Clap Your Hands

 If you’re happy and you know It clap your hands! One Two!

 If you’re happy and you know It clap your hands! One Two!

 If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it, clap your hands.

Remember that song from school? Simple days when just clapping our hands and stomping our feet to show that we’re happy made us happy.

And then adulthood happened. Happiness stopped coming to us that easily. But trust me, it is easy to be happy again. I get my daily dose of happiness everyday from the little things around me and I clap my hands. Well, not out loud, but I do a mental clap-my-hands to show myself that I’m happy.

Yes, I won’t deny it. Big things make me happy. Like finally buying that piece of jewelry that I had been eyeing forever or taking that holiday to Thailand. But that’s not the kind of happiness that you can experience everyday. It is in the small things that you find happiness, everyday happiness.

I am both surprised and saddened by the fact that we even need something called International Day of Happiness. Shouldn’t everyday be a Day of Happiness? Atleast for me, it is. Or I try to make sure that I find a few moments of unbridled happiness in something each day.

A crisp dosa in the office cafeteria with three types of tangy chutneys. A piece of software code that runs without an error in the first attempt. A silly joke during a boring conference call that sends everyone into peals of laughter, and getting us all alert again. Online window shopping for new makeup, makeup that I might never wear, but something that makes me feel so beautiful just imagining myself wearing it. Learning a new word from some random article that someone has shared on the internet, actually using that word in a sentence and feeling all intelligent about it. Getting an email from an old friend, not a forward, but an actual email that has been personally written just for you. It could be a single line of ‘hey, how have you been?’ But the fact that the friend took the trouble to type it out for me rather than hit a forward button on a random chain email makes me happy. (Well, I could romanticse and say that physical letters make me happy, but who does that these days? )

A good workout in the gym that gets all those good hormones alive and kicking in my brain. And that long shower after that with a snowy lathering shower gel that leaves me all fresh and soft and tingly. Plonking myself in front of the TV on my favourite beanbag with a tall glass of Coca Cola. (Zero, because  all that gym work shouldn’t go for waste, you see) And finally a good night’s sleep, deep sleep that hits you at ten pm and takes you to another world, another happy place in your dreams.

Yes. I find happiness in all these, every day. I am happy and I know it and I really want to show it. So here

*Clap* *Clap*

Here’s more happiness http://CokeURL.com/96jnc.

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One Afternoon

Can I call you a loved one? I do love you.A lot

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve met just once? Is an afternoon enough to make you decide that someone is The One.
Yes, it is.

Two months ago, exactly two months ago, you stepped out of my dreams and stepped into my life. Like that Savage Garden song, the moment I saw you, I knew that I had dreamed you into life. That January afternoon, that perfect Chennai day when I got into your car, glancing at my watch even as you shook my hand because I had to get back
to office in another three hours. But that was the only time we could make it happen, make that meeting happen, the meeting that would decide.
I was in white, so were you. Filmy coincidence. What was missing was a bunch of dancers in white, floating around us in a cloud of mist. Wait. I don’t want to remember that day as a bad Bharathiraaja duet. Let me erase that thought and go back to that moment I stepped into your car again.
There was that awkward silence. We had spoken all that we had to in those endless chats and phonecalls. Face to face wasn’t something we both were prepared for.
But then the ice broke. We had books to talk about, we had Lingaa to talk about, we had all those places we had travelled to to talk about. Places we had travelled to alone, places that one day we will travel to together. Hopefully.
You had a history, you told me. I too have one, but I did not tell you about it. I think it is too early for that. We have the rest of our lives ahead to share histories, to create histories.
If I close my eyes and take a deep breath, I can smell that restaurant we went to that afternoon. That seat next to the kitchen was such a bad idea, but we had no other option. We had to keep shouting to each other across the table over the din of cling clanging vessels. Those 90s Bollywood songs that were playing loudly over the din, it gave us something to talk about didn’t it? Our common love-hate for Kumar Sanu. I still don’t understand what you see in Aishwariya Rai though. Tabu, Tabu is the woman I would want my man
to have his crush on. She has class, man. But let’s fight over that another day. You’re a Darlymple fan, you said. All I know about the Mughals is from my eight standard history text book. But it was fascinating, the way you spoke about history so passionately. Maybe I should read up on something so that I can have a decent conversation
with you next time.

Next time. When will the next time be? It is two months already and you have gone back to your Island of Rain. Was that afternoon a dream? Did you really step out of my dreams, out of my phone and into my life that day?
We speak everyday, we chat. You visit me in my dreams every night. We may not happen, maybe the fates won’t allow us to happen.

But that afternoon, that single afternoon is something that I will remember forever.

Maybe we’ll find our moments again at https://housing.com/.

Hair Today

What does it take to start a new life? Move cities? Quit your corporate job and to teach slum kids? Get out of a relationship that’s not going so smoothly? Yes. Maybe. But then, those are the big things. Major changes. So why not start your new life with the small changes instead. And believe me, it is those ‘small changes’ that are the most difficult to make, the most difficult decisions to take.

I have bad hair. Mousy, limp, rat-taily. I could model for the Before part of a miracle hairgrowth potion from the Amazon forests. All my life I’ve longed for waist length, thick black hair. I’ve envied every woman who walked past me with a snake-like plait swishing behind her back or a woman who wore her hair like a silk scarf casually draped over her shoulders. It was my dream, my fantasy, my obsession : long thick black hair. And without me realising it, that longing was pulling me down, draining me emotionally. Slowly, it started holding me back from everything I wanted to do.

And then one fine day, I decided. My hair shouldn’t decide who I am or who I want to be. So I marched myself to the salon and unashamedly told the hairdresser to chop it off, chop off my mousy, limp, rat-taily hair. Make it short, I said. Give me a pixie cut, a boy-cut a buzz-cut if you will. But chop it off. I don’t want to see my failed efforts , those rupees invested in shampoos and oils and treatments going down the drain everytime I look into the mirror. Cut cut cut. Are you sure, he asked me. I have nothing to lose, I replied. And so the scissors snipped. Snip. Snip. Snip. I felt a cold breeze down my neck. It had happened. I had been freed of my limp, mousy, rat-taily hair. I was reborn. I did not have anything to care about now. New look, new person.

It was bad the first day, I couldn’t face myself in the mirror. I was afraid to step out of the house, I couldn’t face another human being. But then, my hair wasn’t a rat tail anymore, it was fashionably short. I had reinvented myself. I needed a new wardrobe to go with the new hair.And thus the transformation began. New haircut, new wardrobe. The next logical step was a new attitude.

What seemed to be a small step, cutting off my hair slowly snowballed ( in a good way) into a huge positive change in my life. I was finally able to deal with the fact that I will never ever have waist length hair and that ear length hair was better for me. I was finally able to look at those women with snaky plaits and not feel that tinge of jealousy. I was finally able to carry off my own style. And that unveiled the Real Me to me.

It is not about those big bold decisions that you need to take to change your life. All you need to do is to take a small step, a small step our of your comfort zone. A small step away from something that has been holding you back all your life. That’s all it takes for your to transform, for you to start a new life.

So go ahead. Start a new life. Cut off your hair if you want to. Click on https://housing.com/. if you want to.

You’ll be surprised at what lies ahead.

Hope is all around you

Hope, they say was something Pandora unleashed upon the world. Something that is more dangerous than all the other evils she released. Hope. Optimism. Faith. Words that seem so promising, but cause so much frustration when they fail you.

There are some mornings when I wake up hating everything and everyone. I don’t feel like getting out of bed, I don’t feel like dragging myself to work. Days when I don’t even want to exist anymore. And then there are some days when I spring out of bed like a Jack-in-the-box, full of energy and positivity that comes from god-knows-where. The skies seem blue and there is birdsong in my head. And the whole day is filled with joy. Well, a cynic could call me bipolar. But it is not that.

There are small things that bring that spurt of happiness, hope and optimism inside me. It could be the gurgling laughter of the neighbour’s baby . It could be the loud phone call that the  Bihari construction worker is making to his family at the building site next door, assuring his mother or wife that all is well and he will be home soon. It could be the strain of an 80s Illayaraaja song wafting from someone’s FM radio.

It could be the sound of the roadroller starting and the smell of fresh tar, assuring me that the road ahead will have no more potholes, literally atleast. It could be the chatter of children off to school, peppered with giggles and maybe a nursery rhyme or two. Or just aroma of fresh filter coffee that pushes all those positive buttons inside my brain.

Sometimes a poem just pops up inside my mind, filling me with hope. ‘…God’s in his heaven and all is right with the world’. The Song from Pippa Passes, my instant pickup. Or maybe a group of early morning devotees on the way to the temple spreading that invisible aura of devotion, sharing the blessings they are about to receive with the world as they walk past.

Or maybe it is just a good hair day or a nasty pimple has just cleared up and my face seems less blotchy and more beautiful to me  in the mirror. Or a dosa I make has turned out so golden and crisp, making me feel like the world’s best cook, ready to rid the world of hunger with perfect dosas. Or an imaginary crush visited me in my dreams the previous night, making me spend the rest of the next day looking out for him. Well, it could even be a positive horoscope in the newspaper that makes me feel so full of optimism for the rest of the day.

But hope, optimism, faith. It is all out there. In the small things, in the big things in everything. We just need to keep our eyes open and look out to find those triggers. Those triggers that send you to that place, that green flower filled meadow of happiness where everything seems perfect, endlessly perfect.

Find your hope here https://housing.com/lookup.

One..two..three. Home revamp.

I live in a state of organised chaos. So let me do something to make the chaos more pretty.

So let me add another category to this list they’ve given : Ethnic, Contemporary, Minimalistic, Casual, Chic, High-Tech, Retro… ChaoticLazyCrazy

A beanbag to plonk in front of the TV. This one is perfect. Denim. I can wipe my hands on it just like I do on my jeans. (I’m kinda gross that way sometimes. Please excuse) . Picture this. I come home after a long day at work, tired and irritated. I pick up a packet of chips and sink into the beanbag. I switch on the TV and it blares what it usually blares. I sink in a little more and surf channels. I watch, I eat chips, I sink in some more again. Bliss

 

http://www.makemyhome.com/bestofhomedecor/style-homez-denim-football-bean-bag.html

Style Homez Denim Football Bean Bag

Wow. This is one freaky mirror. Pricey, but cool. And it weighs 16.25 kg!!! Maybe it will make me look prettier in some kind of optical illusion. Or maybe it will scare away evil spirits. Or maybe it will create some kind of vastu-feng shui good luck. I’ll hang it on the wall straight opposite the front door so that visitors can have a look at themselves as they enter. Or should I hang it on the bedroom wall?

http://www.makemyhome.com/bestofhomedecor/deknudt-2597-451.html

Deknudt Mirror - (2597.451)

And then this. A one minute timer. For the procrastinator that I am. Do the dishes? In a minute, I’d tell myself and turn this timer. Fold the laundry? In a minute, I say. And I’d turn the timer. Over and over and over again. This little thing can stretch my minutes into hours like no digital stopwatch or countdown timer can.

http://www.makemyhome.com/bestofhomedecor/little-india-beautiful-real-brass-1-minute-real-sand-timer-243.html

Little India Beautiful Real Brass 1 Minute Real Sand Timer 243

And I’m done. Chaos just got a bit more organised. And a little more fun

This post is a part of Makemyhome activity at BlogAdda.com

Soaked in War

Entry for the The Surf Excel Matic #SoakNoMore Contest by Indiblogger and Surf Excelmatic

We soaked for months in mud

In blood.

Fighting

Someone else’s war.

Soaked for months in loneliness

Loveless,  lifeless lives.

Thankless.  Sometimes.

We soaked for months in hate.

Hating them,

Their leaders,

Their religion,

Their beliefs.

We soaked for months in death.

Their’s,

Ours.

We soaked for months in vengeance.

Frustration.

We soaked for months in statistics.

How many we killed,

They killed.

We are weary now,

We yearn for peace.

For home.

We want to soak no more

In war.

We just want to wash away the stains

The blood.

The mud.

The guilt.

The hate.

The Oil.

 

 

 

 

 

No More Soaking

Entry for The Surf Excel Matic #SoakNoMore Contest by Indiblogger and HUL

The bathroom was huge. It was bigger than her entire house. It was a very old British bungalow modified to suit the modern lifestyles. But inspite of all the architectural changes, it had been somehow not possible to move the work area away from the master bathroom. It would affect the 100 year old plumbing, the renovation architect had told them, so the work area remained adjacent to the bathroom. There was a wall that separated the work area and the lavish bathroom, but the access to the washing machine was through the master bathroom.

Shriram Saikumar owned the sprawling acres of tea that carpeted the valley below the bungalow. He was one of the richest men in the area. His wife Sunita Saikumar was a social butterfly. Always involved in parties and charity events across the district. Her gardens were her pride and she won the Best Personal Garden prize at the Flower Show every year.

Shanthi lived in the labourers’ quarters half a kilometer away from the bungalow. She was the handywoman in the Saikumar bungalow. Maid, housekeeper, cook. Everything.  . Mrs. Saikumar had wanted to employ a separate cook, but Shanthi had offered to do the cooking also. That was another five thousand rupees a month for her, and she didn’t want to let it go. It had not bothered Mrs. Saikumar that she was overworking her maid. As long as she paid for services, he was guilt free. And Shanthi did not ever complain.

She would finish her cooking and move on to vacuuming. There was not a spot of dust in the house, but she had to dust and vacuum everyday. And follow it up with mopping. It was a backbreaking job inspite of all the gadgets because of the sheer size of the house. Whenever Shanthi emptied out the laundry hamper and wondered how just two people could accumulate so many dirty clothes everyday. Mrs. Saikumar was passionate about her garden and she would stand with her gardener, wearing her huge hat and gloves and tell him what exactly she wanted from her plants. The amount of mud on her clothes would put a frisky schoolboy to shame. She used a fresh set of gym clothes every day, throwing the used clothes into the hamper, smelling of sweat and perfume. And her newfound hobby of pottery created the biggest mess. Her studio was filled with clay stained cloths that Shanthi had to pick up every afternoon after Mrs. Saikumar’s group of friends left. She was also a painter and Shanthi’s biggest challenge was getting off the watercolour stains from her aprons and making them spotless white again.

Mr. Saikumar’s clothes were another story altogether. He worked most of the time in his warm , dust free office, but on days he went on field visits into the tea estates, he would return with mud soaked socks and dirty brambles stuck all over his trousers.

But inspite of the load of laundry that she faced every day, Shanthi never complained even once.

She had a treat waiting for her every laundry session.  While Mrs. Saikumar sat downstairs reading or talking to her friends on the phone, Shanthi would tuck in her saree and climb upstairs to the master bathroom and open the connecting door into the work area. She would empty the laundry hamper on the floor, and separate the clothes. Then she would pick out the brambles from Mr.Saikumar’s trousers and put them in the garbage bin. Then the clothes would go into the washing machine, and she would set the cycle for them to soak for a good half an hour.

And while the clothes were soaking, she would tiptoe surreptiously into the master bathroom, and fill the large bathtub with Mrs. Saikumar’s bath salts and scented oils. And while the clothes soaked in the washing machine on the other side of the wall, Shanti- maid, cook, housekeeper would step into her mistress’ bathtub and soak herself in warm luxury.

Soaking there in the warm scented bubbles, every ache and pain from the day’s vacuuming and mopping would leave her body. She sometimes would drift away into sleep and dream that she was a queen. An hour later, she would step out, clear out all traces of her presence in the bathtub and take out the washed clothes to dry out in the sun.

***

But today as Shanthi walked upstairs to the laundry room, Mrs. Saikumar called out to her  ‘I’ve got some new detergent, Shanthi. You won’t have to spend so much time with the laundry now. Finish fast and come down’

Shanthi opened the laundry room cabinet and her face fell. There was a new box of Surf Excelmatic. Drat, she cursed under her breath. She didn’t have to soak the clothes anymore. This damn detergent would remove all those tough stains without soaking.  She glared at the box angrily and put two spoonfuls into the machine and dumped in the clothes. Those pottery stains, those paint stains, those bramble bush stains and all sundry stains looked up at her and laughed. The clothes did a little dance of relief. We don’t need any soaking now, the sang.  Shanthi thought they were mocking her. Sadists. We’ll be done before you know it and you can take us out to dry in a jiffy.

Shanthi stared at the large bathtub and heaved a sigh of disappointment. No more soaking, she mumbled to herself. No. More. Soaking.

Seven Days with a Stranger- A Honeymoon Tale

‘Love Marriage ya Arranged marriage’ Indiblogger and Sony Entertainment Television contest entry. For more information visit www.facebook.com/LoveYaArrange.

‘I don’t believe it. It is six thirty in the morning. In Ooty. And he wants to go for a walk?’

Sneha looked up incredulously from under the blankets. Her husband of seven days was already putting on his shoes. ‘Get up, get up’, he urged her, gently tugging at the blankets.

She dragged herself out with great reluctance and plodded into the bathroom to brush her teeth wondering what she’d gotten herself into.  Apparently the two months of courtship over Skype hadn’t revealed much about the man she was to spend the rest of her life with.

She’d wanted a honeymoon in Thailand and her parents were ready to get them the tickets. She had never been abroad and had always envied those photos that her friends put up on Facebook.  But Sushil had already booked the honeymoon package online from Seattle. ‘ India has so much to offer’, he’d said. ‘And you are going to live in the US for the rest of your life. So let us go to this quiet resort near Ooty. I need to relax, not sightsee and take photos for Facebook’.

And as she did for everything else in life, Sneha silently agreed without even putting up an argument.

Just like she had done two months ago when her father and that marriage broker finalized her marriage with Sushil.  Sealed her fate without even asking her opinion. Not that she expected anything else from life. She was twenty two and like every other girl in her extended family she always knew that she would have an arranged marriage. During those three years in college, she didn’t even bother to look at a man because she wanted to spare herself the heartache that was certain to happen since a love marriage would never be allowed .

Today, on that crisp September morning, she walked side by side in silence with the man who was now her husband. Each time his hands brushed against hers she reacted like she’d touched fire. They had spoken to each other everyday on Skype those two months. Sushil was not an email person, he had no time to read her long emails or reply to them in more than three lines. So she sat in front of the webcamera everyday, dressed in her best and spoke to the stranger halfway across the world. ‘What is your favourite dish? Who is your favourite hero? Which movie did you watch recently?’ Long silences and awkward smiles had punctuated their conversations. There was so much she wanted to tell him, so much she wanted to know about him, but there was something that stood between them like a huge wall. The knowledge that her parents were just across in the next room made it even difficult for her to communicate freely with him.

There were times she did not understand his accent. He made jokes and she laughed politely though she couldn’t understand them.  She shyly displayed her wedding  clothes and jewels in front of the camera, asking for his opinion, approval.

The wedding happened two days after her came to India. He had just one month leave and they had no time to waste. The day after the wedding her visa papers were filled and they applied for an appointment at the US consulate. If all goes well she could travel to Seattle in six months.

The first time he touched her, she had cringed. But Sushil was understanding enough that night. ‘It is ok, Sneha. Sleeping with someone you hardly know just because you married him is as bad as a onenight stand with a stranger. Let’s wait’, he smiled reassuringly and rolled over to the other side of the bed. Sneha had said a silent prayer in thanks and drifted away to sleep.

**

At breakfast that morning, in that beautiful resort , Sushil didn’t even look at the menu card. ‘One masala dosa, one sambar vada’, he ordered and looked at Sneha. ‘ Same’, she whispered back, afraid to even open the menu card. And for the next five days, he ordered the same thing for her without even asking.

The resort was around 20km from Ooty, individual cottages spread out on lovely rolling downs. It was literally the middle of nowhere. Their phones worked only in certain spots and there was no TV or internet in the rooms. Sushil seemed to love the place, but Sneha was terrified. There was nothing else to do there except talk to each other. She was afraid that she would run out of topics to talk to him and he would be bored of her even before they left.

They stayed in the resort for the rest of the morning. Sushil walked up to the resort’s library and picked out a book. He took his Kindle from the suitcase and gave it to Sneha, ‘ Here, have a look at my library. I’m sure you’ll love those books’. She held the device in her hand awkwardly. She had no idea how to use it. She looked at Sushil helplessly but he had already sunk into the couch with his paperback. Not wanting to display her ignorance to him,  she played around with the reader, hoping to open something.

The next day a car picked them up for sightseeing. It was a beautiful day and as they drove through the tree lined roads, Sneha felt a sense of elation. They visited all the tourist hotspots that day, the Botanical Gardens, the Rose Garden, Doddabetta. But much to Sneha’s disappointment, Sushil took more pictures of flowers and clouds. She wanted pictures of herself so badly, something to post on Facebook to show her friends. But other than a few photographs of themselves , Sushil seemed more interested in clicking nature. She fought back her disappointment and carried on.

Every minute of the honeymoon seemed to last a long tortorus hour for her. In the evenings Sushil took her to the game room and handed her a table tennis paddle. ‘Come on, let’s have a match’, he said all excited. She didn’t dare tell him that she had never played the game in her life. She feigned a headache and went back to their room instead.

When they passed political posters in the village, Sushil started off on an elaborate analysis of what was ailing Indian politics and began comparing it to American politics. She tried her best to follow what he was saying, but she couldn’t understand what exactly he was getting to. So she just nodded along, not offering her opinions, lest she anger him with a counterpoint.

She thought of how her life in Seattle would be in a few months. She wondered how she could manage to spend the rest of her life with him when they were poles apart and she couldn’t even go through this one week alone with him. She tossed and turned in bed that night, unable to sleep. Maybe her visa would get rejected, she hoped. And then she quickly wished that thought away. She would have to live in her in-laws’ place longer if the visa was delayed. Which was worse, she wondered. Living with one total stranger in a strange land or a family of total strangers in a familiar land.

One day before they were to return to Chennai, Sushil said he had a surprise for her. She smiled and looked around the room, mildly excited. Maybe he had bought her a gift. But he grabbed his camera and backpack and threw her her walking shoes. ‘ Wear these,’ he said ’ I’m going to take you to heaven’.

A Jeep was waiting outside with a tribal man sitting inside. ‘We are going to trek up to Pakasura malai today’ , said Sushil excitedly. ‘It has the most awesome view and there are some ruins of Tipu Sultan’s fort’

Sneha gaped helplessly. She had her period that day, there was no way she could trek, and certainly not up a mountain terrain that needed a tribal guide.  She tried to tell Sushil, but all that came out was a hoarse whisper ‘ Yes, let’s go’.

**

The forest was filled with birdsong. Their guide was walking up ahead, armed with a strong stick. He looked back every now and then and signaled them to follow him. The dampness of the trees engulfed them. They could hear a waterfall somewhere in the distance.

Sushil looked at her and smiled ‘ Heaven, isn’t it?’ he said .’ We’re halfway there.  Another hour or so and we’ll be close to the clouds’

A strong cramp suddenly caught Sneha’s stomach. She stared at Sushil and screamed. ‘No, Sushil, no. This is hell. Do you know that I have been walking up this rocky path with gut wrenching stomach cramps? Do you know that I am terribly tired and hungry?’

The torrent of tears that had started  was unstoppable now.

‘I hate trekking. I hate waking up so early every morning to go for your walks. I hate the dosa you order for me every morning for breakfast.  I don’t know how to operate your Kindle. I can’t understand half the jokes you make. I do not think that your American politics is better than our Indian system. I have absolutely nothing in common with you.’

Six days of pent up feelings broke the dam and burst out of her.

‘Why don’t you ever take my photograph? Do you not like me? I know it was a mistake. We shouldn’t have ever gotten married. You are already bored with me. We don’t know a thing about each other…’ , her voice trailed away as she wept.

Sushil stood there, in the middle of the forest halfway up the mountain, totally stunned by this outburst.

‘Sneha’, he said softly, ‘ I’m sorry. I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t know that I hurt you so much in the past week. Why didn’t you tell me earlier?’ He looked down, feeling ashamed of himself,  staring blankly at the grass below his feet. It seemed like the birds had stopped singing suddenly and silence of the forest engulfed them.

‘Yes, we hardly know each other. But this is what an arranged marriage is all about. We have the rest of our lives to get to know each other, to fall in love, Sneha. Talk to me. Tell me what you feel. Unless you communicate, how will I know what you feel? ’ His voice quivered .

They stood there just staring at each other for a long minute.

He slowly reached out to her and kissed her forehead. ‘We only had a wedding Sneha, now we have to make it a marriage. And fill it with love’

The block of ice in her heart that had stood between them melted. And for the first time in those two weeks she didn’t cringe at his touch. She kissed him back.