How You made me a mother…

Dear Baby Girl Nirva,

I hope this blog post finds you sleeping peacefully with your tummy full. I hope you are not too cold and shivering or too hot and sweaty. I hope the room temperature is just right. Wishing you a good night’s sleep. Today has been tough for you, your tummy, and us. I should probably eliminate caffeine from my diet.

This letter was crafted while I was rocking you to sleep after the long rough day that you’ve had. You are already making ‘imma wake up anytime’ noises as I am typing this down. It’s a little past midnight; we have had a rough couple of nights. I wish a good night’s sleep to be upon us, for you to gain weight, and for me to reduce my pregnancy tummy. PS: I fit in my pre-pregnancy denims and am back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

I remember the night we decided on your name. We had not planned a baby yet but we had zeroed down your name and gender (as if it were in our hands) already. We always knew we wanted a daughter. A few months later we realized we couldn’t wait any longer to hold you in our arms.

I remember the day we learnt that you were on your way. It was day 1 of week 6. I had a strong intuition that I was pregnant since Week 3. It was as if my mind already knew that We had conceived. I felt your presence. We were in Illinois in week 5 and I refused to pick up my own luggage. Baba was furious but being the gentleman he is, picked up all of my luggage along with his. I did not want to risk your health by doing anything that I wasn’t supposed to. I became a mother that very moment – I wanted to protect you even when I wasn’t sure you existed. One night (while in Illinois) after a late night round of cards with the extended family, I told Baba about my pregnancy intuitions. He laughed it off. We reached home (Chandler) a few days later. I doordashed a pregnancy test at 7 AM. And Aai’s intuition was right. You were on your way. Baba was asleep when I broke the news to him. I can never forget the smile on his face. We told both Aaji-Ajobas the same evening. They guided us throughout the pregnancy.

Millions of tests followed. Fatigue had set in along with the mood swings. You dictated what you wanted to eat. We decided to navigate our relationship, life, and eating habits around it. Bed time had changed to 7:45 PM to supply you the energy you needed to flourish. I had just started working as well. You triggered a house search – a place that we could all call ‘home’. The week 8 ultrasound went great. However, delta variant was at large. Both Baba and I had covid symptoms in Week 9 (though we never tested positive). We prayed incessantly for your safety. We quarantined and worked from home for a few weeks. We wanted nothing but for you to be safe. Week 12 appointment was good. Soon we entered second trimester.

It was a lazy Sunday morning and you were only 14 weeks old. I opened my eyes at 8 AM. It was too early for a Sunday (then). Baba was sleeping peacefully. I decided to go back to sleep too. 15 minutes later, you moved and indicated that you were hungry. That was the first time we felt your presence in the tummy. I immediately woke up and fixed you breakfast. I looked forward to feeling your kicks every day for the rest of my pregnancy.

Week 15 brought an almost hit and run. I was glad you were safe. A few weeks later, we had to go to the emergency room. Thankfully, you were safe. More tests followed. Meanwhile, all the offers that we had put on houses had been rejected. Baba and I were dejected. Maybe we weren’t meant to buy a house. A few weeks weeks later, we casually went to see a house in a newer and unexplored area. It was love at first sight. We paid the deposit on the very next day. You had a place to call home now. Mama flew out from New York to help us move.

Things became heavier once we moved into the new house. It was week 20 of the pregnancy. The shopping spree started. We became regulars at every major retailer. Aai would sit on the floor of every aisle she walked in. That is how the knobs for your bathroom were selected. Walking had become difficult. Energy was hard to come by. I felt the constant need to rest and sleep.

Third trimester introduced us to Braxton & Hicks, sciatic nerve pain, acid reflux, infusions, sleepless nights, prodromal labor, and even more doctors appointments. We were sent back several times from the OB triage. I had all the symptoms of pre-labor for 3 weeks but you took your own sweet time. Finally I went into labor at the end of week 41 and you arrived.

I can never forget the first time I saw you… actually when You saw me. My epidural had almost stopped working and I was in tears. The nurse picked you up and put you on my chest as soon as You were born. You immediately turned your neck (don’t think you are supposed to be able to do that at minute 1, but you did) and looked at me. That was the first time when I saw you. Both of us were crying. Actually, all three of us were crying. A tear rolled down Baba’s cheeks when he held you for the first time.

It has been an absolute pleasure to see you grow in the last 7 weeks. You love stories, badbad geete, and talking in general. You already say ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’, ‘Oh wow’ (or at least that is what we hear when you blabber). You have disliked all of the formulas that the pediatrician recommended. You always know where the camera is. You’ve visited Grand Canyon and Bearizona already. You hate being covered. You dislike being swaddled and napping in general. You are gassy at times. Your smile lights up the room.

You have signs for everything You need. We are still trying to learn them. You have taught me more in the last two months than I’ve learnt in the last 30 years of my life. Being your Aai has been the most fulfilling role of my life. You make me a better human being, daughter, wife, and mother every day. Thank you for being born. Thank you for choosing me to be your mother. Thank you for being our bundle of joy.

Love you forever and always. Aai.

#wontEatWillTravel – Rocky Mountain National Park

Venue: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Duration: 1 or 2 days
Best time to visit: Pretty much all around the year.
Accommodation: Estes Park or cabins around the national park. Denver or cities nearby could be a good option as well.

It was a last-minute trip. We did not have a list of things to do for the long weekend and had decided to go with the flow. The itinerary is as below. You have to make reservations to enter the national park and can only enter during those hours. The link to make reservations is here -> https://www.recreation.gov/timed-entry/10086910.

Day 1:
A few must-visit places –
Estes Park: This place is slightly outside the national park. It is a busier area with beautiful lakes, breathtaking views, and loads of restaurants and shopping areas.
Moraine Park: This spot is on your way to the Bear lake corridor. Moraine Park offers abundant wildlife and breathtaking views of the snow-clad mountains.
Bear Lake: This one is a short 0.8 miles walk in the park. The lakes were still frozen and added to the beauty.
Dream Lake & Emerald Lake: The trail starts from the Bear Lake trail. It can get trickier due to the snow.
Trail Ridge Road: This drive offers gorgeous views of the mountains. The views from the overlook spots are stunning. The Forest Canyon overlook has panoramic views of Hayden Gorge, Gorge lakes, Longs Peak, and Stones Peak.
Alpine visitor center: It is the highest visitor center in the US. The alpine ridge trail is an easy, 0.6-mile hike that takes us to the panoramic views of the entire national park.
Alberta Falls: This is one of the popular waterfalls in the park. This 1.7 miles trip takes around 1-1.5 hours. It could take longer due to snow.

Day 2:
The second day was reserved for the Royal Gorge Route Railway trip, Garden of Gods, and Pike’s Peak. You can book the rides here –> https://www.royalgorgeroute.com/. This spectacular 2-hour train ride takes through the Colorado Rockies and tracks the river along the way. The open coaches guarantee you a ‘Chhaiyya Chhaiyya’ feel. We could not do Garden of the Gods and Pike’s peak due to hailstorms but they are must-visit spots. We ended up celebrating our friends’ engagement instead.

More things to do in Colorado:
Colorado has varied landscapes. You could ski, snow-shoe in Aspen, hike in the Rockies, do kayaking and river-rafting in Canon city, or enjoy a hot-air balloon flight in Lafayette. If you feel adventurous you could do ziplining, via Ferrata, take an aerial gondola, or ride the world’s scariest sky coaster. Visit this website for more –> https://www.colorado.com/. A few pictures from the trip –





A quick guide to job hunt

Quite a few of us are either searching for our first job after school or thinking about making that big jump post the pandemic. Having had extensive experience in job-hunting due to unforeseen circumstances, I want to share a few pearls of wisdom with you –

Pre-gaming before the search –

  1. Roles/Skills – I encourage you to think broadly about the skill sets you have acquired throughout your previous employment/education. For example, think about Java if you have been a Java developer or Python/R if you have been a data scientist. Try not to fixate yourself on particular roles.
  2. Resume – Try a new and fresh format. Limit your resume to one page. Incorporate all the keywords that the roles/skills you decided upon need. Use strong verbs and try to quantify your accomplishments. Make a solid resume because it is the first reflection of you.
  3. Emails/Inmails/Cover letter/Connects – Job hunting is a lot about networking. Make sure you have a uniform format ready for emails to be sent to recruiters, cover letters by roles, and messages you could send while making connections on LinkedIn. Make everything reusable and scalable.
  4. Calendar – Multiple job interviews can be difficult to schedule. Create an account with one of the applications to help you manage your calendar effectively. Calendly worked for me. You can incorporate the link in the email content and signature so that it is easier for recruiters to set up a time on your calendar.

The hunt-

  1. Skills vs. Role – Search for job postings by skills rather than a particular role. For example, search for ‘analytics’ rather than ‘business analyst’.
  2. Networking & Platforms – Linkedin premium can work wonders. The best part is that you can connect with the job posters during your application. It could help with networking and gets your foot in the door. Use your inmail credits wisely.
  3. Need for speed – Apply for jobs posted on the same day. You may apply to jobs that are probably a week old. Applying for a job posted a month ago could be a waste of time.
  4. Be patient – Recruiters work with candidates in batches. You may be in luck to be a part of the first batch if you are quick to apply. The interview process can be painfully long at times. You have to roll with it. Be patient but don’t forget to follow up.
  5. Network – You can network with professionals from the industry at (virtual) career fairs, meetups, information sessions, etc. Networking can help in more than one way. The meetup.com website is a great place to meet professionals from every possible field. Some recruiters screen candidates at the meetups/information sessions.

Interview process – 

  1. Get your answers right – Youtube is full of videos to help you curate your responses correctly. I found videos by Linda Raynier very helpful.
  2. Assessment – Make sure you are technically/analytically prepared to tackle any assessments that come your way as a part of the interview process.
  3. Know your routine – Prepare solid answers for routine interview questions like – Tell me about yourself. Why should we hire you? Why this role? Why this company? Strengths/weaknesses, etc. Remember that every answer should be a story and should follow the STAR format.

Handling Rejections
Don’t give up and don’t lose hope. If you receive a rejection email from a recruiter (vs. an automated response) you could use that to your advantage. You could respond to the rejection email with a message requesting your profile to be considered for other roles. You could even suggest open roles if possible.

In the end
I understand that each of the sections could be a post in itself. I hope to elaborate on them soon. Please email me if you think I can help. God speed.

Superpowers alert!

Venue: Home
Date: 05/01/21, Saturday

1:30 AM: I donned my eye mask and hit the sack. I heard a car screech.
It was the husband and his phone. He had decided to search for a good night’s sleep in car-racing videos. I decided that 1:30 AM was too late to have a conversation about one’s sleeping habits. I wondered if I could instruct my brain to hear sounds selectively – ignore the car-racing and only hear either his voice or if my phone rang (in case of emergencies). That would be perfect! One thing led to another, and I ended up thinking how amazing it would be to have the following superpowers –

Selective hearing: How cool would it be if you could hear only selected sounds? Imagine you stay in Mumbai near a Metro construction site. You could completely turn off the construction noise using the technique, and live through the Metro construction process peacefully! You could tune into nature sounds when you want some peace. Wouldn’t that be great? Of course, there are cons, but we won’t go there.

Intuition: How many mistakes could have been avoided if we knew an attempt was going to fail? If we had strong intuition, all of us would have dabbled with cryptocurrencies and the stock market and made loads of money. Strong intuition would have helped us make the right decisions at all times and avoid numerous heartbreaks!

Telepathy: What if we did not require Google duo/WhatsApp/Zoom/Webex to interact? What if we could communicate with others with our minds? How cool and funny would it be to be able to read each other’s minds? It would be a boon in relationships!

Teleportation: Imagine if we could teleport ourselves to different places in a matter of seconds. We could go to Italy for some pasta and wine for dinner, followed by New York for some late-night partying! Of course, some places would be more crowded than the others. We would also be able to live in our home countries and teleport ourselves to work every day. Won’t that be a dream come true?

Trans-medium existence: Why only walk on land? What if we could breathe underwater as we breathe on land? We could set up cities underwater, hang out with mermaids, race with dolphins, and fly alongside the birds!

Healing powers: Wolverine and the other X-Men can heal themselves. What if we could heal not only ourselves but also nature? What if we could avoid forest fires and restore the glaciers? We could reinstate the balance of nature.

Understand all languages: What would it be like to understand and speak all languages? We could decipher the carvings from temples, pyramids, and old scriptures. Imagine the ocean of knowledge we could dive into!

Mind control: Bored of cooking, cleaning, and the endless laundry? What if all you needed to do was ‘think’ of a chore, and it would be done automatically? What if you thought of pasta sitting on your bed and it was already ‘cooked’ and ready to be served by the time you stepped into the kitchen? What if you could control all gadgets using your brain too?

Personal weather control: Do you like the rain and your partner does not? Do you like gloomy weather but live in a desert with no clouds? Personal weather control could help you set up the weather for yourself. You could enjoy a rainy afternoon in Arizona and feel the sunshine on yourself in Iceland! Imagine all the greenhouse gas emissions we would avoid!

One earth: This is not much of a superpower but food for thought. What if all of us were treated equally? What if there were no borders? What if we were NOT divided by countries/race/class/creed/medium? What if dolphins, sharks, humans, horses, and birds were treated the same? What if we could travel without visas? What if there was no concept of developing countries and third-world countries? What if Syria and Mumbai had equal opportunities? What if all areas of the earth were equally developed? What if we lived by the concept of ‘One earth’? What if we could push ourselves to think and work for a ‘higher cause’ and not fight on petty issues.

Somewhere between personal weather control and One earth, I fell asleep. I am still trying to decide which superpower I would want for myself. The concept of ‘one earth’ has stuck with me. I wish we lived in a world where every living being was considered equal.

What do you think? Which superpower would you want to have? Awaiting your thoughts in the comments.

Grim Day Diaries

My thoughts are in italics.

8:00 AM to 9:00 AM – Google search for latest updates.
I open a mobile web browser with a half-open eye. I type the following –

India News
Hospitals buckle under surge.
India’s leaders face rising public anger.
Hospitals plead for oxygen.
7-day new cases average at 280K!

Has life lost its value? How did India get into this mess? Were the political rallies necessary? Is a dip in the Ganges supposed to eradicate Covid? Why did we become complacent and stop wearing masks? Do big weddings equal a happy marriage? Is it necessary to take advantage of helpless kins by selling medicines on the black market for triple the price?

USA News
The USA has the opportunity to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic, but a major challenge lies ahead, expert says
The U.S. issued more than 115 ‘Do not travel’ advisories.
One dead, four wounded in downtown San Diego shooting, police say
Weekend shootings in Texas and Wisconsin add to the tally of Gun deaths.
What Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict means for the future of policing

Is it that easy to die? The pandemic has been hard enough. If you escape the pandemic, you could be fatally shot for traffic violations and grocery shopping. The following quote has stuck with me for a long time.

The fact that humanity has to clarify that any lives matter should be a concern enough.

– First read @Fuckology on Instagram

9:00 AM to 11:00 AM – Video calls, news, and more.
Some relatives/friends tested positive for Covid-19. Someone passed away before we sipped our morning tea. The age of people passing away is declining by the day. We talk about the vaccine, the side effects, people changing the rules of WhatsApp groups, and the increasing number of condolence messages. The bottom line is that everyone is too afraid to open WhatsApp and read something they don’t want.

News channels give you a grimmer perspective. Instagram posts are mostly pleas for medicines, oxygen, plasma for their loved ones. Everyone is trying to put together their own set of Covid-19 resources. 

Hope and faith seem to observe a downward trend these days. Everyone seems to give up a little more every day. Health is balanced by masks, kaadhas, miracle cures, yoga, pranayama, ayurvedic medicines, in-built immunity, and the hope that all of the above work. You feel helpless every time something goes wrong across the globe. Virtual support is essential.

12:00 PM to 5:00 PM: To each his own.
If you go out, you may find someone who believes they are above the virus and the vaccine. They think they won’t catch the virus because they eat healthy food and exercise. They plan to get vaccinated if the situation warrants it. 

Well, if you get the virus, you may not get the vaccine. I wonder what level of confidence one needs to not believe in masks and vaccines! If there is a diet that prevents Covid-19, let us try to benefit countries like Brazil and India at the moment. We will be happy to replace roti-sabzi with food that beats the virus. If any vaccine shot helped me build even 25% immunity against the virus, I would take it. The ones we have are far better!

If you don’t go out, there is a good possibility that you will end up arguing with someone over a virus-related forward or your opinion. If not, you will end up over-thinking about the various news/statistics you’ve read since sunrise.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It is tough to gather and study all facts and figures. Stay away from myths and half-truths. The problem is that in time of need we tend to believe in every last straw and bit of information that we think may be able to help us. Avoid over-thinking. 

5:00 PM onward: Dinner and more calls.
A lot has changed between morning tea and evening coffee. Some more people got Covid-19 while some more passed away. Friends and family back home are sipping their morning tea while you update them about the recent travel bans, canceled flights, and bullets fired for no reason. They quietly listen to you while typing a ‘Get well soon!’ or ‘I am sorry for your loss’ message on WhatsApp. Some earnestly/regularly practice Yoga and Pranayama hoping that it would save them from Covid-19 when they commute to work/outside. Some believe their faith in the God(s) will act as a shield for them against Covid-19. In the end, everyone is trying to survive. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The day has already turned grimmer. You pray to the almighty for health, only health. The rest will follow. You cannot make big plans because you have no foresight into employment opportunities, jobs, immigration, love, and life. All you have is the present. You decide to cherish every moment. After dinner, you only watch light comedy to overcome the sadness that gripped you during the day. At midnight, you turn into a pumpkin. Before hitting the sack, you thank the almighty for the present, for being fortunate enough to experience it, and pray for a healthy future ahead. You hope for the world to be a healthier and safer place to live. Tathastu.

#Live2DanceSeattle: Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost

A lot had changed after graduation in June of 2016. Life as I knew it had changed. Only work and no play had made me a dull person. A colleague of mine from school showed me a poster, and I showed up.

I stepped into the dance class for the first time and did not know what to expect. The hustle towards the graduation degree and personal losses that I had suffered that year had weighed on me. I lacked confidence and vigor. Live2danceSeattle picked me up. What started as a dance class quickly transformed into a big family. During the first season itself, the group had performed at more than nine events. It was only going to get better.

We got bigger studios, more students, more batches, more performances, groovy songs, and tougher choreographies. Dance and celebrating moments with the family had become a way of life. I eventually graduated to the Advanced batch (something that I will forever be proud of). The hashtag #Live2DanceSeattle had started trending in our lives.

Diwali, Navratri, Ganeshotsav all were larger than life with Live2Dance. I remember going for lunches after class on Saturdays with the folks. We’d have to cordon off an entire section of the restaurant to accommodate the crew. One evening, we decided to grab a drink after practice. Of course, we took over the entire bar. The Bollywood-styled-themed parties for Valentines, Diwali were unforgettable. The memorable performances and shows we did were a dream come true. Everyone was ‘living’ their lives with Live2Dance.

Deepali always spoke about creating a family. I did not quite understand it at first. Not until I experienced it. She is an incredible dancer and a fierce friend. She is the kind of person who will be there for you no matter what. She is selfless and kind. The positive vibes, fighting spirit, and ‘never say die’ attitude imbibed in her are limitless. She pushes you to be a better person and coaches you to be a better dancer.

I left Seattle almost two years ago, but I never stopped being a part of Live2danceSeattle. Deepali and Live2dance leave none behind. Live2DanceSeattle supported me through my transition out of Seattle 2 years ago. The support has continued despite the distance and time. They cried tears with me when I packed my life off and welcomed me with open arms upon my return. The hugs were equally tight both times. You know what they say –

“You can take a person out of Live2danceSeattle, but you can never take Live2DanceSeattle out of a person.”

Live2Dance gave me friends and family. This family never ceases to inspire, motivate, encourage and support you against all odds. The pandemic has affected all of us in several ways. Small businesses have been hard hit. After having spent some of the best years of my life with Live2Dance, the news of the studio being hit by the pandemic was devastating. It has been a home and happy place for many of us. I am certain that this is not the end. It is hardly a pause. Live2danceSeattle will be back in a bigger way soon. Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost.

If it is not happy then it is not the end!

Movie Review: Hello Charlie

Streaming on: Amazon Prime
Running time: 102 minutes
Cast: Aadar Jain, Jackie Shroff, Elnaaz Norouzi, Shlokka Pandit
Genre: Comedy
Rating: 2/5

Forty minutes into the movie, I looked at my husband and asked him when the comedy part would start. Hundred minutes into it, I found myself asking the same question.

The movie revolves around Jain and Shroff – Jain being someone who cannot get anything right and Shroff being the billionaire who scammed various banks. Shroff’s girlfriend (Elnaaz) thinks Shroff could flee from the country in a Gorilla costume and hires Jain to transport the Gorilla to Diu. The comedy part is supposed to start now. Sadly, you don’t get everything in life.

Here’s a thing about comedy movies – it is all dependent upon comic timing and dialogs. At times, the story does not matter. You cannot force comedy. Something similar happened here. The comedy scenes did not fly despite having good actors like Rajpal Yadav and Bharat Ganeshpure. I wonder if Jackie Shroff even shot the Gorilla scenes since we mostly see keyhole shots of his face. Elnaaz and Shloka did well in their brief roles. Siddhant Kapoor surprises you in the character of the inspector. It is unsettling how similar Jain and Ranbir Kapoor look. They even talk alike! It may/may not be a good thing for Aadar in the future. We’ll see about that.

Overall, the movie was alright and not a must-watch. If you want to watch something funny, this movie may not be it.

Transitioning into newer normal

Incidence 1: It was a regular afternoon with Grey’s anatomy on the television and me pretending to ‘study’. The husband walked into the living room and announced that he would have to go IN to work tomorrow for training purposes.
The panic that ensued from the announcement was very visible on my face. The husband assured me that he was only going into work and not war. I still tried to fight the decision with sentences like, “What do you mean by you have to go to the office?” and “Are you going to be away all day?” and so on.
I don’t know what made me more upset – The husband being exposed all day long or me having to live alone after a very long time. Separation anxiety seeped in. The idea of commuting to work felt alien to me.

Incidence 2: We do grocery shopping over the weekdays because weekends are lazier. We went to a grocery store over a weekend and panicked. The crowd made us uneasy. Somehow, we had dodged the crowd all these months with weekday shopping. Since we needed a few things, we decided to hurry up our purchase and checkout as soon as possible.

Incidence 3: The husband got his 1st dose of the vaccine last week. I accompanied him for the big moment. The clinic had a socially-distant seating arrangement. Through the measurement tape inbuilt in my eyes, I realized the distance between the chairs was less than 6 ft. Panic! As soon as the husband was called in for his shot, I chose to sit in the car with no AC in the scorching afternoon sun of Arizona. It is better to be tanned by the sun than by the virus.

Incidence 4: We decided to brunch at one of the best-rated brunch places in Chandler. The place was swarming with unmasked people. The waiting line was scattered yet too cozy for my taste. Of course, we left.

Incidence 5: We had quite a few things to shop and return last weekend. That required us to stay out of our safe space for longer. Despite being on a shopping spree, I found myself focused on checking time. The longer duration required for sprucing up our wardrobes made me uncomfortable. I might have let a few deals slip through for the first time in my life.

Do any of the incidences resonate with you? Are you considering a permanent WFH/hybrid structure for your job? Do you get anxious if you are away from your safe place/home for more than a defined time? Are you bothered by other folks wearing masks improperly or of bad quality? Do you feel anxious about being social and likable again? Don’t worry, you are not alone. Millions are struggling with the similar feelings now that the economies are opening up and people are expected to commute to workplaces.

WFH was not a thing when I worked for Sbux. At Visa, the first few weeks of WFH were tough – smaller screen, longer working hours, endless calls, and no separation between church and state. However, the pros outweighed the cons with no commute, lesser pollution, more time with family, lesser social anxiety, and freedom to label some pajamas as ‘work pajamas’. The video calls have made us more connected with family and friends. Never have I attended so many birthday parties/weddings/anniversary parties virtually! The pandemic made us realize how little we need to be happy! After moving back, the husband’s WFH has made life easier, beautiful, and more fun. Also, the time that he saves in the commute can be diverted to the kitchen!

I’ve been looking for ways and means to be more comfortable in social settings and here are a few tips I found on research –

  1. One thing at a time: If you have a date by which you need to start going into the workspace and start interacting socially, start one day/thing at a time.
    Start by socializing with a trusted group of friends over weekends or go in to work a day a week or more. Pace your interactions to your comfort level.
  2. Stay away from substance abuse: This could be a larger problem than you think. Some of us feel comfortable with a beer in hand or shots in our bodies. Do not rely on substances or alcohol to make yourself comfortable in social situations. Seek help if you face problems quitting.
  3. Maintain your schedule: Did you go out for walks/run while working from home? Did you help your kids with their homework during dinner time? Did you love the virtual workout classes? You can continue workout sessions, walks, and helping out your kids even after you start commuting to work. Try to keep your schedules as ‘new normal’ as possible to help you ease into newer normal.
  4. Try to maintain a healthy balance: This may require you to say ‘No’. Has the pandemic replaced Friday night Happy hour after work with long video calls with your family? Don’t want to change this year-long tradition? You don’t need to. You can always try and maintain a balance between your pandemic and post-pandemic lifestyle. Figure out what works for you and create a newer normal.
  5. Flex your working hours: Many employers are open to their employees working fully-remote/partial remote. Talk to your manager/team about new schedules.
  6. Seek help: Many of us have lost our loved ones to the pandemic. It has okay to feel sad and emotional. Seek professional help if you feel anxious and depressed more often than not. Mental health is as important as physical health.

Do you have ideas for transitioning into your newer normal? What activities from the new normal would you like to carry forward into the newer normal? I look forward to reading them in the comment section!

More to come.

New girl in the city – Chandler, AZ

Date: 02/28/21
Venue: Chandler, AZ

2:48 AM: I opened my eyes to search for the source of light/noise that woke me up. After having found no robber/alien, I decided to go back to sleep.
After a failed attempt, I opened WhatsApp. My school friends had just discovered celery juice, ayurvedic medicines, yoga, and the incessant need to reduce weight and be fit. I looked at my growing waistline and decided to do something about it as well. #noteToSelf: Change eating and drinking habits.

3:45 AM: Sleep had given me a slip. I decided to take life into my own hands and read a few chapters from Mrs.Funnybones instead of wasting time ‘trying’ to sleep.

4:45 AM: After reading a few chapters, I stopped to think. I realized that I had never stopped to think about how life has changed or the magnitude of that change. Chandler has made me a daughter-in-law and a wife. I made a quick list of changes in different aspects of life – 

Amazing Love/Married life
Marriage is what brought me here. We have come to realize the beauty of marriage. We have seen love, trust and our relationship grow every day. 

Questionable Social Life
It feels like 2nd grade all over again when I had moved to a new school and none would play with me! Jokes aside, I miss the social life, bar-hopping, feeling of belongingness, fun, and generally…knowing people. I miss my dance life! I miss throwing KJo style parties for 100 people – partly because of Covid and partly because the husband and I are at least 4 years away from knowing 100 people in the area. At present, the struggle to have a social life is real. 

Strenuous Job hunt
I don’t know where this is going. Only the Gods know the bigger picture.

5:15 AM: My eyes felt swollen. I decided to go back to bed, for real this time. As I laid down, I looked at the husband. He opened his eyes and the following conversation happened (that he has no recollection of) – 

Husband: Why aren’t you asleep?
Me: I don’t know. I am trying to go back to sleep now.
Husband: Why don’t you get up and do something fruitful?
I was amazed at my husband’s thoughtful suggestion at the unGodly hour. I knew that the apartment was a mess but I was hoping he wouldn’t ask me to do the unthinkable at this time.
Me: Do you have any ideas for me? I just read a couple of chapters.
Husband: Why don’t you apply and study?
Me: What? At 5 AM? But I want to sleep! Good night.
Both of us fell asleep. #noteToSelf: Never engage in a conversation when the husband is half-asleep. He does not remember and you get furious!

10:00 AM: I woke up swollen. My eyes felt like boiled potatoes. The husband was already on a family call. I joined in.

11:00 AM: I told the husband about last night’s half-asleep conversation. I also announced that we should be cognizant of our eating habits or may soon need karela juice and intermittent fasting to shed the extra pounds. He laughed the entire conversation off.
Brunch happened.

Noon: We decided to take an impromptu trip. We look for nearby places to visit.

12:10 PM: The much-needed cleaning spree began. I am sorry, were we not going on a trip?

2:00 PM: We left for the half-day trip.

3:00 PM: We reached Saguaro lake. Kayaks, picnic tables, barbecues, wind in the hair, and barbecues were an integral part of the scene. All we had was a packet of chips. We decided to eat barbecue-flavored chips to match up. We were not prepared to party here. #noteToSelf: Be better prepared next time.

3:55 PM: Having skipped lunch, we rushed to the only restaurant at the lake and got ourselves a table. The wind was chilly (hoodies on) and the food was yummy (french fries a must!).

5:30 PM: On our way back home, we took a detour to Fountain hills. The fountain did not go off since wind speed was higher than 10 miles per hour. The view and serenity compensated for that.

6:30 PM: We called it a day.

I realized the day is how Chandler has been. I did not know what to expect after Seattle. Life had thrown enough lemons my way. Chandler has been like a lake in the middle of a desert, a breath of fresh air and wind in my dry hair. It has been like a Cosmopolitan lined with lemon with a twist. It has been surreal, amazing, and unexpected. It has been fabulous and beautiful in very different ways. Life here has been something beyond my imagination. Here’s me hoping that life gets better in the Social life and job-hunt realm soon. 

More to come.

#wontEatWillTravel – Zion National Park

Venue: Zion National Park, Utah
Duration: 1 or 2 days
Best time to visit: Summer and early autumn
Accommodation: I recommend that you stay at the lodges inside of the national park. We stayed at Page, AZ. If you plan to visit Bryce Canyon as well, I would recommend staying at BnB/hotels right outside/between the two national parks.
Entrance Fees: $35

This day trip was impromptu. The original plan was Las Vegas, NV –> Page, AZ –> Horseshoe bend, AZ –> Lake Powell, AZ –> Monument Valley, AZ. We did not realize that the way to Page would go via Utah. After entering Utah we checked the maps for proximity to Zion national park (out of curiosity). We were only 30 miles away. So, all roads led to Zion.

Zion national park looks very different in summer vs winter. In summers you have to take the NPS shuttle to go around. In winter, you can use your car. We left Vegas after check-out and had lost a significant amount of daylight already. Our time in Zion was going to be limited. We decided to drive down the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and limit it to one hike for the day.

The Zion Canyon Scenic drive begins at the Zion visitor center and ends at the Temple of Sinawawa (The Narrows). Popular hikes/points like Angels Landing and Observation point are along the scenic drive. The drive looked very different in the winter. Hundreds walked along the scenic road instead of driving. The fall colors looked magnificent. There was a chill in the air. Wildlife roamed free on the roads and obstructed traffic for the most part. It was lovely! We drove to the Temple of Sinawawa and hiked to the Narrows. After sunset, we returned with phone torches on.

Though we could not cover Zion extensively on this trip, here are a few must-visit places –
Canyon Overlook Trail: This 1-mile round trip hike offers one of the best views of the canyon.
Riverside Trail: This 2.2 miles roundtrip is a beautiful walk alongside the Virginia river.
Angels Landing: It is the most popular and thrilling hike that might require training. A section of the hike requires chain-assisted rock climbing!
Weeping Rock: It is a short hike with a mostly paved way. As the name suggests, it is a huge rock dripping with water.
Emerald Pool Trail: This 1.5-3 miles hike connects the lower and upper Emerald pools.
Hidden Canyon Trail: This strenuous 3-mile hike is similar to Angels landing with steep trails and chain-assisted climbing.
Observation Point: This 8-mile long strenuous hike offers jaw-dropping views of Zion national park.
The Narrows: I’ve had a chance to hike the narrows in the summer. This trail goes through the river into the red canyon. The water gets deeper as you proceed. You can use a pair of shorts to do this hike or rent the equipment.

I recommend staying inside the national park if possible. That would save a lot of daylight. Catching the sunrise and sunset would make the trip perfect.

We left for Page, AZ, soon after the hike. As it turned darker, the moonlight reflected off the snow. We stopped in the middle of nowhere for some stargazing. We reached Page for dinner. A few pictures from the day –