Sunday, March 22, 2015

Romancing happiness:)

Many a times we find happy people around us. People who spread joy and instill optimism  that all is well with the world.  They take things as they come and have no unreasonable expectations from  themselves, life  or others in their life. It is not that they don’t have pains, disappointments,failures or  ambitions. They too desire material things and succumb to advertisers gimmicks, they might dream big, want to   vacation at exotic places but it is just that  they tackle the adversities and try to find joy in small things.  For such people happiness is not elusive and is also permanent. They easily find contentment and fulfillment and are always cheerful, happy and spread it around.
I am surrounded by many such people , some by default( family)  & some by design( friends) and it is only natural they infect me with the same. So, happiness to me is that feeling of contentment, a feeling of joy and which comes  from the security that I have such close personal relationships with happy and optimistic  people. The mutual affection combined with a life of enjoyment  seem to make me happy and fulfilled. That apart, I also find  happiness in simple things which I call  costless luxuries . Listing some below-

1)      The 5 minute sleep after the snooze button
2)      The stretches that I take
3)      Filling my home to the melody of the ‘suprabhatam’ , it is a divine feeling.
4)      Marveling at sunrise with  a  cup of chai in my hand
5)      Inhaling the early morning fresh air with a deep breath looking at the vast open ground in front of me
6)       humming a song without a care even in the lift
7)     To recline on a carpet of green grass
8)      Sleep under the star spangled sky
9)      ‘Nila sappadu’( moonlight  dinner) with extended family on the terrace
10)  Listening to a child talk
11)   The hubby coming home early
12)  The fussy daughter relishing my  experimental recipe
13)  Listening to my son’s talk( I love listening to his matured and humorous talks)
14)  The bliss of listening to a melody
15)  The freshly sprouted colors of the spring
16)  The rustle of the fallen brown autumn leaves
17)  The taste of   amma’s kaimanam( maa ka khana)
18)  The aroma of food prepared by appa( my dad, an excellent cook)
19)  Listening to the traditional stories of yore from my mil
20) Learning a new activity
21)  The feel good factor after a work out
22)  The musty smell from an old book
23)  Expressing gratitude
24)  A mail in my mail box from somebody important
25)  a comment on my blogpost
26)  chatting all through the night during family get togethers
27) laughing   with friends and leg-pulling with friends
28)   a long drive  in the car with family on the country side
29)  The fragrance of frangipani
30) The burst of life by the seeds I sow
31)  When I crack a puzzle
32)  When I paint
33)  Churning out a new recipe with left overs
34)  Upcycling , recycling or reusing
35)  Clearing / cleaning the junk

And so many more…….i am leaving the list incomplete

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Some simple moments - motivational and memorable

Life to me is in the simple things, the tiny things that happen daily, the everyday moments. I see life through a small window, I am glad about what I have and seek happiness in them.  These small moments sometimes help me to steel my resolve, lend a new outlook and build strength to strike out anew and motivate myself.

For instance, one of my motivational moment comes through flipping the many pages of my photo albums where many memorable moments of my children and family are stored. I consider this album that I made is paying major dividends today when my children are teenagers and my elder is now in hostel while my younger will soon move out.
The first time my daughter and son  had their first tumble, their  first step,  their first picture  holding the bottle, the first of everything in their life has been recorded and clicked with a small note. Similarly with our vacations and family functions.  And today, this album serves as an activity for us. I simply adore the family time we have  sitting on our kingsize bed and discussing the photos while we flip through the albums with many  albums scattered around us. It is a great family bonding time for us today.

Similarly, I love bonding with my extended family every vacation.  Apart from the various planned and unplanned trips, one thing was sure. Spending time at our elders place and connecting the younger generation with the older generation. The  many happy  moments  that I have spent with my parents, in-laws and extended family of uncles and aunts along with my family has become like a glue and today just recalling those lovely moments like sitting under a star spangled terrace and eating a family dinner under the moonlight or talking about trivial things and playing antakshari or dumb charades  with my uncles, aunts, parents, my husband , cousins and their kids,  recalling such simple  moments  sort of builds confidence and motivates me. Such memories are special for me and have become like a part of my family biography and I recall  them to perk me up.

While birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can be perfect opportunities for memorable moments, for me it can be in as simple as somebody patting me on my back for a simple reason. Such  moments stay in me forever.
Take this little moment that happened when I was I think in 6th standard. I loved reading books and magazines and would participate in contests or writing articles. There was a question and answer column in “science today” magazine and  my query was published in the book. It was a very simple one liner but my Grandfather was so happy to see my name published. He flaunted the book in a wedding and told everyone of my relative. Their encouraging words and my grandpa’s ‘Pat” on my back  served as an encouragement for me to do well. I have since then written articles for magazines, some of them were published and some were rejected. But, everytime I fail in writing, that ‘pat’ motivates me. Today writing blogs is a huge outlet to my thoughts. It gives clarity on what goes in my mind and head . There are times, when I sit to write and don’t even know that all these have been inside me and there are times when I build things and write.  But that pat that day might have not have been of importance to many but for me it is so motivating and memorable that today it has outlived my Grandpa.

   I learn to notice such small memorable moments today like in the sunrise, sunset, the freshly sprouted russet mango leaves, the radish flower bobbing their pretty petals in the evening breeze, or the beautiful starling carrying the long dried stalk in its beak to make its nest, chatting with friends on my whatsapp group, the night skies, lying down on a carpet of grass in open air, a bliss of melodius music,  the smile of an unknown baby ….so many such simple things.
The simplest of things in life sometimes have the most profound influence on me. I need no earth-shattering moment or epiphany to recognize them.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A gain through a pain

One of the bane of technological era is our sedentary lifestyle. Unhealthy food habits, sitting in front of a computer, TV, handling gadgets with remote or driving in air-conditioned cars for hours together in traffic snarls all have adverse effects on our body, especially the spine. It is becoming rare to find people standing tall or sitting with their lower spine touching the back of the chair with the abdominal muscles drawn in. Most of us roll our shoulders forward causing our back to hunch over. Advice of experienced elders to follow some age old healthy practices also fall on the deaf young ears. Most of us take the flexibility of our strong bones, ligaments and tendons for granted in our everyday life until something goes wrong. Like many, I too took for granted till some years ago when one fine morning my lower spine shot out a piercing pain and helped me #StartANewLife.

My present house was being built then and I used to regularly come to the site to oversee and follow the progress. Although, it was a flat, the builder was very complacent and unless we followed regularly, my house was not showing any signs of progress. Being 10 years younger then, I had lot of energy and I would walk very fast and sprint up and down the steps …two steps at a time till  i reach the 5th floor( no lift then) . Even in my old house, where I stayed in an upstairs house, I never got down or up the stairs, I would take two steps at time, this was a childhood habit and the inspiration for this sprint was my tall mama( maternal uncle) . As a teen, I would look wide eyed when he would take long strides on the staircase in my Grandpa's duplex house. Trying to copy him, I acquired the habit over time. He was tall and perhaps it suited him but the habit showed strains on my back and knees years later.

One fine morning, when I was sitting on the floor leaning against the sofa and drawing a list of the invitees for the new house, I suddenly felt a piercing pain in my lower back. I was unable to get up and I needed help to get back on my feet. In the evening, when I went to the doctor, I was put on calcium tablets, pain killer injection and was given some do’s and don’ts, all posture related. He also advised to take care of the spine and said "You are only as healthy as your spinal column is". A quote which was engraved in my mind.

  A month later, the pain settled but I decided I should bring in exercise to change my posture. That pain and awareness of a flexible body led me to a regular yoga class. Stretching, bending, twisting ,breathing all brought flexibility and strength to my body along with it as a bonus  came a sense of calm and most important of them all I learnt the art of breathing, meditation and reflecting and with rigorous practice it helps develop will power too. I sit in the seat of meditation daily and consciously inhale and exhale which brings amazing contentment and has taught me minimalism too.

Although, now-a –days, to bring a change in my exercise pattern, I do cardio and weight training, Yoga is consciously a part of my life. I feel yoga has an edge over other forms because of the rhythmic breathing pattern. The rhythm in breathing silences the mind and cuts me off from the external world. So, today if I find myself in a chaotic or confusing situation, or when things go out of control in my outer world, all I do is retract into my inner world through deep breaths. It is so easy that I don’t hesitate to do it wherever I am on the road, or at work or at home. Today, I also avoid hunching and consciously ensure that my shoulders are rolled back gently and I tuck in my core muscle. Today, for me  yoga  is a way of life and not restricted to just an hour of exercise. That excruciating pain that day morning brought about this good change in me paving way to meet my inner self and one day Yoga will help me develop will power too. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A chilli plant that taught me optimism and hope

Organic Gardening and composting  has become an addiction now for me. I am obsessed in seeing what I can try to grow  and compost with everything around me, whether I am in the kitchen or travelling or out shopping. I am sure all of you  would agree that all of us are happy when  we are engaged in doing something that contributes to the well being of our family. And composting also contributes to the goodness of the the environment.
I have grown vegetables earlier in my childhood and feel immensely proud to say that it was my mother who inspired me into this pastime when young. Back then, gardening did’nt come with the tag organic.everything done then was with natural things, there was not much use of synthetic fertilizer and also circumstances were relatively more favorable where gardens were larger and sunnier.
Now, with most of us  living in flats, we have to fight certain odds  like space, lack of sunshine, pigeon menace, using the right potting mix etc.
When you fight such odds and emerge triumphant by converting your limitations into possibilities the joy and pride that comes with it is inexplicable. Even a small progress in your garden during trying times fills you with optimism and hope.
I have many such moments in my little garden( if I may call this, it is just a small container patch).  but the first moment which taught me this lesson is special.

That first moment was when I grew my special nostalgic chilli plant. Another of my principle in gardening is to keep it sustainable as far as possible. I avoid buying new pots, seeds from branded organic shops, fancy equipments etc. Most of my seeds are from my spice box and so one day while cleaning my spice box, I toppled the chilli container on the pot. The chilli seeds I toppled were of the little round variety called as madras milagai. This is generally not available in most shops in Hyderabad  and so I who usually buy the Byadgi( a variety of chilli from a Karnataka village by the same name)  and Guntur chillies( Andhra village)  was excited on seeing this while walking the aisle of SPAR hypermarket.This variety is special for me not only because it is not easily available in markets of Bangalore and Hyderabad( only in a few supermarkets it is available) but also for the simple reason there is a nostalgia attached and my mind raced back to my Grand mom’s kitchen.

I have some special food memories of my Grandma’s kitchen. Her cooking was  simple with the basic locally available ingredients but the arisi upma( rice upma) cooked in the brass utensil( vengala uruli) or the simple keerai masiyal(mashed greens) in kal chatty( stone vessel) had a special aroma and I who would be watering the plants in the terrace on the second floor would rush to the chimney to smell the aroma emanating through the chimney. When I rush down for lunch,  From the lunch spread that  was kept for serving, what comes to my mind now is the red round dry chilli used for tadka covering these dishes. My mind for some reason attributes that special aroma to the red chilli. And so I immediately picked up the packet off the shelf in the supermarket.

I used them for tadka and although I did’nt recreate the magical aroma that emanated from patti’s kitchen , I felt happy to see the sights of red round chili in my tadka over the dishes.

So, when I planted the dry seeds of this red chilli, the seeds germinated pushing forth the tough soil and it was a delight to watch the seed coats hanging precariously. The germinated seedlings went on to become big plants and I transplanted them into different pots and atta bags( I upcycle them)  and after surviving transplantation shocks they bloomed. The first chilli bloom brought so much of joy and the fact that I grew my nostalgia was something very very special. But my joy was short lived, when the blossom dropped  and many more blossoms bloomed and dropped too….with no hope in sight. One fine day, it taught me the lesson.  Patience pays and there was a little green chili with the blossom tip hanging like a tail. Ah man! That was it, the day that taught hold on to your will, optimism and hope and you will travel to the end and ofcourse fight your limitations with patience, hope , grit and determination.

A lesson which I learnt not in a classroom, but in a mundane place like a little balcony garden where each day with sunrise throws beautiful sights and teaches me beauty and life lessons  lies in every little nuance, at every nook and corner and in every activity.

This post written for #Lookup  stories at