Inspiration, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Me, Reading, Uncategorized, Us

On reading

We were resting in the tent indulging in the leisure that a beach trip rewards you with. I looked up from my book and declared to nobody in particular, “Poor Mr. Darcy. All because he was an introvert!” My unintentional and sudden outburst elicited uncontrollable giggles from my offsprings. After the amusement settled down, the first born quizzed, “Who is Mr. Darcy”, the second born questioned, “What does an introvert mean?”  Their questions were lost on me, as I had long delved back into the world of  Lizzy, Darcy, Jane and Bingley, oblivious to my curious boys. They gave up and ran back to the waves. 

It felt so good to be lost in this world that Jane Austen had built that it was a sweet burden to pull the mind back to where the body was. What fine writing!

The reading experience was reassuring because I was beginning to wonder if my love for reading was just a figment of my imagination; something that I made up in my mind. Perhaps I liked the idea of reading more than reading itself?  I felt like an imposter when I borrowed books from the library. Finally,  I feel liberated from those self-doubts! For sure, I can say, I too love reading!

A couple of weeks back during our road trip, the conversation meandered to reading styles and habits. I told the family how I tend to take a long time to warm up to characters and story plot. That I read the first few pages very very slowly, and at some point, there is a flip of the switch and the pace picks up. Hari, who likes to read books in one sitting, said he has a different style. “I love reading the first portion of any book. It is so exciting to get introduced to all the characters and see the story unfold. It is in the middle that I slow down.” Da, who is a very fast reader, commented that for him it is the last part of any story that slows him down. And not wanting to be left out, the voracious reader of the family, our Ram, piped in, “I don’t slow down at all. I like reading the first, the second and the last part”  Atta boy! I thought to myself. Not necessarily for what he said on his reading style but that he made his opinion matter. A lot of times, may be because he is small relative to the rest of us, we overlook him on subjects that involve deeper discussion but he always stands tall,  makes his voice heard, and weighs in with his thoughts. Never ceases to surprise me. Anyway, I digress.

This discussion was a revelation to me. It made me cognizant of my reading style and helped me figure out why I have been reading less. The first few chapters requires that I stick to the book, so it can grip me.  Without understanding that piece, I have been expecting to instantly immerse myself in the story and have ended up feeling utterly disappointed.  I am not sure I got my reading mojo back but it is good to know that there is some mojo left.

What is your reading style? Do you ever suffer from a reading block? What are you reading? What is next on your list?

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Dance, Experiences, Gratitude, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Memories, Milestones, N40

Me, myself and my dance

Life beckons and I have to heed to it. Yet, I linger, wanting to soak in the sudden emptiness that I am feeling. For the past six months, dance has ranked high in my list of priorities. For the past six weeks, dance has been the center of my life. The critic in me chides me for not doing more, for not trying harder, for not making the most of the opportunity.  Yet, the pragmatic in me acknowledges that while there is always room to do more and be better, I did the best I could on any given day. Some days my best was good enough and on other days it was not.  And that’s part of being a human.

I have given my bare minimum to my family for the past several months. Dance is to me what sports is to Hari. In that we share a connection. A connection that is born out of setting your heart at something, working on it, feeling jubilant on some days, feeling disappointed on other days, and knowing that true strength lies in picking ourselves up every time we fall. Hari has shielded me with his pep talks, “Just imagine Ram and I waving at you amma if you get the jitters.”  He has held down the fort stepping up to be there for his little brother in my absence. And Ram what can I say about this little one, our very own Krishna? Dance has given us the gift of new bonding experience. I just love to sing “Avani rohini ashtami yele aradhajama nerathile avadharithaya” as I give a cheek rub to him, a rush of love washing over me. Da has been the pillar of support I have leaned on. Where do I even begin? Suffice to say that he walked the talk and did so wholeheartedly, doing all the heavy lifting, and making sure that the kids do not get shortchanged. I don’t think I would have been as unwavering in my support for him if I were in his shoes, so not for a second I take his support for granted. I am especially thankful to him for nailing the big picture in my head – it’s rare to get an opportunity to do something like this, outside of the commitments that life thrusts on us, at this stage of our lives and I should remember to derive positive energy from it and not get distracted with the noises. 

Over the past six weeks my dance mates and I have spent close to 30 hours per week in dance practices. I would love to say that all that time was spent dancing, but that’s not how it works. You wait a lot, then you practice some. Going after your passion may sound like pure bliss and all lofty. But the truth is even for pursuits of your choice, they come with their share of baggage. We were preparing for a 3-day dance event, one that we knew was going to be a labor of love. Taking care of the practical aspects was the easier part. It was the emotional part that involved a ton of hard work. To stay focused, to push oneself harder, to not get lost in the stories we tell ourselves, and to practice self compassion.

Some days were more challenging than others and a little TLC went a long way in building that resilience muscle. One of the best parts about the dance camp was the support group we developed and the plethora of opportunities we had to get to know each other as individuals. We rooted, helped, inspired, provided constructive feedback, showed appreciation, and hugged each other. On the day of the performance, we complimented each other on how we looked. I think it had less to do with makeup and costumes and more to do with how fond we had grown of each other. They say friends come into our lives for a reason, season or a lifetime. Only time will tell what path our friendships will take. One thing is for certain; the summer of this year will go down in the books of our lives as a time that weaved us all together in a shared experience, and from knowing  that we all gave it our all no matter what else was going in our lives.

I feel immensely thankful to my teacher for her bold vision and audacious dreams for her milestone production, and getting all of us pumped up about it. I am deeply grateful she introduced us to one of the finest teachers and choreographers, who we fondly address as Thiru anna. One who believes that everyone is capable, that imperfections are part of being a human, and that mistakes are ok but to remember to never lose the happiness one derives from dancing. It was a blessing to be part of anna’s creative process and seeing first hand how even a small act can be elevated to a higher level with willingness, creativity and effort. Such a precious and rewarding experience. 

If you had asked me last week, I would have told you that I can’t wait for this week to come. What I expected to feel was relief at being able to move on with other aspects of my life. What I am feeling instead is an emptiness that comes from having to let go something that gave an intense sense of purpose and pushed us beyond our comfort zones. I don’t want this emptiness to end, so I prolong. Checking whatsapp messages, refreshing facebook page, and going through the motions of the past six weeks, and itching to do more. 

Dance means different things to different people. To me, bharathanatyam is my Zen. It helps me discover more about myself,  be accepting of my strengths and weaknesses, quench my thirst to learn and grow as a person.  And for that I am eternally grateful and incredibly blessed. 

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Experiences, Gratitude, Introspection, Kids, Learnings, Little Moments, Milestones

Sunday school this year

Last sunday was my last day of Sunday school for the year. Like the past few years that familiar feeling of pang returned with gusto at dismissal. You know that feeling of missing out on the rest of the learning journey of a bunch of goofy, mischievous, argumentative, lovable, and affectionate bunch of little humans who have delighted and exasperated you.

This was my first year teaching fourth grade and how different the dynamics are from teaching second graders!  I loved the syllabus – dasavatharam, ramayanam and mahabhratha. In fourth grade, students are more engaged, contributing as much as learning, having strong opinions, likes and dislikes, and don’t miss a chance to challenge you with their accumulated knowledge. On the flip side, if you have reluctant learners, it takes a lot of effort and creativity to find something that resonate with them. Classroom management was tougher on some days because children are more brave about questioning authority. So there has to be clarity in expectations and boundaries.  I was fortunate to have had a mentor who is one of the creative teachers that has inspired me to get better at what I do. I learnt that kids learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process (opportunities to participate in class, hands-on activities, project based learning) than when they are in passive mode (listening to lectures). I had underestimated how little I knew of the mythologies but I would like to think that we learnt and grew together as a class. 

We ended last class with a class selfie and as we were wrapping up, one kid popped the question – “What is the most ridiculous thing we have done in culture class?” A few ideas were thrown in and the popular vote was for – talking about vegetable korma when we were discussing Kurma avatar… !  which had all of us break into peals of laughter. I could not have asked for a better way to end the school year. 

I am not sure how much of this year’s learning will stay with the children but if they have had few laughs and have associated learning with fun, I think the class has served its purpose.

 

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Experiences, Gratitude, Learnings, Me

Sharing My World

Thank you Cee for your questions this week.

When writing by hand do you prefer to use a pencil or pen? As a child, I have aspired for a better handwriting. I even used to have a notebook in which I practiced writing. Somehow, I never got better at it. I also write very slowly and can’t write well with some writing instruments (eg. ink pens or mechanical pencils).  For better or worse, the only time I write is when I am writing a check or a checklist. My instrument of preference is Reynolds Bold black ballpoint pen.

Would you rather be an amazing dancer or an amazing singer? I would love to be an amazing dancer with profound understanding and appreciation for music.

If you were on a debate team, what subject would you relish debating? The idea of debating does not hold my interest anymore. When it comes to debating, people come with the mindset to win, to prove their point; it is seldom about learning and seeing things from another’s perspective. On the other hand, I love to be part of discussions where things are analysed from different perspectives, where there is an opportunity to grow and learn. The kind of discussion that NPR hosts – Onpoint, Hidden Brain and Ted Radio. I would relish any discussion related to the human nature and the enigma that the human mind is.

What are you a “natural” at doing? Empathising comes naturally to me. It’s both the boon and bane of my existence.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? Last week was an emotionally draining week with a lot of things going on. I am very thankful from the bottom of my heart for Da’s calm, solid, unbiased, predictable presence in my life. This week, I am looking forward to coming back home after my business trip.

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Experiences, Hari Katha, Introspection, Learnings

Language Problem

I had noble intentions and grand dreams when I signed up Hari for learning tamil in sunday school. I thought I would push myself to learn to read and write in the language in order to be able to guide him. Turned out, this is one of those classic cases wherein the notion of doing something is more appealing than actually doing it. It was easier said than done. 

Hari has been learning tamil for the past six years and almost always, it has ended in one way – with  an SOS call to my parents or my friends with a plea for last minute help. Poor Hari! The child does not complain, the problem solver that he is, he resorts to google translation, and does his best to be independent. But there is only so much self sufficiency in an unfamiliar language.

Do you ask why continue then? I don’t know. I really don’t know. Seeing that this is going nowhere, a rational person would have let go. Somehow, both Hari and I are unable to let go. We have come very close to giving up only to go crawling back to square one.

They say, on the day of victory no fatigue is felt. When we read an essay we have written, an essay we were incapable of writing to begin with, one we struggled to frame word by word after referencing to google translation and generous help from family and friends, there is a part of us that feels hopeful and accomplished. And it is that spark of hope that makes us pick ourselves, again and again. 

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Experiences, Gratitude, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Me, Now, Wishes

Word of the year

For 2015, the word of the year was Discipline. The year taught me that I have a hard time being disciplined because I am an inherently indisciplined person. And I realized that striving for Discipline is a lifelong ongoing effort for me rather than something I can master in a year. So the quest continues.

For 2016, the word of the year was Detox. Relative to 2015, I did much better in terms of sticking to the intention. But I was unable to keep up the momentum in spite of having practiced it aggressively for the first six months. I knew I was slipping, I kept telling myself that I need to pick myself up. But somehow the mind has a mind of it’s own and it sabotaged my voice of reason. And that’s ok. It just means that I need to work a lot harder than what I thought.

For 2017, I am  choosing Mindfulness. I want to know my mind and if feasible, befriend it so I can help it to help me. I want to be aware when the mind is running helter skelter and gently bring it back to the present moment and to the current task.  I am also choosing this word because I am a big picture person, which has its pros and cons. Pros being I am generally easy going, I can take a step back from a situation with some effort and I do not sweat the small stuff for the most part.  Cons being I do not pay close attention to details, I can be blissfully clueless about so many things, and most importantly, I am not living life in all its richness. So I am going to give a shot at beginning the practice of living a mindful life.  

If you are reading this and if you feel up to it, I would love to know your intentions for the new year. Here is to new beginnings, opportunities, experiences and intentions. 

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Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Loss, Wishes

Reflections and Wishes

“Breathe in. Breathe out,” I tell myself.  I feel heavy hearted as I recall the events from this year. I scroll back to the entries since the beginning of the year by way of reassuring myself that this year too has had its share of joyful events. And I am not disappointed. There is plenty to rejoice about. Life is kind that way, it tosses bouquets even when it throws brickbats.

My mil’s health setbacks and her subsequent passing away this year has undoubtedly dented our lives. And just like that this year marked the end of an era for the family. We miss amma at random times for random reasons. Sometimes we talk about it and at other times, we just sit tight, keeping a low profile, waiting for the feeling to pass.

“Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande is the book that has had an immense influence on me this year. Human body is a complex and sophisticated machine and like any other machine, it is bound to wear and tear with time.  The book made me think a lot about aging and mortality and humbled me.  We can’t live life fearing the worst. Nor should we live life as though we have unlimited time on earth. We should strive to live our fullest in the moments given to us, with the people around us.  

This year has been a milestone year in so many ways. Da and I celebrated our 15 years of togetherness. Hari started middle school and Ram began kindergarten.  We became US citizens and voted for the first time.

I took up a lot of volunteering projects this year – at school, at the local library, and in Sunday school, and realized that there is always so much to do. The more activities I engage in outside home, the more motivated I feel to come back to my home, to my people. I experimented with cooking quite a bit this year, and loved practicing eating right and eating clean. I jogged consistently for the first half of the year, shed some pounds and felt like I took responsibility for my health, I tried my hands on meditation and was awed by the power that mind has over the body. 

My heartfelt wishes to you and your family in the brand new year.  I wish you clarity amidst chaos, faith and hope in the face of panic, strength and belief to fight setbacks, focus when distractions rule, interests and passions that fill you, family and friends to love and cherish, a healthy body, a peaceful mind and a sound intellect. Lightness, cheer and merriment. Happy 2017.

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