Of regrets and mistakes

Venue: Home
Date: Sometime last week
Time: Sometime in the afternoon

It was a casual afternoon. I opened LinkedIn to do the ordinary. A post about mistakes caught my eye. Allegedly, the individual had messed up a crucial release for the CEO of the biggest retailer on the planet. They corrected it immediately. They made an obvious mistake and were not penalized. They did not lose their job and were promoted to the next level. Cooland really lucky? How many of us are spared to tell the tale? Definitely not me! I usually get punished even for the mistakes I do not make.

I spent the entire first mile of our routine family stroll (the baby likes to go out once a day) thinking about my string of errors/regrets. That made me wonder how many of my mistakes have been ignored? Or, for how many mistakes have I been penalized? The list was undeniably endless. I decided to focus only on the ones from this year to simplify the matter. Let me know if any of these resonate with you.

  1. Ignored gut feeling – My PERM petition was messed up multiple times. My gut told me to switch jobs ASAP to save my visa status. But every time I thought of commencing the job search, something threw me off track – Grandma’s grave health concerns, we caught Covid (we’d managed to dodge it for 3 years), GC process finally started (so I would have to stay put for 2 years at least), etc. 
    Penalty: I was laid off. All the heartburn around PERM initiation was a waste. We missed our India trip due to the layoff. Due to the canceled trip, we lost a ton of money on stay and travel arrangements. I could have saved my despair had I switched when my intuition asked me to.
    Reward: My resume was ready the day I was let go since I had done some groundwork earlier. I had lesser heartburn when I was in a bad state.
  2. Spared a month of medical leave – My EX-employer offered no maternity leave (along with no free coffee onsite). I was offered an ‘unpaid medical leave’ for 3 months. I had used up only 2 months of that and had spared a month for our trip to India. In hindsight, I should have taken up the three months at a stretch and spent quality time with the family.
    Penalty: I resumed work a day after the baby turned 2 months old. I had not recovered fully, and the first few weeks were really unimaginable. I had trouble sitting for long hours due to delayed recovery.
    Reward: I got my buying power back. I started working while my family was still around, which gave me much-needed comfort and support during my transition.
  3. I did not maintain a work-life balance – I worked long hours until my due date. When I resumed work after delivery, I worked long hours to get back on track. Once I settled in, I worked long hours hoping for a promotion. Overall, I prioritized releases and perfection over spending quality time with my child (PS: I did spend quality time with my child, just not as much as I wanted to). In retrospect, I should NOT have put in those extra hours.
    Penalty: I lost some crucial time with the baby. My health was impacted.
    Reward: None.
  4. Trusted people easily and quickly – I trusted my EX-employer to do an excellent job with the PERM initiation. I trusted my leaders when they promised a better future. In hindsight, I should have followed my intuition. I should have remembered that revenue is more critical for any enterprise, and employees are highly replaceable resources.
    Penalty: This did not bode well for me professionally, personally, and financially. 
    Reward: None.

The penalties obviously outweigh the rewards. I would do things differently if I had to do it all over again – choose an employer that offers maternity leave. This could be me disrespecting my decisions and myself in the past, but it is what it is. I am considering passing this post to my future employers as my annual retrospective.
What regrets have you had in the past year, and were you penalized?
I look forward to hearing from you all in the comment section or DM me!

The Grief

We entered the conference room and took our seats. My best friend from work sat to my right. My team of developers sat to my left. The mighty HR team sat across the table from us. The ex-Manager read his script.

How did I land here AGAIN? 
Is this a joke? 
How can this happen to us? All of us? 
How is this even possible? 
Is the company shutting down? 
I manage one of the most critical teams in IT. How is this even possible?

These thoughts ran through my brain. The ex-Manager asked if we had any questions. My best friend was sane enough to say kind words and goodbye to my manager. The HRs called out our names and asked us to follow them to their offices. They wanted to walk us through our (petty) severance packages. I asked HR if she could excuse me for a minute. I called up N. Thankfully; he picked up.

Me: Hi, can you please come to pick me up? I was just let go.
N: WWHHAATTTTT?!!? Don’t worry. I am coming. 

The layoffs had started at 8 AM sharp, and half of the IT department was wiped out when this conversation happened. N was working from home that day, awaiting a package. The baby was home too. N packed up the baby and left asap.

The HR took me to her office and handed me the severance package. The company gave no grace period to the employees on visas. Another HR personnel was outside the office to escort me. He had a box in his hand for my belongings. I told him that was unnecessary – I hardly had any belongings in the office. It’s like I was always prepared to walk out. 

I packed my bag in under 2 minutes. The ex-Manager washed my coffee mug and walked me out (I have no idea why). I hugged the folks that hadn’t been affected yet. They were affected by the end of the day as well. It was total annihilation. My team waited outside the office for me to say the final goodbyes. We video-called our off-shore team members and gave them an update. They were shocked. N and the baby came to pick me up. I left Leslies for one last time.

N spent the day sitting beside me. It was a gloomy day at Kulkarni-Paranjape’s. On the other hand, the baby was delighted to see her parents at home and skip daycare. 

Statutory Warning – The section below has been rewritten several times.

I have yet to be able to place my feelings. It is disheartening to lose the job you love (or moderately like). I miss the comfort it brought to us as a family. I miss the buying power. Also, I’m not too fond of being back in the job market AGAIN. Being let go was not a part of my 5-year plan. Losing my job in between mortgages, inflation, and impending recession does not feel manageable. But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.

I am grateful for my ever-supportive husband and family. N and baby are always around to cheer me up. I am happy to see the baby grow (considering I did not get any maternity leave). I have seen the baby crawl and stand for the first time! There is also more consideration and awareness among the recruiters about laid-off employees (there are around 300,000 of us so far). There are more avenues at our disposal (though nothing has come to fruition). Overall, the struggle continues. Hoping everything goes well. Keep watching this space for more.

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 #happyRealization 2018

I’ve had an opportunity of listing the things I’ve learnt these past few years. However, I have had a tough time jogging down the memory lane for the past year. I do remember a few things I realized this year though. Please find below a list of things I realized –

  1. I can be a part of a show – Life has been happening ever since I have become a part of Live2DanceSeattle productions. This year we stepped it up a notch and had a show of our own – Desi Detour. It was a beautiful and sweaty journey that ended with a rad evening. It was definitely a proud moment.
  2. Cleanliness maybe next to Godliness – Desi Detour was tough. Juggling work and the dance schedule was impossible. There used to be ‘wait list’ for dishes to go into the sink (because the sink was already full with soiled dishes). But nothing bothered me. Soiled dishes and messy apartment failed to steal my sleep. Me so much chill.
  3. I love my bed – I think it is the only thing that cares about my comfort and sleep.
  4. I love my couch – As do my friends. My couch recognizes my needs. It swallows me when I am exhausted. It’s big enough to accommodate all my friends (all 4 of them). Also, it does not complain when it is messy.
  5. Money is tough – Earning, investing, saving, spending… everything about money is tough.
  6. Travel is wisdom – In hindsight, I have learnt a lot from my #travelDiaries. The rich experiences have made me wiser, more organized, and given me excellent stories to tell!
  7. Try to be a minimalist – One fine day I realized that I was a pretty small for all this baggage in life. So, I got up and donated 2 bags worth of clothes to Good Will and threw away 3 trash bags worth of unwanted items. I couldn’t believe I had so much to let go.
  8. Let go and Move on – My ‘let go and move on‘ game is at it’s strongest right now. It’s amazing how people walking in and out of my life has ceased to matter to me. It’s sad really. But Oh well!
  9. Mental health – I’ve realized the importance of mental health. As Indians we don’t really learn about mental health awareness at school. Mental problems are considered to be first world since real world problems are aplenty. Any discussion about mental health or even consulting a psychiatrist/psychologist is a taboo. However, I have realized that sometimes mental health is more important than physical health. Wrong attitude reflects poorly on you and shows at work and home. Definitely not a good place to be.
  10. What’s your contingency plan? – Everything was hunky dory until we received an email from our CEO about impending layoffs. The world stood still. It forced me to think about my contingency plan – and there was none. My career was everything I have ever worked for and so this experience was a little scary. You start working with a company and you work for it till the end of time or till you decide to go for something better. It is always your choice. You never think about getting laid off. That thought had never crossed my mind until that one email. I obviously did not receive it well. The experience did teach me to make contingency plans and plan better. You know what else I realized? – Nothing is permanent.
  11. Never take anything for granted – In this day, age, country, visa status take nothing, nothing for granted at all. It’s surreal how situations change every minute. That makes me wonder whether or not we should even have loyalty towards a city, state, organization or people. Life is beautiful and you’re living your dream. Shoot me if I take my life for granted.

Hope you remember your 2018 better than I do. And Happy New Year!

#lessonsOfLife

I grew a year older and wiser this month. Here’s a list of things I’ve learned in the last year –

  1. I am fully capable of living on my own… in the heart of downtown… alone… \m/
  2. One can sleep after watching a horror movie because… (see the next point)
  3. Sleep is the most important thing ever.
  4. Earplugs work just fine for the early morning trash trucks.
  5. Some things are just not meant to work out.
  6. People change.
  7. People leave.
  8. Some people leave for a reason. The reason stays even after they’ve left.
  9. Work is life but life is not work – however you want to put it.
  10. Mental illness is real.
  11. Medical bills are huge. Be fit. Stay fit.
  12. ‘Me’ time is a real thing. You need ‘Me’ time.
  13. French fries are an acceptable lunch option.
  14. It is absolutely fine to fall asleep while at movies.
  15. It is okay not to party on a Friday. You can be a homebody if you want to.
  16. It is not okay to be indecisive. Decisions are important.
  17. Let go and move on.
  18. Forgive and forget. Don’t get back in touch though.
  19. If you think you have “problems” in life may be read a newspaper or watch the news for 5 mins. Follow the theory of relativity. Your problems are the uber first world problems most people would die to have. There would be at least a million people on the face of this earth who would be more than happy to live your life.
  20. Family is the real deal.
  21. Travel makes you wiser. Travel as much as possible. #wontEatWillTravel
  22. Milky way is beautiful. Try star-gazing as much as possible.
  23. Netflix is chocolate cake and amazon prime video is the icing on it.
  24. Live life with no regrets.
  25. Past is in the past for a reason. Never turn back. You are not going there.
  26. Some people do not understand the concept of ‘olive branch’ and it is not your responsibility to you to teach them.
  27. Your mood should never be dependent on the people around you. Stay calm. Stay foolish.

Of Choices and More…

8:00 AM: I left for Trader Joe’s to buy cucumber as instructed. Fire sounded very serious about picnic plans and I wanted to prove my support. We left for the hike soon after the successful purchase of every item from the list. P.S: None wants to play with Fire.

11:30 AM: The Baby (read: Fire’s niece), Fire and I reached the trailhead after having fought with traffic and found a parking spot (#theStruggleIsAlwaysReal). We started the ascent.

11:45 AM: The name of the trail had rung a bell before but I decided not to jog my memory.  20 minutes into the hike and we reached a bridge. Everything came rushing back to me. I had already 2 of my facebook display pictures clicked here in two different outfits with two different group of people. This was going to be a hattrick for me – 3 consecutive years to the same place with 3 different groups of people. Not cool. Should take this as a signal and try different hikes.

1:00 PM: Fire led the troupe as usual. Baby followed her and I was at the tail-end. The hike got busier as the day and hike progressed. Dogs of all sizes made a point to annoy me. I tried to distract myself by eavesdropping.

Two friends/colleagues, both probably in their late twenties, walked a few feet behind us. The conversation was about the risks they had taken in their lives and relationships. And then something one of them said caught my attention –

Friend 1: But then, I can’t even imagine how my life would have been had I stayed back and continued my job…you know…

Friend 2: Yeah, me too. And I think it is wrong to think like that. When you doubt your life choices and decisions you are in a way disrespecting yourself.

4:00 PM: We reached the trailhead, drank hot coffee and drove back to Seattle.

That sentence about doubting life choices ran in infinite loops in my brain. I had been doubting my decisions for a while now. Every time I saw the numbers on my credit card bills, salary account and student loan account I doubted my decision of coming to the US to pursue my dreams. Dreams are expensive. I could have avoided the debts and the hassles and tension. Every time my grandparents were sick and hospitalized I questioned my choice of leaving India. I wasn’t around when my grandfather passed away. I shall be forever guilty about that. Guaranteed, I would not have been in the position I am at had I not taken the risks. There is no way I could have achieved what I have had I not taken the risks. But still, I do try and imagine how my life would have been had I not taken the steps I did. Maybe life would have been better… or maybe not.

That made me realize… when I doubt my own decisions I am disrespecting myself. Whatever path you chose to walk on was your choice. Just because you had hiccups does not mean you made the wrong one. You gotta walk till you reach the destination. In the end… whatever the deal is… you gotta face the consequences and own up to it. Period.

 

 

#firstWorldProblems

7:50 AM: I turned the hot water knob. I turned the cold water knob. Could not get the water temperature as desired.

7:55 AM: The above steps had been repeated around 100 times by now. I was frustrated. I had a meeting at 9 AM and the shower wasn’t doing its job. I was going to be fashionably late to this one (as usual).

8:40 AM: I ran toward the train station. I was going to be late for the meeting but the only emotion I had was of ‘disappointment’ toward my ‘shower’. If only shower could feel.

7:00 PM: It was a regular IMO with my parents. 10 minutes into the call I found myself cribbing about my shower! 😐 My parents laughed out loud. I wondered why! It was a legit problem for me. It took me complete 5 minutes to adjust my shower every morning and that mattered to me. The equation goes like this —>

5 minutes in the morning > 50 minutes in the evening

But my parents LOLing at my “problem” (the world should be read with quotations) made me realize the intensity of my problem… which was none. It was as if I had made something up to crib about. Getting late for work because of not being able to adjust the shower… in the bathroom of my 1 bedroom apartment… at the heart Seattle downtown sounds like a problem people would love to have.

After a close assessment of all my “problems”, I realized that all of them were #firstWorldProblems. I started taking mental notes and came up with a list.

  1. Shower temperature adjustment – In the bathroom of my 1 bedroom apartment that is located in the heart of Seattle downtown. 1 – You cannot get any more downtown than this. 2- I should be glad that I have running hot water/water all the time.
    The more I think about this problem the more the picture of barren lands and people dying of drought comes to my mind. I come from a place in India where running water is a myth and all lands are barren; irrigation doesn’t exist and the only way farmers can be debt free is by committing suicide. When I think about that I think this might be the most first world problem I can ever have.
  2. “I have no clothes to wear” – At least 4 piece of clothing falls on the ground when I open my wardrobe. I have an insane number of clothes and my wardrobe is always going to overflow unless I get rid of like half of it. I still cannot find clothes to wear.
    This is one of the three essentials of life – Roti, Kapda aur Makaan. The problem of my life is that I have a too much of ‘kapda’ while people in other parts of the world cannot make their ends meet. I think I am probably blind to have been saying this.
  3. Books – I like books. Books on the lines of clothes are overflowing too. My bookshelf is full and I need to find an overflowing section to keep my books. This is something I figured today.
    All this while adult literacy rate in India is only 72.1% (Adult literacy rate for China: 96.4%. Please don’t blame India’s population here). Even Myanmar surpasses us by 21% (Myanmar at 93.1%) and the world average is 86.3%. The no. 1 reason they say is poverty. Too many books to read… probably a good problem to have.
  4. Cannot get my makeup right – My makeup can be shiny/too shiny/perfect/bland/WTF is that? depending on the proportions of foundations and moisturizers I use. I cannot have the same look any two days.
    So… I have enough money to buy multiple foundations and multiple moisturizers and cannot get the proportion of all of them perfect. And I crib about my makeup not being perfect… Yea… this is certainly as stupid as it can get.
  5. My bathroom does not have a plug – So I cannot use all the hair curling/straightening/drying gadgets in my bathroom.
    I crib about this while 2.5 billion people do not have access to a loo.
  6. ‘Alexa’ doesn’t listen – And Fire has come across this problem as well. Our little robot (maybe?!) does not listen to our orders if and when she is playing loud music for us. Our voices don’t cut through the music probably. This is too fancy to even be considered as a first world problem.

After reading the list of my first world problems I thank God/whoever made me so privileged/my parents for granting me everything I ever wanted/did not want/never thought I would have. I have no wish list anymore. Do you? I think it is time we stop thinking about our fictitious problems and do good to eliminate the real world problems from this world. Use your resources well. Do your bit.

Of Moh and Maya

Flashback: From a long time ago… 

2:30 AM – It was a random morning. I had unexpectedly scored exceptionally well on a test that I thought I would have to take again. I had sneezed 20 times already and the day had not even started. Everything was weird about the situation – the place, my unexpected trip to Mumbai, the time, the weather (very cold; something that I never get to experience). I was abnormally laid back about my early morning flight. I hadn’t even packed yet. Today, I wanted life to take its course.

4:00 AM – We left for the airport. We were obviously running late. My family always takes the pain to drop me off at the airport and waits till I check in, be it any time of the day. Yes, I have been that lucky! Our ride to the airport was supposed to cover all the serious topics on the agenda for this trip. The family meeting began. Thoughts were aligned. Priorities were refined. We reached a consensus. Everything was resolved. Everyone was happy. It is unusual for your priorities to align with those of your parents. None of us compromise on anything. And it was never about ego. Ego does not really exist in my family (Touchwood).

The last month had been terrible for me personally. Life had forced me to take a series of desperate decisions. Desperate times desperate measures. I detested evenings. My parents were worried. My decisions were questioned. I stood alone. All I wanted was to realize my dreams. Every little disagreement killed me a little. I could not settle.

5:00 AM – I checked in and swiftly moved around the airport. Mumbai airport always feels like home. It is as if I belong there. My brain feels and thinks brilliantly every time I am at an airport. I should have taken all my exams at the airport. Who knows I would have aced every one of them!  Mumbai airport is also shopping paradise for me. I checked in at Foursquare, tweeted on twitter and hopped on to the bus that led us the plane. Early morning flights are lovely (read: complimentary breakfast).

6:00 AM: I found my seat, and made a small talk to the Saudi based south Indian seated beside me. I was so engrossed in the movie that I did not realize the plane taking off. I did not realize the turbulence maybe because a- I had grown used to flights or b- the movie was awesome.

And it struck me…how much I was used to the pleasures of my life. Frequent flying, chauffeur driven cars, eating at the best restaurants in the city, staying at the best places, buying the most expensive things impulsively – and not thinking about anything while doing any of these and more. I realized how material-driven life was/is. But how long can a Gucci bag make us happy? Desire is real. Everyone wears brands, every kid wants the best of the toys, every girl wants a diamond, every man wants a Roland…the list is endless. Personally, I am drowned. And I see no signs of recovering.

8:30 AM – While I tried to define ‘simple living’ in my mind the pilot spoke in his supremely sensuous voice. I had never paid attention to announcements but his voice too compelling. We landed. The sunny weather awaited me. I politely left thanking the flight attendant and hoping that my luggage had traveled back with me.

I wonder if material pleasure equals happiness! It certainly means a lot though. The pleasure is way over-rated. I am not really sure why the world has turned materialistic- peer pressure maybe. Everyone believes in ‘If you’ve got it…Flaunt it!’. It is a vicious cycle. ‘Simple living and high thinking’ said someone zillion years ago. I wonder if it holds true in this world and age. I wonder if we can denounce the pleasures and live a really simple life. Probably not.

Wiser on the run…

June 6, 2015.

10:00 AM: It was a sunny Seattle morning and was going to be my last one in Seattle for a while. I was on my way Portland- 3 months at the Nike headquarters. I was excited. I boarded the train. It was going to be a scenic ride.

I noticed her while still struggling with my carry-on luggage. She was pretty and old; her eyes spoke volumes about her suffering; her body language screamed fear, yet her elegance stood out. I know I am no psychologist, but she was an easy read. She looked at me and said ‘Hi’ with a broad yet faded smile. We started talking.

We spoke at length about how we make decisions in life, our relationships (failed and current) and her marriage and mine. She lived the life I fantasized (for a vacation) and I lived hers. She lived in a shell, having an alcoholic for a husband. And I always lived in mine. She never had kids and asked me about mine. I said ‘sure’! I didn’t know why I said that. I quickly calculated her age and mine and realized she was old enough to be my mother!

I had been soul-searching recently and she answered some of my ‘should I? should I not?’ questions. She asked me to wait. We take a lot of decisions to achieve (emotional, physical, financial or mental) stability in life and parking decisions may not be an option in a lot of situations. But she asked me to wait. And I found that to be a better idea than jumping guns. The conversation made me ponder about all the pressing concerns of mine.

What if I decide to stay single all my life? What if I decide to live by myself all my life and not care about what the world had to say about it? What if I gave up the job I disliked? What if I give up on relationships that have been hurting me?  What if I could just say no?

Every word of hers made me wiser. Her voice deepened as she spoke. She regretted her decisions in life and so did I. I am sure all of us have regrets. What is a life without regrets?

Time flew. We reached Portland. She was walking back into her unnerving life and her disappointment was evident. I was sad to let her go. We hoped our paths would cross again. It was a goodbye. How I wish I could keep her with me.

I felt privileged to have had such an impactful conversation with a stranger. It’s funny that we find answers at the most unexpected places. It’s almost as if every person you meet has a purpose. We actually learn something from every person in our life. Maybe ‘meant to be’ has more than one meaning. Maybe some paths are meant to be crossed and some journeys are meant to be taken. That’s how we grow.

Until next train ride…