Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Introspection, Learnings, Loss

Year in Review

That time of the year to introspect, reflect and take stock of the year that has gone by. 

First things first. Let me address the elephant in the room. My word of the year. HABITS. A complete, utter failure to embrace it. I have struggled with simple, foundational habits – eating right, and exercising for a few minutes, and flossing. That extended to the next tier of habits – reading, writing etc. When I started out the year, I thought I would start small, build on my habits over time, and make everyday habits second nature by the end of the year. I started small but all my efforts tapered and evaporated over the course of the year. 

In thinking through what went wrong?  I am a textbook case of spare the rod and spoil the child. If I don’t hold myself to high standards, I just fall apart. I have developed a huge inertia for working out. I simply do not want to sweat it out. Moderation does not work for me. Once I succumb to one bite, it’s million bites after that. My mind has become an expert at wiggling out of discomfort and coaxing me into taking the easy way out. If my own internal barriers aren’t enough, Da’s and my own work schedule have thrown a wrench on our routine and made time even more scarce. 

I am disappointed with myself but determined to pick up my slackness and get better. Now that the most difficult part of introspection has been addressed moving on to what else was happening in our lives. 

In terms of life events, my maternal patti passed away in the beginning of the year. End of life is a hard phase, some have it harder than others. My grandma was surrounded by love and prayers in her deathbed. Thankful that her suffering was not prolonged. 

Da moved on to a new company. The commute is less but the work day is longer, all worth it as there is fulfillment coming from the work. Hari is thriving in high school, taking responsibility for his learning, charting his course. Ram is dabbling in a lot of stuff with scouts and Destination Imagination being good fit for his personality, sports done for movement and socializing, and Sunday school because his mom insists. 

It was tumultuous couple of weeks when appa was sick and the reality of staying so far away and the enormity of role reversal hit me like a ton of bricks. Visiting India, spending time with my parents, going around on my own, reconnecting with friends and life in India are most certainly the highlights of my year. 

We have gone green this year. We have been composting since the beginning of the year, carrying bags for grocery trips and minimizing the use of paper goods. Did I mention that we will be installing solar panels next year? The motivation for that though is the tax benefits rather than the environmental benefits coming from it. While our day to day choices still tilt in favor of convenience, we are more thoughtful about the use of plastics in our lives. 

My work has had several twists and turns this year. I miss my old team but I am happy to be part of my new team. I am learning new things, taking on new challenges and working with new team members. I have also become disciplined about going to office for three days per week and not using my work devices for personal purposes. It feels like some sanctity in my work life has been restored with these simple measures.  

After a break of over a year, got back to dancing, wherein we as students are steering the direction of our classes and making thoughtful choices. I feel good about this because I missed dancing and I took ownership to bring dance back into my life. 

I spent a lot of time listening to interviews and podcasts by Eckhart Tolle. I have read his works but somehow the podcasts took my understanding to the next level and the teachings resonated at a deeper level. For the first few days, I wanted to scream at the top of the mountain. I felt like I had found a treasure. An instruction manual on how to live life.

I leave you with my biggest learning for this year.  The present moment is all that matters. That is all there is to life. Surrender to it. Take refuge in it. Accept it willingly.

Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Little Moments, Milestones, Uncategorized

Game nights, Christmas songs, Cookies (LMT post)

I am spying Ram across the hall. His face is intense, the kind of expression you see on someone who is lost in what he or she is doing. He has been working diligently on the word search and trivia that Hari had made for him on his favorite video game, Brawl Stars, for Christmas. I then shift my gaze to our picture from Costa Rica on the mantle. I have forgotten the name of the specific location but remember the gratitude I felt when we clicked that picture last year. Hari has photoshopped and presented it to me as his handmade Christmas present. Then I see the hand painted cards (with coffee powder) that Da had made for all of us. 

As we inched towards Christmas, I declared that this year we will make handmade presents for each other. Ram was first in line, he rolled up his sleeves, and galvanized into action right away. Paper made football creations for Hari, a story for his mom in which there is a Muffin-man superhero who runs a shop called Muff muff muffin store with his superpower being to catapult humans with licorice and lollipop, and a personalized set of Pokemon cards for his dad. Hari outdid himself with his creations, putting in a lot of thought and time into each of them.  Da, in addition to playing santa’s helper and ensuring that there are presents under the tree, made handmade cards for us. For my part, I have committed to gift of time and acts of service for each of them over the course of the next year – cuddle an read, baking sessions, follow TV shows, assume positive intent, so on and so forth.

This year has been less about Santa and more about Family. Less about presents and more about togetherness. It has been about game nights, Christmas songs, and baking peanut butter cookies together. 

Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Little Moments, Milestones, Uncategorized

Regular programming resumes

Between jet lag, and transitioning to routine here, I couldn’t prioritize the writing of my daily gratitude posts although the sentiment was very much alive and kicking within me. 

Nov. 14 – Thankful that I reached safe and sound, with relatively small hiccups, to my ultimate sanctuary, my home, my family. Those tight hugs, loud kisses, the craving to be together, that feeling of being loved, cared for, and wanted. Deep deep gratitude for my Jing Bang gang. 

Nov. 15 – While it is full steam ahead with new challenges, grateful that the first day back to work was just about catching up with hundreds of emails that had come in. 

Nov. 16 – Thankful for the intellectual and spiritual high I experienced today. The intellectual high was from judging three rounds of debating tournament. It was my first time, I was a bundle of nerves. I knew I would like the experience but I didn’t quite expect how very intellectually stimulating it would be. Love that parenting gives me learning experiences and opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. The spiritual high was from watching a bharatanatyam recital by none other than Rama Vaidyanathan. It was soul nourishing! A class of her own, and I saw her at such proximity – how very lucky I am! 

Nov. 17 –   Grateful for : 

  • Two hours of much needed nap in the afternoon for my jet lagged body that is still very much operating at India time zone leaving me with fragmented sleep and an aching body. 
  • A quality evening with the family. After all the hugging and rejoicing the day I landed, we had to move on – school, work, cricket practice, birthday party, scouts, debating, Sunday school. It was therapeutic to finally sit down together in the same room and have a shared experience even if it was just watching T.V..
Posted in Gratitude, Introspection, Life

Hiya

Hello there! It feels like I have just been lost in my own world. The world in my head, the causality being my habits, my discipline. This year has been a disaster in terms of my word of the year – year of Habits. Right from the start, I simply have not tried hard enough. Some people do things organically. That is, they start a habit, and just stick to it. They start small and it grows exponentially with time. Not for me though. I have to make conscious efforts, hold myself to high standards. When I go easy, I become lazy. 

With that confession out of the way, how have you all been doing? I have missed writing. I have missed sharing. I have missed this space. I wanted to write about so many things – the kids’ school year, summer updates, start of the school year, the little moments, the big lessons. The days are just rolling by fast and furious. The week is packed, the weekend is super packed. That’s the season of my life I am in right now. And I embrace it wholeheartedly. 

I simply could not put off writing for one more day. Had to get something out there; even if it is a short abrupt post. Leave a comment if you feel up to it. I am all ears. 

Posted in Dance, Family, Gratitude, Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Life, Little Moments, Wishes

The journey

Unbeknownst to me, tears were streaming down my face as the recital came to a conclusion. They were not tears of joy or sorrow; they were the culmination of an experience that was so profound that it brought the vastness and depth within me to the forefront.  The guru, holding the hands of his sishaya, bowing to the audience in reverence, in humility. The audience, drenched in the experience, elevated and humbled by it.  Perhaps, this is what they mean by the soul in me bows to the soul in you?  

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The recital was also tinged by a pang. One that comes from the knowledge that I can only be a rasika. The one that is dazzled but not the one to dazzle. The one that tried but the one that did not go much further. 

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Hari, Ram and I headed to the attic, our weekend sleeping arrangment. We exchanged notes on the day’s happenings. It was a milestone day for Hari. He played in adult cricket league with a red ball (that’s a milestone for wannabe cricketers).  He got two wickets, gave more runs than he would like, which was partly attributable to the size of the field, and he ended up umpiring as well.  Ram naarated his deed for the day – how he helped appa with yard work and shopping for pavers for the patio. Then, I told him about the evening, how I wished that all the people that I loved could experience what I did – something that was bigger than the self.  

I drifted off to sleep reliving the dance. The concept of yathi that I learnt in the workshop last week so beautifully articulated in the dance. The geometric patterns of the yathi shown gracefully in the mridangam, damuru, nandi’s tail, and the waves of ganga. Bharathiyar’s poem gnyayiru – are you the sun that gives light to darkness or are you the one to kill it? – narrated through dance. One form of art blending with the other. Then came the story of the Ganges – her origin, her role as sustainer of life (birth, maturity, and death all found in the river), and her current plight. A dance item that made me reflect on the sanctity of life forms and natural resources. Then came Rama’s virakthi at losing Sita. Shringara is pervasive in Bharatanatyam but more often than not, it is the heroine pining for the hero. This one was unique portrayal of a heartbroken hero. A sweet reminder that shringara is not exclusive to women. The finale was fitting with Krishna mukunda murari – we are born alone, we die alone, but we live together. Why criticise, why blame, why not treat each other well? 

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I woke up this morning earlier than I wanted to. Ram drifting to me, his arms instinctively reaching out to my body for the warmth. The recital from last evening still fresh in my mind. The brilliance of portraying the cow’s tail for gopucha yathi. The way the night that was described as a kadhali, shown elegantly. The eyes darting left and right in all speeds for mrignayani. The swaying and dancing of Krishna.

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Downstairs, I can hear Da. The man, who loves his glory sleep, is up bright and early, making tea and breakfast. He has a full day of chauffeuring the boys to towns far away for sports practice. He takes it in stride, without complaints, without expecting me to ease the load for him. Ram is mildly upset that we did not wake him early. You still have plenty of time, don’t stuff scrambled eggs in your mouth, drink some water, I remind him while I am sipping my morning tea without a hurry in the world. Hari comes down with a super stuffy nose, “I had the worst night with my allergies amma.” He was sleeping right next to me, and I had no clue. Why can’t I be that kind of mom that turns the world upside down to make her child’s life easier? I don’t say that to him but chide myself in my head. I just tell him I wish I was awake with him so I could have done something to make him feel better. “Don’t worry amma, if it was unmanageable I would have woken you up.”  

Seeing the morning play out in front of me hits me that I am not needed, I am wanted. That I am loved for who I am, with my imperfections, without any conditions. How lucky am I? 

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Being loved by my family unconditionally reminds me to be gentle on myself. Self compassion trickles in.

It’s true. Life is not a level playing field. We are born with our uniques abilities, strenghts, weaknesses and circumstances. There are some things that are not within our control. There are some things that are within our control that we do little about. It’s ok. It’s ok to be the one that tried. It’s ok to be human. And I remind myself again – it’s not a means to an end, it’s an end by itself. It’s the practice. It’s all about the journey. 

Posted in Dance, Experiences, Gratitude, Inspiration, Intentions, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Little Moments

Bharthanatyam – What it means to me?

I was nominated for a 10-day dance mom challenge on FaceBook, which entailed posting a picture a day in the life of a dance mom or a significant dancing moment. I chose to do it only for 5 days because I didn’t have the bandwidth to continue, I was getting distracted from my routine, and finally I felt vulnerable sharing too much. Since I don’t have much readership here, I feel relatively more comfortable sharing things that are close to my heart in this space. Along with that picture, I had put in a blurb providing context to the picture. I am  repurposing those posts, without pictures, with some expanded content here and there.  

  • I am lucky that my parents (thank you, thank you and thank you appa and amma) went along with my choice to pursue dance when the popular vote was for music (pursuing multiple interests was not as common in my growing up years). More importantly for just asking – dance practice eppadi porthu? Sometimes it is the simplest of reminders that galvanizes you into action. I am also fortunate to have been married into a family that takes interest and pride in my pursuits. I am thinking of my mil who would accompany me to my dance class with excitement. As the sole member in our family of four that enjoys Bharatanatyam, I do struggle with balancing “me” time with family time. A weekend afternoon spent attending a dance recital is an afternoon away from them. And sometimes that is the only time we have together. Often, I dilly dally not knowing what to choose. Sometimes family wins, at other times dance. What I have learnt is, the only person judging my choice is me. The trick is to not think of the dance recital I missed when I am with the family and not to think of my family when I am at the recital. Shout out to Da for being my rock, my punching bag, and for constantly reminding me that I am learning dance because it makes me happy. Flying kisses to the sonny boys for caring about my pursuits. They will throw a tantrum if I were to take them to an arangetram but they would be heart heartbroken if I were to pass up on an opportunity to perform. 
  • I have learnt Bharatanatyam, on and off, for the most part of my life. The breaks were sometimes short, and at other times were prolonged. Sometimes due to lack of continuity at the teachers’ end, and  sometimes due to life events and circumstances. Board exams, school in one city, undergrad in another city, postgrad in yet another city, work in fourth city, then came marriage, move to a new country, back to school, kid no. 1, kid no.2. One way to look at it is, it has been a slow and shaky learning experience. Another way to look at it is, life has been generous in bestowing me with opportunities and teaching me resilience through dance. A constant in my life. Thank God for that! Thank God for all my teachers who willingly took me under their wings, gave me their time and attention, and in the process kept the spark alive. I am exactly where I need to be, all those breaks were necessary to lead me to where I am today, to ensure that there was continuity in the journey. To all my dance teachers, past and present, gratitude from the depths of my heart. Without you, dance would have only been a longing.
  • Janmashtami tradition – may be it is the fact that I have two veshama kara kannans in my house, I love Janamashtami. Our Janmashtami celebration is more about storytelling than about bakshanam. When the boys were little, they would get dressed up as Krishnas, and Balaramas and we would act out Krishna Leela. What better way to tell a story than via Bharatanatyam? All those giggles, broken mazhalai tamizh, and role playing. Deeply grateful to the art form for giving me ways to bond with little humans, my own and the ones that cross my path. 
  • The day before a performance is humbling. You hold the blessing close to your heart and want to give it your all and beyond. You are also a bundle of nerves. You run through the sequence in your head. Once, twice, thrice, and a few times more. By yourself, and with your gang. Then you obsess over the costume, jewelry, food, and family. Details, details, so many details to think of for the compulsive mind. Then, there comes a point when you simply let go. And you remind yourself to just be and dance your heart out. Being in the moment, soaking in the music, taking in the space and the lights, and trusting that your practice will carry you through. That’s all matters! One of the nicest parts of learning to dance as an adult is all the fabulous women you get to meet over the years. Self-made, independent, accomplished and courageous. When the group clicks, you know you have surrounded yourself with empathetic, compassionate and strong women. Ones who inspire, encourage and support each other. The experience is heightened when you have found your people. My heartfelt gratitude to the girl gang, who have knowingly or unknowingly, have helped me in small and big ways.
  • Dance is my Zen. It has taught me the power of practice, perseverance, and having a growth mindset. To do something purely for the love of it, not as a means to an end. Through my practice, I learn more about myself. If you came up to me and asked, are you a dancer? My answer would be, I learn dance. I love Bharatanatyam. Dancer is a label that I hold to high standards and don’t think I am there yet. I am more like the Giraffe who found his music and learnt to dance. I found my reason to dance. So yeah, I learn dance. 

To be able to dance at this age and stage of my life is something that I never take for granted. Don’t know what tomorrow holds but I am thankful with every fiber in my being that my life has been touched by the art form all my life.

Posted in Experiences, Gratitude, Hari Katha

Side Hustle

Hari is interested in working. The intensity varies. Some days, he feels like he is ready for it, and on other days he wonders why hurry now? Some days he thinks he will be a good fit for babysitting. On other days, he wonders why not grocery stores. May be a math teacher assistant? Or a baseball umpire? Or work in the local comic store? Or may be mow someone’s lawn? Last week, he went to the town center, hopping in and out of stores, inquiring about the hiring process. Long waiting list, he was told. As we talked about the possibilities today, one thing led to the other, and we started working on his resume. What he thought would take a few minutes, took a few hours. Grammar, fonts, formatting, references, and what not. He learnt a lesson or two today about how to position himself, how all the things that he does adds to the big picture. I hope he sees that it almost does not matter what you do, just that you do something and keep building on your skills set.