The Right Moment Will Never Come

How many times have you put off doing stuff just because the conditions weren’t as perfect as you wanted them to be? For the longest time I wanted to do a yoga teacher training(YTT). I looked up several classes in the area. I looked up schedules and everything but always felt like it was a lot of money to spend. Also the schedules didn’t work for me or rather I thought they didn’t work for me. Getting away for the entire weekend to attend yoga class was unthinkable. It was as though my kids would starve and be neglected if I was not around!

When I started working I swore that I would enroll in the course once I earned that much money. When I had that exact amount in my bank account I moved from Florida to Washington and was out of work for a few months. I again looked for YTT courses in the area. I found one which was cheaper, the schedule worked perfectly (it was just one weekend) and the studio was quite close to where I stayed. But then I had to go and ask for someone else’s opinion and they felt like I should spend money on a course that would help me earn more money. Again I didn’t enroll for the yoga course nor did I join a career-oriented course.

A year later I again wanted to do a YTT certification but ended up doing a course in technical writing because that was more ‘practical’. It has been 7 years and I still haven’t let my yoga seed come to fruition.

The same kind of pattern emerged once again in my life. I finished writing the book “Thank You Dadima” and want to get it published. But we were both out of work and I figured I’d do it once I get a job. Three months into my job nothing has changed. Now some other excuse has come up. I don’t have the time. I don’t know who to use as an editor…so and so forth. If I went with all the excuses my mind keeps conjuring up I guess that book will just be a file on my computer. Which is not what I want. So I’m going to dump my big bag of excuses and get cracking on getting my book published! Off to e-mail a blogger/editor contact now.

Disconnecting From the Matrix

Years ago I watched the movie “The Matrix” (several times for Keanu Reeves) and it seemed like a fantasy with no element of truth in it. But when I watched it when I was older (and wiser – ahem!) it seemed not too far fetched from the reality we wake up to every day. The daily grind. Put your nose to the grindstone and chug away. Work hard to pay the bills, provide for your family, save for retirement, buy that big house or fancy car, pay for that destination wedding or island getaway. The whole time losing yourself to chaos and missing out on the miracle that is life. Losing health and happiness over needless dramas that play out endlessly. Feed your body junk and fail to feed your soul. Live a boring, passionless life full of drama and unhappiness. And then teach another generation to do just that because you cannot get your blindfolds off and see what life really is about until you make an exit.

Life is freedom, happiness and choices made from a place of joy and love. Fear drives us to hold on tight to jobs that make us miserable or relationships that don’t nurture us. Fear tells us that we are not good enough or strong enough to take care of ourselves and that we have to give our power away to authority figures.  And then when it all becomes too much, something snaps and our whole world of illusion comes crashing down. The days that follow are filled with fear and a mad frenzy to get things back to where they were – rebuilding the same old house of cards because it feels familiar and comfortable. The prison with no windows – where the light cannot obliterate the fear.

Sometimes the divine hand intervenes and stalls the progress just long enough for the shades to fall off. Just long enough to wake up from the dream and see the world for what it is. A big lie. A fantasy. An alternate reality put in place to keep us from waking up to the true power that lies within. The power that can set us free and help us soar above the drama and chaos.

For some that one wake-up call is enough and they can never go back to their old selves and old lives. For some it is a constant back and forth between illusion and crystal-clear clarity. Between bliss and drudgery. Between the ego and the wisdom of the soul. Between what is expected of you and what you truly desire. At some point the whole exercise seems futile and one dumps the world or one’s inner journey all together. But some emerge triumphant and shine the way for others.

Disconnect from living life in a trance, going through the same motions over and over again. Cramming so much into your life that you have no time to pause and ruminate. Awareness requires space and the more space you create the more aware you are. Turn off the TV, computer and phone. Listen rather than talk. Quiet the chatter in your head. Get outside in nature. Live your life unscheduled. With lots of free time thrown in every day. Then what really matters will become clear to you. The illusive world melts away and you are left with only the brightness of your soul illuminating the way to a life full of joy, creativity and love.

From Zero to Hero in 6

This post is long over due. February was a busy month. I had a couple of interviews and had this feeling that I was really close to snagging a job. But that phone call I was waiting for never came. One day I was wondering if I should do the substitute training course to get a job at the school district, when a recruiter called. She felt I was a good fit for the job (yeah they all do and once they’ve forwarded your resume they forget all about you). So she said I needed to do an editing test. That perked me up as I recalled getting my first job straight out of university after doing an editing test. The last job I landed when I was in India also happened after a series of tests.  I had some good test-taking skills, I figured. Interview skills? Now that was a different ball game all together.

I cleared this editing test and was to do a phone interview and a face-to-face interview. The phone interview got scrapped (whew!) but I still had to do the face to face. The recruiter told me it would be an hour-long interview and that gave me the jitters. I practiced for it as well as I could but I knew from past experience that you can’t always be prepared for every question. You have to be able to think on your feet and come up with something impressive even if you never encountered that particular scenario.

I had three people tossing questions at me randomly. Some were questions I was prepared for and some were not. The interviewers were friendly and did their best to make me feel comfortable. When they were done 40 minutes later (I don’t know if I would have lasted an hour!) I was taken on a tour of the office and met some other editors at the café. The casual and friendly vibe was quite appealing. And then when they showed me the yoga room I was totally floored.

Back home I told everyone that the interview went well. The recruiter told me that they usually decide within a day. Next day came and went, then another, then a whole week. The recruiter reassured me that she was still waiting to hear from them. I honestly did not expect to hear from them after a week. On the last day of February I got a call and finally heard the words I’d been waiting to hear for over 6 months.  “I have some good news for you. The company called and they want to hire you. When would you be able to start?”

I was ready to start the next day! But I pulled myself together and said I would start next week. But  a week wasn’t enough to get my background check and verification done. So then I was slated to start in the middle of March.

Three weeks have passed since I started working as an editor. From having too much time on my hands, I have gone to having every minute filled with activity. My formerly lazy weekends are now spent doing grocery shopping and cooking for the week. It took me over a decade and a half to get back to my career full time. I have to say it wasn’t easy (you know the whole story if you have been around since 2012 when I started this blog) but I persisted and now here I am. Patience, perseverance and prayer got me here and might I add not just my prayers but prayers of some beautiful souls who I am lucky to have in my life (you know who you are!)

My husband also landed a job around the same time and our fortunes changed overnight. I’m glad we held on, kept the faith and kept trying even after facing several disappointments. Now when I tell my kids not to give up when things get tough or they don’t succeed at first, they know that I am walking my talk and not just being preachy. And for the longest time the only reason I wanted to succeed was to teach them that nothing in life is impossible even if you face seemingly insurmountable circumstances.

This I know is true, for anyone who wants something and wants it bad – if you can dream it, work for it even when the results/rewards don’t appear and you have undying faith in yourself or a power larger than yourself, then you shall have it. Sending you all love and light and infinite gratitude for wishing me well, enquiring about me when I was going through a rough patch and praying for me and my family.

My Views About Moving to India

Disclaimer: These are MY views about moving to India after living in the U.S. for over a decade. Many before me have done it successfully and many will continue to do so long after this post has been published. Many like me have struggled to find their footing and gone back to the life they once knew. Which category you will be in is totally up to you and depends on your unique circumstances and personality.

Three things top the list of priorities when you move:

  1. Job
  2. Place to stay
  3. School/ Education (if you have kids)

And some other priorities:

  1. Family
  2. Weather
  3. Time

Job/Career

We already had a place to stay and the kids had gotten admission in a school in Chennai that had a considerable NRI population. So all we had to do was get a job. I thought Indian companies would be vying to hire my husband who has over 15 years of experience in IT and has worked with some big name clients in the U.S. But that was not the case. He barely got any interviews and the ones he got happened only through referrals.

In my opinion it is better to obtain a transfer through your company to India or work remotely for your U.S. employer, if that is an option. Many NRIs who come back to India to settle down also start their own business ventures or consulting companies.

Before you move, secure a job (offer letter and the whole shebang). If you have only a few years of experience or are looking for entry level positions, you can easily find jobs. But if you are mid-senior level, it isn’t so easy. Referrals, recommendations, or having a former colleague as the CEO of the company you are interviewing for doesn’t help. Even approaching a company you worked for before leaving the country may not help. So here is the bottom line – No Job, Don’t Move!

Education

If your kids have only studied in the U.S., then schools in India can be a rude shock. The sheer workload and the amount of writing, testing and homework they have to do is mind numbing. Also the whole rote learning thing got my kids ticked off. They were used to learning concepts and applying it to different situations or contexts, not reproducing word to word the answers that the teacher writes on the board.

Make no mistake. The fees to attend some of the top schools has doubled or tripled since I last attended school but the quality of education has deteriorated. Fees may go up to a couple of lakhs per year per student, something you can’t keep up with if you are not earning. My kids also spent a lot of time commuting to school because the good schools seem to be clustered around certain parts of the city.

I also realized that doing high school in India meant many sleepless nights and unabated pressure to score the top marks in every subject to secure admission in top colleges. The competition is just too much and the stress levels are off the chart. There was little time to pursue art, music or sports except during summer vacation. And that was not something I wanted for my kids.

Family

Most of us move back to India because we miss our family or want to stay close to them and take care of them. Similar sentiments drove my husband to make this decision. We ended up staying with my husband’s parents. It was ok for the most part but after a while I found it hard. I missed the freedom to do things my way.

Vacations in India are always a preview to what things will look like if you stayed with your family. If you have a great time with them always, then you probably won’t have any trouble moving back. If you have niggling issues that crop up every time you are with them, be sure that they will morph into something bigger when you live in such close proximity. Sometimes so big that it could actually sabotage your relationship.

When it started affecting my relationship with my husband, I knew it was time to move. Let’s not forget that I did have the option to move back to the U.S. because we didn’t burn all the bridges. We decided to move only after procuring the coveted permanent resident status.

Weather

Hot and humid with barely any reprieve for most of the year. Add to that cyclones and flooding and an infrastructure that is so fragile that it collapses with every storm. Chennai is not an easy place to adjust to.  Yes, we had air conditioning but only in the bedrooms and sometimes even that didn’t help if you had a power outage. I don’t know how I lived there for 23 years of my life but I absolutely hated the weather when I lived there from 2015 to 2016.

Time

The traffic situation is pretty grim and people spend a remarkable amount of time commuting to work, school or to do errands. Most tasks that can be accomplished using a computer or smartphone, for instance paying your bills are just beginning to get computerized in India. Internet speed is slow, ATMs run out of cash pretty fast and now with demonetization things aren’t getting any easier or faster.

To live a satisfying life it is important to have some control over how you spend your time. For me it felt like most of my time was spent doing chores or commuting from one place to another. Social activities took a back seat and I simply felt like a hamster on a wheel – doing so much but not getting anywhere at the end of the day.

It’s not important where you stay, what’s important is that you are happy, your family is happy, you have a job to support yourself and time to spend on activities that enrich your life. That was not the case for us and we were lucky to have the choice to move back to the U.S.

 

 

A Chapter from my Book : Thank You Dadima

Weekends at Dadima’s house were a lazy affair, for me that is. I woke up late, wandered around in my PJs, with my hair in a tangled and disheveled mess. Dadi would be up by 7.00 a.m. and would wash her hair, starch her cotton saris and put them on the clothesline for the maids to stretch out and dry. Dressed in freshly ironed white cotton salwar suits, she would then proceed to supervise Smaller (yes that was his name) as he polished all the brassware in the house.

Around 8.00 a.m. she would notice that her bed was not made because I was sleeping in it! She would try to wake me up. I would moan and groan and throw the blanket over my head to muffle the noise. She would then peel the blankets away from me and insist that I wake up that instant. I would join her for breakfast after hastily brushing my teeth. Still clad in my wrinkled nightie, I’d take a look at her freshly scrubbed glowing face, her damp hair loosely held with clips with not a single strand out of place, and sigh. The idlis on my plate looked off-white against the brilliance of her kurta. I knew what was coming next. She would tell me to go have a bath and get dressed before guests started trickling in after ten in the morning. There were the regulars – the family doctor, the nieces, office staff, and then sometimes someone unexpected came along.

After breakfast, I hid in the guest room which doubled as my study room when there were no house guests. She would seek me out and give me another disapproving look before I meekly went to take a shower. If I was too lazy to comb and braid my long hair, I would just put it up in a bun, which would meet with instant criticism. “Buns are for old ladies. It doesn’t suit you!” she would say the moment I walked into her room to watch some TV. Jeans were also not her favorite. Or faded T-shirts for that matter. Both of which happened to be my favorite weekend outfits.

For years I wore a white uniform to school and Dadima wore her white starched cotton saris with matching white sandals. Given the nature of the place she worked in, carrying a white handbag and expecting it to stay white over a week was wishful thinking. Dirt, dust, grime, ink, carbon paper left no mark on her black handbag which she carried to work every day. The white handbags came out for special occasions – parties, weddings and conferences.

White was something widows wore to somehow symbolize the lack of color and joy in their spouse-less worlds. But one look at Dadima was enough to let you know that for her white was a fashion statement. She did not wear make-up, jewelry or a saffron dot on her forehead like married women. Her blouses were always stitched in the latest style, she wore dressy heeled sandals, chic sunglasses and a big-dialed omega watch. White did not make her look colorless and boring, but made her stand out. It was her trademark. Her signature. Her power.

No matter what her health was like on any given day, she would get up, wash up and get dressed. If guests were coming over, she would brush her hair and sit up straight on her bed with the support of pillows. Even at the hospital, she cared about her appearance. She never wanted to look sickly, hapless and pitiful. To portray herself that way meant that she was weak and could be easily tricked. That did not bode well for a business woman who wanted to be taken seriously and respected for who she was.

White demanded respect and helped her get into places others could not. In hospitals, she was mistaken for a physician and could enter restricted spaces and even talk to senior doctors who were not very approachable. The lack of color also concealed her true identity. She could pass off for a Jain, Christian, Muslim or Sikh. And when people cannot pin you down and compartmentalize you based on your appearance you become universal. Now white does not magically confer all these qualities to a person who merely chooses to wear it. I have seen other widows who wear white but don’t yield the kind of power she does. So why did it work for her?

Widows evoked images of heartbroken women, shunned by society and living on the fringe, boding bad luck for those who crossed paths with them. I vividly recall one such widow. The widow next door in her faded orange sari with her prickly hair peeping out of the edge of the sari clumsily draped over her head. Her wrinkly face and arms made me wonder if she ever had oil baths. But what struck me the most were her sad soulless eyes. In fact she had an air of melancholy that somehow seeped under my skin and made me shudder. Every time I saw her I quickly looked away and secretly pledged never to be her.

Dadi had sparkling, lively eyes, sometimes full of mischief. A strong positive vibe emanated from her. Her white clothes almost gave off a glow and it attracted one and all. She took the stigma associated with white and turned it around to her advantage. Probably because she never once looked for pity and knew pretty darn well how to take care of herself. In fact she took excellent care of herself. She never denied herself or neglected herself like widows were wont to. She moisturized her skin, ate vitamins and a lot of healthy foods. Every Sunday the family doctor would come take a look at her and check her pulse and heart.

People notice the way you dress and the way you portray yourself to the outside world. When you neglect this aspect of yourself, people don’t take you seriously. Dress sharp and people know you mean business. A well-dressed person is also confident and competent.

The law of attraction also plays out in this. When you dress like an affluent person, wealth and abundance must naturally come to you. If you dress in tattered, unkempt clothes your financial situation could deteriorate. Dadi dressed well and attracted abundance of all kinds into her life.

I still like to wander around in my PJs till late in the morning but I try to tidy up my act when I go out to work or when I have people coming over. When I wear white I feel a connection to my grandmother and feel powerful and confident. Thank you Dadima for teaching me to dress for success.