Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happiness Lies In Small, Simple Things

During our courtship period, one day Sanjay asked me casually, 'what do you ultimately want from life?' and without any delay I replied, 'I want to be happy'

Another time during a discussion with a friend she mentioned, 'is happiness all?' and I told her, 'for me, being happy is all'. And I wasn't lying or trying to be modest. To me, life's ultimate aim is to be happy. Atleast that is how it is for me. 

I do things that make me happy. I try to be around people who make me happy. I stay away from things and people who make me unhappy. Period. 

There are innumerable things that give me pleasure. There are countless people I have met who have made me smile and given me memories that still bring a pleasant curve to my lips when I think about them. And there is one thing quite common in all these memories. 

(Having sweet moments with Pahal)
These are mostly about small, simple things. Nothing complex. Nothing too over rated or difficult to achieve or epic or too good. These are just small, little things that have given pleasure in some way or the other. 

One can derive happiness from anything that he enjoys doing. It can be when you do things for others. Or when you set a goal for yourself and achieve it. Or when you feel optimistic about life. Or when you are with your family having good moments of togetherness. 

Right now I am in M.P. on a short holiday with my family. Today morning while Pahal laid asleep, Sanjay and I talked about various things. Nothing too complex there as well. Not about his official policies and decision making dilemmas. Very basic things like what stories appeal more to people than others. Or what clothes would we wear for the Jungle Safari today. We also talked about some important things in our life. About how a happy married is the backbone of a happy life (in case you are married). 

Last evening we laughed our heart loud for over an hour when Pahal tried to enact a play and we followed her silly instructions. 

About an hour ago when I was trying to feed her, her daddy gave a statement and I pretended to reprimand him. Pahal, now being a big girl, figured that out and said, 'mumma.. don't pretend. I know you are pretending and so is Papa. But I will not eat this because I know both of you are pretending'. I had my jaw drop when I heard her saying this but at the same time, I made me realize that she is growing up. And soon she would be telling us things. 

There are millions of such moments that genuinely make us forget the rest of the world for a while. These are the moments that club together and give us a happy life. 

(Jumping with joy)
Happiness is not an entity which is to be grabbed or bought or stolen or created. It is an everyday joy. The pleasure in small, simple things we do in life. 

It is the result of what we do and how we take it. 

Pahal wasn't eating at all and I was about to lose my temper when she said that both of us were pretending. I could have reacted with anger because she was coming up with new excuses each time I tried to give her a bite. But I chose to laugh and hug her when she out smarted us. Why? Because I am here to live happily. 

I want to be happy. I have chosen to be joyous. 

And not to forget, sometimes happiness can be something as simple as opening a bottle of coca-cola or eating that damn piece of cake or buying a new top. 

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

True Story: Let Forgiveness Rule and Deceptions Die..

Today's true story comes from Nimarta. She has previously penned short story 'Of Fries and Fairytale Endings' and 'Always Listen to Your Instincts' and also a guide 'Seven Day Guide To Surviving a Break Up' for the blog. Her short story 'Of Fries and Fairytale Endings' is an all time popular post on the blog. Read her on touching true story:

This is a story that I've had the most difficulty writing or talking about. You’ll understand why as you read on.

About three years ago, I met the man I thought I was going to marry. I met him right after I had just ended a soul-sucking, on-again-off-again relationship and I was just sick of it all. I'd been searching for love, but given my family history and all the drama with men I've been through, I lost hope along the way and became a skeptical person who didn't believe in love. 

But meeting him brought hope into my life and for the first time, I took a leap of faith and allowed myself to believe in happy endings.

He was the first man I ever brought home to meet my family. I loved him, my family loved him, hell, even my dogs loved him. He seemed to be the perfect man who understood me and loved me the way I am. 

Then one day he told me he had cancer.

My world turned upside down.

I put my life on hold. Turned down a job offer in Europe. Fought with family. Alienated myself from friends.

I cried myself to sleep every night for two months, praying and asking why.

Wait. Before you jump to conclusions, let me stop you right here.

This is not a tragic story where my lover dies and I’m left with a huge hole in my heart and vow to be single for eternity. This is also not an inspirational story where a man fights for his life, with his girlfriend by his side.

This is a story about deception.

It turned out he lied about the cancer. Lied to me. Lied to my parents. Lied to my sister. 

But that wasn't all. He asked to borrow money, which of course I happily gave. He also lied about everything else, including what he did for a living.

In fact, I don't think I ever knew him at all.

I had been through breakups before, and had gone through family troubles when I was young, but those incidents weren't a match for the pain I felt when this happened. It was as if someone ripped my heart up into pieces. 

I was broken and sunk to what I believe was the lowest point in my life thus far. I isolated myself from friends and family - ashamed of my own stupidity. 

What hurt the most wasn’t that he lied to me or that he took my money. It was that he took away the last glimpse of hope I had.

That's when I gave up. 

Screw relationships, screw love, screw it all. Everything was a lie. There's no happy ending waiting for me. 

And with that thought, I locked the door to my heart and threw away the keys so that even I couldn't get in. I figured there was no place for my heart in this loveless life. 

I started dating men I saw no future with. Men who explored the curves of my body but never the corners of my mind. 

I went through a series of unsatisfying relationships and made a hobby out of accumulating pain. I told myself I would never forgive this man for ruining my life. I was determined to hate him forever, and clung tightly onto the anger and resentment for the past three years. 

A few months ago though, I came to the realisation that 'hate' was too big a burden to carry. It drained the life out of me, and something needed to change for me to live a fulfilled and happy life. I knew what the answer was, but I had been resisting all along: the only way I could free myself was to forgive him. But how could I, after everything he's done? 

I then learned that the definition of 'forgive' is 'to give up the right to resent someone or the need to punish them'. Forgiving someone doesn't mean you condone their behaviour, it simply means you stop resenting them and in doing so, set yourself free. 

And that's exactly what I did. I wrote this man a note to say I forgave him, and meant every word of it. 

What happened afterwards was a sense of liberation like I've never experienced before. All this time I've been carrying around a heavy bag filled with anger and hatred, and now that I've thrown the bag away, it's as if a huge weight has been lifted. 

It's not easy to forgive someone who's hurt you, and definitely not easy to restore your faith in humanity. But that's really the only way to heal your wounds and experience love and happiness. For the first time in my life, I can say I am genuinely happy. I wake up each day feeling grateful for being alive. I see love all around me, and I have faith that love is waiting for me :)

I'd like to leave you with this last thought: let's not fill our hearts with bitterness, no matter the circumstances. Life is too short and precious to give up on love.

Dear Nimarta, 

Here is my message to you! - Surabhi

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Moments of Togetherness Are Moments of Strength

Family is our biggest source of strength. No one can deny the importance of family and the confidence and the sense of security it instills in us. 

There are days of sullen dullness, lack of confidence, lack of love for one-self and the days when we do not know how to move on. These are the days when our loved ones, our family, friends and well wishers come to our rescue and provide us with the love, security and self respect that we need the most at that moment. 

I have had bad times. Times when I wanted to just get lost away from this maddening world. Times when I wanted no body around me. Days when I simply sulked over some silly thing and didn't do a productive thing for days in a row! 

Now when I look back, I can clearly see times like these would have got the worst out of me, had my friends and family were not around. 

(Sharing a hearty laugh with my sister) 
In 2008 when I went to Netherlands to study MBA, the pressure of arranged marriage was mounting on me. Papa wanted me to get married, after all I was 27 already and there were no signs of marriage. 

That is when my sister whose marriage was getting delayed because of mine stood by me. Poor girl, she had to bear the brunt of Papa's insistence but she never said a word to me. Infact, she always listened to me patiently and concurred with whatever I had to tell her about my feelings of finding THE ONE.

My mum stood by me too and kept telling me that in the end, it would all be okay, else it won't be the end. 

Then there was my youngest sibling - my brother. After I got married and had issues with (however tiny) with Sanjay, I asked my brother if I could look look upto him for a refuge (yeah, I can be quite dramatic at times) and without thinking for a split of second, he answered just what I had expected him to say - ofcourse, yes! 

(Looking alike at Ross & Smith Islands)
In those troubling times of emotional turmoil, I had friends who, despite their busy schedule, took out time to hear me out. I had the same rant over n over again but they never got tired of listening to me. Atleast they never showed it to me. 

(My three best friends)
My bestie Chandana. She and I talked for about more than an hour almost everyday. One day she even took an off while I was in Netherlands and we skyped more than four years that day. And let me know if felt like a big, thorny rock was lifted off my chest. 

Then my ex-room mate and a very dear and close friend T (I fondly call her T) who always has the most perfect and concise reply to my questions. 

'Don't think about it Su. You can't change it now. You should only focus on the future actions now. Let it be there where it belongs to - your past', she would reasonably suggest. 

My dearest friend Neha who always shows me the different and a new perspective each time I lose sight of things and people around me. 

And why do I even go this far when I have the biggest pillars of support who live with me here? 

(Getting kissed by her)
Pahal. This tiny girl sometimes says the best things one wants to hear. 

'Mumma, you are my cutuuuuu sa.. ' or 'Papa, why should mumma do all the work in the house?' and then she calls her papa for things like cleaning her potty!!! :D 

And finally, there is Sanjay. My ultimate source of all things nice. 

(Marking five years of togetherness on Karvachauth)
'I just want you to be happy. That is all. Stay happy for your happiness is my goal'

Does one ever need more than such bunch of people to live a good life

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ask Womanatics: Should I Go For Second Child?

Question:  Hi Surabhi, I have written to you before. You are aware of the fact that my marriage is troubled. My husband is there just for the name sake. His financial standing is also not very well. I am working and I take care of most of the expenses. 

I have a four year old daughter. She has changed my life for the good and I am extremely happy with her. Though my marriage is just doing okay. My husband still continues to be distant and I am the one who takes care of most of the things in the marriage but things have improved since the birth of my daughter.

But now I want a second baby. My husband also wants.

Since I am working, my daughter is alone for the most of the day. Usually I come home by 8:30 and when I reach home, she hugs me and cries and asks me not to go to office. Initially I thought all kids do that but now I have realized that mine is lonely. Which is why I am thinking of a second baby. 

Maybe if we have another baby, my daughter will have company at home and she can enjoy at home with her sibling. She will feel lonely and she will also not miss me that much.

I have considered quitting lot of times but because of our financial commitments, quitting is not an option.

But then I have doubts about second baby as well. I understand that once the second baby is here, his/her expenses will also be on me. I will have to take care of everything for the baby. Also, right now I am able to fulfill all the wishes of my daughter but once the second child is here, my daughter may have to compromise.

And on top of it, my marriage is in doldrums and is far from perfect.

What do you suggest? Should I have another baby because I feel my elder one is lonely or should I just be practical and not take any more responsibilities?

Answer: I very well remember conversing with you on emails and I am glad things have improved in your marriage.

Having a baby or not is a woman's personal choice. Only the woman, who is giving birth, has the right to make the decision. Others can only give their suggestions.

I don't think I have the capacity to suggest you anything at this point of time as I do not have a fixed opinion about two kids. I too have a four year old daughter. Sometimes I also feel she must be lonely and we should have two kids but other times I am happy that I just have one baby to take care of. 

If you are not very clear about your decision, maybe you can take some time.

Try to explore other options for your daughter's company - you can take up a less time-consuming work assignment, or work from home or try another job that gives you more time at home.

I am sure you must have already tried these options but still you can try for the sole purpose of keeping your child company.

I have a friend who works with a MNC. She deliberately chose a company that had a creche in their premises and thus my friend was there with the baby. every two hours or so she would go down and take a check on her baby. You can explore such kind of possibility as well before plunging into the decision.

Finally, it is your decision. I agree having siblings is a good thing. I have siblings and I know how much of a support they are for me.

If you decide to go for the baby, then take the decision with full conviction. Do not get into it with doubts in mind. 

True, another baby would mean lot of expenses and extra responsibilities but joy would also be abound.

Think about it. Talk to women who are in your situation. Speak to your husband. Tell him that since he is not contributing financially, maybe he can contribute in baby-sitting or helping you around the house.

I hope you are able to make up your mind. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Starting A New Life

The only thing constant in life is Change. 

Any kind of change, big or small, brings newness. This newness sometimes leads to a new life.  

There are many instances that take a leap in your life marking the beginning of a new chapter of life. 

If you ask me, I led a new life at various stages - when I got into college and then when I went away from home for work. A totally new life awaited me when I went to Netherlands for my MBA and similarly life was different once again when I returned to India. 

My marriage, birth of Pahal and my decision to quit job and move to Andamans are some of the critical times when I started a new life. Similarly, life seemed new again when I left Andamans and moved to New Delhi and set up a home here last year. 

This change that leads us onto a new direction of life signifies growth. It means we are moving forward and we are learning lessons and applying them in life. 

For a woman, getting married and becoming a mother are two times when her life takes a big turn. 

(Our engagement in March 2009)
In 2009 when I got married to Sanjay, I knew my life was going to be different from what it was until now. After marriage, my decisions would not only be mine any more. I would be ubiquitously carrying my husband's name and reputation along with me everywhere. I would now be somebody's wife and someone's daughter-in-law.

Late night phone chats with friends would be gone and so would be crazy, impromptu sessions of maggie making and late night movie watching. 

But I was also aware of the fact that with marriage, I was now going to be with someone. Somebody who cares for me and loves me. 

I would now have a 4 am friend, who sleeps next to me. 

Accepting marriage was relatively easier for me because I wanted to be with somebody for long. What was difficult to accept was my status of being jobless. 

I completed my MBA from Netherlands in 2008 and came back to India where I joined IBM as a Business Analyst. I had a cool job and I had friends back at the flat where I lived. Life was good. 

A year later I decided to marry Sanjay. Life was beautiful. 

A month later, we had to move to Andamans. 

This simple move involved a complex decision to make. 

I had to either quit my job or live away from Sanjay. I chose former. 

When life gives you unexpected situations, it is not always easy to  make choices. In such cases, there are no choices. There are just two ways. You need to opt for one. 

I opted for family and let go of my MBA, job and any kind of future career prospects. 

It was not easy for me and I have chronicled my journey in two posts here on the blog. My story was also published on Good Housekeeping

But even while I decided to let go of my career like you decide to chuck rotten tomatoes, I had my own doubts. How would I cope up with life in a slow place like Andamans? What would I do in the day? How would I pass my time without going to office? How would I react and what would I answer when people ask me what I do? 

It took me time to adjust to the slow paced but calm and peaceful like in Andamans. I slowly learnt that being busy is not a luxury. It is stress. 

I realized that life is made up of simple things and little joys. 

And now I was ready to experience these joys. These tiny things that make up the big things in life. 

Slowly, I began to take pride in being called Mrs. Sanjay and slowly I was ready to embrace motherhood. 

(With six months old Pahal)
When Pahal came into my life, she transformed me into a totally different but better person. 

Those two years of being a newly married and new mom were certainly tough in some senses but they made me grow. They took my life forward. They taught me lessons and I am happy that they made me a better person. 

Btw, came across this housing ad. Found it interesting and thus sharing it here.


Monday, March 9, 2015

A True Love Story!

Note: Rashmi Nair sends a beautifully written love story, a story inspired by real life.  Read on and feels those goose bumps of love. Don't forget to share your views in the comments.

If I really had to pin point the moment I fell for her it would have to be the first night our group went to Tavern after work. Tavern was a recently opened watering hole and everyone was raving about the great ambience and the wonderful bands that performed there. 

“Ajoy! Can’t believe you haven’t tried out the place!” exclaimed an enthusiastic colleague! So that evening he insisted on taking our bunch of IT nerds. It was a lively place with dim lights and with a lit up stage at the far corner and a well stocked bar next to it with glistening bottles in the light. The tables were booked so we took up our places at the bar stool and started surveying the place. 

A band had just got on “That band is amazing they do wonderful rendition of Coldplay” enthused Sen. My knowledge of rock bands was beyond pathetic! 

It was then I heard that throaty laugh which would break into tinkling soft giggles. I looked around to find her laughing, throwing her head back, her hair catching the red dim light in the background giving it a purple hue, she looked magical. She was sitting with the some musicians; they were cradling their guitars and were probably in line to perform. I thought she was a musician too. In her leather jacket and high boots she looked liked those artists Sen kept raving about.

“Ajoy my dear friend she is galaxies beyond your league, so forget about it” said Mohit catching my eye. “Hey c’mon, what does beyond your league even mean?” “I’m sure I can have a conversation with her”

“Oh ya? About what? How fun the IT sector is?” joined in Sen “Or tell her about the classical singer you are named after” they burst out laughing.

But I knew I had to see her again, even if it was to just creepily stare!

So I quickly made Tavern the official celebration place for Persistent Systems Private Limited. I ensured every department came there for something or the other and I ensured I follow them too!

Before long I was a regular and on first name basis with the manager Roy! I soon found out her name was Donna and she was the music manager at Tavern.

“Hey Ajoy have you met Donna” asked Roy. As usual I was at a birthday celebration of someone I didn’t know from my company!

“Hey A…Joy” laughed Donna “I have seen you around; you’re one of the regulars” “So you enjoying the music?” 

“It’s cool,” I mumbled.

She smiled and walked away. 

Oh my god! What was wrong with me? I’m from IIT Kharagpur, I did my internship in Germany I am a Manager at a prestigious IT company and all I could manage was ‘cool’! And to think I had imagined all the great and interesting things I would talk to her about. I had even researched on the rock music scene in India!

One day as I was leaving the pub at closing hours like nearly every day I saw Donna waiting outside, she was looking for a cab.

“Hey it’s a JOY” she exclaimed when she saw me.

“Hi where is your car? I asked.

“It’s not returned from servicing it seems they will deliver it tomorrow”

 “I can drop you, where do you stay?”

“I stay at Emerald Park, is it on your way?”

“Off course I am headed in that direction” I smiled.

Sen and Mohit looked at me with their mouths wide open. I lived in the opposite direction!

We drove on. 

“So what are your favourite rock bands?” she asked.

Before I could open my mouth and shoot out well rehearsed rock bands, she opened the glove compartment going through my CDs of Hindustani classical music. 

“Oh my god what is this? Are you some famous classical singer?” 

“If that was true I’d be a well preserved 60 year old” I laughed showing her the back of the CD which had the photo of Pandit Ajoy Chakroborty.

“My parents were a big fan and they named me after him and coincidentally I’m also Chakroborty”

“Wow! You don’t have a single rock cd in here” “So what you doing at Tavern every day?” 

“I am broadening my musical palette” I replied with all the sincerity I had practiced.

She burst out laughing.

“So do you stay with your parents?” I asked in desperate attempt to change the topic.

“My parents stay in Bangalore; I stay here with two of my friends. One is a flight attendant and the other is a PR manager.

Unfortunately we reached her building too soon.

“Why don’t you come up?” she asked 

“No, it’s ok some other time” the fact Donna was talking to me, coupled with the fact she wanted to spend more time just froze my feet and my brain and I went on auto pilot!

Just then one of her roommates came out. “Hi who is this?” 

“Ukti meet Ajoy, Ajoy meet Ukti, and she is the PR manager I was telling you about.

We chatted near her gate for a while on random stuff; I don’t recollect what I said or did as I was on auto pilot mode.

The next time I was at Taverns, Donna came up to me “Hey you seeing anyone?” I was taken aback “I..mmm I mm” 

“Oh god! I didn’t ask if you are a virgin!” she laughed out loud. “You remember Ukti? 

Well she was asking about you, so I thought I’d try and set you guys up!

“Umm thanks Donna but I’m actually not dating anyone right now” I stammered

“Saving yourself for marriage are you?” she laughed teasingly and walked away.

Thankfully she never brought up Ukti again. 

We continued having our little chats in the pub. She would come and sit with me whenever she had a little time, sometimes she would join for a drink.

“Hey you know Arkas? They have a concert coming up, they are very happy we gave them their first break! So they gave us free passes. You want to come? Improve your musical palette? She winked at me.

We went to the concert.

There was the lead singer Ryan in his tattoos and leather pants and flowing hair flaying his guitar all over the stage. 

“Isn’t he just amazing!” exclaimed Donna she along with the entire crowd were cheering with their arms outstretched and swaying to the loud noise which was supposed to be music.

“Ya he is amazing alright” I said shrugging my shoulders, trying to sound earnest.

Donna turned around, looked into my eyes and said “You really are a joy you know that?” 

“Ya a lot of aunties tell me that” I said sheepishly.

She laughed and held my hands.

I couldn’t help myself and in the background of throbbing music and jumping people I said “I love you, you know that?” 

She smiled. She blushed. We kissed.

That was 5 years ago, the most beautiful and painful times of my life. I got sent to US for a project. Donna left Tavern and joined a media company in Mumbai. 

Our relationship went through many ups and downs. It underwent the test of long distance relationship. It made us realize that we loved each other and like the famous line in the movie When Harry met Sally “when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

I returned from US yesterday and tomorrow I take a flight to Bangalore, I have to ask Donna’s parents something.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Little Stories of Optimism

Dictionary defines Optimism as, 'the belief that goodness pervades reality'. 

Optimism is being hopeful. Believing that eventually all would be well. Optimism is looking at the brighter side. The tendency to believe that goodness wins over evil. 

In practical life though, optimism simply means 'finding goodness around'. In today's chaotic times, if you can find calmness in turmoil, you are highly optimistic. It means finding happiness in little things. Being sensitive to the smallest of the goodness around and acknowledging it. 

To me personally, optimism is looking forward to life. I want to live. I want to keep living for long and that is my foundation of optimism. I somehow find a thing or other that makes me want to be here in this world and enjoy its realm of life. 

I draw my optimism from my family. From my little daughter, who sleeps tugging into me tightly while she rolls her tiny fingers in my hair tangling it all. From my husband who never says sorry but hugs me warmly even after we have had a tiff. My source of optimism are my friends who affectionately tell me, 'it isn't your fault'. 

I have these small, little stories of optimism all around me that keep me glued to the very spirit and zeal of life. 

Last week, I was quite upset about a mishap that took place in my life. I didn't know what to do, who to look forward to. I was quite excited about the happiness that was soon going to be there in our lives but before it could blossom, it left us. 

That week, I spoke to my friends. Even from the hundreds of miles of distance, they could make me feel better. They led me onto the path of healing that consequently led to optimism. 

When I get sick tired of sitting at home and watching my friends make business trips abroad, I miss my job. I wasn't too good at it but I wasn't that bad either. I look at their pictures, enjoying the awesome views but feeling sad for my own dreams that only flutter on the ground without any wings. 

In those moments of utter helplessness, my kiddo comes and hugs me. She plants a kiss on my cheeks and asks me to play with her in the ground. 

Her words, her touch of hand bring me back to the ground and I realize that she is my job now. She is my dream. She is the trip I have taken and I would keep joyously enjoying it. 

At times I get desperate. Frustrated that the blog isn't prospering the way I had once imagined to. Upset that my book is still lying unfinished. There is no hope for me. 

That is when, he calmly tells me that good things take time to ripen. Perseverance pays like nothing else. He shows me the ray of light emerging from the horizon that I can not see with my naked eyes. 

The day I impulsively decide to stop blogging, one of you sends me an email telling me how my words are beginning to change their lives for good. 

This is optimism for me. 

My family, well wishers, friends, readers and my home around that keep re-iterating to me that goodness pervades reality. That eventually all would be well. 

What and who are your sources of optimism? Let me know.  
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