Thursday, June 26, 2014

When life gives you lemons...

...Make lemonade is what they have been saying for ages. I really like the new age versions though, including squeezing them in people's eyes, spicing up food and also the below one.

 This tequila story is mine, and some may also say that it is not a 'real' pain or 'real' struggle or even real 'lemons', but I could not care less. Perhaps because first time in my life, I faced lemons, and exactly a year later, I am pretty happy that I grabbed that tequila and salt. In fact, I am proud of that shot!

A little more than a year ago, I shifted my base again to Pune, in a new home in the old city. In a new role in an old city. As I already wrote it in one of my posts before, it was no cakewalk, however easy we might have thought of it. You take your time in adjusting to the new you, and you should. It is not an overnight process.  And it CAN  create stress irrespective of having the world's best in-laws.

Moreover, I took up work, which I really thought would suit me as I had a nice image of this concerned media company. Mistake no. one= what you feel as a reader is not what you experience as a worker. Publishing good content does not mean that you enjoy the working atmosphere there. I am even laughing right now, while writing this, it is too obvious. But I did not realize it then, and went ahead and started the work. Couple of other offers also came my way after I started this, but I rejected them, feeling'determined', and began working.

What followed was three months of insanely hectic schedule, unsatisfactory pay, a bit of brainwashing into believing that all this duniyaadari was supposed to lead to something great, and a bit of more dangerous brainwashing into feeling responsible for company's success and failures. I would be unhappy all the time, without any exercise, constantly travelling, irritation levels high, taking it out on my family members, and making my own life miserable. And all this for some random 'cause', which I thought was my own responsibility. I would not even think of leaving this work, saying if I did not do it, who would? 

The whole story came to an abrupt end one fine afternoon. I was supposed to travel to Goa that night (for work of course). What prompted me to start complaining about my work I do not remember, but soon I was talking endlessly and crying endlessly, saying I do not want to go. I think I cried for good two and half hours non-stop, and my extremely worried husband finally took me to my parents, where I cried some more, saying I feel I am broken down. wasted. gone. worthless. good for nothing. 

Looking back, I shudder at this memory, thinking what exactly had that job done? Was I being brainwashed into something completely against my own ideas and preferences or was it black magic? I know people do not usually do black magic, but it affected me like one. I stayed home for 6 whole days, not meeting friends, not going to work, doing nothing. Thankfully, my husband and my parents forced me to resign from that job, something I was felling psychologically incapable of doing. I however sent an urgent resignation email. 
It was July 1st, and I was staring at this professional void. No job, no pay, moreover, nauseating at the thought of work and feeling utterly incapable, worthless, in-confident and good for nothing. Just a big dark void. 

The next six months is a period I like remembering for various reasons now. Not an easy period, mind you, as I did not have a full-time day long work. It can be tough. Not money wise, but mind wise. You know how they say that empty mind is a devil's workshop? It is, indeed. You get little extra free time, with nothing to do, it completely eats you up and starts a negative spiral of thoughts. I remember some of such dull evenings, crying afternoons and lost mornings, spent in figuring out where exactly was my life heading. Feeling worthless because of no work. Now,only solution is occupying your mind, and just for that, I started three things. First, I went back to studying. Studying is something I always liked to do, and I was always really good at. After doing my diploma in German in 2004, I registered for an advanced diploma after 9 whole years, and rekindled my love for German language. 

Additionally, I started studying for NET, the exam needed to be cracked in case one wants to do a PhD or get into teaching. I do want to get into teaching some time in future, and NET is a necessity for that. SO why not take a fully serious attempt now that I had time and see what happens? So began the studies for NET.

Interestingly, I realized that exercise is one thing that literally pulls you up from the downward negative spiral of thoughts. I used to gym, but I needed change. Hence, out of nowhere, I took up a target, to run in Pune Marathon in December.  I had never run long distances before, even in school, and to add to that I have a bit of allergic bronco-constriction, which sometimes makes an Cardio activity impossible, in case of dust or cold. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot, and started training. As much as I could.

Next few months were amazing. The mood swings and the usual cribbing did not go away like a magic wand, but I started stabilizing. My occupied mind gave me little time to be dull. I ran and ran, without adequate strength training,leading to a nerve injury, but I survived. I altered training and bounced back. I enjoyed being in a student once more after a certain gap. Meanwhile, I also freelanced for some companies, and wrote some well-researched content. A lot of my heritage content is written during this period, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.  It gave me sense of achievement, slowly and surely.

Monsoon treks, family get-togethers, seasonal weddings, ceremonies, parties, shopping, cooking experiments, I did them all. I am an extrovert person, hence being with people always perks me up, no matter how sad I am. The activities, watching my slow but definite progress in them, and a very firm support from the family is what kept me sane, and kept me going.  

In winter, eventually I ran a 5k race in pinkatahon, and a 10k in Pune marathon. I could experience this runners' high at completion of both. Had another high, thinking I could do a  75 minutes run, when I would pant for breath after 7 minutes, just a few months ago. I appeared for the NET exam, and I am happy to tell that I cleared it in first attempt, along with the coveted Junior Research Fellowship. I enjoyed my German course, and did well in that as well. I had a wonderful trip to Dubai at the end of the year with family. Eventually, I started working again, and am currently enjoying it along with exercise. 

It has been a year exactly, since the day of my big breakdown, and boy, what a year has it been! I would not call it the journey to self-discovery as such, but I did learn a lot about myself. I met the unexplored sides of my personality. I tried inculcating certain things in me, like patience. I learned to feel blessed for the positivity in life. I am still learning the importance of right attitude towards life. I am still not very calm, but at least I stopped taking the burden of unnecessary things in life. I loved putting my life together, hoping to create a new 'me' some day. Importantly, I have gained back the original confidence, some new attitude, and have started believing in life in general.  

I have seen an injured self, and its recovery. It is worth seeing, worth experiencing at least one. And I am glad I did it with a zest. Hence, not just a lemonade, but a tequila shot. The shot has been awesome, and I am much more confident AND grateful about life in general, bring it on! 

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Will the real Pune please stand up?

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Any city is like a person. It has multiple identities, multiple faces. You keep getting amazed by them in spite of staying there for years together. 'coz the identity is influenced by so many things. Right from the roads in that city to the language to the cost of living to the social circle we make. I stayed in Mumbai, and I have multiple identities of Mumbai. I stayed in Chennai and I have gathered quite a few impressions.

Of course, one must understand that these identities are largely individual impressions first, and probably turn into identities, if either large number of people think so or that particular situation or condition prevails for a long time. Still, a city has multiple identities as it represents different things for different people.These impressions are to be perceived, a city has to be read. Read like a book, to really start fathoming its soul. I tried reading these at both Mumbai and Chennai, with varied levels of success.

However, the equation changes when you are talking about your own native place. A city that you grew up in, and also grew up with. There, the identities are not only shaped by your own experiences, but also by what you have heard from your parents about the past, by the traces of heritage you still see, by the emotions you feel about that place and by what you hear about it from immigrants. Media, literature and folklore add to it even more. There are times when you are like: "this is so NOT true about my city! you immigrants and your biases!" and there are times when you totally buy the new identity and wonder where was this facet of your city till now.

Pune currently poses that problem for me. Well, Pune never had dearth of adjectives and identities. But I am sure, people did not think that only their version of Pune is the right face of the city. Pune was undoubtedly a Brahmin dominated orthodox city, but Pune was the one which started India's first school for girls. Old Pune is dotted by countless temples and old Pune does also serve awesome non-veg cuisine. These contradictions stay peacefully near each other, and have been doing so for years together.No single side claims that only their Pune is 'real' or rather the 'only' identity of Pune. Well, as we said before, there is no single identity to any city, even Pune.

I increasingly come across people who defy this and try to establish a city's identity through tinted glasses of their own prejudices, expectations and opinions. Moreover, claim that only this is the right picture. I happen to meet newer people as a part of my work, many of them new migrants in Pune, and sadly, with no desire to get to know the city.
I have been told emphatically that there are no palaces in Pune worth boasting. I have been told with conviction that Dagdusheth is the 'top-ranked Ganpati'! People have looked at me with blank stares when I tell them that my school is in Shaniwar Peth in the old city, and I have, no, I am not joking, been actually asked, where is that place called Shaniwar or some wada?

Now, I do get flabbergasted by such questions and opinions. I understand that looking at the way Pune is expanding, it is really difficult to colour it in a single shade or even know all the places. It is all right not to know something, but please do not pass expert comments based on what you really do not know. Worst, do not form opinions about the entire city based on a single locality or place or neighbourhood. Some random place in Aundh might be really hep and crowded with youngsters all over to have a drink. But that does not mean that the entire youth in Pune hangs out only at a bar. There are more and more girls who wear shorts on the street, that does not mean every girl in Pune wears skimpy clothes and roams around at night. There are number of plush residential schemes coming up in the far corners, that does not mean Undri or Shirwal is the only place in Pune worth staying. Yes, people reading and writing Marathi is getting dangerously low day by day, but that does not mean that English IS the first language of this city.

On the other hand side, I also know people, who refuse to accept this expanding city for what it is, are angry about the migrant flow, are pretty puritans in everything they do, and are generally stuck in history, without a real significant thought. They also pass statements like "Real Punekars are always good. The moment these migrants landed here, they destroyed the city."

Given above were examples of inferences people draw. They all probably fail to understand, that no single aspect is a right mirror for an entire city. City always has many moods, many faces, many stories to tell, and many lives at the same time. Moreover, as time passes, social influences change, moulds of societies change, cities change. Infrastructure-wise and also soul-wise. It is fun to see them changing, and it is fun to learn the new facets of city. Yes, it is painful when you see the old beloved things gone, but the new things are also as important to a city's picture as the old one. But all this requires an open mind, and a desire to read a city like a book.
Contrary to my title, there is perhaps no 'real' Pune. If you believe, everything is real, if you do not, it is not. Keeping the mind open is the key perhaps to 'know' the city. I have been actively trying to do that for past several years, and I perceive the changes in my city. Do you?