This Reverb 10 prompt seems rather similar to the previous one and it makes me wonder whether the exercise will continue to hold interest at all. Still, nothing ventured, so here goes.
December 4 – Wonder.
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?
(Author: Jeffrey Davis)
Having left behind the rigid daily schedule (and more importantly), the utter joy-drain of the corporate world was like opening up the door to wonder. I’ve been moody at times, grumpy and even sad. But I’ve never been without that sense of wonder since I quit.
There are walks on the beach of course, which never fail to remind me of how much bigger then universe is, than my petty troubles, than the little cocoon that we Mumbaikers tend to think of as the world. And then there are visits to the bookshop. More and more I see familiar names pop up in the Indian Writing aisle. That makes my dream seem closer, much more reachable. And in the next lane, my favorite authors or genres jostle for my attention. I’m lost in the beauty of human imagination, in the glory of words and ideas that live on long after the minds and tongues they passed through, are gone. And finally, a sense of overwhelming awe that I am to be a part (however small) of this world. Wonder, indeed.
I’ve lost heart more than once. Last year, at six months from quitting, I expressed my frustration at being rudderless. It was my father who reminded me that the jobs that waited for me then would still be waiting a year later and that I shouldn’t give up so quickly on what I thought was my passion. Another six months later, another man I’ve come to love, reminded me of the same thing. A short three months later, I wrestled with self-doubt in my own head. As if in reply, within the space of a week, my mailbox was popping with opportunities to do what I love – write. One resulted in the BlogAdda column, the second was the JetLite article, then came Yahoo! Real Beauty and other things.
A few days ago, I met a placement agent to discuss a potential job, the kind that I had left behind over a year ago. For the first time in my career life, I said that my top priority was a good work-life balance. She frowned and said that the company would not want to meet someone with ‘such issues’. I tried to explain that I was not afraid of hard work but that I was making a decision to let other areas of my life be as important. She shrugged, already having lost interest and the interview should have ended there. But quite suddenly, she shot out,
“You know, most companies would not expect this from someone at your level. People with 10-12 years of experience can say these things. But someone who is just beginning their career should not have all these restrictions.”
I gaped and then quickly took my leave. For at least two days after that I agonized over what she had said, the old guilt creeping in. After 6 years, 3 companies and managing over 25 people, was I still ‘beginning my career’? Was I losing the strong work ethic I thought I had? Had I ever had it at all? Was I being unrealistically demanding, behaving in essence like the ‘pampered princesses’ I’ve loathed all these years?
But then, I remembered my many late nights at work. I remembered forfeiting weekends and holidays. I remembered struggling with a near-arthritic neck, to stare at the computer screen. I remembered forcing myself to not think about period pains and nausea while standing up to make presentations. I remembered skipping meals for meetings and stepping out of restaurants to take phone calls that just had to be answered. I remembered finishing a report or an important document at 11:30p.m., then getting myself a cup of tea and then sitting down to spend another hour poring over the whole thing all over again to make doubly-trebly-hundred times sure it was perfect. I remembered the harsh words of my seniors picking out my flaws but I also remembered the sense of injustice I felt. And finally I thought of the fact that I had missed the weddings of every single one of my close friends in the past five years because I just hadn’t had the time.
I realised I deserved to ask for what I wanted. With it came the crystallization of the thought that much of corporate ambition and success thrives on belittling people, on keeping people insecure and subservient. It survives by killing the sense of joy and wonder in people. And I’d be a fool to willingly let myself back into that, at least without a fight. Bring on more of the wonders, I’m waiting to be dazzled!
I’m back from my week-long break and I’ll write a more detailed post in due course of time. It’s been a week full of experiences (travelling to another place always is, isn’t it?). I still have to sort out my thoughts, shake the sand out of my shoes (yes, there was a beach too!), sift through the photographs (the camera gave way near mid-way but the trusty phone-cam backed me up) and put it all down. Still, I wanted to say hello and it’s good to be back and did you miss me?
Here’s one picture from the collection – from an evening spent on a sweeping vast beach aptly named ‘Lonely Beach’. That’s my 13-year-old cousin along with me, displaying the spoils of our visit. This is for Siddhu, the mischievous, lovable bundle of energy who shared his energy with me…for making my vacation so much fun and really completing the experience of visiting with cousins at the native place.
Whether you’re 13 or 30, a good old-fashioned summer vacation with the family will never lose its charm.
Last evening I was overcome by an urge to eat chana masala, the buttery over-spicy type, all covered with raw mango chunks and unidentified (but delicious) stuff on top. The Juhu beach variety. And while at it, bring on a naariyalpaani as well. Why not I asked myself (and oh forgive me for even having to ask in this day and age of the liberated woman et al but I did anyway).
My first thought when I got into the auto was “I don’t think I’ve ever been to the beach by myself…well, not in ages anyway.” Oddly enough I’ve almost perfected the practice of shopping on my own, solitary book-browsing, sipping a glass of wine at a table for one and buying a single movie ticket. I do all of these by myself and even the pride and novelty have worn away and they’ve become routine leisure activities for holidays and weekends.
The beach is one of my favorite places in the world. Bangalore can keep its pubs and Delhi can flaunt its lavish lifestyle. But neither one has aamchi Mumbai’s beach. Yes, I know that Juhu and Chowpatty don’t boast miles and miles of sunbathing bikini-clad bodies reclining on golden sand. You don’t come to Juhu beach expecting Baywatch, you come because it’s a Mumbai beach.
For a crowded, overpopulated, dizzy-with-its-neon-lights city like Mumbai, the beach is about the only place for a lot of people. A refuge for those who crave proximity to nature. A haven for parents with restless kids and no open spaces. An oasis of relief for lovestruck couples with zero privacy and permission to love from their families. The only option for those who can’t afford to frequent malls and multiplexes (which is pretty much a major chunk of the city’s population).
Many, many memories have I of this very beach.
Driving in a plastic spade to empty into a matching bucket (aged 6). An early morning visit with my childhood chums the day after our final exams, valiently ferried by my father. We built a castle with a moat around it, then waged a war over the moat, tried to destry our respective works and ended up with what we unanimously call a ‘swimming pool’. Flashback to the photographs (some black-and-white) taken on this beach, in the water, on the sands, with my family, with friends.
‘Hanging out’ at the beach with my newfound college gang. Eating panipuris and golas, and groaning at the mortification of spotting one’s crush a few feet away while clad in stained tee-shirt and involved in extremely uncool activity of gola-guzzling. Sucking on imli for comfort on the walk back to the main road. The one birthday celebration (eighteen) that ended on the beach because I insisted on it. Photographs with our wind-blown hair topping smart party clothes, a snazzy bag cradling a bhelpuri plate. A lot of laughter and fun.
The long walks and talks and much else with the ex-best friend/ex-boyfriend/ex-love of my life. Oasis for penniless students, isn’t it? Ask anyone who grew up in this city…you haven’t been a teenager in Mumbai unless you’ve kissed on the beach.
More recently, another birthday celebrated with a solitary walk on this very beach. (So yes, it’s not my first time, just the first in a long time). I had had a very bad year and my birthday signalled a new start. As my spirits soared (as they do every single time I catch sight of the sea), I knew I’d be alright. I am a Cancerian through and through. A different person, a completely new being when near the water. Moonlight helps.
Not much else have I to add here, except that visiting the beach always has the effect of cleaning away all my worries. Maybe it’s just the open air, maybe it is the proximity to the water. Perhaps it’s just that looking into a horizon unfettered by any manmade structure and a sky with stars visible in it reminds of how much bigger, more awesome and breath-taking is the universe than the tiny cocoon of daily annoyances and joys that I call my life. Maybe it is the thought that even in such a crowd, I have a place in this vast universe.
I had a lovely evening at the beach.
On Facebook while I wait for E Vestigio to turn up for our Sunday evening catch-up/gripe/giggle dinner-date. Clearing out pending messages, updated status (blah, I’m running out of exciting things to claim I’m doing) and even looked into Twitter. And now this idle mind turns to mischief. So I use the Friend Finder to look up people I haven’t heard from in awhile (read: ex-crushes). 🙂
One I admit I’ve checked on earlier isn’t showing up anymore. Odd, did his wife realize he was hitting on his ex-girlfriends online? Muhahaha…I certainly hope the water was scalding hot.
The HUMONGOUS crush from school has turned humongous. No kidding, he looks like he’s pushing 50, not 30. Yeurrgh, the receding hairline does nothing for the rather sweet memories one has. Oh err, thank goodness for bad luck in romance back then.
I pause on one particular name, a common one coupled with a generic surname and imagine he’ll be lost in a flood of other namesakes. Oddly enough he’s the third one on the list, head-to-head with a girl in the profile pic. Wife. Smiling. Surprising myself, I smile back. He was nice. And I’m glad he’s happy.
Which made me think…how seriously we take life, the life of the moment only, little realizing how little it could matter a few months or years later. I don’t know if I’m getting mellower with age or whether my memories are just fading but somehow I don’t feel the same intensity for people who were supposed soulmates at one point of time. Hell, I don’t even know where some of them are, less care. Not in a bad way though. If I think about it, I generally hope they’re doing good and are happy.
Peace reigns over the past after time has passed its magic healing touch over everyone. And guess what? Another simile.
Falling in love is like getting into the water. Some people enjoy jumping in splash-dunk. Some have to be dragged in screaming and squirming. Sometimes you just slip or trip and fall in. But really, I think the best way is to just dip your feet in, let the water swirl around your edges and wade around a bit in it. What matter then if the water rises, bit by bit, without a splash, without a chill but in a smooth comforting blanket all around?
I’ve tipped my toes in and I think I’ll just walk about on the beach with wet feet for a bit.
Good morning, my lovely readers! I was almost tempted to say ‘ my garam-samosas’ and then I realised I was just carrying the Honey-from-HT Cafe hangover too far. 😀
I had the most brilliant day yesterday! The morning rain ruined the grand plans of the day for me….grrr, if I could get my hands on that stoopid shower, I’d strangle it! An hour and a half on a journey that shouldn’t have taken more than half an hour, missed meetings, crunched deadlines, panic all over the place…don’t even ask. Then I stepped out on my own, realizing quite suddenly that I had half a day to myself with no meetings to attend, no appointments to keep up and actually – nothing to do!
So what did I do? Continue reading