Of life and second chances

The say life doesn’t give you second chances. They also say life is harsh and is a constant battle. 

I find the first adage kind of impossible to be true if second was true.

What happens when you are unable to succeed? What happens when you wanted to get something, like a dream or a goal, and you didn’t /couldn’t achieve it? In some cases, there’s a feeling of failure. Sometimes there is a regret of not trying (hard enough). Sometimes you’re so, soo done that there is nothing more you want to try or dream for. 

But. But, even after that, even after the hardest blow, life doesn’t say that you cannot try again!? ‘You’ feel that the window of opportunity you had to achieve the goal is lost. ‘You’ feel that you cannot go any further. ‘You’ think that it doesnt get any worse than this. But, life doesn’t let you stop. Life doesn’t let you quit. So, from what I see, life is not really letting you give up. Life is brutal that it doesn’t give up on you. No matter how badly bruised you are, you have no choice but to pick up your battered soul and ‘move on’. 

So, on the contrary, life is all about second, third , fourth, or infinite chances.  It’s about making as many mistakes as you want, as many as you can. It is about living with the consequences of those mistakes too. But, it is about remembering that nothing is more important in life than life itself. Live, Breath, Do, Wish. And stop thinking. Stop worrying about the what-if because life will anyways move on. It’s all in your mind – the good, the bad, the right, the wrong, the guilt,  the regret, the hurt.

As I tread through the murky waters of depression, I realize, most of our emotions are nothing but mind games.  Nothing is really wrong with my life. From the outside, it’s a picture-perfect kodak life. But, my mind tells me otherwise. It plays havoc with my emotions to make me feel like a maniac, a loser. It makes me believe that this one material possession, this title defines my identity. It makes me go nuts about losing things which have no significance in my life and thus, should have no significance in my decisions. But, they do. They weigh heavy.

Because life doesn’t stop and the weights of regrets are heavy. 


Of choices

Dear Diary,

Life is back to normal again. After a long time of upheaval and uncertainties, it is where it was, and it seems, the sea is calm, yet again.

Normally, times of upheaval /difficulties usually signify the time of improvement, growth. So far, it usually ended with some significant change in my life – a milestone. This time, however, it hasn’t changed much. Maybe I hit the rock bottom and I am back to the surface, breathing, so that’s a big achievement! Not sure, though.

As I reflect on those times, I do try to gather what I learnt (coz there must be!). The first one and the only one so far, is it was all my choice. The times tested which way I go, and I made my choice. Whether it was about supporting my husband in his venture, or not-leaving my job for my ailing child (who is now fine), or not moving back to my in-laws house because of societal pressure, or about not-giving up when everything seemed to be going wrong at my job. I took a stand. I decided for myself. It didn’t seem so when it was all happening. But, now, I can see that that is how it all went.

As I always say – ‘ There is no right or wrong a choice. It is about what actions you follow it with, which decide whether the choice was wrong or right’.

So, when I did decide to move out of my in-laws house, it was a major decision. A decision which most would term as ‘wrong’, but by working extra-hard towards keeping the relations healthy, happy, I could heal them. I could make the decision right. Now, not only am I happy, they are able to find their happiness in this setup too. It wasn’t easy. Neither for me, nor for them. But, if the intentions are right, and if you value the relations, it does work out. Today, we’re considered a happy unit again (‘us’ and ‘them’ together).

When Anay fell sick, and had to be hospitalized, everyone questioned our decision of moving out. It made sense to keep the child home instead of sending him to the day care and opening him to so many infections. That was a time even my husband thought that it’s the right thing to do, to move back. But, I knew, I had made a choice. And, it was time to make the choice right. So, I decided that we won’t undo what we had done. I decided we will try to make it work by working it out with our offices. And, it seemingly did. It was tough. Both our careers were at stake. But, when you have a baby, you don’t have it to give away to your parents to take care. You take care of your child. And, if you cannot take care of him/her because of your career, then you need to figure out how to make it work. Not brush your hands off the child by handing over the responsibility. Yes, my child requires his grandparents and their love. He needs loads of them. I keep visiting. I let him have his way, a lot of times. But, I don’t want to use it as an excuse to get rid of my responsibility.

Because of this part-time story, my job went into a deep shit. Things went out of hand pretty suddenly. What came as a warning sounded more like a death bell. While moving to a different job was an obvious choice, it would have meant accepting defeat and letting go of all the hard work I had done in my past 4 years at the company. I was ready to move-on in terms of job. I wasn’t ready to leave on bad terms. I didn’t want to leave because I failed at the job I took. I wanted to prove I was worth it. I wanted to prove it was a phase that I went through.

‘And, it does not define me’.

It took a lot of courage, lot of self-introspection and letting go of personal limitations to get over it. It meant facing people head-on. Having arguments of personal level and yet keeping it totally professional. No tears, No emotions. They say, once relations go sour, it is almost impossible to mend them back. This time, I can say, I mended them. I would never be able to forget the scar, but I mended it enough so that I don’t have to run from my current situation. I can work. I can go to a happy place to work. And, if later, I want to switch because I would like to, professionally, then I would. But, for now, there’s no rush.

Well Well! So, that was my last adventure. And, as I see my calm sea again, I wonder and yawn. I wonder what the next adventure would be, and when it would be. Because Life is the only adventure which keeps my adrenaline high.

Hoping for a rocking life ahead! Coz I ain’t done yet! πŸ˜‰

-Hope

Of allowing human-ness

Dear Diary,

No one likes to be shouted at. Yet, none of us think that before we yell at someone.

No one likes to be called stupid. Yet, we never think twice before we call someone stupid.

No one is perfect. Yet, we never tire from pointing out people’s imperfections.

From today on, I’ll try to stay more calm. I’ll try to not shout or frown upon people. I’ll try not to bad-mouth people even when I’m gossiping lame stuff over tea.

It’s impossible to accept everything. Sometimes, it is important to tell people they’re doing it wrong. But, there’s always a better way of saying the same thing. Instead of saying – ‘you should know this, you stupid!’, I can say – ‘Why don’t you take another look at this and see if you can find the reason. I think you will. If not, please do come back and I’ll explain”.

More importantly, I’ll try not to feel anger at people’s imperfections. The key is not just to NOT show anger. It’s more important to not feel it either. Otherwise, anger keeps piling inside of us and it comes out with double force next time. So, it’s crucial to accept people as humans. Humans, capable of making mistakes, not everyone is at the same mile in the long journey. Some maybe ahead of us, some may still be behind. Let’s accept people as they are. Let’s allow them to be humans.

-Hope

My Pandora’s Box

Dear Diary,

As you know already, I talk a lot. More than the usual standards. And, if I compare with what I write, I usually don’t talk about things that I write. So, I have a set of things I talk on and I’ve a completely different set that I write about. And, then, there are some thoughts that never make it to my tongue or my pen. So, they are left unshared, lost in the dark corners of my Pandora’s box.

I’m surprised at the number of thoughts that inhabit my Pandora’s box aka my mind. I was thinking I’ll start writing them all down but even before I start, I know my hands will get tired but the thoughts won’t stop. Plus, not to mention the time constraints that already are.

Sometimes, I feel my mind is cluttered and has become a dustbin of sorts. But, other times, when my mind is actually perplexed and has a problem to solve, and when I trace my thought-line, it leads me to a solution. In a way, I feel like the thoughts are my conversations with God which help me get to the answer of life’s problems – big or small.

Why do I have so many thoughts? Does everyone think so much? And that too, so much variety? How do you empty your mind of all these? Is it even required to get rid of them?

-Hope

Of values and superstitions

Some random ramblings I wrote a few months ago. Posting now.

 

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All my life I have been the decent girl who never did anything that made her a ‘bad girl’. Even when I was in love, I was the decent, good girl in love. I never wore anything hot or provocative. Ever. I always believed that when I get married, I’ll dress up in all those dresses and flaunt it with my man by my side. My Mom never did a lot of makeup.. I discovered makeup at the age of 30. I’m still grappling with it. Will you believe if I told you that I tried my eye-liner a day ago, yesterday, that is 31 Jan’2016.

Before a girl is taught language, she’s taught boundaries, rights and wrongs. She’s not told about exploring her femininity but how to cover it. How to curb any thoughts of doing things on her own. What is unacceptable in the society.
I remember I found my femininity when I went to US. It was only then that I was really away and alone from my parents. I thought having lived in the hostel and PGs for good 6 yrs should be sufficient to teach me a thing or two. It should have made me independent. But, it seems they didn’t. In US, being all alone, single, I found my true self. Open, free. I explored the clothes I wore. I tried my first lipstick. I still didn’t explore other shades of lipstick. Even that exploration has only started now. I wanted to be hot. I am 31 and I don’t want to think myself as old or over with my youth. I wanted marriage to free me of those limitations. But, unfortunately, it has put more limitations.

I have now found that my soul knows no limits, no inhibitions. I learnt a thing about Mr. Guilt too.Β  Guilt mostly happens because you think you did something against your values. The values, which have been ingrained in your mind, all these years. I don’t know whether what they teach is right or wrong. I think values, when followed blindly are as much superstitions as those Hindu vrats that one does. Without understanding their meanings, without your mind accepting them, they are just baseless bullshit with no results. They tell you of all the bad things which may happen in future. But you don’t know whether that’s true or not. No one got out alive of it anyway!

I remember reading ‘Illusions’ by Richard Bach. It has a para that says ‘If God asked you of his one work that he wanted you, His ardent followers to do, would you do it? The followers said’ Yes, Dear Jesus, tell us what you want and we’ll lay our lives for it. God said ‘Are you sure you would do anything and fulfill this work of mine?’ They all said ‘Yes Yes, we will go to any length to do it.’ God said ‘ Be Happy. I want you all to be happy’.

The quote has stuck with me. I think that’s precisely what God wants from us, all of us. To be happy. To chose happiness over anything else.

Travel Diaries

Dear Diary,

I’m again reminded of Kabir’s doha – “Bura jo dekhan main chala, bura na miliya koye. Jo main dekha aahpno, mujhse bura na koye”

This is a quote which has stayed with me all through my life. Maybe more so, after I reached adulthood. There are phases when I reach a certain high-point in life, perhaps, that I’m reminded of this by life. The quote means ‘As I go around the world looking for bad in people, I find none. The moment I look at myself, there’s no one worst than me.’

Now, this translation of the quote may sound pretty depressing and self-derogatory, but the actual meaning is that when you try to understand any person, whom you consider ‘bad person’, you’ll find they are not really that bad. And, we often forget our own mis-doings. The moment you take a look at your own self, your actions, your thoughts, you realize there’s lot of cleaning you need to do within yourself. So, it’s pretty humbling a thought.

Coming to my life events, I recently went to USA for 2 weeks. Solo trip. No family. This trip should check-mark one of my ‘List of 30’ –Β  Of doing a solo trip to a foreign place without family. Completely alone.

I’m not sure if I can consider this trip as that. This was a office visit. Anyways, highlights of the trip

  1. I got a lot of opposite-gender-attention, which was quite uplifting! More ways than one. I can’t explain how much good that unexpected, stranger-attention can do to a woman’s self-esteem. Haha!
  2. I had lot of plans of doing solo trips to unknown places. Of maybe trying a cigarette or getting drunk – things which T doesn’t approve of. I did none of those. I realized that doing these things behind his back were no fun. They were part of my to-do only because I wanted to feel independence. When I actually got the freedom, none of these things held their charm. You know what I mean, right.
  3. I wanted to go to new places but it rained all 2 weeks, so I was restrained. They say that California has been in a condition of drought since past 6-7 yrs. As I look back, I visited CA last in 2009, so I guess the rains were pretty much waiting for me. Somehow, that’s a funny and a positive thought to me πŸ™‚ I really like the notion that I’m important to Mother Nature.
  4. My time in office was stretched beyond limits. I was dependent on colleagues (who were traveling with me) for my ride to-from hotel to work. And because they were senior people, the only thing they had to do in their day was work + eat. So, their idea was to spend as much time as possible in office and go to hotel only once it’s evening, and you’re done with dinner. Now, when I’m done with the trip and I think about their perspective, I get the point, but frankly, I’m not a big fan of spending whole day at work. No matter where I am. So, I totally detested spending my whole day at work. I was hoping to catch my old friends during week-days and keep my weekends free for touristy stuff. All this schedule screwed up all my plans.
  5. Three days into the trip and I knew my trip is not going to be any way like what I had imagined. So, what did I do? I stopped sulking and decided to make lemonade! (If life throws lemons at you, make lemonade ;)) Hence, I learned my first lesson of the trip :Β  It’s okay if things are not working as per your plan. Start enjoying God’s plan. I started enjoying my work. There were lot of things for me to learn, to observe, to understand at this new place of work. How people worked in this different country. I always enjoyed “cultural tourism”. I feel like I visited a new place only when I get to experience the life, the culture, the way of living of the place. I decided to do just that in America.
  6. I met different people. 3 were my friends from different walks of life who’re now living in US. Then I met my colleagues from US. It was also the time when I got to spent some off-work time with my colleagues from India (with whom I was traveling). I tried to experience life from their eyes. I stayed overnight at two of my friends’ place. They had completely different experience of life in US. Both had shifted to US ~1.5 yrs ago. Totally unrelated to each other. One is a best friend from college. Another is Tarun’s best friend from college but a good family friend now. Will detail the pros and cons of living in US for today’s Indians in another post.
  7. I realized I no longer am interested in moving to US. If it happens, I would deal with it. But, I no longer dream of it or wish for it. There were lot of dreamy ideas and notions I had about US . They all got cleared in this trip of mine. It’s a wonderful place to live in, just because of the clean air it provides. But, there’s lot of bad underneath. Just under the surface. It’s so mechanized and robotic that I felt there’s nothing human left in there.
  8. This trip got me into a very happy place of being. I’m left grateful for the wonderful life I have (in India). For the job I love, for the choices I made in life that have brought me to this place. For the family I was actually excited to get back to. I can’t explain the feeling, that sense of belonging, that sense of being wanted. That feeling of wanting to be back home to my loved ones, that I felt in my last 2 hr flight journey. I was so excited I was just checking the flight status every 15 minutes. Every minute spent was a minute closer to my son, to my husband. To the two people who had tough time living without me. They were well-fed, they were well-tended, nothing was missing in their routine life. The only thing missing was me. And, they missed me terribly. And, so did I. πŸ™‚ I’m so grateful to God for this feeling. Inexplicable. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

 

Life indeed, is beautiful!

-Hope

Love after Marriage

Dear Anay,

I talked about Love before marriage here. I post about Love after Marriage now.

Love after marriage is extremely underrated and highly un-celebrated. Most of our movies, songs, market, sells you love as between young people. No one is interested in selling or buying the subtle love after marriage. And that is precisely the tough nut, which needs to be taught.

In earlier times, stone-age/medieval times, children perhaps used to see it in their homes. Between their parents, grandparents and learned the art. But, now, the education has dwindled. Neither the parents know about it, nor do they share it, and hence, the children are completely deprived of it. So, the only source is the movies/songs/market. And, that sets our expectations of love from our relationships, which gets extremely twisted. 😦

I think it’s an extremely important lesson, which needs to be practiced, learnt and taught. Just like sex education, there should be a love education too πŸ™‚

All the things movies tell you about love, let’s enlist those – sacrifice, emotions, spending lot of time together, sharing common interests, even sharing uncommon interests, losing yourself in the other person, standing up against the world for your love, giving up your happiness for the other person’s happiness.

When we’re in a love relationship before marriage, all these things play out as follows

– Sacrifice means sacrificing your friends, personal time, classes/education, for the loved one

– Emotions mean thinking of nothing else but love. Being so deeply in love that cutting your wrist is valid if you’re turned away

– Spending time + sharing interests: Being on phone, available to each other so much that everything/everyone else gets zoned out. Family, friends, ambitions, goals, pretty much everything

– Standing up against the world : Usually turns out to be standing up against your parents so that you can marry him/her, no matter whether that matches the world’s judgement or not.

– Giving up your happiness : This usually happens as it should be between two people in love.

However, when love happens after marriage, all these play out very subtly. I cannot generalize it. I can only explain how they played out in my life. Here goes my story with your father.

I had an arranged marriage. Just like any other youngster, I always wanted a love marriage. Having grown up with a serious inferiority complex about my looks, I didn’t want someone to have the right to reject me based on my looks. This was the reason for my aversion to arranged marriage. I was much much more than just looks. But, like any other girl, I wanted someone to fall in love with me with who I was, and how I looked too! From the first time I met your father, I knew he was head-over-heels on me for the way I looked.

I went for my first meeting with your father with only basic requirements in mind: My parents should be happy with the match + I should not feel totally repulsed by the person + IIT tag should not mean heady, the guy should be humble. I had zero expectations. It was completely a leap of faith. I found the eyes and the smile genuine. So, I went pretty much with my intuition.

Hence, an arranged marriage is zero emotions in the beginning. You just make efforts to make things work.

Tarun’s parents had some concerns about my being a working woman. They could also see I was an ambitious girl. Even I didn’t know that fully at that time. I knew at the end of the meeting that they are against the alliance but Tarun is totally interested. Pretty much everyone around me thought he would be the henpecked husband. I never wanted that! So, I knew if he can convince his parents, he’s not the submissive guy he looks like. That was my litmus test for him. πŸ™‚ He went on to meet his Grandparents, convinced his sisters, pretty much whole of his relations to convince them of the alliance. This was the act of ‘Standing up against the world’ for him. He didn’t need to go against their wishes. We met couple of times independently to understand each other some more. And, he convinced them of his choice. He took each of their questions and solved them one by one, thus convincing them that his choice is right.

We both genuinely worked to make things work. I insisted on meeting regularly to create a bond before we got married. And, he followed/complied. And so many more such incidents where we worked around complexities to make things work.

Marriage brings lot of responsibilities and social obligations. All the relatives who were a choice to meet previously, become an obligation that must be fulfilled now. So, finding time with each other becomes a task. You cannot get away from your work responsibilities either. So, all the time you create to spend with each other, is a choice. It is a quality time that you’ve snatched out and hence, you keep the worries at the back burner and try to simply enjoy the little time you have. And, Dear Son, as life progresses, the responsibilities only increase. So, if you want the love to continue, you’ve to keep making efforts all through your life to sustain it.
When I was upset with my job at HCL, Tarun taught me (Verilog, Digital Electronics :P) so that I got the confidence to even apply at companies like Cadence. Marriage is not about asking the other person to adjust as per you, it is also about bringing the other person up to your level, if you find him/her lacking somewhere.
I had been recently married and I needed to spend time with family, I was worried that changing job now would mean spending more time to work. Tarun gave me the moral strength that I would simply be changing the work I do in the same hours. So, I should give it a try. Love is the support you extend to each other in the times of uncertainty. And then, standing together, even if the results are not so perfect. When things didn’t work out as well at Cadence because of the politics, or work quality, Tarun took the hard decision of moving to Bangalore with me. He sacrificed his career moves to support me. He valued my happiness more than anything else. Things didn’t work out there and we had to move back. But, that has never been a point where he blames me for the outcome. There is no blame game that can be allowed in marriage. You both took the decision, you both stand by it, no matter what the outcome. Now, when Tarun decided to pursue his dreams of doing business, I stand by him. I know the results may not be what we both have dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean I will/can blame him for them. We are both together in this. From the beginning, till the end. No matter what the result.

These days, if two people face issues, uncomfortable situations, they simply break up. Distance, bad phase in life, money issues, trust issues. Petty things and they part ways. That is not a choice in marriage. If it’s not working out, you simply need to find out how to make it work. There’s no choice of leaving things. Yes, there is divorce. Yes, you should not remain in a relationship just because you made the mistake of marrying the wrong person. But, trust me, once you get married, you’ll realize a lot of things you thought were extremely important to you, don’t matter in the bigger scheme of things. Because this is not frivolous. It’s not abut the wrong choice, it’s about incapability of not being able to make it work.

You know why marriage is meant to be done only once, or why it’s for a lifetime!? Because when you get married, you start building something together. A home, a family, a castle together. Think of the castles you made at beaches. They take hours to make. And, you feel very sad when the waves come and shatter it. Because you built something there. Spent so much time and energy in making it. And, to leave something which took so much effort always causes pain. So, never give up on your marriage easily. If hard tides hit your castle, protect it with both hands, both pairs of hands. If something is damaged, you repair it. You fix it. Giving up in not an option.

And, that is why, marry somebody not because of emotions. Marry someone with whom you make a great team. In Hindi, they say ‘purak’ = ‘complements’. Marry someone who’s opposite to you. Not in terms of your hobbies or interests, but in terms of traits, life skills. If you’re decisive and sensible, let her be a little carefree/lively. If she’s a good planner, let her do those things. Don’t bring your ego if you find you’re a better cook that her and she’s a better manager of finances. You both are a team and you both decide the best way to run this ship called Life and Family.

If you find such someone before your parents, do not hesitate to stand up for your choice. Explain to your family and explain why there concerns are wrong in the bigger scheme of things (if their concerns are like religion/meat-eating girl). But, also be mature enough to listen to their concerns/reasons if they have a valid point. Marriage is forever. And, you haven’t seen how your life will shape in the next 30 yrs. Find somebody who can stand next to you strong and capable even after you’ve transformed into a new you after 30 yrs, and so has she. If your parents feel there is such thing which is crucially missing in your choice, listen to them.

Wait till you mature a bit before you marry. Don’t get married too early. And, your age number is no parameter for deciding your maturity. Let life decide when you’re ready. If it’s meant to be, the girl will wait for you. Marriages are pre-set. So, if she’s meant for you, everything will work out and she’ll be there for you when you’re ready.

When my mother gave me a reason against my choice, I listened to her. And, I think that was the wisest thing I ever did. Her point was “Be with someone with whom you can walk into your social circle with your head held high, even 20 yrs later”.Β  When I weighed my choice, I wasn’t so sure. So, I followed what my parents wanted.

And once you’ve chosen, no matter whose choice it was in the first place… start building your life. Once you have, stick to your choice and decision and make it work.

Remember: No choice is right or wrong, it’s your actions that follow which make it right or wrong decision. (More details on this later but take it as a universal truth. Understand it!)
PS: I have been married 6 yrs, 2 months to your Dad as I write this to you. And the best thing I can say about us is, he can make me laugh no matter how mad/upset/teary I am. We are a great team. And, second, I can see him light up whenever he sees me happy. My happiness means his happiness. And, that’s all the love one can have!
PPS: Love is like a tree. The more you water it with your time and energy, you’ll find it growing strong and big and healthy. The moment you stop putting your time or energy, you’ll find it dwindling. There will always be choices, areas where it’ll be easier to spend those time and energies, or you may find them yielding quicker results, but if you chose the easier path, you’ll lose the bigger thing – the love that is eternal, that goes till you’re old. If you trust the choice that you made while getting married, then be strong and stick to it no matter what the distractions.

PPPS: Anay, I know that if you find someone by yourself, you’ll fight till death to be allowed to marry her. That’s mostly because you’re stubborn and resolute. You don’t give up on things easily. But, I really hope to God that as you grow old, and your time to get married arrives, you take the decision with maturity than stubbornness.

Make a mature decision when getting married and trust God and yourself, you’ll find the ever-elusive love forever in your marriage.

I sincerely pray to God to bestow that to you.

Love,
Hope