So this blogger walks into a bar…

If blogging was like walking into a bar, then bloggers would be that girl on top of the bar counter double fisting b-52s and tequila shots, that girl whispering to her BFFs, that girl at the corner pretending to like being alone but really hoping someone buys her a drink, and finally, that girl you just want to kiss and fall madly in love with. And what about male bloggers? For this post, you get to wear those fishnet stockings and 4-inch heels and live your fantasies, cos I’m serious… bloggers are like that girl at the bar.

  • The slut: These bloggers have an opinion on everything, and they love to talk about it. They flirt with many fancies—cooking, memoirs, current events, you name it, they’ve already blogged about it. They update their blogs thrice a day on a slow day, and are always on top of all categories. A lot of them are part of blogging directories, and take up every blogging contest/challenge in the community with gusto. They read (or at least pretend to have read) every blog that’s updated and leave short, encouraging comments on all of them. Needless to say, they have great traffic to their blog owing to the sheer number of blogs and topics they cover. They’re ranked high on the blogging directories, but they’re not taken very seriously by their peers who wonder, do these bloggers have a life?
  • The prude: These bloggers think their opinion is special, and that it should be shared with the chosen few who really deserve it. So they blog selectively, read other blogs selectively and leave intellectually superior comments on them to distinguish themselves from other casual readers. If their inspiration ever wanders from their favorite topic, they quickly rein it back in, or write about it on another blog… dedicated to that topic. These bloggers are quite passionate about their topic, and are often quite good. They have a relatively smaller but loyal following, because readers either love their blog or go “yawn”!
  • The babe: These bloggers have it nailed. They may or may not be extraordinarily intellectual or creative, but they are certainly loved by all. They are consistent but not afraid to experiment. They read a lot of other blogs and leave insightful comments. They flirt too, they wing it too, but they pull it off so well that you feel they really read your blog and empathize with you. They have mastered the delicate and slightly flaky ways of the blogging world. These bloggers have everything—high traffic, high directory rankings, genuine readers and genuine admirers… including me. I wanna be you!
  • The wallflower: These bloggers are a little shy, a little conscious of their writing skills and a little too proud to market themselves. After all, their blog rocks! They lurk at the corners of the blogging world, quietly typing away at blogs, upset that there is no respect for talent anymore. They detest the sluts for getting all the glory, pity the prudes for their superiority complex and love-hate the babes for being so perfect. The wallflowers often have well-designed, intricately thought of blogs, and if you ever chance upon one, you’ll probably stay a while. If you ever find them, that is. Blowing your own trumpet isn’t so bad all the time.
  • And finally, the hot-cold: These bloggers—and I’m one of them—are confused. We passionately write four blogs in three days and then disappear for a month. We write about this and that. We pounce on one or two blogging contests but feel like we’re intellectually whoring by participating in too many of those. We sometimes leave inspiring comments on blogs we really enjoy, and sometimes leave comments on lukewarm blogs because that blogger did so on ours. We often lose the opportunity to repeat traffic because we’re either forgotten by the time we write again or write about something entirely different. So our traffic is often sporadic and our blog makes you wonder what it’s all about. Thankfully, most hot-cold bloggers are often new in town and eventually find their own personality, their own gang and hopefully, their muse.

So who are you going home with tonight?

Blog Directory BlogJunta- where Bloggers meet

30’s are NOT the new 20’s!

At least once every 30th birthday party, someone says “Welcome to the new 20’s!”

But do you really want to relive your 20’s? Do you remember yourself at 20? We were less confused and more sure of ourselves than as teenagers, but we still didn’t have a clue about anything. We drove too fast, spoke too loud and partied too hard because we could. I did too, and no regrets about that! But we also took people too seriously, took ourselves too seriously and had quite a few trips and falls on our way to adulthood. Criticisms hurt us deep, our own shortcomings betrayed us and failures broke us.

I’ve always believed that every five years, you graduate into a new phase of life. Your views mature, your opinions find clarity (and sometimes, an immovable conviction which may be good or bad) and you look at things very differently. Seriously, a 25 year old thinks differently from a 20-year old and if they don’t, God help them! But the 20’s as a decade have a common theme running through them — getting comfortable with yourself, with life and with your place in the universe.

I’ve lived up my 20’s, and I am what I am because of them. Good times taught me to let my hair down and enjoy. Tough times taught me perseverance. Mean people gave me bitter lessons in human nature while friends, family and ironically, my pets taught me to have faith in humanity. My partner taught me to love myself for what I am. I won, I lost, I flew and tripped and crashed, but somewhere along the way, I learned to keep my head and find balance.

Today, I am comfortable with the best and worst of myself, I am more confident and I know when to care about people’s opinions and when to give a damn. I take myself a little less seriously and I laugh more — both at myself and at the little joys of life. I am a little less tolerant of bullshit but may go a little more by conviction than reason sometimes. I’m more considerate but I may be a bit forgetful — for the life of me, I can’t remember what I did on my 20th birthday! I’ve conquered a few old fears, picked up some new ones and made peace with some — I’ll never watch a horror movie or calmly manage creepy crawlies, but at least I know my limits. I still don’t know the purpose of my life, but I’ve got the rest of my life to figure that out and I have a feeling I’m on the right path.  

Granted, I’d choose my figure at 21 any day, but I look forward to the 30’s, simply because I know I’ve gotten all that I could out of my 20’s. But there will be challenges and oddballs of a different kind — I may be young at heart, but how will I like myself when those fine lines attack my skin and see the first splash of gray? Will I feel beautiful when I become enormous during motherhood? How will I see dear ones experiencing the troubles of old age? There are so many more profound questions that I still can’t even form but still fret over.

But que sara sara, I tell myself, for if I’ve come so far, I’ll go farther. And just like time, there’s only one way to go in life — forward. If the 20’s have taught me anything, it’s that life doesn’t care about ages and decades when it’s handing out its lessons.

So as I blow the candles out this birthday, although I’ll be cursing the increased lungpower required to blow all those darn candles out, I’ll warm my heart with the experiences past, keep my eyes on the future and keep my feet firmly in the present. For today is tomorrow’s yesterday, and your best shot at making happy memories is to live it up now.

While you figure that last bit out, on a lighter note, here’s three things I can’t believe I said in my 20’s:

  • Whee!! I gained two kilos! Now my jeans will finally fit!
  • I wish I had a bit of gray hair so people would take me seriously :(              
  • Dude … when we’re old, like when we’re thirty-five or something, we’ll be those uncles and aunties that our mothers warned us of!

Younger me, you may just be right about that one!

So, you want a puppy? Things to think about before you adopt a puppy

 Imli

Everybody loves puppies. Even those who dislike dogs like puppies. If you’ve just decided to get your own furry ball of happiness, welcome to a better, happier life. But think twice and adopt once.

Here are a few things to think of BEFORE you get a puppy:

  • Do I have enough money to spare? Money isn’t everything, but it is the most important question you should be asking yourself. Your set-up costs for bringing a puppy home and the first 3-4 months are going to be more expensive than average maintenance costs later on. You want to make sure that neither you nor your puppy has to survive on ramen noodles during that time. Also, in case of a medical emergency, you want to make sure that your little fur-baby gets the best possible care. On the whole, we spent approximately $600 in the first month for our little pup, Imli, and continue to spend around $250-$300/month 2 months later (she’s 4 months old now), despite using coupons and discounts. That does not include her training classes, but does include her $275 adoption fees.
  • Do I have enough space? Puppies only need a little crate when you’re away, but as they grow up, you want to make sure they have enough space to move around while you’re at work. This question helps you narrow down the dog breed by its size.
  • Do I have enough time and energy?
    • Young puppies need to be fed every few hours and taken out every few hours, this requires flexible working hours.
    • Dogs in general like the same routine every day, so if you work varying shifts, you may want to reconsider your decision.
    • Once they grow up, dogs will want to play, exercise and get attention from you, otherwise they will become moody and destructive. Like you’ve probably read in many guides, a tired dog is a happy dog… can you give them enough time and exercise? This question will help you narrow down the dog breed that suits your lifestyle the best based on activity levels of your future dog, as well as yours. This exercise is best done by everybody, even previous dog owners, as our activity levels change over time and our compatible breed (or even species) does too.
    • Dogs are not for the lazy, or the clean freak. You will have to take them out for a walk in the rain, snow and they will come in dripping wet, and track in lots of dirt with their little paws. And don’t forget, the poop won’t scoop itself!
    • If you are a frequent flier, remember that frequent and/or long separation is hard on your pet. Ensure you have a support system of friends/family who will care for your pet when you’re away so that you keep her kennel stays to a minimum.
  • Do I have enough experience handling dogs? This will help you narrow down your breed by their temperament and also, age. Young pups are more pliable than older dogs, but also need a lot more training to get the basics right.
  • Other factors such as children and other pets in the household are a big factor to consider as well. No matter how good you are with dogs, it might just be a good idea to go with a breed that is known to have a calm, mellow temperament in such cases. It just gives you peace of mind when you are not supervising your kids/pet-kids.

In the end, ask yourself, why do I want a puppy?

  • If you want the playmate you cuddled with after returning from school and in between your play times, remember that being a pet-playmate and pet-parent is very different.
  • If you think this is going to be a good training for having children, think again… a puppy is not a training class.
  • If you want your kids to have a playmate, remember that your puppy will be your pet-child first and then their playmate; you will now have to take care of one more child.

A puppy is a highly intelligent living being that will need love, care and engaging attention for the next 10-15 years of your life. It will be a lot of work, especially until they are 6 months old, and then some.

Things will go wrong. Your expensive shoes and furniture will get chewed on. Your puppy will choose your expensive Persian carpet to have an accident on. Even older dogs will go back and forth with their good habits. Make sure that you are emotionally mature to handle a puppy’s mistakes and tantrums, whether intentional or otherwise. There are no shortcuts to achieving a well-behaved puppy, but it can be achieved with patience and consistent training.

Finally, double check all your thought process before you bring the little ball of cuteness into your life.

And please, adopt.

About me: I’m just another animal lover, who thinks my pets make me a better human being. I have fostered many stray dogs and kittens, but this is my first time as an official pet-mom to a lab/shep pup. I’m still easing into my new role, but there are things that I’m absolutely sure of, like this post. This list of things to consider before adopting may not be exhaustive, but it helped me decide, and I hope it helps you too. Please think clearly before making this commitment, so you give your pet its forever home.

Next up: To buy or to adopt?

How do I pick a puppy from a litter?

Stay tuned!

I’m unique, but I want you to be just like me

Snowflake's identity crisis

We all like to think that we are reasonable, fair and mature, but we still poke fun of that vegetarian at the barbecue or sneer down at that hotdog eater who doesn’t believe in tofu dogs. You tell your friend it’s ok to be whatever shape she is, but proudly inform your spouse later that you coped better with pregnancy pounds than she did with the holidays.

The human ego is wired like that. It constantly wants validation that we are doing the right thing, and are on the right side. We hang out with people who make similar choices as us and we’re quick to judge those who don’t. We ensure that our children learn our values because we think that we stand for the right things. But although we think we are reasonable and unbiased, the verdict in case of a moral conflict is almost always in our favor, because that makes us feel good about our choices. Differences make us feel insecure, unsure and even a little scared sometimes.

So what is right? And since we pride yourself on being rational, how do we define it and back it up with solid proof? Some things are easy—like stealing, doing drugs and being abusive. But other things are not so black and white, and there are many shades in between. Take, for example, food choices or cultural idiosyncrasies. Law, religion and culture further complicate the defining process, and what is considered legal/holy/right by some may be deplorable for others. So each group feels strongly about their choices because they are backed up by so and so law/scripture/philosophy, and scorns the others, forgetting that all facts are relative.

Yes, all facts are relative. Every philosophy—religious or otherwise—has an ideal toward which it aspires, and the directives ensure that its followers can attain it. So everything that’s deemed ‘right’ or ‘holy’ is only so if you’re travelling on that ship and wearing that uniform. The law is driven by socio-economic motives and can quickly do an about-turn in its validations; think about the recent upheaval of state laws on legalizing weed—we all know that keeping minors safe wasn’t the primary motivation for that bill. So just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s always right, and vice versa.

How does all this trickle down to an everyday level? Our self-identity is partly influenced by our family, peers, culture, religion or philosophy of thought and our country, more or less in that order. Since we don’t know what the real definition of right is, it is natural to measure everything around us by matching it up against ourselves and our choices. Some differences are insignificant and we manage to take it in our stride, but some go against our fundamental beliefs and we cannot reason with them. So if someone or something does not conform to this fundamental belief, we assume that they are either wrong, misinformed or inferior. For example, think about someone dear to us dating a much older/younger person, swingers or even something seemingly as minor as women consuming alcohol (modern India is still struggling with this hypocrisy).

Can we change? Maybe in some categories, but definitely not in some. A friend once said that our belief system is built on two things—reason and conviction. The things we can reason with can be rethought, reshaped and expanded but there is no changing conviction. A vegetarian will always see a dead animal on others’ plates and yet flatly disagree with a vegan on how an animal was tortured for that milkshake.

Luckily, for everyday life, we don’t need to reevaluate our entire belief system. A good human being is not one who is fair and empathetic toward everyone; she knows when not to comment, and when to let things be without labeling them. Although we don’t need to agree with everyone else’s choices, we can choose to not judge them as weird, immoral or inferior. We don’t need to be alike somebody, but there is no need to be scared of them, dislike them, or pity them. We won’t be able to follow this all the time, but it might still make us some more friends because we’re not closing them out or hurting them. Of course, reevaluating in the meantime will help us be more rational in the long run and recognize when we react out of reason or strong conviction. It will help us pass on the best of ourselves to the next generation.

You can’t measure the entire world with one yardstick. Nature created us all differently so we could grow, gain depth and learn something new every day. Every snowflake is unique, and yet they all fit in harmony to form a beautiful blanket of snow. So can we.

You want to be unique, so why expect the world to be just like you?

Keep your cameras in, get your metal horns out!

Metal horns

That’s the least you can do to show respect to the band you just spent hundreds of dollars to watch.

Keep calm and enjoy the show!

 

Disclaimer: The second pic (of Blaze Bayley) is obviously photo shopped… he’s an awesome guy and musician!

Photo credit: http://maidenrevelations.com

http://www.ironmaiden.es

http://www.last.fm

http://popcultureblog.dallasnews.com

 

 

Frown lines or laugh lines?

I need a wrinkle-free breed!

Can I get some botox, please?

So the drive to conquer my fear of aging continues, and I just found the top priority item on my 30-year plan… SMILE! After all, happiness is a gift, and the best investment in ourselves. So go on, replace “I’ll be happy when…” with “I’m happy because…”

Laugh lines pay in more ways than one.

So who do you want to be, Grumpy or Happy?

A Rockstar is a Rockstar is a Rockstar

disco chick

Parties like a Rockstar

Would you call a nurse a doctor, a TA a professor or a 5k runner an athlete? Then why on earth would you call anybody who’s somebody in their respective field of Physics, Business, video gaming etc etc etc as a Rockstar?

Ok, so maybe I’m a little picky about words. But when I hear someone describe that playboy businessman, that daring stuntman or that brilliant programmer as a Rockstar, I silently summon lightning clouds to strike them down.

I can see why everyone wants to be a Rockstar. Rockstars have it all—they’re famous, they’re rich (at least back in the day), they’re sexy, they party like a… er…Rockstar and they get all the girls. But do you know how hard they worked to get there? It’s a dog eat dog world of competition, and only a small percentage of broke and starved Indie bands get a break, and even a smaller percentage get beyond their first album. And once they’re famous, they have to put in more hours practicing for bigger shows, not to mention travel endlessly that takes a toll on their health and families.

Dare devil (Not a Rockstar)

Dare devil (Not a Rockstar)

Star kicker

Star kicker (Not a Rockstar)

Yes, I take my music very seriously. Growing up to Old School Metal and 80’s rock (hairbands included), most of my music Gods were all metal-studded leather, long hair and blistering leads. The definition has changed now, at least in the sexy department, but here’s who does not qualify to be called a Rock Star—class toppers, extravagant Hollywood stars, rebellious businessmen, fearless extreme sportsmen, that cool guy with attitude… the list goes on and on. Extravagance, fame, rebelliousness and fearlessness may be the stereotypical qualities of a Rockstar and may even qualify you to be a star, just not a Rockstar.

POP star

POP star

So who does qualify to be a Rockstar?

  1. Should be a Rock musician. Duh. Not pop, not hip hop, ROCK. Get the point? Other sisters of Rock, like Metal, Punk, Grunge etc are ok too, most of the time.
  2. Should be a musician. You know, the one who actually performs on stage. Not their manager, or songwriter, or their cool hangers-on with Rockstar-itis.
  3. Should be reasonably well known. Every Rock musician knows the moment when they become Rock stars. It’s the dream when they pick up their first guitar, drum or microphone for the first time.

It’s that simple.

Rockstar

Rockstar

Music is what makes or breaks Rockstars, not their attitude or escapades. There are many Rock musicians who are gentle giants, teetotalers, vegetarians and early sleepers who are still Rockstars. Let’s respect that, and let’s respect the other exemplary persons by not making them look like wannabes. How about doing a bit of work to find other superlatives and calling them a star athlete, superstar CEO and brilliant scientist?

After all, a Rockstar is a Rockstar is a Rockstar.

Close encounter with a red fox

Ever had fantasies of being the hero in a real life emergency? Wait till you come face to face with a fox, and you realize you’re the first to make a run for it.

A few days ago, my Knight in Shining Shorts, Adi and I were vacationing in the San Juan Islands, WA, enjoying the solitude, the nature and ‘so few humans’. On the last day, we decided to go to the lighthouse near American camp, where you could sight baby seals and sometimes, whales. The rocks were steep but we managed to climb down to the gray, rocky beach 20 ft below. We caught a glimpse of a sea otter running across, and then, a fox ran across, carrying food in its mouth. His beautiful fluffy red coat made him look quite big, the size of a German Shepherd.

Fox ahead!

Fox ahead!

We trekked to a nice view point and sat down, only to see that the fox was behind some logs, just visible in the distance (picture is on max zoom). He alternated between peeking up at us and chomping his food. “So cute!”, “He’s so cuddly!”, “What will he say?” we joked and left him alone to eat his food in peace.

He then finished his food and became very curious.

Hello, Strangers!

Hello, Strangers!

He walked across the logs and made his way closer to us. We ignored him until at about 40 ft away, we decided to stand up and look bigger, while sending him “We’re not here to harm you” vibes. He looked straight at us, not threatening, not docile, just looking intently, inching his way toward us. We wondered if people had been feeding wildlife. Was he just curious, or hungry?

Let me take a closer look

Let me take a closer look

What are you doing in my land?

What are you doing in my land?

All the same, we decided this was enough, and clapped. Startled, he scampered up the slope. We started walking back the way we came, but he came back down the slope overlooking our path, at a good vantage point.

Startled

Startled

Vantage point

Vantage point

We were nervous to cross when the fox was right up there. We decided to wait it out, maybe he left his food back there, since he kept looking back nervously to some logs near our entry point. But he patiently, confidently, inched closer, looking us straight in the eyes. What does the fox say? Nothing. He just stares, not snarling, not moving, and slowly breaks you with his cool confidence. It was a game of nerves, and he was slowly winning. We were in his territory, and he was blocking our only way out. When he stood on the path before us about 15 ft away, I buckled (and messed up a potentially uber-cool picture). This was the final stand-off. After this he would be establishing alpha, and despite our experience with urban wildlife and wild herbivores, we didn’t know anything about foxes except that they can be ferocious if they are protecting their kits. He (She?) now fed on my scared vibes and was now almost ready to come closer and…what? I frantically went through my memories of all my dog bites, some violent, some not, but couldn’t come up with a game plan in case she attacked. We were bigger and much more heavier, but she was wilder, and had sharp teeth and claws. We could easily push her away but she could still inflict serious damage if she wanted to.

15 ft away and in our way, and my messed up picture

15 ft away and in our way, and my messed up picture

The rest happened very fast. Adi spotted a rather steep but climbable gravelly slope and asked me to make a run for it, he’d hold down fort. I made a dash for it, and saw the fox dash too. Now panicking that the fox was chasing us, I sprinted up that 75-degree slope in 5 seconds flat! Forget a hero, fear made a mountain goat out of me!

Turns out panic had made me delirious. Adi saw the fox darting backward and toward something it was protecting, it never chased us. Still, we continued to jog, huffing and puffing through the knee-deep grass, until we saw some hikers. I’ve never been happier to see humans! We immediately composed ourselves, acted all cool, talked about the weather, and ‘calmly’ warned them, off-hand, about a fox that was ‘quite bold’ and to skip the beach, and walked on till we found the road. I’ve never been happier to see a tar road. Civilization! I felt like a sailor spotting land after years of being lost at sea.

Looking back, it was a thrilling and brag-worthy experience with a rather comical end, but we know that it could have easily gone either way. We read later that foxes do have their kits around this time, so if that fox was a mom, there was no way she’d have let us cross so close to her den. Maybe we over reacted, many tourists have encountered begging foxes on Cattle Point Road or maybe she was just protecting her food. But I am certain this one wasn’t begging for food or show us tricks.

It is humbling to realize your place in the world. Looking into a hunter’s eyes make you understand the meaning of ‘survival of the fittest’. And you realize how maddeningly defenseless you are against the wild. You develop a different kind of respect for nature.

From now on, we are carrying our trekking poles and a whistle on our hikes. We are also going to leave our whereabouts with a friend so if the unforeseen happens, someone misses us. And lastly, I’m getting a DSLR so I can capture these photos better next time.

On the bright side, I did lose my irrational fear of caterpillars that has plagued me for decades. Look at this one, it looks like a baby fox’s tail!

baby fox tail

I’m wooly and I know it!

Diversity is Changing Colors at Hollywood

While watching ‘Gravity’ the other day, I realized something. The main characters were all white… and brown. I then realized that brown as the color of on-screen diversity wasn’t such a new concept. Remember Ranjit in ‘How I met your Mother’? Or Rajesh Koothrappali in ‘Big Bang Theory, Fez in ‘That 70’s show’ and Aziz Ansari in ‘Parks and Recreation?’ And then there are many guest characters as well, like ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Rules of Engagement’. And although unrelated to this post, let’s not forget the many brown stand-up comedians who have made it big.

My first thought was that it’s fascinating how shows/movies about all walks of life think that Indians (or people from that general region) are now an integral part of their lives. And they don’t seem to mind it too much. I take part credit on behalf of my brethren, because we truly do our best to fit in. Although we may step on your toes in lines, we try not to do that culturally. Part of it is our cultural conditioning. Most Indians are partly proud and partly uncomfortable about their heritage. The slight inferiority complex means that we adjust to our host’s culture, and we adjust to our immigrants’ cultural differences too. This makes us excellent immigrants and excellent hosts to immigrants at the same time.

But there’s a certain cultural stereotype that the media has boxed us into:

  • Brown means brown: All Indians on TV are just the right shade of mocha, although we commonly range from caramel to espresso. All women are especially dark mocha, have long straight black hair and are composed, naïve, domesticated and have arranged marriages.
  • Thank you come again: All Indians on TV have a specific, comical way of speaking, something that is exaggerated and actually spoken by only a percentage of real Indians.
  • Social placement: Indians are generally shown as belonging to two sections of society—either as a highly educated nerd (with a funny accent) or a gas station/grocery store/taxi owner (with a funny accent).

If cultures were a book, then we are comic strips. Most Indians portrayed on screen are good-humored, somehow amusing (mostly because of the accent) and get to say very little in the screenplay. It is mostly a good thing, as all our tags are mostly positive and shows amiable acceptance by the local community. Maybe that’s why we seem to be gaining on the other overdone on-screen cultural stereotypes .

Before my fellow countrymen get all riled up about me accepting our social stereotype, may I remind them of how we treat our own cultural differences? Seen any Bollywood movies? Or Mollywood, Kollywood, etc etc etc? Let me highlight some salient stereotypes:

  • All South-Indians are ‘Madrasis’. Madrasis are dark, have a funny accent and are in general, the jokers of the movie. Madrasi women are naïve, have long black hair and are domesticated. You got it, the Hollywood stereotype for Indians is the Bollywood stereotype for South Indians.
  • In South Indian movies, North Indians mostly wear a turban, speak comically rough Punjabi and frequently say ‘Balle Balle’, and are in general, the jokers of the movie.

To be fair, contemporary Indian movies have tried to move away from this. But movies cater to real people, and cultural stereotyping is real and sometimes not funny. Just a few weeks ago, I was called a Madrasi by a friend, and I shot back, “You’re a Bihari!” Of course, both the action and reaction were outdated and prejudiced. But it happened, and it’s not uncommon.

But the point stands, we handle our own cultural differences by poking fun at them, maybe other cultures have picked up on it too.

Nevertheless, it is much better to carve a humorous niche for yourself than a violent or scary one. As we integrate deeper into the cultures where we now belong, it will go a long way into promoting enriching cultural exchanges. Never mind the media, the people of the world already know there’s more to Indian culture than Yoga, Kamasutra and Ayurveda. Soon (hopefully) the media will reflect that too.

Until then, who’s your favorite Brown?

But what is the question?

Metalhead, dreamer, animal lover

Metalhead, dreamer, animal lover

After more than a year of searching for the perfect name for my blog (which explains the previous name, “…”), I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally found The One. Looks like I was looking at answers in the wrong place, for it was the question that mattered more.

The first step to finding an answer is asking the right question.

Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Why? Why not? These are questions that have brought profound changes into many lives.

We blog because we crave for readers to connect with us through our writings, and to accomplish that, we put in a little of ourselves into every post, every article, like some kind of intellectual striptease. This blog is no different. More eloquent in writing and a self-styled misfit otherwise, I like to look deep into life’s little things and find more reasons to appreciate them; this blog helps me find more people to celebrate them with. Rolling this out on April fool’s day is perfect too, for I believe nothing should be taken too seriously :)

Thanks for stopping by, Hope to see you here again.

PS: I’m still mustering up the guts to change my URL and risk losing my modest rankings/followers. One step at a time, I think, but it’s very tempting. If you did so successfully, please give me a pep talk!

There’s more to Valentine’s Day than roses and candles

sdp_0766The world has turned pink, restaurants are overbooked and overpriced, and we are just about done finalizing our outfit for the big date. There are some of us who can’t remember the last time we were single, and for us V-day is just a bigger date-night. But there’s more to it than roses and candles.

Sure, we may be going to our same favorite date-night spot and ordering our same favorite wine with the same partner, but every year is different. We have added beautiful moments, had bitter fights, and changed a little individually and as a couple. A little every year can add up significantly over the years, so it’s important to take stock of the most important changes. Here’s a start.

Did I make any new secrets last year? If it’s embarrassing, you might be able to have a laugh about it together at some point, once you’re able to laugh at yourself first. If it’s something that might change your relationship (usually for the worse), then it’s a good time for introspection. How did I get there? How do I get over it? What do I do about it now? Either bury it or confess when the time is right, but make up your mind, rid any guilt and move on. Life, like food, should be guilt-free.

What’s the best and worst thing about us? I’m amazed at how this answer—mostly the worst part— changes every few years. Cherish your best, and plan to build on it this year. And then try to get started on making the worst a little better. Make a plan so you can achieve the desired results. And recognize that if there’s something fundamental about your partner or relationship that you want to change, it’s mostly a lost cause and your plan should be directed at yourself instead, to learn to accept differences.

What did I learn about him/her that I loved/hated? You may be married for 20 years, but you learn something new about your partner all the time. Tell him/her about the things you loved discovering, it makes for good date night talk. As for the things you didn’t love so much, put them in your plan from the last question and either shrug it off or try and work on it.

What are we talking about, right now? After years of being together, couples progress to becoming each other’s best friends and mentors. And what you talk about shows how you’ve grown as a person. We all know that as we change, we can go either way, and we often take our relationship in the same direction. Observe during your date, do you mostly talk about other people? About your kids? About work? Do you talk too much about your plans for the year? Do you give enough genuine compliments? Couples don’t need to constantly impress, and may become complacent. Your partner is also the one who inspires you the most, so aim to be inspiring and move away from the mundane. And this will prepare you for your biggest question:

Are we better than last year and how? However small it may be, a plus is a plus and deserves to be cherished. Don’t kill yourself over how much better you could have been, you have the rest of your life to get there.

After all, Valentine’s day may be a celebrated day for love, but we all know that love can be celebrated every single day of the year.

Fear of Aging: Not a Brave Old World

A strange thing happened after I turned 30. I became painfully aware of the transient nature of life. Sure, I was at ease with the idea of dying one day, but I finally connected the dots that the way to death was mostly through wrinkly, clumsy and dependent old age. Yep, I’m super smart. The fear that one day, I probably wouldn’t be able to pour milk into my own cereal bowl—let alone being able to buy it from the grocery store or digest it—started passively annoying me, much like a fingerprint on eyeglasses. Ignoring it was like telling myself not to think of the color red, so I decided to confront it head-on.

  • Say Cheese: I meekly admit that vanity got to me first. After all, I’m a woman in a world of anti-aging products where wrinkles are the most dreaded disease. Suddenly, all ads in waiting room magazines have started talking to me. Looks like I’m already five years late in joining the ‘always look 25’ revolution, but I have abundant help in that area in exchange for a chunk of my wallet. But slowly, more serious issues have started to feed my Geranto-phobia.
  • Honey I lost my dentures: I balk at the thought of kissing my man with dentures, and carrying a walking stick. To hell with always looking 25, how about always feeling 30? Sooner or later, our bodies betray us and bring the best to our knees. And not all diseases are our fault… sometimes life is unfair. Looking at the number of things that can go wrong with my body, I feel the urgent need to connect myself to all sorts of tubes and machines that will monitor my health constantly and fix any problems instantly.  Very Catch-22, I know, but I suddenly agree with Capt. Yossarian.
  • Older and wiser? I’ve seen a strange metamorphosis happen to people as they age. Some get lonely after retirement, some recede into a shell, some appreciate the free time and use it to travel or grow spiritually and some join gossip circles but gradually, they change. I watch, mute with shock, as previously benevolent people make scathing remarks about someone else’s sad life. I see how women can be loving wives and inspiring mothers but mean mothers-in-law, playing the victim as they skilfully play emotional blackmail. Some get into the religion fad, scrambling to repent for their sins.  Some get into the ‘healthy living’ aka dieting fad. I listen, amused, as senior citizens (mostly women) compete over who’s the most under-weight, and remorselessly call anyone who is not a size-0 fat. There are prayer groups and cooking groups and book clubs, and they are all closed to outsiders. It’s like high school all over again! All the while I choose characteristics of my future personality, picking the best out of what I see and making notes on who I don’t want to end up like. It’s a good 30-year plan for my character.
  • I’m my only friend: Loneliness haunts so many as they age. I shudder when my paranoid thoughts take me to a world where familiar faces are all gone and the youngsters are busy making their own lives. All the while, remaining friends complain of this ailment or the other, and you wonder when your turn is.

Dark, I know, but when has fear been reasonable? Everybody is afraid of growing old for different reasons—beauty, independence, disease, loneliness… the list is endless, but it has a single tormentor. Our society is pro-youth and we are programmed to feel a sense of loss as we add on years. I sometimes wonder that if life didn’t progress through the ailments of old age into death, would people still be so scared of dying? Maybe it’s the journey to death that scares us more than the end itself.

I lived in fear and anxiety the last year. Then on my 31st birthday, I had a revelation—I’d rather prefer this demon than die early or without having lived a full life. And when I got there, I wanted to be happy with who I am, and how I got there. But the result of this soul-searching was positive. There are some things I can’t control but for the rest, I have a plan:

  • I make a note to reconnect with my dreams and start hitting my bucket list. Life is indeed a journey, but it makes a big difference whether your journey has been a mundane drive on life’s highway or has consisted of pit stops from your wishlist. Sometimes we don’t have a choice, but when we look back after 30 years, we want to be sure some dreams were worth giving up. Some dreams do have an expiration date. Barring personal tragedies, people who managed their limited money and time to lead fulfilling lives are so much more positive and happy in their older years. I want to be them. I’m also convinced that people who didn’t live enough when they could, whether out of circumstances or just plain penny-pinching, have a high probability of turning mean or resentful later.
  • I double-check my diet and lifestyle so that even if I end up being four sizes larger in three decades, I’m still healthy and active.
  • I reevaluate and revalidate my value-system, for it can either be a strong grounding force or run you aground.
  • I even try to be a better person—I try harder to keep in touch with old friends, let old hostilities be water under the bridge, and be more empathetic.
  • I try to see today’s actions from a 20-year rewind perspective. Will writing that stinker to a friend who stood me up on my special day bring me satisfaction or regret in twenty years, when I don’t have her as a friend? It’s an exercise that is fuelled partly by fear but mostly by the desire to be surrounded by a circle of my peeps, always. If life gives me lemons, I want my peeps to add sugar and spice to it and bake me a lemon-meringue pie.

30 is a great place to be. It is the perfect place to look back and see how you got here, to look forward and see where you’re going, and fine tune your current path so you get where you want to be. 31 is even better; you get to start working on your plan for the next 30 years.

I’ve found my 30-30 vision. Have you?

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