A small, fighter of a plant

Last year, a friend of mine gifted us with a small plantlet. A beautiful little plantlet. The kind I hadn’t seen before. Looked exotic. Looked beautiful. Snap dragon it is called. I was thrilled. Who doesn’t like beautiful, little flowering plants? It upped the ambience of the house a notch.  And I’ll give my friend that. Seems like she had put quite a lot of thought in to this wonderful gift. When you are just starting off in a new country, in a rented place, small additions like these are really what make a house look more like a warm home.

This small little plantlet grew, flowered and bloomed. Small, pink flowers whose petals opened like a dragon’s mouth. Each time we saw a new bud popping, we ooh-ed and aah-ed. We marvelled in its beauty. If this plant was a girl, it would have felt vain over how beautiful it looked. At any point, it would have 10-12 flowers in full bloom and half a dozen or so of buds waiting for their moment in glory. The contrast of pink and green. What’s not to like? The plant grew in size. We kept trimming away at the dried, withered edges. It was branching out so fast, that within no time we had to tie a thread around the little stems to keep them from bending sideways from the weight of the flowers.

Then came winter. The plant withstood the stormy winds as it did the cold, harsh weather. That little thing fought with all its might. It did start looking a bit dried out and worn out, and showed a few signs of fatigue. But we kept trimming at the dying parts and kept watering it regularly. We kept it alive.

Until that day came. We were visiting India for a month and needed someone to look after the precious one in our absence. I left the plant in the good care of a dear colleague, who promised to water it every other day. A little water every other day, is all the plant needed.

Upon my return, when she handed me the plant, it really looked miserable. It looked like it couldn’t bear to be away from us. My colleague did her best and watered it regularly, but it seemed to have worn out tremendously. It looked like it was dying. My colleague blamed herself to my dismay. I scolded her for blaming herself. It wasn’t her fault. She watered it regularly. That’s all we asked her to do.

With a heavy heart I brought it home. It was hard to see it go. My MIL suggested that we try one last resort. We trimmed the whole plant down to bare minimum. Until what remained of the plant was just its small little stem. Withered flowers, fallen leaves, dried out stems lay in a heap on the carpet.

We hoped it would survive, we hoped it would bloom back to life. But we were not convinced. It looked too weak to survive. Mentally, we had given up on it. We kept it out in the balcony, but rarely spared it a second glance. We watered it occasionally. Nothing seemed to change for the first three months.

But that little plant hadn’t given up its will to live. Miracles do happen. After about three months, we noticed it was looking a little greener. Little grown up than it had looked in many months. It looked like it was alive. Within weeks, we saw new stems branching out. It was looking fuller, it was looking healthier. We waited and soon we were greeted with new buds opening up. And before long, the little plantlet was blooming with flowers once again. It is now about eight inches tall, but has four flowers in full bloom and five buds ready to shine. It’s beautiful again. My home is a bit more cheerful once again.

Why am I sharing this story? Because every time TCG and I look at this plant, we are awed. We are fascinated. We are humbled. We are surprised. We are amazed at this little plant’s fighting spirit. It’s will to survive against all odds. It’s strength to face the winters and brave the storms. Little it may be, but look how much LIFE it has in it. It reinforces our faith in ourselves.  It reminds us never to lose hope. It proves where there is a will, there is a way. It reminds us who the BOSS is. It tells us not to fret the small stuff. It teaches us not to be disheartened by minor setbacks and disappointments. It enlightens us and makes us wiser. (It made us feel guilty about having thought once that it wouldn’t make through. )

When a three-inch brazen looking stem can spring back to full life with it’s fighting spirit and zeal to live, who are we to give up, make excuses and feel doomed over small set backs.

A small plant. A BIG teacher.

I wish this precious one always survives.

For those who want to know how a snap dragon plant looks like:

Image Courtesy: Easy bloom

Image Courtesy: Easy bloom

 

 

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Playing House

I am sure as little girls, we all must have played house (ghar ghar) at some point in time or other. Remember that make believe game where we behaved like grownups and where we dressed up to look like a mommy or a daddy? Going to work as daddy does and cooking in kitchen as mommy does and scolding and disciplining children as parents do?  We played our parts to perfection like seasoned, method actors. Keenly observing how our mommy and daddy behave and noting down all the finer nuances to play their part perfectly while playing house. What fun that used to be! I remember playing house for hours with my girl pals (and sometimes guy pals also, though they will outright reject to admit that now) every summer holidays. We had a play kitchen set as well, with all the little vessels and the miniature fridge and the cooking range and plastic food. I remember we all wanted to play the important roles of that of a mommy or a daddy and no one wanted to play the role of a child. Hence, we used to take turns in playing mommy and daddy and make our dolls and the Barbie play the role of children.

Back then, we couldn’t wait to grow up and be an adult, could we? I used to think how cool the world of grownups is! You don’t have to do your homework, you don’t have to go to school, you don’t have to be scolded and disciplined, you don’t have to be told that it’s time for bed and you don’t have to be told to stop watching TV.

And now that I am a grownup, I wish I was a child again, where all I had to do is worry about going to school and doing my homework, sip lemonade and watch Tom and Jerry, play house and scold the Barbie for not doing her homework, bring the roof down by shouting, playing, fighting, jumping around during holidays and driving the mother up the wall.

But it was all going very well. Till last week. Since TCG and I live alone; far, far away from home, it felt like I was playing house once again. But this time for real. He played the role of a husband (on the lines of daddy), who goes to work and worries about paying the bills and I played the role of a wife (on the lines of mommy), where I busy myself with all the household chores cooking, cleaning laundry and the sundry.

Then last week, I started working once again. And my carefully observed schedule of previous two months went for a major toss. I suddenly realized that playing house in real is not easy. Waking early, dressing up, eating breakfast on the go, rushing off to work, spending a busy day in office, coming back, cooking supper, cleaning, and running several errands in between…welcome to the real adult world.

Till few months ago my major worries included what to do on a weekend, what dress to wear, what class to join, where to meet my friends, and which party to go.

Cut to 2013.

Now I worry about what to cook, what vegetables to buy, taking stock of what things we are running out of in kitchen, what toiletries need to be replaced, doing laundry, dishes, dusting, cleaning the house and ironing clothes (which I never did in India; you can outsource this for very cheap back home, you can even have someone pick it up and drop it back for cheap).

This whole weekend went by in a frenzy doing household chores that we ignored during the week. It’s like the clock in my head is constantly ticking. If I don’t hurry up with a, I won’t have enough time to do b. If I don’t do b now, then I won’t get it done till next weekend. That means I will have to go a week without b. So I better hurry up with a, so that I have enough time to do b. You get it right? If I over sleep on weekend, then something that needs to be done will definitely be left out. And so on.

Reading, writing, blogging, watching TV, reading news, cooking fancy…have taken a hit. But once I get settled in my new routine, I am sure I will make time for these too.

And really speaking, it’s not all that bad. I love being busy and am enjoying every minute of this new busy life. I go back to bed tired, but satisfied. It helps that TCG doesn’t shy away from helping me at all. He helps me a little in everything. Together we are doing just fine. What with all the practice I have had during my growing up years playing house, I should be doing fine, shouldn’t I?

It feels like just yesterday

It feels like just yesterday – my friends and I sipping away some expensive coffee at some coffee shop, digging into a hot chocolate pastry and spoon fighting for the last piece, laughing our guts out at something silly, trying to cut each other’s point and outwitting each other, crashing in on some friend’s door at midnight and giving him/her surprise birthday wishes, giggling over wine and dinner gossiping about hot, new guys on the block, talking about our dating woes and dreading ending up single as all good guys we knew were either married, committed or younger than us.

It feels like just yesterday – dreaming of my Mr. Right and of a blissful, wedded life.

It feels like just yesterday  – living with my parents, that single, carefree, happy, cocooned, protected and dependent life; without a care in the world, without having to worry about duties or responsibilities; without worrying about what groceries to buy and what to cook for dinner every single day; without worrying about paying the bills or making the ends meet.

It feels like just yesterday – rushing through my morning ablutions; taking forever to decide what clothes to put on for office like that was single most important thing to worry about, running around the house looking for my things, my book, my bag to carry to office, sitting at the breakfast table while mom dished out something hot and delicious and steaming while I dried my hair or secured my belt, then hurrying through the breakfast because I was always running late in spite of mom doing everything from making my lunch to packing it; then dashing out of the house and realizing after reaching downstairs that I forgot the bike keys; rushing back up and finding mom at the door holding up the keys for me.

It feels like just yesterday – meeting TCG for the first time and the lightening realization in my heart that this is it; this is the man I want to marry.

It feels like just yesterday – running around like crazy from one designer to another, getting my wedding trousseau in place, running around doing zillion errands, deciding the jewellery, the make-up, the bridal look, shopping for things that I wanted to bring along with me to NZ, doing rounds of the caterers, deciding the menu, adding, subtracting from the list, selecting the wedding card, writing the wedding invitation and in between all this craziness making time to jog and exercise to look my best on the D-day.

It feels like just yesterday – seeing the house cloaked in the wedding frenzy and everyone counting down to the D-day, radiating nervousness and excitement at the same time; those emotional moments, those tears shining through smiles.

It feels like just yesterday; walking down the aisle clenching tightly on Aarti’s fist, seeing my parents looking at me in a different way, having that sinking feeling in the stomach that this is it, and walking the next few steps to the altar knowing that these few steps are going to change my life forever.

It feels like just yesterday – stepping into my new home and realizing everything is different here and yet embracing all the differences and adapting as quickly as possible to them.

It feels like just yesterday – growing crazy with all the packing, deciding on what things to take to along to NZ and what to let go, weighing the baggage so that it remains under the check-in weight limits, realizing its exceeding, opening and re-looking the whole thing to find out what else can go, letting something dear to me go with a heavy heart and a big sigh.

It feels like just yesterday – standing at the airport with tears in my eyes and waving good bye to my family, knowing that I won’t be seeing them for a year at least, still braving a smile.

It feels like just yesterday – stepping on the soil of NZ and being greeted by a welcoming, cool, gentle breeze and knowing in my heart that I will adapt well.

It feels like just yesterday – making this house look like home, cleaning, scrubbing, dusting, arranging and rearranging the furniture till it felt just right, cooking something new and fancy everyday and waiting for TCG to get back home.

It feels like just yesterday – realizing that the honeymoon phase is beyond me now, that real life is right here, going crazy looking and applying for right jobs and finally, finally, finally lending one. Things I am grateful for: Reason # 20

Life’s come a full circle. Come Monday and I will be back in office. After a five month sabbatical. It feels different, and I am excited. Kiwi way of doing things is different. None of my previous experience is going to really count in the beginning. This is hardly my field and I have to start afresh. But I am hopeful that this will lead to something nicer.

So, I am back to the grind. Only this time, there won’t be any mommy packing the lunch or holding up the keys.

It feels like just yesterday. 

Things I am grateful for: Reason # 6 to Reason #18

I have been meaning to write about these Things I am grateful for for quite some time now. Since a last few months, I have noticed that I have become more grateful and thankful for the things I have in my life. And as a ritual, I have started saying a small thankfulness prayer daily which more or less summarizes all the broad categories of things I am extremely grateful for.

Reason #6

Oh God, Thank you for the wonderful day

Reason#7

Thank you for the wonderful family I am born into. Thank you for my wonderful parents who have given us a splendid upbringing, for loving grandparents who have imbibed in us their values, for uncle, aunt, siblings, cousins, brother, sister-in-law and everyone in the family who I have grown up with.

Reason #8

Thank you for the wonderful family I am married into. Thank you for a wonderful husband, loving parents in-law, and a friend I see in my brother-in-law. And thank you, thank you, thank you once again for the wonderful husband.

Reason # 9

Thank you for the food I eat, the water I drink, the air I breathe, the soil I walk on and for every other your invaluable resources that I use.

Reason #10

Thank you for perfect health. Thank you for every limb, every muscle, every tissue, every cell, every organ in mybody that works miraculously.

Reason #11

Thank you for all those people who unknowingly work for us all and make my our lives easy; the farmers who grow our fruits and veggies, the workers who collect garbage, the construction workers who make houses and buildings in which we live, the people who clean sewers. They all do such an invaluable job and how we take their services for granted. Let me be kinder to them.

Reason # 12

Thank you for wonderful friends I have, who I have grown up with, who I have shared many a jokes with, who I have laughed with, who I have cried with. Friends, without you all life would have been so boring. God bless each one of you and thank you for being my friends.

Reason # 13

Thank you God for the wonderful, new, exciting life in NZ, for the beautiful home, for the car that takes us everywhere we want to go, for scenic, breathtakingly beautiful location and for this fresh, new life.

Reason #14

Thank you God for all the luxuries, travel, opportunities, fun times, experiences and memories

Reason #15

Thank you God for all the comfort, wonderful clothes and small pleasures of life

Reason # 16

Thank You God for beautiful hair, beautiful skin, warm heart and a wonderful mind that makes me take the correct decisions, makes me understand things as they are meant to be and that makes me grasp and learn

Reason #17

Thank You God for the wonderful education that I have received, for the jobs that I have done, for skills, talents, opportunities, for the learning everyday, for the gift of writing, for the new, wonderful job that I will get soon

Reason # 18

Thank you for many small things in life that I take for granted.

And forgive me God for all the mistakes that I have knowingly or unknowingly done.

That old fashioned love

These days saying “I love You” is as common as saying hello. Look around you to know what I mean. How easily people say those three magical words.

I think a lot of people are using the words ‘love’ and ‘like’ interchangeably. It’s not common for high school girls and boys to be in “love” with someone. They easily fall in love, and at the slightest quarrel, fight or argument, they fall out of love and break-up. By the time they have passed college, they have fallen in and out of love at least five or six times. Isn’t love supposed to be ageless, a classic?

In this world of instant gratification, instant communication, instant food, instant money, instant, early and easily available sex everyone is super impatient. No one wants to wait. By the age of 12-13, girls and boys in schools start to feel complex-ed if they don’t already have a boy/girlfriend. They are impatient to wait for the right one to come by at right time. By the age of 15-16, they start keeping a score of how many girls they are doing and how many have they already done. By the age of 20, they have seen it all. They have been in and out of love several times, some have married, some have had kid/s and by 22-23 when they ideally should have begun dating, they are fighting legal battles and filing divorces. No wonder, the whole love thing has left a bitter taste and led them to believe that there isn’t such a thing.

Unfortunately, morals have hit an all time low. Love is confused with sex. Your desirability quotient is judged by your virginity. If you are still a virgin at 20 or 22, then there has got to be something wrong with you.

I personally think that this whole thinking is flawed. The peer pressure on the Western society to ‘do’ it as soon as they are in high school, to start relations so early in life when your little mind is incapable of knowing what you will want 8 years down the line has led to so many complicated relationships around us. Obviously what you think is right and perfect as a teenager doesn’t seem so correct when you become an adult, does it? No wonder then the divorce rate in these countries is more than 50%. Because marriage is no longer for keeps. It’s as easy to opt out of marriage as easy it is to get in. Then what’s wrong with a country like India, which is a little conservative, where sex outside marriage is still considered a taboo for a majority. But at least, people are willing to wait it out before they are adults. At least marriages in India don’t fall apart so easily.

I am not sitting on a moral horse and saying sex outside marriage is bad or anything. That is for each person to think for himself and decide depending upon his beliefs. And in today’s world where urban people put off marriage till late 20s, it’s impossible to think that they wouldn’t have had any sex before that. But the moot point is, what is the need to start so early…at 13/14? Why are kids impatient to be become adults? Why can’t they wait till the time is right and save themselves serious relationship issues?

And even for adults…what is love actually? How can we have 5 serious relations in 5 years and claim to be in love with all? Then there is something definitely wrong with our definition of love, isn’t it? Why don’t we wait for the right person to come along? Why are we eager to pledge out love to any “single” person that crosses our path?

What IS love then?

Love takes its time. It grows eventually. When it happens, it hits you exactly where it should. It makes you want to take extra effort to make your relationship work; it makes you want to give your best rather than just think about receiving. It is unconditional. It makes you love someone with their irritating habits. It won’t change even if people change. Because people are bound to change a little every passing year. So when you love someone you love them exactly as they are, without expecting them to change, and exactly how they will be in the future. You will love them even if they become someone you don’t agree with.

And I feel love by itself is nothing. It’s just a summation of a lot of other wonderful feelings like friendship, understanding,sacrifice, respect, communication, laughter, trust, attraction, companionship and belief.

So don’t rush into saying “I love You” to anyone and everyone, keep it for that special one, say only when you are absolutely convinced it is love. And when you are absolutely convinced about it, the words will make their way to your lips. You will feel like you have to get them out and let the person know. But wait till that kind of urgency and compulsion to confess grips you.

Let’s not steal the thunder from those three words, let it have that special effect on the person who hears them. And that will happen only when we wait for the right time and the right person and use those words only sparingly.

Let’s bring meaning back to those three words!! Let’s bring back the old fashioned love.

Know your Self-Worth!!

I quit working in mid-November.  So it’s been 4 months that I am not working. It’s a big thing for someone like me…someone restless, competitive (in a good, healthy way), career minded, ambitious and a workaholic person like me. Giving up on my hitherto life, work, family and friends and moving to a different country, miles away, where I don’t know a soul yet is a big change.

BUT surprisingly I am doing well. I am not cribbing, crying, raving or ranting. I am alone all day, until TCG comes back.  I mean this is so unlike me, so un-zinal. Even I am amazed as to how I have changed so much. I think I have made my peace with time. I have surrendered to life and let it take over the reins and change me…for good. Oh my, haven’t I really matured? Wonder if marriage has done that to me? I went over to the neighbour’s the other day with a bowl of dessert that I made and introduced myself. Yes it took courage, but I pulled it off. I mean you never know how people in a foreign country react to an uninvited neighbour. She could have slammed the door right to my face. But she was sweet, and thus I made an acquaintance at least. Very un-me. But I am proud of myself.

If this was me a year ago, I would have been drowned in self doubt and misery …for being idle, not working, not having a job, being dependant, wasting precious time. I have always been very agonizingly disciplined. Someone who will make a big deal in her mind about missing exercise, breaking a routine, indulging in some sinful food, wasting time doing nothing, feeling guilty about feeling pleasure. I have said this before also here.

Somewhere along the way I became very harsh and demanding of my own self and started believing that only having a job gave you an identity. How much money you earn gives you some power. Money gives you power, sure. But a job gives you an identity??!  Not entirely true. I finally understood how shallow it is to measure my own worth on a single metric.  I never measure or judge others though. I am just tough only on my own self.

Now I have realized finally that there is more to a person than his/her job; there are hobbies, interests. A person can be very creative but earn a pittance. Then is it fair to judge that person based on his income?  And on the other hand a person can be a millionaire but someone who sucks at social niceties, comes home and abuses his wife every day, is always self absorbed and selfish. Then is money alone the correct barometer? And then there are mothers, wives…homemakers as they are called. They turn your house into a home, they cook meals, they take care of the children, they keep everyone in the family happy, they run many errands through the day, and they sacrifice their own dreams and aspirations to give the whole family a better life. How on earth can we ever measure their contribution? Just because they don’t work means they have no identity? If they were working, they would sure make some money. But if they were working, your house would not have been quite the same; probably it would have been a mess. You would have had to hire a househelp or a nanny or a cook or all and even pay them. Things that your mom or wife did hitherto for free. Then is it fair to think of people who don’t have a job per se as dependants? What about the rest of their contribution.

For the longest time, I have lived with the feeling that I was born to do great things, something good, something big, something satisfying. I still feel that. But what? I have no clue. I feel I need to have a purpose. But what? I have no clue. This nags me constantly, eats me from inside.

Then I can’t help comparing myself with others. I know it’s not right to compare, everyone fights their own battles, everyone has their own share of hardships. But I am human after all. I can’t help not compare. I look around. Not too far away from home. My own sister –in-law Aarti Bhadra. Sometimes I am just so jealous of her.  She is so clear about everything in her life, her goals, her aspirations, and her career. Heck, at 20, she was clear about whom she wanted to marry also, and she went ahead and married my brother. You must have read here. She is 24, she is an upcoming and very promising Make-Up artist. She is very clear where she wants to be 5 years down the line, what she wants from her life. She is self assured and comfortable in her own skin. She rarely compares herself with anyone. She is sooooo passionate about her profession (and she has just recently started) that it can put many a people to shame. She goes out of her way to network with the Who’s who, to learn more, to upgrade her skills, to be present at the right places at the right time…because she has that fire in her belly. I remember she once told me, “Zinal, if I don’t become a make-up artist, I will happily sit at home and look after family. Just for some misplaced sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, I will not go out and do some stupid job I don’t enjoy …for a few bucks. I would rather invest that time in my family and do things I really like.” WHOA…it takes a lot of courage and clarity in one’s own priorities to say something like that. I wish I could be like Aarti.

But I understand I am a different person. Someday I will find my calling, hopefully. May be I won’t.  I don’t know how my life is going to pan out. But coming to New Zealand, spending a lot of ‘me’ time, reflecting, thinking, musing has made me realize that I will stop constantly assessing myself and my worth in terms of a job. THAT IS JUST TOO SHALLOW.  I will get one when I have to, but why be miserable now? Why not make most of it and enjoy every moment of it? When I had a job, I cribbed about not getting enough time to do other things. Grass is always greener on the other side.

So I am taking this break as a blessing in disguise and doing things I have been aching to do for sometime now. Monday, I baked a loaf of bread from scratch and yesterday I baked a chocolate cake, first time ever. That satisfaction of doing that can’t be expressed in words.

Here, take a look.

My first loaf of bread

My first loaf of bread

Chocolate cake

Chocolate cake

If you liked this post, you may also like to read here what Pepper has to say here.

Picture Perfect Beautiful

Today is one of those less windy days. It’s a beautiful morning here, with the sun casting its mellow glow on everything around me. The view from outside my balcony is so beautiful, that every time I pass by it, I stop in tracks to get a good dekko. I freeze in place and crane my neck to get a good view of the surroundings and to capture them forever in my mind. I feel like filling my eyes with that picture and locking it in there like a screensaver, if such a thing was possible.  It’s like I can’t get enough of this…this magnificent view. I want to fill my senses with this magnanimous splendor that surrounds me.  Who knows if my stay here in NZ is permanent or temporary? What I know for sure is, years later when I will recall upon this day, my mind will dig up this beautiful, breathtaking view from the recesses of my mind, and bring a big, BIG smile on my face.

The first thing I do as soon as I get up is rush upstairs to the balcony and lose myself here. I say my little thank you prayer here, grateful that I am living here in middle of this heaven. (Things I am grateful for Reason#2)

Today I brewed myself a steaming cup of coffee, dragged a chair in to the balcony and sat perched on it to get my eyeful of the view.  Steaming hot coffee goes perfectly with the fine cool weather here.  It was so rejuvenating, just to be looking out and sipping coffee without any care in the world. I must have been sitting there at least 40 minutes, just looking out and around, listening to the birds chirping. Don’t remember the last time I did such a thing, restless soul that I am!

Morning coffee with more milk and slighty more sweet today

Morning coffee with more milk and slightly sweeter today

Here are a few snaps from the balcony, our private little heaven.

See how foggy it looks?

See how foggy it looks?

Quaint little houses on the hill

Don’t miss those quaint little houses on the hill

Our neighbours whom I haven't met ...yet!

Our neighbours whom I haven’t said hello to…yet!

Beautiful shades of blues seamlessly blending

Beautiful shades of blues seamlessly blending

Glimpse of Autumn

Glimpse of Autumn

Isn’t it beautiful? How can one not be happy here? Oh, and can you see those quaint little white houses dotting the hills? No? Then please take a closer look. How I wish I had a DSLR! Like right now.
(*makes a mental note to tell TCG to save up and buy a DSLR soon or plans on stealing his Credit card*)

And in that last picture there, did you see those orange leaves? Autumn will be here soon, and all the green that you see here will turn into orange, yellow and red. Whooooooooooaaa …Oh my God, that will be so stunningly beautiful!
(*worries about how much colder will it get, if its already so cold in summer? Whines that all her new clothes are useless, they will be buried under jackets and sweaters anyway…sighs*)

I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect start for the day (or my married life for that matter). I feel like I am seeing the world around me through some rose-tinted glass.  Is this real? I have to pinch myself to realize and to absorb how much my life has changed in a couple of months. I have left my parents, my family, my friends, my food, my job, my country and my entire former life behind, and here I am, in middle of this heaven. I am full of mixed, conflicting emotions at the moment…but they are mostly good feelings. Knowing that my family is happy back home, I am at peace here.