages, motivates. The person of my list and then some. A perfect partner for a ‘perfect’ me.

Love.

He gets me. My quirks and my rambles. Every word I speak, every emotion I feel. He gets me. Who I am, where I come from and everywhere I want to be.

I am a better me and I can’t remember how I got here. But this is how it should be. Empowering, enabling and enticing. Pulling you through life, only stopping when you need to. Letting you catch your breath while taking it away.

Love.

Happy, glowing and content. Accepted, appreciated and adored. Away from the lies they told about problems he doesn’t see.

A magical place. A life of the past irrelevant amidst the laughter and all-knowing glances.
A moment, maybe moving, maybe here forever. But you feel it. In cups of coffee and lingering goodbyes. Excited travel and lazy evenings. You will be everything you were meant to be. But better.

Love.

The way they curl up right next to me, eyes staring, mind relaxed. I never feel alone. They think we rescued them, but really they rescued me.

Love.

The way I feel when I write. In the strokes of paint across a canvas. For me, for my emotions, for my satisfaction. The moments between work and home. The perfect book that makes me cry. The perfect song to the tune of my world. In silence and loudness. Excitement and disappointment. The overplanning, long lists and never ending piles of colours.

Love.

In the middle of a work day when inspiration strikes. I type as I listen to songs from the 90s. The dogs right next to me. My mother texting me. I see him through the corner of my eyes.

Love.

Counting Down… Endlessly.

“I’m not alone.”

I say that because it’s what’s kept me sane for so long. As we went through lockdown and phases of reopening, my heart felt okay because I wasn’t alone. If I needed help, if I needed a hug, if I needed nothing but another human body to sit within my line of sight – I had someone.

I told myself every day that it made all the difference. For months, it really did. But as we continue to struggle with a world we didn’t think we’d ever encounter, it’s not working. My reasons, my excuses, my ability to convince myself – they don’t make sense anymore.

To no reflection of the person sitting with me, holding my hand and telling me it’ll be okay, I find myself feeling not okay.

People have different relationships that they’ve been stranded away from. I’m now counting 6 months since I last saw my parents. 6 months since I was home with them. 6 months since I last cuddled my aging dog. It’s the longest I’ve ever been separated from any of them but that’s not the problem.

The 6 months I’ve stayed apart has already passed. I’ve lived through it. Can’t change anything about it. It’s the future.

April 2020 – I told myself I’ll be with them by October. Flights will resume. The world will be healing.

June 2020 – I told myself I’ll be with them by December. It’s slower but everything will be fine.

We’re at the end of July – February 2021 seems almost unrealistic. Like something I can’t plan for because I don’t know if the world will heal – by then, if ever at all. I’ve watched my friends who live alone struggle with the depression that came from the negative news cycles. I encouraged them to remain positive. To not absorb it. I told them when restaurants opened, I’ll be there for a cup of coffee, maybe some cake?

But somehow, it was the opening of things that really made all the difference. When life showed me a glimpse of normal, I felt trapped – it was like dangling a dream in front of me that I couldn’t grasp. I could go out, I could meet people, I could laugh and giggle and have the time of my life – just not with my family.

I can’t get on an impulsive flight over a weekend because I missed my dog too much. I can’t go running to my Mom when my brain was overworked. I can’t be sitting across my Dad in conversation about my understanding of the world.

Before the pandemic, I got through long weeks by counting down days until my next flight home. I can’t do that anymore. For every week that passes, months add on. And that flight… it seems farther and farther away.

Maybe, at almost 28, it sounds ridiculous. Maybe, almost married, it sounds immature. Maybe, my parents are right, how could I be such a baby and cry?

But of all the things that COVID has thrown my way, healing a part of the world and not the rest has been the toughest to deal with.

I don’t know if we’ll ever go back to normal. I don’t know when I’ll get to hold my family – furry and human – close to me again. But I know I’m not the only one stuck like I am.

Do your part in keeping yourself safe and reducing the spread. When you help yourself, you help us all.

To Find Meaning

I’ve been reading this book called Ikigai by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia. If you haven’t read it and belong to the generation that does not understand stress-free life, I would strongly suggest giving it a go. It has made me admit to myself something people have said to me before (while I constantly denied it and called them insane).

I am a workaholic (that wasn’t the admission but we’ll get to that in a minute). I love working. I can complain about my job, my pay and even toxic environments but when you ask me to stop working, I’ll only come up with reasons why I can’t. I can’t stop. I was in a meeting until 7pm today. I was dragging my feet to the train but my ego was flying. I was so busy, I had to be in a meeting until 7pm. Like that makes me feel really good.

And there’s nothing wrong with it. We all like different things and I like to be busy working. It makes me feel important and productive and like I’m doing something with my life.

Now let’s get to the thing people complain about that I don’t like admitting – my work defines everything I do outside of it. I was on the train at 7.30pm and told myself, “Don’t check your emails. Shut it off and focus on the music and the words on your Kindle.” You know what I felt? Not anxious, not peaceful and definitely, not focused. I felt guilty.

I feel guilty when I don’t respond to emails beyond work hours. I feel guilty when I turn off at the end of the day. I feel guilty when I take a day off because the doctors thought I might have cancer. I feel guilty when I am not working for not working because my work defines every other aspect of my life.

Before I read Ikigai, I had read Man’s Search for Meaning – thank you Abhishek, if you ever read this. Viktor Franckl talks about logotherapy which is mentioned a lot in Ikigai. The core concept of both these books are the same. (Can I please mention I didn’t go looking for these books? It came to me through suggestions and surprisingly they had the same messaging.) That when you have a why to live, you’ll do so no matter how. So I spent time thinking about my why.

I often tell people I want to be really rich. That’s the purpose to my existence. Money. I want the kind of money that people I grew up with can’t even imagine. To be so rich and yet so humble. To buy the things I see and I see a lot. To own my own place – massive with floor to ceiling windows and a view you would kill for. I don’t want to inherit it. I don’t want to be married into it. I want to earn it. My work will bring that money that will be mine.

Except, I’m beginning to wonder if that isn’t really true.

I work at an amazing place in Singapore. It’s great. I get to go to these incredible events with speeches by amazing human beings. One such event in October addressed purpose and stress. She asked us to look at the person next to us and talk about our purpose. My answer was easy. “Money.”

Then the person next to me mentioned, “I want to do good through my job.” I stopped and realised that it’s what I really wanted but didn’t like admitting because it doesn’t offend my parents as easily. I wanted to do good for the beings on four legs that can’t speak for themselves. I couldn’t admit it to myself, I wasn’t going to tell her that. So I said, “Cool.” But I kept thinking. I always told people I wanted to start a rehabilitation zoo. For abused animals. To recreate a forest in a closed environment so they were home without being subjected to hunters or abusers.

That carried into Viktor Franckl’s explanation of logotherapy. I continued to think about the things that really make me wake up to that insane alarm at 6am. And now as I read Ikigai and they repeatedly talk about the thing that keeps you going, the meaning, the reason and the purpose behind my need to keep existing in this seriously not-so-great planet, I am realising the truth and I don’t know if it’s the wine typing or really me but…

Remember how I mentioned that I got very used to answering “Money” because it offended my parents? Imagine my surprise when I realised the purpose to my existence was really them.

It didn’t matter how much money. It mattered what I could buy with it for them. It didn’t matter how big an apartment. It mattered how successful it made me appear and how much prouder it made them by default because…

I wasn’t an easy kid. I was smart that wasted the smarts and emotional that made stupid decisions based on those emotions. And my life, this incredibly weird thing I didn’t ask for that they gave to me, I spend working like a mad person because it gets me closer to making them look like they birthed a fricking genius – a result of which makes them stand taller than the others in any room – something they deserve.

Yeah, I wasn’t expecting this post to get so real as well but I just wanted to put this out there.

Sometimes, it’s good to find the meaning behind the things you do. It may make them that much more worthwhile.

So, yeah, I’ll say it. I’m a workaholic. I chase after success and I will slave my soul away until I reach it. My purpose is money. But there’s a meaning behind it.

Find yours.

Laugh Like Her

screen-shot-2019-02-01-at-11.00.57-pm-e1549033311631.png

I’m a 26-year-old living in Singapore working a job that takes me to different countries. I buy clothes every weekend and complain about how many nights of wine and cheese my colleagues throw in lieu of a party.

I post pictures of me with large groups, great food and brilliant surroundings. I spent an evening in Paris at an apartment one street away from the Eiffel Tower with women who are so strong and brave, it’s unrealistic. You saw the champagne, you saw the image, you never saw the truth.

Welcome to the facade of us happy working women.

“I met the CEO of a fancy company. He introduced himself to me.” – I saw the CEO of a fancy company. I stood around awkwardly while he spoke to my boss because I was too embarrassed to introduce myself and so I just stared for a half-hour and he ended up being really nice and introduced himself to me.

“I went to Paris. My office sent me.” – I went to a small town that’s a one hour drive away from Paris where I didn’t realize things shut down on Sundays and has very limited vegetarian options all 7 days of the week. I lost a lot of weight and developed severe ulcers when I came back.

“Oh my God! I feel so bad. Are you okay?” – I don’t know how to care. Sometimes, I think it’s a flaw. Sometimes, I think it’s normal and we’re all like that.

Because, come on…

When someone falls down, do you actually care? Do you rush out of reflex because society has taught you to ask how they are, let them know you can help and pretend you give a fuck about anyone but yourself or is it because your heart actually hurts when you see someone fall?

I don’t. Not unless I really truly care. Which is so fucking rare. Because I’m in constant competition with everyone I know since I was in first grade. “I have to be better. I have to score higher. I have to look hotter.” You know what? Fuck that shit. Here’s the truth.

I have high-functioning depression. I see a therapist once a month. I fight with my friends every other day. I’m jealous of girls and their laughter even though I know it’s all fake, just like mine.

I spend endless hours staring at blank pages. I travel one hour in two trains to reach eight hours of work before I travel one hour in two trains to come back home and cook. I haven’t slept for 8 whole hours in a very long time. I don’t think I’m drinking enough water anymore. I don’t know if I’m eating the right things. I think I’m weak. I’m scared to check. My eyes are tired. My body is sore. My heart has been breaking in pieces for months. I’ve been staring at a draft of a second book that I can’t bring myself to edit.

I want to get married. I can’t admit it. Because it’s weak. Women don’t need men in their lives. Women are strong. Women can survive alone. But holy fuck, how desperately I want to live under one roof and play house.  Sometimes, I think it’s the companionship. Sometimes, it’s because, fuck you strong and independent, I want to be a wife.

I’ve been studying GMAT. For months. I suck at it. I want so badly to get good at it. So I pick up the book and my phone rings and I try to spend time with human beings in actual conversation but my emails go off and I want to be a good employee who responds to my boss past midnight and I remember my book that I would really really like to edit but then it’s past 1am and I have to be up at 6am and I want so desperately to sleep.

So I do none of it. I turn music on and slowly cry.

Sometimes I stare at my Instagram. Sometimes I stare at hers. I don’t know whose smile is fake. Whose laughter is painful. I don’t know whose life is a lie.

But we all want to say, “Mine.” Because I cried when I went home but I bet she laughed and loved.

I sobbed alone into my pillow but I bet he shares hers.

I broke down every night but I bet she partied forever.

Her life. Her travel. Her hair. Her nails. Her boyfriend fiancé. Because didn’t you see that ring? Didn’t you see his proposal? I did. They’re meant to be together. Maybe we’re not. They never fight. Oh, you should hear us growl.

So here we go. I’ll try this again.

I’m a 26-year-old living 3000 miles away from the people I love on a routine that leaves no time for me. I work a job that takes me to countries I can’t explore because I’m always broke. I buy clothes I can’t afford, credit card bills ceiling to floor and that free wine? It’s my one true lifeline.

I love my job. It’s the only thing that keeps me going.

But that’s the only thing you’ll ever hear me complain about.

Because, that’s the new normal, right? We’re supposed to have perfect lives and shitty jobs but it pays for the perfect life and so it’ll be yet another thing I continue to lie about?

I have a messy life.

I have shitty interpersonal relationship skills.

I have one best friend.

I’m worried sick about my aging dogs that live with my aging parents.

I’m worried sick about my aging parents.

I want to be rich through my capabilities as a creative thinker in the world of writing and advertising and marketing.

I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing.

I’m anxious 90% of my existence and you know what I do when I am?

I log on to Instagram. To look at lives I am not living. To look at lies we’re both saying.

I follow a lot of happy looking women on Instagram. Because my inspiration is not their clothes or their face or their bodies. It’s that laughter.

And so I go…

In a crowded train, early Monday morning. Staring at my phone. I find myself wonder…

What an incredible life it will be… if only I could laugh like her.

And I post yet another fake picture.

Welcome to my lie.

Mika

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 1.35.21 PM.png

“You haven’t blogged in a while. Don’t you want to write something?” So I opened a new document and stared at it. The only movement in the room was the blinking cursor. It’s been a while since I wrote anything. Not because I haven’t had ideas. But because nothing feels right. The first blog I write after April 16th had to be about her. It couldn’t be about anything else. But how do I write about her?

How do I put words to paper without crashing – body, mind, heart and soul? How do I ever communicate with words what it’s like to lose someone unexpectedly? To lose someone for the first time? To lose her?

Do you know how fragile our lives are? Her life was ten times worse. But nobody told me. I was so focused on him. “He’s older. He’s fat. He’s never been extremely healthy. I have to be prepared to lose him someday. It made so much sense. She was younger. She was active. She had always been a lot healthier. How could I have known? How could I have been prepared? It was a skin infection. He’s had thousands of them. He’s been okay. She should as well, right? No one told me she wouldn’t be. Because that was just the beginning of one week of pain. Physically, for her. Emotionally, for me. 

I still remember the 15th like it was yesterday. I went home from the vet but I just couldn’t stay away. How could I sit there and eat? And sleep? And watch TV when my little one was struggling to live? So I went back. I held her. I kissed her over and over again. I told her I understand she has to do what she has to do. But then the 16th morning happened.

I kept calling the vet, “Is she okay?” They responded that she’s sleeping. At about 10am, I felt this pang. I went crying to my Dad, “Let’s not put her to sleep. She’ll live. She’ll come back.” It was this rush of a feeling. I sobbed to my Mom, “She’s going to be back here. She’s ours. She can’t go away from us.” My mom tried to calm me down. She made me sit down. The phone rang. “Her temperature shot up. We tried. But she couldn’t make it.” I just went very silent. I told them in my calmest voice, “I’ll have Mom call you back in 5 minutes.” I put the phone down on the bed and screamed.

Have you ever lost someone? For the first time? That was my first time. And since the moment we knew that she probably wouldn’t make it, I knew I’d be the one to get that call. I knew it would be me who told my family. But I didn’t really tell them. I couldn’t. How could you say words that are synonymous with, “The girl we loved is now gone”?

We went and said our goodbyes. The vet clinic vibrated with my mother’s cries. When you live in a dysfunctional family where saying, “I love you,” is the most awkward thing they can imagine, a furry baby’s love means the world. That little girl was my mother’s world. 

It’s taken me three months to acknowledge the fact that she’s gone. Three months to write this post without tearing my skin out because that would be less painful. But my heart is still broken. I wonder at times if she can still hear me. If she came still see me. If she knows that when I lie down at night, I wonder if she’s sleeping just like I’m about to. I wonder if I should go find her and check on her one last time. This world will never be the same. She came to us in a cardboard box, wrapped in old newspapers. I looked at her and said, “She’s a Mika. This is our Mika.” And that’s who she’ll always be. Our Mika.

I walked out of that clinic completely devastated. Never wanting to step back there again. I held my mother’s hand and told her, “She’ll give you a sign. She may be gone but she’ll always be around. You’ll know it when you feel it. I promise.” I had my doubts about that promise but I had hope and faith in her love for my mother. We went home and I headed out because there was a lot of difference between being home and knowing she’s at the vet compared to being home and knowing she’ll never walk back into that house again.

I struggled to sip tea and prepare for an interview for the job I now hold because all I really wanted to do was sob my heart out. My mom had gone to visit her friend. She called. I picked up with fear because I knew she was fragile. Her first words were, “Mika has come back!” 

You could imagine my confusion for I held her breathless body four hours earlier. Mom was at her friend’s house, crying. A friend’s house that we’ve visited a million times since I was, maybe, 12 years old. I’m 25 now. You can imagine. We’ve always parked at the same place. She always comes to our car. We always sit in the car and talk. But of all days, on April 16th 2018, the day we lost our baby girl, a bunch of school boys ran up to my mother and handed her a rescued baby boy. 

I’ll give you a little background. The doctors sat us down when Mika was sick and told us to never adopt pugs again. Because their many health complications are painful for the pet and the parent. Mika had Pug Encephalitis. A disease that mostly affects pugs under the age of 3 and is almost always fatal. We told him how we’d talked about it. How our third baby was going to be an Indian Mongrel. And this time, we’d get a boy. So we’d have two boys and a girl. The perfect family.

There, in mom’s hands, on the day we lost Mika, was an Indian mongrel furry boy. And what’s more astonishing? He jumped into her arms and nestled into her shoulders like Mika used to. It was a sign. It was meant to be. We named him Subramani, a.k.a., Subbu.

WhatsApp Image 2018-07-09 at 1.43.03 PM

There have been a lot of difficulties in our process to keeping him. From a father who wasn’t ready for another furry member to the reality of adopting another pet with an existing 5-year-old boy who was extremely emotionally attached to Mika, we had the odds lined up against us. So we tried to give him up for adoption. But every time he went away, something brought him back to us. He is ours. It was meant to be.

He’s not Mika. They’re extremely similar. But he’s not her. She can’t be replaced. She was the sassiest dog I’ve ever known. She could be a real bitch sometimes, too. But she was who she was… Small body, loud personality and a giant heart. Our lives will go on. I’ll have more furry babies in my life. But I’ll never forget the tiny puppy that wouldn’t stop licking me for as long as I live. No-one can ever replace her. Nobody will ever be my Mika. 

whatsapp-image-2018-07-09-at-1-42-12-pm.jpeg