Posted in Fiction Experiments

The Pink Flats


It’s a third time today that I am opening that tempting tab in my browser to peek at this object of desire that has caught my fancy.

I find myself staring at this pair of sinfully elegant, unapologetically feminine Parisian pink flats.

Then my eyes hover over the hefty price tag – surely my overstuffed closet doesn’t need a $450 Gucci shoe. But the mind is wandering and I can imagine this pair going perfectly with that still untouched magenta super swingy skirt which I had never been confident enough to pull off.

A meeting reminder pops up on my screen and breaks me of my reverie. “Ah”, I scold myself – “The PG&E meeting is in 15 minutes and you are lusting over a pair of shoes that you don’t need. Wake up Girl!”.

To give some background, I work at BigRock – an investment management firm.  And yes – today is just another ordinary day. I have an upcoming meeting with a client and there is this lingering sense of anxiety to bat this well.

“Many eyes are on this deal, and if you nail it – the Sales Director role is yours. Just make sure they get the messages right .. and don’t make it seem too much of a hard –sell .. and hopefully, they won’t dwell too much on the terms in Section #4… ”

A constant drone of to-do lists is hammering at the back of my head.., imagining all the ways this meeting can go wrong. And every time there is a blip in this train of thoughts – I am seeking refuge in these pair of Parisian pink flats.

“You need these shoes to be successful!!”  – a chirpy voice screams inside my head.  Click .. click ..click. it would be so easy to buy.

“I’m sorry, but..”, another calm voice patiently explains. ” Remember how you had to give away those Coach boots which were in perfect shape because you realized you had two pairs which looked exactly like the same?”

“But well, you know..” – the chirpy voice pops up again – “Don’t be so hard on yourself,  you’ve been working so hard and that contract that you won last month. You deserve this!”

“So.. On Page#5, don’t forget to mention that we analyze the attractiveness of an asset not only based on its risk, but also on the return potential the asset may bring to the portfolio”  – That one is my BigRock employed thread, urgently entreating to be heard among the other two voices.

“Blah, blah, blah”.. the chirpy voice interrupts again. “Pleated Magenta skirt with a sleeveless white blouse and pink flats with a floppy bow –  now that’s a killer outfit!”…

“Nooo… Too many shoes in your closet, remember?!”. The calm voice seems all flustered and is screaming now.

“.. and the long-term performance goal for this portfolio is to achieve at least 80% of the return of the global stock market” – weakly mutters the BigRock thread again.

The calendar invite has popped up. It is time to join the PG&E call now.  I take a deep breath and flick these voices away as I begin dialing the number…

Hello Everyone, this is Anjali from BigRock Investments”, I brightly announce myself on the phone.

Like I said..  it is just another ordinary day today.

Posted in Fiction Experiments, Random thots..

The Cross Walk


It was a bright new day in an unfamiliar country. Fresh off the boat – just a day into the United States, I stepped out with the toddler in tow for a walk around the neighborhood. There was a huge park right in front of our house, surrounded by roads and cars whizzing past. The sights and smells were new – as we were beginning to get accustomed to life in a new country. We didn’t know how long we are going to live here, nor realized what it will take us to blend into life in this habitat. All that we knew was that we are here… and let the adventure begin…

So coming back to the story –  I am taking the girl out for a walk. She is 14 months old and I am using a stroller to move her around. Both of us are soaking in the new world we are in – me being particularly overprotective and motherly about it. At that time I had moved to the country without a job – so both mother and daughter had plenty of time to kill during the day. It was lunchtime, and with the help of Google maps and some fuzzy toddler translation, we zoomed down on a local restaurant to have our lunch in.. The trek began and everything was hunky dory until we reached an obstacle that we have to cross to reach the other end – a road!

Now normally, you wouldn’t consider crossing a road a huge hurdle, right? You will say – Ah, just wait for the light to turn green, and you can cross. Yay!!.  I thought so too.. waited for the light to turn green and some pedestrian sign to show up – but it never did. The light did turn from red to green, but the cars continued to zip past.  I waited and waited.. then we got a bit uncomfortable. At this point, I am getting more and more worried – How on Earth do people cross the road in California ??

As all humans do in situations like this ( to not look foolish )  – we observe around us and try to copy what everyone else up to. And that generally helps you get to the answer to your question.  So I patiently prevail and bide my time…

The light turns green again. I see this lady in high heels hurry up and stand right next to me. The traffic is a bit slow… she furtively glances on both sides of the road and then quickly sprints across it when no car is in sight.   I’m half in a mind to follow her, my muscles tense for a split second..but I stop.  My instincts tell me that something is wrong –  That most certainly doesn’t seem to be the right way to cross the road in a civilized country! So I dig my heels to prevent myself from dashing behind her. The kid is fidgeting in the stroller — and I’m still hanging around.

A minute passes by and this dude comes along – casual jeans and hoodie, half whistling under the breath. He presses a button on the lamp post beside the street and disappears into his phone. I am observing him very carefully ( and pretending not to) – by the looks of it  – he definitely seems to be on to something. And lo and behold.. a blinking white man ( the pedestrian sign ) started flickering on the other side of the street. Today, it is a very familiar sight for me, but at that time it seemed like a sign from the heavens! A blinking pedestrian sign accompanied by an intermittent beep emanating from the lamp post across the street – and I know that we have been saved. Hallelujah… Now we can cross the road!

As I look back to this day – this was not a life-changing moment. It was a run of the mill experience – my first learning out of the innumerable discoveries to follow.

But it taught me a very significant lesson – To listen to and trust my Instincts. 

I mean – it is a marvelous thing – how the brain makes snap decisions – trustworthy/not trustworthy, good/not good, Safe/not safe… The instinct of recognizing dangers and steering yourselves into safety has been bored into our heads so immaculately over millions of years and is certainly something that the human mind can neither explain nor ignore!

 

Image credits: Unsplash.com

 

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

The Non-Fiction Reader


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It is a few months since I have been stuck in this persona of a non-fiction reader.

And this turn of events surprises me because there was a time in my life when I thrived on fiction. I would read almost a book every day – and get consumed by the ebbs and flows of all the action in those pages. In my teens, it was the Nancy Drews and Agatha Christies. The twenties started with the intensity of Ayn Rand – followed by Booker prize nominees and winners – Aravind Adiga, Amitav Ghosh,  Emma Donoghue, you name it. The only non-fiction books that sneaked into my reading list were celebrity publications. One that I distinctly remember is Shashi Tharoor’s ‘The Argumentative Indian’ – that one was like a workout for my vocabulary!

And then later, as screenwriters ran out of creative ammunition and the trend of books screenwritten into movies took over – The Twilight Series, Vampire Diaries,  Game of Game of Thrones, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had always read the stories cover to cover before anyone had even heard of them on TV or Netflix.  Boy, was I ahead of the game!

But then, one fine day – the rush stopped.

It is hard to pinpoint what caused this, but there was this long phase when I didn’t do much fiction reading and the switch flipped.  I think that with time – you are more aware of your factual ignorance, and a lot of non-fiction reading I began with was to bridge that gap. Some of them – like ‘Homo Sapiens’ helped me understand my own roots.

And slowly my bookshelf filled up with the Ray Dalio, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Tim O’ Reilly and Malcolm Gladwells of the world. In fact – the last book I was hooked on to was  ‘The Society of Mind’ by Marvin Minsky  ( a friend of mine was appalled when I had tugged it along to a coffee shop – Seriously, this seems like a dense reading assignment you’d punish someone with, how can you read it for pleasure?!! )

Well honestly  – it was not an easy read. And even though the language was simple, I had to read it over, again and again, to connect the dots and get the message right.  Still, with my current frame of mind, it was easier for me to absorb than a work of fiction. Nowadays,  I pick up fiction books to read but it’s hard to follow along with the emotional threads and vagaries of a story.  I get exhausted and give up.

Surprising, isn’t it?

My guess is that after a while of practice –  facts and logic get hammered into your brain, and you almost start predicting what a logical argument will look like. There are, after all only a few ways in which you can get the logic right.  And somehow I observed that there is a lesser cognitive load in reading non-fiction- because is almost an extension of what I do in my day job.

Or… Perhaps I am going through a phase – you may say.

Whatever that is,  I would hate to lose that appreciation of fiction, poetry and intense emotions that a string of words can bring.  That’s what attracted me to the lure of reading in the first place!.

Those stories that can take you through a rollercoaster of thrill, happiness, hope, dismay, and laughter have burned timeless memories in my brain.  So many solitary, but memorable moments spent with a book – alone at times perhaps, but never lonely.

Which brings me back to the current state of things.

The long weekend is here –  I am struggling with Zadie Smith’s ‘Swing Time’ .. nursing a cup of coffee.. and fervently hoping that my Fiction reading bug comes back!

 

 

Image credits: Unsplash.com

Posted in Fiction Experiments, Random thots..

The Window Seat


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I am gearing up for a lonely three hours, bracing myself for the impact of this all too familiar feeling – a sinking sensation in the stomach, ears popping gently, a faint smell of invading gasoline and the gentle whirring of engines that morphs into an angry roar. Yes, my flight is about to take off. And as it is with all kinds of travel, an agonizing movement from point A to point B – I am hoping that this journey ends sooner than later!

Up.. up .. and away! We are in the air, and I can sense that tiny tilt as the wheels disengage from the runway. On journeys like this – tied to the claustrophobic confines of an ever-dwindling airplane economy seat, I always prefer the aisle. It gives you a decent (but mostly false) sense of space and control.  But today is one of those days when I haven’t been able to grab one despite futile attempts, furiously checking the American Airlines app hoping that an aisle seat opens up. So… a window it is!

Settling in – I peer out of the glass porthole that separates me from the cold, harsh yet spectacular expanse outside – and that sight almost takes my breath away.  It has been just around five minutes after takeoff, and all I can see is this mingled rush of blues, and a vast expanse of the horizon tearing the colors apart. Squinting my eyes, I try to decipher if the lighter blue is perhaps our atmosphere or the cold inhospitable outer space, trying to recollect the long-forgotten geography lessons of past. The darker shades of blue, with a garland of tiny Christmas lights, is a rapidly disappearing San Francisco Bay.  I imagine my family somewhere down there – having a quieter dinner tonight with a distant glow of the TV humming in the background. I sigh, then noticing a dozen boats circling the harbor like tiny glowworms attracted to the brilliant display of lights – each on a purposeful journey of its own.

I smile.

This thin layer of glass, delicately woven with tiny stitches along the seams and precariously placed thousands of miles up in the air takes my loneliness away for a brief moment. Ah, I hear myself saying – the Window seat is not so bad after all!

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

Going with the Flow..


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Everywhere you go, you see people ..and places.. Houses and roads and means of transportation. People going somewhere. Everyone trying to be someplace else, different from where they are now..

And that’s how life is in every part of the world. Everyone trying to do something. Reach someplace where they are not right now..on a constant journey. Which is what makes the wheels turn and our blood flow. Or whatever is the term for making things seem normal and routine..

And the moment you wake up somewhere someday with no place you feel inspired enough to go – life comes to a whirring uncomfortable halt. If you do not have any purpose for yourself – however mundane and insignificant it might be, then there is this evil question which creeps up – Am I doing anything worthwhile at all?

And a gnawing question this is – which follows you around like a hungry puppy and bites you in the hand when you try to feed it with inconsequential answers.

So what can you do to tame this ugly thought?

Go with the flow. Do something that makes sense in that moment. Follow a trail – or create a new one.

Because a river is always more interesting than a pond. New experiences always enrich your life’s perspective and because .. “A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.”!

Image Credits: http://ohksocial.com/small-business-growth-go-with-the-flow/

Posted in Random thots..

Say it out Loud


I know the feeling. You have something terribly important to say. And you’ve played it back and forth in your head. But when the moment comes for you to speak it out loud – you freeze. Words come out as garbled bits of incoherent sentences which don’t articulate your thoughts well. You are dismayed by the way they sound, all sad and sorry.

Then it happens. Your confidence takes a precipitous fall.

You end up feeling all disgruntled and disappointed in yourself . As if a part of you has failed. Then come the questions and self doubt rushing in as air rushes in to suck up a void.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Yes. Failure is familiar. So is Misspoken sentences. Inarticulate thoughts . Lost opportunities .

But you know what it really means?..

Playing it in your head is just not enough.

You have to go out there and let your idea grow. Say it out loud to yourself. Feel the power of your words to change the world – or at least your own. You have to let your words be comfortable in their own skin.

If you have something important to say – don’t wait to say it till the last moment. Say it out loud to yourself – right now!

Posted in Random thots..

Idea #8: Bird by Bird


Bird by Bird

So.. What do you do when you get stuck?

 Do you sit back and mourn your lack of action ..Think of inventive ways to over come your situation?. Or Just wait – thinking that this too shall pass!.

 We all have our own solutions to  dealing  with stuck moments. Some would slow down, blow off some steam.. or if you’re like me, you would go off to sleep!.

And then .. What do you do?

You DON’T give up!.

You come back to the table .. Pore over your shitty first drafts.. Move ahead bit by bit..

Because big changes don’t happen in a instant. Corporations are not successful overnight. Trust is not built in a day. It’s a gradual process. The only difference is that you notice it suddenly.. And people start talking about it suddenly..

In this age of instant gratification, it is easy to think that you will get results immediately. And also get frustrated when you don’t.

Like Alice in Wonderland, we cant wait to reap the benefits of our efforts – “No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” !!

But in real world, you have to take it step by step.. Bird by bird ..A metaphor used by  Anne Lamott. She narrates this beautiful story in her book:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’

Then again. What do you do when you get stuck?

You come back. Pick up all the fragments piece by piece. Slowly build it again – bird by bird!