Punctuate Life

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7 Tools to Deal with Stress

Years ago when I was in India without a job and without my own place, I was under a lot of stress. I was eating and sleeping well and generally healthy. But I was losing weight. An aunt suggested that I start drinking Ensure to improve my health and increase my weight. I consumed bottle after bottle of Ensure and was still losing weight. My parents were so concerned that they took me to a doctor and he ordered a full blood report. When the results came back ‘normal’ he said it was because of stress.

When my circumstances changed, I automatically gained weight and looked healthier. Stress is something we downplay in our lives. It seeps in, adds up and before you know it, stress wreaks havoc in your physical and mental health.

Stress Affects your Mind and Body

Stress affects digestion and can cause ulcers and gastritis. It robs you of good quality sleep because stress hormones keep you in the fight or flight state, day in and day out. When you sleep, your body repairs and restores tissues. Without good quality sleep, your immunity goes down and you tend to fall sick more often.

Prolonged stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, leaving you tired all the time. It also affects your happiness and your relationships. You tend to be more irritable and get easily frustrated. Emotional stress can also lead to depression.

Remember our bodies are not designed to be in a constant state of stress. And because stress is cumulative, it is so important to find ways to alleviate stress on a daily basis.

Together, these techniques pack a punch and before you know it, you will be on your way to a happier and healthier life.

1. Eat Healthy

You are more likely to eat junk food when you are stressed out, as a way of comforting yourself. But this does more damage in the long run. So make it a habit to eat healthy every day. Add lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals. Eat home cooked meals. Some people find cooking therapeutic and relaxing after a long day at work. If this is you, go for it. Stock all the ingredients so you have everything at hand to make a nutritious meal from scratch. Have a good multivitamin every day. Include more magnesium in your diet to combat stress. Drink plenty of water and reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption. Both substances mess with your sleep cycle.

2. Exercise for 30 minutes

Hit the gym for thirty minutes or go for a brisk walk. Dance or do yoga. Just get moving and get those endorphins pumping through your blood. Endorphins make you feel good and exercising regularly improves your ability to deal with stress. Don’t do rigorous exercise right before bed time or you will have a hard time falling asleep.

3. Practice Deep Breathing

I cannot stress (pun intended) the importance of deep breathing several times a day. Especially deep abdominal breathing with slow exhalation. The reason this works is that slow exhalation activates the parasympathetic nervous system which makes the body calm down. Set a reminder on your phone so you remember to breathe deeply and slowly at least three or four times a day. Doing it before an event that you consider stress-inducing also helps.

4. Meditate

Learn to meditate. I think meditation is a life skill. It should be taught to kids so they grow up knowing how to operate from a state of calm. Everyone is different. So the meditation technique that will be a good fit for you is something you have to figure out on your own. Try different techniques and see what works for you. Silently chanting a mantra in your head works if your mind is over active. Some people like guided meditations. Others like to focus on their breathing to still their mind. Nothing busts stress like meditation. It makes you calmer and more grounded. If you are not getting enough sleep because you are stressed or your mind keeps racing, meditate. Meditating for 20 to 30 minutes is equivalent to getting 4 to 6 hours of sleep.

5. Practice Full Body Relaxation

Learn how to relax every muscle in your body from head to toe. Do it before going to sleep. It helps you sleep soundly and you feel refreshed when you wake up. Stress stored in the body causes aches and pains, tight muscles and knots. Practicing deep relaxation techniques helps release the stress at a physical level.

6. Connect with Nature

Nature is the best stress buster. Just walking through your garden or a wooded trail and being conscious of the trees and the flowers around you can lift your spirits. We belong to the earth and sometimes in our busy lives we forget this and stay cooped up indoors (happening more now because of the C virus) all day. We are wired to be in nature and not with electronics. So make it a point to step outside every day and connect with nature. You will feel calmer and more grounded.

7. Seek Professional Help

If you constantly feel stressed no matter what, then it’s time to seek professional help. Stress over time can become a conditioned response and you may have to learn new and positive ways of dealing with stress. A psychologist can give you the tools to manage day to day stress. Energy healing can also help with symptoms of stress that do not respond to medication.

How do you cope with stress? Do you use herbs or acupuncture or EFT? I would love to hear from you.


Living Life to the Fullest

Imagine yourself on your deathbed. No, really! Take a moment and imagine that. Will you be happy that you lived your life in the best way possible? Will you have a sense of satisfaction that you pursued all your dreams and made them come true? Or would you be wringing your hands in despair thinking of all the time you wasted and the unfulfilled dreams that would die with you?

I came across the phrase ‘deathbed mentality’ in Robin Sharma’s book “The Monk who Sold his Ferrari.” It caught my fancy because a year ago I had a close brush with death. The kind that makes you question your choices in life. It totally shook and dismantled my life. Back then it was scary and unsettling to throw away everything familiar and follow my dreams. But now I have no regrets.

It helps that I maintain a journal and can look back at events from my life and how things unfolded over the years. One of the things I wanted to do post-accident, was to get my book published. I’m closer to that dream now because I wake up every day thankful for being alive but also painfully aware that it could be my last. This mentality stops me from wasting time on meaningless activities.

The second thing on my to-do list was to reach out to people that needed healing and to use my gift to make this world a better place. I’m happy to report that over the past year I have been able to serve so many people—some acquaintances, some old friends, some total strangers who then became friends.

And the last item on my list was to have relationships that were uplifting and nurturing. I’ve been with my parents for the past six months—the longest time I have spent with them since I got married. I’ve reconnected with lovely friends from my past who have lifted my spirits and nourished my soul. My dad visited me in the U.S. and I had him all to myself for a whole month.

My life is not perfect by other people’s standards. I’m stuck in India without my kids and have no idea when I can go back. I don’t have a full-time job anymore. But I wake up every day thanking God that I’m still alive and that I get to pursue my goals with unbridled passion. I’m grateful that I can reach out to so many people and heal them or equip them with tools that will bring balance and joy into their lives.

I don’t waste my time anymore. I create, I serve to the best of my ability, and I honor and nurture my body. And all the while, I imagine myself on that fateful evening, sitting in the driver’s seat of a Prius that was spinning around after being t-boned. What if I had died that day? I had so many untold stories inside me. So many visions that would never have turned into reality. No! I must press on. I have today and I insist on making the most of it.

Don’t wait for an accident to jerk you out of your stupor and reclaim your life. Every living, breathing moment is precious. Take stock of your life. Are you living your dreams or are you simply existing? I’m not asking you to quit your job and become a hippie. I’m asking you to take time every day to do the things that are important to you and that bring you joy and make the world a better place. Love a little harder, play a little nicer, and don’t ever take the life you have for granted.




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Hello From the Other Side and Other Signs of Afterlife

Ganga’s gone. Physically gone. Her obituary appeared in the Manorama newspaper yesterday. So it must be true. I find it hard to believe, because I wasn’t there when it happened. Chennai was in a lock down and Dad and I couldn’t travel to Palakkad for her funeral. How cruel is this life that we couldn’t be with the one person who has been with us through the good and the bad and everything in between. None of her loved ones were with her when she passed away.

As I sat in Chennai praying for her soul, I heard the phone ring. I answered and the person on the ‘other side’ said she was Thankam’s (Ganga’s) granddaughter. I told her that I was also her granddaughter. After talking to her for a few minutes I handed the phone to my mother. Later, I asked my mom who it was, because the lady on the phone had never mentioned her name. My mom told me her name was Indira. Indira also happens to be my grandma’s name.

Later that evening, the Roman clock that was a farewell gift to my grandpa when he left England, chimed once. The clock doesn’t work and hasn’t been wound up in a while. It hasn’t chimed even once since January, which is when I landed in Chennai. Coincidence? I think not!

It was as if both my grandma and grandpa were letting me know that Ganga was not alone and that they were there with her. I also found feathers and saw a lot of butterflies over the past week. An old family friend who also works with energy told me that Ganga’s energy was almost angelic and that she was definitely at peace. I wasn’t surprised because even in life she was a magnanimous soul. The kind that could give endlessly without ever running dry.

A couple of days ago, while sifting through old albums to find a picture of Ganga for the obituary page, I chanced upon a picture of a very close family friend who had passed away several years ago. She also knew Ganga very well. I sent the picture to her daughter and after sending it realized that it was her mom’s birthday. Was she also letting me know that she is with Ganga?

And then someone called me a gem just out of the blue. That’s my nickname that grandma came up with. It was like all the departed souls who knew Ganga were letting me know (in no subtle way) that she was fine. She was not alone. And they were all having a lovely reunion on the other side. Death is not the end. The soul goes on. And love goes on. That love is something I can always connect to. Not through painful memories but through all the love I received from Ganga when she was alive. True, I cannot hug her again or eat out of her hands or smell the scent of sandalwood on her skin. Nor can I hear her laugh till tears came out of her eyes or see her wide smile as she spotted me coming home from school. But I can close my eyes and feel her love well up in my heart and course through my veins. A love so strong that even death cannot dampen it.

I will love you, Ganga, always and forever. Thank you for showing me what unconditional love looks like. May our souls always stay connected through lifetimes to come.

P.S. The title for this blog post was a whisper from the other side. I randomly started singing Adele’s song “Hello” in my head. “Hello from the other side” is the song’s refrain. Also read “Love Never Dies” which is about how I feel my deceased grandma’s presence even today.








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I ran and I ran, not knowing what I was running from,

I thought it was the people in my life I was running from,

I thought it was the place I was running from.,

I thought it was the problems I was running from,

I did not stop until I was several continents away,

Till several seas and mountains separated me and all that I had run away from.


I did not pause after that,

I filled my days with chatter and travel and social visits,

All distractions.

Until one fine day I found myself forced to slow down and stay,

Forced to fall into the rhythm of routine once again,

Forced to deal with the demons within,

When I stopped looking outside, the answers came from deep down.


I was never the victim,

There was nothing to run from,

Only my delusional mind creating drama in its wake,

I may be far away from home but I am not homeless,

I may be unemployed but all my basic needs are met,

And love, beyond my limited definition of it, finds me every day,

And holds me in its comforting embrace,

For this and more I am thankful and feel infinitely blessed.

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I have a one-way ticket home,

No clue where I’ll go from there,

Definitions of home are blurry right now,

Is it the place you share with people you care for?

Or is it the place where all the people who care for you live?

I’ve been cut loose after being anchored for so long.

Maybe drifting is in order now,

After years of digging my heels and growing roots in quicksand,

I didn’t know I was choosing to drown.

Now I’m thrashing around gasping for air,

If only I could relax and go with the flow,

Go wherever the current will take me.

I feel an invisible hand bending the waves and exposing deep perils,

Gently tossing me against rocks when I can go no more,

At times I surrender to this and feel the peace wash over me,

And sometimes I let my delirious mind spin tales of horror and despair.

Yet again I find myself struggling to keep my head above the water,

I let the heavy thoughts drag me down until I can breathe no more,

And just when my lungs feel like they would burst,

There it is again,

A light hovering above the water, beckoning,

As I look at it, it draws me towards it,

It’s pull is undeniably magnetic.

I emerge out of the water sputtering,

The light flits away and disappears,

I search in the distance hither and thither,

Looking for this unspeakable miracle light,

But fail to find it.

It has done its job,

I’m above the water and breathing,

It will be back again in some other form,

When the weight of the world threatens to submerge me,

Until then I will be driftwood and allow myself to be led,



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Ganga, My Third Grandma – Guest Blog by Dinesh Damodaran

They say you can choose your friends but not your family. It is also normal to have two grandmas. In my case both are exceptions. I have a third grandma who isn’t related by blood but chose us as her family. Her name is Thankam or as my sister fondly christened her Ganga (alluding to the pure and spiritual nature of the holy river Ganges). Ganga has had a tough life. Her father a wealthy and successful trader died when she was young. He was cheated by his business partner when he was away on a pilgrimage. The shock and betrayal induced a heart attack and he died. She was one of the three daughters left with the mother who naturally struggled to care for all of them. Ganga’s mother approached my great-grandmother and asked her to take her in. So as a young teenager she joined the Parakkal household as a companion to my grandmother. They formed a strong and life-long bond. My grandparents got married and my father was born a year later. They had to leave for the UK for my grandfather to pursue his higher studies in oil and gas engineering. They had to leave my one-year old father behind. Ganga and my great grandparents took care of my father and raised him till he was 5. She was my dad’s nanny or even mother by proxy. They developed a strong bond too. She was around when my sister and I were born and she was around when my sister’s first child (my niece) was born too. She could stop my niece from crying in a few seconds just by holding her.
My grandfather’s job meant he was stationed at all the major oil refineries in India. Wherever my grandmother went she followed. She chose to remain a spinster so she could stay with my grandmother. She was an excellent cook and had the knack to reverse engineer any dish by simply tasting it. She also had a great memory and could remember the special dietary needs and favorite dishes of just about any guest who graced the Damodaran residence. So much so that even decades later an old friend or colleague dropping in to see my grandmother would be asked to stay for a meal and their favorite dish from yesteryear would be served. Her memory and hospitality was remarkable. As kids we used to visit my grandma’s on Saturdays. And she would always cook one of her signature chicken, fish or mutton dishes. I always looked forward to the Saturday lunch and just thinking about some of her dishes still makes my mouth water.
She has made untold sacrifices for us. When my dad was struggling to make money to buy our apartment she sold her jewelry and broke out her life savings to help. All unconditionally, just to see us all happy. She continued to live with my grandmother until age caught up with both of them and she decided it was best that she go her own way. My grandmother died a few years later. And Ganga continued to live by herself in a town not far from where she was born. But as she grew older her declining health made it difficult for her to take care of herself. My father brought her back to Chennai to live with him in the house she spent most of her life with my grandma. It wasn’t the same for Ganga without my grandma around. And since we never let her do any work around the house she got bored quite soon. She asked my dad to take her back to her hometown but my dad told her she wasn’t in any position to live by herself. So it was decided she would stay in an old folks home. The picture you see is from my visit to the home.
They say happiness is good health and bad memory. It is something I believe in when we have a memory filter to weed out the bad and retain the good memories. But it’s heartbreaking when your memories of your time with a person is intact but the other person’s isn’t. Ganga has developed dementia and seems to have forgotten much of the hardships and struggles she faced for most of her life: a good thing most people would say, but in doing so she has also forgotten all the good times that came with it namely the family she adopted as her own. I spent close to two hours with her. She seemed to recognize me then proceeded to talk about my father but failed to recognize I was his son. She couldn’t remember my sister getting married and cradling her first born in her arms, my grandmother’s passing and more sadly even her own mother’s who she complained never visited her even once at the old folks home. But there are still traces of the old Ganga in there. Her natural instinct was to make me some tea and dosas (rice pancakes) in her room even though there is no kitchen or stove there. These are the memories of my third grandma that I will forever cherish and hold as long as my brain permits. Forever grateful for you dear Ganga for touching our lives and for your unconditional love and support.

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A Slice of Paradise

Ten days after I landed in Chennai, my parents and I packed ourselves into a car early one Monday morning and started off for Rajapalayam. My dad wanted to fly to Madurai and then drive from there to our destination. I was the one who insisted on doing a road trip so we could spend “quality time” together. Soon it became apparent to me that this was a bad idea. One, the roads are not as great as in the U.S. Two, the traffic. Three, nobody obeys traffic rules! But I was in for a pleasant surprise. Once we escaped the city limits and hit the highway, the roads were pretty darn good. We had to pay hefty tolls along the way but it was well worth it. Leaving the city meant leaving behind the traffic as well. Our driver was a dare devil with a need for speed. If the speedometer wasn’t touching 100, our man was not happy and he insisted on leaving the slow pokes behind by overtaking them whenever he could.

As we traveled further south and away from Chennai, we passed through verdant paddy fields glistening in the afternoon sun with field hands doubled over tending to the crops. The roads were lined with trees on either side, in stark contrast to the treeless cities we passed from time to time. We spotted kingfishers, egrets, and pigeons and occasionally a monkey. Rocky hills and scrub forests gave way to lush valleys and forested slopes. The last city we passed was Madurai, where we paid a small fortune in tolls. As we neared Rajapalayam – a town build by the Rajas who migrated from Vijayanagara – paddy fields and distant hills stretched on either side of the potholey roads. I kid you not, every house in this town belongs to a person with the last name Raja and all of them are related! We were headed to one such house to meet my Dad’s school friend from his Monfort days.

I have to tell you that I’ve been meeting Uncle V and others in his extended family for years and they are the kindest, generous, and most gracious people I have ever had the fortune of meeting. And the most impeccable hosts ever. They say you can tell a person’s character by observing how they treat less fortunate people. Uncle V showers the very same love and care to the house help and drivers as he does for his family and friends. He makes sure they are well fed and rested and medical issues are addressed promptly. Did I mention Uncle V was an ophthalmologist? Someone who built a hospital in rural Tamilnadu and performed free surgeries for the poor.

After tucking into idlis and dosas for dinner we called it a night. I woke up super early (thank you jet lag!) and it was so quiet and peaceful that my morning meditation was easy to slip into. I actually heard birds chirping in the morning. I wanted to explore the area in the early morning light, so uncle dropped my mom and me at the polytechnic college where all the morning walkers were making their rounds, quietly staring at us outsiders. The campus is beautiful and it was immediately evident that whoever did the landscaping had put a lot of thought and effort into it. On our way back we got an unobstructed view of the sunrise. Something I hadn’t seen after I came to Chennai. The lovely Sanjeevi hills served as a backdrop to the field where several groups practiced cricket and a handful of men were running or doing exercises.

Later I asked uncle about the hills and he told me they were named after the Sanjeevani herbs that Hanuman carried from the Himalayas to save Lakshman’s life in the battlefield. The monkey god spilled the herbs along the way as he was flying by and some of it landed in these hills and hence the name. This was no surprise to me. The very air in this place was healing. Peacocks roamed the streets freely.  Exotic birds such as the paradise fly catcher have been sighted often in this area. Even uncle fed peahens and doves in his backyard. It was apparent that there was a deep reverence for all life in this town.

And thanks to the flourishing flora, I saw butterflies everywhere. If you have been reading my blogs for sometime, you know how fixated I am on butterflies. They just added to my sense of rapture in this little place that was so close to paradise. My brother joined us later that morning and we all spent a good part of the day catching up on happenings in each others’ lives and reminiscing the past. What joy it is to be in such company and in such heavenly surroundings!

We met uncle’s brother and his wife briefly and also Uncle A and the lovely Aunty S who despite travel plans found the time to make a casserole and some sumptuous sambar for us. She even packed some idli/dosa batter for the next day.

The next day we continued down south towards Trivandrum to visit my aunt (mom’s sister) and uncle. The roads were nothing like the ones in TN and made hair pin bends and sharp turns through the Western Ghats, which slowed us down considerably. We did make it in time for lunch (more like an elaborate feast) that my dear Valliamma had spread out for us. She loves all of us kids like her very own and is always around every time I come down from the U.S. This is the first time I’m visiting her after I got married. So both my aunt and uncle were over the moon with joy.

Dinesh left the same night for Palakkad and we stayed on till the next morning. Valliachan, my uncle, took me for a ride in his scooter early that day. Rain or shine, fever or wheezing, he has to go to the temple every morning. That day we went to his favorite Ganesha temple. Valliachan is 74 but drives around like he did in his youth. I had to apply hand brakes on his shoulders to slow him down and I almost fell backwards when he accelerated suddenly! It was exhilarating to feel the cool morning air on my face as we whizzed by narrow streets and smoking pyres at every street corner. Trivandrum is not the clean city it used to be back in the day. However, the water tastes like honey and just a shower in that water is equivalent to a spa treatment.

Before we even got there it was time to say goodbye. I promised them I’ll be back soon for a longer stay and we started our long journey back to Chennai. We had to get back the next day as Dinesh would be back from Palakkad.

Look out for the next blog. It is a guest blog by Dinesh about his trip to Palakkad.

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30 Days of Gratitude (2019)

I’ve been doing this for three years now and feel like gratitude is one of the best practices you can incorporate in your life. And not just say the words but feel it deeply in your heart. Here’s what I am thankful for this year.

Day 1
I am thankful for being alive. Several incidents over the past few months have reminded me to not take a single breath for granted.

Day 2
So so thankful for my dad and infinitely grateful that he could visit me after all these years. Had him all to myself for a whole month. Love you Papa and here’s to spending more time together. Blessed to have a wonderful dad like you.

Day 3
I am thankful for my mom who has worked hard all her life juggling teaching and prepping meals for us, supporting us, and always praying for our highest good. We may not always have the same taste or agree on things but I still love you.

Day 4
Today I’m grateful for energy healing. It’s something I learned when I was 16 but it has definitely shaped my life over the past few decades. Thank you God for healing me and others and for helping me be an instrument of your healing. Humbled by all the experiences I have had and for all of you who have trusted me to help you in your healing journey.

Day 5
Thank you for the music and the songs I’m singing and thanks for all the joy it’s bringing. Love that song by Abba! The power of good music is underrated. It can lift the cloud of sorrow and transport you to realms of bliss. Thankful for the ability to enjoy music from different genres and to be moved by it to tears sometimes.

Day 6
Today I am thankful for my beautiful aunt, Sridevi Chitta. She has survived several storms in her life and hasn’t let it dampen her spirits. She always finds a reason to smile and when we all get together we end up giggling endlessly. Thank you Chitta for being you and for showing me how to be a strong and independent woman. Love you.

Day 7
I’m thankful for my Valliamma, Raji Nair who has been like a second mother to me. Always there, always caring, and always praying for all the kids and grand kids. A talented tailor, she has made so many lovely outfits for my daughter and me. Thank you for always believing in my healing abilities and for being so receptive to it. Love you lots.

Day 8
Thankful for my aunt/chitta, Uma Singh for her sweet, generous nature and her ability to be soft yet strong, firm yet loving, and for always indulging me when I was a child. Love you Chitta and so grateful for you.

Day 9
Today I’m thankful for my brother Dinesh Damodran. Annoying as we may be to each other we’ve always got each others backs. Thankful he could visit me in July. Cherish the memories we made together. Also made me realize life is too short and we need to cherish our loved ones. I love you Dini but no bhindi fry for you next time.

Day 10
I am grateful for the kindness of Mike Kodumudi, my Dad’s friend from his MCC days and his friend Kannan Kutty, Vijaya, and Jay when we were visiting DC. We hadn’t met them before but they opened their homes and hearts to us and made sure we were well fed and well taken care of. Got treated like VIPs. Thank you so much for your hospitality. Cannot express my gratitude in words. God bless all of you!

Day 11
Thankful for you Dadima. I know you help me and guide me in mysterious ways. Thank you for your undying love for me that has no beginning and no end. Blessed to have known you and loved you. Miss you and will always love you.

Day 12
Today I am thankful for my dear Dr. Chacko who yanked me from the jaws of death and revived my lifeless body and who was my pediatrician for several years. And for being the sweet, caring, loving human being you always were. I love you and miss you. But I’m sure you are shining your light from up above.

Day 13
Thankful for Ganga who is like a second grandmother to me. Who took care of me for years and cooked delicious meals, packed lunches, and waited at the gate for me on days that I showed up late. Thank you for all the love you showered on me. Love you. God bless you and keep you strong.

Day 14
Happy Children’s Day for everyone celebrating in India. I am thankful for my children, Anjali and Nitin. You taught me what it is to love unconditionally, especially now that you are teenagers! But I know you are figuring out your way as you grow into the incredible human beings you are destined to be. Remember to be kind and loving and to build relationships. Everything else is fluff. Love you my babies. God bless you always!

Day 15
Thankful for my brother Rohit. He is my little brother but has always been so protective of me. I remember the fun times we had together in Vaikkom and also in Chennai. I wish we lived closer and could just laugh and laugh at totally nonsensical things all day long. Love you Rohit and wish you the very best always.

Day 16
Family is not just the one you are born into. Today I am thankful for my soul sister, Namami, who has been by my side through some rough times, praying for me and consoling me when I needed it the most. You are one in a million and I’m blessed to have you in my life. Thank you for coming down and spending time with me earlier this year. Love you and wish you the very best always! Here’s to spending more time with you.

Day 17
Today I’m thankful for all the challenging people in my life who have tried to dim my light. If it were not for your concerted efforts I would not be here doing what I am doing with renewed vigor. Like the phoenix I will rise from the ashes. You messed with the wrong girl. I release you and hope you find peace.

Day 18
Today I’m thankful for my friends from school, college, work and Facebook who have been there for me and cheered me on, prayed for me when I didn’t know who to turn to, and liked, shared posts, and loved me in innumerable ways. Thank you and I love you all.

Day 19
I am thankful for finally being connected to fellow healers who get me and where I am coming from and give freely of their advice and healing especially when I most need it. It feels good to be connected with other givers…finally! Thank you for all that you do.

Day 20
I am thankful for financial security and abundance that allows me to give freely of my time, energy, and healing. I am supported in all ways by the universe and for that I am infinitely grateful.

Day 21
Thankful for a safe sacred space that is nurturing and healing surrounded by high-vibe people and soul family. And so it is.

Day 22
Thankful for the gift of sensitivity and the ability to feel so deeply and completely every emotion. It’s a beautiful thing.

Day 23
I’m thankful for good health, without which one cannot enjoy any of the other blessings in life. And I’m thankful for the knowledge that my body can heal itself. Now if I can just get everyone else to believe that!

Day 24
Thank you for the gift of writing and the healing it brings to me and others. It is truly a blessing to be able to share it with the world and for that I am infinitely grateful! Thank you to all my beautiful readers and cheerleaders for your constant support and encouragement. Blessed beyond words to have you in my life!

Day 25
Thank you for my new and wonderful job that uses all my talents, is rewarding, engaging, and filled with supportive people who enjoy working with me.

Day 26
Thankful for crisp fall evenings, vivid sunsets, and multi-hued trees gearing up for winter. Thankful for the four seasons and the changes they bring.

Day 27
Today I’m grateful for my cousins. The ones I grew up with, had sleepovers and shared so much with. Thankful that I got to connect with two of them over the past year. Love you all and here’s to spending more time together.

Day 28
Thankful for the simple pleasures of life. Apple pie baking in the oven, cooking with my daughter and some good food on our table today. Infinitely blessed. Sending you all Thanksgiving blessings and love.

Day 29
Thankful for the blessings that are on their way to me. Blessed beyond words. Sending blessings to all of you. Stay grateful always!

Day 30
Thankful for pets that have over the years loved me unconditionally. The world and my life was better because of them.


A Tribute to Dr. Chacko

The hands that whisked me out of the jaws of death when I was a wee baby lie lifeless in another part of the world. I never tire of telling the tale of the day I was born and nor did she. For it is truly a miracle that I lived to write these words. Let’s go back in time to the year 1978. On July 19th of that year a bonny baby girl was born in Lady Wellington Hospital, Madras to Malli and Mathew. She was the granddaughter of Dr. Rachel Chacko an esteemed pediatrician practicing in Madras. Two days later, my mother went into labor and was admitted at the same hospital. She was scheduled to have a normal delivery but upon examination the ob-gyn realized that the baby (me) hadn’t turned and the head was not facing the birth canal. She had mistaken my butt for my head in the last examination and thought everything was normal. Remember this was before ultrasounds were part of regular prenatal care.

As my mom got ready to push, the doctor realized that my feet were coming out and not my head. It was too late to do a C-section and they ended up yanking me out of my mother’s womb. I had already started breathing and had taken a lot of amniotic fluid into my lungs. My hips did not slide out gracefully and got dislocated when the doctor tried to pull me out. They succeeded but I wasn’t breathing when I was born. The ob-gyn panicked and then remembered that Dr. Chacko was in the hospital attending to her granddaughter. She called her in and placed my small lifeless body in her hands after pumping out my lungs. She breathed life back into me and probably pleaded with God to give me a chance. There was no telling if I would survive and even if I did only time would tell if I had suffered any brain damage during those precious moments after birth when I wasn’t breathing. Whether I would ever walk was another question that no one wanted to address. My hip was plastered for over a month. All that mattered now was that I was alive  by the grace of God and one wonderful lady who didn’t want to give up on me. Also losing another child would have devastated my parents. Their first born baby, a girl, had a hole in her heart and passed away after 27 days.

Dr. Chacko was my pediatrician during this ordeal. Never once did she confess her worst fears to my parents. She prayed for me every time I visited her. She prayed and was thankful for every developmental milestone I crossed. When I walked, she was over the moon with joy. When I talked she couldn’t hide her mirth and relief. I loved going to see her because she always treated me like royalty or like some miracle of nature.

Years later when I no longer consulted her, my parents used to take me to visit her every now and then. She stopped seeing patients but continued to be very active in her church and socially. She was a wonderful friend and companion to many in her circle who sought her wise counsel and benefitted from the faith and grace that always exuded from her. She split her time between Vellore, Bangalore, and Chennai, with her daughters, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She always spoke highly of my friend and her granddaughter S, who she was very proud of. I share a lifelong friendship with S who with the timing of her birth, in a way saved my life as well. 

In her later years she was plagued by many ailments but that did nothing to dim her spirit. As her body shrunk her spirit only became brighter and stronger. She was always warm and welcoming, with a twinkle in her eye and a smile lighting up her face. When I went to meet her with my children she still treated me like a girl, fussing over my health and complimenting my children at the same time! As a doctor I’m sure she has touched numerous lives but she has touched many more lives by just being an incredibly generous and compassionate human being.

A few years ago when I was going through an incredibly tough phase in my life, I went to visit her with my parents. In her incomparable way, she sensed something was amiss just by looking at me. She held my hand and inquired about my health and eating habits while I sat next to her for nearly an hour. Was she silently praying for me like she always did? I’m certain she was. Because when I left, I had this incredible sense of peace that I hadn’t felt for months. Soon after that visit I left for the U.S. and her health deteriorated even more over the course of a few months.

In March 2019 I went to visit her. She was recovering after a surgery that removed part of her tongue. Although she looked very frail, her memory was sharp. She recognized me, smiled and talked to me. I couldn’t understand most of what she said but I smiled and held her hand for a while, remembering all the times she had prayed and willed me to have good health and a good life. Here lay the woman I owed my life to and yet I could do nothing but hold her hand and pray that her last moments be peaceful and filled with love and loved ones around. Seven months later she passed away after a brief illness.

I can only imagine what her family is going through. She was a force to reckon with – strong, independent, a pillar of support for her whole family, and admired by her friends and colleagues. The world will be a dimmer place without her light but I’m sure she will continue to shine on from up above.

S and I were both blessed with grandmothers who were epitomes of strength, resilience, faith, and dynamism. We grew up in the shadow of their magnificence and always carry a part of them in us.

When adversity strikes I always look to my grandma’s life for answers and I’m sure S will also find her Ammachi’s gentle guidance helping her navigate all the ups and downs in her life. Grandmas never leave our side even when they have left this world. How could they? They promised to love us forever.




30 Days of Meditation

I won’t lie. The car accident left me emotionally scarred. Right after it happened I wasn’t sure if I’d ever drive again. I had a hard time focusing at work and the smallest frustration made me burst into tears. Physically, I had escaped with a few scratches and bruises but emotionally, I was a mess. I took a week off from work to rest and heal. My nervous system was on overload and I felt like one small incident would lead to a breakdown. That’s when I turned to meditation. For thirty minutes everyday I sat down with some meditation music and tried to empty my mind of all the agonizing thoughts it was spitting out by the second. When I was done my mind would start all over again. But it got easier every day. I looked forward to 30 minutes of being free of my mind and it’s depressing thoughts. Some days I did better than others and some days I slipped back into depression.

But something egged me to keep going and I did. Now the lows are fewer and less frequent. I don’t wake up dreading what ugly thoughts my mind will conjure up for me. I found the courage to start driving again. I never thought I’d do that! It felt like the old fear of driving would now overrule all the confidence I had built up in 10 years of sitting behind the wheel.

I quit my job at the end of August and I’m facing another big fear again—finding a job. If you follow my blog, you know how much I have struggled with getting back to work after raising my kids for over a decade. Part of me thinks I’m a dunce to throw away a perfectly good job on a whim. But the deeper part of me that I dig into when I meditate tells me I did the right thing. Again I’m surprised that I’m not freaking out right now. A month into the job search and I haven’t landed a job. But instead of losing it, I’m more balanced and I’m more confident; another result of my daily practice.

Back when I was living in Florida, I used to meditate almost everyday. These were my early days of blogging and I found that ideas would pop into my head effortlessly during the day. Sometimes even during meditation. It has happened rather infrequently after that. Probably because I stopped meditating regularly and got sucked into the busy, busy,  busy, always-busy rut. Now after meditating for over a month I feel like I can hear the whispers of creativity again. Just yesterday when I was thinking about a title for this blog, I tried using my brain to come up with a suitable title. But none of them sounded right. I gave up and then when I was doing something else the title “30 Days of Meditation” popped into my head and I just knew this was the one I’d go with.

Another funny thing happened after I started meditating. I decided to go vegan. This was my second attempt at going vegan and I approached it with a little wariness. My last attempt fell flat because I went cold turkey. I couldn’t drink tea with soy milk. The soy milk didn’t agree with me and left me gassy and bloated. I was looking for support from family and got none. They felt being vegetarian was bad enough! This time I knew what I was getting into. I don’t drink tea anymore and I got almond milk instead of soy milk. I eased myself through the process of giving up dairy. First, I gave up milk and butter, then cheese and yogurt. The last one was difficult because I love yogurt—with rice and pickle or strawberry flavored. But I wasn’t willing to buy a 4 oz. container of coconut yogurt for $1.45 at Traders Joe’s. Chocolate wasn’t so hard to give up because I don’t have it every day. But I’m going to treat myself with a vegan bar ever month. I have to thank Nisha Vora and her book “The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook” for making vegan cooking look so glamorous! And no my family was not supportive this time either but soon realized I’m not backing out and that I had all the support I needed to do this from the inside.

Now, what I experienced is not new. My brother reported not wanting to eat meat for weeks after coming back from a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. And he’s the guy that loves meat, even game meat! And in this book about meditation I picked up, “Success Through Stillness,” the author Russel Simmons, mentions the same thing. He even claims it can help people with addictions. The book reinforced all that I had experienced after 30 days of meditation and that’s when I realized like Russell that meditation is not getting all the attention it should.

So I urge you to start a practice, even if there is seemingly nothing wrong with you physically, mentally, or emotionally. Just sitting in stillness and focusing on your breath or a mantra for twenty minutes a day can change your life. You will feel like a different person; you will feel more alive, creative, balanced, and in control. You will achieve a lot more with little effort. You can drop addictions, lower your blood pressure, lose weight, ease symptoms of depression, and achieve anything because you can now tap into a part of your brain that was shut out because of the constant nonsensical chatter in your head. Move over wrinkle creams! Meditation has been proven to lengthen your telomeres and slow cellular aging. Don’t take my word for it. Go look up studies and research articles online and you’ll have a mountain of evidence that meditation is good for you.

I for one don’t put stuff on my blog unless I have experienced it or benefited from it or if it could be a cautionary tale for others. As someone who has grappled with depression in the past, I know how hard it is to get out of your mind and the looping negative thoughts. I thought after the accident that I was going to have another debilitating depressive episode and it would take me months to come out of it. And I’d need pills and therapy. But I’m out of it and I owe it to meditation. It also helped me reach out to people who were supportive and gave me the strength to get out of it. I do want to say if you need help please seek it but also add meditation to your daily regimen to augment your treatment.

Lastly, I want to say that a lot of celebrities (Oprah, Ellen, Deepak Chopra to name a few) meditate and they have to make time in their hectic schedules to do it. But they do it because like me they have seen an incredible transformation in their lives. So just start and keep at it. If you don’t know how, look up YouTube videos. Deepak Chopra has some good ones. You can also pick up Russell Williams book where he guides you through Transcendental Meditation.

Do any of you meditate on a regular basis? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Here’s to your good health and me landing my dream job!