Not meant to be…

If all had gone as per plan, we would have been on our flight to London right now. And in a few hours, we would have connected to a flight to Athens and met Tara’s grandparents there for a vacation that took four years to materialize, and a few months to plan.

But nothing went as per plan. And I am here, typing away on my laptop, from the comfort of my home.

So what exactly happened – We needed two visas – UK visa, since we were planning to a short stay in London before returning to SF; and a Schengen visa for Greece. Now we are not newbies when it comes to visas. We have done this drill several times over. But this time, a chain of events, led to a mega screw up that led to a collapse of our well intentioned and much awaited travel plans. It was just not meant to be.

Agam’s passport was up for renewal. It took a few weeks longer than expected. But we still had time. So we started with the UK visa. We got an appointment for biometrics. When we went for the appointment we were informed that the application center in San Jose is not accepting any applications. No new date was provided. We were asked to check the status on a website. And so we did. A week later when we found out that our new biometric date is three weeks after the original date.

So we called the Greek Consulate for a visa appointment and they told us to come in June. I laughed at the receptionist since by then even camera’s my reels would have developed. She did not get the joke. So we ditched the idea of a Greek consulate appointment and started looking for any Schengen country that could give us an appointment. We landed with an appointment with the French Consulate for May 1st.

We were certain that we will get our UK visa before that and that we have 20 days to process a Schengen visa. It was close but not impossible.

But then UK Visa took three weeks longer, and only arrived on May 14th. There was no way for us to secure a Schengen visa. Disappointed, and exhausted, I canceled all flights and reservations for our leg of the plan.

And then we decided to convince the grandparents to go. By then the over all morale was so low, that the entire plan collapsed like a house of cards in a few days.

We could have gone to UK, but again, we have been to London twice and I was only going there to eat at Dishoom, for the third time. So we let go of it all. And we accepted our fate.

Sigh! For the planners, here’s a lesson – It doesn’t matter how early you plan, your plans can come crumbling down, for no fault of yours. In that moment you realize how little your contribution matters. And you settle your losses and book yourself eight days in paradise with the funds you recover.

More than the effort and the money, what crushed us was how we had planned for this milestone celebration for so long. And how, for the worst predictable reason possible, it all came crashing down.

Regardless, we learnt our lessons. Tara gave me grief about not getting to see Dadu and Dadi in Greece. And I pledged to never go to Greece. No thank you, I can go without seeing those ruins for a lifetime.

We really needed this break. But here’s a silver lining. And I am a queen of silver linings. As per our original itinerary, we would have spent our ninth wedding anniversary on a return flight to SFO. But now, on June 4th, we will be in Wailea 🙂 We have hardly ever traveled on our anniversary. Since Memorial Day is usually the weekend before that, we usually travel on that weekend. So this year, for a change, we will be together on a vacation, on June 4th 🙂 [I don’t want to jinx it yet].

In another news, and on a topic as depressing as canceled travel plans, being an ENFJ is hard on you! I sometimes wish I could ignore the constant sensing that I am engaged in. The extraverted sensing part of an ENFJ comes with a lot of cognitive stress. It is the joy, and yet the burden. It is like a magic trick you wish you did not have. Just like you cannot unsee what you have seen. You cannot ignore what you have sensed. And especially when your mind has trained over the years to be pretty accurate with your sensing.

My compass has shifted. It is that time of the year when I know I need to make some conscious decisions about my year, before I let the time start running against me. This time, I am more resolute. And I am not going to convince myself out of the challenge I am setting up for myself.

Let’s go find this joy that has gone missing. But first, a pit stop in Maui. Since all good things start in Hawaii 😉

Gloom

Let’s be honest. Nothing good has come out of this year so far. And it’s half over (almost). I don’t expect anything to come out of the next half either. I rarely sound so dejected and disappointed. But that’s just how I am feeling this week and I am not going to lie about it.

I am not able to shake off a certain feeling of gloom that set in almost eight weeks ago. It’s been a series of depressing and demotivating events and I’ve been experiencing a new low that is hard to come out of. Circumstances aren’t helping either. Truth is I am just tired, of personal, professional and emotional rollercoasters.

I am questioning and overthinking every thing. There is no trust – in people, self or the workings of the world. It’s all very brittle and flaky.

Yesterday while I was writing an email, I stopped. I read what I had typed so far and it was very inauthentic. It did not represent who I am. It was some other fake woman, being pretentious and indirect and skirting around an issue she deeply cares about . I decided not to send the email. That feeling dropped me into this mode of regret. Which is really causing all this gloom. Regret and I stay far apart. But when we meet, we cling on. I need a change of narrative. Just that this time it’s harder to come up with one.

Hopefully I will bounce back from this gloom by the time we hit the weekend. It’s just around the corner.

we both survived

To see human life tossed around on a road.

To see a child’s bleeding forehead stain my walking shoes.

To see the Cops, the paramedics and the fire fighters swarm like bees around me.

I woke up this morning to see and experience all of these. I was a witness to an accident that broke my heart.

I admit I have experienced a lot. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened today. An almost hit and run. A shriek so loud I scared myself. The heart pacing up and down, as I held the hand of the child who was hit in front of my eyes, by a racing car.

I am still shaken. Very tired. And emotionally stirred. It is a lot to process and write about. Tonight I will just sleep. But not without a prayer for the child that sleeps in the hospital tonight, with his brave Mom by his side.

He survived. And so did I.

My compass is shifting

The compass is shifting. I can feel it. It swung far right when V asked me at dinner last week, “what’s your greatest joy?” I wonder if she too read about happiness and joy.

I am seeing a new horizon. A gap to mend. A hole to fill. An opportunity to learn. A few reflections that did not come from me, but that matter, that need to be internalized. With just one hope and one desire – it will make me a better human regardless of the context. And I accomplish my primary joy of passing that on to the human I am raising.

I get so excited about the prospect of learning something new. I hope I never get over that addiction. I am also so fortunate to have the best of coaches and mentors to set my sail in the right direction. I have so many people I can open up to, and share my worries and my dilemmas. Some advice and others just listen, while I wonder if I am being silly, being judged, or just warmly loved. But despite all of that – I feel nourished with the diverse perspectives I get exposed to.

In fact, I had an epiphany this week – employees shouldn’t measure his/her worth by his/her accomplishments, but by the number of people around who are willing to invest their trust and time in him/her. Are there people vested in your success? If yes, you have nothing else left to prove.

As Papa said today, “when you are ready, the teacher appears.” And I am so fortunate that I have so many teachers to smoothen my rough edges.

I may not be wise but I am a learner. And I have found a new area to learn. And there can be nothing more exciting than the joy of exploring new frontiers. Mending new gaps and filling new holes and striving to become someone you know you can be. But it requires someone to show you the mirror, and someone to show you the way and someone to trust you. They all won’t be the same person. But as long as you have one for every season, you should do just fine.

गुमसुम

I looked at the bougainvillea from my kitchen window. I bought it towards the end of last summer, finally got to planting it in fall, and then it was soon bare. Not a single leaf survived. Yet, it bounced back this spring. Back to its glory. The poem was born this morning, as I looked at the bougainvillea and my messy yet colorful living room. I bounced back from several set backs this week. Just like the bougainvillea.

वो भी दिन थे, और यह भी दिन हैं 
और बीच में कहीं गुमसुम हम हैं 
वो भी दिन थे 
जब पेढ़ों पे पत्ते नहीं दिखाई देते थे!
और आज उन्ही शाखाओं पर गुलाबी फूल मुस्कुराते हैं 
वो भी दिन थे जब घर ख़ामोश था और आँगन वीरान था। 
और आज खिलखिलाती हँसी और छोटे छोटे पैरों का शोर 
सारा दिन दिल लगाए रखता है
वो भी दिन थे जब रातें लम्बी थी 
और सुबह का कोई निशान नहीं था 
और यहाँ आजकल किस्से कहानियों के चक्कर में, दिन छोटे पढ़ जाते हैं
वक़्त ना ही वो रुका था, ना ही यह थमेगा 
यह कारवाँ तो ऐसे ही चलता रहेगा 
और हम इस कारवाँ के मुसाफ़िर, यूँ ही हर मोड़ पर संभलते रहेंगे।
वो भी दिन थे, और यह भी दिन हैं 
और बीच में कहीं गुमसुम हम हैं 

a eulogy

Today I come here to grieve…

Once again, I am here alone, while my family gets together in time of grief, this time to cremate my eldest cousin. He was a good man, and only 48.

When I was a kid, he used to carry me around on his shoulders. When I grew up he used to ferry me to the best ice cream shops in Chandigarh when I visited him during summer holidays. He always fought on my behalf with the other cousins when we played, since I was the youngest of the lot.

He called me “guddu beta” because I was so much younger than him. He did not stop calling me that even when I grew up. I can even hear his voice in my head right now.

He took care of all the cousins when we lost our Nani, and the parents were busy with the rituals around the house. He made sure we ate on time, and that we did not feel left out and sad. He explained to us what was going on and why we had to stay in one room, and not roam around and make noise.

He was strict, but he was kind. And he always pampered me the most, since I was the youngest.

He loved my father. I can still hear him say, “Shishu Uncle” with that sly smile, always mischievous, always looking for some topic to debate with Papa.

Those he loved, he loved dearly. Those he did not, he made sure they knew it.

His story is his own to tell, but for me, he will always be the “Gola bhaiyya” who could widen his eyes as much as he wanted, to scare me, and yet I was able to see the kind soul behind those eyes, and make him smile. And I hope I always be his “guddu beta”, no matter where he is now. One thing I am sure, he is in a better place.

Being in this country, so far away from my loved ones, I have had to find my way of coping with these situations. I grieve by myself. First I write in their memory, and then I go to the Gurudwara, and offer my goodbyes to their soul. And then I will go back to live the life I chose several years ago. The first day is hard. I struggle. The second day I push harder, and by the third day I blend in. A little more brittle, than the week before. I find it hard to share with people what happened. They’d wonder why I was not with my family, and instead trying to drown myself in normality.

I so wish I was with my family right now. This is not the first time it has happened, but for some reason this hurts more. It was not time for him to go, just yet. It’s premature. But so was my Dad’s departure. He was only 64.

Well I am sure the two of them will meet in heavens and pick a topic to debate about. While their guddu (aka guddu beta) types silently at night, with tears rolling down her cheeks and memories clogging her brain.

I don’t know how many more such memoirs I will write in my lifetime.