‘twas Nice to Meet You!

it-was-nice-meeting-you-bite-sized-sanity.jpg
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

If morning moods could be classified into types, I would fall under the ‘grumpy riser’ group.

Out of all the things that I am, I am not a morning person. I hate the pressure that the world puts on you which demands you to be all fresh, energetic and gay as soon as your eyes catch the morning light.

My morning theme song, undoubtedly, is Bittersweet Symphony.

Goes without saying, this morning melancholy reaches new heights on Mondays. If Monday was a person, it would have been dead by now.

On one particular gloomy Monday morning, my brain decided that it was finally time to get out of slumber mode at 11 AM. 11-effing-AM! No points to guess what happened next –

I went back to sleep for 5 more minutes.

Yes, I can get quite shameless when I want to.

When mummy refused to end her very sarcastic “Why did you sleep at 3 AM last night? You should’ve stayed up for a bit longer na” lecture, I had no option but to get out of bed and hurry through my morning routine.

After a lot of contemplation, I finally decided to take a bath. Usually, that’s the first thing I skip when I’m running late for work. Or just running late for anything in general.

I don’t particularly enjoy taking a bath because unlike most people, I feel extremely sleepy after a shower instead of feeling as fresh as the girls from those sanitary napkin advertisements.

Me taking a bath may have made my mother a little happy, but to me, it just further delayed the rest of my schedule.

Knowing how bad my luck usually is, I was prepared for the worst, and worst is what life gave me. It hadn’t even been 2 minutes since I stepped out of the house when it started raining. 

Perfect.

Do you know what’s the worst part about taking the local bus? It’s watching people who came after you, leave before you. And I had to watch that for a good 20 minutes.

Can this life be any more unfair?

My daily commute to work involves me taking 2 buses. The first bus drops me at the highway, and the second one takes me further from there. If I’m feeling rich enough to spend 10 bucks more than what the bus ticket would cost me, I take one of those shared cabs.

Since I was already running super-late, I took the first option that I got. A kaali-peeli slowed down as soon as it got closer to the bus stop in the hopes of luring passengers to spend those extra 10 bucks. The driver was a middle-aged man with rugged skin which seemed to hide a lot of young hopes in its cracks, he sported a long beard and a white skull cap. There was another guy sitting in the passenger seat. I asked the driver whether he would take me to my destination. He agreed; so I got in.

The other guy got down just 2 minutes later and the driver politely asked me to sit ahead in the passenger seat which was now vacant.

I gave a surprised look and all the lessons I’d learnt by watching Crime Patrol instantly surfaced in my mind. But I’ve always loved passenger seats, mainly because I’ve grown to believe that I can never drive. Hence, sitting next to the driver was the closest I could get to driving. Without thinking much, I got out and took the seat. I continued to get grumpier with each time the driver stopped at the bus stops on the way to get more passengers. This guy was definitely not helping me with my whole running-late-scenario.

After 5 minutes of total silence, the driver decided to strike a conversation.

Now, I’ve always been a people-hater, and moreover, a people-who-force-me-to-talk-hater. I enjoy silence and I love not being disturbed more than anything else. I wasn’t reading or even listening to music while I was in the cab, which is why I thought it would be rude to end the conversation as soon as it started.

“Do you work or are you still studying?”

I work.

 

“My niece graduated this year and bagged a job at a bank two months ago. She got me a gift for Eid with her own money. I’m so proud of her!”

That’s nice.

 

“These days, it’s become so difficult even for educated people to find good jobs. These computers are replacing human beings which is why even educated people with degrees are running around in the search of jobs. God knows how tough is it going to be for our grandkids!”

That’s true.

 

“Do you take the cab regularly?”

Okay. Don’t answer that question. He could possibly be a kidnapper and is trying to wring information from me. But why would he want to kidnap me of all people? Do I look like a rich person when I take a bath?

 

“Umm…do you take the cab regularly?”

Not regularly; only sometimes.

 

“Be careful when you get into a cab. People can be dangerous; sometimes even passengers. Drivers, especially, are not always vigilant while driving. I watched a video on WhatsApp of an Ola cab ramming into the divider, the bonnet being torn into two halves.”

I was taken aback; pleasantly surprised actually. I was starting to sense safety in this guy’s words.

That’s horrible! I have always been terrified of driving. My father keeps telling me that I should get a bike, but I keep dismissing the idea. I think I can never feel confident enough to drive.

 

“Confidence comes with practise and experience. Also, one’s attitude while driving matters a lot. I have been driving this cab for 28 years now, but I still tell myself that I don’t know everything yet. This thought keeps me from getting too comfortable on the road and that’s why I’m always careful. When you get overconfident, you tend to get less cautious.”

That’s absolutely correct.

 

“Ask your father to buy you a car instead of a bike. That’s a safer option.”

 

I chuckled and asked him to pull up a few metres away as it was time for me to get down, and so he did. As I was just about to leave, he called out to me and said “I’m sorry I asked you to sit in the passenger seat. I only did so because I didn’t want you to get uncomfortable if any male passenger(s) boarded the cab. Have a nice day!”

With that kind statement and a smile, he left to take care of the rest of his day.

I have always used public transport all my life, I take myself to movies and sit alone in a café every once in a while. But I’m never open to encouraging conversations from strangers. I used to be a very talkative child, that’s what my parents tell me. I don’t know when and why did I stop being an active participant in conversations.

I wonder how many memories I must have stopped from happening only because I was building these high walls around me.

Most people are kind, they’re gorgeous. It’s amazing to see how much our kind is like us.

I didn’t ask the cab driver what his name was, but it did not matter. I had a great Monday and he definitely had a part to play in it.

Advertisements

24 Things I Learned in 24 Years

Bite-sized-Sanity-neha-mestry-24-things.jpg

It’s been a little less than a week since I turned 24 and I thought what better way could there be of celebrating a birthday than sharing all the lessons I’ve learnt! So here’s a list of 24 really important lessons that I have gathered over these years – 

1. Pursue a hobby

That’s what keeps us sane when movies, TV series, alcohol and sleep fail to fix us. Find what you enjoy doing and make time for it at least once in a week. I sometimes make a quick 15-minute doodle before leaving for work. Therefore, “I’m too busy” cannot be an excuse for anyone to be lazy about it. If a potato like me can do it, so can you.

 

2. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and Maggi are the best inventions ever!

I would binge-watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. when I would get stuck in a dull phase, when I would want to take a break in between reading intense books, when I would PMS, etc. Likewise, Maggi has been a saviour during trips as well as on days when there was tendli ki sabzi for dinner at home. Mark my words – these two things have the power to help us sail through an apocalypse!

 

3. Learn to cook basic food

Messing up chai, plain steamed rice, and omelettes are unacceptable once you’ve reached an age where you are capable of making babies.

Each one of us, regardless of our gender, MUST know how to cook basic food; and Maggi is NOT an alternative to food. Also, I do know that Indo-Chinese food is delicious and I love ordering in from time to time, but it’s highly unhealthy and no amount of added vegetables can make up for all that oil.

 

4. Reread books and rewatch movies

Revisiting stories – be it books or movies, can surprisingly give you a whole new perspective on it. With age, we tend to feel things deeply and differently. Besides, knowing how a particular story is going to end brings a sense of relief that we otherwise don’t get to experience very often in life.

 

5. Say exactly what you mean

“Oh, but I didn’t mean it that way!”

Don’t fall for this. Also, never resort to this behaviour. Be clear about how you feel, what you think, what your intention is, what you want, and most importantly, what you do not want. Leave no space for ambiguity. Say exactly what’s on your mind and own your words.

 

6. Introversion is not a disease

Our extroverted peers force us into believing that if you’re not going bar-hopping on a weekend, you’re a loner and that you need to get out. Don’t believe them. Introverts need their space, they are hypersensitive and are extremely choosy about what they want to do and who they want to spend their time with. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Do not let anybody tell you that you have a problem.

 

7. Travel with a purpose

Too many of us, myself included, are planning trips to see new places and new cultures, but are walking away without gaining much. You went backpacking to Europe, stayed in a hostel for a few weeks, so what? How did you grow by visiting this new place? What did you learn? As clichéd as this is, at the end of a trip, I ask myself – did I travel or did I take a vacation?

 

8. Wait for a month before making a big purchase

Retail therapy is a sad excuse for experiencing instant gratification. Over time, I’ve cultivated a habit of letting an entire month go by between the time I “think” I want a particular item, and actually buying it. Only if I feel strongly about owning that item by the end of the month do I go ahead and place the order.

 

9. Karma is a legit concept

We all know how it works. It’s one teacher that practices fairness the way it should be practised – man or woman, rich or poor, smart or dumb; it spares no one. You get what you deserve and that’s just how it should be.

 

10. Life will suck

Biryani chaahe kitni bhi badhiya ho, ek ilaichi zaroor hogi jo muh ka pura swaad bighaad degi!

The impermanence of good and bad times is inevitable. So, it doesn’t make sense to crib about your problems when they arrive. Everyone is dealing with their own struggles; acknowledge this fact, respect it, and try not to be an asshole while everyone is trying their best to find their bit of happiness.

 

11. It’s ok to not be ok

Positivity is overrated. We’ve been tricked into believing that we need to be happy all the time; that we need to find the good in every situation. I’m not saying that that’s not right, but sometimes, you just need to see the situation for what it is, feel what it makes you feel and then get over it. It’s okay to feel broken and as if you’re going to puke if you don’t scream. It’s okay to ditch your friends if staying in makes you feel better, it’s okay to call in sick and cry your heart out in your bed. 

 

12. Others’ problems must not make you feel better

You can’t assess someone’s happiness based on how happy or sad other people in this world are. So, don’t try to make your friend feel good by making them see other people’s miseries. That’s plain sadistic and it’s not going to make anyone feel better because every person is dealing with a different problem.

 

13. No family is perfect

Families are twisted because we, as humans, are like that. Every family has one person who brings disappointment, one person who brings shame, one secret that must not be revealed and one issue that’s always swept under the rug instead of tackling it head-on. No matter how happy it may look from the outside, every family is internally screwed up in its own way. Embrace your family’s flaws.

 

14. Our minds are capable of reconditioning

We often tend to start identifying ourselves and get influenced by the religion that we were born in, the family values and practices that we’ve seen our elders follow, the ideologies that our community has stuck to and even the political views that our family members hold. It’s not right to grow up and say “…but I have always been taught to believe this”. 

We can always unlearn and relearn things.

Be open to that.

 

15. Learn to listen

There’s a difference between ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’; the latter is a fairly difficult task. To listen is to be attentive, to let the other person know that you are interested in what they’re saying, that you respect them enough to let them finish before you respond and that you recognize the other person’s right to be heard. Also, there’s a lot one can learn just by paying attention to what others are talking about.

 

16. Learn to see

Our current society has trended towards overstimulation and it leaves little time for us to be alone with our thoughts. Every idle moment is overstuffed with social media. Put your phone down and look around. Watch people. I, personally, love watching kids in public places because when they’re not crying, puking or pooping, they are being mesmerized watching the aircrafts fly, speeding cars, elevators go up and down, etc. It’s easy to take the miracles around us for granted. We should be taking out small moments to realize how incredible the world is around us.

 

17. There will always be haters

No matter how patient and accommodating you are, there will always be someone who’ll tell you that you are not enough. Jealousy is a human emotion and when it exceeds the safety mark, it gets the best of us. Make peace with those who always pick your faults; if nothing else, they’re at least teaching you what you shouldn’t be doing.

 

18. If it feels wrong, then there is something wrong

Intuition is real. Vibes are real. Energy doesn’t lie. So, tune in and listen. If you get a bad feeling about a particular person, be careful and draw your boundaries. If you feel your friend doesn’t seem okay even when they’re wearing a smile on their face, go and talk to them.

 

19. Befriend people who are older than you

To have friends who are older than you is a blessing. There’s always something that you can learn from them – be it about making career choices, dealing with difficult colleagues, making investments, discovering old music, dealing with problems, making the best cocktails, etc., they will always know something more than you do.

 

20. You lose nothing by helping others

If there’s something you can do that will solve someone else’s problem, then go ahead and do that. It won’t take away anything from you.

All your education and experience is insignificant if it can’t help alleviate someone else’s predicament.

I believe that’s the exact reason why the human race is running its course – there’s so much knowledge that remains to be passed on. We must help each other out and make our journeys a bit easier.

 

21. Actions aren’t everything

It’s often believed that one must watch what one does to understand how much they love you and care about you. But sometimes, you need to verbalise your emotions and intentions. You need to tell your friend – “You’re a piece of shit, but I really appreciate your presence in my life”. Hearing beautiful things can really have a long-lasting impact on people.

 

22. Trust the wait

We’re all always in a hurry – we want our answers right now, we want people to reply to our texts ASAP – we want to have it all at once. But, waiting is beautiful. It delays the feeling of gratification but it also makes you realize the importance of what it is that you’re waiting for. Not knowing the outcome of a particular decision is okay.

When nothing is certain, anything is possible.

So learn to wait.

 

23. Life is happening right now

We often dwell on our past – the mistakes we made, the things we should or shouldn’t have said, the people we trusted, etc. If not that, then we live in a constant worry about our future, wondering if and when will our life present itself in its greatest form to us. What we tend to forget is that life is happening right now, right now while you’re reading this. Be mindful of the present moment. Smile at the things that are going really well and also at those that you can do nothing about. Show life who’s the boss!

 

24. The best is yet to come

Life is short; it can end at any moment. But that’s just one possibility, right? What if it’s long? What if we live to see our great-grandkids? And aliens when they descend on Earth? Okay, I may have taken it a little too far. But the bottom-line is, as long as we’re alive, we must hope. We must hope that our problems will come to an end and that we will be okay. We must hope that the best is yet to come; and that it will.

 

I would like to end this by saying that everything that’s mentioned above is purely my understanding of life and it’s way of working. I DO NOT wish to enforce my views on anyone. These are just a bunch of things that I picked up on my way over the last 24 years and I hope that you are able to let go of parts that you don’t concur with.

Tram-ed in Amsterdam!

Tram-ed-in-Amsterdam-Bite-Sized-Sanity.jpg

 

On the night before my flight, the nerves kicked in hard enough for me to question my decision. The conference was over and I was supposed to head to Amsterdam with Pearl on the next morning.

Was I ready to take this trip without having my parents around? I am not particularly the kind of person who scares easy; or so I told myself until this trip.

Who plans a trip to Europe one day before the flight is scheduled to leave?

Knowing that I at least have a friend who’ll be my company for the next 3 days helped a lot.

I woke up early on the big day, made sure I’d not left anything behind in the hotel room, had the last breakfast with my office folks, and got into the cab which would take us to the Frankfurt airport. We were to take a train ride to Amsterdam because we were running on a tight budget due to the trip being a total last moment plan. I should also mention that we had to choose the option of changing 5 trains along the course of a 6-hour long journey. Although the option of taking a direct 3-hour long train journey was available, we decided against it because of a bunch of reasons.

Talk about cost saving!

But then travelling by the Eurail is an experience in itself, and I grabbed it option with both my hands.

I still had three hours until we took our first train and the thoughts in my head were not being my friend. Unlike a lot of people I know, I hadn’t travelled much as a kid with my family. My folks are not much into exploring new places and all that jazz. So this trip was overwhelming for me. I was getting to a point where I started calculating how much a last-minute flight back to Bombay would cost me.

Shuddering at the frightening cost, I decided to stop thinking. 

I tend to overthink a lot, and honestly, all that overthinking hasn’t really turned me into the best decision-maker yet. So why bother, I thought to myself.

On reaching the airport, we discovered that we were at the wrong place.

Our first train was supposed to leave from Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof and due to some confusion, we reached the Frankfurt Airport instead. That was, luckily, only a 15-minute train ride away. We took around 30 minutes or so to figure how to buy a train ticket before we finally got onto the train.

2018-04-21 02.43.47 1.jpg

I’ve always been one of those people who stay composed when uncertainty strikes. But being lost at a crazy, crowded airport in an unknown country made me lose my control and panic.

We finally managed to reach Frankfurt (Main) Hbf. But that was still not the beginning of our train-ride-saga.

We’ve checked the indicator, our train is in our sight, we’re getting our tickets out of our bags, and we realize we don’t have our train tickets with us.

Perfect!

So here’s what happened – we printed a copy of the document we got on email on booking our tickets, which, unfortunately, was not the actual ticket; it was just a confirmation. The attachment that came along with that email was the real deal. Now, the email clearly mentioned that carrying a hard copy of the ticket was mandatory. Both Pearl and I freaked out. For some reason, Pearl thought that she should go around and look around the station for a place from where we could get a printout.

I really couldn’t understand why would she think of doing that. Did she assume that Frankfurt (Main) Hbf was like Andheri station with print and photocopy centres lining the streets around it?

But I stopped myself from stopping her because she was genuinely trying while I had almost given up in my head. After exploring the very few options that we had, we did not manage to find any solution.

I was considering faking an illness if in case the TC came asking for our ticket copy; because pulling an Aishwarya-Ajay Devgan from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam would be too weird for two girls, nahi?

An old and a very polite German couple helped us with some basic knowledge about travelling by Eurail. The kind man told us that they had been to India a few years ago and that he’d learnt the only single Hindi sentence he knows in Agra, which he shared with me and Pearl as a piece of advice.

The train journey was one hell of a ride! We had to run from one platform to the other, at times in as short as a 3-minute period, with one bag on our shoulders, and one dragging along behind us. 

I have always had trouble asking for help. I believe that I can do whatever it is that I need to do if I manage to give it an extra try after I have reached my breaking point. So, I refused to ask for help when I was carrying a suitcase that weighed 22 kilos up along the stairs to get onto the platform.

It so turned out that people there, and these were strangers mind you, were always willing to help even if I didn’t ask for it.

Just like everyone else, I too was conditioned to believe that white people, by default, feel prejudice towards brown-skinned people. Surprisingly, I was amazed to see how nobody really cared about that!

2018-04-21 02.43.45 2 (1).jpg

This very eventful, yet a very tiring train journey, ended with us calling it a night after hogging on a defrosted and reheated pizza, and a (really bad) glass of rum at our hostel. Our very friendly receptionist, Simon – an ex-casino worker from Paris turned into a receptionist in Amsterdam, made sure that we were comfortable in the hostel, gave us a free box of Pringles when no one was looking, and some free advice on sightseeing in Amsterdam; all thanks to Pearl’s socializing skills!

IMG-20170403-WA0036.jpg

We began our first morning in Amsterdam with a bang. Literally.

The bang came on the left side of my forehead, from a moving tram.

I’m too used to Mumbai locals announcing their arrival at the platform with a deafening noise. As opposed to that, this tram was so silent that I did not realize that it was approaching the platform while I casually stepped RIGHT. ON. THE. TRACK.

2018-04-21 02.43.47 2.jpg

The last thing I remember before getting hit on my head and falling back on the platform was Pearl’s cry – ‘NEHAAAAA’, which sounded very similar to how Tulsi Virani screamed ‘MIHIIIIIRRRRR’ on seeing his dead body (during his first death).

The tram driver yelled at me for not being attentive while the thud was still ringing loud and clear in my ears, recovering from the trauma, attempting to stand up, and trying really hard to not laugh. He said he was going to take me to the hospital and only agreed to let me go when I pleaded in front of him to leave me alone.

I don’t think I could’ve given Pearl a better start to the trip!

The rest of the trip was a splendid example of teamwork.

I went to the Heineken brewery with Pearl because she really wanted to see that place.

Pearl accompanied me to the Van Gogh museum, even though she had no clue about who this person was, only because I was dying to go there. It’s a different story that Pearl coolly waited in the lobby and made her credit card payments while I got too emotional and sobbed silently after I’d gone through Van Gogh’s entire life put on display there.

I agreed to walk inside one of those “coffee shops” to ask for “stuff” (which we eventually didn’t try because we didn’t know how to ask for it) only because Pearl said, “Chal, let’s do this!”.

And Pearl agreed to have a Butter Chicken meal in Amsterdam (#sorrynotsorry) only because I was craving for Indian food after an entire week of eating bland European steaks. Yes, I’m very Indian that way!

2018-04-21 02.43.50 1.jpg

This trip was crazy – that’s the long and short of it.

I had a very petite girl help me with carrying my bag up along the stairs.

I had an old gentleman help me get my humongous bag inside the train after watching me struggle when the train was just about to leave.

I received genuine smiles from strangers at the metro and railway stations.

We got picked to be photographed from a crowd of at least a 100 people waiting in the queue right outside the Heineken brewery.

We shared our room with 3 unknown people and got along well enough to click a selfie and appreciate the moment.

The Westerners are very helpful and considerate, unlike what we’re taught to believe by the “cultured” gurus and demigods in India.

We both managed to successfully complete this trip without letting any of those mishaps ruin our moods. No matter how hungry we got, we would gladly survive on hot dogs and burgers without complaining, because…well…budget!

2018-04-21 02.43.43 3.jpg

Oh, did I mention that I also managed to faint on our flight back home? And that the air hostess thought that I was sleeping while I was in fact, unconscious the whole time? 

Yep. I did manage to end the trip with a bang as well.

This trip was a learning experience in so many ways! We learnt how to ask for help, how to navigate in an unknown land, how to look after your travel companion and make adjustments for them.

Collage.jpg

But the lesson that has stayed with me was the one that that old German gentleman had shared with us on the train –

Shaadi mat karna

Word! Haha.

…and we’re ready for take-off!

aeroplane-aircraft-aircraft-wing-62623.jpg

8 out of every 10 middle-class people dream of taking at least one trip to Europe in their life either because:

  1. They are DDLJ fans, or
  2. That’s one of the three foreign places they know of (the other two being US and Canada, of course)

I’ve never watched DDLJ and neither am I geographically challenged that way, but as my luck would have it, a Europe trip happened to me in 2017.

It’d only been a few minutes since the flight took off and I was trying a little too hard to exhale with my nose and mouth closed, in my attempts to relieve my blocked ears. An entire week was lying ahead of me before I could sleep in my own bed and enjoy a shameless number of servings of ghar ka khaana (home-cooked food). I was already feeling homesick when I suddenly heard the clinking of steel tiffins followed by the smell of thepla!

It doesn’t matter whether we’re sitting inside a tin box that has wings, flying hundreds of feet above ground-level, and are heading ~7000 km away from India; it’s absolutely normal for any middle-class Indian to carry their own dabba (tiffin) wherever they go, all right?

Since this was a work trip, I never really got any time to absorb the fact that I was being sent to Germany for a conference. There was no time to rave about it in front of my friends amidst the neverending number of tasks that needed to be taken care of before I left. Fortunately enough, I had an enthusiastic (then) colleague (and now a close friend), Pearl, to get me to extend this trip by a few days after the conference was over, and proceed to explore Amsterdam. I think I agreed to her plan without thinking even for a second, and this happened to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

The night before the big day was a mess.

I think I’m a good packer in a way that I never forget to carry any of my essentials. The only drawback is that I’m one of the heaviest packers in the history of packers!

I have a different kind of FOMO – the fear of missing out on carrying things that others may need and I may not be able to help them with when that happens.

So I packed, and repacked, and then packed some more items.

I’m not very used to having my parents help me out with stuff that I can manage by myself. I am quite self-reliant that way, or at least, I’d like to think that I am. So, it was a bit awkward as well as cute when my family decided to drop me off at the airport. Their faces looked more excited than mine did.

I knew that if they stayed for too long, I’d start feeling homesick even before I left. So I decided that I’d rather miss them in the airport lobby after they’re gone than miss them in their presence. Even though I had a good amount of extra time, I waved a goodbye and entered the airport a little too early.

A lot of our flight experience begins right from the time we enter the airport. Talk to one rude check-in/immigration exec, and your experience is already ruined by half.

Queues, for example, are a great place to judge character, I believe.

You find all kinds of people here – the lazy ones who move at the speed of a snail; the over-enthusiastic ones who want to document their time standing in a security check-in queue by clicking a thousand selfies; and the anxious ones who think they have to hurry even though boarding is still 3 hours away.

Then there’s this special kind which comprises of aunties with razor-sharp elbows who believe that it’s absolutely fine to enter a queue from wherever they please or lie to the security exec saying that their flight is about to take off. All this only so that they get done with the formalities before everyone else does.

After yet another failed attempt at trying to wring a smile from a security exec who scans people’s butts in a curtained area for a living, and trying to not to feel drowsy looking at all the sleepy faces in the waiting area, I finally decided to give up on trying to make this journey seem pleasant.

Since this was going to be my first plane ride, my mind was juggling between excitement, nervousness, fear and prayers.

Excitement, because I had not set any expectations about how I wanted this trip to unfold.

Nervousness, because what if I left an important item back at home that I may not be able to do without in a foreign country?

Fear, because nobody wants a screaming kid in a 3-meter radius around their seat. And given how much I “love” kids, there’s a good chance that there will be an irritated and chatty a.k.a., a monster of a toddler right behind my seat!

And lastly, prayers, because what if the plane crashes and the last thought I had before dying was ‘where does all the poop collected in aircraft toilets go?’

Surprisingly, I did fine when the plane took off. I wasn’t terrified of the experience at all. All those years of hanging by the train doors had done their fair bit in preparing me for this.

The one thing that I was looking forward to on this flight journey was the food. I’d heard a lot about how boring and tasteless flight food is. The food served to us was okay-ish and was too cold to be savoured. But for some weird reason, I enjoyed it just like I would enjoy an obesity-inducing cheap Indo-Chinese meal on any normal day.

Call me crazy, but the idea of eating proper food, or nibbling in case of certain airlines, hundreds of feet above the ground, seems revolutionary to me. I mean, did we (read: humans) actually achieve this? Who would’ve thunk!

We had two stopovers – the first one at Doha, and an unexpected second one at Kuwait. Although we were sleep-depeived and tired of sitting in the same position for all that time, all those empty hours spent waiting at the Doha airport in the wee hours of the night were suddenly filled with a lot of conversations. This was the first time I was sharing a huge chunk of my thoughts locked away in the ‘Personal’ folder of my brain, with a person I’d barely interacted with at work; and I didn’t regret it.

Our first stopover confirmed that the upcoming week was going to be a good one. Even if it wasn’t, we were certain that we would manage it somehow.

6 Morning Habits of Moderately Successful People

nathan-dumlao-263787-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

 

Every morning, we all get the same old –

“Wake up! It’s 9 AM, and you’re still sleeping like a log! When I was your age, I would…”.

Or if you’re a girl, you most likely get –

“Wake up! It’s 9 AM, and you’re still sleeping like a log! When we get you married, your in-laws are going to laugh at me and say that your mother hasn’t taught you well”.

Our morning routine is said to be a stepping stone to the overall success we can possibly achieve throughout the day. And, our mothers just want to ensure that all the unexplainable agony that they’ve gone through to birth sloth-like humans like ourselves does not go to waste by us wasting 50% of our time away in a state of slumber.

Now we can’t turn ourselves into perfectly disciplined individuals overnight, but we can definitely do what’s within our capacity to be (at least) moderately successful. So here are 6 morning habits of people like you and me, that make us what we are (read: hopeless)

  1. SET THE FOUNDATION RIGHT

Every morning essentially begins on the preceding night. Have copious amounts of alcohol on that night in the hope of washing away your boredom and frustration. This ensures that there’s no way that you’re going to be able to wake up in time to reach work on time, on the next morning.

 

  1. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Even though you know that you probably have hideous amounts of alcohol flowing in your veins, you’re still sane enough to realize that a single alarm is not going to be enough to convince you that it’s time to wake up. Hence, set multiple alarms, I’d suggest 5 (at least), that ring at equal intervals of time. This will allow you the freedom as well as the satisfaction to snooze away your grogginess.

 

  1. BEGIN YOUR DAY WITH A GOOD LAUGH

Laughing is known to increase infection-fighting antibodies, thereby increasing our immunity and resistance to diseases. It also releases endorphins A.K.A. the feel-good hormones which make you feel happy from within.

So, laugh at yourself, your job, your salary, your bank balance, your receding hairline, your increasing waistline, and the general lack of everything in your life. Let’s see if those endorphins can make you happy after all that.

 

  1. ENGAGE IN SOME SERIOUS INTROSPECTION

Asking questions is always productive. It can either give you the answers that you have been struggling to find, or it can leave you utterly confused and disoriented. The two most important questions that can truly change your outlook towards life are:

  1. What am I grateful for today?
  2. What am I looking forward to today?

If the answer to both these questions is “nothing”, then congratulations, my friend – you know you’re adulting!

 

  1. REMEMBER IMPORTANT THINGS

You’ve snoozed the alarm 5 times before waking up, you’ve had a good laugh at how hopeless your life is, and you’ve looked within to gain some life-changing insight and perspective. While doing all that, your sleep-deprived brain has forgotten to remind you that unlike the unemployed lot, you have a job and you can’t afford to lose that at the cost of your sleep. So, get the hell out of your bed and head to work!

 

  1. PLAN (BETTER) IN ADVANCE

To err is human, and to forgive…is also human, actually. It’s okay if you are pathetically late to work today. Promise yourself that starting today, you will sleep on time, wake up on time the next day, save the question-answer session for the weekends, not make tea/coffee the first thing that enters your digestive tract, hit the gym for at least an hour, get to work on time and make your mother believe that there’s still some hope. We can always be good tomorrow, right?

 

P.S.: Adopt this routine at your own risk.

P.P.S.: Don’t tell your mom that I taught you all this (please!).

“Save it for The Weekend!”

Save-it-for-the-weekend-bite-sized-sanity.jpeg

The universe is broadly divided into 3 types of people:

  1. Those who work from Monday to Friday
  2. Those who work from Monday to Saturday
  3. Those who are paying for the sins committed in their past lives by getting their weekly off(s) on weekdays

No matter which one of these types one belongs to, any added holiday closer to the weekend reaffirms our faith in the secret power of wishful thinking. Now since India is such a salad bowl of cultures and religions, there’s never a scarcity of festivals A.K.A., public holidays. For everyone who belongs to the bored working class category, every festival means just one thing – a holiday!

We don’t care if Ram and Sita returned home after 14 long years of vanvaas and an adventurous Sri Lanka tour, we don’t care if Mahishasura was killed by Kali after a 9-day long gory duel, we really don’t give two hoots about our country celebrating its 70th year of being free from the British rule – just give us the damn holiday already!

Our generation is so hopeless that no matter how well-paying or interesting our jobs are, we will still pine for the days when we are away from our work desks.

“I’m planning to start reading this book over the weekend.”

“I think I’ll wake up a little early and go for a run on the weekend.”

“Oh, this one’s going to be a long weekend right? I think I’ll finally take my bicycle out for a ride.”

We know very well that activities such as reading a book, running and cycling are not banned on weekdays and that it’s absolutely possible to easily squeeze these into our daily routine. But we being the cranky, cribbing and lethargic souls that we are, we will always find an excuse to slyly slide things over to the weekend. 

Our generation knows nothing about celebrating the monotony of our routine; we only live for the weekends.

As a kid, I learnt quite a lot about the significance of a majority of Indian festivals through my school teachers. A lot of our post-holiday essays would revolve around learning about and writing the story that marked the importance of a certain festival for which we were getting an extra leave.

Why did we forget these stories?

Why were we so ecstatic about celebrating 1000 weeks of DDLJ (which by the way, I find to be ultra-long-maxi-level shitty) and were we not so bothered about celebrating 121 years of our victory at the Battle of Saragarhi? (Please go and read about this battle if you’re hearing about it for the first time!)

All our long weekends in the summer are reserved for trips to the hill stations, those in the monsoons are reserved for treks, and the ones in the winters are reserved for Goa. If nothing else works, there’s always the option of driving to Lonavala!

The travel industry is booming left, right, and centre – thanks to the ever-increasing number of “nomads” who always claim to bitten by the (hashtag) travel bug and smitten by (hashtag) wanderlust. This lot is completely diluting the essence of festive holidays. E-magazines have started fueling this show by publishing a list of all the long weekends panning across the year well in advance, with pre-planned mini-itineraries.

We may not know which day of the week will our birthday be falling on in 2018 but we know the order and the count of all the long weekends in 2018 by heart! (there are 16 this year, by the way.)

I may be sounding like a grandma right now but I really do think that we need to look beyond this self-created hullabaloo (and eventual disappointment) around holidays, and maybe spend at least a third of our time and energy on getting to know about the reason that made a certain day a public holiday.

It’s fun to get bhaang-ed at Holi parties and dance your heart out to ‘Do me a favour let’s play Holaaay‘ (God save us from the calamity that Anu Malik’s voice is!) with all that dirty colour on the face, which by the way, still makes us look at least three times prettier than how we look after getting off the Virar local on a weekday.

It’s also nice to get out of the city to unwind and get a dose of nature, God knows we all need it AND deserve it after all those long hours of commuting to work and back, and chasing deadlines like a cat chases a mouse.

I do understand that planning trips with just a handful of leaves available for the whole year is not an easy business, so weekends are our only hope. I also get that not all of us want to know or care about knowing what our festivals stand for. But I also think that it’s essential for us to be aware of and also respect the importance of noteworthy events from the past that still stand tall and strong in the history. Maybe Ram, Sita, Kali, Narasimha, and the likes were fictional characters, so I guess it’s okay for one to not believe in their stories. But why should that stop us from reading the story anyway and simply carry the essence of it with us? All these stories teach us lessons in some way or the other, after all.

I sometimes worry about the generations that will follow ours – how shallow and muddled is their recollection of our cultural and historic events going to be?

Will they ever know the joy of bathing before sunrise on the first day of Diwali?

Will they ever express gratitude and gather with their beloved to break bread on Thanksgiving? And will they do that because they genuinely understand the importance of doing this or only because Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Joey and Chandler did so in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.? (For that matter, will they even watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S.?)

Will they ever stand in the never-ending queues for the bhog at the temples?

I really hope that the answer to all these questions is a good and a strong ‘yes’.

Menstruation for Dummies (read: Boys)

periods-for-dummies-bite-sized-sanity 

I feel a sharp pain shooting through my lower abdomen, and I want to murder a certain fellow passenger in the bus, and I also want to devour a mountain of spicy, cardiac arrest-level greasy noodles from the canteen as soon as I get to work. While the rest of the points may sound like PMS symptoms, I really do have a valid reason for killing that co-passenger. Why would someone want to sit right next to me when there are ten other vacant ‘ladies’ seats’ in the bus?

My uterus is all set to shed its lining and do its monthly job; I can feel it in my gut (literally).

Unlike what these advertisers make everyone believe, no girl wants to be dressed in white from head to toe and perform completely unnecessary high jumps while she is bleeding. That, and, we don’t really bleed blue. Although we love saying that while we’re cheering for our cricket team, cricket and periods are totally unrelated concepts – one is all about hitting the target while the other is an outcome of having missed one.

So, what are periods really?

Females are blessed with this divine ability to conceive, carry, and deliver (smelly yet cute-looking) babies. It’s not easy and is definitely not just a 9-month long process. This typically 32-35 year-long process begins with menarche i.e. the onset of menstruation and ends at menopause – the end of a woman’s reproductive journey. Every month, our body sheds a lining of the uterus (womb). This ‘menstrual blood’ which primarily consists of blood and tissues from the uterine lining is flushed out of the body via the cervix and finally through the vagina. 

Menarche, menstruation and menopause – it can’t simply be a coincidence that all painful experiences in a woman’s life begin with ‘men’, can it?

I fail to understand why didn’t God want us to have a happy period? After what feels like carrying a waterfall in our pants for 4-5 days, an intra-abdominal football match is the last thing a woman wants to feel. While these period cramps are a normal thing for most of us, there’s a condition known as ‘dysmenorrhea’ which is a medical term for extremely painful periods.

Have you ever watched a Bollywood heroine throw her umbrella away and encourage the hero to follow her in the rain more often than the hero doing the same? That’s because all girls are accustomed to being comfortable and at ease with being drenched since the age of 14 (or 13, or 12, or sometimes even 9).

Coming back to the title of this post, let me clarify why do boys need to be spoken about menstruation – it’s because someone told them that this is a “woman’s problem”. How can a phenomenon that forms a crucial aspect of turning a man into a father be called a problem? And that too, a “woman’s problem” alone? A lot has been said and done to eradicate misconceptions about menstruation through ad campaigns and movies, but that’s not enough.

“Allowing” women to “touch the pickle” is not enough; granting paid leaves for women on the first day of their period is not enough; posing with a pad for a promotional challenge is not enough. All this is good, but it’s not even close to meeting the basic requirement i.e. normalization of periods.

Women asking for pads in hushed tones is not normal, so is the shopkeeper’s attempt to avoid embarrassment by wrapping a pack of sanitary napkins in layers of newspapers and finally, a black polythene. The shame attached to this topic is not normal and this very abnormality, I believe, is what stops women from enjoying this wonderful process that nature has honoured us with.

Women bear all the discomfort, all the pain and even bear your child when the time comes. The least boys can do is treat menstruation as a very normal biological occurring – nothing less; nothing more. Talk about it, understand when a girl around you says “It’s “that time of the month”, let’s just chill at home today” and for God’s sake, DO NOT, I repeat, do not blame her irritation on her PMS on days when she’s not on her period! 

The colour was, is, and will always be red.; it’s time we stop fooling ourselves with that blue. Also, PMS is not a state of mind. We truly are capable of feeling murderous, cranky and hungry at the same time; blame it on the hormones!

Sun, Sand, and Calamari

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

There are 3 strong reasons why I dislike being on a trip away from home:

  1. I am never able to sleep in an unfamiliar bed;
  2. I’m never motivated enough to bathe in an unfamiliar bathroom; and
  3. I never get that “morning pressure” even after gulping two cups of strong adrak wali chai (you know what I mean?)

My cousin really made up for that shitty bus journey by arranging a cosy stay for all of us on the trip – me, her husband, sister-in-law, and her father-in-law, in the loveliest beach shack I’d ever seen. This quaint little café was tucked away in a sequestered corner of South Goa, far away from the “party maniacs”, the species all middle-class Indian parents thoroughly detest. One of the best parts of staying here was the delicious food that was served to us straight from the kitchen by the owner of the property who at some point in his life, worked as a professional chef on a cruise. Be it an authentic Goan Balchao or a continental Steak, he nailed every dish that we ordered.

Even though I was surrounded by a mesmerizing, never-ending stretch of the sea with just a handful of firangs around, I realized that I loved the noisier part of Goa more.

All this serenity was good, but I really do like visiting places that are crowded (am I crazy? Maybe!) and buzzing with enthusiasm being exuded by all travellers and tourists alike. Their energy and carefree vibes, I believe, breathe life into these streets, and cafés, and beaches, and busy markets.

Have you ever wondered that travelling to new places and meeting new people is much like learning to swim for the first time?

Just like a non-swimmer has no other option but to deal with the water on being thrown into the pool, travelling makes us face our inner selves and answer all the questions that we have very consciously managed to keep pushing away. It’s like a court-martial that we conduct with us being the accused, the accuser as well as the judge. While I watched really cool parents just let their toddlers run along the beach by themselves, unsupervised and admired some really gutsy firangs who had given up their jobs so as to explore the world, I asked myself a few hard questions. These ranged from the scary, self-actualization types such as “What is that one thing that I’m living for and the one thing that I can die for?” to the more realistic ones like “Should I renew my gym membership this time or just give up on my weight loss plans, because I can hear the treadmill flinch every time I step on it”.

I’m not sure whether I dealt with all those questions as well as I should have, but I’ll tackle those questions someday (I hope).

By the end of this trip, I was sure of one thing – our generation is hopeless.

My cousin’s father-in-law was more open to initiating conversations with random strangers than we were. While he happily taught the firangs to pronounce “bangda” and explain the appearance of the said creature in detail, we preferred to “socialize” by uploading a dozen stories a day on Instagram. While uncle fed his curiosity by asking the firangs about their life plans and their idea of being happy, we enviously admired their bikini-bodies while shamelessly stuffing our mouths with Batter Fried Calamari, diligently followed by generous sips of beer.

“Only 12 hours; I Promise!”

bite-sized-sanity-only-12-hours-i-promise

I knew it was going to be a long journey, 16 hours to be precise, but we wanted to plan a Goa trip which would “not hurt our pockets”.

Now, a ‘low budget trip’ can hold different meanings for different people. For us, it translated to travelling from Mumbai to Goa, and back, in a bus.

Thanks to my cousin’s claustrophobia, we had to book seats in a non-AC bus. If you think that was worse, then let me tell you that we couldn’t get a sleeper bus due to unavailability of seats and had to settle for one with those good-for-nothing push-back seats.

“Yay!”, I thought; NOT!

15 minutes into the journey: A group of 7 – 8 cheerful and chirpy college students boarded the bus. All of them looked too excited to be taking a trip to Goa; so much that I started feeling nauseous after a while. When two girls from that gang sitting right in front of me thought that their overflowing enthusiasm and hair needed to be documented, they took their phones out and clicked at least a 10,57,36,52,383 selfies. Every picture had the same cringeworthy pout, raised eyebrows and strategically used camera angles meant to highlight their ridiculously fashionable “travel outfits”. And here I was, shamelessly comfortable in my ancient track pants and an oversized t-shirt. By oversized, I mean a humungous t-shirt which could easily fit two baby elephants at once. The selfie-taking business was not over yet; how could it get over unless at least 10 of those pictures reached social media? One of the girls then started typing an unending list of hashtags, simultaneously reading them aloud, with such intensity that it made me feel sorry for technology.

2 hours into the journey: I found myself in what I’d like to call a “who gets to claim the seat-rest championship”. This innocent-looking human sitting next to me gently occupied the common seat-rest between our seats, which by the way, we BOTH had an equal right to. After a few minutes of shameless amounts of awkward-elbow-touching, I pushed the arm-rest upward so that it could no longer be used by either of us, thus, calling it a draw. (Request: Please don’t judge me! I really thought that I totally deserved the arm-rest because I was doing an important job of reading a book while he was just watching a bunch of random WhatsApp videos.)

5 hours into the journey: I had a rather entertaining argument with one of the girls from that college gang. All I’d asked this female was to move her seat a little forward only for 2 minutes so that I could prevent my kneecap from cracking completely. But madam responded with a look that screamed: “how dare you old-track-pants-wearing woman ask me to make my pretty Victoria Secret-adorned ass uncomfortable by shifting 2 centimetres ahead?” (Clarification: I’m an accommodating person as long as I see both the parties make an effort to find a mid-way.)

7 hours into the journey: I accidentally (I swear I didn’t do this on purpose!) happened to turn towards the adjacent row of seats only to find two love-birds making out as if the apocalypse was coming to claim them in the next 10 seconds. I quickly turned back to look out of the window and genuinely wondered how uncomfortable the guy looked, who BTW was busy swallowing his girlfriend’s tongue.

This brings me to think that a couple on a bus is a lot like the bus journey itself. They pick up speed only when everyone else has fallen asleep.

12 hours into the journey: I’m still trying to find that one “perfect sitting position” which will make my terribly stiffened spine ache a little less.

15 hours into the journey: I’m cursing the ticket guy who’d said “Madam 12 ghanton mein Goa touch! Only 12 hours, I promise!”, with a God-like all-knowing smile.

16 hours into the journey: I finally see cute little houses with thatched roofs lining the streets with cows freely taking their morning strolls while the bus fellow yells “Last stop, Madgaon”, thereby disturbing the very brief and the only decent nap I’d taken on this entire journey.