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 🙂

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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“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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

Back in the day

Remember a time when you had to remember things. Remember that? When you saw a face that you just couldn’t place, you thought about it for a minute or 2 months. It did your head in. You retraced every step, turned every stone, scanned through every photo album (oh photo albums!), re-visited every detail to get to that one face. In the process, you filled your head and heart with long-forgotten memories, conversations and faces. People who made you laugh, moments that made your heart beat outside of its cage and that week when you cried over the rumour of your favourite boy band breaking up. It was a constant flashback playing in the back of your head, even if the goddamn face bugs you to this day.

It was a simpler time, a time before mobile phones and the Internet ruined everything (except for blogging of course, it’s the best part! Yay Internet!).

Snail mail. Oh the excitement when the postman arrived with a letter bearing your name (before bills ruined that). You had a ceremony with each letter, like looking for secret messages on the envelope, reading every single line quickly and then slowly, reading between the lines and finally slipping the letter back into the envelope so you could repeat the process later. And because you waited so long for that one reply, you never took it for granted. In a way, it was like clicking the refresh button on your email every 5 seconds. Except, less desperate.

Getting lost. When you didn’t bring the invite to your friend’s birthday party, featuring a very detailed map done on her parents’ PC (that’s Personal Computer, kids), your dad had to drive around the block in circles till you found a (smarter) friend entering one of the apartments or got to a shop from where you could call someone and ask. Lot of quality conversations were had in those endless circular drives. Mostly about my irresponsibility and complete disregard for other people’s time and being too exhausted after work to drive around in circles just to have to come and pick me up in an hour. Sigh. Such great life lessons!

Getting away with shit. You could’ve had a complete meltdown in the middle of a crowded shopping centre over a fake spider in your bag and taken an embarrassing fall to top it off, but apart from a bruised ego, you didn’t have to worry about going viral within the hour. Or you could sneak out with your friends and get caught the old-fashioned way when you crept back home – and not because you were tagged in a post titled “OMFG I hope my parents don’t see this!! – smiley face – hashtag girlshaveallthefun hashtag BFFs hashtag donttellmyparents – smiley face!”

No selfies.

Watching things with your own eyes. Yep, that was a thing. No giant screen with the best megapixel camera between you and life. You watched concerts and enjoyed parties and watched the sun set. You drank in every second because you wanted to commit it to memory, without cramming it into your phone’s memory.

Spelling mistakes. I was caught for passing a note in class once, and was punished because I spelt ‘because’ wrong. Do kids these days get caught for texting during class? And for abbreviating every-single-word? Or does autocorrect get the blame? I do love me some autocorrect, though.

Fascination levels. You were like a village idiot. Everyone was. If someone had told me then that in 20 years I’d be able to write about all that and share it with people (hey I begged you to just click the button, I signed you up, I even bookmarked it for you, what more do you want me to do for you?!). Sorry I lost my train of thought. Yes, back in the day a story about smart phones would’ve blown my little mind. Now you say Flying Car and no one even looks up from their phones.

Making eye contact while you speak. Because respect.

Patience. You sat through commercial breaks. You read through the encyclopaedia. You sat through excruciatingly long dinners while the adults talked. You waited in queues. You knew where to part the dictionary to get to the letter you were after. You knew your way around an atlas. You waited outside to be picked up by your mum. You made plans and got there 15 minutes early, just in case. You got bored out of your brains. You knew it was either patience or –.

Hugs. Wake up to another glorious day and roll over to the person/pillow/poster next to you, hold them/it and take in the warmth, scents and love. Or you know, force your eyes open to the blaring light of your mobile phone and check who went where with whom while you were sleeping. Who needs hugs and compassion when you can read up on 10 ways to keep cankles at bay.

Throwback

I’m pretty grateful for all the things we have in our lives these days. Every now and again, I even find myself wondering how we got by without some of the technology. But we did. We didn’t miss appointments or parties (even if we were a bit late on account of leaving the map at home). We knew everything that was going on in our friends’ lives because they told us and not because we facebook-stalked them. We listened to every song on the album because we broke the fast-forward button (until we could afford CDs).

Back in the day we got told off for more real-world teen problems. Get off the phone, get off the couch, get off the computer. Turn down the volume down, take the headphones off, look at me when I talk to you. You’re lazy, you’ll go blind, you’ll go deaf. What does that even mean, how can you like that, why would you waste your time on it? Stop eating junk, stop talking nonsense, stop listening to trash. Your pants are too low, top too high and skirts too tight. You have too much of everything, too less of respect, too many choices.

Hmm.

Gimme a second with this, I swear I had a point. Maybe I’ll take a magical journey and try to remember.

Re-encounter of the girly kind

At my first job, I was treated like a child. They couldn’t fathom that I had only just passed out of school 4 years prior. Now I’m the one who reels in horror when people say Barney Stinson put Neil Patrick Harris on the map.

Today I met few of my fellow old-timers, and we were young ‘uns once again. They say boys will be boys, but I reckon that’s limited to video games and childish behaviour (not being offensive, but that’s when you hear it being said by the above-mentioned boys). But girls will be girls in many more ways. It should totally be a thing. Some of us at today’s micro-reunion were married, some mums and some working. Conversation oscillated between updates, adventures, you-won’t-believe-it and remember-that-time. From this torrent of information, one thing was clear – among us were stay-at-home mums, doctors, bankers, writers, engineers and travellers – among us were 30 year olds, going on 16.

Life has changed us in different ways: broken hearts and overflowing hearts, well-travelled and well-settled, weight of the world and weight on the hips. But a few minutes of opening up and you see the young girl who shared her packet of chips and a joke with you during class.

Whether it was 5, 10 or 15 years since we all met, it took us roughly 2.6 seconds to burst into loud, unbridled laughter and no-holds-barred conversation. We were freely sharing stories that a new friend would have to pry out of our private hearts. We were reminiscing, repenting and losing our minds at how cool/absurd/silly we used to be, and very quickly realised that we were still cool/absurd/silly.

We went to an all-girls school and loved the bonding and freedom that came from it. It was like having a sister you didn’t have to share your space with. Like a sister who wouldn’t tell on you. Like a sister you didn’t have to see all day long. My real sisters and I share a very powerful bond today, but back then I would’ve gladly traded them in for my friends. There were around 120 of us in our year, and we either knew one another or knew of one another. Maybe we didn’t get the memo that girls were catty and bitchy and back-stabby (Yyyep. Just making words up as I go). Not that it was all giggles and luv-u-4ever’s, but even the darkest of animosities was generally short-lived.

But we did miss having boys around and so crushes were cherished and shared. Some of them came up in conversation today. We died of embarrassment and then we died of laughter.

Spending 4 hours catching up with the girls today reminded me of the 8 years spent getting to know them. Most of my best friends weren’t there today, but that’s the magic of reunions – you see a face that sparks a memory, and just like that, everyone’s there. These lovely ladies helped shape me into the girl I was 15 years ago and the (girl-acting-like-a-) woman I am today. I’ve been loved and I’ve been hated; I’ve loved and I’ve hated; And I’d do it all over again.

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