Resolving to keep resolutions – 4-month check-in

New year resolutions — don’t we all have them? Mine were:

With the start of the fifth month of this year, I thought it would be a good time to do a check in. I’ve been a great one for making and breaking resolutions really quick, but this year, I chose them with care, ’cause these are things that really mean something to me.

Checking in:

Find a creative outlet – This isn’t going all that great, unfortunately. I did put eye to lens recently, but not nearly often enough. I also picked up on my altered books after a really, really long break…but work pressures can really put a crimp on creative juices. But, there are 10 months still to go this year — I hope to be able to devote more time to pursuing my creativity this year.

Never stop learning – This one’s easy-peasy to keep up with! I’m constantly learning new stuff at work — be it industry-related or inter-personal/managerial skills. Plus, I read a lot, so be it a “pulp fiction” book like Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti or literary fiction like Milan Kundera’s Immortality, there’s a lot to learn about ancient cultures and philosophy.

Stay in touch with friends – As usual, this one’s really lagging, badly. It’s not like I don’t want to keep in touch, but more like not being able to find enough time! 🙁

Lose weight and get fit – I’ve been working on this since the beginning of the year, I’m proud to report! Knowing how much I can procrastinate, this is a HUGE achievement. First, I had a personal trainer coming in thrice a week, but I wasn’t too happy with the results (which were zero!) At the start of this month, I joined the gym, finally! Had a one-to-one session with a trainer there, and I was thrilled with him! He was really upbeat and motivating, seemed to understand my concerns, and best of all, told me my goals were very achievable! I have a second session with him on Saturday, when he will give me an excercise and diet plan. Fingers crossed that everything works out this time. The signs, so far, are good! 🙂

Live, laugh, love more – Isn’t that a beautiful thought to live with? Every day, I’m trying…that’s the best that can be done with this one!

So in the final analysis, looks like some things are going great, some not too well, and one’s almost getting broken. But, hang in there resolution! I’m gonna save you still!!

Let your senses come alive!

It’s been a while since I put eye to lens and shot an image purposefully. So when I got some lily blooms as part of my birthday bouquet, I thought it was the perfect time to indulge in some photographic therapy!

The colors of the blooms, the perfection of each flower, each petal, each vein, made me want to create a “vision of perfection.” I hope this effort has been successful.

The perfection of nature can be seen in the perfection of a lily...


...the pollen tubes floating above the flower...


...form an elegant foreground to the perfection of the petal...


...the variagated veins of which stand out against its brilliant orange

This post has been inspired by the propmt at Creative Every Day.

Thoughts on motherhood

A study of relativity

Motherhood. It’s a scary proposition. And one that most people, even acquaintances, bring up in the normal course of a conversation. Especially when they find out you’ve been married 8 long years and still have no children to show for it. Then the questions fly fast and thick: Why not? Do you know what a big mistake you’re making? What’s the purpose of your life? What will you do when you grow old? Who are you earning all this money for?

Well, me, actually.

But I was supposed to want to have a baby. I was thirty-one years old. – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Don’t get me wrong — I like children — as long as they are not mine, and I can play with them for a short while before handing them over to their parents. But as I write this, I start to reflect, did I always think this way? The answer’s no.

I remember playing house as a little girl, remember asking mom to keep my favorite clothes safely for my baby. As I grew older, I started looking back at those times and laughing at myself. “There’s a long time still before I go down that road,” I used to think to myself. I thought I’d feel the maternal instincts start kicking in by the time I approached my 30s, once I’d settled down, lived life, and was ready to take on the responsibility of an innocent child. But as the years passed, and as I approached the Big 30, I realized that nothing of the sort was happening! Instead of “settling down” and wanting children, I became convinced that motherhood wasn’t for me — at least not yet.

…I did not want to be pregnant. I kept waiting to want to have a baby, but it didn’t happen. And I know what it feels like to want something, believe me. I well know what desire feels like. But it wasn’t there. Moreover, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my sister had said to me once, as she was breast-feeding her firstborn: “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

The reasons to not have children are many — and at the individual level, they are all relevant — my reasons aren’t any better or worse than yours, they’re just uniquely mine. I have a lot of reasons for not wanting children: I’m absolutely petrified of the entire 9-month process, the labor pains, the birth, the post-natal depression; the thought of the responsibility freaks me out; I need my space…just the thought of having a small baby and then a growing child and adolescent around me all the time makes me feel suffocated; it’s a huge economic responsibility (or should I say liability?); and it totally crimps your freedom. That’s what I think, anyway.

I have had a lot of friends and family tell me that I’m making a mistake, that I’ll regret my decision later in life, that I’m being selfish. I’ve answered them in a lot of different ways, but this excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love sums up my thoughts really well:

I still can’t say whether I will ever want children…I can only say how I feel now — grateful to be on my own. I also know that I won’t go forth and have children just in case I might regret missing it later in life; I don’t think this is a strong enough motivation to bring more babies onto the earth. Thought I suppose people do reproduce sometimes for that reason — for insurance against later regret. I think people have children for all manner of reasons — sometimes out of a pure desire to create an heir, sometimes without thinking about it in any particular way. Not all the reasons to have children are the same, and not all of them are necessarily unselfish. Not all the reasons not to have children are the same, either, though. Nor are all those reasons necessarily selfish.

I may live to regret my decision, then again, I may not.

I love children, but what if I don’t have any? What kind of person does that make me? – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

I’d say it makes me a stronger person that those who give in to the pressure to have children, even if they secretly may not want any. It’s just easier to follow the mould and do what’s “expected” of you than to take a stand on a sensitive issue like this one and stick to your guns.

What gives me courage, though, is what my father-in-law said when we told him we were thinking of not having children. “That’s a very good decision, if you can stick to it. Most people end up bowing down to family pressure. If you can stand up to it, and stay firm with your decision, it will be one of the best decisions you have taken. Just remember to have a purpose for your life. For most people, it’s children. If you can rise above that, you’ll need another purpose, so give that some thought.”

Abbuji, I miss you.

A long, lazy weekend

I had a nice, relaxing long Holi weekend. For a change, there were no pressing agendas, and I didn’t feel the compulsive need to go shopping or malling…to be anywhere or do anything.

On Friday, we had some relatives over, and since it was going to be a late night, I cancelled my personal training session on Saturday morning, which meant I could sleep in a little late. Spent most of the morning doing some chores around the house (after a nice, leisurely breakfast and a reading of the entire newspaper!), and then decided to go to Delhi with hubby dearest as we wanted to buy bed sheets, and of course, I had to be involved in the selection process! Normally, I would have gone off to some market or the other while he was at the academy, but I was feeling sleepy and lethargic, so I got myself a coffee from the college cafeteria and stayed at the academy, watching the kids play tennis and reading (The Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski — short review: avoidable).

We weren’t able to hit the stores that evening…had to go drop off some stuff at a cousin’s place…so drove back home after that and ordered in some Chinese.

Sunday was spent much the same way — reading and relaxing during the morning, keeping away winter clothes in the afternoon, and then to the market in the evening to pick up a gift for mom. Caught a movie at the theater in the evening — Invictus, with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon; excellent movie — and then watched Ben Hur on TV at night!

This had to be one of the best Sunday’s in recent memory — no feeling of sadness at it being Monday tomorrow, ‘cause Monday was a holiday! Spent the day organizing the linens and towels, squaring up the house and just chillin. Didn’t get to strike off much from my to-do list, but totally loved the laziness this weekend!

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran – a review

Well-researched and beautifully written, Nefertiti is a compulsively readable first novel from Michele Moran, who gives gives readers a beautiful glimpse into the life and customs of ancient Egypt. Tracing the rise and fall of Pharaoh Akhenaten and Nefertiti, the story is told from the point of view of Lady Mutnodjmet (Muty), Nefertiti’s younger sister.

Married to Akhenaten, the unstable and suspicious 17-year old co-regent of Egypt, who is determined to break with tradition by replacing supreme deity Amun with a little known sun god Aten, Neferiti was chosen by Queen Tiye to balance and moderate his heretical views. Desperate to carve her name in history, however, Nefertiti soon throws caution to the wind and supports and encourages all of Akhenaten’s follies.

Knowing he cannot do much until his father, the Elder, is still Pharoah, Akhenaten decides to move to the desert city of Amarna, where he establishes his capital. However, since he is arrogant and unsuitable to rule over Egypt, Nefertiti’s father Vizier Ay becomes the real power behind the throne, working hard to reverse the damage caused by Akhenaten and ensuring he gains the upper hand over Vizier Panahesi, the father of Akehnaten’s first wife, Kiya.

That sets the premise for palace politics, court events and power struggles. The characters are well developed and engaging, and Michelle Moran manages to pull you into their lives from the first page itself.

Richly detailed, the novel brings alive the sights, sounds, colors and texture of life in ancient Egypt.

Her wig came below her shoulders and behind her ears, emphasizing her cheekbones and slender neck. Every strand of her hair played music when the beads came together, and I thought there wasn’t a man in any kingdom that could refuse her. Her entire body glittered with gold, even her toes.

And if you’re like me and wonder how much of the novel is based on truth, these words from the Author’s note at the end of the book should be encouraging:

While the main historical events are accurate, such as Ay’s rise to power, Akhenaten’s obsession with Aten, the dream of Amarna, and Nefertiti’s unparalleled influence at court, liberties were taken with personalities, names and minor historical events. For instance, no one can be certain how Mutnodjmet felt about her sister’s vision of an Egypt without the Amun Priests, but in an image of her found in Amarna she is standing off to one side, her arms down while everyone else is enthusiastically embracing Aten. In a period where art attempted to portray reality for the first time, I found this significant.

All told, this is a beautiful book that will transport you to the life and times of the epitome of beauty – Nefertiti. A must read.

If you like historical fiction, be sure to check out The Raven Spell’s review of The Courtesan by Susan Carroll. It looks like a very interesting read – definitely on my to-read list!

Bomb blast rocks Pune

German Bakery in happier times

A bomb blast destroyed one of Pune’s famous landmark’s on 13 February 2010 — The German Bakery at Koregaon Park, which is just about a kilometer away from my home. Luckily, my family is safe, though my mom gave me a huge scare since she wouldn’t pick up either her mobile or land line. Turns out she was enjoying a ghazal recital at The Residency Club when the blast happened, but I was shit scared and panicking, even though I knew that the chances of her being around that area were very slim.

This is really a sad day for Pune, which has always been a peaceful and peace loving city that has never been affected by communal tensions or riots.

My prayers are with the families of those who were killed and injured in the blast.

Nawalgarh — Rajasthan’s open air art gallery

Shekhawati: Rajasthan's open air art gallery

We take our annual holiday in December/January, as we prefer to be out of town during New Year (not ‘cause I like it quiet, just so we don’t end up greeting the new year with a fight!). This year, we did a road trip across Rajasthan — from Delhi to Nawalgarh, Jaipur and Udaipur.

We set off for Nawalgarh at around 10:30 on 24th December — pretty late, but that was hubby darling’s brilliant idea. Ergo, we had to fight our way through numerous traffic jams till we got to Kotputli, from where we mercifully left crazy old NH8 and ventured onto roads that were quieter and free of traffic. Thanks to a few wrong turns and one missed turn, it was around 6:00ish when we reached the hotel.

Being on the road for about 7.5 hours meant that we were pretty tired and cranky by the time we checked in. But the hotel, Apni Dhani, was really nice and welcoming. It has traditional Rajasthani huts arranged in a circle around a courtyard, somewhat similar to Mandore Guest House in Jodhpur in terms of the set-up and greenery.

Main entry gate to the Goyenka Haveli, Dhundold

But where it differs is in sustainability and eco-friendliness — they grow their own wheat, barley, maize, have a vegetable garden and also some fruit trees. So a lot of what you eat is actually grown at their property. Doesn’t get more organic than that!

Meeting area, Poddar Haveli, Nawalgarh

The owner, Ramesh Jangid heads the Intach chapter for the Shekhawati region, so he was the perfect person to guide us around the havelis and to tell us where to go and what to see. Though Shekhawati covers a pretty vast area — Jhujhnu, Mandawa, Dundold (some of the big towns) — he told us to visit the havelis of Nawalgarh and Dundold, which was just about 8 kms away, as they have some of the most well-preserved and finest examples of Shekhawati havelis. All the havelis follow the same basic pattern — there is a huge entrance first, with an outside area where the men could receive guests or people who came for an audience, then the main entrance (beyond which the women didn’t step out), where on the lower floor was the kitchen, water store and another drawing room where more important guests might be invited, and an upper floor that had bedrooms with a terrace on top.

Tea with a view, Goyenka Haveli, Dhundold


Made sense, so on the next day, after we were rested and refreshed, we headed into Dhundold. Our first stop was the Goyenka Haveli, which has been well-restored and is open to visitors. There’s an entry ticket of Rs. 40, and the caretaker shows you around. It had some beautiful carving — the door to the main house was made of bronze, above which was a carved wooden and ivory panel. The walls were brightly painted, with a variety of subjects, ranging from a train, to deities and scenes from everyday life.

There was a small little room where matkas of water used to be kept that had a thin door that was left open to let in air — that’s how you got cold water in the hot summer months! There was a typical Rajasthani kitchen, with a statue of a cook making rotis and serving them, and a lot of old vessels arranged in the room, including an okhli and batta. There were a lot of other statues around the haveli…a woman grinding wheat, another of a bullock cart, a third of a meeting…

Cotton sample booklets, Goyenka Haveli, Dhundold

Exploring the rest of the rooms, we saw some lovely antiques in the house, like a kid’s rocking chair and two gorgeous floor to ceiling Belgian mirrors…another room had a mini-museum, displaying old coins, 10 and 100 rupee notes (which were so much bigger than the notes today!), silver jewelry and silver candle stands. In another room I found some old codes and stamp paper, and a book of cotton samples — the owners had two businesses, selling cotton on commission and manufacturing Dundold tea. In one of the rooms a game of chausar had been laid out on the floor, and the caretaker explained how the game used to be played with shells, what the different throws meant, and how to keep count.

Wall fresco, Krishna and Radha with gopis forming the elephant, Poddar Haveli, Nawalgarh

Almost all the rooms had beautifully painted walls. Some of the paintings had recently been restored using chemical paints, but others still had the more than 100 year old original paints made of crushed stone and water.

That tour over, the caretaker told us to go visit the Goyenka’s centograph, which was typical to the centorgraphs found around the region. In fact, he said that most other centographs in Shekhawati were modeled after this one! From there, we wnet to the fort, which was pretty disappointing, as part of it had been converted to a hotel, and they rushed us in and out of there in 10 minutes flat!

We were back at the hotel for lunch, and then spent the evening lazing around…there was a classical music evening at the hotel, which was interesting (though I would have rather gone and seen at least one haveli in Nawalgarh that evening!).

Inner haveli gate, Poddar haveli, Nawalgarh

The next day was reserved for Nawalgarh. We started with the Poddhar Haveli Museum, which was absolutely mind blowing! Each and every surface of each and every wall was filled with varied frescoes, depicting everything from mythology to the kings, trains, Europeans and daily life. The guide explained it thus: In the olden days, the paintings were like TV — for instance, people couldn’t go to Bombay to see the train, so the traders who had been there described what a train looked like, how it ran, what the station was like, to the artists, who painted them on the walls of their house!

Fresco depicting a train and a kingly procession, Poddar haveli, Nawalgarh

There some really interesting paintings, like one showing a woman feeding a child and doing makeup at the same time, another showed Shiv and Parvati on Nandi from the left, and from the right, Bramha and Saraswati on a bull. There was also a painting of the head of the house that was done in such a way that no matter where you went, it looked like his eyes were following you. Very interesting!

Inner courtyard, Muraka haveli, Nawalgarh

The other interesting thing about the haveli was that it offered a virtual tour of all of Rajasthan. A number of the rooms had been converted into galleries, which displayed everything related to Rajasthani culture, from paintings and carving of all the different regions, to wedding dresses, pagdis, all the main forts and palaces of Rajasthan, jewelry, musical instruments, marble work and miniature paintings.

The haveli just took my breath away! Imagine living in a house that was so gaily painted — I’m sure you could find a picture for any mood if you were living in such a place! At times I imagine it might have gotten a bit overwhelming, too, to live under the eyes of so many millions of paintings, but…it was absolutely fantabulous!

The crumbling Bhagwat Haveli, Nawalgarh

From there we went to the Bhagwat Haveli, which had some 100 odd year old paintings that hadn’t been restored. Though it was much simpler than Poddar Haveli, the paintings had an ethereal quality about them…some of them were fading, others were blackened by time and years of smoke coming out of the kitchen, some were peeling off a bit…but that’s the real charm, eh?

Sheesh Mahal, Nawalgarh Fort

We then went to visit the fort, which doesn’t look like one, and has only one room that is worth seeing — the Sheesh Mahal. The central dome is painted to show Jaipur on one side and Nawalgarh on the other, and the circular room is filled with mirror work and more paintings.

Fresco on an outer wall, Aath Haveli complex, Nawalgarh

I wanted to look around at a few more havelis, they’re all so beautiful, but since hubby dearest said no can do, no could do it was! I did manage to bug him into taking me to the Muraka haveli and the Aath Haveli complex, but that was about it.

The next day was check out time. We were off to Jaipur for an overnight stay, and then onto the next leg of our journey — romantic Udaipur!

Do your best and let it go

“The master does her best and lets go, and whatever happens, happens.” — Lao Tsu (Tao Te Ching)

That’s the mantra by which I’ve been leading my life…though I had forgotten it along the way. I stumbled upon this quote again, just when I needed it most! At the start of a new year, a new phase of my life (the rip-roaring 30s!) and just when I was beginning to allow a new pattern to emerge — allowing the “uncontrollable” to control me. So next time I’m going down that route again, I’m just going to re-member my mantra!

After all, how much of what we beat ourselves up for everyday is really worth what we put ourselves through? How much of it is going to matter next month, next year, or 10 years from now?

Think to yourself, when something is bothering you or a disappointment arrives: Is it really a matter of life or death, as my emotional reaction seems to insist, or just ephemeral local weather conditions which will soon be replaced by other thoughts and feelings? Thus, Buddha said to remind yourself that everything is impermanent, fleeting, contingent, like a dream, like an illusion. This will help loosen up your tight grip on unreality.

Why worry about that which is so fleeting and impermanent? It does nothing but detract us from our inner peace and tranquility.

Here is one secret of spiritual mastery and inner peace, freedom and autonomy: It is not what happens to us, but what we make of it that makes all the difference. We can’t control the wind, but we can learn how to sail better. It’s not the hand you are dealt but how you play it, as the cliché goes.

Touché!

Welcoming 2010

It’s that time again — we’re at the threshold of a whole new year filled with potential and promise…12 months stretching out ahead of us, when we can maybe rectify our mistakes from the previous year or gather the energy/initiative to achieve all that we wanted to last year but didn’t. At the stroke of 12:00 on 31 December 2009, sitting on the terrace of our hotel in Udaipur and watching the fireworks from the Lake Palace, we got around to discussing resolutions — their importance and relevance, resolutions we make and keep and those that we make and break.

At the dawn of a new year, we’re generally enthused about the “fresh” start ahead, and filled with that euphoria, list down all the things we wanted to do in the last year but didn’t, and call those our resolutions. We manage to keep them too, for a while, before discarding them on the wayside as we go about our daily grind.

So maybe instead of making resolutions, what we should make are goals — things we want to achieve in this year with definite action steps and a timeline. One resource that I find really handy when making my goals in the Goal setting workshop that I found about 5 years ago on a website called Tera’s Wish. Try it, it’s fun!