Friday, January 24, 2014

Relaxation & Realization!

This is officially my first post for the year 2014!

And am writing it on 24th January....after 3 whole week in to the new year!  Clearly, that "relaxation" resolution is coming out really well.

Actually I had been incredibly busy, mainly with work and business travel up until last weekend. Still, "relaxation" is on, especially over the weekends when am doing nothing but generally chilling out (which is different from my otherwise busy recent weekends of filming, writing, travelling etc.).

Much has happened over the last few weeks, but before we get into that, you may have noticed that I am not doing any "counting" of days in the title of this post. Given that the frequency of my posts are gonna be pretty low this year, there is not much point keeping track of that anymore. So that's that.

Alright, so what's happened over the last few weeks.
1) I had a super hectic time at work with 6 major presentations over 5 days and while that broke my back, I have emerged unscathed and victorious, even. In simpler terms, it all went well and was well worth the pain.

2) I had a good trip to Guangzhou, one of the few work trips there that I have actually enjoyed (simply because it is one hell of a boring place). It's all thanks to the fantastic cold winter there and my routine walks to the hotel from the office every night in the chilling cold.

3) I am picking up Surya Namaskar (a yoga routine) and Ashtanga yoga these days and thoroughly enjoying it.

4) I even tried Kundalini yoga and I must say it was not something I was expecting. Surprising and fun!

5) I read yet another Vish Puri mystery by Tarquin Hall - "The case of the Love Commandos" and completely enjoyed it!

6) The hubby and I completed 12 years of togetherness. That's 1 whole dozen and we are still going strong & steady!

7) The little one has started to walk and it is so fascinating to see her trying out her new skill set! So when I get back home after these days, she doesn't crawl up to me, she "runs" up to me and hugs my legs. Total heart melting stuff, that!

And on top of all of this, I made a major realization.

I realized what are the things that I really want to do in life.

It all started with yet another hypothetical, imaginative Q&A game, one of those that I love to play with the hubby. Over a long dinner or coffee, I like to throw a random question at him (and then answer it myself after his turn). "Where do you think you will be 10 years from now"?, "What are the three things about yourself that you love? And three things that you want to change about yourself", "What are you 3 biggest achievements this year?", "What are the 3 things that you think you should have done this year but didn't" etc. etc.

I find these pretty fun to do (even though the hubby doesn't share this feeling always), because I think it helps to discover a few things about yourself that you were probably unaware of until then.

Which is pretty much what happened over last weekend.

As we had our 12-years-of-love celebratory dinner, I threw a random question at him.

Me: What do you think would be a few things that you would regret on your deathbed?
He: Hmmm.... uhmmm.... erm..... *clears the throat*.... oh yeah... .I don't know.
Me: Arre... think of something.... like, what is it that if you don't do, you know for sure you will regret.
He: But I might do it by the time I die any way.
Me: Yes, but assuming you didn't.
He: Even if I didn't, I don't know whether I will regret. You know... whether there will be any regret.
Me: Ugh. Can you just humour me and play the game?
He: Hmmm... OK maybe after Teamie (the start up he has founded and is currently the CEO of), I might regret not starting up another one.
Me: Hmm! Interes.....
He: Or....I might regret starting one.
Me: Uh?
He: You get it.
Me: No, I don't.

This went on for a while until he came up with his list. And then it was my turn and I, very sincerely, thought about it.

And interestingly, I didn't have any of the things I thought I would have in my list. For e.g....

I didn't say that if I don't try out my hand at mainstream film direction (vs. the zero-budget, independent stuff I do now), I will regret it. So clearly, that is not my ambition.

I didn't say that if I don't spend more time with my family, I would regret it. So clearly, I think I am at the right balance of work time and family time now.

I didn't say that if I don't reach a top position in my company, I would regret it. So clearly, that is not my ambition either.

If I were to step back and give an opinion on this as a third party, maybe the above could have been some of the items on my list, but they weren't.

Instead I made a few interesting discoveries. Apparently, some of the things I would regret not doing would be...
1) Being a good yoga practitioner - one who can hold the asanas with grace and one who practices even in old age.
2) Scuba diving
3) Playing the guitar or the violin (two of the instruments I used to play while in school but gave up completely once I moved to Singapore)
4) Making a real, tangible, sustainable difference to even a small part of the society
5) Meditating regularly

Wow. I had no idea these things had so much importance to me until this exercise was completed. I think it was a useful exercise because unlike making resolutions where you limit yourself to what you can realistically do within a certain amount of time, here you are basically going beyond those limitations and saying, by the time I reach the point where this life no longer exists, there are these things that are either giving me a lot of meaning or are something I would love to experience. How fascinating!

It was also fascinating to note that there was nothing about films or writing or travel or family or career in there. I shared this a friend and she pointed out that maybe that's because I am pretty content with where I am on these aspects - something which I should feel really GREAT about! Wow.

So what am I going to do about these 5 things on the list? Well, I haven't exactly figured it out, but I will do something for sure. More on that in the coming posts!

For now, am happy and am inspired!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Day 368: Resolutions - 2013, 2014!

It was a rather eventful year and I had been wanting to write out a "close out" blog entry for it. 

However, the last few days of the year were so very eventful that I am getting to this only now, on the 13th of January, after blogging an immense amount of backlog over the first few days of the year. 

So why was this year eventful?

Firstly, when I started on the year, the little one was only 2 months old. If that itself doesn't make it eventful, what does?!

Secondly, since I had a baby on my hands, the obsessive compulsive persona of mine drew up a long list of resolutions at the beginning of the year, covering various facets of my life. The idea was to ensure that I don't go "out of touch" with my extra curricular activities with the new, intensive routine.

So yes, I drew up what I thought was a pretty adequate list of resolutions - not too laid back, not too ambitious.

And like I mentioned here, I managed to not only tick off every single resolution, I even "overdelievered" on almost every single one of them as well! 

Here's what happened.

1) Resolution: Take 1 break every quarter. 

I ended up taking 5.

2) Resolution: Travel to 1 new country. 

I ended up travelling to 5 new ones.

3) Resolution: Write 1 feature film script OR 50 blog posts OR 5 short stories/scripts. 

I ended up writing 181 blog posts, 1 short story, 3 episodes for a sitcom, 1 short film and 1 screenplay for a friend.

4) Resolution: Exercise a total of 100 days. 

I did 169 days.

5) Resolution: Go for 50 classes of yoga. 

I did 66.

6) Resolution: Have a special celebration for the little one. 

I did that by taking all of us, including both sets of her grandparents to Kashmir. In midst of that beauty, with the closest people to her, I thought it was more special than I could have hoped for.

7) And last but the not the least, Resolution: Arrange a special gift for the hubby this year. 

And I did that by planning and executing the Scandinavian cruise with the surprise elements of the birthday decor, birthday cake etc. He tell me that it "absolutely exceeded his expectations", so am happy with that !

On top of this I saved a little more money than I had targeted to and I completed the shoot, edit and dub for a short film (Aravindum Aarumughamum) which wasn't even part of the plan!

Nett, it was a terrific year and I am super thankful for everything! For a wonderful family, for a wonderful set of friends and for having had the energy and health to complete all that I had on my list!

Now, coming to dear 2014. 

I once again drew up a long list of resolutions. It featured everything from travel to films, from writing to family and from work to workouts. 

But then, after a few days, I decided that it won't do. I realized that this year, I don't want to be in a constant state of stretching myself. My work is super demanding in my new assignment and after a few years of what seems like non stop racing, this year, I would like to take a  breather. This year, I would like to relax.

So the original list has been cancelled and now I have a new one where the focus is on relaxing. I am not asking myself to write anything - no scripts, no stories, nothing. I only have a few resolutions related to workouts and better eating, because health is wealth and all that. 

In fact, I don't even have a resolution on the number of blog entries I should be writing this year. If I feel like it, I will write. If not, nothing. And that applies to everything else as well - scripting, filming, everything. 

Atleast, that's the plan. Let's see where that goes. 

And with that, here's wishing everyone a very Happy 2014!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Days 364 - 367: When the Year Passed Quietly but Beautifully!

It was one of those years when I had very little awareness that it was time for a new year to begin and that this one is pretty much done with. Usually, there would be an excited countdown towards the New Year's Eve, some sort of New Year celebration and a volley of "Happy New Year" messages and calls I would be making left, right and centre.

However this year, I was too busy to bother about any of the above, believe it or not. 

So much so that when the evening of the New Year's Eve came by, at 8pm, I was like... "I am not very hungry. But I will have some Kerala Paratha, egg curry, chicken curry and prawns curry. Oh it is New Year's Eve. I should be staying up until midnight. But am too full and too exhausted. What the heck. Am going to bed."

You see, while the hubby went straight back to Singapore from Bangalore on some imaginary "office work" (seriously, who works in the last week of December?!), his parents... i.e. my in-laws, accompanied me from Bangalore to Kerala on a short holiday. And on their behalf as well as mine, I think it was a fantabulous holiday!

Let me summarize all the highlights of the last few days:

1) Housewarming celebration
As soon the we got back to my hometown, we went straight in for the housewarming celebration of our new place. We had guests pouring in to check out the new place (and they had really nice things to say about it, and of course all credit goes to my parents). 

Later, all of us went off to a banquet hall in a hotel where there was a musical performance put together by my dad's friends (let me add that they are all professional musicians... for the unaware, my dad himself is a professional musician!), followed by dinner. The singers sang several Hindi songs especially dedicated to my in-laws and overall, I must say it was a rather nice evening!

The little one was also in high spirits greeting all the guests, even walking around (with support still) in the banquet hall, shaking hands with everyone and posing for numeros pictures with her toothless grin. She had decided that I am her most favourite person after having disappeared for a few days and was all over me with love. I must say, I quite enjoyed that!

2) Poomala
I had written about this place in my old blog, so am not repeat what it is and how and why it is beautiful. But since it is beautiful, it was only right to take the in-laws there to partake the beauty. So we went there, enjoying the Kerala countryside along the way, and spent a short while, taking in the sights, clicking a ton of pictures and enjoying ourselves thoroughly. Am so glad my dad discovered this gem of a place! 

3) Athirapilly & Peringankuthu
Together with the company of my cousins and aunt, we also paid a visit to the majestic Athirapilly waterfalls. The full force of the falls is visible only during the monsoons, but this time wasn't bad either. With three tall falls back to back, they are always a magnificent sight! 

After Athirapilly, we made our way to Perigankuthu a heavily forested conservatory area, that required special permit to get into. 

The proof that this was thick, unadulterated tropical forest in all its glory, was that we spotted baboons, a baby deer and well, the full untouched skin shed by a super long snake. Over much discussion, the snake, which started off as the mighty King Cobra, came down to a poison-less mere watersnake, thereby bursting several bubbles. In either case, am pretty glad we didn't see the snake itself. The folks living there (mainly forest officers) told us that there are even elephants and tigers in the area, but we were not fortunate enough to spot any.  

We made two stops at Peringankuthu. One to take a look at the dam and the catchment area from a viewpoint high above, and another at the dam itself. 

The viewpoint gave spectacular views of the rolling, thickly vegetated hills, the tranquil waters below, the beautiful dam and calming skies with low hanging clouds. 

At the dam, we walked around for a bit, sat on some rocks and had a beautiful music session where my cousin brother and my mom in law sang a few lovely songs! 

It was so perfect! The peaceful atmosphere, the beautiful sights, the wonderful singing! 

And to top it all, there was a swing right in the middle of it all, and after what may be decades, I was on a swing!! I must also mention that so was my mom in law, which was super cute! 

Now, key to note is that, all this happened on New Year's Eve. 

By the time we got back home, we had enough energy just to consumer the Kerala Paratha, egg curry, chicken curry and prawns curry mentioned above. And hence, there was not much of a New Year celebration as per the norm, but how better to welcome a new year other than to be in a beautiful place surrounded by beautiful people!

4) Guruvayur 
On New Year's Day, we set off for Guruvayur, one of the most popular temples of Kerala, and one that we have been frequenting for long. It was the in-law's first visit there and both of them were dressed in traditional Kerala garbs, and looking absolutely stunning in them! 

After an eventless drive (during which the little one insisted on listening to Bollywood item numbers, in spite of the fact that we were on a pilgrimage), we first visited my aunt in Guruvayur. Her house is right next to the temple and after a quick chat with her and placing our request for her famed filter coffee upon our return from the temple, we finally made it to the temple. 

I was expecting a huge crowd and a lot of rush at the temple, given that it was the first day of the year, but luckily for us, the crowd was very manageable and I didn't feel any of the push and pull that usually happens especially within the tiny shrine. 

After a very peaceful visit to the temple, we happened to bump into my dance teacher whose daughter (who is now a dance teacher herself in Singapore) was just about to perform in the outdoor stage in front of the temple. So we settled down and watched a beautiful Bharatnatyam performance! I was not only happy to watch it myself but was also thrilled that my in laws got to watch an authentic performance right within the temple vicinity which adds to the experience! 

Back at my aunt's place, the filter coffee was ready, true to its fame, and we also topped it with some excellent sambhaaram (spiced buttermilk). 

After some rest, we made our way back to Thrissur, straight to my aunt's place for lunch. She, like the superwoman that she is, had single handedly made rice, sambhar, chicken curry, pachadi, kondaattom, olan, aviyal, thoran, pappadom and paayasam! Yummm!

5) Snehatheeram Beach
I guess no visit to Kerala is complete without a trip down to its beautiful and endless coastal line! We went to Snehatheeram, a small park that's come up in the recent past next to the beach. We played in the waters for a while, the highlight being the little one braving the waves. 

She was totally terrified at first by the oncoming waves and the shifting sands underneath her little feet when the waves retreat, but soon, there she was, squealing in delight and not wanting to get out of the water even much after sunset! I am already making plans to go snorkelling and diving with her some time in the future! 

On the way back, we took a round around the Thrissur Round (yup, the circular road around which the city is planned, is very imaginatively called the "Round"), pointing out the key landmarks to the in-laws like the Parmekkavu temple, the Vadakkumnathan temple, etc. etc. 

Oh, and yet another highlight - soda sarbat!! Woot! I just simply LOVE the traditional soda sarbat that you still get in Kerala... no other drink matches it, in my humble opinion! Felt SO good!

6) Thiruvilwamala
Last but not the least, we also made a quick trip to Thiruvilwamala, my dad's ancestral village on his mom's side. It still remains mostly untouched by "development" and commercialization, thank God for that! 

We visited the lovely, ancient temple on the hilltop, walked around its rocky terrain, had dosa, coconut chutney, onion chutney, vada and tea from the quaint, little restaurant  with the thatched roof, sitting at wooden tables, and eating off banana leaves; we visited the only Shirdi Sai temple I know of in this part of the world and we had another round of Soda sarbat, thereby finishing off the in-laws holiday in God's own country!

So that was that! Super hectic but fantastic few days! 

The new year is here and sure, I didn't really pay much attention to the old year passing by and the new one dawning, but I had a fantastic time at both ends! What more does one need?