Saturday, April 22

W is for Writer Impressions #AtoZChallenge

‘Why do smile so much in the pictures?’, my girlfriend remarked.

What´s wrong?, I said.

´Well, you don't look like a writer from your pictures?´, she said.

´Really! What is a writer supposed to look like?´, I enquired with a hawk-like interest.

´Well, you know…Messy hair, lousy clothes, geeky glasses,…a look and expression that screams .that they don't give a damn to the world and what it thinks. They don't even give a damn about themselves. And, they are serious….dead serious…like they mean business…to change the world or something on those lines. Not, smiling happily and contented like you and looking all pretty and nice in some great outfits.´, she said.

´But a writer is real right. I am not faking happiness and this is me. I like to dress and express myself through my outfits too. Fashion and style is not always frivolous you know.´, I enlightened her.

´´Well! You and I know that! But try telling that to strangers who read your articles. Fashion and style is frivolous to writers. They just don't give a damn.´ she argued. ´Let me show you.´

And she took me to her room and opened her laptop. She browsed through google images and showed me several pictures of Arundhati Roy.

´Look at her! She doesn't care about her messy unkempt hair…the silver strands in them or her wrinkled up saree with mismatched blouse. That´s the look of a writer. Bingo!´, she screamed in euphoria.

So, we went around discussing and arguing more. Well! She was a very good friends and so we both had the liberty to disagree with each other´s views.

My argument was do I have to mould myself to fit a certain impression of the profession that I am in. Whatever happened to bring Ýou´ to the table wherever you go.

The fact is I write well. Nothing can change that fact whether I look or don't like a writer.

Recently, Sania Mirza came to the ´Koffee with Karan´show. Karan Johar asked her whether it doesn't bother her that her dressing style might alter people´s impressions about her as a serious tennis athlete and clothes send a message of frivolousness unlike other sports stars.

She justified her stance that this is who she really is. She loves fashion, glamour and style. And she is also a Tennis sports champion having won many world titles. She agreed that most sportsperson were simple but that was their personality. And this is hers. She wasn't unapologetic about it and she said people´s perceptions didnt bother her because she was focussed on doing what she needs to.

Isn´t there a saying on the lines of ´you make the outfit and not the other way around´? So, is seriousness ascribed to only professions such as medicine, teaching, writings and the likes and frivolousness attributed to the fashion and glamour industry?

Aren´t there glamorous doctors just as plain jane actors?

What about the popular adage - ´Don´t judge a book by its cover´´?


V is for Vacations #AtoZChallenge

“What we want out of a vacation changes as we age. It changes from vacation to vacation. There was a time when it was all about culture for me. My idea of a real break was to stay in museums until my legs ached and then go stand in line to get tickets for an opera or a play. Later I became a disciple of relaxation and looked for words like beach and massage when making my plans. I found those little paper umbrellas that balanced on the side of rum drinks to be deeply charming then. Now I strive for transcendent invisibility and the chance to accomplish the things I can’t get done at home. But as I pack up my room at the Hotel Bel-Air, I think the best vacation is the one that relieves me of my own life for a while and then makes me long for it again.”

Ann Patchett, “Do Not Disturb,” in This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

This quote, by far, is my most favourite quote on Vacations. Nothing bonds people more than a vacation. I remember my childhood days were filled with family vacations and those memories are timeless. The hangover of those vacations, some of them decades back, still remains.

The childhood memories of Kerala remains a strong memory. The fresh lush evergreen beauty of it doesn't fail to charm me every time I go there. I love going on a slow boat ride in the backwaters and gorging on the super delicious cuisine it offers.

My husband is an adventurous soul. He loves the great outdoors and ever since our marriage, I have travelled like never before. That is one of the wonderful things about marrying someone who has completely opposite interests and tastes as your. We do share the same value and belief systems though.

I remember our first vacation together to his hometown, Goa. I fell in love instantly with the place. It was similar to my town, Kerala yet there were stark differences. I wished how I could have spent my childhood years studying and growing up there. The colourful Portuguese style houses, the food, the culture, the beaches and the lifestyle stole a big part of my heart.

Anyway, for me I love my vacations to be amid mountains. Even better, if they are snow capped! I absolute love the huge mountains in California. It always felt like the mighty arms of God himself. Every time I was there, I actually felt hugged in a big warm embrace by God. Everywhere you look in any direction, you see mountains. I cannot explain the feeling of love, warmth and security I experienced by just being in the midst of the mighty mountains. I remember the beauty of the silence in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I absolutely adored those red mountains at Sedona in Arizona. The snow capped mountains with innumerable pine trees at Lake Tahoe took my breath away. And the best thing I loved about Vegas was the road that took us there. The mountain landscape looked straight like a scene out ´The Wild Wild West´ genre of movies.

What are your happy memories of a vacations?

U for Understatedness #AtoZChallenge

The dictionary definition of understatedness is the quality of being restrained and unpretentious.

I have always admired people who exhibited understatedness in all aspects of their lives. Without feeling the need to be popular or show off their worth to others explicably and who were just happy in their own skin.

There is nothing more appealing than the quiet confidence that comes with understatedness. That true understanding of one´s own worth among others is quietly powerful. There are so many who fall in that category. A few of them who come to my mind are A.R.Rahman, Amala Akkineni, Ratan Tata amongst many others.

While their work speaks for themselves, they are naturally understated in their dressing, bearing and manner. Their subtle intelligence and elegance is inspiring. Like the calmness of an ocean in a mood of stillness. They are mighty and powerful and yet so understated without blowing their own trumpet.

The same goes for Modesty. I genuinely think Modesty is often under-appreciated or understated in today´s times. It is so closely with understatedness, elegance and class.There is something very appealing about anyone who chooses to be restrained by choice when they could be otherwise. They don´t want to hijack the attention with their presence and manner. When it comes to their dressing, it is almost always something that is timeless and pleasing to everyone.

The quality of being unpretentious is also highly attractive. It shows that they don´t take themselves too seriously. I think it is a wonderful quality to have.

T is for Talent #AtoZChallenge

´God has not given me any extraordinary talent of creativity or writing like you. I have no other option but to work in a job and lead an ordinary life. ´

I met an old friend of mine in college a few months back. I was meeting her after 8 years and we were discussing our future, family and careers. So, as I was sharing with her my plans, she tried to reason with me to forget the normal pursuits of working in a job and just follow my heart and dreams. One because I could afford to take that risk with my current circumstances and second, because according to her, I was talented and creative. Which she claimed she was not.

I disagreed with her statement that she had no great talent. As kids, we were taught ´The Parable of Talents´ in our Sunday Catechism classes. If you are familiar with the story, you would know that God blessed every one with talents and it is upto us to multiply those talents in this lifetime. That is the message of the parable basically.

Doesn't everyone have a talent if we really introspect and look inside? Maybe, some did not have the chance to explore their talents as children and haven’t yet discovered it? Isn't it true that talent doesn't come in one form alone? There are so many kinds of talent and some undiscovered to the world as yet.

Yes, Talent is God-given! However, I´d like to believe that we have an equanimous God who has blessed everyone with just the right amount of talent. I never knew I had the talent to write until I actually got down to it. I never knew I had the talent to dance until I actually got down to breaking into a jig. There are probably so many more talents of mine that I am probably unaware of as yet.

Imagine a guy at the gates of Pearly Heaven before St. Peter when a ray of sunshine spotlights on me and the voice of God thunders -

´Hello Skylar! So, What happened to the talent of eating 2000 lemons in less than 2 mins that I had blessed you with? You just missed being in the Guiness Book of World Records due to your ignorance. Now, what punishment should I give you for this blunder?´

Éerrr God! Make some lemonade???????????´

S is for Silence #AtoZChallenge

I have always wondered why is Silence considered golden. As a child, I was quiet and kept to myself most of the time. I read a lot of books and my friends were a select few. Surprisingly, this worked in my favour as I stayed out of a lot of trouble, was liked by everyone and was always a popular choice amongst my school mates for the house or class leader. I was also favoured by  the teachers as I was good in both studies as well as extra-curricular activities.

A lot has changed ever since. Today, I love being among people just as much as I love my own company. I like making small silly talk with no real purpose as well as deep thought-provoking conversations. I loved my stay in America mainly due to the chance to interact with different nationalities and races. It was fascinating to see how similar we all were covertly despite the overt differences.

I have also taken a step further from reading to write on social media platforms now. And when one is a writer, one cannot afford to be silent. So, how is Silence exactly golden from a writer´s point of perspective? I guess the answer lies in the rumination of ideas, stories and concepts. One needs Silence to observe, ideate and even, actually write. As a writer, you play the dual roles of a listener or observer before you get to the point of putting down your thoughts on paper and then the role of a fearless loud speaker when you actually write.

Yes, the classic case of the ´Silence before the Storm´as they say!

I have learnt over the years how Silence can be both beautiful as well as ugly depending on the situation.

I love the silence that comes accompanying the night, the insides of a church or temple, white winter days, true lovers and more.

And, there are times when Silence can be defeaning. Like being ignored by know being given the ´Silent Treatment´can be brutally painful for even the strongest of souls. When keeping dumb while undergoing abuse and violence out of fear. When staying quiet against injustice around. Then, the Silence is ugly.

Of course, there are times when I have discovered that some battles and arguments are worth fighting for, while some are not. I wished at times I was not dragged into an ugly argument by an angry person and instead of retaliating back in the same coin, I had stayed silent and just walked away. Some people are just not worth your words and presence.

Silence is a language in itself. Perhaps the loudest and most beautiful of them all out there!


Friday, April 21

R is for Resilience #AtoZChallenge

One of the qualities that I admire and love about my mother-in-law is her amazing resilience. I have seen up close her tryst with Facial Paralysis and how quickly she bounced back from that episode. I really doubt if I am half as resilient as her. Honestly, at this point of time, my answer would be a firm ´No´.

I remember how normal she seemed during the paralysis. She went about her business as usual. In fact, she couldn't wait to get up and start resuming normal activity. I remember wondering if this ever took an emotional toll on her. Because, as her daughter-in-law living under the same roof, I did not see any signs of depression, stress or panic attack in her. She seemed as strong as the rock of Gibraltar. And seeing her unnatural conduct would make anyone wonder if one had to be pitiful or inspired.

I can never forget the impact she left on me during that episode. It gave me an insight into what resilience truly means. Yes, like the elastic rubber band, to bounce back stronger from a serious setback in life is an enviable skill.

My mother-in-law was so persistent in getting back to normalcy. She did not indulge in any self-pity.  Instead, I saw her offering her support and strength to my visibly shaken father-in-law. Seeing her so optimistic and strong was consoling to all of us around her. I don't remember being more in awe and admiration of my mother-in-law than then.

Setbacks in life can take a serious toll on anyone. It can shake up your entire work upside down. Some have been insulted, rejected, heart broken, cheated, suspended, laid off, struck with a terminal illness, had a major road accident, left handicapped for life etc. The list of setbacks could be endless.

My mother-in-law was no stranger to setbacks. She often remarks how tough life has been for her. Mainly in the areas of her health. She had an early onset of diabetes and has been successfully managing the illness for more than 35 years effortlessly. With her chronic health condition, she has been successfully teacher nursery students for so many years. Teaching such young children is a highly physically challenging job. But she manages more than 60 of these tiny tots, looking into every personal detail, so beautifully. She is highly organised and disciplined in body, mind and soul. She doesn't let her heart cloud and attach her brain during a crisis. She had a major heart attack a few years ago and again, bounced back like a true warrior.

Yes, she had her low points but she quickly chose to steer the direction towards hope and persistence and it paid her immensely. She is truly the living example of this quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher and now made popular by Kelly Clarkson´s song which goes by the same name.

´What doesn't kill you makes you stronger´

I learnt from my mother-in-law that to be strongly resilient we have to surrender to the reality. We cannot fight against the present situation. There is nothing we can do to change the reality. Yes, that girl cheated on me with another guy and left me for him. Yes, the death of a close loved one can leave anyone emotionally shattered. Yes! It´s very lonely at the top and affect anyone even someone as well-noted as Deepika Padukone and leave them feeling all empty and worthless inside. It can lead some people who made us laugh like Robin Williams to commit suicide.

Very recently, I had an emotional setback and what I´d like to call a ´stab in the back´. It took me a week to get over it. I couldn't even get out of my bed for days. And it was such a struggle to act all normal around my child. My husband perfectly understood what I was going through. But, it was a really emotionally trying time for me. I has never felt as vulnerable as this before.

But, you know how as the saying goes, setbacks lead you to become stronger a little more, every time. If it doesn´t kill that is!

I am glad today for that setback. It was actually a true blessing in disguise. I emerged out the experience wiser, feeling more personal strength, spiritually more connected with my Father, having a better understanding and connection with my own true self, feeling emotionally more bonded with family and friends, feeling a lot of gratitude for this life that I have and seeing newer opportunities unfold.

I remember the last Sunday when I walked into the church and saw the cross, I knew I got the answer. No matter the cross you have to carry and undertake in your life, surrender to the suffering and RISE.


Thursday, April 20

Q is for Quest #AtoZChallenge

If Life is a lesson, then learning never ceases! Our quest for learning should never ever end. Life is the biggest gift God has given us. And learning is such an integral part of it, at every step of our lives.

The beauty about this quest for learning about life is that it never ends as long as we breathe. Who can forget Albert Einstein´s iconic words - “The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don't know.”

For me, learning is the true essence of living. The day we stop learning is the day we cease to live. That is when we start questioning the purpose of our lives and wonder why we are here in the first place. There is so much to learn around us.

There is absolutely no dearth in our possibilities of learning. And no! I don't mean formal education alone. That is great but learning lifelong is a different ball game altogether. This lifelong learning has no strings attached to it. Unlike formal education, learning lifelong is undertaken for the pure joy of living and loving Life in itself. Learning life is akin to unconditional love for Life.

Pablo Picasso, the ingenious artist once remarked, “ I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

It takes a different kind of a man or woman to attempt something that they don't have a clue about. It is heroic and adventurous to embark on an unknown territory in order to learn all about it. It is like  walking on an unknown path to reach home. You learn a new route. Even if you fail, you learn that is not the path that leads to your home. Essentially, you learn either ways - whether you succeed or fail. In fact, quite often Failure leads to Success.

The quest for learning is fun and adventurous just like Life itself. As long as we are here, we might as well learn something new and have some fun in life.

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