Sunday, January 1, 2017

Chuck Those New Year Resolutions!

Break your new year resolutions! (Photo credit)
Now that you have spent almost the whole first day of the year, I guess you realised that it was pretty much like every other day. I bet you did not even make it to the gym. What did you say...you'll start from tomorrow? Well, let me tell you that if you expect to hit the gym consistently thrice a week, stick to your diet all year, be well organised, give up negativity and become all positive - it is not going to happen as perfectly from today as you imagined. You aren't going to be the perfect version of yourself just because it's the new year. Why, you ask? The year changed, not us. And although we imagine that we are going to turn a new leaf all of a sudden, the goals we strive to achieve in the new year are going to be one step at a time. 

We all want to be the best and every new year gives us a hope that we will be. While chasing perfection is an ongoing thing, I think the new year can be a great time to do so many exciting things - other than, of course, worry about how imperfect we are. Some of the things I can think of are: 

Start with a brand new DP on all your profiles
Try a new hairstyle 
Change the way you dress for something you haven't tried before
Combine the clothes you have in a different way 
Workout with new people
Try heels if you wear flats 
Get adventurous and travel alone 
Say hello to the guy you see working in the cafe all the time (I did)

The year changed overnight. We didn't. We won't. So don't bend yourself out of shape hoping you'll wake up tomorrow in an ideal state through the magic of the new year. Pick your goals wisely and work on them gradually. 

So what are your new year goals? Resolutions break, so why make them! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What Are Your New Year Resolutions?

What are your new year resolutions? (Photo credit)
As is the tradition, this time of the year we look back and reminisce and also get all futuristic and start making resolutions. And when I got to thinking about my plans or resolutions for next year - I like to call them goals - I found myself wondering how irrelevant our usual goals are. Work out regularly, get better at time management, finish that MBA, lose weight and get back into shape, get more business, be a better person. Do we change as people? Do we really address things that really matter and make the world a better place to live in? Just some random thoughts that came to my mind - this new year, how about:

a little less take and a little more give

a little less outrage and a little more calm

a little less worry about the world and a little more be yourself

a little less judgement and a little more understanding

a little more empathy and a little less apathy

a little less screen time and a little more people time

I know this isn't a long laundry list of life altering resolutions but I think they will need some good amount of work to accomplish. A worthwhile goal for the new year.

So what are your resolutions? Although, it is perfectly fine if you think like Calvin too! :)

(Photo credit)



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Flashback 2016: Glimpses Of Books Read

What's on you reading list this year?
Yet another year is about to end and we are all taking stock of the good and the bad. And for avid readers like me, looking back on the good and bad books read is like a ritual, almost. So I was looking at my list and saw a fair mix of fiction and non fiction, work and non work books. Going nuts during the Amazon sale in August is also becoming a kinda tradition with me. I bought quite a few this year which also led to raised anxiety levels about finding the time to actually read them. I also realized that most books were work related nothing light and entertaining. I also tried out a subscription of Kindle Unlimited this year. And that became the source of my fiction/light reading. Although I was quite impressed when I decided to subscribe, but 11 months later, not so much. There are thousands of free books but not many that I’d like to read. Good authors and work related books that I’d want aren’t, obviously, on the free list. In fact, I ended up with a few stinkers which is just a waste of time and I could have used that to use more useful time. 

Anyways, here is a general trail of my reading list. Feel free to borrow some titles for your 2017 reading list.

Sophie Kinsella: I re-read some books this year since its nice to ease into the comfort of familiarity. And Sophie Kinsella is an all time comfort read for me. All her books have a unique flavour starting from the famed Shopaholic series. I read her last book, Shopoholic to the stars last year and bought the sequel, Shopoholic to the Rescue and finished reading it this year. One of the few authors I have read most of the books of. Waiting for her next release in 2017. 

Ruskin Bond: One good thing that Kindle Unlimited brought me was the discovery of Ruskin Bond books. No, I wasn’t unaware of this author but I hadn’t really read his books (Yes, we all have famous authors we haven’t yet read. So don’t give me that look!) I got hooked on to it and read quite a few of his books. Not only are the books great but one also falls in love with the endearing author. Potpourri, The Blue Umbrella, School Days, Falling in love again, When the Tiger was King - novels and short stories, both genres are a delight to read. 

Chitra Divakaruni: Who can resist the allure of her books after reading the Mistress of Spices! The magic she weaves with her words and plots makes you want to read more. So when Before We Visit The Goddess was released, I promptly bought and sunk into it. And it did not disappoint. 


A must read by Chitra Divakaruni (Photo credit)
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh: A special mention for this book since this was definitely the most riveting fiction I read this year. A gripping book about an accident which keeps you hooked till the end. And despite the grip of the plot, you will wonder how you reached where you are in the book! Go figure! :)

I also read a lot of work related books. On time management, coaching practices and towards the end of the year, a some books on speaking skills - in preparation for some modules I am going to launch in 2017. 

I also landed some stinkers - the ones you can add to your not-to-read list of books. Unladylike, the memoir of and by Radhika Vaz tops my list. To me, reading about someone’s life is worth it when it’s enlightening or up lifting. Or at least when one can identify with the struggles of the author. This book has no such quality. And if Ms. Vaz's  sense of humour is anything like the one in her book, I’m not sure I want to watch any of her performances either. 

Welcome to Americastan by Jabeen Akhtar - bought on a recommendation - also turned out to be a dud. It wasn’t as funny or interesting as the description of the book. 

Ms. Communications by Myra Kendrix - another (never ending) chick lit book I wasted my time on, thanks to Kindle Unlimited. It's got the most cliche plot where the new intern falls for her super arrogant boss. Not my type of fiction. 


Finding Audrey by Kinsella, pretty much the only book by her which I found a drag and couldn’t wait to finish it. (I was still in the finish-what-you-start phase at the time of reading this book )

For next year, I have decided to do a lot more fiction. After a year of serious, work related books, I have this strong urge to sink into the comfort of Jeffery Archer or even plough through Ken Follet. Apart from the old favourites, I intend to read famous authors I haven't touched yet. I have made a list and hope to attack the plan author by author instead of book by book. 

So how has this year for your reading list? I know people who finished 200 by November! I wont even hit half a century by 31st! But that's fine since I am not on a mission to dent their record. I like to read at my own pace and am looking forward to the the amazing fiction filled year that 2017 is going to be! 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Why Should We Exclude Men?

Excluding any gender doesn't seem like the right thing to me (Photo credit)
I have had this idea for a post for quite some time now. But a high profile all women's event happening this weekend finally motivated me to write it. This is a 'women only event' for 2 days and the tweets specify that men are not allowed. There are talks, discussions and entertainment during the festival. But it's women only! When I came across this on Twitter a few months ago, I found the concept odd right from the start! I really don't understand why not want include men? I tweeted to them asking the same question but got no response.

There has been a surge of women friendly groups, associations etc in the recent past. Helping women come back to a second career, create more awareness about their rights, support in starting their own ventures. There are summits and meets that these groups organise. Women who have made it share their experiences, hurdles they faced and how they got to where they are now. The sense of camaraderie among women is the highest in such conferences. We are really there for each other. We create strong bonds of sisterhood! We are the height of our self-worth!

But guess what! Half the world population is men. Yes, this is exactly the opposite of what we hear all the time when we talk about including women - half the world population is women. The same applies to men too. While we are exhilarated at the success of other women and aspire to scale our own heights, there are men in our lives sitting at home blissfully unaware of the mental/emotional transformation we just went through. And then we complain that we don't have enough support for dreams and aspirations from the men in our lives.

And I don't think the exclusion is a new thing. From the time a woman gets her periods, the first ones to be alienated from the very information are men. We've finally woken up to how wrong that is and we are somewhere responsible for the awkward squirming of men in their seats at the mention of the P world! We are trying to right that wrong, albeit most workshops that happen about periods are women-only.

Research has proven that, when it comes to making changes at home that enables a woman spend more time at work, the women want solutions that involve only themselves. They don't want to discuss it with their spouses and get them to make changes. And when men aren't told that probably their habit of spending post-office time in front of the TV with a bottle of beer is causing inconvenience, how can they be blamed for not being more receptive! And guess who is learning this from the fathers? The kids, especially the sons, who think it's the job of woman to get into the kitchen and that a man is free from responsibility.

Every time I go to one of these women group summits, I always think how wonderful would it be for men to be a part of the stimulating conversations that we've heard. How much more sensitive would they be to the challenges women face if we openly included them. I don't know if this is our way of getting back at them for having all male panels - we are going to have all women events. And, just for fun, not include men!! (Imagine Russel Peters voice in your head for the comic effect! :))

To have an event that goes all out and excludes men is beyond me. On the one hand, we are fighting for a more inclusive, more equal world. We talk about raising boys to respect women, to consider them peers and partners - at home and at work and generally get along together. On the other, we have exclusive kitty parties where men aren't allowed.

Am I the only one who finds this odd? Don't you think it'd be more fun of we all got together to enjoy the serious and the fun bits of an event. A chance to spend time together in busy times. A great way to come back and discuss the wonderful happenings of the day and how that could make our lives better. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Day 30: The Finale - Gratitude Post

(Photo credit)
This post idea is inspired by another post I read earlier today but the tone and theme are quite different. I usually believe in counting my blessings and be thankful for what we have. Alana's post inspired me to find gratitude in blogging and the challenge that I have been taking this whole month. I'll accept that it hasn't been easy. I have had to push back a bit of work to prioritise writing the post for the day. I'd rather finish it first when I sit to work rather than scramble to meet the 12 am deadline (like I did last year)

Gratitude also seems like an apt finale rather than the usual lessons-learnt-from-the-challenge post that I did last year. There are things I learnt this year too but I'll be putting them differently. No listicles. :)

First of all it feels great to achieve my first 30 on 30 in a daily challenge! And I think this is possible only when it is set as a challenge. Goals are fine but challenges really drive us. We don't want to be left behind or accept defeat. When I took the challenge last year I was deluded into thinking that writing everyday can be so easy peasy! Just continue what I did for a month! And it took me 8 days to come back for my next post in December! Once the challenge is up, there are other things that jump at us which we have deferred for too long in the favour of the completing the challenge. So yeah! We all need a challenge once in a while to best ourselves. In fact, we should change some of our goals into challenges and we'll definitely have a better shot at making it!

I really enjoyed writing this time. Mainly because I got to dip into post ideas that I have been jotting down for pretty much the entire year. And I've really wanted to write on all of them. I covered quite a few. Plus, I ensured that I found the time to research and provide resources in my posts. It did cost extra time but it definitely improves the quality of and satisfaction from writing the post.

Another thing I managed to do this time, and loved it, is hopping on to others' blogs and reading them. I've found some great blogs and since this is an international fare, I read some posts on Thanksgiving, the US election and other things that aren't relevant in my country. The #NaBloPoMo community is truly international, all of us got talking about the issues that concern us in our immediate surroundings.

So to begin with, I think the first person/people I want to thank are people behind the amazing BlogHer community. Not just for organising this whole challenge, creating the blogroll, putting up prompts and being the encouraging, engaging community that it is. But also for the prompts that they put on their blog every month for us to pick and choose what we want to write on. Getting bloggers from across the world together is quite a feat!

I am also grateful - to the writing gods, I guess - that I could be part of another challenge and actually complete it. I love writing and it has been a great experience to write and put content out there for everyone to read after the abysmal year its been for blogging here.

Also, thanks to all my readers who've stuck around through times of no content and come back when new posts arrive. Also, a special thanks to bloggers from the #NaBloPoMo community who dropped by and left their encouraging comments. I have tried to return the favour and will continue to look up more blogs to read from the Blogher Facebook page.

I still have topics in my list left. And hopefully, if the streak of motivation continues, I should manage a post or two a week. Nothing ambitious for now! :) Looking forward to you all coming back for more posts.

This post is the final post for #NaBloPoMo blogging challenge of 2016 which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Day 29: How To Cut Clutter In Your House

Clearing clutter can be quite overwhelming (Photo credit)
Another post on cutting clear? Really? I understand your scepticism at this. Why would you want to read my post when there is enough and more information online? Tried and tested step by step guides, do's and don't's, hacks, tips and what not. And if self-help books are your kind of thing, you are better off going through the spiritual journey of tidying up with Marie Kondo's book itself. (When I first discovered her I was quite astounded at someone making a fortune by helping you throw away your clutter! Amazing!) So why my post? I have no tips, tricks, hacks. What I have are insights from my own experiences in the last couple of years. I haven't read any fancy book on cleaning up nor do online articles make a lot of sense to me. I am not someone who will go around the house or a room tossing things into a bin and throw them away. I think the process is much more complex. But a few things have made it easier for me:

STOP shopping: If you are jostling for space in your wardrobe, this is the first thing to do. I have stopped buying sarees for a few years now since that's something I don't use often. I haven't bought T shirts in some time now. I have enough to go around. No matter how tempted, I wont buy anything full sleeeves because it doesnt work in the humid weather of Mumbai. And I still have more clothes than I need. If you dig deeper, you will find that you have enough clothes for all times - office, home, weekend wear etc

Put away stuff you 'might' wear: I can't explain the huge difference just doing this made to my wardrobe. There were impulse buys I kept hoping I'll wear. And leaving them in the wardrobe somehow felt I didnt waste money on them. But it makes no sense to let them occupy that space if I was never going to wear them. Accept it. and take them out. From sarees that were gifted to expensive anarkalis that didnt fit anymore, I found a way to get rid of them one way or the other. The latest ones to go out are palazzo pants. (I know they are so comfortable but I have never been happy in the flared ones. so except for a couple of straight cuts, the rest are out) Things that are worn out definitely make their way to the orphanage.

Tackle it section wise. This is common advice. But I say chop it further into sub sections. Clothes mean night wear, gym wear, party wear, office wear etc. This just makes it easy to quickly to look through the sub section and be done with it. With little things like make up and jewellery, start putting them away as you come across something you are no longer using.

Utility not sentimentality: I understand the emotions behind keeping your wedding dress and the first pair of shoes your little one wore. But if you insist on hoarding the shade card from the first time you got your house re-painted, you are going a bit too far. Take away menus you might need come under this category. Everything is available online. For most stuff, if you haven't used in the last 5 years - heck! make it 2 years- it's time to get rid of it.

While I was reading online on the topic, I came across this question:

If you lost everything, what would you need to replace?

I think this is a great guiding principle when you decide whether to keep an item or not. Or whether you should even buy something more. To me, clearing things up is following the law of nature. Even people die to make place for the ones that are born. And only then the natural balance is restored. You can't always bring things into your house and mind without tossing away the old and unused.

Are there any specific techniques that have worked for you? I am always looking for new ideas to try. Shoot! Looking forward! :)

This post is the penultimate post for #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Day 28: The Selfie Tamasha

The selfie craze has moved beyond rational proportions! (Photo credit)

It was a pleasant saturday evening. The spouse and I were enjoying the sunset from the deck along with a cool glass of wine at the York Vineyards in Sula. But the experience was marred by something that was happening on the lawn in front of us. A bunch of college friends who were on a trip were constantly taking selfies on a phone. Sometimes using a selfie stick to cover the whole group. While the beautiful sun was setting behind them spreading crimson and orange across the sky, they were busy clicking selfies!! I wonder why they had to come all the way to the vineyards for that. They might as well have chosen their college lawn to make duck faces at the camera.

The front camera in phones is going to be the undoing of a generation. Clicking selfies is a craze beyond rational behaviour now. I can see people clicking selfies at restaurants while waiting for food etc. That's like a pastime till the food comes. "Can I have a selfie with you?" is such a common request for celebrities that I actually shy away from asking that. No matter what the occasion, whether alone or in a group, indoors or in open spaces, a selfie is in order. Click a selfie, post on all social media and then I don't know what's else is it worth.

Selfies are a part of popular culture we cannot ignore. There are different kinds of selfies depending on where someone is and what one is doing. Just add the word to the name or create a hashtag to make a new name. There are at least 15 kinds of selfies one can find. Since Instagram is the baap of photo networks, there are also selfie trends from time to time to keep the craze going. There was the fingermouthing selfie craze in July this year and the self five selfie trend in october.

It's fine as long as it's fun. But so crazy are people about capturing a unique selfie that might go viral online and get them fame, that they have somewhat lost their senses. They want selfies in front of running trains and from parapet walls of high bridges. India had the highest number of selfie related deaths in 2015. We all remember the recent incident of a man who got bit by a snake since he went too close to take a selfie. A college student slipped into a lake trying to take a selfie. 5 others who jumped to save her also lost their lives. This is a world wide trend and the internet is full of it - Wikipedia has a whole list of notable incidents.

The question to ask here is - where will this stupidity end? Is there a way to inject some sense into people? This is not about education since the smart phone toting generation is educated, modern and aware of what it is doing. Although selfies aren't officially cited as one of the causes people can die from, it is soon moving towards becoming one. And we need to really consider the consequences of giving into something as shallow as taking pictures of our own selfs!

When I look at people taking selfies I am reminded of this tweet by the celebrity blogger, Purba Ray:




And I think this is going to be a bigger tragedy since our future generations - if they survive deaths due to selfies - might be practically deformed! What more! Selfie addiction is also related mental disorders.

Look at it any which way, all this doesn't sound like good news to me. There has to be a way to overcome this and literally save lives. (Probably that could be a topic for another post)

What do you think about taking selfies? Do you take a lot of them?

This post is written for #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Day 27: Why do "people" want to know?

Women get asked a lot more questions than men (Photo credit)
If I got a nickel for every time someone asked me a question that is none of their business, I'd be rich! Like RICH! And I've realised I don't even have to think of all the different questions I got asked over time. The one to top the list is - Where my (forever travelling) spouse is now? And trust me, sometimes even I wouldn't know the answer - or dint care to remember - if he was on a multi city tour in a week. But I'm guessing it's important for people to know.

The next one has got to be when am I going to have a baby! Boy! That's like a staple conversation topic with childless people. (Thankfully, the kid question dwindled out of my life after the initial years except for a few people in the family who just won't let it go! I should really start charging nickels, I guess! LOL!)

And I'll venture to put in a third one since the people who ask this have absolutely nothing to do with it and they still ask - When is a member in my family finishing her Ph.D? And if you know the Indian culture, you definitely can guess the conversation this question is leading to...yeah! you got it!

There are several others related to work too. People find it hard to comprehend that I have any real work to do without a job that keeps me out from 9-5. One question that really gets my goat is, "What plans?" And there's a whole lot of them throughout the year - Your birthday, spouse's birthday, long weekend, Holi, Diwali, Christmas, New Year or the wedding anniversary! Phew!!

And the frustration at this barrage of pointless questions definitely gives way to rolling on the floor kind of laughter. And I really want to ask people, no matter how life altering the topic - how the fuck is that any of their business?? But in our culture, (honestly, I don't know about other countries/cultures) it's everyone else's business but yours. From your marital status to the number of kids you have (or the absence of it), what you wear, what time to arrive home at night, what kind of lifestyle you lead is the business of everyone who has no other business.

And the scrutiny is more pronounced if you are a woman. There is "best by" date for an unmarried woman. And the friendly neighbourhood aunty -who obviously  has nothing else to do - will be able to give you the correct estimate. And if you shrug at it, she'll threaten you with, "It's already late!". By the way, the same threat - sometimes rephrased as, "It's time now" - applies to the having-a-baby question too. Try indulging her with answers and you had it! "Never" is never an acceptable answer. Pat comes the next one, "Why?" The thoughts furiously whirling in aunty's head are - Gay? Medical problem? Try giving them reasons - career, busy life - that sound valid to you and they'll shoot them right out as rubbish. After all, people know better about what we should be doing with our lives than we do! Trust them!

I have had women judged for having a job and taking care of kids. And eyebrows raised if she quit her career to care for her kids full time. "So, are you never getting back to your job?" There, you just trampled on the last of whatever was left of her self esteem!

If you ask me, all this is just a conspiracy of people who-have-not to drag us down with them. When a mom of two pulling her hair out tells me to have a baby since it's so life altering, I just know it! Since the neighbourhood aunty can't wear short dresses and party till 4 am, she is definitely going to tut tut and declare that as immoral.

Of late, my policy is to avoid running into neighbours altogether. I don't want to kill their joy of asking where my spouse is off to by telling them that he doesn't travel much now. And others who have questions about my work etc get generic responses enough to end the conversation. I now believe that the fewer people I meet, the lesser the nonsense in life!

Interestingly enough, I had this post idea in mind for a long time and today's cover story in Times Life - So, when are you settling down? - really pushed me to finally write it. While this post is my personal experience, the piece in Times is relevant to every woman even in today's times.

So, moral of the story: If you are ever confused about your life and you should go to random people. They always always know better than you about your own life.

Have you - I am sure you have - spill your experiences here! If there are any guys who read this post, I'd love to hear from you too! Are you guys also exposed to scrutiny and unwanted advice like women do?

This post is written for #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer every year.