Chennai: Never just a city

I’m that girl that crossed oceans to sustain myself. I live a few hours away but it’s been a while since I’ve been home.

I hear about a possible third wave. I read about carelessness. A city unmasked and unafraid. It scares me all the time – I have parents and in-laws that are old enough for me to be worried. Two dogs I haven’t cuddled my weekend away with in a really long time. A flight to Chennai is almost impossible. And that small chance of maybe? I can’t take it because it all sounds so scary from where I see.

But in the chaos of the news that feels like my worst nightmare, I miss a lot more than just loved ones.

I miss home.

I’ve been talking to my sister about it – What makes us so special? Us adults from Chennai. It’s this tie that we can’t break. In a foreign country, when everything seems different, “Chennai-ah?” is all the connection you need to be best friends.

I miss that home.

That feeling of stepping out of the flight and getting into my mom’s car. The ever-familiar road that leads you away from the airport, “Wow. So much has changed. Traffic alone doesn – epdi poraan paaru.”

You know you’re home when travel is a musical experience – radio or roadside dialogue, to each their own.

The incredible food. Gangotree pani puri, Saravana Bhavan ghee dosa, Ratna Cafe sambar idli, New Woodlands full meals. I’ve never visited without a list. I’ve never left unsatisfied. Street corner akka or Shree Mithai aunty, I miss the friendly banter with total strangers. The extra mile they always go to ensure you enjoy your meal. I often wonder how the aunty and uncle with the delicious channa samosa stall opposite SIET are doing. I wonder if they had enough saved for a rainy day – or year. The bajji akka outside Giri Traders in Mylapore. The chikoo seller outside Ratna Stores in Pondy Bazaar. So many more like them.

The helpers who walk to multiple houses. The tiny arguments our moms always have with them. “Paavam-di ava,” is how the day ends. Have they remained employed? Do you still pay them through the lockdown? There’s so much uncertainty from where I see things.

But one thing remains.

This feeling. If you’re from Chennai, you know what I mean. This particular emotion that makes you play cheesy Madras songs on a cozy Sunday evening. You’re not sad, no. You’re wishful. Longing to be back in those streets. Amongst the colours, the energy, the people.

Unmasked, maybe, but unafraid we are. The news terrifies me, I won’t lie. But I’m hopeful. I’ve seen the Chennai I can’t stop thinking of. The one that saw trouble and didn’t wait for help. The Chennai that wasn’t afraid of flooding water, rising waves or an Earth that shook. The Chennai that rose to the challenge, together. The Chennai that risked themselves to save their neighbours. The Chennai that is proud, brave and resilient.

The Chennai my husband is tired of hearing stories about.

A Chennai we won’t get to be in until – for a change – we distance ourselves and stay indoors.

A Chennai I miss, every day of my life.

I’m that girl that crossed oceans to sustain myself. Years may pass, lives may change and roots may form, but Chennai will always be home.

And the music, the movies and the million keepsakes I can’t throw away will keep me wrapped in warm memories, until I return…

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.

(6/6) The Parents

aditya-romansa-117344 (1).jpg

It’s a bright and sunny day. A car comes to a screeching halt outside their apartment. They look out to see what the fuss is about. They watch me get out. Head to toe in brands I once only dreamed of owning. But now I have the money. I am the Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi after all. I can afford the little things that bring me joy. Their anger fades knowing I’m okay. My father is still a little upset but he’ll come around. That’s how parents are, aren’t they?! They’re happy I got what I wanted because they know if I’d waited for them to give it to me, the timing wouldn’t have worked out the way it did. It was right to run away from them when I did…

I can’t tell you the number of times I laid on that bed I shared with my mom and my sister, dreaming about this over and over again. You see, I lack what my mother has in abundance – Patience – and what my father always tells me to keep within – Hope. So my solution was a world where I ran away. I’m old enough. I can do this. They’ll know it was the right thing to do. We children can be really stupid sometimes, you know?

My parents had an arranged marriage. They did what they were expected to do as human beings that live in my society. They created a home. Dad earned. Mom cooked. They had two daughters. Their life was pretty much every other life there ever was. Except, my dad didn’t work 9 to 5. He owned his dream company. “I was fascinated that I could talk to a machine and it would respond.” So he made it respond in different manners to keep users like you and me safe from the evils on the internet. Mom created a home for us to live in. She got us ready for school. Made us our favourite lunch on Sunday. Ensured we stayed away from junk food (I didn’t).

A lot happened in their lives before they got married and a lot happened after. Their personal problems turned my family dysfunctional and I grew up with an inability to trust and anxiety that hurt. I blamed them, of course. When I rebelled, when I made bad choices, when my life took a turn for the worst – I waited with the words, “This is all your fault.”

We don’t really yell at our Dad in this house like we yell at our Mom. There’s the fear of hurting him. So it was my relationship with my mother that became too complicated as I grew up. I wasn’t surprised.

I’ve always been the closest to him. Daddy’s little girl. He fed into my fantasies of expensive things like an American education, branded things, big houses. They owed me that much. They ruined my life by making me so complicated. It’s the least they can do. I mentioned how kids are stupid, right?!

So I got the American education. For six months. Six months in a world where I had to do for myself what my mother does for us everyday of her life and I came running back into her arms. The distance I’d created at 15 vanished the moment I knew I was home and she would be with me. But I was still angry.

Parents often forget the effect a fight or an argument between themselves can have on their children. You think we don’t hear you screaming shit in the middle of the night? We do. And then you go pretend everything’s fine in the morning and maybe it is, but we can’t tell the difference. And so we begin wondering and fearing. Your ten day split may be a speed bump in your marriage. To us, it’s ten days where a parent chose to live away from us. I wasn’t enough to make him stay. I wasn’t important enough to stop and second guess his decision to leave. He left.

You may forget the drama. But we don’t. I’ll never stop wondering if I’m going to wake up and be dumped. Because when a parent can leave, so can a stranger you met at work. I never stop second guessing my decisions. My insecurity began when I was 8-years-old. Today, it’s something I’ve accepted because I’ve lost the war against it.

I saw friends with functional families have so much hope and I didn’t. I didn’t know how to care. I don’t know how to turn on emotions. I also don’t know how to turn them off.

And it has created so much chaos. When I thought I’d lost everything I loved, I yelled at my father. I screamed. I spewed hateful words. It didn’t hit me that – I wasn’t the only one who lost something. So had he. And if he could fix it, if he thought there was a way he could give my dream back to me, he would have.

Today, when I’m writing this, I remember my father mention how he woke up one morning with tears because he’d dreamt a Tsunami where he couldn’t save me. The tears my mother cried when she thought she hadn’t given us enough time. But that depressed girl didn’t remember this version of them. She didn’t remember two parents who had given up so much to keep their two girls safe. I didn’t pause to think. I didn’t know how to. And I repeated to myself, It’s all your fault.

I’ve graduated now. I’m going after everything I’ve ever dreamt about, for the second time. He’s given me my dream again. But I can never take back the words I said. I can apologize but I can’t change the hurt it caused. Someone told me recently, “You have to let go off of the guilt. Children act without thought sometimes. Your parents know.” But I can’t.

Because, back in an apartment with a view I’d missed so much, I remembered a conversation from 6 years ago. With a man I’d loved. He wanted to know why I kept repeating, “Promise you won’t leave me?” And so I explained. He did, too.

“So your parents made a mistake. They had a fight. Adults fight. They were trying to figure out life like you will, too. Parents don’t have to know everything. They’re not superhuman. You have to forgive them for whatever you think their fault was. You can’t blame your entire life on them. Your choices were, as you always say, a choice. You made them. You can stop making them. Look at them, Poornima, and see them for what they are – human beings”

And I cried. Like a baby. Because after 23 years of life, I’d understood what an asshole I’d been. Why do we always look at our parents as some sort of hero? Why do we never truly see how they’re just like you and me?

I’ll say it today – My parents aren’t the greatest of parents. They don’t always know how to express their love. They’ve made plenty of mistakes. But they’re some of the nicest human beings I’ve ever known. They gave up so much to ensure we had food on our plates and a comfortable lifestyle. When they struggled, we still lived like princesses. When they were out there fighting one battle after another, we complained like spoilt children.

No. They’re not the greatest. But I wouldn’t wish for anyone else. Because for everything I’ve done, no two people will continue to love me with as much intensity as they do. No parent will still sit me down and ask me what I want so they can ensure I have it the way they do.

And someday, I’ll muster the courage to go stand in front of them and truly apologize for all that I’ve put them through since I was a teenager. But today, I’ll stick to my Thank You.

Thank You for never giving up on me. Thank You for allowing me to choose, even if you didn’t always approve. Thank You for working so hard to give me everything I ever wanted. I know these two words will never be enough, but…

THANK YOU.

Never running away from you,

Me.

(5/6) The Boy That’s Mine

IMG_20160404_093006

I walked into my house and there he was. Curled up on the couch. So fragile, I thought I’d break him if I picked him up. We’d told our dad one week. “We’re just fostering him. He’ll go when he finds a good home. We promise.” We knew it was a lie before we’d even said it. My sister sent me a picture while I was wrapping up school work in Singapore and I knew I’d never let him go.

He was almost two months old. He weighed less than 2kgs. The first night he was home, mom complained the morning after – “He walks all over me. He wouldn’t sleep. He jumped on my chest and I thought I couldn’t breathe. Are we sure?”

It’s been four and half years. He weighs a little over 11kgs. He still doesn’t sleep full nights. He climbed on her chest last night. She screamed with pain but then pulled him closer and kissed him on the forehead. We all know the words she wouldn’t say. “I hope these moments never stop happening.”

Because the saddest thing about having a furry family member? Their lifespan is almost always shorter than yours and my furry child has hit his half-way point. But if someone asked me if I’d have it any other way, I’d tell them – I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE IT.

Dala.

My mom named him before I got home. I always find myself explaining, “His name’s Dala. He’s a boy. I know his name’s girly. My mom named him.” If you thought you know what unconditional love feels like before a dog, you have no idea what’s in store for you after.

My dance partner, my shoulder, my supporter – I scream-sing with a ridiculously fake Italian accent and he still loves me, still sits by my side, still sticks himself to my back as I sleep. I’ve always been that girl who couldn’t sleep with someone else on the bed. It’s a struggle to sleep if he’s not next to me. It’s a struggle to live if he’s not next to me.

Dala came into my life a few months before my life crashed and burned. I’ve always said it – If he didn’t exist, I doubt I would have. When nobody understood my pain, when words weren’t enough to talk about it, when death seemed like the ideal solution, when tears would flow with no end – Dala would be there, not once leaving my side. If I’m crying, he’d jump up to sit on my lap. There would be no words of encouragement, no hands to wipe tears, no hugs or kisses but there would be calm. Someone was there. With the kind of love I never realised was possible. A loyalty that I’d never known.

I feel the back of my eyes sting as I write these words. Because I know I can’t keep him with me forever. Nothing good ever lasts. When I started university again, my biggest struggle was not feeling his warmth at my back.  Missing his tiny hands on my neck as if he’s holding me while asleep. I can’t imagine going back to a life where I might never feel it again and the fear is so real every time he falls ill, every time his girlfriend fights him, every time someone tells me their furry baby passed on.

I was the girl who ran scared of dogs. I still understand that fear. But I don’t understand the ones who hate them. When someone comes up to me and says, “Tie your dogs up so I can come home,” my first thought is Don’t come. It’s rude but.. It feels like asking to tie up a family member. It’s absurd.

We got another furry baby after the Chennai floods. Mika – Dala’s girlfriend. They couldn’t be more different if they tried. We constantly remind him how he’s so badass he’s living together with his girlfriend without marrying her. He probably has no idea what any of those words mean. But we still tell him things. We tell him how funny a video is. Ask him his opinion on what we’re wearing. Complain about boyfriends not texting back.

He only ever reacts to three words – Food. Walking. Sleep.

Priorities, I tell you.

But in some part of me, I believe he knows what I’m saying. Maybe not word for word. But the emotions behind it. He knows and he understands. In that odd intuitively loving manner that only my furry, four-legged, wide-eyed boy can. It’s why when I say something sad, he sits next to me.

Someday, I’ll sit in a corner and I’ll cry. The tiny things he does like walk on my earrings, eat Mika’s food or steal food from my plate won’t be the things I’ll miss the most. It won’t be his face, that hint of sadness as I wave bye while walking out the door, a feeling of guilt like I’m betraying him by not taking him with me – the face I remember the entire trip until I come back home.

The thing that will make me cry is the moment I open the door and he doesn’t come running to me. Filled with love. Like the ten minutes I was gone was actually ten years. His face in that moment.

My best friend. My baby.

My Dala.

10552479_10204261495399694_5921532464741914242_n

(3/6) The Brother

From “What nonsense are you wearing? Go put on something decent,” to “If you’re getting a registered marriage, call me. I’ll come sign witness,” he’s been all possible types of a brother to me.

We fight, of course. OH MY GOD, WE FIGHT. I have an ego because it’s passed down to me in my genes (thanks, Dad) and he has one because… well, he’s the older brother. He obviously has one. And the two clash. ALL THE TIME. He’s made promises about cutting ties with me “forever.” It’s never happened. *knocks on wood*

That’s him though. It’s so easy to look at him from the outside and go, “He screams or yells so much.” Yet, if you know him, you’ll know it’s anything but.

If I have a problem, if my mother has a problem, if my sister has a problem, if we’re unsure about what to do in a situation, if there’s drama in the family, if we need to gossip, if we need to bitch, if we want to go on vacation, if we want to plan a pilgrimage, if we want to figure out how a movie is or how a restaurant is – we only have to call.

It doesn’t matter what time it is or what shit he’s dealing with while we interrupt him with the silliest of things, he’ll still deal with it like he always does.

I still remember when we officially crossed that bridge where I no longer had to pretend to be a child. He always knew it but to establish it as a fact…

“Poornima, look.” I looked up to a flash going off. “Just wait till I show your mother this.”

I was terrified for the first hour. He could tell mom. He is older. He does tell her a lot of things honestly. I should be worried.

Yeah. It’s been two years. He’s got pictures of me with glasses, of me with other people’s beer (I swear to God, I hate beer. It wasn’t mine.) and in bars / pubs. We’ve sat in a car in the middle of a cold war between us and he picked up my farewell party video claiming, “I’m going to show it to her.” He hasn’t. I don’t think he ever will. It’s just him being a stereotypical brother.

But that’s the thing! I’ve grown up with a sister that acts exactly like a sister. We fight and two days later, we’re shopping for clothes where she hates my style and I hate hers. We don’t dictate, we don’t playfully punch the other’s arm, we don’t pull hair from the seat behind, we don’t throw empty threats. Those aren’t things sisters do. Those are things a brother does to his sister. Like he does to me.

It always makes me smile when I realise, while I thought I only grew up with my younger sister, I’ve also grown up with an older brother who acts EXACTLY like an older brother.

And when you push away that playfulness and look at the big picture, he’s also helped me out like an older brother. With things as little as getting a scratch guard for my phone to first day first show Rajinikanth movie tickets. Two minutes after he teases me about my jet lag or broken aircon or sudden fever, he’ll come up with solutions to fix it – Always willing to help.

But the biggest one was the phone call that said, “A friend’s company is looking for a writer. You won’t lose anything by applying. Just send him your resume today,” followed by all the reminders until I finally sent it.

I got that job. It turned my world upside down. The internships were great but that job was what finally got me back on my feet. I learnt what I can do in life because of that job. So many people so important to me are here in my life today because of that job.

And in the two and half years since he made that call, I’ve never heard him mention how he helped get me that opportunity. The one time I tried to mention it, he said, “I got you the introduction. You got yourself the job.” But isn’t that the most difficult thing to get today? An introduction?

So I’ll say it, maybe never to your face because I’ll cry and you’ll say I’m putting scene and walk off and my mom will cry and you know… the usual? But I’ll say it here.

THANK YOU FOR BEING SUCH A STEREOTYPICAL OLDER BROTHER. LIFE WOULD HAVE BEEN SO DIFFERENT (not the good kind) WITHOUT YOU!

Also, I know you’re not the greatest fan of pictures on public platforms. So here goes.. 😀 (This is why I get into trouble!)

IMG-20170623-WA0002

Anger’s Comfort Zone

photo-1467510396478-c4680a636614

I was on a long and emotional call with a friend who’d recently been verbally abused by his sibling in a moment of anger. We talked about the possible reasons and how they usually behave within and outside of family. All our observations led me to one big question – Are we willingly more rude to a family member than we are to a friend or a stranger?

I have always tolerated irritating behavior from a stranger and I always told myself it is due to the fear of appearing harsh or wanting to avoid a public scene. But what I never noticed – I am perfectly capable of creating a scene and saying harsh things to a family member at that same place, for the same reason. But why?

I turned to my facebook page to see what others believe is the reason and they came up with interesting reasons:

  • “Because we don’t feel the need to please our family.”
  • “We’re comfortable with our loved ones and it’s okay for our emotions to show.”
  • “Your family will not judge you for your anger.”

And finally, the answer that really made me think – “We know what our family members’ limits are and how they’ll react, wherein a stranger’s reaction to your rudeness might be more aggressive than you would expect.”

Does knowing one’s limits make it right to mistreat them?

Just because someone isn’t saying “Stop” does not mean it isn’t hurting them. And honestly, at times, we can cross the limit and not know it at all. What then?

Someone said, “But after the fight, I apologized. So it’s totally fine.” Is it?

“An apology means nothing if you don’t stop doing what you’re apologizing for.”

An apology does not take away how you made someone feel at that moment. It doesn’t take away the potential damage you could cause to a relationship. An apology, to a person who was emotionally pained with words, is only a temporary bandage. The scar will always remain.

I’m 24. I remember the hurtful words my mother said to me when I was 9. She apologized. I forgave her. But I can’t forget. Not even if I tried. Because people forget the good things you do. But the knives you struck in their hearts in the form of words, it sticks with them forever.

Anger you see on the news always begins from a place of comfort. When you think one person takes it, it grows.

So stop. Evaluate a situation before throwing a tantrum or screaming at your loved ones. Always put yourself in their shoes.

Just because they’re family doesn’t mean they don’t have emotions. Just because they’re not arguing does not mean they’re not hurting.

Watch your language. Breathe to 10 before you speak. Sure, we’ll all have our moments. But ask yourself, “Is this situation worth a lifetime of negative memories?”

It’s not good karma to help a stranger you see on the bus after you’ve yelled at someone at home. It’s only your day that gets better when you say, “Sorry.” Their day is ruined for good.

Remember – It’s not blood that binds a human to another. It’s the way you treat each other.

Be kind.

Especially to the ones who’ll forgive you when you’re not.

It’s Just a Piece of Paper

The glamour industry is known more for its divorces than blockbusters. Two of my favorite A-list couples just recently filed for divorce – Ben & Jen and Gwen & Gavin. The tabloid article had an image of Gwen in her wedding dress, looking absolutely happy and it got me wondering..

What if divorces didn’t exist?

What if the moment you get married, there’s no out? If there is a problem, the two of you have to discuss it and sort it out. You have to find a way to work through your issues. And no, I’m not talking about marriages with physically or emotionally abusive spouses or serial cheaters. I’m talking about the normal couples who reach a point where they simply think “We have too many differences. I want out.”

I’m terribly afraid of marriage. Not because I don’t want to be married but because I’m afraid that someday it will end. I’ve said it before several times, the end of me will not be the moment my career comes crashing down or when I lose a loved one. The end of me will be the moment I hold divorce papers in my hand.

But what if that was impossible? I’ve seen so many people in my life rush to get married. My best friend got married after only knowing her husband for 3 months and I know that when in love the person doesn’t think of ever getting divorced but should there be a law that would never allow divorces, do you think the person would think twice before making their decision?

And very honestly, what is it about signing a paper that kills a relationship that has been built over the years? Through various struggles that have been overcome?

Several years ago, when my mother was holding divorce papers, my dad’s mother walked up to her, hugged her and said, “You are not my daughter-in-law because you signed a piece of paper. Our relationship will not end because you sign a paper again.”

That divorce never happened and there has been nothing to worry about on that scale since but my grandmother’s words never left me.

Am I someone’s wife because we sat in front of one hundred guests and got married? Am I someone’s wife because I signed an official paper that states “You are now husband and wife” ?

And does my relationship with this man just end because I sign another paper that says we are no longer united by marriage?

Does one piece of thin paper hold enough strength to turn every fight, every argument, every struggle, every moment, every kiss and all the love insignificant?

If not, then what is it about a divorce? I know I’ll hear a lot of people telling me that marriage is complicated, you have to think of your happiness and a divorce is unavoidable at times. But why?

If there didn’t exist that piece of paper, what would you have done?

Would you have simply walked out? If you knew that that particular piece of paper did not change your relationship, would you find a way to fix the problem? Would you have stayed?

Or would you have still packed and walked away?

I’m not experienced. I can barely hold a relationship together. But I’ve been raised believing that the concept of signing a paper mutually for the beginning and end of a partnership belonged in the corporate world for business deals and not for emotions.

Not for a marriage. Not for a relationship. And definitely not for love.

Am I wrong?

Those Little Eyes

In a world where everyone’s asking you what you’ve achieved, what you’ve done with your life, it feels so easy to lose track of what’s important. When everything around you costs money. When you wake up one day and realize your bills are sky high and your bank account’s buried under the ground, it’s normal to feel the need to lock yourself up at work. When your partner’s fighting with you, when that silly little thing they do becomes the last thing you need that day and you end up screaming your head off and storming out, it’s almost impossible to want to go back home.

But I want you to. I want you to walk around the streets, take as many deep breaths as you need and go back inside that home. Because you know what your struggles are. You know why you’re angry, why you’re upset. But there’s a pair of little eyes watching from a half closed door that doesn’t. And it’s your duty to ensure they never do.

My mother often says, “A child should know the suffering of a parent or they’ll never understand how much we go through just to keep a roof over their head and food on their plate, day after day.”

I know so many people that agree with her, but I don’t.

My theory is as simple as this – If you, as an adult, cannot fix this, there is no way that your child can. And if you, as an adult, cannot handle the emotional turmoil that comes with this problem, what makes you think your child can?

“But they have to understand that we cannot afford everything they want.”

And here’s the thing. Have you seen a shopaholic? The girl in the big city with a flashy card that buys everything she will ever want? She always looks like she has the perfect life. Shopping all the time. Must feel fantastic to be able to afford all that. Here’s the perspective you don’t see. When we have an entire week off, besides resting, we try to spend some time with our family and friends. The people we love. If we had all the money in the world, we’d be taking them on a vacation.

When your child is looking for anything and everything money can buy, I want you to stop and look at something bigger than that tantrum. That shopaholic may be filling an emotional void with materialistic things and your child is no different. The kid in the park playing with his parents isn’t giggling because they bought him a park. He doesn’t understand real-estate value. He understands the hand holding and the push on a swing.

Sometimes, the best birthday present you can ever give to your child is, “I’m going to spend the entire day with you. What do you say we go on a hike and grab some ice cream on the way home?” It’s an inexpensive plan. But it’s the most precious thing in the world because you’re giving them something money will never buy – your time.

You have a million things to deal with in your life. And though we all wish it to be different, there is a very high possibility that when the time comes your child will go through them as well. So don’t rush them into it. If they can’t fix it, they don’t have to know.

Because your child loves you. They were born loving you. When you tell them your problem, they want to fix it for you. When they know they can’t, it turns them into a mess. Always remember, your child is a mirror. They reflect what they see in you. Don’t you want to raise a happy and loving child?

I’m 22 now. I went to university, I have friends, I have a life of my own. There is nothing I wouldn’t give to spend a day watching TV with my mom, laughing and gossiping about nothing. Or go sit at the beach with my dad and talk about old stories and philosophical nothings. We may grow up and take on the world. We may live this whole, busy life that consumes us every minute of the day. But the moment we look at you, we go back to being that same little kid, with our nose stuck to the window, waiting for you to come home.

You may fight with them. Life may come between you more times than one. But those little eyes watching through a half closed door, all they ever want is for you to turn and say “I love you.”

So go pick up that phone and say it.

What You Leave Behind..

Andy Warhol

We all want to do something significant. We want to leave a part of us behind for everyone else to remember us by. We buy all these things and then we write a will about who’ll get what. That’s the part of us we leave behind for them and they’ll leave behind to their kids and for generations this will be passed around and you will be known as the person to whom it belonged. You will be remembered through that object.

I was at an Andy Warhol exhibit in Singapore a few years ago. I loved the art, the creativity, the small facts I got to learn about him. Spread across many different walls were quotes. His quotes. As a writer, I love reading quotes and thinking about what it might have meant to that person when they said it but when I read this particular quote, I didn’t care. I didn’t care what it meant to him or what he was thinking when he said it because this quote was all about me. It spoke to me in a way that I can’t explain. It was every thought I had ever had about death – My death. Andy Warhol had read my mind before I even existed.

Death is one of the most commonly occuring thought processes in my mind. Last night, right before I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about the number of people that would be affected should I die that very second. My close family is a given and I can’t stop them from feeling miserable about it but the outsiders. The friends I’ve made and the people I affect. The ones that choose to love me and the ones I presume our affectionate towards me, though I may be wrong. How many of them will actually have a day when they pick up their phones just to realize I’m not alive for them to call? How many will miss me? This was the best thought I have had in a very long time.

I hate to admit this to anyone because it always rubs off the wrong way – I’m a control freak. If something is a certain way, it has to be that way. If you make a plan to meet me, you better show up. Do not call me in the very last minute and say “I can’t make it.” I’ll understand. But I will also be so so annoyed because that just completely wrecked my day. A few years ago my brother and I were supposed to go birthday shopping. He ditched me last minute. Even today, I always call him ten minutes before I leave to ensure he’s going to make it. And it’s difficult to find a friend that is not annoyed by this. Someone who understands and accepts this part of you.

They say a friend is the only person who doesn’t judge you for your choices and sticks with you no matter what and I got to realize exactly who they were in my life last night and I felt bad. Because when I die, I affect some of the kindest people I’ve known. Is that really what I want?

This is why I think suicide is selfish. It’s not cowardly. It’s not stupid. It’s selfish. When a person decides to take his own life, he is only thinking about himself. He is only thinking about ending his misery. He doesn’t stop to think just how many people around him, how many loved ones will suffer for the rest of their lives because he chose not to care about anyone but himself. They will live forever wondering why they didn’t see. Why they didn’t help. Don’t you think Robin Williams’ daughter wonders that? His friends? His family? His colleagues?

A long time ago, I had this plan – When I’m old and done with all my responsibilities, I want to throw a party. A big one to invite everyone that’s ever known me. And if any of them ever wanted to write a euology, they can write one and read it to me at that party because seriously, what’s the point of saying nice things to me once I’m dead? So I just want them to read it. And I’ll say goodbye and I’ll take a little bit of the money I’ve earned in my life, pack my bags, erase or throw away any object that could remind the people that love me that I’m no longer there and just leave. They won’t know where I am. They won’t know if I’m alive or dead. I’d have vanished. Like Andy Warhol said he’d like to do.

Because we can’t live in fear. We can’t keep away from the ones we love, the ones who love us just because we’re afraid of the scar we’ll leave behind. We can’t not make memories in fear of those incredible moments turning into nightmares someday. But there is something we can do :

We can stop spending our times accumulating materialistic things and instead just care and be compassionate. We can learn to be kind and show others what living can truly mean. We can save something that five generations wouldn’t just pass around but would talk about. Would want to live upto.

Because the things you leave may rot and fade but the memories and life lessons – they’re here to stay.

The Coincidental 22

Do you believe in fate? Do you believe that everything around us happens for a reason and nothing is random? Do you believe in a predestined future? Or would you rather believe in coincidence?

Tomorrow, the 22nd of September, marks my 22nd birthday. “22 on 22” has been yet another reason for excitement this year. I have noticed this pattern before and this year has been no different. Everything in my life happens on a 22.

I was born on 22. My first day of pre-school was on 22. My first day of high school in the US was on September 22. My first day at university was August 22. There are so many significant days in my life that are all 22. Does it even come as a surprise that my recent song addiction is Taylor Swift’s 22?!

It’s funny how some things in our lives are too detailed to be coincidental but too irrelevant to be destiny. So many significant moments began on the 22nd. But not all of them ended well. I did enjoy pre-school and kindergarten, but I grew up to hate school. My experience as a high school student in the US was so bad (partly my fault) and I never would revisit it again. I never completed university even though I loved every part of it. So is this a sign that I should steer clear of anything that has to do with 22?

But then again, I was born on a 22.

When I decided that this year my birthday will be low-key and family only, my friend decided to bunk work and spend the day with me because he thought some thing had to be out of the ordinary that day. Why? What makes me so special? Why should the day I was born be out of the ordinary?

I answered that question in a playful way by saying “Oh you know, I blessed this Earth with my incredible presence on that day. So it ought to be celebrated !” You can imagine my father’s face fill with sarcasm right about now. But my grandmother went ahead and said, “You’re right. You are an incredible presence and you have given me such incredible moments in my life. Your birthday must be made special.”

Ever wonder why out of all the people in the world – the uptight neighbor, the lonely rich kid, the regretful juvenile, the girl on 16 and pregnant, Miley Cyrus – you were born into this particular family, in this city, with the friends you have around you? You have changed their lives whether you acknowledge it or not. Was it predestined? Were they meant to tread a different path but some power of the Universe chose to mix them with you? Or was it just a random pick? A drifted coincidence that nobody thinks twice about?

Coincidence by Wikipedia – A coincidence (often stated as a mere coincidence) is a collection of two or more events or conditions, closely related by time, space, form, or other associations which appear unlikely to bear a relationship as either cause to effect or effects of a shared cause, within the observer’s or observers’ understanding of what cause can produce what effects.

So it is a coincidence that everything in my life is connected to 22? That MY LIFE began on a 22?

Have you ever met someone and thought to yourself ‘we were meant to meet at that exact time so you could be here at this point in my life’ ? Not necessarily a lover. Was it predestined that you met them when you did or was it a mere coincidence that you happened to just bump into each other on that day or click on the other’s profile on a social networking site randomly?

Tomorrow marks the beginning of an entire year of 22. Last year, I couldn’t have written about this. I didn’t have a blog, a platform to express my thoughts on the 22’s of my life. Is it a coincidence that I have it now? At 22?

When we think about it, there are so many simple moments – the day we meet our best friend, our first trip alone, the restaurant you go to, the family you were born into, the love of your life – there is always the question – destiny? Or coincidence?

Was it because you were meant to meet these people? Was it because you were at the right place at the right time? Or was it simply a predestined coincidence?