The Thrill of A Journey

Journeys are something that I often look forward to. I am not a traveller per se but on the rare occasions that I do travel, I really enjoy the experience and look forward in anticipation. I especially love traveling long distance by car or by train. Some people travel to exotic locations to unwind but for me the journey itself is a process of unwinding. As the date of travel approaches, I’m usually tingling with anticipation which is heightened on the day of travel. For me the anticipation itself is an exhilarating experience. It might sound silly but the moment I set foot in the compartment of a train, there is an adrenaline rush. It is an adventure in itself because I know where I’m going but I know not what the journey might entail.

As a kid, my annual vacations by default used to be to my native Kerala to visit my grandparents. I used to travel with my family in the Kanyakumari express which involved a total travel time of around 40 hours or so if the train was on schedule. The travel time further extended if there were delays on the way. The adults would complain about the travel time and since we travelled during summers, the heat used to be unbearable. But I would be oblivious to all that. Perched comfortably at a window seat, I would watch in fascination as the train hurtled through quaint little towns and villages. I would see people going about their daily lives, doing mundane chores, would see children playing in vast open fields and would lament the lack of open spaces in the place where I lived in Mumbai.

The scenery at night was sometimes terrifying. Empty spaces, not a single soul in sight and for some obnoxious reason I used to be filled with dread as to what would happen if I were to find myself all alone in no-man’s land. My parents would be busy either interacting with other fellow passengers or engaged in a game of cards. Soon it would be time for dinner and then retiring for the night….the best part. Sleeping on an upper birth was something of a novelty. It used to be a nice experience, falling asleep while the train rocked on its way to the destination. Traveling to Kerala was secondary, for me it was the journey that I sought. So much that, when our annual trips became less frequent after my grandparents passed away, I would still make it a point to embark on that trip just to experience the journey.

As I grew up and started traveling on my own, I no longer used stare out of the windows and see the cities rushing by. But, at this juncture I used to be either listening to some good music or would be unwinding with a cup of tea and a good book. But as I started traveling alone, I found that it had its own drawbacks. As a kid I was usually left alone but as an adult, it was quite irritating when people tried to strike up a conversation. I am a hard-core introvert by nature and have this huge defensive wall built around me. People could only get through if I wanted them to and believe me, such occasions were very rare. So, it was exasperating when a person in the opposite seat tried to engage me in a small talk. In such situations I would only respond in monosyllables and the other person eventually realized that I was not interested in small talk. There has been an instance when a guy started ridiculing me that I was hooked to my Disc-man (yeah, sounds cumbersome now) and would not talk.

Anyway, I have travelled extensively by road in the northern region of India, mostly to Punjab. Punjab is another place that I have seen apart from Kerala which has a lush green cover. Driving through the roads in Punjab is actually a rejuvenating experience because as far as your eyes can see, you only see green. However, travelling inside the city might present a different picture altogether….another concrete jungle with narrow lanes and congested roads. Traveling by road to Mussoorie in Uttarakhand from Delhi was a journey worth remembering. The journey becomes really picturesque when you commence the climb to reach the top of the hill station. The opulent valley of green is like a heaven on earth and nestled between them would be tiny houses with little brooks and streams running adjacently. The beauty of traveling long distance by car is that you are your own master. You are at liberty to pause and take a break in the journey whenever you feel like or if you are too tired to drive.

So, what is your take? Do you, like me, travel for the journey or are you more of a destination person? Does a forthcoming journey fill you with dread or do you actually look forward to it? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Guest Blogger Sachit Pillai

Why Do We Fall?

Growing up, poetry fascinated me. Mostly because I found it rather hard to grasp the undertones that most poetry is built upon. However, as I grew older, poetry just became a part of me and a part of what I do. Almost all of my writing involves poetry in some form and here is one that I did recently.

Tough times keep coming and going in all our lives, in some form or another. If anything is a constant in life, it the tough times and how we get over it. Cyclical almost. Here is my small take on why we fall, and the whole roller coaster of it all.

Why do we fall?
What is earth and life?
Are we not just someone else's plan?
Just someone else's for the taking?
Why do we fall some more?
If nothing is ever what it seems,
Why make something of anything at all?
Falling and falling,
Strange that its all we seem to do,
Rolling on, tumbling down,
Rolling some more,
Tumbling again.
If only more points were thought of as pointless
And the waves just left to crash,
Maybe, just maybe,
We could just get to the point and fall no more.
Why fall at all?

Strange as this life may seem, it is mostly what we do right? Fall and then get right back up!

…And Hope For The Best

This past year has been trying for me to say the very least. But as it happens, life does go on. For those of you reading my posts, you would have by now realized that with every piece I have written I have grown stronger and possibly bolder with all that I have chosen to share. Writing this blog, has been cathartic and yet I have not been able to write for sometime now. I could say that life has gotten busy (and it has), although, not busy enough that I could not write at all. To be perfectly honest, my writing also demanded that I take some time to heal, especially after every instance that I chose to open up.

But, here we are again.

What is a trial really? 
Is it that we try hard or not at all?
Or would it mean that situations try us? 
But, isn’t it mostly that trying situations make us try harder? Or not try hard enough?  

Trials and tribulations come and go, 
Just like happiness and peace does. 

Are we ever really, truly at peace? 
Or are we forever sad? 

Struggle builds character, 
Struggle defines one, 
But doesn’t it seem like we are struggling always? 

Struggling to be at peace, 
Struggling to feel, 
Struggling to understand, 
Struggling to cope? 

Let’s not get carried away though, 
Some things are easy. 
Pain comes easily, 
So do the tears. 

Smiles are harder and rarer,
And if easy, rarely real. 

Hope is omnipresent though, 
Forever just there, 
Always up for grabs 
And at times, a desperate need. 

Try and try is seemingly all we do, 
Try to smile, 
Try to cope,

Try to ease the pain, 
Try to hope. 

What more is there? 
Love, of course. 
Love, so entwined in all of these at once, 
Peace, happiness, pain, struggle and hope. 

So much for love. 
Love is everything or nothing.

Trials and trials we face, 
So much of it we lose,
So few we win. 

True happiness we may never find, 
Or ever be fully at peace. 

But let hope give you hope. 
For trials are just trials.
They come, and they go.

And so it would seem, I have almost healed; just like that. Makes one wonder doesn’t it?

But, what I have learned is that every trial is but a speed breaker, that forces us to slow down, reflect, clear the bump smoothly and continue on!

StayWithMe through 2020.

In Times Like These…

Being pregnant is a beautiful experience. For those of you who follow my blog and have read my pregnancy posts, I have described in some detail what it all feels like. But, what is life after pregnancy really like? Well, it is of course quite different for different people for sure. This is my own, very personal experience.

Going into Labour

That particular morning, I woke up with a start knowing something was about to happen. Sure enough, my water broke I went into labour at about 4:30 am. And there started the crazy roller coaster ride my husband and I went through over the  next 24 hours. In all my excitement, I went knocking on my mother’s (she was staying with me to help with the pregnancy and prepare for the baby) door and yelled for her to wake up. I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait for my husband and mom to get ready to take me to the hospital. En route, I was excitedly chatting with my mum and asking her what it would be like after the baby arrives. Needless, to say my husband was also pretty excited. So we finally get there and we realise that my medical file was left neatly on my work table at home, by me naturally (I was so excited that I forgot the one thing my husband put me in charge of!).

But all was forgiven and my husband headed back home to get the file, while my mom took me to the gynaecology ward. I was super excited (an understatement), not just for the arrival of the baby but also because I have never really been admitted in a hospital before (a weird fascination I suppose). I have been a caregiver for my parents when they needed it, but have never really been admitted. Every single aspect of going into labour was a joyride for me.

When my husband returned, at around 6 am on a Friday, we set about to calling our close friends and family.. Every call was a happy one while we annouced that I was in labour and expecting a child shortly. What I won’t forget is how excited my co-sister sounded even though I had just woken her up that early. Until that point, I don’t think my husband and I realised how much my brother-in-law (his brother) and my co-sister were rooting for us (for we live across town from each other; we rarely meet). They made my day.

The hours pass on…

And so it went, induction of labor pain and the mild contractions that started soon after, the doctor visiting me every few hours or so. Through all this time, I was pretty relaxed in my hospital bed and my hospital gown (awfully uncomfortable to wear, actually) and couldn’t wait to meet my daughter or son soon. And suddenly, I was walked to the labor room and it was time.

And then it happened…

I wont get into the nitty-gritty of labor pain, because it is truly beyond imaginable. But, after quite a struggle, we had a baby boy. While I was mildly disoriented, I won’t ever forget the little sounds my son made and the very first sight of him after the nurses cleaned him up. I also vividly remember the joy in my husband’s voice (and he was with me throughout).  And I still hear all this in my dreams sometimes.

The next thing I remember is standing in NICU while my dear baby was hooked to all sorts of monitors and being examined by a throng of specialists. I distinctively also remember my husband beside me, in so much emotional pain and he realised (being a practicing surgeon), faster than me, what was really happening. Considering that I had just given birth, I was asked to leave the NICU and rest. I refused to go of course, but, I had to. I settled into a chair right outside, and started praying (for those of you who know me, know that I rarely pray, if ever at all). I have never clung on to hope like I did that night. With the beeping monitors as my backdrop, the tears eventually started. We knew what was to follow.

As I sat there waiting, a nurse came and sat quietly next to me. I don’t know why she did that, because she wasn’t a part of the NICU staff, but she just did. She sat there, saw my tears and held my hand. She had absolutely no idea why I was crying or that I had just come out of labor. But, she sat there. Silent tears gave way to hysterical crying and she stood and she held me for god knows how long. She didn’t ask a single question. I still don’t know her name or what department she worked in. But I owe her.

Eventually, my husband pushed me to go back to the ward and rest. My mom and I after a lot of protesting did just that. Within a few minutes of reaching the ward (I couldn’t walk very fast), my husband called us. It was over. If ever I have heard my husband cry, that was it. Over the phone. It was then 12 am, about 20 hours after my water broke.

The next few hours went by in a blur. We were in shock, and I was torn, watching my mom, my husband and my son.

The calm after the storm…

Calm. Not peace, but a quite, almost sinister calm came over me. I don’t know why, but I was suddenly clear, confident and taking care of people around me. It was weird. Little did I know that it just meant something broke inside me that day. And it was irreparable. It still is.

Times like these…

It is always in times like these that you notice the people around you. The people that have stayed, the people that rush (yes, rush; like it happened to them), the people that continue to care. I won’t ever forget my brother-in-law and my co-sister mourning and crying like they had lost their own; I guess in a way they did too, nor will I ever forget my cousin (brother), who rushed as soon as he heard and accompanied my husband through what had to be his toughest journey yet.

Losing a child at any stage in your life, be it a miscarriage or a loss like ours, a few hours after birth, is an indescribable feeling. It numbs you, it shatters you, it changes you, almost kills you, but eventually makes you stronger.

 Pranav, my baby, where ever your beautiful soul is, we love you.  

Abstract Conversations- A Little of Everything and Nothing

Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative

Oscar Wilde

I, like Mr. Wilde, believe that conversation by itself should go far beyond the talk of weather, in the sense that we use the weather as an ice-breaker maybe. Fortunately for me, I have come across so few of these types of people who resort to the talk of weather (more like an excuse for real conversation). This maybe partly because I am introverted and avoid speaking too much to someone unless specifically asked something or if we have common interests.

More recently, I had the pleasure of spending some time with one of my favorite aunts (who resides overseas, so such chances are few really). Considering that I am a child to her and that she has watched me grow up, this point in my adult life has seemed the most appropriate for us have deep, thought-stimulating, and intellectual conversation.

I have at some point always known that I associate with this aunt of mine the best (hence, my favorite!), among all the other close family members. Coming back to our recent catch-up, there were several things that I learned and took away endearingly from the conversation (yes, one conversation, that ran for several hours, with a few mundane breaks along the way).

As this is a story told, let me introduce you to my aunt first. She is a biologist who taught biology (genetics more accurately) for several years abroad and is also an enthusiastic researcher. That apart, she is one of the most avid readers I have ever come across (enough said, I suppose) which gives her that unique outlook on life and all other things we deal with every day.  

I hold avid readers in the highest regard, simply because there is a multitude of perspectives you gain with every book you have ever read. Also, it familiarizes you with current concepts and gives you an edge in most topics that form good conversation. Readers are simply underrated in the kind of information they gather and hold (but, this is another issue for another day!).

And thus, began our conversation, starting with the books we are currently reading, to what Kindle subscriptions we have, what kind of books we borrow in Kindle and so on. The conversation took a pleasant turn into ground realities. Talking of recent pain in my life, we started to discuss how the world works. More, accurately, how the world is programmed to work. A very interesting perspective from my aunt were about leaders and followers. Leaders, she says are those that can automatically question any limit put across and possibly find ways to beat it or better it. Followers on the other hand are those that do not engage on that level, but rather are content with accepting what is given to them. This thread of conversation then led to a discussion of how we are programmed genetically. Leaders and followers are the way they are mainly due to their genetic make-up. Certain gene combinations may tend to categorize our place in the world. Now, I have never really thought this way before and the information given to me was simply mind-blowing. But having said that, for the sake of argument, there is another popular train of thought which states that ‘leaders are not born, they are groomed’ rather. Though I did want to discuss further on it, we found ourselves drifting to another interesting conversation.   

To tread lightly here, we discussed the existence of a higher power. Her opinion once more surprised me, in that we almost think alike (her opinion is better thought out than mine is). The very semblance of religion we have, and the existence of a higher power may be a psychological exercise for minds who need the idea of someone guiding them (like followers) and for those who question those very boundaries it may be merely an exhaustive tool that makes little sense (like leaders).  Though my opinion was loosely along the same lines of questioning the very existence (I mean no offense, and this is just my opinion/view), speaking to my aunt really gave me a deeper understanding of how the universe works really and what we all are in this seemingly infinite realm. I, for one, use religion or rather the rituals of religion as a semblance of familiarity. In the sense that I was brought up is a slightly orthodox household where rituals formed a very important part of our routine. Through my more challenging times, revisiting those rituals (imbibing them into my routine) because they remind me of my childhood (a simpler, carefree time), restores my sanity to some extent. Going back to what is most familiar to you, can do that for you. However, this does not stop me from keeping up with the times or adding logic and science to the ideologies I have been taught. My aunt says, the minute the word belief is used, it would mean that there is no room for other points of view. Now, this I am inclined to agree. What do you think?

I have known my aunt all my life, but the like-mindedness in how we think was a real eye-opener in this visit. Considering that there is a large generation gap between us, our wavelengths were perfectly in sync. These bits of conversation made me aspire to be an exceptional conversationalist like she is, one day (maybe someday, if I ever can reach that standard).

On a more mundane aspect, I got the best recipes for a very simple, yet tasty rasam (the best I have ever had, besides my mom’s Mysore rasam!) and an egg curry my husband simply loved (a harsh critic as far as my cooking is concerned). Well, aunts I guess! Making you a better person, is what they do best. I wish to one day be a similar aunt to my nephew as my favorite aunt is to me now!

Jayanthi Perima, this one’s for you, and to the deep impact you have always had on my personality, both now and over the years.

Conversation should touch everything but should concentrate itself on nothing.

Oscar Wilde

Remember the Time… Of Memories Past.

Memories, funny things these can be. You never know if an incident or just a chance occurrence will be etched in the deep recesses of your mind as a memory forever, or whether it will get discarded as soon as it occurs. Fast forward into the future, you look back and you are in awe. In awe that these moments are truly yours to treasure and in awe that they have a soul-stirring effect on you. Looking back on my life thus far, I definitely have a truckload of memories. Out of these, there are many that have stayed with me unwittingly.

A thought unforgotten…

On a sunny yet pleasant autumn day in Bangalore (it can get picturesque), my friend and I sat rooted in my car, catching up.. We had met up after a while and there was lots to share. After the usual was over, we just sat there in comfortable silence. I may not remember her exact words or what we did really, but I remember her presence. I remember thinking that these are the kind of friendships worth having. Something about the friendship lingered and stayed with me. But, I never really thought that this would stick in my memory forever. Looking back now, there was nothing unusual about that meeting. It was just two friends catching up (I don’t even remember what we talked about!). But yet, it stayed in my mind all these years. So, I guess memories are more than just the fun and laughter. I think the secret to making these memories is that we stop trying to make them. In this instance, we were just being ourselves, and in the moment really. It was not forced, we were not scrambling to capture it in any form, nor was I aware that it will stay with me years later. Those are the best kind of memories if you ask me.

Fun and frolic long forgotten…

There are, of course, memories tucked away in your mind and mostly long forgotten… until something comes along to jog that memory. It could be photo albums, trinkets you find that you may have safely stored, but thought lost, situations that take you back and so on. For me, every time I visit my mother and the house I grew up in, I am reminded of memories locked away in the corners of my mind. My favourite activity is looking through photographs from the albums (yes, I come from that era and yes, holding them feels amazing). Every time I do, I am reminded of some fun time from my childhood that gets me going. I know that in general, childhood for everyone is often the most unforgettable, but, do we really remember very specific instances anymore?

As a memory keepsake my mother gave me my dad’s favourite bureau (those oh-so-famous Godrej ones) when I got married. It is one of my most priced possessions thus far, to the extent that I have retained all of the blemishes collected over the years; well, almost anyway. I recently got a broken handle fixed. Way back when, my sister and I were fond of playing ball in our parents’bedroom (mainly to sass our parents because it was banned). One such time, in all this fun, I threw the ball so hard that my sister jumped out the way and the ball happened to hit this bureau. The door dented in a little and the handle broke. Well, so much more than the handle broke that day, it was all hell too! I played innocent (of course!) and pointed fingers at my sister (between us, I was the bully!). Sadly, that did not stop my parents from going completely ballistic with their punishment for me. I can still hear my mother screaming at me like it was yesterday. I am pretty sure the neighbourhood does too.

So, the day I got this handle fixed, I was both in splits and in tears, all at the same time. It has been at least two decades, if not more and I use this bureau everyday. Yet, it was only when the handle was replaced, that this memory was stirred. Associative memories can often catch you off guard and set you off on a wonderful trip of mixed feelings. What’s not to love?But when such associative memories take you back in time, it would be nice to pause, look back, and relive that experience.

Experiences with Time

For those you who have been keeping up with my blog, you probably know a lot of the important phases of my life- the good times and not-so-good ones. I have come to learn that in the future you will associate these experiences to specific times of your life. Your memories are really what quantify your time here. I have hit rock bottom more times than I care to count, (yes, I am not that old… and yes there is much more to life!) but, I know now that I derive my strength to live my life on my terms from these memories; good and the not-so-good. Moments, hours, days, months and years… just rolling on by.

In the now…

Alone in thought,
By the gentle breeze of the country side,
Filled with the melodies of life,
Of the past so seemingly lost,
Yet found again,
In the trees that wave me past,
Meandering through the light of the night,
An endless rhythm that taps the soul,
A sense of having lived through the days of today ,
In the days gone by,
And in the days yet to come,
A beautiful sway of the heart,
To the hum of an idyllic engine,
Moved again by a gentle breeze that courses through your veins,
While I ponder on,
Alone in thought,
Of glorious days past.

Pregnancy- A Life Grows

After an eventful and exciting first trimester, my transition to the second thus began. The second trimester is roughly the fourth, fifth and sixth month of pregnancy, in case you as first time mommy’s to be are confused about the whole trimester thing. Having lived the experience, I have now come to realise that the second trimester is by far the best! I say this because I had the most fun during this period. But be prepared to be overwhelmed, because some first-time experiences were quite awe-inspiring and most certainly unforgettable in this lifetime!

As the Trimester Begins…

Entering into your fourth month, you now are out of the delicate period of the first trimester and starting to show just a little bit. You don’t really gain weight in the first trimester, but all that changes here. One day I suddenly started to feel like was carrying a bag of water in my belly and more importantly I started to show! It was more than exciting and I did spend some time admiring my growing baby (and belly!). A month or so into this period, I slowly started to feel flutters in my tummy, the kind that makes you feel like you have butterflies in there. At first, I did not know what it was and carried on as usual, but, as the flutters started to get intense I realised what it was. It was my baby moving around! Though it was too soon for my husband to feel it externally, he would still place his hand on my tummy hoping to catch even a tiny move. Magical does not begin to describe what we felt.

What Comes After?

At around the same time, we were scheduled for our second ultrasound scan to check for anomalies in the baby. If you are a first time mom like me, then you would tend to go into this scan a bit apprehensively. While my mind was working overtime during the scan, I remember the doctor turning the monitor toward me and showing me my little sweet pea, slightly moving around in my tummy. It wasn’t just that though, we also heard our baby’s heartbeat for the first time since I got pregnant! Our hearts most literally skipped a beat just then. But accompanying this excitement was disbelief and awe. We just couldn’t believe that we made this living being that was growing inside me with it’s own heartbeat. I cried that day too.

Other Stuff You Feel…

With all these big changes, come changes in your body also. This starts with weight gain. Don’t be alarmed with a steady weight gain that you will see through this trimester and into the next. Taking cue from you, your baby also almost doubles in weight at this time. With my weight gain came heartburn too. Anything I ate caused heartburn at this stage and more noticeably at night. I would sometimes wake up crying in the middle of the night from severe heartburn and would then throw up. After this happened a few times, I was told that drinking milk before sleeping can ease some heart burn at night. I also tried light second trimester yoga. It worked wonders for me!

At this time, you would experience an improvement in your sleep patterns (I know I slept fitfully, except for when I had heartburn issues), and your fatigue may also be reduced.  You may have the most energy during this trimester. This is also a time when my body naturally could only rest when I slept on my sides. Remember that carrying a water bag feeling? Lying on my back just made me uncomfortable and lying on my side meant using more pillows for my tummy and legs. Though concerned at the beginning, my doctor assured me that this was normal and even insisted that lying on my left side was better for the baby (I could also feel more movement this way). So, there you go!

Are You Ready for Your Babymoon?

For us, this pregnancy was the greatest birthday gift we could ask for (my husband and I are a month apart), especially since we had planned for this pregnancy in every possible way. It was sheer coincidence that our birthdays occurred through this trimester. So, we decided that it was a triple celebration and planned our babymoon. We didn’t go far (as travelling long distance was a bit uncomfortable; another joy of pregnancy!) and opted to spend a weekend at a beach resort. As a couple, it was honestly the best vacation we had ever taken considering that we also had our baby on the way. Though early, we started talking to our baby on this trip. I remember staring out to sea and just gently rubbing my baby bump as I spoke softly and explained what I saw to my baby. It was even a rainy weekend at the beach for us, which made it all abundantly more beautiful. However, planning for the babymoon wasn’t all roses, because you do have the heartburn issue which may make eating outside a bit challenging. Also, I still had some remnants of my morning sickness well into my second trimester and also had major hunger pangs throughout the day irrespective of the meal I had. But, the good news is, if you are driving to your destination, you can stop as and when you please along the way and also pack some of your favourite snacks to keep nausea and hunger at bay. The key to a great babymoon, as I discovered, was in how comfortable your travel is. And, once you get there… it is sheer bliss.

The second trimester is definitely more intense than the first, in terms of how much of your baby you actually start to feel. But, emotionally, it can also trigger some pretty strong feelings. You could start to feel like maybe you haven’t planned enough for parenthood or the type of parents you are going to be. Rest assured that these feelings are natural and you have nothing to feel guilty for! Especially since your pregnancy is about to reach its crescendo with the last trimester. Here, you feel every move, every kick, every hiccup (oh yes!) and so much more as you prepare for the magic of child birth. Are you prepared for this final phase?