As I breathe and think and dream

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Dieting With The Significant Other

You know how everyone says that exercising or dieting with a friend or partner is a lot more effective than doing it solo. You have someone to share notes with, someone to celebrate your wins with and someone to support you during the lows. You are more motivated to stick to your exercise routine or diet plan because you are accountable to someone else. If you are alone, you might try and get out of a run because it is too cloudy/sunny/windy/dark. However knowing that there is someone else who can surely spot the gaping holes in your flimsy story, you are more inclined to stay on the straight and narrow.
The above theory does not seem to apply to me. Recently my husband decided to join me on the 5:2 diet. I have been on this diet for the last three months now and have found it to be pretty good. It has not been a dramatic weight loss journey for me. Definitely I will not make it to the internet headlines like “Learn how his mother of one used a WEIRD tip to lose 15 kilos in 15 days … while having a chocolate bar each day!” . However I am happy to report that over the last three months I have been losing weight steadily, albeit slowly, and have managed to keep it off. I am just a few pounds shy of my target weight now. Dramatic though it might not be, my story has definitely inspired one individual. My husband.
When he first announced he wanted to join me in 5:2 dieting, of course, I made the appropriate encouraging noises. After all I have been trying to get him to eat healthier, exercise more and live better for a while now. So I was happy that he had taken a step in the right direction.
However having gone through a couple of diet days with him, I find that having him along on the diet is not as good or as encouraging as I would have thought. Trouble started even before D day. Right before commencing on the diet, he was all chuffed and went on continuously about how he planned on being a 100% committed to his diet plan. He peppered me with questions – ‘ Can I have a coffee on a diet day?’ “How many calories are there in spoonful of sugar?” “I can have unlimited vegetables, right?” “Are oranges low in calories?”. Next he drove me crazy by going through his planned dietary intake schedule for the next day about a million times – “salad for lunch, konjac rice with stir fry vegetables and chicken for dinner and an apple as a snack.”, “salad for lunch, konjac rice with stir fry vegetables and chicken for dinner and an apple as a snack.”, “salad for lunch,…”. It started sounding almost like a semi- religious chant.
On the actual day, it was worse. He kept calling me at work almost every hour with updates.
“I thought I would have had to have that apple by now. But no, I resisted all temptation.”
“It’s almost mid-day I am still holding good. This is easier than I thought!”
“That salad for lunch tasted vile. You know I hate rocket. Couldn’t you have chosen another one?”
“I am feeling really hungry now. Is it okay if I have a Diet Coke to help tide me over?”
” What’s for dinner today? Can we have a really early one? ”
“Why do diet days have to be alcohol free? I could really do with a stiff one right now!”
Now I appreciate the fact that in the beginning, diet days are unsettling. And it is but natural that my husband turns to me, the diet guru in his eyes. I know I am being uncharitable by becoming this irritated with him. However diet days have become a kind of meditation for me. Those are days when I stay below the radar. Spend time looking inwards and interacting as little with the world as possible. Plow through huge amounts of pending work without food distractions. Drink copious amount of green tea. Have a low key dinner. Head to bed early. Make it through the day as quickly as possible.
With my husband on board, there seems to be too much noise and too much emphasis on the fact that “WE ARE DIETING!”. All through the day I am reminded of how hard dieting actually is and that makes me feel those hunger pangs more keenly. These are precisely the last things I want to be thinking of. I want a diet day to be like a normal day. Just a day – any day. Only without much food. And no song and dance about it either.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband dearly. I hope he benefits a lot from this diet and that it works even better for him than it did for me. But I also sincerely hope that he settles down in this as soon as possible.


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To Long Lost Friendship

This morning I had a weird urge to look up those people on Facebook who had once been my friends when I was still with my ex. I have not been in touch with these people for the last five years if not more. Once upon a time they used to mean so much. There was a time when their name cropped up so frequently in my conversations. I knew who was having a fling with whom, who was expecting her first child, how one was trying to resuscitate a floundering business, how someone else had switched jobs, how someone was a compulsive liar. I met these people frequently – at parties, on Sunday brunches, in nightclubs, on vacations. There were some I liked a lot, some a little less and others whom I was not too fond of at all. However they all meant something. They used to be a part of my life, for good or for worse.
Now they are all gone. They vanished when my ex and I rode off into the horizon … in opposite directions. I have no idea whether that person did manage to turn his business around or whether the then pregnant lady had a boy or a girl. Busy as I am in my new life, majority of the time I barely spare those people a thought. But sometimes in a rare spare moment, their thought returns to irk me. I miss the presence of those friends/acquaintances of old times.
And this is not just about friends lost due to the crumbling of a marriage. I think of all those friends who had once been an integral part of my life and who now mean nothing. They are either lost to me completely or are reduced to an infrequent status update on Facebook, most times ignored. Where is X, the girl who was my best friend in junior school? She used to wear her brown hair in plaits and had a horde of younger brothers and sisters. We used to be so close that on days, when she was absent from school, I felt lost. Where is Y whom I used to share a room with ten years ago when I started my work life? I daresay I can find out where she lives these days from Facebook or some other social site. But here we are talking about the girl I used to chat with till 4 am many nights, sharing laughter, tears and deep secrets about boys and life. It feels weird that the girl who once used to know me better than myself, is now a stranger. Where is Z, the guy I once had a secret crush on fifteen years ago? I remember When I had discovered he had a girlfriend, I had been so heartbroken that I cried myself to sleep for a week.
They say we carry with us all those friends who matter. Do we? I have friends now. Precious though they are to me, they have never been able to replace all the different flavors of friends I have lost over the years. Maybe I should have made more of an effort to keep in touch. Maybe this is what life is and we are all ships in the night, passing through. Maybe one day I will once again rekindle that lost friendship with someone from the past. But for now, I raise a toast to all those long-lost friends and acquaintances. Here’s to you, guys! I miss you all.

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‘Meat’-ing Expectations

I have always been a non-vegetarian all my life. I like meat (both lean and red), seafood and the works. Being a Hindu, I should probably not be eating beef on religious grounds. But I have never really been a conformist and while due to health reasons I reach for lean meats most of the time, I love to dig into my occasional meatball sub and lasagna. My husband, on the other hand, comes from a very traditional and conservative Indian family. And they are ALL vegetarians. And very strict vegetarians at that. The rules of their household are – No meat. No fish. No eggs. Not even garlic for a number of his family members. Now for those who do not know much about Indian dietary rules, please do not ask me why garlic is clubbed with the rest of the non veg brigade. It just is.
When my husband moved to Australia in his early twenties, he was a vegetarian just like the rest of his family and he planned on staying that way. However he found it difficult as there were not too vegetarian options available at the time. There was just one burger joint that offered a decent vegetarian burger and he had that so many times that he soon became sick of it. He tried cooking at home. However that was not possible everyday with his study and part time job schedule. Besides his flat mate and best friend was a non vegetarian who loved cooking biryanis and chicken curries. So this meant that my husband had to cook vegetarian meals just for himself. It all became too much. His well-meaning flat mate suggested that he should ‘try’ eating chicken as it would make life a lot easier for him. My husband agreed and they went to a KFC joint where my husband had his first original recipe fried chicken. And he loved it. He took to eating chicken as the proverbial duck takes to water. From then on life in Australia was a lot easier for him and by the time I met him, he could cook a mean chicken curry himself. With me urging him on, he started liking lamb and goat too. He could not develop a liking for seafood as the ‘fishy’ smell was too much for him, he said. Also he did not like beef or pork. Still in our household, we had reached a happy compromise. Say, if we ordered pizza, it would many times be half and half – pepperoni on my half and chicken on his.
So all is well in our tiny world. The only problem we now face is that my husband’s family has no idea that he is no longer a vegetarian. My husband has never really ‘come out’ in front of them in this aspect. When we got married, my in-laws knew that I was a non-vegetarian but they assumed that I would mend my evil ways and embrace vegetarianism. Now my husband might have had something to do with them thinking on such lines, as in a bid to get me ‘accepted’ into his family as soon as possible, he probably took a few liberties with the truth. Since we live half a world away, we have never really been caught out till now. I just need to remember while on our weekly telephone conversations with my hubby’s family, that if someone asks me what’s for dinner, I need to quickly substitute words like chicken or lamb with mushroom or cottage cheese.
When we visit my in-laws in India, we of course have to live like vegetarians for the duration. This can be a little bit of a bummer because we expats always crave food from back home while abroad and it does not seem fair to be missing out on all the yummy non vegetarian options available when in your home country. I do put my foot down at times and insist on sneaking out of home and eating at a non-vegetarian restaurant. Like when in Hyderabad, I wanted to taste the incredible biryani the city is famous for and in order to escape from my sister-in-laws house, we had to cook up a false story of having to meet up with a friend for lunch.
Of course, things will be much more difficult when some of my in laws come to visit us in Australia. I guess we will have to empty the freezer and the pantry of anything vaguely resembling meat or fish. And probably get some new cookware for cooking vegetarian food as my in-laws are known to have noses like police sniffer dogs. That is the reason they avoid eating at restaurants which serve both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare.
However the thing that is threatening to blow our vegetarian cover is not the imminent arrival of my in-laws from India – it is my toddler. My daughter loves her chicken and fish (“chick-chick” and “fishie” in her speak). And I can just imagine that day not very far away when she will blurt out on the phone or video chat that she had tandoori chicken for lunch. I imagine my mother-in-law will probably faint on the other side then! However that is not the worst that can happen. A friend who has a similar situation with her in-laws, tell me that her 4 year old has sensed that his mom and dad do not want non-vegetarian stories to leak out to his grandparents. Conniving devil that he is, he now routinely blackmails his parents and tells them – If you do not give me such-and-such, I will go and tell grandma that you made roast lamb for dinner. Gosh! These kids! I guess I now have a few months at most to start saving in order to meet future ransom demands. Or to get my husband to confess to his family about being a meat eater (and that will probably lead to my being branded the ‘evil wife’ who lead her pious husband astray). Or to really switch to vegetarianism.


Goodbye, Ambition! It Was Nice Knowing You


I have been missing in action for a little while (but I swear I haven’t forgotten you!). It is just that I have been busy.  Verrry busy. Of course the lazy pace of work that I had been fortunate enough to experience for past couple of months was bound to change at some time. In our line of work it is practically unheard of not to feel the heat of deadlines, technical bugs, presentations and audits. Sooner or later (if not all the time!) one falls prey to these and other horrors – namely terrible managers who can never be pleased, snooty partners who think they can walk on water, miniscule or non existant hikes and bonuses,  clients who think they can be as irrational as they want just because they are paying an arm and a leg for our services (Ummm… well … maybe they have a point .. but hey, come on, people,  you should know better than to fall for the whole sales pitch that ‘We can build/mend/deliver anything and everything!’ )

There was a time when I used to love all this (barring the bad hikes of course!). Working against the clock , delivering a solution that, though it was not a answer to the world’s fuel crisis or a cure for cancer, still meant a lot to the client. Wracking my brains to come up with way around that irrtating software glitch.  Feeingl the heady rush of adrenaline after proving a point in intense caffeine fuelled meetings. Each morning I would match my pace to that of the others dressed in suits armed with lattes and iPads and get that heady feeling that ‘I too am doing something important in this place.’ And yes, I loved the feeling that I was coming up in the world just the way I had wanted to and dreamt of when I had been a nerdy teenager swotting for exams that would get me into the college of my choice and then later ambtiously applying for jobs, not only hoping that the prospective employers valued enthusiasm more than experience, but also somehow they chose me out of the hundreds of similar applicants.

However lately the amount of joy that I have been deriving from work has diminished. Actually that statement is not strictly true. Payday still feels wonderful and there is nothing to complain about in my professional life, It is just that the overall joy I derive from work has been eclipsed by the greater joys of family. Perhaps I am getting mellow in my old age but really the feeling of family is the best. Family life is messy, noisy, warm, chaotic and cosy. I cannot help but compare my life as it is now to the one I had just a couple of years back in London. I had a good job there but no family (at least none nearby).  I had lots of good friends and my after work hours would be spent in fun activities. Yet I would look at the couples walking hand-in-hand at a tube stations wistfully. Festive seasons would feel awful and no amount of retail therapy would help. 

Now a little more than eighteen months later, I have a husband and a daughter and I have moved halfway across the world to settle in sunny Australia. My life has changed so much that at times I feel like pinching myself for reassurance that this is indeed real. At the risk of sounding terribly mushy, being married to the one you love is incredible. I still feel the thrill at the end of each day when I am heading back home that K is waiting for me at the end of the commute. Well, of course we fight. However we agree much more than we disagree. Text each other “I love you’s” many more times than we end up not talking to each other. And we have the greatest fun together even while doing mundane things like cooking and grocery shopping.

Maybe because of my career focus in my twenties, I neevr felt that I was never a particularly maternal female. Research says that 70% of women feel an outpouring of love for their babies as soon they are born (there are  a lot of supporting medical facts about hormones that back that theory). Well I belong to the other 30% of the population who are confounded and not just a little scared of the tiny screaming creature who suddenly comes into their life.  It took me a while to come to grips with motherhood. My goal oriented mindset where doing X guaranteed a result Y did not know what to do with a baby who was irrational and unpredictable. But somehow the magic still happened and love bloomed. Soon coaxing a giggle from the little one became the most important task on the ‘To Do’ list.

I had written in an earlier blog that my friends love posting pithy sayings on Facebook. Recently one that caught my eye was “No one remembers their job designation on their dying day”. That sounds a little bleak but it’s true, I am sure. I can definitely vouch for the fact that the all-important deadline loses its relevance within days if not hours of it being met. This year’s performance rating becomes stale within a few weeks into the new financial year.

So with that thought in mind, I have decided so give Careergirl a little bit of a rest. Well, she isn’t really riding off into the sunset but the work suits and power pearls will be out only a few days in the week. I have decided to cut back on my working hours. I am going on a long six week sabbatical in a couple of weeks’ time and after that I will be deadline chasing for only 3 days a week. On the remaining four days you will find me strolling in the park, dealing with messy spills, trying to cook up a storm, reading out stories of fairies who live in the garden, doing some yoga, watching the tv (might be the cartoon channel but still…). I am so looking forward to all that. Well, I am not naïve and I know it will be a lot of hard work. But then who’s scared of hard work? Certainly not me!  If you do not believe me, just check my utilization stats at work for the past few years.


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Birthday Wishes For An Ex

It has been 3 years.  Since I last saw you.  Since your number flashed across my cell phone  screen.  Since we walked apart, each in a different direction and ended up in opposite parts of the world. You have removed me from your friends’ list on Facebook. I did not realise this for quite some time – until a mutual friend posted a picture of the two of you and while I was notified about her post, FB was silent about your presence. Curiosity piqued, I checked my friends’ list. You did not feature there. I visited  LinkedIn. Nothing there as well. You have been thorough. Now there is nothing tying us together in cyber space just as there are no ties remaining in this flesh-and-bone world. Yet just three days ago, a popular ecard site sent me a reminder that your birthday was around the corner and that I should send you a card. Is this an omen? Does it mean that invisible threads still remain when all seems sundered? Or is it just canny marketing by an online company?

Time and distance have blurred the bitterness and negativity I had once felt about you and our relationship. I find that I have forgotten most of the bad stuff now or maybe I have become so far removed from the reality of those, that it no longer pinches me where it hurts. The good stuff does not bother me as well. Truth be told, I had been more worried about the happy memories than the bad ones. But now those memories seem as though they belong to a sepia-tinged vacation taken decades ago.

There are times, of course, when three years disappear in the blink of an eye. After all, three years is not much when you think of a lifetime – it is just a little over a thousand days.   I spy someone crossing the road from the other side and suddenly I think it is you. Even though my rational mind knows that there is perhaps a one in a million chance of us meeting accidentally, my heart clenches in a kind of terror.  I feel unprepared to face you again. Then I see that it is not you at all and my heart slowly resumes its steady beat.

Despite a few such occurrences, I have moved on. You have been replaced by others–as the nominee on my insurance policies and as the protagonist in my dreams. You are no longer the person I think of calling up the moment something out of the ordinary happens to me. I do not think obsessively about the past anymore. I remember for the first year apart, the fact that I found most disquieting was that when in a discussion with friends or colleagues, I would, out of force of habit, bring you up in conversations as though you were my present and not my past. All my thoughts and opinions appeared tinted by you-coloured glasses. I guess ten years of knowing someone can do that to you. Now I can voice my own opinions and it is only on a few rare occasions that I find what I have spoken are actually echoes of your voice from the past.

You have moved on as well. The mutual friend I had mentioned before posted some pictures last year’s festive season. A number of those photos featured you and your new wife. Well, perhaps not very new. I have no way of knowing. I looked at the girl. She was laughing and seemed happy. You looked happy as well. So I have been replaced too. It all felt a bit weird for the first couple of minutes when I gazed at the picture. But then I felt gladness that you have found happiness again. I want you to know that I am really happy for you.

In my mind, I imagine myself doing that which I will never do in real life any more. I give in to the urgings of the ecard website and send you a birthday greeting. I guess there is no  relationship specific card for an ex. So a generic one has to suffice. It has perhaps a bland picture of a cake, candles and flowers. The message is simple but heart-felt. “Wish you a very Happy Birthday. Enjoy this day and the rest of your life – A well-wisher. ” 

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Smart Guy seeks non-working bride

Once upon a time long ago I used to be married to a man who loved to say– ‘I am not interested in your career, after all I gain nothing from it’. The comment alluded to two separate stands he had. One, he had a very (misplaced?) masculine pride in his ability to support his family. He would not generally take money from me for the general household expenses. Of course he would accept loans of large sums from me to help with buying a car or house. But he very carefully termed them ‘loans’. Two, he hated me working professionally.

He hated the fact that having a career put demands on my time, all of which he owned. He hated that I had to work in the outer external world with, horror of all horrors, MEN. He hated it when I had to travel for work. He hated it when I used to get phone calls from office out of office hours. He hated it when I tried to talk to him about my day at the office. He hated it right in the beginning of our relationship when, as an engineering student, I was applying for jobs on campus. He hated it when I said I wanted to do further studies.

Initially I had thought his opinions were so cute. Naive, silly me! I rationalised his unquestionably boorish behaviour, thinking ‘Oh poor dear! He cannot bear to be without me for even a second and does not want to share me with anyone or anything’. And so as a girlfriend and later wife, I tried my best to relegate my career to the very outer fringes of my life and make him feel like the king of my universe. I did not stop working completely however I did stop mentioning anything about it at home. I refused all assignments that would have required even short term travel on my part. Instead I accompanied him whenever he chose to relocate for the sake of his career. I abandoned all ideas of further studies, took long leaves of absence from work, quit promising jobs at the wrong times  and did all I could to commit professional hara-kiri.

Many moons later, I finally woke up to the fact that my husband was nothing more than a grown-up version of the playground bully. He loved stamping his authority on everyone and getting them to dance to his tune but underneath he was just a very insecure human being. He had no other way of making himself feel big other than belittling me and my career. He wanted me to be dependent on him as that made feel like a man.

Finally when that relationship floundered, I fell back on my career to support myself. By that time, I had already done what seemed like irrevocable damage to it and there were so many things that could not be undone. However thankfully I had never stopped working completely and after quite a bit of effort, was able to revive my professional life to a state where I could support myself in relative comfort.

My story, I have now come to realise, is nothing unique. There are millions of bullies walking this earth in the guise of husbands – especially Indian husbands. They pride themselves in stomping out any independent streak that their wives have and in relegating them to the status of mere chattels. Most women, like me, put up with it and brainwash themselves into thinking that their husbands are right and that they need to give up their work and personal space for the sake of their families.

My ex used to say ‘Oh, I admire Indra Nooyi (current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo). I just don’t want me wife to be like her.’ Men, that is so wrong! Please learn to let go of narrow mindedness and embrace the fact that your significant other is a living breathing intelligent being who can shine both in the bedroom and the boardroom. If you let her, she will make you and your family proud and that will not make you inferior in any way.

Women – there are things you need to do as well.  Do not let a man walk all over your dreams and aspirations. Know that a true man does not need to clip your wings, rather he will let you fly unfettered and he will help and support you as you will help and support him. That mutual respect should be the cornerstone of every marriage and will ultimately benefit our children, our families and the society at large.