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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.

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Wrong Time for Mr. Right—My entry for the Get Published contest

The idea

What if happily ever after had an expiry date?

Megha led an almost perfect life. She had an almost perfect husband, almost perfect in-laws and an almost perfect world that she was perfectly happy in. Sure she was happy—Megha was a realist and knew when life was sufficiently fulfilling. She knew Ashok was a great catch and the little things that she secretly hoped would improve were just fuelled by the human desire to always want more. Besides, she wasn’t perfect herself, was she?

And then she ran into the perfect man. And suddenly, sufficient was not enough anymore.

Sameer was the best thing that happened to her, and the worst thing that happened to her. He made her feel beautiful like no one had ever done before. But while meeting her true soul-mate would have been exhilarating five years ago, now it was riddled with guilt, weighed down by reality and shackled by past commitments.

After a flurry of events make her a dishonest spouse, Megha wonders whether she should confess and salvage her marriage, or take the bold step toward the life she really wants. They don’t have children yet, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Their friends, his family and even her own family will despise her. But can she give up her dream and live a life of regret just to have their approval? She also wonders if she’s throwing away a good life for something that may be short-lived. Most importantly, she debates whether it is fair to break Ashok’s heart for no fault of his.

Whichever man she chooses, Megha wonders if her story will ever have a happily ever after. Her path seems to be strewn with heartbreaks—the decision to stay will break her heart while moving on will break the heart of someone she still loves.

But as she is still deciding, one of her lovers decides her fate without her consent.

What makes it real: This is inspired by some people in my life whose seemingly happy relationships fell apart because true love arrived too late. Much has been said about the person getting dumped and for a good reason too, but this story argues that walking away is difficult, too.

The characters are earthy, mature and genuine, but they are less than perfect in their approach to their problems and the choices they make. The story explores the agony of finding another true love when there is nothing really wrong with the love you already have, and dismay at the realization that you are the villain, the cheater and the heartbreaker. And that it was all your fault.

This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with  inputs from Yashodhara Lal and HarperCollins  India.

Liked it? Please vote for me here and you could just read it in print! Thanks for reading! If the voting link didn’t work for any reason, let me know so I can fix it.
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The state of married-ness

Ten great things about the state of Married-Ness Ten not so great things about the state of Married-Ness
10.You have a whole new family to fall back on 10. You have a whole new family giving you (unsolicited) advice and fussing over you
9. You don’t have to vacuum, take out the trash or get rid of that giant spider yourself 9. Those super lazy cereal-for breakfast, cereal-for-lunch, Maggi–for-dinner days are officially over. You get used to dragging your feet to the kitchen in any state
8. Someone else pays for your shopping 8. You feel guilty indulging in $200 shoe-shopping trips when your shoe closet is overflowing in the first place, and he is content with his 6 pairs of shoes
7. Someone puts Tiger Balm on your forehead and makes you a ridiculously difficult but insanely delicious food when you have a migraine 7. No more tantrums. Ladies, the ring officially takes away your rights to any tantrums (I’m as tantrum-free as they come, but I’d still like to see my husband get me 5 red heart-shaped balloons for Valentine’s day, tied to his bike- just for kicks!)
6. One more special day in the year to get gifts! 6. Yet another special day in the year to give gifts. What do I get him again that is unique, just what he needs AND lasts forever???
5. You can wake someone up in the middle of the night and feel safer when you have a nightmare 5. You have to put up with snoring, and another alarm snooze
4. Random, don’t-stand-a-chance acquaintances don’t hit on you (“Can I make friendship with you?”) 4. The single hotties don’t waste their time on you. Ladies, that means no more “this one’s on me” either
3. Your social life expands two-fold to give you plenty of choices between having wild night outs, fun days in the park or cozy family dinners 3. Little Indian kids switch from calling you ‘akka’ or ‘didi’ to ‘Aunty’
2. Bottomline-you’re pampered (Fresh flowers all around the house, that special weekend-morning chai with just the right amount of milk, sitting through animated Disney princess movies once in a while…) 2. Ridicule and total disrespect for your OCDs frustrate the $%@& out of you (Spices arranged alphabetically, sheets crease-free throughout the night, comforter exactly parallel to the bed…)
1. You have a best friend to snuggle up to on bad days, open your heart out to and not be judged for it 1. You have to go all the way to the bathroom to fart (hey, everyone farts!)
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