Reflections: The 21 Day Gratitude Challenge

1. What do you have enough of?

When I think of what I have enough of, I think of love. In Exodus, Rameses tells his son,''Do you know why you sleep so soundly, boy? It's because you know you're loved."

I feel absolutely safe taking risks, making mistakes - personally and professionally - because i know I'm loved and some fantastic people have my back. I have enough of strong friendships, luckily throughout my life's different stages, I have met remarkable people who're amazing friends and I'm truly grateful for that. I have had a wholesome, loving relationship with an amazing person for almost 8 years and I'm grateful for that. I have enough doubt and uncertainty to always question assumptions made by others and myself and I'm grateful for that. I have enough things that I'm passionate about and enough problems that I'd like to help solve - and I'm eternally grateful for that :)


2. Who do you know that you can never repay?

My mother's father. I have grown up listening to his stories retold by my mother - how he treated children around him, how he treated his daughters and his wife and how he always, always lived life to the fullest. He was gone even before my existence was thought of - but his memory is as vivid as if he was a living part of my own childhood. Goes to show that if you live enough - you transcend mortality. I can't pay him back, but I can pay it forward. And that is where my need to be a role model for those who look up to me comes from. Whether they were juniors in school or college, or my own kids in class - If I've known they were taking cues from me and how I think and how I live, I have inadvertently channeled my nanaji and who he is in my imagination - fun, irreverent, open.


3. What do you take for granted?

The spring in my mattress

The embrace of my quilt

The music I carry with me

The collection of books I've built

That my car is a safe space

My roommate makes salad for me

The loving jump of my doggies

The thrill of climbing a new tree

Living in a house - water, warmth and all I need

Having a home with my mother to go back to.

After all is said and done - my greatest crisis being one of too much love and not too less

Having senses that work, and the belief that they do

Among the things I do wrong, there are always more I do right

I do what I love and love what I....:)


4. What Inconvenience Are You Grateful For?

When I lost my phone during the last week of Institute in 2013. I'm not good with it anyway, so I was grateful that the constant dread of losing my phone was gone when it finally got realized. That blissful month I was at peace. I had the perfect excuse to be with myself. I booked an overnight bus to Goa, hopped on with a few numbers on a crumpled sticky note, reached at 6 in the morning, used a kind man's phone to call Roy ( not knowing where they were, whether they'll pick up) and found friends there for a magical 3 days in rain-drenched Goa. Also found a different kind of happiness whenever anyone lent their phone to me - true kindness is unpresuming and unconscious, humans do it out of habit and reflex :) 


5. What’s you most precious memory?

One is impossible. So, 10.

1. Making whole cities out of mud with my brother – houses, canals, bridges and all that jazz.

2. Experiencing the ‘Splash’ ride in Appu Ghar for the first time.

3. Swimming a whole stretch for the first time, driving alone for the first time – 10 years apart.

4. Dancing in a hidden temple in Kerala lined with diyas when no one was looking.

5. Dance team in college winning for the first time – every time.

6. Everytime I realize I love (the real, actual kind) someone.

7. Curtain call for Matilda.

8. Every time I quizzed.

9. Moment on top of Sarangkot when the Himalayas engulfed and ensconced, moment in Cherai when I was alone with the waves for company.

10. Hampi. Tungabhadra. Boat. Enough said.


6. Which Artist Lights Your World?

Ah! This question, it got me so excited. My only grouse with this challenge is that it asks for one and there are always so many! But I guess there's no real rule here.

1.Geeta Chandran: My guru, my akka - she lives her art. She is a dancer,singer, actor and overall larger than life persona who has inspired, intimidated, motivated, demotivated, shaped and moulded me for more than a decade. Her belief system, her attitude towards life, her style and her intelligence, she refines and expresses it all through her art - a complete artist.

2. Shiv Kumar Sharma: Much before I saw him perform live in Jammu, his santoor would bring me to tears or exhort me to dance. But when I did get the chance to witness him live, playing the raag malhaar and raag pahadi in rainy Jammu - it cemented in me the belief that art can change lives.

3. Jonathan Stroud: Sure, there are other writers writing more profoundly and with much more intellectual depth and clarity. But this guy, he's the writer I want to be. His easy and unaffected wit and charm is my benchmark. He's a rockstar and Bartemaeus is the greatest literary character to ever live!

So many more - Faiz, Rumi,Dakota Fanning, my middle school art teacher Chinmaya Dutta, Van Gogh, Picasso and Jackson Pollock - the whole point of art is to light your world!


7. How have you changed for the better?

This one is slightly longer

I was an obnoxious kid. I was also very judgmental in my younger years. 

Things always came easy and in the little pond that my primary school experience was ( I moved around between 3-4 small towns), i was always the big fish. Studies, competitions came easy and attention was heaped by teachers, family and friends. Then life hit me, like it should. As I went into middle school - I was suddenly a really tiny fish. I lost that year, a lot. Academics weren't child's play anymore - I hit the 80s for the first time. I joined classical dance classes and saw that I was much closer to being mediocre than I thought. I'm so thankful for those failures - they taught me that I'll have to work for everything I want, and also that i still wanted everything and was willing to work for it. 

Only my closest friends ever really liked me, because i was an unlikely introvert ( confident in public speaking, but extremely uncomfortable in more intimate, one on one small talk and socializing). It reached it's zenith when in grade 12th, a large bunch of my classmates launched a campaign - petition and all - to not let me become the school captain, for several reasons, except none of them knew me. It struck me then to never judge someone on face value, not even on hearsay - everyone carries their own complex stories within them and we can't even fathom the stories they carry ( much like what Louie Schwartzberg says). I was bullied for a whole month by my own classmates - it changed me forever, for good. I'm so grateful to them for this. It made me study hard enough to make my dream college ( because, apart from being the school captain the only way to find a place on our school hall of fame was to be the school topper.), it made me a firm believer in individuality, and a disbeliever in preconceptions and assumptions.


8. What do you know that you never want to forget?

This is a tough one.


"All that we are is a result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.''

 - A t-shirt in nepal.


The whole Purush-Prakriti-Maya paradigm, as explained in this article.


"This is Water, this is water."

- David Foster Wallace

An excerpt - 

 - Here's one example of the utter wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness, because it's so socially repulsive, but it's pretty much the same for all of us, deep down. It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real — you get the idea.


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Marianne Williamson


9. What is the greatest compliment you’ve ever received or given?

"You're as strong as I dreamt I'd be."
- my mom


10. What’s the best advice you’ve received?

"My secret is to let my inner light shine.
PS: fluorescent notes are always a bad idea"
Of the many I remember, this one captures the essence of what I take away from all of them. Thank you!


11. What made you smile today?

Mom came home to visit, made her some tasty food :)

A friend said they love me and I'm beautiful, and I know they didn't mean on the outside :)

Recent memories flashed before my eyes - silly, stupid, embarassing memories. *sheepish* :)

Saw a dancing video and a crazy Asana :)

Cleaned the den up. :)

Heard my favourite songs in the world thrice each, and danced alone like a crazy person :D

Writing to you and sharing with you :D :D


12. Who inspires you to be your best self?

Very very simple: this mailing list + my kids + people who give everything for their cause: Shaheen, Rowling, Aruna Roy - you get the drift :)


13.What’s the best mistake you ever made?

The Best Mistake I Ever Made:
Interning at PWC. Oh I'm so grateful for those 6 weeks of disillusionment! I had always known I wanted to work for change and do what I love. College and the frenzied rat race for the highest package made me forget that. Those weeks of intense boredom and being given the worst advice: - don't work so much, socialise more! In the corporate world, you should always walk around with a mask! Apply to 15 bschools because you need to cover all corners! - brought me back to life.


14. When has nature taken your breath away?

When I was at the Sarangkot peak, exhausted and proud of trekking that far up and saw from there the massive  Machupuchhe peak which dwarved everything around it - including the now tiny hillock I felt I was standing on. Remembering how it feels every time I look at the ocean -
It's either the unending flatness of the oceans punctured by the ever-rolling waves in their movement,
Or the unending ever-rolling mountains punctured by flat valleys in their stillness.
They call out to you and say,''
Happy mortality! 
I am made by you. 
You are the ocean. 
You are the earth.
You will one day flow through me, 
as dust. ''


15. Who or what has shaped your inner compass?

All the things I find inherently wrong. A lot of you know a lot of these, like

 - Imbalance in the power ratio at home in the earlier years

 - Being heavily judged for just being, was told of one incident yesterday :D


16. What is the most cherished gift you’ve received?

The gift of true friendship. 

Seriously, this is not to be cheesy, but that's how it is. You can't buy it, take it, even exchange it. It has to be given, with love. The best time to be asked this question, because kindness is no longer hidden when you see a friend in distress. Thank you Mansi, Nivritti, Dipti, Roy, Sam and Tushar for visiting me, giving me food and entertaining me and making me look forward to 8:30 pm. Sorry for being grumpy if you showed up late :(

Thank you Sammy - for traveling with me at the cost of being bored, and carrying my stuff and getting food for me. Remember when I told you, (same time - same place last year), that "we're true friends" is tougher, bigger for me to say than "I love you"? And that you have to go through something together to be able to be called real friends? You have my vote, good sir!


17. Who in your life are you under appreciating?

Being grateful is getting to be quite a challenge when your biggest adventure of the day is to take a bath. Only as long as I was self-absorbed though, wallowing in self-pity ( not to say that I'm over it, not a super woman by far), but when I was annoyed at a trivial thing and actually saw an expression of apology on my mother's face - I realised that this is water and said thank you! 

She is so cute when she smiles sheepishly on being appreciated!

There's my answer - my mother. Everyone really, but to an exponential extent, my mother.


18. What skill do you value most in yourself?

Actually didn't answer this one yesterday because I feel uncomfortable. But if I were to assume this isn't shared with anyone, i would say to myself in all honesty - I can be brutally honest and objective with my self, and can gauge when someone else isn't being.


19. What can you say thank you for in this very moment?

Umm...I can sort of recognize my face again? Also, I'm expected to be useless right now. That's nice :)


20. What have you lost and learned from?

I mean I should be learning from it...I know there's a great learning somewhere, but it's still elusive. I know i have lost that precious window of time when I could have given my all to excel in, perform more of, perform solos of Bharatanatyam. It shouldn't have been highly difficult. People were doing it all the time through the 9+ years that I've been learning. I knew that time came in school, in college - but I just didn't go full throttle, I stagnated, procrastinated. I regret it, maybe? sometimes. 

What I should be learning is that while time is always right for some things, for others there's a definite window of opportunities and we must absolutely wring it dry then :)


21. If this were your last day, how would you spend it?

All I know is that it will have: chocolate ice cream, resounding music that makes me sway, a soft linen bed in the middle of a meadow with a waterfall nearby, my doggies playing around with  bunch of other animals who decided to be altruistic for a day. And my friends and family enjoying some great finger food around - on a sunny afternoon without mosquitoes. We're not necessarily talking to each other all the time, a lot of companionable silence and silly, open smiles.