A Wedding Is An Event…A Marriage Is A Lifetime! #ShiSaidKash

A month ago, my older daughter Urvashi married Akash. He is not only the man of her dreams, he is also the son in law of my dreams!

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The friendship that started almost five years ago, went through romance/no romance, should we/should we not and finally they tied the proverbial knot last month. It was a dream come true for both of them and for both sets of parents, once we got to know each other.

Once the engagement was over and we decided on the wedding date, everyone started asking me, “what kind of a wedding will this be?” I smiled and told everyone who asked, “2 states wedding, giving everyone a chance to witness different events as part of the ceremonies itself.”

For any mother, planning & implementing everything single handed can give her sleepless nights. Initially, I went through the same. The biggest question in my head was – Will I be able to manage? From funds to shopping, to catering to decor to managing the groom’s side of the family and our family too. I am not going to say friends and family here, for everyone who was part of the wedding was family for us. Thank God for two

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daughters who took to planning in a big way and making checklists, drawing up vendor names, talking to various people to get information, making trips to Chickpet, Commercial Street, Jayanagar (for the uninitiated, these are markets in Bangalore) to gather more information. There were times I felt I had two mothers and mothers in law simultaneously at home! On a serious note, without Urvashi’s organised thinking and Urmila’s practical approach to making things happen, I would not have been able to give Urvashi the wedding she wanted. I will take this opportunity to thank both my girls wholeheartedly.

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For all those planning weddings in their families, here is one input from me – allow the youngsters to be involved. They will come out with flying colours when they know someone trusts them with such a huge responsibility. Very often, the more experienced family members (I am not saying old) tend to get a little impatient with the younger lot and have a classic reaction, “You don’t know about these rituals, preparation etc…we grown ups will handle it.” My point is if the youngsters aren’t given the responsibility, how will they learn? Allow them to make a mistake or two…those can be corrected. After all, the experienced of the senior family members comes in handy…to forewarn the youngsters of the pitfalls.

Month of February started with the basics like – wedding planner or no, how do we co-ordinate with the numerous vendors, what kind of a venue, indoors/outdoors, and the works. The one thing that we decided was to have a wedding planner who will work with us to deliver everything on the two most important days. Urvashi & Urmila asked me to download an app called WedMeGood (www.wedmegood.com). This was Godsend as it helped me to understand what the girls and Akash were looking for during the wedding itself. Ideas were shared, lists drawn up and references sought on the app. And we shortlisted a few wedding planners, caterers and wrote down names of all possible wedding venues in Bangalore.

Venue Hunting

On a Sunday morning, we three musketeers set out to finalise the wedding venue. The girls had already done a recce and had a few names down in the diary. Every venue we visited, including the hotels fell short of what we had in mind about how the entire event will be conducted. And somehow, we were not ready to compromise…yet. At about 3.30 PM, after 7 hotels and a couple of resorts, I opened the WedMeGood app and went through the venue list. Both Urvashi & I hit upon Miraya Greens at the same time. I called a number given and spoke to a Mr Deepak Mishra, who invited me to the take a look at the place immediately. After fixing the time with him, we drove over.

Miraya Greens

All three of us fell in love with Miraya as soon we entered the gates. The greenery was beautiful, the driveway gave us a feel of how luxurious the property was. We met Mr Mishra, Lohith and Raj Kishore. All three of them were so hospitable and put us at ease straight away. Mr Mishra’s words were, “Uma ji, you have come to see Miraya. Take a look leisurely. Lohith will accompany you and show the whole place. We can then discuss everything based on your experience.”

Lohith conducted us around in the most detailed manner and I kept praying that my

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budget allowed me to host the wedding in this haven. The icing on the cake was when we saw the accommodation. Urvashi, Urmila & I just looked at each other with a silent agreement showing in our eyes. Subsequently, over a cup of tea with Mr Mishra, I discussed the modalities and he said to me something which I will not forget ever in my life, “Uma ji, you are conducting your first daughter’s wedding. If you decide on Miraya, it means that we are the ladakiwalas (from the bride’s side). We will ensure you get all the support from us and Urvashi will have the wedding of her dreams here.” Thank you Deepak ji. That put my mind at ease and we agreed to host the wedding in Miraya.

There are numerous aspects that make a venue hugely successful & popular. Miraya has all those aspects. Wonderful hospitality, beautifully maintained rooms, gardens & lawns, waterfall & swimming pool and the best of all in a city like Bangalore – ample parking space for 800 + vehicles! I would definitely rate them at the top in wedding venues of Bangalore.

Avenues Wedding Hospitality Services

For any event to be successful, you must have a team that will make it possible. Earlier generations had family members who could take time off and come to help and contribute towards wedding preparations. Today, we do not have that luxury. So, in steps

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the wedding planner, who becomes part of your family so much that you end up wondering how did I think of surviving without these guys? Nazia & Yassir of Avenues Hospitality Services became those family members for us who understood us from the word go.

How did we discover them? Again WedMeGood came to our rescue. We had met a few wedding planners before but just did not get the vibes with anyone. When we met Nazia & Yassir there was no looking back. Their understanding of what we wanted, their concern about our budget, suggestions and alternate ideas to fit in our budget and just unconditional & empathetic support whenever we raised a concern, all these endeared them to us. Their level of efficiency to handle changes, requests and last minute developments is tremendous & very very professional. Not once did I hear them crib or complain or stop smiling. I am sure they must have gone through enough heart burn in the back end. However, as true family members and thorough professionals, they ensured Urvashi & Akash had the wedding of their dreams! Thank you once again Nazia & Yassir and kudos to your team!

The Creative Kitchen

Oscar Wilde said, “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” This quote resonates in my head every time I think about Vishal Gupta, our caterer or “anna daata” as we say in India. At Miraya Greens we got the reference of The Creative Kitchen and we met Vishal. In our first meeting, when he understood the two state wedding concept, he made me smile with one statement, “Ma’am, don’t worry. I am a baniya also and we will have two ingredients to add to the food we serve. Tashan & Khaatirdari – style and hospitality”. I knew I could leave food & feeding to his capable hands. Vishal & Shweta, his lovely wife, who is the backbone of The Creative Kitchen, also turned out to be related to the Mittal family. That was the icing on the cake.

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Vishal’s efficiency & professionalism came to the fore on the day of the wedding. We had great weather during the day and exactly when Urvashi & Akash exchanged the Jaimala, the heavens opened up and it poured! Never had I experienced rains like that in Bangalore for a long time. We got busy getting things reorganised in the mandap and the staff at Miraya Greens brought out umbrellas to cater to all the guests who were there…that itself was a miracle! Miraya did wonders to get everyone under a roof. Vishal added to that miracle by shifting the entire catering indoors within 15 minutes and some 300 plus people were comfortably floating around continuing their snacks & dinner. Vishal & Shweta, you guys were brilliant in handling everything and not once did I worry about the how, what & when of the food being served. Thank you once again!

The Family

Ever since the wedding, numerous people have been calling and sharing with me how much they enjoyed attending the ceremonies. One common thread in all those conversations is this – “Uma, hats off to your family for taking care of all of us. The way everyone was involved in all the things, young & old looking after us, ever smiling and warm…loved every bit of it.”

For that wonderful family of mine – my parents, brother & sister in law, uncles & aunts, cousins & their spouses, nieces & nephews and the grandchildren too – I am forever grateful for all the support you have given. This big fat Indian wedding would not have been possible without all of you doing what you did – rolling up your sleeves and chipping in. Thank you!

I also want to share with my daughter, Urvashi & son in law, Akash (there is a nice ring to that) while the wedding is an important event, it is your marriage that is an entire lifetime. Everyone who was part of those three days have blessed you both not only on your wedding day; their blessings are for your marriage, which is like salsa dancing.

So, go on, build your rhythm and pace and find your footsteps…twirl away into a life filled with more sunshine, less rain, even lesser storms, flowers and blooms bringing you happiness all the way!

#ShiSaidKash

Manohar Parrikar – Till We Meet Again

I was curious and excited to attend the Make In India – Defence Manufacturing Conclave in Hyderabad in February 2015 for two reasons. One, because it was hosted by the think tank I am part of and two, I was going to get an opportunity to hear India’s Raksha Mantri, Manohar Parrikar.

The conclave proved to be a different one altogether. For the first time, I saw a Defence Minister sit among the audience, attentively listen to all the speakers, make notes and ask questions. I was introduced to him in my capacity as an office bearer of an Ex Service Men (ESM) organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Poorva Sainik Seva Parishad (ABPSSP) and also as an entrepreneur. We exchanged a few pleasantries and I told him that I would like to brief him about our activities for Veterans & their families, from time to time. He said he would be in touch and that was that.

I initially thought that he would restrict his meetings to the President & Secretary of ABPSSP to get regular briefings about ESM welfare and certain critical issues pertaining to OROP, which had become an agitation at Jantar Mantar at that time. Imagine my surprise, when one day I get a call from him, asking me when I would be in Delhi next and could I meet him! It was a jaw drop moment for me.

I made a trip to Delhi from Bangalore to meet him and shared an update about skill building for veterans and their families through ABPSSP. He asked incisive questions about how many actually benefit in terms of employment, self employment, what kind of opportunities are presented by the corporates. I answered his questions with data and he smiled & said, “I like the fact that you are stating numbers.” Thus, began our work towards the welfare of the ESM community. During the course of our association, he once remarked, “I appreciate your never say die spirit and I hope you continue to be Jhansi ki Rani, fighting for causes you believe in so strongly.”

From then on, our meetings became regular and he always had questions & suggestions. He asked me if I travelled to different states to meet the ESM & their families and I said, “Yes Sir, I do. We have adopted a few places, especially villages where our bravehearts come from and we are now focusing on developing them as Adarsh Graam under the Veer Sainik Graam Yojana project of ABPSSP.” He helped us a lot in approaching the local authorities & state governments in Jharkhand, Odisha & Chhattisgarh.

My trips to Delhi became more frequent as my daughter moved back to the capital from UK. I could now ask for frequent meetings which I did for purely selfish reasons – I got to learn so much from Manohar Parrikar. He became this mentor, elder bother and friend all rolled into one and the more I got to know him, the more fascinated I was by his memory, sharp grasp of complexities and result oriented approach that saw many a change in the Ministry of Defence. I discovered the humane side of Mr Parrikar. His quiet visits to families of martyred soldiers, action towards their problems that were stuck in the bureaucratic labyrinth of the Ministry, ensuring quick decisions were implemented & cross verification of the same, his simple approach when he interacted and easy manner of communication, are all traits that made him differently unique in the world of politics. When he decided to work with you, he did with complete trust. No halfway measures for him.

During one of our conversations, I requested him that he must come home during my stay in Delhi. He said,”Let’s talk when you land in Delhi.” He gave me a second jaw drop moment when one evening, he announced that he is coming over for some simple “ghar ka khana”, chilled beer & masala peanuts. It was an evening to remember with my parents, daughter and a couple of close friends with whom he was also familiar. My daughter told him, “Uncle, I thought as Defence Minister you will have guards surrounding you, black cat commandos will come home and do a thorough check of our place, something like a James Bond movie.” He laughed heartily and said, “I am not James Bond and I am coming to meet a friend and the family. Why would I need security to surround me?” That was Manohar Parrikar for you.

I was extremely hassled when he had to go back to Goa as Chief Minister and felt (countless others also would have felt the same) that we were losing a Defence Minister to gain a Chief Minister. He very patiently explained why it was necessary for him to go back to Goa. The last meal we had together at his Delhi residence where he asked me if I had read Robert Greene and I said, “I have read one book of his – The 48 Laws of Power.” He gave me a copy of 33 Strategies of War and said, “Read this. You will understand much more about power & politics.”

He was very happy when I wrote to him about getting my book of poems published in August 2017 and called to tell me that he wanted an autographed copy. I told him only if he gives me sometime when I came to Goa. So, when I did make that visit to Goa, he did spend an hour, despite an unimaginably busy schedule. His personal secretary, Upendra Joshi, remarked that “It is amazing how Sir makes time for everything.” That was how Manohar Parrikar built relationships – he gave people time & listened to them. Subsequently, when he read the book, he called again to congratulate me on the poems I had written about soldiers.

Very recently I messaged him about my daughter getting engaged and invited him for the engagement. He declined stating health does not permit him to travel, but, if he got better, he would try to make it for the wedding.

Now, that is not going to happen. The void you have left, Manohar Dada cannot be filled. A deep felt gratitude to the Almighty for having given me the opportunity to get to know you and work with you for a while.

God speed and rest in peace. Till we meet again.


Cancer took my inspiration, guide & friend away, don’t you see?
Time was a ticking bomb thrust decisively.
If cancer had any idea what beauty lay within your soul,
I can promise it would have seen the glow.

Silence began moments ago,
When a voice said its time to let go.

Even though you are gone now,
Your memory will always remain in our hearts.
Your smile and face will never fade.
We will think of you as we go on each day.

The good times we remember
And the days spent together, will be in our memories forever.

When I sat down to watch the TV tonight,
And I started to cry…
I thought of your strength & then your pain
And asked Lord Almighty why?

I’ll just leave it at that and know you’re in a better place.
Your heart is right with God.

So, Manohar Dada we love you & we will miss you so much.
I also know you are at peace today.
So watch over us and make sure we’re okay.
And I will see you again someday.

A Promise To Stand By…

I ended my 2018 by watching Nathicharami on 31st December. It was one of the best things I did on new year’s eve. 

I must admit, the desire to see the movie was because I heard the music before and Nathicharamiloved  every bit of it. Then I saw the official trailer and my curiosity was piqued. I do not know of other Kannada directors having explored the subject of what two young Indian women go through in a particular phase in their lives. I saw the movie & spoke to some friends who had seen it. Most of them emphasised on the theme as “awakened sexuality of the young widow”. I beg to differ here. 

To me, the entire experience was going through Gowri’s journey after she becomes a widow. It is about how she battles loneliness, sleepless nights, parents who pressurise her to get married again (perhaps for the wrong reasons), a predatory boss and her own desires that make her feel guilty. Salvation comes in the form of two office colleagues & friends who help her with a dating app and connect her to Dr Carvalho, the psychiatrist. He helps her peel the layers of her emotions, and, deal with the mental conflicts. Loved his metaphors and one liners!

A parallel story unfolds with Suma, an educated woman from a village, yearning for her husband, Suresh’s love & affection. I appreciated the unfurling of this marital relationship, where Suresh is always condescending in his behaviour towards Suma and criticises her supposed “village mentality”.  The director, beautifully leads you to question Suresh’s frustration at one level & audacity at another level, because he also displays “village mentality” in the movie.

Yes, sexual desires or sexuality has been used as a subject to bring out deeper issues like guilt, societal reaction & gender sensitivity. Nathicharami is metaphorical, refreshing & relevant. Metaphorical, because it shows Gowri anchored to a time & relationship in the past. Refreshing, because it talks about consent for sex in a marital relationship & sensitively explores predefined notions of morality & desires. Relevant, simply because it opens up a sea of questions that ordinary women today face in the many facets of relationships. 

The movie by award winning director, Mansore, has good cinematography and amazing music by Bindhu Malini. Her unique voice is what you hear in the songs and her ease of combining various musical instruments to create hauntingly beautiful music is testimony to her musical expertise. The use of the trombone, drums & guitar is melodious and it is the kind of music I would love to play while I sit in my balcony or on my terrace, sipping a glass of wine and watch the sun go down & the moon come up with the stars shining. 

I wish more and more directors, producers and actors give us such wonderfully crafted & engaging movies like Nathicharami. We will promise to stand by them. 

 

Gift Yourself a New Year…

Once in a while it hits people that they really don’t have to see the world in the way they have been told to. dawn-3846778_1920That is the beauty of exploring, learning, understanding & accepting newness in life. That is serendipity (in a way) and letting go of what we are conditioned to or cling on to. All of us like to feel we are in control of our lives, plan every step and steer the course of all happenings exactly at the time we want it to happen. We all want to know what’s going to happen before it does, like to play scenarios out in our heads, use favourite words to make sense of this world as much as we can. Even though we know, in the back of our minds, that it may never fully happen.

Somewhere, between being a daughter, a wife, a mother, a friend, an entrepreneur, I realised that no matter what pre planning I do, there will always be moments in life that will be unexpected, out of the blue and hit you like a ton of bricks. And then, you are in a free fall. 

Now, the beauty of free fall is that, it is the right moment to find your wings. Wings help you fly. 

There is flip side to free fall, too. When you fall, if you do not allow your wings to come out, spread and flap them, you are likely to hit the ground with a big thud. The most important thing then is to trust your instinct, let go and allow your wings to emerge.

You will never know you can fly if you do not unfurl your wings, flap them and push yourself to soar. You’ll never know the strength in your muscles if you don’t flex them. You’ll never know who you can become, if you don’t take the first step.

Two and half decades ago, I was jolted from that familiar, comfortable bubble I had built in my life. And I went into a fall. I also discovered I could fly. That changed everything.

There will always be winds of change, forcing us to come down at times, falter in some cases, change direction completely and soar. Allow for those serendipitous periods in life, which will give you the freedom to discover a new you.

May that be your gift to yourself this year! May 2019 bring out the serendipiter & the discoverer in you! Happy 2019!!!  

 

The 365 Page Book Called 2017

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves….its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

It’s that time of the year again! The winter season signals the year-end and tells us that a new dawn is approaching. This “change of year” symbolism is important for two reasons: first, it allows us to take stock of the year that has gone by and second it provides us with the hope of being able to start afresh and not get weighed down by the past.new-year-quotes-07

I have never been where I am today. I have never been the age I am today, or had the experience I have today. The river of life flows and I find myself in places I have never been before. What an exhilarating moment of truth that is!

Everything is new. It is a starting point. At the same time there is a flow from the past that influences the process of ringing in the new. There are so many dreams and aspirations that one has in a lifetime. These change as we grow older and gather more experiences. Mine have changed too! I have realised that I want more for some of the people in my life, I dream more about what we will be as a society and a country. I see a lot of great people out there contributing in building a India of our dreams. You may not even hear of these contributors in your lifetime, for they focus on their actions. I want to highlight a few of them today for they have genuinely made a difference.

  1. Dreamers Doers started by Manjunath Hebbar is a platform for all those social entrepreneurs who want to showcase their work and collaborate with the like minded to impact social causes positively.
  2. Skip Armour brought to us by Chakradhari Rowe that helps a common man understand what is safety & security for an individual, a society and therefore, a country.
  3. Swayyam that teaches us eco conscious low impact living and how to connect back to the earth for our basic living. Malvikaa Solanki, the brain or rather the heart behind this can teach the young & old a thing or two about the “earthy” choices we make in life.
  4. Bal Utsav that brings life-changing education to children living in poverty. They revitalise government schools, support teachers, facilitate interventions in the space of water, sanitation and hygiene. The founders, Ramesh Balasundaram & Binu Ramesh Verma  are ever ready to facilitate learning for children and parents alike.
  5. Durga India, a project by I’m Every Woman started by Priya Varadarajan and yours truly is focused on creating awareness among the girls & women about their own safety in an increasingly unsafe world. Durga’s effort to create safer public spaces for women, including public transport, gets them to work with Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation & install safety alarms in buses.
  6. The Results Cafe, a self improvement project started by Mandeep Kataria & Prashant Reddy that enables & empowers people to stick to their resolutions and not get waylaid. Powerful, for in the end, we all need that push at some time.

These may seem like drops in the vast ocean…but, remember the old adage. They are doing their bit to create a better, stronger and self sufficient India. An India that is crossing the threshold and moving into a space where the world has to sit up and notice. Which brings me to the point of all the nay sayers out there. You can criticise, negate and shoot down any contribution made by anyone, be it an individual, a community or even the government. The fact is there are people whose purpose is to make a positive difference…even if it is to one individual. Negativity does not deter them. They look at the larger good and spread that goodness around them.

The above mentioned dreamers have influenced my own life in such significant ways that I initially did not even realise it. Who I am on the 1st of Jan 2017, somewhere is a result of that influence. What binds us together is this vision we have for this country of ours, for our society, community and people. We all want the following:

  1. A Swachch Bharat that is eco friendly. A national conscious against littering, spitting,  throwing trash everywhere.
  2. A country where girls and women feel safe and are safe. Both are equally important – the feeling & the being.
  3. An India where basic amenities are available to all citizens, in a manner in which they can afford it. That means no freebies for political gain.
  4. A youth that understands the power of our Constitution, the power of voting and contributing to the electoral process.
  5. Adherence to law and order. No negotiating as far as this is concerned.

I am sure every upright citizen wants the same. So, when there is a collective dream, the only thing we have to do, is follow it.

new-year-quotes-2014-beautiful-cards-to-send-your-wishes-brad-paisleyI picture ourselves and India starting a book called 2017 stretched out to 365 pages before us, beckoning to a future somewhere in different chapters that calls us to drive a positive change. All that we will become lies out there, in those pages. The beauty of starting this book is we all can write a sentence, a paragraph or a chapter. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we write.

We spend December 31st & January 1st walking through our lives, chapter by chapter, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the chapters of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.

Praying that everyone writes beautiful lines in the Book of 2017! Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Living…with a dash of sass

There’s something about the year end that puts most of us in an introspective mood. This year end is no different. There have been ups & downs, mostly ups, which include my girls doing well in their respective lives, a brilliant holiday we all enjoyed together, setting up a second home in another city and the launch of a couple of new businesses. The downside is realising that we are fast losing one generation of people to the inexorable process of ageing. While on one hand, I understand this is part of life’s cycle, it nevertheless saddens me that this process deprives us of one of the most extraordinary generations that India has seen. The veterans of World War I are no more and the people born during World War II are in their late 70’s or early 80’s.

I have spent time with that generation. I have sat through their stories of growing up in an India that you and I can only visualise and never experience. This is not to undermine any other generation’s experience. I am writing to share what I have learnt from these septuagenarians and octogenarians. This particular blog is dedicated to all those who belong to the 15th Course of the National Defence Academy for you all have influenced me to lead a rich life!

Find Ways To Do

One of the easiest and simplest thing is to find reasons why we can’t do things. They are called excuses. My biggest lesson from these stalwarts is to find one simple reason to do things. That one overwhelming “why” that will ensure the barriers come crumbling down. Living in different cities, leading hectic lives make it difficult to meet close family & friends. However, the older generation has taught me that it’s important to cherish those relationships. I still see them make an effort to be a part of everyone’s lives around them. new-year-quotes-07

Share Your Life

My parents have shared their lives with my brother and me. It just made communication so much more easier for all of us. I never had a problem expressing to my parents what was going on in my mind and why. I also realise that this was only possible because they were genuinely interested in our lives and shared activities with my brother and me. A lot of things I do now in my life are because of activities initiated by my Dad and his friends, while I was growing up.

Choose Happiness

Almost everyone I have met in that wonderful age group focus on quality of life and they choose happiness as the one determining factor. Most of them have gone through some kind of illness/surgery/treatment in the recent years. They see a sense of fragility that belongs to these experiences as directly contributing to their ability to savour life. “Tomorrow is unknown, future uncertain at our age. Lighten up and live life completely today.” Wise words from wise people. Rythm

Accept Life & Connect With Yourself

The terrace at my parents’ place offers a lovely view of the green canopy of trees in a quiet residential area. A wall of windows at my second parents’ home overlooks a lovely verdant patch of lawn bordered by flowering shrubs and lemon tree. Having spent ample time in both places, I see that later life has brought all four of them a sense of wholeness, acceptance, and the ability to enjoy small pleasures. They love the place they live, people visit them and are always welcomed, they entertain the way they want to and not because they are expected to…a complete sense of liberation & contentment.

Build A Life With Someone You Respect & Love

It sounds simple. Yet, very few can say this. Most of the couples I know, in their grand old 70’s and 80’s are the ones who have celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. What I have observed and learnt can be succinctly shared in the following words…you have to like each other. Be friends, try to get past the initial heaving and panting, and make sure there’s a real friendship underneath that. I don’t think identical interests are important, but shared values are. That is the bedrock of the relationship. And critical. Build on that a set of dreams that both cherish & work towards.

And as my soul mate and I complete three decades of knowing, understanding, accepting & loving each other, I can happily say, we both love certain kinds of things. We both love movies, good movies, and part of our courtship involved staying up all night and talking out what an Ingmar Bergman film really meant. We both love to read, and we love to talk about what we read. A similar sense of humour — that is a very important part of our life together. The ability to make each other smile and laugh has seen us through some difficult times. story3

Here’s wishing all of you all a magnificent 2016 and praying that Santa Claus fulfils your dreams (incidentally, I still believe in magic and miracles for my life has been so). I sign off with C Joybell C’s quote, “The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”

 

 

 

The Year That Was…The Year That Will Be

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.” – TS Eliot

There’s something about the end of the year that makes a lot of people sit up and take stock of what has happened in their lives. I include myself in this. This is the time to dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. At least, this helps me do my part. To me it is an affirmation that I am interested in fully living life in the year to come. new-year-quotes-07

Life to me has always been a simple journey, filled with adventure and excitement, to be enjoyed with people who want to be art of your life…not just with people you want in your life. The last week I have been pondering about what to write as my last blog for 2014. The year ending and a new year beginning is all about you or me, its about expectations, aspirations and our relationships we nurture, build and carry with us. Hence, the acronym YEAR made perfect sense…therefore, the year that was and the year that will be!

YOU

Every year begins with you and ends with you. It’s all about you! People get you presents for some occasion or the other, but, your best present you get never changes: Your own existence! It is also your best present to others!

What the new year brings you will depend on what you bring to the new year. I bring new hopes, new dreams and desires, my ability to aspire and therefore, inspire. I will build more this coming year based on the foundation laid last year and the years before that. That is the bedrock of my life.

Every single year we become different people…all of us, one way or the other. I don’t think we are the same person all our lives. In 2015, I will learn to love the new person I have become a little more…maybe a lot more. For if I don’t love myself, how & why do I expect others to love me? Will you promise to love yourself a little more this year?

I hope that in 2015 I’m not afraid to make my share of mistakes. When I’m making mistakes, I’m doing new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing myself, changing myself, changing my world. Will you do things you’ve never done before? Because, then you and I are Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do It.

EXPECTATIONS & ENTHUSIASM

My biggest lesson in life – You can’t base your life on other people’s expectations.  I try not to listen to the shoulds or coulds, and try to get new-year-quotes-2014-beautiful-cards-to-send-your-wishes-brad-paisleybeyond expectations, peer pressure, or trying to please – and just listen. I believe all the answers are ultimately within us. It definitely would not make sense to lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations.

When Steve Jobs realised that he had limited time on this earth, he said something very profound, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Expectations for me are all about what is truly important for me in life, that makes me happy and enable me to keep my loved ones happy.

It’s faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. My lesson is enthusiasm come from my Labrador, Whiskey. His unfettered enthusiasm to do everyday activities is so infectious…it teaches me how to live life daily with that passion. Enthusiasm spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.

I read somewhere that it is better to arouse enthusiasm in people than in teaching the facts. The facts may change, but that enthusiasm for exploring the world will remain with them the rest of their lives. Go where you want to go, where your dreams and desire take you…but, go with enthusiasm and passion. My experience has been when dreams are combined with passion, they become a reality for us.

ATTITUDE

Attitude is that one little thing which makes a big difference. The older I get, the more I realise the importance of attitude. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a person… a group… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.

Attitude to me, is the magnet that attracts people to you. When you are joyful, when you say yes to life and have fun and project positivity all around you, you become a sun in the centre of every constellation, and people want to be near you.  Lets-ring-in-the-New-year

A positive, sunny attitude is what gets me through the grey or dark clouds of life. My disposition determines how I lead my life, not my circumstances. I may or may not have control over my circumstances, however, I have control over my disposition. I choose an attitude that enables, empowers & enhances everything in my life.

So, what does the new year bring? 2015 brings me at least 365 new opportunities.

 

RELATIONSHIPS

Unless a man starts afresh about things in the new year, he will certainly do nothing effective. This is also true for our relationships. In the past year, we all would have forged new relationships, strengthened some old relationships, messed up some old ones…  The time has come to heal those by starting anew. Lots of things can be fixed. Things can be fixed. Relationships can be fixed too, provided the respect and trust is there. Love alone, may not suffice.

Relationships are mysterious. We doubt the positive qualities in others, seldom the negative. You will say to your partner: do you really love me? Are you sure you love me? You will ask this a dozen times and drive the person nuts. But you never ask: are you really mad at me? Are you sure you’re angry? When someone is angry, you don’t doubt it for a moment. Yet the reverse should be true. We should doubt the negative in life, and have faith in the positive.

And, that, my friends will be my commitment for 2015. Trust the positive, the laws of the Universe, have faith in the general goodness of mankind and believe that one day, we will have peace that we, as human beings really deserve.

 

2015 MANTRA

Work on containing the toxicity around by adopting an enthusiastic and positive approach to life, people and circumstances. Of course, it is going to be tough. I can assure you it will be worth the while. You will be ready to embark on your journey in 2016 in a lighter, more carefree manner.

2015 is for  the new you. You can pass through another year, coasting on cruise control. Or you can step out of your comfort zone, trying things you have never done before, & make 2015 as the year that you elevate from where you are & soar high.

Make it happen! Because I am going to!

WISHING ALL YOU WONDERFUL PEOPLE A GREAT NEW YEAR DESIGNED AND CUSTOMISED TO FULFIL YOUR DREAMS AND DESIRES!

 

 

 

 

 

Islands In The Stream…Forever In Love

“Baby when I met you there was peace unknown…” crooned Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton. The song brought home a discussion some of us were having with regard to sustaining, long lasting relationships and how they have endured the test of time. There are many kinds of relationships and as many kinds of love nudging those relationships in the right direction. Our discussion that day was more on the nurturing of romance and what’s important in relationships.

The-secrets-to-a-long-lasting-relationship-quote  As the picture says, the secret to a long lasting relationship is all of the above…true. But, why would two people want to do it? Simply because of a crazy little thing called love! One of my favourite quotes (and I have a lot of them depending on what I feel at that moment) is “Grow old with me…the best is yet to be”. I want to grow old with the man I fell in love with years ago. For that to happen, we have to sustain our relationship on a continuous basis. All relationships need that sustenance…only then will they flourish, grow & mature like wine.

One of the questions that came up in that long discussion among friends that evening was, what can we do to sustain. Here is my two bit and I can say happily that my man & I both agree on these. In fact, putting some of this into action just came naturally I would say..and I know he will have a smile on his face as he reads this 🙂

In any romantic relationship passionate love is very important, but long-term couples also engage in deliberate acts of love that nurture their partner and their overall couple relationship. Love as a continuous engagement of the heart, body & soul, that includes how you love your partner and how your partner wants to be loved. For some people it may mean saying, ‘I love you.’ For other people it may involve changing the oil in the car. Love also means being empathic, meeting each other’s needs and supporting your partner when they need you. Healthy adult love exists when both partners are emotionally interdependent; meaning that both partners love one another, care for one another, desire physical closeness with one another, but respect each other enough to have their own identities as well. Tall order you would say…not really! Let me share something here, about my relationship. Both of us have our individual careers and have given each other the space to enjoy our professions. I have always been told to soar in whatever I do and he does give loads of encouragement to be the best. Now that inspires me to no extent…it pushes me to stretch and be better! Would I love him less or more for that? The answer is obvious 🙂

Loving relationships take effort…consistently and continuously. Its like growing a beautiful garden filled with greens, foliage, flowers, lovely soft springy grass and enjoying the fruits eventually on a regular basis. We also have to be careful about the weeds & pests that crop up occasionally. I don’t worry about them any more, because I know it’s a natural process. What’s going to make a difference is how we, as a couple, deal with it. Here’s what has worked for us!

Putting our relationship first: We make each other a priority. We communicate with each other. In this age of technology, we use it to the maximum and check on each other during the day. We make it a point to have date nights where it’s only us! If date nights can turn into date weekends then it’s even better. Undivided attention is what we give each other when we communicate.

Manage arguments: It’s absolutely ok to have arguments…it’s natural. We are only human, we are bound to have differences. It’s how we deal with those differences that will decide how strongly we sustain our relationship. We have our differences…but we strive to understand those & we make allowances for each other. I’m ok watching sports on Saturday or Sunday nights with him and he reciprocates by watching chick flicks with me when I’m in the mood!

Have a strong foundation: Our interests, opinions and experiences can change as we grow. But if you share the same core belief systems, foundationyou will have a platform from which to build a strong relationship. For us, as a couple, our belief system is the same. It has remained the same the last 25 years. This forms the foundation of the love and affection we have for each other.

Have fun in the relationship: Whether it is listening to Andre Rieu, going for a drive, shopping, scuba diving, dancing or even enjoying a glass of wine or single malt, we have fun. I can honestly say that I have the maximum fun when we are together. The truth is we genuinely enjoy each other’s company…we can talk about pretty much anything under the sun and laugh. We can laugh with each other and at each other…a healthy mix I would say. Statistics say that couples who laugh together stay together.

Dream together. Knowing what you both want out of life and working together to make those dreams a reality will strengthen the bond in your relationship, I have a vision board that includes a lot of our dreams. What makes this sharing exciting is it gives us glimpses of each other’s deeper ambitions. Visualising those dreams together and weaving our life’s story around them strengthen our feelings for each other. These dreams change over a period of time…earlier we dreamt about what we wanted out of life, today, we talk & visualize about our kids. Yes, their dreams are also an integral part of our dreams now.

Daily nice acts: It’s true the daily mundane things take over in every couple’s life. The only way to overcome this is when we perform daily nice acts for each other. One of the things that we have ensured is when we are in different cities, early morning and late night texts are always exchanged. Saying “I love you” to each other is equally important. Very often as we grow older in the relationship, we tend to not express this love, verbally and non verbally. A hug, a kiss, holding hands, cuddling all are critical to pull out the weeds and pests in the garden of love.

Sharing feelings and not thoughts: Most times couples don’t even get the meaning of this. Focus on what feelings you go through when both are having an argument, when your partner does something to please you or surprise you. Express your feelings then…it establishes a connect that can help build a stronger relationship. Let me share a secret with all you women out there…men do have a tough time getting this point across. We just need to help them a bit :). They may shy away initially,but, in my experience I have found that they do share eventually. Patience is the key here!

Embrace your partner’s individuality: The idiosyncrasies we once fell in love with can frustrate us today. Always remember…that is what attracted you to your man/woman in the first place. It’s important for our partner to be themselves. Here the three A’s become the pillars here – allow those idiosyncrasies, accept that your partner has them and adjust yourself accordingly. An early morning ritual of slippers, newspaper, a cup of finely brewed Orange Pekoe & reading glasses is what has become an endearing habit in my life. My reward for accepting this is I get to snuggle on the sofa and solve crosswords with my man.

Ask questions when you’re unsure or are making assumptions: All too often, we make up our own stories or interpretations about what our partners’ behaviour means. For example: “She doesn’t want to cuddle; she must not really love me anymore.” We can never err on the side of asking too many questions, and then listen to the answers from your whole self — heart, gut, mind and body. Equally important is to hear what’s not being said — the facts and feeling that you sense might be unspoken.

inspirational-quotes-3 (1)Creating a WE instead of two I’s: When practising all the above, we have been able to create space for “We” instead of two individual “I’s”. Two individuals can retain their personalities yet remain soul connected. In co-dependent relationships, each person sacrifices part of him or her self, compromising the relationship as a whole. When you are separate and connected, each individual “I” contributes to the creation of a “we” that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

Finally, there’s no fairy tale formula for true love. It begins and blossoms with partners committing and recommitting to each other, both in vow and in action. As Mark Sharp said, “Long lasting true love is when two people make a commitment to each other and choose to act in ways that sustain their feelings for each other and their connection to each other over time.”

 

 

Being A Parent…Being A Friend

A question that I’m asked frequently by a lot of people – what kind of a relationship do you share with your children? I often find it funny that parents ask me this question. What am I supposed to answer…I share a great relationship with my daughters.

I was pondering this question as I was recovering from a bout of viral the last couple of days. It struck me that the people who have asked me this question aren’t very sure about their own relationship with their children. I am no one to sermonize others on bringing up kids…I have had my fair share of doubts of being an effective parent versus a good parent. However, I have to thank my daughters, Urvashi & Urmila for endorsing time and again that I managed to be both on different occasions… 🙂  Parenting1

The thought process continued and it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who also has teenage children. My friend summarised our chat very effectively and I’m sharing some of those pointers here. Even if it helps one parent out there, I’m happy!

Communicate Easily & Freely: I have noticed kids respond to communication in any form. This is a process that must happen from birth. Communication means sharing. Very often parents expect their kids to come and talk to them, but, rarely share what is on their mind. Of course the child must be at an age & in a position to understand what the parents are sharing. This communication changes as the kids grow from childhood to adolescence…what’s important is to keep the process going on.

Allow Questions: I have been working with the youth on different projects. While addressing a batch of college students recently on their participation in the nation building process, I had the opportunity to interact with students and faculty. As usual, I noticed the faculty pushing the students to ask questions as soon as the talk was over. And, as usual, the students hesitated to ask questions in public. I don’t blame the students here. As a society, we do not encourage our young ones to ask questions. Children must have the liberty to ask…if we as parents are incapable of answering their questions, it is not the fault of the child. It is our problem…we need to find the relevant answer to satisfy the question.

Parents, go back to your own childhood…how many were encouraged to ask questions? What a child can’t receive, he can seldom give later in adult life. Parenting2

Encourage Decision Making: Both my daughters were encouraged to take decisions from their primary school days relevant to their age. The pros and cons were explained and they were told the consequences of not taking a decision. Even in adult life, most people are scared of taking decisions because they want their decisions to be right. My question to such people – if you don’t take a decision, how will you know whether it is right or wrong? Allow your kids the luxury of making their own decisions. They will automatically take responsibility and ownership for it. And even if it turns out to be a mistake, so what? Haven’t we made our share of mistakes in life?

Allow Them Their Mistakes: I have noticed parents constantly cautioning their children about situations, people, relationships in life. I understand that as parents we do not want our children to go through rough times, get cheated, ragged, bullied. Tell me, how much will you protect them? One day, they will have to face the world on their own! Then what? Children brought up in that environment have a warped sense of life and end up thinking that the world owes them everything. While as parents we know, that is a far cry from the truth.

Share Your Story: a lot of kids grow up thinking their parents are super heroes in the initial years. And then the teenage years descend on your off springs and their view starts changing. Erma Bombeck (one of my favourite authors) says, “Have you any idea how many children it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen Three. It takes one to say What light and two more to say I didn’t turn it on.” That’s what teenage years do. One thing that stood me in good stead was sharing my teenage years with my daughters when they had “curious” questions. It helped them to know that their mother had gone through similar experiences in life. I was declared “normal” by my kids… 🙂

The worst thing I could have done was to have a “holier than thou” approach in front of them…Jane Nelsen very nicely puts it, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?” Parenting3

Finally, it’s not just children who grow. Parents grow with them. I have grown with my lovely daughters. As much as I wait to see what they do with their lives, they are also watching me to see what I do with mine. While I tell them to reach for the stars,  the moon & the sun…I am reaching for my own stars, moon and the sun!!!

 

RIP Stephen Covey…

Only when someone dies do we realize the value of that person. Whether you know the individual personally or have just heard about the person…the loss you feel is something that cannot be described.

Today is such a day for me…my sense of loss after hearing about Dr Covey’s death is something I cant a put a finger to. His teachings have impacted my life tremendously as I had the good fortune to undergo his leadership session, hear him at a couple of speaking engagements and follow his blog regularly.

As my tribute to him, I would like to share 10 quotes from him that changed my life…and am hoping it will help all of you.

1) The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

2) The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

3) Live out of your imagination, not your history.

4) Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

5) Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

6) I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

7) You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

8) I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.

9) Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions. So love her.

10) Live, love, laugh, leave a legacy.

Rest In Peace Dr Covey…I will miss you…