Dec 30, 2015

2015, the year!

As usual, this was a good year too! I had loads of fun doing everything I did – work, friends, travel, photography, reading etc. Yes, absolutely no complaints at all.

Travel - This was a great year for  me. We kicked off the year with a trip to Puri in February which turned out to be a trip for just shooting pics. I got to shoot such brilliant photos of the 12th, 13th and 14th century temples. There was a 10-day Vipasana trip I did in June to Dharamshala. Stayed there for 13 days, including the time spent in Vipasana course. Loved the course duration, but was disappointed by Dharamshala as a place in itself. There was this short trip to Maldives in July , and all the husband and I did here was laze out in our cottage in the resort during the day and walk by the clear waters in the evenings. And then there was this Europe trip with a girl-friend. A short trip to Goa in October proved to us that no matter what we did, we’d always make at least one trip to Goa every year, without even planning for it! All these trips were interspersed with a few work trips to Seattle. The first couple of times, I was greeted with good weather there so I shot some great photos there too.

Books wise, this has been a good year too. I read a good number of books, and exceeded my own target on the no. of books to read this year. Here is a detailed compilation of what I read this year.

Work – I get to do what I like to do and I know that I learnt a lot in this year. There are always some meh days, but they are never strong enough to kill the spirit. I am asking myself what I’d like to do in the next 5 years, and the next 10 , and I kinda am getting the answers to those too. These could change in future, but am not going to hold on to them, coz I have the clarity now. Any changes would only be voluntary or accepted if thrust upon me, and I’d have to go with them. I had a great team at the start of the year, where I learnt a lot and got to do some impactful work. As the project ended and we all went our separate ways, I realized how much I valued that team, but I was ready for new challenges. And yes, they came and made their presence felt. The next couple of months were spent in ambiguity teaching me how to deal with it and how to calm myself when I feel restless. And as the year ends, I am gearing for some more challenges, which will teach me working with new stakeholders and not burn bridges. Yeah, it is a good year, full of learning!

Hobbies – As it is always, I pursued a few side projects this year too. Bottle painting was picked up and finished. Then I briefly considered picking up knitting or the quilt project, both of which didn’t take off. The idea/hobby/to-do board is full, so it means there is a lot for me to do. It is also an indication that I haven't been giving as much time as required for my hobbies… so yeah, that’s that! :-) Photography, as a hobby, has never been better. I have been experiment with new techniques in shooting and processing, and I feel like I have at least another year before I give it up, like I did to the food blog.

Friends – Touchwood, this was an year where earlier bonds were made stronger, and I couldn’t have been luckier. Yet again, I feel that am one of those privileged people with so many friends across the globe, all of whom make me feel so loved and wanted, that I couldn’t have wished for better people around me even if I wanted to! Travels to US made me meet many of them, more times than I expected to, but not enough to fill the heart. Staying in Hyderabad made me feel so secure and busy every single day of the year … The husband and I keep telling ourselves how much we wanted this a couple of years ago, and how we are given this by the Universe now! True, am nothing with these friends of mine. Each of them teach me something new always, either by their sheer presence or with their attitude towards things that matter to me. The no. of girlfriends is definitely more than the no. of guy friends. Actually, the latter hasn’t really increased a lot, I am still friends with the guys I’ve known for a zillion years, and new friendships with guys take a while to be forged. As for girlfriends, there are a lot of times I feel like wanting to have a friendship affair with a few of them, and sometimes I realize that am probably in one with a few of them already. There are a handful who remind me of Mom (one with her sheer grit to sail through anything, another with her infinite patience with whatever comes up her way, one more with her presence around me always), and they have been with me through thick and thin!

Family – Well, if Vipasana has taught me anything this year, it is the importance of people in my life. The husband says that I’ve grown closer to Mom, more than ever. We are fighting way lesser, and we talk and share things like we used to before I left home. I feel happy most times after I complete the conversation with her, and that is a good indication. Things with MIL couldn’t have been better. Things that were off-limits before are being joked about, and I think after a decade, we both are finally forging a strong bond which is tending to be a different version of friendship. No, I still don’t call either of them as much as I should, but they aren't complaining as much as they would. I’ve always shared a warm relationship with FIL, and it continues, touch wood. Dad and I are covering new grounds in our relationship. From being very close to almost not on talking terms to being able to tolerate each other’s presence in the same room to now, where we find common topics and talk about then and laugh about most of them, I feel good that the love we share is showing its effect now. I won’t even review what I share with the husband :-)

Am excited for 2016. There are a few things we want to do this year, a few places I want to go to.
I definitely want to concentrate more on the fitness , since we almost nailed the eating-well part this year. This year was mostly full of millets, broken wheat, and sustainable protein sources, and almost negligible eating-out.
There are a few lens I want to try with my camera, and I'll pick them up when I outgrow the ones I have now. I definitely want to restart some of the pending hobbies.
Declutter more, buy less clothes are on the agenda too. I want to own fewer things in 2016 than I did in 2015, and this includes everything - cars, sofas, dining tables, mattresses, shoes, chairs, dining sets, cooking utensils etc - basically , material possessions. The idea is to not own more than what is necessary for existence, not buying stuff without utilitarian value and only for showing off. And I am determined to make it happen.

Here's hoping you all had a great year too, and wishing you a better 2016! :-)

2015, in Books

Oh, this was a GOOD year for books, I must say! I got to read a variety of books in various genres this year, and explore new mediums too. And as the year ends, there is faint chance that I might be stocking up on paper books too. Am still in love with my Kindle and ebooks will still be my most favorite method to read, but the allure of leafing through the books (which I rediscovered as I saw a friend’s drawing room full of books. She made the drawing room into a library and I loved the time I spent in that room!) is catching on again and am starting by stocking up on graphic novels.

I still read more than one book at a time, one by the bed side, one at the dining table. And I have started the non-fiction and books for work genres this year, and to my surprise, quite liking them too.  Here’s what GoodReads has to say about my year in books :-) Yes, 90 books, with an average of 293 pages per book! [That’s not bad, right? Well, I’ve also had a busy life this year, with loads of outings, parties, gatherings and marathon-sitcom-watching. There were these other hobbies that I followed too… :-)]  

Original link -

Europe, again! :-)

Earlier this year, in September, I had the opportunity to make another trip to Europe. This time, it was with a girl-friend, and for 12 days, and we were headed towards the Central Europe – Czech, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, to be precise.

Central Europe
From top left corner, in clock-wise direction - Tribute to the lives lost in Stalin's rule at Devin Castle, Bratislava; Heroes Square in Vienna; Prague castle at night; Heroes Square in Budapest

This was something we planned very well, and yet wasn’t a trip that was planned to the last minute. This was something like a backpacking, but wasn’t exactly backpacking in the true sense. We knew exactly where we were sleeping every night. That was the only thing that was planned. Every evening, we’d both sit in our room and decide a list on what we wanted to do the next day – a rough set of places to see, things to do , food to eat, photographs/locations to shoot etc. We didn’t always finish the list, and we were okay with that. We prioritized every day, and the first priority was for us to laze around and have fun.

Dec 22, 2015

Random thoughts...

Some random thoughts that popped into my head this week...

Of all that a person can go through, the feeling of not being wanted is the worst. [I read a quote from a book meaning this a long time ago, cant recollect what it is now!]

"You want to know what love is? Its the thing that ruins you." - Alice Hoffman, The Ice Queen

"Crying wasn't like riding a bike. Give it up, and you quickly forget how it's done" - Alice Hoffman, The Ice Queen

"You should always be with someone who wants you, not with someone whom you want."
[I've always found this statement by my Mom absurd. Why be with someone merely because they want you, I thought. But as with many things in which I've realized that Mom is right, am realizing this is right too, in its own screwed up, manipulated way of the world!]

Dec 20, 2015

Of reading and images...

There is this image in my head that I haven't been able to get over. In fact, I don't really want to get over that image, and so am not trying to. Its the image of someone reading a book.

Nov 12, 2015

What's your story?

A while ago, I realized that there are only two types of experiences in life - 1. the kind that will make for think back and chuckle with pleasure and 2. the kind that would be so appalling that they'll make people beg you to tell the story. So, in effect ,the outcome is just the same - you have a great story!
Now, don't go all out and tell me how we shouldn't be living for other people and shouldn't care for what they think of us, and hence a story shouldn't matter to me. Sorry, but it does. Not what people think of me. Not because it will increase my self-worth in my audience's eyes, but for the sake of the good story. Just that. A good story. Yes, am quite romantic that way!

Oct 29, 2015

These charms...

As a teenager, I used to LOVE key chains. God alone knows how much pocket money I spent on buying silly key chains in various shapes and sizes ... that the money I spent on books, but the latter is something that gives me joy even today. The key chains, well, they don't... they make me realize the follies of youth. Those Chuimui-si-tum-teddy bear key chains, the ones that stick to the shirt, the shoe-shaped ones and what not... :)
This love , I noticed, didn't entirely go away. Instead, there is a transformation in it now. I now carry items that remind me of happy times and sometimes people in my key ring at all times... and this morning, as I was sorting stuff in my handbag, I noticed that the bag was heavy only because of the heavy key ring, and just how many charms I carry on me!
Presenting to you, the contents of my key ring...

Mar 4, 2015

India’s daughters


One week ago I had a long conversation with a group, an educated , seemingly sensible group of people, all of them extremely close to me.
About how what women wear do not define them.
About how even nuns , 6 year old children and 80 year old women get raped.
About how what I wear is never an invitation, and is always subjective, like how a salwar-kameez is acceptable in most places but isn’t enough in many other places on this globe, about how I have to probably cover my ankles and head to not be lynched or jailed in some countries and how its all about freedom.
About how women do not invite just because they are out at 9 PM, and how sometimes work might take them out too.
About how it is important to raise our sons well , to teach them to respect women irrespective of what they are wearing.
About how its not important that a woman should feel like a mother or a sister for a man to be able to not pass lewd remarks on her and that the fact that she is a human being is enough for her to get a respect given to one.

I gave examples where I, someone they loved a lot, have done all of the things they think are incorrect behaviors for girls and asked if I am one of those women who invite lewd comments too? I pointed examples of how many men including the sons they’ve raised themselves do not think like this, indicating that they probably did a fine job with their children, and now its time for them to change their thought process and mindset for good and not be judgmental about women.

The conversation turned into a verbal fight in no time, and I fought through this conversation giving examples till it got almost out of hand. And I gave up.

About two days ago, I read the article on the documentary made on India’s Daughter and felt my blood boil till it almost frothed over. And I thought back about the conversation, rather the fight I had the week ago on a similar issue.

Then I saw the short speech Kirron Kher gave in the Parliament on YouTube last night. And I saw it again. And again. And again. Till I got almost everything she said by heart.

And I felt the tears coming up. For myself and for the billions of women around the world who face prejudices.

And this morning, I saw this – the very short speech Javed Akhtar gave on the same issue in the Parliament. And his words struck me like lightning – “This documentary will reveal how many men think like Nirbhaya’s rapist”

These words just sapped the entire energy from me… and I felt despair. And gloom. And I realized that Akhtar had a very true, very valid point.

Personally, I’ve had the privilege to know some really good men. Rational in their thought, respectful of human beings irrespective of their gender, open to new ideas and mindsets, invested in bettering themselves in all respects – in general , really good citizens. The mere fact that I haven’t met men like the ones mentioned by Akhtar from close quarters doesn’t mean they aren’t around. I am aware of the painful fact that there definitely are men who think like that. But what brought me down totally was how aware I was of the fact that there are women also who think like this.

Trust me, I never believed that a woman is a woman’s enemy, like the old adage goes. In fact, in my case that’s never been true, because most of my role-models and mentors are women. They have taught me, mentored me and hand-held me at various stages in life and career either with their sheer presence or with words and actions so strong that I cannot forget what they’ve done for me ever. And I’ve tried to do the same to other women myself, will continue to do so.

But what is painfully true even to this day is that there are women who judge other women. To the extent of outrage, many of them think like Nirbhaya’s rapist. And they bring up children, who grow up to be the next generation in this world.

And that scares me.
The fact that this is not something that will end with this generation, but that we will have to live with this mindset for few more generations before it finally ends (will it, ever?) is something that takes the will and zest out of me.

Really, how can the change in mindset really occur? From grass-root level? How?
If we do not let our girls study, if we genuinely believe that girls needn’t study beyond graduation because they will get married anyway.
If we let our sons know through actions that it is okay for them to judge women based on looks, clothes, color, status.
If we believe that a girl needs to be controlled if she is working and her independence needs to be stripped off somehow.
If being a feminist is offensive.
If having guy friends and going out at night is bad behavior warranting punishment.

Really, how?