Monday, June 13, 2011

Which is better fish, wine or great conversations? Can’t quite decide.

Sometimes people come by your life quite by accident and I have been one of those lucky people who have always had nice accidents happening at random. At times these accident meetings are like bomb blasts; the people who enter your life make such an impact that everything gets rearranged there after. But some of them are like a pleasant fragrance; subtle, lovely and enjoyable. But I am not here to elaborate on that. What I really want to do is talk about a pleasant weekend that busted couple of myths and pre-conceived notions about stuff in general. Perhaps why this weekend was ever more so eventful. Because it just changed my perception about a lot of things.

Myth #1 Red wine is best with red meat
I had red wine with fish fried in Indian masala and olive oil. I am telling you this was an all time new experience for me. And It was *uber* good. Amazing!

Myth #2 White Mosaic can be kept spotlessly clean for years

My husband’s tharavdu has been battling with white mosaic for 24 years; today let’s just say it looks more like chocolate brown mosaic. Not too bad if you never know that it was once white mosaic. But @ the friends place not only was the mosaic without blemish, it just made their pad look less of a pad and more of a very tasteful yet homely space with lot of light and fresh air.

Myth# 3 Olive oil is only good with continental food (read Italian food)

I had an entire sumptuous Keralean fare cooked in olive oil. What more, didn’t notice the difference?

Myth#4 Corporate Honchos who taste success young are pretentious

It just humbled me to see how very successful people could be so grounded and earthy and modest and gracious all at once. I was simply swept off my feet by the genuineness.

Myth# 5 you can’t have great conversation with people with whom you don’t share lots in common.

I had one of the finest times and exchanged great conversations this weekend. I realised it’s not really important to have lot of things in common in friendship, other than a good mind. I am glad I had very few things in common with this lovely duo. There was so much I learned from them hence.

Myth#6 Trivandrum is a dry city

Trivandrum is far from dry. There is so much to explore in the city. It’s a peaceful and clean city loaded with history. Besides, it takes just a few people to make this city appear interesting suddenly.

And like I said earlier, fragrances are pleasant because of the good feeling that lingers even after the moment passes.

Thank you both of you!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stuff of Consequence

Have you ever wondered what you are worth? Have you ever asked yourself why you exist? As vague and existential as this may sound, these maybe the very questions we need to ask ourselves everyday to make life worth living.
I came to such a conclusion when I read about my friend Sheena, who pretty much like me was a regular woman but unlike me was quite prodigious in the field of arts right from a very young age. We went to college together and I still remember the ease at which she conjured images on paper, black board or sometimes even etch on the wooden desks or stone or whatever she got her hands on, graphics, designs, pictures, cartoon, anything and everything. Her art was different, insightful, and extraordinary. We knew she would do great things with her talent and she would go places. She did become famous, but not so much for the obvious reasons of her talent to draw or design, but she went places, because she asked herself one day,’ what am I worth? Why do I exist? What do I contribute?
Sheena moved to the USA as a student in 1998 with a scholarship to study art in Parsons New York; the Mecca for any art student. And then went on to teach there. Sheena later joined a graphic design firm as a chief designer. She was the chief designer for many years and doing very well for herself. But the Sheena just wasn’t satisfied. She felt jaded in her work and wondered if she was another dispensable commodity in her firm, perhaps even the world.
I imagine that she may have asked herself “Why do I exist? Is there something I do that will make some difference to someone’s life?” “Will the world even clinch if I suddenly drop dead?” The sad realisation that except for a few friends and family, nothing would be affected and the world would just go on as it is would’ve shaken her to the core. “No one is indispensable” she would’ve thought to herself. It is a disturbing thought indeed. Perhaps on realising this Sheena may have wanted to do something of consequence. Perhaps she needed to contribute in some way to make a difference. She may have wanted to create her own ripple.
Life needs to be lived deliberately. We can’t simply exist and disappear, we are here for a purpose and we need to find our own niche in the system that turns the wheel of life. We need to be grease that makes the wheel turn better.
Of course anything Sheena did would be artistic. But here it was the thought to be of consequence that stirred her creative juice...and her talent was a mere tool in the creative process. She conjured up from thin air the Uniform Project. Before I go on to explain what that is, what you need to know is, Sheena is today famous in the whole of USA, as a girl in a black dress. So much so, the immigration officer has granted her the coveted celebrity status to continue in the US of A.
The moral of the story: If Sheena could do it so can we. All we need to is perhaps wake up from our sleep walk and think out of the box. Because we need more grease that turns the wheel of life. WE SHOULD BE INDESPENSIBLE.
And to know about the waves Sheena created from her single ripple, read on:

Our Mission
Revolutionize the way people perceive ethical fashion and place social responsibility at the center of consumer culture. Use fashion as a vehicle to make acts of charity more inspired and playful, enabling individuals to rise as role models of style, sustainability and social consciousness.
Our Story
The Uniform Project™ started in 2009 when a young woman realized she was drowning in the doldrums of an advertising career. To counter the uninspired demands of the corporate world, she came up with an unusual creative challenge; to wear the same dress for an entire year – but, and this is where the real challenge came in, she'd have to make it look unique every single day and do so without buying anything new. The challenge was also designed to be an online fundraiser, raising money to send underprivileged kids to school.
Thus, in May 2009, with fashion as her medium, and education her cause, U.P founder Sheena Matheiken launched the Uniform Project, pledging to wear one little black dress for 365 days as an exercise in sustainability and a fundraiser to support the Akanksha Foundation – a non-profit organization providing education to children living in Indian slums. And for the next year, Sheena reinvented her uniform solely using accessories that were either vintage, handmade, reused or donated.

Almost immediately, Sheena and the U.P were hit with a deluge of media attention. The project was featured in major publications ranging from the New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, BBC, Times London, LA Times, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Marie Claire to hundreds of fashion, culture and design blogs, as well as TV shows around the world. By the end of the yearlong challenge, the U.P site received over 2 million hits and raised over $100,000 in donations for the Akanksha Foundation and Sheena was named one of Elle Magazine's Women of the Year for 2009
The U.P now has an international following of supporters, a few of whom have joined Sheena to form the Uniform Project company. The U.P is now in its second year, expanding its first year model as a global platform converging philanthropy, fashion, sustainability and social commerce into an ongoing mission.

Check out:

Monday, December 6, 2010

I wither without the other

I've been doing a lot of thinking. Basically reflecting on the things I've learned the past year. I've done my bit of exploration. I've met people, heard them, learned from them too. Listening to some, I have learned that too is a way, a path. My path doesn't have to be that however exciting it may sound at that moment. My path maybe different. But our paths have crossed and that is a good thing. I also learned a lot of things about me. I learned that I am comfortable in expressing and loving, at the same time being silent and detached. I learned that I have already made my choice to love. To love life, to love the moment, to love those around. And as I explored the terrains of the human mind and it's different possibilities, I learned that some truths are what drives me forward more than others: steadfast friendship, clear thought, patience, candour, compassion, self-control. These are the sinews and ligaments of what makes my heart beat stronger. I learned that as much as I crave for some 'me' time, I also wither without the other. As long as I am human, I wither without community. So it as much about me as it about you. For you and I are from the One.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sometimes Clichés Are So Untrue

I remember once while writing something, I used a clichéd sentence. I followed the sentence with another adage: clichés are oft repeated truths. The latter sentence was me at my defensive best. I have done this several times while talking to people, comforting people, reassuring people, I have used my own fair share of clichés. Like, time will heal, the weight of our cross will never be heavier than us, If you love, let it go...if it’s meant to be it will come back. Lines like this. But each time I have used it or said it or tweaked it a bit, I have always believed it and meant it. All of it was true and genuine under most circumstances. But sometimes life just proves otherwise. Some clichés are untrue. Like the time I told a dear friend,“ This sorrow/loss will strengthen you dear, for something in the future.”, Just when I heard myself say it then, I knew there was something wrong, it didn’t convince me either. The sentence lacked the lustre of my otherwise steadfast faith in oft repeated truths aka clichés. But it was too late the words had already left my tongue and it floated in the air and placed itself on her ear. She looked up at me. I saw it in her eyes that I had blundered in the name of solace. She looked at me with eyes wrought with disappointment, “you are my friend, and you still don’t understand, do you?”
Zerene, my friend was a dedicated gynaecologist who was rewarded with an enviable practice and nearly perfect record of happy patients to her list. But that was no surprise to us. For she never compromised on her work or her dedication. She wore her heart on her sleeves for the ‘girls’, like she called them. She almost became their mothers. She had the uncanny ability to see them, the girls as her own. That was her professionalism. Contrary to her friend’s advice “Zerene detach yourself from the moment, be professional.”
Like every doctor who at some point in their practice reaches a state of Buddha, like I would like to call it. Her enlightenment did come as well. As a rude shock and the toughest reality check; that of losing one her ‘girls’. Just like that. Not even in the labour room, or in operation theatre. Just like that, after dinner and after quietly relishing some payasam her husband brought her. They called it embolism.
{(Amniotic fluid embolism AFE) is a rare and incompletely understood obstetric emergency in which amniotic fluid, foetal cells, hair, or other debris enters the mother's blood stream via the placental bed of the uterus and triggers an allergic reaction. This reaction then results in cardio respiratory (heart and lung) collapse and coagulopathy}
It didn’t take much time or large quantities of fluid, I am told. Everything happened in minutes and in teeny weenie measure trickling into her bloodstream, for no reason other than just like that. By the time Zerene arrived, it had been minutes that the girl’s heart had stopped beating. But Zerene quickly checked for the foetal heartbeat. The baby was alive and then and there Zerene took the baby out. The baby is well and ready to be fed. But there is no mother.
She did everything she could possibly do. Like Faizal always says. She is at her best during a crisis. Working efficiently. It usually takes few days for it to sink in. But this time Zerene just withdrew. For the next day the girl’s husband came to see her to apologise for his entire family, if in case anyone of them had unknowingly accused her of anything. Also to thank her for saving the baby in time. Zerene just remained emotionless. I knew that look. I knew it was the calm before the storm. So I quickly went to her and she collapsed to a heap. Her sense of loss was deep. She kept replaying the entire day, entire week, if somewhere she could’ve done something differently. She wondered if she should’ve tried more at resuscitating her girl. She wondered if she made right choice of going for the baby than spending more effort on the mother. She played the reel again and again and again. It was painful to watch. That was when I told her, “ Zerene, take this as something to strengthen you.” A cliché, like the several I have used before. But Zerene from the depth of the abyss, I thought she was pushing herself into. I heard her talk as if she was crying out from a deep well. Weak but firm. “This does not strengthen me Shalini. This weakens me. I am resigned now. I am resigned to the fact that as a doctor, I am just hands. He is in charge of giving and taking away. I am nothing.” And then she added, “ I exalt in my weakness.”
So that day I learned a new truth. Some things weaken you. And in being weak there is strength. So let it be.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Book That He Was

He was like a book I picked up to read. An interesting book! The kind of book of that’s not just a page turner but holds a lesson at every turn. After each chapter I would evoke the words and ravish it for its richness. The words weaved an entire world of meaning. Sometimes the words helped to patch and heal. Sometimes it admonished and shook. Sometimes it shocked and pushed. Sometimes it was just a whole lot of nonsense. Nevertheless the book made a difference to my life as I knew it. But what made him more like my favourite book was; the book was just there to enrich me.To augment the one who picked it up. The book did not expect to be filled in. The pages were already complete. I didn’t have to contribute. I was not expected to. I was not guilty of not having to give back for he was a book. A book, which only spoke to you when you picked it up to read it.

As Random As That!

Some people come into your life like a random idea. A stray thought. Or as arbitrarily as an event you witnessed on an ordinary day when you just happened to step out of the house to buy groceries.
For some reason, they get stuck in your psyche and they stay close to you. Not that you spend a lot of time with them, rather the profound influence their presence exudes. I once met one such person a long time ago when I was in college. His name was Abhilash. We met once twice or thrice maybe even more. Every time we met we spoke a lot to each other. We kind of hit it off very well. Perhaps if there was internet and email and chat those days we would’ve met more often and gotten to know each other better. We would’ve had a better grasp of those details we need to know to presume we know someone well. But I knew nothing about Abhilash. I didn’t know that he was an only child. I didn’t know he loved to go for long bike rides. But I knew Abhilash was a voracious reader. I knew Abhilash was sensitive to those around him. I knew Abhilash had the ability to seek out from a crowd that person he wouldn’t mind calling a friend. And he honoured me with that privilege.
After college I didn’t hear from him. Until one day I saw his face in the obituary. He had passed away in a road accident on the way back from Goa during one of his favourite pass times: long bike rides. The obituary was a tribute from kith and kin on his first death anniversary. Today, after so many years, I finally write about him. I haven’t mourned his passing on. But I thank God, for him. Abhilash, I know you’re happy now. And that gives me so much peace.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

To find beauty in things bizarre

I find beauty in an overturned stone, which has crawling earthworms underneath. Beside the moss covered rocks, these onion pink wriggly things covered in rich dark soil looks ethereal. I told this once to a friend I loved. She looked at me strangely. She looked worried and scared and full of pity. I realised my eye for the uncanny, frightened her. For a minute out there in the outdoors she must have thought I was treading the fine line that separates the sane from the insane. That is when I learned one of life’s fine lessons. There is no point in frightening those you love with the fantastic. It is important for you and for those around you that they understand. Their fear comes from lack of understanding. Don’t shove your unusual on their faces. Ease your truths to them...they will come around it. Sooner than you realise.Till then understand that some truths are better inside you.