Tag Archives: signs

My Big Secret – Part 1

This is big! Most of my feelings, thoughts and life experiences end up in my blog. However, this big secret I have kept from you for over a year now. It all started quite innocuously while I was still in Washington. I had landed this long-term subbing position at an elementary school while we were contemplating moving to India in the summer. One morning I walked into the classroom to find all the 4th graders (usually a groggy and unfocused lot) chatting excitedly and poring over some picture books. I turned to the teacher with a quizzical expression on my face and she smiled and said, ” It’s author day today. A local author will be coming in to talk to the children about what it is like to be a writer.”

I didn’t quite know what to expect, but was happy for the kids who were going to get a break from their regular school day routine. The whole school assembled in the cafeteria/auditorium and a man in his late thirties or early forties took the stage. His name was Paul Lewis and he wrote children’s books. Paul never thought he would be an author. He loved to draw and paint when he was in school but his career didn’t start out as an illustrator or writer. Paul used to be a substitute teacher in Washington and one day he went to a school and guess what? It was author day! By this time I was sitting up straight and really paying attention.

To cut a long story short, Paul connected with the author who encouraged him to use pictures to tell a story and then come up with the words. This was easy for Paul because pictures came easily to him. Pretty soon he had a picture book and published it.

We had to break for lunch and I stood around wondering if I should go talk to him. You see, I had been walking around with a book inside me for several years now. A book about Dadima and this was the ultimate wake up call. Big nudge from the universe. Call it what you want. But it couldn’t be a coincidence. It was as if Paul was talking to me. I was a substitute attending author day at a school, like he did several years ago. Talk to him, my inner voice was saying. But my nerves got the better of me and I quietly walked to the lunch room and proceeded to eat my lunch.

A few seconds later the door opened and Paul walked in. He pulled up a chair at the table where I was sitting. The universe was really shoving it in my face today! I started talking to him and told him about my book and he was quite chatty and helpful. I really don’t remember much of what he said but I do remember him saying not to become a writer just to get famous or rich and to just do it for the sake of the craft.

My subbing gig ended in a few weeks and I was busy posting stuff to sell on Craig’s List. I spent most of my time on the computer replying to e-mails from potential buyers. But I still had a lot of time on my hands. That was when I started writing my book (April 2015). I figured if I could write a chapter of 1000 words and wrote 10 chapters in all, I’d have a 10,000 word manuscript ready in say a year or so.

I started in earnest and finished nearly four chapters before we relocated to India. Another four chapters were done over the course of the year and early 2016. Then I got busy with my job and never really got around to finishing the last two chapters. My dear friend S kept egging me on to finish it and I typed up the last three chapters (I added another chapter) by the end of July.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the book now that it was written. Do I publish it? How do I go about it? No clue. Two days after I wrote the book a friend suddenly mentioned my grandma out of the blue and told me she loved reading stories about her. I told her she was in for a surprise as I had just finished writing a book on my grandma! She wanted to pre-order  the book. Another sign, this time telling me to get the book published.

Later that week I attended a book launch at the Odyssey book shop and then another the subsequent week. And then a contact on Facebook launched her book of short stories in Malayalam. Really got me thinking about publishing my book. So that’s my big secret – that I wrote a book and might publish it. I have no clue how I could have been tight-lipped about it for so long. Would you read it? Would you like an e-book or paperback? Do share your ideas. Without you and this blog I never would have in a thousand years attempted to write a book. So thank you dear readers and watch this space for more about my journey through the publishing world.

There is another big secret I have to reveal and it is totally unrelated to this one so I’ll save it for the next blog post – My Big Secret – Part 2.

Signs I Can’t Ignore Anymore…

As my long-term subbing assignment was nearing its end, I was plagued with questions about what I would do with my time. My future lay ahead of me, glimmering with innumerable possibilities, enough to confuse and confound me.

One day I walked into the classroom and was told that it was author day at the school. A famous children’s author was going to give a talk for most of the morning. I did not think much of it. Even thought that I should have simply taken the day off, for there wasn’t much work to do, except sit in the old gym and listen to a man talk about his books. Anyway, I was already there, so I simply followed the class to the gym and settled down to listen to whatever he had to say.

The author, Paul Owen Lewis lives in Washington and is a very gifted orator. A few minutes into his talk, he had all of us spellbound and hanging on to every word he uttered. He didn’t always know he wanted to be a writer. He practically stumbled upon a writing career when he was a substitute teacher in a local school. They had an author day at that school – you can imagine what was going through my head – this is no coincidence! He thought it was pretty cool to write books. Paul loved to draw and was pretty darned good at it. The author spoke about different ways to write stories. All stories did not have to start with words he said and this struck a chord with Paul. He loved telling stories through his illustrations. The rest is history. He now stood before us as a famous published author of children’s picture books.

He also compared the process of writing to putting the pieces of a puzzle together. You may only have a few pieces to start with but you can always find connections and link the pieces together. The idea appealed to me. Thinking that I needed a logical story line that flowed from one scene to another from beginning to end kept me going around in circles. In the planning stages nobody has the complete story or knows how to put it together. I only had a bunch of disorganized ideas. I had to put them down on paper and try and connect the pieces and add details to my story.

The morning session ended and I saw some teachers and students go up to the author, talk to him and pepper him with questions. Something within me was urging me to go talk to him but I quietly followed the kids back to class. A few minutes later I was back in the teachers lounge taking my lunch break. I was almost done when the author walked in. He smiled and asked if he could sit at my table. I nodded. I told him how much I enjoyed his talk and also added that the kids loved it. I blurted out everything about my dream to be a published author. He listened quietly and good-naturedly answered my questions while trying to chew his meal.

I knew wannabe authors like myself probably run up to him all the time asking for favors, tips and publishers’ contact details. Maybe that was the reason I did not approach him in the old gym. But when he sat by me at the table, I could not hold myself back anymore.

I knew this was a colossal nudge from the Universe. The term ‘in your face’ comes to my mind. I have seen signs before, subtle, faint, quiet whispers or visions that were sometimes hard to decode. But this time around the Universe gave me direct and perfectly clear orders. It didn’t get more direct than this. Or so I thought until later in the week another sign showed up. I was talking to a new friend I had made, who had just started reading my blog. She really liked the way I wrote and just like that out-of-the-blue suggested that I should write a book. She even mentioned an Indian author who grew famous through her blog and then ended up writing so many best-selling novels. I had heard of this author and even read her blog. I had even harbored this silly idea that if she could do it so could I.

Anyways, that’s what it always remains – a silly idea. I might get all fired up to write a scene here or a scene there or research a few publishers. Or follow an author’s blog as he tracks his word count and daily writing process. But soon enough the fire dies out and my enthusiasm flags. I just felt like I did not have the juice to see this thing to the finish.

The very next day, the Universe deciding that it was not done with me, but definitely done with my excuses, set-up this chat session with my cousin S. She is an aspiring writer between jobs, mulling about her future. Coincidence you say? I think not!

She said to me – I spoke to my cousin yesterday and he told me to write a book. I gasped at the impossibility of what I was reading. Those of you who were with me from the beginning know that I wrote my first ever blog entry after talking to my cousin. He asked me to write and some force outside of me took possession of me and before I knew it I had written and published a note on Facebook. In two months I had my own blog and three years later I still have so much to say – something I had never imagined possible!

Three years later the Universe wanted to remind me of that leap of faith, to get out of my own way and just do it. Just write and see where it takes you. Don’t worry about selling the book even before you type it up.

Paul Owen Lewis said to me – if you are looking to make money or become famous, don’t do it! For me it is more than that. It is about reaching out and touching someone else. It is about sharing life’s ups and downs and knowing you are not alone. So I’m going to do it and I know I am not alone because my cousin and every one of you reading this will be cheering me on much like you did ever since I started my blog. And for you – yes you! I am very grateful.

 

 

 

The Winds of Change…

 

The winds of change blow hard

Rattling my windows

Shaking every tree in my yard

I shirk under the covers

Frightened and sick.

 

I try to shut out the howling storm

But it will not be ignored

One by one the windows shatter

And my blanket of safety gets whipped up in the breeze

I hug and hold onto it for dear life

But the wind, it takes no prisoners

The blanket is ripped clean out of my trembling hands.

 

I shut my eyes and bury my face in my knees

Afraid of what is to come next

A minute turns into an hour

As I sit there waiting for the worst

My hammering heart shuts out the calm

That has descended all around me.

 

I dare to open my eyes and peek

At the place I once called home

It was all but a mangled heap

Of concrete and stone

And yet there I was amidst the shambles

Alive and well albeit a little shaken.

 

I picked myself up and shed a tear

For the past that was gone

I looked up at the gaping hole where my roof used to sit

And at the clouds that were clearing

Far away in the shadow of the sun a rainbow was forming

Awakening in me hope for the future

A future built from scratch

A future with no glass windows or roofs

Open and free for the winds of change to blow through

Incessantly.

When the Omens Spell Doom…

No, I’m not talking about apocalypses. Not even World War III. I’m just exploring a question that came up during a conversation with a friend. She really didn’t believe in signs and was joking around about the ‘Universe’ sending her a really rotten sign. Me in all my self-righteous glory, got all defensive and declared – The Universe only sends positive signs!  After I hung up I wondered – Does it?

Let’s roll back to the year 2009. January 2009 to be precise. We were to travel to India to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday. It is one trip I’ll never forget. It started off with a blizzard as we made our way to Logan International. Our flight to New York was cancelled and subsequently, all flights to New York were cancelled. The JFK airport was shutdown due to heavy snowfall. We couldn’t drive down in such bad weather so we tried to get a flight for the next morning. We were told that the next available flight was for Thursday of the following week. A day after my grandmother’s 80th birthday! I was almost in tears but instead of going back home we pleaded with every airline to put us on the earliest available flight.

Finally, we got a flight for next morning. When we arrived at JFK airport, the flight to India was overbooked. Several passengers from all over the North East had missed their flights due to the snowstorm and now the airlines were scrambling to get them to their destinations. We had to wait until 11.00 p.m. for our flight into Dubai. We wandered aimlessly all over JFK airport and met other aimless world travelers. Soon we had ourselves a group. Something that distracted us from a grueling day, dealing with airlines and spending countless hours at airport terminals. By 11.00 p.m. we couldn’t wait to board our 13-hour flight to Dubai. But the flight was delayed due to technical difficulties. The fact that we would miss our connection flight to Chennai loomed large. But we were powerless and totally at the mercy of the airlines. On the flight my ‘Om’ pendant which I was very attached to, got snagged on my daughter’s sweater. I undid it and then tightened the clasp (or I thought I did). I lost my pendant and my black-bead necklace which my parents got me for my wedding somewhere on the flight or in the airport.

Of course when we got to Dubai we had missed our connection flight. Again we had to run from pillar to post begging the airlines to rebook us. The next available flight was a whole 14 hours later! By this time we were all tired, hungry and slightly smelly from not having showered in a long time. We couldn’t conceive spending another 14 hours holed up in some lounge. Each airline blamed the other and refused to take on our motley group of bedraggled, malodorous and time-warped travelers. After several hours of haggling, a kindred spirit offered us visas to exit the endless loops of airport terminals we were stuck in.

A shuttle took us to a hotel, where we showered and wore the same clothes (I swore to pack an extra set of clothes for all of us in the future!) We ate some food that was not served in aluminum trays. My kids and husband took a nap. I was too scared we’d oversleep so I sat with my legs propped up on a stool. We made it on time for our final flight of the week.

Our parents were happy to see us, four days after our initial departure from Boston. If you think the story ends here you are wrong. I haven’t reached the worst part yet! I called my grandmother from the airport and her nurse picked up the phone. She said – granny is not well. At which point my grandma snatched the phone from her. She didn’t sound very well and was totally incoherent. I asked my mother if I should go see her right away. My mom assured me that she would be all right.

When we got home, we opened up the suitcases one by one. TSA had opened up every one of them. The specially engraved “Grandma” globe was shattered and all its contents spilt all over the suitcase. That’s when I got a really bad feeling. When we visited my grandma the next day she looked frail and sickly. No one except the nurse could understand what she was saying. Everyone said that now with me by her side she would get better and we could celebrate her birthday which was two days away. That was not to be. Her pulse started dropping in the afternoon and her breathing became labored. She stopped eating all together. The end came a day before her 80th birthday. I was shattered. We had planned to attend a celebration and now we had to arrange for a funeral. I wished I had been there earlier. I wished I had never gone away. All those years away from her – I couldn’t ever buy back that time. The tears wouldn’t stop falling and my heart wouldn’t stop hurting.

All those bad things that happened were in a way preparing me for this. I didn’t see the blessing in this situation. But then everyone who came to the funeral uttered these words to me – She was waiting for you. You are lucky you got to be here with her. What if I had simply given up and returned home when our first flight was cancelled? I wouldn’t have ever seen her alive and God knows if I would have made it in time for her funeral. Some mysterious force got me to fight my way through every delay and every obstacle. They say every soul gets to decide when it leaves the body and also who gets to be with them when they transition. That my grandma wanted me (who lived half-way across the globe) to be there with her is such a blessing to me.

So to answer the question – does the Universe send us bad omens or signs? Absolutely! Just to prepare us for what is to come. But not every sign is a sign from the Universe. Some can be simply a figment of our imagination or ego.

 

The Best Laid Plans Fail…

If you are like me, then you expect to be given what you have asked for. At least that is how I imagined the wish-fulfilling department of heaven worked! You check off items on a catalog, place an order and then wait for it to arrive within the next 30 days. I gave up the thirty day rule a while ago since I stumbled on this thing called ‘divine timing’ that has nothing to do with clocks and calendars. But I still expected the order to arrive. Turns out the universe has a mind of its own and doesn’t really run things the way we humans do.

We really wanted to move out of Florida this summer. I know, I know – I was the one who wanted to move to Florida in the first place and now I don’t like it here anymore. So when summer vacation started we packed up and drove up to North Carolina in search of a better life. We stayed with a friend and drove around all over the place looking for houses. Nothing materialized. We were distraught. We badly needed to move. So on our last day in NC we filled out an application for a rental property that we liked. When we got back to Florida, we realized we couldn’t move. There was a tiny chance that our application for Permanent Residence status would get approved over the summer and filing an address change would delay it or even jeopardize it!

I need to stop here and get my non-immigrant readers up to speed. We applied for the coveted green card 8 years ago. Without a green card it is hard for an immigrant to change jobs. The new company must be willing to take up the green card processing (which is a very expensive affair) or the immigrant would have to take it up. Since this is not about the immigration process, I’ll stop by saying it is a long and arduous affair, fraught with obstacles at every turn. A very frustrating ordeal for every immigrant, especially if you are from India!

So we stayed put in Florida, all summer long. Not knowing if we will get the green card, not knowing if we will move. It was simply too much for all of us to sit there in this limbo, our lives thrown to the winds of Fate! But God had his reasons for keeping us here. All those signs did mean something. All my prayers were heard. Heard but not answered. If they were answered, we’d be in North Carolina and who knows maybe the green card would have been denied or the address change would not have reached them in time. It could have messed up everything we had carefully planned over the last 8 years.

I remember when I asked for a new place to call home I kept hearing this song “Stay” by Rihanna and also “Home” by Phillip Phillips. I indignantly cried out, “I don’t want to stay. I want to leave Florida!” But the songs kept playing on the radio, insisting we stay in Florida. Of course back then I didn’t know we might get our green card. Nothing made sense. That’s when all the signs started appearing – the coins, the feathers and the rainbows! In hindsight, the signs helped me through a very frustrating period in my life. Through all that uncertainty and hopelessness, God was telling me – I have a better plan. There is a reason why things didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.

It’s a solemn reminder to us all that we only have a limited perspective of how the universe works. Have you ever been in a situation where a vending machine swallows up your money and the thing that you paid for refuses to come out? You kick, you curse, you bang and shake the machine but it won’t budge! Now you are not only hungry but poorer by a few dollars. Rest assured the universe is nothing like a vending machine. All your wishes/prayers are heard. If they don’t arrive it is because God sees a flaw in your plans. Plans that will take you on a unnecessary detour in your life. So he sends you what is best for you even if you don’t see it that way.

I was reading this book “Small Miracles II” and one story just jumped out at me. Two guys were driving to a lake to spend the day boating and fishing with their friends. They were delayed by a flat tire, a dead battery and a sheriff who stopped them for speeding. When they finally got to the lake several hours later, their friends were gone. But they heard two voices screaming out for help. The two friends who were lifeguards jumped in and rescued the boys from drowning. All the obstacles they had faced that day made sense to them in that moment.

As I write this I’m in that exact same moment, knowing that there is a greater plan out there. Greater than my selfish wishes or grandiose plans for myself. I am at peace, knowing that someone is looking out for me and I need not micromanage every detail of my life. It’s all good!