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Poo-foria: Life’s secret sauce

poop“When you get to my age you’ll realise that the most important thing in life is not money, fame or power. It is having good bowel movement.”

When a friend’s grandfather made that comment more than a decade ago, I knew I was in the presence of a seer. This man had emerged wiser through life and its struggles, with the ability to understand the root of our miseries (not shit, or the lack thereof). He was speaking not only about what a healthy body can do to our joie de vivre. He was speaking also, if you can see beyond the crap, about perspective.

What his comment really seemed to say was, life is simple girl. It appears deceptively like the toughest episode on Crystal Maze (remember that?). Instead it is as straight laced as Peter Capaldi’s abuse-spewing tongue in Thick of it. The machinations at play are only those we invent, to help make sense of all the mess. Instead, what we should be doing is eating our greens (and whole grains), having protected sex and making enough money to buy a traveling trailer.

Wait, wasn’t that what the hippies said (with some drug cocktails thrown in)?

Well, they were onto something.

An entrepreneur, who set up a successful media company more than a decade ago, mentioned encountering some young working professionals (the millennials if you will) who said a job is what they do to ‘pass time’. For someone who has built a business from scratch that is a dreadful statement to encounter. This passing time is likely to catch the young lot unawares when they turn 30 and have the universal what-am-I-doing-with-my-life crisis. For hamsters so caught up in running the wheel, it is often difficult to recognise that they’re not getting anywhere.

Instead blessed are those that have found their passion when young and understood that life is not the road to anything. It is rather the bittersweet ride where best laid plans can come to naught and victories often fly by quicker than bumps. The laughter is not in some grand culmination of events but in the smiles at silly turns.

This Poo-foria philosophy, as I have deemed fit to term it, is the recognition that beyond all our disparate dreams for love, work, family and the world, true joy lies in the simple life – in a warm embrace, a shared meal, in combining forces for good, in a stranger’s (non-creepy) smile and with regularity, in the unhindered (and mindful) release of bodily waste.

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There is no pill for this annoying thing

There is an ad on radio where a woman is asking another how she ‘gets so much done’ in just 24 hours. The super mommy who wakes early, makes food, presentations and evening park visits, credits it all to a pill (not THE PILL meant to keep aforementioned tiny park visit companions at bay).

Since she’s on radio it’s no secret that she’s lying, about three things mainly. First, no pill (or coffee) can make you fill your day with perfectly timed tasks done easy. Second, there is no such thing as perfectly timed tasks. Third, it is never easy.

All that the average lot of us manage to achieve on most days is avoiding a car crash while looking like a car crash. But there are some ‘highly efficient’ individuals, who spoil it for everyone really, because they have one (awfully boring) habit that unfortunately seems to work. It is called (don’t hold your breath) a To-Do list, named so that when it’s over you can end the day with the Ta-Da jig. In recent months I have had the undesirable pleasure of putting it to practice. Now I’m one of those people who either will not enter the rink at all or will go all Karate Kid on it (with many a bludgeoned face to show for it). So in my third decade on earth when I finally seemed to have a handle on what I wanted to do in life (write for peanuts & vino), I decided to begin ‘managing’ my time down to the minute.

Caution: it does not look pretty. It’s more kangaroo on acid on a trampoline (because she forgets she doesn’t need a trampoline). Here’s what the homo sapiens version looks like – you open a shared excel sheet (because it’s easy, accessible on multiple devices anywhere, does not waste paper), list down every darn thing that you need to do every day, decorate it with deadlines (I would curve the life out of them if they weren’t dead already), say ‘done’ on the side when you’ve got it over with and just to make it a party out there (if you’re the kangaroo like me) plugin the start and end time on the dreary bits so you’re racing to get out of there quick.

No one is going to put me on the radio to sell this pill but honey it works for this mama (so far) and it could work for you too. You don’t have to complicate your life exactly as much as I have with this attempt at becoming the boss of me. To your aid have come the good folks who make apps to glue us to our phones even more than we already are. They’ve created a few apps for the list lusters, so why not have a go at Carrot (lists turned into games) or Wunderlist (it’s pretty and allows you to share things like grocery lists with your partner, because c’mon, supermarket scuffles ARE the sex in cohabitation).

What lists allow us to do is break down tasks into surmountable bits that aren’t half as scary when they’re written down and ticked off one by one instead of floating incessantly in our minds. It allows us to do what writer Anne Lamott mentions in her brilliant book ‘Bird by Bird’, “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

The biggest upside of the piecemeal approach to a day (other than the high of writing ‘done’ beside all tasks) is the patterns that appear over time, showing how you may be spending the majority of it in things that add little or nothing to your life (yes Facebook, I’m talking about you). More significantly, tracking your day can be the acknowledgement of one of life’s greatest truths – the only egalitarian treasure all humankind is born with and one we can enjoy until the end, is time (that is, when we can learn to hold down this Road Runner). Beep Beep.

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A Good Home

Henri Matisse - Vase, Bottle and Fruit (1906)Spread across the centre page sat

a good home, its marble face shone

against the streaming light, falling

on a desk standing still, by the window sill

with pictures hanging all around.

 

Bright blue candles neatly climbing

the pyramid of books in glossy garb

and Chrysanthemums peeking

at straight lined cigars,

astride atop a China vase.

 

No feet roaming wild within walls,

pearly white and standing tall

covered in framed brushstrokes

containing the lives of other folks.

 

In this good house so perfect

and true, no stories spill

and spread unchecked,

colouring sleeping rugs that lay

lost in secrets of Mandalay.

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Parents Say ‘What!’: Q and A with Me

Beginning with me, the empress of the Eggfacemomhead kingdom, we’re going to ask parents to sleep a little less, think a little more and answer some questions about their almost always fun and never ever dull lives. Stay right here will you.

#mom #sketch #toddler #art

A post shared by Manika Dhama (@manikadhama) on

 

In one word, life as a parent is

Irreparable

The easiest thing about parenting

Nap Time

3 things that make you want to pull your hair out

The Amazing Race at meal time

Strangers telling you what’s what about YOUR kid

“When are you having the second?”

Something you’ve lied about to your kid(s)

How she was born. “We wanted a baby, we had a baby.”

Most embarrassing moment as a parent

Calling up room service during vacation to report room keys thrown inside toilet

One thing you’ve learnt from your kid(s)

Dogged determination

A pre-parenting thing you miss the most

Tuesdays with Morrie. Wait, “pre-parenting”? I thought we were born this way.

An unforgettable thing your child said or did

“No F*** That” at two. I blame the other parent.

You laugh out loud when

(Laugh inside my head) when I’m presented with a seemingly logical argument for something that was broken, spilled, done to the cat.

A tip (or two) for new parents

Scarlett O’Hara was right. ‘Tomorrow is another day’. You’ll get better with time

All kids tell everyone about everything. Speak less, listen more.

If you’d like to participate in this series or nominate a friend, holler on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!

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10 Lessons from 15 Years of Love

Jacqueline Roque by Pablo PicassoLast month, we turned 15. “We” meaning the husband & I before we were the husband and I, including the time we didn’t feel very “we” if you ask me. We’ve known each other too long you’d think, for there to be any surprises. But surprise each other we do, every now and then, with the serenades, the same yet different notes in each other we’ve come to recognise and love and with how colossal fights can be (the frequency is 1 almost-tear-us-apart sort every 5 years).

Like all things in life should do, we’ve accumulated lessons (which I dole out to love newbies every other day) and which hopefully he and I will remember each day, particularly when the next big war is due.

1. You’re a team

As easy as it sounds, this one gets lost in the melewe of the daily grind, resembling You vs Me most often. Life (spent together) will take enough rough shots at us, and our ability to fight them will always be determined by whether we add each other to the enemy line or stand beside each other (with the gloves on) and take ’em down.

2. Simplify Simplify Simplify

For the sake of arguing, there’s a whole lot to pick up on. But very little of that is truly important. So before you start building ammunition to take each other down, stop and think if it’s really that important. Because some arguments are important and deserve to be shared. Do them justice by leaving out the riff raff.

3. When it comes to each other’s families, play a good guide

You know your respective families the best. So guide each other on some basics on what might be within respectful behaviour lines. Each family is different (don’t have the which is better argument EVER) so just follow each other’s lead and you’ll be fine, as long as you respect the guidance and follow through. (Corollary to #3: Never begin a sentence with “Your mother…”)

4. Go for Core Competencies

It’s amazing how we’re so happy to delegate responsibility in accordance with core competencies at work but in personal relationships we’re often hoarders, refusing to budge from ‘our terrain’. The home world is a happier place if you share work. And avoid a postmortem analysis!

5. Don’t Sleep on an Argument

Unlike other problems that seem to improve when you revisit them the next day, it actually helps to sleep on a clean slate when it comes to things bothering you about your relationship. If your concern passes the test in #2 then it’s better to say it now rather than later. Collecting only results in avalanches much later and are certainly more damaging.

6. The Little Things are the Big things

Vacation romances and weekly/fortnightly dates are important, but the morning hug, the random email during the day (because it feels more like a letter than an SMS), the smile at dinner are markers of the “we” you chose to become. It’s the reason you wanted to wake up to and with this person every day of your life.

7. Don’t let the humour die

Jean Luc Goddard said a couple that doesn’t enjoy the same films will eventually divorce. I like to believe a couple that doesn’t laugh at atleast some of the same things will grow apart. A common language of humour is the pillar that holds it all together. Because if you can’t let out guffaws with each other, life will resemble a silent motion picture that isn’t even cool.

8. Introspect

To become better versions of the “we”, you need to make time to look within the “you”. We’re always so busy telling the world what is wrong with it that we hardly have time to know ourselves. Don’t lose out on a wonderful opportunity to understand what you’re all about. Then every relationship will not be reactive, but rather a conscious, living action of who and what you want to be.

9. Don’t Compare

We all know that couple who always posts happy pictures from countless holidays or their always – perfect home. Sometimes we play that couple too. But it helps to remember that everyone is fighting some or the other battle, even if they’re doing a wonderful job cloaking it. Holidays are for leaving the phone behind, life is for the relentless pursuit of your version of happiness. Do it your way, carry along the people that truly matter and focus your energy on the living, not necessarily the way – it – looks – on – Instagram variety.

10. Give Thanks

How often have you said thank you to your partner? Yes there are things you think is their duty but it certainly doesn’t hurt to show love and gratitude, especially when our daily lives resemble a chihuahua on a sugar high & roller skates going downhill. Stop, take notice and let them (your partner, not the imaginary chihuahua) know why they’re extra special & why you feel butterflies-in-your-stomach excited when you spot them in the crowd.

Have any lessons from your (im)perfect love and life to share? I’m all ears!

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17 Lessons from Driving for Vrooming through Life

DrivingThe act of driving can teach you a thing or two (actually several, as I found out) about life.

Your reactions and the decisions you make behind the wheel can often be replicated in the non-driving situations you face in life.

 

1. Staying calm is an art, especially when horns are bellowing around you and bus drivers are screeching past within centimeters of your vehicle. But if you can manage to BREATHE EASY while the world around you is dancing to chaotic tunes, you’ve got yourself a lesson well learnt.

2. There is also the neat skill required in WALKING THE THIN LINE between knowing when to let things be (like when the car behind you touches the bumper ever so slightly) and knowing when its alright to throw decorum out of the window and let the choicest abuses roll off your tongue (but all this while being aware that the latter reaction should be resorted to when all else fails and when you’re unlikely to ever meet the person/people you’re addressing in this manner).

3. It is to your benefit to know that people can’t always be trusted. A person indicating to turn left is just as likely to create hassles for others and instead turn right. The key is to realise that ANYTHING can happen and EVERYTHING is what you need to be prepared for.

4. If you always let others manoeuver their way to get in front of you, soon enough you’ll fall behind. So it’s quite alright to honk and move ahead to MAKE YOUR PRESENCE FELT and your stand crystal clear.

5. When you have a car breakdown, there will be those (very few) who stop to help and the majority who pass by thinking “I’m so glad that didn’t happen to me”. The idea is to be grateful for the former (and become like them) while ignoring the latter. And if nobody stops to help (or watch) you’ll have the When-I-managed-it-all-alone story to tell and be proud of.

6. Sitting in the co-driver seat can often be a nerve-wracking experience. But when you’re not in control its best to advise on things the driver can’t see and you can, while trusting the person to take care of everything else. Things usually run smoothly that way. After all it isn’t good sense to get anxious about things you can’t possibly control. So DO WHAT YOU CAN TO HELP and then just SHUT UP.

7. If you want to drive rash and throw caution to the winds, do it on your own time. It’s unfair to get people to partner you on the road to possible self-destruction.

8. If you must break the rules (jumping red-lights, speeding, etc.) you better not harm others. And also…DON’T GET CAUGHT.

9. Someday was your first day behind the wheel. So just give the slow-moving newcomers a break. DON’T BE A BULLY. If anything, give learners a smile and a thumbs-up when you cross them.

10. No matter how great the spot looks before you park, you will see a better spot after you have parked and are getting out of the car. DON’T FRET. You’ve managed to park you car and at that moment it’s all that matters. Nobody’s distributing prizes for getting to the best parking space. Just get over it and go do what you actually came for.

11. Traffic jams don’t last forever. So when your plans have been temporarily halted, first look for a possible way out. When you’ve tried and can’t find any, just MAKE THE MOST OF THE TIME YOU HAVE. Do something exciting enough to remember this traffic jam for a long time to come or at least till the next jam comes up. Call a friend and make small talk, listen to your favorite song on loop (and sing along, if you don’t mind the stares), read the book in your bag or if gentleman-luck is shining on you, you could feast your eyes on fellow traffic-jammers. Give yourself a break and have a good time.

12. Wearing seat-belts (or helmets) makes sense, even if their absence can’t give you deadly diseases. If things can protect you from possible harm, it makes sense to use ’em.

13. Rearview mirrors are a blessing if you’re the kind of person who likes to know what’s happening around you. While you’re moving on ahead, it’s great to be able to SEE WHO’S CATCHING UP.

14. It’s always nice to HAVE A CLEAR VISION, so keep your windscreen clean. Because when people come riding in the opposite direction with headlights shining on you, you don’t want to lose your focus by being blinded.

15. You’re as powerful and capable as you think you are. Just because you’re sitting in a Maruti 800 doesn’t mean an SUV has the right of passage. THE ROAD DOESN’T CARE HOW BIG YOUR VEHICLE IS. If you know how to manage the turns (and the bumps), you’re as good as anybody or better than most.

16. It’s always good to CONCENTRATE ON THE BIG PICTURE – Your final destination. When you do that, getting lost doesn’t seem so bad. You might have to take a detour and it will take longer than usual. You may even need to go back on the road you just passed, but if it gets you out and onto your final destination, it can’t be the worst thing to happen to you. And asking for directions doesn’t show you to be incompetent. Admitting your lack of knowledge may be a small distraction if other people can help you get where you want.

17. And more often than not, the best thing is to TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you travel on the road that ‘seems’ right to you, pure joy is what you’ll feel when your decision is vindicated. And if it turns out that you were wrong, at least you can be happy that no one else got the luxury of spoiling things for you.

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Colour me perfect

There is no end to the things that can (almost) kill you. Busy work week, negotiations gone bad, loneliness or bad food. And in quite the same way, there is no end to the things that can make you happy. Your latest song crush, tangy tomato pickle, perfect track pants or the morning hug.

The good thing is life is never black or white. It is never a question of whether you think everyone is guilty until proven innocent, or the other way around. Or which side of the morning-blanket-folding-as-redundant-activity argument you are on. It is never going to be just this way or that.

There are always going to be people who throw eggs at the windshield and try to rob you (some thugs do that I’m told). The web will continue to surprise you with what you weren’t looking for and the dog may bite when you are at your best behaviour.

While life may continue to be about the dream job, dream house or dream vacation, it will also be about fighting for the purple-sweatshirt-cause on your way to a reunion (even if the wine-red fancy top wins in the end). Exercise routines will be inversely proportional to the calorie intake (with no prizes for guessing which way the weights tilt, literally). Club memberships aren’t going to be easy either, what with ‘lonely hearts’, ‘perpetual cribbers’ and ‘internet-addicts anonymous’ gunning for the top spot.

With all the colours flying around, choices aren’t going to be black or white (or black and blue, even if you’re most men’s wardrobe).

Life’s palette will continue the confusion dance in all its multi-coloured finery.

The real joyride begins with picking the best hues to paint the portrait of your mad, chaotic, perfect life.