Thursday, December 29, 2016

It’s a man’s world, but I really don’t think I’d want to be a man

I’m pretty sure there’s this recurring thought that passes through every girl’s mind every now and then, even if not very seriously… life would be so much easier if I was a guy!

This could happen when you’re stuck in office late night, and are fretting over how you’ll make it home. Or when you think twice before getting onto a sparsely crowded bus with only men. It happens when you get left out of a dirty men’s joke in office, or when your parents refuse to give you permission to go clubbing in Delhi. It happens every time you hear about learning to make a round chapatti, and it definitely happens when you’re on a road trip with a painfully full bladder and no clean restroom in sight for miles.

But then, there are times that I imagine life as a guy in this world, and I feel so much insane pressure that I feel very happy to be exactly who I am.

All the way from when we were kids, I always felt that a guy could be the best in studies, or a talented singer, but the one thing on which he was judged by peers always somehow came down to how he was at cricket. Because that’s what all the boys in school did during all their breaks. Every boy wanted to bat, and the ones who weren’t athletic enough were banished to field endlessly. But not playing was not an option. It’s what boys do.

And this display of physical masculinity doesn’t change through life. Sure, you can move onto tennis or snooker or some sport that suits you more. But I don’t think it’s still very acceptable for a man to claim he doesn’t like to play any sport at all. He’s judged. Way more than I am judged when I make the same statement. Because it’s easy to assume that I’m a delicate girly girl who wouldn’t want to break a nail. (That isn’t the real reason, though. I actually just suck at anything that needs hand eye coordination. So I’d rather just spend my time reading… Why spend time being bad at something when I can spend that time enjoying something instead?). But if a guy my age makes the same statement, I’ve seen the judgemental looks he gets.

Looks that are almost as bad as the derogatory jokes about men who can’t grow beards (yeah, like that’s a bloody talent!), men who have some effeminate characteristics (“woh jo gay hai?!” Let’s not even get started with everything wrong with the words and tone of that sentence), the rare guy who chooses to stay at home and take care of the household and kids while the wife earns instead. Like what’s with the pressure of being the man of the house?! In today’s world, why must the guy earn more, and be the decision maker of the house? What if he doesn’t want to be? What does 'Be a man!' even mean?!

When I chose to move to Mumbai before my marriage, A took a transfer to join me. I thought it was super sweet of him to change for me. But I didn’t think it was out of the world to expect him to. But the world did. The concept of a guy moving for a girl instead of vice-versa was very amusing to a lot of people, who let their thoughts be known rather openly by their smirks and jokes. A took it rather well, I’d say, and for that I’ll always be thankful to him. But what a load of crap to have to deal with to begin with!

And then I think, the worst of the lot. Boys don’t cry. Like, why the hell not? Why are little boys told to not behave like a girl? One small sentence to insult both boys and girls in one go. Just as bad as it is to say that you have to be careful with what you say to women or they’ll start crying, it’s horrible to expect men to not cry. It’s a bloody natural reaction. Stop gender-ising it!

Wow this ended up a very long post.
But like I said, it pretty much sucks to be a guy in this world.
Not that being a girl is a hoot.
But about time people realized feminism isn’t just about women, no?
Like really, about time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Year That Was... Again!

It’s that time of the year again… time for the annual round up of all moments happy and crappy! And some bullet points, because if you know me even one tiny bit, you know I love bullet points!!
  • This year started full of promises (like every year now and then, smirking and deceiving)… with a major annual vacation on the cards, awesomeness at work with another promotion and a generally happy 2015. As it turns out, it had quite a few surprises in store for me.
  • My health took a massive toll, complete with chronic tiredness, a back spasm and imported chicken pox.
  • My sweet lil ‘cozy’ house decided to enter its teenage years, and became a rebellious brat. Over the year we’ve dealt with leaking roofs, fungus on every surface with a special repeated love for my clothes, remotes that creepily decided to malfunction together, the magical cupboard where watches slowed down by an hour, light switches that commited suicide, and a very moody tube light that decided to function when you least expected it to.
  • Work, well, I’ll continue to follow the policy of not talking about work here. Let’s just say that despite a great start, satisfaction levels were rather low, and plummeted quite a bit as the year wore on.
  • I feel like I spent half the year literally sitting in an Uber on my way to or from office. But let me just say, that’s better than driving, or standing squished in the train. I think.
  • The last two months have been spent crazily house hunting, trying to reduce my dedicated love affair with Uber… but at the moment there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for that one. Oh well.
  • On the bright side, I started my tete-a-tete with Europe finally this year, and spent a beautiful two weeks exploring the ruins of Italy, the beautiful coast, and DDLJ sceneries of Switzerland. Until I managed to catch chicken pox, but that’s another story.
  • I’ve changed jobs, and, well, that’s that.
  • I had my first article published on a site I’d been devouring for years, and if nothing else, it felt timely.
  • I’ve experienced more joy than ever before with fostering more and more kittens. There have been ups and downs, some helped much more, and some with pure bad luck which resulted in complete helplessness from our side. And more than enough days you come home after a tiring day and find stuff overturned and on the floor and feel irritated at how the house smells. But then the kitten looks up at you innocently, and cuddles onto your lap and goes to sleep. And at that moment, everything, the whole year, is completely worth it.

Overall, this year has been a mixed bag, where I found it easier to remember the crappy stuff than the nice ones. But as per my theory (yes, another one!!), I alternate in my awesome and bawl-some years, so 2017, you’re eagerly and positively awaited!

I mean, no pressure.

But just be awesome, ok?

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Cho-Cha Returns!

Sometimes, I truly believe that when I have kids, specially a daughter, I won’t bother reading fairy tales to them. Not that I have anything against the Grimm brothers. On the contrary, their non-edited gory versions of the stories aren’t that different from my own writing (glass shoe full of blood because toes were cut off to fit the foot in…man!). But I do believe a large part of the dream of Prince Charming and happily ever after starts off at a very young age thanks to books like these. Growing up, Rom-Coms don’t help, and Bella Swan swooning over vampires and werewolves definitely takes feminism back quite a few years.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against romantic stories or happy endings, I DID read the entire Twilight series rather eagerly after all. But I do believe a lot of important things in life should not revolve around finding your Prince Charming. I hope you find your love, if that’s what you want, and live happily ever after. But I also hope that your own happiness doesn’t only depend on the ever after.

Take my love for American Chopsuey, for example.

American Chopsuey (which is frankly more Indian by now than American or Chinese) is one of the least liked dishes on a Chinese menu in India. The biggest reason being the fact that it’s sweet, and that’s rarely liked by spicy Indians.

On the other hand, it’s one of my favourite dishes.

But the biggest issue with the dish is the size of the serving, which is almost always too massive for one measly human being to devour. And thanks to that, I was always on the look-out for someone to share the dish with. While at home, my sister and I became best friends at the time of this meal and happily shared what no one else really liked. But once out of Delhi, I suddenly found myself Chopsuey-less.

And so it came to be… the random crazy belief that the one way I’ll know that a guy really is perfect for me, is if he also likes American Chopsuey.

Ya, go figure.

Years and multiple relationships (both Chopsuey-full and Chopsuey-deprived) later, of course this sounds beyond stupid.

And yesterday, having heard my sister recite similar Chopsuey-longing troubles (sans the silly Perfect guy theory, duh) it suddenly hit me.

I didn’t need a guy’s true love to be able to hog on American Chopsuey.
I just needed my own.

Sure I might not be able to finish it, but that’s what doggy bags are meant for!
Sure I’m about to gain weight.
And maybe give my sweet tooth an ache.
But I think it’s time to bring the Chopsuey Challenge back, no?

So whether alone, or with A (who will definitely be ordering something else!), or maybe with you, I’m gonna hog on a whole lot of American Chopsuey!

Know a place in Mumbai worth trying? Let me know!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Home Sweet Home

Disclaimer: This is a rant. Not necessarily a logical one. Definitely a cribby frustrated one. Feel free to skip this. And yes, I know happiness is not about materialistic stuff. So go, be happy, who's stopping you?!

Let's talk about Housing.

It’s the one thing that is by far the biggest headache I’ve faced in this cramped up litter box of a city. The one thing that Bollywood conveniently skips over in all their dreamy-starry-eyed-in-Mumbai stories. Yes, I’m in a bad mood. No, I’m not over-reacting.

It’s been six and a half years since I first stepped into this city, where I started with staying in a dilapidated PG, sharing a room with two other girls, paying a rent of 6k. Because that’s all I could afford. And that’s all I thought I needed. And life was good, for quite some time, until of course the ceiling collapsed in one room, and the ceiling fan in another. Then someone tried to break in through the window at another point of time, but that’s another story.

Salaries go up and so do basic needs. And then the wants. I have by now stayed in 6 different houses in Mumbai, for different durations of time, and been house-hunting for around half of those times.

And house-hunting in Mumbai is a surreal experience. Actually, yeah, that’s exactly the word, surreal.

From creepy brokers who spend more time checking you out than your requirement, to houses that are so horrifying that you wonder how people actually live there… from kitchens that would ensure that I don’t even enter them once (from the 3-4 times a year I might right now)… to washrooms where you literally bathe on top of the pot… from owners who think it’s perfectly normal to demand your life’s savings as deposit, and a pound of flesh as rent…. To brokers who you’re not completely sure might just have underworld linkages.

To the dream house, that seems just beyond your reach, that you start considering selling your soul for that comfortable bed and clean living.

And then everyone has an opinion.
People who have never searched for houses.
People living comfortably with their parents.
People so far from reality.

And first you laugh.
Then it starts creeping up on you.
The horrendous truth of it all.
Of how this might be the city of dreams.
But dreams remain just that.
Because while you chase your dream, you sell away parts of your life that would be basic requirements for sanity anywhere else.

And you wonder.
How you got yourself into this vicious cycle of un-pleasantry.
Where wholehearted happiness is always
Just a bit too far.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Of Growing Up and Ageing

I stood in the loud darkness outside my office, willing A to reach a little faster, all the while feeling the dull choke of cigarette smoke from all the meandering chimneys standing nearby. As luck would have it, all traffic jams of the world seem to occur outside my office compound, which always results in a spiralling boring wait on the road.

And just like that, yesterday, a guy asked me for directions.
Which I gave.
And then he introduced himself.
And then he made more small talk.
Small talk that seemed to be heading towards not-so-small directions.
It gets difficult to keep giving monosyllabic answers beyond a point.
So instead I picked up my phone and called A instead, and proceeded to talk to him for the next 5 minutes till he arrived.
Not that there was anything even mildly threatening about the guy.
Or weird.
Or shady.
Maybe he was just bored.
But I think more than anything else, he took me by surprise.
I can’t remember the last time a guy randomly tried to talk to me.

I think somewhere along the years flying by, time went from crazy evenings at pubs, meeting new people, flirting and enjoying yourself, to a tame life revolving around excel sheets, Uber rides home, and worrying about the maid’s tantrums.

Time went from being one of the few girls in an all guy’s team, to being yet another married girl hiding behind her cubicle.
Time went from a lot of attention, to startling randomly scattered experiences.
Time went from perfect skin to spots and the first signs of wrinkles.

But as narcissistic as this whole post has sounded, I don’t miss it one tiny bit.

Because after the excel sheet, and the Uber ride, I finally reach home, cranky as hell…but knowing there’s a cushiony diwan, a puffed up comforter, a laptop set up to watch the latest season of Black Mirror, and A to snuggle up to.

And life is, as it should be, when it should be.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Of Mumbai Rickshaws and a Few Good Men

My rather rocky relationship with Mumbai rickshaws goes back six years, ever since I stepped into Andheri West and realized that while Mumbai ricks are so much more economical than their Delhi counterparts, they are also that much harder to catch.

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to the disgusted looks they give when you mention your destination (Like…eewww…who goes to Oshiwara?!), the way they don’t even bother stopping while you try to flag them down, or how they’re suddenly more precious and rarer than diamonds when it rains. And it rains a lot in this city!

In fact, I’ve faced more rejection by Mumbai rickshaw-wallas than men and employers put together in my life.

And they taught me how to abuse in Hindi. Like, not actually taught me, but that’s what comes out when they refuse to take you where you want to go after an hour of being stuck on the road looking for them.

So last night, I was standing on the highway at a spot where usually it’s not that difficult to spot an empty rick, but thanks to the torrential rain they were nowhere to be seen. And slowly more and more people started crowding up looking for that knight in yellow-and-green armour, who when he would slowly roll by without stopping, would get his pick of destinations to go to.

And then, miraculously, I managed to flag one down, but the idiot in Schumacher mode, only managed to stop in front of another guy standing much further down the road. And the guy was about to get in, but then probably saw a desperate me huffing puffing down the wet road towards him, and offered the rick to me instead.

Now this might be the way it should have been, and this might be the city with amazing people, but I’ve barely ever witnessed either in my years here.

And so, I was shocked, not even just pleasantly surprised.

And so I decided to shock myself, and share the rick with him.

This might not sound like a big deal, but for any girl born and brought up in Delhi, offering to share your cab / rick with an unknown stranger at night is like going against the first rule of how to stay safe in this world.

But for once, I decided to repay his niceness with gratitude.

I did however barely talk to him throughout, or share my name or any details about me. Old habits die hard.

But I did turn the rick and take it into a galli out of my way to drop him at his friend’s house.

I did smile when he parted with an apple for a little beggar girl (the same one who loves fleecing people at Juhu circle every day) from the packet of apples he got from Kashmir for his friend.

And I did feel better after the ride, even if it meant I reached home a little late.

It’s sad that we live in a world where we have to think twice before doing something that should come as basic human nature to us. It’s sad that we’re all so hardened and cynical that any niceness offered is met with skepticism.

And it’s sad, that all that cynicism, is necessary.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Of Vacations and the Revenge of the Chicken

After months of what seemed like the biggest planning project I had ever taken on in my life, August finally happened, and with it our much anticipated Europe trip. Well our two-countries-in-Europe trip, but neither of us had been that direction before, so we were super excited.

Firstly, if you know nothing about Europe, it takes a LOT of time to get your itinerary and bookings right. Specially if you’re not doing the usual Thomas Cook type tours with the typical cities and touristy places to see. We did do those as well, because as Indians apparently a vacation isn’t really justified till you’ve taken a pic in front of a monument, but managed to throw in a lot of unconventional stuff, which we obviously ended up loving way more!

I don’t intend to bore anyone with the details, but if I think back about the trip now, some points do pop up in my head:

  • The best of the airlines can have the worst of service when you’re in a foreign country. One of our suitcases was misplaced en-route to Rome, and we went through all sorts of translation and unhelpful hell to manage to get it back before we moved onto the next city. I think both A and I almost cried with joy at the first view of our boring grey Samsonite. Never underestimate the happiness of seeing your own shampoo!
  • Rome is amazingly grand with its history. The Colosseum itself is enough to make you go Whoaaa when you first enter it. That said, it’s so much like India in terms of the people (both the warm and the crook types), the disregard for how difficult it is to get from one place to the next, and somewhere the resistance to a foreign language, it was uncannily comfortable.
  • I finally wore a bikini and swam in the clear blue sea, spending a day at the beach doing absolutely nothing at all. And that, I think, is my most cherished memory from this trip. Not the bikini bit, but just the fact that it’s okay to just stare at the sea and do nothing else. Not have places to be at, photos to take.
  • I think India is more prone to body shaming than a lot of the western world. Sure, there’s New York and California (and I’m sure a lot of other places which I have never been to) where everyone’s expected to look like a model or feel horrible about themselves… But it was so refreshing to see people of all ages and body shapes roaming around Europe wearing whatever they wanted, and no one cared! It was liberating, and inspiring, to say the least.
  • Switzerland is beyond beautiful. But more than that, it’s also full of extremely happy and helpful people. And they seem to have thought of every trouble a human being might face reaching their tourist sites, and have come up with a solution to that. Their trains, buses, as well as their highest peaks are disabled friendly. I can’t even think of getting onto a local train with a leg injury in Mumbai!
  • Indians are everywhere. And more often than not, their touristy behaviour is rude and embarrassing.
  • We met more than our share of extremely helpful people, especially in Switzerland. People who randomly stopped on the road simply because we were looking lost and gave us directions without being asked. People who spent half an hour helping us plan our day. And I will never ever get used to people stopping their cars in peak traffic hours just to let you cross the road. And in which other country could you forget your jacket in a train, have an attendant call up every station that train must’ve stopped at until it was identified, and have a ticket collector load it onto the next train back towards you?

The trip was amazing. Travel may be the in-thing and privilege of the newly stuck up bourgeoisie, but there is a reason travel is beautiful. It makes you realize how tiny your world really is. And makes you never want to go back.

Oh wait. That kind of means travel sucks.

Because I absolutely hate my life now.

Oh, and I somehow managed to catch chicken pox at the end of the trip, which I only realized two days later in Mumbai.

I’m that case study of the 29 year old who catches European chicken pox. I can almost hear the evil laugh of all the chicken ghosts haunting me.

Yup, now I sound more like me.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sexism and the Workplace

No, this has nothing to do with the Happiness Project, but everything to do with an article I had read quite some time back. An article that created a thousand thoughts and retorts in my head, but me being the lazy person that I am, I never really got down to actually putting them on paper (or to be more precise, MS Word).

And perhaps that’s for the best. It’s a sensitive topic, and writing about work is something I usually prefer steering clear of on my blog, if for no other reason, to at least not get fired for my words.

But this is something that really should be written about.

So when the article went viral recently, it saw a lot of friends and acquaintances jumping in and talking about how much they agreed with it. It’s the story of a girl in the advertising industry, and the insane amount of sexual discrimination she faced in her career. Let me at the outset be clear, I have not worked in the advertising industry, and if this is industry specific, I would not be aware of it. But at the same time, what she faced seemed so extreme, my first reaction was, what if she really is a horrible person to work with, and hence lost all those jobs and opportunities?

But then I wondered, what IF she was right? What IF she really did face that level of discrimination? What a horrible experience to have at work, over and over and over again. What if others are going through that as well?

At this moment, I have to say I’ve been lucky to have worked in organizations and teams where at least knowingly I have never faced discrimination of the kind mentioned by the writer. I haven’t been skipped for promotions because there was a guy in my team who got it instead. Nor have I been told that I am difficult to work with (yet). In fact, some of my bosses I’m pretty sure didn’t even realize I was a girl so to say, and for that I absolutely love them.

But that doesn’t mean the workplaces have been completely free of sexism.

Nobody knowingly has ever discriminated against me, I think.

And that’s the biggest issue. Everything is done without knowledge, without a thought… Things that are so harmless that they shouldn’t matter, and yet, added up over the years, they do.

As my luck would have it, I have always worked in roles where my team has majorly been made up of men, with women as a far minority, because somehow you just don’t have as many women who deal with numbers and excel. I don’t know why or how, but that’s how it seems to be. And it’s made no difference in my head. But over the years I’ve heard a lot of things.

I was jokingly told by a colleague that I shouldn’t expect a promotion in the team that I joined, since only girls with moustaches do well there.

I was jokingly told by a senior, how a pretty girl in the team manages to get all her work done quickly by our client, and I should try her methods as well.

A client, a senior head of department would watsapp me good morning every day on the pretext of getting an update on the project. Weirdly, my male colleague was asked for no such good morning updates.

Another client inferred that his colleagues were asking him to extend the project I was working on, so I stick around longer.

I’ve been reprimanded by a female colleague for wearing a dress (one which fell below my knee, mind you) in an organization where there were only seven women, as against a hundred men. Because, well, how can you dress like that in a place with dominated by men (Like, whaaaa???)?

And then there are the super subtle harmless ones. Harmless, but annoying. Ones that you can avoid so easily.

Don’t hire me because I’m a girl, and you need a better gender ratio in your team. Hire me because I was the best suited for the job.

Don’t assume I’ll order food for the team lunch, or decide where to dine just because I’m a girl. Ask me to do that because you like my choice in food.

If your values forbid you from abusing in front of women, then don’t. Don’t abuse and then apologize because I’m in the room. Whether or not I have an issue with expletives becomes irrelevant at that point. It just makes things awkward.

Don’t ask me leave office early because I’m a girl and it’s getting dark. How about you don’t work that late? Don’t make me miss out on important meetings that the men can attend, and women aren’t able to.

If I am not asking for special concessions because I have a meal to prepare / clothes to wash / housework to do / kids to get home to, then, don’t ask me to do anything at the workplace specifically because you think girls can do it better. Like, why should a girl present a bouquet to a guest speaker at the office? Like, really?

Work place behaviour is so complex, I find myself contradicting my own thoughts very often. I consider myself a feminist, and yet so many practicalities get in the way. Some people call it wanting the best of both the worlds, but this world isn’t perfect, and as much as I want to be equal to the men, I find I want some considerations. I don’t want to travel back home alone post 11pm. I do want my preferences and comfort levels to be taken into account when planning team outings. And if tomorrow, in the middle of a lot of work pressure, I was asked to choose between hiring a girl about to start a family (with promises of a maternity leave and a lot of shorter office days ahead), and a guy with the same experience, but maybe marginally weaker, I can’t honestly say who I’ll give the job to. And for that, I hate myself, and the current work environment, and pray that I never have to make that choice.

But people do make that choice, every day. And I don’t see that choice changing, unless we see a major overhaul of the entire work culture in this country. And maybe some things can’t be helped.

But these silly unknowing tiny sexist choices can.

Because really, what’s our excuse for that?

P.S. One of my biggest fears in life is that one day, when I’m leading a team, I’ll be labelled as a stereotypical bitchy female boss. Isn’t it weird that that should be my fear at the workplace? Not if I’ll be able to manage the job, but whether my juniors will dislike working with me because I’m a female boss, and most female bosses are absolute bitches? If they’ll comment on how it’s that time of the month for me, always? It’s funny how we never make that comment about cranky male bosses, no?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Of Uncle-Aunty Gyms and The Happiness Project

So of course I’ve been annoying people with reminders about their happiness projects, and gotten everything from grunts to confused looks. Also random texts about, yeh kya bakwass hai?

And no, don’t worry, I’m not explaining it all over again. But more importantly, what I’m seeing is different versions of the project popping up, and that makes it all worth it! You see, it doesn’t matter whether you made a list of resolutions and an excel to track it. Or whether it’s daily resolutions or doing something different that makes you happy every day. Because the entire point of this project was one simple thing, really, take some time out and think about what makes you happy. And all the variants are doing that, in one way or the other. And that’s really all that matters!

In related news, while I haven’t been super successful in most of my goals this week (missed hitting the gym in between, missed sleeping by 10.30 on MULTIPLE counts!), it still has been fun to think about these things at the end of the day and hope to do better tomorrow. On the other hand, I have actually found a tiny voice in my head chastising me for getting annoyed at work or elsewhere and poking me to see the brighter side, or at least create one. And that tiny voice, as annoying as it might be, helps.

The one goal that makes me the happiest though, is going to the gym. Now this is one activity I genuinely enjoy, I love the aching muscles at the end of a session, that reminder with each step that “Hey! You actually have muscles here dodo!”. And while I have visited gyms quite a few times in Andheri in hopes to sign up, I’ve been dissuaded rather easily. Yes, the timing and distance and need for sleep have been major reasons for not sticking to my earlier gym routine, but another major reason is, there is no such thing as an actual gym in Andheri West.

Let me explain.

Those of you familiar with Andheri West and Lokhandwala, would also be familiar with the majority of the population this little township boasts of. Yup, all the starlets and strugglers, and a lot of directors and producers. So, it’s hardly surprising when you realize that 90% of the Andheri West population is highly fit. In fact, fit is an understatement. Rippling muscles, six packs, and washboard abs describes it better. And while the entire area is filled with fancy gyms, all you find in them are already fit people. Already fit people who come to the gym as dressed up as when they go to the party. Because, that’s just how it’s done.

And then I enter the fancy gym. Baggy t-shirt and sweat and insecure fat. Conscious of how much the treadmill might shake, and how the 1kg dumbbell refuses to go over my shoulder. All the while looking at some TV star who was until recently fighting with a snake-turned-woman on screen flexing his pecks. With the snake-turned-woman flashing the latest branded sports bra and perfect abs near him. And chances of my stint with the gym lasting get considerably reduced.

But I recently discovered a small treasure in the midst of this protein shake jungle. A tiny gym, inside a society, with unfriendly timings and no fancy equipment ti records every centimetre of you and remind me how little I worked out, you silly pig. With an average membership demographic of 40+ years of age, this gym is full of real people, with real fat. And women who wear actual baggy t shirts on top of their sports bras. You know, because actual women sweat. And don’t always look like Nike Ads.

And I absolutely love it!

Even though the instructor suddenly decided I needed to do squats. And I couldn’t really get back up.

Even though I am now acutely aware that even my butt has muscles, and they can ache bloody murder.

Even though all the Uncles & Aunties can kick my ass at crunches.

I feel happy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Your Happiness Project

So now it’s time to actually get down to business. It might sound a bit tiring or tedious, but bear with me and read this through. In case you have no clue what I’m talking about to begin with, you might want to read the intro post to this project here. The original Happiness Project lasted a year, but given my lifestyle and tendency to really not manage anything long term, I’m proposing a 3 month project. A quarter sounds pretty doable, no? While that’s what the duration of my project will be, the beauty of this is there really is no format. Every project is unique, and you could choose to just plan a one month project, or an adventurous 5 year plan (who are you, exceptionally planned latter human being?!). In Gretchen Rubin’s words:

“Your happiness project can start anytime and last as long as you choose. You can start small (putting your keys away in the same place every night) or big (repairing your relationships with your family). It’s totally up to you.”

Resolutions, as mentioned in my earlier post, are integral to this project. They’re the pillars of deeds that will add tiny increments of happiness to your day. And hence, it’s highly important to take some time to think about what your resolutions will be. You could try answering the following questions, truthfully to yourself:

What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing? What did you love to do as a kid but no longer have time for, or are maybe too embarrassed to do now?

What makes you feel bad? What are sources of anger, irritation, boredom, frustration, or anxiety in your life? One of the facts to accept about happiness is that it isn’t just positive actions that lead to happiness, it’s also the lack of negative actions. Do you get annoyed returning to a messy house (I know I do)? Do you have a bad temper, and snap at people, but later feel bad about it? Are you so negative at work that you sap all your motivation? Maybe try to eliminate some of the factors that annoy you? Maybe try to change your behaviour or attitude towards your work? Maybe remember to count to 10 every time someone says something stupid, instead of responding sarcastically?

Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change your job, city, family situation or circumstance? Are you living up to your expectation of yourself? Are you the best wife, mom or team member you know you can be?

Are you growing? Are you learning new skills? Meeting new people? Understanding different cultures? Reading news? Listening to different opinions?

Answering these questions can help identify areas that need work, or activities you’d like to undertake. Once done, form specific goals that seem measurable. For example, ‘Go to the gym everyday’ is more specific than ‘Get fit’. Again, these aren’t new year’s resolutions. These are simple deeds meant to become habits to lead to a happier, satisfied you.

Finally, figure out a way of tracking your happiness goals. I’m using a print out of this excel, and putting ticks and crosses each day. You could customize this same sheet for yourself, or use a habit app, create your own chart, post its, diary, whatever rocks your boat! Though, I have to mention, research indicates things written and drawn by hand are ingrained far more than prints and apps. Just saying.

So to get your started, I’m outlining what my happiness resolutions are like. I’m starting off with the ones I have for the first month, starting yesterday:

  1. Go to the gym: A recent tryst with a back spasm brought into light what I was ignoring for a long time. I had the muscles and stamina of an 80 year old. 14 hours a day spent sitting in office or a cab, followed by sleeping just doesn’t help. And with my current hours, it’s always too easy to say there’s no time to actually exercise. It’s true, but easy. So once the physiotherapist looked at me with pitying eyes, I realized it was time to make things a little difficult. I signed up for a gym near my house, and now am in the process of trying to get up at 5.30 AM every day and push myself out of my comfy bed and onto a treadmill. Moreover, this isn’t just about getting healthier. I’ve spent my whole life battling with weight. I’ve never been fat, but never really slim. And yo-yo-ing weight doesn’t do much for the self esteem. I find myself rather depressed when I try to try on jeans, and realize my waist size has gone up, or try to fit into last year’s dress only to realize it’s no longer possible. That’s the kind of sadness I can really do without!
  2. Sleep by 10.30pm: This is something I’d love to do, but given I only reach home post 9, is quite a challenge. It’s just so tempting to catch yet another show or movie on TV, or just stay put on the sofa out of sheer inertia. More than anything, I hate the thought of my day including only office and sleep. But given that now I’m trying to fit in more stuff into my day, and that my day’s starting earlier, getting into bed by 10.30 is more a requirement than a good-to-have point on this list!
  3. Read half hour every day: Simply because reading actually makes me feel calm, gives the feeling of time well spent, and alleviates my bad mood pretty fast. I do usually manage to catch up on my kindle during travel hours, but if not, half hour before bed is a must!
  4. Don’t crib!: Now THIS is the biggie. If you think getting up at 5.30 is going to be hard, this is going to be so much tougher for someone like me! It’s just so easy to get grumpy and sarcastic about life and everything in it. It’s so easy to be pissed off by taxi drivers who refuse to take you where you want, a job that’s too demanding, colleagues who don’t get along with you, even family and your spouse. Life is difficult. And it’s SO easy to make it sound exactly that, difficult. But, if there’s one thing I’ve realized, my mood rubs onto those around me and vice versa. Even if I start my day on a good note, a cribby colleague get’s me cribbing as well. And then everything looks so much worse than it is! I get annoyed even more than I should, react worse, snap harder. So this one is about me making a conscious effort to take things in their stride, to try and see the positive, to realize that life isn’t as bad as I’m making it seem. And if you do hear me crib, point it out, just so I’m more aware, just so I’m reminded to make an effort. Because I’ll need all the help I can with this one!

Other resolutions for the coming months include learning belly dance, sorting out my finances, finally writing my novel, concentrating more on my freelancing etc. You get the drift!

So this is what I propose, think about the questions posed above, make a list of everything you think could make you happy, or less annoyed at the very least. Shuffle them to see what you want to tackle head on first, and distribute amongst the length of your project. I’d suggest start small, maybe half an hour dedicated to painting every day, maybe an hour of  ‘me time’ away from all family duties, maybe some time in office dedicated to work that you love… the possibilities are endless!

I’d love for you to share your goal chart online on Facebook or here in the comments, and let me know of your status and how you’re doing. Of course, while I would love this, it’s totally up to you. If you’d rather keep it a secret, if there are certain resolutions that are private, feel free to keep it with you. I’ll be sharing all my updates here, and would love to hear from you! So don’t forget to tag me if you do share something publicly! Put up your gym selfie... Your little notes to self... A pic of your progress chart. Document it however you like! Let’s catch up at least once a week to see how we’re doing, no? Because while this might not work, what if it does? What do we really have to lose, by trying to be a little happier?

So go on, #GetHappy!

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Happiness Project

I recently chanced upon a book by Gretchen Rubin, in which she documents a project of self-discovery undertaken by her called, you guessed it, The Happiness Project.

Now anyone who knows me even half-decently, would pretty much know I’m one crib-pot of a human being. It isn’t something I’m proud of, but the simple fact is, shit happens, and my life seems to be a bit full of it. Given this awesome nature of mine (Oh, and sarcasm seems to totally flourish in my head), I was naturally intrigued by the topic of this experiment. The simple thought that happiness could be turned into a controllable year-long project with actual results seemed a bit laughable. But intriguing, nonetheless.

So I spent an entire day pouring over her book, and was pleasantly surprised. And a bit inspired.

This isn’t necessarily just a project for people who are miserable, looking to be happy. In fact, her research revealed that majority of people claim to be happy. And I’m sure, so are most of you. In fact, despite all my cribbing, so am I. After all, I have a good life, a happy marriage, a decent job, a loving family and good health, all basic markers of happiness.

But do I think I’m as happy as I have the potential to be? Definitely not. There’s always a happier image in mind, of how life should be, rather than is.

And what do we have to do to be as happy as possible?

The truth of the matter is, while grand gestures like quitting your job to travel, moving cities or countries, taking a sabbatical are often on our minds (well, at least on mine), they’re tough to accomplish and usually far off. So it’s a little sad to stay sad in lieu of them, isn’t it?

The Happiness Project is actually about identifying tiny deeds to be done every day that could increase your happiness. And I don’t mean like tiny deeds of kindness and selflessness (though if that’s what makes you happy, sure, go ahead!). I mean absolutely selfish things, done purely after introspecting what you’d like to do, or not do, that could contribute that tiny marginal amount of happiness in your day. It could take some time to identify these deeds (or resolutions as Gretchen called them), or they could pop up in your mind as the most obvious thing ever.

And unlike New Year’s resolutions, which are literally meant to be broken, these deeds are divided across the months. Start with a few small changes, track them on a daily basis, and next month add a few more!

You’re reading this because either I tagged you, or you somehow managed to tumble upon my blog. Either way, as it’s quite obvious by now, I’m embarking on a Happiness Project of my own, and I’d really like to encourage you all to do the same.

It will require some introspection, some nerdy tracking and quite some bit of will power. But isn’t it all totally worth it if at the end of it all, you feel better… happier?

Thousands of people across the world claim their projects worked.

So, what’s the harm in trying?

I’ll put up further details about exactly how to go about this project, and my own project resolutions soon (since this post has already become a bit too long). I hope some of you find it in you to take this up, because I’d love to see how it’s helping, and how different it can be for each person, and share our progress and experiences. Either way, I’m going to be boring the crap out of you with my own experience here, so, oh well!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Of Zombies & Life

The other day as I sat watching Zombieland, yet another zombie movie, albeit a funny one, I suddenly felt very amused with our love for zombie movies. And by us, I mean all humankind of course, because we just love to generalize, don’t we?

There’s something so captivating about seeing the hero and his family run all over the world from the drooling bleeding brain-dead zombies, while everyone around them is devoured and turned (like EVERY zombie movie ever made).

And it’s so so ironic.

Because the real zombies sit outside the TV screen, captivated by this weird brain dead species, when really their brains died years ago without them ever realizing it.

The real zombies wake up every day, go slog at work, come back home, eat and sleep.
The real zombies manage to not even write a decent blog post in months, because they’re just too exhausted to do anything.
The real zombies crib, and then wake up and do the exact same thing all over again.
The real zombies spend their weekend sleeping, or glued to the idiot box, laughing at what they think are zombies.

While really, the joke’s on them now, isn’t it?

And it’s so sad, because at least in the movie, the hero survives and manages to finally find a cure to save the remaining world. Or a way to survive without giving in. A way to live.

And I’d kind of always hoped I’d be that hero.

But then, this is real life.

And here I sit, staring at my excel sheet, dreading the two hour traffic ridden route back home, hopelessly trying to write, and cribbing.


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