Yin Yoga

I’ve been doing yoga since I was quite young. Wait, that makes me sound too disciplined. I’ve been doing yoga on and off since I was quite young. When I was in school, I was part of a dance troupe, and we once performed “snake dance”. It involved wearing a shiny costume with a snake hood and writhing and wriggling on stage to snake-charmer music. It sounds silly, but it was actually a pretty decent display of flexibility – a lot of our poses are things you’ll see in advanced yoga, just done at a faster pace and in group formation. I was pretty good at it, if I say so myself. I was never particularly thin, even as a young girl, but I was fit and I was very flexible.

I’m still quite flexible, but not nearly as fit, which is why I’m trying to put yoga back into my regular routine. What I like about yoga is that size doesn’t matter. I find that running and other aerobic exercises depend a lot on size – if you’re larger, it’s harder to do them, and the possibility of injury is greater. Yoga also provides a lot of modifications, so people can choose what they’re comfortable with based on their degree of flexibility and strength. It’s this strength part that I like most about yoga. I’ve been doing it every alternate day for the past few months and I realise that I can sweat as much as I do with aerobic exercise, but that I feel a lot stronger as opposed to drained. I once started a 55-minute session of yoga on YouTube thinking I was going to sweat it out, before realising that it was yin yoga, which involves sitting in one posture for up to five minutes at a time. I almost switched to another video, because I thought it wouldn’t be enough of a workout, but curiosity kept me going and it turned out to be pretty energising, even though there wasn’t a lot of movement.

I’ve mentioned that I don’t much like travelling in Bangalore when I don’t need to, so for now, I’m sticking to YouTube videos and doing the sessions at home since I already have a decent amount of experience to not need supervision. On some level, I find it amusing that I, an Indian woman, am taking yoga instructions from mostly white ladies, but even if I do chuckle at their pronunciations of the different asanas, I can’t deny that they’ve all been good teachers. Most of them are patient and understanding (yes, this shows even through a computer screen) and make yoga a holistic experience, rather than just sticking to poses. Often, there are breathing and meditation exercises included in these sessions, and there’s an emphasis on slowly getting better and stronger in all ways rather than pushing yourself to exhaustion.

I recently saw a video of some 90-year-old woman doing advanced yoga, and it was quite inspiring. I’m also slowly trying to get rid of the mentality of size and weight being related to fitness, focusing on the latter and hoping the former will follow suit. And I don’t know if yoga is helping me lose weight, but it’s definitely helping me feel fitter, and I think that’s what matters right now.

Xie Xie

If you’re a religious person, thanksgiving comes along with the rest of the package. Not the holiday, just the act of giving thanks, of being grateful. Prayers, trips to a chosen place of worship, rituals and offerings, they all have an element of gratitude woven into them. That’s not to say that everyone doing it is actually truly grateful, but at least they go through the motions. For the not-so-religious people like me, it becomes necessary to take a more conscious approach to gratitude, to actively say thanks once in a while. Not jut for all the material things in life (which do matter a lot), but for all the things I sometimes take for granted, the things that happened out of my control that I can’t take credit for, all the bits and bobs that have led me to where I am. These things strike most when I come across someone who doesn’t have one or more of these things, and I realise how much better off I am. We tell people, “Be happy, someone is worse off than you.” This really doesn’t apply to everyone, but it does to me, because I have so much to be thankful for:

For loving parents, truly caring siblings and a niece who I love and who loves me. (I often forget how very crucial and totally out of our hands this is – you don’t get to choose family.)

For growing up comfortably without major upheavals.

For having functional use of my body and brain.

For being lucky enough to finish my education fuss-free.and work

For being and work steadily and keep my mind occupied in productive activity.

For being able to make ends meet.

For having the financial support to take risks.

For the luxury of time and money to pursue interests and hobbies.

For the freedom to pursue my dreams and goals and to chart my own path in life.

For not being forced into the idea of marriage and children.

For having the capacity to think and make rational, reasonable decisions.

For the good fortune of not falling prey to problems like depression or addiction.

For the good people in my life (friends, teachers, colleagues), and for being lucky enough to get rid of the bad influences.

I know it’s become a huge joke now and we make fun of millennials for doing it, sometimes you just have to say it and mean it as sincerely as possible (which I do) – I truly am (hashtag) blessed.

Traffic Terror

About 20 years ago, mentioning Bangalore would have elicited a response to the tune of, “Oh, the weather is lovely there.” Today, you’re much more likely to hear, “God, I hear the traffic is terrible.” It’s a sad reality that the Bangalore of today is very, very far from the one I remember fondly from when I used to visit my grandparents during school vacations, and one of the things that makes it so vastly different is the crazy, crazy increase in the number of people living and working here, and consequently, the traffic.

I’ve been lucky. When I first decided to move to Bangalore, I did so with the knowledge that I would be avoiding most traffic problems due to a very early morning shift at work, and a pick-up and drop-off service. If I had been made to deal with arranging my own transport during regular peak hours, I wouldn’t even have attended the job interview. I admit, my decade-long stint in Singapore made me complacent in many ways. Public transport could take you pretty much anywhere you wanted to, across the length and breadth of the city, and even though I didn’t live particularly close to the metro, the bus connectivity near my place was excellent. It never took me more than an hour to get to most places.

What I’m realising here is that an hour is not that short a time when it comes to travel. It probably felt that way because public transport was comfortable in Singapore – you were always in an air-conditioned vehicle, travelling on smooth roads. An hour in an air-conditioned car here, on the other hand, can feel like an eternity, because when you’re not bumping over terrible roads, you’re staying still in one place. I underestimated the rage that can build in a person sitting in an unmoving vehicle. That gentle (or not so gentle) rocking motion of movement is a stress-reliever, not dissimilar to the swinging of a hammock. Take that out, and you suddenly become hyper-aware of the fact that you’re sitting in a small metal box, surrounded by other shrieking small metal boxes, and claustrophobia comes a-calling.

That said, though, because of the aforementioned work timings and my general lack of getting out for anything other than work, traffic isn’t what bothers me the most here. No, it’s just the simple fact of being in a passenger seat with a local driver, whether that’s in my work cab or an Uber or an auto. You see, the local driver here drives with an over-reliance on brakes that frightens me to my core. The first day I was in Bangalore for my interview, within five minutes of getting into my Uber, I was about 80% sure that I was going to die in a horrible crash, just because the guy was driving at speeds that shouldn’t have been possible on those roads. I didn’t die, obviously, but reliably, the driver mowed over a dude on a bike about 100 metres from my destination. I hurriedly got out and walked the rest of the way while he got pulled over by traffic cops (who, I swear, materialised out of nowhere). As I was walking to my destination, another dude swerved too fast into the lane and went skidding along with his bike, inches from where I was on the sidewalk. (I say “sidewalk”, I mean “side of the road”.) Luckily, neither incident caused any major injuries, but you can imagine why all the stories about Bangalore and traffic had suddenly taken a very personal turn for me.

If I thought travelling in a personal vehicle to and from work during off-peak hours would be less terrifying, I thought wrong. The way we get picked up, I get the middle seat in a large jeep and, along with the discomfort, a clear view out the front windshield. For the first few weeks, my hands would be perpetually clutching the headrest of the two seats in front, and I would flinch and react to every vehicle that came too close, every vehicle that we got too close to, every turn taken too fast, every cow narrowly avoided, every pedestrian who leisurely crossed the road as if he was a cow and had divine luck on his side. True Bangaloreans do not worry about such inconsequential things as mortality, so neither the pedestrians nor the rest of my colleagues in the car bat an eye, leaving me to look like I’m just overreacting to mundane things.

So, I guess if you’re living in Bangalore, the question is this – would you rather lose your mind in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but be happy about your chances of survival because, well, you’re not really moving enough to crash into anything, or travel at daredevil speeds on free, empty roads, risking life and limb, but be happy you got to your destination quickly (if at all)?

What a terrible conundrum.

The Science of Stamping

It’s hard to believe that I only got my first pedicure about five or six years ago, because it feels like I’ve been obsessed with nails and nail polish and nail art for a lot longer than that. (By the way, pedicures are EVIL, because once you get one, unpedicured feet start looking like the worst things in the world, even though they seemed perfectly fine before.) I wasn’t so much about the manicures, not because I didn’t like to do them, but because it seemed wasteful to spend so much money on something that wasn’t as difficult (feet are just gnarly and difficult to reach) and was actually a great activity for stress-relief.

So, once I started doing my own manicures (I call them manicures, but I never did any of the important stuff like cleaning, filing or cuticle removal, I just cut my nails and painted them), I started building up a collection of polishes. Now, I’m cheap, so rather than investing in two bottles of expensive polish, I would get ten smaller bottles of less high-profile brands, just so I would have more colours to experiment with. I was also, of course, always on the lookout for sales, and the nails section would be the first place I’d waltz off to everytime I entered a health and beauty store. Soon enough, I needed a proper, strong bag to hold my possessions:

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Then, as I started getting more regular with painting my nails, I started watching YouTube and Instagram videos of people who did nail art and got really, really interested. Nail art has progressed massively since I first got into it. Back then, it was mostly just dotting tools and chevron strips, which would result in designs like this:

But then stamping came into the picture, and boy, oh boy, was it game-changing. Stamping is amazing. There’s a whole science to it, and like all science, it requires plenty of experimentation and trial and error to sort out the kinks and get it right. Honestly, bless YouTube and the nail art community for all the enlightenment they provide to budding stampers, because without all those tutorial videos, I would be nowhere.

I thought I’d elaborate on nail stamping a bit here, mostly because I find it so fascinating, and I figured a few others who haven’t been exposed to it yet might too. This is all the junk I get out before I get started:

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This is my experimental setup, consisting of my nail polishes, remover, cotton swabs and my stamping kit, with stampers, scrapers, stamping plates and stamping polishes. Most of these things I bought very cheaply off various online stores, and they’ve been very worthwhile purchases.

These are the steps I follow:

1. Paint my nails. I use a base coat first to protect my nails from stains, then apply a maximum of two coats of polish. The good polishes are opaque on the first coat itself. Any more than two, and the nails take exponentially longer to dry, which means there’s a higher chance of them getting smudged or smooshed. (Hot tip: paint your nails during the day. I have had several nice coats of polish ruined by bedsheet imprints because of painting them an hour before bedtime.) For this post, I used Dabbler from Sally Hansen’s Xtreme Wear collection.

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2. Wait. This is the hardest part for me, because I’m always in a rush to move on to the more fun stamping stuff. But the base needs to dry fully so the stamping doesn’t smush it, so this is a good time for me to just put on a show on Netflix and while away some time. When I have the time, I wait a whole day before I stamp, but a couple of hours should usually be enough. (This is also the time when I feel the irresistible need to stick my hand in bags, operate delicate things and basically do everything but sit still.)

3. Time to stamp! For this, I need a stamping plate, a stamper, a scraper, stamping polish and latex. I use the mechanical pencil-like thing to pick up the cotton swabs doused in remover so I don’t have to get my hands on them and risk getting the polish off.

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Stamping polish is thicker than regular polish, so it applies opaquely and picks up designs well. A stamping plate and stamper work in the same way regular ink stampers and moulds do. I paint over my chosen design with the stamping polish, scrape off the excess, pick up the print on my stamper, and stamp it onto my nail. I paint a latex coat around my nails so I can peel off the excess paint after I’m done. (Big thanks to my cousin for helping film these videos!)

Then it’s lather, rinse, repeat for the other nails, a top coat over everything, and voila, all done! (Not pictured: the mess after the process is completed and the 374 times something or the other goes wrong.)

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Rain Rain

(Not all post titles can be clever, okay?)

It’s starting to rain here in Bangalore. Light to moderate showers in the past few days have brought some much-needed relief from the heat (and power cuts along with it, but we’ll focus on the good here), and I can already feel my mood lightening. I’m no stranger to rain. In fact, I’m not used to going this long without rain, or to the showers being as light as they have been so far. All through my life, bar a few years here and there, I’ve lived in cities where the rains have had character and been associated with specific feelings and emotions.

My early memories of rain are of the showers in Bombay. For a few years, I remember it starting to rain exactly on June 1st, as though the monsoons were following some sort of strict timetable. School also usually began on June 1st, which meant that for a long time, the back-to-school excitement of buying stationery, wrapping books in brown paper and tailoring new uniforms was associated with the smell of impending rain in the air. Of course, as lovely as those first showers felt – they were cleansing, in a way, both to the environment and to the mind – it was never as romantic actually being in them. There would be puddles, there would be sludge and slush on the roads. Umbrellas would be rendered pretty much useless because of the strong winds. Even though we were allowed to wear ‘rainy chappals’ to school (plastic sandals or shoes that could dry quickly after we trudged through ankle-deep water stagnating on the school grounds), it wasn’t fun squelching around and leaving wet prints everywhere. It would take time getting anywhere because the roads and the traffic would be worse than usual. At home, we couldn’t go out to play as much in the evenings, and after a while, the perpetual dampness would start to get annoying. Still, the rains were an essential part of Bombay life, even if they only lasted a few months. The city just wouldn’t have been the same without them.

When I moved to Singapore, I was expecting heat (what with it being so close to the equator), but not rain. In fact, I got plenty of both. Singapore is one of those “carry your umbrella all year long” kind of cities. It’s also the kind of city where a bright, sunny, clear-sky morning can turn into an overcast afternoon in a matter of hours, where it’s possible to need to switch on your lights at noon because it’s become so dark inside. Singapore, of course, was much more manageable in the rain – barely any sludge, good drainage system – but it was still nicer to be indoors when it started to pour. Sometimes it would rain so hard, you wouldn’t be able to see anything beyond 10 feet, let alone the horizon. Some of my favourite memories of the rain involve sitting in the living room of my 19th-floor house, drinking tea and doing my paint-by-numbers as the cool breeze blew in through the balcony and rattled all the windows.

Unfortunately, my offices have all been in windowless spaces, so unless it rained to or from work or when I was home, I would often miss out on the showers, only realising when I stepped out that it had actually poured that day. Sometimes, of course, it would rain so heavily we would hear the thunder indoors, and even that simple sound, minus any visuals, could put me in a more relaxed mood than I was before. There was a brief period of time when I was working from home when I got to both see the rain through my windows and hear the pitter-patter of rain form a sort of white-noise background to my work (even through my headphones), and it was positively heavenly.

I’m back to working in an indoor, windowless office now, and I don’t live on the 19th floor anymore, but I’m hopeful that I will still get to experience the romance of a lazy, rainy day here in Bangalore, complete with hot tea, pakodas and a good book. Come on, Bangalore, don’t let me down.

Little Less Loquacious

I’m generally known as a chatty person – if I’m around people I know and like, there’s a good chance I’m talking my head off. I’ve gotten a little quieter through the years, but I don’t think I’ve lost the talkative habit fully yet. You can see it even in my writing, where what should be short, sweet posts turn into lengthy rambles. (I once contemplated having “Clueless Loves To Ramble” as a tag, but then I realised I’d be tagging pretty much every post with it, and it would serve no purpose whatsoever.) Even my job involves being wordy – I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh, new ways to say the same thing.

Which is why it’s very surprising and slightly alarming that lately, I’m becoming more and more like my mother, in that I’m starting to take after her distinctive style of communication. Let me elaborate. My mother is known for these kinds of conversations (I’ve translated from Tamil so it may have lost a bit of its style):

Mom: Please bring me that thing.

Me: What thing?

Mom: *snaps fingers* THAT thing.

Me: WHAT thing, Mom?

Mom: You know, that thing!

Me: No, I don’t know! What thing?

Mom: YOU KNOW, that! Tsk! Never mind, I’ll go get it myself.

Me: Wha..? USE YOUR WORDS, MOTHER.

Chances are very likely the word she was looking for was something as simple as ‘pen’. I used to find this inability to find the right words amusing, but I’m realising with a creeping horror that I’m becoming this person. I wouldn’t have realised if it weren’t for my cousin (who now lives with us) pointing it out to me. Many times have I started a conversation with her and then trailed off, resulting in her having to tell me through gritted teeth, “Finish your sentence!” Sometimes it’s because I can’t find the right word, other times it’s because I’ve forgotten what I was going to say midway through my sentence, and often, it’s a case of me having forgotten what I was going to say because I spent too long searching for the right word. And, you know, most of the time, people I’m speaking with can’t actually read my mind, so it must be frustrating to be on the receiving end of incomplete thoughts and fragmented sentences.

This is a worrisome trend for a healthy 30-year-old, and certainly for someone who deals with words for a living. I cannot afford to not be able to think of words. It’s not as much of a problem when I’m writing because I have time to mull things over, but my dreams of being a radio jockey are surely dashed now. I imagine radio audiences will not take kindly to long pauses while I hunt inside my brain for just the right word to use in a particular situation.

Anyway, allow me to express my feelings in a limerick (because this is an L post, after all, and I need to convince myself I’m the master of my own vocabulary):

Sometimes I leave my sentences to hang
Even though my cousin will surely harangue
I can’t find the right word
It’s really absurd
I’m just sick and tired of this whole…

*snaps fingers*

(“Finish your sentence!”)

Existential Ennui

Every now and then I think about how

everything just happens, on and on, without

exception, about how we live most days without

ever asking that simple question – why? Most days, life is

enjoyable, and if we’re lucky, we get through it with

ease. But on some days, a sudden wave of

ennui hits you, and nothing seems important, and you question your very

existence. Why am I here? What am I doing?

Employment occupies the majority of my day; it is my means to

earn money. Money helps me live in comfort so I’m well-

equipped to keep working to earn more money and so on and on.

Everyone must think this is a perfectly reasonable cycle of life, or

else why would they do it? Then again, wasn’t it

Einstein who said that doing the same thing over and over and

expecting a different result is the very definition of madness?

Each day, the only sure progress we make is towards our deaths. The

end is the only thing that’s certain, yet we slog tirelessly and

enthusiastically towards it. Sigh. Oh, dear, there I go again.

Enough is enough, I must put a stop to this, or there will be no

escape from the wormhole of my brain. Look, I’ve written an

entire essay! I guess these things happen when life takes a break from being

exciting or eventful. This isn’t me, really – most days, I’m positively

exuberant about life, full of joie de vivre, looking forward

eagerly to the things that make life worth living,

even if that’s just a nice meal, a beloved song or a new

episode of television. So, really, please just

excuse all this pretentiousness,

empty your mind of worries, and go forth and have an

excellent day.

ETA:

(Enjoy the earworm.)

Y is for Yercaud

Last December, my family planned a big reunion of sorts. My immediate family (Mom, Dad, brother, sister-in-law and niece) and I were going to see our extended family in Chennai, and I was quite excited about it. These were aunts and uncles and cousins I hadn’t seen in ages, and I was looking forward to spending quality time with them. Then, of course, the Chennai floods happened, everyone was left in disarray, and we cancelled the Chennai part of our trip altogether. That left the core bunch at home in Coimbatore, which is a lovely little city with great weather, but where there’s not much by way of activity or excitement.

We’d floated the idea of a road trip early on, a short getaway from home to get out of familiar surroundings, to get some sun and fresh air for a couple of days, and to activate some family bonding time. When the word came back to us that Yercaud, a small hill station in Salem, Tamil Nadu, had been chosen as the destination, I think it would be fair to say that I was… not very enthusiastic. Furthermore, when we were told we’d be staying at a health resort of sorts, my interest level dropped even further. My road trip fantasy was fast deteriorating into a nightmare. This wasn’t what I had pictured! I wanted wind in my hair, songs in the car, chatting and gossip, not Yercaud and health food and ayurvedic remedies.

But you know what they say about assumptions. Yercaud turned out to be a great little place, with fantastic weather (what I like to call ‘air-con climate’, where it’s as cold as if you’d switched an air-conditioner on outside, but the sun still shines on your face and warms you up). We had great views from our resort, and we had the whole place to ourselves, so we could really run amok without people yelling at us about the noise, the food was healthy and delicious, and the family bonding was fantastic. We sang songs, we played games, we performed skits and recitals. We went on long, leisurely walks and we solved many, many, many crossword puzzles. If the three-year-olds participated actively, so too did the seventy-year-olds. We had the most diverse group of people in terms of personalities (as well as levels of chattiness), but we all got along splendidly. I think it’s fair to say the trip exceeded my expectations beyond measure.

Not everybody gets a chance to travel with extended family, and I’m not only glad that I got to, but that the place was beautiful and the company was great.

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X is for Xerox

I’m sure most people are aware of the fact that Xerox is a brand name that, through frequent usage, has all but taken the place of its product (the photocopy). I grew up all my life using ‘xerox’ as a regular verb/noun, with no idea of it as a brand, and I guess that’s kind of the reason why the company has been trying so hard to get people to break that habit. I understand why it wants to protect the trademark, but in a weird sort of way, it feels like it’s something Xerox should be proud of. I mean, a company that’s managed to become THE dominant name in its corner of the industry, enough to cross over into the common lexicon must have done something right, no?

Obviously, the current example that comes to mind is Google. In fact, I got some feedback on my captioning the other day, saying it wasn’t necessary to capitalise the G in ‘googling’ – most dictionaries now recognise it as a common verb. (I don’t think Google is panicking nearly as much as Xerox did.) It’s a fascinating idea for me, this micro-study on how language evolves and changes with time (whether for better or for worse will always be up for debate). I went to look up other brands that have now become common words, and, no surprises, the list is pretty long.

So, I thought I’d do a little quiz of sorts, see how many of these things have been ingrained into the general vocabulary. I’ve written a short passage below, using the generic words in place of 10 different brand names. See if you can figure out which brand names they actually apply to! (Clue: There’s one on every sentence of the story.)

This morning, the hawker centre uncle had to pack my noodles in a extruded polystyrene foam box. Silly me, I’d forgotten to take my plastic storage container. The plastic bag bit through my flesh, so I applied an adhesive bandage on my finger when I got to work. I was already late, so I hurried into the meeting room and loaded up my slide show presentation program. When I got back to my desk after the meeting, I saw a sticky note on my computer, telling me to collect a package at the reception. I took the lift down to the first floor, humming along to the elevator music. I got back to my desk and unwrapped my package, delicately bundled in inflated cushioning. It was a liquid motion lamp! Klutzy me would have to be careful with it – no amount of cyanoacrylate adhesive would put this back together if I broke it! No, it would have to go straight into the waste container then.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but try not to use a search engine to find the answers, OK? 😉

W is for Whatsapp

There are many kinds of Whatsapp users:

  • The ones who use it more than they use actual spoken words
  • The ones you can reach more easily if you text them on Whatsapp than if you actually call them
  • The ones who cannot type a text message without at least three emojis to express feelings they’ve already conveyed in words
  • The ones who still use ‘:)’ instead of one of the bajillion smiley face emojis
  • The ones who cannot create a Whatsapp group until they’ve found the right (appropriate, funny, memorable) title for it
  • The ones who send ‘Good morning’ texts (every single day, with nothing to add after)
  • The ones who send ‘Good morning’ texts in groups with 30 people, resulting in a chain of even more useless ‘Good morning’ texts.
  • The ones who send ‘Good morning’ picture texts (sun rising, happy baby, etc)
  • The ones who use every group they’re in as an opportunity to advertise
  • The ones who need to share every single joke/quote/cancer remedy they’ve heard of
  • The ones who mute groups when they get too annoying
  • The ones who can’t help but read every single text, even when the group has become annoying
  • The ones who prefer sending audio messages to texting
  • The ones who write ‘k’ instead of ‘OK’ and only participate by way of monosyllabic responses
  • The ones who don’t even respond, and you just have to assume by their ‘last seen’ status that they’ve seen your message
  • The ones who have 2048875 unread texts (how do these people live?!)
  • The ones who love the capslock function to an unhealthy degree
  • The ones whose autocorrect function is either overly active or not at all
  • The ones who still rite lyk dis because typing full words is too hard
  • The ones who change their profile picture every other day
  • The ones who notice and comment on every single profile picture change
  • The ones who use Web Whatsapp, so they text super fast and accurately.

Do you know any others? Which one(s) do you identify with?