Double Trouble

This piece is based on a prompt. Thought it might be fun to share it here. Here goes…

Craig: “Linda, one of our babies is missing.”

Linda: “Which one?”

Craig: “The one on the left.”

Linda: “The left of what?”

Craig: “The left of the one that’s left.”

Linda: “Huh? Which one is that?”

Awkward silence ensues.

Linda: “I can’t believe this. Is it Ada?”

Craig: “I’m not sure.”

Linda: “How can you not be?”

Craig: “Is that really important right now?”

Linda: “What does her bracelet say?”

Craig: “It’s Ava.”

Linda: “So, Ava’s here?”

Craig: “No, she’s the one missing.”

Welcome to the tangled web – the life of parents of twin babies. Think of it like quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink. Sure, the little ones are bundles of joy. Well, most of the time. But, remember the days when you’ve put them both to bed. And just when you’re about to drift off to sleep, you hear a familiar cry – the sound of countless sleepless nights. Before you’ve had the chance to pacify the first one, the other starts wailing. You only have so many hands, and one of them is aching to tear your hair out. But I digress.

Identical or not, you’ll be surprised at how similar twins can look when they’re a few months old. Especially if they are both boys or girls. Talk about seeing double! This means keeping track of who is who. God forbid if Ada ends up as Ava or the other way around. If you can’t keep your story straight, how can you expect them to? You wouldn’t want them to have an identity crisis now, would you? 

This means following a process to ensure that they don’t get mixed up. One way to achieve this could be color-coding. And you thought that was only for people who studied Electrical Engineering! Surprise, surprise! The things we do for our children! So, each baby gets a designated color. They have no say in the matter, of course. This means you’ll be buying identical pairs of clothes with precisely those colors, at least till you can tell the two apart. Which is, hopefully, soon. Don’t worry, they’ll be fighting over clothes in no time. Happy shopping!

Sounds cumbersome? Try painting their nails or using jewelry instead. Good luck hoping they don’t tug it off or chew on it. You know they love to.

Let’s address the second matter now. Or did you forget? What about the curious case of the missing Ada? Or was it Ava? What’s worse than not being able to distinguish between your own twin babies? Losing one. Before you get your claws out and start getting all judgmental about Craig and Linda being irresponsible parents, remember the last time you misplaced your keys. How can babies be compared to keys, you ask? They can’t. Keys don’t have legs. You’d be surprised at how quick your little ones can be when they start to crawl. Look away for a second. And, poof, they’re gone. Even skilled magicians couldn’t pull off this trick!

If you think caring for one baby is a nightmare, try two. Put yourself in the parents’ shoes. A little empathy wouldn’t go amiss.

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Public Transport

I grew up in a city with an extensive public transportation network, and have used it for as long as I can remember. I was four when my first bus trip was cut short by a wave of nausea with my mother scrambling to get us off the bus before the inevitable happened. My ability to handle motion sickness has since improved. And while my love-hate relationship with public transport continues, it is my preferred mode of travel. I’m sure a lot of you have questions and apprehensions. Isn’t public transport dirty and crowded? Isn’t it slow and unreliable? My answer to the first would be, “Very often”. To the second, I’d say, “Sometimes”.

My mother is a big proponent of public transport primarily because it’s the cheapest way to travel. When I was younger, owning a car was a luxury. Auto rickshaws and cabs were expensive. Trips with my mother usually involved multiple hops on buses and trains to reach our destination. Saving time meant running to catch the first available bus or train. As a result, I was often exhausted at the end of our journey. After a while, I dreaded my outings with her. If the destination was too far, I would prefer to stay at home. My father joining us was rare but always good news. When we exited our building, I would look longingly at the auto rickshaws lined up outside our gate silently imploring him to make a concession. He would take the hint and ask us to get into one.

I admit my perception of public transport has come a long way since then. And, while part of it has to do with how environment-friendly and cost-effective it is, the other part is probably because of how stress-free I find it. Plus, I don’t really enjoy driving and have never taken the initiative to own a vehicle. You may doubt the part that says “stress-free”. The more accurate thing would be to say that I find it less stressful.

There are different kinds of stress associated with using public transport and driving your own vehicle. With the former, the challenge is in catching a bus or train and, reaching your destination on time. There are several things beyond your control like the availability of the transportation medium and the speed the driver will drive. This is mostly applicable to buses. Trains are more punctual and reliable in this aspect, at least in my experience. In fact, if you live in a city which is known for its traffic woes, travelling by train will probably save you a fair bit of time. In some cities, however, boarding or alighting from crowded trains is a challenge in itself.

Another reason for preferring public transport is the flexibility that it offers. There have been times when I have come across severe traffic jams when travelling by road. This could be either because a vehicle broke down, an accident, bad weather or even construction work. In these situations, I have found it prudent to alight from the bus and find an alternative. If I were driving my own vehicle, I would have no option but to wait until the traffic cleared up. This can be both frustrating and a big waste of time.

The overwhelming factor, however, is that once I get into a bus or a train, I don’t have to worry about the road. While this may not seem like much for those who drive every day, being on alert for almost every second of your journey can be exhausting. Especially when clogged streets are a norm and most of the other drivers are concerned with taking shortcuts to reach their destination faster than obeying traffic rules. I’ve seen enough accidents and near misses to want to avoid being in one. Once I board a vehicle, my only job is to purchase a ticket and wait for my destination to arrive. It doesn’t matter how others are driving because there is someone to take care of that. I can, meanwhile, listen to music, read, plan for things to be done when I reach my destination or even take a nap. All of these seem like better ways to use my time than worrying about a vehicle that might appear out of nowhere or cut me off.

I concede that if you’re travelling by road, you’re likely to reach your destination faster by driving your own vehicle than taking the bus. But I don’t mind the extra time spent if my sanity is preserved at the end of the journey.

Thanks for reading this. Please feel free to share your preferences and your experience with public transport.

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Money Matters

The first thing I learnt about money was that it doesn’t grow on trees. And that became a lesson for life. Okay, I admit I’m a miser. How much of a miser? Not enough to starve or deprive myself of necessities, for sure. But enough that the rational side of my brain trumps the part which wants something almost every time, especially when I look at the price tag.

Frugality is part of my genetic inheritance. My parents are both cautious about monetary spending, and their attitude shaped my understanding of the difference between wants and needs. They have their reasons. They grew up with nothing. Both my parents were raised in rented two-room houses with a kitchen for cooking and a living room for everything else. My father shared these quarters with my grandparents and three other siblings. As the eldest, he started helping at my grandfather’s store at the age of ten, balancing school and supporting the “family business” which yielded barely enough to make ends meet. He wanted to pursue a degree in science but switched to arts because the time spent in the lab reduced what he could give to the shop. Jobs were scarce, and he continued working there, leaving when he found a decent job – a couple of years after graduation.

My mother had it even worse if that was possible. Eight other people called where she lived home. Her father didn’t have a steady job. My grandmother took up things she could do from home like tailoring and repairing umbrellas to ensure that there was enough food on the table. The children assisted in whatever capacity they could. The house didn’t have a water connection. Water had to be filled in pots and carried up a flight of stairs to the house from a nearby community tap. This tap was functional for a few hours each day, and you had to queue up for your turn. “New clothes” were, often, donations by my grandfather’s employers. At times, there wasn’t enough money to pay for school.

In comparison, my childhood was very comfortable. Growing up, my brother and I never lacked for anything. We never worked during our time as students. My parents, like others, were determined to give their children a better life. They scrimped and saved for our education so we would never have to compromise on our career choices. We had everything we needed, but my mother ensured we didn’t get everything we wanted. My father, on the contrary, indulged our indulgences. But he had to travel for work, and our stay-at-home mother managed all our expenses.

We were not living hand-to-mouth by any means but avoided extravagance at all costs. Cars were a luxury and my mother dragged us everywhere by public transport. We never went to the movies and, rarely, if ever, dined at restaurants. We were reprimanded for our carelessness if we misplaced stationery provided for school. The need to build a safety net fueled part of this, and a strong desire to not return to the circumstances that plagued her childhood accounted for the rest. We saw that any expenditure on us came at the cost of our parents’ needs. When we got brand-new clothes, they wore the same ones until they faded and were beyond repair.

Even when things got better, she made us believe that we only had enough to survive. The primary reason was to teach us the value of money and the hard work that goes into earning it. My father missed a lot of birthdays and holidays because of his job. The constant travel took a toll on his health. She made sure we realised this so wouldn’t take his sacrifices for granted. The second was to ensure that spending never exceeded earnings. Credit wasn’t as forthcoming as today, and living with debt was not an option. Finally, she hoped that if things ever went south, we would find our way out of it. It was her way of preparing us for the worst-case scenario.

My mother was instrumental in moulding my monetary policy. We didn’t get allowances while in school. She expected us to ask for something when we needed it. Inquisitions followed requests for money and expenses sanctioned after much consideration. Initially, I found this difficult to understand because all my friends got pocket money and spent it on things they liked. When I entered college, I got a small allowance for travel and other expenses. But I had to provide a full account of the money spent to assure her that it was not “wasted”. Over time, I became so used to it that the minute I returned home, I would start reciting what I had started with, what I had spent on and how much was left. My mother was left red-faced one day when I, unthinkingly, did it in the presence of a relative who had come over to visit. Once the guest had left, she told me I didn’t need to give her an account anymore because she was confident in my ability to spend it “the right way”.

But this hasn’t affected their generosity. No one who comes to our home leaves empty-handed. They never hold back when sharing what they have with others. Their past has, also, made them empathetic towards those who are not as fortunate. Their miserly attitude affects them, and no one else. It’s another quality we seem to have inherited from them. I wouldn’t think twice about splurging on a gift for someone else.

My father once told us it is easy to upgrade one’s lifestyle, but difficult to go back. I beg to differ. After years of pinching pennies, despite being financially independent, I find it difficult to let go. My parents don’t want us to struggle the way they did and encourage us to make our lives comfortable. But I’m always looking for ways to save as much money as possible. Sometimes, this comes at the cost of time, health and, even, happiness. I’m hard on myself if I’ve overpaid for something, and I feel like a fool for obsessing over something I can not change. I’m still inclined to count every penny rather than splurge, even if I can afford to. I don’t own a credit card and the thought of a loan, even for something essential like a home, feels like an axe hanging over my head.

Have you bought something without looking at the price tag? I wouldn’t be able to. I have not learned to spend freely and don’t know where to start. What would I do if I won the lottery tomorrow and had enough money to last me a lifetime? Probably put the winnings in a bank account or invest it for better returns than spend.

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Back to Square One

Hey Everyone! I’m back. I’m sure most of you have forgotten me. Some of you might be wondering how this message ended up on their feed. Yes, it’s been a while since my last post – more than a year to be precise. But, unfortunately for you, you haven’t heard the last of me.

There were a lot of reasons for my absence. I was, suddenly and unexpectedly, thrown into the middle of a very strenuous exercise that left me depleted and lacklustre. Personal priorities, abrupt transitions and laziness account for the rest.

During this time, I admit that I logged onto WordPress a few times but couldn’t bring myself to write. Part of me felt like I’d lost my way in the world of blogging stats and figures. And, blogging had become a source of stress rather than enjoyment. I have, since, realised that while writing is most fulfilling when people read what’s written, the purpose is to tell your story and put a piece of yourself out there for others to see. Ultimately, how many do, doesn’t matter.

The one thing I missed most was exchanging thoughts and ideas with the assortment of people who have become part of my blogging world: like-minded and otherwise. And, maybe, the state of the world around us made me realise that life is too short and I still have a lot to say before I die. Even if it kills me or others die of boredom from reading my posts. Death by writing, somehow, seems a lot more agreeable than death by a killer virus. And like they say, once the writing bug bites, it is an itch you need to scratch.

I’ve had three stints in my blogging past – the first one lasted for two posts, the second barely one and the last one stretched for a span of a few months. This attempt will be my fourth. The plan is to write at my own pace this time, rediscover the joys of writing and not worry about the rest. While it feels like I’m starting all over again, here’s hoping this one lasts for a long time to come.

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On “Scientific Research”

I don’t claim to be a “health nut”, but I like to eat healthy barring the occasional indulgence. Whether it’s reducing the consumption of refined grains or adding more fruits and vegetables to my diet, nutrition is a priority. This means reading up on the health section of the news to keep abreast of the latest developments.

I suppose I inherited this quality from my father who obsessively follows research in the health and medical fields. But, lately, I find myself very confused. The following will illustrate why. My family hails from the coast. Coconut is an integral part of our diet primarily because it is natively grown and abundantly available. Whether it’s grated coconut, coconut paste or coconut milk, almost every dish, savoury or sweet incorporates it. Coconut oil has traditionally, also, been the preferred choice for deep frying, sautéing or, even, as a dressing. In other words, the way Mediterranean cuisine uses olive oil is how we used coconut oil. I say “used” because this is no longer true. The reason was some research about thirty years ago which stated that coconut oil is very high in cholesterol and terrible for heart health. When my father picked up on this, the consumption of coconut oil in our home dropped drastically. We switched to alternatives for a lot of preparations. Now, almost three decades later, coconut has become the new superfood with ringing endorsements of coconut oil. The jury is still out, however, with some touting it as a panacea and others calling it “poison”.

It doesn’t stop there. Breakfast is a topic that invites contradictory opinions from the scientific community. Some call it vital while others say it’s dangerous. All of these people are scientists with exemplary credentials holding positions of importance in regulatory bodies and academia. For the consumer though, whom or what to believe, that is the question.

I am no scientist, but I wonder how such contradictory results are possible on the same topic. This resulted in my own bit of research. Here are some findings. To begin with, independent studies are few and far in between. A lot of these studies are funded by big industries to malign a rival product so that its consumption drops and, then, promote their own as a “healthier” option. The results are biased in favour of the industry or lobby that sponsors it. Sometimes, the purpose is to hide the ill-effects of their product by exaggerating the so-called “hazards” of another. A case in point is how the sugar industry funded a study in the 1960s to highlight the contribution of fats to heart disease and downplay the role of sugar. This was only discovered as recently as 2016. The fact that this was hidden from the general public for about half a century is a cause of concern. And, when reputed organisations claim that something is dangerous, it is natural for people to think twice about what they eat.

Sometimes, the number of participants in a study is in single digits. How, then, can the results be applied to the general population? No wonder terms like “may” or “could” are frequently used in the title so that if the findings are debunked tomorrow, they are covered and can shirk all responsibility.

In my opinion, there is another factor to be considered – genetics. Studies are often carried out on a specific section of the populace in a particular region. Olive oil, for instance, is healthy and highly recommended. I don’t dispute this. Food habits, at least the traditional kind by which I don’t mean McDonalds or KFC, are cultivated based on crops favoured by the soil and climate. Olive oil is a product of the Mediterranean. People who reside there have consumed it for centuries, and their digestive systems have adapted to it. When it is promoted in Asian countries where other oils are more common, will the results be the same? The same applies to coconut oil which has, only recently, been adopted by the west.

Superfood is the new buzzword in the health industry. The minute something is categorised as such, people rush to buy it. Sometimes, in the quest for health, the consumption of these products gets out of hand. People don’t realise that sometimes too much of a good thing can be counterproductive. Another thing that skyrockets is the price. If you don’t believe me, check the cost of a product when a study declares that it is the best thing for you. Everyday items become unaffordable when they are branded “healthy”. When prices shoot up, you wonder whether it is because of the demand, or sellers trying to make a quick buck out of the next “superfood”.

As health conscious individuals, we are always seeking ways to make our lives better by adopting good eating practices. However, we unwittingly end up playing into the hands of lobbies whose only objective is financial gain. We, all, need to be careful about what we decide to consume based on what is termed as “scientific research”. In a world where business often takes precedence over public health, there are reasons to be wary. Beyond headlines, there are a lot of things that need to be considered with studies about health and nutrition. Sources, researchers, industries, sample sets and target populations are just a few. Because I am not sure what to believe, I have stopped taking these headlines seriously. Consume everything in moderation is one piece of advice that has persisted over time. And, for now, it seems like the sensible thing.

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Being a Social Pariah

The inspiration for this article is a blog post in which the writer describes how limiting time online has had a positive impact on her life.

The Internet has transformed the way we gather and assimilate information. Social networking has made it possible for people across the globe to connect seamlessly. But, somehow, the trend of being online hasn’t found favour with me. People find it strange when I say that I’m not on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Truth is, very often, I don’t even know where my cell phone is. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a recluse by any means. I enjoy conversation and good company. I, just, avoid social media like the plague. Call me old-fashioned, but I find it intrusive and impersonal. And, though it may not always be possible, I prefer to call or meet in person with friends and family. There are times when months pass by before I talk to a friend, which is not ideal. But on the flip side, there is so much to catch up on.

Many people share every part of their life online. But if people know about everything that is happening in your life, what do you discuss when you meet them? When I attend social gatherings, I end up feeling like a social pariah. To begin with, I get the overwhelming sense of being a dinosaur because while I am seated there wondering where to start, everyone else is glued to their phones. I’m not sure whether people want a conversation. Also, everyone else seems to know what the other is doing except me. I don’t know whether the lack of interaction is a result of being on social media or the other way around. But, the art of conversation seems to be heading towards an early demise. What irritates me most is when I am mid-sentence, and people pick up their phone to find out what’s changed since they put it down a couple of minutes ago. I don’t know whether this is because of a constant need to be updated or the fear of missing out. There is nothing more cringeworthy than asking a question only to hear, “Oh, you don’t know? I had shared that on WhatsApp/Facebook?” Forgive me for expecting information from conversations rather than a bulletin board.

Even when people are travelling, they are so engrossed in their devices, they wouldn’t know if their own parent was standing next to them. For some people, the need to be connected is so strong that they carry their phones to the toilet. I fail to recognise the urgency. Will someone not understand if they’ve taken a break to answer nature’s call? Social media aims to satisfy the innate curiosity that most individuals have about what’s going on in others’ lives. It is also an outlet for those who like to shout from the rooftops about every little thing. Whether the desire is to be appreciated or envied is open for debate. But, in my opinion, living so much of your life in the public eye is not just invasive. It’s outright exhausting. It’s human tendency to turn things into a contest which makes it easy for one-upmanship to creep in. And, in an intensely competitive world where so much value is placed on professional accomplishments, the last thing you want is for that to extend to your personal life.

I prefer to live by simple rules. If there is an event in my life that I wouldn’t call and tell someone about, then it is not worth sharing. Period. Just because there’s a medium that allows you to put this information out doesn’t mean you should. Every piece of information you share is being used by someone to target you – for better or for worse. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will. I understand that it is cheaper and convenient to use social media than to call someone. You can use apps to make calls on the internet. But when was the last time you did that?

Children, nowadays, learn to use the cell phone before they start talking. They are handed electronic devices at an age where they should be learning to play and bond. Will this not affect their ability to communicate? Social media prevents the cultivation of deep-rooted relationships by reducing our interaction with colleagues, friends and loved ones. The more time we spend online, the less time we spend talking to them. Our bond with those around us is dependent not only on shared thoughts but also on shared experiences. Then, there are people from the previous generation who are not tech-savvy and rely on conversations for exchanging ideas and emotions. Their inability to use social media results in them being ignored, isolated and lonely. Ask them what they prefer – messaging, Skype call or a visit.

Social media was created to make it easier for people to communicate. But if we use it as a substitute for personal interactions, the purpose is defeated. If a medium makes you contented with messaging or broadcasting a part of your life rather than making a call, where is our future headed? A conversation is about more than what is said. The spoken word has a tone, an expression, an emotion that a message cannot capture. For me, there is no substitute for the sound of a person’s voice. But it is second best to sitting across from them as you spend hours in conversation because nonverbal cues add another dimension to dialogue.

So, take a break from social media. Pick up a phone and call someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while. Better yet, have a face-to-face conversation and forget about your cell phone while you’re at it. You’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy yourself. More importantly, you’ll realise what you’ve been missing all this time.

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Living with OCD

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
– Ernest Hemingway

I read this quote recently and decided to put my vulnerabilities out there for others to see, and possibly judge. If you are obsessive-compulsive, it won’t be difficult to understand what I’m talking about. The rest of you will question my sanity after reading this post.

I knew I had a problem. What I didn’t know was, it had a name – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I know I wasn’t born with it. But I’m not sure what triggered it or when the first tendencies showed.

It doesn’t keep me from doing things in my life. I was not clinically diagnosed. That’s impossible in a country where visiting a psychiatrist is equated with having a severe mental defect. Mental disorders that do not pose a threat to others are not considered grave. The definition of threat, however, is open to interpretation. Most ailments are swept under the carpet or considered self-manageable. As a result, sometimes things get significantly worse before they can get better.

When it first reared its ugly head, I didn’t think there was anything unusual about my behaviour. It felt natural to check everything multiple times. So, work emails had to be read repeatedly before being sent out. I had to ensure that the electric switches were off and the door was locked, at least three times before I left home for the day, among other things. Blog posts and comments had to be read and reread to death before they were posted. I thought I was being thorough. But, with time, I realised that it was the result of my inability to trust myself. I was paranoid about making mistakes. A voice at the back of my mind kept insisting that I do these things. If I didn’t, I could have no peace. The only way to get that voice out of my head, albeit temporarily, was to follow its command.

It didn’t stop there. Next, came the fear of contamination. The constant feeling of uncleanliness and the need to wash hands on contact with any surface perceived to be tainted. Very often, this resulted in the skin peeling off my hands. But, that didn’t stop me.

The last straw was when, in my effort to be clean, I started imposing my ideas of “cleanliness” on the people around me. The lucky winners – my immediate family. Noncompliance with my dictates, knowingly or otherwise, would result in me flying off the handle. I say dictates because I behaved like a dictator in this regard. If the person at the other end rebelled, which was understandable, it resulted in a full-blown meltdown. It is not difficult to comprehend the stress this can put on relationships.

But the worst part is having to deal with it outside the confines of your home. You have no control over your compulsions. But you suppress the part of yourself that expects others to comply because you risk being isolated or laughed at for your behaviour. Let alone losing friends, you might have trouble making any in the first place. People who don’t suffer from this condition can not understand it. I don’t blame them because I know my behaviour is irrational.

Years have passed, but I know I am still a long way away from overcoming my problems. I struggle with my condition every day. I continue to make my life difficult and others around me miserable. “Freak”, “Paranoid”, “Mental” and “Crackhead” are terms my husband uses to define my neurosis. My mother keeps reminding me that it’s not healthy for everyone involved if I continue down this road. The sad part is, I know I’m driving people up the wall. But I find it very difficult to control myself. I’m, just, lucky that people around me have put up with my unreasonable ways and not run for the hills.

For people who don’t suffer from this condition, I don’t expect you to understand why I do what I do. In fact, I pray that you never have to. I just hope that if there is such a person in your life, you will understand that their actions come not from anger or spite but from an underlying mental state. It’s an understatement to say that living with a person who has OCD is difficult. I know because I have to live with myself every day.

Just so you know, I proofread this post eight times before publishing it.

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An Open Letter

To the people I love,

You know who you are because you’re reading this letter right now. Some of you have known me for a long time, others not as much. But no matter how long we’ve walked together in this journey called life, please know that you are important to me. I don’t know whether it was fate that made our paths cross or coincidence. Either way, I am grateful.

The ties of the heart go deeper than blood. All the ups and downs that we have been through have, only, made that bond stronger. When I was happy, you rejoiced with me. When I was in pain, you shared my suffering. When I had doubts, you believed in me. When I was afraid, you allayed my fears. When I was weak, you were my strength. I could share my thoughts with you knowing you would speak your mind. You could always make me laugh. Even if, at times, you didn’t intend to. I know there were times when I caused you pain. But you never held it against me. Somehow, you were always able to see the good in me. And, I will not forget that.

Life may have taken us away from each other. We may have chosen to embark on different adventures. But, even now, when I hear your voice at the end of the call, it is as if we spoke yesterday. There are no awkward silences. Seconds become minutes and minutes stretch to hours. The conversation flows, and we lose track of time. That, my dear, is a testament to our bond.

Thank you for being there for me. My life is better because you are a part of it. I have lost count of the number of times you have brought me back from the brink of insanity. All the times that I have been hopeless and lost, you have been my guiding light. You have fought for me when no one would. You have seen the best and the worst of me. You have embraced all of me – the good, the bad and the ugly. I am who I am because of you. You mean a lot to me.

You are my family.

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The Blogger’s Curse

I read a post today which made me realise that, in my struggle with blogging, I was not alone. As I wrote a comment on the post, the idea for this article took shape in my head.

When I first started a blog, I knew nothing about blogging. I thought it was all about putting your thoughts out there for people to find and read, like or dislike. The most important thing was to create quality content. But my understanding couldn’t be further from the truth.

I have been actively blogging for a couple of months now. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be complaining after such a short time. I still don’t know much about blogging. But I’ve learnt some lessons.

The hardest thing about blogging isn’t the content. At least, this is true for me.

The first challenge is getting people to your blog. I began by searching for blogs with like-minded content. I invited their authors to look at my blog and share their opinion. I realised, albeit a little late, that tags make a big difference. I have not mastered the art by any means. But, I am making steady progress.

The second is to get people to read it. My blog hardly gets visitors. I used to rejoice when people liked my post. But when a post has fewer views than likes, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something’s not quite right. Spotting discrepancies like these are some of the perks of getting pitiful traffic to your site, I guess. When you like a post, it means that it resonates with you. How is that possible if you haven’t read it? For the record, I’d rather not have people liking my post if they’d rather not read it. Unfortunately, the person this is meant for won’t be reading this post either.

The biggest test, however, is getting people to engage in a dialogue. I understand the challenges of modern life. We don’t have time to stop and smell the roses let alone comment on every post we read. I don’t comment on every article I read either. But comments do make a lot of difference. Comments aren’t just words. They are pieces of you that are scattered across the blogging universe. With comments, you know the reader’s thoughts. With likes, it’s hard to say.

I searched online to figure out why I couldn’t draw my readers into the conversation. Fellow bloggers were, also, kind enough to offer their words of advice. These are some suggestions I came across. Ask questions at the end of your post. Check. Ask people to comment on your post. Check. Blog on topics that you would like to read. I’ll be honest and say that I can’t write anything else. Visit other blogs, read their posts and comment on their work. I enjoy doing this for my own reasons. Use social media to promote your blog. No can do. Why? Because I avoid social media like the plague. You won’t find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a million other sites whose names I don’t care to remember.

Maybe, I don’t create good content. That’s fine. I just wish someone would tell me that. I don’t claim to be Shakespeare. I don’t, even, have a degree in English. I started blogging because writing is something I’ve always enjoyed. For a lot of reasons, I didn’t pursue it as a career. But that’s water under the bridge. And I don’t have any regrets. I just thought that if I couldn’t write professionally, at least, I’d do it to make myself happy. It would be an outlet for my thoughts. I would know whether I was good at it. Other bloggers would help me understand what I was doing right and where I was going wrong. It would make me a better writer.

Words of support and encouragement from the blogging community kept me going. But a part of me was frustrated by the lack of success. It dawned on me that I was spending more time on finding out how to get people to read my blog rather than writing.

When did writing become so complicated? Creating content isn’t enough. You, also, have to be a marketing professional and an SEO expert.

You may think that I am complaining without taking steps to fix my problem. You wouldn’t be wrong. But, from where I sit, I don’t see a problem. I see a choice. The choice to not market my blog. This is not to say that those who promote their work are wrong. I don’t envy them. The effort they have put in is remarkable. Their success is hard-earned and well-deserved. In the end, no matter how people get to your blog, they stay there only if they feel like it’s worth it. But, I don’t think it’s for me. This may mean that my blog will take years to generate the kind of following that many other bloggers enjoy. Maybe I won’t get there at all. The feedback I wish for may, also, not come. But that’s okay. For now, I’d rather enjoy the process of writing than worry about how many people read what I have to say.

I apologise for subjecting you to this rant for no fault of your own. But if you started out as a simple writer, like me, and not a marketing genius, I am sure you can identify. If you didn’t like this post, please let me know. But if you enjoyed it, please spare the like button. Instead, leave a comment. It doesn’t matter how long or short. What matters most is that it meant something to you.

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Growing Up

The idea for this piece came from a post that I recently read. Most people consider childhood to be the best time of their lives. I wish I could share that sentiment. While my childhood wasn’t particularly terrible, my feelings towards it can be best described as ambivalent.

When I started working, people asked me what I missed most about college. Without a thought, I’d say “vacations”. It’s the only thing that came to mind. I was a very lucky child. The first grandchild, a spoilt brat and the subject of undivided love till others came along. The first few years were spent without a care in the world. But that changed very soon with the burden of education. As a result, most of my years as a student were lost trying to meet high expectations. When school ended, there was college. Choosing to graduate in a field I wasn’t born for didn’t simplify matters. Exams were terrifying and the results even more so. I’ve lost count of the number of meltdowns over the years. So much so that my mother discouraged me from pursuing a master’s degree. So, yes, “vacations” was the most natural response.

That’s not saying that adulthood has been a walk in the park. Being “independent” isn’t all it’s made out to be. Career, money and relationships rule your life. The responsibilities don’t seem to end. Your words and actions are scrutinized and have serious repercussions. Sometimes, you just want to embrace asceticism and retire to the mountains. In these matters, childhood was not very taxing. Responsibilities were more personal than financial or social. People didn’t hold you accountable for what you said or did. The poor parents took the blame.

As a child, I was always riddled with insecurities and self-doubt. I never felt good enough. I was always conscious about what others thought about me. Following the crowd was the norm. Adulthood changed that. It provided a sense of freedom in making my own decisions. It made me financially self-reliant. It gave me an identity and self-confidence that was sorely lacking in my childhood. It enabled me to think for myself and form my own opinions. It brought me a seat at the table; it made sure that my viewpoint was heard and respected. I emerged out of the shadow of my parents.

However, there are some qualities in a child that I’ve lost and dearly miss. Innocence is the first. Unfortunately, I find it to be a casualty of our day and age. Children, today, grow up too fast. I will be the first to admit that I was a very stupid kid. But, looking back, that was not a bad thing. That is the only time of your life when no one is going to judge you for your stupidity. People will keep reminding you of it all your adult life. But the result will be more of a joke than a tragedy. The second is the wide-eyed curiosity. This is one that slowly fades over time. Things cease to amaze us. Maybe it’s the cynicism that comes with getting older. Maybe we just get jaded over time. Or, maybe, we are too worried about looking like fools when we ask too many questions. Third comes imagination. Maybe it’s just the engineer in me but I hold rationality responsible for its decline. When you try to find reason and logic in everything, it kills the imagination. Idealism is next. This one weathered quite a storm when the bubble of childhood burst. The harsh realities of life introduced practicality and the idealist in me decided to take off.

I will differ from popular opinion and say that childhood is overrated. When people rue their lost childhoods, it’s a case of the grass always being greener on the other side. When we’re children, we can’t wait to become adults. When we grow up, we cling to childhood. Maybe, it’s better to live in the moment and enjoy what the different phases of our life have to offer. The naivety that is part of childhood and the wisdom that comes with age and the understanding that life is not as simple as it once seemed are both worthwhile.

What are your thoughts?

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