Internet Comment Wars and Me

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I’ve had a lot of the internet over the past few days. I actually started doing what I usually refrain from; I wrote posts about a current issue that I feel strongly about and expressed my opinion. I used to keep out of current issues for various reasons and refrained from posting my opinions about everything because I wasn’t good at handling this phenomenon called ‘comment wars’. 


Like the husband puts it, I have a low tolerance threshold for stupid. But I’m not good at sitting back and letting life pass me by. I’m a writer and I think; I like to express my thoughts too. So I tried to work my way towards being able to express my opinion without getting labeled or becoming shuttered to alternative opinions or just downright frustrated at all the nonesense that people sit and type when in the middle of one of these ‘comment wars’. I figured I couldn’t control what others did. Maybe I could put down some guidelines for myself? Make me a better netizen? So I did. And I think, in the last week, I’ve handled the internet better than I would ever have thought! I’ve narrowed down my learnings over the past year into ten points that I think some may find useful… briefly sharing them below: 

1. Think… never stop thinking. It is the one thing that sets you apart from others; your thoughts. Always process information and think before acting on anything immediately. 

2. Read. Explore. When you learn something new, find out more about it. Reserve judgment for later; just absorb the knowledge first. Find as much info as you can and look for information on both sides of an issue. Don’t get stuck on one side when it comes to information. 
3. When you have all the information, use it and your thoughts to make an informed opinion. Not because you have to declare your loyalties on social media (which seems to be the trend) but because you need to know where you stand. 
4. Be firm about your stand but not rigid; allow space for other points of view and more information. Sometimes, new information may indicate that your stand isn’t correct; be willing to adjust your stand as the new information necessitates. 
5. Invite debates and airing of thoughts contrary to your own. Disallowing an opinion that doesn’t match with yours is the sign of a fanatic; don’t be one. Hear what the other has to say and patiently, respond to information with information. Try to make a point. Trading aggression and abuse only makes for a fight, not a constructive debate. The best way to make a point or convincing the opponent of your stand is not by trading insults. It is by trading information. Refrain from ‘branding’ people who oppose you. 
6. Agree to disagree. Like you should never stop thinking, so shouldn’t others. And different people have different thought processes. Agree to disagree instead of labelling each other as brutes or hypocrites… you don’t have to have the same point of view on everything with everyone. Keep the peace even when you disagree on opinions. You may disagree strongly but you can still walk away from a debate without making it a fight. 

7. Accept a mistake when you make one. There’s no shame in making a mistake other than hiding it. Accept, apologies and move on. It makes you more responsible and thus, respectable. Also, be graceful when someone accepts their mistake too. Don’t rub it in, don’t lord it over them; make it a safe environment for someone to admit that they may have been wrong; it makes people less defensive and more open to what you have to say. 

8. Be fair. We live in a democracy. If you are a part of the majority opinion, you don’t need to lord it over the others; they were entitled to their opposing opinion. If you are a part of the minority opinion, don’t necessarily support the opposite of what you believe in. But be a sport; don’t become a roadblock either. Be fair. If you’d have been the majority, you would have expected support too. 

9. Be responsible. Everything you say, share etc is your responsibility. Did you check its authenticity? Make sure you are not pushing an agenda with unconfirmed data. Rumour mongering, panic spreading etc are signs of a sour looser not a thinker… decide what you want to be. 

10. Be peaceful. At all times, with everything. A calm, peaceful mind makes better decisions than an agitated one. It helps you use good words to make your point without taking recourse to bad language and insults. It lets you see the whole picture without being biased. It brings you solutions when in the most dire of circumstances. So keep a peaceful mind. Even when debating your point, be calm. Keep an open mind; accept an argument if it makes sense instead of dismissing it out of hand because it is contradicts your opinion. But be peaceful. 

I know these things look like they are easier said than done but they are not. If you read my comments on anything, you’ll know I do them. I learnt the hard way that this is the only way to deal with the internet because otherwise, I was prone to flinging my phone, hurling abuses and generally gripped with the desire to slap someone. Now I only learn. I try to help resolve ‘comment wars’ where I can. But where I can, I learn and I try to spread any ideas or thoughts of mine that I think are worth spreading. As peacefully as I can. And I’ve learnt that people are more conducive to hearing me out and even agreeing with me when I don’t use an accusatory, condescending tone of voice in my writing. 

Of course, needless to say, these pointers don’t apply in a hundred percent of cases. You find a whack job trying to justify objectification of women or rape or something, you abuse away please. These pointers are only for non stupid topics that actually do have two sides. 
#EndRant

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Marriage Changes Everything

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When we were courting, my husband and I were widely known as that annoying, lovey dovey couple. We held hands, and gave each other nonsense names which made people roll their eyes. Yes, we were exactly the sort of couple that would have made you either want to leave the room or throw up a little in your mouth. And if I begin counting the number of people who said, ‘Enjoy now while it lasts. Marriage will change everything’, I’d need a number roughly the size of a small country’s population.

They were right.

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Photo Credit: Meraki Pictures

All those people who said that things will change after marriage, were absolutely correct. Things changed. A lot! It’s been a year and a half since we got married. The excitement of living in our own house, free to do whatever we wanted, lasted a while. But then things changed. Being freelancers, we spent most days working at home, in each other’s company, thus no stories to swap at coffee shops every evening. He no longer won my heart by insisting to drop me home every night before heading his way. In fact, now he often asks me to take a cab to work if I have to step out for a meeting. We are done telling each other about all our hopes and dreams and stories of our exes… Now, we spend hours discussing our finances and debating pros and cons of buying something expensive. On days when we don’t have work, he watches videos on his iPad while I read books or cook or something. Candle lit dinners in fancy places have now been relegated to one, probably two times a month, maximum. They were right. Things changed. A lot!

But they were wrong about one thing. We are still enjoying it!

People said the romance goes away after a while. Well, I think the romance doesn’t really go if you don’t want it to. It will change however… Back then, we had special dates and grand gestures. Now, we spend hours trying to bully our bank accounts into agreeing with our demands. We don’t go on dinner dates to expensive places like we did and we don’t do a lot of those romancy things as regularly as before. That part has changed. Not because the romance is gone, but because we don’t need those things to feel the love! Our love has changed. It was hot, fast and exciting back then. Now it is warm, fuzzy and comfortable.

We have days filled with nothing but lazy sunshine and food. We have days of fighting and arguments. But we no longer have to play guessing games about what the other person is thinking/feeling because we know each other so well… I feel loved when he takes one look at my face and knows that it’s ice-cream time.He loves that I always know exactly when he is going to get hungry and have something ready for him to munch on. We stay up entire nights reading books to each other or solving massive jigsaw puzzles. We have long drives and disagreements in equal proportions but through all that, we are certain of one thing; the love is always there.

Someday in the years to come, when we have kids and college tuition to worry about, people may smirk and say, ‘See? Told you, marriage changes everything’. They may be right. By then, our love may change some more. We may stop reading books to each other and having tickling matches. We may stop holding hands all the time and calling each other nauseatingly sweet names.We may move on from solve jigsaw puzzles to brushing up on our math for our kids. But even then, the love will be there. I am sure of that.

And when we are old, we may spend hour long phone calls with our kids, complaining about each other. We may not go out for dinner for months on end. We may fight like little children over stupid things. But even then, the love will be there. You know how I know that? Because I won’t let it go. I know that he won’t either. I think that even when we are an inch from heaven’s doors, I’ll know when he is about to get hungry and he’ll know when I want ice-cream. I will still bite his shoulder with my toothless gums when I see a cute puppy and he will still make up silly songs for me when I have a bad day.

Because we choose to find romance in the mundane everyday things. We make a conscious choice to keep the love alive everyday. We don’t plaster our social media accounts with endless selfies. (no offense to those who do!)  Our ideal is not that hot sexy couple, very obviously in love. Our ideal is that old couple who sits on the park bench, watching the sun go down in silence. And I think that kind of love lasts a lifetime. It won’t be the same as before but it will be there. Everything will change… but inside, it will still be the same.

 

Seriously?? SERIOUSLY!!! 

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You know those days when you just feel like throwing things and stamping your feet in the middle of a supermarket in a right old childlike tantrum until you get what you want? Yeah… I’m having one of those. And no, I’m not PMSing.
Adult life is NOT fun on some days.  On some days, I HATE that I have to be responsible and prioritize and behave myself. I used to be impulsive. I used to be crazy and reckless too. I haven’t done stuff like that in a while. Well, I’ve been adulting away, haven’t I! There’s no time for crazy and reckless and almost always no money for impulsive. (₹6000 for shoes?! That’s a month’s grocery right there!)

I used to trek, travel and in general enjoy my life to the fullest. We had an amazing Nature Club on our campus and I did a lot of trekking before graduating. But I haven’t been on a trek in years. Now, I can’t just get up and decide to go out of town for a week. Everything needs to be planned well in advance if there is any chance of things ever happening. Save up for stuff. Book tickets twenty years in advance to get them cheap. Find a pet sitter. Arrange work schedules (being a freelancer, I need to get enough jobs to cover for my week long absence as well as pay for the vacation) so basically, there’s a lot of long term planning involved.

But here’s the thing about long term plans. THEY DON’T WORK OUT EITHER!! Life sucker punches you and gives you wedgies and bullies you into blowing your long term plans to handle the crisis at hand…
Ok now I’m generalizing a bit. All long term plans may not end up like that but my life is behaving like a particularly recalcitrant child right now… Absolutely refusing to settle down. And I desperately needed to feel that madness again. To feel like something more than just an average middle class woman with a boring life .

A few days ago I was invited to judge a screenplay writing event for the intercollegiate mass media festival that my college hosts every year. Polaris. Polaris had been our lifeblood during our time on campus and being back in the thick of things reminded me once again of how my life has changed since college. I later went to see our Head of Department, Prof. Sudhakar Solomon Raj. Along with being the head of the Bachelors of Mass Media (BMM) program, he is also the heart and soul of the Wilson College Nature Club (WCNC) So basically, the meeting point of the two things that changed my life after I came to the city; BMM and WCNC. Meeting him made me want to go back to college like never before.

But since Harry Potter and his friends smashed all the Time Turners that the Ministry of Magic had, my plans to steal one and go back to college looked bleak. So I decided to do the next best thing. I signed up for the trek that was to happen a week later. Not a long one; just a day long trek. Easy peasy… Not too expensive or time consuming and after years of sitting on my ass, not so physically taxing that I’d find it difficult.

I was excited. Oh so excited! The whole week, I looked forward to the Sunday trek. I fished out my shoes, picked out appropriate attire and made mental check lists of everything I’d need. Even when I was working, I found myself pleasantly day dreaming of the hours I’d spend in the National Park. It was to be my day. MY day… To recapture a sense of adventure, of sheer joy and excitement. To break away from the mundane. It was going to be awesome!

But Life is that bitch who came up with the idea of pouring pig’s blood on Carrie when she was expecting to have the time of her life.  Yep. A real bitch!

‘Cause guess what happened just before I was to leave for the trek. Go on… You get three guesses…

Nope, my shoes didn’t fall apart.

And my only trek worthy set of clothes didn’t tear.

And I didn’t suddenly get a call for a coveted assignment.

I woke up with a crick in my neck. Yes!! A bloody CRICK IN MY F’ING NECK!!! Can you believe that?! I mean, after having looked forward to this all week, here I was, groaning in pain, typing out my message to Sudhakar Sir explaining my absence because one bone in my body decided to call in sick! Today… It was supposed to be MY day!! I was supposed to go grab life with both hands or whatever… But I can’t because of a crick in my neck..?! I mean… Seriously??? Seriously!!!!

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6 Reactions To My Bald Head

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In my last post, I wrote about how and why I donated my hair to cancer patients. So for the last few weeks, I’ve been going about my life as usual, just without hair. Let me tell you, this feels like nothing short of a social experiment! I should walk around with someone filming me on a GoPro all the time! I mean, seriously, those women who are looking for some attention, trust me… Go bald! Nothing like it to make not a few but ALL heads turn! I’ve had little kids asking to touch my head. I’ve had old ladies asking if the heat is more or less bearable without hair. I’ve had men offering me their rumaals to wipe sweat off mu head! I’ve had random strangers grinning at me or giving me hifi’s. But be warned… there are the others too.. I’ve also had women calling me shameless and disrespectful and men calling me uncultured. If I list out each encounter I’ve had, I’ll need days to type this out. So I thought I’d share general categories of the sort of reactions my bald head has received.

1. The Kings, Queens and Knaves of Judgmentia:

13mnwvI believe there is a land called Judgmentia where people believe that they were put on this Earth for the sole purpose of judging every act of every person around. I also believe that the Royal Family ruling this land has decided to walk free through the rest of the world, and I met some of them. These are the people who glared at me from across platforms, or scorned at me or even took the time to stop and abuse me. I am surprised at the amount of spite these people carry around! They behaved as if I’d done them some personal harm by being bald! One of these, a middle aged woman with a toddler in her arms actually stopped and told me, people like me were the reason she was scared to raise her daughter in this city. I mean no disrespect to anyone but every time I met one of these people, I found myself resisting the urge to kick their royal behinds!

2. The Masters of Assumption:

13mnqiThese aren’t as bad as the Royal Family of Judgmentia but they were an interesting bunch. These people saw me and immediately made up their minds about why I was bald. One woman chattily told me all about being a devout believer in Tirupathi, convinced that I had sheared off my head during a recent visit to the temple. When I told her I hadn’t been there, she just responded with a comical ‘oh!’ and no doubt jumped to the next assumption about me in her mind. One ridiculous woman thought I was a widow and berated me for wearing color (some customs in India require widows to lead a life of austerity after going bald and not wearing any colors). Another  man assumed I’d done this as a fashion statement and proceeded to lecture me. I didn’t bother to correct him; it’s none of his business even if this was a fashion choice and I told him so.

3. The Pointers and Starers:

13mo1bThis is the category I found most annoying. They hang around street corners and make no efforts to be discreet as they point, stare and often laugh at me as I pass by. I confronted a bunch of them and told them why I’m bald. Their reactions often bordered on the comical. Some even said sorry. But then there were so many of these that I stopped bothering to confront them.

4. The Well Meaning, Curious Types:

13mq5wI’m just about getting used to the staring. People stare at me all the time. If I make eye contact with them, I smile. Often, some people smile back, then talk. These people ask questions about why I am bald and listen to the answers. Some of these ask some of the random-est things.. does my head get goose flesh? if I scratch my head, can I feel it? seriously! But then, some ask for more information on hair donation, then smile and go their way. Two little girls I met on a Metro ride on my way to a meeting sat on either side of me and listened to my explanation then promptly turned to their mother and declared that they too wanted to donate their hair. I respect their mother who calmly told them that they should wait till their hair is long so that the wigs made could be long and pretty. These people aren’t  judgemental. Often just the opposite. I like these people. They are open to information and the choices other people make with their lives.

5. The Thankful:

13mpjcIts a little scary how many of these I met. On my way to work, I was telling a young lady about hair donation and a woman sitting across me got up and hugged me then told me that her daughter had cancer and thanked me for doing this. I didn’t know how to respond to her other than just returning her hug. There are so many people who have family or friends who’ve gone through or succumbed to cancer, its scary. Even within my friend circle there are those who’ve seen cancer up close and have sent me messages to thank me. These people have the most emotional reaction to me. One man actually offered to help me carry my laptop bag after he told me about his sister who had breast cancer. My heart goes out to these people and I wish them all the strength. If there was any other way I could help, I would.

6. The Smiley Faces and Thumbs ups:

FullSizeRenderThese are the happiest chance encounters that make my day. Random people walking past, throwing me a dazzling smile. They don’t even know why I am bald but they seem to like it. They smile, wink, even give me hifi’s at random. One woman told me I looked super cool as she walked past me. One guy winked at me and grinned as he walked by. Not in a creepy kinda way… just a happy wink. I have no idea what makes them so happy to see a bald woman but whatever it is, I’m glad these people exist.

 

 

To sum it up, from total douche-bags to people I feel like hugging, I’ve met a whole range of them. Normally, I just travel through the city never actually ‘meeting’ anyone. But it seems like a bald head comes with perks! I love all the attention.. I seriously do! But I must say, I am thankful for the people who don’t fall into any of these categories… People who have absolutely no reaction to my hair or their absence. These are the people who walk by, without reaction as if there is nothing to react to. Who view me as absolutely normal! And isn’t that what I am? I am just a woman who made a certain choice about the way I look. For whatever reason, I am bald and they are so fine with it, they don’t even care to turn and look! I’ve loved all this attention from everyone else but I can’t imagine what it must be like for a real cancer patient. With people judging, assuming and asking questions every turn of the way. No wonder they need wigs. I’ve given my hair today to save a woman from just such undue attention.. but I dream, not of a day when all cancer afflicted women have wigs to wear… but of a day when a bald woman walking down the street is no biggie!

I Donated My Hair… For Myself!

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I must have been 13 or 14 when I read ‘Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul’. I remember one story in particular. It was about a girl who shaved off her head to support her best friend who was going through cancer treatments. I then learnt that one could donate one’s hair to make wigs for cancer patients and I found myself toying with the idea of donating mine… but being a teen, I forgot all about it and moved on.

It’s been over a decade since that thought occurred to me. A lot of things happened. Most important among those,  I grew up and the world changed.

I woke up one day and terror attacks had become a reality. So had extinction of species, horrible disease outbreaks, natural calamities, gruesome, heartbreaking crimes against humans and animals, large-scale disasters, climate change and every other horrible thing that could happen to the planet. One morning I woke up and realized that this world isn’t a world anymore. It is just a jigsaw that was being held together by some glue that was now giving way and the pieces were steadily falling apart, breaking a beautiful ‘whole’ into a million tiny, ridiculously senseless pieces. This was around the same time I was old enough to know that I wanted to have a family; with a husband, children and pets. But every time I opened a newspaper, my heart quaked. I kept asking myself, is this the world I want to bring a child into? If I do, how do I explain to my baby why the world is the way it is? And when my kids ask what I did to stop it from being this way, what would I say? And I realized I didn’t have an answer for that day.

So I decided to prepare that answer. I few weeks ago, I turned 27. I decided to use the day as a starting point and did what I had wanted to do since the day I read that story about the girl who went bald for her friend. I donated my hair. I went to a salon, got it nicely washed and blow dried, braided and then sheared off. I gave them to ‘Cope With Cancer’ an organization that helps cancer patients, which includes making wigs for underprivileged women. Then I shared a picture on Facebook with details of what I’d done in the hope that more people would be encouraged to donate hair.

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It’s more fun than you’d think!

Then the comments and messages started pouring in. I expected the ‘kudos’ and ‘amazing’ responses. But then there were people who called me brave.. courageous… selfless… And I thought I should probably clarify myself here.

Donating my hair was NOT a selfless move. It is probably the most selfish thing I’ve ever done.

There is a big misunderstanding with the concept of ‘doing good’ these days. It is no longer something for you to do when you have extra resources. It is no longer an optional, extra curricular activity. Look around… the world is a playground with evil running rampant everywhere. Haven’t you heard of the epics? They talk of wars of Good verses Evil. Wars. Not tea parties, not conferences, not exchange of ideas. Wars. And no war was won by sitting calmly and tossing a bullet in every now and then. Make no mistake, this is a war!

If you open your eyes and see the world, you’d know the kind of decay that is ruining us. George Carlin told us how the planet doesn’t need saving; it will survive the human species and continue to exist.. it is we who are in trouble. And we will probably be the only species in the history of this planet to have destroyed ourselves! Is this the world you want to hand over to your children? A world doomed to finish them off? God knows, I don’t want that. I want them to have a world with hope. A world that is slowly being pieced back together. One that I feel proud in handing to them, not ashamed. I want it to be a gift to them, not a debt that I pass on! And I am waging a war of Good against Evil to be able to do that.

That is why I will do everything in my capacity to counter everything evil in this world. That’s why I donated my hair to counter one person who abandoned someone who’s sick. That is why I rescued a dog and gave him a home to negate one animal abandoned and hurt by a human. That is why I avoid plastic bags and reuse everything I can to counter those polluting the planet. I compliment random strangers to make them feel better to counter people who go out of their way to hurt others. I donate my clothes to organizations like Goonj that make good use of them to counter people who create senseless waste. This is not a list of amazing things I do because I am selfless. This is a list of my most selfish deeds. My inventory of ammunition against evil. This is how I fight.

I am NOT a selfless, kind gentle girl who likes to help. I am a selfish, ferocious goddess of war. I am tomorrow’s mother, fighting for my unborn children. Kindness, generosity, gentleness are not my attributes. They are my weapons of mass destruction. And I will keep fighting so that when my kid asks me, what did I do to save the world, I won’t have a helpless non-answer. I will have answers. And if you have any desire to face your children with your head held high, you’d join me. You’d do everything… EVERYTHING in your capacity to help. This is no longer a passive, ‘do it in your free time’ kind of Good… This is an active, ‘do it with every breath you’ve got’ kind of Good.

You don’t need me to tell you what to do. The list is there, all around. This is a war zone. Jump in, grab a weapon and give it your best. Adopt an animal, Adopt a child, stop using plastic, create a replacement for plastic, give someone a smile or give them a home, feed a hungry child or a hungry village, fight off a child molester, stand up for your domestically abused friend, save water, save energy, save a teen from drugs or save the world from a nuclear war… do whatever is in your capacity. No deed is too small. Every effort counts.

In a world that’s falling apart, mild selflessness won’t do. Be as aggressively selfish as you can; do it only for your own children and your honor in their eyes. But for the love of God, fight… Fight till the day an act of kindness and love doesn’t become a rarity that is hailed as ‘brave’ or ‘courageous’… but seen as the most normal thing to do. Fight… So that when our children wake up one fine morning, instead of finding a world that’s falling apart like a million, tiny, ridiculously senseless pieces of a jigsaw that no longer have a glue to hold them together, they will wake up to find a world that is healing… a world with the hope of a future…

 

The Yucky Glob In The Kitchen Sink

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Growing up, our mom insisted on us helping in the kitchen. Simple stuff.. Setting the table, cleaning up after dinner etc. There was one thing however, that I could never really do without making faces… Cleaning the kitchen sink.

Most of the time, it would be mom who’d take care of that and as I watched her do it, I often wondered… How did she do that?? She’d reach into the sink, scrub it clean and then (the worst part) stick her fingers into the drain and pull out that.. Glob! I mean, it looked like cleaning out Satan’s bellybutton! 

  

I would shudder just looking at her doing it and wonder how she did it? Just like that… Effortlessly… No signs of revulsion or indication of wanting to throw up… Just a dip of the hand, a few swishes and done!  I was certain that I would never be able to do that! 

I was wrong. I just cleaned out my kitchen sink. It’s been over a week since we moved into the new house and things are still finding their places around here. Since the husband and I have decided to see if we can manage without a maid, we were cleaning the kitchen for the night. While he took care of all the general cleanup, I got busy with the dishes. 

The good thing about having him around when I’m cleaning is that not only does the work get divided by two,  the conversation makes it feel less dreary. So we chatted and before I knew it, the dishes were done, the kitchen was sparkling clean and I was reaching into the sink to pull out the glob. I’ve done it several times in this past year but yesterday, I actually looked at that yucky thing… And smiled.. 

I suddenly remembered standing next to mom, making faces as she did this.. And here I was, doing what she did. I’d found the trick. It had nothing to do with growing up or getting less eeked out by things. It was about being happy. There we were, two adult-outside-child-inside people, cleaning our kitchen. 

OUR kitchen. 

That’s the key. The magical word. When it becomes ‘ours’ the glob in the sink becomes just another thing to take care of. As a kid, I would have let that glob be where it was. As far as I was concerned, it could have taken permanent residence right there in the sink. But now, this was our kitchen; where I made food for us everyday. Where he spends hours chatting with me about life, decisions, morals and soap bubbles. This is the warm gooey centre of our home. And that yucky glob had to business being there… So I took it out! 

Simple as that, yet it took me all these years and being married to learn that. Strange how life works out… And how a glob in my sink can remind me how much I’ve grown up… 

New House: Week 1

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It’s been ages since I last posted. It’s not because I have nothing to say… It’s because I make up these posts in my head but never have the time to post! So I’ve decided to make small posts as and when I get the time and work on the bigger ones too and post them at intervals. Nice plan, no? Let’s see how that works. 

Anyway, it’s been over a year since we got married. Last week, we had to shift because the lease on that flat ran out. We could have renewed it but the building was going down for reconstruction so we found ourselves a new place. In a matter of days, my home was packed into boxes and sacks and here we are, starting it all over again. 

I’m not gonna lie to you; it was painful, leaving that house… It was the first place we called home. I guess this will happen a few more times before we finally get a place of our own and never have to move again. 

So now it is the two of us, a dog, and a whole room of boxes to unpack and settle. I’m obviously starting with the kitchen because I’ll be restless till I don’t have that sorted out. 

I’ve also got a bunch of diy’s that I’d like to try out once everything is in place. I’ll share pictures when I get to those. In the meanwhile, check out these boxes and feel my pain!  

 

5 Secrets To An Effecient Kitchen

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Fun Fact: A single, basic domestic kitchen can give you nightmares… not figuratively… literally! I mean, waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night, cold sweats kinds nightmares. I just had a week’s worth of those. I’d wake up sweating profusely, my already troubled sleep completely shattered by images of my kitchen on fire, or all my utensils turning to sand, or opening the fridge to find it filled with foot long maggots… yeah.. Kitchens can cause nightmares.

And like all dreams/nightmares, these had a root in reality and I didn’t need a shrink to tell me that. I’ve had a tough time getting a handle on things but I ain’t the sort of crazy to give up, plonk down in the middle of the kitchen and cry hysterically.I’m the sort of crazy that pulls every movable object out of the kitchen and restarts. I’ve done that thrice since we moved into our place and after weeks and months of trial and error, I finally have some kind of control over my kitchen. It isn’t as efficient as I’d like it to be, but still, a meal that would take me 3 hours to prepare now gets done in 45 minutes to an hour. What did I change? Just a few things…

1. A Place For Everything: And everything in its place. Mom wasn’t kidding! My great grandmother used to say, keep things so orderly that you should be able to find them in your sleep.

Monica_s_Reaction_When_Chandler_CleanedAssign specific places for everything. Ideally, all the utensils, grain jars, spice jars etc that you use on a regular basis should be within reach from where you stand to cook. Make circles of proximity from your cooking position and arrange things in outward circles according to frequency of use; the most frequently used being the closest to the rarely used being the farthest. It makes cooking much less of a run around the place and you save energy as well as time. This will require some trial and error but you’ll eventually find your groove. Also, make it a conscious habit to put things back into their assigned places the moment you are done using them. Keeping things for later only adds to the stress and makes cleaning up a harder chore. A clean, well organized kitchen contributes to your peace of mind.

2. End-Of-Day Wipe Down: No matter how hectic a day you’ve had, make it a habit of leaving your kitchen clean when you go to bed.

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This generally means putting the left overs into the fridge, taking out the trash, piling the used utensils in the sink and wiping down everything. Through the day, when you use small objects like knives of potato peelers etc, instead of dumping them in the sink, try washing them immediately and keeping away because chances are, you’ll need them before your maid does the dishes. But definitely do clean up before tucking in for the night. That way, when you enter the kitchen in the morning, it is clean and fresh and one less thing to do. In the long run, it also keeps your kitchen cleaner for longer.

3. Make A Schedule: This might sound a little OCDish but it is not.

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Make broad categories of dishes per meal and schedule them according to the days of the week. Pick a few breakfast items and keep two or three options for each day of the week. Then make broad categories like ‘pulaao/khichdi’ or ‘continental’ or ‘chicken/fish’ or leafy vegetables’ etc and put them in for lunch and dinner through the week. This way, you can plan well in advance without going into a tizzy every day about what to cook or what to buy. Keep several options for each meal on your schedule so that you are not restricted to a monotony and make sure you don’t decide to cook more than one complicated meal every day. If nothing else, it saves you the effort of trying to figure out what to cook; its all there, tacked up on your fridge!

4. Take Breaks: A stressed you is a messy you and that spells doom for the kitchen. So take a break.

giphyTake breaks while preparing a meal. Drink water, play music while you work. It all helps. And every once in a while, shut the kitchen. Go out to eat or order in or ask your better half to take over. The moment cooking begins to feel tedious, take a break. Stress sucks all the joy out of cooking and if you are not used to it, it will completely turn you off. So make sure you allow yourself that much needed break.

5. Innovate: Routine can become boring and get you stuck in a rutt. Unstick yourself. Try something new.
Chefs_Do_That_Geena_DavisPick out a recipe you’ve never tried before. Make your own recipe. Or learn how to ‘recycle’ leftovers. Trust me, it is enormous amounts of fun to serve a dish made of leftovers and no one figures it out till you tell them. innovation in the kitchen brings life to the mundane, day to day routine. It builds confidence and gives you something to look forward to.

Cooking can be fun. Therapeutic. I always think of that line from Julie and Julia: “I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”  It really is. You can get lost in your kitchen… and you can find yourself. I know the everyday mundane tasks make it very difficult to think so but trust me, the kitchen can be a glorious place. You just need to know the secrets.. 😉

5 Things I’d Do Differently As An Unmarried Girl

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Hi All!

Jeez! You’d think a writer would be more prompt and consistent with her blog! Apparently not… But cut me some slack… I’m running a house here with little to no experience! Anyway, I’m here now… So if you have absolutely nothing to do, read on!

I got thinking the other day about how much has changed since the wedding… how much I’ve changed… Not more than four years ago, I was sure I was not getting married. Now, I’m happy I didn’t stick to that. However, now that I’ve seen the other side of the coin, a few thoughts came to me about what I would do differently if I got to go back to being unmarried. A lot of these look like regrets but barring the last one, they are not. They are my learnings, things I’ve taken in my stride, written off as bad judgment calls and moved on. So here are the things I’d do differently if I could be unmarried again:

  1. Traveled More

1As a college kid, I traveled a lot. We had an active nature club in our college; The Wilson College Nature Club. And we went on several treks across the country. Even my media course involved a yearly trip with the class. Other than that, I did a little travel of my own too; a country wide stint with the Tata Jagriti Yatra to study enterprise led development all across the country. But after college, the traveling all but stopped. Now I wish I’d done more of it. I LOVE to travel… so does my husband. But the kind of travel you can do as a single, unattached young girl is very different from the sort you do as a married woman with a house to run. For one, I could have afforded to let curiosity be my guide and take me wherever it wanted. Now, my husband and I need to plan, prioritize and make contingencies for contingencies. Mind you, I enjoy this too.. but if I got a do over, I’d do a LOT more of the ‘young girl’ kinda adventurous traveling in the years between graduation and marriage.

  1. Taken Better Care Of My Health

2 I wish I’d eaten those fruits when mom told me to. I wish I’d worked out more often. I wish I’d made it a habit to oil my hair and maintain it well. If I’d done that back then, today, it would have been second nature and not just another thing I need to learn to do. If I get a do over, I’d go back and push myself to do these things till they became muscle memory. I’d keep myself fit and in good health, irrespective of the pressures of my career. I’d have eaten healthier, kept my hair long and beautiful like they used to be when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t about living up to some impossible standard of beauty. Think of it more as a self maintenance routine. If I could do that, I’d have a much better version of me today, a much healthier, fabulous haired version, much more adept at handling the stress of day to day life.

  1. Insisted On A Smaller Wedding 

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I loved my wedding day. It was perfect! It was beautiful! Our pandit (priest) explained each step of the rituals to us and it felt divine! We had a relatively small wedding because both of us didn’t believe in the opulent, money guzzling mini festivals people have these days in the name of weddings. We saved ourselves a lot of financial headaches due to that but even then, it was not an easy feat to pull off. It DID burn holes in our pockets. And now, every time we begin to put things on the back burner due to financial priorities, I find myself wondering, was it worth it? Of course, having our whole entire extended families and friends there with us on that day did feel wonderful… but wouldn’t it have been a nicer feeling to have no financial worries in the first year of being married? We aren’t exactly cutting corners right now but I have a feeling we might have put the money to better use after the wedding day than on it. When we decided on forever, we’d toyed with the idea of a court wedding but given up on it not only for the sake of our families but also because we’d wanted to experience the rituals. If I got to make that choice again however, I am half convinced that I’d go for a much smaller, intimate affair with just our parents and siblings at the family court or a small temple. We’d have spent far lesser and had a much larger kitty to begin our life together with. Yes, it would have been a task convincing the families to agree upon this; a lot of people would have felt hurt and excluded but I could have come up with a way to convince them if I’d have tried. After all, they love us so much, they would have liked the idea of our secure life more than a big wedding day.

Note To Self: If my son/ daughter asks for a small wedding or a court wedding, I will not pressurize them into anything else. I’ll know that they have the foresight that I lacked and give them my blessings.

  1. Spent More Time With My Sister and My Cousins

5I enjoy the fabulous position of being an elder to one awesome sister and four cousin brothers on my mothers side along with being a younger sister to two elder cousin brothers on my father’s side. All my cousins are amazing. Yes, as kids we spent innumerable holidays together. We fought, had ‘adventures’ and created memories. But as the years built up, we saw lesser and lesser of each other. I wish that hadn’t happened. Now, three of my brothers live in three foreign countries… the remaining may not be distanced as much by space as by time. Yet, I feel a bond with all of them. We keep in constant touch via social networks and whatsapp but it is not the same. I wish I could have had a little more time with all of them. A few more summers and festivals that I spent instead with friends and work. If I could do it all over, I’d make it a priority to be with them more often. And though my sister and I lived under the same roof until 10 months ago, I’d spend more time with her too. Take her shopping maybe, or for a movie every once in a while… I wish I’d done that.

  1. Learnt More Of Mom’s Cooking 

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This is a regret. It is not a learning, it is a regret. My mom is an earth shatteringly awesome cook… so are my aunts and my grand mothers. Thanks to that, I was raised with some of the best quality home made food ever that seemed to magically appear on the table at every meal. My mom made cooking look so easy, I never took it too seriously. I never understood the value of that food. As a teen, I made faces at the vegetables and used any excuse to eat out. But today, when I could easily order in for every other meal, my heart craves that soul food. Now, I bug my mom every day for her recipes and she whatsapps them to me. I know now as I toil in the kitchen, just how much effort goes into making one single, simple meal. Every time I cook, I taste it and feel, ‘its not as good as mom’s’. I often say, world peace is only one step away; get all the world leaders to sit at a table and eat my mother’s cooking… they’d be so contented, they wouldn’t entertain thoughts of something as wasteful and ridiculous as war. So if I get a do over, I’ll spend a lot more time in the kitchen with mom. I’ll learn how to make food the way she does so that when I have my own kitchen, I’ll know how to run it like her. And I’ll tell her how much I love her food as many times as I could because no exotic burgers, no amazing buffet can compare to the peace and tranquility of mom made food.

Piece of advice to the unmarried folks: go into the kitchen right now and hug your mom (or dad… whoever is cooking). And while you can, learn their recipes. Girls, don’t think this is a ‘backward’ thought… to learn to cook for your husbands… learn to cook for yourselves, even if you don’t plan to get married. Guys, you are no exception. You may find yourself a wife who will oblige to cook for you but you WILL miss your home food. So learn the recipes now so that you can make them for yourself later. I know my husband misses his mom’s cooking too. But since we live close to them, he gets a chance to go back and eat there often. You may not be that lucky… my mom lives 400 km away and I get the chance to eat at her table very rarely…

Its been 9 months since we got married and it took me this long to realize these things. I hope that this helps those of you who are in a place good enough to have the time to do the things you want to. I know it sounds preachy but twenty years from now, you’ll want a do over. However, no matter how badly we wish for them, do-overs are not a reality. To quote the MLTR song, Living is a one way street… So do it right the first time. Strive for the things you want out of life but in the race to get ahead of time, don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate what you have. Take a look at the back burners every now and then and make sure you aren’t letting some of your dreams burn away. After all, Life isn’t about where you reach but about how you got there… enjoy the journey!

 

Much Love!

The New Mrs. Iyer

How To Train Your Finances

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 More than six months of being married, living on our own, managing rents and expenses has taught us a lot. Add to it, getting a car (a Volkswagen Polo!) has been the kind of thing that leaves a lot of lessons in its wake. Especially being freelancers, our bank accounts have this nasty habit of soaring and plummeting at random. There is almost no discernible pattern to our incomes. So managing such rowdy, unruly finances is indeed a task. But I know now that it isn’t impossible. First and foremost, I bow to the man of the house, the husband for his awesome instincts for all this stuff.. Left on my own, I’d probably have fluctuated between buying out a mall and selling everything I own to manage a few meals… So here are a few things that we’ve done to help smooth things and grant ourselves a semblance of peace. 

1. Pre Wedding Planning: When we decided to get married, we discussed and decided that we’d be living on our own and not with our families. That meant a whole host of expenses that would crop up… Just the electronics would take away huge chunk of our money. So we did a smart thing. In the months prior to the wedding, we purchased our electronics as and when possible… The fridge, the washing machine and the microwave. With those out of the way, it kinda eased the pressure on the post marriage budgets. Think of it as building a home in instalments. This helps a lot… A LOT! 

2. The Wedding Fund: So we did this thing on our invitation cards, where we mentioned that instead of gifts, we’d really appreciate cash gifts. I am so relieved that almost everyone took the hint. Barring a couple of other gifts, we got cash which created a huge cash reserve for us. When we were setting up home, we used money from this pool, thus making sure that the set up expenses did not eat into our bank accounts. We got furniture, fixtures, appliances, etc. but we put a limit on how much we would spend so that some of that money could be kept aside as a reserve. I recommend this idea very much. Two fold advantage: you are not stuck with the gifts that you don’t want and you have plenty of resource to aid you through the first steps of married life. The leftover cash is also a helpful fund to fall back on for later. 

3. Unconscious Savings: We read about this idea somewhere and used it. As mentioned earlier, it becomes difficult for freelancers to plan savings because of the no fixed income thing. So we started this thing a few months before marriage and continued it even after. Whenever we spent money and got change in return, we kept aside the small denominations in a separate pocket in our bags. At home, we have a jar and a piggy bank; the coins go into the pig and the notes into the jar. It doesn’t pinch you when you put away a couple of bucks everyday but you’ll be surprised how much money can get accumulated like this! In the long term, when the jar and the piggy are full, remove the money and put it into a fixed deposit. Viola! You have a small savings pocket!

4. Chart Expense: At the end of each day, make it a habit to make a note of where you spent and how much. As you do this, you develope another habit; every time you are about to make an expense, you ask yourself if this is really needed. Don’t always hold back from giving yourself and each other a treat but  make sure that you are not over doing it. Just simply acknowledging where the money is going makes it easier to control it so that you are never in a place to ask, where did all the money go..? You’ll know where it went and why!

5. Watch Your Loans: This is my husbands brilliant mind at work. When we decided to get the car, we knew we’d have to take a loan for it. He wrote a long piece on a forum for Volkswagen car owners about getting the right loan. You can find it here. But one of the most interesting things that we have begun doing is that when we pay each instalment, we pay a little more than is due. In the short run, it doesn’t bother us much. Instead of around 8500/- per month, we put in 10000/-. What this does is that it keeps reducing the principal loan amount and in the long run, saves us a lot of money in interest. It also gets rid of the loan in a shorter period of time. We’ve also decided to put in as much extra money into the loan account as and when possible towards the same end. 

6. Have Fun: This is the most important part. I know people rolling in gold who lead miserable life. Don’t let your finances become a cloud over your head. Whatever the situation, you can handle it. In the meantime, life is happening to you. Don’t miss out! Have fun! My husband and I don’t need big, expensive things to be happy. He often brings me some funny shaped lolly pop or some simple flowers or candy and it makes my day! Be willing to be happy and anything you have, will be enough. Money does make life comfortable but it is not all that you need to be happy. Find little things to make each other happy. We are currently reading out Harry Potter to each other… We call it co-reading. I’ve almost swallowed the books as a child but he hasn’t read them so it is fun! And not expensive at all 😉 

Bottom line being, despite doing all this, finance is not gonna be an easy pet to keep but it is one of the many joys of being an adult (sarcasm detected?). Take it in your stride. Never pass an opportunity to make money. The legal, fair way.. Don’t go getting involved in nefarious activities and say I suggested it! And there is one more thing. Generate goodwill… With everyone around. Be good to people even if it is the guy serving your coffee. I believe the universe takes care of the people who care. Karma is very real, and she takes very good care of those who do good. As long as you can look yourself in the eye and sleep well at night, I think the rest falls into place. Don’t you think?