Sunday, August 14, 2022

Is anything ever enough?

The world is divided into haves and have nots. There are some who buy a purse which costs more than a person’s yearly salary. Then there are some who don’t know where their next meal will come from. I am grateful that I might be in the world’s top percentile when it comes to money, but am I doing enough to help those who need it?

Just yesterday we were at a signal in my resident country – Bahrain. It was probably the hottest day in this summer with temperature soaring in the late 40’s and humidity hitting nearly 90%. There was a healthy looking man frantically running from one car to the other trying to ask for money. His clothes were drenched in sweat, and he looked extremely harassed.

The husband and I never give any money to those who are begging on the streets, but this man seemed particularly disturbed. We crossed the signal but could not stop thinking about him. After about fifteen minutes we were at the same spot and saw him sitting on the grass nearby. We decided to give him some cash and so we drove around to get closer to him.

He asked us if we had a few seconds to listen to him. He then explained that he needed the money to go back to his home country and wanted a bit more for the ticket than what we were giving. We both didn’t find it appropriate and told him that this is all we could do and left from there.

Although I did my bit, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for not helping him enough. I was not satisfied but then, will I ever be? My house-help toils very hard each day to earn money for her grown up, well-settled children/men. She is old but relentless. Her motherly instincts annoy me but when I see her working so hard, I don’t know what to feel. Should I feel sorry for her and give her a little extra than what she earns, or should I help someone else who needs it more?

My pranic healer adviced me to donate to someone who is going through the same illness as me. He asked me to give them enough to completely heal. This has something to do with Karma – if you give for what you need, you will get the same in return. I looked up on Milaap.org and searched for people looking for money to cure their muscular disorders. I thought about the maximum amount I could give and searched accordingly. I have done this twice in the last year and really feel blessings are on my way.

Last month a cat moved to my garden with her two newly born kittens. These animals looked frail and in need of food. I do not like animals – it has something to do with my ability to not being able to escape if they attack me in any way. I shut my curtains so that I don’t see them! I thought I can provide them shelter by not going into the garden while they are here, but I cannot give them food because that will make them come near me all the time which I will not be able to handle. This is the maximum I could do. I am happy to report that they are growing up well, but I still don’t give them food!

I have helped many people with my time. I have cooked for friends who were not well. I have stayed on their bedside when they were admitted in the hospital. I have listened and given advice when needed. But nothing, nothing ever feels enough.

I compare this with how God must feel when we beg Him for something and He does only, what we consider, little to help us. We feel He has abundant power, yet he does not help us with all his might. Is he also limited like us? Does he feel guilty when he doesn’t do enough? Does he also think that he has given us the ability to beat the odds and we must rise up to the challenge whenever needed?

My analogy might be weird but atleast it gives me an understanding to why my prayers are not always answered. Just like the cat and her kittens, God has given me enough, and a power to survive in any circumstance. I will not feel guilty of not doing enough because nothing ever is. I will not feel sad when I don’t get enough, because, well, nothing ever is.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Heartfelt videos in times of Reels

 

It was my brother’s 40th birthday in the year 2017. To make it special, I collected several photos of him, wrote a funny verse, found an apt song, and made a video of three minutes and thirty seconds. I uploaded the video on YouTube for easy sharing. That video had 200+ views and gained a lot of praise.

Yesterday, it was his wife’s 40th. I love her even more and so I made an even better video for her with several songs, pictures, and even short clips of her dancing in between. It took me a long time to make this four minute thirty second video. So far, it has 40 views and, obviously, very little praise.

What has changed in the last five years? It is certainly not my talent – I combine perfect words with pictures and songs. On thinking about this unfortunate statistic, I realized that we are living in the times of twenty second stories, thirty second Reels, forty second Tik Tok videos, and one minute YouTube shorts.

We desire quick entertainment even though if you look at your mobile phone consumption, it has increased by leaps and bounds. We want to read our news in 280 characters on Twitter and not long essays describing everything in detail. We want to ‘read’ a book on Audible while we walk so that our time is utilized well.

I wonder how Ekta Kapoor is still managing twenty seasons of the same television series! Maybe, this is a trend for millennials and beyond. The boomers who watch news channels with repeated breaking news multiple times a day still have attention span that lasts longer than thirty seconds.

Technology is reducing our attention span and how. We require instant gratification. If we desire a food item, we have an application that will deliver it to us within minutes to satisfy our craving. We don’t have to wait for the weekend, we don’t have to drive, we don’t need to step out – it’s instant. If we don’t check our phones for a couple of hours, wee feel uneasy and anxious. Our mental health is going for a toss!

Coming back to decreased attention span, I am sure it is affecting our cognitive abilities. Do you remember a thirty second reel for someone’s birthday? You wouldn’t. But if you saw a five-minute video for a friend’s special occasion, it might be able to make an impact and you might remember it for years to come. It just goes on to say that we watch these short clips with an absent mind and never register what is said in them. While when we watch a longer video, we pay more attention and remember it for a long time.

Now I don’t have studies to prove it, I am sure Harvard, Yale and Columbia must be on it! But I can surely say it from experience that my failing memory is not just a consequence of aging – it is this desire for short gratification time and reduced patience for anything worth its while which gives my mind less time to register anything that it can memorize.

No, I am not old school to make four and half minute videos. I am just trying to give our generation a moment to think about what they are doing to their mental and cognitive abilities. Think smarter people, think smarter and use technology to your benefit.

Monday, June 6, 2022

2011 to 2021 - 29 to 39 A decade well travelled!

 I have been wondering what to write in my decade post since the end of 2020. 1.5 years later, I know exactly what to write. I already know what I will be writing in my 2030 post though.

When I was younger, I never thought I would get married. In the 90's, a girl with certain health issues was destined to remain single and live alone. The joke about living with cats also came in very late, I would have been a happier kid had I known I will have a certain feline for company. 

Anyway, when I did get married, I had no expectations of travel. In the sad 90's, my sojourns were restricted to Nainital, Dadi house, and Nani house. Thank God my grandmothers lived in different cities than mine, otherwise Pinki, Billu and Chacha Choudhary would have severely restricted world view.

2011 - I was exhilarated when the Boy and I decided to go to Europe in 2011. I thought it will be my first and who knows, last trip to the beautiful continent. I insisted on going to France and Switzerland because I wanted to see the best places first lest I never went back. That was the start of the wonderful adventure we embarked upon and we have never looked back.

2012 - The Boy had started a new job and so we decided to take it easy and went to Turkey. Istanbul was one hyped city I did not like.

2013 - Since we were scared we might not get to travel much in life, we ventured into the U.S. of A! I loved the beauty of California and the unabashed Vegas. New York wasn't for the small town people like us - but I want to go again to like it!.

2014 - This was the luckiest year of our life in many ways. We won a free trip to Bangladesh for a Cricket World Cup final. The trip was like no other. We then went to Austria to give our parents a taste of beautiful Europe. It was the first and last time I cooked meals on a trip. We can eat almost anything and survive on outside food for months, but the elderly parents needed ghar ka khana and I was a good daughter-in-law! Our third trip this year was to Greece with friends. Santorini was beautiful but ruined by glorifying sunsets and hordes of tourists (like us!). We won a lot of lucky draws in 2014 and also bought our first luxury car. Ah, such an amazing year!

2015 - We went to Cyprus in the summer of 2015. We swam in the beach every single day and consider it one of our best trips. We also went to Amsterdam, Black Forest and Munich for Oktoberfest this year. I tried magic mushrooms and marijuana and the joy of being lost in thought and mountains. All these three places remain our favourite. 2015 was a triumphant year!

2016 - Portugal was a hidden gem that found a place in our hearts, Spain was a tad over-rated but Ibiza did live up to the hype. But the best part of 2016 was our impromptu trip to Prague. The beauty of that city is etched in my heart forever and it is my favourite city in the world.

2017 - This was a tough year for me. I became weaker and discovered that only when I could not walk a lot in my travels. Everything had suddenly become more difficult and it made me cry several times in Croatia. Dubrovnik was a joy, and Hvar island remains a place with one of our fondest memories of sleeping at the ferry terminal! We also took a 26-hour flight and travelled across oceans to St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and Miami. Our love for Bob Marley was born.

2018 - We took a leap of faith and went for cruise to the Baltics. 13 days on a ship with seven ports and three days in St. Petersburg went by in a jiffy and left us craving for more. We dream of  cruises now and hopefully will return to them soon enough.

2019 - I took my first girls trip to Amsterdam. It was a nightmare!! My health makes me anxious and things weren't easy. I hope I can break that feeling and go back with my girls who insist on taking me again! We went to U.K and Ireland this year as well. Watching the Cricket World Cup in the mecca of cricket was an experience I will never forget. We went to Jindal Naturecure in Bangalore and learnt so much about our health and eating. And then, we went to Prague again and fell in love with every single minute there.

2020 - Little did we know this year will be a tough one. Since we did not travel to a foreign destination, we moved to the suburbs leaving a fun filled apartment life. We are village people now and like it in many ways. We miss the hustle bustle of the city and miss it a lot too! We did go to Goa which is a leap year tradition and we wouldn't have missed it for Corona!!

2021 - We went to our favourite Black Forest and discovered the joy of doing nothing in Budapest. It was one of the best trips also because it was after a long hiatus. Yes, we have been to Europe several times but its so gorgeous that I would go there year after year and not feel bored.

-

I consider myself very lucky that I can travel so much. We go to India atleast twice a year and visit Dubai often. Travelling from Bahrain is not easy - it requires long flights and expensive tickets since air travel isn't cheap here. Yes, we spend a lot of money on this but it is how we relish every year of our life. We plan to spend more and more and invest in these memories for best returns in our old age. I leave a piece of my heart wherever I go and give flying kisses to the hotels. I don't miss my bed or friends or anything. Travel with the Boy is easily my most favourite thing and hence, this decade was amazing beyond words!

Sunday, May 15, 2022

It's not the Travel Bug

 

They tell me they miss their bed

After a few days of travel, home is where they want to head

They find comfort only within their own four walls

They want their dal chawal and no spaghetti with meatballs!

Hotels and B & B’s are only good for a few days

They find their house the best resting place.

 

Why is that not the case with me

With you I can travel wild and carefree

Days, weeks, and months can pass by

Yet I don’t miss an iota of familiar sky

I realize, that with you I can forever roam

Because, with you darling, I am home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Adulting is hard

 Adulting is hard, and I am not doing even a miniscule of what others do! I mean where are the days of sleeping at any time, eating just about anything, and feeling no burden of what old age holds? When you are getting closer to 40, your brain gets to eat more junk than your stomach.

Just last night I ate two squares of dark chocolate after dinner and it messed up my sleep. For one, I would have loved to eat a whole bar of Mars. But I compromise, people! I had the good for health and the blood pressure dark chocolate without realizing it is high in caffeine which is an antidote for my beauty sleep after 4 pm. Yes, that’s how amazing my adult system has become. And that is just the beginning of my complaints!

I began drinking alcohol pretty late in life. I had a few glasses here and there, but my career really began after I got married at 26. Come 38, it stopped abruptly due to palpitations post a few shots of the good old tequila/gin tonic. I mean, who has even heard of that? With that my uncontrollable laughter and incessant singing and dancing halted as well. I try to act drunk, but let’s face it, I am so bad at faking that I can’t even complete a happy birthday tune without getting bored and judging my shrill voice.

Don’t get me started on the sky-rocketing stress levels. When I was in 10th standard, I had my math preliminary exam. I was awful at everything that involved a,b,cd,x,y san, cos and theta. My cousin sister woke up at 4 am on the day of my exam to help me learn and I got through with just enough mrks to save her face. That was the exact amount of stress level that I was capable of handling and I thought existed in this world.

However, counting backwards to fall asleep while waiting for my whole exome sequencing results is not what I signed up for! I knew it was hard to wake up and that’s what alarm clocks and talking to your pillow to wake you up was made for, but sleep meditation for getting you into slumber, ah, no one taught me that.

I can’t imagine what my fragile friends with multiple kids and high-power jobs go through. They can’t even poop without consciously adding 30 gm of fibre to their meals!

We were taught how to save money. Your grumpy aunt gives you a thousand bucks, you buy a few candies and save the rest. By the time I was 18, my blue purse with a panda family on the cover had ten thousand rupees which can easily translate to one lakh of today. We were never told that if that money stays in that purse, it rots and loses its sheen. When I see 16-year olds talking about crypto and Tesla stock now, I laugh at them. But they are smarter than us for sure because their money will increase with rising inflation.

Although they are adulting faster than us too. Someone please tell them to slow down because their future, like ours, is all about falling interest rates, bulls and bears, tums and ibuprofens, and counting your chocolates before you count numbers to fall asleep.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Realisations at 39

 I have only recently realised quite a few things. Maybe because I am growing older, I have started thinking straight, or because I have started looking inwards more. Whatever it is, the realisations are not fun.

Firstly, I have become boring. I used to love to gossip. It was a major bonding factor with so many friends. Juicy info about people use to make my eyes shine bright and I use to beam with excitement. However, after many, many hiccups, gossip is not fun anymore. Even if you hear a story about someone, you cannot share it with many people because of the consequences it can bring to your social life. And what fun is gossip if you have to keep it a secret?

Secondly, I have started to think about my future more. I was never a person who focused on memories. And I was always a planner thinking ahead. But this planning was for a couple of years at max. It involved where our next vacation is going to be and how we are going to celebrate the next new year. Now, however, I think about old age and where life is leading us. I blame mid-life for this, and it totally sucks.

Thirdly, I now ask myself the forever eternal question - what am I doing with my life! Asking this question is like falling into a deep abyss to a point of no return. I have dedicated my life to my health, and it seems I was not able to do anything about it. I was meant to be the way I am, and it would have been better if I used my life in some other way. It's never too late to restart, right? Right.

I have always been the jealous type. I still am. But now, I have started feeling happy for people more than I feel jealous of them!!!!! Yeah, I told you, I have become boring.

We moved to the suburban part of Bahrain in 2020. We were bored to death and wanted an adventure. Little did we realise that we are completely changing our life. We eat at different places now. We hang out with different people – mostly people with kids who have chosen this suburban life for their families. We discuss their children’s problems and realise how lucky we are to be child-free and hence, stress-free! The move has also made me realise how lonely this world is and how easy it is to make friends because everyone is looking to meet new people – you just have to open up a bit and welcome them into your world with open arms.

Lastly, I have realised I will never take my vacations for granted. It was a blessing to travel every 2-3 months and now that I am stuck in the same city since months, I realise how important they were to me. I hate to cook and do laundry these days – the only responsibility I have!! It was because I use to take breaks, I was able to happily do housework. Without a break I am a housewife who does not do any housework. I just cannot go on living that monotonous life day in and day out.

Post lastly, I want to write more often. This is not a realisation but a vow. With so many people around me turning 40, I have an equal number of souls striving to achieve something in life. Some are struggling and some are already there. One common thing between all of them is that they work hard at life. I do too. I just need to shift my focus.

Oh yeah, that is a wonderful realisation.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

A Friend in Need

 

Why do I come here whenever I am a little lost? Why this need to write it all down and want the world to read it? No wonder we have so many people who are sad in life and are writers! But hey, at least they write fiction.

I can also write fiction. So, I met a girl last evening. She seemed all sorted and happy and having the time of her life. We got into talking and one thing led to the other and she told me she was suffering. She had chronic pain which kept her awake at night. She wouldn’t cry but when she would see sunlight she would feel miserable and question why was this happening to her. Day would pass, pain would become a memory because of the pills she was taking, and gradually she would think of all the good things in her life and feel grateful. That is when she met people like me when she seemed her happiest self.

And then the pain would come back. She tells me it could be worse. She has read forums where people end up in hospitals due to pain. She says at least she doesn’t have a mental illness, at least she can meditate and de-stress herself. I just nod along because I don’t know what to tell her. She is completely sorted, just like I told you she was. There is no advice to give, no consolation. She starts to talk about the weather, and I know she wants to end this discussion. We move on to trivial things in life and just like that she starts laughing and making jokes.

We live in a funny world. Our parents told us not to share our misery. Our friends, media and education tell us to open up. As much as I would like to discuss my problems, it’s not easy. I would feel judged. And I wouldn’t want to get use to it. Imagine if this girl was telling her ‘sob story’ to every person she met. Imagine if this is all she could talk about because it consumed her entire day and she really didn’t have much else to discuss, would you want to meet her frequently? Now if she hid her scars and be her funny self, you would call her a positive, bubbly girl who brings you joy. Of course she would hesitate to tell you about her pain and have the title taken away from her!

So, what’s the middle ground? Should we all see therapists to discuss our woes? Or maybe we should have one best friend who knows it all and gives us consolation. We be transparent with that one person and a different individual with the rest of the world. What if that one person gets bored, moves away, or has reasons not to listen to us? Then we find another. Or better still, write a journal/blog because it is cathartic.

May we all find that one outlet that gives us a deep sense of happiness. May we have a friend, can tell a tale, paint a story, or sing a tune to escape our misfortune. And may we always, always keep our happy crown in place because fake or real, a smile does resolve our sorrow.

Ah, who knew a fictitious girl can teach you so much in just one little interaction!

Monday, January 3, 2022

The first win of 2022

 

I spend a lot of money on health care. And going by my current status, I will be spending most of my savings on it. So, when I receive some insurance money, it just makes me feel overjoyed!

This incidence happened with the receptionist at my physiotherapy centre. Under my current insurance plan, I am supposed to get atleast ten physiotherapy sessions. Given that I take more than fifty sessions a year, I try everything to get that money. It seems that insurance companies have recently made the process harder since, I believe, covid must have increased the number of claims.

Anyway, so this receptionist, lets call her M, was to give me the details of all my last sessions so that I can claim them. She also had to give me a filled-out form. I went to her three times but she kept delaying the process. It was December, she had some end of the year work and possibly an upcoming vacation. She kept saying that she needs me to get a doctor’s reference for the form without which I will not get any money. I kept insisting her to give me whatever she can give me from her side and I will see what I can do next.

The third time that I went to her, I found her attitude extremely rude. I was requesting and she was giving me excuses. I came home and wrote a gentle email to the centre requesting them for the same.

I received my documents the next day, without the filled-out form for which M demanded a ‘reference’. I anyway submitted whatever I had to the insurance company. Oh, by the way, I have been going to this centre since last four years without any reference!

As expected, the insurance company rejected my claim but they did send me an email citing their reasons. I reverted to them after which they asked for the ‘doctor’s reference’!!

I wrote another gentle email. I told them I do not visit doctors on a regular basis (which saves them money!). I told them I have been receiving physiotherapy ever since I remember, and I have been claiming ten sessions every year. I attached ‘doctor’s reference’ from 20 years ago.

It has been twenty days since that email and today 142 Bahraini dinar (INR 28000) was credited to my account.

I am proud to say that I was very polite during all my interactions. The only time I got angry was when M spoke rudely to me. It was her job to give me what I needed and she was being a pain. However, I was very cordial with her (more so because I have to see her face twice a week!). Maybe she did get a mouthful from her boss after my email, but that is their problem.

This amount of money is miniscule of what I spend. But it is about principles, kindness, ethics and doing the right thing. I am glad I won this small battle!