New beginnings.

New beginnings.

I feel as though it’s New Year all over again.

Over the next few weeks, I am shifting jobs. moving to a new house in a different locality, learning driving, and starting to write a book.

The new house:

It’s weird to be excited about moving from your own place to a rented one – it’s usually the other way round for most people! But I am, I am!

I used to commute about 1.5 hours each way when I was in my first ever job. I used to make breakfast, but have lunch at the office cafeteria and eat out for dinner almost every night. Unless SR had actually started dinner prep by the time I got back home. One of the biggest attractions my second job had was that the office was just 2kms away from our home, a real blessing in a city like Bangalore. I developed some good habits because of this – I started cooking both breakfast and lunch, and even dinner on at least 3 week nights. That was a definite improvement. However, I soon started spending the extra time I had saved (on commuting) at my office working (the thought that you can get home in under 15 mins does keep you late at the office!)

Now this one – my third job – is far, far away from our home. It will take me at least 2 hours each way if I were to commute. So as soon as I accepted the offer, I started looking for a new place to stay. Since SR can conduct his business from anywhere, he was also up for it. The only catch was that having lived rent-free for 4 years, paying rent would now take out a huge chunk of our income. But sigh, you can’t have it all! J

The house-hunting – online and offline – went on for a week, and after many frustrating attempts, we finally found a place that both of us liked, would allow us to keep Buttons in the style of living he is used to (!!!) and is just 3kms from my office. I am keeping my fingers crossed until we move!

Moving can be nightmarish, but I am determined to do it with as little fuss and frustration as possible. I don’t want to waste a lot of time doing this, but approach the whole process systematically, starting with what items we intend to move and pre-deciding what pieces of furniture will go where in the new place.

A bigger task is deciding what items to sell or give away. There’s this blog on minimalism that I read regularly – but I have not yet been able to shake myself free of the pleasures of shopping for things I don’t really need. The least I can do is to give away what I already have but don’t need!

The new job:

I am really excited about this company, the people and the role. I believe it is going to be a great opportunity to work with some interesting and talented folks, make a dent in the universe, and of course, learn a lot of new stuff along the way. But every now and then, I get a twinge of nervousness – will I be able to deliver? Will I be able to blow away expectations? Just coping has never been enough – I would be miserable being an average performer in any team.

I always feel that a new job is a great way to reset a lot of things about yourself – a new opportunity to make friends, set a new routine, cultivate new habits and create a new impression. In my previous job, I had gotten into the bad habit of going in late (often by 11 or 11.30) and staying back late (until at least 8.30); this left with me with absolutely no time to do anything either in the morning (because I would inevitably wake up late since I didn’t have to go to work early) or the evening (because all I would be fit for after getting home was to eat and sleep). In the new role, I’d like to start work early, say by 9.30 and get out early so that I don’t have to live for the weekends, but actually enjoy weekday evenings.

And oh, the new apartment has a lovely French window that leads to a balcony with a view – this is a long cherished dream of ours. I am really looking forward to enjoying non-TV dinners!

The decision to learn driving:

I used to ride around on a scooter when I was in engineering college. But before I got around to getting my driving license, I met SR – and all of a sudden, I became that lazy, comfortable creature: the pillion rider! I lost all inclination to get my license or even to learn to drive a car.

Every Vijaydasami for the past 3 years, SR has been making me start the car, drive a few meters, reverse and stop, in the hope that I would take up driving. But I never felt the need to do so.  I would either coax SR to drop me off wherever I want to go, or take the bus or get a cab or an auto.

But recently, we took a 15-hour road trip to Kerala, and I felt terrible that he had to drive all the way! In the weeks since then, a very busy husband, unavailable Ola cabs, disdainful auto drivers and inconvenient buses have reminded me how much I am at their mercy, and how this situation is less than desirable.

For some reason, I feel more comfortable driving a car – a scooter makes me feel exposed and nervous. SR being the ultimate safety advocate wholeheartedly agrees. (Plus, I suspect he has no faith in my reaction time or presence of mind!) So, in May, I am going to learn how to drive a car.

Gulp.

The book:

When SR’s debut novel got published a few months ago, I was very flattered to have three-four friends and relatives ask me when mine was coming out. Well, I have not yet started writing any books, but I finally have an idea that really excites me. A story that I want to write without thinking about the money I will make or the awards I will get. I think the bug’s finally bitten, and I am not going to let my inherent lethargy let the idea fizzle out.

I don’t know where I am going with this or when I will complete it or what I will do with it afterwards – but this is a project of love that I will certainly enjoy working on!

Here’s to new beginnings – and hopefully, happy endings. Cheers. 🙂

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PS: When I started writing this blog post, I had no idea what I was going to say or how I would end it. Rusty after so many months of not writing a word, I struggled to complete this. I am trying to not be too critical of this attempt and cut myself some slack. So, up goes this post!

Taking Stock of 2013

I’ve been blogging on and off since 2006, but never once have I had an end-of-the-year post. I have often penned down my New Year resolutions, but I haven’t really looked back at the bygone year and sized up the triumphs and disappointments. I am surprised at this realization, because if you’d asked me, I would have said that understanding what you have done right and wrong is the first step towards growth.

So what has our 2013 been about?

  • Work:

I began the year with a major vote of confidence from my boss. I was only 4 months into my new job, but he told me that I had hit the ground running and that he was expecting great things from me. I began on this high note, and was also promoted mid-year, but it hasn’t been a smooth ride all along.

What has gone well:

  • I handle quite a bit of work independently – I make important decisions, and plan and drive projects on my own.
  • I have managed to set and meet high quality standards in all the work that I am responsible for. Something I never want to compromise on.

What I’d like to do better in 2014:

  • Think like a Product Head – long term vision, scalability, sustainability and profitability.
  • Transform from an independent contributor to a team leader. Being an introvert, I have struggled with this quite a bit. In 2014, I’d like to see myself as a leader who is on top of things (without micromanaging) and who attracts the respect and trust of her team. Working towards this goal. 🙂

SR had to make some major decisions this year – in July, he quit his job with a two-pronged agenda: complete his first novel, and pursue a business idea. The decision was not easy by any stretch of imagination. But he’s been successful on the first count, and hopefully, the second will also see some traction in the coming months.

What I’d like to see in 2014: Our venture taking root, serving at least 5 major clients, and becoming profitable.

  • Writing:

My writing career has seen some successes this year:

But the biggest success of 2013 belongs to SR. We were thrilled when two publishing biggies, Random House and Westland, expressed interest in picking up his first novel –  ‘Kalyug’, a political thriller. We finally went with Westland – more about that in upcoming weeks.

But kudos to you darling, for your focus, courage and perseverance in writing this book – I know how much work it was, and how much effort it required from you. Proud to be Kalyug’s editor!

Which brings me to a minor success on my side. Earlier in 2013, I had expressed a wish to explore book editing as a career option. Today, that is a reality. Both SR and I are editorial consultants with a leading literary agency in India. We work on manuscript assessments, critiques and rework notes, language edits and many more exciting assignments. I think the best thing about this work is that we are now reading a lot of varied literature, even genres we would never have explored otherwise – from self-help and good living to fantasy and thrillers, biographies to exposes.

What I’d like to do in 2014: The ride is just beginning, and we hope that 2014 has a lot more in store for us. We want to write more, review more, and even move onto conducting creative/professional writing workshops.

  • Travel

This year saw us make our first trip abroad – to Singapore. Planning every little part of the trip and hunting for deals online was every bit as awesome as the trip itself. And we managed to complete the 10-day trip on a shoestring budget – glad to help anyone who wants to plan a trip there.

We also traveled to Devarayanadurga, Masinagudi, Sakleshpur, Srirangapatnam and Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, but on the whole, 2013 was not as much of a success on the travel front as we had hoped. Our resolution to go somewhere new every month – even if for a day trip – did not really materialize.

Sakleshpur
Sakleshpur
Masinagudi
Masinagudi
Ranganathittu
Ranganathittu
Singapore
Singapore

What I’d like to do in 2014: At least 4 road trips, 3  weekend getaways and 2 big vacations. The first big  vacation is to Gujarat at the end of this month for a dear  friend’s wedding and exploring the Rann of Kutch. 🙂

  •  Health: 

I can’t not write about health as it is a major contributor to general well-being and happiness. But the report on this front is mixed.

The good part is that (a) since I moved to my new office space in Jan 2013, located at a place with hardly any good vegetarian dining options, I’ve carried a packed lunch to work; as a result, SR has also been getting home-cooked lunch every day. (b) every time we slipped on our food plan or exercise plan (and we slipped many many times! 😦 ), we pulled ourselves up and went back to it.

What I want in 2014: SR and I need to lose 20 kilos between the two of us to go down to our optimum weights. I want us to be more focused and committed towards eating and exercising this year: reach our ideal levels of weight and fitness by March, and maintain those afterwards.

  • Self-development:

Okay, who am I kidding? This is actually the “Miscellaneous” section with some observations and resolutions that I couldn’t fit in anywhere else. 🙂

  • I started painting again in 2013, and this has given me many hours of pleasure. And turning the pages of my drawing book, I realize that I’ve actually become better. So far, I’ve been learning techniques from YouTube videos or other online tutorials, but in 2014, I’d like to attend painting workshops or classes.

    One of my better works!
    One of my better works!
  • We recently visited a cousin’s apartment. She is around my age and has been married as long as I have been. She has a job that’s as demanding as mine. Yet, her house was so pristine, organized and beautiful that I felt ashamed. Yes – I take great pains to ensure that our house – especially the kitchen and the bathrooms – is scrupulously clean. But it is quite messy – there are books and other odds and ends on every possible surface. (‘dirty’ is different from ‘messy’, thank you.) This is something I want to change in 2014 – I want to become a super duper housekeeper. Wow, that rhymes! 🙂
  • We managed to watch quite a few movies last year – the really memorable ones would be Special 26, TDKR, Iron Man 3, North 24 Katham, Punyalan Agabattis and ABCD. Major letdowns would be Ice Age 4, Akam and Despicable Me 2. In 2014, I’d like to see many more awesome Malayalam movies.
  • I love dancing – no, not salsa or tango or anything else that has a name. I just like to put on music and go nuts when no one’s watching. Everyone should try it – it gives you such a liberated, exhilarating feeling. But I haven’t done this enough – in 2014, I want to dance a lot more often.
  • Okay, now I’m running out of patience. So other stuff I want to do in 2014:
    • Star gaze on the terrace every few days.
    • Visit Cubbon Park or Sankey Tank (I love greens and water) every week. CAM00361CAM00346
    • Go to my 3 favorite temples more often – going there makes me feel so peaceful and good that I can never remember why I balked before going.
    • Shop on Commercial Street more often (No, SR – I wasn’t kidding.)
    • Walk back home at least once a week (my office is just 1.5kms away from my house, and I still get SR to pick me up. Shameful, isn’t it?)
    • Play more board games with SR – our building blocks, Monopoly board and pack of cards have given us so much laughter and fun. Nothing beats a good indoor game on a rainy/chilly evening.

I think I will stop here for now.

Not because I have run out of words – I can write so much more.

It took me 3 days to write this blog. And the process of writing this made me think back on an entire year. Three hundred and sixty five days of my life. The decisions I have taken.

And I realize now that I have written only the good things, though I keep mentioning the downs – I have not talked about how Appa was sick for an entire month and we were all scared. Nor the minor but really annoying health issues that Ammai and Amma also went through. Neither the worry and the fear that overwhelmed us while thinking about the risks we were taking professionally and otherwise, nor the moments of discouragement and frustration.

I have written only about the good things  – this wasn’t deliberate. When I took stock of our life in the past year, none of the bad things loomed large. Not because they weren’t there – but because the blessings were bigger and better.

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.” Ransom Riggs.

And that is something I want to carry forward to the next year too. No regrets, no worries. Only hopes and dreams.

Here’s wishing each and every one of you a wonderful 2014 – a year like never before. Full of good health, happiness and contentment. God bless!