Stepping into the unknown

6a00e5537b38b688330168e4b366c8970cI love to write! I just want to state it again today because this is a special post..more as a memoir. I am writing this post as I am on my way back from the much talked about Jaipur Literature Festival. The fact that it was one of those events that leave a mark on you forever could either mean I don’t go to enough of these or that I was probably at a stage of my life when I was so ready to receive what the event had to offer.

Having recently published my book, The Possibility of Balance, I was, of course, curious to know what it is like to be amongst authors and publishers. It was unimaginable to think of the names on the books we buy, as real people who are there, somewhere, like you and me. Each of the names have a life, a story, and are accomplished in many things other than what they are known for.

It got me thinking of how we all define a world for ourselves and live in our small bubbles unless another world catches our fancy or we step in it accidentally.

Stepping into an unknown world is somewhat like a trip to Mars I think. The rich getting a glimpse of what life is like for the poor, by staying in villages, or a programmer who has learnt the art of coding an application for the first time or a child stepping into a wonderland like Fun City for the first time – all of these offer the thrill of discovery. So much so, that for a fleeting moment, one might be tempted to shift one’s reality and change one’s world for good.

Some of us have probably experienced a change of worlds in the past, though it might have been with an anchor to get back to where we came from, whenever we want. It is like having a safety net. It is strange how this behavior of ours has deep implications on how we form relationships or meet people.

I am reminded of the beginning of the Bollywood movie Tamaasha, which appealed to me far more than most movies I have ever watched. When we meet someone, we choose to keep one foot in our existing world and only offer half or lesser, to the other person. In the movie, the actor, Ranbir Kapoor challenges this way of being. He states that he has chosen to not follow the norm. In fact, he is totally unaware of the person whom he is meeting, so decides to create a new world altogether. He makes a brilliant point, that, in that moment, he can choose to be anyone he pleases. The fact that he was in a different country and had no anchors holding him back, other than himself, perhaps made it easier for him to make that choice.

Do you remember meeting someone amd being totally fascinated by what they do or who they are? It is, perhaps, a desire you have, to experience their world, to step into it, even if for a moment.

I propose that the more worlds we experience, the wiser we become, the happier we become. This has many implications, depending on how long you choose to dwell in the worlds you step in.

Bored of life? Step into other worlds unknown to you..stay there for a while..or create a new one..wherever you are. What fun it would be!

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Be your own hero

tumblr_n9hyq59Eg91t8bb9go1_1280It is not for nothing that Bollywood movies play up the role of a woman in distress and how most times, the man comes to her rescue. While this trend is changing in current times, what seems to have stuck is the ‘victim’ mindset of the woman, most often, the homemaker.

It is almost like we, women, are inherently able to play the victim’s role and in order to snap out of it, we have to fight an uphill battle with the world and most of all, with ourselves. We often find the woman in the house making statements like: ‘I need to do all this housework’, ‘Nobody listens to me’, ‘The least you can do is…’, ‘Maybe I should also start working and be out of the house all day’, etc.

Think about it. Many of these are self-created perceptions. Why do we believe that we need to do all the work in the house? Have we tried delegating or hiring additional help, truly believing that we are, really, the key decision makers as far as how we spend our time is concerned? Have we tried letting go of things that bother us to make space for things we want to do?

The worst victims, of course, are the modern day career women. Highly qualified, highly ambitious, wanting to do it all, not wanting to compromise, living amidst increasing stress levels, increasing body weight and oblivious to their unhealthy lifestyles. You might hear some of them saying things like ‘I think I should quit my job’ or ‘I really need to change my diet’ or ‘I am just going to go away for a few days’… but none of that ever really happens.

Whether someone listens to us or not and what someone should do or not do is really not in our control. Instead, if we focus on what is in our control, and share the actions taken after we have taken them, with statements like ‘I have started..,’or ‘I have given the responsibility of…to…’ things have a much better chance of changing. Instead of saying that you will start working, actually start working. Just get into something. Experience the change. Take action and don’t just talk about your intent of taking action. Find out what a different lifewould be like. Is that the life you want? If not, is there a middle path? What is that? Can you get someone to help you find that? If not friends and family, perhaps a coach?

When you have a surge of intent and find yourself wanting to do something about your situation, find someone who will help you get out of your situation. Imagine that the situation has changed and act accordingly. Believe that you have all the permissions and approvals you need and move forward. You will be surprised how everyone is left with no choice but to accept you chosen path.

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).

Take off, travel and grow

o-MEN-WOMEN-TRAVEL-facebookWith the plethora of women travel clubs appearing on Facebook and other media, more and more women are finding solace in the fact that they would now be able to travel in groups.

For many women, especially mothers, travelling for leisure is often considered a chore – especially when traveling with kids, that is. This might be attributed to the fact that more often than not, it is the woman who is responsible for planning the vacation and more importantly, packing for it too. There is also an unstated expectation that once everyone is back home, the woman would, somehow, get the house back in order and see to it that it starts functioning almost immediately.

But, there is good news. What if I told you that it is possible to turn a rather exhausting travel into a thrilling adventure? To begin with, consider planning a solo trip to a place where you might know someone but have never been to. Traveling to an unknown place with nobody that one knows can be a bit stressful and the idea is really to de-stress and have fun.

Here are some tips that can help alleviate the stress. Pick a relatively lesser known place instead of a place which is run of the mill. This has the charm of the unknown, while also making for more interesting travel.

Homestays are much better than hotels and some boutique travel houses specialize in such travels. Participate in rejuvenating retreats set in scenic surroundings as this can prove to be amazingly refreshing for the mind, body and soul.

Visualize the place that one is traveling to, by doing some research, by reading about it and by connecting with some locals. ‘Unplanning’ an itinerary is another good way of keeping the zing. Keep some unplanned time so that you can decide where you want to go and what you want to do on the basis of some impromptu information you might receive.

Dining or fishing or some such activity with the locals might seem a bit extreme to some of us, but it is a certain way of finding out what it means to be living in the place and to soak the environment in. Take pictures and write a travelogue. This is a wonderful way to unwind and to immerse oneself in one’s travel experience.

Traveling on work could also be made fun if it were extended by a day here and there, but it could become more stressful to manage the logistics. Hence, planning a separate travel is perhaps, much better.

When was the last time you took off by yourself and let yourself soak in the place? Just take off!

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).

Good is not enough

is-good-good-enoughFor those of us women who struggled in their life because we wanted to be good and do the right thing, we know we have had to pay a price for it. When stuck in a queue in a public place, the aggressive people might have moved ahead while the do-gooders might have waited long only to miss their turn. If you find yourself thinking – this is so me, perhaps, on some occasion you might have ended up missing the bus or could not get to the dessert counter well in time.

Trying to be both, good and assertive, can be a tough battle for a woman who is working with male colleagues and bosses. Perhaps, it is somewhat akin to climbing Mt. Everest every day. Being good does not translate into being complacent or submissive, unlike what many of us might be made to believe.

The important thing to remember, dear ‘do-gooders’, is that being good is not about being popular and being liked. It is, in fact, a lot about knowing that you are doing the right thing and are able to stand up for it. It is not about being taken for granted or for a ride. That would translate to not being smart enough. It is about knowing when to say ‘No’ to preserve your dignity and perhaps, your sanity.

If you try and list out the top three most inspiring women you know, in all likelihood, they would be vocal about what they like and do not like. While they might respect people around them, they would not start by being afraid of what people might think of them, should they express their opinion. Being able to believe in one self and to speak one’s mind are certainly desirable characteristics of women who inspire us. Of course you don’t have to yell it out, but speak you must.

We do live in the 21st century and while it is important to be humane and loving, if you don’t speak (and this applies to virtual media equally), you might run the risk of not even being noticed and are certain to lose out on the wonderful opportunities around you.

Still caught in the ‘but, how do I…trap’? Here are some tips to help you get started:

Observe yourself everyday : Start documenting your observations about occasions when you wanted to speak up and you could not;

Resolve to speak up: Start each day by thinking about speaking your mind when you want to;

Observe others: You might start to speak up but people might not take well to it. Document your observations of others’ reactions when you spoke. Think about what impact you wanted to make and if you were successful. Most of all, think about how you feel after having spoken. Do you feel good?

The question is, dear woman, who are you being good for? For yourself, to whom you are hopefully the most accountable, or for the people around you?

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).

Social Media 101

social-mediaNot being present on social media today is no longer an option. But how do you exercise caution yet project the right image? If you are a home maker, perhaps you might believe that the only place for you to explore social media is Facebook. Well, not really, but not being on Facebook is certainly an option. Another option, of course, is for you to acknowledge that you can leverage the connections with family and friends who reside far away. What better way of plugging in to view what is going on in their lives and to create private family groups. The key is that you are not obliged to accept any invites from strangers nor to make all information public. By managing settings appropriately, you can easily guard your privacy and limit what you share publicly. Facebook connects you with events happening around you and here is the best part – it provides a free birthday reminder service! If you haven’t had much luck with your memory, Facebook can be your savior!

Let us move on to LinkedIn. You might think this is more relevant for professionals but it is very relevant for entrepreneurs as well. You might be baking from home, but what stops you from connecting with so many clients who would love to buy your cakes and who never heard of your existence? A picture says a thousand words. On LinkedIn, it says a million words. So if you do not have a decent, professional looking picture of yourself, avoid uploading any picture at all. People around the world are viewing your profile and forming opinions about you just by looking at your picture. If they have only two seconds to look at your profile, they spend one second looking at your picture and deciding if they want to give you a job or business.

The key to effective social media usage lies, however, not in how you look but in what you say. If you don’t have something nice to say, it is better not to say anything at all. The pages you like, the comments you make, the kind of pictures you upload – all create instant impressions about your persona. And always report unwanted advances as ‘spam’ or ‘abuse’. Twitter, Pinterest… the list is endless. So get on the social media bandwagon. If it does not work for you, you can always erase your profile and get back to your own world.

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).

A quest to inspire

womenMuch is said about women today, about their rights, about empowerment, about special facilities and quotas for women, etc. So who is really working on making the lives of women around the world better? While one might say it is the government or some organisations or institution, data might indicate that it is the people on the ground (perhaps more men than women) who are working towards making a difference in lives of women.

So what’s my point? My point is that more women need to step up for the cause of other women. Why? Simply because we need other women to show us the way, as well.

Let us look at life changing events in a woman’s life. When a girl is born, she needs her mother. When she gets married, she wants her mother around her. When she has a baby, she needs her mother more than she has ever needed her before. Whether we realise it or not, having supportive women around us make our lives so much easier than what they might have been. We continue to be inspired by the women around us, by how some of them are able to raise their kids well or how some of them are able to maintain their houses well or how some are able to make time to follow a fitness regime. It is not the men who inspire us in these areas. It is the women.

So who are these women? They are just other women around us, who choose to be role models in their chosen areas. They are amongst us. They could be us.

And what can you do to be an inspiration to women around you? Start thinking about inspiring others to begin with. Help other women in need. Purposefully. Beginning with your home, find a woman you can help. How can you make her life better? Can you possibly find a way of making a woman around you more self-reliant and positive? Can you inspire her to take some time off or to meet her long lost friends or relatives and just be with herself? Can you inspire your daughter to be like you in some way that you are proud of?

At work, can you find a woman you believe in and mentor her or better still, sponsor her? Can you propagate her in meetings and forums and advocate her without being prompted to? Can you share your life’s stories with someone and inspire her to fight her wars with greater zeal? Can you kindle in her the desire to be better than she is and to find fulfillment despite all odds?

In business, can you be purposeful about seeking some women clients and helping them realise their dreams? Can a part of your business be focused on addressing the needs of women? You can. It helps to be purposeful about inspiring other women around you because you need other women to inspire you too.

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).

Reclaim your lost self

rediscover-yourself-to-help-your-relationshipDon’t remember the last time you read a newspaper or dressed up for a fine dining occasion? Or went on a long walk by yourself? When we have some time to sit back and think, we realize how, over time, many of us have let go of things we loved doing. And each time we as women traded a moment that we really wanted to spend with ourselves with one that made our spouse or child happier, we chose to let go of some part of ourselves.

How many of us have let go of our dreams, hobbies and silly indulgences that used to bring a smile to our face? And how do we stop doing this? Call it living consciously or living with awareness, but it is really about including thought between a stimulus and a response. It is about ensuring that we make time to think about ourselves every day and that we have some quality time earmarked for ourselves. Being able to do physical exercise is no longer adequate for holistic happiness. Hanging out with friends over drinks and food may not be the best form of relaxation. Choosing a venue, dressing up for the occasion, commuting, etc, can all take a fair bit of time thus adding to the stress.

So what do we do for mental rejuvenation? Watching TV/movies does not necessarily qualify. Any activity that encourages reflection, like writing a journal, blogging, reading, having a dialogue or listening to music is good. Anything that makes us think about our actions and thoughts and helps us evaluate them in light of our intended results is good for mental rejuvenation.

Spiritual rejuvenation could take many forms including meditation, engaging in a hobby like playing music, gardening or any art for that matter. Being able to play a part in the creation of something would qualify. Indulging in religious activities which foster self-reflection may be additional methods that are considered. Buddhism, for instance, propagates an awareness-centered living. The guiding principle of Buddhism is that things change – we change – and that we have the capacity to direct that change towards spiritual growth and development. Being cognizant of the fact that it is important to connect with ourselves at all these levels on an ongoing basis is the beginning of our journey towards happiness. It fosters creativity, increases our inner peace and makes us much better people for others to hang out with. Including these practices in our week will ensure we keep ourselves intact on all counts.

So would you like to lock yourself up in a vault and open it one fine day to discover that you can no longer connect with what you find or would you consider living holistically every day, knowing that you can change anything about yourself at anytime?

This post is a reproduction of my weekly column  written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).