Interpretations

music, movies, travel, food, drinks and ideas

Month: January, 2016

An unfair year I’m thankful for

“Please don’t ask me to take another flight for the next 6 months.” I said.
“Oh, there’s a company trip in the Caribbean Islands, end of this month? But, we can cancel.”

In Jan 2015, I returned from about a month-long trip in India. I had taken over 7 flights in less than 15 days between USA, India, Sri Lanka, and within India. When I returned home, I was met with a strange situation. Who would have missed an all-expense-paid trip to the most sought after islands in the world?!

Despite the travel fatigue, January ended on a high note – at St Kitts & Nevis.

While in the Caribbean, G&I sorted our travel calendar for the year. We decided on just one more trip to India, to assist his sister for her baby’s delivery.

2015 Training Guide Program – Welcome!

I had applied for a volunteer position as a City Guide towards the end of 2014, and had forgotten about it. In Jan 2015, I received an email to appear for an interview, which I cleared based on my skill-set/interest. If I signed up, I was to enter a 3-month training program.

The calendar for the training sessions conflicted with my mid-year India trip. I either had to let go of the training and apply the next year; or needed to re-plan the trip. My sister-in-law’s baby was her first baby and I wouldn’t have had a second chance at being there. The training? Yes, I could take it in 2016.

In dilemma, I signed up for the training; and decided to attend to my family duties on a 10-day trip to India between two training sessions.

The program began on Feb 28 and I graduated on May 9.

Celebrate the Sound of the Wind

2015 brought saucy titles to my life, along with warnings that I continued to ignore.

There waited an opportunity for me to help yet another non-profit organization – Thingamajigs (they explore alternate sound systems). The people approached me to coordinate a festival called Aeolian Day. A number of artists, designers, engineers and even scientists were to exhibit their sound sculptures – each played by the wind. Just like SF City Guides, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In fact, it was even better. Because for the first time, I could combine all my abilities/talents – music, writing, marketing, process development, creativity and science.

The dilemma? I had to do it on my own. Yet again, I signed up.

First Piano Concert

“Please welcome our next Pianist…” – March 8, 2015

Amidst the commitments towards a 3-month training and a 3-month event coordination work, I practiced every day and played the piano for an audience for the first time. I think my year wouldn’t have been the same without it. In hindsight, that performance seems to be the greatest pay-off, for the struggles that followed.

This was probably the only activity of the year I was sure about.

Mom’s Art Of Giving

My sister and I put together a campaign to feed children in India on the occasion of my mom’s retirement and her birthday. The idea just knocked on my head and by the time we completed the campaign, we had fed over 120 children in 2 non-profit set ups in Delhi.

We started the campaign on Feb 28 and officially ended the fundraiser on March 30, 2015.

Here, the cloud of dilemmas had begun to turn into smoke.

Surmandal/Zither

The ‘only’ trip to India began in the second half of April. I carried many self-defined commitments and an instrument called Zither or Autoharp, through 4 flights (SF-Dubai-Trivandrum-Coimbatore). It took over 24 hours of air travel to get there – my parent’s winter home. I wanted to give mother and father a head-start to an annual stay in that house; through a plan to help them assess the challenges of a new life in a new place.

4 beautiful days were spent in the tropical weather of South India. I wrote, spoke, sang and woke up to musical mornings. The Zither’s sound echoed in the house and made my writing fun, even hours after it stopped.

In the next 3 days, we traveled to Bangalore and attended a wedding. This also included a surprise birthday party for me (by my sister). On the 3rd day, over a coffee meet up, I was introduced to my sister’s future husband.

From Bangalore, I took off for Kerala to be with my mother-in-law and with my hugely pregnant sister-in-law. Unexpected as it was, our time was filled with conversations and music, under the peace of the coastal weather of the place. It was, as I think about it now, magic!

“We wish you could be here with us longer.” My Mother-in-law, who usually found it hard to express her emotions, looked at me with great love.

“Yes Chechi, it was so nice. We…we will miss you.” I didn’t feel responsible about being a sister-in-law, but was overwhelmed with a sense of closeness to my extended family.

Ironically, I was sad. On the flight, I confronted that sadness.

“Family v/s Self-preservation? You shouldn’t have this conflict. You don’t have to do a regular job that other people’s lives are limited by. Oh wait, you ARE limited, by your own commitments! And for what? Only to interfere with your wishes & desires? People blame life when they don’t have the time to do whatever they want to. You are the ungrateful, lucky one; running away from a freedom, that’s served in a platter.”

As the thoughts haunted, an old man coughed next to me; for 16 hours. By the time I reached home, I had his flu but no resolutions.

The Six-day War

I was sick and it got worse with every moment I spent alone. There was no G to take care of me, and on the other hand, I had two SF City Guide mock tours to take care of. The unresolved internal conflicts combined with a physical breakdown, responsibilities to attend to and no one to watch over, made the few days at home catastrophic.

I had been alone before, in India. But there was this sense of well-being that would keep me comfortable. Maybe it was the streets, the trees, air or water; but even strangers felt like they watched out for me.

Why didn’t I feel that way? I had everything – a comfortable house, mobility, a loving partner, thoughtful friends and a calendar filled with things-to-do.  Why then, was it so cold?

It took me 6 chastising days of introspection to understand that the nourishment and the nurture of a crowded society/world/environment, can be challenged in a place like SF where ‘casual interaction’ requires effort, every time.

Communication generates understanding, which in turn provides warmth. However, when we are sick or when we go through a personal loss/crisis, we need warmth to flow effortlessly. It’s hard to rationalize but the closeness of various environmental components in India, creates a cozy atmosphere. That comfort makes it quick and easy to heal.

I was far too deep in pain and despite the realization, I sank further.

Life goes on

In the next week or so, I presented 2 mock-tours and graduated as a city guide. End of the month, I successfully launched and conducted Aeolian Day. And on May 31, I felt, through my body, the last drop of strength burn off.

That cloud of smoke was now in front of me, as a huge wall of ash.

To ignore, I needed a drink.

No alcohol

In the months I spent all of me in, I tried to squeeze some words into my novel every day. Due to lack of any warm-up time, I drank a glass of wine for every 1-hour of writing. It became a regular occurrence, and when I noticed it, I planned to fix it. I read a few books to see how other writers coped, and to my surprise I found very few sober yet established authors. So, I had to work on myself, by myself. I took a break from alcohol.

I was undecided on how long I wanted this break to be, but aimed to get to a point where I could get over the habit i.e., the need to drink to write. Unfortunately, this coincided with a period when I was severely exhausted. The ill-timed lent began on June 1.

Alcohol, even in small doses slowed me down and gave my brain some rest. In its absence, I had to experiment with other ways to relax. G suggested that I wiped my to-do list clean, every day. And so I did. I tried to watch numerous films, took walks, browsed the internet, cooked several meals. Weeks passed and I didn’t heal. I was mentally and creatively exhausted but that didn’t me to sleep.

The Burnout

As a strategy to cope, I tried to be with new people. I had the will, but no inspiration or happiness, that would convert strangers into friends.

End of June, my sister came down to prepare for an exam and to be with me for almost 2 months. I wanted to take care of her, so she could focus better on her studies. Once again, I had the intention but no energy to take care of anyone. I tried my best but it was during this period that my exhaustion turned into severe depression.

My sister is the coolest person I know. She stood by me with her glorious smile and love; even as she worked hard towards a monstrous goal. Despite a crunched preparation time for the exam, she agreed to help me in whatever way she could.

I thought if I saw people have fun around me and fill my space with their energy/laughter, I might be able to look away from my hollowed insides. In mid-July, we threw ‘The Hot Sauce Party’ in our house, where everyone was supposed to bring different kinds of hot sauces. Everyone had fun, except me. I failed to enjoy the party I threw.

The dam had broken, and the demons flooded my soul.

The Road Trip

My sister’s exams ended and we had about 2 weeks to celebrate. I was in no mood but saw the opportunity to escape. I could getaway and bury the monsters of depression in the sands of time.

I hired a car and drove along the Pacific Coast with my sister. We hiked in the landscapes of Big Sur, wound down in the white beach of Carmel-by-the-sea, relaxed in a house in Monterey and swam in a resort in Big Sur.

I liked being in the driver’s seat, loved the forward movement and felt my brain work as I mapped our routes. In all its glory, I witnessed some of the pain disappear.

An honest smile reappeared on my face.

Iceland

And then, it got cold, all over again.

Mid-august, my sister left. I looked ahead at the calendar and saw 2 trips. Was I ready for any of it?

We went on a weekend trip to Yosemite with our friends. It began well but as a day passed, I felt a strange discomfort – the one where I was shy of other people. The apprehension turned into irritation, and then anger. I tried to distract myself with some activities. But I returned home from the trip all coiled up and closed towards any new experiences.

The weekend after that, we had to leave for Iceland. It was a trip planned over 3 months with friends from India. In the absence my usual enthusiasm, I had contributed very little to the preparations and plans. I was however grateful to my friends who took charge.

“No! You don’t want to do this!” My head screamed of doubt and unwillingness for an entire month before the trip began. Instead of the promise of good company, fascinating volcanoes and unpredictable experiences, I saw discomfort ahead of me.

Nevertheless, I went. After all, I was Kavi. Or was I?

We traveled for 6 days in Iceland. It was a road trip that turned out to be far simpler than I thought. We saw several waterfalls, black beaches and hiked on glaciers. On one of the nights, we also caught a faint glimpse of a hard-to-see solar wind (northern lights). There were a few good conversations and some fun dinner sessions too.

However despite these nice parts, I continued to feel uncomfortable in my skin. I felt displaced from my life and unready for experiences.

In a strange contrast, after we had sent-off our friends and when G&I were in Denmark for 4 days, I opened up. All of a sudden, I could walk around, do things and talk to people. Even though Copenhagen was a less interesting idea compared to Iceland, I gathered more time, energy and experience.

It turned out to be a matter of anonymity. I introspected and understood that the moments that hurt me the most were where I had to share my thoughts and observations with familiar people. In those circumstances, I had to wake up a sense of self, an ego and an identity. But.

I wasn’t there.

The Family Plan

2015 was like a grand plan – first concert, first tour, first art event; and then a plan to make our first child.

I was worried about my perpetual sadness but told myself that I had to keep up with certain life plans. We officially confirmed my pregnancy during the Iceland trip. The joy of that news stood above all my agonies, and I slowly began to crawl out of my downtime.

When we told our immediate families, the news became a part of an overdose of exciting things – My sister decided to get married around the same time.

Wedding Preparations

Gopal & I went to the beach one day, with his camera. I scribbled the couple’s names on the sand and he took various pictures. We came home and over a weekend, I created my sister’s wedding invite – the finesse of which surprised me. (I learnt and used Inkscape – an illustrator app for linux)

I interviewed at least 3 wedding photographers over Skype. The exercise was quite a lot of fun and eventually, I signed up someone who best suited our requirements and budget.

Mid-November, I prepared to go on an unforeseen trip to India.

Breathless

“If you want, you can stay in a hotel.” My mother’s face sank, even as she said these words to offer me some comfort. I was in my parents’ house in Gurgaon when in the middle of the night, I sneezed. I sprang out at ninety degrees to the bed, and screamed my heart out. It was day 2 of my one month trip.

My lungs were chocked, I had a running nose and my eyes itched throughout my time in India in Nov-Dec. North India is dangerously polluted now and my 2-year west-coast life had killed the adaptation of decades. My sister and I tried to manage the situation with a 6-hour professional cleaning session and also got a purifier installed for my parents’ safety.

During the one month I spent in India, I took a 3-day trip to Kerala, a week-long trip to Goa and a 2-day trip to Gujarat. The frequent change in the weather and environment took a toll on my physical well-being.

However, it all felt worth it because The wedding was a lot of fun.

In retrospection, the physical pain might have distracted me from the emotional stress that I had become so prone to.

What were the highlights of 2015?

Hidden in that question which I asked several people, was a quest for an answer for myself. As I dug through the darkness of the year, the clock switched.

It was January 1, 2016 and there, in my mailbox, was my evaluation report as an SF City Guide. I read and in that moment I understood :

If you keep your heart open, gratitude will find its way, even through unfair times.

 

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The End of a Start

Screenshot - 01142016 - 11:01:10 AM

To write 250 words a day, every day might sound like a plan. But it’s a hard one to keep. I finished the first draft of my first novel a few days ago. I am at least 2 years away from it being a good read but my start has ended!

The process involved 2 workshops and a training that was part of the research for the story I wanted/want to tell. The 19-month period also comprised a 7-month burnout, when I found it hard to write and the only way out was to write. Irony?

I am glad that time healed me and helped me get to where I am today.

Cheers!

The Wedding Planner

My sister got married 2 weeks ago – in style! It was a 2-day event that concluded with a beach wedding. There were over 150 family members and close friends, who were all put up in a resort for a night.

My sister and her fiance belong to different parts of India and the customs of both families are significantly different. The couple began to plan and prepare for the wedding about 2 months ago. There was extensive discussion on the nature of the functions, type of rituals and the scope of the celebration. About a week or two after their engagement, that happened in October, they had finalized on the major parts. The wedding was to happen in a beach-town that was miles away from either of their hometowns. The functions included bridal art (henna), a cultural evening and an early morning wedding ritual. There were 4 meal sessions and a couple of tea+snack breaks. The girl and the boy wanted to be thorough in their preparations, especially because of the lack of time. Hence, they hired a wedding planner to ensure that the logistics involved would be well taken care of.

It made a lot of sense, especially because I live in a different country and despite my best intentions, it was hard for me to be in-charge. The resort was finalized after multiple visits to the town; the caterer was booked after many food sampling sessions and the wedding planner was hired to take care of everything outside of these two major items. The planner’s responsibilities included :

  • Decor for all the functions
  • Food service in the function areas
  • Permit for the beach
  • Seating arrangement for all guests
  • DJ and runner-boys
  • Stationery, flowers and other function requirements

The word ‘planner’ means much more to me. It includes a careful study of the client’s requirements and then, a proposal that offers a couple of possible designs. However, I felt that even if he wasn’t a typical planner, he would ensure that all the individual tasks were streamlined, were well-designed and packaged together to put up a stress-free show.

The show was indeed stress-free; because the person who caused great stress missed the event. My uncle checked in to the resort 2 days before the wedding and quickly took the information from both my sister and her fiance. I observed him as he went after each person and made a note of various things.

While I have a lot of experience in leadership, I find it impolite to claim charge unless it’s handed over to me. To watch my uncle, taught me how to do that with politeness. However, I was 4 months pregnant and I might have not been happy about all the running around. So, I decided to go about the tasks I had taken up.

  • Photography and Videography
  • Conduct the Sangeet Ceremony (cultural function)
  • Brief the wedding planner on the Mandap design
  • Order 50m of flowers and distribute them when required

The first event went quite well; even though I had my own self-criticisms. I had also briefed the wedding planner multiple times and discussed the mandap design. Finally, I had ordered the flowers and when they came, I gave a bunch for one of the bridal rituals.

On the morning of the wedding, I went through a series of stresses over a period of 2 hours. I woke up to a message by my photographer that she was denied transportation the previous night. I panicked because the photo-crew could have decided to not show up for the 4am bridal makeup. I called into my sister’s room to check and the entire 5-people team had arrived on time. Next, I thought I will get ready and look my best. My mother walked in after I had taken a shower and asked me for the flowers; they were required for my sister’s hairdo. I realized that I had left it in the banquet hall the previous evening. I rushed to look for it and didn’t find it in the place I had kept. I called my uncle, who tried to call the planner and order a new batch, while I went to the reception to check with the cleaning team. The over 15-minute of crisis lead to a great deal of disappointment. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten about it. My sister, however, had used the batch of flowers from the previous evening – and that made me feel even worse. My greatest worry was to find loose flowers for the wedding ceremony. Unsure about it, I moved on to the wedding part and got into the bus with my family and the couple.

We reached the venue after a couple of transfers between a bus and a jeep. As we walked into the beach spot, I started to observe the decor. It was random and the horror stuck us when we saw the Mandap. Almost nothing was arranged on it and we had ordered 180 chairs and there were less than 70! I had personally explained the decor for the Mandap to the planner but none of it was as discussed.

We all hurried towards the Mandap. Panic drove us all, especially the couple. The groom’s father grabbed the phone and began to scold the wedding planner; my mother began to give some instructions to my sister and the groom himself tried to assemble a couple of his friends around. He asked them to manage the chaos. I decided to walk down at that moment. I spotted 2 guys perched up on the mount that sidelined the beach. They were the planner’s guys and they sat next to 2 huge baskets of flowers. I demanded that they gave me at least 2kgs of lose flowers quickly. One of the groom’s friends helped me and to my relief, I had 2 bags of flowers before the priest finished the mandap set up.

I settled myself next to my sister; the groom’s sister sat next to him; both set of parents were on 2 sides of the table and the priest sat right across from the couple. The planner’s part was over. The wedding had begun.

———

Later that day, after a great session of swimming, I bid goodbye to my relatives. The happy faces, the content hearts and their joyful spirits humbled me. My sister and her new husband had left for their first drive and night out together. Finally, it was just me and my friends with a few cups of coffee.

“I have barely spent 2 years in USA and I find myself a misfit here,” I said.

“What do you mean?” Friend said.

“I have worked with many talented, efficient people; they work like children”

“Children?”

“Yeah – and when they are done, they make your eyes shine with their love-filled work.”

“Wow!”

“In the last few days, I saw someone behave like a kid without any creativity.”

“That child wanted us to run after him, poke him, remind him to get the job done; it had gone astray.”

“Hmm..”

“I couldn’t exercise my greatest ability – to get heard without raising my voice”

“In fact, I saw my uncle lose his voice. Yet, that child who called himself The Wedding Planner, didn’t hear our calls.”