Learnings and laughters that mattered

We all want a 15-days long vacation where we can be whatever we choose to be. The whole idea of being home away from home, packing the best casuals and flashy outfits. From escaping into fun-a-thon of relaxation to clicking the best Insta-worthy pictures. It is a mental picnic of frolic, culture and indulgence. Of course decadence is summoned according to the budget!

It was my second visit to Pune. The first time was a wild plan few years ago that ended in nausea. This time it was more sensible. Work trip you know. As heavy as it seemed, I guess with lesson plans I have started to apply the anticipated problems section in my life as well! My biggest back up was this diligent and amazing support, Rutuja. She made my life easy.IMG20190616152841-01

Pune holds quite a lot of history under the rug. It was all about time when I got to experience, well, parts of it. I checked in the city on a Saturday. Just a weekend away from a completely new batch of TEFL aspirants. Rutuja and I planned to use it to our advantage before the pressure got on us. We went to visit this famous fort, Shaniwar Wada. It was built during the Peshwa rule in Maharashtra. Well, it was extended, fixed and renovated over time (just like our judgmental feelings!) The huge doors with spikes, narrow staircases, carefully planned  ventilators were quite interesting to understand. A whole lotta science and architecture!

After the history tour, we went up to Juna Bazaar to explore antiques. Oh my my, it was a long stretch of market with fresh smells from the old times! You ask for anything, and they had an antique for that (till you believe they are all antiques and not junk that is polished to look old!). It was worthwhile. Just be a little careful with handbags and purses. Few passer-bys will be really interested to find out what’s in your bag! Tulshi baug, MG Road are other major markets to hang around for pretty and fun street finds too.

After one week of rigourous enthusiasm to learn the psychology of language learners and how to deal with them, few trainees along with me planned for a day getaway to Mahabaleshwar. As the heat welcomed the party, we went to do the darshan at the Shiv Temple in Old Mahabaleshwar. We went up to the Arthur’s Point where we were hugged by floating clouds  and a warm, wet chill. The walk was mystic! After a couple of hours of “girls just wanna have fun” we drove down to the market area. Mahabaleshwar market has a lot to offer. From Kolhapuri sandals, wickerworks, unusually warm blankets, light weight happy jewelries to amazing cream cups at Bagicha (a must visit), it’s a paradise to for all the impulsive shoppers like me.IMG20190622161059IMG20190622160720IMG20190622150706

As we drove down to the city, we stopped by the Mapro garden for a farm fresh experience. We hogged on some of their freshly produced sandwiches and pizza for din-din. The affordable jams, juices, syrups, jelly candies; you cannot buy enough! It was a major weekend to look back for loads of awesome memories.

They say if you miss out on something, then there’s hope to always go back. I missed checking out the Aga Khan Palace and the Okayama Park from my bucket list. The pilot Pune TEFL program will surely be missed. Not only for the wonderful travel in and out the city but also for the learnings and laughters that mattered. My batch of this 12 enthusiastic ESL teachers. The 3-weeks journey was a memorable ride. Here’s hoping to another one soon!IMG20190701145836

 

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“Coming out” as they say!

“It is always the fear that holds  us back from a truely different life. I guess we judge too soon.” This is the story of a close one who came out recently. And it was a different kind of coming out than what we usually assume when we say that phrase.

Meeting yourself is hard. Speaking to yourself is harder. Introspection with the “I am” self is the hardest. Humans are born imperfect yet narcissistic. We accept both. Oh well, almost! Flaws are deep-rooted. That needs a lot of mind mapping to understand how it all started. And that’s exhausting. On the other hand, being narcissistic makes us feel under control. You create your own barriers by applauding the liabilities. To keep up with the time you pull down others. To keep up with the time there is a constant need of apprciation of one’s physical ego. Both times when we are flawed or narcissistic, we fear time. We fear realities. We fear change. Much to the inventions and discoveries that has advanced thoughts and erased some, one thing that sits in our mind is the fear. Fear of the known. Fear of the assumptions. Fear of going against the conditions and embracing your truth. Fear of being happy. The mask or the facade that we carry along us everywhere is like an airbag that helps us consciously avoid happiness. It is when we embrace the idea of self-appreciation and the exhaustion together, that we can “come out”.

“The problem with our society are not the conditions but the multiple interpretations and misinterpretations of the same. I have always struggled. I am a happy person, you know. My definition of being happy is something that does not fit these conditions of the society. I like smelling flowers. I love ballet. I definitely love shopping. Does that make me any less of a man? And it definitely does not make me a woman. Sadly, there are a lot of opinions about the way I talk, sit, even worse, the way I rest my hands when I stand!IMG-20190612-WA0001 I have always been a family embarrasment because I never took part in sports, I will appreciate my sister’s love for make up and a lot more that does not really follow the norms. I am a man who appreciates and is attracted to things which are considered feminine. And that is not something wrong. Ever. It took me a lot of courage to say that to myself and believe it. I mean I have always been comfortable in my skin minus the label. But I guess, it has been a constant struggle as well. A struggle between self-apprciation and an imposed identity. This is infact, the best gift that I got myself in years.”

It was quite an eye-opening rather than just a chillout session that we planned!

 

 

It’s still the same snack!

As the year came to an end, I sat there in our balcony with a cuppa noodle. The fireworks seemed to have captivated the peace of the space. The booming sounds  and the echo of the celebration did not help in keeping the calmness alive. The sky looked like a sixteen year old carefree teenager. Full of life, thriving with hope and desire. The partly sparking ashes from the fireworks fell back like shooting stars. It was a madness both ways.

Somewhere in between that hustle, I found a little space where everything was pacified while it was soaked into the festivitities. Ours is a high rise residential right in the heart of the city. If I looked straight outside from the balcony, the sea always gleamed back while hiding stories and secrets in the waves. As I looked down from the twelveth floor, tiny vision of the reckless happiness caught my eyes. The residential committee organized a New Year’s Eve party every year and it seemed like a good opportunity for the all the Sharmas, Desais, Banerjees, Iyers and more to come together and get details about their lives- some show offs, some ups and downs and some philosophies. A buffet  was mandatory with vegetarian, non vegetarian options and desserts. A budget friendly selection of alcohol make shift counter comes live after the midnight when the young lot goes back to their apartments to call it off a day.

The party welcomed the New Year with hope and yet another chancee to look forward to the future. Slowly, the aura changed with the departing childish spirit to a ripple of intoxicated laughs and casual debates about lifestyle choices. All these in just an hour past midnight. Soon the realization set in the party that there is a regular life to live in few hours. Household chores and office talks seemed to tone down the rush in their minds. In the next half an hour, everybody seemed to leave in groups. The fireworks stayed for yet another hour. The sky started to change its colour while the early morning chill began to make its way with the ticking time.

I could not sleep but I was not tired.

“Hey babe, any resolution this time?” he asked.

“This peace. Right here.” I winked.

The apartment was dark as we switched off the lights to enjoy the celebrations from the balcony. It was not an unusual thing to experience a salty chill and not cold shivering weather in Mumbai during this time of the year.

“Would you ever like to leave the city and move out of the country?”

“I don’t know. Would you like to?” I was curious.

“Well, there are always better places. As long as we are together.”

“Stop being so cheesy. Do you remember our first date? It was the evening after our grade 11 final exam.”

“It’s still so fresh in my mind. We stargazed on the terrace of your cousin’s house. The sky was happy that evening. It was mystic summer that year. The sky was exceptionally clear. The stars looked like fairy lights. Some were bright, some seemed to flicker. The breeze brushed our faces while we tried to match the constellations. It was not too long that we were hungry and wanted a snack. We went out in the neighbourhood and bought it from Ashu’s grocery. It’s still the same snack!” We reminisced as I help up the cuppa noodles like a trophy.

The first ray of the morning seemed to interrupt my time travel. It’s the first morning of the New Year. There was an unexplainable silence in the apartment. As I looked back inside the apartment, it has started to light up. The fresh air gave me goosebumps.

“I know I was not talking to myself this entire time. There you are. Happy New Year, Arjun. I know you could find yourself a better place. I am happy.”

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Labor love

Let’s just say…..mid week offs are a surprise that we wait for. Labor day. Wednesday. Hump day. Weekends: we all know what adults are fond of doing. Rather want to do but mostly get stuck with running errands. Sundays are for getting mad and try to believe that it’s Monday the next day. Mid week offs are a little

different. Especially for the on schedule people who’s life revolves around the company laptop.

First of all, even though we know it’s an off day, we have to constantly try and remind ourselves that it’s an off day. Everytime we do that there’s a little spark in the eyes. It’s a planned deja vu!

Second of all, we think of all the favourite things that we like to do. We picture ourselves doing that. Like I pictured myself writing this blog. But if you are a person who’s quite aware of this satisfying thought, you know you’ll end up being lazy (the reason why I chose to write before going to bed); staring at the ceiling, sinking into the feeling that it’s an off day in the middle of the week.

By the time, the rejoice session is done it’s late in the afternoon. Now you wanna get ready for a dinner at your favorite restaurant or watch a movie. Suddenly it dawns on you that the bank is closed. The labors want to rest. It’s not pay day!

It’s such a hard truth of life. The feeling of not getting paid on the first day of the month. Like you have got no option but live your life in denial that it’s yet to be the pay day of the month. What becomes harder is even when you have a decent money left in your account, you’re mentally struck by forced poverty. Sometimes, we become impulsive and decide to spend the rest of the money in the account by buying things we absolutely start regretting the very moment we decide to purchase it.

In this entire time we forget to process that it is a day to celebrate work without working. The other days you build up an organization from desk to desk. So take some time out and feel precious. Be content! Overcome the feeling of hard luck with hard work in mind. Who knows may be you actually end up enjoying the day without doing anything and you find it productive!

Have a blessed day.

I used butt twice here but issa fact!

It is never about “I see it, I like it, I want it, I get it.” Life aint Grande enough and money doesn’t come with an insurance!

You do not have to always end up with assholes. You just have to wait for the moment when they get exhausted. Once they are tired of travelling around, they gotta park the car! Till then practice the art of doing the right things for yourself instead of looking for The Right One.

Get your facts correct about feminism. It is not cool to be one of those rebels on social media who posts a selfie with a long empowering caption while you slurp on a popsicle in that picture!

Do not follow the reality TV crowd. It is better and totally ok to find out your strength at 25. Live in your self-made reality. Your butt ain’t a Kard!

Do not explain parents about your lifestyle choices. You give them culture shock. Understand their share of discomfort when they see you applying a highlighter. They  know it’s a stationery item. They just want to be heard. From a millenial to another, there is something called traditions. Like it or not, you eventually fall for it and you become like your parents even when you are not one.

It is ok to show off your boyfriend/girlfriend as long as you know its worth showing off. Plus, you gotta have an escape plan if he/she is unpredictable. Sulking makes you sore with offensive sarcasm.

Make up one’s mind. If you think getting cheated is bound to happen to you, stay out of it. Do not play safe and try to demean the other person’s lifestyle choices, most importantly, family and friends. In due course you become what you are scared of.

Have some gratitude over grievances please! I mean, imagine a life without butt. You cannot stand all your life! Feel thankful for every little unsung thing around you that helps you experience emotions everyday.

There will always be one creep at work. Be it a sub-ordinate or a supervisor. They will always play with words. They will always play the victim card and be shameless at the same time. It does not matter if you are being diplomatic. When you feel trapped and wanna talk about it people will only recall that  you did smile or did not show any discomfort when the creep was around. That job is not the end of the world and you do not need to be privileged enough to think like that. Most importantly, if your diplomacy or silence is because you do not want a bad appraisal, then do not judge a gold digger!

It is perfect to be a wannabe. I mean you gotta be something or someone right? You only discover yourself through absorbing whatever that comes your way.

Namaste!

 

 

Inner voice of a not-so-old ESL teacher trainer!

“Here’s to another day of training a mixed group. Let me give them the benefit of doubt until they can no longer benefit from it.”

“Shut up, ABBA songs have more common nouns to play with than any of your favourite Cardi B song; abort mission. It’s Happy New Year everyday!”

“I should speak fluent Baby Boomer lingo. That way training is experiential and Gen X will be under control.”

“Classroom management or conflict management? If only ego was a talking parrot.”

“The projector screen is the gateway to my off duty personality. I hope I changed my laptop wallpaper to some mature philosophical jazz about winning.”

“You are not here to hangout with Gen Z. Or may be after the training is over. OK, stop being so partial.”

“Remember, never say “this is cute“. These are just flashcards!”

“Trainees want to know more about you. Sometimes these are just clever distractions. Mystery than memoir is the key, sweetie.”

“Wow! This is a great group photo. I need to caption and post it on Instagram……can’t wait till the class is over….aarrghhh!!”

“Be pragmatic and idealistic. This is real life and not Romedy.”

“Is my outfit of the day trainer enough?”

“1/4th prep and 3/4th theater. Do not switch the training fractions.”

“If only the Great Vowel Shift was sensible enough, the orthography would have made more sense.”

“It is /ju:/ not EWW!”

“You thought you know it all? Dear trainees, let’s take a modal verbs pop quiz!”

“For Freaking Vowel‘s sake, yes you have to know what are labiodental fricatives.”

“Yes, NO is a diphthong.”

“Suggestopedia, do not suggest. EVER!”

“I love my job.”

 

 

Kochi-ll!!

It was my millionth time to Kochi last month. It is a thriving port city of Kerala, one of the less exploited yet very tourist-ey state of India. The beauty of this place lies in the fact that it has a perfect blend of city and countryside. The people here makes it even easier. With the huge number of travellers visiting the place every year, the people are always welcoming. From the local auto-rickshaw drivers to the local people around: they are always ready to help a stranger. I was there to conduct a TEFL/TESOL batch. It is a 3-weeks teacher training program. I checked-in my company sponsored accomodation near the Kaloor neighbourhood. It was not near to the institute. That meant I had to travel local. I availed the metro train and oh my my! The metro trains that I have availed in other major cities vs. what I experienced here seemed way different. On the good side of course! It is faster, cleaner and efficient as compared to the metro system of other cities. The ride was wonderful everyday. When the locals could understand that I am not one of them, they would have this inquisitive stare which was quite natural. when the stares used to get too obvious to ignore, it was quite charming to see how a smile from the either ends will always cover for the awkwardness. The universal language always comes handy it seems!

The classes were during the weekdays. So I had a chance to explore the place over the weekends. This time I thought I would explore Fort Kochi. It is a water-bound region towards the south of Kochi. Now if you want to be a tourist you can always hire an Uber. But if you wanna be a traveller and stay local, you have to take the ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi. The ticket is sweet cheap and it is 4 rupees only. There is another stop in between, Vypeen. The smell of the ocean water, witnessing big vessels anchored or sailing along with your ferry makes the ride worthwhile.

I went with 2 of my trainees, Nivedhana from Tamil Nadu and Konika from Arunachal Pradesh. Once we got down at the Fort Kochi ferry point, it was time to hang around and explore. We cracked quite a cheap deal with an auto-rickshaw driver. He agreed to show us around just for 200 rupees for 2 hours. We went almost at lunch hours. So we added a waiting time for him with an extra 50 rupees. We started off by visiting 2 churches back to back- Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica and Saint Francis Church. It was quite interesting to see how the churches operated were so strikingly different. The first one had this commercial touch to make it a mainstream tourist spot while reserving the religious terms. With its elaborate structure and huge open area it is a great spot for social media freaks to get their double taps and followers soaring! Since photography was allowed we did take our fair share of advantage of clicking the structure for our group photo background.

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Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

Saint Francis, on the other hand, had a very orthodox outlook. Photography sadly was not allowed. The architecture was very gothic and it had a strong vibes of stringent religious atmosphere. The draconian structure also has its historical significance. The famous Portuguese traveller, Vasco da Gama was buried here before his body was claimed by his son and took permission from the church to take it to the homeland.

It was almost lunchtime when we went to our next stop; Fort Kochi beach. We thought of taking a break and grabbed lunch meanwhile. The food prices are quite high, if you intend to eat lunch there compared to transport which is relatively way too less. However, the quantity, taste and the atmosphere are beyond expectations. The shacks mostly serve freshly cooked items. However, this comes with long waiting time before they serve your food.

After we had our quite a royal seafood meal, we planned to visit the couple of other places before we end our sightseeing trip. While we went to the next point, Mattancherry Palace Museum, we checked out the streets where they mostly sold souvenirs. There were spice shops, essesntial oils and perfume shops. The mixture of exotic fragrances and flavours captivated the entire stretch of souk. They sold chestnuts for 50 rupees which you can dip into any oil and massage on your body. Well, it did relieve me from the 80 year old body pain trapped in a late 20’s body. AirBrush_20190216230157 After buying a few souvenirs, we headed to the Mattancherry Palace. The entrance had steep stairs that took us to the ticket booth. Photography was not allowed here as well. So we were left with any option to take home all the memories with us. We just had to sink into the momentary experience. The palace is turned into a museum now where we learnt about the royal family of Kerala, the water route for early trades and international allies. They also had the real-time palanquins and royal household items and costumes preserved for the visitors to see. It was quite surprising to see that how awesomely rich the economy and culture used to be in early days; however, we were never educated about any of  this.

Finally, we asked the auto-rickshaw driver to drop us at the beach where we thought to enjoy the sunset before we left Fort Kochi. And let me tell you, I have lived most of my life by coastlines, very less places defined sunset. Fort Kochi beach is one of those rare shore to boast of a perfect romantic sunset. It was way picturesque. Funnily, we got so carried away and this time when we had a chance to click pictures, it went out of our minds. Guess, that’s what beautiful things around does that to all of us. You forget to freeze time and become a part of it!AirBrush_20190218191702