There are times you’ll meet a stranger with whom you’ll click, and in the shortest time period, divulge all your inner thoughts and beliefs to that person. It’s a feeling of a delirious high when we get our feelings across to a sympathetic ear, regardless of whether the chance encounter between you two will ever come to pass again or not.

I look back at all the times I’ve put my faith into somebody and revealed my secrets and innermost feeling and insecurities to them. Whether a stranger, an acquaintance, a lover, or a friend, that bond has only been forged when I believe that there will be a nonjudgmental (or maybe just noncritical) ear to listen, and I presume the other person’s faith and knowledge that I will deliver pure, unadulterated words of truth that need not be unmasked. What trust such a momentous conversation and dialogue can have… I am grateful for these incredible experiences.

I’ve learned other the years that these chance occasions are always unexpected and shocking. Bonds forged once are not automatically renewed, nor are somewhat distant relationships automatically excluded from a plausible connection in the future. It’s the combined forces of time, place, moment, and present emotional and mental state that determine if the ‘click’ between two familiars or two strangers is there or not.

I’ve come to take these chance encounters, and moments of ‘truth speak,’ as priceless gem-like milestones in my life. Not quite epiphanies, as I tend to relegate those to only my academic endeavors, but more a meeting of serendipity. These are the bonds of faith.

For those individuals who forge that bond with me, I am eternally grateful for your compassionate ears.

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Writing Piece: Simplicity

November 22, 2015

**I found this little gem I wrote as a sophomore in high school and it resonates with who I am and want to be. Although my life is nowhere as carefree as it was back then, I think the true goal of “voluntary simplicity” is a high and virtuous art of living!**


Simplicity

My life is simpler than most people would prefer.  People would say I am very lazy, but it just turns out that I like to sit around at home doing what I call “nothing” all day.  My hobbies and routine fit perfectly with my way of life as well.  I am not in the least fond of shopping, computers, using cell phones, etc… and would rather spend that time watching television, reading books, eating, and sleeping.  I prefer to have as much free time as possible, instead of cluttering my schedule with classes one after the other.  As I become stressed very easily, I find no need to strain myself with things that don’t interest me.

I strongly believe that one’s lifestyle is heavily dependent on how he is raised in his childhood.  Coincidentally for me, my life has never consisted of too much busyness. As a child, my parents encouraged me to take a few classes in Japan and New York but they never interfered with my daily life.  Now, I don’t take any classes, other than joining a few after-school clubs.

I have stayed at relatives’ houses over a period of time on numerous occasions and I find their lives too fast for me.  My cousins have to run from one place to another, and literally fall asleep before their head even touch the pillow because they are so exhausted from the day.  I quickly become worried for most of the day for no apparent reason and am aggravated when put into this atmosphere.  Being a perfectionist, I find myself troubled about everything as it feels like I have no time to breathe once in-between activities.

If someone were to ask if my life could be any simpler, my answer would be absolutely not.  However, if asked what I could do to less simplify my life, I wouldn’t mind taking a few classed, the way I did several years ago, but nothing more.  I like the way my like has shaped up and find no reason to burden myself with clutter so early in life, as I will have to go through more hardships in college and later on in life.  Some people choose to adopt the lifestyle of “voluntary simplicity” and I am one of them.

elevator-up-button-1024x440Using the elevator isn’t as easy as it sounds. Elevator logic and etiquette are actually rather complex and forever changing, and you suddenly realize (if you’re anything like me) that a day doesn’t go by when you’re not annoyed at somebody’s behavior or mannerisms while riding the elevator that day. It’s not like lifts have directions or a how to manual that everyone is required to read. Neither does it have visual diagrams that illiterate people can use to understand how to use this machinery. On top of that, using an elevator is not taught at primary school as an essential life skill, unfortunately.

I’ve really gotten used to the non-uniformity in elevator practices among riders, but it hasn’t escaped my critical eye. I feel like today’s blog post has been waiting to be written for about 10 years now. Well, at least I finally got around to it!

I feel like its commonplace for myself and other people to make occasional mistakes while riding an elevator and getting embarrassed over our actions. However, I believed these mistakes were a rare occurrence while I was growing up. But when I moved to India, the ratio of clueless elevator riders seems to exponentially increase. (Is this why buildings still have a liftwala to guide you?) Unfortunately, since I’ve been living in India, the error in people’s thinking and ways is all-too-evident to see.  Whether it is getting on the lift without paying attention to the direction it is going in, forgetting to press the button for which floor you’re intending to get to, or not pressing the appropriate ‘up’ or ‘down’ key when calling the elevator to you, elevators are contraptions used to serve knowledgeable and ignorant folks alike.

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So let me just cut to the chase –  it doesn’t matter where the lift is at that point in time, whether you press the ‘up’ or ‘down’ button is very straightforward. If you would like the elevator to take you up to a higher floor – press the ‘up’ arrow. Even if the elevator is already on a higher floor and needs to come down to get you, you simply need to press the direction button for where you want to go. The elevator doesn’t need to be told how to act, you need to feed it information on where you want to go and it’s up to the machine to figure out how to do it. And if you want the elevator to take you down to a lower floor – press the ‘down’ arrow. Regardless of whether it is already on a lower floor and needs to come up to pick you up and take you back down, you simply inform the lift through the ‘down’ button that you’re destination is below you’re current location.

Related Sites:

How to Operate an Elevator and Make the World a Better Place (disorganisationguru.com)
How to Use an Elevator (katyjane.wordpress.com)
Nudging to choose elevator arrows correctly (mostlyeconomics.wordpress.com)
Going up in the world? Why where you stand in the lift reflects your social status (www.dailymail.co.uk)
How to use an elevator… this is silly but plz help? (in.answers.yahoo.com)
How to Ride an Elevator (www.wikihow.com)

To celebrate my birthday and the start of a new year for me, I decided to get my hair chopped off into a small buzz on June 1st, 2015. Because my birthday is roundabout halfway through the year, I thought it would be a good time for new beginnings. Hair is a huge part of my identity, and I felt incomplete the way I was.

I’ve wanted to shave my head once (and be bald) to see how it feels at least once in my life. The thought has been with me for over a decade. I never had the strength to take the plunge because my parents and brother were dead set against it…until now.

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created using the Snap Collage App

Growing up as I did, having dark, thick, lush hair is a sign of health and beauty among Indians (the anthropology of hair – I’ve even written a thesis on it!). Cutting off one’s hair deliberately is done when grieving the loss of a parent, child, or spouse. This why some Hindu widows are seen with shaved heads, mourning for the rest of their lives. And individuals who join the ascetic order shave or pluck (in Jainism) their hair as well to show their renunciation of the worldly life and its associated attachments. It was also mentioned that it would be insensitive for me to be walking around in the UK looking like a Skinhead – believed to be the South Asian-hating British equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan (this is not a fair and whole picture of Skinhead members, but the stereotype). And in a more mainstream point of view, having no hair is obviously also linked to cancer patients and the side effects of chemotherapy. For all these reasons, I couldn’t go against my family and get the haircut I always wanted.

So, understandably, the fact that I nearly shaved it all off was not taken all too well by the family when they saw me after my transformation, but they have thankfully come to terms with it. When I had made up my mind to carry through with my plan a few days in advance, I had tried to prepare my grandparents and family members as best I could to minimize the shock factor. But my reasons for taking the plunge are unrelated to the reasons given by my family…and no less important.

I got my first professional haircut when I was in high school I think. Until then, my dad – who liked me with long hair – had always been in charge of trimming my hair. Going with my friends for my first haircut was a thrill and gave me a strong sense of liberation. My hair was still long, but it was nice to have it styled. It wasn’t long after that I convinced my mom to take me to get brownish highlights. I don’t think she realized what I had done until she saw my locks bleached and had a mini-shock. I don’t think my dad was best pleased either.

Anyway, not too many years later, I started cutting my hair shorter and shorter. From below my shoulders to shoulder to a long bob etc… Every time I’d cut it, I’d wait for it to grow out for about a year before cutting it short again. The same goes for my highlighting experiments every year or so.

Getting a haircut is something of a stress buster for me though. If I’ve been particularly sad and stressed, I’m known to get up one morning, get dressed up, and head to any local hairdressers willing to give me highlights or a cut. Doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, snowing outside, or a day when I knew I’d have to be in the library studying all night. I guess that’s the power of hair and a makeover. It’s an instant pick-me-up. So my family is used to seeing my medium length pixie cuts since I was in Chicago.


The decision to buzz my hair had multiple reasons. But first, these are the reasons I opted for the short buzz instead of my much-wanted shaved look:

  • I thought my scalp would be too itchy and hard to manage if I shaved my head
  • I didn’t know if the shape of my skull was pretty enough for me to feel confident (as opposed to embarrassed) about shaving it
  • My grandfather was ill at the time and I didn’t want everyone to misunderstand my shaved head as a sign of impending grief.
  • I didn’t want my hair growth to be in the ‘awkward and spiky’ phase when I attending my cousin’s wedding in 6 months.

Why I finally decided to get buzzed!:

1. I find this celebrity hairstyle to be bold, beautiful, attractive, and sexy.

2. I think going against the cultural norm is empowering for women and a major confidence boost.

3. It shows I don’t care what others think about me and that I’m comfortable in my own skin…being me.

4. I don’t have extra pressure (spouse or in-laws) stopping me from doing something I’ve really wanted to do for as long as I can remember.

5. I have never seen a picture of a female buzz I haven’t instantly loved.

6. I was always jealous of all my male friends who had short spiky fuzzball scalps and I wanted one myself!

7. I love having short hair but hate the feeling of hair falling into my eyes and face, and tickling the back of my neck, so this would be perfect!

8. If I can go through with this, I can do anything!

And the last 2 points are more philosophical and probably the most important:

9. I wanted 2015 to be a milestone year for me which would shed the negativity, hardships, and depression I had endured for the preceding 10 years with hopes of happiness, fearlessness, and contentment for the next decade. I wanted to replace my old skin with the brand new me!

10. Because Indian hair grows an average of 1cm per month, I wanted only the newest memories created in 2015 to grace my head, so to speak. So buzzing my hair to 2 to 4cms meant I could do that to some extent. I wanted to detach myself from the old pains and not have them burden me in my new quest.

Kudos to my dad for showing me this brilliant YouTube video of Pritam’s Mashup Performance from this year’s GiMA (Global Indian Music Academy) Awards. Not only are the 3 performances brilliant, the video also inspired the idea for this blogs post!

I love Bollywood music and always have. However, I can’t remember lyrics if my life depended on it! Do I sound like anyone you know? Yeah…there is a whole community of us hidden across the world. The only words I can remember (and only after hearing it) are the catchy and overly repetitive song choruses used today. So a mashup is an ideal way for me to enjoy music.

Back in the day, I always felt a bit out of my element in America because other young people would start cheering before even two seconds of the intro of any popular song came on at a dance party, for example, while my own recognition response would have to wait until I’d hear the chorus. May not matter much if you’re just there to dance, but unfortunately, I don’t enjoy dancing and only get on the dance floor and dance if I know the song playing and can sing along to parts of it. I know, bummer for me.

Anyway, getting back to the point, this delayed recognition meant that being in singing or music environments was (and still is) a rather difficult and arduous ordeal for me growing up. Having to participate in a game of Antakshari with family in India by far tops the bill for most uncomfortable situations ever. India Opines disagrees with me and uses cute GIFs to give reasons why it’s the ‘Best Indian Game Ever’ (which apparently requires little skill to play), but I stand by my statement of traumatic (despite the excitement I felt just spending time with family in an entertaining way).

Words Spoken when Starting a Game of Antakshari

For those who don’t know, Antakshari began as a family pastime and singing game played between 2 opposing teams where the first verse of Indian songs are alternatively sung by each group, but the first consonant of the song must match the last consonant sung by the last team (confused yet???). It has featured a lot in romantic films with Bollywood dancing accompaniment (such as the video below from the movie Maine Pyar Kiya) and has even been popularized as a popular Zee TV singing show / musical competition game show since 1993 (hosted until 2006 by Annu Kapoor). The parlor game is also most often played while on a road trip and preferred over collectively watching a movie  in silence, for instance, because it facilitates participation and entertainment for all ages instead of a bus full of snoring and lethargy.

Thankfully the cute little me didn’t know Hindi that well – and knew only one song that started with the letter ma – and would sometimes be unlucky enough to start off the game with my rendition of Hum Aapke Hain Kaun‘s song ‘Maye Ni Maye‘ – jumbling up the lyrics soo bad that I’d become the hilarious opening act for the group. (To be fair, that is a fond memory I retain of the sport…)

Point: Don’t get me wrong, I love watching and listening to Antakshari when there are energetic players on both sides, but being roped in time after time was difficult because I never felt like I could walk away or control the situation. It took me listening to Pritam’s fantastic mashup performance from last month (and the fact I could sing along to all 10 minutes of the clip!) to realize just how uncomfortable I used to get from being dragged into a game of Antakshari in my younger days because I was hopeless at memorizing song lyrics from the beginning verse!

This is the first of a 3-part series about my weight woes. Read Part 2 (Journey from PCOD to Weight Watchers to Gymming Frustrations) here and Part 3 (Journey from Physical Fitness to Mental Fitness) here.

I’ve been overweight since I was a child, and clinically categorized as obese for nearly half my life. I’m still courageously battling my weight issues daily. But does my weight actually bother me? Yes and no.

It may be false, but in my memories, the origin of my weight problems started when the Great Hanshin Earthquake hit Japan in 1995. I was seven years old then, with no idea what an earthquake was… Our apartment building swayed a bit too dangerously for us to stay there, so we moved to a nearby school grounds to live for the next few days. We were homeless and dependent on strangers for food and water. Being a part of a fairly large Indian community, all the families stuck together huddles in blankets (in unusual sub-zero temperatures) on the floor of the school. One of the families, their home relatively safer to get to in order to scavenge edible scraps (I suppose), passed out Choco Pies for us kids to eat – the cream-filled chocolatey goodness that is so popular even today in Japan.

I started going from scrawny and underdeveloped to becoming ‘fat’ after that Choco Pie.

How my obesity problems started with Choco Pie

Ironically apt isn’t it? Because those chocolate Pies were what stopped us from going hungry in a time of crisis. (Not to mention that starvation, hunger, and famine are my most passionate research interests today.) I still eat them Pies whenever I visit Japan. I don’t blame the Choco Pie, just the memory of eating it while in shock and full of fear is seared in my memories… and the fact that I started developing a paunch and getting comments about my weight not long after.

When we moved to the US it just got worse. In fact, with every new move I made, circumstances just got worse and so did my diet. Even though I worked my ass off in PE all through school, and my diet at home was relatively good and healthy (in retrospect) compared to my peers, I still couldn’t stop gaining. I wasn’t actively trying, but I was definitely putting in all the effort I could to be on par with my schoolmates.

Had I been a child of the 21st century, I probably would have been told by a doctor to get on a diet and lose it immediately using xyz methods. Or even pestered by unforgiving contemporary aunties and uncles from the age of ten to stop being a lazy bum. Thankfully, I wasn’t. Well, I might have been, but I don’t recollect it.

Having a weight complex was disguised more subtly back then. I never got sneered at (at least for my weight) in school, coupled with my parents’ conservative style of dressing me in loose comfortable clothing, and my own wish to not reveal my bulges. I got ignored as the quiet mouse I’d been programmed to be (gracias Nippon) by all but my closest friends. No nail polish, no sleeveless shirts, no dresses, no shorts, and no fashion sense. I guess I was a wallflower? I dunno. Either way, I was self-conscious, and worried about being firmly in the overweight category with no idea of how to get to the right shape. So while others probably saw me as having no modern fashion sense, I worried about the body under the clothes. Communication gap anyone? Haha.

When I decided to go to boarding school for my senior year, with every life lesson I gained, I also gained matching kilos because of the horrendous vegetarian options given to us at the cafeteria. And with a small weekly allowance that gave me enough to afford Lays, Pepsi, crackers, Maggie, and the all-important toilet paper  to sustain my livelihood that year, I was definitely off on the wrong foot. If I hadn’t already crossed over into obese territory before, I definitely crossed it by my high school graduation. But at least I had a fantastic and memorable year in the hills of South India!

Then came college. Thankfully there was no cafeteria program in the UK – you had to fend for yourself. But, being the stingy and money-pinching girl I was, plus the fact that I had actively avoided learning how to cook up to that point, the price of fresh produce made me freeze in fear. I probably lived off of MTR packets that had been couriered to me from my parents for the first half of my freshman year. At least until I found friends who would cook for me. Not out of pity, but out of friendship.

With college came passion for knowledge and academia, freedom and independence, and the joys of dating, and lifelong friendships. Haven’t we all heard of newlyweds gaining rapid weight from happiness? Yeah, that completely happened to me … minus the whole newlyweds thing. I think I came back home that first summer break having gained 10 kilos. But when my friends and romantic interests loved me unconditionally exactly the way I was, giving me daily confidence-boosts about my abilities and capabilities, why would the weight problem I’d always struggled with bother me?

So when I was finally diagnosed with PCOD (Polycystic Ovary Disease) back in 2007 (after years of suffering from menstrual irregularities), I had already begun the transformation from timid self-conscious teenager to the woman who had miles more body confidence and embraced her frumpy and rather unfashionista style. The PCOD also confirmed 2 things:   (1) it wasn’t my fault; and (2) there were people who liked and respected me no matter my body shape and size. Of course the doctors who diagnosed me and who I consulted with would disagree, even telling me that I should stop studying to lose weight if I said I didn’t have the time (and in what universe would that have worked!). But then the question would become more moral wouldn’t it – stop following your dreams and passions in exchange for a slimmer me? It didn’t seem justified back then somehow…

…the story of my weight journey continues in Part 2 (Journey from PCOD to Weight Watchers to Gymming Frustrations) and Part 3 (Journey from Physical Fitness to Mental Fitness)! Until then, stay plump and happy! 😀

**I wrote this piece for school back in 2004 when I was in high school (age 16). It was a miserable failure as a satire piece, and my understand and use of the term cannibalism is completely wrong! But I love my imaginative ideas for the piece, so I’m sharing! 🙂 **

Hunter or Hunted?

There is a perpetual common belief that cannibalism is wrong, while hunting is okay. Whether it be with a rifle, shotgun, handgun, or something more distinctive, like a slingshot, army knife, mallet, or one’s own hands, hunting is still legal in some areas – when following certain conditions – but legal nonetheless. How can this be? Won’t inflicting harm on animals, intentionally, breed more violence among human beings? How can someone who kills other living beings for sport, or the thrill of it, not be considered a cannibal?

I propose a solution, more precisely a lesson that will allow the wrongdoer to see and feel the gravity of the situation in which he has been put upon himself. This method will be conducted in two stages. The first will be used for those who hunt with traditional weapons, such as the rifle or shotgun. The second and more dangerous of the two will be for individuals who like to take risks by hunting with mallets or their bare hands. Although the two solutions are very different, both will be very successful in reducing the number of hunters in society today.

The first method allows the hunters to get to know the atmospheres the animals live in, especially the ones they were caught trying to kill. Prisoners are taken to a special jail that is not a building with cells, but resembles a real forest with animals. The goal is to last two days in the wild, with only their jail suits and a bottle of water. No shelter is provided and neither are weapons to fight off predators. Survival instincts and being comfortable in nature is a must to pass the course. On the other hand, the second method demands prisoners to be placed in an arena without any weapons or armor, and encompasses the idea of gladiators. The animal the hunter was till recently trying to kill is then placed alongside the criminal, followed by another. If they are not fierce, such as deer or rabbits, they are to be substituted with wild animals, like bears or tigers. Without any protection, the goal is to survive the attacks of the “enemy” for five minutes. These two methods will make many, not only the criminals, think twice before going hunting again.