Thursday, March 9, 2017

Sup 2017!

Gosh, I've been on this blog after so long, it doesn't even recognize me anymore. It's giving me this cold look I usually get from my parents when I've haven't called them for weeks. But like family, I'll always come back to it. It's home.

I've been traveling so much, I felt like I've lost touch with my writing. Which is why I am here and plan to be here regularly. I need to reconnect with words. I will no longer wait for a perfect topic to write about or editing it. Henceforth, My Cactus Dress will be all about my ramblings and non-stop chitter-chatter. I'll talk about my book, books that I am reading, art, food, travel, science, movies and TV, and any thing under the sun that inspires me to form words about it.

Like 2015, I was not able to post a 2016 year-end post, because life (read procrastination), but let me update you on my 2017 so far.

I was visiting India and France from the beginning of the year. I got to attend a wedding for the first time in five years, the last wedding being my own wedding. I danced like nobody's business, I ate a ton of food and put on 3kgs (yes!), I didn't get sick, I ate mangoes, I celebrated five happy years of my marriage, I conversed intimately with the mountains (my favorite part), I danced in snow a little, I legit had a silent conversation with a baboon, and had the most amazing time with my family.

If you don't already know, I've been working struggling to finish my first novel since more than a year. It's a dystopian science-fiction novel about two different worlds and its residents crossing paths. More details about the book here.

So far, I've written two drafts. My main story is out on paper, but I am still working on little details, world building, and some new characters that were born after I finished my first draft. I learn something new every time I sit down and write my book, which adds to some extra work. My plan and my biggest dream was to publish my book before I turn 30, which is March 23rd this year. I am more than confident to declare that's not going to happen. I've sulked enough over this fact and I am not going to do that anymore. I am just going to get it done this year.

I have finished reading only one book so far this year, a book that I started in 2016!! That makes my goal of reading 40 books in 2017 a tad bit irrational. Which apparently makes me a deadbeat in one more department.

On the bright side, after taking over 3 dozen flights from and to the US in the past 9 years, I was held at the immigration at LAX for the first time, when I flew from France last month. It included a mildly invasive pat down and sitting in the immigration office for more than 45 minutes (only to be told I was fine to go after checking my passport and documents). Fortunately, I didn't have a connecting flight to catch. Did I say "bright side"? I need sarcasm fonts.

After being away from home for almost two months, I am glad to be back. I am a bit salty right now, but I am sure I will get my groove back in no time. I promise.

How was your 2017 so far?



P.S. Elon Musk is sending two people to the moon and I am depressed about the fact that I am not one of them.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Summer Book Bingo Challenge.

What better way to bring me back to blogging than a Summer Book Bingo Challenge.


I am right on track with my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge. Out of 24 books that I want to read in 2016, I've finished reading 11. Add me on Goodreads here - GOODREADS - if you want me to catch up with your reading challenge as well. I was a bit bored with watching myself being the goody two shoes. So to spice it up a bit, I am participating in My Life As A Teacup's Summer Bingo. It's like a bingo game, but with books!!!

You basically check off  the challenges in a row, either up, down, across, or diagonally to win. For clearer rules and info about the prizes, check out Kristin's blog-
http://www.mylifeasateacup.com/2016/06/summer-reading-bingo

I'll keep on updating about the challenge on my Facebook page or here, if I have more to say. Let's get started with the strategies.


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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cultural Appropriation is not an art


Coldplay made an "exotic" video along with Beyonce and a micro-second appearance by Sonam Kapoor. Now, I might be surrounded by socially-aware friends, because most of the people I know are speaking against it, but YouTube is filled with people, especially Indians, telling how the video is not offensive and people should stop making fuss about it.
For those of you who have not seen the video, it features Chris Martin walking around the street, mainly in the dented and slum areas of India, singing, “I’m feeling drunk and so high”, while small kids dance around him and Holi colors fly high . Then something more interesting happens. He walks up to a small theater that is running a movie “Rani” (written in Hindi because that’s exotic) and our very own Queen Bee is doing some weird hand motions on a green screen, and sporting an overly done Indian attire, while too stubborn to let go off her blonde dyed hair.
Yes, the video is offensive and let me explain you why.

For generations, Indians have been mocked in the US for sporting a bindi or wearing Indian attire. So much that they were called “Dot Indians”.  They still do. Forget yesterday. Take any current American movie or a sitcom and you’ll notice how  Indians are mocked for their accents, their dressing sense and their food. As funny as Koothrapali is to Indians, he is still shown wearing tacky sweaters on top of his shirts because Indians are not supposed to know what goes on what. Indian food is always said along with the word ‘diarrhea’. Indian women are still stared at on the streets while in their Indian attire. Not just Indian, but most ethnic cultures have been mocked and caricatured in the western countries.  In the same timeline, they also want to use this very specific culture and its traits as a fashion accessory, when they want to. From music festivals like Coachella to music videos made by the entertainment Industry, you will see the usage of bindis, sarees, bridal dresses, etc. being sported in the name of fashion without actually understanding or respecting what it means to people who wear them in real life. That is called Cultural Appropriation and it’s offensive as hell.
I am no protector of Indian culture. I couldn’t care less if a bindi is sported by Beyonce, Iggy Azalea, or a cat. Just because I am an Indian, I do not have the rights to tell you what to wear, for I am not a tad bit responsible for building up this rich culture, but what I am asking is for a little bit of respect. Respect for my countrymen who had fought many battles to build up this rich history and culture that you easily mock. Please, don’t use other cultures if you don’t know what it means to its people. Most of the times, I feel proud when I see Indian culture being adopted by westerners. It creates a mutual bond. But that’s when they actually like it and try to learn the idea behind it, not when they use it as an accessory to lift their own personality or to feel exotic or to sell their art.
The second reason this video annoys me is because every time westerners want to portray India, they would not go beyond slums, dirty roads, poor people and some colorful festivals. Showing developed cities, educated youth, or modern infrastructure wouldn’t be entertaining now, would it? There has to be some random poor people dancing around them while they take a proud white walk on the dirty streets of India. It makes them feel good about themselves.
And if you think this issue is too small to talk about and that we should focus on wars and famine, as a lot of empathetic individuals would say, go find an answer to give to the Indian-American girl who was bullied and pushed around because she wore a bindi and a Punjabi dress for her birthday, to school. A lot of vital issues stems from smaller issues. No issue is a small issue.

It is okay to be a Beyonce or a Coldplay fan and still find this offensive. You don’t have to defend them shamelessly because you like their music. I am (was) a Coldplay fan and I liked the audio. I wish Chris Martin had not gone for an easy sell-out, like everyone else.
So dear Indians, if you think this is not offensive, speak for yourself. Don’t say, “We Indians love it and don’t find it offensive,” and give a wrong message. Just because you are an Indian, you don’t have the right to be not offended on behalf of 1.2 billion people.
And to you Americans, it’s 2016 and we Indians have gone way beyond our snake-charming and elephant riding days. Pull up your creativity socks and try to meet us where we are.

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A class on sociology

Marc Andreessen's tweet on India and Zuckerberg's pushy attitude with Free Basics is just another example of how rich white men think of India as a poor, third world nation, incapable of taking care of itself.
Last year, an Australian cartoonist made a cartoon about Indians munching on Solar panels.
Not a long time before that, during our successful Mars mission, an American cartoonist portrayed Indian scientists in the form of rural man with an exhausted cow.
Now let’s hop on to a completely different topic and reflect on some of the most popular Indian characters on TV.
Apu Nahasapeemapeilon (The Simpsons) is an Indian, voiced by a white actor! I don’t even need to mention his insulting, stereotypical character traits.
Then there is Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali (The Big Bang Theory), who is a genius astrophysicist, but cannot talk to women without getting drunk, wears tacky three layered clothes even in summer even though he complains about India being hot and crowded, all the time and Skypes with his annoyingly caricatured  parents who watches Doogie Howser in Delhi (seriously, which middle age Delhite watches Doogie Howser?! But because it makes a joke, it works)!

Venkat Kapoor, an important Indian character in the book, The Martian, is replaced with Vincent Kapoor, in the movie. Vincent Kapoor was played by the British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. Not to mention, he still played the character Hindu. Because it was too hard to cast an Indian actor?
And almost all Hollywood movies with Indian backdrop has the same old typecasts with a overused formula for locations.
Few weeks back, I had written a post against Coldplay’s video and to my surprise, almost everyone on internet was defending it.
Yes, India is not just about advanced infrastructure or educated youth. It is not wrong when we say, India’s heart lies in its villages, but I am still against the portrayal of India in this video and many other, because If they can manage to present western countries without stereotyping them, they sure can find ways to portray India without depending on the classic poor-dirty-uneducated version. Why don’t we see Kangaroos jumping around everywhere, when we see portrayal of Australia on TV? Do we only see pubs, buses, and telephone booths when they show London? Do they show snow everywhere when they shoot scenes in Canada?
No. They don’t.
All these countries are treated as countries and not as a cultural-exhibition experience. Yet, when they show India, they pick the parts that are more sell-able. I don’t want them to show pubs or malls. There are many ethnically rich places in India that are not just dirty streets and slum areas. Snowy mountains of North India, luscious foothills of East India and the tropical beauty of South India are never explored. Northeast India is never in the picture, because they wouldn’t ‘look Indian’. It all ends on fake, doped sadhus doing rope tricks, roadside entertainment, some of which are hardly found these days, half naked skinny kids dancing around muddy streets and Holi colors.
The only time we are correctly brought into limelight is when we make any technical advances in the field of science, which too mocked in various ways (the cartoons above).
Now how is Andreessen’s tweet related to all these? Let me explain.
These little things, when seen individually are not offensive. That is why a lot of people don’t get when people raise their voices against them. They look normal. But when you see the big picture, it tells a very different story. These little things when fed to Americans on TV, it helps them build conceptions about India and Indians. Conceptions helps us in coming up with conclusions and those conclusions ends up being the lenses we view everything through. A lot of poeple are surprised when they see pictures of the Lotus temple or the beaches or the snowy regions of Kashmir.
Television is a very important medium to explore the world and its people, without even leaving your living room. We cannot travel all around the world, so we build our conceptions about other countries and their cultures over what we see on TV or read in papers.
That’s social psychology.
Like I said in my last article, as far as India or Indians are concerned, like many other Asian countries, it has some very specific traits that lingers around its portrayal, which they are not ready to change, because it’s something that sells.
If we spend our whole life watching Friends, we’d come to think it’s normal to have a two bedroom apartment in Manhattan without a handsomely paid job. We’d come to believe that it’s possible to see six white friends sitting at a New York’s coffee shop all day, and not spot a single Indian around in all the 10 years they are sitting there. Both of the scenarios are next to impossible.
So when I say that cartoon with the rural Indian man is offensive, it does not mean I am offended by dhoti or poverty in India, I am offended by the imperial mindset behind it that has a very strong and stubborn negative perceptions about India and Indians. They know it’s not correct, but it still goes on, ready to be distributed on every doorstep, in every living room.
A four minute colorful video is not the end of the world, but it’s the tiny bricks of misconceptions that starts building on its foundation. The cartoonist who made those cartoons probably grew up watching videos like this. We don’t find anything wrong with the video, but we sure would hate the cartoonist for reflecting their build-up perceptions.



I am such portrayals because all these little bricks falls harder on the tender mind sitting in the other corner of the world, thinking this is what India really is. I am against it, because someday that little mind will grow up to be a powerful businessman or an entrepreneur or the president and start dictating what’s good for India and what’s not. I am against it, because that very person would tell the world that the poor, uneducated India was better under the slavery of Britishers. Because that very same mind will consider India as a third world nation to market his business in the name of philanthropy. Because that very mind will feel the need to babysit a developing nation.
Things are changing, though. You’ll notice powerful, non-stereotypical Indian characters on TV now. Aziz Ansari’s character from Parks and Recreation is one such brilliant example. Actors like Sendhil Ramamurthy have strictly refused to accept offers of stereotypical Indian roles. It’s also because of this fight, people have started to recognize the wide, extensive culture, that’s not just limited to a couple of ideas. This small changes, all because of the voices raised against this idiocy for decades.
TRAI’s decision to support Net Neutrality and refuse Free Basics is one such victory of recent times.  It was the combined efforts of that same “educated, elite, urban youth” that saved the nation from operating under foreign power. Any entrepreneur will henceforth think twice before assuming it’s a cakewalk to dictate what a developing nation should and shouldn’t have.
In the cobweb of sociology, it’s all related. Small or big, it will all come around. Cultural Appropriation or stereotypical portrayal of characters does not just affect NRIs, it affects everyone, from every class, from every country.

And if you don’t get this, you don’t understand how sociology works and if you don’t understand sociology, then you are a mere sheep, following the easy path, aimlessly. You are the one who defends a pop-star shamelessly and then question the audacity of an entrepreneur for assuming what the pop-star has shown, as reality.
Stop following. Start thinking.

Live long and prosper

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Discovering, fighting, and living with ADHD

Before you read further, I want you to read this brief past post of mine - http://mycactusdress.blogspot.com/2014/07/ever-single-night.html

Now replace those chain of thoughts with everyday chores and actions. Replace that one hour with every single hour of a life. That's my life.

After coming across Deepika Padukone's story about depression and the overwhelming response it got, I wondered how little we as Indians talk about mental health problems. So little that we look forward to a celebrity talking about depression. I acknowledge the fact that everything written below can turn out to be a good reason for my future employers to not hire me, in case they read this, but I am willing to take chances, because this should be get out. It should have, long time ago.

I have ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most well-recognized childhood developmental problems. It is now known that these symptoms continue into adulthood for about 60% of children with ADHD. This condition is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. My disorder is leaning more towards inattention (ADD) than hyperactivity.
Here is a link to some more information about ADHD in adults - http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-adults

Some of the most prestigious scientific-based organization in the world have concluded AD/HD as a real disorder as a commonly seen neuropsychiatric syndrome.

The easiest way to explain this disorder is this. Imagine that our mind is like a clean white board. Throughout the day, it automatically take notes of every single information on it. Everyone is gifted with the ability of erasing unnecessary information from that white board, with a duster and only keep the information that is important and needed.
People with ADHD went to gaze at the stars when the dusters were being distributed.
So now they have to deal with every single information on that white board. And every single information is written in a RED BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS!

I don't remember if I had ADHD as a child. I was good at school, had good average grades, don't remember teachers calling my parents to complain about my inability to complete tasks or absorb information, etc, but as far as I could remember I have suffered from ADHD all my adult life. I discovered and learnt about this disorder around a year ago.
My life has been a constant struggle between choosing what I have to do and what my mind pushes me to.

I started noticing it when I was out of school and joined college.

- Getting assigned a list of tasks is like getting wet in heavy, cold showers while you are constantly struggling to find an umbrella that you don't really have.
- I have a very sharp memory. I remember things from when I was 3-4 years old, but remembering small things like today's date or day is a mental trauma.
- My Google chrome have an average of 20 tabs open at any given time. I once witnessed 40 tabs. Loosing them gives me anxiety.
- I have hard time concentrating and keeping up with conversations when I am with a group. I lose the track and I end up staring at their faces, but thinking about something entirely different.
- I get up to drink water and while I am filling my glass, I suddenly remember that I have not closed the closet door, I keep the half filled glass on the side and head towards closing the door when I see a hairbrush and I realize that I haven't tied my hair properly. While doing my hair I remember that I wanted to have tea, so I head to the stove with my half-combed hair. While making the tea, I see my glass of water and I leave the stove on and head to drink it and the unending chain of events continues until the end of the night when I am in bed and I remember again that I haven't closed my closet door.
- Trying to fall asleep is harder than trying to push wood inside water.
- When I start to read something, I get to involved in every word, only to realize I am thinking about something else, something related to the last word I read in the book.
- Deciding what to order from a menu is like picking up the right shoes from a warehouse of shoes that only has the left pair.
- Shopping is the biggest struggle. Probably one of the reasons why I hate it. I go to shop for a shirt and before I realize I am noticing patterns and prints on various fabrics of clothes that are not even my size.
- I go to YouTube to find a recipe and 5 minutes later, I am watching the inner working systems of North Korea.
- I constantly move my feet, which I am very sure I got from my parents. I have seen them doing that too.
- It's a struggle to start a task. I think about what I could do about it, I think about what I CAN do about it and I procrastinate thinking about the best time to do it.
- It's a struggle to keep track of time. I head over to do something that is a 2 minute task and notice I am nowhere around that task two hours later. It's also hard to figure out what I did for 2 hours.
- It's a struggle to start a task that badly needs to happen, but it's a more serious struggle to end a task that I am engrossed in.
- When I get texts messages or emails, I mentally respond to them and think about answering them later. 10 days later, I realize that I have never responded them. I am out of excuses to offer my friends.
- I work the best when I have a deadline. My presentations that I have worked on for 10 minutes before the deadline are more top notch than the ones I have worked on for a month.
- Following a written recipe is like memorizing lyrics of song in a foreign language, that you don't speak. I read ingredients a dozen of times. When I start cooking, I go back to the recipe to make sure the amount is right. I go back to check if I checked properly.
- When I am multitasking, I mix tasks. I write what I listen on TV while I am writing something else.
- When it's worse, I think of around 3-4 chores at one single time. I end up doing them all or a little bit, one after the other, at the same time.
Every task is a struggle, every chore is a mountain to cross. Nothing happens automatically. Sometimes all symptoms rushes together and brings panic attacks. It hurts in the head and I feel like shutting it doing permanently.

That was basically my all adult life, up until last year. I thought I was crazy. Firstly, it took years for me to notice these patterns. When I did notice it, I felt like a freak. I thought I was stupid. I blamed myself for not having an attentive mind. I didn't think it was normal until I came across this video of one of the YouTubers that I follow -
This video is so accurate that it's creepy. I feel like he spied on me and my whole life and made a video about it just to annoy me.
It was bittersweet to discover it. I was relieved and happy that I was not abnormal. It is common and thousands of other people have been going through the same things I've been.

My blog and my writings have been victims of my ADHD too. I currently have 45 drafts on my blog, which I have not published. I have either started writing them, or have written them haphazardly because I get unstoppable ideas in my head 24 hours. I can't seem to ever finish writing them.
When I DO write things, I start to write something and end up writing something else. I am not sure if you have noticed, because I edit a lot before publishing anything and that is the main reason I hardly publish anything on the blog, but my writings are very jumpy. I start to talk about one thing and end up talking about something else. My sentences hop from one point to another. The only real problem is, I don't notice it. Not at least in that moment. It is only when I read my old posts, I realize I was spreading 'raita' all over the place

I am very thankful that my ADHD hasn't interfered too much in my professional life. In fact, I am usually the first one to learn a software or a procedure. I did face a lot of minor issues like remembering what shift I had to work for or reaching late to work or leaving late from work.

I am not taking any medications currently. I don't think I ever would, unless it gets really out of my hands. I am trying to fight it by different methods, like -
1. Making lists of everything I am supposed to do everyday. I list down even the smallest tasks.
2. When I realize that my thoughts are wandering and are not where they are suppose to be, I stop myself and come back to the beginning.
3. I am using applications and sticky notes everywhere that reminds me tasks every hour of the day.
4. I am constantly searching for tips on better organizational skills and trying to learn and adapt them.
5. I break large tasks in to smaller tiny tasks to avoid getting overwhelmed.
I am learning to live with it.

It's hard, but it also benefits my creative side. It's only when I am thinking about one thing that I start discovering other things and write about them.

Sometimes I don't realize my own symptoms because it's doesn't get too complicated and sometimes it's too hard to even breathe. It's like a non-stop circus in my head all day. I feel like shouting out loud. I feel like locking myself and deal with everything one thing at a time.
Heredity makes the largest contributions to ADHD and I had my worst nightmare when I discovered that my mother have ADHD too. She suffers from exactly the same symptoms as mine. The sad part is, there is less to no awareness about ADHD in India. People with ADHD symptoms are probably sitting sad in their house after being labelled as stupid, dumb or fool. I am personally very guilty of nagging at my mother for being very distracted all the time. She has faced some dangerous situations because of this disorder and it sucks that it took me such a long time to understand her problem.  I am happy that I have a loving father and a dotting sister who takes care of her and I am sure it will be okay.
The same way, I am utterly and graciously thankful for my husband who deals with my paranoia like a piece of cake. Somehow he has figured out the mechanics of my mind. He predicts what's coming and makes everything, including myself, ready for it.

When I learnt about ADHD, it was like a slap to my face. It's shameful to admit, but when I discovered about it, I felt ashamed. I felt flawed. It's like you were practicing for a marathon your whole life, falling and running again and again, and suddenly someone comes and tells you that you don't qualify because you don't have the right shoes. Tight slap. I was meant to run to win, I was supposed to pull up my socks and tie the strings of my perfect shoes.
But I don't feel ashamed anymore. No one should. If you are going through the same struggle, I assure you, you can beat it. You can learn to live with it.

I am prepared for the outcomes, but I am also preparing to do better. You can too. So what if we don't have the right shoes, we can learn to run with bare feet, right?


Dhara






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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When I hit an eve-teaser

As much strong as I want to be, I'm a wuss. Even after growing up, I used to cover my face and shout for my mom, when my sister harassed me. I am a kind of person who'll probably take a turn and walk away if you slap me for no reason. I am really really not proud of it, though.

One evening, my sister and I went for grocery shopping at our market in my hometown. It's a typical Indian vegetable market; dark and Mumbai-local crowded with women yelling names of vegetables and their value, people with two-wheelers trying to drive their vehicle with feet on the ground, path all muddy and soft and you really have to shove your face into someone to talk to them. We only had to pick up a couple of things so I asked my sister (the shopping enthusiast) to grab them, while I (the lazy shopper) take a u-turn on my Street-smart bike. That way we don't have to park and can easily drive away.

I took a u-turn and was waiting for her near a Khaman shop, when a man walked passed by me with his hands swaying on his side. When he reached me, he swayed his hand on my thighs and kept walking. I blamed the crowded place. After few seconds, he returned from the opposite side and swayed on my thighs again. This time I was sure he did it deliberately, but before I could react, he turned immediately, repeated the same action and walked away hastily. He mingled in the crowd and I wasn't able to spot him.

I decided to not tell my sister when she came back. She sat behind and we started to ride our bike in the crowd. We were going at the pace of a bullock-cart when the same man came from behind and touched my thighs again. I have never felt so angry, ever. I felt my blood boiling and I wanted to shout, but instead I did something amazing. Because of the crowd he couldn't walk fast, so I drove a little faster to reach him and hit him SUPER HARD on his back. Yes.
Something like this

My sister was horrified.
She yelled, "What are you doing? Are you crazy? Drive fast or the crowd will attack us for doing that."
The man escaped like a chicken because he knew he'll be broken in to pieces if I shout for help from the market crowd.
I had to explain my sister the backstory. For days she couldn't stop laughing. She was utterly surprised by my aggressive gesture.

So was I.

We agreed to not tell our parents about it. I've never laid my hand on anyone, but this will remain as one of the proudest moment of my life. This incident proved how horribly disgusted I was, by people like him.

This happened years ago when news of rapes, eve-teasing and molestation were not constantly blinking in the newspaper. Maybe it was the absence of this same kind of news that kept me fearless during this incident. Because a similar incident happened few years later, where I was not able to react as bravely. I hardly remember this incident. It has not managed to be a part of my life because I never felt like a victim. Not when it happened, not right now. In fact, it amuses me when I think about it. Whereas, the Ahmedabad incident still terrifies me. Maybe the fear that arises from listening similar stories have crippled our strength. Maybe all  of us are very strong from inside. Maybe the real way to rediscover this strength, lies in not feeling like victims, but feeling like the Protector. Maybe we all have the ability to say, "That's enough!"

All I can remember right now is his scared, sorry face when this wuss managed to gather the strength to hit him.

Dhara
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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mandatory Year-End Post

2014 has been the most productive year of my life. If this year wouldn't have taken away a beautiful soul from me, I would have given 2014, the best year tag. I did some pretty amazing things like,


ü  Learn a sport (Tennis. Reached Intermediate level)
ü  Learn a form of dance (Ballet. I can do Pique Turns without falling or fainting. So that's something)
ü  Travel a lot (traveled for 31 days through land, water and air)
ü  Visit a new country (Canada. That's a fourth country in a row, one per year)
ü  Read good books (Oh, yes. I didn't read as many as I wanted to, but read some great ones)
ü  Do something selfless and meaningful (volunteered at an animal shelter and donated hair)
ü  Create art (I sucked here, but it was better than last year)
ü  Watch great movies (some of the best ones and abundant in quantity)
ü  Cook a lot (fancy, non-fancy, everythang!) 
ü  Discover a new cuisine (courtesy of my friend Jessica, I got to roll all over Korean cuisine. I made Kimchi at home and tried a lot of other Korean recipes)
ü  Hug one of the the tallest tree to exist (what? That can be a milestone)
ü  Make new friends (I am worst at this, but made a great friend this year)
ü  Reach 1000 followers on Facebook (925.. meh, but close enough)
ü  Write more on blog (hmmm.. ya... moving on)



That's a lot compared to all the other years of my life.

2014 also marks a 10 year anniversary to my nomadic life. Exactly 10 years ago, I left my parents' house to make a life of my own. Nothing has been stable ever since. Life's been one hell of a journey. I never got to stay at one place for more than a year (except for my current place), never had a house of my own where I could have my own room, stayed with some 30+ room mates, some of whom were gold, but some plain nightmare, got degrees, worked with amazing employers, tasted some ridiculously tasty food around the world, but also slept with empty stomach on numerous nights, traveled A LOT, visited six countries, met amazing people from different cultures, but also cried to sleep at night missing home and family, had great days, met worst days, smiled, wept, fell, got up, achieved, lost, gave up on few ambitions, experienced something new, read, and evolved. Evolved into a much better, smarter and wiser being. 10 years younger me would definitely lose against the current me and I am proud of it.
The best part was meeting my other half. That was the highlight of this decade. A big, bright one.

Life only got better and steadier after it.

2014 motivated me to do even better next year. Apart from all the things mentioned in 2014 list, which I want to do more in 2015, I want to attempt new goals like,

Open box Learn a new language
Open box Make a difference to someone's life (small or big, doesn't matter)
Open box Learn Guitar (my guitar bag is catching mold)
Open box Write a lot on blog (pretty simple)
Open box Write boldly and shamelessly (a huge goal for a person who think a lot from reader's perspective)
Open box Have a timely schedule (meh)
Open box Stop procrastinating (meh2 )
Open box Be there for my family
Open box Be more tolerant and less critical
Open box Be a better person
Open box Be happy

2015, I'll see ya soon.

Be nice.

Dhara
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Day 1 - A letter to my best friend (30 Day Letter Challenge)

To my best friend,

I am sorry that friendship doesn't make sense between us, anymore. I am sorry that our promise of staying best friends until we turn wrinkly didn't turn out to be true.

The concept of "Best Friends" has been a myth to me and will always be. It's not my friends or you, it's me. However when I hear the words "best friend", I couldn't think of anyone else, but you. We've known each other for around 20 years! Writing to you today brings back all those memories.

I still remember the time I met you. I was moved to a different school in the middle of the year when I was in second grade. The place, the surrounding and the people were all foreign to me. Among all those unfamiliarity, I crossed my paths with you. You were the cutest thing. Two high braids with ribbons on the top, very unusual compared to all the girls who tied the compulsory ribbons at the ends of their braids, heavy fringes on the forehead, taller than the other girls, voice like that of a squirrel and a personality so charming, everyone would want to be around you. I still don't get how you accepted this quiet and boring person as your friend.
Before we knew, we became inseparable. We even started going to the same tuition class. We wouldn't let anyone else join us. My most favorable memory of us was of our playtime. I remember there was a building being constructed in front of your apartment (which ended up to be my Business Maths tuition class ten years later). We use to play Zee Horror Show. One of us would hide in the dug up hole and scare the other by showing just the hand. Creepy, weren't we?! Karishma Kapoor and Govinda were your favorite actors and that made me laugh uncontrollably. It still does.

One fine day when I went to our tuition, the teacher whispered something in my mother's ears. I asked about your absence and they told me you were sick. For a week, I didn't see you. The suspicion and sadness bothered me immensely. Finally, I forced my mother to tell the truth and she told me you moved to a different city, leaving me and my world completely deprived of you. I felt like the most important thing of my life was snatched away from me. I started staying aloof and sad. I got sick. I didn't talk to anyone. To help us, our parents figured out a way and they promised us they would post the letters that we can write to each other. And that was the beginning of something even more beautiful. Being an introvert, it was the best way to express my feelings.
We started writing to each other non-stop. Letters, greeting cards, quizzes (remember, we asked each other questions like who is the maker of Tom & Jerry or who was the author of a particular book and gave prizes to each other for correct answers?), gifts, posters, our photographs, crafts, drawings, postcards with pictures of actors on Diwali and what not! Even though I was successful in making few friends, I was always excited about coming home from meeting them and writing you the important things of my life. We were growing. Our feelings in the letters turned from pencil to ink-pen to ball-point pens, with less spelling and grammatical errors. I still remember on your one birthday, I made a HUGE poster from chart paper with photographs, poems, stories and drawings on it. It was grand.

This was a birthday gift (a folder with poems, letters and friendship band) you made out of gift wrapping paper. Your handwriting were the finest.

After writing letters for more than eight years, we met! We had a ball. We drove in rain, ate junk food, went to the beach and talked our heart out. I stayed at your place and we chatted all night. It was my favorite day with you.
A couple of years later, I received a letter from you telling me you were getting married. Even though I was happy, I felt hard to accept it. I didn't want to share you. I knew your marriage meant less to no communication between yes. Your priorities will be replaced. My college exams disabled me to attend your wedding, which added fuel to the fire. But boy, was I wrong! We still wrote the same way. We met more frequently. You became the mature, responsible women who guided and advised the careless, tomboy in me. You never ignored me. I moved away from India, which made you VERY sad, but nothing changed. My life moved on, I met my love too, you met him, you liked him and it was all perfect.

Then came the worst part. I forced you to get on Facebook. You got on it and EVERYTHING changed. I realized we had nothing in common. We were completely different personalities. Being an uncommunicative person, who suck at small talks, it was hard for me to find things to talk about. We grew up together, but we grew up differently. Those monthly letters were more expressive and talkative than the constant updates we saw of each other. We lost the chemistry. We lost the bond. We hardly talked.

I take it all on me. I am sorry. I am sorry for my habit of pushing things under carpet. I am sorry I neglected the very first bond I was able to make. I am sorry I forgot my first affectionate relationship. I hope this letter brings back all those memories, I hope it conveys that I still love you and you are and will always be my "Best Friend".

They say that if you are friends for eight years, you are friends forever. For me, I was born in this friendship. I lived this friendship. I even died in this friendship. There is nothing more that is needed to validate the 'forever'.

I love you,
Dhara


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Donate your hair

Charity is never meant to be announced, but charity, like a lot of other important issues needs awareness. A part of this donation process was to spread awareness and encourage others to donate, specially if one has access to a huge number of crowd, which I do. Therefore, instead of cherishing this noble feeling all by my myself, I thought of sharing it.

About a week ago I chopped off 14 inches of my hair to donate to a non-profit organization called Children With Hair Loss. When I read about hair donations on a website, I knew the very second I wanted to do it. After doing a bit of research, I found CWHL. Adults can deal with  understand physical changes like losing hair, but children can't. They go through a lot of mental crises. They lose their confidence and self-esteem. They are often bullied which pushes them more on the dark side. Organization like CWHL accepts hair along with monetary donations. The donated hair is used to make wigs which is then given to children with hair loss, for FREE! (the cost of which could go up to $2000/above 1 lac rupees).

Why donate hair?
Human hair is precious even though it is available in plenty. Almost all of the human hair is supplied to the beauty industry, where they are made in to wigs, which are then sold for unbelievable profits. Tons of hair shaved in India for religious purposes is also supplied to Europe (check the documentary here) where they are sold for profits. This buying and selling of hair business leaves only artificial hair available at cheap prices.
Children and adults suffering from serious diseases like cancer, go through hair loss because of chemotherapy and other hormonal changes. Buying a real hair wig is almost impossible for a normal person with all the heavy medical bills they are already paying. Organization like these, with the help of our donated hair, help these patients gain physical normality and self-confidence in the form of hair wigs. Hair is just a superficial part of our body, but it does bring a lot of changes to our appearance, which is again a superficial trait, but it means a lot to a person who has already lost a lot of their body to evil diseases.

Why I donated?
I am not going to lie. I had second thoughts. I always loved long hair. The last hair cut I had was around 2 years ago. I never had short hair for almost all my life. Even though I knew I wanted to do it from the very moment I read about it, I always kept wondering if I'll be okay to accept this huge change. Then I saw these pictures on CWHL's Facebook page.




And I thought, to hell with my hair. I would give everything that I can to bring that kind of smile to a suffering child. I didn't have to think anymore. I went to the salon next day, got as much hair as I can in a ponytail, chopped according to their guidance, filled their form, put my hair in a ziploc bag and mailed them.


Why CWHL? 
I chose CWHL because,
1. It was for children.
2. It is not just for children who lose their hair because of cancer, but also for children suffering from Alopecia, Trichotillomania, burns and other disorders that causes hair loss.
3. It is old and trustworthy. No scandals or cheating.

Celebrities donating to CWHL

 4. Unlike other organizations, they accept colored, chemically treated or gray hair. (mine was ombre colored). Other organization also demands for minimum of 10 to 12 inches. CHWL is okay with a minimum of 8 inches.

How to donate hair in India?
I researched about hair donation in India and found these two organizations. I do not speak for them or guarantee their integrity. If anyone in India is interested in donating their hair, they can do a little more research and go for it. Please let me know if you are aware of other such organizations in India.

Hair For Hope - India (an international organization)
HairAid

Cutting your hair is painless unlike donating your blood or an organ, and it grows back. So what is there to lose? Go for it! You can make someone's day life by doing something as simple as this. For us, it's just an accessory, for someone it's something to look forward to on a crappy day.

If you are running a hair salon or a beauty parlor, you can initiate and help this cause by encouraging your customers to donate hair or sending the chopped hair to non-profit organizations like these.
If any of the readers donate their hair, do share your pictures or stories with me on my Facebook page and I will be more than happy to share them. It is the action of one that encourages the action of second. Together we can make a difference and bring positive changes to unfortunate lives.

Lastly, I want to dedicate this donation to one of the most important person of my life, Nidhee. 
This is for you my love.
I miss you SO MUCH. I am sure this will make your day, wherever you are. I know you are smiling right now. :)





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Friday, October 3, 2014

A letter to my mom



TO MOM,

Let me start with a confession. Few years ago, one fine morning, I saw a really old notebook lying in your bedroom. [Let's just say, I see a book, I HAVE to look what it's about. Unless there is something written on it like "personal diary" or "Do not open" or.... "Nicholas Sparks"]. I opened the notebook (sorry mom).
The first page was filled with your name in various fonts and floral designs. The rest few pages were filled with writings in Gujarati. I flipped pages to check the whole book. It seemed that as time passed, you solely used the book for noting down grocery lists, to-do lists or random reminders.

I started reading the second page which was written decades ago. The paper was pale and the blue ink on it a little faded. It was a philosophical paragraph written about fish and water. It explained some sort of analogy about humans and their desires. I don't remember much of it, but that was the first time I realized that you were a writer or at least loved writing too. That's when I understood about my indispensable need to put words down with a pen or a keyboard to express myself. There are too many things I got from you, but I am most thankful for this one.

You are one of the most interesting woman in my life. I remember every small things you said and did. "I want to write so much about her character" was your way of paying compliment to one of your favorite daily soap actors. I also remember when you told me about your passion for doing something different in life, doing something to make a difference in the society. I know you saw yourself running among needy people, helping them, cheering them and making their lives better. As a person and a woman, your opinions and ideas were always unconventional. You even chose bold paths for us, rather than doing what parents were supposed to do with their daughters.

I don't think I'll ever get over this picture of you. It's perfect.

I know you could have a done a lot more in life than what you have already done (which of course is plenty), but you chose to sacrifice it all for your family, for us. I never saw regret in your eyes. You did it with pride. Your values, your character and your beliefs molded me in to a person I can feel good about. You have a heart of a child and your conscience is filled with empathy and love towards people around you.

It's your birthday today and I have always forwarded you this old article that I wrote few years ago because that pretty much explains how I feel about you, but this time I wanted to tell you how much you mean to me as a person than as a mother. You are more than a wife and a mother. You are a beautiful human being who bettered so many lives. I hope you don't feel otherwise. I am proud of you and I am proud to be your daughter.

There is not a single moment when I don't feel your absence. I miss you more than my heart could bear and I wish to see you soon.

Stay healthy and happy. Stay awesome.

I love you.
Happy Birthday,

Kittu
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Checklist for Indian Men



Open box Ignore the invisible 'Occupation' under personal information on your birth certificate. It probably reads Engineer or Doctor.
Open box Accept that as son, the sole responsibility of earning bread, running/protecting the house and keeping the bloodline alive lies on your head. A side effect of having just one X chromosome.
Open box Childhood comes with being bullied by studs, adulthood comes with being challenged by studs. Nerds, geeks, artists - No No! Go for sports. It's a safer zone.
Open box Learn that your career and the scores on your mark sheet is a global issue. From your dad's friend to neighbor's aunty, everyone deserves to know them.
Open box Choose career based on everything else, but your passion. Passion won't get you a wife, six digit salary, a car and a 2 bhk house.
Open box Accept your mid twenties as your warrior phase. Earn, make a career, get married and breed. Failure to do so may give society the chance to look down upon you.
Open box Imagine your life as a conveyor belt. You are the product. It takes you through Birth > School > college > Fancier college >  Degrees > Job > Fancy job > Heavy salary > Marriage > Children > Earn > Earn > Earn > Earn > Earn......... Did I forget to mention, it's endless?
Open box Value the importance of India's contribution to Zero. The more you have, the worthier you are. On your paycheck, of course.
Open box Peer pressure; relish it. Pansy, sissy, coward, namard, faggot or loser will be your nicknames if you don't speak up to your girlfriend, don't want to drink alcohol, do household chores or spend too much time with your new wife. "Bros before hoes" is the official manthem.
Open box Value the importance of a woman's hand. They are costlier as it gets. It's like applying for a visa. Keep your bank statement ready.
Open box Hurry up. By the time you'll reach the age to get married, women you might like will be extinct.
Open box Get the striped t-shirt because once married, you are in your referee phase. It's a life long see-saw between your wife and mother. Good way to utilize the time you wasted watching WWF.
Open box Do not dream about staying at home, cooking or taking care of your children. You don't want to be called "the wife". 9 to 5 job is your Dharma.
Open box In the land of Rajnikanth, you have no right to be a "sissy". Gun, knife or an atom bomb, whatever it might be, get manly enough to fight them. Inability to do so drops you in the impotent-barrel.
Open box Urban men, get this. 'Don't be a pussy' is offensive and sexist. Use 'Don't be such a dick' to gain brownie points among women. It increases your non-sexist bar.
Open box From train coaches to a window seat on a plane, you'll always be given secondary preference. Deal with it. It's called "Darker sex treatment".
Open box Don't judge women based on their weight or body shape. Your physical aspects on the other hand have to be top notch. Short? Pot-bellied? Bald? No biceps and six-packs? Rot in hell. Stud category only includes Tall, Dark and Handsome.
Open box Do not go for taller women. Men HAVE to be taller. It's a biological law. How would you look down upon her, otherwise?
Open box Loving your own gender is filthy and punishable. Raping another gender isn't a big deal. Pick the easier one.
Open box Women can wear suits and boxers, but the moment you sport a pink shirt, you'll be cursed. Go for bomber jackets, heavy boots, chunky pants and a cowboy hat. Stay "manly".
Open box Stop being sensitive. Crying or expressing sentiments is not for your gender. No uterus, no tears.
Open box 'Rapist' is a new tag offered to all Indian men by local and international crowd. Wear it with pride.
Open box Live a struggling life, only to be called dogs or a heartless and disrespectful gender because of few.



A feminist,
We understand. We are there.




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