About shivam04

Unexplained phenomenon

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Phase 2 of my 12 day break comes to an end tonight. It’s been 3 days already?!? Good times fly.. that’s all I can say. Tara and I haven’t been doing much but what we do, I am fully present with her in that moment.

Yesterday I spent a lovely afternoon with chai, walk and gulp-shup with a friend. So refreshing. Especially because it was mommies time out. And the kids were taken care of by the dads 🙂

I’ve made a few small habits over the last week and the goal is to pin them down before I resume work next Monday. I cannot let work become my highlight of the day. That’s what I’ve been doing wrong in the last few years. It’s a thing. Not the thing.

This 12 day break will help reinforce that sentiment. I am not turning 38 with the list of regrets and baggage that I turned 37 with. That’s for sure. Or at least, that’s my intent. So far life kept giving me chances, but what if it doesn’t anymore. And so I need to seize this chance and make most of it. It will take some strength. But it needs to be done. And I have such beautiful reasons to commit.

On another note HBR Women @ work podcast is back. And their episode on women and feedback is just too good. For the longest I’ve struggled with explaining to people my stressful relationship with positive feedback. I like to rush through it to get to the constructive part. I don’t know how to receive praise. It’s been a jarring part of all performance review conversations for me. I am disgusted by it, to tell you the truth. And this episode gave words to my feelings.

Basically – when someone gives me positive feedback I cannot discern if they are saying it because they ought to, because I am a woman, and the bar for me is so low, or do they really mean it. The only man who gave me feedback as it ought to be given was my father. He never made me feel like a girl when he gave me feedback. I crave that authenticity. And the Atta girl style doesn’t work for me. I have often come close to sharing this with my managers. But I pulled myself back – no one really cares. This is just one awkward moment let it be pass. And so I have let it pass for 15 years.

The podcast has some other golden nuggets too. Worth a listen, if you care about feedback.

Anyways, my body had been giving me a lot of feedback on my habits and I am taking it seriously – one step at a time. It’s a thing I started to appreciate after I turned 30. Your body speaks to you in ways only you can understand. Tune into it, and listen. Sometimes there is one event, sometimes a series and sometimes it’s the way you feel, after a conversation with someone, or before a conversation with someone. I use that as a measure of my compatibility with people. Did I get energy from you; or did you suck up my energy. If you sucked up my energy, was it worth your and my tome. And was it a one time event? Or are you going to keep sucking up my energy. A simple reference for simplifying relations you want to invest in, and those you need to either quit or negotiate.

A cleansed mind breeds creativity. A cluttered mind breeds negativity. How’s this haiku for some cleansing then?

A sandy canvas waits /
Dreams come rushing ashore /
Come, let’s create!

Quick and hearty breakfasts

I am a fan of quick, and if it can be hearty, even better. Especially when you need to scale 7 days of breakfasts with 3 people in the house, it’s helpful to turn to porridge and smoothies. One of our other staples has been boiled eggs. We all love them, yep including Tara 🙂

But I was looking for something different and ran into the cold oatmeal cult. What a splendid idea to let your creativity run wild. Here’s what I do with them.

Base – Some nut or plant based milk; not regular milk. I’ve tried almond, coconut and oat milk so far. I also use yogurt sometimes but then that becomes a parfait.

Sweetener – Any of these – Palm crystals, Palm sugar, honey or grated jaggery. If you like to add additional sweetness top it with maple syrup.

Grain – Rolled Oats, or Muesli

Nuts and seeds – pumpkin seeds, walnut, cashew, chia, almonds, raisins

Nut butters – peanut or almond

Toppings – figs, berries, seasonal fruits, dates,

Flavor – cacao powder, or vanilla essence, cinnamon, cardamom powder, and nutmeg

I cup grain, 3-cup milk, rest is all up to you 🙂

Now play with these ingredients in any sequence and prepare your jars of goodness. (I bought these Le parfait containers since they looked so chic and so old school all at the same time.) These last for 3 days in the fridge.

Wishing well

Agam and I have been haiku’ing together using an app called FoldPass. You pick your turns and pass it on. And what comes out is a haiku made by two minds 🙂 We played all weekend and made eight haikus so far. It’s fun, creative and connects us on a busy day. Highly recommend if you have a friend or a partner who likes to doodle with you.

We have thought of writing children’s books together but we lack an illustrator. But I have an idea. And I am going to run it by a creative friend 🙂

While the pandemic unfolds, Third World War takes shape, Bubonic plague begins to spread, and the year goes from bad to worse to worst – it’s important to keep my head into things that give me joy. And hopefully give joy to others around me too 🙂

My Bay Area activity research has been gaining some popularity. When someone asks me how I find these things I just don’t know how to explain. I like to find places. It’s a hobby. I like to figure things out, research, read, map it. Read the google reviews, the hiking project reviews, and whatever someone has to say about this place, and then create a list of likely candidates in close proximity of each other. So that there is a plan A and B and sometimes C. Now how do you explain this to someone?! Anyways I don’t like to keep secrets and share my adventures with anyone who cares.

The first third of my 12 day vacation comes to an end. Tomorrow Agam goes back to work while Tara and I continue our party time. And then on Thursday we go back into a 4 day weekend for the family.

It was fun running behind Tara’s bike today. I had imagined a day like today. Agam and me watching our kid learn to bike and us helicoptering around her 😉

a few little things

Filter Coffee, Lots of phone calls and FaceTime and lovely wishes from friends and family from near and far, a South Indian breakfast (not made by me), a quick workout, cake frosting, outdoor dining at Rooh, Palo Alto, a deep nap, more FaceTime and phone calls and love, cake cutting with Tara and Agam, followed by a driveway drop in by close friends, some coffee and then a drive to Pacifica to watch the sunset. I though this was enough. But nope. Universe had its plans. A beautiful full moon that led me through the drive, three sets of fireworks while driving on 101, and finally – Maggi and Ras Malai.

I don’t think I’ve had a better birthday than this. Tonight we reminisced one of my birthdays in NY when Agam and I made a dash to the top of the Empire State Building right before midnight. Tonight’s dash to Pacifica was also Agam’s idea. Things people do for love. Next weekend is his time to be spoilt. ❤️

Haiku’ing

If you don’t know what a Haiku is, google it. I resisted it for a while. But now I am in love. Here are a few that I scribbled today – a haiku is 3 lines 5-7-5, not usually followed to the T in the modern times. Tagore was a Haiku poet as well. A haiku summarizes a moment. Mostly nature or a scene.

blink of any eye /

memories turned to droplets /

And soon a stream flowed


the waves come running /

towards the barren shore /

give it some life, and leave


We mask our words /

And smile with our eyes /

Oh the fears we hide

Old times

While driving back from Sweet Diplomacy my phone was in the bag and auto play turned on that led to iMusic shuffling whatever songs were in my library. Since we usually stream, it’s been a while since I downloaded songs to my phone. With no control on my playlist, I just let the music roll.

The song that played was from an old TV series. It’s a ghazal sung by a Pakistani singer. https://g.co/kgs/yEbifm. Tara heard me humming the song and asked, “do you love the song?”

I smiled and said yes I used to love it a lot. To which she asked, “do you not love it anymore?”. And that got me thinking. It’s not that I don’t love the song anymore. It’s just that there are other songs that I also love that are on my mind these days.

Old songs are like old friends. We don’t stop loving them. We love all of them. Equally. Just that some are on our mind and some are in our conscience. And when they surface after decades, we connect just like old times.

Surya, Kshitij, Matthew, Rahul and I have started a WhatsApp group to stay in touch. We were together from 7th-10th standard. They are the yardstick I use for my friends even now. Diverse, non conformists, free spirited, opinionated and learners. Because of Kshitij and me, our gang never got into trouble. None of the teachers could believe our innocence when mingled with the mischief of the three others could yield much trouble. Huh!

I feel like a 12 year old conversing with them on WhatsApp. And they each take on the demeanor they used to, just like old times. Hearing their voices, watching their kids and reminiscing the best times of our lives has been a great refresh. Our lives were so simple. And none of us have changed..

And so I explained to Tara. We don’t stop loving our old friends, we make new, and love them all equally. Some stay with us, some drift apart, and some come and go as they please, knowing that it’s not the frequency of our interactions, but the depth of our friendship that matters. Just like her friends who are moving out of state will be part of her life, in some way, for years to come.

We are humans. We are capable of loving a lot. So we make a lot of friends and nurture our friendships.

With that she took a bite of her second Madeleine and gave me the last bite. Sharing love, how she knows it.

wind beneath my wings

My father believed in people. He put his faith in them. He was often let down by people closest to him. Yet, he believed in them. He justified their actions by saying it must’ve been their circumstances that led them to go astray. I have seen him lose a lot in life, simply because he continued to believe in people. And he did not live long enough for me to see these people come around, or to see him get his due share. So I am not convinced we should put so much faith in people. I have an inherent aversion to trusting people too soon.

My mother on the other hand put her faith in God. She really does believe that all the good that happens is because of some higher being playing its strings. And all the bad that happens is the God actually punishing us for some thing we did wrong. This theory does not stand the test of times. Because as per her we are inherently good people. We lived within our means. Never hurt anyone. Always helped others, even when we had little to give. So then why did we have to deal with loss of our father so early in life? I am not a fan of her belief system. And she knows that. We respectfully disagree on this point.

Growing up with these competing mindsets in the house was not difficult. To be honest, a lot of what was happening to us then was incomprehensible to my little mind. But when I boarded the flight to the US, in August 2005, I knew that I was to be weary of people, and I cannot blindly believe in God taking care of me. I needed my own belief system. So I put my faith in myself.

My belief system suits the individualistic society that I live in.

I came to this country at an impressionable age of 22. The next 13 years I advanced my career and my life on my own terms, in a direction I was confident in, with my own capabilities and my luck. I met wonderful mentors, and coaches, and teams. I made great friends. They shaped me into who I am today. And I am grateful to them. Each turn I took was deliberate. I didn’t follow a partner at a firm. I knew exactly why I was taking the role each time and how it would position me for the next one. Of course luck and chance played a role here too.

But the last two years have been quite an anomaly. I did not quite choose my last job. It was given to me. And for the first time I tried to “follow”, and not “lead” my own path. By all worldly measures I grew in last two years, but in my own eyes I failed. I did not fail to lead. I failed to follow. Because when I chose to follow, and yes it was my choice, I had to also believe. For the first time in my career. I blindly believed in something other than myself. And I was disappointed. Mostly in myself.

I was swept away by the uncanny resemblance in our belief systems. I was so tired of leading, fearlessly, all by myself, that I wanted to just follow for a while. I wanted to act in the shade of something I trusted to be right. I wanted to see change done right. I wanted to be part of a positive force. I wanted to learn so I could grow. And so I believed.

But soon I found myself alone in a storm. The shade was gone, it became cold. And the more I believed the less I related to my true self.

And over a period of a year, I was slowly drawn into this negative space where I have never been before. This space wants you to give up and give in and succumb to the pressure. It made me question my authenticity. I already question myself so much, I could not deal with more. I experienced anxiety and self doubt to the extremes. To the extent that it made me sick to my stomach.

In all of this I learnt that the world will tell you all that you are not, to convince you that you cannot be what you are meant to be, so that you give up even before you start. Because in doing so their ego wins, and your passion loses. And in doing so you become a follower. You succumb to the system. A system set up by them. But this is not about them. This is about me.

I want to go back to believing in myself. Doing what I think is right. And being who I am, which has led me to where I am today. I might not go far, but where I go will be based on my abilities. My success and failures are for me to judge. I win even if I loose, because I let my principles and my convictions win. And that’s more important to me than a score the world stamps on you.

When I let his ashes flow I said to him – I am letting you go. But you will live within me, as long as I can keep believing in myself. If I lose that, I will lose you forever. I have felt his absence more than ever since this year began.

But here’s the good news. This phoenix is ready to get herself together, and prepare for her next flight, and she needs him to believe in her, and be with her, more than ever. For he is the wind beneath her wings.

lessons learnt ; episode 8

#1 Managers are not mentors. They are not incentivized to mentor you.

#2 Pick Health over growth. Coz health will someday feed the growth. But if you have growth but no health, it doesn’t quite matter.

#3 Impostor syndrome is a disease. It can be cured by having a support system. Build your support system. Invest in it. As a woman you need it even more.

#4 You are dispensable. Your passion is dispensable. Your spirit is dispensable. Your impact is also dispensable.

#5 Trust is indispensable.

#6 Joy is indispensable.

#7 Not everyone deserves your energy. Save some for yourself instead.

#8 You can do a lot with a few good people. Grow them so they continue to be your good people.

#9 Careers are not about climbing ladders. Sometimes you go from managing 46 to 0 simply because it seems like something you really want to do.

#10 Build – Grow, and repeat

the potter’s wheel

Tonight I sit at the potter’s wheel

Shaping my life, and my dreams

In pursuit of excellence, purpose, and growth

I seek new goals, within my reach

I seek no glory, nor do I repent a defeat

I am just here to assess my will

I come to the wheel, every so often

To shape the cup I seek to fill


I seek to serve others, and I lose myself 

Trying to be what they want me to be

I come to the wheel, when I think it’s time

To give shape to my dreams, to be who I want to be


I set asail, I grow again

And just when the vessel comes to shape

I come back to the potter’s wheel, and ask myself

Where to, my friend? What shall we make?


I leave the cup to bake in the kiln

I attach no emotion to the end game

Tonight I am ahead, of where I was yesterday

And that’s all that matters in the end

It is not in my destiny to see the results 

Of what I sow, I shall never reap

I have but memories, and memories galore

And they are all mine to keep!