THE YEAR I MET ‘ME’

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 “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” – Rumi

I’ve been so busy emoting out loud and unraveling my stories that I might have missed the in-between silences. I spent so many hours dressing up my words that I’ve ended up in a state of undress. It isn’t easy to bare your soul to the world; it’s in fact, the ultimate kind of nakedness. But I’ve grown to love the novelty of it. I love the shedding of inhibitions and the unshackling of self. You put one foot in front of the other and at some point a whole journey is made. It’s a cartload of crazy, but this is my emancipation. This is how I like it.

As I take a moment to untie the knots that were formed, little lessons fall out. But there’s one message that trumps every other. That if you believe in yourself, there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe in you. After a whole year of discovering, questioning, learning and sharing, today my baby, ‘THE MIND DECLUTTER PROJECT’ turns one. It’s a milestone worth celebrating. This space was born out of holding onto splinters when the waters were raging; when I felt like the storm would leave me ravaged. Slowly and surely, I seem to have found my way to the golden shore.

When I made my first post, I did not anticipate the cloudburst – of encouragement, of gratitude and most importantly, of love that was to come my way. The love that I have received because of this space is sacred. Nothing compares to it. A lot of people have, silently or vociferously, shared this ride with me. As much as they have learnt about me, I have discovered them too. It’s such a blessing to be invited into people’s lives, to be allowed to roam their world. I love the familiar as well as the foreign. So thank you to all of you who read my words, acknowledge my work and support this space. I wholeheartedly appreciate it.

When I meet people, a lot of them tell me that they read each one of my blog posts and like my work. But they hesitate to comment because they don’t know what to say. I want you to know that even one word is enough to make my day and to encourage me. So please comment/acknowledge. And should you enjoy what you read, I’d love it if you share it on your social media networks. But whether you do or not, I’m still grateful.

Although I started off on a quest of clarity, my work eventually gave me back a lot more. I became more than what I do. I became a reflection of the people who love me and whom I love back. I became my wavering thoughts and altered feelings. I became a mirror to other people’s feelings. And if I keep sharing all of it and think it matters, it’s because I truly believe that our unadorned lives and our modest legacies matter in the greater scheme of things.

I have no clue of where I’m headed; there’s no checklist whatsoever. I’m not a planner. I just trust that things will work as I go. As of now, the journey and the destination seem to have merged. But I know that wherever I go, will be where I’m meant to be. Meantime, the biggest gift this blog has given me is the ability to live a full life. To appreciate everything and everyone around me. To live in awe of every mystery, big and small. It has given me strength, resilience and freedom. And blissfully abundant days. There’s much to celebrate and miles to go.

Once again, I’m thankful to all who fly with me. May we be the wind beneath each other’s wings.

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WINDS OF CHANGE

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It was a warm and classic afternoon. I met Rose after 27 years. She was, and still is, one of the most loving people I know. Rose radiates life and joy. Walking into her arms, it felt like walking into a world of warmth and the three decades just melted in our lingering hug. Incessant banter aside, what it came down to was the sparkle in her eyes and the passion in her heart. We met in a bustling food court. The air was filled voices and aromas of cheese and fresh bread. But all of that became a blur; it was just us. Four heads huddled together, laughing, talking and pouring our hearts out.

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Rose is a banker turned social worker. As I sat there hearing her animatedly talk about the school she runs for slum kids and the hurdles she faces each day, the enormity of her mission hit me. It must take a lot of courage to step down from the top of the corporate ladder and walk into a notorious slum. A lot of resilience to wake up every morning and stay true to your purpose. Heaps of goodness to maintain the purity of your heart. Rose is simple woman but to hundreds of people, she is an exquisite, treasured gift.

Life is beautifully complicated and simple at the same time. But it’s good to stick with simplicity and follow your heart. We all have a purpose; it’s only a matter of time plus a little effort, before we find out what it is. As far as life paths go, I’ve been pretty nomadic. There was never any plan, no plot or design. Although a little late, I do realize that when your passion is aligned to your work, magic happens. There are countless writers around the globe. And I’m not trained in what I do; it’s more of an organic thing. So all these years, I thought that there wasn’t much I could offer that someone else couldn’t do better. But then a subtle shift happened and my thoughts changed. It was then that I realized that everyone has a different perspective, a different skill, something specific that only they can offer. It’s a gift that is meant to be given. It is as unique as your fingerprint.

When it comes to inspiration, I always look to the younger generation for fresh ideas. My daughter, Rhea always has a unique perspective on everything and recently she spoke to me about gift-giving. Instead of buying gifts, she encourages her friends to gift her something that belongs to them; that holds a part of them. It’s a beautiful idea. To carry with you a piece of someone you hold dear. I was thinking about this when I met Rose and it struck me that it is be so precious when you gift your art, your skill, your time, your passion to the world.

This is indeed a good time to bring about reform in our daily lives and consequently in the world at large. If you pay attention, you’ll see a significant shift happening around you. It is no coincidence that people are becoming more aware; they want to eat healthy, stay fit, fight for their rights, raise their voices against injustice and work towards a positive change.

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That afternoon, as the four of us parted, I took away with me a piece of Rose and what she stands for. The change that people like her are working towards excites me. Rose is more than just a social worker; she’s a passionate soul. So it’s not her work that defines her; it’s her passion that defines what she does and who she is. Sooner or later, I hope we all find our passion and in doing so find each other and our true selves. There’s hope yet. The winds of change aren’t far away.

WAVES

As a prelude to Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing my love story in song I wrote a while ago. Relationships are never perfect; there are always ups and downs. That’s what makes them interesting. And when it comes to romantic love, it’s like the capricious ocean. Raging at times and calm otherwise. So here’s to love. Not just romantic love, but all kinds of love. Happy Valentine’s Day folks!

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THE WAY WILDFLOWERS GROW

wildflowers02It seems like another lifetime when I was standing barefoot in cool spring water, marveling at exotic, virgin wildflowers. They fascinated and inspired me. The way they grew indiscriminately, in random places. The way their beauty shone. And all of a sudden, I wanted to be like that; to grow unforeseen, in ways no one expected. It gave me a vision and I brooded on it for days. As the year comes to a close, I’m revisiting that moment and sharing it with you. Because letting yourself grow is the best New Year’s gift you can give yourself.

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The last post was supposed to be my final one for 2014. But I couldn’t resist another one; a little something to end the year with. It’s just that I’m so full right now. There’s pure joy, genuine appreciation and indefinable eagerness. When you’re so filled to the brim, it’s bound to spill a bit. And, why not?

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Christmas was beautiful as usual. The home was speckled with sounds and smells. My overworked little oven emitted tantalizing buttery aromas that wafted out windows and into corridors. Flour was everywhere, over kitchen counters, under my nails, in my hair. Lights twinkled and magic flowed into every empty space. And then there were the neighbourhood kids. They thronged my living room every evening, essentially for carol practice. But honestly speaking they sang less, jabbered more, squabbled even more. I feigned annoyance and made threats but the truth is they were the balm to my tired soul.

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I love that Christmas comes at the end of the year. The exultation that this season brings just washes away all the tears and pain and disappointments of the months gone by. It’s impossible to feel anything but triumphant and joyous. That’s the kind of sentiment you need to embark upon a brand new year.

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At the end of every year, I like to separate the red, blue, green and yellow blocks, take stock and make plans. But this isn’t a perfect Lego life. And perfect it shouldn’t be. Like my little nephew, Ethan, I just want to fix the pieces together intuitively without thinking too much. Logic can take you from A to B. But intuition can take you anywhere. I read that somewhere. That’s how I want to go forward.

I shall continue to share my victories and failures with you. As I go along, gingerly testing new paths or merrily treading familiar ones, you’re welcome to join me all the way, drop out mid-way or come and go as you please. Together or alone, it doesn’t matter. What matters is this: That like those wildflowers we stay true to our identity. That we grow freely in beauty and joy. That we celebrate ourselves.

Here’s wishing you all a brilliant 2015! Believe fiercely that the best is yet to come.

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A LEGACY OF LOVE

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Reveries are good, but you can’t stay there forever. All week, I’d been waiting for inspiration.Something, anything, to rouse and stir me. The days weren’t empty, far from it; yet there were gaps. Lacklustre little gaps that struggled to let the light in; that demanded reality. As the seasons move, I recognize the need for alteration and change.

So it seemed appropriate that my sister-in-law suggested a trip to the tranquil Fr. Agnel’s church in Bandra, to commemorate Papa’s fifth death anniversary. Tucked away from the bustle of the city, the timeworn church sits serene amidst sounds of birds and seas. Inside, the air is old and dark and luminous all at once. You feel primal and pristine. Ancient, yet improved. It’s the kind of place where you reclaim yourself. Later, we visited The Shanti Avedna Cancer Home, a few blocks away. I was reluctant to go at first, but it turned out to be one of the most calming places I have ever visited. Peace and love grace those quiet hallways; abundantly so, and certainly enough to alter a little something inside you.

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I don’t know why exactly my sister-in-law chose these two places, but once I went there, they took on significance for me. Both the places toned with Papa’s personality. Sturdy and serene. Quiet and assertive. And most of all, filled to the brim with love. Four years ago, on his first death anniversary, I had tried to encapsulate Papa’s substantial life story into a few words.

This is probably how inspiration is found. In little things, in modest lives, in unpretentious people. So here I am, repeating that same story. Maybe it will touch you and stimulate you. Maybe it will take care of your gaps. Maybe it will just remind you of things you have forgotten. And in reminding you, I will reminisce myself.

This is the story of Papa, my father-in-law. A man I’m proud to have known.

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It was towards the end of 2009 that Papa got diagnosed with throat cancer. He was old and not very strong physically, but he had an amazing strength of mind. When we told him the doctors had advised radiation, he just accepted it without question or complaint. I do not know another person who has borne such intense pain with so much dignity and silence.

The agony went on for days. And then, God decided that a man so gallant deserved to be in a better place. Just as the sun went down on Monday, the 23rd of November, 2009, Papa moved on to a higher life.

Anyone who knew Papa would agree that he was one of a kind; a man of great integrity, honesty and self-respect. He raised seven wonderful children in his lifetime, saw them settle down into their careers and marriages, enjoyed his ten grandkids and celebrated everything with a cryptic smile on his face. Since he spoke very little, he was never the centre of attraction; but his presence and his personality always stood out even in the midst of a crowd.

Many people find it hard to believe when told by his very successful children, that Papa had been a taxi driver all his life. Those were times of extreme hardship and abject poverty. If he failed go out and sit behind the wheel even one day, the family was affected. So Papa went out and worked every single day, come rain or thunderstorm.

One thing always struck me tremendously and it still does. Whenever my husband or his siblings speak about their seemingly deprived childhood, they only have positive and happy memories.  How could they have been so content, I wondered, when they had so little? No fancy home, no branded clothes, no colourful toys…and yet their childhood had been filled with laughter and love. Papa couldn’t provide them with expensive things, but he gave them love, family ties and values which have held them in good stead to this day.

Papa left us with many valuable lessons, precious memories and a legacy of love, family bonding and integrity. The day after his burial, we all sat late into the night talking about what we learnt from him. And the lessons were many; not only from his life, but from his death as well.  Even in death, Papa brought his family closer.

For more than a week afterwards, when we clung together supporting each other, we questioned ourselves, talked endlessly, strengthened our bonds, ate and prayed together and made little resolutions in our hearts to love and live well. Finally, we had realized what was most important to us.

Life knows and it tells us more than we care to understand. Not many of us think of death while we are busy living. But when we lose someone dear to us, God might be sending us a reminder. A reminder to pause in the midst of all the chaos, go within and find our essence.

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HOBO DAYS

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I have turned into a drifter, wandering in and out of sometimes upbeat and sometimes gloriously nonsensical days. The minutes weave into each other and stretch like a never-ending trance, a sort of poetry in motion. There is no structure in the sunlit hours and nothing to confine the nights. Yesterday does not count. What does is the here and now. I love these hobo days.

It’s mid-morning and I can hear nothing but the twittering birds. The decibels of my previously boisterous mind are almost muted. Sporadic thoughts float around and I translate them into prose.

As with any de-cluttering, a lot of stuff has come up while sorting the mind over the past few months; things taken for granted and insights on personal evolution. Important things that remain buried under busyness. Busy mornings, busy streets, busy lives; busyness consumes us. We fence ourselves in, evading, side-stepping, setting up boundaries that shackle our minds and crush our spirits. Boundaries that rein in life’s revelries. So it’s stimulating to become divergent and wander, every now and then, onto untrodden paths.

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In the past few days, I’ve stopped at random and realized I’m happy doing what I’m doing in that moment. I don’t know when the haziness merged with clarity, but it did. The moments that used to be weighed down with languor have now found amity. It must have a lot to do with replacing discontent with delight.  With easiness and acceptance. With being a cerebral drifter.

Last week, my friends and I were loafing around and they mercilessly ragged me about my near-amnesia. I suitably forget all the trivial things that need forgetting but I blank over the vital stuff too! They were talking about pranks played at school, penalties imposed by reprimanding teachers, crushes on classmates and I couldn’t remember a thing. It didn’t really matter; for me the bonding in that moment was more than enough. So I let their laughter wash over me. Later, we hollered through a ridiculous movie, chatted incessantly over a sumptuous meal, looked at the world through each other’s eyes, ignored our worries and watched them melt away. Those are the kind of radiant moments I live for.

I have realized that more than walking a straight line, going off on tangents works for me. There used to be a time when I stayed cooped up in an obscure world of my own. But being outdoors and letting life in has become important. Because when you step out, something wonderful always happens. You see the sunset. You hear the ocean. You chance upon strangers. You stumble onto stories. Minds connect. Hearts unite. Philosophies are shared.

There’s so much to discover. And as you go along, the outside and inside worlds collide. I love the freshness of it all. I love the novelty of my thoughts and feelings. How it all just ebbs and flows over my senses. Colour me quixotic, but gorgeous everyday moments just make living so much better. And in the melange of chaos and order, I catch glimpses of who I am.

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BREAD CRUMBS ALONG THE WAY

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Quite suddenly, life seemed to be vibrating on every blade of grass. As I walked bare feet on the damp earth and looked up at darkening blue skies, unexpected drops of cool blessings dropped down on my parched soul. Sometimes the most ordinary days just turn around and become special.

I was at mum’s place for a week and her relentless chatter drowned out the clamor plaguing my overactive mind. We cooked simple meals; the food satiating and filling me with a strange energy. Mum ate a lot more than she usually does and there was a kind of abandon to the way she ate. I did most of the cooking in exchange for a cup of tea in bed every morning. That, to me, is pure luxury. I will do anything for that one indulgence.

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Then there was my little nephew, Ethan, the best mind-declutterer one could ever ask for. His perkiness and charm is unparalleled. We drew masterpieces on old writing pads, he animatedly narrated stories in a language that mum had to translate to me, we giggled for silly reasons, kicked a ball around until I collapsed and in doing all that he reminded me of how unpretentious and beautiful life is. And when he put his head on my shoulder and drifted off to sleep, it felt like there is nothing to complain about, nothing to overcome.

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One evening, I arranged an epic meeting of old school friends. Faces I hadn’t seen in 27 years. I had wondered if it would be awkward, but the years just melted away in the hugs and banter that followed. We harked back, laughed at the memories, kidded around. Reshma played host and very graciously put out a generous spread on the table. Savouries, sweets, steaming tea and cool drinks….and as we sat cross-legged around the low table, it was like we were in pig tails and uniforms once again.

My time at mum’s coincided with the festival of lights, Diwali. The houses, the streets, the trees, everything was lit up. As I stepped out for a walk in the park every evening, the glow from those lights used to warm my heart. I craved to hang on to that radiance for as long as possible. There’s a need within me. A need to hold warmth, feel it and spread it to anyone who seeks it. It’s a need that wasn’t there before, but now that is the thing that drives me. I want to replace the darkness with beautiful, gleaming orbs.

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All this might sound very dreamy and whimsical. So here’s a little truth. Despite all the best intentions, my mind does slip into gloom and shadows. Out of the blue, a piercing sadness hits me. I stray into dark alleys and lose my way. My body aches and my heart feels heavy. I want to be alone and undisturbed. But then there are days when I’m light as a feather; when I feel like I want to hug everyone, when I smile at strangers on the streets.

It is absolutely fascinating how light and darkness fuses at every point. Even in dismal moments, life sends reminders of hope, like bread crumbs along the way; in tinkling laughter, twinkling lights, the banter of old friends, mum’s loving nurture. All we have to do is follow the trail and meet the light.

WHEN LIFE THROWS YOU LEMONS

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It’s been a week of vicissitudes; enduring days without faces so far taken for granted, looking up old pictures and reliving moments, counting stars at night and birds in the evening sky, getting used to making just one cup of tea, chatting constantly with friends but all the time conversing with that one person in your head.

It could have been a dull time, but it didn’t have to be.  In times like these, you discover things; things that you would otherwise never think of. Like relationships – with that one person, with everyone else, with yourself. You realize that even though you wouldn’t choose to be alone, you are comfortable with yourself.  It’s an opportunity to pick up fallen leaves. Straighten crooked frames. Maybe write some songs. And then ruminate some more on the important things and the not so important ones.

I spent a couple of days with mom and we talked and talked until exhaustion made us fall into deep slumbers. She made me breakfast and I helped her pick new dinnerware. We lunched and slurped on ice-cream through a steady commentary on passers-by. We tried on clothes we didn’t really wanna buy, bought stuff we weren’t really gonna use, took pictures for posterity and played dress-up.  Mom is 68, but we still do that.

Things aren’t always perfect and they needn’t be.  It’s like rain and sunshine all at once. You think that and you are drenched in gratitude. You realize that acceptance is all that is needed. A great quietness descends and makes everything right. In this quietness, you find the grace and warmth to reach out to others. Even though there’s so much to do, you still find the time and inclination to send a message, make a call or drop in to say hello. The quietness makes you want to reach out and put a smile on someone’s face.

In the end, it has turned out to be a wonderful week; a week of healing hearts, fostering bonds, raising spirits and changing perceptions. Above all, it’s been enlightening to know that if life throws the proverbial lemons at me, I know now to accept them gratefully. Whether I make lemonade, grab a bottle of vodka or leave them to rot in the refrigerator can be decided later. The choice is mine.

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