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, Experiments, Food, Health and fitness, Learnings

Lost and Gained

In the context of weight loss, I have lost, gained, lost again, gained again… you see the pattern right. Basically, I have not been able to sustain my efforts or maintain my weight. I was not following any fad diets, I lost weight the healthy way. But needless to say, they were not sustainable. Sadly, for the past two years, I simply have not been able to do what it takes. May be as I age, the reserve of determination is getting depleted. May be the body metabolism changes with every weight loss, and my body is demanding more than what I can provide. Today, I heard the Life Kit podcast and had some big takeaways.

  • Our body has a natural tendency to fight weight loss, which is why it is hard to maintain weight loss.
  • I knew what we eat matters more than how much we exercise for weight loss but what I didn’t realize was exercise helps with maintaining the weight you have lost. So for weight loss, eat right. For weight maintenance, exercise right.
  • Given that, there is no point in aiming for weight loss. Instead, take the high road, focus on making behavioral changes, lifestyle changes, changes that you enjoy because the chances are if you don’t believe in or enjoy what you are doing, you are not going to be able to embrace it in the long term.

The grand conclusion is weight loss should afterall not be the goal. Accept your body for what it is, do what works in the long term; you may not end up being slim and trim but you will be healthy and happy. Something to ponder about. 

Posted in Introspection, Learnings, Life

The ways of the mind

I keep telling myself if only I can be focused. Not jump from one tab to another, one gadget to another, one activity to another, one thought to another, one distraction to another. Have sharp focus and clean mind. Just give it my all to the task right in front of me, to what I am doing at the moment, to what is, then I can conquer mountains and boil oceans. The thing is that state of mind is elusive even when it feels like it is within my grasp.  The rare moments that I get a taste of it, I nod to myself in agreement of what’s often told – the high is real!

Posted in Experiences, Family, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Memories, People, Research, Travel, Trying, Us

Goldstars

Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth in Happier with Gretchen podcast have a segment called Goldstar and Demerit. Think of Goldstar as a pat on the shoulder or a smiley face 🙂 and a Demerit as a kick on the bottom or a frowning face 🙁. In a fit of silliness, I started doling out Goldstars and Demerits to the kids during the trip and somehow it has caught on. Every now and then, the boys now come up to me and ask , “Do I get a Goldstar for cleaning up?” “Do I get a Goldstar for doing my homework on time?” I think it is beginning to mean something to them, I can see their eyes shining at the mention of Goldstar. Funny, what started of as a joke is evolving into something more meaningful. 

Why not some travel related Goldstars to all of us?

  • Goldstar to Da, for taking the plunge, and booking the tickets. I kept dilly dallying, procrastinating and feeling utterly overwhelmed. Not knowing where to begin, I conveniently resorted to inaction. Also, Goldstar to Da for constantly making conversations with the Ticos to get local knowledge on places to visit. Thanks to him, we visited the botanical garden and learnt about the artisans shops, which we would not have uncovered otherwise.
  • Goldstar to Hari, for carrying us through this trip with his spanish. He has had only two years of training at school, so is not an expert by any stretch of imagination. Yet, he conversed with the driver, the shopkeepers, and the restaurant folks. Thanks to him, we did not feel the pinch of visiting a country that spoke an unfamiliar language. Mighty proud of him!
  • Goldstar to Ram, for being a trooper. The child had ear infection, bronchitis, and was coughing throughout the trip. But he held on, did not complain, and was eager to take in the travel.  
  • Goldstar to yours truly, for ensuring the house was in order before we left and that our routine would be seamless following our return. I also read up a lot and familiarised myself with the Costa Rican culture prior to the trip.
  • Goldstar to my friends, P and V. We went to Costa Rica from New Jersey. P’s place in NJ is like a second home for us. We go there without even packing our toiletries. Not only did we have a good time there, P helped us with all things that we would need before and after travel. My childhood friend V, did the housekeeping for us here, and welcomed us with home cooked meals and groceries for this week. Truly, I have the best of friends!
Posted in Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Intentions, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Milestones, Us

2018 Year end report

Time for year end review post. What were the mile markers in this year’s journey? How did we do as a family?

The year started with all of us settling down in our renovated house. It was a humongous relief getting the house to ourselves after living with the construction noise, clutter, dust, uncertainty, and intrusion for close to six months. We hosted our immediate and extended family for Hari’s poonal function, our neighbors for thanksgiving, and are hosting the weekly Destination Imagination meetings. Many evenings, we are huddled together in the home office to finish up on commitments related to school, work and others. Weekends are spent watching movies as a family cosying up in the media portion of the attic.  The day is not complete without Da and Hari chilling out in the attic tossing a few balls and hitting a few shots in the attic. Ram has made use of every inch of his room, and has been royally kicking us out should we not honor the rules that he has set. All in all, incredibly thankful for the big and little moments that the renovation had made it possible for us.

Soon after that we got knee deep in poonal preparations. It was a ton of work, money and planning. It was an enjoyable and learning experience. It was a very humbling one too because you realize it takes many hands and all stars to align to make it happen. Lucky for us, our friends and family were such troopers! Loved loved having all the little humans gathered under our roof. Every once in a while, we, meaning I, guilt Hari into doing his sandhi or atleast the Gayathri mantram. Other than that, post poonal life has been business as usual for the chap.

We had Aaru and family stay with us for an additional month, and my parents for the next few months. T.H.A.N.K.F.U.L for the joy, for the bonding, and for the opportunity. And oh, our yard saw some pruning, trimming and planting, all credit goes to amma and Da. They made my dream of having rose bushes in the front yard happen. We did local stuff and celebrated festivals with appa and amma. Hari and Da went to San Francisco and Washington DC for cricket tournaments.

Fall went by in a blur with back to school, navratri, diwali, halloween and thanksgiving. A ton of stuff packed in these months, there was hardly any time to breathe.

Hari and Ram have lapped up all the affection they got from the family during their stay and have lavished them in return. They have been working hard on school and other activities. Private baseball did not work out for Hari this year but he has channeled all that energy towards cricket. School is keeping him on his toes. He has taken advanced math course and that’s been the training ground for him and us as a family for high school. Ram’s academics has ramped up too. His sole mission is to do all things required of him, so he can just relax and get bored. And I can tell you, there is no better motivator than that! Da has done well, and the highlight for him is taking up managing the Destination Imagination for a small group of kids. It is not easy work and I proud of him for doing it with enthusiasm, without an iota of resentment. As far me, the year was a mixed bag. Worked on a really interesting project at work during the first six months. I could not take up dance class due to schedule conflicts. I helped organize the diwali event for the town this year. I embraced a little bit more of technology in Sunday school. I have languished on my eating and workout habits. Going easy on myself is not an approach that works for me. Lesson learnt!

How did your 2018 go? What are you proud of? What are some lessons your learnt? 

Posted in Learnings, Life, People, Uncategorized

Transgender Awareness Week

I read on FB that this week is Transgender Awareness Week. So thought I would share something that has been brewing in my head for sometime now. 

A colleague of mine is a transwoman. I have known her long before she transitioned (from male to female). When she disclosed her transition, it was a shock. I did not have an inkling! She has been generous about sharing her journey, educating the rest of the world about what it is to be trapped in a body that one does not belong to, about the high suicide rate amongst transgender people due to family pressure and societal stigma. It is not a life choice, she says. You don’t transition because you want to, you transition because you have to.

Can you imagine what a person with that condition must be going through? It must be an unbearable, excruciating, and lonely journey. Kudos to them for going through enormous physical, emotional and mental pain to be true to themselves. As a society, we have a lesson or two to learn. To not judge what we do not understand. To not dismiss what we do not relate to. 

I am proud of Massachusetts that voted YES on ballot question 3, which is s a referendum on the state’s 2016 transgender rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation, in the midterm.

On a side note, I thought Arundathi Roy did a fabulous job of articulating the inner turmoil of transgender people through her protagonist, Anjum, a hijra, in her novel the Ministry of Utmost Happiness. It’s worth a read.

Posted in Gratitude, Hari Katha, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Little Moments, Ram Leela

End of school year

I am lying down on my belly, my legs swinging up in the air and hitting down on the ground  playfully, as I thumb through Ram’s workbook from school. Akhil is lying down on me, his belly on my back, peeking at the book that I am thumbing through and explaining the details on the page every once in a while. It’s a rare moment. One I keep intending to have but never end up having. Finally, I have the time and he has the inclination to go over what he has been upto at school.

I take delight in knowing the nitty gritties – oh he knows to do 2 digit and 1 digit addition, he has been taught to identify coins based on which US President is on the coin, he has been tracking the pumpkin growth from the seed to sapling, and there has been a lot of learning about guppies and pillbug just like Hari did, he has been learning about maps, and he has been introduced to poetry.

“Hari, do you think you can take a moment to reflect on your seventh grade, and write a little something for me? I want to know what you thought of your seventh grade?” Dead silence is what I hear in reply. I can hear the talking going on in his head. Writing is boring and reflecting is even more boring. Who does that anyway? Still, it’s mom, she is asking, what choice do I have? So he obliges and whips up something for me. The crux being, “form my own opinion and not to piggyback on someone else’s” He went into seventh grade thinking that he was going to hate it because of all the things he had heard about the team he was assigned to but came out of seventh grade feeling like much fun was had!  

I have been very hands off with both the children this school year. Fall and early winter went by with renovation work, early spring and rest of the school year was full with upanayanam preparations. I have been feeling very out of touch, very uninvolved and incomplete this school year. As I closed the last of the pile of materials that were sent at the end of the year by Ram’s teacher and read Hari’s year round up write up, I heaved a sigh of satisfaction. I finally felt like a mom who knew what her children have been doing at school, albeit in hindsight. Hopefully more real time next school year.