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.

My mediocrity

I cannot wait for this shitty month to be over. You can tell how shitty the month is when you look up your calendar to see how many months to Christmas. Yep, I cannot wait for Christmas, and it’s just April. Sigh!

Let’s be honest this hasn’t been a great year for Agam, Tara and me so far. Born under the same stars (yeah we were born 9 days apart), Agam and my troughs and crests at work come together, of course personally our journeys are anyways intertwined. But these troughs are great because we both need each other equally. To lift us up from the rock bottoms. Of course Tara helps so much. All my twisted perspectives go for a toss the moment I am in her company.

But net net – we are both tired. Our vacation plans are screwed up. We have a new lifestyle to adopt with gluten out of the picture and we haven’t quite celebrated anything since the beginning of this year. It’s sigh after sigh, after sigh!

It really feels like everything around us is gloom and doom. But we continue to smile. To do what we can, and what we must, and keep rolling with the punches. Including all the doctor visits and the nutritionist appointments, the futile visa appointments.

Each time I put my existential questions to test I hope that I won’t have to deal with them again, and they take no time to surface back and haunt me. I feel like at a fundamental level, Agam and I have both failed to answer the larger question of who do we want to become. And until we find that we can never be at peace. Of course the wise will say, solving for that is what life is all about.

We watched the Brene Brown Netflix show last weekend. Although Agam was laughing at it in the beginning, she definitely stirred up something in both of us. (hahhaha .. born under the same stars syndrome)

I am certain this stir will cause some storm, in one of ours lives. I am so exhausted with my journey that I want to tell Agam to just go for it, and I will take a back seat and settle with mediocrity. Sigh! Again!

To kill the sighs I walked to Tara’s school after work today. It was nice to chat with the teachers. Hear about their day. I had nothing to share. I listened. It was so refreshing to see the kids playing and feel the spring breeze over my ears.

Tara and I decided that we want to walk to downtown from there. Of course Agam was certain she won’t walk all the way. But I trusted her. So we began what was the best 30minutes of my month so far.

Tara and I looked at the flowers blooming in people’s gardens. We talked about the trees around my house when I was growing up in Saharanpur. We talked about all the places I have lived, and why. She asked me about the flowers in my house while I was growing up. I told her, we never had a garden. She did not quite understand how that could be the case. And I hope she never has to understand it.

She asked me why I love walking. If it was to see the flowers? I replied yes, and the people and sounds of moving things, amidst the backdrop of nature. She started humming the tune from – “in the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight..” and we both started singing the jingle. With no fear of the environment around us, we joyfully sang and made it to downtown, where a worried Daddy awaited us.

A sushi dinner, a big bottle of cheap Sake, and Tara’s antics – were all that were needed for Agam and me to drop the baggage of our other lives and just enjoy the moment. Icing on the cake, our waiter’s name was Haruki.

I decided to walk back and enjoy the sunset skies. I sometimes feel like a character from a Haruki Murakami novel. Someone who tries so hard to be normal. And yet, for some strange reason, normal is just not what happens to me. Regrets keep haunting me and I keep searching for answers in all the wrong places. The only missing piece is the crazy sardine rains and the unexpected vanishing acts of the people around me. If only that was happening, I’d resign to my fate and curl up inside the pages and wait for my turn to be turned over. I just need that, to be turned over. Because I myself am incapable of turning the page over.

At this point I am certain that the sake has taken over and even though I could make a few thousands from the words that will come out of my mind, I’d rather not, and just return to my mediocrity. Perhaps it’s time to start celebrating that. At least that’s what I heard in my perf this week.

But what if?

No photo description available.

someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, shows something you don’t want to see, because you don’t want to become someone you should not be? Will the coach tell you that you should not be something, because you will be bad at it? Or will I have to figure that out on my own?

Masala Risotto

Nothing beats a bad mood like a new experiment in the kitchen. Today we went to get the biopsy results and Tara was stamped for a gluten free diet for life. Although we had known the diagnosis for last two weeks, I was hoping for a miracle.

There were no miracles in the report. And it was a super hot day on top of that. And I ended up hustling in the sun which left me drained, exhausted and very depressed. I cannot believe I lived in Delhi and went to school in Nagpur. Sigh – whoever that Shivam was!

Anyways after we came back home I decided to beat the heat and my bad mood with a new masala risotto recipe. Totally made on the fly with no guidance from anywhere. You will have to trust me on this, it came out finger licking yummy.

Diced and chopped fine – zucchini, asparagus, mushrooms, peppers, carrots, onions, ginger and garlic.

Sauté oil, and some bacon crumbles together.

Add ginger garlic and onion – all coarsely chopped.

Add the veggies in any sequence.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth.

1 cup of risotto rice

A hand full of fried onions (store brought)

A pinch of garam masala

A dash of salt

A crash of pepper

And set to high pressure in the instant pot for 8min.

Pop open at the beep, and add Parmesan cheese – as much or as little as you prefer. I added 1/2 cup.

Stir and serve!