September 18, 2011

Knock, Knock. . . . . Who's There?

Y.o.u.r.s. T.r.u.l.y. J

The past few months have been quaintly fulfilling with some sweet, subtle, enriching experiences.  I was simply satisfied with soaking it up; observing and enjoying the happenings – lacking the desire to capture any of it on paper. 

Of all the things I dabbled into, this one takes the cake: my raunchy, yet eternally profound love affair with swimming.

For as long as I can remember, being in water has been a petrifying experience for me, to put it mildly.  I love being around water – the beach, or watch people swim and surf, but the thought of being in/under water was enough to freak me out.  When I boarded an airplane for the first time, it wasn’t the fact of being midair that got my nerves, but the thought of flying over the vast ocean underneath!

Then there was the little me in the baby pool with my brave mother – for keeping up with my tantrums and showing undying patience for her horrified child.  The visual that comes to mind is me grabbing onto her neck and taking her down, every time.  She endured; I didn’t. 

Over the years I buried this fear deep inside.  'Not everybody can swim,' I convinced myself, 'it's no big deal,' I thought.  But I would be thoroughly enthused just listening to the stories my friends regaled about their diving or snorkeling adventures.

Sometime last month on a random Tuesday evening my husband and I decided to catch the new film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (meaning: One Life to Live).  Turns out that the evening was not only random but also a magical one.  Needless to say, I loved the film.  Although I’ve seen films with similar messaging and characters before, somehow this one intrigued me in a new kind of way. 

One of the plots in the film revolved around different adventure sports that the three friends in the film embark upon – as part of the longest bachelor party ever.  Any guesses which sport had me most enticed?  Deep Sea Diving. :)  I have watched tons of films and videos of folks going sea diving before this, but there was something so natural and sublime about the way it was shot in this film – from the content and performances to the music and presentation – I had an epiphany of sorts.  It felt like I was happily and fearlessly meandering into the depths of the ocean.

Within a week I found myself in a swimming pool, all cap and goggles intact, with an instructor by my side. The entire session was spent on blowing bubbles with my nose and mouth, and learning some legwork.  I was disheartened. I wanted to swim far and fast.  The scene from the film was still so fresh in my mind that I felt like I was ready to take on the world, one dive at a time!

I ventured into the pool with even more gusto the next day.  I just had to swim.  Before I knew it, I was living one of the most amazing experiences of my life (my water life ;)) - Floating.  Just being able to lay horizontal in water for a few minutes with a wide smile on my face was huge for me!

Seemed like I was falling in love all over again – with the vastness of the sky, the stillness of the night, the mountains surrounding the Bay, the glorious sunshine upon the Earth, and most of all, I was falling in love with the realization of being alive.    

The feeling of being able to embrace the water, and in my case overcome the fear of it was incredible. Our affair still continues, but all in the bliss of a swimming pool, as of now. :)

(Below are two scenes from the film: one is the sea diving scene, and the other is a poem in Hindi that sums up the experience beautifully)


May 22, 2011

After the Fireworks

Photo from Dawn's Stamping Thoughts
I’ve been floating in (and holding tight) a different world for the past few weeks.  Weekend getaways, delicious homemade food, endless shopping sprees, tons of chai, conversations and irrepressible laughs.  That’s right, my mom was here!   

The party isn't over yet [a second helping continues in NYC next week].  But meanwhile, I've been chewing on a rather interesting phenomenon: the gr-attitude for household work. :~)

Growing up in a socially oriented family, and community at large was quite an endearing experience.  Folks were around almost all the time – aunts and uncles, grandparents, neighbors, cousins, friends – it was a full house.  Side effects: Lack of the do-it-yourself (DIY) mindset, at least in my case.  Top of that, the availability of efficient and inexpensive labor for household chores made it harder. 

Whatever the environment, one of the common reasons for conflict in most homes is about taking (equal) responsibility for the numerous tasks around the house.  Thus far, living with my parents, grandparents, siblings, relatives, roommates and now husband, I’ve learned this one thing: Situations and people will be different each time, but there is a simple way of finding balance and joy in doing household work: using gratitude.

Engaging in chores on a daily basis, such as cooking, cleaning, throwing out the trash, and doing the dishes can sometimes feel like a load on yourself and a gift to your spouse/housemates.  But it’s not just the division of tasks that’s important, it's how much the other person expresses gratitude towards the work being done.  

I think one’s overall personality has a lot to do with this.  For instance, some people are more driven to take action and usually have a lesser threshold than others who are not so easily disturbed by things around the house.  The cause of conflict then, more often than not would arise from the fact that one person becomes the over-performer and certain jobs are labeled as “hers” or “his”.

Expressing gratitude can help in magical ways.  Being thankful for the over-performer, and appreciating the under-performer (no matter how much he or she contributes) could have a mutually positive outcome.  Generally speaking, after the first few years of marriage (after the fireworks!) most people typically take their partner’s work around the house for granted.  Even if the tasks are well divided and carried out, expressing gratitude for each other’s work–however big or small–brings more sweetness and spunk into the home and the relationship.   The same holds true among parents and children, siblings, and roommates.

Not that one isn't grateful in the first place, but the verbal expression of gratitude tends to drop low over time.  It’s more about the lack of awareness to express, and not the lack of desire.  People are rather accustomed to wanting appreciation for paid work in the office, than appreciating their partner or mom or roommate for the housework they do.  I’m not suggesting that you thank your partner, mom or roommate every time he or she cooks or vacuums the carpet.  Having the attitude of gratitude is key.  

April 28, 2011

A Beautiful Makeover

“Infinite patience brings immediate results.” ~Wayne Dyer

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working with Kassie Garlock, a superstar designer, for a new blog design and layout (look, look...!)  I bumped into her site while surfing the Internet one fine day.  At that point, I had no intention to give this blog a new look, let alone getting professional help.  But Kassie’s designs bowled me over – I absolutely loved her portfolio and I knew she’d be the “one” for me. ;)

Without much-ado, please take your attention to Designs by Kassie – her e-studio of gorgeous work.  I found an impressive collection of artistic goodies, ranging from funky, sassy and sexy, to elegant, chic and cutesy.  The best part (for a stickler like me) was the neatness and clean finish in all of her designs. 

No wait, the best part actually, is her customer service.  A++.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I requested revisions, but I remember that every time I did, she promptly responded with the edits; not once refusing to make any alterations (even after we finalized the final draft).  Believe me you – after a point it got a little onto me just marking out the changes – while she was really getting them done!  Also, her pricing is very reasonable (not that I scouted a lot) but go see for yourself and you'll agree.

Being fairly new to the blogosphere, I'm even more excited about filling up this space, thanks to my beautiful blog makeover.   Kassie, you go girl!

April 25, 2011

Easter Special : Chocolate-Chip-Cookie-Dough Cupcakes

I've been eyeing this recipe for a really long time.  Then I decided to wait and indulge with my sister.  We did, on Easter day.  The recipe is {here} and our delicious, home-made cupcakes are below. :D

Started out with the cookie dough - smooth and fluffy, and so very yummy (ate some off the bowl just like that!)

Dipped the dough into the batter - ready for the oven

All puffed up!  The cookie-cupcake combo was a smashing hit.  Batter turned out slightly thick, so you can see the cookie on the top (it was supposed to have melted away to the middle of the cupcake)

I added the Chocolate frosting - DIVINE!

These were a-w-e-s-o-m-e.  One suggestion would be to use Chocolate cake mix in place of the Yellow cake mix and make it an all-Chocolate or double Chocolate treat.

Happy, happy Easter!  

April 22, 2011

The Week in Photos

Two wonderful things happened last week. 
One: My adorable, younger sister came from India and she's here for a whole month (mom joining us next week!)
Two: We met and attended ‘Wisdom, Grace and Meditation’ with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at the Art of Living Center in Los Angeles

1. Sunshiny LA from the car on our way to downtown
2. Gallivanting by the Rodeo Drive fashionista: boutiques, cars, the people…..
3. View from the open bus on our ‘Star Homes Tour’ : saw a lot of Star homes and we believe everything the tour guide said :)
4. Drove right up to the Hollywood sign just around sunset
5. That’s the city behind the mountains in all its glory
6. If you enjoy 90210 like me, you’d stop by the sign and pose for sure
7. The majestic Art of Living Center by the day
8. This is hubby’s special, we have similar photos in almost all vacation albums - love it
9. By night, the radiance of the Center glowing bright :D

April 08, 2011

Fortunate Accident, and Sugar Treats

I woke up to this incredibly wonderful video about the need and impact of meditation and collective consciousness.  Thanks to my friend P for sharing it.  
('Fortunate accident’ - owing to the last post {here} just yesterday).

May be you’ll find it a bit long, but it’s well worth the 25 minutes.  In fact, I strongly recommend that you pass it on when you’re done. :)

 I’m watching portions of it, over and over, thinking about the inspiring words I heard at the YES! for Schools volunteer meet last weekend:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?'  Actually, who are you not to be?  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to manifest the glory of god that is within us.  It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." 
~Marianne Williamson, made famous by Nelson Mandela in his address as the new President of South Africa

* * *

I’m also going to share some photos with you from my cookie baking adventures this past weekend (lots happened last weekend!)  

These were a tribute to the ICC World Cup, also mentioned {here} 

Kicked off with the Semi's, India v/s Pakistan - I used colors of the Indian flag :)

Cookies got us (India) into the finals ;)

Finals (India v/s Sri Lanka) were all about love, and lots of it! <3

 Team India = World Champions! (cookies = lucky charms :))

I used Cherrybrook Kitchen Sugar Cookie Mix available at Trader Joe's and Wholefoods, or at other local grocery stores.  It's egg-free and tastes yummy!  The sweetness was a little much for me, but they're super easy to make.  I mixed food color (just a teeny tiny drop) into the dough.  

April 07, 2011

Meditation : It's for Everyone

The most simple and profound understanding of meditation that I've heard so far, goes like this: Without ever trying or being taught we all have experienced a meditative state at some point.  Watching a beautiful sunset, the first time we fell in love, or listening to the waves lashing at our feet.  It happens when the mind settles down.  There comes a calm, and from that calmness activity commences. 

Recently I signed up for weekly meditation webinars.  You get online from the comfort of your home (or any place else) and the instructor guides the group into a short meditation.  After a general introduction to meditation, questions are addressed, if any.  Most sessions include first-timers, as well as folks with a meditation practice.   The webinars last for about 45 minutes,  and did I mention they're free?  Pretty cool. 

Looking back, I wonder how meditation got me.   I recall it started with a couple of questions:  How do I live fully in a world that is constantly changing, and demanding more and more everyday?  How do I cultivate a greater sense of awareness and purpose in relationships at home or at the workplace?

I often feel there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything I want, even though (interestingly) I’ve been on my own, flexible schedule since a few months now.  But I can safely state that having or not having a fixed routine (work or school) has little to do with having any less or more time.  Ultimately it’s a game of catching up – whatever the priorities and objectives at hand. 

Meditation is the tool that helps me get back to a natural state of being, whenever I want it or need it.   More often than not, that channels into better productivity, creativity, and a general sense of direction.

Stress is normally a huge trigger for most people.  It overpowers us so many times, and so many times we have trouble overcoming its influence in our lives.  For me, meditating does the trick.  I’ve noticed a significant shift in attitude when dealing with challenging situations or people.

Then of course, there are relaxing spa days, inspiring films, occasional venting-off's and sleeping-in's that generously recharge my batteries – delicious cherries on the cake.  Sometimes, the whole cake too. :)  But meditation takes the level of energy and the level of happiness to a much deeper level – rather long lasting. 

This past weekend I was freakishly engrossed in the ICC World Cup Finals between India and Sri Lanka.  Truly a magnificent game of Cricket for any diehard Cricket fan.  And after all of the cheering and applause, I couldn’t help but think about the Indian Captain.  He was supremely composed and centered in spite of extreme pressure.  A good example of meditation in motion: peacefully dynamic and giving his best while dropping the effort.

Meditation is an opportunity to access a reservoir of centeredness and peace.  It might not be a piece of cake to begin with, but the process is entertaining and gratifying – in due course.  I mean, can you imagine closing your eyes and silently sitting for just a few minutes, doing nothing?

I guess I’ll leave you with that image.... :)

PS- The meditation practice I mention is called Sahaj Samadhi Meditation (a.k.a. The Art of Meditation).  Check it out, if you like.  [Webinars are free; the full course has a fee]

March 25, 2011

The Beatles, Cupcakes, and Rain

“Sounds of laughter shades of life
are ringing through my open ears
exciting and inviting me…
Limitless undying love
which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on across the universe…”

I must admit - I've thoroughly enjoyed the past week of downpour, cloudy skies, and even a rainbow or two. 

There’s a certain musical melancholy about the rains – it’s gloomy without the blues.   In fact, it makes me rather chatty [ask my husband ;)] and energetic.

So this time around, besides the ginger tea and lots of music, I was in the mood for some home-baked cupcakes.

These little puppies are melting-in-your-mouth delicious!

I experimented Trader Joe's Chocolate Cake Mix and Pamela's Vanilla Frosting Mix.  Quick and easy to make, and the batter whips up smooth and silky.  

The cupcakes were nice and dark, and very-very chocolatey with an intoxicating aroma.  Not too sweet.  Just right.

Tip for vegetarians: I used Ener-G (egg substitute) available at Trader Joe’s, Wholefoods or any local grocery store.  

Now, here's one of my best songs, ever (sounds even more gooey on rainy days).  
I hope you’ll enjoy it, as much as I enjoy the rains!

Happy weekend everyone. :)

March 16, 2011


As I write this, plunked on my couch with a hot cup of tea sitting on the table beside me, I see squirrels swishing up the tree, and hear raindrops falling on the window pane.  I’m at home on a wonderful California morning. 

A few mornings ago I was woken up by a phone call at 6-o-clock.  It was my sister from India.  She was watching the news.

On my television set from appx. 5000 miles away, the views of Japan were heartbreaking.  I don’t have family or friends in Japan, and I can hardly imagine the shock of the people who do.  But I cannot even fathom what the people in Japan would be experiencing right now.

Over the past few days I have been absorbed and inspired by stories of courage and compassion of the Japanese survivors, and I’ve wondered about the contrasting nature of events in life, and in the world: 

There are crimes and tsunamis; technological breakthroughs and remarkable service work, all co-existing around us.  Even in our capacity as students, consumers, co-workers and businessmen, we are constantly exchanging ideas and opinions.  A large part of what we own, eat, learn and use comes from another corner of the world.  

We all are connected, yet many times we value it less.   As ferocious as the situation in Japan, it gives us an opportunity to whole-heartedly pray, be content with what we have, and value the freedom we enjoy.   This is also the best we can do for those who were swept away by the tsunami:  we can love more and be grateful.

March 06, 2011

The Sweet Taste of Boredom

Image from Motifake
Everyone encounters boredom at some point.  May be in a traffic jam, in long queues at the grocery store, during a class lecture, on an airplane, at the DMV, being home alone - plenty of opportunities.  

Boredom is not uncommon. 

Apparently, in my teens I had the knack of labeling everything as "boring."  Though I had a good time hanging out with friends, being at school or watching television, I got bored too easily.  For my lovely grandmother such behavior had no bearing whatsoever.  I suppose her generation understood boredom in one of the two ways – a person who spoke too much or someone who rambled off the topic – and I didn’t engage in either.  Their sense of boredom wasn’t a state-of-mind.  On the other hand, for me (and my generation) it had become a state-of-being.

In simple terms “feeling bored” implies a lack of stimulation.  Or waiting for the next fix – either an action (to begin the next chore/task) or inaction (to get done with a chore/task).   The other day I was watching a film with some friends at a multiplex and it wasn’t as endearing as I’d thought – the print and sound quality was poor, and my favorite song didn’t play until the end credits.  Not fun, right?  

Here’s what changed the experience for me:  May be the feeling of boredom or disappointment (one of its off springs) didn’t originate from the film, as much as it did from within me.  A huge part of feeling bored comes from the inability to delay gratification.  I’m not saying that every book is interesting, every job is fulfilling or every relationship is exciting – I’m just saying that having a low tolerance level can cost you an interesting book, a fulfilling job or an exciting relationship.

From a macro perspective, a lot of human experience can be considered boring.  There are huge stretches of parenting, a marriage, a business, where “nothing” is happening, or at least nothing obvious.  Usually we seek to alleviate that boredom with any available distraction, meaning a new partner or a different career.  Sometimes, we even go out of our way searching for a distraction.  But have you considered using such occasions as opportunities to tap into patience?  Not passively hoping and waiting, but participating in whatever is happening (or not happening).  You might be surprised how joyful the whole exercise can be.  Eventually.

I guess it’s a matter of tuning in.  Yeah I know, routine activities like taking a shower, cooking a meal or weeding the garden doesn’t rock my world either.  But how does paying attention change your experience?

March 01, 2011

Color(s) of Enthusiasm

Image from TribalPizza
I’m a huge fan of romantic films, and one of my all time favorites is Titanic.  It's a spectacular epic - recreating the tragedy of a real-life event, beautifully interweaving a fictional yet absolutely believable love story. 

I (frequently) watch Titanic for Jack and Rose.  I’m smitten by their zest for life (in particular) and a certain naturalness in their characters – something innately raw and spontaneous about them.  Also every time I watch the film, I wonder if a sinking ship, a catastrophe urges us to participate in life more openly – with all heart?  Does it propel us to add more life into the years?  

Typically two kinds of folks are in question here: The one’s who take on more than they can manage (all over the place) and those who pick and choose (mark boundaries).  I think in both cases we end up making promises (mostly, to ourselves) of doing or not doing something *when conditions will be perfect* (and sometimes, miss the point).  

Last week I was catching up with my dear friend S – a long overdue phone call – and she invited me to her new home in Dallas.  She promptly followed up with airline deals from San Fran to Dallas, also offering to buy my ticket (enthusiasm personified, isn’t she?).  But we didn’t end up locking a date.  Then, I was politely reminded:  “You’re the type to take action, sometimes even before a thought comes up…. What happened!?”  S had spoken in the true spirit of girl-talk.  I agreed.

Probably life has a way of accelerating, as we get older.  The to-dos get bulkier and that list of promises grows longer.  I don’t mean that you should do (or dismiss) something immediately.  Weighing options could take time, but may be chewing on them could weigh you down.  I’m talking about the thinking process – lingering (too much) over a task, a decision, a grudge, a situation.  That could essentially sap productivity, energy and time. 

I'm reminded about the story of a king, who was deeply loved and respected, but the people of his kingdom began to visit a new saint in town.  The startled king decided to meet the saint and find out why his people were so fond of him.  When he entered the saint’s abode, he was shocked to see no riches or delicious food; in fact the saint was dressed in simple attire and lived in a small home.  Puzzled by this he asked the saint, “You have nothing to give to anyone, so what makes you more special than me?  The saint answered in all his glory, “My dear, when I eat, I eat; when I bathe, I bathe; when I water the plants, I water the plants.  But when you eat, you think; when you bathe, you think; when you water the plants, you think!”

PS: My friend S will be visiting in Summer – YAYY!