Jab tak hai jaan (or, time)

I am supposed to choose between

  1. Writing a post with J – writing a post at all in fact because at this point in April, the letters are ceasing to matter. Or are they?
  2. Continue reading my current book – The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak, an author I have come to adore after the last book I read by her. This seems just as promising, if not more.
  3. Listening to the soundtrack of Student of the year 2, that’s released today. Of late, I have been out of touch with all Bollywood music because the car was the one place I got all my updates, and now with these audiobooks taking over my life, 2019 has been relatively music less. Not cool.

Yeah, so I have decided to do it all. Ofcourse.

The music is playing in the background and I am not really impressed yet. Quite meh. When Student of the Year released, despite all the overtly dramatic sets and all, I liked a number of songs. And despite the cringe-worthy title of the song Ishq-wala love, I still think the music was beautiful and I have used that song to test the quality of our music system multiple times. This, however, like I said – meh (so far).

And before I return to my book, I am writing this post right now because – guess what? The blog’s turned 15. I am not writing this in bold, or CAPS or with exclamation marks because, I am no longer surprised. I am not all that regular, I am not all that coherent, but this page has stayed. And yes, while there have been absences, they haven’t been so long as to negate the continuity of this blog.

So yes, blogging might be dead, surfing blogs might not be a thing anymore, but if I have stayed on with something that started as merely a ‘fun thing to do’, I have to give it some credit. It’s been great.

For now, I am happy. I hope I continue. I might, for longer than I think. I might stop today. But then, I have 15 years of my life out here, so even if I do stop today, I think I have enough.

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Happiness theories

With Amazon’s 3 month trial on Audible, I decided to take a risk and try out something beyond my usual genres. I am heavily into fiction, but with the highly recommended Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari – I took a leap of faith into an unknown world. My justification? Well, someone is reading it out to me, while I am driving. I just couldn’t fall asleep. Needless to say, the experiment was a huge success. Not only did I love it, I recommended it to others and made them fall in love with it too.

This post however is about my favourite part of the book. And this came around hour 13 of this 15 hour long book.  Yes, that late. I mean, I liked everything in it, but this was what stayed with me in utmost clarity. The second last chapter- as The Dude corrected me, because I thought it was the last. The chapter was about the human perception of happiness.

What it says is – and it isn’t something you haven’t heard before – happiness has 3 theories. One has to do with expectations, and since expectations are variable, you cannot really meet them and by that equation, can never be truly happy. The third talks about it being an abstract concept which humans themselves are unaware of. So technically, we are ourselves absolutely unaware of what happiness is for us, and so we keep trying to pursue it, ending up exhausted and frustrated, but never truly happy.

But my favorite theory was the second. It says, that happiness is determined by our internal biochemical constitution. And that, we have absolutely no control over it. Yes, we might identify things we believe will give us happiness, and work towards them. And yes, achieving what we want might give us momentary exhilaration – but over a period of time, we fall back into the happiness range that our bodies have predetermined for us.

So basically, the pursuit of happiness, is pretty much a waste of time. Because, as this theory explains, and so does experience, there is no point to it. It won’t make a difference really. Why else do we feel unhappy for no particular reason so many times? Why, most of us, if asked what would make us truly, genuinely happy, don’t have a concrete answer? Yes, for someone undergoing extreme misfortune, an end to such ill-fate might make him happy. But for how long? How long, till the person returns to neutral state? In fact, it is this neutral state, which is different for different individuals, that seems to explain why some people are perennially unhappy, despite all that they might seem to have. And others seem extremely content and happy with the little they do.

I can’t think of an answer, except for this theory. Whatever you do, how much ever you try, whatever you gain, your happiness levels will fluctuate in your pre-determined ranges, and any sudden up or down, will eventually subside.

Does this mean we stop doing things that make us happy, however superficial? Does it mean we give up all things material – since they are supposed to have little or no impact on happiness anyway? Nope. This is where I am pretty clear. These things, especially the little experiences, the things we buy, the things we own, agreed they might be doing little or nothing to alter our happiness quotient. But they do spark a bit of joy, even if for a day, or an hour. And for a life which seems to have pre-defined highs and lows, these bits of joy seem good enough as something to look forward to.

So yes, I have made peace with this explanation for myself. I realise that this might seem like quite a quitter thing to do – you know – give up, because you have convinced yourself that you have no control over it? But surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to matter. It has also given me a lot more tolerance and patience to deal with people, who for no reason, believe with all their heart and soul that they are just not meant to be happy. Because turns out, they are not wrong after all. Only it is not their destiny, or fate, or karma that is causing this.

Just their low levels of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.

Guilt-tripping

Yes. I am guilty.

Guilty of not having picked up a book after the one I finished one on the last Thursday. I need a break and I am taking it. Plus, the weekend was so crazy busy that I had the soundest of sleeps on Sunday night, with me waking up only once or twice to switch the AC off and then on. It’s a bloody miracle!

Guilty of hogging on a multitude of sweets yesterday. Admitted, I did the same on Sunday too, but Sunday was 1) the weekend, which means I am allowed to cheat as much as I want 2) Vishu, which means I was visiting mum, who decided to make the world’s most delicious malpuas so you cannot blame me. But yesterday was Monday – so I shouldn’t have stuffed myself with all the homemade Mishtidoi (Mom’s fault). And Shrikhand (mom-in-law’s fault). And random cream biscuits (Deux. You know them? You should try them. Oh, also, totally my fault).

Guilty of spending way, way, way too much time on Netflix and then following it up with a lot of Instagram. I mean, I always do, but I thought I had it under control of sorts, what with all the books that were taking my time. So this is in a way an extension of guilt no 1. By the way, I have just started on Queer Eye on Netflix and I am hoping it will re-ignite my once prevalent love for reality TV (Project Runway, America’s next Top model, even Roadies!), which has been restricted to MasterChef Australia for a while.

Guilty of not spending enough time with Zo. Now this is a guilt-trip I have been on for the last 7 years, 6 months and 2 days, so I am not sure if I should be mentioning it at all. You see, for all the independence you claim, for all the self-love you believe in, the moment this one human enters your life, and gives you so much importance, that you are forever left feeling that you are not doing enough, and what did you do to deserve all this unconditional love and adoration? Damn you motherhood.

Guilty of still giving in to excuses – once in a while – but more often than you’d want. But I guess that’s the way it works. Again, what is it that makes you feel that whatever you are doing, how much ever you are doing, it is never enough?

Guilty of writing this post solely because I needed to title it with G. Am I excused?

Forever in blue jeans

When I started this blog – actually no – when I revamped this blog, moved it over from Livejournal to WordPress, I couldn’t wait to get started. It had been a while since I had wanted to make the move – One, because WordPress seemed to have so many nice templates, and Livejournal had started looking relatively childish. Two, this was around 2009 I think, when all the bloggers I knew and read were anonymous – until someone stalked you enough (guilty) and found you and added you on Facebook, after which the entire blogging community was on your Facebook list and you were the extreme opposite of anonymous – I mean, something more than ‘known’. So I wanted a url which wasn’t my name. Third, it took my technologically challenged self a while to figure out how I could move all my old posts along with the comments, so when I finally did, I wanted to move immediately. Which is when I realised, I did not have a URL thought of as yet.

It was one of those Saturday nights we were having, and the music in the background provided a good set-up for what I believed was a thoroughly creative introspection I was undertaking. And then, Neil Diamond started crooning. The Dude is a huge Neil Diamond fan, and I had spent the last 2 years with him getting updated on English music other than the Pop songs I was aware of. So while Neil Diamond belted out his best numbers (I presume, because the collection was in fact called the Best of Neil Diamond) – he reached my definite favorite – Forever in blue jeans. And the blog name was born!

And so was my convenient answer to the question – what should my display name/handle/profile be? Across the multitude of Social media that I am part of – I am, and have always been some variation of ‘The Girl in Blue Jeans’. It felt apt – mainly because it was an offshoot of my blog name, and also because like every other girl in her 20s, I was in fact – forever in blue jeans.

But not so much now. I think it’s an age thing? Or maybe the summers have gotten worse? Or maybe there are just so many options? But I just cannot get myself to pick up a pair of jeans as my to-go outfit anymore. It’s almost my last choice, maybe one before sarees (which unfortunately, though lovely, are more costume, less outfit in my case. Plus the effort Oh My God, kill me).  Back to the jeans, the very thought of wearing fabric which is so thick you can make sacks out of it, and so clingy (these days) that your skin cannot move (?!), makes me feel claustrophobic. Add to it 40 degrees of Hyderabad heat and you are all set to roast yourself.

Plus, this trend of skinny jeans. It has killed that last bit of love I had for denim. And jeggings? Man, for someone who is unable to bear cotton leggings because of the proximity of fabric to skin, these jeggings are close to murder. About skinny jeans, ok atleast these look gorgeous – BUT ON PEOPLE WITH DEEPIKA PADUKONE LEGS ONLY FOLKS. I am sorry, this is a non-negotiable requirement, and I don’t know why anyone else would even try. Oh, in my case, they won’t go up – literally, they get stuck at calves, and even if I break my nails pulling them up, the knees are as far as they go. And then I chuck them and get into my ‘not so cool’ straight jeans, which by the way, not available anywhere anymore. What a pain.

So yep, I am contemplating changing my social media name. The blog, eh, too much of a hassle. But it is just not fair that I am called ‘The girl in blue jeans’ anymore. I am just not in jeans anymore.

And if anyone calls out the fact that at 36, maybe I am not so much of a ‘girl’ anymore either, you will be killed.

Dum aloo

I will tell you something.

Ramu kaka makes this absolutely delicious dum-aloo which I think I have written about before, but I am eating it right now (like right now, typing in between mouthfuls, licking my fingers and typing), and it is so delicious that it totally deserves a mention. On that note, I should stop calling Ramu kaka that because I am pretty sure he is younger than I am. As is, turns out, most of the world around me. It’s almost like I have stepped into a universe full of people who are at a much different stage in life than I am – either numerically, or mentally – making it relatively difficult to hold conversations. Which explains why I am eating in front of my laptop. Yep, I do it everyday.

Last Sunday, I ran my first half-marathon. Going by how I was by the end of it, it might as well be my last too, but who knows? I have another registered 10k coming up next weekend, but other than that, the sun has made it impossible to run outside now. I mean, you can, if you wake up at an ungodly hour of 5 or something, but while I love running, I love my early morning sleep more. So it’s back to being a gym rat for a while again (hopefully) – with the air conditioning and the staring outside the windows into the swimming pool as you workout on the cross-trainer – Spotify’s playlist of the day blaring in your ears. Side note : While I picked atleast 50 artists on Spotify to create a playlist from, Spotify has been only playing music from KJo movies for the past 3 days. Why?

I have diligently watched every episode of Koffee with Karan this season. I like Koffee with Karan. It is frivolous, funny, gossipy and exactly what you need after a day filled with telling people what to do, how to do it, and then explain to bosses why it was not done. It’s a pity it’s over. Now what will I justify my Hotstar subscription with?

I have also taken to listening to audiobooks in a way I could never imagine. I remember – I think in 2009, I was visiting Basel for work – and this guy who was supposed to be my mentor – though our conversations usually circled around how he planned on  proposing to his girlfriend – mentioned how he spent his hour long + drive from Bern to Basel listening to audiobooks. And it did not make any sense to me. Who listens to books, I thought. Now 10 years later, I have the answer. I do. Thanks to a colleague and audible’s free 90 day trial, and quite frankly, my brilliant first experience of listening to a book being read out to me (Becoming, by Michelle Obama) – I am hooked. And how!

You see, the time spent driving in traffic is the most terrible, unproductive, useless, horrible time ever. And however upbeat the music, you can’t help but think how much better you could have utilized this time! Here’s the other thing – if you were to ask me how I would use my time, if I had any extra on hand, my answer usually is – ‘ I don’t know! Maybe read more?’ And, that’s why, this is as good as it gets! I spend about an hour in total driving to and fro each day – and in the past, any increase to this, would be make me simmer with rage. But with a book in the background – I have conveniently started feeling like I am spending all this time reading. Which, going by my original statements, is exactly what I would want to be doing? Oh, and my road rage has gone down dramatically – because apparently, I would rather listen to how the Agricultural revolution hasn’t been the boon to mankind that we make it out to be – than yell at the guy who decides to change lanes right at the end and without an indicator. Win-win I tell you.

So that’s that – and that’s how my week has begun. Naah, not exciting in anyway, but for some reason full of thoughts that seem so disconnected, and so random and so not definitely things one would write about and record for posterity. But again, what’s the point of owing space on the internet if it starts telling you what you should be writing?

There isn’t. Hence this.

Oh My Goodness

Going against my usual no-resolution theory, I actually made a resolution this year. I then decided that this was a secret resolution and that I wouldn’t share it with anyone because 1) The tendency of people to say ‘let’s see how long it lasts’ puts me off  2) I am personally inclined to believe in the concept of ‘jinxing it’ 3) The very resolution is something I would have laughed and laughed and laughed at 5 years ago and I am concerned that I will face the same reaction from others.

But – because I did not resolve to keep my mouth shut when I have a reason to, I did not keep it a secret, at all. Infact, on last count I have told it to, let me count, almost everybody? I mean, the ones who bothered to listen atleast. And the reactions ranged from ‘ Is that enough gyan for today?’ to ‘I think that’s enough gyan  for today’. So that made me much more confident about writing about it here – that and also the fact that this whole ‘I will write this year’ thing is closing in on being a bit fat failure if I don’t write something.

So my resolution for 2019 is – Give everyone the benefit of doubt

If that made you laugh cynically, I would request that you stop after 40 seconds because I need to get into further detail here. So I am absolutely aware of the fact that I am by nature a relative opinionated person. As in, in terms of most things I know, I have an opinion about. I am also very, very particular about not making my opinions known, unless I am directly asked. Or, if we have had a lot of beer and the situation demands an aggressive exchange of opinions on topics, usually irrelevant. In any case, sober or not, I definitely steer clear off sharing opinions regarding anyone’s personal matters, which have absolutely no impact on me. Yes, I would rather stay selfish than be tagged a b**ch.

But this doesn’t mean that

1) I don’t have opinions about others’ choices and way of life and manner of speaking and such (I do, I so do)

2) Others will  not share their ‘well-meaning’ thoughts on my personal matters.

And when the two categories coincide, and the no. of folks falling in that overlap area of this Venn diagram seems to be increasing – it can only lead to frustration, annoyance and a general incomprehension of why is this happening to me? And my reaction has always been – ignore the bad sh** and move on.

But somewhere during 2018, I think my ability to ignore went down tremendously. However, I was still sticking to my old – don’t share your opinion theory. Which meant, I was forming way more opinions and sticking to them and not sharing them which meant I was feeling  extremely angsty and all this angst was continuously piling up inside me. And this, we all know, is never a good thing, and it definitely wasn’t for me.

Which is when I decided on my Benefit of doubt resolution. I realised, that now that I seem to be unable to ignore or un-hear, the only thing I can do is assume, positively. Positively assume that whatever annoying thing the person in front is saying or doing, has an absolutely good intent somehow. Or maybe they doesn’t realise that it might be hurting someone. Or, they have a valid, justifiable enough reason to do or say it and that I’m just not aware of it. That while I might have set certain expectations of everyone, I am a nobody eventually, and I do not get to set these benchmarks and then judge people against them, not even inwardly.

Cliched as this might sound, it has worked so far. Turns out, that while ignoring the fact that someone did not meet your expectations is stress-free, it is infinitely more freeing to admonish yourself when you feel the need to pit someone against these expectations – because there might be a genuine reason. So this has meant happier conversations at work, more smiles in elevators and generally a lot less mental cussing.

And ofcourse, hopes of reaching a state of no expectations someday. The chances of which are much lower than me making it to the moon.

Retrospection 2.0

I take these sessions, where I talk of being conscious that you don’t allow the recency effect to impact any of your decisions, and try to look at the larger picture. That is in the context of interviews and such. But fact of the matter is that our entire outlook to life is heavily dominated by the recency effect. What else would explain that I pretty much wrote off 2018 as a ‘tiring/exhausting/interesting (in an annoying way)’ year, when most of it stemmed from the relatively stressful time I was having at work in the last quarter?

So, yes, 2018 wasn’t so bad after all. And there were a lot of firsts – which if you think about, is something that dwindles as you grow older.

As soon as the year started, I did my first ever all girls trip and realized that just how amazing reading sessions on the beaches, punctuated by massage sessions and drinks could be. Technically, one is not allowed to ask for a better start to a year. By March, I had done very fun trip to Delhi to spend time with the little sister, which was basically 5 days of good food, drinks and a lot of talking. Quick on it’s heels came my work trip to Hong Kong, which very honestly, has got to be the most fun work trip I have ever had – and that is saying something considering I have been working for 13 years. It also helped that it was short, but that’s just my reluctance to leave home for long talking.

In May, we did our annual mega-vacation to Greece. And I don’t think there is a need to elaborate on why that was amazing. In November, we drove down to Goa after the longest time, and I turned 36 at one of the nicest, calmest resorts down in South Goa. I got to see a new country (Canada), and experienced sub zero temperatures and a beautiful, fairy-tale like snow covered countryside in Minneapolis in December. And then had the most eventful and fun weekend at Chicago with family. So travel-wise, I think 2018 had me covered.

Zo turned 7 in 2018, and together, we planned the most elaborate birthday party at home, where she invited 21 (!) kids of her age, of which 15 turned up. There was a theme, and games, and great food, and my little girl was a super happy cookie, which made me, a super happy mum. I’d like to believe that 2018 was also the year where I (we, to be exact) got a lot more social, and we have the new home to thank for that.

2018 was the year where Ramu Kaka lodged himself firmly as an indispensable part of our life. He is the sole reason why, since the year I started working, 2018 is the one year where I can claim to have had all my meals, every single day. And each of these meals have been home-cooked, healthy and bloody delicious. There were stints he was on holiday for, and days he bunked (bad, bad days) and only I know how much I have looked forward to his return to the kitchen.

And the clincher – 2018 was the year of running. More importantly, the second half of 2018 was majorly my evolution as a runner. From one who didn’t run, to one who did measly 2 min sprints before huffing and puffing and slowing down – telling herself that there are studies that say running is bad for the knees – to someone who did 18 kms of running in 2 hours and 10 minutes on the 16th of December. I won’t lie and say that just the act of it kept me going. And I doubt I would have pursued the way I did if I hadn’t lost 4 kilos in a short span of 3 months, after plateauing for 3 years, but then superficiality of such kind keeps me going, and I am not ashamed.

There was all other kind of stuff too, crazy streaming, useless Candy Crush, and some reading (though not as much as one would have liked) that introduced me to two of the most wonderful books ever. Ikea opened up in Hyderabad so we went through yet another home decor phase and I think (and hope) we are done now. There are a lot of plants in the house – 35 on last count – and the very sight of them makes me happy every, single day.

So yes, 2018 was eventful. And when there is so much happening, one is expected to be atleast a bit exhausted I guess. So yes, 2018 was tiring, and not all of it was fun. But as I said on one of my Instagram posts, as long as the good-tired > bad/annoying tired, I am only allowed to be grateful for that.

And quite frankly, I am.