Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blast from the past post!

I think its time now for me to allow my other half his share of the mushiness.


We've been married now for 16 months and while you golden oldies may scoff, to me that's quite significant. I married at an age I never thought I would commit, at 25, barely out of uni and dipping my toes into the workforce, nothing substantial to my name or my status. At at time when many of my friends were still single and I was seen to be the rebellious girl who would never commit young.


Then came along Mr. P. At a farewell party for a mutual friend in Sydney, I walked in after a 3 hour drive from interstate, scanned the room, smiled to see all my favourite people altogether, drink in hand, ready for a great evening. I handed my friend one of about 5 travel journals he'd received as a farewell gift (oops..sounded original at the time) and was struck by the presence of a stranger. A stranger who eyed me briefly, looked away and eyed me again. I pulled up one of my friends asking, rather annoyed, who that strange person was gatecrashing my friend's farewell. Some guy from London came her eloquent, informative response. Brief introductions were made, more glances exchanged, and at the end of the evening, phone numbers.


I didn't make much of the phonecalls and SMS's, pretty standard new friend procedure. And I was reluctant to fall for someone who I knew would inevitably return to the U.K. And as fate would have it, as brief as our encounter was, so was our parting. He left to continue his travels overseas and I flew off to India to start a new and exciting career...


I never expected meeting again, by pure coincidence, in Bangalore. He was there on holidays, I was there for work. I didn't know he was coming, nor did he realise I was there. At midnight the night before I was finishing off some work online when a message cropped saying he was flying to India the next day...to Bangalore, where I was to be based for a week to conduct some interviews before heading back to Gujarat.


We spent our time catching up, meeting friends, chilling out. But it was only as we parted that we realised something had changed. The dynamic was different...it wasn't as easy to let go.


Days passed and I was in Pune for work, he was in the South, temple hopping with friends. I'd get the odd call or SMS but within me, I felt a radical shift had taken place from Bangalore. I asked if he felt the same, he agreed, and I almost ran screaming in the other direction....but I couldn't, not anymore.


Running away is something I do well, and have done many times to escape a tricky situation, but life feel very suddenly seemed diminshed when I felt like he wasn't in the picture. Suddenly what would normally be a normal day became a better day with him there, life was filled with hope and wonder and joy. And while I thought the honeymoon would end, I am proud to say that I still feel the same, if not more for him everyday.

Back to blogging?

Maybe its time to revisit that old friend of mine, writing.  Though I write for a living now, the dry, diatribe of policy hardly compares to the lilt, flow and ebb of the language and prose I so loved.  And of course, I've changed too.  In the intervening years since the last post, I've become a mother, traveled the world and have been on many more adventures internally then I could ever imagine.

Motherhood pushed and challenged me beyond anything I'd ever known.  The eternal free spirit was suddenly bound to the whims and wills of a beautiful but helpless child, desperate to be held and comforted as she adjusted to this world. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find it all rather overwhelming. Infact, I think I only really started to enjoy it all once she was about six months old and I was able to sleep again and get some of my old self 'back'.  But now we have  lively, bubbly near 15 month old who is running around the house asserting herself and expressing her adorable personality through quite creative and imaginative ways.  She has made me laugh out loud on so many occasions and tear with joy and frustration more times than I can count. She has fast become my best friend and little sidekick and I do find the days and moments without her rather void of the same merriment.

In saying that, I am glad to be back to work, part time and to interact with colleagues and intellectuals.  It's been a fantastic personal challenge and I am grateful for it.  Work itself is rewarding and challenging and has given me some of those familiar structures and routines that I've valued over the years.

We are still in London, still in the same place we moved into five years ago and enjoying being a unit of three.  We do however, have plans to move back to Sydney next year and we are both excited about that. The family support there will make a huge difference to our lives and our little girl will thrive in the hot climate with lots of friends and family for company.  It will also mean that we can also buy a house with a garden and make the most of the sunshine which is so fleeting here.

Next year will be nine years in England for me, and if you've kept up with this blog you'll see that it hasn't  been an easy journey.  I have however, matured considerably and learnt much more about myself than I'd ever imagined I would had I lived the same, familiar lifestyle.

I started this blog as a naive 21 year old, without much thought about where life would take me.  And here I am, a 33 year old woman, wife, mother and I still feel the same!  If I've learnt anything, it's that the beauty of life is in it's unpredictability.  I'm slowly learning to go with the flow but I suspect that will be a lifelong lesson.

Going back to writing really does feel like seeing an old friend after many years, perhaps reconnecting with my younger self?  Let's see how long I can keep it up for!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stigma

A dark and menacing shadow creeps slowly behind me as I return from work and as I awake it remains looming over me. As I go about my chores, visit my friends, speak to my family, return to work and pursue my pursuits it stands towering over me, hands on hips, my own Ms Trunchbull to follow me all the way through life. Call me paranoid, but I cannot shake off the notion that who I am does not matter to people as much as what I am.

When I first married into a Gujarati family, being a Tamil Brahmin, I could feel the tension at family gatherings, a feeling of exclusion, of 'she just won't get it'. One or two uncles even made very bold differences, one memorable memory being in the buffet queue where I was serving the rice. An uncle kindly asked for more rice, sniggering and saying 'like a South Indian'. Cousins couldn't understand that being Tamil is not the same as being Malayalee or Telugu and would constantly bring up their adventures in Kerala, of which I had as much connection to as a Guju would to Punjab. It has taken me three years to break down these barriers and to start to be seen as an Indian, much more so than many of them whose grandparents left India for East Africa so many years ago.

The same translates into the workplace. I am very proud of the work I do in social innovation, in challenging statutory services to be more inclusive of patient experiences and social factors that determine recovery rather than imposing the standard disease model. I am passionate about the principles of user involvement and co-production of public services to suit the end user rather than treat symptoms. And yet, the very people I work with and for, the users of services are the first to stigamatise me for coming from a corporate background. A few days ago at a work event, I finally plucked up the courage to point out that as users of mental health services they spent an awful lot of time complaining about stigma and discrimination and how wherever they went, they were followed by their condition and their very persona dictated by the fact that they'd suffered a breakdown or were on anti-depressant medication. For the past year, they had spoke to me of little else except that they did not feel genuinely heard or involved and under-represented in Statutory sector levels. I reminded them of how they had told me they felt belittled, patronised, even a little hurt by being defined by their illness rather than their individual personalities. Then I mentioned that this was exactly what they were doing to me, by defining me by my past, my background in the Corporate world as somehow disqualifying me from working in the community, even though I had been working with communities for over four years now and gained the relevant qualifications to do so.

Stigma isn't something just faced by one group of people, that is the worst thing about it, it is a hidden prejudice that we all think we don't have but even the best of us discriminate and judge people based on what they are. The dangerous part is when people fail to admit that they too have a dark side, a blind side that acquits them of being prejudiced.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The days grow darker for longer here and the clouds seem to hang lower everyday. My breath turns to smoke as I trudge through the grass on my way to work. I wear about five layers of clothing and avoid being outside as much as possible. People seem more cocooned in their trench coats and hoodies and eye contact, non existent. At work, things start to slow down. People wind down and I can feel the countdown to Christmas beginning.

This year has had me worried. Cuts, recession, job losses, these have actually become very real terms in my vocabulary. The meetings I Chair with a number of local charities is diminishing as more and more lose funding. Colleagues suddenly unemployed after 10, 15 years of setting up key organisations, their clients now lost for help. Ironically, I work closely enough to Canary Wharf to see the "suit march" on a regular basis. Armies of people in pinstripes, high heels and attitude trudging to work, marching so it seems, over the livelihoods of the less well off.

I hear the term benefit scrounger so often it seems passe. But actually, it really bothers me. It wasn't people on benefits that caused this recession, it was the most well off, the most successful, the greediest echelons of society. And now it is this very class of society that thinks depriving someone of 80 pounds a week will save the economy. I am saddened by the politics of the Coalition who won't be firmer with banks but will deprive people of incapacity benefit, housing benefit, raise university fees and dip into pension schemes.

Most of all, I am worried about the NHS. I see what happens to people who are prematurely taken off healthcare. Social care is fast becoming the same way with local authorities introducing drastic cuts to much needed services. Right now, where I am, on the grassroots, and at the front line, I feel right in the middle of it all. And yet, many people still have a view from their private offices, looking down on this city, completely unaware of the chaos.

It is right to fight for yourself, no doubt. But it is far nobler to fight for others, I just hope people start looking harder and further for people to serve and love.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

August

I awoke with a start in the dead of night, sweating, screams aligning themselves at the base of my throat. I knew it was a dream, but it wasn't pleasant. It was a prophecy. Seven days, someone whispered, seven days and he will be gone.

My first day on the job, overjoyed at being able to support my studies, like so many uni students, by supplementing rent and bills with some mindnumbing, uninspired retail job. But twelve missed calls from my father told me I had to go home, now.

On the Greyhound buses, Canberra to Sydney, prayer beads in my hand. But what could I do?

A room full of people, a tiny fragile figure lying desolately on the bed. I wasn't too late. But what was there left to say?

I read from the Qua'ran, held his hand, cried, kissed his forehead and let him go.

Nine years later and it still hurts as much as it did on that grey August afternoon.

R.I.P my friend.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

I thought that if I let it be, the words would just flow, that writing would just 'happen'. But I was wrong. Writing takes time, dedicated time and effort for it to be truly worthwhile and worth reading.

It's been a busy period for BK and I, having moved houses a few months ago, both moved on to new jobs and trying to build a life together with some sort of plan. Sometimes it seems as though everybody around me has a plan that is far ahead of mine. Friends of mine that are newly married have already moved into flashy houses and apartments with a car each, holidays booked a year in advance, thriving careers and enough letters after their names to be envied. We on the other hand, are starting out in our careers, renting a small place way on the outskirts of London, just starting to think about further study and future plans. I don't know if there is a right way to live a life. I have always just tried to take things a day at a time and to do what feels right in every situation rather than what everyone around me seems to do simply because that's what's done. Which is probably why I studied English as a first degree before going on to study Economics and then Finance. Which is probably why BK studied Classics and Sanskrit before going on to study Law. Our lives have been dictated by what we've known we were good at, would love keep doing and would equip us with the best tools to serve society.

One of my favourite quotes is 'Make your passion your profession'. In all my people watching over the years I have seen my friends crumble in trying to make careers for themselves with money as the object. The money comes, no doubt about it, but the joy of work fizzles out and after some time, the feeling of being a meaningless cog in a wheel takes over until it becomes unbearable. Eventually, and it's happened four times now, I'll get a phonecall out of the blue, asking for career advice or being told that so and so is now enrolling to be an art teacher and has left a top firm to take up gardening or something polar opposite to what they insisted they had to do.

I know I could be earning twice as much as I am right now if I worked in consulting or a big firm, but I am terrified of losing the small joys that accompany my little job. There is something about working for people that is such a joyful experience. Everyday is different. Everyday I get to do things that others just don't understand. I attend poetry groups, art classes, I run IT classes, I provide informal therapy and organise group activities. I try to help those demotivated by life to try and reignite the spark of existence that once burned freely and willingly within them. And I do it well.

And while I'm tempted at times by the laptops and fancy phones, the client lunches and flights that accompanied my previous corporate life, I have to do a double take and recognise that what I did then - reconcile spreadsheets and figures, balance budgets and create databases, has nothing on the kinds of things I am learning now.

So maybe it will take a few years for us both to catch up on the house and the cars and the high life that we seem so far behind from, but at least we love what we do and who we are...and eachother.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Transmigration

A year on in England, I wanted to post something I wrote after living here for only two months, while things have changed in my approach, I thought it important to capture this for what it was when and as it were happening...
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If I could take a moment to pause and linger over the complicated parts then I guess now is the time.

Life is racing at a pace I am struggling to meet.

For so long I feel like I've been running this race, forever playing catch-up with the next big thing, then the next, and the next after that. and now, I will step back, I will close my eyes and I will pause.

There are days when the sky is blue and a sea breeze lingers in the air that I close my eyes and I am back in Sydney, lying on golden sand and watching the ocean move. days when my thoughts drift asunder and return to me refreshed and renewed.

There are other days when I run miles to escape my mind. I clutter my life with appointments and activities so I don't have to think about that dark cloud hanging over my head ready to strike me dead. I hide beneath the facade of a busy life, trying not to face the fact that I have moved my body to another country, most of my mind, and yet, not entirely the whole of my heart.

Parts of remain etched in Sydney Harbour, Parramatta, the blue mountains.

Parts of me still live in villages in Rajasthan and Gujarat and Karnataka.

There are days I cannot face myself. I cannot look at myself or reconcile that I am who I am. That I have become someone so unlike who I thought I was.

Yet I hold out hope that I will know me once again, and maybe life will begin to make more sense.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Appreciation

I recently attended a memorial for a very special man in our circle of friends who passed away. He had been an instrumental force in encouraging and supporting many, many people in pursuing noble pursuits and providing them with the opportunity to do so.

And though i knew him not long, nor well, he left upon me an impression that will never fade.

Having suffered through a recent phase of hopelessness, those periods when life feels devoid of meaning and purpose, it was comforting to see someone's memory live on in such a positive way. And although I'm well aware of the romanticism of retrospect, I am grateful to him for being there to teach me a lesson, even in death.

I couldn't help but feel that people live, then fade away into the ether like a cloud of smoke, never to be seen again. and all that's left behind are moments and memories. Being all too aware of the grief and pain and self torture that accompanies losing someone close to you, it was reiterated to me once again, the one thing I say over and over and over: you never know. You don't know who will go and who you will outlive and what they mean to you. You never know who you will need someday to look after you or who will need to be looked after. So while you have that mental and physical capacity to show people love, do so without reservation and hesitation.

Too often we look to the sea and the stars and at nature and God and philosophy for inspiration and overlook eachother. I am all too guilty of this.

Isn't it about time we appreciated each other for our simple, homely ways than to look for the grand and glamorous aspect in everything as a yardstick for who is deserving of our love?

After all, we have the opportunity today to love eachother as we are, who knows what will come of tomorrow?