Adversity blooms

‘A flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of them all’, said Mulan’s father to her after she royally screwed up and pissed off the matchmaker.

‘All that is great, but why are you telling me this’, you ask. It’s not just the ending of the story that is important, see?

Early this year, I had the good fortune of spending 10 days exploring Vietnam (with a spending budget of 400$) with some of my closest friends. It was a surreal experience, in every way.  Vietnam, I’ve fallen in love with you. I’ve fallen in love with your people, all smiles. I still salivate over your Pho and Banh Mi.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about the war. The aftermath, specifically. We stumbled upon this amazing museum in Hanoi. Most other museums in Vietnam stored old war weaponry and artifacts, this one had an exhibition that showcased memories too. I had jot down a few of them before they flitted away from me, and I feel like all of you’d benefit from reading the same. So here goes.

 

Finding memories – A special display that attempts to recreate the struggle of the Vietnamese people and overcome the pain and loss of war and achieve victory. An attempt to show the valour and kindness with which they treated those they considered foes. 45 years have  now passed.

 

Vietnam 2

‘We returned to America with a jacket and a travelling bag with personal belongings provided by the Vietnamese Government. A lot of us returned home with a bamboo fan and a tobacco pipe used in Hoa Lo prison as souvenirs.’ 

 

~Lieutenant Junior Grade Porter Alexander Halyburton

‘At the place I lived before (Cell no. 6), there were some old grape trees. It had a window above as well, through that some Vietnamese soldiers in upper floors often threw candies and cigarettes to me.. In the traditional Tet holiday, we prisoners had chances to visit the street. Hanoians at that time were pretty small to me, females were wearing black pants, males were wearing high neck shirts with four pockets on. Now I don’t see these scenery anywhere..’

~Everett Alvarez Jr.

 

 

Vietnam X‘Farmers were so hospitable, they treated evacuees very well. They share all that was bitter and sweet with us. Those who had large houses would receive evacuees. Poor households that couldn’t take evacuees wished they could help. They usually came to give us sweet potatoes and yams.’

 

~ Mrs Nguyen My Hanh, Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra

Vietnam Img 3

‘My house was in Thanh Am, right next to the battlefield on the dam of Duong river. US Aircraft dropped lots of bombs. Everyone evacuated, no one stayed except for me and two other mothers in the Soldiers’ Mothers union.  I considered soldiers as my own sons. I only had a son. He worked as a missile soldier, I missed him all the time. Every day we brought food and drinks to the battlefields, whatever we had at home we brought to them, everything, even boiled sweet potatoes..

After every bombing, the three of us ran into the battlefields to check on them. That day, bombs hit us, we shouted their names loudly, each of them. After that they moved to the other side of the river, we travelled all the way to the other side just to visit them once.’

~ Mrs Nguyen Thi Hao, Thuong Thanh Village

Vietnam Img 4

Despite the day and night, constant threat of bombs, four female soldiers determined to stay in a small observation tower in Giang Bien (Gia Lam) to mark the locations of Craters, Nguyen Thi Minh was commander in chief. They tied their bodies to iron bars so that they wouldn’t be driven out by the pressure of bombs…

~ Vietnam People’s Army Publishing house

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vietnam Img 5

‘Dear Alan, We are all fine and all send their love and prayers. We are living in Tacma now and I bought you some apartments to keep me busy. I am going for my PhD. I mainly do repair work at your apts. Combination professor-plumber. I’m waiting for you to do your chores around here. 

Dear Dad, I’m wearing your clothes for halloween. I want a playhouse in the back yard. I can dance good now. Love Kathy and Helen’

~ Letter to Alan Leslie B when he was in Vietnam from his wife Helen Catherine B and their daughter

Vietnam Img 6.jpg

‘In the night of December 26th, 1972, under a shelter of Viet Nam People’s Army, I covered my ears tightly so I didn’t have to hear the sound of the B-52 bombs. I wondered what my life would be. To think that not long ago, I myself flew over these roofs and dropped bombs down on them.  I wondered if I’d be killed by bombs from my own fellow men.’

Pilot John Harry Yuil who was captured in the year 1972

 

Vietnam Img 7.jpg

‘All people had to evacuate! But my grandma refused to leave…. She stayed in our house, market alley, Kham Thien. When the US sent in the B-52s to attack Ha Noi, my mom was worried about her. A few days afterward, my mom sent my elder brother to bicycle all the way back to Ha Noi to pick her up to the evacuation area.

It was incredibly lucky for us because US aircraft dropped bombs on our living area a day after my grandma left. The house that my family lived in turned into a gaping bomb hole. The neighbors who stayed were all killed. A six-member-family was all killed, no one was left. I remember some of my classmates were also murdered by bombs…’

~Mr. Tran Hung, left Ha Noi for evacuation with his family

 

‘The fear soaked through every muscle, every period of sleep. At night, I put on all the coats for my son, Phong, so he wouldn’t catch a cold in case we had to move down to air-raid shelter. Children were so miserable during wartime. Phong was born in 1966, born into bombs like this. He learned to speak very early. 9-month old and could already speak very clearly. Besides ‘mom’ and ‘dad’, the first word that he learnt was ‘run’. Whenever he heard the sound of aircrafts, he would make ‘u…u…’ sounds imitating them, and then shout, ” mom..mom..dad..dad..run..run..run” and hold his arms out to be carried.

~Mrs Trinh Tanh Nang

 

(None of the photos are related to the narrators. They were captured by me during the trip)

 

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And the train chugs on..

Sometimes something happens that makes you catch a breath and choke back a sob. For whatever obscure reason, this happened to me in front of my entire class, when I decided to volunteer for a ‘pressure experiment’ by one of my professors. I spoke about women empowerment and education for children, both areas that I feel rather deeply about, and I broke down. I learnt a lot through that session about my lack of self confidence, and my non-confrontational behavior. But what amazed me the most was how my peers responded to my opening up like that. From positive feedback, to standing up and cheering me on in class. My phone was buzzing with messages from people I had barely spoken to earlier, and I’m doing to put them all in a word document and put it away for a rainy day. I had to share this one though. My blog is a lot easier to access than a word document, for some reason.

Persistent, Proactive and Proud.

‘Hi K,
While I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times in the past few months, here it is once again ‘Respect’.
The fact is that today was the first time I got goosebumps watching a peer. The fact is that today I was privileged to watch the raw passion and courage that can drive an individual.

The fact is that regardless of whatever skills you feel you lack, whatever life throws your way, I got the unique sense that you would see it through. You can’t fail, it’ll be a work in progress, but I believe that you of all people will be able to persevere.

A lot of the fears you grappled with resonated strongly with me. People, networking, introversion, confrontation. A lot of your goals did as well. Making a difference in people’s lives. Along with the lack of clarity. So far all I have is public policy consulting/NGO consulting. Your courage is what I hope to find or develop within myself. That is something your actions inspired.

As unsolicited and however little it may seem, coming from a relative stranger, this I believe is a strong indicator of leadership. Your strength, passion and vulnerability to move people, even unintentionally is a quality you must not lose. It made me compelled to write this admittedly one sided and unseemingly verbose (in retrospect) piece.

Time is short, as are attention spans. As a small guesture of reciprocity, I’ll (possibly foolhardedly ) venture a bit of vulnerability about myself as well. I get awkward fast, having been grappling with self confidence, I retreat behind my defence mechanisms that are taken as quirks. Anyone who has spent any time with me knows that I’m never without a story to read on my phone screen. Even when doing assignments and exam prep. Sometimes I’m scared to be with my thoughts for too long. The internet is full of stories. That’s one thing I’ve never really explained to people, or tried to break away from. The comfort/distraction is a crutch I use. Only occasionally stepping out at the risk of being judged and making a fool out of myself.

That’s a bit on my vulnerabilities I wanted to share in return.

I am going to try harder. I’m making a commitment, I’ll start by speaking up more in class.

While others views dont define who you are, self confidence is what you build you – If nothing else, I hope you can derive some strength from mine and the rest of the people behind you, when we say “We believe in you”. If /when you doubt yourself, should you fail in the targets you set yourself, we still believe in you, we are there for you. This is something you made me and doubtlessly others feel. So have faith in yourself. Everything else will come with time.

Hopefully we’ll get to work together on your project one day.

God speed

Best
ND’

This quiet disquiet.

I skyped with the Mothership after a very long time last night. She had seemed perturbed on WhatsApp, and it wasn’t by best of days in terms of patience, so I said a lot of things I shouldn’t have. It was only later that I found out what was disturbing her, and it’s been bothering me a lot, so I had to write it down.

For those of you who don’t know, Amma is a teacher. She’s been teaching Mathematics for over 20 years, and seen hundreds of students through their high school graduation. As a proud daughter, I can vouch for the many students who have come to her to thank her personally for all the good she’s done them, and who keep in touch with her till date. When she called me yesterday, she was nearly in tears. She told me about how a bunch of her students at school had written mean stuff about her on the back of her chair, and how she didn’t feel wanted anymore. This lady, who stays up at night preparing lesson plans and putting together questions so that her kids can do better at the boards, got her heart tossed around in mud as a reward.

Teachers are meant to teach. They’re meant to give you things to ponder about. They’re meant to make papers tricky. Not spoon feed you with questions, or leak question papers to you, or give you free periods. There is a degree of discipline that one needs to issue when one is in charge of shaping the future, and I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed of you bullies who think it’s funny to pick on my Amma, and others like her who dedicate their lives to the thankless profession of teaching you ungrateful jerks. I detest the new generation who think they know everything but haven’t learnt the most important of life lessons – humility and respect towards those more knowledgeable than you.

Sure, there can be teachers you like and teachers you don’t, so much. I was a student too, and I’d empathize with that notion. But stooping down to the cowardice of writing anonymous notes on the back of their chairs? Really? You think you can attain some short lived fame and become a class hero just because you do something against the school faculty?

Take my word for it, all your actions will come back and bite you where it hurts the most. Karma exists. I know that none of my mom’s students read my blog. I also know that the few of you who might be reading the blog are grownups yourself. But please do think twice before you act. Do not willfully hurt somebody. When you have kids, teach them to be nice human beings as well. There’s only so much money and intellect can get you.

Be nice to everybody.

The old lady and her backpack

25th March 2017

Dear Diary,

Today I touched base in my first new continent and 5th new country. My dad currently works in the capital city of Ethiopia, Adis Ababa, which a friend of mine was so kind as to inform me meant ‘The new flower.’  It’s only been about an hour since Amma and I got here and it is quite dark, so I can’t really say a lot about the city. But as we were waiting to make the payment for our visas on arrival, we met this gorgeous old lady and got to talking with her. She was alone, which was surprising for her age. She’d come down to Adis to spend three months here. When I asked her whether there was any reason she was here, she just said ‘Oh you know. Just to get to know the city. I’ll be staying at the oldest, cheapest hotel I could find here.’ She asked us whether we were from there, which startled me because until today I was of the opinion that I exuded ‘Indian’ in both my looks and behaviour.  When I laughed and told her that I was in fact Indian, she animatedly added that she had spent around 10 years in Delhi, way back before we were born. Now she could have misjudged my young looking Amma’s age and assumed we’ve been around only for 30 years. Ooor she genuinely could have been in India around 50 years ago, in which case, WOW!?! She told us that her husband used to be stationed there, when he was one of the first directors of the US Peace Corps. I really need to look up when the Peace Corps came to India*. Might give me an inkling as to how many years ago she was there.  She was American, but has a little house in the Caribbean where she lives when she isn’t travelling. Fancy that! I met a lady who must have lived the most exciting life, and still hasn’t forgotten how to live and learn in spite of her husband’s passing. When I grow up I hope I have her zest for life and her courage.  In 5 minutes we spent waiting in line to pay our Visa fees, that’s all I could find out about her. We did not even ask her what her name was. Part of me wishes I had more time, and the other rather wicked part is just enjoying speculating about the her past.

I’d peg her to be nearly 80 years old. She’s been through so many eras. The war. Apartheid. Rigorous changes in clothing styles. Today she was wearing a hoodie, bermudas and sneakers. Did she wear a gown/ Ankle length skirts when she was my age? Did she work? How many languages would she possibly know? How did she decide that she wanted to settle on the Caribbean?  I like to think she got married young. To her childhood sweetheart who volunteered for the Army. And that the two love birds have been travelling the world ever since her husband took up a diplomatic position. Maybe she had 3 kids. All of whom are middle-aged themselves, and have settled all over the world. After her husband resigned, the two of them must have decided to screw convention and pool their savings together for a house on a small Island. Perhaps it was her husband that gave her the wings and helped her find the courage to travel. Maybe he empowered her. Maybe he told her before he died that he didn’t want her to stop once he was gone.  I’m glad she listened to him. If she hadn’t, I would never have met her.

I hope she has a beautiful three months.

And I wish she could read this some day, and tell me how much I got right.

 

 

 

*(I looked it up. She wasn’t kidding. It was set up by JFK in 1961, before Amma)

Book Tracker Jan- Feb 2017

Jan and Feb Reading List.png

Hiieee.

So I finally got down to this. And utilized my childish Artistry too, for the Book Map.

  1. PSmith In the City – PG Wodehouse

This was my first venture into the PSmith (Pronounced Smith) series by Wodehouse, that is written about a very self assured school boy called PSmith and his friends. It brought about a heap of nostalgia for me, because the series reminded me of the old Enid Blyton Boarding School Books ( St. Claires, Malory Towers, Naughtiest Girl) that I still love to read. The difference being that this set CAN be read by grownups without them feeling embarrassed about their choice of fiction, because it still reeks of Wodehouse and his dry Brit humour.

2.  Lemony Snicket’s A series of unfortunate events

Long overdue 13 part Adolescent-fiction series that has been on my radar from when I joined college because of BF1 aka Nee, which I finally managed to get my hands on thanks to the BF2 aka Poo. It is a morbidly fun read about 3 little orphans and their adventures, definitely more enjoyed when you are littler. Lemony Snicket has become a well heard name in the Industry now because of the television series in which the villian, Count Olaf is being played by Neil Patrick Harris.

3. RUMI

Out beyond the ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field. I will meet you there.

I am not worthy to opine on the works of Rumi, and I will not. All I can say is that he rekindled in me a love for verse that I thought was flickering.

4. Daughters of Arabia – Jean Sasson

I first read Sasson when I was in high school, and Princess really hit me hard. I loved it. Daughters of Arabia is a kind of sequel to Princess, narrated by the same Saudi Princess who was the protagonist in Princess, and although it didn’t incite in me the same emotion that Princess did, it was worth a read.

5. The Witches

10. Danny the Champion of the World (forgot about this one when I was drawing the map)

11. The Twits (ditto)

6. Treasury of Short Stories and Excerpts

7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ( Reread)

9. Collection of Short stories for adolescents.

A friend of mine is reads, and when I go over to her apartment in Chengelpet for sleepovers, I usually just pick a book off her pretty little shelf. I chanced upon a huge Roald Dahl Collection, and basically devoured the whole lot. There was an alphabet book too that I didn’t include in the list, which basically worked as a biography of Roald Dahl. This is rhe man, who would climb up to his children’s bedroom window using a ladder at night to blow dreams into their room ( Which is where he got his idea for the BFG) , and has a ridiculously imaginative and innovative mind. What is not to love!

8. An unsuitable boy – Karan Johar

What a waste of my time. I picked it up hoping I would find some profound insights about homosexuality and that stigma was fought by a celebrity in India. Instead I get a slightly obnoxious book about a privileged little boy, that was not particularly interesting to read. I’m sure sure opinions may differ, but I rarely pick up autobiographies, and when I do, I expect to be impressed. This book didn’t do that for me, and is probably the only one in the list I was disappointed with.

 

March was a dry month for me. There just has been so much to do what with the exit formalities at work and saying my goodbyes that I had no time for long reads. I hope to rectify that in the coming three weeks. A friend of mine who I shall refer to on Social media as Mr. Fox, has this delightful habit of taking me to a bookstore for my birthday and letting me pick out what I want. We finally got down to doing that a week ago. So I finally have a pre planned reading list for my short break starting next week.

Mixed emotions being felt here. I don’t think I am ready to leave Chennai but I am looking forward to some Amma and me time.

 

(Jan- Feb ’17)

I know I used to read a lot, and I still do. But I don’t have a clue how many books I have read, so far. At 23, I’ve finally decided to quantify what I have read/ watched. Let’s see how this goes.

My lack of posts can be explained too. The past couple of months have been a whirlwind of sorts, because I have been serving my notice period at work, and I am saying my goodbyes. During the weekends I have sleepovers, or go off on trips.

Le BF1, who I affectionately call Nee, came down to visit me in during a weekend in Jan, and we managed to go over and meet a bunch of friends from college, eat lovely food, and play monopoly.( Which I lost to her). The weekend after that, we took off on a road trip to Gokarna. It was my first real ‘long’ road trip, and I loved it. (I also slept through a lot of the journey and got sworn at, but let’s ignore that). Gokarna itself was not as fun as the road trip was, but it was a pretty pretty place. With a lot of hippies who weren’t Indian. I bought a silver moonstone ring from a Spanish couple, that I hope I remember to wear sometime. The beaches were small, and numerous, with little green hills separating them. And the stars. Of the few shiny things I love, stars are my favourite. Gokarna is a sparsely populated town, and the lights were a few and scattered, so the sky took the opportunity to shine and revel in all the admiration it received from us. It was my second favourite star spotting till date, the first being last year, between the 19th to the 24th of March at Uttarakhand.

A bunch of us future B-School Batchmates  from Chennai decided to go off for a weekend to Hyderabad, and meet-chat with folks from there. And then last week was spent at Chengelpet, Mahindra World City. It was a friend’s birthday. We drove down to Pondicherry on Saturday afternoon and stuffed our faces with pizza, pesto pasta, and watermelon feta salad. Watched the sunset by the lighthouse, and then drove back. It was a nice day.

Pondicherry has become so entrenched in my memory from the past couple of years that it’s going to be weird to be far away from it and not know when I will return. I’ll miss the pretty pretty place, with its eateries and french folk in Indian clothes. I remember telling friends of mine I wanted to retire there. I’m not sure I still do ( It gets a little boring after a point, and very hot in the summers) , but I take away some really nice memories with me. Auroville, and pizza, and prawn biriyani. That memory of an beautiful old lady who came up to me when I was taking a walk on serenity beach alone trying to photograph the birds, and asked me whether I wanted her to take a picture of me. I couldn’t say no to her. I still have the photo she took. Of me in my oversized checked shirt, and shorts, wearing a kakhi cap I stole from appa and sitting by the corniche. I’m not going to share it here, because some memories have to be kept personal.

Today I spent running around getting Bank work done. The realization that I had only two weeks more hit me  like a sledgehammer around a couple of days back, and I’m going nuts now. Did you guys know this : you can’t deposit a cheque from an SBI Ernakulam account to an SBI ernakulam account in an SBI branch in Chennai. What the hell! Another cheque was rejected because it was not an  ‘at par’ , whatever that means.  Here’s the silver lining though. After around 18 months of going into hiding, it’s back in the grocery!!!  The Amul Tamarind flavoured popsicle. Not everyone I know likes it, though. I DO! It was such a pleasant surprise, and right in time, actually. I had set out to walk to the post office, which is around 2.5 kilometers away, and it was hot. And right after I finished my popsickle, I stepped into some sludge. And so I had to walk back home and wash it off. When I set out again for the second time, I ran into the cook bhaiya below my apartment, and he had a cycle. Summoning a mad spurt of courage, I asked him if I could ride it. He was an angel and gave me his keys.  So I ended up cycling to the post office and back. God bless my cook and his kind soul. I’m watching Logan tonight with Mr Fox and Anju and I don’t know who else. Looking forward to that too. To the 2 to 3 odd people who read my blog, pray that my bank complaint goes through and I get the amount cut reimbursed as well, please?

Okay byeeeeeeeeeeee. (Book list coming up, I promise.)

The Hen and the Rooster.

I left home (Fujairah) after my grade 12 to pursue my engineering in Tamil Nadu. My dear parents decided to fill the void I left in their hearts by adopting a hen and a rooster who they named Lachu ( Short for Lakshmi) and Muthu respectively.

That was how, when I went home for the winter break after two years of engineering, I met the two birds, who had made their home in our garden and wouldn’t even fly across the wall.

Amma, Appa and the kid brother were extremely fond of mollycoddling them. They were fed only the finest food, and catching hold of them to throw them in the air and watch them exercise their wings was everyone’s favourite past time. They were adorable, if I say so myself. Lachu would come running over as soon as you left the house and cock her head up and down, with the odd cluck, as if to ask you where her food was. Muthu was a loyal old partner, and followed Lachu around everywhere. (Take that, all of you who think roles are gender based) I’d spend many a lazy day holding up a bunch of herbs and coaxing her to fly up to my palms or shoulders. The kid brother was pretty good at it. Lachu loved him and wouldn’t come to the rest of us if he was around.

Anyway. My story is not about Lachu specifically. Or Muthu’s humble obeisance to Lachu. Or even the fact that a couple of birds replaced me in the family tree.

My story is a confession to a horrible sin. We have fed them chicken.

No, the truth would be that we have offered them chicken, and they absolutely adored it. We feed them essentially the same thing we eat (Rice) and curry minus the meat and mixed with a lot of fresh green herbs. One day I noticed Amma put the last of the sausage stir fry into their food bowls. I gave her a quizzical look, and she just laughed at me with those sparkly eyes of hers and asked me to wait and watch while she took their bowls out to them. They picked out the sausage bits first!!!!

I guess the Chickens themselves have acquitted us for being non vegetarian. When their own kind find cooked chicken irresistible, how can us poor old men of flesh and blood help feeling the same?

 

By the way, we never did kill or eat L and M. They were family. Just saying.

So I have a new hobby

.. or a new method to continue an old one.

As I had mentioned earlier, I now own a convertible for a laptop. (The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 to be precise).

My old one was spitting and croaking and burning up my thighs, and would shut down when it pleased. It hurt to let it go, but it had to be done for reasons I am not ready to share with you yet.

The new kid in town boasts of a few uber cool features, like a detachable keyboard , decent battery life, and the weight of a cup of tea. My favourite feature so far has to be the surface pen though. I used to maintain a quote book, where I would write down quotes or passages from books I came across that struck a chord with me.

I guess I’ve just found a new way to do the same.

I have also realized I have the drawing skills of a 5 year old. God help me. And you, dear reader.

PS : I didn’t think up these lovely lines. But I have no clue who did.

quote-1

One of those days..

… when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and things just keep going downhill. Started off with being given the wrong number for the cab and finding cockroaches in the bathroom.

The rest of the day was not much better. There was a little bit of drama at work. Things got slightly better in the evening when my friends surprised me with a very belated cake for my birthday. That was the only needle in a smelly haystack. When walking back home after work over a particularly perilous road, I made an unfortunate mistake in navigating. And ended up stepping into a deep pile of freshly laid mud-cement mixture.

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Lost my pretty sandals in the pile of mud too, and no amount of prodding with my feet helped me find the second of the pair.

A good Samaritan in the form of a man who went through the exact same problem as me came to my rescue and offered to get me a bucket of water to wash my legs and hands. As if that weren’t enough, he insisted I take his chappals to get home and not walk barefeet. I traipsed back, cursing under my breath and wondering if there was something I could find to burn. ( Which I did, later.  ).

Anyway. All’s well that ends well. After a couple of rotis in the stomach and a talk with the parents who were finding it difficult to control their laughter on the other side, I found my funny bone again.  I’d like to think I contributed in a small way and donated my sandals for the betterment of Indian roads.

Plus I’m finally going to watch LaLa land tomorrow. It’s hard to stay angry when you have a musical and popcorn to look forward to.

2016 – A year in review.

It’s been an eventful year. But then of course it is stupid to expect nothing to happen to you over the course of 365 days. I think I should just talk about my phase of life that’s coming to an end. It began last year, when I graduated from college and began life as a corporate resource.

2015+2016

I learnt a lot, and I am not just referring to the coding/ work front. I learnt how to file my tax returns, how to draft a good rental agreement and how to ride a motorbike. Picked up a few chords on the Ukulele, and started doing a few covers that I share on my Instagram account. I did NOT learn a lot about cooking, but hopefully that will be remedied the coming year, because there really is only so much Maggi you can eat. I’m not the New-year-resolutions-kinda-gal, but I will resume baking and learn how to make a mean pot of pesto for my pasta. Does anyone know what the Indian name for the Basil leaf is, though?

An Air Conditioner in our apartment caught fire, and scared the bejeezuz out of us. I used to think fires were quite romantic and fire men were really badass and I stand very humbly corrected (about the first assumption). There is nothing exciting about a house catching fire. It was pure providence that got us out of the apartment in time that day, and I am thankful.

I learnt that I wasn’t great at keeping in touch with everyone I used to hang out with so effortlessly back in college with. I had to learn to let go of the relationships that were beginning to sour because of my inability to maintain WhatsApp conversations with everybody, and content myself with chancing upon the occasional picture or update on a social networking site. If any of you are reading this, I would want to apologize for the late replies and the one word answers. I would want to apologize for not starting conversations, until it became too late. I have made my peace with it, though, and I look forward watching you all thrive and inch closer to your dreams every hour.

I traveled. Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chandigarh, Mohali, Simla, Manali, Kullu, Dehradun, Mussouri, Sankri, a Himalayan peak (Kedarkantha), Hampi, Bangalore, Manipal, Thrissur, Kochi, Fort Kochi, Vagamon, Kothamangalam, Chennai, Trichy, Pollachi, Coimbatore, Tirupur, and Pondicherri in the past 18 months. There was a trek through Kashmir that was very close to my heart, but that plan had to be scrapped.

I wrote a letter to my 26 year old self and sealed it up on my birthday last year, around the time the Chennai floods happened. The first half of the day was spent in the dark, eating Kesari cake and collecting rain water to use in our toilets and playing anthakshari. The second half of my birthday witnessed a three sixty degree turn in my fortune – we were rescued by a good Samaritan with a boat and then put up in Hotel Leela Palace by the organization we worked for.

2016

The year had a rocky beginning, what with the aftermath of the floods, and a very serious argument I had about bungee jumping and sky diving with an acquaintance. I probably have him to thank though. He set the cog wheels in motion for the trips I made in 2016.  A contrary streak and the fact that I thrive on proving people wrong(in a non-confrontational way) made me have a serious discussion with the BF1 ( Best Friend 1) about going away for a trek. We found a destination we liked, took a few opinions and wham! It all happened very fast. She had a bit of trouble getting parental consent, as did I. ( Read about the entire trip here, if you want.) The OBF (Other Best Friend) also joined us. It was eye opening, and I would make a long hike a yearly thing if I could. Some time in the mountains and no cellular connectivity really helps you spring clean the cobwebby memories and replace them with new ones of endless expanses of starry skies, furry friendly dogs that steal your food, and snowball fights. Post that we did a family trip around Himachal Pradesh. We spent around a week exploring Simla and Manali, eating apples plucked out of trees, paragliding, and getting dunked in the middle of the river while semi-zip lining across it. Amma was a Rockstar! – she climbed rocks, rode horses and pulled herself across a river, just like Appa, Kid bro and me. I was a little nervous about the trip, because I planned and executed it, but we had a lovely time, and I will have to write about it  separately later. I also made several weekend trips to visit friends and family across India, but that needn’t be described in detail. Hampi was another gold mine, which by the way is what the Mughals thought when they drilled through all the idols there , we had great company and lovely weather. Those nutella-banana pancakes at Mango Tree were heaven to this bunch of weary travelers. We would drive down on occasional Sundays to Pondicherry for crepes and croissants, sit by the corniche and  watch the waves kiss the rocks. The year ended on a high note, with a trip to Fujairah after forever. The weather was breezy, and sea glistened and home was sweet home. I spent two blissful weeks  waking up to breakfast made by either Appa or Amma, playing the piano and talking long walks by the beach. Celebrated my last day of 22 bouncing on trampolines and eating fish curry. Caught up with school friends. December was also the month of the multiple lipsticks. I’m now the proud owner of 3 (none of them were bought by me, but I love love love them.)! I hope I find the guts to use them now and then. The last three days of the year were spent in Bangalore, attending a cousin’s wedding and making merry. Our family really does know how to shake a leg!

On the relationship front, there were entries and exits. There were some exits that I would never have anticipated, but the human heart is like Wolverine. It heals with time. My family has been Ek Dum Number One, and Amma and Appa have surprised me more than once with their patience and gyaan (damn I think I’m out of the terrible teens finally) in spite of being in four different parts of the world most of the time. I was rudely awakened to the fact that the kid bro wasn’t a kid anymore, and that it was now up to him learn how to make the right and wrong choices about life, relationships and priorities. I am of the belief that he is a fighter though, and will plow through and eventually make the right choices. I’ve distanced myself from a lot of people I used to be close to. Friends have become acquaintances, and acquaintances friends. I want to thank the constants -special mentions to BF1, OBF and Mr Fox for refusing to be driven away by my antics. A wise man said that if you’re friends with a person for seven years, you’re friends with them forever. I want you guys in my forever list. I’ll see you at the finish line with Shawarma and cheese omelette.

I managed to read a bunch of books too, but I will have to compile the list later on. Spent several evenings playing street football with the kids in my apartment complex, and freelanced as a content writer for a startup. Started a bullet journal and a travel journal. Let’s see how long I can maintain them. So far, not so bad. Bought a new laptop and finally said buh bye to my five+ years old Toshiba. It feels like I’m using a sleek convertible after having driven an rusty jeep around.May I get used to it. I started blogging, and it’s been a relief to pen down things that I find difficult retaining in my head. I don’t know how many lives I have managed to affect or how many smiles and heart string tugs I have been able garner, but if I knew, i’d capture them all in a glass Jar, keep it next to my bed, and feel happy about being able to reach out and touch some minds. I became unexpectedly popular on Quora too, and I still don’t know if it was because my answers were good, or because my profile picture was that of a girl’s.

22 has been a disturbing age. On one hand, I felt like an amazonian wonder woman. Liberated. Independent. I was travelling on my own, paying my own bills and earning my bread, with plenty to put away for a rainy day. After a year of making grown up decisions, I felt like I could make no mistake. There was a world of possibilities at my footstep. On the other hand, I was confused. The 20s are a difficult time for girls in India. All our lives we are conditioned to be good students, study hard, get good scores and a great degree and suddenly at 23, society’s expectations from you change. You become a commodity on the marriage market, and everyone asks you when you are willing to settle down. Learning to cook and keep house become a priority, and folks begin to give you lectures about the importance of leaving your jobs to raise your kids. All at once, expanding your professional knowledge takes a backseat and you are subconsciously filled with notions of settling down. Travel is frowned upon. ‘Do it with your husband’, they say. Pictures put up on social networking sites are met with disapproving glances. ‘What if his family does not like it?’, they say. All our lives, we have been told to maintain a respectful distance from boys, and suddenly after you graduate, those principles go for a toss. We are shown pictures or told about XYZ’s son who is from a nice family and has a nice job. We are now expected to make quick decisions about who we are going to spend the rest of our lives with, and we are asked to repress those qualities of ours that make us different. I’ve had it a lot easier than most of the other girls out there, but I would want to put forth the message that all of you can power through and not succumb to pressure. Get married when you’re ready for it, and to someone you’re ready to spend the rest of your life with. Don’t get married to their family name, or fortune. Don’t get married to someone who expects you to change your identity and forget your past and your family. Don’t spend your life waiting for someone to love you and respect you when you don’t have to wait at all. YOU can love you. YOU have to give yourself respect before you can expect it from anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for settling down.. but I wish we all had someone to tell us how awesome we were just the way we were instead of expecting us to turn our lives topsy turvy for them. Girls aren’t a lot different from guys their age, and it would be nice to receive a pat on our backs and be told that we have done a good job so far.

 

That being said. I loved 2016. And I look forward to 2017. I don’t have a reputation for keeping resolutions but I hope I can waltz through 2017 with a lot of books I enjoy reading, friends I enjoy hanging out with, and the good health and happiness of all I hold dear to me, and everyone else in general.

As tiny Tim so rightly put it, ‘God bless everybody’.