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.

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LIKE BIRD WINGS

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Your hand opens and closes, and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings. – Rumi

One evening, as I walked back home from church, I decided to take a different route. It stirred up a dormant awareness; one that I’d always tried to maintain but had somehow settled into the oblivion of a bored life. Sometimes, a simple act can give you a fresh perspective. All at once, there were new things to discover, different people to observe. It made me more watchful and focused. A week later, my new found sense of adventure still intact, I tried a third route and hit a dead end. I walked back, lost for a while, until triumphantly discovering a little by-lane that led me home. I liked this route the best. There was a row of pretty houses lining the street and friendly people sitting on patios. They smiled as I passed them by and it was like being part of their lives, if only for a moment. This is how life is too. There are so many paths, so many experiences. Sometimes, there are crossroads and sometimes the road seems to lead nowhere. But life is brilliant and there are no blind alleys, no dead ends. Only experiences and escapades that beckon and entice, if only we pay heed.

In the book, ‘Manuscript found in Accra’, Paulo Coelho writes: “And to those who believe that adventures are dangerous, I say, try routine: that kills you far more quickly”. It’s true. Moreover, adventure does not necessarily mean bungee jumping or mountain climbing. It can be anything that excites you, gives you a different take on life and helps you reinvent yourself. It can be as simple as tapping a different side of your personality, like a friend of mine who volunteers as a social worker in her spare time. It could be indulgent like learning something new. Or simple like reviving an old hobby. For a person who walked into book stores just to get drunk on the smell of books, it was mortifying that I hadn’t read a book in months. So I picked up one and in the musty vanilla scented pages, I unearthed vision, fantasy, imagination and somewhere in between, a part of myself. So welcome anything that takes you away from routine. There are new paths, so to speak, that beg to be wandered into. Once you find what floats your boat, the days don’t seem jaded anymore.

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So, as I move from structured days to the more fluid ones, I see how the hours shape me. Sometimes, I’m diligently ticking off my to-do list and at other times I’m like a languorous nomad. The former cannot be ignored, but it’s the latter I crave and thrive on. Those are the moments I like to taste and smell and soak in. When we’re caught up in the repetitiveness that defines our daily life, we tend to forget what it feels like to live in these unhurried moments.  Once you slip into insipidity, life is nothing but a series of chores that need to be attended to. You wake up and go about like an android doing what is required. And the minutes just speed by, the sun sets and you curl up in a heap of exhaustion. You lay on your bed, your mind unfeeling, the television a blur of images. That’s when it’s time to set up the equilibrium; because what might appear as indulgence is actually a compulsion to maintain sanity.

It’s good to wander in and out of known and unknown lanes. And as you do so, you feel ready to take a quantum leap from an indiscriminate life. That diminutive effort is enough to lift you out of ordinariness and make you soar. So much so, that you’d never want to go back to a lackadaisical life.

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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BEGIN TO BE FREE

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2014 has been a roller coaster year. I have an intense dislike for roller coasters, but as I cruised along, hitting the lows and then being hurled up into the clouds, I grasped the thrill of it all. It’s December now. That time of the year when I unintentionally get caught up in waves of reflection. Even as I’m busy hanging up fairy lights on Christmas trees or looking up yuletide recipes, I tend to gasp. It’s the falling-off-the-bed-in-a-dream kind of gasp. And yet, all I feel is gratitude.

The 100happydays challenge on Instagram gave an effervescent start to the year. A few days into it though, dark clouds appeared without warning. It was hard to keep the challenge going but somehow I managed to find the silver lining every single day. Gratitude is a powerful thing. It urges you to notice the little miracles, ungraciously take for granted otherwise. And as you do so, new miracles happen.

At one point, I realized that liberation is very important. I mean the kind of liberation that frees you from limits on thought or behaviour. Not necessarily in the big stuff but in little, everyday kind of things. When you let go of the old, you make room for fresh starts. I resolved to make changes so there was room to do the things that were worth doing. I let go, delegated and freed up valuable time. It isn’t easy to break up old habits, but once it’s done, you feel light and free. That’s the kind of liberation I was after.

For years I’d been a control freak. And I see how it had muddled up my life. From making crease-free beds to deciding schedules, I’d always wanted to do it all. Little did I realise that working in military fashion was actually cramping up my style. I finally empathised with my vagabond mind. Change seems hard. But if you pick one thing at a time that you want to change and focus on that, it is doable. There might be a rough agenda, but more often than not, where it feels like home, I follow the path.

So yeah, you evolve some and mess up some. I guess a lot more could have been achieved but it’s not too late yet.  Some of the resolutions got a little left behind, but others came up impromptu and I stuck with them. Like this blog, for instance. All my life, I’ve scribbled onto scratchpads and journals, making notes, jotting down ideas, penning lyrics, expressing myself. A whole lot of crap, but I did it anyway. It was only when I started this blog that things finally started making sense. It’s just the beginning though. The culmination is yet to happen. Even if it doesn’t, I’m clear about one thing: never stop doing your best just because someone doesn’t validate you. There’s peace and joy in doing things you love. Greatness will follow.

Now and then, we all get waylaid by inevitable questions of purposes and paths. It’s up to us to respond. Most times, we might be caught up in inane stuff. And we can drone on and on about missed opportunities. But you never know, the next one could be just round the corner. So as the year closes, let’s just tie up the loose ends; quit worrying and live one day at a time. Let’s catch up with where we need to be. Let’s just begin to be free.

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TRACING TIME

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Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change. – Jim Rohn

The swelling days of post-monsoon are upon us. The cloudbursts have departed and left in their wake a sweltering sun that drips of drowsiness and nostalgia. Memories of iced teas, languorous weekend afternoons, sweat trails down sticky backs. And somewhere in those reminiscences lie deeper notions.

It dawned on me that last October, I was somebody else. We don’t notice it but when we do, we realize that the landscape has changed beyond recognition. Priorities with regards to health, work, self, others…everything is different. Some old friends I never expected to see again have brazenly reappeared and taken centre stage in my life. The ones who were always there, have disappeared. Perceptions have changed. Nuances have altered. And I gather that this is how life unfolds. It creeps up on you sneakily, surreptitiously.

Change is a constant, yes. But there comes a time when everything seems to be changing rapidly. It’s about the time you hit the ‘Big Four-O’. As you’re rambling along, you suddenly notice the post-it gathering dust under the London magnet on your refrigerator and realize that all the things you ever wanted to do are still un-ticked. So you square your shoulders, pull up your chin and decide it’s time.

The more you think about life, the less sense it makes. But I’m done with over-analysing things.  Joy trumps everything now. Our time and space are sacred. So if I feel like painting, why not just pick up the brush and play with colours. Does it matter if I’ve never painted before? If I can’t sing, it doesn’t mean I won’t sing. I go so far as to unapologetically record my amateurish vocals, share it with friends and have a little laugh over it.

At times when deep, dark thoughts peep at me, I try to make them a part of my narratives without brooding too much. It’s in dark, random cracks that brilliance often lies. The demons in your head will keep riling you, but you keep the power and they go away. This is how I’d like to embrace life. This is how I want to revel in the moments and spaces where I feel boundless and infinite. What else is there?

The banality of the world doesn’t leave you. But if you can take flight even for a few moments, it’s worth it. Once you experience that kind of joy, you can no longer look at the world the same. Because you know what life can feel like; you know what you are capable of being. In the words of Mooji, “The value of life will be determined by the value you place upon yourself which, in turn, depends on what or who you believe you are. Paradoxically, when you discover yourself to be beyond name, form and conditioning, life sparkles from the inside, like a celestial diamond”.

I have a friend who always says that it’s not the same for everyone. He thinks you need a privileged life and the luxury of time to live the life of your dreams. But there’s something to be said about choice. You can start small. There was a time when I cowed down to the pressure of being who the world wanted me to be. But the moment I decided to be content and started taking little steps towards my own vision, I noticed that they add up and take me forward.

Maybe it just comes down to the fact that some of us are ready to change and others are not. But when you feel like you’re ready, recognize it and don’t let anything stop you. Time won’t wait. And life will end. But don’t let your life end on a note of ‘what if?’ Remember… you get only so many trips round the sun.

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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