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.

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!

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.

Advice to my 25-year-old self…

Pausing the travelogue for a straight-from-the-heart post.
Date: 01/26/21, Tuesday
Venue: Chandler, AZ
Mood: Meh!
Song on my mind: I love my India from the movie ‘Pardes’ (unconventional for me, some would say!)
OOTD: Pajamas

7:30 AM: The husband and I woke up. We are digging the Arizona winter storm.

7:45 AM: *Looks at the mess* (read: in the sink. Not life). *Loads the dishwasher*

8:10 AM: *Makes tea*

8:30 AM: *Serves the tea, sits on the couch, and turns on CNN*

Somewhere between checking emails and sipping tea, I started talking to Fire. We spoke about life. We spoke about how misleading social media is – none can be that glamorous, beautiful, pretty, and thin! A trip to Seattle has been on the cards for a long time. I promised her that I’ll get on a flight the moment I receive an offer (finally). And she said the golden words. She said she was proud of my struggle and motivation regarding the job hunt. I thought it was great that she recognized it. Not many people do.

2:00 PM: Post lunch, the job hunt restarted. It’s been tough. My career has gone down different paths and domains for the past decade. I apply for roles that would allow me to apply 4/10 of my transferable skills. The way the world operated has changed during the pandemic. Your skillset will be obsolete if you don’t upskill yourself. I wonder if I could have shaped my career differently to remain more relevant in the industry at the moment. I wonder if I would have shaped my life differently had I trusted my instincts more. The past 6 years have been formative, to say the least. I wonder what I would advise my younger self for a smoother sail than I already experienced. Probably the following –

  1. Learn to let go – failures, people, situations, trash, unnecessary clothes, etc.
  2. Trust your intuition. You know what’s best for you.
  3. Steer clear of toxic people. Right now.
  4. Stay away from drama. You don’t have the brainpower for that.
  5. You will fail. Situations/entities/people will let you down. Move on. Forgive.
  6. Nobody/Nothing deserves those tears.
  7. Find the faith you lost. You will need it.
  8. Listen to the universe. Be strong enough to walk away.
  9. Do not quit.
  10. Believe that you have a beautiful life and extraordinary career ahead of you. You did not come this far to only come this far.
  11. Make the most of all opportunities.
  12. Relationships are hard. Nobody said it was easy.
  13. You are a warrior. Do not lay your sword. You picked it up for a reason.
  14. Don’t think about the past. It will be painful. Think about the future. It will be brighter than you can imagine.

4:15 PM: Ninad finally caught a break! We went and picked up the new desk from the holding room.

6:30 PM: *Starts writing this post from the new desk* While Ninad attends a meeting, I wonder if I would have done things differently had I known the tips before. Maybe I would have taken up the alternate job offer, taken some interview opportunities seriously, suffered lesser heartbreaks, not moved around the globe, and would have been more stable. Or not. I cannot decide if my life would have changed for the better/worse. The formative years have been splendid. UDub, Nike, Starbucks, and Visa with the cherry of international exposure on top? I have lived a life I could never imagine! It was meant to be. Who knows what the bigger picture is! I believe life has only begun. The beautiful bigger picture is not even half done yet. With this thought in mind, I will open LinkedIn tomorrow morning. For the rest of the evening, it’s Transformers time.

Having said that, I want to hear about your struggles and how you keep yourself motivated. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section. Gracias.

#lessonsOfLife 2020: A blessing in disguise

I apologize for interrupting the travelogue to write this customary year-end #lessonsOfLife series. Of course, this year has been unprecedented. No clue if anyone saw it coming.
Date: 01/02/2021

12:00 AM: A teardrop rolled down my cheek. Tony was no more. I lost it. I looked at the boys and said, “I can’t believe this is happening! What do you mean by Iron man dies at the end of the End game?!”
The boys and I had been binge-watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon over the past week or so. The year ended with Avengers: Endgame. The order of the movies is as below. Yes, we watched all 22-23 of them with full concentration. We ace all Marvel universe related quizzes now.

12:20 AM: We are another glass of wine down. I find it difficult to digest the fact that Iron Man will cease to exist in the universe going forward. I’d found him the coolest.
We open the sofa chaise to take out the bedding. The screws had fallen. I am sorry, but we just brought you home! How can something so new go bad so quickly?!

12:30 AM: N was inside the chaise with an electric drill and a bunch of screws. Ankit and I took turns to hold up the chaise and run for supplies.
It was 12:30 AM. It was a new year, a new beginning, and a new blah blah! This was not supposed to happen. Ordinarily, I would have been too busy dancing away the new year’s night with my loved ones for the sofa chaise to go wrong. Welcome to adulthood, I thought.
We installed a quick fix and moved on with our lives. If that is any indication of how the rest of the year is going to be.
Hoping the AFW guy comes soon enough to fix it. I am still sitting on the same sofa chaise to write this post btw.

1:00 AM: I reflected on the past year. In hindsight, 2020 has been a blessing in disguise for me.

  1. The arranged marriage train had finally stopped at the Baroda junction, and we’d tied the knot. 2020 marks the first complete year of us being married. Of course, long-distance was very difficult – the time difference, the yearning, the missing, the misunderstandings, the arguments, the love. Nevertheless, we survived. I am happy that I could move back and live a married life with a wonderful man.
  2. At Starbucks, several colleagues had some international exposure in business. For example, they had worked in either Asia, Europe, or both. I always wanted an opportunity to learn more about business in other markets. As luck would have it, I got the opportunity to learn business around South-east Asia at Visa. I felt lucky to have received international exposure at that level.
  3. I’d never met someone who’d gone to school at the IITs/IIMs. I always wanted to learn about their perspectives. Thanks to Visa, I had this incredible opportunity to work exclusively with folks who went to school at both IIT and IIM. I worked with and learned from the crème de la crème of the industry (quite literally). Such talented folks, all of them. I felt blessed. You learn a lot from a room where everyone else is a lot smarter than you are. I could not have asked for more.
  4. Infosys made me step out of the house at the age of 21. I hadn’t had a lot of time to spend with my parents ever since. The pandemic hit soon after I moved back to India. Both of my parents had to work from home as well. The lockdown gave us a lot of time together as a family. I will forever be grateful for that family time.
    A few minutes later, I drifted off to sleep.

I believe I learned the hardest lessons of my life in 2020 –
(1) Never take anything/anyone for granted.
(2) Enjoy every moment and be present. You never know which cosmopolitan at your favorite Social is your last one.
(3) Don’t be rude to anyone. You may not get a chance to apologize.
(4) Never take your paychecks for granted. Be glad that you have a job.
(5) Never take your health for granted. Who knew cold could be fatal?
(6) Never underestimate the importance of your hobby. Develop it.
(7) There’s no time like family time.
(8) Marriage needs work. Long-distance is tough.
(9) Life is tough. Nobody said it was easy.
(10) Recognize when people need you. Be there for them.
(11) A few words of kindness go far.
(12) If you have abundant, share. Support small businesses, non-profits, orphanages, assisted living, etc. They need us during tough times.
I believe surviving 2020 made me stronger. It gave me confidence that I can stand up the 8th time after falling seven times. It taught me that miracles happen. Most importantly, it taught me to have faith – a concept that was lost on me before.

2021 starts with fixing what is broken – sofa chaise, laptops, self, etc., and a more serious job hunt. 2020 brought quite a few surprises. I wonder what 2021 has in store. Onward and Upward.

Wishing you all a happy, safe, healthy, and prosperous new year. Happy 2021! Presenting our beautiful holiday cards for you. L-R: Ankit, Apurva and Ninad, Ankit, Apurva and Ninad.

#lessonsOfLife Be kind. Work hard.

Date: 11/17/2020, Tuesday
Place: Chandler, AZ

I have moved places, people, mind, heart, and life quite a bit over the last couple of years. Life has been nothing less than a movie with all the drama. I could get a second Master’s in making lemonade from the lemons life has thrown at me.
After switching countries (again), I am back at the job market. This job hunt is like no other – we are in the middle of a recession, the pandemic is growing worse, none favors visa sponsorship, millions have lost their jobs, very few are hiring, and there is always a gap between what a role requires and what you got. My inbox is overflowing with reject emails. Motivation is hard to come by. But the following call changed things.

Monday evening: It was Padwa day. N and I decided to make Cosmos to celebrate Padwa and the new year. N is a quick learner and has mastered the art of making Cosmos.

Tuesday morning:

10 AM: I woke up with a bad headache/hangover. N was working.

That was my first hangover in a long time. To all the millennials out there – hangovers worsen with age.
10:05 AM: The phone rang. I picked it up.
A: Hello. *Husky voice* (That’s the best I could do)
Interviewer: Hello. Am I speaking with Apurva?
A: Yes, this is she.
Interviewer: Hello. You’d applied for the ABC role in XYZ company. I was wondering if this was a good time to talk. Sorry that I called without intimation.

I couldn’t place the company. At this point, I had realized that the connection between my ears and brain was partially impaired and I could not listen. I had no laptop in front of me so all of his questions would have to be answered impromptu. I said Yes.

Interviewer: Before I begin, we don’t have the set up to be able to sponsor folks. Will that be a problem? If yes, I wouldn’t want to waste your time.
A: Yes, I do need sponsorship to be able to work in the United States.

And then something beautiful happened. He said he believes that I will be successful in life. That woke me up. Here was a guy, who I had spoken to for 2 minutes. He said my resume was solid and he knew only hard-work could have gotten me here. He asked me to continue working hard if I knew only hard-work could help me achieve my goal. He thought successful people can be spotted early on and he had spotted me. He said I shouldn’t depend on a financial clutch; that I should be on my own. He went on to tell me a story about his childhood. That experience had instilled the importance of hard work, pride, and dignity in him. According to him, all I needed was a bridge and a chance. He said I’ve done amazing things in the past and would continue to do so in the future. He wished me well and hung up. I wondered if he did magic crystal or was a fortune-teller on the side!

At the back of my mind, I wondered if he knew how rough the last year or so had been for me. I wondered if he knew how tired I was of the job hunt (already); that motivation has been rare. Rejections were/are the new norm. I wondered if he knew of all that I’ve lost and given up to arrive at the new normal. I imagined the interviewer to be around 50 years old, could easily be passed off as a Grandfather. He was the VP of that particular organization. He would have had better things to do. But he chose to talk to me and motivate me when he could have been able to talk to a more suitable candidate instead. He went that extra mile that recruiters don’t need to/do not. That phone call made my day. I took those few sentences from the stranger to be a message from beyond. Life wants me to strive hard. I took that as an indication that I will reach the light at the end of the tunnel if I continued running.

He was kind. That’s all he needed to be. Some of us could take a page from his book and be kind during these tough times. We need to motivate ourselves and those around us. Sometimes all we need is a little push and a few kind words to soar high.

A few motivational quotes I found at https://motivationping.com/quotes/ and Pinterest. The last quote is my favorite and has been my wallpaper for the past 5 years.


Movie Review: Laxmii and more…

Runtime: 2 hours 21 minutes
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani, Sharad Kelkar, Rajesh Sharma, Ayesha Raza Mirza, Manu Rishi Chadha, Ashwini Kalsekar, and Tarun Arora
Rating: 2/5
Featured image credit: onenewspage.com

I don’t watch horror movies. They leave an impression. N loves horror movies. This one was for him.

Look at the cast again. They’re all good actors. I had great expectations when I started watching the movie. But something was amiss.

It started fine. A few scenes scared the s#!t out of me (PS: I scare easy). That tempo did not stay for long. With the introduction of more characters, the acting failed to feel organic. This is not to say ‘bad acting’, just that the characters did not fit well. Laxmii, in terms of acting, could have been stronger. The supporting actors’ acting skills could have been utilized more. The VFX effects could have been sharper. The storyline is probably the replica of the original movie ‘Kanchana’; a few twists and turns would have helped to pep up the rating. However, Sharad Kelkar’s strong performance eats them up all – combined. He is excellent as Laxmii in the flashback. Overall, they could have done a much better job. On another note, the movie reminds you of ‘Bhool Bhulaiyya’ in a few ways.

Nevertheless, the substance of the movie is good. They’re hitting the right spots. Our country needs to warm up to the third gender and be more accepting. This reminded me of a few instances from my past life –

  1. A decade ago – It was my last year of undergrad. I used to take the train to school and traveled first class. I took the train back home at approximately 5 PM. You see familiar faces when you take the trains around the same time every day. When the train stopped at Nerul, I saw a few ladies sitting on the floor of the first-class compartment (not uncommon). I had to jump over them to board the train. I didn’t get a chance to look at the faces – only their neatly pedicured toenails. As soon as I entered, I saw my mother’s friend from work and found a seat next to her. Lucky me. My seat did not allow me a good view of the ladies sitting on the floor though. The compartment was comparatively silent that day. My mother’s friend and I started chatting. She almost whispered and I wondered why. Out of curiosity, I tried to sneak a peek at the floor. She stopped me and whispered, “Avert your eyes. They’re transgenders.”
    TBH, I was amazed. Looking at their outfits, appearance, and voice I wouldn’t have been able to guess their gender. I don’t know where they were going, what they did to survive but I hope they tried to make an honest living.
  2. Less than a year ago, Women’s day celebration @ Visa – We had the pleasure to hear women leaders speak. One of them was Gauri Sawant. That woman is such a captivating speaker. I always knew transgenders in India survived in sub-optimal living conditions; she gave us a clearer picture. She told us about the journey of her life and her experience of being a transgender mother. She adopted her daughter, Gayatri, in 2008 after Gayatri’s biological mother (a sex worker) died of AIDS. Gauri saved Gayatri from being sold in the sex-trafficking industry. My heart sank.
    Then she moved on to tell us about how she started ‘Aajicha Ghar’. It started when a sex worker asked her if she wanted her 3-month-old son whom she could not take care of (doing what she did). Gauri took the baby as her own and started the organization. ‘Aajicha Ghar’ takes care of abandoned children of sex workers and transgender children. Noble. You can learn more about the organization here –> https://aajichaghar.com/
    I am awestruck by her dedication, zeal, and drive to make this world a better place. You need to be very special, brave, and courageous to be able to do this. Grand Salute to her!

The point is, the transgender community has been deprived of their fundamental rights. Have you ever wondered why you never saw a transgender kid at school or college? Why you haven’t met transgenders at work? Why it took us 100 years to put the 3rd checkbox for transgenders to identify themselves? They’ve been sidelined and discriminated against for years. We have been oblivious of their challenges. This needs to change. And we need to be the ones inspiring and implementing the change. Maybe start sponsoring education, make reservations at schools, colleges, and work. I, for one, have decided to be more cognizant of their challenges and extend monetary help to non-profits.

Hope this inspires you to make a difference. Looking forward to reading your experiences and ideas in the comment section. Love.

Change is the only constant

Venue: Chandler, Arizona
Date: 10/17/20, Saturday, 6:30 AM
PS: I may be jet lagged.

Status Update:
Last Friday at approximately 11:20 PM, I boarded a flight to the husband so that we could finally start our married life together.

N and I had been in a long distance marriage since the November of 2019. The distance had to end some day. The US Consulate had been kind enough to finally issue me a dependent visa (after going through our WhatsApp chat messages, call records and what not) and I had decided to take it. Without further delay, I quit a very high-visibility, high-paying, mentally fulfilling, very stressful yet amazing job at Visa to become a housewife until the Gods reveal the future. Something that took everyone at Visa by surprise (I was out of there within 15 days of receiving the passport). I disappointed quite a few colleagues when I told them that I had nothing lined up and was going to figure life out after I landed.

Life, ever since, has been amazing. N and I are learning so much about each other every day – things that Duo calls could not have done justice to. I have learnt that you don’t need to wait for 12 hours resolve an argument (courtesy no time zone difference), N is really funny, caring, a MasterChef and what not. Kind of ‘sarva-gun-sampanna‘. I’ve never had to cook a meal by myself. Both of us are easy-going – this can be proved by the fact that there are dishes in the sink since Thursday and clothes in the dryer since Wednesday. No sweat.

It is surprising to me that I haven’t had a moment of boredom yet. My timetable for the past week has been –
7:00 AM to 8:00 AM – Wake up
8:00 AM to 10:00 AM – Yoga, Breakfast Prep and such
10:00 AM Onward – Chill
12:00 PM to 3:00 PM – Lunch Prep etc.
3:00 PM to 6:00/7:00 PM – Nap courtesy jet lag
7:00 PM to 8:00 PM – Chill
8:00 PM – Dinner Prep and Chill
Where is the time to do anything else?
Please notice the number of times ‘Chill’ has been mentioned. I am yet to unpack BTW – still living out of my carry-on luggage while the checked-in luggage has been neatly stowed in our walk-in wardrobe. Currently, my (borrowed) diary says ‘Resume keywords‘ on the left and ‘Things to buy‘ on the right. Efforts are being made to strike off items from both the lists with a success rate of 50%.

LHS <> RHS
Good Food. Fin.

It’s been a sudden and a beautiful change for the both of us. As they say, Change is the only constant. I’ve surprised myself every day since the day I’ve received my passport with the stamped visa. Leaving the comfort of my parents was not easy. Leaving Visa was tough too – I have gone from working for 15 hours a day to not working at all; the first time in a decade. There’s always going to be a first time. As a partner and an ‘almost’ newly wed, I am psyched to be under the same roof as N. Can’t wait for the quarantine to get over with so that we can finally start our adventure outside of the 4 walls of our brand-new and extremely tech savvy apartment.

PS: This blog might turn into a travelogue, a cook-book and a sneak-peek into our relationship soon. More to come.