Monday, May 1

Z is for Zap #AtoZChallenge


Zap is to destroy. It is a powerful thing to destroy someone….or something. Crush it!

´Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.´

There is an apt saying about how one can gauge the character of a person by the power they possess. It is not trying times or setbacks that test the character of a person as much as the power that they hold. In fact as Lincoln holds the view, most people have the sufficient resilience to get by adversity.

But Power is lethal…it´s intoxicating. It gives any person a high…a false high…a false heightened sense of importance over another person.

Men feel more powerful than women owing to the gender attribution of physical strength and place in society. Elders feel more powerful than children owing to their age and experience. One country feels more powerful than the rest owing to their economic and military strength. A boss feels more powerful than his employees owing to his hierarchal position. A rich person feels more powerful than the poor owing to his bank balance and assets.

A person´s real strength and character is tested when they have power. Most people are blinded by  power to see their real selves anymore. They misuse their position of power to zap other people of their energy and strength.

Even in today´s times, there is a certain section in the society that believes domestic violence is perfectly okay and an integral part of the certain cultures. Nothing to make a big fuss out of it. Like a parents hits a child to correct...likewise the husband hits his wife to keep her in check.

Any sort of violence (physical or emotional) and crafty manipulation is a gross abuse or misuse of power.

Yes, at the end of the day, we are all human beings and we commit mistakes. But ultimately, we have to learn coming terms with our inner demons. We have to be aware of our position of power to make or break another person, life or thing. And despite how much power we hold, when we choose to zap someone else, it speaks a lot more about our character flaws rather than the one we zapped with our physical or emotional blows.

The power we hold comes with an added responsibility to inspire through words or action and build someone else's life. And definitely not to zap them of their powers.

 #AtoZChallenge

Y is for Yonder #AtoZChallenge



I love to yonder both literally and figuratively. Yonder is the far distance. I love going to faraway destinations and discovering something new. It could be as simple as a new dish or new sights or something as complex as learning a whole new philosophical bent of mind.

Figurately, I love to yonder using the power of my imagination. If there is one single powerful thing God has blessed us with, it has to be our imaginations. If we can imagine it, we can do it.

Through Yonder, we tap into our subconscious state and unleash our inner power. We stay attuned to our intuition and dream the impossible. We imagine, we dream and we create something extraordinary.

To me, when I think of the word Ýonder´, I visualise the dark night skies with sparking twinkling stars in the backdrop. Our aspirations are like that far night skies…..its endless and its gorgeous. We aspire to reach there someday..somehow. And that´s what keep us going and moving.

It is wonderful to dream big. Because that´s where all great things begin. What we imagine, we become..we achieve. Even if we don´t go the yonder, we will reach way much farther than where we currently stand.

We will not be stuck in one place..one mode…one way of thinking. When we have to go the yonder, we have to keep moving to reach our destination. All that movement translates into wonderful mistakes made, life-altering failures, crucial lessons learnt, startling achievements won, glorious memories made and a constant evolution of our whole self.

So, tonight just take a walk outside before you hop onto your bed. Watch and gaze endlessly into the night sky. See what patterns of constellations you can spot. What aspirations you can find up there in those endless, countless faraway stars?

Once you find your Yonder…your faraway aspiration, keep and treasure these wonderful words by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, a proponent of the power of Positive Thinking, ingrained in your heart as you set on your grand journey -

´Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you´ll land among the stars´

Always always aim high. There is nothing to lose really and all to gain!

#AtoZChallenge 

Saturday, April 29

X is for Xenophobia Everywhere! #AtoZChallenge

I hate Muslims.

I hate Christians.

I hate all non-vegetarians who kill innocent animals.

I hate all beef eaters.

I hate Hindus.

I hate idol-worshippers.

I hate Trump.

I hate Obama.

I hate immigrants.

I hate patriots.

I hate Pakistan.

I hate India.

I hate Americans.

I hate black people.

I hate white people.

I hate fat people.

I hate feminists.

I hate women who have no spine.

I hate that new co-worker.

I hate Biryani.

I hate Sonia Gandhi

I hate Narendra Modi.

I hate ....I hate....I hate....this thing or that person....I hate ...I hate

The dictionary meaning of Xenophobia is dislike or prejudice against people from other countries.

Politicians use it to fan the fires of the sheeple against the enemy - The Foreign One.

Whether it is the Hindus or Indians perceived as the enemy in Pakistan.

Or the Middle East terrorists or Indian techies or Mexican workers or Russian spies perceived as the enemy in United States.

Or the British or Italian or Christian or Muslims perceived as the enemy in India.

Or the American or all whites or all infidels perceived as the enemy in the Muslim countries.

The real life cases of Xenophobia is sadly everywhere. In fact, it exists even in our own homes, work places, class-rooms etc.

A daughter-in-law is perceived as a foreign element in her husband´s home. A revolutionary person is considered foreign at a workplace. That odd student who is so different from the rest of the class is considered foreign in the classroom. A transgender is foreign to the society. Family or group politics are the outcome of Xenophobia - foreign ideas, thoughts, tastes and distastes.

Xenophobia is everywhere and we are all knowingly or unknowingly participants of it. I firmly believe all of us are racists in varying degrees, including me.

Someone foreign is our enemy.

And we are the foreign enemy of someone.

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´´?

#AtoZChallenge

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 someone..you 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!

#AtoZChallenge 

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.

#AtoZChallenge 

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.

#AtoZChallenge

Wednesday, April 19

P is for Practice #AtoZChallenge


As a mother of an 8 year old who is grappling with surmounting pressure of academics at school, I have these small pep talks with my little one. I try my best to explain to her the crucial importance of practise if one wants to excel in any field.

One of the earliest lessons that I have taught my little girl is that all of us are born with equally amazing capabilities. It is for us to discover those talents. That can be possible only when we are willing to give it a go..a try. Only when we are willing to explore and stretch our capabilities through the practise.

I told her that a child who practises, naturally goes on to perform well and is considered the most intelligent. And the one who doesn't practise is termed dull by the teacher and the peers. The key differentiator lies in the willingness to put in those practice hours everyday and it has nothing to do with actual intelligence per se.

For that matter, any goal can pursued easily with the humble beginnings of practise. Whether it is that Salsa dance one wants to learn and master or write like a pro!

When there is a subject or task that you just don´t like but it ought to be done because it is crucial, practise comes to handy. It makes the job at task or lesson to be learnt, seem relatively easier one step at a time. Yes, one day at a time principle!

Like the tiny droplets of water make the huge ocean! Similarly, little daily doses of practise will take you to greater glories.

When any goal seems unsurmountable, always remember that ´Tiny is Mighty!´ 

 #AtoZChallenge 

Tuesday, April 18

O is for Opportunity #AtoZChallenge


´Opportunity is lost by deliberation.´—Publilius Syrus

This age-old wise quote from a 1st century BC Latin writer is a great reminder for us to be present in the ´NOW´.

It is while we stop to think, that we often miss our opportunity. To grab the opportunity that comes knocking on your door requires one to act more by instinct and less by thought. You instinctively know in your gut if something is going to be fruitful and lucrative or not. To make the most out of a striking opportunity that comes knocking on your doorstep requires one to be highly vigilant and completely absorbed in the present.

What is it that makes few people seem so lucky almost as if they seem to ´have it all´? Are they fortunate than the rest to find opportunity? Or are they more mindful of the ´Now´ and the opportunities that it presents before them?

The truth is that there is opportunity right now in your present day. Every day offers its own set of golden opportunities.And it does´nt have to be just grand business deals, fortune making propositions or any of that sort. It could be wholly altruistic in nature as well. Like the opportunity to tell your  your parents how much you love them today. Before it gets too late to say how you truly feel. The opportunity to join that hobby class because you find it so gratifying. The opportunity to steal those few minutes in your lunch break to do a brisk walk in order to stay in shape and boost productivity.

A missed opportunity is actually a lot worse than defeat. Because even in defeat, you actually learn what works and what does not. So, it really is not a loss even though it is incorrectly perceived so. There is a lot of learning in failure and defeat.

Every opportunity is your chance to achieve success. And you can´t win it if you don´t play or show up. Remember the sportsmanship spirit? Playing to your best ability and how participating is far more important that the actual win itself. We need to ask ourselves if we are passive spectators in life as we watch it simply go by or are we ready to grab the bull by its horns and join in the action.

Opportunity has less to do with luck and more to do with how productive or fruitful can you make the present. If you pay close attention right now, you will see clearly all the opportunities knocking on your door right now.
  • Where there any opportunities in the past that you regret losing out on? Why didn't you grab them when they appeared? What are you going to do differently in the future?
  • What are some of the opportunities or doors that you can create for yourself given your current situation? How do you plan to make them a reality?

Monday, April 17

N is for Naughty or Nice #AtoZChallenge


I have never been able to give a convincing answer to my daughter till date as to why naughty is bad.

Like all children who are naturally inquisitive, she wanted me to clear her confusion on the whole Santa Claus philosophy of brandishing young children as ´Naughty´or ´Nice´ and being selective and discriminatory in the charitable act of gifting.

Now that I stop to think of it, she does have a point. Children are so fragile. Their bodies, minds and spirits are still evolving. How we perceive and think of them will largely make or break their self-esteem!

Forget Santa Claus! He is a pure figment of our imagination. But, doesn't he represent all of us in some sneaky way or the other? And how we perceive children in general?

Children are a ´work-in-progress´ just like us. I´m sure you will agree, wayyyyyyy more than us! I don't think children even know the meaning and consequences of being naughty. They just do what they feel they should be doing. Exploring and making sense of the world around them in their own perceived interpretations. And to label such explorations and mishaps or the children themselves as ´Naughty´ is inhuman.

Yes, I agree that children need to be disciplined and taught to be nice. But, I am against the notion of segregating children into ´nice´and ´naughty´ brackets. Even more, the notion that ´naughty´is bad and abominable.

Labelling children as a ´naughty´only damages their self-worth and makes them continue the bad behaviour, often as a sign of rebellion.

Forget children! I was scandalised by the lack of emotional literacy in most teachers at college level while I was a teacher. I agree there were a few and far in-between mature and emotionally literate teachers but the utter lack of maturity in most of them was shocking. There were classes and students who were brandished as ´naughty´and had to be corrected (read suspended) in order for them to be ´nice´. Did it work? Absolutely not! It was a such colossal bloody waste of time and exercise in what could have been a golden opportunity to tread a path less explored but way more effective.

I completely believe in the saying that Ít is nice to be important but it is more important to be nice´. And, I am all for niceties. But, I love and appreciate a healthy dose of naughtiness in everything I do and everywhere I go as well. You need some sweet sugar as well as some total nuts to make your life a real party. Nice is sweet. Naughty is fun. And I want them both. What do you say?

M is for Motivation #AtoZChallenge


We all want motivation in our lives. Subconsciously, we are looking for it everywhere we go. In people, in books, in things around us, within ourselves etc.

Some of us have it. Some of us don´t. As for me, I have my good days when I stay highly motivated and some crappy days, when my motivation levels are nil.

So, what is motivation? We all know it and we all want it. But, how do we define it?

For me, motivation is something that generates interest and a deep desire within me. I remember watching a young man in his early twenties who went from ´fat to fit´ knocking more than 17 kgs. And, I happened to watch him eat so mindfully and consciously every bite that he had for lunch one day. He caught my interest and I wondered who or what was behind his inspiration. What was his motivation to stay off temptations and sacrifice so much? I asked him directly but didn't get an answer. His motivation surely couldn't go unnoticed though.

It struck me then that motivation is when you have this overwhelmingly powerful desire to change the status quo. You would rather undergo the pain and torture than stay the same.  In fact, staying the same is far more unbearable and tortuous than the sacrifices that one undertakes to make that uncomfortable shift.

So, how does one stay motivated? Even on days, when one doesn't feel any real burst of positive energy or motivation?

Going by the memoirs and books of various successful people, the secret lies in having a plan and  schedule  in place. Once you have a plan and routine in place, the motivation to complete the task at hand automatically kicks in. The trick is to keep moving and stop thinking about feeling motivated. Very often, the state of being bored and not being motivated has a lot to do with inaction or not doing anything challenging. Again, find something challenging enough to pique your interest and motivation levels. If it is too easy, you won´t be motivated and if it is too difficult, you may be demotivated. Find an ´achievable within your limits´ goal and challenge. Make a plan, have a schedule in place and stick with it religiously. You should have no problems and complaints about fluctuating or waning motivation levels anymore.

Maybe that was the young man´s secret to staying so motivated in his mission to keep fit.

What´s your secret to staying motivated?

#AtoZChallenge

Saturday, April 15

L is for Love #AtoZChallenge


As we fast approach our tenth wedding anniversary towards the end of the year, I am more than convinced ever that true love is a choice.

I still remember the first time I laid my eyes on this extremely handsome and good-looking man,now my husband. Little did I know then, we would come this far.

Back then, I remember exactly feeling what they call ´Love at first sight´. The rush and the high were real. And, I was already imagining walking down the aisle with him by my side on our very first meet. For real! Did I know he was ´The One´? Instinctively, Yes!

But, it was far more than just his physical good looks that swept me off my feet. It was his sharp mind and soft tender heart as well. I fell in love with him as a complete package.

And so, I married the handsomest man I ever laid my eyes on. And, we lived happily ever after.

Not quite so in those fairy-tale terms. Fairy tales end at the wedding affair and don´t dwell on life after marriage.

Marriage is a different ball-game altogether. It is the ultimate test or proof of your love for each other.

Living under the same roof is drastically different from dating one another. While dating, you are on your best attire and behaviour. You compliment and say wonderful things to one another. You buy gifts and plan romantic things to do together. Everything is so rosy, dreamy and pretty.

Marriage,on the other hand, is the proverbial ´the proof is in the pudding´. You can never truly claim you have loved someone until you have held on, sailed through the worst times and come out of it triumphantly together.

I remember one of our fights in our marriage. I was sobbing and accusing my husband of not supporting or understanding me at all. And he said something that took my breath away.

´You only have to tell me what you want and I will fight for it. I will die for you. ´

And, I was completely speechless with those words of ardent passion.

Today, however we both don't seek love and solace in words anymore. Words mean nothing and actions everything. The understanding of Love as we knew it, changes with every passing year as we grow older. What we perceived as Love in the beginning days of our courtship seems superficial today. Yes, I still find certain things we did together in our earlier days extremely cute. But, we would look retarded if we did the same things today.

I sometimes fail to understand why we don't have movies made on true love. Yes, there are movies galore on the chase and hunt for love, all that courtship drama and syrupy songs. But, when will we ever get to see movies about true love? Picturised on actually old imperfect couples in the 70´s and 80´s who have been through all the ´highs and lows´of life together and still more in love today than ever before.

I remember seeing a really old couple in Lake Tahoe while boarding the hotel shuttle. There was something endearingly sweet about their love for another. They both still had a zest for living and both seemed to be extremely happy in each other´s company. It was such a treat to watch them. Closer home, I find it extremely adorable when my FIL still addresses my MIL as ´baby´, with both of them in their late sixties. My own father doesn't start any meal without my mother. Over time, looks or appearance hardly matters to those truly in love.

There is a saying about Love that I totally believe in -

´Love is like fine wine. It matures and tastes better over time.´

But, for Love to mature and grown on you, we need to have patience and give it time. Lots of time….till death does us apart. Till then, we will have to endure and hold on to each other despite the storms, temptations, doubts, crisis and hurdles.

I told my husband back then in the day -

´There might be better guys than you but I want only you. My search for Love ends with you.´

That was the choice I made ten years ago when we decided to get married.

Today, to love each other unconditionally and stay committed as we grow older is another choice we both continue to make firmly with every passing day.

With Easter just a day away, the crucifixion of Christ is the ultimate act of Love. It is a reminder that love, forgiveness and sacrifice all go hand in hand. And it is our choice to undertake the pain and suffering and forgive our partner´s faults while loving unconditionally. Till death do us apart!

Love is a choice and not just a fleeing feeling.

#AtoZChallenge

Thursday, April 13

K is for Kaleidoscope #AtoZChallenge


I remember as a child, I was not fascinated by toys and dolls. However, there are some toys that appeal to everyone, irrespective of the age and gender.

If there is one toy in my daughter´s collection that I stealthily steal and play with, it is the Kaleidoscope. I have to admit sheepishly that I still find it wondrous and fascinating. There is something very magical and soothing about the Kaleidoscope.

Yes, Life seems colourful and beautiful again after my playtime with this underrated gem. And, there is so much to learn from this toy.
  1. Surround yourself with Lighters - Just like the Kaleidoscope, your Life will dazzle only when you surround yourself with Light. There are people who work as Extinguishers and people who work as Lighters in your life. The former will only bring darkness and misery in your life. They are not your well-wishers or friends even if they belong to your family. All they do is extinguish your joy, spark and all the nice things that make you, ýou´. No matter what do or don´t do, all they will do find fault with you. All they see is flaws and they will make no stone unturned to let you know them. Worse still, remind you all over again your flaws, like a stuck broken tape-recorder.  And there are people who simply light up your life with their sheer presence, warmth, words, comfort, support and love. Go where the Light and Love is! Surround yourself with Lighters who bring you alive and sparkling again. Especially when your chips are down and nothing is going your way, you need them more than ever before. Just talking to them will make your spirit alive. Note down and save all the compliments and positive words that your Lighters tell you. Let that be your brag list. Read them when you start to doubt yourself. Very recently, I had compliments from students that I have save for future read. Why not! Who doesn't need some sparkle and glitter in their lives to feel alive again? Also, be a Lighter yourself. If you have the power to make someone else happy, by all means, do so.
  2. Indulge in Slow Living - The beauty of the Kaleidoscope can be enjoyed only when you turn it slowly and gently. You have to wait patiently for all the pieces to fall under the light and come together to make one breathtakingly beautiful striking pattern. Much like Life itself! If you think Life is to gulped in hasten existence bogged down in mindless existence and routine, you are missing out on the very essence of it. Life is to savoured and relished - the good, the bad and the ugly. You have to fall down if you want to rise up. And you have to rise up, if you want to go down on a thrilling free fall. While it is important to reach your desired destination, it is equally important to enjoy the sights of trail journey as well as the pitstops. Who wants to miss out on ´Life´ and its tiny, real, precious treasures such as smelling the roses, waking up to the strong whiff of Coffee and a tiny, soft squishy bum on your face.
  3. The more the merrier - I remember this quaint toy store in Cedarburg, Wisconsin where we bought one Kaleidoscope. But, the beauty about that Kaleidoscope was that you can create your own design. You decide what components go into your Kaleidoscope. My daughter and I had a great time deciding which little knick-knacks need to go into ours. What we discovered in this fun process was that the more, the merrier. Truly! Similarly, in life, you more people you meet and have in your life, Life becomes merrier and interesting.
  4. Embrace Diversity - Following the same story as above, it is not just the quantity but also the diversity of the components that matter. Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Pink, Purple, Black. Sequins, Beads, Buttons, Threads, Glitter. When they all fall and roll in together, they make one stunning pattern. Each and every single time! Life is a lot like that. Imagine a world where everyone looked the same, spoke the same, ate the same and had one single belief system. Boring right? What makes this world colorful, interesting and fun is the diversity!
  5. Live ´Carpe Diem´ - There is no point in just being a spectator. Jump, participate, roll in the madness. Mix with people. Shake up that routine in your life once in a while. Stir it up with some randomness, weirdness and change. Take each day as it comes. Make the most of it. Live life to its fullest.
  6. Reflect Beauty - What we see in the Kaleidoscope is a reflection of the components. Let our thoughts and words reflect on our face. Beauty is skin deep. What you are inside, shows on the outside. Reflect positivity and true beauty. Make this world a better place to live in.
#AtoZChallenge

J is for Jump #AtoZChallenge


There are two kinds of people in this world - The ambitious and the non-ambitious. The ambitious category of people believe that Life is a marathon race that needs to be won at all costs. For the non-ambitious lot, Life is an exciting journey that needs to be enjoyed. 

Irrespective of one´s perspective on Life as a race or journey, it is not going to easy. There are going to be lots of hurdles along the way. You may run out of steam, motivation, energy or there might be lots of disruptions in your plans. Or, there may be no plan in place in the first place. 

The landscapes are going to change. The people in your life are going to change. You are going to change. Like the changing seasons in the Sun. But, Life moves on. And so must you. 

And if you have to move on and catch up with Life and its changing seasons, you must jump. There are no two ways about it. If you´re ambitious, you do realise the value of time and how there is not much to waste if you want to make your way. It could be anything from making that risqué move or decision to dare big! You have to make that jump to see it to fruition. And if you´re non-ambitious, you do realise that there is only so much you can learn from staying in one place or condition. And so, you have to keep moving and make those vital jumps from time to time. 

As for me, I am afraid to stay stuck in one spot or place. I have to keep moving no matter where I am. Moving in personal growth, maturity, confidence. Or moving places to gain a newer, fresher perspective of the world and life.  I cannot afford to be stuck in the past.

You realise that while you have a strong support system of your roots, i.e. your family, you also have wings to fly around and see the world.

In Life, you have to keep moving and jumping like a wanderlust nomad.  Only then, can you make  make great strides and progress and make the most out of Life.

Whether it is the transition from one phase of life to another - from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to youth, from youth to middle age, from middle age to old age. From bachelorhood to marriage. From India to America. From ABC to XYZ! 

Life keeps moving on…..! With or without you!

So, Are you ready to Jump?

Wednesday, April 12

I is for Identity #AtoZChallenge


Yesterday was my daughter´s birthday. And she grows bigger with every passing year, I see a new facet of her. Stronger traits emerging slowly but surely!

I still remember the tiny bony baby, looking all blue with curled up feet and arms, after struggling through a long labour along with her Mummy. Yes, that´s me! Little did I know then, what she is really all about. You know, somehow all babies come crying into this world looking the exactly same. Yes, there are some basic differences between American babies, African babies, Chinese babies and Indian babies. But, within each race, all the babies almost look alike in features. And, irrespective of the race, all babies have the same mannerisms and ways. Quite identical, I would say!

It is only gradually that their identities start to show up a little by little. And it is still shaping. I am in the same boat like her and many others.

So, What is MY identity?

Is it my name?

Tina? Or Tina Jacob? Or Tina Sequeira? 

Is it my lineage?

I am a Malayali by roots. But, I was born and brought up outside Kerala. Lived in certain parts of India and America. Married to a Goan man. 

Is it my gender?

I am a woman.

Is it my religion?

I am a devout Christian.

Is it my nationality?

I am an Indian.

Well, America has rubbed its influence on me as well.

Is it defined by my clique - people you interact?

I am quite similar to my mother and father yet so drastically different from them. 

My spouse and I are one being and yet so opposite. 

I have friends from another religions and nationalities.

I have friends who are much older than me and much younger than me as well.

Is it defined by my hobbies?

I read a lot of books, write, watch TV, surf the internet, doodle a bit, sing and dance.

Is it defined by the food I eat?

I am a savage non-vegetarian.

Is it defined by my skin colour?

Black....White...Brown...Yellow....Ivory...Gray...Rainbow???? I´m confused

Is it defined by my profession or title?

I am an HR Professional. I am a writer. I am a teacher. I am a student. 

Is it defined by the role I play?

I am a daughter, sister, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, friend, guide, mentor. 

Am I more than all of the above?

I remember when I was a stay-at-home mother, I was quite comfortable in my skin. Yes, I wanted to work and keep myself intellectually occupied and be financially independent. But, the lack of a professional title strangely didn´t have any effect on my self-identity or confidence. In fact, I grew an innate finer sense of who I truly was. Away from the pressures of the world, it gave me the opportunity to find peace and contentment inwards.

On the other hand, I found women who questioned their self-identity once they had no professional title attached to their name. They had a tough time recouping their self-confidence. They were essentially restless until they started working again.

I find Indians who undergo a huge identity crisis when on foreign soil. Their nationality and race becomes a huge part of who they are. For some, solace can only be found when they return to their home soil. I remember a conversation with an old Indian lady who had no choice but to spend her last days in America with her daughter and her family. In her last week of life, all she spoke to me about was how she longed to go back to India and breathe her last there. Unfortunately, her wish did not come true. Her identity was so strongly connected to her place of birth that it was simply inseparable.

On another note, I have always found self-introductions highly baffling. I truly don't know how to define myself to a stranger. How do I identify myself to strangers and make them understand who I am in a few minutes?

Sometimes, I wonder .....

Are we all as identical on our way out of the Earth…like the way we all came into it? 

If so, at what point do all our identities merge into a final whole?

Are we all nameless and blank at point Infinity? 

Who are you? How would you define yourself? Let me know below in the comments. 

Monday, April 10

H is for Hero #AtoZChallenge


Last night, I just finished reading the book ´Finding Juliet´ by Toffee. Obviously, that´s the author´s pseudonym.

Arjun is …the Romeo…the Hero. He wants it all - a successful professional life, a macho hot body, a cool personality that attracts girls to him like a moth to a flame etc.

This is the populist notion of a Hero. A tall, macho looking stud who is akin to ´God on Earth´ who can do no wrong. Even the wrongs seem perfectly legitimate because well, you know, he is a Hero.

So whether it is James Bond, Don, Batman or Khiladi No.1, the populist notion of a Hero is always this ´larger than life´ figure. The female protagonists in movies and literature have been portrayed as being saved by the Hero, their Prince Charming.

Arjun is a geek who undergoes a transformation to become a Hero, in that same populist sense. Bulging biceps, being charming and innocently cunning (as the book puts it), getting several women laid, having a cool success story to flaunt in the social media etc.

If you are not physically endowed with great physical and mental attributes, the quest to be imitate  follow in our Hero´s path is a real aspiration for many of us. We all have our personal heroes. From Salman Khan to Narendra Modi to Benedict Cumberbatch to Oprah Winfrey to Dr.A.P.J.Kalam to Indira Gandhi to Mother Teresa to Joan of Arc etc, the definition of Hero changes from individual to individual. The relative who battled and won over Cancer, the single mother who fought hard against the norms of the Society to raise her children, the bus driver who laid down his life to save the young children from a major mishap, the numerous freedom fighters who fought against the British to give us an independent life, the woman who lost more than 200 pounds and battled against obesity, etc. Heroes comes in all shapes and sizes and they are all around us.

But, as we worship and idolise the several heroes around us, we need to discover and acknowledge that a Hero lies within us! We are oblivious of our own inner strength and courage until we encounter a rock bottom situation. And, there will come a time in everyone´s life when there is no one to save us except own selves. Perhaps even others caught in a similar situation as ours! You wake up one day and realise that your struggles and battles are your own and no one else´s. And there is no one more capable to fight all the odds and enemies except you and you alone!

Here´s something that I am doing for some reflection today! And, I urge you to join me as I do some soul-searching today.

  • What is my definition of a Hero? What are the qualities that I seek in a Hero?
  • When and where can I display my heroism? Is it only in a threatening crisis like a terrorist attack or in my everyday lives?
  • Who is my personal Hero and Why?
  • Does a Hero necessarily have to be a success? Are failed heroes to be glorified as much as their successful counterparts?
  • Am I aware of the personal attributes that make me a Hero? What are some of them?

Friday, April 7

G is for Gratitude #AtoZChallenge



Gratitude means saying a prayer, ´Thank You´, giving gifts and doing actions of love and endearment!

And those are the varied of expressions of Gratitude. But, it is the intention behind those acts which holds a greater significance and meaning.

Gratitude is acknowledging and truly understanding the value of even the most minute blessing in our life and seeing hope and opportunity in them. It is like looking at that proverbial glass and seeing it as ´half-full´. And, being genuinely thankful for that as well as the wonderful opportunity to fill the glass to its full capacity.

I have so many inspiring real-life instances of gratitude around me that not only touch me but also serves as reminder to stay humble and thankful always.

It is my privilege to share with you my most recent tryst with Gratitude.

Last year, I taught in a graduation college for one semester. I was the class teacher of the supposedly ´most notorious class´ in the college. The subject I taught that particular class was ´Personality Development and Managerial Skills´. It was an interesting subject to teach and it was a fun, learning stint as a teacher.

Before the end of the semester, the students had to write one last internal exam. And in my generous mood, I corrected the papers quite liberally overlooking minor flaws like grammar, spelling mistakes etc. As long as they understood the practical concept, I overlooked the rest.

But, you know, how it is with us, Indians! We are born in a notoriously competitive environment where we are taught to fight for every thing. In the educational context, every single mark or half truly matters. We are taught not to give up without a fight.

And so, after the answer-sheets distribution, I was flooded by a surge of students who kept hankering for the maximum marks possible. Including the one who got the highest at 29 wanted a half mark more to make it a full 3-0. I congratulated him for what I thought was a really well-written paper with some innovative answers but I had to turn down his request. Because, you cannot give full marks for theoretical papers. Anyway, I cannot blame them. That is how we have trained them up to become. ´Dog eat dog´ competition!

There was one student, however, who was not fighting to be first in line and haggle like the rest. He was patiently watching and observing the ongoing proceedings with his answer sheet in his hand. After a long wait, it was his turn. Needless, to add, he was the last in the line. But, that was his choice.

As he brought forth his answer paper, I asked him how I could help him. And he simply replied, ´Maam! I didn´t come to add more marks. I just came to show you my paper and tell you that you gave me more marks than I actually deserved. Thank You!´

I was speechless.This was a rare happening.

That incident will never be erased from my memory and will always pop up as sweet reminder to show Gratitude when you ought to. And, I have to thank that wonderful student for teaching me a lesson or two in that department.

Gratitude is so important in our lives but it should be not confused for what it is not. Which is this...

Very often, I see people who take great efforts in going to great lengths to express their Gratitude. But, only to people who hold high positions and titles. People who will be beneficial to them. That is not Gratitude. That is being opportunistic.

To each their own and I am not judging there! But, there is that subtle but very big difference between being grateful and being opportunistic. The former doesn't expect anything back in return but the latter does. It´s like being a real girlfriend or boyfriend  vs being a ´Friend with Benefits´!

We have to really sit and think over the true blessings in our lives. And we need to cherish them! From our parents to our siblings to our spouse to our children to our teachers to our friends to our maids and caretakers etc, we have a lot to be grateful for.

Gratitude doesn't come in one form alone. That particular student though was not the only one to express his love and gratitude during my brief teaching tenure. There were so many others and each had their own style of expressing gratitude. Some through words, some with gifts, some through their thoughtful actions.

Even if you are not surrounded with loving parents, siblings, spouse, children etc, there will still be that one strong reason to be grateful.

It could be that you have a fully functional body as opposed to a handicapped person. It could be anything really.

If you wake up alive this morning, it is good enough reason to thank God that you have another shot at Life.

Whether it is well-known people like the limbless motivational speaker Nick Vujicic or regular good people that we encounter in our everyday life like this particular student, in my case, we can all learn a lesson on being grateful for what we have and finding love, hope, meaning and opportunity in them.

F is for Fuck Mantra #AtoZChallenge


Let me tell you at the very outset, I hate this particular four word. In fact, I abhor it! Every time, I hear someone say the F-word, I cringe inside. Like literally, every cell and organ of my body curls up inside in disgust!

But, you know, Life sometimes teaches you the hard way that every bad has a good side to it. Whoever that wise quack was who quoted that, none of us are all black or all white but shades of gray! What do you know! The quack was indeed right!

So now, I absolutely love and appreciate the philosophy behind a good Fuck! And I would highly recommend you to chant the Fuck Mantra to bring the back the good into your life every single time that Life fucks you up.

No, I am dead serious.

All you have to do is chant several times (a minimum of three ..no less) a day -

Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck

You may sound like a crazed chicken while chanting this unholy mantra! But, I promise you, the peace and confidence that this mantra will bring into your life is simply priceless.

Let me also remind you that how you choose to say it will vary according to the situation you land yourself in!

What are some of the situations in your life when you can use this mantra?

1. Toxic People - You know you will come across several ones of these in your life.And you have to have a defence strategy. The Fuck Mantra comes to your rescue here. It could be the overbearing relative within the confines of your home or outside, that cheeky coworker, that two-faced superior etc. who think they have the license to treat you like shit, walk all over you, say anything about you. Or for that matter, any judgemental prick who has the nerve to judge you when they have no fucking clue themselves what they are all about! Tell them to go

Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck

For the most dangerously toxic ones, kick them in the nuts, fling them outside and tell them to literally ´Fuck Off´ before slamming the door on their face.

Good riddance! Problem solved!

2. Toxic Emotions - Here, you are fighting against no one except the inner demons within you. Whether it is guilt, anger, ego, pride, bitterness, jealousy, lust etc, these negative emotions have no place in your life. And they seriously need to go out of your life just like the toxic people if you ever hope to have a peaceful happy life. To get rid of these negative emotions, find a quiet spot in your home or the natural outdoors, close your eyes, focus and meditate upon the negative emotions that is eating you up internally, and chant determinedly -

Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck

….Till you feel all the negative emotions flow through and out of your body, into the Universe.

3. When God has a sense of Humour - Now, this one is seriously dangerous, my friend! No one can mess with The God. Like Really! Who stands a minuscule chance against the mighty creator? None, Right? So, what other option do you have in life other than to chant the Fuck Mantra. So, When God has a little fun and humour at your expense,  Fret not! All you have to do is play along - let all those tears flow freely while you cry into a river and break into a melodramatic tune of the Fuck mantra. Look up into the skies and sing

Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku
Why did you have to Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku
Tell me, why all this Kolaveri? 
Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku-Fucku

Trust me, even the mighty God will have no option but to be merciful and kind and bring your life back into order! Whodathunk that The Fuck Mantra would let God set your life back in order? Now, you know better!

4. Romance - The Fuck Mantra can greatly boost your love life and also help save mankind from extinction. Don't trust me! You can really use the Fuck Mantra as a powerful tool of Seduction. Girls, turn on your femininity, bat your eyelids, fluttering it several times as you softly pout and murmur,

Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck-Fuck

Trust me, this mantra will do wonders and is best used in-between the sheets for maximum fun.

On a concludary note, Always remember -

´When Life give you lemons, make Lemonade!
And When Life fucks with you, chant the Fuck Mantra!´

Thursday, April 6

E is for Education-Light in the dark! #AtoZChallenge



´Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all´ - Aristotle

Yesterday, I watched this amazing movie, Poorna: Courage Has No Limit in one of the city´s multiplex theatres. I was hearted by the fact that the movie hall was filled to capacity. Movies like these ought to be made and shown.

Amongst many issues, this wonderful movie touches upon is Education. There is no need to emphasise how important Education is in one´s life.

Education is for the mind what Religion is for the soul. But Alas! Like Religion, Education today is a rotten putrefied fruit preyed upon by politics, selfishness and greed.

The movie is a grim reminder of how the current education system is at its peril worst - an over-greedy management supported by an apathetic and overburdened staff teachers. There is an ugly commercialisation of Education and commodification of its students.

Year in and year out, the system churns out another brick in the wall.

The educational system doesn't value and celebrate diversity in the classroom - the ant, the elephant, the grasshopper, the snake, the lion etc. All it conveniently does is bracket all the learners together and coerce them to huddle up under the same umbrella. There is no reward and recognition for that future beautician, entrepreneur, choreographer, life coach, political leader etc in the class. What matters at the end of the day is a fat educational fee and some record breaking scores to advertise and bait future gullible students in this awful educational business racket.

The hero of the movie, Poorna, apart from the protagonist, is undoubtedly her teacher-mentor, Dr.R.S.Praveen Kumar. He is one of those rare breed of teachers who is passionate about imparting real education to his students. This real life character shows us the real value and impact an outstanding teacher can make even on the most downtrodden and hopeless student.

What I loved about the character was that he was truly an educated soul. He was not only exceptionally intelligent with a far-sighted vision, but he had the most beautiful and caring heart. And, ultimately, that is the true essence of education as Aristotle rightly says. Education is not merely about academics and opening up the mind. It is also about sensitising people and their hearts.

To be truly educated is to be like a candle - bringing light not only into your own life, but also lighting up the life of another soul that is in darkness!

In this analogy, Dr.Abdul J. Kalam comes to mind along with Dr.R.S.Praveen Kumar. Here´s to more such bright educated minds and teachers!

 #AtoZChallenge

Tuesday, April 4

D is for Dancing In The Rain #AtoZChallenge


Pitter Patter!

Pitter Patter!

Ís it truly the sound of cold rain showers?´

´Yes, Indeed, my child´, exclaimed Grandpa

´Yippppeeee!´, I cried

As I spread my giant wings into the air,

Flying and landing to smooth grounding into the kitchen.

Only to find Mommy,

Chopping up some colourful vegetables

For a warm and toasty ´Pav Bhaji´ Dinner.



Splutter Splatter!

Splutter Splatter!

Sprung up a few cumin seeds

Lending a thick aromatic fragrance to the musty air

As they danced their way

Out of the kitchen window.

´Come On!´

Ordered Grandma

As she walked into the kitchen

In her cheery white and bright pink Salwar.

´Let´s go out and have some fun while it lasts.´



Slipping into my cotton petticoat

And Hawaii Chappals,

I hold Grandpa´s fingers

As all of us head out the door

Into the natural outdoors.

Warmly greeted by the fresh earthy smell

Brought in by the first April showers

Nothing has made the city of Hyderabad

Glow in its natural lustre and beauty

Ever like this before

For a while in a long, long time.


What a wonderful respite from the fiery heat!

What a wonderful way to celebrate,

By Dancing in the Rain.

Nothing so magical like,

Jumping with abandon gay,

 In the puddles with my girlfriend,

And getting wet and dancing like no one´s watching,

Except for my sweet loving family,

And the silver lined clouds and that faint rainbow,

As our privileged spectators,

Cheering us on as we sway our soaking wet bodies,

To the Jhankar beats of the musical raindrops.

Pitter Patter!

Pitter Patter!

Here comes the first April showers!

(A first time experience of playing in the rain as seen from a child´s eyes)

#AtoZChallenge

C is for Competition #AtoZChallenge



It was pack-up time after 6 years in the US. A part of me was happy, a part sad and a part hugely concerned for my child.

What concerned me the most was the thought of pushing my child into the rat race so early on in life.

´Does everything need to be taught so early-on with kids huddled up like hens in a coop?´

´Why subject them to the torture and burden of long classroom hours, periodic examinations and heavy school bags?´

´Doesn´t learning also happen outside the four walls of classroom and through play?´

´Why can´t the educators in India value Childhood and the beauty of its Innocence?´ 

A lot of questions were perplexing my mind.

Here she was thriving in the US - Getting excited at the thought of going to school the next morning every night, blessed with teachers who were passionate to teach and why they were in the profession in the first place, mingling seamlessly with children from different nationalities, having mindless and meaningful conversations with them and playing with them, having fun while learning and without the stress of mandatory exams and brutal competition. Their precious childhood years were actually valued and their innocence treasured.

I literally had my heart in my mouth when she went to school in India on her first day. I wasn´t as nervous as this when it was her first day in school in the US. Here apart from all the questions that were plaguing my mind, I was worried about her adjustment issues. She could not speak or understand Hindi or Telugu.

 Í hope she doesn't feel lonely and out-of-place.´ 

You know, a mother´s instinct can never be wrong. So, as feared, she came back crying from school. All my fears turned out to be true - She coudn´t fit in, she couldn't understand her class maters and vice versa thanks to the accent, cookie cutter style of class-room teaching and its teachers were too rigid and bland. She clearly didn´t like this new sanitised version of learning and education.

´Too much homework and school…I don´t have time to play´, she whined about her daily homework and six days of school.

Ironically, she stood first in her class for her first formative exams. But, she was still unhappy. She didn´t understand the meaning of standing first in her class, this whole competition business and she was clearly not having fun while learning. Also, the fact that the kids in the class were very different from her was not helping either. She terribly missed her friends back in America and all their conversations.

………….

´Isn´t Learning fun?´, I asked.

´Oh Yeah!´, she said flashing one of her beaming smiles as she was reading Chapter 1 of her new Science Book.

Yesterday was her Day 2 of a new grade. She is now in her third grade and clearly excited about it.

´Nadine, Why are you reading the next Chapter as yet?´, I asked.

´Mummy, I love Science. And, the second Chapter is part of Unit 1 only…so I can read it, no?

I smiled.

What a drastic change these nine months have brought! The American accent is almost gone, replaced by a thick Indian accent with sentences ending in ´No´, ´Rey´ and beginning ´with Ýou only…´ and phrases like ´Stupid fellow!´, ´Come Rey´and more. But, these are only the superficial changes that a new country, city and culture has brought in my child. The tip of the iceberg, as they say!

´How wrong was I!´, I thought.

Competition is great and why did I fear it in the first place?! Oh Yes, now I remember! I am aware of the sad fact and reality that Competition can be an ugly headed monster bringing out the worst in some of us. From jealousy, to back-biting, to dirty politics, to narcissism, to a superior feeling of entitlement, low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacies, suicidal tendencies, bitterness, stress and more! Which was exactly the cause of my great concern in the beginning.

I realise now that Competition can actually do wonders provided one has loving family support, understanding, passionate and mature teachers and the right circle of friends and acquaintances. To keep you on your toes, to excel and most importantly, to help you stay grounded and self-assured despite the successes and failures in life!

Coming to think of it, Competition is less of the problem and more to do with people´s understanding of the nature and purpose of it.

Competition is not about crunching numbers and staying fixated on a spot - 1, 2 or 3.

Here´s what I learnt about Competition, prominently, based on my observations in the last nine months here.

1. Competition forces you to survive and be fit

Charles Darwin clearly knew what he was talking about when he came up with the ´Theory of the Survival of the Fittest´.

They don't start cursive writing until the 3rd or 4th grade in America and here in India, they begin schooling with cursive writing now.

My daughter came home crying every single day, struggling with cursive writing. She was embarrassed and hurt that her class-mates could write so fluently while she was struggling with it. She didn´t like the feeling that others were better than her. She almost wanted to quit and was finding ways to escape the hell-hole Life brought her into.

´Can´t we go back to America?´, she pleaded.

´No!´

´Can´t you just home-school me? I hate school. The teacher are too bossy. The children too loud.´

´No!´

When she finally understood that there was no way out, she knew that the only way to stay afloat was to survive in Alien Land.

Every day was a new battle won. She learnt cursive writing in no time with daily practise. It was hard at first but with each practise, she was finding it easier and getting better.

Competition teaches you the value of hard-work, daily practice, responsibility and the meaning of persistence. It forces you to adapt, adjust and blend in a new environment.

Today, she has a beautiful hand-writing. And, I am so proud. Thank You, Competition!

 2. Competition aids in Self-Awareness

I was cleaning up my cupboard over the weekend and found a file with all my school and college report cards and certificates of various extra-curricular activities that I had participated in and won.

I looked at the úps´and ´downs´of my academic journey. I saw a clear pattern. I was naturally strong in subject like English and Social Studies. Mathematics and Science were not exactly my natural forte and needed more practice and attention to excel. I saw when I had tuitions in Maths, my score was great. But, I could clearly see my natural inclinations and strengths. As well as my weaknesses where I had to pay more focus and devote more time.

Í just don´t like Computers´, my daughter remarked as she was watching an episode of Barbie teaching young girls ´Computers and Technology´.

So, I know her inclinations for now. Maybe that will or will not change in the future. We´ll see!

In the larger picture, Competition can reveal a lot about ourselves. We need Competition in our lives to become aware of own strengths and weaknesses. To strengthen that we are already great at and to focus and get over our weaknesses.

Ideally, it´s great to play according to your strengths and run in a race or competition of your liking and natural inclination. But, working on your weaknesses and overcoming them doesn´t hurt either!  Who knows, we may just surprise ourselves there!

3. Competition helps you to be a Sport

This is the golden rule of Competitions.

Whether you compete in the Wimbledons, Olympics, Oscars, Booker Prize, Mr or Miss.Universe, GMAT, CAT or any significant or insignificant competition or business race, the whole experience should leave you enriched, appreciative and humbled.

Yes, you will win some big ones. Lose, some big ones! It is all part of the game. The most important thing is you have been giving your best shot and moving on with renewed vigour and strength. Irrespective of the end-result as long as you are enjoying what you are doing!

Competition helps you stay grounded and helps you appreciate others. There may be some who are as good or better than us. There may be some who are good at something we are clearly not good at.

Competition brings us to the realisation and appreciation of the fact that we all have different strengths and kinds of intelligence. It helps us to be a true Sport which essentially, is the true objective and purpose of all Competitions.

4. Competition is Fun 

Nine months and a grade later, my daughter is having fun at school.

Yes, she slipped from the first rank to second and third and then caught up with second and finally the first rank in her Final exams. But, in the whole process of cut-throat competition, my child was having fun and embracing learning in a competitive environment.

My husband loves the thrill of writing competitive exams.

There is fun in participating and competing. And that is why, Competitions are here to stay and they will have always have many takers. Competitions are everywhere around us - In our homes, pursuing that girl or boy who has many takers or suitors, starting up a new business in a risky environment, participating in that Master Chef competition etc. There is no escape from it.

So, why not pick a competition of your liking,  focus all your energies in it and have fun competing in it?

4. Competition inspires you to be the best version of yourself

When you are competing against some formidable players, they inspire you to step up your game and be the best version of yourself. Let jealousy be replaced by inspiration and be the impetus to work on yourself and excel at what you do. Competition should bring in excellence in yourself and in the quality of your work, thereby inspiring others in the process.

Ideally, Competition should be a wonderful vicious circle of being inspired and inspiring others to achieve excellence and being the best version of themselves.
…..

The door bell rings.

´How was your day in school today? You don´t seem too happy.´, I enquired as my little girl walked in.

´I am fine. The day was good except I don´t like my Social Studies teacher.´

´Why?´

´She makes too expressions and gives too much that puts me off to sleep.´, she yawned. ´......and I still miss Akshaya..Why did they have to shuffle all of us in different sections.´

Monday, April 3

B is for Blissful Boredom! #AtoZChallenge


í am soooooooo bored´. exclaimed Bailey.

This dialogue is from the Hollywood movie ´A Dog´s purpose´ (2017) which I watched yesterday with my daughter and husband. The movie is adorable, cute and saccharine sweet. It tugs at your heart strings and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It is a must-watch for every one irrespective of whether they are dog or pet lovers or not. The movie is told from a dog, Bailey´s perspective and his quest for his true purpose in life.

But, most importantly, this dialogue on boredom got to me.

Boredom has got such a bad rap in general . People are scared of boredom, both of being bored or labelled as boring people. They would rather endure pain than suffer boredom anyday. Whether it´s getting out of the four walls of your house just to escape boredom and working in an inane job with even more inane people or inflicting your body to harmful intoxicating addictions.

´The idle mind is a devil´s workshop´

So goes the popular saying and it´s so true! Boredom literally drives people to do insane things - Unproductive and harmful! Like gossip, addictive behaviours such as smoking, drugs, alcohol, internet addiction, multiple relationships and affairs. All in the endless pursuit to derive a kick or thrill out of an otherwise boring life and partners. In a few exceptional cases, boredom can even drive a person into depression or be a symptom of it.

But interestingly, even Boredom has a wonderful upside to it. In fact, it is a necessity that is vital to the very purpose of human existence and living. Contrary to popular perception, Boredom is an extremely fascinating concept!

1. Boredom leads you to questioning your purpose in life

´Tina, Just think about it! What is the actual purpose of our lives? Is this all there is to it - get up in the morning, prepare meals, keep the home neat and take care of your child and husband?´

This was remarked by one of my Indian friends. She was a stay-at-home mother of a 3 year old boy. Her husband was a doctor and there were leading the so-called ´dream life´ in the USA. She was dead bored of her life and on the border lines of depression. But, here she was earnestly wondering the purpose of her existence or living.

Four years later, she is a happy and contended soul. The family relocated back to India. When I spoke to her last, she said, ´Arrey Tina, India bahut accha hai! Hum yahan bahut khush hai!’. (Hey Tina! India is a great place to live. We are extremely happy here.)

Her son was going to school and was independent. Her husband was doing well in India and travelled frequently abroad. And she? Well, she finally found the meaning and joy in her life. She was always passionate about beauty and fashion and followed her calling in life. She enrolled in a VLCC certification course. After months of training, she is now an entrepreneur with a beauty parlour of her own. Her dream is to open up more parlour centres across Tier II and III cities in India.

Boredom is also what drives people to chuck away their high paying jobs to follow their calling in life. They question their purpose of life and make that career-switch or next big important move in their life.

2. Boredom adds a whole lot of romance in your life

´People who are bored with their lives get married and have children´. 

So remarked, rather scoffed a bright young man aspiring to be an academic scholar some day. Maybe he has a point! Or perhaps missing an interesting point!

Okay, so in the golden olden heydays, when there was no TV, Internet and a zillion other interesting things to see and do, all our ancestors were dead bored with their lives. So, they got married to make their lives more interesting. After a while, they got even more bored. And so they made non-stop endless love for years and had a mighty brood of tiny children. As many as 10-15 of them!

In the good old days, people didn´t surf the net, or hook up on Tinder or watch porn to escape boredom, they started the mate hunt the hard way.

Yes! Boredom leads people to start bird watching, of all kinds! It is why boys stand outside girl´s colleges and simply watch pretty young things to escape their boredom and add some joy in their mundane lives. But, this is totally natural. Who knows some might even meet ´The One´?

Boredom leads you to get out of your shell and connect with people. Meet that special someone to bring a spark in your life and come home to. Make love to, have interesting conversations with and do things together. Boredom brings back the spark in your romantic lives.

3. Boredom enhances your creativity

´What! No internet? I am sooooo bored.´

Sounds familiar? Like your kid who is whining that they have nothing to do, right!

And there are grown-up adults who are so bored in their own homes that they work only in order to get out of the four walls to stay sane and have some purpose. And, there are people who just hate going to their school, college or office because it is so boring!

´Oh no! Not another mundane Monday again! ´

Experts advise that the best thing you can do for your children when they are bored is not to intervene by play clown to entertain them. Rather, it is best to leave them to their boredom. Boredom is great for kids and adults alike. It leads our minds to wander and day dream. Of imagining and fantasising the grand dream and the endless possibilites. It gives the perfect opportunity to our brains to think in a fascinatingly different way - Óut-of-the box´.

Lily Singh aka Superwoman dreaded going to grad school and getting bored. So, she did the unthinkable, created a YouTube channel on the sly, let her creativity take over her boredom and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, next time, don´t admonish or scold a child for day dreaming in class. They are really upto something. Let them be for a while! Shhhh!

4. Boredom leaves your happier

Recent studies show Boredom is the secret to happiness. In this age of instant gratification and mindless social media noise overdrive, Boredom is a welcome relief.

Just existing like that peaceful Yogi or Buddhist monk or Catholic nun in a secluded monastery far away from the world, in quiet meditation, leaves you with a happiness, that is simply free, unattached and inexplicable.

Or just existing like the giant Banyan Tree or tiny snail with no clear need to know all the grand big questions of life or its purpose of life.

For a while, merely existing is a such a liberating feeling. No excess baggage of expectations, stress or worries.

Yes, waiting in long queues or that long 2-hour commute without a Jio connection or Internet connectivity can be boring to say the least. But, just being in the present, the NOW, and soaking in the experience with all your senses can actually be a happy experience.

So, Boredom is more complicated than we ever thought it to be.

Boredom is magical.

Boredom is relaxing.

Boredom is interesting.

So, let´s all do ourselves a huge favour and schedule Boredom time in your lives!

Just lay down on the beach, with nothing intellectual or constructive to do , other than soaking in the sun, and listening to the refreshing sounds of the water waves and admiring the smiles of the ´near and dear´ ones that we love.

Ah Blissful Boredom! 

#AtoZChallenge 
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