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!