As I breathe and think and dream

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More Life ..

Recently I have been bogged down with office work, house work, looking-after-toddler work and all other sorts of work. In fact days are so busy, that one day merges into the other without me noticing. At times I have no sense of time passing except when I look at the calendar and actually my tired brain has enough time to register the day or the month. Last week I had a birthday and I am older now. And that has set me thinking – I have lesser time on this planet then before. I have less time to enjoy things and achieve things before I drop dead. My circumstances have not changed. I still have a full time demanding job, a mortgage to pay off, a toddler with her endless questions, a house which is a dirt-and-unwashed-clothes magnet and a garden threatening to overgrow and choke out the sunlight. Don’t get me wrong – I love my job, my child, my crazy and chaotic house and garden. However I have decided I need to get more out of life… by burning the midnight oil, cutting a few corners, somehow! There will be more fun, more hobbies, more time with friends, more everything … starting NOW.
So this is my list of personal things that I will be aiming to do more of (this is not a comprehensive list and will get added to as I find more things that I want more of) –
1) More fitness – I attended a half marathon to cheer a friend 5 years ago. Since that time I have been nurturing the dream of participating in a run myself. However the time never seemed right. But I am happy to say that today I have taken a plunge and enrolled myself in a 14 km run. The prospect is scary for me , because I have never been a runner and many people asked me to cut my teeth on a 5 km run instead. But what the hell … I have decided that I will go for the 14 km one and challenge myself. Watch this space to find out how my training goes.
2) More art – Art (and craft) is what keeps me going spiritually. However in these crazy busy times when I have been drowning in work, art has taken a backseat. So now I have decided to give more time to art. I will make a restart work on the two giant paintings that I have been working on for the last 5 months and done maybe 10% of.
3) More movies/tv shows – This might sound stupid. On self improvement lists, people generally talk of cutting out television. But I am not on a self improvement trip, only an enjoyment one and I really do want to catch up on all those shows and movies that I have been missing. With a toddler, going to the theaters is a difficult of course. So I have decided that after aforementioned toddler goes to sleep, I and my husband will finally get around to seeing all the seasons of ‘Game of Thrones’ and the other stacked up DVDs that are brought regularly but seldom watched.
4) More blogging – Yes! I have this whole fat folder of draft blogs that I have started at some point when inspiration struck me but then abandoned due to lack of time. Now it is almost impossible to complete those as I have long forgotten what I had been thinking of in most cases. However I do swear that from now on, I will get back to blogging regularly. Maybe I will do shorter blogs. Or half baked blogs or ones riddled with grammatical errors! Still there will be blogs.


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My Life … In Books

I have always been a bookworm. I started devouring books from a very early age. Back then in India, reading books for pleasure, especially English books, was not common. However my family was an exception, as both my father and elder sister were big readers. The walls of our house were lined with books, something my mother did not really appreciate as she felt that the books cluttered up our place too much. And that was true to some extent, for in my house there were books on every available surface, on the bed stands, in the crockery cabinet, under the staircase, in the attic. However despite her protests, the books kept increasing.
Surrounded by so many books, I had a great time growing up. I did end up reading a lot of age inappropriate stuff. You can also say that probably I should have made more friends and spent more time outdoors. More than once, I was caught by my mom reading a novel when I should be revising for exams. However it was all tremendous fun and at least I was never ever bored.
English books were quite expensive in India and we belonged to the ordinary middle class with quite little disposable income. Though my sister and I saved up whatever little money was given to us, we never had enough to buy all the books we wanted. My sister was even known to walk miles to save her bus money in order to buy a desired book. Finally she found her book Mecca in New York where she moved to after her marriage. Her initial letters and emails to me used to be full of stories of how big the New York Central library was and how should she could take out thirty books at a time. Feeling envious, I would close my eyes and try to imagine such a place. But each time I failed. There were hardly any English libraries in India then. The few libraries that existed were extremely ill-stocked, despite having ludicrously high membership rates and they would only allow a person to check out a couple of books at a time. My sister used to send me books whenever she could. In order to avoid large postal packages being stolen by the Indian postmen (something that is very common in India), my sister would do something weird. She would tear up a paperback into maybe 4 or 5 sections and post each section in a normal letter sized envelope. Once I would receive the whole book, I would put all the sections together and send it for binding. Needless to say, some of those letters went missing (another very common thing in India) and I ended up with a number of books missing important chapters in the middle or the end!
Once I started working, things were much better on the money front. Each month I set aside a sizeable part of my salary for buying books. Also around that time, English books became more easily available in India. Large multi storied bookstores opened up and while we would not get all the books being released internationally, the popular ones would make an appearance. I truly enjoyed the time spent browsing through the bookstores on the weekends. However my job entailed quite a bit of travelling and that slowly curtailed my book buying. It is difficult to cart books around when you divide your time between different cities. Books become dead weight and eat up all your weight allowance on flights. When I did settle down for a little while with my first husband, he was not a book lover. He hated bookshelves or any sort of books on display. According to him, books had to stay hidden from sight. So I used a part of a walk-in closet to house my books. When we separated, I lost those books, for he kept the house and everything in it (save the suitcase of clothes I took away). I can imagine the glee with which he must have gotten rid of my books shortly after.
Post my first marriage, I started living in the UK where I came across a little something called the Kindle. Previously I had always held out against eBook readers with a reasoning that I liked to physically touch my books, flip the pages, breathe in the unique book-sy smell. However, one birthday I got a Kindle as a gift and the sheer convenience of the slim device blew me away. Now I no longer need to cart heavy books around on my commute. I did not have to wait for the book shop to open for I could shop 24X7 at the online store. eBooks were a lot cheaper than the print versions. So it was a win-win all around. Just one small disadvantage though and this could just have been me. I have always been one of those people who love to re-read books. I have read some favorite books thirty or more times. With the eBook reader, however, the pleasure of reading books seems somewhat diminished. Is it because the next book is just a few clicks away? I do not know.
Now I am settled in Australia and have been furniture shopping for my new house with my second husband. We have recently bought three enormously large book cases and now I need books to fill them up. Thanks to all the moving around and the extensive use of the Kindle for the last four years, I have just around half a dozen actual books with me here in Australia. So all the empty space on the shelves is just begging me to go book shopping. And yes, I belong to that group of people who believe books should be main component in bookshelves, rather than knick-knacks. I can feel the excitement building up in me at the thought of buying actual physical hold-me-close books after so long! Think of all the fun to be had in browsing, buying, reading and re-reading those gems! Besides, if I need another important reason to start a book buying spree (which I don’t), there is the fact that I need to provide as much encouragement by example to my 20 month old as possible so that she starts taking an active interest in books. I am picturing cozy winter evenings for us, snuggling on the couch with a book and hot chocolate. And frankly there is nothing better than living in a house full of well-loved books, is there?

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How to Battle the 5:2 Diet Hunger My Way

As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, I am doing the 5:2 diet. This is my second attempt. The first time I attempted it, I fell off the wagon after about 2 weeks as I found that having low energy towards the end of the day is disastrous when you have a toddler who expects you to run, jump and play with her. However due to reasons I won’t go into here (maybe in another blog), I am giving it another try.
Now fasting is not pretty. Having a gnawing feeling in your stomach can suck the joy out of your day. Yes, I know it is just 2 days out of 7. Still spending 28.6% of your life hungry is brutal. But now I think I have discovered an antidote to it all. Yes, Sir! Here I have made a revolutionary discovery that is going to change the way the world diets. Do you want to know what it is? Do you?
Shopping! This panacea to many ills works wonderfully well in the context of 5:2 diets. Today I went shopping in my lunch hour. Somehow going out for lunch with colleagues on a fasting day is not much fun. The sight of their yummy Yaki Udons, sausage rolls and gourmet baguettes is too much for me. And having a solitary lunch of a few cabbage leaves does not take much time. So today before tackling my paltry lunch, I slipped out of office and went to the large retail store nearby (one of the largest in the city). There I spent a blissful lunch hour browsing and trying on clothes. Near the end of my break, I emerged happy and $200 poorer. That flush from my retail therapy session was not just momentary – it has stayed well into the evening. I did not even feel the need to have that lunch and even in the evening, I was clear headed, focused and barely feeling the hunger pangs. Compare this to earlier fast days, when the evening would find me listless, slightly dizzy and completely energy depleted. I tell you, this is a breakthrough.
So now I know how to get through the tedious fast days. Of course, this means that by the time I have lost my targeted amount of weight, I will be a pauper. But a slim pauper, people!
P.S.- Online shopping , I find, does not work as well as physical shopping. Probably it does not engage the senses as much!

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Happy Weight Vs Unhappy Weight

I bought and read my first ever diet book yesterday. Many times in that book, the author refers to something that she calls ‘happy weight’. Sure I understand what she means – a weight that one can happily live with. However looking back on my life, there is a little bit of confusion. Some years back, I was at my slimmest (my personal adulthood best of 54kg). I felt good about stepping onto the scales and I could wear whatever I wanted to. But mentally I was at a really unhappy stage in my life then. Now I weigh 63kg. Weight wise I am pretty unhappy (hence the diet book!). I have love handles and bulges and have had to relegate most of my old clothes to the back of the wardrobe. However in all other spheres of life and in stark contrast to my earlier state of mind, I am happy now. So which one was/is my ‘happy weight’ – phase 1 of ‘Weight happy – Life unhappy’ or phase 2 of ‘Life happy – Weight unhappy’ ?
I am not dumb. I will take phase 2 over phase 1 any day. But I am a woman, there is no pleasing me and so I am now aiming for the elusive ‘Life happy – Weight happy’ state (if it at all exists!). Geez! There is really no such thing as a content woman, is there?

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My Body is Spinning

Last month I had a disastrous session with a personal trainer. Despite my telling him that I had been pretty slack on the exercise front for the last couple of years, he made me go through a number of gruelling circuits . Around midway into it all, I had give up. Or rather the trainer made me stop as he was probably scared that I would die and he would be banned from training forever! For the next couple of days, I was so sore that I could barely walk.
So it seems the personal training method which apparently has very good results is not for me. However I am a determined soul. Lose weight I will! So I have now started attending spinning classes at my gym. I had given spinning a try 3-4 years ago and found it uninspiring. This time however I find myself liking it quite a lot. Maybe a part of it is because I read it somewhere that a 45 minute spin class can burn up to 500 calories if you do it right. Also I have discoeverd a trick. Instead of focussing on the trainer barking out instructions like “Hill ahead” or “Race”, I try and lose myself in the music. If I close my eyes, it almost seems as though I am in a nightclub. So I am nightclubbing my way to fitness. How cool is that.

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The Predisposition to Pre-Order


This weekend I felt a jolt of happiness after reading one of mails sent by Amazon. Now that, let me tell you, is something of a rarity! As a rule, I hate marketing mails and Amazon sends way too many such mails. Hot offers (Their words, not mine). Deal of the day. New products. Products that they think would be of interest to me. Just because one day when I had nothing to do, I had browsed through their babies’ toys section, the e-commerce behemoth thinks that I am dying to hear about the latest purple dinosaur thingies (or are those horses?) and new offerings from the House of Lego. So most mails from Amazon go straight to the trash bin with an artistic flick of my wrist. However the odd one does prove to be of interest to me (and that is the reason why I do not unsubscribe to the mailing service and continue to suffer through the next 25000 mails until the next interesting one comes along!). The one that I am talking about was a mail informing me about the upcoming release of Stephen Leather’s book Nightshade. It hasn’t been released yet – it will be published on the 26th of April. However Amazon is asking me to pre-order with the glittery promise that on the morning of 26th the book will magically be delivered into my Kindle.

I know that this is an eBook, so not many chances of it being sold out if I get around to buying it on the day of release or any day thereafter. Plus there is always a chance that if I can be patient and wait for a month after release, there be some kind of a discount deal available on the book. If I have yet more patience, the book will probably make its way to my council library and then after a short 4 or 5 months, I will get to read it for free. And who knows, the book might suck. After all no one has read it yet and so there are no reviews other than the very biased sales pitch being done by the publisher (‘Best Nightingale book ever!’). Still, you know what? I am going to fall for this one despite better judgement. The lure of a pre-order is so strong that I do not stop to listen to any logic. I pre-order on the spot at full price!

My affair with pre-orders started in the time of the boy wizard Harry Potter. Remember the craze surrounding each book release? Children and adults alike would line up in front of the stores hours before the midnight release time of the books. At that time, I lived in India where the market for English books is not huge. There were no stores opening their shutters at midnight unlike other places on earth and Potter-mania was also a little late to catch on there. So when the last instalment was due to come out, I had placed my order about a couple of weeks in advance. It felt sort of weird handing over 500 INR and getting nothing in return save a printed receipt. On the morning of the release, I rushed to the bookstore at the ungodly weekend hour of 8:30am and showing aforementioned receipt to the bored looking shopkeeper who then handed me the freshly minted hardcover book. Ah, the bliss! I remember striding out of the shop feeling all aglow from the inside, casting smug glances at all other shoppers, most of whom knew nothing about pre-ordering yet.

Since then I have pre-ordered many a book. Especially in the post kindle world. There is no queuing up in front of stores or even physically rushing to one. You just push the ‘Pre-order Now’ button. After that you just wait like an expectant mother and then on delivery day – Voila! The new baby is all yours. Conveniently and painlessly.

Of course, it is all a sales gimmick. A canny move by the marketing guys to ensure high initial sale volumes. This marketing strategy extends well beyond the world of books of course. Think Apple. Think Halo 4. Think of any anticipated product. Actually even some unanticipated ones are made to go down this route as marketing teams can be relied upon to drum up enough hype by placing posters and advertisements at the right places. According to Wikipedia, The highest grossing pre-order was apparently Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system, followed by Avatar (2009 film) Blu-ray DVD release April 2010 & November 2010 Collector’s edition. Really, an OS takes the top spot? What does that mean – that the earlier versions were so bug-ridden and terrible that people could not wait to upgrade?

Well it might be a gimmick – however there is no denying that it has caught on. It may just be that it ticks all the right boxes for today’s consumerist society. It is all about gratification. And spending quick bucks. And it gives you the chance of going one up on the Joneses. And it is convenient. And it is cool. What is not to love?

Do you pre-order much?


15B, Happiness Way


I thought I would write a blog about the weird behaviour of the healthcare nurse at my daughter’s 8th month check-up yesterday. Once she heard R was just having a few spoons of solid food each day, the lady in question became so bent up on underscoring the importance of the stuff and how R should really be having a cupful of fruits and vegetables three times a day that she turned somewhat manic. She definitely succeeded in stressing both me and my husband out. Whole day I had nothing but the word S-O-L-I-D-S flashing in my head and I also felt very indignant when I thought about the nurse’s lack of social skills. By evening I was fuming and armed with loads of stories from fellow moms at work who have had similar unpleasant experiences, I was determined to write a scathing blog lambasting bossy nurses with terrible bedside manners. However when I woke up this morning, I felt surprisingly mellow and yesterday’s big thing seemed diminished.

I remember one quote posted by a friend on Facebook. Incidentally I find it very strange that people are always posting these inspirational posters on their wall. Scrolling down the newsfeed is basically trawling through reams of quotes about the importance of time, broken hearts, dads who are heroes, superwomen moms, and more. Most times I just race past those. But undoubtedly there are a few good ones out there at times. The one I am referring to now, talked about how life is not about the actions of others but rather our reactions to those actions. Our happiness is ultimately tied to how we react.

I have decided this morning that I will not react negatively to things or spend time pondering on those. Instead I will celebrate the good things that have happened – both big and small. So, Healthcare Nurse, I have nothing against you now. You were probably doing your best. And I have met enough lovely midwives and nurses to know that most of them are really awesome. As for my daughter, she will learn how to accept solids at her own pace. I don’t see her as the only 20 year old in history living on infant formula!

 So at least for today, I will focus on the good things in my life that make me happy every day and give thanks to God that there are so many. This is what I am celebrating this week –

1)      R is crawling everywhere now. In the evenings this week whenever I made dinner, she crawled into the kitchen and made a beeline for me. On drawing level with me, she would delicately pat my leg asking to hoisted up. Awww! I love this phase so much.  

2)      I finished 2 interesting books this week – crisp taut thrillers both. Started on thriller number 3. I am really enjoying my train commute into city these days.

3)      Made a couple of dinners this week that were very well received. The first was chicken biryani on Monday night and while that dish is fairly normal in my household, I am proud of the stuff I cooked on Tuesday – Kung Pao chicken with steamed rice and Mee Goreng with seafood. Even if I do say it myself, they tasted as good as the ones served in restaurants.

4)      Had a few funny experiences at work. A colleague lost his pants at the gym on Monday and walked around in office all day in his cripsly formal shirt and electric blue gym shorts. The visual was so ridiculous that none of us could help bursting out with laughter, even while feeling very sorry for the guy. Heard a hilarious anecdote from the girl who shares my cubicle about how a couple of years ago she accidentally toasted a mouse along with bread and unknowingly ate the toast. Eeeek! Well, office can be a lot of fun at times.

5)      On the serious side, today was the deadline for a piece of work at office and everything got finished well within time. That is nothing short of a miracle!

6)      K had a good appraisal at his workplace. I am happy that all his hard work has paid off as he really has been slogging out for long hours for the past year and more.

7)      I got two posts in this week and this is the third. I haven’t been this productive since the first week after I signed up. Awesome!

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy your weekend.

So what made you happy this week?