Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Invisbile Thread

Written for my baby- Sanil

It ties me to you in ways unknown
It tugs at my heart when you are feeling forlorn
It makes me smile when I don’t know why
It sometimes brings tears and makes me cry

I may be far and not seen by you
But I feel you close and I know you do too
It links me to you, distances apart
It links you to me and it’s through the heart

This is the invisible thread that ties us together
It’s the invisible thread that brings us closer

It does not let you out of my mind
Even when you may be out of my sight
It’s an invisible thread that tugs my heart
You just need to think of me when we are apart

This is the invisible thread with binding ties
This is the invisible thread that exists where love lies

Is fairness a lost virtue?

Being fair. It’s simple no? You review both sides of an issue. You keep your personal feelings (and friendships and sexual urges) aside. And then you make an objective decision.

It’s so simple no? Then why can’t people be simply fair?

Is it a lost virtue and I am one of the poor souls still clinging out to it? In today’s dog-eat-dog-world do people always have to check which side their bread is buttered on before they make their judgements? (And could I use any more clichés on one sentence?). Ok, no digressing. Are people so calculative that they can’t make their decision in a just manner?

You merely need to listen, understand, ask questions (relevant ones of course) and then reach your conclusion- justly and fairly.

But people chose to listen to only what (and whom) they want to- selective hearing, understand what’s convenient and never ask questions- lest they show their stupidity. And then they come to ac conclusion and make a decision that so obviously one-sided.

Keep your personal feelings aside, keep your pre-conceived notions at bay, keep your personal agendas and motives away- then try making a decision.

Try it sometimes- it’s not that hard. It’s like cough syrup- difficult to swallow but once done, you will feel better.

So next time you need to make a harsh call, try and be fair. It’s really not that hard.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

One year, one life

Same day, last year:

This exact day a year ago my life took a turn- an unexpected, undesirable turn. This exact day a year ago I was “let go” from a job I had been doing marvellously for the last 4 years and loved with a passion.

“Let go”- isn’t it a strange choice of words? Like you are being set free to explore the world. Sure beats “made redundant” that just does not have the same positive spin to it. Reasons accorded were the usual- ‘recession’, ‘current economic climate’, ‘loss of business’- take your pick.

Once you are “let go”, you follow the 3-stage process before you can even begin to put your life back together:

Stage 1: Denial- “This is not happening. Simply not happening. It’s a bad dream. I will wake up soon”.

Stage 2: Self-Pity- “Why me? I mean why me??!! Of all the people why me??! I am reasonably good person. I am nice and do good deeds every once in awhile. So why did God pick me for this to happen?

Stage 3: Now what- “My life, as I knew it, is over. What in the F%^ing hell will I do now?!”
Its stage 3 that gets you thinking that you simply can’t sit around and mope about Stage 1 and 2. You have to get your act together!

Luckily for me, Ms. Pragmatic that I am, I reached Stage 3 within 24 hours. Credit here must be attributed to my amazing friends (for complete credit list see end of this post) who helped me beyond words. I did visit Stage 1 and 2 many times after and sometimes still do. It never really completely leaves you.

And there was more to they say, when it rains, it pours! And boy did it pour!
So a month from this traumatic experience, my divorce also came through formally. For the very first time in life I needed to work not simply because I liked to, but because I had to. I needed a job to keep a roof over Sanil and my head, to buy food, to pay school fees and PUB bills- the usual humdrum stuff that you don’t really think too much about.

Even though the job search was on in full swing, it was so damn scary! I would like to pause here thank my family and friends who as always came through for me. I cannot believe the amount of help and support I was offered without me even asking for it. Words are too small to express my gratitude.

During this time I also had to get used to something else. Which by far was the toughest. During Sanil’s March school holidays he was meant to stay with his dad. Living without Sanil for 10 days were one the worst ones in my life. I used to sleep, cry, sleep, cry some more, watch TV, eat, cry, watch TV, sleep and did I mention cry? And continue looking for a new job with the warranted enthusiasm and energy.

All this lasted a mere 3 weeks
A minor blip in the grand scheme of things, no? Of course at that time it felt more like 300 years. Within 3 weeks- again thanks to an old friend, he knows who he is- I found a new job. Not bad! Keeping in mind the economic scenario of Q1 2009, I didn’t do too badly.

I had to take a pay cut and position cut, but hey, I had a job! One month- that’s all it took for me to land back on feet. Of course, I still felt bitter and cheated, but thought best to look ahead in a positive fashion.

Positive yes, but I am a ‘zero expectation’ person. When the going is tough, set your expectations at level zero, sub-zero if you can help it. So here were my expectations from the new job:

1) I will HATE it.

2) I will not make any friends.

3) No one will like talk to me.

4) And I will reciprocate by not talking to anyone (except for work of course).

5) Everyone will be stupid.

6) I will hate it (again!).

7) I shall be miserable.

8) Its a job. It pays. I need money to run my house. That’s all that counts.

9) Office is in CBD. First time in 10 years of living in Singapore, my office would be in CBD. Ok, here is something to look forward to- cheaper lunches than Orchard road.

10) I can take the shuttle bus and save $$$$ on taxis. Okie, one more decent thing. (See bus-fuss post for my love for shuttle busses:

As you can see no. 9 and 10 were the only positive things on the list. So thus I started my new job from ground zero. Only onwards and upwards from here on! (Or is it upwards and onwards? In any case, it’s some lame management mantra).

I started work with a single thought- I shall do my best, be nice (or at least try) and aim to learn something new. Ok, that’s not really a single thought, but never mind!

And I got that and so much more!

1) I actually liked people I worked with (majority of them anyway)

2) And then liked me (little surprise there, that was kinda expected ;)

3) I did not mind the work too much

4) I actually enjoyed not being the sole person responsible for everything

5) I made friends and started having fun! Looking forward to office even

6) The lunches, coffees, chats, gossips, drinks, jokes, pranks- loved it all! In fact it sometimes reminded me of “Ambience” days (see Ad Mad world post for details- Where I started my advertising career in Bombay and made friends for life. (You ladies know who you are :)

Besides work
Things were going well too. Sanil was blooming, as usual. We had great times including my brother’s wedding where the whole family got together to celebrate.

I started my new life dividing my time between being Sanil’s mum and career minded single woman. Enjoying both roles tremendously.

And I managed to achieve many firsts:

1) First time I held (and used) a hammer

2) First time I filed my own tax returns

3) First time I took charge of my finances

4) First time I bought insurance (I know I know, it’s silly but things like “buy insurance” never really made it to my to-do list until then)

5) First time I took a vacation alone (see first 3 posts in the blog. That’s where I started this blog- on my holiday in Langkawi).

While I liked my job (and LOVED my friends), the working hours (and few other issues) were simply not making it worth the effort. So I started looking for new opportunities and a remarkable one came by rather quickly.

And then I decided to take the real estate plunge. After a year of researching, viewing, home loan comparing, I purchased an apartment for Sanil and myself. It was all bloody nerve-wracking. But I did it!

So in one year:

• I lost a job

• Found a new one

• Found a better one

• Resigned from the existing one

• Bought a house

• Travelled

• Made new and fabulous friends

• Watched Sanil grow and thrive

It felt like I have lived a whole lifetime in this last one year! And a big thank you to you all who made it possible.

In no order of priority I would like to thank:

Archana: The first person I called upon reaching home from losing my job. You were preparing Arusha for her Hindi exam. But as soon as you heard my voice on the home, you came rushing. And did not leave my side till I had finished crying.

Cherylene: Who has been my sounding board for everything “work related” and beyond work too. And who made me see that no matter how bad things are, look at the positive and the frivolous side.

Rachel: The only person I know who can insult me to my face and still make me laugh- every time!

Riva: Who has been a pillar of strength and always been there when I needed her.

Kaylin: Who is sweeter than chocolates we both love. You exude a calmness that’s simply radiant.

Aarti: Who is one of the most warm and loving people I have met (and it helps that you are the same size as me and have excellent taste in dresses)

My Tanjong Ria friends: You are just the best! I know that circumstances had put you in an awful position but you all chose to not take sides and simply be there for me. I shall never forget that!

My Park Shore friends: You opened your hearts and homes to Sanil and me. And never once let me feel alone. And thanks for including us in the funnest trip ever! We have to do another one this year :)

Eton House mummies: For your unconditional love and support. And the lovely coffee chats.

Kishore and Pam: Even though you are far, you were there whenever I needed you. Miss you guys! Come back!

My brothers: For checking on me, for making me smile, for looking out for me, for being the best possible brothers a sister can ever hope for!

My sisters: For letting me rant, for tolerating my snappy behaviour, for listening, for making me see the lighter side of life again- movies, shopping, desserts- nothing is the same without you!

Unnati: Without you I would not be me. You know everything about me, and still love me. That’s something!

Mom and dad: For never questioning. Your love and support gets me by.

Rose: For nourishing my body and soul. For looking after me like no one else can.

Andrew: The first person I turned to this day last year. And who was there for me that day. And every day since then.

Neel: For holding me when I was falling. For helping me pack and most importantly for getting my red chair back 

ICLP/TLG friends: You guys are my oldest friends in Singapore. And am so happy that you are still in my life!

White boy: I could not have done any of this without you. Your unfaltering support and unwavering faith kept me going. You once told me “Whatever you choose, choose happiness”. I never knew you were the one for profound words , but those words influenced a lot my decisions. Thank you. For everything.

Sanil: And finally, the reason for my existence. The source of my happiness. The joy of my life. As I always say, thank you Sanil. Thank you for choosing me as your mum! I love you more than my life.

If I have missed anyone else, I blame my age. And please accept my heartfelt gratitude for being a part of my life and being there for me whenever I have needed it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cambodia Ramblings

It’s bloody hot! HOT! Hot enough to melt an ice cube in under 5 seconds. OK I have to get that out of the way.

Choice of Siem Reap as my holiday destination came to being through the Process of Elimination. A process I’ve used to decide many things in life. A senior in my MBA College once said, with respect to placements (‘job’ for the uninformed or the un-MBAs); “If you don’t know what you want, at least know what you don’t want”. One of the best advices I have ever received and it’s held me in good stead ever since.

So first I set the criteria for my destination:

1) Needs to be a short getaway. No more than 5 days.

2) Most definitely cannot be a beach as I would feel terribly guilty of feeling Sanil behind. He is the only other person I know who loves the ocean as passionately as I do.

3) Cannot be a city destination e.g. Bangkok or Hong Kong as the travel expenses easily double when you account for the shopping (case in point Ho Chi Minh City- where my Ipanema bag cost me more than my air fare- but hey! the bag costs double in Singapore- so it was a steal!). Sorry for the digression. But you get the drift on why a city destination was ruled out.

4) Must meet my New Year Resolution (yes I had one more this year in addition to the usual cliché of “lose weight”)-“I resolve in 2010 that I shall get out of my comfort zone”. This criterion also applied to point no. 2- no beachy holiday.

All of the above did not leave me with very many options. I considered Borneo, but when cousin mentioned “rickety old town, mountain climbing, jungle trail” (actually he lost me at ‘rickety’), it was stuck off the list.

See the sheer beauty of the Process of Elimination? You will always arrive at a result and it’s all thought-through too. With the Singapore obsessions of abbreviations, (COE, ERP, KPE, PIE, CTE, HDB, CPF, NLB, ECP, WTF), I shall hereby christen the Process of Elimination- POE.

So Cambodia it was! To be true, Siem Reap had always been on my to-travel list- as I wanted to see the Angkor Wat temples. But now it was simply bumped up the list. Like a bewildered but thrilled Economy class passenger who unexpectedly gets bumped up to Business Class (How come it never happens to me?!)

So here I am in Siem Reap (arrived on Silk Air Economy Class with no in-flight entertainment. Seriously! At least budget airlines are honest with what they do and don’t provide. Silk Air needs to decide where it sits).

Now even though Siem Reap is outside my usual comfort zone, I can’t venture too far out. So when it comes to accommodation, it has to be “one of the best type of hotels” (as Sanil describes 4 and 5 start hotels- poor kid, when he is going to have to back pack on his own money, he will learn the hardships of lives). So here I am at the Le Meridien Angkor to be precise.

Day 1: Landed in the afternoon, checked in, checked out the hotel and headed off to “Pub street”. Name needs no explanation. A lovely quaint street with lines of bistros, cafes, pubs, bars, lounges, restaurants with wide selection of cuisines- local, Thai, Chinese, French (many of them- hangover from the colonized past), Spanish, Indian (called Tandoor*- what else?!), Mexican- you shall be spoilt for choice!

And at loss to decide. So I opted for “The Red Piano”. It was crowded with seemingly decently people (safety precaution), and served a mixture of different cuisines (indecisiveness precaution). The garlic prawns in chilly, tomato and cheese sauce served with bread is a must-try. Ok here I have to gripe- Singapore HAS to get their bread act together. Bread in Singapore is just awful! Cedele is kind of an exception but it can be a hit-and-miss there too. The bread here is simply divine! For breakfast I only eat croissants, baguettes, and other variety of breads. No eggs. No bacon. No noodles and fried rice (who eats that for breakfast in any case?). Yeah yeah yeah I know the carb count is hitting an all time high- but its bread...and fabulous bread that too.

So after a lovely dining experience, I headed back to the hotel for the night. Curled up with a book, watched half a movie and then dozed off into a dreamless slumber (I love hotel beds! They almost guarantee a splendid sleep!)

Day 2 (first half): Next morning bright and early I made my way to the see the world heritage site of Angkor Wat temples. It’s not easy to describe the feeling in words when you seen these beautiful temples.

- It’s not ‘happiness’ (like when I am by the ocean)

- It’s not ‘thrill’ (the Gold Coast theme part kind)

- It’s not ‘excitement’ (big city New York types)
 It’s an unreal humility. You feel small (really tiny, miniature actually) in midst these huge, stony, old structures. It brings you down- not in a bad way- in a wholesome way- which reminds you how inconsequential you are in the grand state of things.

You suddenly cease to be the centre of the universe, The Most Important Person In The World (TMIPITW? Nah! Too complicated even by Singapore standards).

You feel HUMBLED. And there is this eerie calmness. A quiet peace that reminds you what you have been missing even without knowing it. It urges you to what I call “living beyond yourself”.

And here in Angkor Wat, I found ‘my spot’. One of the highest but not oft visited points, which overlooks a beautiful courtyard. I sat on rock looking down at the courtyard and up at the bright blue and cloudless sky and felt a lovely breeze blowing. It was kind of magical (probably not much when you read it off your laptop- but it was something else!).

It was simply perfect! And I experienced what I call “bliss”- that moment when everything is in equilibrium- it seems like all over the world everything and everyone I know is calm and the world is in a state of balance. It’s an extremely rare moment and a rarer feeling. I’ve had this “bliss” feeling a few times in the past too and once it came to me when I was in Disney Land in USA. So it’s not a temple exclusive thing.

However you can’t create it or replicate it. It simply happens. Like a point of realization- where you feel blessed and grateful for everything God has gifted you. You don’t crave for anything more. You are at peace. Of course, it disappears quickly too. But I hope I find more opportunities to experience it again and again...

I then visited Ta Prohm- made immortal by Angeline Jolie and Tomb Raider. There was a special tree she swung by, though all the trees looked the same to me. And nowhere it said “this is the Jolie tree”.

By noon I had to retire to my hotel as I was (well I liked to say ‘tanned’, but Indian skin does not tan. It simply burns to crisp and becomes black). Hence I went back to my cool hotel room. Ate a whole pizza (can’t remember the last time I ate a whole one!), had some wine, completed my movie and ate dessert. Over indulgence is allowed on holiday. I will aim to skip lunch today though.

Day 1 (second half): I set off to visit the Bayan temples. Extremely impressive with the Buddha heads. But before that I had to make a stop for my afternoon coffee (no skinny hazel nut latte here). I opted for Iced Cambodia Coffee. Was sweet and had a nice kick to it.

And then finally I made my way to Pre Rup. Climbed up steep steps (aided to work off some of the calorie intake too) and made my way to the top, to watch the sunset. While I waited for the sun to start setting, my mind asked me “Aren’t you bored waiting in the heat?”; “Is it not annoying sitting here with all these other tourists waiting to click pictures of the sunset which in case you did not realize happens in Singapore too?”

 Yes, I was surprised at myself. Why was I not getting agitated? Why was I so calm? The answer lies once again in the “humility”. You feel small- sitting on top of the temple peak, admiring the gorgeous landscape, surrounded by all these people (I hate the term tourists!) from all over the globe** (Amsterdam, Morocco, France, Japan). You feel small but yet a part of this magnificent universe.

My favourite part of all this temple visiting was the Tuk-tuk ride. Every time my tuk-tuk driver stopped my heart went “Oh no! It can’t arrive so soon! I want to sit in the tuk-tuk some more!” There is something about a tuk-tuk that has a Princess and horse-carriage feel to it. Think it’s because:
 a) You get driven around. Very ‘Jane Austeny’ in its feel

b) Its mechanical so you don’t feel terribly guilty of some poor sod lugging your weight (like those inhumane pull trishaws)
c) It shelters you from the harsh sun
d) Yet it’s open so you can feel the breeze

I am contemplating hiring a tuk-tuk to just drive me around without any destination in mind. Am simply loving it!

 Day 3: I am by the pool writing this and thinking “how many more days can I stay off FB?”

On the cards today is:

1) Completing “Kiss kiss bang bang” (it’s a movie guys and not soft porn). Thanks for the tip Heenz. It’s a great film!

2) A spa appointment (thanks for the advice LH)

3) A cooking class (again, thanks LH. Wonderful idea!)

 I would like to thank all my friends (you know you are) who have me advise on the must-see, must-do, must-eat, must-visit places. Thanks a ton! It’s making my holiday even nicer!

Signing off...Robert Downey Jr. Awaits

* Every touristy place in the world has an Indian restaurant called either Tandoor or Delhi Darbar. It’s true. Based on my personal research.

** Here when I am asked where I come from, if I don’t want to engage in any conversation with the enquirer (as he is not the cute French guy I saw on the plane), I simply say ‘Singapore’. There are no further questions then. If I say “India”, then I have to reply to string of questions from Hindu mythology, Vishnu (who is big in Cambodia), Bollywood or worse still Shahrukh Khan!