Metamorphosis

Last year, around this time, I made a decision that changed my entire life. Well, at least for the foreseeable future it has. It was a bright sunny day and I was on my way to work; the usual debacle of a two and a half hour long bus ride. Of course, I progressed into my usual spiral of thoughts of existentialism and worthlessness. Mind you, this had become an everyday ritual for me. It then hit me that this isn’t going to change unless I make a serious change in the way I was tackling my professional life.

Teaching is something I have had my eyes on for quite some time now. During university, I loved teaching dance and would jump at the first opportunity to teach that came my way. I just never considered it a serious professional path I could pursue. However, on that bus ride that sunny morning, when I finally decided that I’d had enough and wanted to do something more worthwhile with my life, teaching was the first thing that came to my mind. And just like that, it felt like a load had been lifted off my chest.

Now, it might seem all rosy. Because how difficult could it be to act upon it when you know what you want to do, right? Extremely difficult, to say the least. To voluntarily pull yourself out of a comfortable, secure and “promising” job, only to pursue something supremely difficult and uncomfortable is a herculean task in itself. And doing it with very little emotional support from people around you is even more difficult.

From deciding to move out of home, to applying for the job I wanted, to trying to get my parents onboard with my idea, to quitting my job, it has been a roller coaster ride. Some of these tiny battles, I have won. But some of them, I have lost. However, now that I am finally on the verge of moving out of home, I know that it will be worth it.

I have a lot of apprehensions moving out of the one place I’ve lived all my life. As the day comes closer, I feel more and more nervous about it. However, there is a sense of fulfilment and calm now. I am finally in a place where I know what I’m getting into and actually want to see myself through it.

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Strength

We tend to have a very weird, one-dimensional definition of strength. We associate physical strength with being muscular and bulky and lifting a hundred kilos. We associate mental strength with stoicism and knowing how to deal with everything. But here’s the thing. Asking for help is a fine display of strength. Showing your emotions openly? That’s strong as well. Being human and having vulnerabilities and embracing said vulnerabilities is strong.

I have spent way too many precious years of my like having an absolutely juvenile idea about strength. I have spent way too many hours crying behind closed doors, thinking that I would look weak if someone saw me sobbing like that. I have spent so much of my life treating my strength like a fragile little glass vase at the edge of the table, which could fall at the blink of an eye and shatter into a million pieces.
Not anymore though. I’ve come to realise that my strengths lie in my vulnerabilities; in my heartbreaks (and subsequent suffering), in my unsuccessful dance performances and failed exams. My strength lies in all the trials and all the errors. Because I survived and emerged from all of them, did I not? I figured a way to deal with all my shortfalls. Yes, I spent hours crying and cursing myself for all the botched experiments of life. But that’s the thing about strength. It’s in these moments of doubt, contempt, sorrow and melancholia that I find immense strength. Dealing with these things while functioning daily as an adult is no walk in the park; it takes immense strength.

It might be time to change the kind of notions that we associate with strength. Maybe we should consider a display of our weaknesses as a strength? Maybe we should step away from associating emotional strength with stoicism? Maybe we should try and look at the strength in our vulnerabilities?

Afraid

Heartbreaks are a necessary part of growing up. They really shape a person’s character. They make you wary of people around you. And, most importantly, they make you a stronger version of yourself. This is what I’ve assimilated after reading countless articles and books about the topic.

And I agree with this. I don’t think heartbreaks are a “necessary” part of growing up. But they teach you a plethora of things. I know I am the person today due to all the heartbreak I’ve suffered.

Now I understand that not all heartbreaks stem from break ups or getting dumped. But I’d mostly like to talk about that kind of heartbreak. And after having had my fair share of this version of a heartbreak, I have unfortunately emerged as an afraid human being.

The heartbreaks that I’ve been through have led me to build walls around me. And I’m too afraid to let anyone surpass these walls. It scares me to put my trust and faith in someone. And it scares me even more to expect an individual to be there for me because, what if I’m eating up too much of their time? What if I don’t mean anything to them? Am I sharing too much? Am I asking for too much? To put it in a nutshell, I’m afraid to fall in love.

I’m too scared to feel things for someone. So I avoid it by holding them at a safe distance. Maybe because I don’t think I can feel so deeply anymore. Maybe I can’t be happily in love with them. It’s too daunting a thought. And I honestly do not think my fragile heart can take another heartbreak.

But hey, they say heartbreaks are a necessary part of growing up. They must know what they’re talking about, right?

Riveting Content I Found

I recently read an article about how one must always try and reach out for books above their “level” of reading. And it made complete sense to me. How else will I begin to indentify new things that might interest me? How else will I enhance my vocabulary? How else will I venture into uncharted territory?

The article is extremely helpful. Along with telling one how to increase their reading level, the article also talks about why it’s important.

A real thinker, this one. Find the article here: https://medium.com/personal-growth/how-to-digest-books-above-your-level-and-increase-your-intelligence-a11bd134da13

Happy List

A few days ago, I went on a spree of reading “ways to make 2018 ACTUALLY better” articles. And boy, did I go to town with it! But a particular point in one of these many many articles interested me. And it was to encourage yourself and others to make a “happy list”. It is pretty straight forward. Make a list of things that make you truly happy. And, of course, the list is non exhaustive. You can keep adding to it as and when you discover the little things you enjoy.

And I made a tiny list of my own. This was supposed to be personal. But as I was making this list, I realised it’s extremely fun. And I thought “why not share it with other humans around the world?”. 

Also, the reason I decided to list these things down is so I could take notice of the small details of my life that make me happy; and help me realise that there is so much in the world to be grateful for. 

1. The first sip of chai every morning that tends to set the mood for the rest of the day. 

2. That drop of sweat that drips of my nose during an intense workout. 

3. Looking at my best friend walk up to me at work every morning and hearing her go “Holaaaa”. She’s a goofball, that girl! 

4. Buying presents for people. 

5. Receiving the “out for delivery” message on a book I ordered online. And actually receiving said book, of course. 

6. Booking an Uber only to find out he’s a perfect “three minutes away”. Not too far. Not too close. 

7. The tiny sense of accomplishment I feel after the seven floor climb to my desk at work. 

8. Listening to mom talk about something funny that happened at her work place. 

9. The excitement I feel when I see my friend write her latest blog post. 

10. The sheer joy of walking into a dance rehearsal. 

What dance has taught me

Having learnt and practiced the art form for almost two decades, Bharatanatyam has shaped me into the person I am today. It has influenced me in every way possible. Right from the way I walk, to the way my thoughts and opinions are formed. Identifying myself as a dancer, I owe the art form my entire existentence. 

One of the foremost things that I realised dance has done is help me become more disciplined. Hours of meticulous practice have taught me that making and following a regular routine can do wonders for you. It has taught me the importance of making plans and sticking to it. Countless rehearsals and stage runs have given me an impeccable sense of time as well. 

Planning a dance performance involves a plethora of tasks. The invites, the lights, the stage decor, the music ensemble, the guests, the costumes and the list goes on. And after having done this for a while, I have realised that planning things out and having a plan B (C, D and E sometimes) goes a really long way. It has also taught me to think on my feet and to be quick executing said thoughts. 

Dance has taught me to appreciate the rich culture that our country has. The breathtaking Hindustani and Carnatic music, the beautiful temple architecture, the brilliantly composed epics and poems by Indian authors and saints. It has taught me to appreciate and see the beauty in the artforms; not just those belonging to India but those of the world as well. 

Dance has a huge role to play in the way I walk, talk and dress. My theatrical hand gestures, my over expressive face, my extreme love for Indian clothes and jewellery, all thanks to dance. 

Teaching dance to a room full of enthusiastic preteens has taught me to have immense patience and also a thing or two about dealing with children. It has taught me to respect them and has also made me realise that they are extremely impressionable and they’re really quick learners. 

Dance has taught me that art is a human act. It is ephemeral, yet capable of having an everlasting impression. It has taught me to be mindful of people and their pursuits; artistic or otherwise. It has taught me that it’s completely okay to take risks. Art, after all, is reckless like that. It has taught me to be generous and be carefree. It has taught me to make art. 

But most importantly, dance has taught me to have a firm head on my shoulders. Dance has taught me to live. 

Books I Loved This Year

2017 is almost coming to an end. And, of course, it’s time to reflect upon the year that was. And I’ve chosen to revisit some of the books I read and fell absolutely in love with this year. There have been a lot more books than I have chosen to write about. However, this is a list of books that truly inspired me. 

Asura by Anand Neelakantan

This book is an excellent parallel narrative to the popular epic of Ramayana that most of us, Indians, grew up with. It openly provides a bold new perspective to the popular characters of the epic and convincingly so.
It left me questioning what my grandma had told me about Ram and Ravan, their inherent qualities and the actions that they took during various turning points of this literary marvel.

What’s so refreshing about the book is that it humanizes the characters, thereby allowing us to view the characters in a more realistic manner, without attaching the idea of supremacy to the characters that we were taught to view as gods. Thus, the characters become so much more relatable, and their stories become that much more relevant to present times. It powerfully convinces the reader of the many layers that the popular characters possess. And it allows one to view the epic as a literary masterpiece and steps away from religious sentiments for a bit.

This book became a personal favourite because it came at a time when I began to question a lot of popular narratives of great epics, often followed in the world of Bharathanatyam and wished to step away from them.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

This outstanding book pulverized my preexisting notions about feminism. It has helped me evolve into the feminist I am today; by offering a unique definition for feminism and by allowing me to question every aspect of what I previously believed in and seek answers for the same. 

Additionally, it helped me gain me a deeper understanding of the fact that there exist many layers to feminism; affected by personal stories, literature, education, economic conditions, cultures and upbringings.

This remarkable eassy definitely goes a long way in helping one take a stand on the entire idea of feminism.

God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This book blatantly displays the deep dysfunctionalities prevalent in an Indian family. It effectively portrays our inherent capacity to be openly bourgeois and unapologetically so.
The book strikes a chord because it speaks of the deep-rooted problems that exist in the way society associates honour with caste and unabashedly displays the carnal desires of men and women, caste and societal norms notwithstanding. 

This wonderful piece of literature craftily tells a sad story very hilariously. It’s complex and overwhelming. And I’d love to go back and re-read this book a million times over. 

Redrawing India by Shaheen Mistri

This book is an account of the various experiences that the cohort of the Teach for India Fellowship have had, in addition to the story of the inception of the whole movement.

The stories are inspiring, heartbreaking and endearing. All at the same time. The book gives you a clear view of the problem of educational inequity in our country and makes you rethink the entire premise on which the idea of education is built. It confronts you with the bitter facts about the millions of girls and boys who don’t get to dream of becoming writers, doctors, journalists, lawyers or teachers, like us because they have no access to education.  

Personally, it made me realise that I have been extremely fortunate to have the privileges that I do. An education, a job, the comfort of exploring various career paths, and most importantly, a roof over my head. And it also reassured my faith in human beings who are willing to go out of their way and help eliminate the idea of educational inequity in the country. 

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Morteson 

This book taught me how a little belief can go a really long way. 

This book is the story of an American mountaineer and his quest to bring education to the most remote villages in the north-west frontier province of Pakistan. The book gives a clear picture of his journey from building his first school in Pakistan to building more than a hundred schools, across Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

This book inspired me and gave restored my faith in the undying human spirit and belief. It helped me understand that when one believes in something with so much conviction, one will go to any lengths to prove it to the world. For me, it provided with a whole new idea of philanthropy at large. 

The book is undoubtedly a remarkable account of the story of a wonderful human being, who gave up so much of his own life for the betterment of thousands of children who lived halfway across the world from him.