Homeward bound (Part 2)

Thankful as I can be to have reached Pune, my city in India safely, I wanted to record the events for the Vande Bharat Mission, the evacuation flight that was arranged by the Indian government. I must applaud the efforts of the government to help all the Indians stuck abroad to be able to fly back home. After all the wonderful years spent in the best city of Texas, we said goodbye to Austin on July 18th 2020, we had booked a flight to fly to Newark since there were no direct flights from Austin to India. There are only specific cities that the Vande Bharat Mission flights fly out of. I was a little worried after the Governor announced that people coming in from 19 states that were affected the most by Coronavirus will need to be quarantined for 14 days when they enter New Jersey. So we decided to spend the night in a hotel at the airport itself. We saw many Indians doing the same. I have only flown Air India once before and it wasn’t a pleasant flight to remember. The Punekar in me was definitely looking at all the angles to register my criticism for this flight as well. I can’t help it, I see a distinct similarity of staying in Texas, the dry humor and level of sarcasm is peculiar to Pune.

We booked the flight off the Air India website. They opened the tickets in phases and there was no particular way to know when the phases would open up. We kept following Air India on social media and a watch on the news. As soon as we saw phase four open up we booked our tickets for July 19th from Newark to Mumbai. But the process to buy the tickets was pretty straightforward. Our final destination was Pune. We wanted to travel from Mumbai to Pune without waiting for arranged transport. We had booked a private vehicle that was authorized to carry passengers with a digital pass arranged by the private agency. We printed out our tickets. We had read about previous experiences and were told to show up at the airport 4-5 hours for check in. However our experience was a little different. We did reach 3 hours earlier and waited for 1.5 hours in the line. There was a temperature check and an undertaking form that we were asked to fill which was later asked at the check in counter. We asked for an upgrade and funny as it was, we were asked to cut the line. However we were the last passengers to board inspite of getting an upgrade to the business class because the credit card machine stopped working when it was our turn. As if this anxiety wasn’t enough, the flight went upto the runway and returned due to a “technical snag” that took 4 hours to fix. Well, I guess ‘it happens only in Air India’. I wasn’t trying to listen in to the girl seated in the next row, she was pretty loud and clear with her conversations over the phone. She was telling someone that she slept off while the plane was on the runway and when she woke up, she was shocked to see, we were still there. Also the upgrade didn’t help my husband much, we got separate seats and when we asked a gentleman to swap seats with thim, he obliged however we regretted the decision because the recliner was completely broken. The staff came to fix it manually every time my husband wanted to sleep or get up and sit. Other than that no service was provided. There was no inflight entertainment. We were also getting water on our own. I had to wear a PPE kit because I was seated in the middle. I know what you are thinking, middle seat for business class? The answer is ‘it happens only in Air India’. We were given a face shield kit. We were also given two sealed trays, one with lunch and one with breakfast for the next morning. Also a snack pack.

The toilet scene was a little scary for me personally. We had packed a box of disposable gloves. So every time I got up to visit the washroom I made sure to wear a pair of gloves and throw them as soon as I was done. We were wearing masks the entire time except when we ate or drank something. It was very uncomfortable for me while sleeping but I managed somehow to keep wearing it. The flight was smooth and because of the upgrade we were done with the entire exit procedure pretty quickly. Before landing we were given undertaking forms to be filled by each individual. After landing, the first time ever, no one got up from their seats to get their bags. Everyone waited for their turn because of social distancing to get down one by one until rows were announced to exit the plane. The discipline was wonderful to see and observe. Wishing this continues even after the coronavirus. There are so many things to relearn in a way.

After we exited the plane, we were told to discard our gowns/ kits in a yellow bucket placed at specific spots labeled as ‘hazardous material’. The temperature was checked at a pitstop. We were lined up at another one where two people were photocopying the undertaking forms and we were told to hold on to the original which was later taken by the immigration officer. The next stop was a a counter where a personnel was helping people download the ‘Aarogya Setu’ app, mandatory for quarantine procedures during the first 14 days of our stay in India. Once the app was downloaded and information was filled, we were directed towards the immigration where the officer kept the original undertaking form. We went to the baggage belt where it was much easier to find our bags already lined up on the side, the customs was a breeze. Closer to the exit gates of the airport, we were asked about our final destination and were directed to a counter where they asked us the driver’s name and mobile number and we were given a form from the Mumbai police to report to a nodal officer at a hotel in Pune. We headed out to the parking exit, where there was one last personnel who checked the form handed over to us and let us out. I am assuming this entire process was smoother for us since we were in the Business class. I am sure the wait for economy class is much longer.

We were picked up by our driver, came to Pune and were told to report to a nodal officer who was stationed at a hotel in Pune. But when we contacted the hotel, we were redirected to a Covid Treatment center instead. Fortunately we found a helpful doctor who helped us to find the hotel where the nodal officer was. When we reached the hotel, we were told by a nodal officer that even if we had no symptoms, we had to be quarantined for 7 days in a hotel since they will allow only pregnant women, families with kids(under the age of 10) , senior citizens with major health issues or death in the family(death certificate must be provided) to be quarantined at home, everyone else must be quarantined for 7 days at a hotel. I still do not understand the logic for the same, paying money from our pocket to live in a room where no service will be provided except for food. This was a 4 star hotel where they did not provide even clean bedsheets and towels until we asked. We had dust accumulated everywhere over the period of seven days and a sealed window with no fresh air that made us sneeze every now and then. Me and my husband exchanged glances and shrugs each time and reassured each other that it was just the dust. The damp AC filter circulating the same air had an unpleasant stench. If this is the condition of a renowned hotel, I cannot imagine how others are being treated. Food was okay, but I felt like we were being served the same stale food every other day, except for breakfast. We were not allowed visitors nor edibles from outside. We managed to keep ourselves sane and entertained by talking to friends and family, reading comics that we had packed in our bags and watching the rains and sunset from the window. Temperature was checked on alternate days by some personnel and finally we were allowed to go home on Day 8 morning with a certificate to say that we have completed our quarantine period.

As I wait for the 14 day quarantine to be over, and try to get back on my feet, looking for a job, settling down in my country where things are a chaos yet satisfying somehow since I am no more a stranger in my own land or an ‘alien’ to anyone and now have my family and friends for support. I take this episode with a pinch of salt and treat it as a once in a lifetime kind of experience. I know that my complaints are not even close to what people might be facing but that I can only thank my stars for being alive and healthy to be able to sit at home and pen it down with internet, fresh food and water. This has definitely taught me to value my comforts and rethink my necessities. I wish that in the years to come, we may be able to reevaluate what do we really need versus what do we think we need and hope that no one, absolutely no one, has to go through something stressful like this pandemic ever again!

Homeward bound (Part 1)

All my bags are packed I’m ready to go…

Let me rewind a little bit to December 2019. I had just switched to a new job and they agreed to let me go for my yearly vacation to India. I met my friends and family told them about my new job and my excitement to work with one of the biggest tech giants and how 2020 sounds hopeful. I also expressed my eagerness to come back to India permanently before my visa gets renewed in 2022.

Take Two: I’m having dinner with my friends on March 15, 2020 and laughing about Coronavirus but then I witness all the panic buying and suddenly the next day everything was closed! We entered a lockdown. We were told to work remotely, all the stores, restaurants were closed and things got pretty serious hereon. Work pressure increased, stories of people contracting the disease started increasing, and 2020 took a weird turn. My husband and I lost our jobs due to Covid 19. We tried searching for jobs because we didn’t want to keep a regret of not even trying, but hiring was frozen, companies were hesitant to sponsor visas, so we decided to go back home instead of living with uncertainty.

My husband was as calm as the sea, it was me who was feeling the wave of emotions. Almost a decade full of accumulated memories suddenly started looking like a burden. We canceled all our credit cards. Started placing orders for things we may need like disinfectant wipes, masks, gloves and hoped everything would arrive on time which eventually it did. Started packing boxes that needed to be shipped. Due to the threat of Coronavirus the shipping company refused to pack or collect the boxes from our house, so amateurs as we were at packing, our friends came for the rescue to help us pack and move stuff. We sold our cars, furniture, we think we were lucky that even through Covid people wanted to buy things like washer/dryer, recliner, bed/mattresses etc.

My worries intensified because I couldn’t even say a proper goodbye to all my friends, colleagues and well wishers due to Covid and we had booked a flight for July 31st however there were no International flights apart from Vande Bharat Mission, the evacuation flights arranged by the Indian government. We could only find a ticket for July 19th. The date was set to be our last day in America. I had to see my friends who I knew were taking precautions were trying to stay safe just like as I was. We said our goodbyes like ripping off a bandaid, it was quick but painful. Unplanned, unexpected but we were getting our wish fulfilled before time! And so, eyes filled with tears, hearts full of memories and gratitude we set off to India, home was calling.

We need to talk

How many times have you had to make awkward conversations when you have heard these words, “We need to talk.” But also think about how big of an impact have those talks made in your life. In my line of work I have come across so much hate and racism, my personality changed drastically over a period of a year. I thought I was mature enough but not really I was only ignorant. Ignorant to the fact that discrimination exists and is deeply rooted in every culture.

It is time to speak up. When I was being raised in India I have had to come to terms with colorism. According to Indian standards, I am “fair” but not until I came to America I had to deal with racism for being “brown”. Growing up I may have been taught to differentiate but only because I got to learn it from others be it parents, friends, peers, neighbors, through media but over the years I realized that any type of discrimination is a dangerous threat to mankind. With choice, I changed and unlearned what I had been taught as a child.

As an Indian I had textbook information about black slavery but had no clue who Jim Crow was until my work exposed me to this entity and the entire Civil Rights movement. I read more about it only after I started working in America. The more I learned about black slavery, the more I could relate or imagine how the Westerners must have treated colored people and could empathize with black people the most. The sad part of racism is a color defines the superiority of your entire race which is completely “unfair” since we do not get choose the melanin levels in our bodies. When people talk about white privilege, it is not because they earned it. They are equally humans, it is people like you and me who may not have raised their voices at the right time, who did not have enough support, who were not entertained when they asked for justice. We just handed it to them. It is time for privilege to be reclaimed. I also have witnessed so much ignorance when people casually use words like “Nazi”, “Hitler” and the “N” word. These words hold years of persecution, a gut-wrenching, stomach-churning abuse that even while thinking of these words people need to tremble with the thought of the torture behind these words. It should make them be filled with guilt and shame before even letting them spill onto the lips.

I have had dialogue about racism with different people from different countries and it is widely prevalent everywhere. It is the belief that if one person of a particular race finds any sort of success, the entire race will get ahead and somehow will have an advantage of dominating others. But I feel it is associated with fear. Fear, hate and insecurity drive the criminal activities against people of color.

George Floyd and many other Black Americans have died at the hands of racist people. We need to acknowledge that this is one of the biggest issues that America is facing even in the year 2020 when America is known to be a first world country. Everyone has to still come down to the knees when it boils down to racism. And while I understand the anger and the frustration that the black community feels added to that the current Coronavirus and unemployment situation, violence is not an answer. Looting, rioting is only adding fuel to the fire because kids today, who do not understand what they are experiencing and have not been conditioned yet, are watching and learning, their minds are like sponges absorbing everything they see. This is not the solution to what they need, this is not how they want to look up to as their role models at a young age who are mostly their older siblings or parents and people who surround them. This is not how they should be raised because they are the next generation being handed over a whole country to. Also this is only giving the oppressors another finger to point at. I feel the same about the “N” word, even though the black community is trying to reclaim it, it does not help. What if it is erased, not used at all, forgotten over the years? Can you imagine a world without these terms associated with racism? The uprooting of racism needs a change in our mindset. A change in our reaction. What this country lacks is a great leader like a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King. Quoting MLK, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” The leadership must step forward and take action and support it’s people who have them elected to bring peace, healing and justice.

As we look around, we see chaos but when we speak up, communicate and ask we create a space for an exchange of thoughts, we create a dialogue between individuals. That space must be respected, individuality should be embraced and accepted, anger should be forgiven, freedom should not be taken for granted. We need to ask ourselves questions, like “Why do I hate this person so much?” “What can I do to change my mind about them?” I have been practicing forgiving people who have hurt me in my past. It is tough but it is a liberating feeling when you overcome your own hate. We must also stand united and raise and amplify our voices within families, social circles, at work, when we witness something first hand. This issue is global and much larger devil is any sort of discrimination but the change has to start from within. Quoting Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Yes We Can…

The world is gripped with Coronavirus, although there is a stillness on the Earth, as if a big pause button pressed on the outside environment but the energy is bustling. Imagine water about to boil, tiny bubbles that form on the bottom and slowly they become larger and start rising up and popping. I feel like all of us are currently in that situation. We are trying to make this quarantine phase productive and entertaining enough to be able to kill boredom or monotonous cycle of now our daily life that has become during this pandemic. People are being creative by singing, playing instruments, playing games with friends and family all over the world, showcasing their hidden talents. We are living in the moment. The same moment when we think back couple of months ago, we were still doing it. Living in the moment. And life came to a standstill. But imagine the ending of this lockdown. Will this be a moment when we go back to being our old selves or even worst versions of ourselves, taking “freedom” for granted yet again or is this a moment for a purge, to let go of old habits and turn a new page, a clean slate, a new me? Isn’t this a perfect moment to reflect on ourselves? Personally I learned that I used to leave the tap open unconsciously while brushing because that sound of water had a calming effect on me after waking up. I have stopped that now. Believe it or not it was tough. I had to literally walk away with my toothbrush to keep me from turning on the tap/faucet. But this was a conscious effort to change. 

This is the moment when I want to look back at the things I may have been doing wrong all this while. This is the exact moment when I can change the years of conditioning that has happened with my mental and physical awareness. This is that moment when I get to say to myself that I must change, I must accept self-discipline. I have to pledge to change now that I have seen the wrath of Mother Nature. I know I cannot step on this Earth and take her for granted, I cannot claim she is my property. I am not even a speck in this Universe. I must change my ways. I must respect the fact that Mother Nature/ Earth / Higher Power has the power to destroy me in a second. I must try my best to restore nature to her glory. I must save natural resources. I must respect another living life. I may not be able to give up on my meat consumption but I know I can curb my greed. I have a choice and that is what is important, to make choices. To choose to use plastic or to reuse and recycle, be aware of wood, paper and curb the careless use. To follow traffic rules, to give way to elders, children, put life of pedestrians first. If I need to reach on time, I need to manage my own schedule to be able to leave the house way ahead of time. Absolutely no honking, patience on the road, being generous to allow passing. So many things I can change, I am glad I am writing this because the train of thought won’t stop at this point.

I must change my ways of judging others. The virus did not discriminate between age, gender, class, color, caste, race, profession, religion. I must be loving and kind towards other forces of nature. I must give preference to children because they are the future. I must respect the experience of elders because they have “been there and done that” way before I have “been there and done that”. Being more personal and real in interactions, more listening, more smiling, more openness and acceptance. I must treat my body as a temple. That’s where the divine resides. I must not forget to be grateful every day for everything that I have. I must love life. I must not fear change, I must believe it is for the better and use it as an opportunity to only push myself to adjust to it and embrace it with confidence and love. It all starts from me. I am willing to change, yes I can, yes we can!

India trailing

A line from Delhi Crime series struck the right chord… it suggests the more the economic difference between the poor and rich, the more crimes will happen because the poor don’t get it easily they try to take it by force, unemployment and illiteracy adds ti the problems. There is free porn but no sex education, internet is easily accessible nowadays, it makes them think a woman is a thing. For eg a simple hug between a guy and a girl who are friends is deemed as something they will never get,so the root cause is the disparity, then they will try to take that too by force without consequences because they have nothing to lose. With education, employment and counseling such crimes can be reduced and with vigilance they can be stopped and with courage and action can be averted. I agree to harsher laws for sure but fear makes you think twice, like the fear of a black cat makes people retrace their steps,fear of God, fear of law should be maintained but we have the wrong idea of fear. For us Indians, fear means violence, using it on private or government property, beating up couples, thrashing a driver suspected of carrying meat. A simple rickshawallah has to take loans to buy an auto and its broken to irreparable damage during riots or so called “protests” but noone will think of it while damaging it in anger. Anger and Fear are different emotions. We as Indians pride on our culture, literature, yoga, but when it comes to demonstrations of controlling these emotions we become one of the most uncivilized people there can be. We lack patience, self discipline. We need to understand the root cause, poor education, disparity, population is growing and we cannot even tell the marginalized communities birth control because all these are shunned when talked about. So many people will come forward when it comes to protests but where do these same people go when there are regular problems like water crisis, controlling traffic, volunteering is not their business. Closer to elections there will be campaigns of women empowerment et al , they just seem to disappear in thin air when they can volunteer to learn and teach self defense. Why can’t they protest for potholes, better drainage system, better waste management, pollution control? We do not know any emergency protocols incase of fire, earthquakes or natural disasters. We are not taught first aid and CPR. Basic things need to be in place. And then add to this all the religious disparities. Instead of fighting in the name of Gods, deeds(karma and dharma) are most important principles to follow. Building temples, mosques won’t help, schools, hospitals, fire stations, emergency units, orphanages, homes for the elderly, will help more. Why don’t they come forward to help during the times when the public really needs them? Just felt like sharing my thoughts.

“Fair” chance

I want to confess something, even if I am “fair” according to Indian “standards”, I used to tell my dad to bring me Fairglow soap separately even if my family was using Hamam, I wanted Fairglow. My dad tried to explain to me how it affects nothing because skin color is in your genes, I was obsessed because of the constant bombarding on TV that you will only get a job , friends or a partner if you are fair 😣 I would hide from the sun, wear layers to preserve my skin color. I remember in school, we had biased groups based on skin color, I guess that is why I was never part of any group that was discriminatory because my best friend in school, college, at work all were dark skinned. It was a slow process for me to change my views on dark skinned people because I stopped judging them by color and started loving them for their personality. I wrote to Zee Tv in an email, after the serial launch of “Saat Phere” that I will not watch Zee tv anymore because of the plot of the serial. I was mad at them for potraying skin color as a weakness. After I got married to the one I love, I became colorblind for good. As a couple we are often teased, but honestly, I don’t mind, I am not offended because harassing and teasing are two different things, if I am harassed I will speak up but not if I am being teased. I laugh at it. Now I am not bothered to be tanned at all, I am definitely concerned for skin burns and will use sunscreen for the same reason but don’t go overboard as before to be fairer! So my first point is accept your colour and move on, life does not stop there. My second point is that stop getting offended for silly reasons. We get offended so easily these days, for being called fat, stupid, monkey, etc. unless the intention is to insult. Words like ‘bewakoof, veda(stupid) jaadu(fatty), lukdya(like a log) are offensive to us nowadays, why!? Because we have less self acceptance. I hope phrases like “fair chance”, “in all fairness”, “not fairly likely” etc have nothing to do with supremacy over colorism. Aren’t we all monkeys according the evolution theory!? Aren’t we stupid enough to judge on basis of skin color, caste and creed? Aren’t we always fat than some and thin than someone else!? If we accept ourselves as who we are, how does it matter what others think of us, they are just calling it out as it is, is my perspective. I used to get easily offended for each and everything and cry for no reason, I have learned to let go of things which do not make any changes to the fact of what really is and that is how I am better at letting things go. One day we had a “Black” guy who came to our apartment for pest control and I didn’t know how to explain to him when he asked to describe the person who did it before, I was so scared to offend him, so I asked him, “What would you call a person who looked like you!?” He answered with a stark look,”you mean a black guy” and I was surprised, I asked further “don’t you feel offended when someone addressses you by your color!?” and he asked me, “what would you call me!?” and I said nervously “African American?” and he replied blankly but proudly “but I am not African, I am an American and Black” “So it is okay for me to call you Black?” and he replied, “Yes for me personally, as long as you don’t say the ‘N’ word or anything that might offend me, color is much better and even better if you know my name.” So I learned two things that day, Color is not always offensive to everyone as long as they accept it themselves and allow people to accept it as well and the other thing I learned was Never be afraid to ask instead of jumping the gun, ask!

Where are we going?

Today, a colleague asked me, sorry I am generalizing an entire country but India is a rapist country what is wrong with the Indian men? I had my head hanging in shame, and I wished I could defend it and say not all Indian men are like that but honestly I cannot, not with the statistics. I used to before when I would say US is among the highest, based on the statistics but now I don’t want to defend, because I feel helpless and angry. It makes me wonder, where has India gone wrong!? Is it because all of us have so much of negativity about everyone and everything as Indians!? Or is it because of social media and overexposure to it? Or is it due to lack of laws of legalized prostitution, porn, or lack of sex education? Or all of this? Think about it, from the basics of civic sense to the most “modern” use of technology, do we just criticize each and everything that we have stopped looking at the good we have always had!?

I am not a teacher, I am not yet a parent and not a psychologist but I have imagination. Imagine a world where kids grow up knowing no violence, only love and respect. What can the repercussions be? Just imagine when they are growing up, they are scolded only for discipline but apologized to and explained the reason of doing so. In a world where they do not know what bullying is because no other kid knows what bullying is, they do not know what a slap is, they do not know what pushing shoving is because they are corrected by the parents and given attention when they need it the most, if you are going to say who has time for that, then look at where the problem is, you have excuses, you can make time, even in the trains, without pushing shoving they let others go with respect, can you imagine a world like this?  I know it is hard but not impossible if we start right now.

When I was growing up I remember I was admitted to a ‘Sanskar varga’ not because we were bad kids but it was like a traditional thing to do where they taught us to respect elders, wash our hands feet when we come home, light diya and thank God for today, touch our parents feet and ask blessings, respect food on our plate and all the morals. It changed soon after my father got a heart attack and mother had to step up and take charge of the household but as kids, we grew up like that respecting elders, neighbors, every man and woman, we did not distinguish between poor and rich and color and caste until the society made us think in a limited way. I remember my sister used to wander off as a kid in her little petticoat and the fruit vendor, the vegetable vendor, the laundryman used to bring her back with no sexual intent ever.It was only when we started to grow hormones, we started realizing a few changes in us, we started feeling the difference between touches and knew who to stay comfortable with and who to stay away from. We have had our own share of eve teasing and molestations in public places, mostly during Ganesh festivals and Jatra, but we have also handled them with whatever limited maturity we had. Our parents were open to communication and helped us to heal from those scars by always encouraging us to speak up, call for help or take action, always supporting us whenever we needed them to take care of such issues. We had male friends all the time and as long as our parents were informed they were always accepting. We always were touching and joking and hugging, sitting close to each other but as we grew up we were told, not by our parents but society even by the paanwalah to stop wearing shorts, sleeveless clothes, neighbors telling us to cross our legs when we sit even when we wore full pants, to not touch guys too often, to keep a distance. As a growing woman you have to be independent and I was always the over sensitive one. I could cry at the drop of a needle. I hardly understood the hints men gave be it in professional life or personal. Ignorance was bliss. Now I look at the vegetable vendors, fruit vendors and laundrymen with doubt, making sure I don’t open doors for marketing guys or strangers. If I had to share a cab to work I would be careful. All men were suddenly threatening. But growing up I never heard so many stories of assaults, it may have existed but not to the extent it is today. Or is it better today because people have been quiet about it for so long and with the boom in social media they can use the platform to bring those crimes out in the open, if that is true, what society are we?  Aren’t we the same civilization that pride on Khajuraho, the same people who have goddesses with clothes clinging to their bodies, then suddenly why is everything sexual? Even little babies? Why is everyone a hypocrite? The other day I was asked why are shorts not appropriate in your country which only expose legs while you can wear the most revealing body hugging cloth called saree which is basically a crop top that shows cleavage all the time and has the back and mid riff always open!? I was speechless. How do I explain!? What needs training? Ofcourse the mind and getting rid of the pervert mentality that grows within young men. If we are hammered with pleasing the other half especially a woman taking the center stage to always look good, stay fit, always be presentable, look fair, set impossible standards, to be dictated terms on what to wear, how to sit, how to eat, be pretentious and careful all the time of her social existence and bring other women down to pull herself up, we are bringing down an entire country to its feet! With training young minds to treat each other with dignity and equality we also need to look deep down within ourselves to be aware of our existence as humans with skin and bones who has a limited time on earth with some kind of purpose that we were born to accomplish and what can be the biggest purpose than to serve humanity, to be kind and respectful, to be generous and forgiving? I am learning and growing everyday to be a human first!

Weird dreams

This morning I woke up with such a sad face. I had a dream about my favorite celebrity who I have a major crush on. I saw him come to my school and give me his personal number, I was ecstatic and I remember how eager I was for school to get over so that I could call him. When finally I dialed his number, turns out it was some driver’s number. I felt so sad. I remember most of my dreams vividly like some 70mm movie.

When I was a kid, I used to think the earth is flat, not round,because we don’t fall.

When I was a toddler, my mother used to blackmail me into finishing my food, narrrating a scary story thaat there is an old woman who eats children who don’t eat their food, so if she sees food in your plate you will be gobbled up, turns out it was just thee cloudsI would get so scared of!

In my teenage years I have had a recurring dream for many years that I was a servant of Cleopatra and then I would visit a museum called the ‘Noah’s ark’ and then inside the museum were special bullets that I used to accidentally shoot Cleopatra. Then I’d wake up scared.

Ofcourse I have had the regular train missing, missing or not finishing exams, falling from the sky, type of dreams as well. I have had so many celebrities visit me in my dreams but I fondly remember the one where Westlife came to pick me up for their concert! There are so many interpretations of dreams, I wonder what they all mean!

They say if you change pillow covers frequently you don’t have dreams. I change mine every week, doesn’t help. Do you have weird dreams that you remember?

What’s in a name? What if the name is Indian?

I am in search of a job and I am sure a lot of recruiters might go through my resume wondering how to pronounce my name. Personally I have faced this problem, many people just can’t pronounce my name. Some people are cocky and just to sound confident they just butcher my name completely. Even English names for many people who do not know English are difficult. I also understand Chinese and African names can be tricky but Indian names are really not that tough. Most Indian names are derived from Hindu Gods and their characteristics. But there are many other religions in India that have different origins of names and what I like the best is most of them have meanings. But that post can be an intimidating one.
Here is an example of a South Indian Railway station Venkatanarasimharajuvaripeta, it is pretty long. At first glance you may not read it right, even Indians might struggle. So how would you pronounce it? The problem is finding the right breaks. In this case, I would break it down to Venk-ata-nara-sim-hara-ju-va-ri-peta
The easiest thing is to write them down and break it down with syllables. You may not get it exactly right but the effort makes all the difference. The ‘i’ sound most of the time is ‘e’. Sometimes there are combined consonants like in the name Vaishnavi, shna is a combination of sh and na. Same way you would pronounce Schnitzel (meat dish) or Schnauzer(dog breed)? In literal sense Schnapps or Schnitzel or Schnauzer is more difficult since you don’t even know if the c should be pronounced. In that case ideally it should be like schedule or Skay-dule in British, Sk-napps, Sk-nit-zel or Sk-nauzer but in American English pronounciation of Schedule is Shay-duel therefore the advantage.
Something to remember is the Aah sound. Most names will have Aah like the name Akash – Aah-kaah-sh not A-cash. Some names start with Uh sound like Avinash – Uh-vi-nash. Some names end with aa sounds like Manisha which will be pronounced Ma-ni-shaa. Let’s see some common names and break them down.
Vaishnavi – Vai-shna-vi (Vayee-shna-v)
Dhruv – Dhr-uv (Dhr as in Threw just adding ‘the’ sound instead and uv as in ‘of’)
Abhilasha -Abhi-la-shaa (Bh as in Buh+huh Bhuh like in the word abhor)
Poornima – Poor-ni-maa alternatively Pour-ni-maa the common mistake is Poo-rni-ma
Fatima – Faa-ti-maa
Abhishek – Abhi-shek(I know how this would go by the rules (Ab-hi-shek)
Ashwati – Aah-shwa-ti (schwa as in Schwarzenegger)
Akriti – Aah-kri-ti (kri as in Chris) or Uck-riti
Chaitrali – Chai-tra-li
Akshata – Uck-sha-taa
Radhika – Raa-thee-kaa
Priyanka – (Pri as in Prius) Pri-yank-aa
Sneha – (Sne as in snail) Sne-hal (hull)
Prajakta – Pra(remember aa) – jak(juck) -taa
Bhoumik – Bhou ( as in thou with a b) mik(as in Mick Jagger)

Shraddha – Shra-ddha (the closest word I found is a shredder replace the r sound with aa)

So the next time you come across an Indian name just try to break it down or just ask if you got it right, as long as you are close enough you will earn lifelong respect for sure. Namaste!

Signs you might be over 30…

I cried the day I turned 30 years old. On my birthday I literally shed tears of sadness that my "youth" was over and "mid life" started. I couldn't fathom why God had to do this to me. Yes you may be reminded of Joey from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Exactly that. I couldn't believe I am not in my twenties anymore, suddenly I felt like I cannot make any more mistakes in life, I have to be older and wiser, but jokes apart I felt these signs after I turned 30. In all honesty I do feel like a strong, fierce, independent woman from time to time but I also feel what some women may relate to the list below:

1) I started noticing I injured myself easily and recovery took a wee bit longer than it did in my twenties.
2) Meditation and Yoga attracted me more than 4 hours or more of dancing late night at pubs.
3 I preferred lounge music than rock because I could listen to hours of rock music before and suddenly my preference had changed to soft easy listening and couldn't tolerate rock for more than an hour. Sad but true!
4) I wanted to stay in more than I wanted to go out.
5) Health check ups felt like a priority.
6) I was making more responsible choices in life like smoothies over coke!
7) Sleep was knocking me out pretty early, I was no more a night owl.
8) I felt all the aches and pains and joints that I had never noticed before.
9) Lots of been there done that experiences when people suggested to try something new.
10) The choices in my clothes changed, my shorts were too short I felt! Damn you ageing genes.
11) Started noticing almost every married couple has a kid and a panic attack was on its way like some alarm just went off!
12) The immediate thought was So what, I will take my own time! It will happen when it has to! Surround sound claps in my head for that thought alone!
13) Everything that was a rush was turned a dial down and 'smooth' was the new way to take.
14) I started feeling full easily, earlier it seemed like a never ending appetite.
15) Wine was a new friend and vodka got dumped.
16) It was time to live for myself, Selfish was the new mantra.
17) Flats were welcome, heels bid goodbye.
18) Comfort was now a luxury.
19) No more screaming with excitement, shouting at puppies or babies, snorting while laughing, more conscious social behavior.
20) Nailpaints and lipsticks were easily tossed for newer neutral nuder shades.
21) Social media updates take longgggggg breaks.
22) Did I mention gray hair everywhere?
23) Too much time spent on weighing scale than exercising.
24) So many judgemental remarks comparing generations.
25) Limited girl gang. No more mosh pits full of girls everywhere, the more the better, no lesser the quieter, more manageable, lesser hassles.
26) Money slips easily out of hands.
27) Knowledge is favored over entertainment.
28) Lots of feminism talks/chats/opinions.
29) Lots and lots of opinions.
30) The best part is no more asking permissions, just doing it, ah the sense of liberation!

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