Sunday, February 23, 2014

Week 4: Coaching, Fights, Sparkz & Highway!

17 - 23 February


1) The terrific training on Coaching at work - I not only learnt a lot, but I had a great two days getting to know a vast variety of people and their lives. The training required us to take turns and talk a lot of real, personal issues that would be coached on, to ensure sufficient, relevant practice for everyone involved and I thought it was one of the best experiences ever. It was eye opening to hear people talk about their problems - you are suddenly thrown into so many other different perspectives and I couldnt help but be amazed by the ordeals some people, especially women, are facing and how strong they are to be fighting it out. I left the training a lot wiser, very much humbled and extremely thankful for everything that I have in my life.

2) Guitar lessons - My guitar lessons continue to thrill me. My tutor had figured out what makes me super happy - being able to play to the songs from the 90s when cable TV, MTV, English pop and teenage years had come to my life in a big way. Last week, it was Wonderwall by Oasis. This week it was "If I let you go" by Westlife. Such joy reliving those days as I learn to play to these songs, invoking a thousand memories!

3) Being the judge at Sparkz @ NUS - Sparkz is a talent show at my alma mater NUS and I was invited to be a judge. I was initially hesitant wondering whether it would be a good use of my Saturday evening but it turned out to be the perfect use. Many of the performances were completely mind blowing! The winners - a quartet who named themselves quirkily as the Lorong Boys - completely blew me away! It was also lovely to meet the other judges all of whom seemed to be such dedicated, genuine individuals with a ton of knowledge in music (I was the judge who handled mainly the "visual" aspect of it, given my theatre, film and dance background). And yes, it was also lovely to see a bunch of students giving it their all and putting up and/or participating in an event of its scale. It was nostalgic, to say the least.

4) Highway - The best film I have seen in a very long time, where everyone seemed to have put in their best. The actors, the director, the music director, the sound designer, the cinematographer, the costume designer, the editor - everyone. It was a treat to watch!

5) Little one - The little one is turning out to be a real Jhansi ki Rani. Apparently her tiny 15 month self has been picking up fights with other much older kids in the playground. Our helper came to me looking rather dismayed and said, "But you see... the issue is... the fault is completely our child's!". Her usual victim apparently is this 4 or 5 year old girl who is otherwise her best friend. They are such good friends such that this girl, at one point in time, had even wanted my little one to be her "real sister". I guess that will soon change. After a couple of days I enquired to my helper again - "Did she fight today?". My helper chirpily replied - "No madam!" Wow. I was happy. It was a passing phase after all! But to further the small talk I rather unnecessarily asked - "How come?". She replied, "Oh, we didn't go to the playground today." Yup, that explained it.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Week 3: Anniversary, Nox, Asanas, Sound Design, Wonderwall, Haircuts & 50% Satisfaction!

10 - 16 February, 2014

Alright. The good thing about writing only once in a week is that... well, I only have to write once a week. The bad thing about writing only once in a week that there is hell a lot to cover in one go! I have a feeling that this is going to be yet another super long post! But then the good thing about super long posts on this blog is that, I have a lot of super happy things going on. So, can't complain.

Now that I have successfully wasted enough time and space in writing that absolutely necessary prologue above, let us get to the real matters. So yes, it was another rather happening week.

Firstly it was our 7th wedding anniversary. Yup, like what a friend commented, we are over the "itch". And it's been a good 7 years, no doubt. A lot had happened including a ton of fun and laughter, a reasonable amount of anger and tears and even the production of an entire human being. There is clearly a lot to be thankful for. And am glad to say that we are still in the phase of wanting to have romantic wedding anniversary celebrations, doing "something special" on our special day.

And the something special this time, was dinner at Nox - Dine in the Dark. A restaurant which gives you the unique opportunity to dine in pitch darkness, where you are not allowed to take your phones or even your watches in, where you are guided and served by the visually impaired yet super efficient staff, where you are required to guess what you are consuming over your 3 course dinner of 12 mystery dishes based on their texture, taste and smell and where you, in a nutshell, have the most amazing experience. To me, it was 90 minutes of enjoying great tastes, having a great conversation with my husband of seven years, marveling at the politeness and efficiency of the staff, thanking the Gods for my good fortune and health and enjoying an immense amount of indescribable peace. I didn't realize the shut down of one total sense would do that to you. Nett, it was an amazing anniversary and was totally worth the pain I had to go through to get to the place from my full day meeting in the company's second office in a remote location from where cabs, trains, buses and everything else seemed to not work to my advantage. But, totally worth it.

In other news, I am making fine progress in Ashtanga Yoga. After playing around with the primary standing series, now I am on to the sitting series. And with some practice, to my own huge surprise, I can manage a few advanced asanas now. I can touch my forehead to my knees in Uttanasana, extend my legs in Purvottanasana, lock my knees with legs extended in Ubhaya Padangusthasana and do a decent Halasana. All of which make me feel on top of the world!

My second guitar class also went off very well. But before we get to that, I have to write down what a good committed student I have been. I went and got all the strings changed, bought a cover for my guitar, cut the nails on my left hand so as not to scratch the fretboard, grew the nails on my right hand in order to play the finger style, and practiced whenever I got some free time over the week. The result was that the guitar teacher was very impressed by the progress I had made by the second class and he kept saying how the teacher from my childhood had taught me well. Well, that one goes to P. D. Thomas sir. He is one of the leading guitarists back at home and was an incredibly patient teacher. I consider it one of my biggest fortunes to have had the chance to build my foundation under his tutelage.

So well, after that little bit of ego boost, we got down to learning new exercises one which was the accompaniment for Wonderwall by Oasis! It's one of my all time favourite songs and now I can strum away chords for it, which makes me feel ridiculously awesome! Getting back to guitar has to be one of the best decisions ever. Like, ever!

There's more good news. We have a draft of sound design for Aravindum Aaarumughamum! Once the music is finalized, we will need to do another round of fine tuning and we will be all good to go. This is huge progress and I am so very excited!

No week's entry is complete without something on the little one. This week's highlight was her first hair cut. We went to United Square to a place called Juniors League, which specializes in haircuts for kids. When I saw their sole customer, 2 year old, struggling and wailing in his mom's arms, I had my concerns. It was going to be tough, for sure. But thankfully, I had nothing to be concerned about. The little one settled in comfortably enough in the high chair, playing with the various toys that were lined up in front of her, occasionally glancing at the screen in front of her that played some cartoons, frequently checking out her reflection in the mirror opposite, with only a minor discomfort expressed at times when the small cut hair strands fell on her on face. She was so good that the hairdresser was fooled into believing that she was a real non mischievous angel and to reward her, gave her a lot of stickers, a lollipop and a balloon. The little one, in return, gave her a dramatic farewell waving her hands and shouting "ta ta" across, thereby melting the poor hairdresser's already rather melted heart. It was all very fascinating.

Last but not the least, I think I might just have come across the thread for my masterpiece in films. I had a vague idea to do something that involves some cultural aspect from India together with a family drama which is what I am always interested in, but it never took any concrete shape. But now the whole concept is in my head and after the three people I narrated it to gave me their positive feedback, I can safely say that I am thrilled. This one is super hard to pull off (requires incredible resources - time, energy, commitment, cash and well... talent, so let's see how that goes). But then I guess that's what would make it a masterpiece - it is not meant to be easy.

I am not sure whether I would ever get to it, but for now, like one of my friends mentioned, "Planning is already 50% satisfaction". What he meant by that is, more than the destination, the journey of dreaming and planning about it gives you the joy and contentment that you seek.

So yes, I am definitely 50% satisfied. Or more.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Week 2: Trailer, Cooking, Guitar, Films, Books & Family!

3 - 9 February, 2014

It's been another fantastic week with a lot of new, exciting developments.

Firstly, I got to see the first cut of the Aravindum Aarumughamum trailer, done by the guy who plays one of the lead characters (who also happens to be cinematographer for my previous films). This is the most progress I have seen on anything regarding the film since last December, so that was exciting. It was also exciting to see that with just a few minor tweaks, we would be very much ready with a full blown trailer. Can't wait!

Secondly, I cooked. Yup, these things do happen. I think the last time I cooked was probably two years ago. So yes, it is a rare but not unlikely occurrence. I had a sudden urge to make something on my own. It is probably because one of my fears is that the little one will go to school and all her friends would talk about their respective mother's home made yummy food and my girl would wonder what on earth that means. Another reason was that a friend of mine was turning 30 and I wanted to do something nice for him. And somehow "something nice" meant cooking on my own. Wonder what stretch of imagination that was. Another reason is also that I kinda felt like I missed all those lovely fragrances that waft off the in-progress dishes as the spices meet the vegetables, the fun sounds of the mustards and green chillis cracking and popping in the hot oil (a frequent phenomenon in Indian cooking), and the blast of steam and conclusive smell of a ready meal as you lift off the lid post some slow heat cooking. Like I said, these things do happen. So I made Black Pepper Chicken and Kerala Egg Roast, while my helper made rice and dal. My guinea pigs were the hubby, the friend who turned 30 as well as my brother in law. I had cooked a lot and everything was pretty much consumed. I think that's always a good sign. Oh and yes, the little one seemed to appreciate the black pepper chicken too. There is indeed hope.

Thirdly, I have started to take guitar lessons. I have had one lesson so far - I found an experienced teacher to come over for an hour every Sunday morning. My first class was great! It was great to be back on the instrument, and the tutor seemed rather impressed by my "skill". I think he was expecting a total beginner and the fact that I could read notes and play basic chords took him by surprise. Anyway, I was happy that he was happy. More importantly, it was felt SO good to be playing music! He made me play lead while he strummed the accompaniment and we sounded good! Similarly he sang while I followed with some simple chords and I thought that sounded good too. The guitar is seriously an awesome instrument and I am thrilled that I am back at it! I have to admit that soon the bubble was popped when he gave me a touch piece to work on. I am used to the pick, but he encouraged me to use the fingers for the strumming, which I really struggled with. So that's my homework for this week. Long way to go, but great start. And yes, I am glad that I had that realization.

Some of the other things I enjoyed over the week was the film Hasee Toh Phasee and the book Mango Cheeks & Metal Teeth. The former was a refreshing romantic comedy with some stellar performances and thankfully, completely clean, intelligent and genuine and I was happy to watch at least one such Indian film after a really long time. The latter was something I had picked up from the airport recently and would not have been my cup of tea had it not been based in Kerala, where I come from. The author has used an ample amount of Malayalam words (it is an English novel), had some good character building, and lot of nostalgic references to Kerala of the 80s. Even though the plot was good, the conclusion was pretty abrupt and unsatisfying, but an interesting read nevertheless.

Discovery of the week was Saveur, a French restaurant in Purvis street. That was where the friend who turned 30 treated us for his birthday. While their food was just decent, I found their desserts absolutely top notch! Pistachio Pannacotta, Cookies & Milk (which was literally a cookie drowned in milk) and Caramel Lava cake were all to die for! I definitely do see myself going back in there.

Last but not the least, I am thoroughly enjoying my time with the hubby and the little one as well. The hubby and I hit two yoga classes in a row together during the week, which I believe hasn't happened in a really, really long time. After a hard day of work, it was good to practice side by side with him, just like how we used to all those years ago. The little one has now started to scribble on pieces of scrap paper and when we are not noticing, on books, bags, and also as of today, the bedspread. She has this habit of running towards me with a huge smile and hugging my legs, in true over the top Bollywood style; when I try to put her down on the floor after holding her for a while, she hooks her legs around mine, just like those guys who would climb coconut trees in Kerala, with as tight a grip as you can imagine and when she is overflowing with love, she would hold my face and gaze at it as if it is the prettiest thing in the world. As you can imagine, I am completely floored.

There is indeed a lot to be grateful for!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Week 1: Some Progress and a Lot of Fun!

25 January - 2 February, 2014 

I have to admit that this blog had not been on my list of priorities for the past several days. Of course, this is evident from the grand total of ONE post I wrote for the whole of January 2014.

It is not that I don't have enough things to write about. In midst of all that relaxation, there's been a lot of good stuff happening and I will come to that in just a bit. But the point is that I still didn't get myself to write anything beyond a single post in a month. I believe the reason for that is with this whole moving away from writing on a daily basis (or at least summarizing something for every single day) with each post even counting the days in its title, to this year's of resolution of "not more than 1 post a week", I kinda lost a structure to conform to. And I work best with structures - I like set process to follow, I like organized way of approaching things than otherwise. Without it, am indeed lost.

So that made me think. Do I really want to continue with this blog?  Both my previous blog and this one initially had a clear purpose. The former ensured that the days leading up to my 30th birthday were put to the best possible use and the latter ensured that the first year of motherhood has been maximized (and by that I mean, while I had a fulfilling time with my daughter, I also ensured that I did my best at work, I wrote, shot and edited a short film, I travelled a lot, I spent quality time with my parents and in-laws, so on and so forth). Both were important milestones for me, and the blogs helped me go through them in a way that I am happy with. But now that these are in the past, what next? Should I continue?

I gave it some serious thought and have decided that I should continue. Reason being.... (I will giving this in the usual list format, to further prove how organized I am). 

a) What am capturing here always make for memorable reads later on for myself - be it about a new film I am making, a new place I am visiting, a light moment I am enjoying with my family or friends. Many a time, I don't remember the details had it not been for the blogs. 

b) I still don't want to lose the focus on being happy. Sure, I don't want to stress myself and write blogs on a daily basis, but that stress was exactly what made sure that I do something worthwhile each and every day.

c) Last but not the least, I think it will make a treasure trove of experiences captured of the little one. I can't help but notice how fast she is growing and each day is one of discovery. I would love to capture most of that, and I believe this could continue to be the avenue for that.

So there, my three good reasons.

But then I still don't want to write on a daily basis. Because that really does get me worked up at times. So here is the solution - I will write on a weekly basis. Brainwave, yeah?

Ensuring every week is beautiful one way or the other, is good enough. I can live with that.

So there, that's that. From here on, it's gonna be a Weekly count in the titles. Starting with this week.

Meanwhile here is a recap of what's happened since my last post here.

1) Work - On the work front, things are moving at breakneck speed but I am enjoying myself. There has been some progress on a lot of different projects and am happy with that. On the other fun side, the culture team that I lead organized a super fun Chinese New Year celebration. We had everything from calligraphy contests (apparently am very good at Chinese calligraphy...I thought the characters that I painted looked nothing like what they were supposed to but the Chinese colleagues seemed to think otherwise), to Lo Hei celebration, a God of Fortune who came and distributed red packets with "gold" (chocolate) coins (I didn't even know there is a Chinese version of Santa Claus!), and even an activity of eating dumplings some of which carried a sterilized 5 cent coin - indicating immense amount of luck to the person who got one (I got one!). It was all very enjoyable and I had a great time and felt super proud of my team for having pulled this off!

2) Little One - The little one is a hoot these days. She has progressed to walking with only occasional bouts of crawling. It's almost like sometimes she forgets that she can choose to walk instead. Then all you need to say is "Come, Walk!", and she will be like Oh yeah... and then will get up and walk. Initially she used to hold both her hands high up, to help her balance as she walks but now that she can balance herself without that extra support, it seems like she doesn't know exactly what to do with her hands, so she flops them to her sides and walks around like a drunkard. Which I love. We also celebrated Chinese New Year together. She helped me put up some red and gold decoration on our door (she basically held on to the cellotape and also pointed out where she would like the dangling decorative pieces to be tied up on the gate). Later, she watched the Lion Dance performance next door with much interest. She was the only Indian kid around and the only kid to not cover her ears or wail and also was the first and only person to clap post the performance. She clearly appreciates the Chinese culture. We also have been frequenting her new found favourite place - Spruce. It is a brunch place with decent food but good service and a playground for children. The little one really warmed up to all the staff there, constantly giving them instructions in her baby talk, reading the kids menu with much interest, and enjoying her new found ice cold lemonade with mint leaves (totally an adult drink which the dad and mom had ordered). Am really enjoying watching her as she does her 'growing up'.

3) Writing - I wrote yet another episode for the Malayalam sitcom. I am planning to write another 4 episodes before we start to shoot, which means a long, long way more to go. But still, any progress is good progress!

4) Yoga - Maybe it is an outcome of the "realization" but  I have been totally hooked to Ashtanga yoga. So much so that even during the Chinese New Year public holiday, I woke up early in the morning and did 1 hour of it every day! So proud of myself! In the month of January, I exercised a total of 19 days, most of which was Yoga - Ashtanga Yoga, Bikram Yoga and 1 time of Kundalini Yoga too. I am beginning to see small improvements in my  postures and strength, and am incredibly thrilled about it!

5) Guitar - This one is definitely an outcome of the "realization". I dusted up my old guitar as well as my two decade old books with guitar lessons and settled down to play some of the simpler stuff. It was not easy for sure, but it felt great to get back to it after so long. My finger tips started to hurt very soon from the lack of practice but given that I had a very enthusiastic one-man audience - the little one who encouraged me throughout with claps and laughs, I kept at it for a while. I hope to get back to learning it very soon, from the scratch, but this time never to give up.

4) Friends - Thanks to the Chinese New Year holiday, I also had a great time catching up with several friends. I had multiple dinners and drinks with the usual gang, I had a great time at a lunch thrown for the film gang by one of my good actress friend, in short, we made the most of it! 

5) Hubby - I also got to spend some quality time with the hubby. One day we even took a long 4km walk together, something which we have never done before. Such fun! 

6) Aravindum Aarumughamum - This film is currently in the post production stage and that basically means sound design, music, colour correction, final edit and all that. These are being done by my friends in India. The progress has been slow for several reasons, but over the last few days a bit of the background score has started to flow in. And I love it! I think it is going to take the film to a totally different level and I can't wait to see it to completion! 

7) Holidays - Quite a bit of progress on the holiday planning has been taking place. In May, we are planning to do a roadtrip with my parents and in laws and I have finally managed to shortlist the accommodation options at every stop. That was no mean task - given I had to find affordable places big enough to hold all of us. Then my dad is visiting us in March for  a few days, mainly to see his grand daughter and I am planning to take a short break with him as well. After much research and thinking, the destination has been fixed for Krabi because I want to go snorkelling with him. I think that is one activity he would really enjoy. So that's progress on the holiday front and am really looking forward to it all. 

So yes, it was a remarkable bunch of days that went past. There was progress at work, in yoga, in writing, in film making, in holiday planning and in guitar, even. And of course, there was a ton of fun to go along everywhere! So far, this new year has been great!