Of Misfits and Magic Carpets

I just watched this video on TED about the beauty of being a misfit and I found it so poignant. There have been so many times in my life when I have felt like one. In that moment when you feel that way, just a little awkward, slightly out of place, putting on an air of unconcern, there is really nothing to do except to tell yourself ‘this too shall pass’. But it nags you, the feeling that there must have been something you could have done to make things a little easier or the wonder at how others seemed so comfortable. Over time however you learn to turn that into an advantage. Because you don’t really fit anywhere exactly, you start creating your own niche and you become more confident and independent as a result of it. So one fine day, when you are surprised to find yourself in a group where you actually do fit in, you appreciate it more than anyone else could and then you even find yourself at times, stepping away from the group when fancy strikes because you have a part of your life where they don’t fit in. There is a beauty in it, being able to step between both worlds and as the speaker in the talk says, you just need to give it a voice. So here goes nothing.

I hate categories and generalizations but I think that deep down I am an introvert and always have been. I love reading, have loved it from the moment I could read; the thrill of escaping into another world was beyond anything I had experienced until then. This single passion of mine has been my pillar of support through every good and bad time in my life. In every situation, when all else failed, I could always pick up my book again and read. It would always be there. Writing is more of an amusement simply because I enjoy reading. I try and see how well I can weave my words and if I would ever consider my own writing seriously (jury is still out on that). I enjoy my drink and like good conversation; put them together and that makes my day. But I can’t stand clubs with their loud music for too long unless of course I’m in the mood to dance. I like quiet dinners and hearty food but I also enjoy rowdy gatherings with close friends where it doesn’t even matter what the food is. Watching the sunset is a timeless classic and sitting on a pristine beach doing nothing but contemplating the view is proof that there is a God. Daydreaming about a life far removed from my own is also a guilty pleasure. Striking up conversation with new people gives me mild panic attacks unless of course they are one of those super friendly people who make everyone around them feel comfortable. Telling unfunny jokes when I’m nervous or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time are other traits of mine (endearing I hope). I laugh out loud without bothering a damn who it annoys (not so endearing I’ve been told). I also talk too much when I’m with people I know and about subjects I’m passionate about (don’t get me started on food). I can also be quite the obsessive compulsive pain in the ass (took me a while to admit to that) and that’s the end of the list because nothing quite tops it.

All in all, this is what a misfit looks like. If it sounds familiar, that’s because we all have a bit of the misfit gene lurking inside of us. So today is the day to just celebrate it and be proud of yourself for it.

Cheers!

PS # The magic carpet reference was just to make the title seem more interesting than it is. And Robert Downey Jr. is up there just because he looks so good. Maybe I’m a bit eccentric too.

On Reading

When I’m not very sure about how to start writing a piece, I often look up the meaning of the word I’m writing about. I rarely get such a laugh out of it though. So here goes.. when you type in the word “reading” in Google, this is what you get:

Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning (reading comprehension). It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas.

Who knew huh? Of course it makes complete sense which is the point of a definition really but when I think of my favourite things to read and the joy that they bring me, this definition is not what comes to mind.

Let me try and explain what reading has meant to me. From the moment I read my first book, I have known the incredible power of the written word. It is not a knowledge taken for granted but one that I am reminded of every time I read something that truly moves me. They say that travelling is the best way to experience the world, and I believe that reading comes a close second. Reading opens you up to worlds outside your own, perspectives different from yours and most importantly makes you appreciate beauty.

keep-calm-and-love-reading-64

There was a time when I believed only fiction was worth reading. Nothing, I believed, could parallel the make believe worlds of the books that I read. But over time I have come to realize that the real world can be far more fascinating and that most of the things I loved so much about books were inspired by reality. So I decided to widen my horizons so to speak and try reality reading. The problem was that I did not know where to begin. The logical thought was to start with the news but the problem with that was, in my random browsing, most news articles seemed drab and dull and I spent more time being annoyed at the writing style than actually reading! Then, by sheer coincidence I came upon an op-ed piece by Jug Suraiya and it was brilliant! It concerned the news so it was insightful but at the same time it provided a perspective, which I found so refreshing. Pretty soon, his column along with Bachi Karkaria‘s became my regular reads. But it wasn’t enough and I didn’t really know where to look next. That is when I was introduced to the concept of a news reader that uses RSS feeds. I originally thought they were a dream come true, magic applications that would aggregate everything I wanted to read about and bring them to me in one place. I tried a few of them Google Reader, Feedly, Flipboard and soon gave them up. Something just wasn’t right. It took me a while to realize that it was the readers which were the problem. The problem was that I wasn’t curating the content right. At about this time I started my WordPress blog on and discovered the Freshly Pressed section. It was a collection of the best loved blogs posted on the site. I suddenly had access to a much wider ocean of other writers and their perspectives. Every day, there are so many good posts by so many different people that I could now read my heart’s content everyday. It took me a little more time to realize that Facebook and Twitter are not always a waste of time and if you follow the right pages and handles, you’ve got yourself a very diverse library, very unexpected articles from delightful sources (Thought Catalog is my guilty pleasure)

But the thought that kept nagging me was that I hadn’t found a satisfactory way to organize all my reading and save the ones I wanted to keep. I have been using Evernote for a long time as a sort of diary of notes to myself as well as saving things I wanted to keep but I still wanted an intermediate platform, one between web browser or link and Evernote. I found the answer in Pocket. A beautiful little app to which you can save links and once synced, can even be read offline! After reading the article in question, if I like it enough, I move it to Evernote, else delete. As an added feature, I even get a weekly email with the most popular items that are being saved on Pocket by all its users. Speaking of emails, in the absence of an RSS reader, I have signed up for emails blasts from some selected sites, which once I receive I immediately save to Pocket. Notable ones include: Brain PickingsWait But Why and Quartz. Quartz is a news site that does an amazing job of actually explaining what the news means instead of throwing out facts and figures. I love the whimsical way the daily emails are crafted. I already went out on a limb at the beginning of this year and bought a subscription to The Economist magazine and I have to say it has been entirely worth it. I’ve let my Tumblr account lie idle these days but its a great platform for interesting reads too. My Pinterest account is brand new and I can’t wait to dive into that! I’m also thinking about diving into this site called Medium, I read an article from there which was very interesting. And that pretty much sums up my non-fiction reading habits these days. The search of course will always be on for the next new thing to read. The only thing to remember is that your reading habit is your own. I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty about not reading enough of the serious things, or not knowing enough about current affairs; but ultimately you have to find your own rhythm and whatever works for you. Of course that doesn’t mean that everything will arrive on a platter, it will take some searching, trying out different things until you know what works best for you!

So whats your reading story?

Pros and Cons

A lot has been said and written about the joys and sorrows of living alone. So I thought I should add my two pence. First the joys (I am ever the optimist):

  1. Eat WHATEVER you want, WHENEVER you want it. Those of you who know me, will not be surprised that food tops my list. But I feel like I must give other readers some background information. I love eating. It’s as simple as that. I’m rarely fussy about what I will or will not eat (although I doubt I’d try some of the more exotic cuisines on the planet). So I’m the adult equivalent of the happy go lucky baby who eats whatever is put before her (PS: I was such a baby). Having said that, I do have my favourites. Breakfast food tends to feature higher on my list that other things. So these days I’m eating a lot of it. My sandwiches start from the basic ham and cheese and go right up to the colossal lettuce, ham, cucumber, egg and cheese one that I just devoured (for dinner). Then I began to experiment. The other day I added thinly sliced fried eggplant (aubergine) to my sandwich instead of the cucumber; the result absolutely brilliant. Then I went crazy another day and added fried onions; the result was quite heavenly. Then another day, I boiled and mashed a potato and then fried it along with an onion and stuffed that in my sandwich. I could go on but you get the picture. Please note that I also occasionally eat healthy food like salads. A particular one I am proud of had boiled broccoli, baby corn, carrots, egg, potato along with lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes all tossed together in ranch dressing (the boiled egg makes all the difference so don’t bother without it).
  2. Never having to worry about keeping the volume down. Some songs and movies are intended by god to be loud. So it makes a nice change if no one is yelling at you to turn it down or worse, having to stuff in earphones.
  3. Doing your laundry only once a week. This one is especially delightful. When its only you, somehow the laundry basket doesn’t threaten to explode and shower you with dirty clothes if you haven’t checked it in a couple of days.

And now the cons.

  1. Cooking for yourself. Why is this a problem you ask? After all the raving above? Well unfortunately no matter how much I love to eat, the food just refuses to cook and present itself in front of me whenever I want it. It takes time and effort and shows me just how much a lazy bone I have (I have eaten the occasional peanut butter on bread)
  2. Remembering to do the dishes. I used to think this would line up on the pros column. Maybe if it wasn’t bothering anyone, it would be okay to leave them lying in the sink for a few days (or a week). But unfortunately, it suddenly leads to ants becoming your best friends and moving in with you.
  3. Buying groceries. I never liked this task even when I lived at home with family, but somehow it feels worse when it’s just for myself. I’ve been tricking myself so far: Its a trip to the mall! We’ll get ice cream and maybe even a nice lunch, or how about a doughnut? And also, before leaving, you’ll need to stop by the hypermarket, no big deal. Apparently bread and eggs can’t trot along and come knocking at my door.

On that disgruntled note, I think I’ll sign off. Until next time.

Cheers!

Photo Credit: http://www.huntingenglish.com/

Far Far Away: Part Two

Well its been a month now so I really should follow through on my promise of Part Two of my story (read Part One here). I don’t really know where to begin so I’m going to let fancy take me where it will. I finished reading all of Jane Austen’s novels, a project that I had begun in August. Somehow I seemed to get along faster once I reached here. It was a delightful task and I came out of it with mixed feeling. On the one hand, it was heartening to see that human nature really hasn’t changed much in so many centuries even if our social structures have altered quite a lot. On the other hand, it made me newly appreciate the insignificance of my own self. We spend countless hours obsessing over trivial details of our equally trivial lives: to what end? We make the same mistakes as the people before us did, indeed sometimes even the mistakes we ourselves have made before. But curiously, that is the beauty of human existence. Never knowing what lies ahead, never believing our actions could have consequences beyond our imagination, never fully realizing that we are only a tiny fraction of this seemingly endless universe. Yet, we go on from day to day; whether cheerful or grim, angry or morose, helpless or raring to go. Just the act of breathing shows the sheer capacity we have of living. As far as we know, we are the only creatures on this planet that lives like this. It humbles me and makes me feel grateful and somehow makes my life seem less trivial. Well this was quite a flight of fancy that I seem to have taken but that is something about this place. I suddenly feel like there is time to think. Have you ever read the story by Ruskin Bond called, ‘Time Stops in Shamli’? Well I wouldn’t go so far but I really feel like time moves slower here in the Philippines. Let me first clarify that this is in no way meant to be derisive. Manila is as thriving, bustling a metropolis as could be and the traffic situation would put Mumbai to shame. But there is just something about the place. Maybe its because the people here seem to be the nicest in the world🙂. I spent 3 whirlwind weeks in Manila. And most of what I did was eat! And here I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Food Adventures in Manila (1)
Food Adventures in Manila (1)
Food Adventures in Manila (2)
Food Adventures in Manila (2)

Then, I moved to Angeles City, Pampanga. Now this place really is a throwback to a different time. Beautiful, rustic and idyllic. I don’t have too many pictures of the places around but I think the views from my apartment say it all!

From Sunrise to Sunset
From Sunrise to Sunset
Idyllic Afternoon
Idyllic Afternoon

And of course I’m indulging myself by decorating it in the brightest colours I can find🙂

Home is where the clock is
Home is where the clock is
Culinary Creations
Culinary Creations
My own spot of heaven
My own spot of heaven

Until next time, adios from the Philippines. Cheers!

Far Far Away: Part One

Well I must say, international travel really makes you take a very hard look at your own life. I don’t necessarily mean that only in a philosophical way, but literally too! When the 30 kg baggage limit is the only thing that stares at you from the ticket, cold panic sets in. How on earth do you fit in everything you foresee-ably need for the next six months into just 30 kgs? If you’re laughing right now because you think 30 kgs is a lot, then you have clearly never been faced with this dilemma. Please remember me when you are. So anyway, having convinced myself that this could hardly be a greater challenge than a lot of other things in my life, I felt quite confident that I would conquer it too. That was mistake number 1.

The much dreaded baggage limit
The much dreaded baggage limit

I’m a planner and organizer as anyone who knows me even remotely can testify. So I did what I do best, I made lists, lots of them. I even got it down to how many air bubbles would be allowed into the suitcase after everything else was packed in. OK I didn’t go that far but you get the picture. After I was done making the lists, I looked over them and smirked at the 30 kg baggage limit still staring at me from the ticket. That was mistake number 2.

The To Do Lists
The To Do Lists

I decided I would first buy the things I needed that I didn’t already own (case in point being new suitcases). This part was so easy that all it took was one entire day canvassing two malls and I had purchased them all. They newly procured stuff were all very judiciously placed in the suitcases because that would save half the trouble of packing. Win for me, I thought. Since the rest was all stuff I needed to pick out from whatever I already owned, I decided I could afford to pack them closer to my travel date. That was mistake number 3.

Bought a suitcase!
Bought a suitcase!

Suddenly, everything I owned seemed to be pleading with me with puppy dog eyes: take me! take me! They all seemed to say. My lists sat on one shoulder playing the devil, while my “angelic” consciousness reminded me of every virtue of a particular object at hand so that deciding what to take and what not became a nerve wracking nightmare. Needless to say the devil was over-ruled quite often when the angel said something like: “that top is so cute! I’m sure you’ll lose weight and fit into it soon enough” or “how can you think about not carrying those heels? they are your only really formal shoes!” or “it wouldn’t hurt to pack in a couple of extra T-Shirts would it? I mean they’re cotton, hardly any weight at all”. Needless to say, listening to the angel was mistake number 4.

Obsessive labeling of keys
Obsessive labeling of keys

By the time I had to leave home yesterday, I was miraculously done with packing, repacking, double and triple checking my lists and obsessing over every lock and key. One good thing that came out of being so emotionally exhausted from this process was that I hardly had time to be overwhelmed by the real emotions; you know leaving my family and friends, moving to a country I’d never been before, heck leaving my home country for the first time and all the associated anxieties. For that I must be grateful to the 30 kgs baggage limit. But fear not, just when you think that this post has a happy ending, mistake number 5 awaits around the corner. My obsessive compulsive list did not have an item called: weigh the suitcases. It was almost an afterthought to somehow wrestle the humongous monster onto the weighing scale and see the dial reading somewhere around 30 kgs and being satisfied that it was good enough. A perfectionist should really know better. Tsk. Tsk.

Should've weighed them
Should’ve weighed them

Since the list did have an item called: reach airport 3 hours in advance of flight, that is what I did (in fact even earlier); which prompted someone to very kindly inquire if I was taking a flight to another place on earth or planning a Mars mission. But I digress. Airport reached. Check. Obligatory selfies clicked. Check. Hugged all people who came to see me off (twice). Check. Promised mom to update her every step of the way (lost count of how many times I assured her). Check. Walked into the airport EXACTLY 3 hours before flight time (to the minute!). Check. Did a mental happy dance. Check. Pitied myself for such cheap thrills. Check.

Obligatory Selfie
Obligatory Selfie

That’s where my lists pretty much ended. I was in unknown territory now, I could almost feel the rush of adrenaline that mountain climbers must feel. OK maybe that’s exaggerating but you know how it feels doing something for the first time. I sailed across to the airline counter, mentally congratulating myself for having web checked in and picked my seat. I very coolly watched them lift the aforementioned humongous monster onto the belt and saw the weight count say 35 kgs. Still nonplussed, I looked at the agent, half expecting her to say that it would be no problem at all or at most that I would have to pay for the excess baggage. But her response left me floored: a single piece of luggage couldn’t be more than 30 kgs, at best 32 kgs, the belt wouldn’t move with anything heavier. In a dream sequence I would casually laugh and say, “come on! surely we can work something out” but in reality, nothing in my careful list of possible scenarios (yes this was a backup list in a hidden drive on the brain) had prepared me for this and once again panic set in while I listened to her say: “Ma’am you need to reduce weight”. Again, in a dream sequence I would say, ” I know doll, but what about my suitcase”. But reality being what it is, I slowly rolled away my trolley while my brain rebooted and got into action. One call to my mom brought her back to the departure terminal. Then the ruthless devil part of the mind got to work and booted out 3 kgs worth of stuff which I then I handed back to my mom to take home.

Only once I had successfully seen my suitcase roll away into the dark abyss at the end of the conveyor belt (while praying really hard that it wouldn’t get lost or delayed) and had received my boarding card, did I breathe a sigh of relief. The emotional angel part of the brain then realized two things: one, that shoes had been the first target of the devil (sob! sob!) and two, that while I had made sure to sign up for the airline’s frequent flyer program; in my panicked state, I had forgotten to give them the membership number and so I wouldn’t earn any miles for this very iconic trip (sob! sob!).

And since I can see that you are also emotionally overwhelmed from reading this post, I will leave off here for now and continue telling you my further adventures in the next one.

Till then, adios from the Philippines. Cheers!

A Little Pondering

I took the bus today, took me twice as long to reach home than if I had taken the train but that was fine. Just the simple pleasure of sitting in an almost empty bus, by the window, feeling the breeze on my face was enough. I had a magazine for company and the time was spent quite happily. It just reminds me to be grateful for the little things in life and also that some things never change (read: the slow rambling bus routes in Mumbai).

Change is a wonderful thing and without accepting that, one would tend to find oneself always out of step with reality. But somethings will not and should not change and those will be the pillars holding us up, the foundations of the future. For example, I am not much of a picture taker (I don’t particularly enjoy being clicked either) and I don’t think that that’ll ever change. I prefer capturing moments in my head and cherish them. When the moment is important enough, you will remember it, there will be no need for the picture to serve as a reminder. I once thought that my blog would be more interesting if I had more pictures on it. But that just made me very anxious every time I wrote something because I would worry about the perfect picture to accompany it. In the end it made me not want to write and that was just sad so I stopped trying. I might still put up a picture from time to time if the mood strikes but that’s about it. I’m not one for endless clicking and uploading of pictures on Facebook, Instagram et al. I like to think that this says something about me but what that something might be is a mystery still.

Another of my pet peeves that hasn’t changed much over the years is to be lazy about things that are important to me. Somehow it is so much easier to put my back into things when someone else is holding the reins and there is a possibility of disappointing them. But the things that I care about often fall to the wayside, like my writing for example or exercising or let’s face it, my applications to B-Schools. I’m quite disappointed in myself about this actually and this is something that definitely needs to change. Life is all about balance. Too much of anything is not good but its one hell of an effort to bring about such a change. But like I observed earlier, change is wonderful😛. This is probably the perfect example. I hereby solemnly swear to make conscious and careful decisions from here onwards and find my balance. It will be an uphill task and many many battles before I’m satisfied with how things are but here’s a promise that I will get there. Enough said.

Until next time.

Cheers!

PS # This probably sounds like a resolution that should have been made in the new year. But hey I’m lazy remember? So its a tad late😛

A place to simplify whatever it is I'm thinking about at the moment!