Buddies

This is one of my favourite stories. I was standing at the intersection of Gandhari Amman Kovil Rd and MG Road in Trivandrum. A tall girl stood there with her father. We had just attended a training class together. She wore a brown striped salwar, handbag on her shoulder and books in her hand. Her grizzly hair was tied back and she looked at me with suspicion. Her father asked me if I was looking for a roommate. I said yes. He suggested we look for a place to stay, together. I looked at her and thought, why not? I had no idea who this girl was.

Either the same day or the next, another girl from the training class asked us, if she could join us. She was a short, round faced girl. She wore a salwar with a dupatta neatly folded on one shoulder. She wore glasses and pretty much looked like a mirror image of me. She had the widest smile on her face and spoke faster than either of us.

We said yes. Again, we didn’t know her, except her name.

We found an agent, a short, stout guy who rode a TVS moped of the early 2000. I don’t remember how we found him. He wore a hat, probably to hide his baldness and glasses which he kept pushing up on his nose. He spoke like he was going to take us to the moon. We tagged along with him to find accomodation in the then unknown city of Trivandrum. The tall girl I met had an Ericsson mobile that looked like a modern day big remote. This mobile was to become our communication channel with our parents in the near future, for which she even charged us a fee. So coming back to the stout man with the hat, we set up appointments with him after the training session for the day, and hopped into an autorickshaw to see the place he had found for us. The short girl knew the in and out of Trivandrum, so it was relatively easier than I thought.

During these trips, we learnt a little more about each other. The tall girl had graduated from MES College Kuttipuram and the short one from Jain Engineering College in Chennai. We made many trips with the stout guy with the hat, to various nooks and corners of Trivandrum until one day, he took us to Pattoor. This was the first floor of a beautiful house which the owner was willing to rent. A one bedroom accomodation with a kitchen and bath. It was a luxurious setting. There was a PCO booth nearby to make STD (Standard Trunk Dialling, in case you thought something else) calls. The landlady was nice and liked us instantly. We paid the stout guy with the hat his commission and sent him away. The next day we moved our belongings to the Pattoor house and embarked on a beautiful journey of friendship, laughter and a million memories.

It has been eighteen years since we moved in together – three girls who didn’t even know the other existed till then, one from Bangalore, one from Kozhikode and one from Chennai. I cannot help but think, that this is destiny. Our paths were meant to cross and our lives meant to mingle with each other. We grew from naive (this is the short girl’s favourite word) twenty two year old young girls’ to mothers of children ranging from five to fourteen. It feels like a lifetime, and yet like yesterday when we were huddled in the autorickshaw following the stout guy with the hat, on his TVS, to the nooks and corners of Trivandrum.

May our conversations never be silent!! Love you girls, always and forever!!

xoxoxo

 

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Attitudes

Attitude, I thought is the general behavior one shows towards another person. It is one of the parameters that defines a person. From an attitude perspective there are only three kinds of people – the good ones, the bad ones and the in-between ones.

The good ones always have a good attitude towards you. They maybe going through enormous struggles in their own life, yet they smile at you, say a few words. They probably don’t want to smile, yet their persona refuses to be bogged down by their inner turmoil.

If the good ones are your friends and they let you into their inner circle, then you have made a friend for life.

The bad ones are horrible. They simply don’t care about anyone except themselves. Whether they are having a good day or a bad one, they will make your day rotten. They wake up to mess up their day and someone else’s day. They like being alone, and are often not good to be friends with. They probably need their own selfish kind.

The third one are those in-between. Today they smile, good. Tomorrow they may not even recognize you, bad. It is extremely difficult to understand this group of people and to have any kind of relationship with them. When it goes bad you think, but the other day we smiled, we joked, had fun. You can never understand easily if today is good it bad. Most times you are thinking what you did wrong. It could be nothing you’ve done or it could be. Another state of bipolar. Will tomorrow be a good one, you have no freaking idea! These people confuse you to no end.

The bad and the in between ones can cause you depression if you are banking on that relationship. It all leads to enriching oneself in order to handle people and relationships.

Sunday musings…

Is there one person in this whole wide world who knows you inside out? Maybe not. Actually it is not maybe, it is definitely no. And the only person who knows you entirely is you. All the acquaintances we make have a piece of us. As we meet new people, they take a slice of us. It is almost never the complete picture. We become a combination of what they take from us and their presumption of us. The less they perceive, stronger will that relationship be.

In a lifetime we meet so many people, most just look at the cake and walk away. They may admire the structure (pun intended), some the color, yet a few like the icing. It is only when you and the other person have a genuine interest that you share a piece. You slice and dice yourself and give a portion to every person you hold dear to you.

We are a piecemeal of many such relationships.

If you think of it, it is impossible to give the entire cake to any one person. For one, each one is carrying their own cake and second, there are just so many relationships. In the end we are all this infinite set diagrams partially intersecting with other sets, every day. Math applies in such weird ways, one would think!

We float in this infinite space with these innumerable intersecting sets all the time. These intersections build up those blocks of expectations. Some of them are so high, that they make the intersection very heavy. You are something to someone all the time. So then when are you, YOU? When are you just that single circle, with no strings attached, floating in space, and the stars shining down on you. Very rarely, for most people. There are those stolen moments from your own life, when you can put down the weight, walk around in your circle, floating under the sky.

Our social system is so pathetically morose that it bombards us with this constant need to intersect. We are taught from when we are born about relationships, expectations, bond and all such crap. Are we ever taught to carve out our own path?

My friend brought in an interesting perspective recently. She said, why should I tell me son to do anything about working, marrying, and all that circus? Let him decide what he wants to do. If he doesn’t get married, he doesn’t. Big deal. It is his life and he has complete authority over it. Well, this is one of the reasons why, she is my best friend.

Can we really change the current norm of pressurizing our loved ones into forming intersections. Let them lead their way, let them live their life. Maybe that would increase the happiness quotient eventually. The number one killer of happiness, I believe, is expectations. These expectations stem out like mushrooms from relationships and people go crazy over it. Only if everyone lived with the feeling that, ‘I’m here for you if you need me’. Come to think of it, that is all, that’s required. There is no need of, you need to behave one way, you need to talk one way, you need to emote this way, you need to think this way… Give me a break! See where stress comes from, followed by depression and what not.

Why does any relationship “have to” be a certain way? The only true relationship (in its absolute sense) is that of a mother and child. Even in this one, when the mother thinks, “I will lead you for the first few years, then I will guide you, further on, for the most part, I’m here for you”. It is that simple.

So should you start easing out of the heavy ones? I don’t know. Maybe the trick is to make your circle strong. I don’t know…

If we keep it simple for the next generation, maybe the sets of the future will be lighter….

Day 4 : Life lessons – Companionship

Companionship is the ultimate requirement, objective, end state of all relationships. I have seen this in my own life and in people whose paths have crossed mine over the years.

Yesterday I was talking to my dad who has been living alone for over three years now after my mother passed. He was telling me that when he sits alone and reminisces his earlier years with my mother, he wonders why he did the things he did or why he said the things he said. He added when we are together we just want to prove that we are better than the other, it’s when you lose the companion you truly understand what companionship meant.

I read a literacy contest winning short story – Mrinalini. A lady leaves her family, children, grand children to find her old self. After several years her family finds her. When her husband sees her, he asks her if he could spend a few days with her. To which she replies – the loneliness is wonderful but one still needs a companion to share it.

There is my friend who got married to a guy from her college, one year senior. I have always marveled and watched in awe, their companionship after sixteen years of marriage. I know for a fact that they are the couple who will grow old together, sit on a bench by the sea, many years down the line, laughing about their early years. They talk to each other probably three to four times a day. He calls her at lunch or she calls him at lunch. It’s probably not lovey-dovey messages after sixteen years of marriage, but the need to talk to each other AND the need to listen to each other. That is marriage, love and companionship.

I have seen companionship in my children as well. The older one walks in after school and his first question everyday for the last so many years is “where is Kevin?” The things they share with each other, the constant talking, discussions makes me feel blessed. There are many things my older one knows about the younger one. It’s not my unavailability, but that’s the companionship they share.

There are friends, there are acquaintances, there are relatives, there are siblings, there is family, but there is only one companion. This is the person where you have no filters, you step in and out of their soul like your own. This is like wine that only gets better with time.

Companionship is probably just another word for soulmate, the one who complements you, completes you. These just get better with age, life experiences, life lessons and so on. For my companion, my husband, I am truly blessed. Having him with me, physically or mentally means, I am home.

Day 2 : Life lessons – Invaluable when gone

Recently a friend of mine resigned from his job. He was good at what he did. He accomplished tasks in half the time another person would take. Everyday morning he went into the office and delivered his best. He knew he was good at what he did. He was assigned various projects over his tenure of twenty three years at the organization. No doubt he grew within the company as he delivered. He believed in the core principle that if he does his best the money, the recognition, the adulation would come his way.

Nobody can do something alone. There are a lot of people who influence a person’s work, behavior, attitude, work product. So he had various people around him who kept changing over time and influenced the work he did. The output remained constant, however the inputs changed, guidance changed, processes changed. He sailed through them all, because at the end of the day he felt he had done something. He had touched somebody’s life in any small way. He had helped put that tiny stone there to grow the organization.

All people around him didn’t see him the same way because their perspectives on diligence, dedication, work output were different. For about a year now he was doing odd jobs at the organization. That’s what he was told to do. After months of deliberation he decided to call it quits. He found another job and quit.

Once he quit, various people from the organization who recognized his talent tried to persuade him his to stay, they pleaded, gave him time to sleep over it and rethink his decision. He was adamant. One might think it was because his new job was too good a deal. Maybe yes, maybe not. But he had given up inside. He felt hopeless for the way he was treated after twenty three years of dedicated and excellent service to the organization.

At the end of the day it’s “job satisfaction” primarily, that keeps or loses an employee. That made me think about all the people who had resigned on my team. Why did they leave? It is because they were not happy about something. They may convince themselves that it’s the money. But no! I don’t agree. It’s the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, day after day, everyday. Period.

It is unfortunate that supervisors fail to understand this. What irked me about my friends situation was the umpteen requests he got to reconsider. The value was understood when he left. Like I told him “they don’t deserve your service!” He moved on.. nothing happened to the organization, nothing would and nothing will. One person doesn’t make a difference in any company, but that moment of realization on the part of his supervisors, that the situation could have been prevented, is satisfaction enough!

The year gone by…

New year is always an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and renew the hope within you to possibilities and achieve something new. Technically January 1st is just another day, when you reset the calendar. But over the years this day has filled the human with what a system reboot does to the computer. You wash out the junk and temp files, and make the system ready for new transactions.

As I look at the year gone by, it was an eventful year. So many high points, and low ones too, and definitely some valuable lessons, retaught in life’s mysterious ways.

I ticked off a few items from my things-to-do-before-I-die bucket list, and some were direct blessings from above delivered to me through people I love.

All through my childhood years, my parents never owned a car. The lack of it didn’t have any impact on the quality of our life either. We walked, took an auto, rode the bus. The memories created during those walks, holding my parents hands, the endless chattering during those 2km walks from school or my father’s office were filled with stories from my father’s childhood or general knowledge about the world. I am so glad there were no mobile phones then, to intrude into our privacy. The paradox of today’s life is that we drive to the gym to walk!

So it was not until I got married that I owned a car. All credit goes to my husband for pushing me to learn driving. He virtually gave me a pair of wings. Fourteen years hence, we walked into the BMW showroom and bought our first BMW, a black sedan. Honestly, buying a car or even a BMW is no big deal in the US. You get auto loans at good rates, you can own any car you want. What makes it a blessing is knowing from where you came and where life has taken you. Counting your blessing and the luxuries that God has blessed you with. The icing of all of these blessings, was driving my father in the BMW, which was his first ride in a BMW! Truly blessed!

So, you have read blogs about my childhood years, the house I grew up in. My mother always complained that she never owned a house, until her final years when my brother and I together with our parents built a house in Wayanad. After listening to years and years of her grumbling for her own house, she looked so calm and at peace sitting in the front yard of the finished house. She looked like finally she was home. The memory fresh in my mind. Maybe I got this from her, but I always wanted to my own house and didn’t want to have it towards the tad end of my life. I wanted it during a time when I was healthy enough to maintain it. So thanks to my husband again, he bought us our first home. This house is many times the size of the house I grew up in. Again, what makes it special is knowing from where I came and where life has brought me. I now strive to create half as many good memories for my children in this large expanse of space, as my parents created for my brother and I. Again, blessed!

She is the first lady in my husband’s family I met. She welcomed me into the family with the warmest hug and a heart full of love. In all the fourteen years I have known her, she has only given love. Such selfless love, I have only read in books. She battled the worst illness during her final years and even in those times, she spread the warmth she had been blessed with. It was only befitting that she named our eldest son, Nitin. The nicest soul life introduced me to along the way, moved on to find her place in heaven. In that leaving, she redeemed me and blessed me for the years when she wouldn’t be around. Blessed to have been part of her loved ones!

Then my appa! The seventy year old, handsome fella who applies hair dye so carefully and wans to look young as he gets older. His bald head being the only obstacle. After years of nagging, he finally boarded the big bird and crossed the seas to come see America! He saw less of America, and just more and more of Walmart in Bentonville and rain and snow in Seattle. The six months he spent with my brother and I comes to an end this week. Yet having him with either of us is so much of a relief than when he is alone in Bangalore, where I call him everyday just to make sure he is okay. As he has got older he has developed some irritating habits like all old people do (which even I will, I am sure) but what he has done for me over all these years, is our personal story and is so important in shaping the person that I am today. So blessed to be born to him!

I always love spending time with my parents and sibling. We relive our childhood years, like everyone else. This maybe more important and dear for daughters who even partially adopt a different family strain through marriage. Being yourself with no strings attached is so endearing and happens only with your own parents and siblings. I got a week of this bliss when I went to Seattle to spend time with my brother and father. As I left Seattle there were underlying fears that I kept hitting down like whac-a-mole arcade game, yet the happiness of that one week is a treasure. Blessed to get that one week of me!

When you stay in a different country and miss your best friends often, getting even a 24 hour time period with them is a treat! 90% of the time is filled mostly with nonsense chatter, laughs, laughs and more laughs. At the end of the day the memory of that time brings a smile to your face. When life doesn’t offer you the best, this is where you huddle into, your punching bag, with no promises and explicit professing of the depth of the relationship. Its the knowing that they are which makes all the difference. The two nonsense-chatter people in my life have stayed on for sixteen years straight now. I can’t imagine my life without these two. Blessings!

Grandparents are a treasure. My children were blessed with another set of grandparents and their unlimited love throughout last year. My children are a bit more affectionate, softer, respectful because of the affection they were showered with by these grandparents. I am ever so grateful, that my children got this opportunity at love during these years of their life which will definitely play its part in the people they will become. Blessed again!

Letting go is difficult. Dipping myself in that cold water early in the morning, following the steps the priest dictated, putting rice and reciting those mantras supposedly frees my mother. It is not sadness or tears that I felt, its a frozen state accentuated by the dip. With my father beside me, its like she tied the bond a bee wit tighter. It was a low time, no doubt. But in the knowing that I was born to a fighter with a never-say-die attitude is the biggest blessing I have received. Her attitude to move on in spite of all obstacles is what she passed on to me. Blessed!

There were low times, but at the end of the day who wants to remember them. They are best let go. People whom I misjudged, people who helped you sail through during tough times, everything a blessing, a learning. There were days when there is no light at the end of the tunnel, just then the ray of hope shines in the form of a person or the inner strength or the force that helps go on. Through it all, God has been the invisible strength either directly or through people whom he placed in my life.

Yes, new year is a Ctrl+Alt+Del system reboot. Bring on the new challenges and blessings!

May 2017 be filled with blessings, again!