Category Archives: Musings

On Tattoos and Hijabs

Whenever I imagine calling all my close friends for a party and putting all my friends under the same roof, in the same room, my mind goes into overdrive. Plagued with an overactive imagination, my life plays out like an elaborate broadway show or a high budget Karan Johar movie, and this one scenario seems like the plausible climax beyond which I’m not really sure how the movie will go.

Some friends would be indifferent, some shy. Some overbearing, some withdrawn. Some would be the life of the party and some would prefer to go home to a book or a drink. Together all my friends would make for a very interesting, albeit emotionally charged party.

I’m not one to hang out in big, gregarious crowds. I prefer small, intimate groups. I’m picky about my friends and pickier still about my close friends. From becoming dancers to scientists, to supporting Trump, my friends have been there, done that. I don’t know how I know so many different kinds of people,  but I know why – because, without them, I would be stuck in my tiny version of reality.

Our reality is limited. We extend our reality only to what we think we know and can understand. It’s a catch 22 really. What we don’t understand we don’t know and what we don’t know, we don’t understand. So where do we begin to break out of our tiny realities?

I hear a lot of discussions regarding “learning moments” and every time I hear the phrase I cringe. The notion that we have to seek out learning moments is as absurd as that of women being a weaker sex.

Learning moments isn’t a physics classroom wherein you only learn physics. Learning moments happen when you open your eyes and mind to two notions –

  1. I don’t know everything
  2. I can always learn something new

Both of these realities have been shunned in our MBA driven society where one has to know everything. While many people may know a lot of things, many of them don’t comprehend or analyze or understand these things.

To truly learn, one simply needs to make more friends, to make different friends, to make yourself uncomfortable and vulnerable, to be wrong, to be correct, to feel safe, and to feel challenged. A learning moment can come from a YouTube video or an Albert Camus book. A learning moment can come in the kitchen or at an IPL game.

Often, a learning moment comes when you least expect it, from someone you least expect. Make friends who are different from you, physically and emotionally. Meet more than one person of a ‘type’ and you’ll see that there is no such thing as a ‘type’. Tattoos, hijabs, miniskirts. They don’t make the difference, you make the difference in your head. Meet at least three people of a ‘type’. Then four, then five. You may like only one, but you may not like the first one.

Don’t let an earring or a tattoo or a hijab stop you. Move beyond them.

On Second Chances

When you meet an old friend, you know what to expect. It’s comfortable, it’s known. When you meet someone new, you know what to expect. It’ll be strange and can go any way. But when you meet an acquaintance, you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what memories they have of you or what conversations make them tick. Today was a beautiful reminder that even though life moves along, we have to move with it. If we get caught in and obsessed with our past, we lose ourselves. We lose our today and we lose our tomorrow. But if we move with it, if we push ourselves, if we keep at it, we evolve. We get closer to being who we want to be.

I met an old acquaintance of mine today. Last I’d seen him almost 8 years ago.  We are facebook friends but we had rarely spoken. When I saw he was in the same city as me, I did what I usually would – reach out and meet up.

I reached out, we chatted for a bit and then met up. Simple. He was polite, funny, chivalrous, intelligent, and unapologetic about who he was.

The day started off slowly. I had realized long ago that, one, we can’t live our lives by other’s expectations of us and two, to be disliked is better than to despise. So between the usual mindless chatter of the weather and the city, we took a while to warm up, reconnect (or try to, at least), and then pick up where we left off. From food to dessert to coffee, we etched our way through the market lining it with our stories and silences.

Throughout the conversation, how he seemed to see himself and how I saw him painted very different pictures. From the stories he told and the memories we brought up, I realized who I was before isn’t who I am today. Between the difference in how we saw ourselves and how we saw each other,  I smiled at how ridiculous we humans can be.  We can walk on the moon, video chat across the world, give meaning where none exists, and yet sometimes be so silly! I realized that within a few hours of conversing with someone I sort of knew, by moving out of my comfort zone, and meeting someone for the first time after high school, I had taken another chance on me.

We talk about taking chances on others. We talk about forgiving or reconnecting with others, but we rarely do it to ourselves. We get caught up in the daily routines we set for ourselves and don’t stop to see how far we’ve come.

High school was vicious and to me frankly, it was really scary. It was mean, it was uncertain, and it was something I never want to go back to. Today, however, by going there, and not completely freaking out ( I did get embarrassed a little bit), and being comfortable in who I am today made me really happy.  It gave me a true sense of accomplishment more than even my TEDx Talk.  ISN’T THAT AMAZING?!

I think it is and I would have never known if I hadn’t visited my past with someone I hardly knew. I don’t know what, and if, it had any impact on my friend (or acquaintance (?)) but for me, I’m good.

In fact, I’m very good.

You find yourself when you stop running from a past – any past. Good or bad. So, go out of your comfort zone, revisit your high school fiascos, meet up with people you thought you disliked (unless they harmed you in any way), and take a chance on yourself. Be okay being disliked and stick to who you are. Who knows, maybe you’ll see that you’re already the person you once dreamed and hoped you’d be.

 

 

The Best Way to Escape

I was recently introduced to Quora by a close friend of mine who one day in the middle of a conversation, stared at me for good ten seconds and then said, “I don’t know why I didn’t think of this, but you HAVE TO TRY QUORA YOU’RE GOING TO LOVE IT!” And this guy is usually quite calm and composed, so this obviously caught me off guard. But he was so excited and animated, I knew I had to at least sign up for Quora.

And I did. And I loved it! So much so that I wrote 43 answers in two weeks and counting. It was when I was browsing through my Quora today that I realized at least 26% of my answers, involve words related to Reading.

The situation (questions) vary greatly, but the outcome of any answer that has reading involved is almost always one that brings a sense of peace, belonging, and calm.

Reading, and I don’t want to sound like your parents, is one of the best gifts you can gift yourself. The habit of losing yourself in a new story, in a different world, is one that cannot be replicated in any other action. Reading provides the soul with imagination and an instant escape, both of which are necessary for a happy, healthy life.

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Now, there is no one who exists who doesn’t like to read. Seriously. I know it’s a MASSIVE generalization, but it’s true. If you don’t like reading, then you simply haven’t found your kind of books. No matter what kind of books you enjoy, don’t be ashamed.

People tend to give too much importance to “serious” works. You ignore it. I can read anything from a Murakami to Gladwell to even Mills and Boon all of which I enjoy with as much fervor and excitement (okay maybe, Mills and Boon provide a little extra excitement than the rest)  but the bottom line is that you ought to read whatever makes your heart tick. I can pick up a Camus with as much excitement as I pick up a Pinker. And yet, sometimes I get stared at for crying in romantic novels. Whatever the case, if people judge or they don’t, pick up a new book and read it. Don’t like it? Pick up a different book.

Books introduce you to new minds, similar minds, and scary minds. They, in short, introduce you to the world one tiny page at a time. They make you realize that there’s a huge world out there just waiting to be discovered. They remind you of how small your problems can be and how common they are.

So do yourself a favor and pick up a book. Any book, and read.

 

 

 

Becoming You and The Price The Indian Youth Pays

Life is weird. It has no rules, no regulations, no patterns, no surety. Yes, we have cultural norms and we have country legislations. We have rules in families and see patterns among people. But life by itself has no such thing. It’s bigger than all of us. The present norms today eventually die and the future eventually becomes the present. Outliers change the world and some to be world innovators are lost in the obscurity of life.

The only thing remaining thus is – now. And in that now is you. You. Your story, your life, your pattern, your rules, your regulations. But how often do you follow them? How often do you believe in your brilliance and follow your heart? Often, we don’t.

We get caught up in the definitions set by others. We get caught up in someone else’s definitions of intelligence, and life. We see things as others want us to, which isn’t bad because it’s all we’ve been taught. It only becomes ‘bad’ when we fail to see things differently and blindly follow what we’ve been taught.

And then, if all that wasn’t enough, our bubbles are bursting. To some extent at least. While our virtual bubbles are getting larger and larger, so is the need to belong. As much as we want to stand out, we also try to fit in. If we stand out too much, we get ostracized for it. Norms keep society in check. And fitting in keeps people in check.

But push that too much and you’ve chained people. If not physically, definitely mentally. Studying in the United States I realized that the chains are very different in India and America.

In India, the chains are everywhere, on everything. How you dress, what you say, when you say it, how much you respect someone. Good or bad, is not being questioned (though it will be in another post) the freedom one has, is being analyzed. The Indian Youth have very little freedom. Right from the beginning, we are taught to second-guess our opinion. We are told that our opinions are inferior to those older than us.

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We are taught, that in order to be loved, and welcomed, we need to fit in. We need to be liked by others. Not just our families, but even outsiders. With such an upbringing, it’s no surprise that when we young Indians go abroad, we find ourselves lost. We come from a home where everything is measured, and every move monitored and go to a place where everything is fluid. This change in how we live our lives puts enormous pressure on young minds.

Now we have to figure everything out. We have to figure out who we are, where we belong and often have to do it in a mold that our parents approve off. If not, then we become “too big for our boots” or are accused of being disrespectful and rude.

Then how do we balance it?

Becoming who we are, and between who they want us to be? Do we follow the century-old law of hypocrisy? Where we sneak out in a long skirt over the mini skirt? Or do we begin the painful process of changing those who taught us how the world works?

These questions of who we are and where we belong, don’t live in isolation. Your thought processes are not singular. We all face them. As a motivational speaker, I did too. Balancing who I am and who I am expected to be was a carefully calculated act and then became a habit and today it’s become who I am.

But the process is brutal. Between being monitored 18/7 to being free 24/7. It’s not your body that gets hit, it’s your mind. Your mind suddenly finds itself in the pits of painful loneliness and your center, or core gets lost. 

The funny part is, it happens to most of us, if not all of us at some point in our lives. If you’re lucky, it happens when you’re in college, if not, it hits you in the gut on the night of your 31st birthday.

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What I did? Well, that’s a long conversation, and I will cover it piece by piece. But know that, for now, for this post – keep doing what you have to do. Keep being uncomfortable. Keep challenging who you are. Grow from who you were yesterday.
Get comfortable being lonely, learn to enjoy yourself, your company. Read more. Even if it’s fantasy. Find a way to calm your anxious heart. Learn to escape every once in a while. Cut down on alcohol, unless you actually enjoy it. Look for solutions, not reasons. Find one friend who makes you think. If you’re lucky, you’ll find two.

And most of all – remind yourself that you’re okay. You are okay. You are okay. You may not be great yet. But you’re okay. And that is a great place to start.

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Let’s figure out life together. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to my blog to get email notifications of new posts.

 

 

The Kind of Music I Like

This is one question to which I’ve never had a satisfactory answer. I like music, no doubt. But when I’m asked to specify a ‘type’ it feels like someone asked me to pick between Nutella and Facebook memes. I just cannot!

I like music that makes me want to move to it. I like music where the lyrics and the music compliment the moods. Like sad songs should sound sad. If the music is happy but the lyrics are sad, I have issues with the music. I generally like anything I’ve heard often enough.

I dislike Metal, Hard Rock, Rap and anything with ‘hoe’ or ‘bitch’ in the lyrics.  I don’t particularly love Country, but I always find exceptions.

Unlike people who seek out new music, this is one aspect of my life where I really couldn’t care less. Even my walks are without music and my car rides are often with the same CD I’ve been hearing for the past 7 months.

I have no doubts that music can heavily influence people’s personalities and shape their outlook on life. I can’t cite any research right now, but if I find any, I’ll link it. So, I wonder what my taste in music says.

What kind of music do you like?

 

This is Why Women Hate Women

Walk into any teenage girl’s slumber party and you’re bound to overhear a conversation about some other girl that the entire group hates. The reasons for that hate are many. She’s mean. She’s rude. She’s a slut. She’s too arrogant. And while all these reasons seem perfectly acceptable to those girls, they are not.

When these young girls learn at an early age to turn on one another, to compete with one another on looks and boyfriends and to label one another, we as a society, have failed them. We have culturally and traditionally failed our daughters and continue to do so.

We have at every level taught our daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, that they are just that. They are someone only when they are in relation to someone else.

We have taught our daughters that they belong to someone. It starts with belonging to their fathers who then give them to their husbands. All our rhetorics, from Disney to Vogue, have taught us to wait for our prince charming, to be in need of a prince charming who will then forever take care of us. We are told right from the start that for one prince charming, there is only one princess and if you don’t get that prince, your life is doomed. And that is why women hate each other.

We have been systematically taught to value a man more than we value ourselves. We have been taught to listen to men more than we listen to our women. We value a firm fatherly figure than a nagging mother. And yes, this is about society. It’s about how we function, it’s about the messages we send our women. It’s not an excuse, it a rationale, or as some call it ‘a feminist propaganda’. Women hate women because that’s all we’ve seen and heard.

That’s it. But the good news? That rhetoric is slowly changing, too slowly for my liking, but I guess change takes time. In my lifetime, I have seen women hate women, but more than that, I’ve seen women stand up for women.

I’ve seen girls who value their friendships more than petty differences. I’ve seen and been a part of friendships where we treat each other with love and respect. Where we slowly learn to be our own people.

I’ve seen my best friends be a pillar of strength. I’ve seen my mother be an endless source of courage. I’ve seen my aunts tell their daughters to be strong and independent. I’ve seen my brother, push me towards being a better woman.

Change is happening. But we need to choose to be a part of it.

I’ll meet you tomorrow.

Love,

SfR

The Fear Of Running Out Of Things To Say

Any blogger will tell you this, at some point in their lives, they’ve wondered what to write about. And that’s a reality.

Even in life, at times we don’t know what to say. With friends, we can reminisce about the past, about future plans, and about the present.  With strangers or acquaintances, we don’t know what to say. We stare at the ground awkwardly and hope someone will talk about something other than the weather, traffic or the upcoming movies.

This fear of running out of things to say, and the awkward silence that follows, is actually an amazing way to connect. Seriously.

When we run out of things to say, often two things can happen – we blank out or we dive in further. Going blank, helps our mind wander away, to day dream, and to simply stop thinking for a while.

If we dive in further into the conversation, we are introduced to a whole new side of a person. Often a sensitive vulnerable side, that we didn’t see when we first began the conversation. Of course, we may come across people we don’t particularly like, but that’s okay too.

Not knowing what to say, doesn’t need to be a negative thing. It doesn’t have to be a buzzkill. It’s just a pause. Not a full-stop, but a pause and every conversation, relationship, and situation in life needs a pause.

How To Learn From Your Mistakes

Life is full of errors. On a daily basis, we do something wrong. Left the milk to boil too long, sent in the wrong emoji, didn’t have your meds. But these are small things that don’t hurt anyone (much). Every once in awhile, we make mistakes that can hurt us or others. These mistakes then, begin to matter. We become conscious of the consequences.

Till here the process is pretty sorted.  Make mistake -> See bad consequence -> Don’t want to feel bad again.

Yet, more often than not, some mistakes we continue to make. Why? Why is it that when we decided to not be angry again, do we suddenly burst out with anger? Why is it that when the situation is tense, our resolutions fall through? It’s often because we don’t know how to learn from our mistakes. In the process listed above, we have a problem, we have a consequence. We don’t have a solution. And that makes sense. Solutions are hard work. They require mental and physical effort.

If there was a solution though the process would look a lot like

Make Mistake -> See bad consequence -> Solution -> Don’t feel bad again.

The solution, though not a one glove fits all, but a medium size that almost fits all.  Learning a from a mistake requires you to deconstruct it, see different triggers and components and then practice the solution. So the complete process looks a lot like this.

Make Mistake -> See bad consequence -> Introspect and break down mistake -> Practice Solution -> Don’t feel bad again

Learning from your mistakes is an active process of control and repetition. Control your natural urges, practice your preferred response.

The Need to be Good

Everywhere we look, there is someone doing something we love, but doing it better. Personally, there’ll always be that one friend, acquaintance or an inspiration who is better at a hobby you want to do. Someone who, knowingly or unknowingly, manages to upset you.  While jobs are inherently competitive, personal lives need not be. We often complicate our lives by competing in our professional and personal lives.

But here’s the thing – we don’t need to.

Fictional case in point –

If you love writing, and you write a blog. So does your friend. Your friend writes a wee bit better than you do. And you’re upset about it. While it’s okay to be upset about it, if it begins to consume your day or your emotions, then you might want to reconsider.

Why does this upset you so much? Is it because you have a point to prove? Is it because you want to be the only one who writes? Or is it because she/he is better at it than you are?

Whatever the reason, one thing we forget is that IT SIMPLY DOESN’T MATTER. Your friend could be better than you. Could have won a Pulitzer, could have a following of 1 million readers. Why should it matter? Unless getting a Pulitzer is your goal, or having a million followers is your goal, why should you compete?

Our lives are already so messed up with the amount of competition and pressures that we have, why should we ourselves add to those? The point is that one doesn’t have to be good at everything one likes to do. One can pick and choose. Some things ought to be done just for the fun of it. Nothing more. Make your lives simpler. Pick your battles and more importantly do things because they make you happy, not because you have to be the best at them.

 

How to Write/Form a Resolution

2017 is finally here. After an interesting 2016, 2017 comes in like a much-needed vacation after the vacation. You know what I’m talking about, right? A break after a break? The tiny break we need after the big break we had? Anyway, now that 2017 is here, the best thing to do is make a resolution.
Yes, that is the best thing to do, regardless of what Facebook memes tell you. If you’ve always wanted to do something, or if you’ve had a dream you’ve been putting off, what better way to get back at it (or start it), when everything is new?

Resolutions often don’t work because we do it wrong. We make goals we can’t achieve and set the bar so high that often we don’t even see it. What we forget is the process. We forget to make a blueprint. So, if you want to form a resolution, break it down into tiny tasks.

Break down the main goal into tangible daily routines. By doing so, your goals will be more manageable and your resolutions are more likely to succeed. Example –

Goal – Run a marathon

Resolution – Run a little every week

Goal –  Publish a book

Resolution – Write for two hours every week

 

Goal – Be less angry

Resolution – Count for three seconds before responding in a tense situation

It’s very difficult to change the way one has been. So, a drastic resolution is likely to fail. If you want to actually make any change it has to be tiny enough for your brain to be excited yet convenient enough for your body to work towards it.

So make your list, 2017 is going to be a great year!