MY FANTASY LAND

Picture this… A cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other hand sitting on a swing in the balcony lost in my fantasy world. Nobody wanting me to do anything. No calls like ‘What’s for dinner? Where are my Pajamas? ‘When will the report get submitted? Or declarations like “Maid has not come today!” I don’t like cauliflower!…

By fantasy here I don’t mean fantasies like Harry Potter or The Lord of Rings or The Game of thrones. I prefer some thing near to reality yet a fantasy to me. Something which makes me laugh and want to be in the place of the protagonist.

The perfect fit to this description is Author Sophie Kinsella’s books. Many may want to call her books as ‘Chick Lit’ but to me it is a tension free read which is bound to bring a smile to my face.

Her Shopaholic series is the most famous. Confessions of a Shopaholic, Shopaholic and sister, Shopaholic ties the knot, Shopaholic to the rescue etc. It mostly revolves around the adventures of a girl who just can’t resist shopping even when it gets her into a lot of trouble. But eventually by end of the novel things do resolve and she comes out of the whole mess. The situations and her buying habits are just so atrocious that they are downright funny. Wish I could get away with shopping so much.

There is another one where “Can you keep a secret?” its about a girl who is afraid of flying and once when the airplane she is travelling in hits turbulence she is sure she is going to die. To keep her hysteria down and focus on something else she turns to her co-passenger, a total stranger and tells all her embarrassing secrets to him. Fortunately, their plane didn’t crash. Unfortunately, the total stranger turned out to be the CEO of her company. Imagine Spilling your deepest secrets, only to have them resurface at a very inopportune and public moment, a shame beyond measure. Yet she endures and triumphs.

My favourite one is ‘Undomestic Goddess’. It’s about a very successful attorney who has an enviably perfect life. But then she makes a huge mistake. The mistake is so huge that it is going to wreck her whole career and the company she is working in. In a state of panic and going into a meltdown she walks out of her London office. Without thinking get into a train and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Due to a mix-up, she gets hired as a Housekeeper. Imagine her employers don’t know anything about her past and she doesn’t know anything about housekeeping. How to use the gadgets, or how to cook or even how to sew a button.  It’s the story of how she copes with the situation and eventually learns how to bake bread and get her life in London sorted.

I have enjoyed reading about her adventures with the daily household chores. Imagine things that are so mundane and routine for us become complicated for a hotshot lawyer.

Try reading one of her novels and do let me know whether is brought a smile on your face or not.

“Unfinished” – no more ‘just’ a word…

There’s something about the prefix ‘Un‘ when attached to a word.

It takes a simple word and reverses it – making it sound so much cooler. ‘Unfinished’ – there couldn’t have been a better word to describe her, she is indeed far from finished. She – Priyanka Chopra Jonas (as it says on the cover of the book) but to us Indians, she’ll always be PeeCee.

I cannot express how happy I was to be holding a copy of ‘Unfinished’A Memoir by Priyanka Chopra Jonas in my hands. I’ve always admired PeeCee as an Individual, as an Indian and most importantly as a role model to so many youth in our country to start with, if not people around the world too. And the best part – She’s INDIAN, she’s one of US.

"I am a product of traditional India and its ancient wisdom, and modern India and its urban bustle. My upbringing was always an amalgamation of the two Indias, and, just as much, of East and West," the 38-year-old actor said in a statement.(Amazon)
Look at her people – Look at those eyes!

I’ve always believed, when you read someone’s story, it needs to talk to you in a way, that makes you feel connected to the book, the story, and most importantly, the person BEHIND the book. This book had it all.

Priyanka prefers to call it a memoir, which is more a select few stories from her life thus far, to be fair, I wouldn’t want all the gory details – a memoir sounded just enough of information I needed to know, besides Priyanka’s journey is far from over, like I mentioned at the beginning – as the title of the book suggests – “Unfinished”

After having purchased the book, I downloaded the e-Book version – which made it feel (listening to it) as if she was reading her story out especially for me, only to have waited a few more weeks and have Oprah interview Priyanka Chopra. That was, in more ways than one – the icing with the cherry on top, if not the already plenty of interviews available online on Youtube wasn’t enough that I have watched, re-watched and shown to my students as well, have had me almost mouthing what Priyanka would say next.

Can I have enough of Priyanka? That would be a simple NO.

The grace, confidence, language and to top it all: A killer attitude – what’s to have enough of her?

If you’re wondering, why I keep typing out ‘Priyanka’ instead of her full name Priyanka Chopra Jonas? – well, we’re on First-Name-Basis. Can you imagine Priyanka calling me ‘Mr Paes’ when we meet, instead of Savio? I’ve decided we’d keep it totally casual.

If you’ve been a fan or even remotely interested in following Priyanka Chopra’s journey through life, you’d know there are plenty of lessons that you would take along the way – Plenty! I need not pen them down, it might make this post very preachy, but that said – one of the BIGGEST lessons one could take from her book, “Unfinished” – are the words of advice her dad constantly gave her, the constant support of her parents that she mentions all along her book, her admiration towards them and her full family in general, every step of the way – whether it was during her years of schooling, winning the Miss India crown or marrying the love of her life.

She always had that spark – and look where its got her.

Priyanka and Me – only 6 months and 9 days separate our date births #JustSaying. We’re the same age 🙂

I want to leave you all with profound words found in “Unfinished”

“It’s OK to pick up, walk away, leave thing unfinished, and move on to what’s next”

“We all have a different story”

“There’s only one you. Understand who you are , your uniqueness.”

and the best of all:

“I am very much #Unfinished”

something that we all need to say everyday when we wake up first thing in the morning.


THE POT OF MUD

Some 15 years ago when I was pursuing my MBA, our college had arranged a Creativity Workshop. The whole campus was filled with booths having many creative activities but one that caught my attention was the pottery booth. It was messy and not too crowded. So, the first impression was that there’s nothing interesting there, not for me though!

Something pulled me towards that booth. I don’t know what, maybe less crowd? Or maybe the fragrance of fresh mud? I stood at the booth watching the potter make beautiful pots of various shapes. I was amazed at how fast and how easily he was creating those pots. He looked calm and happy. I was wondering as to how come he looks so content even though his booth is not pulling any crowd. No crowd means no sales either! Yet, that man looked satisfied. How? My naive mind could not understand that. Little did I know that the potter was a life-lesson personified. Life-lesson # 1 – Look inside you. You will find satisfaction. Look outside, you will misguide yourself.

I stood there for almost 15 mins before I made up my mind to give it a try. I was sceptical. I wanted to try making a pot but I didn’t want to make my hands dirty. Oh wait, was it really called making hands dirty? Uff.. my naive mind again! Popped life-lesson # 2 – A beautiful result calls for the hardship of efforts.

“Bhaiya, I want to make a pot.” finally I had made a decision. “But I have never done it before. Do you think I can still do it?”

“Of course! Anyone can make a pot” he replied. I felt a bit excited.

I pulled up my sleeves and was all set. I sat down on the floor – much contrary to the plus classroom furniture I was already used to! oh boy – sitting on the floor felt so comfortable, so homely! Life Lesson # 3 – Simple things can give you joy too!

The potter set the wheel and placed some mud at the centre.

“Here you go… now cup your hands around this and just tilt your hands a bit… move in the right direction..: he said showing me how to do it…

I carefully extended my hands out and cupped that soggy lifeless dollop of mud.

That first touch of fresh mud felt heavenly. It was silky smooth, aromatic and the steady rhythm it got from the wheel almost felt therapeutic. I was clearly not able to shape the pot but I was liking how my hands felt fully covered with mud. 

“Bhaiya, I am not able to shape it. can you please help me?” Life – Lesson # 4 -Not all things that look simple are actually simple!”

“Why not!” He was eager to help. He cupped his hands outside mine and helped me shape the pot.

A short while later, we had made a soft, asymmetrical pot. A small one. Nowhere close to beautiful. I frowned. 

“What happened?” He asked

“This doesn’t look nice.” I replied immediately.

“Aaare.. This is not done yet. I will bake this pot after it dries.Come back and take it the day after tomorrow. Then tell me how you like it.”

I thanked him for this wonderful experience and left. But the mud stayed with me. The touch, the aroma, the therapy – everything stayed with me.

I went to get my pot two days later. Somehow – I had grown fond of it in these two days. I was excited to see how it looked. 

“Now tell me… isn’t this beautiful?” He said placing the pot on my palms.

I kept looking at that small pot. That soft and mushy pot had hardened now. It had a form, it had a shape! It was still asymmetrical but beautiful. It was MY creation. Something that I created with my bare hands! 

A smile lit up my face. My eyes twinkled. I was so proud of this creation of mine! I thanked him again and went about my day. The whole day I saved that pot from any damage. When I went home, I found a safe corner in my house and placed it there. I showed it to everyone in the house. Just like a small kid who flaunts the first greeting card he makes! Or the first messy painting he does.

That pot was no more ordinary. I had literally placed my heart and soul in it. A few days later my niece visited us. A toddler fond of jumping around and throwing things, she picked up my pot to see and dropped it to the floor! CRASH…! My heart was broken into millions of pieces.

My prized possession was destroyed. I tried putting it back, but no luck. It was broken and couldn’t be mended. Life-lesson # 5 – Sometimes no matter how much you try, you cannot fix broken things – be it heart, relationships or anything else.

I wanted to yell at my niece but something held me back. Something inside me assured me that her action was not intentional. She was a child after all! Life- lesson # 6 – There is a lot more than what meets the eye. Its not always what you see – its about how you look at it!

Cut to present – That pot is gone but it has given me some pearls of wisdom. Some learning that simplifies my life as an adult. A lovely and valuable memory!

One Fine Day is All You Need

If you ask me what brings me joy, there are a lot many. Again if I have to choose, it is indeed hard for me, because my joy seems to link to the mental state i am going through and what makes me happy then. It might not give me the same joy on another occasion.
Ok. So if i have to choose, i love a movie, and with my busy day today, i feel like watching it again and again. It is called “One Fine Day”.

I do not know if some can relate to the poster here.

Movie : One Fine Day (1996) Staring : George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer

The movie revolves around a single mom and single dad and their kids. And their lives intersect on a hectic day, wherein they come together to help each other in some way or the other. I kind of get lost in the movie as soon as i start watching as the characters are played by my favorite actors. And being a mom, especially on hectic days, even when i have thousands of pending things to do, and irritating kids around, I still sit there and watch it and yes I hate getting disturbed.
The joy it brought me was immense. It was because I was in a state of mind, wherein a piece of me was not quite happy with how i do things, and the other piece of me does feel content with everything i do. Parenting can literally blow your mind off, and it is indeed hard to focus on what’s good and what’s bad. There are certain days when i feel like being on the verge of breaking away and need a good break, but I am still unable to choose what to be done. Like a positive message, this movie came as a messiah to me, telling me that “stay calm lady, you are fine just relax.”. And watching the stars on screen, the mesmerizing rain and the infrastructure does give me goosebumps.
Somedays, I feel like i am a mess, nothing is in line and cannot be controlled, these are the days, I look for a light at the end of the dark tunnel and the movie is perfect for the same. It gives me hope, joy and a message that i am perfectly fine, all i need to be is a little calm and patient.

No pain, No Joy.

Only when we endure the difficulties, we know what joy it brings to us.

LOVE THAT LASTS IS A LOVE THAT WINS

Have you ever been in love? (with a human being – can be but not necessarily a boyfriend/ girlfriend/ spouse)

I can vouch for it that most of us have! At least for a brief phase . . .

Love is an emotion that needs expression. Much goes wrong in relationships because of deficient expression, lack of expression or inappropriate expression of love.

Ever heard anyone sigh, “My husband/ wife is so busy at work that he cannot be here for my birthday. He sure would pamper me with a wonderful gift. But, how I wish s/he would spend the day with me!” Or would you remember being praised tons for your excellent performance in academics, but never having been rewarded tangibly for the same?

Some people don’t feel loved not because no one around loves them, but because their love language is different from the ones loving. Here lies the mismatch!

This is so beautifully explained by Gary Chapman in his book ‘The Five Love Languages’. I read this book around 7-8 years back after I heard a speaker suggest it. And. I must tell that it is one of the best books of all times that I have read and one which I have widely gifted.

The author writes about five major love languages that people world over speak.

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Gifts
  3. Acts of Service
  4. Quality time
  5. Physical Touch

(I won’t go on to elaborate these in this article, because I want you read this book from cover to cover. It is worth!!)

Identifying each other’s love language and expressing love the way the other person understands, expects and appreciates is what makes relationships sweeter. This book is precisely written for spouses, in an attempt to revive love in loveless marriages and to save marriages from breaking off. It makes so much sense to realise that though you have been loving your spouse all these years, s/he feels unloved because you aren’t expressing love the way s/he needs it. Imagine watering and tending to a plant sincerely for months or years together only to see it wither away! Well, it probably was a plant that needed lots of sunshine and less of water to flourish!

Though this book is meant for marriages, I felt that the principles apply to all relationships that one can think of. Only if we are sensitive to apply and people around us are sensitive to understand and reciprocate, that we would see and experience love blossom in all relationships around us.

Soon after reading this book, I came across other books by the same author using the same principles for different relationships. And so, I have ‘The Five Love Languages of Children’ and ‘The Five Love Languages of Teenagers’ gracing my library and gifted to many parents and would-be-parents.

At a time when love seems to be dying in relationships and mere mechanical social bonds mushrooming everywhere, it is important to let love survive.

I Truly Believe In Love

When I was in college (graduation 3rd year), I read two books as a part of our syllabus – The Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Both are great works. Human relations, follies, expectations, insecurities, vulnerabilities – mainstay of these works. Me being a romantic to the core person was swept off my feet by beautiful portrayal of Elizabeth and Darcy – the protagonists of “Pride & Prejudice”. Elizabeth, a strongly opinionated, free spirited , well read, beautiful and a charismatic girl. Her beauty was not only what was obvious but her refusal to let herself to be treated as doormat added to her aura. Despite of not having grand fortune and unfortunately quite a few annoying pompous characters in her family she never let herself to act or sound vulnerable. Meekness or submission wasn’t her. She represented grace. On the other hand Mr.Darcy was rich by leaps and bounds. Was as opinionated as his female counterpart was but the natural flair of talking easily to people wasn’t his forte. His stoic silence made him look haughty. His reserved nature was often mistaken for being too proud to mingle. But as the story proceeds the layers over his character get unveiled, making him a desirable life partner for every girl. Ok, I will be honest with you all – I really wished to have a Darcy in my life – handsome, even more handsomely rich and to enhance every other quality that he possessed – sensible & madly in love with a person to go to any extent.

It was their chemistry that kept me hooked. Left me happily teary eyed everytime I finished the book. I actually lost count of number of times I have read this book (haven’t yet counted the number of views I have paid to the series). It is no less than a fairy tale following the suit where poor girl meets rich boy, they get married and happily live ever after. It is more closer to the real lives where a union of two people isn’t devoid of involvement of families and friends. Superiority complex of affluent ones, misunderstandings – both of words & silence, expectations tied to engagements, pride invested in qualities (materialistic and otherwise) one possess, prejudiced opinions one forms of the other and how finally love finds it’s way – we do find such elements in and around our lives, isn’t it? That’s why this fiction stood the test of the time.

My Draw: To be honest, whether I read or watch this work of art, majorly it’s an escapism to the rosy world of romance I adore. I simply cherish love stories. It hand overs to me a sense of happiness. But over the years it apart from happiness it gave me one important lesson – Pride about something – good or bad, inadvertently nurses prejudice. Let’s forget about the book and it’s characters for a moment. Let’s take an example from what’s around us. A man regular in his prayers and social work feels proud of his desirable ways of life. When he sees another person who is not very invested in regular prayers and social work isn’t a part of his regular proceedings of life, the former one immediately forms a prejudice about the later one about how wrong he is without knowing him fully, without having an awareness of his portion of struggles in life. It is very much happening all around us. No denial. So if you let pride rest for long in your head get ready for an add on guest – Prejudice, period!

Moving on from this story, have you ever thought what would be life of Elizabeth and Darcy when they enter their 60s? When romance blooms completely into love. Well, not sure of them but I came across a Indian regional movie that exactly defines what love and companionship is. The movie’s name is Mithunam, which means a couple. It’s in Telugu. The entire movie is about an elderly couple – Appa Dasu & Buchi Lakshmi, whose children have settled in different parts of the world. In the entirety of the film you will see only these two characters. It might seem to be a reel showcasing their daily mundane activities but the depth needs a heart to let it sink.

The first thing what I noticed after I finished watching this movie is it isn’t some unrelated, non relatable celebrities that can give us couple goals. If companionship has to be understood look at our grandparents, look at our parents. My own in-laws are together for 42 years now. Have seen lows and highs together. Being together is what mattered. And probably for the first time on celluloid I have seen where it wasn’t about the rose flowers but about the fragrance it spreads. It isn’t about the attraction during youth but affection in the dusk of the age. Where hero and heroine aren’t the glamorous hot shots but someone more identifiable and relatable with us. Completely in love with this movie.

What Mithunam taught me?

Many beautiful aspects have subtly touched upon in this movie that can make a life meaningful and joyful.

  • companionship means understanding the unannounced pain, doing your part without being vocal about it. There was a particular scene where the wife comes to know how her husband has been helping her best friend over the years to get her son educated after her husband has departed. Never once did he let her know about her friend’s ordeals.
  • Work your bodies and rest your mind. Movie beautifully depicted the mantra for a happy and healthy life. From growing vegetables, doing chores to even unconventional jobs repairing slippers like cobblers do, this movie also speaks about dignity of labour and self reliance though in a very nuanced manner.
  • For the first time I heard the concept of attachment and detachment in this movie. Our love shouldn’t turn into constant worry or impediment – for us or others. Live life as it comes – this is what Appa Dasu taught me.
  • At the end when Appa Dasu dies, Buchi Lakshmi cries her heart out and says “thank you God”. Don’t get her wrong, she opens up as she talks to herself “I was constantly worried what would happen to this man if I leave this abode before him, he is like a child who can’t take care of himself. Now my worries are put to rest”. Is this not true love considering the fact that in India dying as a married woman (before her husband) is considered good.

I can go on about this feel good movie, but surely there’s more this movie can give us. Available on youtube with subtitles, give it a try! These two works have strengthened my idea and belief in love. I may not have Darcy, but surely I want to grow old with my man and lead a content life ☺️.

HARDSHIPS WORTH THE JOY

When it comes to joy after hardship, the first thing that comes to my mind is my first pregnancy, where after complications in pregnancy and an extremely painful vaginal delivery, I had my bundle of joy thereafter, by the grace of God, also mentioned in –
https://wordpress.com/post/candlesonline.wordpress.com/9979


Another incident, which actually isn’t quite a real hardship, but its worth mentioning. It was one of the most memorable trips with my family members, to Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib, which is located in Chamoli District in Uttarakhand, in the Himalayas, at an altitude of 15,000 feet. One has to cross the glacier to reach the picturesque holy spot. If it is not cloudy (which hardly happens), then you are lucky enough to see the glorious seven mountain peaks, surrounding the Gurudwara.


So, basically, the whole journey was divided into three parts:


Part 1: Rishikesh to Govind Ghat- 268 kms; by road- 5 to 7 hours:  This was an exciting drive as the way to Govind Ghat go through five sacred confluences, namely Vishnu Prayag, Nanda Prayag, Karn prayag, Rudra Prayag and Dev Prayag, hence this is termed as Panch Prayag. One cannot restrain self from capturing these exotic and spiritual confluences in a camera. There were few delays in our travel, due to frequent landslides.


Part 2: Govind Ghat to Gobind Dham/ Ghangharia- 13 kms; by footpath- 4 to 7 hours: We left Govind Ghat early in the morning. After crossing village Bhyundar, the trek got more difficult. After the Lakshman Ganga stream bridge, it’s only 3 kmtrs more, yet strenuous trek to Gobind Dham. I seriously thought that I should have conditioned my body prior the trek as I was really too tired and in pain. As we stayed overnight, we popped in our pain killers and prepared ourselves for the next stretch.


Part 3: Gobind Dham/ Ghangharia to Hemkund Sahib- 6 km; by footpath- 2 to 4 hours: The trek here was more difficult, with frequent drizzle and mud making it slippery. Although mules/ horses/ palanquins were available, I didn’t opt for one. Testing my core strength, mental and physical as well, I continued to walk. Another thing that left a beautiful impression was that the people who were returning from the Gurudwara were distributing ‘prasad’ on their way back to the hikers like us and motivating by singing chants. It was simply an exhilarating feeling on reaching the Gurudwara. But, one cannot stay there for long due to low oxygen levels. So, we had to return the same day to Gobind Dham.


The return journey was equally strenuous due to our already over-worked muscles. However, to my surprise, I gave support to my mother, by holding her hand as we walked back together. The religious trip helped me in recognizing my strength and it was a wonderful experience altogether.