Monday, November 19, 2018

Where there is a will, there is hard work and result

A year of daily sketching! Yes, I did it!!!
When I started sketching daily a year ago, it was just as a committment to the word I gave someone I'll do daily sketch no matter what. Apparently, that person saw a potential in me as an artist. It is one thing I am still struggling to believe unconditionally, even as I complete a year of daily sketching.
Yes, the journey was tough. Some days I enjoyed the drawings more than anything. On others, it was just a chore I had to finish before I hit the bed and called it a day. On a few days, I even questioned myself - why am I doing it at all ..
Nevertheless, I stay put. Why? Mostly because I gave my word to someone who believed in me. My theory was if someone believes in me even without having me proven my worth, I should at least show my gratitude by not giving up. Also, I wanted to prove myself it can be done. So on I went with my tryst with lines.
I think slowly it became a habit. I couldn't go to bed without drawing at least for a minute. I remember one time we went on a trip and, after a particularly tiring day, I went to bed all exhausted and fell asleep. And then suddenly, I woke up with the realisation I didn't do my daily drawing. I could sleep no more. I got up, took my sketch pad and pen, went to the bathroom (because my entire family was tired and sleeping peacefully) and did my daily sketching there. Did I draw a great picture? Probably not. But I felt good. Despite the tiredness and exhaustion, I felt happy and satisfied.
And that's my takeaway from this whole exercise. A new understanding of myself. I was always envious (still am) of people who could draw well. I am amazed by the talent I see all around me. The veteran artists and upcoming artists make me feel so inconsequential... It was like I was nothing & could be nothing. I thought I can never be like them.
And now I know that is the truth. This year of sketching has made me aware of it. But the most important lesson I learned is - I DON'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THEM. Yes, I have finally realised the competition is not with anyone else. It is with myself. I can't be anyone else. I shouldn't be. Some of them are inborn artists. The others might have spent years learning and shaping their art. What was I doing then? Just wishing to be like them and not doing anything about it.
In the past year, I understood I have been unfair to myself by comparing me to others. They are what they are because they worked to be what they are. I am what I am because I worked (or didn't) in my particular way. This is my journey. Good, bad or ugly, this is my art. My thoughts and lines tell the story my way. It doesn't have to be any other's story or style.
Perfection is not what makes a good artist. It is the journey that allows one to understand it is ok to be imperfect. No picture is bad because it is not a perfect depiction. It is good because while trying to create it, you got in touch with your soul. At least for a few moments, you forgot everything and revelled in the joy of creation. There was nothing to stop you from being happy to draw that simple line on the paper or dab that particular colour on the canvas.
This year was a journey of self-discovery too. Of forgetting limitations and taking new steps. I know that it is not the joy of acceptance but fear of rejection that had dictated my actions earlier. I couldn't take rejections. I always felt I was not enough. My efforts were not enough - whatever I did wasn't enough. Or so I thought.
But, the reality is, you can't please everyone. For every person admiring you, there could be ten saying you are not good enough or would never be. The trick to grow is shut your ears against naysayers. Ignore them. Hear your soul speak to you. More often than not, it will tell you where to go and how to go.
I am glad that I have finally realized my worst enemy is myself. Self-doubt and undue comparison along with a feeling of not being enough is what stopped me going ahead. Now, as I know my path is my own and I have to create my own legacy, I experience a strange peace. I am here to compete with myself and to better myself. My struggle is within and once I truly master myself, I know nothing can stand in my way.
After 3-4 sketchbooks and an amazing year, I can proudly say I have made the start. I am confident of going ahead and reaching the goal I have set for myself. But before I go on, thanks are due to some special friends and dear ones for believing in me (even when I didn't believe myself) and helping me see clearly. I hope one day you will be proud to have known me, as I am proud of you. Thank you!
Here is a small sample of what I did. Some you have seen before. Some you haven't. Some are good, some are just lines.... I didn't want to share only the good works because there were some really bad ones too. Accepting that has been a huge step towards growth. A few digital drawings are also included - these are essentially results of the shortage of time...
PS: I hope at least one person reading these lines would be inspired to do something they always wanted to but didn't attempt because of self-doubt. Remember, it is ok to fail and fall. You are not defeated until you stop trying. Also, success is not always about earning money or praise. Sometimes, a smile on your face and the content you feel inside is the best reward. Try it - you'll like it better than anything.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A time to bid farewell and say Thank You!

Two years ago, when we came to Liverpool, my younger son wasn't very keen on the move. The main reason for his reluctance to move was the friends he didn't wish to part ways with. But then, life doesn't work according to one's wish always. So, he had to pack his bags and start a new phase of his life in a totally new country and culture.

Once we reached here, we had two choices - a school (literally) across the road where we lived, and another one, a bit far. Although the latter seemed to have better facilities in terms of a bigger playground and other infrastructure, we preferred the school nearby. This was mainly because most of our colleagues' kids were attending this school and during winter months the less you have to walk in the cold, the better. But, when we first enquired, no places were available. So we thought we would have to opt for the other school.

However, the luck turned in our favour as one place came up. So, my son started his first day at school barely after ten days of reaching here. There was hardly a week left for that academic year to end. But the school authorities thought it would be a good idea for him to attend the school for a few days before my son actually started school during the next academic year starting in September.

And what a wonderful start it was for him - he joined his class for a trip to the zoo on the very first day of the school. Needless to say, he enjoyed every bit of it and it didn't take him long to make new friends. 

When the school reopened in September, he was in Ms. Davey's class. She helped him settle in. The transition from the Indian schooling to the British schooling was a delightful experience for him - there was no pressure of exams, tests and homework. Here, learning was fun. Soon, he overcame all his inhibitions and started loving the school and friends as much as he did back home. Every day, he came home with loads to share about his day at school. 
Blackboard, Boys, Chalkboard, Children, Classroom, Desk

He would tell me what Ms. Davey taught them on the day, what fun activities they had, what games they played on the school ipads, what he and his friends did and so on. Soon, names like Ms. Hodges, Ms. Bannon, Ms. Cresswall, Ms. Sheilds, Ms. Calderwood and Katie, all came up in his narratives. And I started matching the names with faces every time I went to pick him up from the school. Before long, I also became familiar with the teachers and other staff at the school. The after-school clubs were informative and fun. All in all, the school was a wonderful place to be. 

Then came the day when the parents were called to the school to give a review of their child. We had the first opportunity to look at the workbooks and get an idea of what the child is learning. (Unlike in India, the kids here don't carry a heavy load of textbooks and notebooks to and from school. All they have is a small book bag to carry their homework sheets and reading books if any). Parents play a passive role in day-to-day education at the primary school level. Most of the learning is practical and happens at school, as the children don't have to mug up things. Instead, they do and learn things - so the learning stays forever with them. (For instance, while learning about World War, the kids were told to make a gas mask. This made them understand why and how gas masks are made/used. No amount of reading could have made them understand it better.)

Back home, I dreaded parent-teacher meetings on the open day. I knew the teachers are going to complain about how restless and hyperactive my son was; they were never satisfied with the effort he put in, always told me I should make him sit and study more. So, it was with a bit of apprehension I went to meet Ms. Davey for the first parent-teacher meeting here. I was not prepared for what happened next. I was told so many good things about my son - how wonderfully he settled in, how kind he was, how polite and sensible he was and so on. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Never before in my life I had this experience of a teacher telling me my child was a wonderful person worthy of praise. I could hardly believe this was happening in real. I was so overcome with emotion that I had to struggle to keep my eyes dry. 

That was one of the most moving experiences I had as a parent. Before that, I never knew teachers could say such kind and positive things about children. And it is not because my son is some extraordinarily good person. I know they have this positive approach towards all children under their care. As a parent, I felt happy and proud of my child as I got this feedback. It also helped me to look at my child in a new light. I suddenly understood that with a bit of positive reinforcement I could help him be an even better person. 

So, the school experience was thrilling for me as well. I tried to give back something by volunteering during class trips and other small ways. It was a pleasure to help in any small way I could. And, a year went by in a blink of an eye. Soon, my son moved into year 6, the last year of his primary school.
Man, Kids And Adults, Teachers And Students, Education

This time he was in the class of Ms. Griffiths. I had seen her daily while picking up my son the whole of last year and what struck me was her smiling face. It is remarkable the teachers have a smile on their face every day despite the challenging job they undertake. Year 6 is when the children take their SATs (Standard Assessment Tests). As such, it is a very stressful year for the children and their teacher. But Ms. Griffiths always had a smile on her face and good words for her students. 

During this year, we had regular meetings with her and she gave us a clear picture of where our son stood and how he can improve in certain areas. She gave the children practice tests as well as tips to overcome any SATs jitters they might have. Thanks to her encouragement and motivation, the kids were never under any pressure, but they had the confidence to do to the best of their ability. (And they did, I was told, when the SATs results were out last week). 

The SATs didn't stop the kids from having fun or learning about more things. They had their share of trips to the library, theatre as well as other educational trips. It was learning as usual even with the SATs around. I had the good fortune of accompanying them in a couple of these trips and I found that the teachers and kids shared a great bond of love and care. There was this boy from Poland who knew little/no English. I was amazed at the way the teachers patiently interacted and communicated with him. The understanding and kindness they demonstrated was again a lesson for me not only as a parent but also as an individual. 

School is fun 
Every day, my son would come home excited about the things he did at school. He would go on and on about his friends, Ms. Griffiths, Ms. Dunlop and other members of staff. The class was like a second home and family for him. That's why the news of his teacher expecting a baby had him thrilled. I got the feeling that all the children suddenly had this big brotherly/sisterly feeling on hearing the good news. I am sure they all are looking forward to meeting the baby even though they won't be at the school then.   

I think Ms. Griffiths has one of the toughest jobs in the school. Not only because of the SATs, but also because of her class moving out of the school, into the bigger world of secondary school at the year-end. Goodbyes are hard. I still recall seeing the teary-eyed children hugging each other and their teacher on the last day of the school last year. In a couple of days, my son would also say bye to his friends and his school. I am sure he will miss his friends and his teachers, Ms. Griffiths, especially. I know I will miss them too.

I know my association with the school was rather short. But the memories and learning I gained in this short while will last a lifetime. I wish the teachers and non-teaching staff at Holy Cross the very best in life. May you continue to brighten the lives of every child that comes to your school. 

So, here is a big Thank You to all the wonderful teachers and non-teaching staff at the Holy Cross School. Thank you for taking wonderful care of my son, making him feel welcome and happy. Thank you for all the joyous moments he had at school and the learning that made him a better person. Also, huge thanks for letting me be a small part of it all. I too learned a lot through my association with the school and I am sure I will look back at those moments with gratitude and happiness. Like my son, I will miss you all...

Special thanks to Ms. Griffiths and Ms. Bannon for the kinds words you had for Rithvik. As a parent, it filled my heart with pride and joy to read them.

Thank You!!!  


Friday, June 22, 2018

Life's teachings

Life is a great teacher. One moment it makes you smile and the other, it brings tears. But, whether it is smiles or tears, there is always a lesson for us. Wise are those who learn from these and emerge stronger from each experience.

Yet, sometimes you pause or look back at the life and find yourself asking - why did it happen to me? The answer is perhaps you needed that learning. I have come to believe that behind each experience in life, there is a learning. Thankfully, you don't have to go through all the experiences in life to learn a new lesson.  The beauty of it is - you can learn from others too. However, if you don't learn from others' experience, you may have to learn it all the hard way.

So, as I look back at my life, I do regret some of my decisions and marvel at how stupid I was to make them. But, at the same time, the experiences those decisions gave me are priceless. Yes, you gain some wisdom as you grow old. And yet, the greatest wisdom is not to lose the child in us.

The greatest happiness is not in big things. It lies in small things. Sometimes a mundane thing as a flower in the neighbour's garden or a bird appearing out of nowhere can bring you a flash of happiness. Likewise, hearing from a long-lost friend or rediscovering the joy of a long forgotten hobby can bring a fresh life to you.

As for me, I am trying to look at life and what it offers me with an open mind. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't. I learn a lot more from my failures than from my success. Its life's lessons learned the hard way that stays on with you.

Each new day is a gift - what we do with it is entirely upon us. We can cherish it and use it in the best way. Or else, we can just waste it and regret later. Although very few people ever realise it, the truth is, to a great extent the power to be happy or otherwise remains with you. If you choose to be happy and positive, not many things can deter you from it.

Also, each people you meet in life comes to you with a lesson. Whatever they brought you, you needed. Be it friendship, love, happiness or even sorrow. Next time you feel low, take a deep breath and tell yourself: 'It is ok, this happened because I needed the learning. Let me learn my lesson and move ahead." When you do this instead of wailing in self-pity and sorrow, you'll find that life is not as bad as it seemed.

Try to find happiness in small things - even a wildflower can fill your mind with joy - only if you open your eyes and heart to it. Likewise, be thankful for the little things you have rather than worrying about things you don't have. An attitude of gratitude can make a lot of difference in the way we look at things. 

To make a difference, all you need is a smile. Give yourself your prettiest smile and tell you are an amazing person. Believe in yourself and you'll soon find the world believing in you. As the pieces begin to fit into the puzzle, you'll discover the amazing picture called life. When you do that, live it to your fullest. Everything you need is there - it's waiting to be discovered. Go ahead and find it!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Of compliments and appreciation

While growing up, I had often felt that the elders around me didn't believe in complimenting the youngsters much. Their policy was just to acknowledge the achievements and keep the kids grounded to reality. I think that they believed too much appreciation and compliments could go into one's head and could spoil the child altogether. This policy was religiously followed in the case of one's own child. But in the case of other children, the rule was a bit lenient as they were  showered with some kind of praise and compliment. Mostly, the praises were reserved for others and not one's own people.

I don't remember my sisters being showered with accolades when they brought home numerous prizes and certificates of merit. I need not tell you that the few certificates I got were also welcomed with the same lukewarm appreciation. Only later could I read the pride and joy of our achievements from their faces. I could see their eyes brightening up when we did something worthwhile. Yet, words and actions of appreciation remained elusive...

When I became a parent, initially I too followed the policy of less appreciation because I didn't want my kids to think their achievements are the greatest, and stop trying to do better. But then, I observed my kids' friends getting much more appreciation for lesser achievements. It was an eye-opener. I was reminded how I longed for some special appreciation from my people when I was young. That changed my perspective.

I started appreciating and complimenting them for their efforts. Of course, it was tough for me to say 'well-done' or 'good job' when they performed beneath my expectations (to be fair to them, like a typical indian parent, I had my expectations set high). I could see my words working magic in them. For one, they were happy to be recognized. Secondly, it brought in them a feeling they can do it. They knew even if they try and fail, they'll still have a mom who'd welcome them with a smile and a pat on their backs for the effort given. So, I saw for myself how a small change in my attitude and behavior made positive changes in them. I know neither they nor I are perfect. But for me, that was ok. I wasn't searching for perfection. 

By complimenting them on their achievements and effort, I could show them the positive side of it. And of course, I too started getting compliments for the little day to day things I did. Boy, didn't that make me happy?!!!!

The other day a friend asked me 'you seem to like getting complements a lot, don't you?' This was soon after I thanked him for his appreciation of something I did. I replied: 'I think when someone gives me a genuine compliment, I should accept it wholeheartedly and thank that person. Yes, I am happy to receive compliments from you because I know you are not saying it for the sake of it. Being a subject expert, your words have a greater imapct on me and I believe I should thank you and let you know how genuinely happy I am.'

This incident made me think. In general, we are not used to giving and receiving compliments. If someone give us a compliment, we don't accept it with a thank you and move on. Instead, we try to tell him/her why we are not worthy of the praise. If it is about the dress we are wearing, we will try to say it is because of the color, material or even the place we purchased it that it is looking good. We take pains to explain why we aren't worthy of the compliment.

We should have just said thank you and ended the matter there. But, as we are not used to receiving complements, we feel it is wrong to get one and we try to find excuses for not deserving one! That is the saddest part - we can't even take some genuine appreciation for what it is. Instead we will go out of way to prove why we aren't worth the praise.

So, the next time someone give you a compliment or praise you, accept it with a smile and a 'thank you'. Believe me, you are worth it. And, as you discover the joy of accepting compliments, start giving compliments too. That is also as good as receiving one. To see the unexpected smile and happiness on the other person's face is one of the greatest rewards you can ever ask for. Start giving genuine compliments. You will find you are happy doing that instead of bottling it up inside you.

To end, let me say this as well - if at all you feel you have to give some constructive criticism to anyone, do it personally and in private. But if you want to appreciate someone, do it in front of others.

Start giving compliments - to your kids, friends, families. Soon you'll also receive your share of compliments and will cease to feel embarrassed about it.  It is a wonderful world out there if we appreciate and acknowledge the goodness in others. 

Why not make a start now? My comment section is waiting 😊

Saturday, April 21, 2018


As the daffodils bloom,
And cherry trees blossom
Arrival of spring brings me
A hitherto unknown glee...

The icy winter and bleak days
Have vanished behind warm rays;
The sun is shining bright and hot
There's nothing to be moody about.

Birds have taken to the sky -
Spreading their wings high...
O! What a beauty is to behold
The mother nature unfold!!

My joyful soul is rapturous
To know a bliss like this
I feel light-hearted and hale
Like the song of a nightingale..

Rejoice and revive like the nature,
Forget the sorrows you had former...
Breathe in the crisp and clear air
For life is nothing but a fine reverie!!!

Monday, March 19, 2018

My Sunflower

Long ago, while travelling through the interiors of Tamil Nadu, I came across the sunflower fields. That was one of the most magnificent sights I ever saw. Acres and acres of sunflower field spread before the eyes - until it reached the horizon, it seemed. As we passed through one field after another, I felt I should take a piece of this beauty with me. I wanted a sunflower plant for myself.

Ignoring the advice to pluck a flower from one of the fields (it was so vast, no one would notice or mind if someone plucked a flower or two), I waited impatiently. When it was clear that no one would be seen in the field during that hot and sultry noontime, I reluctantly accepted the fact I won't be getting any sunflower for myself.

As I sat dejected, my eyes fell on two figures far ahead amongst the sunflowers. I urged the vehicle to be stopped and got down from the jeep as soon as the driver hit the brakes. My sister and I ran into the fields. Seeing this unusual sight, the figures in the field got alarmed, and they started running too. I began shouting 'stop' in my broken Tamil and running even faster. They couldn't hear what I was shouting, and they assumed the worse and started running with urgency. Still shouting at the top of my voice and leaving a panting sister behind, I ran with all my might.

Soon, I closed the gap between those ladies and then seeing I was nothing but a harmless child, they finally stopped. I tried to communicate my need to them in broken Tamil and half Malayalam and with lots of gestures. Thankfully they understood all I wanted was some flowers and/or seeds to take home with me. That realisation brought a huge, innocent smile on their faces and they handed over a bunch of flowers to me.

I accepted them with the feel of someone winning an award and turned back to see that my sister finally caught up with me and was trying hard not to laugh at my pathetic communication skills. Finally glad that the drama is over, both of us walked back to the jeep and got it. All around me, the sunflowers turned golden yellow and the leaves, Emerald Green. I had to endure a fair share of leg pulling ever since for my invention of new words in Tamil... But, I didn't care! I felt on top of the world when I got those flowers.

Back home, I planted those seeds and soon, a plant and eventually a flower came out of it. As those flowers stood smiling at both sides of the gate and near the courtyard, I was overcome with a sense of pride and happiness. Every time I saw those flowers, my mind travelled to that vast sunflower fields, and I remembered how kind and helpful those ladies had been on that day. I had asked for a flower and they gifted me an entire spring!!!

Now as I pen these lines while battling with a rather long, cold and depressing winter, the Sun made its appearance in the sky. As I was doing the finishing touches to my picture of the sunflower, I was once again transported back in time to that beautiful field of yellow and green. Suddenly, the sun seemed lovelier than ever. I felt it came just to see my Sunflower.... and to fill my heart with the warmth of spring! 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Living life - learning all the way...

Once, during my early years in the corporate world, I sent a mail to the HR department asking for clarifications regarding some issues it had raised. I neither remember the issue nor if it was solved. Yet, that mail was a learning experience for me.

As far as I can remember, my concerns were genuine and I expected a reply, which would clarify my doubts. Instead, what I received was a rebuke. Apparently, the mail I sent was received by a very senior person in the HR department. That person was offended because an employee of my stature wasn't supposed to speak in that tone with a senior official of the company.

I was a bit shocked to receive the mail rebuking me for my insensitivity and lack of judgment. After receiving that mail, I was pretty sure my mail was the perfect example of how not to write to a senior/HQ. Anyway, I took no offense and sent my sincere apologies for the mail, along with my assurance such things will never happen again in future.

That incident remained with me for two reasons - first, one has to be careful and mindful regarding the recipient of letters, especially while dealing with official correspondence. The hierarchy of power has to be respected and nothing else matters at times. I felt worthless and small, even though the feeling was momentary. A lesson learned the hard way.

But, the second lesson was even more profound. It taught me that no matter how high a position you hold, you should not let go of humility. It is possible that the other person is just seeking information. Give him the benefit of the doubt - at least for the first time. He/she wouldn't have thought of questioning you or offending you even in his/her wildest dreams. If he/she is indeed wrong, you can point it out gently and not as if he has committed the greatest offense in the world.

The greater the power, the greater should be the responsibility. Our big fat egos could take pride in having admonished a hapless junior. However, we fail to realize that we have fallen in their eyes - forever. Even today, I don't hold any grudge towards that senior officer, but I sure don't have much respect either. Respect once lost is hard to regain.

Fast forward to present. Again, maybe out of sheer impulse or even stupidity, I reached out to a very accomplished artist. To my surprise, I got a warm response from her. That simple act from her made my day and I am sure I will cherish that moment until my last breath. I felt so special and motivated that I took up my brushes, palette and colours to actually paint a picture after a long time.

I don't claim to be someone without flaws. On the contrary, I have made numerous slips and have fallen many times. But, I try to learn my lesson from them. When I look back at incidents where I feel I have fallen short, I try to learn the lesson and move on. Of course, being human means you are prone to committing mistakes. However, if you repeatedly make the same mistake, it means there is something you're missing. You haven't really learned your lesson.

Things get complicated when other people imply things. Sometimes the words you say or write would be misinterpreted and people could take offense. In all fairness, you might not have even thought of things that way. But, if someone feels offended, the next step is to have an open communication and try to sort it out. In most cases, a heart to heart talk could put an end to misunderstandings. And if you are wrong, there is no shame in accepting it and apologizing.

And despite all your efforts if someone still holds a grudge, it's his problem. You simply have to move on. For, it is easy to feel dejected and depressed. On the other hand, to be positive even when things don't seem to work well requires a lot of self-belief and courage. No matter what you do, some people are bound to disagree with you. With time, we can train ourselves to take those rejections as a part of our journey and move ahead.

No matter what, there is something good in all of us. Just because we haven't discovered it yet doesn't mean it is not there. Don't let others fool you and make you believe you are less worthy. Believe me, none of us are... Let's believe in ourselves and let's try to help others believe in themselves too. The world needs some kindness and understanding for sure.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

प्यार के नगमे

हाथ थाम के तुम जो चले साथ में
लगे सारी दुनिया है मेरे क़दमों में
गर तुम कभी साथ न होते मेरे
फिर यह दुनिया किस काम के||

चलना हैं कदम से कदम मिलाके
दुनिया से हर हसीन पल चुराके
यह सफर सुहानी खतम न होते
तुम्हारे बिना जीवन प्यारा न होते||

जी चाहूँ खो जाऊँ तेरी आँखों से
झलकती हुई प्यार के सागर में
पनाह लू तेरे पलकों के आँचल में
बसने दे मुझे वहाँ जीवन भर केलिए ||

कोमल कली सा ये तेरा चेहरा
मेरे दिल को है ख़ुशी से भरा
तेरी आखों में मैंरे दुनिया बसी
तेरे आँचल में मेरी खुशियाँ हसी||

तेरे आँसू मेरे आंखों से बहने लगी
मेरी हसी तेरे होटों पे खिलने लगी
तन्हाई में याद सिर्फ तुम आयी
मेरे दिल को छूकर गुज़र गयी ||

Of Little Trips and Great Learnings

The other day, we (some staff, volunteers and service users of Mary Seacole House, Liverpool) went on a day trip to Llangollen. This wasn&#...