October 06, 2015

Bombay: The Two Year Milestone

I had often heard the cliché, ‘Bombay is the city of dreams’. It was probably my naïvety that made me believe in that saying with all my heart, to leave everything familiar behind, and come here.

That was two years ago. I was a different person — laying myself thin, gliding across crowds, not knowing where to go.

Life was strange at that time. I was terribly disillusioned. I thought I was never going to be where I wanted to be. Happiness was a distant unapproachable whim. Success was an unfamiliar being. Love seemed hard to come by. Whatever guise of love I had, seemed incomplete, inconsistent and never felt like it was mine. I felt like a stranger living my own life.
I would go back to that dialogue from Holiday where Arthur Abbott tells Iris — ‘In the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend.’
I would wonder if I was ever going to be the leading lady in my world.

With a new job, new city and a new room in a house, I had alienated myself from any semblance of home.

Time lessened the harsh realities of the city. I figured the meaning of ‘acclimatization’ within two months of living here. No more shudder at the traffic and no complaints on the incorrigible honking escaped me. I was institutionalized by Bombay.
However, a nagging loneliness persisted throughout 2013, accentuated by my move to Bombay. One of the main reasons for this was the death of my paternal grandfather — the one who made me fall in love with the English language and that way, gave me my wings. Drowning it all in keeping myself busy with the exciting work and partying with friends, I let Bombay envelop me.

The year passed by like the tides. I knew 2014 had to be better. The first few months flew by in a haze of self doubt, confusion and simply going with the flow. I stopped resisting life, I just aimlessly wandered on its path, not knowing what it was leading to.

Little did I know, that this was what I should always have done. What awaited me was still a crazy ride, but it got better. The soul cobwebs cleared slowly when I began to fall in love with the most amazing human being I have ever met. In him, I found a spirit I could recognize, a soul that reflected my own aspirations, and a person who was capable of so much love and acceptance. I began to heal in his comforting presence.
I found a new job. Let me rephrase, I found a job in the company of my dreams! But it went downhill, turning more into a nightmare. I wasn’t doing anything related to what I wanted to. I was stuck for long hours working on reality television and random odd duties that left me crying to sleep. When the time came and I realized this was not how I could continue, I quit.
Within a week, I had two freelance jobs that could hold me steady. Within a month, I felt like I did the right thing with my free fall. Mind you, I am still struggling with concepts of time management, writing that book I started two years ago, and the like. But what I have is priceless — the luxury of time, of doing work that I love, and having love by my side.
I used to be frightened that my life will never get okay, and that I will be a lost soul. But I took a leap of faith — in life, in myself, in my family and friends who loved me throughout, and in the powers that I constantly sense around. And two years later from that fateful day, I am so glad I kept going with the flow, fighting even when I wanted to flop down and settle for a lesser happiness.

And today, I finally feel like the leading lady of my own story.

September 28, 2015

In the Name of the Lord

I remember as a kid, I once flicked a beautiful sharpener from a friend's house. On discovering my thievery, my mother made me throw away the sharpener and promise to God I would never repeat that act. Fear of the lord or my mother somehow kept me away from repeating my act ever.

Many 'God Promises' and 'Thank Gods' later, I realized that humankind has often resorted to using the name of this being(s) called 'God' in many ways. While some have been honourable and moving, many others have done nothing but wreck havoc in life. 

The concept of God is very vague; agnostics believe nothing can ever be found about it, atheists argue it to be a myth and every one else believes in one manifestation of this power or the other. While what I think is irrelevant in this context, what has been irksome to me is how in the name of this lord, people have even got away with murder!

Religion as a concept is a part of your belief system. No one can question it as long as it remains within you, as a faith. Do ghosts exist? Is there life in outer space? What happens after death? These are other questions as difficult to answer right now as the existence of God. While the future may hold revelations, current data only allows us to practice our faith in the privacy of our selves, without thrusting it on another without irrefutable facts.

But when the elephant lord has his birthday celebrations for over a week, I wonder why I need to suffer silently in traffic as a bunch of random people dance, as if possessed, to 'Selfie le le re' in a procession.

(Devotees carry idols of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu deity of prosperity, for immersion in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai. Photo: Reuters)

Crazy drum beats of decibel levels that would put the best of night clubs to shame, huge pandals that encroach on pedestrian paths and roads, masses of painted embellished idols dumped callously into the sea, and the entire time, my life and its movements at the mercy of these merry makers!

Mind you, I love celebrations and I love the Indian culture of breaking into song and dance at every instance. But at what cost? Would my belief of a UFO sighting anniversary (again a concept I could compare to religion as it can neither be proved nor disproved) allow me to take a crowd to the streets with dhols and dhamakas? Would I get a police permit to put up stalls, a huge space ship and disrupt traffic in the process? I am pretty sure I will be considered a loon.

How is it that when a mob of people believe in a single concept, the nation nods in agreement to any atrocity? And how is it that other minor beliefs get laughed at? Isn't this the same reason we all buried the Godhra incident behind us, although not satisfactorily solved? Isn't this religious obsession the root for why we do not value another's convenience and routine and pause not when we disrupt it?

Celebrate all you will, but do so in a way that another's life does not get affected. It is wonderful that people make sweets for one another, learn to dance in abandon, forget past differences and embrace in a 'Ganpati bappa moriya'. But please don't you dare block the road I travel by after long hours of work and with the prospect of cooking dinner looming ahead.

As my boyfriend said, any alien looking at Earth now will find us wacky, praying to a half-human half-elephant, randomly dancing in the roads and throwing colour. It isn't even Holi!

But please do this in a way that you respect my paganism, my neighbours agnosticism, my cousin's atheism. Else, the God you pray to, is not a tolerant one! 

August 25, 2015

Lord of the Rings meets Harry Potter

Imagine Snape saying this in his voice! :P

August 03, 2015

The Tale of the Many Troubles in a Freelancer's Life

It has been more than a month. It wasn't easy to convince myself that I will quit the world's best media organization, Disney, to freelance. Friends and family were worried that the insanity they always sensed around me had probably materialized. My parents, sister and boyfriend, thankfully understood that I was simply doing the right thing and with their support, I gulped back the fear and took the big bungee jump into freelancing.

It has not been easy!

Thankfully, I didn't expect it to be and that made all the difference. I knew it would take at least three-four months for the money to be sorted and schedule to be clockwork. But I must say, the problems I encountered were of an entirely different and amusing nature.

What do I eat?!?
If you know me, you know how much I love good food! At work, there was always some diet chivda or biscuit or a canteen at my beck and call. There were assistants who I had to nod at who would deliver instantly, a cup of piping hot chai or tomato soup or what I had grown to depend upon- the Cafe Coffee Day cappucino. With about 4 machines a floor, I was in paradise. Once I began to freelance, I began to encounter the problems of staying at home in a locality that wouldn't deliver unless you order a minimum of Rs.500 worth goods. I never had anything to snack on!

I have begun to furiously research food blogs and bug my friends for snack recipes. Instagram helps immensely, as well. From toasted flax seeds, watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds to mug-cakes and microwaved potato chips - I am trying them all! 

If you are plunging into the freelancer life, while sorting finances, get hold of a recipe binder and start jotting down inexpensive (and healthy!) snacks you can make at home. It helps and how! Drink plenty of water and do not forget to try and get some exercise alongside.

Bad, Bad Server! No donut for you!
Yet another bogeyman I have been facing is erratic internet connection. Ever time it fails, I fight my urge to fling my Macbook out of my balcony (yes! I am blessed with a balcony in Bombay). I must concede, I have tried everything from screaming, threatening and wheedling the customer care agents. Yet there are days when the net simply rebels like I do with my parents. 

There just aren't enough places in Bombay where you get good free wi-fi. What you can figure out are places like libraries (that let you use laptops) or offices and homes of friends' where you could put up to get the work done. It helps to get a good data dongle as a backup to your broadband. However, I am yet to follow my own sound advice and hence, I continue to suffer.

No time!
The most irritating part of freelancing is the seamlessness of time. I was one of those boring kids who wrote 'You must exercise your will power' on her wall for reasons I can't seem to remember. But some how, it has helped me over the years only a few times! (Ha! Assumed it helped every single time, eh?)

I find it immensely difficult to concentrate and write. I get distracted by articles and keep reading stuff online for hours! Thankfully, I am not a social media addict and spend not more than 10 minutes collectively in a day on it. However, the fascinating universe that the web weaves always traps me in one of its silvery threads. What I have begun to do, is find the exact time when I function the best. Mornings are great for me and so are the slow quiet afternoons. Towards night, my screws begin to loosen up and I drift. Find your optimum productivity slots and use the many million apps and sites (I am trying Moosti now. In the past, Ommwriter has worked wonders) to help you face this demon.

Take a break!
I never anticipated how time eats itself up and the same crazy loop of days haunt you with their "You have not finished even one article" taunts. However, I try not to work more than my stipulated hours in the day. NO MATTER WHAT! It is very important that you find a way to unwind whether you have been productive or been staring at beautiful pictures of your dream holiday location. 

Thankfully, this needs no motivation. I have a few rules - I cook at least a few times a week. Since my maid leaves in the morning, I have no choice but to make dinner from what she has prepped for me (unless I get damn lazy and order). I am experimenting with new types of pastas and salads. I occasionally hound the net for some recipes with whatever I have in stock. Either way, I have had some yummy food made by my own hands in recent times.

I also watch a movie a day. This has been a practice I have maintained for almost a year now. If not a movie, at least an episode of a sitcom is a prerequisite watching. This is an immense source of joy to me! 

I have restarted sketching and uploading it on Instagram (cooking, art and photography. No selfies). There is something calming about colours and good stationery. I intend to do this as often as possible.

These apart, I have no idea what other crazy conundrums await me on this path. Not many websites tell you about how hungry you get when you work all by yourself and how important it is to unwind EVERYDAY to feel a balance. I hope to try and put these here so similar sufferers can take heart again. Meanwhile, I wish myself and all other lone rangers out there, the best on the way. May the force, creativity, money and good food be with us!
© Dryad's Peak
Maira Gall