Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mornings at an airport

The first time I ever took a flight, I was a child and remember it as a rather painful experience. My ears hurt to indescribable measure. I had vowed to myself that no matter how much travelling I had to do, it would never be through air.

Life as they say always challenges you when you say 'never'. So, all my life, I was always put in circumstances, where, the only way to get to a place was by air! Through the many flights I have taken to many destinations, I have noticed that I love the dawn and early mornings at an airport. I love the chill in the air, the Sun rising like a shy bride, playing the dance of shadows with everything else on earth. In the foreground are a string of planes, silently affirming their existence and watching the multifarious people that frequent it's office. 

The smell of warm coffee, the sound of slurps with a look of deep satisfaction as the caffeine hits the system against the warmth of the sun penetrating through the huge panes that let you see nature unfold another magical day of your life is a moment of it's own- surreal in it's own unique way. 

Each time, I sit silently,music in my ears and let my eyes wander.People some awakening from their slumber;others walking helter skelter trying to find their way through a maze that airports can sometimes be; kids -some fresh after a little rest, running around while others nag their parents to get some breakfast that usually involves chocolate! ; a group of players representing a nation for an international sport, wearing uniform sweat pants, escorted by authorities, taking purposeful strides with pride; sisters from a south east Asian country carrying similar bags and wearing the same hair style, giggling as they walk arm in arm; random conversations that make strangers turn into acquaintances, an announcement follows and the same acquaintances revert to being strangers again. 

People of various nationalities, wearing different sometimes even strange attires, speaking an entire assortment of languages, from different facets of life, generations apart, all under one roof with the same intention- of being somewhere! 

Only if people lived with the same dynamics as I see them most early mornings at an airport - this world would be a better place. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011


My entire life I have always been dependent on others for transportation. Be it my parents, the Government of the country I resided in ,the auto and taxi drivers, friends that were kind, or my brother who I summoned every time I got stuck, lost or felt lazy- it's always been anyone but me at the steering wheel.

Most of my mornings to work, involve me always racing against time, time always of course winning over me. Some of those mornings, I end up taking a cab so as to not let the day bear consequence to my tardiness. Some cabbies are extremely cordial and respectful, while others could care less. I had one cabbie once tell me that all he aims to do all day long  is to bring a smile to his passenger's day. That definitely brought a smile to mine. 

One such cabbie I got along very well with. I could trust him and I'm not sure what made me believe that. It's as if he had a special heart. Over time, as we talked and shared not so personal observations, there was an untold bond, one that made him look out for me. The day I got back from my vacation, he said 'welcome home' and it just made me smirk.I wondered as to how much effort it would take certain people of this country to undo the damage that some other's had inflicted on my notion of home. He recognized the pain and reiterated, that this IS now home to me, no matter what the past had unfolded.

He was a person I would call on a random note and he would show up to pick me up from anywhere in the city within a span of 20 mins. It was a feat I never understood how he managed. I would give him the fair fare and he would always return the smallest currency in the bundle I handed. I would refuse with an exasperated look and he would say ' i don't need it'. I have seen so much of the city just through his rides back home. He would take me through different parts of the city and being a Chicagoan, would give me the history of different places and folklore that went with it. I enjoyed my rides no matter how tired I was, as long as it was Joe who was driving me home. 

On Christmas week, as I summoned for his services again, he as usual showed up in 20 mins. I hurried up to finish my errands and settled in the back seat. Joe, as he always did, took a minute to turn back, get a good look at me, let me catch my breath and ask me a 'how are you?'- one that he wanted a real answer to. It always brought a smile to my tired eyes. He then announced that he was not taking a fare from me that day. I as usual jumped and would not hear of an unnecessary favour. He then announced that it was his Christmas gift for me. He did not have a family,would not have a Christmas dinner, would be in fact working through that weekend. He did not have anybody to share it with and for him sharing Christmas was about giving. 

As I snuggled under my covers that night and thought about the events of the day, I realised that it had been a really long time since I was truly surprised(pleasantly of course!). Not the kind of surprise that you feel when unexpectedly a friend shows up with a birthday cake on the strike of midnight on your special day. Yes, it's a surprise, one that you hadn't expected, but it's not that kind of surprise, the kind you had not imagined in a hundred years.

Joe has a special heart, the kind that knows how to bring warmth into hearts that he cares about, the kind that could give despite meagre means. I might always be dependent when it comes to transportation. I might move counties, cities, countries..for that matter may be even planets..but to find another Joe in the midst of plunging selflessness and love for another would be an arduous task.

To Joe - May your goodness be reflected in myriad ways eternally. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bring 'home' back...

This is another of those moments in time, when I wish time would stop and let me soak in the  colours on my palatte.

A vacation in two long years. All I wanted to do was go home, be at home and feel home. It's funny how all through childhood, all you want to do is get out of home to be on your own and all through adulthood, all you try to do is come back home. 

As a gawky teenager,I remember the excitement of stepping out of the house on my own, to experience the world by myself. The freedom to make turns, stop and soak, run through the crossings, cycle faster than the car standing next to me. A rush, a hurry , to quench the thirst of knowing everything this world had to offer. A zest to rush into the next moment. 

And here I am, a decade later, wishing time would stop this moment. There is the same sense of freedom, of doing everything I want to, of going places, learning new things and a desire to have more time in the day to do a lot more. Somehow the stop in time gives me a feel of being able to appreciate the existing moment a little longer and the ability to squeeze in a few more things. There go by certain times when there is a feel to do nothing but sit back and watch the sun travel from one window pane to the other pondering about all it's shining light on. 

Back home was like being back home. Hot coffee, morning newspaper, the smell of burnt dried leaves in the distance mixed with the scent of damp earth of the neighbour's front yard, the sound of vessels clinking lightly in mom's kitchen, a light hum of a chant by grandma, her silhouette against the rising sun, the milkman hurriedly dropping the packets of milk, a dew drop sliding delicately along the edge of the leaf, a shy bud still deciding on whether to bloom or not, a withered flower wondering if it's fall to the earth would be gentle or not. The teapot on the table, mom with the Geeta, dad and me sharing the morning newspaper, a discussion over current affairs of the world that drifts to each other's current affairs and the day's plan. This has been home from the time I've known home.

I missed it. For the few years I've been out, mornings have been about rushing to go places, anxiety over finishing the day's task, so something may be achieved with in a stipulated time. It's about grabbing a cup of coffee, a measly loaf of bread, toasted hours ago, cold and rigid. It's about being able to catch the bus on time, so I don't have to walk that extra distance. In short it was about ending the day and getting back into bed. 

I had forgotten to recognise the start of a new day, the hope that comes with sun rise, the opportunity and time to do more, to achieve more, to live more, the need to plan the day and enjoy it's different hours and moods. I had forgotten about looking forward to a day.

Being home reminded me of the essence of waking up every morning, with a desire to breathe in fully and feel the cool air set the rhythm of the heart, for the day. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

To my 'Twin'!

Summers as a child was always fun. Most summers, I would have grandparents over and discover a world where little lessons of life were learnt with loads of fun. I've realized how educational my summers were only as an adult. As a child,they were pure fun and I loved them!

Every once in a while, when Mom decided to pause her life for a bit and actually take a breather and enjoy it, we would go to this Aunt, who to me is like a second mother. Aunt is Mom's twin. They are identical in many ways such as the warmth in the way they hold me; and different in many ways - Aunt pampers me till I feel spoilt and Mom doesn't! Those vacations I always looked forward to for obvious pampering and more so to fight with my cousin brother who during the early years was just my favourite Aunt's son who got more attention out of my Mom. Until, one fine day, things turned around when Mom explained the magic of relations and what a brother actually means. Being a lone child, my knowledge of relations were limited to Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and friends.We chided and started referring to ourselves as each other's twin as our b'days were just three weeks apart.

From that day forward, this brother has been a brother, friend, comrade in battles of life, confidante, advisor ,critic - talk about multi tasking! Years have gone by, we went through childhood, awkward teenage, ambitious youth, responsible professional lives and are looking at mature adulthood. We have grown in our own ways, have faced our own and each other's trials and tribulations, formed individual opinions, battled situations in different ways, loved, lost, failed, succeeded, hurt, healed - all of it- let's just say - We've lived! 

We always knew the goings-on in each other's lives and as more colours were added on to the canvas, the colour of our bonding got layered. Words became few and far, but the thoughts were constant. I missed my brother. I missed being able to open my heart and pour out, missed listening to his ideas and learning how he was growing, take a few lessons from his courage and strength. I missed the meaningless laughter, the confessions, the all night banter - I missed the fun and most of all - I missed 'Us'. 

Recently, on a regular day to work, as I nonchalantly sat in the train watching the city pass by me, a vivid picture formed in front of my eyes. It was a picture of a very sick and dying twelve year old me, lying on a hospital bed. Aunt and Mom on the sofa near by, tired yet praying and hoping , eyes that had dried up and eventually closed to ease the burning sensation. What struck me in that picture, was the little pair of hands that held onto my arm, the hair of the head that lay tired by my face, lightly touching my cheeks. 

As I have replayed that whole episode of my life time and again, I've felt the pain of my parents as they watched their daughter slowly being taken away from them, felt the pain of my Aunt as she helplessly watched me suffer and more so felt every ounce of pain Mom felt and at a greater degree, of my Uncle who ran helter-skelter trying to ease out practical obstacles and doing the best to make sure no stone was unturned. But, I never once spared a thought to the one to whom that little pair of hands belonged. It never occurred that he was all of twelve too and yet he sat there all night by my side, holding onto me, silently praying and praying really hard, hoping that the other side of the night would bring me back to the world. 

That day on the train, it was as if a spotlight shone brightly on those pair of hands. Yes, I missed my brother, I missed the times we shared and the fun we had. I realised that words and the expression of thoughts and emotions had run so dry, I was slowly believing I was losing my brother and that belief hurt greatly. But, how can you really lose someone unless you let go of them? And how could I let go of those pair of hands that held on to me tightly when I needed them to, the most ? How can I disregard the silent yet constant support as I fought my biggest battle of life ? I also realised that, it's how he does it. That's his style. Silent yet constant support, a cheer here, a cheer there but never losing faith in my ability to fight my own battles, get through whatever life throws at me. And if I ever wake up and look beside me, I will always find him holding onto me. 

To my 'Twin' - a silent prayer, loads of love and a I'm-here-for-you!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lucky escape?

Often times in life, one comes across moments when emotions or a certain state of mind can not be defined or for that matter even felt in entirety due to the sheer confusion of wanting and trying to understand what is being felt. 

During most of the not-so-good phases of life, I would find myself taking long walks when I would feel the wind on my skin, watch the world go by and enjoy seeing a city fall asleep. My usual destinations despite mindless walking always seemed to be some sort of water body. It could be bank of a river, an ocean, a lake or simply a fountain midst a park.  This certain fountain I usually go to, has little kids dancing in all excitement under the water. I love watching their little antics as they play. Their innocence and sheer joy of being in that moment touches me deeply. The world, the good, the bad..all is forgotten. The only thing that remains is the spirit of enjoying that very moment with no hurry to live the next. 

As I once walked back home from one such walk, music in my ears, people passing by with a purposeful walk, shops closing, restaurants giving subtle hints to their customers of their closing times, lights in the city diminishing- signalling the end of the day, I found myself carelessly crossing roads. One such moment, I saw the traffic signal turn green, a bright light shone in my eyes, silence all around, feet felt light as if I was flying in the air and watching the frenzy of people and cars below me in silent mode. It took me a long time to realize what was going on. I had stopped enough cars and was hearing a lot of honks before I realized what I had just done. I was still on my two feet, looking into the eyes of the driver through the windshield, in front of whose car I had decided to lose my head. I apologized profusely and stepped back, heard a volley of abuses and decided my next course of action. As I walked the rest of the way home, I tried to recollect what exactly went through my head at that moment. The only answer that came up was "I don't know". 

I don't know what went through my head.I don't know what it was that I felt. I don't even know if I felt any thing at all, even if it was fear. I don't know. It was the first time I had come so close to an accidental suicide. 

In that instant, my standing on two feet and walking the rest of the way back home din't seem like a huge blessing. But, now that I ponder what if things had turned the other way, I wish I could count my blessings without having to learn of it in such drastic ways.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Made in India

I have been an 'NRI' for a total of 10 years approximately. That phase of life has seen me reside in a couple of countries and visit a lot more. But no matter where my feet have touched the earth, I have always found myself to be truly 'made in India'- the kind of creation that eats, sleeps and breathes Bollywood and brings life to a complete stand still when India plays a cricket match. 

My first knowledge of the game was as a four year old, when one Sunday morning, I was being dressed and fussed over,while Mom was neatly packing a picnic lunch and told me "today Daddy has a match and we are going to watch him". She finally gave up fussing over me and started getting dressed, while I scurried over to find Dad. He was in an all-white outfit with a white hat that I had seen many times on T.V., on those afternoons, when Dad would be glued to the television and I would fall asleep in 5 minutes, giving up on comprehending what was so interesting in watching those men in white, with that sleepy voice guy talking constantly. 

The infusion of cricket into my veins is attributable to events that occur at home when India plays a match, no matter how trivial the tournament is. Days when India was playing a match were no less than a day of festivities. We would know the exact dates way before the tournament or series started. It would be marked on the calender. Most important matches were always on a Sunday, so all my homework would be done by Saturday night, the menu for breakfast and lunch on Sunday would be decided and whatever preparations needed to be made, would have been done. Sunday morning, Dad would get up early, water the garden, read his morning newspaper, take his shower and settle in his spot on the sofa with a whole lot of reading material spread around him. Mom would wake up, enjoy her tea, take her shower and get to the kitchen to start the whole breakfast routine. She would then come in and suggest a brunch, so she could enjoy watching the match as well. Puri and aloo tomato or Masala dosa would usually be the choice. The TV would be turned on much before the match was to start. Dad would listen to the weather commentary,the condition of the pitch,the grass on the outfield, the discussion of the team, the strengths and weaknesses of each player on both sides, all of it. I would come sleepy eyed and land on the sofa next to Dad, get one of Mom's high pitched instructions to drink my milk, ignore it, until the point when instruction would be followed by a long speech that entailed how I would have to keep getting up during the match to drink milk or eat breakfast and all that. Once the the coin was flipped for the toss, everything stopped at home. Mom made sure, all her chores were done, everyone was fed with standing instructions that no one was to disturb her. She would then sit with an embroidery she was working on, with her eyes glued to the television. 

Our matches are always nail biting, cause we never like to win comfortably. We are a generous and humble nation even when we play. We love to give others a chance, make them feel worthy. We are known to bring the best out of our opponents while we touch new lows. But, every now and then, we do fight with every ounce of blood we have in us and surprise ourselves. In the process , we create records and instill fear in other teams for being unpredictable and thus strong. Although at times,I wonder why we never predictably win or for that matter ever win with ease, I think I enjoy the tension. Apart from unifying a culturally diverse India across all generations, it brings out a very passionate side of my Mom. 

Now, Mom has never played any sport in her life except for may be hopscotch when she was little. Athleticism and her are miles apart, but when it comes to cricket, she even brings Dad's passion to shame. Her undying love for the team (every member, but a little more fondness for Dada and Sachin) and indefatigable optimism even in the bright lights of defeat are incomparable. Her assessments of why Sachin got out right after his century or why Agarkar's fast bowling is not effective can involve any reason in the world. It could vary from lack of stamina due to over exposure in the game to how Indian food is predominantly vegetarian and therefore does not help players build their stamina, that players should be given a lot of milk and eggs, to possibility of betting, to bad luck, to God taking some momentary rest and not watching over Team India...anything but the fact that Sachin was careless with his shot or that the opponent batsmen had figured a way around Agarkar's fast bowling and he needs to bring variations into his technique. 

The best comes when it is one of those nail biting finishes where the match might go in favor of any team. Dad, gives up, blames the bowlers' inability, batsmens' carelessness and the lack of commitment as a team. He starts his post mortem analysis on why we lost even before we actually lose. Mom on the other hand jolts up, sits straight, puts down her embroidery, all eyes on the screen, mumbles silent prayers as the bowler does his run up, depending on whether India is batting or bowling and whether it is a weak batsman or a bowler who has had a bad day today, the prayers carry a different request of means to the same end "let us win!". If it's one of those days when team India has decided to disappoint it's fans, Mom would still defend them and say how once in a while, every great team is allowed to lose. Dad would then mutter how we have had a string of losses in the season, to which Mom would come up with one of those maternal instinct things that says 'you are always harsh on the team'. 

Staying independently now and watching the matches alone is not so much fun. As much as it is about the nail biting finish, the twist and turns of the game, it is also about all the excitement that mounts up to d-day, the masala dosa, the sight of Dad looking fresh, with all his reading material around, mom- glasses on her nose, embroidery in hand, constant commentary, prayers and oozing optimism even when India needs 27 runs to win off 1 ball. 

It's not just the game, it's something else- indescribable. A sense of bonding that the game brings amongst it's watchers, the passion it evokes, the child in each one of us it brings out into the open, it's ability to bring people out of their barriers- the way it gets my 'cool,'quiet' Dad to voice his frustration and my Mom to swap between being a child, hoping fearlessly for the hopeless; and playing mom to 11 players she has never met in her life before! 

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Raising the middle finger.

I have always thought that the meaning of raising the middle finger has had it's own growth around the same era as mine. I remember as a little girl being completely ignorant to the existence of such a gesture. It was not a sight to be seen anywhere around me, not because I was a little girl and did not really hang out with crowds that are more likely to be using it, but it was just not used with such great frequency as today. As I grew and moved to a different country, the verbal usage of the gesture visited my ears more often. I remember being a social misfit as a teenager in that school, hence I've heard the word among the 'cooler' crowd and always wondered what it was supposed to convey. It was sometimes used instead of "Oh my God!"; sometimes as "no way!"; most times in anger, disgust or frustration or as an insult; sometimes in appreciation of something exotic and mind blowing; I never understood it. I knew only one thing,that if I ever dared to use any alphabetical combination that ever came close to 'that word', I would not see the end of that day or the beginning of another one...ever! 

Over time, I realized that the word has just carved a niche of it's own, a very big one, among my generation and if I do not want to be a misfit, I need to learn to recognize the context in which it is used and hence get the meaning it is supposed to convey. I also knew, that my generation had not yet come to the point of cultural deterioration where you were a misfit if you did not use the word. You can always show the same emotions of elation, surprise, ecstasy, mind blown over, anger,disgust, frustration, appreciation and insult, if you really have to hurl one, that is, with a different set of alphabetical combination. You could choose not to use the word and not be looked down upon. So, I chose to be a contemporary of my generation by understanding the various usages of the word and ensured a guaranteed long life by not using it myself. 

This arrangement worked very well for the longest time I could remember, until one day, I on a random note, as an expression of disgust used 'the word'. I had suddenly crossed that line. Suddenly my arrangement went awry somewhere. I was not supposed to have incorporated the word into my vocabulary, but here I was! I had to come up with some new arrangement. I had one of two choices- unlearn what I just learnt or come up with a new way of ensuring my long life. So, I sat and planned of a new way of ensuring my long life. The idea was simple, pull up a collapsible wall through which the word cannot permeate in the presence of a certain crowd that considers it taboo and might cause bodily harm that will result in a very painful end to my existence. That was it. It was as simple as that. So, from that point on, I had mastered the art of pulling up my wall at life threatening places and collapsing it at not-so-life threatening places. 

That arrangement worked very well too, until, one rainy day, I accidentally slammed the iron frame of my window onto my right middle finger. A fat, blue, pulsating, excruciatingly painful finger with the nail threatening to fall off in whole, leaving behind a naked nail bed resulted. That has consistently held onto it's position as  being among the top three most physically painful numbing incidents, I've ever had in my life. I remember tears not rolling down coz I was confused as to what to feel- Should I feel the pain or Should I repent for having been so careless or Should I be larger than human by putting up a brave face, as I was now no more a child or Should I pity myself at having been hurt while I was only trying to do good for every one around me by closing that darned window and not getting them wet. I remember telling myself to just keep it simple and acknowledge the pain, which resulted then in a continuous stream of tears that lasted a minute. With a lot of doctors in the family, care was never the problem. Ice and painkillers took care of it. The turning point was when a simple suggestion was given to increase the weight of comfort in the balance of comfort and discomfort I was feeling. " Keep the finger raised!" 

I looked around at all the elders at home whose center of attention I had become. I raised my entire arm along with the raised finger as suggested-  the logic being the blood flow would reduce taking away the pulsations. It was a very good suggestion and I did feel a lot less pain. For the first few hours I sat there in that position, with a smile inside my head. My thoughts drifted to how life can be funny at the most painful times. I tried to think if there ever was a time when I had imagined that I would be asked to raise the middle finger by the people I had classified as the life threatening crowd. A smile broke onto my face. It came as a surprise to mom. She had all along felt a sense of pride in the way I had handled myself through out the episode and especially now, that I was smiling in the face of it all. She asked me why- and I told her why. 

I saw pride take a step back, behind the curtain of her eyes and anger take a step forward and show itself out. I said the word in my mind and wondered about my after life. Then I magically saw anger step behind the curtains and a smile appear. She looked at me and chuckled like a child who had just done something she was told not to do and realized how much fun it had been! I chuckled with her. Mom had done what she was best at. She had easily slipped in and out of the roles she has always played to me all her life- one of a mother, teaching right from wrong and one of a friend- the best there can be. 

This once, she had somehow found her way into the not-so-life threatening crowd. From then on, she has been the only entity that has had a free passage between the life threatening and not-so life threatening crowd and has always found more comfort among the former.

It was also the only time, raising the middle finger was found to be the right thing to do at home. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Imagine if..!

After 10 years of mastering the art of being a student, I was finally going to play the role of a responsible professional. This change brought along with it a move. New York to Chicago. New York had nurtured me into an individual filled with strength, confidence, character, maturity and yet let me keep the child within alive. It was Chicago that was to test the quality of the individual that New York had produced. 

The first step in a move is to find a roof over your head. Internet being the best self help available, I looked up the various sites for suggestions on a good roof . I realized quickly that there were many facets to that- a good roof over a good spacious room, a kitchen that was if not anything else, minimally furnished, an in built A/C/ heater ( Chicago being famous for it's winters);if multistory- an elevator in the building; a laundromat preferably within the building, if not, nearby; good security; decent neighborhood; a supermarket or grocery shop within walking distance; close by to the train station that had the trains I needed to get to work running through it and off course the afford ability! When I finally found the one that seemed to have it all and be at a reasonable distance from my work place, it was still the picture on the internet I was seeing, sitting by the window in my NY apartment that I had to vacate in a month's time. So, Chicago-NY one day round trip was searched, a decent deal found and ticket booked. Picked up a bag with some extra clothes and essentials (just in case), some instant edibles, an umbrella, travel documents and papers I might need, if I decide to rent the place I was going to check out. 

I took the early morning flight and landed safely into a bright morning in Chicago. I figured out the directions I needed to get to&fro between the place and airport, the latest I could leave from the place to still fly back in time and the route to &fro my workplace and the apartment.
As I reached the place and checked in at the rental office, the receptionist asked me coldly to come back in an hour for my 'tour'. I looked at my watch and refuted that I had an appointment and I was on time. She checked back at her monitor, gave me an exasperated look and said "your appointment is for 11am, it is 10 am now". I looked back at my watch and it read 11am. It then struck me that I had just entered into a different time zone. Living all my life in countries whose length and breadth were in one time zone, that adjustment of thought takes a while.I decided to utilize the time and check out the neighborhood. Not taking a chance by walking too far and getting lost, I looked around, but could register nothing. I just marveled at the buildings around me, not one of them looked similar and they all had stunning architecture.The other thought was that the streets were empty at 10 am on a weekday, which in NY is peak hour and for a city with Chicago's reputation should also be peak hour. But, the streets here did not have the rush hour that I have experienced before. It gave me 2 ideas- one that the city was not as vibrant as NY ( of course no city could be!) second- the neighborhood is not in a busy downtown area, which questions it's safety late evenings, the most likely time of my return from work.

I finally got back to the building, took my tour, liked what I saw, consulted with a trusted friend and ended up confused. Took a minute, rationalized my thought, randomly asked how safe it was at 9pm, got a satisfied answer, trusted the answer coz it was coming from another woman, put in a demand to move in at a certain date and no later and signed the necessary papers. I took a chance by not checking out any of the other buildings nearby and signing into the first one I set foot in. But, life is about taking calculated chances and facing the consequence of it all.
I did complete everything on my agenda that day and still had sometime to spare. After signing the papers, took my trip to the office and decided the travel was as feasible as feasible can get!Considering the options I had, I preferred to hang out at my center point and soak in the surroundings instead of getting to the airport and breathing artificial air. Soon, it was getting dark and cloudy and I decided that it must be closer to evening and my time to head back to the airport. As I made a turn to get to the train station that would take me to the airport, a gust of wind held me stationary. No matter how much force I moved with, I did not move an inch. Before I could realize, I was drenched wet- the same way as seen in most bollywood movies, you have the shower turned on at the director's signal and there is instant heavy downpour. With all my might, I ran as quickly as I could to the nearest building and stood against the glass watching anything that was not rooted to the ground flying and wet.The little trees that if, were to be compared to a stage of human growth, would best suit teenage, were bent in half and yet did not snap. It was as if they had taken yoga lessons.

As, I stood, engrossed in thought and wondering how to get to the airport, a stranger standing next to me, chatted me up. He made light conversation on the unpredictable weather, the apartment complex I was planning to stay in, what the best part of the neighborhood is, Chicago as a city etc. In fact,I gathered a lot of information, something only an insider of the city can tell you.He then asked me where I was headed to and offered to drop me. I hesitated and declined the offer. He was a stranger after all! I decided to wait for the storm to end, the skies to finish their outburst and then head home. He left with a 'bye' and a 'good luck' while I continued staring at the outside. A half hour later, a red 2 seater Lexus car pulls up in front of the building, the driver honks until I turn recognizing him to be the same stranger. He waves out for me to come out and offers to drop me. I looked around nervous, picked up my bag, said a silent prayer and ran into the car. He smiled, asked me not to worry and said he would get me to the airport in time. I looked at my phone, sent a text to my friend upraising her of my situation and instantly heard her frantic voice instructing me to note down the licence plate number, take a picture of the guy through my phone and send it back to her, in case I went missing.

All through the drive, I sat still, with every sense of mine at the height of awareness. He was still chatting up and all I could hear was my heart thumping loudly. My hands were on the call button of my phone with 911 pre-dialled. After an hour of wondering how my parents would react when they were told I had gone missing or worse, who would actually be able to contact them as I don't remember giving my friend their contact information, realizing that she could obtain that from the college records, I reached the airport.My worst fears had not come true. I was safe and sound. As the thumping of my heart came down to normal little beats, another bye and good luck and off he drove. I checked myself in and while I waited to board, tried to soak in, the events of the past 2 hours. Do I feel relieved that I was safe despite the risk I took, calm my nerves that were overworked or just marvel at the timing of the bad weather, my good luck with safety and my first ever ride in a 2 seater Lexus?! What an unbelievable day this had turned out to be. Adventure at it's best!!

We boarded, announcements made, seat belt fastened- nothing moved. There was a further announcement explaining air traffic situation and that we were waiting in line to take off. As we taxied towards the run way, I could see more flights in close vicinity which gave me the idea that the line was a long one. After 4 hours of taxiing and 25 flights taking off before us, we braced ourselves to head home. Suddenly the skies lit up- incessant lightening and thunder, but no rain. The pilots waited for clearance and there was silence. My instincts told me that we probably will taxi back to the gate and deplane. That tonight, O'Hare would just have to be home.My instincts are never wrong about anything happening against my wishes! 
So, night at O'Hare it was. I spent those 6 hours crouched and folded in the most painfully awkward position possible, between 2 chairs, jacket to cover me, dozing on and off. Woke up early morning, stood in line in front of the airline counter,coffee in hand and fought for a seat in the first flight out to NY. Considering that most of my life, my Mom would wonder,what she could intravenously inject into me, so I would not run away from a situation that demanded me to fight for my right-  I did a great job, pushing, nagging and arguing till I found myself sandwiched between two obese men in the last row of the flight, right next to the washroom! 

As, I drove from La Guardia back home and saw the sky line of NY, I realized that I had lived a day of adventure- the kind you conjure up in one of those weird conversations one has with friends, lazily sipping on tea, under a plastic table with an umbrella for shade, taking a break between two classes, starting with the words - "Imagine if.."

Where does the day off go?

It hasn't been very long since I turned into a working professional.The one seen every morning on the streets, wearing mostly attires consisting of something in black, a potable coffee mug in hand, white Apple ear phones on the sides,with the face suggesting that whatever they are listening to is unimportant, briskly walking as if the entire system of the world is running smooth coz of him/her, an air of responsibility and a vain attempt at hiding their frustration of getting to work every morning. There was a time when I believed that my student days would never be over and the professional world will never have me as I would die getting chiseled and refined to become that diamond that all the schools I attended were trying to make of me. But here I am! 

A five day-a-week job, with most days that end with my blood pressure raised and heart banging against my chest cavity is what I signed up for. I belong to one of the most feared profession, one that people associate with pain and would rather avoid having to ever come in need of! That makes me sound like I belong to the mafia, but Dentist is all I am! 

Most of my working days, I eat,sleep and breathe my office space,In fact, I dream of my office as well for the few hours that I do get to be home! So, days off are a welcome respite. My 5 days are spread out as 2 days, a holiday and then 3 days. When I do get a few minutes in between patients at work, I always have a task to add to my to-do list. This list then goes up on my bed side or my refrigerator and remain there for the longest time as a constant reminder of my excellent quality of procrastination. Each week my lists either get longer or more in number, but not one task on any of them every gets canceled out! SO, what then do I do on my days off, that keeps me so busy that my world does not move.

I did some self-observation and realized , I have a pattern. As my 'weekend'(s) comes up, the night before, a movie happens, then sleep late happens, then get up late happens which results in half my holiday being spent on a  beach cafe with Ranbir Kapoor or  more recently Ranveer Singh! When reality does strike and the eyes open to the sight of a clear sky with commercial flights flying like little darts, getting to the vertical stance from the incredibly relaxing horizontal stance is a task. A cup of coffee, served hot, bedside, would be perfect, but one of the disadvantages of flying out of home nest is not having this wish fulfilled. It's the time of the day when Mom is missed the most! Then comes catching up with the happenings of the world through my 14" laptop monitor that invariably leads to me 'googling' for lateral knowledge on everything that caught my interest on the news- US and Indian version! This on a Sunday is usually followed by a limitless phone call to Mom and on a weekday by my stomach speaking it's hunger language till the constant nagging can not be ignored.In either case, it's time to fix lunch. I decide that the one day I get to eat lunch at home, it cannot be yesterday's left over. SO, the whole cooking drama ensues. I further decide that while at it, might as well make dinner. Now, for those born with great culinary skills, you cannot imagine the effort that goes into people with less than ordinary culinary skills to make a decent meal! Over the course of years, I have come to a point where I can make good tasty dishes, as long as I don't tell you what I had planned to make in the first place! Once that is done, the kitchen is in a mess. One of Mom's million lectures automatically starts playing in my head, the one she has made me listen to since the age of 6, the contents of which summarize to how unladylike it is to leave behind a dirty kitchen. Hence the head and hands without much of my involvement turn into dishwasher, scrubber and vacuum cleaner.With so much multi-tasking, tiredness sets in and I decide that since it is a day off, a day of rest, rest is what I shall get. So, I get back to the beach cafe with Ranveer Singh. 

The next thing I know, I wake up to darkness. The digital clock blinks a 6.30pm and I realize I have 4 hours before I absolutely have to hit my beach cafe, so I can wake up on time the next morning and avoid an Olympic level sprint to the train station. A shower is what i decide to get to freshen myself up so I can actually get some of the tasks to disappear on the list. As I sit and stare at the list and try to figure out which one to go for, I realize that every one of them has a preparatory task, which takes away the momentary will of doing the actual task. As, I invest my energy into talking to myself and finding a diplomatic solution between both parties of my mind, the phone buzzes, a friend I haven't spoken to in a long time, so off course I get engrossed in the happening of her world and give her a sneak peek into mine. The familiar language and tone of the stomach keeps increasing in the background noise,until I have to abruptly end my conversation. Dinner is heated and the stomach smiles. The smile, as if to taunt every other cell in my body, reminds all of them how I've used and abused them the whole week and they all collectively protest, threatening to go on strike if I do not heed to their request. That takes me instantly back to my beach cafe!

So, you see, my day off goes on its day off thanks to my sheer laziness disguised as being tired, my procrastination disguised in multiple inexcusable excuses and my disgusting inability to prioritize tasks!

In the hope that change might walk in on my day off and kick my butt, I shall get cozy under my comforter and head back to the beach cafe!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Decade

It's been a decade. A decade of changing from a girl to a woman, a student to a professional, dependent to independent - simply put - of growing up,of lessons learnt, of struggle to make something of me, of successes, of failures, of special moments, of inspiration, desperation, of creating, destroying, of smiles and laughter, of tears and frustration ....a decade of living life to it's fullest!

It started as a young teenager who walked into a world riddled with mystery, armed with innocence. It was her biggest weapon, as it brought freshness and innovation to solving the puzzles that unfolded. Everyday was a surprise. Everyday revealed a new corner with new characters, new emotions, new struggle that required new skills or constant improvisation of existing ones. Each of those days was about surviving,until one day, it dawned that in the midst of this struggle, this transformation, a new person was emerging - one that suddenly had different ideas of LIFE.

I realised soon, that it was a journey I had to take by myself. The falls were mine but so was the progress I made, so were the miracles I unraveled. It was my journey, I was in the driver's seat. This little piece of information did not dawn in my head until very recently. I was chained in my own handcuffs. It was as if I drove but the navigation was someone else's. So, it felt as if the destination was someone else's too. But, milestone after milestone, I recognized that the destination is the same. The motivation to reach the destination is also the same.

There have been so many special moments, so many special achievements. Not many of these fall into the usual category that encompass a summary of who you are and what you made of yourself. In fact most of these are personal accomplishments, of surprising myself, surpassing my own expectations, of being better than who I envisaged myself to be.Where I stand today in the road map of life is a very good place to be. When I think about it, it just makes me feel lucky. Although there have been a million times, when I would have gladly traded lives with a stranger that had a happy glint in his eyes, today, I wouldn't trade for anything.

My life isn't perfect at all and to think that at some point it might be, is foolishness. But in this imperfection, lies the very essence of life- the feeling of being alive. The hope for a dream to come true, a dream that arises from sheer greed of wanting more of those flashes of life, when the world comes to a stand still and all you hear is your heart beat, all you feel is the wind against your face,your mind ceases to think and lets life rush into your blood. It is that flash of life that fuels you through the dark times.The times when you have let yourself down, when you have whipped yourself the hardest.

I have shut doors on the face of opportunity.I have chosen to be blind to inspiration when it came unsought. I have lost important people who until the point of loss, I did not recognize, brought pragmatism to my sojourn. I have refused to accept change when change was the only course of rescue. I have made poor choices. But in the end, despite the bitterness, LIFE,  still seems sweet. Pain has that quality about it- it opens your eyes to the comfort of not feeling pain and the sheer joy of feeling positive.

The decade that went by, opportunities that went by, people that went by, places that went by, moments that went by- thank you! Because of your brief presence, there are more colors on my canvas.
To the coming decade, coming opportunities, coming inspiration, coming moments- may I recognize you in time and make the most of you!

Here is to more colors on my canvas!