The New Year I’m looking forward to

3 Jan

What will 2018 be like?

Health, Happiness, Wealth have been going around in the many new year wishes that one sends and receives. Warmth and camaraderie filling our inboxes.

The euphoria of the new year celebrations having waned…. its time now to think back about the year that was, the happenings in and around us and how each experience left its impression on us; The resolutions we made …some which we kept, others that we broke.

Sifting through these experiences we take with us new insights and look ahead to the new year with a little planning and lots of love.

Most of us make meaningful resolutions and embark sincerely on their ‘to do’ list. All the same very few of these resolutions get past the first month of the year.

The internet is filled with tips on ‘how to create Smart and doable Goal Plans’ and yet these are not enough to help stick to your dream goal.

So These 4 questions would be what I would focus on this year so that I move in the direction of my resolutions?

# What is it that I want to feel this year?

For me I’de say – More togetherness, More love, More recognition, More reaching out, More abundance.

Picking out what the the heart wants to feel is a better energizer than having my resolutions as a task list to get done.

For eg: My desire to connect with the youth is what motivates me to write. The feeling I was looking for was to connect …. that gives me the momentum and motivation to write.

# What can I do when there are slip ups?

Problems do arise along the way …You need to remind myself that you are there for the long haul and so its helpful to practice the art of Reflection, Recovery and Repair when you bungle up.

This would entail spending time thinking about what went wrong, acknowledging and allowing yourself to make errors in planning and putting together a new plan each time the old plan doesn’t work.

Giving yourself the freedom to have miscalculated or made mistakes makes navigating the rough patches easier than berating yourself for being less than perfect.

Sometimes we are much harsher with ourselves than we are with other people and its time we need to stop that.

The important thing is to figure out why you are not able to stick to the plan and then act accordingly.

So Plan, but be flexible enough to tweak your plan along the way.

# Who can I get on board to help me achieve my plans and who could I help achieve theirs

The first part of this is more or less like a public commitment. It gives me accountability and helps me have a few supportive friends to egg me on when when am not feeling my best.

The second part of helping a friend achieve their resolution pulls the focus off me and allows me to contribute to someone else’s life. There’s a lot you learn about yourself when you lean in to assist another.

# What is that one quality I want to have more of this year.

This could be a quality that either your friends, family or you want to cultivate within yourself [eg patience, forgiveness, courage, transparency etc]

There could be many such qualities you would like to imbibe but start with one. Focus on that one quality every morning reminding yourself that you are going to practice being more of that through the day and actively search out opportunities to put that quality into action.

And so as I ask myself again – What’s 2018 going to be like ?

The answer is clear ……

Its not going to be any one thing. There are 12 months that’s 365 days;  All the days cant be just- Good or Bad or Promising or Difficult .

Instead the year will be an eclectic mishmash of sometimes chaotic, sometimes peaceful, and sometimes usual happenings – and that’s a Good thing.

I will make plans and feel all the excitement of having a fresh new start but I also know that I may make errors and that OK.

The important thing is to get back into the business of picking up where I left and moving on – living life wholeheartedly.

And yes there’s one thing am going to try – that’s taking a day off once a month to reflect on the happenings around me …. for as Margaret Wheatley says Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.

Anyone else trying this could message me about  their experiences

For now, i am going to warmly wrap up the year that was and move forward into the new year using my focus questions to create a nourishing life that I cant help but love.






Mealtimes with Family

23 Dec

The square glass table stood light and airy in our dining space. Its teak base with unique markings has been carrying that sparkling glass for the last 25 years.

If wood could talk, it would tell stories of birthday parties, and so many  family celebrations that its been a part of, over the years.

When I look around my home I realize that this humble table has been the one place where we as a family have spent the most time.

Whether the kids had music lessons or tennis practice or homework to complete, dinner time meant rounding up everyone and settling down at the table.

That’s where conversations happened.

During their early years it was all about …. What they did at school, which friend they shared lunch with, the bus rides back home, who they played with and so on. They talked incessantly, the only rules being – not talking with their mouths full and giving everyone a chance to speak.

The teen years weren’t the same. They no longer felt like sharing every bit of their day …. but that was ok; We spoke of the current happenings around the world; Discussed, Debated, Shared Opinions. They learnt to respect and accept different points of view and patiently listen without racing to talk before the others.

Some evenings began with silence and the responsibility of starting a conversation fell upon me …. Didn’t much enjoy this role but managed it, delicately introducing topics of mutual interest……… And gradually the mumbling grew into a little colloquy, and even the reluctant sullen faced kid had an incy wincy smile on his face.

Its all about picking the right subject, infusing it with a little bit of light heartedness and you can initiate a lively discussion.

As parents, we also spoke of our day …Our ‘Roses and Thorns’ aka the best and worst parts of our day. Some days we shared stories of our childhood, the different people in our lives and the impact it had on us.

We spoke of our frustrating moments, our happy times and much more. Children love listening to stories, and many a time we narrated the same story [ by demand ] quite a few times.

Conversations moved swiftly from one topic to another. At one moment we would be talking of a family holiday and not much later we would be having an animated discussion on some new innovation or Tendulkar’s brilliant shot against Shane Warne’s delivery.

The best discussions were always generously sprinkled with a sense of humour.

Sometimes we had friends over for dinner; at other times we were invited out. Its interesting to note the varied range of topics people talk about. I remember at one home the grandfather, a major in the army, kept giving us gory details of the war and the bullets he pumped into the enemy that we all lost our appetite and were silent all the way home. Of course this was just a stray case, for most of the time whenever there was a large group around the table – Everyone got a chance to voice their thoughts and even the quieter ones were gently drawn out of their shell.

The atmosphere around the dinner table is what’s important – Warm, Engaged and Connected is what helps children up their confidence levels and build self esteem.

These exchanges around the dinner table are a safety net for children as they go through the challenges of growing up.

Its here they pick up anecdotes of resilience, strategies to cope with adversity, empathy and other life skills.

One important stance we held, was that meal time meant no technology, no books ; and this was good coz it helped limit distractions

Around the table we found a safe space to share our joys, disappointments; dreams, plan vacations. Something that required very little of us – just half an hour away from our everyday distractions created a tangible sense of connect and belonging and was invariably the part of the day that I most definitely looked forward to.

Even today meal times translates to meaningful time with loved ones. Its therapeutic, a time to reflect, talk of memories and loss interspersed with the challenges in new beginnings

If I were to think of all the things associated with eating together , there would be just one word to describe mealtime with family – Sacred!

Worry – An intrinsically human aspect

19 Dec

All of us tend to worry some time or the other.

Our jobs, our children, our finances all make us feel anxious especially when we perceive a threat to any of them

Then there are some of us who are worry warts …. constantly ruminating on various situations and imagining the worst, fretting about things we have no control on and working ourselves up into such a frenzy that our physical and mental health get affected.

Most of our worry is about our future — the unknown, the uncertain and the unpredictable. We fear loss.

The knowledge that things that are dear to us like health, love, independence and the likes can be taken away from us at any time, either due to fate or, as a result of some decision of ours scares us.

Therefore, some concern about the future is inevitable and rightly so, it helps us think through our decisions.

But there will always remain the unknown, and dwelling on the what- ifs and the things beyond our control will only end up sapping us of our energy, fill our days with countless visits to doctors and increase our dependence on prescription drugs.

Incessant worrying is a habit and getting rid of it requires patience, perseverance and replacing the old habit with a new one.

Given this understanding, strategies for change would include

Live in the present; Accept uncertainty.

Its impossible to get certainty on every aspect of our lives.

Yes, there are many possibilities of things not going the way we expect but how much would be the probability of all those things happening?

Instead of concentrating on the possibilities of things going wrong, try to focus on what’s there right now.

The only time that’s certain is the present coz we can experience it ….so live it …as The Buddha says ‘wisely and earnestly’.

Living in the present will make us happier and appreciative of the things around us, energizes and keeps us in in good spirits.

Besides, uncertainty doesn’t necessarily mean bad outcomes and I’m thinking a world where every thing is absolutely certain would be boring.

So plan well, make well thought of decisions and know that there will always be an element of wonder in the universe.

This is easier said than done; after all we’ve programmed our minds default mode to be one of worry.

Maybe we believe we have to worry so we can come up with answers to every question — But this is just an illusion. Focusing on the worst- case scenarios wont stop unpleasant things from happening. It will only prevent you from enjoying the good things in the present.

Have Faith

Although I am not too religious I believe that not everything is known or can be explained. Consequently, its only helpful to have faith that most things will sort out in its own time and the rest you will find the strength to carry along.

If the choice is between fear and faith which naturally translates to worry and being at ease, I would most definitely choose the latter.

Talk about it

When day to day life is impaired due to our constant worrying, it helps to share our fears with a caring individual. Another perspective to the problem at hand may perhaps help us think in a new dimension.

Winston Churchill once said:

When I look back on all those worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.

I find this quote an eye opener…. it prompts me to regularly make a reality check instead of getting swept away in a whirl wind of worries.

How many worries I had this year actually became a reality? I ask myself.

A few did, and I was able to deal with them but a majority of them were only nightmares in my mind.

Nothing can really stop thoughts from racing through our minds but Pause, take a deep breath and apply a new response ………and that will make all the difference.

Happily Single

5 Dec

lonely-woman‘So you are single’ !/?

A question/remark a single woman hears quite often. The reaction to this differs,- from annoyance to pain to stress to nothing.

‘Singledom’ isn’t a place one would like to be in, especially if you’ve grown up on a steady diet of stories which talks of ‘the happily ever after’ as a validating matrix. Women outside this sphere of ‘coupled existence sometimes get the feeling of being ‘incomplete’

Today the ‘Single woman’ badge is worn not only by unmarried women; Divorcees , Widows, Single moms and women in a loveless marriage all come under this umbrella.

Being Single comes with its own challenges – the smaller ones being, having dinner alone , being an efficient handyman around the house, struggling to zip up your little black dress ….and the bigger ones like tackling loneliness , not having someone to bounce of your decisions with and the innumerable challenges of parenting.

Whatever the challenge ; its up to you to choose to live a life that’s rich, fulfilling and as significant as anybody elses.

A common misperception is that being alone = being lonely.

In fact, the physical state of aloneness [ Solitude] is quite pleasant a feel for those who are comfortable with themselves.

It’s the emotional state of aloneness [Loneliness] that is painful –  a searing kind of pain which come from the inability to relate to another person, the inability to form a connect.

The only panacea to this is investing time to create a network of friends – A safety net . Friends provide the connection and strength that is critical for our wellbeing. Social media does help us keep in touch with friends and strangers alike but its those ‘face to face’ moments that need to be kept alive.

Sometimes we get busy in our own lives and and it seems like we’ve drifted away from friends. Make time and effort to keep your connect with them. Rituals I’ve built to stay in touch, are to have lunch together and spend some time shopping on our respective birthdays [something I thoroughly enjoy] and having standing dates like meeting every second Friday of the month

Even though you find yourself strapped for time, touch base with a weekly call – get to know what’s happening in your friend’s life.

You don’t have to be alone in your struggles…. reach out and ask for advice or a listening ear. Let friends know you rely on them.

Take advantage of your single status – Read, join a class you enjoy, Focus on building a full life , Exercise, Volunteer for a cause you are passionate about.

About being a single parent – yes its challenging, focus on one step at a time, and during times of stress …reach out to friends and family.

Quit spending all your energy wondering if you would have been happier if you had a mate – instead embrace this amazingly wondrous life and know that there will be random moments when you feel down…..and that’s ok. A good film, your favourite comforter and a lil bit of Resilience is all it takes to Bounce back.


Whats your story

26 Nov

“Tell me a little about you” my host asked, turning towards me, sincere, attentive and with a warm smile that lit up her face. “And of course” she continued “no facts”.

Articulate though I was in expressing my thoughts; I found my self fumbling and unsure of what to say. Facts are so much simpler to talk about.

What, I wondered would be appropriate to talk about? My life’s been far from perfect so how much of it do I divulge?

Do I talk of things that make me happy or things that I wish for or about those dark thoughts that lie in the deep recesses of my head which I am constantly trying to broom away into someplace so no one will know?

Maybe I should talk about the how the real me feels. Talk about the times when it looks like I am angry but I am just very sad or the days I appear like I am in a bad mood but what I actually feel is icy cold fear.

What if I spoke about the people in my life, the relationships that drain me and those that infuse me with energy; About how unsure I am of so many things- my internal chaos.

Is it okay to talk about the times I’ve tried to conform to a pattern believing I was not ‘enough’ the way I was?

Do I speak of the time and effort it took me to know and accept my flaws?

Through the midst of all these maybees I have had a thousand joyous moments filled with balance and fulfillment too. Do I speak of them?

Not just me most of us have these moments of joy in the midst of all our travails.

Flawed but Awesome we are….Exactly the way we were meant to be.

Each of us have a story to tell that make us more beautiful than what one can see by just looking at us. A story that blends all our joys ,sadness , insecurities and so much more. A story that makes us uniquely beautiful

Stories that build a bridge from one heart to the other so we are all connected.

Listening to other people’s stories can be inspirational, but telling ours requires courage and the ability to rise above our vulnerability.

Its time we share our stories both for ourselves and others.

For ourselves ….so that we don’t stay imprisoned in our narratives but evolve, learn lessons and broaden our perspectives through the roads we’ve travelled. We don’t really need to be a part of that ‘pity party’ to which we go each day …. instead when we realize that we’ve been through crap and yet kept our heads above water – we are confident of our incredible powers to face the world and all its challenges

For others …. Our stories are a shared experience. One which is uplifting, comforting and even inspiring. That’s Magic right there!

Collective Parenting

21 Nov

villageGone are the days when ‘Family’ meant not only husband, wife and child; but also uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents all living under the same roof. Then, there was always someone to talk to, share resources with, get guidance from, learn acceptance from, make adjustments with and children always had some one to chat and play with.

The family structure is way different today. Due to circumstances or personal reasons young adults prefer to stay alone and shy away from having more than 2 children. Many a time parents are working, and working long hours. The result – Either children spend most of their time at home without adult guidance and supervision or they may be overburdened with too many after school activities. Feelings of isolation and loneliness are common among children and the youth.

Its stressful territory for both the parent and the child. Parents are sometimes not aware nor equipped with skills to deal with the challenges faced by children today. Navigating parenthood can be a daunting experience – Every support is welcome and necessary to ensure that our children grow up with love, attention, positivity and self-confidence.

Recently while watching a group of parents interact it struck me that its here we have a huge reserve of talent and skill. All we need to do is pool in, structure our schedules, work together and look out for each others children.

I ‘de like to call it ‘Collective Parenting’.

Its when 5-7 families who live close to each other get together as a group. Adults in the group being from different backgrounds and having varied interests can play a pivotal role in providing the children with diverse experiences that nurture the ‘Whole Child’.

Devoting some time and effort is all it requires for each parent to be a part of creating a scaffolding system to support our children and youth.

Start by listing out various strengths of the parents, maybe grandparents and various other adult members of the group – like homework support, sports, value building , non judgmental listening , reading ,Creative writing etc.

Next brainstorm on a few activities the group would like to involve itself in. Is it primarily fun activities or new experiences or academic help or value building or creating a safe forum for the children to voice out their fears and challenges?

Once the group is clear on what 3-4 activities are important for them to pursue, create a framework and plan your activities

Focusing on an age group may be helpful as programmes for young children would be quite different from one that serves teens.

Involve youngsters in planning the program. The more involved they are in planning the more interested they will be in participating.

Depending on the needs of the members of the group and the resources available different types of activities could be done like

Reading Time /Story time ;  Art ; Academic skill building; Outdoor games; Field Trips; Community Service projects ; Interacting with professionals from different walks of life; Discussions on topics like friendships , breakups, managing emotions , addictions. The possibilities are unending. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the program through surveys and make changes according to the needs of the group.

Parents in the group should think of themselves as surrogate caregivers for every child in the group.

There may be teething problems like – jealousy or bickering or misunderstandings but these can be ironed out if every parent in the group keep in mind the idea behind why the group was formed – For our children, because sometimes individual households find it difficult to raise children without connecting with other parents.

Parents could also meet regularly to discuss their own parenting challenges. Its easier to find solutions when you are not on your own.

There is an African proverb which says “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Parenting is ‘Shared Responsibility’. We have a collective responsibility to the children we interact with even if we did not conceive or bear them. In the absence of the extended family we need to step up and be the strength and support for each other.

As the child grows different families will join this village giving and receiving mutual help thus enriching not just all our lives but the lives of our children too. This shared responsibility is also echoed in this Swahili proverb- One hand does not nurse a child.  Lets join hands so that when days are bad and some weeks look very long , you know a caring parent is watching over your child.


Parental involvement during the board exams

13 Nov


With board exams only a few months away, the veil of anxiety looms heavily over homes where children are in class 10 and 12.

Its not just academic pressure that causes stress in children. Immense competition and living up to parent’s expectation can make the existing stress skyrocket.

What makes worse are the “decrees” Parents lay out for their children – ‘Put aside everything else and concentrate on studies’; ‘No listening to music’ , ‘No watching T.V’, ‘No chatting with friends’, ‘No going out to play’…………etc

Everything that is ‘solace’ to the child is suddenly pulled away without his or her consent making him/her resentful. Now, along with stress there is an additional sense of powerlessness which is overwhelming. Vulnerable as they are, various feelings bubble up inside of them which make them scared and sad and mad. They can lash out at themselves or others , misbehave etc. …..all of which are ways of sending out an SOS that they are hurting.

Although its only natural to want your child to perform well in the exams, it is important to remind yourself that you are just a facilitator in this process.

What does that really mean?

  • Provide a quiet distraction free environment for the child to work.
  • Make sure that nutritious, tasty food is available at home so that they are physically fit and in a good mood.
  • Monitor their sleep. Make sure they get adequate rest.
  • Create a warm and comforting atmosphere at home. Set aside time everyday [preferably dinner time] for light conversations that revolve around various events / topics.
  • If your child is very driven to perform well in the exams and spends long hours in the room studying … around to prompt him/her to take breaks, go outdoors, do fun things
  • If your child has too casual an approach towards the exam it can be a source of worry and frustration. There could be various reasons why he/she is unmotivated to study –
  1. Maybe the course work is way too difficult
  2. Maybe he/she doesn’t have the required academic enabling skills like organizing notes , having a study plan, knowing how to study a particular subject ,
  3. Maybe he/she doesn’t think he/she has the ability to successfully clear the examination.

Take help from the teacher to encourage him/her take small steps that will help him feel engaged and empowered to be a part of his success. Avoid threats and nagging which only has a counter-productive effect.

  • Let all your actions/words come from the belief that children want to do well in the examination. They too are struggling with their fears and expectations despite the fact that it appears as if they aren’t bothered.
  • Encourage your child to do one thing everyday [ other than studies] that gives him/her joy and makes him feel energized. Do the same for yourself too.
  • Some “DO NOTS include –
  1. Do not link their entire future to the current exam;
  2. Do not emphasize on the financial sacrifices that have gone into making all his/her classes possible;
  3. Do not keep talking of marks and achievements of neighbours, cousins siblings etc.
  • Assure them of your unconditional love and acceptance.
  • If your child seems overtly anxious, in a persistent low mood, having no appetite , unable to sleep etc – consult your Physician or a Counsellor.


Exam time is a period where both parents and children are high strung. Parents need to focus on their own emotional needs too. Share your anxieties and with other parents else all you will be doing is stirring up fears, imaginations and projections. Speak the right words to your children so that the message conveyed to the child always is ‘I am with you’.