Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Growing older

image courtesy - google

I never thought growing older would be something I would appreciate and be thankful for. I remember the excitement of turning 10 and I guess that was the only time I was excited for a milestone birthday. When I turned 20, I was sad that the teenage days are getting over and the prospect of being an 'adult' with responsibilities didn't appeal to me much. Turning 30 was even more painful after my parent's demise and the future was indeed looking very bleak. When I turned 40, I was sad that the 'youth' is gone . In fact we were joking in our school group that when we die now, in our obituary we would be termed "middle-aged' or 'madyavayaska and not youth or 'yuvathi'. But it was then that the reality hit me hard - I realised I have surpassed many in my childhood who I thought were 'old' like my uncle who died of cancer at 35 and few more deaths I had encountered then.

This decade seems like an interesting time in a person’s life - there is enough life to look back on, and hopefully a lot more days still to experience and live life. I am really thankful that I came this far and is here now. It is an amazing thing. Here are few things I am pondering in the last few months and wish to implement in my life going forward

Travel  -  It is a big, wide world out there with so many experiences waiting to be explored. So this is definitely the top most priority. I am not someone who had shied away from travelling and I am thankful for all those opportunities. In fact, many places which I saw as pristine, untouched trails have now become so unrecognisable with filth and commercialisation and some nature's fury. I am hoping there are still many more which are not so damaged out there for me to explore.

Spend time with family and friends : In the recent past I lost some friends and family in their 30s, 40s and 50s which is kind of a reminder that there isn't infinite amount of time left as we tend to compare ourselves with an older generation where 'aged' is defined as 80s or 90s. I am not getting younger and want to spend as much time as I can with those I love the most and doing things I love to do the most.  

Make ourselves a priority : I guess we are totally and solely responsible for ourselves - our choices, our decisions , our priorities. So it is very important to live intentionally with specific purpose and commitment. We need to see if our hobbies are taking a backburner to other work and personal commitments or say a full time career is coming in the way of spending quality time with family. So yes indulge ourselves - celebrate who we are 💓

Take Risk  : "What's the worst thing that could happen?" This was what one of my favourite manager used to ask when we faced any challenges at work. I guess this is an important question that we need to ask ourselves in the crossroads of life as well. So I guess do not postpone anything that you wish to experiment on. We will be happy that we at least tried and even if we do not succeed, we will surely emerge wiser and much more experienced right?

Declutter : This surely is a difficult process for me. I came to bangalore with a single bag and when I shifted my home after 15 years there were two truck loads of stuff and I am sure now if I try another shift it is going to be even more. So I am trying to declutter but the hardest thing to let go of are my books and my so called craft things. Let's see how it goes. I am also going to stop any purchasing unless it is absolutely necessary - mainly the amazon "browse and buy" phew 😈

Relish Life : Take time out , SLOW DOWN . Dark days may come time and again, but they don't last forever. Hope is real and life will be more beautiful than we ever imagine it to be. So yes in the years to come I am only looking forward to health , happiness , experiences and wisdom 😊

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

My Pets

When I listed down the things that bring a smile to my face, one of the toppers in the list were of-course my pets.The love, playfulness, laughter, snuggles - when you think about it,It is a unique thing to create a bond with other than one’s own species.

I used to have cats at home right from my childhood. It was always a random cat who chose to walk in and decided to stay. They would then move on to some greener pastures after sometime and so I never had a real "pet" until Sony came along.  Little did I know the evils of backyard breeding or the trauma and the immunity loss the pups suffer from being taken away from mother and litter-mates earlier than 2-4 months. I do feel sad about Sony these days but sometimes you learn some life lessons the hard way.  Only thing I am happy about her is that she was never tied and roamed around freely in the compound all her life.  I really understood and encountered 'pets' after coming to Ram's house as there were 7 dogs and some of them were rescues and abandoned ones and Ram also had this habit of feeding and treating the streeties  too. Each of them had their own characteristics,  personality traits and demands. Kuttu was the boss, Vicky the guard, Arjun the foodie, Bebo the runner, Kushboo the pet demander , Amy the timid bloomer and so on 🐶🐕

Once we moved to Bangalore, hearing about the lab rescued freagles , we adopted one and that's how Diva came into our lives. She was almost 6 years at that time and had spend all her life in a body sized solidarity cage in labs. These dogs were put in the cages when they were puppies without any stimuli, not even sunlight and many were with their vocal cords removed so that they don't make any noise. Until a change in law in India, these beagles would spend their whole life like this and euthanised once they are no longer useful. 

When she came to us she was terrified of everything and settled to a nook of our home and trembled. She didn't know how to adapt to a world outside of her cage - everything, from soil or grass or stairs or sunlight , was new to her. She didn't even know to eat anything other than pedigree and curd (even chicken she did not eat). She was under-confident, anxious , confused and her instinctive reaction was fear and the slightest sound or a sudden movement made her freeze. (3.5 years later even now she does that sometimes). It was to ease her around humans and to teach her "how to be a dog" that we adopted Hachi. He was abandoned by his previous owners and because I was fascinated by "Goldens" I approached the counsellor and may be because it is good for Diva, they chose us. 

Although we mostly think we are the ones saving them, it is debatable who has saved whom as it is immense learning living with them on a daily basis. Each of my pets have taught me a lot of things and have helped me put life into perspective.

Diva will tell you that however old you are , there is always a new beginning. She will also teach you to move on , move forward , no matter what life throws at you. Also to appreciate the simple things in life, and find joy in them, like stopping and smelling every single car tyre in the lane 😉

Hachi will tell you to  Live In the Now - do not worry about the future or the past and simply enjoy the present moment and celebrate every day. He is just happy to have food, water, shelter and some people around who loves him.  Oh yeah and the most important lesson "Know When You've Messed Up, Own it , Then Get Over It". When he gets caught red-handed for some guilty act - he would hang his head , lower the eye and refuse to look at us in the eye (I guess most pets do the same)  But two minutes later, he moves on and seems to forget that it ever happened.  How simpler life would be if we could all shake the negative emotions off so quickly right? So next time any challenge that comes your way - Face it, deal with it and then let it go 😍

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The kindness of strangers

Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay
I am sure all of us would have experienced kindness in one way or other and when it is from a total stranger, it is never easily forgotten. Ever been in such a vulnerable place only to be helped by someone you have never met before?  That someone who could have walked past, but chose not to... I have had some such incidents and thought of sharing it.

This is an incident that happened 19 years ago when mobile phones or google maps were not there for our rescue. It was the first day I landed in a new country on assignment. Also my first ever trip alone and outside India. Usually, for these assignments, you are mostly on your own. Thankfully for me, my counterpart was kind enough to come and receive me at the airport as she knew it was my first trip and I am travelling alone. In the short time that she was around, she gave me an overview of the German train and bus systems as there were absolutely no signs in English those days and I had no clue of German either. Once we reached my apartment, she told me to take rest and said she will pick me up after office for dinner which she did. We went to an Indian restaurant and she also helped me to pick some milk, juices and some vegetarian eatables for my stay. Unfortunately it got a bit late and so after dinner she didn't have time to drop me back as it was time for her last bus. So she got me the bus map to the place I was staying. Only catch was after 8 PM, the buses will not go via the stop next to the place I was staying and instead takes a detour after the previous stop. Based on the map, she told me to get down at the prev stop and walk in the direction the bus has taken for 10 mins and I should get to my original stop. I got in the bus and alighted at the designated stop and started walking in the direction the bus went. Little did I know at that time that the bus had taken the right turn first and then stopped. According to the map the stop was in the main road and the right turn was after the stop and that is why she told me to walk in the same direction. It was 10.30 PM and the night was getting colder. I didn't have any warm cloths as it wasn't very cold when we started and also had some 5-6 kg of load that I had picked for my entire stay from the grocery store. It was all fine as it was only a 5-10 min walk to the apartment. But I walked, walked and walked and the familiar stop was no where to be seen. There was no human in the road to ask (even if there were I didn't know the language).I had picked a business card of the apartment just before leaving for dinner. I saw a telephone booth and thought of calling the apartment but it needed a pre-paid card which I didn't have and even the operating instructions were in German. Most of the houses were dark and there were hardly any vehicles on the road. I then saw a car and stopped it and asked for directions showing the business card. It was an old man and he tried searching in the map(physical) and told me it is somewhere near but could not give me an exact direction. I again continued my roaming and by then it was 1.30 AM and I was walking in that road for 3 hours. It was the start of winter and the temperature was - 4 °C and my hands were swollen by the weight of my groceries. As a last try, I started walking in the opposite direction and probably reached the main road. I guess I went to and fro many more times in desperation and suddenly I saw a couple sitting in the sidewalk and smoking. I did fear they might be doing drugs considering the odd timing but I didn't have an option other than to approach them. In fact, I have no clue from where they came as I hadn't seen them in my earlier pacing. Probably from a pub or a party near by. Anyways, I showed them the business card without much hope but to my surprise the guy knew the place. He understood English but could not speak and so although he tried to explain me the direction I did not understand it and the desperation set in again. Realizing that he accompanied me and took me through a short cut to my apartment and before I could come back to my senses and thank him he disappeared, just the same way they appeared in the middle of the street ! I really don't know who he is or what his name was but without his help I don't know what I would have done in that cold night in an unknown place without any means of communication.

Another incident was when I was pick-pocketed in Rome and lost my passport and other valuables. Since my base was in Germany I couldn't stay back in Rome for the passport retrieval process. So I had to return and thankfully the officer at the boarder allowed me when I showed the FIR and the xerox copies of the documents (which I had carried with me thankfully). That was the first kindness in that whole process probably because Rome is notorious for the theft and they have seen many such cases. But the real test was yet to come. I called up the embassy and explained my situation but the officer was scolding me to have come back to Germany. His argument was if you have lost the passport in Rome, you need to take it from there and he cannot help. Finally, after much pleading he asked for details of passport and place of issue and such. When he realized, I am from Kerala he was happy to help and even offered that I can stay in his house as it will be difficult for me to get there on time if I tried to take the train the same day.  The Indian consulate in Germany was in Bonn that time which was around 600 km from Munich where I was staying and there were hardly any direct trains. Thankfully my friend was studying in Koln which was only 30 mins from Bonn. So I went the prev day and stayed with her and could reach the embassy at the appointed time in the morning. The embassy officer also raised the same objections of different country but Mathew sir (the earlier officer I talked on phone) convinced him and he agreed to issue my emergency certificate. Again the catch was the distribution of documents starts only at 4.30 PM and my direct train was at 3.30. If I missed that, I had to take a break journey with only 1 or 2 mins connection interval in the middle of the night which was almost impossible without knowing to read the directions written in German.  I was wondering what to do as I had my return flight to India in 2 days or even that had to be postponed. It was at that time a couple entered which I guess was mostly the last appointment of the day. What are the odds that they were also from Kerala and settled in Munich and had driven down to Bonn in own car and were returning the same day?  Mathew sir was talking to them and as soon as he found out these details he introduced me to them. There was no compulsion on Mathew sir to take care of me like he would of his own daughter and go to the extend of getting details from random people who has come to his office so that I can return safely. And even for that newly married couple, there was no need to agree to take a random stranger in their car all the way back to Munich.  The couple were Joseph and Olivia and they safely dropped me to my apartment in Munich and even today I think about them with so much gratitude. I did try to search for them in Google to get in touch with them again but no luck yet 😔

Another incident happened to my father in my hometown. He loved going out and used to go to town multiple times in a day. So for sure many people knew him by face. One day he blacked out and fell in front of a shop. I guess it was the first time it happened (there were 3-4 similar incidents that happened later which might have been the result of brain tumor). It was not so easy to trace someone in a town like Thrissur if you don't know them directly - no name, no address, no phone number. But someone saw him and recognized that he lives in his friend's neighborhood. He called our neighbor's house and described him and they contacted amma. She then rushed there and took him to hospital. If that person hadn't taken that pain to connect the dots and trace him to our neighborhood, not sure what would have happened to acchan that day.

Hopefully in this time of negativity all around us, these are some of the incidents that make our hearts grow, and remind us that the world isn't a scary place after-all. It will restore our faith in the world and encourage us to carry it forward..

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Nostalgic Meetups

I had to finish the year by noting down some of the gatherings I managed in the second half of 2019.

Sid and KK : Only one way to describe them - Two of my longest travel buddies and ever ready for any trip any time 😍 I can't remember a time when either of them have said "No" to a trip. KK was my college senior but as usual I had no interaction with him in college. We realized that we were working in the same company but in different buildings via one of the mails in 'SriFriends" - a yahoo group that another of our common friend had created for interaction of college-mates. We then planned to join an organised trek to Bisile Forest - my first ever trek in the lifetime which also kick-started the famous "wayand trip" that finally led to the formation of this 'travel gang'. We were actually four core members then. Sid was my junior colleague that time and got absorbed to this group soon enough (the only non-mallu or duplicate mallu as we called him) and took over the "planning" burden from me 😊 We have had many crazy adventures and also some very memorable trips. It will be a novel if I need to list down all of those memories and so I am not attempting that. Our trips have reduced a lot after Sid moved to US and also probably we have started aging and priorities have changed 😉 Anyway I am glad to have these meetups at least when he comes down here although this time other members of the gang could not make it.

Silly Girls : We all were in a strange team with only girls and a sole guy (I have to actually say strange manager as he took only girls in his team!)  Ambili was the only married person at that time and she used to describe all of us as "Silly girls" although it is debatable who is the silliest one 😆 Work wise it was a hectic time and we spend most of our time in the office and as a team we supported each other enormously. It was also the time of my cooking experiments and we used to have a potluck lunch almost daily and they were the victims of my cooking experiments too  😂 Anyways that eventful team (we fired our manager) and the eventful days got over and we all moved to different teams but still kept the friendship going. Meanwhile Ambili moved to USA and some of us also left the company. Usually we meet whenever Ambili comes down and it is a large group with spouses and kids. So this time we decided to have a girl's(women's) day out. Yes Ambili was missing this time but these meetups do take us back to those early days of our career 😊

Mahesh : My joining in NIIT is a funny story. I had joined for EEE in REC Calicut that time and my mother had all sorts of "worries" of me moving away from home and finally I had to take the TC and join in GEC Thrissur. So to compensate my disappointment, amma found a 3 year course in NIIT which supposedly would make you job ready (to be frank it did as the only programming that we had in syllabus was Fortran programming!). It had an exorbitant fees that and on inquiry they told about some scholarship test and if I pass can get a fee waiver. I passed their test and got a significant fee waiver and so joined the course. Not sure if it is timing or the course structure or what, I was the only girl in the batch. The lab usage, assessments, projects and seminars was done on a team of two basis. So Mahesh was assigned as my teammate and we remained partners in crime for the next two years. I still remember our first seminar where we started collecting the info on the day of the seminar (last minute rush) and had lots of challenges as only one system had internet. We almost thought we will flunk as it was an external assessor, but could answer all his out of the box questions (Thanks to readers digest and such books I used to read those days). After the session our tutor came and told that he was really doubting about our presentation seeing our morning madness but we did well and guess what -we were the toppers that time(beginners luck) 😉 We continued the same madness in all the semesters and fortunately managed to sail through the course. Over a period of time even our families got closer as his mother was fond of 'girls' as she had three boys. Even after the course, we continued the friendship at a personal level and he remained my kid bro although he moved to US quite early in his career and we were not meeting in person that often. So it was good to catch up with him after 7 years although it was late in the night after an exhaustive day and a long flight for him. Unfortunately as usual I forgot to click a pic and so here is one stolen from his family album.

Uncle & aunty : Although I call them Uncle and aunty, they are more like my parents as I lived with them for 15 long years. Technically it's almost the same no of years that I have lived with my parents too. I had briefly mentioned about them earlier  They have been an integral part of my life in Bangalore  and most of my friends here know them quite well and vice versa. In fact, during the initial days almost all my classmates had the same address and phone number and uncle was the one who used to take the calls on everyone's behalf and passed on the message (pre-mobile era).  It was their presence that I missed the most when I shifted home to e-city. I do visit them often but it is never the same as living in the same house. Anyways when their son Kumar came down from US, they paid us a short visit

Jayan : He was my pen-pal in the e-mail world. Of course we were classmates in engineering but we hardly had any meaningful conversation during those days. It was the time when internet and emails were just coming in and although we had private e-mails, we had to go to an internet cafe to check that. Even in office we didn't have internet access in the desktop (Yeh we didn't use Google for our coding or error solving. God I am already feeling like coming from an alien generation). So most of us used the official email for private communication too and in the initial days, it was quite thrilling to get an instant reply for your emails. And those days only few of us from our class were placed and this was the time me and Jayan started our email conversations. This was before the blogging era and with my love for writing letters, it was a good break to have someone reciprocating compared to the one sided letters I used to send to my cousins. We talked about various topics - mostly stories, dreams, philosophy and all. I was in Bangalore and Jayan was in Mangalore and so we never met and later Jayan went for his MBA and we did not correspond after that and lost touch completely - what usually happens when your e-mail id changes. After his MBA, Jayan settled in UK and so this was our meeting after like 20 years and all those conversations came back. I think I really need to dig up those emails from the old pst files to find that younger me and my thoughts those days. Who knows it might be a book material as Jayan said 😈

Santosh and Leena : There are strange ways in which people cross our paths and this couple is one such. Leena was my senior in school and Santosh was in another batch in NIIT Bangalore where I did my last semester of the course. I knew him by face but never spoke although both of us knew that we are from Kerala. So when we met outside of NIIT in the Raheja lift, we both were surprised and got acquainted (the famous mallu-mallu bonding 😀) He was working in the 8th floor and me in the 10th floor and so we met often mostly during the post-lunch walks in Brunton road. Later Leena also joined their company and we got reacquainted as we already know each other from school. Both of them got married and migrated to US soon after. Although we did keep in touch via blogs and other social media and was aware of the developments in each others lives, we were meeting in real life after 16-17 years.

Changathikoottam : When the whatspp groups came in to existence, this was one of the first groups that I became part of which was a random group of few of our school batch-mates. This was before the overload of whatsapp Groups and so remained special for all of us in this group. As I was in a different division, I knew only a handful of them from school days but over a period of time, we all grew closer together. There were lot of real conversations and fun chats and the group was alive mostly 24/7 as different people joined in at different time-zones. Since most of the members are across the globe, we do meet when someone comes down. So this was one such meetup when Mumtu was in town and we did a short visit to school as well. And it is commendable that none of us lives in Thrissur anymore and still managed to come down to Thrissur for the meetup 😍

Neighbors meetup  : In our days, we had 90+ students in one division and there were 7-8 such divisions in each batch. So it is tough even to actually get to know the people in your own class and batch. But when you study in the same school from LKG till 10th and some times in the same subsidiary for PUC as well, you make friends beyond your classmates as some personalities do stand out. And when they all live in the neighborhood , why not have a get-together 😊  So that's how we all got together. Although we all live in the same area (at least earlier), most of us were meeting for the first time after school. And yeah there is an overdose of  Dhanya's here just the same way it was in school where most of the batches had 2-3-4 or even 7 Dhanya's in one class 😄

Dhanya and Co : I had written about Dhanya earlier so not adding anymore details here. We do meet often whenever we both are in Thrissur and sometimes even in cochin where she lives. So this was more of a customary meetup before the year ended 😄

There were few other meetups also with Ram's friends and also family. So I think the real world experiment did work and one important thing I realized is, we really loose track of the years that has gone by without meeting in this age of social media and virtual interaction. So I do plan to continue the same in the new year too. Let's see how it goes and how long I will sustain 😍  

Friday, January 03, 2020

Goodbye 2010s , welcome 2020s

Looking back at 2019 an the last decade, all I can say is an unparalleled decade comes to a close.

Personally, I was in a devastated state towards the end of 2009 after the loss of my parents and the future did look hopeless. I could have easily sunk into depression and there were days when I could barely get out of bed in the morning. I got through because I had supportive people in my corner to help me continue fighting.  So standing here 10 years later, I can proudly say I survived :)
And another big change was of course marriage. I was never the girl who dreamed of prince charming or a wedding. So this was definitely a huge milestone. I also lived in 4 cities during this time and considering my inertia, these shifts did teach me a lot.

Professionally, this was the time I have experimented a lot. I left my first job which was my absolute comfort zone and dived in to the chaotic startup world. It was a sea of leanings in all respects. Being mentored at NASSCOM and NEN, exposure to TiE, IAN etc was completely different experience. Also when you are expected to be jack of all trades, there were some skills which I picked up while trying to assist someone else and got hooked. Web development is one such area where I ended up buying so many domains just for the fun of creating the sites 😈  I did return to corporate after that but I guess once you have seen the world of creativity, it is difficult to fit in to the set mold. Let's see what this decade brings in ;)

There have been lots of unexpected changes around as well across the globe - from floods to earthquakes, fires to hurricanes, Mother Nature has shown her full force in the past 10 years. My house was also affected in one such incident - the 2018 floods that affected all of Kerala. It was a kind of reminder that nature cannot be controlled by mere humans although we claim to have conquered the space. And I guess that is the single most thing we need to be constantly reminded of while manipulating nature.

Anyways the 2020s are here, and with this brand new decade come new challenges and some new opportunities that will change the way we live
… will the 2020s offer more hope? Let us believe so 😊