Life goes on..

Today, May 4, is the birthday of someone very very close to me. “Happy Birthday bro..” It’s been a while since I met him and when he saw me he said, “You look bright. Full of hope. It’s nice to see you like this again.”

Last year I had to give up almost everything I had. My plans changed, my life changed. I spent the entire year in depression. Everything made me cry. There was a point when I believed things will never change. That my life was over and all I have to do is sit and just let the end come when it may. Now when I say it, I realize how over-dramatic that sounds. But at that point in my life it seemed like the most logical thought process one can ever have at a time like that.

It’s funny how when something bad happens, we believe that it’s the end. I’m not talking about a fatal sickness or an accident but rather just incidents. When you quit / get expelled from university, when you get fired, when you break up with your loved one, when someone close to you passes away or even when you fail an exam or miss your dream university by 2 points. It seems like a life or death situation. I mean, I get that it possibly is very life altering but it’s never the end.

It took me one and half years of moping around before I decided that I have to change things. ONE AND HALF YEARS ! You know how much I could’ve done in one day? Let alone 500 days ! 500 days before I realized it’s not the end because it’s not happy. That in fact, all I had to do was accept that things have changed. Because the only thing constant in our lives is change and the best I can do is to make use of all that I’ve got. I mean, I’m sure I could’ve sat around another year and half dreaming of what could’ve been but that’s just another 500 days that I won’t get back.

In my life, I’ve learnt that there’s nothing better than dreaming big. Dream what nobody dares to dream of. Dream to fly. Like Peter Pan. To just take off to Neverland. But that’s impossible if you never put your feet on the ground. Even a flight has to hit the runway, move forward and only then can it fly. Sitting idle and wondering about would-be’s and could-have-been’s will never get you anywhere. You have to put one foot in front of the other and walk forward.

I’m not a settler. I’ve missed what many would call “incredible opportunities.” When my previous dream crashed, I had to get a new one. I wasn’t, and I’m still not, mentally prepared to create a big dream again. I’m afraid that it’ll crash too. So I set my goals a little lower. Instead of a big future plan, I set my eyes on simpler things. Things that are more NOW than five to ten years from now – A company that’s not really easy to get into. A publisher that probably won’t even take a second look at my manuscript. I told myself that I won’t take anything besides this. I will get into that company if it’s the last thing I did. I will send the publisher every story I will ever write and at some point, I’m going to write something they will publish.

Think back the years you’ve lived through. How many moments have you had where you thought it’s the end of the world and it wasn’t? No, I’m not talking about December 22, 2012. I mean, you’ve lived through tough times. You’ve moved forward when you thought you wouldn’t. You’re alive and present. When you think about it you’ll realize that all those bad experiences have only made you stronger. Brave. Never weak.

Two years ago, I had it all. I didn’t work as hard as I could have. I didn’t make use of the opportunities. Now I can’t go back. I have to look ahead and I feel stronger than I ever did. Positive that if I could live through that, then I’m sure I can live through the next disaster and the next and the next. Because.. Have you ever sat in front of the ocean and stared at it? You know how beautiful and mentally soothing a view like that is? The way the waves move and hit the shore. The salty smell that comes from it.. Now, imagine sitting in front of the same ocean but this time, it’s still. No waves, no sea salt smell. Just still water. It’s not as beautiful, is it?! That’s life too. It has to have its ups and downs. I promise every wave has something incredible to give to you. A life lesson, a person, a memory.. And when you look at it as a whole, it’s beautiful.

No matter sunny or rainy, draught or storms, the waves in the ocean never stops.. The way, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how many times you tell yourself it’s over, life goes on..

“I’m Not A Girl Anymore..”

Slowly, with life experiences and baby steps, from high school to university to a working environment and the real world, watching our friends grow into adults, observing our changing needs and desires, understanding our lives changing and learning the ability to accept it – this is how a girl, any girl, must realize that she is no longer a girl. That she is indeed a woman.

But this world doesn’t work like that anymore. In this world, women walk around scared and insecure because they have been pushed to grow up. Because our societies have started perceiving us as women before we could even understand the complex simplicity of that word.

The 23-year-old intern in Delhi, gang raped by a boy who shouldn’t have known that much and men who should have known better.  The number of people who pointed their fingers at her for getting in that bus in the first place. Here’s an idea. Maybe, she didn’t know that much yet. Maybe she was still that little girl who believed that the world was filled with superheroes. That every man was a brother, a father, a best friend. That when they look at her, they would see the child that they can befriend, not the body that they can use.

The 24-year-old techie in Chennai, gang raped. People came up with a million reasons. She should’ve known better than to walk alone in the middle of the night. “She should’ve known better.” Ever think that maybe she needed more time to know better? That maybe, just maybe, she didn’t see what the society saw? But we don’t care. She’s 24 ! She’s a woman who should’ve known better !

That’s the thing. Being a certain age isn’t what makes us women. We don’t turn 21 and suddenly say “OHMYGOD ! I’M A WOMAN !” No. We need time, patience, life lessons and lots of experience before we become women.

And no matter what, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING EVER JUSTIFIES A MAN TOUCHING A GIRL / WOMAN WITHOUT HER PERMISSION.

I’m still a girl. I’m insecure. I walk in fear of who to trust and who to take three steps away from. I accuse every man who looks my way of wrong thoughts. Just because..

I had to endure a doctor move his hand that inch too close, the man on the street wink and make kissing faces, the guy I’ve known since I was two-years-old ask me if I wanted to “go grab a drink after hours” and the society that tells me that all of the above is my fault. Don’t look. Don’t smile. Don’t wear what you want. Don’t do what you feel like doing. And never ever let a man too close, doesn’t matter who he is.

I honestly don’t know if it’s the society’s fault or the men’s. But I do know that something has to change. Drill it into everyone’s brains if we have to but we need to make them understand that while you’re looking at someone you’d like to use, she’s looking at someone she believes will protect her from someone like you..

Wish You Were Here

Recently, my father and I had a long conversation about my grandfather. His life and his struggles.

Do you have that one person you wish you could meet but can’t?

That one person you’ve never met but feel like you know very well. You’ve heard stories about them, people tell you things that person said, you’ve seen pictures. For a lot of people, that person is a celebrity. To me, that person is my grandfather. I’ve never met him. He was long gone by the time I came around. I’ve seen six-seven pictures of him. But I feel like I know him very well.

The world lost him to Cancer. I can’t say I lost him because I’ve never met him. But I would have loved to. There are times when sharing stories about someone, you hear the person say something wrong about them. It’s never intentional. It’s just part of who he/she used to be. But I’ve never heard something like that about my grandfather. I’ve heard about his struggles, I’ve heard his jokes, I’ve heard his wisdom, I’ve heard about his sickness. But never in all those stories has anyone ever said one bad thing about him. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of him. Someone who made no mistakes. Is it weird that when I think of him, I think of superman? He raised a superman too.

A lot of my conversations with my father include stories about my grandfather. Lessons that were taught or left. One of those things was to live life with principles. To stand by what you believe is right, no matter what the circumstance. If you’ve known me for a while or read my previous blogs, you know that’s a lot similar to what I believe in. Except in my generation I’m called rebellious, not principled. It’s funny. I never met him. There were no videos of him. There was no way for him to have influenced my life on a personal level. But somehow, when I hear stories about him, I know I’m a lot like him. His behavior, his thoughts. My father would beg to differ but I know that if my grandfather was still around, he’d have been someone who would have understood me and supported me. He’d be my kind of person. Like my father is.

In life, you at times land in trouble. My grandfather has taught me that it doesn’t matter how you got there. There are only two ways  to get out of it- The Easy Way, The Right Way. Now remember, anything that comes easy is not here to stay.

He inspires me. When I hear about him, I keep trying to look for similarities. I take pride in knowing I’m a lot like him. Also because it secretly means I’m a lot like my father. I don’t know if my father knows this, but when I hear stories about his dad, I get reminded of him. I can see the day I sit my kids and my grandkids and talk to them about him like he talks about his father to me. It’s cheesy but it’s true. He’s open-minded, like my grandfather was. He’s principled and determined, hardworking and trustworthy, a fighter. He’ll do anything he can to excel at everything. Including fatherhood.

Through my difficult times they’ve helped me. One through stories and the other by just being there to tell me it’ll be fine. Some day, when I’m ready, I’ll go out into the real world. I might not become the next billionaire but thanks to the life lessons, I’ll survive. And when the going gets tough I’ll repeat my grandfather’s words like I do every time I’m in a bad situation :

“This too shall pass”

Life Choices : Choose Happiness

My friend and I were just having a very heated argument about life choices. The guy I have the world’s biggest crush on works at a giant corporate and gets paid a pretty decent amount. He can ask the company to send him a cab every morning to take him to work and back, he gets a bonus for every holiday, health insurance – pretty much the whole package. Here’s the catch : He hates his job ! He always talks about how every minute he spends there he feels like he’s going insane. So why on Earth can he not quit his job and do something he loves? “The money it pays.”

I’m an intern at an advertising agency. I don’t get paid at all. But I find a reason to wake up every morning and show up here because I love what I do. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be like? Doesn’t every person deserve the right to happiness? Should money really dictate his life? That was my side of the argument when my friend fired back at me, “What about his family crisis? What if they need the money he makes?” I did not have an answer to that. So I paused as I ran that idea through my mind. My parents don’t expect my money. So I can make a choice that makes me happy. But can everyone afford to do that? Can everyone choose to be selfish when in fact, maybe his parents have been waiting for him to graduate so he can contribute to the income in his household? How can I suggest that he stop doing that?

Here’s how. Sure, they need the money. But parents who have waited for four years for him to complete his university, can wait a few more for him to make this kind of money again. Except, this time around, he’ll make that money happily. My friend got a job that he loves. But he can’t take it. I asked him why and he told me that his dad had made a comment : “When you’re getting your sister married, you expect the guy to have triple degrees. What’s to say that the girl who marries you won’t expect the same of you? You have to study more.” (This is in accordance to the Indian arranged marriage system) But shouldn’t the girl he’s with care that her husband is someone that is mentally happy and peaceful? Should she just look at his bank account? Should he marry someone like that?

My crush isn’t the only person I’ve known to complain of these things. My friends who work in similar companies pretty much all hate their jobs. “I have to work weekends.” “I have to work night shifts.” “I don’t get a holiday for New Year.” But why? If majority of the employees feel this way, why can’t the companies make a difference? What are the organizations doing that keeps their employees so mentally depressed and stressed? Why aren’t the employees (who are in majority) taking a stand against it and saying “I CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY !” ?

My dad’s friend was talking about how his son had quit Harvard Law to pursue music, about how much he hated his son for giving up what so many other kids in this world would kill for. But in the end, he understood that his son is now happy. He smiled at his happiness. He said “Isn’t that what we parents want in the end? A happy child?!” I assure you three quarters of the parents in this world are no different to this one. They might be furious in the beginning, but in the end, they’ll be happy that you’re happy. So why is it so difficult for us to make this choice?

Why do we fail to see thirty years into the future? You need the money now. Sure. You’re unhappy now, but you earn enough to save for the future. What future? You’re not going to quit when you’re forty and take a trip around the world. You’re stuck in a job you hate already and thirty years from now, you’re still going to be stuck in a job you hate. Only then, you’ll be taking your stress and depression home and instead of depressing only yourself, you’re going to be depressing your entire family.

So think wisely now. Make life choices not based on financials or current situation, but plan them for what your life would be like ten or fifteen years from now. Choose to be happy rather than rich. When you’re working out of your mind with no time for anyone, you’re not living. But even if you don’t make enough money and don’t live in a fancy beach side duplex, when you’re happy, you’ll attract people and those people will always be there for you. You’ll have all the love in the world. Isn’t that what life’s all about anyway?!

The People Who Change Your Life

“There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs.”

– Sushan R. Sharma

I didn’t believe in this statement because I was oblivious to it. I thought the decisions that changed my life were always mine. But it’s incredible how someone who has had minimum to no important role in your life can influence you in a way you can’t define.

When I graduated high school, I was at cross roads. I didn’t know what to do with my life. College? Work? Marriage? I had no clue. Then I befriended someone on Facebook. We’d attended the same school and we knew the same people. So we started “chatting.” He asked me what I did for a living and I said, “Nothing. Still trying to make a life choice.” He then asked me what I’m interested in and what I like doing and I told him I’m very interested in music, movies, writing and so on. We got into a more detailed conversation about it and he said I sounded like a media person – “Mass communication or if you know what you like, a specialization course in film making or audio engineering. Study that. I think you’ll like that. You can even try applying for my university.” It was a passing comment in an unimportant conversation. I didn’t realize it had made an impact. I didn’t realize that he was the reason, two months later, I’d looked at those options. I didn’t choose the university he’d suggested. But I ended up pursuing media in a university of my choice.

Until a few months back, I honestly believed it had been my choice to pursue a degree in media at university. I was the one that wanted to do this. He and I had lost touch and I’d even forgotten all about him. Then one day, a friend of mine mentioned his name and I said “Oh wait ! What about him?” Apparently, he’d had a cardiac arrest and had sunk into coma. His parents were praying for their son’s life. It shook my heart because in that moment I realized, the reason for my happiness, the reason for my new goals and career choices had come from him. When I’d had no idea what to do, he’d given me direction. What he had mentioned as an option in a passing comment, I’d explored and made a life out of. The worst part, I’d never thought of it that way. I had always believed it was all me.

This pushed me to wonder how many more life choices of mine have been influenced by other people. It blew my mind when I realized how my life constantly changed for the better and worse because of the people I met and the things they said. How I’ve made choices based on simple conversations.

I don’t know how many of you remember Orkut – A social media website created by Google. It was India’s biggest “It” site before Facebook. In 8th grade, a girl in my class suddenly turned to me as I was leaving and asked, “Do you have an Orkut account?” I had no idea what it was. I’d never even heard of it. If she hadn’t mentioned it, I probably never would have. But that day, I ran home and figured it out. I even opened an Orkut account. An account that has changed my life in such an incredibly massive way. It has given me the worst memories I can imagine. But it has also given me someone I call my best friend today. Orkut was the reason I wanted to study abroad. Studying abroad, I met different people. I learnt new cultures. I explored boundaries. I set my own limitations. I also met a girl who later on moved to the country my dad lived in. So we hung out every time I visited my father. That girl started dating a really friendly guy and he introduced us to his friends. With one of his friends, I ended up having my first serious relationship. The worst and the best man I’ve met so far. That guy became the reason I picked a university in that part of the world. The course, however, influenced by a man now in coma on a hospital bed.

I met a girl at that university. She helped me through my break up and we became best friends. She cared for me, loved me and today, she’s like a sister to me. She made me want to be a better version of myself. She always told me, “Stand tall. You’re worth it.” With her words, my family’s support and an accepting society, I figured myself out. I took pride in who I was.

Accepting myself, I also learnt my likes and dislikes. This helped me find other people who were like-minded to me. I dated one of them who introduced me to his friend. That friend and I became pretty close as we both volunteered at a film festival. He taught me about his culture and the customs in his religion which made me curious and I figured out my dream job. After travelling innumerous hours across the globe and learning so many new things, I know now, I want to travel and live in different places and learn new cultures and languages and write about them. Something so very different from my former dream job as a “House wife,” modernly known as “Home-maker.”

Funny, to think, it all started with a casual “Do you have an Orkut account?” !

Honestly, take a second. Think back. You’ll realize just how none of your choices actually really came from you. Your worst enemy will start feeling like the best thing that ever happened to you.

I call my friend every other day and ask him, “How’s he doing? Is he awake from the coma?” My friend always wants to know why I’m so interested. I never tell him the story. The story of the guy that changed my life.

It’s a story I will keep to myself. When he wakes up, which I honestly hope he does, I will find an opportunity to thank him. For giving me a choice. For giving me a dream. For giving me a life. Until then…

 

Update : The guy passed away on the 22nd of June 2014. His mother was by his side and his close friends and family went to the funeral and paid their respect.

Fear | What are you afraid of ?

We all have things we’re afraid of : Spiders, Cockroaches, Dogs.. I’m most afraid of lizards and snakes. When I see a lizard around the house, I feel like my worst nightmare has come true. I run from that room. But is that really true? Are lizards, snakes, spiders, cats and dogs really our biggest fear?

There is something in us that is more emotional than those. A fear that only we know. That only we understand. A fear that surfaces every time we try something new. Every time we take a leap of faith. Mine is Rejection & Failure. When I like someone, I want to tell him. When I do, I clench my fists, praying he won’t say no. It’s not that I can’t take it if he does. I can. But somehow, I pray he won’t. I’m afraid of the “No”. I’m afraid to apply for a job and never hear back from them. I’m afraid to apply to university and get a letter that says “Not accepted.” Even though, I can live with it, I fear it. I’m afraid of the first emotion that happens. That moment my heart falls.  And as far as failure goes, I wasn’t the brightest student in school. I hated school. I failed constantly, exam after exam, test after test. It didn’t bother me. I was completely fine with it. But there are certain things I’m afraid of failing in. Like keeping up my bucket list. Not doing all the things I want to do with my life. I am afraid that I might wake up one day and realize, I’ve done nothing with my life. I’ve wasted it. I’ve failed at it. And I don’t like failure.

Sure, there are quotes that make you feel like it isn’t the end of the world. Like the dialogue Rick Castle from the TV series Castle says. “Rejection isn’t failure. Failure is giving up.” It motivates me in that second. It makes me feel like it’s ok. It’s not the end of the world. Ten minutes later, I’m right back to where I was. 

But beyond emotional fear, there’s a fear we have. A fear that is more literal than emotional. A fear of future. Of life. We don’t want certain things in our life. We are afraid of it, every day. It differs with each person. A mother fears her child’s safety. A couple fears separation. A cross-cultured couple fear parents’ approval. A homosexual fears acceptance. A student fears exam results. A patient fears death. Like I said, differs with every person.

My biggest fear for the future, in life : Failed marriage. If there ever came a day when I have to be standing at a divorce court, I know my mind would rather be dead. Every time I think of marriage, I fear a failed one. No matter how safe the guy makes me feel, I know this fear will live on till the end of my life. Our fears of life are usually from our surroundings. We don’t want what we’ve seen happen to someone else. We don’t want our child kidnapped like the one in the paper. We don’t want our parents throwing us out for being gay like the other gay kid’s parents did. We don’t want to fail like that one guy in our class did. So we restrain ourselves. We’re careful with things. We tip-toe around our fears. We give our kids a cell phone to keep track of them at all times. We refuse to come out until we know they can’t do anything about it. We bury ourselves in our books until we know there is no possibility of failure.

Even the most rebellious kid on the block fails to realize – his choices aren’t purely made by him. His choices are dictated by his fears. But what if you faced your fears? What if you dealt with it face-to-face and said “Bring it on!” ?

I had a fear. It was something that scared me to the very depth of my bones. The fear of losing someone I fall in love with. I stayed away from love. I told myself, I’ll keep my heart protected. I’ll put up walls nobody can ever break down. Nothing can happen then right? But then I met someone who tore those walls down. I fell insanely in love with him. A year and few months later, he walked away. I loved and I lost. I remember that day. Standing outside my university campus with my best friend. I couldn’t cry. I was in shock. I felt like a dead person. It was like I had no emotions. When I was finally able to get my thoughts and my emotions back, I felt broken. My fear was here. It had happened. And it sucked. Time passed by.. A year. Two. I was able to breathe again. I lived. My emotions were fine. My heart still bore a scar but it was back to normal. I surrounded myself with people that love me. With friends who cared. I had hope for the future again. I regained my faith in fairytales. I’d had my worst fear come true and I’d lived !

It taught me a lesson. Something I will keep with me for a long time to come. It taught me to face my fears. It taught me that that was, in fact, good for me. It made me stronger. And here’s the bonus : Now I know what it feels like ! The next time I love and lose, I know what to expect ! Coz remember.. Fear is always of the unknown ! 

So, What’s your biggest fear? What are you afraid of ? Face it ! Once you know what it’s about, it can no longer scare you. And if you need someone to hold your hand while you enter that dark room, call me and I’ll jump at the chance..

🙂

The People Around You

When we’re walking on the streets, wrapped up in our thoughts, we forget that there’s a world that’s buzzing with life around us.. Have you ever stopped and looked at someone and wondered? Have you ever looked at a teenager and wondered what kind of home they go back to? Have you ever stopped and stared at a person in a suit and wondered what kind of pathetic boss they work for? Have you ever smiled at a kid that is enjoying whatever little time he/she has left as an innocent before the big bad world corrupts their brain? Do you ever take a moment of your journey to look at someone’s life other than yours? I did once and it changed every journey I ever took from that day on..

It was a regular day back from university to my apartment and I was so wrapped up with music and social networking that I almost didn’t notice.. You know how we have friends? We laugh, we fight, we giggle, we tease and we make the lamest jokes in the world? I saw a gang of seven people, in an MRT, do that.. through sign language. I might not have understood everything they signed, but I understood that laughter, I understood what it meant when one of those guys shook his head and closed his eyes while laughing uncontrollably.. I looked around me and saw every person around them stare at them in awe and they didn’t even know about it.. I will never forget the tiny tear a woman wiped from her eyes as she looked at these people who have so much more to whine about than you and I do, but yet they were so happy, so filled with joy..

Somehow, since then, I always look around, I always notice.. Those old aunties who laughed so much they had tears coming from their eyes, that cute couple that would not stop staring into each other’s eyes so so lovingly that it started to annoy the shit out of me, that little kid that dangled her legs because her feet wouldn’t touch the ground, that random kid who smiled at me for no reason when standing in line at Starbucks, that girl at the market that always gives me and my mum some extra vegetables out of kindness, that mother who was texting her husband about their divorce while still cooing at her daughter in the pink tutu, the mentally ill homeless guy that wandered near my old house and always had a smile to give, that old woman selling bananas who probably went back to a small house with barely any food to eat and yet asks you how you’re doing..

Take a moment, look around you.. Look at every life around you.. At all the happiness around you.. At all the people that are probably in way more shit than you’re in right now.. And give them a smile, just because.

For all you know, that’s probably the best thing that happened to them all day..