The numbers are in! 

 

(Do not check above calculations. They’re pretty accurate.)

 
This year, we’ve taken 14 flights between 9 airports. Slept on 11 different beds in 5 time zones. We’ve been through 2 summers, 2 winters, 1 autumn and a very Indian monsoon. We’ve had more fights than I care to remember and even more love that I’ll never forget. We’ve had several massive Indian celebrations; I lost count after the 27th dance routine and 13th shot. We’ve been robbed and we’ve been blessed. We’ve made new friends and reconnected with old. We’ve fallen in love with our families all over again, and we’re falling in love with ourselves, too. 

That’ll do, 2015. That’ll do. 

You’re up now, 2016. We’re coming for you!

Christmas on the go!

   
It’s a Christmas without turkey, ham or inebriation. No presents (it’ll just be extra luggage), Santa’s visit or pretending to enjoy eggnog. 

But it’s our most exciting Christmas, yet. Full of dreams, hope and adventure. Family, new beginnings and old memories. 

And we’re keeping the Christmas spirit alive, while in transit.
Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays! 
Happy happy 🙂

School’s in!

Like any regular school day, I woke up groggy, mechanically brushed my teeth and washed my face. I put on my freshly ironed clothes, tied my dusty shoelaces and threw my bag over my shoulder.

Unlike most other school days, I walked into school with my son in tow as my husband waved from the car.

I was visiting my alma mater almost 15 years after I graduated from there.

Would the teachers remember me? Would the buildings hold any signs of me skidding down halls and leaning against pillars making secret pacts? Would echoes of my excited squeals still resonate along the corridors?

Walking towards the gate, I can feel the noise and energy in my bones. And if any of the students ask me if I’m a parent, they’ll feel the power in my bones, too.

After all, I’m in school and parents are just not cool.

I’m told to get permission from the Principal to go into the main building, so I walk right past his office and into the building.

After all, I’m in school and if you don’t rebel, you fit in.

At first glance, everything is different. A new paint job, new uniforms, new attitudes. And everything is the same. Same rush, same invincibility, same energy.

It’s recess when I walk in and the teenagers, who’ve replaced my friends and me, gather in cliques like we did before them. Some of them spare me a side-glance, too entrenched in their discourse to pay too much heed to the blue-haired mama with a small boy and big smile.

The few teachers who remain, recognise me right away. I can see their minds racing, as if to sort through thousands of files to match my face to a memory. After good-naturedly chastising me for my absurd hair colour, we begin to chat. As we reconnect, I can see it in their eyes – they’re remembering me, one mischief at a time, one laugh at a time, one grade at a time. That’s my sign to keep moving!

With every step forward, I go back in time.

corridor.png

One corridor, a million memories.

Running into school to share a secret (of the “don’t tell anyone” variety) with my best friends. Or the moment of hopeless terror when I remember I left my assignment on my bedside table. Or the silent prayer for a dreaded teacher to be absent. Or the exhilaration at the thought of spending the next six hours with some of my most favourite people.

That feeling when I enter my classroom every morning – either “here we go again” or “here we go again”.

The unconscious ritual of scanning the classroom to see if anyone was panicking over homework that I had forgotten about, too. Then weighing time versus interest to see if it was worth attempting to complete it or using the time to come up with a creative excuse.

Slipping into my seat and instantly filling my desk drawer with the essentials – pen, pencil, books and my lunch in case of an emergency snack attack.

Over the next six hours, teachers would walk in and out of the classroom. We were inspired, bored, entertained, and very often, we were the entertainment. But we learnt life lessons. Like how to stifle a laugh without bursting a vein, how to think of the saddest thoughts to douse the laughter and how to drop a pen and spend the next three minutes looking for it so as to laugh freely under the desk. Essentially, we learnt that we are powerless against an infectious giggle fit.

 

bench

If only these benches could speak. They’d tell tales of notes and chips and cassettes. Of laughter and nerves and tears.

The time we spent laughing for absolutely no reason makes the time we spend looking for a reason to smile these days, seem sadly disproportionate.

School or university years are always remembered as the best days. We hold on to every detail; how the classroom looked on that rainy, sleepy day when you sat at the back of the class daydreaming, the way you felt rushing out of school on the first day and rushing in on the last, the cold water at the water cooler after PT, the smell of chemicals on your hands after lab, the exhilaration of writing on the chalk board (unless you’ve been asked to solve a problem in front of the class, then it’s fear, pure excruciating fear), the crucial chat with your friends about that boy and the day of raucous laughter about that boy.

What if someday we look back upon today as one of the best days of our life? Even if we’re all happy beyond reason in the future (and I hope we will be!), I hope we lovingly remember the room, office, train or classroom we’re sitting in right now, and relive the conversations we’re having and the people we’re having them with.

Almost 15 years after I left school, I can still hear the weightless laughter and feel the blind hope bouncing off the walls. I want to tell 15-years-back me to remember this moment and know that you’re living it – and you’re responsible for the happiness you’re feeling, don’t ever put it in anyone else’s hands. Never lose the sense of wonder for the world out there. The fun, quirky or shy girls around you will become the strong, beautiful women who make your day by just remembering you, so cherish them. Continue believing that you can make a difference and never stop being different. The song lyrics you say is your motto in life right now, you’ll probably laugh at that in a few years, but somehow, you’ll reconnect with it again, so hold on to that (even the really, really cheesy ones. Especially, the really, really cheesy ones).

And I want 15-years-back-me to tell me the same thing. Run into work and home to smile and talk to the people around me. Create rituals that make every space mine. Never stop laughing at silly things. Not to wait for something big and shiny every time. Let everyday things inspire me, even if just for a second. Never stop making friends. Make conversation with the quiet guy at work. Finish your homework quickly so you can go out and play. You’ll keep finding best friends and soul mates, but your school friends will be your parachute and jetpack and magic door. It’s ok to be sad, mad and bad. Your school memories may have been the best, but better days are in front of you, if you keep moving forward.

I think school-me would’ve been happy seeing today-me, this morning. She would’ve looked at me and passed the verdict to her friends: “Yeah, she’s not too bad for an adult.”

Ya heard that? Not too bad! Ha!

(Haha she thinks I’m an adult. Cute!)

 

Yeah, about that deadline…

Another year is drawing to a close, and I’m another year closer to cancelling my backup plans.

Plans made for the “by the time I’m at the ripe-old, very distant age of 35” kind of deadline.

I should’ve travelled at least half the world, become super successful in my career, gone to a Backstreet Boys concert, be married.

Ah the all-important cliché, if-I’m-not-married-by backup plan and the subsequent and much more fun, backup friend.

To blame our baseless desire to be married young on society, movies, parents or fear of being alone, would be weak. It was cool to have a backup and be a backup. That’s the absolute only reason.

Backup

(They worked, but they’re also fictional.)

It was like flirting a little but mostly for the future, with someone you didn’t want to give your A-game to right now.

For the life of me, I cannot remember my backup. The person I chose (after not much deliberation) to throw away what would be left of my life with. Clearly, it was a match made in lazy heaven.

Good thing I got me my M, or I’d have to rummage through my memory and send out some embarrassing emails. Or you know, not desperately marry the ol’ trusty friend who I may have had a heart-to-heart with on a sad day.

And trusty friend he must have been. How else did I feel so free to propose marriage to him – and for him to accept – under the conditions stipulated?

Maybe that’s why people publicly renew their wedding vows, to send a message to the backup friend that their pact is off.

Luckily, I wasn’t solely relying on Prince Charming to infuse meaning into my life. I even set a deadline for career goals. I was meant to be at the top of my game right about 2 years ago.

Backup plan? That I suck. I should just give up on writing and go back to being a Civil Engineer.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not my calling. Right now, I want to keep writing. Maybe later, I’ll want design school bags. Or be a nurse. Who knows!

There will be no “giving up” in any case, just dreaming some more. If we give ourselves the freedom to change personal styles and whom we love, then changing dreams shouldn’t be called giving up, just growing up.

I haven’t travelled the world, either. My backup plan was to drop everything and leave.

Um, no. And um, yes.

We did drop everything (not so much drop as plan and ponder over for 4 months) and jump on this little adventure to move overseas for a little while. It’s the married-with-kid version of dropping and leaving.

Besides, I’ve moved around a lot and I’ve fallen in love with different cities. And I’ve realised that there’s no deadline for travelling. I’ll get there. But right now, I’m kinda in the middle of a pretty big adventure.

I barely recognise the girl who made this list on my sister’s PC several lifetimes ago. She was a few months shy of turning 20 and knew nothing about being an adult in the real world. She wasn’t sure about what she stood for and what she was capable of.

But she had heart, I’ll give her that. Something that hardened with time, with heartbreak, loss and failure. But those are the things that strengthen resolve and make tough, badass women.

I am strong, and it has served me well.

But now I want more heart.

More trust and faith and love. More fire and less give-me-that-job passion. More affection and less xoxo. More care and less duty.

I want to feel so much affection for a friend that I can ask them to be my backup in another lifetime.

I want to let myself express so much love for my husband, child and inner circle that they think I’m being borderline creepy.

I want to feel happiness without cynicism, and kindness without a cause.

So I’m putting only one thing on that deadline list today with no backup plan.

I want to have more heart.

If you’re happy and you know it, click the link!

I’m still figuring out how to use WordPress and it’s awesome features. Like, tagging. It’s like hashtagging, but for people who are just not cool enough. So you list the key words along the side panel like a good little child.

Yesterday, I also discovered that you could see the most highly searched-for tag.

And there it was: Happy.

How cool is that?

We’re all looking for happy. We’re trying to find it, keep it, create it, spread it, share it and reinstate it.

 

smiley

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

                                                                                                                          John Lennon

In books and movies, it’s all so clear to us. If only the heroine would pick the life that makes her happy. If only the hero could see the woman who truly makes him happy.

Isn’t it obvious? In the mad rush to get to work, pick up after the kids and catch up with friends, we see ourselves as extras who provide comic relief or a side story to someone else’s life.

We need to be the protagonist. The one who turns heads. The one for whom all the stars align. The one who gets the guy or the girl or the job or the throne or freedom.

Make today the day that you, the hero/heroine, have that “A-ha!” moment and go for life. Catch that flight, call that person, quit your job, get that other job (because bills), sign up, sign out, let go, give it a go, start thinking about it, stop thinking about it.

tick

Back in the day, I was one of those annoying optimist with an I-just-found-God smile plastered across my face. What was there to be unhappy about?

Loving crazy family, check.

Coolest friends ever, check.

Good food, check.

Safe home, check.

Healthy body, check.

Active mind, check.

Sometimes, out of nowhere, none of this is good enough. Not loving enough, not friendly enough, not healthy enough. And that’s ok. Contrary to what I thought when I was younger, you can’t just snap out of it. It takes time and thought, and that’s what makes your joy last longer.

When it’s not good enough, re-check your list and find happy.

 

flag 

I’m guilty of internally fighting happiness.

It’s not the same, we say. Same as what? When we were young, carefree and sans responsibilities?

School days would come with asking for permission to step out of the house, asking for pocket money, having a curfew, explaining ourselves, and exams.

Pre-baby years would mean, firstly, no cuddles and kisses from the little person you created. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the way looks pretty empty. As much as I loved my life before my son, I don’t feel like erasing him just right now. Let’s chat when he’s giving me a migraine. Besides, back then we wanted to go back to being children and being loved unconditionally.

Nothing is ever going to be perfect forever, and that’s just perfect. Learn to love the low lows as you do the high highs. Happiness may come under the guise of a lacklustre old relationship or a predictable lifestyle.

love

We’re so consumed by this globe-trotting, sky-diving image of Carpe Diem, that we think anything less means we’re not nearly as happy as we should be. I enjoy travelling and seeing new places, but it’s not my calling like it is for many others. And that doesn’t make me any less happy than they are.

Yet, no matter how level-headed some of us claim to be, there’s a pang of jealously when we see stupidly happy photos on Facebook. Of people living it up, travelling the world, having the perfect relationship and eating the best food across the world.

We tell ourselves that it’s just a photo and we don’t know anything about their troubles and worries. (I do hope the people in them are really stupidly happy.)

My loves, choices and dreams brought me to where I am right now, as yours did for you. I wouldn’t change any of them, which makes this life pretty damn special.

There are a lot of people who lose sight of their loves or are given no choice or have their dreams shattered by war, illness, disasters and cruelty. I’m not saying count your blessings. But make your blessings count.

If all we have today is rushing to work, crawling in traffic, picking up after the kids and paying bills, it’s where we really, really wanted to be. And it’s ok to change your mind, but while you think about it, try to enjoy the ride. Smile.

If you’re happy and you know it, dwell on it!

To Chennai, with respect.

Many years ago, I moved to India with Bollywood stars in my eyes and a loud, strumming beat in my heart. For someone who was born and raised overseas, this was going to be my big Indian adventure.

But like in most Indian movies, first you’ve got to hate each other before you find true love.

I fell in love with my country reluctantly at first, and then in a mad rush.

The closeness in my grandparents’ small town of Nagercoil. The freshly washed sun in Kerala, every morning. The smoke and independence in Bangalore’s air. The feeling that someone hit the fast-forward button and lost the remote control a very long time ago, in Mumbai. The indomitable, infectious positivity of Chennai, through heat or rain.

About the time when I was crushing hard on India, I stumbled upon this ad.

 

 

I watched it every single day. Later, when I moved away from India, I watched it every time I missed her. It reminded me of an India we all dreamt we could be part of. One that was film-y enough to be us. One that seemed impossible and yet, something that could only happen in India.

One that we’ve been seeing over and over again for the last few weeks during the Chennai floods.

No vigils, protests or petitions. No time for controversy or negativity. No blogs, logos or inspirational quotes.

It has been action, action, action. Go, go, go.

Food, clothes and medicines are being handed out to the drowned by the drowning. Phone numbers and home addresses are being shared openly and urgently. You need a car, they have a car. You need a doctor, they’ll bring you a doctor. You need to charge your phone, they’ll take you to a clean, dry power source.

If power blackouts and dead phone & mobile lines weren’t going to stop Chennai-ites from helping one another, then what was a little waist-high rain and drain water. No one waited to see what the government would do; they were out long before red-tapism permitted it and will be there long after the media circus ends.

The Chennai floods have wrecked havoc upon her people, but her people have given themselves the gift of time and faith.

Through ruined homes, lost belongings and threatened health, the Chennai-ites have inspired the world with their unwavering and unstoppable fortitude.

It’s far from over and far from perfect, but this is humanity at it’s best. If there was ever a starting point for a better world, this is it.

It didn’t take a calamity for the people of Chennai to band together, they’ve always been that way – it’s part of the whole Tamil charm. But it did show the rest of the world how to move forward.

By getting shit done.

Look at me, I’m hideous!

I looked at my reflection in the mirror this morning and was heartbroken with the head that stared back at me. A crown of glossy jet-black hair rudely sat atop my head. Black hair that was steadily replacing my halo of gorgeous teal hair.

Teal hair that used to be vibrant blue. Sometimes Jared Leto’s Joker green. Other times shimmering aqua. And once, a madness of blue, green, purple and mint. Teal hair that once made me thrilled to find a stray hair in my food.

And now the blackness that is cruelly tearing through my scalp and spreading through my glory like hay amongst a rainbow orchard, is threatening to eat away at my very core.

Believe me, I’ve toned down the drama.

I’m unsure about a lot of things, mostly pertaining to myself.

I’m a copywriter with an unreasonable fear of words. I’m a Gen-X-er who can’t hashtag or vine (that’s a verb, right? I just made it worse, didn’t I?). I’m a mum experimenting with my very own Jon Snow Parenting. My lower half is half a dress size larger than my upper half, which is testament to how deep my confusion runs.

Through all of this, the one thing I’m sure of is my hair. Even when I hate it, I hate it indubitably. When I love it, you’ll know.

So when I fell madly in love with a shade of blue, I knew exactly where to put it.

Two days of strand tests and six hours of bleaching, colouring and toning later, there I was, blue as the day Cookie Monster was born. No amount of ‘feeling blue’ puns could drag me down from the blue-sky-high (sorry) perch I was perched on. I could barely tear myself away from the mirror. For days afterwards, I couldn’t wipe the blue dye off my nape or the big grin off my face.

bluenette

Photo credit: M @rnanoj

Five months later, as the black crept in and started edging out the blue, I turned the whole thing blue, green and purple.

I was on a high. The kind of high where it’s not only possible, but it’s also poetic to see My Little Pony, Little Mermaid and a 90’s Troll doll in a psychotic threesome on my head.

hairey

Photo credit: The beautiful Indu @quirkyeye

But, people! People have so many questions to shake you out of your high.

“Are you tying to stand out?”

“Are you trying to fit in?”

“Mid-life crisis?”

“Have you completely lost your mind?”

“How bored/drunk were you?”

“What statement are you making?”

“Who the hell do you think you are?

Lucky for me, I don’t need to answer them. You see, they’re all rhetorical questions and the questioners have already made up their minds.

Here’s my question: Why isn’t “because I felt like it” an acceptable answer? Everyone wants a story. A Carpe Diem moment of clarity when I decided it’s now or never. A drunken misadventure. A calling. A lost bet.

I’ve got none of that. Just a woman-child and her desire to have peacock cotton-candy hair.

Try as I may (I don’t), I cannot peel my eyes off myself. In photos with my sweet child, I zoom past him to analyse the scintillating shades of blue and green in my hair. Every elevator ride turns into an exercise in self-admiration and every mirror reflection into a fascinating work of art.

The many colours in my hair are so mesmerising that strangers on the street walk into one another staring at me, so why can’t I lose myself in it?

When babies spend forever admiring their reflection in the mirror, it’s called self-awareness. When I do it, it’s vanity.

Like Carrie Bradshaw would’ve asked: Why is it impossible for us to absolutely, unequivocally adore ourselves?

This isn’t a serious issue like feminism or body image; it’s about not taking yourself too seriously. About doing what makes you feel good. About loving what you see in the mirror because it’s fun and it makes you smile. About being your own pick-me-up.

Sometimes, superficial is the way to go. Do because it’s pretty; it makes you laugh; it makes you pay attention to yourself for a minute longer; it’ll make a damn good story someday.

And when the colours fade, makeup washes off and magic underwear stretches out, it’s just you. The you that dared to colour, toiled to makeup and held your breath long enough to squeeze into that underwear. You didn’t just love the superficial, you loved it on you.

Which is why I’ve decided to embrace the black as a new and intrusive shade in my hair (as of the last 3 minutes). It adds character. Plus I’m an ocean away from my hairdresser and I don’t want to think about it. And even at 40% colour, my hair is always greener on my side.