Of Autobots and Alien invasion – Part 1

Venue: Somewhere on earth
Time: Early morning

The following happens to you when you binge-watch Transformers and alien invasion movies before bed.

Scene 1:

It was dawn. The golden hour looked perfect. The room was pretty basic – a wooden bed, table lined with a white tablecloth, chair, and my husband, N, sleeping beside me. I look at my fancy watch for the time – 6:00 AM. This is weird because I have grown out of any kind of accessory, and wearing a watch overnight seems unlikely. I woke up and walked toward the bedroom door.

I was on the first floor. The house was made of black rocks – more like a wada. The pillars were beautifully carved like the ones in temples. All the rooms were connected by a corridor that overlooked the chowk/courtyard. Our courtyard had tulsi, a bunch of other herbs, and two Autobots (of course). Let’s call them Bee and Dragon for now. They looked comfortable. Surprisingly, my dream-self felt that herbs and alien-transformers in the courtyard were normal. Weird. As I descended the stairs, I saw my in-laws. Excellent life choice to have everyone under the (same) roof guarded by the transformers!

Scene 2:

All the family members gathered in the courtyard. N and I had been entrusted with the responsibility to go out and buy supplies (for the foreseeable future) that day. Okay, this means going out all the time was not routine. It was not related to the pandemic.

We walked on a surreal landscape. The road was more like a vast ground lined by dense forests on both sides. A fleet of jets continued to land at a distance. The sky was lined with huge spheres made from hexagonal glass-like structures. Fancy but scary. They were the extra-terrestrial beings about to attack earth. Apparently, our town/city was at the center of the attack. Fun. The month-long supplies, transformers in the courtyard, and the unending queue of fighter jets made sense then. A war was about to begin.

I panicked. I frantically started checking my phone and smartwatch for any ’emergency’ warnings from the government. I begged N to return home. He said he would go ahead and buy the supplies all by himself, and I could return home if I was scared. I was so proud of him at that moment! So brave! There were no emergency warnings yet – we still had enough time to get things done. We got all the supplies.

Scene 3:

The sun had set. The war was about to begin. The vulnerable population – population older than 60 and younger than 18, differently-abled, and a few war-volunteers had been transported to safe bunkers. I was amazed by the technological advancements we had – 

  1. Smartwatch – Everyone wore a watch that was almost imbibed in their body and connected to the pulse. The smartwatch was a fit-bit, phone, communication device, and teleportation device. If you were hurt and needed medical help, you could simply teleport yourself to the nearest designated medical bunker. You would then be transported to your assigned bunker, where you would reside till the end of the war – months, years, or decades.
  2. Bunkers – The bunkers were of different kinds – medical bunkers, temporary holding bunkers, permanent bunkers, etc. The permanent bunkers were in deep seas for safety reasons! Of course, there was a central bunker that would co-ordinate with all bunkers for better/worse. All bunkers were equipped with technology and supplies to last for a few years. Bunkers were used only in catastrophic events.
  3. Ammunition – Civilians fought alongside the Autobots and super soldiers of the earth! You could buy the arsenal at random auto-repair shops. Had the earth become so vulnerable to attacks from the outer world that auto-repair stores sold weapons of mass destruction? We went to an auto repair shop to buy more bullets! There is a sentence that I never thought I would ever write/say/think about in my life. The salesman tried to sell us deadlier weapons with a sales pitch. I was in a shady auto repair shop at midnight, in the middle of a forest, where my husband was testing his new gun. What had I gotten myself into, even if it were in my dreams! 

I heard loud thumping noises. The war had started. I opened my eyes. It was N. He was thumping his keyboard. The laptop had ceased working. 

This is it. The aliens are coming, and they have taken over a scientist’s laptop, to begin with. 

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.

#wontEatWillTravel – Death Valley National Park

Venue: Death valley national park
Duration: 1 or 2 days
Best time to visit: October to April
Visitor Center: Furnace Creek
Accommodation: Few hotels/motels inside. We stayed in Las Vegas, NV
Entrance fees: $30

Death Valley national park is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the US. It covers an area of 3.4 million acres! Despite that, you can cover the national park in a day (if you utilize the daylight well). It is barren, bold, and beautiful. It is hostile and diverse. We had only one day to spend here, so we kept away from all hikes. Please make sure you wear sunblock (for summers), have enough warm clothes (for winters), your car has enough juice to survive the day, and carry enough food for yourself. Death Valley is one of the not-so commercialized national parks. There are hardly any restaurants and gas stations inside. If you are traveling from Las Vegas, the last stop to fill in gas is Pahrump. We picked up food in Las Vegas. The route we took is as indicated in the map below.

Dante’s view: This point offers a premier outlook of the national park. It is at 5476 ft. above sea level. It gives splendid views of the Badwater basin that is 282 ft. below sea level.
20 Mule team canyon: We did not know what to expect here. It is a beautiful drive surrounded by white mudstone hills. This one-way road starts fairly wide and narrows towards the end of the canyon before joining the highway. Statutory warning: The road gets curvy later.
Zabriskie Point: This is a good sunrise point. It offers a stunning overlook of the badlands full of canyons in all directions. It is a must-visit point.
Furnace Creek Visitor Center: This is the main visitor center. It has campsites, drinking water, restrooms, and a gas station.
Artist’s palette: There are multiple attractions en route to the Badwater Basin. The hills at Artist’s palette are green, pink, and yellow due to the presence of mica, manganese and iron salts, etc. We were losing daylight, so we drove straight to the Badwater Basin.
Devil’s golf course: The valley floor surface is jagged and uneven, unlike the Badwater basin. This quick stop is necessary.
Natural bridge: This 2-mile round-trip takes you to a natural bridge (1 hour). We skipped it.
Badwater Basin: The valley floor is a salt pan and the lowest point in the US at 282 ft. below sea level. It was our sunset point for the day. The feeling was surreal. You can walk as much as you want in the basin and come back.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: This was our stargazing spot.
6 PM: It felt like 9 PM. We got a good and clear view of the stars and the milky way. We spent an hour talking about the stars, the milky way, and ancient aliens.
7 PM: An animal ran across. We stood up. I turned on my flashlight and directed it to the animal. It was out of the reach of the light but stared right back at us. We decided to leave. We continued our conversation in the parking lot during dinner. Suddenly the car behind ours turned on the headlights and moved. We could see a set of the prying eyes around the vehicle. They left the spot.
On further research, we realized that we had been surrounded by a pack of kit foxes all this while! It was our first rendezvous with wildlife from up close. We left immediately.

I recommend you spend at least two days here and stay at a hotel inside the national park if possible. One can only imagine the sunrises and sunsets here. A few captured moments below.

PC: Ninad/Ankit/Me
Next: Zion National Park

#wontEatWillTravel Road trip Christmas 2020

Day 1/6

We wanted day one to be light. We left home at noon.

205 miles. 3 hours.

Punjabi Dhaba, Kingman, AZ: We stopped here for lunch. This one was a surprise. The restaurant hides behind a Love’s truck stop. You know it is an authentic Punjabi restaurant when you see Canadian truck drivers stopping for a take-out. The menu is limited but will more than satisfy your taste buds.

+85 miles. 1 and 1/2 hours.

Hoover Dam, AZ/NV: We reached this beauty a little before the sunset. All tours are closed owing to the pandemic. So, this was quick.

+38 miles. 45 minutes.

Las Vegas, NV: We went into full tourist mode and clicked a picture under the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.


We stayed at Caesar’s Palace hotel for the first two nights. Despite the pandemic, Las Vegas was pretty crowded. Only a few selected businesses remain closed. We were checked for temperature before check-in. The check-in procedure took almost an hour. The room was beautiful and had a pool view! Statutory warning: Parking is a pain.


We decided to walk the strip in the evening. We also took a ride in the Linq high roller. You can practice social distancing on the ride as every pod seats only 5-6 people. It promises fantastic views for sure.

We returned to the hotel at around midnight.
Next: Death valley national park.

PC: Ninad aka The Husband

#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.

#wontEatWillTravel Road trip – Christmas 2020

Almost 2000 miles. 6 days. 4 states. 4 national parks. The greatest road-trip of all times.

Ankit is visiting! My boys met each other for the first time.
Ankit and I hadn’t been to this part of the US yet. So, we decided to take a road trip to major destinations in and around Arizona. The destinations were a good mix of places we had visited earlier as well as new ones.
This post only outlines the trip. The upcoming posts shall go through all the days/national parks in detail.

Day 1:
Punjabi Dhaba, Kingman, Arizona (Must visit)
Hoover dam, Arizona/Nevada
Las Vegas, Nevada
Night @ Las Vegas

Day 2:
Death Valley National Park, California
Night @ Las Vegas, Nevada

Day 3:
Zion National Park, Utah
Night @ Page, Arizona

Day 4:
Horseshoe bend, Arizona
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Night @ Page, Arizona

Day 5:
Lake Powell, Page, Arizona
Bearizona, Williams, Arizona
Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, Arizona
Night @ Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Day 6:
Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, Arizona
Home Sweet Home.

A few tips if you are going on a road trip during the winters:
1. Clothing: You may need to wear layers. It can get windy, cold, and snowy.
2. Hiking: The major hikes may be closed during the winters. In the event you decide to take the trails that are open during the winters, I would recommend hiking/snowshoes and gear.
3. Gas: Across Arizona and Utah there are stretches with absolutely no civilization. Make sure your gas tank is always full.
4. Food/Drinks: We had a cooler bag full of adult/non-adult beverages at all times. We carried a month-worth of snacks as well. Most restaurants shut down at 9 PM. Depending on where you go you would want to check ahead and schedule accordingly.
5. Stay: We stayed at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, Marriott at Page, and Yavapai Lodge at Grand Canyon. I’d recommend going for lodges inside the national parks if you can.
We changed plans on the go and ended up traveling a lot more than we should have. For example, Bryce Canyon and Zion were last minute additions. Had we planned better, we would have stayed at Kanab (a place between both the national parks) rather than driving down to Page for the night.
6. Please mind the road closures.
7. Spontaneous changes are good. Make sure you have enough fuel for it.
8. We tried to see sunrises, sunsets, and do star-gazing wherever we went. We are sunset-chasers. So, we made sure all the sunsets were picturesque.
9. Don’t approach the wildlife. If you suspect wildlife is around you, excuse yourself. (Story in the upcoming posts)
10. Make sure your team has more than one driver. The more the merrier.
11. Try to drive as little as possible between two consecutive destinations. That saves time and miles.
12. With the sun setting earlier during winters, try to maximize the daylight.
13. We preferred not to spend time at breakfast and lunches. So, they were always on the go. This helped us utilize the daylight better. We made a point to return to the hotel by 8-9 PM. So, our dinners were relaxed and we could call it a day early.
14. Don’t try to pack a lot in a few days. Keep it relaxing.
15. Please download offline maps. None of our phones had a network for long hours.
16. Make sure you have phone chargers in your car.
17. Mind the speed limits. We saw innumerable speed traps, especially in smaller cities.
18. The sun is brutal even during the winters. Make sure you have a pair of sunglasses.

Here’s how our road trip looked on Google Maps.

A few highlights from the trip –

Of the new life so far…

Statutory Warning: This blog post enlists a few updates from the last few months.

I missed the blog post deadline last week, courtesy of my laptop. The laptop Gods have spoken! It does not work on WIFI anymore and needs to be supported by ethernet. Sure. This post has been written on a (physically) semi-broken laptop. I’ve decided to stay with my laptop till further damage does us apart. Loyalty.

Life at Chandler has been surreal. The husband and I have already taken more than a couple of trips around (see posts below for details); happy that the travel game is still strong. Though we have been married for more than a year we have lived under the same roof only for two months. The ‘getting to know each other’ phase has been fun. Pretty organic. Love. You sign up for this phase when you say a ‘Yes’ to having your marriage arranged.

Our apartment is almost set. We settled on this pretty (read: ticked all of our requirements) sectional couch (after having visited every furniture store in the Greater Phoenix area). We also settled on this amazing new TV. The TV stand is heavy, and it took both of us three hours to put it together. I am going to try and avoid moving apartments for life because the thought of moving the tv stand makes me cry. We visited Hobby Lobby for some quote boxes and paintings. The mixtiles have arrived as well. Our apartment looks moderately decorated. Being a minimalist is not our thing. Now I understand why every family makes Costco, Walmart, and Target runs every week. It’s the battle of the finest.

The husband is delighted that everything in the apartment (except for his wife) works either via Alexa/Google assistant or his phone. The list of devices includes tv, thermostat, lights, and the robot. Our new hobby is to follow the robot as she vacuums/mops the floor. I would like to take a moment and thank James Dizon (the Godsent person who created the first vacuum robot). Sir, thank you for making our lives easier. Big fan.

I am still trying to find a balance between being a housewife, job-seeker, and (wannabe) blogger. Writing feels like life. Being a job-seeker and housewife is life. A few days ago, I realized how comfortable I had become – something N had warned me of. It is easy to get comfortable when you’ve slogged hard for ten years, and you get a break all of a sudden. You can be in your pajamas all day, sip wine during the daytime, take long naps during the afternoons, and binge watch Netflix. The fun you have has the power to make all those years of hard work a distant memory. You need a constant supply of motivation to hustle. You need to remember your dreams again and work toward them. Don’t let the fire die. You owe it to yourself. The struggle is real. We all fail but don’t quit. As they say, “When you want to quit, remember why you started in the first place”. The only road to success is to stay motivated and keep going. Hustle. Fin.

I look forward to reading your updates in the comments section. More to come next time.

#wontEatWillTravel Arizona Road Trip – Thanksgiving week

Picture courtesy: Ninad Paranjape/Me.

This was the first trip N and I took as a couple. The states neighboring Arizona are closed for business so we decided to go local. Owing to the pandemic, we researched and made a list of 34 lesser-visited destination in Arizona. We mapped a few destinations out and left the next morning.

Lake Pleasant Regional Park, Morristown, AZ: It is one/one and a half hour away from Chandler. We reached around noon. The drive to the park was amazing – loved it! I recommend you to check the working hours and routes before you travel. The last leg to the lake was shut so we viewed the lake from the Pleasant Harbor Marina. You can rent boats and kayaks here. The lake is as blue as it can be.

Watson Lake, Prescott, AZ: Watson lake is one and a half-hour away from Lake Pleasant. The route from Lake Pleasant to Watson Lake is amazing. Arizona suddenly turns into scenic Montana and ends as Colorado with all the granite at Watson Lake. This charming lake is surrounded by granite rocks.
You can hike the Watson lake loop trail. We chose to maintain distance and climbed down to the lake by taking the rocky path to the left. It’s nothing that you cannot do in slippers (though I recommend you wear shoes). We did not see anyone kayaking/boating here.

Sycamore falls, Williams, AZ: This was going to be our sunset point. The last 10-15 miles of the road to the Sycamore falls is a dirt road lined with private properties. We re-checked the map several times en route to this one. The road ends at a place with a signboard and restroom. There were no markings for the trail. After guesswork, we decided to take the route that started from behind the signboard. We climbed down for 30 seconds (no markings. only logs.) and took a right. Unexpectedly, the falls were frozen. Yes, you read it right. It was not snowing but the falls were frozen. There was no sign of life (at all!). Pretty spooky.

On our way back we saw the best sunset ever.

Sunset in Arizona

Williams, AZ: We were not sure if we could visit Sycamore on Day 1. So, we had booked a room for the night at Williams. Good life choice. We stayed at the Holiday Inn – a comfortable stay. Grand Canyon Brewing + Distillery is right next door. It has great ambiance (Christmas lights made it look even better), and good food. The portions are substantial. You will enjoy the adult beverages here.

Bearizona, Williams AZ: LOVED this place! If you are accompanied by kids, this place is a must-visit. As adults, we could have spent a few more hours for sure. This is a drive-thru zoo attached to a walk-thru zoo! It is recommended that you shut down all doors and windows while driving. A few pictures below to get you excited!

Sedona, AZ: The route from Williams to Sedona is beautiful. You can still see fall colors! The red rocks are mesmerizing. The next destination was the Devil’s bridge. We did not find a parking spot and looking at the crowd we decided to pass. We walked the lonely Two Fence Trail for a little bit instead. It has good views and is not a tough walk at all. Later, we went to Tlaquepaque for lunch and shopping. It is very picturesque. I recommend that you visit The Chai Spot here. A few pictures from Sedona.

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ: We stopped at the Chapel of the Holy Cross after lunch. The views from here are fantastic! It was on the way to our next destination. It was very crowded though. FYI, public restrooms are not available.

We were going to end the trip at Montezuma Castle National Monument but we could not get there in time. It shuts down at 4:45 PM and we reached at 4:55 PM.

Since we could not find a spot for sunset, we stopped at a random place to see the magic. Photos from the valley. We left for home soon after.

Of sunsets and frozen rivers

Arizona is enthralling. Overall, it was a very good road trip. Hopefully, we will take more trips in the future. Keep reading this space for more. Stay Safe.

#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.